Posted on: 2010-07-19
It was a glorious October morning. The crack between the drawn curtains let a ray of sunshine seep through the window into their chamber. Emma slowly opened her eyes to see the shinning sun beam that lit up almost the entire room. She took a quick glance at her beloved husband who at the moment was still sleeping peacefully next to her. Making every effort not to awaken him, she gently lifted her covers to get out of bed as quietly as possible. With a mischievous smile on her face, she tiptoed to the writing desk next to the window and fetched her sketch book and pencil without making the slightest sound.
Gingerly sitting down on the edge of the bed, admiring her husband dearest, she couldn't help musing, "Oh, George, my love, you're a sight!"
Emma was putting the final touches on her sketch at the very moment when George started opening his eyes. She quickly tugged the sketch book under her pillow then leaned forward to give him a gentle kiss on his forehead, with the sweetest smile on her face she said, "Good morning my darling sleepyhead!"
"Hmm… yes… I'm the sleepyhead this morning… so you finally won!" George stretched out his strong arms to pull his lovely young wife close to him and pressed an affectionate kiss on the side of her silky cheek.
"Yes, it's only fair that I should win at least once, don't you think?!" Emma giggled in triumph.
This was the last day of their first holiday together at the South End Seaside. The blissfully happy couple had enjoyed every moment of the last thirteen days being Mr. and Mrs. George Knightley. On the first night, they both marveled at the blessing of having their wishes came true, seeing each other's face the last thing at night and first thing in the morning. When the next morning came, George roused when Emma was still in slumbers. He gazed at his darling wife and wondered what on earth he did to deserve her. He's so in awe that he tried to be the first to waken up every morning just so that he could watch his sweet Emma sleeping. Emma was at first a bit embarrassed waking up to George's 'stare', but as she understood his intention, she happily counted herself the luckiest woman on earth's existence to have such a devoted husband. At times she wished she could be the one who awakened first and had the chance to admire her sleeping husband. She and George had made a little competition to see who could rouse first every morning. For some reason, George always won! So Emma was extremely proud to have won this morning and rewarded with the prize of sighting her beloved George in slumbers!
With Emma still close by his side, George sat up on the bed and asked slyly, "So what were you doing besides admiring your handsome husband sleeping?"
Unable to hide the mischievous smile on her face, Emma said, "Nothing…"
"Nothing… Who are you trying to fool, my love? I heard some noise as I was awakened, sounded… as if you were hiding something… What is it?"
George tightened his grip on Emma and started tickling her. Immediately Emma burst into girlish giggles. Even though they had been friends all her life, and known so much about each other as an old married couple did, they had made many new discoveries during the last thirteen days. To George's amazement, Emma was ticklish!
As the tickles intensified, out of her uncontrollable giggles Emma finally cried out, "…stop…please stop… George…it's under my pillow…"
"See, my dearest Emma, knowing your weakness is serving me well. I wish I knew it long before, perhaps instead of scolding and lecturing you, a little tickle would have stopped all your nonsense much sooner."
"Oh well, even if you had known it long before, you wouldn't be able to use it against me, for that would have been utterly inappropriate. Mr. Knightley!" Emma said it with a raised eyebrow while giving a gentle pinch on George's nose with her soft fingers.
"Ah, 'Mr. Knightley', you haven't called me that since the third day of our holiday!"
"You silly goose, you remember which day I stopped calling you 'Mr. Knightley'?"
"My love, don't you remember that you once said that it would be impossible to call me anything but 'Mr. Knightley'? I had thought you were serious that you would not change. Needless to say I was elated and surprised when you called me by my Christian name that entire day!"
"That is true, I did say that. But remember…I also said that I would never marry…and now, I'm Mrs. George Knightley. See, I do change for the right reasons." She playfully lifted her hand to caress George's cheek, "and you know…since we're married and we are no longer just old friends," she blushed as she whispered the next words, "we are part of each other! I don't want to call you anything but 'George'!" No words could express how happy George felt! He held Emma even closer and placed a kiss on the top of her head.
Still clasping Emma close to him with one hand, George reached under the pillow with the other to retrieve what was underneath.
"Ah! Your sketch book, were you taking my likeness whilst I slept? I hardly think that would make an enticing sight, my dear." George felt a little sheepish.
"I thought you looked like an angel in your sleep, so peaceful and content, I could even see a little smile at the corners of your mouth… Besides, today is the last day of our first holiday together, I want to capture all my favorite moments…" Emma started flipping through her sketch book pages. Each sketch brought a particular fond memory of their time at South End.
