After a trying night spent fleeing the Georgia militia and traveling through the South Carolina woods, Tavington now stood before Cornwallis in the general's personal quarters at Middleton Place. By luck and God's good graces, at dawn, Tavington and Juliana had come upon a courier for the British who was on his way to Charles Town to pick up materials for his master. He was able to drive Tavington and Juliana to town, shaving hours off their travel time, getting them to Charles Town by mid-morning. Tavington had reported directly to Cornwallis and had sent Juliana home to rest after their exhaustive night in the woods.
"Colonel Tavington, I have half a mind to draw up orders for your court martial," Cornwallis said, barely containing his anger. "The only thing stopping me at the moment is the knowledge that our forces were able to hold the Continentals at bay and keep them from retaking Savannah."
"I beg your pardon?" Once again, Tavington found himself puzzled by Cornwallis's words. "My lord?"
"You are an officer in the world's most advanced military," Cornwallis said. "I've no doubt that, rising up through the ranks, you were not taught to flee from a conflict. Explain yourself."
"My lord, I was caught in an extremely delicate situation," Tavington began to explain. "You must understand that I was separated from Hawking and any other British military. A street filled with Continental supporters and militia barred my path back to Hawking's door. To go back would have meant certain death, and I doubt that my premature death would be of any use to the Crown, sir. I believed I could better serve Britain if I survived to fight another day."
Cornwallis was silent while he considered Tavington's explanation. It had merit, but the general couldn't just leave it at that. "You were staying with Colonel Hawking. Why were you away at the time of the attack?"
Tavington swallowed. This was going to be the beginning of the part that Cornwallis would not like. "I went out for some fresh air after dinner, my lord," he said. "I went for a walk."
"A walk," Cornwallis repeated. He turned around to the large window behind him. "Colonel, did anyone happen to accompany you on this walk?" He suspected that he already knew the answer, but he wanted to hear it from his subordinate's own mouth.
"Yes, my lord."
Cornwallis turned back to Tavington. "Were you with your girl, Juliana?"
Tavington blinked, taken back by question. "Wh-what? I don't see what that has to do with anything?" Tavington sputtered. In fact, Tavington had foreseen that Cornwallis would ask about Juliana. He'd hoped the subject of Juliana wouldn't come up, but he knew why Cornwallis was asking.
"Were you with her?" Cornwallis forcefully repeated his question.
"Yes, sir," Tavington revealed. "She was with me."
"Colonel, I thought we'd already settled this issue," Cornwallis said. He made no attempt to mask the annoyance in his voice. "I thought I'd made it clear that you're supposed to take care of these improprieties so that they are a non-issue."
"Now, Colonel, I do not care what you do in private, as it lies outside the sphere of my control; however, when you are in public, you are representative of me and, of the Crown, and of Britain. I will not allow you to besmirch the good reputation of the British military because you want to go gallivanting around the colonies with some whore."
Tavington flinched internally at the word "whore". He knew that Cornwallis's characterization of Juliana was as far from accurate as could be. "Sir, if you would allow me to explain—"
"This is the last time I want to have this conversation with you, Colonel," Cornwallis said, talking over Tavington's attempt at an explanation. "I will not be happy if this subject comes up between us again. Understood?"
YOU ARE READING
For Juliana Harris, life had always been cut and dry: People were Loyalists or Rebels, they were good or bad, they were master or slave. That perception of life changes suddenly one night...