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Chapter 2

About half way between West Egg and New York the motor-road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.

Occasionally a line of grey cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which screens their obscure operations from your sight.

But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.

J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic--their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.

The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and when the drawbridge is up to let barges through, the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an hour. There is always a halt there of at least a minute and it was because of this that I first met Tom Buchanan's mistress.

The fact that he had one was insisted upon wherever he was known. His acquaintances resented the fact that he turned up in popular restaurants with her and, leaving her at a table, sauntered about, chatting with whomsoever he knew. Though I was curious to see her I had no desire to meet her--but I did. I went up to New York with Tom on the train one afternoon and when we stopped by the ashheaps he jumped to his feet and taking hold of my elbow literally forced me from the car.

"We're getting off!" he insisted. "I want you to meet my girl."

I think he'd tanked up a good deal at luncheon and his determination to have my company bordered on violence. The supercilious assumption was that on Sunday afternoon I had nothing better to do.

I followed him over a low white-washed railroad fence and we walked back a hundred yards along the road under Doctor Eckleburg's persistent stare. The only building in sight was a small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering to it and contiguous to absolutely nothing. One of the three shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night restaurant approached by a trail of ashes; the third was a garage--Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars Bought and Sold--and I followed Tom inside.

The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner. It had occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be a blind and that sumptuous and romantic apartments were concealed overhead when the proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands on a piece of waste. He was a blonde, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome. When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes.

"Hello, Wilson, old man," said Tom, slapping him jovially on the shoulder. "How's business?"

"I can't complain," answered Wilson unconvincingly. "When are you going to sell me that car?"

"Next week; I've got my man working on it now."

"Works pretty slow, don't he?"

"No, he doesn't," said Tom coldly. "And if you feel that way about it, maybe I'd better sell it somewhere else after all."

"I don't mean that," explained Wilson quickly. "I just meant----"

His voice faded off and Tom glanced impatiently around the garage. Then I heard footsteps on a stairs and in a moment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering. She smiled slowly and walking through her husband as if he were a ghost shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye. Then she wet her lips and without turning around spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice:

"Get some chairs, why don't you, so somebody can sit down."

"Oh, sure," agreed Wilson hurriedly and went toward the little office, mingling immediately with the cement color of the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity--except his wife, who moved close to Tom.

"I want to see you," said Tom intently. "Get on the next train."

"All right."

"I'll meet you by the news-stand on the lower level."

She nodded and moved away from him just as George Wilson emerged with two chairs from his office door.

We waited for her down the road and out of sight. It was a few days before the Fourth of July, and a grey, scrawny Italian child was setting torpedoes in a row along the railroad track.

"Terrible place, isn't it," said Tom, exchanging a frown with Doctor Eckleburg.

"Awful."

"It does her good to get away."

"Doesn't her husband object?"

"Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He's so dumb he doesn't know he's alive."

So Tom Buchanan and his girl and I went up together to New York--or not quite together, for Mrs. Wilson sat discreetly in another car. Tom deferred that much to the sensibilities of those East Eggers who might be on the train.

She had changed her dress to a brown figured muslin which stretched tight over her rather wide hips as Tom helped her to the platform in New York. At the news-stand she bought a copy of "Town Tattle" and a moving-picture magazine and, in the station drug store, some cold cream and a small flask of perfume. Upstairs, in the solemn echoing drive she let four taxi cabs drive away before she selected a new one, lavender-colored with grey upholstery, and in this we slid out from the mass of the station into the glowing sunshine. But immediately she turned sharply from the window and leaning forward tapped on the front glass.

"I want to get one of those dogs," she said earnestly. "I want to get one for the apartment. They're nice to have--a dog."

We backed up to a grey old man who bore an absurd resemblance to John D. Rockefeller. In a basket, swung from his neck, cowered a dozen very recent puppies of an indeterminate breed.

"What kind are they?" asked Mrs. Wilson eagerly as he came to the taxi-window.

"All kinds. What kind do you want, lady?"

"I'd like to get one of those police dogs; I don't suppose you got that kind?"

The man peered doubtfully into the basket, plunged in his hand and drew one up, wriggling, by the back of the neck.

"That's no police dog," said Tom.

"No, it's not exactly a polICE dog," said the man with disappointment in his voice. "It's more of an airedale." He passed his hand over the brown wash-rag of a back. "Look at that coat. Some coat. That's a dog that'll never bother you with catching cold."

"I think it's cute," said Mrs. Wilson enthusiastically. "How much is it?"

"That dog?" He looked at it admiringly. "That dog will cost you ten dollars."

The airedale--undoubtedly there was an airedale concerned in it somewhere though its feet were startlingly white--changed hands and settled down into Mrs. Wilson's lap, where she fondled the weather-proof coat with rapture.

