Posted on 2010-05-16
Mr. Knightley glanced around to make sure all of his guests were occupied, either by conversation or by enjoying his strawberry beds: the Westons were picking strawberries with Harriet Smith, Miss Bates was alternating between good-naturedly listening to Mrs. Elton's descriptions of Maple Grove's superior strawberry beds and having Mrs. Elton not-so-good-naturedly suffer through her own ramblings, Elton seemed quite occupied in downing gallon after gallon of lemonade...
Emma, he knew, was inside with her father, preparing the best of the strawberries she had gathered for him; who else was missing? Frank Churchill quite fortunately, to his mind had not arrived yet, and Jane Fairfax...
He looked around, but could not see her anywhere. Frowning slightly, he decided to head back inside to check if she was with Emma and Mr. Woodhouse.
It was on his way that he caught a glimpse of a skirt rounding the hedge that lined Donwell Lane and disappearing. A momentary glance determined it to be indeed Miss Fairfax, and he hurried back to the house to call for the carriage. It would not do to have Miss Fairfax, who by her aunt's account had not yet completely recovered from illness, walking all the way home in such heat. He suspected that she would refuse a carriage for the reason that it would cause needless trouble, so he would pre-empt her and call for it anyway so that it would be more trouble to refuse it than to accept it.
That done, he began to walk in the direction she had left, hoping to catch up with her and persuade her to wait the very little while it would take the carriage to reach them. As he walked he wondered if Miss Fairfax had been inside talking with Emma. For some little time now he thought he had observed a softening in Emma's reserved manner towards Miss Fairfax, as if her pity for the latter's situation had finally overtaken her envy of her talents. He had always hoped that they would become friends two such good, intelligent, accomplished young women could learn much from one another.
It was when he had reached the bend, skirted by the tall hedge that bordered the outskirts of the Abbey's grounds, where Donwell Lane turned into Highbury Road that he heard voices: one belonging to the person he had been hoping to overtake and another, this one a male voice.
A male voice he instantly recognised. The voice that never failed to cause that familiar sinking feeling in his stomach these days, because he knew that this voice heralded the destruction of his familiar intimacy with Emma, his visits to Hartfield, the brightest part of his life.
For a moment he viciously wished that Mrs. Weston's fears of Churchill being thrown off by his horse in some field had come true.
He was startled out of his thoughts by Miss Fairfax's voice which was now earnest enough that he could clearly hear what she was saying, even though she seemed to be trying to keep her voice lowered. She sounded agitated. 'Frank, no! You cannot walk back with me. After all the trouble we've gone to, if we were seen now'
The young man seemed to have no such fears, and indeed, didn't even bother to lower his voice. 'Nobody will see us,' he said, and his tone of voice was soothing. 'And even if they do, what is so remarkable about Mr. Churchill perceiving that Miss Fairfax is unwell and offering to see her home safely?' His voice became beseeching. 'I haven't seen you for an age.'
Mr. Knightley's mind was whirring, putting together all the signs and circumstances he had observed previously, and he knew with a jolt that his foreboding had proved correct. That villain Frank Churchill had been dallying with Jane Fairfax even as he had pretended to fawn over Emma. The scoundrel had been wooing her and stealing her heart to no purpose, had been merely using her as a blind to conceal this, this secret liaison with Miss Fairfax. His fists clenched involuntarily.
He returned his attention to their argument in time to hear Churchill giving in with a very bad grace. 'I suppose if you will make such a fuss about it, I'll leave you alone,' he snapped, sounding extremely frustrated. Then suddenly his tone became softer. 'I suppose you couldn't at least give me a kiss goodbye?'
Miss Fairfax's voice was cold, and she sounded exhausted. 'You suppose correctly, sir. To agree to a secret engagement was foolish enough; I will not be even more foolish and expose it to the world through my own carelessness.' Then suddenly her voice became agitated. 'Frank, I said no what if someone'
For a second he heard nothing, but then he heard the sound of a resounding slap followed by a set of footsteps hurrying away.
The remaining set of footsteps began coming closer, accompanied by muttered grumblings. 'Can't even get a kiss from my own fiancιe without a fuss... being overcautious... not like anyone would have seen us...'
Just then he rounded the corner and stopped dead as he came face-to-face with Mr. Knightley, whose expression was dark as thunder. 'I believe you spoke too soon, sir,' he ground out through gritted teeth, and had the very great satisfaction of seeing the blood drain out of Churchill's face.
As Mrs. Weston had come to sit inside with her father, Emma decided she would take advantage of the opportunity for a stroll outside in the Abbey's gardens. It had been a long time since she had last been to the Abbey, and it might perhaps be a long time until she next came, so she might as well make the most of it.
She had a willing walking companion in Harriet, who had accosted her as soon as she had seen Emma entering the pretty avenue shaded by lime trees. The flush on her little friend's face and the light in her eyes were noted by Emma with some amusement, and as Harriet opened her mouth to tell her something, she guessed that she was about to hear that Mr. Churchill had finally arrived to the party.
'Oh Miss Woodhouse,' began Harriet with a sigh, 'you will never believe what happened just a short while ago.' She linked her arm through Emma's. 'I was looking for you, but I didn't think of coming into the house.'
Emma smiled indulgently. 'Well, go on, Harriet,' she said, 'tell me what happened.' It was best to let Harriet think Emma had not comprehended the whole situation; she wouldn't want her friend to think she was interfering once more, as she had resolved not to do.
'I was talking with him about half an hour ago, and he was so attentive and pleasant though he always is and then he asked me I do not think I could have mistaken his meaning he seemed to be asking me if my affections were engaged!' She gave another happy sigh. This effusion and others similar in nature occupied the best part of Harriet's conversation for the next five minutes.
Really, thought Emma, she was glad that she had never been as much in love with Frank Churchill as Harriet seemed to be: to be always sighing and languishing after him and unable to talk of anything else would have been endlessly tiresome to her (and, she imagined, to those around her).
They had been walking now toward the strawberry beds where most of the rest of the party were assembled. 'I wonder,' said Emma, as she surveyed the party and found him missing, 'that Mr. Churchill did not wait here so that he might continue his most interesting conversation with you.'
Harriet stopped walking at that moment, her expression puzzled. 'Mr. Churchill? But whatever do you mean, Miss Woodhouse? I don't believe he's even arrived yet.'
Emma was now completely confused. 'But you just said you two spoke he asked about your affections'
To Emma's astonishment, Harriet began to laugh. 'Oh Miss Woodhouse, that was not Mr. Churchill! I was speaking to Mr. Knightley.'
Suddenly Emma felt sick to her stomach.
Posted on 2010-05-21
'How much did you hear?'
There was a note of panic in Churchill's voice, but it gained him no pity with Mr. Knightley. He would never have sympathy for the man who for months on end had simpered and flirted with Emma all the while without a single serious design; who was willing to break her innocent heart simply to hide his own intrigues. 'I heard enough,' he said grimly.
Then he took a step towards Churchill, keeping his voice deliberate and controlled. 'Why did you do it?' he asked quietly, the menace unmistakable. 'What was the necessity of wounding Emma?'
The man actually had the effrontery to look astonished. 'I didn't!' he protested. 'I mean, I haven't wounded her, I'm sure. She doesn't love me if I even thought she was starting to, I never would have behaved towards her in that way.'
Mr. Knightley's frown deepened. He had not thought his opinion of Mr. Churchill could sink any lower. 'So you admit that your behaviour was by design?'
He at least had the grace to blush. 'Well, yes but it was necessary. Besides, it was not so very serious I believe Miss Woodhouse even suspected my attachment to Jane, and our friendship, flirtation, whatever it was, became a sort of joke between us. And I was so afraid that people would find out I had to distract them.' He ran a hand through his hair, with a sheepish look that was so charming that Mr. Knightley thought with some disgust that half their acquaintance would have forgiven him on the spot by now. 'My aunt, you know, would have forbidden the match. Jane, with all her merit, sense, accomplishment and beauty would simply not be good enough in her eyes.'
He sounded bitter, and as he continued, his voice contained not a little self-disgust. 'I just couldn't give her up to please my aunt and yet I also couldn't give up my inheritance by displeasing her. Jane has told me time and again that the money matters little to her, and in truth I hardly care myself but I know I'm not good enough for her. I can't bear the thought that all the advantage of our union will be on my side; if I want my inheritance, it's only so that she can live in the comfort she deserves.'
At this point, Mr. Knightley was no longer very interested in hearing Churchill's excuses and justifications. No matter what he could say, his behaviour towards Emma had been unpardonable, and Mr. Knightley had good reason to think her heart was not so untouched as Churchill liked to imagine. Her total readiness to vouch for Churchill's indifference to Miss Fairfax that day when he had first confided his suspicions about the two had seemed to imply an understanding, and he was almost certain that Churchill was not being entirely truthful as to the full extent of his dealings with Emma. He had most probably led her on more than his flippant words indicated.
With a noise of disgust, he turned and began to walk with great strides back to Donwell.
Churchill hurried up to half-walk, half-jog beside him, and his tone was suddenly beseeching. 'You will keep our secret, won't you? If anyone else found out'
Mr. Knightley stopped and glowered at him. 'I will keep silent for Miss Fairfax's sake, on the condition that you tell your father and Emma the truth.'
He nodded almost too eagerly, seemingly clutching at any chance of keeping the matter quiet. 'Of course. Thank you; I will tell my father and my step-mother as soon as they get home. But perhaps...' He hesitated for a moment, looking suddenly uncomfortable. 'It might be best if Miss Woodhouse were to hear it from you.'
Ah, Mr. Knightley thought grimly, his mouth twisting contemptuously. So despite all his words about Emma's suspecting the secret and being indifferent to him, he was not so confident in this belief that he would risk the scene of telling her himself. 'Very well,' he said shortly, and taking a deep breath he steeled himself for the task.
If Emma were in love with Churchill, he could at least spare her the humiliation of being unable to conceal her feelings in front of the man himself at hearing the news of his secret engagement.
This day at Donwell, which had started out so pleasantly, had become disastrous. Emma could date this change from precisely the moment when she had discovered that it had been Mr. Knightley that Harriet was in love with, Mr. Knightley who had asked Harriet if her affections were engaged.
It really was a deplorable state of affairs. Sitting with the others and automatically picking strawberries and putting them into her basket, her mind was abstracted and disturbed. Why did it make her feel positively ill to think of Harriet marrying Mr. Knightley?
Mrs. Elton was speaking, but Emma hardly attended, too absorbed in her own thoughts, the words merely drifting around the edges of her consciousness. 'Let's play a game... one thing very clever... moderately clever... three things very dull indeed... I promise to laugh heartily at all of them.'
Why was it so much worse for Harriet to be in love with Mr. Knightley instead of Frank Churchill? And why was the evil so dreadfully increased by Harriet's having some hope of a return?
Through her reverie she heard Miss Bates' smiling voice. 'Oh, very well! Then I need not be uneasy. "Three things very dull indeed." That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan't I?'
Obviously, it would be a great loss to her little nephew Henry, but it was more than that. She frowned in deep concentration, trying to probe her thoughts. She could not bear the thought that Mr. Knightley might be in love with Harriet, because if Mr. Knightley were to marry Harriet, it meant that he would not be able to marry
Mrs. Elton's reply to Miss Bates scattered Emma's thoughts. 'Oh, but there will be a difficulty,' she said, with a sort of sneering, supercilious smile. 'You will be limited as to number only three at once.'
For a second there was a stunned silence throughout the whole party.
Emma was horrified, not only at Mrs. Elton's unpardonable rudeness, but at the sudden realisation that what Mrs. Elton had said aloud was just like many other scornful, ungracious thoughts she herself had had in the past concerning Miss Bates. She saw now that just as Mr. Knightley had often hinted in the past she ought to have been more attentive, more friendly, more gracious towards dear, kind-hearted Miss Bates. Her eyes began to fill with tears.
It was dreadful to think that she was really no better than Mrs. Elton.
She opened her mouth to turn the subject, make some unrelated comment, to distract Miss Bates, who, deceived by the mock-ceremony of Mrs. Elton's manner, had yet to comprehend the insult but it was too late. She saw the good-natured curiosity in Miss Bates' face crumble into a quickly hidden expression of pain.
Determinedly turning her back on Mrs. Elton, she rose quickly. 'Miss Bates,' she said, 'would you give me the pleasure of your company as I go for a walk?'
Miss Bates slowly raised her eyes to her, and with a gratitude that tore at Emma's heart, she assented and rose.
