Two years later
“How are you feeling, Maggie. You are very quiet?” Harmony was in the kitchen of their house, that was mostly built but still had some way to go. She sat on a chair at the table beside her sister and covered her hand with her own.
“I think I am starting to have the baby, and I am a little bit scared,” Maggie admitted.
“Would you like to go home? I can come with you. In fact, I can get the buggy and take you there.”
“I think I would like the buggy,” Maggie said. “I have had some pains all day, and they are getting stronger.”
“You should have said.” Harmony jumped up and went to hitch the horse and buggy. She ran to where Stefan was working and told him what she was doing.”
“I’ll run and get William and his mother,” he said, left the hay he was forking, and hurried off to the town center.
“William, Harmony thinks the baby is starting. Go and ask your mom to come and help. She is good at that sort of thing.”
“Oh Lord,” William exclaimed and took his hat and ran up the street. Stefan looked around the office and saw the new deputy would be fine.
“You’re in charge, Jed,” he said and ran off to where his one time deputy had a house with Maggie Benson. I left this job in good hands, he thought and arrived at the house at the same time as Harmony drew up with the buggy. He helped Maggie down and took her inside, asking a lot of questions. William came and said his mother was on her way.
“It hurts now,” Maggie told him. “It was just irritating this morning.”
“Come and lie down,” he said and took her hand.
Harmony and Stefan looked at each other and wondered what they could do to help. William’s Mom, Avril arrived and told them to find the towels and get some water on to boil.
“It might be some time or it might be soon. I will have a look.” There was a shout from the bedroom, and Avril rushed to see what was happening. William was sent out and the three of them waited as the water boiled. William poured them all some coffee, and they sat at the kitchen table.
“Who would have thought that two years ago, you had only met Maggie for the first time,” Harmony said to William.
He smiled at her and nodded. “We all sort of came together at the wedding after Harmony and I made it back home,” Stefan added.
“You were still the sheriff,” Harmony said.
“The part time work helped me ease into the job, though,” William contributed and asked how the ranch was doing.
“Getting there, but it takes time. With the second drive this year, we sold more and we hope, sold enough to keep us going for a year. I like it, though,” Stefan answered, and they looked at the door as Avril came back.
“Not quite there, but she is having serious pains, so we are well underway.” She looked at William. “You can go back to work if you like, and I will send if we think you should be here.”
William shook is head. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Can I help?” Harmony asked.
“Go and talk to her. When the pains come, tell her to pant like a dog. Sounds mad, but it does actually help.” Harmony went with a grin and sat beside her sister on the edge of the bed. She repeated what Avril had said about panting. She laughed at first and then added that animals seemed to know instinctively what to do.
“I’ll give it a try,” Maggie said and reached out her hand to her sister. Harmony grabbed it, and Maggie did try and pant. The pain passed.
“That is not as easy as you might think,” she said.
“How close are the pains now?” Harmony asked.
“Close,” Maggie shouted and grabbed for her sister. She panted like mad, and Avril heard the noise and came into see how things were.
“The pains are close now, Avril,” Harmony said.
“Won’t be that long,” Avril said. “You forget about it as soon as the baby is with you.”
“Oh yeah?” Maggie groaned and panted again. She turned and twisted on the bed and tried very hard not to shout out loud, but it was always getting closer. Avril said that she thought it would not be long, and Harmony gripped her sister’s shoulders as she tried to pant and then let out one enormous shriek.
“Hang in there,” Avril said. “Push hard when the pain comes.”
Maggie shouted, panted, and tried her best to push.
“Push again. This time might do it,” Avril told her.
“I bloomin’ hope so,” Maggie said and ended with a cry as Avril shouted to her to push. Then suddenly, Maggie was still, and there were no more pains.
“Stay still, Mags,” Avril told her. “Pass me those scissors, Harmony, and get that towel ready.”
Avril picked up the red faced sticky bundle and wiped it with the towel. The baby cried, and they all relaxed.
“It’s a girl,” Avril said. “I have a granddaughter. Well done, Mags.” She handed the bundle to Maggie and went to send in her son.