"Is it a boy or a girl?" she asked delicately.

"That dog? That dog's a boy."

"It's a bitch," said Tom decisively. "Here's your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it."

We drove over to Fifth Avenue, so warm and soft, almost pastoral, on the summer Sunday afternoon that I wouldn't have been surprised to see a great flock of white sheep turn the corner.

"Hold on," I said, "I have to leave you here."

"No, you don't," interposed Tom quickly. "Myrtle'll be hurt if you don't come up to the apartment. Won't you, Myrtle?"

"Come on," she urged. "I'll telephone my sister Catherine. She's said to be very beautiful by people who ought to know."

"Well, I'd like to, but----"

We went on, cutting back again over the Park toward the West Hundreds.

At 158th Street the cab stopped at one slice in a long white cake of apartment houses. Throwing a regal homecoming glance around the neighborhood, Mrs. Wilson gathered up her dog and her other purchases and went haughtily in.

"I'm going to have the McKees come up," she announced as we rose in the elevator. "And of course I got to call up my sister, too."

The apartment was on the top floor--a small living room, a small dining room, a small bedroom and a bath. The living room was crowded to the doors with a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it so that to move about was to stumble continually over scenes of ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles. The only picture was an over-enlarged photograph, apparently a hen sitting on a blurred rock. Looked at from a distance however the hen resolved itself into a bonnet and the countenance of a stout old lady beamed down into the room. Several old copies of "Town Tattle "lay on the table together with a copy of "Simon Called Peter" and some of the small scandal magazines of Broadway. Mrs. Wilson was first concerned with the dog. A reluctant elevator boy went for a box full of straw and some milk to which he added on his own initiative a tin of large hard dog biscuits--one of which decomposed apathetically in the saucer of milk all afternoon. Meanwhile Tom brought out a bottle of whiskey from a locked bureau door.

I have been drunk just twice in my life and the second time was that afternoon so everything that happened has a dim hazy cast over it although until after eight o'clock the apartment was full of cheerful sun. Sitting on Tom's lap Mrs. Wilson called up several people on the telephone; then there were no cigarettes and I went out to buy some at the drug store on the corner. When I came back they had disappeared so I sat down discreetly in the living room and read a chapter of "Simon Called Peter"--either it was terrible stuff or the whiskey distorted things because it didn't make any sense to me.

Just as Tom and Myrtle--after the first drink Mrs. Wilson and I called each other by our first names--reappeared, company commenced to arrive at the apartment door.

The sister, Catherine, was a slender, worldly girl of about thirty with a solid sticky bob of red hair and a complexion powdered milky white. Her eyebrows had been plucked and then drawn on again at a more rakish angle but the efforts of nature toward the restoration of the old alignment gave a blurred air to her face. When she moved about there was an incessant clicking as innumerable pottery bracelets jingled up and down upon her arms. She came in with such a proprietary haste and looked around so possessively at the furniture that I wondered if she lived here. But when I asked her she laughed immoderately, repeated my question aloud and told me she lived with a girl friend at a hotel.

Mr. McKee was a pale feminine man from the flat below. He had just shaved for there was a white spot of lather on his cheekbone and he was most respectful in his greeting to everyone in the room. He informed me that he was in the "artistic game" and I gathered later that he was a photographer and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs.

Wilson's mother which hovered like an ectoplasm on the wall. His wife was shrill, languid, handsome and horrible. She told me with pride that her husband had photographed her a hundred and twenty-seven times since they had been married.

Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time before and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream colored chiffon, which gave out a continual rustle as she swept about the room.

With the influence of the dress her personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment and as she expanded the room grew smaller around her until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.

"My dear," she told her sister in a high mincing shout, "most of these fellas will cheat you every time. All they think of is money. I had a woman up here last week to look at my feet and when she gave me the bill you'd of thought she had my appendicitus out."

"What was the name of the woman?" asked Mrs. McKee.

"Mrs. Eberhardt. She goes around looking at people's feet in their own homes."

"I like your dress," remarked Mrs. McKee, "I think it's adorable."

Mrs. Wilson rejected the compliment by raising her eyebrow in disdain.

"It's just a crazy old thing," she said. "I just slip it on sometimes when I don't care what I look like."

"But it looks wonderful on you, if you know what I mean," pursued Mrs. McKee. "If Chester could only get you in that pose I think he could make something of it."

We all looked in silence at Mrs. Wilson who removed a strand of hair from over her eyes and looked back at us with a brilliant smile. Mr. McKee regarded her intently with his head on one side and then moved his hand back and forth slowly in front of his face.

"I should change the light," he said after a moment. "I'd like to bring out the modelling of the features. And I'd try to get hold of all the back hair."

