One year later
“Oh, Minnie, you were so brave, and little Fred is just so beautiful.”
She was sitting in her sister’s bedroom three days after Minnie had given birth. On a soft seat beside the bed, Velma was cradling the new baby and looking so happy.
“He’s just wonderful,” she said to Minnie. “I’ve been waiting for Saturday to come and see him.”
“Is there anything you need, Min?” Alvina asked. “We can go to the stores for you.”
Minnie shook her head. “Mama has us well stocked up. I don’t think we’ll ever eat it all.”
Alvina went to Velma. “Let me have a cuddle before we go.”
She took the baby boy and walked around the bedroom with him. She laid him in the crib beside the bed and kissed her sister on the cheek.
“Send a message if you need me.”
“To the new house, I’m guessing,” Minnie said with a smile. “How is it going?”
“Will we ever get it finished?”
“It will be lovely,” Velma said. “I can decide what I want in my own room.”
“As soon as I’m up and about, I will be there to see it.”
Alvina and Velma left and drove the small carriage away from the house and into the mine. Her dad had made the house available for Minnie but it wasn’t beside the dirt and dust of the mine. It was the previous foreman’s house, and Freddie was now the foreman.
She stopped the carriage at her father’s office and they went inside. Julian and Quentin were having a discussion.
“Howdy, girls,” her dad said.
“Hello, young Velma. How are the dogs doing?” Julian asked.
“Being good, and we have the hunting dog puppy. He is sooo beautiful.”
Julian smiled. “I’m glad Bullet’s nephew is working out for you.”
“He puts one paw in the air now when he sees a bird,” she added.
“Your grandson is just marvelous,” Alvina told her dad.
“The next generation for this business,” Julian put in.
“Julian is expanding yet again,” Quentin moaned as if it were a burden, but they all knew that any expansion was music to Quentin’s ears.
“What is the new expansion?” Alvina asked. Julian smiled at her.
“It’s not here exactly, but if we had ready access to proper wood, we could have what we need for the mine and the foundry, and,” he paused, “one momentous event has made me want to stay in this area.” He nodded as he saw that realization had dawned on Alvina. “Yes. I gave in and asked Josephine to marry me. She said yes.”
Alvina flung herself across the room and wrapped her arms around the man’s neck.
“How wonderful. How absolutely perfect. Oh, I will go and see her on the way back.”
“And I have a grown-up family in Rosie. That is an extra bonus—and,” he paused for dramatic effect, “I have bought the timber yard. We can build a really lovely house there and import proper up-to-the-minute machinery to turn out smooth wood that can be used by carpenters.” He gave another grin. “Freddie says it could be a big joinery shop that would sell furniture and other things.”
“That is just so wonderful. I can’t take it all in. I must go and see Rosie and Josephine.” She kissed her dad. “I’m off to tell Newton. It will stop him working on the house for a few minutes.” She smiled. “He’s obsessed with building me a really big house.”
I offered to pay for builders,” her dad said.
She shook her head. “I know. He wants to put his own work into it. Come on, Velma.”
They drove to the town and pulled up at Rosie’s and Josephine’s house. It had been the scene over the year for several more picnics, lots of fun, and a swelling of the funds to help people. Alvina jumped down and held her hand to help the younger girl down. Josephine had opened the door. Alvina raced over and grabbed her to do a dance around on the path.
“Julian told me. It’s the best ever news. I’m so happy for you.” She paused. “And for him. I guess he told you about his wife and son.” This last was said with a touch of sadness. Josephine drew them inside.
“I’m older than he is,” she said in a worried voice. “I still worry about that.”
“But you have a grown-up family. He doesn’t want to start a new family. You’re exactly right for him and you love the same things.
“He has what he needs. He has someone he loves and who loves him. He has a new business to plan and a house to build. You can both go out with the dogs and in the end Rosie will give you both grandchildren.”
“Bean is wonderful,” Velma added. They chatted on some more and Alvina said that they had to tell Newton.
Back at the house, Newton was actually sitting on the back porch with a beer. Velma ran across and the two dogs and puppy leaped to their feet and bounced around. Newton put aside the beer and held out his arms. Velma raced over and threw her arms around him.
“What’s the new baby like?” he asked.
“He’s lovely and has dark curly hair like Freddie. I held him on my knee.”
“Minnie is fine and Mama is dealing with anything they need,” Alvina said and poured her and Velma a lemonade. “We have more news.”
“What is it?” he asked.
“Josephine is going to marry Julian,” Velma burst out.
“And they have bought the timber yard, where he will bring in machinery and turn it into a big business that will make furniture and things as well as supply the mine and the foundry,” Alvina told the rest of the tale.
“So, your dad is happy that they’re expanding yet again?”
“Mmm, he’s so much more relaxed these days. How is the house coming along?”
“Come and look. We have a kitchen. You need to tell me what you would like in there.”
They went across to the corral where the new house was being erected, with a new corral beyond the original. Velma started to dance on the wooden floors. Both of the adults smiled.
“The kitchen,” Newton said.
“It’s enormous,” Alvina said. “We can have a huge kitchen table and two chairs by the stove where we can sit and have a coffee.” Velma danced around the floor in there and then jumped out of the back door and danced outside. Newton put his arm around his wife.
“She’s happy, thank goodness.”
“We did the right thing and the orphanage were very good about the adoption.”
“I love her to bits,” Alvina said and looked out of the back door where the girl was playing with the dogs but training them at the same time, as she had seen Newton and Julian do.
“Do you need another back kitchen and back porch to keep logs and eggs and things? It needs to go on next if you do.”
