Author's Note: When thinking of ideas for a new Tavington story, I wondered what might have happened if Charlotte Selton had met William Tavington shortly after his arrival in Charles Town and before he gained his reputation as the fearsome Butcher of the Carolinas. This story is what I came up with. For the purposes of this story, at the beginning of the story Charlotte is apolitical and doesn't really care which side wins the war, just so long as she can continue to maintain her standard of living. She is also not particularly attracted to her brother-in-law, Benjamin Martin, as she was in the movie. I'm still in the process of writing this story, but I should have fairly regular updates to it.
Charlotte Selton looked up in surprise as the door crashed open suddenly to admit her maidservant, Ruth. Without realizing it, she'd been dozing and the sound of the door had completely startled her.
"Begging your pardon, Missus, but we need to hurry!" the servant said, wringing her hands in nervous agitation. "The Redcoats have reached the edges of the city and Matthew said we need to leave now before they close off all the roads!" Pointing out the window, she said, "He's bringing the carriage around now."
"I can't leave Mrs Powell," Charlotte said firmly, turning to look at her elderly neighbour, who had finally fallen asleep after hours of restless pain. "There wouldn't be anyone to care for her if I left. And you know she's too ill to travel."
"What are we going to do now, Missus?" Ruth asked, glancing outside nervously.
"We'll be fine as long as we mind our own business and do nothing to call attention to ourselves," Charlotte told her stoutly. "Surely, the British will not bother a widow woman and her servants. We are no threat to them." Looking back at the sick woman, who was mumbling in her sleep, "It just can't be helped."
"If you say so, ma'am," Ruth said in a doubtful tone.
"I want you and Stephen to go home and act as if everything is normal," Charlotte said. "I will sit with Mrs Powell until morning, then I want you to relieve me. The doctor is supposed to come see her some time tomorrow morning." Looking back at the sick woman, she made a decision. "I think that after the doctor has seen her, we'll move her down to our house, where we can care for her more easily."
"Make sure Stephen puts the carriage in the barn and gets the horses out of sight," the blond woman said. "I'm sure the British cavalry will be looking to confiscate good horses for their troops."
After the servants had left, Charlotte spent an uneasy night, alternating between nervously checking out the window for any sign of the presence of British troops and tending to Mrs Powell's needs. Finally, after several hours of pacing back and forth between the bed and window, she fell into a fitful slumber in a chair by the old woman's bedside.
Early the next morning, Charlotte was awakened when Ruth tapped on the bedroom door. "Missus?" Ruth whispered. "Are you awake?"
Charlotte tiptoed to the door and stepped out into the hall. "Mrs Powell had a rather restless night, but she's sleeping now," she told Ruth. "You shouldn't have any problems while waiting for the doctor to arrive."
"I'm going to go home now and have Bessie prepare a bedroom for her," she said. "I'll send Stephen and Isaiah up with a litter to move her after the doctor has finished with her." Moving to look out the window, she asked, "Have you seen any British soldiers yet?"
"No, ma'am," Ruth answered. "But Stephen heard some gunfire last night. There's been fighting, no doubt of that."
Charlotte sighed loudly. In his last letter to her, her brother in law, Benjamin Martin had told her to evacuate Charles Town if the British should take it, warning that British occupation would be most unpleasant. Shaking her head firmly, she put Ben's advice out of her mind. She'd made her decision to stay and care for Mrs Powell and there was no use fretting about it now. It was too late to leave and what was done, was done. She'd just have to make the best of it.
A short time later, she opened the iron gate at the edge of the Powell property, and stepped out into the street to walk home. She saw a couple of carriages further down the street, but it was oddly quiet for a Monday morning. There were few pedestrians; some of her neighbours had no doubt fled before the advancing British.
As she turned the corner to her own street, she nearly ran right into two British infantrymen. Both men gave off a distinct aroma of strong drink mixed with sweaty, unwashed clothing. Their disheveled uniforms and stubbly chins also bore witness to the fact that they'd been up all night carousing.
"Well, well, well! Look what we have here!" The first soldier said, showing grey teeth as he moved to grab Charlotte's arm. "What do you think, Peter? Shall we have us a bit of sport before reporting back for duty, eh?"
The second soldier, grabbed her other arm, grinning widely. "A fine idea, Charlie," he said. "Let's both have a go; you never know when the chance will come up again."
"Let go of me!" Charlotte said in a low voice, struggling unsuccessfully to break free of them.
