Chapter 52

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Returning to the foyer where Matthew and Amelia continued to chat amiably, Edward stood by as Elizabeth showed her sister the diamond ring now adorning her finger. Matthew gave him a look which was closely akin to a smirk, raising his eyebrow, and sauntered over to his side.

"I'm going to venture a guess and assume your little rendezvous went well, then?" Matthew whispered in a teasing tone, "I believe I can now more fully understand your anticipation."

Edward cut his eyes over at his friend, and met with a sarcastic grin. "No, I don't believe you truly can understand as of yet, but trust me, I will not hesitate to remind you of such when the time comes for you," Edward responded quietly, returning a half-smirk.

Just then the two young women turned toward them, and Matthew, escaping the need to answer to Edward, said gallantly, "Ladies, shall we escort you into the main assembly, where you may prepare to greet your guests?" Both sisters nodded in acknowledgement, and to Elizabeth he added, "Miss Montgomery, you first, of course."

Edward offered his arm to Elizabeth and they led the way as decorum demanded, the elder sister before the younger. They entered through the parlor door, which was to act as the entrance to the event as well as a general meeting room complete with refreshments, and the solarium, which stretched across the back of the house, was to serve as the area for dancing, as it was the largest and longest room of the house. The library had been reserved for card games and resting between dance sets.

The parlor barely resembled the room Edward had been familiar with previously, as it had been cleared of its furniture, save a row of chairs flanking opposite sides of the room, and a large table at one end spread with small tea cakes, finger sandwiches, and lemonades.

"Well, if these aren't the two prettiest girls east of the Mississippi," Mr. Montgomery's voice met the group as they entered, fatherly pride reflecting in his eyes as he viewed his daughters.

"Oh, Papa," Elizabeth lowered her gaze bashfully, while Amelia beamed a great smile.

Mr. Montgomery stood beside his sister at the entrance of the room, and Edward shook his hand as Elizabeth greeted her aunt.

"Mr. Montgomery," he said as he glanced around the room, "thank you, for all of this. It is truly an honor and a delight. I don't know what to say."

Mr. Montgomery smiled, "I am glad you are pleased, Edward. But," he lowered his voice, turning Edward slightly away from Elizabeth, "I want you to know that this party was made possible by your father. He asked me not to tell you and Elizabeth about the funds he supplied for it, but I feel that at least you ought to know. He is your father, after all, and I thought it might be beneficial to you to know the truth of it."

Edward's mind reeled at the revelation, for even after all the apologies and promises that his father had made, still Edward was surprised at this generosity. Perhaps his father had truly meant what he said about redemption.

Edward nodded slowly, "Thank you for making this known to me, Mr. Montgomery. It certainly comes as a surprise, but it does make me glad to know that he cares something for my engagement to your lovely daughter."

Mr. Montgomery nodded once in response, and Edward saw the knowing look in his eyes. "It has been a bit of a struggle for me, given my history with your father, however, I know that you are not your father, Edward, and you make my Lizzie so happy, which blesses me. I'm quite glad to welcome you into this family." He patted Edward's shoulder.

Edward smiled, "Thank you, sir. I couldn't ask for more."

With that, he moved aside for Matthew to speak with the master of the house, and saw that both Elizabeth and Amelia had taken their places beside their aunt, as the time for the guests to arrive had finally come. He stood nearby to them and chatted until people began to enter as their names were announced. Knowing the family would be engaged for some time with introductions and niceties, he wandered away with Matthew to wait until the opportune moment to mingle with the new arrivals, especially other young men in his acquaintance.

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