A Bring Milly Back Production
By Michelle Palmer
Chapter 10: The
Saturday morning Lucas picked up the newspaper to read over his coffee.
It wasn’t very often he was able to read the Santa Fe paper, but he
vowed that today he would. The men had done a good job on finishing the
two rooms while he was in town last week. Lucas just had some finishing
touches to put on the rooms before he carried his bride over the
Mark came inside after doing his morning chores. He eyes widened when
he saw the paper in his father’s hand. He hurried over. “Uh…P…Pa, I…I
think that one of the horses has a lame foot.”
“Alright. I’ll take a look at it in a bit, son,” Lucas answered as he
continued reading the article with much interest.
“Well, I think you should look at it now, Pa. I…I’d hate for it to get
worse!” Mark insisted.
Lucas lowered the paper. “Can’t it wait until…”
“No!” Mark cleared his throat and tried to act calm. “I think you
should look at it now.”
Lucas sighed and sat down his coffee and the paper. “Alright, son.” He
took his hat off the hook and grabbed his rifle.
“It’s the sorrel, Pa! The one we use on the wagons!” Mark watched his
Pa walk to the barn. Then he hurried over to the table and picked up
the paper. He shifted through it until he found the article that Milly
had warned him about the day before. She had dragged him into the
kitchen in a panic. After giving him some good news, she looked him
straight in the eye and warned him that his father had picked up the
Santa Fe paper when it came into the store, and he intended on reading
it. Mark was given strict orders to keep his father from reading a
certain article in it.
Mark gasped when he saw the article. Oh, this WAS bad! This was really
bad! And it was bad for more than one reason! Milly had no idea
whatsoever what this article could do to their wedding! Quickly, he
took the whole section of the paper out. Then he put the newspaper back
where his father had laid it. He stuffed the unwanted section into his
That was close! “Mark!” Mark gasped when he heard his father calling to
him angrily. He hurried outside to see his Pa standing in the yard with
his hands on his hips. He sure did give Mark a lecture on what a lame
horse looked like! And at age 15, he should know what that is! After
one more stern look, Lucas turned and hurried back into the house. He
shook his head as he took his hat off and tossed it on the table. Then
he picked up the newspaper and turned it back to the article he was
Something was wrong! The article he was reading was no longer there!
In fact…Lucas narrowed his eyes as he lifted his head toward the door.
Mark came in and started toward the bedroom. “Hold it right there,
young man!” Lucas ordered. He angrily stood up and slammed the paper
down on the table. In two steps, he was standing in front of his son.
Lucas shot out a hand. “Alright, hand it over!” He demanded in a stern
“What?” Mark asked as his heart started beating faster.
“Mark!” Lucas warned. And Mark knew from personal experience that it
was the final warning before his father started punishing.
Mark sighed and took the crumbled article from his pocket. “Pa, I just
saw this article about…” Mark unfolded it. His eyes grew wide. He was
happy to see an article on the back that would INDEED spike his
interest. Maybe there was hope yet. “The Statue of Liberty! Pa, did
you hear about that big statue France has made for the United States?
They’ve had to bring it clear across the ocean in crates and…”
Lucas took the article from Mark’s grasp. “Yes, son. I did hear about
it. In fact, I was reading this article when…” Suspiciously, Lucas
turned the article over. His eyes grew wide as he read the wedding
announcement for him and Milly:
Lucas Mark McCain and Mildred Josephine Scott
Announce their engagement and
Request your presence in their wedding
To be held at the McCain Ranch
Saturday, April 3, 1886 at
One O’clock in the afternoon
Reception and Barn Dance to follow
Lucas stared at the article. Mark watched his father’s face turn red.
He was suddenly afraid that he was about to be licked within an inch of
his life. Lucas held the article up in front of Mark’s face. “Is
this…by any chance what you were hiding from me????” Lucas demanded to
know in quite a loud voice.
Mark swallowed. “Yes…yes sir.”
“And…” Lucas closed his eyes with a sigh. “…are you going to tell me
exactly WHO is responsible for this???” His father looked like he was
about to explode!
Mark had to muster up every ounce of courage he could possess. “N…no
sir.” Mark swallowed again. “I…It’s a matter of l…life and death.”
Lucas nodded as he took another step toward his son. “Yes it is. Your
life!” Lucas pointed a finger in Mark’s face. “Now…just WHO is
”Pa…Pa…I promised not to tell!” Mark declared.
