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by F Scott Fitzgerald
The original, squashed down to read in about 40 minutes
(New York, 1925)
This is the novel of the American inter-war 'Jazz Age', a term invented by Fitzgerald himself. The book was only modestly successful when first released, but gained huge popularity after the Armed Services Editions gave away some 150,000 copies to the American military in World War II.
Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
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."
I understood that he meant a great deal more than that.
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 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. 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, the Carraway clan, have been well-to-do people in a middle-western city since my grandfather's brother started his wholesale hardware business. I graduated from New Haven in 1915, and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of the strangest communities in North America.
Twenty miles from New York city a pair of enormous eggs, separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. I lived at West Egg, the - well, the less fashionable of the two. My own small eye-sore of a house was squeezed between two huge places, the one on my right was a colossal imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy with a marble swimming pool. It was Gatsby's mansion. I had the consoling proximity of millionaires for eighty dollars a month.
The history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over to have dinner with two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all, the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed and I'd known Tom in college. He had played football at New Haven, and his family were enormously wealthy. Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. "Now, don't think my opinion is final," he seemed to say, "just because I'm stronger and more of a man than you are."
At his elaborate house, on an enormous couch two young women in white dresses were fluttering.
I told cousin Daisy how desolate Chicago was without her.
"All the cars have the left rear wheel painted black as a mourning wreath."
She laughed, and murmured that the other girl was Baker, the golfer.
"You live in West Egg," Miss Baker remarked contemptuously to me. "You must know Gatsby."
"Gatsby?" demanded Daisy. "What Gatsby?"
Before I could reply, dinner was announced; and Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square, out onto a rosycolored porch open toward the sunset where four candles flickered on the table.
Daisy snapped out the candles. "In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year."
"Civilization's going to pieces," broke out Tom violently.
"Have you read 'The Rise of the Colored Empires' by this man Goddard?"
"Why, no," I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
"The idea is if we don't look out the white race will be will be utterly submerged. It's all scientific stuff." Almost immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler came 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 suddenly threw her napkin on the table and went into the house.
Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance.
She said hesitantly, "Tom's got some woman in New York." Then, with a flutter of a dress and the crunch of leather boots, Tom and Daisy were back at the table. I her asked some sedative questions about her little girl.
She looked at me absently. "Listen, Nick; I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool. And I KNOW. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything. Sophisticated God, I'm sophisticated!"
As I left that night Daisy asked if I didn't have a girl out West.
Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely rich -nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away.
When I reached my estate at West Egg I saw that I was not alone - fifty feet away Mr. Gatsby himself had come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.
About half way between West Egg and New York there is a valley of ashes - a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ash-grey men swarm with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud.
Above the grey land, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, blue and gigantic - their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness or forgot them and moved away.
I went up to New York with Tom on the train one afternoon and when we stopped by the ashheaps he jumped to his feet and taking hold of my elbow literally forced me from the car.
"We're getting off!" he insisted. "I want you to meet my girl." I followed him over a low white-washed fence to a garage; Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars Bought and Sold; and I followed Tom inside.
The proprietor himself appeared in the door, a blonde, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome.
"Hello, Wilson, old man," said Tom. "How's business?"
"I can't complain," answered Wilson unconvincingly.
Then I heard footsteps on a stair and in a moment the thickish figure of a woman smiled slowly and walking through her husband as if he were a ghost, shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye. Then she wet her lips and without turning around spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice:
"Get some chairs, why don't you, so somebody can sit down." Wilson hurried toward the little office. His wife moved close to Tom.
"I want to see you, Myrtle" said Tom intently. "Get on the next train." She nodded and moved away from him just as George Wilson emerged with two chairs from his office door.
So, we waited for her down the road and out of sight, and Tom Buchanan and his girl and I went up together to New York - or not quite together, for Mrs. Wilson sat discreetly in another car.
Tom helped her to the platform in New York. At the newsstand she bought a copy of "Town Tattle" and a movingpicture magazine and, in the station drug store, some cold cream and a small flask of perfume, and, on a whim, a small dog from a street-seller. At 158th Street our cab stopped at one slice in a long white cake of apartment houses, where Mrs. Wilson gathered up her dog and her other purchases and went haughtily in.
