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Chapter 5

When I came home to West Egg that night I was afraid for a moment that my house was on fire. Two o'clock and the whole corner of the peninsula was blazing with light which fell unreal on the shrubbery and made thin elongating glints upon the roadside wires. Turning a corner I saw that it was Gatsby's house, lit from tower to cellar.

At first I thought it was another party, a wild rout that had resolved itself into "hide-and-go-seek" or "sardines-in-the-box" with all the house thrown open to the game. But there wasn't a sound. Only wind in the trees which blew the wires and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had winked into the darkness. As my taxi groaned away I saw Gatsby walking toward me across his lawn.

"Your place looks like the world's fair," I said.

"Does it?" He turned his eyes toward it absently. "I have been glancing into some of the rooms. Let's go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car."

"It's too late."

"Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming pool? I haven't made use of it all summer."

"I've got to go to bed."

"All right."

He waited, looking at me with suppressed eagerness.

"I talked with Miss Baker," I said after a moment. "I'm going to call up Daisy tomorrow and invite her over here to tea."

"Oh, that's all right," he said carelessly. "I don't want to put you to any trouble."

"What day would suit you?"

"What day would suit YOU?" he corrected me quickly. "I don't want to put you to any trouble, you see."

"How about the day after tomorrow?" He considered for a moment. Then, with reluctance:

"I want to get the grass cut," he said.

We both looked at the grass--there was a sharp line where my ragged lawn ended and the darker, well-kept expanse of his began. I suspected that he meant my grass.

"There's another little thing," he said uncertainly, and hesitated.

"Would you rather put it off for a few days?" I asked.

"Oh, it isn't about that. At least----" He fumbled with a series of beginnings. "Why, I thought--why, look here, old sport, you don't make much money, do you?"

"Not very much."

This seemed to reassure him and he continued more confidently.

"I thought you didn't, if you'll pardon my--you see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of sideline, you understand. And I thought that if you don't make very much--You're selling bonds, aren't you, old sport?"

"Trying to."

"Well, this would interest you. It wouldn't take up much of your time and you might pick up a nice bit of money. It happens to be a rather confidential sort of thing."

I realize now that under different circumstances that conversation might have been one of the crises of my life. But, because the offer was obviously and tactlessly for a service to be rendered, I had no choice except to cut him off there.

"I've got my hands full," I said. "I'm much obliged but I couldn't take on any more work."

"You wouldn't have to do any business with Wolfshiem." Evidently he thought that I was shying away from the "gonnegtion" mentioned at lunch, but I assured him he was wrong. He waited a moment longer, hoping I'd begin a conversation, but I was too absorbed to be responsive, so he went unwillingly home.

The evening had made me light-headed and happy; I think I walked into a deep sleep as I entered my front door. So I didn't know whether or not Gatsby went to Coney Island or for how many hours he "glanced into rooms" while his house blazed gaudily on. I called up Daisy from the office next morning and invited her to come to tea.

"Don't bring Tom," I warned her.

"What?"

"Don't bring Tom."

"Who is 'Tom'?" she asked innocently.

The day agreed upon was pouring rain. At eleven o'clock a man in a raincoat dragging a lawn-mower tapped at my front door and said that Mr. Gatsby had sent him over to cut my grass. This reminded me that I had forgotten to tell my Finn to come back so I drove into West Egg Village to search for her among soggy white-washed alleys and to buy some cups and lemons and flowers.

The flowers were unnecessary, for at two o'clock a greenhouse arrived from Gatsby's, with innumerable receptacles to contain it. An hour later the front door opened nervously, and Gatsby in a white flannel suit, silver shirt and gold-colored tie hurried in. He was pale and there were dark signs of sleeplessness beneath his eyes.

"Is everything all right?" he asked immediately.

"The grass looks fine, if that's what you mean."

"What grass?" he inquired blankly. "Oh, the grass in the yard." He looked out the window at it, but judging from his expression I don't believe he saw a thing.

"Looks very good," he remarked vaguely. "One of the papers said they thought the rain would stop about four. I think it was 'The Journal.' Have you got everything you need in the shape of--of tea?"

I took him into the pantry where he looked a little reproachfully at the Finn. Together we scrutinized the twelve lemon cakes from the delicatessen shop.

"Will they do?" I asked.

"Of course, of course! They're fine!" and he added hollowly, "...old sport."

The rain cooled about half-past three to a damp mist through which occasional thin drops swam like dew. Gatsby looked with vacant eyes through a copy of Clay's "Economics," starting at the Finnish tread that shook the kitchen floor and peering toward the bleared windows from time to time as if a series of invisible but alarming happenings were taking place outside. Finally he got up and informed me in an uncertain voice that he was going home.

"Why's that?"

"Nobody's coming to tea. It's too late!" He looked at his watch as if there was some pressing demand on his time elsewhere. "I can't wait all day."

"Don't be silly; it's just two minutes to four."

He sat down, miserably, as if I had pushed him, and simultaneously there was the sound of a motor turning into my lane. We both jumped up and, a little harrowed myself, I went out into the yard.

