Six Months Later
“I can hear you breathing. I don’t mind if you watch while I paint but you must announce yourself, silly,” Violet said to her husband James.
“Are you sure there’s enough air circulating through here? The windows up high don’t open, and I’m worried about fumes.” James said. “I don’t want them harming you or our child.”
“James there are so many windows that I feel like I’m outside and I smell nothing but fresh air.” She put his hands on her belly. “Our son or daughter is going to be fine. It’s loved more than most babies and hasn’t even been born yet.
“I still can’t fathom a tiny version of you added to my life. I’m going to spend all my time staring at the two of you and wonder what the heck I did to deserve you. I know she’s going to have your eyes that look like the ocean at sunrise,” he said.
“I appreciate the words; you’ve become poetic since we found out I was pregnant. The only wrong with your statement is that you’ve never seen the ocean,” Violet joked, and they both laughed hard.
“I don’t know you became the pragmatic one in this relationship.” He bent down and kissed his wife.
“One of us has to remain with our feet on the ground and it’s clearly not going to be you. I heard you humming a lullaby in your study yesterday.” Violet tittered. “Seriously though it made me love you more and I didn’t know that was possible.”
Violet had a years-long waiting list of people wanting to sit for portraits. She stopped taking high society clients exclusively and charged less for everyday folks who wanted their portrait done. They were often more fun and told the most interesting stories while they were in her studio. James wanted her to stop painting during her child birthing and rearing days. So far, she refused.
“You must be exhausted after Colonel Hewitt’s portrait. Why don’t you finish with your current work and take a break until after the baby is born,” James suggested, and it wasn’t the first time he had.
“It was time-consuming, but he told great war stories. On Mrs. Hewitt’s suggestion, I offered him a drink of bourbon. With a drink, he relaxed and after that, it was nothing but entertaining,” Violet explained.
“You do remember that we’re outrageously wealthy, do you not?” James reminded her. “We don’t need the money you acquire through your painting.”
“I know that sweetheart and I appreciate you looking out for me, but I love to paint. I need art in my life as I need air to breathe,” Violet said sweetly. “Don’t think I don’t notice the extra attention you’ve been paying me. I love and please don’t stop.”
“I couldn’t if I tried. You and the baby are all that matters, and I love you forever. The trappings of wealth are nice, but you showed me that there is more to life,” James stated.
“This baby is going to grow up with a strong set of values. He’ll know wrong from right and always give to those in need because he’ll follow in his father’s footsteps.”
“A father who learned to be that way by following in her mother’s footsteps,” Violet remarked. “Have Dalton and Tilda prepared the sunroom for lunch with the ladies?”
“Yes they have, and Irma is busy cooking some of Mrs. Edmonds’s favorites. She’s trying to make up for the fact that she left her employ and came to the ranch to cook for us,” James pointed out.
Violet giggled. “It was all because Max insisted his favorite cook be here at the ranch. He was going to keep scratching at Mrs. Edmonds’s front door until he got his way. It didn’t hurt that you offered to double her wage.”
“He’s a persistent hound. With Irma here he won’t be so jealous of the baby,” James remarked. “Are you sure Mrs. Edmonds doesn’t know about the baby yet?”
“No, she’s been so busy attending parties with Lenore and I haven’t had a moment alone with her. This will be special because both of us will be there. Does Dalton still keep smelling salts handy because she might need them? She and Sam never had a chance to have children, so this is going to be extra special for her.”
Violet stood to see her painting from a different angle and arched her back. James ran behind her and asked if the baby was alright. It was early in the pregnancy and already he was over-protective.
“I was tickled when you asked me to lunch,” Mrs. Edmonds said. “Lenore and I have been attending so many social events and they become tedious after a while. You know me, I’m there to collect donations for the Jane Oroville House but they don’t always know that.”
“Do you recognize the chipped beef that Irma made?” Violet asked. She was waiting until dessert was served to reveal the secret.
“I do. It was a favorite of Sam’s. If she comes up with rice pudding for dessert, I’ll cry,” she predicted.
James smiled because she wouldn’t only be crying over the pudding. He loved a surprise and this one was going to be beyond anything Mrs. Edmonds or Lenore could have dreamed.
“We finally had rain and I was worried about the roof in the guesthouse. The roof hadn’t been tested since I moved in and it was dry as a bone,” Lenore pointed out.
Max barked when he heard the word bone, and everyone laughed.
Lenore had plans to eventually move back to Tombstone, but Mrs. Edmonds had convinced her to stay in Josiah’s Gambit permanently. They had got on wonderfully and both were unmarried with a great deal of life ahead of them. Companionship was something they both needed. Neither minded being gossiped about, which happened often. Delilah Edmonds was the Merry Widow and Lenore was the mother of a fraud.
