Later in the day, as the clear, azure sky and the warm sun retreated from the night that reigned once again, Marietta and Adeline stepped out onto the front porch dressed in their ball gowns. They greeted their awaiting friends, who were patiently awaiting in their formal evening attire in front of a black carriage they had summoned over. The gentlemen removed their tricorns and bowed, holding out an arm for the ladies to grab.
"I can't tell if I am awake or asleep. You look lovely this eve, ladies," said Christopher with a smile.
William pleasantly scanned Marietta. "Quite pretty, indeed. I'm having a difficult time discerning whether you are real or simply a dream, Miss Marietta."
Marietta glanced at William with a tiny smile. "I am quite real, I assure you."
"Mayhap I should test that." William slowly stretched out a hand toward Marietta's cheek.
Marietta flinched back just in time. "N-no, no! That won't be necessary." She politely coughed. "...The door, please, sir."
"Madam." William bowed with a smile and opened the door for Marietta, allowing everyone to enter before himself.
"Miss Marietta, if you don't mind me saying," said Christopher as he adjusted his position into something more comfortable, folding his hands over the handle of his cane, "you seem...flustered. Are you nervous about tonight's ball?"
"Well, when you're continually embarrassed..." muttered Marietta. "Oh, no! I am fine. It is just that...I have the oddest feeling, lately."
William blinked. "What do you mean?" William sat down, shutting the passenger door. He stretched his cane out the window and gave the carriage's hood a light tap to signal the rider to press onward to the bustling port city of Wilmington.
Adeline covered her mouth with her lace fan. "Oh, how I wonder what she means!"
Marietta glanced unhappily at Adeline, knowing fully what her sister was thinking. Adeline merely giggled, understanding Marietta's silent message.
Marietta cocked her head to the side as she carefully thought. "I'm uncertain how to describe it."
"Honestly and carefully," said William. "Take your time, Miss Marietta. We won't arrive at the ball for a while."
Marietta nodded. "Perhaps I am just worrying too much, but for the entire day, my heart cannot shake away this feeling that something is wrong."
"I think you are worrying too much, my friend," said Christopher as he pulled out his snuff box. "But it is understandable. Words and rumors have been filling the air, only growing deeper and more frequently. The war's worsening. I mean not to startle anyone, but we cannot feign ignorance toward reality. From what I heard, it's only a matter of time before the war stretches its hold to North Carolina."
William grimly nodded at his friend. He looked at Marietta with firmness and care. "...Could this feeling, also, be about your father?" WIlliam took a moment of pause, hoping he had not wounded Marietta's heart. "He...has been gone for some time, now."
Christopher lethargically sighed. "But that's how wars are," added Christopher. "It'll take what it wants. Who knows if it will return them?"
Without drawing any attention to himself, William carefully slid his right foot forward and lightly tapped his friend's shoe. William slowly shook his head, a silent message Christopher instantly picked up.
"Ah! But your father is the ever-talented, intelligent Bill. He's a strong man. He'll find his way home to his beloved daughters." Christopher smiled.
William placed a caring hand upon Marietta's shoulder. "Your mind deserves peace, Miss Marietta. And you know your father well. He won't go down without a good fight. Put this worrisome thought out of your mind for this eve."
"Agreed! Your father is a capable man and a veteran soldier," added Christopher, tucking his snuff box into the pocket of his waistcoat. "He's no fool to allow himself to be bested by Lobsterbacks."
"Have faith, my dear sister. Father will come home, and we'll be waiting for him with open arms," encouraged Adeline as she placed a hand over Marietta's that rested at the center of her lap.
William leaned forward. "I've said this before, but I'll say it again: you have a large heart, Marietta. It is a good thing to care about those important to you, but don't allow yourself to be consumed with worry. Worry, yes, but don't let it dominate your mind." Marietta nodded. "Tonight is a night for dance, conversation, and good company. Smile and laugh as you always had, Marietta. Let today be your day."
