Elizabeth decided to take the book back to her room with her, only to be read in private. She could hide it in her special place and would tell no one about it, not even Amelia.
Elizabeth began tucking the pink ball gown carefully back into its place in the drawer, exactly as it had been. She then took up the book, opening it to the first page and read:
March 16, 1847
Mother gifted this book to me last year at my birthday gala, and ever since it has lain unopened in my wardrobe. I recalled its existence only this morning, and, seeing as tonight is to be the first ball of the season in which I will be in attendance, I thought today might be the perfect time to begin recording the season's events. For who knows what may happen when the social season is in full swing?
Elizabeth smiled to herself. The passage was so typical of her mother, she, having not a care in the world, flippantly forgetting her book and then remembering it suddenly, as it were only natural. Elizabeth closed the book; she didn't have time to read on at the moment.
The four young people had plans to take a carriage ride through the countryside, and she needed to hurry and dress so as not to be late. Elizabeth felt a rush of joy at the thought of spending the afternoon seated beside Edward, just the thought of being near to him sent butterflies to her stomach. She hugged her mother's diary to her chest, took one last fleeting look around, and hurried out of the room.
As Elizabeth neared the bottom of the stairs, dressed and ready for an afternoon of sunshine and fresh air, she spied Matthew and Charles standing in the foyer, talking quietly. Matthew looked to be quite agitated. As she drew near, they broke off their seemingly strained conversation and turned toward her. Elizabeth eyed them warily.
"Miss Montgomery, good afternoon," Matthew bowed slightly to her, with none of his usual charm. He cut his eyes sideways at Charles.
"Miss Montgomery, I trust you will enjoy the carriage ride, it is quite a fine day to be out of doors." Charles fixed her with a charming smile, and for a moment, Elizabeth could see Edward's handsome features in his face.
If only he would lift that cold, hard veil covering his face, he would truly be handsome, as Edward is.
Charles continued, "I heard that there was some maintenance to be done to the barouche, so the stable hands brought two runabout carriages around. I believe that will be quite enjoyable, also a little more personal, eh?"
Elizabeth stared back at him. What was he going on about? The barouche was the larger carriage; it would hold all four of them. But instead, he said there were two runabouts readied for them? Elizabeth smiled to herself as she realized she would have private time with Edward in the two-passenger carriage.
Charles nudged Matthew with his elbow. Matthew swallowed hard and said, "Um, Miss Montgomery, may I have the pleasure of your company for the ride today?" Matthew's smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
Elizabeth was quite perplexed as she stared back at Matthew. She couldn't help feeling like Charles had a hand in this curious situation, but she didn't quite know how or why. All she knew was that she didn't like the feel of it.
"Um...well, Mr. Callaway, I..." Elizabeth tried to think of a polite way to turn him down, but couldn't find the words.
"She'd be delighted, I'm quite sure," Charles said, slightly pushing the two toward the front door.
Elizabeth couldn't believe Mr. Stanton's forward manner. However, she knew it would be terribly rude to turn Matthew down, so she surrendered.
"Yes, of course, Mr. Callaway, I'll accompany you."
"Wonderful." He offered her his arm and pulled her toward the front door; Elizabeth guessed to escape Mr. Stanton. He leaned down as they walked through the door and said softly to her, "Charles can be rather pushy, if you didn't notice. And, please call me Matthew."
Elizabeth glanced up at him as she recognized a hint of his old humorous tone, and saw a genuine smile on his face. She smiled back at him. She was disappointed that she would not be accompanying Edward, but perhaps she would still enjoy Matthew's company.
Matthew stopped beside the first runabout carriage. "Um, I know that seemed a bit awkward back there, but I truly am glad to have your company today."
Elizabeth studied his face. She could see that his usual charming smile was back, and his eyes were even twinkling a little bit. Elizabeth smiled back at him; she couldn't help but like Matthew, he was so agreeable. "Thank you, Matthew. It's nice of you to offer."
As they stood there together, they heard footsteps approaching and both turned to see Amelia on Edward's arm. The two came to a stop a few feet away, the tension in Edward's stance quite apparent. Elizabeth met Edward's eyes with a look of longing and regret; she hoped that he would not be angry that she was accompanying Matthew, but he didn't appear to be in the best of moods.
She tried to read his expression, but he stared at the two of them rather guardedly. Finally, Edward returned a soft gaze to her, tightening his jaw muscle, and then cut his eyes over to his friend, giving him a chilly stare.
Just as the silence between the four of them was about to become uneasy, Amelia spoke.
"Lizzie, Mr. Stanton here offered to drive me; isn't that darling of him?" Amelia smiled.
Elizabeth could see that she was trying to lighten the mood, but it clearly was a poor choice of words, for Edward stared at the ground, looking quite uncomfortable.
"Yes, well, let us be off, then," Edward said, avoiding Elizabeth's gaze and hurrying Amelia toward the runabout carriage in the rear.
Elizabeth stood bewildered for a moment, wondering what in the dickens had just happened. Everyone was acting most strangely. And Elizabeth didn't know why, but she had just one guess as to who the one common denominator was.
YOU ARE READING
An Unexpected LoveHistorical Fiction
*Highest Rank #1 in Historical Fiction* Shy and awkward Elizabeth Montgomery doesn't think she'll ever find love. As her family's former plantation struggles in Reconstruction era Virginia, she's afraid she'll find herself either betrothed to the wr...