The Continental attack on Charles Town had been a valiant effort, but it was, nevertheless, unsuccessful. The British had been able to hold on to the city.
Then Juliana had told him that she was going to have a child, and he’d been rendered momentarily speechless. A child? His child?
Tavington hadn’t questioned the paternity of the child when Juliana had told him. He didn’t have any reason to believe that the child wasn’t his. Juliana wasn’t the type of person who would betray his trust, especially in that manner.
Now, nearly six months had passed.
Juliana, now eight months along, stood behind Tavington, studying his appearance in the dressing mirror. They had returned to Charles Town three weeks ago. The rebels had turned the house inside out looking for valuables and probably the party who’d been responsible for the deaths of the two soldiers that Juliana had killed.
Juliana stepped around in front of Tavington and adjusted the collar of his dress uniform. He was headed to Middleton Place that night to attend one of Cornwallis’s parties.
“Is it crooked?” Tavington asked. Out of the corner of his eye, he attempted to look at himself in the mirror.
Juliana smoothed the collar back down. “Not anymore,” she answered.
Tavington fully turned to the mirror again, studied himself for a moment, and promptly slumped. “I hate going to these things,” he said. “It’s a waste of energy and resources during wartime, not to mention time. The only thing that made them even mildly bearable was you.”
“Well, I can’t go with you like this,” Juliana said, indicating to her pregnant mid-section.
“I know,” Tavington said, turning back to her. He sighed. “I just wish I didn’t have to go at all. These socialites are absolutely ruthless. I’d rather go into battle.”
“It’ll all be over with before you know it,” Juliana said.
“That isn’t soon enough,” Tavington spat. “I’ll be glad when this blasted war is over and done with.”
Most of Juliana agreed with Tavington’s sentiment, but there was a part of her that didn’t, as inconceivable as that was. She didn’t want the war to be over because it would bring so many unknowns. She walked away from the mirror and sat down on the bed.
Tavington immediately picked up on the sudden change in Juliana’s demeanor. “What’s the matter?” he asked. He joined her, taking up the spot beside her. “Is it the baby? ”
“No,” Juliana answered quickly. Then she reconsidered. “Well … yes it is, I suppose.”
Tavington sprung to his feet. “I’ll go fetch the doctor.”
Juliana grabbed his hand. “No, Will, it isn’t time for that,” she said.
“What I mean is, what’s gonna happen to us after the war is finally over?” Juliana asked straightforwardly.
Tavington sat back down on the bed. “Whatever do you mean?” he asked. “The war ending will be the best thing that could ever happen to us. Why, we’ll settle down somewhere. I don’t know exactly where, yet, but land is certainly not scarce around here. I’m highly confident that we’ll find somewhere suitable. Who knows? I might very well be appointed to a public office, if my successful record in this war is anything to go on. After the war, we can be rid of this nasty business and we can truly begin our life together.”
Juliet immediately noted how optimistic Tavington sounded, but Juliet was less hopeful. “Yes,” Juliana said. “You as the master and us as your slaves.” She placed her hand on her swollen belly for emphasis.
“No,” Tavington contradicted. “You know that isn’t how it will be. Is it like that now?”
“No, of course not,” Juliana said. “At least not in private. But I think you know what I’m talkin’ about, Will.”
“Juliana, we have been over this time and again,” Tavington began. “I do not have the luxury of placing our relationship on display for all the world to see. I am bound by strict social protocol. You know that.”
“Yes, I do,” Juliana said, irked. She didn’t particularly appreciate that Tavington was speaking to her as if she were a child. “Don’t tell me about ‘social protocol’. I know all about it. It’s the story of my life. Or haven’t you forgotten who my grandfather was and how I lived there. What I have a problem with is you acting like society will suddenly change after the war ends. Do you really believe that?” Juliana asked skeptically.
“Yes.” Tavington’s answer was swift and honest. “After this war is over, I will have status, and status is power,” he explained. “And once I have that, I will truly be free. And so will you.” Juliana looked away from him, disbelieving and frustrated. Tavington reached up, gently grasped her chin, and made her look at him again. “I know it’s impossible to see right now, but things will be so much better for us once this war is over. I’m going to have the kind of family that I never had; I’m going to have the type of family I have always wanted; I’m going to have it with you, Juliana.”
“I don’t see how that’ll be possible,” Juliana said.
Tavington nodded. “I know; but it will be, I promise you. I will make it possible. You just have to trust me.”
The evening was still very young, yet Tavington was already prepared to throw himself onto his own sword. As soon as he’d arrived, Cornwallis had summoned him to his private quarters. Once there, Tavington had stood by and listened to the general berate him for their inability to make any significant progress in the fight against the rebels.
