Chapter 3 - The Consequences
Samantha walked into the room, balancing a tray in her hands that was laden with several different foods. Following her was Mrs. Tavington, carrying yet another tray that was laden with even more food. The colonel couldn't help but smile at the sight.
"Are you planning on feeding a small army tonight, mother?"
Amusement laced his words, but she gave him a pointed glare and he desisted.
"This one's for you, William. I know for a fact that you haven't eaten in two whole days, and I'm going to make sure that you eat down every morsel on this tray, even if I have to feed it to you myself."
The look in her eyes was deadly serious, and he took no chances on her words.
He shared a glance with Elaine, who was being served by Samantha, and he watched as she tried to hide a grin at his sudden appetite for the food in front of him. The both of them began to eat, and they did so under the watchful eyes of their two self-imposed wardens.
Luckily, he found that he was actually rather hungry and managed to eat everything that was on his tray.
Once they had both finished their supper, the two women left.
Soon after they had left the room, Erik arrived wearing his riding boots, his trousers covered in mud. The expression on his face was quite dour and quite serious.
"Will…I have to talk to you…" His voice faded, and then he cast a significant glance to Elaine. "Alone."
He could see that the look in his younger brother's eyes was serious, so he gave his wife's hand a parting caress, and then stepped out into the hall with his brother, having a slightly vague idea of he was about to tell him.
Erik worried his riding cap in his hands, obviously unsure of where to begin, but soon found the words.
"Will…there are lawmen downstairs that are insisting that you go with them to be tried for war crimes. I told them that it was preposterous, that they must have the wrong man, but they insisted that I come up here and retrieve you. Please tell me they are wrong?"
He could see the desperate and pleading look in Erik's eyes, and he suddenly found it very hard to meet his younger brother's gaze.
At twenty-one, his brother still had a boyish innocence about him, and William was suddenly aware of the fact that what was about to happen was most likely going to shatter that innocence.
He reached out a hand and placed it on his shoulder, suddenly finding words rather hard to come by.
"Erik…I need you to do something for me."
His brother eagerly nodded, seemingly convinced that his brother was absolutely innocent of all wrongdoing.
"Anything, Will. Anything."
He gripped his brother's shoulder tightly, dropping his eyes for a brief moment to gather his courage to say the words that needed to be said. He had to do it now. Elaine was recovering already, and he knew that he would be allowed no more time.
Not looking his brother in the eye, he began to talk.
"I…I want you to stay with Elaine, make sure she recovers completely. I want you to tell her that I…that I love her…"
As his voice faded slightly, Erik's eyes widened slightly in the realization of what his older brother was asking him.
"No, Will…no. It-It can't be true. You, you…?"
He couldn't bring himself to look at his brother in the eyes. This admission of guilt was hard enough as it was, and he couldn't bear to see the disappointment in his younger brother's eyes. It was a disappointment that he knew would be with the both of them for the rest of their lives.
He slid his hand from his brother's shoulder, moving towards the stairs.
"I…I'm sorry, Erik," he said softly over his shoulder just before he descended the staircase.
Every footstep he took sounded like the dreaded hammer nailing his coffin shut.
He knew who was at the bottom of the stairs, and he knew that with each step he was digging himself just a little bit deeper into that hole. But of course, he had started digging it a long, long time ago. Ever since the war had originally started.
He hit the bottom landing and turned to face his fate with his head held high.
The lawmen came to him from either side and he let himself willingly go with them. It had to be done…so long as Elaine was alright.
As they led him out the door, he heard one of them beginning to read him the charges.
"William James Tavington, you are hereby taken into custody by His Majesty's royal guard under charges of war crimes."
As the man spoke, he felt soft ropes being carefully tightened about his wrists behind his back. They shouldn't have even bothered; he was not going to fight them. He knew that this day had been coming since the first instant he had set foot back on English soil.
His judgment was now upon him and he deserved every part of the punishment that he would receive.
They shoved him into the carriage out front none too gently, and he sat back as much as he could with his hands tied behind him.
Time to meet my end, was the only thought in his mind as the horses pulled them away from his wife and home.
