Eden 18:4

Eden’s pictures leaned all around the perimeter of Eleanor Stephens’s music room, where Sophia, Eleanor and Eden stood admiring them.

“I’m going to put this one in the dining room and move the Kensett to Father’s bedroom,” Eleanor said as she paused before the largest of the canvases—the sunrise over the mountains on the ranch.

There were several smaller canvases featuring desert landscapes and ranch scenes with horses and men at work.  “We could find you a dealer in Boston, Eden, but maybe we should take these to New York,” Eleanor said.

“A dealer?” Sophia looked up from the portrait of Eden’s parents.

“How can she sell them without one?” Eleanor asked.

“Do you think I could actually sell them?” Eden asked.

“I think if we find you a good dealer, they’ll sell in a week,” Eleanor said.

“But I suppose we’ll start here in town.  There are plenty of galleries I am certain will be interested.  The West is a popular subject.”

“The West—”

“The cowboys in particular, I think,” Eleanor continued.

“Cowboys.” Eden shook her head slightly.

“Why not?” said Eleanor.  “You’re the one who wants to make a living.  The critics are certain to find your work ‘fresh and modern yet romantic in theme.’” She thought a moment.  “What I would really like to do is find a good dealer in Europe, but all in time.  I’ve got the information from l’Academie Julian.  We’ll send them two or three of these small ones and some sketches.”

Sophia looked at Eden.  “l’Academie Julian?”

“Paris,” Eden said, looking back to the picture.

***

“Eleanor wants you to go to Paris?” Sophia said over tea in Cambridge the next day.

 

“She thinks it’s the best thing for my painting career,” Eden said.

 

“You’ve never said that before.”

 

“Said…?”

 

“Painting career.” Sophia stirred her tea. “It really is what you want.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Like you were born with a brush in your hand.” Sophia smiled as she quoted Eden’s letter.

 

But Eden sensed a shadow under the smile. “What is it?”

 

“Paris is so far away.”

 

“It isn’t for months. And…”  Eden glanced around. Only one other table in the café was occupied. A knot of girls sat around it chattering and laughing, paying no attention to Eden and Sophia. Eden reached out to touch Sophia’s hand.

 

Sophia took Eden’s fingers and held them. “And?”

 

“Eleanor says there’s a good medical school in Paris.”

 

Sophia smiled again. “I should think so. The Ecole Medecine.”

 

“Well,” Eden said, her eyes on Sophia’s wrist, “why couldn’t you come too?”

 

“To Paris?” Sophia sat back, her hand slipping from Eden’s.

 

“Why not?” Eden asked again.

 

Sophia looked over Eden’s shoulder at the other table of girls. One was looking at them now, and Sophia recognized her as a second year student whom she had helped with chemistry last term.

 

“I’ve planned to go to Harvard’s medical college my entire life,” Sophia said at last. “And the expense—it’s difficult enough to manage my education in Boston. My family couldn’t send me to Paris.”

 

“You’re sure?”

 

Sophia nodded. “We’ll write,” she said. “Like the summer.”

 

“You will come though—to visit at least,” Eden said.

 

“I’ll try.”

 

“It isn’t for months,” Eden said again.

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