Possession – Chapter 6

Tavington wandered outside. He needed a reprieve from the stuffiness of the party. He also needed to satisfy his curiosity about where Juliana had gone off to. He’d seen her slip out of the ballroom with O’Hara and had expected them to be gone for only a moment. After nearly ten minutes, Tavington’s had finally gotten the best of him, and he found himself at the entrance to the porch.

He stepped out onto the porch at the rear of the house and wasn’t surprised to find the lawn nearly desolate – nearly. It was dark, but Tavington could make out two figures on a bench a short distance off from the house. He couldn’t actually discern who the two individuals were, but Tavington could distinctly see a red coat and a blue dress. Juliana wore a blue gown this night, he recalled.

Tavington began to move down the steps, away from the porch. The more ground he covered on his way to the couple, the better he could see them, and he realized that the two were involved in some sort of struggle. Soon, he was right up on them. He saw that the Redcoat was O’Hara and that he was attempting to assault Tavington’s property.

“General, what do you think you’re doing?” Tavington asked. He didn’t sound particularly upset, but his face was an open book, and it told a story of fury.

O’Hara, annoyed, turned and looked at Tavington. “Tavington – I’ll kindly suggest that you move along to another location. As you can see, I’m quite occupied at the moment.” He turned back to Juliana, intending to pick up right where he’d left off.

Tavington realized that he was addressing a superior officer, but at the moment, the fact seemed secondary. “Sir, I’ll have to ask that you cease your behavior. This girl is my property.”

“From what I can see, and feel, this ‘girl’ is far from a girl,” O’Hara said, his eyes still glued to Juliana. “And technically, she is supposed to be the property of the King’s army. Lord Cornwallis was beyond generous by allowing you to keep her as your own. If you ‘d like to ensure that she is in fact returned to you, you will leave us.”

Juliana looked to Tavington with terrified eyes. She was practically clinging to bench, trying unsuccessfully to get some distance between herself and O’Hara.

Tavington looked from Juliana to O’Hara again. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, sir,” he said.

O’Hara turned to Tavington, not believing his ears. He stood, finally letting go of Juliana, and walked up to Tavington. “And why is that, Colonel?” O’Hara asked.

“Because I cannot allow you to harm my property,” Tavington said. Tavington glared at O’Hara, and O’Hara at Tavington. The two men stared at each other solidly, neither of them shirking away from the other.

Juliana stood slowly. This was her chance. After what had just happened, what had nearly happened, she knew that she couldn’t do this anymore. She couldn’t live like this. She didn’t have the strength. She looked out at the harbor, remembering her earlier notions of just making a run for it. At the moment, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. What other option did she have? She took off running towards the harbor. She didn’t care about her chances for success at actually attaining freedom. She didn’t care if she drowned. She just knew that she couldn’t be stuck in her life as it was now. She would have rather been dead.

“Damn,” Tavington cursed. He was after Juliana in seconds. The girl had to know that she wouldn’t be able to get away from him so easily. He was much faster than she, especially since he wasn’t hindered by a large, cumbersome dress. He quickly overtook her and caught her roughly by the arm.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he exploded at her, slightly winded. “Where did you think you were going?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. He yanked at her arm, pulling her toward the house. As Tavington passed O’Hara, the two men exchanged ominous looks. Their business was not yet done.

/\/\/

“Just how far do you think you would have gotten?” Tavington asked Juliana. They’d returned to his house after a tension-filled ride from Middleton Place. Neither of them had uttered one word during the entire trip.

Now, an agitated Tavington stood over Juliana, who sat on a chair in the parlor. “I provide you with clothing, shelter, food, and I ask nothing, nothing, in return except that you do as I say,” Tavington continued, fuming. “Is this at all unbearable? Are you so terribly unhappy here that you would rather risk drowning in order to get away? Why?”

Juliana felt that she didn’t have anything to lose by truthfully speaking her mind at this point. If he killed her, it would come as a blessing. “If you had to live with a homicidal madman, wouldn’t you be unhappy?” she questioned him boldly.