They both turned to make their way to some other picturesque part of the Abbey's grounds, and Emma's heart skipped a beat as she found herself face-to-face with Mr. Knightley, who had apparently been standing quietly there long enough to hear the whole of what had passed.
He was looking down at her, eyes aglow with pride, with a smile so warm and lovely that it took her breath away. In that moment she knew with a sudden jolt that nobody not Jane Fairfax, not Harriet, not anybody must marry Mr. Knightley but herself.
Posted on 2010-05-27
There was no time to spare to digesting this new realisation or to wallowing in despair knowing what she knew about the state of his relationship with Harriet, however. For the next twenty minutes, Emma exerted herself to be a cheerful and amusing companion for Miss Bates, and if at the end of the walk Miss Bates hadn't forgotten Mrs. Elton's slight, at least she knew that from today onwards, she would find a sincere friend in Emma.
As they rejoined the party, the Westons were quick to claim Miss Bates' attention, and Emma observed with approval that Mr. Weston was slightly more jovial and Mrs. Weston slightly more gentle than usual. She could not help but feel a stab of vindictive satisfaction that Mrs. Elton was sitting some distance away, with only her bored-looking husband for company.
However, the next moment she experienced a stab of a different kind as she saw Mr. Knightley and Harriet sitting together on a bench, engrossed in a tκte ΰ tκte. She couldn't help it although she knew that if she had been in Harriet's position and Harriet had interrupted them she would have strongly resented it, she walked resolutely over and sat down on Mr. Knightley's other side.
He shifted over closer towards Harriet no, to accommodate her, she told herself furiously. She listened quietly as he continued what he had been saying to Harriet, now addressing both of them in general. She could hardly pay attention to his animated explanation of crop rotation, distracted by the lump in her throat and her painful thoughts.
He had been explaining crop rotation to Harriet; Emma had a ludicrous consciousness that he had never before tried to explain crop rotation to her. Was he educating Harriet, preparing her to become the future mistress of Donwell Abbey?
It was too dreadful a thought and yet in what other light could she regard it? Now that her eyes were opened to the suspicion, every circumstance which arose in her memory seemed to support it. How often since the dance had she heard him praise Harriet's character or comment that hitherto he had underestimated her? How many times since then had she seen him make an effort to speak to Harriet and befriend her?
What misery it would be if he married Harriet, not only for herself, but in time no doubt for him also! Even if Harriet did turn out to be the daughter of a nobleman, as Emma had once so foolishly fancied, it wouldn't change the fact that she was simple, ignorant and with hardly a claim to education. Whatever charms her beauty and sweet temper held for Mr. Knightley currently, Emma was sure that he would regret his hastiness sooner or later. Harriet was not his equal, intellectually or otherwise and without the need for thought or deep consideration on such a point, she just knew that Mr. Knightley could never be really happy without a true marriage of minds.
Yes she knew how he would love. She had not known him, had not loved him all her life without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what capabilities were in him. He would love peculiarly, exclusively, passionately; any woman lucky enough to be the chosen of Mr. Knightley could rest with full faith in his sincerity, loyalty and eternal constancy.
Mr. Weston's voice broke through her painful thoughts as he called out to Harriet. 'Miss Smith! You were looking for some fruit of the hautboy variety before, weren't you? We've found some over here.'
Harriet, with an apologetic smile at Mr. Knightley, excused herself and rose gracefully to join the Westons. It gave Emma another pang to see this, the little signs of good breeding and elegance she herself had nurtured in the naturally apt Harriet. If she had never distinguished Harriet, if she had never befriended her, then Harriet would never have even met Mr. Knightley.
Or, alternatively, if she had not persuaded Harriet to refuse Robert Martin, she would have been long happily settled at Abbey Mill farm. Mr. Knightley had once told her she would bitterly regret her meddling, and once more he had proven to be right. She had nobody to blame but herself.
At that moment, Mr. Knightley's voice broke into her thoughts and she almost started. 'Shall we go inside and see what your father is up to?' he asked.
She assented readily; for Mr. Knightley to go inside the house was for him to move away from Harriet.
They had both just progressed to the path which connected the strawberry beds to other parts of the Abbey's grounds when Emma was arrested by Mr. Knightley's gentle hand on her arm. He inclined his head towards where Miss Bates was sitting with Harriet and the Westons. 'That was well done,' he said quietly, and Emma flushed with a combination of pleasure at his approval and embarrassment at the undeserved praise.
'I couldn't stop thinking of what my behaviour has been in the past,' she confessed softly. 'I see now what it ought to have been what you have often hinted to me it should have been.' She laughed a little bitterly. 'I must say, it was an enlightening experience to hear Mrs. Elton of all people speak and to realise that she sounded exactly like me.'
He shook his head. 'You are too severe upon yourself, Emma. I have always known you to be capable of great kindness.' He smiled at her, gently. 'Whatever your faults, you have certainly never been like Mrs. Elton.'
In spite of herself she began to smile. 'That is some consolation, at least.'
And for a time they walked side by side in a companionable silence, and somehow with the harmony both of the beauty around her and of that which currently subsisted between herself and Mr. Knightley, Emma found herself almost restored to a state of equilibrium.
However, her composure was soon eroded when she perceived that they were taking the long route to the house through the avenue of limes rather than proceeding directly via the main path. Emma had always been quick, and it did not take her long to realise that Mr. Knightley must have something particular he wished to bring up with her. Immediately she thought of Harriet, and her stomach tightened with dread.
As if on cue he began to speak. 'Emma...' He hesitated for a moment. 'There is something important I wish to speak to you about.'
She took a deep, steadying breath. She could do this she could compose herself, she could be a good friend, she could play the role of confidante if that was what he required of her. Whatever her feelings, whatever the implication his words held for her future happiness or rather the destruction thereof she would not let it show.
She swallowed hard. 'I am listening,' she said quietly, as she pretended to be admiring the admittedly beautiful view that the Abbey overlooked. Whatever her brave resolutions, it was too much to expect her to meet his eyes.
'There is some news I feel you should know: it is an engagement between two people'
'An engagement?' Emma's head snapped around so that she could meet his eyes to search in vain for some clue of falsehood. There was some confusion in his eyes at the abruptness of her reaction, certainly, but nothing to suggest that he was telling her anything but the truth.
Inwardly, she reeled. An engagement. She had never had the smallest hope for herself, but she had not foreseen that matters between Harriet and Mr. Knightley had progressed so far, and so fast. Looking away from him once more, with a huge effort she choked down a sob.
He sighed heavily, taking one of her hands in his and pressing it. 'I am so sorry, Emma.' His thumb caressed the back of her hand. 'I was afraid it would upset you.'
At this Emma gasped, and the tears which had been brimming in her eyes slipped without heed down her face. 'You knew... that I that'
He looked deeply pained as he nodded, and it caused her a fresh stab. Of course he found the idea ludicrous, perhaps even repulsive. He still saw her as the wayward child who flouted his judgment and was never anything but saucy and insolent towards him. 'I suspected it,' he admitted. 'But I had hoped you were not as enamoured as I feared.'
Emma made a noise that was half-laugh, half-sob. 'How could I not be?' How could she not love Mr. Knightley, especially when he evinced such concern for her feelings even while he loved another?
His grip on her hand tightened, and his eyes held a mixture of anxiety, resignation and something else which looked oddly like despair. 'My dear Emma, time will heal your wound. In time I hope you will see that you have nothing to regret. In fact, you will probably end feeling sorry for her.'
Emma frowned. She would never class Harriet Smith as anything but the luckiest of women, and would certainly never be able to feel pity for her with such a prospect of happiness as was hers. And yet, modest as she knew Mr. Knightley to be, such words seemed to form a ridiculous overstatement.
'He is a disgrace to the name of man,' he continued bitterly. 'It was unpardonable of him to take such liberties with you when he had no serious intentions.'
He? Emma looked up at him then, a sudden wild hope making her heart beat a rapid rhythm against her chest. 'Mr. Knightley,' she said slowly, 'who have you been talking about all this time?'
He frowned in confusion. 'Why, Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, of course.'
His answer might have been 'her father and Miss Bates' and still the wave of relief which hit her would have been so intense that at first Emma almost thought she would sink under it. And then, to Mr. Knightley's infinite astonishment she couldn't help it she began to laugh.
Posted on 2010-06-03
Mr. Knightley had never been more surprised in his life than when Emma the Emma who had been teary-eyed and distraught not a minute before began to laugh. For a moment he was worried, but then he heard the true merriment in the sound and he could only conclude that somehow, somewhere during their conversation, they had grossly misunderstood one another.
And yet he was truly perplexed; he could not imagine how it could have happened, and it would have to rest with her to enlighten him. Hesitantly, he said, 'I take it then, that this news does not upset you?'
Swiping at the traces of tears still on her face, her smile was far too brilliant for him to make any sense of her sudden change of sentiment. 'Upset me? It is the best news I have ever heard!'
He stared down at her, but the light in her eyes was too real for him to doubt her sincerity. A sudden memory of what Churchill had protested came to his mind, and for a moment he felt the tiniest bit guilty for having been so quick to assume that the man must have duped Emma. Was it possible that she had, as he had suggested, known or at least suspected the whole truth? That she now felt some kind of absurd triumph that her matchmaker's suspicions had been proven correct?
Perhaps she had been merely pulling his leg when he had tried to warn her of his suspicions regarding the two but then she had sounded so genuinely incredulous at the very idea...
'Emma,' he said, 'you will have to enlighten me I thought you in love with, or at the very least quite infatuated with Frank Churchill.' He looked at her intently, trying to make some sense of her expression. 'Am I entirely wrong then? Have you suspected their engagement for a long time?'
Still smiling, she shook her head. 'No, I had not the slightest suspicion. I must admit, I was totally blind to their attachment.'
He waited a moment, but when she didn't continue, he had to satisfy his burning curiosity. Taking a deep breath, he asked the question upon the answer of which so much depended. 'But you are not in love with Frank Churchill?'
She looked away, abashed, and as a flush began to creep up her neck, his heart sank. So she was in love with that scoundrel; her happiness in the match was only out of generosity to Jane Fairfax.
She took a deep breath, as if trying to gather up her courage to answer him, and his heart went out to her. Unconsciously his grip on the hand he still held within his own tightened slightly. She looked up at him frankly, and nothing could have prepared him for what she was about to say. 'I have never really been attached to Frank Churchill,' she admitted.
Before he had absorbed this information enough to think of something to say in reply, she continued. 'He was Mr. Weston's son, he was new to Highbury, I always found him very pleasant and' she sighed in resignation 'my vanity was flattered, so I allowed his attentions. However, I quickly saw two things: the first, that we were utterly unsuited to be anything more than friends; the second, that he had no serious intentions. I assumed it was just a habit, just his manner but now I see that it was a blind to conceal his real situation with another. He succeeded in blinding everyone around him, including myself only, I was not blinded that it was my good fortune that, in short, somehow or other I was safe from him.'
He felt like he was repeating himself, but he had to make sure. 'So you were never, at any point, in love with him?'
She shook her head firmly, and although her flush deepened, her voice was steady. 'Never. I am sorry that my behaviour has given that impression as I know it did. Perhaps I have as much reason to feel ashamed of confessing that I don't love him as any other woman would feel in confessing the reverse.' She sounded flustered. 'I have never loved Frank Churchill; how can I when I love' She stopped abruptly, eyes widening as she realised what she was saying.
He had barely had time to feel relieved that she was not hurt by Churchill's secret before her words caused his heart to plummet once more. So she was in love with someone else, not Churchill. He had been jealous of the wrong man all this time. Under any other circumstances, it would have been almost comical.
However, he was still at a loss to think who it could be. If not Frank Churchill, who was there among her limited circle of acquaintance who could capture her affection? Mind racing through the possibilities, finally he concluded that it could only be one of: William Cox, the young lawyer; Richard Hughes, who had just been ordained a month ago; or Henry Gilbert, who despite his young years had been made Captain not long ago.
He was not aware that her acquaintance with any of these men had been more than trifling, but then he suddenly recollected that she had danced with all of them and had seemed to enjoy herself at the ball at the Crown. He had been so busy glaring at Frank Churchill that he had failed to observe anything specific about her interaction with her other partners.
He took a deep breath, trying to compose himself. This was killing him; he had to ask. 'Might I enquire,' he said stiffly, 'just whom it might be that you love?'
If possible, her blush deepened still further as she extracted her hand from his. 'I I can't tell you,' she faltered, determinedly looking anywhere but at him.
He probed no further. More than anything he wanted to know more, wanted to know the name of the most fortunate man on earth, wanted a concrete person instead of the spectre in his mind on which to concentrate his envy. And yet he knew no way of eliciting the information from her while still respecting her wish not to divulge any more to him.