"I wouldn't think of changing the light," cried Mrs. McKee. "I think it's----"

Her husband said "SH!" and we all looked at the subject again whereupon Tom Buchanan yawned audibly and got to his feet.

"You McKees have something to drink," he said. "Get some more ice and mineral water, Myrtle, before everybody goes to sleep."

"I told that boy about the ice." Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. "These people! You have to keep after them all the time."

She looked at me and laughed pointlessly. Then she flounced over to the dog, kissed it with ecstasy and swept into the kitchen, implying that a dozen chefs awaited her orders there.

"I've done some nice things out on Long Island," asserted Mr. McKee.

Tom looked at him blankly.

"Two of them we have framed downstairs."

"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."

"Really?"

She nodded.

"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 they?"

"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."

"Really."

"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."

Myrtle considered.

"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.

She looked around to see who was listening: " '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."

The bottle of whiskey--a second one--was now in constant demand by all present, excepting Catherine who "felt just as good on nothing at all."

Tom rang for the janitor and sent him for some celebrated sandwiches, which were a complete supper in themselves. I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.

Myrtle pulled her chair close to mine, and suddenly her warm breath poured over me the story of her first meeting with Tom.

"It was on the two little seats facing each other that are always the last ones left on the train. I was going up to New York to see my sister and spend the night. He had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes and I couldn't keep my eyes off him but every time he looked at me I had to pretend to be looking at the advertisement over his head.

When we came into the station he was next to me and his white shirt-front pressed against my arm--and so I told him I'd have to call a policeman, but he knew I lied. I was so excited that when I got into a taxi with him I didn't hardly know I wasn't getting into a subway train. All I kept thinking about, over and over, was 'You can't live forever, you can't live forever.' "

She turned to Mrs. McKee and the room rang full of her artificial laughter.

"My dear," she cried, "I'm going to give you this dress as soon as I'm through with it. I've got to get another one tomorrow. I'm going to make a list of all the things I've got to get. A massage and a wave and a collar for the dog and one of those cute little ash-trays where you touch a spring, and a wreath with a black silk bow for mother's grave that'll last all summer. I got to write down a list so I won't forget all the things I got to do."

It was nine o'clock--almost immediately afterward I looked at my watch and found it was ten. Mr. McKee was asleep on a chair with his fists clenched in his lap, like a photograph of a man of action. Taking out my handkerchief I wiped from his cheek the remains of the spot of dried lather that had worried me all the afternoon.

The little dog was sitting on the table looking with blind eyes through the smoke and from time to time groaning faintly. People disappeared, reappeared, made plans to go somewhere, and then lost each other, searched for each other, found each other a few feet away. Some time toward midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face discussing in impassioned voices whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy's name.

"Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!" shouted Mrs. Wilson. "I'll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai----"

Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.

Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor, and women's voices scolding, and high over the confusion a long broken wail of pain. Mr. McKee awoke from his doze and started in a daze toward the door.

When he had gone half way he turned around and stared at the scene--his wife and Catherine scolding and consoling as they stumbled here and there among the crowded furniture with articles of aid, and the despairing figure on the couch bleeding fluently and trying to spread a copy of "Town Tattle" over the tapestry scenes of Versailles.

Then Mr. McKee turned and continued on out the door. Taking my hat from the chandelier I followed.

"Come to lunch some day," he suggested, as we groaned down in the elevator.

"Where?"

"Anywhere."

"Keep your hands off the lever," snapped the elevator boy.

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. McKee with dignity, "I didn't know I was touching it."

"All right," I agreed, "I'll be glad to."

... I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.

"Beauty and the Beast... Loneliness... Old Grocery Horse...

Brook'n Bridge...."

Then I was lying half asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania Station, staring at the morning "Tribune" and waiting for the four o'clock train.

西卵和纽约之间大约一半路程的地方,汽车路匆匆忙忙跟铁路会合,它在铁路旁边跑上四分之一英里,为的是要躲开一片荒凉的地方。这是一个灰烬的山谷—— 一个离奇古怪的农场,在这里灰烬像麦子一样生长,长成小山小丘和奇形怪状的园子。在这里灰烬堆成房屋、烟囱和炊烟的形式,最后,经过超绝的努力,堆成一个个灰蒙蒙的人,隐隐约约地在走动,而且已经在尘土飞扬的空气中化为灰烬了。有时一列灰色的货车慢慢沿着一条看不见的轨道爬行,叽嘎一声鬼叫,停了下来,马上那些灰蒙蒙的人就拖着铁铲一窝蜂拥上来,扬起一片尘土,让你看不到他们隐秘的活动。

