I will try to hear Your counsel, Lord, instead of doing what I guess You want me to do. I will follow where You lead me.
Vera sat for a while longer in the chapel, then walked out into the hallway. She was not ready to encounter Edmund, so she went to her own room. When she reached it, she kept going to the door to her brother’s room a short distance away. She and Gregory had been caught up in the aftermath of the fire, and the time they were accustomed to spending with each other had been taken up with other matters. She missed that, and she missed how they prayed together when one of them felt overburdened and lost, as she did now.
Knocking on the door, she called, “Gregory, can I come in?”
She waited for an answer, but got none.
She knocked again. When there was no response, she opened the door enough so she could peek around it. She expected to see Gregory sitting on the chair by the window where he could read as long as the sunshine poured through it.
The chair was empty.
Pushing the door open farther, she called her brother’s name again. Only silence answered her.
Maybe he had gone for a walk along the shore or ridden over to check on the work on the new church. He might be anywhere in the many corridors and rooms of Meriweather Hall. She would find Ogden. The butler kept close track of everyone’s comings and goings.
Vera was torn between hoping she would see Edmund and hoping she would not. No, she would not give in to anxiety. She would trust God was leading her to where she needed to be. She could not wait to talk to Gregory and share with him what Lady Meriweather had told her.
* * *
“The vicar wants to have a trio of bells in the tower,” Edmund said, pointing to the plans spread across the desk in his book room. His friends and his cousin peered down at the sketch.
Cat shifted back from the desk and sat on the window bench. “I had no idea Vera could draw so well.”
“No wonder the two of you are bosom-bows,” Bradby said. “You both have tried to hide your artistic skill.”
Edmund looked away from the smiles the new husband and wife shared because it seemed almost too intimate to be seen by anyone else. Would that closeness elude him forever? He would marry. That was his duty. Marry and give the title a legitimate heir. But would he find what his friends had with his cousins? That special knowing that one person was always on their side.
You had that with Vera, his conscience reminded him. You had it, and you tossed it aside because you were angry she was trying to help you. What sort of man treats a woman he cares about that way?
The door crashed open, and, as if conjured out of his thoughts, Vera burst in. Her usually neat hair was tumbling down her back. Her blue eyes were large in her distraught face.
Cat jumped to her feet, but Edmund reached Vera before his cousin did. Putting his hand on her quaking arm, he asked, “What is it? What is wrong?”
“Gregory is missing.” Her voice was no more than a whisper.
“Missing?” asked Northbridge as he came to stand next to Cat.
She nodded, but her gaze focused on Edmund. “I don’t know where he is. I have looked everywhere.”
“Come and sit,” Cat said, putting her hands out to Vera.
Backing away as she kneaded her fingers together, Vera cried, “We have to find him before something happens to him like it did to Stanley.”
Edmund’s jaw clenched so hard he could hear his teeth gnash. Vera was not easily frightened. She had been ready to set a trap for the smugglers, even though it might have been foolhardy.
He reached for the bell on a shelf by the door, but Ogden appeared before he could ring it.
The butler did not look at anyone but Vera as he said, “We can’t find him, Miss Fenwick. I have sent a lad riding at top speed for the village in case he went there.”
“But Gregory would never leave without telling me where he was going,” she said, her voice threatening to break on each word. “We have always let each other know where we were in case of an emergency. If he had been called to the village, he would have left a note for me.”
Edmund clasped her hands between his before she wrung them so hard that she hurt herself. “Vera, if that is the case, then I’m sure he is somewhere in the house or nearby.” He looked past her to Northbridge and Bradby. “Let us look for him.”
“I have already looked for him everywhere I can think of,” she said. “The last time he was seen was when he was in the garden several hours ago. One of the maids saw him out there, but when she looked later, he was gone.”
“Maybe he walked down to the shore,” Bradby suggested.
“I asked Ogden to send Foggin there.”
The butler’s face was taut. “Foggin reported back to me that he didn’t find any footprints or any other sign that anyone had been there since the last high tide.”