Now, even as Tavington stood on Middleton’s sprawling lawn, Cornwallis’s words still rung in his ears, and they still stung like the dickens. “Fine soldier you are, bested by a bedtime story.”Cornwallis’s exact words.
And as if what had happened with Cornwallis weren’t enough, Tavington now found himself trapped in a meaningless conversation with two young Colonial women.
“Tell me, Colonel,” one of the women began, “Don’t you usually have a slave girl that accompanies you to these social occasions?” The woman’s name was Alaina, and her voice contained a twang typical of American southerners.
“You mean Juliana,” Tavington said with a nod. “Yes, she usually joins me; however, in her present condition, I thought it best if she remained at the house this evening.”
The second woman, Victoria, chuckled and turned to Alaina. “What the good colonel means is that he’s about to gain another slave, as the girl is with child.”
“Oh! What good fortune you’ve stumbled upon, then,” Alaina said. “It’s always good when they’re fertile. A person can start off with two and have enough to work a farm in a matter of years. A good pair of slaves is a mighty fine investment, that’s what I say.”
“It isn’t even the case that a person always needs to begin with a pair.” O’Hara casually strolled over to join their little group. “Is it, Colonel Tavington?” O’Hara asked, suggestively.
Tavington merely glared at O’Hara, but the other man didn’t seem affected by it. O’Hara continued, turning to the ladies. “Colonel Tavington knows this from first-hand experience, or so I hear. The word spreading through the ranks is that our dear Colonel Tavington is the father of his slave’s child.” The pronouncement appeared to render the female companions speechless, meaning that O’Hara had at least partially satisfied his agenda. He smiled innocently. “Of course that’s just a nasty little rumor,” he added. He turned his gaze on Tavington. “Though it’s spreading like wildfire.”
Tavington took a measured sip of his champagne. This night couldn’t possibly get any worse – could it?
As if on cue, a military supply ship visible in Charles Town harbor burst into flames. Tavington drained his glass and threw it to the ground. It consequently shattered into about a million shards. The night had just gotten worse.
Juliana gazed out the bedroom window at the quiet night. She wanted desperately to believe Tavington when he said that things would be different for better after the war was over. But it was all just so difficult to fathom. It seemed so impossible. After a year with Will Tavington, however, Juliana should know that the man rarely settled. If there was something that he wanted, he went after it until it was his.
Juliana turned away from the window, and it was then that the first pain hit. It was unlike any pain that she’d ever experienced. She’d never been pregnant before, so she did not know if it was a normal pain. What she did know was that it hurt. The pain shot through her abdomen like a bolt of lightning.
William had, fortunately, not accompanied Tavington to Middleton Place, but Juliana did not know where in the house he was at this moment. She hoped that he was on the upper floor because she was uncertain whether she would make it down the stairs to the first floor before another pain hit her. She called out for him, praying that he would hear her and come to her.
Within a few moments, William appeared in the bedroom doorway. He found Juliana sitting on the floor at the foot of the bed. “Sweet Lord,” he said, and quickly moved to her side. He helped her into the bed.
“I think I’m havin’ the baby,” Juliana said. She grimaced as another wave of pain came on. “You have to go get some help.” What Juliana wouldn’t have given to have Eugenia or even Eleanor around for this moment. Well, maybe not Eleanor. Looking back, there would be no way to ensure that Eleanor wouldn’t have tried to find some way to kill the child.
William nodded. He didn’t want to leave her alone, but he had no choice. Of all the nights, Juliana had to have the baby on a night where the house was completely empty except for them – and on a night when nearly every person in Charles Town was out at Middleton Place for the ball.
He practically leapt down the stairs and sprinted through the front door to the four Dragoons standing guard on the porch. “Juliana needs a doctor,” William exhaled excitedly. “She’s havin’ the baby. She needs a doctor.”
The officers all looked at one another, initially unsure of what to do. Their military training had failed to prepare them for a moment such as this. But Tavington had left explicit instructions on what to do if this kind of emergency were to arise. The senior officer of the group, a man by the name of Hobson, stepped into action. “Go up and see to her,” he commanded one of the soldiers. The soldier nodded and quickly entered the house.
Hobson turned to the remaining soldiers. “Gedrick, search the town for a doctor; Foster, you stand guard here,” he instructed, already mounting his horse. “If you can’t find a doctor, a mid-wife will do. I’m riding out to Middleton Place to fetch Colonel Tavington. You have your orders.” And he was off.
