Monthly Archives: April 2013

Eden 13:3

EleanorThere was no reason in the world, Eleanor thought, that Eden shouldn’t have a share in Henry Barrett’s vast estate. It would be a matter of simple justice. After all, Eden was his child. He had taken great advantage of Eden’s mother when Lillian was younger even, than Eden was now. And it would hardly cause him a sting to provide enough to take Eden’s financial concerns away indefinitely.

Eleanor had guessed Eden wouldn’t respond well to her suggestion. The girl had such a quick, hot temper when she felt some slight to her beloved family. She was like her mother that way, Eleanor knew, and admired her for it. But the girl was young and didn’t know half of what she would need to learn to survive in Eleanor’s world. And it was Eleanor’s world she was fated to live in, however loyal she might be to her people in Arizona. Eleanor had to help her, even if Eden resented her for it.

IMG_2922She sat down at the little writing desk at the window of her room, took out her stationery and began a letter.

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Eden 13:2

EdenAfter the concert to which Eleanor took her, Eden declined dinner, saying she had to study. It was true enough—she always had to study something—but she was still feeling disturbed by the scene in Eleanor’s dining room and she wanted to be alone. She likewise declined a carriage ride home, and though the sky was growing dim, bid Eleanor goodbye, thrust her hands in her pockets and set off back to Cambridge on foot.

Eden frowned at the pavement as she walked. It was not as though she had never wondered about him. Ever since she realized that there had to be a man somewhere in her mother’s past that explained her own and her sister’s existence, she had been curious.

She did not long to know him. She did not think of him as “father.” She only wondered sometimes, vaguely, if she looked anything like him, the way her sister looked so like her mother; if he had other children; if he was, in fact, living or dead.

But now, suddenly faced with the fact of him—the accessible reality of him—Eden shrank in horror and wished him at the bottom of the sea.

She had only one father, her papa, who had danced with her in her mother’s kitchen the very day she was born. Her papa, Joe Smith, had said yes, when twelve-year old Eden had begged to be taught to work with the men and boys instead of left with her mother and sister to cook and wash and raise chickens. Her papa had taken Eden quietly aside and shown her how to wrap her breasts in bandages to conceal them beneath the handsome suits her Aunt Susan had made her before coming to Boston. Without being asked or told, her papa understood her in a way no one else on earth ever could. As much as Eleanor Stephens might have reason to take a “special interest” in her, Joe Smith had watched her grow—watched her as someone who had lived through the same thing—and knew exactly where she had come from. Eleanor would never know that. This man, Henry Barrett, knew less than nothing. He didn’t even know she existed, did he?

Eden’s stomach turned as she realized that she didn’t know if he knew she existed. She wondered if Eleanor did. How could her mother have told Francine and not told Eden she had done it? How could these other people know the man’s name, when she herself did not know it? She knew she should be angry with her mother for telling, but instead, she was angry with Eleanor for knowing.

When she reached her room, she opened the drawer in her desk that held her letters from Arizona. She drew out the last one her father had sent and read it tearfully.

Joe - Version 2Dear Eden,

I hope this letter finds you well and happy.

We miss you so much here, darling. I miss you, I should admit I mean. Your mother and your sister never forget you of course. But there are times when your papa gets lonely in a way that only his Eden would understand. And those are the times I wish you were home instead of so far away.

I sometimes worry about you out there among strangers. I know you have wonderful friends. Miss Stephens in particular has been so good to you. Your mother and I are grateful for that, of course. But somehow, when I think of you up in Boston I have a picture in my head of you walking down the street alone and I wonder if you are really alright, darling. You’d write and tell me if ever you were not wouldn’t you? Never think there is anything you can’t tell your papa.

maybehorses2The foals from last spring are all looking fine this year. There’s not one I wouldn’t be happy to keep for myself. But there is one in particular I am going to raise for you. He’s a pretty brown bay colt with four white socks and a perfect blaze. He is one of Orion’s grandsons and he reminds me a little of his fine old grandsire in his youthful days. I’d let you name him, but there is no telling when you’ll be home again, and he can’t go nameless indefinitely. What do you think of Arrow? He’s going to be fast, if not exactly straight—he’s got Orion’s spirit certainly. I think we’ll not geld him. I don’t want to see that spirit dimmed, somehow. I’ll take good care of him and train him well, but he’ll be yours. I’ve said he reminds me of Orion, but it’s just come to me that he reminds me of you.

