She had thought to read herself to sleep with a chapter or two, but as soon as she opened it, she found it impossible to close and spent the next several hours wide awake, lost in the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, almost forgetting Gertrude.
Outside of her personal experience, Eden knew little of the history of slavery or of the fate of Negroes since the war. The only book she’d read about it had been her mother’s worn edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and though it had held her riveted attention for a week, she had not known enough to place it in a context that held much meaning for her.
In Cambridge, there were monuments to the members of the university who had fallen in the war, and from time to time there were solemn events to commemorate them. But as Eden strove to follow the social lead of the girls she had met in Cambridge, it became clear to her that whatever the role of Boston had been before or during the war, current discussion of such things was not within the bounds of polite—even intellectual—society. After all, the students at Harvard and Radcliffe came from many places and many kinds of families. In Eden’s experience, whenever the Negro Problem came up, someone grew anxiously quiet and someone else changed the subject quickly.
Eden never brought it up herself and she wasn’t skilled enough in conversation to gracefully change the subject. But sometimes, she was the anxious, quiet one.