“Marry you?” Eden turned from the trunk she was unpacking to look at Sophia. “What do you mean he wanted to marry you?” A line of worry crossed her brow.
“I had no idea he was thinking of it. I didn’t even know his wife was dead or I would never have gone to his house at all,” Sophia said and slumped into a chair by the hearth, looking into the flames. “In the moment, it seemed a good idea to tell him I was already engaged. And when he asked to meet you I said you were in London. Now he knows you’re here.”
“What do you want me to do? Go to his house and say I am your fiancé?”
“I can’t fathom it, can you? It’s one thing to go out dancing or dining or to the theatre and have everyone say ‘monsieur.’ But…” Sophia looked from the fire to Eden.
“I don’t know.” Eden sat heavily on the bed and looked out the window. “You say he’s an art collector? All the gallery owners know me. It would not be a secret for very long—who I really am.”
Silence fell. At length, Sophia rose and began unpacking Eden’s trunk where Eden had stopped. “This good shirt is spoiled with paint,” she said quietly, holding the accused object before her, then folding it carefully anyway.
Sophia found that tears were pricking her eyes and she was desperate that Eden should not see them. She turned back to the contents of the trunk and drew out another shirt.
But holding back the tears was a hopeless endeavor and rather than stepping to Eden’s wardrobe, she crumpled, crying into the shirt she held.
“God Sophie, what should I do? I’ll do it, just tell me. You can tell him we’ve broken it off—or…” Eden rose and stepped behind Sophia, putting gentle hands on her shaking shoulders.
But Sophia just cried on without a word and a shame rose up in Eden that she had not known since the day Gertrude had rebuked her for not being a boy.
“Your mother was right after all,” Eden said. “I’m harming your chance to be a doctor, aren’t I?”
“No,” Sophia said, turning at last and burying her face in Eden’s neck. “I was stupid to let him think…”
“What should you have done? Agreed to marry him?”
“I don’t know…I don’t know what I should have done. I don’t know what to do now.”