Two years later
Max was pacing up and down in the living room. He went outside and came back in. He talked to Tyler and had a cup of coffee. His mother-in-law came out of the bedroom and he stopped where he was.
“Go and see her,” she said and smiled. Then she washed her hands and sank onto the sofa. “Get me a coffee, Brian.”
The new grandfather had been trying to keep Max company but there was nothing he could say or do to calm the man down. He stood up and went to the coffee pot. Then he turned.
“Boy or girl?”
“Beautiful girl with very dark hair like her dad.” She accepted the coffee gratefully and put her feet up on the sofa.
In the bedroom, Max went over to the bed.
“You okay?” he asked and sat on the bed beside Helen. “I want to take the pain for you, but I can’t.”
“You don’t need to, sweetheart. Look in the crib.” Max turned his head and saw the top of a small head with hair the color of his own.
“It’s over. You did it. Is it a girl or a boy? Oh, my Lord, Helen. You are so good at coping. I was a useless wreck.”
“Pick her up. She won’t break.”
Max Connor walked round to the other side of the bed and gently took away the blanket. His hands looked enormous as he wrapped them around his daughter. He cradled the child in his arms as if he had done it a million times before. He sat on the bed with his new daughter in his arms and looked at his wife. She held out her hands for the baby and let it start to feed. The man sat beside Helen on the bed and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
“I am so lucky,” he said. “A wonderful wife and a daughter. Oh, my Lord. We have a daughter.”
“Sheridan,” Helen said. “I really like that name.
“Sheridan Connor. It has a ring to it.” The child finished drinking and there was a knock at the door.
“Can we come in?” Marian asked.
“Meet Sheridan Connor,” Max said to them. “You are grandparents.”
“You are both safe, well and healthy. Thank the Good Lord,” Marian said.
“And she is absolutely beautiful.” Max was obviously already besotted.
There was a knock on the door and Glenda did not wait for a reply as she hurtled into the bedroom and then stood still. Helen held out the baby girl to her sister.
Glenda was suddenly frightened. She took the baby gingerly.
“She won’t break,” Helen reassured her sister this time. “I need my babysitters to be used to holding onto her.”
Glenda laughed and relaxed with her niece.
“She is to be called Sheridan,” Marian told her. “Pushed her way into this world in no uncertain terms.” Glenda sat down with the baby and looked at her little face and tiny fingers.
“She is so adorable and staggeringly beautiful. Wish I had black hair like that.”
“I wonder what the boys will say when they see her,” Max smiled at the thought.
“Word reached the ranch that you had gone into labor and I just jumped on a horse and galloped all the way here. I think the school will know as well by now.”
There was the sound of running feet coming across the living room and without knocking the two boys in question burst into the room and then stopped dead. Benjy collided into Bart. Helen smiled at their faces. They were big eleven-year-olds now, noisy and full of life. This situation was different.
Glenda was still holding the baby and sitting on the bed.
“It is over boys, and you are uncles to a little girl called Sheridan,” Helen told them.
“Come and look,” Glenda said.
“She is tiny,” Bart said and put out a tentative finger to touch the little hand. The fingers closed around his own and he looked up at Glenda. “She held onto me.”
“That is your Uncle Bart,” Glenda said to the tiny child in her arms. “I think you need to go back to mom.” She moved over to hand Helen the child and wiped a tear away from her cheek. The twins went and sat either side of Helen. They were entranced.
“I will make something for you to eat,” Marian said and went back to the kitchen. Her husband followed and Max went out to report to Tyler.
“I forgot to say,” Benjy said to his sister, “that Lucy says everything is under control and you have to relax. She has finished two orders and will do the other two as well.”
“Thank goodness for Lucy,” Helen replied. “Thanks, boys.” She turned to Glenda. “Can you pick up the material that will be at Muriel’s for me please?”
“I will but you are forbidden to start work.”
“Don’t worry,” Helen said. “I need to lie still for a while.” Max came in carrying a tray with some soup for her and told the boys their mom was serving food. Glenda went with them and Max sat beside his wife as she tried to take some soup.
“I think my body is just too tired just now,” she confessed. “I will feed Sheridan instead.” She held the baby to her chest and Max felt himself wanting to shed tears.
“You are such a wonderful picture like that. We will remember this day forever, won’t we?”
