Chapter 35

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Edward paced rapidly in the library, running his hands through his hair every few minutes; worry and frustration painted his face. He and the ladies had made a thorough search of the house while Mr. Montgomery met with Thomas and a few servants to have them fan out and search the garden and surrounding grounds. Nothing had turned up as of yet; neither Elizabeth nor his father had been found.

Charlotte and Amelia were seated on a settee, tired out from the exhaustive search. Amelia sagged against her aunt's arm, concern for her sister clearly written in her expression.

Mr. Montgomery entered the library, his countenance weary with worry. Edward stopped and looked up at his entrance, and Amelia visibly perked up from the settee.

"Any news, Papa?" Amelia asked hopefully.

Mr. Montgomery shook his head, glancing down at the floor. "Nothing, my dear; I know they'll do everything possible to find her. I wanted to check in with all of you before joining the others in the search of the grounds, to see if you'd learned anything."

Everyone seemed to deflate again as the hope of some good news evaporated.

"We didn't discover anything helpful," Edward began, "Elizabeth was last seen here, reading, and no one seemed to know anything about my father. But the longer he fails to appear, the more I fully expect him to be involved somehow."

"Edward," Amelia's voice was small, as though she were ten years younger, "if Mr. Stanton really has Elizabeth, somewhere..." her voice waivered, "He wouldn't honestly... You don't think he'd...do her harm, do you?"

Edward hung his head for a moment; then glanced over at her, noting that her chin trembled. "Knowing my father, I would say that he's a cold, hard man, and yes, he is not above using blackmail and threats in order to get his way. But I would not have ever supposed that he would actually physically harm a soul, until what I've learned since my coming here - the abuse your mother suffered from him, and..." his voice trailed off momentarily, thinking over the other things he had learned that his father was capable of. "I just pray that he doesn't do anything rash in order to prove his point."

Silence fell over the room for a moment, as each person absorbed into their own thoughts, and, undoubtedly, prayers about the situation.

Edward, taking hold of the open book, lowered himself into the chair that Elizabeth had been sitting in, reading, a mere few hours before. He stared at the book, tenderly touching the pages, pages she had turned with her precious fingertips. With a heavy sigh, he dropped his head into his hands wearily.

Lord, I beg You; please keep Elizabeth safe from harm, wherever she is. Help us to find her. If my father is involved in this in any way, I beg You to intervene, cause him to stop this madness... How can I ever forgive him if he harms her?

Edward wiped his hands over his face, closed the book, setting it on a nearby table, and jumped up from the chair, deciding it was time to take action. "Mr. Montgomery, with your permission, I'd like to send a servant into town to alert the law of this matter, for we may very well need their help when my father is apprehended."

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Edward."

It was not Mr. Montgomery who spoke, as it were expected. Every head in the room jerked alarmingly toward the familiar, mocking voice. Amelia gasped, and Charlotte tightened her grip on Amelia's shoulders, pulling her closer.

Charles stood at the far end of the library, just inside the door which opened out onto the porch. Obviously he had been there long enough to hear Edward's statement.

Mr. Montgomery stepped forward a few steps, his voice menacingly low, "Charles, what the devil have you done with my daughter?" His eyes narrowed, and Edward was sure he'd never imagined that Mr. Montgomery could look quite so furious.

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