After the first drink, company commenced to arrive at the apartment door. There was McKee, the photographer, and Myrle's sister, Catherine, who sat down beside me on the couch.
"Do you live down on Long Island, too?" she inquired.
"I live at West Egg."
"Really? I was down there at a party about a month ago. At a man named Gatsby. They say he's a nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm's."
Catherine looked at Myrtle and then at Tom, leaned close to me and whispered in my ear: "Neither of them can stand the person they're married to. If I was them I'd get a divorce and get married to each other right away."
A bottle of whiskey - a second one - was now in constant demand by all present. I wanted to get out, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair.
Some time toward midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face discussing in impassioned voices whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy's name.
"Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!" shouted Mrs. Wilson. "I'll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai - " Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.
Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor, and women's voices scolding, and high over the confusion a long broken wail of pain. Then Mr. McKee turned and moved on out the door. Taking my hat from the chandelier I followed.
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. Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn a little after seven and was on my way to get roaring drunk when Jordan Baker came over.
"I thought you might be here," she said. "Let's find our host."
The bar 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. The high Gothic library, paneled with carved English oak, contained only a stout, owl-eyed man, anxious to express his amazement that the books were not sham cardboard.
There was dancing on the canvas in the garden, a celebrated tenor had sung in Italian while happy vacuous bursts of laughter rose toward the summer sky. A pair of stage "twins" did a baby act in costume and champagne was served in glasses bigger than finger bowls. I was enjoying myself.
At a lull in the entertainment a 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 replied. "This is an unusual party for me. I haven't even seen the host."
"I'm Gatsby," he said.
He smiled 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 understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and 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.
Almost at the moment Mr. Gatsby excused himself with a small bow, and I turned to Jordan.
"Who is he?" I demanded.
"Well, - he told me once he was an Oxford man. However, I don't believe it. Anyhow he gives large parties," said Jordan. "And I like large parties."
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 - 'Vladimir Tostoff's Jazz History of the World.' "
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."
She got up slowly, raising her eyebrows at me in astonishment, and followed the butler toward the house.
I looked around. Most of the remaining women were now having fights with men said to be their husbands. Time to leave.
As I waited for my hat in the hall the door of the library opened and Jordan Baker and Gatsby came out together.
"I've just heard the most amazing thing," she whispered.
"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. . . . " Her brown hand waved a jaunty salute as she melted into her party at the door.
But all these were merely casual events in a crowded summer. Most of the time I worked down the white chasms of lower New York at the Probity Trust. I knew the other clerks and young bond-salesmen by their first names and I even had a short affair with a girl who lived in Jersey City.
I lost sight of Jordan Baker, and then in midsummer I found her again.
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 at her first big golf tournament there was a suggestion that she had moved her ball from a bad lie.
Jordan Baker was incurably dishonest, but dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply. She was a rotten driver, too, and I told her so.
"They'll keep out of my way," she insisted. "It takes two to make an accident."
"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."
For a moment I thought I loved her. 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.
"Gatsby's a bootlegger," said the young ladies, moving somewhere between his cocktails and his flowers. "One time he killed a man."
Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table the names of those who came to Gatsby's house that summer.
Gulick the state senator and James B. ("Rot-Gut") Ferret came to gamble. Klipspringer was there so long that he became known as "the boarder". There were theatrical people and business people and Henry L. Palmetto who killed himself, and Benny McClenahan, who arrived always with four girls, and a prince of something whom we called Duke and whose name, if I ever knew it, I have forgotten.
At nine o'clock, one morning late in July Gatsby's gorgeous cream-colored car, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns, lurched up to my door and gave out a burst of melody from its three noted horn.
"Good morning, old sport. You're having lunch with me today and I thought we'd ride up together."
Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory we started that disconcerting ride to town.
"Look here, old sport," he broke out surprisingly. "I'm going to tell you something about my life, I don't want you to get a wrong idea of me.”
He told me about his education, about how his parents had died and left him money, how he'd been decorated for his bravery in the war. In case I might harbor any foolish doubts, he produced a Montenegran war medal and a photograph of himself in Trinity Quad. Then it was all true.
"I thought you ought to know something about me." He hesitated. "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.