Under the dripping bare lilac trees a large open car was coming up the drive. It stopped. Daisy's face, tipped sideways beneath a three-cornered lavender hat, looked out at me with a bright ecstatic smile.

"Is this absolutely where you live, my dearest one?"

The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain. I had to follow the sound of it for a moment, up and down, with my ear alone before any words came through. A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue paint across her cheek and her hand was wet with glistening drops as I took it to help her from the car.

"Are you in love with me," she said low in my ear. "Or why did I have to come alone?"

"That's the secret of Castle Rackrent. Tell your chauffeur to go far away and spend an hour."

"Come back in an hour, Ferdie." Then in a grave murmur, "His name is Ferdie."

"Does the gasoline affect his nose?"

"I don't think so," she said innocently. "Why?"

We went in. To my overwhelming surprise the living room was deserted.

"Well, that's funny!" I exclaimed.

"What's funny?"

She turned her head as there was a light, dignified knocking at the front door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.

With his hands still in his coat pockets he stalked by me into the hall, turned sharply as if he were on a wire and disappeared into the living room. It wasn't a bit funny. Aware of the loud beating of my own heart I pulled the door to against the increasing rain.

For half a minute there wasn't a sound. Then from the living room I heard a sort of choking murmur and part of a laugh followed by Daisy's voice on a clear artificial note.

"I certainly am awfully glad to see you again."

A pause; it endured horribly. I had nothing to do in the hall so I went into the room.

Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect ease, even of boredom.

His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock and from this position his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy who was sitting frightened but graceful on the edge of a stiff chair.

"We've met before," muttered Gatsby. His eyes glanced momentarily at me and his lips parted with an abortive attempt at a laugh. Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it back in place. Then he sat down, rigidly, his elbow on the arm of the sofa and his chin in his hand.

"I'm sorry about the clock," he said.

My own face had now assumed a deep tropical burn. I couldn't muster up a single commonplace out of the thousand in my head.

"It's an old clock," I told them idiotically.

I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on the floor.

"We haven't met for many years," said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as it could ever be.

"Five years next November."

The automatic quality of Gatsby's answer set us all back at least another minute. I had them both on their feet with the desperate suggestion that they help me make tea in the kitchen when the demoniac Finn brought it in on a tray.

Amid the welcome confusion of cups and cakes a certain physical decency established itself. Gatsby got himself into a shadow and while Daisy and I talked looked conscientiously from one to the other of us with tense unhappy eyes. However, as calmness wasn't an end in itself I made an excuse at the first possible moment and got to my feet.

"Where are you going?" demanded Gatsby in immediate alarm.

"I'll be back."

"I've got to speak to you about something before you go."

He followed me wildly into the kitchen, closed the door and whispered:

"Oh, God!" in a miserable way.

"What's the matter?"

"This is a terrible mistake," he said, shaking his head from side to side, "a terrible, terrible mistake."

"You're just embarrassed, that's all," and luckily I added: "Daisy's embarrassed too."

"She's embarrassed?" he repeated incredulously.

"Just as much as you are."

"Don't talk so loud."

"You're acting like a little boy," I broke out impatiently. "Not only that but you're rude. Daisy's sitting in there all alone."

He raised his hand to stop my words, looked at me with unforgettable reproach and opening the door cautiously went back into the other room.

I walked out the back way--just as Gatsby had when he had made his nervous circuit of the house half an hour before--and ran for a huge black knotted tree whose massed leaves made a fabric against the rain.

Once more it was pouring and my irregular lawn, well-shaved by Gatsby's gardener, abounded in small muddy swamps and prehistoric marshes. There was nothing to look at from under the tree except Gatsby's enormous house, so I stared at it, like Kant at his church steeple, for half an hour. A brewer had built it early in the "period" craze, a decade before, and there was a story that he'd agreed to pay five years' taxes on all the neighboring cottages if the owners would have their roofs thatched with straw. Perhaps their refusal took the heart out of his plan to Found a Family--he went into an immediate decline. His children sold his house with the black wreath still on the door. Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.

After half an hour the sun shone again and the grocer's automobile rounded Gatsby's drive with the raw material for his servants' dinner--I felt sure he wouldn't eat a spoonful. A maid began opening the upper windows of his house, appeared momentarily in each, and, leaning from a large central bay, spat meditatively into the garden. It was time I went back. While the rain continued it had seemed like the murmur of their voices, rising and swelling a little, now and the, with gusts of emotion. But in the new silence I felt that silence had fallen within the house too.

I went in--after making every possible noise in the kitchen short of pushing over the stove--but I don't believe they heard a sound. They were sitting at either end of the couch looking at each other as if some question had been asked or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was gone. Daisy's face was smeared with tears and when I came in she jumped up and began wiping at it with her handkerchief before a mirror. But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding.

He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.

"Oh, hello, old sport," he said, as if he hadn't seen me for years. I thought for a moment he was going to shake hands.

"It's stopped raining."

"Has it?" When he realized what I was talking about, that there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weather man, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light, and repeated the news to Daisy. "What do you think of that? It's stopped raining."