Your mother says that you are a fine student and never doubt that I am proud of you for it.  But more important than anything you might accomplish in the judgment of others, I want you to be satisfied that you are doing the thing in life you were put here to do. I don’t mean to be sentimental. You know that isn’t my way. But life is hard enough for everyone, and harder still for people like you and me. Finding the right work; the right place; the right people is such a great comfort. And I wish those things for you my dearest child.

Please send a letter just for me sometime. Don’t neglect your papa. I know your mother writes more often, but not an evening goes by I don’t look for Orion in the sky and hope you are looking for it too and thinking of us at home.

I love you, Eden.

Your Papa

It had been two weeks since the letter had come. One thing and another had kept her too busy to reply. She took her pen from the desk now and began to write.

Eden 13:1

Eleanor“I’ve brought your breakfast myself, darling, but you must get up,” Eleanor cajoled a dark-haired, dark-eyed woman who lay sprawled across the bed, her naked body only half covered by the linens.

“Mmm…must I really?” the woman asked, propping herself on some pillows and reaching for the cup of tea Eleanor handed her.

Eleanor smiled, “You certainly must. It’s late.” And she sat on the edge of the bed and lit a cigarette.

“What a lovely party, Eleanor. You have such a talent for entertaining,” the woman said between sips of tea.

“It helps that you have such a talent for appreciating my wine cellar,” Eleanor teased.

The woman ignored the comment. “You are so much more amusing than my husband, darling,” she sighed heavily and reached out to run her fingers through Eleanor’s hair.

“I am amusing. Your husband is rich.”

“No richer than you,” the woman pouted.

“But I can’t marry you, can I?” Eleanor pointed out, taking the woman’s hand from her hair and kissing it, before setting it down on the bed again.

“You would though—if you could—wouldn’t you?” the woman prodded.

Eleanor smiled. “Lunch in half an hour. I’m going to get dressed. If you need anything, ring Christine.” And she rose and left the room.

***

An hour later, Eden Smith stood at Eleanor’s front door. She was early for their planned engagement, but didn’t think El would mind.

Mrs. Williams, opened the door. “Good afternoon, Miss Smith,” she said, taking Eden’s hat, coat and gloves, “I’ll announce you.” And she showed Eden to the little dayroom opposite the parlor and hastened away.

puseywindowsEden loved Eleanor’s dayroom. It was small compared to the other parlors, but it featured an enormous bay window of leaded glass that were not hidden away by the heavy drapes that covered most of the other windows in the house. So much light filled the room that it was almost a conservatory. Little prisms danced about, falling here and there on the marble floor tiles, the wood-paneled walls and the mahogany furniture.

After a few moments, Mrs. Williams returned, saying “Miss Stephens says you must join her.”

Eden rose and followed the woman to the dining room where Eleanor and a woman in a wilting voile evening gown sat around the ruins of luncheon.

“I’m sorry…” Eden began, but Eleanor cut her off.

“Sit down, darling,” she insisted. “You’ve met Vivienne Webb, I think?”

Eden looked at the woman, puzzled.

But the woman smiled and put out her hand without rising from the table, “you’re the cowboy’s daughter, how could I forget?”

Eden took the woman’s hand and sat. The kitchen maid hastened to bring a table setting and placed it before Eden.

“It was two years ago at Francine’s party—before you began your studies,” Eleanor reminded Eden.

“Of course,” smiled Eden politely without remembering at all.

“She’s a dear, Eleanor. How have I missed her until today?” Mrs. Webb chastened. “You must hide her away.”

