||[23 May 2005|06:26pm]
There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the
whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the
afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or
taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats
slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of
foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties
to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past
midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to
meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra
gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers
and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.
Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer
in New York--every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back
door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the
kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an
hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler's
At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several
hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas
tree of Gatsby's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with
glistening hors-d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of
harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.
In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked
with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of
his female guests were too young to know one from another.
By seven o'clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair,
but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and
cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have
come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from
New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and
salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in
strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The
bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the
garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and
casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and
enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names.
The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and
now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of
voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute,
spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups
change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the
same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave
here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp,
joyous moment the centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph,
glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the
constantly changing light.
Suddenly one of the gypsies, in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail out
of the air, dumps it down for courage and, moving her hands like
Frisco, dances out alone on the canvas platform. A momentary hush; the
orchestra leader varies his rhythm obligingly for her, and there is a
burst of chatter as the erroneous news goes around that she is Gilda
Gray's understudy from the FOLLIES. The party has begun.
I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of
the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not
invited--they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out
to Long Island, and somehow they ended up at Gatsby's door. Once there
they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby, and after that they
conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with
amusement parks. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby
at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own
ticket of admission.
I had been actually invited. A chauffeur in a uniform of robin's-egg
blue crossed my lawn early that Saturday morning with a surprisingly
formal note from his employer: the honor would be entirely Gatsby's, it
said, if I would attend his "little party." that night. He had
seen me several times, and had intended to call on me long before,
but a peculiar combination of circumstances had prevented it--signed
Jay Gatsby, in a majestic hand.
Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn a little after
seven, and wandered around rather ill at ease among swirls and eddies
of people I didn't know--though here and there was a face I had noticed
on the commuting train. I was immediately struck by the number of young
Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry,
and all talking in low, earnest voices to solid and prosperous
Americans. I was sure that they were selling something: bonds or
insurance or automobiles. They were at least agonizingly aware of the
easy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a few
words in the right key.
As soon as I arrived I made an attempt to find my host, but the two or
three people of whom I asked his whereabouts stared at me in such an
amazed way, and denied so vehemently any knowledge of his movements,
that I slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table--the only place
in the garden where a single man could linger without looking
purposeless and alone.
I was on my way to get roaring drunk from sheer embarrassment when
Jordan Baker came out of the house and stood at the head of the marble
steps, leaning a little backward and looking with contemptuous interest
down into the garden.
Welcome or not, I found it necessary to attach myself to some one
before I should begin to address cordial remarks to the passers-by.
"Hello!" I roared, advancing toward her. My voice seemed unnaturally
loud across the garden.
"I thought you might be here," she responded absently as I came up.
"I remembered you lived next door to----" She held my hand impersonally,
as a promise that she'd take care of me in a minute, and gave ear to
two girls in twin yellow dresses, who stopped at the foot of the steps.
"Hello!" they cried together. "Sorry you didn't win."
That was for the golf tournament. She had lost in the finals the week
"You don't know who we are," said one of the girls in yellow, "but we
met you here about a month ago."
"You've dyed your hair since then," remarked Jordan, and I started,
but the girls had moved casually on and her remark was addressed to the
premature moon, produced like the supper, no doubt, out of a caterer's
basket. With Jordan's slender golden arm resting in mine, we descended
the steps and sauntered about the garden. A tray of cocktails floated at
us through the twilight, and we sat down at a table with the two girls in
yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble.
"Do you come to these parties often?" inquired Jordan of the girl
"The last one was the one I met you at," answered the girl, in an alert
confident voice. She turned to her companion: "Wasn't it for you,
It was for Lucille, too.
"I like to come," Lucille said. "I never care what I do, so I always have
a good time. When I was here last I tore my gown on a chair, and he asked
me my name and address--inside of a week I got a package from Croirier's
with a new evening gown in it."
"Did you keep it?" asked Jordan.
"Sure I did. I was going to wear it to-night, but it was too big in the
bust and had to be altered. It was gas blue with lavender beads. Two
hundred and sixty-five dollars."
"There's something funny about a fellow that'll do a thing like that,"
said the other girl eagerly. "He doesn't want any trouble with ANYbody."
"Who doesn't?" I inquired.
"Gatsby. Somebody told me----"
The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidentially.
"Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once."
A thrill passed over all of us. The three Mr. Mumbles bent forward and
"I don't think it's so much THAT," argued Lucille sceptically; "it's
more that he was a German spy during the war."
One of the men nodded in confirmation.
"I heard that from a man who knew all about him, grew up with him in
Germany," he assured us positively.
"Oh, no," said the first girl, "it couldn't be that, because he was in
the American army during the war." As our credulity switched back to
her she leaned forward with enthusiasm. "You look at him sometimes when
he thinks nobody's looking at him. I'll bet he killed a man."
She narrowed her eyes and shivered. Lucille shivered. We all turned and
looked around for Gatsby. It was testimony to the romantic speculation he
inspired that there were whispers about him from those who found little
that it was necessary to whisper about in this world.
The first supper--there would be another one after midnight--was now
being served, and Jordan invited me to join her own party, who were
spread around a table on the other side of the garden. There were
three married couples and Jordan's escort, a persistent undergraduate
given to violent innuendo, and obviously under the impression
that sooner or later Jordan was going to yield him up her person
to a greater or lesser degree. Instead of rambling, this party
had preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the
function of representing the staid nobility of the country-side--East
Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its
"Let's get out," whispered Jordan, after a somehow wasteful and
inappropriate half-hour. "This is much too polite for me."
We got up, and she explained that we were going to find the host:
I had never met him, she said, and it was making me uneasy. The
undergraduate nodded in a cynical, melancholy way.
The bar, where we glanced first, was crowded, but Gatsby was not there.
She couldn't find him from the top of the steps, and he wasn't on the
veranda. On a chance we tried an important-looking door, and walked
into a high Gothic library, panelled with carved English oak, and
probably transported complete from some ruin overseas.
