The Rifleman
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A Test of Faith
By Matthew Robles/TheBrother

A distant whistle sounded as the train peaked across the wide horizon. The train, due at dusk on Saturday, was arriving on schedule. A crowd stood in hushed anticipation while the harsh sun slowly began to set.

“Looks like its right on time, Pa.” Mark said to his father, Lucas, in an excited tone.

Lucas nodded in agreement as sweat dripped over his brow. Taking off his hat to wipe it, he glanced in the direction of Micah to see a weary man beaten by a day of hard work. Noticing his sympathetic look, Micah responded.

“It.s been a long day, but I know these kids are going to make lots of families happy in North Fork.” He said with a quick smile.

The train was pulling a load of orphan children that had hopes and expectations of new families to come. This set had been driven all the way from Oklahoma City to Albuquerque and finally the people of Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory. These children had been traveling days before the train slowed to a roll at the platform.

The steam engine tooted and fogged in protest as the train halted. Mark, in eager expectation, had begun to lunge forward to greet the arriving children, when Lucas took hold of his arm and gave him a stern look.

“Mark, you need to be careful.” He said and released his arm.

“I know Pa. I'm just awful excited.” Mark responded. He moved this time with precaution and walked towards the train.

Micah had already began to address the conductor about the orphans on the train. Soon enough they were stepping onto the platform one by one each with a look of exhaustion and hunger.

Lucas took his part and directed the orphans to the covered wagons they were to board. Mark had already started conversation with a few boys knowing he would have a lot more pals to play in his baseball team since the majority of them were boys. The arduous nature of the west limited the demand for girls yet there were still some girls riding along in this trek.

The road from Santa Fe to North Fork by covered wagon was a hard and rough road. The orphans were given some bread Hattie had prepared for them as the wagons lurched along. They arrived in North Fork well into the
dark of the night. On arrival they were shuffled into the church to sleep.

The church had an unusual buzz that morning. The preacher was soon giving a sermon about the righteous act of adoption citing the verse James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” The congregants had prepared for the coming of the children through a church social at the end of the service.

Taking his final bite of the chocolate cake Mark had received, he finally took noticed of the girls he had traveled with the night earlier. There had been a total of thirteen children counted that night; three of which were girls. Two of the girls seem to be at least his age or older but one looked around the age of 6. The
youngest appeared to be in poor health and rather frail. She had blue eyes and pale skin which stood quite in contrast to her brunette hair. What brought his notice to these girls was the conversation he overheard by his father and Micah.

“She.s going to be another mouth to feed” Lucas said with a concerned tone in his voice.

“With times being hard now, I don't see what family will be able to take her in.” Micah responded sympathetically.

Hearing these concerns over the littlest of the girls and noticing no one had ventured over to speak with her, Mark wandered by and introduced himself. She had been sitting on a bench eating and drinking nothing.

“Hi,” He said meekly to the little one with a tip of his hat. “My name's Mark. What's yours?”

“Emma.” She responded quietly offering no eye contact and no further continuance of conversation.

“I didn't see you eat much food,” Mark stated. “Have you tried the chocolate cake? It sure is delicious.”

“I'm not too hungry.” Emma said in response.

“But did you at least try it?!”

“No.” Emma said defensively. “I'm full.”

There was a small lapse of time before Mark proceeded to talk. He was afraid he was starting off on a bad foot.

“Well, I sure do love chocolate cake. I've been waiting all month for it, when I heard you fine folk were comin'.” Said Mark as he changed the subject. “Not that I wasn't excited for y'all.”

It was then she finally glanced up at him and smiled. She did not say anything which bewildered Mark so he continued.

“The town has been working on homes for the orphans--” At this word he paused. He had not known whether such a title would be offensive to the little girl. He looked at her but noticed she did not seem very affected by it so he finished. “--so that when you came we would have rooms and places for each and everyone of you.”

Her lack of speech confused Mark. Was he being boring? Did she not want to speak to him? He decided to try a little harder to get her to speak.

“So where are you from?” He asked encouragingly.

“I was born in Enid, Oklahoma.” Emma said apparently happy to speak about her home. “But I had to leave when my Ma died.”

“What happen to your Pa?” Mark asked hoping the topic wasn't to blunt remembering that he had been born in Enid himself.

“My Ma never talked about „im.” She said as a matter of fact. “He was just another customer.”

“Customer? What do you mean?” Mark asked without understanding.

