Chapter 46

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Peter Montgomery sat hunched over ledgers on his desk; he had been staring at them for the better part of an hour, but had not made much progress in reconciling them. He sighed and pushed the books away, rubbing at his eyes.

Nearly a week had passed since the "incident," as it was now referred to around the house, and Peter had passed through a myriad of emotions since that time, leaving him feeling utterly spent and defeated. This entire escapade had dredged up thoughts and feelings he had spent years suppressing, things he had thought were buried so deep that they were nearly forgotten.

He had not laid eyes on Charles Stanton since that evening, when Edward had brought Elizabeth back to the house after the accident, and it were for good reason. That night, Peter had entertained thoughts of harm toward Charles; in the rage that had engulfed him at the mistreatment of his daughter and the truth of what Charles had done to his darling Lydia, Peter had feared he might even be capable of murder himself.

But where would that have left him? It would have accomplished nothing but more heartache; incarceration for life or possibly a death sentence for him, leaving his daughters helpless and destitute. He could not allow that; and so he had stayed away, not only from Charles, but from most of the others, too, working hard to conceal the anger, the hurt and the frustration bubbling within him.

How he wished that his dear, sweet Elizabeth wanted anyone other than Edward Stanton. But she had never shown an interest in any man before him. There had been several potential suitors to come around during her first year out in society, as it were, but without her mother to plan social events and to be matchmaker for her, Elizabeth didn't blossom and gain the attention that she should have. A father is not suited to such things; he had felt painfully inadequate over the years, and yet had tried earnestly to provide and do well by his precious daughters.

It was his own fault, anyhow, for giving in to Charles and letting him send Edward here; in truth, he simply didn't take the time to consider the reality of either one of his girls falling for Edward, and what would ensue. To be honest, he had never really counted Elizabeth as a possible match to either of the young men, given her reserved nature and her seemingly disinterested outlook on courting. Thinking back on it now, deep down, he had hoped all along that Charles' plan would be fruitless, and that both of his daughters would reject Edward.

In all fairness, Peter knew that it was for completely selfish reasons that he wished for Elizabeth's affections to fall onto anyone else; he could not deny that he liked the boy, and he could see that he genuinely cared for Elizabeth. Edward truly was the perfect match for his daughter. But the constant reminder he represented... Peter didn't know if he could bear it for the rest of his life.

Before, the combination of finally seeing Elizabeth's affections take an object, and his own admiration for the young man, as well as the sensibility of the match, had convinced Peter that he could overlook the fact that Edward was Charles Stanton's son. But now, after all that had transpired, now that he knew the truth about his wife's demise... Already, looking at Edward was like seeing a ghost of the past; he resembled a young Charles much more than Peter cared to admit. How could he look upon Edward for all the years to come, and not remember?

The difference was, of course, in character. Edward had a completely different way about him than his father; he was polite and considerate, kind, caring, intelligent, and brave. Everything a father could want for his daughter to be married to. Peter had given his blessing, and he could not take away Elizabeth's happiness, even if it meant that he would have to suffer some uncomfortable memories from time to time.

Then again, none of the past dealings between Charles and himself had anything to do with Edward. It was unfair of Peter to project those ill thoughts and memories onto him; he would have to make it a point to get to know Edward, apart from his father, and to create new, good memories with him, as his daughter's husband-to-be.

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