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Chapter 6

About this time an ambitious young reporter from New York arrived one morning at Gatsby's door and asked him if he had anything to say.

"Anything to say about what?" inquired Gatsby politely.

"Why,--any statement to give out."

It transpired after a confused five minutes that the man had heard Gatsby's name around his office in a connection which he either wouldn't reveal or didn't fully understand. This was his day off and with laudable initiative he had hurried out "to see."

It was a random shot, and yet the reporter's instinct was right. Gatsby's notoriety, spread about by the hundreds who had accepted his hospitality and so become authorities on his past, had increased all summer until he fell just short of being news. Contemporary legends such as the "underground pipe-line to Canada" attached themselves to him, and there was one persistent story that he didn't live in a house at all, but in a boat that looked like a house and was moved secretly up and down the Long Island shore. Just why these inventions were a source of satisfaction to James Gatz of North Dakota, isn't easy to say.

James Gatz--that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career--when he saw Dan Cody's yacht drop anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior. It was James Gatz who had been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn green jersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a row-boat, pulled out to the TUOLOMEE and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour.

I suppose he'd had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people--his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that--and he must be about His Father's Business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.

For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam digger and a salmon fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and bed. His brown, hardening body lived naturally through the half fierce, half lazy work of the bracing days.

He knew women early and since they spoiled him he became contemptuous of them, of young virgins because they were ignorant, of the others because they were hysterical about things which in his overwhelming self-absorption he took for granted.

But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing.

An instinct toward his future glory had led him, some months before, to the small Lutheran college of St. Olaf in southern Minnesota. He stayed there two weeks, dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny, to destiny itself, and despising the janitor's work with which he was to pay his way through. Then he drifted back to Lake Superior, and he was still searching for something to do on the day that Dan Cody's yacht dropped anchor in the shallows along shore.

Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since Seventy-five. The transactions in Montana copper that made him many times a millionaire found him physically robust but on the verge of soft-mindedness, and, suspecting this an infinite number of women tried to separate him from his money. The none too savory ramifications by which Ella Kaye, the newspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon to his weakness and sent him to sea in a yacht, were common knowledge to the turgid journalism of 1902. He had been coasting along all too hospitable shores for five years when he turned up as James Gatz's destiny at Little Girl Bay.

To the young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed deck, the yacht represented all the beauty and glamor in the world. I suppose he smiled at Cody--he had probably discovered that people liked him when he smiled. At any rate Cody asked him a few questions (one of them elicited the brand new name) and found that he was quick, and extravagantly ambitious. A few days later he took him to Duluth and bought him a blue coat, six pair of white duck trousers and a yachting cap. And when the TUOLOMEE left for the West Indies and the Barbary Coast Gatsby left too.

He was employed in a vague personal capacity--while he remained with Cody he was in turn steward, mate, skipper, secretary, and even jailor, for Dan Cody sober knew what lavish doings Dan Cody drunk might soon be about and he provided for such contingencies by reposing more and more trust in Gatsby. The arrangement lasted five years during which the boat went three times around the continent. It might have lasted indefinitely except for the fact that Ella Kaye came on board one night in Boston and a week later Dan Cody inhospitably died.

I remember the portrait of him up in Gatsby's bedroom, a grey, florid man with a hard empty face--the pioneer debauchee who during one phase of American life brought back to the eastern seaboard the savage violence of the frontier brothel and saloon. It was indirectly due to Cody that Gatsby drank so little. Sometimes in the course of gay parties women used to rub champagne into his hair; for himself he formed the habit of letting liquor alone.

And it was from Cody that he inherited money--a legacy of twenty-five thousand dollars. He didn't get it. He never understood the legal device that was used against him but what remained of the millions went intact to Ella Kaye. He was left with his singularly appropriate education; the vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to the substantiality of a man.

He told me all this very much later, but I've put it down here with the idea of exploding those first wild rumors about his antecedents, which weren't even faintly true. Moreover he told it to me at a time of confusion, when I had reached the point of believing everything and nothing about him. So I take advantage of this short halt, while Gatsby, so to speak, caught his breath, to clear this set of misconceptions away.

It was a halt, too, in my association with his affairs. For several weeks I didn't see him or hear his voice on the phone--mostly I was in New York, trotting around with Jordan and trying to ingratiate myself with her senile aunt--but finally I went over to his house one Sunday afternoon. I hadn't been there two minutes when somebody brought Tom Buchanan in for a drink. I was startled, naturally, but the really surprising thing was that it hadn't happened before.

They were a party of three on horseback--Tom and a man named Sloane and a pretty woman in a brown riding habit who had been there previously.

"I'm delighted to see you," said Gatsby standing on his porch.

"I'm delighted that you dropped in."

As though they cared!

"Sit right down. Have a cigarette or a cigar." He walked around the room quickly, ringing bells. "I'll have something to drink for you in just a minute."

