Category Archives: 13 Chapter Thirteen

Eden 13:3

EleanorThere was no reason in the world, Eleanor thought, that Eden shouldn’t have a share in Henry Barrett’s vast estate. It would be a matter of simple justice. After all, Eden was his child. He had taken great advantage of Eden’s mother when Lillian was younger even, than Eden was now. And it would hardly cause him a sting to provide enough to take Eden’s financial concerns away indefinitely.

Eleanor had guessed Eden wouldn’t respond well to her suggestion. The girl had such a quick, hot temper when she felt some slight to her beloved family. She was like her mother that way, Eleanor knew, and admired her for it. But the girl was young and didn’t know half of what she would need to learn to survive in Eleanor’s world. And it was Eleanor’s world she was fated to live in, however loyal she might be to her people in Arizona. Eleanor had to help her, even if Eden resented her for it.

IMG_2922She sat down at the little writing desk at the window of her room, took out her stationery and began a letter.

Eden 13:2

EdenAfter the concert to which Eleanor took her, Eden declined dinner, saying she had to study. It was true enough—she always had to study something—but she was still feeling disturbed by the scene in Eleanor’s dining room and she wanted to be alone. She likewise declined a carriage ride home, and though the sky was growing dim, bid Eleanor goodbye, thrust her hands in her pockets and set off back to Cambridge on foot.

Eden frowned at the pavement as she walked. It was not as though she had never wondered about him. Ever since she realized that there had to be a man somewhere in her mother’s past that explained her own and her sister’s existence, she had been curious.

She did not long to know him. She did not think of him as “father.” She only wondered sometimes, vaguely, if she looked anything like him, the way her sister looked so like her mother; if he had other children; if he was, in fact, living or dead.

But now, suddenly faced with the fact of him—the accessible reality of him—Eden shrank in horror and wished him at the bottom of the sea.

She had only one father, her papa, who had danced with her in her mother’s kitchen the very day she was born. Her papa, Joe Smith, had said yes, when twelve-year old Eden had begged to be taught to work with the men and boys instead of left with her mother and sister to cook and wash and raise chickens. Her papa had taken Eden quietly aside and shown her how to wrap her breasts in bandages to conceal them beneath the handsome suits her Aunt Susan had made her before coming to Boston. Without being asked or told, her papa understood her in a way no one else on earth ever could. As much as Eleanor Stephens might have reason to take a “special interest” in her, Joe Smith had watched her grow—watched her as someone who had lived through the same thing—and knew exactly where she had come from. Eleanor would never know that. This man, Henry Barrett, knew less than nothing. He didn’t even know she existed, did he?

Eden’s stomach turned as she realized that she didn’t know if he knew she existed. She wondered if Eleanor did. How could her mother have told Francine and not told Eden she had done it? How could these other people know the man’s name, when she herself did not know it? She knew she should be angry with her mother for telling, but instead, she was angry with Eleanor for knowing.

When she reached her room, she opened the drawer in her desk that held her letters from Arizona. She drew out the last one her father had sent and read it tearfully.

Joe - Version 2Dear Eden,

I hope this letter finds you well and happy.

We miss you so much here, darling. I miss you, I should admit I mean. Your mother and your sister never forget you of course. But there are times when your papa gets lonely in a way that only his Eden would understand. And those are the times I wish you were home instead of so far away.

I sometimes worry about you out there among strangers. I know you have wonderful friends. Miss Stephens in particular has been so good to you. Your mother and I are grateful for that, of course. But somehow, when I think of you up in Boston I have a picture in my head of you walking down the street alone and I wonder if you are really alright, darling. You’d write and tell me if ever you were not wouldn’t you? Never think there is anything you can’t tell your papa.

maybehorses2The foals from last spring are all looking fine this year. There’s not one I wouldn’t be happy to keep for myself. But there is one in particular I am going to raise for you. He’s a pretty brown bay colt with four white socks and a perfect blaze. He is one of Orion’s grandsons and he reminds me a little of his fine old grandsire in his youthful days. I’d let you name him, but there is no telling when you’ll be home again, and he can’t go nameless indefinitely. What do you think of Arrow? He’s going to be fast, if not exactly straight—he’s got Orion’s spirit certainly. I think we’ll not geld him. I don’t want to see that spirit dimmed, somehow. I’ll take good care of him and train him well, but he’ll be yours. I’ve said he reminds me of Orion, but it’s just come to me that he reminds me of you.