“I promised her I…” Mark’s eyes grew wide and he slapped a hand over his
“Well now…that narrows my list of suspects down to two women. I have a
feeling they were both involved in this.” Lucas grabbed his hat. “Son,
I’m going into town.” He grabbed his rifle. “I was going to work on
cleaning the chimney and stove pipes today. They need cleaned before
Milly moves in. Now I have to go into town and deal with this.” Lucas
pointed an angry finger at his son as he waved his hat around. “Mark, I
want you to ride over to Willow Canyon and ask…beg…no, plead with Mr.
Marvin to come clean these for me today. Tell him I’ll pay him next
week. Tell him it’s an emergency! Then I think it would be in your
best interest to work the fence line today.”
Mark hurried out after his father as he walked to the barn to saddle his
horse. “P…Pa, if I were you, I wouldn’t lose my temper this close to
the wedding!” Mark warned.
“I gave you a job to do! Get going!” Lucas demanded.
“Boy oh boy,” Mark mumbled to himself as he started saddling his own
horse. He knew his Pa’s temper. Anyone in the path of his wrath was
sure to be in for some trouble; and he certainly didn’t want to be
anywhere near his father when the explosion took place. “Boy oh boy!!!”
Mark watched his father ride out of the yard. Mark was just about done
saddling his own horse when Freddie rode up. “Say Mark, some of us kids
are making kites then going over into the field behind my house to fly
them. We’re having a contest. Wanta come?” Freddie asked.
“I’m too busy, Freddie.” Mark answered. “Pa’s about to explode like a
barrel full of dynamite.”
“Explode?” Freddie looked toward the road where Mark’s Pa’s dust trail
could still be spotted. “Who is it this time?”
“Milly Scott and Lou Mallory.”
“Ouch!” Freddie shook his head. “Where are you going?”
Mark put a foot in the stirrup. “I have to go ask Mr. Marvin if he
could…” Mark stopped as he turned his head toward the house. He slowly
removed his foot from the stirrup and scratched his head. “You know
Freddie, Pa IS awfully riled at me, and I haven’t gotten him a wedding
present yet.” Mark folded his arms as he took a few steps toward the
house. “You know…he has to pay an awful lot of money for Mr. Marvin to
clean the chimney and stove pipes, what with him being a professional
and all…I wonder…”
Mark turned toward Freddie who narrowed his eyes. Freddie grinned as he
dismounted his horse. “Say Mark, I haven’t gotten anything for you Pa
and Milly. Maybe I could help.” Both boys walked toward the house.
“Do you actually know HOW to do it?”
Mark shrugged. “I’ve watched my Pa do it often enough. How hard could
Lucas tied his horse to the hitching post outside Micah’s office. He
walked across the street to the hotel. “Lucas!” Lou greeted him. “I
didn’t expect you in town until tonight.”
“Lou, get Milly and come over to Micah’s office,” Lucas ordered gruffly
as he stood in the doorway.
“Now, Lou!” Lucas barked. Then he turned around and walked…no…stomped
Lou slowly put down her pencil and hurried up the stairs. She softly
knocked on Milly’s door. “Who is it?”
“It’s Lou!” Milly opened the door. “Lucas told me to come get you and
meet him at Micah’s office.” Lou lowered her voice so Milly’s mother
couldn’t hear. “Milly, he’s madder than a wet hen.”
“Lucas, what’s up?” Micah asked as Lucas suddenly barged into his
office and slammed his hand on the desk.
“Just wait until you see what these…these…these…FEMALES have gone and
done!” Lucas declared.
“Lucas, may I remind you the wedding is next Saturday?” Micah asked in a
“Yes, Micah!” Lucas nodded. “I am VERY aware of that fact!”
“Am I to presume that one of ‘these females’ is your intended?” Micah
“Lucas?” Milly called as she hurried in the door.
Lucas turned and looked at Lou, then at Milly. “Have a seat, ladies,”
he demanded calmly through clinched teeth. They both looked dumbfounded
as they slowly sat down in front of him. He reached in his pocket and
took out the article. Their eyes grew wide as they watched him unfold
it in front of their faces. “Now, I’d like to know who is responsible
Both Lou and Milly covered their mouths with their hands and closed
their eyes in regret. Lucas nodded. “That’s what I thought.” Micah
held his hand out. Lucas gave him the article as he turned back to
glare at the women.
Micah silently read it. “Oh no.” Micah sat the article down. “Exactly
how many papers did you put this in?”