“Of course not,” Eleanor answered. “But Eden is quite busy with her studies. Not everyone can waste time as brilliantly as you and I, Vivienne.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Webb, rising from the table, “I’m afraid I’ve wasted as much as I can today. Wills is expecting mummy this evening. Some new girl he wants me to meet.”

Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “It sounds serious.”

Mrs. Webb shrugged. “It’s the third one I’ve had to chatter with over tea. Wills doesn’t seem able to make up his mind.” She sighed.

breakfast - Version 2Eleanor rose from the table, but the other woman stopped her. “Do sit, Eleanor, I can see myself out. Don’t leave your little friend alone.” She smiled at Eden who had risen too and took her extended hand. “So lovely to see you again.”

Eden gave her a little bow. “And you.”

Vivienne swept out of the room, followed by the maid. Eleanor sat and gestured for Eden to do the same. “Do you want something to eat?” she asked Eden.

“No thanks—well maybe just a cup of tea,” she changed her mind quickly.  Eleanor nodded at the kitchen maid in the doorway.

The two were silent for a moment.

“Vivienne is a small diversion of mine, in case you’re curious,” Eleanor said. “I didn’t mention it before.” She raised an eyebrow. “After your reaction to Alice Vine, I wasn’t sure you’d approve.”

“It’s none of my business,” Eden said with a blush.

Eleanor lit a cigarette as Eden’s tea arrived. “Smoke?” Eleanor asked the girl.

Eden shook her head.

“In fact, Eden, Vivienne is your business—somewhat tangentially.” Eleanor tapped the ash from her cigarette. “I have been trying to think of a way to bring it up for some time, in fact…”

Eden looked at her friend curiously.

“Eden… Darling…” Eleanor paused.  “Listen, don’t be upset, but Vivienne…” She frowned.

“What is it, El?” A knot was beginning to form in Eden’s stomach.

“Have you heard the name Henry Barrett?”

Eden was quiet for a moment. “I don’t think so.”

Eleanor put down her cigarette and met Eden’s eye. “What I’m going to tell you might be a bit shocking, so please bear with me.”

cigcaseEden was really worried now. She put down her cup and reached into her breast pocket for the cigarette case Eleanor had given her for her birthday in Paris.

Eleanor waited until Eden had lit her cigarette, before speaking again. Then, “Henry Barrett was your mother’s husband. Her first one, before she…married…Joe Smith.”

The color drained from Eden’s face. “How do you know about any of that?”She had never spoken her mother’s secret to anyone.  But now Eleanor was claiming to know more about it even, than Eden.

“It doesn’t matter how I know. But I do—I know all of it,” Eleanor added gently. “I’ve never breathed a word to anyone, of course.”

“What does this have to do with that woman?” Eden asked, looking at the door through which Vivienne Webb had gone, refusing to meet Eleanor’s gaze.

“Her husband is Henry Barrett’s cousin. She met your mother years ago—” Eleanor said. “Naturally, she didn’t make the connection when you appeared in Francine’s parlor,” she quickly added.

Eden stared blankly at her hands and watched her cigarette burn.

“Eden?”

“What do you want me to say?” Eden asked in a whisper. She didn’t look up.

“Listen, darling. I know you love…your father. But Henry Barrett is rich as a king—”

Eden cut her off, “what’s that to me? It’s nothing—it’s nothing, Eleanor!” and she rose from the table in haste.

“Eden, please,” Eleanor rose too, put out her hand and begged, “please sit, just hear what I have to say.”

But Eden skulked to the corner of the room and squinted out the small window into the grey garden.

“Alright, don’t sit, but listen,” Eleanor began again in even tones. “I think it best that you not let Henry Barrett die believing himself to be childless…” She paused.

“Is he not childless?” Eden asked, her voice quivering slightly.

“You know he is not.”

Eden finally looked up with a scowl. “I want to know where you came by these ideas of yours!”

Eleanor was quiet for a moment.

“When I met your father, it was obvious to me that you were not his natural child, darling.”

