The Years Before…
Chapter 16 - Falling in Love
Written by Michelle
Lucas dipped his feet in the creek as he and Laura
sat on the creek bank fishing one lazy Sunday afternoon. Margaret sat
beside Luke, her head on his shoulder as she watched the two fish. “You
sure you don’t want me to rig you up a pole?” Lucas asked Margaret with a
twinkle in his eye.
“I’m sure!” Margaret declared without lifting her
head. “I’m enjoying watching you and Laura fish.”
“Luke, I got one! I got another!” Laura suddenly
declared as she pulled on her line.
Lucas kissed Margaret quickly before he jumped up and
hurried over to his baby sister. “Well, let’s see it!” Lucas declared as
Laura started pulling her line in. “Come on, sis! Hurry!”
“Alright, alright!” Laura griped. “I’m going as fast
as I can!”
“Well now, ya ain’t going fast enough!” Lucas shouted
as he grabbed the line. “Come on, Laura Rose! Go a little faster!”
“Will you stop hounding me!” Laura bossed as she
jerked on her line one last time. “It’s a…” Laura stared at what was on the
end of her line.
Lucas fell to the ground laughing as he kicked his
feet in the air. “Now, that’s the best catch all day, Laura Rose!” he
declared as he rolled on the ground laughing. Margaret put a hand to her
face and tried to keep the laughter from her face. “Oh ho, Laura Rose! You
caught a big BOOT!”
Laura planted her hands on her hips. “Now, it ain’t
funny one bit, Lucas McCain! You stop that laughing this instant or
Lucas stood up and towered over her. “Or you’ll
WHAT?” Lucas challenged her as he narrowed his eyes.
“Well, I’ll…” Laura suddenly gasped as her eyes
widened. She got down really close to the water. “Luke, if that ain’t the
biggest bullfrog I ever did see!”
“What?” Lucas bent down to take a look. “Where?”
Laura gave her brother a hard shove. Lucas let out a
cry before he toppled into the water. Laura fell to the ground rolling with
laughter. “Laura Rose!” Margaret gasped.
Lucas stood and hurried from the water. “Now see
here, young lady!” He shook his finger at her. “You are going to get it!”
Laura started backing away. “You just wait and…” Lucas picked her up and
tossed her into the water. Then he brushed off his hands in declaration.
“Ha! Now, how’s that feel?”
Laura came out of the water sputtering. She grabbed
Lucas by the ankle and tripped him back into the water. “About like that!”
she shouted as the two started splashing each other.
“Laura Rose McCain!” Laura stopped when she saw Abe
standing on the bank of the creek with his hands on his hips. “What do you
think you are doing, young lady?”
“Playing,” she answered quietly. “He started it!”
she pointed at Lucas.
“What? I did NOT!” Lucas declared as he put a hand
on his hip. “SHE started it! She pushed me in the water!”
“Yeah! Because you laughed at me!” Laura shot back
“You’re the one who caught an ol’ boot!” Lucas
“That’s enough!” Abe shouted. “Lucas, out! Laura,
OUT!” Both brother and sister climbed up onto the bank. Abe came to stand
in front of both of them as they stood in front of them. Both held matching
guilty expressions on their faces. Abe folded his arms and shook his head.
“Laura Rose, Julie is going to tan your hide! Now, you get on up to that
house and get cleaned up!” Abe ordered as he pointed toward the house. You
were supposed to help Julie with the triplets while she fixed supper!”
“Yes sir.” Laura turned to get the fish.
“NOW!” Abe ordered as he pointed toward the house.
Then he gave her a firm slap on the backside. After she left, Abe folded
his arms and walked around his brother, looking him up and down.
“Well…well…well…” He shook his head. “Is this the kind of men the army’s
bringing up these days? Nineteen year old soldiers who engage in a water
fight with his sister…”
“Abe…I can explain…”
“Yes.” Abe nodded. “I’m sure you can. Your sister
was supposed to be home thirty minutes ago!”
“I’m…sorry. I guess I just got so involved in uh…”
Lucas looked down at Margaret. “…Uh…fishing that I lost track of time.”
“Mm hm…” Abe nodded his head. “Fishing for a kiss,
no doubt!” Abe shook his head at Lucas.
“Well…” Lucas folded his arms across his chest. “I
reckon you think it’s time for me to go back to the Civil War.”
“No!” Margaret leapt forward, suddenly inviting
herself into the conversation. “Now Luke, you behave yourself!” Margaret
ordered sternly. “If Abe sends you away early for bad behavior, I’ll be
awfully mad!” She grabbed Lucas by the arm. “Abe McCain, I’ve got 12 more
days with him, and I expect to keep him around for 12 more days!”
Abe merely shook his head, turned, and walked away.
“Well now…I guess we’re all alone.” Lucas said as he grinned down at her.
“And you are all wet!” Margaret stood on her tip toes
and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Ah shucks…I’ll dry!” Lucas sat down on the blanket
and pulled Margaret down beside him. “You know…” Lucas started as he lay
down and stared up at the sky. “When I’m in the middle of a battle,
sometimes I remember all the times we spent out here just talking and
fishing and stuff…”
Margaret propped her head up on her hand as she lay
on her side and looked down at Lucas. “And does remembering those times
“Yes.” Lucas smiled. “And thinking about
you…imagining you sitting at your desk writing me a letter…”
“I don’t even want to think about you going back!”
Margaret declared suddenly. “I can’t stand the thought of…”
Lucas reached up and pressed a finger to her lips.
“Then don’t.” He rose up and pressed a kiss to her mouth. “Let’s not
mention my going back until I have to.”
“Lucas?” Margaret rested her head on his shoulder.
“You…are better now, right?”
“Yes, honey.” Lucas patted her shoulder. “I’ve had
one nightmare and Abe made me talk through it. The longer I’m away…the more
I come to realize that I was just doing my job. But mostly, I try to just
keep it tucked way back in my head. Abe said now’s not the time for me to
forget what happened…but someday, like him, I’ll want to deal with the demon
and put it behind me once and for all.”
“Luke…” a deep, familiar voice sounded behind them.
Both sat up and turned around.
Lucas jumped to his feet. “Uncle Sam?” He hurried
forward, but Samuel staggered back. Lucas froze. “Uncle Sam!” Lucas
exclaimed, realizing Samuel was wasted.
“He’s sick!” Margaret declared as she stood and
started for her father.
Lucas grabbed a firm hold on her arm. “Stay here,”
he ordered. “He’s not sick. He’s DRUNK!”
“Luke!” Margaret exclaimed suddenly. “He’s my
“I’ve never seen you take a drink in your life…much
less get wasted on the stuff!” Lucas looked Samuel up and down. “They
wrote me and told me about you but…”
“You…” Samuel pointed a finger at Lucas suddenly.
His voice grew angry. “Why are YOU alive? My son died but you lived?
“Papa, no!” Margaret suddenly bolted forward.
“Margaret, I said stay back!” Lucas ordered as he
gently took her arm and held her at bay. Lucas pointed a finger at Samuel.
“If you think…” Lucas paused to take a deep breath. “If you think for a
SECOND that I wouldn’t have taken that bullet for Andy then you are WRONG!
You don’t know how hard I wished it was me laying there instead of Andy!”
Samuel stood in front of him. He held a bottle in
his hand. As he stared Lucas up and down, he lifted the bottle to his lips,
but Lucas bolted forward. “How can you do this?” He took the bottle from
Samuel’s hand. “How can you behave this way in front of your daughter???”
“Lucas, I…” Samuel started.
Margaret bolted forward and put her arms around
Samuel. “Luke, he’s my father! Please!”
“Margaret, I know Scott wouldn’t want you around him
when he’s drunk. And neither do I.” Lucas stared at her, letting her know
what he expected.
Margaret sighed. She turned and looked at her
father. “Papa…why? Why do you always come when you’re drunk? Just once
Samuel lifted his eyebrows and stared hard at his
daughter, causing her words to die. He grabbed her wrists and removed her
hands from his body. Then he turned and hurried away. Lucas walked up
behind Margaret and put his hands on her shoulders. “Why, Luke?” She shook
her head and wiped her tears. “Why?”
“I heard he was like that, but…” Lucas clinched his
jaw. “How can he turn his back on his family like this? I don’t
Margaret turned. “He’s sick, Luke!”
“No.” Lucas shook his head. “He’s DRUNK!” He
hugged her, wishing he could take the pain she felt for her father away.
“He’s gone now.” Lucas lifted a hand to her chin and lifted her face up
toward his. “I don’t want to fight about it, honey.” He raised his
eyebrows. “Do you?”
“No.” Margaret whispered as she allowed herself to
smile. “Time’s too short for fighting.” She lowered her head. “But I was
hoping that you…of all people…could try to be a little more understanding.”
Lucas led her back to the blanket and laid down. He
drew her back down beside him. They laid quiet for awhile. Finally, he
whispered, “I’ll try.”
“Good.” Margaret grew quiet again. Lucas put his
arm around her as she laid her head on his shoulder. They lay there for a
long time just enjoying being together. Lucas put his hat over his face to
block out the sun. Margaret soon heard him snoring.
She giggled as she lifted her head from his chest.
“Luke?” The snoring stopped. Margaret tapped his arm. “Lucas McCain.”
“Did you know you snore?”
“No! I do NOT snore!” Lucas declared. He lifted his
hat off his face. Holding it up in the air, he narrowed his eyes at her.
“Besides, how would you know?”
“You always fall asleep down here at the creek. I
just never told you that you snore before, but you do.” She put a hand to
her mouth and chuckled as he raised an eyebrow.
“Margaret…I do NOT snore!” Lucas argued again.
“And I wasn’t sleeping.” He put the hat back over
his face and crossed his arms over his middle. “I was just…resting my
“Deeply!” Margaret declared. “You fell asleep!”
“Stop it!” Lucas argued again. “I done told you I
Margaret sat up on the blanket and looked down at
“What?” Lucas asked impatiently from under his hat.
“Um…can I talk to you about something?” Lucas
Slowly, Lucas lifted his hat from his face. “What?”
“The money you send home from the war…” Margaret
“What is it?” Lucas asked as he slowly sat up.
“Well…It’s a bit awkward to talk to you about this
but…all the money you’ve sent home is in the…bank.” Margaret met his eyes.
“The…” Lucas narrowed his eyes. “What are you
“Oh…I shouldn’t be telling you but…” Margaret turned
away. Lucas grabbed her shoulders and turned her back around. “Abe’s
saving the money, Luke…for…for us.”
“For when we get married,” Margaret declared as she
“We’re getting married?” Lucas asked in shock.
“According to your brother, yes.”
“I see.” Lucas thought on that a moment. “Go on.”
“Well…Julie told me not to tell you but…Oh Luke,
Laura wants her own room! They were going to build a couple extra bedrooms
before the locusts came, and I told him to use that money because if we do
get married, we’d find some other way but…”
“My brother is stubborn.”
Margaret nodded. “Seems to run in the family.”
Lucas cocked his head to one side and again raised an eyebrow at her. “And
he told Julie he would build Laura a room, but your Ma died a week ago and
he still hasn’t said anything about it so…”
“So…he is just going to try to weasel out of it…”
Lucas stood up. “Well, we’ll see what we can do about that!”