但是,在这片灰蒙蒙的土地以及永远宠罩在它上空的一阵阵暗淡的尘上的上面,你过一会儿就看到T·J·埃克尔堡大夫的眼睛。埃克尔堡大夫的眼睛是蓝色的,庞大无比——瞳仁就有一码高。这双眼睛不是从一张脸上向外看,而是从架在一个不存在的鼻子上的一副硕大无朋的黄色眼镜向外看。显然是一个异想天开的眼科医生把它们坚在那儿的,为了招徐生意,扩大他在皇后区的业务,到后来大概他自己也永远闭上了眼睛,再不然就是撇下它们搬走了。但是,他留下的那两只眼睛,由于年深月久,日晒雨淋,油漆剥落,光彩虽不如前,却依然若有所思,阴郁地俯视着这片阴沉沉的灰堆。

灰烬谷一边有条肮脏的小河流过,每逢河上吊桥拉起让驳船通过,等候过桥的火车上的乘客就得盯着这片凄凉景色,时间长达半小时之久。平时火车在这里至少也要停一分钟,也正由于这个缘故,我才初次见到汤姆·布坎农的情妇。

他有个情妇,这是所有知道他的人都认定的事实。他的熟人都很气愤,因为他常常带着她上时髦的馆子,并且,让她在一张桌子旁坐下后,自己就走来走去,跟他认识的人拉呱。我虽然好奇,想看看她,可井不想和她见面——但是我会到她了,一天下午,我跟汤姆同行搭火车上纽约去。等我们在灰堆停下来的时候,他一骨碌跳了起来,抓住我的胳膊肘,简直是强迫我下了车。

“我们在这儿下车,”他断然地说,“我要你见见我的女朋友。”

大概他那天午饭时喝得够多的,因此他硬要我陪他的做法近乎暴力行为。他狂妄自大地认为,我在星期天下午似乎没有什么更有意思的事情可做。

我跟着他跨过一排刷得雪白的低低的铁路栅栏,然后沿着公路,在埃克尔堡大夫目不转睛的注视之下,往回走了一百码。眼前唯一的建筑物是一小排黄砖房子,坐落在这片荒原的边缘,大概是供应本地居民生活必需品的一条小型“主街”,左右隔壁一无所有。这排房子里有三家店铺,一家正在招租,另一家是通宵营业的饭馆,门前有一条炉渣小道;第三家是个汽车修理行——“乔治·B·威尔逊。修理汽车。买卖汽车。”我跟着汤姆走了进去。

车行里毫无兴旺的气象,空空如也。只看见一辆汽车,一部盖满灰尘、破旧不堪的福特车,蹲在阴暗的角落里。我忽然想到,这间有名无实的车行莫不是个幌子,而楼上却掩藏着豪华温馨的房间,这时老板出现在一间办公室的门口,不停地在一块抹布上擦着手。他是个头发金黄、没精打采的人,脸上没有血色,样子还不难看。他一看见我们,那对浅蓝的眼睛就流露出一线暗淡的希望。

“哈罗,威尔逊,你这家伙,”汤姆说,一面嘻嘻哈哈地拍拍他的肩膀,“生意怎么样?”

“还可以,”威尔逊缺乏说服力地回答,“你什么时候才把那部车子卖给我?”

“下星期。我现在已经让我的司机在整修它了。”

“他干得很慢,是不是?”

“不,他干得不慢,”汤姆冷冷地说,“如果你有这样的看法,也许我还是把它拿到别处去卖为好。”

“我不是这个意思,”威尔逊连忙解释,“我只是说……”

他的声音逐渐消失,同时汤姆不耐烦地向车行四面张望。接着我听到楼梯上有脚步的声音,过了一会儿一个女人粗粗的身材挡住了办公室门口的光线。她年纪三十五六,身子胖胖的,可是如同有些女人一样,胖得很美。她穿了一件有油渍的深蓝双绉连衣裙,她的脸庞没有一丝一毫的美,但是她有一种显而易见的活力,仿佛她浑身的神经都在不停地燃烧。她慢慢地一笑,然后大摇大摆地从她丈夫身边穿过,仿佛他只是个幽灵,走过来跟汤姆握手,两眼直盯着他。接着她用舌头润了润嘴唇,头也不回就低低地、粗声粗气地对她丈夫说:

“你怎么不拿两张椅子来,让人家坐下。”

“对,对。”威尔逊连忙答应,随即向小办公室走去,他的身影马上就跟墙壁的水泥色打成一片了。一层灰白色的尘土笼罩着他深色的衣服和浅色的头发,笼罩着前后左右的一切——除了她的妻子之外。她走到了汤姆身边。

“我要见你,”汤姆热切地说道,“搭下一班火车。”

“好吧。”

“我在车站下层的报摊旁边等你。”

她点点头就从他身边走开,正赶上威尔逊从办公室里搬了两张椅子出来。

我们在公路上没人看见的地方等她。再过几天就是七月四号了,因此有一个灰蒙蒙的、骨瘦如柴的意大利小孩沿着铁轨在点放一排“鱼雷炮”。

“多可怕的地方,是不是!”汤姆说,同时皱起眉头看着埃克尔堡大夫。

“糟透了。”

“换换环境对她有好处。”

“她丈夫没意见吗?”

