A portrait of Mrs. Joanna Lloyd and her sister by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) exhibited in 1776 - only Mrs. Lloyd is shown above acquired by Lord Rothschild in the late 19th century
As we enter our name is announced: Baron and Baroness Du Roy de Cantel! All eyes turn towards us and a hush announces Lily's presence, a compliment to her loveliness. And then we are swept up in the crowd bowing and acknowledging so many people. I see Clo and catch her eye as she shyly turns away smiling slightly but looking downcast.
Lily is beside me as we greet some of my acquaintances and business connections. She is pale and lovely and neither the men nor the women can take their eyes off her. The women are wondering about her dress and the men about what's inside it.
I watch an elegant man come towards us. He is moving directly to Lily. He stops in front of her and addresses her, "Baroness Du Roy, the last time I saw you was in New York and you were Miss Lily Bart." He takes her offered hand and leans down to kiss it tenderly. I hate him already.
"Lord Rothschild, what a surprise to see you again, and here in Paris. My husband Baron Du Roy," she says as she turns to introduce him to me. "Georges, an old acquaintance, Lord Rothschild."
"I met your wife under unusual circumstances. She presented a series of tableauxvivantsin collaboration with a Mr. Morpeth at a large elegant social evening and she was in the final tableauxas Mrs. Joanna Lloyd in the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Of course she was - and is - so incredibly beautiful that no one there that evening could take their eyes off her. I see the same is happening tonight." He smiles at Lily and then at me. "She was unforgettable in that tableaux and unforgettable still I see," as he acknowledges Lily's beauty.
I was so taken with your performance that I desired to own the painting. Mr. Morpeth, seeing my admiration, told me the painting was being auctioned at Sotheby's the following week hoping the price would increase after seeing the tableauxtonight. He asked me if I were interested in it and I was. And that was how I acquired your inspiration of that painting, the one of the two sisters, and Mrs. Lloyd carving her husband's name on the bark of the tree imitating AsYouLikeIt."Lord Rothschild laughs and says, "You drove the price up very dear, my dear. I had to outbid Mr. Rosedale for it. Alas for him he was not going to bid his entire fortune for it, so I easily added it to the Rothschild collection. It hangs in my Berlin home in the sitting room just adjacent to my bedroom, where I can look at it every night I am in Berlin and be reminded of that marvelous night."
I know who he wants to imagine before he sleeps each night he is in Berlin. I want to kill him, kill him viciously and torturously.
"Had I not been already married Baroness..." and he subtly lets his sentence hang in the air. Yes, he is after her all right. Before she was protected by her unmarried proper status, but now he sees her as fair game.
Lily is uncomfortable now and catches the eye of Clo who comes over to us trying hard to smile vivaciously. Lily reaches out to her and says, Madame Marelle, I should like you to meet Lord Rothschild, an old acquaintance of mine from New York."
And my god, Lily has just done the same thing to him that she did to me in New York. She has artfully distracted him and freed herself to turn to Madame Walter and join her. I cannot accompany her and so I must stay here with Clo and Lord Rothschild.
MybewitchingbitchI think, as I am now cornered. Lord Rothschild murmurs over Clo's hand, charming her. She smiles bewitchingly at him, and then excuses herself. Now the duel begins.
"I heard that your newspaper is wishing to expand into Berlin. Is this true?"
"It is certainly something we have been thinking about." Iknowjustwhereheisgoingnow.
"Please accept my invitation to be my personal guests when you come to Berlin. And please, have your beautiful wife accompany you and I shall personally show you both our lovely city. And I shall definitely show you the original painting that inspired your wife's exceptional performance."
"The original is here in Paris," I say coldly.
Lord Rothschild chuckles and says smoothly, "Of course. I was forgetting Mrs. Lloyd has left us long long ago and Sir Reynolds also, but a far more lovely original is with us now. I do wish you had known her then and seen her in that role. Incomparable. You will see when you view the painting."
By now I am in a rage that this all happened before I met Lily, and he senses it and is amused.
"Yes, come to Berlin and I think we will be great friends. Your newspaper should do very well in Berlin. We have many readers and speakers of French there."
"I was hoping to also have a German edition, with the French viewpoint of course, on political affairs. Do you think that would be too disruptive?"
"No, not at all. The German citizens need an alternative way of seeing the world. We are inclined to be too ... well, perhaps too insular, too conforming. It will help us to see another side, the French side. Yes, I welcome differences. I think many Germans will also, even the ones we least expect it of." and again he laughs smoothly at his own joke.
Yes, I think he is charming. But Lily is mine. He will never have her; however, I will allow him to look.