The Taverner Chronicles: Midwinter, Two
I would like to just make a quick note; thank you to everyone who commented on the previous parts of this serial! You have all encouraged me... thank you so much!
Cold February finally gave way to March as the Taverner siblings awaited the Ball. It was a curious thing, having to wait for something that had already occurred, but all were excited. When Father discovered that they were going back, he gave them a long lecture on the etiquette of the past, how and how not to act, and how things were when he was a boy. Millie tried to absorb as much of it as possible, but gave it up as a hopeless cause when he started to discuss the virtues of Miss Post's 'glorious work'. She just hoped that she would quickly acquire the required manners.
The children had made an agreement not to travel until the day of the ball; it would be far better off and more fair to all if they did so. But Millie couldn't help wandering aimlessly into the ballroom; she tried to envision herself in a ball gown, sashaying down a long line of people on Dr. Rawling's arm... she couldn't stop thinking of him. However, her dreams of dancing with him were crushed when Mother absently remarked that she remembered the Doctor as not being one for a dance. She did, on the other hand, give Millie some hope- at least he would be attending.
Both she and Gianna had spent a long time laboring over the clothing in the trunk, deciding which dress was most appropriate for the dance. Mother came and helped with that; she had fond memories of dressing for such events herself, and was able to give the girls advice on what was (and wasn't) fashionable.
Millie walked to and from her long work hours with a light step now. The preparations, excitement, even the secrecy had given her 'rut' of a life new color and dimension. She sang over her work, smiled amiably at everyone, and was somehow able to bear the previously unbearable with a new-found patience. It was all rosy again, just as it was before things got awfully hard with money.
Finally, the day itself arrived. The children awoke bright and early and went straight to the ballroom. They decided that they would travel in the morning, giving them time to safely arrive without any guests seeing them in the ballroom. They found their mother already waiting in the room.
'Children, I wanted to give one final warning before you went back. Do not under any circumstances give anyone the impression that you are from another time. If you do... the effects may be catastrophic. Just remember to be cautious in the past, and nothing remiss will occur in the present.'
The children looked at each other, curiously pondering the words she spoke to them. She smiled at them, realizing their dismay.
'But above all... enjoy yourselves. There aren't too many people in the world who are capable of having such experiences as you!'
As she embraced her children, Mother whispered into Millie's ear,
'Don't forget to come back now, dear.'
Millie was about to object, but the look in her mother's eyes prevented her from saying anything. Then, she left the room. As the door shut, Gianna and Andrew quickly opened the trunk and pulled out the things they were going to wear. They then dashed down to the closets and shut the curtains, leaving Millie alone with her thoughts. Half of her wanted to rush after her siblings, but.... even after all the expectancy, she somehow wanted to stay.
What was wrong with her? The chance of a lifetime... and she was hesitating.
She picked up the dress and fingered it. It was a lovely silk satin gown, in a beautiful rose blush color that suited her complexion wonderfully. Here she was, with more clothing then she ever had in her life, with a chance to go to parties and balls nearly all the time...
...and she was hesitating.
Millie sighed and started walking towards the closets. But she only got halfway there; her mind started to rebel again. It was unnatural- they were able to visit the past! Besides, there was a terrible foreboding that had been growing in her mind for the last few days, brought on by the warnings of her mother and the cautious nature of her heart. She couldn't exactly explain it- it was something evading her thoughts, something that always stayed in the back of her mind. Whenever she tried to pinpoint it, she would become hopelessly frustrated trying to nail it down, so she always left the issue unresolved. But now, the fear came to a head. It was still vague in her mind, but instead of a quiet something that lingered on the borders of her imagination, it cried out to her as she neared the closet.
And would have turned around, had she not the courage to stand strong and persevere. For some reason, the thought of Dr. Rawlings made her want to return to the past... a thought that made her strong.
She pushed the curtain aside and entered the tiny room, leaving all doubts behind.
When Millie entered the ballroom again, she was wearing the blush rose gown. The room was deliciously warm, and thankfully empty. She breathed a sigh of relief and hurried out of the room.
Where on earth did Andrew and Gianna get to? No doubt exploring the house with Grandfather somewhere, she thought as she walked slowly through the halls.
The house was all activity in preparations for the ball. Servants rushed in and out of rooms, readying bedrooms for the guests that were to arrive that night. Millie was glad, however, that she and her siblings had decided to travel in the morning- it gave them time to visit with Grandfather before people started to come. She went to the top of the staircase, trying to figure out what had become of her siblings.
But then, she froze. The most beautiful music was coming from one of the rooms downstairs. She was seized with a desire to find out just who was playing, so she started down the stairs. But under the spell of the music, she found it hard to move quickly; in fact, she was afraid to make a sound, lest the music should stop. She made her way towards the music room and found the door ajar. Peering in, she saw a man playing on the piano. His back was turned to her, so she couldn't tell who it was.
But whoever he was... the song was beautiful. She stood for untold minutes just listening; the song calmed her mind and soothed her doubting spirits. It was like standing in a rain shower and spring air; like a long walk on a fall day. However, it was unlike anything she'd ever heard before... it wasn't Debaussy, though it did sound like him.
Then, much to her surprise... the man concluded the piece and got up. When he turned around, she was shocked to see that it was Dr. Rawlings. He saw her, but she gave him no time to say anything, for she ran away from the room as quickly as possible.
To anywhere, just away.