“How many times do I have to tell you, Lenore, it’s no longer called the guest house, it’s your house,” Mrs. Edmonds said. “Goodness knows you’ve earned it with all the tireless work you do on behalf of the Jane Oroville Home.”
“The two of you are a great team,” Violet remarked. “You fill needs in each other’s lives, which is something that no one else could manage.”
“I hope so,” Lenore said as she blushed. “I feel part of a family and that means so much to me. Visiting Thomas in jail every week would be unbearable if I didn’t have your support. His lack of remorse and poor behavior behind bars means they’ll keep coming up with reasons to keep him locked up.”
Violet saw the conversation taking an unfortunate turn but luckily, Tilda came out with a tray of rice puddings. When they had been served and Mrs. Edmonds was finished making a big deal out of them, Violet stood. She grasped James’s hand and pulled him up too. They lured the attention of the ladies away from dessert.
“We think of you as our parents in a way. You are the first ones we turn to when we need counsel and also the first people we share the good news with. This is one of those good news times. I’m having a baby,” Violet blasted. “I’m only a few months along, so you have plenty of time to dispense sage advice.
Mrs. Edmonds smiled so widely that Violet feared her face would crack, then she stood and started to swoon.
“Dalton, get the salts. Mrs. Edmonds is going down,” James shouted.
It took a moment for her to recover and then hugs were exchanged by everyone. Irma came from the kitchen and Tilda called out to the stable. Joe with his boy Joey joined in the celebration and no one could recall a happier day at the Oroville Ranch. Cheers were coming from the bunkhouse and just about every other corner of the ranch where people were gathered. It seemed good news traveled as fast as the tragedy.
“You are going to make an amazing mother. You’ll be everything your mother wasn’t and teach him about the world around him. He’ll be involved in the ranch but the arts too. What a lucky boy he is going to be,” Miss Lenore said.
“I have to inform you upfront that I intend to spoil the child.” Mrs. Edmonds announced. “I will have no regard for rules you set for me. He will need a grandmother and we are known to lavish the child with gifts. I’ve been waiting for this moment and if Sam had lived, he and I would have had a flock of children. Now I’ll have little ones through the two of you.”
“We can save you the trouble of selecting a governess and a nanny. Between Delilah and me we will have everything covered,” Miss Lenore added. “I’ll have you know that I was an excellent student and even considered teacher’s college. Unfortunately, life sent me in a different direction.”
“We had a difficult couple of years but look at us now,” Violet chirped. “I for one have never been happier.”
“Me too,” James said as he laid his hands on her stomach.
“Make it three,” Mrs. Edmonds said.
“Four. Despite everything I’ve been through, I’ve never been happier.”
The four of them ate rice pudding and talked about how precious Baby Oroville would be. The family had a chance to redefine their name and restore their reputation. They wouldn’t be known as the wealthiest family in the West but the happiest, although they were still the richest too.
“I do have one problem and I thought it only existed between my lovely wife and me. You all refer to my future child as a boy and you’re wrong. I’ll have a boy at some point but right now, Violet is pregnant with a girl,” James stated firmly.
Mrs. Edmonds pushed her new spectacles up the bridge of her nose and glanced at James. “I’ve only heard the news less than one hour ago and already I can feel his presence. You’ll have to wait for your little girl to come along.
They argued about their predictions until Violet slapped the table. “I’ve heard enough. The two of you are so much alike and don’t like to end a disagreement until you’ve won.” She laughed. “We will not have an answer for months and you will just have to agree to disagree on this one.”
“Girl or boy doesn’t matter, as long as it’s healthy,” Lenore ended the conversation on a positive note. She had become the designated peacekeeper in their little family.
Lenore and Mrs. Edmonds left because they insisted Violet take a nap after an exciting visit.
Violet picked up the letters that arrived for her that day. Each day she received more requests for her to paint a portrait. Some were from nearby and she received one from London. She wasn’t planning to travel to paint anyone, but it was very flattering to have been asked.
“Are you going to nap as the ladies recommended?” James asked.
Violet realized she had better get used to James’s overprotective behavior because it wasn’t going to let up until after the child was born. It was sweet really and she felt protected. A feeling she was hesitant to accept before but coming from James, Violet knew it was genuine. It wasn’t that he thought she couldn’t handle things on her own, he knew she could. He cared so much because they were partners. Whatever good or bad came their way, they’d handle it together.
“I’m going to sit in bed or maybe the chaise in my studio and read my mail. Then I’ll snooze until dinner. Please tell Irma not to go to much fuss because we had such a heavy lunch.”
