Maximilian Emery and Emilia Whitmore were married at Saint George’s Church in Hanover Square that August. ‘Twas a beautiful day, with the burnished light of autumn warming Emilia’s pale complexion and bringing out Maximilian’s brilliant green eyes.
Everyone present greatly admired the joyous couple. Max was undeniably handsome in his embroidered coat and fine cravat. Emilia wore a gown of silk brocade fit for a court introduction, with a ruby and pearl combs in her hair lovely enough to please a queen. Max thought he had never seen her look so devastatingly beautiful, and his feet felt as though they walked on air as he guided her out of the church, once they were pronounced man and wife. All of their friends were in attendance, including Miss Augusta Emma d’Este, whose approval of the union went a long way toward smoothing its acceptance by the ton. It was a splendid affair, and a very merry time was had by all.
The following months rolled languidly and pleasurably by, with cheerful parties as the weather turned cold and the London season began once again. Max and Emilia received many invitations, but more often than not preferred their own company, remaining cosily at Ceastre. Never had two lovers so delighted as much in each other’s company as they did, spending every moment together. Emilia played music just for Max, who sat and listened raptly. He read to her from Milton’s Paradise Lost, lingering over the passages which had so often inspired him when his own fortunes seemed so impossibly wrecked.
Although she never again suffered from the trials of her nervous complaint, Emilia did nevertheless worry, at first, that she should find the transition to life in the grand estate overwhelming. However, as the former Lady Ceastre, Max’s aunt, had taken most of her servants with her when she and his uncle left, Emilia was able to retain all of her staff, and that made the transition a good deal more pleasant. Randall, promoted to steward, and Mrs. Gale became Ceastre’s new housekeeper, delighted in taking on the challenges of managing such a great house. Abraham, quite recovered from the accident, assumed the role of stable master, although he spent a fair amount of his time now in the carving of wooden baubles. Samuel stayed on as Max’s personal valet, as well. And Jollyboy made sure to remind everyone daily to remain merry and playful.
The dog lay curled up beside Emilia’s beloved Broadwood Grand as she played the newest sonata she was working on developing. Her fingers skipped over the keys, her heart light, as the music in her mind found expression, at last freed from the pressures of knowing she must sell it to Mr. Dassel. Her creations were her own now, once and for all. Emilia tried a new progression of notes for the melody, and shook her head briefly, making a few marks on the sheets of lined paper Max made sure to always have in ample supply. Biting her lip, she tried a variation.
‘You mustn’t abuse that lovely lip in such a cruel way,’ Max admonished her as he entered the music room.
Emilia looked up and smiled at him as he stepped over to her and kissed her tenderly.
‘Too many parallel fifths,’ she said with a smile at him.
Max raised his eyebrows and chuckled. ‘Whatever you say, my dear.’
Emilia blushed a little, joy warming her heart.
‘I meant to ask you, dearest,’ Max said, ‘are you quite certain you wish to invite my aunt for Easter?’
He offered her a hand, and Emilia took it, easing herself up for the bench. Her growing belly sometimes led to a lack of balance, and in any case, she enjoyed being on Max’s arm.
‘Yes, my lord,’ she said, and the title was a loving appellation from her lips. ‘Mrs. Emery has always been kind to me, and she was so genuinely distressed to learn of the whole scandal. And goodness knows, I should like to show her how well the roses are now, after all the care she showed them last year.’
Max put his hand over hers as it rested on his forearm. ‘So long as my uncle does not accompany her. I like him better in Lancashire.’
He began to lead her from the pianoforte and Jollyboy jumped to his feet. The canine was loath to be parted from Emilia for even a moment, a behaviour that had begun some months before. Secretly, Emilia believed the dog knew she was with child before even she herself had known it.
‘I think Mr. Emery sees that his duty now must be to remain and watch over Mr. and Mrs. Reid,’ Emilia said, thinking of Charlotte, now married to Nicholas and living in Preston, in Lancashire, over two hundred miles away.