“Love ya, Mags and love my niece as well.” She kissed her sister on the top of her head and passed William coming in as she went out.
“Well done, Avril. I am so glad you were there.”
She looked at Stefan.
“I think Dad is in Boston. I will go and send a telegram.”
“I’ll drive you as you brought the buggy,” Stefan said, and they left Avril to take charge of everything.
“I wonder what they will call her, Uncle Stefan,” she said.
As soon as the buggy pulled up, they were questioned by three or four people. News in Trinity spread like the wind, and they had all seen Avril and William go into the house. Harmony sent a telegram saying that Maggie had a daughter, and they were both well. Then they drove back to the ranch. They had left the place empty, but when they returned, Benny was sitting on the steps with a coffee.
“You got the sack?” Stefan asked his brother, who shook his head.
“Gotta question for you.”
“Mmm,” Stefan murmured.
“I don’t suppose you have enough going at this place to take me on as a cowhand.”
“Well, that was out of the blue,” Harmony said. “You haven’t really got the sack, have you?”
“I would rather work with family and be back in town or sort of in town.” He added that he could find part-time work somewhere else at the same time. The three were all sitting on the porch steps by that time, and Stefan laughed.
“Betty Minton,” he said. “I know this town inside out.”
Benny had the grace to look embarrassed. “She doesn’t want to go and live on the ranch. She works with her mom and wants to keep on doing that.”
“Have you popped the question?” Harmony asked, and he nodded.
“We are both nineteen and could live with her mom to start with. I help them out sometimes anyway with the hardware store. There are heavy things to move, and they are two women running a hardware store.”
“Well, yes, if you can make it part-time, I would appreciate your input. You have been a cowhand for two years now. I can afford three dollars a week, although you probably get more than that at the Marsh ranch.”
“I get five now, but Betty’s mom will pay me the other two dollars to work in the store.”
“That sounds as if it would work. Glad to have you on board, Ben,” Stefan said and shook his brother’s hand. “When should we start?”
“Next week?” Benny replied, and Harmony asked if they had a wedding date.
“Soon,” he said and grinned as he went off to tell Betty the new arrangement.
“I wonder if he will stay with your mom until the wedding. She would love to have him back for a few weeks.”
“Let’s go and see her. This can all wait until later.” Harmony said she felt like a visit to Kathie, so they took the buggy that was still hitched and drove the very short distance into town and then out behind the main street to the smallholding.
“Oh, what a lovely surprise,” Kathie said and hugged Harmony. “You look a little bit tired. Sit and have some cake and coffee.”
“Are you tired?” Stefan asked his wife.
She shook her head and smiled. “I will be alright now that Maggie has given birth and has a daughter.”
“What? What? Why have I just heard?” Kathie exclaimed.
“Because it just happened,” Stefan told her. “She was with Harmony and had been having pains all day but never said anything. Avril came, and we could let her deal with it.”
“Well, what is it?” Kathie almost shouted at them.
“A beautiful little girl,” Harmony answered. “No name as yet.”
“I am an uncle,” Stefan said.
“Auntie Harmony.” The new auntie rolled the feeling of being an auntie around in her head. “I telegraphed Dad.” She thought for a moment.” He is in Boston. Gve him five days, and I think he will be here.”
They told her the other news about Benny and that stopped Kathie in her tracks.
“He is going to be married? When? Why do I not know these things? I know he loves Betty. He has been smitten for a quite awhile.”
“He says soon,” Harmony told her. “Next week he starts working with us and at the hardware store.”
“Maybe he will want to stay here until the wedding,” Stefan suggested, and that brought a smile to his mother’s face.
“Go and tell your dad,” she said, and Stefan went outside.
Lewis came in with Stefan chasing him in a mock fight.
“Boys, boys,” their mother said.
“I saw him with Judy Marshal. Soppy stuff. Soppy stuff,” Stefan teased his brother, and Lewis threw a cushion at him. At that point, Benny came in as well and joined the fight. Kathie brought out a tray of toffee apples.
“Guess what I have,” she said, and the fun fight stopped instantly. “Now, Benny Dawson. I want to hear all this news from your own lips.”
