Eden met George St. John in the lobby of Hotel Continental and they went into the dining room for lunch.
“It’s good to see you back, Eden, you’re looking well,” George said sincerely after they had ordered drinks. “I had almost given up on you last winter.”
Eden didn’t want to discuss last winter. “Have you been in Paris all summer?” she asked instead.
“I was in London for a few weeks, but I came back last month. I’ll be leaving soon again though.” George plucked at the cuffs of her sleeves.
“Don’t leave too soon. We just got here,” Eden said. “Sophia wants us all to have dinner this week. El’s gone to Rome and Bette’s away as well. We’re alone in the house for another fortnight.”
“Who is the all of us Sophia would have for dinner, then?” George asked.
“You and Sylvie, Sophie and I,” Eden clarified.
George took up the glass of whiskey the waiter had brought her and drank half of it at once. “Sylvie’s engaged.”
Eden was quiet for a moment. “I thought she was going to go to college,” she said at last.
George shook her head. “Don’t tell me you thought she was serious about that. She was just flirting with you. Girls like Sylvie Babin don’t go to college. She had an offer—or her father did—from some rich Italian with a title and a villa. She’s in Venice now.”
“God George, I’m sorry,” Eden said quietly.
“I should have expected it, I suppose. What can I offer her to rival marriage into nobility…children, grandchildren…” George trailed off. “What kind of girl would give that up?”
Sophia would, Eden thought, but she said nothing. She suspected George did not consider Sophia Abington to be the sort of girl who would receive an offer from Italian nobility. And though George was probably right, Eden felt defensive. Sophia wouldn’t marry if she had an offer from the Prince of Wales, she wanted to say.
But George was looking miserable and Eden couldn’t be angry. “Listen, we’ll go out somewhere and take turns dancing with Sophie.” She smiled.
“Perhaps,” George said as their food arrived. She finished her whiskey in a second gulp and ordered another. Eden eyed her worriedly.
“What will you do in London when you go back?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll try to write something,” George said without much conviction.
“Why not stay in Paris and write something here?” Eden asked.
“I couldn’t bear it,” George said. She’s often in town, you know, shut up tight in the Faubourg. She’s being such a good girl, she won’t be found within a mile of me—returns my letters unopened. Liz won’t even have me at her fetes anymore.She used to say I was ‘an asset in her ballroom,’ but now I’m the villain who would steal Sylvie from her prince.”
“I’m sorry,” Eden said again. “If you go back to London, we’ll come see you as often as we can.”
“Never mind. Tell me about Sophia. She’s abandoned her plans to be a doctor? And come on your coattails to Paris after all?”
“She’s abandoned nothing,” Eden said. “She’s going to finish her training at the Ecole Medecine.”
“Her family doesn’t mind?” George asked now, remembering Eden’s explanation last year, for Sophia’s decision to study in Boston.
“They do…a little.”
“But…?” George prodded.
“But she’s come anyway,” Eden said quietly.
“I’m happy for you,” George said and finished her lunch.