A stout, middle-aged man, with enormous owl-eyed spectacles, was
sitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, staring with
unsteady concentration at the shelves of books. As we entered he
wheeled excitedly around and examined Jordan from head to foot.
"What do you think?" he demanded impetuously.
"About what?" He waved his hand toward the book-shelves.
"About that. As a matter of fact you needn't bother to ascertain. I
ascertained. They're real."
"Absolutely real--have pages and everything. I thought they'd be a nice
durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they're absolutely real. Pages
and--Here! Lemme show you."
Taking our scepticism for granted, he rushed to the bookcases and
returned with Volume One of the "Stoddard Lectures."
"See!" he cried triumphantly. "It's a bona-fide piece of printed matter.
It fooled me. This fella's a regular Belasco. It's a triumph. What
thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too--didn't cut the pages.
But what do you want? What do you expect?"
He snatched the book from me and replaced it hastily on its shelf,
muttering that if one brick was removed the whole library was liable
"Who brought you?" he demanded. "Or did you just come? I was brought.
Most people were brought."
Jordan looked at him alertly, cheerfully, without answering.
"I was brought by a woman named Roosevelt," he continued. "Mrs. Claud
Roosevelt. Do you know her? I met her somewhere last night. I've
been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me
up to sit in a library."
"A little bit, I think. I can't tell yet. I've only been here
an hour. Did I tell you about the books? They're real. They're----"
"You told us." We shook hands with him gravely and went back outdoors.
There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden; old men pushing
young girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couples
holding each other tortuously, fashionably, and keeping in the
corners--and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically
or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or
the traps. By midnight the hilarity had increased. A celebrated tenor had
sung in Italian, and a notorious contralto had sung in jazz, and between
the numbers people were doing "stunts." all over the garden, while happy,
vacuous bursts of laughter rose toward the summer sky. A pair of stage
twins, who turned out to be the girls in yellow, did a baby act in
costume, and champagne was served in glasses bigger than finger-bowls.
The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of
silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff, tinny drip of the
banjoes on the lawn.
I was still with Jordan Baker. We were sitting at a table with a man of
about my age and a rowdy little girl, who gave way upon the slightest
provocation to uncontrollable laughter. I was enjoying myself now. I
had taken two finger-bowls of champagne, and the scene had changed
before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound.
At a lull in the entertainment the man looked at me and smiled.
"Your face is familiar," he said, politely. "Weren't you in the Third
Division during the war?"
"Why, yes. I was in the Ninth Machine-gun Battalion."
"I was in the Seventh Infantry until June nineteen-eighteen. I knew I'd
seen you somewhere before."
We talked for a moment about some wet, gray little villages in France.
Evidently he lived in this vicinity, for he told me that he had just
bought a hydroplane, and was going to try it out in the morning.
"Want to go with me, old sport? Just near the shore along the Sound."
"Any time that suits you best."
It was on the tip of my tongue to ask his name when Jordan looked around
"Having a gay time now?" she inquired.
"Much better." I turned again to my new acquaintance. "This is an unusual
party for me. I haven't even seen the host. I live over there----" I waved
my hand at the invisible hedge in the distance, "and this man Gatsby sent
over his chauffeur with an invitation." For a moment he looked at me as if
he failed to understand.
"I'm Gatsby," he said suddenly.
"What!" I exclaimed. "Oh, I beg your pardon."
"I thought you knew, old sport. I'm afraid I'm not a very good host."
He smiled understandingly--much more than understandingly. It was
one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance
in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or
seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then
concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It
understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in
you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it
had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to
convey. Precisely at that point it vanished--and I was looking at an
elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate
formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he
introduced himself I'd got a strong impression that he was picking his
words with care.
Almost at the moment when Mr. Gatsby identified himself, a butler
hurried toward him with the information that Chicago was calling him on
the wire. He excused himself with a small bow that included each of us
"If you want anything just ask for it, old sport," he urged me.
"Excuse me. I will rejoin you later."
When he was gone I turned immediately to Jordan--constrained to assure her
of my surprise. I had expected that Mr. Gatsby would be a florid and
corpulent person in his middle years.
"Who is he?" I demanded.
"Do you know?"
"He's just a man named Gatsby."
"Where is he from, I mean? And what does he do?"
"Now YOU'RE started on the subject," she answered with a wan smile.
"Well, he told me once he was an Oxford man." A dim background started
to take shape behind him, but at her next remark it faded away.
"However, I don't believe it."
"Why not?" "I don't know," she insisted, "I just don't think he went
Something in her tone reminded me of the other girl's "I think
he killed a man," and had the effect of stimulating my curiosity. I
would have accepted without question the information that Gatsby sprang
from the swamps of Louisiana or from the lower East Side of New York.
That was comprehensible. But young men didn't--at least in my provincial
inexperience I believed they didn't--drift coolly out of nowhere and buy
a palace on Long Island Sound.
"Anyhow, he gives large parties," said Jordan, changing the subject
with an urbane distaste for the concrete. "And I like large parties.
They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy."
There was the boom of a bass drum, and the voice of the orchestra leader
rang out suddenly above the echolalia of the garden.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he cried. "At the request of Mr. Gatsby we are
going to play for you Mr. Vladimir Tostoff's latest work, which attracted
so much attention at Carnegie Hall last May. If you read the papers,
you know there was a big sensation." He smiled with jovial condescension,
and added: "Some sensation!" Whereupon everybody laughed.
"The piece is known," he concluded lustily, "as Vladimir Tostoff's
JAZZ HISTORY OF THE WORLD."
The nature of Mr. Tostoff's composition
eluded me, because just as it began my eyes fell on Gatsby, standing
alone on the marble steps and looking from one group to another with
approving eyes. His tanned skin was drawn attractively tight on his
face and his short hair looked as though it were trimmed every day. I
could see nothing sinister about him. I wondered if the fact that he
was not drinking helped to set him off from his guests, for it seemed
to me that he grew more correct as the fraternal hilarity increased.