“We will. It is amazing that they say babies bring their love with them and I love her so much already, it is incredible.” Then she asked Max to eat the soup. “Mom will just try and make me eat if you take it back.” He grinned and spooned the soup.
“Tyler is pleased for you. Can he visit later on?”
“Of course, he can. He is such a good friend.”
“We have four stools made and ready for whenever they are needed.”
He finished in time as Marian came in and took the baby to put it over her shoulder and pat the back until the wind came up. Then she put the child in the crib and covered her over. The little eyes closed.
“Try and get some sleep for a little while,” she said to Helen who was glad to slide down and do as she was told. Max and his mother-in-law went away and closed the door.
The family ate the meal that Marian made and then Brian went back to the farm. The boys were sent back to school and Marian looked at Max and Glenda.
“You need something to occupy you now, Max. She needs rest.”
He nodded. “I’ll go back to more fencing. The stock is growing faster than I thought it would.”
“I thought that I would make the bags for the feathers and say nothing to Helen. The feathers are in the barn, and I can use the sewing machine. People will call in and I can stop if I have to.”
“There are four finished stools outside of the sewing room door ready for cushions,” Max told her.
“And she wanted two velvet but different colors, one patchwork and one in a tapestry,” Glenda said. “I can cut the pieces and fill the bags with feathers.
“Don’t let her know or she will be out of that bed and directing things.” Max smiled as his mother-in-law nodded.
“Lucy will cope with the dresses.”
“Her little boy is a handful, but Vivian keeps him occupied,” Max shook his head. “I have a daughter. I can’t believe it.” His mother-in-law came and gave him a hug.
“You made me a gran, Max. Thank you for coming back and saving Helen.”
“As Bart would say, we are getting soppy.” He went to the door and slipped outside.
Tyler wanted details and he stayed to talk before going back to the fencing. He saw the lined-up stools outside of the sewing room door. Helen had plans for more things to sell but having the baby had stopped her getting that done. He smiled as he went over to talk to the horses in the corral. He knew Tyler was making the small wheelbarrows that would contain plants. Helen had big ideas for her sewing room and he wanted her to succeed.
Marian had made the linen bags quite quickly as the pieces were already cut. There was a knock at the door and she stopped what she was doing. Glenda was in the sewing room putting in the feathers and sneezing at the fluff and dust. Marian left the squares of material to make the cushion covers and went to the door.
She expected it to be someone from the town asking how Helen was doing, but instead, she saw Jenny and Al Jennings. They were holding hands and grinning like a couple of cats that got the cream.
“Oh, my Lord, Jenny. What a wonderful surprise. Come in. Come in. Why are you here when your own baby is due? Have a seat. I’ll get you a drink.” Jenny was still standing when the voice called from the bedroom.
“Am I dreaming or do I have to come out there?”
“Go and surprise her,” Marian said and Jenny opened the door cautiously in case Helen was feeling unwell.
“Oh, ahh, Jenny. How did you manage to get here today I am not supposed to get up. Come and hug me.”
Jenny sat on the bed and threw her arms around Helen. Al managed to look embarrassed and sat on a chair. “In a year you managed to be with child, find a house, and now you have come back on the day I give birth. I cannot believe it.”
“Where is this wonder-girl?” Jenny asked and lifted the edge of the shawl wrapping Sheridan.
“Oh, Lord, Al, look at this cherub.” Al came over and did as the twins had done. He reached out with a finger to touch the child on the cheek.
“Beautiful,” he said. Jenny had no such qualms and picked up Sheridan in her arms to cradle and rock her as she walked across the room.
“She is exquisite,” Jenny said.
“How long until you are due?” Helen asked.
“Two weeks and it cannot come soon enough. I hate being fat and heavy.” Helen laughed.
Jenny sat on the bed with the baby in her arms. “There is more news.” She looked at her husband.
“We are moving back here,” Al said as if it was not of any significance and then he grinned.
“Really? Really? What a wonderful day today is turning out to be. Oh, Jenny, I have missed you.”
Glenda and Marian had followed them into the room.
“Your mom will be pleased,” Marian remarked. Jenny gave the baby to Helen and went to hold her husband’s arm.
“This clever man is going to be the next Sheriff of Railington.” There was a stunned silence and then they all talked at once.
“That is just so good,” Helen said. “Glenda, can you go and find Max please?” Glenda turned and ran out of the house. As the door was opened, Helen caught a glimpse of something. “Jenny, can you just open that door for me please?”
