The Story of Jacob Eaton

Readers;  Here is more of the book.  These pages would come immediately before that last post I put up a few hours ago – the conversation between Jacob Eaton and Rachel Thompson. This new bit tells the story of how Jacob Eaton – a hometown boy whom Rachel rejected while in high school – got rich.
Thanks for reading.  Ed



She was looking for a place to break away.  He knew it was coming. She thought he knew it was coming.  He had to know. It was what he wanted, surely. No way he could have wanted to stay on the way they were.  He had bigger thoughts, bigger ideas. That’s why she had let him in. But there had to be a leaving; a definite moment; a sign.  It would be merciful for her to make that move. He was too kind to make it himself. She knew that if he entertained the least thought that it would hurt her he would refrain from a breakup, even to his own detriment; even if it meant forfeiting his dreams.  She would make the move and save him grief.

She remembered that night very well.  It started like the three or four others they had had together then.  He picked her up at home and they went to the drive-in and then to a party at the house of a friend whose parents were out of town.   John was there, too. He was home from his third year at the university and slumming around town for the week or two before his summer job on the state roads began that would take him to some outlying county for the next two months.  Here was another safe passage. She could show an interest in John, thereby signalling Jacob that he was free to go and there would be no piper for anyone to pay. John was too old and sophisticated to take her seriously and he would be gone in a week.   Jacob would get the message, be happy with his own freedom, and she could then go on as before, unattached and unburdened, to her new life away from that little town.

And so she stayed by the pool table in the basement while John and a few of the other college-aged guys played nine-ball.  They chatted. He knew about music. He’d seen her favorite band in concert at the university only months ago. Someone put that band’s album on the stereo. He gave her a beer.

She had misjudged yet again.  John was very interested, took her quite seriously, and she let him take her home, even while Jacob waited at the party.  She could not recall just how she’d left Jacob there. What had she said? Something about John having something to give to her father and he would just take her home and save Jacob the trouble.  All assuming that there was nothing between her and Jacob; that his taking her there was nothing but a convenience to them both.

The next morning, a Saturday, her mother came into her bedroom and woke her and told her that Jacob’s father and another worker had been killed early that morning in an explosion of a boiler at Union Carbide’s South Charleston chemical plant.

Then she saw what she had done.  She could not ignore – it would have been inhuman to ignore or discount –  the terrible grief that Jacob was suffering, and this forced an honesty that she had hoped to be able to avoid.  She had to tell herself the truth now, and that included the truth about how she had treated him and how it had surely affected him and how all of it would be compounded now and for who knew how long.

She could not bring herself to approach Jacob because she had been cruel and thoughtless.  She could not face him and she did not see him or speak to him again for eight years.

Jacob Eaton buried his grief in his work.  Although his intelligence had been obvious all through his public schooling, he had never locked in on his studies with any notion of achievement.  In college, while he reeled from the loss of his father and from Rachel’s rejection, he saw around him no other pathway and so took true and untiring aim at all the university put before him and soon distinguished himself academically.  He stayed at school every summer, taking jobs in labs and as assistant to various professors and finding his way into the good graces of the highest ranks of the college. Upon graduation he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and thereupon spent the next two years studying at Exeter College in Oxford University where he graduated with a First in philosophy.  While there he befriended the eldest son of the Duke of Devonshire and was hired at Chatsworth Hall by the Duke himself to assist the curator there in the procurement and sharing of paintings and sculpture in the Duke’s 600-year-old galleries.

As might be expected, these connections led to greater things.  First, three years at Yale Law School and then a return to London to work in the branch office of Siler and Stanton, the premiere Wall Street law firm for all transactions involving intellectual property and world-class artwork.  In fact, Jacob had handled the seller’s end of the sale of the Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi.” It’s owner, the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev had paid $127 million for the 500-year-old masterpiece three years before and hoped to sell it for around $200 million and thereby clear a string of debts related to failing copper mines in the Ural Mountains.  He had contracted with Siler and Stanton for a twenty-percent fee.

After the firm had taken on the transaction a school of critics in Belgium raised questions about Leonardo’s authorship of the painting.  Fearing a disgruntled client and a disastrous loss, the senior partner at the firm dumped the case on his young associate, Jacob Eaton. In a matter of weeks Jacob had contacted his old friends at Chatsworth and in London and located fifteen charcoal sketches made – by Leonardo – in preparation for the painting itself.  The history and authenticity of the sketches – which had been held by the Crown of the British Empire since 1550, 31 years after Leonardo’s death – was unimpeachable and the details of Christ’s hands, hair and the crystal orb He held were so plainly foreshadowed in the sketches that all serious doubt about Leonardo’s authorship of the painting were put to rest.

When, on November 15, 2017, this portrait of Jesus Christ sold at Christie’s in New York for $450 million to an Arabian Prince, Jacob’s firm netted a neat $90 million.   His end-of-year bonus, coming only one month after the check had cleared the bank of Abu Dhabi, was, as they say in the business, handsome.

Moreover, Jacob’s reputation in the art world was now, as they say in the business, established.

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