She gave a scream, and almost at once I heard her voice calling in terror from the back of the wagon; and on running around to the place I found that she had stuck her head out of the opening of the wagon cover and was calling for help and protection.
“Don’t be afraid,” said I. “There’s nobody here but me.”
“Somebody called me ‘Virginia,’” she cried, her face pale and her whole form trembling. “Nobody but that man in all this country would call me that.”
She hardly ever called Gowdy by any other name but “that man,” so far as I have heard. Something had taken place which struck her with a sort of dumbness; and I really believe she could not then have spoken the name Gowdy if she had tried. What it was that happened she never told any one, unless it was Grandma Thorndyke, who was always dumb regarding the sort of thing which all the neighbors thought took place. To Grandma Thorndyke sex must have seemed the original curse imposed on our first parents; eggs and link sausages were repulsive because they suggested the insides of animals and vital processes; and a perfect human race would have been to her made up of beings nourished by the odors of flowers, and perpetuated by the planting of the parings of finger-nails in antiseptic earth—or something of the sort. My live-stock business always had to her its seamy side and its underworld which she always turned her face away from—though I never saw a woman who could take a new-born pig, calf, colt or fowl, once it was really brought forth so it could be spoken of, and raise it from the dead, almost, as she could. But every trace of the facts up to that time had to be concealed, and if not they were ignored by Grandma Thorndyke. New England all over!
If Gowdy was actually guilty of the sort of affront to little Virginia for which the public thought him responsible, I do not see how the girl could ever have told it to grandma. I do not see how grandma could ever have been made to understand it. I suspect that the worst that grandma ever believed, was that Gowdy swore or used what she called vulgar language in Virginia’s presence. Knowing him as we all did afterward, we suspected that he attempted to treat her as he treated all women—and as I believe he could not help treating them. It seems impossible of belief—his wife’s orphan sister, the recent death of Ann Gowdy, the girl’s helplessness and she only a little girl; but Buck Gowdy was Buck Gowdy, and that escape of his wife’s sister and her flight over the prairie was the indelible black mark against him which was pointed at from time to ’time forever after whenever the people were ready to forgive those daily misdoings to which a frontier people were not so critical as perhaps they should have been. Indeed he gained a certain popularity from his boast that all the time he needed to gain control over any woman was half an hour alone with her—but of that later, if at all.
“That was me that called you ‘Virginia,’” said I. “I want to get into the wagon to get things for breakfast—after you get up.”