George had taken Emma to the seaside for their honeymoon. It was to be her first time ever to glimpse the sea; to smell the brisk, salty air; to run her fingers and even her bare toes through the cold, wet sand. How happy she had been when he had awakened her from a short nap during their journey, so that she might catch that first glimpse of the sea. Soon thereafter, George had ordered the carriage to stop at the heading, so he and Emma could walk up the slight hill to a breathtaking vista from the cliffs above the blue water. As radiant as she had looked that morning when she had walked down the aisle on her father's arm, he thought she glowed with even more happiness now, as she took in the sight.
After they had returned to the carriage, Emma had framed his face with her small hands, tenderly planted a soft kiss on his lips and whispered, "Thank you." He had taken her in his arms and returned the kiss, as softly as her kiss at first, but then more urgently, until propriety would let him go no further. All in due time, he told himself.
They arrived in good time, barely half past four, at the inn at which George had taken accommodations for themselves and their servants. As he checked in, Emma wandered about the front room aimlessly, admiring the small vase of flowers on the center table, the paintings of the seaside gracing the walls, and the intricately carved writing desk by the fireplace. Finally, with arrangements having been settled with the proprietor, George looked over to see Emma standing at the window, enjoying the view. He admired his view – she was so beautiful, and now she was his. He called to her, "Mrs. Knightley" (and he did like the sound of that), but she did not answer him. Thinking she had not heard him, he called again, more loudly, but still Emma did not respond. The proprietor of the inn, who gave George a grin that he thought irritating and a bit too salacious, said, "If I may be so bold as to advise you, sir, your bride may not be used to her new name yet. I've seen it time and again."
Finally, George went to Emma, touched her gently on the shoulder and she turned around and smiled at him. He said nothing, but took her hands into his, and looked into her eyes with a very serious countenance. "Have you seen Mrs. Knightley anywhere? I've been calling to her but she hasn't answered. Do you suppose she could have slipped out of the inn without my knowing it?"
For a very brief moment Emma looked puzzled, then she broke into a big smile, shook her head and said, "Oh! I am sorry! I shall have to remember my own name! What a silly goose I am!"
"Ah, but you are my silly goose," he laughed. Then he kissed both of her hands and said, "Shall we go to our room now?" Emma blushed and gave a small nod.
The inn's butler led them to their rooms on the corner of the second floor – spacious and comfortable bedroom and parlor with a beautiful view of the shore, plus dressing room and bath. Their servants, who had arrived in a separate carriage, and their coachmen would have accommodations on a different floor. George and Emma agreed that the parlor was lovely and the view spectacular. Emma went to the window to admire the shore again and declined to look at the bedroom, where their servants, Sally and Porter, were busily unpacking their things. "Oh, not now. Maybe later," she said quietly.
George knew Emma would be weary from journey, so he had made arrangements for them to relax in their parlor for a time before dressing for supper. George assured the butler that the accommodations were most satisfactory and just as the butler left, a maid brought tea and biscuits. Everything was in order.
Emma moved to serve their tea. She sat in a side chair where she had to reach for the tea pot, rather than on the sofa that was directly in front of the silver tray. George sat on the sofa and thanked her as he took the tea cup she offered him. For some reason, she seemed a bit shy and quiet at the moment, and he thought she might be playing a game. He considered of saying, "Come here, I'm not going to bite you," but then thought better of it. Besides, he might want to do just that later, he mused. It was a wicked thought, but he was on his honeymoon, so he was to be forgiven.
George put down his tea cup and said softly, "Come, sit here next to me, my love." Emma gave a shy smile, put down her cup and moved to the sofa, but not as close to him as he would have hoped. He slid over to her, put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her side of forehead. "Emma, you are trembling," he said with surprise. "Are you cold? Shall I stoke the fire?" He thought it was already becoming oppressively hot in the parlor, but it would be a small price to pay for her comfort.
"No, I'm not cold. Thank you." She took a deep breath, but still she did not relax.
"Then what is it? Are you well? Is something the matter?"
"No. I am fine, thank you."
But she was not fine. He could tell. She was quiet where she had been almost giddy earlier in the day. Perhaps she was simply tired from their journey? After several unsuccessful attempts to engage her in more than perfunctory conversation, he gently took her one of hands and whispered, "Emma, my most beloved Emma, it is my greatest hope that we shall always be open with one another – that we shall always be able to speak to one another about anything and everything. I will only offer you the truth – you know that is my nature, and it would mean a great deal to me if you were able to do the same. If something is bothering you, can you not let me know what it is? It pains me so to see you disquieted."