He was profoundly affected by the fact that Tom was there. But he would be uneasy anyhow until he had given them something, realizing in a vague way that that was all they came for. Mr. Sloane wanted nothing. A lemonade? No, thanks. A little champagne? Nothing at all, thanks.... I'm sorry---- "Did you have a nice ride?"

"Very good roads around here."

"I suppose the automobiles----"

"Yeah."

Moved by an irresistible impulse, Gatsby turned to Tom who had accepted the introduction as a stranger.

"I believe we've met somewhere before, Mr. Buchanan."

"Oh, yes," said Tom, gruffly polite but obviously not remembering.

"So we did. I remember very well."

"About two weeks ago."

"That's right. You were with Nick here."

"I know your wife," continued Gatsby, almost aggressively.

"That so?"

Tom turned to me.

"You live near here, Nick?"

"Next door."

"That so?"

Mr. Sloane didn't enter into the conversation but lounged back haughtily in his chair; the woman said nothing either--until unexpectedly, after two highballs, she became cordial.

"We'll all come over to your next party, Mr. Gatsby," she suggested.

"What do you say?"

"Certainly. I'd be delighted to have you."

"Be ver' nice," said Mr. Sloane, without gratitude. "Well--think ought to be starting home."

"Please don't hurry," Gatsby urged them. He had control of himself now and he wanted to see more of Tom. "Why don't you--why don't you stay for supper? I wouldn't be surprised if some other people dropped in from New York."

"You come to supper with ME," said the lady enthusiastically.

"Both of you."

This included me. Mr. Sloane got to his feet.

"Come along," he said--but to her only.

"I mean it," she insisted. "I'd love to have you. Lots of room."

Gatsby looked at me questioningly. He wanted to go and he didn't see that Mr. Sloane had determined he shouldn't.

"I'm afraid I won't be able to," I said.

"Well, you come," she urged, concentrating on Gatsby.

Mr. Sloane murmured something close to her ear.

"We won't be late if we start now," she insisted aloud.

"I haven't got a horse," said Gatsby. "I used to ride in the army but I've never bought a horse. I'll have to follow you in my car. Excuse me for just a minute."

The rest of us walked out on the porch, where Sloane and the lady began an impassioned conversation aside.

"My God, I believe the man's coming," said Tom. "Doesn't he know she doesn't want him?"

"She says she does want him."

"She has a big dinner party and he won't know a soul there." He frowned.

"I wonder where in the devil he met Daisy. By God, I may be old-fashioned in my ideas, but women run around too much these days to suit me. They meet all kinds of crazy fish."

Suddenly Mr. Sloane and the lady walked down the steps and mounted their horses.

"Come on," said Mr. Sloane to Tom, "we're late. We've got to go." And then to me: "Tell him we couldn't wait, will you?"

Tom and I shook hands, the rest of us exchanged a cool nod and they trotted quickly down the drive, disappearing under the August foliage just as Gatsby with hat and light overcoat in hand came out the front door.

Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy's running around alone, for on the following Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby's party. Perhaps his presence gave the evening its peculiar quality of oppressiveness--it stands out in my memory from Gatsby's other parties that summer. There were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same profusion of champagne, the same many-colored, many-keyed commotion, but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn't been there before. Or perhaps I had merely grown used to it, grown to accept West Egg as a world complete in itself, with its own standards and its own great figures, second to nothing because it had no consciousness of being so, and now I was looking at it again, through Daisy's eyes. It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.

They arrived at twilight and as we strolled out among the sparkling hundreds Daisy's voice was playing murmurous tricks in her throat.

"These things excite me SO," she whispered. "If you want to kiss me any time during the evening, Nick, just let me know and I'll be glad to arrange it for you. Just mention my name. Or present a green card.

I'm giving out green----"

"Look around," suggested Gatsby.

"I'm looking around. I'm having a marvelous----"

"You must see the faces of many people you've heard about."

Tom's arrogant eyes roamed the crowd.

"We don't go around very much," he said. "In fact I was just thinking I don't know a soul here."

"Perhaps you know that lady." Gatsby indicated a gorgeous, scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat in state under a white plum tree. Tom and Daisy stared, with that peculiarly unreal feeling that accompanies the recognition of a hitherto ghostly celebrity of the movies.

"She's lovely," said Daisy.

"The man bending over her is her director."

He took them ceremoniously from group to group:

"Mrs. Buchanan... and Mr. Buchanan----" After an instant's hesitation he added: "the polo player."

"Oh no," objected Tom quickly, "Not me."

But evidently the sound of it pleased Gatsby for Tom remained "the polo player" for the rest of the evening.

"I've never met so many celebrities!" Daisy exclaimed. "I liked that man--what was his name?--with the sort of blue nose."

Gatsby identified him, adding that he was a small producer.

"Well, I liked him anyhow."

"I'd a little rather not be the polo player," said Tom pleasantly, "I'd rather look at all these famous people in--in oblivion."

