October 19, 1896
Wilbur thought it was best if I stayed with him in the city for a few days after the riot last week. Classes were cancelled and after seeing that mob bearing down on Carrington Manor I was not disposed to argue with him. I suggested we invite Lizzie also but Wilbur insisted it would not be proper. That would be his subtle way of indicating he has an interest in her.
I still believe he is wasting his energies on her, but he is still in the mode of denying his interest in her. He insists his only interest in Miss Bassett is her ability to influence me. As if she could!
Wilbur is clearly torn between scolding me and congratulating me on a brilliant plan. His idea of compromise is to do neither and spend half his time scowling at me and the other pretending nothing happened. At least he decided not to inform father, although I suspect father will know well in advance of our upcoming trip home for the holiday season. Not much happens that he does not know about and even less where I am concerned.
Naturally, being in the city and free from school obligations, I went shopping. It was something of a disappointment with more than half the shops closed and the best shops well looted of their finest items. The act itself was enjoyable regardless and were it not for the occasional reminder through broken glass and empty displays, I could have completely forgotten about the recent troubles.
By mid-afternoon I was bored with browsing. It seems there was not an item in town which I desired that had not been either stolen or broken. The trail of open shops had led me close to the harbor and upon exiting the last shop I decided a walk along the boardwalk was in order. It is not the best of places for a lady to wander alone, but I am feeling a good deal braver after my success just last week.
As I walked along, I was amazed by the number of ships I could see in the harbor. Never before had I seen so many ships in one place. Looking around the reason became obvious, there was no one working the docks. No dock workers, no one to unload or load the ships with goods.
I stopped walking and stared out at the ships and the empty docks. The more I took it in the more I understood. It might not seem like much to the workers in Providence but the goods sitting in the harbor and the goods waiting in storage yards near the docks will only exasperate the already strained economics. With that thought came a crazier thought, maybe I was on the wrong side of last week’s dispute. A stand off between the laborers and the business owners will only weaken everyone.
“Excuse me.” An old woman said, interrupting my thoughts.
She looked out of place. Her attire was conservative but classy. She wore a red scarf over her graying hair which was tied up in a way that hid its length. Her eyes seemed kind and the way she looked at me, made me feel like I was being measured.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“It is kind of you to offer child, but it is not I who is lost.”
“I am not lost.” I reassured her.
“I know who you are child and you are more lost than you know.”
“Who are you?”
“Someone whom your father would prefer you did not know.”
“You know my father?”
“I know of him. Does that concern you?”
“What concerns me is you think you know me and we have never met before.”
“You are Miss Penelope Sumter of South Carolina. Your father is worried that you will embrace that which he fights against.”
“And what is that?”
“Take this,” She pushed a folded piece of paper into my hand. “there is a meeting and that is your invitation.”
“A meeting about what?”
“You have a choice, you can embrace a path to fulfill your potential or you can hide in the shadow of your father. If you will take some advice from an old woman, you cannot hide from yourself.”
“You think you know me better than I know myself?”
She laughed at me. I frowned.
“Do you know why you put that machine in front of the mob?”
“How do you know about that?”
“I know why you did it.”
“Are you going to tell me?”
“No, you will have to figure it out for yourself for it to mean anything.”
“For wanting to help me, you sure don’t answer my questions very well.”
“My help is to get you to realize the questions you should be asking. The answers you will have to find for yourself.”
The woman began walking away.
“You never said who you are.” I called to her.
She smiled at me for a moment.
“A long time ago, I was someone just like you.”