There were a few scenes of New York, including one of the reservoir on Fifth Avenue. Hetty Master had commissioned it.
And that pretty much seemed to warp the exhibition up. Except for one, small, rather dark picture in a corner. Horace Slim walked over and took a quick look at it. The photograph had a title: “Moonlight Sonata”.
It took a few seconds to decipher what was in there. The scene had required a very long exposure, because it was taken by the light of a full moon. You could make out a trench line, and a sentry standing near a field gun, whose long barrel shone softly in the moonlight. There were tents and a little stricken tree.
“Yes. But it didn’t seem to go in the other room, somehow. It’s more a personal photograph, I guess. I may take it down.”
The journalist with the sad eyes nodded, folded up his notebook and put it in his pocket.
“Well, I guess I’m done, then.”
“Thank you. You’ll give me a notice?”
“Yes. Don’t know how long - that’ll depend on the editor - but I have all I need.”
They began to walk together.
“Just out of interest, not for the piece, what was the story of the little dark picture?”.
“Well, it was the night before an engagement. In Virginia. Our Union boys were in their trenches, and the Confederates in theirs, not more than a couple of stone’s throw away. It was quite silent. The moonlight, as you saw, was falling on the scene. There must’ve been all ages, I suppose, between those trenches. Men well into middle years. And plenty who were little more than boys. There were women in the camp, too, of course. Wives, and others.
“I supposed they would soon fall asleep. But then, over in the Confederate trenches, some fellow started singing ‘Dixie’. And soon they were all joining in, right along the line. So they sang ‘Dixie” at us for a while, then stopped.
“Well, sure enough, our boys weren’t going to let it go at that. So a group of ‘em started up ‘John Brown’s Body’. And in no time the whole of our trenches were giving them that. Fine voices too, I may say.
“And when they’d done, there was another silence. Then over in the Confederate trenche, we heard a single voice. A young fellow by the sound of it. And he started singing psalm. The twenty-third psalm it was. I’ll never forget that.
“As you know, in the South, with the shape-note singing, every congregration is well practised in the singing of psalms. So again, all along the line, they joined in. Kind of soft. Sweet and low. And maybe it was the moonlight, but I have to say it was the most beautiful sound I ever heard.
“But I’d forgotten that many of our boys were accustomed to singing the psalms too. When you consider the profanitieis you hear spoken every day in camp, you might forget that; but it is so. And to my surprise, our boys began to sing with them. And in a short while, all along the lines, those two armies sang together, free for a moment of their circumstances, as if they were a single congragation of brothers in the moonlight. And then they sang another psalm, and then the twenty-third again. And after that, there was silence, for the rest of the night.
“During which time, I took the photograph.
“The next morning there was a battle. And before noon, Mr Slim, I regret to say, there was scarcely a man from either of those trenches left. They had killed each other. Dead, sir, almost every one.”
And, caught unawares, Theodore Keller suddenly stopped speaking, and was not able to continue for a minute or two.