Eden 10:2

Eden thought she knew Boston. She was certain that Gertrude had shown her all the wonders of the city. But now, Sophia, on the rare days she could be persuaded to leave her books, began to show Eden a city she had not yet seen.

Sophia’s Boston was a city of suffrage lectures and temperance meetings and demonstrations for better housing for the poor. It was filled with Quaker patriarchs with long white beards and gentle eyes that nonetheless flashed when the subject of American imperialism was raised. With Sophia as her guide, Eden discovered a circle of stern-looking, but brilliant-minded women who cared much more for what Eden was reading than for what she was wearing.

hygeiaOne cold afternoon, Sophia brought Eden to a quiet graveyard, took her hand and led her to a beautiful stone woman draped in classical robes, holding a bronze staff and standing atop a dais, raised above most of the other markers in the cemetery.

“It’s beautiful,” Eden gasped. “Who made it?”

“Made it…?” Sophia looked from the words on the grave marker to the statue atop it, where Eden gazed. She smiled. “I don’t know…it’s Harriet Hunt’s grave. She was the first woman doctor in Boston.”

“Oh.” But Eden’s attention still on the stone figure.

“I don’t really know what the statue is,” Sophia said. “It isn’t Dr. Hunt. And it’s not an angel…”

“It’s Hygeia,” Eden said. “The goddess of health. It’s an excellent example of neoclassicism. See how the robes hang away from the body here? See the detail of the feet? Whoever made it was a gifted sculptor.”

Sophia looked. “You’re right. It’s beautiful. I’ve come here to see Dr. Hunt since I was fourteen, and decided to go to medical school. But I never really gave the statue any thought before today.”

“I’ve been reading a lot this term about Greek architecture and sculpture. I see it everywhere lately.” Eden bit her lip. Maybe this was just another thing a Boston girl would take for granted.

But Sophia took Eden’s hand and smiled.  “Tell me what else you see,” she said.

The cemetery was filled with beautiful statuary.  They spent the rest of the afternoon admiring it, Eden telling what she had learned about the design of the memorials, Sophia telling what she knew of the notable Bostonians buried beneath them.

***

“Who is E. W. Stephens? Not the writer?” Sophia asked Eden one afternoon.  They were studying in Eden’s room, Sophia reading in the wingback chair and Eden in her shirt sleeves, lying propped on one arm, in the floor before a low fire in the hearth.

“You mean Eleanor?” Eden looked up. Sophia was holding a book, reading the plate inside the cover. It was one that Eleanor had leant Eden recently. There was a pile of such books on the edge of Eden’s desk most of the time. However she insisted that her education at Radcliffe was quite complete, Eleanor was frequently doubtful of this and kept Eden supplied in extracurricular material from her own library.

“E. is for Eleanor?” Sophia pursued.

“Yes. And yes, she is a writer, have you heard of her?” Eden asked.

“Of course, I have!” Sophia insisted. “She’s famous. Didn’t you know?

“I suppose,” Eden admitted. But she didn’t think of it much anymore. Her early fearful awe of Eleanor had settled into easy affection. She occasionally found herself shocked, still, by Eleanor’s wealth or breadth of knowledge, but since they had traveled together she was no longer awkwardly self-conscious around the older woman. Eleanor had offered Eden sincere friendship and Eden had come to believe in it.

But now she remembered that Eleanor had told her to invite Sophia to dinner.  “She wants to meet you, in fact. I’m supposed to dine with her on Thursday. I will ask her if I might bring you along.”

Sophia shook her head in wonder.  “You are quite an intimate friend of hers, then?”

Eden shrugged a bit, beginning to feel self-conscious.

“Who else do you dine with?  The king of Spain?”  Eden knew Sophia was teasing.  But she sounded pleased. Eden grinned and they went back to reading.

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