As soon as Emma caught sight of Mr. Knightley gazing up at her from the sunlit courtyard, she swept off the window seat and rushed downstairs.
Her pulse beat madly as she ran from floor to floor. Why had he come to Hartfield?
For me, cried her traitorous heart, Oh let him have come for me!
She smiled a little to herself, suddenly imagining a life-size human heart garbed in a frothy net gown and full parure for the Crown Inn ball. One of its valves would spurt blood all over Jane Fairfax as Mr. Knightley twirled it across the floor and into his arms.
Oh. The remembrance of Mr. Knightley’s presence jolted her back into nervousness as she reached the Little Hall on the first floor. She took a few quick, deep breaths and then ran to the door that led into the courtyard and threw it open.
Mr. Knightley looked up at her arrival. She rushed out to meet him and the pair gaped at each other. Not one word was spoken. Finally, Emma could bear it no longer.
The man in question did nothing but stand before her, eyes wide and hat in hand, seeming to tremble at the very sight of her. He said nothing, only continued to stare at her with parted lips.
Emma began to grow uneasy. She glanced down at her party dress, which looked somewhat gaudy away from the romantic wash of candles and darkness. In the light of the morning she felt as wilted and crumpled as the once-fresh roses in her hair. “Mr. Knightley, are you quite alright?,” she murmured tentatively.
That seemed to snap him out of his reverie, for he blinked and stepped forward. “Emma, I…”
But he trailed off, appearing quite panicked. He was breathing rather heavily and Emma noticed a light sheen to his skin. He looked entirely unwell. “Mr. Knightley,” she said gently as she turned back toward the house, “Come inside at once, you must sit down.”
He swallowed hard at her words and nodded. Emma led him straight to the library, hoping to avoid any servants who might fuss over Mr. Knightley and make his condition worse. He seemed to be very sick indeed. That must be why he is here, she thought to herself somewhat disappointedly. She vowed to send for Perry once she had made him a little more comfortable.
Emma ushered him into a cozy armchair by the window, then left the room only to return a short time later with a tumbler of cold water. She approached him and held out her hand for his handkerchief. He looked at her open palm for a moment, then started when he realized her intention. He reached into his jacket and withdrew the folded square of linen, handing it to her with vaguely shaky hands. She smiled softly as she took it from him, dipping one corner of the fabric into the tumbler. Mr. Knightley let out a shuddering exhale as she brought the cool cloth to his temple.
“I will send for Perry presently, Mr. Knightley,” said Emma as she dabbed at him, “But do not worry - I shall not involve papa. He often makes these things worse, as you know.”
She expected him to laugh at that, or at least chuckle, but he was utterly quiet. She looked down into his face and was greeted by his blue eyes fixed intently on her.
“Mr. Knightley, did you eat something disagreeable at the ball? Do you have a fever?,” she asked as she brought the back of her hand lightly to his forehead.
The second her skin touched his, he jerked forward and clasped her face with both his hands. “Emma,” he said huskily.
“Mr. Knightley,” she whispered, her wide eyes meeting his. His hands still cupped her cheeks as he rose from the chair. He drew back briefly, assessing her. Then he was tugging her to him and kissing her with a fierce passion.
Emma gasped against his mouth, but quickly melted to him. She brought her hands up to his shoulders and he groaned as she returned his kiss. One of his hands went to the small of her back to bring her flush against him and his roughness made her whimper with desire. He walked her backward and then he was pushing her up against a bookcase. He continued to plunder her mouth, exploring her with his tongue and sighing as his fingers swept over her soft skin. Emma’s hands moved to his hair and her back hit the solid wood of the bookcase again and again as their bodies undulated.
He had just pressed a thigh between her legs and was attacking her neck frantically, when they heard the distinct sound of Mr. Woodhouse’s voice out in the corridor.
“Emma!,” he cried, sounding as if he was quite in distress.
Mr. Knightley’s teeth scraped against her jaw as they both froze and Emma went rigid in his arms.
“Emma!?,” they heard again, though the call was farther away now.
“Stay here,” panted Emma as she disentangled herself from Mr. Knightley. He moved back a little, giving her room to slip out from beneath him.
Emma quickly smoothed down her dress and bolted from the room, shutting the door firmly behind her. She found her father in the Downstairs Drawing Room - and with him was an oddly rumpled Harriet reclining on the settee.
“Oh Emma!,” cried her father in desperation as she entered the room.
“What has happened?,” asked Emma as she rushed to her friend’s side.
“Oh it is most dreadful,” replied Mr. Woodhouse, “Miss Smith was overtaken by gypsies after the ball and twisted her ankle. Thankfully Mr. Churchill came upon her and brought her here.”
“Mr. Churchill is here?,” asked Emma as she looked up sharply.
Harriet squeezed her hand weakly. “He has gone to warn his father about there being gypsies in the neighborhood,” said Harriet.
Emma breathed a small sigh of relief. She had been momentarily terrified that Frank would somehow come upon Mr. Knightley in the library.
Emma stood up quickly. “I shall fetch Harriet some water!,” declared Emma, before dashing out into the hall once more.
She did not know how she would get Mr. Knightley out of the house unseen, but she knew that it must be done quickly or they risked having to come up with an elaborate lie for why he had hidden away for so long.
Perhaps he is physically fit enough to abscond through the window, she mused as she stealthily slipped back into the library.
The library looked much as it usually did - no one would have have been able to guess that just moments ago she and Mr. Knightley had been locked in a fervent embrace against her father’s copies of the Odyssey and Tom Jones.
In fact, the library looked entirely too normal. Emma looked to the empty armchair by the window, and to the table beside it which held the forgotten glass of water and the dampened handkerchief.
Mr. Knightley was gone.
When Emma awoke the next morning, she briefly contemplated if her dalliance with Mr. Knightley had been nothing more than a dream. But then she lifted her pillow and there was the handkerchief she had placed there the night before - very clearly embroidered with the initials “GK.”
Emma sighed. She rose, dressed, and took a light breakfast before departing from Hartfield. She would not let desperate thoughts of Mr. Knightley cloud her day or her duties, for she had promised Harriet that she would visit at Mrs. Goddard’s to inquire about her ankle and spend the morning with her.
Harriet was propped up in bed when Emma arrived, pouring over a women’s catalogue devoted to ribbons or bonnets. Emma fussed with her for a few moments, making sure she was entirely comfortable and at ease. Then the girls spent a quiet few hours talking lightly and doing various tasks, such as sewing or adding to Harriet’s book of charades. They discussed the ball some, but Emma tried to avoid staying on such a topic for too long as it made her heart flutter peculiarly. Eventually, as Emma rose to take her leave, Harriet called her over to the bed with quite the guilty look.
“Miss Woodhouse…,” began Harriet softly, “There is something I must confess.”
“Whatever can it be Harriet?”
Harriet smoothed her hands over the blanket covering her before meeting Emma’s eyes. “I lied about the gypsies.”
Emma blinked. “What?”
“I lied - most dreadfully. I was far from being in any kind of danger. I saw Robert Martin in the distance as I was making my way home from the ball. In order to avoid him I quickly dashed off the road. But my slipper must have caught on a root or a stone for I fell as I hid behind a low wall. When I was sure he had gone I chanced out to the road again, but was met immediately by Frank Churchill. He saw me limping and I was too embarrassed to admit the truth. Oh Miss Woodhouse! I feel quite awful about the whole of it.”
Emma patted her friend’s hand. “There, there Harriet. It was bad to lie - but I cannot fault you for it. Be careful of such things again - and leave the gypsies out of your tall tales!”
“Thank you Miss Woodhouse,” sighed Harriet with gratitude as she laid back upon her pillows.
Emma did not see nor hear from Mr. Knightley for several days. One afternoon she went to the Weston’s for cards, thinking he would surely be present - but to her great surprise he never appeared.
“Is Mr. Knightley to arrive soon?,” Emma asked Mrs. Weston as the group settled for a game of whist.
“Oh no,” said Mrs. Weston, “Some of his tenants required his help and he had to excuse himself. I shall show you his note - he sounds extremely busy.”
She handed her a small square of parchment. Emma unfolded it and began to read.
Dear Mrs. Weston,
I regret to inform you that I must unfortunately be absent from your house today.
A fence fell and some sheep have gotten loose - I must attend to it before the lanes are infested with newborn lambs.
Warmest regards to you and Mr. Weston.
Your dear friend,
Emma frowned down at the letter. It was perfectly, benignly ordinary.
She played whist for as long as she could stand, but her mind kept drifting to Mr. Knightley’s letter again and again. How could he write so normally after what they had done? Was he not as overcome as she was? Perhaps not - for he seemed perfectly able to attend to his duties with no thought to having very nearly taken her against rare and antique books.
She left the card table and went to join Harriet, who had been embroidering quietly with her sprained foot elevated. Harriet smiled as Emma sat beside her with a book in hand. But reading proved to be as hard to concentrate on as anything else.
Warmest regards indeed, thought Emma bitterly.
She left rather early after that, choosing to walk home and leave the carriage for Harriet.
Then lo and behold! When Emma returned to Hartfield and entered the Drawing Room to greet her father, she found Mr. Knightley sitting in his usual chair. He was talking with Mr. Woodhouse as if nothing untoward had happened between himself and the older man’s daughter just rooms over.
“Ah, Emma!,” called Mr. Woodhouse, “You are back early - look who has stopped in. Unfortunately, he was just about to take his leave.”
“Good evening, Mr. Knightley,” said Emma cooly.
“Good evening, Emma,” came the reply, his gaze so intense he almost bore holes into her dress.
“I trust the lambs have been corralled.”
Mr. Knightley’s eyebrows rose, then understanding washed over his face. “Uh, yes indeed,” he said, rising from his chair, “All sorted.” His cheeks heated and Emma turned away to hide her smile at having caught him in a lie.
“Good,” she said, “Well, if you will excuse me, I must attend to my flowers. I shall see you in an hour for dinner, papa? Good evening,” she directed this last farewell at Mr. Knightley with a very imploring look. Then she curtsied briefly and left the room.