“I’ll do it,” Marian jumped up and went through the door to sweep the cushions out of sight and then she opened the door.
“I have had a baby, mom, not lost my eyesight and my senses.”
Her mother threw up her hands. “I was wanting something to do with my hands and we thought we would help you.”
“What have you done?” Helen asked suspiciously. Jenny looked around the door.
“Nothing to see,” she said to calm Helen down.
Glenda came back with Max who shook hands with Al and heard the news.
“Now that is over, find out what my mom and sister have been doing.”
I know what they are doing because I helped them,” he said. “Now if you could manage to your feet, as you keep saying, we can show you.”
Helen looked from one to the other.
“Something is going on. Hand me that robe, Jenny.” She lifted her legs onto the floor and tied the robe around the waist. Max offered her an arm.
Out of the room there was no sign of cushions or material but he headed for the sewing room and everyone followed. Then out of the door to the outside. Two stools were finished with cushions on them and looked very good but beside them was Tyler’s gift to her. Two small but elegant wheelbarrows were parked beside the stools.
The blacksmith saw them and came over. “What do you think, Helen?”
“Oh, Tyler. You are an artist. They are just what I wanted. With plants in them, they will look wonderful. I will plant them up and have the one at each side of the sewing room door.”
“With price tickets on, of course,” Glenda added. “And mom and I did the linen bags and put in the feathers. You had cut the pieces so we could hardly go wrong.”
Helen smiled at them.
“I am a suspicious old dressmaker,” she said. “I apologize. You are all fantastic.” There was a cry from the bedroom and Helen rushed back inside. She sat on the bed to feed the little one and the others managed to be there as well. Al said that there was more to hear, and it was not so nice. Everyone looked at him. Sheridan kept on drinking.
“Celia Grenville-Hayes died. She caught some disease or other. I don’t know what, but they moved her to a hospital and she passed away.”
“Sounds sad to say it but nobody will regret her going,” Max said what they were all thinking. The visitors said that they would let Helen rest and asked if it was okay to call again the next day. Tyler followed them out and Glenda said that she had better get back to the ranch.
“They will all want to hear the news. Let me know if I can do anything to help.” She came and kissed her sister on the cheek, then ran her finger over the baby’s cheek as well. She and Martin set off back to the Mills’ ranch.
Marian saw that the baby was sleeping and told Helen to rest as well.
“I will bring you something to eat in a little while and I will finish those cushions.”
“Love you, Mom. Thanks.” Helen slid down in the bed and closed her eyes. She was thinking how wonderful it would be to have Jenny back to spend time with when sleep took over and she knew no more until her mom brought her something to eat.
Max had come in and had something as well. They talked about all of the news that Jenny had brought.
“I know Cameron has told everyone that his dad needs him and he is leaving the sheriff’s position. Al will be the right person for the job,” Helen said. “I do feel better for that sleep.”
The boys arrived and ate. Then Brian came to pick them and their mom up in the wagon.
“Will you be alright?” Marian asked anxiously. “I’ll come back in the morning.”
The new parents fussed over the baby and Sheridan, so far, had been a model daughter. In fact, Helen woke through the night and fed her without waking Max and he brought them both breakfast in bed the next day.
“I could get used to this,” Helen told him.
“I do know how to cook bacon and eggs.”
The new routine that was for three of them instead of two lengthened into a week and Helen was itching to start sewing again.
“I know folk say I should stay in bed, but I just can’t,” she confessed to Max. “I will take the crib into the sewing room and see if she is happy there.” She had forgotten that customers had taken to popping in to see what she was making and before long there was a steady stream of women who cooed over Sheridan, two skirts were ordered and Missus Janus of the original dress for the dance paid for a wheelbarrow full of plants and proudly pushed it away up the main street.
Helen was more tired than she thought but business was on the move and that kept her happy. Lucy came with the money for the two finished dresses and left the other two for Helen to wrap for customers. She brought the latest orders and cloth from Muriel and sat nursing the baby for quite some time.
“You and I can make this work, you know. Your mom and Jonah’s mom are happy to help with the children.” They pooled ideas for what they should try next. Then there was a tentative knock at the door and Lucy opened it. Betsy Hayes stood outside and asked if she was disturbing them.
“Of course not,” Helen called. “Come on in and have a seat. You know Lucy McGregor, don’t you?”
