The four women walked to the barn and softly pulled open the door. "Wait here" said Elizabeth, as she slipped into Pepper's stall and opened the cellar door. "It's all right, you can come back up if you like." Patience gasped and put her hand to her mouth as the travelers filed out of the stall, and they looked at her with equally wide eyes. Elizabeth closed the stall door behind her, brushed some straw from the front of her dress, and asked "Would you ladies care to stay for supper?"
After the evening meal, the children played quietly in the yard as the grown-ups talked quietly about the trip before them. Elizabeth sat on a bale of straw, watching them, and drew a sharp breath. Funny thing, God's will, that some children can just play, and others have to play while keeping one eye on a barn door. She gasped once again, and shifted on the bale.
"Miz Dolly, you all right?" asked Esther.
"ummm. Just my back hurting now and again, been bothering me all day."
"Near time for that baby, I reckon.. I remember the same thing with my second child."
"My Daniel was the same..." added Patience before whispering to Samuel to take a horse to the Locke residence and tell her husband that she wouldn't be home until late this evening. "Come dear, it's better if you rest while you can." she told Elizabeth "Lets get you in to bed."
"Missus?" a voice came from inside the barn. "I used to do some midwifing out to Montgomery's. I could help." A tall thin woman walked through the doorway, and Patience smiled and took her arm.
In her young life, Elizabeth Pritchett Miller had been sure she'd seen all the aggravation that life had to offer, but she now realized that there wasn't a thing more tiresome than waiting on a baby. The women were kind, but unnerving in a quietly efficient way as her pains came and went. The slave midwife brought her tea, and at Elizabeth's asking, told her the story of her journey thus far, she was traveling with her brother, Jacob, and he'd been caught and hung while he was trying to give the others time to flee.
"But why do you go so far?" asked Patience "Why not the free states out west? My husband says.."
The slave woman looked apologetically at her and shrugged before Elizabeth interjected. "Missus Locke, I have a feeling that there are a few things your good husband doesn't want you to know. Sure, California is a free state, but you have to go through hell to get there, ol'Henry Clay saw to that." She grimaced as her pain returned. "Those men in the government, all they do is talk. Give a free state, but then give slave owners the right to follow a slave there and bring him back. What good is that? And the marshalls making folks track slaves whether they've a mind to or not? Canada is a long ways off, but it's all that some folks have got. Here, look in that linen chest, at the foot of the bed? Under that quilt are some things you might find interesting to read while you are here."
So it was there, in the small bedroom of the Miller house, that the talk and pain continued well into the night, and when Samuel returned from the Locke residence he was surprised to find himself witness to two births on the same night. One, of Jacob William Miller, squawking boy, and the other of Patience Goodbetter Locke, abolitionist.