"Thank you." Marietta's heart was moved by such kind, encouraging words from her dearest people. Marietta lightly blushed, feeling foolish for allowing herself to be weak, for a moment, and for doubting as much as she did.
"That is what friends are for," said Christopher with a nod, "and sisters. You are lucky to have someone as wonderful as Adeline." Christopher glanced at Adeline, who nervously fidgeted in her seat and blushed, which made Christopher's heart dance in joy as he smiled.
"And you two need a separate carriage, it would seem," jested William as she smirked at his friend, crossing his arms in front of him.
"What?! That's absurd," Christopher glanced at his friend unhappily, fighting to conceal his embarrassment. Adeline, on the other hand, simply turned her head away to hide her red cheeks as she stared out the carriage window.
William chuckled, clearly enjoying the reactions both Christopher and Adeline provided him.
"Hmph!" Christopher frowned. "You're terrible, friend."
"I do it only for you, friend," said William with a smirk.
In the meantime, as the carriage departed the town of Brunswick, the shadows of the night deepened. The sky was cloudy, only faintly lit by the soft glow of the moon that peeked behind the clouds whenever it found the chance. The air was cooler. The continuous sounds from the swamps were silenced. The ocean's waves crashed against the rocky coast, but its soothing, swishing sound could not veil the sudden change in the air. Something was approaching...
The large silhouetted ship of the Royal Navy Cruizer appeared, betrayed by the cloak of darkness when the clouds fled and the moonlight flooded the land. The ship slowly and silently sliced through the waves, while on land, a distinct rumble of hooves chopped away the deadening silence.
A gust of wind swept through Brunswick, shaking the trees. The sky began to glow a shade of orange and yellow as thick, sharp, intoxicating smoke choked the night air. The buildings of Brunswick had begun to burn, after British soldiers poured forth from the ship. The fiercely burning town greeted the arriving cavalry carrying torches in their hands.
At the forefront of the cavalry was a man of medium height with auburn hair tied back into a tight queue. He retained a boyish and yet intimidating air that unsettled some of the British soldiers, who paused long enough to steal a curious glance at the imposing Green Dragoons and their infamous member: Major Banastre Tarleton.
Banastre wore a fluffy-crested leather helmet and a white cravat. A short green jacket with black facings and gold laces embraced his well-built torso, giving way to doeskin breeches. His jockey boots dusted with dirt reached up to his knees. His chocolate, calculating eyes seemed to burn with the glow of nearby flames as he looked around. Banastre tugged on the reins and brought his steed to a halt. Banastre snapped his fingers as he shifted in his saddle to glance at his dragoons behind him. "Left column, search the town! Destroy any resistance you find and take the rest as prisoners. If you find Bill or his family, spare them. They're needed…alive."
"Yes, sir!" The dragoons fanned out.
"Right column, you will remain with me! We'll find the Lockhart family." Banastre turned back around in his saddle to observe Brunswick burning before him as half of his men filtered through the town. A small infantry group had clashed with unexpected resistance from a few men who chose to stay behind. Gunshots were fired, echoing and crackling across the night air.
"Bloody fools," muttered Banastre. "Why did they stay behind? They're outnumbered? It's hopeless, a wasted effort." Banastre slightly frowned. He pitied and admired the rebellious men.
Banastre sighed, looking away to his right. It was then that Banastre noticed a wooden house near a dirt path that led away from the town. "Hmm... Captain Harryford!"
Captain Harryford Codington was a well-built middle-aged man with blue eyes and hazelnut hair. He was much taller than his friend and leader Banastre, who was about five feet and four inches tall. But it was no problem between the two. Harryford was the calmer, more sympathetic one in comparison to Banastre, although Banastre had his kind side. But it wad rarely shown while in the presence of superiors or on duty.
Captain Harryford pulled up next to Banastre. "Yes, sir?"
"What lies over there?" Banastre inquired as he pointed to the house in the distance.
Harryford looked to his right and glanced down the long road that faded into the darkness. "I believe 'tis just a plantation or two far afield. I do not think 'tis anything important, though."
