1. Simfield House, SimshireSir, Thank you ever so much for compiling these. I know it must be rather a strain on your time. The format of the entries and letters was rathergood and, I feel, quite easy to follow. However, I might suggest you take another look at your foreword—it is as if you are having a frankconversation with the reader! That cannot be entirely appropriate, I dare say. I await the second package eagerly! Sincerely, Lady Simself
2. Martin Hall, SimshireMy Dear Miss Lily Simself, Your sensitive condition has recently come to my attention and I should very much like to extend my friendship in this most challengingtime. I assure you, if there is anything you need which is in my power to do or give, you shall have it. I am no great seamstress but my dearMiss Austen and I are resolved to at least fashion a small cap for the infant. With the two of us working together surely we should be able tomanage! Or, at least not ruin it completely. It is the thought that counts anyway, is it not? I am, hopefully, your friend, Emmap.s. Marian is outraged at me signing my name so informally. If it offends your sensibilities do please send the letter back with your complaints and I shall rewrite the whole thing!
3. 1 Marian gave this to me months ago for my last birthday and I am ashamed to admit it has sat under my bed until now! Yesterday afternoonshe asked how I was getting on with my journaling and I had to confess that I am still not certain what to do with it! “Write down yourinnermost thoughts, Emma!” she says… Thing is I usually just blurt them out for the world to hear. Aha! Perhaps this was her way of helpingme with my little “problem.” Marian says that it is the one thing she and Isabella agree on—that a lady absolutely must keep a diary. (She alsosays a lady must keep a penknife in her bodice at all times to protect from highwaymen and that sort, but she is just silly. Everyone knows ablunt sewing needle is more discreet and decidedly more painful.) What are my innermost thoughts, though? And why should I tell them to a nameless book? …
4. 2Dearest Mama, Can you believe it—I am in Simland! At last! I apologize heartily for not having written sooner… I have been here so long already, nearlythree years, and yet it seems like days! It rains here just as much as at home but ‘tis somehow less green and more…grey. The air smells of aninteresting combination of flowers and wet dog, especially in the summer and yet it is somehow very pleasing. Now, though, the leaves havebegun to fall, so there is that general “autumn” scent. That wet dog smell isn’t far behind, of course, but it is muted. We always said we would come here together once the wars were over and Father was home for good. I suppose that will never happennow as he’s dead. Heavens, that sounds so very ungrateful of me! What sort of a daughter must I be if I may address my father’s death sononchalantly?
5. Of course Father and I never really got on. Why would we? He had four healthy sons already and no need whatsoever of a daughter. Adaughter, mind you, who finds books and rain far more interesting than gentlemen and pretty frocks. Pity he looked at that as an abominationrather than see me as someone interesting. “An unusual lass is nothing but crass,” he’d always say to me. What nonsense. But I digress. (Do you not hate it when people say that? ‘Tis rather pretentious, I think. Forgive me for not wanting to muss my elegant letterwith scribbling out the stupid things we know I am likely to say!)
6. I wish you were here with me now, though my Haggerty cousins are very kind to me. I am so very grateful to them for bringing me here.We had such a jolly visit when they came to Simlucan to see Father, but I never expected them to offer me a trip to Simland! As I say, they are sokind to me, and Georgie’s little children are so precious they almost make me want to have some. I’m not sure I could be a mother, though. Children, I find, are often found dripping in one unknown substance or another and I have enoughproblems keeping myself tidy. EL-OH-EL. This is my new favorite phrase by the way. It is so terribly enjoyable to say! You ought to attempt it,and ignore all who scoff! Miss De says it is ever so common where she is from and she is determined to see it spread about Simland.
7. I wish you could meet my new friends! Miss De is Simerican but not at all awful! She and I met the very first week I arrived after I’d gone tocall on Mrs. Simself—oh Mama, for me to explain to you what a Simself is would take an extraordinary length of time… Perhaps I shall tackle the explanation another day, but for now it is time for tea. At long last! With most affectionate love, Emma …
8. 3Dearest Mama, Today I spent the entire afternoon in the library at Austen Park. My dearest friend, Miss Marian Austen, and her father have said that I mayuse their library as often as I please and oh! Mama, it is fantastic! It is two stories, can you imagine? They apparently knocked out an old storeroom on the ground floor to match up to the original library above and it is just absolutely unimaginably amazing. I could live in there! I know not how they came to have so many volumes but there is literature on everything! Indeed, I found a book today with calculatedinstructions on baking raspberry tarts. Not a recipe book, mind, but one only about those tarts. I think it was penned by an ancestor of theAusten family… James or someone.
9. While there I encountered John! I have not told you of him, but he is the second son of the master of Austen Park. He is a delightful youngman and dreadfully intelligent and he is the most perfect, wonderful—We spend most of our time discussing books whenever we see oneanother, and to have the both of us in a library of that size? We can rarely handle our enthusiasm. Indeed, the first time I met him was in that library! -
10. “John, isn’t it?”“R-right.”I smiled. “I am sorry, did I startle you? Marian says that is extremely easy to do, but at any rate I am sorry if I did.”“…”Surely he wasn’t always this awkward? “Erm. How do you do?”“…”
11. “Good heavens! I thought you were meant to be the most intelligent Austen yet, though here you sit, utterly dumbfounded!” I laughed in away which I meant to be comforting but it was clearly not received that way. “S-sorry…” “Oh, I am only teasing. May I sit?” “…”
12. “Listen, John—may I call you John? “Er…” “Excellent! Now, you have no need to be wary of me. I may be a lady but I am first and foremost a scholar, and I wished to ask your opinionof a book.”
13. John exhaled. He looked vastly relieved. “Forgive my rudeness, miss. I have found that it is almost better for me to say nothing at all in thepresence of a woman as usually I become exceedingly nervous and stutter constantly. And that…” John trailed off, surprised, “that may actuallybe the longest I’ve spoken to a female without stuttering my words. Clearly all anyone needs to do is tell me they wish to speak of books!”
14. “Clearly! Now, the book in question is one my brother sent me from Simfrance.”“Indeed? I do love Simfrench very much.”“As do I! Gorgeous language, isn’t it?”“Absolutely. What was it you wished to speak of?”“Oh, it was a particular line in a poem…”John looked mildly green. I wondered if he’d eaten a bad biscuit. “Poem, eh?”