When the JAZZ HISTORY OF THE WORLD was over, girls were putting
their heads on men's shoulders in a puppyish, convivial way, girls were
swooning backward playfully into men's arms, even into groups, knowing
that some one would arrest their falls--but no one swooned backward on
Gatsby, and no French bob touched Gatsby's shoulder, and no singing
quartets were formed with Gatsby's head for one link.
"I beg your pardon."
Gatsby's butler was suddenly standing beside us.
"Miss Baker?" he inquired. "I beg your pardon, but Mr. Gatsby would like
to speak to you alone."
"With me?" she exclaimed in surprise.
She got up slowly, raising her eyebrows at me in astonishment,
and followed the butler toward the house. I noticed that she wore
her evening-dress, all her dresses, like sports clothes--there
was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to
walk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings.
I was alone and it was almost two. For some time confused and
intriguing sounds had issued from a long, many-windowed room which
overhung the terrace. Eluding Jordan's undergraduate, who was now
engaged in an obstetrical conversation with two chorus girls, and who
implored me to join him, I went inside.
The large room was full of people. One of the girls in yellow was
playing the piano, and beside her stood a tall, red-haired young lady
from a famous chorus, engaged in song. She had drunk a quantity of
champagne, and during the course of her song she had decided, ineptly,
that everything was very, very sad--she was not only singing, she was
weeping too. Whenever there was a pause in the song she filled it with
gasping, broken sobs, and then took up the lyric again in a quavering
soprano. The tears coursed down her cheeks--not freely, however, for when
they came into contact with her heavily beaded eyelashes they assumed an
inky color, and pursued the rest of their way in slow black rivulets. A
humorous suggestion was made that she sing the notes on her face,
whereupon she threw up her hands, sank into a chair, and went off into
a deep vinous sleep.
"She had a fight with a man who says he's her husband," explained a
girl at my elbow.
I looked around. Most of the remaining women were now having fights
with men said to be their husbands. Even Jordan's party, the quartet
from East Egg, were rent asunder by dissension. One of the men was
talking with curious intensity to a young actress, and his wife, after
attempting to laugh at the situation in a dignified and indifferent
way, broke down entirely and resorted to flank attacks--at intervals she
appeared suddenly at his side like an angry diamond, and hissed: "You
promised!" into his ear.
The reluctance to go home was not confined to wayward men. The hall was at
present occupied by two deplorably sober men and their highly indignant
wives. The wives were sympathizing with each other in slightly raised
"Whenever he sees I'm having a good time he wants to go home."
"Never heard anything so selfish in my life."
"We're always the first ones to leave."
"So are we."
"Well, we're almost the last to-night," said one of the men sheepishly.
"The orchestra left half an hour ago."
In spite of the wives' agreement that such malevolence was beyond
credibility, the dispute ended in a short struggle, and both wives were
lifted, kicking, into the night.
As I waited for my hat in the hall the door of the library opened and
Jordan Baker and Gatsby came out together. He was saying some last word
to her, but the eagerness in his manner tightened abruptly into
formality as several people approached him to say good-bye.
Jordan's party were calling impatiently to her from the porch, but she
lingered for a moment to shake hands.
"I've just heard the most amazing thing," she whispered. "How long were
we in there?"
"Why, about an hour." "It was--simply amazing," she repeated
abstractedly. "But I swore I wouldn't tell it and here I am tantalizing
you." She yawned gracefully in my face: "Please come and see
me. . . . Phone book . . . Under the name of Mrs. Sigourney
Howard . . . My aunt . . ." She was hurrying off as she talked--her brown
hand waved a jaunty salute as she melted into her party at the door.
Rather ashamed that on my first appearance I had stayed so late, I
joined the last of Gatsby's guests, who were clustered around him. I
wanted to explain that I'd hunted for him early in the evening and to
apologize for not having known him in the garden.
"Don't mention it," he enjoined me eagerly. "Don't give it another
thought, old sport." The familiar expression held no more familiarity
than the hand which reassuringly brushed my shoulder. "And don't forget
we're going up in the hydroplane to-morrow morning, at nine o'clock."
Then the butler, behind his shoulder: "Philadelphia wants you on the
"All right, in a minute. Tell them I'll be right there. . . . good
"Good night." He smiled--and suddenly there seemed to be a pleasant
significance in having been among the last to go, as if he had desired
it all the time. "Good night, old sport. . . . good night."
But as I walked down the steps I saw that the evening was not quite over.
Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre and
tumultuous scene. In the ditch beside the road, right side up, but
violently shorn of one wheel, rested a new coupe which had left Gatsby's
drive not two minutes before. The sharp jut of a wall accounted for the
detachment of the wheel, which was now getting considerable attention from
half a dozen curious chauffeurs. However, as they had left their cars
blocking the road, a harsh, discordant din from those in the rear had been
audible for some time, and added to the already violent confusion of
A man in a long duster had dismounted from the wreck and now stood in
the middle of the road, looking from the car to the tire and from the
tire to the observers in a pleasant, puzzled way.
"See!" he explained. "It went in the ditch."
The fact was infinitely astonishing to him, and I recognized first the
unusual quality of wonder, and then the man--it was the late patron of
"How'd it happen?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"I know nothing whatever about mechanics," he said decisively.
"But how did it happen? Did you run into the wall?" "Don't ask me,"
said Owl Eyes, washing his hands of the whole matter. "I know very little
about driving--next to nothing. It happened, and that's all I know."
"Well, if you're a poor driver you oughtn't to try driving at night."
"But I wasn't even trying," he explained indignantly, "I wasn't even
An awed hush fell upon the bystanders.
"Do you want to commit suicide?"
"You're lucky it was just a wheel! A bad driver and not even TRYing!"