Daisy and Gatsby danced. I remember being surprised by his graceful, conservative fox-trot--I had never seen him dance before. Then they sauntered over to my house and sat on the steps for half an hour while at her request I remained watchfully in the garden: "In case there's a fire or a flood," she explained, "or any act of God."

Tom appeared from his oblivion as we were sitting down to supper together.

"Do you mind if I eat with some people over here?" he said. "A fellow's getting off some funny stuff."

"Go ahead," answered Daisy genially, "And if you want to take down any addresses here's my little gold pencil...." She looked around after a moment and told me the girl was "common but pretty," and I knew that except for the half hour she'd been alone with Gatsby she wasn't having a good time.

We were at a particularly tipsy table. That was my fault--Gatsby had been called to the phone and I'd enjoyed these same people only two weeks before. But what had amused me then turned septic on the air now.

"How do you feel, Miss Baedeker?"

The girl addressed was trying, unsuccessfully, to slump against my shoulder. At this inquiry she sat up and opened her eyes.

"Wha?"

A massive and lethargic woman, who had been urging Daisy to play golf with her at the local club tomorrow, spoke in Miss Baedeker's defence:

"Oh, she's all right now. When she's had five or six cocktails she always starts screaming like that. I tell her she ought to leave it alone."

"I do leave it alone," affirmed the accused hollowly.

"We heard you yelling, so I said to Doc Civet here: 'There's somebody that needs your help, Doc.' "

"She's much obliged, I'm sure," said another friend, without gratitude.

"But you got her dress all wet when you stuck her head in the pool."

"Anything I hate is to get my head stuck in a pool," mumbled Miss Baedeker. "They almost drowned me once over in New Jersey."

"Then you ought to leave it alone," countered Doctor Civet.

"Speak for yourself!" cried Miss Baedeker violently. "Your hand shakes.

I wouldn't let you operate on me!"

It was like that. Almost the last thing I remember was standing with Daisy and watching the moving picture director and his Star. They were still under the white plum tree and their faces were touching except for a pale thin ray of moonlight between. It occurred to me that he had been very slowly bending toward her all evening to attain this proximity, and even while I watched I saw him stoop one ultimate degree and kiss at her cheek.

"I like her," said Daisy, "I think she's lovely."

But the rest offended her--and inarguably, because it wasn't a gesture but an emotion. She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented "place" that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village--appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.

I sat on the front steps with them while they waited for their car. It was dark here in front: only the bright door sent ten square feet of light volleying out into the soft black morning. Sometimes a shadow moved against a dressing-room blind above, gave way to another shadow, an indefinite procession of shadows, who rouged and powdered in an invisible glass.

"Who is this Gatsby anyhow?" demanded Tom suddenly. "Some big bootlegger?"

"Where'd you hear that?" I inquired.

"I didn't hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know."

"Not Gatsby," I said shortly.

He was silent for a moment. The pebbles of the drive crunched under his feet.

"Well, he certainly must have strained himself to get this menagerie together."

A breeze stirred the grey haze of Daisy's fur collar.

"At least they're more interesting than the people we know," she said with an effort.

"You didn't look so interested."

"Well, I was."

Tom laughed and turned to me.

"Did you notice Daisy's face when that girl asked her to put her under a cold shower?"

Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic whisper, bringing out a meaning in each word that it had never had before and would never have again. When the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air.

"Lots of people come who haven't been invited," she said suddenly.

"That girl hadn't been invited. They simply force their way in and he's too polite to object."

"I'd like to know who he is and what he does," insisted Tom. "And I think I'll make a point of finding out."

"I can tell you right now," she answered. "He owned some drug stores, a lot of drug stores. He built them up himself."

The dilatory limousine came rolling up the drive.

"Good night, Nick," said Daisy.

Her glance left me and sought the lighted top of the steps where "Three o'Clock in the Morning," a neat, sad little waltz of that year, was drifting out the open door. After all, in the very casualness of Gatsby's party there were romantic possibilities totally absent from her world. What was it up there in the song that seemed to be calling her back inside? What would happen now in the dim incalculable hours?

Perhaps some unbelievable guest would arrive, a person infinitely rare and to be marvelled at, some authentically radiant young girl who with one fresh glance at Gatsby, one moment of magical encounter, would blot out those five years of unwavering devotion.

I stayed late that night. Gatsby asked me to wait until he was free and I lingered in the garden until the inevitable swimming party had run up, chilled and exalted, from the black beach, until the lights were extinguished in the guest rooms overhead. When he came down the steps at last the tanned skin was drawn unusually tight on his face, and his eyes were bright and tired.

"She didn't like it," he said immediately.

"Of course she did."

"She didn't like it," he insisted. "She didn't have a good time."

He was silent and I guessed at his unutterable depression.

"I feel far away from her," he said. "It's hard to make her understand."

"You mean about the dance?"