15. “Yes. It is a Simfrench version of an apparently Simlish poem by a Mr. Donne, I think, but there must have been a mistake in the translationof it; I cannot make sense of what an autumnal face is at all.” “Oh, Plumbob…” -
16. I had not seen him for weeks until today! He has gone off to university, of course, but he and his brother Robert, who is also at university,visit their parents and siblings quite often. Pemberley University is not far, you see—Simshire is not quite ten miles from Simdon. At any rate, this afternoon we were most happy to see one another and spoke for so many hours (it was almost indecent, EL-OH-EL) that hisparents insisted I stay for dinner. Eating a meal at Austen Park is almost as fascinating as the books. There are Mr. and Mrs. Austen, of course,and then seven children (when Robert and John are visiting, anyway), and then the governess, Miss Lark. The odd thing is that Miss Lark is sofamiliar with everyone! It is terribly rude by most standards but I think it is brilliant. She is so outspoken! I think you would like her too. I have great plans to read my way through Morte D’Simarthur this evening and so I had best get started! I love you and miss you terribly. Emma
17. 34Dearest Mama, I’d wager you haven’t heard from Patrick or Jamie if I haven’t, though I do worry about them so much. (My dear friend Mr. Surilie, a lovelyyoung man, is off to war as well though with the Navy rather than the regiments but luckily I have just heard from him.) Little William is safe, Iknow, for what sort of trouble could a seven-year-old get into? Well, a lot of trouble, I suppose, but nothing deadly. Usually. Good gracious, Ishall have to write his nursemaid and see that he is well now… I did hear from Stuart and Robert recently. Robert was just recently ordained and Stuart has finally found a wife! So, really, they’re bothmarried, if you think about it. I do not know when I shall have a chance to meet her, this new Lady Simlucan, but I hear she is gorgeous andalready with child. I dare say that may be the reason Stuart managed to find himself a wife, if you catch my meaning.
18. I miss you more than I can say. I miss the little jokes none but we could understand. Of course that may have been due to the fact that wewere the only two ladies in a house full of men, but mostly I feel that we had a shared comic personality. If not for Marian and Miss De I shouldhave nobody to laugh with, it seems! I would love nothing more than to have you here for a visit but of course I know that is impossible. It is time for mass so I must be off. Mrs. Simself has been so kind as to invite me to join her private services at the chapel at Simfield. I do notthink there is another living soul but myself and Mrs. Simself’s family that is of the Maxian faith! Love, Emma …
19. 41Dearest Mama, Life has been extraordinarily dull lately. Miss De and the other ladies at Simfield are in Simdon for the week, visiting Miss Lily and babyJuliet . . . and Marian is off with Mrs. Austen and Isabella calling on friends. I must confess this is one of those days when your absence is nearlyunbearable. Should you not be with me, preparing me to enter into society? Should you not be taking me on visits to all your wealthy friends? Ishan’t be presented at court now (not that I care one jot) and sometimes I wonder if—
20. With a furious dotting of an I my hand jerked and knocked over my inkwell. “Oh, fie! I just filled you, you horrid little thing!” I shouted at it, leaping out of my chair. The inkwell was not particularly bothered by myoutburst, but it certainly kept spilling liquid across the surface of my writing table. I gave the porcelain pot one last look of disgust and went insearch of something to rectify the mess.
21. “Why is everything so white?!” I fumed a few moments later upon turning out my clothes press and wardrobe. “Ridiculous, idiotic, horrible,fashionable nonsense. . .” I muttered.
22. I threw open my bedroom door intending to find one of the house’s few servants but instead I came face-to-face with Cousin Georgiana. “Ma’am!” “Emma? Is something the matter, dear?” “No! Nothing is wrong, not at all, why should something be wrong? Everything is perfect,” I beamed, my eyes darting left and right. Shedidn’t believe me for a second, I could tell. Indeed, Mrs. Haggerty gave me a disbelieving stare and pushed past me into the small room; I hastily threw one of the ridiculously whitelinen shifts over the mess as Mrs. Haggerty turned to sit on the bed and I sighed in relief when she didn’t notice the small pool of black on thefloor.
23. “I must say, Emma, I have very little idea of precisely what I am doing, but my sister has just finished berating me about my ill treatment ofyou.” I stared at her. “Ill treatment? Er, what? Which sister?” “Elizabeth, naturally, the upholder of all things proper in this family,” Cousin Georgiana said with an irritated smile of affection.
24. “But what can Mrs. Howard have meant? You and Mr. Haggerty have been nothing but kind to me! You rescued me from that horrid castleand brought me here to be with people my own age—” “Yes, George always has fancied himself as a knight in shining armor. It would not do to dash his fantasies.” “—you’ve made me your ward; you’ve let me buy monstrous amounts of books . . .”
25. Cousin Georgiana held up a hand. “I know, and I hope you have been happy here, but—” “I have been!” I assured her. I did not mention the fact that I’d just been writing about my misery. “But still, you have been ostensibly mistreated. Elizabeth has informed me that I am not doing my duty as your guardian. She says I have‘woefully neglected the societal needs of that charming young lady’ and she ‘worries constantly that she shall never have a husband’.” CousinGeorgiana sat for a moment and let me consider that. “…Is Mrs. Howard aware that I am not quite eighteen?”
26. “Yes, of course! But you see my dear, my sister and I were well into our twenties when we married, and I believe there was a time thatElizabeth felt sure it would never happen. Our parents were—how shall I put it?—preoccupied, with the lack of a male heir. After my brotherFrank was born they were preoccupied once more, but with his well-being. Elizabeth, Charlotte, Cate, Anne, and I were never officially enteredinto society, and while I suppose it was understood that we were of marrying age, neither Elizabeth nor Anne approved of the situation. Theyfelt that we ought to have been paraded around like broodmares or some such thing, but between you and me I am glad my parents’ thoughtswere otherwise employed. Elizabeth was very lucky and found Mr. Howard purely by accident, but there came a time where I—well, you knowmy marriage to Mr. Haggerty was arranged, but far later than it should have been.” “Yes, ma’am.”
27. Cousin Georgiana nodded. “So you see Elizabeth feels that I should have begun taking you on visits with me. Of course, I rarely go anymore,but she thinks I should make the effort for you. I never had the chance with my own daughter, and never went through the process myself, so . ..”
28. Get me out of this house! “I would love to go with you!” I bounced. “Would you? I expected you to call the institution ridiculous and tell me to be on my way!” Cousin Georgiana laughed. “It is settled then.Tomorrow I will be visiting some friends in the village, and you may come with me.” “Thank you!” I cried. “I have been dreadfully bored,” I finally admitted.
