The Great Gatsby (Page 33)
He spoke as if Daisy’s reaction was the only thing that mattered.
"I got to West Egg by a side road," he went on, "and left the car in my garage. I don’t think anybody saw us but of course I can’t be sure."
I disliked him so much by this time that I didn’t find it necessary to tell him he was wrong.
"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. You see, when we left New York she was very nervous and she thought it would steady her to drive—and this woman rushed out at us just as we were passing a car coming the other way. It all happened in a minute but it seemed to me that she wanted to speak to us, thought we were somebody she knew. Well, first Daisy turned away from the woman toward the other car, and then she lost her nerve and turned back. The second my hand reached the wheel I felt the shock—it must have killed her instantly."
"It ripped her open——"
"Don’t tell me, old sport." He winced. "Anyhow—Daisy stepped on it. I tried to make her stop, but she couldn’t so I pulled on the emergency brake. Then she fell over into my lap and I drove on.
"She’ll be all right tomorrow," he said presently. "I’m just going to wait here and see if he tries to bother her about that unpleasantness this afternoon. She’s locked herself into her room and if he tries any brutality she’s going to turn the light out and on again."
"He won’t touch her," I said. "He’s not thinking about her."
"I don’t trust him, old sport."
"How long are you going to wait?"
"All night if necessary. Anyhow till they all go to bed."
A new point of view occurred to me. Suppose Tom found out that Daisy had been driving. He might think he saw a connection in it—he might think anything. I looked at the house: there were two or three bright windows downstairs and the pink glow from Daisy’s room on the second floor.
"You wait here," I said. "I’ll see if there’s any sign of a commotion."
I walked back along the border of the lawn, traversed the gravel softly and tiptoed up the veranda steps. The drawing-room curtains were open, and I saw that the room was empty. Crossing the porch where we had dined that June night three months before I came to a small rectangle of light which I guessed was the pantry window. The blind was drawn but I found a rift at the sill.
Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table with a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale. He was talking intently across the table at her and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. Once in a while she looked up at him and nodded in agreement.
They weren’t happy, and neither of them had touched the chicken or the ale—and yet they weren’t unhappy either. There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together.
As I tiptoed from the porch I heard my taxi feeling its way along the dark road toward the house. Gatsby was waiting where I had left him in the drive.
"Is it all quiet up there?" he asked anxiously.
"Yes, it’s all quiet." I hesitated. "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, and I tossed half-sick between grotesque reality and savage frightening dreams. Toward dawn I heard a taxi go up Gatsby’s drive and immediately I jumped out of bed and began to dress—I felt that I had something to tell him, something to warn him about and morning would be too late.
Crossing his lawn I saw that his front door was still open and he was leaning against a table in the hall, heavy with dejection or sleep.
"Nothing happened," he said wanly. "I waited, and about four o’clock she came to the window and stood there for a minute and then turned out the light."
His house had never seemed so enormous to me as it did that night when we hunted through the great rooms for cigarettes. We pushed aside curtains that were like pavilions and felt over innumerable feet of dark wall for electric light switches—once I tumbled with a sort of splash upon the keys of a ghostly piano. There was an inexplicable amount of dust everywhere and the rooms were musty as though they hadn’t been aired for many days. I found the humidor on an unfamiliar table with two stale dry cigarettes inside. Throwing open the French windows of the drawing-room we sat smoking out into the darkness.
"You ought to go away," I said. "It’s pretty certain they’ll trace your car."
"Go away now, old sport?"
"Go to Atlantic City for a week, or up to Montreal."
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.
It was this night that he told me the strange story of his youth with Dan Cody—told it to me because "Jay Gatsby" had broken up like glass against Tom’s hard malice and the long secret extravaganza was played out. I think that he would have acknowledged anything, now, without reserve, but he wanted to talk about Daisy.
She was the first "nice" girl he had ever known. In various unrevealed capacities he had come in contact with such people but always with indiscernible barbed wire between. He found her excitingly desirable. He went to her house, at first with other officers from Camp Taylor, then alone. It amazed him—he had never been in such a beautiful house before. But what gave it an air of breathless intensity was that Daisy lived there—it was as casual a thing to her as his tent out at camp was to him. There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered. It excited him too that many men had already loved Daisy—it increased her value in his eyes. He felt their presence all about the house, pervading the air with the shades and echoes of still vibrant emotions.