Milly and Lou looked at each other. Lou laid a gentle hand on Milly’s
and cleared her throat. “Micah, we have been talking about a solution
to this problem. You see, we originally were going to hold it at the
McCain Ranch, but then we decided the hotel would be better…after Lucas
told Milly he’d prefer it not be held at the ranch. Well…in all the
excitement we…” Lou turned and looked at Milly. “…we forgot.”
Milly slowly stood up. “Lucas, Lou and I have been talking about a
solution. We were going to post signs about the mistake and…” She
slowly sat back down and stopped speaking when she saw the look of anger
on her fiancé’s face.
“That’s not the only problem, ladies.” Micah frowned as he folded his
hands on top of the desk. “Lucas McCain isn’t just a rancher. He’s
also the Rifleman. And at times like this, an article in the paper may
very well bring out enemies, gun fighters, and gawkers.” Micah looked
from Lou to Milly. “I…don’t suppose either of you even thought about
“No we didn’t,” Milly answered softly as she hung her head in regret.
She slowly lifted her head when she felt Lucas’s glare focus on her.
“Oh Lucas, I’m so sorry.”
“And which one of you told my son to keep this from me?” Lucas demanded
to know as he put his hands on his hips and glared at them.
“Well, I…” Lou turned and looked at Milly. “I told him we put the
article in the paper…and about the mistake,” Lou answered regrettably.
“So did I. I suppose Mark thought about your reputation and was trying
to keep you from seeing it.” Milly sighed. “Boy, we’ve done it now!”
Milly’s voice held a deep regret. But she too was also about to
explode at the attitude Lucas had taken with her.
But Lucas was too fired up to hear the warning signs in her voice. “You
sure have!” Lucas declared. “What would possess you to put this article
in the paper anyhow?”
“Well, we…know how important you are, and we figure your friends who
don’t live near North Fork would want to come. So, we…” Milly shook her
head. “We should have thought about that.”
“When you showed me that piece of paper, Milly, you told me you were
making invitations. You never said anything about the newspaper.”
Luca’s voice was irate and very loud as he yelled at the woman he was
about to marry.
“It wasn’t on purpose, Lucas. It just…it slipped our minds is all!”
Milly declared. She suddenly stood up and glared at him. “If you think
planning a wedding is easy, Lucas…why…you just try doing it all
yourself! It’s a lot of pressure on a person! I want to marry you, and
I guess I just got a little too…” Milly’s eyes softened. “…excited.”
“Well, the damage is done now, Milly. There’s nothing we can do about
it.” Lucas scratched under his nose. “Another thing I’m upset about is
the fact that the wedding is to be held at the McCain Ranch.” Lucas put
his hands on his hips again. “Do you have any idea what this means?”
“We…” Milly swallowed. “Have to move it to the ranch?” She raised her
“No, Sweetheart.” The way he said ‘sweetheart’ wasn’t endearing in the
least! Lucas folded his arms. “It means that we now have to contend
with people – some possible strangers – showing up at the ranch. So
we’ll now have to find men to stand guard at the ranch to make sure
people make it into town and don’t decide to lay in wait for me to come
home with my new bride!” Lucas started pacing back and forth. “With
all the work I have…and now this! This is great…this is just great…”
“Lucas…” Micah warned. But Lucas was too riled to heed his friend’s
“What about the invitations? Did they also get mailed out with the
wrong location for the wedding?”
Milly put a hand to her face. She felt a headache coming on. “Lucas…”
She breathed. Then she slowly stood up and looked him straight in the
eye. “The invitations went out with the wrong location. I’ve told you
I’m sorry!” Lucas continued glaring at her. That was all she could
handle. She suddenly exploded. “Now…if you don’t want to marry me
then…” She was about to burst into tears. But before she could, she
turned on her heels and ran out the door.
After the echo of the slamming door died down, Lou slowly stood up. She
placed her hands on her hips and glared at the cowboy. “I tried to warn
you,” Micah grunted quietly.
“Well…” Lou folded her arms. “I must say ye have made a mess of that!
You have made a total fool of yourself! Cowboy, do you have any idea
how sensitive that woman is right now? Do you have any idea what you’ve
gone and done?” Lou hurried to the door. She turned back around and
shook her head. “MEN!”
For the second time in less than a minute, the door to Micah’s office
slammed hard. Both men flinched at the sound it made.
Lucas closed his eyes as he tried to regain his senses. “Now you’re in
a mess, Lucas Boy.”
Lucas turned and glared at Micah. “Micah, I don’t know if I’m going to
survive this week or not! I’ve a good mind to go get Milly and take her
to the Justice of the Peace over in Marionette right now!”
