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By F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;

If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,

Till she cry ‘Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,

I must have you!’

—THOMAS PARKE D’INVILLIERS

 

The Great Gatsby

Chapter 1

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 in-

clined 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 con-

fidences were unsought—frequently I have feigned sleep,

preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some

unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quiver-

ing 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 fa-

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ther 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 want-

ed 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 unaffect-

ed 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 Car-

 

The Great Gatsby

raways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that

we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the ac-

tual 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 car-

ries 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 mi-

gration 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, perma-

nently, 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 sug-

gested 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

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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 mut-

tered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.

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 helpless-

ly. I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I

was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casu-

ally 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-giv-

ing 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 Mae-

cenas 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.

 

The Great Gatsby

It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a

house in one of the strangest communities in North Ameri-

ca. 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 bi-

zarre 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 imi-

tation 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 gentle-

man 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

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view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and

the consoling proximity of millionaires—all for eighty dol-

lars 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 Chicago.

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-cli-

max. 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 real-

ize 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 seek-

ing a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some

irrecoverable football game.

 

The Great Gatsby

And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I

drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarce-

ly knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I

expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian Colonial man-

sion 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—final-

ly 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 enor-

mous leverage—a cruel body.

His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the im-

pression 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,’

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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, mak-

ing 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 Great Gatsby

the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a pic-

ture 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 apol-

ogy 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 mur-

mur 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

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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 ques-

tions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that

the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrange-

ment 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 prom-

ise 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 per-

sistent 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?’

‘Never.’

‘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.

The Great Gatsby

‘What you doing, Nick?’

‘I’m a bond man.’

‘Who with?’

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, glanc-

ing at Daisy and then back at me, as if he were alert for

something more. ‘I’d be a God Damned fool to live any-

where 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-

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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 discon-

tented 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 un-

der 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 wind.

‘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, sit-

ting 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?’

The Great Gatsby

Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed ex-

pression 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, unobtru-

sively 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 po-

lite 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 hur-

ried 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.

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‘I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you

read ‘The Rise of the Coloured Empires’ by this man God-

dard?’

‘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 ut-

terly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.’

‘Tom’s getting very profound,’ said Daisy with an expres-

sion 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, glanc-

ing 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, wink-

ing 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 in-

cluded Daisy with a slight nod and she winked at me again.

‘—and we’ve produced all the things that go to make civili-

zation—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 toward me.

‘I’ll tell you a family secret,’ she whispered enthusiasti-

The Great Gatsby

cally. ‘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 sil-

ver 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 his position.’

For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affec-

tion 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

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went into the house.

Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance conscious-

ly devoid of meaning. I was about to speak when she sat

up alertly and said ‘Sh!’ in a warning voice. A subdued im-

passioned 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, hon-

estly surprised. ‘I thought everybody knew.’

‘I don’t.’

‘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 din-

ner-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 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

The Great Gatsby

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 me-

tallic 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 in-

terested 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 love-

ly 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.

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‘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?’

‘Very much.’

‘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 ad-

vanced 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

The Great Gatsby

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 emo-

tion 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 sooth-

ing 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,’ ex-

plained Daisy, ‘over at Westchester.’

‘Oh,—you’re JORdan Baker.’

I knew now why her face was familiar—its pleasing con-

temptuous expression had looked out at me from many

rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and

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Hot Springs and Palm Beach. I had heard some story of her

too, a critical, unpleasant story, but what it was I had forgot-

ten 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 acci-

dentally 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.’

‘Her family is one aunt about a thousand years old. Be-

sides, 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 si-

lence.

‘Is she from New York?’ I asked quickly.

‘From Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed togeth-

er there. Our beautiful white——‘

‘Did you give Nick a little heart to heart talk on the ve-

randa?’ demanded Tom suddenly.

 

The Great Gatsby

‘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 engaged.’

‘It’s libel. I’m too poor.’

‘But we heard it,’ insisted Daisy, surprising me by open-

ing 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 dis-

gusted 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

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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 wa-

vered 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 move-

ments and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn

suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to deter-

mine 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 van-

 

The Great Gatsby

ished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.