"Here's the ocean sketch I did on our first day. I had never seen the ocean before that day, it was even more magnificent than I imagined! I loved listening to the sound of the waves, and the shimmering water under the sun was like the reflection of millions of diamonds!" Reminiscing on how surprised she was when George finally let her open her eyes in the carriage to lookout to the seaside, she turned to George and whispered into his ear, "Thank you, George, I love you!" Then she tenderly pressed her lips against his.
George's heart melted at Emma's affirmation of her love for him! "My most beloved Emma, please don't thank me. I love you with all my heart, I count myself the most fortunate man on earth to have you mine, making you happy makes me happy, so you see…I did it for us!" They kept their silence for a moment gazing at each other lovingly as no words could describe how deeply in love they were with each other.
Emma leaned her back against George's shoulder and continued reviewing her sketches, "Here are the seagulls. They looked so regal... This is our inn… And this is the fireplace in our chamber, this will remind me of our nightly conversation in front of the cozy fire," she nestled her face in the crook of his neck, "I learned something new about you every time when we chatted."
"And I never thought that I would have more to learn about you until our chats!" Feeling the warmth of Emma warmed George's heart.
"And here's the café where we had our ice cream...it almost froze my teeth! Papa would not have approved if he was there… And here you are reading newspaper…"
"Now why would you sketch me reading newspaper?" George was amused by his own likeness that showed only his fingers holding up a newspaper!
Looking very serious, Emma explained, "As I said, I wanted to capture all the special sceneries and moments… look, you were holding the South End Daily, not just any newspaper!"
It was George's turn to turn the page, "And here's the sea bathing machine 1. I know how adventurous you could get sometimes. I was surprised that you weren't tempted to try sea bathing."
"Oh no, I don't think I'll ever have the courage to sea bath…the machine looked absolutely ridiculous. And the water was so cold. You know what Papa would say, don't you?"
"Oh yes!" They laughed themselves silly at the next words that came out of their mouths in unison, "One must catch cold in that!"
As George turned to the next sketch, he was a bit puzzled, "When did you take this likeness? Who was the gentleman next to me?"
"You were speaking with Mr. Thomas Holland, the developer who built the New Town 2 in South End years ago. I remembered you told me that he was expecting the New Town would attract more genteel visitors, but not until Princess Caroline stayed at the Terrace that the town had finally become famous."
"Ah! Yes, and I thought that if a pier was built, it would make South End much more accessible, more common visitors would be able to come."
"You were so absorbed in the conversation that you spoke with Mr. Holland for almost half an hour. I loved that serious look on your face when you spoke of land improvement and the likes, that's why I took your likeness without you knowing! And if there's ever a pier built at South End, I will have this sketch to proof that the idea came from my husband George!" Emma said this with a smirk on her face for she was very proud of all George's attributes and qualities, she honestly believed that one day South End would have a pier and it would be to George's credit.
Then she skipped to the last sketch, she turned to George with the sweetest and brightest smile, "This is my favorite…my devastatingly handsome sleepyhead husband!" Resting herself on George, Emma gently let out a content sigh!
Seaside in late October brought forth a light cool breeze in this beautiful sunny afternoon. For one last time, George took Emma to their favorite sites in South End. They visited the town's romantic library and its quaint little church. They strolled on the beautifully manicured grounds of the Royal Terrace, walked bare footed along the sandy beach, and watched children building sand castles.
That evening, George ordered an early supper at the inn for he knew Emma would like to watch the sunset by the shore again. He watched Emma slowly taking her supper. Each bite seemed to require a great deal of effort from his beloved wife. His lively and talkative Emma from this morning was now very quiet and subdued.
With concerns in his voice, George asked, "My dearest Emma, you seem very quiet this evening, are you not well? Did all the walking we took this afternoon fatigue you?"
Emma looked up from her dinner plate with a soft smile, took George's hand into hers and gave it a gentle squeeze, "Oh no, George, I'm fine…I'm…just…not very hungry, that's all."
They continued to finish their supper with very few words exchanged.
Weather of a late October evening at the Seaside was very different from the afternoon. The light breeze had turned into a cold wind. George bundled up Emma with the heaviest cloak she brought to the trip and put on his top coat before heading to the shore.
The air and the wind by the shore were cold, but the sunset was as beautiful as ever. George stood behind Emma and wrapped his arms around her to shield her from the coldness of the early evening. In this manner, they watched the sun slowly setting for many moments.