We passed Port Roosevelt, then the valley of ashes, Gatsby dismissed a motor cycle policeman with a wave of some white card, and then, in a well-fanned Forty-second Street cellar I joined Gatsby for lunch.
"Mr. Carraway this is my friend Mr. Wolfshiem." "This is a nice restaurant here," said Mr. Wolfshiem looking at the Presbyterian nymphs on the ceiling. "But I like the old Metropole, across the street better! I can't forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there." His luxuriously haired nostrils turned to me in an interested way. "I understand you're looking for a business gonnegtion."
Gatsby answered for me: "Oh, no," he exclaimed, "this isn't the man! This is just a friend."
A succulent hash arrived, and Mr. Wolfshiem began to eat with ferocious delicacy.
Gatsby, suddenly 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, "Fine fellow, isn't he? He went to Oggsford College in England. It's one of the most famous colleges in the world."
"Have you known Gatsby for a long time?" I inquired.
"Several years," 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.
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." As he shook hands and turned away his tragic nose was trembling.
"He becomes very sentimental sometimes," explained Gatsby. "He's quite a character around New York - He's the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919." "Fixed the World's Series?" I repeated. "Why isn't he in jail?" "They can't get him, old sport. He's a smart man."
Jordan Baker, sitting up very straight in the tea-garden at the Plaza Hotel, told me how of how she and Daisy had shared a white girlhood, how Daisy had met a lieutenant called Jay Gatsby, but married Tom Buchanan of Chicago.
Half an hour later we were driving in a Victoria through Central Park. The sun had gone down behind the tall apartments of the movie stars 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 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.
"She's not to know about it. Gatsby doesn't want her to know. You're just supposed to invite her to tea." 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.
When I came home that night I found Gatsby's house lit like fire from tower to cellar. As my taxi groaned away I saw Gatsby walking toward me across his lawn.
"I talked with Miss Baker," I said after a moment. "I'm going to call up Daisy tomorrow and invite her over here to tea."
"Oh, that's all right," he said carelessly. "Oh - " He fumbled with a series of beginnings. "Why, I thought - why, look here, old sport, you don't make much money, do you? I thought, if - you see, I carry on a little business on the side, you understand. And I thought -? You wouldn't have to do any business with Wolfshiem."
"I've got my hands full," I said. He went unwillingly home.
I called up Daisy from the office next morning and invited her to come to tea. "Don't bring Tom," I warned her. So, the meeting happened, at my place.
"We haven't met for many years," said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as it could ever be.
"Five years next November," said a nervous Gatsby. "I want you to come over to my house," he said, "I'd like to show her around." "That huge place THERE?" she cried pointing.
"Do you like it?" "I love it, but I don't see how you live there all alone." "I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day.
People who do interesting things. Celebrated people. If it wasn't for the mist we could see your home across the bay," said Gatsby. "You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock."
In his own house room Gatsby turned on a solitary lamp beside the piano. He lit Daisy's cigarette from a trembling match, and sat down with her on a couch far across the room where there was no light save what the gleaming floor bounced in from the hall.
Gatsby found someone, Klipspringer, to play the piano.
One thing's sure and nothing's surer
The rich get richer and the poor get - children.
In the meantime,
In between time
As I went over to say goodbye I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby's face. Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams - not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
About this time an ambitious young reporter from New York arrived one morning at Gatsby's door and asked him if he had anything to say.
"Anything to say about what?" inquired Gatsby politely.
It transpired that the man had heard Gatsby's name around his office in a connection which he either wouldn't reveal or didn't fully understand. It was a random shot, and yet the reporter's instinct was right. Gatsby's notoriety had increased all summer until he fell just short of being news.
In reality the seventeen year old James Gatz - that was really, or at least legally, his name - son of shiftless and unsuccessful farm people, had chanced upon the silver tycoon Dan Cody's yacht on Lake Superior and helped him out of a storms way. Cody employed Gatsby in a vague personal capacity, and it was from Cody that he inherited money - a legacy of twenty-five thousand dollars.
He told me all this very much later, and he told me too about the autumn night, five years before, when Daisy's white face first came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.
Some days later Gatsby called me on the phone.
"Daisy comes over quite often - in the afternoons." Would I come to lunch at her house tomorrow? Miss Baker would be there.