“But this story about Henry Barrett…”

“Barrett is well known to have lost his young wife when she drowned herself in misery or drunkenness—it depends on who is telling the story—on her honeymoon in Boston twenty years ago. Of course, everyone speaks to the man’s face as if it were an accident, but everyone smiles behind his back,” Eleanor paused.  “He’s an ass. He deserves it.”

“What makes you think his wife was my mother?” Eden pressed.

“Your mother told Francine and Francine told me.” Eden’s face grew stormy again. “She told me in particular—she told no one else—because she could see that I might take a special interest in you.”

“A special interest in me?” Eden crossed her arms tightly, but turned to face her friend.

“It’s obvious why that would be the case, isn’t it?” Eleanor gave Eden a small smile. “Francine had the best of intentions and so do I.” She paused. “And I feel you ought to meet Henry Barrett.”

“No.” Eden did not consider it for a fraction of a moment. “Even if it is true, I don’t care. He is no one to me.”

“Of course not darling, of course not. But that does not mean—”

“No.” Eden wouldn’t let Eleanor finish the thought. “Shall I go, or will you continue to pursue this idea?”

“I apologize, Eden.” Eleanor sighed. “Forget I brought it up.”

“I assure you, I will,” Eden told her.

Eden: 12:1

SophiaSophia Abington had always known that she would never marry. She knew it in the same way she knew the birthmark on her left ankle would never wash off in the bath. It was neither a sad nor a happy thing. It was simply an indelible fact of Sophia.

But when she was about twelve years old, she began to have a vision of her future. She would see herself in some grown up time, walking down a street with a doctor’s bag in her hand. She would have spent her day in her surgery, doing small, helpful things with an easy expertise. There would have been no tragedies nor crises, but she would be tired and looking forward to home.

Home, she dimly imagined, would be through a little gate and up a short set of steps to a door that led to a narrow hall with a parlor on one side and a dining room on the other. It would be modest but comfortable, much like the house in which Sophia had grown up. And waiting for her at the dining table would be another person; smiling as she walked into the room; pulling out a chair for her to sit; asking about her day; dining quietly and pleasantly; sitting in the parlor playing the piano or reading for an hour or two, and retiring chastely to a shared bed.

This other person would not be a husband, but another woman who would never marry. They would live together in devoted friendship like some of the women she knew who taught with her parents at the Friends school.

budGreat passion did not enter into her vision. If Sophia had a great passion, it was music.  But she had learned quickly from her practical parents that while the piano was a pleasant diversion for an otherwise serious girl to have, it must remain at most, a secondary interest to something that moved humanity forward towards a better world. Her parents had chosen to teach towards this better world, having learned at the knees of their own staunchly Quaker parents that service and duty to that vision of the future was the only thing worth living for.

So she had decided early that she would be a doctor. She would be a doctor with a piano in her parlor, but she would spend the majority of her prodigious intellect upon learning to do something helpful for the world; something that would move women as a species forward towards the better future, while giving her the satisfaction of a challenge different from, but as difficult as Chopin’s “Harp” etude.

Now, in spite of these plans, passion had arisen in her, taking her uneasily by surprise. Eden Smith was no mere devoted friend with whom Sophia wanted to live quietly in chaste spinsterhood. Eden Smith made her doubt her loyalty to the convictions her parents had fed her upon from birth. For Sophia was certain that if ever she was made to choose, she would discard every plan she had ever laid, every goal she had ever set, and follow Eden to the end of the earth.

In the light of this fact, the purchase of the phonograph had not been shocking. But in view of Sophia’s usual conservativeness in matters of consumption, the expensive, frivolous machine was an extravagance of historic proportions.

She had been on her way to find some new music to play on Eleanor Stephens’s piano when she saw the thing in the music shop window. Its golden bell gleamed in the slanting afternoon sun and the wooden box upon which it sat was richly polished.

