To My Unknown Love
I would like to dedicate it to my sister, Jessica, and to the memory of Lasha Gale--without either of whom this story would never have taken place. I hope you enjoy it--let me know what you think!
Elizabeth slowly sank into a chair and sighed. She had put this task off for far too long. She rubbed her protruding belly and smiled before opening the first trunk. She was expecting her third child in a few months and had asked that a few trunks (containing clothing and various other items the newborn would need) be sent down for her to go through.
She and Darcy were very fond of their children: Jane, their five year-old who was the image of her mother, and Richard, their ever curious, ever dirty three year-old. Elizabeth and Darcy were now excited to welcome this new child into their home and to see what kind of person he or she would be.
Elizabeth leaned down and opened the trunk nearest her, but discovered it was the wrong one. This trunk held papers and odds and ends from before her marriage. She was about to close it and move on to the next one, when a letter caught her eye. "What are you doing here," she thought to herself. All of her letters were supposed to be bundled together in her room. What was this stray letter?
She opened it and began to read. As she did so she realized why it was not with the others, but forgotten in this trunk. It was not a letter to her, but from her. She had never had anyone to deliver it to, until now . . .
She hurried down the hall to her husband's study and entered without knocking. She would not have disturbed her father like this, without notice of her arrival, but Darcy welcomed any and all interruptions from his family.
"Dearest, you will not believe what I have found," she said almost laughing.
"Apparently it amuses you," he replied, as he returned her smile.
"Yes, and I think it will you too."
She handed him the letter and watched as the smile widened across his face. He did not read long, however, before looking up and saying, "You wrote one too."
"What do you mean?" His statement confused her, but she didn't get an answer. Instead he jumped out of his chair saying, "Just one moment. Wait right here and I will be back." With that he left the room.
In a few minutes he had returned, holding a folded letter in his hand. "This is for you, but first I want to finish your letter." She leaned over his shoulder as he again started to read her letter:
My Dearest Future Husband,
Is it foolish of me to write to you when I don't even know who you are? Perhaps, but I feel I should write to you. You see, you have been on my mind these past few days. I blame that on Mama. If not for her, I wouldn't have husbands on my young mind at all. But we had a ball a few days ago and of course her head is full of husbands and dowries, and weeding lace. Never mind that I am only sixteen and this was only my first ball.
Her endless chatter has naturally affected me, and that is where you come in, Husband-I've-Yet-To-Meet. I have been wondering what kind of man you are, and what our future will be like together.
Perhaps I could share with you some of my dreams for our future? And I don't mean the silly, melodramatic dreams that so many other girls seem to be concerned with, but rather what I want us to accomplish together.
First of all, I want ours to be a marriage of love and mutual respect. It pains me to say that I am all too familiar with the effects of a marriage so lacking in such important qualities. I love my parents very much, (Yes, even Mama, with all her silliness) but it is distressing to see the way they treat each other. They do not love each other, and I doubt that they ever truly have. They do not respect each other, and cannot really even stand to be in the same room with the other for long. Let us not be that way. I have determined never to marry without love for my husband. Please say that you will not marry me without feeling the same?
And you must know that I can only love and respect a man of honor and character; a man of intelligence and humor; a true gentleman. Rank has little to do with being a gentleman I have found. Rank and fortune can be quite deceiving you know. But I am a fairly good judge of character, so I feel I shall not have to worry on that score.
I hope that you have high standards for a wife, and are not willing to settle for something less. I hope you are the kind to appreciate a woman of intelligence and reason. Of course, you would have to be, in order to be my husband. However, I will do all that I can to improve myself--my mind, my character--that I may be worthy of you. Love and respect go both ways and I cannot be the one to make all the demands! I will make myself a woman of strength and character and intelligence, not only because that's who I want to be, but also because I feel certain that you would accept nothing less in your wife. No man can truly be happy with an empty-headed wife.
I would hope that once we have found each other, however, we do not give up on improving ourselves. That would never do! No, marriage must include growth.
Dearest Husband-To-Be, I also think about us as parents. What will we be like? What will our children be like? I want to do right by them. I mentioned earlier that I am familiar with the effects of a marriage lacking in fundamental qualities. These effects include the children. How often parents forget their affect on their children! Dearest, as we work to better our marriage and ourselves it can only do good for our children. Let us teach them all that is good and help them to develop their character and talents. Let us fill our home with love.
I could go on I am sure, but I will spare you. I have realized that the writing of this letter is not only for you, but also for me. Setting to paper my hopes and dreams and plans for the future has given me resolve and purpose. It has given me something to look forward to--us.
A few parting thoughts and then I will go, for the hour is very late. Let there be laughter and music and reading and dancing in our home. Let there be carriage rides and picnics and quiet evenings by the fire. Let there be you and all will be well.
There will be love for us, because I will accept nothing less. That is why I will sign this letter,
Your Loving Wife-To-Be,
As Darcy and Elizabeth read her letter together they of course shared some laughs--especially about her being such an excellent judge of character ("You thought that highly of yourself even then?" Darcy had teased her). But despite the laughter and teasing, Darcy was extremely touched by the sweet words of his wife. He was impressed with her intelligence and wit and firm opinions--even at such a young age. Her words only served to reaffirm his opinion that his wife was truly unique. How glad he was that he had realized this before it was too late!
