Trust Bradby with his concise logic to get to the crux of the problem. Edmund wished his friend would have such a clear answer to it, as well, but that was a decision he must make himself. If only he had some idea how.
Vera arranged the flowers in a clear vase on the altar cloth, taking care not to splatter any water on the fine linen. She appreciated Lady Meriweather opening the trunks in the attic and allowing them to use the embroidered altar cloth, but she worried that she would do something to damage it.
As she had damaged everything with Edmund. How could her good intentions have gone terribly wrong? She had thought she was doing the right thing, helping him make decisions, so the new church could be finished as soon as possible. Now he was furious.
She shivered. Edmund had been as irate as Lord Hedgcoe had been when he had taken Gregory’s living away. She still recalled the loud voices that had come through the door while she had sat out in the hallway on a bench, trying not to meet the eyes of anyone who walked past. Even though Edmund had seemed to be more willing to listen to sense than Lord Hedgcoe ever was, he had been very, very angry when they had quarreled two nights ago. She had not seen him since then, not even at meals.
“How lovely,” Lady Meriweather said as she came into the chapel.
“Thank you.” She tried to smile but failed.
“Come here, my dear.” Seating Vera on the first bench, the lady said, “You look forlorn. I had hoped that, by now, you and Edmund would have smoothed over your differences.”
“You know about that?”
“Nothing stays a secret in Meriweather Hall very long. Surely, you have been here long enough to know that.”
“I hoped in this situation, it would be different.”
Lady Meriweather pushed Vera’s hair back behind her ear. “If you will forgive a meddling woman—”
“You have never been a meddler!”
“Apparently I am about to change, because I want you to know that I believe, in this case, you did the right thing.”
“But I could have ruined Edmund’s recovery!” she cried, unable to halt the words that came from the center of her heart.
The baroness nodded, a smile barely touching the corners of her lips. “It pleases me to hear you say that.”
Vera gasped. Why would the lady be happy that Vera might have hurt Edmund’s chances to put the anguish of the war behind him?
“It pleases me,” Lady Meriweather went on, “because it shows how much you care for him. Maybe that will help you understand when I say that I believe that he also was right in what he said.”
“I have come to realize that. Lady Meriweather, after others have made heartless comments in his hearing, I wanted to spare him that humiliation.”
She patted Vera’s cheek as she stood. “I suspect Edmund may have come to understand that you are his ally in this.”
“Should I seek him out and apologize?”
“Apologize for what? Caring too much about both him and your brother’s longing for a new church?” Lady Meriweather shook her head. “You appear to be a docile lamb, Vera, but you have a lion’s heart. For you, it is a constant battle between fixing what you deem is wrong right away and pausing long enough to listen to the opinions of others who may have a different way of handling the problem.”
“You mean I am stubborn and single-minded?”
Laughing, Lady Meriweather said, “I would not go that far, but I can tell you that I know there is One who has blessed my path through life. If you heed that One, you may find your path easier.” Without waiting for an answer, she left the chapel and Vera to her own thoughts.
How many times had Vera heard Lady Meriweather speak with the same gentle compassion to her daughters? She never lectured. Instead, she spoke of her own experiences, using both her mistakes and her triumphs as examples. It had been Sophia and Cat’s responsibility to learn from the stories. Lady Meriweather had offered her the same kind counsel, and Vera would be wise to consider her words.
She folded her hands in her lap and gazed at the flowers on the altar and the cherubs on the screen behind them. The chapel was a place of peace. She had sensed that the first time she had entered it.
When Edmund brought her here.
She closed her eyes and saw the hope that had been on his face when he had offered it for services. He had opened the chapel to the parish at the same time he had been opening himself to her. She had seen his unhappiness with what he saw as utter failure. Instead of accepting him as he was, she had pushed her way in and made the decisions for him. She had mistakenly believed that was the way to heal his pain, rather than accepting the truth. Healing came from the One who knew all their hearts. As Lady Meriweather said, letting God lead the way on the path He had chosen for her would ease her way.