Category Archives: 42 Chapter Forty-Two

Eden 42:6

car

Eden had been in Provincetown for a fortnight when the motor car arrived on Beacon Hill.

One morning before Sophia left for the hospital, Jack, the footman, appeared in the morning room and announced that Miss Abington had better come to the front door. Sophia had left her breakfast and followed to find a coughing, rumbling machine in the street. A man in goggles sat in the driver’s seat and smiled. He stopped the engine and got out.

“Are you Eden Smith?” He bowed slightly in Sophia’s direction.

“I am Sophia Abington.” Sophia held out her hand.

The man removed his glove and took it. “Anderson,” he said. “Dr. Abington is it? The lady doctor?” Sophia nodded. “I am your new chauffeur.”

The next day a letter arrived from Eleanor explaining that Wil Hyland had bought an automobile and taught Eleanor to drive. Eleanor had ordered one, sent Jack to inspect it and hire a chauffeur and hoped that Eden and Sophia would find it useful until her own arrival in Boston

Sophia could not understand exactly what the car’s use was. She always walked or took the streetcars unless Eden ordered the landaulette for a special occasion. Such occasions were few. But at long last, her research paper was finished and submitted to Harvard.

She might as well celebrate with a motor drive to the cape.

***

Eden was painting a still life of seashells when she heard the chugging of an engine, the whinny of a frightened horse and the shout of an irritated neighbor. A wide smile crossed her face.

She dropped her brush, wiped her hands on a rag and walked quickly to the front door, “Sophie!” she called as the driver stopped the noisy motor and leapt out to open Sophia’s door. Sophia pulled the veil up over the wide brim of her hat and gave Anderson a gloved hand as she climbed carefully down.

Eden was at her side in a step, kissing her cheek and giving her an arm as the driver restarted the car and turned it into the carriage house where an anxious groom held open the door.

“The drive has done you good. There are roses in your cheeks already. And Lucy’s clam chowder will put some flesh back on your bones,” Eden said.

She showed Sophia all over the cottage, from the little front parlor and dining room to Eden’s studio at the back and the veranda that curled around three quarters of the house like a sleepy cat. Last, Eden showed Sophia into the largest room on the main floor, a drawing room with a broad window and a thick Turkey carpet. Upon the carpet was a grand piano, nearly as fine as the one in the house on Chestnut Street.

“Oh!” Sophia said, dropping Eden’s hand and stepping to the instrument to play a little trill.

“It arrived yesterday.” Eden smiled. She had spent half the annual allowance Eleanor had given her to buy the piano. She hoped it would keep Sophia on the cape longer than the week or two she had promised in her letter. “You can play all day long, darling.”

“My poor boy,” Sophia said, looking at Eden with a smile. “I’ve neglected you terribly, haven’t I?” She kissed Eden. “Show me the water.” And Eden led her out the back of the cottage and down the boardwalk to the end of the pier.

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Eden 42:5

Sophia didn’t come home until near twelve. But when she did, she was shocked to find Eden opening the door before she could fit her latchkey into the lock.

“I thought you would be…” Sophia began.

Eden“I didn’t go,” Eden said. Then, before Sophia had removed her hat or gloves or spoken another word, “It’s not Paris I miss. It’s you.”

Sophia gave her a long look. “Is it?”

Eden met her eye in the dim glow of a single candle on one of the massive hall tables. “Yes.”

Sophia“Well,” Sophia said, removing her things now and glancing back to Eden. “You ought to go on to Provincetown anyway. You’re right, it will be lovely. I will follow you when I can.”

She let Eden take her hand and kiss it, but didn’t step closer. “Goodnight,” she said instead, and walked to the stairs, climbing up into the dark.

Eden left for the cape the next morning.

Eden 42:4

Sophia rushed through the upstairs hall. It was seven o’clock and she was half an hour later than she had intended to be in leaving for the hospital.

Passing Eden’s door she glanced in to see an open trunk and Eden standing over her bed folding shirts.

“What are you doing?” She had not expected to find Eden awake.

“Packing.” Eden told her without turning to look.

Sophia stepped into the room now, her hurry forgotten.

“Packing for what?”

“The cape. Now the weather’s broken, I want to go out there to work for a while.” Eden glanced briefly at Sophia, then went back to her careful folding. She had recently found and purchased, on Eleanor’s authority, a cottage in a town on the cape where some writers and painters Eleanor knew had done the same.

“For how long?”

“I don’t know.”

“Eden?” Sophia felt a chill and wanted to see Eden’s eyes.