“威尔逊?他以为她是到纽约去看她妹妹。他蠢得要命,连自己活着都不知道。”

就这样,汤姆·布坎农和他的情人还有我,三人一同上纽约去——或许不能说一同去,因为威尔逊太太很识相,她坐在另一节车厢里。汤姆做了这一点让步,以免引起可能在这趟车上的那些东卵人的反感。

她已经换上了一件棕色花布连衣裙,到了纽约汤姆扶她下车时那裙子紧紧地绷在她那肥阔的臀部上。她在报摊上买了一份《纽约闲话》和一本电影杂志,又在车站药店里买了一瓶冷霜和一小瓶香水。在楼上,在那阴沉沉的、有回音的车道里,她放过了四辆出租汽车,然后才选中了一辆新车,车身是淡紫色的,里面坐垫是灰色的。我们坐着这辆车子驶出庞大的车站,开进灿烂的阳光里。可是马上她又猛然把头从车窗前掉过来,身子向前一探,敲敲前面的玻璃。

“我要买一只那样的小狗。”她热切地说,“我要买一只养在公寓里。怪有意思的——养只狗。”

我们的车子倒退到一个白头发老头跟前,他长得活像约翰·D·洛克菲勒,真有点滑稽。他脖子上挂着一个篮子,里面蹲着十几条新出世的、难以确定品种的小狗崽子。

“它们是什么种?”威尔逊太太等老头走到出租汽车窗口就急着问道。

“各种都有。你要哪一种,太太?”

“我想要一条警犬。我看你不一定有那一种吧?”

老头怀疑地向竹篮于里望望,伸手进去捏着颈皮拎起一只来,小狗身子直扭。

“这又不是警犬。”汤姆说。

“不是,这不一定是警犬,”老头说,声音用流露出失望情绪,“多半是一只硬毛猎狗。”他的手抚摸着狗背上棕色毛巾似的皮毛。“你瞧这个皮毛,很不错的皮毛,这条狗绝不会伤风感冒,给你找麻烦的。”

“我觉得它真好玩,”威尔逊太太热烈地说,“多少钱?”

“这只狗吗?”老头用赞赏的神气看着它,“这只狗要十美元。”

这只硬毛猎狗转了手——毫无疑问它的血统里不知什么地方跟硬毛猎狗有过关系,不过它的爪子却白得出奇——随即安然躺进威尔逊太太的怀里。她欢大喜地地抚摸着那不怕伤风着凉的皮毛。

“这是雄的还是雌的?”她委婉地问。

“那只狗?那只狗是雄的。”

“是只母狗,”汤姆斩钉截铁地说,“给你钱。拿去再买十只狗。”

我们坐着车子来到五号路,在这夏天星期日的下午,空气又温暖又柔和,几乎有田园风味。即使看见一大群雪白的绵羊突然从街角拐出来,我也不会感到惊奇。

“停一下,”我说,“我得在这儿跟你们分手了。”

“不行,你不能走,”汤姆连忙插话说,“茉特尔要生气的,要是你不上公寓去。是不是,茉特尔?”

“来吧,”她恳求我,“我打电话叫我妹妹凯瑟琳来、很多有眼力的人都说她真漂亮。”

“呃,我很想来,可是……”

我们继续前进,又掉头穿过中央公园,向西城一百多号街那边走。出租汽车在一五八号街一大排白色蛋糕似的公寓中的一幢前面停下。威尔逊太太向四周扫视一番,俨然一副皇后回宫的神气,一面捧起小狗和其他买来的东西,趾高气扬地走了进去。

“我要把麦基夫妇请上来,”我们乘电梯上楼时她宣布说,‘当然,我还要打电话给我妹妹。”

他们的一套房间在最高一层——一间小起居室,一间小餐室,一间小卧室,还有一个洗澡间。起居室给一套大得很不相称的织锦靠垫的家具挤得满满当当的,以至于要在室内走动就是不断地绊倒在法国仕女在凡尔赛宫的花园里打秋千的画面上。墙上挂的唯一的画是一张放得特大的相片,乍一看是一只母鸡蹲在一块模糊的岩石上。可是,从远处看去,母鸡化为一顶女帽,一位胖老太太笑眯眯地俯视着屋子。桌子上放着几份旧的《纽约闲话》,还有一本《名字叫彼得的西门》以及两三本百老汇的黄色小刊物。威尔逊太太首先关心的是狗。一个老大不情愿的开电梯的工人弄来了一只垫满稻草的盒子和一些牛奶,另外他又主动给买了一听又大又硬的狗饼干,有一块饼干一下午泡在一碟牛奶里,泡得稀巴烂。同时,汤姆打开了一个上锁的柜子的门,拿出一瓶威士忌来,

