The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

Mark Leaves the Ranch 
by Donna Hume     
This is a continuing saga based on the TV series The Rifleman

25 –

Lou and Drako arrived in town on the afternoon train, they seemed very happy. Micah was really glad to see Drako and return the badge to him, especially now that Lee was back in town. Lucas was glad that Micah would be back at the ranch, he had not realized just how much he missed Micah out at the ranch. Micah told Drako everything that had happened while he was gone, which wasn’t very much. Seems like Drako’s reputation as a gunslinger didn’t bring too many other gunslingers to town, especially since he became the Marshall. Guess people just didn’t want to face him, knowing he was a lawman. This made for a quiet town, just the way people wanted it.

Drako and Lou started looking for another place to stay; Lou decided a hotel was not a good place to raise children, should they be blessed with them. Drako kind of liked the idea of teaching his children ranch life, it was better than being a fast gun. He was thankful he was given the job of Marshal; he grew tired of always having to stand against some new kid trying to prove he was better. He was tired of being afraid that his last fight would be his last but more tired of having to bury another kid. If he and Lou were to have children, he wanted something better for them than a fast gun. Land was something you could always count on. He thought maybe Lucas and Micah might be willing to help him get started.

Lou was so busy telling everyone about her honeymoon that she didn’t notice that Leota was in Millie’s store, listening to every word. “Do I know you?” asked Lou. “Well, I don’t think we’ve been introduced proper-like but I do know about you.” Lou was taken aback, “What do you mean?” Lee looked her right in the eye, “I know you just got hitched and that you are a friend to Millie and Lucas. Why, everybody in town knows you married that gunslinger, er… I mean the Sheriff. He may be a good sheriff, but there weren’t none better than Marshall Torrence.” “Are you trying to tell me that you don’t approve of my husband?” asked Lou. “No, I am not saying that, I am just saying that I think more of Micah than your Johnny. Of course, I am a bit older than you, wouldn’t expect you to understand a really good man when you see one.” Lou was like a rattler, ready to strike, “My Johnny is a better man than Micah or any other man in this town.” Millie tried to get between the two by asking Lou about the latest fashions in Chicago. Lee stood her ground, “When your Johnny does more for this town than what Micah gave, then you come talk to me about which one is better. I don’t hold with what he done, I need to see for myself if he has changed or just acting.” Millie was successful in changing the conversation, finally, when she told Lou how Lee and Micah met. All three started to laugh, Lee got a tear in her eye, thinking what she gave up when she left North Fork, but happy that she was getting a second chance. “Miss Lou, I don’t mean no harm when I talk about your husband, I just know what I lost, guess I just don’t want you to lose anything. Millie here says he is a good sheriff, when I said I am older; guess I meant your Johnny was a bit too young for my taste. Now Micah, there is a man I could sleep next to.” Both Millie and Lou gave a quick giggle as they covered their mouths, Lou looked at Lee “I think we might just become friends.” Millie hoped so.

26 -

Now that Lee was back in town, Micah was in a hurry to get that sitting room of his done. “Lucasboy, you know you are going to be entertaining and you don’t want a couple of old folks interfering with you and Millie.” “Micah, you know better than that, you are part of the family and we always want you around.” Micah gave that look to Lucas, kind of dipping his head and looking up at Lucas, “I know you care but I also know you need sometime alone when you are courting. Not just you, but Lee and I will need some time alone too.” Now, it was Lucas who gave a look, kind of like the ones he used to give Mark, when Mark seemed to know more than Lucas wanted him to. “Well, I guess we had better get back to work then, maybe we should just make a bigger room for you too while we are at it” chided Lucas.

Millie and Lee were busy in the store during the day, at first Millie thought Lee’s outspokenness might drive customers away but they seemed to flock to her. She certainly was proving to be a help in the store. With every pattern Millie was sewing, Lee provided suggestions which made each dress better, both in comfort and style. It got to the point that Millie had little time in the store, she was too busy sewing. Lee was her sales person and she sure did have a knack for getting customers to buy. “Lee, if you keep selling like this, I won’t have time to get married when Mark comes back home.” Lee put her arm around Millie, “Child, when it comes time for you and that big man to marry, I can guarantee that you will have time. People will just have to wait and they will be happy to wait.” Laughter rang out in the store just as Lucas and Micah entered. Lucas looked over at Micah, “I think this was a bad idea, having the two of them stay together, we men folk are not going to have a chance against them.” Both Millie and Lee responded, “You are so right gentlemen, you have no chance at all.” This time the laughter also held the tones of deeper voices.

27 –

Beth and Mark spent more and more time studying together, John began to wonder if they were really studying or doing more courting. He would stand outside the parlor door, listening, trying to make sure his faith in Mark was not false. He discovered that his niece needed more supervision than Mark, as he overheard Beth, “Mark, why don’t you just kiss me, hold me in your arms and kiss me like there was no tomorrow.” John could hear the discomfort in Marks voice “Beth, we are supposed to be studying; I thought you wanted to be a doctor. Besides, you know we can’t do those things, not until we marry.” “Mark McCain, is that a proposal?” Before Mark could answer, John walked into the room. Beth pulled back from Mark and Mark was able to sit upright, instead of bending away from Beth. “How is the studying going?” asked John. “Uncle John, why do you always come in here disturbing us when we are studying?” inquired Beth. John gave her a stern look, “Because I care about you young lady, and I want to be sure you are getting all the help you need with your school work, do you have a problem with that? Either of you?” Mark was quick to respond, “No sir, I think it is a good idea. Sometimes it is easy to get off subject, it is always good to have someone around to bring us back to reality.” Beth brought her eyes down into little squints, “And sometimes it is better if people mind their own business.” Mary had just entered the room, “Beth, do not speak to your uncle like that. He has told me how you have been disrespectful as of late and I told him he was wrong, now I see that he is right. Young lady, you have no idea what your uncle has done for you, getting you into this college, and you talk to him like that.” Now Beth was crying, “I do know what he has done, I know he has put his position on the line for me, I am just so afraid I will never be a doctor, at least not a good one.” Mark took her hand, “Beth, you have so much compassion, you can’t help but become a good doctor. Is that why you have been, you know, acting like you have?” The tears still streaming down her face, “Yes, and no. Mark, I love you and I am afraid that you don’t love me, not enough to stay with me.” John and Mary left the room; neither Mark nor Beth seemed to notice. They did not stray too far, just outside the door. Mary said they shouldn’t spy and John said they had to.

“Beth, I love you too. I don’t know where this is going; there are so many decisions we both have to make. I am going back to North Fork, to be their doctor; you said you wanted to be in a big city. Why don’t you come home with me during summer break, I’m sure you could stay with Millie. You could decide if North Fork is big enough for you, I really hope it will be because I sure would like to raise a family there, with you.” Beth looked down at the floor, tears still streaming from her beautiful eyes, “Do you mean that? I mean, do you really mean that, about raising a family there, with me?” “Yes, I do mean that but you have to be sure that North Fork is a place you could be happy, even if I wasn’t there. Pa always says you have to be happy where you live cause you can’t count on other people to make you happy.” Mark handed Beth a handkerchief and as she wiped her eyes and nose, she looked up at him, “Mark, I will be happy anywhere you are but I understand what you are saying. If it is acceptable with Uncle John and Aunt Mary, I would love to go to North Fork with you.” Mark opened his eyes, really wide, “Maybe they will come with, I sure would like them to meet my family and see the town.”

