The Writer's Corner
Chapter 7 - Aunt Gertrude and Grandma Bertha
Written by Michelle Palmer
Margaret Gibbs took a long, deep breath as she dismounted her
horse and gazed over the land Lucas was quickly making into a
ranch. What she saw pleased her, and the fact that he was doing
a lot of it for her pleased her even more. It was only five
short weeks before she and Lucas would begin their life together
on this ranch.
Thunder could be heard in the distance, and every now and then a
flash of lightening could be seen. The air smelled of rain, and
Margaret knew it was only a matter of moments before it would
begin to fall.
Lucas, upon hearing the neighing of a visiting horse, stepped
out of his shack with his coffee cup in hand. He smiled at first
when he saw his fiancée, but then he frowned as he realized she
had again ridden that long distance alone. “Margaret Gibbs!”
Lucas hurried out to her and gently took her arm. “I oughta bend
you over my knee for this! You know better than to…”
“Lucas!” Margaret interrupted him with an exasperated sigh. “I’m
perfectly capable of taking care of myself!” She steadied
herself in front of him as she lifted her chin in the stubborn
stance, reminding Lucas that she knew her own mind. “Besides
that, my mother sent me out here to let you know that you are
expected to come to supper tonight. We’ve family coming from
Oklahoma City on the stage today, and you are to be at our house
for supper at six o’clock sharp.”
“Family?” Lucas raised an eyebrow. “Oh, not that prissy…” Lucas
cleared his throat when Margaret lifted her eyebrow. “Uh…I
mean…your loving spinster aunt…Gertrude?”
“The very one!” Margaret nodded. “And my grandmother is coming
“Ohhhh…” Lucas groaned. “Oh…I mean…GREAT!” This more
enthusiastic remark was added after seeing the warning flash in
“Now, I know they may be a little prudish and…”
“A little?” Lucas groaned. “Now Margaret, do you remember the
last time your grandmother and aunt came to visit? I couldn’t do
anything right for them! Everything from the way I dressed to
the way I cut my meat was wrong!”
“You were 15 years old!” Margaret argued. “You’ve matured…a
bit…since then.” Now it was Lucas’ turn to raise an eyebrow.
“Well…they’ll only be here a couple weeks, Luke. Please…”
Margaret slipped her arm through his and stepped closer to him.
Looking him deep in the eye, she said…”For me?”
Lucas smiled as he brushed her cheek with his fingers. “Anything
for you, my dear.” Then he bent down and kissed her.
“Oh…that’s another thing…” Margaret pulled away from him. “I’m
afraid you should not touch me or…kiss me while we’re in their
“HUH?” Lucas protested loudly.
“Well…my aunt…she’s sort of…old fashioned. She doesn’t think a
couple should…kiss until they are married.”
“Until they are married???” Lucas shook his head. “Now that’s
just plumb loco!”
“Lucas!” Margaret chided him. “Now…I don’t ask that much of
“No, you don’t…” Lucas rolled his eyes and groaned. He knew she
wasn’t asking him now. She expected him to grin and bear
whatever came his way that night. “This aunt of yours has never
been married, so how can she sit there and…” Lucas stopped when
he saw the warning flash in her eyes once more. He held up his
hands in surrender. He’d probably be better off just keeping his
mouth shut all together. “Okay, okay…” He sighed. “I’ll…be
“Thank you.” Margaret stepped toward him and slowly wrapped her
arms around his neck. She kissed him softly. “I’ll make it up to
you, my love.” She kissed him again. “I promise.”
“Yes indeed.” Lucas mumbled against her hair. “I’ll hold you to
Margaret stepped away from him. “You best get cleaned up, Luke.”
“I’ll have to go to Peter’s for that, honey.” Lucas led her
toward the shack. “You uh…expecting me to wear a jacket and
tie?” Margaret nodded. “I was afraid of that.”
They stepped into the shack just as the rain started coming.
Lucas handed Margaret a cup of coffee as they sat down at the
table. “I dare to guess what your dear ol’ sweet aunt would
think about you sitting inside this shack with me.”
Margaret giggled. “I don’t think you want to know, Luke. She’s
always given Mama a hard time. I remember Mama telling me once
that she protested about her marrying my Pa. Grandma Bertha
wanted my mother to marry a judge and when she chose Father…”
Margaret shook her head.
“I can only imagine what she thinks of THAT situation now.”
“She doesn’t know.” Lucas was visibly surprised. Margaret
nodded. “It’s true. Mama couldn’t tell her in a letter. I expect
she’ll find out eventually. Papa’s expected to pick them up, I’m
sure. Both Mother and Scott gave Pa a firm lecture this morning
on trying to stay sober. “
“I can’t see him staying sober for two weeks,” Lucas said
quietly. “Then Aunt Gertrude and Grandma Bertha will find out.”
“Yes.” Margaret took a sip of her coffee and screwed up her
face. “This needs cream and…and…”
Lucas chuckled. “Well, I don’t have cream. And remember that an
old bachelor made this coffee.”
“Well…” Margaret leaned over and kissed him again. “That will
soon be changed in just five weeks.” Margaret looked down at the
drawing lying on the table. She turned the paper around so she
could see it better. “Is this the house?”
“Yes.” Lucas pointed to each section of the house – two
bedrooms, a sitting room, a separate kitchen, and two porches.
“I told you I want it simple, Luke.” Margaret picked up the
pencil and erased a section. “I want the kitchen right here…off
from the sitting room. There…” She smiled up at him. “That way
wherever our children are I can see them.”
“Hm…” Lucas took another sip of his coffee. “Let’s suppose we
have five children in a few years, honey. Don’t you want a
“Of course, my love! But until that happens, we can keep it
simple. Don’t you think?” She lifted her eyebrows at him. Lucas
They could hear the rain pouring down. Lucas sighed and shook
his head. “I best go put the canopy on the wagon. I’ll bed down
your horse in the barn since I’m sure your Aunt Gertrude won’t
be expecting you to ride a horse.”
Margaret heard the sarcasm in his voice. “You don’t like my Aunt
Gertrude…” Margaret mumbled.
Lucas gave her a strange look. “We’re talking about the woman
who declared I was the silliest little boy she ever met. One day
when I came to talk to you, she told me that boys did not talk
to girls without permission from her father.” Lucas rolled his
eyes. “And then do you remember the time I came with manure on
my boots? She was appalled and threw a hand to her chest,
calling me a savage!” Lucas shook his head. “I’ve a feeling this
is going to be a long two weeks!”
Lucas held up his hand. “Yes. I know…I know…” He kissed her on
the cheek. “Only, I want one more long kiss before we go to your
Margaret chuckled as she slowly wrapped her arms around his neck
and allowed his lips to claim hers.
Peter whistled as Lucas came inside. “Now look at you…”
Lucas rolled his eyes as Margaret and Tiffany smiled from their
places at the table. “Now don’t you start!” He worked again at
tying his tie in the mirror, but groaned. “Don’t know how I’m
going to make it through these two weeks…” he declared under his
“What was that?” Margaret questioned.
“Oh uh…Don’t know how I’m going to make it through these last
weeks before we’re married.”
Margaret stood up and came to tie his tie. She began brushing
his jacket off. Turning him around, she brushed the back of his
jacket off. “Now, don’t forget to take off your hat BEFORE you
enter the house, Lucas. And you kiss her left cheek and make
SURE you smile!”
Peter chuckled from behind Lucas. “Papa, what’s so funny?”
Ruthie suddenly asked.
Peter cleared his throat when Tiffany shot him a warning look.
“Uh…nothing, sweetie. But I think your Uncle Luke is getting a
taste of what being married is…” Tiffany cleared her throat from
behind him. “Uh…I mean how wonderful being married really is.”
With that, Peter picked Ruthie up and said, “Let’s go check on
your brother.” Then he quickly disappeared into the bedroom.
“What time’s supper?” Lucas asked as he sat down at the table.
“Six,” Margaret answered. “Only mother said for you to come a
bit early so you can get reacquainted with Aunt Gertrude and
Grandma Bertha. She told me to bring you with me so Aunt
Gertrude can get used to the idea.”
Lucas slowly stood up from the table. “Used to what idea?” he
demanded to know.
“Oh Luke…You know how she is. I…”
“Yeah.” Lucas sighed. “She thought I was a pretty swell sod
buster, but her granddaughter was going to marry somebody with
uh…what did she call it again?”
Margaret looked down at the floor as she spoke the word quietly.
Lucas repeated the word in a mocked voice. ‘Suave!’ He grunted.
“Sounds like something a bird has or something…” Lucas took out
his watch and looked at it. “It’s four o’clock now.”
“We should get going, Luke.” Lucas went to the door and lifted
his rifle down from the hooks Peter insisted he keep it on while
he was there. “Lucas Mark McCain!” Margaret suddenly griped.
“You are NOT bringing your rifle!” Her tone of voice held a firm
warning in it.
Lucas looked down at his rifle, then back up at Margaret. He
narrowed his eyes at her. “Now wait just a minute, young lady!
This rifle goes where I go!”
“Not tonight it doesn’t!” Margaret answered. “Why, if Aunt
Gertrude saw that…”
“I’m getting pretty tired of your Aunt Gertrude and I haven’t
even seen her yet!” Lucas suddenly declared in an impatient
Margaret suddenly put her hands to her face and turned away.
Lucas sighed and looked down at his rifle. Her warning had gone
unheeded, and he had now upset her. He knew she was nervous
about this evening, and his arguing with her wasn’t going to
make things any easier. “I’m sorry…” He put his rifle back on
the hooks. “I know this is hard for you too. My arguing is just
making things harder.”
Margaret spun around. “Oh Lucas…” She hugged him. “I want her to
“You think she will?” Lucas asked.
Lucas didn’t miss the doubt in her eyes. “She’ll accept you,”
Margaret answered. “In time…”
“But she DOES know who you’re marrying…right?”
“What do you mean…”
Margaret nodded toward the door. “Let’s go, Luke.”
The rain was almost stopped when Lucas helped Margaret out of
the wagon. He was still trying to tell himself that the guests
hadn’t made it to Enid yet. Maybe the stage was delayed because
of the rain, or maybe Aunt Gertrude and Grandma Bertha had
decided that she didn’t want to make that hot, dusty trip after
all. Lucas paused as he stood beside the wagon and took a few
deep gulps of air, trying to remember how to breathe. Margaret
started forward, but Lucas grabbed her arm. He gave her an
accusing look. “Now then, young lady…Just why didn’t you tell
her WHO you were marrying?”
Margaret lifted her chin in a defiant stance. “You’ve grown a
lot since she’s seen you, Luke. I didn’t want her to picture you
as that silly ol’ fifteen year old kid she remembers. I want her
to see you as…”
“Suave?” Lucas questioned sarcastically, his eyebrow popping up
as he continued to glare at her.
“Mature!” Margaret corrected him. The glare on his face may
bother some people, but Margaret didn’t miss a beat. She gave
him a quick peck on the cheek then told him to remove his hat as
they approached the door. Lucas obeyed and followed her inside
with his hat in hand. “Margaret!” He heard HER voice. He’d know
that voice ANYWHERE, the years hadn’t changed it one bit. He
cringed just hearing it. “Let me look at you!”
Margaret smiled as she stood in front of Aunt Gertrude.
“Well…you HAVE grown into a beautiful young lady!” Aunt Gertrude
studied her closer and slowly screwed up her face in a
disapproving frown. “What are these bangs?” She flipped the
bangs back from Margaret’s head. Lucas took a step forward, but
stopped when he felt a firm hand on his shoulder. He turned to
see Scott standing there. “Why a young woman about to get
married should be wearing her hair up in a bun…not where it can
blow all over the place! And that dress…” Lucas turned to look
at Scott. He lifted his eyebrows, but still remained silent,
though he was just about to lose it.
“Aunt Getrude, this is my fiancé.” Lucas heard the hurt in
Margaret’s voice. He hadn’t been here a minute, and was already
ready for the dear ol’ Aunt Gertrude to leave.