“My Ma was the prettiest dancer in all of Oklahoma.” She was beaming with pride as she said this. “Men came from round the territory to spend time with my Ma.”

Mark was thoroughly confused. Doesn't it take the love of two parents to produce a child? What did she mean by customer? Like when I go to the store to buy some candy? He put it in his mind to ask his father later.

“You know, I was born in Enid too.” He said trying to get onto a topic he knew about.

“Really? Emma said “Why.d you leave?”

“I lost my Ma to a sickness when I was six” He said with a sad tone. “And my Pa took it real bad.”

“Then your like me.” She said “We both lost our Ma's.”

Mark passed her a half smile partially in thanks and partially in sympathy. The crowd had slowly been thinning at the picnic. Each willing family had been directed to find a suitable orphan and to speak with the preacher to finalize the process. Having been going on for at least 3 hours, the picnic was drawing to a close. Knowing this, Mark took a seat next to the little girl in hopes a family would stop by.

Lucas walked with a heavy heart over to Hattie's general store. With every step he seemed to protest the unfairness of this hard world. Before he had gotten to his destination Hattie had stepped out to greet him.

“Lucas McCain.” Hattie said as she put her hands on her hips. “You look like you have some heavy words for me.”

“I do Hattie.” Lucas said. “It looks like the littlest orphan girl didn't get adopted by a family. The Lord knows I would take her in had I a wife. It's hard enough with just one child to rear.”

“So she needs a place to stay before a decision is made as to her future?” Hattie said knowingly.

“That.s about right Hattie” Lucas said. “Its a misfortune that a little one like that is left with no one to care for her.”

“So is it just her age?” Hattie asked knowing the typical prejudices of townsfolk. “Or is something wrong with

“Nothin. too drastic.” He said. “She just looks like a frail 6 year old. A heavy burden on a family who needs all the hands they can get to survive.”

“Why don't you bring her over?” She suggested. “I.ll go get Doc to see if any things the matter with her.”

The two broke from each other's presence heading off in two different directions. Lucas arrived back at the picnic to see Mark sitting and speaking with the little girl. Instructing the two to follow him, he could tell she was slightly hesitant to be near him. As they walked Emma took hold of Mark's hand refusing to stand too close to Lucas.

They arrived at the general store to find Hattie with the doctor. The doctor had set his bag on the table in the back room in preparation for the little girl. It was then Mark had realized the doctor was going to be checking up
on Emma.

“It.s okay, Emma” He said squeezing her hand, for he had remembered all of the pain this doctor had put him through especially the time he received a shot when he had anthrax. “Our Doc is a nice one.”

“Doc?” Emma seemed puzzled. It was the first time she had ever really interacted with a doctor.

The doctor soon began his examination on the little girl. He checked her pulse, lungs, and heart. He proceeded to check her eyes when something caught his notice. He moved from there to her hands. He picked them up and began examining the nail beds.

“This doesn't look good.” The doctor muttered to himself. He then spoke to Emma with a smile. “Would you be kind and wait outside in the general store while I talk to some adults?”

Seeing his smile, she smiled back but she still knew something was amiss. He lifted her off the table he had set her on and she walked to Mark in the general store. Mark had known he was not invited to the conversation.

“Whats the diagnose, Doc?” Lucas McCain asked.

“Well, its nothing that can't be cured,” Dr. Burrage explained “But she isn't well. It looks like she hasn't been eating a good diet since she was born. She has what is called anemia.”

“I.m not sure what that means, Doc” Hattie said. Lucas nodded in agreement.

“Well,” The doctor started. “She has a lack of iron in her blood. The body needs iron to function. I noticed when I was examining her lower eye lid and her fingernail beds that they had no capillary response. I don't want to
get too technical but she needs to get a better diet as soon as possible.”

“So all she needs is a good full diet and she'll be getting along?” Hattie asked.

“Pretty much. That and some liquid iron she'll need two table spoons a day. I'll make some up for her tonight. Its rather simple; it only takes a nail and some water.”

Given the diagnose by the doctor of Emma, Hattie began to set a bed for Emma to sleep in her house behind the general store. The doctor finished his medicine for the child and left. Lucas and Mark followed after their farewell to Hattie and Emma.

“Pa, is Emma alright?” Mark asked his father as they proceeded back home on their buckboard. Mark's eyes glinted in the falling sun.