After some time of uncomfortable silence she spoke, sighing. 'Anyway, it is quite hopeless he loves someone else.'
His chest swelled with indignation on her behalf. 'Then he's a fool,' he burst out, 'if he can't see what he's throwing away.'
She merely shook her head and smiled sadly. 'He's one of the most intelligent people I know.'
'Then maybe he can be brought to his senses if reasoned with,' he said forcefully. 'If you wish, I will speak with him.' And he would, too, cost him what it would. He would do anything in his power for Emma, if only it would make her happy.
She placed a hand on his arm. 'You are very kind, Mr. Knightley,' she said, 'but I am afraid that is quite impossible.' Despite the gratitude implied by her words, he could not discern anything but profound agitation in her demeanour.
Of course. She did not wish him to know the name of the mystery man, and he could hardly interrogate him without being aware of his identity. Sighing, he let it pass without further comment.
Presently he stirred himself to speak, to give her whatever reassurance or comfort he could. 'Do you know for certain that his affections are engaged elsewhere?' He could not keep the mingled bitterness and disbelief out of his voice as he next spoke. 'I don't see how any man who had your love could possibly give his affections elsewhere.'
She looked up at him then with large, wistful eyes, and from the longing he could plainly read in them he knew her thoughts were turned to that other man. It was torture to have her looking at him and yet not at him with such yearning. Suddenly she seemed to realise she had been absently gazing at him, for she hurriedly looked away before taking a deep breath. 'Well, he has given them elsewhere, and I suppose I must simply accept it and move on with my life.'
He had always admired her courage, which now manifested itself in the maturity with which she was dealing with her unhappiness. He could see her blinking back tears even now, but she would not let them fall.
At that moment more than ever he wanted to speak, to lay the whole truth before her; but now was hardly the time. She was pining after that other blockhead, that man who was foolish enough to bestow his regard elsewhere when he could have been with Emma. What chance could he (Mr. Knightley) possibly have?
He bit back a sigh. 'I suppose we really will be the bachelor uncle and maiden aunt to little Henry after all,' he said, referring to the joking "pact" they'd made to one another several years ago. 'For the woman I love is also in love with someone else.'
Emma looked up at him sharply. 'How can that be?'
He shrugged, trying to smile but not quite managing it. 'Not long ago she told me her affections were engaged elsewhere.'
She frowned in what seemed like confusion, and then comprehension though of what, he was not quite sure dawned on her face. Then, looking as though the words cost her a great deal, she spoke. 'You must have mistaken her meaning, Mr. Knightley.' She gave him a watery smile which looked as if it pained her. 'I am certain that if she said her affections were engaged, she meant that they were engaged by you.'
For a moment he looked at her in wild hope, but then the unchanged sadness in her eyes brought him firmly back to reality. Hers was not the expression of a woman who returned and delighted in his feelings. The disappointment was almost unbearable. He bit his lip, hard.
'That was badly done, Emma,' he said quietly, when he had managed to gather himself enough to speak. 'It was a cruel joke to raise my hopes like that when we both know perfectly well that you love someone else. If you couldn't return my love, you could at least have respected it enough not to use it as a weapon to taunt me with.'
Although he was not looking at her, he clearly heard her gasp. 'You you love me?' She sounded astonished, even shocked.
His head was beginning to ache. In the past half hour, he had become so accustomed to being confused beyond expression by her reactions that his current bafflement came as no surprise to him. He gave up trying to comprehend the situation, and simply nodded. 'Yes.'
Formerly, he had thought he knew Emma well enough to understand her thoughts and predict her actions and reactions. Latterly he had been finding that this was not at all the case, and at the next moment more so than ever.
For he would never in a million years have anticipated that she would burst into tears and throw herself into his arms.
Posted on 2010-06-10
Her sobs were making her whole body tremble, and her fingers clutched at the lapels of his coat as the anchor to the reality of the situation. Fleetingly, she thought that she was being ridiculously emotional, but she couldn't help it. Some women might have possessed the power of accepting with tolerable equanimity that Mr. Knightley was in love with them; however, Emma had it not. In the past half hour she had experienced such a wide spectrum of feelings from terror to relief to resigned despair, and now unimaginable happiness... it was little wonder that her composure had temporarily abandoned her.
For half a beat his body had gone slack with the greatest astonishment, if his expression were any indication. But then his arms slowly came around her, holding her so, so gently almost as if he thought he might wake and find it had all been unreal if he made any sudden movements.
For over a minute they stood like that, until Emma's sobs had gradually subsided to an occasional small gasp. Her fingers, which had never let go of his lapels, clutched them tighter still. One of his hands came up to slowly, hesitantly cup her face. Closing her eyes, she leaned into the touch with a sigh. 'Emma...' His voice was rather unsteady. 'Does this mean you...?'
Opening her eyes, she saw in his eyes an expression of painful suspense, but also something else: a sincerity which told her that she was the one, that somehow unaccountably, wonderfully the exclusive, passionate regard which she had known him to be capable of, was directed at her and no other. Reaching her own hand up to his face, she gave him a full, warm, heartfelt smile. 'Always,' she said softly.
His eyes widened, and she barely had time to see the pure joy flare in them before he lowered his head to cover her lips with his. Her sigh was muffled against him as she instinctively moved her hand behind his head to bring him closer to her.
This was new, and in some ways very strange. After all, at this time yesterday she had been entirely blind to her love for Mr. Knightley and it defied comprehension. She felt like she had known forever. She felt like she had known since he had listened to her woes and conceived the plan for the Box Hill trip; she felt like she had known since they had shared that dance together; she felt like she had known since he had prevented Mr. Elton's rudeness from ruining the evening of herself and her friends; she felt like she had known since knowing that life would be intolerable if he were to marry Jane Fairfax; she felt like she had known since they had made up their quarrel and sat together admiring their little niece, who, to the eye of a stranger unacquainted with their family, could have been their own daughter; she felt like she had known for years and years.
And yet the conscious knowledge had only been present a few hours.
After a little while it stopped seeming strange; after a little while it seemed like kissing Mr. Knightley was the most natural thing in the world. In fact after a little while Emma began to wonder just how she had managed to waste so many years in his company without trying it before. Well, no matter. They had a lifetime to catch up, after all.
The thought made her smile, and as if he had heard her thoughts she felt his answering smile against her lips.
The 'long way' back to the house had become the 'even longer way' as they walked from the lime avenue to the lake to the apple orchards; however, they had much to discuss, and such a topic as their mutual love for one another could not fail to interest, and indeed would remain interesting no matter how many times the particulars were gone over.
Emma had his large hand clasped firmly in her own smaller one as they walked. 'And so how long have you been in love with me, Mr. Knightley?' She could not keep the smile off her face as she said the words.
He seemed himself similarly unable to assume a neutral expression. 'I hardly know,' he said softly. 'We have been old friends for so long that the change in my sentiments from friendship to love entirely escaped my notice.' He squeezed her hand. 'I have known my own heart for some weeks now, but I should guess that I have been in love with you for a few years at least.' He looked down at her curiously. 'And you?' he asked. 'How long have you been in love with me?'
'Oh dear,' she said, and before he could misconstrue her words and panic (she felt his worried eyes on her face), she gave him a playful smile. 'I fear I will not be a very original contributor to this conversation. How long have I been in love with you? I can only say my answer is the same as yours: too long to pinpoint the exact moment.'
He smiled, satisfied. 'That will do quite well as an answer, Emma.' Presently he began to speak once more. 'I have thought of a question for which your answer would have to be original.'
She looked up at him, eyebrows raised in amused inquiry. 'And what might that be?'
He looked down at her, and besides the earnest curiosity, there was also something a little self-conscious in his expression. 'When did you realise you loved me, and what made you realise it?'
Emma laughed helplessly, momentarily hiding her blushing face in his shoulder. 'I am the luckiest woman in the world,' she said, 'for I only realised a few hours ago.'
'Only a few hours?' He pretended to be offended. 'And here I have been, suffering in an agony of jealousy and uncertainty for over a month!'
Emma shook her head, smiling. 'You may rest easy as far as regards that; I believe I have suffered more fears, insecurities and moments of despair in those few hours than many a woman has suffered in weeks.'
He looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. 'Emma,' he said finally after some time of silent contemplation, 'what do you mean by that exactly? You may have been unaware of my regard, but surely you never despaired of it?'
For a moment she was agitated. To tell him the whole truth was her first and natural desire, but then she resolved that Harriet's secret need not and should not escape her. It was the only thing Emma could do for her now, for as to any of that heroism of sentiment which would induce her to give up Mr. Knightley because they could not both marry him, Emma had it not. She felt for Harriet, sincerely and truly, all the more because she had been the one to lead her astray; but no flight of generosity run mad would make her go against all that her mind and her heart told her was reasonable and desirable.
In a moment she composed herself enough to give him an answer. 'I thought you in love with someone else, as indeed, I believe I told you then.' She smiled at her own stupidity. 'In fact, when you mentioned an engagement, I thought you were speaking of your own.'
Comprehension entered his eyes. 'So that was why...?'
'That was why I laughed, because I realised it was only Frank Churchill you were talking about.'
He laughed delightedly. '"Only" Frank Churchill? What I would have given to have heard that a month ago...' He shook his head, smiling. 'What a pair of blind fools we've been, you and I.'
Emma agreed with a happy sigh as she shifted their hands to intertwine their fingers together. 'Indeed.' Then she shot him a playful smile. 'I suppose it will be our punishment then, to impose ourselves on one another for all eternity.'
'Mmm, yes,' he said, and then his voice lowered to match the glint in his eyes. 'That sounds like a plan.' And then he began its execution, his lips finding hers once more.
Posted on 2010-06-19
That night Emma found it difficult to fall asleep. Her body was all but exhausted, but after such a day her mind was far too alert to allow for any meaningful rest. Never in her life had she been so wildly, gloriously happy as she was today.
Every time she closed her eyes it was his face that was before her, and the delicious memories of every fervent word, every earnest look, every gentle touch played over and over in her mind. However, despite all this and its attendant glow of joy, her happiness had an alloy.
She had had two main worries: her father, and Harriet. He would be most disturbed at such a change to their situation, and she, to whom Emma had never done any good and had instead done a great deal of harm, would almost definitely be gravely disappointed if not downright resentful (and not without reason).
Earlier that day, in between the sweet nothings, she and Mr. Knightley had seriously discussed her father. 'I could never leave him,' she had said firmly, chin set in determination, trying not to let her trembling show. She would not let herself be talked out of her resolution. She only had to think of earlier that day, when over the strawberries her father had haltingly confessed to her just how much it pained him that Isabella had left albeit to settle only a few hours away and his plaguing fears that one day Emma would leave him too. She could not do that to him. She would not do that to him no, not even for Mr. Knightley.
But she could not in all decency expect Mr. Knightley to observe a long and uncertain engagement perhaps some years in duration when he had his own life to live. He would no doubt wish to settle down at Donwell and have children not waste his life waiting for her.
At this thought, with an effort she had wrenched her hand out of his. 'We should be sensible, Mr. Knightley,' she had managed to choke out, 'and end this engagement now.' She couldn't bear to look at him. 'You should be with someone who is free to accept you.'
Gently, he had tilted her chin up so that she was forced to meet his eyes. 'And that sounds sensible to you, does it?' He had smiled a little sadly. 'Oh my Emma, you still have much to learn if you think I could ever be happy with anyone except you.'
It had been so difficult. She had known that she owed it to him to set him free, but all circumstances the wishes and desires of her own heart and apparently his as well were so firmly opposed to it that she had let him take both her hands into his without a struggle.
'I am well aware of the distress it would cause your father if you were to leave Hartfield,' he had said, 'and I would not ask it of either of you.'
She had looked up at him with eyes that were huge with sorrow, despite her rational admiration of his respect for her father.
Seeing this he had given her a small, reassuring smile. 'If the two of you cannot remove to Donwell, then with your permission I will move to Hartfield, as long as your father's happiness requires it to continue your home.'
Emma's eyes had widened in astonishment. Such an idea had never before occurred to her and it was more perfect than she could ever have hoped. Surely none of her father's probable objections would hold up long when presented with such a solution to promote the happiness of all involved; surely he would see just how generous it was of dear, wonderful Mr. Knightley to give up his independent life at Donwell, simply to be with her...
For the second time that day Emma had thrown herself into his arms, and the sweet nothings (or sweet everythings, as the case may be) which had been briefly interrupted by their serious discussion had soon resumed.
