Category Archives: 08 Chapter Eight

Eden 8:4

Sophia found a deserted desk in a quiet corner of the library, took out the book and opened it:

Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Volume II. Sexual Inversion. Havelock Ellis.

She paged through the table of contents and turned immediately to a chapter called, “Sexual Inversion in Women.”

Sophia read for over an hour. Finally, she took out a scrap of paper and copied down something from the book. She closed the cover, laid another book atop it and took the paper with her as she rose and surveyed the library for a moment.

Spotting a solitary young Harvard student across the way, she approached him quietly.

“Excuse me,” she whispered.

The boy looked up from the book he was examining. “Hello?” he answered quietly.

“I’m sorry, but I wonder if I could ask a favor of you?”

The boy looked curiously at her and replaced his book on its shelf.

Sophia handed him the slip of paper. “I’m afraid the librarian may not let me have this. Could I trouble you to ask for it, for me?”

Sophia had never done anything so forward in her life. She hoped she wasn’t blushing now, but feared she probably was. The boy looked at the title written on the paper. He looked up at Sophia, watching him. A faint smile played across his lips.

“Sure, Miss, I can get it for you.”

He turned and walked to the desk.

Krafft-ebingSophia was afraid she’d made a terrible mistake as she waited, still as a statue, for the boy to return. But return he did, in a short time, the heavy book in hand.  He gave it to Sophia. “If you’ll just find me again when you’re finished, so I can return it…” he said quietly.

“Of course,” Sophia said, taking it from him. “Thank you so much.”

And she walked back to her little corner desk and opened the second book.

Eden 8:3

Eden“Sophia,” Eden whispered, cornering the girl by a quiet shelf in the library where she had known she would find her on a cloudy October Saturday.

Sophia looked up from the book she was leafing through, smiled at Eden and mouthed a silent “hello.”

“Can I talk to you?”

SophiaThe girl nodded, replaced her book on the shelf and followed Eden outside and down the front steps of the building.

“What is it?” Sophia asked.

Eden stopped and pulled a book out of the valise she carried.

“Please don’t tell anyone…” Eden began. Sophia took the book and inspected it, lines of curiosity forming on her forehead as she did.

Studies in the Psychology of Sex, the cover read.

“Who would I tell?” Sophia said with a little blush and a tone of strained cheer.  She could see that Eden was embarrassed. “What shall I do with it?”

“Read it.  And tell me what you think—from a medical point of view, I mean,” Eden added hastily.

“Medical?” Sophia frowned. “I’m not a doctor yet…not even close!”

But Eden just looked at the ground between them. “I know, but you’re closer than anyone else I know—anyone I could ask about this, anyway. Please?”

“Oh, certainly Eden, I didn’t mean I wouldn’t read it. I just don’t know what it will mean to me. Or what I can tell you…” Eden shifted her weight nervously from foot to foot.

“I’ll read it tonight.  Alright?”

“Tonight?” Eden asked, surprised.  It had taken her over a week to get through the book.

“As much as I can, tonight, the rest tomorrow. We can speak about it Monday if you like.”

Eden nodded.  “Thanks.”

“Are you coming back into the library?”

“No,” Eden said, flipping her watch open to check the time.  “I’ve got to meet Julia Bloom for tea in a few minutes.”

“Oh.”

“But Monday—?” Eden confirmed.

“Monday,” Sophia assented.

And they went their separate ways.

Eden 8:2

Now that Eleanor had made her admit it, Eden allowed herself to dwell a bit on the fact that Sophia was pretty, even though her clothes were quite simple by comparison to the other girls. Most often, she wore a brown tweed skirt, a tailored shirtwaist and a modest straw hat. She seemed to own little jewelry—just a small gold brooch and a ring engraved with her initials. She wore her hair in a low chignon at lectures, though for the evening of the Chopin, she had piled it high on her head and crowned it with a sleek feathered hat.

Sophia - Version 2Gertrude had called Sophia plain, but she could not see what Eden did. Sophia might be hiding her beauty behind her simple fashions, but Eden had found it out. Now the more she thought about it, the more obvious it became that for all her expensive clothes, Gertrude Prescott was not half as lovely as the girl she had so often snubbed. It was so obvious in fact, that Eden was almost shocked she had not seen it a year ago.

Not that it made any difference to Eden, of course, and naturally, a girl of Miss Abington’s abilities would want to be known for her work, not her appearance.  And yet the image was stuck in Eden’s mind now: Sophia Abington walking through the night in a grey silk dress that matched her eyes, her head thrown back to count the Boston stars.

Eden 8:1

ellisEden frowned at the book Eleanor Stephens had placed on the table in front of her. They had dined alone at Eleanor’s house and now, Eden realized there was a reason it had been only the two of them.