我一辈子只喝醉过两次,第二次就是那天下午,因此当时所发生的一切现在都好像在雾里一样,模糊不清,虽然公寓里直到八点以后还充满了明亮的阳光。威尔逊太太坐在汤姆膝盖上给好几个人打了电话。后来香烟没了,我就出去到街角上的药店上买烟。我回来的时候,他们俩都不见了,于是我很识相地在起居室里坐下,看了《名字叫彼得的西门》中的一章——要么书写得太糟,要么威士忌使东西变得面目全非,因为我看不出一点名堂来。

汤姆和茉特尔(第一杯酒下肚之后威尔逊太太和我就彼此喊教名了)一重新露面,客人们就开始来敲公寓的门了。

她妹妹凯瑟琳是一个苗条而俗气的女人,年纪三十上下,一头浓密的短短的红头发,脸上粉搽得像牛奶一样白。她的眉毛是拔掉又重画过的,画的角度还俏皮一些,叮是人然的力量却要恢复旧观,弄得她的脸部有点眉目不清。她走动的时候,不断发出丁当丁当的声音,因为许多假玉手镯在她胳臂上面上上下下地抖动。她像主人一样大模大样走了进来,对家具扫视了一番,仿佛东西是属于她的,使我怀疑她是否就住在这里。但是等我问她时,她放声大笑,大声重复了我的问题,然后告诉我她和一个女朋友同住在一家旅馆里。

麦基先生是住在楼下一层的一个白净的、女人气的男人。他刚刮过胡子,因为他颧骨上还有一点白肥皂沫。他和屋里每一个人打招呼时都毕恭毕敬。他告诉我他是“吃艺术饭”的,后来我才明白他是摄影师,墙上挂的威尔逊太太的母亲那幅像一片胚叶似的模糊不清的放大照片就是他摄制的。他老婆尖声尖气,没精打采,漂漂亮亮,可是非常讨厌。她得意洋洋地告诉我,自从他们结婚以来她丈夫已经替她照过一百二十七次相了。

威尔逊太太不知什么时候又换了一套衣服,现在穿的是一件精致的奶油色雪纺绸的连衣裙,是下午做客穿的那种,她在屋子里转来转去的时候,衣裙就不断地沙沙作响。由于衣服的影响,她的个性也跟着起了变化。早先在车行里那么显著的活力变成了目空一切的hauteur。她的笑声、她的姿势、她的言谈,每一刻都变得越来越矫揉造作,同时随着她逐渐膨胀,她周围的屋子就显得越来越小,后来,她好像在烟雾弥漫的空气中坐在一个吱吱喳喳的木轴上不停地转动。

“亲爱的,”她装腔作势地大声告诉她妹妹,“这年头不论是谁都想欺骗你。他们脑子里想的只有钱。上星期我找了个女的来看看我的脚,等她把账单给我,你还以为她给我割了阑尾哩。”

“那女人姓什么?”麦基太太问。

“埃伯哈特太太。她经常到人家中去替人看脚。”

“我喜欢你这件衣服,”麦基太太说,“我觉得它真漂亮。”

威尔逊太太不屑地把眉毛一扬,否定了这句恭维话。

“这只是一件破烂的旧货,”她说,“我不在乎自己是什么样子的时候,我就把它往身上一套。”

“可是穿在你身上就显得特别漂亮,如果你懂得我的意思的话,”麦基太太紧跟着说,“只要切斯特能把你这个姿势拍下来,我想这一定会是幅杰作。”

我们大家都默默地看着威尔逊太太,她把一缕头发从眼前掠开,笑盈盈地看着我们大家。麦基光生歪着头,目不转睛地端详着她,然后又伸出一只手在面前慢慢地来回移动。

“我得改换光线,”他过了一会儿说道,“我很想把面貌的立体感表现出来。我还要把后面的头发全部摄进来。”

“我认为根本不应该改换光线,”麦基太太大声说,“我认为……”

她丈夫“嘘”了一声,于是我们大家又都把目光转向摄影的题材,这时汤姆· 布坎农出声地打了一个呵欠,站了起来。

“你们麦基家两口子喝点什么吧,”他说,“再搞点冰和矿泉水来,茉特尔,不然的话大家都睡着了。”

“我早就叫那小子送冰来了。”茉特尔把眉毛一扬,对下等人的懒惰无能表示绝望,“这些人!你非得老盯着他们不可。”

她看看我,忽然莫名其妙地笑了起来。接着她蹦蹦跳跳跑到小狗跟前,欢天喜地地亲亲它,然后又大摇大摆地走进厨房,那神气就好似那里只有十几个大厨师在听候她的吩咐。

“我在长岛那边拍过几张好的。”麦基光生断言。

汤姆茫然地看看他。

“有两幅我们配了镜框挂在楼下。”

“两幅什么?”汤姆追问。

“两幅习作。其中一幅我称之为《蒙涛角——海鸥》,另一幅叫《蒙涛角—— 大海》。”

那位名叫凯瑟琳的妹妹在沙发上我的身边坐下。

“你也住在长岛那边吗?”她问我。

“我住在西卵。”

“是吗?我到那儿参加过一次聚会,大约一个月以前。在一个姓盖茨比的人的家里。你认识他吗?”