Nine Months Later
William Tavington lay back on the cold, stone bench in his dungeon cell, staring blankly at the ceiling above him.
He had already counted all of the stones in his cell wall. Many times. One thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven. Now he was working on the stones in the ceiling. He had reached forty-three so far. But the sound of footsteps outside of the cell, echoing down the narrow stairs that led down to where he lay, distracted him completely.
He could hear faint voices and snippets of sentences echoed off the walls.
"…could be exonerated…" "…completely unprecedented…" "...actually freed…"
He was smart enough to figure out parts of what he was hearing.
It was quite possible that they were talking about his imprisonment…but he had been proven beyond all doubt that he was fully guilty of the crimes that he'd committed and he hadn't tried to deny the truth of his actions. There had been no point to deny it when there had been plenty of witnesses.
Besides…he deserved to be here.
A loud clanging against his bars jolted him from his state of apathy, and he sat up, looking at the guard who had made the noise.
"C'mon, get up, Tavington! You need to come with us."
And with that, the other guard stepped forward and opened up the cell. The two of them came inside, tied his wrists behind his back once more, and then they escorted him out of his cell, down the hallway, and up two flights of stairs.
William then found himself being shoved out the door and into bright sunlight on the top of a flight of stone steps, and a crowd of around a hundred people were gathered around the base.
He blinked rapidly at the sudden onset of light onto his retinas, and took a quick look around.
He immediately recognized the judge that had thrown him into prison until his execution, Judge Samuel Travers, and then he noticed that someone else was on the other side of him.
He started to strain his neck to look and see who it was, but the guard behind him grabbed him by the neck and forced his head forward, obviously having been given orders to keep the prisoner in line and out of trouble by any means necessary.
Tavington stared straight ahead, waiting for what, he did not know.
Then someone was shouting out over the crowd and he suddenly was able to make sense of the snippets of conversation that he'd heard earlier just before being taken out of his cell.
"Hail the all honorable Judge Travers!" Everyone gave a brief cheer, as was custom, and the man continued. "We are here today to address the nature of the crimes that William James Tavington has been accused of. Those crimes being: murder in the first degree on more than one hundred counts, insubordination of a superior officer while in a state of war…"
He began to list the crimes, and Tavington dropped his head in shame as each one was read, but the guard behind him forced his head back up, forcing him to stare out at the crowd.
He could see the look of disgust on almost every single face as they listened to what each of his crimes were.
Finally, the list was done, but then what the man said next shocked him.
"We are here to readdress each of these crimes, as a witness has come forward with claims that William James Tavington has atoned for these sins…"
At this, the people began to loudly protest, and William could hear shouts of "But he's a murderer!" and "Hang him now!", and his heart sank slightly. He knew that they believed him to be guilty, and he knew that he was guilty, but to hear them say it out loud was almost more than he could bear.
He could take the looks and the disgusted glares, but the words cut him like swords.
The judge made a motion for silence, and the crowd abated.
The man who had been speaking before gave a brief nod of thanks to the judge and then continued.
"Will the witness please step forward?"
The man who was on the other side of the judge and out of Tavington's line of sight, finally stepped forward and Tavington could barely believe what he was seeing. Standing there was Gabriel Martin, the boy that he had let live when he'd returned the colonel's journals and letters to him.
The boy was speaking in his defense?
With a nod from the speaker, Gabriel began to speak and William could hardly believe the words coming out of the young man's mouth.
"I fought against Colonel William Tavington personally," he started, and at this a murmur ran through the crowd, but he continued. "And I know that he can be brutal at times…but I do not feel that he did it with any sort of pleasure."
After he spoke he paused, as though gathering his thoughts.
"I am the son of Benjamin Martin, who you may know of as The Ghost. My father, in his own way, is just as brutal as the man that you see before you today and has done many unspeakable acts of violence. In my father's case, I know that he took no pleasure out of what he did simply because of the fact that he never spoke of it and was forever praying for forgiveness for the acts that he'd done…though at the time he deemed them necessary. And in the case of Colonel William Tavington's crimes, I know that he did not take any comfort out of what he was doing, either."
He took a deep breath and then forged ahead.
