Chapter Nineteen - The Battle of Camden

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(Clip: the Battle of Camden scene from the movie The Patriot)

They say that Death comes softly and without ceremony. Sliding in through the window cracks disguised as a lazy beam of sunlight or a soft breath of frost, he stealthily aquatints himself with the physiology of his next victim much like a merchant apprising his wares. While many of Death's victims tend to tangle themselves in the surly bonds of earth in fierce resistance to the inevitable, Death on rare occasions will be courted willingly by a human who has submitted to the certain brevity of their days.

When Grace awoke that next morning in the early hours before dawn, she lay there gazing blankly up at the ceiling trying to flirt with Death. She knew that she would not live out the day and, though reassured in the fact that her death would not be a waste, she wanted to make sure that she could fearlessly look Death in the eye. When the time came, Grace knew that she must be brave. She refused to die as anything less than a martyr, and so she laid there wide awake in bed, engulfed in darkness, trying to pick out his form from among the shadows. It was, however, all in vain. No sooner had Grace convinced herself that Death was nothing to her, then she found herself curled up on top of the bed sheets quietly sobbing to herself.

She did not want to die. She wanted to see her family and friends again. She wanted to get married to Benedict Whitefield and have children and watch as they grew up. She wanted to live. Was it too much to ask?

She had everything to lose and yet nothing compared with what the entire American cause would suffer if her father became a turncoat in return for her life. She could simply foresee no alternative to her demise. Beside herself with anguish, Grace could scarcely think straight. In the stillness of the dim morning, she could have sworn she heard a slight groan just as pitiful and lamentable as she felt coming from the room next door.

Holding her breath for a moment as she soaked up every bit of anguish in the air around her, Grace suddenly burst into a feverish string of prayers to God. It was the only thing she could do, as there seemed like nothing save for Divine intervention that could help her now.

As the sun began to dimly illuminate the windowpanes, Grace heard a sudden knock on her door. Moments later Rebecca entered with strict orders from Tarleton to ready her for the day ahead. With some composure and a strength far beyond her own, Grace managed to get out of bed just as the sunlight began to filter in blood-red through the velvet curtains and face her destiny.

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As he had expected, Tarleton found little rest that night. In a tortured state of mind, he paced the floor barefooted in nothing but breeches and a thin linen shirt for an indeterminable amount of time. It was only in the hour before dawn that he finally collapsed into his bed and found a moment's rest. However, to his infinite dismay, he soon awoke to a miserable headache and the realization that morning had wantonly reared its head.

As he sat up in bed, he hungrily began to contemplate the thought of feigning illness in order to be excused from the day's imminent events. It would be a burden lifted from his conscious to know that his hands were free of the guilt of having Grace's blood on his hands, but he just couldn't manage to bring himself to do it. Yes, he would much prefer not to have to kill the women he admittedly still loved, but the thought of Grace writhing in pain at the unforgiving hands of another officer who preferred to let her suffer in a long, drawn-out death was too much for him to bare. If Grace had to die, at least he would ensure that it was as quick and painless as possible. Having been an exceptionally skilled officer in the army for five years, Tarleton knew of the location of arteries in the neck and shoulder that, if cut, would kill a man almost instantly.

This thought, however, did not make the cold fact any easier to bare. Letting out an inscrutable moan of pain and anguish, Tarleton buried his head in his hands. He sat in that position for some minutes before suddenly jerking himself upright and striding over to the uniform that lay folded nearly across the long, ornate chest at the foot of his bed. Deciding that he ought to get about his duties, he began to dress, fumbling with each button like a drunkard in his extremely agitated state of mental turmoil.

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