Recap: Sender traveled with Uncle Adam to Washington to speak to the Wrights and to explain why he’d given away the plans. They go to watch Orville execute his model flight, and then suddenly Orville crashes. Sender doesn’t have the opportunity to speak with him, and Adam has to go back out West.
A month passed. Wilbur was back in America. The articles about his flights in France were filled with praise. Orville had been transferred back to his home and he was recuperating.
Uncle Adam came back, as he said he would, and we headed to Dayton again. I was hopeful that this time I would get to see the brothers and explain everything.
When we arrived at the house, Katherine answered the door. She was shorter than her brothers. She wore her hair piled in a bun and she wore large-framed glasses. “Can I help you?”
“I’m Sender. I used to work with your brothers.”
“Ah, I think I remember them mentioning you a while ago.”
I blushed, hoping they hadn’t mentioned about the safe incident.
She asked us to come sit in the parlor. A mantle clock ticked above the fireplace. There were shelves of books. Bishop Wright had a huge collection of classics and scientific and philosophy books. Uncle Adam surveyed the titles.
The room had a homey feel, with its white rug and rocking chairs and couch.
I rose and cleared my throat.
There was an awkward silence. Uncle Adam nodded towards him. “How is your brother?”
“He’s on the mend.” Wilbur looked at me with his piercing blue eyes.
“I wanted to explain—”
“I believe I know what you want to say. Please sit down.” Wilbur sat down on the rocking chair and began to rock slowly back and forth.
Uncle Adam sat across on the other rocking chair.
“Well, I want to tell you that I was forced to open the safe by that man Mr. Haigh. He came to the bike shop when you were away, and he told me that if I didn’t open it, he would do something to your flying machine.”
Wilbur’s face flushed. “That man is a criminal. I know he’s in prison now, which is where he belongs. Sender, Orville kept saying this wasn’t in character. He said you are a religious Jew, and you would never give away our plans like that for money or for any personal gain. I will convey the message to Orville. He’s just not up to company yet.”
“Thank you,” I whispered. “I felt so bad—”
“I’m sorry that we had that, and it was not your fault at all.”
“I’m sorry about the accident,” I said.
Wilbur nodded. He steepled his hands and placed them on his nose as he rocked. The rocking chair creaked.
I took a deep breath and then I asked Wilbur something that had been bothering me.
“Did you feel… Did you feel guilty at all when you heard about the accident?”
Wilbur stopped rocking.
“I don’t mean to be impertinent.”
“You’re not being impertinent, you’re being perceptive. I did feel terribly guilty that I was in France. If I’d been there to inspect, then maybe the propeller wouldn’t have caught on one of the wires and the whole thing might not have happened.”
Uncle Adam interrupted. “We can’t live our lives thinking like that. It’s not the right way to look at what happens. We believe that G-d is in charge, and we don’t have control. We do our best, but in the end it’s not up to us.”
Wilbur nodded slowly. He rose and went over and shook Adam’s hand. “Thank you. You are right, of course.”
We left the Wrights’ house and, as we strolled down the street towards the train station, I thought about Wilbur Wright feeling guilty and then what my uncle had told him. I realized then that I needed to tell Uncle Adam my secret – the painful secret I’d been carrying around for so long. I wanted to tell Uncle Adam and Wilbur…
To be continued…
By Susie Garber