She heard Mr. Knightley murmur a goodbye to her father, then came the sound of his footsteps as he collected his hat and left through the main door. Emma took the other door into the garden and then ran as fast as she could to the greenhouse. She had just let herself inside and was busying herself with watering a cluster of Sweet Williams when Mr. Knightley appeared at the glass door and opened it.
“I thought - was this your meaning?,” he asked, gesturing to himself and the greenhouse.
“Yes,” said Emma as she stroked a plant’s waxy leaf. “You discerned my meaning exactly.”
Mr. Knightley took a step inside. “Emma, I must apologize. What I have done to you...is inexcusable. I take full responsibility for what occurred and regret having caused you harm.”
She did not look at him, only turned her attention and her watering can to another flower. “Why did you leave?”
He was quiet. “As soon as you left I saw Frank Churchill in the courtyard. I knew not what to do...I panicked and slipped out the back. I apologize for leaving in such a way. That, and for kissing you in the first place.”
“Do not apologize,” said Emma as she finally turned to him.
He stared at her. “Do not apologize?”
She came closer and stopped less than an arm’s length away from him. “Do not apologize - for I would very much like it to happen again. And more besides.”
Mr. Knightley’s lips parted in shock. “Emma…”
“Please,” she whispered, drawing even closer and placing a soft hand to his chest, “Show me how...how to lie with a man.”
He jerked his head slightly, his brows furrowing. “You are asking me to ruin you?”
“How can I be ruined,” she said very close to his lips, “If I do not intend to marry? If you are the only man to have me?”
He kissed her hard then, gripping the back of her head to hold her in place. Emma brought her hands up to caress his jaw.
“Emma,” he breathed, before placing a quick kiss to her mouth, “Are you in jest?”
She looped her arms around his neck and turned her face up to look into his eyes. “I want you.”
He let out a harsh curse and pulled her back to him for even more feverish kisses. His hands wandered greedily over her hips and back and she reveled in his attentions.
“I heard not a word,” sighed Emma as he sucked and worshipped at her neck, “I thought you indifferent.”
“I thought of nothing but you,” he moaned against her throat, “I was sick for wanting you.”
Eventually Mr. Knightley departed with promises to come for dinner the next evening - but only after Emma had been thoroughly kissed and ruffled to his liking.
Gonna wrap you in a big fluffy coat before we go to Angst City!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Emma was at the pianoforte when Mr. Knightley arrived for dinner. Mr. Woodhouse had fallen asleep in his armchair, so the blonde-haired gentleman was able to sit closely beside Emma with no opposition. He quietly watched her play for a few moments, then he drew his fingers up her spine and began softly stroking the back of her neck. This made her gasp and he smirked at her reaction.
“Hello,” said Emma, when she was able to make her tongue work.
“Hello,” Mr. Knightley replied as he brought his forehead to the side of her head and gently nuzzled her. Emma turned her head but an inch and they shared a brief, sultry kiss.
Emma’s lips parted as they pulled away. “We should wake papa,” she said.
“Alright,” he replied absentmindedly while tracing her bottom lip with a careful finger.
They spent the entirety of dinner glancing subtly at each other over their asparagus soup and chicken fricassee while Mr. Woodhouse complained of the various pollens that were now being released into the spring air. By the time they were served a dessert of lemon soufflé and red currant tarts, Emma was practically squirming in her seat from anticipation. Mr. Knightley remained perfectly poised and was as affable with her father as always - for if Emma was forever first in humoring her father, Mr. Knightley was a steadfast second. As they finished their meal, Mr. Woodhouse suggested that the two men retreat to the library to look over some agricultural reports. Mr. Knightley agreed easily, but his accompanying grin was for Emma alone - both knowing that the last time he had been in the Hartfield library was when he had tried to pleasure her against his thigh.
Emma paced anxiously while her father and Mr. Knightley went away, ardently avoiding the worried looks Charles and Bartholomew exchanged each time she jolted from the settee whenever she heard any kind of noise in the hall. When Emma finally heard approaching footsteps and murmuring voices, she grabbed for her embroidery and pretended she had been at work all along.
“...the flowering season will be here any day now, and they get so terribly out of control,” said Mr. Woodhouse as he stepped back into the room.
“Yes,” replied Mr. Knightley, “Wisteria does have a tendency to take over.”
Emma continued to focus on threading a needle while her father declared that he was going out for his turns about the garden before it became too dark. In normal course Mr. Knightley would take this as a cue for him to leave, but instead he came and sat beside Emma when he was sure Mr. Woodhouse had gone.
“What are you attending to?”
Emma did not raise her eyes to meet his. “I am embroidering a handkerchief.”
“Hmm, whom for?”
“Perhaps for someone who has recently lost theirs,” replied Emma, looking up at him through her lashes.
He gazed at her, his lips slightly parted. He looked over his shoulder, noted that the servants had disappeared, and then brought Emma’s mouth to his for a desperate, hurried kiss.
“Will you stay?,” asked Emma as he cupped her cheek and kissed his way across her face to her ear.
“How I wish I could,” he whispered.
“But you can,” said Emma as she opened her eyes and pulled back, “You can hide in the greenhouse and come back when papa has gone to bed.”
Mr. Knightley studied her with a mixture of confusion and desire. “Emma…”
“If we are caught…”
“We won’t be caught,” said Emma emphatically, “I am sure of it. Say you will stay - you have only to wait an hour or so. Father is always in bed by eight.”
“Alright,” said Mr. Knightley, his stare growing more heated as his desire for her won out, “I shall be at the garden door at half past eight.”
Emma rewarded him with another kiss and he smiled against her lips. Then he rose from the settee, selecting a random book from an end table on his way out. “I suppose I shall need this,” he said, waving the heavy tome in the air, “While I wait like a dog to be let back inside.”
Emma laughed and Mr. Knightley departed with one last cheeky grin.
Emma crept down the stairs at just before half past eight and made her way through the darkened halls clad in her dressing gown and chemise. When she silently opened the door that led into the garden, she found Mr. Knightley leaning against some ivy and thumbing through the book he had taken earlier.
“Mr. Knightley,” she called quietly.
He looked up and his eyes softened immediately upon seeing her in her nightclothes. He came to her and she took his hand to lead him upstairs. They slipped into her bedroom and, finally, they were completely alone. Emma set down her candle and padded over to Mr. Knightley who was looking around in wonder at her private space filled with feminine touches and trinkets.
“It smells quite like a bakeshop,” remarked Mr. Knightley as he gently touched a vase of flowers Emma had arranged on a chest of draws.
He nodded, taking in the sheer number of pillows in the room. “Sugar. And roses. And lemons. Perhaps even a bit of jam.”
“Jam!,” cried Emma.
“And you taste of shortbread when we kiss.”
Emma’s rosebud mouth opened in indignation. “I may ask you to leave, sir.”
Mr. Knightley chuckled and turned to her, encircling her waist with his arms. He looked at her fondly as he held her.
“I have not seen your hair loose since you were a child,” he said, a little wistfully, as he fingered a butter-colored curl. His hand drew from her hair down to her neck and then Emma was pressing herself to him. They kissed deeply while Mr. Knightley removed her dressing gown and walked her back towards the bed. Emma sat upon it while the pair frantically unbuttoned and cast off Mr. Knightley’s jacket and waistcoat. He removed his shoes and then followed Emma onto the bed, dragging her to him as he captured her mouth.
He tugged her chemise down and began lavishing attention on her bare collarbone and chest. Emma moaned as he took a nipple into his mouth. “Mr. Knightley,” she sighed dreamily.
“Please,” he said, his voice sounding desperate and ragged against her breast, “Call me George when we are like this.”
She whimpered a quiet “yes” and he returned to her mouth, wrapping one of her legs around his waist. Emma could feel how hard he was as he pressed against her and it made the ache she felt for him increase tenfold. Eventually he sat back and looked upon her spread out in the moonlight.
“May I put my mouth on you?,” he asked.
She knew immediately that he meant he wanted to put his mouth to her cunt - she read about it once in a book. She had asked Mrs. Weston about it, but her governess had turned pink and declared it something that respectable gentlemen did not do to respectable ladies. She wondered if Mrs. Weston felt differently, now that she was a married woman.
Emma returned her gaze to Mr. Knightley, who was stroking one of her knees softly. “Yes,” she breathed in answer to his question.
He smiled and then slowly gathered her chemise up past her hips. He made himself comfortable between her legs, then he began to kiss her in a very new, yet equally delightful, way.
Emma stared up at the canopy over her bed as she felt Mr. Knightley’s tongue exploring her. It was a strange feeling, and Emma was not quite sure if she liked it. At first the only thing she could think about was what she tasted like to him, and the thought made her rather embarrassed. But Mr. Knightley seemed to be enjoying himself fully - for he licked her more firmly, spreading her thighs wider to access more of her. Suddenly he found a pattern over her engorged clit that mimicked the way Emma touched herself when she was alone in bed.
“Oh yes,” she sighed, gripping his shoulders, “There.”
She could practically feel him smiling against her. He sucked and circled her with his tongue until she was panting and writhing, pleading for more. He drew his mouth away occasionally to murmur gentle encouragements like “That’s it, darling,” “Let go for me,” and "Good girl” - the last of which made her stomach flutter and her toes curl.
She put her hands in his hair as he brought her closer to release. He moaned at the action, and the vibrations against her sensitive flesh proved to be her undoing. She bit her forearm as she came, bucking her hips roughly as Mr. Knightley held her down and kept his tongue pressed to her clit. The pleasure of it nearly caused tears to stream from her eyes. Finally she sighed and went limp against the bed, sated and sleepy. Mr. Knightley laid down beside her, still dressed in his breeches and shirt.
“Will you stay until the morning?,” she asked shyly.
He nodded and kissed her nose. “Until the very early morning,” he promised.
That seemed to satisfy her for they drew back the covers and slipped into her bed. They turned on their sides to face each other and Mr. Knightley reached out his arm to gently stroke her hair as they gazed at each other.
