Five years later
Georgia and Sadie were sitting out on the veranda for what had become a mid-morning tradition. They very rarely missed it. Deacon was in school. The twins were seventeen and almost grown-up.
“I am still taking in what beautiful work Butler does.”
“It was a lucky chance that brought him the job and he found his road ahead.”
“The silverwork he does is amazing. I have never seen such delicate work,” Sadie smiled. “I notice that Gina has a very pretty bracelet.”
“His silverwork is almost like your lace-making,” Georgia pondered as her little two-year-old niece came over and asked to be picked up. Her older sister was playing with some toys. Both girls were the very image of their mother. Mac loved that he had three beautiful women.
“Mom,” she shouted and pointed at the gate. Sadie stood up and went over to ask what the visitor wanted. Georgia carried over the toddler. It might be someone wanting a room.
“I am looking for the sheriff,” the man told them. “Someone said that he lives here. He is not at his office.”
“I’m his wife. Can I help you? Mac will probably be back in his office soon.”
“At the livery, they told me that you might be looking for a hand around the place. Even if it is only a few hours a week, it would help me.”
“Come on in,” Sadie said. “I’ll see if I can find Cooper or Joe.” Georgia offered the man a coffee. He asked if he could pay for a meal.
“Come over to the house and I am sure I can rustle up something.” She took the toddler with her and Dorabelle went with her mom to find Cooper. He was in the stables—of course.
“Did Mac say anything about looking for an extra hand?” she asked. Cooper put down the hoof he was holding and nodded.
“Sure did. When we have to drive this lot to the rail depot, we will need more help as well.”
“A man just turned up saying they sent him from the livery. He’s looking for work.”
“Shall I talk to him? I never hired anyone before.”
“See what you think. You can show him around and ask where he worked before. Ask him about horses. Then you are on familiar ground.”
“Okay,” Cooper agreed and closed the stall door on the horse with the hoof repair.
They walked over together and found Georgia ladling out stew to the visitor.
“Man hasn’t eaten well for a few days, so I am making up for it,” Georgia told them.” I am guessing you could eat as well, Cooper.” Her son grinned and sat across the table. He held out a hand.
“Hi. I’m Cooper Mansfield. The cook is my mom.” The cook banged a plate in front of him and pretended to clip him across the ear. The visitor smiled and said that he was Clinton Bear.
“I know it’s a funny name,” he added as Cooper grinned. “The horse and my labor are all I have to offer but I am good with stock and I’ve worked with horses all over the place.”
“What sorta horse?” Cooper asked as he ate.
“Good working gelding. He is black with a white flash on the face. Can turn on a dime.”
“Why did you end up in Quest?” Sadie asked as the newcomer ate some cake and took a cup of coffee.
“Ma’am, that was good. Thanks.”
He looked at Sadie.
“The sheriff will ask me the same. My parents had a ranch and it burned down. When they both passed away, I had nothing to hold me there but I never found anywhere that I really liked enough to stay.”
“Cooper do you want to go and see if you can find Mac?” Georgia asked.
“Clinton can come with me.” He stood up and the visitor followed suit.
“How much do I owe you?” he asked Georgia. She waved her hand.
“I feed visitors. It’s what I do.” He smiled and said he would remember that he owed her and followed Cooper out the door.
“More to that story than meets the eye but I liked him,” Sadie stated.
“You are turning into Mac,” Georgia replied and cleared away the dishes.
Sadie was weaving when Mac, Cooper, and Clinton returned. Clinton was leading his horse and Cooper was eyeing it. The animal was beautiful and moved as if it was almost floating above the ground.
Mac stuck his head in the workshop.
“I’m gonna show this guy around. We do need the help.”
Cooper and Mac went for horses and saddled up. Sadie went across to talk to the new man.
“That Cooper is a horse fanatic. I recognize one when I see one. I guess I am the same.”
The two men brought out horses and immediately Clinton had no eyes for anything but the chestnut that Cooper was leading. He had achieved his dream of owning a magnificent horse. It was still a stallion and took some handling. He was still training it and had another horse when he needed to work the cattle safely. The newcomer ran his hands over the chestnut and it stood still. That told both Mac and Cooper something about the man.
“Wanna swap rides for a try out?” Cooper asked.
Clinton smiled and handed over the reins.
“Ride ahead of me you two. I’ll catch you up,” Mac said and watched as they trotted away.
“I think he might be what we are looking for,” Mac said to Sadie. “What do you think?”
“He needs to stay in one place. I know how that feels,” she answered. Mac kissed her on the cheek.
“That’s what I felt exactly.” He vaulted onto the horse and rode after the others. She went over to talk to Georgia.
“It still feels a bit strange that we are running a ranch as well as a farm and he is still the sheriff.”
“The thing is that Joe always knew there was too much land to farm. Cooper always wanted to be a rancher and Mac grew up with it. It made sense to divide it up.”
“Mac will retire from being sheriff one day,” Sadie added. “The town won’t want him to but Martin will step in and be just as good.”
“He has a few years left yet,” Georgia smiled.
“And three women to support.”
