7 months later
“Ye gods, I am finding it hard to walk about,” Callie said and held her back as she straightened up.
“Won’t be long now,” Janet said. “We can manage. You do not need to be trying to keep going all of the time.”
“The newspaper is out and I can leave that now for another month.”
“People love it and are happy to spend a few pennies to buy it and have it delivered. Laura is as happy as anything to be the editor in charge.”
“She and Andrew do the deliveries between them as well,” Callie laughed. “They enjoy doing things together.”
The two women were having a break after the midday meal was in the pot and cooking.
“I,” Janet hesitated and Callie looked at her.
“What?” Janet bit her lip. “Well?” Callie urged.
“He asked me to marry him last night.”
“Oh my Lord, that it just marvellous.” Caliie struggled to her feet to hug her friend. “Stop looking so worried. What did you say?”
“I said yes but he wants to tell everyone straightaway.”
“Why not? Do his folks know? Beth and Tom are lovely people.”
“I know and they have already treated Maryjane as if she was their grandchild. You are the only person I have told.”
“Come with me,” Callie ordered and grabbed her friend by the arm. They went across to the barns and found Nate who was working with Jethro at the horses. Thee two men had the same feeling for the animals and worked well together. Callie whispered in Nate’s ear and he grinned.
“Jethro,” he called and the man came over. Nate held out a hand. “Congratulations.” Jethro took a second to realise what it was about and then he put an arm around Janet.
“You okay with this, Boss?” he asked.
“Delighted,” Nate said.
“And,” Callie added, “can you spare the two of them to go and tell Beth and Tom”
“Take the morning off,” Nate said. “Take a couple of horses and ride into town.”
“Forget the dinner. I will serve everyone,” Callie added.
“Come on,” Jethro cried out and took Janet’s hand. The couple ran off to saddle up and spread the good news.
“I will tell Montagu and make sure the dinner is fine,” Callie said and went to bring the rancher up to date. Over the midday meal, the men took the news in their stride as it had been fairly obvious that Jethro was a man in love for some time.
The ranch was in full flow and they had all settled to a good routine. Nate listened to everything that Montagu told him and the rancher had years of experience. The place was doing well. The cattle drive had been successful and the two men were talking about keeping more of the youngsters from the next lot of calves to expand the business to what it used to be.
When Jethro and Janet came back, they had collected Maryjane from school so that she could hear the news as well. The three of them were in fine spirits and Jethro had an arm around both of them.
“I am getting a daughter as well as a wife,” Jethro said to Callie and she saw that Maryjane was happy about that as well.
“So, did you plan a date?”
“Beth says two weeks on Saturday and she will have a party at the homestead,” Janet answered. “I need a dress by then.”
There was a lot to discuss and the whole place suddenly became involved. Callie managed to go into town with Janet to meet Beth and choose a dress.
“You need a carriage to drive you into the church,” Montagu said and said that he would pay for that as a gift. For two weeks they talked and planned nothing else and the only worry that Nate had was that the excitement would bring on the baby and Callie would overdo things.
The day arrived and Callie was determined to be at the service. Rafael waited to drive Montagu and Callie in the small wagon so that he could be at the wedding. Callie and Janet stayed at the ranch with Nate who was to walk the bride down the aisle. They swept Janet’s hair onto her head and Callie fastened the dress.
“You look wonderful,” Callie told her. “It was a good day that we met on the railroad.”
“Thanks for everything, Callie,” Janet said as Callie climbed into the wagon beside Montagu and Rafael took them into town. Nate offered his arm and helped Janet into the carriage. He took the reins and drove a very nervous bride into town. There were folks everywhere and all shouting good wishes. Nate offered his arm again, told her she looked magnificent and they paced slowly between the guests to where Jethro was waiting. Nate handed the bride over and stood beside his wife. Beth was holding onto Maryjane and the service was just beautiful. The married couple kissed in the traditional way and walked out arm in arm as man and wife.