Emma snuggled a little deeper into the bed. “May I tell you a secret?”
His eyes widened. “Of course,” he said tenderly, his fingers curving over the apple of her cheek as he moved closer.
Emma took a quick inhale of breath. “Frank Churchill was here after the ball because he came upon Harriet injured on the road and he knew of no other place to bring her. She said she had twisted her ankle running away from a band of gypsies. But it was a lie.”
She looked up at him. “Harriet hurt herself while attempting to hide from Robert Martin.”
Mr. Knightley frowned, taking in her words.
“It is all my fault,” said Emma softly, “She was in love with him. She is in love with him still. And I discouraged her happiness.”
The sheets rustled as Mr. Knightley brought his arms around her and pulled her to his chest. “You were wrong in what you did,” he said into her hair as he drew soothing circles on her back. “But it can be put right.”
“Yes,” he said, “Speak of him in high regard - tell her you have changed your mind about him. I will persuade him to put his suit to her in person. I believe it shall all work out favorably.”
Emma smiled and brought her hand to his cheek to pull him down to her mouth. They kissed slowly for a few minutes, then Mr. Knightley rose to blow out the candles.
“You must go to sleep now,” he told her a little sternly as he climbed back into bed.
“Oh, I must?,” giggled Emma.
“Yes, you must,” replied Mr. Knightley, the smile in his voice was evident, “For if you look anything but well tomorrow, your father will grow concerned. And when your father grows concerned, his concerns become very much an event for all others who happen to be around.”
Emma giggled again and allowed herself to be lulled into sleep by the comfort of his breathing and the warmth of his embrace.
Emma awoke the next morning to Mr. Knightley attempting to quietly leave the bed - which proved to be rather difficult as Emma’s bed was dressed in all manner of fabrics and textures that rubbed against each other to create various noises.
“Must you go?,” sighed Emma, knowing already that there was no other option. In an hour or so it would be fully light outside.
“I must,” he said softly as he moved to lean over her and stroke her hair. “Will you miss me terribly?”
“Yes,” whispered Emma honestly.
This made him grin smugly and he returned his mouth to hers for a few more minutes of languid kissing.
“What exactly will you miss?,” he said seductively into her ear.
“Your mouth,” she moaned as he kissed her neck and breasts through her chemise.
“What about my mouth?,” he asked.
“Yes, I believe my mouth will very much miss kissing yours. What else?”
Emma gasped quietly as he drew her legs apart. “Your fingers...”
“Yes - oh,” she breathed as he began to stroke her slick folds.
“I supposed you shall miss them here,” he said, watching her with a soft smile.
“Yes, yes, oh George,” she whined as she began to move her hips against his touch.
He circled her clit gently until she threw her head back in exquisite pleasure. He kissed her as she reached her peak - she assumed he did so in order to smother the sound of her cries. But much later, after he had gone and she was dressing for the day, Emma thought of how tenderly he had stroked her cheek while she orgasmed. Perhaps he simply enjoyed the feeling of her gasping against his mouth.
In the director's commentary, Autumn de Wilde says that Bill Nighy and Johnny Flynn came up with different little improv conversations for Mr. Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley to have as they entered the room while Emma is painting Harriet. She said one of the conversations was about how the wisteria was out of control and it was so funny she wished they could have gotten it into the movie. If you listen very, very carefully to Johnny Flynn when they come in he says something like "...they just take over."
I loved the idea of Mr. Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley discussing troublesome plants so the wisteria conversation in this chapter was a tribute to that!
Also, I really get a kick out of thinking about Mr. Knightley moving into Hartfield and staying in Emma's super girly room from the 2020 film. He's just looking around at all the floral prints and chenille fabrics and cherub paintings like "Whatever makes my lady happy!"
They were more careful with their meetings after that night when Mr. Knightley had slept in Emma’s bed and put his mouth to her most intimate place. Mr. Knightley had always spent most evenings at Hartfield, so there was no change or suspicion on that account, but he was rather reluctant to come to her room again after almost running into Bartholomew on the back stairs when leaving early the next morning. Emma would plead with him to stay, yet he would not chance it. They had to make do with quick gropings in the greenhouse or hurried goodnight kisses at the garden door. Mr. Woodhouse’s dislike of going far from home made it impossible for the pair to attempt absconding to Emma’s room during the day, but they managed to eke out moments of time together when her father was asleep in his chair or had gone out for his evening walk. The servants either didn't notice Mr. Knightley and Emma’s new intimacy or didn’t care.
Being with Mr. Knightley in this way was exciting. Emma had never felt this way before - she could not describe the new sensations she was having. She awoke excited for each day and felt a new vigor for her tasks and social responsibilities. She longed to tell someone about it all - Mrs. Weston or Harriet really - but the secret she shared with Mr. Knightley also held a certain thrill because of its illicitness. She did not think she seemed very changed by the experience, though she was occasionally told of her skin possessing a new glow - Emma would just laugh and attribute it to the change in the weather.
But if Emma seemed much the same, it become very obvious to many a person that there was a palpable change in Mr. Knightley’s disposition. One late spring afternoon, at a lawn party at Randalls, Mrs. Weston leaned over to Emma with a highly conspiratorial air. “My dear,” she said quietly, “Do you notice a difference to Mr. Knightley’s demeanor?” The pair looked over to where Mr. Knightley was good-humoredly showing Harriet and Jane Fairfax how to play bowls. He smiled so wide when Harriet attempted to throw the ball that one could almost see his dimples from where Emma and Mrs. Weston sat at the other end of the garden.
Emma sipped quietly at her tea. “I cannot say that I do.”
Mrs. Weston made a thoughtful noise. “I have always known him to be a pleasant, and fairly even-tempered young man, but I dare say I have never seen him laugh and smile as much as he has in recent weeks.”
Emma watched him joke with Mr. Weston and a gentle smile graced her lips. “Well you know he is fond of a walk. And now with it being warm again, I imagine he is able to be out in the fields and the forests almost as often as he would like.”
“Or,” said Mrs. Weston, meeting Emma’s eyes with a sly look, “I was entirely right on imagining a match between Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax.”
Emma furrowed her brow but willed the rest of her expression to stay neutral. “Oh?”
“Oh yes. They do get on so well and they do make such a handsome couple, don’t you agree? Perhaps she is the reason for his smiles. And he has come to more gatherings since she has been staying in Highbury, though he is so very busy.”
In the distance, Emma could see that Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax had begun taking a walk around the garden. They seemed very deep in conversation.
“Yes,” said Emma tightly, “Perhaps that is the reason.”
A few evenings later, Mr. Knightley arrived for dinner and found Emma in the music room. It was becoming one of their regular spots to steal a quick kiss.
He stood by the door for a while and watched her play the pianoforte with a fond smile on his face. When she finished she came to him and they kissed slowly, with Mr. Knightley wrapping his arms around her waist to pull her close.
“Emma…,” he whispered as he tenderly brushed his mouth over hers, “Tomorrow I shall ask your father for your hand.”
Emma pulled back. “Why?”
Mr. Knightley opened his eyes, looking surprised and slightly confused. “Why?,” he repeated.
“I do not wish to marry,” said Emma, matter of factly, “You have heard me say so hundreds of times.”
He stared down at her face. “But...what we have been doing…?”
Emma placed her hands on his chest. “I greatly enjoy what we have been doing. Can we not stay as we are?”
He started to say something, but thought better of it. “Yes,” he stammered, “Yes. If that is what you wish.”
She smiled at him. “Yes, it is.”
Then Mr. Woodhouse called from the other room to say that dinner was ready, and they were obliged to break apart and join him.
Rain began to fall as they ate their meal. Then a heavy thunderstorm began - one that showed no signs of letting up until the early morning. Mr. Knightley had walked from Donwell, as usual, but Mr. Woodhouse refused to offer him use of their carriage back as he feared the roads would flood and cause the horses to slip, the carriage to get stuck in mud, and leave the whole party vulnerable to a strike of lightning. It was promptly settled that a room would be made up for Mr. Knightley, and he would spend a warm and dry night under Hartfield’s roof. The idea of Mr. Knightley being safe at home with them seemed to cheer Mr. Woodhouse so immensely that he called for everyone to have a small glass of claret and to stay longer in the Drawing Room for cards and conversation. Emma and Mr. Knightley had locked eyes when Mr. Woodhouse announced, on no uncertain terms, what was to be done. Her heart began to beat faster when a silent understanding passed between them, and the frantic pounding of the muscle would not let up for the rest of the night. She was practically vibrating when she retired upstairs and Biddy undressed her.
Emma paced her room while she waited. Occasionally she would arrange herself on her bed, but would then get up almost immediately to rearrange some flowers or neaten some papers on her desk. She agonized over her appearance - deciding first to remain in just her chemise. After a period of time she removed it and sat naked upon the bed, but that proved to be too bold for her. She then tried her dressing gown over her chemise, only to exchange it later for a bed jacket. Eventually she returned to just the chemise.
A couple of hours later, after all the servants had gone to bed, Emma heard a soft knock on the door. She approached it carefully and then slowly, oh so slowly, opened it. On the other side stood Mr. Knightley, barefoot but clad in his shirt and breeches. He entered the room quietly and set down his candle, then he went and sat at the edge of Emma’s bed. She came to him then, standing between his legs as she drew off her chemise. His eyes raked over her as she stood completely bare before him. He smoothed a hand down the soft plane of her stomach and traced the ridge of her hip bone. Emma shivered at his touch. Mr. Knightley stood to remove his clothes, then they were both naked and examining each other in silence.
“George…,” she whispered as he grabbed her backside and brought her against him.
He groaned softly as her breasts pressed against his bare chest. “What do you want,” he said hoarsely in her ear, “What do you want from me.”
“Touch me,” whimpered Emma as one of his hands began stroking her lightly between her legs.
There was a somewhat wild look to his eyes and he was rougher with her than he usually was - gripping her tightly and kissing her hard. She liked it. And she told him so as he laid her on the bed and kissed her neck.