Margaret quickly stood up. “What are you going to
“I’m going to the bank and getting MY money.”
“You’re what???” Margaret asked in shock.
“Yes. And then I’m going to go buy the supplies Abe
will need to build those bedrooms! AND I’ll be there to see they are
“You can’t, Lucas!” Margaret argued.
“I can! It’s our money, isn’t it?”
“Yes but…” Margaret shot a hand to her mouth and
giggled. “First of all, you look like a drowned rat. And second of all
its…well, it’s Sunday. The bank’s not open today!”
Lucas looked down at his clothes. “Oh…I see.”
“Lucas, will you do me one favor?” Lucas nodded.
“Well, when you get ready to deliver the materials…let me know. I want to
be as far from the McCain farm as I can get when Abe explodes.” Lucas
laughed as they started up to the house.
When they got there, Laura was outside ringing out
diapers to hang on the line. “Chores on Sunday?” Lucas asked as they paused
outside. “I didn’t figure Abe would assign chores on Sunday!”
“He doesn’t. Julie assigned them and Abe agreed!”
Laura declared as she wrinkled up her face. “Since I came back all wet when
I was told not to, I have to wash dirty diapers!” Laura moaned as she shot
her brother a dirty look. “Julie said this way I stay out of trouble.”
“But it was all in fun!” Lucas declared. “Besides, I
pushed you in…” Lucas walked over to Abe who was coming from the barn.
“Abe! Why are you punishing Laura? I’m the reason she got all wet.”
“Yes.” Abe nodded. “I know.” He bent over and
picked up the ax. “Get to chopping, boy.”
“What?” Lucas rolled his eyes. “You cannot be
“Oh, but I AM!” Abe declared. “Would you like me to
tell you how much trouble Laura got into when she got home? Julie wasn’t
impressed in the least.”
“Just because I pushed her into the water?”
“No. Not JUST because you pushed her into the
water. Because Julie told Laura before she went off with you that she was
to get out of her Sunday dress and she didn’t. Therefore, she was pushed
into the water and tore it, causing more work for Julie. And since her
brother was the one who got her into all this trouble, he will chop wood.”
Abe handed Lucas the ax. “Now…get to chopping, boy.” Lucas just stood
there staring at the ax. Abe cleared his throat. “Oh, or would you rather I
send Julie out here who, by the way, is in a pretty sour mood right now…”
Lucas sighed and took the ax. “Practical way of
getting your work done for ya…” Lucas grumbled as he walked over to the wood
Abe nodded. “That’s exactly the idea!” Margaret
giggled as she walked inside to leave the “children” to their punishments.
As he chopped wood, Lucas watched Laura hang the last
diaper on the clothesline. “Boy, I’ll be glad when those three don’t go in
their britches anymore!” Laura declared as she put her hands on her hips.
“Oh, I’m sure Abe and Julie will find other ways of
punishing you that are just as bad.” Laura went to help gather up the
“Laura,” Julie called from the door. “Come on inside
and set the table, please.”
“Can’t I help Luke with…”
Julie placed her hands on her hips. “Laura Rose!”
During supper, the family talked lightly. Abe,
Julie, and Margaret were all happy to see the change in Lucas over the last
week. He looked so alive and ready to take on anything. But there was a
change in him – one that would never go away. Instead of the boy who had
left, Lucas came back with a rough attitude – one, that for the last couple
of days, had been hidden by the boyish charm he had while around Laura.
After supper, Abe and Luke went to dig more holes to put the fence up while
Laura helped Julie with the dishes. She asked Julie if she could help with
the fence when the dishes were done. “No. I think you can help me get the
boys ready for bed.”
“But Abe said I could help him…” Julie turned from
picking up one of the boys and shot Laura a look. Laura sighed. “Yes
Julie allowed Laura to go outside and help Abe and
Luke, but while out there her friend Jessie came by. “Can we go play?”
Laura asked Abe.
“It’s getting dark. Your bedtime is quickly
approaching,” Abe answered sternly. “I think you should just talk quietly
then go on inside and get ready for bed.” Laura wasn’t happy with the
decision. “Maybe you can go play with Jessica tomorrow once Julie’s done
Lucas watched Laura say goodnight then walk inside.
“Seems she’s adjusting well,” Lucas stated.
“She is.” Abe grunted as he held the fence in place
while Lucas nailed it. “So uh…how are things between you and Margaret?”
“Good.” Lucas smiled. “They’re really good.”
Abe turned and looked at his little brother as he
rested his arm on top of the fence. “I can’t help but watch you two when
you’re together. I must say that I’m really impressed with how in love you
“Is it that obvious?” Lucas asked, a bit embarrassed.
“It’s THAT obvious.” Abe picked up another portion
of fence and started putting it into place. “Uh…do we hear wedding bells
“Huh?” Lucas turned and stared at his brother.
“Wedding bells? Abe, in case you forgot we’re still in the middle of a
“I know.” Abe nodded. “Who says you can’t get
married before you go back off to war. You could have a few days as husband
“And make her a widow?” Lucas pounded a board really
hard. “No way!”
“No, Abe. I’m not going to even ask her until I come
back from the war.” Lucas sighed. “I’m not leaving a widow behind.”
“Does it still bother you that much?” Luke nodded.
“Well…I suspect it always will.”
“Doesn’t it bother you every time you see that widow
with eight children?”
“Yes. I guess it does.” Abe pounded another bard
into place. “I just want to see you two happily married. I reckon I’m
anxious to see you two joined together. It’s something Ma and Pa always
wanted for you two.”
Lucas smiled. “You know brother…Every time I’m with
her, I want the same thing.” He turned and looked at Abe before sitting
down the hammer. “Well…like you told Laura, it’s getting dark. I could use
a cup of Julie’s coffee.”
The brothers walked inside and sat down at the
table. Abe saw Julie in the kitchen making cookies. He walked up behind
her and kissed her neck. “Is there any coffee?”
“You know where the stove is, Abe,” Julie answered
with a smile. She turned and laid a kiss on his lips.
He smiled deeply into her eyes. “Yes I do, my love.”
Abe and Lucas sat at the table jawing and laughing.
Lucas looked toward the cot in the living room then turned and watched as
Julie sat down next to Abraham. The two gave each other a loving look.
Lucas suddenly felt like he was invading. “Uh…” Lucas finished his coffee
then stood from the table. “I think I’ll sleep in the barn tonight.”
Julie and Abe forced their eyes off of each other and
turned to look up at Luke. “That’s not…” Julie started.
Abe laid a hand on her arm and shook his head.
“Goodnight, Luke,” he mumbled as he touched Julie’s cheek and turned her to
once again look into his eyes. “You have a good night’s sleep. I’ve plenty
of work for you in the morning.”
“Work?” Abe didn’t take his eyes off of Julie. He
smiled deeply into her eyes and nodded. “Oh…I have some errands to run
“Oh?” Abe turned to look up at Lucas. “What sort of
errands?” Abe slowly moved his face toward Julie.
“Uh…just errands. Goodnight.” Lucas quickly left
the house and made his way to the barn.
Julie smiled as Abe’s lips parted and met hers. He
kissed her softly at first, but the kiss deepened and Julie wrapped her arms
around Abe and responded to his kiss. After they parted, Julie asked,
“What’s gotten into you tonight?”
“I don’t know…” Abe answered. “I just walked inside
and saw you there…you looked so beautiful baking those cookies and I
realized I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
“Oh.” Julie slowly stood up. “Shall we go to bed,
Abe picked her up into his arms. Julie giggled as he
chuckled softly. After carrying her into the bedroom, he kicked the door
closed with his foot. Standing in the middle of the bedroom, he pressed his
lips to hers and kissed long and deep. He slowly allowed her to slide from
his arms and stand in front of him. Abe pressed his hands against her
cheeks. “So much has happened lately…we haven’t made love since you lost
the baby. I don’t want to pressure you.”
“Oh Abe…” Julie laid a hand against his cheek and
kissed him. “I’ve wanted it for weeks.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Julie shook her head. “The time was never right.
Seems it’s been one thing after another and you’ve been under so much
Abe kissed her. Julie found the button on his shirt
and started unbuttoning it, the whole time they kissed. She pulled his
shirt off then moved her lips down his neck and gently kissed his chest.
Abe moaned as he started unbuttoning her dress. They undressed each other
as they stood in the middle of the room. The lantern cast light on the
couple as they stepped back to gaze at each other. Abe looked his wife up
and down from head to toe then grinned. “You ARE so beautiful, Mrs.
He allowed his hand to travel up and down her body as
he started pushing her toward the bed. They stared into each other’s eyes,
which danced with excitement at the love they would soon be sharing. Abe
kissed her hard on the mouth as he bent over and pulled the covers back.
Julie crawled into the bed, still kissing Abe, as Abe slid in next to her
and pulled the covers up. He forced his lips to part as he gently ran a
hand up and down her bare skin. “This could result in another baby. Are
you ready for that?”
Julie rested in her husband’s arms as their bodies
pressed against each other’s. “If that’s what God wants, then I’m happy,
Mr. McCain. Maybe it’ll be a sister for Laura.”
“A sister?” Abe asked as he allowed his lips to
travel down her throat.
“You know she’ll be like a sister…” Julie started.
But Abe hushed her with his lips.
Their kisses deepened as they caressed each other.
They enjoyed the feel of the other pressed up against them as their hands
traveled up and down the other’s skin, caressing. It was some time before
Abe knew Julie was ready to give herself to him. They shared deep passion
as they made love that night. Abe didn’t hold back, knowing they were both
ready were God to allow Julie to conceive. The passion raced through them
until finally they were both spent.
Julie smiled as Abe laid on his back and pulled her
head onto his chest. Abe kissed the top of her head and sighed. “I love
you, Julie,” he whispered.
Julie laid a hand on his chest and sighed. “Can I
ask you a question?” Abe mumbled. “Why did Luke go to sleep in the barn?”
Abe chuckled. “I suspect he knew we needed to be
alone.” Abe kissed her as Julie gasped. He chuckled again. “He’s a man,
“That’s sort of what I figured. I reckon we made it
sort of obvious, huh?” Abe nodded. He bent his head down to kiss her
again, but found she was sound asleep.
Lucas picked up his napkin as he watched Julie rest
her hand on Abe’s back while she poured his coffee. Abe watched her fill
his cup then turned and smiled up at her. “Thanks, Sweetie.”
“You’re welcome.” Julie answered as she smiled into
his eyes and bent to give him a quick kiss.
“So uh…did you two get a good night’s sleep last
night?” Lucas asked as he grinned into his coffee cup.
“Lucas!” Julie gasped.
“Julie!” Abe gasped at his wife.
“Well…I guess I should have asked if you had a good
night…” Abe kicked him in the shin under the table. “OUCH!”
“Eat your breakfast, Luke.” Julie shook her head.
“So…” Abe cleared his throat as he flashed Julie one
more smile while she sat down. “What are these errands you have to do in
“In town?” Laura gasped. “Oh, can I go with you,
Luke? Can I please?”
“You’ve got chores to do this morning, young lady!”
Julie answered sternly.