"The dance?" He dismissed all the dances he had given with a snap of his fingers. "Old sport, the dance is unimportant."

He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say:

"I never loved you." After she had obliterated three years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken.

One of them was that, after she was free, they were to go back to Louisville and be married from her house--just as if it were five years ago.

"And she doesn't understand," he said. "She used to be able to understand. We'd sit for hours----"

He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers.

"I wouldn't ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."

"Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"

He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.

"I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before," he said, nodding determinedly. "She'll see."

He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.

His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was....

... One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight.

They stopped here and turned toward each other. Now it was a cool night with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees--he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something--an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man's, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever.

大概在这个时候,有一天早上,一个雄心勃勃的年轻记者从纽约来到盖茨比的大门口,问他有没有什么话要说。

“关于什么的话?”盖茨比很客气地问道。

“呃——发表个什么声明。”

在乱了五分钟之后事情才弄清楚。原来这个人在他报馆里曾经听人提到盖茨比的名字,可是为什么会提到他却不肯透露,或者他也没完全弄明白。这天他休息,于是就积极主动地跑出城来“看看”。

这不过是碰碰运气,然而这位记者的直觉却是对的。千百个人在他家做过客因而成为他的经历的权威,由于他们的宣扬,盖茨比的名声在这个夏天越来越大,直到他只差一点就要成为新闻人物了。当时的各种传奇,像“通往加拿大的地下管道” 之类,都和他挂上了钩,还有一个长期流传的谣言,说他根本不是住在一座房子里,而是住在一条船上,船看上去像座房子,并且沿着长岛海岸秘密地来回移动。究竟为什么北达科他州的杰姆斯·盖兹能从这些谣言中得到满足,这倒不容易回答。

杰姆斯·盖兹——这是他的真姓名,至少是他法律上的姓名。他是在十七岁时改名换姓的,也是在他一生事业开端的那个特定时刻——当时他看见丹·科迪先生的游艇在苏必利尔湖上最险恶的沙洲上抛锚、那天下午身穿一件破旧的绿色运动衫和一条帆布裤在沙滩上游荡的是杰姆斯·盖兹,但是后来借了一条小船,划到托洛美号去警告科迪,半小时之内可能起大风使他的船覆没的,已经是杰伊·盖茨比了。

我猜,就在当时他也早已把这个名宇想好了。他的父母是碌碌无为的庄稼人— —他的想象力根本从来没有真正承认他们是自己的父母。实际上长岛西卵的杰伊· 盖茨比来自他对自己的柏拉图式的理念。他是上帝的儿子——这个称号,如果有什么意义的话,就是字面的意思——因此他必须为他的天父效命,献身于一种博大、庸俗、华而不实的美。因此他虚构的恰恰是一个十七岁的小青年很可能会虚构的那种杰伊·盖茨比,而他始终不渝地忠于这个理想形象。

一年多来,他沿着苏必利尔湖南岸奔波,或是捕鲑鱼,或是捞蛤蜊,或是干任何其他为他挣来食宿的杂事。在那些风吹日晒的日子里,干着时松时紧的活计,他有着晒得黝黑。越来越硬棒的身体,过着大然的生活。他早就跟女人发生了关系,并且由于女人过分宠爱他,他倒瞧不起她们。他瞧不起年轻的处女,因为她们愚昧无知,他也瞧不起其他女人,因为她们为了一些事情大吵大闹,而那些事情由于他那惊人的自我陶醉,在他看来都是理所当然的。

但是他的内心却经常处于激荡不安之中。夜晚躺在床上的时候,各种离奇怪诞的幻想纷至沓来。一个绚丽得无法形容的宇宙展现在他脑海里,这时小钟在洗脸架上滴答滴答地响着,月亮用水一般的光浸泡着他乱七八糟扔在地上的衣服。每夜他都给他那些幻想的图案添枝加叶,一直等到昏沉的睡意降落在一个生动的场面之上,使他忘记了一切。有一阵子这些幻梦为他的想象力提供了一个发泄的途径:它们令人满意地暗示现实是不真实的,它们表明世界的磐石是牢牢地建立在仙女的翅膀上的。

几个月以前,一种追求他未来的光荣的本能促使他前往明尼苏达州南部路德教的小圣奥拉夫学院。他在那里只待了两个星期,一方面由于学院对他的命运的鼓声、对命运本身麻木不忙而感到沮丧,一方面鄙视他为了挣钱作为学习费用而干的勤杂工工作。后来他东漂西荡又回到了苏必利尔湖,那天他还在找点什么活儿干的时候,丹·科迪的游艇在湖边的浅滩上抛下钱来。

