We will have a new farm in America, one with plenty of land for Hamlet to run. The trouble he’s been causing with the neighbors’ sheep is no good. But in America, they have acres and acres of land for a big dog like him to roam.
It’s been so long since I’ve been home, too. I’ve heard how New York has changed. I would love for you to see where I grew up. We didn’t live right in the city, but I’ve been told that the city has grown so much, it’s swallowed up many of the farms around it.
This will be a brand new start for us, Elise. We will be as newlyweds all over again. We will build a new home, start a new life. We can leave behind all the worries you’ve made in Ireland.
I haven’t wanted to say anything, out of fear of upsetting you. But even Ezra has noticed the change within you this last year. He’s called it “darkness.”
Sometimes, when you and I are sitting there, talking, I see it come over you. Like a shadow across your face, and I know that you’re not there anymore. You’ve gone, and left behind something that looks like you, talks like you, but it’s simply not you.
When I was still home, packing up my trunk in the bedroom, I heard you in the kitchen talking to Ezra. I couldn’t even see you, but I heard it in your voice. I heard when you left, and the darkness came in.
“That darkness is getting stronger with her,” Ezra said on the carriage ride to the port. “She’s hardly even there anymore.”
“I know,” I sighed, unsure of what more to say on the subject. I’d already thought of everything I could think of, said everything I knew to say. Nothing seemed to help.
“She has the worst melancholy I’ve seen,” Ezra said. He stared out at the window, at the green countryside that rolled past us. The lush scenery that I had come to love, as I had come to love you.
“What’s the treatment?” I asked, watching him. “How do you alleviate melancholy?”
“Purpose,” he said simply. “Every living thing needs to feel a purpose, even if that purpose is only finding something to eat and somewhere to sleep. Elise has everything. Her only purpose is to make you happy, and you’ve been happy.”
“Do you think this will give her purpose?” I asked. “Starting a new life in a new country?”
“Only time will tell.”
I am doing this for you, Elise. For us. Together, we can create a life with new purpose.
Saying goodbye to Ireland was harder than I’d thought it would be, and I know it will be hard for you. It is the land where your family is buried, where we fell in love, where all your memories are.
But that’s the true joy of this voyage. It will be like being born anew. All your old memories and fears and concerns will be left behind on that farm. And you and I and our love can spring forth in America.
Remember before we got married, and I told you of the time I’d seen a foal born on my father’s farm? I feel that way again, the way I did before we wed. That I’m on the precipice of a grand beginning. Together, we will create a new life again.
Leaving Catherine behind will be difficult, I know, but her heart is Ireland. Ezra talked endlessly with her about coming with us to America, but she refused. I am lucky to have the heart of a woman that is so open to change.
But I’ve always been lucky to have you, for a million reasons. I know you will not think less of me for hating the sea so much. And I know that despite your melancholy, you love me as much as you ever did.
I don’t deserve your love, and I know that. I don’t make you as happy as I should, try as I might. I’m an imperfect man filled with imperfect thoughts and capable of imperfect deeds. I hope to be a better man when I see you again.
Please write me soon. I already miss you so, and it will be months until we are able to see each other. I will send for you as soon as Ezra and I get ourselves established, and you set the house in Ireland in order.
I am counting down the days until you and Hamlet will join me. Until then, I will be half a man, living half a life. My heart is with you, where it always will be, and I won’t be whole until I am with you.
You are my love, my true, my only, my Elise.
April 28, 1863
Elise, my love –
Have I done something to offend? It’s been over a month since your last letter, and I used to be able to set the calendar by the arrival of them. I’d expected to hear that you were on your way to America, or at least close to leaving.
Perhaps I’m only being paranoid. I’ve had this bizarre illness that I cannot seem to shake. It started about a month ago. I was walking down the street one night, and a spasm came over me. I collapsed to the ground, unable to stand, and waited for the pain to abate, but it never truly did.
Since then, I’ve felt this odd loneliness that I don’t quite know how to explain. I’ve been without you for so long already, missing you terribly this entire time. But something about it feels different. The distance between us feels more vast than ever before. I am so lost without you.
So perhaps that is what is talking, driving me to write this. My own paranoia and malaise. Your absence always leaves me half a man, and I fear that I’ve left both my brain and my heart in your possession. I will be unable to think or feel until you return to me.
In your last letter, you sounded better than you have in such a long time, more like the girl I’d fallen in love with. The darkness had faded, ebbed back from your words. Was that not true? Are you not as excited to join me as you claimed to be?
I do believe you’ll find New York as lovely as I do. The flat we have has an amazing view of the park. I know it’s not a house, but you’ll love this place, and we can search for a house together.
How are things with Catherine? The last you told me she’s been agitated about you leaving. I hope the two of you have managed to make some peace before you go. You have been together for a long time, and I’d hate to see your history destroyed over this.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the past. I looked up my younger brother Joseph last week. Ezra had always encouraged me to avoid my family, but I couldn’t help myself. Being back in this City, even though it’s changed so much, still reminds me of home.
Joseph only lives a few blocks away from my flat, in the same brownstone my elderly aunt once owned. She’s long since passed, and her home went to my brother, who had cared for in the years before her death.
Obviously, I couldn’t go to his home and inform him that I’m his long lost brother, unchanged from the last time he saw me a quarter of a century ago. But I had to see him. I wandered the street around his address, waiting for a chance to bump into him.