Two years later
“Ye gods, Felicity. Have we turned into a nursery business?” Charlotte exclaimed.
“Nothing could be better,” her aunt replied as they sat in the huge family room that they had included in the new house built in the corral. The barber shop and doctor’s surgery had extended into the living room and eventually the kitchen as well. The new and large house was not a white fairy castle like the Leroy’s or a mansion like her parents, but Charlotte liked space and the rooms were big.
“Thank goodness we have a brilliant doctor on hand if we need him,” Charlotte observed. “When you took his advice, you did not expect twins.”
“I know they are hard work, but you know what? The change in John is the most amazing part of it all.”
“The man is happy,” Charlotte agreed, “and he has a reason to throw himself into being successful as he has children to take into the business.”
The children in question were playing with a huge pile of toys, building bricks, and pull-along wagons. Lily was a little girl dressed in the prettiest of dresses even though she was playing happily on the floor. Johnny was loading bricks into one of the wagons and they kept falling out.
“Can I go outside, Momma?” Libby asked. Charlotte’s little girl was almost a year older than the twins and a sturdy little toddler with the black hair and blue eyes of her mom.
“Be careful,” Charlotte said. Libby loved to be in the sandpit that they had for the children, and she had little plant pots that she constantly filled and emptied. She loved being in the garden with her dad and Thomas was doing a beautiful job of the garden around and behind the new house.
“When does Libby get here with her two?” Felicity asked. Charlotte laughed.
“She and her husband and the two monsters as she still calls them will arrive tomorrow and I think that Caroline and her little boy are coming on the same train.”
“How many children will we have when they are all here?” Felicity asked. “And what do I need to do to help you?”
“Well, Caroline has one, Libby has two, you have two and I have two as well now. That makes seven altogether.” It will be lively.” She picked the baby out of the crib and started to feed her. “This one is quieter than Libby was.”
“This house is just right for children and people to stay in. We are changing the downstairs of our house because we do not need a big parlor. We need a big family room. I am thirty-six now and maybe I will have another one before I am too old.”
“You are a glutton for punishment,” Charlotte laughed and held little Emmie over her shoulder to pat her on the back.
“The doctor sure has made a difference in our lives,” Felicity remarked. “The change in our household and in John himself is remarkable. I always knew that he cared but he never really talked about it.” She laughed. “Nate’s pills certainly made him happier. I still hate cooking, but John has actually suggested that we have a cook to come in each day.”
“Are you going to do that?”
“Oh yes. I think it is the best idea he has had for some time. He does have excellent insight as far as making money is concerned but leaves the house to me. When I told him that he needed a study so that the work could be done a lot of the time from home, he actually took notice of me.”
“Is the study working?”
“Yes, he loves it because he made it big enough to have meetings with other businesspeople and he asked me if I would write up some of the notes for him.” She smiled. “I know he was thinking that it would help pay for the cook if he did not have to pay a secretary. I do it when the children are in bed, and we sit in the study quite a lot because it is like a sort of place just for the two of us.”
“Those two big squishy armchairs were a genius idea because you can have comfort at the same time as working.”
“The one thing that has made me realize what two fools we were before the doctor arrived on the scene, is that we talk to each other. John knows that as well and it has made such a difference.”
“I like helping him when I can, but this second arrival has cut my time down,” Charlotte added.
“It is funny, but he never talked business with a woman before. It was always man to man, but he sees that you have the family streak in you and accepts it. That has let him tell me about his work as well.”
“I will put the baby back to bed as she has gone to sleep. Thomas and Nate will be over for something to eat. Are you staying as well?”
“Thanks, but I had better do some housework and these two can have a nap.”
The two women collected children. The twins were put into the big perambulator that John had ordered specially to contain two little ones. Charlotte waved her off and went to find Libby. The toddler washed her hands and squealed as she heard her daddy come into the house. Nate followed him in, and Thomas swept his older child into the air. She squealed with delight, and he landed her into a chair with cushions and took a seat beside her.
Charlotte served the meal and Billy arrived right on cue to tuck in with his usual gusto.
“I talked with the medical school in New York,” Nate said conversationally although he knew it would grab Billy’s attention. It actually made him stop eating. “They want me to lecture there when they are working on subjects that interest me.” He paused. “They say that the best way to make you into a doctor is if you spend a year as my assistant after leaving school. Then they will seriously consider you for a full course.” There was a stunned silence around the table and then a lot of noise as everyone spoke at once. “Of course, if you would rather not do that, it will be okay with me as well.” Nate went on eating as if the topic was not of any great interest. Billy pushed back his chair and ran behind his uncle.
“Thanks. I wish I was already old enough.”
“I do as well. I need the extra help already.” Nate said the stew was great and accepted the seconds that Charlotte offered. Billy held out his plate as well.”
“You two are like two chips from the same block,” Thomas observed. “You both stay remarkably thin as well.”