‘I daresay that it is instead Mr. Reid who is watching over both Mr. Emery and Mrs. Reid, on the contrary,’ Max said with a laugh. ‘He’s an industrious fellow.’
‘And you were very wise to hire him, my lord,’ Emilia said. Max had decided to invest in gas lighting. Nicholas acted as his agent, assisting in introducing the new technology to Preston, the first city outside of London to benefit from such progress. There, Nicholas worked with Reverend Joseph Dunn, a Lancashire priest who was quite passionate about distributing gas lighting around the area.
‘Tieni i tuoi amici vicini e i tuoi nemici più vicini,’ Max said in fluid Italian.
Emilia, who knew Italian as well as he, said, ‘I do not think Lancaster is so very close, dearest, if your intent truly is to keep your enemies closer than your friends.’
‘Well, perhaps I do not think of them so much as enemies now,’ Max said. ‘Forgiveness is good for the soul.’
Although she acknowledged this truth, Emilia had ambivalent feelings when it came to Charlotte—now known as Mrs. Reid. Charlotte had dearly wanted to be the Countess of Ceastre, and her new life was very far from that, Emilia mused. But it was not so very terrible, she thought, for the lady to have ended in the situation where she was: the wife of an industrious man like Nicholas Reid. Although, from Mrs. Emery’s letters, it would seem that Charlotte did not see herself as very fortunate. Mrs. Emery reported that her daughter could often be heard to lament that she might have been a baroness, had fate not conspired against her. Emilia supposed that as a punishment, life in Lancashire would have to do.
This brought to mind charming Baron Ferriston. Emilia was happy for him, that he had escaped such a disagreeable union.
‘I invited Lord Ferriston and Miss d’Este to a dinner a week after Mrs. Emery arrives,’ Emilia told Max as they made their way out of the music room to take the air. Max insisted on being the one to help Emilia into her fur-collared, boiled wool pelisse.
Outside the weather was still wintery, and yet they both loved to take a turn around the gardens no matter the season.
‘Are you trying to play matchmaker with the baron and Miss d’Este?’ Max asked as he passed the sleeves over Emilia’s arms.
‘Oh, that would be a fine pairing. But no, my dear, Lord Ferriston will soon announce his engagement, unless the Morning Post misses its mark,’ she replied. ‘The Post just yesterday had many tidings of Lord F— and Viscountess M—.’
‘A pity,’ Max said with a smile as Emilia closed her buttons. ‘Miss d’Este deserves a happy match.’
‘Yes, that she does, but I daresay it could not have been with Lord Ferriston. He is only a baron,’ Emilia said with genuine regret. ‘The Duke of Sussex is sure to object to such a match.’
Max took Emilia’s hand, as yet still bare, and gazed into her eyes. ‘I am so very glad that we set aside such shallow misgivings.’
A caress of bubbles tickled her from within—Emilia looked down, placing her other hand on the curve of her belly, certain that the sensation must come from the new life she carried. Then she raised her eyes again, meeting Max’s. ‘Oh yes, my love,’ she said. ‘I have never known such joy.’
Arm in arm they made their way outside, and Emilia surveyed the gardens with great enjoyment. How like a dream this new life was. To be the mistress of this magnificent estate! It was she who had the final word when it came to questions of furnishings, and flowers, and menus, and all the rest of it.
Already she had begun to redecorate, carefully removing the influence of Charlotte on the house’s interior. She chose some older pieces, and delighted in purchasing new ones, admiring the result in the fresh decor of the rooms. The exterior of the estate she had no great feeling of urgency to change, however. She did not begrudge Mrs. Emery’s hand in its design. And now as they walked Emilia stopped and examined the climbing rose on the trellis. She had a heartfelt fondness for this particular plant, for it had figured prominently in the schemes that had resulted in her present happiness. Easter was almost two months away, and she hoped the plant would begin to bloom by then, so that Mrs. Emery might best admire it.