"I'm glad, Jay." Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy.

"I want you and Daisy to come over to my house," he said, "I'd like to show her around."

"You're sure you want me to come?"

"Absolutely, old sport."

Daisy went upstairs to wash her face--too late I thought with humiliation of my towels--while Gatsby and I waited on the lawn.

"My house looks well, doesn't it?" he demanded. "See how the whole front of it catches the light."

I agreed that it was splendid.

"Yes." His eyes went over it, every arched door and square tower. "It took me just three years to earn the money that bought it."

"I thought you inherited your money."

"I did, old sport," he said automatically, "but I lost most of it in the big panic--the panic of the war."

I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what business he was in he answered "That's my affair," before he realized that it wasn't the appropriate reply.

"Oh, I've been in several things," he corrected himself. "I was in the drug business and then I was in the oil business. But I'm not in either one now." He looked at me with more attention. "Do you mean you've been thinking over what I proposed the other night?"

Before I could answer, Daisy came out of the house and two rows of brass buttons on her dress gleamed in the sunlight.

"That huge place THERE?" she cried pointing.

"Do you like it?"

"I love it, but I don't see how you live there all alone."

"I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people."

Instead of taking the short cut along the Sound we went down the road and entered by the big postern. With enchanting murmurs Daisy admired this aspect or that of the feudal silhouette against the sky, admired the gardens, the sparkling odor of jonquils and the frothy odor of hawthorn and plum blossoms and the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate.

It was strange to reach the marble steps and find no stir of bright dresses in and out the door, and hear no sound but bird voices in the trees.

And inside as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music rooms and Restoration salons I felt that there were guests concealed behind every couch and table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we had passed through. As Gatsby closed the door of "the Merton College Library" I could have sworn I heard the owl-eyed man break into ghostly laughter.

We went upstairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, through dressing rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken baths--intruding into one chamber where a dishevelled man in pajamas was doing liver exercises on the floor. It was Mr. Klipspringer, the "boarder." I had seen him wandering hungrily about the beach that morning. Finally we came to Gatsby's own apartment, a bedroom and a bath and an Adam study, where we sat down and drank a glass of some Chartreuse he took from a cupboard in the wall.

He hadn't once ceased looking at Daisy and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.

His bedroom was the simplest room of all--except where the dresser was garnished with a toilet set of pure dull gold. Daisy took the brush with delight and smoothed her hair, whereupon Gatsby sat down and shaded his eyes and began to laugh.

"It's the funniest thing, old sport," he said hilariously. "I can't--when I try to----"

He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third.

After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock.

Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high.

"I've got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall."

He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher--shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such--such beautiful shirts before."

After the house, we were to see the grounds and the swimming pool, and the hydroplane and the midsummer flowers--but outside Gatsby's window it began to rain again so we stood in a row looking at the corrugated surface of the Sound.

"If it wasn't for the mist we could see your home across the bay," said Gatsby. "You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock."

Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.

I began to walk about the room, examining various indefinite objects in the half darkness. A large photograph of an elderly man in yachting costume attracted me, hung on the wall over his desk.

"Who's this?"

"That? That's Mr. Dan Cody, old sport."

The name sounded faintly familiar.

"He's dead now. He used to be my best friend years ago."

There was a small picture of Gatsby, also in yachting costume, on the bureau--Gatsby with his head thrown back defiantly--taken apparently when he was about eighteen.

"I adore it!" exclaimed Daisy. "The pompadour! You never told me you had a pompadour--or a yacht."

"Look at this," said Gatsby quickly. "Here's a lot of clippings--about you."

They stood side by side examining it. I was going to ask to see the rubies when the phone rang and Gatsby took up the receiver.

"Yes.... Well, I can't talk now.... I can't talk now, old sport.... I said a SMALL town.... He must know what a small town is.... Well, he's no use to us if Detroit is his idea of a small town...."

He rang off.

"Come here QUICK!" cried Daisy at the window.

The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west, and there was a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea.

"Look at that," she whispered, and then after a moment: "I'd like to just get one of those pink clouds and put you in it and push you around."

I tried to go then, but they wouldn't hear of it; perhaps my presence made them feel more satisfactorily alone.

"I know what we'll do," said Gatsby, "we'll have Klipspringer play the piano."

He went out of the room calling "Ewing!" and returned in a few minutes accompanied by an embarrassed, slightly worn young man with shell-rimmed glasses and scanty blonde hair. He was now decently clothed in a "sport shirt" open at the neck, sneakers and duck trousers of a nebulous hue.

"Did we interrupt your exercises?" inquired Daisy politely.

"I was asleep," cried Mr. Klipspringer, in a spasm of embarrassment.

"That is, I'd BEEN asleep. Then I got up...."

"Klipspringer plays the piano," said Gatsby, cutting him off. "Don't you, Ewing, old sport?"

"I don't play well. I don't--I hardly play at all. I'm all out of prac----"

"We'll go downstairs," interrupted Gatsby. He flipped a switch. The grey windows disappeared as the house glowed full of light.

