Chapter 49

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The next morning during breakfast, Elizabeth's father requested that the three young people meet him in the parlor after the meal was concluded. Wondering what could prompt such a request, Elizabeth took Edward's arm as they walked toward the parlor, with Amelia trailing behind them.

The night before, after Edward had rejoined them and dinner had been served, the four of them had talked late into the evening, Edward describing the judicial process concerning his father and the details of his sentencing. Elizabeth was relieved to know that while justice had been served, Edward didn't have to lose his father altogether.

Her own father had remained somewhat reserved on the matter, in Edward's presence anyhow; she had tried in vain to read his countenance as Edward recounted the grim details. Elizabeth had a slight intimation that Papa had been taking great care not to allude to any of his own feelings of satisfaction regarding Mr. Stanton's sentencing for Edward's sake, and she loved him dearly for it.

As they each took seats in the parlor to wait for Papa, Elizabeth asked, "Amelia, have you any idea what Papa could have to say to us?"

Amelia's eyes met her gaze, before quickly darting away. She shrugged, which was very unbecoming of her, "How should I know? Honestly, Lizzie, I don't know why you ask such a thing when we're all about to find out the answer." Her foot tapped with nervous energy against the wooden floor.

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow in response and glanced at Edward. He returned a look of confusion and gave a nearly imperceptible shrug.

It had not escaped Elizabeth's attention that Amelia had been acting rather strangely. She was not typically so ill-mannered; Elizabeth could understand her excitement as of late over the wedding plans, however, her sister was slightly more flighty than normal; it seemed as though she was struggling to conceal something.

Amelia spoke again, babbling, "Don't forget, the two of you need to decide on a wedding date, the sooner, the better; there's so little time for the preparations as it is...as a matter of fact, the two of you ought to decide today, by luncheon, if possible. Any more procrastination and I'll set the date myself."

Edward simply stared at Amelia, and Elizabeth's mouth hung slightly ajar as she contemplated an answer; thankfully Amelia's little outburst was interrupted by the entrance of their father.

As Papa lowered himself into a parlor chair, Elizabeth noticed that Amelia began to squirm in her seat. Narrowing her eyes at the peculiar behavior, Elizabeth decided that her sister definitely knew something about this meeting.

"Papa," Elizabeth turned toward her father, "what is this all about? Is everything alright?"

Her father's brow creased before a knowing smile settled on his lips, "Oh, yes, of course, don't worry my dear, it's nothing...nothing like that."

Elizabeth released a shallow breath and visibly relaxed as she cut her eyes over to where her sister sat, "I was beginning to wonder..."

Papa gave her a look of concern, "I'm sorry to have upset you, Lizzie, trust me, it was not my intention..."

"Oh, for goodness sake, just tell her already!" Amelia blurted out.

Three sets of eyes turned toward the younger Montgomery sister; two with looks of surprise, and one with disdain.

Amelia composed herself under her father's glare, shrinking back slightly. "Oh, Papa, please forgive my outburst," she began apologetically, "but for the life of me, I can barely stand to wait a minute longer!"

Elizabeth looked at both her sister and father with bewilderment. "Will someone please tell me what in the world is going on?" She stole a glance at Edward on the settee beside her; he seemed to be taking in the scene with curious amusement.

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