“I can ketch meat for a dozen outfits with it,” he said, “if I can borrow a fish-hook.”
Walking along behind the wagon came the fifth member of the family, Rowena, a girl of seventeen. She went several rods behind the wagon, and as they rushed and plodded along according to old Tom’s temper, I noticed that she rambled over the prairie a good deal picking flowers; and you would hardly have thought to look at her that she belonged to the Fewkes outfit at all. I guess that was the way she wanted it to look. She was as vigorous as the others were limpsey and boneless; and there was in her something akin to the golden plovers that were running in hundreds that morning over the prairies—I haven’t seen one for twenty-five years! That is, she skimmed over the little knolls rather than walked, as if made of something lighter than ordinary human clay. Her dress was ragged, faded, and showed through the tears in it a tattered quilted petticoat, and she wore no bonnet or hat; but carried in, her hand a boy’s cap—which, according to the notions harbored by us then, it would have been immodest for her to wear. Her hair was brown and blown all about her head, and her face was tanned to a rich brown—a very bad complexion then, but just the thing the society girl of to-day likes to show when she returns from the seashore.
When her family had halted, she did not come to them at once, but made a circuit or two about the camp, like a shy bird coming to its nest, or as if she hated to do it; and when she did come it was in a sort of defiant way, swinging herself and tossing her head, and looking at every one as bold as brass. I was staring at the astonishing horse, the queer wagon, and the whole outfit with more curiosity than manners, I reckon, when she came into the circle, and caught my unmannerly eye.
“Well,” she said, her face reddening under the tan, “if you see anything green throw your hat at it! Sellin’ gawp-seed, or what is your business?”
“I beg your pardon,” “I meant no offense,” and even “Excuse me” were things I had never learned to say. I had learned to fight any one who took offense at me; and if they didn’t like my style they could lump it—such was my code of manners, and the code of my class. To beg pardon was to knuckle under—and it took something more than I was master of in the way of putting on style to ask to be excused, even if the element of back-down were eliminated. Remember, I had been “educated” on the canal. So I tried to look her out of countenance, grew red, retreated, and went about some sort of needless work without a word—completely defeated. I thought she seemed rather to like this; and that evening I went over and offered Mrs. Fewkes some butter and milk, of which I had a plenty.
I was soon on good terms with the Fewkes family. Old Man Fewkes told me he was going to Negosha—a region of which I had never heard. It was away off to the westward, he said; and years afterward I made up my mind that the name was made up of the two words Nebraska and Dakota—not very well joined together. Mrs. Fewkes was not strong for Negosha; and when Fewkes offered to go to Texas, she objected because it was so far.