科迪当时五十岁,他是内华达州的银矿、育空地区、一八七五年以来每一次淘金热的产物。他做蒙大拿州铜的生意发了好几百万的财,结果虽然身体仍然健壮,可是脑子已经接近于糊涂。无数的女人对这个情况有所觉察,于是想方设法使他和他的钱分手。那个名叫埃拉·凯的女记者抓住他的弱点扮演了德曼特农夫人的角色,怂恿他乘上游艇会航海,她所耍的那些不太体面的手腕是一九○二年耸人听闻的报刊争相报道的新闻。他沿着有着过分殷勤好客的居民的海岸航行了五年之后,就在这天驶人小姑娘湾,成为杰姆斯·盖兹命运的主宰。

年轻的盖兹,两手靠在船桨上,抬头望着有栏杆围着的甲板,在他眼中,那只船代表了世界上所有的美和魅力。我猜想他对科边笑了一笑——他大概早已发现他笑的时候很讨人欢喜。不管怎样,科迪问了他几个问题(其中之一引出了这个崭新的名字),发觉他聪明伶俐而且雄心不小。几天之后他把他带到德卢恩城,替他买了一件蓝色海员服、六条白帆布裤子和一顶游艇帽。等到托洛美号启程前往西印度群岛和巴巴平海岸的时候,盖茨比也走了。

他以一种不太明确的私人雇员身份在科迪手下工作——先后于过听差、大副、船长、秘书,甚至还当过监守,因为丹·科迪清醒的时候知道自己酒一喝醉什么挥金如土的傻事都干得出来,因此他越来越信赖盖茨比,以防止这一类的意外事故。这种安排延续了五年,在这期间那艘船环绕美洲大陆三次。它本来可能无限期地继续下去,要不是有一晚在波士顿,埃拉·凯上了船,一星期后丹·科边就毫不客气地死掉了。

我记得他那张挂在盖茨比卧室里的相片,一个头发花白、服饰花哨的老头子,一张冷酷无情、内心空虚的脸——典型的沉湎酒色的拓荒者,这帮人在美国生活的某一阶段把边疆妓院酒馆的粗野狂暴带回到了东部滨海地区。盖茨比酒喝得极少,这得间接地归功于科迪。有时在欢闹的宴席上女人会把香摈揉进他的头发,他本人却养成了习惯不去沾酒。

他也正是从科边那里继承了钱——一笔二万五千美元的遗赠。他并没拿到钱。他始终也没懂得人家用来对付他的法律手段,但是千百万财产剩下多少通通归了埃拉·凯。他只落了他那异常恰当的教育:杰伊·盖茨比的模糊轮廓已经逐渐充实成为一个血肉丰满的人了。

这一切都是他好久以后才告诉我的,但是我在这里写了下来,为的是驳斥早先那些关于他的来历的荒唐谣言,那些都是连一点儿影子也没有的事。再有,他是在一个十分混乱的时刻告诉我的,那时关于他的种种传闻我已经到了将信将疑的地步。所以我现在利用这个短暂的停顿,仿佛趁盖茨比喘口气的机会,把这些误解清除一下。

在我和他的交往之中,这也是一个停顿。有好几个星期我既没和他见面,也没在电话里听到过他的声音——大部分时间我是在纽约跟乔丹四处跑,同时极力讨她那老朽的姑妈的欢心——但是我终于在一个星期日下午到他家去了。我待了还没两分钟就有一个人把汤姆·布坎农带进来喝杯酒。我自然吃了一惊,但是真正令人惊奇的却是以前竟然还没发生过这样的事。

他们一行三人是骑马来的——汤姆和一个姓斯隆的男人,还有一个身穿棕色骑装的漂亮女人,是以前来过的。

“我很高兴见到你们,”盖茨比站在阳台上说,“我很高兴你们光临。”

仿佛承他们的情似的!

“请坐,请坐。抽支香烟或者抽支雪茄。”他在屋子里跑来跑去,忙着打铃喊人,“我马上就让人给你们送点什么喝的来。”

汤姆的到来使他受到很大震动。但是他反正会感到局促不安,直到他招待了他们一点什么才行,因为他也隐约知道他们就是为了这个才来的。斯隆先生什么都不要。来杯柠檬水?不要,谢谢。来点香摈吧?什么都不要,谢谢……对不起……

“你们骑马骑得很痛快吧?”

“这一带的路很好。”

“大概来往的汽车……”

“是嘛。”

刚才介绍的时候汤姆只当彼此是初次见面,此刻盖茨比突然情不自禁地掉脸朝着他。

“我相信我们以前在哪儿见过面,布坎农先生。”

“噢,是的,”汤姆生硬而有礼貌地说,他显然并不记得,“我们是见过的,我记得很清楚。”

“大概两个星期以前。”

“对啦。你是跟尼克在一起的。”

“我认识你太太。”盖茨比接下去说,几乎有一点挑衅的意味。

“是吗?”

汤姆掉脸朝着我。

“你住在这附近吗,尼克?”

“就在隔壁。”

“是吗?”

