A nimbus seemed to emanate from the letter's last page as it lay on the table before Blow. He knew the glow around this centuries-old linen document was a product of his imagination feeding on a mingling of appreciations: for its vital importance at the time it was written, for its significance now to historians and to investigators seeking to unravel the mysteries of two murders, and for the heartbreak and aching guilt of a teenage girl.
After musing over it for a while, he carefully lifted the sheet and placed it with the others. He intended to make photocopies of Willie Hosner's letter and return the original to the box, and later consult someone experienced in document preservation in order to keep it as safe as possible until a permanent disposition was determined. He turned his attention to the book.
Too thin to be a Bible, he guessed it was Hosner's diary, and as this idea took shape its implications welled into a fountain of curiosity. He held to his intention not to read the book but to wait until its pages could be copied professionally without damaging the papers or their binding. Yet, a need to learn of the fate of Willie Hosner, at least so far as he'd recorded it with his pen, virtually commanded Blow to open the book to its author's final entry. This he did.
He turned the book onto its front cover and lifted the one opposite. The threaded binding was firm, indicating the book was of fine materials and workmanship. Using the brass blade of a letter opener, he flipped up a surprising number of blank pages until he came to one that contained writing. The ink was even more legible than that on the letter, but the cursive script was not. He recognized the penmanship as that of the same person who wrote the letter—the slant, the curl of certain letters, the spacing—but the hand that had held the pen was clearly more feeble than when it had written earlier to Charlotte Hosner. A tremble in the lines and uneven sizes told Blow the writer was seriously ill. In fact, Willie Hosner testified to this in the first sentence of this final entry. It was dated Dec. 23, 1777.
I have fallen very sick and it may be I have got the neumonya that has afflikted many of us here in camp. Breathing is very difficult and we couff much and some have couffed blood. I am not so bad yet but I am weak and fall into fever often at night and find it hard to sleep at all with all the couffing around here including mine. And my wound is not healing properly. Yesterday they took Jonah from our hut and I fear he has left us for good. This is not a good time.
A good thing is that the King's men have not attacked us here. It may be they are having a bad winter too. For the sake of General Washington and Our Country I do hope this is true. One good thing happened last night and I rallyed some and slept for some time without couffing.
Colonel Scammell came to our hut with a message that he received yesterday by courier from Mr. Revere. The date on the message was January 19 of 1776. Colonel Scammell read it to me and I wished to stand up and dance a jig. Mr. Revere said my Beloved and Dear Wife Charlotte had given birth and that she named the baby Willie Isaac Hosner II. This Blessed Birth took place on New Years Day of 1776. Colonel Scammell gave me the message then and told me congraddulayshuns. I was so happy and felt so much in need of sleep that when I awoke at daylight I was still holding the message in my hand. I read then and saw at the bottom that Colonel Scammell had not read the whole message. It said that my Beloved and Dear Wife Charlotte had died when our son was born, and that Willie Isaac Hosner II was with our good friends Angus and Maureen McMurray.
I sobbed then for a long time, and I started couffing again and then I opened my diary and started writing what you see on this page. I asked my good friend William Adams in our hut, who is not sick, to make sure if I am taken from the hut that he will do me the great honor to take this diary and my papers to Col. Scammell for safe keeping.
A feel a great Grief for the loss of my Beautiful Angel Wife Charlotte and at the same time a great Happiness that our son Willie Isaac Hosner II lives.
As Blow lifted the cover to close the diary his eye caught a small corner of what appeared to be something pressed between the pages. He spread the pages apart at this point and saw that the corner was of a piece of folded cloth. He lifted the cloth onto the table, where he unfolded it and read the barely legible words Willie Hosner had included in his finally entry. Blow was looking at a message evidently written in charcoal to “Lt. Col. Alexander Scammell, 2nd Brigade, Light Infantry Div.” It was signed with a very elaborate flourish: “Paul Revere”.