The Taverner Chronicles: Into Spring, One
Millie lounged in the music room, looking out the window over the waning March landscape. April was finally coming, and with it, a hope that warmer days would be soon follow. Her recovery had been slow; Dr. Rawlings had said that while her ankle wasn't broken, it was still badly sprained, and that it would take a few weeks for it to heal. Her mother had forbidden her to go to work, though Millie knew how badly they needed the extra money, what with Mother losing her job and Father finding it increasingly harder to find work.
She sighed contentedly to herself, glad that she had been given the rare opportunity to rest after so much work. However, there was a downside- she couldn't go to the past. She would never have heard the end of it if she did, so any news from the past had to be relayed through Andrew and Gianna. And from they told her, she was missing a great deal.
Gianna daily came in to complain to Millie of the escapades of a certain Alex Rawlings, the boy who had spilled his punch all over her dress. He was indeed the youngest brother of the Doctor himself, and seemed to possess the same traits as his older counterpart. The boy would tease poor Gianna to no end, pulling practical jokes and calling her names until Gianna would be compelled to return to the present out of sheer annoyance. And though the girl swore each day that she would never go back to 'that blasted boy', she always did. Millie wondered if she enjoyed it, but Gianna always stated that her returns to the past were on Grandfather's account, not on Alex's.
This went on for the entire first week that Millie was recovering, until it strangely ceased. Apparently, a discussion with Andrew on the subject prompted Dr. Rawlings to have a talk with his younger sibling, causing that self-same sibling to stop showing up at the Taverner Mansion. Gianna was very relieved, although she often spoke of the boy to Millie.
However, Alex Rawlings wasn't the only bit of excitement that was going on. Much to Millie's surprise and amazement, Andrew handed a letter that Grandfather saved for her. It was from the
Right Honorable Viscount Anthony Lewis Lang
Millie's cheeks colored as her she read the name.
'Andrew, I had no idea he was a-a Lord!'
Andrew rolled his eyes and laughed.
'Neither did I, though I thought he was an awful pinhead for asking you to dance. I'd much rather you had danced with Dr. Rawlings.'
Millie looked up with surprise as he finished his sentence and quickly lost interest in Anthony's letter, though it was starting out in a manner most flowery and flattering.
'Well, for one thing, I know the chap's not a floundering dandy, and he's got a good profession instead of being a lounging lord.'
Millie tried not to look pleased at her brother's words.
'And what makes you think so ill of Anthony?'
'I... I don't know. He's just... well... too swift, I guess.'
'He just asked to write to me. It's not a proposal.'
Andrew looked at her with a sudden concern in his eyes. He sat down on a chair next to her bed and spoke earnestly.
'Look Millie... I'm not sure how to say this, but things were... different then. Didn't you notice? The way people lived, acted, even talked was different. So while a letter from a young man here and now may not be a proposal... but it might be then. See what I mean...?'
Millie suddenly saw her brother's point of view. It was true, things were different, but could something so simple as a letter correspondence be considered a courtship? Her thoughts were broken when he continued speaking.
'And another thing- we have to be really, really careful what we do there. We can't just do anything we want... nor can we be too careful about who we befriend. Things could happen, and who knows what might change in the present.'
Mother called from the foyer, and Andrew got up to leave. But before he left the room, he gave his sister a kiss on her forehead saying, 'Just be careful, Millie.'
Millie didn't feel the full implication of his words until he left the room. She suddenly felt terribly about accepting Anthony's invitation to write, and wished she had never gone to the ball. She thought of what Dr. Rawlings would think of it all, and was somehow ashamed. Hoping that the Doctor would never catch wind of the whole thing, she quickly penned a response to Anthony's letter in as cold a manner as she could manage. She prayed that perhaps her somewhat cold response would throw a bucket of water on Anthony's sudden affections and perhaps end the correspondence before it even started. After that, she crumbled Anthony's letter up and tossed it into the fire, expecting never to look at another note written in his hand.
The next few days brought a few get-well notes, not only from people in the past but from those in the present as well. It wasn't hard to explain to neighbors and townspeople that she had tripped while in the ballroom; that much at least was true. Millie's employer, Mrs. Bridges, sent her a lovely card and a one-pound note, saying that she well deserved the money and the rest. Gianna had gathered a little bouquet of snow-drops for her sister, though snow still rested on the ground. When questioned, all Gianna would say was,
'I didn't steal them, if that's what you're wondering!'
However, the story came out that she and Dr. Rawlings had gathered them together; it seemed that the weather was much better in the past. Millie was also pleasantly surprised when she received a box of truffles, yet a further examination of the label stated that it was from an 'A. Lang', giving the truffles a slightly ill-gotten taste. Still, they were delicious, and Millie was glad to have them.
Nevertheless, the note she prized the most was from Dr. Rawlings. It was short and slightly stinging, but it brought a smile to her face and brightened her day considerably. It read;
To Millie, that clumsy girl-
If you had danced with a more competent partner, perhaps you would not be in the deplorable state in which you find yourself. Get plenty of rest and do not walk if you cannot help it, and maybe you can take a stroll in the spring or even attend another ball. Just do not dance with A. Lang again; I advise against it as a doctor. (Even if I were not a doctor, I would still advise against it.)