The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Wedding
A Bring Milly Back Production
By Michelle Palmer

Chapter 10:  The Explosion

Saturday morning Lucas picked up the newspaper to read over his coffee.  It wasn’t very often he was able to read the Santa Fe paper, but he vowed that today he would.  The men had done a good job on finishing the two rooms while he was in town last week.  Lucas just had some finishing touches to put on the rooms before he carried his bride over the threshold.

Mark came inside after doing his morning chores.  He eyes widened when he saw the paper in his father’s hand.  He hurried over.  “Uh…P…Pa, I…I think that one of the horses has a lame foot.”

“Alright.  I’ll take a look at it in a bit, son,” Lucas answered as he continued reading the article with much interest.

“Well, I think you should look at it now, Pa.  I…I’d hate for it to get worse!” Mark insisted.

Lucas lowered the paper.  “Can’t it wait until…”

“No!”  Mark cleared his throat and tried to act calm. “I think you should look at it now.”

Lucas sighed and sat down his coffee and the paper.  “Alright, son.”  He took his hat off the hook and grabbed his rifle.

“It’s the sorrel, Pa!  The one we use on the wagons!”  Mark watched his Pa walk to the barn.  Then he hurried over to the table and picked up the paper.  He shifted through it until he found the article that Milly had warned him about the day before.  She had dragged him into the kitchen in a panic.  After giving him some good news, she looked him straight in the eye and warned him that his father had picked up the Santa Fe paper when it came into the store, and he intended on reading it.  Mark was given strict orders to keep his father from reading a certain article in it.

Mark gasped when he saw the article.  Oh, this WAS bad!  This was really bad!  And it was bad for more than one reason!  Milly had no idea whatsoever what this article could do to their wedding!  Quickly, he took the whole section of the paper out.  Then he put the newspaper back where his father had laid it.  He stuffed the unwanted section into his pocket.

That was close!  “Mark!” Mark gasped when he heard his father calling to him angrily.  He hurried outside to see his Pa standing in the yard with his hands on his hips.  He sure did give Mark a lecture on what a lame horse looked like! And at age 15, he should know what that is!  After one more stern look, Lucas turned and hurried back into the house.  He shook his head as he took his hat off and tossed it on the table.  Then he picked up the newspaper and turned it back to the article he was reading.

Something was wrong!  The article he was reading was no longer there!  In fact…Lucas narrowed his eyes as he lifted his head toward the door.  Mark came in and started toward the bedroom.  “Hold it right there, young man!” Lucas ordered.  He angrily stood up and slammed the paper down on the table.  In two steps, he was standing in front of his son.  Lucas shot out a hand.  “Alright, hand it over!” He demanded in a stern voice.

“What?” Mark asked as his heart started beating faster.

“Mark!” Lucas warned.  And Mark knew from personal experience that it was the final warning before his father started punishing.

Mark sighed and took the crumbled article from his pocket.  “Pa, I just saw this article about…” Mark unfolded it.  His eyes grew wide.  He was happy to see an article on the back that would INDEED spike his interest.  Maybe there was hope yet. “The Statue of Liberty!  Pa, did you hear about that big statue France has made for the United States?  They’ve had to bring it clear across the ocean in crates and…”

Lucas took the article from Mark’s grasp.  “Yes, son.  I did hear about it.  In fact, I was reading this article when…” Suspiciously, Lucas turned the article over.  His eyes grew wide as he read the wedding announcement for him and Milly:

Lucas Mark McCain and Mildred Josephine Scott
Announce their engagement and
Request your presence in their wedding
To be held at the McCain Ranch
Saturday, April 3, 1886 at
One O’clock in the afternoon
Reception and Barn Dance to follow

Lucas stared at the article.  Mark watched his father’s face turn red.  He was suddenly afraid that he was about to be licked within an inch of his life.  Lucas held the article up in front of Mark’s face.  “Is this…by any chance what you were hiding from me????” Lucas demanded to know in quite a loud voice.

Mark swallowed.  “Yes…yes sir.”

“And…” Lucas closed his eyes with a sigh.  “…are you going to tell me exactly WHO is responsible for this???” His father looked like he was about to explode!

Mark had to muster up every ounce of courage he could possess.  “N…no sir.”  Mark swallowed again. “I…It’s a matter of l…life and death.”

Lucas nodded as he took another step toward his son.  “Yes it is.  Your life!”  Lucas pointed a finger in Mark’s face.  “Now…just WHO is responsible?”

”Pa…Pa…I promised not to tell!” Mark declared.

“Mark!”

“I promised her I…” Mark’s eyes grew wide and he slapped a hand over his mouth.

