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Authors: Where the Light Falls

Katherine Keenum

BOOK: Katherine Keenum
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Drawing from memory . . .

That night, Jeanette went to sleep reliving the party, always with Dr. Murer beside her or coming toward her or unwilling to leave her; sometimes they did not follow Mlle. Bernhardt into the house at all. Over the next few days, fantasy overlay memory more and more, though it never altered the departure points nor belied certain moments. If pressed by conscience, Jeanette might have admitted that making herself the object of romantic attention was half the pleasure of her daydreams. Nevertheless, she also believed in the magical air that had enveloped her and Dr. Murer on their walk through the back orchard, in the secret garden, on the terrace at twilight. And she responded to him—
, Dr. Edward Murer, so different from anyone else she knew . . .

“An engrossing story with complex, compelling characters. I’ll never forget Jeanette, Edward, or Cousin Effie, and neither will other readers.”

—Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, professor emerita, Department of History of Art & Architecture, Boston University

“Keenum’s deft handling of details makes
Where the Light Falls
a standout among painterly novels. As delectable and addictive as a Parisian pastry, the book is an art lover’s delight.”

—Lynn Cullen, author of
Reign of Madness

here the



Published by the Penguin Group

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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Copyright © 2013 by Katherine Keenum.

“Readers Guide” copyright © 2013 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Cover photographs: woman © Ashley Lebedev / Trevillion Images; Pont Alexandre III bridge © Kevin George / Shutterstock.

Cover design by Annette Fiore DeFex.

Text design by Laura K. Corless.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Berkley trade paperback edition / February 2013

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Keenum, Katherine.

Where the light falls / Katherine Keenum. — Berkley trade paperback ed.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-425-25778-4

1. Women artists—France—Paris—Fiction. 2. Americans—France—Paris—Fiction. 3. Paris (France)—History—1870–1940—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3611.E3453W47 2013



In loving memory of my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, writers all


Generous friends are the first to read portions of an unpublished novel or the manuscript in its entirety when a draft is completed. For their perceptive comments and unflagging support, I am deeply indebted to the late Mary Emery, Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, Elizabeth Morgan, Sarah Novak, Elaine Fowler Palencia, Polly Shulman, Andrew Solomon, Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, and Christie Woodfin. A writer’s maxim claims, “First thought, best thought.” I would add, “First readers, best readers.”

A finished manuscript is not enough, however; it must reach the professionals. Special thanks, therefore, to Polly, who introduced me to her agent, Irene Skolnick. Irene believed in the novel and sent it to Jackie Cantor at Berkley. Jackie then nurtured both the book and me with her skillful editing and patient, loving insights. Irene, Jackie, and their staffs made the process of bringing the work to publication a pleasure.

I also want to remember here three women whose inspiration has been constantly with me: Jeanette Sterling Smith Greve, whose escapade launched this story, went on to become a writer and an editor at
McCall’s Magazine
early in the twentieth century. Her daughter, my grandmother, Dorothy Greve Jarnagin published two novels, wrote short stories, and talked wittily about grown-ups to children.
daughter, my mother—journalist, puppeteer, and storyteller—taught me to write and to know that stories matter.

Finally, my deepest debt of gratitude is owed to my husband, John Keenum. He helped set the project in motion by his chance discovery that the family story about Jeanette’s expulsion from Vassar was true. He listened to me talk endlessly about my research, visited museums (and Paris!) with me, read early drafts, and reviewed the final edited manuscript. He told me to dedicate the novel to my three foremothers, not him; but he was along for every step of the way, and no one has ever been a better companion.







