“I do apologize for giving you such a shock,” Eleanor said as soon as the food was laid before her. “I was afraid it would take you months to agree to meet him and we don’t have months if we are to sail for Europe after you graduate.”
Eden bristled at Eleanor’s easy “we,” but she said nothing. Beneath her cooling anger, she knew that she didn’t want to go to Paris alone.
“Please try to understand that I had only your best interest at heart, darling.”
Eden began to soften. She believed Eleanor meant what she said. But she resented being left out of such a monumental decision about her own life. And she didn’t understand it.
“But why did I have to meet him in a skirt?” she asked at last.
“It was difficult enough for him to see you in a skirt. One thing at a time.”
“Difficult for him? One thing at a time? No more. I never want to see him again.” Eden was firm.
“I know how you feel about it. But there are many people you and he know in common. If you are to find yourself in his company again—even through no design of your own—it will best that you know who he is.”
Of course, Eleanor was right. Eden said nothing, but silently nodded an assent.
Eleanor reached into her breast pocket now and removed something. “This is for you,” she told Eden, handing her Henry Barrett’s bank draft. “Half of it is for your sister,” she added. “I’ll leave it to you to tell her where it came from.”
Eden looked at the figure on the check. “Eleanor, you can’t be serious!” she said in a low, shocked tone.
“Quite serious, Eden. It’s the least he could do, I assure you. I told you he’s as rich as a king.” Eleanor reached for her wine.
“I only wanted to know what he looked like…” Eden stared at the signature on the check. “I didn’t want this—I don’t care how rich he is. I told you, he’s nothing to me.”
“You’re something to him, though. And he knows it, whether he likes it or not.” Eleanor met Eden’s now and said gently, “take it. Put it in the bank and let it rot if you like, but take it. He owes it to your mother if nothing else.”
“My mother would not want it!” Eden said loudly to cover the tremble in her voice. “My mother would never stand for—”
“I know.” Eleanor interrupted her. “But take it anyway. It isn’t your doing, it’s mine. You asked him for nothing. Say it’s a gift from me.”
“One hundred thousand dollars?” Eden’s tone was incredulous. “A gift?”
Eleanor sighed. “Please.”
But Eden let the check fall to the table as she stood and walked out of the room.
At length, she rose and found Eden in the smoking room, standing by the fireplace, running a hand through her hair.
“I can take care of it for you, Eden. You needn’t touch it just right away.”
“I don’t care what you do with it.” Eden lit a cigarette and gave Eleanor a look that made it plain the conversation was over.