“You…might want to go make sure she still wants to marry you first,
Lucas Boy.” Micah busied himself with some papers as he tried to hide
his smile and the mischief in his eyes. “Because this time, I agree
with Lou. You made a total…” Micah cleared his throat. “…fool, to use
Lou’s word, of yourself!”
Lucas turned and glared at him. “Thanks…friend!” Lucas picked up the
article. “You KNOW this was a bad idea! You know that…” Lucas started
to yell again.
Micah held up a hand. “Yes, Lucas Boy. But Milly and Lou had no malice
in mind when they published that article. They were just excited about
the wedding. They just wanted to please you by inviting those who know
you. You treated them…Milly especially…like they set out to hurt you.”
“I didn’t!” Lucas declared. Then he closed his eyes as he replayed the
scene in his head. Lucas’s face filled with regret. “Your right, Micah.
I did make a mess of things. And…” Lucas sighed. “Fool isn’t quite
the right word.” Mark had tried to warn him. Micah had tried to warn
him. But he came in looking for a fight, and a fight is what he found.
Unfortunately, it was a fight with the woman he loved in front of other
people. Lucas wanted to kick himself. “What are we going to do about
Micah stood up and put a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. “Lucas Boy, as your
best friend I will personally take care of this article. I’ll talk to
some men about watching your place next Saturday. And I’ll see about
getting some more deputies to watch for anyone trying to gun for you…”
Micah shook his head. “I hate doing this…I know some don’t like it but
under the circumstances, I may require everyone to check their guns in
before coming into town. I’ll set up a gun-checking station at both
ends of Main Street. Anyone caught with a gun will be jailed.”
Lucas tapped his fingers on the desk. “Alright.” He turned and looked
out onto the street.
“Lucas, just go talk with your intended. Make sure she still plans to
marry you, first. If there are any doubts, get down on your hands and
“I think I’d rather face a pit full of rattlesnakes then face Milly
right now!” Lucas mumbled. But he knew what he had to do.
Micah smirked, “Good luck.”
Lucas slowly made his way across the street. He made his way into the
hotel and stood at the foot of the stairs. “She ain’t up there,
Cowboy.” Lucas turned around. Lou slowly walked up to him. “I don’t
know where she is. She didn’t come back to the hotel.” Accusation laid
in Lou’s eyes and on her voice.
“Well…” Lucas put his hands in his back pockets and stood directly in
front of Lou. “I suppose I should start with you.” Lucas closed his
eyes and looked down at his boots as he mustered up the courage to say
what he had to say. “I’m…” Lucas cleared his throat. “I was wrong,
Lou. I should have never spoken to either of you the way I did.”
“No, you shouldn’t have!” Lou declared in her Irish brogue as she gave a
stiff nod of her head. “You’ve hurt Milly very much.”
“I’ll go talk to Milly. I hope I can convince her to accept my
forgiveness.” Lucas looked Lou in the eye. “What about you, Lou? Do
Lou raised her eyebrows and narrowed her eyes as she stared at Lucas.
Then she slowly smiled. “Of course, Lucas.” She held her head up
straighter. “I know how ye are!” She nodded toward the door. “And so
does Milly. She loves ye. I think she knows ye are a brute!”
“Well…” Lucas rubbed the back of his neck. “If that’s the worst thing
I’m called tonight, I have nothing to worry about.” He gave Lou a weak
smile. “Lou, would you fix up a picnic? I think I know where she is.”
Lucas put a hand to his head and sighed.
“Lucas…” Lucas turned to see Milly’s mother. Oh great! This is all he
needed! She walked up to him. “Should I tell you about my engagement?”
She motioned for him to sit with her on the couch. “When my husband
proposed to me, I didn’t want a long engagement. We got married in four
weeks, and of course I wanted a big wedding just like Milly. Things got
really tense between us. My husband…fiancé at the time, and I had a
terrible fight.” She smiled. “It was over the time of the wedding. I
told everyone one o’clock after we had finally agreed on three o’clock.
When my husband found out, he responded pretty much the same way you
“Lou told you?” Lucas asked.
“She told me everything. Lucas, it was a week before the wedding and we
almost didn’t get married. You see…after I told him I didn’t want to
get married, he didn’t go after me. When he did come to me, he told me
that it was my fault. He was a stubborn, prideful man.” She looked up
into Lucas’s eyes. “Sound familiar?” She gave him a weak smile.
“I’m going to go to her.” Lucas nodded, understand exactly what she was
saying. He sure was getting dragged through the mill today!