Beth had outdone herself and there was a hog roast, lots of food on trestle tables. They had hired lots of tables and chairs as well as leaving a dance floor and hay bales to sit around as well. Music came from the fiddler in the corner and it looked as if the whole town had been invited. Then the dancing started and Nate looked at his wife. She had her hands over her tummy and looked uncertain.
“You want to go home?” he asked and she nodded. He went and had a quick word with Beth. The bride and groom were dancing and Callie knew that Maryjane was staying with her new grandparents for the night. Nate took Callie home in the carriage and helped her up the steps into the house.
“Tell me what you feel,” he said as she sank onto the sofa.
“Pains quite often. I think we are starting to have a family, Nate. Hold my hand.”
“Shall I go and get some help?” She shook her head.
“See how we get on. It might be a long time yet.” In fact she was right and it was daylight before the pains were so bad that she had to go to bed. During the evening, Jethro and Janet had gone into the cabin next door and the hands had come back in ones and twos as the dancing and the drinking took its toll.
“I am sending a man for the doctor,” Nate said as Callie lay on the bed and said she thought that the pains were really bad. He ran off and sent young Fred hell for leather to find some help. He found the towels and boiled water as he had been told to do and then his mother arrived on horseback after hearing Fred bang on the door.
“Thank the Lord,” Nate said as his mother ran into the bedroom and took a look at what was happening.
“Nearly there, Callie. Good girl. You have done well to get this far on your own. I can see the first signs of a baby. Nate went to make sure there was water when needed and paced back and forwards as his mother thankfully, took over for him.
The doctor arrived and went in as well and after another, what seemed like eternity, there was the sound of a crying baby and Nate cautiously looked into the bedroom.
“Maeve wrapped a small bundle in a large towel and handed it to Nate as the doctor made sure that Callie was fine. He straightened up.
“Classic birth,” he said. “Everything fine. Just make sure the little one can drink as soon as you can. Let them look after you, Callie.” He took one last look at the bundle in Nate’s arms and left to go for his breakfast. Nate took the baby over to Callie and handed the tiniest member of the family over.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” he asked.
“You have a son, my son,” Maeve said. “I am a grandmother. You are both safe and well. I need a coffee.” She went into the kitchen and left the new parents alone to look at their new-born son. Then she went to tell Montagu and the hands that there was a new man on the ranch.
Callie and Maeve succeeded in putting the little one onto a nipple and starting to feed.
“I feel much better once they are drinking,” Maeve said.
“Like animals,” Callie agreed from her position in the bed. “If they can eat, they usually do well.”
She wondered out loud when she would be able to ride again and made her mother-in-law laugh.
Nate hovered about and she told him to sit down and have a drink of something.
“I already had a whisky with the men,” he said with a smile. “They are all excited and want the baby called after them.”
“But I think he should be Monty,” Callie said. “I have been thinking about it.”
“Montagu wants to come over but thinks you might not like it.”
“Bring him over please,” Callie said. Nate went away and after some minutes helped the older man up the steps and inside the house. He put a head around the door and asked if he was allowed inside.
“Come in, Boss,” Callie called. “I have a favor to ask you.”
“You do? What can I do to help?” The man came in leaning on his stick and sat on a chair. Callie looked at Nate who nodded.
“Can we call him Monty?” Callie asked. She saw the tears form in Montagu Lister’s eyes and felt her own fill at the same time.
“Be an honor,” Montagu managed and Maeve handed him a handkerchief. Callie wiped her eyes on the sheet. She handed the baby to Nate to take over to the rancher.
“I think he might call you grandad,” she added and smiled at the look on Montagu’s face. Nate put the bundle in his hands and stood ready in case the man could not manage it. Montagu lifted the baby up and kissed his cheek and then Nate took him back.
Then the door flew open and Janet burst into the room.
“Nobody told me,” she called out.
“You are on your wedding night,” Callie told her and laughed. “We have a boy called Monty.” Nate handed the baby to Janet and she cried tears of joy.
