Chapter 47

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Peter raised his hand for the second time to knock on the door leading to Charles Stanton's bed chamber, pausing before his knuckles could make contact with the dark wood. He blew out a hard breath and let his hand fall to his side yet again.

Why was it so hard to face him?

After his conversation with Elizabeth a couple of days ago, Peter had thought over the words she had said repeatedly, finally deciding that she was right, and that he should at least attempt to speak to Charles. Having put it off as long as possible, it was now Sunday, the day before he intended to send for the constable, the day before he would have Charles Stanton removed from Montgomery Plantation, and thus from the lives of his family forever, with the exception of Elizabeth, who would have to decide for herself and the sake of her marriage.

Steeling himself, Peter lifted his hand again. This time he would follow through, it was a necessary evil to subject himself to Charles' company one last time; at least, it was what he had told himself.

His knuckles rapped sharply on the door, perhaps with a little more force than was required. "Charles, it is Peter here. May I have a word?"

From inside the room came the muffled response, "Please enter, Peter."

Peter twisted the knob, shuffling himself into the room, before he could change his mind. Charles was out of bed and sitting in one of the chairs beneath the large window of his room. There were papers spread before him on the side table. One arm was in a sling, but otherwise, he seemed in good health.

Charles looked to where Peter stood, just inside the door, barely in the room. "I am glad that you came, Peter." The two men eyed each other silently for a moment before Charles gestured to the chair on the other side of the small table. "Would you care to have a seat?"

Peter shifted his weight between his two feet, resisting the urge to flee from the stuffy room. He cleared his throat, "I'll stand for now, thank you."

Charles nodded, his gaze resting on the floor.

"I trust that you are well? How is your shoulder coming along?" Peter defaulted to social propriety to fill the awkward silence.

Glancing up at him, Charles nodded, "I'm quite well, thank you. My shoulder is a mite sore yet, but improves with each day."

"Glad to hear it."

Peter realized his voice sounded pinched and rather curt, but he couldn't help himself. As he watched Charles' form and countenance, memories from years before flashed through his mind. And when he thought about the maniacal plotting against his own life which ultimately took his beloved wife, it required all of Peter's self control to stay put and not lunge across the room at Charles' throat.

Keep your wits about you, Peter. No sense in losing your head; it won't solve anything.

"Peter, I know you came asking for a word, but if I may, please let me speak." Charles turned pleading eyes on him, silently asking permission.

Peter considered him for a moment. There was a humble look in his eyes, a genuine meekness in his manner. Curious to know what Charles had to say to him, Peter nodded. "You may."

Charles swallowed before he began. "Since my accident, I have had much time to think about my life, and...well, everything. Peter, I can never thank you enough for your hospitality and, of course, your mercy on me. I am indebted to you for allowing me to remain here during my recovery. It has simply reinforced what at first baffled me about your daughter - her ability to selflessly forgive."

Peter stared at him, not entirely sure as to where this conversation was going. Charles paused and shifted in his chair.

"Peter, no one, the whole world over, has the right to hate me and wish me dead as much as you. I realize that I in no way deserve any amount of kindness from you, yet you have given it."

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