Victoria Brown’s name looked to be carved with a dull pocket knife onto two sticks tied into a cross. The crude marker penetrated a mound of fresh earth a few yards from the woods’ edge. Clouds of gnats swarmed about in floating spheres of annoyance through the sweaty air.
“Oh Victoria I’m so sorry we have to go!” The young woman knelt in the grass with her hands clasped in front of her as though she begged for forgiveness. The small cross penetrated the earth only feet from the edge of the woods.
The woman looked at the trees and wiped away her tears. “I would rather have buried you in Gehenna then next to this cursed forest!” The woman doubled over and cried once more at the thought of leaving her child’s body behind next to so dark a place. “I don’t want to leave you, I don’t want to leave you,” she cried over and over. “Oh Dear Lord in Heaven please protect my little Victoria.”
“I’m right here mama!” Her mother hadn’t acknowledged her presence in weeks and the little girl knew she spoke in vain. “Mama, where are you going? Take me with you!” The child, who looked very much like her mother, had thick brown hair that stretched to her behind. Her dress, the color of a paper grocery bag, hung well below her knees and dirt soiled the trim of it. Grime covered her bare feet.
A man approached from behind wearing knee high boots and carrying a musket. “We must move on, Rachel. We must get to Gloucester before the sun sets.”
“I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t leave her here,” Rachel wailed and in her anguish laid her face on the grave and let the cool dirt comfort her.
“Victoria is gone, Rachel. That is not her. She has gone to be with the Lord!”
The woman didn’t respond but her crying subsided. She caressed the dirt over and over as though she were stroking her daughter’s hair.
“I’m not gone, papa! God didn’t take me! I’m still here!” As usual neither parent looked at her.
Her father set the musket down and sat next to her mother. He brushed away the mosquitoes parked all over her dress. “We aren’t moving far. We will come back to visit her. I promise.”
The woman took a deep breath. Her husband held out his hand. She pulled herself up to her knees using his support. He wiped the dirt from her face and smiled at her courage. “I promise,” he said once more.
She nodded. Turning she crawled to the cross and whispered, “Dear Lord, let no evil spirit or devil in these woods tread upon my daughter’s resting place. Please take her into your bosom. Let her rest her little head on your breast. Please don’t leave her here with the damned souls that tarry here. Please welcome her into your kingdom. I beg you not abandon her with these villains. Amen.” She kissed the cross and stood like an unbalanced newborn calf.
Her husband grabbed his musket and took his wife’s hand. “The horses are ready.”
Victoria followed behind them. “Where are you going?”
In front of their two story, wooden house, sat a small wooden wagon tied to two horses who swished their tails with furious determination to keep the mosquitoes and flies at bay. Hooked behind the wagon was another smaller wagon filled with possessions and covered with a blanket.
The man climbed into the wagon and turned to pull up his wife.
Victoria stood at the side holding her arms up in the air waiting for one of her parents to lean down and hoist her onto the bench beside her as they often did before trips into town. Neither parent moved and she hopped up and down waving her arms trying to get their attention. “Get me, get me!” she cried. “I can’t get in!”
“Looks like the Lord has blessed us with good weather for our journey,” the man said while looking up at the blue sky. His wife looked downward and her tears stained tiny circles in the dust. He put his arm around her.
“She was too young,” she whispered. “Why give her to us and then take her away?”
“The Lord didn’t take her but she is with the angels now and happy.”
He snapped the reins. The wagon lurched forward and began its trek down the dirt lane.
“Wait, wait!” Victoria cried. “You’re forgetting about me!” She ran behind the wagon trying to keep up with the horses but her small legs could not keep pace. “Mama, mama, don’t leave me!” She cried and cried. Her legs weakened and she almost stumbled.
Her mother turned and for a brief second Victoria thought she looked into her eyes but her mother lowered her head and turned away.
“No, come back, come back!” she screamed and then fell into the dirt. Tears muddened the dust on her face and through the blur she saw the wagon round the corner and disappear. “Mama! Mama! I’m scared. Mama don’t leave me here alone!” The broken child sat in the dust for many minutes hoping they would return before turning and crawling home. For days, then weeks, and finally years she wandered her property waiting for her parents.