The Writer's Corner
Chapter 8 - Reclaiming
Written by Michelle Palmer
Margaret hadn’t really ever been out of Enid, Oklahoma. She knew
a whole world existed outside of their small town, but little
did she know what amazing things and places waited down that
road. She had attended Abraham McCain’s wedding in Fort Smith,
Arkansas years before; but she and Lucas were both rather young
and she didn’t remember much about the place.
Today, August 4, as the stage coach headed toward Oklahoma City,
Margaret stared out the window smiling at the buildings that
flew by. She had never seen so many homes so close together. It
was hard to tell where each yard ended and the next began. Some
homes hardly even had yards. Why, if a person was to stand
outside their door, it was very likely that he or she could be
standing in the next yard. As they got closer to the middle of
town, more and more houses appeared. Then soon, instead of
houses, she was now seeing buildings of different shapes and
sizes. Soon after the buildings appeared, the driver said
“We’re here, Margaret,” Aunt Gertrude declared as she accepted
the hand held out to her and stepped off the stage coach.
Margaret stepped down after her and was quite surprised when her
Aunt began yelling at the driver to be careful with their
trunks. More concerned about her grandmother than her baggage,
Margaret quickly turned to see Grandma Bertha still trying to
make her way out of the coach with little assistance from one of
the drivers. Margaret hurried back to the coach. “Here, Grandma.
Let me help.”
Grandma Bertha was relieved and tiredly smiled her thanks for
the help her granddaughter offered her. She looked so tired. She
could hardly stand as Margaret put an arm around the feeble
woman and assisted her to the nearby bench. Margaret could tell
her grandmother was parched from the long coach ride. She
hurried to go get her grandmother some water, and worried that
Grandma Bertha needed to be getting home and in bed. “Aunt
Gertrude!” Margaret called out to her aunt, concern weighing
heavy on her face. She patiently waited for her aunt to finally
stop yelling at the driver and turn to her. “I think Grandma
Bertha’s mighty tired. We should get her home, and soon!”
Aunt Gertrude rolled her eyes and declared they were all tired.
She needed to get the trunks loaded on the wagon, and then they
would start for home. Margaret suddenly wanted to protect her
feeble grandmother and kept an arm around her shoulders as she
helped her sip the water. Grandma Bertha was so tired that her
eyes could barely stay open. Margaret knew Grandma Bertha needed
a good rest, and was a bit…no, not just a bit…She was very
unnerved that her aunt was more concerned with their precious
trunks than her own mother.
Finally, they were on their way to the waiting buggy. Aunt
Gertrude hurried into the buggy, giving no thought to her ailing
mother who needed her help. Margaret slowly led her grandmother
to the buggy, and was quite frustrated that nobody offered the
older woman any assistance. It was quite a struggle, but she
somehow managed to help Grandma Bertha up into the buggy with no
assistance from her aunt. Margaret kept a protective arm around
her grandma’s shoulders and allowed herself to give her aunt an
annoyed expression, letting her know in no uncertain terms that
she was not happy with the treatment her grandmother had
received. As they started down the road, Margaret allowed
Grandma Bertha’s head to fall on her shoulders as they rode for
home. A buckboard carrying their trunks followed behind them.
Margaret couldn’t stop a gasp from escaping her throat when she
saw the house her Grandma and Aunt claimed come into sight. Aunt
Gertrude accepted the offered assistance from the buggy and
immediately started calling out orders, giving no thought to her
mother who still sat in the buggy. Margaret slowly stepped down
and helped her grandmother inside the house. When they got
inside, Aunt Gertrude proudly told Margaret she would show her
around the house, but Margaret insisted Aunt Gertrude help her
get Grandma Bertha to bed. She could not believe her aunt
couldn’t see the exhaustion in her grandmother’s face!
Only after Margaret was satisfied that her Grandmother was
comfortable did Margaret allow her aunt to take her arm and lead
her throughout the house. To say that she was impressed with the
two-story house would be an understatement. Aunt Gertrude was
rather proud of the house as she showed Margaret around. In
fact, Margaret was left with the impression that Aunt Gertrude,
herself, had modeled the house when the truth was Grandma Bertha
had been the one to structure the house a short time after her
husband had died. Margaret endured Aunt Gertrude’s prideful
speech and even commented on the beauty of the wrap-around porch
that circled the house. The back of the porch was enclosed with
a screen; something that Margaret knew would be expensive. She
would enjoy sitting out on that porch in the evenings.