I remember I went, I remember we had beer, and we all took the inexplicable step of driving over to the city in the two cars and engaging the parlor of a suite in the Plaza Hotel. The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herding us into that room eludes me, though.
"Open the whiskey, Tom," Daisy ordered. "And I'll make you a mint julep. Then you won't seem so stupid to yourself."
"Wait a minute," snapped Tom, "I want to ask Mr. Gatsby one question."
They were out in the open at last and Gatsby was content.
Daisy looked desperately from one to the other. "Please have a little self control."
"Your wife doesn't love you," said Gatsby. "She's never loved you. She loves me." Daisy turned to me, and her voice, dropping an octave lower, filled the room with thrilling scorn: "Do you know why we left Chicago? I'm surprised that they didn't treat you to the story of that little spree."
"Daisy, that's all over now," Tom said earnestly. "It doesn't matter any more. Just tell him the truth - that you never loved him - and it's all wiped out forever."
The words seemed to bite physically into Gatsby.
"Daisy's leaving you."
"I am, though," she said with a visible effort. "PLEASE, Tom! I can't stand this any more." "You two start on home, Daisy," said Tom. "In Mr. Gatsby's car."
She looked at Tom, alarmed now, but he insisted with magnanimous scorn.
"Go on. He won't annoy you. I think he realizes that his presumptuous little flirtation is over."
They were gone, without a word, snapped out, made accidental, isolated, like ghosts even from our pity.
After a moment Tom got up and began wrapping the unopened bottle of whiskey in the towel.
"Want any of this stuff? Jordan? . . . Nick?" "No . . . I just remembered that today's my birthday." I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous menacing road of a new decade.
It was seven o'clock when we got into the coupé with him and started for Long Island. So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.
The young Greek, Michaelis, who ran the coffee joint beside the ashheaps was the principal witness at the inquest. He had strolled over to the garage and found George Wilson sick in his office - really sick, and a violent racket going on overhead.
"I've got my wife locked in up there," explained Wilson calmly. "She's going to stay there till the day after tomorrow and then we're going to move away."
Michaelis was astonished, and tried to find out what had happened. When he came outside again a little after seven he heard Mrs. Wilson's voice, loud and scolding, downstairs in the garage.
"Beat me!" he heard her cry. "Throw me down and beat me, you dirty little coward!" A moment later she rushed out into the dusk, waving her hands and shouting; before he could move from his door the business was over.
The "death car" as the newspapers called it, didn't stop; it came out of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment and then disappeared around the next bend. The other car, the one going toward New York, came to rest a hundred yards beyond, and its driver hurried back to where Myrtle Wilson, her life violently extinguished, knelt in the road and mingled her thick, dark blood with the dust.
Michaelis and this man reached her first but when they had torn open her shirtwaist, still damp with perspiration, they saw that her left breast was swinging loose like a flap and there was no need to listen for the heart beneath. The mouth was wide open and ripped at the corners as though she had choked a little in giving up the tremendous vitality she had stored so long.
We saw the three or four automobiles and the crowd when we were still some distance away.
"Wreck!" said Tom. "That's good. Wilson'll have a little business at last. We'll take a look, just a look." "O, my Ga-od! O, my Ga-od! Oh, Ga-od! Oh, my Ga-od!"
"What happened - that's what I want to know!" "She ran out ina road. Son-of-a-bitch didn't even stopus car."
A pale, well-dressed Negro stepped near.
"It was a yellow car," he said, "big yellow car. New." Tom helped Wilson into the office, and we drove slowly away until we were beyond the bend - then his foot came down hard and the coupé raced along through the night. In a little while I heard a low husky sob and saw that the tears were overflowing down his face.
"The God Damn coward!" he whimpered. "He didn't even stop his car." At the Buchanans' house I declined their offer to come inside and walked slowly down the drive intending to wait by the gate for a taxi. I hadn't gone twenty yards when I heard my name, and Gatsby stepped from between two bushes into the path.
"Did you see any trouble on the road?" he asked.
"Yes." He hesitated.
"Was she killed?" "Yes." "I thought so; I told Daisy I thought so. It's better that the shock should all come at once. She stood it pretty well."