The strong stench of burning wood that greeted Hobson as he rode up to the front of Middleton Place was the first indicator that something was wrong. Hobson found the second indicator when he stepped on to the back lawn. There was a heightened sense of excitement that was out of place at what was usually a calm gathering. As Hobson began to move through the crowd, he noticed that most of the guests were looking at the harbor. He quickly realized why when he, himself, looked out to where they looked. A ship, what was left of it, was smoldering on the water.
Hobson quickly located a cavalry officer from his unit and strode over to him. “Where is Colonel Tavington?” Hobson asked.
“He’s gone,” the soldiers replied. “He left with the Dragoons. Went searching for the blasted rebels. They blew up our supply ship in the harbor.”
“Damn,” Hobson cursed. “Did you see what direction they set out for?”
“They split up,” the soldier said. “But Tavington and his group of men went back towards Charles Town.”
Back in Charles Town, Tavington’s men had already arrived. “Search the shops, the houses – anywhere that might provide a hiding place,” Tavington instructed. The men formed into groups of two or three and scattered, proceeding to search the buildings.
Damn the rebels, Tavington thought bitterly. If it hadn’t been for them, he would more than likely be returning home from the party by now.
Home … Tavington turned to the two men who had remained at his side. “Tell the others to meet me at my house,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” came the reply from both.
Tavington barely heard the reply, as he was off the moment after he gave the order. If those rebels were hiding somewhere in this town, Juliana could possibly be in danger. They knew where he lived, and they had taken her before. He would make certain that they would not this time.
The first sign of trouble when Tavington arrived at the house was that there was only one guard on the porch. Tavington had left four on duty.
He rode up to the porch and promptly dismounted. “Where are the others?” he demanded, marching up the porch steps. “I specifically ordered that the four of you were to remain on watch at all times until I returned.”
Before the officer could reply, a loud cry emanated from the house. Tavington brushed past the officer into the house and sprinted up the stairs. He met one of the guard duty officers at the door to his bedroom. Timidly removing his helmet and handing it off to the guard, he stepped into the bedroom.
Juliana lay on the bed, William by her side holding her hand. She looked up just as Tavington was entering the room.
“Will,” she said, grateful that he’d arrived. William stood as Tavington approached.
“She started having pains about an hour ago, sir,” William reported. “One of the soldiers out front went to go fetch a doctor.”
Tavington heard it, but he said nothing. His eyes remained fixed on Juliana, and he walked right past William on his way to her. He knelt by the bed and grasped her hand.
“Will,” Juliana said. “You made it.”
“Juliana … ” Tavington’s voice trailed with concern. Another pain wracked Juliana’s body, but it wasn’t severe enough to make her cry out. “Where’s that damned doctor?” Tavington demanded.
Everyone turned to the door. Gedrick, the soldier who’d gone out to search for the doctor had returned, and he wasn’t alone. The man that Gedrick had returned with marched into the room, immediately ready to get to work. “When did the pains begin?” he asked.
“About an hour ago, sir,” William replied.
Tavington stood upright, his brows knitted in suspicion. “Who the devil are you?” he asked.
“Dr. Samuel Ross,” the man said. “I’m one of three doctors in Charles Town.” He walked over to the side of the bed and smiled down at Juliana. “We’re going to take good care of you, my dear. You have nothing to worry about.” He walked to the foot of the bed and began to set up shop.
Juliana looked up at Tavington again. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
Tavington knelt by the bedside again. “I’m afraid I can’t stay, my dear,” he told her. “I wasn’t even aware of your condition. His lordship has sent me and my men out on a hunt for some damned rebels. I must go and attend to the matter.” Torn, Tavington actually seriously considered remaining with Juliana. Of course he wanted to be present for the birth of his very own child, but if he remained, and Cornwallis found out, he would be finished, and so would Juliana and their child. Damn the bloody rebels, Tavington thought. Damn them for creating this impossible predicament.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he vowed. Sometimes it took hours for babies to be born, Tavington reminded himself. He hoped that this would be so for Juliana.
He stood and beckoned Ross to join him outside in the hallway. As they exited the room, a young slave woman entered with cloths and a water basin. “Everything should go smoothly,” Ross began to assure Tavington. “She looks as if she’s progressing normally, so far, and I’m not expecting any problems to arise.”
“They had better well not,” Tavington said menacingly. “You’d better damn well know what you’re doing. If anything happens to her, I will make sure you regret the first day you ever dreamed of becoming a doctor. Is that understood?”
Ross blanched. “Yes, Colonel.”
“Very well, then,” Tavington said. He couldn’t say that he was completely comfortable, leaving Juliana in this man’s care. Tavington had no idea who the man was, after all. He knew nothing of his credentials or qualifications. But at the moment, this Ross fellow was all they had. He would have to do.
Tavington retrieved his helmet from the officer he handed it to earlier. “I shall return.”