In the music room Gatsby turned on a solitary lamp beside the piano. He lit Daisy's cigarette from a trembling match, and sat down with her on a couch far across the room where there was no light save what the gleaming floor bounced in from the hall.

When Klipspringer had played "The Love Nest" he turned around on the bench and searched unhappily for Gatsby in the gloom.

"I'm all out of practice, you see. I told you I couldn't play. I'm all out of prac----"

"Don't talk so much, old sport," commanded Gatsby. "Play!"

IN THE MORNING,

IN THE EVENING,

AIN'T WE GOT FUN----

Outside the wind was loud and there was a faint flow of thunder along the Sound. All the lights were going on in West Egg now; the electric trains, men-carrying, were plunging home through the rain from New York. It was the hour of a profound human change, and excitement was generating on the air.

ONE THING'S SURE AND NOTHING'S SURER

THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE POOR GET--CHILDREN.

IN THE MEANTIME,

IN BETWEEN TIME----

As I went over to say goodbye I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby's face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams--not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

As I watched him he adjusted himself a little, visibly. His hand took hold of hers and as she said something low in his ear he turned toward her with a rush of emotion. I think that voice held him most with its fluctuating, feverish warmth because it couldn't be over-dreamed--that voice was a deathless song.

They had forgotten me, but Daisy glanced up and held out her hand; Gatsby didn't know me now at all. I looked once more at them and they looked back at me, remotely, possessed by intense life. Then I went out of the room and down the marble steps into the rain, leaving them there together.

那天夜里我回到西卵的时候,有一会儿我疑心是我的房子着了火。半夜两点钟了,而半岛的那整个一角照得亮堂堂的,光线照在灌木丛上好像是假的,又照在路旁电线上映出细细的一长条一长条的闪光。转弯以后,我才看出原来是盖茨比的别墅,从塔楼到地窖都灯火通明。

起初我还以为又是一次晚会,一次狂欢的盛会,整个别墅统统敞开,好让大家做游戏,玩捉迷藏或“罐头沙丁鱼”。可是一点声音都没有。只有树丛中的风声作响,风把电线吹动,电灯忽暗忽明,好像房子在对着黑夜眨眼。当出租汽车哼哼着开走的时候,我看到盖茨比穿过他的草坪朝着我走过来。

“你府上看上去像世界博览会一样。”我说。

“是吗?”他心不在焉地转过眼睛去望望,“我刚才打开了几间屋子随便看看。咱俩到康尼岛去玩吧,老兄。坐我的车子去。”

“时间太晚了。”

“那么,到游泳池里泡一泡怎么样?我一夏天还没泡过哩。”

“我得上床睡觉了。”

“好吧。”

他等待着,急巴巴地望着我。

“我和贝克小姐谈过了,”我等了一会才说,“我明天打电话给黛西,请她到这里来喝茶。”

“哦,那好嘛,”他漫不经心地说,“我不希望给您添麻烦。”

“哪天对您合适?”

“哪天对您合适?”他马上纠正了我的话,“我不希望给您添麻烦,你明白。”

他考虑了一会。然后,他勉强地说:“我要让人把草地平整一下。”

我们俩都低头看了看草地——在我的乱蓬蓬的草地和他那一大片剪得整整齐齐的深绿色草坪之间有一条很清楚的分界线。我猜他指的是我的草地。

“另外还有一件小事。”他含混地说,然后犹疑了一会。

“你是不是希望推迟几天?”我问道。

“哦,跟那个没关系。至少……”他笨拙地一连开了几个头,“呃,我猜想…… 呃,我说,老兄,你挣钱不多,是吧?”

“不太多。”

这似乎使他放心一点,于是他更有信心地继续说了下去。

“我猜想你挣钱不多,如果你不怪我——你知道,我附带做点小生意,搞点副业,你明白。我也想到既然你挣钱不多——你在卖债券,是吧,老兄?”

“学着干。”

“那么,这也许会引起你的兴趣。不需要花费很多时间,你就可以挣一笔可观的钱。碰巧是一件相当机密的事。”

我现在认识到,如果当时情况不同,那次谈话可能会是我一生中的一个转折点,但是,因为这个建议说得很露骨,很不得体,明摆着是为了酬谢我给他帮的忙,我别无选择,只有当场把他的话打断。

“我手头工作很忙,”我说,“我非常感激,可是我不可能再承担更多的工作。”

“你不需要跟沃尔夫山姆打任何交道的。”显然他以为我讨厌中饭时候提到的那种“关系”,但我告诉他他搞错了。他又等了一会,希望我找个话题,但是我的心完全不在这儿,没有答碴,结果他只好勉勉强强地回家去了。

这一晚使我感到又轻飘又快乐。大概我一走进自己的大门就倒头大睡,因此我不知道盖茨比究竟有没有去康尼岛,也不知他又花了几个小时“随便看看房间”,同时他的房子继续刺眼地大放光明。第二天早晨我从办公室给黛西打了个电话,请她过来喝茶。

“别带汤姆来。”我警告她。

“什么?”