In time, Aunt Gertrude went to order her cook to fix supper.
Margaret decided to go freshen up and check on her grandmother.
It bothered Margaret that her aunt wasn’t paying much attention
to her own mother. That was something she’d have to watch.
Margaret’s heart went out to her grandmother. There was
something about her that Margaret was drawn to, and in time
she’d learn what that was.
After supper that evening, Margaret walked to the telegraph
office and sent Lucas her promised telegram. It wasn’t a long
walk since Aunt Gertrude’s house was on the edge of town. She
simply told him she had arrived safely and that she loved him
and missed him. She longed to be back in Enid planning her
wedding and getting their home ready!
The calendar on the wall read August 6 and Margaret had been in
Oklahoma City for two days when her aunt came into the parlor
one evening to talk to her. “So…you like this house?” Aunt
Gertrude held a prideful expression on her face as she stood in
front of Margaret and looked down at her, sweeping her hand
around as if the contents of her house were prized artifacts in
Margaret nodded, but didn’t allow herself to return the prideful
smile. “It’s fancy.” But she did allow a small smile as she
thought of the wrap-around porch. “Oh, I love the porch…I can
only imagine the enjoyment you get sitting on such a large porch
that goes all around the house!”
“The possibilities in the city are endless, Margaret.” Aunt
Gertrude sat down next to her on the couch as she gently put an
arm around her shoulders. “Tomorrow, we shall go into town. I’ll
show you some of the shops we have here. Why, we even have a hat
shop.” She laughed gaily. “I bet you’ve never in your life seen
a hat shop!”
Margaret looked up from her sewing and turned to look at her
aunt in question. “A…hat shop?” Aunt Gertrude nodded. “You
mean…all they do is…sell hats?” She nodded again. Margaret shook
her head as she stood up. “No. I’ve never seen a…hat shop.” She
yawned. Stretching, she announced, “Well, I think I’ll turn in.
Oh…when we go into town tomorrow, we’ll have to go by the
telegraph office so I can send Luke the telegram, letting him
know I’m okay.”
“You did that the day we arrived, dear,” Aunt Gertrude’s
impatient voice reminded Margaret.
“I know.” Margaret smiled. “I’ll do it again the day after
tomorrow. I don’t want him to worry. He told me he wouldn’t
worry so much if I sent him a telegram every other day.”
Margaret turned from her aunt, so she missed the expression of
disappointment and disgust on her aunt’s face. “Oh. So he
doesn’t trust you…”
“Of course he trusts me!” Margaret looked down at her hands.
Aunt Gertrude stood up. “Margaret, I wanted to ask you
“Yes?” Margaret turned to look at Aunt Gertrude.
“There’s…a gathering tomorrow night I would like you to go to.”
She turned from Margaret and went to look out of one of the
large windows. “It’s at a rancher’s house tomorrow night. The
rancher’s name is…Dallas Parnell. He throws dances in his house
all the time.” She turned and looked at Margaret. “Will you
come? Everyone will be there.”
“Everyone?” Margaret lifted an eyebrow in doubt.
“Well…” Aunt Gertrude gave a short laugh. “Everyone
“Oh, I see. Well, I…” Margaret bit her lip. “I couldn’t dance
with anyone. Not without Luke here…”
“Oh, Margaret…” Aunt Gertrude ticked her tongue. “They’ll be
more than dancing. There’s a feast, and then a lot of the women
talk while the men enjoy their time with cigars and fine
spirits. Please…” Aunt Gertrude crossed the room and clasped
Margaret’s hand. “Please say you’ll come, dear.”
Margaret smiled, realizing how much this meant to her aunt. “Of
Lucas cursed as he stuck his thumb in his mouth. Abe turned and
slowly made his way over to his brother. “What’s wrong now?”
“Banged my finger!” Lucas declared as he examined it.
“Yes. But WHY did you bang your finger?”
Lucas glared at his brother. “You know why!”