“You heard your mother…er…Julie..” The adults
chuckled at Abe’s slip up. “No arguing or you’ll get a good bite of her lye
“I didn’t say anything about my errands being in
town, brother!” Lucas declared. Then he turned to look at Laura. “But
uh…if you’re good…I’ll bring you back some candy.”
“Lucas...” Julie started.
“Now you can’t deny a girl candy! I still like those
peppermint sticks myself. What do you say?”
“I like the sucker sticks. Can I have strawberry,
cherry, uh…” Laura looked toward the ceiling as she thought of what other
flavors she would want.
“Eat your breakfast!” Julie demanded. She turned to
Lucas. “She can have two pieces of candy…if she’s good.”
Laura ate silently for a few moments. “Luke?” Lucas
looked at her. “How will you know I’m good?”
Abe and Lucas chuckled at her question. “Well now…I
never thought much about that. I reckon it’s what adults always say to the
kids. I’ll tell ya, Laura…I just BET you are good enough for candy if you
help Julie with the housework this morning. Then maybe Abe and Julie will
let you go to Jessie’s house after lunch.” He winked at her.
Julie shook her head. “You’re spoiling her!”
“What good is it to be a big brother if you can’t
spoil your baby sister?”
“I’m not a baby! I’m eight years old!” Laura
“Oh! Well, just don’t get married before I come back
from war!” Lucas allowed his voice to die, but the words were already out.
There was suddenly silence around the table. Julie
and Abe looked at each other as Laura suddenly widened her eyes. “Back
from…” She started as she slowly sat down her spoon.
“Uh…we were going to tell you, honey,” Julie mumbled
as she turned to feed David some more cereal.
“No! You can’t go back to war! You can’t!” Laura’s
eyes filled with tears.
“Uh…Luke, now that you’ve stuck that boot in your
mouth…maybe you should get to your errands.” Abe’s voice sounded annoyed.
Lucas ignored his brother and turned to Laura.
“Laura, listen…” Laura turned away from him in her chair
“Luke!” Abe stopped him. “We’ll handle this. Go on
to your errands.”
Lucas slowly stood from the table. He paused at the
door and put on his hat. Then he reached for his rifle. Slowly turning
back toward Laura, Lucas said, “Laura, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“If you go away, I’ll never speak to you again!
NEVER!” Laura declared.
Lucas looked at Abe and Julie who now sat
uncomfortably at the table. “I’m sorry.” He hurried out.
“He can’t go back, Abe! He just can’t!” Laura’s eyes
filled with tears.
“Laura…” Abe cleared his throat. “Go on and clear
the dishes.” He turned and looked at Julie. “I think we need to talk.”
They put the boys down on the floor and asked Laura to watch them then
walked into their bedroom and closed the door. “Is that boy ever going to
grow up?” Abe asked in an impatient voice.
“He didn’t mean…it was an innocent mistake,” Julie
declared, trying to calm her husband’s boiling temper.
“I told him not to tell Laura about…” Abe ran a hand
through his hair. “Damn it! The moment we get her settled down…something
upsets her again!”
“Calm down, Abe!” Julie ordered in a quiet voice.
She folded her arms. “Now…we just have to sit her down and explain it to
“How do you explain to an eight year old girl that
her brother returned safely from war but now has to go back, possibly not
returning the second time? It’s going to be awful…just like it was that
first day.” Abe turned toward the window. “And she doesn’t have Ma and Pa
to help her through.”
“No.” Julie walked up to stand behind her husband.
She put her arms around him and gave him a backwards hug. “But she has us.”
“She’s going to hate me all over again for keeping
this from her.”
“She’s going to be upset, yes. Do you blame her?”
Abe shook his head. “But she’s old enough to understand.”
“Charlie, NO!” they heard Laura yell from the other
room. Then they heard Charlie’s cry. Abe and Julie hurried into the other
room to find Charlie on his back side with his hands in his mouth. “What
happened?” Abe asked as Julie hurried over to pick up her oldest son.
“He was trying to get into the scraps!” Laura
“Yeah? And what did you do?” Abe asked as he looked
at Charlie. Laura stayed quiet as she went back into the kitchen. “Laura,
I asked you a question.”
“I see.” Abe raised an eyebrow as he bent down in
front of her. “Laura…I’m sorry. We should have told you.”
“Why does he have to go back?” Laura asked suddenly.
Julie sat down in a chair with Charlie on her lap as
the triplets chased each other around the table. “Come here, Laura.” She
held out her hand. Laura slowly walked over to her. “Lucas came back
because he was really, really sad after somebody died. He needed family
around him to help him. We knew he was going to go back, but…well…Ma was
really sick and you were pretty upset about that. We didn’t want to upset
Abe smoothed her hair back. “We were going to tell
you. Honest, we were Laura. I guess we were just trying to find the right
moment to tell you.”
“When’s he leaving?” Laura asked.
“Eleven…” Tears filled Laura’s eyes. “Why? Why
can’t somebody else take his place?”
“Come here.” Abe sat on the floor and pulled her
down onto his lap. “Laura, Luke has a job to do. He can’t abandon his
job. Let’s suppose I decided one day I just didn’t want to be Charlie’s Pa
anymore. Or…let’s suppose that Julie just decided she didn’t want to be my
wife anymore. Would that be very nice?” Laura shook her head. “Well…Luke
said he’d be a soldier and fight in this war. He has to keep that promise.
You wouldn’t want him to break his promise…would you?”
Laura lowered her head and shook it slowly. The door
opened. Lucas stood in the doorway. “I’m sorry, Abe. I couldn’t leave
when things weren’t right between me and my Rosebud.” Lucas kneeled down.
“Laura, I wish I could stay here with you but…”
Laura stood from Abe’s lap and walked over to Lucas.
“You have a job to do.” Lucas nodded. “Does Margaret know?”
“And is she sad?” Laura asked.
“I think she is. But she understands I have to.
Laura…I can’t go back knowing you hate me. I just…”
“I don’t want you to go, Luke!” Laura declared. “And
if you do go, I’ll be very angry but…” Laura lowered her head. “I won’t
“Fair enough.” Lucas smiled as Laura threw her arms
around him. He patted her back, then pulled her away and smiled at her.
Slowly, he stood up. “I’ll be home later.” Lucas walked to the door. He
turned and smiled down at Laura. “…WITH the candy!”
“How much?” Lucas shrieked at the bank clerk.
He looked back down at the ledger. “There’s $520.00
in your account,” he repeated as Lucas stared at him.
“Oh…” This piece of news surprised Lucas quite a bit
since he had only sent home half that much. He couldn’t help but shake his
head. That brother of his wasn’t as rough and tough as he let on. In fact,
Abe was becoming a regular softy!
“Is there a problem, Mr. McCain?” the clerk asked.
“I can get Mr…”
“No! I mean…there’s no problem…I just didn’t know
there was…” Lucas shook his head and told the clerk the amount of money he
wished to take out. After pocketing the money, he made his way to the mill
at the other end of town. It hadn’t been there long, and Lucas was mighty
happy to see his old school friend running it. “Matthew!” Lucas shook the
boy’s hand. “Tell me…how much of this lumber would it take to build a
Matthew laughed. “Just a couple bedrooms? What
about the rest of your house?”
“It’s not for me. It’s for my brother, Abe.”
“Oh. I see…” Matthew scratched his head as he walked
into the office. “Well now, this IS interesting. You see, before the
locusts came he had given me an order for lumber. But after the locusts, he
canceled the order.” Matthew searched through the papers on his desk.
“Yes. Here it is. I had about a wagon load of wood for him.” Matthew
raised his head. “Did he change his mind?”
“Nope.” Lucas dug in his pocket for the money. “But
he will when he sees the lumber and such outside his house. How much?”
“You mean…” Matthew paused as he pointed a finger at
Lucas. “Land sakes…I don’t want to be anywhere near you two when Abe learns
what you’ve done!” He shook his head. “Well…not many orders coming in
right now. I can have the lumber ready for you this afternoon.”
Lucas nodded and turned to walk out. “Oh…” Lucas
turned back around. “I don’t suppose I need to ask you not to tell Abe…you
know…just in case he comes by?”
“I guarantee you I won’t breathe a word!” Matthew
Lucas left the mill and hurried to the hardware
store. Walking up to the counter, he asked, “My brother didn’t by any
chance put in an order before the locusts hit?”
The clerk nodded. “Yes, Luke. As a matter of fact…”
The clerk dug through his papers. “Yes. Here it is.”
Lucas scanned the list made in his brother’s
handwriting. “Alright. How soon can you have that ready for me?”
“Well…I thought that…”
Lucas banged his fist on the counter. “Forget what
you thought. I have the money right here.” He dug his hand in his pocket
and pulled out the money. “Now…can you get started on it?”
“Oh, sure Luke. Sure.” The clerk assured him.
“It’ll be here this afternoon.”
Lucas nodded in satisfaction, turned, and walked out
Scott Gibbs walked into the kitchen and leaned on the
counter as he kissed his wife on the cheek. “How are you?” he asked as he
looked down into the bowl she was mixing.
“I’m fine,” Amanda answered with a laugh. Scott
smiled at her. She turned and leaned against the counter. “Is
there…something you need?”
“Yeah. What’s that?” Scott pointed in the opposite
direction. Amanda looked in the direction he was pointing, and Scott
quickly stuck his hand in the batter and took a lick.
Amanda turned back in time to see what he was doing.
She put her hand on her hip. “Scott Gibbs, I…”
There was a knock on the door. Scott was happy for
the visitor’s interruption. The caller had saved him from a tongue
lashing. Lucas stepped inside. “Is Margaret here?” Margaret came from
parlor where she’d been cleaning. “I was wondering if you could spend the
afternoon with me.”
Scott grinned and shook his head. “Well now,” he
said as he folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t know that I like all
the attention my sister’s been getting lately. I just may have to ask you
what your intentions are, young man!”
“Nevermind the sarcasm!” Lucas grumbled, a bit
embarrassed that Scott was poking fun at his ‘romancing’ Margaret. “I think
you already know the answer to that.”
“Now Scott…” Amanda came in front the kitchen. “You
behave yourself or I’ll put you to scrubbing these floors this afternoon!”
She wagged her finger at him.
“Why do you want me to spend the afternoon with you?”
Margaret asked as she cocked her head to one side and studied him. “I’ve
been neglecting my chores around here and really have…”
“Well, because I…” Lucas paused and reddened when he
saw Scott still watching them. “Because I…” Again, he paused. He rolled
his eyes and lowered his lips to her ear and whispered, “I love you!”
Margaret grinned as Lucas pulled back from her and looked into his eyes.
“So, can you?”
“Well, I…” Margaret again turned and looked at her
brother. “Luke, I do have a lot of chores here. I’m afraid I’ve been
Scott held up a hand and tried to muster up a serious
face. “Now, wait a minute! You’ve been stealing her away every day since…”
“Scott Gibbs! You let your sister spend as much time
with her intended as she can!” Amanda demanded as she shook the wooden spoon
at him. “And you can forget about any cake for supper tonight!”
“Oh, but I can’t leave you with all this work!”
“Nonsense!” Amanda gave Margaret a little push
toward Lucas. “Rather Scott does or not, I remember courting and how
exciting it is. Margaret, Mama Jenny will be back from visiting this
afternoon, and she can help me clean. Your Mother would want you with
Lucas, and you know it.”