“别带汤姆来。”

“谁是‘汤姆’?”她装傻地问道。

我们约定的那天大雨倾盆。上午十一点钟,一个男的身穿雨衣,拖着一架刈草机,敲敲我的大门,说盖茨比先生派他过来刈我的草。这使我想起我忘了告诉叫我那芬兰女佣人回来,于是我就开车到西卵镇上去,在湿淋淋的、两边是白石灰墙的小巷子里找她,同时买了一些茶杯、柠檬和鲜花。

花是多余的,因为下午两点钟从盖茨比家里送来一暖房的鲜花,连同无数插花的器皿。一小时以后,大门被人战战兢兢地打开,盖茨比一身白法兰绒西装,银色衬衫,金色领带,慌慌张张跑了进来。他脸色煞白,眼圈黑黑的,看得出他一夜没睡好。

“一切都准备好了吗?”他进门就问。

“草地看上去很漂亮,如果你指的是草地。”

“什么草地?”他茫然地问道,“哦,你院子里的草地。”他从窗子里向外看,可是从他的表情看来,我相信他什么都没看见。

“看上去很好,”他含糊地说,“有一家报纸说他们认为雨在四点左右会停,大概是《纽约日报》。喝茶所需要的东西都齐全了吗?”

我把他带到食品间里去,他有点看不顺眼似地向那芬兰女人望望。我们一起把甜食店里买来的十二块柠檬蛋糕细细打量了一番。

“这行吗?”我问道。

“当然行,当然行!好得很!”然后他又茫然地加了一声,“老兄!”

三点半钟左右雨渐渐收了,变成了湿雾,不时还有几滴雨水像露珠一样在雾里飘着。盖茨比心不在焉地翻阅着一本克莱的《经济学》,每当芬兰女佣人的脚步震动厨房的地板他就一惊,并且不时朝着模糊的窗户张望。仿佛一系列看不见然而怵目惊心的事件正在外面发生。最后他站了起来,用犹疑的声音对我说,他要回家了。

“那是为什么?”

“没有人来喝茶啦。时间太晚了!”他看了看他的表,仿佛别处还有紧急的事等着他去办。“我不能等一整天。”

“别傻,现在刚刚是四点差两分。”

他苦恼地坐了下来,仿佛我推了他似的,正在这时传来一辆汽车拐进我巷子的声音。我们俩都跳了起来,然后我自己也有点慌张地跑到院子里去。

在滴着水的没有花的紫丁香树下,一辆大型的敞篷汽车沿着汽车道开了上来。车子停了。黛西的脸在一顶三角形的浅紫色帽子下面歪向一边,满面春风、心花怒放地朝我看着。

“你千真万确是住在这儿吗,我最亲爱的人儿?”

她那悠扬的嗓音在雨中听了使人陶醉。我得先倾听那高低起伏的声音,过了一会儿才听出她所说的话语。一缕潮湿的头发贴在她面颊上,像抹了一笔蓝色的颜料一样。我搀她下车的时候,看到她的手也被晶莹的水珠打湿了。

“你是爱上我了吗,”她悄悄在我耳朵边说,“要不然为什么我非得一个人来呢?”

“那是雷克兰特古堡的秘密。叫你的司机走得远远的,过一个钟头再来。”

“过一个钟头再回来,弗迪。”然后她煞有介事地低声说,“他名字叫弗迪。”

“汽油味道影响他的鼻子吗?”

“我想并不影响,”她天真地说,“为什么?”

我们走进屋子里。使我大为惊异的是起居室里空荡荡的。

“咦,这真滑稽,”我大声说。

“什么滑稽?”

正在此刻大门上有人斯文地轻轻敲了一声,她转过头去看。我走到外面去开门。盖茨比面如死灰,那只手像重东西一样揣在上衣口袋里,两只脚站在一摊水里,神色凄惶地瞪着我的眼睛。

他阔步从我身边跨过进门廊,手还揣在上衣口袋里,仿佛受牵线操纵似的突然一转身,走进起居室不见了。那样子一点也不滑稽。我意识到自己的心也在扑通扑通跳。外面雨下大了,我伸手把大门关上。

有半分钟之久,一点声音也没有。然后我听到从起居室里传来一阵哽咽似的低语声和一点笑声,跟着就是黛西的嘹亮而做作的声音:

“又见到你,我真高兴极了。”

一阵静寂。时间长得可怕。我在门廊里没事可做,于是我走进屋子。

盖茨比两手仍然揣在口袋里,正斜倚在壁炉架上,勉强装出一副悠然自得、甚至无精打采的神气。他的头往后仰,一直碰到一架早已报废的大台钟的钟面上。他那双显得心神错乱的眼睛从这个位置向下盯着黛西,她坐在一张硬背椅子的边上,神色惶恐,姿态倒很优美。

“我们以前见过。”盖茨比咕哝着说。他瞥了我一眼,嘴唇张开想笑又没笑出来。幸好那架钟由于他的头的压力就在这一刻摇摇欲坠,他连忙转过身来用颤抖的手指把钟抓住,放回原处。然后他坐了下来,直挺挺地,胳臂肘放在沙发扶手上,手托住下巴。

