Today I offer part 3 of this year’s Christmas story. It’s a bit different than stories from previous years but I do hope some of you are enjoying Helen’s adventure. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here, if you missed them.
Helen stepped off the train with trepidation to the platform teeming with people. Holding her valise, she managed to step through the crowd and move into the station where she searched for the “large window on the far right” where she had been told to wait. Helen watched the crowds of people move to and fro in the busy station as she waited nervously in this less bustling area. It wasn’t long before she heard her name called.
“Miss Andrews?” A bald, kindly man who appeared to be middle-aged stepped towards her and, after Helen had given a gentle nod of her head, he continued, “I am Mr. Walker, Mrs. Hart’s Groomsman and Gardener. Welcome to Cleveland.”
“Nice to meet you,” she smiled.
“Follow me this way, Miss.”
Helen followed the man through the cold November drizzle to a grand horse and carriage. He opened the door and she stepped inside, “wait here while I go get your trunk. I’ll be but a moment,” and with that, he was gone.
Helen, both exhausted and excited, leaned over to look out the window. This was her first visit to the city and she didn’t want to miss anything. Within a few minutes she heard a big clunk outside as her trunk was put on the carriage.
Mr. Walker opened the door, “are you all set to go, Miss?”
Helen nodded with a smile and soon they were on their way. She slid over to the window to watch the city streets pass by. Large and small storefronts, as well as apartment buildings filled her view. After several blocks, she began to see the row homes that sat at the edge of the city. But within a few blocks these homes gave way to larger and larger homes. Soon they turned on to a tree-lined avenue where stately mansions stood far back from the street.
A beautiful red brick mansion, with a grand cupola on the left and a beautiful round turret on the right caught her eye. She was delighted when the carriage turned into the long, winding driveway in front of it.
Soon Mr. Walker was guiding her to the front door of the home that stood tall and upright in the large, sprawling yard.
A serious, dignified man met them at the door, “Thank you, Mr. Walker. Come and follow me, Miss.”
For the first time since she had arrived, Helen began to wonder if she had made the right decision. The inside of this enormous home was lovely but it felt rather cold and impersonal. Nothing like her friendly farmhouse back home. Would she get used to it?
Following the man back the main hallway, he led her to a sitting room, where an older woman sat with a cup of tea. The gold curtains that hung beside each of the two tall windows echoed the color of the fire roaring in the large white fireplace, giving the room a cozy and warm ambience.
“Aaahh! You’ve arrived!” The woman exclaimed with delight. She left her chair and came to greet her with a kiss on each cheek, “It is just marvelous to have you here!”
Helen observed her Aunt Ida with curiosity. She wore an old-fashioned green day gown with little sprigs of flowers on it. Around her shoulders was a cream-colored lace shawl. Her lined face was pleasant and open. Helen breathed a sigh of relief.
“Come, come, and sit down. I am sure you are worn out from your journey,” she led Helen to a large wing-backed chair that stood across from her own seat not far from the fire.
“Now, let’s get you a cup of strong hot tea. What do you like in your tea, my dear?” She asked as she started to pour her a cup from the tray on the table that sat nearby. She added a bit of sugar and milk before Helen even had time to answer.
Handing it to her with a smile, she went to the wall and pulled a rope. A slender older woman answered her call.
“Oh, Mrs. Jenkins, would you be so kind to get our young guest something to eat? I am sure she is just famished after traveling.” Helen realized suddenly that she was quite hungry and appreciated her aunt’s thoughtfulness.
Mrs. Jenkins smiled and said that she would be right back.
“Now, dear, please tell me all about yourself! Your Grandmother believes you are just perfect for what I need. Of course, she is excited for you to be here because now she will get to see you more often! In fact, we already scheduled a dinner for Saturday,” Aunt Ida seemed to just burst forth with energy and enthusiasm.
Helen smiled timidly, unsure if she was supposed to say anything now or just let her keep talking. Soon she found out that Aunt Ida would keep talking. Aside from a few specific questions she was asked, she mostly listened for the next hour as Aunt Ida shared about her life here in town and what she would expect Helen to do with her and for her.
She also told her about how the household ran and that only recently she had pared her staff down to six servants since her needs were so minimal. She told her that Jenkins, the butler and Mrs. Jenkins, the housekeeper had met and married while working for her and Harry and had continued on with them through the years, becoming like family. Annie, the only lady’s maid, would help Helen with any needs she had. Alice, the house maid helped Mrs. Jenkins, and Mr. Walker took care of the stable and the grounds. Mrs. Bundle rounded out the staff as the much-loved cook.
“You will meet them all by and by. Overall, I am quite blessed by the staff I have here,” Aunt Ida concluded her lengthy explanation regarding the servants.
While her job description didn’t appear difficult, the enormous change this move would bring to her life suddenly felt a bit overwhelming to Helen. Aunt Ida must have noticed because, upon completion of the tea and delicious scones that Mrs. Jenkins had brought, she looked upon Helen with kindly eyes and said, “Well, that’s enough for now. Let’s get you to your room so that you can rest a bit before dinner,” and with that, she rang the bell again and soon Helen was following Mrs. Jenkins up the grand staircase to her new bedroom.
She had dreamed of the day of having her own room and now her dream was coming true. Following staid Mrs. Jenkins through the hallway they finally entered a grand room. On the walls were the small blue flowers of Helen’s daydream. Long, lovely windows looked out on the gardens at the back of the house and were surrounded by thick, blue velvet drapes. The four poster bed was both high and inviting.
“I’ll leave you now, Miss. Please don’t hesitate to ring the bell if you need anything,” she pointed to the rope hanging near the bed and then continued, “dinner is at six. Mrs. Hart does keep the tradition of dressing for dinner. If you need any help getting dressed, just let me know and I’ll send Annie up,” and with that, Mrs. Jenkins smiled politely and left.
Helen looked down at her traveling clothes wryly. Well, they certainly wouldn’t do for dinner but she wasn’t sure she had anything that would do for dinner. She sat down on the bed and looked around the large room. A fire crackled pleasantly in the fireplace directly in front of the bed and two cozy chairs sat nearby. Between them stood a small table. Over to her right were the three tall windows and along the wall to her left stood a large wardrobe and a dresser complete with the lovely creamy white pitcher and bowl of her dream.
Helen sighed with pure bliss. She was living what she had dreamed and so far it was grand!