29. She grinned wickedly at me. “Well, if you need something to pass the time until tomorrow you could always clean up that lake of spilled inkover there.” Blast. Eyes of a hawk, this one. …
30. 43Dear Mama, I am so occupied lately I hardly have time to write anything! Mrs. Haggerty has been taking a great interest in my coming out; she drags mearound almost daily to some milliner, haberdasher, draper, or other, followed by countless visits to acquaintances. I have never had so manynew frocks or friends! It has been most surprising, I must say, for I thought Mrs. Haggerty would run mad with all the fuss after a day or so, butthis has not happened! She seems to be rather enjoying herself, and looks younger than she has in months. Mrs. Legacina often accompanies uswhen she can and that only makes the outings more enjoyable for all.
31. This afternoon we are visiting the Legacys; I cannot wait to see how Miss Lucy has grown, and how her younger brothers are fairing. Theywere so small and wiggly the last time I saw them…like little worms! Emma …
32. 57“I am so sorry, Emma,” he said. “I am sorry.”
33. After that, he dropped my hand as if it had stung him and left the room more swiftly than I might have imagined possible. As I watched himnearly run from the room I felt my hope follow him through the door. By the time I composed myself I am sure he was halfway back to Simdon. It is true; John Austen has seriously broken with propriety with hismost abrupt exit from the county. It was not only me he slighted, but his parents and sisters as well, but they are not so personally stung by hisactions.
34. “He is just upset about Robert,” Marian told me. Of course he is! We are all absolutely devastated. But no, I will not accept this. For once I must be selfish. For one time in my life I will bethe center of something. The reason John Austen is upset, right now, is me.
35. Not a bit of the blame may be placed on his shoulders, none of it on Dr. Trimble’s, and not one single shred of it on anyone else’s. I wrote of itnot long ago, the cause, almost congratulating myself at my cleverness! Oh, how sick it makes me to think that I prided myself on the ability togain his trust so easily when so many others had failed. I told him, “I may be a lady but I am first and foremost a seeker of knowledge!” EvenMarian was impressed at his ease around me, but she saw what I could not. She hinted at it once. “He just looks at you as another scholar andnot as a woman.” Well, he cannot be blamed for that, and I should have taken her words as notice that my heart would be better servedelsewhere! I did not. I deluded myself into thinking the simplest things meant love when he must have meant only friendship, camaraderie,companionship… One might say this is more than enough affection for two people to marry. Indeed, my dear Haggerty cousins despised one another before(and after!) their marriage, so surely a friendship is an excellent place to begin? It is not, in my opinion, when one half is hopelessly smitten andthe other sees the relationship as a matter of convenience.
36. I was so very happy this morning when I arrived at Austen Park, but then one is usually happy on their birthday, yes? Eighteen… I can stillhardly believe it. It was to be an excellent day. Marian and I were to go over our gowns for the ball and then persuade Isabella to take a long walk with us;Marian had proposed an excursion to Mrs. Legacina’s shop where she swore she would buy me the prettiest ribbon I could find as a birthdaygift. However, within minutes of my arrival I was informed that our plans were all rendered unnecessary: the ball is cancelled. Do not for one moment think I was distraught about that. It would be a very poor assessment of my character to assume I should bedespairing over something as silly as a ball. No, I was concerned about the reason for the cancellation of the ball. Half of the purpose of thisball was for Isabella; it would not be discarded without a vastly significant cause.
37. Still unaware of anything other than that the family wished to be left alone that day, I was swiftly escorted to the gate when Marian caughtup with us. She dismissed the servant most abruptly and, quite out of character for my dear friend, threw her arms about my neck. She wasshaking, and I started to worry in earnest. “Marian—” “It is Robert!” she moaned into my shoulder. I started to pull her toward the house, for as little as I care for what others think it wasnevertheless impractical to stand in the front garden bawling for all the world to see, but she proved difficult to move. “Come now, dear, let us go in and you can tell me what happened over t—”
38. “Tea will not fix this!” she spat. I have never seen her so angry, not even in the presence of Isabella. Before I could utter a single word of comfort, however, she did something I dare say nobody has witnessed in a very long time: she started tocry.
39. It was a good length of time before I had Marian calmed down enough to speak to me but I nearly regretted my efforts. Robert never hasbeen particularly well, that is no secret, but he has always managed to maintain a moderately normal life despite the constant illnesses. Thatmay never be the case again, but time will tell. Two days ago he was struck down at Pemberley with a horrid fever. Not shocking in and of itself, but the illness soon progressed to the pointthat blood would appear whenever he coughed. Doctors Doran and Trimble worked over Robert through the night and were eventually forcedto come to a sad, sad conclusion. I cannot bear to write it but I shall say that it was such a terrible diagnosis that John and Dr. Doran arrivedthis morning to personally explain the situation to Mr. and Mrs. Austen.
40. As soon as I could politely leave Marian I went searching for John. I had a fairly good guess as to where he would be. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as I turned and pressed the door closed with my back. I rested there for a moment before saying,“John?” in the quietest of voices, almost a whisper. But he heard it.
41. I confess I grinned automatically when his bright ginger head poked around a row of books. He returned my smile, but it was half-hearted. Why? “Good morning, Lady Emma. I hope the morning finds you quite well.” I was stung by the stiffness and formality of his words, and it apparently showed. “Forgive me,” John said, acknowledging the hurt on my face. “It has been…a trying few days. Robert—well… I am certain you’ve heardthe…the, erm…he—”
42. “Oh!” “I am so dreadfully sorry about Robert! Truly, I am! But John, you have to believe that he will come through this! I told Marian the same—you must never despair. It is not as bad as it seems now. To be sure, he is quite ill, but he will improve! Well, at least in part… but it will helpnothing for the rest of us to fall apart. We just pray for him, and I know I will surely…I will surely…John?”
43. John was frozen; I was aware that the only person he’d ever allowed to hug him was his mother, and that was almost twelve years ago. Hedidn’t seem to have registered a word I just said.
44. “Are you…?” I raised my hand to touch John’s cheek softly, but instead of leaning into it as I expected, John knocked it away as if he’d beenslapped.
