The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Margaret Years
 
Chapter 6 - The Final Proposal
Written by Michelle Palmer

It was an interesting sight that met his eyes that Sunday morning as he rode into the Gibbs’ yard at eight o’clock. He had been invited over for a late breakfast before going to church by Margaret Gibbs herself and he had graciously accepted, even though he suspected her motive wasn’t completely honest. Lucas truly believed this was her way of making sure he made it to church..

Lucas had intended to ask Scott for Margaret’s hand in marriage a week ago, but Scott had been under the weather, which postponed the talk Lucas so desperately needed to have with him.

Lucas stared at the browned hair beauty as he sat on his horse in front of the house. Wisps of hair blew around her face as she ran around the yard crouched over and speaking to some unforeseen person or animal angrily. Lucas slowly dismounted and leaned against the house as he crossed his arms and grinned with lifted eyebrows. Margaret continued to chase what Lucas could now tell was an angry chicken around the yard. “Hello,” he said with a laugh.
 
Margaret stood from her crouched position and dropped her skirt as she turned and glared at Lucas. “Do you always stand there instead of helping a damsel in distress?”
 
“Is there a damsel in distress?” Lucas teased, his eyes sparkling. “What’s wrong with the chicken?”
 
“The chicken?! Unless you want to go without you dinner later today, I suggest you help ME!” Margaret blew her hair from her eyes and hastily tucked more behind her ears.
 
“Scott still sick?”
 
Margaret impatiently planted her hands on her hips and tipped her head to one side. “Yes.” She lifted her eyebrows. “But he said he’d speak with you this afternoon.”
 
“Oh.” Lucas continued staring at this beauty as she continued to glare at him. He pushed himself off the wall and sashayed over to her. “And uh…what about the chicken?”
 
“What about it?” Margaret asked as she suddenly leaped forward, thinking on taking the poor, frightened chicken by surprise. She bolted towards the chicken, but tripped, grasping only air.
 
Lucas hurried over to her and kneeled down beside her, putting his hand under her elbow. He chuckled. “Ya, trying to scare that poor bird to death?”
 
“That poor bird is your dinner!” Margaret declared.
 
“Oh.” Lucas continued grinning at her. He slowly stood and helped her to her feet. “And uh…how were you intending on getting it from the coop to the table?” His grin widened as he motioned with his hands.
 
Margaret dusted herself off, getting more and more perturbed at his bantering. “I went into the coop and grabbed that bird, but it wriggled around so much that I…” Margaret lifted her head in a stubborn stance. “Why…you don’t think I could do it, do you?”
 
“No,” Lucas answered simply, his smile widening.
 
“Well, I can!”
 
“Oh?” Lucas slowly walked up behind the chicken and grabbed it by its feet. The sharp intake of breath from the woman behind him, told him his ease of grabbing the chicken irritated Margaret all the more. He walked over to the shed and got the ax out. “Follow me, Miss Gibbs,” he said as he started toward the chopping block.
 
“What are you going to do with that?” Margaret asked suddenly as her eyes widened.
 
“The ax or the chicken?”
 
Margaret rolled her eyes. “The ax!”
 
“How were you intending on killing the chicken?”
 
“Well I…” Margaret stopped. Lucas knew her love for animals would have never allowed her to actually carry out any execution.  She turned and looked toward the house. “Oh my…Breakfast may be burning!”
 
“Between Beth, Amanda, and Aunt Jenny, I’d say they can handle breakfast.” Lucas continued to grin at her.
 
“Oh.” Margaret folded her arms. “Well…since you were so kind as to catch it, I reckon you can do the honors. Just…” Margaret stared at the ax in his hand and cringed. “Just be gentle with her.”
 
“Be…gentle?”
 
“Yeah…You know…It’s not HER fault that she’s no longer laying eggs. She didn’t do anything wrong.”
 
“Oh…of course.” Lucas chuckled as he held up the bird. “But tell me something, honey. Just how gentle can it be to kill a chicken?”
 
Margaret narrowed her eyes at him. “Oh…” She looked down at the helpless bird who was desperately trying to get free. She wondered if the chicken knew its fate was near. “If you want chicken and dumplings for dinner, Lucas McCain, you best have that bird cleaned and into me so I can get the chicken on!” Margaret turned on her heels and hurried inside.
 
Lucas chuckled as he walked to the chopping block. In all the years he’d known that sweet woman, she’d never wanted any living thing hurt. He could remember her rescuing a little field mouse as a child and crying when her father announced to her that there was no hope for the critter. Her mother had declared her a sight when Margaret had burst into tears. Even snakes were safe when Margaret was around.
 
Lucas laid the chicken on the chopping block and raised the ax. “Well ol’ friend, you should have never stopped layin’!” He declared. “But I reckon this will hurt you more than it hurts me!”
 
***
 
Lucas came inside and nodded to Scott as he sat at the table, his eyes still glassed over. Lucas carried the newly beheaded bird upright so he wouldn’t get any blood on the floor. “So just what is wrong with you?”
 
“Sick,” Scott answered in a voice that sounded like a bull frog. “Doc came yesterday and…” Scott’s voice died.
 
Amanda giggled. “Well, I must admit that it’s been rather quiet around here this past week.” Scott lifted his eyes and glared at her. “The doctor told Scott he should have come in days ago. He has a terrible cold and the doctor gave him a tonic that’s slowly making him better.”
 
Margaret came out of the kitchen carrying a big platter of pancakes. Her cheeks were flushed from bending over the griddle. Lucas held up the deceased bird. “Your wish is my command.” Margaret nodded and hurried back into the kitchen, Lucas right behind her.
 
