In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice
that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just
remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages
that you’ve had.”
He didn’t say any more but we’ve always been unusually communicative
in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more
than that. In consequence I’m inclined to reserve all judgments,
a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also
made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind
is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it
appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I
was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the
secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were
unsought—frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile
levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate
revelation was quivering on the horizon—for the intimate revelations
of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are
usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving
judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of
missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested,
and I snobbishly repeat a sense of the fundamental decencies is
parcelled out unequally at birth.
And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission
that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet
marshes but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on.
When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the
world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I
wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the
human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was
exempt from my reaction—Gatsby who represented everything for which I
have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of
successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some
heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related
to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten
thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that
flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the
“creative temperament”—it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic
readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it
is not likely I shall ever find again. No—Gatsby turned out all right
at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the
wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the
abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western
city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan and we
have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the
actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother who came here in
fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale
hardware business that my father carries on today.
I never saw this great-uncle but I’m supposed to look like him—with
special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting that hangs in
Father’s office. I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a
century after my father, and a little later I participated in that
delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the
counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being
the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the
ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go east and learn the bond
business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business so I supposed it
could support one more single man. All my aunts and uncles talked it
over as if they were choosing a prep-school for me and finally said,
“Why—ye-es” with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance
me for a year and after various delays I came east, permanently, I
thought, in the spring of twenty-two.
The practical thing was to find rooms in the city but it was a warm
season and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees,
so when a young man at the office suggested that we take a house
together in a commuting town it sounded like a great idea. He found
the house, a weather beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but
at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington and I went out
to the country alone. I had a dog, at least I had him for a few days
until he ran away, and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman who made my bed
and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the
It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently
arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
“How do you get to West Egg village?” he asked helplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a
pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the
freedom of the neighborhood.
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the
trees—just as things grow in fast movies—I had that familiar
conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be
pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen
volumes on banking and credit and investment securities and they stood
on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to
unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas
knew. And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides.
I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very
solemn and obvious editorials for the “Yale News”—and now I was going
to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most
limited of all specialists, the “well-rounded man.” This isn’t just an
epigram—life is much more successfully looked at from a single window,
It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of
the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender
riotous island which extends itself due east of New York and where
there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of
land. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in
contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most
domesticated body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere, the great
wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. They are not perfect ovals—like the
egg in the Columbus story they are both crushed flat at the contact
end—but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual
confusion to the gulls that fly overhead. To the wingless a more
arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except
shape and size.
I lived at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two, though
this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little
sinister contrast between them. My house was at the very tip of the
egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge
places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on
my right was a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual
imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side,
spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool
and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby’s mansion.
Or rather, as I didn’t know Mr. Gatsby it was a mansion inhabited by
a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a
small eye-sore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the
water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and the consoling
proximity of millionaires—all for eighty dollars a month.
Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg
glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins
on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom
Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed and I’d known Tom
in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in
Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of
the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven—a
national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute
limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of
anti-climax. His family were enormously wealthy—even in college his
freedom with money was a matter for reproach—but now he’d left Chicago
and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for
instance he’d brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.
It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy
enough to do that.
Why they came east I don’t know. They had spent a year in France, for no
particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever
people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move,
said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn’t believe it—I had no sight
into Daisy’s heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking
a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable
And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East
Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was
even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian
Colonial mansion overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach
and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over
sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens—finally when it reached
the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the
momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows,
glowing now with reflected gold, and wide open to the warm windy
afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his
legs apart on the front porch.
He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy, straw haired
man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner.
Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and
gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not
even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous
power of that body—he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he
strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle
shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body
capable of enormous leverage—a cruel body.
His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of
fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in
it, even toward people he liked—and there were men at New Haven who had
hated his guts.
“Now, don’t think my opinion on these matters is final,” he seemed to
say, “just because I’m stronger and more of a man than you are.” We
were in the same Senior Society, and while we were never intimate I
always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like
him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch.
“I’ve got a nice place here,” he said, his eyes flashing about
Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand along the
front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half
acre of deep pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat that bumped
the tide off shore.
