October 1, 1890

Dearest William,

I must first formally apologize for neglecting to write you for quite some time. I assure you that I am fine and all is well. As you should have known, I have spent the last few weeks relocating to quite a peculiar town—well, more about that later. One Mr. Charles Buford delivered the post—in which your letter was included—to me just yesterday.

In response to your inquiries about my well-being as well as that of the children's, I reply that this is the best we've been in a while. Martha has recently taken up the study of embroidery from Evelyn, our nanny. Ever since Sarah passed, we've all made due in our own way. I am of the hope that Mildred shall follow suit and accompany her sister in this trade. It was Sarah's favorite, you know, and Evelyn is as skilled with a needle as any woman this side of the Mason-Dixon.

I really am of the opinion that life here could be a new start for us. You, perhaps better than anyone, are aware of the struggles I underwent following Sarah's passing. There was a time when I felt as if I were walking through life with a veil in front of my eyes. But now—and in no small part due to you, you might like to know—the veil has lifted, and with it the fogs of my depression.

And so I hope this is the signaling of a better beginning. I think you'll find it quite different here, I must say. Perhaps Athens really had spoiled me—I'd gotten quite used to our late nights downtown. But something here is just different.

It took me a while to fathom what it was; indeed, at first I couldn't recognize it at all. Still, something bugged me, though I knew it only as a nudging doubt in the back of my mind. But today as I withdrew from the girls' room—they fell right asleep, the poor things—it dawned on me. I stood there in the threshold, listening to a backdrop of peaceful breathing and nighttime stillness, and realized that absent here is any sort of the livelihood we had both grown accustomed to in Athens.

There's a quietness here, quite unlike any other I've ever experienced. In saying this, I make reference not just to the absence of noise, but also to the absence of landmarks. There's nothing remarkable here, not really. The sparse lot of buildings and stores in town do indicate human habitation, but they in no way provide a sense of familiarity or welcoming.

The quiet nights here remind me of the first nights I spent with Sarah. You may remember that when Sarah and I first met, we had taken a liking to sitting out by the lake. The still nights here in some ways recreate the gentle nights we spent together, and, at times like these with the children asleep, I find that my mind drifts back to her. However, I feel as if I am finally at peace. This town has given me back my memories.

I wonder if it has had the same effect on Jeb. He suffered most terribly after the loss of his mother, and after watching his downcast and apathetic demeanor for quite some time, I had started to believe that he had been irrevocably changed in the wake of her passing.

Since moving here to Oak, the raising of his spirits might be matched only by my own. Maybe, though, I'm giving this town too much credit. Jeb has long entertained the notion of starting a general store with me—I've told him all about the one we ran with PawPaw when we were young—and his youthful imagination surely has aggrandized the practice. My own spirits can't help but to feel at ease as I watch my children start to live again. I pray that I, too, can have the resiliency of a child.

But, let me tell you more about the store. I have secured a plot of land not far from the center of town, and I intend to build the store there. It's not very far from the house, and Jeb and I expect that once we get everything settled here we can begin construction. It's our sincerest desire to have it completed before your arrival in January.

As for the house, there's not much one can say. Some rooms are in dire need of repair—the house was left vacant for so long, and there's an unmistakable draft that blows through at times—but, I'm overall pleased. It's big enough, and, what's more, the land is suitable for both crops and livestock. I'll get to the business of purchasing both shortly, but first we must finish unpacking our things.

It's getting late, and I had intended to close this letter quite some time before, but the last topic reminded me of the most peculiar of incidents that occurred shortly after our arrival. I fear you'll think me absent-minded or even crazy if I tell you. I, myself, view it as the product of months of stress or an elaborate display of mischievousness.

The house boasts a wide porch that circles around to the side of the house before culminating into a sprawling deck in the back. We had Jim O'Reilly—you remember him, don't you?—accompany us the first day, as Jeb and I were afraid that it would take more than two men to unload Sarah's old furniture and piano. We had put the furniture in the house first, but we left our boxes on the front porch. Jim was in a rush to get back home—his daughter was running a fever—so we didn't want to trouble him to take the things inside.

Evelyn had taken the girls inside to clean, and Jeb and I had taken Mr. O'Reilly over to the town to see where our store would be built. It was just a quick trip—I told you; he was in a hurry—but when we had come back, all the boxes had been moved into the den. When I told Evelyn that she needn't bother the girls to do such lifting, she told me that she hadn't. She said she and the girls had been upstairs preparing the bedrooms, and would I be so kind as to stop joking around? Jeb is of the opinion that Martha and Mildred must have done it, but they seemed genuinely confused when I asked them. I can't explain it. If the girls really are doing this as some form of amusement, I must say I don't find the humor in it.

But who am I to judge? I'm sure you remember all the times we pulled one over on Mama and Daddy when we were young—who could forget? I hope it's a sign that the girls like the house. Perhaps my own enthusiasm about this place is infectious. I must stress again: things are on the uptick, William, and I couldn't be more excited.

On that note, I will finish this letter. I hope this reaches you safely and in good health. As always, I will be eagerly awaiting your next message, and I am sure I will have much more to tell you next time.

Take care.

Your dearest brother,