“我就住在他隔壁”

“噢,人家说他是德国威廉皇帝的侄儿,或者什么别的亲戚,他的钱都是那么来的。”

“真的吗?”

她点了点头。

“我害怕他。我可不愿意落到他手里。”

关于我邻居的这段引人人胜的报道,由于麦基太太突然伸手指着凯瑟琳而被打断了。

“切斯特,我觉得你满可以给她拍一张好的。”她大声嚷嚷,可是麦基先生光是懒洋洋地点了点头,把注意力又转向汤姆。

“我很想在长岛多搞点业务,要是有人介绍的话。我唯一的要求就是他们帮我开个头。”

“问茉特尔好了。”汤姆哈哈一笑说,正好威尔逊太太端了个托盘走了进来, “她可以给你写封介绍信,是不是,茉特尔?”

“干什么?”她吃惊地问道。

“你给麦基写一封介绍信去见你丈夫,他就可以给他拍几张特写。”他嘴唇不出声地动了一会儿,接着胡诌道,《乔治·B·威尔逊在油泵前》,或者诸如此类的玩意。”

凯瑟琳凑到我耳边,跟我小声说:

“他们俩谁都受个了自己的那口子。”

“是吗?”

“受不了。”她先看看茉特尔,又看看汤姆。“依我说,既然受不了,何必还在一起过下去呢?要是我,我就离婚,然后马上重新结婚。”

“她也不喜欢威尔逊吗?”

对这个问题的答复是出乎意外的。它来自茉特尔,因为她凑巧听见了问题,而她讲的话是义粗暴又不于净的。

“你瞧,”凯瑟琳得意洋洋地大声说,她又压低了嗓门,“使他们不能结婚的其实是他老婆。她是天主教徒,那些人是不赞成离婚的。”

黛西并不是天主教徒,因此这个煞费苦心的谎言使我有点震惊。

“哪天他们结了婚,”凯瑟琳接着说,“他们准备到西部去住一些时候,等风波过去再回来。”

“更稳妥的办法是到欧洲去。”

“哦,你喜欢欧洲吗?”她出其不意地叫了起来,“我刚从蒙的卡罗回来。”

“真的吗?”

“就在去年,我和另外一个姑娘一起去的。”

“待了很久吗?”

“没有,我们只去了蒙的卡罗就回来了。我们是取道马赛去的。我们动身的时候带了一千二百多美元,可是两天之内就在赌场小房间里让人骗光了。我们在回来路上吃的苦头可不少,我对你说吧。天哪,我恨死那城市了。”

窗外,天空在夕照中显得格外柔和,像蔚蓝的地中海一样。这时麦基太太尖锐的声音把我唤回到屋子里来。

“我差点也犯了错误,”她精神抖擞地大声说,“我差点嫁给了一个追了我好几年的犹太小子。我知道他配不上我。大家都对我说:‘露西尔,那个人比你差远了。’可是,如果我没碰上切斯特,他保险会把我搞到手的。”

“不错,可是你听我说,”茉特尔·威尔逊说,一面不停地摇头晃脑,“好在你井设嫁给他啊。”

“我知道我没嫁给他。”

“但是,我可嫁给了他,”茉特尔含糊其词地说,“这就是你的情况和我的情况不同的地方。”

“你为什么嫁给他呢,茉特尔?”凯瑟琳质问道,“也没有人强迫你。”

茉特尔考虑了一会儿。

“我嫁给了他,是因为我以为他是个上等人,”她最后说,“我以为他还有点教养,不料他连舔我的鞋都不配。”

“你有一阵子爱他爱得发疯。”凯瑟琳说。

“爱他爱得发疯!”茉特尔不相信地喊道,“谁说我爱他爱得发疯啦?我从来没爱过他,就像我没爱过那个人一样。”

她突然指着我,于是大家都用责备的目光看着我。我竭力做出一副样子表示我并没指望什么人爱我。

“我于的唯一发疯的事是跟他结了婚。我马上就知道我犯了错误。他借了人家一套做客的衣服穿着结婚,还从来不告诉我,后来有一天他不在家,那人来讨还衣服。‘哦,这套衣服是你的吗?’我说,‘这还是我头一回听说哩。’但是我把衣服给了他,然后我躺到床上,号陶大哭,整整哭了一下午。”

