This is Part 5 of Death in Knoxville. Need to catch up on the earlier parts of the story?

Part 1     Part 2    Part 3    Part 4


Peter said he left town after Minnie shot herself at Mrs. Hall’s home. He’d gone to Etowah, Tennessee, 70 miles south of Knoxville. He stayed there through Thanksgiving and Christmas. He stayed through the New Year. He might’ve stayed forever, if Minnie hadn’t written to him in February and asked him to come home.

For a month, he saw her every day and they were happy. Then she began to talk of suicide again.

At last, Peter agreed. They decided to carry out their suicide pact on March 13 but his nerve failed him again. Two days later, Minnie confronted him: she was determined to end her life that day.

“Go home,” he told her.

“If I ever go in that home again, I’ll be carried in,” Minnie cried fiercely. “I mean to get out of my worry this night, if I have to walk down to the bridge and jump off in the river.”

Minnie insisted on visiting her cousin before she died and Peter asked why she was so anxious to go. Minnie said she had told her husband that she was going there and “I want the last thing I told Will to be true.”

They agreed to meet in a few hours, on the corner of Church and Lithgow. While Minnie visited her cousin, Peter fortified himself with alcohol.

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Edith Nesbit was an unconventional woman, a late Victorian writer, a socialist, a sometime-poet. In 1880, at the height of Victorianism in England, Nesbit married Hubert Bland when she was 7 months pregnant.

Their stormy marriage lasted 35 years until his death in 1914, and was punctuated with painful betrayals. Bland was described by his contemporaries as “an infamous libertine”. He was engaged to another woman when he married Nesbit, with whom he had a child.

Hubert Bland

The couple had four children together, but early on in their marriage, Nesbit miscarried and her best friend Alice Hoatson came to help out until Edith recovered. Though her husband’s indiscretions were known to her, Nesbit suffered a terrible shock when she discovered Hubert and Alice were having an affair, and Alice was pregnant.

Hurt and outraged, Edith demanded Alice leave. Incredibly, Hubert rebuked her for wanting to put Alice out, and instead convinced her to adopt the baby and to allow her former friend to stay on as their housekeeper. And Bland was not quite done: thirteen years later, he and Alice had a second baby together. Again Edith adopted the baby.

In 1905, Nesbit published a book of poetry called The Rainbow and the Rose. It contained a poem called APPEAL that was probably inspired by her husband. Nesbit is known for her novels, not her poetry, but this short poem is very good. It perfectly captures a tormented mind, trapped in an insane life.



By Edith Nesbit

Daphnis dearest, wherefore weave me
Webs of lies lest truth should grieve me?
I could pardon much, believe me:
Dower me, Daphnis, or bereave me,
Kiss me, kill me, love me, leave me,-
Damn me, dear, but don’t deceive me!