“Well now…that narrows my list of suspects down to two women.  I have a feeling they were both involved in this.”  Lucas grabbed his hat.  “Son, I’m going into town.”  He grabbed his rifle.  “I was going to work on cleaning the chimney and stove pipes today.  They need cleaned before Milly moves in.  Now I have to go into town and deal with this.”  Lucas pointed an angry finger at his son as he waved his hat around.  “Mark, I want you to ride over to Willow Canyon and ask…beg…no, plead with Mr. Marvin to come clean these for me today.  Tell him I’ll pay him next week.  Tell him it’s an emergency!  Then I think it would be in your best interest to work the fence line today.”

Mark hurried out after his father as he walked to the barn to saddle his horse.  “P…Pa, if I were you, I wouldn’t lose my temper this close to the wedding!” Mark warned.

“I gave you a job to do!  Get going!” Lucas demanded.

“Boy oh boy,” Mark mumbled to himself as he started saddling his own horse.  He knew his Pa’s temper.  Anyone in the path of his wrath was sure to be in for some trouble; and he certainly didn’t want to be anywhere near his father when the explosion took place.  “Boy oh boy!!!”

Mark watched his father ride out of the yard.  Mark was just about done saddling his own horse when Freddie rode up.  “Say Mark, some of us kids are making kites then going over into the field behind my house to fly them.  We’re having a contest.  Wanta come?” Freddie asked.

“I’m too busy, Freddie.”  Mark answered.  “Pa’s about to explode like a barrel full of dynamite.”

“Explode?”  Freddie looked toward the road where Mark’s Pa’s dust trail could still be spotted.  “Who is it this time?”

“Milly Scott and Lou Mallory.”

“Ouch!”  Freddie shook his head.  “Where are you going?”

Mark put a foot in the stirrup.  “I have to go ask Mr. Marvin if he could…” Mark stopped as he turned his head toward the house.  He slowly removed his foot from the stirrup and scratched his head.  “You know Freddie, Pa IS awfully riled at me, and I haven’t gotten him a wedding present yet.”  Mark folded his arms as he took a few steps toward the house.  “You know…he has to pay an awful lot of money for Mr. Marvin to clean the chimney and stove pipes, what with him being a professional and all…I wonder…”

Mark turned toward Freddie who narrowed his eyes.  Freddie grinned as he dismounted his horse.  “Say Mark, I haven’t gotten anything for you Pa and Milly.  Maybe I could help.”  Both boys walked toward the house.  “Do you actually know HOW to do it?”

Mark shrugged.  “I’ve watched my Pa do it often enough.  How hard could it be?”

***
Lucas tied his horse to the hitching post outside Micah’s office.  He walked across the street to the hotel.  “Lucas!” Lou greeted him.  “I didn’t expect you in town until tonight.”

“Lou, get Milly and come over to Micah’s office,” Lucas ordered gruffly as he stood in the doorway.

“Lucas, what…”

“Now, Lou!” Lucas barked.  Then he turned around and walked…no…stomped out.

Lou slowly put down her pencil and hurried up the stairs.  She softly knocked on Milly’s door.  “Who is it?”

“It’s Lou!”  Milly opened the door.  “Lucas told me to come get you and meet him at Micah’s office.” Lou lowered her voice so Milly’s mother couldn’t hear.  “Milly, he’s madder than a wet hen.”

***

“Lucas, what’s up?”  Micah asked as Lucas suddenly barged into his office and slammed his hand on the desk.

“Just wait until you see what these…these…these…FEMALES have gone and done!” Lucas declared.

“Lucas, may I remind you the wedding is next Saturday?” Micah asked in a calm voice.

“Yes, Micah!” Lucas nodded.  “I am VERY aware of that fact!”

“Am I to presume that one of ‘these females’ is your intended?” Micah asked.

“Lucas?” Milly called as she hurried in the door.

Lucas turned and looked at Lou, then at Milly.  “Have a seat, ladies,” he demanded calmly through clinched teeth.  They both looked dumbfounded as they slowly sat down in front of him.  He reached in his pocket and took out the article.  Their eyes grew wide as they watched him unfold it in front of their faces. “Now, I’d like to know who is responsible for this!”

Both Lou and Milly covered their mouths with their hands and closed their eyes in regret.  Lucas nodded.  “That’s what I thought.”  Micah held his hand out.  Lucas gave him the article as he turned back to glare at the women.

Micah silently read it.  “Oh no.”  Micah sat the article down.  “Exactly how many papers did you put this in?”

