On Christmas Eve, a cold and tired Paladin rides into a Texas town and enters the local saloon. The customers are celebrating Christmas, and Paladin stumbles over one passed-out customer. The saloon girl, Annie, invites Paladin to buy her a drink. He says that he needs to get some food first, and Annie tells him to look her up when he thaws out.
Paladin goes to the bar and the bartender Jake says that he has no rooms for him and the kitchen was cleaned out hours ago. Jake suggests that he get some Christmas spirit, but Paladin just wants some stew. Irritated, Paladin sits down at a table with a man, Simon, who offers him a drink to celebrate. Paladin sees a stack of presents on the table, and Simon says that his children are long gone but he still buys them even though he has no one to give them to. As Simon leaves, Jake brings Paladin some stew.
A young cowboy comes in and asks if there are any rooms. Jake says that they're all full up. When the cowboy objects, Jake shoves him onto Paladin's table. A disgusted Paladin says that Jake doesn't have a room for either of them and asks for another plate of stew. The cowboy then begs Paladin's pardon, and Paladin invites him to sit down and eat. The young man says that he couldn't eat, and walks out.
Paladin goes out after the cowboy and discovers him talking to his wife. She's pregnant, and Paladin tells him to bring her inside and he'll get them a room. Paladin gets Jake's attention and tells him that the cowboy and his wife need a room. He threatens to empty one for Jake, and Jake realizes that the woman is pregnant. Two cowboys jump Paladin and the young cowboy, and Paladin knocks one of them out. When Jake demands to know who Paladin is, Paladin shows him his card and Jake says that he has a store room they can use. They take the wife through the crowd to the storeroom and make her as comfortable as they can. The cowboy thanks Paladin for his help, and admits that it's his first child. He's worried that his wife isn't strong enough to get through labor, and Paladin tells him to stay with her.
Back out in the saloon, Paladin asks Jake if there's a doctor in the town. Jake irritably takes Paladin over to the passed-out man that Paladin stepped over when he came in. The bartender explains that the doctor only drinks once a year, and the only man who needed a doctor when he was on "vacation" died. Paladin steps up on a table and explains about the pregnant wife. He asks if anyone will help him wake up the doctor, but everyone laughs. Paladin asks what happens if she dies, but no one cares. When he threatens one man, Burt, Burt takes offense. Before he can respond, the cowboy calls Paladin in and everyone goes back to partying.
The wife is in labor and Paladin tells her not to be afraid. She insist that it's a good thing that's happening to her, and her father and brothers were like the men in the other room: they lived hard and partied hard. Paladin goes back out and asks Jake for whiskey, hot water, and cloths. When Jake objects, saying that he's too busy, Paladin grabs him and then tosses him a coin. When one man throws a Christmas ornament at him, Paladin draws his gun and shoots the cigar out of the man's mouth. He tells them to give her some peace and quiet if they won't help. When Annie starts laughing, Paladin says that the wife needs him. When she refuses, Paladin figures that she should know what the wife is going through. Annie says that she knows, and after a moment goes with Paladin into the storeroom.
In the storeroom, Paladin gives the wife some whiskey for the pain. When Annie says that Jake might object, Paladin tells her that he can't do it alone and he'll handle Jake. She admits that she isn't sure that she can help her, and Paladin says that she can try. After a moment, Annie agrees to try and has the wife take her hand. Jake brings in the hot water and tells Annie to come out, and Paladin tells her to stay where she is. When Jake complains about the money he's losing, Paladin says that the wife will stay where she is.
A drunken cowhand, Harry Beldon, staggers in to get Annie. Paladin throws him out of the saloon through the door. He then takes the blanket from the unconscious doctor to put over the window. Another cowhand, Ben, offers to shake Paladin's hand, impressed with what he did. Paladin reminds them of what the Book of Luke said about a pregnant stranger coming among them. Simon tells them not to fight because it's a few minutes until Christmas, and Paladin wonders if any of the cowhands care. Ben takes offense and tells Paladin to apologize or they'll teach him some manners.
Paladin tells him to try, and he and Ben start to go for their guns. However, a baby cries from the next room. Paladin goes in and looks at the baby in Annie's arms. She gives it to its mother, and Paladin closes the door. The mother says that she promised her husband a son, and he says that he'll never forget the night or Paladin. Annie admits that she never cared much for Christmas, but when she gave the baby to his mother, it was like she gave the mother something.
Jake knocks at the door and holds a hat full of money. He says that they considered what Paladin said and they wanted to do something, and would like the couple to have the money. Paladin gestures him forward and the people give the couple the money. Simon gives the baby his presents and says that now he has someone to give them to. Ben brings the Christmas tree in, and Paladin asks Jake to send his coat onto the Carlton as he walks out into the sunrise and rides off. As he goes, he realizes that he's in Bethlehem, Texas
Written by Gadfly on Dec 25, 2016