Chapter 17

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Elizabeth was still slightly rattled by her sister's visit. She had feigned a headache and sent Amelia away. Her mind was swirling within her head, and none of her thoughts made sense, as if a fog had settled over her. Amelia's words had left her feeling unsettled, as though her thoughts of joy and her doubts were warring over the dominance of her mind.

Elizabeth had tried not to let on in front of Amelia, but there was no denying that the thought of Edward's confession to Amelia stirred her heart. And his almost mention of marriage, if Amelia wasn't embellishing, was definitely satisfying. Her heart fluttered at the thought of Edward wanting her as his wife, for forever.

However, in light of the events of today, she decided to guard her heart. She had allowed herself to feel so much, so fast, and she didn't want to be made out a fool. Besides, Edward hadn't asked her father as of yet to court her, and she couldn't understand why he couldn't do so while his father was here. Charles would learn of the courtship soon enough, anyway. All of it just posed more mysteries, more enigmas.

Elizabeth hoped that Charles would be quickly going on his way home, but while he was here, she wanted to find out more about what he was up to, if she could. And she'd try to determine what was motivating Edward to be so secretive. Elizabeth truly believed that his feelings for her were real, but she couldn't help but be wary of his actions of late. Of one thing she was sure; the truth would be revealed, sooner or later.

She glanced at the clock over her fireplace mantle. Elizabeth decided she had time to read one more entry in her mother's diary before dinner. She rose and retrieved the book from under her mattress, settled back in her reading chair, and opened the book to reveal Lydia's elegant scrolling script.

March 23, 1847

I am thrilled to say that I was fortunate enough to have made a second acquaintance with Peter! (Because this is my personal and private diary, I will use his first name rather than Mr. Montgomery; how unconventional of me!)

It was at Mr. and Mrs. Alexander's private ball where we crossed paths again, and Peter seemed to be a little more at ease with the prospect of dancing, for he asked for my hand in the waltz. He was by no means a perfect dancer, but I so enjoyed his company! And truthfully, it was not at all uncomfortable gazing into his dark eyes!

Afterwards, I was engaged by Charles for a polka (Charles is quite an accomplished dancer, he knows well many steps and styles) and upon finishing that dance, I was quite parched, but Charles was otherwise engaged for the next dance and he could not accompany me to the refreshment table. I looked about the room for Mother so she could accompany me, but I found her deeply conversing with Mrs. Alexander, and I knew of course that she would be loathe to leave off her discussion with the hostess. Thus being said, I accompanied myself to the refreshment table. (Oh the scandal of a young lady wandering around unescorted at a ball!)

As it were, I was not alone for long, for I happened upon Peter, also taking refreshment. We proceeded to fall into an easy banter. Peter was slightly shy at first, but as he talked he became more comfortable, and he is really quite humorous and very intelligent. I had lost all track of time as I was absorbed into conversation with him, and only when I spied Charles' angry countenance approaching did I realize my error.

Charles had asked for my hand in the quadrille, which, at his angry approach, I noticed to be almost complete. Dreading the outburst which I could see brewing, I readied myself to apologize. Charles bore his eyes into Peter as he came near to us; and I feared a confrontation.

Thanks to the Lord above, Charles came to a stop, and before he could say a thing I began my apologies and he reluctantly tore his seething gaze from Peter. Charles seemed to calm himself as I explained and apologized again; and Peter stood by, stone still. No doubt he was confused about Charles' odd behavior concerning me, for as soon as Charles had excused himself, Peter turned to me and apologized for not having realized that Charles was courting me. Of course, this took me by surprise, given that Charles and I have been friends for some time and though he is dear to me, Charles has never uttered the first endearment or intent pertaining to me.

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