Rebecca marched toward Genevieve's room, concerned as to why she hadn't risen yet. Breakfast was well underway, and all of the gentlemen were probably seated and waiting for her. The door creaked open slowly, and the ladies maid gasped, shocked to find the bed empty. She hurried down the stairs and burst into the dining room without thinking about manners.
"Sir!" she shouted, slightly out of breath. Mr. Gougar, Mr. Cole, Mr. Lindsey, Mr. Jarvis, and Henry turned their attention towards her, confused expressions flashing on their features.
"What is it? What's happened?" Henry questioned.
"Genevieve isn't in her bed. She's gone, and I do not know where," she replied.
"And where's Mr. Campbell?" Augustus added.
Frederick stood up from the table and began pacing about the room. "I knew I should not have let Genny leave the dining room so angry last night. I have been so terrible to her. No wonder she left."
"Do not fret, Jarvis. Perhaps you are better off having her gone. That girl was nothing but trouble," Mr. Gougar stated.
Frederick turned to face Bennet, anger flashing in his eyes. "You do not understand. She is the only family I have aside from Tobias, and he can be so dreadful. I'm glad I found Genny, for she has made life at Winsford much more enjoyable."
Augustus stood up from the table as well. "Let me help you find her. She is my friend, and I would like to be assured of her safety."
Henry shuffled uncomfortably where he stood. "She had me deliver a letter to Ashington last night. I didn't read it, but perhaps she went there."
"That seems reasonable," said Mr. Cole. "And I have a feeling Simon went along with her. They were talking outside of the library when Bennet and I were in there after all."
Mr. Gougar looked at his friend curiously. "How the hell did you know that?"
"I could hear them a little while you were busy ranting. I am sure Genevieve heard all those things you said about her," he responded.
Mr. Gougar was, for once, at a loss for words and Augustus glared at him. "What did you say?"
"I-I was angry," he stammered. "I did not mean it."
"I will not say it again. What did you say?!" Augustus demanded.
"I called her ill-tempered, insufferable, ignorant, and untrustworthy," he said quietly, suddenly aware that all pairs of eyes were on him.
Rebecca was the one who stepped in, cheeks flushed with anger and her hands balled into fists at her sides.. "While she does have a temper, Genevieve is a wonderful and intelligent girl, and I'd trust her with my life. You're probably the reason she left, you impertinent cad."
"Rebecca is right," Frederick cut in. "It's one thing for siblings to argue, but another for you to outright insult her. Edwin, Augustus, and I are going to go talk to Genny and convince her to come home, and Bennet, you are going to stay here under the watch of Rebecca and Henry. I expect you to have an apology prepared for my sister when we return."
Mr. Gougar looked at Frederick, completely aghast. "I have known you for years, and yet you choose to take her side over my own? You saw how she acted at dinner last night. Is that something you want living at Winsford?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. I suggest you get writing so you can keep your thoughts in order," he replied, and then strode out of the dining room with Mr. Cole and Mr. Lindsey.
Rebecca sat across from Bennet, her arms folded to show she was still not happy with him. Henry locked the dining room doors before joining them, a smug grin plastered on his face. "So, Mr. Gougar," he said. "Is there anything else you would like to say?"
Outside, Edwin, Augustus, and Frederick saddled up their horses, trying to get to Ashington as fast as possible and talk to Genevieve. After all, they had no idea what she was thinking. They just wanted her safe.
"Honestly Mr. Cole," Augustus cut in. "How do you tolerate Mr. Gougar? He is terribly rude."
"He usually isn't so obnoxious, I assure. There just seems to be something about Genny that strikes a cord with him, and not in a good way," Edwin replied.
"Genny had a theory that he was secretly in love with her, which I dismissed and caused us to fight. Do you think that perhaps she was right?" Frederick wondered.
"I suppose it is possible," he answered after a brief pause. "Though I don't understand why he would call her such things if he was affectionate towards her."
"Well, he is a damned fool if he doesn't like her. Everybody else does," Augustus added.
"It also seems that Mr. Campbell has especially. After all, he went along with her escape," Frederick mentioned.
"Jarvis, I can assure you that is not the reason he went with her to Ashington. He was talking rather animatedly about one of her sisters, so I'm sure that was his motivation," Edwin commented with a grin. "In fact, I believe it was Victoria."
"That's rather foolish of him. Using Genny as an excuse to get to her sister is hardly tolerable, and I'm sure if she finds out, he will feel her wrath," Augustus stated.
"I do not care what he does, as long as he isn't rude to her. Come, my friends. Let's go get my sister back," Frederick said with a smile, hoisting himself up on his horse.
Edwin and Augustus followed suit and the three of them rode off toward their destination, anxiety flowing through all of them. Would Genevieve come home, or would she return to Ashington to stay for good?