"You don't understand," explained the criminal. "I wasn't driving. There's
another man in the car."
The shock that followed this declaration found voice in a sustained
"Ah-h-h!" as the door of the coupe swung slowly open. The crowd--it was
now a crowd--stepped back involuntarily, and when the door had opened wide
there was a ghostly pause. Then, very gradually, part by part, a pale,
dangling individual stepped out of the wreck, pawing tentatively at the
ground with a large uncertain dancing shoe.
Blinded by the glare of the headlights and confused by the incessant
groaning of the horns, the apparition stood swaying for a moment before
he perceived the man in the duster.
"Wha's matter?" he inquired calmly. "Did we run outa gas?"
Half a dozen fingers pointed at the amputated wheel--he stared
at it for a moment, and then looked upward as though he suspected that
it had dropped from the sky.
"It came off," some one explained.
"At first I din' notice we'd stopped."
A pause. Then, taking a long breath and straightening his shoulders,
he remarked in a determined voice:
"Wonder'ff tell me where there's a gas'line station?"
At least a dozen men, some of them little better off than he was,
explained to him that wheel and car were no longer joined by any physical
"Back out," he suggested after a moment. "Put her in reverse."
"But the WHEEL'S off!"
"No harm in trying," he said.
The caterwauling horns had reached a crescendo and I turned away and
cut across the lawn toward home. I glanced back once. A wafer of a moon
was shining over Gatsby's house, making the night fine as before, and
surviving the laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden. A
sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great
doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host, who
stood on the porch, his hand up in a formal gesture of farewell.
Reading over what I have written so far, I see I have given the
impression that the events of three nights several weeks apart were all
that absorbed me. On the contrary, they were merely casual events in a
crowded summer, and, until much later, they absorbed me infinitely less
than my personal affairs.
Most of the time I worked. In the early morning the sun threw my shadow
westward as I hurried down the white chasms of lower New York to the
Probity Trust. I knew the other clerks and young bond-salesmen by their
first names, and lunched with them in dark, crowded restaurants on
little pig sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee. I even had a short
affair with a girl who lived in Jersey City and worked in the
accounting department, but her brother began throwing mean looks in my
direction, so when she went on her vacation in July I let it blow
I took dinner usually at the Yale Club--for some reason it was the
gloomiest event of my day--and then I went up-stairs to the library and
studied investments and securities for a conscientious hour.
There were generally a few rioters around, but they never came into the
library, so it was a good place to work. After that, if the night was
mellow, I strolled down Madison Avenue past the old Murray Hill Hotel,
and over 33rd Street to the Pennsylvania Station.
I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night,
and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and
machines gives to the restless eye. I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and
pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few
minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever
know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their
apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled
back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the
enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes,
and felt it in others--poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows
waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner--young clerks
in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.
Again at eight o'clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five
deep with throbbing taxi-cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a
sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited,
and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted
cigarettes outlined unintelligible 70 gestures inside. Imagining that
I, too, was hurrying toward gayety and sharing their intimate
excitement, I wished them well.
For a while I lost sight of Jordan Baker, and then in midsummer I found
her again. At first I was flattered to go places with her, because she
was a golf champion, and every one knew her name. Then it was
something more. I wasn't actually in love, but I felt a sort of
tender curiosity. The bored haughty face that she turned to the
world concealed something--most affectations conceal something
eventually, even though they don't in the beginning--and one day I found
what it was. When we were on a house-party together up in Warwick, she
left a borrowed car out in the rain with the top down, and then lied
about it--and suddenly I remembered the story about her that had eluded
me that night at Daisy's. At her first big golf tournament there was a
row that nearly reached the newspapers--a suggestion that she had moved
her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round. The thing approached
the proportions of a scandal--then died away. A caddy retracted his
statement, and the only other witness admitted that he might have been
mistaken. The incident and the name had remained together in my mind.
Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw
that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence
from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest.
She wasn't able to endure being at a disadvantage and, given this
unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she
was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the
world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body.
It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never
blame deeply--I was casually sorry, and then I forgot. It was on that
same house party that we had a curious conversation about driving a
car. It started because she passed so close to some workmen that our
fender flicked a button on one man's coat.
"You're a rotten driver," I protested. "Either you ought to be more
careful, or you oughtn't to drive at all."
"I am careful."
"No, you're not."
"Well, other people are," she said lightly.
"What's that got to do with it?"
"They'll keep out of my way," she insisted. "It takes two to make an
"Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself."
"I hope I never will," she answered. "I hate careless people. That's why
I like you."
Her gray, sun-strained eyes stared straight ahead, but she had
deliberately shifted our relations, and for a moment I thought I loved
her. But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes
on my desires, and I knew that first I had to get myself definitely out of
that tangle back home. I'd been writing letters once a week and signing
them: "Love, Nick," and all I could think of was how, when that certain
girl played tennis, a faint mustache of perspiration appeared on her
upper lip. Nevertheless there was a vague understanding that had to be
tactfully broken off before I was free.
Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and
this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.
On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages alongshore,
the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby's house and twinkled
hilariously on his lawn.
"He's a bootlegger," said the young ladies, moving somewhere between
his cocktails and his flowers. "One time he killed a man who had found out
that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil.
Reach me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal
Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table the names
of those who came to Gatsby's house that summer. It is an old time-table
now, disintegrating at its folds, and headed "This schedule in effect
July 5th, 1922." But I can still read the gray names, and they will give
you a better impression than my generalities of those who accepted
Gatsby's hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing
whatever about him.
From East Egg, then, came the Chester Beckers and the Leeches, and a
man named Bunsen, whom I knew at Yale, and Doctor Webster Civet, who
was drowned last summer up in Maine. And the Hornbeams and the Willie
Voltaires, and a whole clan named Blackbuck, who always gathered in a
corner and flipped up their noses like goats at whosoever came near.