45. “What are you doing?” he gasped as he stumbled back. “What are you—why are you…what—?!”“I just thought—I am sorry! John, I—please…”
46. John winced at the sadness in my voice, I saw it. I cannot blame him; sadness is the last thing anyone would expect from me. It appearedthat he was realizing my change in mood was because of him. He looked at his feet, and tried to keep his voice steady. “Miss, I do not know what you have assumed, but we have clearly misunderstood oneanother.” “But—”
47. “I am sorry, Emma. I am sorry.” I stood in the library alone for nearly an hour before Marian found me, tears dried on my cheeks and hands still partially extended after theman I thought I knew. I thought I loved. -
48. And so there is my great disappointment. I do hope putting it into words will soon ease my pain, though I daren’t address this to my mother. I detest feeling so melancholy. It does not become me well. I should probably feel hurt that nobody mentioned my birthday until I returned home this afternoon (and Cousin Georgiana had the loveliesttea lying in wait for me) but I do not think I can feel anything at all. …
49. 60Dearest Mama, Oh, what an afternoon! It has been an eternity since I last wrote anything of consequence and for that I am so sorry. I have been far more melancholythan I have a right to be, but this glorious afternoon has put that quite behind me. Before I begin about that I must first tell you of the last several months. Iam going to need a very great amount of ink! Almost a year ago, Robert and John Austen were excelling at Pemberley University and I was halfway in love with one of them. Back then, I was stillstruggling to convince Marian that kindness was the surest way to Isabella’s heart, but the two of them were hardly on speaking terms due to some row theystill hadn’t apprised me of. Before now, we were all still very disappointed about the ball’s cancellation, and Isabella spent a lot of time trying to convinceher parents to reschedule it. Now, the ball remains cancelled but I have hopes that Isabella may finally have made a breakthrough with Mr. Austen. I havealso grown exceedingly fond of Isabella, and she can now usually be persuaded into civility toward Marian as long as Marian is civil to her. They finallyexplained their great conflict to me, and I must admit I found the whole thing very silly.
50. “So. Do you wish to talk about it?”“No.”“Come now, surely—”“No.”
51. I sighed. Though Isabella and Marian had accepted my joint invitation to spend the afternoon at Martin Hall the sisters were absolutelyfrigid toward one another. Thank Plumbob the tea remains unserved! I do not tolerate unpleasant tea times. “Shall I guess then?” Neither Austen girl replied. “Hmm. Isabella, have you set your cap at Mr. O’Leery? That would certainly upset yoursister.”
52. Isabella smirked. “He is perfectly amiable, of course, but I have much more… refined tastes.” If I could have slapped myself on the forehead politely, I would have. Stupid, stupid… “Perhaps guessing isn’t the best idea,” I said, glancingat Marian’s reddening face. “You are going to give yourself a headache if you continue to grit your teeth like that,” I added, but I noted the reliefin her face. I had wondered whether or not Isabella would try to take Bleu away and clearly Marian had too.
53. “ Well,” Isabella said to her sister a minute later, “it is no matter to me if Lady Emma knows of our quarrel.”“Bella, no—” Marian warned, but Isabella was, as I would soon find out, already on a path of destruction.
54. “You see, Lady Emma, several weeks ago—months, really—just after our brothers left for university, Marian and I began contemplating whatwe would wear to the ball,” Isabella said sweetly. Marian was shaking her head slowly, and being completely ignored.
55. “Ah, I understand. You both wished to have the same gown made?” “Yes . . . and no. It started that way, but then Marian said some hurtful things about my appearance.” Isabella pushed out her lower lip. Ihated it when she did that, but I was too surprised by Marian’s behavior to care. “Marian, you didn’t!” I gasped. “That was unkind.” Marian looked at the fireplace.
56. “Of course, she was somewhat provoked,” Isabella admitted. “You see, I was not very happy to have to share my coming out ball with animposter.” “Imposter?” “I tried to resign myself to it, but I could not. I confess I may have said some unkind things to Marian as well.”
57. “Some unkind things?” Marian spat. “You insulted my intelligence! It . . . hurt.” That was perhaps the first genuine thing Isabella had said to any of us in ages but Marianobviously did not care. “It hurt, did it? Well, I am just so contrite. How horrible for you, to have your intelligence insulted. I wonder that you even recognized thejab!” “Marian,” I warned. “You all but called my mother a whore, and me a bast. . .ard.” Marian winced as Isabella beamed.
58. I actually tilted my head, confused. “Whore? Mrs. Austen? Why should Isabella say such a thing about . . . her own . . . mother. OH!Imposter! Oh, I understand. I do.” I narrowed my eyes as I noted how Marian looked horrified and Isabella like a well-fed cat. “Isabella, thatwas very harsh of you. Marian, while I understand your reasons, I am hurt that you did not trust me with the information of your birth. Indeed,you outright lied.” The usually pleasant expression on my face was replaced by one of censure on purpose. Marian and Isabella, at least, had the decency to look ashamed of themselves.
59. “So!” I said, sprightly as ever and more than happy to be able to move on as the tea cart was wheeled in, . “One lump or two?” -
60. Both of them were shocked at my ease in accepting the situation, but why should I not? Marian is still my dearest friend whether she is thedaughter of Mrs. Austen, Miss Lark, or the vicar’s best pig. I must say it was a clever ruse, though! Marian looks ever so much like Mr. Austenand has the same fiery hair as his wife, so who would ever guess things were not as they seemed? Even little Wills and Lucas—both of whom, Ilearned later, have the same parentage—take after their father a very great deal. It is nice to have things fully explained, though. Now, as to the other developments… You will remember that Mr. Robert Austen fell very ill last year, and his family was most concernedabout his welfare. Well! It was just as I predicted, can you believe that? He is still not exactly robust, nor has he ever been, but he was able toreturn to his studies not four weeks after his diagnosis and has not relapsed since. His sisters and parents are most overjoyed, and I can onlyassume his brothers feel the same way. What I did not expect, however, was my profound relief.
61. Until his actual recovery I had only looked at Robert in a way any young woman might view her dearest friends’ brother with whom sheshares only a passing acquaintance. It was sad, but it was not quite devastating. And yet, the day Marian sent that note saying Robert wasrecovered…! It was glorious. Since then, once Marian got an idea of just how overjoyed I was at the news of his improved health, she began urging me to pursue Robert’saffections. I confess I do like him, but I thought it very odd, at least at first, that I should look at him in such a way considering my recentdisappointed hopes in his brother. Also, it never appeared that we had much in common at all. He was always very kind to me, as is only right,but because Robert is known more for his temper than for his affection it is quite significant! Indeed, he is usually rude to everyone. I alwaysfind it hilarious, I must admit, that so many things send him into great fits of rage.
62. Goodness, I do know how to go on. As I was saying, Marian started prodding us toward a better friendship. Once she started trying to pointout his good qualities I could not help but see them.
63. The main thing that held me back from giving way to any affection for Robert was the awkwardness between John and me. I never did tellMarian about my true feelings for John. I think she guessed, but the words were never spoken. I certainly did not want to admit my failureafter the fact, so the only thing she ever mentioned was her surprise at John’s altered behavior around me. I hadn’t spoken with John from that time until yesterday. Almost a full year of essentially ignoring one other! It was not at all to my likingbut what was I to do? Miss De was very frustrated with me (I could not help myself from confiding in her) and kept threatening to…what wasthe phrase? Something indecent, I am sure! But she was horrified at our behavior and kept saying, “How can you be my OTP if you don’t eventalk to each other?!” It was just yesterday afternoon that she finally forced us to reconcile any differences.