“Studies in the Psychology of Sex… It doesn’t sound like something my mother would want me to be reading,” Eden told her friend.

“Well, as long as we’re breaking maternal taboos, have a cigarette.” Eleanor took two from the silver case in her breast pocket, lighted them, and handed one to Eden.

Eden took it gladly now, but went back to frowning at the book.

“Well, give it a try.  You ought to read it for yourself before you hear about it from someone with something other than your best interests at heart,” Eleanor said.

“Why do you say so?  Is it bad?”

Eleanor“Not bad exactly—just, well, that we’re ill. Or rather, mistakes. It says people such as you and I are mistakes of nature. I suppose that sums it up as well as anything.  It’s rather avant guard, I suppose. Better a mistake than a sinner, right?” Eleanor smiled grimly.

“A sinner?” such a thing had never crossed Eden’s mind.

“Or a criminal,” Eleanor added, finishing the brandy at the bottom of her glass.

“Oh,” said Eden, not really understanding and not sure she wanted to.

“Just read it, bring it back and we’ll talk about it, alright?” Eleanor told her in a gentler tone.

“Alright,” Eden said, feeling guilty, but for what, she couldn’t name.

“Never mind,” Eleanor changed the subject. “It sounds like you are a convert to Chopin.”

“I am!” Eden assented with enthusiasm.

“I’m surprised your mother didn’t ever play it for you,” Eleanor mused.

“We didn’t have a piano,” Eden said, then added, “but my Uncle Liam plays the mandolin and guitar and my Uncle Bill plays the fiddle—the violin. We used to have a lot of music around the place when we weren’t working, but not the kind of music you hear in Boston.”

“I daresay…Well, if your mother had no piano, I suppose there is an awful lot of music you missed.  I know you’ve been to see a few concerts since coming to Boston, but I’ll start keeping an eye open for important things you ought especially to hear.” She grinned at Eden affectionately. “I can’t say I’m surprised you like Chopin.”

Eden knew Eleanor was teasing her, but she wasn’t sure why.  She sipped her brandy.

“Have you ever known a lady doctor?” She asked suddenly.

“Certainly!” Eleanor insisted. “Abigail Tate—a girl I knew at Miss Ireland’s School—took a medical degree in Germany and I believe is practicing in New York, now. Why do you ask?”

“I know a girl who wants to be a doctor,” Eden told Eleanor. “She studies all the time. She’s the top student in our class. She sat next to me during the Chopin then came to tea. She plays the piano too, but she doesn’t have so much time for that these days.”

“Is she pretty?” Eleanor asked.

“El!” Eden protested, but blushed and admitted, “She’s pretty. But that’s not my point.”

“No, of course it isn’t. She wants to be a doctor. Well, I suppose this is the time to try.” Eleanor’s face clouded so slightly and so briefly that Eden almost missed it.

“El?  Don’t you approve?”

“Approve?” Eleanor smiled. “Of course, I more than approve!  I hope your Miss—?”

“Abington—Sophia Abington.”

Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “Dorthea Beales Abington’s daughter? Josiah Beales’s granddaughter?”

“I think so. She told me her grandfather was something important. Do you know about it?” Eden asked.

“Everyone in Boston knows about it. Josiah Beales was one of New England’s most influential editors before the war. He was a collaborator with Frederick Douglass I believe. But I was just a child at the time, and my parents left the country as soon as the war broke out.”

“Frederick Douglass, yes. Sophia gave me the book.”

“The book?” Eleanor asked.

“Frederick Douglass’s Life and Times.”

“Ah, that book. So your Miss Abington is a reformer in true Beales tradition.  No wonder she wants to be a doctor. Be careful, she’ll have you on the street agitating for the vote and before you know it, you’ll be jailed for dressing like a radical.”

Eden hoped Eleanor was joking about going to jail. Sophia hardly seemed to be the sort of girl to get into trouble of any kind.

She decided to change the subject. “Why do you think Sophia’s mother didn’t want her to play Chopin?”

Eleanor knocked the ash from the end of her cigarette. “Probably for something like the reason your mother wouldn’t want you reading that book I gave you. I can’t think Chopin fits very well into the Beales family philosophy of life.”

“Why shouldn’t it?”

“Perhaps these are things you ought to ask your Sophia,” Eleanor said, and reached to pour them more brandy.

brandy trayEden gave a little wave. “No thank you.  I should get home.  I’ve got reading for tomorrow.”

“I’ll just order the carriage, then,” Eleanor said.

“She’s not my Sophia,” Eden added.

“Alright, darling,” Eleanor rang for the maid.