The Next Step…
Chapter 90 - A Little Faith
Written by Deanne Bertram
scorching sun continued its hold on the territory as October neared an end.
The McCain’s only had one remaining watering hole for their livestock as
they continued to work the ranch, from sun up to sun down. Out on the range
they struggled to bury the cattle that hadn’t survived or tended to calves
that had been abandoned by their mothers. Alongside Lucas, Mark worked to
harvest the last of their shriveled crops as well as harvest the hay to see
their livestock through the winter. The drought also necessitated the
continuance of hauling barrels of water from what remained of the small
river that ran across their land to help take the burden off the dwindling
supply in their water well.
“Hope, I want you taking it easy while I’m in town,” Mark stated trying to
keep the tiredness from his voice, as he finished pinning his badge to his
shirt and turned to reach for his rifle from over the mantle of the
“But there’s just so much to do. The calves in the barn need looking after
and you’re harvesting….”
“They can all wait until I get home tomorrow,” Mark begged.
“Mark, you’re working from the moment you get up until well past nightfall
trying to take care of this place, plus you have your job in town. You’re
out there helping Jake build his home… You can’t do it all!”
“Hope, I’ll do what needs to be done to provide for our family and take care
of our home, and if that means I lose out on sleep, then so be it,” Mark
stated as he stood in front of Hope and pulled her as close to him as he
could, with her very pregnant belly. “Pa and I’ve weathered droughts before
and we’ll weather this one. Besides, you’re too close to your due date to
do much more than just taking care of the boys and Emmy. I’m thankful that
Gwen and Jake aren’t planning to get married until Thanksgiving; so she can
be here to help you until this little one decides to make an appearance.”
“She shouldn’t have postponed her wedding because of me!” Hope declared with
more temper than she meant.
“She didn’t. They wanted Thanksgiving to be even more meaningful. That’s
why they planned their wedding for the weekend after. Besides, this drought
has been hard on all the ranchers and town’s people alike. Jake’s having to
work harder helping Pa and me to keep our cattle alive and the fences
mended, they’re desperate for water and busting through the fences and it’s
not just our herds. And you know very well that when Jake’s not here, he’s
also working at Dave Merrar’s place, trying to build up a nest egg and he’s
almost through building a home for after they get married.”
Mark finished packing a box of cartridges into his saddlebag as he prepared
to leave for his shift at the Marshal’s Office.
“I’m asking you, stay inside and take it easy. Please? I’ll be back
tomorrow afternoon and I’ll see that things that need done, are done. The
cattle in the corral have plenty enough hay and water and Pa will see to the
horses tonight and in the morning, everything else will keep until I
Hope could see the tiredness in Mark’s eyes and she didn’t let on that at
night, she wasn’t asleep when he’d come to bed. As he’d climb into bed, she
heard him groan too frequently from being exhausted.
The heat of the day had driven Milly and her children inside. Jake had
gladly accepted the day off and chose to take Gwen to town, to meet with his
father regarding their upcoming wedding. Shortly after they left, Lucas was
called away by Sam Montgomery, having found more fence lines down between
their ranges. With her own children down for their nap, Hope slipped out of
the house and looked out over their land. As she wrapped her arm around one
of the posts on the porch, her attention was drawn to the barn as she
smelled a faint trace of smoke in the air and saw wisps coming from the
straw pile. Hope walked closer, only to see flames erupt. She ran and
climbed up onto the back of the wagon and dunked two of the buckets into the
barrels. She managed to get herself down from the wagon, and labored to
carry the buckets, one at a time, in an attempt to put out the flames.
After the third trip to and from the wagon, and Hope was sure the fire was
extinguished, she set the buckets to the back of the wagon and rubbed at the
small of her back. With the back of her hand, she wiped the sweat from her
face when the first excruciating pain struck, causing her to double over as
she grabbed to her stomach.
“Hope!” Gwen yelled as she and Jake drove into the yard. Gwen jumped from
the buggy before Jake had the horse stopped. “Hope, what happened?! What’s
“It’s the baby!”
Jake was at Hope’s side, leading her back to the buggy, “I’ll get you to
Doc’s,” he stated as he practically carried her. “Gwen, go tell Milly.”
Jake didn’t wait, once Hope was in the seat, he climbed over her legs,
grabbed the reins, and urged his horse back to North Fork.
“What were you doing outside?” Jake asked.
“The straw pile… it caught fire,” Hope answered and screamed as another pain
Jake yelled for Doc Burrage as he pulled the horse to a halt in front of the
clinic. Between the two of them, they carried Hope into the clinic.
“What happened?” Thadd asked over Hope crying in pain.
“Gwen and I arrived back at the ranch and found her doubling over in pain.
She’d said there was a fire in the straw pile and I presume she put it out
“She wouldn’t… Jake, go get Abigail, she’s…”
“What about Mark?”
“He can wait. Right now, I need my nurse. She’s over at the General Store.
“Yes sir!” Jake replied as he ran from the clinic. As he passed the
Marshal’s, he looked inside and was thankful that no one was there. Jake
ran into the General Store, practically knocking Abigail down. Catching his
balance and reaching to steady Abigail, an out of breath Jake called, “Miss
Abigail, Doc needs you real bad at the clinic.”.
“What’s wrong?” a surprised Abigail asked.
“It’s Hope and the baby,” Jake stated as he took the packages from Abigail
and the two of them hurried back to the clinic, as fast as her pregnancy
Colleen Gibbs bumped into Mrs. Donner, who was standing just inside the
doorway, as she entered the General Store. After offering an apology
Colleen asked, “Was that Jake and Abigail leaving in such a hurry?”
“Oh, Colleen, something’s wrong with Hope and the baby, Jake just ran in
here and got Abigail!” Mrs. Donner replied as she reached out to place a
hand to Colleen’s forearm.
Colleen excused herself as she turned from the store and ran back home,
“Johnny!” she yelled when she saw him sitting on the porch, watching after
their twin sons while Lillian was at a friend’s.
“Colleen?” Johnny answered as he looked up.
“It’s Hope, something’s wrong!”
Each picked up one of the twins and headed to the clinic. As they passed in
front of the hotel, they encountered Johnny Drako stepping from the lobby.