She and Mr. Knightley had agreed to wait for an opportune moment to appraise her father of their plans. That moment, they had decided, could wait until after the Box Hill picnic on the morrow, because the thought of an outdoor trip and the prospect of the others (his own daughter among them) eating outside was quite distressing enough to him without the addition of their news on top of it all.
Her worries about Harriet were not so easily assuaged, however. This was one matter which she could not confide in Mr. Knightley; this was one problem she would have to deal with herself.
Luckily for her and not so luckily for Harriet in this matter too she had been bought some time, for Harriet had developed a frightful headache from spending the day out in the sun and had written to say that she was not sufficiently recovered to form one of the Box Hill party.
Emma felt guilty at the magnitude of her own relief when she had read this letter, but it was so. It denoted one more day of safety. And then she knew she would have to tell Harriet at the first opportunity so that Harriet could begin endeavouring to forget Mr. Knightley before she fell any further in love with him. Emma hoped it would not take too long in fact, she had an idea that the most effective way for Harriet to forget Mr. Knightley would be for him to be supplanted by someone else, but then it seemed too much to ask that even Harriet could be in love with more than three men in one year.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, sunny enough to warm but not to fatigue, with a pleasant breeze to cool but not to cause cold. The weather could not have been more perfect for their outing than if they had been able to decide on it themselves.
Emma's excitement for this trip, quite apart from seeing Mr. Knightley again for the first time since their understanding yesterday, was centred in the thrill and novelty of seeing a new place and such a place! 'The finest view in Surrey', the book Mr. Knightley had given her had said, and she was all alive with curiosity to see it for herself.
However, she had not been too excited that she had forgotten to send a message to the Bates' cottage last night, offering their carriage and James' services to convey Mrs. Bates to Hartfield where she would spend a quiet, pleasant day with Mr. Woodhouse, and then to convey Miss Fairfax and Miss Bates to Box Hill with Emma.
The grateful acceptance returned settled the matter, and this morning after having seen Mrs. Bates settled comfortably before the fire at the backgammon table in her father's favourite sitting room, Emma was to set out to collect the other two ladies.
They had been waiting for her arrival and were prompt in getting into the carriage with thanks that were effusive on Miss Bates' part ('it was so very kind of Miss Woodhouse to think of them her kind offer had come just at the time when she and her mother had begun to wonder how they were to make their way to Box Hill but of course they should have known that with such kind friends they had had no need to worry that was such a lovely dress Miss Woodhouse was wearing, so pretty its shade was similar to one that the Campbells had gifted Jane once those people were so kind, taking such good care of Jane she had really wanted for nothing, and indeed, had been given so many kind gifts over the years but she had forgotten what she had been saying oh yes, it was very kind of Miss Woodhouse to offer the Hartfield carriage, though she hoped it would not be putting James out to any worrying degree of trouble') and quiet, but sincere on Miss Fairfax's.
The latter lady was an object of some curiosity and also a great deal of good-will to Emma. Her own glorious happiness made her kindly disposed towards anyone in a similar situation, and her former distance, envy and lack of friendship towards Miss Fairfax only made her more anxious that the omission be rectified.
Accordingly, when she saw Miss Fairfax looking at her with an expression akin to wariness and worry, she fought down her blush did everyone think she was in love with Frank Churchill? and impulsively took her hand. 'Congratulations, Miss Fairfax,' she said, with a meaning, but real smile, and then after a pause in which Miss Bates began to look at them curiously and Jane seemed unable to think what to say, she added, 'I am so glad you have recovered sufficiently from yesterday's illness to come with us today.'
Miss Bates was all gratitude at Emma's solicitude for Jane, and a guilty consciousness of her former behaviour enabled Emma to listen to her effusions with the patience of a saint and a degree of good-will which had arisen from the coming to the fore of the perception that Miss Bates was kind, interested in everybody's happiness and truly meant well.
The carriage stopped as they reached the outskirts of Highbury, where it had been planned that the party meet before setting off to Box Hill together. With James' assistance, Miss Bates exited the carriage to go speak to the Westons and Frank Churchill, who had been the first to arrive.
Emma waited for Miss Fairfax to alight as well, but saw her hesitate. Following her distressed gaze to see the Westons, Emma suddenly realised the reason for her trepidation. This was to be her first meeting with them the two who were one day to be her parents! since Mr. Churchill had told them the truth of the engagement, as Mr. Knightley had told her he had promised to do. And how much the awkwardness of such a meeting would be increased by the presence of Frank Churchill himself, as well!
She held out her hand to Miss Fairfax as she alighted herself. 'Mrs. Weston has the kindest, most forgiving heart I know,' she said, with a small, reassuring smile. 'And I have never known Mr. Weston to bear a grudge against anyone.'
Miss Fairfax said nothing, but as she accepted Emma's hand, her gratitude was plain to see in her eyes.
Guessing that the Westons' main concern over the news would have been the likelihood of her own hurt and disappointment at Mr. Churchill's secret, Emma slipped her arm through Miss Fairfax's as they walked up to the rest of the party. If by her own smiles and genuine cheerfulness she could alleviate the Westons' worries and smooth the way for Miss Fairfax to be accepted as their daughter at the same time, then she would do it.
It seemed to be working. After some minutes of conversation between all of them, Emma could see the visible relief on Mrs. Weston's face at her genuinely uplifted demeanour and perfectly easy manner towards Frank, despite the knowledge of the secret which had been burst upon her the day before. And then she saw with approval that Mrs. Weston tried to draw Miss Fairfax out into the conversation with a degree of gentleness which soon produced its effect of making Miss Fairfax, if not talkative, then at least more comfortable.
But as Emma perceived in the distance a rider whose tall, firm, upright figure easily distinguished his identity, she had no more thoughts to spare for Westons, Churchills and Fairfaxes.
As she watched Mr. Knightley ride up to them on his black mare Bessie, Emma could not help the ridiculously happy smile which spread across her face.
Posted on 2010-07-03
Mr. Knightley's heart skipped a beat as he took in the beaming, joyful, loving smile on Emma's face as she saw him ride up to the party. How many weeks he had longed for just such a smile from her, yet never daring to hope that such looks and such sincere affection were so shortly if at all to be his! He truly was the most fortunate man on earth.
Stopping some paces from them, he dismounted and walked over, leading Bessie beside him, never taking his eyes off Emma as he approached. For a moment they simply stood smiling at one another, but then they roused themselves.
It would not do from him to behave as he wished and simply stand grinning idiotically at her something she seemed to realise at the same instant, for at that moment, just as he greeted the rest of the party and began to listen with even a degree of pleasure to Miss Bates' account of Miss Woodhouse's kindness for the past several years in general and that morning in particular, Emma immediately turned to Jane Fairfax and drew her into conversation.
Thankfully nobody seemed to have noticed anything out of the ordinary, and he inwardly sighed in relief. It would not do to have all around them conjecturing before they had appraised Mr. Woodhouse of the news.
And yet it was so difficult to conceal his love for Emma now that he knew it was returned not a minute ago the urge to take her hand had been almost irresistible, to say nothing of the desire to kiss those smiling lips until they both couldn't breathe...
How he hated concealment of any kind how he loved all that was decided and open! He did not know how Churchill and Miss Fairfax could have borne keeping such a secret for nigh on eight months. Glancing at Churchill, who looked perfectly cheerful, his expression hardened slightly well, no doubt he would have found that it did not weigh too heavily on his conscience, but what of Miss Fairfax? From what he knew of her character, he thought he would always be astonished that she had allowed it to continue.
Looking over at her, he was glad to see that she and Emma were engaged in conversation; glad also to see the genuine smile on one's face and the state of animation or as close to it as Jane Fairfax would ever reach in the other.
Miss Bates too seemed to observe with pleasure the real friendship which Emma was displaying to Jane and which Jane could not but respond to with warmth. 'What a pleasant party this is,' she sighed happily, and then she looked around at everyone. 'We are all here, are we not? Oh except for the Eltons, of course! How could I forget them? So silly of me, especially when Mrs. Elton has been so kind to Jane. I wonder what is delaying them I do hope nothing has happened'
She did not have to remain wondering for long, and nor did the rest of them, because they could now plainly see the Eltons' carriage approaching. It was only as it came closer that Mr. Knightley observed something odd about it: its movement was jerky and slow, and the horses kept stopping, only starting again at the coachman's insistence.
As the conveyance finally struggled up to the rest of the party, Mr. Knightley saw what was the matter the second he saw one of the horses, foaming at the mouth from its exertion and holding its right foreleg off the ground and protectively close to its body.
The horse was very obviously not recovered from the injury which had caused the postponement of the first Box Hill trip. It was ridiculous not to mention downright cruel of the Eltons to expect it to manage the journey all the way to Box Hill.
Frowning, he stepped forward, and instead of handing Mrs. Elton out as she had seemed to expect if the miffed expression on her face was any indication, he went straight to the horse. 'Poor girl,' he said softly, stroking its nose. 'Are you in a great deal of pain? Will you let me look at your leg?' Very slowly, so as not to frighten it, he ran his hand down its flank and to its leg, all the while speaking to it in a quiet, low voice. The horse, whose eyes had been rolling in pain and unease, soon calmed in the presence of the man with the soft voice and gentle hands.
Mr. Knightley's expression darkened as he determined the extent of the injury from the way the horse's limb twitched involuntarily under his hands. How could the Eltons be so thoughtless as to put the poor creature through this for their petty pleasures? Straightening, he dug about in his pocket for the sugar lumps he usually had about him for Bessie, and extracting one, he offered it to the horse, and giving it one last pat, he turned back to the rest of the party.
'I'm afraid your horse will hardly be able to walk home, let alone pull your carriage all the way to Box Hill if you make her try it before she has fully recovered, she could be permanently crippled,' he said to the Eltons, so firmly that their protests died on their lips.
'How provoking!' cried Mrs. Elton petulantly. 'Then we cannot go today either.'
The dismay this statement produced in the party was instantaneous: Churchill began grumbling about coming all the way from Richmond for nothing, Miss Bates was effusive about what a pity it was, even jovial Mr. Weston looked put out, and Emma...
Though she said nothing, he could practically see her wilt. He knew how long and how much she had looked forward to this trip, which was to be her first glimpse of the wide world outside of Highbury.
If only politeness did not oblige them to abandon their expedition for the sake of the Eltons if only he and Emma could rubbish conventions and ride Bessie together and see Box Hill for themselves...
Bessie. Bessie the horse. Bessie the healthy, uninjured horse. 'We can go,' he said suddenly.
Eight pairs of eyes looked at him hopefully, but then Mrs. Elton triumphantly said to her husband, 'You see, Mr. E? The horse is not so badly injured after all even Knightley agrees with me.'
He shook his head, trying not to smile as he observed out of the corner of his eye Emma's bristling indignation at Mrs. Elton's familiar use of his name. 'Certainly not, Mrs. Elton I stand by my opinion that your horse will never make it to Box Hill.' He held out a hand to Bessie as he next spoke. 'But she is not the only horse here.'
He began to lead his own mare over to the Eltons' carriage. 'My Bess is almost of a size with your other horse, and although she is a riding horse she has had some experience pulling my brother John's children about in a gig.' With the coachman's assistance, he began to free the poor injured horse from its harness in order to establish Bessie in its place. 'She is an intelligent creature,' he continued, 'and I'm sure she will quickly learn what she does not already know.'
Mrs. Elton was in a dilemma: she was reluctant to allow that anyone even the good-natured, if rather eccentric Knightley could know more than she did about what her horses were capable of; and yet she really did wish to go to Box Hill, something which a tiny sensible voice inside her told her would not be possible if she insisted on making her injured horse travel.
Mr. Knightley was amused to see the warring feelings of vanity and rare common sense play out on her face, and by the time she acceded, bravely attempting to make it seem as if the idea had been all her own, the rest of the party had already chimed in their hearty approval with exclamations of 'Capital idea!' and 'Why didn't I think of that?'.
He only had to look at Emma and see her glowing cheeks and eyes which were luminous with delight, to know that he had made the right decision that the sacrifice of giving up his ride to instead share a carriage with the Eltons was worth every annoyance it would occasion.
Some moments later, after having sent the Eltons' coachman to walk the injured horse over to the stables at the Crown where it could gain some much-needed rest, he stood beside their carriage, making sure that Bessie was comfortable with the unfamiliar feeling of the harness attached to her. The Eltons had thankfully left him to it without feeling the need to give him the dubious benefit of their advice, and had gone to stand about with the rest of the party as they waited for the coachman's return.
