“Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.”
Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night. 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.
“Did I have to know all this before he could ask such a little thing?”
“He’s afraid, he’s waited so long. He thought you might be offended. You see, he’s a regular tough underneath it all.”
Something worried me.
“Why didn’t he ask you to arrange a meeting?”
“He wants her to see his house,” she explained. “And your house is right next door.”
“I think he half expected her to wander into one of his parties, some night,” went on Jordan, “but she never did. Then he began asking people casually if they knew her, and I was the first one he found. It was that night he sent for me at his dance, and you should have heard the elaborate way he worked up to it. Of course, I immediately suggested a luncheon in New York — and I thought he’d go mad:
“‘I don’t want to do anything out of the way!’ he kept saying. ‘I want to see her right next door.’
“When I said you were a particular friend of Tom’s, he started to abandon the whole idea. He doesn’t know very much about Tom, though he says he’s read a Chicago paper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse of Daisy’s name.”
It was dark now, and as we dipped under a little bridge I put my arm around Jordan’s golden shoulder and drew her toward me and asked her to dinner. Suddenly I wasn’t thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more, but of this clean, hard, limited person, who dealt in universal scepticism, and who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm. A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”
“And Daisy ought to have something in her life,” murmured Jordan to me.
“Does she want to see Gatsby?”
“She’s not to know about it. Gatsby doesn’t want her to know. You’re just supposed to invite her to tea.”
We passed a barrier of dark trees, and then the facade of Fifty-ninth Street, a block of delicate pale light, beamed down into the park. Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, I had no girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs, and so 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 to West Egg that night I was afraid for a moment that my house was on fire. Two o’clock and the whole corner of the peninsula was blazing with light, which fell unreal on the shrubbery and made thin elongating glints upon the roadside wires. Turning a corner, I saw that it was Gatsby’s house, lit from tower to cellar.
At first I thought it was another party, a wild rout that had resolved itself into “hide-and-go-seek.” or “sardines-in-the-box.” with all the house thrown open to the game. But there wasn’t a sound. Only wind in the trees, which blew the wires and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had winked into the darkness. As my taxi groaned away I saw Gatsby walking toward me across his lawn.
“Your place looks like the World’s Fair,” I said.
“Does it?” He turned his eyes toward it absently. “I have been glancing into some of the rooms. Let’s go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car.”
“It’s too late.”
“Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming-pool? I haven’t made use of it all summer.”
“I’ve got to go to bed.”
He waited, looking at me with suppressed eagerness.
“I talked with Miss Baker,” I said after a moment. “I’m going to call up Daisy to-morrow and invite her over here to tea.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” he said carelessly. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”
“What day would suit you?”
“What day would suit YOU?” he corrected me quickly. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble, you see.”
“How about the day after to-morrow?” He considered for a moment. Then, with reluctance:
“I want to get the grass cut,” he said.
We both looked at the grass — there was a sharp line where my ragged lawn ended and the darker, well-kept expanse of his began. I suspected that he meant my grass.
“There’s another little thing,” he said uncertainly, and hesitated.
“Would you rather put it off for a few days?” I asked.
“Oh, it isn’t about that. At least ——” He fumbled with a series of beginnings. “Why, I thought — why, look here, old sport, you don’t make much money, do you?”
“Not very much.”
This seemed to reassure him and he continued more confidently.
“I thought you didn’t, if you’ll pardon my — You see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of side line, you understand. And I thought that if you don’t make very much — You’re selling bonds, aren’t you, old sport?”