“Johnny, where’s Mark?” Johnny Gibbs asked.
“He and Seth headed out to the Profit’s place, Obediah reported this morning
he found a few head missing and another butchered. What’s wrong?” he asked,
seeing their worried expressions.
“Hope’s at the clinic,” Colleen replied, but they didn’t wait any longer.
“Johnny,” Lou called as she came from the lobby, “What was that about Hope?”
“I don’t know, but I best ride out to get Mark, and Seth.”
Johnny Drako ran and jumped on his horse, urging his mount to a gallop.
Thadd started to examine Hope, “Hope, tell me what you’re feeling.”
“It hurts!” she declared over her tears and screamed as the pain of another
a contraction struck.
“What were you thinking? You’re too close to your due date to be carrying
water buckets!” Realizing Hope’s pain was all that mattered to her, “Hope,
I need you to try to calm yourself and follow my instructions, I’m gonna
allow you to take a small dose of laudanum to ease the pain,” Following a
cursory examination Thadd stated, “The baby is coming. There’s nothing I
can to do stop it now.”
From behind, Thadd heard the door to the room open.
“Abigail, get scrubbed with the alcohol, the baby is coming.”
“Are you going to have to perform a cesarean section?” concerned as she
heard the tone in her husband’s voice.
“I can’t, her water just broke, and the baby is practically here.”
Within the hour Johnny returned to North Fork with Mark and Seth, and saw
Lucas and Milly arrive with Gwen and their families. Without saying
anything, Hope’s family headed into the clinic, as Jake stepped outside,
leaving him, Drako, and Gwen to take care of the youngest McCain children.
“I guess we should take them to the daycare?” Gwen asked.
“That would probably be best,” Jake answered. “Marshal, should I go get
Myra and the boys from their friends’ homes?”
“No, it’s best that they stay there and don’t know what happening, until we
The McCain’s and Seth entered the clinic to find Johnny and Colleen Gibbs
“Uncle Johnny?” Mark asked, his eyes begging.
“We don’t know much, other than the baby is coming.”
“It’s too soon; she’s still a month away. She was fine this morning before
I came to town,” Mark pleaded.
“Jake was in here before you arrived, he and Gwen returned to your home to
find her over by the wagon with the barrels, said that the straw pile had
caught fire and it appeared she carried buckets of water to put out the
flames,” Colleen stated.
“She what?!” Mark exclaimed. “What was she thinking?! What was she
thinking?!” Mark’s outburst was heard throughout the clinic.
“Mark, quiet down,” Milly tried to hush him.
“Calm yourself, Mark,” Lucas stated as he put a hand to Mark’s shoulder.
From behind the door, they heard Hope scream as another contraction hit.
Everyone took seats in the chairs in the waiting area, except for Mark, he
Lilah entered the clinic, the expression she wore on her face conveyed her
concern for Hope, but also asked if she had the right to be there. Though
she was Seth’s wife, she still wasn’t sure she belonged with the family at
this time. Seth greeted her, pulled her into a hug, and escorted her to sit
next to him.
Every now and then Mark would stop at the window, look outside, slam the
side of his fist against the window frame, and proceed to pacing again.
Once when he stopped he proclaimed, “Some trick!” and slammed his fist
against the wall, again.
“Son?” Lucas asked.
“Trick or treat. Today’s Halloween.”
The events in the examination room had been quiet for some time, when the
door to the room finally opened, and a weary Abigail stepped into the
waiting area. Hope’s family stood, anxious to hear the news.
“Mark, Thadd asked that you come inside,” Abigail quietly spoke.
Mark entered the room and the cleanliness belied the events that had
transpired. He wanted to wrap Hope in his arms, but even in her sleep, he
saw the anguish on her face.
“Thadd?” Mark asked.
“Mark, she’s going to sleep for a while. She gave birth to a daughter,”
“Yes, it was tough going, though I’m not sure she’s quite out of danger
“No, Mark, the baby. It was a difficult birth, the worst Hope has ever
experienced… The baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Once
she was delivered, we had to work hard to resuscitate her, to get her
“Is she alive?”
“Yes, but you have to understand, she still could die.”
“Does Hope know?” Mark didn’t bother to hide the pain in his voice.
“She was in so much pain that I used laudanum to ease her suffering, and
gave her a full dose once the baby was born. I’m sure she didn’t understand
most of what Abigail and I were saying throughout her delivery.”
“If she had that much laudanum… How could you give her so much? She
can’t…” Mark couldn’t say what he wanted to ask, his emotions were getting
the better of him.
“Mark, I had no choice. Now, we’ve already bottle fed your daughter and
once Hope wakes, which should be sometime later tonight, we’ll see that your
daughter nurses properly.”
Thadd escorted Mark to the crib. As he peered inside, he saw the rosy face
of his tiny daughter wrapped in a baby blanket, her lips moving as she
“Will she be okay?” Mark asked.
“Only time will tell. She’s already stopped breathing a couple of times,
but she’s been stable for the past half hour. We’ll have to keep a close
eye on her throughout the next day or so.”
“What was Hope thinking?” Mark again asked of no one as he looked over to
his sleeping wife.
“Mark, honestly, it was a good thing that Hope did what she did. Yes, it
forced her into a premature and extremely difficult labor, but had the baby
not been born today… There’s the very real chance her umbilical cord could
have strangled her and she would have died in the womb. She wouldn’t of had
a chance to live, like she does now.
“How much of a chance?” Mark asked.
“I don’t know, but she’s alive and she’s fighting. I’ve heard time and time
again how you McCain’s are hardy stock. She’s proving it. If we can get
her through twenty four hours without her breathing stopping, I think she’ll
be out of danger, but until then…”
Mark watched as Abigail sat down in the chair next to the crib, to keep an
eye on the baby.
Thadd stepped from the room and closed the door behind him. Various members
of Mark’s family stood when they heard the door open.
“How is Hope?” Seth asked.
“And the baby?” Milly asked.
“There were complications. But you’ve another granddaughter.”
“When can we see Hope and the baby?” Seth asked.
“It’ll be later tonight before Hope wakes. And for now, I don’t want to
expose the baby to any unnecessary risks, she’s had a rocky start. Abigail
is keeping an eye on her.”
