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Never once in his life had Augustus turned his back on a female. And Hattie was one of the much needier ones. He even thought her more needy than Lorena, who was very needy herself. He had introduced her to everyone in the outfit, and they all seemed curious about the young girl in their camp. Dish and Newt were the only ones who seemed truly interested in her.
When he had introduced her, Augustus had ridden right up to Jasper Fant, who sat whittling. Hattie had been at his side, her arm up, holding onto his saddle strings so she could hold herself in a standing position. Walking eight miles from the wagon train had tired her completely out.
"Girls," Augustus had said, mocking the men of their manhood, "this is Miss Hattie Miller. She's gonna be stayin' with us until we reach town. I want ya'll to be kind to her."
As the majority of the men had seen Hattie's face, they had jumped up off their feet, and had removed their hats. Newt had been the fastest to do this. The cook, Po Campo, had approached her almost immediately when he had saw the blood on her dress.
Hattie had seen many Mexicans in her life, and in fact, she had been taught Spanish as a child. Hattie's pa had been a farmer, and he had many Mexican workers. She recalled one named Pedro who had been her pa's friend. Pedro had been invited for supper many times, and even had gone on the wagon train with them. But he had been lost, along with everything else dear to Hattie.
"Miss," said Po Campo. "What happened?" he asked.
Hattie could tell that Po Campo had a bit of a hard time speaking to young ladies, so she replied: "Cai en un chucillo,," she said. "An Indian dropped it and I fell onto it," she continued.
Augustus had laughed. "Well, well, well, we got us a bilingual!" he said happily. He had never met a young white gal who could speak Spanish.
"That's mighty fine speakin', Miss Miller," said Newt. He twirled his hat in his hands excitedly.
"Bueno, siéntate aquí y me pondré un poco de grasa del eje para que," said Po Campo, telling Hattie to sit down.
"Gracias, eso es muy amable de tu parte," Hattie replied. She sat in the back of the wagon as he had instructed her too.
"Your Spanish is very good," said Po Campo. "Have you practiced long?" he asked.
Hattie nodded sadly, remembering her farmhouse back in Alabama. "Yeah," she said softly. "Eight years or so," she explained. "Pa was a corn farmer. Had this one Mexican named Pedro around since I was young. Pa taught me Spanish so I could talk to him when he wasn't around."
Hattie watched as Po Campo mixed axle grease and water in a small tin cup.
Augustus watched intently as the girl began to converse with the men. He had been watching almost an hour by the time Woodrow came riding up. He loped to his side, and pulled the Hell Bitch up short. She slid to a stop, and shook her head violently.
"Well, I' god, Woodrow, where ya been?" Augustus asked. "You just missed young Hattie's welcome fiesta," he teased.
Woodrow was sick of Augustus bothering him when he was trying to work. "I was workin', unlike any of you." Woodrow began to fiddle with the end of his right rein. "It's 'bout time we get them cattle movin'," he said. Woodrow rode the Hell Bitch up beside the wagon. He looked down at the girl. "I suggest you stay in the wagon, with that cut of yours," he said and rode off.
With that, all the men began to collect their horses, and they mounted up.
Augustus rode to Hattie's side. "Do what Woodrow says," he instructed softly. "He ain't one for havin' gals in camp. I'll come and get ya when we stop for supper. Perhaps you can help Po Campo cook."