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Chapter 2

About half way between West Egg and New York the

motor-road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside

it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain

desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic

farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and

grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and

chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcen-

dent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling

through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of grey cars

crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and

comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up

with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which

screens their obscure operations from your sight.

But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust

which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment,

the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J.

Eckleburg are 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. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many

paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the sol-

 

The Great Gatsby

emn dumping ground.

The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul

river, and when the drawbridge is up to let barges through,

the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal

scene for as long as half an hour. There is always a halt there

of at least a minute and it was because of this that I first met

Tom Buchanan’s mistress.

The fact that he had one was insisted upon wherever he

was known. His acquaintances resented the fact that he

turned up in popular restaurants with her and, leaving her

at a table, sauntered about, chatting with whomsoever he

knew. Though I was curious to see her I had no desire to

meet her—but I did. 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 think he’d tanked up a good deal at luncheon and his

determination to have my company bordered on violence.

The supercilious assumption was that on Sunday afternoon

I had nothing better to do.

I followed him over a low white-washed railroad fence

and we walked back a hundred yards along the road un-

der Doctor Eckleburg’s persistent stare. The only building

in sight was a small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge

of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering

to it and contiguous to absolutely nothing. One of the three

shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night

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restaurant approached by a trail of ashes; the third was a

garage—Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars Bought and

Sold—and I followed Tom inside.

The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car vis-

ible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched

in a dim corner. It had occurred to me that this shadow of

a garage must be a blind and that sumptuous and romantic

apartments were concealed overhead when the proprietor

himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands

on a piece of waste. He was a blonde, spiritless man, anae-

mic, and faintly handsome. When he saw us a damp gleam

of hope sprang into his light blue eyes.

‘Hello, Wilson, old man,’ said Tom, slapping him jovially

on the shoulder. ‘How’s business?’

‘I can’t complain,’ answered Wilson unconvincingly.

‘When are you going to sell me that car?’

‘Next week; I’ve got my man working on it now.’

‘Works pretty slow, don’t he?’

‘No, he doesn’t,’ said Tom coldly. ‘And if you feel that way

about it, maybe I’d better sell it somewhere else after all.’

‘I don’t mean that,’ explained Wilson quickly. ‘I just

meant——‘

His voice faded off and Tom glanced impatiently around

the garage. Then I heard footsteps on a stairs and in a mo-

ment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light

from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and

faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as

some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark

blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty

 

The Great Gatsby

but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her

as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering.

She 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.’

‘Oh, sure,’ agreed Wilson hurriedly and went toward the

little office, mingling immediately with the cement color of

the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his

pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity—except his

wife, who moved close to Tom.

‘I want to see you,’ said Tom intently. ‘Get on the next

train.’

‘All right.’

‘I’ll meet you by the news-stand on the lower level.’

She nodded and moved away from him just as George

Wilson emerged with two chairs from his office door.

We waited for her down the road and out of sight. It was

a few days before the Fourth of July, and a grey, scrawny

Italian child was setting torpedoes in a row along the rail-

road track.

‘Terrible place, isn’t it,’ said Tom, exchanging a frown

with Doctor Eckleburg.

‘Awful.’

‘It does her good to get away.’

‘Doesn’t her husband object?’

‘Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New

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York. He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive.’

So Tom Buchanan and his girl and I went up togeth-

er to New York—or not quite together, for Mrs. Wilson

sat discreetly in another car. Tom deferred that much to

the sensibilities of those East Eggers who might be on the

train.

She had changed her dress to a brown figured mus-

lin which stretched tight over her rather wide hips as Tom

helped her to the platform in New York. At the news-stand

she bought a copy of ‘Town Tattle’ and a moving-picture

magazine and, in the station drug store, some cold cream

and a small flask of perfume. Upstairs, in the solemn echo-

ing drive she let four taxi cabs drive away before she selected

a new one, lavender-colored with grey upholstery, and in

this we slid out from the mass of the station into the glow-

ing sunshine. But immediately she turned sharply from the

window and leaning forward tapped on the front glass.

‘I want to get one of those dogs,’ she said earnestly. ‘I

want to get one for the apartment. They’re nice to have—a

dog.’

