"Yes, small wonder you vexed him so chasing after the elder Miss Montgomery," Matthew added with a grin at his friend. "How did he know about that, anyway? Or did he just hazard a guess and come here to make sure you were playing by the rules?"

Edward shrugged. "I'm really not sure about that. Although, come to think of it, when Elizabeth and I were out horseback riding that day, we heard someone or something in the woods. I wouldn't be surprised if he had us followed."

"Good heavens, I hadn't even thought about someone lurking about the plantation," Peter ran a hand over his face. "I must alert my most trusted servants to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior. I will speak to the ladies as well; we must all be cautious," he leveled a serious gaze at both of the young men.

Edward and Matthew glanced at each other solemnly and nodded at Peter.

A haphazard knock sounded at the door, followed by Amelia, Elizabeth, and Charlotte bursting into the office in a whirlwind.

"My word!" Peter jumped and exclaimed in surprise, visibly startled.

Edward shot out of his seat at the appearance of the ladies, as decorum would expect; Matthew and Peter followed suit after recovering from the shock of their entrance.

"Papa," Amelia began excitedly, "you must see what Elizabeth has found!"

"Elizabeth...?" Peter's questioning gaze settled on Elizabeth.

Edward's eyes roamed over Elizabeth's person; she had stopped hesitantly, and he saw that she held a faded piece of paper in her hand. He smiled to himself as he watched her.

She is so meek in manner, and yet her beauty demands attention.

Elizabeth's eyes flickered over to him briefly, and as she stepped forward toward her father, she brushed her hand against his, sending warm tingles up his arm.

"Papa," Elizabeth spoke softly, "I wanted to help by finding something to use against Mr. Stanton, so Amelia and Aunt Charlotte and I searched Mama's room to see if we could find something useful. I don't know if this is useful in this particular case, but it is surely important; I found this note in the pocket of Mama's travelling coat, the one she was wearing when, when..." her voice faltered.

Edward twitched, willing himself to stay in place; it took all of his strength not to fold Elizabeth into his arms when he heard her voice waver like that.

Peter reached out a hand and patted her cheek, his own eyes misting with unshed tears. They shared a meaningful gaze for a moment before Peter gently plucked the paper from Elizabeth's hand.

It seemed as though the air had been sucked from the room, there was not a sound; Edward thought not a person in the room dared to move while Peter read the contents of that paper.

Peter stared down at the paper for a moment, pausing before reading it aloud.

Everyone in the room continued to stand motionless as each one absorbed the information from the mysterious note.

Edward mulled its meaning over carefully in his mind.

Elizabeth's voice invaded each person's thoughts. "Papa... Have you seen that before?"

"No, my dear, I have not." Peter continued to stare at the paper, swallowing, "But it surely explains what I have wondered for many a year. Why she left like that..."

"Mr. Montgomery, what emergency is that note referring to?" Matthew asked.

Peter looked up at Matthew, shaking his head. "There was no emergency to my knowledge. When I was notified of the carriage accident, I went straight home. I don't recall there being anything out of place. Of course, I was slightly preoccupied..." Peter sank wearily into his chair, planted an elbow on his desk, and dropped his head into his hand.

Charlotte cleared her throat as she stepped forward, placing a hand on her brother's arm, "Peter, that note is addressed to you, by Thomas. You must certainly question him, but the girls and I considered the possibility...well, that perhaps that note and the accident...that, perhaps it was no accident at all."

Amelia piped up, "Do you suppose that perhaps the intention was to get Papa into that carriage, not necessarily Mama...?" She clapped a hand over her mouth as the realization of what she had just said began to sink in.

Once again, the room felt devoid of air as no one breathed. Time seemed to slow as Edward squeezed his eyes shut.

Oh Lord, I know what I have to do... Please God, let me be wrong.

Peter nodded slightly, his voice held a menacing note. "Yes, I will question Thomas directly. And I will discover the truth. Edward, I would appreciate your presence when I speak to him."

"Mr. Montgomery," Edward found his voice, and all eyes turned to him, "I will do as you ask, and when my father returns, I'll wait until he retires, and I'll go on horseback to Richmond and see what I can dig up."

Elizabeth gasped, "Edward, no..."

"I have to, darling. I'm not entirely sure that my father had nothing to do with this, and I intend to find out."

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So, any theories? I'd love to hear them! I can't tell y'all just how much I enjoy interacting with you! :)

I thankfully found some time to write and update, as things are winding down for the moment since my hubby is starting his new job tomorrow (thankfully he can commute until we are able to move!). However, when our house sells, there may be another lull in my updates, but the story is coming to a close, and I might be able to finish it before that happens. I thank you all for being patient and sticking with me! :)

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