"We will die," thought Ramona. "Perhaps it is as well!" And that was the last she knew, till she heard a shouting, and found herself being shaken and beaten, and heard a strange voice saying, "Sorry ter handle yer so rough, ma'am, but we've got ter git yer out ter the fire!"
"Fire!" Were there such things as fire and warmth? Mechanically she put the baby into the unknown arms that were reaching up to her, and tried to rise from her seat; but she could not move.
"Set still! set still!" said the strange voice. "I'll jest carry the baby ter my wife, an' come back fur you. I allowed yer couldn't git up on yer feet;" and the tall form disappeared. The baby, thus vigorously disturbed from her warm sleep, began to cry.
"Thank God!" said Alessandro, at the plunging horses' heads. "The child is alive! Majella!" he called.
"Yes, Alessandro," she answered faintly, the gusts sweeping her voice like a distant echo past him.
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."