Milly and Lou looked at each other.  Lou laid a gentle hand on Milly’s and cleared her throat.  “Micah, we have been talking about a solution to this problem.  You see, we originally were going to hold it at the McCain Ranch, but then we decided the hotel would be better…after Lucas told Milly he’d prefer it not be held at the ranch.  Well…in all the excitement we…” Lou turned and looked at Milly.  “…we forgot.”

Milly slowly stood up.  “Lucas, Lou and I have been talking about a solution.  We were going to post signs about the mistake and…” She slowly sat back down and stopped speaking when she saw the look of anger on her fiancé’s face.

“That’s not the only problem, ladies.”  Micah frowned as he folded his hands on top of the desk.  “Lucas McCain isn’t just a rancher.  He’s also the Rifleman.  And at times like this, an article in the paper may very well bring out enemies, gun fighters, and gawkers.”  Micah looked from Lou to Milly.  “I…don’t suppose either of you even thought about that.”

“No we didn’t,” Milly answered softly as she hung her head in regret.  She slowly lifted her head when she felt Lucas’s glare focus on her. “Oh Lucas, I’m so sorry.”

“And which one of you told my son to keep this from me?” Lucas demanded to know as he put his hands on his hips and glared at them.

“Well, I…” Lou turned and looked at Milly.  “I told him we put the article in the paper…and about the mistake,” Lou answered regrettably.

“So did I.  I suppose Mark thought about your reputation and was trying to keep you from seeing it.”  Milly sighed.  “Boy, we’ve done it now!” Milly’s voice held a deep regret.  But she  too was also about to explode at the attitude Lucas had taken with her.

But Lucas was too fired up to hear the warning signs in her voice.  “You sure have!” Lucas declared.  “What would possess you to put this article in the paper anyhow?”

“Well, we…know how important you are, and we figure your friends who don’t live near North Fork would want to come.  So, we…” Milly shook her head.  “We should have thought about that.”

“When you showed me that piece of paper, Milly, you told me you were making invitations.  You never said anything about the newspaper.” Luca’s voice was irate and very loud as he yelled at the woman he was about to marry.

“It wasn’t on purpose, Lucas.  It just…it slipped our minds is all!” Milly declared.  She suddenly stood up and glared at him.  “If you think planning a wedding is easy, Lucas…why…you just try doing it all yourself!  It’s a lot of pressure on a person!  I want to marry you, and I guess I just got a little too…” Milly’s eyes softened.  “…excited.”

“Well, the damage is done now, Milly.  There’s nothing we can do about it.”  Lucas scratched under his nose.  “Another thing I’m upset about is the fact that the wedding is to be held at the McCain Ranch.”  Lucas put his hands on his hips again.  “Do you have any idea what this means?”

“We…” Milly swallowed.  “Have to move it to the ranch?” She raised her eyebrows.

“No, Sweetheart.” The way he said ‘sweetheart’ wasn’t endearing in the least!  Lucas folded his arms.  “It means that we now have to contend with people – some possible strangers – showing up at the ranch.  So we’ll now have to find men to stand guard at the ranch to make sure people make it into town and don’t decide to lay in wait for me to come home with my new bride!” Lucas started pacing back and forth.  “With all the work I have…and now this!  This is great…this is just great…”

“Lucas…” Micah warned.  But Lucas was too riled to heed his friend’s warning.

“What about the invitations?  Did they also get mailed out with the wrong location for the wedding?”

Milly put a hand to her face.  She felt a headache coming on.  “Lucas…” She breathed.  Then she slowly stood up and looked him straight in the eye.  “The invitations went out with the wrong location.  I’ve told you I’m sorry!”  Lucas continued glaring at her.  That was all she could handle.  She suddenly exploded.  “Now…if you don’t want to marry me then…” She was about to burst into tears.  But before she could, she turned on her heels and ran out the door.

After the echo of the slamming door died down, Lou slowly stood up.  She placed her hands on her hips and glared at the cowboy.  “I tried to warn you,” Micah grunted quietly.

“Well…” Lou folded her arms.  “I must say ye have made a mess of that!  You have made a total fool of yourself!  Cowboy, do you have any idea how sensitive that woman is right now?  Do you have any idea what you’ve gone and done?”  Lou hurried to the door.  She turned back around and shook her head.  “MEN!”

For the second time in less than a minute, the door to Micah’s office slammed hard.  Both men flinched at the sound it made.

Lucas closed his eyes as he tried to regain his senses.  “Now you’re in a mess, Lucas Boy.”

Lucas turned and glared at Micah.  “Micah, I don’t know if I’m going to survive this week or not!  I’ve a good mind to go get Milly and take her to the Justice of the Peace over in Marionette right now!”

“You…might want to go make sure she still wants to marry you first, Lucas Boy.”  Micah busied himself with some papers as he tried to hide his smile and the mischief in his eyes.  “Because this time, I agree with Lou.  You made a total…” Micah cleared his throat.  “…fool, to use Lou’s word, of yourself!”

