The Taverner Chronicles: First Ventures, Four

Fiction By Marlene E. Schuler // 2/24/2012

Millie followed her Grandfather out of the study. It felt strange to see him so young and full of life, walking tall and without a cane. As they made their way up the stairs and through the long hallways, Millie was amazed to see just how many servants there were bustling about. The majority seemed to be gathering things and taking them in the direction of the ballroom, but there were a few with anxious looks on their faces. Millie pulled at Grandfather's sleeve.

 

'Is there something wrong? Why are some of them worried?'

 

He turned and looked at her, and for the first time, she noticed a care-worn expression on his face.

 

'My son Richard is sick with the scarlet fever...'

 

Millie's face went white. 'Richard? That's my-!'

But before she could finish, Grandfather quickly grabbed her arm and put a finger to his mouth.

 

'I understand, Millie. But you have to be careful about what you say here in the past.' he said, in a lowered tone.

 

Millie nodded, and the two went on, though at a slower pace.

 

'All right. But... can I see him?' she continued, with an uneasy feeling rising in her throat.

 

'Have you had the fever before? It is a very dangerous disease, and I would not dare risk anything happening to either of you.'

 

Millie paused and reflected. It had been almost ten years -in the present, she realized- since she had had the fever, and since then she had cared for both her siblings when they had it, with no ill effects.

 

'I have had it before... please, Grandfather, let me see him.'

 

Grandfather smiled kindly at her, and took her hand.

 

'Come, I will take you to him.'

 

With that, he led her down one of the side corridors. She recognized it as the wing where the guest rooms where, but she never really knew which room her father had slept in as a boy. As they neared the end of it, one of the doors opened and a young man stepped out. Millie really didn't notice him at first, thinking him to be another one of the servants. But when Grandfather hailed him by name, she looked up quickly.

 

'Edward, how is he?' he said, coming to a stop a few paces from him.

 

Millie then looked at the man closely. He had a pleasant face with shining blue eyes, and a mouth that looked as if -by all rights- it should have been curved into a smile. But it wasn't. In fact, he looked sad and concerned, and as he spoke to Grandfather, she understood just why.

 

'He is doing worse than before... I do not want anyone in there, not even you. I think it would exhaust him, and that would be the worst thing that could happen now.'

 

But as he spoke, he caught Millie's eye. She felt embarrassed under his keen gaze and quickly looked down, though she instantly wished that she had continued to look at him. On second thought, he was handsome, though he probably was far older than she. And besides... he was in the past. Not the present. Even still...

 

She caught what they were saying as Grandfather gently nudged her arm.

 

'...and this is Millicent, a young relation of mine.' he was saying.

 

She knew she had to look up, so she smiled and returned held her hand out. And when she saw his face again, the tired look had faded into a pleased expression. He took her hand gently and said something complementary, but all she could think of was how dreadfully 'put-together' she must have looked. She returned his greeting with something equally agreeable, but hoped that he didn't notice that her hand was shaking and rather sweaty in his grasp. Instead of looking steadfastly into his eyes as she usually did when having just met someone, she quickly looked away and tried to look absorbed in looking at the wallpaper. Had she looked back, she would have noticed a slight disappointment cross the Doctor's face.

 

It wasn't long before they started back to the main hall, after Dr. Rawlings had convinced Grandfather that it would be imprudent to allow either he or Millie to see Richard. Grandfather discussed medicine and new remedies with the Doctor, leaving Millie to trail behind and walk at her leisure. She examined the newcomer carefully, as was her custom when meeting people. How could she resist, what with the benefit of being able to stare at him without the Doctor noticing?

The first thing she noticed was how meticulous the Doctor was. His hair was neatly combed, his collar fresh, coat brushed, and shoes that looked as if they had never tread in the snow. It wasn't until afterwards did she find out that Dr. Rawlings often had to sacrifice his neat appearance while trudging through the fields and muddy roads to reach his patients, so it was rare when he was able to maintain such a level of tidiness.

 

When they reached the top of the main staircase, Dr. Rawlings and Grandfather shook hands. Millie immediately fixed her eyes on the floor, hoping and praying that the Doctor wouldn't attempt to make a farewell gesture to her.

 

He didn't. And as he walked down the stairs towards the door, she felt bad that she had avoided him. She set her teeth and promised herself that she would not do so the next time... if there was a next time. But as she stood briefly recollecting herself, she saw him steal a quick glance back in her direction as he put his coat on. Seeing this, Millie felt her face grow hot and turned to Grandfather. There was a curious look in his eyes, as if he knew all that she was thinking. She recognized the look from the present- how strange that sounded in her mind!- and immediately put her hands on her hips.

 

'What? You seem to know something I don't...' she said, trying to act innocent.

 

His eyebrows shot up in a quizzical fashion.

 

'Oh nothing, my dear. Nothing. Let us go to the ballroom and get you back, shall we?'

 

He smiled mischievously at her, then turned and started towards the ballroom. Before she left the main foyer, she glanced down to try and steal a final look at the handsome Doctor. But he was gone, making her feel worse about not saying goodbye to him.

 

The ballroom was empty. Grandfather made sure that they would not be disturbed and closed the door behind them. As they started walking towards the small closets, Millie nearly tripped on the same loose board that always seemed to be troubling them.

 

'Won't you ever get that fixed?'

 

Grandfather smiled.

 

'When you know what I do, you'll never want to even budge that board.'

 

Millie contemplated this as they stopped in front of the closets. Grandfather hugged her tightly, then held her at arm's length.

 

'This will sound strange, but all you have to do is take these clothes off to return, but you must always be in this room. Come back, Millie, and I will tell you everything!'

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

 Grandfather is such a

 Grandfather is such a comforting person to teach you how to time travel. And Dr. Rawlings is Edward's dad, who's dead in the future (present?), right?

Anna | Thu, 03/01/2012

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Right you are, Anna dear! :D

Right you are, Anna dear! :D I suppose having someone in the past to teach you how to travel in such an incomodious (sp?) way would be comforting. :) 

Marlene E. Schuler | Thu, 03/01/2012

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