Possession – Chapter 3

Chapter 3

When Juliana awoke, the first thing that surprised her was the time. She was used to waking up before the sun rose, and one look out the window told her that the sun had long since risen. Her immediate thought was that she’d overslept and was late to for her duties as a house servant. She had no idea what the time was, but she was sure that Tavington had already had his breakfast, and the fact that Juliana hadn’t been there to prepare it for him probably wasn’t to good for her.

Juliana darted out of bed and pulled on the simple dress she’d worn the day before. She quickly raked her fingers through her hair and flew out the door. When she reached the entrance to the dining room, she looked inside, and sure enough, Tavington was at the table, casually sipping coffee while he perused the newspaper. Juliana stepped into the room and steeled herself for the less than pleased reaction that she knew was coming.

Tavington looked up from his paper. “Juliana – so very glad you decided to join me for breakfast,” he began. “I’ve been up for quite some time now, but I decided to wait for you.”

“I’m sorry, Colonel,” Juliana said, beginning her hurried apology. “I don’t know what happened. I must have overslept. It doesn’t usually happen with me. It won’t happen again, I can assure you.”

Tavington regarded her curiously. “I’m glad to hear it,” he said. “Punctuality is a decent trait to possess.” He folded his paper and placed it aside. “Now that you’re here, I should like to have my breakfast.”

Juliana nodded. “Right away, Colonel.” She turned, intending to go to the kitchen, but before she even took one step, Tavington called out for Eleanor. Juliana turned back around to Tavington, momentarily confused. Eleanor promptly entered, carrying plates of food. Still confused, Juliana watched Eleanor place the plates on the table, one in front of Tavington, the other directly across from him on the table. Eleanor left the dining room, and Juliana looked to Tavington for an explanation.

He spread his napkin out on his lap, preparing to enjoy his meal. Then he looked up and saw that Juliana still stood. “Don’t you want any breakfast?”

“Yes, Colonel,” Juliana replied.

“Then, by all means, sit, eat,” Tavington urged.

Juliana didn’t know what was going on, but it wasn’t anything she’d expected to happen. She quickly took the seat across the table from Tavington before he changed his mind. She placed her napkin on her lap and picked up her fork, then hesitated. She’d never eaten at the same table as a white person before and had never thought that she would ever be in a situation where that would be the case. She didn’t know what to do. Should she wait on him to begin first? Should she keep her eyes on her plate? Should she remain silent?

“You must tell me what you think of Eleanor’s cooking,” Tavington commented. “She’s scores better than any cook I ever had back in England. Go ahead –- try it.”

Juliana looked down at her plate, which was covered with toast, bacon, and eggs. She tried the eggs first. “They’re good,” she said. Personally, she’d tasted better stuff plenty times before, but these weren’t half-bad. Tavington sure did seem to like them.

“It’s much better than the substandard fare they feed those enlisted men,” Tavington said.

Eleanor returned with two fresh cups of coffee, one for Tavington and one for Juliana. She looked at the beverage, blinking, for it was one of those drinks she considered a real luxury. In her whole life, she could only recall having had three cups. And now she was getting it, and she hadn’t even asked for it. After Eleanor had deposited the cups of coffee on the table, she was gone again, away to the kitchen.

“How long have they been with you?” Juliana asked, feeling a bit more comfortable in her unexpected situation.

“Six months,” Tavington answered. “They worked in one of the first households that we raided. At the time, I didn’t have anyone to cook or take care of the house that Cornwallis had provided for me, so finding Eleanor and Nathan was a stroke of luck. They’ve been with me ever since. They will prove to be most valuable in the coming months. I’ve acquired a house in Charles Town. It’s much larger than this one. I’ve decided to spend the winter months there until fighting resumes in the spring. Have you ever been to Charles Town?”

“Only a few times,” Juliana replied. “Most of the time, Mr. Harris traveled there for business on his own.”

“Is that so?” Tavington took a final sip from his cup before placing his napkin on the table and rising. “Well, get used to the prospect of living there,” he said. “It will be quite different from what you’re accustomed to.”

Juliana watched him walk away from the table and leave the room. What was she supposed to do now? After nearly a week with Tavington, Eleanor, and Nathan, she’d just gotten used to life around here. Now, she was going to have to move again? She longed for her former life in the Harris household. She didn’t want to always be moving around from place to place. She wanted to be in one place, with people she knew and loved. Even when she finally came to know those now in her life, she doubted that she would ever love them.

In the living room, Tavington sat down at the simple table that was serving as a desk. He knew he had to get away from this whole war business for a little while. He needed a break, perhaps as a reward for all the phenomenal work he’d been doing as of late. It was gruesome, at times, yes. But it was necessary to get the job done. Absolutely necessary.

These damned colonials, he thought spitefully. Why did they have to resist? Couldn’t they see they were making it harder on themselves? Why couldn’t they realize that? Why couldn’t George realize that? George Harris … that poor, traitorous fool. Tavington had once looked up to the man as a model citizen. When Tavington had been a boy, Harris was a good friend of the family. Tavington had still been young when his own father had died. After it’d happened, Harris and his wife had been there for Tavington’s mother and the rest of the family to provide support and encouragement.

Then Harris had left England for the colonies. His ideals, his loyalties changed somewhere along the way, as Tavington had found out, and the rest was as it was. How had it come to that? How had it come to Tavington ordering the execution of a man he’d once had so much respect for?

Amid the papers on his table was a small box, which Tavington reached for and opened. He pulled out a folded sheet of paper, a letter he’d received from his mother shortly after he’d begun his tour in the colonies. He looked it over, and his eyes stopped on a line about two thirds of the way down the page.

Son, please remember to check in on the Harrises if you’re ever near their area. They did so much for us during that terrible time after your father’s passing …

Tavington refolded the letter. It would break his mother’s heart if she knew that he’d given the order that had sent George and Elaine Harris to their deaths. It would probably kill her if she knew that the part of him that felt satisfaction from punishing traitors had felt no differently that night in the Harris’ bedroom.

Tavington placed his mother’s letter back inside its box. He had other business to attend to.

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