Emma had come up to stand beside him on Bessie's other side, and she began to stroke the horse's nose. 'Bessie is a wonderful horse,' she said, her eyes smiling up at him. 'She has saved our expedition to Box Hill.' As she stroked the horse's nose, her fingers brushed his. 'I know she cannot enjoy pulling the Eltons to Box Hill, and I am most sincerely grateful that she will do so nevertheless.' He began to smile, and his smile widened considerably at her next words. 'How I could kiss her!'
He raised an eyebrow, amused and yet curious to know what she would do. 'Then do,' he said softly.
Emma glanced quickly around behind them where the rest of the party were milling around, for the moment not attentive to what they were doing by the carriage, and then she turned her shining eyes towards him, taking a step closer. His eyes widened. She wouldn't... would she?
Then, quickly, before he had time to react, she bent her head to place a sound kiss on his hand which had been resting against Bessie's nose. Then, before he could collect himself enough to say anything in response, with one last mischievous smile, she was off to join the Westons and Jane Fairfax.
Watching her go, he could not help the absurdly happy smile which spread across his face.
Posted on 2010-07-20
It is a truth unfortunately not often enough acknowledged that a future pleasure which is eagerly anticipated will almost always fall short of expectations.
And although overall she thought the trip well worth the exertion, Emma had had this truth confirmed in several small ways during the day: the presence of the Eltons, Mrs. Elton's ingratiating familiarity and maddening pretensions to superiority, the worried looks the Westons still gave her from time to time whenever Frank Churchill spoke to her and the irritating persistence with which Frank Churchill did so, not leaving her free to speak unreservedly with Mr. Knightley.
For a while Emma had been astonished that he continued to address her in the same easy, familiar way of old the manner which meant nothing to either of them, but which in the perception of others could hardly be described by any English word except for "flirtation". And where once she might have carelessly responded in kind, now it only made her rather uncomfortable, especially when she saw how Mr. Knightley's face darkened in response to it.
Then in a moment she perceived Mr. Churchill's uneasy glance at the Eltons who were traipsing along some distance to their left, and Miss Bates who was in front of them walking next to Miss Fairfax, and she knew with a sudden rush of indignation that he was continuing the charade for the sake of their remaining in the dark.
In response to his latest complimentary speech, she merely gave a cold bow of acknowledgement before turning resolutely to Mr. Knightley. 'Shall we go and explore in that direction?' she said, pointing to a pretty little copse situated near the summit of the hill.
He didn't need her telling him twice, and as one they both walked forward, leaving Mr. Churchill behind them looking rather foolish.
When they were hidden by the trees and out of sight of the others, Mr. Knightley glanced around quickly for a moment, and then he turned to her, eyes grim and mouth set. Worried, she opened her mouth to give a word of explanation or apology, but before she could do so indeed before she could react at all he pulled her to him and kissed her soundly.
Several moments later, her hands braced on his shoulders, she laughed more than a little breathlessly. 'What was that for?'
He coloured and the intensity in his eyes faded to be replaced with an expression that was rather sheepish. 'I wanted to prove to myself that I can do that and he can't,' he admitted, looking a little self-conscious. 'I know now that there is nothing between you, but I hate that he still acts as if he has some claim on you.'
She rolled her eyes, trying not to smile. 'How do you think I felt when' she caught herself just before Harriet's name slipped from her lips and hurriedly tried to think of some alternative 'Mrs. Elton persisted in addressing you in such a familiar way? What right has she to do so? I've known you all my life, and even I only call you "Mr." Knightley!' She pushed down her guilt at the necessary concealment, consoling herself with the thought that at least she wasn't lying to him outright God knows at times Mrs. Elton's presumption did make her blood boil.
He looked amused at the vehemence of her words. 'Yes, you have always called me that, haven't you?' He looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, and then a smile began to play around his lips. 'Perhaps you could call me something else, to reflect that your claim on me is far greater than Mrs. Elton's.'
She smiled suddenly as the memory came to her. 'I remember calling you "George" once, in one of my amiable fits about ten years ago. I was hoping it would offend you.'
His smile grew wider. 'I know,' he said, 'and I knew the surest way of disappointing you would be to show no reaction.'
They were walking again now, arm-in-arm, and she momentarily laid her head on his shoulder. 'How well you know me,' she smiled, 'for of course, as you made no objection to it, I never did it again.'
'But can you not call me "George" now?'
She tried to form the word on her tongue, but it was too strange. From her earliest days he had been "Mr. Knightley" to her; he had been "Mr. Knightley" long before she had come to the childish realisation that he had another name; he had been "Mr. Knightley" long after and she still felt that all her love could not be better expressed through his Christian name than through that familiar, well-worn, long beloved "Mr. Knightley". She could not change that in a day. 'I I cannot,' she faltered. 'At least not yet.' Then she smiled up at him playfully. 'For now I shall simply have to assert my claim by calling you "my dear Mr. Knightley".'
No man on earth let alone Mr. Knightley, who had loved Emma all her life could have taken offense at her reluctance when it was accompanied by such a charming rejoinder. Though perhaps he might have been more gratified if she could have called him by his Christian name, the amused glint in his eyes showed that he was far from taking it amiss. 'Only "dear"?' he exclaimed, in mock-protest. 'Not "dearest"?'
Emma laughed, and pressed the arm within hers. 'My dearest Mr. Knightley, I do believe you are every bit as vain as I am.'
He hung his head. 'And it is only now, after years of successful concealment,' he sighed heavily, 'that my secret is finally out!' Then, feeling Emma's highly amused eyes on his face, he couldn't maintain his air of gloom any longer. In moments they were both laughing, almost until they couldn't breathe.
'What is the joke?'
They both jumped at the sound of Mr. Weston's jovial voice, and dropping each other's arm and turning, they saw that the rest of the party had traipsed up behind them without their notice. Thankfully, Emma could only see bemused curiosity in their faces, and nothing which denoted that they might have observed any more.
Thinking quickly, Emma began, 'Oh, we were just talking about that time, when I was a child, and I' She forced a laugh and looked up at Mr. Knightley with meaning eyes. 'And you remember, then you' Her giggles overwhelmed her.
Mr. Knightley laughed in genuine amusement at her audacious attempt at concealment, and little as he liked any deception, he knew that playing along was much preferable to the alternative. At all costs, Mr. Woodhouse should be the first to know. 'Of course,' he smiled, 'and your father said he said what did he say?'
Emma looked around at the curious faces watching them, their bemusement, if possible, more pronounced. She shrugged and smiled. 'Well, I suppose you had to be there.'
The picnic itself was proceeding nicely if fairly uneventfully and if the Eltons had not been present, it might actually have been very pleasant indeed. Emma was quite pleased with the seating arrangements, especially because the two she had been most anxious to contrive had come about without much trouble: Miss Bates was seated as far from Mrs. Elton as possible, and Mr. Knightley was seated next to herself.
It was a blessing in yet another way, Emma reflected, that she and Mr. Knightley were such old friends nobody had thought anything of their wandering Box Hill together before, and nobody thought anything of their sitting next to one another now. It was as if they had all grown so used to them just being a single unit, "Emma-and-Mr.-Knightley" in other words, inseparable that they took it for granted and did not read anything particular into it.
The main conversation which was occurring was one Emma found to be of interest, as she was only too happy to hear and share opinions on the trip so far, and the beauty of the views. Everyone seemed to agree that the view from the summit of the hill was indeed the finest they had seen in a long while, if not ever (Miss Bates in particular had much to say on the subject), with the exception of Mrs. Elton, who thought that it was "pretty enough, to be sure but she had seen many a view far finer on the exploring parties dear Selina and Mr. Suckling had held from Maple Grove".
'Well, I think it is unparalleled,' declared Emma. 'I wish I could come back one day with my easel and paintbrushes and capture it.'
'I thought, Miss Woodhouse,' Mr. Elton said with an insincere, sneering smile, 'that your... ah, talents only amounted to attempts at portraiture.' There was enough undue emphasis on 'attempts' to make Mr. Knightley glower in indignation and to cause the others to look at Mr. Elton in surprise.
Emma had too long given up being surprised at fresh proofs of the ill-manners of the Eltons for his remark to affect her in any way but to further cement her dislike of both husband and wife. She had barely managed to throw him a look of contempt before Jane Fairfax addressed her. 'You draw and paint a great deal, I believe, Miss Woodhouse?'
Emma smiled gratefully at her by her timely intercession she had no doubt prevented her from saying something she might have regretted; something rude enough to lower her to the level of the Eltons. 'I used to,' she said. 'I sketched all my family and various objects and views at Hartfield. But then I lost my enthusiasm for it, and it became simply yet another passing interest.' Smiling wryly, she caught Mr. Knightley's eye. 'But every now and then I see something like the views from the hill today, which makes me long to take it up once more.'
Mrs. Weston joined in the conversation, as if eager to promote this more positive flow of thoughts, for she too had observed Emma's pique and Mr. Knightley's indignation, and had feared an unpleasant scene. 'I remember I always thought your portrait of your nephew, little George Knightley, to be your best one the truest likeness.'
Emma laughed as she remembered the portrait alluded to. 'My dear Mrs. Weston,' she smiled, 'you are too kind but I believe the startling likeness of my baby nephew's cap is the most significant attribute that sketch possesses I don't think you could even see his face in any great detail at all.' Then a new thought occurred to her, and she smiled at Mr. Knightley, a speculative light in her eyes. 'But I might just take up my brush and try again in my attempt to get a likeness of George Knightley.'
He raised his eyebrows in an expression of mock-alarm. 'And just how,' he asked, sounding amused, 'do you plan to get George to willingly sit for you?'
Emma slowly ran her tongue over her lower lip and then smiled as she saw his eyes widen. 'I'm sure I could think of something.'
Posted on 2010-07-30
'Emma, my dear,' Mr. Woodhouse said, once she and Mr. Knightley were comfortably settled in their usual seats a little further back from the fire than his own, 'so how was the trip? Did you all enjoy yourselves?'
Emma's answer came at once. Of course she had enjoyed herself, most thoroughly. She had had a very pleasant drive there and back which was more than could be said for Mr. Knightley, who had been exceedingly glad to take Bessie and ride to Hartfield as soon as the Eltons' carriage had reached the vicarage and she had found the views spectacular and the picnic itself very pleasant.
Her eyes shone as she spoke. 'That view from the summit, Father that was truly the best of all. One could see for miles around I could have stood there all day just gazing at it!' Mr. Knightley smiled at her enthusiasm. 'That was truly my favourite part of our outing.'
His smile widened to become what could only be called wicked. 'Was it, Emma? My favourite part was quite something else.' He was delighted to see the blush which instantly began to spread over her face at his words, and even more so at the tiny smile on her lips which could not be suppressed.
Perhaps it was lucky for both of them that Mr. Woodhouse was so concerned that Emma's enthusiasm would lead to more of the worrying wanderlust which had brought about the first trip. Otherwise he might have asked just what that "something else" was. 'I hope you won't be planning another trip soon, Emma,' he said anxiously. 'My dear, you don't know how travel can damage your health.'
Emma smiled fondly at her father. 'Oh, Box Hill has quite satisfied me for the present, Father,' she said reassuringly. Then she shot a glance at Mr. Knightley, smiling softly. 'Although in a little while hopefully not too long from now I think I should like to travel once more, perhaps for just a week or two.'
Mr. Woodhouse was quite discomposed. 'Travel? For two weeks? Emma, what a strange thing to say!'
Mr. Knightley ventured to speak. 'Indeed, sir, and Emma has another yet stranger to say to you, I believe.'
Emma looked at him in something like panic, and he could plainly read the plea in her eyes what, now?
He gave the barest nod. Yes, now. It was only right to appraise Mr. Woodhouse of their plans at this opportunity; their keeping it a secret thus far, though necessitous, had not exactly been ideal. And when all was right and honourable, what was the need for prolonging mystery and secrecy, as if they had committed some crime?
However, he said no more. Ultimately it was up to Emma, and if she felt it was too soon, then she could make up something 'strange' to satisfy the curiosity his words had aroused in Mr. Woodhouse, and he would not allude to the subject again that night.
He saw her take a deep breath, as if gathering up her courage, and as she turned to her father, Mr. Knightley smiled softly. That was his Emma overcoming her apprehensions, never shirking her duty. 'Indeed, Father,' she began, 'Mr. Knightley is right. We that is, he and I have come up with a plan to promote the happiness of all, if we can only obtain your consent.' Despite the nervousness he knew she must be feeling, she spoke cheerfully, and he understood that they must both appear so if they were to have any hope of warding off a "poor Emma!" from Mr. Woodhouse. 'In fact,' she continued, sparing Mr. Knightley a wry smile, 'it is such a wonderful plan that I am sorry we neither of us thought of it earlier.'