“对不起,把钟碰了。”他说。

我自己的脸也涨得通红,像被热带的太阳晒过那样。我脑子里虽有千百句客套话,可是一句也说不出来。

“是一架很旧的钟。”我呆头呆脑地告诉他们。

我想我们大家当时有一会儿都相信那架钟已经在地板上砸得粉碎了。

“我们多年不见了。”黛西说,她的声音尽可能地平板。

“到十一月整整五年。”

盖茨比脱口而出的回答至少使我们大家又愣了一分钟。我急中生智,建议他们帮我到厨房里去预备茶,他们俩立刻站了起来,正在这时那魔鬼般的芬兰女佣人用托盘把茶端了进来。

递茶杯、传蛋糕所造成的忙乱大受欢迎,在忙乱之中建立了一种有形的体统。盖茨比躲到了一边去,当我跟黛西交谈时,他用紧张而痛苦的眼睛认真地在我们两人之间看来看去。可是,因为平静本身并不是目的,我一有机会就找了个借口,站起身来要走。

“你上哪儿去?”盖茨比马上惊慌地问道。

“我就回来。”

“你走以前,我有话要跟你说。”

他发疯似的跟我走进厨房,关上了门,然后很痛苦地低声说:“啊,天哪!”

“怎么啦?”

“这是个大错,”他把头摇来摇去地说,“大错而特错。”

“你不过是难为情罢了,没别的。”幸好我又补了一句,“黛西也难为情。”

“她难为情?”他大不以为然地重复了我的话。

“跟你同样难为情。”

“声音不要那么大。”

“你的行动像一个小孩,”我不耐烦地发作说,“不但如此,你也很没礼貌。黛西孤零零一个人坐在那里面。”

他举起手来不让我再讲下去,怀着令人难忘的怨气看了我一眼,然后战战兢兢地打开了门,又回到那间屋子里去。

我从后门走了出去——半小时前盖茨比也正是从这里出去,精神紧张地绕着房子跑了一圈——奔向一棵黑黝黝的盘缠多节的大树,茂密的树叶构成了一块挡雨的苫布。此刻雨又下大了,我那片不成形的草地,虽然被盖茨比的园丁修剪得很整齐,现在却满是小泥潭和历史悠久的沼泽了。从树底下望出去,除了盖茨比的庞大的房屋之外没有别的东西可看,于是我盯着它看了半个小时,好像康德盯着他的教堂尖塔一样。这座房子是十年前一位酿酒商在那个“仿古热”初期建造的,并且还有一个传闻,说他曾答应为所有邻近的小型别墅付五年的税款,只要各位房主肯在屋顶铺上茅草。也许他们的拒绝使他“创建家业”的计划受到了致命的打击——他立刻衰颓了。丧事的花圈还挂在门上,他的子女就把房子卖掉了。美国人虽然愿意、甚至渴望去当农奴,可是一向是坚决不肯当乡下佬的。

半小时以后,太阳又出来了,食品店的送货汽车沿着盖茨比的汽车道拐弯,送来他的仆人做晚饭用的原料——我敢肯定他本人一口也吃不下。一个女佣人开始打开楼上的窗户,在每个窗口出现片刻,然后,从正中的大窗户探出身子,若有所思地向花园里啐了一口。该是我回去的时候了。刚才雨下个不停,仿佛是他们俩窃窃私语的声音,不时随着感情的迸发而变得高昂,但是在这新的静寂中,我觉得房子里面也是一片肃静了。

我走了进去——先在厨房里做出一切可能的响声,就差把炉灶推翻了——但我相信他们什么也没听见。他们两人分坐在长沙发两端,面面相觑,仿佛有什么问题提了出来,或者悬而未决,一切难为情的迹象也都消失了。黛西满面泪痕,我一进来她就跳了起来,用手绢对着一面镜子擦起脸来。但是盖茨比身上却发生了一种令人惶惑的变化。他简直是光芒四射。虽然没有任何表示欣喜的言语姿势,一种新的幸福感从他身上散发出来,充塞了那间小屋子。

“哦,哈罗,老兄。”他说,仿佛他有好多年没见过我了。有一会儿工夫我还以为他想跟我握手哩。

“雨停了。”

“是吗?”等他明白我说的是什么,又发觉屋子里阳光闪烁时,他像一个气象预报员又像一个欣喜若狂的回归光守护神似的露出了笑容,又把消息转报给黛西, “你看多有趣,雨停了。”

“我很高兴,杰伊。”她的声音哀艳动人,可是她吐露的只是她意外的喜悦。

“我要你和黛西一起到我家里来,”他说,“我很想领她参观参观。”

“你真的要我来吗?”