As the sky was about to turn dark and the wind getting stronger, George leaned his head forward an inch and gently spoke into her ear, "Emma, it's getting dark, I think we should go. I don't want you to catch a cold!"
Emma slowly turned herself around in George's arm, then wrapped her arms around him and looked longingly into his eyes, "Just a few more minutes, please…" She rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes to soak in the cold ocean air once again. Surrounded by gliding seagulls and the sound of crashing ocean waves, they stood there holding each other tightly until the sun finally set to its rest.
It had become their habit at the Seaside to spend a little time sitting and chatting in front of their chamber's fire before retiring for the night.
They had had many a talk in front of the Hartfield fire before, but the talks they had in front of the Seaside fire were quite different. Instead of the weather, events of the day, parish business, news from their Brunswick Square relatives, or most often the health constitution and concerns of Mr. Woodhouse, their talks here were of intimate matters.
They had mused how blinded they were to their own hearts when the very persons they had always been in love with were right under their noses. They had rejoiced at their union that only fate could bring about and believed it was always meant to be. They had talked of the catalyst that awakened them to their hearts, in George's case it was Mr. Frank Churchill, but in Emma's, to George's astonishment, it was Miss Harriett Smith! Emma had confessed and regretted all her follies and meddling, and was pained when she realized how George's heart was breaking when he set off to London the day after Box Hill… They had talked of having their own family. If George could have his way, he would want at least as many children as his brother John did, but he would gladly settle for a girl and a boy! Emma wanted a boy first and George a girl…
Each one of their intimate chats had revealed a part of them that they did not know and brought them even closer. They treasured all of their conversations and would keep them in their hearts always, but the exchange from the previous night had settled in their hearts the deepest…
Instead of sitting on the chair, they had laid some pillows on the floor and sat in front of the fire. Emma hugged her legs close to her body while George crossed his long legs and sat facing Emma. Their voices were low and cheerful as they spoke…
"George… did you always want to be the Master of Donwell Abbey? John is a lawyer and living in London. I know how much you love Donwell, but have you ever wanted to do something else?"
"Hmmm….do you want the truth?" He looked into her eyes with a twinkle, "…The truth is that I have always wanted to be the Master of Donwell for as long as I could remember. And it was not out of duty for being the first born son."
"But you had lived in London and gone to the university, travelled and seen different parts of the world. You mean you never even thought of doing something else?"
"That is right!" George was thoughtful for a while before he spoke again. "…I had always wanted to be like my father. He was the most honorable man I've known…"
"I was very little when your father passed away, I don't have much recollection of what he was like!"
"You were not even three years of age when my father died. But if you had known him, you would know what I mean…" George was thoughtful again, and his tone was warm when he next spoke.
"My father was the kindest man I knew. His concerns for the poor and the unfortunate were always genuine. His loyalty to his friends and the parishes never swayed. And…he loved my mother very, very much!" George lifted his hand and gently stroke Emma's cheek as he continued.
"He started teaching me farming and agricultural improvement when I was a young boy. He used to take me to agricultural fairs and exhibits. I didn't always understand what they were about, but was fascinated by all the big farming equipment. As I got a little older, my interest for farming methods and improvements grew. It isn't just because they would yield more crops or make more money, but because our country and our countrymen need food to survive the war and sustain their growth…"
Suddenly he remembered something which brought a childish grin onto his face, "Remember the famous ox that we had talked about at Hartfield?"
Emma started laughing as she recalled the conversation, "Oh yes! How could I forget! I had thought that you and Mr. Weston were speaking of a ravishing lady he met at a farming exhibit 3 … what a blunder!"
George was laughing too, "My father took me to see that ox when I was thirteen. It was 'The Royal Lincolnshire Ox'. That massive animal stood six feet four inches tall and weighed two hundred and five and a half stone! Everyone was in awe in front of the great beast. Can you imagine me at thirteen, how small I felt standing in front of the massive ox? I tried so hard to be brave and not get intimidated by it, but my father could tell that I was apprehensive, so he walked up to it with me, took my hand and patted the beast with me! At that moment, I felt like I could conquer the world … I would never forget that day when I promised my father that I would be a great Master of Donwell just like him!"
Emma moved herself next to George and wrapped her arms tightly around his arm before she spoke gently to him, "You must be devastated when you father died so suddenly…"
"Yes… but it made me even more determined to become the Master of Donwell to carry on his legacy!"
"But how could it be… you were still just a young man then! That would be too much to bear at such an age…"
"My mother was determined to send me off to university to acquire the education that I needed to run Donwell. It was all arranged, I would go to Oxford and William Larkins would run Donwell until I completed schooling and able to return."
