Lady Emilia or Mr. Wight – Extended Epilogue

Two Years Later

This portrait is not going particularly well.

Emilia had to stifle a laugh as her paintbrush flicked across the canvas another time. It didn’t seem to matter how many times she urged her sitter to sit peacefully and perfectly still for her, it was not going to happen. The result was a portrait that was full of movement, showing the sitter already trying to clamber down from the stool on which they were sat.

“Miranda? What did Mama say?” Emilia said in a sweet voice as she peered over the top of the canvas. The little girl still tried to clamber down from the stool as she turned innocent eyes up to her mother. Emilia laughed, knowing there was nothing so innocent really about her daughter. She was sweet in nature, but as fond of mischief and adventure as much as her parents were.

The result was Emilia would have to go on the hunt for her daughter, discovering the toddler had given the nanny a slip, meaning Emilia would have to hunt under furniture and in cupboards for where Miranda had decided to hide today.

“Sit?” Miranda guessed, smiling up at Emilia. The little girl was still learning to talk, but she had grasped enough to utter some words. “Down.” Miranda’s next word was coupled with her toppling from the stool completely, dropping to the rug on her rear with her legs outstretched. It was such a short stool that the distance had been no great thing at all, but Emilia pushed her paints away regardless and hurried to her daughter, checking she was well.

“Oh dear, a little bump?” she asked as Miranda made little grabbing movements in the air with her hands, asking to be picked up. “There we are,” Emilia said, taking her daughter in her arms and lifting her into the air before placing a warm kiss to her cheek. Miranda squealed at delight at the kiss then pointed to the floor again.


“You seem to have mastered that word more than anything.” Emilia laughed and put down her daughter. “Now, will you sit calmly for Mama so she can finish your picture?”

Miranda chewed her lip in thought for a minute, then nodded.

“Good, off you go.” As Emilia urged her daughter to climb onto the stool another time, clearly, Miranda was not so keen on being settled yet. Instead of returning to the stool, she discarded the small spindle toy she had been holding onto and wandered around the room, with the clear intent of finding another toy. “You are going to mess up my picture,” Emilia said with delight, following her daughter to make sure she did not fall as she ran quickly between the toy chest in her nursey and a rug on which more toys were laid out.

Miranda plopped onto the floor on her rear and scrambled forward on her hands and knees, picking up each toy in turn.

“What about this one?” Emilia asked, proffering a toy forward, each in turn. She started with a wooden carved figure, but Miranda shook her head, making a small harumphing noise from her lips in protest. As Emilia offered one toy at a time, she looked around the selection, realizing how much of it was full of the gifts her family had bestowed on them.

There was a small puppet house that Laurence had gifted to them, complete with string puppets bought by Grady and Marianne. At the back of the selection, there was an array of Dutch dolls, many of which had been gifted by Christian. It seemed every time he came to the house, he would bring a new doll for his niece to play with and she loved him for it. More often than not she would be found sitting in his lap, demanding he played with her and the dolls. Christian, fortunately, appeared to delight in the games as much as she did. Finally, sat boldly in the middle of the rug was a rocking horse, the wood painted in great detail.

Miranda inched toward it on her knees and patted the wooden mane.

“Horsey,” she said with a little laugh as if the horse would respond to her.

“Yes, horsey,” Emilia agreed, loving that her daughter was learning more and more words. That particular horse had been a gift from Montgomery and Miss Manning, and Miranda had barely left it alone since it had arrived. Emilia was just beginning to think her daughter would insist on dragging the horse into the picture, and change the composition entirely when Miranda’s hand slipped from the rocking horse to another figurine.

This one was also a horse, but small and carved out of wood, painted delicately in the continental style. Miranda grabbed tightly onto the horse and embraced it, as if it were the very object of her affections, then she wandered back across the room, in the direction of the stool with Emilia behind her.

“There now, have you made your final choice?” Emilia asked as Miranda nodded heartily. “Good. Now see if you can impress Mama and sit still for a few minutes.” She helped Miranda onto the stool and then hastened to her place at the easel, muttering to herself. “If it lasts one minute, I will be impressed.”

As she retook her seat, she was thrilled to see her daughter’s face on the canvas was slowly taking shape. The perfect mix of her and Robert, she bore Emilia’s light brown eyes, and the same cheekbones as Robert, with dark hair curling by her ears, springing up into tight curls.

As Miranda fussed over the wooden horse, Emilia painted it into the canvas, wondering when Robert would return home to see what progress she was making. She was certain he would be delighted to know that the toy their daughter had chosen to sit with was the very one he had gifted to her the day before.