“We better get going,” Johnny stated as he wrapped an arm around Colleen’s
shoulders. “If there’s anything you or Mark need, just let us know.” They
picked up their sleeping twins and headed for home.
Milly nodded and asked, “Thadd, what complications?”
Thadd proceed to inform Lucas, Milly, Seth, and Lilah the details of their
newest granddaughter’s birth.
“And?” Lilah asked. “Doc, there’s more you’re not telling us.”
“You’re right Lilah, your granddaughter is going to have to fight to
survive. From what we’ve learned, the lungs are the last organ in the body
to fully develop while in the womb. If she can’t continue to breathe on her
own or we don’t catch it in time that she has stopped breathing, she can
Lucas wrapped his arms around Milly as Seth wrapped his arms around Lilah.
“If you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my patients.”
A half hour later, Thadd led Mark from the room where Hope was sleeping.
“Come on, son,” Lucas stated as he met them coming out the door. “You look
like you could use a meal. You’ll need your strength for when Hope wakes.
And I know you’ve not eaten since you arrived back in town, so don’t tell
me you’re not hungry.”
Lou and Johnny were waiting for them in the restaurant. After hearing a
little of the news from Mark’s aunt and uncle, Lou had managed to shoo away
all her other patrons by closing early for the evening.
“I’ll bring ye some strong coffee,” she stated after seeing them to a table.
When Lou returned with the coffee and cups, she filled Mark’s cup last.
“Johnny and Colleen stopped by and told us of the baby and said there were
complications. Is the baby doing okay, Mark?” she asked.
“For now, Thadd states it’s still touch and go…” Mark’s voice quieted.
“And Hope is going to be okay?” Lou asked.
“She’ll be okay, she’s sleeping right now,” a worried Milly answered as Lou
sat down next to her.
Micah entered the restaurant, and by the strained looks on the faces of his
friends he was immediately taken back. Lucas stood and walked to his friend
to inform him of the news.
“Micah, I need to ask if you and Hattie would mind watching the children,
for a while longer.” Lucas asked.
“No need to ask. You just focus on Hope and Mark, and I’ll do my best to
make sure they’re all taken care of properly, this time.”
“Thanks, Micah. We’ll stop by to collect the children before we head home,”
“Ye’ll do no such thing. I’ve empty rooms upstairs that just now became
occupied. Ye’ll be staying here at the hotel tonight,” Lou declared.
Not having the emotional strength to object, Lucas replied, “Guess we’ll be
staying in town.”
Family and friends had just finished eating when Abigail entered the
restaurant. Though Mark had only picked at the food on his plate, he was
the first to see her and stood up so quickly that his chair clattered to the
floor behind him.
“Abigail?” Mark queried.
“Thadd thinks she’s starting to wake.”
Mark didn’t even take time to excuse himself or wait for Abigail as he ran
to the clinic. Stepping to the street, Mark failed to notice the ominous
clouds in the already darkened night sky.
Promptly upon entering the room, Mark climbed into the bed, slipped in
behind Hope, and wrapped his arms around her. He brushed her hair from her
face. He quietly whispered he loved her as he heard her whimpering in her
sleep. He turned to look at Thadd, his eye’s begging to do something to
ease her pain.
“I can’t. I want your daughter to nurse as soon as Hope wakes. At this
time, it’s more important that your daughter receives her immunities through
Hope’s breast milk.”
Hope continued to whimper and subconsciously moan as she started to fight
through the darkness, yet, the pain she felt made her withdraw, back into
the safety the darkness offered.
Abigail was ready to leave the clinic to go home to their children.
“Abigail?” Thadd asked. “How are you? Are you okay?” He came up behind
his wife and wrapped his arms around her, and rested his hands on her
“I will be; it’s just… I’m just feeling a little queasy… Thadd, this
scared me.” Abigail stepped away and finished putting her shawl around her
“Hush now.” Thadd took his wife by the shoulders and turned her to face him.
“I know it did. The McCain’s mean a lot to both of us, and the thought of
losing any patient before they’ve even taken their first breath of life… If
you want, I can come home and be with you, tonight?”
“No, you’ll need to be here when Hope wakes. And that baby still needs you.
I’ll be alright, but believe me, when you do return home; I’m not going to
want to be out of your arms for a while.”
“I understand.” Thadd leaned forward and gave his wife a passionate kiss.
“I love you. Now, go home and try to get some sleep.”
It was shortly before midnight when Hope finally opened her eyes. The room
was bathed in a faint glow from a lantern on the side table, she started to
call for Mark when a bolt of lightning illuminated the sky outside, followed
by a loud clap of thunder that startled Hope into as scream while it rolled
across the land.
“Shhhh,” Mark whispered as he jolted awake. “It’s just the storm finally
arriving, you’re okay.”
“Mark, the baby?” Hope managed to ask over the sounds of the rain hitting
“You gave birth to a daughter,” Mark quietly answered.
“A daughter? Can I see her?” Hope asked groggily.
Mark looked up as he heard a knock on the door and Thadd pushed the door
open to step into the room.
Hope attempted to sit up and grabbed at her middle as she felt the pain.
“Easy there Hope, don’t try sitting up on your own. There were
complications. You’re going to be sore for a few more days.” Turning to
Mark, “Help sit her up so she can nurse your daughter.” Thadd stated as he
carried the crying baby, startled awake by the storm.
Hope unbuttoned the nightgown she had been changed into earlier in the
evening and allowed Thadd to place their daughter in her arms and she
eagerly positioned the baby to her breast. “You said, complications?” Hope
“It’s not uncommon for what happened. I just need to keep an eye on her
through the night. I pray she survives until morning…”
“Survives?!” Mark and Thadd heard the alarm in Hope’s voice.
“Because of her delivery, she’s had difficulties in breathing. She’s
stopped breathing several times already. It’s good to see that she nursing,
but that doesn’t mean she’s out of danger, yet.”
Tears fell down Hope’s face upon hearing the news.
“I’ll leave you be. I’ll try to be quiet when I check on the baby. I’ll be
back in the morning to examine you, Hope.”