"So after you came back, William Larkins became your 'right hand' at Donwell."
He nodded and continued thoughtfully " I know William Larkins does not have a charming personality and not even considered friendly at times, but he has been the most loyal and faithful servant to my father, to Donwell and to me. His service to our family had sustained Donwell during the four years when I was away. I owe him my utmost respect and gratitude!"
"I want to tell you something George," she looked into his eyes intently, "you should be very proud of yourself… you have become the great Donwell Master as you had once promised your father, and you have all the honorable and kind qualities that your father had….you really are like your father! And what's more… you have made me so very proud to be able to call you my husband!" Emma hugged George's arm even closer and rested her head on his arm.
"Thank you for listening to me, my dearest Emma! I can't begin to tell you the joy that I feel being able to share with you my inner most thoughts and feelings…" He gently loosen Emma's hold on his arm, then wrapped his arm around her and gave her a sound kiss on her lips. "Enough about me…I want to listen to my beautiful Mistress of Hartfieldt!"
"Yes…what would you like to know my master?" Emma said playfully.
"When John and Isabella moved to London, you were only thirteen, becoming the Mistress at that young age seemed to come so easy to you. You were always a clever girl and I wasn't surprised at that at all. But sometimes I thought the pressure must be great to have to take care of your father and run Hartfield the same time. Did you ever wish Isabella had not moved to London with John?'
"Oh! Never! How could I? I always wanted Isabella to be happy and she could not be so unless John was. Besides I had Miss Taylor, I mean Mrs. Weston, to help me and teach me."
Now it's Emma's turn to be thoughtful, "Hmmm… the only thing that I ever wished was… at times I had wished that my mother was still alive…"
Emma was looking at the fire as she spoke, "My mother died when I was so young, I don't even remember what she looked like." She paused briefly then continued, "Papa has always loved me very much, and I had Miss Taylor with me all these times, I was and I will always be grateful for what I have. Miss Taylor was a teacher and a dear friend to me. She practically raised me from a girl to a woman… but I couldn't help but wondering what it was like to have a mother…" George could see a trace of tear in her eyes as he held her even closer to him.
Emma blinked away her tears and raised her eyebrow as she continued, "As you are well aware of…I was a willful child", she glanced at George for his reaction and there's a warm smile on his face, "Papa doted on me endlessly and Miss Taylor always had a soft spot for little Emma, I could get away with anything. Many a time I enjoyed wrapping my little fingers around Papa and Miss Taylor, but even I knew what I did was not always right. With no one to say 'no' to me, except for my dearest friend and neighbor Mr. Knightley," she gave George a little saucy look and saw his twisted mouth before she looked down, "…I sometimes wished I had a mother to stop me from my nonsense before I turned them into follies… I had heard that a mother's love was soft as willow and strong as iron, I wanted a taste of that love…"
At the next moment, she looked up and gave George a bright smile, "but please belief me when I say that I have no regrets… Papa told me that Mama was very sick for a long time, going to heaven was the best thing that happened to her, I wouldn't want her to suffer on earth just so that I could have her to myself."
George took her hands into his and squeezed them tightly, "My most beloved Emma, this is what I have always loved so much about you. When it comes to family, you never think of yourself, you always put your family's needs before your own! And I am sure that even now up in heaven, your mother is loving you and looking down at you every single moment…"
It was in this manner that they opened their hearts and lives completely to each other. If the closeness of their friendship and union had sealed their two hearts into one, their unreserved openness and complete honesty bind their souls together.
George was immensely concerned over her countenance. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, speaking softly with a sense of urgency, "My darling Emma, you have been very happy during the last many days here, but you are so quiet all of this night… would you please tell me what is on your mind? I can't bear to see you like this…"
Emma lifted up her face, looked at George for a moment, then suddenly burst into tears! George's heart was pounding rapidly. Emma was not the type of women who cried easily! A few tear drops maybe, but he had not seen her cry… since she was a tiny babe… something must be bothering her terribly! George panicked and for a moment did not know what to do!
He gently pulled Emma to him and muffled her face in his embrace as she continued to cry. He patiently waited for Emma to calm while he desperately trying to collect himself. His night shirt was wet with tears by the time Emma finally stopped. He briefly removed himself from her to fetch a handkerchief to wipe her tears. Then he gathered her up on his lap and rested her head on the crook of his neck. Arms cradling her, George spoke tenderly, "My most precious Emma, would you please tell me what is bothering you?"
