The Taverner Chronicles: First Ventures, Three
Millie eyed the strange tag that was attached to the dress she was holding.
'Yes, I think you're right...' she said, peering closely at the ink jots on the faded paper. Then, she let out a strange shout, 'Hey, this one was first worn exactly forty years ago today!'
Andrew and Gianna crowded around her to see the tag, then went on exploring the trunk. Putting aside the strange coincidence, Millie held the dress at arm's length; while it wasn't anything special, it was far finer than anything in her present wardrobe. She then started to examine the contents of the trunk with her siblings, and her girlish heart leapt with joy when she found a full set of undergarments. Andrew's lip curled with disgust as she fingered the garments.
'You're going to put a corset on?'
Millie stood up resolutely with the dress and undergarments in tow.
At the end of the ballroom, there was a pair of little rooms that had once been used as powder rooms for the ladies. They were sectioned off from the rest of the room by curtains, so Millie slipped into one and yelled to her siblings not to enter. She was so anxious to see how see looked in the dress and undergarments that she didn't mind the cold or the faint light in the room. The undergarments were slightly small, but that didn't matter to her, for all she had but to slip on the dress and she would be completely garbed in her grandmother's clothing.
A very strange thing happened.
The chatter from her siblings died into absolute silence, and the forlorn, faint light that filtered through the curtain suddenly went black.
All was dark, all was silent.
'This... this isn't funny!' Millie cried, darting at the curtain and pushing it aside.
Something was awfully wrong.
The ballroom was lit by the gas lamps in the walls, and it was warm. Warm. Millie's mouth went dry as she looked around. Chairs lined the walls, the floor was clean, and the chandelier hanging above was bright and polished. Then, the door swung open and a short woman entered. She was wearing a black dress with a white apron tied over it, and did not seem to notice Millie until she was almost in the middle of the room. The woman eyed Millie for a few moments before speaking, almost as if she was trying to think of what to say.
'Oh! There you are, Mistress Taverner! Inspecting the room for the ball, eh?'
'Er... ball? What?'
The maid's face almost went white, but she kept her composure.
'You'd better see Mr. Taverner then. He'll... he'll explain. Everything. He's in the drawing room.'
Millie decided against saying anything else, and obediently sought out the drawing room on the first floor. As she walked through the familiar halls, she was shocked to find how strange and different they looked. Pictures were hanging on the walls, the gas lamps were lit, and servants were moving throughout the house, evidently preparing for some event. They all respectfully acknowledged her, though she did receive some curious looks. Finally, she found the drawing room and knocked on the door. A muffled voice from within told her to enter, so she opened the door and crossed the threshold.
There sat her grandfather at the desk, only... young. Just young. He looked up, and was startled to see her. He rose and bade her shut the door behind her.
'Come and sit! And which of my grandchildren are you?' he asked, looking kindly at her with a look she knew well.
'Millicent Margaret Marie, but you can call me Millie. What... what is going on? Why am I here, and... why are you here?'
He laughed as he stoked the fire.
'I am sure you have plenty of questions to ask me, but let me explain everything. I cannot tell you all of it at once, because I think you would have a hard time understanding everything. But, first things first! Millie dear, you are in the past.'
'The past? How...?'
'It is a long story... and it is still going on. This has been the secret of the Taverner family for a century, Millie. In 1793. this ballroom was built. Yet, somehow, it has been able to take members of our family to previous dates, simply by putting on clothing from an earlier time.'
'And yet you are here, Millie.'
She sat dumbfounded. It was impossible to believe, but impossible for it to be false, and what he said made sense.
'Do you have any idea what makes this happen, grandfather?' she said, after a long pause.
'My great-grandfather once made a study of the stars in the heavens above this place. There is a strange constellation that comes together directly above the ballroom, one that in unexplainable by the laws of physics. And yet, it is there.'
All that was above Millie's head, yet somehow, she understood. But did she need to understand more?
'What happens now?' she said.
Grandfather smiled kindly at her.
'Now begins an adventure which you never expected to have! Come now, I am sure that you are entirely confused and tired. You should be getting back now. Do you have any siblings?' he said, standing up and moving to help her out of her chair.
'Yes, two. They will be.. most interested to hear of this. How will I explain?'
'Oh! That. Well, let me help you with that.'
As she stood, he went to his desk and hastily wrote a note on a piece of paper. He folded it carefully, then quickly began to melt wax in a curious little spoon over the fire. When it was ready, he poured it on the note and sealed it with a T. He handed it to her with a smile.
'I do not think they are going to give you a hard time after they read this,' he said, with a familiar twinkle in his eye, 'Now come, we must get you back. I shall escort you to the ballroom myself!'