“I wanted somebody who wouldn’t gossip. Daisy comes over quite often — in the afternoons.”
So the whole caravansary had fallen in like a card house at the disapproval in her eyes.
“They’re some people Wolfsheim wanted to do something for. They’re all brothers and sisters. They used to run a small hotel.”
He was calling up at Daisy’s request — would I come to lunch at her house to-morrow? Miss Baker would be there. Half an hour later Daisy herself telephoned and seemed relieved to find that I was coming. Something was up. And yet I couldn’t believe that they would choose this occasion for a scene — especially for the rather harrowing scene that Gatsby had outlined in the garden.
The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest, of the summer. As my train emerged from the tunnel into sunlight, only the hot whistles of the National Biscuit Company broke the simmering hush at noon. The straw seats of the car hovered on the edge of combustion; the woman next to me perspired delicately for a while into her white shirtwaist, and then, as her newspaper dampened under her fingers, lapsed despairingly into deep heat with a desolate cry. Her pocket-book slapped to the floor.
“Oh, my!” she gasped.
I picked it up with a weary bend and handed it back to her, holding it at arm’s length and by the extreme tip of the corners to indicate that I had no designs upon it — but every one near by, including the woman, suspected me just the same.
“Hot!” said the conductor to familiar faces. “Some weather! hot! hot! hot! Is it hot enough for you? Is it hot? Is it … ?”
My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his hand. That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart!
… Through the hall of the Buchanans’ house blew a faint wind, carrying the sound of the telephone bell out to Gatsby and me as we waited at the door.
“The master’s body!” roared the butler into the mouthpiece. “I’m sorry, madame, but we can’t furnish it — it’s far too hot to touch this noon!”
What he really said was: “Yes … yes … I’ll see.”
He set down the receiver and came toward us, glistening slightly, to take our stiff straw hats.
“Madame expects you in the salon!” he cried, needlessly indicating the direction. In this heat every extra gesture was an affront to the common store of life.
The room, shadowed well with awnings, was dark and cool. Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans.
“We can’t move,” they said together.
Jordan’s fingers, powdered white over their tan, rested for a moment in mine.
“And Mr. Thomas Buchanan, the athlete?” I inquired.
Simultaneously I heard his voice, gruff, muffled, husky, at the hall telephone.
Gatsby stood in the centre of the crimson carpet and gazed around with fascinated eyes. Daisy watched him and laughed, her sweet, exciting laugh; a tiny gust of powder rose from her bosom into the air.
“The rumor is,” whispered Jordan, “that that’s Tom’s girl on the telephone.”
We were silent. The voice in the hall rose high with annoyance: “Very well, then, I won’t sell you the car at all… . I’m under no obligations to you at all … and as for your bothering me about it at lunch time, I won’t stand that at all!”
“Holding down the receiver,” said Daisy cynically.
“No, he’s not,” I assured her. “It’s a bona-fide deal. I happen to know about it.”
Tom flung open the door, blocked out its space for a moment with his thick body, and hurried into the room.
“Mr. Gatsby!” He put out his broad, flat hand with well-concealed dislike. “I’m glad to see you, sir… . Nick… .”
“Make us a cold drink,” cried Daisy.
As he left the room again she got up and went over to Gatsby and pulled his face down, kissing him on the mouth.
“You know I love you,” she murmured.
“You forget there’s a lady present,” said Jordan.
Daisy looked around doubtfully.
“You kiss Nick too.”
“What a low, vulgar girl!”
“I don’t care!” cried Daisy, and began to clog on the brick fireplace. Then she remembered the heat and sat down guiltily on the couch just as a freshly laundered nurse leading a little girl came into the room.
“Bles-sed pre-cious,” she crooned, holding out her arms. “Come to your own mother that loves you.”
The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed across the room and rooted shyly into her mother’s dress.
“The bles-sed pre-cious! Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair? Stand up now, and say — How-de-do.”
Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small, reluctant hand. Afterward he kept looking at the child with surprise. I don’t think he had ever really believed in its existence before.
“I got dressed before luncheon,” said the child, turning eagerly to Daisy.
“That’s because your mother wanted to show you off.” Her face bent into the single wrinkle of the small, white neck. “You dream, you. You absolute little dream.”
“Yes,” admitted the child calmly. “Aunt Jordan’s got on a white dress too.”
“How do you like mother’s friends?” Daisy turned her around so that she faced Gatsby. “Do you think they’re pretty?”