Henry and Frances of It Takes Two to Tangle begin their romance Cyrano-style, with the help of secret letters. So when I was invited to write character letters for a special blog series, these two practically begged me (as characters do) for another exchange of notes.
These letters were sent in February 1816, a few months after Henry and Frances’s marriage and one month before the novel’s epilogue. By this time, Henry–a former soldier and talented artist whose right arm was badly injured during war–has become much steadier writing and painting with his left hand. If you’ve read It Takes Two to Tangle, you might catch their references to a few story events. Happy reading!
To my dear Frances, whom I would never nickname,
If I force myself to think again as a soldier, I understand that it is my duty to be parted from you sometimes. After so many years of silence between you and your father, it is understandable that he wishes to mend the breach and see you often.
So says the soldier part of me, disciplined and logical. But I have not been a soldier for seven long (and delightful) months, and my artist’s heart now holds sway. With every knock at the door, it stutters and leaps. Is it she? Has she returned early?
Completely ridiculous, since you would not knock at our own door like a guest. No, it is always a student instead. Needing, and deserving, my best. And so we proceed with an oil-painting lesson—though the next time a knock sounds at the door, my reaction is the same. Is it she?
You have changed my notion of what my best can be. You have brought it out in me, helping it transform like dull rock that is ground into a bright pigment. When you are away, I feel dull again—though the thought of you brightens me. These thoughts turn to our quiet moments. The evening hours when I pull the pins from your hair; when we practice art of our own.
Please share my good wishes with your father. And for yourself, you have my whole heart. You remember everything, so I know you recall that I once shot a tree in defense of your honor. What higher proof of love can there be?
Henry (not Hal)
To Henry-not-Hal, who has many nicknames (but only in private),
How you honor me! I cannot claim ever to have shot a tree for you—or, indeed, for any reason at all. But I love you for many reasons besides your arboreal aggression. Here is an incomplete and not-at-all comprehensive list:
1. You painted me a picture of another man. I wrote you letters as though from another woman. That we managed to fall in love despite this rather stupid beginning is surely proof that we were meant for one another.
2. You do not mind when I am right, yet you never gloat when I am wrong. The former happens far less often than I would like, and the latter far more.
3. You dance with the confidence of a soldier and the passion of an artist. The first time you asked me to dance a minuet with you, I was yours.
4. I have never been beautiful—yet by loving me for my mind and wit, you make me feel like the most desirable woman in the world. (No, I am not angling for a compliment, but if you wish to give me one I shall happily accept.)
5. You encouraged my father and I to make peace after eight years of silence. My visit to him—and so much more of our happiness—is due to your kind heart and clever mind.
As for your body, I have learned a bit of art too. Once I return home, perhaps we could try this during our next private moment?
[Here followed a small erotic drawing.]
With deepest love,