“Why,” said the old man indignantly, “it hain’t only a matter of fifteen hundred mile! An’ the trees is in constant varder!”
He still harped on Negosha, though, and during the evening while we were fattening up on my bread and meat, which I had on a broad hint added to our meal, he told me that what he really wanted was an estate where he could have an artificial lake and keep some deer and plenty of ducks and geese. Swans, too, he said could be raised at a profit, and sold to other well-to-do people. He said that by good farming he could get along with only a few hundred acres of plow land. Mrs. Fewkes grew more indulgent to these ideas as the food satisfied her hungry stomach. Celebrate believed that if he could once get out among ’em he could do well as a hunter and trapper; while Surajah kept listening to the honking of the wild geese and planning to catch enough of them with baited hooks to feed the whole family all the way to Negosha, and provide plenty of money by selling the surplus to the emigrants. Rowena sat in her ragged dress, her burst shoes drawn in under her skirt, looking at her family with an expression of unconcealed scorn. When she got a chance to speak to me, she did so in a very friendly manner.
“Did you ever see,” said she, “such a set of darned infarnal fools as we are?”
Before the evening was over, however, and she had hidden herself away in her clothes under a thin and ragged comforter in their wagon, she had joined in the discussion of their castle in Spain in a way that showed her to be a legitimate Fewkes. She spoke for a white saddle horse, a beautiful side-saddle, a long blue riding-habit with shot in the seam, and a man to keep the horse in order. She wanted to be able to rub the horse with a white silk handkerchief without soiling it. Ah, well! dreams hovered over all our camps then. The howling of the wolves couldn’t drive them away. Poor Rowena!
MY LOAD RECEIVES AN EMBARRASSING ADDITION
I still had some corn for my cattle, of the original supply which I had got from Rucker in Madison. Hay was fifteen dollars a ton, and all it cost the producer was a year’s foresight and the labor of putting it up; for there were millions of acres of wild grass going to waste which made the sweet-smelling hay that old horsemen still prefer to tame hay. It hadn’t quite the feeding value, pound for pound, that the best timothy and clover has; but it was a wonderful hay that could be put up in the clear weather of the fall when the ground is dry and warm, and cured so as to be free from dust. My teams never got the heaves when I fed prairie hay. It graveled me like sixty to pay such a price, but I had to do it because the season was just between hay and grass. Sometimes I thought of waiting over until the summer of 1856 to make hay for sale to the movers; but having made my start for my farm I could not bring myself to give up reaching it that spring. So I only waited occasionally to break in or rest up the foot-sore and lame cattle for which I traded from time to time.