“He looks like you, Callie. He is just perfect.” She came and sat on the bed. “I am not even dressed, just pulled a robe on when we saw all of the comings and goings.” She looked at Montagu. “I will come and make the dinner.”
“You will not,” Maeve said. “I can easily do that. The wedding was great though. Everyone had a good time.”
“Can you send a messenger to tell Beth and Maryjane”
“Sure can,” Nate said and took back the little bundle. Janet gathered her robe about her and went back home. Maeve said that she would help Montagu back home and put on some vegetables.
“Just something light for you, Callie.” She helped the rancher out and Nate closed the door.
“Is this too much for you?”
Callie laughed and said that she was thinking of setting up some printing. She said it so solemnly that he was fooled for a second and then came to sit on the bed beside her.
“I have two people to love now,” he said and kissed the top of her head. Then there was more noise outside and he went to find out what it was. He smiled as he opened the door. Nell Roth and Jimmy Roth were there. Nate simply opened the door and then the bedroom door and let his mother-in-law walk inside.
There was a stunned silence from both women as they took in who they were looking at and then Nell gave a little scream and ran across the room. She kissed Callie and took the little bundle in her arms.
“Just born an hour ago. It’s a boy and we have called him Monty.”
Jimmy Roth came and gazed at his grandson. Nate went away and left them to catch up with their daughter and he knew that Nell would make them a drink and do anything else that was needed.
The family had a wonderful reunion and although Callie was very tired she was still completely happy that her Dad was there and could see the new machine.
“I wrote and told you about the new machine, Dad. It is so up to date and so fast. It is really easy to use and we have printed three newspapers now and sold them. I can hardly believe it.” She paused and thought about it. “Go and ask Nate to let Fred show you how it works.”
Jimmy smiled and said he would do that. He left the two women alone with the newest family member and Monty murmured.
“I think he needs to feed,” Nell said and Calle opened her nightdress and let the little one have milk.
“Seeing you like this is what I have dreamed about,” Nell told her. “Monty looks so well and he is eating well. That is such a bonus.”
“Who would have thought that writing those letters to Nate would lead to this and to my newspaper and then this move to the ranch. Montagu has been so good to us and he is happy to see the place do well again.” She paused and told her Mom about running off when Nate had given up the wooden presses to Oliver to smash and burn.
“I thought he didn’t love me and then I knew he did it to save me. He spent a fortune on this new machine to make up for it.”
“What happened to Elizabeth. I felt sorry for the poor woman. Some men are just so horrible,” her Mom said. Callie said that Elizabeth had sold up and left.
“I think she really would like to run a casino again but whether she will or not, I just do not know. Oliver got twenty years for attempted murder.”
Her Dad came back with a folded newspaper.
“Nate has done you proud. That is a very good piece of machinery.”
“And what is more, we are making money,” Callie replied.
“That,” said her Dad is what I really wanted to talk to you about.” Callie looked concerned and laid the baby in the crib beside the bed.
Jimmy shook his head.
“We are doing really well and I feel so guilty that me telling you to be a reporter and let folk know the truth put you in danger and lost you the presses.”
“But it worked out in the end,” she answered. He took a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and looked at it. “This is a money order and it is what it cost to pay for your brother at college. I think you deserve the same.” He handed it over and Callie looked at the amount.
“I cannot take that much money,” she whispered.
“Yes you can,” her mother said firmly. “We have a grandchild to think about as well.”
“I don’t know what to say. I am absolutely speechless.”
“That’s something we do not normally see,” her Dad joked and went to find Nate. By the time he had returned with his son-in-law, he had told Nate about the money and insisted that they take it.
“You could both have been killed. I need to ease my conscience.”
Callie handed Nate the money order and he shook hands with her Dad and her Mom.
Laura arrived from work and came in to see her nephew and told the others to go and eat in the ranch house.
“This child is amazing,” Laura said and walked around the room cradling the little boy. “I am glad you are well and if you can write from your bed, I can publish the next newspaper in a week.”
“Thank you, Laura. Maryjane will help you and young Fred is quite keen as well. He has taken to working the printer as if he had been doing it for years.”