“Emma,” he said reverently, “Emma…”
“George,” she moaned as he slid his fingers inside her and sucked on her nipples, “Please...I want you...I want you inside me.”
She expected him to refuse at once, to talk again of honor and propriety and ruining her, but instead he braced himself above her and asked, “Are you sure that is what you want?”
“Yes,” said Emma as she drew her arms around him.
He nodded and kissed her roughly, spreading her legs wide. “You need to be wet for me,” he breathed in her ear as he returned his fingers to her cunt. He found a special, tender place inside that ached for him and he rubbed at it until she gasped with pleasure. He smiled as the orgasm he drew from her made her cheeks turn pink and her inner muscles grip his fingers uncontrollably.
“Please, please…,” said Emma as he removed his fingers slowly, “I am ready.”
He moved over her and then he was pushing inside. She threw back her head at the pain, but it soon faded and was replaced by the exquisite sensation of his cock filling her completely. He tried to go slow but she ran her fingers through his hair and begged him for more - to take her harder. He obliged, burying his face in her neck as he fucked her. She moaned and called his name, clutching at him as he went deeper and deeper into her. He lifted his head to watch her as she took him, smoothing her hair back from her flushed face.
“Perfect,” he whispered, “So perfect, my love.” He said it so faintly, Emma was unsure if that was what he had truly said. But it did not matter, for the new pleasure she was experiencing was so intense and all-consuming.
After a few minutes more he withdrew from her and groaned harshly, spilling onto her stomach. “I am sorry,” he gasped as he caught his breath, “I could not...last.”
“It’s alright,” Emma panted, placing her hand over his own that rested on her thigh, “It was wonderful.”
Mr. Knightley rubbed his forehead and began to look around at the bed and the floor. “Is there something to, ah, clean you with?” He made a move to grab his shirt.
“Wait,” said Emma as she reached under her pillow, “I have this.”
He took the item from her, blinking at it. “Is this my handkerchief?”
“Yes,” she laughed lightly, “I meant to return it. I hid it so no one would find it.”
He looked at her tenderly, then carefully wiped his spend from her stomach.
“Don’t go,” she whispered when he was finished, “Stay here. Please?”
“Of course,” he said as he drew the blankets over them, “I’ll stay as long as you want.” He held her close and kissed her forehead and soon, Emma was fast asleep.
She awoke a few hours later, feeling drowsy but content. She rolled over to go back to sleep and stretched out her limbs. Then, quite instantly, she realized she was entirely alone in her bed - when there should have been a warm body beside her. She sat up and saw Mr. Knightley sitting in the chair by her desk, dressed once again in his shirt and breeches. He was gazing off into the distance, one hand cupping his chin in thought. Though he was not looking at her, Emma felt suddenly exposed and pulled the blankets up to cover her bare breasts.
“George?,” she asked quietly, “Will you come back to bed?”
He shook his head softly at her words, then covered his eyes with one hand. “I cannot.”
Emma frowned. “You cannot?”
“I want to,” he said as he rubbed his eyes and dragged his hand down his face. “I want to. But I have had enough.”
“What do you mean?,” asked Emma as she wrapped the blankets tighter around herself and moved closer.
He looked at the floor. “This arrangement is making you a whore, and me, wretched.”
She blinked. “What?”
Mr. Knightley finally turned to her, his eyes glassy with unshed tears. Then he rose from the chair, picking up her discarded chemise on his way towards the bed. He helped her into it, then tipped her face up to his while stroking her cheek softly.
She gripped the front of his shirt, trying to bring him close to her. “George…,” she whispered.
He looked at her for a moment. Then he brought his mouth down to hers for a scorching kiss that made her whimper. He smiled sadly against her lips when he drew back.
“I want you to care for me, as I care for you,” he said while tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, “But you cannot.”
Then he broke away from her and left the room without another word or look.
Emma sat on her bed, staring at the chair Mr. Knightley had been sitting in until it grew light outside.
Almost everything Mr. Knightley says when Emma wakes up ("This arrangement...I want you to care for me") is actually from The Piano
I just added to it/altered it a little. Coincidentally, the original lines are also spoken by a "George."
It's such a beautiful film and if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it!
(Marianne and Colonel Brandon play this lawn game in the 1995 Sense & Sensibility)
Emma was fully prepared to lose Mr. Knightley almost entirely. No more arguments over insignificant things, and definitely no more flirty teasing. Certainly they would still see him at social gatherings, short afternoon calls, and when John and Isabella were in town. But Emma was sure his random visits would now be a thing of the past, and the thought made her heart sink.
But barely two days later, Mr. Knightley appeared once more in their parlor after dinner. As though nothing had changed. He was polite and charming as ever with Mr. Woodhouse, gamely playing a few rounds of chess. His manner with Emma was a little stiff and restrained, but he still spoke with her and made attempts at humor. Emma was too flustered by his presence to say much of anything.
Eventually Mr. Woodhouse grew drowsy and announced his intention to go to bed. Mr. Knightley rose with him and murmured something about being on his way. Emma flushed deeply when he wished her a quiet goodnight and she stammered out a farewell in return. Her father headed upstairs and Emma paced the parlor, wringing her hands with indecision. Finally her mind was made up and she ran from the room and out the front door.
The man in question turned at her call, eyes wide and startled. Emma ran quickly up the small incline outside of Hartfield and then stopped a few feet before him.
“I…,” she began, then trailed off and closed her mouth once more. She had made to catch him as quickly as she could, but she had not thought of what she would say to him once she reached him.
Mr. Knightley looked at her silently for a moment, then he nodded to himself and removed his hat with an anemic half-smile.
“Emma,” he said, coming a little closer, “I do not wish you to worry. I will not fail to visit your father because of our...dalliance. He is a great friend and I will continue to help him with business matters as much as I am able and will always pay him the respect he is due.”
Emma swallowed, hoping it would make her tongue work again but no sound came forth. She nodded limply instead.
Mr. Knightley’s eyes raked over her face, then he sighed and looked down at his hat as he fingered its felted brim. “What I said the other morning...I want you to know that I am not angry. You owe me nothing. My feelings for you are of my concern alone, and I will endeavor to forget them. I would like us to remain friends, if you should wish it.”
“Yes,” Emma finally replied, voice thick with an emotion she could not name. “Yes, we shall always be friends.”
Mr. Knightley gave her a watery smile and donned his hat. “Goodnight Emma,” he said softly. Then he walked off into the night.
A few days later, Emma and Harriet walked to town in order to make a visit to Ford’s. Harriet was in a sunny mood and chattered amiably about a dress she was having made and what color ribbon might go best with it. Emma longed to talk with Harriet about such frivolous matters, to be a regular girl and enjoy the things that regular girls enjoyed. But she was no longer a regular girl. She had lain with a man out of wedlock. She was some sort of temptress - she had seduced Mr. Knightley into her bed and had made him fall in love with her. How she wished she could tell Harriet of it all!
“...and do you think I could wear orange with my complexion? Perhaps a saffron?...Miss Woodhouse? Are you quite alright?”
Emma snapped out of her reverie and turned to her friend. “Oh yes, yes I am quite alright.”
Harriet eyed her skeptically. “You look a little flushed.”
Emma touched her cheek. She thought of Mr. Knightley in her bed...
Suddenly Emma remembered something she had promised to do while Mr. Knightley was in her bed.
“Actually Harriet,” said Emma, resuming their walk, “There is something I wanted to talk with you about.”
“Whatever could it be Miss Woodhouse?”
“I have been thinking...and I do believe I had entirely the wrong impression of Mr. Robert Martin. I have had the opportunity to reflect, and I have come to the conclusion that he is a very fine young man. I was very wrong in what I said about him.”
Harriet blinked at her. “Robert Martin?”
“Yes - I was wrong to persuade you against a friendship with him. He and his family are all good people. And Mr. Knightley always speaks so highly of him.”
Harriet nodded at Emma’s words and then seemed to get lost in deep thought for the rest of the walk to Ford’s.
She had returned to speech by the time they had made it to the shop, though she was much quieter and more thoughtful than before. For the first time in several days, Emma felt cheered. Perhaps this would be the first step in mending the bridge between Harriet and Robert Martin. Immediately Emma thought once more of Mr. Knightley and telling him of what she had done - how smug she would be at having set it all right! But her spirits deflated quickly, for the very idea of talking to Mr. Knightley about something even vaguely related to marriage turned her stomach and made her heart pang in a peculiar way.
While Harriet discussed the details of her new dress with Mrs. Ford, Emma wandered off to look idly at some silk flowers. She was entertaining, once more, moody thoughts of Mr. Knightley when Mrs. Elton appeared beside her.
“Oh Miss Woodhouse!,” cried the other woman, “How very fortunate to find you here! I was just thinking of you.”
“Oh yes! For I have had the most marvelous idea - a dinner party at the vicarage! Very small, very exclusive you know. Only the best people. Mr. E and I, and Knightley - such a particular friend of Mr. E’s! And dear Jane, of course.The Weston’s, certainly. And you. And Mr. Woodhouse! Though I’m sure your father…” Mrs. Elton continued on with the minutiae of the dinner party while Emma’s mind began to long for escape.
After a few more minutes of Mrs. Elton monologuing about the importance of cream colored invitations over ivory colored ones, she announced that, depend upon it, Miss Woodhouse would very soon receive her invitation to the dinner. Then Mrs. Elton flounced out of the shop with all the air of superiority that she could muster.
The night of the party arrived and Emma was filled with nerves. She disliked going to events at other people’s houses anyway (for she hated to be out of her element and without control over the environment), but this would be the first time she and Mr. Knightley would be in company together since he had ended their secret, illicit meetings. She was certain that she would have a continual blush for the whole evening. And to make matters worse, Harriet had not been invited and Emma would have to brave the party all alone.