At supper that evening, Mark broached the subject, “Uncle John, Aunt Mary, I was wondering if it would be alright, I mean, if you would let Beth go home to North Fork with me during summer break. I don’t mean with me, I mean accompany me, I mean.” John stopped Mark, he understood the complexity of the question and felt sorry for Mark in his attempts to ask, “Mark, are you inviting Beth, and I presume Aunt Mary and myself, to go to North Fork this summer?” Mark looked very relieved, “Yes sir, would you consider it?” Beth looked at her aunt, then at her uncle, her eyes were pleading for a positive response. John kept them wondering for just a minute longer, he wanted them to believe this was the first he heard of this idea. “What do you say Mary, would you like to visit North Fork?” Mary was not as sly as John, “I would like nothing better. When does summer break start?” They sat around the table chatting about their plans, what type of clothing they would need to take, how long they planned to stay, and Mark telling them everything he could about his town. Finally, John commented, “It is getting late and if we are going to this new town, I think I would like to be surprised about a few things when we get there. Off to bed, for everyone.”

28 –

Spring had come early, this time Lucas was looking forward to it, soon his son would be coming home. Soon he would be married. Just the thought of being married again made his palms sweat. “I don’t know why I am so nervous about getting married, it’s not like I’ve never been married before,” he told Micah. “Lucasboy, it is the first time you will be married to Millie. You can’t expect things to be the way they were with Margaret, they are different people.” “I know they are different people, Micah.” “Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Did you ever stop to think why you are nervous? This will be just as new for you as it will be for Millie. She has some big memories to fill.” “I don’t expect things to be like they were with Margaret.” “Have you told Millie that?” “Micah, surely you don’t believe Millie thinks she has to live up to Margaret?” “Lucasboy, you and Millie are getting more tense around each other as summer gets closer. You need to tell her that this will be just as new to you as it will to her; you need to let her know that there are no expectations other than having her as your wife. Maybe that will end the tension, and the sweaty palms for both of you.” Lucas walked away, thinking, maybe he should talk to Millie.

Sunday came along and Lucas and Micah went over to Millie’s and Lee’s for dinner. Lee made up some lamb, “I know it is one of your favorites Micah.” “Anything you make is fine with me, I like everything you make” said Micah. Millie smiled at Micah, “So now my cooking isn’t so good any more, is that what you are saying Mr. Torrance?” Micah didn’t know what to say, Lucas entered the conversation, “Micah, don’t say anything. I told you having the two of them as room mates was going to be trouble for us.” Laughter and conversation were abounding during dinner. After dinner, Micah suggested that he and Leota take care of the dishes; Lucas liked that idea so he and Millie went to sit in her parlor. Lee asked Micah if something was wrong, “No, nothing is wrong. Lucas has some things he has to talk over with Millie; I just thought we could give them some privacy.” Lee looked into Micah’s eyes, “Looks like that gives us a little privacy too.” Then Lee leaned toward Micah and gave him a kiss.

29 –

The school year was coming to an end. Beth and Mark were both at the top of their class. John was sure it was because of all the time they spent together. The more Mark quizzed Beth, the more he knew and he made sure Beth knew it just as well. Mary just hoped they would wait until they graduated before they got married, John told her he trusted Mark to do right by the whole family. “Mark won’t do anything to jeopardize Beth graduating but that doesn’t mean they won’t marry before then. We just have to trust to the Lord. Have you noticed Beth reading the Bible more since Mark and she are courting?” “It seems our young charge is doing a good many new things since she and Mark started courting” stated Mary. “Don’t worry Mary, God has great plans for them, I know it. Have you decided what to pack for our adventure? It is but weeks away.” Mary started listing all the things they needed to do before they could head for North Fork. “I certainly could use some of your help” she told John.

Beth entered the room, “Who do you need help from and why?” she asked. That sent Mary off into a tizzy, explaining everything that had to be accomplished before they could leave, Beth tried very hard not to laugh but she could not contain herself. “Child, are you mocking me?” Beth put on her most serious face “No ma’am. It is just that I went through all this planning to come here, I thought it was just because of my age, I guess it is just because I am a woman.” John didn’t want any part of this conversation so when he saw Mark coming into the room he said, “Mark, there are some things I need to discuss with you.” Mark looked confused but as soon as they were out of earshot, John explained what was going on inside and that it was no place for men folk to be.

Those two weeks went by very quickly and everyone was on the train, headed to North Fork. Mark had not told his Pa that everyone was coming, he wanted to surprise him.

30 –

Millie was busy preparing everything for Marks’ return. She and Lee set up another bed for Beth and were looking forward to meeting this young woman. She was also very busy trying to plan for a wedding she was not sure would take place. Lee tried to assure her but she was still very nervous over how Mark would react. It had been Mark and Lucas for so long, would he think she was splitting them apart? “Millie, you don’t need to worry, from what Micah says, that boy loves you almost as much as his Pa does. Seems to me, he should be right proud to have you marry his Pa, he is getting on in years.” Millie looked stunned than she laughed, “What about you and Micah? When are the two of you going to get married?” “Oh, what would that handsome man want with an old woman like me?” said Leota. “What wouldn’t he want with you?” exclaimed Millie and they both laughed so loud, Micah and Lucas could hear them from the street. “What’s going on here?” said Lucas. “Just woman talk, just woman talk” chuckled Lee. Again, Micah and Lucas knew they were in for some unusual times ahead.

Lucas and Micah were busy out at the ranch too, they knew Mark would want to bring Beth out to see the ranch; they didn’t want the house looking like a house in the making. Many additional, late hours, were spent getting the big room completed as well as Micah’s sitting room. Millie made sure that there was some furniture in there and the room for Mark had already received one of the bunks from the room where Lucas slept. Lucas was trying to figure out how to make a sofa out of the other bed, Millie already made it clear that they were not sharing a bunk but the bed would be put in after they were married. Micah assured him, it was something he and Mark could do while Lucas and Millie were on their honeymoon. “Micah, Millie and I already discussed this, we are not going on a honeymoon until after Mark returns to school. I have little enough time with that boy, I am not going to lose any while he is here.” “Well there Lucasboy, how does Millie feel about postponing her honeymoon?” “Actually it was her idea. She seems to understand me, without me saying a word,” quipped Lucas. “You are a lucky man Lucasboy, many a man looks for a wife that thinks the same way as him, few find such a wonder.”

Millie and Lee arrived at the ranch, the day before Beth and Mark were to arrive. They wanted to make sure the house represented civilized folk. “Two men together, you can’t never tell what kind of housekeeping they consider civilized” stated Lee. Micah gave her a little squeeze and joked “Takes a good woman to civilize a man, ain’t that right Lucasboy?” Not quite catching on, Lucas remarked, “I thought I’ve been living a civilized life and I haven’t had a woman around.” Millie said, “Just what am I Lucas McCain, if I am not a woman?” Lucas knew he stepped into something and tried to dig himself out, to no avail. Then Micah, Millie, and Lee starting laughing and Lucas was still confused.

Lee and Millie stayed well past supper, making sure the windows were clean, the dishes were done, floors swept, and everything dusted. When Lucas asked Millie why she was working so hard, Mark had lived here before, she acted angry. “Lucas McCain, I will not have that boy coming into this house thinking I can’t keep it cleaner than you did. I need to make sure he wants me to marry you, that he wants me around…” then her words broke off as she stood there crying. Lee took Micah by the arm and took him outside, “They need to talk”, she said. Micah told her how he had just told Lucas it was hard to find a woman who thinks the same as himself, few find such a wonder, “Maybe I just found a woman like that for myself.”

