Sophia stepped up to Dr. Bertrand’s office door and hesitated just a fraction of a moment before knocking. She had not seen him all day, but had received a message to come to the office before she left the hospital in the evening. It was unusual that he insisted on the privacy of the office. He usually discussed her work in the halls of the hospital, at a patient’s bedside or over a short break for a meal at midday.
“Viens!” he called in response to her knock, and she opened the door and stepped inside. He stood and gave her an almost imperceptible bow. “Assieds sil-vous-plait,” he said, gesturing to the chair across the desk from his own. She sat.
“Mademoiselle Abington,” he switched to English. “I saw your friend again yesterday.”
“Ton ami…ou t’amie…” Dr. Bertrand raised an eyebrow. “Which should it be?”
Sophia suddenly felt her pulse throbbing at her throat. “Eden?”
“Mademoiselle Smith, Monsieur Durand-Ruel called her.”
Sophia felt the blood drain from her face.
“A gifted artist. I bought one of her pictures,” the doctor said in a lighter tone.
Sophia sat in silence. Why had Eden not said that she had met him at the gallery?
“You might have told me, Miss Abington.” Bertrand shook his head slightly and looked at Sophia beneath bristling eyebrows. “I do not judge these things the way others might. I am a doctor, a man of science, non?”
“Of course,” Sophia said at last.
“In fact, your friend is a fascinating case. It is a wonder to me that you did not mention before now that you knew of such a perfect type of the invert. You have read Mr. Ellis’s work?” Bertrand’s tone was suddenly clinical.
“I have,” Sophia assented. “But Eden…Miss Smith—”
“It is a wonder to me that you have given such a person some kind of promise not to marry. I did not take you for the type of woman who finds herself vulnerable to such seductions. Perhaps it is the unnatural environment of the medical school and the company of so many men who think of you as a colleague, rather than a woman? Or perhaps the pathos of the case has overcome your judgment?” Bertrand sat back in his chair now and squinted condescendingly at Sophia.
She did not know what to say.
“Bien. We will forget it. But you must consider bringing your friend here for an interview with Dr. Hall. He is becoming something of a celebrity in the field of psycho-sexual pathologies. I know he would appreciate the opportunity to study such a typical case,” Bertrand suggested.
Sophia’s face was a stone. What part of what she felt was anger and what part shame, she could not have said. But it throbbed in the tips of her fingers and burned the edges of her ears. “I don’t believe Miss Smith would consent to that, even if I were to ask her,” she said.
Dr. Bertrand raised his eyebrows again. “It is of course, your own affair,” he said. “But cherie…” he smiled again. “Please take the advice of your professor, your elder and, dare I say, your friend, and forget the promise you have given this poor girl. She is an unfortunate person, to be sure, but you owe her nothing but your professional compassion. There is no reason a promise to her should stand in the way of your…marrying, for instance. Look in the glass, cherie. You will find a lovely young woman, though the rigors of your scientific work may have led you to forget her. I would not like to see such a mind twisted in hysterical confusion.” And he frowned just a little.
Sophia knew it was anger this time that brought the blood to her face. She took a deep breath. “Thank you Dr. Bertrand.” She rose from her chair. “If that is all, I must be getting home now.”
“Of course, Mademoiselle. Bonsoir.” And he stood as she saw herself out.