The story is told by the unnamed grandson of a famous portrait painter many years after its events take place.
An unnamed woman is a young art student who earns extra money working in an art studio where tourists pay small fees to have their portraits drawn in charcoal, sepia pencil, or full pastels. Young Corporal John Palmer, who admires her craftsmanship, often hangs around the studio to talk to her and have her do his portrait as an excuse for monopolizing her time. By the time that their affair ends, she will have drawn 174 portraits of him. These character studies will have a decisive effect on her future career as an artist. In them she discovers the magic in herself: her ability to find in a charcoal line a man’s humor—his wit, compassion, strength, courage, and fear.
A visionary, Palmer regards the world war as only a minor setback to his career. He has grandiose plans for the future. Although just twenty-five years old, he already has a reputation as one of the best boat builders in his home state of Rhode Island. As he shares his vision of a glowing future with the young artist, she feels herself gradually being incorporated into his lifetime plans.
They begin going out together, walking on the beach, sailing in small boats, sometimes staying up all night. Their relationship seems entirely platonic. The woman does not realize that she has fallen in love until after Palmer goes overseas. His exuberance, confidence,...
(The entire section is 407 words.)