Lucas sat the chicken in the sink and turned to look at Margaret as she started to lift the hot pan of maple syrup from the stove. “Hey, hey, hey…let me do that.” Lucas put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her. “I’ll expect fair payment for my good deeds.” Lucas turned and lifted the heavy iron pan off the stove. Margaret pointed to a bowl and watched as he poured the syrup into the bowl. “There now…Let’s eat.”
 
“You go ahead,” Margaret nodded toward the dining room. “I need to get the chicken on before church.”
 
She started to turn back to the bird, but Lucas grabbed her arm. “I want you to eat breakfast,” he said with a tilt of his chin.
 
“Oh, but Luke…”
 
“It’s only 8:30. You’ve plenty of time after you eat.” Margaret smiled up at him. “I aim to take good care of my favorite girl.” He bent down and kissed her again.
 
“Oh Margaret, I’ll…” Margaret and Lucas broke their embrace and turned toward Amanda. “…get the syrup.” She giggled. “Please…don’t stop on my account!” She hurried and took the bowl then went back into the dining room.
 
Margaret’s flushed cheeks blushed even deeper as she hurried away from Lucas and out the door. “What took you so long?” Scott croaked out.
 
“The bird,” Lucas lied.
 
“Uh huh.” Scott motioned for the young couple to sit down. Then they took hands and Scott led them in prayer.
 
Breakfast was eaten in silence for the most part. Margaret ate only two pancakes before standing and hurrying back to the kitchen. Lucas cleared his throat as Scott continued to give him the evil eye. “I reckon I’ll stay out here.”
 
“Good idea,” Scott nodded.
 
“Uh…Your father been much help this week?”
 
“Nope. Haven’t seen Pa since Monday. He left in the middle of branding.”
 
“I’ll go work on some chores before church. This afternoon, I’ll get some wood chopped.” Lucas wiped his mouth and excused himself.
 
Lucas was all sweaty by the time Margaret came to announce it was time to go. She put a hand to her mouth and gasped at the sight of him. “Lucas McCain!”
 
Lucas looked down at his smudged shirt. He hadn’t realized he had gotten dirt all over it. He had removed his jacket and tie, but his white shirt, he’d left on. “You get right on in that house and take one of Scott’s shirts!” she ordered quite sternly. “And don’t even think about finding a reason not to be in church today!”
 
“Shouldn’t somebody stay here and take care of Scott?” Lucas teased.
 
“Scott is on the mend. He’ll be fine on his own.” Amanda handed Baby Andy to Margaret and hurried back inside to get one of her husband’s shirts. Soon, Lucas was escorting the Gibbs women to church.
 
***
 
After pulling the wagon into the churchyard, Lucas jumped down and helped each Gibbs woman down from the wagon. As he helped Margaret down, his hands lingered at her waist. He smiled lovingly at her. Margaret timidly lowered her eyes and stepped away from him.
 
Abe and Julie had pulled up just seconds before. They watched Lucas as he helped the four Gibbs women down from the wagon. “Would you look at that,” Julie smiled. “They aren’t engaged yet and he’s already acting like a member of the family.”
 
Abe heard the pride in his wife’s voice. He turned and smiled at her. Leaning over, he kissed her on the cheek. “You’ll have them married soon if you don’t watch yourself.” He turned back and looked at Lucas. “Looks like he fits in there so well.”
 
Others observed at how comfortable Lucas looked escorting the Gibbs family to church. Lucas took Jennifer’s arm and walked her into church. Margaret lingered behind. She was so intent on watching two boys playing outside the churchyard on their way to church that she didn’t notice the big man in front of her. She ran right into him. “Whoa there…” She gasped as the man grabbed her shoulders and pulled her away from him.
 
“Oh…” Margaret looked up into the man’s face as she blushed. “I’m so sorry!”
 
“Well now...” The man grinned as he folded his arms. “If someone has to bump into me, I’d like it if it was somebody as beautiful as you.”
 
The way this man was looking at Margaret made her suddenly uncomfortable. She stepped further away from him. “I’m sorry, sir. Now if you’ll excuse…”
 
“Name’s Reef Jackson, ma’am,” Reef tipped his hat. “Just call me Reef.”
 
“No, I…I can’t do that!” Margaret declared as she shook her head. “I don’t know you well enough and…”
 
“Well, perhaps we can resolve that. How about I treat you to lunch this afternoon at the hotel?”
 
Margaret’s eyes grew wide at this man’s brazen boldness. “No, I…”
 
“Margaret?” Lucas came out of the church and hurried over to her. “What are you doing?” Margaret had never been happier to see Lucas. Lucas turned and smiled at Reef. “Jackson! You coming to church?”
 
“Well…yes.” Reef watched as Lucas put an arm around Margaret’s shoulders. “Are you…Margaret?”
 
Margaret nodded, but she still felt uncomfortable. She didn’t like the way this man was boldly looking at her, and she prayed Lucas wouldn’t notice. “Luke, we should get inside. The service will be starting soon.” She didn’t need to worry about Lucas noticing. Lucas nodded and led her toward the steps. After she stepped onto the steps, he told her to go on inside. He turned back to talk to Reef, but Margaret’s sharp tongue sounded from behind him. “Come on, Luke. You mustn’t be late.”
 
Lucas closed his mouth before his words came out. Turning to Margaret, he saw the look on her face that dared him to disobey. “Yes dear,” he answered as he once again took her arm and led her inside. When they got inside, Lucas seated her then turned to motion for Reef to come sit with them. “Luke, there’s no room.” Margaret stood and said, “Laura Rose, would you like to sit beside your brother?”
 