Lucas chuckled. “Alright. Let’s go, then!”
“Wait!” Margaret held up her hand. “Why are you so
anxious to take me along? Are you delivering the building supplies?”
“The….building supplies?” Lucas questioned as
Margaret raised an eyebrow at him. “Oh…well, as a matter of fact…”
“Now Luke, I told you…” Margaret started.
“I know what you told me!” Lucas grabbed her hand
and pulled her toward the door. He snatched her hat off the hook and handed
it to her. “But you see…If you are there with me, Abe won’t cuss or throw
things…I don’t think.”
“I see…” Margaret planted her feet on the ground,
refusing to go one more step. “So you have me there as a decoy…is that it?”
“Ah shucks, honey! Don’t say it like that! I want
you there because I love you.” Margaret raised her eyebrows and licked her
“What about lunch?”
“I’ll take you to the hotel for lunch.”
“Sounds like a bribe, if you ask me,” Scott declared
with a shake of his head.
“It’s not a bribe!” Lucas declared as he glared at
Scott. “It’s a…a…” Lucas shook his head. “Margaret, now will you go with
me peacefully before I give that brother of yours a hard smack?”
“Alright, Lucas.” Margaret followed Lucas to the
wagon he had borrowed from Peter. As they rode along the trail Lucas told
Margaret about Abe’s already having ordered the supplies, but putting it on
hold. Then Lucas grew quiet. “You know I have no choice in going back.”
Margaret turned to look at him. “Of course I know,
Luke.” Lucas drove quietly. “Luke, did I say something to make you think
“No.” Lucas sighed. “Laura didn’t know I had to go
back. Abe…he asked me not to tell her until after Ma’s funeral. But things
happened and I suppose we just sort of let it all get away from us.”
“How’d she find out?”
“I told her.” Margaret turned and looked at him.
“Not on purpose, but…she found out just the same. Abe’s upset with me.
Laura told me she’d be very angry if I go back.”
“She loves you, Luke. She’s so fearful when you’re
“So are you,” Lucas pointed out.
“Yes. But I’m an adult. Laura’s a child.” Margaret
smiled. “Luke…she’ll just have to be angry. You have to go back.” She put
her hand on his.
“Oh…I know.” Lucas swallowed. “Maybe I shouldn’t
have come back in the first place.”
“Don’t say that!” Margaret gasped. “Luke, you came
back because your spirit was broken. I wish I could see your Captain and
think him for sending you back for us to help you. If he hadn’t…”
Lucas nodded. “I’d probably be dead by now.”
Margaret turned to him on the wagon seat. “Luke,
even if saying goodbye again is going to break my heart…I’ll do it because I
know that you’ll come back.”
“No, Luke. I understand the risks. And I hope those
risks are the reasons you haven’t…” Margaret stopped, unable to finish her
thought. It was too personal. “But I know…in my heart…that you’ll come
Lucas sighed. “Margaret, I have nothing to offer
you! I’m from a poor dirt family! We struggled from month to month trying
to make ends meet while your family…”
“Luke, stop the horses.” Margaret’s voice was low,
but stern. Lucas pulled the wagon over and put on the break. But he didn’t
turn toward her. “Look at me.” He lifted his head. “Luke, you have a lot
to offer me. We’ve always been best friends. There’s no one who can
understand me like you do. There’s no one who treats me like you do. I…”
“I feel the same but…” Lucas sighed. “Margaret, I
can’t give you the lace curtains and fancy dishes you’ve always had! I
can’t guarantee you that you’ll wear fine clothes or even that our children
will always have shoes to wear. I…”
“I don’t care about those things, Luke!” Margaret
declared. “All I care about is you.”
“But that’s not enough!” Lucas declared. “I can’t
take you out of the house…from your family into a shack to eat beans for the
rest of your life!”
“Lucas McCain!” Margaret laid a hand on his cheek
and turned his head to look at her. “I have absolutely NO intention to eat
beans for the rest of my life! We will at least have vegetables from our
garden and beef from our cattle…”
“You know what I mean…”
“Yes.” Margaret nodded. “I know that Lucas Mark
McCain is feeling sorry for himself. I also know that he better STOP
feeling sorry for himself right now! You are going to go back to the war
and fight until you win. Then you are going to come home and m…” Margaret
stopped, suddenly embarrassed.
“Marry you?” Lucas chuckled in spite of himself.
“Is that what you were going to say?” Margaret nodded. “Well now…when I
come back, I just may ask you!” Lucas turned in his seat and smiled into
her eyes. “Commere.” He put his arms around her and pulled her toward
him. The kiss they shared was very intimate and private.
When their lips parted, Margaret blushed. “We
shouldn’t…” she started.
Lucas chuckled. “You’re right but…I can’t help
myself.” Lucas smiled. “Is the fight over? Or do we need a little more
Margaret straightened on the seat and lifted her head
to look straight down the road. “I suppose that was sort of a fight, huh?”
She smiled. “But I think we’ve done enough making up. Let’s go to lunch.”
Lucas rode the wagon the rest of the way into town as
Margaret wrapped her arms around his and giggled, just happy they were
But after pulling up in front of the hotel, Lucas
jumped down and started inside. Margaret cleared her throat and folded her
arms. Lucas turned, remembering he was supposed to help her down. “Well,
seems you’ve forgotten all the manners I’ve tried to teach you!” Margaret
declared once she was back on her feet.
“Looks like you have your work cut out for ya,” Lucas
grinned down at her.
“It’s a burden I’m willing to bear,” Margret stated
as she smiled.
“Oh…well…that’s great!” He smiled. “So…shall we go
Lucas put his hand at her elbow and led her inside.
He did his best to remember all his manners. He pulled the chair out for
her and pushed it in, then he politely asked her what she wanted to eat.
Margaret surprised him by stating she wanted a steak. When the waiter came
around, Lucas ordered their lunches. They engaged in small talk throughout
After lunch, the couple made their way toward the
mill. Margaret stood beside him while Lucas checked on the lumber.
Margaret smiled beside him as Lucas and Matt talked. Lucas finally shook
his head and assured him he’d be right back. He then tool Margaret’s arm
and led her out onto the boardwalk. “Perhaps you’d like to go to the
general store.” Lucas took a few dollars from his pocket. “Buy yourself a
pretty dress for that dance next Saturday night.”
“What dance next Saturday night?” Margaret asked.
“Oh…the one we’re having at Abe’s house…only he
doesn’t know it yet.” Lucas smiled mischievously.
“Lucas McCain, don’t you dare!” Margaret declared.
Lucas only grinned. Margaret knew he indeed would do just as he said. She
looked at the money Lucas was holding out to her. “Oh, but I can’t take
“I’d be very offended if you don’t accept it.” Lucas
pinched her chin. “After all, you’re my gal, remember?”
“Yes, but Luke….You’ve worked so hard for this money
“And I want my gal to have a brand new dress for the
wedding,” Lucas answered sternly. “Now get going!”
Margaret smiled and took the money. She started to
turn away, but Lucas reached out and took her arm. “Margaret?”
“Yes?” Margaret’s heart leaped at the prospect of
receiving a goodbye kiss.
“Uh…Get Laura some candy, will ya?”
Margaret rolled her eyes. “Of course.” She turned
and hurried into the General Store.
Lucas helped Matt load the lumber in the wagon. He
then went to the Hardware store to pick up the rest of his supplies.
Grabbing his rifle, he made his way down the boardwalk and into the General
Store. Margaret turned and smiled at him. She lifted a box, but Lucas
promptly took it from her. “I’ve got this,” he said as he smiled at her.
They stepped out onto the boardwalk. “So, did you
get the dress?” Margaret nodded. “I bet it’s really pretty.”
“I think so.”
“What color is it?” Lucas asked then.
“I’m not going to tell you that!” Margaret answered
Lucas put the package under the wagon seat then
helped her up.
They were soon on their way to Abe’s. There wasn’t
much talking as they rode along. Margaret hummed softly and Lucas sat back
and put his arm around her, enjoying her voice. “La de da La La da…”
Margaret sang softly. Then as she turned and looked at Lucas, she sang
“That’s always been one of my favorites…” Lucas
murmured as he turned and peered into her eyes. His head moved toward hers
and he kissed her softly.
“Lucas McCain!” They suddenly heard. Margaret broke
from his kiss and shot a hand to her mouth as she saw that the horses had
stalled right in the middle of the vegetable garden Abe had been trying to
work on planting. “What ya doin’, boy?”
“I’m sorry…I guess I wasn’t watching where I was
going!” Lucas backed the horses up and stopped them. After putting the
break on, He stepped from the wagon and helped Margaret down.
Abe planted his hands on his hips as he slowly walked
to the back of the wagon. He looked at the wood and other supplies. Then
he slowly walked up to stand face-to-face with his baby brother. “What is
all this?” he demanded to know.
“Uh…I’ll go in and see if Julie…” Margaret started.
Lucas grabbed a firm hold of her arm and pulled her
back to stand beside him. “This, big brother, is for the two bedrooms you
need to build.”
“The two…” Abe folded his arms. “Since when did you
find cause to butt in and…”
“Since you chose to stick my money in some bank while
Laura Rose sleeps in a room with four boys!” Lucas declared. “Now, we have
time to get started tonight then we’ll work on it every day for the next
“Now wait just a minute…” Abe started.
Julie hurried out the door and through the fence.
“What’s all the…” She stopped when she saw the wagon full of wood and other
“Luke, did you bring me some candy?” Laura asked as
she hurried from the house with four little boys behind her.
“Well…I did but I wasn’t sure you would want some
anymore. I mean…after this morning…” Lucas allowed his voice to die.
“Oh, please let me have candy!” Laura begged.
“Were you good?” Lucas asked as he looked up at
Julie stood behind Laura and wrapped her arms around
the girl. “She was good.”
Lucas put his hands to his pockets and felt around.
“I know there was some around here…” He gasped and threw a hand to his
mouth. “I ate it all!”
“Stop joshing her, Luke!” Margaret handed Laura the
bag of candy. Laura smiled as she put her hand on it.
“Uh…” Julie took the candy from Laura. “You can have
one piece now, and one after supper. The rest will go up until later.”
“And NO snitching!” Abe ordered. Then he turned
back to Lucas. “Now Luke, about this stuff you bought…”
“I’ll hear no arguments!”
“Good, because I was just going to tell you that you
saved me a trip into town. I was just about to go request the orders
filled.” Abe folded his arms. “Well, Laura Rose, it looks like you are
going to get your own room very soon!”
“Ya mean it?” Laura asked. “Ya really mean it?”
Everyone laughed as Laura started dancing around excitedly. “Can I help?”
“Well…” Lucas started enthusiastically.
“You absolutely may not!” Julie declared. She saw
Laura and Lucas both open their mouths to argue. “For two reasons: First
of all, you, Laura, are a lady! Second of all it is too dangerous.”
“Julie’s right, Laura. “ Laura stuck her bottom lip
out. “But I should have the fence done tonight which means you can play
with the children outside tomorrow. You can run around all you want inside
“And you can even do some chores while watching the
children!” Julie pushed Laura inside. “But right now you can help me get
supper started while these men decide where to go from here.” Julie
turned. ‘You staying for supper, Margaret?”
