Category Archives: 37 Chapter Thirty-Seven

Eden 37:4

ellisSophia stepped up to Dr. Bertrand’s office door and hesitated just a fraction of a moment before knocking. She had not seen him all day, but had received a message to come to the office before she left the hospital in the evening. It was unusual that he insisted on the privacy of the office. He usually discussed her work in the halls of the hospital, at a patient’s bedside or over a short break for a meal at midday.

“Viens!” he called in response to her knock, and she opened the door and stepped inside. He stood and gave her an almost imperceptible bow. “Assieds sil-vous-plait,” he said, gesturing to the chair across the desk from his own. She sat.

“Mademoiselle Abington,” he switched to English.  “I saw your friend again yesterday.”

“My friend?”

“Ton ami…ou t’amie…” Dr. Bertrand raised an eyebrow. “Which should it be?”

Sophia suddenly felt her pulse throbbing at her throat. “Eden?”

Mademoiselle Smith, Monsieur Durand-Ruel called her.”

Sophia felt the blood drain from her face.

“A gifted artist. I bought one of her pictures,” the doctor said in a lighter tone.

Sophia sat in silence. Why had Eden not said that she had met him at the gallery?

“You might have told me, Miss Abington.” Bertrand shook his head slightly and looked at Sophia beneath bristling eyebrows. “I do not judge these things the way others might. I am a doctor, a man of science, non?”

“Of course,” Sophia said at last.

“In fact, your friend is a fascinating case. It is a wonder to me that you did not mention before now that you knew of such a perfect type of the invert. You have read Mr. Ellis’s work?” Bertrand’s tone was suddenly clinical.

“I have,” Sophia assented. “But Eden…Miss Smith—”

“It is a wonder to me that you have given such a person some kind of promise not to marry. I did not take you for the type of woman who finds herself vulnerable to such seductions. Perhaps it is the unnatural environment of the medical school and the company of so many men who think of you as a colleague, rather than a woman? Or perhaps the pathos of the case has overcome your judgment?” Bertrand sat back in his chair now and squinted condescendingly at Sophia.

She did not know what to say.

“Bien. We will forget it. But you must consider bringing your friend here for an interview with Dr. Hall. He is becoming something of a celebrity in the field of psycho-sexual pathologies. I know he would appreciate the opportunity to study such a typical case,” Bertrand suggested.

Sophia’s face was a stone. What part of what she felt was anger and what part shame, she could not have said. But it throbbed in the tips of her fingers and burned the edges of her ears. “I don’t believe Miss Smith would consent to that, even if I were to ask her,” she said.

Dr. Bertrand raised his eyebrows again. “It is of course, your own affair,” he said. “But cherie…” he smiled again. “Please take the advice of your professor, your elder and, dare I say, your friend, and forget the promise you have given this poor girl. She is an unfortunate person, to be sure, but you owe her nothing but your professional compassion. There is no reason a promise to her should stand in the way of your…marrying, for instance. Look in the glass, cherie. You will find a lovely young woman, though the rigors of your scientific work may have led you to forget her. I would not like to see such a mind twisted in hysterical confusion.” And he frowned just a little.

Sophia knew it was anger this time that brought the blood to her face. She took a deep breath. “Thank you Dr. Bertrand.” She rose from her chair. “If that is all, I must be getting home now.”

“Of course, Mademoiselle. Bonsoir.” And he stood as she saw herself out.

Eden 37:3

“Mademoiselle Smith!” Durand greeted Eden as she stepped into the gallery and his three patrons turned to stare at the person so addressed.

She noticed the patrons shifting their weight and hushing their own voices to overhear her conversation with the dealer. They were obviously confused to hear her addressed as “mademoiselle.” She wished they would leave. Instead, Durand himself called one of them to his side.

“Monsieur—” he said, “come meet the young lady about whom I was telling you.” To Eden’s horror, Doctor Bertrand of the Ecole Medecine turned to see her standing there.

“Monsieur Smith!” Dr. Bertrand’s face registered shock. “Young lady?”

Durand was laughing.  “I told you, the young lady makes a better gentleman.”

Eden was certain she was blushing now and she hated Durand for it. But she reached a polite hand towards the doctor. “Hello again, monsieur.”

He took her hand and said only, “bonjour.”

But Durand was curious, “again?” he asked.

“We have met,” Eden said, ignoring Durand’s curious expression.

Dr. Bertrand was still silent. Durand spoke for him. “Monsieur Bertrand has been showing great interest in some of your work. I was even now trying to persuade him to purchase the little picture of the peasant girls.”

Durand nodded at a small canvas on the wall behind Bertrand. It did not feature peasant girls, but Eden’s niece sitting on Sis’s lap. But Eden did not correct Durand. Instead she smiled at the doctor, “I hope you will decide the picture is worth your investment, monsieur,” she said.

Then, forgetting the business for which she had come, she left the gallery and walked quickly home, her heart racing all the way.

Eden 37:2

outdoorbreakfast“Do you think Larousse is as avant guarde as he lets on?” Decker asked Eden over tea in Eleanor’s garden.

“Perhaps—perhaps not. I don’t know him so well as all that,” Eden demurred.

“He said, the other day, that he didn’t believe in marriage—that women should be free. Giles said he didn’t know any real women who wanted any such a thing.”

“What did you say?”

“I didn’t.”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know. I don’t imagine I will ever want to marry myself. But my sister seems happy enough with her husband. Not that she would share her complaints with me, if she had them.” Decker frowned a little and looked down at the cigarette burning itself to a stub, unsmoked, in his hands. “Larousse said—” he began again, but Eden stopped him.