“She.s going to be alright soon enough.” He said offering him some comfort.

“What.s wrong with her though?” Mark further asked his father.

“She just needs to eat well and eventually she'll get better.” Lucas said to his son. “It looks like you and her got along fine.”

“I've always wanted a little sister, Pa. “ Mark said.

“I know, son.”

Mark and Lucas arrived at their home. After bedding down the horses, washing up, and preparing for sleep, Lucas listens to Marks prayers before he sleeps.

“Dear, God: Can you care for all the orphan kids that will live here now. And especially for Emma, that you would heal her body. I pray for my Pa, that he might find me a mother so that I can have a little sister. And that you watch over Micah and Miss Hattie. Oh, and I pray for my math test tomorrow. God help me. “

When Mark finished with his prayers, Lucas tucked him in. Before he left, he kissed Mark on the forehead.

“Good night, son”

“Good night, Pa.”

After putting his son to bed, he walked over to his armchair by the fireplace to reflect on the events of the day and to read the word of God. The future of the child raced in the mind of Lucas as he laid down for sleep.

Tomorrow they would have to contact the orphanage to start arrangements with sending her back. It was such an injustice that this poor child had no one especially since she is so sick. He thanked God before he drifted off
that his son was blessed enough to still have his father.

“Settle down boys!” Miss Adam interjected across the room.

The new set of formerly orphaned boys proved to be a tough dilemma for the school teacher in teaching school etiquette. Some of the children had little to no schooling though these new children were not the only ones getting into trouble.

“Mark, you should know better!” Miss Adam said to Mark. “No talking. Set an example for the new boys.”

Mark had been trying to help out one of the younger new boys with his chalk board. He had a knack for getting himself into trouble even if he was trying to do the right thing. Mark's mind wandered to the topic of Emma. At the time, the teacher rang the bell for recess.

It was after the students had left the classroom that Hattie entered into the room with Emma. Mark waved to Emma, but had stepped out with the other children.

“Fine day today, Miss Adam” Hattie said to the school teacher.

“I.m assuming your enrolling this young child today” She responded.

“Yes. As the situation stands now, she will be in my care for about a month till she has to leave back to the orphanage.” Hattie stated unfortunately.

“I understand.” Miss Adams said. She then spoke to Emma. “I.m glad your here to join us. Do you know your ABC's yet?”

“No” Emma said with her small voice.

“What about simple addition?”


“What is two plus two?”

“That's simple.” Emma said immediately. “Four”

“Great.” The teacher said with a smile. “I.m going to talk to Miss Hattie for a while. Why don't you go join the other children in recess.”

She knew enough that she was to exit the schoolroom but she did not know the meaning of recess. Was it a game they were playing? She stepped outside to see all the other students engaged in different forms of play.
Most of the girls were sitting on a nearby log talking, while most of the boys were crowded around an item one boy seemed to have. Mark was among them.

Emma, not knowing what to do, went to sit by herself and started to play with a stick on the ground. What was she to do? It was not long before Hattie left. As she scrapped the stick along the floor she was approached by two older girls.

“Who are you?” One girl said coldly.

Noticing their tone she chose to ignore the two. She turned around and continued what she was doing.

“What, cat got your tongue?” One of the girls taunted.

“Maybe you just don't know how to speak.” The other said.

Emma stopped walking.

“Oh, so your not deaf?” The first girl said noticing her stop.

“Leave me alone.” Emma finally responded without turning around.

Mark had finally notice the situation happening to Emma. He had started walking over but Bertha and Jessie continued their teasing.

“Don.t be a baby.” They said. “Stop crying!”

Emma snapped at this point. She turned around and hurled the stick to the closest girl, that was Jessie. The stick hit her right on her head causing a small cut close to her eye which profusely bled. Emma had taken off running by the time Mark got to the injured girl. Bertha ran to get the teacher while Jessie held her head. The
scene looked like a hive of bees.

Mark was unsure of what to do. Should he go after Emma, or help Jessie with her wound? His quick thinking urged him to stay. He pulled out his handkerchief and got Jessie to place it against her cut. The teacher arrived with Bertha, as she was quickly being told a very biased story of the incident.

“...and we were just playing. Then she came over and hit Jessie with a stick!” Bertha claim.

“They were doing more then just playing” Mark said accusingly when the two came in earshot. “They were picking on Emma.”

