A Heart for Milton - Chapter 1

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Author's note:  A Heart for Milton is now available in paperback and as a Kindle book on Amazon.

A Heart for Milton - Chapter 1

Margaret sat staring blankly at her father's books, unable yet to comprehend the fact that she would no longer see him, or hear his voice. He had been her last anchor to the carefree childhood she remembered. Since coming to Milton, life had seemed an endless struggle. She had tried so hard to keep her parents happy, to be cheerful in the face of the hardship and pain. It was all too much. She felt adrift, lost in a merciless sea, the waves of which were relentlessly dragging her down until she felt she would finally sink.

Now she was alone. Both her parents were gone. Aunt Shaw had come to take her away. She had lost her family and now she would lose her home, to become a permanent guest in her aunt's home. She would be swallowed up in the daily routine of her cousin Edith's comfortable and pretty life.

"Oh, my dear, how you have suffered!" Aunt Shaw emphatically declared. "Dixon will stay and arrange an auction for everything," she announced with an air of great decision.

Margaret stirred from her reverie to amend her aunt's command. "Not all the books," she pleaded. It was all she had left of her father, books he had spent so much of his life reading and thinking about. They had shaped his very life. Indeed, she felt they had, in turn, led him to leave Helstone for Milton.

Milton. She would be leaving Milton now that she had come to appreciate it. She had grown to admire the industrious pace of the city and the practical, hard-working people who lived there. She was comfortable with their simpler, unpretentious ways. She would miss seeing her friends Nicholas and Mary and the Boucher children.

"We are leaving immediately," Aunt Shaw continued, increasingly convinced that Margret's recovery depended upon it. She stood with her handkerchief at the ready, gazing agitatedly at the cramped and cluttered room in the Hale's house. How Margaret had borne living here she could not imagine! This dirty, smoky town was offensive and utterly unsuitable for a proper family. And to think her poor sister had been forced to move to this wretched place - no wonder she had died here!

"What suffering your father has caused," she castigated, feeling quite justified in disparaging the man her sister never should have married.

Too weary to respond, Margaret thought of how her father had also suffered, bearing the burden of guilt for bringing his family to such an unfamiliar place. He had watched his wife descend into despondency and become slowly weaker with disease.

Her mother had hated coming to Milton, and her father had been well aware of it. Margaret had tried to mend her mother's spirit and had outwardly kept a light heart for her parents' sake. There was no helping her mother, though. She succumbed to resentment and bitterness.

Oh, Father! I do not resent you. I will not regret the time I lived here, where you brought us. It had opened up whole new worlds for her. Everything had been so different from Helstone, she had been overwhelmed by the stark change. But father had embraced the change, had seemed to thirst for it. He had been so hopeful to begin a new life as a tutor and scholar. And she knew he had thrived on his discussions with Mr. Thornton.

She would no longer see Mr. Thornton. The realization of it cast a shadow of desolation over her. She told herself it would be proper to visit the Thorntons before leaving. They had been her parents' only friends. She must let Mr. Thornton know how much his friendship had meant to her father.

"I must say good-bye to all our friends," she requested plaintively, a faint glimmer of her usual self-determination coming to life.

"I can't see what friends you could have here!" Aunt Shaw exclaimed with disdain. "I will help you say good-bye and then we are leaving this horrible place for good!" she decided with authority.

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