Two days later Eden was making good progress on her portrait of Miss Strether, when a telegram arrived in the hand of a servant bringing tea. She opened the thin slip of blue and read:
Liverpool to Boston-stop-White Star 1 August-stop-state room first class-stop-expect ticket by post-stop-I stay on in Paris through winter-ES
Relief flooded her as she carefully folded the telegram and placed it back on the tray. She would soon be reunited with Sophia. But she was disappointed that Eleanor would not accompany them to Boston. She was already grieved to lose her near daily conversations with Bette and now she would have to get on without Eleanor too. She sighed and glanced across the room at Miss Strether posed on the dining room hearthrug before a cold grate, costumed in some vaguely but colorfully oriental drapery and a mass of jewels with which Wil had decked her.
The actress smiled caressingly, as if Eden might need her comfort—or as if she rather hoped Eden did. “No bad news I hope?”
“No—just business.” Eden immediately regretted her curt tone. “Shall we stop a moment for tea?”
Eden poured it and held out a cup to Miss Strether.
“What a gentleman you are,” the opulent woman cooed, unconsciously echoing Alice Chamberlain, and it came suddenly to Eden that it was not only for Sophia she longed, but for the earnest simplicity of Boston itself.
The ticket arrived on her breakfast tray the very morning after she had completed Miss Strether’s portrait. She ignored the food and began packing her things. It was only the 10th of July, but she would return to London by the afternoon train. The sooner she could taker her leave of Windmoor the better.