Jenny put a hand on his as she continued to look him in the eye. “Does
it matter who was wrong? Lucas, I don’t know if I can explain this
where you can understand it or not, but…I’m going to try.” Jenny took
Lucas’s hand in hers. “A woman…she dreams of getting married, settling
down and having a family. She wants to do everything to please her man.
But…marriage is a big step. Men have learned to deal with it by losing
their temper and holding it inside. My daughter speaks her mind, but
she is a woman. She has a hundred different emotions all mixed up at
the same time. She wants to laugh and cry, run into your arms and flee
from them…she’s scared and nervous and…afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” Lucas suddenly asked.
“Afraid of disappointing you. She’s not afraid of the wedding itself.
She’s afraid of the wedding night and the day after that, and the day
after that…She’s afraid she won’t set up house the way you like or that
she won’t always say the things you like…”
“But I love her!” Lucas argued.
“Don’t you remember your first engagement? Do you remember the emotions
and the…the frustrations? Do you remember how HARD it was?” Lucas
smiled. He looked at Jenny and nodded. Jenny laid a hand on his cheek.
“Go to her. Hold her and tell her you love her. Tell her that you
will love her no matter what. That’s what she needs to hear.”
“Do you…think she’ll forgive me? I mean…” Lucas sighed as he pressed a
hand to his forehead. “Do you think we’ll…”
“She’ll marry you, Lucas. She’ll forgive you. Just admit you were
wrong. That’s hard for a man, but a little bit of humbleness goes a
long way.” Jenny smiled at him. “And…if Milly doesn’t marry you, I
Lucas smiled. “Milly hoped I’d love you. I do. You’re so much like
her.” He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “Thanks Mother
Mark threw his hands to his face and stared at the mess that had just
exploded all over the kitchen. Then he turned and looked at the mess of
ash and soot that covered the living room. “What a mess!” Mark
“The stove exploded! What did we do wrong, Mark?” Freddie asked. He
was covered in soot himself.
Mark shook his head. “I don’t know…I’ve seen Pa do it enough that…”
Suddenly, Mark’s eyes grew wide. “Freddie, Pa! If Pa sees this we’re
DEAD!” Mark ran into the kitchen. It was covered in soot! He ran into
the living room. Everything in the house was covered. There wasn’t a
single place that hadn’t been touched. Mark threw his hands to his
head. “What are we going to do, Freddie? What?” Mark asked in a
“Run away!” Freddie exclaimed. “Run far, far away!”
Mark hurried to the kitchen and started pumping water into the sink.
“We’ve got to get this mess cleaned up! We’ve just got to!” Mark
But as they started washing, they realized that they were just making it
worse. Every dish in the house was blackened. Even his mother’s lace
curtains in the window. “Lou!” Mark hurried for the door. “Freddie,
you start taking those dishes outside and wash them. I…”
“I ain’t no dishwasher!” Freddie declared.
Mark ran over to Freddie and grabbed him by the shirt. “Now listen to
me, Freddie! “ Mark pointed a finger in his face. “You’re in this as
deep as I am! If I go down, I’m taking you with me! You understand?”
Freddie nodded. “Now, start working on the dishes outside. I’m
running to town to get Lou.”
“What if your father comes back?” Freddie asked.
Mark looked around the house and cringed. “Run! Run away as far and as
fast as you can!”
Lucas stopped the buggy and softly got down. Milly turned and looked at
him. Then she turned back around and stared out over the water. She
wiped at her eyes, not wanting Lucas to see her tears. Lucas softly
walked up behind her. “Milly?” She didn’t turn, but continued to stare
over the waters. Lucas bent down behind her and put his hands on her
shoulders. She pulled away from him. “Honey, I DO want to marry you.”
Milly wiped at her eyes again. “Why?”
For as long as he lived, Lucas would NEVER understand women. All he
knew was that the woman he loved more than anything was very hurt. He
wanted to help her, to put the joy back in her heart. “Because…I love
“I don’t know why,” Milly sniffed. “I…I just messed up everything.”
Lucas sat down behind her. He pulled her back against his chest and
hugged her. “No you didn’t. I think I messed up everything.”
“I shouldn’t have been so…so…addle-brained!” Milly sniffed again, but
rested her head against his chest. Lucas kissed the top of her head.
“I should have asked you…I should have…” Milly began crying again.
“Hey, hey…” he kissed her cheek. “Now listen to me. You have a lot on
your mind. Before I came here, your mother gave me a lecture about
women and weddings. It’s not news that men are different from women. I
feel a lot of the same things. I have a lot of the same emotions but…I
tend to get hot headed from time to time.”