She leaned her head into his cheek. "Oh – George. I am not unhappy. Truly. Just the opposite. Could any woman ever be happier? I am so very lucky, I know."
"What a coincidence," he said, trying to cheer her. "And here I was thinking that I am the lucky one." She smiled weakly and looked down at their intertwined hands. He continued, "So, then, what is it, Emma? Just say it. You'll feel better if you do. Please let me help to make right whatever it is. I want to help." He kissed her forehead again.
"It's just that…" She buried her face in his shoulder and he heard her say "I'm afraid…" and "I don't know…"
George could not make out her muffled words, so he put both arms around her and asked gently, "You are afraid but you don't know what you are afraid of?"
"Nnnno," she stuttered. "Not exactly." She took a deep breath. "I … I'm afraid of what I don't know," she said simply, and still she did not meet his eye.
George took in her words, trying to assess their meaning. He was completely at a loss, so he said nothing, hoping she would continue, and she did. "It's just that … I … I know in general terms what is supposed to happen, you know … later… but not … not really. And what little I know seems … seems … well … dreadful. There. I've said it." He did not reply – he was too surprised at that moment – and as he continued to hold her close, his chin resting on the top of her head, her words began to flow – what had started as a trickle, became a river, then eventually a torrent, as she spill her fears. He did not interrupt. "They each suggested just a little, Isabella and Mrs. Weston did, about … what will happen, and I was too … mortified, really, to ask any questions. Oh, I do know what is supposed to happen … I mean, I may live in the country, but for goodness sake, but I don't live in a convent. But the particulars about what I will feel and what I am supposed to do… they are just this big void in my mind … and it seems that they were trying to tell me, to warn me, perhaps. They made it fairly plain to me how it will be … the first time … and from what I could gather, it will be ... well … embarrassing and painful and an awful mess and …. and …. I will wish it to be over quickly but it might not be so …. so it seems that I am supposed to just suffer through it. Of course, they sort of implied that eventually, over time, it's supposed to become not so bad, really, and then maybe, eventually, I might even come to enjoy it sometimes. But I just wish it would be over with and here it's only five o'clock and we have two hours till we dress for supper and then another hour till we go to supper and then another two hours while we eat our supper and then we'll go to the parlor for another hour and all the while I'm just going to be this sorry, pathetic wreck worrying about it, and I know that I'll just spoil our wedding night and you'll always remember what a ridiculous ninny I was and I'm…I'm… so sorry!" A few tears had started to fall from her eyes, and she leaned her head into his vest to muffle her little sobs.
This was not going at all like George had expected. Not at all. Emma, who had never been scared of anything in entire life, now appeared to be scared of … her own husband! Thoughts raced through his mind: A new wife's lot truly was unfortunate. Whereas a new husband could look forward to nothing but excitement and pleasure, a new wife surely must face everything Emma had said … seemingly none of it pleasant or worth looking forward to. He'd never thought of it that way, but it was true. He had expected that later tonight there would be tender kisses that would quickly ignite into passionate ones and the rest would, well, it would just happen in the natural order. He considered the gap in their worldliness, understanding and experience: they'd shared kisses, nothing more, during their engagement. Some had been quite passionate, to be sure – he'd introduced a bit of kissing in the French way, to which she had responded with enthusiasm – but other than that, nothing had passed between them that might have offended her sensibilities. And he certainly hadn't touched her with impropriety. Oh, he had been sorely tempted to take liberties a few weeks into their engagement, at a time when they still did not know if the engagement would last five weeks, five months or five years, but once Mr. Woodhouse had acquiesced and their wedding date had been set – a date which was then in the not too distant future – the gentlemanly ways that were so much a part of his nature had persevered and he'd steeled himself to waiting till after "n. had taken m.," as Emma had put it so sweetly once. Of course, he had expected that she would be naive in the ways of men and women, but this was altogether something different. Clearly, he had not thought it through.
"Emma, it's alright. It's alright, my dear Emma. Hush. Now look at me, look at me, please." He lifted her chin and she forced herself to look at him, embarrassed as she was, and he continued, "It's to be expected that you are a bit scared and nervous. Really. But it will be alright. I promise you. I … I can't say that I know how it will be for you but I promise you, I give you my word, that I will be as gentle as I can and I will do my best to make sure that it is not anything like you fear. Will you trust me? Yes?" She nodded and managed a weak smile.
"Oh my dearest Emma, how I love you," he said gently into her ear. He gently pressed kisses to her forehead, then her hair, then her neck and finally her lips. He could feel Emma begin to relax and very slowly respond to his tenderness. He could see where this might lead and asked himself if he should continue, knowing how disquieted she had been just moments before. But she herself had blanched at waiting what might be several hours till "the event," so he reasoned that his advances might even be welcomed now. It was the natural progression of their affection, he told himself. But at that moment he vowed that he would withhold his own gratification until he was certain she herself had experienced pleasure and had been fulfilled. As he continued, their passion mounting, he steeled himself to the sweet torment he knew he was to face.