64. Today is Mr. Henry and Miss Isabella’s sixteenth birthday, so last evening John arrived from Simdon to help prepare for the celebrations.Robert sent a note with John to make his excuses; he said his illness had put him behind on his studies and he could not tear himself away for aweekend at home. Isabella and Henry were disappointed (Isabella much more so, I think) but they understood. Marian was actually the most disappointed; she has been having an awful time of late. Not only is she less than half a year away from hertwentieth birthday and still not officially “out” but she has not had word from Captain O’Leery in many weeks. She has always brushed off thesympathy shown her as she was always certain he would return and make her his wife in no time at all, but now even she begins to doubt. Shevery much needed to see her brother, healthy and happy, as a form of comfort and was most upset at his excuse for staying away. It was just after ensuring that Marian was comfortably resting in her room after several hours of intense depression that I encounteredJohn—and Miss De—in the entrance hall. It was late; my time with Marian had taken the rest of the family quite through dinner and mostwere now retired to Mrs. Austen’s parlor.
65. Miss De claims to have been visiting Lark, but I know she came to Austen Park as soon as she heard of John’s arrival. It appeared that shehad been speaking with John for some time and that her actions were disturbing him, but she was determined that we speak. - “Ah, Emma! Finally. Doesn’t she look pretty today, John?” “Er.”
66. “She really does, I agree. Now Emma, The Gorgeous One was just explaining the function of a bone saw to me, SO fascinating, and I thinkyou should hear ALL about it too. The drawing room is empty, I think, why don’t you go in there and explain.” She said the last word with anedge to her voice that implied going against her wishes would result in torment.
67. John had not looked at me when I came downstairs. Indeed, he’d hardly looked at me in seven months. When he finally turned to face me Iheard his breath catch. Well, we were going to have to speak of the unpleasantness sooner or later. “Er, right. Bone saw. Sounds vastly fascinating.” “You could call it that, yes,” John answered without stuttering once.
68. “Excellent. Shall we?” I asked, gesturing toward the drawing room. As John and I disappeared into it I turned and gave Miss De a look thatclearly said “you are in deep trouble.” She responded in her own special way.
69. Once inside John turned one of his most pitiful faces on me. “Emma—” But Miss De had quite used up my patience for the moment. “Oh, are you calling me that again?” I snapped. I clapped a hand over my mouth in shock; I’d never been intentionally rude to anyone, andthere I was antagonizing John of all people. “Forgive me,” I squeaked. “No, I should be the one asking for forgiveness. Indeed, I am. Er, asking for forgiveness. Will you accept my apology?”
70. I considered that. I then considered the months I spent just going through the motions of my life, completely desolate and miserable in mydisappointment. It was due to weakness, but not without reason. “I…should like to understand why you left so suddenly.”
71. “Certainly, you deserve that much.” John paused for a minute. “I wish I could blame it on my brother’s condition, on the stress I was feelingat possibly having to take over as our father’s heir, but in reality I was simply… being a coward. Do you remember the first time we spoke?” Inodded. “Before then, I had seen you as a very beautiful young woman, someone so far above me in grace that I could not look at you withoutblushing.” John paused again and smiled at me. “You really are unfairly beautiful, Emma,” he murmured with a blush
72. I could not believe he’d just said that, so I said nothing in return. “Forgive me for taking the liberty of saying so, but it is true.” “Honestly John, you should take more liberties.” I shocked myself by being amused, but the amusement fled when that breathtaking smirkcrawled onto his face. I looked at the wall. “Do go on.”
73. “That day when you first spoke to me. . . you told me to stop thinking of you as a woman. It sounds absurd but that really stayed with methroughout our friendship. When I was able to see you as a scholar I could breathe around you. I could think. Even Marian, my sister, makesme nervous from time to time—” “I believe she has that effect on most people.” “—but with you, I could see eye to eye. We understood one another—or so I thought.” He swallowed. “Emma, when did you first believethat—er, that things had changed?”
74. I groaned silently. “Must we really—?” He nodded, I sighed. “It was a very long time ago, perhaps just weeks after we met and beganstudying those Simfrench texts.” John looked at his boots. “That long?” “There was a moment . . . one particular moment on an autumn afternoon when we were arguing over the validity of Roussimeau’sargument. I said something silly, I cannot remember what, and you just. . . smiled at me—you really, truly smiled at me in such anincandescently intimate way and I . . . ” I bit my lip. “It does not matter anymore, does it? It was foolish of me, and after that moment I deludedmyself into thinking that every kind thing you ever said was more proof of your affection which, as we now know, does not exist.”
75. “That is not true, Emma! I care!”
76. “Of course you do,” I said sarcastically. John sighed and turned away from me, and that is when Miss De poked her head in.“So, are you making out yet?!”I gave her a fierce look, forcing myself to look annoyed and not on the verge of tears.
77. “Oh, is that Cee I hear?” Miss De said airily as she backed away and closed the door as quietly as she could manage. Once again I surprisedmyself at being almost entertained. There was something very wrong with me, plainly.
78. “You weren’t the fool, Emma,” John muttered a few moments later as if De hadn’t interrupted. “I was the fool to be so completely blind. I was,well, a coward. I think I might have seen you as a lady had I not been exceptionally afraid of doing so.” He leaned forward, almost resting hishead on the mirror, and gritted his teeth.
79. Oddly, again I was amused…and smiling, even. “You know, guilt and worry have done wonders for your social skills.”John laughed. “Have they?”
80. “I forced you to look at me in this way, and yet here you are, saying very difficult things, and you have not stumbled over your words once,” Isaid, still smiling. I took a few steps forward with the intention of closing the awkward space between us, but John seemed very apprehensive.He looked left, right, upwards, and downwards—he looked anywhere but at me, so he missed it when I held out my hand.
81. “John,” I had to say before he noticed it, but he took it instantly when he did.“I was afraid you were going to embrace me again,” he admitted. “I . . . sorry. I am not a particularly, er . . .”
82. “Huggy person? Miss Rose teases Mrs. Simself about that all the time.”“Huggy . . . person?” John asked, entertained. “Simselves . . . what will they say next?”“Only Plumbob knows, and I doubt he is pleased.”
83. John just stared at me for a moment before startling me by pulling me forward by the hand he was gripping and wrapped his arms aroundme. As he held me, which was only for a few moments, everything became clear.
