As I was putting up Lanying’s bedroom mirror, she said to me “Shall I wipe away the pencil mark now?” She had made a mark on the wall where she wanted the mirror to go.
“Only if you want me to trip over you and break my neck,” I told her, aiming the drill at a spot on the wall three inches above her left shoulder.
That made her angry. “I hate you English!” she said. “Why can’t you say what you mean?”
But I was saying what I meant.
I’m sure Vesper Lynd was also saying what she meant when, wearing a black velvet dress that was “simple and yet with the touch of splendour that only half a dozen couturiers in the world can achieve,” she turned to James Bond and said:
‘Do you mind if we go straight into dinner? I want to make a grand entrance and the truth is there’s a horrible secret about black velvet. It marks when you sit down. And, by the way, if you hear me scream tonight, I shall have sat on a cane chair.’
It is a perfectly reasonable thing to scream about but some commentators seem to have missed the irony and take her for only a silly woman.
The irony is not lost on Bond, who screams and thinks of Vesper while Le Chiffre is attacking his exposed underparts with a cane carpet beater through the hole in a bottomless cane chair.
Some commentators have called Ian Fleming a misogynist because of his portrayal of Vesper Lynd. Probably those commentators are impervious to the tenderness in the moment when Bond’s ice cold brutality melts and he asks her, ‘Do you know, that first morning I was coming back to ask you to marry me. Can’t we go back to the beginning again?’
Fleming’s detractors probably skimmed over the bit where Vesper’s deep blue eyes were swimming with tears because of the secret she couldn’t possibly share. The depths in her actions and in her character must have been lost on them.
I wonder how much they skipped in order to reach the last paragraph, which they probably read, as they read the whole book, without irony.
‘This is 007 speaking. This is an open line. It’s an emergency. Can you hear me? Pass this on at once. 3030 was a double, working for Redland.
‘Yes, dammit, I said “was.” The bitch is dead now.’
Call me misogynistic, but for me that final sentence is definitely the best in the book.