CHAPTER ONE: Vassar College, February 1878

CHAPTER TWO: Cousin Effie

CHAPTER THREE: Mrs. Palmer’s Arrival

CHAPTER FOUR: An Attack in Cincinnati


CHAPTER SIX: Arrival in Paris

CHAPTER SEVEN: Getting Started


CHAPTER NINE: First Interlude: Cincinnati

CHAPTER TEN: Bienvenue

CHAPTER ELEVEN: The Murers Abroad


CHAPTER THIRTEEN: A Dinner Party on the Rue de Varenne


CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Paris in Summer

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Going Down to Brittany


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Second Interlude: Switzerland


CHAPTER TWENTY: Paris, Early Autumn 1878






CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: Winter’s Cold, 1878–1879

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: Third Interlude: Rome



CHAPTER THIRTY: Where the Light Falls

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: Edward’s Return to Paris

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: A Garden Party (1): Who Met Whom

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: A Garden Party (2): Who Saw What






CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE: A Walk in the Tuileries Garden

CHAPTER FORTY: End of August 1879


CHAPTER FORTY-TWO: Portrait of a Man



CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE: Christmas 1879

CHAPTER FORTY-SIX: Turning Corners

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN: Early Spring 1880





Vassar College, February 1878

urely, there is nothing dishonorable about marriage!” protested Jeanette Palmer.

“About marriage, nothing. About elopement, everything.” Hannah Lyman’s thin, gray face conveyed the suffering of a long illness, the longer custom of wielding authority, and, at the moment, outraged disdain. “Miss Palmer, have you considered the possibility that, with your help, your friend has delivered herself into the hands of a cad who will ruin and abandon her?”

“Oh, Miss Lyman, not Beau, not—”

“A man who scorns society’s approval in a matter as sacred as marriage is capable of anything. Moreover, no matter what has become of the fugitives, nothing mitigates the egregiousness of your own misconduct, which is the topic under discussion. Your actions will have a demoralizing effect on your fellow students, and the whole affair may damage this institution in the eyes of a larger public. Even to know of such a plan without reporting it would have been wicked, but to arrange meetings at the house of your aunt, to carry messages and deceive hall monitors, to impersonate Miss McLeod last evening in order to cover her flight—! Miss Palmer, there can be no place at Vassar College for so deceitful a girl as yourself. You are dismissed forthwith and will remain in your room until your departure.”

“Dismissed? You mean expelled, for good?”

“Miss Palmer, whatever else you are, you are not stupid. You can have expected no less.”

In fact, Jeanette had expected far less. An uproar was sure to follow the discovery that Abbie was gone, but she had naively believed that her own part in the plot would go unnoticed or at worst earn her demerits. She had not foreseen how great a calamity the elopement of a student would be to the Lady Principal of Vassar, who was proud that the college offered a full liberal arts curriculum to women but who insisted equally on ladylike behavior and moral purity.

“I shall wire your parents this morning to have you removed.”

“Oh, please, Miss Lyman, don’t say
in a telegram, please. The news will be all over Circleville before the messenger boy reaches the house. You don’t know what a small town in Ohio is like.”

“Your shame is of your own making, Miss Palmer, and you might as well get used to it. It will be with you for the rest of your life.”

“But you don’t have to humiliate my whole family, Miss Lyman! And I don’t see how spreading scandal can enhance the reputation of Vassar College.”

“How I conduct the business of this college is my affair, not yours,” said Miss Lyman, leaning angrily against her knuckles on the desk. “To your room.”

Nevertheless, she took Jeanette’s point about scandal.
, she telegraphed,
. Mail trains were swift and deliveries frequent. She could spell out the infamy of their daughter’s behavior to the Palmers at length in the full confidentiality of a letter.

*   *   *

Jeanette left the office stunned. In the empty lobby outside the administrative offices, she shut her eyes tight and bit her fist.
There can be no place for you . . .
With a dragging footstep, she started up the front staircase of Main Hall’s central block. Her hand slid ahead of her, caressing the wood grain of the polished banister—hers to touch now, but not for long.

The art gallery. In consternation, she remembered the canvas she had left on an easel in front of a painting she had been copying. She must retrieve that picture; it was hers, and she would not let them take it away from her. Nor could she bear the thought of leaving without ever seeing the other paintings again. She caught up her skirt and ran—up and up, past the living quarters and classrooms on the second floor, up to the third floor, with quick glances at every landing to make sure she was safe.