“It’s like Eden” Sophia had thought to herself, without knowing exactly why. It might have been only that every beautiful thing Sophia had looked at in the past month had called Eden to her mind—and several lesser things too. But it might have been the sense of sleek modernity the machine cast about itself like a halo. As old-fashioned as Eden might be in matters of lighting, there was something supremely 20th Century about her neat trousers and short hair. If ever, in the history of the world, a woman had done what Eden was doing, Sophia had never heard of it. It felt like the world was turning faster every year, but Eden rode the very cusp of everything that was new and wonderful. The music shop owner proudly cranked the phonograph arm and when Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony began to sound through the bell, Sophia knew she had to share it with her new love.

She had tried to do penance for her extravagance with long nights of work in the library. But on the day the phonograph was delivered, duty fled before desire and she found that dancing with Eden in her little boarding house room was as lovely in its own way as playing for Eden in Eleanor’s grand Beacon Hill music room.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps Sophia would yet someday become a doctor. Certainly, she would never marry. But quiet and chaste she no longer wished to be. What she wished to be was Eden’s, whatever that required of her, and as long as Eden would have her.

Eden 11:2

It didn’t take her long to spot the studious Miss Abington. She had a favorite, deserted corner that Eden had quickly come to know well. She sat there now, as Eden had guessed, one hand holding a book open flat against the small desk, the other hovering over a notebook with a pencil at the ready. She was wearing a simple, button-down shirtwaist with no adornment but her small, gold brooch, and a practical wool skirt of dove grey. Her hat and gloves were on the floor and she sat upon her jacket. An errant lock of hair had come out of the hasty chignon at the nape of her neck and it waved slightly in some otherwise unnoticeable draft.

SophiaEden stopped and watched her quietly. She was so earnest and so wise. Eden couldn’t imagine there was a greater mind in all of Harvard University than Sophia Abington’s, yet to Eden she made a simple, pretty picture there, of a girl forgetting herself in a book. No heiress in a silk evening gown, flaunting the latest hairstyle could be more beautiful. Eden couldn’t understand why men didn’t want women to be educated, though Eleanor and Miss Francine and all the women supporting Radcliffe insisted they were doing something terribly controversial. The college’s opponents claimed that education made women less feminine, less suited to marry and be mothers. But Eden couldn’t imagine a more desirable girl than Sophia was right now, in the library, devouring books like someone starved.

She wished she could walk up to her, take her in her arms and kiss her right there.

Of course, she could do no such thing. But just as she was thinking it, Sophia at last closed her book, and somehow sensing Eden halfway across the room looked up to find her watching. She smiled as Eden walked to her.

“Are you going to work with me for a while?” Sophia whispered.

“No. I’ve come to take you to tea and see the surprise you promised me,”

Sophia checked her watch. “It’s barely six, and I’ve got so much to do,” she objected.

“You work too hard. And you have to eat,” Eden argued, still whispering. “Get these things together. Come with me.”

Sophia began to protest, but Eden stopped her, “Just this once. Please Sophie, you don’t know how I want to get you out of here…and I can’t stay here like this.”

She glanced down. In her haste she had not changed her clothes. She had sneaked into the library in her trousers. Any moment, someone might recognize her and cause who knew what trouble. Sophia collected her things and took Eden’s arm as they walked out the door.

“Let’s not go out,” Sophia said as they left the library.  “I’m sure I can find us something in the kitchen at home. We can eat in my room and I can show you the surprise right away.”

Eden couldn’t object. The desire to be alone with Sophia had been growing unchecked since they had left the library.

They found Sophia’s house empty, but the larder full. They gathered some apples and cheese in a tea towel and went up to Sophia’s room.

“Alright.” Sophia switched on the electric light, “here it is.” She waved her arm in the direction of her small desk, which Eden saw was heavily burdened by some kind of machine.

“But what is it?” Eden asked, putting the towel full of food on the floor by the hearth and stepping to the desk.  It held an oblong wooden box with a small crank at one end. A long brass tube sat atop the box and from that a shining brass trumpet projected.