“Are you both working tomorrow or do I have help with all of the visitors?”
“I will put a notice on the door when the family arrives and close for the rest of the day,” Thomas said.
“That means I can do the same,” Nate added.
“Thanks. Libby is staying with Felicity, and we have Caroline here. Felicity is bringing food and I will cook tonight so that we have things ready. The train arrives at about mid-morning, I think. I will need someone to go to the bakery and collect what I have ordered.”
They talked about the arrangements and then reverted to talking about Billy working as an assistant to the doctor.
Billy asked if he could go and see Uncle John about the orders for the models that he was expanding.
“He has the business streak even though he is not directly descended from Charlotte’s family,” Nate observed as the almost fourteen-year-old went away. Charlotte told him what Felicity had told her about the relationship with her husband.
“That is great to hear,” Nate answered and said that he would go off to bed. Billy came back and they all went for an early night.
In the morning they hurried around and halfway through the morning a carriage rolled up to the door and disgorged Libby, her husband and family, Caroline, Barnaby, and family.
There was a lot of noise and greeting and the women took the children into the house as the men struggled with the luggage then a second carriage arrived, and Charlotte shrieked out loud as her parents climbed down. Emily held out her arms for her daughter and Charlotte ran into them.
“This is wonderful. There is nothing wrong is there?”
Emily shook her head and helped them get the children indoors. It took some time as the older youngsters were excited and the baby heard the noise and cried. Eventually, they settled around the table that had been extended to have everyone in one place. Felicity helped Charlotte bring the food and Billy ate enthusiastically as normal.
As they reached the stage of having a drink and the toddlers were left to play, Donald Mann cleared his throat. They all looked at him. His wife smiled and patted his arm.
“Your get-together came at the right time,” he told them and took another breath. “I did finally sell my part of the plantation to the other partners, and they are happy to take it on. I must admit that I thought I would feel sad but as I walked away, it lifted a weight from my shoulders.”
“It has worried him,” Emily added, “but he has turned his need for work to another sort of thing.” She patted his arm again. He nodded and explained that Thomas had been the first one to say that he should start another business with no partners.
“John has been selling this machinery and it is the future. I have visited a lot of factories that make all sorts of things now. Some are still horse-drawn. Some are run by steam engines like the railroad but kept in one place. They are transforming practically every sort of manufacturing. I came across one where the owner had spent more than he should have, and he was in a lot of debt. We came to an arrangement and to cut a long story short I now own a factory that casts almost anything that you could need in iron or brass. It makes the parts that other factories need to make these machines.” He paused and looked around.
“Sounds amazing,” John Mann said. “Good luck with it.” Donald smiled at his brother.
“I need more than luck,” he said. “I wanted to see you all together.” He looked around. “I had enough of working with men that only had the making of money in mind. I need people I can trust to help me run this new and huge factory.” He took a look around. “My two oldest daughters are good with running a business. They are married to men who already run their own companies. My brother has a marvelous mind for seeing what needs to be done and he can almost see the future and what could go wrong. As Caroline and Barnaby would be here as well and Caroline has grown up with her family saloons and hotels, I wanted to ask them as well Nathan also runs a moneymaking doctor’s surgery in several different places now and I am including him in this He took a final breath and came to his point. I do not want money from you. Are any or all of you interested in this new industrial factory? Would you like to be part of it and help me start a new empire?”
There was a stunned silence and then a burst of noise as everyone asked questions together.
“Where is it?” was the first question from Thomas.
“The second stop on the line from the depot. It is just outside of the stock pens and the finished parts can be put straight into wagons on the railroad.”
“How big is it?” John wanted to know. Donald put that into square feet, but they all looked blank.
“It covers almost five acres,” Donald said, and they looked at each other.
“What had you in mind, Papa?” Charlotte asked. “We all have other jobs and things already to do.”
Her dad nodded and said that he knew that, and they could all visit the place.
“It is actually running to fulfill orders that were already on the books. I thought that John could help me with overall planning and using the railroad to make the most of it. Charlotte and Felicity seem to be doing the paperwork for their husbands and Uncle John. Libby is working for her husband and Caroline does the same. Barnaby has experience of how factories are run, and Nathan can run a good business and knows how to advertise but we also need a doctor that we can call on. Factories have accidents.” There were nods around the table. “I rather think that some of the people running the place for the owner have been swindling him. If Barnaby and Thomas could look into that, I would be happier. The same applies to the doctors they had been using. I just think the amount is too much, but Nathan would know. You would all be paid wages for what you do and then a bonus at the end of the year if we make a good profit.”
“What do you think?” Emily asked. “He has been worrying about doing it all alone.”
“I would like to put in some money and be a partner in helping you run everything. I am up and down that railroad all of the time. I can stop off on my way.”