Poor Mr. Woodhouse looked at his daughter in benign curiosity, little suspecting the blow which was soon to overthrow his peace of mind.
'In short, Father,' Emma said, 'we that is, Mr. Knightley and I mean to marry, by which means he will be constantly here at Hartfield with us.' She paused for a moment as if to gauge his reaction, and her face fell a little at his horrified expression. 'I know, Father,' she continued hurriedly, 'that after myself, Isabella and Mrs. Weston, Mr. Knightley is the person dearest to you in the world and so he is to me as well; so do you not agree that it would be a wonderful thing to have him here at Hartfield everyday?'
Mr. Woodhouse sighed deeply, his shoulders slumping. 'That is all true,' he admitted quietly. But then he roused himself. 'But we see Mr. Knightley everyday as it is why can't things remain the same as they always were? Marriage is a terrible thing, Emma look how harassed poor Isabella is these days, running around after five children in the smoke of London and think of poor Miss Taylor, forced to leave Hartfield!'
Thinking of Isabella, happily mothering her children with the man she loved, and Mrs. Weston in a house of her own with the man she loved, joyfully looking forward to a baby, Emma had to smile at her father's persistence in pitying them. But it would be of no use to try and convince him that either of the women could be tolerably happy outside of Hartfield. 'You forget, Father,' she said gently, 'that my marriage will not take me away from Hartfield in fact the only change will be one for the better that of having our dear Mr. Knightley here with us always.' She clasped her father's hand affectionately. 'I am sure, Father, that once you are used to the idea, you will be a great deal happier for having Mr. Knightley always at hand. Do you not love him very much? You will not deny it, I am sure.'
'To be sure, Emma,' poor Mr. Woodhouse finally admitted.
Before he could think of another objection, Emma continued. 'And whom do you ever want to consult on business but Mr. Knightley? Who is so useful, who so ready to write your letters, who so glad to assist you? Who so cheerful, so attentive, so attached to us both? Would you not like to have him always on the spot?'
'I suppose so,' her father said, but even though being assured by his daughter of the certainty of his future happiness and having himself no plausible objections left to urge, he looked miserable at the idea.
Mr. Knightley sighed. He had been hoping that the principle objection would be against Emma leaving Hartfield, which would mean his moving there would easily overcome it. 'My dear sir,' he said quietly, 'I can understand that the change must seem a great one to you; but consider how long we have all been old friends how many times we have gathered in this room to talk, laugh, exchange news and opinions and enjoy each others' society. We have long been like a family already, and Emma and I simply wish to make official what has been there all this time. The change, I hope even you will allow, except in points which must recommend it to us all as an improvement, will be hardly noticeable.'
It had never been in Mr. Woodhouse's nature to be impolite or to wish to offend anyone. In fact, his anxiety that nobody feel themselves or their merits unappreciated by himself was one of the reasons why he was so well-loved by all who knew him. 'Indeed, Mr. Knightley,' he said worriedly, 'I am sure I should like to have you here always. I never meant to imply that Emma and I do not wish to have you here I do hope I have not offended you.'
Mr. Knightley smiled gently. 'Not at all, sir. Emma is your youngest daughter and I know you have always been most deeply involved in promoting her happiness and protecting her from harm, and I know that such concerns will naturally make you cautious in this matter.' When he spoke his next words, not even the most suspicious and overprotective father could have doubted his earnestness and sincerity. 'But I can promise you, sir,' he continued, 'that I will do anything in my power to make Emma happy, and I would never intentionally hurt her.' For a moment, he smiled softly at Emma. 'I count myself lucky to have her regard, and yours and I would never do anything to jeopardise either.'
Mr. Woodhouse's misery seemed to be softening, and to aid this effect, Mr. Knightley added some heartfelt praise of Emma, her affectionate heart, her intelligence and her beauty, and then he had to choke down a laugh as he saw Emma's exaggerated look of astonishment. The effect on Mr. Woodhouse was as intended, however; he could never find praise of his beloved daughter unwelcome, and Emma and Mr. Knightley were gratified to hear him speak of their plan as something which might not be so very dreadful if it took place in a year or two. It was as much as could be hoped for for now; and over the next few days they could attempt to whittle down that time frame to a month or two instead.
His duty to Emma's father discharged, his reassurances and promises given, after some time Mr. Knightley had nothing more to do than to take his leave for the night. Emma accompanied him to walk him down the drive, announcing that she was in need of the fresh evening air, and after stipulations to take her pelisse as well as two shawls, Mr. Woodhouse let her go.
As soon as they were out of the door, she turned to him with laughing eyes. 'What was all that back there, Mr. Knightley?' she asked, an eyebrow raised. 'I thought you despised flattery.'
He looked down at her very seriously. 'I do, Emma,' he said firmly. 'But that was not flattery I meant every word.'
Emma's eyes were bright as for the first time she reached up to kiss him. Some moments later, her forehead resting against his, she smiled. 'Are you not afraid that your praise will spoil me and further puff up my vanity?'
He grinned. 'You, my dear Emma, have too much sense to be allowing the opinion of such a ridiculously biased person to be swelling your head, I am sure. Of course as the man who is in love with you, I would believe all I said in your praise to be true.'
She laughed outright. 'Oh, I like that so what you are saying is that all my merits are merely the result of your own delusion?'
'Entirely, my dearest, loveliest, most beloved Emma.'
'It would seem to me, my dearest, handsomest, most beloved Mr. Knightley, that you are quite extreme in your delusion.'
He smiled down at her happily. 'No man could be more so.'
Posted on 2010-08-10
The next day Emma knew she could put it off no longer; a visit to Harriet was due and so was the painful revelation she had to make to her. However, she was not looking forward to it at all it was in fact seeming more difficult even than breaking the news to her father. Perhaps it was because in that matter she had had not only Mr. Knightley's support, but also the conviction that if only he could be brought to see it, her father too would be happier for the change.
Not so with Harriet. When Emma looked back to her own feelings for that brief period when she had thought Mr. Knightley engaged to Harriet, she felt sorry for her friend indeed for her, it would be no five minutes' heartbreak, banished with the emergence of more accurate information. This would be long-lasting (though not, Emma hoped and trusted, permanent) the truth was that the man Harriet was in love with loved Emma, she loved him too, and they were going to marry.
She could make no greater sacrifice for friendship's sake than to keep that one secret of Harriet's feelings from Mr. Knightley to spare her that additional mortification. Any other concession, whether of encouraging Mr. Knightley to transfer his affections to Harriet, or even just simply to break their engagement without giving a reason, was patently impossible.
She knew that breaking the news to Harriet was inevitable, and the sooner it was done the better. It would not do to let it spread through Highbury and have her inadvertently find out from Miss Bates or Mrs. Goddard. It had to come out of Emma's mouth. She knew all this, and yet her courage wavered as she approached the school.
She was struck with an unsettling sense of dιjΰ vu as she walked up the path six months ago she had walked this way under very similar circumstances, to tell Harriet that she was mistaken in the intentions of the man who occupied her affections, and that he had aspired to Emma's hand instead. Only this time how much worse for Harriet before it had been Mr. Elton, and now it was Mr. Knightley; and Emma appreciated how much more difficult it would be for an attachment to the latter to be gotten over.
But gotten over it must be, and the sooner Emma told her, the sooner those endeavours could begin. So telling herself, she quickened her steps so that within two minutes she was inside the building and had reached Harriet's quarters. Taking a deep breath, she knocked.
Half an hour later, Emma was cursing herself for her cowardice. For the past thirty minutes she had simply been answering Harriet's questions about the Box Hill trip, and whether the sights were really as spectacular as in the book. She had been waiting for an opening to break her news, but thus far had not been afforded one, as Mr. Knightley's name did not seem to come up in the conversation in the capacity of lending her a smooth segue.
She set her jaw, determined to get on as best she could without an easy transition. She would have to bring it up abruptly, with all the awkwardness that would entail. 'Harriet,' she said suddenly, abruptly breaking off from her retelling of Mr. Elton's comment, 'I fear I must tell you something you will not like to hear.' She paused for a moment to gauge Harriet's expression, which contained mild curiosity and a degree of apprehension. 'It relates to Mr. Knightley.'
Emma took a deep breath, steeling herself to continue, but before she could, Harriet broke in, looking agitated. 'Oh Miss Woodhouse, I think I know what you are going to say, but truly, there is no need tell me.' A flush began to spread over her face. 'I realise now what a foolish fancy that was.' She looked rather ashamed. 'To be imagining that my gratitude for his asking me to dance that day was love, and that he might actually...' She shook her head, laughing a little.
Emma was greatly surprised indeed, never more so but was also greatly relieved at such a change, extraordinary as it was.
Seeing the astonishment in Emma's face, Harriet seemed to feel more explanation was due. 'I do admire Mr. Knightley,' she said, 'as everyone who knows him must, because he is always so kind and gentlemanly, but truly, I was mistaken in imagining my feelings to be anything more.'
Perhaps she was pushing her luck, but Emma had to continue with her revelation. 'Then,' she began hesitantly, 'you will not be upset if I tell you that I am engaged to Mr. Knightley?'
Harriet looked astonished for a moment, but then to Emma's profound relief a small, genuine smile began to play around the corners of her mouth. 'You know, Miss Woodhouse,' she said after a moment of silence, 'that does not surprise me as much as it perhaps should. I was thinking yesterday that even if it is not the sweeping sort of romance one reads about in novels, spending one's life with a dear friend must be the secret to the greatest happiness possible.'
Emma tried not to let her surprise show in her words. 'I do think you're right, Harriet.'
'Speaking of friends,' Harriet said, suddenly looking a little apprehensive once more, 'the Miss Martins you know, my friends from school visited me yesterday, because they had heard I was ill. They were very kind and thoughtful, and they spent some hours trying to amuse me and make me feel better.' She paused, as if trying to gauge Emma's reaction, but as her face revealed no clues, she continued. 'Mr. Martin sent his best wishes for my recovery, and sent along some of those walnuts I was so fond of when I stayed at Abbey Mill.' She paused again.
'That was very kind of him,' Emma said, as some response seemed to be expected. A hope had darted into her mind that maybe Robert Martin still loved Harriet, and perhaps could be encouraged to renew his offer but whatever the case, she was determined to let Harriet and Robert manage their own affairs without her interference this time.
'Yes,' agreed Harriet softly. Then she looked at Emma a little warily. 'I am planning to return their call tomorrow.'
Emma allowed herself an inward smile of approval. She was proud of Harriet for not asking her approbation, and simply making her own decision. She had been beginning to see that her influence in Harriet's life had been too overbearing from the beginning, and had given to the younger girl an almost unhealthy dependence on her advice and approval a return to the Harriet Smith of old, the girl who was not for no reason the most popular boarder at Mrs. Goddard's school, seemed a change for the best.
To Harriet, she simply said, 'Of course, as they have been so kind as to visit you, it would only be right that you return the call.' Then an idea occurred to her, and she beamed. 'I could get James to take you there, and convey you back home when you have completed your call.'
To her surprise, Harriet's wariness was not dispelled, and instead a tiny frown creased her brow. 'You are very kind, Miss Woodhouse,' she said eventually, and then she twisted her hands about in her lap. 'But I would not wish to keep you waiting, and I think this call should be a longer one.'
Colour flooded Emma's face as she remembered her own behaviour the last time she had conveyed Harriet to the Martins' home, allowing her only the barest minimum of a quarter of an hour to return their call, the most perfunctory fulfillment of social requirements which was all that was given to those dear friends who had extended their hospitality to Harriet over the summer.
She sighed to herself. Would there ever come a time when her own past behaviour would cease to haunt her memory and cause her to cringe in shame? 'Truly, Harriet,' she said earnestly, 'the duration of your call would be no inconvenience to me. I can leave the carriage for you, and get some exercise by walking home myself.'
Harriet's smile was as grateful as it was relieved. 'Then, Miss Woodhouse, I would be glad to accept your offer.'
Their conversation then moved to more general topics, but Emma's mind dwelt on her plan to walk, and she began to cherish the idea of walking not back to Hartfield, but rather towards Donwell Abbey which was less than half a mile from Abbey Mill. If she could make it there some time before the hour at which Mr. Knightley usually called at Hartfield, she might have a pleasant walk around the grounds of Donwell with him.
These were the pleasant thoughts running through Emma's mind as she and Harriet settled to some of the serious reading that they had once had the ambition to plan. To any outsider, the sight of these two young women studiously perusing the pages of Milton would raise no suspicion that both their minds were rather more agreeably (if arguably less sensibly) engaged: one was thinking with equal amounts agitation and eagerness of seeing her dear friend of the summer again, and the other was meditating with some complacency on the very great pleasure which a walk in the countryside in the company of the man she loved could bestow.
