“Eden, you really must take this job,” Eleanor lectured over breakfast. They sat on the back veranda where they were sheltered from the direct morning sun, but could watch and hear and taste the sea on the air as they talked. “Once you have done it, everyone in New York will want you. London too, before long.”
A letter sat by Eden’s plate, the return address, an expensive Manhattan street. Eden knew it was from Charles Brunswick. He had already written her once last week. He wanted her to paint Gertrude.
“I’ve already done a half dozen pictures for people in New York. As for London, there’s Wil Hyland and George and…”
Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “The Brunswicks have a certain kind of influence, Eden. This will be the picture that establishes you as the fashionable choice for portraits. It’s an opportunity you should not ignore.”
Eden still did not touch the letter. “If you won’t read it, let me,” Eleanor said, holding out a hand.
Eden gave her the note and the older woman opened it, unfolded it and frowned.
“You had better read it yourself, after all,” she said. “It’s from his wife.”
Eden went white. “I don’t want to read it. I don’t want to paint her.”
Eleanor sighed. She dropped the letter on the table, rose and walked into the house.
Eden scowled after her for a moment. She finished the cold tea at the bottom of her cup and reached across the table for the letter.
Charles asked that I write you since he has had no response to his own letter. He was afraid you are so sought after that perhaps you’re too busy for his commission. He wants me to exhort you to give us a special favor for the sake of our old friendship.
Of course, I wouldn’t be so crass, but perhaps we could just consider it a chance to reacquaint ourselves. It has been too long, hasn’t it? And I do miss you. You could just paint as we talk, couldn’t you?
Charles is willing to pay $3,000 for a picture. Please let me know if that is enough or too little—really forgive me for mentioning it at all. It hardly seems to be the important thing.
The important thing is that I would love to see you again, Eden. The portrait can be our excuse, can it not?
Gertrude Prescott Brunswick
Eden crushed the letter in her hand and dropped it by her plate. She rose and left the rest of her breakfast uneaten.