“Miss Abington!” Eden called across a small quadrangle early on Monday morning.
Sophia Abington was alone on the opposite path. She turned to the sound of her name and stopped as Eden stepped quickly to her.
“I have your book here,” Eden said. I was going to drop it by your house later, but…” She handed the book to Miss Abington, who smiled a small thanks.
“I did, thank you.” Eden fell silent.
“Well…” Miss Abington put out a hand. Eden took it and held it a beat too long, then blushed and dropped it awkwardly.
“Your grandfather…your family—” Eden said now, moving her weight from one foot to the other. “They are quite interested, then, in Negro rights and that sort of thing?”
Eden watched as Miss Abington’s face grew so very slightly paler that no one else might have noticed the change. “All sorts of things,” she said, raising her chin a little. “Negro rights, the suffrage, education reform…” She stopped and watched Eden, waiting, perhaps, for a verdict on her response.
Everyone Eden had met in Boston was in strong favor of women’s suffrage. And the very fact of being at Radcliffe College attested to an interest in education reform. It was only on the Negro question that Miss Abington might anticipate any opposition from a classmate. Did she expect such opposition now?
Eden found herself struck dumb in fear of the thousand ways in which what she chose to do or say next might be misunderstood. Miss Abington grew more noticeably pale.
“That’s interesting,” Eden said at last. “I—my own family is rather…”
“Eden!” called a voice across the grass. It was Gertrude.
“I’m sorry,” Eden said, nodding a hasty goodbye to Miss Abington. “I’ve got a lecture. Perhaps we can take up the subject another time.”
“Perhaps so,” said Miss Abington with no particular emotion, putting the book in a leather satchel and moving away.
“She’s looking as grim as ever.” Gertrude laughed a little at Sophia Abington’s back. “What plain things she always wears. Such a good Quaker girl.”
“Gertrude!” Eden chastised. “If you think her plain, what must you think of me?”
“Oh—you are not plain. You are dashing.” Gertrude took Eden’s arm, smiled and bowed her head submissively. “But whatever did you have to say to her?”
“I was returning a book she loaned me,” Eden said, hoping that Gertrude wouldn’t ask what book.
She didn’t. They arrived at their Classics lecture with five minutes to spare.