Lucas turned and glared at him.  “Thanks…friend!”  Lucas picked up the article.  “You KNOW this was a bad idea!  You know that…” Lucas started to yell again.

Micah held up a hand.  “Yes, Lucas Boy.  But Milly and Lou had no malice in mind when they published that article.  They were just excited about the wedding.  They just wanted to please you by inviting those who know you.  You treated them…Milly especially…like they set out to hurt you.”

“I didn’t!” Lucas declared.  Then he closed his eyes as he replayed the scene in his head. Lucas’s face filled with regret.  “Your right, Micah.  I did make a mess of things.  And…” Lucas sighed.  “Fool isn’t quite the right word.”  Mark had tried to warn him.  Micah had tried to warn him.  But he came in looking for a fight, and a fight is what he found.  Unfortunately, it was a fight with the woman he loved in front of other people.  Lucas wanted to kick himself.  “What are we going to do about this article?”

Micah stood up and put a hand on Lucas’s shoulder.  “Lucas Boy, as your best friend I will personally take care of this article.  I’ll talk to some men about watching your place next Saturday.  And I’ll see about getting some more deputies to watch for anyone trying to gun for you…” Micah shook his head.  “I hate doing this…I know some don’t like it but under the circumstances, I may require everyone to check their guns in before coming into town.  I’ll set up a gun-checking station at both ends of Main Street.  Anyone caught with a gun will be jailed.”

Lucas tapped his fingers on the desk.  “Alright.”  He turned and looked out onto the street.

“Lucas, just go talk with your intended.  Make sure she still plans to marry you, first.  If there are any doubts, get down on your hands and knees…and grovel.”

“I think I’d rather face a pit full of rattlesnakes then face Milly right now!” Lucas mumbled.  But he knew what he had to do.

Micah smirked, “Good luck.”

Lucas slowly made his way across the street.  He made his way into the hotel and stood at the foot of the stairs.  “She ain’t up there, Cowboy.”  Lucas turned around.  Lou slowly walked up to him.  “I don’t know where she is.  She didn’t come back to the hotel.”  Accusation laid in Lou’s eyes and on her voice.

“Well…” Lucas put his hands in his back pockets and stood directly in front of Lou.  “I suppose I should start with you.”  Lucas closed his eyes and looked down at his boots as he mustered up the courage to say what he had to say. “I’m…” Lucas cleared his throat.  “I was wrong, Lou.  I should have never spoken to either of you the way I did.”

“No, you shouldn’t have!” Lou declared in her Irish brogue as she gave a stiff nod of her head.  “You’ve hurt Milly very much.”

“I’ll go talk to Milly.  I hope I can convince her to accept my forgiveness.”  Lucas looked Lou in the eye.  “What about you, Lou?  Do I…have yours?”

Lou raised her eyebrows and narrowed her eyes as she stared at Lucas.  Then she slowly smiled.  “Of course, Lucas.”  She held her head up straighter.  “I know how ye are!”  She nodded toward the door.  “And so does Milly.  She loves ye.  I think she knows ye are a brute!”

“Well…” Lucas rubbed the back of his neck.  “If that’s the worst thing I’m called tonight, I have nothing to worry about.”  He gave Lou a weak smile. “Lou, would you fix up a picnic?  I think I know where she is.”  Lucas put a hand to his head and sighed.

“Lucas…” Lucas turned to see Milly’s mother.  Oh great!  This is all he needed!  She walked up to him.  “Should I tell you about my engagement?”  She motioned for him to sit with her on the couch.  “When my husband proposed to me, I didn’t want a long engagement.  We got married in four weeks, and of course I wanted a big wedding just like Milly.  Things got really tense between us.  My husband…fiancé at the time, and I had a terrible fight.”  She smiled.  “It was over the time of the wedding.  I told everyone one o’clock after we had finally agreed on three o’clock.  When my husband found out, he responded pretty much the same way you did today.”

“Lou told you?” Lucas asked.

“She told me everything.  Lucas, it was a week before the wedding and we almost didn’t get married.  You see…after I told him I didn’t want to get married, he didn’t go after me.  When he did come to me, he told me that it was my fault.  He was a stubborn, prideful man.”  She looked up into Lucas’s eyes.  “Sound familiar?”  She gave him a weak smile.

“I’m going to go to her.”  Lucas nodded, understand exactly what she was saying.  He sure was getting dragged through the mill today!

