No wasting time at Shatters or [a name, indecipherable]
No more smoking or chewing
Bath every other day
Read one improving book or magazine per week
Save $5.00 [crossed out] $3.00 per week
Be better to parents
I come across this book by accident, said the old man. "It just shows you, don't it?
Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this or something. Do you notice what he's got about improving his mind? He was al¬ways great for that. He told me I ate like a hog once, and I beat him for it.
He was reluctant to close the book, reading each item aloud and then looking eagerly at me. I think he rather expected me to copy down the list for my own use.
A little before three the Lutheran minister arrived from Flushing, and I began to look involuntarily out the windows for other cars. So did Gatsby's fa¬ther. And as the time passed and the servants came in and stood waiting in the hall, his eyes began to blink anxiously, and he spoke of the rain in a wor¬ried, uncertain way. The minister glanced several times at his watch, so I took him aside and asked him to wait for half an hour. But it wasn't any use. Nobody came.
About five o'clock our procession of three cars reached the cemetery and stopped in a thick drizzle beside the gate — first a motor hearse, horribly black and wet, then Mr. Gatz and the minister and I in the limousine, and a little later four or five ser¬vants and the postman from West Egg, in Gatsby's station wagon, all wet to the skin. As we started through the gate into the cemetery I heard a car stop and then the sound of some one splashing af¬ter us over the soggy ground. I looked around. It was the man with owl-eyed glasses whom I had found marvelling over Gatsby's books in the library one night three months before.
I'd never seen him since then. I don't know how he knew about the funeral, or even his name. The rain poured down his thick glasses, and he took them off and wiped them to see the protecting can¬vas unrolled from Gatsby's grave.
I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment, but he was already too far away, and I could only remember, without resentment, that Daisy hadn't sent a message or a flower. Dimly I heard some one murmur "Blessed are the dead that the rain falls ' on," and then the owl-eyed man said "Amen to that," in a brave voice.
We straggled down quickly through the rain to the cars. Owl-eyes spoke to me by the gate.
I couldn't get to the house, he remarked.
Neither could anybody else.
Go on! He started. "Why, my God! they used to go there by the hundreds."
He took off his glasses and wiped them again, outside and in.
The poor son-of-a-bitch, he said.
One of my most vivid memories is of coming back West from prep school and later from college at Christmas time. Those who went farther than Chi¬cago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o'clock of a December evening, with a few Chi¬cago friends, already caught up into their own holi¬day gayeties, to bid them a hasty good-by. I remem¬ber the fur coats of the girls returning from Miss This-or-That's and the chatter of frozen breath and the hands waving overhead as we caught sight of old acquaintances, and the matchings of invitations:
Are you going to the Ordways'? the Herseys'? the Schultzes'? and the long green tickets clasped tight in our gloved hands. And last the murky yellow cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad looking cheerful as Christmas itself on the tracks beside the gate.
When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.
That's my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters, a little complacent from growing up in the Carraway house in a city where dwellings are still called through decades by a fa¬mily's name. I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all — Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life,
Even when the East excited me most, even when I was most keenly aware of its superiority to the bored, sprawling, swollen towns beyond the Ohio, with their interminable inquisitions which spared only the children and the very old — even then it had always for me a quality of distortion. West Egg, especially, still figures in my more fantastic dreams. I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouch¬ing under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustre¬less moon. In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at a house — the wrong house. But no one knows the woman's name, and no one cares.
After Gatsby's death the East was haunted for me like that, distorted beyond my eyes' power of correction. So when the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on the line I decided to come back home.
There was one thing to be done before I left, an awkward, unpleasant thing 'that perhaps had better have been let alone. But I wanted to leave things in order and not just trust that obliging and indiffe¬rent sea to sweep my refuse away. I saw Jordan Baker and talked over and around what had hap¬pened to us together, and what had happened after¬ward to me, and she lay perfectly still, listening, in a big chair.
She was dressed to play golf, and I remember thinking she looked like a good illustration, her chin raised a little jauntily, her hair the color of an autumn leaf, her face the same brown tint as the fingerless glove on her knee. When I had finished she told me without comment that she was engaged to another man. I doubted that, though there were several she could have married at a nod of her head, but I pretended to be surprised. For just a minute I wondered if I wasn't making a mistake, then I thought it all over again quickly and got up to say good-by.
Nevertheless you did throw me over, said Jor¬dan suddenly. "You threw me over on the telephone. I don't give a damm about you now, but it was a new experience for me, and I felt a little dizzy for a while."
We shook hands.
Oh, and do you remember — she added — "a conversation we had once about driving a car?"
Why — not exactly.
You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didn't I? I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were ra¬ther an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.
I'm thirty, I said., "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor."
She didn't answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.
One afternoon late in October I saw Tom Buchanan. He was walking ahead of me along Fifth Ave¬nue in his alert, aggressive way, his hands out a little from his body as if to fight off interference, his head moving sharply here and there, adapting itself to his restless eyes. Just as I slowed up to avoid overtaking him he stopped and began frown¬ing into the windows of a jewelry store. Suddenly he saw me and walked back, holding out his hand.
What's the matter, Nick? Do you object to shaking hands with me?
Yes. You know what I think of you.
You're crazy, Nick, he said quickly. "Crazy as hell. I don't know what's the matter with you."
Tom, I inquired, "what did you say to Wilson that afternoon?"
He stared at me without a word, and I knew I had guessed right about those missing hours. I started to turn away, but he took a step after me and grabbed my arm.
I told him the truth, he said. "He came to the door while we were getting ready to leave, and when I sent down word that we weren't in he tried to force his way up-stairs. He was crazy enough to kill me if I hadn't told him who owned the car. His hand was on a revolver in his pocket every minute he was in the house —" He broke off defiantly. "What if I did tell him? That fellow had it coming to him. He threw dust into your eyes just like he did in Daisy's, but he was a tough one. He ran over Myrtle like you'd run over a dog and never even stopped his car."
There was nothing I could say, except the one unutterable fact that it wasn't true.
And if you think I didn't have my share of suffer¬ing — look here, when I went to give up that flat and saw that damn box of dog-biscuits sitting there on the sideboard, I sat down and cried like a baby. By God it was awful ——
I couldn't forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were care¬less peoples, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . . .
I shook hands with him; it seemed silly not to, for I felt suddenly as though I were talking to a child. Then he went into the jewelry store to buy a pearl necklace — or perhaps only a pair of cuff buttons — rid of my provincial squeamishness for¬ever.
Gatsby's house was still empty when I left — the grass on his lawn had grown as long as mine. One of the taxi drivers in the village never took a fare past the entrance gate without stopping for a mi¬nute and pointing inside; perhaps it was he who drove Daisy and Gatsby over to East Egg the night of the accident, and perhaps he had made a story about it all his own. I didn't want to hear it and I avoided him when I got off the train.
I spent my Saturday nights in New York, because those gleaming, dazzling parties of his were with me so vividly that I could still hear the music and the laughter, faint and incessant, from his garden, and the cars going up and down his drive. One night I did hear a material car there, and saw its lights stop at his front steps. But I didn't investi¬gate. Probably it was some final guest who had been away at the ends of the earth and didn't know that the party was over.
On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more. On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight, and I erased it, drawing my shoe raspingly along the stone. Then I wandered down to the beach and sprawled out on the sand.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses be¬gan to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch
sailors' eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whis¬pers to the last and greatest of all human dreams;
for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he nei¬ther understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there .brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.