After the door closed, Hope asked, “Mark, how? Just last week, Doc said the
baby had a strong heartbeat.”
“Her birth cord was wrapped around her neck,” Mark answered. “Thadd states
the longer she goes between the episodes of her stopping breathing, the
better the chance she has for living.”
Looking to the baby she held in her arms, Hope experienced a strange
feeling, she no longer wanted to have the child at her breast.
“She’s a fighter,” Mark stated as he caressed the back of their daughter’s
“God’s blessed us with her birth,” Mark stated.
“God blessed us? He let me conceive a child and now that she’s here, he’s
going to let her die,” Hope quietly stated, trying to hide the hurt in her
“We have to have faith, Hope.” Mark realized their daughter had stopped
nursing and he took her from Hope’s arms, allowing Hope to button her
nightgown. As he wrapped their baby in her blanket, Mark realized she had
stopped breathing again. “DOC!!” Mark yelled and ran to the hallway, where
Thadd met him and took the baby.
“Inside, I’ll show you what to do.” Doc carried the baby back into the room
and placed her on the changing table. Mark watched as he gently pressed
down on the baby’s stomach and with his face close to the baby’s, he blew
air across her face, while he let up the pressure he had applied with his
hand. “Mark, keep this up until she starts breathing on her own.”
It didn’t take but a few compressions before their daughter started
breathing again. Thadd pulled his stethoscope from around his neck and
listened to her heartbeat. “Her heart is still beating strong, it’s just
that her lungs aren’t strong enough to continue breathing on their own.”
Thadd took the baby with him as he left the room. Turning to face Hope,
Mark saw the look of devastation on her face and stated, “You can’t blame
God. We’ve learned that lesson over and over,” as he crawled back into bed
and pulled Hope into his arms. “Hope, please as with everything else that
has happened in the past, we have to have faith… faith that she’ll survive.
But if she doesn’t, she’ll be in heaven with my Ma and yours.”
Hope closed her tear-filled eyes, and pulled away from Mark as she reached
for the covers and wrapped them around herself.
Outside, a heavy rain continued to fall; soaking the land that had been dry
for so long.
The pain Hope experienced was from more than just the memory of the
contractions. In the distance she heard Mark yell, “She what?! What was
she thinking?!” Over and over again, Hope’s mind heard, “What was she
thinking?!” “What was she thinking?!”
“No!” Hope screamed as she woke from her dream to the sound of thunder
filling the room. She found herself breathing hard and alone. She looked
to the empty crib as lightning and thunder continued to fill the air, again
she screamed, “NO!” The door opened quickly as Abigail stepped into the
“Hope? Are you okay?” Abigail asked.
“I killed her! Mark thinks I killed her!” she cried.
“No. Hope, no he doesn’t. How could you think such a thing?” Abigail
stated as she wrapped her arms around Hope’s shoulders.
“He has too! I heard him yell. He told me to take it easy and I just had
to put the fire out. The horses and the calves were in the barn. I killed
our daughter just to save… animals!”
“Hope, you’re daughter isn’t dead… She is alive.”
“She’s going to die, she can’t breathe!”
“She’s had difficulties in breathing, but we’re keeping an eye on her
“But if I hadn’t…”
“If you hadn’t put out the fire, then you would have lost your animals and
the stress of losing the barn and animals could have still forced you into
an early labor, later in the day. Worse, had you not gone into labor, she
would have died before you could have given birth to her.” Abigail’s voice
sounded harsh, she wanted to snap Hope out of her guilt. “Thadd is with her
right now. She had another episode, her breathing stopped a little while
“He left earlier, said he was going to go see your other children. I’ll be
back in a few minutes, and if Thadd says okay, I’ll bring you your daughter,
I’m sure you want to nurse her,” Abigail stated.
“I can’t. You can bottle feed her,” Hope replied as she lay back down and
pulled the covers over her shoulder.
Abigail worried as she pulled the door closed, this wasn’t the Hope that she
knew. In the hallway, she turned and saw Thadd carrying the baby.
“Is she awake? I bet she’s anxious to nurse her daughter?” Thadd stated
with a small, tired smile.
“No…, she’s not.” Abigail’s voice held concern as she looked from the closed
door to her husband.
“Hope said I should bottle feed her, she didn’t feel up to nursing her.”
Thadd handed the baby to Abigail who left to take the baby to feed her a
bottle. Thadd opened the door to Hope’s room and saw her sleeping. He
closed the door as another bolt of lightning and clap of thunder sounded
over North Fork.
Hattie and Micah continued to watch Hope and Mark’s other children while
Mark stood his shift at the Marshal’s Office or stayed with his wife at the
clinic. Each time Mark entered Hope’s room with their daughter, he found
his wife sleeping. He relished sitting in the overstuffed chair to bottle
feed their daughter, but he didn’t understand what was wrong with Hope.
“Thadd, what’s wrong with Hope?” Mark demanded on the third evening after
their daughter’s birth.
Putting down the book he had been reading, Thadd stated, “I think she’s
rejecting the baby.”
“You’ve grown up on a ranch. You’ve seen a cow reject a calf…”
“We’re not talking cows and calves. We’re talking of my wife and daughter!”
Mark argued, impatience and worry, wearing on him.
“Mark, with the complications from the birth and your daughter’s fight to
breathe, I think Hope is avoiding becoming too attached, just in case the
baby doesn’t survive.”
“But it’s been over twelve hours since her last episode?”
“And each hour that goes by is in her favor. If she can get to twenty-four
hours between episodes, then I can comfortably say she’s out of danger.
Mark, I’m not sure that Hope’s asleep when we go into the room. She’s
avoiding becoming attached because she feels her daughter is going to die.
I’m sure, like all women, Hope’s looked forward to giving birth and dreamed
of watching the child grow up and now, she’s been told the possibility the
child might die…”
“But you just said each hour is in the baby’s favor.”
“I did. Your daughter is getting stronger each hour. But, if Hope won’t
come out of this… depression, I think I need to consider putting her on the
medication like I did after the twins were born.”
“But she won’t be able to nurse the baby!” Mark exclaimed.
“I know, but what’s the difference? She won’t nurse her now.”