We backed up to a grey old man who bore an absurd re-

semblance to John D. Rockefeller. In a basket, swung from

his neck, cowered a dozen very recent puppies of an inde-

terminate breed.

‘What kind are they?’ asked Mrs. Wilson eagerly as he

came to the taxi-window.

‘All kinds. What kind do you want, lady?’

‘I’d like to get one of those police dogs; I don’t suppose

you got that kind?’

The Great Gatsby

The man peered doubtfully into the basket, plunged in

his hand and drew one up, wriggling, by the back of the

neck.

‘That’s no police dog,’ said Tom.

‘No, it’s not exactly a polICE dog,’ said the man with

disappointment in his voice. ‘It’s more of an airedale.’ He

passed his hand over the brown wash-rag of a back. ‘Look

at that coat. Some coat. That’s a dog that’ll never bother you

with catching cold.’

‘I think it’s cute,’ said Mrs. Wilson enthusiastically. ‘How

much is it?’

‘That dog?’ He looked at it admiringly. ‘That dog will cost

you ten dollars.’

The airedale—undoubtedly there was an airedale con-

cerned in it somewhere though its feet were startlingly

white—changed hands and settled down into Mrs. Wilson’s

lap, where she fondled the weather-proof coat with rapture.

‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ she asked delicately.

‘That dog? That dog’s a boy.’

‘It’s a bitch,’ said Tom decisively. ‘Here’s your money. Go

and buy ten more dogs with it.’

We drove over to Fifth Avenue, so warm and soft, almost

pastoral, on the summer Sunday afternoon that I wouldn’t

have been surprised to see a great flock of white sheep turn

the corner.

‘Hold on,’ I said, ‘I have to leave you here.’

‘No, you don’t,’ interposed Tom quickly. ‘Myrtle’ll be

hurt if you don’t come up to the apartment. Won’t you,

Myrtle?’

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‘Come on,’ she urged. ‘I’ll telephone my sister Cathe-

rine. She’s said to be very beautiful by people who ought

to know.’

‘Well, I’d like to, but——‘

We went on, cutting back again over the Park toward the

West Hundreds. At 158th Street the cab stopped at one slice

in a long white cake of apartment houses. Throwing a regal

homecoming glance around the neighborhood, Mrs. Wil-

son gathered up her dog and her other purchases and went

haughtily in.

‘I’m going to have the McKees come up,’ she announced

as we rose in the elevator. ‘And of course I got to call up my

sister, too.’

The apartment was on the top floor—a small living

room, a small dining room, a small bedroom and a bath.

The living room was crowded to the doors with a set of tap-

estried furniture entirely too large for it so that to move

about was to stumble continually over scenes of ladies

swinging in the gardens of Versailles. The only picture was

an over-enlarged photograph, apparently a hen sitting on

a blurred rock. Looked at from a distance however the hen

resolved itself into a bonnet and the countenance of a stout

old lady beamed down into the room. Several old copies of

‘Town Tattle ‘lay on the table together with a copy of ‘Simon

Called Peter’ and some of the small scandal magazines of

Broadway. Mrs. Wilson was first concerned with the dog. A

reluctant elevator boy went for a box full of straw and some

milk to which he added on his own initiative a tin of large

hard dog biscuits—one of which decomposed apathetically

 

The Great Gatsby

in the saucer of milk all afternoon. Meanwhile Tom brought

out a bottle of whiskey from a locked bureau door.

I have been drunk just twice in my life and the second

time was that afternoon so everything that happened has a

dim hazy cast over it although until after eight o’clock the

apartment was full of cheerful sun. Sitting on Tom’s lap

Mrs. Wilson called up several people on the telephone; then

there were no cigarettes and I went out to buy some at the

drug store on the corner. When I came back they had disap-

peared so I sat down discreetly in the living room and read

a chapter of ‘Simon Called Peter’—either it was terrible stuff

or the whiskey distorted things because it didn’t make any

sense to me.

Just as Tom and Myrtle—after the first drink Mrs. Wil-

son and I called each other by our first names—reappeared,

company commenced to arrive at the apartment door.

