Chapter 21

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Edward was restless. It was late, and he had been retired to his room for some time now. He paced the length of the room in stocking feet, dressed in his trousers with his shirt un-tucked. The discarded overcoat, shirtwaist, and neck tie was draped over the chair across from the bed. Of course, his mind was still racing, still going over all that had transpired that day.

Edward had racked his brain for what seemed like hours, trying to find a way to confront his father and convince him to call off the threats he had made toward Matthew's family. He kept coming up empty handed. Edward knew he could go head to head with Charles and attempt to coerce him into giving up, but the effort would likely end in Charles disowning him. Edward ultimately expected this end anyhow, especially when he revealed his intentions toward Elizabeth, but he needed to tread carefully for Matthew's sake; to try to beat Charles at his own game.

He raked his hand through his disheveled hair, blowing out a breath. As frustrating as the situation with his father was; the progress that he had made in his relationship with Elizabeth was that much sweeter. How his heart had jumped in his throat when she had surprised him, when he had turned to see her standing there meekly on the terrace.

When she had thrown herself into his arms and held tightly to him, every nerve in his body had come alive; he had very nearly lifted her from her feet and rushed into Peter's presence to beg for his blessing that very moment.

She had even tenderly shed tears over the way his father had so callously treated him. His heart had ached to see her so touched over his own pain, even though he had learned long ago to harden himself against his father's careless blows. Edward still marveled at how understanding she had been, how forgiving. He felt so completely blessed that she had found it in her heart to put the whole mess aside and give him another chance. And he was determined not to botch this one.

Admittedly, he was a little nervous about meeting with Peter. Edward felt like he had a good foundation with Peter, but ultimately, the fate of his relationship with Elizabeth rested in Peter's hands. That was terrifying, to an extent. Thankfully, it was apparent that Peter was a loving father who would take his daughter's wishes into account.

For not the first time that evening, Edward fell to his knees and humbly petitioned the Lord to grant him the desires of his heart.

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Elizabeth was tucked neatly into her bed, long since having completed her evening preparations. Jane had thoroughly brushed her hair and dressed it in a long, single braid. She had tried for some time to lie still to promote sleep, but her mind wouldn't let slumber come.

Her stomach was in knots of excitement; she thought back over Edward's soft kisses, the feel of his strong arms around her. Elizabeth blushed as she remembered throwing her arms around him; she was typically so reserved, but at that moment, she had felt as though they had overcome so much and the thought of losing Edward was more than she could bear. She was so very relieved that they had talked and cleared the air between them; it had been agonizing not knowing what had caused Edward's bewildering behavior.

Elizabeth furrowed her brow as she thought about the despicable things that Charles had done; he had used his money and power over others to manipulate people and their emotions in order to exact an outcome that was undoubtedly selfish, if yet unclear. Elizabeth had the sneaking suspicion that Charles' plans had something to do with his feelings for her mother. But if it were indeed true that he had loved Lydia as she suspected, she just couldn't find a parallel between Charles' love for Lydia and his desire for Edward to marry Amelia.

She thrummed her fingers on the mattress, unable to push the puzzling thoughts from her mind.

"Oh, bother!" she breathed, and finally sprang up from the bed and retrieved her mother's diary. If she couldn't sleep, she might as well read and see what more she could discover.

Elizabeth settled back into her bed and pulled the covers up around her. She gingerly opened the diary.

May 9, 1847

I had the most disturbing interaction with Charles this evening. He had come calling on me, to discuss something important, he said. I decided it would be as good a time as any to ask him the questions that had been plaguing my mind about the changes in his behavior.

He began by talking about Peter first off, saying that he was naught but a poor farmer in disguise, that all he was really trying to do was marry me for the dowry that my father had set upon me. When I rebuked him for saying such, he became angry, and clamped his mouth shut; however, he was most definitely fuming.

I then decided to change the subject and asked him what had happened to him while he was away at school, why he had become so hard. He glared at me so coldly; I swear that it felt as though his eyes cut holes right through me. It was terrifying; I had never been afraid of Charles before, even though I had seen him lose his temper many times, but I feared him at that moment.

He clenched his fists and jumped up from his chair and shouted insults at me. I am sure I recoiled and gasped, but it was so shocking, I am not entirely sure. Thankfully, after his outburst, he stomped from the room, and shortly I heard the front door slam shut.

I have no earthly idea just what I said to anger him so, but I cannot allow him to speak to me in that way again.

Elizabeth stopped reading. The outburst Lydia had written about reminded her of her own encounter with Charles, earlier in the parlor. Clearly, Charles had been none too happy about her father pursuing Lydia, indicating that he had feelings for her, or else he simply didn't like Peter. Elizabeth guessed that the former was most likely true. She glanced back down, noticing that several pages were torn from the diary, following the entry that she had just read. Elizabeth flipped forward to see if there were any more entries, and the next one was dated August 12, 1847. Quickly scanning the passage, Elizabeth found that it detailed the day that her father had asked Lydia to marry him.

How odd... Why had mother (was it indeed mother?) torn these pages from the diary? What had been recorded on those pages that had to be destroyed?

Elizabeth was thoroughly puzzled now. Clearly, Lydia had been afraid of Charles at his outburst. Did the missing pages contain the key to why the two families' friendship had been suddenly severed?

Elizabeth flipped back to the entry she had just read about Charles and Lydia's confrontation. She noticed as she turned the pages backward that there was the beginning of an entry on the back of the page where the previous entry ended. Elizabeth squinted at the page, the writing was different, it was still Lydia's hand, but it was scrawled out messily. As she looked closer, Elizabeth noticed dried water marks on the paper, as if tears had splashed the page, smudging the ink.

May 13, 1847

How could he do such a thing? Haven't we been friends since childhood? Haven't I loved him as my own brother? I keep thinking that I will awaken in my bed at any minute, that this awful nightmare will be over, that it will not be true. My heart aches at how much he must hate me to do this terrible thing to me. How will I ever be able

The entry stopped there, where it had continued onto the next page, which had been ripped out and discarded. Elizabeth stared at the paper, her eyes glued to the sorrow and despair in her mother's words. What could have Charles done to Lydia? Lydia had to have been speaking of him, whom else could it be?

Obviously the scrawling words were written in distress, and she had been crying. Charles had no doubt hurt her emotionally, but had it been more than that? Elizabeth hoped that Lydia hadn't suffered physical abuse by him as well, but the family ties had been cut abruptly, indicating that something untoward had taken place. And whatever it was, Lydia had written about it and later torn the pages from her diary. Perhaps out of shame or fear of discovery? Or was it simply because she couldn't bear to relive the incident?

Elizabeth was certainly disturbed by the words her mother had scribbled in her diary. She knew it was time to question one more person about the bizarre things she had discovered. The one person who could've possibly been around at the time, and if not, definitely knew something, if not everything, about what had happened to Lydia on May 13, 1847.

Her father.

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