“She’s fine, Luke. You got the telegram from her three days ago
when she arrived.”
Lucas nodded. “And our brother better be bringing me another
“What’s got you so riled about this?” Abe folded his arms and
cocked his head to one side. “You went off for a whole year
without an explanation to anyone, and expected us to just accept
you back with open arms. Margaret asks to go on one little trip
before she marries you, and you act as if she’s abandoned you
and is never coming back.”
“It’s not the being apart that’s bothering me. It’s…”
Abe nodded. “…Aunt Gertrude.” Lucas sighed. “Why did you let her
get under your skin like that?” Lucas grumbled. “Luke,
Margaret’s a pretty intelligent woman. She would know rather her
aunt’s being sincere or not.”
“Margaret wanted it very badly. We know how dangerous that can
be.” Lucas turned and started pounding again. “Besides, you know
how good my instincts are. I just don’t like this. Something’s
wrong. I know it is…”
“Then why did you let her go?”
Lucas paused and turned to look at Abe. “Abe, Margaret’s a woman
who knows her own mind. You think my saying no would have
Abe paused for a moment before answering. “Lucas, let me tell
you something about women…” Abe smiled. “My wife is a very
independent woman, Luke; but she wouldn’t go against me like
that…not for something like this. She’d be angry with me and it
would cause problems in our marriage for a spell…in fact it
has…but she wouldn’t outright defy me.” Abe lifted his eyebrows.
“Neither would Margaret.”
“Yeah…” Lucas cursed under his breath again. “Maybe that’s why I
let her go. Because I knew…deep inside…that she wouldn’t go if I
said no…yet she’d resent me.” Lucas turned and looked at his
brother. “Sometimes I think women are nothing but trouble.”
Abe chuckled as he patted Lucas on the back. “Oh…You’ve no
On Tuesday, August 7, Margaret and Aunt Gertrude spent the whole
day shopping. Well, it was more like Aunt Gertrude spent the day
shopping, and it seemed she shopped for only herself. Margaret
spent more time looking at everything than shopping. She was
mesmerized by all the various shops Oklahoma City had. There
were several dress shops, shops just for men, and even a small
toy shop. Margaret would have to tell Lucas about this when she
When they arrived back to the house that afternoon, Aunt
Gertrude called to Michael, her servant. “Please draw two baths,
for Margaret and me. We must get ready for the party.” She flung
her purchases down on the couch and removed her gloves.
Margaret watched Aunt Gertrude walk toward the kitchen. She had
quite enough of her negligent attitude toward Grandma Bertha, so
she hastily followed her aunt into the kitchen. “Where’s Grandma
Bertha?” Her voice was accusing, and Margaret knew her
accusation riled her aunt from the expression on her aunt’s
face. It concerned Margaret that her grandmother was hardly ever
mentioned, and Aunt Gertrude didn’t ask of her welfare the
moment she came in from being gone all day.
“Oh, she’s around,” Aunt Gertrude answered with a flip of her
hand. “She likes to sit out on the porch and look over the land
or take long naps.”
“Aunt Gertrude, Grandma Bertha isn’t well!” Margaret argued with
irritation in her voice. “She should be looked after! Can’t you
see she can no longer take care of herself?”
“Oh, of course she can!” Aunt Gertrude poured herself a glass of
milk. “She’s just trying to get attention with her dragging
around here like some invalid…I’m sure Michael looks after her
“She shouldn’t be Michael’s responsibility,” Margaret stated
with a sharp click of her tongue. She just couldn’t hold herself
back from stating that fact. “You should be caring for her.
She’s your mother, after all! Shouldn’t you check on her?
Shouldn’t you at least try to pretend you care?”
Margaret tried to keep the judgmental tone from her voice, but
she just couldn’t! Aunt Gertrude remained quiet for a few
moments. Margaret jumped when Aunt Gertrude sat the glass down
with a hard bang and turned around. She narrowed her eyes at
Margaret. “Your Grandmother never cared for me, so why should I
concern myself with such matters?” She turned back around. “You
should go get ready for your bath. We’ll leave at five for the
Margaret seethed, but kept her anger at bay. She would see to
her Grandmother before caring for her own needs. “I can draw my
own bath,” Margaret declared as she turned and hurried from the
room. When she saw Michael, she told him as much, and assured
him she wouldn’t need his assistance in any matter that
concerned her or her grandmother. “And I’d like to see my
“She’s out on the back porch, ma’am.” Michael gave her a long
look. “Why do YOU want to see her?”
