“Eden,” Eleanor reached into her jacket pocket and drew out a small object. “I came here because there is something I would like you to consider.”
Eden looked at her friend. They sat in the shade of the porch on the west side of the house. Joe had gone out to work and Lillian had gone with Sophia to visit Minna.
Eleanor opened her hand and held it out to Eden. In it was a ring.
Eden took it from her and examined it with a puzzled expression. “Your ring?”
“That one was my father’s. I want you to have it. There’s another like it that I mean to retrieve when…but never mind. Have this for now.”
Eden put down the ring on a crate that sat between the porch chairs, found a cigarette and handed it silently to her friend, then reached out to her with a match.
“Thank you, darling,” Eleanor inhaled the smoke slowly and let it out again.
“Why should I have your ring? It’s your family crest, El.” Eden picked it up again and looked with new eyes at the tiny details on the ring. It looked old. Older even than her mother’s brooch, which she knew had first belonged to the grandmother she’d never met.
“It is. It has belonged to the sons of the Stephens family since long before my grandfather left England.”
“I’m not a son of the Stephens family,” Eden said quietly.
“I know. But whom else should have it? The family in London will barely acknowledge me. Haven’t you ever wondered why you have never met them?”
Eden picked up the ring. She put it on the first finger of her right hand and held it up before her. “I don’t know what my father would think.”
“Don’t wear it if you’d rather not. But take it. Keep it, at least.”
Eden took the ring off her finger, put it in her watch pocket and said “All right.”
She started to rise from her chair, but Eleanor put up a hand to stop her. “There’s something else.”
Eden settled down again and leaned back in her chair, arms crossed, waiting silently.
“My estate—” Eleanor spoke quickly, seeing the desire to interrupt on Eden’s face. “I want you to inherit it. Why should my father’s money—and mine—go to some cousin who hates me? If there is anyone who will come close to carrying on in my house, with my property as I myself have done—but better, far better than I have ever done—it is you…and Sophia.”
Eden had been shaking her head slightly throughout this speech. “I can’t take it,” she said when Eleanor had finished. She looked up and found Eleanor’s eye. “You know I can’t.”
She took the ring from her pocket, laid it back on the crate, rose and walked back into the house.