Everything seemed off as she readied for the evening. Her hair was dull, a slipper’s ribbon broke, and every gown she tried on seemed to reveal too much of her collarbone and the tops of her breasts. Eventually she decided that white would be the easiest and safest choice and dressed in a pale gown with tulle accents and a white satin sash that tied behind her into a bow. Then Biddy began to arrange her hair into the style she had worn to Mr. Cole’s party. She seemed to sense that Emma was low in spirits and tried to engage her mistress in cheerful talk, but Emma could not be roused from the depths of her anxiety. Emma glanced in the mirror when Biddy was all through, added a pair of gold earrings, decided it was the best that could be done, slipped on her evening gloves and left.
The lonely carriage ride was made all the worse by the fizzy, nervous feeling that increased in Emma’s stomach the closer they came to the vicarage. She attempted to distract herself by sorting through her reticule but, as its contents were light, it was only a momentary diversion.
Before too long the carriage stopped before the Elton’s home and Emma was walking slowly up the front steps. She was then ushered inside by a wiry, red-haired manservant who seemed to be pleading for help with his eyes. Emma mused that if she were in his situation, she too would long to work for anyone but Mrs. Elton.
Before too long Mrs. Elton swept into the hall and exclaimed, “Oh Miss Woodhouse! How wonderful that you have made it. We were starting to worry that you had been run aground by a highwayman or a roving band of gypsies like poor, little Miss Smith!”
Emma blushed and bit her lip as she followed Mrs. Elton into the drawing room. “I apologize for my lateness, but on no account should the gypsies be blamed for it.”
“Yes, yes,” said Mrs. Elton breezily as she whipped open her fan, “Knightley was just telling us all about them - weren’t you Knightley? You see, Miss Woodhouse, as the town magistrate, dear Knightley went to speak with them recently. Were you not saying so, just now?”
They all turned to Mr. Knightley, who was drinking from a small glass of wine. He lowered the glass and Emma noted that now he was blushing.
“Yes. After Harriet Smith was...attacked.” He met Emma’s eyes then, signaling to her that he remembered what she had confided to him about the event. “They are very warmhearted and I believe we should be kinder in our dealings with them. Though, as a nomadic people, they have since packed up and moved on.”
“They told him his fortune!,” intercut Mr. Weston in his booming, cheerful voice, “Will you not tell us what they said, Mr. Knightley?!”
Mr. Knightley blushed even more and was almost the color of his glass of claret. He averted his eyes from all and began to fiddle with his signet ring. “Unfortunately, Mr. Weston, I do not put much stock in such things. They told me of plentiful harvests and notions of vague good luck coming my way. Things anyone might be told.”
“Anyone who is willing to fall for their begging and open their purse strings,” scoffed Mr. Elton.
Mr. Knightley frowned. “They are a fine people,” he said quietly.
Mrs. Elton, sensing a new tension in the room, cried out, “How well Miss Woodhouse and dear Jane look this evening! I say a woman is never lovelier than when she is in the bloom of life and unmarried - would you not agree Mrs. Weston?”
Mrs. Weston laughed lightly. “They do look handsome this evening. White suits them both so well. Don’t you think so, Mr. Knightley?” Then she met Emma’s eyes quickly with a gleam of mischief that told her she was thinking, once again, of a match between Jane Fairfax and Mr. Knightley.
“I do not consider myself a leading authority on ladies’ attire, Mrs. Weston.”
“Come now,” said Mrs. Elton, “Surely as a bachelor you must have some opinions on what is most becoming. Jane is the very picture of an English rose. All white and pink. And Miss Woodhouse! I could not pull off such a style of sleeve, but Miss Woodhouse is bolder than I. I think she looks quite angelic.”
Mr. Knightley cleared his throat and shifted slightly in his seat. “Indeed. They both look very lovely,” he replied, smiling a little at both Jane and Emma.
When the group moved onto other topics, Emma saw Mr. Knightley take a long look at her out of the corner of her vision. She could almost say that he was savoring her with his eyes as he ran a finger lightly along the glass of his wine cup. Then Emma blinked and he looked away.
Dinner was, surprisingly, more than tolerable and Emma had to admit that, even though everything had been done ostentatiously and in lurid colors, Mrs. Elton had an amount of taste and a good eye. If she was after a prize for having the brightest jellies of any table, then she certainly deserved it.
After the meal the women returned to the drawing room while the men stayed at the table for spirits and gentlemanly conversation. “We will do very well without them,” declared Mrs. Elton as she arranged herself on a velvet sofa, “Much better in fact - for we may talk as we please!”
Emma sat beside Jane Fairfax, who had been very quiet for most of the evening and seemed determined to remain so now. But she was not to be so lucky - as the very favorite pet of Mrs. Elton, the miserable girl soon became the center of deeply unwanted attentions.
“Jane,” said Mrs. Elton slyly, “Mrs. Weston has supplied me with an interesting notion. A very interesting notion indeed. I believe you are already aware of it, Miss Woodhouse?”
Emma looked to Jane, who gave no helpful hints of what the woman might be referring to. “I do not believe I am aware of what notion you speak of, Mrs. Elton.”
“You are, Emma,” said Mrs. Weston suddenly, “But I did not supply Mrs. Elton with anything - she merely expressed a thought to me and I admitted I had entertained a similar thought and then shared it with you.”
Emma blinked at the pair of married women. “Mr. Knightley…?”
“Oh yes,” replied Mrs. Elton, fluttering her fan, “I would so cherish a match between Mr. Knightley and sweet Jane. Can you not imagine it?”
Emma looked to Jane who, instead of blushing in embarrassment or pleasure (or both), had blanched to the color of boiled turnips. Far from pleased, she looked absolutely terrified. “Mrs. Elton,” said Jane quietly, “Surely you are joking.”
“I certainly am not! Dear girl - do not pretend you do not notice his attention to you. Why Miss Woodhouse, before you arrived Mr. Knightley asked Jane if she would like for him to send for his carriage to take her home after dinner. I assured him that Mr. E’s very own carriage would see to Jane, but he was so very gallant!”
Emma could not tear her eyes away from Jane, who in turn could not tear her eyes away from her hands resting in her lap.
Mrs. Elton, oblivious, continued expressing her approval over the potential union. “I think they suit each other exactly - their temperaments are so very similar. Jane is so agreeable and Mr. Knightley is so generous. A very dignified couple. Oh Jane you must encourage affection in him. Think of how happy you would be! Mrs. Knightley instead of a governess - the two cannot compare! A perfect match - and think of this: Knightley is a great friend of my caro sposo, as you know, and we are such good friends as well! How happy we shall be, we can meet as often as we please.”
Just then, Mr. Knightley entered the room and his arrival sent Mrs. Elton into a peal of laughter. Mrs. Weston blushed, but even she could not contain her smile. Jane refused to look at anyone.
Mr. Knightley looked entirely perplexed and, instinctively, turned to Emma for answers. Emma, unable to come up with a reason for the women’s behavior that did not reveal what they had been discussing, merely granted him with a nod and a weak smile.
“Speak of the devil and he shall appear!,” cried Mrs. Elton.
Later that night, Emma was wide awake and could think of nothing but what she and Mr. Knightley had done in the very bed she laid upon. Mr. Knightley’s head between her legs as she moaned and writhed. Mr. Knightley standing over her as he kissed her and brought her to orgasm with his fingers. Mr. Knightley lying on top of her, holding her hips to his so that he could grind himself hard inside of her.
She thought mostly of the night he had deflowered her - his arms next to her head as he gazed at her with his heated, tender stare. Kissing his neck and feeling the muscles of his back under his smooth skin. Her hands on his ass, encouraging him to go deeper. She nearly gasped aloud, alone in her room, remembering the pleasure of it all.
Suddenly in her mind’s eye, Emma saw Jane Fairfax lying with Mr. Knightley. She saw him kiss the other woman deeply and tangle his hands in her dark hair as he thrust into her. Emma bit her lip and blinked wetness away from her eyes. She saw Mr. Knightley whispering “I love you” to Jane as they laid on their sides and he wrapped his arms around her. She saw Mr. Knightley make a woman that wasn’t her feel safe and cherished. But Emma had denied him and he was now free to go out and pursue any woman he saw fit - perhaps he was even beginning to set his sights on Jane Fairfax as Mrs. Elton and seemingly 500 others desperately wished for.
Emma could bear it no longer and turned her face into her pillow, crying herself to sleep.
If you have been reading my stuff for a while, you may have noticed that I changed my name! It is an homage to Harriet Smith's "Most precious treasures" box.
I will often listen to the Emma. soundtrack will I write these stories, but lately I have also been listening to another Isobel Waller-Bridge-composed soundtrack: Vita & Virginia
It's very good for when I'm working on the moody or angsty parts of a story.
I used the word "deflower" because it is historically accurate and because of all the flowers and floral prints in the 2020 Emma
Emma's Outfit for the Dinner Party:
Emma basically has a panic attack this chapter and there is a significant mention of the age difference between Mr. Knightley and Emma and how it affects their relationship.
As with all my Emma stories, I write visualizing them as the 2020 characters portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn. There is very little made of their age gap in that movie, so it is a little hard to tell how big of a difference the filmmakers were going for. Emma is the only character (besides Jane Fairfax) who is given the definitive age of "nearly twenty-one" in the film, but in real life Taylor-Joy was 23 when they filmed. Johnny Flynn was the exact age (36) described for Mr. Knightley in the novel when they filmed, but I believe he reads at least 6 years or more younger as I saw many reviews call him "too young" for the part. Other characters, are supposed to be in their late teens (Harriet) or early/mid-twenties (Mr. Elton, Frank Churchill) but the actors who portray them were in their late-twenties/early thirties when they filmed - like Johnny Flynn, this matters little because they largely "read younger."
For all of these reasons I have decided that, for this story at least, the age gap between Emma and Mr. Knightley is ten years - which seems to be what they were going for in the 2020 movie.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A week or so after the Eltons’ party, Harriet appeared at Hartfield in a state of high agitation.
“Harriet!,” cried Emma as she leapt from the settee upon seeing her wild-eyed friend, “Is something the matter?”
