The moon was full and bright, it shone throughout the crispness of the autumn night and Emma, for a brief moment, could feel its light piercing her eyes as they sped through the roads desperately trying to return to Hartfield before it was too late. Emma had very little recollection of how she and Mr. Knightley had ended up back in the coach, traveling well after dark. She did not remember the Weston’s sprinting down the stairs of Brunswick Square upon hearing her outcry, nor the gentle guidance of Mr. Knightley as he ushered her into the coach. She did not remember Mrs. Weston rushing to the kitchen to produce them food for their journey, though it would not have mattered, Emma could not even feel her stomach. She did not remember Mr. Weston promising to depart first thing in the morning with their contents and arrive directly at Hartfield. She did not remember Mr. Knightley reassuringly taking her hand, vowing to her that they would make it home as quickly as humanly possible. All she could remember were the contents of the letter that confirmed her deepest fear, so deep that she could never venture to consider it before now. She had been in London sixteen miles away from him when her father had collapsed during his pre dinner turn of a heart attack. She had been gone from him when he needed her most and that was the only thought her mind could repetitively, blairingly, entertain.
It was very early in the morning when they arrived at Hartfield, and though there was not a single light on in all of Highbury the entirety of the Woodhouse estate was aglow. John was waiting for them and he quickly helped Emma depart the coach before she ran faster than she had ever run, through the house and up the stairs to her father’s chambers.
Isabella was sitting beside him stroking his hand when Emma burst into the room. She ran to him, falling to her knees beside him. His breathing was shallow and his eyes were unfocused but he still managed a small smile upon her arrival.
“Emma my dear, you were not traveling after dark I hope.” He said weakly
She took his hand in hers, tears streaming down her face as she shushed and reassured him, pleading with him to contain his strength. It was not long before Mr. Perry arrived, having run back to the apothecary to produce some concoctions he hoped would alleviate Mr. Woodhouse’s pain. Mr. Perry knew better than to ask for privacy with his patient and though Isabella could not bear to see any procedure, Emma stayed exactly where she was. She was determined and would not leave his side, never again. Traveling and freedom be damned. She was his faithful companion and she would give up anything for him to be well. She prayed that the draft Mr. Perry was delivering would ease him into a healing sleep that he would awaken from restored to his jovial, cheerful, good self that she loved so dearly.