“Larousse doesn’t want to marry either, of course. So it’s easy enough for him to play with such theories.”

“You don’t think he’ll ever marry?” Decker asked.

“Oh, I doubt it very much,” Eden smiled a little again and tried to catch Decker’s eye. The boy’s face was nearly as red as his hair.

“He can’t marry Chloe of course,” Decker ventured.

“Chloe—the model he’s been working with?” Eden frowned. “I didn’t realize she and he…”

“I don’t know anything for certain, but he’s taken her places and she looks like a girl in love,” Decker said.

“He’s taken her places?” Eden wondered what these places were. She frowned down into her lap and brushed away some invisible lint from her knee. Trousers or not, the young men from the Beaux Arts regarded her as a woman. There were secrets of sex they would never, she despaired, reveal to her.

“Have you seen his studio?” Decker asked now.

“Not as yet,” Eden said.

“It’s small, but the light is fantastic—it’s the troisieme and there are skylights.  The stars at night—”

“At night?”

“I was just there once. Last week, for a coffee after the opera.”

“The two of you went to the opera?”

“With some others…I thought they asked you too, had they not?”

Eden just shrugged. She wanted to know more about Decker’s visit to Larousse’s atelier.

“He has some lovely things—especially for someone with no money to speak of.”

“I’m not surprised,” Eden said.  “Larousse has exquisite taste.”

“He’s wonderful, really,” Decker said, reddening again.

“I like his work.” Eden pretended not to notice Decker’s discomfort.

“He likes yours!” Decker looked up and met Eden’s eye. “He talked on and on about it, when I was there. He’s bought one of your desert pictures from Durand—did you know? And him, with no money…”

Eden’s eyebrows shot up. “He bought one of my pictures? Why would he do that? I’d have given him one, surely he knows he could ask.”

“Perhaps he didn’t want you to know. Now I’ve told you.” Decker made a pained face.

“I won’t let on that you did.”

Sophia came through the doors into the garden in her work clothes and her everyday hat. “I’m so sorry I’m late,” she told Eden. Then, “Hello Mr. Decker.  I do apologize. I’ll just go up and dress as quick as I can.”

Eden smiled and rose. “It’s all right, darling.”  She kissed Sophia’s cheek. “The exhibition will be there all afternoon.”

Sophia dressed and the three of them went out to see the latest offerings of Eden and her friends.

Eden 37:1

toureiffelThe wet Paris spring was beginning to give way to summer and tables cluttered the sidewalks. Eden sat at one of them now, arguing with three young men, all students at the Beaux Arts, about whether Picasso was a genius or an imbecile.

“He has no respect,” Giles said.

“Respect for what? Outmoded rules that could never express life in the new century?” Larousse countered.

Giles was English, Larousse French. The other, Decker, was an American, like Eden. He was twenty-years old and his blazing red hair and freckles drew attention to him wherever he went. Ironically, Eden found him to be almost girlishly shy. He looked at her expectantly now as if she might break the impasse.

She only dug into her breast pocket and offered him a cigarette. He shook his head. She lit it for herself instead.

Monsieur Smith,” Larousse said, “a modern woman such as yourself must surely agree that only a way like Picasso’s can lead us into a new century.”

Eden weighed her answer. “I like him,” she said.

“You must, of course,” Giles interrupted her. “I heard a rumor yesterday that you were his model for Garcon a la Pipe!” He roared with laughter at his own joke.

“What if she was?” Larousse asked. “Perhaps that is exactly the way to finally rid ourselves of the skulking remnants of the ancien regime!”

“Women in trousers?” Giles said. “Isn’t that going a bit far, even for you, Larousse?” He turned to Eden. “With all due respect of course.”

But Eden didn’t feel respected. She hoped she wasn’t blushing. Decker was, and she gave him a little smile and put her hand in the air to signal the waiter to refill his glass.

“Too far? Not far enough I say,” Larousse told Giles.

“So I suppose you’ll be putting on skirts next?” Giles said, laughing again.

“If he does, I’ll take him dancing,” Eden said, grinning at Larousse. “But I don’t agree that Picasso’s is the only way. I think we’ll need the best of the past too, to sustain us in the future.”

“I agree with Eden—Mademoiselle Smith,” Decker said, finally looking Giles in the eye.

“Eden is all right,” Eden smiled. Decker was from Chicago. His mother was dead and he had a rich father whom, Decker claimed, quietly but persistently hated his son. He had been more than happy to send the boy to Paris to learn to paint while he courted his daughter’s husband as a business partner.

Eden wondered if Decker might in fact like to put on a skirt and be taken dancing—but not by Eden.

Just as she was thinking so, Giles snapped open his watch and announced, “I’ve got to be going. I have to collect Mademoiselle Ninon for dinner this evening. You can all dance with each other if you like. I’ll be dancing with a proper lady—and a rich one at that.” He rose and left them, clipping his way down the street, walking stick tapping the paving stones self-importantly.

“I loathe the English,” Larousse said, tossing the end of his cigarette into the dregs of the drink Giles had left sitting on the table. “They think they own the world.”

“Giles isn’t so bad,” Eden said. “He’s just not a very good artist.” 

At this, Decker grinned but Larousse was still scowling. Eden looked from one to the other. “I should go too,” she said. “I’m meeting George for dinner at the Continental.”

And she rose and headed to the rue Rivoli.