“I do and I still owe your family an apology for my dreadful nephew.”
“It’s over, Missus Hayes. Forget it ever happened.”
“That is kind of you and maybe I can make up for it a little.” Both of the dressmakers looked mystified but waited. Betsy Hayes drew out a sheaf of papers.
“These papers are from lawyers and bankers. My nephew and horrible niece are both passed.” She hesitated. “I have to say, the world is better off but I am, apparently, their next of kin.” She handed Helen a sheet with an amount of money on it that shook Helen to her toes. She passed it to Lucy to see as well.
“I am her next of kin as well and she inherited her husband’s fortune. This amount is a total of the money from Calvin and Celia.”
“It is a staggering amount of money. I just cannot imagine that much in one place,” Lucy said.
“The thing is, I do not want it and neither does my husband. It is money gained by evil means. The only way I can think of to make amends to the town is to give it to the church. Both young women gasped. “Will you come with me, Helen? I know Jenny is your best friend.”
“Lucy, can you run out and find Max please?” Helen turned to this woman that she had met through the awful Calvin but liked very much. “Are you absolutely sure?”
“I am. I want rid of it and the stain it would always bring. We have worked hard all of our lives and have enough money to retire when we want to. Do you think the minister would accept it?”
“We can ask what he thinks and be guided by him. He is the right person to ask.”
Max and Lucy came in and he was told the details. Lucy had told him about the visitor as they came to the house. Helen said that she would have to feed the baby before she could go to the church and there was a short space where Sheridan was admired.
“I will have to take her with me,” Helen said.
“I will take you in the carriage. I know it’s not far, but it is not two weeks yet since Sheridan was born.” Max went away to bring the small carriage to the door and helped the women inside. Betsy Hayes thought that it would be good if Lucy came as well.
“I know your husband was threatened and paid my nephew money.”
At the minister’s house, Max went to the door and asked if the reverend could possibly talk to Missus Hayes. He added that it was really important. Reverend Samson came out followed by Jenny who was very large and holding her back as she walked. Al and Missus Samson were there as well and ushered everyone inside.
“This must be serious,” the minister said and listened as Betsy Hayes explained.
“I want to take the evil away from this money and let it help the people of this town. We don’t want it. What do you think, Reverend?”
The amount of money was gasped over. The minister sat and gave it some thought.
“In another place where I was an assistant minister, there was money left in much the same way. The minister in charge there, formed a group of responsible people to listen to requests for help. It seemed to work very well but was drawn up by lawyers.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Betsy said and patted her chest. “I was so worried. If that happened, it would be such a relief.”
“Helen should be on that committee,” Jenny said and winced.
“Don’t worry yourself now,” Al said to his wife. “You are going into labor, Jenny Jennings.”
Jenny nodded but said it was fine for the moment.
“Leave it with me to talk to the lawyer,” the minister offered. “We will come and see you. As I remember, there were three men and three women on the committee with the minister having a casting vote if it was needed.”
Betsy stood up and handed Reverend Samson the sheaf of papers.
“The lawyer will need these. Thank you, everyone.” She headed for the door.
“Bedroom, Jenny,” Helen said and handed Sheridan to Lucy. “I do remember what this was like two weeks ago.”
Missus Samson sorted out the bedroom and they left Max, Lucy and the minister talking over the surprise donation.
Helen came back and suggested they leave the family to cope. Max took them in the carriage back to the house. Lucy took her material for sewing and left for home on horseback.
“Well, I never,” Helen said and settled Sheridan in the crib.
“That enormous amount of money could help a lot of people,” Max reflected. “There are folk struggling out there.”
Max went back to work. He was helping in the forge, but Helen’s mind was on Jenny. She tried to sew but could not settle and was glad when a knock came at the door. Her sister stepped inside with Martin close on her heels.
“Thank goodness for company. Jenny is in labor. I am pacing the floor here.” Then she remembered about Betsy Hayes and related what had already happened that morning.
“How much?” Martin queried in amazement. Then added that he had some news as well. “Remember the man I told you left because he said he was threatened—Carlos Grande?” Helen nodded at him, and he continued. “He arrived yesterday to ask if he could help explain what he had been threatened with. We told him it was all over, but it was good of him to offer.”
“Peggy says that she would love you to come over if you are up to it, meet Carlos and have a meal.” Glenda stood up and paced about the room herself.
Helen handed her the baby.
