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 anyone," 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
judgements, 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 judgements 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
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
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, after all.
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 Hotel 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
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 afterwards
savours of anticlimax. 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 football game.
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 restlessly.
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 room.
"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
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
"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 Damn fool to live anywhere else."
At this point Miss Baker said "Absolutely!" with such
suddenness that I started--it was the first word she had 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
"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
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, somewhere before.
"You live in West Egg," she remarked contemptuously.
"I know somebody there."
"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
"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 little finger.
"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 something?"
I meant nothing in particular by this remark but it
was taken up in an unexpected way.
"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 things that go to make civilization--oh, science and art and all
that. 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
"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
"Yes. Things went from bad to worse until finally he
had to give up his position."
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
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
"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
"Got some woman?" I repeated blankly.
Miss Baker nodded.
"She might have the decency not to telephone him at
dinner-time. Don't you think?"
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
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
The telephone rang inside, startingly, 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 everyone 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
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 daughter.
"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,
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 contributary 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 stood up.
"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,
"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
"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
"Is she from New York?" I asked quickly.
"From Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed
together there. Our beautiful white----"
"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
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 engaged."
"It's a 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.
Excerpted from "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Copyright © 2004 by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.