And the Ismays and the Chrysties (or rather Hubert Auerbach and Mr.
Chrystie's wife), and Edgar Beaver, whose hair, they say, turned
cotton-white one winter afternoon for no good reason at all.
Clarence Endive was from East Egg, as I remember. He came only
once, in white knickerbockers, and had a fight with a bum named
Etty in the garden. From farther out on the Island came the Cheadles
and the O. R. P. Schraeders, and the Stonewall Jackson Abrams of
Georgia, and the Fishguards and the Ripley Snells. Snell was there
three days before he went to the penitentiary, so drunk out on the
gravel drive that Mrs. Ulysses Swett's automobile ran over his right
hand. The Dancies came, too, and S. B. Whitebait, who was well over
sixty, and Maurice A. Flink, and the Hammerheads, and Beluga the
tobacco importer, and Beluga's girls.
From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys and Cecil Roebuck and
Cecil Schoen and Gulick the state senator and Newton Orchid, who
controlled Films Par Excellence, and Eckhaust and Clyde Cohen and Don
S. Schwartze (the son) and Arthur McCarty, all connected with the
movies in one way or another. And the Catlips and the Bembergs and G.
Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife.
Da Fontano the promoter came there, and Ed Legros and James B.
("Rot-Gut.") Ferret and the De Jongs and Ernest Lilly--they came to
gamble, and when Ferret wandered into the garden it meant he was
cleaned out and Associated Traction would have to fluctuate profitably
A man named Klipspringer was there so often and so long that he became
known as "the boarder."--I doubt if he had any other home. Of theatrical
people there were Gus Waize and Horace O'donavan and Lester Meyer and
George Duckweed and Francis Bull. Also from New York were the Chromes
and the Backhyssons and the Dennickers and Russel Betty and the
Corrigans and the Kellehers and the Dewars and the Scullys and S. W.
Belcher and the Smirkes and the young Quinns, divorced now, and Henry
L. Palmetto, who killed himself by jumping in front of a subway train
in Times Square.
Benny McClenahan arrived always with four girls. They were never quite
the same ones in physical person, but they were so identical one with
another that it inevitably seemed they had been there before. I have
forgotten their names--Jaqueline, I think, or else Consuela, or Gloria
or Judy or June, and their last names were either the melodious names
of flowers and months or the sterner ones of the great American
capitalists whose cousins, if pressed, they would confess themselves to
In addition to all these I can remember that Faustina O'brien came
there at least once and the Baedeker girls and young Brewer, who had
his nose shot off in the war, and Mr. Albrucksburger and Miss Haag, his
fiancee, and Ardita Fitz-Peters and Mr. P. Jewett, once head of the
American Legion, and Miss Claudia Hip, with a man reputed to be her
chauffeur, and a prince of something, whom we called Duke, and whose name,
if I ever knew it, I have forgotten.
All these people came to Gatsby's house in the summer.
At nine o'clock, one morning late in July, Gatsby's gorgeous car
lurched up the rocky drive to my door and gave out a burst of melody
from its three-noted horn. It was the first time he had called on me,
though I had gone to two of his parties, mounted in his hydroplane,
and, at his urgent invitation, made frequent use of his beach.
"Good morning, old sport. You're having lunch with me to-day and I
thought we'd ride up together."
He was balancing himself on the dashboard of his car with that
resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly American--that comes,
I suppose, with the absence of lifting work or rigid sitting in youth
and, even more, with the formless grace of our nervous, sporadic games.
This quality was continually breaking through his punctilious manner in
the shape of restlessness. He was never quite still; there was always a
tapping foot somewhere or the impatient opening and closing of a hand.
He saw me looking with admiration at his car.
"It's pretty, isn't it, old sport?" He jumped off to give me a better
view. "Haven't you ever seen it before?"
I'd seen it. Everybody had seen it. It was a rich cream color, bright
with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with
triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a
labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns. Sitting down behind
many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory, we started
I had talked with him perhaps half a dozen times in the past month and
found, to my disappointment, that he had little to say: So my first
impression, that he was a person of some undefined consequence, had
gradually faded and he had become simply the proprietor of an elaborate
road-house next door.
And then came that disconcerting ride. We hadn't reached West Egg
village before Gatsby began leaving his elegant sentences unfinished
and slapping himself indecisively on the knee of his caramel-colored
"Look here, old sport," he broke out surprisingly. "What's your opinion of
me, anyhow?" A little overwhelmed, I began the generalized evasions which
that question deserves.
"Well, I'm going to tell you something about my life," he interrupted.
"I don't want you to get a wrong idea of me from all these stories you
So he was aware of the bizarre accusations that flavored conversation in
"I'll tell you God's truth." His right hand suddenly ordered divine
retribution to stand by. "I am the son of some wealthy people in the
Middle West--all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at
Oxford, because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years.
It is a family tradition."
He looked at me sideways--and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was
lying. He hurried the phrase "educated at Oxford," or swallowed it, or
choked on it, as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt,
his whole statement fell to pieces, and I wondered if there wasn't
something a little sinister about him, after all.
"What part of the Middle West?" I inquired casually.
"My family all died and I came into a good deal of money."
His voice was solemn, as if the memory of that sudden extinction of a clan
still haunted him. For a moment I suspected that he was pulling my leg,
but a glance at him convinced me otherwise.
"After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of
Europe--Paris, Venice, Rome--collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting
big game, painting a little, things for myself only, and trying to
forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago."
With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laughter. The very
phrases were worn so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a
turbaned "character." leaking sawdust at every pore as he pursued a
tiger through the Bois de Boulogne.
"Then came the war, old sport. It was a great relief, and I tried very
hard to die, but I seemed to bear an enchanted life. I accepted a
commission as first lieutenant when it began. In the Argonne Forest I
took two machine-gun detachments so far forward that there was a half
mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn't advance. We
stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty men with
sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came up at last they found
the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead. I was
promoted to be a major, and every Allied government gave me a
decoration--even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic
Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them--with
his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro's troubled history and
sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. It
appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had
elicited this tribute from Montenegro's warm little heart. My
incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming
hastily through a dozen magazines.
