The day was dipping on down into twilight when he found her, you could hardly tell the time of day, the sky was so heavy with rainclouds. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed all around him, spooking his horse and making him skittish. He was soaking wet with rain, it was raining so hard he had to keep dipping his head down so the water could run off the brim of his hat. The only redeeming thing he had on was an old poncho made of cowhide that his father had made years before. Thinking about his Dad brought a furrow to his brow, the weight of his death by misadventure wore heavy on his shoulders. Every time he would let himself think of his parents, he could feel himself slip into such a deep sorrow, so much so that he had to deliberately push them to the back of his mind. No time for that kind of thinking right now, he needed to find that old cow and her calf and bring them home to the barn before the rain turned bad. He could tell the way the temperature was falling that snow would soon begin to fall.
Just then he noticed a little pile of rags alongside the old rutted road, there was a small stand of trees there, and at first he thought that someone had spilled something from their wagon. Just as he decided to see what it was, something moved beneath the soggy pile of quilts, and it startled him for a moment.
Leaping from his horse, he knelt there and peeled the covers back enough to see, and, it was a girl. A very young girl at that. She was drenched through and through and about half conscious to boot. The only reason he had to believe she was still alive was her soft moans and her chattering teeth. What is she doing out here, he wondered, but no time to waste, he had to get her in out of this weather. Taking his poncho off, he cast off the wet bundle of rags, and wrapped her fast in it. He picked her up then, as light as a feather, she was. As he put her on the horse, he realized she was with child. They had to get home!
She knew someone had picked her up, lifted her and placed her gently on a horse, and climbed on behind her. She felt a little warmth then, it felt so good, and yet this ride was so hard, Oh, so hard, every bump, every slide felt like knives slicing thru her. She knew he was riding hard, and she groaned beneath her covers and tried to hold on as best she could. The pain was almost more than she could bear, she screamed at times when it was really, really bad. She could hear him softly comforting her, apologizing for the roughness of the ride. He was kind, she could sense it in his voice. On and on they rode into the dark night, the only light was an occasional flash of lightning, but the horse knew the way home well enough, and soon they saw the lights of the house in the distance.
Finally, they arrived at the old farmhouse, Rose was scared and confused, she didn't know this man. He was tall and very strong, water dripped down from his hat down on her when she finally dared to look up at him. She could feel the ripple of muscles in his arms as he carried her. Strong legs carried her swiftly and surely as she began to relax. She was too cold and wet to relax very much...and then there was the pain again, unrelenting and wrenching, it threatened to drive her mad.
Sam took her down tenderly and carried her into the farmhouse and swiftly up the stairs to a room with a huge bed with a feather mattress where he laid her down... The warmth of the house enveloped her like the blankets her mother used to warm in the oven when one of the girls was sickly. She thought about her sisters then, and the mere thought of them made her feel sad and abandoned..she missed her little sisters so, it was like an ache in her bones that never went away.
Two old women followed him closely behind as he mounted the stairs.
"Get those wet clothes off of her, put something warm on her and get her to bed", he barked, "she's about half dead" As they began to tend her, they whispered to each other under their breath, "She's just a child herself ", they said. "But she'll be having this baby tonite, from what we can tell." They started gathering the stuff of childbirth, towels, hot water, scissors to cut the cord, lots of soft cloths to wrap the child in. "I hope she makes it", they said as they nodded to each other. As Rose grew warm, she dozed off for a moment.
Startled from her nap, she realized the pains were growing worse and worse, and she started to scream from the stark pain that felt like it was ripping her apart. "Child, she heard one of them say...."if you'll stop yelling and start pushing, you'll have your baby in just a short while." Everything was foggy after that, the pain so intense...I won't be able to do this thing, she thought.
Rose pushed with everything she had, she pushed again, and yet another push.
Then...a sudden release, a hard slap and the crying of her baby jerked her from the fog she had been hiding in. It's a girl, the woman told her, she's mighty tiny, but she's strong and she seems to be healthy, she sure can yell.
Then they brought her to her mother's waiting arms, light as a feather, she was, but she was so beautiful, she unwrapped her then, ten tiny fingers and ten tiny little toes, a tiny rosebud for a mouth and a tiny pug nose...She had Jake's eyes and Rose was so glad. Jake had the prettiest blue eyes and his hair was as dark as pitch.
Rose thought she had never seen a more beautiful child in her life.
Heavy footsteps on the stairs announced the arrival of the man who had saved her. Sam was delighted with the child even though he didn't know much about this sort of thing...He stood there for a moment as he gazed at the girl and her tiny new baby.
Then a brusque " Take good care of them, keep them warm and fed."
Then he bounded down the stairs again yelling at cook for a cup of hot coffee. He went to his room then, after stripping off his wet clothes, he fell into his own warm bed, so weary he was almost asleep by the time his head hit the pillow. His last thought before he slept was of the girl, wondering why she would be out in the cold wet night alone.
Rose was so exhausted by then, so tired, she snuggled her baby close beside her in the crook of her arm. A fever took her then, and she fell asleep under it's power, Rose fought to wake, but she was terribly ill, as the rain turned to snow outside her window, she fell into a very deep feverish sleep.