“Really?” Milly asked sarcastically as she sniffed. “I hadn’t noticed.”
She sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I deserved that.” He squeezed his arms around her. “I
asked Lou to forgive me, and now I must ask you. Lou told me I was a
brute. I…hope you will be a bit kinder on the name calling.” Milly
chuckled in his arms but said nothing. “Your mother told me you were
nervous and afraid of disappointing me. Milly…” Lucas turned her head
around so he could look into her eyes. “You could NEVER disappoint
me…as long as you are being honest with me.” Lucas smiled. “Yes, we
will find we have some differences. You’ll find I’m not perfect and…”
Milly smiled. “I already know that!” Lucas raised his eyebrows at her.
“Besides your temper and your…insensitivities…I’ve heard tell that you
snore!” Milly turned in his arms until they were face to face. “I am
afraid. I’ve been crying and I don’t know why.”
“That’s the way of a woman I suppose,” Lucas said softly. “You go ahead
and cry. I’ll be here to hold you while you cry. Always and forever.”
Lucas put his head on top of her head as she turned back to look at the
pond. “So…do you forgive me?”
“I’ll have to think about it,” Milly answered. Lucas gasped. “I’m
teasing! Of course I forgive you. And you’re not a brute!” she assured
“Gee, thanks, Milly!” Lucas mumbled into her hair.
“You’re stubborn as a mule and pig-headed, but you aren’t a brute!” Milly
Lucas heard her sigh. “Talk to me, Mil,” he coaxed her softly as he
nudged her with his arms.
“I’m afraid of things that I can’t even express, Lucas. I can’t even
talk about them – they’re so private…” Milly stopped.
Lucas bent his head down as she turned her head around. He kissed her
softly. “Milly, I have the same fears.”
“You do?” Lucas nodded silently.
She turned sideways in his arms and laid her head on his chest as she
closed her eyes. “I’m sorry about the invitations. I shouldn’t have…”
“Milly, you shouldn’t have kept that from me…I mean about the mistake.
You are well aware of the understanding Mark and I have about keeping
nothing between us? Well, that goes the same for you. We tell each
Milly smiled as she raised an eyebrow. “Like uh…that my apple pie
“Ouch!” Lucas groaned. “Yes…you see…I’m guilty of the same thing.”
Lucas brushed her hair with his hand. “And don’t you worry. Micah’s
taking care of the mistake. You and I don’t have to give it a second
“Really.” Lucas bent down and once again kissed her. He still felt
tension, but not nearly as much as he had while ago. He smiled at her
as he rubbed his fingertips across her cheek. “Next Saturday night,
there will be no more holding back, my darling. I can show you just how
much I love you!” Milly blushed. Lucas bent down to her and kissed
her. She turned in his arms and wrapped her arms around his neck.
Their kiss deepened. Lucas felt the tension leave her body as they
Finally, they allowed their lips to part. Lucas sighed as he laid his
forehead against hers. “You know Milly,” Lucas mumbled softly as he
smiled at her. “I have a solution to this whole darn mess! I could
solve all our problems just like…” Lucas snapped his fingers.
Milly lifted her head from his and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I’m afraid
“Just go see the Justice of the Peace and…Oof!” Lucas cried as she
elbowed him in the ribs.
“Lucas McCain, don’t you dare! After all the pain and suffering I’ve
been going through…I wouldn’t dare back out now!”
“Oh…so you’d consider it if you hadn’t had pain and suffering?” Lucas
smiled at her.
“Oh, you!” She stood up and wiped her eyes. Lucas stood up with her
and hugged her. “You know something?” Milly looked him up and down.
“You are STILL rough around the edges!”
When Mark got near the church, he dismounted Blue Boy and tied him up
behind the church. Then he slowly crept behind the buildings until he
got to the hotel. He looked around, making sure no one was around to
see him. Then he slowly opened the back door of the hotel, which led
into Lou’s private kitchen.
Mark breathed a sigh of relief to find Lou bent over the stove alone.
He certainly didn’t want Milly seeing him. He wasn’t sure whose
explosion would hurt the most – his Pa’s or Milly’s…Mark slowly closed
the door without making a noise. “Psst,” he tried to get Lou’s
attention. Lou straightened up and turned her head to the side. “Lou…”
Mark whispered softly.
Lou turned around with a puzzled look on her face. When she saw Mark,
her eyes grew wide. “Mark-“ she started. But Mark held up his hands
and waved them back and forth. Then he put a finger to his lips. Lou
sat down her spoon and hurried over to him. “What on earth happened to
you? You’re covered in soot!”