“Your textile business is doing well though. The new machine to make lace more quickly is making money,” Georgia replied. “The guest house still does okay as well.”
Sadie went back to her work and Dorabelle went to play with the toys that were still in the corner of the workshop. The workshop was still in the old living room but the new living room was even bigger. There was an extra bedroom as well that the girls shared.
There was a lot of ranch to see and Sadie had made quite a bit of progress when the men arrived back from the range. At the same time, Deacon came in from school. He did what he had always done since the day he started and came to Sadie to put his arms around her. She kissed the top of his head. Suddenly the place was full.
“Well, what did you think, Clinton?” she asked.
“Love it. It’s just like where I grew up.”
“We sure need the help,” Mac told him and mentioned that the wage would not be a lot. “But you get a room and food at my sister’s.”
“That sounds like a real good deal to me.” The man offered a hand and both Mac and Cooper shook on it. He looked at Deacon.
“This is Deacon,” Sadie did the introductions. “Deacon this is Clinton who has just agreed to work here.” Deacon shook hands.
“Is that your horse?”
“Another horse expert? I am happy to work here,” Clinton said. “Do you ride?”
“I have a Palomino Called Glory but,” he looked at Mac, “she is getting older now.”
“I used to try that. I can start immediately if you would want me to.” The new hand looked at Mac as well.
“Let’s make sure Georgia has a room for you. We can sort out what needs to be done around the ranch whilst I am being sheriff.”
The three men went out and Deacon sniffed the air to see what might be for dinner. Sadie reflected that Cooper did seem like a full-grown man now and had been holding the fort for Mac every day. It would be good for him to have help.
“Okay. Chicken pie it is.” Sadie went to the kitchen and set out the table as Mac brought his younger daughter back over from the house.
He passed Butler coming back from work and waved.
“The work he is doing for that silversmith man is amazing. The whole town is talking about it,” Mac observed as he sat the toddler on a cushion on the chair.
“He will work for himself in the end. That was what he always wanted.”
“The railroad has certainly woken up the place,” Mac added. “There is more work now for a hardworking sheriff. It makes it easy for the crooks to travel around.”
“There is more business and folk are better off with more people and more trade,” Sadie argued. “The material sells really well. Georgia says that Butler’s silver work is like my lace.”
“Well, his boss was telling me that he is sending it to the big cities where they pay really well for it.” He fished in his pocket. “Forgot that I had a letter for you.”
She smiled as she took it.
“Remember when I was terrified of a letter?” She looked at the writing. “Madame Francois.”
After she looked at what her previous employer had sent, she looked up.
“She is coming here. Good Lord, I will have to tidy the place up.”
Mac put a hand on her arm.
“She will love that you are happy here. Read it to me.”
Sadie read out loud that thanks to herself, the friendship with Jenny Dunn had gone from strength to strength and because Jenny had been to visit the Francois family, she was coming to visit in return.
“So, she is staying with Jenny,” Mac pointed out. “No need to panic.”
“Two women that love fashion getting together. She will come wearing the very latest. Cindy will have to keep an eye out for what is new in the city.” She looked again. “She is coming next week.”
Sadie managed to make quite a lot of material so that she could take some time off when Madame Francois came. Jenny Dunn was in touch to invite Mac, Georgia, Joe, and Sadie to dine with them.
“Cindy is invited as well,” Sadie told Mac. “Thank heaven Cindy has made dresses for me and Georgia. We will look very smart.”
“You always look wonderful. You could wear a burlap sack and still look like a princess.” Mac kissed her and said that he was going to talk to the new man about the job.
After about an hour, he brought Clinton back with him. She offered them some fruit pie and both men accepted. Deacon looked hopeful as well and she gave him a piece. He sat as if he was one of the men. The two little girls were playing on the veranda and the two hairy monster dogs were lying down, watching.
“Showing their age, those two dogs,” Mac observed.
“It is good to see happy dogs being well looked after. I lost my dog when the house burned down. There were no people there.”
“Oh, I am so sorry,” Sadie was genuinely horrified.
“Was it an accident?” Mac asked. The new man shook his head.
“It went down as an accident and we just accepted it. My mom was not well and they had no desire to do anything about it.”
“So, you left after your folks died?” Sadie asked and told him that she had done the same. “I moved around for five years before I came here with some lace that someone ordered and Mac thought I should stop running.” She smiled at her husband. “He is always right.”
Clinton said that he was glad they had taken a chance and given him the job.
“Quest Junction is a safe place to live and the people are friendly. It will work for you as well,” Sadie told him.
“I hope so. I am tired of being on the move.”
There was a knock at the door and Darnley poked his head inside.
“This is my cousin who is also horse mad. Darnley meet the new ranch hand, Clinton.” Darnley joined in the conversation about Quest being a good place and Clinton heard the bones of the story.
“So, it saved me and it saved Darnley,” Sadie said.
“And it saved me,” Deacon piped up. They explained that Darnley hadn’t known he had a son and then Sadie had stepped in.
“And now I am adopted.”
Clinton held out a hand to shake.
“I was adopted too. Us folk should stick together.”