Jenny put a hand on his as she continued to look him in the eye.  “Does it matter who was wrong?  Lucas, I don’t know if I can explain this where you can understand it or not, but…I’m going to try.”  Jenny took Lucas’s hand in hers.  “A woman…she dreams of getting married, settling down and having a family.  She wants to do everything to please her man.  But…marriage is a big step. Men have learned to deal with it by losing their temper and holding it inside.  My daughter speaks her mind, but she is a woman.  She has a hundred different emotions all mixed up at the same time.  She wants to laugh and cry, run into your arms and flee from them…she’s scared and nervous and…afraid.”

“Afraid of what?” Lucas suddenly asked.

“Afraid of disappointing you.  She’s not afraid of the wedding itself.  She’s afraid of the wedding night and the day after that, and the day after that…She’s afraid she won’t set up house the way you like or that she won’t always say the things you like…”

“But I love her!” Lucas argued.

“Don’t you remember your first engagement?  Do you remember the emotions and the…the frustrations?  Do you remember how HARD it was?” Lucas smiled.  He looked at Jenny and nodded.  Jenny laid a hand on his cheek.  “Go to her.  Hold her and tell her you love her.  Tell her that you will love her no matter what.  That’s what she needs to hear.”

“Do you…think she’ll forgive me?  I mean…” Lucas sighed as he pressed a hand to his forehead.  “Do you think we’ll…”

“She’ll marry you, Lucas.  She’ll forgive you.  Just admit you were wrong.  That’s hard for a man, but a little bit of humbleness goes a long way.”  Jenny smiled at him.  “And…if Milly doesn’t marry you, I sure will!”

Lucas smiled.  “Milly hoped I’d love you.  I do.  You’re so much like her.”  He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  “Thanks Mother Scott.”

***

Mark threw his hands to his face and stared at the mess that had just exploded all over the kitchen.  Then he turned and looked at the mess of ash and soot that covered the living room.  “What a mess!” Mark declared.

“The stove exploded!  What did we do wrong, Mark?” Freddie asked.  He was covered in soot himself.

Mark shook his head.  “I don’t know…I’ve seen Pa do it enough that…” Suddenly, Mark’s eyes grew wide.  “Freddie, Pa!  If Pa sees this we’re DEAD!”  Mark ran into the kitchen.  It was covered in soot!  He ran into the living room.  Everything in the house was covered.  There wasn’t a single place that hadn’t been touched.  Mark threw his hands to his head.  “What are we going to do, Freddie?  What?” Mark asked in a panicked voice.

“Run away!”  Freddie exclaimed.  “Run far, far away!”

Mark hurried to the kitchen and started pumping water into the sink.  “We’ve got to get this mess cleaned up!  We’ve just got to!” Mark declared.

But as they started washing, they realized that they were just making it worse.  Every dish in the house was blackened.  Even his mother’s lace curtains in the window.  “Lou!”  Mark hurried for the door.  “Freddie, you start taking those dishes outside and wash them.  I…”

“I ain’t no dishwasher!” Freddie declared.

Mark ran over to Freddie and grabbed him by the shirt.  “Now listen to me, Freddie! “  Mark pointed a finger in his face.  “You’re in this as deep as I am!  If I go down, I’m taking you with me!  You understand?”  Freddie nodded.  “Now, start working on the dishes outside.  I’m running to town to get Lou.”

“What if your father comes back?” Freddie asked.

Mark looked around the house and cringed.  “Run!  Run away as far and as fast as you can!”

***
Lucas stopped the buggy and softly got down.  Milly turned and looked at him.  Then she turned back around and stared out over the water.  She wiped at her eyes, not wanting Lucas to see her tears.  Lucas softly walked up behind her.  “Milly?”  She didn’t turn, but continued to stare over the waters.  Lucas bent down behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.  She pulled away from him.  “Honey, I DO want to marry you.”

Milly wiped at her eyes again.  “Why?”

For as long as he lived, Lucas would NEVER understand women.  All he knew was that the woman he loved more than anything was very hurt.  He wanted to help her, to put the joy back in her heart.  “Because…I love you.”

“I don’t know why,” Milly sniffed.  “I…I just messed up everything.”

Lucas sat down behind her.  He pulled her back against his chest and hugged her.  “No you didn’t.  I think I messed up everything.”

“I shouldn’t have been so…so…addle-brained!” Milly sniffed again, but rested her head against his chest.  Lucas kissed the top of her head.  “I should have asked you…I should have…” Milly began crying again.

“Hey, hey…” he kissed her cheek.  “Now listen to me.  You have a lot on your mind.  Before I came here, your mother gave me a lecture about women and weddings.  It’s not news that men are different from women.  I feel a lot of the same things.  I have a lot of the same emotions but…I tend to get hot headed from time to time.”