"Hm." Banastre narrowed his eyes. "All the more reason to visit it. We would be fools to leave a spot unchecked. We'll leave this affair with Captain Collet and his men. I have my own orders to take care of."
"Green Dragoons, move out!" called Banastre as he gestured to his men with a brisk wave. Banastre spurred his horse into a gallop and headed for the small house.
The Green Dragoons halted at the front yard of a house, startling a woman who awoke from the sudden ruckus outside. She peeked out from her bedroom window and immediately awoke her husband and sister.
Banastre dismounted his steed and glanced at his men, giving a quick nod of his head. "Search the vicinity. Inform me if you come across the Lockharts." Banastre turned his attention to his friend. "Captain Harryford, take three men with you and bound those inside. I'll wait here."
Harryford nodded. "Understood, sir. You three"—he pointed at three men who stood nearby—"with me!" Harryford climbed up the steps of the porch and kicked open the front door, disappearing inside with the three dragoons close behind.
Banastre patiently paced to-and-fro outside as minutes passed. He tugged on his brown leather gloves, removing them and tucking them in the pockets of his green jacket.
Captain Harryford purposely cleared his throat as he stood framed in the front doorway. "Sir, we found three people inside. We bounded them in the living room. They await to be questioned, sir."
Banastre halted and turned his head. "Ah! Good. Lead the way, then." Banastre climbed up the steps of the front porch and followed Harryford inside the house. Banastre was taken to the living room where three people were sitting on wooden chairs, quivering with fear with their hands bound behind their backs. Banastre quietly stared at each of them. He focused his attention on the husband and wife sitting in front of the fireplace. Their frightened, uncertain faces was enough for Banastre to know what was swimming around in their heads. He clasped his hands behind his back and slowly approached them, the ringing of his spurs adding weight to the intense, fearful aura that hung in the house. "You are the man of this house, are you not?" To Banastre's surprise, the gentleman nodded his head. "Good. Then, you won't mind if I ask you some questions, do you? You see, I am looking for a family by the name of Lockhart. More specifically, I am searching for Bill Lockhart. He has been a thorn in the British side, and I wish to remove said thorn. Tell me, what do you know of their whereabouts?"
The gentleman swallowed hard to keep his nerves intact. "I know nothing, sir. I am just a farmer-I pay no heed to the comings and goings of others."
"I see... That is a shame." Banastre took a step forward with a sigh. "I don't think you quite understand your situation, sir. Allow me to be blunt with you. The rules are simple, really: you tell me what I need to know and you and your dear family can live. If you retaliate in any fashion, you and your family will die. Do I make myself clear, sir?"
The man looked at his family, for a moment, trying to read their faces. He wished only one thing for his family. The gentleman turned his attention back to Banastre. He nodded.
Banastre smiled. "Good!" He stood erect and began to pace about. "You say you don't know anything, but I must disagree with you, sir. I am no fool. This town is small-too small-for any one person to be unaware of the comings and goings of others. It is-what is the word?-a tight-knit community." Banastre turned on his heel and looked at the man. "I advise you not to lie to me. I'll ask again: where is Bill Lockhart?"
"A-All right, I'll tell you! But I only know that he's well-known here in Brunswick. I swear! He's a generous, talented man." The man swallowed down his fear. "If anyone had something broken, he'd fix it. If people had trouble growing crops, he'd show them how to do it properly. And he has two daughters."
Banastre tilted his head. "Yes, I know he does. Tell me, what are the names of his daughters?"
"Marietta and Adeline."
Banastre pondered the names, absorbing them into memory. "And are they here?"
"No, they're not here. Bill isn't here either."
Banastre frowned in displeasure at this. "Very well. Where are they?"
"I don't know. Honestly!"
Banastre sighed. This wasn't getting him where he wanted. "Are you certain of this?"
"Yes! The daughters-they're..."
Banastre's ears twitched. He curiously stared at the gentleman. "They're...what?"
