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Sophie and LeBlanc

Wednesday 22 July 2015 at 1:30 pm.

A fictional story based off of the true stories of Sophie Germain

The rain echoed from the metal roof and old windows. The busy streets of Paris were silent, under the heavy rain. The street lights glowed through the dark night, and thick air. The small arrondissement was dark, everyone had curled up under their warm covers, waiting for the storm to pass. But one small window glowed in the night.

A soft glow emanated from an old window, framed in deep crimson curtains.  In this room, sat a small girl, swaddled in quilts and blankets, who sat in a small chair, reading. Reading under the light of three small candles. She read all night, she read until she was caught, and her books, candles, and quilts were taken away from her. She read until she was forced to go to bed. 

This happened every night, but she never kept her love waiting. She waited until the stroke of midnight. She waited until the town, including her parents, were asleep. At the stroke of midnight she lit the match. Her eyes skimmed the page, as though her life depended on finishing the book that night. 
 

He was so focused on the math problem, so deep in thought that the battle cries behind him did not resonate. Archimedes was oblivious to the roars of soldiers and screams of town’s people. He was standing in the corner when an armed Roman soldier burst into the shack. He motioned for the old man to move out of the way, as the King had ordered the gentleman to be saved. However, Archimedes was so entranced that he had not heard the soldier's cries, which grew louder and louder until the soldier had had enough. The brilliant mathematician and physicist died at the wrong end of a spear-point.  

Hushed whispers and muffled footsteps echoed from down the hall. She quickly blew out the candles and stuffed her book and quilts under her bed.  

“Sophie! Sophie!” a voice said sternly. Her parents had heard her old bed creak under her fast movements.

“Sophie. It’s late. Stop wasting candles. You read plenty during the day, soon we will have to burn all the books to see at night.” her mother said, a smile hinting on her face. 

“We’ve already allowed you to read these books. Getting our hands on them, and paying for them isn’t cheap you know” her father nodded in agreement.  

“How could he be so distracted that he didn’t even hear the Roman army?” Sophie, unintentionally, said aloud. 

“What?” her father said, grabbing the books, candles, and quilts that were peeking out from under her bed. “Enough of this silly math. Let’s just go to bed, okay?”  

“No more sleeping at the breakfast table, either, just get some sleep tonight.”

The door closed gently behind them, her parents whispers were still audible from behind the thin door. ————————–————————————–———— 

“Thank you very much, Pierre.” she curtsied as she received the letter. She dashed up to her room as she opened the letter, stuffed with papers until it was about to burst open. She read the notes all night. Her cat’s fur rubbed against her leg as she began the math problems and calculations. He emitted a soft purr.  

“Yes, I’m sorry, I know you want to go to bed,” stroking her cat’s long, orange fur, “But I need to study, I need to keep up, and not fall behind. Besides this is so interesting, I…..” she mumbled the rest of her duties to herself.  

She kept had kept her secret to herself, until her trusted friend had began to catch on. 

“Can you come to the ball tonight? It’s going to be so much fun, you know Harry is hosting it. I never thought we’d be— “ 

“No I’m sorry, Victoria, I can’t” 

“Why not? Why are you so busy, you can’t possibly still have chores to do?” 

“I just have stuff, that’s all” “What kind of stuff?” Victoria had stopped walking, she now held a stern look on her face.  

“Stuff, that all!” Sophie took quick steps, it was as fast as she could run in her hoop skirt and large dress.  

“Sophie! Come on, I know something’s up. You’ve been acting like this recently, is it your parents?” 

“No, my parents have laid off my case, for awhile. It’s just that, I—” she looked to either side of her, to make sure no one was listening. “I’ve been keeping up with the courses at Ecole Academy”  

“A college?” Victoria gasped in dismay. 

“The Ecole Polytechnique Academy” 

“But that’s an all boys school. And you were at home yesterday, when we went on a walk for lunch, not at school.” she had a dazed look on her face. 

“Well, I’m not enrolled. I borrow the lecture notes from Pierre, he goes there. I study from them at night. I actually find them quite fascinating. This one professor really has some—” 

“How could you! Just go behind my back and listen to some, some boy’s school!” 

“Victoria, I didn’t like you would be this—” 

“Well of course I’m upset! What are you going to do! What if you get caught? Besides, what good is mathematics when you’re dusting and folding laundry!” 

“Victoria! Out of all the people, I’d thought you’d understand! Well I guess everyone has my future set out for me then! Is that how it is, I’ll spend my days dusting and mopping and taking care of my poor old husband doing what he loves!” Sophie marched away, it had started raining, but she was too upset to stop her echoing footsteps from splashing mud on her dress.  

The sky had turned gray under the rumbling thunderclouds. She lit her candles, dipped her quill, and began to write, and write, and write. She had read her favorite professor’s lecture and was truly inspired. All of his lectures were quite interesting throughout the whole term. Now that the term was over, she decided to write a paper on analysis.  

She had finished, which turned out much longer than she expected. She began to sign her name at the bottom, but just before she wrote the “S”, she remembered Victoria. Instead of receiving an uproarious comment about sending this letter as a women, she signed, M. LeBlanc.  

It had been quite a long time as Sophie patiently waited for the professor’s response, until she had almost given up. It took months, but when Pierre came by the give her his final notes, he also gave her a letter.  

“Professor Abel wished for me to send you his response. He took great pleasure in reading your paper, and wishes to see you in person”. 

Sophie eyes widened, her body stiffened, “In p-p-person?”  

“Yes! He is quite thrilled and awaiting your response!” He took of his hat, raising it to his chest, and did a little bow to the sweet girl, and trotted off.  

“How will I ever meet him in person. He still thinks I’m a boy!” 

 Sophie and Professor Abel exchanged letters until school started in the fall. She made sure to not bring up the “in person” part, however, as school drew closer the professor began to mention the subject in almost every letter. He was quite excited to meet this boy genius and talk more about his paper. So, one day she finally agreed to meet him on the school campus on the first day of school. She had done all of her chores that morning, so she had saved the whole day to get ready for that afternoon.  

 She started with the glasses, then pinned her hair up real tight, so it was hardly noticeable that it was usually 20 inches longer. Pierre had given her some of his clothes to wear, he was quite generous in helping her. She wore a pair of her father’s old shoes, and snuck out of the house, while her parents were having tea in Mz. Mullin’s garden.  

 She had a stimulating chat with Mr. Abel. He quite enjoyed her work and was interested to hear more of “his” strong opinions. They conversed regularly. He was always interested to hear “his” views on the lectures.  

 However, it was not until one day when he expressed in a letter that he had applied him into the academy and was accepted. He did not have to use lecture notes any more, but could actually listen to them. Sophie was flattered by the invitation, but had to expose the news that her real name was actually Sophie Germain and could not attend the all-boys academy.  

Professor Abel was sorry that she could not join, but was very impressed that she was a young women with such intellectual thoughts. Being a male, he introduced her to other mathematicians and scientists. Some were accepting and others were just the opposite of letting a woman into this male-field. Sophie Germain grew up into a young working women in science, not dusting and folding laundry, as the unpleasant life her old friend, Victoria, lived.