Lucas tool Millie in his arms, “Why are you so worried? Mark loves you. He won’t care if the house is clean, he won’t even care if you make chicken or apple pie. He has wanted me to get married since he was about six years old, why wouldn’t he approve?” “I don’t know Lucas, I am just worried. I have wanted to marry you since before I left North Fork, I’m just afraid something will ruin it again.” Lucas knew she was talking about Harry and he tried really hard not to get angry. Looking at Millie, so upset, crying uncontrollably, he just held her in his arms and kissed her more passionately than he had ever kissed her. Micah and Lee interrupted, Lee said, “I think you two ought to wait until you get hitched, right and proper before you do anything further.” Millie blushed and they all said their goodbyes as Lucas and Micah helped Millie and Lee into their buggy. They both stood watching, until the buggy was out of site.

31 –

It seemed like pretty much the whole town was at the train depot, waiting for Mark to get in. Of course, Lucas, Millie, Micah, and Lee were there at 9 but the train wasn’t due in until 10. Lee kept fussing at her dress; Micah told her “Why are you so nervous?” “It has been a long time since I saw Mark; I don’t want him to remember me as the crazy lady that insisted you were my husband.” Listening to Micah and Lee talking, eased some of the tension Millie still felt. When did Lucas plan to tell Mark about the wedding? Would he really approve? Only time would tell.

Beth, Mark, John, and Mary were tired of riding on the train. John made mention that he was happy there was a train, he couldn’t imagine making this trip via stagecoach. He looked over at Mark “And this is the trip you took when you to went home at Christmas?” “Yes sir, I have to admit that I slept most of the trip.” John was not happy that Mark had his rifle with him, he liked it even less that Mark kept it in his hand. “Mark, why must you carry that rifle?” “Reckon I wouldn’t have to, but it is usually safer to have one, don’t ever know what you might run into out here. It’s not like Connecticut, there are wild animals, snakes, why, all sorts of things.” Mary put her hand to mouth, Beth laughed “Aunt Mary, we still have those things in Ohio too, Mark is right, you either need to carry something for protection, or have someone with you who can protect you.” Mary just moved closer to John, Mark chuckled “Don’t worry Aunt Mary; I won’t let anything happen to you.” Beth looked over at him “Does that mean you’re not going to protect me or Uncle John, just Aunt Mary?” John snorted out to Mark “Leave it alone boy, you will never win when you have two ladies ganging up on you.” They continued talking and Mark kept checking his watch and remembering how he earned that watch, working for Mr. Temple. “Conductor, are we going to be on time getting to North Fork?” Mark queried. “Looks like we might be there in about ten minutes, gonna’ be a little early. You folks gettin’ off there?” “Yes sir, we are” responded Mark. “First time there?” Mark rustled up a big grin, “No sir, I grew up there, first time for them.” The conductor told them how much the town has grown since the railroad went through town. Mark started gathering everything together, Beth started to get her bag when Mark stopped her, “I think since we are courting, it would be appropriate to help you with your bag this time, don’t you?” Beth blushed and Mark explained exactly what had happened when they first met.

Lucas started getting closer to the tracks as he heard the train whistle. Micah told him that he wasn’t going to hurry the train any by getting up so close “In fact, you may want to back up just a bit so the train don’t run you down.”

32 –

As the train pulled to a stop, Mark practically jumped off and into his fathers’ arms. He held tight for quite some time, until a young lady said “Mark, are you going to introduce us?” Mark jumped back and started stumbling over himself, “Sure I am, Pa, this here is Beth, Uncle John and Aunt Mary. This here is my Pa, Millie Scott, Micah Torrance, Lou Mallory, and Johnny Drako…” and he just continued naming everyone he saw. Then he gave Micah a hug and went over to Millie, picked her up at the waist and spun her around, “I swear, you get prettier every time I see you.” Then Mark realized another person, standing next to Micah, “I know you, you’re Leota Calloway. When did you get back in town, where is Hab?” “Mark, why not let someone answer a question before you shoot another one at them, or someone else? And, while we are talking about that, why didn’t you tell me Mary and John were coming?” John and Mary looked a little upset; they had not wanted to intrude on Mark and his father. “I wanted to surprise you Pa, I wanted you to meet them, especially since Beth and I are courting” the words just spewed from his mouth,. Lucas held his mouth open and Mary said, “Now I see where the boy gets it from, close your mouth Mr. McCain, before you catch something you don’t want.” “Mary” chided John. “You’re right ma’am, I was just really surprised with what my son said. You and Beth are courting? You live under the same roof, I don’t think I like this son.” “I assure you Mr. McCain” said John, “There is nothing immoral about their relationship. My wife and I make sure they act responsibly and we have seen that young Mark has been raised as a man of morals and integrity.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you or your niece were improper, I just don’t want my boy shaming anyone, especially a young lady” stated Lucas. Beth and Mark just stepped away and continued talking with some of the other’s who had gathered to meet him. Lou told him she was not Lou Mallory any more, now she was Mrs. Johnny Drako. Mark gave her a big congratulations hug and asked her if she was happy. “What do you mean, why wouldn’t I be happy.” “Well, you and Pa were courting for a while, at least until after I was paralyzed.” Beth interrupted “You were paralyzed? You never told me that.” “I imagine there are quite a few things he hasn’t told you, I imagine you plan to stay around for a bit, everyone here in town will be happy to embarrass Mark by telling you all about him” said Lou.

John, Mary and Lucas finally came to an understanding, Lucas being satisfied that Mark was behaving like a gentleman. John and Mary were relieved that Lucas was not only concerned about Mark, but of Beth as well.

“If I had known you were coming, we would have made some arrangements for you. As it is, we planned for Beth to stay with Millie and Lee” said Lucas. Lou overheard that part of the discussion “Lucas, is there any reason they can’t all stay at the hotel? It would be my pleasure to have you stay as my guests.” Both John and Mary tried to object but Lou retorted “As my dearly departed father used to say, if you can’t help a friend, then you aren’t much of a friend yourself. Now there will be no more arguing, I have two fine rooms you can stay in, Johnny, can you help with the bags?” Lucas looked at John and Mary, apologetically, and then followed Lou to the hotel. Millie tried to tell Lou that they had a space for Beth but Lou wouldn’t hear of it “Why should she have to stay in a room with two strangers when she can have a room of her own?” Millie pleaded at Lucas and he just shrugged his shoulders. Leota said they could work it out later, let Lou feel important for now. After all, she didn’t know that Millie wouldn’t be staying in the room much longer. Maybe Beth would rather stay near her Aunt and Uncle, all things happen in their time.

While everyone got settled into their rooms, Lucas took Mark for a walk. “Son, we have always been upfront with each other…” “I’m sorry Pa; I guess I should have told you that Aunt Mary and Uncle John were coming.” “What? Oh, that, never mind about that now, I have something I want to say.” “What Pa, is something wrong?” “Mark, just be quiet and let me talk.” “Yes sir.” “As I said, we have always been upfront with each other; we always made decisions as a team.” Mark started to interrupt, afraid Lucas was going to tell him he should not be courting but Lucas put his hand up to stop him. “Mark, I made a decision without you but I won’t do it if you don’t want me to.” Now Mark was looking at his Pa quizzically “Pa, what are you talking about?” “Mark, I asked Millie to marry me and she said yes, is…” Next thing you knew, Mark was a hootin’ and a hollerin’ in the street. “I guess that means you are alright with this?” “I sure am Pa, I knew Micah was gonna’ be there with you, but knowin’ that you are finally gonna’ get married again, well, that’s just great. When did you plan to get married?” “Tomorrow, if you are up to being my best man.” Mark ran down the street, still hootin’ and hollerin’, all the way to Millie. He picked her up again and spun her around some more, “So, can I call you Ma?” he asked. Millie started crying and nodded her head. Lucas finally caught up to Mark and said, “Be careful son, I don’t want you to break her. It has been a long time coming, I don’t want anything to get in the way.” Millie was still crying so Lucas and Mark both held her in a hug.