The gentleman swallowed, cursing himself for allowing his mouth to speak onward. The man felt fear creep up his chest and throat. He had a sickening suspicion of what Banastre wanted to do with the ladies.
Observing the gentleman's face, Banastre immediately saw what went through his mind. He knows where they are. Banastre strode toward the man, stopping close in front of him. The closeness of Banastre and the intimidating presence he held caused the gentleman to quiver more as his heart raced and his body began to sweat. Banastre looked down his aquiline nose and displeasingly stared at the man. He slowly wrapped his left hand around the man's neck, applying enough pressure to send a clear message to him. "You know something, don't you?"
There was no reply.
"I see... You're intent on making this difficult, aren't you? Very well, then." Banastre glanced at the female sitting next to the man. He softly smiled. He walked over to her and caressed her jawbone. "Is this your daughter?" He leaned forward and deeply stared into the lady's blue eyes. She shivered at his gentle touch and blushed at his apparent handsomeness. "She's rather lovely, for a Rebel," he softly goaded.
The gentleman irately exclaimed, "That's my daughter! Leave her out of this! She has nothing to do with this!"
Banastre smiled, getting the reaction he sought. "Then, tell me, where are the Lockhart daughters?"
"Why should I tell you? I know exactly what you'll do to them."
Banastre heavily sighed. Distraught pinched his face slightly. "...You misread me, sir," he spoke softly with a tinge of sadness in his voice.
"I read you perfectly clear, you bastard."
Hearing those words and how long this interrogation was taking began to claw at Banastre's patience, and it began to show upon his face. "So, you do have fire in you, after all." Banastre walked over to the man. "I wonder, though, just how far a Rebel's courage can burn. Short-lived, to be sure." Banastre smirked.
"Tch! You bastard!" replied the man through gritted teeth.
"You may call me whatever damnable name you wish. You can try to resist answering me; however, you, sir, are bound to a chair. You are surrounded by my men. There is absolutely nothing you can do in your current state. If you wish to save your family, sir, spare yourself of stupidity."
"And I still won't tell you where the ladies are."
"You stubborn fool..." Banastre sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Time was of the essence. If Banastre delayed here any longer, not only time but the concealment of night would abandon him. Reinforcements might even arrive, if possible. Banastre couldn't afford to loose any opportunity to gain answers. "You clearly know something. If you cannot tell me, then, I shalt coerce you to tell me." Banastre took out his leather gloves and slid them on. "Your stupidity has left me no choice, sir. I tried to remain calm and courteous toward you, yet you refused. It pains me that I must do this..."
The gentleman stared at Banastre in apprehension and fear. "W-What are you going to do to me?"
"Oh, you need not worry about that. You're fine. 'Tis your brain that needs a good jolt to wake up." Banastre pulled out his Brown Bess pistol and cocked it, pointing it to the man's wife.
"No! You wouldn't! Stop!" The gentleman struggled. "I beg of you, don't hurt her! She didn't do anything!"
"Tell me where she is, then!"
The gentleman struggled to speak amidst fear and despondency as he looked at his wife and daughter, who were crying and quivering like a leaf.
"Don't tell him, love," whispered the gentleman's wife.
"My dear, I am afraid you're not in a position to give orders. You are not helping him," said Banastre. "Tell me now, sir."
"Tell me now." Damn it, don't do this, you fool. Think of your family.
Banastre's auburn eyebrows furrowed in pity. He closed his eyes and sighed. Goddamn this man for being a fool. This is not my intent, but I need to know where the Lockharts are, and he has answers. "Then, your stubbornness shalt be your downfall."
Banastre pulled the trigger, shooting the wife's left ankle.
"No!" shrieked the man as he slumped over in his chair, crying his heart out. The screams of the ladies echoed through the house before it fell into waves of pained cries. "You... You bastard, how can you do this?"
