Eden 7:1

cambridge street carEden rattled along, balancing in the aisle of the streetcar where she stood clasping the back of a seat in which Julia Bloom sat.  It had been Julia’s idea that some of them should go to the music hall together just as the term was beginning. Eden had almost declined the invitation, preferring to avoid the girl who had been Gertrude’s best friend. But Cathy Dickens, who still lived in Eden’s boarding house, had urged her to go. Cathy, in turn had brought Sophia Abington and Julia had brought Clara Van Oester, a first year student she had met in Newport over the summer.

The car was full on a Friday evening, with young people from the university and the further suburbs, going into town for entertainment. Eden had given no thought at all to her decision to give her companions the available seats. She was acting the part of a gentleman, having worn, as she most often did for such excursions, her trousers. Her friends giggled when they saw her and called her “Mr. Smith” with sly glances that, Eden felt, were all but calculated to give her away. Without such antics, she was certain no one would have any reason to question her identity as a young man escorting a group of girls on the town.

For her part, Julia acted as if she were determined that the world at large think Eden her young man, and the others merely chaperoning friends. She had taken Eden’s arm while waiting in the square for the streetcar, had made certain to enlist Eden’s help climbing aboard and finding a seat and had somehow managed it that Eden should find Julia’s seat the most convenient one to hand when the car shook or swayed enough to require her to steady herself.

Eden had noted these things anxiously, if only subconsciously, and perhaps to avoid their coming to the surface of her mind, she looked directly at Cathy and said “You are a picture in that red dress, Catherine Dickens. You ought to wear that color more often.”

Cathy smiled. “I think so!” she agreed without a blush. “My mother insists ginger-haired girls must never wear red, but it has always been my favorite color. I do believe I may marry in red,” she grinned.

“You had better not tell your fiancé of that plan until you’re at the church door,” teased Julia. Not many men would marry a girl who’d wear red to her own wedding, I fear.”

“Have you got a fiancé?” asked Miss Van Oester now.

“Oh no—I’ve got two more years of college,” Cathy said.

“What has that got to do with it?” Clara asked.

“I certainly don’t plan to marry until I graduate—otherwise, why bother with college at all?”

Cathy, realizing too late, that she was speaking to two of Gertrude’s friends, reddened and tried to soften her point. “Unless of course one happens to stumble across a truly special man.”

Julia raised her eyebrows. “It is certainly unlikely Gertrude Prescott would have stumbled across Charles Brunswick anywhere but in Cambridge. She was never exactly one of that set,” in tone that implied that she ought to know, since her own “set” sometimes overlapped the Brunswicks’.

“Mother wanted me to come out and then make a grand tour with my maiden aunt and a cousin,” said Clara. “But Julia persuaded me that college would be a lark. Then she convinced mother that if Gertie Prescott could make such a dazzling marriage in spite of college, my prospects would not suffer for a year or two of real education.

“For all that, I had a task to convince her you wouldn’t be eaten alive by ravenous suffragettes,” Julia laughed.

At this, Clara looked so sharply at Eden that Cathy, Julia and Sophia Abington did, too. Eden glanced over herself wondering if something was the matter. It was soon apparent that nothing was and everyone looked away again for an awkward silent moment.

Eden roused her courage. “You’ll have hard work to stay unclaimed until graduation, I’m sure, Miss van Oester, if it’s in your line to marry. One of the boys in the library is bound to snatch you right up.” She forced herself to smile.

“Well, I plan to graduate, then marry as soon as ever I can—but not before,” insisted Cathy.

“As soon as ever you can?” pursued Julia.

“Oh yes! It’s my dream to be an educated companion for a good man, and an educated mother to healthy children.”

“And yet our detractors would insist education is rather contrary to marriage and motherhood—not that I agree of course,” Julia said.

“Well,” Cathy began, glancing at Clara. “I am not ‘ravenous,’ but I do think we must be prepared to take our public duties with all due gravity when they are given us. I am sure we will see the vote soon, and when we do, we must take our place in civic life as gracefully and responsibly as we take our place in family life. And as I hope for an educated, fair-minded husband, how can I propose to offer him less than an educated, reason-loving wife?”

“I plan to be a journalist and see the world to the end of ‘writing it up’ for the magazines,” Julia announced.

“And not to marry?” Clara turned to Julia with no small surprise.

“Oh, certainly I’ll marry!” Julia insisted. “I will marry some lovely Bohemian—an artist or a long-haired musician—someone who shocks the conventions and makes my mother swoon.” She glanced, upon this, at Eden, who avoided her eyes and found herself meeting those instead of Sophia Abington.

Miss Abington had not said anything on the topic of careers or marriage as yet, so Eden, still feeling Julia’s gaze, announced, “Miss Abington is going to be a doctor.”

“A doctor?” Julia said.

“So she says,” Cathy answered with an encouraging look at Sophia.

“If the medical school will allow me to try,” the girl admitted.

“Who would put herself under a lady doctor’s care?” asked Clara. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“There are several lady doctors in Boston,” said Eden in a confident tone that belied the very little she really knew about the topic.

“Boston is more different from New York everyday!” said Clara. “But what about you…Mr. Smith?” She turned back to Eden again.  “What will you do upon graduation?”

The streetcar, mercifully, came to a stop—their stop—and Eden, ignoring the question, helped her friends, one-by-one, descend to the pavement. Julia took her arm again and they all walked to the Music Hall.

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