“It belonged to Demaine the oil man.” He turned me around again,
politely and abruptly. “We’ll go inside.”
We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space,
fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end.
The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass
outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze
blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other
like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding cake of
the ceiling—and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a
shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch
on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored
balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and
fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight
around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the
whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall.
Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught
wind died out about the room and the curtains and the rugs and the two
young women ballooned slowly to the floor.
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length
at her end of the divan, completely motionless and with her chin raised
a little as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely
to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of
it—indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having
disturbed her by coming in.
The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise—she leaned slightly
forward with a conscientious expression—then she laughed, an absurd,
charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the
“I’m p-paralyzed with happiness.”
She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand
for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one
in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had.
She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker.
(I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people
lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)
At any rate Miss Baker’s lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost
imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back again—the object
she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something
of a fright. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any
exhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.
I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions in her low,
thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and
down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be
played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it,
bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth—but there was an excitement
in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget:
a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done
gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay,
exciting things hovering in the next hour.
I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on my way east
and how a dozen people had sent their love through me.
“Do they miss me?” she cried ecstatically.
“The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left rear wheel
painted black as a mourning wreath and there’s a persistent wail all
night along the North Shore.”
“How gorgeous! Let’s go back, Tom. Tomorrow!” Then she added
irrelevantly, “You ought to see the baby.”
“I’d like to.”
“She’s asleep. She’s two years old. Haven’t you ever seen her?”
“Well, you ought to see her. She’s——”
Tom Buchanan who had been hovering restlessly about the room stopped
and rested his hand on my shoulder.
“What you doing, Nick?”
“I’m a bond man.”
I told him.
“Never heard of them,” he remarked decisively.
This annoyed me.
“You will,” I answered shortly. “You will if you stay in the East.”
“Oh, I’ll stay in the East, don’t you worry,” he said, glancing at
Daisy and then back at me, as if he were alert for something more.
“I’d be a God Damned fool to live anywhere else.”
At this point Miss Baker said “Absolutely!” with such suddenness that I
started—it was the first word she uttered since I came into the room.
Evidently it surprised her as much as it did me, for she yawned and
with a series of rapid, deft movements stood up into the room.
“I’m stiff,” she complained, “I’ve been lying on that sofa for as long
as I can remember.”
“Don’t look at me,” Daisy retorted. “I’ve been trying to get you to New
York all afternoon.”
“No, thanks,” said Miss Baker to the four cocktails just in from the
pantry, “I’m absolutely in training.”
Her host looked at her incredulously.
“You are!” He took down his drink as if it were a drop in the bottom of
a glass. “How you ever get anything done is beyond me.”
I looked at Miss Baker wondering what it was she “got done.” I enjoyed
looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect
carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the
shoulders like a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at
me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented
face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her,
“You live in West Egg,” she remarked contemptuously. “I know somebody
“I don’t know a single——”
“You must know Gatsby.”
“Gatsby?” demanded Daisy. “What Gatsby?”
Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner was announced;
wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine Tom Buchanan compelled
me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square.
Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips the two
young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch open toward the
sunset where four candles flickered on the table in the diminished
“Why CANDLES?” objected Daisy, frowning. She snapped them out with her
fingers. “In two weeks it’ll be the longest day in the year.”
She looked at us all radiantly. “Do you always watch for the longest day
of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the
year and then miss it.”
“We ought to plan something,” yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the
table as if she were getting into bed.
“All right,” said Daisy. “What’ll we plan?” She turned to me helplessly.
“What do people plan?”
Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed expression on her
“Look!” she complained. “I hurt it.”
We all looked—the knuckle was black and blue.
“You did it, Tom,” she said accusingly. “I know you didn’t mean to
but you DID do it. That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man,
a great big hulking physical specimen of a——”
“I hate that word hulking,” objected Tom crossly, “even in kidding.”
“Hulking,” insisted Daisy.
Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a
bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool
as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all
desire. They were here—and they accepted Tom and me, making only a
polite pleasant effort to entertain or to be entertained. They knew
that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening too
would be over and casually put away. It was sharply different from the
West where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its
close in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer
nervous dread of the moment itself.