They had just passed down another allée when the sound of carriage wheels rumbled through the air. Emilia and Max turned, both straining to see who was arriving. A medium-sized coach was approaching, pulled by two horses. The carriage was distant, but Emilia gave a little cry of pleasure, nevertheless. Together she and Max hurried to meet the vehicle as it rolled up the lane.
The coachman stopped the coach and in a moment the door opened. Lieutenant Roberts climbed out and then put up a hand, saying, ‘Come along then, Mrs. Roberts.’
Alice stepped out nimbly, her hand resting in her husband’s, and as soon as her feet touched the ground, she and Emilia embraced.
‘Oh, Alice, how wonderful! I thought you would be in France for another month,’ Emilia cried.
‘As did we,’ Alice said somewhat breathlessly.
‘Do come in, and you shall tell me all the particulars, and what led to your change of plans,’ Emilia said.
The gentlemen greeted each other and the ladies as well, and the whole party headed into the house, making their way with cheerful conversation, to the yellow parlour.
As they entered Emilia moved ahead of everyone else, to the elderly gentleman who sat dozing by the fire within.
‘Papa!’ she said, with no compunctions about waking him, for Mr. Whitmore was a great deal improved and no longer became fatigued as easily as he once had. ‘Papa, look who is here!’
‘Lieutenant Roberts, and Miss Bromley!’ Mr. Whitmore said, straightening up in his seat.
‘Oh Papa, it’s Mrs. Roberts now, don’t you remember?’ Emilia asked with a twinge of anxiety.
Mr. Whitmore snorted and laughed. ‘Of course, of course, I remember very well. You served pheasant at the dinner after the wedding. Lovely sauce made with apples.’
‘That’s quite right, Mr. Whitmore,’ Alice said beaming at him. ‘Aren’t you looking well!’ she added. ‘You’ve altogether changed, I must say.’
‘Indeed, indeed,’ Mr. Whitmore said. ‘And it is agreeable to feel so much better, you know. Lord Ceastre’s physician is a man of miraculous talents.’
‘It’s Lieutenant Roberts we must thank first,’ Emilia said with a smile. ‘Without him, we might never have known ‘twas the tonic making you so very ill, Papa.’
Everyone acknowledged that, and Roberts flushed as they regarded him with grateful expressions.
‘I’ll send for tea,’ Max put in, and everyone took their seats. Emilia settled herself next to Alice on a sofa, and Roberts pulled his chair close to his wife. Emilia smiled as Max did the same, bringing an armchair nearer to where she sat.
‘Now, do tell me, Alice. How was Paris?’ Emilia asked.
‘Delightful,’ Alice replied. ‘How agreeable it is for the war to be over. Has it been a year?’
‘Not quite yet,’ Lt. Roberts said, gazing at her indulgently.
‘You should see the bonnets there, Emilia!’ Alice exclaimed. ‘I’ve brought back fashion plates. We shall look at them together. Wait until you see the shawls. And the embellishments on the dresses! Quite ornate, to say the least.’
Happiness made Emilia feel giddy. ‘Oh, it is so good to have you back, dear Alice. But tell me, what decided you to end your sojourn early?’
Alice and the lieutenant exchanged a secretive look, and Emilia thought for a moment that they might not answer the question. Then, however, Alice reached over and took Emilia’s hand.
‘It would seem we shall need Abraham to carve a second hobby horse,’ Alice said, and her face lit with glee.
‘A second hobby horse?’ Mr. Whitmore echoed.
‘And any other toys he has a fancy to construct,’ Roberts chortled.
‘Indeed, your little one will have a playmate, it seems,’ Alice said to Emilia. ‘It would be a great shame if they were to squabble over sharing toys.’
‘Oh, Alice!’ Emilia cried, feeling as though she would surely faint with joy. ‘What most excellent news. You must come and live here, at Ceastre. Say you will at once!’
‘Yes, you must, old chap,’ Max agreed, clapping his friend on the arm. ‘We have more than enough room for everyone. Say you will.’