Your mother says that you are a fine student and never doubt that I am proud of you for it.  But more important than anything you might accomplish in the judgment of others, I want you to be satisfied that you are doing the thing in life you were put here to do. I don’t mean to be sentimental. You know that isn’t my way. But life is hard enough for everyone, and harder still for people like you and me. Finding the right work; the right place; the right people is such a great comfort. And I wish those things for you my dearest child.

Please send a letter just for me sometime. Don’t neglect your papa. I know your mother writes more often, but not an evening goes by I don’t look for Orion in the sky and hope you are looking for it too and thinking of us at home.

I love you, Eden.

Your Papa

It had been two weeks since the letter had come. One thing and another had kept her too busy to reply. She took her pen from the desk now and began to write.

Eden 13:1

Eleanor“I’ve brought your breakfast myself, darling, but you must get up,” Eleanor cajoled a dark-haired, dark-eyed woman who lay sprawled across the bed, her naked body only half covered by the linens.

“Mmm…must I really?” the woman asked, propping herself on some pillows and reaching for the cup of tea Eleanor handed her.

Eleanor smiled, “You certainly must. It’s late.” And she sat on the edge of the bed and lit a cigarette.

“What a lovely party, Eleanor. You have such a talent for entertaining,” the woman said between sips of tea.

“It helps that you have such a talent for appreciating my wine cellar,” Eleanor teased.

The woman ignored the comment. “You are so much more amusing than my husband, darling,” she sighed heavily and reached out to run her fingers through Eleanor’s hair.

“I am amusing. Your husband is rich.”

“No richer than you,” the woman pouted.

“But I can’t marry you, can I?” Eleanor pointed out, taking the woman’s hand from her hair and kissing it, before setting it down on the bed again.

“You would though—if you could—wouldn’t you?” the woman prodded.

Eleanor smiled. “Lunch in half an hour. I’m going to get dressed. If you need anything, ring Christine.” And she rose and left the room.

***

An hour later, Eden Smith stood at Eleanor’s front door. She was early for their planned engagement, but didn’t think El would mind.

Mrs. Williams, opened the door. “Good afternoon, Miss Smith,” she said, taking Eden’s hat, coat and gloves, “I’ll announce you.” And she showed Eden to the little dayroom opposite the parlor and hastened away.

puseywindowsEden loved Eleanor’s dayroom. It was small compared to the other parlors, but it featured an enormous bay window of leaded glass that were not hidden away by the heavy drapes that covered most of the other windows in the house. So much light filled the room that it was almost a conservatory. Little prisms danced about, falling here and there on the marble floor tiles, the wood-paneled walls and the mahogany furniture.

After a few moments, Mrs. Williams returned, saying “Miss Stephens says you must join her.”

Eden rose and followed the woman to the dining room where Eleanor and a woman in a wilting voile evening gown sat around the ruins of luncheon.

“I’m sorry…” Eden began, but Eleanor cut her off.

“Sit down, darling,” she insisted. “You’ve met Vivienne Webb, I think?”

Eden looked at the woman, puzzled.

But the woman smiled and put out her hand without rising from the table, “you’re the cowboy’s daughter, how could I forget?”

Eden took the woman’s hand and sat. The kitchen maid hastened to bring a table setting and placed it before Eden.

“It was two years ago at Francine’s party—before you began your studies,” Eleanor reminded Eden.

“Of course,” smiled Eden politely without remembering at all.

“She’s a dear, Eleanor. How have I missed her until today?” Mrs. Webb chastened. “You must hide her away.”

“Of course not,” Eleanor answered. “But Eden is quite busy with her studies. Not everyone can waste time as brilliantly as you and I, Vivienne.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Webb, rising from the table, “I’m afraid I’ve wasted as much as I can today. Wills is expecting mummy this evening. Some new girl he wants me to meet.”

Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “It sounds serious.”

Mrs. Webb shrugged. “It’s the third one I’ve had to chatter with over tea. Wills doesn’t seem able to make up his mind.” She sighed.

breakfast - Version 2Eleanor rose from the table, but the other woman stopped her. “Do sit, Eleanor, I can see myself out. Don’t leave your little friend alone.” She smiled at Eden who had risen too and took her extended hand. “So lovely to see you again.”

Eden gave her a little bow. “And you.”

Vivienne swept out of the room, followed by the maid. Eleanor sat and gestured for Eden to do the same. “Do you want something to eat?” she asked Eden.