“What on earth are you talking about?” Tavington asked, genuinely baffled.

“You’re the Butcher,” Juliana accused. “You kill at will and at random. You tell me how I can possibly be happy livin’ here, under the same roof, with such a person.”

Tavington narrowed his eyes at her. “‘The Butcher’? Is that what’s got you all upset? That’s just a story colonials have created to scare little children at night,” Tavington insisted. “There’s no truth to it.”

“Oh, there isn’t? That’s difficult for me to believe when my very own eyes saw you light fire to my home and burn it to the ground,” Juliana retorted.

“Your home?” Tavington scoffed. “You were a slave. That wasn’t your home – it was your master’s home.”

“He wasn’t simply a master to me,” Juliana said. “That was my family. It was the only family I ever knew.”

Tavington rolled his eyes, expecting to hear another diatribe about the symbolic family that the American slave system had created. “Yes, yes. I know all about your beloved paternalism,” he said, visibly annoyed.

“That isn’t what I’m talkin’ about,” Juliana said. She stood and approached Tavington. “Mr. George Harris was more than my master; he was my grandfather.”

Tavington looked at Juliana, stunned by her admission. She continued. “My mother was his daughter. So, yes, while it’s all just another casualty of war to you, it’s a bit more personal to me.”

Tavington peered down at Juliana. Did she believe her story to be unique? The colonies were no doubt filled with slaves who shared similar stories. “I did what was required of me. Your master, your grandfather, was a traitor. Nothing more. Frankly, I find it puzzling that you appear to have such affection for a man who would continue to enslave you and your mother, who were supposed to be his flesh and blood. How could you hold in esteem someone who would refuse to acknowledge his relation to you?”

“He treated us as best he could, under the circumstances,” Juliana defended. “He was a good master.”

“Oh, yes – because he let you work inside the house as opposed to outside in the field,” Tavington mocked. “I do see the source of your feelings now.”

“You just don’t understand,” Juliana said.

“No, I don’t. Explain it to me.”

Juliana turned away from Tavington and walked over to the window. “It’s hard to describe,” she said.

“No. I find it quite simple, actually. The truth of it is that your beloved grandfather regarded you as nothing more than mere chattel.

“That isn’t true,” Juliana insisted

Tavington strode over to the window and stood behind her. He whispered into her ear, “You were nothing more than a house slave to him, and you know it. You also know that your grandfather wasn’t worth his weight in salt.” He said it because it was true. The reaction that it evoked from Juliana, though, was an added perk.

She turned to him. “You don’t understand,” she said angrily. “And I’m not obligated to explain it to you. You should just kill me, and get it over with already.” She began to walk away, but Tavington stopped her by grabbing her arm.

“I won’t kill you, my dear,” he told her, “but I promise you that if you ever think about pulling another stunt like the one you attempted tonight, I will make your life a living hell. If you don’t believe it, I suggest you test me.”

His words came calmly, without any verbal indication of anger. It was in his hard stare and the steel grip he had on her arm that Juliana realized the truth of Tavington’s words. He was in complete control, and he would not hesitate to remind her of that fact.

Tavington finally let go of Juliana’s arm, and she left him alone in the parlor. As he watched her go, Tavington could not stop the smile that was forming on his lips. What a fortunate turn of events for him. Juliana was the result of Harris’s dalliance with a slave. Now he could really make the most out of having her in his possession. Her lineage increased her value to him exponentially. Harris had been a prominent figure around South Carolina. Juliana’s existence would allow Tavington to effectively trample the memory of Harris by exposing a secret that Harris’s family had probably tried to keep under lock and key. Tavington was almost giddy with the prospect of what he could do with this knowledge. It was what Harris deserved. He didn’t deserve to leave behind a memory that people celebrated, as a martyr. With Juliana, Tavington would be able to see that Harris’s demise continued beyond death.

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