“Really?” Milly asked sarcastically as she sniffed.  “I hadn’t noticed.”  She sighed.  “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.  I deserved that.”  He squeezed his arms around her.  “I asked Lou to forgive me, and now I must ask you.  Lou told me I was a brute.  I…hope you will be a bit kinder on the name calling.”  Milly chuckled in his arms but said nothing.  “Your mother told me you were nervous and afraid of disappointing me.  Milly…” Lucas turned her head around so he could look into her eyes.  “You could NEVER disappoint me…as long as you are being honest with me.”  Lucas smiled.  “Yes, we will find we have some differences.  You’ll find I’m not perfect and…”

Milly smiled.  “I already know that!”  Lucas raised his eyebrows at her.  “Besides your temper and your…insensitivities…I’ve heard tell that you snore!”  Milly turned in his arms until they were face to face.  “I am afraid.  I’ve been crying and I don’t know why.”

“That’s the way of a woman I suppose,” Lucas said softly.  “You go ahead and cry.  I’ll be here to hold you while you cry.  Always and forever.”  Lucas put his head on top of her head as she turned back to look at the pond.  “So…do you forgive me?”

“I’ll have to think about it,” Milly answered.  Lucas gasped.  “I’m teasing!  Of course I forgive you.  And you’re not a brute!” she assured him.

“Gee, thanks, Milly!” Lucas mumbled into her hair.

“You’re stubborn as a mule and pig-headed, but you aren’t a brute!”  Milly grew quiet.

Lucas heard her sigh.  “Talk to me, Mil,” he coaxed her softly as he nudged her with his arms.

“I’m afraid of things that I can’t even express, Lucas. I can’t even talk about them – they’re so private…” Milly stopped.

Lucas bent his head down as she turned her head around.  He kissed her softly.  “Milly, I have the same fears.”

“You do?”  Lucas nodded silently.

She turned sideways in his arms and laid her head on his chest as she closed her eyes.  “I’m sorry about the invitations.  I shouldn’t have…”

“Milly, you shouldn’t have kept that from me…I mean about the mistake.  You are well aware of the understanding Mark and I have about keeping nothing between us?  Well, that goes the same for you.  We tell each other everything.”

Milly smiled as she raised an eyebrow.  “Like uh…that my apple pie tastes bad?”

“Ouch!” Lucas groaned.  “Yes…you see…I’m guilty of the same thing.”  Lucas brushed her hair with his hand.  “And don’t you worry.  Micah’s taking care of the mistake.  You and I don’t have to give it a second thought!”

“Really?”

“Really.”  Lucas bent down and once again kissed her.  He still felt tension, but not nearly as much as he had while ago.  He smiled at her as he rubbed his fingertips across her cheek.  “Next Saturday night, there will be no more holding back, my darling.  I can show you just how much I love you!”  Milly blushed. Lucas bent down to her and kissed her.  She turned in his arms and wrapped her arms around his neck.  Their kiss deepened.  Lucas felt the tension leave her body as they continued kissing.

Finally, they allowed their lips to part.  Lucas sighed as he laid his forehead against hers.  “You know Milly,” Lucas mumbled softly as he smiled at her.  “I have a solution to this whole darn mess!  I could solve all our problems just like…” Lucas snapped his fingers.

Milly lifted her head from his and raised an eyebrow.  “Oh, I’m afraid to ask…how?”

“Just go see the Justice of the Peace and…Oof!” Lucas cried as she elbowed him in the ribs.

“Lucas McCain, don’t you dare!  After all the pain and suffering I’ve been going through…I wouldn’t dare back out now!”

“Oh…so you’d consider it if you hadn’t had pain and suffering?” Lucas smiled at her.

“Oh, you!”  She stood up and wiped her eyes.  Lucas stood up with her and hugged her.  “You know something?”  Milly looked him up and down.  “You are STILL rough around the edges!”

***

When Mark got near the church, he dismounted Blue Boy and tied him up behind the church.  Then he slowly crept behind the buildings until he got to the hotel.  He looked around, making sure no one was around to see him.  Then he slowly opened the back door of the hotel, which led into Lou’s private kitchen.

Mark breathed a sigh of relief to find Lou bent over the stove alone.  He certainly didn’t want Milly seeing him.  He wasn’t sure whose explosion would hurt the most – his Pa’s or Milly’s…Mark slowly closed the door without making a noise.  “Psst,” he tried to get Lou’s attention.  Lou straightened up and turned her head to the side.  “Lou…” Mark whispered softly.

Lou turned around with a puzzled look on her face.  When she saw Mark, her eyes grew wide.  “Mark-“ she started.  But Mark held up his hands and waved them back and forth.  Then he put a finger to his lips.  Lou sat down her spoon and hurried over to him.  “What on earth happened to you?  You’re covered in soot!”

