Chapter Twenty - The World Turned Upside Down

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"Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down." - The World Turned Upside Down (English Ballad)

(YouTube video credited to LadyCath1)

"Get that girl out of there!"

General Cornwallis's piercing command rang out across the battlefield, breaking the tentative silence that followed after Benedict Whitefield's last breath had passed out of his body. Tarleton started at the sound, realizing that he too wasn't breathing, the scene before him sucking every bit of life from his body. He was stiff, unmoving, uncertain of himself and what he ought to do now. No one could have predicted such an unfortunate turn of events, he least of all.

The scene before him only disaffirmed all of the churlish self-delusions he had often liked to indulge himself with since the day Grace rejected his declaration of love. He had always kept hidden away within his heart a secret hope that she had had no lover who might have gotten to her before him. At some moments, he would even delude himself with the fancy that she only said that she had a fiancé just to spurn him or because she was yet unsure of her feelings for him. What he had just witnessed before him, however, washed away all these things like a winter deluge.

She loved him. She had loved this man with all her heart and there was no unseeing the inexplicable grief splayed across her fine features as she wept over him.

The handful of rebel soldiers who came forward to take away the young man's body attempted also to take Grace with them. Cornwallis, however, had other plans and refused to let a young woman's broken heart cast his deal into the mud. A warning shot was fired, landing just inches away from the man who had taken Grace's arm to lead her back to their lines. Every one of the small party of rebels stopped in their tracks as every rebel gun was instantly cocked and pointed at a red-coated target.

Sensing his commander's intentions, Tarleton grudgingly rode forward in an to attempt to retrieve Grace.

"I must remind you, men, you are under explicit terms. You may take the girl, but General Lewis must be handed over."

Grace looked back at her captor, too distraught to give him anything but a flash of her tear-soaked face so contorted by pain that, even if she had wanted to, she could show him no anger. The moment life had passed out of Benedict Whitefield's blood-stained body, reality had taken on a dream-like quality for Grace. She too had been drained of the warm, hot blood coursing through her veins. There might as well have been no heartbeat in her chest as, for all she cared, she might as well be dead too. She would have lain there beside her lover and willed herself to die with him had not she been forced upright by Colonels Buxton and Sumners and lead away.

"You have some nerve, young man, can't you see that this woman has just lost her fiancé? and been thus stripped of her whole world?"

Colonel Buxton retorted bitterly, wielding his words like a dagger with which he meant to stab Tarleton through the heart.

Tarleton was at a loss for words.

"Well then?" Roared General Cornwallis over the heads of his troops.

Tarleton didn't hear him, or at least, he pretended not to. Seeing that reclaiming Grace would be futile and do far more harm than good now, he turned his horse away and let her go freely and without hesitation. His mind rebelled at his insubordination, but his heart was a more powerful voice still, more potent than it had been in years. He loved her, unavoidably so. He loved her far too much to even consider the possibility of taking her back into captivity. So he let her go because he realized now that he loved her far more than even life itself. She needed time to greave and as he clearly meant nothing to her, it would only be best if he simply let her be.

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