Gatsby identified him, adding that he was a small producer.
“Well, I liked him anyhow.”
“I’d a little rather not be the polo player,” said Tom pleasantly, “I’d rather look at all these famous people in — in oblivion.”
Daisy and Gatsby danced. I remember being surprised by his graceful, conservative fox-trot — I had never seen him dance before. Then they sauntered over to my house and sat on the steps for half an hour, while at her request I remained watchfully in the garden. “In case there’s a fire or a flood,” she explained, “or any act of God.”
Tom appeared from his oblivion as we were sitting down to supper together. “Do you mind if I eat with some people over here?” he said. “A fellow’s getting off some funny stuff.”
“Go ahead,” answered Daisy genially, “and if you want to take down any addresses here’s my little gold pencil.” … she looked around after a moment and told me the girl was “common but pretty,” and I knew that except for the half-hour she’d been alone with Gatsby she wasn’t having a good time.
We were at a particularly tipsy table. That was my fault — Gatsby had been called to the phone, and I’d enjoyed these same people only two weeks before. But what had amused me then turned septic on the air now.
“How do you feel, Miss Baedeker?”
The girl addressed was trying, unsuccessfully, to slump against my shoulder. At this inquiry she sat up and opened her eyes.
A massive and lethargic woman, who had been urging Daisy to play golf with her at the local club to-morrow, spoke in Miss Baedeker’s defence:
“Oh, she’s all right now. When she’s had five or six cocktails she always starts screaming like that. I tell her she ought to leave it alone.”
“I do leave it alone,” affirmed the accused hollowly.
“We heard you yelling, so I said to Doc Civet here: ‘There’s somebody that needs your help, Doc.’”
“She’s much obliged, I’m sure,” said another friend, without gratitude. “But you got her dress all wet when you stuck her head in the pool.”
“Anything I hate is to get my head stuck in a pool,” mumbled Miss Baedeker. “They almost drowned me once over in New Jersey.”
“Then you ought to leave it alone,” countered Doctor Civet.
“Speak for yourself!” cried Miss Baedeker violently. “Your hand shakes. I wouldn’t let you operate on me!”
It was like that. Almost the last thing I remember was standing with Daisy and watching the moving-picture director and his Star. They were still under the white plum tree and their faces were touching except for a pale, thin ray of moonlight between. It occurred to me that he had been very slowly bending toward her all evening to attain this proximity, and even while I watched I saw him stoop one ultimate degree and kiss at her cheek.
“I like her,” said Daisy, “I think she’s lovely.”
But the rest offended her — and inarguably, because it wasn’t a gesture but an emotion. She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented “place.” that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village — appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short-cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.
I sat on the front steps with them while they waited for their car. It was dark here in front; only the bright door sent ten square feet of light volleying out into the soft black morning. Sometimes a shadow moved against a dressing-room blind above, gave way to another shadow, an indefinite procession of shadows, who rouged and powdered in an invisible glass.
“Who is this Gatsby anyhow?” demanded Tom suddenly. “Some big bootlegger?”
“Where’d you hear that?” I inquired.
“I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know.”
“Not Gatsby,” I said shortly.
He was silent for a moment. The pebbles of the drive crunched under his feet.
“Well, he certainly must have strained himself to get this menagerie together.”
A breeze stirred the gray haze of Daisy’s fur collar.
“At least they’re more interesting than the people we know,” she said with an effort.
“You didn’t look so interested.”
“Well, I was.”
Tom laughed and turned to me.
“Did you notice Daisy’s face when that girl asked her to put her under a cold shower?”
Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic whisper, bringing out a meaning in each word that it had never had before and would never have again. When the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air.
“Lots of people come who haven’t been invited,” she said suddenly. “That girl hadn’t been invited. They simply force their way in and he’s too polite to object.”
“I’d like to know who he is and what he does,” insisted Tom. “And I think I’ll make a point of finding out.”
“I can tell you right now,” she answered. “He owned some drug-stores, a lot of drug-stores. He built them up himself.”
The dilatory limousine came rolling up the drive.
“Good night, Nick,” said Daisy.
Her glance left me and sought the lighted top of the steps, where THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING, a neat, sad little waltz of that year, was drifting out the open door. After all, in the very casualness of Gatsby’s party there were romantic possibilities totally absent from her world. What was it up there in the song that seemed to be calling her back inside? What would happen now in the dim, incalculable hours? Perhaps some unbelievable guest would arrive, a person infinitely rare and to be marvelled at, some authentically radiant young girl who with one fresh glance at Gatsby, one moment of magical encounter, would blot out those five years of unwavering devotion.