Benny crunched into his toffee apple and told her that he proposed to Betty and she said yes, but she did not want to live on the ranch.
“Can I move back in here next weekend please? I can move in at the store when we are married.”
“I would love to have you back.”
Benny kissed the top of his Mom’s head and thanked her.
“I don’t suppose Lewis is thinking of getting married as well,” Stefan said with a grin at Benny.
“Judy Marshal is a nice girl,” Benny added, and even Harmony started to join in.
“No, I am not getting married,” Lewis rose to the bait. “I am only fifteen. Judy is a real crack shot with a rifle, and she rides like a cowboy.” The rest of them burst out laughing, and Maya came in to see if her mom had heard about Maggie.
“I see you have,” she said and then heard about Benny.
“Oh, I forgot … Judy says she is going to the river bank with Alice and Matt and did you want to join them?” Lewis shot to his feet and ran away to meet his friends before the family started joking with him again. He was followed by a gale of laughter.
“I love this family,” Harmony said. She and Stefan set off for home but called at Maggie’s to see if they needed any help. Avril had gone home for a while, and William was proudly holding the wrapped bundle as he sat beside the bed.
“You okay, Sis?” Harmony asked.
“Thanks, yes. A bit tired, but she is eating and we are both fine.”
Harmony held out her hands for the baby and looked at the little face.
“Name?” she asked.
“Mom’s name,” Maggie answered and a tear welled up in her eye. “Caroline.”
“Good choice,” Harmony said. Then she looked down again and ran her finger over the little cheek. “I am your Auntie Harmony, Caroline.”
Six days later, the baby was doing well, and sure enough, a coach rolled into town with Jeremiah Benson. They drove to the new ranch to see Harmony and Stefan first, and when she ran out to meet them, she stopped still and gazed at the group in front of her.
“Dad,” she called and ran to her father to put her arms around his neck. Grandad. You are a grandad.” Then she looked at the others, and one tall young man grinned at her. She flew over and put her arms around his neck as well. “Bruno Hartley, you are one handsome man.”
Then there was Jerry and another older man with grey hair and a face that she knew. She greeted Jerry and went across to the other visitor.
“Mr Cooke, how are you?” She gave the man a hug and turned to Stefan. “This is Oscar’s dad.” Stefan went and held out a hand.
“Life cannot have been easy for you lately, Sir,” he said.
“Thank you for making me welcome,” Oliver Cooke said. “I can go away if you would rather.”
“Indeed, you will not. Come inside everyone and bring us up to date. Then we will go and see your granddaughter, Dad.”
Her dad started by saying that he and Oliver had been running the two ships side by side, and the business was doing well. “Jerry has captained the Marla Belle, and Bruno has been my arms, legs, ears, and eyes.”
“I wanted to apologise to you for my son,” Oliver told Harmony. “I have seen him in prison, and he is a much-changed man.“
“He was lucky just to go to jail,” Stefan added, and Oliver nodded.
“Apparently there were witnesses that saw Rafe shoot the guard. Oscar escaped the gallows. He still has time to serve and will work for me when he comes out. This time I will be very determined to keep him under control.”
“Apology accepted,” Harmony told him.
“What can we do to help?” Stefan asked.
Jeremiah took up the explanation. “I am going to retire.”
“And move nearer to us?” Harmony asked.
Her dad nodded. “Jerry will run The Magdalena, and Oliver will oversee both ships. He has been a great help to me, and we have a business arrangement. Jerry will become part of that and have a share of the profits. But,” he paused, “Bruno does not want to stay at sea.”
“I would like to be on land and will look for work on a ranch.”
“Can you ride and shoot?” Stefan asked.
“Love doing both,” Bruno answered.
Stefan looked at Harmony, and she smiled.
“I think we know where there might be a vacancy.”
“Stay here until Dad sees his granddaughter, and we will go and see Kathie and family.” She bustled off to the kitchen and made them all something to eat. Fortunately there was soup on the stove, and she put out hot soup, fresh bread, and cake to follow. The men opted for beer apart from Mr. Cooke, who asked for coffee. “Take it easy with your drinks, and I’ll take Dad to Maggie.” She took the small buggy and Stefan saw to the horses that had brought them to Trinity.