Emma's shyness was a fading memory when he finally carried her into the bedroom, to the bed where their marriage would be consummated. Slowly, softly, with tender caresses and whispered requests, he had succeeded in removing the last vestige of her clothing. Somehow he had also managed to abandon all of his own garments except for his trousers and stockings, and he delighted when Emma cooed in appreciation as she marveled at the feel of his strong arms and flat stomach, and the coarse hair covering his broad chest. But if he was to remain patient, he could endure only so much of her attentions, so he gently moved her arms to around his neck so he could focus entirely on her pleasure: fondling, kissing and nipping her neck and shoulders, paying homage to her marvelous breasts and then travelling down to her navel and back again. With his caresses he found her most intimate place and whispered to her to relax as she first recoiled at his touch. Eventually she accepted his mysterious advances, her soft moans and writhing body instinctively encouraging him to continue. As to his own needs, for once George silently gave thanks for the distance between their ages. He had a fleeting thought that had he been a young man of Emma's age, he never would have managed to defer his needs. So, with the utmost patience, he urged her on, eventually hearing her breath become shallower, as with sweet words and soft, knowing touches he encouraged her to give in these new feelings. He sensed that she was getting near, so he continued until at last she let out an unabashed sob and then another and another….
A few minutes later, as he gently cradled her to his side, Emma, her breathing still ragged and her face and body still warm and glowing, smiled weakly and whispered, "So that is what the mystery is all about." She reached up to his handsome face and brought his lips to hers.
He smiled back, "Umm hmm. That is part of it, at least."
"Part of it? You mean there is more?"
"Well, yes. There is more." He smiled weakly at her. "May I remind you that I … I am still wearing my trousers?"
"Oh! Goodness! Of course! I was so…. You so swept me away so that…" She shook her head, laughed softly and blushed, hiding her face in his shoulder. Then she raised her head and whispered in his ear, "Mrs. Knightley would very much like to know what the rest is about, Mr. Knightley."
That was more encouragement than he needed. He rose from the bed, turned his back to her, undid the fastenings and removed his trousers and stockings in one swift movement. To Emma's surprise, he did not immediately return to the bed. She watched him with curious, lidded eyes as he stepped to the bureau and picked up a towel, holding it casually in front of him. A moment later, he was back to the bed, tucking himself in next to her, and spreading the towel on the other side of her. "Here, let's move you move on top of this," he said as he gently helped her shift her body.
And so George began the artful dance again, very slowly at first, but this time she accepted his advances, readily at first, and then, eventually, with abandon. Emma was so lost in these new feelings that the fear that any pain was to be expected had been swept from her mind, so despite his endeavor to take her gently, she was caught off guard and cried out in pain. He stilled, holding her closely, his breathing almost coming in gasps. "I'm sorry. I did not want to hurt you. Are you alright, my love?" he whispered, kissing away the tear that had escaped from the corner of her eye. The pain was subsiding, though she was still taking in the shock of his intrusion. She took a deep breath and whispered, "Yes. Yes. Please ... please … go on …." And he did.
Later, as he held her to him and languidly traced a line down her back from her shoulder to her hip and up again, he asked, "So, Mrs. Knightley, what did you think? Was it as you expected?"
She sighed and laughed lightly. "I truly am Mrs. Knightley now, am I not? And you know very well that it was nothing like I expected. But I should have known you would excel as this, my dear Mr. Knightley, as you excel at everything you do."
"Please! You embarrass me with your praise. But I am most delighted that you think so." He kissed her on her nose, then leaned over to fetch his pocket watch from the nightstand. "Hmm, I told Porter that we would start to get ready for supper at seven, so he and Sally will knock then. We have ten minutes."
"Ten minutes?!" she cried. "Where did the time go?!" and then she colored deeply and sat up, clutching the sheets about her to hide her nakedness. "Good heavens! They'll know what we've been up to!"
"It's alright, Emma. We will put on our robes, and you can wait for Sally in the dressing room, if you'd prefer. Sally and Porter already know everything there is to know about each of us as individuals, and they will soon come to learn everything about us as husband and wife. That is to be expected. And that is why we value their loyalty and discretion so much. Don't give it another thought. Besides," he grinned, and he sat up to lean into her ear and whisper slyly, just before nibbling on her ear lobe, "we are on our honeymoon, and surely this is what couples do on their honeymoon, dear Emma."