The teacher quelled the ranks of the students that had gathered as she took control of the situation. She had the injured Jessie sit, while she got one of the older students to gather the students in the classroom and to continue their schooling.

Things happened in quick succession in Marks eyes. Even though he had not been a party to the incident he was a bystander who was integral side to its retelling. He could not help but feel apart of the problem. He always seemed to somehow be involved in the shenanigans the teacher had to deal with. Even if he did not
doing anything, he knew his Pa would question him for not watching out for Emma.


Emma had not stopped running till a creek stood before her. Tears speckled her face as the girls words brought memories of a time passed. Distant snickering by saloon girls, harsh curses by drunk men, sounds of crashing glasses, and a stench of whiskey and beer flowed through her mind. Earlier, when her Ma was still
alive, she would have gone to her favorite spot under the stairs in the saloon. But now, where was she to go? She did not even know where she was.

Large trees bent over the creek and stood like adults before the little child. Ripping her mind from her recent actions, she set off to ford the creek. Now the creek was not insurmountable, nor was it particularly dangerous,
but for a child of Emma's size a potential for injury stood. As she step onto a wet rock the creek was dotted with, it gave way. She fell sideways onto nearby branches and was doused by the water the rock had splashed. The bank had caught her but not without some injury. Bruises and a gash appeared over her body.
She cried in helplessness.

Micah , the Marshall of the town, had already been dispatched in search of little Emma. Hearing her sobbing, he found her quickly. He picked her up in his arms and headed to Dr. Burrages. Lucas, having been in town for some supplies, waited with Hattie when he over heard the incident.

“It takes time for kids to settle” Lucas said to Hattie “We just don't have that time. She'll be going back when things start to normalize for her.”

“It.s an unfortunate situation.” Hattie returned. “But I think I see Micah comin'. our way”.

It was then she realized that Micah was caring Emma with his hands in a fashion that did not seem good. Micah rushed Emma over to Dr. Burrages office with Lucas and Hattie following behind. The doctor set about tending to her wounds which did not take long. The worst injury, the gash on her right arm, needed seven
stitches. After he finished he stepped aside to talk to Hattie, Micah, and Lucas.

“The injuries are survivable” Dr Burrages said “But I'm concerned about infection. In her state right now, she might not be able to fight it.”

Hattie, taken aback by these words, could not find anything to say. She had care of her for only a day, but even in just that time some attachment had grown. Her hand slipped to her mouth as she gave a whimper of sympathy.

Life brought more cruelty to this little child, Lucas thought.

“What does this mean for her going back, Doc?” Lucas inquired.

“Well, who knows what her state'll be in a months time.” He said heavily. “We need to wire over to Oklahoma City and get in contact with the orphanage where she came from.”

“I'll head over to speak with Trager about sending a message about the incident” Micah said offering assistance.

“Maybe the orphanage missed some next of kin that might take in this little girl.” Lucas hoped. “Inquire about her folk and maybe we won't have to send her back there.”

The idea was agreeable to all there. Lucas seeing nothing further he could do, went to get Mark from school.


Seeing his Father waiting outside the classroom building, he hurried over to him after getting Blue Boy from the post. He spoke before his Father had figured out how to tell Mark about Emma.

“Pa,” He started with concern. “I know I shoulda been keepin'. an eye out for Emma even though you didn't tell
me too. I just got distracted with the other boys and....”

He gave up speaking at that point. His father now finding his words spoke.

“Now son.” He said with a somber tone. “Your right. I didn't ask you to watch out for Emma, and your right too that it would have been good if you did. But nothing that happened is your fault.”

Lucas position himself behind Mark and placed his hands on his Mark's shoulders. Knowing the telling sign of comfort Mark questioned him before he could continue.

“Where did Emma go after she ran off?” He said with increasing concern.

“Well, being all upset she ran off to the creek nearby the school and got a few injuries. Her heath isn't doing too well right now, son.”

Mark hung his head in disbelief.


Two days had passed before any telegraph from the orphanage had reached North Fork. Emma was running fever in response to the accident which increased the worry of all. It was mid-day when Micah received the
response from Trager. But it was the next day when Lucas arrived at the Marshall's office when Micah finally approached him with the telegram.

“Lucas, I suggest you take a look at this telegram.” He said with a firm voice.

Lucas took the telegram from Micah's hand and carefully read each line. He said nothing as he re-read it for clarity.

Micah then interjected. “Lucas, is there a misunderstanding in this telegram?”