After another moment, Emma finally spoke into his neck "I'm ashamed of myself…"
"For what?" That snapped out of his mouth a little too loudly, George thought!
"I… I… I don't want to go home…" Emma sniffled.
With a quiet sigh of relief, George thought to himself, "at least this is a start…" He lowered his voice before he spoke again, "Now, why would you be ashamed of yourself for not wanting to go home?"
More sniffles, "…we have been on our holiday for almost two weeks… I miss Papa very, very much and I know he must miss me, I mean us, dreadfully… I hate myself for not wanting to go home to Papa…"
"Emma, my dear, you can't blame yourself for enjoying your holiday so much that you don't want to go home. It is very common for anyone to feel this way. You must have seen the looks on Henry or Bella's face before they returned to Brunswick Square every time when they visited, they always had such a good time visiting Hartfield and Donwell that they never wanted to go home!"
"But… there's more …" Emma was still sniffling.
"Hmmm… would you like to tell me what it is?"
"…I don't want to leave because… because… I never knew that… spending time with you alone could make me so happy…"
George's heart did a happy flip upon Emma's words! The kind hearted side of him felt ashamed that he should feel so happy for Emma not wanting to go home to her father… but the vain side of him was exuberated to know that she loved him so much that she wanted to be alone with him more than anything else!
Finally the sensible side of George spoke, "My most beloved Emma, I can't tell you how happy I am to hear that you treasure our time alone so much. I feel exactly the same way! The past fortnight has been the most wonderful time of my life. I had never felt so happy, so content. I would give anything just to be with you." He lifted her chin to look into her eyes, "but we have duties to your father and our parishes… tomorrow we are not just leaving Seaside…we are going to Hartfield , to our home!"
Emma's tears dried and her sniffles gone, with a timid voice she asked, "George…will you be happy at Hartfield? We had talked how you always wanted to be the Master of Donwell… I know you are moving to Hartfield for me and Papa, and I am grateful for that, but I don't want you to be unhappy…"
George looked into Emma's eye and gave her the sweetest smile he had ever given "Of course I will be happy at Hartfield! Remember I told you that it didn't matter where I lived, as long as my heart was in the right place? I meant every word I said!"
"And as for Donwell… I will still be the Master of Donwell even while living at Hartfield… I might walk back and forth couple times a day, and you might have to put up with William Larkins at Hartfield once in a while… other than that, nothing will change!"
A little sly look came onto his face, "…but… I am hoping that… perhaps we could spend the night at Donwell once in a while as a little time away for ourselves… just the two of us, alone …"
Emma understood what he meant and returned with a blush "…I think that can be arranged, George !"
"So do you feel better now?"
"Hmm, hmm… I am all better now…" Emma hid her face in the crook of his neck again and whispered, "George… I think it's time for bed, don't you?"
"Oh, James, we will take the sketch book to the carriage, thank you!" Emma caught James right when he was about to take her sketch book to store with the rest of the luggage.
With a smile that could rival the morning sun, George said to Emma, "I'm so glad you took these sketches, Emma, we'll always have them to remind us of our first holiday together. We could even frame some of them and place them in our room if you'd like!"
"I'm glad too! I can't wait to show Papa all of them, and when Isabella, John and the children come during Christmas, we'll have so much to talk about!" Emma looped her hands through George's arm with a smile that brightened up the whole room.
"So, we are all packed, the carriage's ready… are you ready my dearest, most beloved, beautiful, precious, Mrs. Knightley?"
"Yes, I'm most certainly ready to go home with my dearest, most honorable, handsome, darling Mr. Knightley!"
"Hmmm…then shall we?"
George put on his top hat, picked up Emma's sketch book with one hand, and offered the other to her in his gentlemanly manner. Meeting George's eyes lovingly, Emma took his arm gracefully. Together, they walked happily out of the room, out of the inn, into the sun, embarking their journey to Hartfield… their home !
1 There is a very interesting article which discussed Sea-Bathing in early 19th century. You'll find a picture of the sea bathing machine in there. Please click here.
2 For a brief history of South End, Please click here. Emma would have been very proud to know that a pier was built in South End in the late 1820's
3 In Chapter 3, Book One of George Knightley, Esquire: Charity Envieth Not by Ms. Barbara Cornthwaite, Emma overheard a conversation between Mr. Weston and Mr. Knightley, she had thought that they were describing a beautiful 'Unknown Lady', but came to find out that it was the dimension of an ox!