斯隆光生没有参加谈话,而是大模大样地仰靠在他的椅子上。那个女的也没说什么——直到两杯姜汁威一f:忌下肚之后,她忽然变得有说有笑了。

“我们都来参加你下次的晚会,盖茨比先生,”她提议说,“你看好不好?”

“当然好了。你们能来,我太高兴了。”

“那很好吧,”斯隆先生毫不承情地说,“呃——我看该回家了。”

“请不要忙着走。”盖茨比劝他们。他现在已经能控制自己,并且他要多看看汤姆。“你们何不——你们何不就在这儿吃晚饭呢?说不定纽约还有一些别的人会来。”

“你到我家来吃晚饭,”那位太太热烈地说,“你们俩都来。”

这也包括了我。斯隆先生站起身来。

“我是当真的,”她坚持说,“我真希望你们来。都坐得下。”

盖茨比疑惑地看着我。他想去,他也看不出斯隆先生打定了主意不让他去。

“我恐怕去不了。”我说。

“那么你来。”她极力怂恿盖茨比一个人。

斯隆先生凑着她耳边咕哝了一下。

“我们如果马上就走,一点都不会晚的。”她固执地大声说。

“我没有马,”盖茨比说,“我在军队里骑过马的,但是我自己从来没买过马。我只好开车跟你们走。对不起,等一下我就来。”

我们其余几个人走到外面阳台上,斯隆和那位太太站在一边。开始气冲冲地交谈。

“我的天,我相信这家伙真的要来,”汤姆说,“难道他不知道她并不要他来吗?”

“她说她要他来的嘛。”

“她要举行盛大的宴会,他在那儿一个人都不会认得的。”他皱皱眉头,“我真纳闷他到底在哪儿认识黛西的。天晓得,也许我的思想太古板,但是这年头女人家到处乱跑,我可看不惯。她们遇上各式各样的怪物。”

忽然间斯隆先生和那位太太走下台阶,随即上了马。

“来吧,”斯隆先生对汤姆说,“我们已经晚了。我们一定得走了。”然后对我说,“请你告诉他我们不能等了,行吗?”

汤姆跟我握握手,我们其余几个人彼此冷冷地点了点头,他们就骑着马沿着车道小跑起来,很快消失在八月的树阴里,这时,盖茨比手里拿着帽子和薄大衣,正从大门里走出来。

汤姆对于黛西单独四处乱跑显然放不下心,因为下一个星期六晚上他和她要一道来参加盖茨比的晚会。也许是由于他的在场,那次晚会有一种特殊的沉闷气氛— —它鲜明地留在我记忆里,与那个夏天盖茨比的其他晚会迥然不同。还是那些同样的人,或者至少是同一类的人、同样的源源不绝的香摈、同样的五颜六色、七嘴八舌的喧闹,可是我觉得无形中有一种不愉快的感觉,弥漫着一种以前从没有过的恶感。要不然,或许是我本来已经逐渐习惯于这一套,逐渐认为西卵是一个独立完整的世界,自有它独特的标准和大人物,首屈一指因为它并不感到相形见继,而此刻我却通过黛西的眼睛重新去看这一切。要通过新的眼睛去看那些你已经花了很多气力才适应的事物,那总是令人难受的。

他们在黄昏时刻到达,然后当我们几人漫步走到几百名珠光宝气的客人当中时,黛西的声音在她喉咙里玩着呢呢喃喃的花样。

“这些东西真叫我兴奋,”她低声说,“如果你今晚上任何时候想吻我,尼克,你让我知道好了,我一定高兴为你安排。只要提我的名字就行,或者出示一张绿色的请帖。我正在散发绿色的……”

“四面看看。”盖茨比敦促她。

“我正在四面看啊。我真开心极……”

“你一定看到许多你听见过的人物的面孔。”

汤姆傲慢的眼睛向人群一扫。

“我们平时不大外出,”他说,“实际上,我刚才正在想我这里一个人都不认识。”

“也许你认得那位小姐。”盖茨比指出一位如花似玉的美人,端庄地坐在一棵白梅树下。汤姆和黛西目不转睛地看着,认出来这是一位一向只在银幕上见到的大明星,几乎不敢相信是真的。

“她真美啊。”黛西说。

“站在她身边弯着腰的是她的导演。”

盖茨比礼貌周全地领着他们向一群又一群的客人介绍。

“布坎农夫人……命坎农先生,”踌躇片刻之后,他又补充说,“马球健将。”

“不是的,”汤姆连忙否认,“我可不是。”

但是盖茨比显然喜欢这个名称的含意,因为以后整个晚上汤姆就一直是“马球健将”。

“我从来没见过这么多名人,”黛西兴奋地说,“我喜欢那个人……他叫什么名字来着?就是鼻子有点发青的那个。”

盖茨比报了那人的姓名,并说他是一个小制片商。

“哦,我反正喜欢他。”

“我宁愿不做马球健将,”汤姆愉快地说,“我倒宁愿以……以一个默默无闻的人的身份看看这么多有名的人。”

