Chapter Eight - The Lonliest Night

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It has been said that it is better to be alone than in bad company. As for Grace, she would have preferred the company of a hundred dull and obnoxious people than to the loneliness she endured that night.

As she sat atop the Colonel's horse, held captive by his firm grasp, she could not have felt more alone and uneasy. She was only allowed a moment to gaze upon her father's camp strewn with dead soldiers and tents smoldering where torches had been maliciously taken to them before Tarelton jerked his horse in the opposite direction and took off with the rest of his men. They moved much like thieves into the night who had escaped the curtail of justice with a prize in their grasp.

Nothing more than what had first been said was spoken to her the rest of the way to the Dragoon's new headquarters. She had expected as much, though the rigidity of her captor slightly unsettled her. Being so used to the warm and affectionate company of her youth, such coolness on the part of the man who rode behind her was only known to her as well as a reader might from the description of such characters in novels.

If she accidentally leaned back too far and felt her head rest briefly on the chest of the Colonel, she would always recoil from the way it felt like she was hitting an unnatural stone wall. He scarcely even flinched at her movements and seemed altogether too distracted by thoughts of his own to care whether she made such movements or not from the jerkings of the horse.

It was the most unendurable five hours she had ever spent on a horse. She was constantly ill at ease with dreadful thoughts of a stray bullet having hit Benedict or one of her family members while they were fleeing or what thoughts might be running through their heads regarding her capture. She hated to think that they were in just as much, if not more agony as she was over the uncertainty of their fate. And it was all the fault of the man who sat behind her. How cool and at ease, he seemed after having mercilessly shattered the innocent lives of dozens. He utterly disgusted her.

The light of morning crept up above the hilltops a bright red as the threatening presence of dark clouds rolled in from the west when Tarleton and his men arrived at what once was her beloved home. All cozy connotations of the concept of the home were abruptly stripped of their meaning the moment her sense of contentment at being home again was disrupted by the dread of the purpose it now served.

For a moment she wished that Tarelton's men had burned the structure to ashes so that at least her pleasanter memories of the place might be preserved. Alas, she now lamented that any future recollection of the place (that is if she happened to live to see her freedom) would now be tainted by the memory of her captivity.

Once they had come to the house's facade and stopped before the familiar red door, catching the shadow of a day that had been ruined even before it had begun, Tarleton slipped off his horse with all the ease of an expert horseman. After Grace had shown little inclination of getting off herself in defiance to her captor, he proceeded to lift her off himself. Although a bit painful in his grip, Grace could complain of no mistreatment on his part, nor did he make any rude remark at her stubbornness.

When she felt her feet hit the ground, she looked up to see that her captor was far too absent-minded and absorbed in his own internal affairs to really have cared anyways whether or not he chose to be cruel to her for her disobedience.

What an odd man he was, she thought quizzically as it took a good moment or two for him to even turn his attention to her.

"Come with me." 

She was led into the house flanked by Tarleton and some of his men.

They ascended the staircase to the upstairs chambers. When they reached the top, Tarleton inquired,

"Which room is yours?"

She nodded to the door at the end of the hallway.

"That one." She responded in a tone as level and cool as she could conceive to make it.

"Then that shall be your cell. Do not think I am giving you such a comfortable prison because of any partiality on my side. There is simply no other place where I might keep a woman safely and properly. Women in war deserve more respect than men or else their captors are branded as perpetrators of gross war crimes and used as propaganda by the enemy."

 His words, which would have seemed almost kind had they been spoken differently, were drowned in a tone that was filled with only insensitivity and callousness.

He walked with her to her chamber and left her right inside the doorway. 

"Breakfast will be brought to you at seven." He spoke curtly before closing and firmly locking her bedchamber door behind her.

All the comforts of being in her bedchamber were wiped away in an instant as she crawled into bed and lay there sobbing from the pain her ankle and from the pain of a broken heart.

The rain that began to fall outside proved to be of no help either to her mood as she began to feel the full weight of her captivity. 

Her sobs must have given way to a blessed sleep at some point, for she found herself waking a few hours later to a tray laden with food set beside her door. It was still steaming hot when she retrieved it, which proved a great comfort to her. She ate what was given her with as much fervor as a person who resolved on choosing life over waiting for impending doom.

Sleep and the warm breakfast had done her much good. 

Yes, she had been taken from all whom she loved but distress and sadness wouldn't bring her back to them any sooner. If she was to keep her courage up in case an opportunity for escape presented itself, there was no room for lamentation. She had to be herself unafraid and unmoved by her situation.

In this she was most resolved. Weak indeed was her constitution if she let the efforts of one man ruin her life. He could only kill her, her soul was altogether untouchable.

After she had finished her breakfast, she began scouring her room for any books that had been left behind. Upon finding one of the ones she had forgotten to take on her way out of the house what seemed like ages ago, she took up reading it for the rest of the day. There was nothing else for her to do, after all, and reading always calmed her.

It was mid-afternoon before she heard a knock at her door.

"May I open the door?" Inquired a voice on the other side.

"Come in." Replied Grace, curtly.

The doorknob turned as the face of a boy no older than her brother looked shyly in.

"You are summoned to the downstairs study immediately." The boy spoke meekly.

"Why is that?" Grace responded gently as if speaking to her younger brother.

"I don't know, Miss, I'm only an assistant to the Dragoons, hope to become one myself someday."

She saw the face of her brother in this boy and shivered at the thought of him aspiring to join a band of men set on destroying his countrymen.

"And what if I don't want to come?"

"I shouldn't like to know what would happen and neither, I think, would you."

"Alright." She replied simply as she followed the boy down the hallway and the staircase to her father's former study. Although she did not wish to obey Tarelton's order, Grace figured that she wouldn't do any good to her family dead.

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