Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chapter 7:Georges Proposes:Georges Du Roy and Lily Bart:Bel Ami and House of Mirth

Yellow Diamond

Lily, stop this! Stop right now! Please, please, stop! Now! I surrender! I surrender! You have all the power. All of it. You can make me the happiest man on earth or you can destroy me by saying no. I can’t go on with this charade any longer. You stalemate me at every turn. Marry me, marry me, please, please, please marry me. I will give you anything you want. I will make you happy. I love you beyond belief. Please, please say yes.”

She has put her hand to her throat. Her face is astonished and horrified. For the first time since I have met her she can say nothing, do nothing but stand there, struck dumb. She sits down in the chair. I fall to my knees in front of her and grasp her hand.

I notice how quiet it is, how all the murmuring has stopped. Lily’s eyes are darting left and right now. I see that everyone near us has stopped. They are not talking. They are just standing there looking at us. And now I know. Lily is ruined. I have made such a scene that she will be blamed for this scene for the rest of her life. She will be damned forever having let me get this far, this close to her to compromise her reputation.

I don’t care. This is good. Now she will have to say yes. She cannot go back to her life with this ghastly occurrence that will be talked about for two hundred years! Yes, she is ruined. I am delirious with gratitude for these miniscule minds that would blame her for what I have created. I want to kiss their feet.

Lily holds out her palm to quiet me but it is too late. “No, Lily,” I say, “I don’t care what they think. I don’t care what all of them think. The only person whose thinking or feelings I care about are yours. Yours, only yours. You are the only important person to me in this huge crowd of people. You are the only person here for me.

Lily shudders. Her face is white and she is still speechless. For once, she is speechless. She cannot even move.

“Lily, Lily, please listen to me. Please. Listen to me. None of these people matter. They cannot hurt you. They cannot even take up the tiniest space in my mind. My mind only has room for you. Please, please give me your answer. Now. I don’t want you to have time to think about it. Not any more. Tell me now,” I command her.

I look up at her. In the corner of my eye I see Selden standing there with her wrap, wishing he could disappear, just drop her wrap on the floor and melt into the stones of the terrace. “Lily,” I say. “Now. Tell me, yes or not. Now.”

Her eyes look around and she sees nothing but incomprehension and absolute horror. She looks at me, full in the face, deep into my eyes and whispers, “Yes, yes, yes I will. And then louder, “Yes.”

I am radiant with joy. I grasp a small box from my pocket, pull out the ring, and I don’t even give her time to look at it as I put it on her finger. It is huge and ugly. An eight carat diamond, with ruby baguettes on each side from Tiffany’s.

“Yes.” I say. “I know it is ostentatious. Worse than ostentatious. It is obscene. Over the border into the land of the vulgar. It is exactly what I wanted.” Lily is looking at it on her hand with dismay on her face.

“When we get to Paris we both will go get another one. A beautiful one that you will pick out. We can throw this one in the Seine. Drown it. These people wouldn’t know what a beautiful ring looks like if they saw one. I know these people because I used to be just like them. You have changed me utterly. I do not even recognize myself anymore. The only thing they know is how much it is worth by looking at its size. I wanted them to see just how much I worship you, how much you mean to me, because to them, that’s what an engagement ring signifies. How much you are loved by how big the diamond is. I want to silence their tongues permanently.

I never want you to have to consider them again, all their foolish, simpering, stupid thoughts, perceptions and comments that you so carefully rephrase to sound intelligent, to make them feel important. They are not important. You are important. You are important and precious to me. You are all I care about in this pompous miserable copy of what they think is a Parisian court from Louis the XV or XVI at Versailles.”

“And it is no better where we are going. Even worse. But I will have you and that will make all the difference. Let us go now. We can take a carriage ride around the park, and I can calm down, and you can begin to breathe again. We will sail as soon as I can book passage. The Captain of the ship can marry us as soon as we are in international waters. Unless you want to stay to plan a big wedding here for these fools. I will do what you want.” Lily shakes her head. “Come. Take my arm and flash your diamond in their eyes.”

I pull her up, she takes my arm, and we walk from the terrace into the room. Bertha Dorset stands near the door and Lily walks up to her and says, “Dear Mrs. Dorset, we shall be leaving now. It has been an eventful and joyous evening for me that I will remember all my life. Thank you so much for inviting us. Goodnight and again thank you for the most unimaginable, wonderful evening of my life.” She gives her her hand, the one with the ring on it, and touches her goodbye.

And with immense grace she walks out the door, her head high on her slender neck, her eyes straight ahead into the dark, where I see a carriage and hail it.

She is my beautiful, my perfect Lily.

No comments:

Post a Comment