黛西和盖茨比跳了舞。我记得我当时看到他跳着优雅的老式狐步舞感到很诧异 ——我以前从未见过他跳舞。后来他俩溜到我家,在我的台阶上坐了半个小时,她让我待在园子里把风。“万一着火或是发大水。”她解释道,“或是什么天灾啦。”

我们正在一起坐下来吃晚饭时,汤姆又从默默无闻中出现了。“我跟那边几个人一起吃饭,行吗?”他说,“有一个家伙正在大讲笑话。”

“去吧,”黛西和颜悦色地回答,“如果你要留几个住址下来,这里是我的小金铅笔。”……过了一会她四面张望了一下,对我说那个女孩“俗气可是漂亮”,于是我明白除了她单独跟盖茨比待在一起的半小时之外,她玩得并不开心。

我们这一桌的人喝得特别醉。这得怪我不好——盖茨比被叫去听电话,又碰巧两星期前我还觉得这些人挺有意思,但是当时我觉得好玩的晚上变得索然无味了。

“你感觉怎么样,贝达克小姐?”

我同她说话的这个姑娘正在想慢慢倒在我的肩上,可是并没成功。听到这个问题,她坐起身来,睁开了眼睛。

“什么?”

一个大块头、懒洋洋的女人,本来一直在怂恿黛西明天到本地俱乐部去和她一起打高尔夫球的,现在来为贝达克小姐辩白了:

“噢,她现在什么事也没有了。她每次五六杯鸡尾酒下肚,总是这样大喊大叫。我跟她说她不应当喝酒。”

“我是不喝酒。”受到指责的那个人随口说道。

“我们听到你嚷嚷,于是我跟这位希维特大夫说:‘那里有人需要您帮忙,大夫。’”

“她非常感激,我相信,”另一位朋友用并不感激的日气说,“可是你把她的头接到游泳池里去,把她的衣服全搞湿了。”

“我最恨的就是把我的头接到游泳池里,”贝达克小姐咕哝着说,“有一回在新泽西州他们差一点没把我淹死。”

“那你就不应当喝酒嘛。”希维特大夫堵她的嘴说。

“说你自己吧!”贝达克小姐激烈地大喊道,“你的手发抖。我才不会让你给我开刀哩!”

情况就是这样。我记得的差不多是最后的一件事是我和黛西站在一起望着那位电影导演和他的“大明星”。他们仍然在那棵白梅树下,他们的脸快要贴到一起了,中间只隔着一线淡淡的月光。我忽然想到他整个晚上大概一直在非常非常慢地弯下腰来,才终于和她靠得这么近,然后正在我望着的这一刻,我看见他弯下最后一点距离,亲吻了她的面颊。

“我喜欢她,”黛西说,“我觉得她美极了。”

但是其他的一切她都讨厌——而且是不容置辩的,因为这并不是一种姿态,而是一种感情。她十分厌恶西卵,这个由百老汇强加在一个长岛渔村上的没有先例的 “胜地”——厌恶它那不安于陈旧的委婉辞令的粗犷活力,厌恶那种驱使它的居民沿着一条捷径从零跑到零的过分突兀的命运。她正是在这种她所不了解的单纯之中看到了什么可怕的东西。

他们在等车子开过来的时候,我和他们一同坐在大门前的台阶上。这里很暗,只有敞开的门向幽暗的黎明射出十平方英尺的亮光。有时楼上化妆室的遮帘上有一个人影掠过,然后又出现一个人影,络绎不绝的女客对着一面看不见的镜子涂脂抹粉。

“这个姓盖茨比的究竟是谁?”汤姆突然质问我,“一个大私酒贩子?”

“你在哪儿听来的?”我问他。

“我不是听来的。我猜的。有很多这样的暴发户都是大私酒贩子,你要知道。”

“盖茨比可不是。”我简慢地说。

他沉默了一会。汽车道上的小石子在他脚底下喀嚓作响。

“我说,他一定花了很大的气力才搜罗到这么一大帮牛头马面。”

一阵微风吹动了黛西的毛茸茸的灰皮领子。

“至少他们比我们认得的人有趣。”她有点勉强地说。

“看上去你并不怎么感兴趣嘛。”

“噢,我很感兴趣。”

汤姆哈哈一笑,把脸转向我。

“当那个女孩让她给她来个冷水淋浴的时候,你有没有注意到黛西的脸?”