Banastre put his pistol away, sighing heavily again. I didn't want to do this, you fool, but you had to be stubborn... "I warned you more than once, but you refused to listen to me. What you see...is the product of your stupidity and stubbornness." And now, you have to live with that for the rest of your life... I'm sorry. But this had to be done. I'm merely fulfilling my duty. "There is no room for benevolence in war," Banastre quietly spoke as he stared at the traumatized husband. "I see we've come to a mutual understanding. Perhaps now, sir, you realize how serious I am and that I will not tolerate any further wasting of my time." Banastre placed a hand on the mantel and leaned forward. "Tell me where the daughters are."
"I don't know where they are!" cried the man. "I just know they left to go somewhere with some friends. But Bill-I know where he is."
Banastre's ears twitched. He stood erect, staring silently at the man as he tried to discern, read the gentleman's face for any hint of falter. But there was none to be found. He means what he says, then. "Speak."
"Bill joined up with the Rebels up north. He went to New York. That's all I know. You'll find him there. Now, please, leave us alone," cried the man.
Banastre's face relaxed. "I will let you and your family go." Hearing this shocked the small family as they looked at Banastre in disbelief. "But only on one condition: your house shalt be burned."
"What?! Why? You can't do this!"
"You are wrong. I must set an example of what happens when one resists. Otherwise, no one will learn. In case you aren't aware, I am letting you and your family live...or would you rather die, instead?"
"N-No! We'll live!"
"Good. Take this act of mercy, sir." It is not often I do this. "Captain Harryford, unbound them."
"Yes, sir." Harryford made quick work of the rope that bound the family's hands.
"Go," said Banastre. "And please, do not make anymore foolish mistakes. The British army and my men are upon your doorstep." Banastre watched as the family limped past him. "Stay hidden, if you want to live."
The gentleman nodded. "Th-Thank you..."
Banastre sharply turned his head away. You fool, why are you thanking me? This is not something worthy of thanks... "Just leave."
"Y-Yes... Come, love; you'll be fine." The man wrapped his wife's arm over the back of his neck while he encircled his left arm around her waist. "I'll take care of your wound when we find a safe place to rest. Daughter, help me carry her out of the house. Make haste."
"Yes, father." She took the other arm of her mother and wrapped it over the back of her neck, encircling her right arm around her mother's waist.
After the family had departed their land, Banastre released a heavy sigh as he stared up at the ceiling. His hands were clasped behind his back.
"Sir?" Captain Harryford approached his friend, standing beside him. "Are you all right?" Harryford placed a hand upon Banastre's right shoulder.
"Yes, I am fine." Banastre sighed. "I dislike stupidity. That man-he could have went away with his family safe and well. But he decided to resist, thinking he did what was right... The man's an idiot."
"Well, in the end, they still left together. Perhaps not entirely...whole...but they're together, and you gave them that."
"Please, don't thank me like that fool did. I don't deserve it." Banastre stared coldly at Harryford. "I am doing my duty and I will do what I must to acquire what I need to find that damnable Bill. Now, I have that piece. I won't stop till I accomplish my task. Come; we are wasting time here. Let us depart."
"Yes, sir." The two men exited the house.
After Harryford and Banastre mounted their steeds, rallying their men together, Banastre tugged on his gloves and looked at the house. Banastre raised his hand in the air and gave a flick of his fingers. "Torch it."
"Torch it!" called out Harryford. And without delay, torches were flying onto the rooftop and breaking through windows. Flames quickly caught on fire and began to spread.
Banastre looked behind him at burning Brunswick and at the night sky lit by the soft, flickering orange glow of the raging flames. Banastre sighed. This time, it was with a hint of exhaustion. "We are finished here. Let us be on our way."
"Yes, sir," answered Harryford as he bowed his head.
"Green Dragoons, ride out!" Banastre spurred his horse into a gallop and the two columns of Green Dragoons rode into the concealing darkness. Brunswick was left to burn while Marietta, Adeline, and their friends enjoyed themselves at Wilmington's ball, unaware that events had been set in motion to flip their world.