Margaret smiled but shook her head. “I’m sorry. I
really should be getting home.” Lucas raised his eyebrows, wishing she
would stay. “I have to, Luke. I’m teaching Beth how to cross stitch
tonight. She wants to learn the craft.”
“Alright. I’ll take you home on Thunder.” Lucas
took Margaret hand as they started for the barn. When they got inside,
Margaret held tight to his hand. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I…” Margaret lowered her head. “I guess a
girl can get used to this is all…You know…watching the family grow with you
by my side. I just realized that in a couple weeks you’ll be facing those
guns again and…” Margaret shrugged. “I guess I’m sort of scared.”
“Me too.” Lucas smiled as he hugged her. Then he
went to saddle his horse.
Peter and Jeremiah joined Abe to help with the
buildings of the extra rooms. Julie and Laura watched as the men knocked
out the back wall to make more room. Julie kept Laura back at a safe
distance then shook her head, declaring her clean floor was being ruined.
Abe finally got tired of her complaining and stuck his head inside the
wall. “Do you want Laura to have her own room or not?”
Julie merely shook her head and turned to make
The brothers enjoyed being together again working and
laughing together. By the end of the week, the two rooms were really
starting to take shape. Laura jumped up and down as Abe allowed her to have
a peak. She wondered which room would be hers and Abe assured her the rooms
were the exact same size, but Laura wasn’t so sure and declared she would
count the paces herself once the rooms were finished. Abe merely shook his
head at his sister.
Then on Friday afternoon while Julie joined Emily and
Tiffany at the main house to fix a hearty supper, Margaret came rushing in
with the newspaper. “Have you seen this?” she asked as she shook the paper
in the air and burst into tears. “Have you?”
Julie wiped her hands and hurried to take the paper
Is There Justice?
For over two years, the North and South have fought over, what many believe,
is a moral issue of slavery rights. Thousands and thousands of men have
sacrificed their lives to fight for, what they believe, are their God-given
rights. One side believes slaves should be freed and able to live their own
lives; yet others believe that states should have certain rights.
Both have valid points, yet only one side can win.
Three days ago in Southern Tennessee, slave owners put ten negros to death
by hanging. Their ages ran from 12 to age 55. Their reason for death was
trying to escape when hearing a battle break out between some Union Soldiers
and Rebels. Unfortunately, the Rebels were successful in making the Union
soldiers back off. The slaves were ordered home, and when they returned
their masters hung them in the street while the salves’ wives, children, and
loved ones watched. The act was very gruesome. When law enforcement
officers found out what had taken place, they called it a strike against
mankind. “We have become savage beast, stooping so low as to murder to get
our political point across.”
Negro children as young as three were forced to watch the hangings. Some
screamed while others clung to their mothers and stared in disbelief. The
children and mothers who tried to escape were then severely beaten and
assured the next time, they would be swinging from a rope.
Many are getting tired and discouraged. Soldiers in the paper’s sources’
camp are grumbling, hungry, and very homesick. The Captain wonders how much
longer he can keep his troops together. Captain Tom Benton of the 13th
Indiana reported that his troops were at Gettysburg. “The causalities were
many, and many of my men were injured in unaccountable ways. They are
tired, hungry, and discouraged. They are all ready to go home. The drills
are difficult because they look at the man beside him and no longer
recognize the face. The face that used to be beside him is now gone, buried
in Gettysburg or, even worse, home trying to put together his shattered
The Captain went on to say that eighteen or nineteen year old boys are
suddenly being forced to become men; to witness unbearable things, forced to
do things they would never dream of doing.
Can we see the end of this war? Is there a light at the end of this long,
dark tunnel? One positive note is that the Battle of Gettysburg did a lot
to turn this war around. Though causalities on both sides were great, those
on the Southern side were very, very bad. This was a great victory for the
North. Yet, as General Grant wrote recently, “We still have some key cities
to take before we can know this war is coming to an end. We’ll know it’s
ending when the South raises its arms and declares they will obey the orders
of the President of the United States.”
But until then, more soldiers will die. There will be more pain and
suffering; and unfortunately, more slaves will be hung to make a political
Julie looked up as she finished reading the words.
There was a silence in the room as they allowed the words of the paper to
sink in. “Captain Benton…that’s Luke’s regiment, isn’t it?” Julie finally
asked. Margaret nodded as tears continued to fall down her cheeks.
“Why?” Tiffany asked. “Why do so many innocent
The door opened. Julie shot around, hiding the paper
and started into the kitchen.
“Julie?” Abe called, curious at her sudden retreat.
Julie stopped but didn’t turn. “What’s wrong?”
“Uh…nothing, Abe. We’re just working on fixing
supper. It’s almost ready.” Julie hurried into the kitchen, paper in hand.
Lucas saw Margaret crying and had her in his arms in
mere seconds. “What is it?” he asked. “What’s gotten you ladies upset?”
Margaret just cried in his arms.
“Tiffany?” Peter went to his wife. “Are you going to
tell me?” Tiffany bit her lip and lowered her head. She shook it. “I
Abe walked into the kitchen. He saw Julie wipe a
tear from her eye. “Alright. Let’s have it,” he ordered sternly.
“Have what?” Julie asked without looking up.
“What you’re hiding from me.” Julie slowly turned
and looked up at Abe. “Come on.”
“Abe, I…” she started.
“Julie…” Abe warned impatiently.
Julie slowly took the paper from under her apron and
handed it to Abe. He started reading the article and saw the reason for
their upset. He looked up at Julie, who turned and looked away. Abe took
Julie’s hand in silence and led her back into the main room. “Where’d the
paper come from?” The way he asked the question let everyone in the room
know he wanted only straight answers.
Margaret lifted her head from Luke’s chest. “I
brought it. The article was so very upsetting, Abe. I…Oh, it’s awful!”
Abe read the article while the men listened. The
women wept as they heard the words again. Margaret lifted her head to look
at Lucas. She slowly backed away, and waited until she could trust her
voice to speak. “You’ve got to go back and stop this, Luke!” Margaret
suddenly announced. “You’ve got to…go…back!”
“Margaret, that article in the paper is biased.
There are terrible things being done on both sides. This is war,” Lucas
tried to explain gently.
“Your troops are falling apart!” Margaret cried.
“Luke, your faith has been restored. You can go back and give them faith.”
Lucas turned from her. “So more innocent people can
die? You want me to go back and take more innocent lives?” He shouted.
“You have to go back, Luke! Those poor children…they
had to watch…” Margaret swallowed. “I don’t care to know what ‘other’
things are going on, Luke. I want this war over! I want it over!” Margaret
picked up the paper and flung it across the room. “My life is standing
still until this war ends. Until you help take control, more lives will
die; the men will be discouraged. Then they will all die! You’ve got to
help! Oh! I can’t STAND this!” Margaret ran out of the house.
Lucas hated seeing Margaret like this. He turned and
looked at his brothers. “Well…it looks like you will have to finish those
rooms yourself.” Lucas started out.
“You don’t have to go tonight!” Abe declared. “You
“Abe…” Lucas turned. “Margaret’s right. Why am I
here sitting on my BUTT while my men are still at war? Why am I enjoying my
homecoming with my family and the woman I love when…” Lucas walked to the
door. “No. I’m going back and I’m giving those rebels HELL!” Lucas picked
up his rifle and rushed out of the house.
“Abe…stop him!” Julie begged. “He can’t go…not like
this!” Julie started forward.
“No, Julie.” Abe grabbed her arm. “Lucas is
back…the stubborn, ornery, wild Lucas McCain is back. And he’ll go back to
Virginia and he’ll give those rebels hell. Lucas McCain will leave his
mark forever in Virginia.”
Lucas hurried to the barn. When he arrived, he found
Margaret sobbing as she brushed his horse. “What are you doing?” Lucas
“I’m grooming your horse, getting her ready for the…”
Margaret paused in mid-stroke and turned. “Oh Lucas!” She threw her arms
around him and cried.
Lucas kissed the top of her head. “Oh Margaret…” he
mumbled softly. “My sweet Margaret…I don’t want to leave you…”
“And I don’t want you to go…but I do! You have to
go, Luke! You have to help stop this war!” Margaret declared as she kept
her head buried in his chest.
Lucas tightened his arms around her. “I DO have to
go. But it can wait until the morning. I can leave in the morning.” Lucas
kissed the top of her head. “I want to spend these last few hours with
you…laughing and dancing…”
“It’s not fair.” Margaret shook her head. “It’s not
fair that you can laugh and dance while…”
“That’s why I’m leaving in the morning, Margaret.
I’m going back to be an…” Lucas swallowed. “…an officer.”
Margaret paused in her sobs and slowly lifted her
head to look at Lucas. “What?” Lucas nodded. “You mean you…you made
Lieutenant?” Lucas smiled. “You didn’t tell me. I mean…”
“No.” Lucas sighed. “I didn’t tell you because I
wasn’t sure I wanted the job. You see, Simon Lee’s death is one reason I
“This is an honor!” Margaret threw a hand to her
mouth. “Oh Lucas…you’re an officer! I’m so proud of you.”
“I want you to go home and put on your dancing dress
now. We’re going to spread the word that there will be a dance here
tonight. I’m going to make our last hours together very…” Lucas bent down
and gave her a long, soft kiss. “…very memorable.”
Lucas led her to her horse and helped her mount.
Then he watched her ride away. Peter came to stand beside Lucas. “When are
“First thing in the morning.”
“Oh. So we’ll have tonight to get used to the
idea….just like last time.”
Lucas nodded. “Except this time, we’re going to
dance instead of argue.” Lucas slapped a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “You
think you can spread the word that there will be a dance here tonight?”
“Are you kidding me?” Peter asked with a short
laugh. “That will be no problem!” Lucas smiled as he watched his brother
let out a loud holler and run to saddle his horse.
“Oh…no liquor!” Abe ordered as Peter saddled his
“The women and children will be here. No liquor.”
“Oh, but…” Peter started.
“Okay fine…I’ll go tell Tiffany for ya…” Abe turned
to start inside.
“Oh…uh…okay, okay…no liquor! I don’t cotton sleeping
in that ol’ barn again!” Lucas and Abe laughed as Peter rode off toward
Abe put his arm around his brother’s shoulders as
they started back toward the house. “We all understand why you’re leaving.
But Luke…Laura Rose…” Abe stopped, not sure how to go on.
Lucas closed his eyes. “Any chance she can sleep in
her new room tonight?”
“No. It’s too dangerous. It’ll have to wait another
week at least.”
Lucas turned to see Laura hurrying back from her
friend’s house. “Well…I suppose I’ll talk to her now. I’ll be too tired
after the party.”
“You want me and Julie to…”
“No.” Lucas sighed, suddenly feeling very heavy.
“Thanks, but I have to do this.”
Abe nodded and watched Lucas walk toward Laura.
Julie came to stand beside Abe. “He’s telling her he’s leaving,” Julie
mumbled as she slipped an arm around him.
“Yes. He’s leaving first thing in the morning.”
“Oh Abe!” Julie moaned. “I don’t think that…”
Abe stopped her. “He has to tell her. He’ll try to
make her understand.”