He reached in his pocket, and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell
into my palm.
"That's the one from Montenegro."
To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look.
"Orderi di Danilo," ran the circular legend, "Montenegro, Nicolas Rex."
"Major Jay Gatsby," I read, "For Valour Extraordinary."
"Here's another thing I always carry. A souvenir of Oxford days. It was
taken in Trinity Quad--the man on my left is now the Earl of Dorcaster."
It was a photograph of half a dozen young men in blazers loafing in an
archway through which were visible a host of spires. There was Gatsby,
looking a little, not much, younger--with a cricket bat in his hand.
Then it was all true. I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his palace
on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of rubies to ease, with
their crimson-lighted depths, the gnawings of his broken heart.
"I'm going to make a big request of you to-day," he said, pocketing his
souvenirs with satisfaction, "so I thought you ought to know something
about me. I didn't want you to think I was just some nobody. You see,
I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there
trying to forget the sad thing that happened to me." He hesitated.
"You'll hear about it this afternoon."
"No, this afternoon. I happened to find out that you're taking Miss Baker
"Do you mean you're in love with Miss Baker?"
"No, old sport, I'm not. But Miss Baker has kindly consented to speak
to you about this matter."
I hadn't the faintest idea what "this matter." was, but I was more
annoyed than interested. I hadn't asked Jordan to tea in order to discuss
Mr. Jay Gatsby. I was sure the request would be something utterly
fantastic, and for a moment I was sorry I'd ever set foot upon his
He wouldn't say another word. His correctness grew on him as we neared
the city. We passed Port Roosevelt, where there was a glimpse of
red-belted ocean-going ships, and sped along a cobbled slum lined with
the dark, undeserted saloons of the faded-gilt nineteen-hundreds. Then
the valley of ashes opened out on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse
of Mrs. Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we
With fenders spread like wings we scattered light through half Long
Island City--only half, for as we twisted among the pillars of the
elevated I heard the familiar "jug--jug--SPAT!" of a motorcycle, and a
frantic policeman rode alongside.
"All right, old sport," called Gatsby. We slowed down. Taking a white
card from his wallet, he waved it before the man's eyes.
"Right you are," agreed the policeman, tipping his cap. "Know you next
time, Mr. Gatsby. Excuse ME!"
"What was that?" I inquired.
"The picture of Oxford?"
"I was able to do the commissioner a favor once, and he sends me a
Christmas card every year."
Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a
constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the
river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of
non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always
the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the
mystery and the beauty in the world.
A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blooms, followed by two
carriages with drawn blinds, and by more cheerful carriages for
friends. The friends looked out at us with the tragic eyes and short
upper lips of southeastern Europe, and I was glad that the sight of
Gatsby's splendid car was included in their sombre holiday. As we
crossed Blackwell's Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white
chauffeur, in which sat three modish negroes, two bucks and a girl. I
laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in
"Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge," I thought;
"anything at all. . . ."
Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.
Roaring noon. In a well--fanned Forty-second Street cellar I met Gatsby
for lunch. Blinking away the brightness of the street outside, my eyes
picked him out obscurely in the anteroom, talking to another man.
"Mr. Carraway, this is my friend Mr. Wolfshiem."
A small, flat-nosed Jew raised his large head and regarded me with two
fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril. After a moment I
discovered his tiny eyes in the half-darkness.
"--So I took one look at him," said Mr. Wolfshiem, shaking my hand
earnestly, "and what do you think I did?"
"What?" I inquired politely.
But evidently he was not addressing me, for he dropped my hand and
covered Gatsby with his expressive nose.
"I handed the money to Katspaugh and I sid: 'all right, Katspaugh,
don't pay him a penny till he shuts his mouth.' He shut it then and
Gatsby took an arm of each of us and moved forward into the
restaurant, whereupon Mr. Wolfshiem swallowed a new sentence he was
starting and lapsed into a somnambulatory abstraction.
"Highballs?" asked the head waiter.
"This is a nice restaurant here," said Mr. Wolfshiem, looking at the
Presbyterian nymphs on the ceiling. "But I like across the street better!"
"Yes, highballs," agreed Gatsby, and then to Mr. Wolfshiem: "It's too hot
"Hot and small--yes," said Mr. Wolfshiem, "but full of memories."
"What place is that?" I asked.
"The old Metropole.
"The old Metropole," brooded Mr. Wolfshiem gloomily. "Filled with faces
dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can't forget so
long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there. It was six of us
at the table, and Rosy had eat and drunk a lot all evening. When it was
almost morning the waiter came up to him with a funny look and says
somebody wants to speak to him outside. 'all right,' says Rosy, and begins
to get up, and I pulled him down in his chair.
"'Let the bastards come in here if they want you, Rosy, but don't you,
so help me, move outside this room.'
"It was four o'clock in the morning then, and if we'd of raised the blinds
we'd of seen daylight."
"Did he go?" I asked innocently.
"Sure he went." Mr. Wolfshiem's nose flashed at me indignantly. "He
turned around in the door and says: 'Don't let that waiter take away
my coffee!' Then he went out on the sidewalk, and they shot him
three times in his full belly and drove away."
"Four of them were electrocuted," I said, remembering.
"Five, with Becker." His nostrils turned to me in an interested way.
"I understand you're looking for a business gonnegtion."
The juxtaposition of these two remarks was startling. Gatsby answered
"Oh, no," he exclaimed, "this isn't the man."
"No?" Mr. Wolfshiem seemed disappointed.
"This is just a friend. I told you we'd talk about that some other
"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Wolfshiem, "I had a wrong man."