Aunt Gertrude lifted her head and looked at Lucas. Scott gave
Lucas a small push forward. He saw the pleading look on
Margaret’s face, so he begrudgingly kissed Aunt Gertrude on the
cheek as he had been instructed to do. She pulled away and
looked him up and down with that same disgusted look on her
face. “Well, his hair’s a bit long and he…” She stopped and
sucked in her breath. “I know you…” Her tone of voice told all
in the room that her memories of Lucas were not pleasant. She
put a hand to her mouth and thought. “Why…this CANNOT be the
young man who put ashes in my coffee!”
Lucas cringed. Her memory was better than he ever imagined. He
had only been seven years old when that event had occurred, and
she never forgot that incident. “Luke, ma’am.” Lucas gave her a
“Lucas McCain!” Aunt Gertrude ticked her tongue and shook a
finger at him. “I DO hope you have become debonair and polished,
Lucas raised his eyebrows as Aunt Gertrude turned and hurried to
the other side of the room. He bent his head close to Margaret’s
ear. “Well, she’s improved her vocabulary, I see,” Lucas mumbled
in Margaret’s ear.
Margaret shot him a warning look then hurried forward. “It’s so
good to see you, Grandma Bertha!”
“Yes…yes…” Grandma Bertha agreed, the expression on her face
never changing. Her voice shook and she acted as if she didn’t
hear what was being said.
Margaret bent over and kissed her grandmother’s cheek. “Grandma
Bertha, this is Lucas McCain!”
“Yes…yes…” Grandma Bertha nodded.
Margaret straightened up and looked at Aunt Gertrude. Aunt
Gertrude turned from the sink where she had just washed the
cheek Lucas had kissed and said, “She’s been like that for over
a year now.”
Margaret turned to Lucas, who suddenly felt bad for the way he’d
talked earlier. “I’m sorry,” Lucas said to Aunt Gertrude as much
as to Margaret. Margaret gave him a slight nod, indicating she
accepted his apology as sincere, but Aunt Gertrude humphed and
declared that he didn’t know what sorry really meant. She
started in with a long list of complaints about the terrible
year she’d had caring for a woman who didn’t even give her a
thank you. She even turned to her sister and declared that she
didn’t know how well she had it since she wasn’t the one caring
for an invalid.
The room grew quiet and quite somber. Then Aunt Gertrude said,
“After a long ride, I would think my hosts would already have
the meal prepared.” She smoothed her skirt. “Why, you’ve no idea
what it’s like to sit in a stuffy stage for two days with men
who discuss their enjoyment of cards and spirits!” That was all
that was said as she waved her hands across the table and sat
down beside her mother, waiting impatiently for the rest of the
family to take their seats. “Poor, poor Andy…” Aunt Gertrude
ticked her tongue again. “Had to go off to that SILLY war!”
Lucas had just seated Margaret. Slowly sitting down in his
chair, he said, “Silly…war?” He felt Margaret’s warning hand on
Aunt Gertrude lifted her head and narrowed her eyes at Lucas.
“Yes, young man. It was silly! Some wanting to try and change
things from the way they always were…others wanting to prove a
point and leave our fine country…War is needless. No good ever…”
Nobody missed the look of rage that came across Lucas’ face.
Before he could speak his retort, he felt a hard kick on his
shin. He met the eyes of Scott Gibbs. “Uh..” Scott cleared his
throat. “Aunt Gertrude, perhaps we should pray.” Before anything
more could be said, Scott led the family in prayer. Aunt
Gertrude was only quiet for a short time before she began
“Where’s that Johnny at?” She waited for an answer but nobody
dared to give her that piece of news. “What? Did he go off and
get himself killed as well?”
Again, Lucas grew angry. But again, Margaret shot him a warning
look while he felt another kick to his shin. This time, he
reached down and grabbed his leg, rubbing it. Scott cleared his
throat and finally answered for the family. “He’s spread his
wings, Aunt Gertrude. Johnny has moved away. He’s earning his
own way now.”
Another spell of silence followed as Aunt Gertrude allowed her
brain to process this information. There was tension around the
table, everyone hoping she didn’t ask the one question that soon
escaped her lips. “Exactly what has he chosen to do for a
living?” Scott started to answer, but was silenced by Aunt
Gertrude. “And why are you so lose with your tongue, Scott
Gibbs? Let your father answer. He’s the head of the house, after
“Well Aunt Gertrude…uh…” Samuel stammered, knowing his family
didn’t want Aunt Gertrude to know of his own failures. His
children wanted to save their mother the embarrassment. “Uh…He
works with cattle.”
It was true. Johnny had joined a rodeo and DID work with cattle.
He rode bulls until he was bucked off, and broke wild stallions.
Johnny had recently written home that he was being paid good
money to break horses that hardly anyone else COULD break. He
was young and strong and Margaret worried desperately that he
would get himself killed or crippled.
“Cattle…” Aunt Gertrude took another bite of her meat. Again,
she furrowed her brow. “Jennifer darling…if you use just a
little more water next time, and don’t get the oven so hot this
roast will be much more tender.”
Lucas lifted his head and stared at Aunt Gertrude. He had about
as much of this woman as he’d ever be able to stand. He turned
and looked at Margaret who suddenly lowered her head to her own
plate. Then he looked at Samuel, who concentrated on the
contents of his plate as well. Lucas couldn’t believe that
nobody was standing up for Jennifer. Jennifer Gibbs was one of
the finest cooks he’d ever known. There was absolutely nothing
wrong with his meat! Lucas opened his mouth to argue, not being
able to stand anymore of this woman’s rude…ungrateful…but he
suddenly felt another firm kick under the table. He turned to
see Margaret still concentrating on her meat and wondered where
that kick had come from.
Lucas did notice that Aunt Gertrude made a point not to look at
him. And for the remainder of the meal she discussed the people
of Oklahoma City. Lucas wondered if the people were so bad, why
did she stay? Aunt Gertrude spoke of the father of seven boys
who was seen at the saloon every night, the young woman who had
just had a baby exactly EIGHT months after her wedding day, a
man who was seen keeping company with a married woman when her
husband was out of town selling cattle, and even a six year old
little girl who wouldn’t hesitate putting poison in the drinking
When Aunt Gertrude started to tell of all those sorry soldiers
showing up looking sad and dejected, Jennifer quickly stood up
and announced it was time for dessert. But nobody, save for Aunt
Gertrude who still refused to acknowledge Lucas was there,
missed the look of anger that crossed Lucas’ face. Jennifer
brought in the cobbler and said, “Luke, will you go fill the
oven with more wood? I’ll need to make some bread after awhile.
And Margaret, would you bring in the saucers?” It was evident to
everyone except for Aunt Gertrude, that Jennifer’s sending them
out of the room had a purpose. Jennifer gave her a daughter a
look that told Margaret to calm her fiancé down.
Both Lucas and Margaret stood from the table. “Shain’t allow
them alone in the kitchen like that,” Aunt Gertrude could be
heard saying while Lucas and Margaret hurried out of the room.
“Young ‘uns now days need constantly watched else hanky panky…”
Lucas was seething by the time he got into the kitchen. He
turned and glared at Margaret. “Now that woman…” Lucas pointed
toward the door. “is impossible, Margaret!”
“Lucas, lower your voice!” Margaret hissed before turning to
the cabinet to get some saucers down. “I’m sorry, Luke. But
she’s my mother’s sister and she’s really had a rough time.”
“I can see why!” Lucas threw a piece of wood into the fire and
flames danced up around it. “Now Margaret, she’s doing nothing
but insulting every member of your family…and the dead, and your
father and brother are just sitting there ALLOWING this to
happen!” Lucas stood back up and reached for another piece of
wood. “I won’t have it, I tell you!”
“Lucas, please! Lower your voice!” Margaret begged as she put a
hand on his shoulder.
Lucas narrowed his eyes, but continued breathing heavily. He
hadn’t been this angry in a long time.
“We’re all just trying to get through this.” Margaret rested a
hand on his arm and looked into his eyes. “She’ll settle down in
a couple days, Luke. We learned a long time ago that trying to
defend ourselves only causes her to lash out harder. So please…”
Margaret took his hand. “Please just help us get through this.”
Lucas was silent as he and Margaret continued to look at each
other. His heart was torn on what to do. He knew his getting
along with Aunt Gertrude was something Margaret really wanted,
yet he knew that this family had no right to be treated this
way. Finally, Lucas heaved a burdensome sigh. Against his better
judgment, he said, “Alright.” Lucas threw another piece of wood
in the fire and brushed off his hands. “But if she throws
anymore insults at YOU, I will be forced to say something.”
Margaret nodded, knowing that was as much of an agreement as she
would get. Lucas gave her a small smile. “And uh…don’t change
your hair. I think it’s beautiful.”
Margaret smiled as she left the kitchen.
Lucas forced the cherry cobbler down his throat as Aunt Gertrude
continued with her talking. Finally, Jennifer stood and began
gathering the dishes. Aunt Gertrude cleared her throat, causing
Jennifer to pause in her task. “When we were growing up…” Aunt
Gertrude started with a click of her tongue. “The youngest
daughter did the dishes.”
“Aunt Gertrude…” Jennifer started.
“No, no…It’s alright.” Beth stood up and began gathering the
dishes. She stopped in front of her mother and took the saucers
from her hands. “This is one time I won’t mind doing the
dishes.” Then she hurried into the kitchen.
Aunt Gertrude was too involved in thinking up her next insult to
give Beth’s final words any thought. But then she abruptly stood
up and walked toward the door. “Young man,” she said as she
looked straight at Lucas. “I’d like to see you outside before
Lucas turned to look at Margaret, whose eyes widened. Margaret
turned and looked at Scott, her eyes pleading for him to do
something to rescue Lucas from further embarrassment and
suffering. Scott stood and said, “Aunt Gertrude, Luke has a long
way to go. I think…”
“Never you mind! Mother can no longer speak for herself, so I’ll
speak for her! Now, come on, young man. Outside.”
Lucas stood up and grabbed his hat. He didn’t care if he was in
the presence of a lady or not, he’d wear that hat once he was
outside! After the door firmly closed behind them, Aunt Gertrude
walked out into the yard as Lucas put his hat on his head. “Now,
young man, just what are your intentions?”
Aunt Gertrude nodded. “What do you plan to do with yourself?”
“Well…I’m setting up a ranch on the other side of town, ma’am.”
“A ranch…” She smoothed her skirt. “The McCains…have they
acquired some money on this farm of theirs?”
Lucas closed his eyes to keep his composure. “My brother, Peter,
now owns the main farm. My three brothers are all married with
children of their own. My folks died during the war.”
“I see.” Her expression suddenly changed from stubborn curiosity
to seething anger. She pressed her tongue against her teeth,
took a deep breath, and continued. “But you didn’t answer my
“I reckon we’re a bit better off then we used to be, ma’am.”
“So, how do you plan on supporting my niece?”
Lucas licked his lips before he spoke. He didn’t care if he got
in trouble or not, he would answer her question honestly. “With
sweat and hard work!”
“Don’t you raise your voice at me, young man!” She straightened
her skirt. “I shall see this uh…RANCH…tomorrow.”
“It’s an hour’s hard ride from here, Aunt Gertrude.”
“Indeed…Just as I suspected…You’re trying to take her away from
her family…Isolate her from civilization.” Aunt Gertrude looked
around. “What little civilization there is…”
“No, I…” Lucas had had about as much of this woman as he could
take. He was going to give her a piece of his mind!
The door opened just in time. Jennifer stepped out onto the
porch. “Gertrude, I’ve tea ready. Shall we go to the parlor?”
Aunt Gertrude again looked Lucas up and down, obviously not
liking what she saw. But instead of saying anymore, she nodded
her head and started for the house. “I’ll be there tomorrow. And
you make sure to have your hat off in my presence, young man!”