“Yes.” Julie looked down at the dishtowel still in
her hand. “but I…We’ll have to pick up the pieces of her broken heart
“I know. But we knew it was going to come sooner or
later.” Abe sighed. “We just thought it was going to be later. But I
think it’s time for him to go. He has a job to do, and he’ll do it.” Abe
turned and looked at Julie. “He can’t stand Margaret being upset. That’s
what got him…watching her cry over this senseless war. He’ll fight like mad
to stay alive now.”
“Hi, Rosebud.” Lucas smiled down at Laura as she
stopped in front of him. “Did you have fun at Jessie’s?”
“Yes. Did you get my room done?”
“I’m afraid not. It’ll be another week before its
ready, Abe said.”
“Oh.” Laura lowered her head. “You only have
another week. Will you be able to help me move in?”
Lucas could feel tears coming to his eyes. He’d
rather fight Gettysburg all over again then break his little sister’s
heart. He bent down and lifted her into his arms. “Let’s go sit by the
creek. We need to talk.”
Laura stayed quiet as they made their way to the
creek. After they were seated, Lucas looked over the water. “You hafta
tell me something you don’t want to.”
“Oh? How do you know that?” Lucas asked without
looking at her.
“Because you’re really sad and you won’t look at
me.” Laura stopped.
“Yes. Uh…” Lucas shifted uncomfortably. “Do you
know what happens in a war, Laura?”
Laura nodded. “It’s a big fight between the good
guys and the bad guys. They point guns at each other and shoot each other.”
“Well…not exactly.” Lucas turned toward her. “You
see…they aren’t really bad guys, honey. They are men just like us and
they…” Lucas ran a hand through his hair. “It’s just sort of like the north
and south are having a big fight.”
“Oh.” Laura wrinkled her brows. “Sort of like what
Abe and Julie had after ma got sick. They were yelling really loud at each
other and everything!”
“Well…kinda, but…honey, those men I spent over a year
with are out there fighting and they need my good, strong rifle. We have to
make the fighting stop all together so I can come home and not go away
again. You want that, don’t you?”
Laura lowered her head. “You’re leaving sooner than
next Friday…aren’t you?” Her voice was so sad, it broke Luke’s heart.
“Yes. Margaret asked me to go.” Laura snapped her
head up in disbelief. Lucas held his hand up. “She asked me to go because
she doesn’t like the bad stuff that’s happening. I have to help stop that
Tears filled Laura’s eyes. “Luke…” she swallowed
hard as she spoke. “Julie said that she and Abe sat down and talked calmly
about their fight. She said they kissed and made up. Why can’t the North
and South do that?”
Lucas felt a tear slowly fall down his cheek as he
ran a hand through her hair. “Oh Laura…I wish it were that easy. Believe
me, honey, I would make that happen if I could!”
“When are you leaving?”
Lucas closed his eyes. “In the morning.” He reached
in his pocket and pulled out the dollar he had held onto for so long. “I
know you hate me right now, but…would you hold onto this until I get back?”
Laura stood and looked down at the dollar in his
hand. “I don’t hate you, Luke.” Tears fell heavily down her cheeks. “I
don’t hate you!” Lucas reached out to her, but she turned and ran away as
fast as she could.
“Laura! Laura!” But she paid no mind as she ran as
fast as she could.
Lucas wiped the tear from his cheek and stood up. He
looked at his rife and lifted it to sling it against the tree. But no…then
he’d be unprotected, and he couldn’t do that. He felt frustrated as he
walked back to the farm. When he got there, he saw Julie hurry from the
house. She lifted her skirts and ran toward Lucas as fast as she could.
“Laura…where’s Laura?” she asked anxiously.
“She’s not here?”
Julie shook her head. “Luke, where is she?” Her
voice was panicked.
“She ran off. I’m afraid I upset her again.” Lucas
sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, Julie.”
Julie shook her head. “It’s not your fault, but…”
She turned and hurried toward the barn. “Abe! Abe!”
Abe hurried from the barn and grabbed her arms.
“What is it?”
“Laura ran away from Luke. Oh Abe, we’ve got to find
her! We’ve just got to!”
“Alright, calm down now.” Abe put a hand to her
cheek. “She’s just upset. She went someplace to think.”
“I know, but I’m a mother…I mean I know that she’s…”
“I know. You love her like a daughter, and you are
her mother in many ways.” Abe took her hand. “Let’s go check our house.”
Abe and Julie made their way up the hill to their
house. When they walked inside they heard sniffing. Quietly, they walked
toward the opening of Laura’s new room and found her sitting against a beam
with something in her hand.
“Laura?” Abe came to sit down beside her. Julie sat
down on her other side and put her arm around her. “I know you’re sad.”
Laura nodded her head, but didn’t look up. “What’s
that?” Julie asked as Laura toyed with something in her hand.
“It’s Luke’s dollar.” Laura answered in a broken
voice. “I…I came back to get it.”
“Oh.” Julie pressed her hand over Laura’s to stop
her nervous fumbling. “What are you going to do with it?”
“I…” Laura allowed big tears to crawl down her
cheeks. “I’m gonna give it to him and tell him…” She burst into tears.
“Oh Julie!” She threw her arms around Julie and sobbed while Abe smoothed
her hair softly. He laid his head against Julie’s, allowing his head to
touch Laura’s as well.
“None of us want Luke to go, sweetie,” Abe mumbled.
“We love Luke and want him to stay but…”
Laura nodded her head. “He has to help stop the big
fight.” Laura sniffed then slowly lifted her head. “Could he…die?”
Abe and Julie locked eyes. Abe nodded slightly.
“Yes, Laura. He could die.”
“Why?” Laura cried as she laid her head against
Julie again. “Why does this have to happen? Why can’t everybody just get
“Well…” Abe licked his lips and lifted her into his
lap for his turn of cuddling with her. “I suppose it’s because God gave us
a mind of our own. You and Jessie love each other but you fight.”
Laura nodded. “Just like you and Julie love each
Julie smiled. “Yes. Even Abe and I fight.”
“But…you don’t shoot each other! Why can’t they just
yell and stuff like you and Abe do?”
Abe sighed as he tightened his arms around his
hurting sister. “It’s hard to explain, sweetie. I reckon because they
didn’t sit down and talk in the beginning. Now the fight’s gotten so out of
“Abe…” Julie shook her head. She looked at Laura.
“The truth is, Laura, that there are some things that we don’t even
understand as adults. It’s very complicated, but all we need to understand
is that Lucas is going to help stop it.”
“It hurts so much!” Laura moaned.
“I know, honey…I know!” Julie hugged Abe so she could
hug Laura against her. “But we both love you very, very much. You know
that.” They allowed silence to settle over them as they held Laura.
Finally, Abe cleared his throat. “I hope you have a
fancy dancing dress.”
Laura lifted from him. “Why?”
“’Cause we’re having us a barn dance tonight! The
whole town’s gonna be there and you…my sweet sister…can even come!”
“Honest?” Laura asked as light shone in her eyes. “A
dance?” She turned and looked at Julie. “Is my dress fixed?”
Julie smiled. “It’s all sewn up and hanging in the
Laura started to jump from Abe’s arms. But Abe held
her tight. “Hold on there, young ‘un!” He chuckled. “Now…I understand you
were upset, but this room is still too dangerous for you to come into.
Don’t do it again.” Abe tried to be stern as he shook a warning finger at
her, but his dancing eyes gave him away.
“Alright.” Laura smiled as she bent up and kissed
his bearded cheek. “You know…I’m happy I picked you to be my Ma and Pa…”
Laura stood up. “Even if you are my mean ‘ol brother!”
“Hey!” Abe started to get up, but Julie pulled on his
arm. She turned his face toward hers and kissed him softly. “Well…” Abe
grinned. “What was that for?”
“That was because I love you, Abraham McCain and…”
Julie lowered her head. “I’m sorry for what I did while ago.”
“Oh.” Abe put his arm around her and smiled. “You
knew what the outcome would be.” She nodded. “And you know, young lady,
that I could bend you over my my knee and…”
Abe stood up and lifted Julie to stand beside him.
They shared one last, long kiss. “How do I look?” they suddenly heard from
They broke their kiss and turned to look at Laura.
“Now…you look beautiful!” Julie bent down and smoothed out her dress. “I’d
say that was the fastest change of clothes I’ve ever seen!”
“Well, when there’s a party to go to, Luke says it
doesn’t sit well to waste time about getting to it!”
“Yes.” Julie nodded. “But first, I have to get
ready then we have to eat supper!”
“Oh.” She walked out of the bedroom and stepped into
the living room.
“Tell me something, honey…” Abe stooped down in front
of her. “Why did you go to that bedroom?”
“Because that’s the one I want!” Laura declared.
“Oh?” Abe raised an eyebrow. “How do you know it’s
“I don’t,” Laura shrugged. “But it’s right next to
yours and that’s where I want to be.”
Abe was speechless as he hugged her. Then he stood
and followed Julie into their bedroom to get ready for the party.
Margaret gasped when she heard a knock on the door.
“I didn’t see you make that dress,” Beth said quietly as she stood behind
“I didn’t.” Margaret pinched her cheeks. “Luke gave
me some money to buy it the other day.”
“Oh.” Beth sat down on her bed. “Are you sad?”
Margaret walked over to her bed and picked up her
wrap. “Yes. My heart is crying. And smiling tonight will be painful but
I’ll do it.” Margaret walked toward the door. “I’ll do it because it’s the
only thing I CAN do.”
A knock sounded on the door before Jennifer opened it
and stuck her head in. “Beth, Paul’s here.”
“Alright.” She waited until the door was closed.
“Margaret…what’s it like to kiss a boy?”
“Well, it depends on the boy you kiss,” Margaret
“How many boys have you kissed?”
Margaret smiled as she walked back over to her
sister. “Only one.” She nodded. “And he’s the only one I’ll EVER kiss!”
She raised an eyebrow at her little sister. “Why? How many boys have you
“Oh none but…” Beth hurried over to Margaret.
“Paul’s asked me to kiss him.”
“Oh.” Margaret lowered her eyes. “And?”
“I don’t know. I’m curious to see what it’s like…you
“Yes.” Margaret nodded. “But your first kiss should
be saved for someone very special. When he asks, you don’t hesitate…either
that or there’s no question. It just…happens.”
“How old were you when you kissed Luke?”
Margaret had started for the door again, but she
paused and turned. “We were younger than you, but there was magic
there…Something stronger than us pulled us together and we fell in love that
night.” Margaret hugged her sister. “Please don’t waste it. Your first
kiss should be…magical.”
Margaret hurried from the room and smiled at Paul.
“Mother didn’t tell me you were here,” she said as her eyes settled on Luke.
“I told her not to. I wanted to give you all the
time you needed to get pretty.”
“Oh?” Margaret turned from him as Amanda chuckled
beside her husband. “I need a lot of time to get pretty?”
“Sounds like Scott,” Amanda declared.
Lucas sighed. “I always get myself in trouble when I
try to say pretty things to a girl. What I mean is…I know how much stock
you ladies put into looking pretty, and us men we…”
“Luke…” Scott cleared his throat. “I advise you to
just stop talking.” Scott looked down into his wife’s eyes. “It makes
things much more pleasant.”
Margaret shook her head as she walked up to Luke.
