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 Tarelton and his men arrived at what once was her beloved home. All cozy connotations of the concept of 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 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, Tarelton slipped off his horse with all the ease of an expert horseman. After Grace had showed 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." He grasped her arm very hard, much more painfully than he had before as he now focused all his attention on her.

She was led into the house with such force that she was sure that her arm might have become dislocated had he taken her over a farther distance.

They ascended the staircase to the upstairs chambers with the only words escaping his mouth being a quick order for an officer to see to it that all of the horses were properly cared for. When they reached the top, he loosened his grip for a moment to inquire,

"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. Woman 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.

Taking up her arm even harder than before, he led her to her chamber and left her right inside the doorway. He let go of her arm in such a way that she lost her balance, falling to the floor.

The Colonel made no move to help her up.

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

Such a mechanism must have been put in especially for her, she realized as the door handle was torn out from the inside and a lock was now found on the only existing doorknob on the opposite side.

All the comforts of being in her own bedchamber again were wiped away in an instant as she crawled onto her bed and lay there sobbing from the pain of her arm, her ankle and 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. Now for the first time in her life she seemed to sympathize with the small pet bird she had kept as a child. A lovely little animal who had been taken away from its family and loved ones to be locked away in a cage for the sake of another's advantage and gratification. Her position seemed unbearable and, unlike the bird, she knew her captor would not set her free until her death or the death of many of her countrymen were accomplished.

Her sobs must have given way to a blessed sleep at some point, for she found herself awaking a few hours later to see a tray laden with food beside her door. It was still steaming hot when she retrieved it, which proved a great comfort to her as it made it all the better after feeling the cool dampness of the rainstorm outside. She ate what was given her with as much fervor as a person who resolved on choosing life over waiting for an 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 and unmoved by her situation, drawing upon the strength only God can provide.

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 nearly grabbed 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 and gave her an increased confidence.

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

"May I open the door?" Inquired the voice of what sounded like a young boy.

"Why not?" Replied Grace, seeing no reason as to why her captors needed to ask permission to see their prisoner.

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?"

"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."

"Fine." 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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