Robert’s footfall was quiet as he crept toward the open door of the nursery, for he wanted a stolen moment watching Emilia and Miranda together. He was not disappointed, for neither had heard his approach, allowing him to watch the two of them together.

Miranda was fussing over the wooden horse he had bought for her, sat on a stool, and making babbling sounds at the horse as if they were speaking in their own language together. Emilia was sat behind the canvas, with that usual intent look that creased her brow and made her light brown eyes so active.

He couldn’t help admiring the two of them together, loving the sight when Emilia pleaded with their daughter to sit still, but Miranda would refuse outright.

“I’m beginning to think she doesn’t sit still just to play with you,” Robert said with a laugh, watching as his words made Emilia jump and turn around in her seat to face him. She smiled widely as soon as she saw him, encouraging him to stride into the room and bend down to kiss her lips.

“I am sure she does,” Emilia said as he stood straight once more. “She is as mischievous as you are.”

“Me? I am a pure innocent.”

“You realize the irony of that statement?” Emilia laughed and turned round to paint the canvas again. “You were the one who suggested I painted her in the first place. I am sure you knew what a fidgeting sitter she would be.”

“Well, maybe I cannot resist the idea of being mischievous,” he whispered in Emilia’s ear as his gaze turned on the painting. It was exquisite, and alight with movement. Their daughter in the canvas had her hands in the air holding onto the horse with joy, and her lips were parted in such laughter that Robert could imagine the painting coming to life, laughing of its own accord.

“Pa!” Miranda called out, about to climb down from the stool again.

“This will never work,” Emilia said with a sigh.

“Maybe I should sit with her.” Robert hurried across the room and picked up his daughter in his arms, loving how she squealed in delight. “Now, is that sitting still?”


“It is her new favorite word, I am sure of it,” Emilia called from the other side of the portrait.

“Down, you say? Down it is.” He sat on the child-sized stool and pulled Miranda into his lap.

“You look rather amusing with your legs so lanky over the stool,” Emilia said, sitting back to look at them both.

“If it is a way to make her still, I’ll happily do it.” Robert sat with his arms around Miranda as she played with the toy and sat in his lap.

“How did it go? At the academy?” Emilia asked, pausing with her paintbrushes in the air.

“Well. Very well in fact.” Robert sat taller with a smile, recalling his conversation with Sir Tippington. “They agree with me that we should have an exhibition entirely dedicated to Mr. Wight’s efforts. What is more, you have an offer from Somerset Gallery.”

“I beg your pardon?” Emilia cried, nearly dropping a paintbrush. She snatched it from the air before it could fall and drop paint to the floorboards.

“They wish to buy one of your paintings. Well, Mr. Wight’s paintings.” He laughed at the idea as Emilia jumped to her feet and squealed in joy. He loved the sight of seeing her so happy. He liked to think that he had supported her career as much as he could, but he knew it was all to her own merit that she was doing so well. His support had little to do with it; it was to her talent and hard work. “You deserve it, Emilia. Which reminds me, do you ever wish to paint in your own name?”

His question made her pause in her celebrations.

“I do not know,” she confessed, turning her gaze down to the canvas. “I like being Mr. Wight. People judge me as they judge other artists, they do not think to bring the fact I am a lady into the equation. Maybe someday, I could reveal the truth. When I’m old and grey, I’ll undo my sideburns and throw off my top hat in public, revealing that Mr. Wight is really the Marchioness of Wellington, and the art world has been conned. What do you say?”

“I like the idea greatly. I look forward to seeing Sir Tippington’s face the day you do it. Though something tells me he’ll need more than just that cane to keep standing when he discovers the truth.” He laughed when he turned his eyes down to Miranda in his lap, startled to find she had stopped playing.

Her hand was curled around the wooden horse, but her head was resting in his chest with his arms around her, and her eyes were closed. She was sleeping soundlessly, with her curls mussed and her breath escaping her slowly.

“Peaceful at last,” Robert whispered.

“That is it.”

“That’s what?” Robert asked, looking up from his daughter to his wife. Emilia was suddenly alive with activity, snapping up her sketchbook and pencil, hurrying to draw the two of them together.

“That is the finer portrait, Robert.”

“Why? Because she is sitting still at last?” he asked, teasing and watching as Emilia brushed him off with a humored wave of her hand.

“No. Because it has the two of you in it. Look down at her again, as you were doing.”

He did as she asked, sitting quietly and holding onto the daughter he loved so much for many minutes. When Emilia eventually lifted the sketchbook, revealing a quick sketch she had done, he felt his heartbeat harder at the image.

“It is indeed nearly perfect.” He knew what would make it perfect. He needed everyone in it that he loved, to surmise the happy life he now had.

“Nearly?” Emilia asked in disappointment.

“It needs you in it too.”

The End

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