“Well, you take my coupe and let me drive your car to town.”
The suggestion was distasteful to Gatsby.
“I don’t think there’s much gas,” he objected.
“Plenty of gas,” said Tom boisterously. He looked at the gauge. “And if it runs out I can stop at a drug-store. You can buy anything at a drug-store nowadays.”
A pause followed this apparently pointless remark. Daisy looked at Tom frowning, and an indefinable expression, at once definitely unfamiliar and vaguely recognizable, as if I had only heard it described in words, passed over Gatsby’s face.
“Come on, Daisy,” said Tom, pressing her with his hand toward Gatsby’s car. “I’ll take you in this circus wagon.”
He opened the door, but she moved out from the circle of his arm.
“You take Nick and Jordan. We’ll follow you in the coupe.”
She walked close to Gatsby, touching his coat with her hand. Jordan and Tom and I got into the front seat of Gatsby’s car, Tom pushed the unfamiliar gears tentatively, and we shot off into the oppressive heat, leaving them out of sight behind.
“Did you see that?” demanded Tom.
He looked at me keenly, realizing that Jordan and I must have known all along.
“You think I’m pretty dumb, don’t you?” he suggested. “Perhaps I am, but I have a — almost a second sight, sometimes, that tells me what to do. Maybe you don’t believe that, but science ——”
He paused. The immediate contingency overtook him, pulled him back from the edge of the theoretical abyss.
“I’ve made a small investigation of this fellow,” he continued. “I could have gone deeper if I’d known ——”
“Do you mean you’ve been to a medium?” inquired Jordan humorously.
“What?” Confused, he stared at us as we laughed. “A medium?”
“About Gatsby! No, I haven’t. I said I’d been making a small investigation of his past.”
“And you found he was an Oxford man,” said Jordan helpfully.
“An Oxford man!” He was incredulous. “Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.”
“Nevertheless he’s an Oxford man.”
“Oxford, New Mexico,” snorted Tom contemptuously, “or something like that.”
“Listen, Tom. If you’re such a snob, why did you invite him to lunch?” demanded Jordan crossly.
“Daisy invited him; she knew him before we were married — God knows where!”
We were all irritable now with the fading ale, and aware of it we drove for a while in silence. Then as Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s faded eyes came into sight down the road, I remembered Gatsby’s caution about gasoline.
“We’ve got enough to get us to town,” said Tom.
“But there’s a garage right here,” objected Jordan. “I don’t want to get stalled in this baking heat.” Tom threw on both brakes impatiently, and we slid to an abrupt dusty stop under Wilson’s sign. After a moment the proprietor emerged from the interior of his establishment and gazed hollow-eyed at the car.
“Let’s have some gas!” cried Tom roughly. “What do you think we stopped for — to admire the view?”
“I’m sick,” said Wilson without moving. “Been sick all day.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m all run down.”
“Well, shall I help myself?” Tom demanded. “You sounded well enough on the phone.”
With an effort Wilson left the shade and support of the doorway and, breathing hard, unscrewed the cap of the tank. In the sunlight his face was green.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt your lunch,” he said. “But I need money pretty bad, and I was wondering what you were going to do with your old car.”
“How do you like this one?” inquired Tom. “I bought it last week.”
“It’s a nice yellow one,” said Wilson, as he strained at the handle.
“Like to buy it?”
“Big chance,” Wilson smiled faintly. “No, but I could make some money on the other.”
“What do you want money for, all of a sudden?”
“I’ve been here too long. I want to get away. My wife and I want to go West.”
“Your wife does,” exclaimed Tom, startled.
“She’s been talking about it for ten years.” He rested for a moment against the pump, shading his eyes. “And now she’s going whether she wants to or not. I’m going to get her away.”
The coupe flashed by us with a flurry of dust and the flash of a waving hand.
“What do I owe you?” demanded Tom harshly.
“I just got wised up to something funny the last two days,” remarked Wilson. “That’s why I want to get away. That’s why I been bothering you about the car.”
“What do I owe you?”
The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me and I had a bad moment there before I realized that so far his suspicions hadn’t alighted on Tom. He had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world, and the shock had made him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before — and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well. Wilson was so sick that he looked guilty, unforgivably guilty — as if he had just got some poor girl with child.
“I’ll let you have that car,” said Tom. “I’ll send it over to-morrow afternoon.”