January 1866 - The Journal
The room was now quite dark. Faint shafts of moonlight that filtered through the heavy muslin curtains did nothing to penetrate the overall gloom. But it wasn’t merely the lack of light that made the room dark and gloomy. There was something else, something intangible. Something was missing. Not an object. It was more like a feeling, a sensation. The room lacked warmth. It lacked hope. But more than that, the room lacked something much more important. It lacked …. Life itself.
* * *
Although reasonably large, the room was sparsely furnished. It had not always been like that. In times gone by the house had been furnished in the finest of styles, with the very best of everything. Just a few short years before, silk curtains were draped at the windows, thick pile carpets covered the floors, and fine walnut paneling adorned the walls. From the ceilings hung large crystal chandeliers imported from Europe.
The solid oak dining table that had stood in the centre of the room would have been surrounded by chairs upholstered in the very best of satin brocade. On the table would be the finest linen tablecloths that money could buy, the finest lead crystal glasses, sterling silver cutlery from England, and bone china crockery from Europe.
* * *
Then the house had shone and sparkled, bright and alive, bustling with activity. Fresh flowers could be found everywhere, and their perfume had filled the air. People would come from miles around to attend the lavish dinner parties and the house would be full of laughter and happiness, and the sound of music.
But that was before the war, before the Union soldiers had arrived. That was before they had ransacked the area. Before everything had either been destroyed, or stolen. Everything had now gone. There was no more laughter. No more happiness. No more music. Now the house was silent, desolate. The heart had been taken from it, ripped right out.
* * *
Seated close to the fireside, in the large high back chair, was an elderly man. He sat hunched forward, his head hung down, his white hair shimmering in the firelight. Billows of smoke, from his pipe, rose into the air and disappeared into the darkness. Curled up on the rug next to him was an elderly dog fast asleep, its head resting on its front paws. The man looked down at the dog for a few moments, and then slowly turned to the last page of the handwritten document that he was reading. He sighed deeply, and gasped audibly.
Although he had read the small faded document several times already, he was still shocked to notice that the handwriting on that last page had become quite shaky, and he had some difficulty in actually reading the words.
“I can hear them coming,” the document read. “They are coming up the staircase.” He had read the document so many times that he actually knew the words by heart. “They are outside now,” he whispered. “Banging on the door, they are coming for me.”
The man looked up, staring into the darkness. He shook his head. “Banging on the door,” he repeated slowly, in a hushed voice. He could almost see them, running up the stairs, their boots echoing loudly on the timber treads. Then they were there, standing outside by the door to the boy’s room. He could hear their breathing, their hearts beating fast. He could imagine them calling excitedly to each other.
“Here,” one would cry out.
“In there,” said another.
“We have him now,” cries a third.
“He cannot get away, not this time,” from a fourth.
The elderly man could hear the heavy thud as they smashed on the door, first with their fists, then with their shoulders, and finally with a battering ram hurriedly brought in from outside.