84. “Emma, please understand,” John said when he released me. “I—”
85. “No, John, I do understand.” And I did. “You love me.”
86. “I do, truly.”
87. “And I will love you, too, just as any good sister would.” -
88. He offered to have the servants fix up Robert’s bedroom for me but I declared I ought to go home. John was kind enough to escort me there,and when he left it was such a relief to part happily after all that time. We were both in the wrong in our own way but I feel everything turnedout for the best. He and I are much better suited as brother and sister; we shall be very great friends for the rest of our lives, I am sure of it. Our reconciliation certainly had an effect on the outcome of this day, let me tell you!
89. It was a very lovely afternoon indeed; the cake was fantastic, the tea divine, but the best part was Robert! He had not been home to visit often since hisillness and I have seen him but rarely this past year! When word came along with John that he would not be attending the birthday festivities I was asdisappointed as his siblings, if not more, and so when he arrived, completely surprising all of us, I was nearly beside myself with joy. It was almost indecent,and I was entirely shocked at myself! For the entire afternoon I attempted to convince myself that I was merely happy to see Isabella so happy on herbirthday; I was only excited to see Marian looking better than she has in weeks; I was only pleased to see Robert looking so well after such a horrible illness.Essentially, I was deluding myself. Nevertheless, I have since been forced to admit my feelings. With the awkward feelings between John and I gone…when Robert arrived it was as if I was seeing him for the first time. - When Robert had extracted himself from the eager arms of his sisters he finally turned to me. I felt myself wondering vaguely if his hair had always shonelike sunlight or if it was some new product he’d been using when he shocked me by folding his arms around my shoulders.
90. “Forgive my forwardness, Lady Emma, but it has been far too long, has it not? And you have been so close to our family these past five years ittruly feels that you belong here. I am most pleased to see you.” I embarrassed myself, as I do, by sputtering out some nonsense about propriety and hugs, but ended with a winning smile, as Miss De wouldhave called it. Robert laughed. He has an altogether brilliant laugh, deep and pleasant and sinfully… breathy. To my immense surprise, though at thatpoint I should have given up expectations completely, he offered me his arm and towed me over to the nearest bench with Marian trailing aboutten feet behind us, silent as a mouse. -
91. We sat down there and spoke for what seemed like hours about my life in Simireland, my family, and my parents—well, my father. Tellinghim about mama was too painful but I promised I’d tell him about her one day. He kissed my hand and said he would hold me to that promise,but then said he should grace the rest of the guests with his excellent presence. It sounded like something Tristan would have said. Robert ismuch changed since I last saw him. He is calmer, sweeter, and not as angry. Indeed, he did not cough once; it is as if the old Robert was a fairystory. -
92. When he walked away Marian suddenly resurfaced from the hedge she’d been hiding behind and gripped my fingers in hers. “So?” she saidexpectantly. “So, what?” “Oh, you are ridiculous,” Marian sighed, dropping my hands. “So I’ve been told,” I remarked dryly. “You know he came here for you, Emma!”
93. “Er, no, I do not know that. It isn’t my birthday, is it? Have you got a calendar in your bodice?” She looked at me blankly so I carried on.“Your reticule, maybe? I thought my birthday was next week, but surely I am mistaken—”
94. Marian snorted and shrugged. “If you do not wish to admit that he could not care less about this party that is your decision. I have it on highauthority, however, that Robert has been missing you.” I raised an eyebrow at that. “On whose authority do you have it?” Marian raised both of hers. “John’s, of course.”
95. My jaw dropped as I turned to locate John across the garden. He raised his glass to me and smiled widely. I narrowed my eyes at him, buthe merely laughed. Horrible man.
96. Despite my irritation I was pleased, far too pleased. I spent the rest of the afternoon all but floating around the garden, and now that I amhome I cannot do anything but smile. Yes, another of the changes to occur since the last time I wrote is me. I am happy, I am halfway in lovewith a young Austen gentleman, and his name is not John! Good heavens, I only just noticed how very many Austen men there are. Allow me to clarify, Mama: I am not in love with Henry, William, orLucas, nor any of their cousins—Oh!—nor Mr. Frank Austen or Mr. Thomas Austen. Good heavens. I miss you more and more every day, Mama.. Emma …
97. Dear Mr. Surilie— Or is it Captain? Have you quite mutinied yet? What is your rank, anyway? You never told us! There are many things to inform you of, but few that you would actually care about, I am sure. Mr. and Mrs. Austen have rescheduled theball, much to Isabella’s happiness (and, I confess, mine), for three months from yesterday. I was in the room when they informed Isabella andMarian and oh goodness, you ought to have seen the look on their faces! At first Isabella looked as if she would crack into pieces with glee, butwhen they said “three months” she looked as if she would murder them where they stood! And THEN—oh I tell you it was a fantastic thing towitness—and THEN, Mr. Austen told his daughter to calm down immediately for she had much to do. When asked what he meant, he looked atthe clock on the mantelpiece and said that they were leaving for Simdon in fewer than 12 hours so if Isabella and Marian wanted to haveanything suitable to wear in town they really ought to get moving. I declare I do not think I have ever seen Miss Isabella move so quickly.
98. I was so very happy for them; going to Simdon to enjoy the season was something else they thought would never happen due to Robert’s Mr.Austen’s illness, but their father looks very well indeed and surely able to attend a ball or twelve. Surely they have visited Robert and John a fewtimes, but they never even “opened” their house on Pride Street; it remains in the hands of several Simselves, though I suppose they will havebeen relocated now. I doubt Mrs. Austen would allow her husband to be in a house with quite so many of those women, if you take mymeaning. But now for the excellent news! I am to go with them! When I returned home, Cousin George and his wife asked if I should like to go withthem to town for a time. Naturally, I agreed! The Haggertys have no house in town, unfortunately, but that is only to my advantage; we shall bestaying with the Austens! I shall celebrate my birthday here, however; we will not leave for at least a week yet as my cousin’s son, George (thereare so many Georges) has a cold. Nothing serious, I assure you, but Mrs. Lucy Haggerty will not budge until her child is well.
