Authors: Lynn Austin
Tags: #ebook, #book
Candle in the Darkness
Copyright © 2002
Plantation photo: Sylvain Grandadam, Getty
Cover design by The DesignWorks Group
Scripture quotations identified NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW
INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible
Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Austin, Lynn N.
Candle in the darkness / by Lynn Austin.
p. cm. — (Refiner’s fire ; bk. 1)
1. Virginia—History—Civil War, 1861–1865—Fiction. 2. Antislavery movements—
Fiction. 3. Women abolitionists—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3551.U839 C36 2002
For Ken, always
Joshua, Benjamin, and Maya
FROM BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS
All She Ever Wanted
A Proper Pursuit
Though Waters Roar
Until We Reach Home
While We’re Far Apart
Wings of Refuge
A Woman’s Place
Candle in the Darkness
Fire by Night
A Light to My Path
HRONICLES OF THE
Gods and Kings
Song of Redemption
The Strength of His Hand
Faith of My Fathers
Among the Gods
LYNN AUSTIN is the 2002 Christy Award winner for her historical novel
. In addition to writing, Lynn is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and various church and school events. She and her husband have three children and make their home in Illinois.
Richmond, Virginia 1864
Silvery moonlight slanted through the closed shutters, faintly illuminating Caroline Fletcher’s bedroom. A pattern formed on the hardwood floor, a pattern that reminded her of prison bars, and she shivered at the thought of what she might soon face.
It was useless to remain in bed waiting for sleep. It refused to come. Caroline’s mind and heart were much too full. She tossed aside the tangled bedcovers and crossed the room to light a tallow candle. Downstairs, the chimes of the hall clock announced the hour. She paused, counting each stroke—ten . . . eleven . . . twelve. Midnight.
Caroline had lain in bed for more than two hours, whispering urgent, tearful prayers for all the people she loved. But she felt no relief after bringing her concerns to the Lord. She’d pleaded especially for Charles, for Jonathan and Josiah, and for her father and Robert, begging God to keep them alive and safe throughout this long, dark night. And she’d prayed that her foolish mistakes and failures would not bring them harm. She hadn’t prayed for her own rescue. The water she was now treading was much too deep, the currents too swift for her own safe return to shore.
If she could begin again and not become so entangled in this long, horrible war, would she watch from the sidelines as a spectator this time? Would she choose differently, take fewer risks? Caroline had asked herself these questions countless times and had reached the same conclusion each time. She would do everything the same, walk the same path. But how could she explain her reasons to the people she loved? How could she hope to make them understand?
Her thoughts spun in useless circles as she quietly paced the room. If only she had some paper, then she could write a chronicle of her actions, explaining exactly why she had placed herself and her loved ones in such danger. But finding paper in besieged Richmond was as impossible as finding meat—and nearly as costly. Some newspaper editors had resorted to printing their latest editions on sheets of wallpaper.
Caroline halted mid-step. The walls of her front foyer were decorated with imitation marble wallpaper. Her father had purchased it on one of his trading ventures, and although it reminded Caroline of him and of the gentle life they’d once led, perhaps it could now serve a more important function. It was paper, after all—sheets and sheets of paper. And what earthly good was wallpaper in a house that Union troops might burn to the ground any day?
She remembered seeing a loose corner of wallpaper that had come unglued beside the library door. Caroline carried the smoky, homemade candle downstairs and set it on the floor near that spot, then knelt to gently peel the paper away from the wall. To carefully strip the entire entrance hall would require more patience than she possessed in her distressed and sleepless state, but before the clock chimed the next hour, she managed to tear away a ragged piece nearly a foot and a half long. It was enough to begin. She would make her script as small as she possibly could.
Praying for the right words and mindful of the urgency of her task, Caroline sat down in the library behind her father’s mahogany desk and began to write.
As I write this by candlelight, Union troops have my beloved city of Richmond under siege. The hall clock tells me that it is well past midnight, but I am unable to sleep. I no longer know what tomorrow will bring, nor do I know when my arrest will come—but I’m now
quite certain that it will come. Lying awake on nights like tonight, I listen in the darkness for the knock on my door. I think about Castle Thunder and wonder if I will soon join the gloomy prisoners who peer out from behind the barred windows.
I don’t fear for myself but rather for all the people I love. I need to explain why I’ve done what I have done, to tell my story in my own words before it’s told by those who won’t understand. They will surely call me a traitor and a murderer, and I suppose I am both of those things. I have betrayed people who trusted me. Men have died because of me. My involvement with certain events in Libby Prison has led to accusations of moral improprieties, but as God is my witness, I am innocent of those charges. Even so, people will believe what they choose to believe. And when a host of vicious rumors is added to the list of my misdeeds, I’m not sure anyone will ever understand why I’ve acted the way I have. I can only pray that they will try.
I don’t fear prison, nor do I regret a single decision I’ve made. As the Bible says, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” I only regret that I’ve hurt innocent people. I’ve tried so hard never to lie, but I realize as I’m writing this that falsehoods can consist of more than words—and I have been living a lie. For that, I beg God’s forgiveness.
These long, sleepless nights have afforded me plenty of time to think things through. In my mind I’ve traveled all the way back to where my journey first began, to the morning I awoke to the sound of Tessie weeping for her son. I need to see if I could have done things differently, made different choices, and perhaps have ended in a different place than I am today. I’ve decided to write down my story, telling it from the very beginning. I pray that you will read all of it before deciding if what I’ve done was a sin.
Here, then, is my tale
hoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”
1 John 2:10–11 NIV
Richmond, Virginia 1853
The first scream jolted me awake. The second one chilled my soul.
I sat up in bed, searching for Tessie in the darkened room, but the pallet where my Negro mammy usually slept was empty.
“Tessie?” My voice trembled with fear. “Tessie, where are you?”
Rain drummed against the windowpane, keeping time with my heart. Beyond the shuttered windows, the day had dawned dark and dismal. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Then the heartrending cries broke the silence once again.
“No . . .
The tumult came from outside, just below my room.
“Please don’t take him, please don’t take my boy from me,
The voice, barely recognizable in its anguish, was Tessie’s.
I couldn’t believe it. For all of my twelve years, as far back as I could recall, Tessie had been a happy, carefree presence in my life, always humming or singing as her elegant brown hands dressed me and brushed my hair; cheering me when I was lonely, chasing away my sadness with her laughter, her smile lighting up her dark face. Mother was the one who had “spells” that caused her to weep and pine away in her room for days on end, but I’d never once heard Tessie weep before. And these were such horrible, anguished cries.
don’t send my boy away, I beg you, Massa!
Then Tessie’s son started screaming as well. Grady was nine— just three years younger than me—and I hadn’t heard him cry since he was a baby, sleeping in the wicker basket in the kitchen beside the fireplace. Tessie had let me play with him as if he were a living baby doll, with plump brown cheeks and a giggle that made me laugh out loud. I remember being fascinated by his little hands, with their tiny brown fingers and soft pink palms.