To her relief, the canvas was still there. From tall windows and skylights encircling a two-story dome, wintry daylight filled the gallery. In so much natural light, the college’s collection of paintings could be seen to good advantage and so could thousands of watercolors, etchings, and engravings mounted in albums for the use of students and faculty. Scores of oil paintings hung one above the other, landscapes and genre scenes. Jeanette did not mind that most of them were small—oil sketches, preliminary studies for larger work that hung elsewhere, or finished paintings scaled to hang over a private owner’s sideboard or mantelpiece. They allowed her to imagine places she had never seen; they told stories. Inside their gilt frames, they were richly colored; and in them for the first time, she had seen the magic of how an individual brushstroke could represent a petal on a flower in the foreground or the sail of a skiff in the distance. She had loved them wholeheartedly from the start.

She picked up her own canvas and held it out. Over a soft brown ground, she had chalked in outlines and blocked in swatches of cool green; she had just begun to work on the details of a sandy, gray church on the far side of a river. The original painting was called
The Shrine of Shakespeare
: Presumably the church was at Stratford; presumably the river was the Avon. Stratford-on-Avon was a place her mother had long dreamed of visiting, and this copy was to be a present for her. Jeanette fought back tears and wrapped the canvas loosely in a cover sheet so that it wouldn’t stain her clothes. Holding it against her hip, she moved regretfully from one tier of pictures to the next, sure that the All-Seeing Eye, as the girls had dubbed Miss Lyman, would soon drive her out.

The bell for the next change of classes gave her a chance to dash to her room under the cover of a general crush in the halls. Instead, she yanked down an album of English watercolors, another of pen-and-ink drawings, and a third of etchings from their shelves. She banged them onto the farthest study table and sat with her back to the door. She flipped pages, keeping an ear out for approaching footsteps. The ruse worked. Someone came in but took no notice of her. After a while, whoever it was left. Jeanette, who had been sitting tensely, began to cry.
There can be no place for you here.

The album lay open to pen-and-ink studies of rocks and trees by Ruskin. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She had copied similar drawings the first semester of freshman year when art students were introduced to techniques for drawing on paper. Why, oh why, hadn’t she done more while she had the chance?

“You have had good training,” Henry van Ingen, the chairman of the art department, had said when he first saw her work. “Where?”

“From a neighbor at home in Ohio. She studied in Cincinnati.”

“At the McMicken School of Design? The same curriculum as in Munich, I hear.” Van Ingen had chuckled, then shrugged in self-deprecation. “Well, well, we all do what we can in this New World. And you are lucky, Miss Palmer, you have picked up no bad habits—still, you have much to learn.” He wagged a finger at her. “Work hard. For you, it will pay off.”

Jeanette was one of the warmhearted, those who are encouraged by praise. Art class went from being her favorite elective to the center of her life at Vassar. She did work hard, as hard as Professor van Ingen demanded. When in her second year she had to choose between oils and watercolors for instruction, he had told her that if she took up oils, he would teach her himself.

“Learn watercolor on the side, of course—but not as a lady’s accomplishment. The girls around you who are drawn to watercolor—
. They do not like mess, and they will not wait for oils to dry. They are impatient and dainty, two things talent cannot afford.”

Naturally, she had followed his lead, but now, in disgrace, she looked with longing at an exquisite watercolor painting of sun through mist on the Salisbury plain. She should at least have spent more time with the albums.

Someone entered the gallery and walked rapidly toward her. She cringed. A hand touched her shoulder.

“Jeanette!” came a whisper, urgent and needlessly secretive. “What are you doing here? Everyone is looking for you. Don’t you know you’re supposed to be in your room?”

It was her best friend, Becky. Jeanette twisted around. “Of course, I know.
To your room!
” she whispered back, in an unmistakable imitation of Miss Lyman’s voice.

“I knew I’d find you here if you weren’t in the studio.” said Becky, sympathetically. “Is it true?”

“About Abbie?”

“No, pea-brain, about you. They’re saying . . .” Becky’s voice trailed off apprehensively.

“Expelled,” said Jeanette. “It’s true. Kicked out.
is the word Miss Lyman used.”