99. Other developments in the neighborhood include a massive amount of new babies! I say, there must be something in the tea for it seems thatthe county has tripled in population. Mrs. Fitzhugh of Darcy Manor Farm was just delivered this morning of a long-awaited son, Stéphane, tojoin her elder daughter Mireille, and her husband’s sister, Mrs. Howard of Smith Plantation (all the way in SIMMAICA, is that not marvelous?Have you traveled quite in that direction?) has had a daughter, Minuet, but it must have been some time ago considering how very long it takesto hear from them. Mrs. Legacy of Regalton house has had another child, Lydia, and her dearest friend, Mrs. Howard of Bertram Hall, has givenbirth to her second son and third child, Sydney (she and Mr. Howard already have twins, Darwin and Adelaide). I shall not mention yoursister’s happiness, no indeed, for I am certain she will be writing to you as soon as she is able! But so you see, there are so many children aboutthat it is quite impossible to go anywhere in the area without encountering one of them. I am certain you would detest it, or you wouldoutwardly; I know you are a soft-hearted pleasant person underneath that nonchalant exterior! You cannot fool me, sir.
100. I must say I think of you often. I remember my first few weeks here in Simland, do you? I recall often walking to Austen Cottage with mycousins to deliver baskets to you and your father, and you used to just sit there and stare at me from the corner. I say, it was always so unsettlingbut extremely amusing at the same moment! It was a relief, I admit, when you finally began speaking to me. We became such excellent friendsbefore long and I am so grateful. Your friendship is most cherished, and I long for the day when you are safely returned home. It may beindelicate to say, but slap a few Simfrenchmen for me, won’t you?
101. I ought to stop here before I tell you more of babies or emotional nonsense, no? I eagerly await your response, my dear friend. Remain safe,or I may have to hunt you down myself and scold you to oblivion. With friendship, Emma …
102. 67Dearest Mama, Simdon is so fascinating and SO busy! I have hardly had time to draw breath let alone pick up a pen and write anything! This evening,however, we are confined to Pride Street. It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you that Mr. Robert Austen is once again unwell. His familyis quite distressed, though John and Dr. Doran seem to think that it shall not be a full relapse. I will have to remain optimistic and trust thatJohn knows what he is saying rather than fall into despair, no? Only time will tell, I should think, but while I have the time I shall tell you of thelast few months.
103. Isabella is being courted! Can you believe it? Marian is furious, though letters from Captain O’Leery have resumed; I think it is because ofthe person Isabella is being courted by. You will never guess who we met not two weeks after arriving, Mama! Jamie! Well, Jamie and Patrick!They are on leave from the wars and Cousin George just happened to hear there were two Bingham brothers, both officers, staying on SenseStreet. He looked into it and there they were, indeed! I am still so thrilled about seeing my two brothers again even though they have alreadyhad plenty of time to irritate me. Additionally, I have given them an earful about how very terrible they have been not to have written to theirfavorite sister about their well-being. They said they did not even know I was in the country! How odd that my letter would have gone astray.But enough about that! Patrick has taken a liking to Miss Isabella, though I am not sure whether it is her fortune or her face he likes more.Isabella, of course, is very impressed by his status as an Earl’s son and a Captain in the army and his four thousand a year. You know, Mama,now that I mention his income I am relieved I never did tell Isabella what my marriage portion shall be. It irritated Marian even and Mariancares very little for things of that nature. Lord knows I do not, but what am I to do about it?
104. Patrick and Isabella have been spending a good deal of time together, and they favor one other over all others at balls and parties. Well, overmost others. Lately I have often seen Miss Isabella in the company of another young man, a Mr. Fitzhugh and son of a baronet whom, I believe,is an acquaintance of my brother Stuart. It is of no importance to me, really; Patrick may easily handle his own affairs, but I do worry aboutwhat people might say about Isabella showing favor to two young men in this way. I have asked Marian to step in, but she and Isabella arerowing again over something silly—a parasol, most likely.
105. It seems that everyone is pairing off now! Even John has been spending much of his time with a young woman named Sarah Simself. It isodd for I thought I knew all of the Simselves in Simshire and Simdon, but I have never come across one called Sarah! I have not had thepleasure of being introduced to her, but I hope that I am soon; I am eager to ensure that she is good enough for dear John!
106. Robert, until he fell ill this morning, has been paying me every courtesy. He always dances with me the most, when he deigns to dance at all, and he oftenaccompanies Marian, Isabella, and I on our morning calls. I like him far more than I ever thought possible, Mama, but there is something I do not think I amunderstanding in the situation. Marian seems convinced that he will propose any day now, but though Robert is exceedingly kind and thoughtful towardme I have not noticed him behaving in a way that might be seen as love. It has occurred to me that he is aware of my fortune, and if that is why he wishes tomarry me I… do not know what I would think. Perhaps I am just overly cautious after my mistakes with his brother. The Austens allowed me to sit andread with him this evening but he is asleep now. I hope he wakes in the morning feeling much better. I think I hear a commotion below stairs so I shall have to write again later. I miss you more than words can express, as always. Lovingly, Emma …
107. 72Dear Mama, We are home at last from Simdon. It was a marvelous time but there is nothing like being in one’s own house again. John was correct and Robert is recovered! He is quite himself once again, and once again showing me great courtesy. The last time Robertand I spoke was more than a fortnight ago but he has already claimed the first two dances at Marian and Isabella’s ball. It is a week from today,Mama, and so look at that foresight! He is a man who knows what he wants, clearly. …I confess I hope what he wants is me.
108. There is so much to be done before, though! Cousin Lucy has been making a new gown for me and I think you would be shocked at how Ilook in it! Very grown up, I dare say. My gown is in the style of SimArthurian Legend! I am to be the Lady Morgana, isn’t that a fascinatinglymystical idea? I believe Robert is to go as one of the Knights of the Round Table, or King Arthur himself, I know not; we shall be a veryhandsome pair indeed! Lucy is calling me for another fitting. As excited as I am to dress up in a gown from one of my favorite legends I am rather sick of beingpricked with pins. It is as if this is the first dress Lucy has ever made! Indeed, Miss Katy seems to think it is and is almost always here just towatch her try it. With love, Emma …
109. 73Dear Mama, Robert and Marian came to call today. It was very pleasant indeed, and Robert took an immense interest, once again, in our family. I finallybegan to tell him a little about you, and tried to explain how you looked just like me but not as pale and far more elegant, but he would not takesuch simple descriptions! I asked if he should like to see that sketch we had done. Do you remember it, Mama, the one we had drawn up whenWilliam was born? It is a shame the artist went and died before completing the actual painting, but these things do happen.