The sister, Catherine, was a slender, worldly girl of about

thirty with a solid sticky bob of red hair and a complexion

powdered milky white. Her eyebrows had been plucked and

then drawn on again at a more rakish angle but the efforts

of nature toward the restoration of the old alignment gave

a blurred air to her face. When she moved about there was

an incessant clicking as innumerable pottery bracelets jin-

gled up and down upon her arms. She came in with such a

proprietary haste and looked around so possessively at the

furniture that I wondered if she lived here. But when I asked

her she laughed immoderately, repeated my question aloud

and told me she lived with a girl friend at a hotel.

Mr. McKee was a pale feminine man from the flat below.

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He had just shaved for there was a white spot of lather on

his cheekbone and he was most respectful in his greeting to

everyone in the room. He informed me that he was in the

‘artistic game’ and I gathered later that he was a photogra-

pher and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs. Wilson’s

mother which hovered like an ectoplasm on the wall. His

wife was shrill, languid, handsome and horrible. She told

me with pride that her husband had photographed her a

hundred and twenty-seven times since they had been mar-

ried.

Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time be-

fore and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of

cream colored chiffon, which gave out a continual rustle as

she swept about the room. With the influence of the dress

her personality had also undergone a change. The intense

vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was con-

verted into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures,

her assertions became more violently affected moment by

moment and as she expanded the room grew smaller around

her until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking

pivot through the smoky air.

‘My dear,’ she told her sister in a high mincing shout,

‘most of these fellas will cheat you every time. All they think

of is money. I had a woman up here last week to look at my

feet and when she gave me the bill you’d of thought she had

my appendicitus out.’

‘What was the name of the woman?’ asked Mrs. McKee.

‘Mrs. Eberhardt. She goes around looking at people’s feet

in their own homes.’

 

The Great Gatsby

‘I like your dress,’ remarked Mrs. McKee, ‘I think it’s

adorable.’

Mrs. Wilson rejected the compliment by raising her eye-

brow in disdain.

‘It’s just a crazy old thing,’ she said. ‘I just slip it on some-

times when I don’t care what I look like.’

‘But it looks wonderful on you, if you know what I mean,’

pursued Mrs. McKee. ‘If Chester could only get you in that

pose I think he could make something of it.’

We all looked in silence at Mrs. Wilson who removed a

strand of hair from over her eyes and looked back at us with

a brilliant smile. Mr. McKee regarded her intently with his

head on one side and then moved his hand back and forth

slowly in front of his face.

‘I should change the light,’ he said after a moment. ‘I’d

like to bring out the modelling of the features. And I’d try

to get hold of all the back hair.’

‘I wouldn’t think of changing the light,’ cried Mrs. McK-

ee. ‘I think it’s——‘

Her husband said ‘SH!’ and we all looked at the subject

again whereupon Tom Buchanan yawned audibly and got

to his feet.

‘You McKees have something to drink,’ he said. ‘Get

some more ice and mineral water, Myrtle, before everybody

goes to sleep.’

‘I told that boy about the ice.’ Myrtle raised her eyebrows

in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. ‘These

people! You have to keep after them all the time.’

She looked at me and laughed pointlessly. Then she

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flounced over to the dog, kissed it with ecstasy and swept

into the kitchen, implying that a dozen chefs awaited her

orders there.

‘I’ve done some nice things out on Long Island,’ asserted

Mr. McKee.

Tom looked at him blankly.

‘Two of them we have framed downstairs.’

‘Two what?’ demanded Tom.

‘Two studies. One of them I call ‘Montauk Point—the

Gulls,’ and the other I call ‘Montauk Point—the Sea.’ ‘

The sister Catherine 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’s. Do you know him?’

‘I live next door to him.’

‘Well, they say he’s a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wil-

helm’s. That’s where all his money comes from.’

‘Really?’

She nodded.

‘I’m scared of him. I’d hate to have him get anything on

me.’This absorbing information about my neighbor was in-

terrupted by Mrs. McKee’s pointing suddenly at Catherine:

‘Chester, I think you could do something with HER,’ she

broke out, but Mr. McKee only nodded in a bored way and

turned his attention to Tom.

‘I’d like to do more work on Long Island if I could get the

entry. All I ask is that they should give me a start.’

