Category Archives: 41 Chapter Forty-One

Eden 41:4

Soon after her arrival in Boston, Sophia called on Claire.

“Dr. Abington!” Claire cried happily, kissing Sophia on the cheek and flushing with joy. “Welcome home to Boston.”

She ushered Sophia into a modest sitting room in the house she now shared with a new medical student.

“Thank you, Dr. Reardon,” Sophia said. “But I am not here for social reasons only.” She eyed Claire with a grin. “I have a plan and I hope you will consider helping me.”

Claire raised an eyebrow. “What kind of plan?”

“There is some research I have been planning for some time now. And I think…if it goes well…I think we could submit it for the Boyleston Prize.”

“The Boyleston Prize? From Harvard’s medical school? That is quite a plan, Dr. Abington.”

“It is.” Sophia was sober.

“But…” Claire shook her head. “What about the policy—”

“Against women?” Sophia smiled again. “The papers are submitted anonymously. They will not have any way to know we are women until we have won.”

“If we win,” Claire said.

“We can, Claire. I’m sure we can.” Sophia clapped her hands on the arms of her chair with enthusiasm. “I have read the last five years’ prize papers, and I am certain that we can meet or surpass their quality. And when we do…the attention the research receives could make a real difference to the care of women and their babies all over this country—perhaps even abroad.”

It was a noble goal. It was worthy of all Sophia’s work over the years of her education. It was worthy of her parents. It was worthy of a good doctor with a good heart like Claire’s. It was worthy of Eden’s sacrifice.

All of this was in Sophia’s face, impossible for Claire to ignore. “Whether we win or not, you know I will be proud to help you,” Claire said.

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Eden 41:3

It was still dark and Eden was still sleeping when Sophia rose and dressed. She took the valise standing beside her trunk and slipped out of the room and down the stairs to the lower deck, where she walked to the railing, cool wind in her loosely braided hair.

For just a moment, she watched the eastern sky lightening where it met the water, then she reached into the valise.

She held a sheaf of papers as far out from the railing as she could and dropped them, watching them flutter and float down, one catching a draft and blowing back past her again before twisting and flying finally out into the dark water with the rest. As Sophia’s eyes grew sharper in the half-light, she could make out the litter of white in the boat’s wake.

There was nothing left in the valise now, but a notebook bound in leather. She reached for it, but before she could toss it after the paper, a voice made her freeze.

“What on earth are you doing?”

Eden slipped to Sophia’s side and looked over the railing. The paper was out of sight now. But Sophia held the notebook in her hand.

“That’s Bertrand’s book.” She recognized it, of course, Sophia thought, and shuddered to imagine the circumstances in which Eden had become familiar with it.

“Yes.”

“You’re throwing it overboard?” Eden looked bemused.

“Yes.”

“Does he know you have it?”

“I don’t know.” Sophia looked down at the book for a moment, glanced at Eden and hurled it as hard as she could into the ocean.

Eden was silent.

“That was all of his notes, the draft of the article, everything I could find in his files about you—all of it, I think.” Sophia stopped and looked down as if to make sure the notes had not resurfaced, but the boat had surely left them far behind by now. “He could still reconstruct it from memory I suppose.” She frowned.

“Sophie—” Eden touched Sophia’s sleeve.

“I’m so sorry.” Sophia was in tears. “How can you ever forgive me for it?”

“There’s nothing to forgive, darling,” Eden said. “I went to him, remember? It had nothing to do with you.”

But it did. It had everything to do with Sophia and she knew it.

Eden 41:2

After dinner, Eden and Sophia retired to the first-class drawing room, which was empty, most of the passengers preferring the parlor or smoking in the gentlemen’s lounge.

“Where did you go?” Sophia asked Eden.  “I worried about you every day.”

“I was all right—it was quite nice for a while, but I can only cope with George and Wil and…England for so long.” She smiled again.

“I thought you might be with George. And Wil, and…who?”

“Oh it doesn’t matter—a lot of people at Wil’s house in Kent. It’s one of those big ones, you know—not like El’s cottage,” Eden said.

“El’s ‘cottage’ has nine bedrooms.”

“Yes, well…Wil’s has a deer park,” Eden raised her eyebrows and made an unconvincing frown.

“So you’ve suffered, then, while I was luxuriating in my examinations?” Sophia teased.

“But I have suffered, Sophie. I missed the look on your face when your exam results came in. I missed taking you to the Continental to celebrate. I missed you on my walks in the deer park, for all that…” Eden looked furtively around her to confirm that they were alone in the room. She placed a careful hand on Sophia’s thigh.  “I’m tired of missing you, darling.”

“Ah yes, I know. I know,” Sophia didn’t bother to look about her. She leaned close to Eden and kissed her cheek, laying her head, for just a moment on Eden’s shoulder and snatching a breath of the faint but familiar scent of turpentine and hair oil and soap. She was home. Even on a boat in the middle of the sea.

Eden 41:1

boatSophia stepped into the stateroom the porter said was hers, and was immediately certain there had been a mistake.

“A double suite?” she turned to ask him.

“Yes miss,” he said, “Would you like your trunk in the bedroom?”

“Wait,” she held up a hand to him and took one step across the threshold from the little sitting room into the next chamber. “This is someone else’s room.” There was already a trunk in the corner.

She looked closer. It was Eden’s trunk. Her heart jumped happily.

She turned again to the porter. “I’m sorry,” she said, “yes, just there, please,” and waved at the foot of the bed.

When she had tipped him and he had gone, the bathroom door opened and Eden herself stepped, towel in hand, into the room.

“Eden!” she smiled. “Eleanor said I would certainly see you soon, but I thought she meant Boston…”

“I came aboard early. I wanted to surprise you. Look what El’s done—this suite…” Eden waved an arm and smiled. “You’d think it was a honeymoon.”

“I wish it was,” Sophia admitted. “I’d rather dance with you after dinner than sit in the corner chatting like a pair of old maids, watching people glance away from us, pretending not to think we are odd.” Sophia frowned.

Eden took a step back and smoothed down her black gabardine skirt. “I know darling.  But we’ll dance in Boston, I promise.  We’ll go straight to the Brunswick and I’ll wear my tailcoat and you will wear one of your dresses from Paris.”

“Dresses—?” Sophia shook her head a little.

“I ordered them before I left. I knew you had more important things to do than run around to dressmakers. But you can’t be without your trousseau if it’s our honeymoon, Dr. Abington.”

And Eden pulled Sophia to her and kissed her.