Eden 40:1

Smoking_in_black_and_whiteEden sat smoking and sketching in Wil Hyland’s country house garden. She had gone to London only to discover that George was with Wil at Windmoor—her estate in Kent—with at least twenty other people, and was planning an indefinite stay.

At dinner on the evening of her arrival, Eden had found herself seated next to Alice Chamberlain and her heart had skipped a beat. It was not that she had not seen Alice from time to time in Paris. There was no baby yet, and Alice had nothing to keep her in London but the husband whom she claimed worked from dawn until dinner—sometimes later—every day, and, she insisted, never missed her.

But frequently as Alice might have been in Paris, Eden had only ever seen her at Liz’s parties. And to these, Eden had gone less often. She almost never went to them without Sophia, who was rarely able to get away from her work for such things.

Now Alice’s husband was on an extended trip to India to handle some legal business for the government and Alice was settled in at Windmoor for the duration. The idea of sharing the confined space of Wil’s house, immense as it might be, with Alice—and without Sophie—had made Eden nervous enough to consider returning alone to London alone. But at the mention of this idea to George over breakfast on the first morning after her arrival, she had been sharply corrected.

“If you are afraid Alice has designs on you, mate, you should know that she is otherwise occupied just now,” George said.

“Occupied…?”

“Oh, smitten even—quite,” George insisted.

“With whom?” Eden asked.

George only smiled and colored behind her pince nez and her cigarette.

“You?” Eden frowned. “And you don’t mind that she’s married?”

“If she doesn’t mind it, why should I?” George said.

Eden just shook her head.

“You are a puritanical American to the bone, Eden Smith,” George accused.

“I don’t see anything in it for you in the end, that’s all,” Eden said.

Rheinwiesen“There is nothing in it for me in the end. I have no illusions about that. But it is not the future we are about. It is the present. And at present, we are far from the end, I assure you.” George tapped the ash from her cigarette and snapped her fingers at a spaniel in the corner of the garden, who came running at the signal.

The dog, really an adolescent puppy, George introduced to Eden as “Sykes,” a gift, only weeks before, from Alice Chamberlain herself.

He bounded rudely halfway into Eden’s lap, licking her face and wagging his tail. Eden shook her head again, but laughed.

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