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Authors: Carla Kelly

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Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind

BOOK: Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind
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Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind
Carla Kelly
Seattle, WA

Camel Press

PO Box 70515

Seattle, WA 98127

For more information go to:

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

Cover design by Sabrina Sun

Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind

Copyright © 1998, 2014 by Carla Kelly

ISBN: 978-1-60381-953-4 (Trade Paper)

ISBN: 978-1-60381-954-1 (eBook)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013957150

Produced in the United States of America

* * *

With love to the wonderful members
of the Ozarks Romance Authors,
Springfield, Missouri
* * *

If thou do ill, the joy fades, not the pains;

If well, the pain doth fail, the joy remains.”

George Herbert


* * *
Chapter One

ndrew Stover looked up from the atlas he was perusing. “Miss Mitten, is it possible to dread winter even before it gets here?”

Although she knew that her cousin Lady Carruthers would never approve, Jane Milton had allowed Andrew to spread out the atlas—a cumbersome book at best—on the floor close to the fireplace. He was watching her now as she sat close to the window, mending Lord Denby's favorite nightshirt, one that he wore almost all the time now, since he had confined himself to his bed. “It is possible to dread the coming of winter,” she agreed, and then glanced at the calendar, “even though it is only October.” She anchored the needle in the flannel. “And what does this have to do with finding the Pennsylvania town located where the Allegheny and Monongahela meet to form the Ohio?”

Andrew propped his chin on his palm. “It has nothing to do, I suppose. Pittsburgh,” he said, but there was no pleasure in his answer. He rolled onto his back to contemplate the plaster furbelows in the ceiling. “Miss Mitten, I do not want to spend another winter like last winter.”

Nor do I,” Jane Milton replied quietly as she addressed herself to the nightshirt again. “Question two concerns the mountain range mentioned in the Proclamation of 1763. Do apply yourself, Andrew, or Lady Carruthers will sentence you to the vicar's school.”

He turned back to stare at the map of the United States on the next page. She watched him a moment, assessing him, as she had done since he was placed in her arms as a baby. He was almost twelve now, and rarely needed a reminder to blow his nose, or tie his shoes. You really need a visit to a tailor, Andrew, she thought. I wonder how long I will need to spend convincing Lady Carruthers to grudge you some new trousers? I can't even convince her that I need a new cloak.

Andrew was requesting her attention again. Jane dragged her thoughts to the spot on the map where he pointed. “I think that it is the Appalachian Mountains, Miss Mitten.”

Milton,” she said absently as she pulled out the needle again. “I do not mind that you call me Miss Mitten—heaven knows you have been doing it for years, my dear—but Lady Carruthers objects. Yes, it is the Appalachian Mountains. Apparently the British tried to protect the colonists by denying them access, but the Americans took exception to it.”

Andrew pushed the atlas aside. “I think they were just tired of being told what to do.”

What is there left to teach you?” Jane teased. “You have certainly reduced the history of the colonial rebellion to its least common denominator, Andrew!” She put down the nightshirt again.

Do you ever get tired of being told what to do, or does it not bother grown-ups?”

I suppose it does not bother me, Andrew,” she replied, standing up. “If you were to take a turn about the lawn now, I am certain that you could make more sense of Americans afterwards, my dear.”

Amused at how quickly he could move when he was released from his studies, Jane Milton stood at the window and watched her charge kick leaves that one of the groundsmen had painstakingly piled that morning. She watched Andrew Stover become a distant figure, and wondered to herself if she had ever minded being told what to do. It is my natural state, she concluded. She looked over at the nightshirt she should be mending, and felt a twinge because she was seated so idly at present. I always do as I am told, she reflected. I never complain or call attention to myself, or expect that my stipend should be paid on time. I am the perfect poor relation.

She heard footsteps in the hall and tensed herself for the briefest moment before she recognized them. She smiled when Stanton came into the library. “Come in, sir,” she called. “Do save me from revolutionary thoughts brought about by staring at this confounded map of North America.”

He dropped his butler's demeanor long enough to stare at her in mock horror, then smiled back. “Are you ready to rebel and spend your afternoon complaining that the last box of sweets from Cormier's is gone?”

She looked at Lord Denby's butler with sympathy, grateful that his lot was not hers. “Stanton, is my dear cousin Lady Carruthers showing signs of another bolt to London? I know there are other boxes of those sweets she craves.”

The butler fixed his attention on a particularly interesting bit of parquet in the floor. “Well, let us say that she cannot find any. This must mean she will leave us soon for the comforts of Cecil's encumbered chambers on Curzon Street.”

Jane looked at the butler with perfect understanding, and he gazed back, the portrait of innocence. “Stanton, how do you engineer these thefts?” she asked simply. “Whatever would I do without you?”