“If you are walking about, please take her with you. She loves it.” Glenda smiled and cradled her niece in her arms. “When does Peggy suggest?”
“Tomorrow. Carlos’ mother is poorly and he does not want to stay too long.” Helen asked Martin to go and check with Max. The answer was yes, they could go in the carriage. Glenda handed back the sleeping child, kissed her sister and left to go to the stores before riding home.
“Well, Sheridan, you are invited out to visit,” Helen said and then went back to wondering how Jenny was doing. She cut out some pieces of cloth, sketched out her new idea for the forge to make for her, and made a meal for herself and Max. It was getting dark before an excited, but tired-looking Al came to say that he was a dad and he had a baby son.
“Oh, thank heaven. I have been thinking about you all day. How is Jenny?”
Al laughed. “Bright as a button and says she can get into proper dresses again.”
“We are invited out to the Mills’ tomorrow, but I will drop in before we go to inspect this new Mister Jennings in town.” Al hurried off back to his wife and Helen did a little dance around the room. Max smiled and shook his head. She showed him the sketch for an iron framework to go around the doorway with hooks for pots to fill with flowers.
“Ask Tyler what he thinks. I can pay him for one for the sewing room door and if we get orders, he will get paid and I will add a little extra for profit.”
Suddenly, she could relax again and started to think about clothes for baby boys. Lucy was already onto clothes for slightly older baby boys and both women were overjoyed when they made little girls’ dresses and people snapped them up.
The next morning they were up and busy. Chores were done and baby things packed to take along for Sheridan. They set off to the church first of all and enthused over the small bundle with curly ginger fuzz around his head.
“This is Marcus,” Al said.
“Not Al?” Helen asked.
He shook his head. “You would not want to burden a child with Algernon.”
With smiles and laughter from everyone they left for the ranch to impart the good news and update everyone about the money from Betsy Hayes.
The Mills were thrilled to see Sheridan as this was her first visit out. Peggy had prepared a lovely meal and they met Carlos Grande. The family had been sad to lose such a good worker and made him welcome as one of the family. The man went over all that had happened to him and the threats to his wife. He heard about the sister and the eventual shooting of the man who murdered Calvin.
“My wife is happy where we are now, and I am working as a cook. The only upset is that my mother is poorly and I don’t want to stay away too long. She should really be in hospital, but a cook’s wages do not run to that. I will get back to help Maria look after her.”
“Wait a moment,” Helen exclaimed and looked around the table. “Is this not what the money from Betsy Hayes is for? Carlos was threatened by Calvin and had to leave his job and move. Some of the money could pay for his mother’s care and give him something back. Is that not what Betsy Hayes wants to happen?”
“What a mind you have, Helen,” Forbes Mills told her. “That is exactly right. Carlos, stay for another day and if you will accept the money, we can go and see the Reverend.”
“It’s a great idea, if you would accept it,” Martin added his voice and Carlos Grande looked around at them.
“Are you all sure? I can stay another day to find out.”
“Woohoo,” Helen said. “That bad money is doing good. Hooray.”
“Raise your glasses,” Forbes said. “To bad money doing good.”
They raised their glasses and toasted the good that was going to come out of THE bad.
“I have just got lemonade to toast,” Glenda said and took Martin’s hand, “but you can make another toast.” She looked at her sister and Helen knew what was coming. She smiled.
“Martin and I are following everyone else and having a baby.” The place burst into shouts, claps, clinking glasses and congratulations. Martin and Glenda looked overjoyed and Helen found herself crying. Peggy Mills was mopping her eyes as well.
“What a happy day,” Max said.
“The next generation is on its way,” Helen added and held Sheridan in her arms. “A cousin for Sheridan. Marvelous.”
They planned to meet up with Carlos the next day and set off for home. As they passed the place where Helen and Max used to meet in secret, he pulled the carriage to a halt.
“I cannot resist the chance to kiss you like we used to,” he said and wrapped her in his arms. The magic of the world turning upside down still happened when their lips met.
“I love you Max Connor,” she whispered when they pulled apart.
“Not as much as I love you, Helen Connor,” he grinned.
“And we both love the prettiest baby girl in the whole universe.” They looked at the child in the crib.
“Happy ever after, Helen,” he stroked her hair away and kissed her cheek. “Happy ever after.” Then he clicked the horse into action and they went back home to build a ranch and a clothing business.