“Remember, love. Your eating for two,” James said as he drew closer and kissed her.
The first letter was a thank you note from her good friend Lisa Hewitt. She was her first client after James and had agreed to hire her while she was still given the cold shoulder from the society ladies. Since then, By her own admission, Mrs. Hewitt had blossomed into he own woman. The Colonel didn’t flinch when she ordered him to sit for Violet.
Finally, she came to a light-pink envelope with a return address from Mrs. David Briar in Louden Texas. Violet opened the envelope and gasped. The shaky cursive was familiar, but she couldn’t think of where she had seen it.
“Dear Sweet Violet,
It is your mother having found you after all these years. I read the society column in the Dallas paper that my employer left on the table. It said you married David Oroville! You are now one of the wealthiest women in the West. I was astounded when I read the words and walked off the job immediately.
At last, we can reunite and be the mother and daughter we were always meant to be. I have six step-children and leaving them will be tough, but I must. A young wife needs her mother and I’m sure you can spare a permanent bedroom for me…”
James walked in and saw his wife weeping. She explained the letter from Betty and told him that just hearing from her made her feel ill. She explained that in the letter that her mother didn’t say sorry and that she was only interested in money.
“I’ll take care of Betty and you’ll never have to worry about her again. There’s no room in the nest for her. Think of me as the father eagle and I’m only concerned with you and our precious little one,” James said.
Violet dried her eyes because she had no idea what her plight had to do with eagles in a nest. “James, what are you talking about?”
“My mother left me with pearls of wisdom that I am always finding handy when I need them. I’ll write a letter to Betty, and we’ll be done with it. I don’t have an emotional connection to the woman and therefore, it’ll be easy for me. This is not something you have to deal with. If she has six step-children, allow them to handle her,” James said with certainty.
“Can we just burn the letter after you respond and never speak of it again?” Violet asked.
“Absolutely. Whatever you wish. Take a rest and then Irma will serve us dinner on the porch.
Two months later, Violet’s belly was swollen, and she wasn’t getting around as quickly as she was used to. She was down to her last portrait sitting of her pregnancy. It was one she couldn’t refuse to do. Josiah Meeks was having a portrait hang in the courthouse in commemoration of thirty years as mayor. He was an icon and very well aware that his abilities to properly run the town were coming to a natural conclusion. It was possible for him to serve until his death, but he wanted to go out another way and that was holding the hand of his wife in side-by-side rocking chairs.
“Are you sitting in on our final sitting, James?” Josiah asked.
Violet answered for him. “Don’t mind him, Josiah. James is on baby watch, and he hasn’t left my side for a week.”
Josiah chuckled. “I can hardly blame him. With your talent and demeanor, your child will no doubt be exceptional.”
“We look forward to giving our child every opportunity and making sure he or she doesn’t stray too far off the path,” James said.
“Not exactly. We are going to teach him to appreciate what he has and always remember to use his advantages to help others,” Violet added. “My dear husband has come a long way, but I’ve never expected miracles.”
James laughed as he took the comment good-naturedly as it was intended. “I think we can both agree on one thing, he will never lack the love of his mother and father.”
James would occasionally slip back into his old ways but never long enough to cause damage. Violate was always there to nudge him in the right direction. They came to accept their differences and even appreciate them.
When Violet was finished, James walked Josiah to the door. He thought the forty or so steps too strenuous for his wife.
Josiah looked around before he left. “I always thought this place was meant to have a lot of children running around. You and Violet will make wonderful parents. Who knows, maybe your son or daughter will be mayor someday.”
“He’d better hurry or his father will beat him to it,” James said what he was thinking out loud.
Josiah looked surprised. “The town would be lucky to have you.”
“It’s just a thought. I suppose I should discuss it with Violet first,” James remarked.
“That would be a very good idea,”
James and Violet ended the day as they often did; sitting side by side on the porch swing. Violet pulled James’s hand to her belly.
“Did you feel him kick?” she asked.
“I did, He’s going to be an ornery little fellow. What do you suppose we should name him?”
“You finally agree it will be a boy,” Violet said. “His name should be Bosworth James Oroville.”
“That’s a mouthful for a little guy, although it sounds distinguished and you know how I like distinguished,” James teased.
“It doesn’t matter what we call him, he’ll be lucky to have you as his father,” Violet commented.
“He’ll be even luckier to have you as a mother,” James said as he leaned in for a kiss.
The next months went smoothly for Violet and Bosworth came into the world without incident. After him, they had a girl and then another boy until the ranch house didn’t seem so big anymore. The Oroville family had shed their old reputation and became known for their generosity.