“她实在应当离开他,”凯瑟琳又跟我说下去,“他们在那汽车行楼顶上住了十一年了。汤姆还是她第一个相好的哩。”

那瓶威上忌——第二瓶了——此刻大家都喝个不停,唯有凯瑟琳除外,她“什么都不喝也感到飘飘然”。汤姆按铃把看门的喊来,叫他去买一种出名的三明治,吃了可以抵得上一顿晚餐。我想到外面去,在柔和的暮色中向东朝公园走过去,但每次我起身告辞,都被卷人一阵吵闹刺耳的争执中,结果就仿佛有绳子把我拉回到椅子上。然而我们这排黄澄澄的窗户高踞在城市的上空,一定给暮色苍茫的街道上一位观望的过客增添了一点人生的秘密,同时我也可以看到他,一面在仰望一面在寻思。我既身在其中又身在其外,对人生的千变万化既感到陶醉,同时又感到厌恶。

茉特尔把她自己的椅子拉到我的椅子旁边,忽然之间她吐出的热气朝我喷来,她絮絮叨叨讲起了她跟汤姆初次相逢的故事。

“事情发生在两个面对面的小座位上,就是火车上一向剩下的最后两个座位。我上纽约去看我妹妹,在她那儿过夜。他穿了一身礼服,一双漆皮鞋,我就忍不住老是看他,可是每次他一看我,我只好假装在看他头顶上的广告。我们走进车站时,他紧挨在我身边,他那雪白的衬衫前胸蹭着我的胳膊,于是我跟他说我可要叫警察了,但他明知我在说假话。我神魂颠倒,跟他上了一辆出租汽车,还以为是上了地铁哩。我心里翻来覆去想的只有一句话:“你又不能永远活着。你又不能永远活着。”

她回过头来跟麦基太太讲话,屋子里充满了她那不自然的笑声。

“亲爱的,”她喊道,“我这件衣服穿过之后就送给你。明天我得去另买一件。我要把所有要办的事情开个单子。按摩、烫发、替小狗买条项圈,买一个那种有弹簧的、小巧玲珑的烟灰缸,还要给妈妈的坟上买一个挂黑丝结的假花圈,可以摆一个夏天的那种。我一定得写个单子,免得我忘掉要做哪些事。”

已经九点钟了——一转眼我再看表时发觉已经十点了。麦基先生倒在椅子上睡着了,两手握拳放在大腿上,好像一张活动家的相片。我掏出手帕,把他脸上那一小片叫我一下午都看了难受的干肥皂沫擦掉。

小狗坐在桌子上,两眼在烟雾中盲目地张望,不时轻轻地哼着。屋子里的人一会儿不见了,一会儿又重新出现,商量到什么地方去,然后又找不着对方,找来找去,发现彼此就在几尺之内。快到半夜的时候,汤姆·布坎农和威尔逊太太面对面站着争吵,声音很激动,争的是威尔逊人人有没有权利提黛西的名字。

“黛西!黛西!黛西!”威尔逊太太大喊大叫,“我什么时候想叫就叫!黛西!黛……”

汤姆·布坎农动作敏捷,伸出手一巴掌打破了威尔逊太太的鼻子。

接着,浴室满地都是血淋淋的毛巾,只听见女人骂骂咧咧的声音,同时在一片混乱之中,还夹有断断续续痛楚的哀号。麦基先生打盹醒了,懵懵懂懂地朝门口走。他走了一半路,又转过身来看着屋子里的景象发呆——他老婆和凯瑟琳一面骂一面哄,同时手里拿着急救用的东西跌跌撞撞地在拥挤的家具中间来回跑,还有躺在沙发上的那个凄楚的人形,一面血流不止,一面还想把一份《纽约闲话》报铺在织锦椅套上的凡尔赛风景上面。然后麦基光生又掉转身子,继续走出门去。我从灯架上取下我的帽子,也跟着走了出去。

“改大过来一道吃午饭吧。”我们在电梯里哼哼卿卿地往下走的时候,他提议说。

“什么地方?”

“随便什么地方。”

“别碰电梯开关。”开电梯的工人不客气地说。

“对不起,”麦基先生神气十足地说,“我还不知道我碰了。”

“好吧,”我表示同意说,“我一定奉陪。”……我正站在麦基床边,而他坐在两层床单中间,身上只穿着内衣,手里捧着一本大相片簿。

“《美人与野兽》……《寂寞》……《小店老马》……《布鲁克林大桥》……”

后来我半睡半醒躺在宾夕法尼亚车站下层很冷的候车室里,一面盯着刚出的《论坛报》,一面等候清早四点钟的那班火车。



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