A succulent hash arrived, and Mr. Wolfshiem, forgetting the more
sentimental atmosphere of the old Metropole, began to eat with
ferocious delicacy. His eyes, meanwhile, roved very slowly all around the
room--he completed the arc by turning to inspect the people directly
behind. I think that, except for my presence, he would have taken one
short glance beneath our own table.
"Look here, old sport," said Gatsby, leaning toward me, "I'm afraid I
made you a little angry this morning in the car."
There was the smile again, but this time I held out against it.
"I don't like mysteries," I answered. "And I don't understand why you
won't come out frankly and tell me what you want. Why has it all got to
come through Miss Baker?"
"Oh, it's nothing underhand," he assured me. "Miss Baker's a great
sportswoman, you know, and she'd never do anything that wasn't all right."
Suddenly he looked at his watch, jumped up, and hurried from the room,
leaving me with Mr. Wolfshiem at the table.
"He has to telephone," said Mr. Wolfshiem, following him with his eyes.
"Fine fellow, isn't he? Handsome to look at and a perfect gentleman."
"He's an Oggsford man."
"He went to Oggsford College in England. You know Oggsford College?"
"I've heard of it."
"It's one of the most famous colleges in the world."
"Have you known Gatsby for a long time?" I inquired.
"Several years," he answered in a gratified way. "I made the pleasure of
his acquaintance just after the war. But I knew I had discovered a man of
fine breeding after I talked with him an hour. I said to myself: 'There's
the kind of man you'd like to take home and introduce to your mother and
sister.'." He paused. "I see you're looking at my cuff buttons." I hadn't
been looking at them, but I did now.
They were composed of oddly familiar pieces of ivory.
"Finest specimens of human molars," he informed me.
"Well!" I inspected them. "That's a very interesting idea."
"Yeah." He flipped his sleeves up under his coat. "Yeah, Gatsby's very
careful about women. He would never so much as look at a friend's wife."
When the subject of this instinctive trust returned to the table and sat
down Mr. Wolfshiem drank his coffee with a jerk and got to his feet.
"I have enjoyed my lunch," he said, "and I'm going to run off from you
two young men before I outstay my welcome."
"Don't hurry, Meyer," said Gatsby, without enthusiasm. Mr. Wolfshiem
raised his hand in a sort of benediction.
"You're very polite, but I belong to another generation," he announced
solemnly. "You sit here and discuss your sports and your young ladies and
your----" He supplied an imaginary noun with another wave of his hand.
"As for me, I am fifty years old, and I won't impose myself on you any
As he shook hands and turned away his tragic nose was trembling.
I wondered if I had said anything to offend him.
"He becomes very sentimental sometimes," explained Gatsby. "This is one of
his sentimental days. He's quite a character around New York--a denizen of
"Who is he, anyhow, an actor?"
"Meyer Wolfshiem? No, he's a gambler." Gatsby hesitated, then added
coolly: "He's the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919."
"Fixed the World's Series?" I repeated.
The idea staggered me. I remembered, of course, that the World's Series
had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have
thought of it as a thing that merely HAPPENED, the end of some
inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to
play with the faith of fifty million people--with the single-mindedness
of a burglar blowing a safe.
"How did he happen to do that?" I asked after a minute.
"He just saw the opportunity."
"Why isn't he in jail?"
"They can't get him, old sport. He's a smart man."
I insisted on paying the check. As the waiter brought my change I caught
sight of Tom Buchanan across the crowded room.
"Come along with me for a minute," I said; "I've got to say hello to some
one." When he saw us Tom jumped up and took half a dozen steps in our
"Where've you been?" he demamded eagerly. "Daisy's furious because you
haven't called up."
"This is Mr. Gatsby, Mr. Buchanan."
They shook hands briefly, and a strained, unfamiliar look of embarrassment
came over Gatsby's face.
"How've you been, anyhow?" demanded Tom of me. "How'd you happen to come
up this far to eat?"
"I've been having lunch with Mr. Gatsby."
I turned toward Mr. Gatsby, but he was no longer there.
One October day in nineteen-seventeen----
(said Jordan Baker that afternoon, sitting up very straight on a straight
chair in the tea-garden at the Plaza Hotel)
--I was walking along from one place to another, half on the sidewalks and
half on the lawns. I was happier on the lawns because I had on shoes from
England with rubber nobs on the soles that bit into the soft ground.
I had on a new plaid skirt also that blew a little in the wind, and
whenever this happened the red, white, and blue banners in front of all
the houses stretched out stiff and said TUT-TUT-TUT-TUT, in a disapproving
The largest of the banners and the largest of the lawns belonged to
Daisy Fay's house. She was just eighteen, two years older than me, and
by far the most popular of all the young girls in Louisville. She
dressed in white, and had a little white roadster, and all day long
the telephone rang in her house and excited young officers from Camp
Taylor demanded the privilege of monopolizing her that night. "Anyways,
for an hour!"
When I came opposite her house that morning her white roadster was beside
the curb, and she was sitting in it with a lieutenant I had never seen
before. They were so engrossed in each other that she didn't see me until
I was five feet away.
"Hello, Jordan," she called unexpectedly. "Please come here."
I was flattered that she wanted to speak to me, because of all the older
girls I admired her most. She asked me if I was going to the Red Cross and
make bandages. I was. Well, then, would I tell them that she couldn't come
that day? The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way
that every young girl wants to be looked at sometime, and because it
seemed romantic to me I have remembered the incident ever since. His name
was Jay Gatsby, and I didn't lay eyes on him again for over four
years--even after I'd met him on Long Island I didn't realize it was the
That was nineteen-seventeen. By the next year I had a few beaux myself,
and I began to play in tournaments, so I didn't see Daisy very often.
She went with a slightly older crowd--when she went with anyone at all.
Wild rumors were circulating about her--how her mother had found her
packing her bag one winter night to go to New York and say good-by to a
soldier who was going overseas. She was effectually prevented, but she
wasn't on speaking terms with her family for several weeks. After
that she didn't play around with the soldiers any more, but only
with a few flat-footed, short-sighted young men in town, who couldn't
get into the army at all.