“That sounds good to me,” Thomas joined in. “Your brother is the ideal partner. Charlotte has an eye for figures, and she can look at the figures and I am happy to work with Barnaby. Will you have time to fit this in, Barnaby?” he asked.
“As long as I know where I am in advance,” Barnaby said. “I visit factories all of the time and I would know how to look for anything wrong.”
The others agreed that they would love to see the place and be happy to be part of it.
“How do we all go and see it?” Charlotte asked.
“In two groups,” Nathan answered. “That means the ones at home can look after children.”
“We are here for three days,” Libby said. “Half of us tomorrow and half the next day.”
“I will have to take little Emmie as she is still breastfeeding,” Charlotte added, and they arranged how it could be done.
“I thank you all. I never wanted to have partners and workers that I could not trust. It is an interesting new adventure.”
“And the railroad will make it work,” John said.
They talked for a long time and heard about the workers, the wages, the machines, and the enormous heat that a foundry needs to make. They went to see to the children when it was needed and talked until bedtime.
Felicity and Libby came down to the house the next day and allowed the rest to go to the factory. Felicity was in her element with all of the children except Emmie. Charlotte fed the little one before she left home and they went to the depot in the large carriage.
“I haven’t seen it yet either,” Charlotte’s mama said. “I am quite excited.”
After two stops they alighted and found a carriage to take them the few hundred yards to the gates of a large and rambling building.
Charlotte took the baby away from the heat and the noise and when the others joined her, she had found her way to the offices and met the man who was currently the manager. She had found a private room to feed the baby and was talking to the manager when the others arrived.
“Ye gods, it is amazing. I never saw a factory before that was so hot and dangerous. You would have to be very careful around the place” Nathan said.
“It works though,” John observed. “You can see that some of the work has too many men being used.”
“It definitely needs the skills of a doctor,” Nathan added. “And I think there should be someone here all of the time. The accidents that could happen need someone on the spot immediately. I do know someone in the city who would probably take it on if he could take private patients when he was at home.”
“Can I take the ledger that shows last year’s figures?” Charlotte asked and the manager found it ready for her to take.
“I will not remember all of your names straight away, but I have to say, a change of management is welcome. The ones that were being paid for doing nothing have left. You will see the final payments in the ledger.”
“Dad, you worked your genius again. I think this place is waiting to take off.”
“Me too,” Uncle John said. “Charlotte has the same feel for these things as me. She is used to working with me and the railroad depot and we could make sure we see what needs to be done.”
“It may be that I can find a house here because I am working more and more in the smaller towns. I could be on call for the factory if needed and,” he paused. “I am thinking about settling down.” He left it at that and saw Charlotte look at him. She grinned and pretended to play a fiddle.
“I will stay in the house we have now as the children are going to school. When they are older, I might be prepared to find a house in this area,” Emily added, and Charlotte gave her a hug.
“This is a huge change for you.”
They then thanked the manager and said the rest of the party would be there the next day. Thomas carried the ledger, and they made it to the depot on foot. Charlotte fed the baby in the ladies’ waiting room and the journey was alive with ideas and enthusiasm. She looked across at her father and smiled. He smiled back and mouthed that he loved her.
Libby had food ready when they returned and there was a lot to report. When the ones going the next day had left to get some rest before an early start, Charlotte asked Nathan if he would like to bring Nicole over and make it public.
“I am still worried about my scars. She was the one who asked me to walk out because she knew that I would not risk being refused. I really should take it in my stride and make it known.”
“Go on then, Doctor Montrose,” Thomas told him and when the man had gone Thomas and Charlotte hugged each other. Nathan came back in pulling Nicole by the hand and Charlotte gave her a hug.
“Congratulations,” she said. “We can keep the music in the family.”
“I feel like I was chasing him, and he kept pretending not to notice.”
“I know how that feels. Thomas had never looked at a woman since Phoebe. Love wins out in the end.”
“You do realize that apart from still helping your dad, you will be a doctor’s assistant and spend endless journeys on the railroad with this new scheme of Charlotte’s dad?”
“I like being busy,” Nicole said and after more plans and talks, Nathan took her home.
Charlotte and Thomas made sure that the toddler was asleep, and Charlotte gave Emmie a last feed. The house was quiet, and they curled up together as they always did.
“You know,” Charlotte said, “I left to make a life of my own as a teacher and have ended up bringing all of the family together.”
“And making another one of our own.”
“I know, I am lucky. I seem to have the best of all possible worlds. You are a handsome man, Tom Morgan, and I do love you.”
“I love you too. How will we manage the third barber shop as well as everything else?”
“Somehow we will because we can do anything together.” He pulled her close and took her lips with his own. That same familiar feeling that sped through veins and made her come alive happened as it always did. They clung to each other and knew that they had everything to live for.
Happy ever after, Charlotte,” he whispered. “The love of my life is right here with me.” A white feather landed on her face, and she smiled in the darkness.