“Where’s Pa?” Mark whispered.
“He came into town and exploded. I suspect he and Milly are together
somewhere making up,” Lou answered.
“Good!” Mark relaxed a bit. Suddenly, his face screwed up. He grabbed
her wrist. “You’ve got to come to the ranch! There’s been
an…accident!” Mark pleaded.
“Mark!” Lou took her wrist out of his grip. She wiped at the black soot
he’d gotten all over her sleeve. “What sort of an…accident?”
Mark swallowed. “Well…Will you just come and…”
Lou put her hands on her hips. “Now Mark McCain, I’m not budging from
this spot until you tell me exactly what this is all about!”
“Yes ma’am…” Mark sighed. “You see, before Pa left in a huff this
morning, he told me to ride over and get Mr. Marvin to clean the stove
pipes and chimney and…” Mark stopped when he saw Lou’s eyes grow wide.
She pointed a finger at Mark. “And YOU thought you could do it
yourself?” Lou’s Irish temper suddenly went off. “Mark McCain, what
were ye thinking this close to the weddin’? I oughta bend ye over my
“You can later, Lou! But right now there’s a big mess. Now, you know
how riled Pa was this morning. Just imagine what would happen if he
comes home and finds the mess!”
Lou started hurrying around the kitchen gathering supplies up. “Ye ride
to Mr. Marvin’s and beg him to get to your house as soon as possible,
Mark. And hurry! Then when ye get home, I’ll have good soaking
started.” Lou dashed here and there gathering more things up. “I have
a few things Milly wanted to go out there anyhow. I’ll just use that as
an excuse to…” Lou suddenly turned and looked at Mark. “Well, go on
with yourself! Get moving!”
“Lou, what if Pa…” Mark started.
Lou placed a finger to her lips and smiled. “Well now, I’ve a feeling
your father and Milly will be occupied most of the day. They have an
awful lot of making up to do. But just in case…I’d keep lots of extra
pants around. That way if ye see him coming, ye can put them all on and
soften the blow…” Lou nodded toward the door. “Now, get going!”
Lucas laid down on the blanket and put his head in Milly’s lap. She
smiled down at him as she laid her hands on his shoulders. Lucas
played with a piece of straw as he closed his eyes. “We’ve a million
things to do before Saturday, Lucas.” Lucas groaned. Milly bent over
and kissed him. “Now that lunch is over, we really should get going.”
“You anxious to get rid of me?” Lucas suddenly asked.
“Of course not! But Lou and I have a million things to do!” Milly
“Oh Milly, I just want to stay here for awhile longer. It’s so peaceful
here. I don’t have all the pressure of the wedding out here.”
“You don’t have pressure?” Milly put her hands on her hips. “How
would you know what pressure is, Lucas McCain? You don’t have to get
ready for the wedding!”
“No, but I have to keep my bride happy.” Lucas sat up and smiled as he
bent over and laid a gentle kiss on her lips. “That’s hard to do!”
“We really SHOULD get going, Lucas!” Milly declared as she stood up.
“Alright. I do need to ask Micah about his plans for next Saturday.”
Lucas put his hand under Milly’s arm and led her back to the buggy.
Lou opened the door to the McCain house and threw a hand to her mouth.
“Aye yie yie!” she declared. She wasn’t exactly sure where to begin.
She heard a noise coming from the back and hurried over to the window.
There she saw Freddie desperately cleaning dishes. She shook her head.
“Freddie Toomey! I should have known.”
Lou had changed into work clothes, and it was a good thing! She sure
did hope Lucas and Milly didn’t show back up in town anytime soon. She
went to work on the kitchen, scrubbing and cleaning as hard as she
could. Suddenly, a knock sounded on the door. She got up and hurried
over. “Micah! I’m glad you could come.”
Micah stepped inside. His eyes widened. “Mark…did all this?” he asked.
“And Freddie Toomey,” Lou declared with a brisk nod of her head. “He’s
out back making a mess of the dishes!”
“Freddie Toomey…” Micah shook his head. “I should have known!” Micah
looked around. “Well, where do you want me?”
Lou pointed to the rug. “Take that outside and see if you can salvage
it. Then we’ll see about sweeping some of this out.”
Just then, Mark showed up with Mr. Marvin. Mr. Marvin stepped inside.
His eyes widened. “Oh my!” he declared. “It looks like all the soot
is cleared out of the chimney and onto the floor!”