33 –

Lou came back out on the street to see what all the fuss was about, Mark told her before anyone else had the chance. Lou walked right up to Lucas and gave him a kiss, then she walked over to Millie “I wondered how long it would take that man to propose to you. If he hadn’t done it soon, I was gonna’ do it for him” and with that she gave Millie a big hug and kissed her on the cheek. Then she went back to the hotel, to tell everyone the news.

John and Mary had not brought clothes they thought appropriate for a wedding but Lou told them that around here, it wasn’t as fancy as back East. She went through Mary’s clothes, as she helped her unpack and told her that any one of her frocks was plenty fancy enough North Fork. Beth had brought a special dress, hoping that she and Mark would be able to attend some sort of a dance. Mark was glad that she did not listen to him when he told her she wouldn’t need anything special. It sure seemed odd to have Uncle John teach him more about women than his Pa had taught him; at least he was a good teacher.

After helping Mary and Beth unpack, Lou left the hotel and went over to Millie’s shop. “Just let me know what I can do to help? I know, you can have your reception over at the hotel, I’ll have the cook make up some special dishes…” Millie had to stop her, “Lou, I really appreciate your offer but Lucas and I can’t afford something like that.” Lou just waved her hand at Millie, “You know, that cowboy of yours was the first person in this town that treated me like a friend. I’ll never forget that. If it weren’t for him, they would have rode me out of town on a rail. You just let me do this for him, and for you. You’re gonna’ have your hands full with that man, might as well start off easy.” Millie didn’t know what to say, Lee nudged her with her shoulder, “Just say thank you, she knows a match when she sees one.” Millie blushed and Lou countered with, “Lee, when are you and Micah gonna’ get married?” Lee couldn’t believe what Lou said, “Now why would that good lookin’ man want to get hitched to a coarse old woman like me?” Millie and Lou looked at her and at the same time said, “Why wouldn’t he want you?” Lee smiled and said, “Oh now, you two stop teasin’ me.” Lou started out the door, “Don’t worry Millie, you will have a beautiful reception, you just wait and see. I know I can’t make apple pie as good as you but I sure can make a wedding cake.” Millie thanked her, “I remember your cake, it was as beautiful as it was light and tasty.” “Yours will be too” and with that Lou walked out into the street, towards her hotel.

34 –

John and Mary were still in their room when Beth and Mark knocked on their door. “Are you ready?” they chimed at the same time. Although Mark never looked slovenly, John had never seen him this dressed up, “Boy, I almost didn’t recognize you.” Mark blushed, “I can’t look bad for this, I have been waiting for Pa to remarry since I was six.” Mary chided him, “Oh, and that was so long ago, was it?” “Well, yes ma’am, I mean no ma’am, oh, you know what I mean.” Mark and John each took their ladies by the arm and headed over to the church.

Lucas was there, pacing. Micah was trying to keep him calm but it wasn’t working very well. “Where is Mark, he should be here by now, what is keeping him?” “Pa, I’m right behind you. Where’s Millie?” Micah told Mark that Millie would arrive shortly, “It’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding.” Lucas looked over at his son, “Mark, do you think that Beth would mind standing up in the wedding? I would like to have Micah stand with us too.” “Why don’t you just ask me yourself?” asked Beth. “Huh, oh, I didn’t see you there. Millie wants Lee to be her Matron of Honor, Mark is my Best Man, and I thought that maybe, if you wouldn’t mind, you could stand up there with Micah.” “Do you want me to stand next to him or by the bride?” Chuckled Beth. John interrupted, “Lucas, you are in a losing battle. Beth, you know what he was asking. He is nervous, please do not make things worse by teasing him.” “Yes sir” whispered Beth. “Mark, I do believe she is learning some manners from you,” quipped John.

Mary and John were seated, as was just about everyone else in town. Mark was looking around thinking it was a good thing they had expanded the church or they would have had to have the wedding outside. Lee called to Mark from the side of the building; Mark and Beth went to her to let her know about the changes in the wedding party. “That will be fine, just fine but now you have to get your Pa up that aisle so this wedding can get started.” “Who is giving the bride away?” asked Mark. Lou was walking by at this point and suggested the Sheriff. Lee went around the corner to ask Millie about that and came back to tell Lou, “She reckons’ that will be right nice, if he is obliged to do it.” Lou assured them that Johnny would be most pleased and turned on her heels to go and get him. As soon as she was back with Drako, Mark went back to the vestibule of the church to get things started. Lucas was still pacing, “What if Millie decides she doesn’t want to marry me?” “Pa, she wants to marry you, c’mon now, we need to get up there so she can come in.” Lou rushed past them to take her seat and Lucas wondered where Johnny was.

Mark and Micah stood on either side of Lucas as they walked up the aisle. Mark had told Micah to stop his Pa if he tried to run. “How am I gonna’ stop him?” asked Micah. “Trip him,” giggled Beth as she ran back to get Lee and Millie. By the time all three of them were up by the minister, Beth started walking up the aisle, then Lee. Lucas looked like a cat on a hot tin roof, the way he kept stepping from one foot to the other and you could see sweat streaming down his face. Once Lee reached the front, Millie and Drako turned the corner and Lucas saw Millie in the most beautiful gown he had ever seen but he knew it didn’t compare to the beauty which was Millie. Micah kept starring at Lee; he thought perhaps it was just seeing her up here, near him, that she was more beautiful than he remembered. When the minister asked who would give this woman to this man and Drako answered, Lou started crying tears of joy. Drako joined her and put his arm around her.

Lucas didn’t really hear anything the minister said, he just kept starring at Millie. The minister asked him twice, if he would take Millie as his wife. Mark elbowed his Pa and Lucas said, “What, a yes, I do.” Millie answered right away. It came to the part where Lucas was to put a ring on Millie’s finger and Mark handed the ring to Lucas, he noticed that it was like the ring his Pa had always worn. This was the first time he had noticed Lucas without his ring. He reminded himself to ask his Pa about that later. They were finally pronounced husband and wife and started their kiss. Everyone was clapping and most all the women were crying. Lee looked over at Micah, “You know, the preacher is here, we could get hitched, right and proper too, I mean, if you wanted.” Micah turned to the preacher, “How about it, you got another one in you? We might just as well do it, now that everyone is already here; that is if you two don’t mind.” Lucas and Millie were almost as happy for Micah and Lee as they were for themselves. Lou started crying more and Drako just held her a little tighter. After Lee and Micah were married, everyone headed over to Lou’s for the party. Lou was fussing over everyone, making sure they were having a good time and had enough to eat. Lucas and Millie approached her, “Lou, we want to thank you for all you have done, I don’t know how we’ll ever repay you” said Lucas. “Cowboy, you just keep her happy, that will suit me just fine.” Then Lou fainted.

35 –

Lucas caught Lou before she hit the floor. Mark was nearby and told Lucas to take her to her room at the back of the hotel. “Beth, you go find your uncle and bring him quick. Millie, you see if you can find Doc and Johnny.” Then Mark followed Lucas to the bedroom. Lee was standing there fussing; you men ought not to be in a married woman’s boudoir, especially since you just got hitched. Micah had followed everyone and Lee was fussing at him too. Beth brought John into the room and Millie followed right after with Doc Burrage. “There are just too many men folk in this boudoir, c’mon now, you got to git” said Lou as she was ushering most everyone from the room, she even pushed Johnny out.