“Come in. Come in,” William greeted them and then saw who was with Harmony.
He held out a hand.
“Your daughter is wonderful, Sir, and you will just be entranced with the little one.” He ushered them inside and Harmony went to the bedroom.
“Are you ready for visitors?” she asked her sister and leaned over to look at the baby in the crib.
“Six days and I am bored out of my mind.”
“I can change that,” Harmony said. She pulled open the door, and her dad came inside. Maggie yelled out loud and then remembered the baby was asleep. She stood up and came to have a great big cuddle from her father.
“This, Dad,” she said and picked up the child. She handed the baby to him. “This is Caroline.” They had not told him what the little girl was called, and he stopped with the bundle in his arms. Tears came into his eyes, and William pushed a chair under his legs.
“You need a seat,” he said, and Jeremiah sat down, held his granddaughter, and let the tears wet his cheeks.
“Oh my Lord,” he whispered. “She is the model of your mother. Thank you Maggie and you William.” Caroline opened her eyes and melted his heart even further.
“Stay and enjoy her,” Harmony said. “I will take the others to Kathie and Jimmy.” She went back to the buggy and trotted the horse back home.
“Well?” Stefan asked.
“He is crying tears of joy and says she is the model of my mom.” She looked around. “Ready to go and sort out some things?”
The bigger buggy took them into town and to the homestead.
“Can you take an influx of visitors, and where is Benny?” Harmony asked. Benny came out to see what the fuss was about.
They were invited inside and found seats. The whole story was repeated, and Bruno shook hands with Benny.
“If there is a possibility of finding work there, I would be very grateful. I am better on dry land than on board.”
“As it happens, next week I am leaving the ranch, and I’m sure the Marsh ranch will take you on. You can come up with me on Monday morning and meet them all. It is a well run ranch to work for.”
“That would be wonderful, Jerry told them. “Mr Benson has been worrying that if he retired, how would Bruno manage.”
“Jerry and I are going back to run the two ships. We have good crews and lots of business.”
“What about your son?” Kathie asked this man that she had just met.
He smiled at her. “He is seeing the error of his ways at last. He will be inside for some time. Bank robbery is a serious crime, but he can come home when he does finish his time inside.We can book into the hotel,” Oliver Cooke said, “and when Jeremiah has made all the arrangements he wants, we can go back and start the next part of the trading business.”
“I can find beds for you, Dad and Jerry. Can you look after Bruno until he visits the ranch on Monday?”
“I can indeed,” Kathie answered. Lewis came in and was introduced. “This is my youngest son, who is just starting work.”
“He is a crack shot.” Harmony smiled.
“Really? Can you demonstrate, and I can see if I can match you?” Bruno said to the younger lad.
“Sure thing,” Lewis exclaimed. “Come on.”
“Harmony saved my life you know,” Bruno was saying as the door banged shut.
“We will escape and catch up later,” Stefan said and took away Oliver and Jerry to the buggy. Harmony was following when Kathie caught her hand.
“Sunday dinner here for everyone tomorrow,” Kathie told Harmony and kissed her on the cheek. “Get some rest.”
They collected Jeremiah and were introduced to William. The visitors all knew Maggie and were pleased she was well. Then it was back to the ranch and sorting out sleeping arrangements.
When finally, everyone was in bed, Stefan took Harmony by the hand.
“You do look tired. Mom was right. Come on off to bed.” She went with him to the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. “It has taken it out of you seeing Maggie give birth.”
She shook her head. “I think your mom has guessed why I am tired.” She held his hand.
“Are you unwell?” he asked anxiously, and she smiled.
“I think the next baby in the family will be ours,” she said simply and put his hand on her tummy. There was a moment of stunned silence, then that wonderful smile spread across his face, and he wrapped her in his arms.
“I love you so much, Harmony. That is the very jewel in the crown.”
“Happy ever after, Stefan. I love you too. We are just the luckiest people in the world.”