By the next autumn she was gay again, gay as ever. She had a debut
after the Armistice, and in February she was presumably engaged to a
man from New Orleans. In June she married Tom Buchanan of Chicago, with
more pomp and circumstance than Louisville ever knew before. He came
down with a hundred people in four private cars, and hired a whole
floor of the Seelbach Hotel, and the day before the wedding he gave her
a string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
I was bridesmaid. I came into her room half an hour before the bridal
dinner, and found her lying on her bed as lovely as the June night in
her flowered dress--and as drunk as a monkey. she had a bottle of
Sauterne in one hand and a letter in the other.
"'Gratulate me," she muttered. "Never had a drink before, but oh how I do
"What's the matter, Daisy?"
I was scared, I can tell you; I'd never seen a girl like that before.
"Here, deares'." She groped around in a waste-basket she had with her
on the bed and pulled out the string of pearls. "Take 'em down-stairs and
give 'em back to whoever they belong to. Tell 'em all Daisy's change' her
mine. Say: 'Daisy's change' her mine!'."
She began to cry--she cried and cried. I rushed out and found her
mother's maid, and we locked the door and got her into a cold bath. She
wouldn't let go of the letter. She took it into the tub with her and
squeezed it up into a wet ball, and only let me leave it in the
soap-dish when she saw that it was coming to pieces like snow.
But she didn't say another word. We gave her spirits of ammonia and put
ice on her forehead and hooked her back into her dress, and half an
hour later, when we walked out of the room, the pearls were around her
neck and the incident was over. Next day at five o'clock she married Tom
Buchanan without so much as a shiver, and started off on a three months'
trip to the South Seas.
I saw them in Santa Barbara when they came back, and I thought I'd
never seen a girl so mad about her husband. If he left the room for a
minute she'd look around uneasily, and say: "Where's Tom gone?" and
wear the most abstracted expression until she saw him coming in the
door. She used to sit on the sand with his head in her lap by the hour,
rubbing her fingers over his eyes and looking at him with unfathomable
delight. It was touching to see them together--it made you laugh in a
hushed, fascinated way. That was in August. A week after I left Santa
Barbara Tom ran into a wagon on the Ventura road one night, and ripped
a front wheel off his car. The girl who was with him got into the
papers, too, because her arm was broken--she was one of the chambermaids
in the Santa Barbara Hotel.
The next April Daisy had her little girl, and they went to France for a
year. I saw them one spring in Cannes, and later in Deauville, and then
they came back to Chicago to settle down. Daisy was popular in Chicago,
as you know. They moved with a fast crowd, all of them young and rich
and wild, but she came out with an absolutely perfect reputation.
Perhaps because she doesn't drink. It's a great advantage not to drink
among hard-drinking people. You can hold your tongue, and, moreover,
you can time any little irregularity of your own so that everybody else
is so blind that they don't see or care. Perhaps Daisy never went in
for amour at all--and yet there's something in that voice of hers. . . .
Well, about six weeks ago, she heard the name Gatsby for the first time
in years. It was when I asked you--do you remember?--if you knew Gatsby
in West Egg. After you had gone home she came into my room and woke me
up, and said: "What Gatsby?" and when I described him--I was half
asleep--she said in the strangest voice that it must be the man she used
to know. It wasn't until then that I connected this Gatsby with the
officer in her white car.
When Jordan Baker had finished telling all this we had left the Plaza
for half an hour and were driving in a victoria through Central Park.
The sun had gone down behind the tall apartments of the movie stars in
the West Fifties, and the clear voices of girls, already gathered like
crickets on the grass, rose through the hot twilight:
"I'm the Sheik of Araby.
Your love belongs to me.
At night when you're are asleep
Into your tent I'll creep----"
"It was a strange coincidence," I said.
"But it wasn't a coincidence at all."
"Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay."
Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired
on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the
womb of his purposeless splendor.
"He wants to know," continued Jordan, "if you'll invite Daisy to your
house some afternoon and then let him come over."
The modesty of the demand shook me. He had waited five years and bought a
mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths--so that he could
"come over." some afternoon to a stranger's garden.
"Did I have to know all this before he could ask such a little thing?"
"He's afraid, he's waited so long. He thought you might be offended.
You see, he's a regular tough underneath it all."
Something worried me.
"Why didn't he ask you to arrange a meeting?"
"He wants her to see his house," she explained. "And your house is right
"I think he half expected her to wander into one of his parties,
some night," went on Jordan, "but she never did. Then he began asking
people casually if they knew her, and I was the first one he found.
It was that night he sent for me at his dance, and you should have
heard the elaborate way he worked up to it. Of course, I immediately
suggested a luncheon in New York--and I thought he'd go mad:
"'I don't want to do anything out of the way!' he kept saying. 'I want to
see her right next door.'
"When I said you were a particular friend of Tom's, he started to abandon
the whole idea. He doesn't know very much about Tom, though he says he's
read a Chicago paper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse
of Daisy's name."
It was dark now, and as we dipped under a little bridge I put my arm
around Jordan's golden shoulder and drew her toward me and asked her to
dinner. Suddenly I wasn't thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more, but of
this clean, hard, limited person, who dealt in universal scepticism, and
who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm. A phrase began
to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: "There are only the
pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired."
"And Daisy ought to have something in her life," murmured Jordan to me.
"Does she want to see Gatsby?"
"She's not to know about it. Gatsby doesn't want her to know. You're
just supposed to invite her to tea."
We passed a barrier of dark trees, and then the facade of Fifty-ninth
Street, a block of delicate pale light, beamed down into the park.
Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, I had no girl whose disembodied face
floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs, and so I drew up the
girl beside me, tightening my arms. Her wan, scornful mouth smiled, and so
I drew her up again closer, this time to my face.