“Oh, Jeanette,” said Becky, sinking into the chair beside her and leaning forward. “How awful. What are you going to do?”


Becky put an arm around her shoulder and tugged. “Good girl.”

I going to do, Becky? I don’t even know what’s going to happen to me next, tomorrow, much less after that. I can’t bear the thought of going back to Circleville.”

“Well, first things first,” said Becky. “You might as well eat. If we get in the lunch line, they won’t dare make a scene in front of everybody. But we have to hurry—the doors will close soon.”

In the jostling lines outside the dining hall, they joined a few close friends, who crowded around Jeanette to hide her until the doors opened for everyone to march in together. Inside, her two remaining suitemates looked frightened when she approached the table assigned to their end of the dormitory hall. The duties of the resident hall teacher who had failed to prevent Abigail McLeod’s elopement had already been transferred to a senior named Leticia. Startled at seeing Jeanette reappear, Leticia turned wildly toward the head table. With a frown, Miss Lyman signaled that Jeanette should be seated.

An embarrassed silence at their table was broken only by Leticia’s strangled attempts to initiate conversation along approved lines. Jeanette ate slowly, with her eyes fixed on her plate, uncomfortably aware that all around the murmuring room diners were surreptitiously watching her. When a dull blancmange was set out for dessert, she bolted. Miss Lyman’s eye bored into her back. The bell had not rung, but what did she care? She could not be dismissed again.

*   *   *

Her room might now be a prison, but Jeanette fled to it as a refuge. Her things were there, it gave her privacy—privacy all too full now that Abbie was gone. The suite contained three bedrooms and a common sitting room. A little wan daylight reached the sitting room from the outer bedrooms, but Jeanette and Abbie’s room was on an interior wall adjoining the corridor. It was gloomy from lack of sunshine and, in spite of high ceilings, the air in it was stale. Jeanette seldom came here during the day, but now she leaned against the bedroom door frame and looked wistfully at the decorations they had all put out to give the sitting room personality. A satin shawl belonging to Abbie still swooped at an angle on a wall. Someone out in the hallway knocked.

“Who is it?” she asked, cautiously.

“Jeanette, it’s Leticia. Please, open up. I’m supposed to make sure you are here and stay here.”

Toady, thought Jeanette, angrily; go away. But she knew that her mother would expect her to be dignified even in disgrace. She opened the door with her head high and discomfited Leticia with a level, resentful stare.

“I won’t abscond, if that’s what you and Miss Lyman are worried about.”

“It’s not my fault,” said Leticia, backing away.

Before the door was closed, Jeanette had forgotten her in a huge wave of undifferentiated misery. She cried and cried until she fell into a dull quiet on the borders of sleep.

*   *   *

No one else came, neither her suitemates nor her friends, until midafternoon, when word was sent up from the Lady Principal’s office that Professor van Ingen wished to see her. For an instant, Jeanette’s heart lifted at being remembered by her favorite teacher; but on the way, she felt it was far worse to see someone she respected than a wet noodle like Leticia. She had let him down.

“So, Miss Palmer, you are leaving under a very dark cloud.”

She could not meet his eye. “Yes, sir.”

“Do you have plans, may I ask?”

“No, sir.”

“Then what are your dreams?” asked van Ingen, gently. A willingness to tease the girls made him popular; a deeper seriousness made him loved.

“Oh, Professor van Ingen,” she said, looking up, “I want to be an artist, you know that. I want to paint.”

“I am glad to hear it. You have talent, Miss Palmer—if not common sense. To assist your foolish friend to elope!” He raised his hands in a gesture of comic exasperation. “But talent is not enough. You need more training, much more training.”

“I guess I’ll have to try to get it in Cincinnati.”

“Why Cincinnati? Why not New York or Philadelphia?”

“Because I’m from Ohio. It seems possible.”

“You came to Poughkeepsie. That, too, seemed possible.”

“But that was because my parents wanted me to come to Vassar. My mother is ambitious for women to be educated, and I don’t have any brothers for Papa to send to Harvard. My coming here meant a lot to them.”

BOOK: Katherine Keenum
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