Category Archives: 18 Chapter Eighteen

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.

Eden 18:3

Sophia - Version 2July 1902, Boston

Dearest Eden,

Mother and I went to hear a suffrage lecture yesterday. You will remember Mrs. Park, whom we saw in March, reporting on the hearings in Washington? She is barely twenty-five—only four years out of Radcliffe—and so accomplished a speaker! I could never stand before so many and say anything sensible, even if every one of them agreed with my premise. But Thursday’s lecture was not filled with such a friendly audience and the meeting quickly became a heated debate. A large contingent of anti-suffragists had come, prepared as if it were their own meeting to counter everything Maud had to say.

In short, they (the antis, that is), maintain that all the gains of women reformers will be lost if we are given votes and take up political concerns instead of our social ones.

But Maud said—so eloquently!—that our social concerns are political and that if the politicians know they must answer to women voters they will take our reform efforts as seriously as we take them.

How anyone could think that an injustice—that is, the disenfranchisement of half the citizenry—could promote social reform better than justice, is beyond my ability to understand.

It is a western tradition to let the women vote and you have your social reforms there too. Maud spoke of the conditions of Colorado and Idaho at length. Certainly, if Arizona were to become a state, it would have the sense to enfranchise its women. Don’t you think it would?

I hope I do not bore you repeating what you already know I believe. I wished you were there with us. But even more I wish—I hope—that someday you and I will cast our votes together. We will someday—someday soon—I am sure of it.

Send me more news of your family and of your work. I am longing to see your real pictures of the desert, I so cherish the little sketches you have been sending. They are posted all around my bed and Mother shakes her head a little but says nothing when she sees them. But Father has admired them in his quiet way. He says perhaps you ought to go to work as a newspaper correspondent.

Is it still only July, darling Eden? The summer used to fly but this year it drags along. I am counting the days until September when I will see you again. Write and say you will still love me then. You know I am always and only your,

Sophia

Eden - Version 2August 1902, Arizona Territory

Dearest Sophie,

I don’t think very often about voting, but I am sure you are right about everything you say. Mama says she would surely vote if Arizona ever lets her and Dora says I should go to the polls in my trousers and vote for woman suffrage. I don’t think I quite have the courage for that, though. I guess I’ll just go to the meetings with you when I get back to Boston.

Sophie, are you sure your mother doesn’t object to your friendship with me? Maybe the sketches of my family are too shocking for her, and you had better to put them away. Maybe she minds about Peter and Minna being married but is too kind to say. I feel she has never quite liked me somehow and I don’t want you to displease her for my sake.

I told Minna about you, like you asked me to, and she was so happy for me she nearly smothered me in embraces. She says to send you her love.

You have mine of course, as always.

Your,

Eden

Sophia - Version 2August 1902, Boston

Sweet boy,

Mother does not object to you as you say you fear. I assure you she only objects that I love anyone or anything as much as my studies. (Though I love you more, Eden, I surely won’t tell Mother that!) But you are wrong, she does not mind your sister’s marriage. Her own father, after all, stayed loyal to Mr. Douglass when he married a white woman and so many of his friends, Negroes and whites too, turned against him.

Nothing like that would bother Mother as long as you were just another of my friends, and not the dearest darling of my heart. She has dreamed things for me since I was a baby—especially when it became clear that there would be no others to dream for. She wants me to show the fruit of all the work her mother and father did before her, and all the work she and my own father have done to educate and free so many people from bondage of all kinds. She wants me to carry a torch into the next generation unswervingly past all personal temptations. She has said these things to me many times, in words exactly like these. And she fears now that I am “obsessed with a person who cannot possibly understand the importance of my life’s calling” as she puts it.

But you do of course. I know you understand me just as I understand you. Mother says that however admirable you and your people might be, we come from different worlds. I say that we will make a yet another world together—a kind of territory of the heart—where both of us are free and where we can love each other as freely.

Your own devoted,

Sophia

Eden 18:2

Eden - Version 2June 1902, Arizona Territory

Darling Sophie,

I’ve enclosed some sketches of my family, since I have only the portrait of Mama back in Cambridge. Now you will see why I say you remind me of Minna. My sister is as pretty as any girl I’ve ever seen, but so quiet and strong, she could never be vain. That’s just the way you are, even if your strength is all about being the first woman at the Harvard medical college, and Minna’s is all about being a wife and mother in the desert. And you both know me as well as I know myself—maybe better, sometimes.

The one I’ve called my Aunt Susan isn’t really my aunt, but she is my mother’s best friend and she helped Mama nurse Minna and me when we were babies. The curly, fair-haired young man, Jack, is her son. Her husband is Liam, but he said he was too busy to sit for me. I’ll take my sketchbook out and catch the men working sometime next week, and send you some real “local color.”