“绝对如此,老兄。”

黛西上楼去洗脸——我很羞惭地想起了我的毛巾,叮惜为时太晚了——盖茨比和我在草坪上等候。

“我的房子很好看,是不是?”他问道,“你瞧它整个正面映照着阳光。”

我同意说房子真漂亮极了。

“是的。”他用眼睛仔细打量了一番,每一扇拱门、每一座方培都看到了, “我只花了三年工夫就挣到了买房子的钱。”

“我还以为你的钱是继承来的。”

“不错,老兄,”他脱口而出,“但是我在大恐慌期间损失了一大半——就是战争引起的那次大恐慌。”

我猜想他自己也不大知道他在说些什么,因为等我问他做的是什么生意时,他回答:“那是我的事儿。”话说出口他才发觉这个回答很不得体。

“哦,我干过好几行,”他改口说,“我做药材生意,后来又做过石油生意。可是现在我这两行都不干了。”他比较注意地看着我。“那么说你考虑过那天晚上我提的那件事了?”

我还没来得及回答,黛西就从房子里出来了,她衣服上的两排铜纽扣在阳光中闪烁。

“是那边那座老大的房子?”她用手指着大声问。

“你喜欢它吗?”

“我太喜欢了,但是我不明白你怎么能一个人住在那儿。”

“我让它不分昼夜都挤满了有意思的人,干有意思的事情的人,有名气的人。”

我们没有抄近路沿海边过去,而是绕到大路上,从巨大的后门进去的。黛酉望着那村在天空的中世纪城堡的黑黝黝的轮廓,用她那迷人的低语赞不绝口,一边走一边又赞赏花园,赞赏长寿花散发的香味,山楂花和梅花泡沫般的香味,还有吻别花淡金色的香味。走到大理石台阶前,我看不到穿着鲜艳的时装的人从大门出出进进,除了树上的鸟鸣听不到一点声音,真感到很异样。

到了里面,我们漫步穿过玛丽·安托万内特式的音乐厅和王政复辟时期式样的小客厅,我觉得每张沙发、每张桌子后面都藏着客人,奉命屏息不动直到我们走过为止。当盖茨比关上“默顿学院图书室”的门时,我可以发誓我听到了那个戴猫头鹰眼镜的人突然发出了鬼似的笑声。

我们走上楼,穿过一间间仿古的卧室,里面铺满了玫瑰色和淡紫色的绸缎,摆满了色彩缤纷的鲜花,穿过一间间更衣室和弹子室,以及嵌有地下浴池的浴室—— 闯进一间卧室,里面有一个邋里邋遢穿着睡衣的人正在地板上做俯卧撑。那是“房客”克利普斯普林格先生。那天早上我看到过他如饥似渴地在海滩上徘徊。最后我们来到盖茨比本人的套间,包括一间卧室、一间浴室和一间小书房。我们在书房里坐下,喝了一杯他从壁橱里拿出来的荨麻酒。

他一刻不停地看着黛西,因此我想他是在把房子里的每一件东西都按照那双他所钟爱的眼睛里的反应重新估价。有时他也神情恍惚地向四面凝视他自己的财物,仿佛在她这个惊心动魄的真人面前,所有这些东西就没有一件是真实的了。有一次他差点从楼梯上滚了下去。

他自己的卧室是所有屋子中最简朴的一间——只有梳妆台上点缀着一副纯金的梳妆用具。黛西高兴地拿起了刷子刷刷头发,引得盖茨比坐下来用手遮住眼睛笑了起来。

“真是最滑稽的事情,老兄,”他嘻嘻哈哈地说,“我简直不能……我想要……”

显而易见,他已经历了两种精神状态,现在正进入第三种。他起初局促不安,继而大喜若狂,目前又由于她出现在眼前感到过分惊异而不能自持了。这件事他长年朝思暮想,梦寐以求,简直是咬紧了牙关期待着,感情强烈到不可思议的程度。此刻,由于反作用,他像一架发条上得太紧的时钟一样精疲力竭了。

过了一会儿,精神恢复之后,他为我们打开了两个非常讲究的特大衣橱,里面装满了他的西装、晨衣和领带,还有一打一打像砖头一样堆起来的衬衣。

“我有一个人在英国替我买衣服。每年春秋两季开始的时候,他都挑选一些东西寄给我。”

他拿出一堆衬衫,开始一件一件扔在我们面前,薄麻布衬衫、厚绸衬衫、细法兰绒衬衫都抖散了,五颜六色摆满了一桌。我们欣赏着的时候,他又继续抱来其他的,那个柔软贵重的衬衣堆越来越高——条子衬衫、花纹衬衫、方格衬衫,珊瑚色的、苹果绿的、浅紫色的、淡桔色的、上面绣着深蓝色的他的姓名的交织字母。突然之间,黛西发出了很不自然的声音,一下把头埋进衬衫堆里,号陶大哭起来。

“这些衬衫这么美,”她呜咽地说,她的声音在厚厚的衣堆里闷哑了,“我看了很伤心,因为我从来没见过这么——这么美的衬衫。”

看过房子之后,我们本来还要去看看庭园和游泳池、水上飞机和仲夏的繁花— —但是盖茨比的窗外又下起雨来了,因此我们三人就站成一排远眺水波荡漾的海面。

“要不是有雾,我们可以看见海湾对面你家的房子,”盖茨比说,“你家码头的尽头总有一盏通宵不灭的绿灯。”

黛西蓦然伸过胳臂去挽着他的胳臂,但他似乎沉浸在他方才所说的话里。可能他突然想到那盏灯的巨大意义现在永远消失了。和那把他跟黛西分开的遥远距离相比较,那盏灯曾经似乎离她很近,几乎碰得着她。那就好像一颗星离月亮那么近一样。现在它又是码头上的一盏绿灯了。他的神奇的宝物已经减少了一件。

我开始在屋子里随便走走,在半明半暗的光线中看看各种各样模糊不清的摆饰。一个身穿游艇服的上年纪的男人的一张大相片引起了我的注意,相片挂在他书桌前面的墙上。

“这是谁?”