“No thanks—well maybe just a cup of tea,” she changed her mind quickly.  Eleanor nodded at the kitchen maid in the doorway.

The two were silent for a moment.

“Vivienne is a small diversion of mine, in case you’re curious,” Eleanor said. “I didn’t mention it before.” She raised an eyebrow. “After your reaction to Alice Vine, I wasn’t sure you’d approve.”

“It’s none of my business,” Eden said with a blush.

Eleanor lit a cigarette as Eden’s tea arrived. “Smoke?” Eleanor asked the girl.

Eden shook her head.

“In fact, Eden, Vivienne is your business—somewhat tangentially.” Eleanor tapped the ash from her cigarette. “I have been trying to think of a way to bring it up for some time, in fact…”

Eden looked at her friend curiously.

“Eden… Darling…” Eleanor paused.  “Listen, don’t be upset, but Vivienne…” She frowned.

“What is it, El?” A knot was beginning to form in Eden’s stomach.

“Have you heard the name Henry Barrett?”

Eden was quiet for a moment. “I don’t think so.”

Eleanor put down her cigarette and met Eden’s eye. “What I’m going to tell you might be a bit shocking, so please bear with me.”

cigcaseEden was really worried now. She put down her cup and reached into her breast pocket for the cigarette case Eleanor had given her for her birthday in Paris.

Eleanor waited until Eden had lit her cigarette, before speaking again. Then, “Henry Barrett was your mother’s husband. Her first one, before she…married…Joe Smith.”

The color drained from Eden’s face. “How do you know about any of that?”She had never spoken her mother’s secret to anyone.  But now Eleanor was claiming to know more about it even, than Eden.

“It doesn’t matter how I know. But I do—I know all of it,” Eleanor added gently. “I’ve never breathed a word to anyone, of course.”

“What does this have to do with that woman?” Eden asked, looking at the door through which Vivienne Webb had gone, refusing to meet Eleanor’s gaze.

“Her husband is Henry Barrett’s cousin. She met your mother years ago—” Eleanor said. “Naturally, she didn’t make the connection when you appeared in Francine’s parlor,” she quickly added.

Eden stared blankly at her hands and watched her cigarette burn.

“Eden?”

“What do you want me to say?” Eden asked in a whisper. She didn’t look up.

“Listen, darling. I know you love…your father. But Henry Barrett is rich as a king—”

Eden cut her off, “what’s that to me? It’s nothing—it’s nothing, Eleanor!” and she rose from the table in haste.

“Eden, please,” Eleanor rose too, put out her hand and begged, “please sit, just hear what I have to say.”

But Eden skulked to the corner of the room and squinted out the small window into the grey garden.

“Alright, don’t sit, but listen,” Eleanor began again in even tones. “I think it best that you not let Henry Barrett die believing himself to be childless…” She paused.

“Is he not childless?” Eden asked, her voice quivering slightly.

“You know he is not.”

Eden finally looked up with a scowl. “I want to know where you came by these ideas of yours!”

Eleanor was quiet for a moment.

“When I met your father, it was obvious to me that you were not his natural child, darling.”

“But this story about Henry Barrett…”

“Barrett is well known to have lost his young wife when she drowned herself in misery or drunkenness—it depends on who is telling the story—on her honeymoon in Boston twenty years ago. Of course, everyone speaks to the man’s face as if it were an accident, but everyone smiles behind his back,” Eleanor paused.  “He’s an ass. He deserves it.”

“What makes you think his wife was my mother?” Eden pressed.

“Your mother told Francine and Francine told me.” Eden’s face grew stormy again. “She told me in particular—she told no one else—because she could see that I might take a special interest in you.”

“A special interest in me?” Eden crossed her arms tightly, but turned to face her friend.

“It’s obvious why that would be the case, isn’t it?” Eleanor gave Eden a small smile. “Francine had the best of intentions and so do I.” She paused. “And I feel you ought to meet Henry Barrett.”

“No.” Eden did not consider it for a fraction of a moment. “Even if it is true, I don’t care. He is no one to me.”

“Of course not darling, of course not. But that does not mean—”

“No.” Eden wouldn’t let Eleanor finish the thought. “Shall I go, or will you continue to pursue this idea?”

“I apologize, Eden.” Eleanor sighed. “Forget I brought it up.”

“I assure you, I will,” Eden told her.