“I’ll see about that!” an angry Mark stated and stood to leave the office.
“Mark!” Lucas entered Thadd’s office to hear the last of the exchange.
Mark looked to his Pa.
“Now, son.” His voice took on a softer tone.
Mark followed his Pa outside, across the street and sat down on the steps
beside the hotel.
“I think you should be more understanding,” Lucas offered.
“Why? Pa, Hope’s my wife, the mother of my children… How can she refuse to
accept our daughter?”
“Mark like before, there’s stuff that a woman goes through that can change
their feelings. She went through something similar when the twins were
“This is different.” Mark felt bitterness. “That time I hadn’t told her I
had been shot.”
“That was only part of it. Even if you had told her about being wounded,
she would have still gone through that depression. Be patient with her,
continue doing what you’re doing, and give her time to accept that her
daughter is going to be a healthy, happy baby.”
Lucas looked to his son.
“Mark, I’ve not experienced anything like this, but I do know that time can
heal her hurt.”
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Mark replied. “Our daughter lives and she
won’t nurse her, won’t even hold her.”
“You’re not a woman. Mark I’m serious… Give her time and love. Keep doing
what you’re doing when you’re in the room with her.”
“Come on, why don’t I bottle feed my granddaughter, while you go sit with
As the days passed, Mark grew more concerned as Hope still didn’t show any
interest in their newborn daughter; she kept stating she just didn’t feel
well enough to care for her.
“Doc? I don’t know what to do?” Mark stated as he sat down in Thadd’s
“Mark, even though it goes against my better judgment, I’m going to send
Hope and the baby home tomorrow. It’s been two days since she’s had an
episode. Maybe getting your wife home will be the tonic she needs. She’ll
have to do for her family instead of everyone else helping. But Mark, if
she’s not back to her normal self by the end of the week, I want her back in
here and we will put her on the medication, but I pray that sending her home
will do the trick.”
“Thanks, Thadd. I appreciate your understanding,” Mark answered as he left
the office to tell Hope the news; they were going home.
Their baby was a little over a week old when Mark returned to town with
their buckboard. Mark stopped by the parsonage to speak with Gwen, before
heading to Hattie and Micah’s and finally the clinic.
“But you can’t, I mean I can’t. Hope needs all the help she can get with
the children!” Gwen answered.
“Gwen, your wedding is just a few weeks away; you need to focus on you and
your life with Jake. Let me help Hope. Hope and I have enjoyed having you
helping out, but this is something Hope needs to do. With you there, I feel
it will give her the excuse to continue to ignore our baby.”
Maggie McCafferty spoke up, “She’s ignoring the baby?”
“Yes, because of the complications. Doc thinks by letting Hope come home,
it will force her to accept our daughter, but it won’t work with Gwen at the
“But the other children?!” Gwen pleaded.
“No, Gwen. As of now, you’re a friend of the family, as you always have
been, but you must start living your own life. You can visit once you
return from your honeymoon, but until then, you concentrate on getting
everything ready for your wedding. I’ll make arrangements to pack up your
belongings and bring them to Hattie and Micah’s.”
“I’m sure one day you’ll make a wonderful mother,” Mark stated as he kissed
her on the cheek. “And, I’m still looking forward to giving the bride
Lucas was there to help Mark load his family into the buckboard.
“Mark, I don’t feel like sitting up in the front seat, can’t I just lie down
in back?” Hope asked.
Mark agreed. He watched as Hope curled up on her side. Mark placed their
daughter next to Hope and slipped the blankets over the two of them.
Lucas could read the expression on Mark’s face as he looked at his wife,
‘How much longer was this going to go on?’
Lucas rode beside the buckboard and watched as the twins sat in the front
seat next to their pa, with Eli and Mykaela wrapped in blankets and sitting
in back. It was a quiet trip home.
They had been home for almost a week and each day the routine was the same.
Mark would wake, get dressed, and leave the bedroom. He’d head to his
sons’ room and wake them, instructing them to dress before he’d go to
Mykaela’s room to wake her and help her get dressed. He filled the baby’s
bottle and set it on the table, before returning to their bedroom to get
their baby. On school days, he’d feed his children before seeing his eldest
sons off with his Pa. Johnny had given him time off to deal with his
family, allowing him to choose when he could return to stand watch in town.
Hearing the baby crying from their room, Mark finally had enough. He
returned to his bedroom and was curt with Hope, “Damn it, Hope! I know
you’re not sleeping. I’m taking the other children to Ma and Pa’s for the
morning. Then, I’m going to the barn to do my Saturday chores. When I
return, I expect our daughter to be fed and breakfast on the table, for me!”
Shoving his hat on his head, Mark gathered his children and took them to his
parents’ home, apologizing when he asked if they would mind feeding them
breakfast. Milly and Lucas felt for their eldest, when he shook his head in
answer to Milly’s question if there was any change in Hope.
Mark walked to the barn, looking to the horizon and observing how nature had
returned to normal. The heat and drought that had plagued the territory was
over, after the rains had finally returned. Mark briefly shivered at the
coolness of the morning. He turned the team loose in the corral and proceed
to clean their stalls. Once Two-Bits and Rainmaker were finished with their
grain, he turned them loose in their separate corrals. Mark smiled as he
watched the horses prance around, before stopping by the railing facing the
house. The horses snorted and pawed. With his head held high, Rainmaker
flehmened his upper lip, shook his head and neck, and flehmened again. Mark
laughed at the antics of the stallion, thinking it a little late in the year
for Two-Bits to be in season. Inhaling deeply of the crisp morning air,
Mark realized there was something in the air that Rainmaker smelled. Mark
looked around and inhaled again, an uneasiness gripped him as he looked to
the horizon, he didn’t see any smoke on the land. Still, the smell
Walking back through the barn and out the front, Mark’s heart dropped when
he realized there was smoke and where it was coming from. “Hope!” Mark
screamed and ran to his home.
Lucas stepped to the porch as he heard Mark, one look and he too was running
towards Mark’s home.
Mark bolted through the front door, the crook of his elbow over his nose,
calling for Hope. Through the smoke, Mark heard Hope coughing and calling
for him. “Mark! The Baby!”