“You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy,” I confessed on my second glass
of corky but rather impressive claret. “Can’t you talk about crops or
I meant nothing in particular by this remark but it was taken up in an
“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently.
“I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read
‘The Rise of the Coloured Empires’ by this man Goddard?”
“Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if
we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged.
It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”
“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy with an expression of
unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them.
What was that word we——”
“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her
impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us
who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have
control of things.”
“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously
toward the fervent sun.
“You ought to live in California—” began Miss Baker but Tom
interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are and you are
and——” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a
slight nod and she winked at me again. “
-and we’ve produced all the-oh, science and art and all that.
things that go to make civilization
Do you see?”
There was something pathetic in his concentration as if his complacency,
more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more. When, almost
immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy
seized upon the momentary interruption and leaned toward me.
“I’ll tell you a family secret,” she whispered enthusiastically. “It’s
about the butler’s nose. Do you want to hear about the butler’s nose?”
“That’s why I came over tonight.”
“Well, he wasn’t always a butler; he used to be the silver polisher for
some people in New York that had a silver service for two hundred people.
He had to polish it from morning till night until finally it began to
affect his nose——”
“Things went from bad to worse,” suggested Miss Baker.
“Yes. Things went from bad to worse until finally he had to give up
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon
her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as
I listened—then the glow faded, each light deserting her with
lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
The butler came back and murmured something close to Tom’s ear
whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair and without a word went
inside. As if his absence quickened something within her Daisy leaned
forward again, her voice glowing and singing.
“I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a—of a rose, an
absolute rose. Doesn’t he?” She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation.
“An absolute rose?”
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only
extemporizing but a stirring warmth flowed from her as if her
heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those
breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the
table and excused herself and went into the house.
Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously devoid of
meaning. I was about to speak when she sat up alertly and said “Sh!” in
a warning voice. A subdued impassioned murmur was audible in the room
beyond and Miss Baker leaned forward, unashamed, trying to hear. The
murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted
excitedly, and then ceased altogether.
“This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor——” I said.
“Don’t talk. I want to hear what happens.”
“Is something happening?” I inquired innocently.
“You mean to say you don’t know?” said Miss Baker, honestly surprised.
“I thought everybody knew.”
“Why——” she said hesitantly, “Tom’s got some woman in New York.”
“Got some woman?” I repeated blankly.
Miss Baker nodded.
“She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner-time. Don’t
Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was the flutter of
a dress and the crunch of leather boots and Tom and Daisy were back
at the table.
“It couldn’t be helped!” cried Daisy with tense gayety.
She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and then at me and
continued: “I looked outdoors for a minute and it’s very romantic
outdoors. There’s a bird on the lawn that I think must be a nightingale
come over on the Cunard or White Star Line. He’s singing away——” her
voice sang “
--It’s romantic, isn’t it, Tom?”
“Very romantic,” he said, and then miserably to me: “If it’s light enough
after dinner I want to take you down to the stables.”
The telephone rang inside, startlingly, and as Daisy shook her
head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact all
subjects, vanished into air. Among the broken fragments of the
last five minutes at table I remember the candles being lit again,
pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at every
one and yet to avoid all eyes. I couldn’t guess what Daisy and Tom
were thinking but I doubt if even Miss Baker who seemed to have
mastered a certain hardy skepticism was able utterly to put this fifth
guest’s shrill metallic urgency out of mind. To a certain temperament
the situation might have seemed intriguing—my own instinct was to
telephone immediately for the police.
The horses, needless to say, were not mentioned again. Tom and Miss
Baker, with several feet of twilight between them strolled back into
the library, as if to a vigil beside a perfectly tangible body, while
trying to look pleasantly interested and a little deaf I followed
Daisy around a chain of connecting verandas to the porch in front. In
its deep gloom we sat down side by side on a wicker settee.
Daisy took her face in her hands, as if feeling its lovely shape, and
her eyes moved gradually out into the velvet dusk. I saw that turbulent
emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some
sedative questions about her little girl.
“We don’t know each other very well, Nick,” she said suddenly.
“Even if we are cousins. You didn’t come to my wedding.”
“I wasn’t back from the war.”
