Category Archives: 34 Chapter Thirty-Four

Eden 34:4

“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.”

Eden 34:3

It felt to Eden as though she spent more time in the next several days with George St. John than she did with Sophia, who plunged herself immediately into studying for the medical school exams. She would hear nothing of taking breaks to walk in the gardens or sit in a café, insisting that no matter how well she had done in Boston, the work would be harder in French. Once she tried to play the old cabinet piano in Eleanor’s parlor. But she quickly declared it hopelessly out of tune and went back to her books.

So rather than taking George out to dance with Sophia, Eden and her friend wandered through the Luxembourg gardens or sat under Eleanor’s apple trees and smoked.

It wasn’t until she had been in Paris well over a week and George had taken the train back to Calais that Eden rose at dawn, walked alone to the rue d’Assas and opened the door to the studio she had not entered in months.

She scanned the room. Half-finished canvases lay propped against the walls. She glanced at the sofa in the corner and quickly away again. The midday light fell through the long windows in great swaths that revealed the drops of paint on the dark floorboards.

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Eden took the paint she had bought that morning out of its box and assembled a little group of bottles and jars on a table right under a beam of light. She painted them from four different perspectives. When the sun was gone she locked the studio and walked home in the dark to join Sophia for dinner.

Eden 34:2

Eden met George St. John in the lobby of Hotel Continental and they went into the dining room for lunch.

“It’s good to see you back, Eden, you’re looking well,” George said sincerely after they had ordered drinks. “I had almost given up on you last winter.”

Eden didn’t want to discuss last winter. “Have you been in Paris all summer?” she asked instead.

“I was in London for a few weeks, but I came back last month. I’ll be leaving soon again though.” George plucked at the cuffs of her sleeves.

“Don’t leave too soon. We just got here,” Eden said. “Sophia wants us all to have dinner this week. El’s gone to Rome and Bette’s away as well. We’re alone in the house for another fortnight.”

“Who is the all of us Sophia would have for dinner, then?” George asked.

“You and Sylvie, Sophie and I,” Eden clarified.

George took up the glass of whiskey the waiter had brought her and drank half of it at once. “Sylvie’s engaged.”

Eden was quiet for a moment. “I thought she was going to go to college,” she said at last.

George shook her head. “Don’t tell me you thought she was serious about that. She was just flirting with you. Girls like Sylvie Babin don’t go to college. She had an offer—or her father did—from some rich Italian with a title and a villa. She’s in Venice now.”

“God George, I’m sorry,” Eden said quietly.

“I should have expected it, I suppose. What can I offer her to rival marriage into nobility…children, grandchildren…” George trailed off. “What kind of girl would give that up?”

Sophia would, Eden thought, but she said nothing. She suspected George did not consider Sophia Abington to be the sort of girl who would receive an offer from Italian nobility. And though George was probably right, Eden felt defensive. Sophia wouldn’t marry if she had an offer from the Prince of Wales, she wanted to say.

But George was looking miserable and Eden couldn’t be angry. “Listen, we’ll go out somewhere and take turns dancing with Sophie.” She smiled.

“Perhaps,” George said as their food arrived. She finished her whiskey in a second gulp and ordered another. Eden eyed her worriedly.

“What will you do in London when you go back?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll try to write something,” George said without much conviction.

“Why not stay in Paris and write something here?” Eden asked.

“I couldn’t bear it,” George said. She’s often in town, you know, shut up tight in the Faubourg. She’s being such a good girl, she won’t be found within a mile of me—returns my letters unopened. Liz won’t even have me at her fetes anymore.She used to say I was ‘an asset in her ballroom,’ but now I’m the villain who would steal Sylvie from her prince.”

“I’m sorry,” Eden said again. “If you go back to London, we’ll come see you as often as we can.”

“Never mind. Tell me about Sophia. She’s abandoned her plans to be a doctor? And come on your coattails to Paris after all?”

“She’s abandoned nothing,” Eden said. “She’s going to finish her training at the Ecole Medecine.”

“Her family doesn’t mind?” George asked now, remembering Eden’s explanation last year, for Sophia’s decision to study in Boston.

“They do…a little.”

“But…?” George prodded.

“But she’s come anyway,” Eden said quietly.

“I’m happy for you,” George said and finished her lunch.

Eden 34:1

ruejacobSophia was moving her clothes from her steamer trunk into a wardrobe in the corner of the vast bedroom room Eleanor had insisted she take in the house in Paris. But Eden was still not sure if it was enough.

“Are you sure you don’t mind living in Eleanor’s house?” Eden asked.  “I could get us our own place if you prefer.”

The question of money came up automatically in Sophia’s mind, but she did not voice it. “It would be wasteful to let all these rooms stand empty, don’t you think? If Eleanor really doesn’t mind.”

“She insists, you heard her. But if you want something else…”

“I don’t. There’s not a thing in the world I want,” Sophia said.

They worked together quietly for a moment.

“Maybe I’ll just call on Liz tomorrow afternoon and see who is in Paris. We could have dinner with George and Sylvie,” Eden suggested.

“That would be lovely.”

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Eden watched Sophia work for a long moment, changing her weight from foot to foot and running her hand through her hair. “Thank you,” she finally said.

Sophia looked up. “What for?”

“Thank you for coming.” Eden took Sophia in her arms. “Je t’aime,” she said, kissing her. “Je t’aime, je t’aime…si beaucoup.”