Eden 24:3

BethSophia watched Eden watch Bette Nourse as the woman gathered her hat and a parasol, leaving Eden and Sophia waiting in her doorway and sending them out again before her as she left the place, turned and locked the door. Sophia thought her a little stiff, but Eden didn’t seem to mark it.

Sophia was silent as the three made their way down the Rue d’Assas and into the Luxembourg Gardens. But Eden chatted quickly with Miss Nourse.

“I expected you’d be at Mme. Vielle’s last night,” she was saying as Sophia looked about her at the line of trees breaking the sunlight into glittering shards that fell before them on the smooth path.

“I was working,” Miss Nourse said. “I suppose you were the hero of the evening, now that the reviews have all come out.” Here, the woman turned to Eden and smiled and Sophia marveled that Eden almost grew taller under her affirming gaze.

Elizabeth—Bette—Nourse was at least forty years old. But she was the sort of woman who grew classically handsome rather than faded, with age. Her hair was dark with only a few stray wisps of grey. Her complexion was fair, her cheekbones high. As she walked at a clip, she flushed becomingly. Sophia examined the woman quite freely. For Miss Nourse had gone back to looking straight ahead as she walked and Eden had not taken her eyes off of her since they had entered the garden.

children-in-the-luxembourg-gardensAt last they came to a shallow, still pond filled with children’s toy boats and Bette led them to a little table with some chairs where they all sat together facing the water.

“Sophia,” the woman turned to her at last, “Eden says you are studying medicine.”

“I am,” Sophia answered.

“At Harvard?” Miss Nourse inquired further.

“The Boston University School of Medicine—Harvard wouldn’t give me a place—”

“—because she’s a woman,” Eden cut in. “She was the top student in our class at Radcliffe and she ought to have been at the Harvard Medical School.”

Sophia colored and gave Eden a chastising glance.

“Not surprising, I’m afraid,” Miss Nourse frowned. “Why don’t you come to Paris, Sophia?  C’est tres amenable pour femmes americaines!” she gushed. “If not as much for French women,” she added with a little shake of her head. “But the Ecole de Medecine admits women. My own friend, Dr. Andrews, took her degree there and has stayed on in France to practice medicine for the last decade.”

“Dr. Jacobi attended l’Ecole de Medecine,” Sophia admitted, and told her companions about the woman whose work the Harvard Medical School had awarded its highest prize—believing her to be a man—so many years ago that Sophia had been sure they would accept a female student now that it was a new century.

“So why not Dr. Abington?” Bette Nourse smiled kindly but Sophia looked to Eden, who looked away from them both, removed her hat and ran a hand through her hair.

“Oh—I haven’t the funds to study in Paris,” Sophia admitted. “My grandfather left money for my education, but even he didn’t suspect just how much education I would need. I’ve nearly come to the end of it and I must rely on my parents for help. They’d never agree to let me come to Paris, I’m certain.”

Eden looked at Sophia now, and asked her quietly, “you’re certain?”

“Well, anyway, there’s no money for it,” Sophia insisted again.

Eden didn’t press Sophia further and Bette Nourse smiled vaguely for a moment before changing the subject. “You must come up to the studio soon Eden, and see what I’m working on. Not today—the light will be wrong by the time we get back. Perhaps later this week?”

Eden’s eyes snapped to Bette at the mention of her work. “Yes, later this week.  Sophie—you’d like to see it too, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes of course,” Sophia agreed. But she wanted to see Eden’s studio. She wanted to see Eden’s work.

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