Chapter 25

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Peter stood frozen in front of his daughter.

Elizabeth felt sure that he would erase the look of shock from his face if only he could see it himself.

"Papa...?" She hoped she had not struck a nerve.

Peter shook himself slightly, "Elizabeth, how..." His eyes had a hollow look to them, as if recalling things that he had buried deep, never wanting them to resurface. "Why would you ask me that? What exactly do you know...?"

Elizabeth glanced down at her wringing hands. "Well, I... Papa, you know how I like to sit in Mama's room sometimes...and, I found her diary... She wrote about Charles, and well, one entry was clearly full of distress... That is, what was left of it, it was torn out of the book. It was dated May 13, 1847."

Peter stared back at her, but Elizabeth felt as if he was not seeing her. His eyes were slightly glazed, and she could tell that his mind was in a faraway place. Whatever he knew was clearly not a fond memory.

"Papa... Are you alright?" Elizabeth asked nervously.

Peter stirred; he blinked and refocused his eyes on her. "Ah, Elizabeth, you really don't want to hear about what happened to your mother..."

Elizabeth was so close to learning something, anything more about her mother's past and why Edward's father was right in the middle of it. She had to convince her father to share what he knew.

"Papa, please. I promise you I can handle it. I just, I really need to know what she went through... Why would Charles cause her harm?" Elizabeth's eyes pleaded with him.

Peter struggled for a moment, considering her request. Finally, he sighed, "Alright, Lizzie. Sit down, please."

Elizabeth moved back over to the chair she had been sitting in shortly before. She felt tingles of anticipation as she waited for her father to begin speaking.

Peter settled himself down behind his desk and leaned forward on his elbows a little. "Elizabeth, your mother had known Charles most of her life, her parents lived next door to Charles' parents, and they were good friends. However, things changed after that night..."

Peter swallowed hard, and continued. "I had met your mother earlier that year at a ball, and I encountered her at several more parties that spring. We had an instant attraction to each other, and began a natural friendship. It quickly became apparent that Charles resented my presence around Lydia. I even assumed that perhaps they were engaged, because of how jealous he acted. Your mother assured me that they were not engaged, but still, Charles did everything in his power to dissuade me from having a relationship with her.

"The same day of the incident, the event your mother wrote about in her diary, Charles came to see me. He offered me quite a large sum of money to leave off contacting your mother. He made it clear that he wanted me to 'disappear,' and said that if I was to ever speak to Lydia again, he'd make sure that my father paid the price. He told me that Lydia belonged to him and he had intentions of marrying her, even though I knew at that time there was no binding agreement between them." Peter looked down at the desk before he continued.

Elizabeth sat unmoving, completely enthralled by the story.

"I had a moment of weakness, for I had never seen that kind of money before. You know that your grandfather had used the wealth he had, which was not a lot compared to what the Stanton's had, to grow and expand this plantation, and at the time, he had over extended himself, tying up all his money in buying more land to increase farming and livestock production. So, truthfully, the money did seem appealing; I knew it would help ease the financial strain on my father. I didn't know exactly what Charles had meant when he said he'd make my father pay, but I knew that he had a lot of connections in the banking world, and I could only imagine the damage he could do. And so, I agreed to comply with his demands."

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