You can see how beautiful my sister’s children are. Nate is three and the twins, Edith and Oliver, are nearly one.

Dearest, I must beg you to forgive me. There is something important about my family I have not told you but you will discover it in these pictures. The Negro woman in the sketch I have called “Aunt Dora” is not really my aunt either. She is a schoolteacher in Tucson and Peter’s mother. I have spoken to you of Peter, of course. He is my sister’s husband. I have never told anyone at college that he is a Negro, but I ought to have told you right away, and I sincerely hope I have not shocked you now.

Peter has known Minna and me since we were six years old. I used to imagine that he was my older brother, and when he and Minna married, I think I was as happy to have him for a real brother after all as my sister was to have him for a husband.

I know it would be a scandal in Boston, but please understand that things are different in Arizona. All of us on the Double S ranch are like one family. We have been as close as one since we all came and settled here together when Minna and I were children. We are all the aunts and uncles and cousins we have. Papa and Mama’s people are all dead or so far away we’ve never known them. It’s the same for most of the folks out here. In the desert—in the territories—it’s the people who live and work and survive hard times together that make up a family. It isn’t only the people who look alike and share the same blood.

I know how proud you are of your family and all they have accomplished. My family is very different from yours, but I am as proud of what mine has done—as proud of who we are—as anyone with patriot ancestors in Mount Auburn cemetery might be.

I hope you will understand. Please write and say you do. And say too that you forgive me for not telling you sooner. I just didn’t know how to do it.

Your own adoring,

Eden

Sophia - Version 2June 1902, Boston

Most Precious Eden,

I must confess to you my disappointment that you think it possible I might not understand your family, or your sister’s marriage, or be proud with you of them all. I do wish you had told me before, but I understand why you would not tell the others at college.

As for me, I hope that someday you will be proud enough of me to allow me to meet your people. I have said nothing to my own family, in respect for your privacy, which you have kept this long. But please write and say you will permit me to mention something of the details to them and to show them the lovely pictures of your sister and her children. It is for the recognition of all people as children of God my grandparents worked so hard in the pre-war times and I am sure that Mother and Father’s faith in this truth, when put to the test of life experience, would not waver.

Marriage between the races is not unheard of, even in Boston, though I dare say you are right about the scandal. And I know things must be very different in a place like Arizona, but such differences certainly ought not to matter between us, should they? We two, of all people know how love can be misunderstood and mischaracterized.

Darling, darling Eden, whatever the rest of the world believes is natural or right, I love you as I am sure your sister loves her husband and he loves her. Don’t you know that nothing could sway my devotion to my boy?

Does your sister know you love me? You say she knows you as well as you know yourself. Has she guessed it, then? If you tell her about me, tell her how I long to be her sister just as Peter is your brother.

Tell her I am forever your,

Sophia

Eden - Version 2July 1902, Arizona Territory

Dearest Sophia,

I spent twelve years in Arizona and I always knew it was beautiful. But somehow, I felt that to say so, even to myself would betray a childish interest in unimportant things.

The important things were taking care of the horses, mending the fences, cleaning the barn, carrying water for my mother’s garden.  I used to try to arrange to be in front of the house at sunrise. I would go the long way around to reach the well and watch the sky as the stars went out and the pink and gold light hit the top of the mountains north of our place. There was nothing—no buildings or fences I mean—between the house and those mountains and I would pretend to be the only person on earth.

But if Papa should come around the corner, I’d look down and walk fast toward the well and pretend not to notice morning coming over the desert. Sometimes I had to catch my breath. Sometimes I even had to blink back tears. Someday I’ll show you the sunrise from the front of our house. There’s nothing anywhere in Boston or London or Paris, at least, to compare to it.

But what I really wanted to tell you is how different things are now. Now I go out in the morning with my paint and my easel and I work furiously for that quarter hour that the sun is rising. Do you know, the sun never rises the same way twice  I am trying to generalize it so you can see something like it in my picture when I am back with you in Boston in September. No one asks me to carry water now. I try to help Papa as best I can—don’t think I’ve become a loafer—but when I am painting, everyone leaves me to it. They seem to think that stopping to watch something beautiful is my duty now. Mama even brings coffee out to me when I’m working. I’ve told her not to trouble herself that way, but she smiles and kisses me instead.

Maybe they would have let me stop and watch all along. Maybe they watched too, from their own secret places. Maybe Papa would have watched with me. He often comes now to stand by silently while I am working at dawn.

How could I be nearly twenty-one years old and know my own family so little? How could I have hidden myself away from them so well? Perhaps it’s only that I have never really known myself and now I am beginning to. I am a painter, Sophie. It is as true as if I had been born with a brush in my hand.

And I am ever your own loving,

Eden

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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