It was a marvellous rescue. They had been nearer the old sheep-corral than Alessandro had thought; but except that other storm-beaten travellers had reached it before them, Alessandro had never found it. Just as he felt his strength failing him, and had thought to himself, in almost the same despairing words as Ramona, "This will end all our troubles," he saw a faint light to the left. Instantly he had turned the horses' heads towards it. The ground was rough and broken, and more than once he had been in danger of overturning the wagon; but he had pressed on, shouting at intervals for help. At last his call was answered, and another light appeared; this time a swinging one, coming slowly towards him,-- a lantern, in the hand of a man, whose first words, "Wall, stranger, I allow yer inter trouble," were as intelligible to Alessandro as if they had been spoken in the purest San Luiseno dialect.
Not so, to the stranger, Alessandro's grateful reply in Spanish.
"Another o' these no-'count Mexicans, by thunder!" thought Jeff Hyer to himself. "Blamed ef I'd lived in a country all my life, ef I wouldn't know better'n to git caught out in such weather's this!" And as he put the crying babe into his wife's arms, he said half impatiently, "Ef I'd knowed 't wuz Mexicans, Ri, I wouldn't ev' gone out ter 'um. They're more ter hum 'n I am, 'n these yer tropicks."
"Naow, Jeff, yer know yer wouldn't let ennythin' in shape ev a human creetur go perishin' past aour fire sech weather's this," replied the woman, as she took the baby, which recognized the motherly hand at its first touch, and ceased crying.
"Why, yer pooty, blue-eyed little thing!" she exclaimed, as she looked into the baby's face. "I declar, Jos, think o' sech a mite's this bein' aout'n this weather. I'll jest warm up some milk for it this minnit."
"Better see't th' mother fust, Ri," said Jeff, leading, half carrying, Ramona into the hut. "She's nigh abaout froze stiff!"
But the sight of her baby safe and smiling was a better restorative for Ramona than anything else, and in a few moments she had fully recovered. It was in a strange group she found herself. On a mattress, in the corner of the hut, lay a young man apparently about twenty-five, whose bright eyes and flushed cheeks told but too plainly the story of his disease. The woman, tall, ungainly, her face gaunt, her hands hardened and wrinkled, gown ragged, shoes ragged, her dry and broken light hair wound in a careless, straggling knot in her neck, wisps of it flying over her forehead, was certainly not a prepossessing figure. Yet spite of her careless, unkempt condition, there was a certain gentle dignity in her bearing, and a kindliness in her glance, which won trust and warmed hearts at once. Her pale blue eyes were still keen-sighted; and as she fixed them on Ramona, she thought to herself, "This ain't no common Mexican, no how." "Be ye movers?" she said.
Ramona stared. In the little English she knew, that word was not included. "Ah, Senora," she said regretfully, "I cannot talk in the English speech; only in Spanish."