“Oh Miss Woodhouse,” Harriet breathed, “Robert Martin has asked for my hand - again.”
"Yes. He came to Mrs. Goddard’s this morning. Oh Miss Woodhouse! Please don’t be angry with me!”
“Why ever would I be angry with you, Harriet?”
Harriet lowered her gaze for a moment, then looked up at Emma self-consciously. “I have accepted him…”
Emma strode across the room and took Harriet’s hands. “This is marvelous news. I could not be happier for you - truly.”
Harriet let out a gleeful giggle and the two girls hugged each other tight.
For the first time in a long while, Emma looked forward to Mr. Knightley’s evening visit.
She had decided to avoid bringing up the news of Harriet’s engagement in front of her father for the time being. He had only just gotten used to Miss Smith’s visits and general presence in their lives and Miss Taylor’s - Mrs. Weston’s - marriage had been such a shock to him. She vowed to converse with Mr. Knightley on the subject when she was able to somehow maneuver them out of earshot of her dear papa.
As it was a cool summer evening, a fire was drawn in the parlor and Mr. Woodhouse soon grew drowsy. Always one to think and act quickly (for better and for worse), Emma saw her opening. When she was certain her father was fully and deeply asleep, she said to Mr. Knightley quietly, “It is such a beautiful night - would you care to go for a walk?”
Mr. Knightley looked up from his book, confused. He stared at Emma for a moment, then he looked over to see Mr. Woodhouse snoring away in his chair.
“Alright,” he replied, and softly shut his book.
Emma wrapped her shawl around herself as they ventured into the chilly night air of the garden. Mr. Knightley clasped his hands behind his back and gazed at the ground as they walked.
“I have good news - though I predict you may already know what it is.”
Mr. Knightley raised his eyebrows. “Oh?”
“Yes - Robert Martin and Harriet are to be wed.”
Mr. Knightley smiled a little then, glancing over at her. “Yes you are quite correct, I am already aware of the happy news.”
Emma reached out an arm to run her hand along some shrubbery as they circled her home. “See? I was able to set it right in the end.”
“You?,” laughed Mr. Knightley, “I recall telling you exactly what needed to be done - you merely implemented my instructions.”
“There would have been no ‘instructions’ to give if I had not told you of Harriet’s accident.”
“Ha! None of this would have been necessary if you had left well enough alone to begin with!,” cried Mr. Knightley.
Emma tried to school her expression, but she quickly broke into a fit of giggles. Mr. Knightley laughed with her and they smiled at each other warmly.
“I’ve missed you,” said Emma.
Mr. Knightley was quiet as he looked her over. “I’ve missed you as well.”
Emma wasn’t sure who started it - perhaps they had met in the middle - but suddenly she found herself pressed up against Hartfield’s ivy-covered wall with Mr. Knightley’s tongue in her mouth. She moaned happily and let him take whatever he wanted for a few blissful minutes. But when she began to push forward so that she may turn and have him up against the ivy, Mr. Knightley jolted in her arms.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he gasped, stroking her neck and kissing her jaw a few times as he attempted to break away from her.
Emma felt like a heavy stone had been dropped into her stomach. “Wait, please -”
Mr. Knightley caught her hands with his own as she tried to reach for him. “I do not want you this way,” he said firmly, “Please - let us go back inside.”
Emma flushed with a hot wave of embarrassment and shame. She averted her eyes and whispered a quiet “thank you” when he handed her fallen shawl back to her.
Mr. Knightley filled their walk back with light, cheerful talk - trying to get them back to the ease they had enjoyed mere moments before. Emma bravely upheld her end of the conversation, even going so far as to offer a few laughs here and there, but really she was doing all she could to swallow back a pitiful river of tears. Her father awoke a few minutes after their return and she took that as an opportunity to declare herself very tired and headed to her room as quickly as she could.
From her bedroom window she watched Mr. Knightley make his way back to Donwell Abbey. She felt like some terrible, wretched damsel trapped in the haunted tower of a Gothic novel. A great sense of foreboding came over her and she found it difficult to breathe. Worst of all, she found it increasingly hard to stop crying - jagged heaving sobs that would flare up anew the second she thought she had calmed down. Perhaps she was going mad. She sank down to the floor, hugging her knees to her chest. Torn between the acute pain she was feeling and the sense that this was all very dramatic really, Emma remembered what Mr. Knightley had said when she was persuading him in the greenhouse to take her maidenhood.
“He has done it,” she thought ruefully, “He has ruined me.”
Once again, Mr. Knightley had been completely right in his assessment of a situation.
🌸 🌸 🌸
Emma was a fool for thinking herself incapable of falling in love. For she had always been in love - and in love with Mr. Knightley.
After the realization came to her completely, Emma could do nothing but think of him and all the moments they had shared through the course of their lives. It should have been so obvious - but Emma was always very good at seeing what she wanted to see and ignoring the rest.
There in one memory she saw herself watching him as he slept in the grass near the Abbey’s orchard. He must have been twenty at the most, and as pretty as a girl with his smooth cheek and long hair. She remembered the way his eyelashes cast delicate shadows across his lovely face. She thought him beautiful.
She thought of the reading lists she had made up over the years in order to impress him with the books she intended to read - how he had grinned at the list she made at fourteen! He declared it “wonderfully composed” and announced that he would keep it.
“But Mr. Knightley,” Emma had smirked while arching a brow at him, “How I am to make any progress if you have the list?”
“Like a great many things you set your mind to Emma, I have no doubt that you will soon lose interest and move on to some other fixation. Perhaps another list of completely different books, or another project altogether,” he winked at her and patted his jacket pocket, “It will be quite safe with me - should you decide you simply cannot live without it.”
Around the same time he preserved her reading list, there was a moment where they both realized she was too much of a young woman and not enough of a child for him to pick her up or hold her in his arms. He had been helping her down from a tree and her newly present breasts had pressed against his chest as he set her down. She had locked eyes with him then and the look that passed between them was charged with acknowledgement of a significant change. Emma had blushed furiously as he removed a leaf from her loose hair.
“There, you wood nymph,” he said, ducking his head to smile at her, “You are a lady once more.”
She would always remember the way his hands slowly left her waist as he stepped away from her under the canopy of branches and lush, green leaves. Shortly afterwards, Emma began to wear her hair up and her idyllic days of wooden sword fighting, climbing trees, and looking for fairy rings with Mr. Knightley came to an end.
The next time he was to hold her in such a way was when they danced at the Crown Inn ball.
She should have been more careful with him; she should have encouraged an attachment, as he had tried to. Now it was too late - he no longer wanted her. He had said so himself.
At the end of the week, Emma had an encounter that rubbed yet more salt into the wound of her heartbreak.
As Emma was walking to Mrs. Goddard’s to collect Harriet for a fitting of her wedding gown, she ran into Mrs. Elton on the road. These chance meetings seemed to be becoming a regular occurrence between the two women.
“Miss Woodhouse!,” called Mrs. Elton as her carriage slowed and stopped.
Emma came to the carriage window and looked up at the woman smiling down at her in a throughly pleased manner. “Good day Mrs. Elton, I trust you are well.”
“Quite well! Thank you for your kind regard.”
They chatted benignly for a few minutes until the conversation naturally began to dry up.
Though she was in a gloomy mood, Emma forced herself to smile. “I apologize for holding you - I shall let you get on your way.”
“Oh! I had completely forgotten why I had called you over. I have such a delicious bit of news. I am sure you will find it most engrossing.”
Then Emma listened in horror for several long minutes as Mrs. Elton detailed some recent events that, she believed, had culminated or would culminate soon in the engagement of Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax.
Apparently she and Jane had seen Mr. Knightley one morning while he was meeting with Mr. Elton about some business at the church. Mrs. Elton had told him of her desire to take a party to Box Hill, but a lamed carriage horse had soured her fantasies of a rustic picnic.
“Well,” Mr. Knightley had said, “It is certainly not Box Hill, but if you are looking for something of an escape you and Miss Fairfax are welcome to come to Donwell Abbey. The strawberries are ripening and I have more than I care to deal with. I shall extend an invitation to Miss Fairfax’s aunt and grandmother as well.”
Just yesterday the party had converged on the Abbey and Mr. Knightley had been most generous with his time and home. He gave them a tour of the house and grounds, showing them his favorite spots, rooms, and paintings. Quite the museum he lives in declared Mrs. Elton. She was delighted to relate that Mr. Knightley and Jane had been getting along so well that she just had to intervene and manipulate a few small matters so as to allow the two of them to walk together as much as possible throughout the day. Evidently “dear Jane” and “Knightley” had much to discuss!
“Is it not wonderful?,” cried Mrs. Elton as she reached the end of her tale, “Mr. E and I spent much of last night discussing the pair. We believe an engagement will be announced any day now. What a marriage it shall be! She is a gentlewoman in every way but situation, and he is just the exact, kind gentleman to make her what she ought to be. I am sure all of Highbury will rejoice to see the match made.”
Sorry for continuing to make everyone cry in the club! I promise this is the last angsty chapter and the next one is all fluffy, kissy goodness.
Ever notice "Half Up Hair" in a Regency-set movie or TV show? Only young girls wore their hair down during that period in England. It was considered improper for adult women to wear their hair (click through the whole thread) loose in public.
If Mr. Knightley hadn't been there to help Emma out of the tree! "The sad Effects of Climbing Trees"
Sorry! 😮 This chapter became so much of a Large Adult Son that I had to cut it off. The next chapter will wrap everything up with extra fluffy cuddly fluff.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Three Weeks Earlier
Mr. Knightley dismounted Bessie when he was close to the gypsy encampment.
“Good girl,” he said, patting her flank and stroking her mane as he walked with her to the edge of the forest. After making sure she was tied securely to a tree, Mr. Knightley carefully approached a group of children playing among the roots of a giant, old oak tree.
“Ah, do you speak English?,” Mr. Knightley asked a small boy snacking on a crusty hunk of bread.
A gangly girl of no more than eleven suddenly appeared beside him. “Aye, we speak English.”
