When I came home to West Egg that night I was afraid for a moment that m_ouse was on fire. Two o’clock and the whole corner of the peninsula wa_lazing with light, which fell unreal on the shrubbery and made thi_longating glints upon the roadside wires. Turning a corner, I saw that it wa_atsby’s house, lit from tower to cellar.
At first I thought it was another party, a wild rout that had resolved itsel_nto “hide-and-go-seek.” or “sardines-in-the-box.” with all the house throw_pen to the game. But there wasn’t a sound. Only wind in the trees, which ble_he wires and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had winke_nto the darkness. As my taxi groaned away I saw Gatsby walking toward m_cross his lawn.
“Your place looks like the World’s Fair,” I said.
“Does it?” He turned his eyes toward it absently. “I have been glancing int_ome of the rooms. Let’s go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car.”
“It’s too late.”
“Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming-pool? I haven’t made use of i_ll summer.”
“I’ve got to go to bed.”
He waited, looking at me with suppressed eagerness.
“I talked with Miss Baker,” I said after a moment. “I’m going to call up Dais_o-morrow and invite her over here to tea.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” he said carelessly. “I don’t want to put you to an_rouble.”
“What day would suit you?”
“What day would suit YOU?” he corrected me quickly. “I don’t want to put yo_o any trouble, you see.”
“How about the day after to-morrow?” He considered for a moment. Then, wit_eluctance:
“I want to get the grass cut,” he said.
We both looked at the grass — there was a sharp line where my ragged law_nded and the darker, well-kept expanse of his began. I suspected that h_eant my grass.
“There’s another little thing,” he said uncertainly, and hesitated.
“Would you rather put it off for a few days?” I asked.
“Oh, it isn’t about that. At least ——” He fumbled with a series of beginnings.
“Why, I thought — why, look here, old sport, you don’t make much money, d_ou?”
“Not very much.”
This seemed to reassure him and he continued more confidently.
“I thought you didn’t, if you’ll pardon my — You see, I carry on a littl_usiness on the side, a sort of side line, you understand. And I thought tha_f you don’t make very much — You’re selling bonds, aren’t you, old sport?”
“Well, this would interest you. It wouldn’t take up much of your time and yo_ight pick up a nice bit of money. It happens to be a rather confidential sor_f thing.”
I realize now that under different circumstances that conversation might hav_een one of the crises of my life. But, because the offer was obviously an_actlessly for a service to be rendered, I had no choice except to cut him of_here.
“I’ve got my hands full,” I said. “I’m much obliged but I couldn’t take on an_ore work.”
“You wouldn’t have to do any business with Wolfsheim.” Evidently he though_hat I was shying away from the “gonnegtion.” mentioned at lunch, but _ssured him he was wrong. He waited a moment longer, hoping I’d begin _onversation, but I was too absorbed to be responsive, so he went unwillingl_ome.
The evening had made me light-headed and happy; I think I walked into a dee_leep as I entered my front door. So I didn’t know whether or not Gatsby wen_o Coney Island, or for how many hours he “glanced into rooms.” while hi_ouse blazed gaudily on. I called up Daisy from the office next morning, an_nvited her to come to tea.
“Don’t bring Tom,” I warned her.
“Don’t bring Tom.”
“Who is ‘Tom’?” she asked innocently.
The day agreed upon was pouring rain. At eleven o’clock a man in a raincoat, dragging a lawn-mower, tapped at my front door and said that Mr. Gatsby ha_ent him over to cut my grass. This reminded me that I had forgotten to tel_y Finn to come back, so I drove into West Egg Village to search for her amon_oggy, whitewashed alleys and to buy some cups and lemons and flowers.
The flowers were unnecessary, for at two o’clock a greenhouse arrived fro_atsby’s, with innumerable receptacles to contain it. An hour later the fron_oor opened nervously, and Gatsby, in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, an_old-colored tie, hurried in. He was pale, and there were dark signs o_leeplessness beneath his eyes.
“Is everything all right?” he asked immediately.
“The grass looks fine, if that’s what you mean.”
“What grass?” he inquired blankly. “Oh, the grass in the yard.” He looked ou_he window at it, but, judging from his expression, I don’t believe he saw _hing.
“Looks very good,” he remarked vaguely. “One of the papers said they though_he rain would stop about four. I think it was the JOURNAL. Have you go_verything you need in the shape of — of tea?”
I took him into the pantry, where he looked a little reproachfully at th_inn. Together we scrutinized the twelve lemon cakes from the delicatesse_hop.
“Will they do?” I asked.
“Of course, of course! They’re fine!” and he added hollowly, “… old sport.”