Lucas watched the door close and took off his hat, slapping it
on his leg. “Well wouldn’t that just make ya bawl!” Lucas shook
his head. It seemed she just soured with age. Lucas turned and
stomped angrily to the barn. He brought out his team of horses
and began hitching them to the wagon. “Luke…” Lucas looked up to
see Margaret hurry toward him with her skirt lifted up. Lucas
clinched his jaw and tried to restrain himself, but a man can
only take so much.
“She’s mean and nasty, Margaret! I can see why she never
married. A woman like that needs no husband…plain to see who
would wear the pants in THAT family!”
“Damn right, I’m angry!” Lucas shouted as he turned and glared
at her. Then he closed his eyes. “But not at you, Margaret.”
Margaret stood beside him as he worked at hitching the team.
Lucas fiercely walked to the other side of the horses and
Margaret followed him as she spoke. “Grandmother had a young man
chosen for my mother, and my mother announced she was marrying
my father. Aunt Gertrude, according to Mother, was actually
jealous because my mother had the nerve to stand up to
Grandmother. Aunt Gertrude was forced into a marriage where
there was no love, and for some reason…he refused her on the day
they were to get married. The man she wanted to marry suddenly
died and…” Margaret stopped, biting her lip.
“That’s no reason for her to act all sour and head-strong all
“I know.” Margaret sighed. “I’m sorry, Luke. I had no idea she
would be this bad.”
“I have manure on my hands…I’m no good!” Lucas’ voice still
shouted in anger as he hurriedly hitched up the team.
“Lucas!” Margaret grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop working.
He turned and looked at her. Tears shown in her eyes. Some of
his anger melted away, but he turned away from her to continue
his chore. “You are the most wonderful man in this world! I’d
rather have you than any rich man!” Margaret sighed. “I think
her caring for Grandma Bertha has really gotten her down too.
She has so much anger inside her, Luke.”
“So I noticed,” Lucas grumbled as he readied the reins. “What
side of the war was she on anyway?”
“Neither.” Margaret grabbed his arm again and gasped. Lucas
turned to look into her pleading eyes. “Oh Luke…don’t tell her
you were in the war unless she asks…PLEASE!”
Her request angered him some more. “I’m proud of what I did,
Margaret!” Lucas argued. “I’m not ashamed!” Margaret pressed her
lips together, knowing her request had been unfair. “You all
should stand up against her…Tell her you won’t accept her tongue
speaking so freely among you! It’s a disgrace…it’s an
embarrassment…and it’s hurting everyone.”
“Oh Luke…” Margaret shook her head. “I…I know you don’t
Lucas’s eyes again softened. Quietly, he announced, “She’s
planning to come to the ranch tomorrow, Margaret.”
Margaret slowly lifted her head to stare at Lucas.
“She wants to see if the place is good enough for you to live.
She’s never going to allow you to marry me.”
Anger suddenly flashed in her eyes. Margaret planted her hands
on her hips and lifted her chin high. “Well, it just so happens
that I don’t need HER permission! Mother and Scott have already
given their blessing.” Margaret lowered her head and took a deep
breath to calm herself. “Look, Luke…Amanda asked Scott to stay
quiet and try not to get angry. I heard them arguing about it
last night…There was a lot of arguing here last night. Aunt
Gertrude doesn’t like her either, that was obvious tonight. But
she’s my mother’s sister and there’s nothing that can change
that. We all want Mother happy, and arguing with Aunt Gertrude
will only make Mother cry. You know as well as I do that Mama
has been through so much these last few years, and I can’t stand
to see her cry.” Margaret took his hands in hers. “Can you
“I’ll try.” Lucas nodded shortly. “But I won’t stand her insults
where you are concerned. Do you hear me?” Margaret nodded. “Out
of respect for your mother…I’ll…I’ll try to keep my ‘faults’
secret.” Lucas paused. “What about your father?”
“I heard Scott and Pa arguing way into the night last night too.
Scott ordered Pa not to do anything to hurt Mother. Pa told
Scott he’d do his best.”
“What if he does get drunk?” Lucas asked. “What then?”
“We’ll do everything we can to protect Mother.” Margaret reached
out for his hand. “I love you, Luke. I just want us to get
through these next two weeks…Please…”
Lucas continued to look into her eyes. The tears that softly
fell slowly melted his anger. Finally, he lifted a hand to her
cheek and wiped at her tears. He gave her a small smile and
squeezed her hand. “Alright.” He bent down and kissed her
softly. “I love you too.” He kissed her again. “I hate fighting
with you, honey.” Margaret stepped closer and returned his kiss.
Their arms went around each other as they stood on the back side
of the horses.
Suddenly, they heard a loud shrill from the porch. “Jennifer!
Your daughter is out here making love!” She hurried into the
“Oh boy…” Margaret rolled her eyes as she stepped away from
“Making…love?” Lucas questioned.
“Any physical contact with the opposite sex is making love in my
Aunt Gertrude’s eyes.” Margaret didn’t miss the amusement in
Lucas’ face. “And don’t you laugh, Lucas McCain! This lecture
could take all night!” She squeezed his hand. “I best get in
there.” Lucas watched Margaret hurry toward the house.
Lucas felt the day before had been a wasted day. He had planned
on breaking ground for their house yesterday, then beginning on
the foundation, but Margaret’s arrival yesterday morning had
thrown him off. Lucas got up early that morning and went to
work, praying Margaret’s family would be successful at talking
Aunt Gertrude out of visiting him. Lucas was relieved when lunch
came and there was still no sign of the visiting aunt. Perhaps
Margaret and her family had been successful after all. After
hurriedly eating a sandwich, Lucas went back to work.
The sun burned down so Lucas removed his shirt as he drove nails
into the boards. He was so intent on his work that he didn’t
hear the approaching wagon until it had pulled up beside the
barn. Turning, he groaned when he saw Scott helping Aunt
Gertrude down from the buckboard. Margaret jumped from the back
and ran over to Lucas. “I’m sorry,” she whispered as she
shrugged her shoulders. Lucas nodded as he folded his arms and
waited for Aunt Gertrude to approach him.
“Young man!” Aunt Gertrude looked him up and down. “You aren’t
decent for company!”
Lucas looked down at his appearance. He was covered in dirt and
sweat and had no shirt on, but he wasn’t ashamed. He looked up
at Margaret, who hadn’t shown any embarrassment before; but she
was now blushing after hearing Aunt Gertrude’s remark. He
merely shrugged as he grabbed his shirt and slipped it on. But
he refused to give her the satisfaction by buttoning it up! He
couldn’t keep the anger from his voice as he spoke to her.
“Well, if you notice, Aunt Gertrude, I’ve been working under the
hot sun building the house.”
“And what’s that horrid smell?” She wrinkled up her nose.
“It’s manure, Aunt Gertrude,” Scott answered as he held her arm.
“It’s a pretty common smell in cattle country. We don’t notice
it much unless it gets…Oof!” Margaret gave him a hard poke to
“Disgraceful!” She looked around and ticked her tongue some
more. “A young woman should not see a man without a shirt on.
Nor should she have to live in such primitive conditions!” Aunt
Gertrude shook her head. “Young man, are you planning on
building her a fine house? Or a bigger version of THAT?” She
pointed to the shack.
Lucas was getting pretty tired of being referred to as ‘young
man,’ and he was just about to tell this snippy woman so when
Margaret said, “He’s building the house the way I want it, Aunt
Gertrude.” She nodded toward the house Lucas had started working
on. “It will be sufficient for us.”
“I DO hope you plan on having indoor plumbing!”
“Not that it’s any of YOUR business, but…”
“Luke…” Margaret warned under her breath.
“…We’ll have a pump.” Lucas nodded firmly. “And a well.” Lucas
wiped the sweat off his forehead. “I have every intention to
take good care of your niece, Aunt Gertrude.”
“Humph! I have serious doubts about that!” Aunt Gertrude again
surveyed the ‘primitive conditions’ her niece would soon be
forced to live in. “You men have no right to take a woman away
from the fine life she’s known all her life and force her to
live like a…a…”
Lucas planted his hands on his hips and leaned forward. His eyes
burned with anger as he glared into hers. “A what???” There was
an obvious challenge in his voice.
“A PIONEER!” She looked around. “Do you intend to farm, Mr.
She was improving. At least she wasn’t calling him ‘young man.’
“Of course, ma’am. This is a working ranch, after all. We’ll
have pigs and chickens as well as a vegetable garden and…until I
get my cattle crop up quite a bit…I’ll be planting wheat to
“Farmer…” Aunt Gertrude sneered as she looked him up and down
with disgust. “Margaret dear, you are marrying a dirty ol’
“Aunt Gertrude…” Scott warned.
Lucas held up a hand to silence him. He had as much as he could
take from her, and was now ready to give this woman a piece of
his mind. Maybe the Gibbs’ could stomach her insults, but he
couldn’t…and he wouldn’t! “Now let’s get one thing straight,
Aunt Gertrude. I will be polite to you out of respect for
Margaret and her family.” He pointed a finger at her. “But don’t
you DARE come onto MY…” He paused and looked at Margaret. “…OUR
land and start insulting ME! If you can’t be polite and keep a
harness on your tongue, you may leave my land…NOW!” His voice
was forced and laced with anger, and perhaps a bit louder than
he had intended.
“Well…” Aunt Gertrude turned and looked at Margaret. “I shall
have a long talk with your father and mother about this, young
lady. I see no future here for you. I DO believe marrying this
man will bring you nothing but…”
Lucas suddenly put a protective arm around Margaret and narrowed
his eyes. “And that will be enough of that…” Lucas started.
Scott stepped between the two feuding adults. “Aunt Gertrude!”
Scott stopped her. “I think we should go.” Scott firmly took her
arm and led her back to the wagon.
Lucas clinched his jaw as he watched Aunt Gertrude go to the
wagon. “I won’t have her insulting us like this, Margaret! I
Margaret turned and watched as Scott helped her aunt into the
wagon. “I’m sorry, Luke. I don’t understand what’s gotten her so
Lucas raised his eyebrow at the word she’d just used. He
couldn’t stop a grin from his face. “I’m sorry, honey. I
couldn’t hold my tongue. I’m…afraid I’ve made things more
difficult for you.”
“We’ll survive, Luke. This too shall pass…”
“In two weeks…Two long, long weeks…” Lucas reached out and took
“Margaret Gibbs!” Aunt Gertrude hollered.
“Luke, promise me you won’t make any more trouble with her.
“Margaret, I’ll be by to get you for church in the morning.”
“Luke, promise!” Margaret pleaded.
Lucas sighed. “I…I promise I’ll try.”
“Come along now!” Aunt Gertrude called from the wagon. “I MUST
get out of this sun…and you shouldn’t be in it either. “
Margaret took a few steps backwards as she smiled at Lucas.
“Oh…by the way, when we’re married and it’s ‘proper’…” She said
that word as she waved two fingers in the air. “…I hope you’ll
work every day with your shirt off. It’ll make for a nice view
from the kitchen window.”
Lucas’ eyes popped open wide and his mouth gaped open as he
watched Margaret turn and run back to the wagon. He could not
believe she had just said that! Scott waved as he turned the
wagon around. From the back of the wagon, Margaret blew him a
kiss and waved. It took a long time for Lucas to finally close
The first thing he did was rip off his shirt. He’d make sure to
make a BIG window in the kitchen!!!
Later that afternoon, Margaret looked up from the rug she was
making as her Aunt Gertrude walked into the parlor with Scott
and her parents. “Margaret…” Scott cleared his throat. “Uh…I
think you should take your sewing to the living room.”
Margaret stood and looked from her parents to Scott, then
finally to Aunt Gertrude. “Why? What’s going on?”
“Aunt Gertrude wants to talk to us,” Scott answered quietly and
“I want to talk to your parents, Scott. I don’t understand why
you are here.”
“I said he stays,” Samuel answered harshly.
“If this is about Luke, I…” Margaret started.
“Do as your brother says,” Samuel said quietly, yet sternly.
