A Morning Request
Mr. Knightley sat at his desk addressing the day's business. Over the period of his marriage, that humane and disciplined man found a kind of contentment which he had never supposed possible. Then he was of the disposition to expect little and nothing beyond what he could modestly say he deserved. As an independent man of property, it would be appalling not to be entirely contented with his lot in life as he had far more than many. Fortune seemed to follow Mr. Knightly. Being not old but not young, and having been in control of his own fortune for some time, his friends were surprised to find a marriage added to his list of riches. More surprising was that this marriage was to his dearest friend Emma Woodhouse, whom he had known since her birth, when he had been sixteen years of age. At the time of his engagement, there was not a man who could have boasted a greater affection for or devotion to his betrothed. However, if one does not boast they are likely to be missed. Being inclined to modesty and a subdued sort of happiness, Highbury was captivated only a little by Mr. Knightly's claims on perfect happiness. His marriage was a simple affair talked of only because he and his bride were of the first rank. However, as to praise of their current joy and future bliss, they were outdone by others, with similar if much weaker claims. If Mr. Knightly's hopes as a groom had been pleasant, his married life had far surpassed them all. Emma was a devoted wife and a tender mother. Despite having their share of disputes, Mr. Knightly and Emma remained attentive lovers. They had developed a system where by each would be able to leave a quarrel feeling that he or she had won and the other side had conceded. Though their house was sometimes lively, it was never without the warmth of love or merry company.
It was a chilly January morning, with the kind of cold that could drive one to distraction. Emma sat in her favourite chair embroidering as close to the fire as possible. It had been her favourite since she was young and even now fully grown she could crawl into it and feel quite small. With nearly numb fingers, she waited patiently for the parlour to warm up. Being committed to excellence and industrious all week, Emma mused proudly over her accomplishments. She had learnt three new songs as per request for the Weston's dinner party, all the week's business was done and her sampler was almost finished. Though never overflowing with modesty Emma could justly be impressed with the effect. All that was remained unfinished were several green leaves. She sat, as she had for many mornings since the birth of her first child, by her husband. He tended to the early business and then after Emma would take his place and write her letters. This time was Emma's favourite. While her husband shuffled through papers, she knitted or read. There was comfort in this relaxing hour, sitting silently by him and thinking about her life and those of her children. It was in these moments that she mused about their futures. And it was in these little reveries that she usually forgot the object of her task, what ever it was.
"Mr. Knightly could you hand me my sewing basket I am a little tied up here," requested Emma. Mr. Knightly did not answer; he didn't even move. "Mr. Knightly," Emma called again. Still her husband took no notice. He was fully engrossed in estate business. "Mr. Knightly," she called a third time. "George!," called Emma in a sweet but frustrated voice. He immediately rose and took a place next to his wife. "Emma darling what it you want?" he asked eagerly full of smiles. "Stop grinning like that and hand me my sewing basket. I am all a tangle."
"Anything else my dear?" he asked as he retrieved the basket and she cut herself loose.
"What is the matter with you? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"You called me George."
"That is your name."
"You never call me George."
"I had to get your attention somehow. You seemed determined to ignore me Mr. Knightley. I could not allow that." Mr. Knightley kissed his wife and placed the basket by her feet, returning to his work. It could not longer hold his attention and he turned back to her to ask "My dear, do you think you might call me George?"
"Where does this come from? You have always been Mr. Knightley to me and it is Mr. Knightley I love."
"We have been married for six years Emma. I do not call you Mrs. Knightly." This prospect brought a grimace to both their faces.
"My love what does it matter what I call you? You are still my husband."
"I know what I am Emma. It is just that I hoped in time you might begin to think of me differently, as your equal."
"Do not say such a horrid thing. I never want to be your equal sir. If I were, I would have no one to guide me when I go wrong. That can never be." Emma cried ended with one of her wry smiles that turned up in one corner.
"You are not a child Emma. Have six years changed nothing between us? I do not think myself superior to you in principles or discernment. You are able to act under your own power without my advice. I can't remember you ever following my advice when you did not agree with it."
"Oh do not say that. I cannot bear to hear it. I do not want to think about that."
"I only meant that you do not need me to decide things for you."
"But I so like it when you tell me I am wrong. It spares me the trouble of having to understand myself."
"Emma I would like to be serious."
"I am being serious. It is you who are being silly. You have always been Mr. Knightly and I cannot think of you in any other way."
"You called me George just now."
"You drove me to it."
"I only want to know that you are happy with me as a husband."
"Of course my dear. How could I not be?"
" I am not too old for you?," he smiled.
"What is the matter with you? You speak as if you are infirm. You will sound like my father soon. Do not tell me you will start with a daily regiment of gruel?"
"No," he laughed, "but do you now wish you had married a younger man?"
"I never wished I had married any man but, Mr. Knightley."
"You never wish you had married a man closer to your own age or that you had not married so young."
"What more could I have achieved? I have married my most beloved friend. Who but you would have left his own home to be a guest in my father's. You have sacrificed so much for me and I could not love any other man old or young as much as I love you. If I had not married I would be unmarried still and very lonely."
"I would have still been here everyday. I am sorry Emma. Excuse my suspicion." Satisfied Mr. Knightley returned to his work "It is alright George. We all have doubts. I suppose it is in your rational nature."
"You will?," he cried with a smile so frightfully wide and full of teeth, that it scared Emma a little.
"I do not like it at all. But you have sacrificed for me and I suppose I must make some sacrifices as well."
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