The rain cooled about half-past three to a damp mist, through which occasiona_hin drops swam like dew. Gatsby looked with vacant eyes through a copy o_lay’s ECONOMICS, starting at the Finnish tread that shook the kitchen floor, and peering toward the bleared windows from time to time as if a series o_nvisible but alarming happenings were taking place outside. Finally he got u_nd informed me, in an uncertain voice, that he was going home.
“Nobody’s coming to tea. It’s too late!” He looked at his watch as if ther_as some pressing demand on his time elsewhere. “I can’t wait all day.”
“Don’t be silly; it’s just two minutes to four.”
He sat down miserably, as if I had pushed him, and simultaneously there wa_he sound of a motor turning into my lane. We both jumped up, and, a littl_arrowed myself, I went out into the yard.
Under the dripping bare lilac-trees a large open car was coming up the drive.
It stopped. Daisy’s face, tipped sideways beneath a three-cornered lavende_at, looked out at me with a bright ecstatic smile.
“Is this absolutely where you live, my dearest one?”
The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain. I had t_ollow the sound of it for a moment, up and down, with my ear alone, befor_ny words came through. A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue pain_cross her cheek, and her hand was wet with glistening drops as I took it t_elp her from the car.
“Are you in love with me,” she said low in my ear, “or why did I have to com_lone?”
“That’s the secret of Castle Rackrent. Tell your chauffeur to go far away an_pend an hour.”
“Come back in an hour, Ferdie.” Then in a grave murmur: “His name is Ferdie.”
“Does the gasoline affect his nose?”
“I don’t think so,” she said innocently. “Why?”
We went in. To my overwhelming surprise the living-room was deserted.
“Well, that’s funny,” I exclaimed.
She turned her head as there was a light dignified knocking at the front door.
I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged lik_eights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glarin_ragically into my eyes.
With his hands still in his coat pockets he stalked by me into the hall, turned sharply as if he were on a wire, and disappeared into the living-room.
It wasn’t a bit funny. Aware of the loud beating of my own heart I pulled th_oor to against the increasing rain.
For half a minute there wasn’t a sound. Then from the living-room I heard _ort of choking murmur and part of a laugh, followed by Daisy’s voice on _lear artificial note: “I certainly am awfully glad to see you again.”
A pause; it endured horribly. I had nothing to do in the hall, so I went int_he room.
Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiec_n a strained counterfeit of perfect ease, even of boredom. His head leane_ack so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock, and from this position his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy, who wa_itting, frightened but graceful, on the edge of a stiff chair.
“We’ve met before,” muttered Gatsby. His eyes glanced momentarily at me, an_is lips parted with an abortive attempt at a laugh. Luckily the clock too_his moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon h_urned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place. Then h_at down, rigidly, his elbow on the arm of the sofa and his chin in his hand.
“I’m sorry about the clock,” he said.
My own face had now assumed a deep tropical burn. I couldn’t muster up _ingle commonplace out of the thousand in my head.
“It’s an old clock,” I told them idiotically.
I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on th_loor.
“We haven’t met for many years,” said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as i_ould ever be.
“Five years next November.”
The automatic quality of Gatsby’s answer set us all back at least anothe_inute. I had them both on their feet with the desperate suggestion that the_elp me make tea in the kitchen when the demoniac Finn brought it in on _ray.
Amid the welcome confusion of cups and cakes a certain physical decenc_stablished itself. Gatsby got himself into a shadow and, while Daisy and _alked, looked conscientiously from one to the other of us with tense, unhapp_yes. However, as calmness wasn’t an end in itself, I made an excuse at th_irst possible moment, and got to my feet.
“Where are you going?” demanded Gatsby in immediate alarm.
“I’ll be back.”
“I’ve got to speak to you about something before you go.”
He followed me wildly into the kitchen, closed the door, and whispered:
“Oh, God!” in a miserable way.
“What’s the matter?”
“This is a terrible mistake,” he said, shaking his head from side to side, “_errible, terrible mistake.”
“You’re just embarrassed, that’s all,” and luckily I added: “Daisy’_mbarrassed too.”
“She’s embarrassed?” he repeated incredulously.
“Just as much as you are.”
“Don’t talk so loud.”
“You’re acting like a little boy,” I broke out impatiently. “Not only that, but you’re rude. Daisy’s sitting in there all alone.”
He raised his hand to stop my words, looked at me with unforgettable reproach, and, opening the door cautiously, went back into the other room.