Margaret slowly walked out of the parlor. She didn’t think it
was fair that she wasn’t in on the conversation. As she started
talking, Aunt Gertrude’s voice was loud; and Margaret could hear
everything that was being said. “I don’t like this…FARMER your
daughter is about to marry!” Aunt Gertrude declared. “He’s no
good! She’ll be miserable!”
Margaret didn’t hear the response, but she heard her aunt’s
response. “I don’t CARE if she loves him! Love isn’t as
important as other things…” Again, other things were said. “Have
you actually BEEN to the…the…FARM, Jennifer?...Well, you should
go! I think what you see would shock you.” Margaret tried to
walk further away so she wouldn’t be able to hear, but her
aunt’s voice could still be heard. “And have you enjoyed your
life, Jennifer? Didn’t you learn anything from your own
Suddenly, Samuel’s booming voice could be heard. “Don’t you
insult my wife!”
“Oh stop it, Samuel.” Margaret pressed a hand to her mouth to
keep the tears from coming. “Now, I want you to demand Margaret
call her wedding off at once! I won’t have it, I tell you! I
won’t!” Tears fell from Margaret’s eyes. “Are you telling me you
won’t call the wedding off?” Margaret hurried into the kitchen
to get a drink of water. She could still hear her aunt’s voice.
“You should have raised her better than that! She can’t be too
smart wanting to settle for a sod buster like that…Instead of
giving her a strong education, you made her STUPID!” Margaret
gasped. “Yes, STUPID! Any girl who would even think of settling
for a savage like this…this…big, ugly…”
“Oh…rancher…” The word was said sarcastically. “I’m telling you
that man will bring her nothing but heartache! She’ll be working
in the fields beside him…Why, I always thought Margaret had more
brains then to fall for some stupid farmer!”
Margaret suddenly ran from the house. A hand pressed against her
mouth as she ran to the creek and sat down. She put her face in
her hands and burst into tears. Margaret had always been
sensitive, but as a rancher’s daughter she had learned to take
insults. Still, the fact that her aunt saw her as stupid and
uneducated did hurt her more than she’d ever admit. Had Lucas
been there, he would have stomped into that parlor and kicked
her Aunt Gertrude out of that house. She hadn’t wanted to hear
the remainder of the conversation, afraid Aunt Gertrude would
drive Scott to the same thing.
Some time later, she turned when she heard footsteps behind her.
Scott bent down next to her and rubbed her back. “You heard?”
Margaret nodded. “It was hard not to hear her,” she answered as
tears continued to fall down her face.
“I’m sorry,” Scott said quietly. “She’s become so nasty. I don’t
“Does it bother you? That she doesn’t like Amanda either?” Scott
nodded. “How much more do we have to endure, Scott? How much
more are you going to take before…”
“I don’t know.” Scott sat down beside her and drew his knees up
to his chest. “Pa’s gone to town.”
Margaret’s eyes closed in regret. “Oh Scott…”
“I couldn’t stop him, Margaret. I can’t say that I blame him
much…Insults like that were hard to take.” Scott sighed. “You’re
not stupid, and neither is Luke.”
“It hurt all the same.” Margaret bit her lip. “I left after she
said that. Did she…say anymore?”
Scott nodded. “But I’m not going to tell you anymore that was
said. I’m glad you ran out when you did.” Scott sighed. “She
thinks you’re up to hanky panky with that miserable sod buster.”
“I should have known. I guess we’ll have to marry without her
Scott put an arm around Margaret. “She’s going to church with us
tomorrow. Is Luke going to pick you up?” Margaret nodded. “Good.
Perhaps its best if you go to his family’s for dinner tomorrow.
You two need some time alone and uh…Aunt Gertrude needs to cool
“I can’t face her right now, Scott.”
“You won’t have to. She went to bed. She said her heart couldn’t
take anymore disappointment.” Scott smiled in spite of the
situation. “She said some things about Amanda while she was in
there as well. Amanda heard them from the living room.”
“I’m sorry. You should go to her,” Margaret mumbled. “I’m sure
she’s hurting too.”
“She’s tough. But I think I’ll give her some extra attention
tonight to show her that I don’t care what Aunt Gertrude thinks
“What could Aunt Gertrude possibly have against Amanda anyhow?
Amanda’s so…refined…and proper!”
“She married me. That’s enough.” Margaret chuckled softly as
Scott helped her to her feet and put his arm around her
shoulders. “Let’s get you home.”
Lucas drove his wagon into the Gibbs’ yard the next morning. He
could hear Aunt Gertrude’s bantering from out in the yard and
suddenly wanted to rescue Margaret. He knocked on the door,
which stopped Aunt Gertrude’s loud mouth. Scott opened the door
and nodded toward Lucas. “Come on in and have some breakfast.”
Margaret stood and wiped her eyes, hoping Lucas hadn’t seen her
tears, but he had. “No…I think I’ll just be taking Margaret to
my brothers’ for breakfast.” Lucas turned his head toward
Margaret, who slowly stood from the table. “Margaret.” Lucas
held out his arm, his eyes sternly ordering her to come with
“Young man, you cannot just burst in here and…” Aunt Gertrude
“The name’s McCain!” Lucas shouted. “And yes I can.” Lucas gave
her a stiff nod. “I’m about to marry her and in my family…I wear
the pants!” Margaret’s family knew he wasn’t as harsh as he
sounded, but Margaret couldn’t help but smile at his words. She
bit her lip as she hurried forward. “Ma’am.” Lucas tipped his
hat then hurried out the door.
Margaret was quiet as they rode to the McCain Ranch. “You were
waiting for me?” Margaret nodded. “All dressed for church…I’m
assuming you were planning your escape?” Margaret nodded again.
“Did she hurt you?”
Suddenly Margaret burst into tears. She put her hands to her
face and sobbed. Lucas stopped the team and pulled the break. “Commere.”
He took Margaret in his arms and allowed her to cry. His heart
broke as he listened to her tears. He kept his arms tight around
her, wishing he could take away the hurt that evil aunt had
caused. He was quiet for a long time. Finally, her cries
quieted. “Did she hurt you?” He asked this question again as he
smoothed her hair. His voice was laced with anger. Margaret
nodded against his chest. “How?”
Margaret lifted from his embrace and shook her head. “It doesn’t
matter. She’s just so…so…bitter!”
“It matters to me.” Lucas grabbed her shoulders. “What did she
say to you, Margaret?” Margaret shook her head again. Lucas
shook her gently. “TELL ME!”
Margaret turned her face away, but Lucas turned it back around.
“She just hates the fact I’m marrying you. She…she took Mama and
Papa and Scott into the parlor last night and demanded that I
can’t marry you.”
“Okay.” Lucas nodded. “We knew she was going to do that. What
else?” Margaret turned her head away. “What else?” Lucas
demanded to know.
“She…” Margaret lifted her face to his. “Oh Luke…Promise you
won’t do anything harsh…Promise!”
Lucas could already feel anger raging up inside him. Her not
wanting to tell him told him it was bad. “I’ll do my best to
control myself. Now tell me, Margaret.”
Margaret knew she had no choice. She had to tell him. Her words
tumbled over each other as she answered with pain in her voice.
“She said that…that…I was uneducated and stupid because if I was
smart I wouldn’t marry someone like you. She said that…that I
will be working in the fields and live a miserable life.”
Lucas clinched his jaw. “Who does she think she is? Can’t she
just be satisfied that we’re in love and I’ll take care of you?”
He sputtered these words angrily.
“She…she doesn’t believe being in love is grounds for a good
“Oh?” Lucas lifted an eyebrow. “What do you think?”
“I think that as long as we love each other, we’ll be happy.”
Margaret bit her lip. “And I think I’ll love growing my own
vegetable garden and raising my own chickens!”
“I don’t like her, Margaret. And I don’t like her insulting you
like this…making you cry!”
“Just eleven more days, Luke. That’s all she has left. Then
she’ll be gone.”
“I don’t like you being in that situation, Margaret. I don’t
want you hurt anymore.” Lucas held defense in his voice with the
anger. The more he spoke, the louder he was getting.
“I know. She’s just so…so mean.” Margaret shook her head. “I
thought she came here to meet the man I was going to marry.
Instead she…she’s trying to ruin my happiness and I don’t
“She can’t ruin your happiness,” Lucas declared as he grabbed
her shoulders and stared in her eyes. “Not if you don’t let
her!” “Why don’t your father and brother send her packing!?”
Margaret lowered her head and turned away from Lucas. She
started crying again.
“What is it now?” Lucas asked, softening his voice as if he were
speaking to a child.
“Papa’s gone, Luke.”
“He left last night. Scott couldn’t stop him.”
“Oh.” Lucas sighed as he started the horses back into motion.
“Not yet. Scott told Aunt Gertrude that he’s out. She’s
satisfied with that and said a rancher has to work hard...I’d
never see you once we were married because you’ll pay more
attention to your cows than me…”
“I see.” Lucas pulled the wagon up outside Peter’s house and
hopped down. He helped her down and walked her inside. Tiffany
and Peter looked up as he opened the door. “You have plenty of
food? I rescued her from the wicked…uh…her aunt.” Tiffany jumped
up to get some more plates. “I won’t be staying.” He looked at
Peter. “You see she gets to church then bring her back here.
I’ll try to be back as soon as I can.”
“Luke, where are you going?” Margaret asked suddenly.
“To help your family.” Lucas put his hat on his head and shifted
his rifle into his other hand as he hurried out the door.
Margaret stood in the doorway. “Where does he think he’s going?”
She watched him hurry to the barn to mount a horse.
“I don’t know,” Peter answered as he took her arm and led her to
the table. He closed the door. “But don’t you worry about Luke.
He knows what he’s doing.”
Lucas rode into town. Things were quiet now, but he could tell
from looking at the littered street that it had again been a
wild Saturday night. Lucas dismounted his horse in front of the
saloon and tipped his hat back on his head as he studied the
boarded up window. Turning, he walked across the street to the
Marshal’s office. The Marshal was laid back in his chair with
his feet propped up. The hat over his eyes blocked the light and
allowed him to sleep. Lucas slammed the door, causing Marshal
Williams to bolt straight up. “Luke.” He mumbled. “Mind being
quieter? Man needs his sleep.”
“Figured you’d be home getting ready to take your family to
“Not when I have a prisoner,” Marshal Williams quipped. “Have
three of them, actually.”
“Oh?” Lucas lifted an eyebrow. “Wild night last night?”
“Wild…” Marshal Williams nodded as he stood to his feet and
stifled a yawn. “They didn’t stop yelling at each other until
“Seen Uncle Sam?” Marshal Williams nodded. “He in there?” Lucas
nodded toward the jail.
“Nope. He got drunk, but he didn’t cause any trouble. I think he
went to the hotel to sleep it off.” Marshal Williams took the
keys. “Reckon I can let my prisoners out now. Think they learned
Lucas turned and hurried from the office, happy that Samuel at
least wasn’t in jail. But then if he had been, there’s no doubt
he would have been sober by this morning. Lucas hurried down the
street to the hotel and went inside. The woman behind the desk
was new. “Lucas McCain. Looking for Samuel Gibbs.”
The young lady checked the register and nodded. “Room 204.”
Lucas thanked her and walked up the stairs. He hurried down the
hall to the room and banged hard on the door.
“Samuel! Samuel Gibbs!” Lucas banged harder, but got no answer.
He opened the door and stepped into the room. The windows had
the blinds pulled down, casting only small pieces of sunlight
here and there. Lucas hurried to the window and pulled the blind
up. Then the second and third one. Sunlight flooded in the room
and the lump on the bed groaned. “Rise and shine! It’s Sunday
Samuel grumbled as he slowly lifted his head from the pillow.
“What’s the big idea?”
“You’re needed at home,” Lucas answered in a stern voice.
“No I’m not. They ain’t needed me in a long time.”
