The Fewkes family went on after I had given them some butter, some side pork and a milking of milk. While I was baking pancakes that last morning, Rowena came to my fire, and snatching the spider away from me took the job off my hands, baking the cakes while I ate. She was a pretty girl, slim and well developed, and she had a fetching way with her eyes after friendly relations were established with her—which was pretty hard because she seemed to feel that every one looked down on her, and was quick to take offense.
“Got any saleratus?” she asked.
“No,” said I. “Why?”
She stepped over to the Fewkes wagon and brought back a small packet of saleratus, a part of which she stirred into the batter.
“It’s gettin’ warm enough so your milk’ll sour on you,” said she. “This did. Don’t you know enough to use saleratus to sweeten the sour milk? You better keep this an’ buy some at the next store.”
“I wish I had somebody along that could cook,” said I.
“Can’t you cook?” she asked. “I can.”
I told her, then, all about my experience on the canal; and how we used to carry a cook on the boat sometimes, and sometimes cooked for ourselves. I induced her to sit by me on the spring seat which I had set down on the ground, and join me in my meal while I told her of my adventures. She seemed to forget her ragged and unwashed dress, while she listened to the story of my voyages from Buffalo to Albany, and my side trips to such places as Oswego. This canal life seemed powerfully thrilling to the poor girl. She could only tell of living a year or so at a time on some run-down or never run-up farm in Indiana or Illinois, always in a log cabin in a clearing; or of her brothers and sisters who had been “bound out” because the family was so large; and now of this last voyage in search of an estate in Negosha.
“I can make bread,” said she, after a silence. “Kin you?”
When I told her I couldn’t she told me how. It was the old-fashioned salt-rising bread, the receipt for which she gave me; and when I asked her to write it down I found that she was even a poorer scribe than I was. We were two mighty ignorant young folks, but we got it down, and that night I set emptins for the first time, and I kept trying, and advising with the women-folks, until I could make as good salt-rising bread as any one. When we had finished this her father was calling her to come, as they were starting on toward Negosha; and I gave Rowena money enough to buy her a calico dress pattern at the next settlement. She tried to resist, and her eyes filled with tears as she took the money and chokingly tried to thank me for it. She climbed into the wagon and rode on for a while, but got out and came back to me while old Tom went on in those mad rushes of his, and circling within a few yards of me she said, “You’re right good,” and darted off over the prairie at a wide angle to the road.