Everyone took time to look over the items from the Palmer package; making comments on the things they saw and how it affected them. While it was exciting, it was also somber, because they learned personal things about people who were no longer alive.
After a time, it was time to open the second package. It was clumpy, like the Palmer package.
Sophie’s mom, Anne, opened the package, and unfolded the wrapping paper.
On the top was another letter.
It is 1924. The folks in Adel knew me as Penelope Watkins. My brother and I are preparing to leave Adel. A few years ago, my brother found Barton’s box up in the ceiling of the old jail area. We examined the contents, and decided to add to it.
Barton was a caretaker for the courthouse for a few years, so he had access to this building before we bought it from Dallas County.
He decided to store his treasures here, before the building was sold. We knew Barton. He was a sweet man and a dear friend. I wish he had been my uncle; I would have been a fortunate child. His affection was so simple and so pure.
I want to fill in some details of our time here, should there be any record or mention of us in the future.
We moved here in 1910, from southern Ohio. My brother, Richard Watkins, decided to set up a medical practice here.
The people here were good to us and we hope they feel the same about us. We spent time at the poor farm, tending to the needs of the people there, besides trying to meet the medical needs of the rest of the community.
Now is the time for me to tell a secret we kept from the folks here. My birth-name is not Penelope, as we advertised.
My twin sister and I, Harriet, conjured up this name to make our lives more manageable. Yes, we are identical twins.
My real name is Molly Marie.
Both Harriet and I received nursing training. Our father, Julius, was a farmer who died of a malady that took several years to consume him. Because of this, Richard, Harriet and I became interested in medicine.
Our older brother, John, carried on with the family farm. Here is a picture of the four of us from the Christmas of 1916.
Harriet and I kept ourselves secret for a few reasons. Primarily, our mother needed more attention than John and his wife could give, what with them also raising children. So, Harriet and I would take turns going back to Ohio to spend time with Mother. We would exchange situations every three months.
Then Harriet decided to go to France in 1917 to help out during the war. This meant my absence from Adel was noted and we had to hire help on both ends of the track, to cover for our beloved Harriet’s absence. When Harriet was killed over there, we told people that she was a relative and a playmate, which she was.
Harriet’s death and Mother's declining health has forced us to wean ourselves back to Ohio to look after Mother.
I think we kept the secret pretty well, except I suspect that Barton knew. I wonder if some evening after dark, he didn’t look out from the balcony of the clock tower and see the three of us sitting in the lighted parlor, as was our habit.
He saw a lot, yet said very little.
So... We’ve decided to move, and Richard is about to marry the widow, Eva Carver.
I wonder if he would have married if we hadn’t needed to move back home to mother. I doubt that he’ll ever tell us.
He is so closed-mouth, I’m surprised he is able to eat.
Now, we have left a few trinkets for the finder of this box:
Richard loves to collect geodes. He has deeded a split geode to the finder of this box.
As you can see, it is a beautiful specimen.
Enclosed are a few newspaper clippings talking about our medical practice
and social postings that explain the things we were involved with while we lived here.
I have also left a few things of Harriet’s. I want her to be remembered here, by the community she served,
since she has no children to carry on her memory. She served the people of Adel, even if she was hard to read at times.
Of all his children, she was the most attached to our father, and always struggled with his death.
Here are two pieces of sheet music she played on the piano. One she loved since our Father died.
The other song inflamed her to go to Europe when she did.
(The first piece of music was: ‘In the Sweet Bye and Bye’, a religious hymn;
the second was: ‘She was an Angel of Mercy’, a WW I song about Nurse Edith Cavell.)
Molly continued; “In the velvet bag are a couple of pieces of Harriet’s jewelry. The first is a brooch. Our father gave us matching brooches on our eighth birthday. If there is a lady of this house, I want her to have it. Hopefully, she will have someone to pass it on-to, someday.
The second piece of jewelry is for the finder of the box to use as he sees fit. This was a ring that Harriet wore when she wasn’t playing the part of Penelope.”
(It’s a pretty thing, a citrine stone in a silver setting.)
“Lastly, from me, here is an assortment:
In one little envelope are a few hooks that I used when fishing with Barton.
In another one, are a set of new pennies, two for each year we were here.
Lastly, a pair of my white dress gloves to prove that I occasionally dressed like a lady.
I hope you find this little collection of things interesting and useful in some way.
Fare Thee Well.
Miss Molly Marie Watkins”
Wow. Everyone was soaking up every word that Sophie’s mom read. It was like reading someone’s diary.
Some people’s eyes leaked during the reading. Sophie's mom's voice broke a couple of times while reading the letter.
Sophie’s dad cleared his throat and said, “Why don’t we take a break, stretch a little and analyze what we’ve seen and heard so far. This is a lot of information to digest in just a little bit of time, eh?”
Sophie turned to Parker.
“Wow! Can you believe the stuff and the stories?
Twins, and no one knew it? Can you imagine that?”
Eric J. Rose