He shook his head.
“Jimmy always liked it better down East. He rose up to his position in the East. Were you a friend of my boy’s, Mr.—?”
“We were close friends.”
“He had a big future before him, you know. He was only a young man, but he had a lot of brain power here.”
He touched his head impressively, and I nodded.
“If he’d of lived, he’d of been a great man. A man like James J. Hill. He’d of helped build up the country.”
“That’s true,” I said, uncomfortably.
He fumbled at the embroidered coverlet, trying to take it from the bed, and lay down stiffly — was instantly asleep.
That night an obviously frightened person called up, and demanded to know who I was before he would give his name.
“This is Mr. Carraway,” I said.
“Oh!” He sounded relieved. “This is Klipspringer.” I was relieved too, for that seemed to promise another friend at Gatsby’s grave. I didn’t want it to be in the papers and draw a sightseeing crowd, so I’d been calling up a few people myself. They were hard to find.
“The funeral’s to-morrow,” I said. “Three o’clock, here at the house. I wish you’d tell anybody who’d be interested.”
“Oh, I will,” he broke out hastily. “Of course I’m not likely to see anybody, but if I do.”
His tone made me suspicious.
“Of course you’ll be there yourself.”
“Well, I’ll certainly try. What I called up about is ——”
“Wait a minute,” I interrupted. “How about saying you’ll come?”
“Well, the fact is — the truth of the matter is that I’m staying with some people up here in Greenwich, and they rather expect me to be with them to-morrow. In fact, there’s a sort of picnic or something. Of course I’ll do my very best to get away.”
I ejaculated an unrestrained “Huh!” and he must have heard me, for he went on nervously:
“What I called up about was a pair of shoes I left there. Iwonder if it’d be too much trouble to have the butler send them on. You see, they’re tennis shoes, and I’m sort of helpless without them. My address is care of B. F.——”
I didn’t hear the rest of the name, because I hung up the receiver.
After that I felt a certain shame for Gatsby — one gentleman to whom I telephoned implied that he had got what he deserved. However, that was my fault, for he was one of those who used to sneer most bitterly at Gatsby on the courage of Gatsby’s liquor, and I should have known better than to call him.
The morning of the funeral I went up to New York to see Meyer Wolfsheim; I couldn’t seem to reach him any other way. The door that I pushed open, on the advice of an elevator boy, was marked “The Swastika Holding Company,” and at first there didn’t seem to be any one inside. But when I’d shouted “hello.” several times in vain, an argument broke out behind a partition, and presently a lovely Jewess appeared at an interior door and scrutinized me with black hostile eyes.
“Nobody’s in,” she said. “Mr. Wolfsheim’s gone to Chicago.”
The first part of this was obviously untrue, for someone had begun to whistle “The Rosary,” tunelessly, inside.
“Please say that Mr. Carraway wants to see him.”
“I can’t get him back from Chicago, can I?”
At this moment a voice, unmistakably Wolfsheim’s, called “Stella!” from the other side of the door.
“Leave your name on the desk,” she said quickly. “I’ll give it to him when he gets back.”
“But I know he’s there.”
She took a step toward me and began to slide her hands indignantly up and down her hips.
“You young men think you can force your way in here any time,” she scolded. “We’re getting sickantired of it. When I say he’s in Chicago, he’s in Chicago.”
I mentioned Gatsby.
“Oh — h!” She looked at me over again. “Will you just — What was your name?”
She vanished. In a moment Meyer Wolfsheim stood solemnly in the doorway, holding out both hands. He drew me into his office, remarking in a reverent voice that it was a sad time for all of us, and offered me a cigar.
“My memory goes back to when I first met him,” he said. “A young major just out of the army and covered over with medals he got in the war. He was so hard up he had to keep on wearing his uniform because he couldn’t buy some regular clothes. First time I saw him was when he come into Winebrenner’s poolroom at Forty-third Street and asked for a job. He hadn’t eat anything for a couple of days. ‘come on have some lunch with me,’ I sid. He ate more than four dollars’ worth of food in half an hour.”
“Did you start him in business?” I inquired.
“Start him! I made him.”
“I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter. I saw right away he was a fine-appearing, gentlemanly young man, and when he told me he was at Oggsford I knew I could use him good. I got him to join up in the American Legion and he used to stand high there. Right off he did some work for a client of mine up to Albany. We were so thick like that in everything.”— he held up two bulbous fingers ——” always together.”
I wondered if this partnership had included the World’s Series transaction in 1919.
“Now he’s dead,” I said after a moment. “You were his closest friend, so I know you’ll want to come to his funeral this afternoon.”
“I’d like to come.”
“Well, come then.”
The hair in his nostrils quivered slightly, and as he shook his head his eyes filled with tears.
“I can’t do it — I can’t get mixed up in it,” he said.
“There’s nothing to get mixed up in. It’s all over now.”