A/N: Welcome to my first fanfic. I hope you like it! It's more or less a collection of longish drabbles which will go a little AU after chapter/drabble 5. It's for fun, pure entertainment, not to be a brilliant, engaging, thought-provoking story. Sometimes I like to read little fluff pieces like this, and, wow, it's easier to write fluff than a serious novel. :) Anyway, enjoy, and please feed the author. ;)
George Knightley was the town's youngest magistrate ever at the ripe age of twenty-eight, and right now he was reviewing the week's cases by a beautiful stream with a spunky twelve-year-old flopped at his feet. Miss Emma Woodhouse, younger sister of his new sister-in-law, was entirely too good at manipulating Knightley into accompanying her on walks around her father's house, since her father wouldn't go with her, and Miss Taylor was busily preparing for tomorrow's lessons.
"Tell me about one of your cases, George," Emma's voice said, interrupting his thoughts.
He frowned. "They're not really suitable for children."
"I'm not a child," she protested. "Besides, Miss Taylor has an enviable collection of gothics, and I got into them last summer." Emma grinned. "She had a fit, of course, but they gave me no nightmares. I love adventure," she added wistfully, "and so, you see, I know all about wickedness."
Knightley laughed. "Emma, my ledger is not full of adventures," he chided. "These are the misadventures of real people. Not the workings of some sensationalist authoress's mind." His expression grew more serious. "And, while fictional tales may not give you nightmares, you may find it a very different thing indeed to know that such things really happen, and in Highbury, no less."
Emma glared at him in annoyance. "I'm quite sure I can handle it, Mr. Knightley." She continued in a sweeter tone. "Be a friend and tell mesomething, at least. You can pick the least offensive you can find."
He clucked at her, but dutifully looked through his papers. "Here, this one. Young fellow accused of stealing chickens. First offense. Reprimanded, and will be watched more carefully from now on."
"That was boring," Emma accused. "Find me a more interesting one, Mr. Knightley!" When he only sighed, she elaborated, "something with blood."
"This is Highbury, Emma," he exclaimed. "Not much in the way of violence here!"
"Husbands beat their wives," she said matter-of-factly.
"Emma!" Knightley said in shock. "Whatever put that notion in your head?"
"I saw it," she snapped. "Albert Martin. He came home from wherever he goes off to on Thursday nights- gaming tables, probably- and, well, she had a puffy lip the next day."
Knightley frowned, making a mental note to drop in on Catherine Martin later in the day. Not that he liked to interfere, but the Martins were tenants, and checking on their welfare was part of his job.
"Well, is that in your ledger?" Emma asked.
He huffed at her. "It couldn't be," he said with some reluctance. "Not everything that's immoral is illegal."
Emma stared at him in alarm, following his implication clearly. "I'm never getting married," she declared.
Knightley rolled his eyes. "Emma, not every husband is Albert Martin," he sighed.
"But I could never be sure," she protested. "And I'm a Woodhouse. I don'tneed any man's wealth, or status, and so-I won't risk it. I'm not going to marry." A look of mischief came over her face. "Unless we could overturn that law. Do you think, Mr. Knightley?"
He just smiled and shook his head at her enthusiasm. "I don't think you'll change England in a day or even a couple of years, Emma," he said gently.
"I can try!" came the eager reply.
"You could," he nodded, hoping the conversation would not later be repeated to her father, who might not appreciate such radical ideas being planted in his little darling's head.
Emma bounced up from her seat by the water's edge, then suddenly frowned very profusely. "I think I must have sat in mud," she said unhappily, reaching her hand behind her to try to brush the offending dirt off. "I've gotten all wet somehow." She stared at the ground where she had sat, which looked innocently dry, and gave up trying to brush the wetness off her dress. Bringing her hand back around, she stared at it in disbelief, for her palm was covered in dark red. "What-" she stammered, examining the ground again, and finding nothing except a tiny red blotch.
Knightley had set his papers down and stood up in concern. "Emma?" He asked.
"There's- something red, on the ground here," she said, "and it's gotten all over my dress, by the feel of it." She bent down and prodded the red spot with a stick. "It's not very deep into the dirt," she said in confusion. "It feels like it soaked into me more than is even there!" She sniffed. "It looks like blood, Mr. Knightley. Do you think a murder happened here? Maybe it was a giant puddle, and my dress soaked most of it up! Oh, dear, we'll have to turn my dress over to the police, and it's my very favorite yellow gown!"
By this point the young lady had turned around numerous times in her attempt to examine the bloody dirt, and it was plain to Knightley that there was indeed far more blood on her dress than had ever been on the ground. He cleared his throat. "Miss Woodhouse," he said, "I think we should go find Miss Taylor."
Emma looked at him in alarm. "Why? Why Miss Taylor?" She asked.
"I don't think, if the blood had been on the ground, it would have been a larger stain, even if your dress had soaked up most of it," he pointed out awkwardly.
Alarm was turning to horror on Emma's face. "Do you mean... Mr. Knightley... is it my blood? Am I dying?" Her voice was at a near-feverish pitch.
"You need to go back to the house," Knightley repeated. "Miss Taylor can explain."
"What if I die before I get there? What if I faint?" Emma's porcelain skin was even whiter than usual.
Knightley looked extremely uncomfortable. "I don't think you will, Emma." He repeated again, "Miss Taylor will explain."
But Emma proved herself right, and he had to jump up, scattering his ledger to the grass, as he raced to catch her before her head hit the ground. Shaking his head, he carried her back to the house and directly into Miss Taylor's study, thankful that she was young and slight.
"What happened?" Miss Taylor cried, jumping up from her desk and rushing to his side. "Put her on the couch, here," she pointed.
He hesitated. "You might want to get some rags first," he said hesitantly. "There's, uh, blood on her dress."
"What happened, Mr. Knightley?" Miss Taylor repeated. "Is she hurt? Did she fall? What-"
Knightley just shook his head. "No. She just was frightened- by the blood- and worked herself into such a panic that she fainted," he explained.
"But where did the blood come from?" Miss Taylor squinted at him through her spectacles.
He made no attempt to respond, though, and just stared at her.
"Ah, I see," Miss Taylor said, finally.
"She would not have been as frightened if she'd been warned," Knightley pointed out.
But Miss Taylor had no chance to respond, because Emma began to stir. "Mr. Knightley?" She said hazily. "Where am I?"
"Here, darling Emma," Miss Taylor replied. "Mr. Knightley kindly brought you back to the house. Now, I'm sure he has many things to do," she said with a significant look in his direction, "so say thank you, dearest, so he can go on his way."
Knightley carefully set Emma on her feet, and Miss Taylor quickly grabbed her arm to steady her.
Emma frowned. "Thank you, Mr. Knightley," she said, obediently.
"Good day, Miss Taylor. Good day, Emma," he bid, and left.