There was a fine snow falling when Eleanor Stephens stepped out her front door toward the carriage waited to take her to the train. As she did every year, she would spend the next three months in London. But for the first time in many years she would not leave her house entirely empty. She had invited Eden to spend the interval between terms making herself at home on Beacon Hill.
She turned to her housekeeper. “Mrs. Williams, I believe you can expect Miss Smith to arrive next Wednesday. Please see that the northwest room is ready for her. My mother’s boudoir should be prepared for Miss Abington as well.”
“Yes Ma’am.” Mrs. Williams nodded.
“And Mrs. Williams—” Eleanor added, “She should not hear so from you, but someday Miss Smith will be the mistress of this house. Please see that she is treated accordingly.”
“Of course, Miss Stephens,” the housekeeper agreed.
Eden stepped into the front hall of Eleanor’s house and handed her coat and hat to Mrs. Williams while Jack brought in her portmanteau and carried it upstairs to her room.
She began to ascend the staircase behind him, but Mrs. Williams stopped her. “Miss Stephens left a note for you in the day room, Miss Smith.”
Eden stepped into the day room, wondering why Eleanor would leave a note there, rather than on the hall table with the mail, when all at once, she broke into a wide smile. For sitting in the middle of the marble floor was an artist’s easel. Beside it was a complicated little box full of drawers and trays stocked with oil paints and brushes in more sizes and shapes than she had ever guessed there could be.
On the easel was a note,
Merry Christmas, darling! Next term, you’ll have lessons in town with an instructor I’ve found who is supposed to be the best in Boston. But when you are famous, you must remember the poor old woman who gave you your beginning.