“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
( A Midsummer Night’s Dream )
The small gathering at the Weston’s a few days after the Crown Inn ball was initially a pleasant and quiet party until an uninvited guest arrived.
They had been playing at cards when the ever irritating Mrs. Elton had opened her mouth (in truth she had never quite shut it) to ask if Mr. Knightley might someday invite them all to Donwell Abbey. Emma thought she would be able to quickly squash the notion, as she assumed Mr. Knightley would have preferred, but she had been wrong.
For in the next moment Mr. Knightley ignored Emma completely and replied: “I should be very glad to open Donwell for your exploration, Mrs. Elton. The welcome is long overdue.”
“I should like that of all things,” said Mrs. Elton, smugly, “Name your day and I shall come.”
“I cannot name a day until I have spoken to some others whom I would wish to form the party,” replied Mr. Knightley.
“Oh leave that to me,” breezed Mrs. Elton, “It is my party - I will invite your guests.”
Mr. Knightley allowed a small smile at that, seemingly his first of the day. “I hope you will bring Elton. But I will not trouble you to give any other invitations.”
“Oh well now you are looking very sly. But consider - you need not be afraid of delegating power to me. Married women, you know, may be safely authorized.”
“There is but one married woman in all the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell,” said Mr. Knightley.
“Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” offered Mrs. Elton.
“No - Mrs. Knightley,” he replied promptly and firmly.
The table was silent.
“Until she is in being, I will manage such matters myself,” he finished.
Emma watched him for a moment.
Emma looked back at her cards, but had much difficulty concentrating on the game after that. Therefore she did not realize when Mrs. Elton had turned her attentions elsewhere.
She looked up quickly as Mr. Knightley said her name softly, but he was looking at his hand as if studying his next card move with the utmost care.
“Mrs. Elton was inquiring after your painting.”
“My painting?,” she turned to look at Mrs. Elton, who seemed greatly self-satisfied.
“Yes, Miss Woodhouse, your painting. Mr. E tells me you have quite the talent.” She shared a small smirk with her husband that Emma caught out of the corner of her eye. She blushed lightly as she struggled for something to say.
“She is indeed very passionate in her practice, Mrs. Elton,” said Mr. Knightley, saving her from further embarassment. “I see her paint frequently and have noted the variety of subjects she chooses to render.”
“Have you? Oh then you must do portraits Miss Woodhouse! What great fun,” cried Mrs. Elton.
Emma reddened further. “I would, if I had my materials at hand.”
Then Mrs. Weston, having overheard the conversation, said, “Why Emma you may use mine. It is no trouble.”
Mrs. Elton smiled, turning back to Emma with an arched eyebrow. “There! All is sorted. Then who should be your first muse? Why Jane -”
“I shall volunteer first, Mrs. Elton,” interjected Mr. Knightley’s warm voice. “I have seldom had the pleasure of sitting before Miss Woodhouse’s easel.”
“Yes!,” chirped Mr. Weston, “Mr. Knightley shall sit first and Miss Fairfax shall play the pianoforte while the rest of us await our turns.”
~ ~ ~
Emma often looked upon Mr. Knightley, had done so in fact from the day she was born, but never had she examined him as closely as she did while he sat before her in the Weston’s parlour. Everything about his face and person was on display for her to take note of. The way his dark blonde hair fell across his brow in gentle waves. His full lips. The scars upon his cheek and forehead that were near-unnoticeable if you weren’t looking for them. The brilliant blue of his eyes - eyes that were fixed intently on Emma as she attempted to draw him in graphite pencil.
Emma looked up at him to determine the slope of his shoulders. “I do believe you have never had the pleasure of sitting before my easel, Mr. Knightley.”
His lips twitched and he bowed his head to steel his expression, the dimples in his left cheek betraying him.
“Stay still please.”
Mr. Knightley’s mouth settled into a neutral line, but his eyes twinkled with residual mirth as he straightened up again. It was perhaps the most merriment Emma had seen in Mr. Knightley for days.
“I rather thought I was rendering you a great service.”
“Oh?,” asked Emma as she picked up her watercolors.
He hummed. “Yes - if you are particularly slow in your depiction of me, I do believe you will avoid doing any more paintings for the rest of the afternoon.”
Emma’s mouth dropped open slightly. Then she smiled. “Very clever.”
They were silent as she started to fill in his outline. But when she began to blush as she looked upon his hands, the bare hands that had held her not so long ago, she granted him a soft “Thank you” in reference to his great service.
Mr. Knightley startled and his eyes widened as if he had heard a sudden noise. “Of course,” he replied oh so gently.
Emma painted quietly for another half-hour or so, with she and Mr. Knightley chatting lightly on and off.
Eventually she sat back to examine her work, declared it finished and beckoned him over to see for himself. Mr. Knightley approached and she felt the fabric of his coat graze her softly as he stood behind her. He was silent.
Emma peered at him over her shoulder. “Perhaps it is too hastily done.”
But Emma found him not looking upon his portrait, but gazing down at her own face. She turned to look up at him fully.
“May I,” he swallowed, “...May I keep it?”
Emma blinked. “Yes of course.”
The corner of his mouth raised into a wobbly smile, then he nodded and rejoined the party.
~ ~ ~
Mr. Knightley did not have the portrait framed. Rather he kept it in a drawer by his bedside, tucked away quite out of sight. He only looked at it late at night, when sleep would not come no matter how he tossed and turned. That was when he yearned for Emma the most.
At first it had felt oddly lascivious to gaze upon his own likeness in want of Emma’s company, but having been done in her hand it was the closest thing to having a picture of her lovely face. After staring at it for nights on end before sleeping, he could no longer see it as an image of himself. Now when he looked upon the painting, he saw Emma’s careful wrist as she wielded the paintbrush and her quizzical eye as she studied him. Soon he was able to imagine her in other ways.
He fantasized that she was in bed with him. She would be turned sleepily on her side and he would mould his body easily against hers. He would nuzzle into her neck and sigh as he let his hands wander over the soft curves of her body. He imagined how delightful she would smell up close - her scent of orange blossom and coriander even more heady as he held her in his arms. Everything about her would be positively more thrilling in such situations - knowing that she was really and truly his, and his alone.
He imagined darker things in bed as well, things that made him rigid and feverish with desire for her. He had never taken himself in hand more than he did in the nights after he had danced with Emma at the Crown Inn.
But in the dark of his room, he was free to have all the impure thoughts of Emma’s body as he liked. He imagined the size and shape of her breasts and how her silken hair might feel in his hands. The pebble of her nipples against his lips and her shapely (he assumed) legs draped over his shoulders. How she would feel wrapped around him as he took her, holding her wrists above her head on the bed. Sighing into her hot little mouth as he felt her warmth and wetness on his cock again and again.
George, she would moan as he fucked her hard and deep. I love you, I love you.
But perhaps his most shameful fantasies of Emma were the ones in which she was pregnant with his child. She would be fatter than he had ever seen her, but so lovely. So very lovely. Radiant with health and love.
He imagined running his hand over her naked, rounded stomach and whispering into her ear how wonderful she was. How she was the best wife and would make the most wonderful mother. He saw her tending to her flowers, stopping to take breaks in her heavily pregnant state. She was ornery with him in normal life, but with child he imagined she would be even more hot-tempered than usual. The very thought made him smile. He would never be cross with her in such times, only sparring with her lovingly and teasing her gently.
Emma had always ruled over his heart, he realized one evening as he found himself yet again running his hand over the parchment on which she had painted him (rather stiffly he had to admit). Now he was finally giving in to it - into her.