Lucas reached the bed in two steps. He grabbed Samuel’s arm and
lifted him from the bed. “You ARE needed at home!” Samuel caught
his breath when he saw the anger in Lucas’ eyes. “Why do you do
this? Why do you leave when things get hard?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“You’re right. I don’t understand!” Lucas grabbed the front of
his shirt and moved his face to where their noses almost
touched. “But I understand this…my fiancée…Your daughter…was in
tears this morning for things she overheard in that house last
night. Your family is trying to do everything they can to keep
their mother’s pride, and I aim to see that’s done. You’re going
home, and you’re going to behave like the responsible husband
“Luke, I’m not that man anymore.”
“No.” Lucas tightened his hold on Samuel’s shirt and pulled him
closer to him. “But you’re going to act the part until Aunt
Gertrude and Grandma Bertha get on that stage and ride out.
You’re going to be home to bless the noon meal with your family,
and you’re going to behave like the rancher you used to be. If
you don’t, you will answer to me!” Lucas swallowed. “I told
Margaret I’d stay out of this, but when she got hurt that was
all over. I’m going to have a talk with your sister-in-law, and
I’m going to do everything in my power to see that your wife
gets all the respect she deserves. Do I make myself clear?”
Samuel nodded. Lucas let go as Samuel put a hand to his
forehead. “I’ll buy you all the coffee you need. Then we’re
going home and you will clean yourself up. I’ll handle Aunt
“I just need a little drink.” Samuel’s hand was shaking as he
reached for the bottle. Lucas picked it up and threw it across
the room. It shattered as it hit the wall. “Luke…”
“I’m not doing this for you. When you’re in-laws are gone, you
can get yourself as drunk as you want…but until then you stay
sober!” Lucas grabbed Samuel’s hat. “Now, let’s go!”
It took about five cups of coffee to get Samuel settled down
enough to go home. Once they were home, Lucas stayed to make
sure he got cleaned up and properly dressed. The family was
already gone to church, and Lucas informed Samuel that Samuel
would be out checking cattle when they got back. That’s exactly
where he was.
Lucas stood from the table as Jennifer walked in the door.
“Luke…” She startled.
“Aunt Jenny.” Lucas nodded at her. “Uncle Sam will be back in a
bit. I believe he had a little uh…trouble…out on the range. I
helped him out a bit.”
Jennifer understood exactly what Lucas was saying. Her eyes
flashed him a thank you. Lucas watched as Aunt Gertrude walked
in with an arm firmly on Grandma Bertha. She sat Grandma Bertha
at the table as she continued talking. “And that preacher saying
the things he said…why, I don’t understand why he should take
that scripture out of context!”
She stopped when she saw Lucas standing in front of her. “I
supposed you were out with Margaret somewhere.”
Lucas lifted an eyebrow. The woman hardly even made sense…“She
was at church.”
“And I noticed you weren’t, Mr. McCain.” She turned and looked
at Jennifer. “And I suppose you have no problem with your
daughter marrying a heathen?”
“Lucas is far from a heathen, Gertrude.” Jennifer couldn’t help
“I came back to talk to you,” Lucas said sharply. “Outside.”
“Luke…” Scott started.
“Scott, nobody speaks to Margaret…or ABOUT Margaret the way she
did and gets away with it!” Lucas shouted as he turned back to
face Aunt Gertrude. “Outside. Unless you would like me to say
what I have to say in front of your mother?”
Aunt Gertrude nodded and slowly walked outside. Lucas motioned
for her to move toward the barn. She went to the fence, but
refused to go a step further. “Now…I’m going to bring Margaret
back this evening after I’m sure she is…better.”
“Better?” Aunt Gertrude questioned.
“Yes. Seems she was quite upset when I came for her this
“Perhaps it was guilt…Knowing I’m right…”
“No.” Lucas shifted his position and pointed a finger at her.
“Now, you listen and you listen good. You said some things last
night that she overheard, and they upset her very much. She
cried for a long time this morning, and was still rather upset
when I left her. I don’t know all that was said, but the word
‘stupid,’ came up. I’m sending her back tonight, but if I hear
of one single negative thing said against me or her…if I hear
that you’ve upset her in any way, I’ll have no choice but to
take her to stay with my family until you leave. Do I make
Aunt Bertha suddenly lost her stubborn stance. Lucas thought he
saw a look of grief on her face, but it disappeared so fast that
he wasn’t sure it was really there. “You can’t mean that I’m the
reason for her tears!”
“I AM saying that! And I mean what I say. Now, do we understand
each other?” Aunt Gertrude nodded. “Good.”
Lucas started to walk away. “Lucas McCain!” Lucas paused and
turned back to her. “My niece is making a VERY big mistake
marrying you. She cannot possibly be happy about this! If you
love her, you’ll stop this wedding.”
“If I…” Lucas felt anger well up inside him again. “I DO love
her with everything in me. I’m going to marry her. We’re going
to raise our children together on our fine ranch, and…” Lucas
added for Margaret’s benefit, “…she’ll grow her own vegetable
garden and raise her own chickens if she sees fit!”
“You have no right forcing her to…”
Lucas took two steps toward Aunt Gertrude, which caused her to
step back. “I’M forcing HER???” Lucas clinched his fists in
anger. “Perhaps you should think about that. I’m not forcing her
to do anything she doesn’t want to do!”
This time, the look of deep grief could be seen on her face. In
fact, her eyes looked rather moist as she quickly lifted her
skirts, turned, and hurried back inside.
“Thank you for this food and…” Jeremiah paused as he looked up
to see Lucas come into the house. He lowered his head and
finished the prayer. “We waited as long as the women would let
us,” Jeremiah assured him.
“It’s okay.” Lucas kissed Margaret as she hurried over to him.
“What did you do to Aunt Gertrude?” Margaret’s voice held an
accusation. She just knew Lucas did something. She could see it
in his eyes.
“Don’t you worry, my dear. She still has her head and all her
feathers.” Lucas smiled. “And your father is back…back where he
better stay put.”
“Did you…talk to Aunt Gertrude?” Lucas nodded. “Oh Luke…”
“Now Margaret, she insulted you and that’s one thing I won’t
allow ANY person to do – man or woman. I assured her that you
could come home this evening, but you will come and stay here
with my family if she says or does anything else to hurt you.”
His words were very firm, and Margaret knew he left no room for
“I wish you hadn’t done that.” Margaret turned away and went to
sit at the table, closing the door on any further conversation
for the time being.
With the entire McCain family there, it was hard for Lucas to
find time to get Margaret alone. He talked to his brothers, who
promised to help him build his house over the next couple of
weeks since there was a lull in the field work. The rain had
taken care of watering for a few days, and one brother would be
left behind to inspect the garden every day. Margaret,
meanwhile, was discussing wedding plans with the women. Julie
and Emily both had pretty much taken over the planning of her
wedding and questioned Margaret on certain details. They were
still planning on going to a nearby town to shop for a
store-bought wedding dress and other articles she would need,
but none of the women would be allowed to go without a male
In time, the meal was completed and the women worked at cleaning
up the mess left by the men and children while the men went out
to talk politics and carpentry. The children were also sent
outside to play, and Laura Rose was ordered to keep a close eye
on them. Laura complained that she always had to do the
babysitting, and Abe assured her that someday the other children
would be old enough to take over her job.
Finally, Margaret walked outside and motioned for Lucas. Lucas
took her hand and they took the walk they always tried to take
on any given Sunday. The couple was quiet as they walked through
the fields. Finally, Lucas stopped at a large wheat field and
took some kernels of wheat. “It’ll soon be ready to harvest.”
Margaret nodded. “Then you will be busy again.” Margaret sat
down beside the wheat field and sniffed. Lucas sat down behind
her and leaned her head against his chest. “I’m afraid you’ve
made things more difficult, Luke.”
“No, sweetie,” Lucas assured her as he kissed the top of her
“I know.” Lucas put his chin on her shoulder. He spoke close to
her ear. “But sometimes a promise has to be broken.” Lucas
sighed. “You will be my wife in a month, Margaret.” Lucas
brushed her cheek with his fingers. “I will be taking care of
you like a husband should, and part of that job is to protect
you. I could not stand by and watch you hurt and insulted like
“What did you say to her?”
Lucas brushed her cheek with his lips. “I told her that she was
to keep her personal opinions about you and me to herself, and
that she wasn’t to say anything negative about either of us
again. I told her that if I hear of her doing anything else, I
would remove you from your home and have you stay with my family
until she left.”
Margaret laced her fingers through his. “Luke…I know this is
hard for you to believe, but…I love my aunt.”
“I know.” Lucas decided to drop the subject. “I found your
father at the hotel in town and I had a stern talk with him as
well. He’s back home with your family where I ordered him to
stay until Aunt Gertrude leaves.”
Margaret turned and stared at Lucas. “You did all that for me?”
“No.” Lucas smiled as he kissed her. When their lips parted, he
said, “I did it for your family. Your mother has been kind to me
all these years, and I don’t want her to lose her pride or to
have her hurt by your Aunt Gertrude’s bitter words. I also did
it for you.”
Lucas kissed the tip of her nose. “You’re welcome.” Margaret
laid her head against his chest. Lucas’ arms tightened around
her and they sat beside the wheat field for a long time.
In time, the couple rose. They visited with family and discussed
more plans for the house. Then Tiffany fixed a light supper for
her family, Lucas and Margaret. After Margaret finished helping
Tiffany clean the kitchen, she came into the main room and
watched Lucas and Peter argue over a game of checkers. Lucas
claimed that Peter had jumped him illegally, but Peter assured
Lucas it was quite legal. Since they couldn’t agree on where the
checkers were in the first place, there wasn’t much to be done.
“If you two don’t stop arguing, we’ll put you in separate
corners!” Tiffany finally declared.
Peter turned and grabbed his wife, setting her on his lap. He
kissed her neck and said, “As long as I can come with you!”
Margaret looked at Lucas and they burst out laughing. “I think
that’s our cue to leave,” Lucas mumbled.
“Indeed it is,” Margaret agreed.
Margaret watched Lucas hitch up his team. Then they slowly
started down the road. “I’ll be pretty busy this week building
the house. But if there’s any trouble I want to know about it.”
Margaret didn’t answer. Lucas turned his head toward her. “Did
you hear me?”
“I mean it now, Margaret. I’m going to have my brothers stopping
by and checking on you. And I’ll have a talk with your brother.
I want to know if anything’s amiss. You don’t deserve this added
“I know, Luke. But she’s my aunt. I’m sure she’ll simmer down.”
Margaret put her arm around his middle and kissed his cheek.
“Now…since I’m not going to see you for a few days, what say we
stop arguing and just enjoy being together?”
“Seems that’s all we’ve been doing since your Aunt Gertrude
arrived…arguing.” Lucas put his arm around her shoulders. But
Lucas agreed that they shouldn’t waste time arguing. Instead,
they rode home in silence, enjoying the peace that surrounded
them for the moment.
When Margaret arrived home, she found her mother and sister in
the parlor sewing on a quilt they were making for her and Lucas.
Scott and Amanda had already retired to their bedroom for family
time – a time they can spend with just the three of them, which
usually ended in a long evening of talking once Baby Andy was
asleep. Samuel was sitting at the table putting a puzzle
together to keep his mind occupied. Margaret kissed his cheek as
she joined him at the table. Aunt Gertrude was sitting in the
living room reading a book, but when she saw Margaret, she
slammed the book closed and stood up abruptly. “Let’s get you to
The next morning, Margaret helped Amanda fix breakfast. Aunt
Gertrude announced that she would not be eating breakfast that
morning. Instead, she wondered if Scott could take her to town,
a town which was poor and skimpy according to her, so she could
purchase some needed materials. Scott said he would which left
Samuel to ride with the ranch hands; but it would get Aunt
Gertrude out of the house for awhile.
By the time the houseguests arrived back home, Margaret was
churning butter. Aunt Gertrude paused as she stepped up onto the
porch and looked down at Margaret from squinted eyes. “Never
thought a niece of mine would have to do THAT!” she declared
with a humph. Margaret wondered exactly who should be churning
the butter, but shrugged when Scott gave their aunt a firm
warning, reminding her of Lucas’ threat.
