November 19, 1872
My beloved Josephine,
Thou wilst notice there are two letters within one envelope; I have written one letter thou might share with thy family in the evening, full of the stories of our journey from the West, how young Franz and Emil have explored and adventured and some final reflections of our time in Laramie. This letter, though, this letter is intended for thee alone, to be read alone, perhaps when the house is quiet and the first stars have begun to prick the darkness with their light. This is the last letter I will write to thee, my beloved, before we are wed and I wish it to satisfy every romantic longing thy heart holds in secret. I wish to tell thee how much I love thee, how strongly and boundlessly, like the ocean and the sky; how tenderly, like the first wood violet; how recklessly, like a mariner setting sail without a compass. Thou hast made me thus, who was only cautious and measured, staid-- a man of philosophy who valued the wisdom of the sages over all else; and now, thou art in that place, in every place I turn, and within my dreams, thy grey eyes, softly gleaming like a spring dawn, beckon to me.
To think that thou await me at the end of this long journey soothes me and excites me in equal measure. I am returned to the young, impetuous Fritz I once was, walking through Berlin in the evenings, entranced by the lights, the society, the music that poured from the Königliches Opernhaus in a great splendid glory. Now, I long only for the lamp in the front window of Orchard House and to see thy fair face turned up to mine when thou welcome me home. The West is called wild, and perhaps I have become wilder with it, so I warn thee, I intend to take thee in my arms and hold thee close, to kiss thy sweet, red mouth until thou art breathless, breathless as thee makest me when I think thou shalt become my wife, mine own Josephine.
The months without thee have been long—the promise of my homecoming hath stretched the time and perhaps sweetened it too, like the taffy my nephews love. This has been an odd sort of courtship, conducted at such a distance, but I cannot regret it entirely, for thou hast sent me such missives, hath made me laugh aloud while my heart within longs for thee, oh how ardently! Thou art such a joy to me, heart’s dearest, such an utter delight and though I know thou wouldst tell me I am too sentimental, too complimentary, that thou art only “plain Jo March,” I will keep writing as I am. And when I return to thee, I will not stop saying how much I love thee, how thou art fair and lovely and never only enough, never plain-- but only everything I could have ever hoped for.
Thou art beautiful, Josephine, though thou cannot see it and I will tell thee of the loveliness of thy chestnut hair, thy grey eyes and thy soft, fond smile. I have felt the silk of thy cheek against mine and wondered at it. I cannot number the nights I have dreamt of when I held thee in the rain, but in my dreams, thy hair tumbled around us and I kissed thy throat, the palm of thy hand. Or I filled thy arms with flowers, so many, white camellias and jasmine, crowned thee with wild roses, my dear one, and when I embraced thee, the fragrance was all around us mixed with the green scent of rain. Thou hath made me a lover, thy lover, and I cannot hope but that I might make thee blush in anticipation of my embraces, what I will whisper to thee in our marriage-bed. I wouldst bring thee all the pleasure thou hath granted me, I wouldst delight thee exceedingly. Perhaps God hath given us this time apart that we might each consider how much, how often, how eagerly we may demonstrate the nature of our love. I shall do everything, beloved, everything to show thee how dear to me thou art.
For I love thee, I have loved thee since I read thy story of thy sister thou shared and understood thy heart, its sharp sorrows and longings, how warm and fierce thou art, how gentle and yearning. How fine a woman thou art, my Josephine, how thou canst balance thy humor and thy kindness, thy sharp intelligence and thy humble wish to care for those thou lovest most! I find thee the most beautiful woman I know, because thou art the sweetest, the best, with the most beautiful soul and I still canst hardly believe my good fortune that thou lovest me in return. But I am most glad to find myself convinced by thee, thy exuberant, affectionate letters, and will be so every morning hence, with thy face the first I see, and reassured every evening, to kiss thy tender mouth good night. I wonder, shall I still dream of thee when I hold thee in my arms all night? I think perhaps I will, but what will those dreams be—that I cannot imagine but I will welcome them and I will wake to find them surpassed when I see thy face smiling with thine own reverie.
This hotel, this Tremont House, is the grandest in Chicago. I brought the boys here to see it for its opulence and its history—Lincoln spoke here and Douglas and I thought my young Americans should have an opportunity to see such a place. I wouldst be overwhelmed by its grandeur if I were not so entirely ensnared by my thoughts of thee. All I think is to wonder how much thou would enjoy its splendor and how I wouldst know thy face was the loveliest, most charming sight within its gilded walls. And I admit I am greatly pleased to deceive all the elegantly dressed ladies in their silks and laces, the gentlemen in their tall hats and furred coats with my appearance as a solemn and modest professor; they must imagine I write to a sagacious colleague or perhaps the spinster sister who keeps house for me, when I am writing to my beautiful bride, with as much passion as I can express with words alone. At least these words will serve to remind thee that it is not much longer that this letter alone must suffice, that so soon I will come to thee, beloved, and this separation between us will be forever ended.
And so I will end this letter and seal it and thou must know that within its inky scrawl lies the ringing truth of my hopeful heart—that it will seem only minutes and moments before I am at your door. My arms will be spread wide and how I wish thee to fly to me! Let me begin our infinite embrace, our marriage to begin even then, with the vows I makest to thee with my eyes, my heart, my greeting kiss. What gladness awaits me because of thee, Josephine! May God bless thee and keep thee safe until I stand before thee again, thy most eager, most fervent, most loving---