Laura nodded and came to sit beside Lucas. Lucas lifted an eyebrow but said nothing. He turned and shrugged at Reef, his eyes apologizing for Margaret’s rudeness, which was very unlike her. Reef nodded slightly then turned and hurried to take a seat in the back.
 
After the service, and after all the Gibbs women were seated in the wagon, Lucas clucked to the team and they started for the Gibbs’ Ranch. Margaret was quiet beside him, trying hard not to let her emotions show. But Lucas knew something was amiss. Finally, he asked, “Are you angry with me?”
 
“No,” Margaret answered quickly. Her answer came out so fast that he lifted an eyebrow at her, but he said nothing.
 
After they arrived at the Gibbs Ranch, Lucas helped the ladies down once again, but as Margaret started toward the house, Lucas reached out and took her arm, pulling her back toward him. “If it’s not me, then why are you upset?”
 
“I’d rather not talk about it,” Margaret answered as she started forward. But Lucas’s arms stayed firm, forcing her back beside him. He just studied her.
 
“I think you should. We don’t keep secrets, remember?”
 
Margaret nodded. “Back at the church…your friend…”
 
“Reef?” Margaret nodded. “What about him?”
 
“He was a bit…rude before you came up.”
 
“Rude?”
 
“Bold.”
 
Lucas narrowed his eyes and looked at her. “How do you mean?”
 
“He asked me to call him by his first name and…and…” Margaret lowered her gaze. Lucas lifted her chin, forcing her to look into his face. “And?”
 
“He asked me to have dinner with him at the hotel.”
 
“Oh.” Margaret saw a flash of jealousy enter his face. “And…what did you tell him?”
 
Margaret’s eyes flashed anger. “What do you THINK I told him???”
 
“Well, I admit that is a bit bold, but…Reef doesn’t have the gentleness of a woman to keep him in line. I’m sure it was all in innocence.” Margaret decided not to give him anymore details after that reaction. She had seen the look of lust in his eyes, before Lucas rescued her. She turned from Lucas and mumbled that she had to get dinner on the table. Lucas scratched his head as he watched her go inside. He took off his jacket and tie as he shook his head. It wasn’t like Margaret to judge people so harshly. He’d have to speak with his friend and get to the bottom of this.
 
Lucas unhitched the team and began chopping some wood until Margaret came and announced dinner was ready. He quickly washed up then came inside to eat.
 
***
 
Scott and Lucas sat back in their chairs and groaned in satisfaction at the meal the women had served them. The color in Scott’s face was already looking better than it had earlier that morning. Lucas stood from his seat and kissed Margaret on top of the head. “That was good, honey.”
 
“Ma made the dumplings.” Lucas kissed Jennifer on the cheek and complimented her on her dumplings. Then he kissed Beth and Amanda both on top of their heads. He turned and looked at Scott.
 
“I had nothing to do with it!” Scott declared, holding up his hand. “I just held the baby while my wife helped with the cooking.”
 
“Oh. Well, if you’re done with your motherly duties, could we talk…outside?” Lucas lifted an eyebrow.
 
Margaret watched her brother stand and walk outside with Lucas. She stood and walked to the window. Outside, she watched as the two men walked to the corral and leaned over. Lucas looked so nervous as he took off his hat and looked everywhere but at Scott. “Margaret…”
 
Margaret turned to look at Amanda. Amanda wiggled her finger back and forth, indicating for her to come with her. The two women escaped into the kitchen. “What do you suppose he’s saying?” Margaret asked nobody in particular.
 
“What do you want him to say?” Amanda answered with a smile. Margaret paused her hands in the dishwater and turned to give Amanda a look. Amanda smiled. “I’m sure Lucas is asking Scott for your hand in marriage, and Scott is giving Lucas his blessing.”
 
Margaret turned back to look toward the closed kitchen door. She smiled. “I’m sure.”
 
They were just finishing up the dishes when Scott came into the kitchen. “Boy, it’s hot out there!” Scott declared as he reached over Amanda and took another roll. “And I’m sure hungry!” Scott took a bite of the bread as both Margaret and Amanda stared at him. He paused in his eating to look first at Amanda, then at Margaret. “What?”
 
“What did you say?” Amanda asked.
 
“Oh that…” Scott took another bite of the bread and walked up to Margaret. He took her hand. “I’m sorry sis...I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
 
Margaret narrowed her eyes at her brother. “What?”
 
“You’re going to have to find some other place to live. I’m afraid this house is too small for you and Luke.”
 
Amanda gave her husband a firm jab in the ribs. Margaret squealed and threw her arms around her brother. “Oh Scott!” she cried. Scott laughed as he kissed her cheek. “Is he still here?”
 
“No.” Scott smiled. “He went to check the cattle for me. Then he’ll finish chopping up the wood. I…think he said something about coming back for you later this evening.”
 
If Margaret thought she would be able to concentrate on anything that afternoon, she was badly mistaken. She tried to do some more stitching on the rugs she was making for her new home, but she seemed to be doing more damage than anything else. Then she tried to concentrate on making some doilies, but that too was a disaster.
 
“I think I’ll read,” she mumbled as her mother looked at her with a sympathetic smile. But reading, too, was useless. She read the same page ten times and still had no idea what she was reading. She finally stood and heaved a heavy sigh. “Oh mother…I’m useless today! I might as well go for a walk!”
 
Margaret stepped outside and looked out onto the range. Up on top of a hill, she could see two riders and wondered if one of them was the man that was causing all this turmoil she was feeling. She shaded her eyes with her hand, but still couldn’t make anything out. Finally, she turned and walked to the creek.
 