“How do you manage to be the sheriff as well? You’ll be exhausted.”
“Wayne and Archer are coming by tomorrow to do the next heavier walls.” He laughed. “And I have really good staff.”
Velma came back with eggs held in her skirt. “I found some more,” she said, and they took them to the house.
“I can have something to eat and set up the extra back kitchen,” Newton said. “My two favorite girls need a big house.”
“Have something to eat and let us take the dogs for a walk,” Alvina suggested. “You need a break.”
“Okay,” he said. “It would be a pleasant change.”
There was soup in the pot and they ate that with fresh bread and decided to walk behind the land that was theirs. They put jackets on and Newton took the rifle with him.
“You never know what’s out there,” he said and put the gun over his back and had the strap across his chest. The three of them walked as far as the small stream and sat on the rocks at the side of it. The dogs splashed in the shallow water and the puppy tried it out when the older dogs seemed to be enjoying themselves.
“Beautiful day,” Alvina said and then shouted out loud as a shot rang out and hit a rock beside them.
It pinged and bounced away and Alvina threw herself on top of Velma and tried to find cover below the rocks. Newton pulled the gun from his back and put himself between the girls and the woods where the shot had been fired.
The shooter fired again and the bullet nicked Newton’s arm. He shouted as he felt it and the gun dropped from the hand that had felt the bullet.
They looked to the woods expecting another shot to come and hit one of them. Instead, they saw the figure of a man coming toward them with a rifle in his hand. He knew he had hit Newton’s arm and he was boldly walking over with his gun held loosely in his hand.
“It’s that awful man from the timber yard,” Alvina said and pulled Velma behind her.
“You’re out of jail then,” Newton called.
The man stopped walking and grinned. “Yes. I got out when they weren’t looking. Fools that they are.”
“Why come back here?” Alvina asked. “You should be running farther away.”
“My wife was slapped by you, lady, and I want your wonderful sheriff to get her out of jail.”
“No chance,” Newton said. “They would never agree.”
“In that case, this is in return for the slap.” He pointed his rifle at Alvina, who stayed steadfastly in front of Velma.
Newton had one useless arm. He looked at Alvina and threw the rifle to her. She moved without hesitation and caught the rifle as he had done when she first met the sheriff. She pulled the gun against her shoulder and shot at the man in front of her, who had raised his gun but not shot. She caught him in the shoulder and he dropped the gun, grabbing at his arm where the blood was pouring out. Newton ran toward him and Alvina and Velma did the same. He kicked the man’s gun away and, with his good arm, twisted the prisoner’s good arm up his back.
“You lost again,” Newton said.
Velma went to pick up the rifle when Alvina told her to and they walked behind the two men with Alvina poking the barrel of the rifle into the spine of the attacker. The dogs obediently walked beside them and they left them with Velma at the house.
It was into the office to a surprised Archer and the man was pushed into a cell. Alvina went for the doctor. Newton sent a telegram to the local sheriff where the prison was situated. The doctor patched him up and Archer resigned himself to keeping watch.
“To the doctor,” Alvina said. “He might as well check that you are not dying.”
Newton submitted to the sharp sting of whiskey on the wound and a bandage wrapped around his arm. They went back home to find Velma had the dogs fed and was worrying about where they were.
“He’ll get a longer sentence for escaping,” Newton told her. “We won’t see him again. I need a drink.”
They sat in front of the fire and went over what had happened.
“That slap on her face did feel good. I think it was an answer for seeing Bobo locked in that shed.”
“Your shooting practice did you proud, Alvina,” Newton said. “I keep saying I have a good staff.”
He laughed, and she took the opportunity to tell him that he must have men to build the house.
“Two things, or maybe three or four. I want you to stop knocking yourself out. You keep saying you’re doing it for me but having you working every minute isn’t really good for me. Dad gave me money and we haven’t used it. We can pay builders and be able to move in a couple of months. Then we can rent out this house and put the money back in the bank.”
Newton looked at her and saw that she really meant this. He gave in and said he would hire builders. Then he paused. “What was the second thing?”
She looked from one to the other of them.
“I don’t know how you both feel, but I think maybe in a couple of months I might not have managed to catch the rifle and shoot the crook.”
They both looked mystified. Alvina grinned and patted her tummy.
“We might be a family of four in a few months.”
Newton’s mouth dropped open. Velma came and put her arms around Alvina.
“I am lost for words. We are the luckiest people in the whole wide world.” He sat on the sofa and wrapped both of them in a bear hug.
“I’m glad everyone approves,” Alvina said. “A brother or sister for you, Velma.”
“What will we call it?” the girl asked.
“Not Bobo,” Newton joked and they all laughed. Velma took Bobo outside and the puppy followed at her heels. Barney stayed beside Alvina and Newton patted his head and kept his arm around his wife.
“Thank you, Alvina,” he said.
Later, in the bedroom, when Velma was asleep and the house was settled for the night, they held onto each other.
“Are you sure you’re happy about the baby?” she asked.
“It’s just the best news in the world. I will get people to build the house and we will be in there before he or she is born.” He kissed her gently. “I love you more than life itself. I love Velma and I already love the little one on the way. I never thought I could have that, but my wife is like another half of me.” He laughed. “So much another half of me that she caught the rifle and shot the crook.”
“Oh, you’re a wonderful man. I love you, too. I loved you from that first day when I threw the gun and you caught it.”
“Happy ever after, Alvina.”
“Dreams do come true, Newton. I have everything in the world that I wished for.” She kissed him on the cheek and curled into the curve of his arms. All was right in the world.