Posted on 2010-08-18
The next day, Emma's feelings were mixed as she walked up to Donwell Abbey to see Mr. Knightley walking in the grounds with Robert Martin as the latter made notes in a small book while the former animatedly explained something. There was, of course, a great deal of pleasure at encountering Mr. Knightley so soon and so conveniently; however, there was also a great deal of frustration at Mr. Martin's presence there, when he should have been at Abbey Mill so that he and Harriet might meet again.
Mr. Knightley looked up to see her approach, and a broad smile broke out over his face before he muttered his excuses to Mr. Martin and walked over to her. 'What are you doing here, Emma?' he asked.
She raised an eyebrow, pretending to be offended. 'Well, if I'm not wanted here, then I won't bother you any longer,' she said, sniffing and turning away.
He stopped her with a hand at her elbow. 'Come now, Emma,' he said, grinning, 'most of the time you are happy to bother me whether I want it or not why should that be a consideration with you now?'
She laughed at that, and smiled up at him fondly. This was one of the reasons why she loved Mr. Knightley so where any other man might have stammered out anxious apologies or have gotten offended, her Mr. Knightley could match her word for word without missing a beat, and was not afraid to give her back a taste of her own medicine.
'Very well,' she smiled, 'I shall stay and bother you then, on being so entreated. And I must begin my duty by asking you whether your business with Mr. Martin is very urgent.'
Mr. Knightley frowned slightly. 'Well, we are almost finished another half hour would suffice, and then I am at your disposal. But I would not wish Robert to feel himself neglected.'
Emma coloured. Where he might in the past have lectured her to think of others and not just herself and she would have rolled her eyes and dismissed more than half of what he said, now just the slightest hint was enough to penetrate her core.
'Much as I do want you to myself, I ask more for Mr. Martin's sake,' she said hurriedly, and he looked puzzled.
'For Robert's sake? What do you mean?'
'I happen to know that currently there is a visitor at his home whom he would not wish to miss.' She was not able to hide a small, self-conscious smile. 'James took us both to Abbey Mill, and while she called, I walked on here.'
Comprehension dawned in Mr. Knightley's eyes and a slow smile spread over his face before he laughed a little, opening his mouth as if to say something, but then closing it again and being content with a shake of the head. 'I shall tell him we can continue our discussion of field irrigation tomorrow,' he said, and then he left her side to go to Mr. Martin.
Emma smiled. She knew that he had been about to caution her on meddling in others' affairs before his own wish to see Robert find happiness had silenced him from advising what he himself could not follow.
But Emma saw a difference between her conduct now and her misguided behaviour towards Harriet and Mr. Elton last year then she had been attempting to throw together two who had had no inclination towards each other, and in the attempt she had been the cause of much heartbreak and many disappointed hopes; now, she was not matchmaking she was only pulling a string or two in order to make Harriet and Robert's path smoother. She was only helping along what was already there; if no, when, surely when Harriet and Robert married, she would not claim credit for bringing it about, because she wouldn't have.
After a rather agitated-looking Robert Martin had hurried off Mr. Knightley had not disclosed the identity of the 'visitor', but the young farmer had obviously seen Emma and put two and two together Mr. Knightley returned to walk by Emma's side.
He looked highly amused. 'You wish to assist the match of Robert Martin and Harriet Smith?'
Emma held her head high, feeling slightly defensive. 'Of course.'
He raised an eyebrow. 'What has happened to bring about such a transformation? If I recall correctly, you once said'
She closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again. 'Oh, do not repeat what I said then I was a fool to think and talk as I did.'
He said nothing, but slipped his arm through hers as if in a silent gesture of apology for having pained her.
She sighed, shaking her head. 'I can only hope now that no lasting damage has come about from my interference, for I am now convinced that Harriet would be happier with Robert Martin than with any born gentleman possessing a large fortune whom I once would have seen her paired with.'
Mr. Knightley pressed her arm. 'I am glad you are coming to see Robert's merits that and my opinion of Harriet Smith are, I think, the only matters on which our minds were unlike.' He smiled. 'Although I won't go quite so far as to say she would be the woman for me, as you once suggested, I will acknowledge that I underestimated her, and was unfair in my opinion of her.'
Emma coloured deeply at this reference to her ridiculous statement that Harriet would be the perfect match for Mr. Knightley. 'Oh,' she cried earnestly, 'you don't know how that foolish comment came back to haunt me the other day, when I thought it might have come true, I'
Mr. Knightley did a double take. 'Come true? Emma,' he said, looking at her intently, 'do you mean to say you had imagined I was in love with Harriet Smith?'
Her eyes widened as she realised what she had just let slip, but there was nothing for it now. She simply nodded. He was smiling incredulously, but she could not share his amusement. She could still clearly remember the pain the thought had given her, and she was not so used to knowing herself to be the object of Mr. Knightley's love to be able to laugh at her fears preceding their understanding.
'What on earth could have made you think that?' he asked, laughing a little, his eyes bright with amusement at what he clearly thought were the absurdities his Emma's wild imagination could construe.
She glared at him for finding so much amusement in her insecurity. 'Well,' she began defensively, 'after you asked her to dance at the ball, you told me yourself how much your opinion of her had improved, and you often praised her character to me, and you seemed to seek her out more often and try to befriend her, and then she told me of a conversation the two of you had had, where you had asked her if her affections were engaged'
He looked thoughtful. 'Hmm, I suppose when you put it like that, I can see how the idea might have formed but it is a pity that Harriet did not clarify that we had been talking of Robert Martin.'
He seemed to have no suspicion that Harriet herself might have mistaken his meaning, and Emma was willing to leave it that way when Harriet herself had acknowledged that she had misconstrued her own feelings towards Mr. Knightley there was no need to correct his misapprehension, for now it might as well be the truth.
Finally she felt herself equal to a smile. 'Oh, I don't know,' she said, raising a playful eyebrow. 'If I had not misunderstood Harriet, I might not have realised that I was in love with you.'
His smile was irrepressible no matter how many times she said it, he knew he would never get tired of hearing it. 'Then I suppose I owe Harriet my gratitude. Though I confess I had no idea your fears lay in that direction I thought you had imagined me in love with Jane Fairfax; after all, in the past I know you have tried to match us.'
Emma's mouth opened in surprise. 'I tried to match you with Miss Fairfax? I never did any such thing,' she protested. 'In fact, when Mrs. Weston suggested the possibility to me, I was violently against it, although I did not understand why at the time.'
He looked astonished, but delighted. 'You were against it? From the pointed questions you asked, and the arch looks you gave me I was sure you were hoping I had feelings for Miss Fairfax.'
She could not help laughing at such an erroneous interpretation of her questions. 'I assure you I was hoping to ascertain quite the opposite I wished to prove to Mrs. Weston that you did not have feelings for Miss Fairfax.'
He laughed with her, looking surprised but relieved beyond expression. 'I thought you were trying to get us together,' he said presently, 'and I will admit that it was that thinking that you wished me to marry someone else which finally forced me to acknowledge what my own feelings were. I found myself thinking that I wished you not to want me to marry anyone else, but to want to marry you.'
They stopped walking in the shaded lime avenue where they had first admitted their feelings to one another and, smiling lovingly, Emma brought a hand up to caress the side of his face. 'You are now sure of that, are you not, Mr. Knightley?'
Nobody who saw him smile as he did then would have believed him ever capable of frowning. 'Quite sure, my dear Emma,' he said softly. 'But perhaps it would not hurt to remind me once more.'
And so she did.
Posted on 2010-08-24
The news of the engagement of Miss Woodhouse of Hartfield and Mr. Knightley of Donwell Abbey was much better received by the general population of Highbury and Donwell than by Emma's father. Mr. Knightley had written to John; Emma to Isabella, and Emma had told Mrs. Weston, who had told Mr. Weston, who had told Miss Bates, who had told everybody.
Some might think him and others might think her the most fortunate of the two, but it was in general a very well-approved match, unexceptionable in points of wealth, station, breeding and the oft overlooked and yet crucial points of mutual and sincere attachment and equality of mind.
The only voice strongly opposed to the match was to be found in the vicarage. The news had very much discomposed Mrs. Elton, and at every mention of it she would shake her head sadly and sigh, 'Poor Knightley!' If they could only have known it, she and Mr. Woodhouse could have spent many a companionable morning lamenting over the folly of the two involved.
The strongest feeling among the general populace was in fact actually one of surprise. Certainly they had all known of Mr. Knightley's long-standing friendship with the Woodhouses, as well as his closer connection with them through his brother, but they had never suspected that the attraction of Hartfield had been anything more. As for Emma, many had in the past remarked over what a pity it was that there was nobody suitable for her in her circle of acquaintance; all had utterly passed over Mr. Knightley as a possibility after all, he was rather her brother, was he not? Many a Highbury gossip was kicking herself for never having formed the idea of Mr. Knightley and Miss Woodhouse, which once opened up seemed utterly obvious.
It had astonished those who knew them perhaps most of all. Everyone had thought Mr. Knightley a confirmed bachelor, almost certain to remain happily single for the rest of his days, and those who were close to Emma had all known of her resolution never to marry this made it all the more amazing to them that she had finally been brought to do so, and by none other than the man they had all complacently shelved away as a "bachelor"!
This piece of intelligence of Emma's wishing to marry despite her own previous resolutions and all her father's reluctance conveyed more to Mrs. Weston and Isabella than to anyone else. It convinced them beyond the shadow of a doubt that their Emma loved her Mr. Knightley fully, exclusively, completely, and they could not have been happier for the two of them.
Apart from the couple themselves, they were in fact the ones who were principally occupied in attempting to cheer Mr. Woodhouse and bring him around to wholeheartedly accept the match. He did love Mr. Knightley and did wish Emma to be happy, and did think that having both of them at Hartfield was a nice idea, and acknowledged that he would quite like having Mr. Knightley always at hand, but but... marriage was a terrible thing which heralded change deaths, births and an endless cycle of worries. The very thought unsettled him.
Just a reference to setting a date made him thoroughly miserable, so nobody was more surprised than Emma and Mr. Knightley when two weeks after their engagement had been formed, Mr. Woodhouse gave his consent to their setting a date, and in fact even seemed to be urging them to proceed without any unnecessary delay. A day before they had almost despaired of contriving to marry within a twelvemonth, and now they were to marry in just over a month, which was as fast as they could arrange all that was necessary. Mr. Woodhouse fretted at what he saw as their unnecessary procrastination, and wished they could move the date even closer.
Perhaps some preliminary explanation is required to make sense of such an extraordinary change of mind before it can even begin to be comprehended.
A day or two before Mr. Woodhouse gave his consent for the wedding, news of a yet more intriguing kind had been broken to Highbury. The sudden death of Mrs. Churchill had been swiftly followed by the news that her nephew Frank was engaged to Jane Fairfax. Of all those in Highbury, only the Westons, Emma and Mr. Knightley knew just how long the duration of the engagement had been; to all others it seemed rather sudden and completely out of the blue.
Nobody had even had any idea that Frank Churchill had ever admired Jane Fairfax, although Miss Bates began to remember one or two occasions when Frank Churchill had called on them and stayed so very long to mend the rivet in Mrs. Bates' spectacles and to wedge the leg of Jane's pianoforte with paper. However, she was not equal to the arch triumph of Mrs. Elton who was sure she had spied out the attachment before anyone else had known of it, no matter how sly dear Jane had been about it. It would have irked her indeed to know that 'poor Knightley' and his Emma had known of it well before the news had ever reached her ears.
There was a great deal of good-will towards Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, whom everyone agreed were exceptionally well-matched: for he was a handsome young man, and she was a beautiful young woman, and if all the fortune was on his side, well, all the accomplishment was on hers. And although there was a great deal of sympathy towards Mrs. Churchill in fact, a great deal more than she ever received while living, for her death had convinced everyone that the poor lady really must have been ill everyone agreed that it was singularly lucky that she died when she did, for otherwise she might have posed an obstacle to the young people.
Mr. Woodhouse especially was very sympathetic towards poor Mrs. Churchill. Naturally so, for he disapproved of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax's plan to marry, just as he disapproved of Harriet Smith and Robert Martin's, which Emma had told him of only the other day. He had shaken his head sadly and sighed. 'Emma, my dear,' he had said, 'I really think you and Mr. Knightley have been doing a very bad thing; no doubt it was from following your example that they all took it into their heads to marry themselves, poor souls.'