He spoke as if Daisy's reaction was the only thing that mattered.
"Who was the woman?" he inquired.
"Her name was Wilson. Her husband owns the garage.
How the devil did it happen?"
"Well, I tried to swing the wheel -" He broke off, and suddenly I guessed at the truth.
"Was Daisy driving?" "Yes," he said after a moment, "but of course I'll say I was.
"It ripped her open - " "Don't tell me, old sport." He winced.
"You'd better come home and get some sleep." He shook his head. "I want to wait here till Daisy goes to bed. Good night, old sport." He put his hands in his coat pockets and turned back eagerly to his scrutiny of the house, as though my presence marred the sacredness of the vigil. So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight - watching over nothing.
I couldn't sleep all night; a fog-horn was groaning incessantly on the Sound. Toward dawn I crossed the lawn to find Gatsby leaning against a table in the hall, heavy with dejection or sleep.
"You ought to go away," I said. "It's pretty certain they'll trace your car."
He wouldn't consider it. He couldn't possibly leave Daisy until he knew what she was going to do. He was clutching at some last hope and I couldn't bear to shake him free.
"Of course she might have loved him, just for a minute, when they were first married - and loved me more even then, do you see? In any case, it was just personal." What could you make of that, except to suspect some intensity in his conception of the affair that couldn't be measured?
"I'll call you up," I said finally.
"I suppose Daisy'll call too." He looked at me anxiously.
"I suppose so." "Well - goodbye." We shook hands and I started away.
"They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn.
"You're worth the whole damn bunch put together." I've always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end.
Now I want to go back a little and tell what happened at the garage the night before.
Until long after midnight a changing crowd lapped up against the front of the garage while George Wilson rocked himself back and forth on the couch inside. He announced that he had a way of finding out whom the yellow car belonged to, and then he blurted out that a couple of months ago his wife had come from the city with her face bruised and her nose swollen. She had bought a dog leash, he knew it was something funny.
"He murdered her." "It was an accident, George." "You may fool me," he muttered, after a long silence. "but you can't fool God!' " At two o'clock Gatsby gave instructions that the open car wasn't to be taken out under any circumstances - and this was strange because the front right fender needed repair.
He shouldered a pneumatic mattress and started for the pool.
The chauffeur - he was one of Wolfshiem's protégés - heard the shots. I drove from the station directly to Gatsby's house and four of us, the chauffeur, butler, gardener and I, hurried down to the pool. There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of the water as the laden mattress revolved slowly, tracing, like the leg of compass, a thin red circle in the water.
It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson's body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.
After two years I remember the rest of that day only as an endless drill of police and photographers and newspaper men in and out of Gatsby's front door.
I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him, but she and Tom had gone away early that afternoon, and left no address.
When the phone rang at Gatsby's that afternoon it was a man's voice, very thin and far away.
"This is Slagle speaking. Get my wire? Young Parke's in trouble," he said rapidly. "They picked him up when he handed the bonds over the counter - "
"Hello!" I interrupted breathlessly. "Look here - this isn't
Mr. Gatsby. Mr. Gatsby's dead." There was a long silence . . . then a quick squawk as the connection was broken.
I think it was on the third day that Henry C. Gatz arrived from a town in Minnesota. Gatsby's father was a solemn old man, very helpless and dismayed, bundled up in a long cheap ulster against the warm September day.
"I saw it in the Chicago newspaper," he said.
"I didn't know how to reach you." I said.
The morning of the funeral I went up to New York to see Meyer Wolfshiem; I couldn't seem to reach him any other way. I found him at his "Swastika Holding Company." "You were his closest friend," I said, "so I know you'll want to come to his funeral this afternoon."
"I can't do it - I can't get mixed up in it," he said.
For a moment I thought he was going to suggest a "gonnegtion" but he only nodded and shook my hand.
I spent my Saturday nights in New York because those gleaming, dazzling parties of his were with me so vividly that I could still hear the music and the laughter faint and incessant from his garden and the cars going up and down his drive. One night I did hear a material car stop at his front steps. Probably some final guest who didn't know that the party was over.
On the last night, with my trunk packed, I wandered down to the beach and sprawled out on the sand. And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
● Copyright © 2014 Glyn Hughes.
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