The girl eyed him critically. “What do you want?”
“Is there someone I could, uh, speak to?”
She appraised him for a moment longer with her withering stare. “Come with me.”
Mr. Knightley followed the girl as she bounded over to a cluster of tents and covered wagons. She brought him around to one caravan that had been opened in the back to reveal the gentle sound of wind chimes and the sweet, medicinal scent of dried herbs and flowers.
An old woman sat outside the caravan, spreading out a series of brightly-colored cards onto a small table.
“Púridaia!,” called the girl. The old woman smiled at her and the two conversed briefly in a language Mr. Knightley didn’t understand. After a moment the girl looked back and beckoned him closer with her hand - though her gaze said she was still wary of his presence and intentions.
The old woman didn’t seem to share her concerns, for she warmly invited him to sit at her table and he did so gladly.
“Here, Emma,” said the old woman, handing the girl a sweet of some kind.
Upon hearing that name, Mr. Knightley’s head whipped around to look at the little girl. She barely spared Mr. Knightley a parting glance as she took the treat and ran off, her long braids trailing behind her.
“She is my granddaughter,” said the old woman.
“Ah,” said Mr. Knightley, blinking away his dazed expression.
The old woman nodded at him and began to gather her cards back together and secure them in a velvet pouch. “My name is Sarah Gray. What may I do for you, Mr…?”
“Knightley. George Knightley. I am the owner of Donwell Abbey near Highbury.”
“Ah, my son Yoben has been working at one of your farms this season. What may I do for you today, Mr. Knightley?”
“It’s not so much what you may do for me, Mrs. Gray, but what I might do for you. I regret to inform you that a young woman had an accident recently - including a fall and a twisted ankle - and blamed it on an interaction with a band of gypsy children.”
“Yes - no such thing occurred, but the story has spread. As magistrate of Highbury I have come here to see how I might better strengthen relations between you and the village.”
Mrs. Gray smiled gently at him. “That is very kind of you, but we shall be leaving very soon.”
“But you need not -”
“I thank you for your concern Mr. Knightley. This is our way. We do not tend to stay in one place for a long time, as you do.”
A shadow fell across Mr. Knightley’s features as he thought of his large, empty home. Something tugged at his heart. “Yes. I understand.”
At that moment the little boy, who Mr. Knightley had found eating bread earlier, appeared with a big, fluffy male cat in his arms.
Mrs. Gray tried to shoo him away, but Mr. Knightley turned to the boy and asked, “What is his name?”
“Would you like to pet him?”
“Oh yes.” Mr. Knightley reached out his hand and began scratching Bui around the ears. The cat started to purr intensely and rub his head against Mr. Knightley’s knuckles.
The boy looked up at him in wonder. “How did you know he likes it behind the ears?”
“Hmmm, I had a cat once - Lodge. He was long-haired, like Mr. Bui. Liked a good ear scratch as well,” smiled Mr. Knightley.
After a few more minutes of scratching and petting, Mrs. Gray said, “Thank you Lel,” and the little boy left after shooting a wide, gap-toothed grin at Mr. Knightley.
When Mr. Knightley turned back to the table, Mrs. Gray had a soft smile on her face. “Do you have children Mr. Knightley?”
He shook his head. “No...I am not married.”
She studied him for a moment. “Have you ever had your fortune told?”
The corner of his mouth quirked up. “I have not.”
“Would you like to?”
Mr. Knightley huffed a good-humored, dry laugh. “I must be honest - I do not believe in such things.”
“That is alright,” said Mrs. Gray, “I never read for free and you seem an openhanded man. If you don’t like what you hear at the very least you will have felt that you did right by an old lady.”
Mr. Knightley chuckled darkly at her words and relaxed into his chair. Mrs. Gray held out her hands and nodded towards his own. He extended his right hand towards her and she took it gently. She flattened out his palm and said, “I will look at both hands for a little while and then I will tell you what I see, yes?”
Mr. Knightley watched Mrs. Gray as she worked. She examined not just his palms, but also the fronts of his hands, his skin, and his fingernails.
“You are a very interesting man, Mr. George Knightley,” said Mrs. Gray after a time, her head still bent to study the nuances of his knuckles and digits.
“Oh?,” he asked with some amusement.
“Yes - I already know that you are a gentleman from your appearance and what you have told me about yourself. Your hands and skin reflect this - pale, largely unblemished. But there are contradictions. You are not a laborer, but your dry skin and calluses suggest you are active - perhaps on your lands? You are rich, yet you are also generous. You care about the people of your village, otherwise you would not have come all the way here to speak to me about a young woman who twisted an ankle.”
Mr. Knightley blushed a little. “I cannot argue with most of what you say.”
“Oh I am not finished. You have demonstrated that you dislike lying and unfairness. There is a tenderness about you - you enjoy children and animals. And though you are a busy, hardworking man, you have long fingers. That is often the sign of an intellectual person. A curious, thoughtful person. Perhaps you are also a writer or a player of music. There is no artifice in your manner, everything you are is plain to see. Steadfast. Yes, a very interesting man indeed.”
She traced the lines of his palms gently. “All of these things - yet you are unmarried.”
“Indeed,” Mr. Knightley said quietly, his eyes downcast.
She looked up at him. “But you would like to be?”
He hesitated for a moment. “Yes,” he said honestly.
“Hmmm. You have a youthful face, but hands are often revealing. You are old for a bachelor. You are either picky or have had little time for romance - or both! Until now. Is that correct?”
Mr. Knightley swallowed and opened his mouth. He did not know what to say.
“You do not have to tell me,” she said smiling at him fondly, “There, I am finished.”
Mr. Knightley blinked at her. “That’s all?”
Mrs. Gray laughed heartily, a joyful, honeyed sound. “That’s all! My dear boy - what did you expect? That I would tell you the woman you love will appear before you in a field of flowers? That you will meet a tall stranger on the darkest of nights? No Mr. Knightley, I am afraid our fortunes are entirely up to ourselves. I have just given you some insight.”
Mr. Knightley frowned slightly. Mrs. Gray took pity on him then, reaching out to place her hand gently over his. “I will tell you one more thing. Your heart line - here, the line at the top of the palm under the fingers - is faint, but it is strong and unbroken on both hands. If you see love as your obstacle, I would not despair. You have always had love in your life. But perhaps you did not know how to have it, or how to let yourself have it. I think you often avoid your feelings and know not how to express them. Listen to them now, hm?”
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Emma was a terrible friend.
All throughout Harriet’s initial fitting with Mrs. Ford - mainly just a short meeting to take additional measurements and select fabrics and trimmings - Emma was lost in her own thoughts. She could rouse herself enough to offer the occasional “Yes that lace” or “What about a Pomona-colored sandal? ,” but she knew she was drab company for such a cheerful errand. She wanted to be happy for Harriet - she was happy! - but her broken heart had just been torn further, set on fire, and drowned in the river.
Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax engaged.
All of Highbury would rejoice to see the match! Emma scoffed. She wondered if she could convince her father to travel to London to visit John and Isabella so that they may avoid the wedding.
Perhaps I could stay on in London, thought Emma as she fingered a bright pink feather trim. Or sneak onto a boat and sail to France. Or Spain. She sighed, looking over at Harriet as she beamed joyfully over a bolt of lilac silk.
By the time Emma returned to Hartfield she was miserable but almost numb.
She kissed her father hello while he read through the newspaper in his favorite chair. “Any news papa?”
“Hmm, I am being told now is a good time to invest in rubber. Oh - and Mr. Knightley was just here. He is leaving tonight for London.”
Emma’s fingers stilled under her chin where she had begun to remove her bonnet. “London? For how long?”
“He did not specify - though he suggested it would be for quite a while.”
She looked out the window. “He left recently?”
“Not more than a quarter of an hour ago, I would say.”
Emma’s pulse thrummed. Why was he going to London? To tell John and Isabella of the engagement? To buy Jane a ring? This is my last chance, she thought suddenly.
“Papa, I have something I need to tell Mr. Knightley - for Isabella. I shall return for dinner.”
“But it looks like there will be rain!”
“I will be back soon!,” Emma called as she rushed out of the room and into the darkening storm clouds of the early evening.
It had started to drizzle by the time Emma made it to Donwell Abbey. She had run almost the whole way there.
“Miss Woodhouse!,” said a startled Mrs. Reynolds when Emma was let into the entrance hall, “My goodness, did you walk here?”
“Is Mr. Knightley here?”
“Unfortunately he is not at home madam.”
Emma’s heart sank. “He has left for London already?”
“London? Oh no, not yet. He is merely out for a walk - as he is wont to do. Surely I thought he would have stopped in at Hartfield. Well, come in, come in. He will return soon enough.”
“Mrs. Reynolds, do you know where he might be walking?”
“Oh most likely the forest. Or the orchard.”
“Thank you. Good day Mrs. Reynolds.”
“But Miss Woodhouse! The rain!,” cried the housekeeper.
Emma found Mr. Knightley soon enough. She had been in the forest but a few minutes when she spotted him coming towards her through an expanse of bluebells. It had started to rain quite heavily and Mr. Knightley was walking with his head down. Emma rushed forward to meet him at the edge of the vivid, indigo-colored flowers.
Mr. Knightley looked up and recoiled like he had seen a ghost. “Emma?”
Emma's lips parted and she felt warm drops of rain slide into her mouth. “Are you engaged to Jane Fairfax?”
Mr. Knightley squinted at her through the substantial rain and frowned slightly. Droplets of water dripped from the brim of his hat. “No?”
“Oh. You aren't?”
He shook his head slowly, then he moved closer so that he was no longer shouting at her through the forest and the rain. “But you thought I was?”
She nodded. “I spoke to Mrs. Elton and she told me as much.”
They stood in silence for a moment. Then Emma grew brave and took a few steps forward. “You once spoke of wanting me to care for you. As you cared for me.”
Mr. Knightley’s stare was hard and piercing, his blue eyes almost as bright as the flowers at their feet. “I did.”
