It was not fair to say this had only been planned for a few days. The preparations had begun long ago. Five years ago, in fact, when I first bought this house and began to establish the reputation that would make me worthy of Daisy. And now, the stage was carefully set. All those years of work were at stake today. This afternoon. At tea.
I debated with myself again whether it would be better to meet Daisy at a high-class party, one where everything was perfection and no extravagance would be too great. Yet Daisy had never come to my parties, a fact which seemed to show her rejection of lavish displays of wealth. Better to show her my control over a rich, refined life by appearing casual with my wealth rather than by ostentatiously dazzling her with riches. But after sleep eluded me the entire night, I realized that appearing casual might be the greatest challenge I had ever faced, as questions of how to act and dress swarmed through my mind.
Unable to think coherently, and noticing a rare break in the hideous drizzle, I decided to walk over to Carraway's and make sure he'd properly made all the necessary arrangements. It seems providential that Nick Carraway, Daisy's cousin, should move in right next to me, providing the perfect opportunity to stage an accidental meeting. Good chap, that Carraway, but he might not have the refinement to host the tea quite as I wanted. Would look I formal and out of place there?
As I approached his house I traced the driveway with my eye. That was where Daisy would come from. I walked up to the door just as she would before the day was out. Carraway greeted me quickly, wearing a dark gray suit that probably made my white one look frivolously dandy. Berating myself for not wearing something more serious, and bracing myself for more bad news I asked, "is everything all right?"
"The grass looks fine, if that's what you mean," said Nick.
"What grass?" Grass? Grass being all right? "Oh, the grass in the yard." Of course. I'd arranged to give Nick's grass a much-needed cut. Had I forgotten something else? Something I hadn't pre-arranged? I looked vaguely in the direction of a window and complemented the grass. It seemed impossible that I should have overlooked anything. I mentioned my research on the weather, which seemed the one thing had gone right so far. "Have you got everything you need in the shape of— of tea?"
Carraway looked the slightest bit abashed as he led me to the kitchen, where he showed me some lemon cakes. They would have been fine except for that they would undoubtedly be served with similarly embarrassed expressions by the shifty Finnish servant who shuffled her feet and caught my eye with a sullen glare.
Carraway ran his hand through his hair, something I've noticed is a nervous habit of his. "Will they do?" he asked.
There- now I'd done it. I'd made Carraway even more self conscious of his lemon cakes. I rushed to reassure him, "of course, of course! They're fine! …old sport." I was about to ask to see exactly where we would be eating, when I realized it might make poor Carraway even more nervous. Perhaps he noticed my confusion. "Would you like to sit down? Daisy probably won't be here for a while."
Daisy! Here! I composed my face. "Yes, that would be lovely." I could use the time collecting my nerves- creating that wonderful casual attitude I wanted during this meeting. What would be something natural for me to do while the guests arrived? I couldn't possibly make small talk with Carraway, I needed the time to think. As we walked into the living room I looked around for a magazine or newspaper- anything I could pretend to read. My eyes fell upon the perfect solution- Clay's Economics. Quite appropriate for my position. "I'll just read for a while while we wait, eh?"
The minutes dragged on; I convinced myself that the little clock on the mantelpiece was broken. Carraway never noticed I was inattentive to my book. He alternated between looking guiltily at the dusty curtains and staring out the window beneath them at the pouring rain wearing an expression I couldn't identify. Was it concern? Did he regret acting as an accomplice in my reunification with Daisy? Worse and worse! It was not enough that the suspicious Finn would leer at Daisy while serving her lemon cakes, her cousin would be an unhappy and awkward host as well. What was I thinking trying to meet Daisy here? Not the right setting at all. I slammed the book. "I'm going home."
Nick tore his glance away from the window and the distant expression on his face faded away into confusion. "Why's that?"
"Nobody's coming to tea. It's too late! I can't wait all day." If only I could get away before Daisy really did come so I could bide my time and make new, better plans...
"Don't be silly; it's just two minutes to four."
Then, much to my horror, as if Carraway had summoned her, there came the noise of a car. I realized I was on my feet, whether to greet Daisy or to flee from her presence I was not sure. As Carraway went to answer the door I quietly went out the back way. This was not right at all, and I needed it to be perfect, perfect for Daisy. I was not about to meet her on a rainy day, with a silly suit, a strange servant, and a reluctant host. It had stopped pouring, but something between a drizzle and a fog still hung in the air, as if the weather was empathizing with how miserable I felt. I paused under the last bit of roof over Carraway's back porch before I would have to brave the elements. He might tell her I had been there. That would ruin my plans not just today, but forever. The slam of a car door brought me to my scenes, and I walked out across his yard toward my house, quite determined to start my plans afresh- Carraway had enough sense to keep quiet. And then I stopped in my tracks.
Her voice floated around the house and washed over me like lyrical music. It was faint, I couldn't hear her words, which brought out the mysterious, melodic nature of her voice all the more. Like the sound of so many little silver bells, her voice floated through the air, changing the drizzle into a magical mist that swirled around me, calling me back. How long since I had heard that voice! What power Daisy, wonderful Daisy, had over me!
I stood still, straining my ears, until I heard the front door close. There was no longer any thought of my going home. I would go back, possibly to make a fool of myself and lose Daisy forever, even if it was just to hear her voice one last time. I walked quickly toward the front door and the warmth of Carraway's house, frozen from cold and nerves, like a moth to candlelight. I couldn't help myself. Daisy!