Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Risky Business

Dear Alice, I see you have a nice
hat. I could offer you all the
hats you could ever desire...
I was flipping through my copy of The Silver Thaw (which has one of the frost-melting-est covers) and came across Gideon van der Tolck's proposal:

"Why not marry me?" he asked her quietly.
Amelia jerked her head up in amazement, the whole of her suddenly intent on getting the conversation back on a rational footing. "Why on earth should I want to marry you?" she asked haughtily.
He said mildly: "Oh, I don't know--I've a large and comfortable home to offer you."
"I already have a large and comfortable home, thank you."
"So much the better--you would have two. And think of the children."
She gasped: "I haven't got any children!"
He answered her with an amused patience which made her want to grit her splendid teeth. "Of course not, dear girl; that takes time, but a family of, say, three would need room in which to grow, don't you agree? What could be a pleasanter childhood for them? And when we're old and helpless..."
He was joking and she didn't know whether to be sorry or glad about it. Her fierce frown smoothed itself and she chuckled. "You're absurd! You may get old, but you'll never be helpless."
"Ah, now that's a sound argument. I shall be able to look after you and cherish you until my last breath."

The Great Betty wrote this with such mastery. Amelia is still engaged to the worthy Tom and is almost overset by Gideon's proposal...if that's what it is. She isn't sure. But Gideon has been painting a picture of life that looks very different than prudently delaying a family and being called 'old girl' long before actually becoming one.
In my review of The Silver Thaw I further commented on Tom's interest in kicking the marital can down the road:

(Tom's) got a brand new job offer! In Australia! The one in the Antipodes! A contract! For five years! On the condition he stays single!
It doesn't take a mathematical genius half a second to do the quickest sums ever."Tom, in five years I'll be thirty-two!" And really, if you think about it, he's asking the impossible. For instance, if you walked into Cafe Chi-Chi and were told about the 3 hour dinner wait, you might say to yourself, "But the vichyssoise is really, really good and I'm not starving anyway. I'm already here and wearing the right clothes. Put my name on the list." Say then that you face the same wait time at Mac-Burger-o-rama's...for yesterday's boiled-over potatoes...
I think I've made my case. The prosecution rests.
Amelia agrees. "I just can't face five years of theatre and living like a nun..." 

And there Gideon is, dangling the prospect of being eternally cherished right there in front of her nose. The Great Betty was a genius. Even a bigger one when you realize that Gideon hasn't risked being turned down in earnest. She has him phrase his proposal in such concrete terms but with enough room to claim he was not serious if Amelia wants to fight about it. So clever. SUCH good writing.

My Mijnheer did not leave himself that wiggle room when he proposed. He is one who punches from the shoulder, "When I talk about you to other people, I call you my girlfriend. What do you call me?" He used the words "Will you marry me?" in that order so that I could not be confused for a moment. Getting on his knee was involved (no mean feat in a Utah snow).

So, how far did your loved ones have to stick their necks out? Was it the slow negotiation of a peace treaty? A bolt out of the blue? A growing acceptance that this is the way things would turn out? (I am picturing a slow-moving gelatinous