“Where’s Pa?” Mark whispered.

“He came into town and exploded.  I suspect he and Milly are together somewhere making up,” Lou answered.

“Good!” Mark relaxed a bit.  Suddenly, his face screwed up.  He grabbed her wrist.  “You’ve got to come to the ranch!  There’s been an…accident!” Mark pleaded.

“Mark!” Lou took her wrist out of his grip.  She wiped at the black soot he’d gotten all over her sleeve.  “What sort of an…accident?”

Mark swallowed.  “Well…Will you just come and…”

Lou put her hands on her hips.  “Now Mark McCain, I’m not budging from this spot until you tell me exactly what this is all about!”

“Yes ma’am…” Mark sighed.  “You see, before Pa left in a huff this morning, he told me to ride over and get Mr. Marvin to clean the stove pipes and chimney and…” Mark stopped when he saw Lou’s eyes grow wide.

She pointed a finger at Mark.  “And YOU thought you could do it yourself?”  Lou’s Irish temper suddenly went off.  “Mark McCain, what were ye thinking this close to the weddin’?  I oughta bend ye over my knee!”

“You can later, Lou!  But right now there’s a big mess.  Now, you know how riled Pa was this morning.  Just imagine what would happen if he comes home and finds the mess!”

Lou started hurrying around the kitchen gathering supplies up.  “Ye ride to Mr. Marvin’s and beg him to get to your house as soon as possible, Mark.  And hurry!  Then when ye get home, I’ll have good soaking started.”  Lou dashed here and there gathering more things up.  “I have a few things Milly wanted to go out there anyhow.  I’ll just use that as an excuse to…” Lou suddenly turned and looked at Mark.  “Well, go on with yourself!  Get moving!”

“Lou, what if Pa…” Mark started.

Lou placed a finger to her lips and smiled.  “Well now, I’ve a feeling your father and Milly will be occupied most of the day.  They have an awful lot of making up to do.  But just in case…I’d keep lots of extra pants around.  That way if ye see him coming, ye can put them all on and soften the blow…” Lou nodded toward the door.  “Now, get going!”

***

Lucas laid down on the blanket and put his head in Milly’s lap.  She smiled down at him as she laid her hands on his shoulders.  Lucas  played with a piece of straw as he closed his eyes.  “We’ve a million things to do before Saturday, Lucas.”  Lucas groaned.  Milly bent over and kissed him.  “Now that lunch is over, we really should get going.”

“You anxious to get rid of me?” Lucas suddenly asked.

“Of course not!  But Lou and I have a million things to do!” Milly declared.

“Oh Milly, I just want to stay here for awhile longer.  It’s so peaceful here.  I don’t have all the pressure of the wedding out here.”

“You don’t have pressure?”  Milly put her hands on her hips. “How would you know what pressure is, Lucas McCain?  You don’t have to get ready for the wedding!”

“No, but I have to keep my bride happy.”  Lucas sat up and smiled as he bent over and laid a gentle kiss on her lips.  “That’s hard to do!”

“We really SHOULD get going, Lucas!” Milly declared as she stood up.

“Alright.  I do need to ask Micah about his plans for next Saturday.”  Lucas put his hand under Milly’s arm and led her back to the buggy.

***

Lou opened the door to the McCain house and threw a hand to her mouth.  “Aye yie yie!” she declared.  She wasn’t exactly sure where to begin.  She heard a noise coming from the back and hurried over to the window.  There she saw Freddie desperately cleaning dishes.  She shook her head.  “Freddie Toomey!  I should have known.”

Lou had changed into work clothes, and it was a good thing!  She sure did hope Lucas and Milly didn’t show back up in town anytime soon.  She went to work on the kitchen, scrubbing and cleaning as hard as she could.  Suddenly, a knock sounded on the door.  She got up and hurried over.  “Micah!  I’m glad you could come.”

Micah stepped inside.  His eyes widened.  “Mark…did all this?” he asked.

“And Freddie Toomey,” Lou declared with a brisk nod of her head.  “He’s out back making a mess of the dishes!”

“Freddie Toomey…” Micah shook his head.  “I should have known!”  Micah looked around.  “Well, where do you want me?”

Lou pointed to the rug.  “Take that outside and see if you can salvage it.  Then we’ll see about sweeping some of this out.”

Just then, Mark showed up with Mr. Marvin.  Mr. Marvin stepped inside.  His eyes widened.  “Oh my!” he declared.  “It looks like all the soot is cleared out of the chimney and onto the floor!”

