The storm raged for days.
Samuel watched Abigail as she slept. He frowned. There were few good choices ahead.
Abigail rolled over and opened an eye.
“Sam, please come to bed. It’s late.”
He shook his head. “I need to keep the fire burning. If it goes out, we might freeze to death before morning.”
She smiled. “Don’t worry, we’ll keep each other warm. Come. The storm will end tonight.”
He shrugged his shoulders. She might be right. She usually was. And he was beginning to think it didn’t matter. If they survived the night, then what? They would be stuck in their little homestead with no hope of reaching civilization. Or food. Perhaps freezing in their sleep would be better than a slow starvation.
“I know what you are thinking, my dear. Please don’t worry tonight. It will all turn out right. You’ll see.”
The day’s worry evaporated. Samuel realized that he was tired and couldn’t resist any longer. He was asleep before his head settled into the pillow.
They hadn’t seen a soul in weeks, perhaps months. No other English settler had made it so deep into the frontier and the natives tended to avoid them. They reaped very little from the stony soil over the short growing season and Samuel had little success hunting. They had kept themselves fed, but provisions were dangerously low. And then the early snows started to fall. And fall. It wasn’t yet to the New year, and already they were snowed in their tiny cabin. Spring wasn’t yet a distant dream.
The cabin was cold and dark when Samuel awoke. He fumbled his way to the door and pushed it open, needing to add a shoulder to move the drift of snow out of the way. To his surprise, it was mid-morning, and the sky was glowing a pleasant orange. The weak sun was low in the southern sky, but that was to be expected.
For a minute he was transfixed by the beauty of the scene. A deep layer of snow covered everything, a cold, blue blanket on the world which contrasted with the glowing sky. The trees glistened with diamonds. It was magical.
Leaving the door slightly ajar for the light, Samuel went to the small hearth. It took a few minutes, but he found a hot ember. From there he had the fire roaring again in short order.
As he closed the door, he suddenly realized that Abigail wasn’t in the cabin. She couldn’t have been outside, for the snow was totally trackless. Even if she had left before the storm had subsided, there would have still been indentations where she had walked through the deep snow. And how would she have gotten out, with the large drift against the door?
He sat down at their makeshift table and noticed the food she had left out for him. He was hungry and ate. As his stomach filled, so did his worry. Where was she?
About an hour later, there was a loud knock on the door. Samuel sprang up and shouted, “Abigail?!”
There were three large native men at the door. One had a deer around his shoulders, the other a large basket of native vegetables and the third a bundle of firewood.
He motioned for them to enter the cabin, but they only shook their heads. The man with the vegetables handed him the basket. He carried it in, and turn to discover that nobody was at the door. The deer was there, as was the firewood, but there were no feet prints up to the door, only hoof prints from the deer which, by all indications, had walked there by itself only to die at his doorstep.
He brought the wood in and closed the door. He’d take care of the deer later. The tears began. They were saved, but where was Abigail?
He heard a small noise, a half a cough.
Abigail was in the bed, still asleep.
He knelt by her side and gently touched her face. “Are you awake, my sweet?”
She opened her eyes. “Yes.”
“You won’t believe it… you… we….” he stumbled for the words.
Abigail held her finger to her lips. “Shhhh. I know, my love. I told you last night, before I made sure you slept worry free. We won’t starve.”
“This will tide us through till the snow melts, then we return to Portsmouth….”
“No, dear, we stay here. We will make it.”
Abigail was out of bed and took Samuel by the hand. “We will make it.”
He looked deeply into her eyes and felt the magic. He knew that she was telling the truth, that they would make it. Eventually others would follow and someday they would see a thriving community grow up around them.
“Come,” she said, “let’s enjoy this new day.”
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This is a kind of prequel to the story “Spring”, which is in my short story collect, Seasons of Imagination.
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