110. Robert said he would be absolutely delighted to see it, so I ran upstairs and fetched it from my trunk. He was fascinated! He asked for a slatepencil, which he was given, and sat down across from me and all but interrogated me on the exact shades and textures of my brothers’ hair, oftheir eyes, of your skin; he asked about the features shared between my brothers and I, about the ones I got from you and the ones Patrick andJamie got from Father…it was most odd! He said he simply wanted to understand the vision the artist was contemplating, but nevertheless heseemed very intent about it. Marian gave me one of her Looks when she departed with her brother, but once again I have no idea what shemeant by it. With love, Emma …
111. 74Dearest Mama, I find myself most dreadfully sad on this day. You know that I cannot abide sadness and so I am writing to you hoping you address mycomplaint. Today is the ball at Austen Park. I did not realize the date until it was upon me but now that I have realized what today is I can hardly stopmyself from weeping. It is your fault, too. You know I do not cry and I find it exceptionally rude of you to force me.
112. I am certain you do not remember anything about that night six years ago from today. You were so far gone with the pain, though youfought it, I remember! You remained as strong as you could be, but the blood just would not stop, not before the baby came, or after! Iremember getting more and more and more linens but we could do nothing!
113. How could it have happened? There were no warning signs, and everything about the pregnancy seemed completely normal. When littleMarianne finally arrived she looked so very healthy, so full of life! I was ecstatic at the idea of finally having a sister! I remember cuddling herand telling her that I could not wait to teach her to read and to play and to properly tease our brothers... But our bond was put to an end far toosoon. The midwife told me I was to keep Marianne from the room; I introduced her to little William and tried to keep jolly, but I felt a shiver downmy spine as I saw Father go in, shutting the door behind him.
114. He came out an hour later. His face was so guarded… I confess I hated him for it. Just once I thought I would see him show some shred ofemotion, but no. The mother of his seven children bled and bled in front of him and still he did not weep. He stood there, called my brothersand me to him, and told us you were dead. That was it, and then he shut himself up in his study. Not six hours later, little Marianne followedyou to paradise.
115. I think, looking back, I somewhat understand why Father was so shut down. You probably were the only thing important to him ever, youand Stuart, and losing you was like losing his soul. I have to believe that. I wish you could see me now! I have grown so much in my time here in Simland that I daresay you would hardly recognize me. But…thatdoes not mean I do not wish for you to miraculously come back almost every minute of every day. It is time for me to dress for the ball. I willdo as you always told me, Mama. I will make light of a terrible situation, hold my head high, and laugh at everyone who finds me odd. Speaking of making light, you don’t think necromancy is real, do you? I wonder if I could find a book on it at Austen Park. Your most affectionate daughter, Emma …
116. 75Nameless Book, The ball was a success, thank goodness, but my feet are atrociously sore. Robert asked me to dance an almost indecent amount, and then Johndanced with me twice, and then Mr. Austen, of all people, asked me to stand up with him, and then Mr. Vetinari and Mr. Goodytwoshoes,followed by Mr. Fitzhugh (which vexed Isabella greatly)… I could go on! It was a lovely evening, truly, but I am so exhausted I can hardly remember anything! I do remember John looking highly distracted thewhole of the evening, and of course Captain O’Leery made his surprise appearance and has made Marian the happiest of women, but other thanthat it was a blur of fancy costumes and music! Good night. I shall sleep for an eternity. Wake me at the next coming of our Lord Plumbob,won’t you? …
117. 82Nameless Book, It would seem you are the only friend I have of late! It is quite distressing, I tell you! Isabella has been most odd ever since the evening of theball and dear Marian is driven to distraction by wedding plans! Even my dear John is still in Simdon preparing to finish his degree, as is Robert,and Miss De has gone off to Simfordshire of all places to visit an old friend! I think I shall turn to stone from boredom. …
118. 89Nameless Book, I visited Marian today. She wanted to apologize for her distance lately and so we were to look at designs for wedding clothes together. Thetrouble is I was there not ten minutes before Isabella appeared, shocking both of us! She left to stay with her aunt, Mrs. Trimble, several weeksago (after completely dashing my brother’s hopes of marriage) and has hardly been seen since. But there she was, and oh what a state she wasin. -
119. Marian and I both let out shrieks of surprise as her sister barged in and nearly knocked poor Marian into the hearth.Marian’s temper rose immediately. “What is WRONG with—” she began angrily, but Isabella cut her off.
120. She looked very poor indeed. It was obvious she had been crying, and her usually porcelain skin was a sad shade of grey. Her voice shook asshe spoke. “Marian, I need to—to speak with you.” Not only have I never seen Isabella cry, but I have never heard her sound so… weak, so pleading, especially where Marian is involved.
121. Something very dreadful must have happened, I realized. As Marian and Isabella stood there, stiff as statues and staring at each other, Imoved slowly so as not to startle either of them as I stepped toward the door. “I’ll leave you to talk.” “Thank you,” Isabella murmured quietly.
122. I placed a hand on her trembling shoulder. “Bella,” I said, “Whatever it is, I know you will come out the other end the better for it.” I smiled inencouragement, gave her a squeeze, and left. -
123. I am scared for her. …
124. My dear Tristan, Happiest birthday greetings, my friend! I have always found it amusing that we are precisely one year and one day apart, have you not? I have nothing of great interest to say, but I most sincerely hope you enjoy the book! Shakesimspeare is one of your favorites, I know. Your loving friend, Emma …
125. 97Oh, Book! Robert, Mr. Austen, has given me the most beautiful birthday present! When he asked me a thousand questions about my family’s portraitsketch I never would have imagined—! But my goodness, Robert has painted it!
126. I’ll never forget this day. I walked into the drawing room this afternoon after being told I had a visitor, not expecting for a moment that itwould be Robert but instead some other birthday well-wisher, and was shocked to find him standing in the corner of the room with my cousinsnext to a sheet-covered object. “Happy Birthday, dearest Emma!” Cousin Georgiana said excitedly.
127. He was not looking at me at first, but when Cousin Georgiana’s words alerted him to my presence he broke into a wide smile, bowed, andremoved the sheet to reveal my gift.
128. As I looked it over Robert watched me intently for any hint of displeasure, but he cannot have found any. The work is exquisite!Magnificent, I tell you! It was not even done in miniature (he tells me poor artists get away with quite a lot when painting in miniature) but afull-sized painting! The likenesses of my brothers and parents…I cannot describe it other than to say it seems as if they were painted from life.To be entirely fair, Robert has met Patrick and Jamie, but the fact that he recreated my mother’s fine ivory gown with perfection just amazes me.He could have asked to see it as it’s just upstairs, but instead he just listened to my instruction and created the most beautiful painting I haveever seen.
129. After I had stopped gaping like a common cod fish he presented me with the other half of my gift…
130. That’s it for Emma‘s chapter! I hope you enjoyed it, though it turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, alas.There are three more of these left (John, Robert, Marian/Isabella) and they are all at least partially written so keep an eye out for the next one soon! Thank you to my two betas, Rose & De, and to everyone else for reading!