The day was so hot that she took off her socks and shoes and dipped her toes into the cool water. Today was July 15. Already, July was half-way gone and she was still waiting for the man she loved to ask her the important question. She giggled as she thought about the proposal he had given her on his death bed. At the time she was quite embarrassed, but the more she thought about it, the more she wanted what he had said as well.
 
“Penny for your thoughts.” Margaret turned to see Lucas standing behind her. She smiled up at him and blushed at her thoughts. “Oh…” Lucas sat down beside her and took her hand. “Perhaps I don’t want to know what you’re thinking.” Lucas put his arm around her and kissed her cheek. “I remember all those lazy summer days we’d come down here and dip our feet in the water.”
 
Margaret giggled.  “Yes,” she answered. “And I remember all those times your father would find us and yell at you for not doing your chores.”
 
“He sure did know how to get a body to obey…” Lucas mumbled. The he sighed as he realized that neither of his parents would be able to see him and Margaret married. They had wanted it as much as he ever did. “It’s hard sometimes…” He mumbled.
 
Margaret turned, taking her feet from the water, and laid a hand on his cheek. “I’m sorry, Luke. I wish they were here too. I loved them.”
 
“I was wondering…” Lucas cleared his throat. “If you fixed up a picnic for us, we could go to our ranch and eat it…watch the sun set and…” Lucas stopped.
 
“I know we’ve been caught alone after dark before, but we really shouldn’t, Luke.”
 
“Please, honey…” Lucas’s voice was husky as he spoke. “Just…just this once?”
 
Margaret smiled. “Well, I suppose that if you start misbehaving, I can go fetch Ann.” Margaret stood. “Should we ride our horses?”
 
“No no…” Lucas smiled. “I’ll go to my brother’s house and get cleaned up…borrow his buggy. Then I’ll come for you.” He laid a hand on her cheek and smiled. “Mind wearing that beautiful green dress?”
 
“The one I wore to the dance before you left for war?” Lucas nodded. “I think I can manage that.”
 
Margaret’s heart pumped as she got ready to go. She wondered if he’d choose tonight to ask the question she so desperately longed to hear.
 
***
 
Margaret smoothed out her dress and turned in the mirror. She was so nervous she couldn’t even tie the bow to her dress. A knock sounded on the door and Jennifer walked in. “You do look beautiful.”
 
“I’m so nervous…” Margaret said as her voice shook to match her hands. “Oh Mama…What do you think he’s going to say tonight?”
 
Jennifer straightened the bow then turned her daughter around to face her. “More importantly, what are you going to answer?” Margaret’s face became aglow and Jennifer chuckled. “I knew as much. You’re…not going to play hard to get?”
 
Margaret rolled her eyes. “Oh mother…I don’t care if he asks me to marry him tomorrow! I’ll say yes.”
 
Jennifer nodded. “I know.” She put her hands on Margaret’s cheeks. “I’ve a feeling I’m about to lose a daughter.” Her eyes filled with tears.
 
“Oh Mama…” Margaret hugged her. “I don’t want you to lose me. I’ll come visit…”
 
“Now, don’t you go worrying about me, daughter. You are doing what’s right. A woman marries, she leaves the home she grew up in and cleaves to her husband. You’ll have children of your own. Then someday you’ll watch them leave…one by one.”
 
A knock sounded on the door. Margaret gasped and threw her hands to her cheeks. “Margaret, Luke’s here.”
 
Margaret turned and looked in the mirror once more. “You’re fine, Margaret. Now, go on.”
 
Margaret did manage to stumble from the bedroom. She nervously looked toward Lucas who admired her. A slow grin played across his paled face. Margaret started to ask him if he was feeling okay, but when she saw his hands shake, she knew he too was nervous about tonight. Her hear leapt. She KNEW what tonight would mean for the both of them.
 
Lucas took her hand and led her to the promised buggy. He helped her up onto the buggy then, without so much as a peck on the cheek, started the horses in motion. “It’s a beautiful evening,” Margaret said quietly.
 
“Not nearly as beautiful as you,” Lucas spoke huskily. He cleared his throat. “I hope you packed a lot to eat. I’m starving.”
 
Margaret rolled her eyes. “After all that chicken you ate for lunch?”
 
“Well…a man works up an appetite.” Lucas grinned as he clucked to the horses. “As a matter of fact, if there was chicken left, I’d eat it right now!”
 
Margaret giggled. “Well, I’m sorry my love…But I’m afraid you and Scott finished off the chicken at lunch today.” Margaret grew quiet, suddenly feeling nervous again.
 
Lucas tried to think of something pleasant to say, but nothing came to mind. His brain was so rattled. He must have rehearsed the words he had to say to Margaret a dozen times. Peter had finally assured him Margaret would say yes, but Lucas was still nervous. Until he heard that one word from her lips he wouldn’t have a moment’s peace. He cleared his throat again. “There’s a…a…dance next Friday night. I hope you’ll go with me.”
 
Margaret nodded. “What sort of dance?”
 
“Actually…” Lucas laughed nervously. “It’s a barn dance at Johnny Morgan’s house.”
 
“Oh.” Margaret smiled. “I’d love to go.”
 
Lucas reached out and took her hand. Margaret felt her heart quicken as he squeezed it. Their eyes met and they smiled, both knowing what was going to happen tonight, yet both fearing that maybe…just maybe it wouldn’t.
 