Edison PhonographSophia watched Eden and smiled broadly. “Wait,” she told her. I’ll show you.”  She stepped to the machine and took down a paper tube with a lid from the shelf beside her desk. Opening the tube, she drew out a thin metal cylinder. She pulled back the trumpet and fitted the cylinder around the brass tube. Then she cranked the handle of the machine and replaced the trumpet.

The cylinder turned. Eden heard a small crackling noise and then a piano began to sound through the bell of the trumpet. “Chopin!” Eden turned to Sophia, astonished. “Where did you get it?” she asked.

“I ordered it from a shop in Boston. I have some other record cylinders for it as well,” she said, indicating the shelf, which held half a dozen more of the little paper tubes. “Now we can have music at home—even without a piano.”

Eden beamed. “You’re amazing, Sophia Abington. Did I ever tell you that you’re amazing?”

Sophia smiled, “I didn’t invent the thing, I just bought it,” she demurred.

“You’re amazing and I won’t hear a word to the contrary,” Eden insisted, taking her in her arms and kissing her as the music played.

Eden 11:1

IMG_2801It was evening and the day’s light was fading as Eden walked through her front door, hung her hat and coat on a hook and looked through the mail the landlady had left on the parlor table. There was a letter from her sister, Minna, and a note that had been left in person. She carried the letters to her room, sat on the edge of the bed and opened Minna’s first. It was filled with stories of her children’s exploits, and other bits of family news from everyone on the ranch. Eden smiled to imagine her lovely sister and the children doing familiar, comforting things back home.

It had been so long since Eden had seen her family. In her childhood, she never could have imagined being away from her sister for more than a day but it had been over a year now, since the twins had been together. Since she’d last seen Minna, her sister had had twin babies of her own, a sister and brother for Eden’s two-year old nephew, Nate. Eden wondered how old they would be before they met their aunt.

In some ways, putting her family away in the drawer where she kept her letters was easier than she had expected it to be. Talking about them was more difficult than setting them aside. She still had not told Sophia much about them. She wanted to, but she hardly knew how or where to begin.

frederickdouglassWhen Sophia had shared Frederick Douglass’s Life and Times with her, Eden had been on the point of telling her, for example, that Peter, Minna’s husband, was a Negro. But the moment when the subject been naturally at hand had passed. Now Eden didn’t know how to bring up the fact without seeming either defensive about it or mistrustful of Sophia’s opinion. Eden assured herself she was neither. It was simply that the thing both mattered very much and mattered not at all. And how could she explain that to anyone in Boston, even Sophia?

But worse than feeling unknown by her college friends was the fear that among them, she was becoming a person her family in Arizona would not know. How could she explain her excitement about her art history course, about the British Museum in London or the Louvre in Paris? How could she tell her father—who had taught her to rope a colt, tie him down and brand him—that she wanted to be a painter? How could she tell her mother—who had left a wealthy husband for her father’s hired man—that she loved the life Eleanor Stephens had shown her, with its champagne, its tailcoats, its first-class steamer suites?

She held Minna’s letter against her cheek. She envied her sister’s new babies as she remembered the simplicity of being a child, curled together with her twin for warmth on a winter night in the desert, wanting nothing more than sweet sleep within arms as familiar as her own. And in spite of all her excitement about what she was learning and seeing and becoming, she feared she would never know anyone—never be known so deeply by anyone—again.

The hand-delivered letter was from Sophia.

Sophia - Version 2Dearest Eden,

I have a marvelous surprise. But it is too difficult for me to bring to you. Please come around to my room at nine o’clock tonight if you want to find out what it is.

One hundred kisses,

Sophia

Eden’s mood shifted quickly and she smiled in spite of herself. Arizona would have to be put away in the drawer. Here was Boston in her hand. And however she loved her sister, Eden could not deny the flush she felt at the mere thought of Sophia Abington. If she must grow away from Minna, growing toward Sophia was no hateful exchange.

EdenBut the letter teased her terribly. Sophia would be in the library until eight, when it closed. Eden had no doubt that marvelous surprise or not, Sophia would work hard all evening before letting herself go home.

