Eden Smith was not a boy. But anyone who happened past Harvard Square would not have known this to see her standing there in a boy’s suit, squinting at her watch and running a nervous hand through her neat, short hair. Since coming East, Eden had found that no one expected to see a girl in boys’ clothes, so no one really saw her when she wore them. What they saw was just another Harvard student roaming Cambridge.
It was twenty minutes past four. She closed the watch and scanned the streets leading to the square. Two girls, arm in arm, were dodging the streetcars and carriages on Main Street to approach her.
“It is you!” one of them called merrily. “Sophie said ‘it’s Eden Smith in trousers’—but I was sure you were a young man.”
Eden didn’t blush, but glanced about quickly. Her classmates at Radcliffe had become accustomed to her eccentricity, but sometimes, they drew attention to it that worried her. On her father’s ranch in the Arizona Territory, she had always worn boys’ clothes and no one had made a fuss. But Arizona was a long way from Boston.
The college girls—none from further West than Ohio—thought Eden an exotic marvel straight from the pages of the kind of magazine their mothers had forbidden them to read. And though a handful of them seemed to avoid her suspiciously, her company was much in demand among her more adventurous classmates.
Eden assured herself that no one had overheard Cathy’s remark, then smiled congenially at the two girls who stood before her. Cathy Dickens was the one who had called out, Sophia Abington the one blushing at her side. Cathy lived in the same boarding house as Eden. She was a gregarious girl with red curling hair that suited her fair complexion. A third-year student, she was the social hub of Radcliffe. Today she wore a crisp shirtwaist blouse and a skirt of green and yellow stripes. Her bright eyes sparkled beneath the brim of a hat trimmed with yellow flowers and a green ribbon band.
Beside the vividness of Cathy, Miss Abington might have been her maid. She wore a brown cotton dress, her light brown hair knotted simply at her neck and topped with an unadorned straw hat. She was a second-year student like Eden. But all Eden knew about her was that everyone said she did nothing but study. Until this moment, Eden didn’t think she’d ever heard anyone call her “Sophie.” But here she was, improbably arm-in-arm with the most popular girl at the college.
Considering her very different relations to the two girls, Eden didn’t know whether to merely take their hands or to kiss them in greeting. Cathy solved the dilemma by turning a freckled cheek up to Eden. Miss Abington made no similar overture, but Eden fumbled to kiss her anyway, not wanting to discriminate between them.
“Why are you standing here, in the square?” Cathy asked. “You look as if you’re waiting for a train.”
“I’ve just come off the street car. I was at the Athenaem this morning, but I’m to meet Gertie here for tea,” Eden said, hoping her light tone convincingly concealed her impatience.
Even as she spoke, however, the girl for whom she was waiting at last arrived. Gertrude Prescott stole upon the little crowd of students as they preoccupied themselves with each other. “Eden!” she called; then “hello Cathy, Miss Abington.”
Eden repressed an impulse to check her watch again and kissed Gertrude hello instead. “I was beginning to worry,” she said.
“I’m so sorry, darling, I was detained at the library,” Gertrude said, taking her arm. Eden checked herself before asking Gertrude by whom or what she was detained. Instead she said, “you look beautiful this afternoon.”
It was true enough. Intellect was verbosely prized above appearance among the thoughtful young women at the college. Nevertheless, Gertrude Prescott was widely considered to be Radcliffe’s Great Beauty. Today her dark hair was swept high and topped with a feathered hat that matched a blue day dress with white satin ribbon trailing down the skirt and curling into little florets along its hem. She looked as if she were dressed for tea at the Brunswick Hotel rather than the busy student café where they had planned to go.
Eden wondered a little at Gertrude’s attire, but didn’t ask why she was so elaborately dressed for a Friday afternoon at the library. It occurred to her, perhaps not entirely consciously, that she might not want to know the answer. Better to forget it and enjoy having the lovely girl by her side now that she had the chance.
“Well, she’s here now. I suppose you’ll be off,” Cathy said.
“Yes,” Eden bid Cathy and Miss Abington goodbye with a smile, then offered Gertrude her arm. As far as the rest of Cambridge might know, they were a proud young man and his pretty fiancée.