Mark had taken Lou’s pulse and checked her breathing, he even checked her eyes. John and Doc tried to push him out of the way so they could tend to Lou. They did exactly what Mark had done, then while Lou was looking up at them they started to deliberate as to her spell. Mark interrupted their discussion, “There is nothing wrong with her; she is just going to have a baby.” Doc scowled over at Mark, “Aren’t they teaching you anything at that medical school? It takes a bit more than looking at someone to say they are in a family way.” John was surprised by Marks’ response as well “I thought you went over this in January.” Nodding his head, Mark said “Yes, they taught us about this, but just look at her.” Beth just stood smiling at her uncle and Doc, “You don’t give him enough credit. Remember Uncle John, you said he was very intuitive.” Lou looked up at the four of them, standing around her bed “Mark is right. I didn’t want to say anything yet, I haven’t even told Johnny. I wanted to wait until after the wedding was over. I knew how long Lucas and Millie have waited, and you too Mark. Oh, now I’ve gone and ruined everything” sobbed Lou. Mark suggested that Beth go out and bring Johnny in, “This is gonna’ be your best opportunity to tell him.”

Johnny went into the room and Lou asked the rest to stay while she told him. “I am so angry with you, you should not have been doing all of this.” Then Johnny looked up at everyone and asked if Lou was going to be alright. Lou touched his face and turned it towards her, “I reckon I will be just fine, right about Christmas.” Johnny didn’t understand, he thought she had some terrible problem. He looked pleadingly at Doc. Lou touched his face again and she looked him in the eyes, “We are going to have a baby.” Johnny’s mouth dropped open and Beth told him to close it. “Johnny, are you going to say anything? I thought you wanted children.” Then Johnny leaned in to kiss his wife and while they were kissing, Doc, John, Mark, and Beth left the room. Lucas, Millie, Lee, and Micah were standing outside the door. “Well, is she going to be alright?” asked Millie. Mark told them to go on into the room; they might want to help Lou in her time of need. Beth elbowed him and whispered, “That was cruel, and you make it sound like she’s going to die.” When this new foursome entered the room, Johnny was leaning over Lou, tears streaming down his face. Millie sat on the bed next to Lou “Is there anything we can do for you?” Lou looked at her, half laughing, half crying, “Yes, yes there is. Would you mind making one of those fancy christening gowns for my baby?” The solemn silence left the room as congratulations were offered. Lou told Millie she was sorry for taking away from the festivities and Millie just smiled, “You didn’t ruing anything, this is just one more wonderful thing to celebrate today.”

As everyone rejoined the party, Johnny said he wanted to make a toast “To Lucas, who has stood by me during some pretty rough times, to Millie who is going to have to put up with him. To Micah, who gave me a chance to prove I had changed, and to Lee, the only woman who would have him. Oh yes, and to my wife, who will be giving me a child in December.” There was a lot of noise after that, all the town folk and fellow ranchers, congratulating all six of them. All the ladies still wanted to have a dance with Lucas, and all the men wanted to have their dance with Millie. Lee and Micah left the hotel, they said for some air. As the evening drew to an end, more people were leaving. Finally, the only ones left were Johnny and Lou, John and Mary, Mark and Beth, and Lucas and Millie. As Lucas looked around he asked “Where are Micah and Lee?” Beth blushed a little “I told them I would stay at Millie’s tonight and they could have my room. I hope that was okay.” Everyone thought that was a fine idea indeed. Lucas and Millie went out to the buggy, to head for the ranch. John and Mary walked up to their room. Johnny was trying to push Beth and Mark out the door when Mark asked “Where am I supposed to sleep?” Johnny gave him the keys to the jail and shut the hotel door.

“Well, Miss Adams, could I escort you to your home?” asked Mark. “Well, it really isn’t my home, Mr. McCain, I am staying with family.” They held hands as Mark walked Beth over to Millie’s store, he kissed her goodnight, started to walk away and turned around again. “What is it Mark?” “I think we ought to set our wedding day, what do you think of Christmas, here in North Fork?” Beth flew her arms up and around Mark, holding him tightly, “Yes, I think that will be perfect. Let’s wait until a little later to tell everyone.” Mark agreed, they kissed again, Beth went inside, Mark looked back three times and almost fell over twice before he got to the jail. Yes sir, he was gonna’ sleep good tonight.

36 –

Mark thought he was going to sleep well but there were too many thoughts running around inside his head. He and Beth had never really talked about where they would live once they were doctors, would Beth be willing to give up the social activities of the East for North Fork? How would they both be able to practice medicine if she were to get pregnant? Would everyone be against them marrying in December? So many questions, no answers. Beth was thinking of the same things. Would Mark insist on moving to North Fork? Probably, he was supposed to replace Doc Burrage. Although Ohio was not as refined as New York, neither was it as primitive as North Fork. Perhaps people here would be more accepting of a woman physician, doctors being so hard to find. The community was growing larger; maybe it would take two people to make house calls. How would she be able to be a doctor once she had children? Both she and Mark wanted to practice medicine. All these thoughts, running inside each individual mind, yet each having the same thoughts.

Lee and Micah certainly weren’t having the quiet night that John and Mary expected. “John, they are older than us, what could they possibly be doing in there?” “Mary, they have just found love, perhaps you and I need to find it again.” Mary questioned John, “Whatever do you mean? I still love you as much today as the day we were married, maybe more.” John looked into her eyes, gently touching her face, “Maybe we have gotten so used to each other, we forgot some of the other pleasures of marriage.” Mary gave John a kiss, which led to another and another and another, then they didn’t pay any attention to the noises in the room next to theirs.

Lou and Johnny sat up most of the night, talking. “Lou, we have to get more serious about finding a ranch or something outside of town. I don’t want to hand down a legacy of a gun to our child, I want better for him.” “And what makes you think it will be a boy? It could just as likely be a girl. What would you want to leave for a girl?” “The same thing I would want to leave for a son. Anything other than being a gunslinger. I don’t want him, or her, having to keep looking over their shoulder, wondering when someone faster or luckier will come along and kill them.” When Lou saw the tears welling up in Johnny’s eyes and heard his voice cracking, she put her finger to his lips, “Johnny, I do understand. I love you the way you are, the way you were. I don’t want them to be afraid of every thing or everyone. I want him to be like you, strong and sensitive, where only I can see your weaknesses.” “Oh, so now you think it will be a boy too!” Lou slapped at his shoulder and they both laughed, then she nestled into his shoulder as they lay next to each other on the bed. Johnny put his arm around Lou, kissed her on the forehead and they went to sleep; after all, they were going to have to get up in two more hours.