Maeve came in with eggs for Callie and took her daughter away to eat with the others.
“Everyone else is getting steak,” Callie moaned but smiled as she took the tray. Little Monty slept in his crib and she did justice to the eggs and bread. Then she lay down and went to sleep. The baby slept as well and when she woke, Nate was sitting in the armchair with a coffee.
“Feel better for the sleep?” he asked.
“I needed it. So much has happened,” she said. “The wedding, the baby and now Mom and Dad. The money was a shock to the system.”
“I will bank it tomorrow.”
“I need the bathroom,” Callie said and he helped her to stand up.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “It was a long hard night for you.” She reached up and kissed his cheek.
“I am tired but otherwise fine and,” she patted her tummy. “I have my figure back thank goodness.”
She found him holding the baby when she came back. He handed Monty over and watched as his son took another feed and moved his little hands.
How tired are you because Montagu asked if he can come over and talk to us. Just you and me.”
“Is he okay. I do worry about him.”
“Says we have made his life liveable again. I guess he feels fine.” Nate laughed. “He did enjoy the rodeo and the shooting.”
“And the wedding. Montagu will not tire me out. Bring him over when he is free. I will brush my hair and put on a clean nightdress and robe.”
Nate went away and Callie sat with the baby in her arms and gazed at his little face.
“Amazing that I love you so much already, little one. When will we start learning to read?” she chuckled at herself and put the baby in his crib as she changed and brushed her hair.
Nate helped Montagu up the steps and settled him in a comfortable chair.
“Are worried about something?” he asked the older man who shook his head.
“I never had a family. It was always a sadness for my wife but we were happy together. I had a brother who is passed away now and he had no family either. I am very much on my own.”
“Except for us,” Callie cried out. “We love being your family.”
“I know that and I am grateful that you came into my life. The ranch is saved as well as my sanity.”
“Oliver did something right. He brought us all together,” Nate added.
“I am putting this to both of you. Tell me it is a sill idea if you do not like it. I will not be insulted.” He paused. “If you could find some money to buy into the ranch, we could be a partnership and when I do eventually pass away, it will be inherited by you and carry on. In the end, little Monty might be the ranch owner and that would make me very happy.” He stopped and took a breath. “I know finding the money might be difficult.”
Nate looked at Callie and she knew what he was thinking.
“How much money did you have in mind?” he asked. The rancher told him what the business was worth and halved it. Nate reached in his pocket and handed over the money order. “Would that be most of it and we could add the rest later?”
Montagu looked from the piece of paper in his hand to the two people in front of him and back again.
“I would accept this as the price of your partnership. I can have a nest egg to enjoy my retirement and know that the ranch will carry on.”
“Really?” Callie asked. “We would be partners and make the place really profitable again?”
Montagu smiled at her and said it would make an old man very happy.
“Dad gave me the money today as he felt guilty about telling me to be a journalist and almost getting us killed. My brother had been to college and that cost a lot of money. He made us the same with this gift.”
“And it came at exactly the right time,” Montagu said. “Who said there is no such thing as fate? Help me up. Nate.” The man struggled to his feet and held out a hand to Nate. “We have a deal?”
“We have a deal,” Nate echoed. Montagu came to the bed and held out a hand to Callie. “We have a deal?” She shook his hand and echoed the same sentiment as Nate. Then Nate took the rancher back across to his own house.
The place was settled for the night. Jimmy and Nell slept in the ranch house. The men put away the stock and Tom brought Maryjane home. She had to see the baby before she would go to bed and Tom told them that if they needed help they just had to ask. He went away and eventually, Nate locked the doors and came to the bedroom.
“I can sleep in the other room if you need the space,” he offered.
“Oh no. I need to feel your arms around me.” The baby was settled, and Callie felt her husband slide into bed and curl his body around her. She sighed with contentment. He kissed the back of her head and told her he loved her.
“Love you too, handsome man. We are the luckiest people in the whole world.”
“Happy ever after, Callie. Love you forever more.”