Eden 18:1

Eleanor

“It’s lovely. It really is,” Eleanor said as Eden showed her the first of three canvases she had brought with her to dinner. It was a picture of the fountain at the Boston Common. Eleanor honestly found it charming.

But when Eden unveiled the other two canvases, Eleanor grew silent for a long moment.“You painted these as well?  Or bought them at a gallery in town?” she finally asked.

“Bought them? No, I did these in Bachmann’s studio,” she told Eleanor with a puzzled expression.

Eleanor looked more closely at the paintings now. They were two pictures of the same woman, one reclining, wearing some kind of classical-looking white robe, the other, a portrait of her face as she gazed into a mirror. Neither of the pictures were to Eleanor’s taste in art—she wouldn’t have bought them herself—but neither of them appeared to be the work of a student either. She looked at Eden, stunned.

“You don’t like them?” Eden said in a worried tone.

“It’s only that—well—they are very good, Eden. I’m surprised you did them after only a few months’ instruction, is all,” Eleanor said. “How do you feel about them?”

“Well, I’d rather she were nude in this one,” Eden admitted. “But Bachmann is such a Puritan,” she tried on Wil Hyland’s favorite word for Americans, “He insists the ladies’ class paint nothing too ‘shocking to our sensibilities.’ And this one—I think the mirror adds unnecessary melodrama. She has an interesting face. An ordinary portrait would have been quite dramatic enough.”

Eleanor was smiling broadly now. “Well, I agree with all of that, but darling, do you feel you did them well?”

“Oh,” said Eden, running a quick hand through her hair. Then simply, “yes.”

“Let’s go celebrate,” Eleanor said. And she called for the carriage and ordered it to a new restaurant that Vivienne Webb had liked.

“You will go back to Paris after college.” Eleanor announced this over her second brandy, as the dinner things were being cleared away and Eden was glancing over the carte a menu for sweets.

“After college?” Eden asked. She had half-hoped Eleanor might take her back to Europe again in June.

“The Beaux Arts won’t have you—or any woman—a stupid tradition, but nonetheless…” Eleanor put down her glass. “You have heard of the Academie Julian?”

Eden shook her head.

“It’s as good a place as the Beaux Arts—some might say better—and women have been carrying on there for years. You will go next summer. Paris will make a painter out of you.”

Eleanor lit a cigarette and handed another, unlit, to Eden.

“A painter.” Eden lit her cigarette and smiled. “Do you really think there’s a living in it?”

“If you become the fashion in New York, there is at least a bourgeois bungalow in it, if that is your concern.” Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “But don’t bore me with talk of money, Eden. For now, I will send for information from the Academie. You keep painting.”

“I guess I can do that back home this summer,” Eden said.

Six weeks later, she met her father and her brother-in-law at the Tucson depot, her trunks full of paint and canvas.

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