“How did you get adopted?” Deacon wanted to know.
“I was in a home for little boys who had no mom and dad and then the people came along who adopted me and they became my real mom and dad.”
“As I say,” Sadie added. “Stay at Quest Junction. It is a good place to put down roots.”
“Would you like to see my Palomino?” Deacon asked and Darnley added that if the horse with the white blaze was Clinton’s, he would like to see that as well. The three of them went outside and Mac held out his arms for Sadie.
Sadie was wiping a tear from her eye and the door burst open. Deacon flung his arms around her.
“You are my real mom,” he said and ran away again. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and managed both.
“You okay, Mom?” Dorabelle asked.
“Yes, thank you, sweetie pie. As long as your dad, you, Chrystabelle, and Deacon are all here, I am absolutely fine.”
It seemed like a good omen and Clinton settled into the routine. Cooper and he got on well.
The next week, all mundane things were forgotten as Madame Francois arrived. She went to Jenny Dunn’s first and dropped off all of her many pieces of luggage and the two women came over to see Sadie and Georgia.
Sadie was scared. She had been a servant for Madame even though the woman had been very kind. It was not a problem because Eloise Francois ran across the yard with open arms and clutched Sadie to her in excitement. Jenny followed and Madame met Mac, Joe, the twins as they appeared, Deacon, and the girls. She swept little Chrystabelle into her arms and did a little dance around. Then she put the toddler down and clutched Sadie by the hands.
“I am so pleased that everything ended up well for you. I had worried about you for so long.”
“If Robinia had not remembered my lace, I would never have come here at all. It was fate,” Sadie said and ushered everyone inside. There had been no mention of the young woman hovering in the background and Sadie assumed it was a girl Madame had brought along to help her.
Sitting down, Madame looked at Sadie.
“I have a huge favor to ask of you.”
“Anything I can do, I will.”
“This is Chantal who is my niece and she speaks some English but she is still learning.” Sadie nodded and waited. “She would love to learn to make lace and is skilled at embroidery. If I pay for her room and food, will you teach her please?”
Sadie looked at Mac and saw the slight nod.
“Of course, we will.” She held out her hands to the girl. “Welcome to Quest Junction. Have you brought your embroidery with you?” Chantal nodded and said thank you.
“It is a pleasure. I need an extra pair of hands and you can learn to weave as well as make lace. We have a lovely seamstress who uses the material and the embroidery can be incorporated as well.” She turned to Madame. “It will be lovely to have someone to learn to make lace.”
“I told you,” Jenny Dunn joined in. “This place is expanding. Tonight, we can all chatter about everything.” The women took their leave with much hugging and kissing on both cheeks that Madame had never forgotten since she left France.
“We can make arrangements tonight,” Sadie told Chantal and the girl gave her a radiant smile.
Mac, Georgia, and Sadie looked at each other.
“Are we saving everyone in the world here?” Georgia asked.
“Looks like it and why not?” Mac responded.
“And we get really dressed up tonight. I have to wear the dress with all of the lace,” Sadie said. “And I have an assistant. That sounds really grand.”
“Can you get your head through that doorway?” Mac asked her with a grin.
They went off to the dinner party dressed in their best as Cooper and Butler said they would stay with the children. The evening was a huge success and Chantal was to have her bags brought over the next morning.
Georgia declared in the morning that as she had two permanent lodgers now, she only had one spare room left for anyone else who came by.
“It’s like I have a big family and I like that,” she said. Madame had arranged the payment with her for Chantal’s room and food.
Chantal came over with Madame and Jenny Dunn. Georgia showed them the room and the new girl left her luggage there. In the workshop, Sadie showed them the weaving and the new lace making contraption and said that she still made lace by hand and her original bobbins were still in use.
The two older ladies said their goodbyes and Sadie took Chantal around to see the ranch where she was going to be living. They went back to the workshop and she explained what she was doing.
“Have a coffee first before we make a start,” Sadie offered and as she went for the coffee, she heard the door open. Mac, Clinton, and Cooper all appeared together.
“You lot knew there was cake,” she said and stopped in the doorway.
Clinton Bear had been stopped in his tracks by the sight of a twenty-year-old French girl. She appeared to have been struck by the same affliction as they gazed at each other. Cooper broke the spell by thumping Clinton on the back and making everyone laugh.
“Clinton, Chantal. Chantal, Clinton,” Sadie said. “Have cake and coffee and then I have to get some work done. Mac went and poured more coffee. Cooper found plates and they all sat.
“Glad I am not the new boy any longer,” Clinton had recovered himself.
“Okay, back to work you two. I have to go and be sheriff.” The two cowboys left together and Mac helped carry the plates out to the kitchen.
“I think we just saw love at first sight there, Mac,” Sadie whispered.
“Good old Quest Junction,” Mac added.
“I think it’s the sheriff that made Quest Junction what it is. It is all down to you.”
He kissed her cheek, grabbed his Stetson, and waved to Chantal as he strode away to be the legend that was Sheriff Mackenzie Lewis.
Sadie watched him go.
“Happy ever after,” she thought with a smile and went to show her new assistant how to start with the lace.