“My darlings!” Emma exclaimed, dropping her now empty baskets to envelop each man in turn, first her husband, and then her father. “Were you looking for me?”
Her sunny countenance suddenly turned anxious, as she seemed to consider something she had not thought of before. “Oh, good Lord! Is everything in good order? Has something dreadful happened? Is it Anne? Or …”
“Calm yourself, my love,” George’s deep voice rumbled. “Nothing of the sort has happened. Your father and I were merely waiting for you to come home, so that we could have a private talk with you. Come, let us go to the morning room.”
Mr Woodhouse was nodding in a vigorous way, Emma saw, while she let her husband take her by the arm. What were they up to? She sat herself down on one of the sofas and waited for her father to nestle himself in his favourite, overstuffed chair by the hearth. George went to stand by the mantelpiece and leaned against it, his elbow on the top, and his booted foot on the rail.
“My dearest,” he began, smiling at her. Emma had the direst of forebodings. This sounded serious. But George was already continuing.
“Emma, my love, your father and I are concerned about you. You are brooding, you are far too quiet, and moreover, you no longer rush headlong into impulsive decisions. That is not the Emma we know. Are you ailing? Are you in low spirits? You must not shut us out, dearest. We are both here to help you.”
George nor Mr Woodhouse could have predicted Emma’s startling reaction.
She was simply … bewildered. She gasped for breath, sat still for a few moments, and then, she laughed. No, she was suddenly in stitches. Neither man had the courage to do something about it, and they just let her go on with it. But eventually, Emma wiped her eyes with her handkerchief an looked at them gravely.
“My darlings … I do love you so. I apologize for my behaviour, but … let me reassure you. I am very well, and I have not been in low spirits – ever – in my entire life.”
She gestured to George to sit down next to her on the sofa and took his hand when he did so. She grasped her father’s hand, too.
“Papa, George, I have been doing some introspection, lately. What have I done with my life, up until this moment? The answer is startling, my dears; I have wasted it away.”
She saw the bewilderment on their faces and hastily and emphatically continued, “Yes! I have been so bored that I could not stop myself from meddling in other peoples’ lives, and that will not do! If you will just recall how I behaved towards poor Miss Bates and to Harriet Martin, then you will agree with me.”
She squeezed the hands she was holding. “No more of this silly behaviour! I have apologized to all my friends, and even to those whom I do not particularly care for, such as the Eltons. I have assured them I will mind my own business from now on.”
Both Mr Woodhouse and George were, of course, speechless.
Later that night, in the intimacy of their bedroom, George breeched the subject once again.
“Emma, my love, I have the distinct impression that you have not told me the whole story. You were gone for a long time, early this morning, and then you returned to collect your strawberry baskets. I believe I am not wrong in assuming that you went to the gypsy camp, am I?”
Comfortably settled against her husband’s chest, Emma sighed deeply. “No, my love, you are very right. I did go to see the old gypsy woman they call Elsbietha. I … well, I was concerned about something, and needed her advice.”
When she did not proceed, George kissed the top of her head. Softly and full of concern, he said, “You want a child so desperately, then, my darling?”
“How did you know?” Emma sobbed, now in earnest weeping in her husband’s arms.
“You adorable, foolish, lovable girl,” George whispered, then fell silent because emotion coked his voice.
After a while, George said, “Emma, give it a bit of time, my heart. If it is God’s will, we will have a child of our own, and if it is not, we will be as happy as we can without it. These matters are important, I know, but they are not so unsurmountable as they appear. Our mutual happiness, my sweet Emma, is solely in our own hands. We are the only ones who can make our lives worthy of living No one or anything else has the power to dampen our spirits, if we do not allow it.”
In later years, Emma frequently recalled the wise words her husband said to her during that night. She had followed his advice and stopped fretting about matters she had no control over. She had just enjoyed life to the full.
“Come here, you little imp,” she said as she got hold of eight-month-old Matthew, who was trying to snatch a miniature wooden horse from his older brother George, aged three. Their sister Meredith, now five, did not even look up from her drawing, at the childish behaviour of her brothers.
Ladies, Meredith was prone to repeat, never paid any attention to the machinations of silly male persons.
this concludes my continuation of Emma. I hope you will join me next Saturday for a completely different story.
I could not help myself but I simply had to write a new version of our most beloved period drama. It is now John Thornton’s turn to explain how matters truly stood, when he met Margaret Hale for the first time.
The Reform of John Thornton