“And the furniture, and the curtains!” Lou declared.  She shook her head.  “Ye just get started cleaning them properly.”  She turned to Mark.  “Mark, ye get started on washing the furniture.”  She handed Mark a bucket and some rags.  Freddie walked in then.  “Freddie, ye help Micah drag that rug out so you can clean.”

“Are we going to get this done before Pa gets home?” Mark asked worriedly.

Lou went to take the curtains out of the window.  She shook her head.  “These cannot be salvaged, Mark.  They are ruined, I’m afraid.”

“Pa told me Milly wanted to make some new curtains.  These have been hanging for a few years.”

“Well, ye are in luck, Mark…” Lou walked over to a box and took out some curtains.  “Your Grandma Jenny made these to hang in the windows.”  Lou smiled.  “Oh, and we have Mr. Toomey watching for your father and Milly.  He’ll delay them as long as he can.”

The group started their tasks.

***

Lucas stopped the buggy in front of the livery.  He lifted Milly down from the wagon and smiled into her eyes.  Toomey hurried out of the shop.  “Lucas, I’m glad I found you!  I need your help.”  Lucas turned and looked at Milly.  “Uh…it’s about your order.”

“Oh.  Milly, you best go on back to the hotel.  I’ll come look in on you before I head to the ranch.”  He kissed her then watched her leave.

But before she could get very far, several ladies stopped her.  They suddenly wanted to have a tea party with her.  Milly tried to explain she had work to do, but they insisted.

So while Lucas was going over every little detail of his furniture with Toomey and Milly was enjoying tea with some of the ladies; Mark, Freddie, Micah, and Lou worked desperately putting the house back in order.

It took all day!  By the time five o’clock came along, Lou was tired.  Every muscle in her body ached.  Mr. Marvin was done with his job and left.  Lou sent Mark and Freddie down to the creek with clean clothes and ordered them to use lots of soap.  She and Micah started putting the house back in order.

After Freddie got cleaned up, he left for home.  Mark started back towards his house when he heard a rider coming.  His eyes grew wide when he realized it was his father.  “Lou!  Lou!” Mark cried.  “Pa’s coming!”

Lou gasped as she gathered the last of her supplies up.  Mark ran toward his father now in the yard and greeted him warmly.  “Let’s go into the barn, Pa!  I want to show you something.”

Lucas eyed his son suspiciously as they walked into the barn.  Mark patted the colt he had bought for Milly.  Lucas shook his head.  “Yeah, I’ve…seen a horse before, son.  In fact, I saw him the day you brought him home.”

Meanwhile, Lou and Micah snuck out the back door and took off on their horses.  Lou was a pretty good buggy driver, which was really good for today because by the time Lucas insisted to go to the house, Lou and Micah were out of sight.  Mark could feel beads of sweat popping up on his forehead as they walked towards the house.  “Son, you smell like you took a bath.”

“Oh…” Mark racked his brain for an answer.  “Yeah uh…I figured that since I had extra time, I might as well get it done.  No telling what sort of trouble I was going to have to get you out of with Milly. I…” Mark dug his hands in his pocket.  “I heard that you exploded in town.”

“Oh?” Lucas stopped and turned toward his son.  “How did you know that, son?”

“How did I…?” Mark stopped.  “Well…Lou told me.”

“Oh?  When did you see Lou, son?” Lucas asked suspiciously.

“Oh, well…” Mark licked his lips nervously.  “She dropped by this afternoon with the curtains for the windows.  Yeah…” Mark laughed nervously.

He closed his eyes as his father went into the house.  “Mark!”

“Yes Pa?” Mark asked, fearful he was about to get into trouble.

“When did you have time to clean this house, son?  It’s spotless!”  Lucas turned and stared at Mark.  “You didn’t let Lou clean when she was here did you?”

Mark laughed nervously.  “Oh gee, Pa…She said there was so much dirt she just couldn’t stand it!  Why, she thought everything needed clean!”

“Oh.”  Lucas walked over to the fire place and stuck his head inside.  “Well, it’s absolutely clean!  Mr. Marvin didn’t leave a speck of soot on the floor!  I’m glad.  I sure would hate to clean that up!  Soot sure is hard to clean.”

“You’re telling me,” Mark declared.

“What’s that, son?” Lucas asked.

“Oh…I was just counting…one…two…three…There will soon be three of us living here.”

And boy oh boy, but he couldn’t wait until this wedding was over!  He wasn’t sure if he’d survive it!

Now, if Mark thought he was fooling his father, he wasn’t.  Lucas suspected something very strange had happened at the ranch today, but he decided not to pursue the idea for now, because quite frankly, he was too tired to care.

The Wedding — The Last Days


This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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