It was not a question that required an answer, considering the level of their confederacy through the years, but he surprised her this afternoon. He regarded her with total serenity. “It is merely that Lord Denby was complaining to me that you never laugh anymore, and I thought that perhaps his sister's removal might make a difference in your state of mind.”

surprised, she thought. “You are kind to think of me, but I doubt her removal will make a difference,” she said simply.

Then you are the one in need of a change of scenery,” he replied, not noticeably troubled by her response. “Why do you not go in pursuit of your charge, Miss Milton? I recommend a slow chase, the kind that Nathanael Greene used on Lord Denby in the Carolinas.”

Oh dear! Is Lord Denby reminiscing about the American rebellion? I wish he would not,” she said with some exasperation. “It only makes him overheated, and then he will not sleep, and you are up, or I am up.”

Go outside, Miss Milton; it will do you good.”

What is it about butlers?” Jane murmured as she drew her cloak tighter about her and let the wind push her. Could it be that he has seen the side of me that no one sees, not even Andrew?

Oh, especially not Andrew, she thought, as she hurried from the house with more relief than she would have owned to, if someone had asked her. It would never do for Andrew to know how sorely I miss his father, or how many tears I have really cried in this long, long year. Jane ventured a kick or two at the leaves. “It will take more than a change of scenery for me, Stanton,” she said as she looked down. “I need a new life.”

If Lady Carruthers is thinking about leaving her brother Lord Denby on his sickbed, she will be packing now, and not watching to see what Andrew and I are doing, Jane thought, as she headed toward the lake. Not that she—or anyone—cares about Andrew and his education.

Despite the gloom that refused to lift all the way and never would, she feared, Jane did feel a release of tension in her shoulders as she walked to the water. She breathed deep of the turned-over earth and the smell of burning leaves coming across the water from Mr. Butterworth's outbuildings. The harvest was nearly done; trust her cousin Lady Carruthers to bolt to the city when there was a harvest dinner to plan for the tenants, and leave the work to her. Not that it would be a jolly celebration, not with young Lord Canfield cold in the tomb these ten months only, and old Lord Denby determined now to pick his own stubborn route to decline and death. Besides a bountiful harvest that almost seemed a mockery, there was the prospect of Cecil Carruthers coming for Christmas.

That will be dreadful indeed,” she murmured, thinking of his visit after Blair's death, all solicitude and hypocrisy, with a certain smugness when he looked at Blair's son. He had certainly made no effort to disguise the fact that he thought he should become the next Lord Denby, and not Andrew.

I wonder if he can actually change the succession? she thought, and not for the first time; far from it. She did not know if the tenants at Denby were farsighted; for their sakes, she hoped otherwise. If I know Cecil (and I think I do), if he becomes Lord Denby there will be no harvest festival, and then no harvest at all. The estate will be sold to pay his debts, and everyone will be turned off.

She sat on a bench facing the terrace, enjoying the view of formal garden, even if it had grown scraggly and untended during a year of neglect. “Must everything mourn at Denby?” the vicar asked her once, on one of his weekly visits of comfort that never failed to set her teeth tight together. “I do believe, my dear Miss Milton, that as a cousin of the late Lord Canfield—God rest his soul—you should be setting a better example of bravery and good cheer. My dear, a year has passed since Waterloo. Can you not think of your neighbors now?”

We have become a neighborhood reproach, she thought, as clouds rushed to cover the sun. Here it is, fifteen months after Waterloo, and no one in Yorkshire wishes to be reminded of death, least of all our vicar, whose inadequacies quite amaze me. People are getting tired of us, and the black wreath that remains on the front door. They want to celebrate peace, and we are an unwelcome reminder that not everyone is happy.

She frowned as she twisted the fringe of her black shawl between her fingers. Trust Blair Stover to have no idea when it was time to leave this life. My dear cousin, you were never on time to anything in any one of your thirty-four years, and once there, you always outstayed your welcome. “I don't begrudge you a minute of it, though,” she said out loud. “If it was never your most endearing trait, at least you were consistent. You were not even on time for your own death.”

The wind carried away her words. I wonder which is worse, she thought, immediate death on the field, or that protracted, agonizing, half-living, half-dying that ended, in our case, ten months after Waterloo? She remembered—or more honestly, she could not forget—the still days of June, when news of the approaching battle reached Denby.

Belgium was close, so the wait for more news was short. Lieutenant Colonel Blair Stover, Viscount Canfield, of the Yorkshire Sixth Foot, was on no one's butcher bill, so they could all swallow a huge sigh and continue breathing. But then June passed and there was no direct news from him, no letter to share with the neighbors or the vicar. Lord Denby had taken his carriage to London and Horse Guards for news of his son, and had returned home to Yorkshire to retire to his chamber, old suddenly. He left it to Stanton to tell her and Andrew that he had learned nothing.

BOOK: Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind
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