“Mademoiselle Smith!” Eden turned from talking to M. Durand-Ruel to see M. Lefebvre standing in the doorway of the gallery.
“Ah, oui! I knew it was she! Even dans ses pantalons!” Lefebvre exclaimed. “They said you ran away for shame when it was discovered that M. Smith of “Aphrodite” was a woman in trousers. But I didn’t believe them. You are no coward, Mmlle Smith.”
He came into the gallery now, and Eden was grateful no one but herself and Durand were there at the moment. Lefebvre clapped Eden on the back as if she were, indeed a young man.
“M. Lefebvre…” she greeted him quietly, putting out a hand.
“When did you return to Paris? Why have you never come back to the studio at the Academie? I did not dismiss you…” Lefebvre sounded amused in spite of his challenges.
“I went to see my family, Monsieur. I apologize. I had to leave in some haste. I have only been back for a few days.” Eden blushed slightly. She had not thought about the explanations that would be demanded of her upon her return to France. And Lefebvre had always been good to her. She felt guilty now for leaving his instruction so hastily. Thinking back over the last several months, they seemed far longer, as if she had been a child when last she had seen Lefebvre and now she was an adult.
But Lefebvre turned to Durand. “She is still selling well, then?”
“We have nothing left,” Durand told the old man. “The landscape you took was the last of it. I am now making her promise to bring me more soon.”
“Well, I suppose c’est vrai, you don’t need the Academie, anymore, Mme. Smith—if indeed you ever did. You have a great career ahead of you. I suspected as much when I met you.” Lefebvre smiled and clapped her on the back again.
But Eden had heard nothing since Durand had said “the landscape you took.” Had her teacher really bought one of her pictures?
“Thank you,” she said, not knowing how else to respond. “Merci.”