"I'm glad you shared this letter with me, Elizabeth. It's been the highlight of my day." They were sitting on a couch together with his arm around her. He gave her an affectionate squeeze and a quick kiss.
"I'm glad I shared it too," she snuggled in closer to him. "I just discovered it a moment ago when I was going through some old trunks and I don't really know why I decided to give it to you--only that I felt I should. When I first realized what this letter was, I was quite amused, remembering it as a piece of childish foolishness. But looking back on it, I was quite sincere and I felt so close to you as I wrote it, even though I didn't know you. Does that sound ridiculous?"
"I don't think it was ridiculous at all, and I'm sure a part of me was there with you, because I think you were with me when I wrote to you." As he spoke he picked up the letter he had brought in earlier and offered it to her.
"You wrote to me too?"
"Yes, and I think it's about time I delivered it to you."
She greedily took the proffered letter into her hands and began to read:
To the Lady I Shall Someday Marry,
I know not how to begin such a letter. I do not even know why I am writing it. I should probably burn these pages once they are written and forget they ever existed, but somehow I think that you (you? I don't even know who "you" are!) would not like me to do so and will one day understand why I have written this letter.
I am told, by many of my friends, that the writing of love letters is a most wonderful experience. I shall have to wait to see if they speak the truth, however, as this is not such a missive. (I hope you will forgive me, but I am sure there will be opportunities aplenty for love letters in the future.)
Every time I am about to put my pen to this page, my thoughts flee and I am unsure of what to write. Darcy, you are a pathetic man: writing to an imaginary woman, as if it will help you get over the one you have lost!
But Future-Wife, I am probably confusing you. The lady I speak of as lost is not someone I once fancied myself in love with. Rather, it is my mother. I was called away from Oxford last week because my mother had suddenly become ill. She died two days ago.
My father is in a daze and Georgiana--poor Georgiana, only six!--cries herself to sleep, not really understanding what has happened. My world is turned upside down and I have surely lost my mind because I am writing to some mysterious woman who, for all I know doesn't even exist!
But there is no one else for me. I am alone.
I think of her face; her smiles; her eyes that could fill with laughter when she was happy, or fill with tears when I had disappointed her. How I hated to cause her tears! But now it is all gone and nothing matters.
I think of my father's face every time he looked at her. She was the light of his life--any fool could have seen that! His face would lift and lighten when she entered the room. He respected her, treated her like a queen because, in his eyes, she was. Now his face is lifeless and dull. He seems only a shell of the man he used to be.
Is it worth it to love someone so much, only to lose her? Something in me says, yes, it is. Perhaps it is you calling me.
As I write to you I feel at peace for the first time since I heard of my mother's illness. How I wish you could know her. I think she would like you. I don't know why I would say something like that, but deep in my heart, I know it's true.
My mother and father filled this home with love and laughter. They have taught me kindness and goodness. I hope one day I will be able to give the same to my--our children.
That is an odd thought: me as a father. Even the thought of myself as a husband is odd. I don't know if I will be good enough. Although, my parents have taught me well and if I follow their example I am sure I will do well. I am also sure my father will live many years more and will be able to give me advice. And I will have you to help me.
What kind of woman are you? I am sure you are intelligent and kind. Despite the pain I feel now, I am filled with a sense of hope. I look forward to you--to us, because, for some reason I don't understand, I know that you will help to heal me.
I will do all I can to prepare myself to be good to you. I will learn from my father; I will develop myself into a man worthy of you.
In the meantime, I will help bring hope to my father and sister as you have brought hope to me. Thank you. Until we meet.
As Elizabeth read the letter of her husband, tears filled her eyes. His sincerity and the depths of his grief touched her. She was impressed that someone so young could feel so much.
"Thank you," she said, "for sharing this with me. I wish I had known your mother too. She sounds wonderful."
"She was. You know, even though it's been almost twenty years, there are still times I miss her so much it aches. It's the same with my father. It's ironic that when I wrote this letter I thought he would live to be a grumpy old grandfather, but he died about four years later. It was even harder to lose him."
"And you do you love me as much as your father loved your mother?" She asked, teasingly.
"Oh much, much, much more, for you saved me--twice. After father died I became a man overnight. My world was not only turned upside down, it collapsed completely. Suddenly I was the master of an estate, and guardian of a ten-year-old sister. The only thing I had to hold on to was the hope that one day you would come. And even that hope was dimming by the time I met you. Which probably explains why I didn't realize you were the woman of my dreams right away."
They laughed together for a moment then sat in silence--content to be in each other's company. Finally Lizzie broke the silence with: "You know, Darcy, dear, you still owe me a love letter. Dozens by now! For you can't really call the letter I received at Rosings a love letter."
Gently he reached out and cupped her smiling face in his hands, then looked deep into her eyes--those eyes that still fascinated him and kept him spellbound. "My dearest, loveliest, most wonderful Elizabeth. Every day that I have spent with you is my love letter to you--every embrace, every thought when we are apart. My life, my very being, is my love letter to you."
With tears in her eyes, but a smile on her face, she replied, "Mr. Darcy, how unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give and that I should be so reasonable to admit it!"* With that they kissed with all the warmth and passion that can be expected from a couple so much and so long in love as they were.
*Pride and Prejudice Chapter 18 (I have always loved this line and I think it's most appropriate here!)
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