The evening was cooler than it had been in a while, and the sky held a promise of rain. Lucas prayed the rain would hold off until he had gotten Margaret home. A pleasant silence fell between them as they enjoyed the slow buggy ride. In time, the land Lucas had recently purchased came into view. Margaret looked around the land as Lucas pulled into his yard. It was beginning to look just like a ranch. The only thing that was missing was…”Would you like to picnic up there?” Lucas pointed to the top of the hill. Margaret nodded as she started to get down, but Lucas reached up and took her hand, helping her step down.
 
They paused as they stood beside the buggy. Lucas stared into her eyes. His lips were quivering as they parted. “Margaret…I…I love you.” Margaret nodded and smiled, then turned to take the basket. But Lucas took it as they slowly walked over to the place they had picnicked before. After spreading the blanket out, Margaret started setting out the food while Lucas went to fetch a bucket of water from the creek. By the time he returned, everything was ready.
 
After a short blessing, Margaret handed Lucas his sandwich. They ate in silence as the night bugs started singing around them. Margaret looked up into the sky and watched as a cloud covered the sun. “It’s going to rain…” She murmured.
 
“Seems Mother Nature’s against me…” Lucas muttered under his breath.
 
“I don’t think so.” Margaret lifted her eyes to him. “The crops need rain.” Margaret saw some crumbs on his chin and lifted a napkin to wipe them off. Lucas gently grabbed her wrist and stared into her eyes. “I have fresh baked Oatmeal cookies for dessert.”
 
Lucas allowed his eyes to slide down onto the blanket where he saw the cookies laid out. He put the remainder of his sandwich into his mouth then stood up. “I don’t think I could eat them.” Lucas turned from her and swallowed. His hands suddenly felt sweaty. Lucas knew he needed to ask her the question, but try as he may, he couldn’t get the words past his throat. Lucas turned and took her hand. “Walk with me?”
 
The couple walked out onto the range. Margaret pointed out some wild flowers that had made it through the heat and dry weather. She picked them and made a bouquet of them. Then they made their way back to the place their house would someday stand. Margaret drew the flowers to her nose and smelled them. Lucas enjoyed watching her sniff the flowers, her eyes closing as she enjoyed their sweet aroma.
 
But Lucas was quiet. Margaret became concerned and put a hand on his arm to stop him from walking. “Is…something wrong?”
 
“Yes.” Lucas coughed into his hand. “I mean…no.” He stopped when they were at the crest of their land. “Uh…” Margaret raised her eyebrow as he turned and took the bouquet from her hands. After laying them on the ground, he grasped her hands. “Margaret Gibbs, I…” He stopped, suddenly taking her in his arms and pressing his lips to hers. He kissed her passionately before finally pulling away. “I love you…” His voice was breathless as he spoke. “I want to share every sunset with you from here on out.”
 
Margaret blushed and looked down at the ground. Lucas swallowed and groaned. “Oh…” His adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he dug a hand his in pocket. Slowly, he lowered himself to one knee in front of her and took her hand. “Margaret Gibbs, I…I’ve loved you for many years now. I’ve always known you…Why, there wasn’t a time that I didn’t know who you were. We…” Lucas felt his heart quicken as her eyes filled with tears. “We’ve always been…I mean…We’ve always shared our hopes and dreams with each other. We’ve always been there for each other and…” Lucas lifted a hand to her face and brushed some loose strands of hair back. “Margaret Ann Gibbs…” Lucas opened his fist and took the ring between his two fingers. “Will you do me the honor of…” Lucas swallowed again. “Becoming my wife?”
 
Margaret suddenly burst into tears. Her hands went to her face. She couldn’t even answer him. Suddenly, she fell to her knees and kneeled in front of him. Without saying a word, she leaned in and kissed him deeply. He slowly drew his arms around her and returned her kiss with one of his own that matched. Margaret also drew her arms around him and leaned into him as they continued kissing. Finally, they parted. Lucas stared into her eyes. “Wow…” He cleared his throat as he stood and pulled her away from him. “That better be a yes!”
 
“Yes!” Margaret cried suddenly. “Yes, Luke…Oh YES!” She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. She felt his tears on his face; they mixed with her own. They clung to each other, neither saying a word. They were left in their own thoughts. “Oh Lucas…I love you!” Margaret finally said. “I’ll marry you! I’ll marry you!” Margaret took his face in her hands and again started to kiss him.
 
Lucas pushed her away and cleared his throat. “That’s enough now…I…I can’t handle anymore of that tonight…” Margaret smiled at him. Lucas cleared his throat as his face reddened. “Better make those wedding plans quick-like ifen you plan on kissing me like that!”
 
Margaret laughed, blushing herself. She knew he was right and stepped further away from him. Lucas took a deep breath and reached for her hand. “I heard tell that back East fellows give their gals a ring as a promise of marriage. Well, I…talked to my sister and she uh…she helped me pick out a ring a few weeks ago.” Lucas’ hand shook as he slipped the ring on her finger. “It’s called an…”
 
Margaret giggled. “Luke, you’re so cute…” She held up her right hand. “It’s called an engagement ring. They’ve actually been around for quite some time, but…” She removed the ring. “It goes on the LEFT hand.”
 
Lucas blushed. “Oh…This is sort of like our first dance, huh?” Lucas took her hand and slipped it on her left ring finger. “I reckon I’ve a lot to learn about…” Lucas’ face blushed even deeper. “…stuff.”
 
Margaret pressed a hand to his cheek and laughed softly. “You are a wonderful man. You’re a farmer…now a rancher…that’s what you know. Living in a house full of boys all those years, I’m sure there are a lot of things you have to learn. I think you’re a dear.”
 