“That’s true.” She hesitated. “Well, I’ve had a very bad time, Nick,
and I’m pretty cynical about everything.”
Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didn’t say any more,
and after a moment I returned rather feebly to the subject of her
“I suppose she talks, and—eats, and everything.”
“Oh, yes.” She looked at me absently. “Listen, Nick; let me tell you what
I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?”
“It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about—things. Well, she was less
than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether
with an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the nurse right away if it
was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head
away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ’I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope
she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world,
a beautiful little fool.”
“You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow,” she went on in a
convinced way. “Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I KNOW.
I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.”
Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she
laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated!”
The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention,
my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said.
It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick
of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited,
and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk
on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather
distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.
Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light. Tom and Miss Baker
sat at either end of the long couch and she read aloud to him from
the “Saturday Evening Post”—the words, murmurous and
uninflected, running together in a soothing tune. The lamp-light,
bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair,
glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender
muscles in her arms.
When we came in she held us silent for a moment with a lifted hand.
“To be continued,” she said, tossing the magazine on the table, “in our
very next issue.”
Her body asserted itself with a restless movement of her knee, and she
“Ten o’clock,” she remarked, apparently finding the time on the
ceiling. “Time for this good girl to go to bed.”
“Jordan’s going to play in the tournament tomorrow,” explained Daisy,
“over at Westchester.”
“Oh,—you’re JORdan Baker.”
I knew now why her face was familiar—its pleasing contemptuous
expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of
the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach. I
had heard some story of her too, a critical, unpleasant story,
but what it was I had forgotten long ago.
“Good night,” she said softly. “Wake me at eight, won’t you.”
“If you’ll get up.”
“I will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon.”
“Of course you will,” confirmed Daisy. “In fact I think I’ll arrange
a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and I’ll sort of—oh—fling you
together. You know—lock you up accidentally in linen closets and push
you out to sea in a boat, and all that sort of thing——”
“Good night,” called Miss Baker from the stairs. “I haven’t heard a word.”
“She’s a nice girl,” said Tom after a moment. “They oughtn’t to let her
run around the country this way.”
“Who oughtn’t to?” inquired Daisy coldly.
“Her family is one aunt about a thousand years old. Besides, Nick’s
going to look after her, aren’t you, Nick? She’s going to spend lots of
week-ends out here this summer. I think the home influence will be very
good for her.”
Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment in silence.
“Is she from New York?” I asked quickly.
“From Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed together there. Our
“Did you give Nick a little heart to heart talk on the veranda?”
demanded Tom suddenly.
“Did I?” She looked at me. “I can’t seem to remember, but I think
we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, I’m sure we did. It sort of
crept up on us and first thing you know——”
“Don’t believe everything you hear, Nick,” he advised me.
I said lightly that I had heard nothing at all, and a few minutes later
I got up to go home. They came to the door with me and stood side by
side in a cheerful square of light. As I started my motor Daisy
peremptorily called "Wait!
“I forgot to ask you something, and it’s important. We heard you were
engaged to a girl out West.”
“That’s right,” corroborated Tom kindly. “We heard that you were
“It’s libel. I’m too poor.”
“But we heard it,” insisted Daisy, surprising me by opening up again in
a flower-like way. “We heard it from three people so it must be true.”
Of course I knew what they were referring to, but I wasn’t even vaguely
engaged. The fact that gossip had published the banns was one of the
reasons I had come east. You can’t stop going with an old friend on
account of rumors and on the other hand I had no intention of being
rumored into marriage.
Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely
rich—nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove
away. It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of
the house, child in arms—but apparently there were no such intentions
in her head. As for Tom, the fact that he “had some woman in New York”
was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book.
Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his
sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.
Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside
garages, where new red gas-pumps sat out in pools of light, and when I
reached my estate at West Egg I ran the car under its shed and sat for
a while on an abandoned grass roller in the yard. The wind had blown
off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and
a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the
frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the
moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not
alone—fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my
neighbor’s mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets
regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely
movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested
that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was
his of our local heavens.
I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and
that would do for an introduction. But I didn’t call to him for he gave
a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his
arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him
I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and
distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away,
that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby
he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.