By the time Joe pulled his mules to the door to unload his wagon, it was sleeting. His life had never looked more hopeless as he brushed the icy hay from the tattered quilt covering the children’s burning faces. Though it was unchristian, he’d half-hoped to find them already dead from the fever, solving his problem of how to care for them. He struggled to get them into the cold cabin. Laying them gently on his bed and covering them, he was able to rouse each enough to get a bit of water down. Setting the cup to the side, he moved on the fireplace to uncover the banked ashes, put a stick or two next to the backlog, rekindling the fire. At least they wouldn’t die of thirst of cold. That’s all he could do for them for the moment.
He hurried in with the provisions, the pathetic mercy the town had shown, leaving to get his horses tended. Rushing through his tasks, he miserably returned to the burden of the sick children fate had forced upon him. Upon entering the cabin, sight meeting his eyes nearly undid him. A filthy, battered woman dressed in rags was cradling the little girl, tenderly spooning her milk , catching droplets and spooning them back. God in Heaven! Would this nightmare never end? Had he buried the woman alive and now she’d crawled out of the grave?