The letter was simple. It was not hiding any subterfuge. Not in the one Charlie wrote nor in the one Oliver wrote to Peggy. It was the delivery that was different, and in one the content didn’t matter for in the other there was a gun. At the end of one letter a mayor was dead a mayor of a small town west of Benton where Charlie would eventually hang—shot down by two gunmen under the purvey they were delivering a letter from the leader of the Shelton gang (apparently this mayor aiding and abetting members of Charlie’s rival)—the other letter a choice (at least it was left as a choice) written from the embittered hand of a sad ex-husband. It was found by the son. Oliver and Peggy’s son. Long after Peggy was dead after Charlie was publicly executed years later left in the effects the paperwork stored in a box the son found after the father had died. Strangely it began with a passage from the Bible a story from the Gospels an account taken from the book of Luke:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

…when a man thinks on a thing it is true that much goes through his head so much so that he may forget why he thought it why he spent so much time meditating on it and from this one can go freely onto the reasons this is so as I have gone into the reasons for this letter. Or better yet—the emotions. For I can say: who are you that this is so that your grief is so great against the impiety the injustice done towards you who are you O man that your life and what you’ve felt in it is so important? I can say this, and at the same time I can say it to my enemy to the person who has injured me and be fooled. For in this way my sins and the sins of the person who’s sinned against me are both small and puny while at the same time maintaining their significance. The sin is as only important as the forgiver. In it being forgiven. And I may say: How many times? How long will I let you hurt me? But so can the people who I have hurt and go on hurting because they have hurt me and so… where does this leave us? There is temptation and there is trespass and yet how easy how simple how utterly delightful it is for us to steal another’s innocence their faith. What joy we get in watching someone stumble. This inevitably tied to our identity. Because where you are is who you are. I imagine for our ancestors in the garden we can blame it on the snake. He tempted us to sin, but what I sometimes can’t get my head around is if we were truly without sin as innocent as they say how was it that we were tempted? How did sin come into the world? For if tempting someone is a sin where did this first temptation come from, and what were we tempted with? It all comes down to a choice. A temptation leads to a choice, and without that none of these questions would matter. So I find myself circling. For I can say: You caused me to stumble! And you can say: Ha! But you always had a choice… And from this I don’t know where there is a beginning. Where it all ends. In my mind in my memories remembering hurt and injuries I see you the mother of my child and you sing to him you begin to hum not just one of your songs not one of many but a hymn which I can’t say is mine only belonging to me as if its message were my own mine alone but a hymn I took personally that had meaning for me a hymn I turned to in my tears when I needed to retreat to a place where there was peace where I was loved and you sang it to him to quell his tears in the heat of one of our arguments and in this my insignificant life my mind suddenly pierced by a thousand burning daggers I said to myself, cold: I no longer believe… And I was in hell. And then I thought: No for then it is about control and if it is true that when a man thinks on a thing he does it so for a time a season he may say to his mind—think on these things—and from there even forget that which caused it so he even accuses himself as he goes back one thought one memory at a time to find to remember that which caused him to think on the thing in the first place… the deductions go no further the inducements not as real and I look to this world to what maybe a painter sees to a picture to this frozen earth a winter that seemingly never ends and while my heart cries out: When? When will the sun warm me? That still small voice says: No—you do have a choice. Just as those that tempt you do. And can you? Can you innocently make another stumble? Funny how in this passage forgiveness is tied to faith. The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for, but you have to believe it. You have to see beyond the glaring imperfections. The disappointments. The apathy. And your choice creates the world… I forgive you. I forgive you for making me lose my faith. And in this my faith is born. What makes me so unworthy is this is merely my duty. And so what? What am I tempting you with? Sometimes the divide the chasm is too great—between the forgiving the forgiven… I don’t know. God only knows.

Oliver
(dated: 23 December 1926)

And it was like a sea. What’s buried there. What’s uprooted and planted there. His eyes (Oliver’s) and not Jack Dunby’s (which look bemused, pliant, protected by some safe place—eyes which say watch yourself) and with a croak by which he wished to summon up force Oliver whispers almost chokes: I want in…

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