"We'll let go of you soon enough when we're done with you," the first soldier snarled. "Be quiet and we won't have to hurt you."
"I would suggest that you both unhand the lady immediately," a haughty voice behind them said .
Charlotte turned and looked up to see two mounted British dragoons stopped in front of them. One was a stocky man with reddish blond hair bound neatly in a queue. The other, with an aristocratic bearing and disdainful expression, was clearly in command. His cold blue eyes and queued raven hair immediately caught Charlotte 's attention.
"We were just having a bit of fun," the first soldier said as he reluctantly released his grip on the woman's arm. "No harm done."
"Report back to your units immediately," the dark haired dragoon said, his lip curled in contempt. "If I ever see either of you again away from your units, I will not be so lenient again. Is this understood?"
"Yes, sir!" they said in unison, before hurrying away, glad to have escaped a flogging.
"Thank you, sir," Charlotte said breathlessly. "I'm grateful. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come along."
"You're quite welcome," he said smoothly. "I'm glad I could be of assistance." Pausing to fish a piece of paper out of his pocket, he glanced down at it and asked, "Might you kindly be able to tell me where the John Selton residence is located?"
Charlotte's head snapped up at the mention of her husband's name. "I'm Mrs Selton," she said slowly, confused by what this British dragoon could possibly want with her dead husband. "But I'm a widow; my husband passed away quite some time ago."
"I'm Colonel William Tavington, commander of His Majesty's Green Dragoons," he said. "And this is Captain Bordon, my second in command." Handing her the paper, Tavington continued, "This is an authorization from Lord Cornwallis for Captain Bordon and I to be billeted at the John Selton residence."
"There must be some mistake," Charlotte said, frowning, as she looked blankly at the document. "I have not volunteered my home to house soldiers."
"All citizens have a duty to provide aid to His Majesty's army as is deemed necessary," he told her, a note of impatience creeping into his voice. "I can assure you that you will be fairly recompensed for your hospitality."
"Of course," Charlotte quickly agreed, not wanting to anger Tavington. "I am just curious as to how my home came to be chosen."
"I would imagine that most of your neighbours' homes have been chosen as well, considering that this street is close to army headquarters," he explained briefly.
"If you'll follow me, I'll show you the way," Charlotte said, knowing it was useless to protest any further. "It's just a few doors down."
To her surprise, Tavington dismounted. "I think I'll walk along with you," he said. "Take the reins" he said to Bordon, handing them over as he led his horse to his second in command.
"As you wish," she said, in what she hoped was a noncommittal voice, as Tavington came to stand beside her. She inhaled sharply, as his scent of leather mixed with his cologne filled her nostrils. Seeing him mounted on his horse, she'd noticed his arresting male beauty, but at close proximity, he was magnetic. Charlotte suddenly felt a warmth at the core of her being and her knees nearly buckled in reaction to his nearness. Stunned by her own reaction, she blushed furiously.
Well aware of her reaction to him, as he'd been quite the rake before leaving for the colonies and was used to such reactions from women, he smiled to himself. Gazing down at her full breasts in frank appreciation, he murmured, almost seductively, "I'm rather surprised that such a lovely woman as yourself has not remarried."
She knew she should be discomfited by his forward manner but she answered boldly. "I suppose I have not yet met the right man."
Charlotte did not comment. They had reached her home without further conversation. "Here we are," she said as she opened the gate. She was relieved to see her butler, Matthew, standing in the courtyard waiting for her.
"Matthew," she said. "It appears as if we will be having houseguests for an indefinite period of time." Gesturing at the dragoons, she said, "These gentlemen are Colonel Tavington and Captain Bordon."
"Yes, ma'am," he said. "Another officer has already arrived and is waiting for you in the library." Motioning to a young male servant, he indicated that he was to tend to the two dragoons' horses.
Turning to the butler, Charlotte said, "Matthew, please have Bessie prepare the far back bedroom as a sickroom for Mrs Powell. I've decided that it will be easier to care for her if we move her here."
"Right away, Miss Charlotte," Matthew said, hurrying off to do her bidding.
"Once Bessie has finished, send Stephen and Isaiah to get Mrs Powell," Charlotte continued. "Make sure Ruth stays with her until I can come check on her."
"Yes, ma'am," he said. "I'll take care of it right away."
"Thank you." Returning her attention to the waiting dragoons, she said, "Gentlemen, if you'll follow me, we'll see to your accommodations." Not waiting for a response, she immediately headed to the door to go inside.
Next chapter: Settling In