The cold reform of her aunt’s behavior lasted through Wednesday.
Margaret couldn’t stand the coolness of her aunt’s presence
anymore and announced on Wednesday afternoon that she would go
help Julie for awhile. Aunt Gertrude suddenly stood and turned
to Margaret. “We came to visit you!” Her declaration came with a
click of her tongue and accusation in her eyes.
Margaret folded her arms as some sort of involuntary shield and
looked her aunt in the eye. “And at first, I was so happy you
did; but for the last three days you haven’t spoken to me.”
“Your…” Aunt Gertrude cleared her throat. “Your fiancé didn’t
leave me much choice.”
Margaret lifted an eyebrow. “Did he actually tell you that you
couldn’t speak to me?”
“Of course not!”
Margaret felt her eyes fill up with tears. Those three words
just made the pain deeper. “So you’re saying that you can’t find
anything nice to say to me? Not one single thing?” Aunt Gertrude
turned away from her. Margaret watched in despair as Aunt
Gertrude hurried outside. She turned and looked at Beth who
merely shrugged her shoulders. Margaret hurried after her aunt
and found her sitting in a chair on the front porch. Her
shoulders were shaking. “Aunt Gertrude?” Margaret put a hand to
her shoulder and bent down behind her.
The words that escaped her elderly aunt’s lips shocked her. “Why
do you love this… McCain?” Aunt Gertrude asked quietly.
“Why?” Margaret wondered over Aunt Gertrude’s motive behind that
question. Was she about to go against Lucas’ orders and give her
a hard time? She thought carefully before she answered. “I guess
I’ve always loved him.” Margaret paused to allow her answer to
sink into Aunt Gertrud’s stubborn brain. “There’s just something
about him that I…No, that’s not true..I love everything about
him. He’s so different than me, yet we’re so alike. We can
finish each other’s thoughts and…well…I guess I’ve never really
thought about why.” Margaret smiled. “I guess that sometimes you
can’t explain why you love somebody, you just accept that you
“How long have you known that…that you ‘loved’ him?”
Margaret didn’t like the way she said the word ‘love.’ But she
smiled and answered. “That’s easy. I was eight years old.”
Aunt Gertrude stood up and abruptly turned to face Margaret.
“And even if you’re poor…” Aunt Gertrude’s voice stopped
suddenly. Margaret wasn’t sure if it was because she was
overcome with emotion, or was about to lash out another insult
against the “dirt farmer.”
Margaret slowly stood up behind her. “At first, there will be
times when we’ll wonder where the money will come from, as in
many, many families, Aunt Gertrude. But no matter how bad things
get, we have each other. Our love has seen us through many
storms. No, Aunt Gertrude, it hasn’t all been roses and
laughter. We’ve been through some very, very difficult times.
There have been times when I thought he was dead. There have
been times when we’ve been at odds, yet through everything…we’ve
had our love for each other. That love will carry us through ANY
storm. That’s something money won’t do, and I’m sorry you don’t
see that. Money won’t help us through the hard times…power won’t
see us through the storms of life…But if we lean on each other
and help each other through, we’ll survive. Love is one of the
most powerful things there is. I have his love, Aunt Gertrude.”
Margaret heard her aunt sniff. “You’re…both…richer than I could
ever imagine.” Aunt Gertrude’s voice was full of regret and
disappointment. After saying this, Aunt Gertrude lifted her
skirt and hurriedly walked from the yard. Margaret watched her
go, wondering what sort of turmoil she was facing. She wondered
if Aunt Gertrude would accept her company to wherever it was she
was going Instead of following her aunt, Margaret watched Aunt
Gertrude walk toward the pond – a place, it seemed, that
everyone went to think. After a few minutes, Margaret slowly
started toward the bank where she was sitting.
As she drew close, she saw Aunt Gertrude’s cheeks wet with
tears. Her eyes stared over the water…no…her eyes stared way
past the water to some distant place…some distant memory.
Margaret sat down beside her aunt and took her hand. The only
sound for the longest time was Aunt Gertrude’s sniffing as tears
continued to fall. “I had a love like that once,” she finally
Margaret was quite surprised. She could never imagine somebody
wanting to spend the rest of their lives to a woman such as her
spinster aunt. That wasn’t fair though. Perhaps her bitterness
and accusing ways were a result of what had happened to her so
long ago. Could this woman with a stone-cold heart and a judging
tongue have been as in love with a man…a man who returned her
love…as Margaret was with Lucas?
Nothing more was said as the two women sat beside each other on
the bank of the pond. Finally, after several minutes of silence,
Aunt Gertrude began telling her story. At times her words became
mixed with tears, while at others she laughed or spoke rapidly.
Margaret stayed silent through the whole story, and as the story
was told, Aunt Gertrude’s stone-cold heart slowly came back to
“My mother had dreams for me, as she did for all her children.
There were eight of us in all. My mother had six boy and two
girls. My father…died when she was carrying the youngest, and I
don’t remember so much as a tear shed over that event. My
father’s death actually left us richer than when he was alive.
He had invested a lot of money into a company, and in his will
he left it to his five sons. He was a merchant who sold goods at
high prices and showed no mercy to his debtors.
The boys had no boundaries…no limits. After all, when one
married, the woman adapted to the man’s world. I was the oldest
child and my mother had so many dreams for me. She said I would
marry a judge someday and have money. I’d live in a fine house
and have fancy dishes and…
“But there was a boy in that town. I’d always known him. The
boy’s name was Frank. Frank Dee Anderson and he was probably the
most handsome and kindest man I ever knew. My mother frowned on
our friendship because he had no future, but every day we became
more and more accustomed to each other. He…Frank…wanted to move
West and become a rancher someday. Of course, ranching was a
dream in those days and took a lot of courage and a lot of
determination. The West was just opening and it was wild country
with so much room between farms and so many Indians.
“When I turned sixteen, Frank and I started talking about
marriage. He was about to talk to my mother when my mother
announced she had talked to a woman in town that day. The
woman’s name was Martha Johnson and Mrs. Johnson had a son,
twenty-two years old, who was fresh out of school. He was a
lawyer and was hoping to someday become a judge. I met this man.
He was ugly with a heavy beard that hung way down his chin and
sideburns that came past his ears. The mere thought of even
talking to this man startled me, so imagine my surprise when my
mother announced I was going to marry him!
“I cried alright. I told her I didn’t want to marry a man I
couldn’t love. My mother told me that a man like that could give
me everything I ever wanted. I could have a fine house, food,
and servants. My children could go to the finest schools and
grow up to be anything they desired. We wouldn’t have to starve
and scrape by like my mother had to do in her early years of
marriage. I cried and fussed, refusing to give in for a long
time. I loved Frank, I told her. My mother asked me…’What kind
of name was Frank?’
“The lawyer’s name was Patrick. Patrick was a good, strong name,
Mother said. He would be a judge someday, then maybe he’d be
President! My mother had this way of forcing you to do what you
didn’t want to do. When she started crying, I finally gave in. I
told Frank that I didn’t want to marry him which broke his
heart, then said yes to Patrick’s stiff marriage proposal. I
cried when I did that. I hated him for it, and I think he knew
“Frank…he was never one to hold a grudge. He gave me his
blessing and told me he’d be there if I ever needed him. Then on
the day of my wedding I got a note from Patrick. He had found
another woman…prettier and richer that he wanted to marry.
“My mother was so angry with me. She said the whole thing was my
fault. I felt a release…felt I’d be able to marry Frank and find
true happiness, but she refused to give me her blessing. In
fact, she told me she’d disown me if I ever married Frank. I had
no choice. I told Frank that in spite of his love for me, I
would have to refuse his second proposal of marriage as well. It
broke my heart to say those things, but my mother was a very
hard woman and I couldn’t lose her love too…not my mother’s…”
Aunt Gertrude’s expression changed to one of pain. She looked as
if she were suddenly reliving that moment all over again. “Three
days later, Frank left. He said he couldn’t live there with me
living there too. The hurt was too much. But he didn’t stay gone
long. He was back two days later slung over a saddle on his
horse. He’d run into some trouble. He was in the wrong place at
the wrong time and had been shot to death. I killed him….Just as
sure as I pulled the trigger, I killed him.”
At this point, Margaret put her arm around Aunt Gertrude. “No,”
she whispered. “You mustn’t say that! You mustn’t!”
“We both know it’s true.” Aunt Bertha heaved a big sigh. She
shook her head. Her expression changed again. This time, it was
cold, as if she were trying to bury the emotions back down deep
inside. “Anyways, I didn’t know it at the time, but my mother
had bought me a wedding gift. It was a new set of dishes shipped
clear from over the ocean. They cost her dearly, but she wanted
me to have them since I was marring for money, like she wanted,
and not for love. You see, my mother had married for money as
“Those dishes arrived the day after we buried Frank. I didn’t
even open them. I just put them in the closet in the sealed
boxes and closed the door. They’re still there. I swore an oath
to myself. I swore that I would never look at another man, nor
would I ever marry. And I didn’t.
“About ten years later, your mother came home with an
announcement. She had met a man named Samuel Gibbs and they were
in love. I saw the same look of love on her face that I must
have worn on mine. Mother, by then, had a man chosen for
Jennifer. Your mother was…still is…so beautiful that any man
wouldn’t have to think twice about marrying her. The man Mother
had chosen for Jennifer was named Zachary Prescott. He was ten
years older than your mother, yet very distinguished and
handsome. I even thought I could love him, had I not taken my
oath. Well, your mother reacted the same way I did. She didn’t
want to marry the man mother had chosen. My mother cried and
begged, but your mother wouldn’t give in. She declared she would
only marry a man who loved her, and your father loved her very
“I still remember my mother’s words today. ‘I’ll tell you the
same thing I told that disgraceful sister of yours,’ Mother
said. ‘I’ll disown you if you marry this…this rancher!’ My
mother had paused in packing her suitcase. She turned and looked
straight at our mother and said, ‘If your love for me is that
shallow, then I don’t want it.’ Then she closed her suitcase,
buckled it, and left the house. She never returned.
“Two years later, Mother got a letter from your Mother. It
stated that she still loved us, but was happy. She and your
father had married then moved here to Enid with a man by the
name of Marcus McCain and his new wife. Nearly thirty-two years
ago, that was. Thirty-two years ago, yet I remember it like
yesterday. My mother turned to me and smiled. ‘Well,” she said
to me. ‘I guess I’m not as shallow as Jennifer said I was
because I still love her in spite of all she did.’ I hated her
for it! And I hated the McCain’s even more because I found out
later that they had encouraged your parents to marry. I never
Margaret watched as all the emotions pent up for the last 43
years drained from her aunt’s body. What was left behind was
grief and loss. “Do you hate Grandma Bertha too?” Margaret asked
“I did for a long time.”
“And now?” Margaret prompted her.
“Now?” Aunt Bertha let out a long sigh. “Now I feel such regret.
I want to ask Mother if she still loves me. You see,
Margaret…Your grandmother can hardly hear. She just says ‘Yes’
and moves around where she can. Do I love her?” Aunt Bertha
shook her head. “I don’t hate her anymore now that she’s an
invalid…but I don’t know if I love her either…” She sighed with
regret. “I don’t know if I’m capable of loving…anyone…anymore.”
“Do you suppose she’s wishing she could tell you she loves you?”
“No.” Aunt Bertha shook her head. “She never forgave me for what
I did to her. She may love me, but as long as she has has
unforgiveness for what I did, she’ll never admit she loves me
“Forgive you?” Margaret put her hands on her Aunt’s and looked
into her eyes. “Aunt Gertrude, you did as she requested. Why
would she forgive Mother but not you?”
Aunt Gertrude lifted her head and sighed. “She forgave your
mother. Yes. But do you want to know why?” Margaret nodded.
“Because your mother had the courage to stand up for what she
believed in. I…” Aunt Gertrude shook her head. “I didn’t.” Aunt
Bertha’s face was full of regret.