黛西跟着音乐沙哑而有节奏的低声唱了起来,把每个字都唱出一种以前从未有过、以后也决不会再有的意义。当曲调升高的时候,她的嗓音也跟着改变,悠扬婉转,正是女低音的本色,而且每一点变化都在空气中散发出一点她那温暖的人情味很浓的魔力。

“来的人有好多并不是邀请来的,”她忽然说,“那个女孩子就没有接到邀请。他们于脆闯上门来,而他又太客气,不好意思谢绝。”

“我很想知道他是什么人,又是于什么的,”汤姆固执地说,“并且我一定要去打听清楚。”

“我马上就可以告诉你,”她答道,“他是开药房的,好多家药房。是他一手创办起来的。”

那辆姗姗来迟的大型轿车沿着汽车道开了上来。

“晚安,尼克。’黛西说。

她的目光离汗了我,朝着灯光照亮的最上一层台阶看去,在那里一支当年流行的哀婉动人的小华尔兹舞曲《凌晨三点钟》正从敞开的大门传出来。话说回来,正是在盖茨比的晚会的随随便便的气氛之中,就有她自己的世界中完全没有的种种浪漫的可能性。那支歌曲里面有什么东西仿佛在呼唤她回到里面去呢?现在在这幽暗的、难以预测的时辰里会发生什么事情呢?也许会光临一位令人难以置信的客人,一位世上少有的令人惊异不已的佳人,一位真正艳丽夺目的少女,只要对盖茨比看上一眼,只要一刹那魔术般的相逢,她就可以把五年来坚贞不移的爱情一笔勾销。

那夜我待到很晚,盖茨比要我待到他可以脱身,于是我就在花园里徘徊,一直待到最后一群游泳的客人,又寒冷又兴奋,从黑黝黝的海滩上跑上来,一直等到楼上各间客房里的灯都灭了。等到他最后走下台阶时,那晒得黝黑的皮肤比往常更紧地绷在他脸上,他的眼睛发亮而有倦意。

“她不喜欢这个晚会。”他马上就说。

“她当然喜欢啦。”

“她不喜欢,”他固执地说,“她玩得不开心。”

他不讲话了,但我猜他有满腔说不出的郁闷。

“我觉得离开她很远,”他说,“很难使她理解。”

“你是说舞会的事吗?”

“舞会?”他一弹指就把他所有开过的舞会都勾销了,“老兄,舞会是无关紧要的。”

他所要求于黛西的不下于要她跑去跟汤姆说:“我从来没有爱过你。”等她用那句话把四年一笔勾销之后,他俩就可以研究决定那些需要采取的更加实际的步骤。其中之一就是,等她恢复了自由,他俩就回路易斯维尔去,从她家里出发到教堂去举行婚礼——就仿佛是五年以前一样。

“可是她不理解,”他说,“她过去是能够理解的。我们往往在一起坐上几个钟点……”

他忽然停住不说了,沿着一条布满了果皮、丢弃的小礼物和踩烂的残花的小道走来走去。

“我看对她不宜要求过高,”我冒昧地说,“你不能重温旧梦的。”

“不能重温旧梦?”他大不以为然地喊道,“哪儿的话,我当然能够!”

他发狂地东张西望,仿佛他的旧梦就隐藏在这里,他的房子的阴影里,几乎一伸手就可以抓到的。

“我要把一切都安排得跟过去一模一样,”他说,一面坚决地点点头,“她会看到的。”

他滔滔不绝地大谈往事,因此我揣测他想要重新获得一点什么东西,也许是那进入他对黛西的热恋之中的关于他自己的某种理念。从那时以来,他的生活一直是凌乱不堪的,但是假如他一旦能回到某个出发点,慢慢地重新再走一遍,他可以发现那东西是什么…………一个秋天的夜晚,五年以前,落叶纷纷的时候,他俩走在街上,走到一处没有树的地方,人行道被月光照得发白。他们停了下来,面对面站着。那是一个凉爽的夜晚,那是一年两度季节变换的时刻,空气中洋溢着那种神秘的兴奋。家家户户宁静的灯火仿佛在向外面的黑暗吟唱,天上的垦星中间仿佛也有繁忙的活动。盖茨比从他的眼角里看到,一段段的人行道其实构成一架梯子,通向树顶上空一个秘密的地方——他可以攀登上去,如果他独自攀登的话,一登上去他就可以吮吸生命的浆液,大口吞唱那无与伦比的神奇的奶汁。

当黛西洁白的脸贴近他自己的脸时,他的心越跳越快。他知道他一跟这个姑娘亲吻,并把他那些无法形容的憧憬和她短暂的呼吸永远结合在一起,他的心灵就再也不会像上帝的心灵一样自由驰骋了。因此他等着,再倾听一会那已经在一颗星上敲响的音叉。然后他吻了她。经他的嘴唇一碰,她就像一朵鲜花一样为他开放,于是这个理想的化身就完成了。

他的这番话,甚至他难堪的感伤,使我回想起一点什么……我很久以前在什么地方听过的一个迷离恍惚的节奏,几句零落的歌词。一会儿的工夫,有一句话快到了嘴边,我的两片嘴唇像哑巴一样张开,仿佛除了一丝受惊的空气之外还有别的什么在上面挣扎着要出来。但是嘴唇发不出声音,因此我几乎想起的东西就永远无法表达了。



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