I walked out the back way — just as Gatsby had when he had made his nervou_ircuit of the house half an hour before — and ran for a huge black knotte_ree, whose massed leaves made a fabric against the rain. Once more it wa_ouring, and my irregular lawn, well-shaved by Gatsby’s gardener, abounded i_mall, muddy swamps and prehistoric marshes. There was nothing to look at fro_nder the tree except Gatsby’s enormous house, so I stared at it, like Kant a_is church steeple, for half an hour. A brewer had built it early in the “period.” craze, a decade before, and there was a story that he’d agreed t_ay five years’ taxes on all the neighboring cottages if the owners would hav_heir roofs thatched with straw. Perhaps their refusal took the heart out o_is plan to Found a Family — he went into an immediate decline. His childre_old his house with the black wreath still on the door. Americans, whil_ccasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about bein_easantry.
After half an hour, the sun shone again, and the grocer’s automobile rounde_atsby’s drive with the raw material for his servants’ dinner — I felt sure h_ouldn’t eat a spoonful. A maid began opening the upper windows of his house, appeared momentarily in each, and, leaning from a large central bay, spa_editatively into the garden. It was time I went back. While the rai_ontinued it had seemed like the murmur of their voices, rising and swelling _ittle now and then with gusts of emotion. But in the new silence I felt tha_ilence had fallen within the house too.
I went in — after making every possible noise in the kitchen, short of pushin_ver the stove — but I don’t believe they heard a sound. They were sitting a_ither end of the couch, looking at each other as if some question had bee_sked, or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was gone. Daisy’_ace was smeared with tears, and when I came in she jumped up and began wipin_t it with her handkerchief before a mirror. But there was a change in Gatsb_hat was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gestur_f exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.
“Oh, hello, old sport,” he said, as if he hadn’t seen me for years. I though_or a moment he was going to shake hands.
“It’s stopped raining.”
“Has it?” When he realized what I was talking about, that there were twinkle- bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weather man, like an ecstati_atron of recurrent light, and repeated the news to Daisy. “What do you thin_f that? It’s stopped raining.”
“I’m glad, Jay.” Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of he_nexpected joy.
“I want you and Daisy to come over to my house,” he said, “I’d like to sho_er around.”
“You’re sure you want me to come?”
“Absolutely, old sport.”
Daisy went up-stairs to wash her face — too late I thought with humiliation o_y towels — while Gatsby and I waited on the lawn.
“My house looks well, doesn’t it?” he demanded. “See how the whole front of i_atches the light.”
I agreed that it was splendid.
“Yes.” His eyes went over it, every arched door and square tower. “It took m_ust three years to earn the money that bought it.”
“I thought you inherited your money.”
“I did, old sport,” he said automatically, “but I lost most of it in the bi_anic — the panic of the war.”
I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what busines_e was in he answered, “That’s my affair,” before he realized that it wasn’_he appropriate reply.
“Oh, I’ve been in several things,” he corrected himself. “I was in the dru_usiness and then I was in the oil business. But I’m not in either one now.” He looked at me with more attention. “Do you mean you’ve been thinking ove_hat I proposed the other night?”
Before I could answer, Daisy came out of the house and two rows of bras_uttons on her dress gleamed in the sunlight.
“That huge place THERE?” she cried pointing.
“Do you like it?”
“I love it, but I don’t see how you live there all alone.”
“I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who d_nteresting things. Celebrated people.”
Instead of taking the short cut along the Sound we went down the road an_ntered by the big postern. With enchanting murmurs Daisy admired this aspec_r that of the feudal silhouette against the sky, admired the gardens, th_parkling odor of jonquils and the frothy odor of hawthorn and plum blossom_nd the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate. It was strange to reach th_arble steps and find no stir of bright dresses in and out the door, and hea_o sound but bird voices in the trees.
And inside, as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music-rooms an_estoration salons, I felt that there were guests concealed behind every couc_nd table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we had passed through.
As Gatsby closed the door of “the Merton College Library.” I could have swor_ heard the owl-eyed man break into ghostly laughter.
We went up-stairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender sil_nd vivid with new flowers, through dressing-rooms and poolrooms, an_athrooms with sunken baths — intruding into one chamber where a dishevelle_an in pajamas was doing liver exercises on the floor. It was Mr.
Klipspringer, the “boarder.” I had seen him wandering hungrily about the beac_hat morning. Finally we came to Gatsby’s own apartment, a bedroom and a bath, and an Adam study, where we sat down and drank a glass of some Chartreuse h_ook from a cupboard in the wall.
He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything i_is house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-love_yes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, a_hough in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real.
Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.
His bedroom was the simplest room of all — except where the dresser wa_arnished with a toilet set of pure dull gold. Daisy took the brush wit_elight, and smoothed her hair, whereupon Gatsby sat down and shaded his eye_nd began to laugh.
“It’s the funniest thing, old sport,” he said hilariously. “I can’t — When _ry to ——”
He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third. Afte_is embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at he_resence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through t_he end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch o_ntensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock.
Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent cabinet_hich held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts, pile_ike bricks in stacks a dozen high.
“I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection o_hings at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.”
He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their fold_s they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admire_e brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher — shirts with stripe_nd scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent he_ead into the shirts and began to cry stormily.
“They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thic_olds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such — such beautiful shirt_efore.”
After the house, we were to see the grounds and the swimming-pool, and th_ydroplane and the mid-summer flowers — but outside Gatsby’s window it bega_o rain again, so we stood in a row looking at the corrugated surface of th_ound.
“If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,” sai_atsby. “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of you_ock.”
Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he ha_ust said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance o_hat light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that ha_eparated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her.
It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green ligh_n a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.
I began to walk about the room, examining various indefinite objects in th_alf darkness. A large photograph of an elderly man in yachting costum_ttracted me, hung on the wall over his desk.
“That? That’s Mr. Dan Cody, old sport.”
The name sounded faintly familiar.
“He’s dead now. He used to be my best friend years ago.”
There was a small picture of Gatsby, also in yachting costume, on the bureau — Gatsby with his head thrown back defiantly — taken apparently when he wa_bout eighteen.
“I adore it,” exclaimed Daisy. “The pompadour! You never told me you had _ompadour — or a yacht.”
“Look at this,” said Gatsby quickly. “Here’s a lot of clippings — about you.”
They stood side by side examining it. I was going to ask to see the rubie_hen the phone rang, and Gatsby took up the receiver.
“Yes… . well, I can’t talk now… . I can’t talk now, old sport… . I said _MALL town… . he must know what a small town is… . well, he’s no use to us i_etroit is his idea of a small town… .”
He rang off.
“Come here QUICK!” cried Daisy at the window.
The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west, and ther_as a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea.
“Look at that,” she whispered, and then after a moment: “I’d like to just ge_ne of those pink clouds and put you in it and push you around.”
I tried to go then, but they wouldn’t hear of it; perhaps my presence mad_hem feel more satisfactorily alone.
“I know what we’ll do,” said Gatsby, “we’ll have Klipspringer play the piano.”
He went out of the room calling “Ewing!” and returned in a few minute_ccompanied by an embarrassed, slightly worn young man, with shell-rimme_lasses and scanty blond hair. He was now decently clothed in a “sport shirt,” open at the neck, sneakers, and duck trousers of a nebulous hue.
“Did we interrupt your exercises?” inquired Daisy politely.
“I was asleep,” cried Mr. Klipspringer, in a spasm of embarrassment. “That is, I’d BEEN asleep. Then I got up… .”
“Klipspringer plays the piano,” said Gatsby, cutting him off. “Don’t you, Ewing, old sport?”
“I don’t play well. I don’t — I hardly play at all. I’m all out of prac ——”
“We’ll go down-stairs,” interrupted Gatsby. He flipped a switch. The gra_indows disappeared as the house glowed full of light.
In the music-room Gatsby turned on a solitary lamp beside the piano. He li_aisy’s cigarette from a trembling match, and sat down with her on a couch fa_cross the room, where there was no light save what the gleaming floor bounce_n from the hall.
When Klipspringer had played THE LOVE NEST. he turned around on the bench an_earched unhappily for Gatsby in the gloom.
“I’m all out of practice, you see. I told you I couldn’t play. I’m all out o_rac ——”
“Don’t talk so much, old sport,” commanded Gatsby. “Play!”
“IN THE MORNING, IN THE EVENING, AIN’T WE GOT FUN——”
Outside the wind was loud and there was a faint flow of thunder along th_ound. All the lights were going on in West Egg now; the electric trains, men- carrying, were plunging home through the rain from New York. It was the hou_f a profound human change, and excitement was generating on the air.
“ONE THING’S SURE AND NOTHING’S SURER THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE POOR GET— CHILDREN.
IN THE MEANTIME, IN BETWEEN TIME——”
As I went over to say good-by I saw that the expression of bewilderment ha_ome back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him a_o the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! There must hav_een moments even that afternoon whe Daisy tumbled short of his dreams — no_hrough her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.
It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it wit_ creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with ever_right feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness ca_hallenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
As I watched him he adjusted himself a little, visibly. His hand took hold o_ers, and as she said something low in his ear he turned toward her with _ush of emotion. I think that voice held him most, with its fluctuating, feverish warmth, because it couldn’t be over-dreamed — that voice was _eathless song.
They had forgotten me, but Daisy glanced up and held out her hand; Gatsb_idn’t know me now at all. I looked once more at them and they looked back a_e, remotely, possessed by intense life. Then I went out of the room and dow_he marble steps into the rain, leaving them there together.