But Eden didn’t want to wait. She skipped back downstairs, put on her hat and coat and went to find Sophia in the library.

Eden 10:3

SophiaSophia was quiet and gracious throughout a good meal accompanied by even better wine. Now, unaccustomed as she was to drinking much in the way of alcohol, she was feeling warm and loose as she picked among the nuts and cheese remaining on the table.

“Miss Stephens,” she ventured, “why do you not take a public stand on the suffrage issue? Do you not agree that women ought to be given votes?”

Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “It’s obvious to me that women ought to be given votes. Why should I be touting so in public, do you think?”

votesforwomen

“You are so well known. I wonder you don’t use your influence for an important cause,” Sophia continued.

Eleanor looked at Eden who was looking at Sophia with some wonder. She turned back to Sophia and smiled. “I doubt I have influence with anyone who doesn’t already agree with me. In fact, my opinion might well fuel the fire of those who disagree. I’m not really a very good example of the sort of woman the opposition holds as its ideal, am I?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Sophia admitted.

“Perhaps not,” Eleanor said, “but I gather you are a thoughtful girl as a rule. Eden tells me you had some criticism of Mr. Ellis’s book, for example.”

Sophia looked at Eden. But Eden looked carefully instead at the discarded crust of a dinner roll the kitchen maid had missed in clearing her place.

Sophia folded her napkin, placed it on the table before her and decided to be honest. “I do question the scientific value of conclusions drawn so much on the evidence of anonymous hearsay,” she told Eleanor.

“Well, perhaps not entirely anonymous. His wife is a acquaintance of mine in London. I believe some of the “hearsay” comes from her.”

“Oh.” Sophia blushed.

“Did you not find any of the cases familiar to you, Eden?” Eleanor turned to her young friend.

“I don’t know,” Eden said. She wished Eleanor had not brought the subject up. In fact, she knew, in spite of her demur, exactly what Eleanor meant by ‘familiar,’ but she was in awe of Sophia’s willingness to argue with Mr. Ellis on the quality of his science and she did not wish to appear to take his side against her.

Eleanor saw Eden’s discomfort. “Never mind, darling,” she said, rising from the table. “Do you think Miss Abington might be persuaded to play for us?” then to Sophia, “My piano is sadly underused. I almost never play myself these days.”

“I’m terribly out of practice,” Sophia said, “but I’m happy to try.” And she followed Eden and Eleanor to the music room.

Whatever Sophia had meant by “out of practice,” she did not hesitate to take a seat at the piano stool, and Eleanor and Eden had barely sat down when the very Chopin ballade that had inspired Eden’s tears in the music hall began to fill the room

Sophia’s little audience of two sat, both stunned, for somewhat different reasons, by her virtuosity. When the ballade was finished, she stopped and turned about to face her listeners.

Eleanor clapped and rose from her chair. “You didn’t tell me your friend was so musically gifted, Eden. To say she plays the piano is something of an understatement.” Then to Sophia, “What a shame you aren’t able to devote more time to your playing. Are you quite sure the field of medicine needs you more than the concert hall?”

Sophia shook her head slightly. “I don’t know that I’m needed by either, I only feel that I can do more good for the world as a doctor.” But she gave the piano a wistful look as she added, “it’s a fine instrument, though. It’s a shame it doesn’t get more use.”

Eleanor smiled. “Perhaps you could remedy that. It would be my pleasure if you would call whenever you like and play for me—or for Eden, if I’m not in town. The staff knows that the house is always open to her.”

“That’s so kind of you, Miss Stephens,” Sophia said, blushing a little.

“Not at all, darling—and please, you must call me Eleanor, just as Eden does,” she insisted.

“Eleanor,” Sophia said with a little smile.

Eden gave her hand to Sophia and drew her up from the piano stool. For a fleeting moment, they stood before Eleanor, hand in hand and she could see the unquakerlike effects of Chopin on their plainly enamored faces.