“She is with child,” said Elizabeth Hawley, averting her eyes from her husband.
“What? Are you insane?” George Hawley thundered and rose from the table.
“It is true.”
She raised her eyes again. “Doctor Robert checked her. She is three months gone.”
In a sudden reversal of position, Hawley complained, “That little trollop will ruin my name, ruin my business. Damn, woman, can’t you watch your own daughter? Who’s the bastard’s father?”
“She says there is no father.”
“She’s protecting him.” Hawley paced back and forth across the dining room floor. “Three months, you say?”
“Give or take a few days, ’twould put her sinning right about the time of the battle.” He stroked his beard. “Had to be a soldier. She says there’s no father because she’ll never see him again. That little strumpet.”
“George, she was in this house the whole time of the battle. And before. When we heard the Johnny Rebs were in , we kept her in the house, remember? That was a week before the fighting started. After she got shot she lay in bed a month. No man’s been near her.”
“I have enough trouble believing there was one Blessed Virgin. Is this supposed to be the second coming of Christ? You been yakkin’ with those Greeleys, those Pope-followers down the road? Good grief, woman, a man had to get in her knickers sometime for this to happen.”
“George, watch your mouth!” immediately put her hand over her own mouth, shocked at her words.
“It’s not my mouth you should be worryin’ about. It’s those neighbors’ mouths and the mouths in town. Their tongues will be a’twitch with this news.”
“People have more to worry about, George. We’re in a war.”
The word “war” triggered a thought in George Hawley’s mind. His eyes squinted as his right hand tugged at his chins. “Only able bodied man young enough to interest Katherine is that Anspach boy. Billy is it? He’s eighteen or nineteen. Father paid one of his hired hands to take the boy’s place when ol’ Abe’s recruiters came sniffin’ around. Didn’t Billy come a’callin’ sometime back?”
“When he heard she was shot. He came by a couple of times when she was doing poorly.”
“Not been around lately though, right? He knows his handiwork would start to show.”
“He’s in doing business for his father.”
“Damned convenient he’s out of town when his crop starts sproutin’. He’s the one, dammit, he’s the one. I can feel it in my bones.” George Hawley stormed across the dining room, down the hall, and up the stairs. He boiled into Katherine’s room without knocking.
sat in a straightback chair near the window, a book in hand. She raised her head and her eyebrows.
“You little bitch. Couldn’t wait for a decent man to propose to you in a decent way. Had to sneak off like a damn animal in heat. Well, I know it’s that Anspach boy. Don’t deny it.”
“Don’t try that with me. Now I know why you’ve been acting tetched in the head. You knew this day was coming. Thought you could make like some poor wretch who got taken advantage of? You got shot in the stomach, not the head. I saw through you from the first.”
She remained silent, grown used to the tantrums of her stepfather.
“Yer precious Billy don’t think enough of you to come forward and do what’s right? No, he’s off in where the whores is thick as flies. Gettin’ his fill, I’ll wager.”
She fixed her calm, green eyes on George Hawley and with the sweetest of voices said, “How are you so familiar with the ways of the flesh in ?”
If it was possible for a face to explode, Hawley’s would have. It turned hot red and his eyes pushed up out of their little pits of gristle. For two seconds his lips writhed like bloodworms in the sun, but no sound came out. “The nerve of you! Live under my roof and dare talk to me like that while yer whorin’ up one end of town and down the other?”
He took a half-step toward her, but she remained in her chair and gazed peacefully at his livid face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
For a moment, Hawley teetered, ready to strike her, but disconcerted by her calmness. He calculated the price such rashness would cost with his wife. “Oh, you will, you little slut, you will.” Hawley slammed her door so hard, dust dropped from the ceiling.