“Gee…” Lucas narrowed his eyes at her. “Thanks, ma’am,” he said in his best drawl. “I think yer purty swell yerself…”
 
“Luke…” Margaret studied at the ring. “It’s beautiful. That’s a real garnet…”
 
Lucas nodded. “I hoped you would like it. I couldn’t decide what kind of ring to get you, so I thought since your birthday was in January…” Lucas swallowed. “I know you like green…at least I love seeing you in green…so I thought a green garnet…Oh, I’m sorry it’s not very big. They had some bigger one’s, but I couldn’t afford to…”
 
“Oh Luke…” Margaret lifted her head and shook it slowly. “You didn’t even need to give me a ring at all!”
 
“Well…I know you’re used to finer things and I’m afraid those times will be few and far between for me and…”
 
Margaret leaned closer to him and put a finger to his lips. “Hush…” she whispered. “I don’t need fine things, Luke. I just need you and this ranch and…our children! Oh, I’ve waited for this day for so long…Do you really think I would have cared if…”
 
“No.” Lucas shook his head as he put a hand to her cheek. “Oh no, my love. But it matters to me. If I could, I’d give you the sun, moon, and all the stars. I’d build you a castle and give you a fine crown of jewels, because that’s what you deserve.”
 
“If I wanted those things, Luke…I wouldn’t have married you.” Margaret kissed his cheek. “Oh honey…” She kissed his other cheek. “You…YOU are my gem.”
 
Lucas suddenly lifted his head to stare into her eyes. He pressed his lips to hers once again and kissed her passionately. He pressed her body up against him as their kiss deepened. This time, it was Margaret who pulled away. “When?” she asked as she laid her forehead against his.
 
Lucas allowed his hand to linger on her back. He ran it up and down her back as he whispered, “August 30.” He cleared his throat and forced himself to pull away from her. “August 30, and not a day later.”
 
“Why then?”
 
“Because you want to get married by the end of summer, and that is as long as I’m willing to give you.” Lucas stepped away from her further, silently thanking his brother for the talk he had insisted on.
 
“It’s the middle of July now.” Margaret shook her head. “That’s only a month and a half away!”
 
“I know!” Lucas groaned. “That only gives me a month and a half to get the house built!”
 
Margaret turned and looked at the shack. “Nothing wrong with this place. We could live here until…”
 
“My wife is NOT going to live in a shack!” Lucas exclaimed suddenly. “On August 30, I’m carrying my wife over the threshold of OUR house where we will live…”
 
Margaret giggled. “Happily ever after?” Margaret stepped forward to kiss him again, but Lucas held up a hand and again pushed her away from him. She blushed, knowing he was right. “Oh Luke…I want to raise our children here. I want to grow old and grey with you! I want…”
 
“Hold it, hold it!” Lucas chuckled as he lifted his hands and stepped further away from her. “Just slow down now!” Lucas swallowed hard as he stared into her eyes. “I…think we should get out of here…”
 
But Margaret suddenly grabbed his hand. “Come on! Let’s go!” She turned and hurried toward the buggy, dragging Lucas with her.
 
“Where?” Lucas asked.
 
“Well…first we’ll tell my family, and then we’ll go tell your family!”
 
“Margaret, it’s already after eight o’clock!”
 
“So? Come on!” Margaret ran and jumped into the buggy. Lucas slowly stepped into the buggy and rode towards the Gibbs.
 
***
 
Amanda again paced the floor as Baby Andy cried. “I’ve tried everything, Ma!” She was almost in tears.
 
“Just lay him down then,” Jennifer suggested calmly as she continued working on the quilt she was making.
 
“I can’t!” Amanda argued.
 
Scott slowly stood up and took the baby from Amanda. “Ma’s right, honey. Just lay him down.” Scott turned and laid Andy in the cradle.
 
Suddenly, the door burst open. “Scott! Oh  Scott!” Margaret rushed in and clasped her brother’s arms. Her cheeks were flushed and every inch of her face was baptized in excitement and hope. “Lucas…” She stopped to catch her breath. “He asked me to marry him!”
 
“Oh Margaret!” Jennifer suddenly stood up and hurried toward Margaret. She grabbed Margaret by the shoulders and pulled her into an embrace. “Oh my baby!” Jennifer shed a few tears for her oldest daughter.
 
Scott shook Lucas’ hand and nodded his approval. Margaret showed off her ring and Beth giggled as the gem  sparkled. “August 30!”
 
“August 30?” Scott questioned.
 
“That’s the day we’re getting married! August 30, 1866.” Margaret hurried back over to Lucas and took his hand. “That’s our wedding day!”
 
Amanda hurried forward. “August 30! Oh my…” She turned and looked at Jennifer. “Mother, we have so much to do to get ready!”
 
“That we do!” Jennifer took her daughter’s hand while Amanda took her other arm. “I think we need to sit down and…oh my…how will we ever get everything done on time?” Jennifer shook her head. “Could you move back the wedding a…”
 
“NO!” Margaret and Lucas both answered at the same time.
 
Amanda giggled as they led Margaret toward the parlor. “Oh, we must make a list of everything that needs done!”
 
“Margaret…” The three women stopped and turned to look at Lucas. “Uh…goodnight.”
 
“Goodnight, my love.” Margaret turned to follow her mother and sister-in-law into the parlor.
 
“Margaret…” Lucas cleared his throat again.
 
Margaret smiled as she walked up to Lucas. “Yes?”
 
“Uh…” He lifted his head and looked at Margaret’s family as they smiled at them. “Could we maybe get everyone together tomorrow night to share the news?” Margaret turned and looked at her mother who nodded. “Alright.” Lucas smiled into her eyes. He wanted some privacy, but could tell he wouldn’t be getting any of that night. Lucas cleared his throat. “Well then…I’ll see you tomorrow.”
 