“那个?那是丹·科迪先生,老兄。”

那名字听着有点耳熟。

“他已经死了。很多年前他是我最好的朋友。”

五斗橱上有一张盖茨比本人的小相片,也是穿着游艇服的——盖茨比昂着头,一副满不在乎的神气——显然是十八岁左右照的。

“我真爱这张相片,”黛西嚷嚷道,“这个笔直向后梳的发型!你从来没告诉我你留过笔直向后梳的发型,也没告诉我你有一艘游艇。”

“来看这个,”盖茨比连忙说,“这里有好多剪报——都是关于你的”

他们俩并肩站着细看那些剪报。我正想要求看看那些红宝石,电话忽然响了,盖茨比就拿起了听筒。

“是的……噢,我现在不便谈……我现在不便谈,老兄……我说的是一个小城…… 他一定知道什么是小城……得啦,他对我们没什么用处,如果底特律就是他心目中的小城……”

他把电话挂上。

“到这儿来,快!”黛西在窗口喊道。

雨还在下,可是西方的乌云已经拨开,海湾上空翻滚着粉红色和金色的云霞。

“瞧那个,”她低声道,过了一刻又说,“我真想采一朵那粉红色的云彩,把你放在上面推来推去。”

我这时想要走了,可是他们说什么也不答应。也许有我在场他们更可以心安理得地待在一起。

“我知道我们于什么好了,”盖茨比说,“我们让克利普斯普林格弹钢琴。”

他走出屋子喊了一声“艾温”,又过了几分钟才回来,带来一个难为情的、面容有点憔翠的年轻人,一副玳瑁边眼镜,稀稀的金黄色头发。他现在衣服整齐一些了,穿着一件敞领的运动衫、一双运动鞋和一条颜色不清不楚的帆布裤。

“我们刚才打扰您做体操了吗?”黛西有礼貌地问。

“我在睡觉,”克利普斯普林格先生窘迫之中脱口而出,“我是说,我本来在睡觉。后来我起床了……”

“克利普斯普林格会弹钢琴,”盖茨比打断了他的话说,“是不是,艾温,老兄?”

“我弹得不好。我不会……根本不弹。我好久没练……”

“我们到楼下去。”盖茨比打断了他的话。他拨了一个开关。整个房子立刻大放光明,灰暗的窗户都不见了。

在音乐厅里,盖茨比只扭开钢琴旁边的一盏灯。他颤抖着用一根火柴点燃了黛西的香烟,然后和她一道坐在屋子那边远远的一张长沙发上,那里除了地板上从过道里反射过来的一点亮光之外没有其他光线。

克利普斯普林格弹完了《爱情的安乐窝》之后,在长凳上转过身来,不高兴地在幽暗中张望着找盖茨比。

“我好久没弹了,你看。我告诉你我不会弹。我好久没弹……”

“别说那么多,老兄,”盖茨比命令道,“弹吧!”

“每天早上,每天晚上,玩得欢畅……”

外面风刮得呼呼的,海湾上传来一阵隐隐的雷声。此刻西卵所有的灯都亮了。电动火车满载归客,在雨中从纽约疾驰而来。这是人事发生深刻变化的时辰,空气中洋溢着兴奋的情绪。 “有一件事是千真万确,富的生财穷的生——孩子。在这同时,在这期间……”

我走过去告辞的时候,我看到那种惶惑的表情又出现在盖茨比脸上,仿佛他有点怀疑他目前幸福的性质。几乎五年了!那天下午一定有过一些时刻,黛西远不如他的梦想——并不是由于她本人的过错,而是由于他的幻梦有巨大的活力。他的幻梦超越了她,超越了一切。他以一种创造性的热情投入了这个幻梦,不断地添枝加叶,用飘来的每一根绚丽的羽毛加以缀饰。再多的激情或活力都赶不上一个人阴凄凄的心里所能集聚的情思。

我注视着他的时候,看得出来他在悄悄使自己适应眼前的现实。他伸出手去抓住她的手。她低低在他耳边说了点什么,他听了就感情冲动地转向她。我看最使他人迷的是她那激动昂扬的声音,因为那是无论怎样梦想都不可能企及的——那声音是一曲永恒的歌。

他俩已经把我忘了,但黛西抬起头来瞥了一眼,伸出了手。盖茨比此刻压根儿不认识我了。我又看了他俩一眼,他们也看看我,好像远在天涯,沉浸在强烈的感情之中。我随即走出屋子,走下大理石台阶到雨里面去,留下他们两人在一起。



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