“And the furniture, and the curtains!” Lou declared. She shook her
head. “Ye just get started cleaning them properly.” She turned to
Mark. “Mark, ye get started on washing the furniture.” She handed Mark
a bucket and some rags. Freddie walked in then. “Freddie, ye help
Micah drag that rug out so you can clean.”
“Are we going to get this done before Pa gets home?” Mark asked
Lou went to take the curtains out of the window. She shook her head.
“These cannot be salvaged, Mark. They are ruined, I’m afraid.”
“Pa told me Milly wanted to make some new curtains. These have been
hanging for a few years.”
“Well, ye are in luck, Mark…” Lou walked over to a box and took out some
curtains. “Your Grandma Jenny made these to hang in the windows.” Lou
smiled. “Oh, and we have Mr. Toomey watching for your father and Milly.
He’ll delay them as long as he can.”
The group started their tasks.
Lucas stopped the buggy in front of the livery. He lifted Milly down
from the wagon and smiled into her eyes. Toomey hurried out of the
shop. “Lucas, I’m glad I found you! I need your help.” Lucas turned
and looked at Milly. “Uh…it’s about your order.”
“Oh. Milly, you best go on back to the hotel. I’ll come look in on you
before I head to the ranch.” He kissed her then watched her leave.
But before she could get very far, several ladies stopped her. They
suddenly wanted to have a tea party with her. Milly tried to explain
she had work to do, but they insisted.
So while Lucas was going over every little detail of his furniture with
Toomey and Milly was enjoying tea with some of the ladies; Mark,
Freddie, Micah, and Lou worked desperately putting the house back in
It took all day! By the time five o’clock came along, Lou was tired.
Every muscle in her body ached. Mr. Marvin was done with his job and
left. Lou sent Mark and Freddie down to the creek with clean clothes
and ordered them to use lots of soap. She and Micah started putting the
house back in order.
After Freddie got cleaned up, he left for home. Mark started back
towards his house when he heard a rider coming. His eyes grew wide when
he realized it was his father. “Lou! Lou!” Mark cried. “Pa’s coming!”
Lou gasped as she gathered the last of her supplies up. Mark ran toward
his father now in the yard and greeted him warmly. “Let’s go into the
barn, Pa! I want to show you something.”
Lucas eyed his son suspiciously as they walked into the barn. Mark
patted the colt he had bought for Milly. Lucas shook his head. “Yeah,
I’ve…seen a horse before, son. In fact, I saw him the day you brought
Meanwhile, Lou and Micah snuck out the back door and took off on their
horses. Lou was a pretty good buggy driver, which was really good for
today because by the time Lucas insisted to go to the house, Lou and
Micah were out of sight. Mark could feel beads of sweat popping up on
his forehead as they walked towards the house. “Son, you smell like you
took a bath.”
“Oh…” Mark racked his brain for an answer. “Yeah uh…I figured that
since I had extra time, I might as well get it done. No telling what
sort of trouble I was going to have to get you out of with Milly. I…”
Mark dug his hands in his pocket. “I heard that you exploded in town.”
“Oh?” Lucas stopped and turned toward his son. “How did you know that,
“How did I…?” Mark stopped. “Well…Lou told me.”
“Oh? When did you see Lou, son?” Lucas asked suspiciously.
“Oh, well…” Mark licked his lips nervously. “She dropped by this
afternoon with the curtains for the windows. Yeah…” Mark laughed
He closed his eyes as his father went into the house. “Mark!”
“Yes Pa?” Mark asked, fearful he was about to get into trouble.
“When did you have time to clean this house, son? It’s spotless!”
Lucas turned and stared at Mark. “You didn’t let Lou clean when she
was here did you?”
Mark laughed nervously. “Oh gee, Pa…She said there was so much dirt she
just couldn’t stand it! Why, she thought everything needed clean!”
“Oh.” Lucas walked over to the fire place and stuck his head inside.
“Well, it’s absolutely clean! Mr. Marvin didn’t leave a speck of soot
on the floor! I’m glad. I sure would hate to clean that up! Soot sure
is hard to clean.”
“You’re telling me,” Mark declared.
“What’s that, son?” Lucas asked.
“Oh…I was just counting…one…two…three…There will soon be three of us
And boy oh boy, but he couldn’t wait until this wedding was over! He
wasn’t sure if he’d survive it!
Now, if Mark thought he was fooling his father, he wasn’t. Lucas
suspected something very strange had happened at the ranch today, but he
decided not to pursue the idea for now, because quite frankly, he was
too tired to care.
The Last Days