Mark followed Hope’s voice and found her in their bedroom. In her arms, she
held a bundle. Mark rushed them to the front door and out into the yard; to
the waiting arms of Milly.
Lucas and Mark returned to the house, grabbing towels in an effort to put
out the fire in the kitchen. First, Mark grabbed a bag of flour from the
cabinet and tore it open, dumping its contents onto the fames rising from
the frying pan on the stove. Lucas primed the pump at the sink and soaked
the towels. They slapped at the flames dancing across the wall, rising
teasingly close to the ceiling, but they couldn’t prevent it from catching
fire. The fumes and thick smoke caused both men to cough as they struggled
to breathe during their efforts to fight the fire. Involuntary tears
streamed down their faces as the soot burned at their eyes. Working
together, the last of the flames were extinguished. Wrapping a towel around
his hands, a coughing Mark grabbed the pan from the stove, carried it
outside, and dropped it in the dirt. Mark bent double, hands on his knees,
Mark turned when he heard coughing and boot steps behind him. He felt a
hand on his shoulder and a gentle squeeze.
“We’ll assess the damage once the smoke’s had a chance to clear out,” Lucas
stated while he too continued to cough. “Let’s go check to see how Hope…”
Mark didn’t give his Pa a chance to finish his statement before he was
running. “Hope?” he called as he entered his parents’ home.
“She’ll be fine,” Milly stated as she approached Mark.
“Where’s the baby?” Mark asked as he tried to push past Milly.
“No Mark, wait a minute,” Milly stated as she grabbed his arm, preventing
him from entering any farther into her home.
“I don’t understand,” a confused and soot covered Mark stated. “Are they
okay?” Mark asked as he again coughed.
“They are. They’re both okay. Hope’s in our bedroom nursing her daughter.”
“Nursing… Hope’s nursing the baby?”
Milly nodded. “Give them some time to let them bond. I think you could
stand to take a bath.” Lucas entered his home and witnessed the
conversation. Milly continued, “You both are quite the sight.” Looking
apologetically to her son, “Go get cleaned up and afterwards you can see
your wife and your daughter.”
A freshly bathed Mark returned to have his children circle him, asking what
“There was a small fire in the kitchen. Your grandpa and I put it out.”
Milly asked, “How badly is your home damaged?”
“Haven’t had a chance to really look at it yet. We were going to wait for
the smoke to clear out before we assessed the damage,” Mark answered.
“Can we go home?” Zach asked.
“Well, I think I’m gonna ask your other grandparents if they’d mind watching
you until we can fix the damage to the house,” Mark answered.
“Mark, they can stay here,” Lucas stated.
“I’ll have the boys stay with Seth and Lilah, but if you wouldn’t mind
taking care of Emmy.”
“What about you and Hope?” Milly asked.
“We can stay in the house. Just need to share your kitchen, if you don’t
“Mind? I’d prefer you and Hope, and the baby stay here,” Milly answered.
“Thanks Ma, but you’d have too full of a house. Can I see them now?” Mark
Milly nodded and led the way to the bedroom and knocked on the door.
“Hope, are you up to a visitor?” Milly called.
“Ma?” was heard from the other side of the door.
“Mark, I’ll go see how much damage was done to the kitchen. When you’re
ready, we’ll pack for the boys and hitch your team,” Lucas stated and left
Mark entered his parents’ bedroom to see Hope cradling their daughter in her
arms as she looked up at him, “How are you? Are you okay?” asked Mark.
“Mark…” Hope tried to answer, but she started to cry instead.
“Hey, hey…” Mark climbed upon the bed and wrapped his arms around his wife.
“Neither of you took any harm? Did you?”
Hope shook her head.
“How are you feeling?”
“Ashamed. Mark, how could I have…” Hope buried her face in Mark’s
Pushing Hope back from him and raising her chin with his hand, “Doc tried to
explain it to me. I’m just glad you decided to come back to us.”
Mark pulled Hope and their daughter into his arms, tears of happiness
falling down his face. He could tell that he had his wife back.
“Hope, what happened? How did the fire start?”
“I was mad at you for talking to me in such a manner, but…”
“I started to fix breakfast and put the lard on the stove so I could fry
some sausage. I heard the baby crying and went back to the bedroom. Mark I
couldn’t bring myself to pick her up, I just stood there and watched her. I
tried to make myself love her. I couldn’t… I don’t know how long I stood
there thinking, for eight months I carried her and dreamed of holding her in
my arms… And for Doc to say she might not live…”
“But he also said she had a good chance of living with each additional hour
that went by between episodes,” Mark stated hesitantly.
“I know, but I just couldn’t bring myself to let her into my heart, fearing
the hurt if she died.”
“And today?” Mark asked.
“Mark, I smelled the smoke and opened the bedroom door; it poured into the
bedroom. I closed the door and grabbed the baby and I tried to make it to
the front door, but it hurt to breathe,” Hope cried.
“You’re okay? You can breathe okay?”
“And the baby?” Mark asked.
“I never want to let her go. She’s so beautiful.”
“Just like her Mama,” Mark smiled.
“Mark, I never asked if you named her.”
“I was hoping we could name her Margaret Faith, but if you don’t like it…”
“No. It’s a beautiful name. Which name is she going to go by?”
“I hadn’t thought on that. I’ve kinda just been calling her the baby.
Which would you like to call her?”
“I think Faith.”
Curiously, Mark asked “Why?”
“Because all we need is a little Faith. And she’s perfect.”
Mark told Hope that he needed to leave for a little while, “I’ll be back
soon. Pa’s over at the house checking on the damage and later we’re taking
the boys to town. I hope Seth and Lilah don’t mind watching them until I
can rebuild the kitchen. Ma and Pa are going to keep Emmy for us.”
“What about us… and Faith?”
“We’ll stay at home of a night, but during the day and when I’m in town, you
two will stay here, with Ma.”
Mark placed a kiss to his wife’s cheek as he sat next to her.
“Do you think Doc Burrage should take a look at Faith, to make sure she’s
all right?” Hope asked.
“How’s she doing now?”
Hope opened the blanket and together they watched as Faith scrunched her
face and moved her lips and fingers during her sleep.