She started brushing his jacket off. “Honestly! What am I going to do with
you?” She declared as she worked at straightening his tie. “How do you
stay neat and clean at that army camp?”
“We don’t.” Lucas answered. “Usually, we’re wearing
wrinkled uniforms and are filthy.”
“Well, too bad they don’t allow woman folk there to
take care of you!” Margaret shook her head. “I declare, I don’t like you
looking all wrinkled and…”
The men chuckled as Lucas took Margaret’s arm and
walked out the door. He escorted her to the waiting buggy. Margaret
stopped and stared at the buggy. “Where?”
“Well, I’m going to make this night as memorable as I
can, my love. I can’t take you to the dance in a beat up ol’ wagon, now can
I?” Margaret smiled. “I…want to make you happy.”
Scott and Amanda paused behind him. “Perhaps they
need my watchful eye tonight, Amanda.”
“Now Scott! You just leave them alone! This is
their last night together for who knows how long.” She pulled Scott to
their waiting wagon.
Lucas paused as he stood beside the buggy. He looked
Margaret up and down. Her hair was hanging down her back and curled around
her face. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes danced with excitement as
she looked at him. Lucas allowed his eyes to travel down as he studied the
beautiful light green dress she wore with white lace around the neckline.
The sleeves puffed out. The skirt of her dress puffed out. “What are you
doing?” Margaret asked.
Lucas allowed his eyes to travel back up and settle
on her face. “I’m memorizing how you look tonight so I can remember,” he
answered. “Oh Margaret…I…” He swallowed hard as he laid his hand against
her cheek. “You are so…so beautiful.” He lowered his head and pressed his
lips around hers. She allowed her arms to go around his back as he pressed
his lips firmly against hers. When they parted, their faces were only
inches apart. They just stood in the embrace and stared into each others’
“Margaret…” Lucas brushed a hand against her nose.
“My sweet Margaret…” Neither of them knew how long they stood there and
gazed into each other’s eyes. But finally, Lucas allowed his arms to fall
at his sides as he turned toward the buggy.
“Lucas…” Margaret reached out and took his hand.
Lucas turned around. “Promise me…” Margaret lowered her head. “Promise me
you’ll come back to me.”
“I will. And when I come back I’m going to ask you a
very important question.” Lucas smiled and held out his hand to help her
over the wheel. “Because I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
A comfortable silence settle between them as Lucas
drove the buggy toward the farm. He allowed the horses to walk as slowly as
they could, then put his arm around Margaret. She laid her head on his
shoulder. “I’m courting an officer in the United States Army.” She
mumbled. “I’m so proud of you.”
“But when I come back, I’m going to be a rancher.”
Lucas smiled. “I want a wife and some good strong boys!”
“What about a little girl?” Margaret asked.
“Oh no…I don’t want any good, strong girls. I want
girls as pretty and delicate as their mother.” Margaret lifted her head and
smiled as they shared one last kiss.
They heard music as they pulled into the yard. The
barn was full of life. There were so many people that many couples were
dancing in the yard. Lucas pulled up and helped Margaret over the wheel.
Then he tucked her arm through the crook of his and slowly walked her toward
“Luke, Luke!” Laura hurried out. Julie hurried up
behind her and grabbed her. “I was worried.”
“It’s alright, Julie.” Lucas bent down in front of
his sister. “What? You thought I wasn’t gonna come?”
“I knew you’d come.” Laura smiled. “But Abe said
you and Margaret were probably having your own private party at…”
“Laura!” Julie clamped a hand over her mouth and
pulled her back against her. “Your brother shouldn’t be saying such things
in your hearing!”
“Oh, he wasn’t! He and Peter were talkin’ and I
kinda snuck up and…” Laura stopped when she saw Julie lift her eyebrows.
“Oh…I mean…” Laura turned back to Lucas. “Ya gonna dance with me, Luke? I
put my best dress on.”
“Yes, I see.” Lucas turned and looked at Margaret.
“But I want to dance the first dance with my gal.”
“Oh no! It’s okay, Luke!” Margaret declared.
“No it’s not!” Lucas declared. “I’ve not danced with
you in a long time.” He turned back to Laura. “I’ll dance the second dance
with you. How’s that?” Laura nodded.
A song was just finishing as Lucas took Margaret’s
arm and escorted her toward the barn. When they were inside, a soft waltz
was just starting. He turned to her. “May I have this dance?” Margaret
giggled and nodded. “Lucas lifted his arms and waited for her to enter
She giggled. “Bullet.” Lucas looked down at his
arms and laughed. Then after he repositioned his arms, she entered them.
They gazed into each other’s eyes as he started
dancing with her. They were unaware of anybody else on the dance floor. In
their eyes, only the two of them existed. They laughed as he swung her
around. Their steps were big and deliberate, but their eyes stayed locked
together. They didn’t know it, but the others in the barn stopped dancing
and formed a circle around the couple. They watched as the couple danced
the most amazing, beautiful dance they’d ever seen. Tears formed in the
eyes of many as they saw the love the couple shared for each other.
Those playing the instruments communicated silently
and made sure to extend the number so the couple would continue dancing.
They continued to go round and round the barn. The smiles on their faces
revealed the love they shared.
“Have you ever seen anything like that before?”
Tiffany whispered to Peter as they watched the young couple dance.
“Never,” Peter answered. “I’ve never seen two people
more in love.”
Abe wrapped his arms around Julie from behind as they
watched the couple. “Do they remind you of anybody?”
“Abe…they couldn’t be more in love if they’d been
married for thirty years! Oh…this is breaking my heart!” Julie cried.
“Breaking? I think it’s beautiful!”
“I’m thinking about tomorrow.” Julie turned and
looked at Abe. “I can’t imagine ever having to say goodbye to you and
wonder if you’ll ever come back.”
Abe kissed her then turned her back around and
squeezed her tight. “Their love will carry them through.”
Jeremiah and Em watched the couple dance. Jeremiah
kept his hand on Em’s middle and smiled as the baby leapt again. Their
unborn child seemed to be dancing with the couple on the dance floor.
Laura turned and hurried to Abe. Abe bent down and
picked her up. “Do you see them?” Abe nodded. “What makes them so
“Love, Rosebud. Love.”
Julie smiled up at Laura and Abe as they stood and
watched the couple.
Jennifer stood behind Scott and Amanda. Her eyes
filled with tears. “I’ve a feeling I’m about to lose a daughter.”
“No.” Amanda answered. “You’re gaining a wonderful
son and…” She turned and looked at Scott. “He’s gaining a wonderful
Lucas and Margaret were growing tired of their
dance. Their eyes parted and they looked around at the circle of friends
and family just watching. “Somehow, I think we’re the center of attention,”
Lucas whispered as he bent close to Margaret’s ear.
“What should we do?”
Lucas stopped dancing and grinned. “Give them
something to stare at.” He smiled as he leaned forward and kissed her
softly on the lips. The crowd broke into applause.
Lucas regrettably let go of Margaret and made his way
to Laura. “Can I have the next dance?”
Laura nodded as she made her way out into the middle
of the barn with Lucas. They danced the next two dances together before
Lucas focused his eyes on Lariat Jones, who was dancing with Margaret. He
parted and made his way over to the two. “May I have the next dance?”
Lucas nodded curtly at Lariat.
As they started dancing, Margaret giggled. “I do
believe you are jealous!”
“Jealous? No! I don’t get jealous!” Lucas declared.
Margaret raised her eyebrows. “Well, you certainly
weren’t friendly when you cut in on Lariat!” Lucas stayed quiet. “Luke, we
were just dancing.”
Margaret lowered her head before lifting it to look
back into his eyes. “Can I tell you something and you not get mad?” Lucas
“Well…Lariat asked me to go courting with him.”
“Oh?” Lucas grunted as he turned his head to look
“Lucas.” Margaret pressed a hand against his cheek
and turned his eyes back to focus on hers. “I told him no, because my heart
belongs to someone else.
“Oh yeah?” Lucas raised his eyebrows. “Tell me
more.” Margaret smiled, then laid her head against his chest and danced as
she talked to his heart.
When the dance number ended, Abe looked down at Julie
as she turned and looked at Laura. “Abe…she has to get to bed.”
“Oh, I know Julie but…” Abe groaned. “I sure don’t
want her to have to say goodbye.”
“Are you sure Luke won’t stay until breakfast?”
“No. He said he’s sleeping in the barn then leaving
as soon as he wakes up. I suspect he’ll be gone long before we get up in
Julie bit her lip. “Well…we should get this over
“Right.” Abe sighed as he made his way toward
Laura. Laura giggled as Jessie and Tommy told her another joke. Abe bent
down in front of Laura. “It’s time for you to go to bed, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, but I’m having so much fun, Abe! I…” Abe raised
his eyebrows and gave her the famous McCain warning look. “Alright.”
Laura turned to walk out of the barn. “Wait. I’m
afraid there’s more. You’ll have to go say goodbye to Lucas.”
“I will in the morning when we see him off!” Laura
“He’s leaving before you get up, I’m afraid.”
“Because he’s anxious to get back and finish the war
so he can come back for good.” Laura turned and looked at Lucas who was
whispering in Margaret’s ear. He patted Laura’s shoulder. “Go on. Then
you can join Mrs. Pritchard in the house.”
Abe led Laura over to Lucas and Margaret. They
paused in their whispering and looked down at Laura. Laura lowered her
head. “I hafta go to bed now.”
Lucas turned and sat down his punch cup. He bent
down in front of her. “I understand. Thanks for coming to the party.”
“Luke…do ya hafta…” Laura lowered her head again.
Abe bent down behind her. “You know he does, honey.
Don’t you?” Laura nodded. “You see? You are being a big girl. You are
trying to understand.”
“I’ll be even bigger when ya get back.”
“Luke?” Lucas raised his eyebrows. “When you come
back…will you promise me you won’t go away to war again?”
Lucas turned to look at Margaret who nodded her
head. Lucas turned back. “I promise. I won’t come home again until this
war is over…unless I’m sure I don’t have to go back. I know how hard this
is for you.”
“But I’m glad you came back,” Laura said quietly.
“Cause I really missed ya.”
“Commere.” Lucas took Laura in his arms and hugged
her tight. “Hey…would you like me to come tuck you in tonight and tell you
an adventure story?”
“But what about your party?” Laura asked.
“Oh, I think they can keep dancing without me.”
Lucas turned and looked at Margaret. “Do you mind?”
“Of course not!” Margaret answered.
“Okay.” Lucas stood and took Laura’s hand. He
turned at the door. “But don’t you be dancing with Lariat!” He hurried out
before he could get some choice words from his intended.
Lucas looked down at Laura who was finally fast
asleep. He stood and walked out into the living room where Mrs. Pritchard
was rocking little Ruthie. Lucas bent down beside the chair and kissed
Ruthie on the forehead. “I’ve only met you, yet I have to say goodbye.” He
looked up at Mrs. Pritchard. “The boys are fine. I gave each of them a
kiss goodnight too.” She nodded.
Lucas walked toward the front door. But he paused
and turned back to look toward the bedroom where five children were
sleeping. “Goodbye, Laura Rose,” he whispered softly before slipping out
Margaret smiled when she saw Lucas come back into the
barn. She hurried up to him. “How’s Laura?”
“She’s hurting. I hate hurting you all like this.”