Emma swallowed, blinking water from her eyes that could have been either rain or tears. “Is there any chance your feelings have not changed? What I mean to say is - I will let you ask papa for my hand now.”
Mr. Knightley paused and Emma froze, thinking she had made a mistake. Then he strode forward, removing his hat as he stopped before her. He looked at her lips, then up at her eyes. Emma barely nodded before Mr. Knightley was kissing her soundly, one of his hands splayed across her cheek and the other wrapped around her waist.
“Nonsensical girl,” he breathed against her lips when he pulled away, “Of course my feelings have not changed.”
“But you said you did not want me. That night in the garden.”
Mr. Knightley sighed deeply. “No Emma,” he said before kissing one of her hands softly, “I meant I did not want to kiss you in the dark and sneak up to your bed."
She closed her eyes and nodded at his words, gathering up his own hands to place kisses upon them.
Mr. Knightley shuddered a little as her lips pressed lightly against his knuckles. "Will you marry me, Emma? Say if you will. Please.”
She smiled at him tenderly as she brushed her fingers over his lips. “Yes. I will marry you.”
After a few more minutes of kissing and holding each other, Mr. Knightley insisted they return to Donwell to get out of the rain. Emma took his hand when he offered it and they ran out of the forest, laughing like children.
Been doing a lot of research on gypsies/the Romani in 19th century England and came across this book called "Jane Austen & Crime" that talks about all the depictions of various crimes in Austen's novels and what it meant for the time period and how we understand them today.
Painting of a 19th Century Gypsy Encampment
19th Century Romani families & names - featuring the name "Emma"
Mr. Knightley's "Hand Type"
Pomona and "Colours of the Regency"
Most Regency era weddings were held in the morning, so brides often wore their best dress and it wasn't always white. Because fabric was so expensive, Regency women wanted to be able to wear their wedding dress again and again. In my head canon, Emma is helping Harriet pay for a new dress to be made for her wedding - but it is still a "day" dress.
I keep making this longer and longer!! -______-
Thank you so much for sticking with this and I'm so sorry for not updating in so long. I moved and got caught up with that, etc. I cherish all your lovely comments and predictions so much. After I finish with this story I want to start another canon fic with less chapters (famous last words).
Hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Emma Woodhouse never imagined that she would one day find herself completely naked in Donwell Abbey.
Though, to be fair, she had never imagined she would also find herself engaged to Mr. Knightley.
After the dramatic meeting in the rain and the whispered confessions and promises of everlasting commitment, the pair had returned to the Abbey soaking wet and shivering with wide grins pasted on their faces. Mrs. Reynolds had been shocked to see them in such a state and quickly spirited Emma upstairs for a hot bath and a change of clothes.
“Lord help me if you should die here,” the housekeeper had mumbled as she helped Emma out of her drenched and muddied garments.
Emma settled comfortably into the bath as Mrs. Reynolds stepped out to find something for her to wear overnight while her gown and undergarments were cleaned and dried. She heard Mr. Knightley meet the older woman in the hall and Emma lifted her head a little to hear snippets of their short conversation.
“Mr. Knightley you cannot be here!,” came Mrs. Reynolds' scolding tone.
Then Mr. Knightley’s warm baritone voice murmured something and Emma could have sworn she heard the words “Mr. Woodhouse” and “My head on a pike.”
“Yes, yes,” came Mrs. Reynolds' reply, her voice fading down the hall, “When the rain has stopped.”
After her bath, Emma was wrapped in a robe and shown to a bedroom that had been cozily made up with fresh linens and a crackling fire. Emma glanced out the window at the darkened sky, rain still pouring down heavily.
Mrs. Reynolds bustled in with a dinner tray for her and set it by an armchair near the fire. “Don’t fret Miss Woodhouse, it is early yet and I think the rain should stop in an hour or so. We’ll send a man to your father - say you’re here and safe til the morning when your clothes are ready.”
Emma frowned - Mr. Woodhouse would have a terribly anxious night alone at Hartfield. “Can I not borrow something? Perhaps something of Mrs. Knightley’s?”
“Oh no,” Mrs. Reynolds shook her head as she uncovered a few dishes on the tray, “No, her things are long gone. Jewelry was kept of course, for the future generations. I believe Mrs. John Knightley has a few pieces. But the madam’s gowns and such were given away shortly after her passing - God rest her soul. Mr. Knightley is not one for nostalgia. Or romance! There was never a word on keeping anything for a future missus. I truly doubt he will ever marry.”
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Emma sat in the armchair and looked over the food prepared for her - a charming meal of white soup, chicken tartlets, and a mug of spruce beer. There was a baked apple with custard for dessert, which made her smile. She instantly imagined Mr. Knightley quietly asking a kitchen maid to have something sweet brought up for her. It seemed very like something he would do.
She glanced around the room while she ate. It was a good-sized bedroom with tasteful wallpaper and curtains. She wondered if Mrs. Reynolds saw to the decorating all by herself, or if Mr. Knightley had a say in any of it. She thought not - Emma could not picture him pouring over fabric samples. He had not the patience for it and would surely find it dull work indeed.
Later, after she'd had her fill of custard, Emma sat on the floor by the fire to brush her hair out and braid it in one long plait down her back. She had just begun to eye the turned-down bed when there was a soft knock at the door. “Come in!,” she called cheerfully, assuming it was a maid come to take the tray away.
The door opened and in stepped Mr. Knightley, shutting the door gently behind him. He was dressed now in a long nightshirt and a dressing gown of his own.
Emma’s eyes widened. “George!,” she whispered fiercely, though she was entirely pleased to see him, “What if someone finds you here?”
Mr. Knightley smirked at her and placed his hands in the pockets of his dressing gown. “Ah, that is the pleasure of being master of one’s home - for I may send the whole house to bed whenever I want.”
Emma’s heart beat a little faster as he came and sat behind her on the floor, gathering her up in his arms so that she was leaning against his chest. He was warm and solid and she melted against him.
“Do you wish me to leave Emma?,” he whispered into her ear.
“No,” she all but moaned as he began to plant hot kisses along her neck.
She felt him smile against her skin. “I assume you are not wearing anything underneath this robe?”
Emma laughed lightly and shook her head. Mr. Knightley bit her ear and slid a hand into the front of her dressing gown, sighing deeply when he met bare flesh. She turned her face up to him and they kissed slowly while he caressed her breasts and ran his hand down her stomach.
“George?,” Emma panted in between kisses.
She swallowed and fiddled with the collar of his dressing-gown. “You seemed almost frightened to see me when I found you. Did I really cause you so much pain?”
Mr. Knightley stilled for a moment, then he kissed her temple and moved his hand up to stroke her collarbone. “I was...quite hurt by thinking you did not want me as I wanted you - but that is not the reason for my shock.”
He pulled back from her slightly. “You will laugh if I tell you.”
“I shall not!”
Mr. Knightley eyed her skeptically.
“I swear it.”
Mr. Knightley raised an eyebrow at her and sighed. “Do you remember at the Eltons’ dinner party when I talked of my visit to the gypsies?”
“Yes! You had your fortune told. Good harvests and such things.”
“Indeed. But that was partially a lie. I spoke to a very interesting lady who read my palms and told me the woman I loved would appear before me in a field of flowers.”
Emma’s mouth dropped open in shock as Mr. Knightley blushed and avoided her eyes.
“She said it merely as a joke at the end of the reading,” he explained while twirling a bit of her hair, “But then today…I was most overcome. By you...the flowers...all of it.”
“Oh George,” sighed Emma as she brought his mouth down to hers for another kiss.
“I love you Emma,” Mr. Knightley murmured as he kissed her cheeks and eyelids. “I believe I have always loved you.”
The beauty and sincerity of his words gripped her heart and squeezed tight. Suddenly she was burying her face in his chest while hot tears coursed down her cheeks.
“Emma, love, why are you crying?”
“Because I love you!”
He let out a dry laugh. “And that makes you cry?”
“I am afraid!,” sobbed Emma, “Of change, and things I cannot yet imagine.”
“Oh my dearest…,” He tried to calm her, but she would not allow it yet.
“And papa! How am I to leave him?! He could not bear it - and I think I could not as well.”
Mr. Knightley took her face in his hands. “There will be no change,” he said firmly, desperate to see her stop crying, “I shall come to Hartfield.”
She looked up at him. “You will?”
He smiled, revealing his dimples. “Yes - there is no reason that I cannot be master of Donwell while residing at Hartfield. Everything may stay much as it is, but now I may be with you truly and rightly. In your bed - as I belong.”
Emma sniffed, and her tears slowed but did not stop.
“Does this not make you happy?”
“It does!,” Emma insisted.
“Then why do you cry still?”
She laughed. “Now I am crying because I am extremely happy!”
Mr. Knightley could not help the chuckle that escaped from him. He gathered Emma to him as she buried her face in his neck. He laid his cheek gently against her head.
“I love you,” she whispered as Mr. Knightley rubbed her shoulders and back, “I love you, George Knightley.”
She turned in his arms and straddled his lap fully. They began to kiss as she moved against him, grinding down hard to make him groan. Mr. Knightley pulled her robe down from her shoulders so that he could lick and caress her skin. When she was fully naked he tried to lay her back on the floor but she shook her head. He watched her every move as she withdrew from his embrace and began to undo the belt of his dressing-gown. Then she drew his nightshirt off and he tried to bring her back to his lap, but she playfully swatted his hands away. He was already rigid when she brought her hand to his cock, but the feeling of her there still made his eyes roll back.
“Shh,” she smiled, “Let me.”
She stroked him until he was cursing and calling her name in pleasure while his hands roamed her body. He loved every part of her. And his arousal increased knowing she desired him just as much as he desired her. She made him come in but a few minutes - just with her hand. Mr. Knightley thought it the most exquisite orgasm he had ever experienced. He moaned and fell back against the carpet when it was through.
“How you have ruined me, Emma,” he breathed.
Emma trailed a hand through the hair on his chest and smirked. Then she leaned down for another kiss.