 

The Great Gatsby

‘Ask Myrtle,’ said Tom, breaking into a short shout of

laughter as Mrs. Wilson entered with a tray. ‘She’ll give you

a letter of introduction, won’t you, Myrtle?’

‘Do what?’ she asked, startled.

‘You’ll give McKee a letter of introduction to your hus-

band, so he can do some studies of him.’ His lips moved

silently for a moment as he invented. ‘ ‘George B. Wilson at

the Gasoline Pump,’ or something like that.’

Catherine leaned close to me and whispered in my ear:

‘Neither of them can stand the person they’re married to.’

‘Can’t they?’

‘Can’t STAND them.’ She looked at Myrtle and then at

Tom. ‘What I say is, why go on living with them if they can’t

stand them? If I was them I’d get a divorce and get married

to each other right away.’

‘Doesn’t she like Wilson either?’

The answer to this was unexpected. It came from Myrtle

who had overheard the question and it was violent and ob-

scene.

‘You see?’ cried Catherine triumphantly. She lowered her

voice again. ‘It’s really his wife that’s keeping them apart.

She’s a Catholic and they don’t believe in divorce.’

Daisy was not a Catholic and I was a little shocked at the

elaborateness of the lie.

‘When they do get married,’ continued Catherine,

‘they’re going west to live for a while until it blows over.’

‘It’d be more discreet to go to Europe.’

‘Oh, do you like Europe?’ she exclaimed surprisingly. ‘I

just got back from Monte Carlo.’

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‘Really.’

‘Just last year. I went over there with another girl.’

‘Stay long?’

‘No, we just went to Monte Carlo and back. We went

by way of Marseilles. We had over twelve hundred dollars

when we started but we got gypped out of it all in two days

in the private rooms. We had an awful time getting back, I

can tell you. God, how I hated that town!’

The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a mo-

ment like the blue honey of the Mediterranean—then the

shrill voice of Mrs. McKee called me back into the room.

‘I almost made a mistake, too,’ she declared vigorously. ‘I

almost married a little kyke who’d been after me for years.

I knew he was below me. Everybody kept saying to me: ‘Lu-

cille, that man’s way below you!’ But if I hadn’t met Chester,

he’d of got me sure.’

‘Yes, but listen,’ said Myrtle Wilson, nodding her head

up and down, ‘at least you didn’t marry him.’

‘I know I didn’t.’

‘Well, I married him,’ said Myrtle, ambiguously. ‘And

that’s the difference between your case and mine.’

‘Why did you, Myrtle?’ demanded Catherine. ‘Nobody

forced you to.’

Myrtle considered.

‘I married him because I thought he was a gentleman,’

she said finally. ‘I thought he knew something about breed-

ing, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.’

‘You were crazy about him for a while,’ said Catherine.

‘Crazy about him!’ cried Myrtle incredulously. ‘Who said

 

The Great Gatsby

I was crazy about him? I never was any more crazy about

him than I was about that man there.’

She pointed suddenly at me, and every one looked at

me accusingly. I tried to show by my expression that I had

played no part in her past.

‘The only CRAZY I was was when I married him. I knew

right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best

suit to get married in and never even told me about it, and

the man came after it one day when he was out. She looked

around to see who was listening: ‘ ‘Oh, is that your suit?’ I

said. ‘This is the first I ever heard about it.’ But I gave it to

him and then I lay down and cried to beat the band all af-

ternoon.’

‘She really ought to get away from him,’ resumed Cath-

erine to me. ‘They’ve been living over that garage for eleven

years. And Tom’s the first sweetie she ever had.’

The bottle of whiskey—a second one—was now in con-

stant demand by all present, excepting Catherine who ‘felt

just as good on nothing at all.’ Tom rang for the janitor

and sent him for some celebrated sandwiches, which were

a complete supper in themselves. I wanted to get out and

walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight but

each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild stri-

dent argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into

my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows

must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the

casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too,

looking up and wondering. I was within and without, si-

multaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible

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variety of life.

Myrtle pulled her chair close to mine, and suddenly her

warm breath poured over me the story of her first meeting

with Tom.

‘It was on the tw


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