Margaret wanted to say more, but Aunt Gertrude slowly stood up
and made her way back to the ranch. Margaret turned and looked
out over the water. She looked up at the sun. It was too late to
go see Lucas today, but tomorrow she’d go. She had to talk to
him. She had to see if he would be willing to give Aunt Bertha
just one more chance.
Lucas stopped his hot work to take a long drink of water from
the canteen. Peter and Abe both were there helping him, and the
house was beginning to take shape. Already, the frame was almost
up. Lucas took off his shirt and his brothers followed suit.
They heard a horse approaching and all turned to see who was
coming. “What’s she doing here?” Lucas grumbled, but he was
actually happy she had stopped by. He had been worried about
her, even though his brothers had checked on her and assured him
she was fine.
“Maybe she just needs some sugar,” Peter answered. Abe chuckled
as Lucas glared at them. Lucas hurried up to the horse and
grabbed the reins. The horse, not expecting to be stopped so
suddenly, reared back and Margaret slid from the saddle into
Lucas’ arms. Her hand pressed against his sweaty chest and she
let out a gasp. “Oh my!”
Lucas chuckled as he sat her down on the ground. “What brings
you out here?” He watched as her face reddened and she wiped the
sweat from her hand on her skirt.
Margaret couldn’t take her eyes from his chest. Her face felt on
fire as she tried to get her answer out. “Oh, uh…uh…I needed to
talk to you.”
Lucas rested his hands on her shoulders and lifted her face
upwards. Margaret felt more heat when she realized that Lucas
knew she had been staring at the bulging muscles on his chest.
His eyes laughed as he said, “So…talk.”
Peter and Abe walked towards the couple as they put their shirts
back on. Abe threw Lucas his shirt. “Luke, get your shirt on so
that poor girl can think straight!” Abe declared as he and Peter
burst into laughter. Lucas turned and shot his brothers a look,
which sent them scurrying back to the roof.
Margaret watched him slide his shirt on. Her mouth opened a bit
when she realized she was disappointed to have the view covered.
“Yes?” Lucas prompted her, laughter still in his eyes. He
continued to slowly button his shirt.
“Well, I…” Margaret forced her eyes to look back up into his.
She got a perturbed look on her face and reached out and gave
him a punch in the arm. “You stop teasing me right now, Luke!
Why, a woman would be blind to…” She stopped, realizing what she
was about to say. “Aunt Gertrude’s right! A young man shouldn’t
look so…” Again, she blushed. “Why…I just came to talk to you!”
“Talk?” Lucas continued buttoning his shirt. “Your aunt giving
Margaret had moved her eyes past him and was staring at the
forming house she and Lucas would soon share. “Oh Luke!” She
walked around the house and looked from top to bottom.
“Luke…it’s so big!”
“Yeah.” Lucas walked beside her and slid an arm around her
waist. “Do you approve, Miss Gibbs?”
“When will it be done?” Excitement danced in her eyes.
“Uh…” Lucas scratched his head. “It’ll be cutting it close.
It’ll be done by the end of August.” Margaret heard more doubt
than assurance in his voice. “…if I don’t keep getting such
uh…beautiful…interruptions.” He stopped and turned to her,
giving her a long, sweet kiss.”
They started walking again. “But I’ll need some time to set up
housekeeping, Luke. Can you have it done a week before the
wedding?” Lucas lifted his eyebrows and sighed. “Please?”
“Well, if you promise not to interrupt me, maybe I CAN get
“Oh.” Margaret took his arm from around her and gave him a
playful pout. “So, you don’t want me to come around
anymore…’interrupting’ you…” She started walking forward.
He gently grabbed her arm to stop her. She turned and wrapped
her arms around his neck. “Come here for a minute.” They kissed
again as they stood on the back side of the house. This time,
Margaret returned his with one to match. Finally, their lips
parted and Lucas smiled at her. “I tell you what…” He smiled.
“If you promise to give me one of those every day, I reckon I
can accommodate you…regardless of the interruptions. But I’m
afraid you won’t have running water until I can dig the well
“Oh, I don’t care! I’ll walk to the creek! I’ll walk everyday!”
Lucas shook his head. “Awful long walk to the creek. Perhaps you
can find some nice, strong, good-looking man to fetch the water
“Oh…I think I can find someone to help.” Margaret turned in his
arms so together, the two of them were looking out over what
would soon be theirs. Lucas rested his chin on top of Margaret’s
head, his arms remained around her, fingers interlaced over her
stomach. She gave a short laugh. ”I know just who to ask, next
time I see him in town.”
Lucas tickled her in the ribs. “Hey!” Margaret giggled. He
smiled at her. “Now you have to stop that teasing! I just may
get jealous.” He cleared his throat as he turned her back around
to face him. “So, what brings you out here?”
Margaret took his hand as they started walking. “I had a long
talk with my aunt yesterday. I don’t want to break her
confidence, but I do want to ask you a favor.”
“Oh?” Lucas picked up his hammer and started pounding a nail
into a board. He didn’t really need to, but he didn’t like her
tone of voice and didn’t want to look directly at her. “What
sort of favor?”
“Come to dinner tonight?”
He KNEW he wouldn’t like the favor! Lucas paused his hammer in
mid stroke. “Are you crazy? After the reception I got last
time?” Lucas lifted an eyebrow and tilted his head to one side
as he looked at her suspiciously. “Why?”
“Just…come…Please?” Margaret kissed his cheek to add sugar to
“Mmm…” Lucas rolled his eyes as he kissed her again. He couldn’t
seem to get enough of her sweet kisses these days! “I can see
I’m doomed if you’re going to use your wiles to get your way.”
“I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for a good reason. Honest, Luke.”
Lucas laughed. “You sure I’m not going to have to fight
Gettysburg with your aunt?”
“No, I’m not.” Margaret answered honestly. “But she has a lot of
remorse and bitterness inside her. I just hate that you two
don’t get along. I want you to give her one more chance. Please,
Luke…just give her one more chance?”
Lucas cocked his head to one side, again giving her a suspicious
look. “You sure you ain’t meddling?”
“Do I meddle?” She asked innocently as she folded her arms.
“You’re a woman,” Lucas answered simply.
Margaret gasped. “Now Luke, I…” She suddenly had fire in her
eyes and was all ready to give him a piece of her mind! But
Lucas interrupted her with his laugh.
“Will you two love birds stop all that kissing so Luke can get
back to work?” Abe suddenly griped as he leaned over the edge of
Lucas and Margaret looked up. “Love birds?” Lucas shook his
head. “Look who’s talking!” He looked back at Margaret and
winked. “He’s the one with the wife who’s already had five kids
and another on the way.”
“I heard that!”
Margaret giggled. “Like I said, Luke. They just have a lot of
love to share!” Margaret held up her hand when Lucas started to
make his retort. “Six o’clock! Don’t be late, Lucas McCain!”
Then she swiftly turned on her heels and hurried to her horse.
Lucas shook his head as he watched her mount her horse, as well
as any man could ever do, turn her horse around, and race away.
“You did WHAT???” Scott planted his hands on his hips and glared
down at his sister.
“I invited Luke to supper.” Scott continued to glare at her.
“Where’s Aunt Gertrude?”
“She’s in the parlor with Grandma Bertha,” Amanda answered. She
wiped her hands on the dish towel.
Margaret started into the parlor, but Scott reached out and
grabbed her arm. “Margaret…are you TRYING to start more
trouble?” he asked harshly.
“No,” Margaret answered as she shook her arm from his grasp.
“I’m trying to help.”
“You’re meddling, and your meddling is going to backfire!” Scott
argued. “Why don’t you leave…”
“Scott Patrick Gibbs!” Amanda hurried toward her husband as she
gave him a harsh warning.
”Now Amanda, you women are…” Amanda lifted her eyebrow at him.
He threw his hands up in the air. “Women!” Scott shook his head.
“You women meddle, then us men have to clean up the mess!” He
turned and glared at Margaret. “I just hope you don’t regret
this. I’m thinking maybe you’ll be going to live with the McCain
family for awhile.”
Margaret walked into the parlor. Aunt Gertrude looked up from
her book. When she saw Margaret, she patted the seat next to her
and invited her to sit down.
“I’ve done something, Aunt Gertrude, and I hope you don’t get
angry with me.”
“I DO hope you didn’t break off the engagement!” She suddenly
declared. Margaret’s eyes widened when she heard those words.
Aunt Gertrude laughed. “You see…I didn’t sleep at all last
night. I did a lot of thinking and I guess I finally buried
Frank. All these years…All that bitterness and resentment
I…guess I just kept it festering in my heart.”
“And Grandma Bertha?”
Aunt Gertrude didn’t answer.
“What about Luke?”
“It riled me the other night when he told me his folks had
passed on. They were the McCain’s I hated, and something inside
me snapped that night when I heard they had died.” Aunt Gertrude
rested a hand on Margaret’s shoulder. “Margaret darling, I want
to ask you a question. Do you think you could REALLY be happy
married to a rancher?” Margaret nodded. “A rancher works hard
all year round, Margaret. It’s not like a farmer who gets the
winter off. A rancher takes care of his cattle all four
“Aunt Gertrude, I was RAISED on a ranch.”
“And you honestly like ranch life?” Margaret nodded. Aunt
Gertrude smiled at her. “What did you want to tell me?”
“He’s coming for supper tonight.” Margaret said the words
Aunt Gertrude sat up straighter and stared at Margaret.
“Well…that’s what you did that I may be angry about?” Margaret
nodded. “I see.”
“Are you angry?”
“I’m a little…taken aback, but I’m not angry. Margaret, I don’t
want everyone knowing about my past. I’ve a reputation to hold,
and I don’t want anyone to think I’m an ol’ woman who never got
over being jilted. But I’ll find something…nice…to say to Luke.”
“I told him we had a long talk, so he suspects something
already.” Aunt Gertrude nodded. “I’ll…leave the rest up to you.”
Margaret went to help with supper.
Lucas looked around the table after Scott finished the prayer.
Aunt Gertrude was being rather quiet tonight, and he noticed
everyone was rather suspicious about the reason; except for
Margaret. Margaret seemed to know exactly what was going on.
Jennifer cleared her throat and turned to her daughter. “So
Margaret, how are the wedding plans coming?”
Every head popped up, including Margaret’s. She turned and
looked at her Aunt Gertrude, who merely pressed her lips
together and waited quietly for her to answer. “Uh…” Margaret
swallowed the food in her mouth as she prepared to answer.
“Rather smoothly, and that scares me a bit. Everything seems to
be working out just fine. The McCain sisters have all pretty
much taken over the plans with Amanda’s and your help, of
course.” Margaret cleared her throat. “I did so much to help
them that they just wanted to help out. I think Ann’s been
helping out as well.”
Lucas lifted his eyebrows as he turned and looked at Aunt
Gertrude. She merely took another bite of food and stared down
at her plate.
“And Luke, how’s the house coming?”
Margaret gasped. “Oh Mother, it’s so big! There’s going to be an
awful lot of room for just the two of us.” Margaret felt like a
little girl getting a doll house for Christmas. “Why, there’s
going to be two bedrooms and a big fam…”
“Margaret…” Lucas nudged her and shook his head. Margaret
blushed at her excitement. Scott chuckled.
After dessert was served, Aunt Gertrude surprised everyone when
she cleared her throat and spoke. “Margaret dear, are you sure
you have everything under control for your wedding?”
Margaret and Lucas looked at each other. She had made it clear
that she was against this wedding, so her suddenly interest was
quite shocking. “Well…I…think so.”
“Then if you were to go away for…say a couple weeks…it wouldn’t
hurt your wedding plans any?”
“Well…I’m planning a trip to buy a wedding dress. I’ve had so
many other things to think about and I really wanted a store
bought dress. I heard tell some towns have dress stores that
make wedding dresses and…” Margaret rambled excitedly as she
thought about it.