“Okay.” Margaret turned away and hurried up to her mother and sisters as they hurried toward the parlor.
 
“Okay…” Lucas sighed and waved to Scott, then he walked out the door.
 
***
 
The lights were all out at Peter’s house when he got back. He bedded down the horses then got on his own horse. As he glanced toward Abraham’s house, he saw lights on and decided to drop in for a late-night visit.
 
 
***
 
Abe groaned as he sat down at the table and accepted the cup of coffee Julie offered him. She sat down across from him and took a sip from her cup. “Looks like you had as much trouble bedding down your animals as I had bedding down your kids.”
 
Abe grinned. “MY kids, huh? Well now…they must be bad tonight!”
 
“Well…they’re all asleep except for Laura. Nine-thirty and that child’s still awake!” Julie shook her head. “She’ll be falling asleep at breakfast tomorrow.”
 
“And she knows what happens if she does,” Abe commented.
 
There was a knock at the door. Abe went to answer it. “Abe!” Lucas stepped into the house without being invited in.
 
“Lucas…” Abe planted his hands on his hips. “Do you know what time it is, young man?”
 
“Young…” Lucas groaned as he accepted the cup of coffee Julie offered him. “You happen to be talking to an engaged man!”
 
“En…” Abe started in a shocked voice.
 
“Oh Luke!” Julie hurried forward and threw her arms around her brother-in-law. “It’s about time! I’m so glad you FINALLY asked her!”
 
“Uh…me too.” Lucas raised his eyebrows as he looked at Abe. “We’re planning it for August 30.”
 
Julie shook her head. “What is it with you McCain men rushing the wedding like this? Don’t you believe in long engagements?”
 
“NO!” Lucas shouted. “I have just a month and a half to get the house up, and I aim to do just that!” Lucas cleared his throat. “Uh…I just came by to see if we could have a Gibbs/McCain dinner tomorrow night.”
 
“Oh! That’s a wonderful idea! Then we can tell everyone else then. We’ll have it here, alright Abe?” Abe raised his eyebrow, showing Julie his disapproval. “Oh, please Abe!”
 
“Julie…I think it’s too much for you to do.…” But he sighed in resignation when he saw the pleading in her eyes. “Alright. We’ll have it here tomorrow night.”
 
“I think Lucas should spend the night. Then maybe you can take the boys fishing while Laura watches Rachel outside. I can work better if the children aren’t underfoot.”
 
“Well…” Abe nodded at Lucas. “Looks like you’re staying the night here, baby brother. Let’s go get the cot set up.”
 
***
 
“And along came that big, bad wolf! And he HUUUUUFFFFFFFFEEEEEEDDDDDD…And he PPPPPPPPPUUUUUUUFFFFFFFFEEEEEEEDDDDDD…And he BBBBBLLLLLEEEEWWWWW that house down!” Lucas blew out of his mouth really hard as he turned his head around at the children. Their eyes looked as if they were about to pop out of their sockets.
 
“Uncle Lucas…” Charlie stood and came to sit on Lucas’ lap, forcing little Rachel to scoot off his lap. “Uncle Lucas, he just blew the LAST house down!” Charlie cried.
 
Lucas laughed. “Oh, you should learn how to count! That was the second house and who’s telling this story anyhow?” Lucas cleared his throat and continued telling the story to Abe and Julie’s five children. Even Laura listened with interest instead of helping her mother set the table. Finally, the story ended and the children were very satisfied that the pigs were safe.
 
“But what happened to the big bad wolf?” Adam asked.
 
“What happened?” Lucas shook his head. “He fell into the fire.”
 
“And he had to go to the doctor?” Sammy asked.
 
“Well actually…” Julie suddenly cleared her throat. “…Yes. The doctor fixed him all up and made him all better. He lived happily ever after and was a good wolf from then on out.”
 
“That’s a bunch of corn!” Laura declared as she rolled her eyes. “Everybody knows that mean ol’ wolf…”
 
“Laura Rose…” Abraham suddenly warned.
 
“Well, it’s true, Abe! You said…”
 
“Uh…never mind what I said. Now go and get Rachel dressed.”
 
“Yes sir.” Laura came and took Rachel’s hand. Rachel protested, but knew she had to obey Papa or else.
 
After breakfast, Lucas rode out with Abe to help with the crops. It was hard for them to keep the secret, but Julie had firmly warned them that she wanted to see the looks on their faces when the announcement was made. After lunch, Abe and Lucas readied to take the boys fishing. They insisted on helping to dig worms, and Julie permitted it saying they could take baths that afternoon before supper. The boys were too young to really understand much about fishing, but they loved to hold their poles in the water and watch the fish. Abe and Lucas caught a few fish and threw them back while Charlie caught a pretty good sized catfish and insisted he keep it to show Mama. Abe did his best to dissuade the little tike from keeping it, but didn’t have much luck.
 
Finally, Lucas kneeled down in front of Charlie. “You know…I think that fish is missing his own Mama.”
 
Charlie narrowed his five year old eyes at Lucas. “How cen ya tell he’s a lil’ boy?”
 
“Well…” Lucas scratched his chin. “Ever hear of a girl that had whiskers?”
 
Charlie giggled. “Never heared a lil’ boy who had whiskers?”
 
“You got me there.” Lucas smiled. “But he may have a little boy of his own. Now…what would ya think if somebody came and took your Pa then took him home to show to his Mama?”
 
“Would they bring Papa back?”
 
Lucas raised his head and looked at Abe. Abe shrugged his shoulders. “Well now…that fish lives in water. If he ain’t in water he’ll die. Then his little boy would NEVER see him again.”
 
