November 16, 1890

Dearest William,

Let me begin by expressing my utmost gratitude for your timely response! I must admit, I was quite beside myself before. Truly, your words are as a balm to the open wounds of my life, and for that, I am forever grateful.

You are quite right. Perhaps I overreacted a tad before. Since that encounter, I have heard no more from the barefooted man, and life here has been operating smoothly. Still, I feel more comfortable with my guns beside me (how I wish Evelyn would take one!), and I've found myself with a peculiar reluctance to admit guests—not that we have many, of course.

But let's put the terror aside a moment, for I have details of great importance I would like to share with you.

Quite pressing upon my mind is the notion that I am failing as a father. I have mentioned in great deal my concerns of the children having no playmates here in Oak, but those fears have been somewhat alleviated as the children (with my reluctance, of course) have taken to playing with Mr. Boatwright's son, a young lad named Harvey. He seems an alright fellow, but I cannot shake the fear that he should impress upon my children the odd temperament of his father.

However, as a man of letters, I must admit that I now question my decision to move to Oak on another basis. You are as aware as I am the passion Sarah and I shared for educating the children, but I have had all of them—including Jeb—out of school for longer than I wish to admit. For now, what with the coming of winter and all, I am aware that the most practical of options is to keep them home to help with preparations—but I cannot help but feel as though I am depriving my very children of the education I myself enjoyed.

As soon as we are on our feet again, I shall recommence their learning. That, quite naturally of course, must follow the opening of the store. In that regard, at least, I offer some good news. The construction has progressed smoothly, as we have completed both the exterior and interior walls. Jeb continues to work as hard as ever, if not quite as passionately as before.

Oh, dear brother, I do believe I have neglected to mention our barn! As I told you previously, I had intended to purchase some livestock. Having done so some weeks before, Jeb and I have partaken in the remodeling of an old barn located towards the edge of our property.

In our efforts to procure livestock, we managed to acquire a dozen or so chickens, a few cows, and two pigs. Martha and Mildred share an affinity for the animals and have, in breaks between their practice of embroidery, taken to assisting Jeb and me on the farm.

But these are the strangest animals! Our cow Bessie (a name affectionately given by Martha), has been quite reluctant to give any milk. You remember all the time we spent on PawPaw's farm before, I'm sure, when we would be all morning outside milking the cows. Here it's rather the opposite. Though I labor for the better half of an hour every morning, I'm lucky to get an ounce of milk.

I wonder if I—in my ignorance—have purchased a dud. If that is the case, I must truly have sought professional advice. For, you see, my hens also suffer from the same defect—namely, they aren't producing many eggs.

In the last week—I say this in earnest—I have acquired merely three eggs! Can you believe it? A dozen chickens and three eggs! Can you remember any similar occurrence from our time spent on PawPaw's farm? Perhaps the blame is to be laid on me; I must admit, my application of agricultural technique is not perfect.

Only the pigs seem to be doing well, and that really is of no use to me now. Still, I take it at least as a sign that I am not wholly unskilled in raising animals. I do hope you won't laugh at me, brother, for my inadequacies. A man must start somewhere, I suppose.

Perhaps it is my general pallor rubbing off on the place. I have yet to fully recover from the prior incident, and I am afraid that my passions have infected both the children and the animals. I do believe that when the store is completed, our spirits shall be lifted, and we will have restored the harmony I value so deeply.

In any case, I have taken to storing the available provisions for the upcoming cold season. I cannot help to recall the piercing chill of last winter in Athens; do you remember the quilt Sarah made for you and Marion then? I can still see her sitting in her rocker, sewing the thing together over a warm cup of tea. I do hope it's come of some use!

For myself, I must see at once to fixing the draft here in the house. The nights are already starting to grow cold, and, as I have yet to solidify our walls here at home, we remain unprotected from the vicious cold that is sure to bombard us. I must say that I am thankful to the Good Lord for keeping our health up despite our failing spirits. Sarah's passing left its toll on me, and I do not know if I could handle it if one of the children were to fall ill.

Oh, William, I do apologize if this letter is too draining on your spirits. I know how taxing it is to constantly read the ramblings of a downcast man. I will think nothing of it if you shall reproach my defeated tone; indeed, I welcome it. Nonetheless, I must thank you for exhibiting unflinching patience in this regard, and I pray that you'll find me much better when I write next.

Hoping all is well,