“Oklahoma City has a fine wedding dress store.” Aunt Gertrude
Every eye around the table was on Aunt Gertrude now. A dead
silence was in the room, not a muscle moved as they waited for
her to continue.
Lucas finally spoke in a very low voice. “Oklahoma City…” he
started. He turned and looked at Margaret, who also had a
question in her eyes. “Just what is your plan, Aunt Gertrude?”
His voice held an accusing tone in it.
“I would like to take Margaret back to Oklahoma City on the
stage with me. There are some things I’d like her to have for
her home, and I would love to spend some time with her. It would
be a fine opportunity for her. We could leave tomorrow and be
back two weeks before the wedding.” Everyone was silent.
“Margaret…Those dishes I told you about…I would love to give
them to you.”
“Ohhhh!” Margaret suddenly squealed and stood up. “Aunt
Gertrude!” She threw her arms around her aunt’s neck as tears
filled her eyes. “Thank you!”
“Margaret…” Lucas started.
“So you’ll come?” Aunt Gertrude asked. She seemed a bit too
anxious for Margaret to come, Lucas thought.
“Oh, of course I’ll…” Margaret started.
Lucas stood up and gently took her arm. “Uh Margaret…” His voice
was low and firm, and his eyebrows were raised in a warning.
“Can I see you outside?”
From recent experience, Margaret knew that question only had one
correct answer, and unless she wanted another argument with
Lucas, she better answer correctly. “Of course.”
Lucas grunted as he walked her outside. They stepped off of the
porch and walked away from the house. “Okay.” Lucas folded his
arms across his middle and turned to her. “Would you mind
telling me what the hell is going on?”
“Lucas!” Margaret gasped at his crude language. Lucas raised his
eyebrows. Margaret knew this wasn’t the time to give him a
lecture on language. Instead, she shrugged. “A change of heart?”
“More like a whole personality change!” Lucas declared. “First
she can’t stand me or you and now she’s giving you her blessing
and wanting to help you prepare for the wedding?” Lucas shook
his head. “There’s something very fishy going on here.”
“Luke, I can’t tell you everything. She swore me to secrecy this
afternoon but…She’s been carrying a deep hurt around with her. I
don’t think she’s ready to ask anyone for forgiveness or tell
you she’s thrilled with the idea, but she’s ready to accept our
marriage. She has some dishes she was given by her mother a long
time ago…back when she was going to marry that man I told you
about? After he broke off the engagement, she put the unopened
boxes of dishes in the back of the closet and never opened them.
Now she wants me to have them.”
Lucas shook his head. “I don’t buy it. A person can’t change
that fast in a day!”
“She’s sincere, Luke! I know she is!” Margaret declared.
Lucas quickly lifted his head and said, “I don’t want you to
“She may be kidnapping you…Taking you back to her castle and…”
“Oh Luke!” Margaret shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Don’t
“Well…I don’t like the idea of you traveling on the stagecoach
alone. I don’t like it!” Lucas’ voice was practically yelling.
“I won’t be alone!” Margaret argued. “I’ll be with Aunt
“Yeah…” Lucas nodded as he grunted. “That’s the part I really
don’t like!” Margaret’s eyes flashed anger. “I just don’t like
it, Margaret. You’ll be coming back alone, and I just don’t like
it! Not one bit.”
“Oh Luke…” Margaret took his hands in hers and pleaded with him.
“Please let me! I’ll bring back the dishes and get to spend two
weeks getting to know my mother’s family. Some of my uncles
still live around there. There’s a whole set of cousins I’ve
never met before! Oh Luke…if you moved away and your children
had the opportunity to meet their family, wouldn’t YOU want to
Lucas sighed. “I suppose I would at that.” He ran a hand through
his hair. “But I can’t get away to take you, and nobody else can
either. I just don’t think I want you to go.”
“I’ll be fine, Luke! I will!” Margaret grabbed his hands. “Oh,
please, Luke! Please let me go!”
“Honey, if anything were to happen to you…”
“Nothing will happen, Lucas! I PROMISE!” Margaret declared.
“What, are you a fortune teller now or something?” Lucas shook
his head. “You shouldn’t be traveling alone..or with Aunt
Gertrude. I just…” Lucas was still doubtful, but he knew how
much she wanted to go. He ran a hand through his hair. “Can you
give me until tomorrow to think about it?”
“She’s leaving tomorrow!” Margaret argued.
“Margaret…” Lucas warned.
“Do I have to?” Margaret shook her head and held up her hands
when Lucas put his hands on his hips. “Alright, alright!”
Margaret grabbed his hand and kissed his cheek. “But after you
think about it…then will you let me go?”
Lucas laughed as he hugged her.
“So? What’s the problem?” Abe asked as he took another sip from
his coffee cup.
“The problem is…” Lucas rolled his eyes. “Would you let Julie go
to Oklahoma City alone?”
Abe turned and looked at Julie. “And leave me here with six
kids? NO WAY!”
“Abe…” Lucas sighed. “Work with me here.”
“Alright.” Abe leaned back in his chair. “Have you talked to
Scott about it?”
“He didn’t say much of anything. He said since I’m about to be
her husband, it was my call. He’d support me in my decision.”
“I see.” Abe took another sip of his coffee. “Look, Lucas…Her
aunt is inviting her to Oklahoma City. Soon Margaret will be
married and keeping a house for you. She won’t have much
opportunity to go see a big city.”
“So…You WOULD let Julie go?”
“I didn’t say that. But I’m saying Margaret really wants to go.
If her family doesn’t intervene, I think you should give her
your blessing. If you say no, she just may resent you for
holding her back. Besides, she’ll be back two weeks before the
Julie sat down at the table. “Luke…Don’t deny her this
opportunity. She’ll go on the stage coach and…”
“How will she get back? By herself?” Lucas shook his head. “Aunt
Gertrude already said last night that she wouldn’t be returning.
I don’t want her traveling all the way back by herself.”
“Hm…” Julie shrugged as she took another sip of coffee. “Seems
to me that Lucas traveled all the way to the New Mexico border.
In fact, he stayed down south for an entire year without so much
as a word to his family. Now, his fiancée, who stood by him all
those months and waited patiently, wants to take just a two week
trip to Oklahoma City…and what does he do? Deny HER the chance
to spread her wings a bit.” Julie shook her head and ticked her
tongue. “And let’s think about all those years in the war…”
“Your point is duly noted.” Lucas grumbled. “But I’ll worry the
entire time she’s gone.”
“She can send you a telegram when she gets there.” Julie smiled.
“If Abe would allow me, I’d go with her.”
“Oh no you won’t! You aren’t leaving me here with all these
children!” Abe argued.
Lucas sighed again as he looked into his cup. “Her traveling
alone isn’t the only thing that’s bothering me.”
“Aunt Gertrude?” Julie asked as she laid a hand on his.
“Yes.” Lucas looked up. “I just…I can’t shake it.” He shook his
head. “I don’t think she’s changed THAT much…I mean she was dead
set against this wedding, and now she wants to help Margaret
shop for it.” Lucas shook his head. “It just doesn’t add up!”
“Margaret said they had a long talk…got a lot out in the open.
Maybe Margaret helped her with some long, pent-up issues.”
Lucas rolled his eyes. “Now Julie, you know that emotions and
problems that a person’s held on for years don’t melt away that
fast.” Lucas shook his head. “No. I…I just don’t like it.”
“But Margaret believes she’s sincere?”
“Margaret is looking through rose-colored glasses.”
“True.” Julie took another sip of her coffee and stood up. She
walked around the table then kneeled down beside Lucas. She
rested a hand on his cheek and looked at him as if she were a
mother consoling a little boy who didn’t like the choices being
made for him. “But Luke…she believes her aunt is being sincere.
Sometimes…you have to take risks to avoid bigger problems. Do
you think she’ll resent you if you don’t let her go?”
“Then I think you should let her go.”
Lucas still had reservations, but he finally nodded his head.
“Alright. I’ll tell her first thing in the morning.”
Margaret was so excited. She and Amanda rode into town early the
next morning and purchased some new dresses. Lucas came by to
accompany the women to town to meet the stage that afternoon. He
came into Margaret’s bedroom to see if she was ready, but she
was still putting dresses in her trunk. “You sure you have to
go?” Lucas asked for the tenth time that day. Hesitation could
be heard in his voice.
“Oh Luke…It’ll just be two weeks!”
”It’s not the being apart, honey. It’s…” Lucas stopped. He knew
Margaret didn’t want to hear anymore about his doubts. “But…you
will miss me…”
“Of course I will, my love. I’ll write you letters.” Margaret
paused as she turned and looked at him. “Besides, you were gone
for a whole year. That didn’t seem to bother you too much.”
“Ouch.” Lucas walked over and looked into the trunk. “You cannot
possibly get another thing in there!” he declared. “Look, honey,
you’ll be gone for two weeks. You’ve enough clothes in there for
Margaret giggled. “I know. I guess I’m done.” Lucas closed it.
Margaret gasped. “Oh my! I almost forgot this!” She turned and
handed him her sewing basket.
“Margaret…” Lucas warned as he put his hands on his hips. “You
don’t need this.”
Jennifer hurried in and looked into the trunk. “Oh honey! Don’t
you forget all the things you’ll be returning with. You’ll want
to leave room for that wedding dress, and what about all those
crates of dishes?”
“I hope they don’t break! Oh dear me…I guess I have everything.”
Lucas rolled his eyes and closed the trunk. He had Margaret’s
father help him take the trunk to the wagon.
They were alone as they rode to town. Lucas purchased the ticket
for Margaret while Aunt Gertrude purchased her and Grandma
Bertha’s. He turned to hurry back to Margaret. “Here comes the
stage.” He looked down at her, his eyes showed hesitation.
Everything was soon boarded and Lucas stood outside the
stagecoach with Margaret. “I’ll miss you.” He rubbed the back of
his fingers across her cheek.
“We have to go, Luke,” Amos announced from on top of the stage.
Lucas nodded. “Now…remember, you’ll send a telegram every other
“Oh Luke…” Margaret shook her head. “That’s an unnecessary
“It’s also one of my conditions in allowing you to go on this
trip,” Lucas gently reminded her.
“You’re worried for no reason,” Margaret argued again.
“Alright. I’ll send you a telegram every other day.”
“Good. And if I don’t hear from you, I’ll be on my way to
Oklahoma City. And when I get there, I’ll be pretty riled.”
Margaret nodded. “I understand.”
“Luke, we’ve got to go!” Amos, the stage driver, declared again.
Lucas held up his hand, motioning for a private moment. “I don’t
care if your aunt is watching.” He bent down and kissed her.
Margaret returned her kiss as she drew her arms around him.
Their kiss lasted several moments.
“Margaret Gibbs!” Aunt Gertrude declared. “Margaret, you get in
this stage this instant!” Margaret forced herself out of Lucas’
embrace and stepped onto the stage. Lucas reached through the
window and took her hand. Then he closed the door and stepped
He felt a tear in his heart as he watched the stagecoach hurry
down the street. He watched until it turned the corner. “I can
just hear her now…’Margaret Gibbs, what were you thinking making
love in the middle of the street?’” Scott laughed. “That’s Aunt
“Yeah.” Lucas smiled. “Poor Margaret…I reckon she’ll have a
whole entire two days to listen to that nonsense.”
Scott saw the worry in Lucas’ eyes. “You made the right
decision, Luke. I know it was hard, but Mother thought it would
do her good.”
“Yeah but…” Lucas folded his arms. He was still so very worried.
He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.
“What if she likes the big city so much that she decides to
“Well…” Scott rubbed his nose and laughed. “I reckon you’ll move
to Oklahoma City.” Lucas raised an eyebrow. “Come on. Let’s go
get a beer.”
They walked down the street. Lucas turned back as the stagecoach
turned the corner. He put his hands on his hips and rubbed his
chin. If only he could put his finger on what was bothering
him…”Coming Luke?” Scott called from behind him.
“Yeah. I’m coming.”
The Margaret Years — Reclaiming
These stories are based on the TV series
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around The McCain Ranch