When Lucas and Millie got to the ranch, Lucas helped Millie down out of the buggy. He held her mid-air for a moment and slowly lowered her down just enough to kiss her. Millie loved his strength, he held her there, kissing her and her feet dangling a good foot above the ground. “I am always amazed at your strength and your gentle ways” she whispered as Lucas lowered her to the ground. Then he got a strange look on his face, “Lucas, what is wrong?” “Well, how do you feel about having our wedding night on a single cot? It is not exactly what I had in mind for us.” Millie leered at him “Lucas, I do not plan to spend my wedding night on a cot. What do you plan to do about this?” Lucas was very confused, what did he plan to do about this and when did Millie become so aggressive? “I don’t know what I can do about it now” he stated with a tinge of anger. Millie looked very determined “Lucas, you had better figure out something. I have been waiting for this all of my life, you have no right to let me down.” Millie turned on her heels and walked into the house and straight into the bedroom. Lucas started to follow but Millie slammed the bedroom door. Lucas stared at the bedroom door, walked back to the front door, then sat in his chair for a moment. He looked around the room, it would not be the first night he slept out here but it was not how he had planned for this night to end. He picked up his bible, opened to a page and started reading, ‘Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.’ Lucas looked up toward the heavens, thought for a moment, put the book down and got up head for the bedroom. “Millie, I am coming in there.” Not a sound. “Millie, did you hear me? I’m coming in there, now.” Then he heard sounds like crying, he gently opened the door to see Millie laughing while she sat on a very large, very soft bed. He couldn’t be angry with her, he noticed her hair, her eyes, her delicate nose and mouth; he hadn’t even realized he was walking closer to her. Millie held up her hand to Lucas, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself” she giggled. Lucas sat on the bed next to her, looking deep into her eyes. He held his left hand up to her right cheek and gently waved across it with the back of his hand. Millie closed her eyes as she touched his hand with hers and leaned into it. Lucas put his other hand around Millie and bent to give her a kiss, a kiss like he had never given anyone before; a kiss that said ‘I will love you and cherish you for the rest of my life.’ Millie did not know she could feel such passion, such strength, such a yearning. They leaned back on the bed as Lucas was trying to undress himself without letting go of Millie. As they slid under the covers together he whispered in her ear, “I have loved you for so long, I have waited for you my entire life. I will never let go of you.” Millie opened her eyes when she felt his teardrops fall on her face. “Lucas, is something wrong?” “No, nothing is wrong, everything is right. I know you don’t really want to hear about Margaret right now but as much as I loved her, I love you more. Thinking now, that I could have lost you forever, if you hadn’t come back to North Fork, I never would have known this love.” “Lucas, I’m happy you feel that way, I was afraid that I would fall short of your memories of Margaret, I’m afraid I still might.” Lucas pushed her hair back, her beautiful hair, “Millie, I love you.” And he kissed her again and then they started their life together as husband and wife.

37 –

Morning came all too soon. Lou was up to get the kitchen going by 4:00, Johnny needed to get over to the Sheriff’s office to open up but he didn’t want to leave Lou. He kept brushing his hand across her stomach and smiling. Finally she told him to go to work, she had work to do. “Lou, I don’t want you overdoing anything.” Lou smiled up at him, “I will be just fine, we still have a spell before the baby will be born. Now you go off to work and let me do mine, shoo.” He walked out onto the street, it sure was gonna’ be a nice day.

Mary and John woke up around 5:30, they woke to the smell of the food and coffee drifting up from the kitchen. “John, I don’t think we have done anything like that in some time.” “I know it seems like we need a wedding to remind us of how much we really love each other.” “John, I’m really happy we were here for this wedding, for so many reasons” stated Mary as she blushed.

As they were headed to the dining area, they heard the stirrings of Lee and Micah. Mary blushed as they passed the door “John, we shouldn’t be listening, let’s get something to eat and then go find Beth and Mark.” “Maybe we should go find them first” John was saying as they walked past the dinning room when he spotted Beth. “Well young lady, how did you sleep?” questioned Mary. “Not as well as I had expected. Yesterday was such a busy day I thought I would just drop off to sleep but I tossed and turned all night.” With a knowing look, Mary said “So many things to think about dear, don’t worry, it will happen just the way the Lord wants it.” John puzzled over what was said when Mark stumbled in, “Good morning everyone” and he leaned over to kiss Beth on the cheek “How did everyone sleep?” “We were just talking about that, Beth seems to have had a rough night, what about you?” asked Mary. “Me, I didn’t sleep well, probably sleeping at the jail wasn’t quite what I thought it would be.” Mary nodded, knowingly.

They were still sitting at the table when Lee and Micah came down the steps. Lee cast her eyes downward and kept walking a little behind Micah but they were still holding hands. “Good morning, you must have gotten here awfully early to be done eating already” stated Micah. “Not all of us were sleeping on our marriage bed last night Micah” cajoled Mark. “That’s simply because you’re not married yet, isn’t that right Lee?” said Micah. Lee blushed a little and tried to hide behind Micah. John invited them to sit with the group saying they could stand a little more coffee while the newlyweds ate breakfast “After all, you need to rebuild your strength.” Lee interrupted the conversation “It ain’t polite to tease folks who just got hitched.” “I’m sorry darling, I didn’t realize it would bother you, we are married, right and proper; but I guess what goes on behind closed doors should be left there” said Micah. “Amen to that” Mary whispered, a little louder than she thought and the six of them burst into laughter. Lou came by to ask if everything was alright and Beth asked her how she was feeling. “Me, I’m fine. Guess I just got excited about the whole wedding business that I didn’t take the time to rest.” Mark told her she had better start making the time, “I want to see that baby when I come home for Christmas.” “Don’t you mean when we come back for Christmas?” asked Beth. Mary and John looked at each other, they had hoped to have Beth with them for Christmas. Seeing the expression on their faces, Beth added “Aunt Mary, Uncle John, you are coming back at Christmas too, aren’t you?” “We hadn’t thought about it child, why don’t we wait and see how the new Mr. and Mrs. Lucas McCain’s feel about it before we make any decisions” suggested John. Conversation continued until Lee and Micah had finished eating and Mark suggested they get a carriage and go out to the ranch, and ran off to the livery.

While they were walking out of the hotel, John bumped into Doc Burrage “Doctor, we met in such haste last evening, I didn’t get a proper chance to say hello.” “Do I know you, young fella’?” asked Doc. “It has been a long time since anyone called me ‘young fella’. You must remember me, John, John Adams.” “Well, I should have known. Only folks were here I didn’t know yesterday. Mark was asking me all sorts of questions when he came back last Christmas, you really made an impression on him; and too much of a hero out of me” said Doc. “No more than you deserve. When Mark told me you had sent in the letter of introduction, I knew he was special; and I knew he was the person to whom I should pay my debt to you” said John, “Can we get together later, and talk?” “Sure we can, right now I have to go out to the Toomey’s, seems like one of their little ones has got the croup. Maybe we could have supper tonight.” John was trying to answer yes but Mary kept pulling him along, trying to catch up to the rest of the group so he just nodded at doc “Yes, supper would be fine.”

38 –

Lucas and Millie were still in bed when Lucas heard the carriage draw to halt in front of the house. Lucas woke Millie then hurried into his clothes “C’mon Millie, you don’t want everyone to come see you lying around in our wedding bed now do you?” Millie through a pillow at him as he bolted out the door, laughing. Lucas had just washed his face and pushed back his hair when he heard footsteps on the porch, he had not quite finished tucking in his shirt when the door opened, “Hi Pa, looks like you kind of slept in a little late this morning” snickered Mark. As everyone was filing into the house, Millie came out of the bedroom, fully dressed, hair slightly askew, and definitely blushing. Looking around the house she said, “I guess it is a good thing we are almost through with the additions around here.” Lucas chimed in “I don’t think we’ve ever had this many people in the house at one time, do you Mark?” “No Pa, I don’t think we have. I think this is only the sixth time there has been a woman sleeping in that room too.” Millie gave Lucas a glance which told him they would be talking about this later, for now she just said, “Welcome, give me a minute to put on some coffee.”

Lee walked over to the stove with Millie; she wanted to talk about her wedding night. She knew that Millie was embarrassed by what she believed everyone was thinking. Lee started to tell her how Micah was so gentle, trying to let Millie know that every woman experiences this kind of embarrassment the day after her wedding. “Lee, I would like to talk to you more later; I am just trying to look like I know what I am doing here.” Lee took her by the hand, “From the look on that big man’s face, you know what you are doing.” Millie blushed a little more as she grabbed the coffee pot to fill with water.