But Eden kept her eyes on the shirt she was folding. “You won’t notice I’m gone, Sophie. You do nothing but work. You leave the house most days before I’m awake and go back to work directly after dinner—if you come home for dinner at all.”

“The research is nearly finished, but Claire only gave the last of the data to me yesterday. We won’t make the deadline if we don’t work every minute we have.”

“I know your work is important.” Eden met Sophia’s eye for a fraction of a second, then dropped her gaze.

Sophia felt a rush of courage. “It’s Paris, isn’t it? You want to go back, but you are afraid to say it.”

Eden was silent, refusing to look up.

“I’ve already arranged for Vivienne Webb to meet me at the cape for her portrait.”

“Of course,” Sophia said. “Naturally, you should go.”

Eden 42:3

“You and Claire are always out so late working, why not bring her home for dinner tomorrow?” Eden told Sophia at a hurried breakfast one morning.

“Dinner? Here?” Sophia drained a cup of tea and poured another.

“Certainly—no need to dress or make a fuss—just bring her home. She hasn’t got a cook, has she? She could probably use a decent meal.”

“I’ll ask her.”

But one thing and another crowded the idea out of Sophia’s mind and she never did ask Claire to dinner.

Instead, she missed dinner herself more and more often until one night, long after the servants had gone to bed, she let herself in with a latchkey and crept quietly back to the kitchen in the hopes of finding something left over in the larder.

Passing the parlor as she did, she saw a light burning, and looked in to find Eden seated by the fire, a glass of brandy in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

“You’re home.” Eden put down the glass to consult her watch. “It’s after midnight.”

“Have you been waiting for me?” Sophia was worried now.

“We had dinner with Miss Francine and Mrs. Devries, remember?”

Sophia had forgotten the engagement entirely. “Oh…” She sank into a chair near Eden. “I’m so sorry. We are so close to finished, it is difficult to stop and we forget everything else, and…”

“Miss Francine said to tell you how sorry she was to miss your playing. I got an earful of Mrs. Devries’ instead.” Eden tried a small smile, but her mouth was hard and her eyes were dark.

Sophia was quiet.

Well…you must be tired. Go to bed, darling.” Eden rose and kissed Sophia’s forehead, then stepped out of the room herself.

Eden 42:2

Sophia almost forgot about the sketch. She was busy with a new doctor’s ordinary load of patients and surgery hours in addition to the research she was doing with Claire.

But when she opened her wardrobe to take out a shirtwaist and wool skirt and jacket one morning, she spied one of the half-dozen fashionable dresses Eden had bought for her in Paris and felt a slight turn of guilt in her stomach. She had only worn one of them and that only once, when Eden had taken her dancing soon after their return to Boston.

Since that evening there had been no occasion to wear such things. They nearly always dined at home, quietly and alone, and Sophia nearly always ran in just in time to eat, after late evenings at the hospital.

Eden had been working hard all winter too, but Sophia worried that she was bored. Perhaps she missed the frivolity of Eleanor’s London friends. She must certainly miss her studio in Paris—in Boston she painted in Eleanor’s small day room. Perhaps she even missed Madame Vielle’s fetes where the girls always flirted and smiled at Eden, whether Sophia was on her arm or not.

Sophia supposed Eden would never complain, would never admit it if asked. But she must miss it all. Boston would never be Paris.

Eden 42:1

Sophia was sorting through Eden’s summer clothes to give the most soiled ones to Mrs. Williams for the laundry when a thick folded piece of drawing paper fell from some pocket of a jacket.

She smiled to herself and opened it, expecting one of Eden’s sketches. But the style was not one Sophia recognized as Eden’s. And Eden was a prominent figured in it.

It was Decker’s “puppy love” satire.

Sophia’s smile changed to a frown. There was Eden, and there, George, whom Sophia also knew. But the third figure was a mystery. In spite of the comical style of the sketch, it was obvious the girl was beautiful and sophisticated. Her clothes were just in fashion, her hair elaborately dressed and expensive jewels hung from her every available appendage.

And someone—whomever had drawn the picture—was quite certain she was enamored with Eden.

Eden wore a halo in the picture, but it was impossible to say whether the artist believed Eden a saint or believed that Eden thought herself one.

Sophia knew there was no discovering the mystery. She told herself there was really nothing to discover. So many of the rich people Eleanor knew were frivolous and shallow. The drawing probably represented nothing but the fancy of a moment. It was likely to have been of no consequence even to Eden. Though she had kept the sketch, she had certainly forgotten it by now, not having worn the jacket in months.

Sophia would not mention it. She tossed the paper into the fire and didn’t even watch it burn before leaving the room.