Lucas said nothing.

“Is there an explanation?”

Lucas folded the telegram and placed it into his pocket and turned around and left the Marshall's office. Micah did nothing but sit back down and pray.

It was hours before Micah went in search of Lucas. He found Lucas sitting at the edge of a pond on his ranch. The look of remorse was on the face of Lucas when Micah approached. Micah took a seat next to him. It was a while before anything was said between the two.

“When Margret died the world ended for me. With only Mark left, I felt so lost. I didn't see a path before me. I lost track of the road God had given me and ended up doing regrettable things.”

He took a deep, stuttered breath and wiped his nose.

“The saloon became my second home for about two months after Margret died. I was a regular for a couple of drinks. The men in the saloon were aware of the situation and knew my sole reason for being there. Seeking to sympathize they paid a pretty girl to give me some comfort. I had been drinking for a while when she came over to me. The loss of my wife was blurred by the alcohol and the only feeling I had left was the numbing pain of loneliness. She was a quick solution to my problems. I didn't realize what would happen. Who would have figured one night with a saloon girl would produce a child?”

The last words hung in the air and cross over the pond slowly. There was silence between both men. Finally Micah spoke up.

“You have a lot of thinking to do before you act.” He handed him his bible and a marker was sticking clearly out of it. “I thought this section would be most relevant.”

Micah left. When enough time had passed, Lucas opened the bible and read aloud the section Micah had marked.

“Psalm 51

For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

for I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightiest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.”


Lucas walked from the chapel with a heavy heart that was accented with each step. A lump had been in his throat since he first heard the news and it was only hardening as he left. He had spoken to the reverend about what he needed to do now that his sin had became apparent. He straddled Razor and rode to pick up Mark from school.

The two trotted slowly towards the McCain ranch. Mark had known his father was clearly upset and heavyhearted. Mark said nothing due to his confusion. When the two reach home after their quiet trip, Mark set to do his chores and Lucas went to make dinner.

The two sat down at the table, prayed, and began to eat. Still nothing proceeded from the mouth of his father. Knowing the irregularity of his silence, Mark spoke up.

“Pa, is there somethin'. wrong? Did I do somethin'? ” He asked.

“No, Son. It's what I did. We'll speak about it after we finish eating.” At that, he stopped speaking.

When they finished, Lucas had Mark sit down by the leather chair.

“Do remember the time you had typhoid? When we went to get a seed bull and I was hollerin'. at you, but I told you I was hollerin'. at myself?” His father started.

“Yeah, Pa. I remember.” Mark responded even more confused.

“Well...” He paused and searched for the words. “The woman that I didn't want you to be around, well, she...did you noticed how close she got to me?”

“Yeah, somewhat.”

“Well, she was trying to solicit herself to me.”

“Solice? What?” The confusion was building on Mark. “Pa, what do mean?”

“The way she makes money is by giving herself to men.”

Mark just looked at him with a confounded expression but a split moment later something clicked.

“Do you mean she has men as customers?” Mark asked.

“Yes, Mark.” He said with anguish. He paused once again trying to find the words to continue with his explanation but Mark interjected.

“Emma.s Ma had men for customers.” Mark blurted out. He was relieved he could finally bring it up with his Pa.

Lucas paused and looked up towards heaven for guidance. He knew this was the time he had to admit it to his son.

“Mark.....I was one of Emma's mother customer. And..”

“Emma.s my sister. Right Pa?” Mark said with a mimicked anxiety on his face.

Lucas hung his head in shame. He laid back into his leather chair breathing heavily and he lifted his hand to cover his brow. Mark stood up and moved over to his father. His arm slipped over his shoulder as he said these words:

“ Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Psalm 31:1”


Lucas and Mark picked up Emma later that day. She was in better spirits then when they saw her last. Emma surprisingly took the news very calmly. She showed little signs of surprise but hints of merriment by the news were apparent. Lucas took Mark and his new found daughter to back to the ranch. Nightfall had fallen over the house. Mark and Emma were put to sleep before Lucas was about to step out to read scripture. Lucas kissed Mark before he left the room but was unsure of how to put Emma to sleep.

“Good night, Emma” He said.

“Lucas, can I ask a question?” Emma asked.

“Yes, Emma?”

“Can I call you Pa now?”

“Yes, you may.” He answered as he walked over, leaned in, and kissed her forehead.

New Beginnings

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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