While the coffee was brewing, Millie and Lee went into the parlor. Lucas looked at his blushing bride “Looks like we should have done more than build an addition, maybe we should have bought more furniture.” Mark suggested they go out and pick up some logs that could be used as chairs for the men while the ladies sat on the furniture. Mark, John, Micah, and Lucas went outside to pick their seats while the ladies stayed busied themselves indoors. Beth was so intent on watchin Mark through the window she didn’t realize what Mary, Lee, and Millie were discussing. Mary and Lee had asked Millie how she enjoyed married life, “I didn’t know what to expect but Lucas was so gentle and loving, it was beautiful” whispered Millie. Lee smiled at her as Mary whispered, “John and I couldn’t help but notice you and Micah, it reminded us that we had evolved into a relationship of advantage. It had just sort of happened; we had forgotten how to express our love in any way other than words. I have to thank you Lee, if it weren’t for you, we would not have rediscovered each other.” Lee piped up “You may think that Micah and I are old fools for getting married but I will tell you that man has resources he didn’t remember he had.” Beth turned at this point “What are you talking about?” Fortunately, the men were re-entering the house so no one had to answer. John walked in first, “I don’t ever recall having to make my own chair so I could sit down” he chuckled. Lucas picked up on the comment right away, “With the way this woman spends money on lavish items, this may be the only other furniture we ever get.” Millie blushed at his comment because she knew he was referring to the wedding bed but retorted, “Well, Mr. McCain, if you weren’t out partying so late last night, maybe you could have built a couple of benches before our company arrived!” Mark looked at both of them; he wanted them to stop fighting. Lucas continued, “Well, Mrs. McCain, it was your fault I was up so late and why I got to bed so late.” Lee couldn’t help herself, “I suppose it were her fault too that you couldn’t get to sleep right off too, wasn’t it?” Lucas nodded his head and Mark continued to look on in a state of confusion.

Millie got up to get the coffee, Lucas got up to get the cups; when they were in the kitchen together, Lucas put his arm around Millie’s waist and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. Then he picked up the cups “Guess I better remember we have company” and took the cups out to the parlor. When Millie came in with the coffee, she was looking around, “Did you lose something?” asked Lucas. “Yes, where is Mark?” No one had noticed him leave so Lucas went to the door, grabbing his rifle on the way out. “Mark, Mark, where are you?” Mark came out of the barn, “Relax Pa, I just came out to the barn to milk the cow. You don’t have to worry about me like I was some little boy.” Micah was right behind Lucas, “Don’t expect your Pa to ever see you as anything but his little boy. You two have been through so much together; his heart will always be tied to yours.” As they walked back into the house, Mark walked over to Beth, “Do you think they will ever see us as adults?” asked Mark. “I don’t think so” replied Beth.

39 –

Mary had wanted to stay at the ranch a little longer but knew John wanted to talk with Doc Burrage so as it got closer to evening, John and Mary headed back to town to have supper with him. They arrived at the hotel early to freshen up and as they walked down the steps, Doc arrived as they hit the last step. John stuck his hand out to Doc and they shook hands, John introduced Mary and they headed into the dining area. Lou gave them a smile and seated them at her best table. “Penny, your waitress, will be with you in just a moment. By the way, order whatever you like, this is on me.” John started to object when Doc put up his hand, “Once this lady decides on something, you might just as well accept it as inevitable.” Lou gave him a reproaching look, then laughed and walked away.

During the supper conversation, Mary had wished she had stayed out at the ranch. Doc and John were talking about John’s early days of medical school. “John, if you hadn’t worried over that dog so, I never would have given you a second thought. I knew I was right with you.” “Doc, I have helped a few others who wanted to get into school but when this young man arrived, I wasn’t sure what I could do for him. After he told my you wrote his letter of introduction and recommendation, it was like I was finally able to keep the promise I made to you. He is exceptionally bright, I bet he didn’t like school, did he?” asked John. Doc kind of smiled, remembering all the schemes Mark could think of to avoid going to school, “No, he sure didn’t but his Pa still made sure he understood the value of an education.” Mary was finally able to interject something into the conversation, “Mark helps Beth with her studies, he doesn’t let her slide on anything. Is that how his father was with him?” Again, Doc smiled remembering that even if Mark was too sick to come to school, Lucas found something he could read or study, “I believe he was a great influence in Mark’s study habits. Why I remember when Mr. Grizwald was our schoolmaster, Mark even played hooky to avoid dealing with him. Only time I think Lucas ever allowed anyone to get away with strapping him. Didn’t believe in violence unless there was no other way.” Mary asked if Lucas read the bible as much as Mark indicated and Doc confirmed that Lucas often looked to the bible, especially when there was a decision to be made that would affect the lives of others. John re-entered the conversation at this point, “Mark seems to refer to the bible, even more than he refers to his father. He even has Beth reading the bible.” “Yes, he and his Pa hold to the Good Book alright.” The rest of the conversation was about how things had changed in Connecticut since Doc was last there. Mary asked “Doc, are you the only physician here?” “The only doctor for 50 miles in any direction. Can’t wait for Mark to graduate so I can get a little sleep for a change.” Doc had no more got those words out of his mouth when someone came in looking for him, someone had been shot and they needed him. Doc excused himself, then John told Mary he was tired and they headed up the stairs to their room for the night.

Millie insisted then Mark stay out at the ranch that night, “You can’t go back into town to sleep at the jailhouse again.” “Well I can’t exactly stay here with you two on your honeymoon” he teased back. Micah teased, “There is always my room Mark, you could use that” he knew Mark didn’t want to be that far away from Beth. “No thanks, I’d rather stay at the jail, at least for awhile.” Lucas gave him with a questioning look and with his eyes indicated he wanted Mark to go outside with him. “Son, I asked you before Millie and I married if you were going to be fine with this.” “I am, Pa” responded Mark. “Then why don’t you want to stay here with us?” “Pa, once Uncle John and Aunt Mary return home, then I’ll come stay here. They have to have someone around that they know, why, it wouldn’t be polite to leave them in town all alone.” Lucas gave a little smirk “Are you sure it is John and Mary you are worried about?” “Well, sure it is Pa, who else would I be worried about?” Lucas clapped his hand on Mark’s shoulder “Yea, who else would you be worried about?” and pushed him toward the house, both of them laughing.