“She looks to be okay. But I’ll ask Doc Burrage to come out and check the
two of you over after I drop the boys off, just to be on the safe side.”
Mark stood from the bed and walked to the door.
“Mark, I love you,” Hope quietly called.
“I know you do.”
Lucas and Mark stepped down from the buckboard in front of Seth’s home and
told the boys to wait for them.
“Mark!” Seth greeted as he stepped to the porch. Seeing the boys he asked,
“Is everything okay with Hope?”
“Yes, everything is okay, now. We had a little accident at the house this
morning and I was hoping…” Mark hesitated when he saw Lilah step from the
“Get those boys inside and out of the chill. Come on boys!” Lilah called
out and watched as all three jumped from the back of the buckboard.
“You said an accident?” Seth inquired.
“Yes, a grease fire. It’ll take time for me to fix the kitchen and I was
wondering if you’d mind watching the boys, until…”
“They’re more than welcome to stay here. You know that. But Hope and the
baby…” Seth asked with concern.
“Seth, Hope and Faith were falling asleep, together, when I left the ranch.”
The smile on Mark’s face told Seth that all was truly right. “I’ll tell
you more in detail later, but I need to get to the hardware store and place
an order. We’ll have you and Lilah out for supper when the kitchen is
Hope woke from her nap and carried Faith into the front room; she saw the
box on the front table and looked questioningly at Milly.
“I didn’t think that you would mind if I retrieved it from your home,” Milly
“I’d like to wait until Mark returns,” Hope answered as she lovingly looked
at her daughter, sleeping in her arms.
“I think Mark would approve,” Milly answered.
After placing the order for the material they needed to rebuild the kitchen,
Lucas and Mark returned to the team and buckboard.
“Pa, I promised Hope I’d stop by Thadd’s and ask him to come out and check
on her and Faith,” Mark stated as Lucas reached for the reins.
“Our daughter. Her full name is Margaret Faith McCain. I hope you don’t
mind us giving her Ma’s first name. And Hope decided she should go by
Faith, because all we need is a little faith.”
“I think your Ma would be honored. I’ll wait for you over at the Johnny’s,
uh, the Marshal’s Office,” Lucas answered. He stopped the buckboard in
front of the jail, handed the reins to Mark, and jumped down.
Mark drove the team to the clinic; after tying the horses to the hitching
rail, he entered and saw Abigail. “How’s Hope this morning?” she asked.
“Everything is great!” Mark replied as he placed a kiss to Abigail’s cheek.
“But we had a small accident at the house this morning and I wanted to talk
to Thadd about her and the baby.”
“What kind of an accident?” Abigail asked.
“A grease fire with Hope and the baby in the house. They both seem to be
okay, but I’m sure they both inhaled some of the smoke, so I didn’t want to
bring both of them out into the chill. Thought maybe Thadd come to the
house and check them out, considering Faith’s…”
“Did she have another episode?” Thadd asked, only having heard the end of
“No, nothing like that. We had a grease fire in the kitchen. Hope nursed
our daughter before I brought the boys to Seth’s. I just thought, for good
“That is good news. Abigail, we don’t have any patients in the clinic
today, how would you like to go out with me to visit Milly and Hope?”
Abigail’s eyes shined, “Let me tell Hattie where we’re going, just in case
Savannah or Steven need us.”
After examining both Hope and Faith, Thadd declared them healthy, but
recommended for Hope to take it easy for the rest of the day. Thadd stepped
from the bedroom and left Hope and Abigail to talk.
“You’ve a beautiful daughter, Hope,” Abigail stated as she handed the baby
back to Hope.
“I know I do, now. Abigail, I’m sorry for the way I behaved, back at the
“Please don’t feel you have to apologize. As long as the two of you are
okay, that’s all that matters,” Abigail answered.
“I guess you must have been scared, too. With what happened to Faith and
me?” Hope inquired.
“It unnerved me, more than I realized, but once your daughter was out of
danger and Thadd came home, I felt better when he took me in his arms.”
Later that evening, Lucas and Milly stood behind Mark and Hope as they
recorded the birth of their second daughter in their family bible.
Margaret Faith McCain, born and October 31, 1896.
After placing their family bible back in its box, Mark set it on the shelf
next to Lucas and Milly’s family bible.
“Come on Mark, we have some chores that need to be done before we can call
it a night,” Lucas stated.
Hope watched her husband walk out the front door with his father before she
walked over and picked up Faith from her crib. Placing her daughter to her
shoulder, she started to walk to Milly and Lucas’ bedroom.
“Myra, it’s time for you to go to bed,” Milly stated.
“No, your brothers and Mykaela are already asleep.”
“Hope, why are you taking Faith in there? Are you going to sleep in Mama
and Papa’s bedroom?” Myra asked.
“No, it’s time for Faith to be fed,” Hope answered.
“But the kitchen is over there,” Myra pointed.
“She needs to be nursed,” Hope replied.
“Like Sarah’s a nurse?” a confused Myra asked.
Hope looked to Milly, her eyes asked how to answer. Milly walked to her
daughter and asked her to sit down with her at the table for a few minutes.
“Myra, Sarah is a nurse, an assistant to a doctor. When Mykaela was a baby,
you’ve seen Hope take her into the bedroom before.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t think she was feeding her in there. We have to sit at
the table to eat. How come they don’t?” Myra asked.
“Myra, when you were a little baby your Mama fed you the same way I feed
Faith, the way we’ve fed all our children for almost the first year of your
lives,” Hope explained.
“We’ve breast fed you,” Hope answered.
“It’s the way God created a woman so she could sustain her child after the
baby is born, until the baby is old enough to eat solid foods,” Milly
stated. “Maybe you’re too young to understand.”
“But Mark fed her with a bottle,” Myra commented. “Why don’t you feed her
with the bottle?”
“Ma, I don’t mind, if it’s okay with you,” Hope started to offer with a
little bit of embarrassment. “Myra could watch as I let Faith nurse. It’s
a part of life.”
Milly stood from the table and walked to the front window and pulled the
curtains closed. Hope carried Faith over to Milly’s chair and sat down.
After setting Faith to her lap, Hope unbuttoned her blouse and pulled it
open before she untied her camisole. She lifted Faith from her lap as she
revealed her left breast and positioned her daughter to suckle.