“But Mama never seed my fish afore…” Charlie pouted.
 
“We’ll tell her about it. But I think it’s more important that you give his family back their Pa. What do you say?” Lucas lifted an eyebrow. Charlie nodded and threw the fish back into the water.
 
“Well…well…well…” Abe shook his head and chuckled. “I must say, Luke, that you certainly have a knack for kids!”
 
Lucas watched Charlie skip back towards the house. The other three boys followed close behind. “Well…I remember somebody telling me that story once.” Abe furrowed his brow. “You.”
 
“Me?” Abe asked in shock.
 
“Yep. You.”   Then Lucas chuckled. “And that story worked really great on me. In fact, it worked so great that the next time we went fishing and planned to keep the fish, I cried declaring we couldn’t take the fish from their children. Do you uh…remember that?”
 
“Oh Luke…We didn’t keep a fish when you were with us for a long time!” Abe scratched his head. “Why do I have a feeling I’m going to be mad at you the NEXT time I take Charlie fishing?” Lucas just laughed and hurried home.
 
***
 
 
By the time the Gibbs and McCain family got to Julie and Abe’s house, dinner was on the table. Julie had on her red dress that Abraham liked so much. The women were trying to get the seating arrangements formed when Laura suddenly shouted out, “Lucas and Margaret hafta sit together, especially since they are engaged now!”
 
The room suddenly grew deathly quiet. Lucas folded his arms and looked down at his little sister, shaking his head in disapproval. “Laura!” Julie reprimanded her adopted daughter. “How did you…”
 
“I…” Laura hung her head. “I’m sorry, Papa.” She lifted her eyes to Lucas. “I might have accidently heard last night.”
 
“Accidently?” Abe planted his hands on his hips. “I’d say a little girl was listening at the door to her bedroom. And we’ll talk about this later, young lady.”
 
Every eye turned toward Lucas and Margaret. Margaret blushed as Lucas put a tight arm around her shoulders. “It’s true,” Lucas said. “She finally agreed to marry me!”
 
Margaret nodded. “ONLY because he FINALLY managed to ask!”
 
“Oh, but he did ask when he was sick…” Jason started. “Oof…” he grunted when Emily elbowed him in the gut.
 
“This is wonderful news!” Emily declared. “Now the only McCain left to get married is…” She turned and looked at Laura.
 
Abe held up his hands, and Julie put a protective arm around the girl. “Oh no you don’t! This child has at least ten years left before we’ll even consider it!”
 
“But I’m eleven years old!” Laura argued suddenly.
 
“Hm…” Abe nodded. “So when you’re twenty-one, you can get married!”
 
“Oh, but…”
 
“I thought you think boys are gross?” Julie reminded her.
 
“Oh yeah. Gross!” Laura answered.
 
Everyone gathered around to congratulate the happy couple on their engagement. Julie held up her hands. “The women will get together to discuss wedding plans after supper! Right now, we must get to eating!” Julie turned and looked at Abe. “I know it’s not Thanksgiving, but I think we should do announcements.”
 
Abe lifted his head and stared at Julie. “What sort of announcements?”
 
“Well now, we haven’t been together in so long that…”
 
“What sort of ‘announcement’ do you want to make?” Abe suddenly asked. Concern was evident on his face.
 
“Well…” Julie bit her lip and smiled. “I’m going to have a baby!”
 
Nobody missed the groan that escaped her husband’s lips.
 
“OH MY!” Emily turned and stared at Jason. “So am I!”
 
“Now wait a minute!” Jason held up his hand to stifle the women’s giggling. “I’m the doctor here. Now, I knew Julie was pregnant, but…Emily???”
 
Emily giggled. “I wanted to find the right time to tell you, Dr. Livingston. I suppose this is the right time.” Jason hugged her.
 
“Well…” Lucas cleared his throat. “Maybe by Thanksgiving we’ll have an announcement to make.”
 
Margaret’s eyes grew wide and her mouth opened.
 
“Lucas McCain!” Several women gasped. Lucas just lifted his eyebrow and shrugged. Then Abraham led the happy family in prayer.
 
Margaret took Lucas’ hand. After the prayer, she led him outside the group of hungry eaters. They slipped outside. Lucas took her into his arms and gave her a long, deep kiss. “Well, future Margaret McCain…are you sure you want to enter my crazy, over-fertile family?”
 
“Over-fertile?” Margaret kissed him again. “They just have a lot of love to share is all, Lucas.”
 
“Oh?” Lucas chuckled. “If that’s the case, I’ve a feeling we’ll get those ten children right quick!”
 
Margaret gasped. “Lucas McCain!”
 
“Are you happy, my love?” Margaret lifted her face toward his once again and nodded her head. Neither one of them ate a thing. They very much enjoyed watching the family. Before Lucas had left for war, his brother Abe was the only one married. His parents only had one grandchild. Now, all four McCain brothers and Emily were married…at least that will be the case in a couple months. There were nine McCain grandchildren. Soon the number would increase to eleven.
 
There was a lot of love indeed. And it all started with one man and one woman a long time ago. Marcus and Ruth McCain had left a legacy. Lucas smiled at Margaret from across the room. He hoped that soon…very soon…he and Margaret could begin on their legacy. He mouthed “I love you” across the room. Then, after putting his hat on, he went out to walk the land his father had built…and to think of all the changes that would soon occur in his own life.
 
Finally, the proposal had occurred. In a month and a half, he would join in holy matrimony with Margaret. Though he felt excitement, the mere thought scared Lucas to death!

The Margaret Years — Aunt Gertrude and Grandma Bertha

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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