Eleanor watched her standing now, entranced, before a picture of a sad young woman in blue. Eleanor had brought her to the rue Laffitte to explore the galleries and Eden had been drawn immediately to Ambroise Vollard’s. Eleanor had seen the Cezannes at M. Vollard’s in ‘95 and had bought the two small landscapes which were Eden’s favorites in her collection back in Boston.
This morning, the dealer had just hung his latest offerings. Improbably, he was featuring the works of a young Spaniard who had only lately come to Paris. Eleanor wasn’t sure that she cared for the grim pictures of unhappy people in blue and green, but the dreary tone seemed to resonate with Eden. Eleanor supposed it was the melodrama of youth. The Spaniard was just Eden’s age—not even quite twenty—in fact. But he was a prodige, Vollard insisted. And though Eleanor was inclined to doubt it, the dealer had been right about Cezanne, so perhaps there was something to this boy that Eleanor wasn’t seeing.
“I’m going to get a drink. Come to the café when you’re ready?” Eleanor told her young friend, nodding across the street and reaching for a cigarette in her breast pocket.
“I’ll go with you,” Eden said, and though her eyes left the picture only reluctantly, the two stepped across the street together.
“Deux vins blancs,” Eleanor told the waiter. She drew out another cigarette and handed it to Eden.
Eden took the cigarette and leaned awkwardly over the table as Eleanor lit it for her. It was her third attempt to smoke in as many days. She found that she liked it, but hated to admit it, having promised her mother she wouldn’t take the habit up.
“Mama would never forgive you if she knew you’d made me smoke,” Eden told Eleanor.
Eleanor raised an eyebrow, noting that Eden was not exactly hesitant to take the cigarette, but told the girl, “It will be our secret, then. It’s not a crime, you know. You’ll be twenty next week. Do as you please.”
Being reminded of her birthday caused Eden a stab of guilt. It would be the first year of their lives she had not spent the day with her twin sister, Minna. And yet, she didn’t wish herself in Arizona now. Not when she was on the rue Laffitte, with galleries on every side full of pictures not made fifty or one hundred or two hundred years ago, but made by living artists, just this summer, just this month—the paint barely dry—artists who were young and hopeful and walking around the streets like ordinary people, laughing, drinking, smoking…carrying canvases wrapped in brown paper in and out of store fronts.
Where had they come from? How had they become what they were?