“I’ve done some nice things out on Long Island,” asserted Mr. McKee.
Tom looked at him blankly.
“Two of them we have framed down-stairs.”
“Two what?” demanded Tom.
“Two studies. One of them I call MONTAUK POINT— THE GULLS, and the other I call MONTAUK POINT— THE SEA.”
The sister Catherine sat down beside me on the couch.
“Do you live down on Long Island, too?” she inquired.
“I live at West Egg.”
“Really? I was down there at a party about a month ago. At a man named Gatsby’s. Do you know him?”
“I live next door to him.”
“Well, they say he’s a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm’s. That’s where all his money comes from.”
“I’m scared of him. I’d hate to have him get anything on me.”
This absorbing information about my neighbor was interrupted by Mrs. McKee’s pointing suddenly at Catherine:
“Chester, I think you could do something with HER,” she broke out, but Mr. McKee only nodded in a bored way, and turned his attention to Tom.
“I’d like to do more work on Long Island, if I could get the entry. All I ask is that they should give me a start.”
“Ask Myrtle,” said Tom, breaking into a short shout of laughter as Mrs. Wilson entered with a tray. “She’ll give you a letter of introduction, won’t you Myrtle?”
“Do what?” she asked, startled.
“You’ll give McKee a letter of introduction to your husband, so he can do some studies of him.” His lips moved silently for a moment as he invented. “GEORGE B. WILSON AT THE GASOLINE PUMP, or something like that.”
Catherine leaned close to me and whispered in my ear: “Neither of them can stand the person they’re married to.”
“Can’t STAND them.” She looked at Myrtle and then at Tom. “What I say is, why go on living with them if they can’t stand them? If I was them I’d get a divorce and get married to each other right away.”
“Doesn’t she like Wilson either?”
The answer to this was unexpected. It came from Myrtle, who had overheard the question, and it was violent and obscene.
“You see,” cried Catherine triumphantly. She lowered her voice again. “It’s really his wife that’s keeping them apart. She’s a Catholic, and they don’t believe in divorce.”
Daisy was not a Catholic, and I was a little shocked at the elaborateness of the lie.
“When they do get married,” continued Catherine, “they’re going West to live for a while until it blows over.”
“It’d be more discreet to go to Europe.”
“Oh, do you like Europe?” she exclaimed surprisingly. “I just got back from Monte Carlo.”
“Just last year. I went over there with another girl.” “Stay long?”
“No, we just went to Monte Carlo and back. We went by way of Marseilles. We had over twelve hundred dollars when we started, but we got gypped out of it all in two days in the private rooms. We had an awful time getting back, I can tell you. God, how I hated that town!”
The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment like the blue honey of the Mediterranean — then the shrill voice of Mrs. McKee called me back into the room.
“I almost made a mistake, too,” she declared vigorously. “I almost married a little kyke who’d been after me for years. I knew he was below me. Everybody kept saying to me: ‘Lucille, that man’s ‘way below you!’ But if I hadn’t met Chester, he’d of got me sure.”
“Yes, but listen,” said Myrtle Wilson, nodding her head up and down, “at least you didn’t marry him.”
“I know I didn’t.”
“Well, I married him,” said Myrtle, ambiguously. “And that’s the difference between your case and mine.”
“Why did you, Myrtle?” demanded Catherine. “Nobody forced you to.”
“I married him because I thought he was a gentleman,” she said finally. “I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.”
“You were crazy about him for a while,” said Catherine.
“Crazy about him!” cried Myrtle incredulously. “Who said I was crazy about him? I never was any more crazy about him than I was about that man there.”
She pointed suddenly at me, and every one looked at me accusingly. I tried to show by my expression that I had played no part in her past.
“The only CRAZY I was was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in, and never even told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out. ‘oh, is that your suit?’ I said. ‘this is the first I ever heard about it.’ But I gave it to him and then I lay down and cried to beat the band all afternoon.”
“She really ought to get away from him,” resumed Catherine to me. “They’ve been living over that garage for eleven years. And tom’s the first sweetie she ever had.”