“She drinking! What’s she drinking?” Myra curiously asked.
“It’s milk,” Hope answered.
“Like the cows?”
“Similar to milk we get from the cows,” Hope answered.
“She sure is noisy. She slurps just like the calves do. And just as
messy,” Myra stated as she watched some excess milk dribble down the baby’s
Shaking her head, Myra asked, “Why do girls have them and boys don’t?”
“Myra, what we’ve shown you between Hope and Faith is a special bond between
a mother and her baby,” Milly stated. “Just like it’s a woman who God chose
to give birth to babies. This is something special that God blessed woman
to be able to do.”
“Was I this special when I was a baby?”
“Yes, you and I had this same special bond. But this is between us women,
we don’t talk about it in front of the men or the boys.”
“Is this a secret?”
“No, not a secret, but something to only be shared between the three of us,”
Milly insisted. “It’s a bond to be shared between a mother and her child.”
Hope sensed that Faith was fussy because she was still hungry. She exposed
her other breast and repositioned her daughter to her right breast, as she
pulled her camisole over to cover her left breast.
In the wonderment of a child, Myra watched. In time, Faith stopped nursing
and Hope set her back to her lap and accepted the damp rag that Milly handed
her to wipe the residue from both her breasts.
“Hope, can I touch it?” Myra inquisitively asked.
Looking to Milly first, Hope nodded. Gently, Myra placed the tips of her
fingers to Hope’s breast and ran her fingers over it; curiously exploring.
Myra removed her hand from Hope’s breast and ran it across the front of her
shirt. Hope tied her camisole and buttoned her blouse before placing Faith
to her shoulder to burp her.
“Will I grow breasts once I’m ready to be married?”
After giving a sharp intake of breath, Milly giggled, “You’ll probably start
to grow breasts when you’re closer to becoming a teenager.”
“Will mine be like yours or really big like Becky Whitcomb?”
Hope giggled, “Only God can answer that.”
“I think I’d rather have small breasts, don’t get in the way that much.
I’ve seen Becky try to ride a horse and they sure do bounce a lot.”
Hope and Milly tried their best to contain their laughter.
“Mama, is that why boys like girls, because we grow breasts?”
“That’s part of it,” Milly whispered. “And more than you need to know at
“Well, Isaiah is sure going to be surprised that I’m going to grow breasts
“Myra, that is something that you will not discuss with anyone other than
myself or Hope,” Milly ordered.
The following day, the entire McCain family bundled up and traveled to
church. Hope lovingly carried their daughter and showed her to their family
and friends. Towards the end of the services, Reverend Mark McCafferty made
“Friends, as we all are aware Thanksgiving is approaching and we will hold
special services Thursday evening. Also, on the following Saturday, this
church will join in holy matrimony Jacob McCafferty and Gwenivere Shawnesee
and all are invited to the ceremony, beginning at six, thirty that evening.
“Also, today, I have the pleasure of christening a baby. Usually I prefer
to wait until the baby is six months old, but after talking with the
parents, I believe it is only fitting that this child is welcomed into the
House of God, today.
“Mark and Hope McCain, please come to the altar,” he called.
As Hope and Mark stood next to each other, Reverend McCafferty asked, “Have
you chosen God-parents for this child?”
“Yes,” Mark answered. “Jacob McCafferty and Gwenivere Shawnesee, soon to be
Both were surprised to hear their names announced as God-parents to the
newest McCain child. Jake and Gwen, hand in hand, walked to stand one on
either side of Mark and Hope.
“It is a blessing to be chosen as God-parents for a child. It will be your
responsibility to see that this child is raised in the teachings of Jesus
Christ should her parents no longer be able.”
Gwen and Jake nodded their understanding.
“Hope and Mark, a man and a woman conceive and bring forth a child into the
world. Though this child’s first week of life was difficult, you believe
that it is because of your faith in God that she survived.”
“It is my understanding that you wish to raise this child in the belief of
“Yes, we do,” Mark answered as he placed his arm around his wife, while she
held their child.
Taking the baby from Hope, Reverend Mark asked, “What name have you given
Hope answered, “Margaret Faith McCain.”
“It is with great pleasure that I welcome thee, Margaret Faith McCain, into
the House of God in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
Reverend Mark sprinkled a few droplets of holy water onto her head. “May
God watch over and bless you and your entire family.”
“I ask that those present offer their blessings to Mark and Hope as they
welcome the newest member of their family and raise her in the eyes of God.
And, should something unfortunate happen, I know this community will assist
the God-parents as they assume the responsibility for the child.”
They returned to their seats, with Lucas and Milly welcoming them with hugs.
“Reverend,” Oat Jackford called out before Reverend Mark could conclude
“Yes, Oat,” the reverend replied.
“I understand there was an accident out at the younger McCain’s home and I
hear tell that their supplies are due in on the train tomorrow. I want
every available man to meet me at the train station no later than nine
o’clock tomorrow morning so we can get things loaded and help Mark rebuild
the damage done to his home.”
Shouts of ‘Count me in’ or ‘I’ll be there’ came from the congregation as men
volunteered to help.
As parents of a newly Christened child, Mark and Hope stood next to Reverend
and Mrs. McCafferty. As Oat approached the receiving line Mark spoke, “Oat
“Mark, your family has plenty of friends in this here town. Word gets
around. The temperatures are dropping and your home needs repaired, fast.
So, accept the help of your friends.”
“I’d be please to accept your help. Thank you.” Mark offered his hand.
“And Miss Hope,” Oat continued. “Don’t worry about feeding the crew. I’ll
bring supplies from my ranch and my cook.”
Once the supplies were unloaded at the McCain Ranch, it only took a couple
of days for those present to tear down and rebuild the damaged kitchen.
After the others had finally left, “Well, most everything seems to look as
good as new son,” Lucas stated as he finished putting the last of his tools
in the box.
“I know, just wish the stove hadn’t gotten so charred,” Mark answered as he
wiped sawdust from the surface.
“Milly was talking with Lilah about that. She has a special concoction she
uses to clean, maybe before they come for supper, she can make a batch.”
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