incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines.
He reached in his pocket, and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell into my palm.
“That’s the one from Montenegro.”
To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look.
“Orderi di Danilo,” ran the circular legend, “Montenegro, Nicolas Rex.”
“Major Jay Gatsby,” I read, “For Valour Extraordinary.”
“Here’s another thing I always carry. A souvenir of Oxford days. It was taken in Trinity Quad — the man on my left is now the Earl of Dorcaster.”
It was a photograph of half a dozen young men in blazers loafing in an archway through which were visible a host of spires. There was Gatsby, looking a little, not much, younger — with a cricket bat in his hand.
Then it was all true. I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his palace on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of rubies to ease, with their crimson-lighted depths, the gnawings of his broken heart.
“I’m going to make a big request of you to-day,” he said, pocketing his souvenirs with satisfaction, “so I thought you ought to know something about me. I didn’t want you to think I was just some nobody. You see, I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad thing that happened to me.” He hesitated. “You’ll hear about it this afternoon.”
“No, this afternoon. I happened to find out that you’re taking Miss Baker to tea.”
“Do you mean you’re in love with Miss Baker?”
“No, old sport, I’m not. But Miss Baker has kindly consented to speak to you about this matter.”
I hadn’t the faintest idea what “this matter.” was, but I was more annoyed than interested. I hadn’t asked Jordan to tea in order to discuss Mr. Jay Gatsby. I was sure the request would be something utterly fantastic, and for a moment I was sorry I’d ever set foot upon his overpopulated lawn.
He wouldn’t say another word. His correctness grew on him as we neared the city. We passed Port Roosevelt, where there was a glimpse of red-belted ocean-going ships, and sped along a cobbled slum lined with the dark, undeserted saloons of the faded-gilt nineteen-hundreds. Then the valley of ashes opened out on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse of Mrs. Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we went by.
With fenders spread like wings we scattered light through half Long Island City — only half, for as we twisted among the pillars of the elevated I heard the familiar “jug — jug — SPAT!” of a motorcycle, and a frantic policeman rode