"On the day of November 19, 1779, I was given a bag from my father, Benjamin Martin, filled with the journals and personal letters of Colonel William James Tavington. He gave me a direct order to read them so that we might learn as much as we could in order to win the war."
At this, an even louder commotion ran through the crowd, but from a motion from the judge, they fell silent once more.
"In those letters and journals, I came to the knowledge that this man, whom you see before you today, hated what he was doing with every fiber of his being. He detested what he had become, but felt, in the circumstances and pressures of war, that the actions were necessary. As I continued to read, I discovered that he wanted nothing more than to go home and leave the travesty of the war behind him."
Gabriel paused and looked at Tavington, a look of pity on his face. He then pulled out a leather bound book and William immediately recognized it as one of his journals.
"I have been given permission to read an excerpt from his journal in his defense."
He flipped it open towards the last pages and began to read, his clear voice ringing out over the crowd.
""I feel that that I have lost myself completely. As soon as I draw on the clothes of my rank, I am suddenly someone that I hate. A man that I despise and wish did not exist, but at the same time I know that I must become this person in order to bring us to victory..." "
The people congregated began to grow restless, obviously uncomfortable with what they were hearing, but Gabriel continued.
" "But now I find myself questioning even this war. If they want to be separated from the crown, they should be allowed to, should they not? I can barely believe that I am writing down these words, damning and treasonous ones that they are, but all I can see now is this ridiculous feud that seems to have no point.
I have found out rather recently from General Cornwallis what the people have taken to calling me. The Butcher. Dear lord, is this person I've become…no, the word person is not strong enough. Is this demon I've become now all that is left of me? How can I return home to my family knowing the pain and suffering that I've caused? How can I turn a blind eye to the horrific acts I have perpetuated and the events that I've forced to occur?" "
A susurrus rippled through the crowd at these words, but quickly died down as he continued to read.
" "Not too long ago, I gave one of my officers an order to burn a church filled with men, women, and children, after making sure that they could not escape, and the words he spoke to me will haunt me for the rest of my waking days.
"There is no honor in this," is what he said to me.
And he was right. There was no honor in what I had ordered him to do, and I look upon that man as being twice the man I am. Captain Wilkins, the man who turned traitor to his own "countrymen", has more honor than I ever will or could ever hope to have. When I told General Cornwallis that I would take the full mantle of responsibility, rendering him blameless, it was for his sake. He did not need to bear the burden of my sins…" "
Gabriel paused, and then turned towards Tavington. "With permission, your honor, I would like the accused to read the last part of his entry."
The judge nodded, and Gabriel walked over to William, placing his journal into his hands that had just been untied.
William took a deep breath and cleared his throat before reading the last words that he'd ever written in his journal.
" "Knowing that I cannot return to England, that I cannot return to my wife…I feel nothing but shame. I have no honor, I have no conscience. Not anymore. I do not know how to live with myself. If I die in this war, it will only be fitting.
I feel, that this will be my last and final missive, and I can only hope and pray that when someone reads this, they will know of my failings…and that I regret every single action I ever took upon the people of this American land. May my soul burn in hell for what I have done…" "
At this, the crowd made no noise. It was deathly quiet and Tavington honestly didn't know whether it was a silence of redemption or damnation.
He prayed it was the former, but he kept his sights low.
He then watched as Gabriel was then summoned by the man who had been announcing everything. There were several words exchanged, but their tones were too low for him to make anything out, though he could see the two of them gesturing. Soon, the judge joined them and there was more gesturing.
It lasted for several hours.
The sun waned in the sky, and Tavington felt his legs aching with the effort of standing for so long.
The people in the crowd came and went, all of them wanting to hear the verdict.
Finally, the three men parted.
Judge Travers spoke. "On accounts of war crimes, William James Tavington is…" He looked back towards the other two, winced, and then said, "Cleared of all charges."
A collective gasp came from the crowd…
…and his heart soared.
He was free.
All because he had let the boy live when he could have easily killed him. That one act had been his saving grace, and now he was able to return to his family. To his wife.
He was free.
A.N. - Sorry this took so long to update! I've been job hunting and such for over a year now...so here you go! Hope you enjoyed it!