“Lucas…” Margaret looked around the room. “I’ve
loved dancing with you but…can we have some time alone?”
Lucas squeezed her hand and made his way over to
Abe. He promised Abe he’d come back in time to say goodnight then walked
Margaret out of the barn. He helped her into the buggy. “Where to, my
“The lake. I just want to sit on the bank of the
lake with you. Oh, I know it’s dark and it’s not proper but…” Margaret
“I think they’ll understand.” They were quiet until
they settled on the bank overlooking the lake. Lucas sat down and pulled
her to sit in front of him. He pulled her back against his chest and kissed
the top of her head. “You know I don’t want to leave you.”
“Yes.” Margaret sighed. “Lucas…it’s so much harder
than I imagined it would be. I wonder why it’s harder this time then last.”
“Well…” Lucas found her hands and held them in his.
“I suppose because we’ve admitted to our feelings and the fact that we want
to get married. And we both know I could leave and never return. And I
think…” Lucas lifted her face up and kissed her. “That we’ve fallen more in
love with each other than we’ve ever been.”
“Oh Lucas, I love you so much!” Margaret cried. “I
just love you!”
She turned and wrapped her arms around him. In the
darkness, Lucas heard Margaret crying. Her tears broke his heart. “I love
you too. Oh, I don’t want to go!”
“No Luke!” Margaret sat up and dried her tears.
“You have to go. This war is senseless…thousands of people dying…people
killing innocent people over…Those poor, poor children watching their
fathers…Oh Lucas…You’ve GOT to stop this! You’ve just GOT to!”
“I’ll do the best I can,” Lucas promised as he took
her back in his arms. “I promise you, Margaret. If I’m going to die, I’m
going to go down fighting like mad!” Lucas turned and looked at his rifle
that lay on the ground beside him. “I certainly WILL fight!”
“But don’t do anything…” Margaret shook her head. “I
mean…I want you to…”
“Honey…” Lucas nudged her face up toward his. “I
promise I won’t do anything stupid. I’ll be careful.” He stood up
abruptly. “I should get you home.”
“Just sitting here talking and holding each other is
going to make what has to be harder. We should do it now…before I lose my
Lucas and Margaret rode toward the Gibbs’ ranch.
Both were quiet, left to their own thoughts. The moment had arrived for
them to part. Lucas helped Margaret from the buggy and walked her to the
door. “Well…it looks like some of your family is back,” He mumbled as he
looked down at her.
The door opened. Amanda stepped out. “Luke, I just
wanted to say goodbye. Scott hurt his leg dancing and we had to come back
to soak it.”
“Oh.” Lucas took off his hat. “Would you like me to
look at it? I’ve had to help him with his leg before.”
“No, it’s fine. But Scott did want me to tell you
goodbye.” Amanda gave Margaret a sympathetic smile then softly closed the
Lucas looked down at Margaret once again. He put his
hands on her cheeks and frowned. “I’ll hurry back, my love. I’ll come back
just as fast as my horse will take me.”
“I’ll be waiting for you, Luke. Oh…” Margaret
lowered her head.
Lucas took her in his arms and squeezed her tight.
He put his hand under her chin and nudged her face up to look into his.
“Honey…I…I wish I could take you with me.” He swallowed. “I can’t…” He
bent down and kissed her once more. The kiss was short, but sweet. Then he
pushed her away and climbed back into the buggy. He didn’t turn around
again as he quickly pulled out of the yard.
Margaret watched him disappear into the darkness then
threw a hand to her face. The door opened and Beth stepped out.
Margaret turned and fell into her sister’s arms as
she started weeping. “I don’t want him to go! I don’t want him to go!
Oh…I don’t…” She cried as her body shook with sobs.
Jennifer hurried from the house and sat down on the
porch. Margaret and Beth sat on the steps beside her. The three women held
each other as Margaret cried. “He’ll be back, honey. And when he comes
back he’ll marry you,” Jennifer whispered.
It was a long time before Margaret felt strong enough
to go inside and go to bed.
By the time Lucas got back to the farm the party was
breaking up. Lucas walked to where his family was standing. All three
brothers walked up to him. “Was it hard? Saying goodbye.”
Lucas nodded. “It’s late. I have a hard ride ahead
of me. It’s time for me to turn in.”
“I know.” The wives and Emily came to stand with the
group. Abe put an arm around Julie. “He has to say goodbye now.”
“How long?” Emily asked. “How long before you come
“I wish I knew,” Lucas answered. “The Rebs…they may
be poorly organized, but they fight for what they believe in. They’ll fight
for as long as they can.”
“You’re okay now, right?’ Emily asked. “I mean…”
“I’m okay, sis.” Lucas nodded. “You should go.” He
hugged her. Pulling away from her he wiped her tears then nodded toward the
house. Tiffany gave him a hug, and smiled as she waved goodbye.
Tiffany helped Emily inside then closed the door.
Lucas turned toward Em. He smiled down at her
belly. “I…guess she’ll be here before I get back.” He kissed her cheek.
“You take care of my brother now.”
Lucas watched her go climb into the wagon and wait
for Jeremiah. “Well…” The four brothers embraced. “I guess this
is…goodbye.” Lucas nodded. “You take care.” Jeremiah’s voice broke. He
hurried and got into the wagon. Lucas watched him drive away.
The three brothers made their way to Abe’s house.
Julie walked beside her husband. The group was quiet as they walked. Peter
stepped inside and took his daughter from Mrs. Pritchard. “I’ll drive you
home once we get the baby back to her mother.”
Lucas watched Peter shift from one foot to the
other. “I uh…You know…”
“Yeah.” Lucas nodded. “Me too.” He looked down at
Ruthie. “Take care of the baby.”
He watched Peter and Mrs. Pritchard make their way
down the hill. “Luke, please come inside and drink some coffee,” Julie
pleaded with him.
“No.” Lucas fumbled with his hat. “I think it’s
best if we say goodbye here. I don’t want to risk…” He nodded toward the
“Yes. Laura.” Julie bit her lip. “I…Lucas, you
know your special to us and well…we love you very much. I…”
“Say goodbye, honey, then go on in.” Abe knew she’d
stay out there all night if she could.
Julie hugged Lucas. “Be careful.”
“I will. You help Margaret. She’s hurting. I hated
“I’ll take care of her. We’ll all make sure she
“Oh.” Lucas chuckled. “Just don’t have any more
Julie turned and smiled at Abe. “I don’t intend to!”
Lucas nodded. “Alright.”
Julie looked up at Lucas as her eyes filled with
tears. “Go on inside, honey. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Julie threw a hand to her mouth, but obeyed as she
Lucas and Abe started toward the barn. “I understand
what you’re doing, Luke. But I don’t want you to lose sight of something.”
Lucas slowed his steps. “What’s that?”
“Your comment earlier today…that you are going to
fight like hell…I understand that, but…”
“Look Abe, I’m an adult. I don’t need my big
brother’s advice on how to fight a war. You’ve never fought.”
Abe stopped. “You’re right. Maybe that was selfish
of me, but I have a wife and five children to care for. I don’t want to
hear about you doing anything stupid! I want you to stay safe. Fight as
hard as you can, but don’t take unnecessary risks.”
“I hear what you’re saying.”
Abe nodded. He stopped at the door. “Well…” he
swallowed. “I guess this is goodbye.” He held out his hand.
Lucas took Abe’s hand in his and shook it. Their
eyes moistened. Lucas pulled Abe into an embrace. “I love you, brother.”
“Me too.” Abe pulled from the embrace. “Take care,
Luke. Ride easy and stay safe.”
“Good-bye.” Lucas stood in the doorway of the barn
and watched Abe go into the house. He turned with a heavy heart and walked
into the barn. He had no idea how long it would be before he saw his family
Julie softly opened the door to the children’s room
and walked inside. She heard sniffing coming from Laura’s bed and quietly
made her way over. “Laura?”
Laura sat up and threw her arms around Julie. “I
wish he didn’t have to go!” Laura cried.
Julie held her for a few minutes, then laid her back
in the bed. “I’ll sit with you until you fall asleep.”
“Will ya sing to me?”
Julie smiled. “I would LOVE to sing to you!” Julie
cleared her throat and softly sung a sweet lullaby. She stroked Laura’s
hair until she fell asleep. Julie bent over and kissed her as the door to
the bedroom opened. Abe stepped in and walked over to the bed. “She’s
asleep,” Julie whispered.
Abe nodded. “It’ll be hard for her the next few
days.” He bent over and kissed Laura on the forehead. Then they walked out
of the bedroom.
Laura lifted from the bed. The house was quiet, but
she heard a horse whinny. She sat up and looked out the window. The barn
door opened and Lucas stepped out. Quickly, Laura leaped out of bed and
opened the door to the bedroom. She ran to the front door and opened it in
time to see Lucas close the barn door and mount his horse. “Lucas…” Laura
whispered as she stood in the doorway.
The bedroom door to Abe’s room opened and he stepped
out. “Laura, what…” He stopped when he saw Lucas gallop out of the yard.
“He’s gone, honey. Lucas is gone.”
Laura turned and looked up at Abe. She opened her
hand to show him the silver dollar. Abe bent over and picked her up. “Come
on. Let’s get you back to bed.”
Margaret sat up in bed with a start. Something had
awaken her, but what, she wasn’t sure. She looked out the window and gasped
when she saw the horse and rider in her yard. He just stood and looked at
the dark house. Margaret reached for her robe and walked to the living
room. She opened the door in time to see Lucas turn in the saddle. Lucas
stared at her as she stepped out onto the porch.
They stared at each other for only a moment before
Lucas said, “I’m going to marry you someday, Margaret McCain.” He put his
fingers to his temple and smiled. “Just as soon as I get back…I’m going to
He turned his horse around. The horse reared back on
his hind legs and let out a loud cry. Then both horse and rider galloped
from the yard. Margaret smiled as she leaned her head against the post.
“Who was that?” Scott asked as he walked out onto the porch.
“What was he doing here?”
Margaret turned and smiled at her brother. “He’s
going to marry me.” She patted his cheek. “G’night.”
“Abe, breakfast!” Julie called the next morning. But
she got no response. Julie sighed and hurried toward the barn where he had
gone to do chores. “Abe, I said…” She stopped when she saw Abe sitting on
Luke’s cot. He held the Bible Luke had brought home from the war. “What’s
“She’s eating her breakfast, of course.” Julie came
to sit down beside her husband. “Abe?”
“He didn’t take this with him.” Abe looked up and
stared into Julie’s eyes. “Honey, he didn’t take his Bible.”
“He probably just forgot it.”
Abe unfolded a note. “No. He didn’t.”
Julie picked up the note and read it. “Oh Abe!”
“He feels he’ll be able to fight better without the
Bible? What’s that mean?” Abe wondered.
“I don’t know, Abe…Unless he thinks reading the Bible
will make him feel guilty for his killings.” Julie took his hand. “What
are you going to do?”
Abe looked at her before standing up. He put the
bible on top of a shelf where he hoped no one would find it. “I’m going to
pray…every day until he gets back.” Abe turned toward the door. “Julie,
this war has hurt him in a strange, unaccountable way. I’m afraid he’s
going to do more killings…without his Bible at his side.”
The Years Before
On Being A Soldier