The Perplexity Of Family

February 10, 1897
Penelope Sumter

February 2, 1897

Dearest Penelope,

I realize this letter will arrive too late to be of any use beyond the comfort it brings me to pen it. At long last I am leaving for Providence and will be with you soon after this letter arrives or possibly even before. What a laugh that would be!

I should have left with you and never looked back, but even though I know I will never meet with father’s approval, I still find myself trying. No more though, not for me. It is past time I stood on my own and made my own way in this world. In Providence I have the opportunity and means to do so and I get to be close to you while I am about it. I do not expect you will understand, not because you are a woman but because you are not a second born son.

I leave our childhood home today with the realization I left it for the last time, months ago when I first accompanied you to Primrose College. Had I known then all that I know now, I would never have come back at all. Father and James cut me out of affairs a long time ago for reasons I may never understand. Today, I cut them off and for reason they will likely never understand, know or think to know. Shed no tears for me little sister, I am happy for once and that alone tells me I am doing what it right for me.

Although I am aware you tire of my mentioning her name, please tell Elizabeth I will see her soon. There is much to be discussed, much to be done, and a world to change.

Wilbur Sumter


February 3, 1897

Dear Penelope,

It is my sad duty to inform you our brother Wilbur is no longer a welcome member of our family. His obsession with Miss Bassett has irreparably clouded his judgment and blinded him to the realities of this world. When Mother attempted to talk some sense into him, he flew into a rage and beat her with his bare fists. Mother is strong and will recover in time, but there is no room in our home for such a monster.

Father had a warrant sworn out on Wilbur this morning, but it seems he has already fled. Should he contact you, as he well might because of your proximity to Miss Bassett, send a message to me at once and do not let him know you are aware of what he has done or he might harm you as well. I have no affection for Miss Basset but I would not wish our demented brother on anyone, it would be best if you could keep her away from him if at all possible.

A man by the name of William Howe is on his way to Providence now. It would be most wise of you to assist him in convincing Miss Basset to accompany him out of Providence until such time as Wilbur can be apprehended. Mr. Howe will contact you when he arrive, but it is imperative you keep your contact discreet. Above all, Miss Waters must not be aware of his presence or she will undoubtedly complicate matters and endanger the lives of everyone.

Wilbur has lost his head and there is no sadder duty than to confront your own blood in the way we must. You are a strong woman like our mother and I know you will do what you must. Father and I are very proud of you, little sister.

J. Sumter

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