And so it was agreed.
Mrs. Emery arrived in time to celebrate the Maundy, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. Emilia and Alice invited her to join them in giving out food, alms, and clothing to the poor in the towns nearest Ceastre. The next day it rained, but the ladies were happy to sit in the great drawing room, chatting with Mr. Whitmore, Roberts and Max as they spent an afternoon dying eggs and marking them with the names of each servant to give as Easter gifts.
That Saturday the party from Ceastre hosted hundreds of townsfolk, providing dozens more colourful eggs to the children for their amusement, whilst the villagers enjoyed cuts of ham and pints of watered beer.
Someday, Emilia thought, someday soon, perhaps, we shall have little children of our own to roll the eggs downhill in a race to see who finishes first.
They attended two church services that week, enjoying the performances of Easter choirs. On Easter Sunday, Emilia wore a new gown of yellow and white, with a lovely bonnet she decorated herself with yellow ribbons to match. Max was very handsome in a new suit and yellow silk waistcoat that complimented his wife’s dress. They each took one of Mr. Whitmore’s arms and supported the gentleman into and out of church, with Alice and Roberts and Mrs. Emery along as well, making quite the cheerful-looking family.
The Easter feast was delightful, featuring lamb and hot-cross buns. By the end of the day, Emilia felt most pleased, but also fatigued, and she spent the next three days resting, for there were more guests soon to arrive.
That Wednesday two carriages entered the grounds: Lord Ferriston’s and Miss d’Este’s.
‘Oh what a delight it is to be back here!’ Miss d’Este cried as Max helped her descend from her barouche. Soon all of them were walking together in the garden, and Emilia had never been happier. Miss d’Este was as cheerful as ever, and Mrs. Emery admired the roses, and Jollyboy approved heartily of it all, leaping around them and dancing as he let out happy yips.
Afterwards they settled in the drawing room, and Emilia fetched her newly finished sonata, settling down at the majestic old Silbermann pianoforte at which she had given lessons to Charlotte, it seemed so long ago. She preferred her Broadwood, of course, but the Silbermann held many dear memories for her, as well, and it greatly pleased her to be able to play it now.
The gentlemen were discussing politics, with Ferriston leading the discussion enthusiastically. But everyone quieted as soon as her fingers began dancing over the keys. Only Jollyboy whined at her, seemingly unwilling to calm himself and take his place at her feet.
Max called the dog to him, hushing it so that they all might better appreciate the music his most talented, lovely wife produced, her graceful hands skipping firmly and with intention over the instrument. There was something new about the melody, he thought with pride. His heart beat with it, transported, and for a moment he closed his eyes.
Only to open them again with a start as Emilia let out a cry.
‘Dearest, are you unwell?’ he said, rising at once.
Emilia looked to him, and reached out a trembling hand.
‘What is it, my darling?’ Max asked, fear gripping his heart.
Then she smiled. ‘Oh Max,’ she breathed. ‘Tis time.’
The physician was summoned, and Mrs. Gale hovered, ready for the slightest request, as Alice sat by Emilia’s bedside. Max, anxious and fretting, waited just without, Roberts, Mr. Whitmore, Ferriston, Mrs. Emery, and Miss d’Este were there to provide support. And on August 18, 1816, Emilia and Max’s son was born. They named him George, after Max’s departed brother.
The following year George Emery and Emily Roberts were still too young for egg races, but two years later they gamely participated, their younger siblings watching from the sides. Before long there were half a dozen children living at Ceastre, chasing each other through the allées of the garden, learning to play the pianoforte from Emilia, and enjoying all the toys that Abraham carved for them.
Lord Ferriston wed Viscountess M, and Miss Augusta Emma d’Este remained unmarried until 1845, when Emilia and Max were pleased to read in the paper she wed Thomas Wilde, a man of common birth who had risen in life through his own merits. Somehow, Emilia and Max agreed that it felt a very fitting match for the unconventional Miss d’Este.
And they all lived happily ever after.