40 –

Two weeks seemed to pass by so quickly, it was already time for John, Mary, and Beth to return to Connecticut. John assured Mark that they would come back again and Beth said, “Yes, at Christmas.” Mary looked up, “John, when did we decide that?” “I think it was planned for us Mary. We will discuss it later” said John. Beth looked pleadingly at Mark, “Uncle John, Aunt Mary, you have to come back here at Christmas. It isn’t as cold as it is by you, besides, you need to see what we do for Christmas” ventured Mark. Mary persisted, “Does it have to be this year?” Mark looked at her with puppy dog eyes “Yes, Aunt Mary. I have to be home for Christmas, this will be my first Christmas with a mother in so many years, you just have to come.” John studied Mark for a moment, “I think you want Beth here more than you want us here but we will discuss it later.” “No, Uncle John” Mark interrupted, “You have to come this year, please. I want to be surrounded by family. By then Micah and Pa should have the addition to the house finished, and even have furniture. Please say you will come.” Now Lucas interrupted, “Mark, let them have some time to make a decision.” As Mark started to object again, Beth stopped him by saying, “You just better plan to be here. We were going to wait to tell you this but you are being so impossible.” Mark tried to stop her but as John had told him, she was a very stubborn woman, “Mark and I are planning to get married at Christmas, right here, in North Fork. It will be much easier for you to come here than for everyone else to come to Connecticut. Besides, who would we invite when all our loved ones are here, that is, if you come.” Beth had said everything so quickly, it took a moment for the words to register with everyone, except Mark; he wanted to grab her by the hand and run before anyone realized what she had said. He started to reach for her and Lucas stopped him, “Were you planning on telling us? Did you ask for her hand?” “Pa, I didn’t get a chance to ask for her hand, we were going to tell everyone, later” Mark mumbled. Millie put her hand on Lucas’ arm, he understood the gesture and let go of Mark. He noticed Mary had her hand on John’s back and Lee held to Micah as well. John stood; starring at Mark until Mark finally looked up at him and asked, “Sir, I know Beth’s father is dead and that leaves you to give permission, may I please ask for Beth’s hand in marriage?” Mark waited tentatively for John’s response. It seemed like hours before he answered, “I suppose, if you continue to study hard and both of you promise to become doctors, Mary and I could allow you to do that.” Mark perked right up, “Does that mean yes?” Beth ran over to hug Mark “Yes, it means ‘yes’ Mark. We will be married at Christmas.”

While waiting for the train, Beth and Mark were tearfully saying goodbye; John and Mary were thanking everyone for their hospitality and all were talking about the return at Christmas. Millie told them there would be plenty of room for them to stay at the ranch, “Mary, you could come into town everyday with Lee and myself if you like, and John could stay out at the ranch with Lucas and Micah.” Mark looked confused, “Where will I be?” Beth gave him a glance that asked ‘are you stupid?’ when he said that. The other six said in unison, “On your honeymoon!” Mark looked down, scuffed his boot in the dirt, “Oh, yea, I forgot” he said with the voice of a man.

Lou and Drako got there just before the train arrived, “You make sure you get back here for Christmas, I’m hopin’ to have this baby for you to see” Lou aimed her comment at Mark. Drako shook John, Mary, and Beth’s hands, “Sure hope to see you folks around here again.” With all the pleasantries taken care of, John, Mary and Beth boarded the Train. This time Mark stood watching until he could no longer see the train. Lucas took him by the arm, “C’mon son, let’s go home.”

41 –

Beth kept looking back toward North Fork, finally Mary put her hand on Beth’s arm, “He will be back to us soon. I am sure his heart aches just as much as yours right now but you must allow him time with his father.” “Oh, Aunt Mary, I didn’t think it would hurt so much to leave him.” Mary put her arms around Beth to console her, tears streaming down Beth’s face. After a brief time, John suggested she look at her books, perhaps they could take her mind off the time she and Mark would be separated; Beth cried harder and Mary waved her hand at John. A bit more time passed, “Child, why don’t you read from the bible, maybe that would console you some” John tried again. This time, Beth told him that was a good idea. Although she tried, she kept re-reading the same line, her mind on Mark not her reading.

As far as Beth was concerned, the journey home was much longer than the journey to North Fork. She couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything without thinking if Mark would like it or not. When Beth finally fell asleep on the train, John looked over at Mary, “This is going to be a long summer.” Mary smiled, she could remember what it was like before she and John had married, how she missed him when they were apart. “John, enjoy the silence now, as it gets closer to school term, you won’t be able to keep her quiet for talking about Mark” John gave a knowing nod but he did not like seeing his niece hurting.

The train finally arrived in Connecticut, and Beth had finally stopped crying. They started gathering their things, and Beth started quoting Mark. John and Mary just looked at each other then pushed Beth along to get off of the train. There was a buggy for rent and they used it to get home, all the way Beth was talking “I really don’t know why I couldn’t have stayed in North Fork. Mark and I could be studying right now.” “Beth,” interrupted John, “You know we are responsible for you, not Mr. and Mrs. McCain. Do you really believe they need an extra charge, being newly married?” Beth shook her head, “No, but I can still wish can’t I?”

42 –

Micah suggested they all go over to the hotel, “Let’s get a cup of coffee before we go to the ranch.” Lee always stood just a little behind Micah; she wasn’t too sure how she and Micah would fit into the scheme of things, now that they were married. Lucas sensed her uneasiness and said, “I think that is a fine idea. We can talk a little before you help Lee gather her things, Mark and I can help Millie gather the rest of her things and then we can all head home.” Lee smiled at Lucas, “Are you sure you want us a livin’ there with you?” Millie spoke up, “Where else would you live? That is Micah’s home. Besides, it will take both of us to run the house and the store. Maybe we can use my former home as a storage area.” Lee seemed to finally relax, she knew she wasn’t as polished as Millie, and didn’t believe that she was really polished enough for Micah but she loved him so much. Since their wedding, she knew he loved her too.

They sat for about half an hour, drinking coffee; Mark had milk, “I still don’t know how you can drink that stuff.” Lucas tried not to laugh as he was swallowing but as a result, the coffee spit out of his nose. Mark looked up just as it happened, “See, I told you.” Everyone at the table could not help but laugh, including Lucas. Things settled down and after they finished their coffee and conversation, they all headed their different directions to help pack up for Millie and Lee.

Mark was looking around at Millie’s former home, “How can one person have so many things?” “Mark, a woman likes to be surrounded by things that remind her of things.” “Like what, Pa?” Millie looked up, interested in how Lucas would explain his statement. “Like doilies, nice bed quilts, and such” said Lucas. Mark, looking around a bit more, “I don’t think the doilies and the bed quilts are what she needs help moving. Look at all those cabinets and dressers and stuff. Are we gonna’ take that bed out to the ranch for the two of you? Sure would be better’n sleepin’ on the bunks.” Millie thought she better interrupt, “Mark, there are plans for every thing; you will see when we get them to the house. For now, you and your Pa just need to start taking things down to the wagon” and with that she walked away. Lucas looked at Mark; neither of them said a word, just started carting things down to the wagon.

Lee and Micah had already put all Lee’s things in the wagon, then headed off to the telegraph office so she could let know she had gotten married. “Micah, I’m afraid he might not take it well, not be’ in invited to the wedding and all.” “Don’t worry darling, I’ll tell him it was a spur of the moment, I’m sure he will understand” Micah told her as he took her arm again. She stopped him right in the middle of the street to give him a kiss. “I don’t know what I did to earn that but tell me so I can do it again” chuckled Micah. “You called me darling. No one’s ever called me darling, not in my whole life” said Leota. “You will be hearing it often, now that we are married” said Micah.

By the time Mark and Lucas were putting the last of Millie’s things in the wagon, Micah and Lee returned from the telegraph office. “You sure there’s gonna be room for anyone to sit in that wagon?” said Micah. Mark said he had already rented a buggy to take everyone else out to the ranch, he would drive the wagon “Can’t have you old married folk trying to sit up here with all this stuff, you’ll be payin’ too much attention to each other than on the road. I didn’t help load all this stuff, just to have it fall out of the wagon and get broken.” With that, he jumped up on the wagon and started to drive off before anyone could say anything.

It took Mark a little longer to get to the ranch than it took the others. Lucas asked him if he had forgotten the way to the ranch. “It’s not like all I had to do was think about being married, I had to make sure I didn’t break anything.” Lucas smiled as he swatted at his son. He was reflecting on how much Mark had missed by not having a mother and hoped he had done well by his son. He started to become sullen, thinking about how long ago he could have married Millie, if only he had not been so stupid. “What’s the matter Pa? You were happy just a bit ago.”

Mark Leaves the Ranch - part 3

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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