He thought of all the weddings which would be coming up and all the bustle and all the rich, unhealthy wedding cakes and his head began to spin. And then a sudden, brilliant idea struck him he knew Harriet and Robert were going to marry in three weeks, and Frank and Jane in a month and a half if his own Emma and Mr. Knightley got married in between that time, surely nobody would miss a cake if they did not have one? They would still have Harriet and Robert's cake, and could still look forward to Frank and Jane's cake.
He communicated his idea to Emma and Mr. Knightley who were only too glad to forego the wedding cake if it meant they could marry.
In fact, when the day of the wedding actually came about, nobody took its cakelessness amiss except for the Perry children, for everyone else understood that Mr. Woodhouse's nervous constitution required such a compromise if he were to be expected to bear such a change as his own daughter's marriage.
And indeed, despite that, and despite Mr. Elton's rather lacklustre performance of the service, everything went off well. Even Mrs. Elton was well-satisfied with the day, particularly as she observed in the first few minutes that Miss Woodhouse's dress had much less white satin and expensive lace veils than hers had had, and that the wedding as a whole was extremely shabby compared to her own for goodness' sake, Miss Woodhouse's coiffure was done up in much the same style as usual with the only difference being a few pearls which were strung through her hair. This, Mrs. Elton had to reluctantly admit, was a small step in the right direction, but there were not nearly enough of them and they were not nearly large enough to make any material difference. And Knightley she had expected better of him: why, she could have sworn she had seen him wear that waistcoat once before, and she knew it was not even made in London! Selina would stare when she heard of it.
All in all, the wedding had been very inferior to her own, and she was sure the honeymoon would be too. Her own had been in Bath, which was of course a place of the first fashion, and the place where she had bought that wonderful little bonnet the likes of which backward little Highbury had never seen before. And to be making such a mystery of the place where they were going well, it did not speak very highly of it if they were too ashamed to make the place known to others.
In fact, she was beginning to lose some of her sympathy for Knightley he had shown rather poor judgment not only in choosing Miss Woodhouse, but in the arrangement of his own wedding and honeymoon, and that waistcoat...! She could not forget it; it had looked smart to be sure, and he had looked very handsome in it, but not only was it not brand new, it was not in that new orange paisley pattern which was all the rage in Bath at the moment.
Well, she could only shake her head and sigh and hope that dear Jane would heed her advice and avoid such a pathetic state of matters.
Posted on 2010-08-31
Emma had been trying, without success, to find out where they were to be going for the past week and a half. She approached the problem in various ways, with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions and distant surmises, but thus far he had evaded her skill in them all. She had tried pouting and pleading, she had tried guilt trips, she had tried distraction tactics which were so pleasantly effective that soon even she had forgotten that she had been trying to get information out of him.
It was actually only on the day before their wedding that Mr. Knightley had given her any hint at all. He had walked up to Hartfield to find her in her room, packing for the trip, and he had smiled enigmatically before saying, 'I'd take some paintbrushes and an easel if I were you, Emma,' before immediately leaving the room.
She had rushed out after him, eyes shining. 'Paintbrushes?' He had nodded and although he had said no more, she was now sure she knew where they were going. It could only be Box Hill, or somewhere in its close vicinity, for hadn't she said on the day of the picnic that she wished to come back and paint the view from the summit?
She had wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. 'Thank you,' she had whispered.
He had hugged her back, but his eyes danced with amusement. 'Don't thank me yet,' he had smiled. 'Are you sure you know where we are going?'
Emma had rolled her eyes and smiled. 'Quite sure, Mr. Knightley,' she had said, 'but let us say no more about it.'
His lips had twitched. 'Very well, Emma,' he had said, 'as you wish.'
It was only later the next day that Emma realised that her darling, wonderful, infuriatingly clever Mr. Knightley had tricked her into thinking she knew where they were going so that she would stop trying to find out.
She had meant to watch every mile of the road to see if her conjecture about their location was correct, but the excitement of the day had caught up with her and soon the rhythmic rocking motion of the carriage had caused her eyelids to droop.
Some time later she was not sure how long she stirred and became aware of her surroundings once more. She lifted her head from Mr. Knightley's shoulder to observe the view from the carriage window once more, and she frowned slightly when she found she did not recognise the road they were travelling on. She was sure she should have recognised it, for she had been paying close attention to the scenery on their journey to Box Hill a little over a month ago.
When she looked at the position of the sun in the sky, she knew there was something wrong. It was high enough to indicate that she had been asleep at least two hours, so why had they not yet reached Box Hill? She glanced at Mr. Knightley, whose face held an expression of high amusement at her confusion. 'Are you sure we are going the right way?' she asked, rather worriedly.
He smiled, his eyes dancing. 'Quite sure, my dear Emma.'
She opened her mouth to ask how he was so confident of the fact when she was silenced by his directing her attention to the view currently becoming visible out the window.
She watched, wide-eyed, at first with little comprehension of what she was seeing, and then suddenly the realisation fell into place as she recollected paintings she had seen, descriptions she had heard and read.
However, nobody had ever told her and no painting had ever managed to show that the sun's rays would make of it a million tiny fragments of mirror; that it would be ceaselessly heaving and tossing as it was; that it would make that distinct distant roaring which she had read about but had never experienced for herself before now.
She turned to look at Mr. Knightley, the wonder still in her eyes. 'But how why did we not go what did you mean by asking me to take the paintbrushes?'
He gave her a small, amused smile. 'You did once say a beautiful view could make you long for your painting materials so you could capture it and I thought you would find this view as inspiring as any.'
She said nothing for a moment, trying to readjust her mistaken assumptions with reference to reality, something which she had been required to do alarmingly often over the past year. However, now for the first time barring finding out that Mr. Knightley had been in love with herself and not Harriet, the outcome was actually pleasant.
She would have loved to have gone to Box Hill once more, to be sure. And yet... Mr. Knightley was right in saying the view of the seaside was just as beautiful as Box Hill could be (if not more!), and it had the added advantage of novelty, as she had never seen it for herself before. In fact, now that she found herself at the seaside, it seemed perfect for had she not heard with envy of her nephews and nieces going there and longed to visit it herself? Had she not often asked Isabella, John and even on occasion Mr. Knightley himself what it was like?
She must have been silent longer than she realised, for when she turned to look at Mr. Knightley, he was watching her rather anxiously. 'You are not disappointed, Emma, that we did not go to Box Hill?'
She gave the most eloquent reply she could in simply taking his face in her hands and kissing him soundly, for though no words passed her lips it told him clearly enough that disappointment was far from what she was feeling.
But in his arms some moments later she thought she would say it aloud anyway, so as to leave no room for doubt. 'Oh George, I am not disappointed; in fact if it is possible this is even better than Box Hill,' she said, her voice somewhat muffled by the material of his shirt and waistcoat.
Perhaps he did not hear her words with immaculate clarity, but he understood the gist of them well enough. However, there was one part of her speech which he had to seek clarification for. 'Did you just call me "George"?'
'Did I?' Emma raised her head to look up at him in some surprise. She thought back over what she had said, and smiled as she realised he was right. 'I suppose I did but I did not even realise.'
Mr. Knightley's smile was irrepressible and he hugged her closer. 'So I have finally hit upon the secret,' he declared. 'To get my wife to call me by my Christian name, I simply have to surprise her by taking her on holiday to beautiful places that she has never seen before.' He frowned slightly in mock-confusion. 'But how do you suppose I could get her to do so every day?'
Emma laughed. 'I am afraid if we are always to be holidaying to new places lovely as that would be Donwell would rather suffer for it.'
Mr. Knightley sighed in exaggerated defeat. 'I am afraid you are right, Emma. What solution do you suggest?'
She could not help giggling at his gloomy expression, and it wavered for a moment as he almost gave in to his amusement. 'I do not see why a solution is required,' she said. 'I like "Mr. Knightley" and I do not want to lose him entirely.' She took his hand in hers, intertwining their fingers together. 'But,' she continued, 'I became acquainted with "George" today, and I find I quite like him too. Let us keep him for special occasions.'
Mr. Knightley acquiesced, happy with the compromise. On reflection he thought her plan would suit him best really, for if she stopped calling him "Mr. Knightley" altogether, he knew he would miss it. After years of her usage, it had not so very formal a sound, and nobody else could say it quite like she could: saucy or serious, teasing or friendly, but always with that underlying affection which denoted the long years of their friendship.
'Very well, Emma,' he smiled. 'Special occasions it is.'
'Mr. Knightley?' She raised her head slightly to get a fuller view of his face and her hair tickled his neck.
'Hmmm?' he said sleepily.
'Can we go for a walk along the shore tomorrow morning?'
He smiled. 'Of course, Emma whatever you wish. We are here to enjoy ourselves, after all.' Then his smile widened into a grin. 'But what is this "Mr. Knightley" business? Not so very long ago, I remember you called me'
She buried her blushing face in the crook of his neck and hit his arm. 'That was different,' she protested.
He remembered her words from earlier that day. 'A special occasion?'
She sighed happily. 'Yes, special.' She seemed to hesitate for a moment before continuing to speak, her voice soft, almost shy. 'Special, but not rare, I hope.'
From the warmth against his collarbone he knew she was blushing more hotly than ever, and he hugged her closer. He was aware of the sort of ideas women had put into their heads about this, and the fact that she could be honest despite that meant a lot to him. 'Mmm, yes,' he said softly in reply, before pressing a kiss to the top of her head. 'Not rare at all, I should think.'
'Did you know,' said Emma as they strolled arm-in-arm along the shore, 'that I once told myself I didn't want you to marry because then little Henry would lose Donwell?' She could not help laughing at her own stupidity. 'That was months and months ago how could I have been so blind?'
Mr. Knightley laughed, and pressed her arm. 'Well, I was little better, Emma. I told myself I didn't want you to marry because it would upset your father so if you were to leave Hartfield.'
She smiled, but then sighed. 'Well, I am not leaving Hartfield, and I am sure he will come to think it the best thing for all of us in time. And he does write tolerably cheerful replies to my letters, even if he was a little alarmed to find we'd gone to the dreaded seaside, and not even Cromer at that!'
Mr. Knightley raised an eyebrow, and his lips twitched. 'Ah yes, Cromer. It was remarkably reprehensible of us to come here instead when Perry specifically recommended Cromer, was it not?'
Emma could not help smiling at that, and her momentary gloom was dispelled. 'Well, Cromer can keep its pure air I don't think any place could be more beautiful than this,' she declared.
'Speaking of which, do you feel inspired to take up your brushes yet?'
She laughed as she realised the thought had not crossed her mind once in the past week. 'Surprisingly, no. I find I'd rather spend my time here exploring and enjoying the seaside and your company. I don't feel like spending hours trying to recreate the sea for posterity.' She smiled up at him, eyes dancing. 'I suppose if I want to remember what it looks like, you'll just have to bring me here again.'
'And let Donwell suffer?'
'Of course. It would be a special occasion, after all, George.'
'Then how can I refuse?'
Emma sighed as they sat on the beach watching the sun set. 'Only one more day can you believe it? I feel like we've been here two hours, not two weeks.'
Mr. Knightley squeezed the hand which was in his. 'It has been a pleasant two weeks though, has it not, Emma?'
She rested her head on his shoulder. 'Oh yes,' she said softly. 'I don't think I've ever been happier. But I just wish we could stay a little longer.'
So did he, but admitting that was not the way to cheer Emma up. 'But I know you want to see your father and Isabella and everyone else again. And you would not wish to miss Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax's wedding, would you now?'
Emma's face lit up. 'Oh, of course I forgot about that. I am looking forward to seeing that Miss Fairfax deserves some happiness.'
He could not resist. 'And Mr. Churchill?'
Emma pretended to glare at him. 'I wish both Miss Fairfax and Mr. Churchill the very best, Mr. Knightley.'
'"Mr. Knightley" again?'
She nodded decisively. 'You shall be "Mr. Knightley" every day, "Mr. Knightley" when I am teasing you, "Mr. Knightley" when I want something from you, "Mr. Knightley" when I am trying to hint to Mrs. Elton how you should be addressed' There she had to break off, for her giggles got the better of her, and her husband was no less amused.
Some moments later, when they had managed to regain control, she gasped, 'And you shall be "George" when I am happiest.'
He hugged her close. 'Then I shall make it the business of my life to make you that happy every day.'
She sighed happily as she looked up at him, eyes bright in the fading glow of the sun. 'That sounds like a plan, George,' she said.
He smiled, a full, heartfelt smile; and then he began its execution, lowering his head to bring his lips to hers.The End