Margaret gave him a confused look. “Why wouldn’t I want to see
her?” she asked. ”She’s my grandmother.”
“She is.” Michael’s voice calmed a bit. “Your aunt don’t care
‘bout her welfare none. Why should you?” Margaret just stared at
him. Michael turned and hurried away.
Margaret walked out onto the back porch and crouched down next
to her grandmother. She kissed her cheek and could smell the
odor on her body. “Hello, Grandma Bertha.” Her heart ached at
the unkempt caring her grandmother had received. The fact that
her grandmother, who owned most of the house and the money, was
being forced to live like a dirt poor beggar irked her terribly.
“Yes…yes…” Grandma Bertha mumbled as she stared out over the
Margaret lifted a hand to her grandmother’s hair and started to
run a hand through it, but she paused. Her hair was gritty and
matted. Margaret’s heart sank at the realization that her
Grandmother was indeed being neglected. “Oh Grandmother…”
Margaret felt sick to her stomach as she realized a cold, hard
truth. Her aunt was cruel and unfeeling. She began to wonder if
Lucas was right – if Aunt Gertrude had brought her here under
false pretenses. She turned her attention back to her
grandmother. “Your hair needs washing. Would you like a bath?”
“Oh Grandmother…I wish you could hear me. I want to tell you I
love you, and I want to take care of you.” Margaret sighed.
“Come on…Let’s get you inside so you can take a bath.” Suddenly,
to Margaret’s surprise, Grandma Bertha turned and smiled at her
as she rested an old, worn hand on Margaret’s cheek. There was
something in her grandmother’s eyes…something that made
Margaret’s heart swell. “Why, you CAN hear me…You CAN respond…”
Margaret stood up and took her grandmother’s hands. “Come on,
Grandma Bertha. Let’s get you all prettied up.”
As they started inside, Aunt Gertrude entered the sitting room
and watched as Margaret started up the staircase with Grandma
Bertha. “Just what do you think you are doing with my mother?”
Aunt Gertrude planted her hands on her hips and glared at
Margaret paused and turned to look at Aunt Gertrude. “I’m going
to give MY grandmother a bath. Seems nobody else in this house
“There’s no time!” Aunt Gertrude declared. “The party…”
“The party?” Margaret kept a hand on her grandmother to keep her
from falling but leaned toward her aunt. “Is that ALL you care
about? The party??? That party, Aunt Gertrude, is not important!
Grandma Bertha is a living, breathing human being! She needs a
bath. She deserves to be clean as much as any of us, Aunt
“She can take care of herself!” Aunt Gertrude declared with a
disgusted look. “You needn’t waste your time giving her a bath!”
“It’s not a waste of time!” Margaret turned and looked at her
grandmother again. Grandma Bertha suddenly looked as if she were
about to cry. Margaret had to pause for a moment to gain control
of her emotions. “She can’t take care of herself anymore!“
Margaret shook her head. “Can’t you see that? She needs your
help. She needs your love.”
“Well…” Aunt Gertrude humphed. “She’s never needed MY love!”
Aunt Gertrude turned away from her niece. “We mustn’t be late
for the party. Don’t waste your time with her. I’ll…” She
flipped her hand. “I’ll see if the cook can bathe her later.”
“The cook?” Margaret looked toward the ceiling in disbelief.
“She doesn’t need a cook! She needs her FAMILY!” Margaret felt
like she was talking to a wall. “I’ll bathe her now,” Margaret
declared firmly as tears caught in her throat. “I’ll care for
her!” Margaret turned on her heels and continued helping her
feeble grandmother up the stairs. “If I make it to the party, I
make it to the party. But I’ll only go once my grandmother is
clean and pretty and comfortable.”
Margaret sat her grandmother down in her room while she worked
at readying a tub of water. She fumed over the fact that Aunt
Gertrude didn’t seem to care about her mother. Regardless of how
badly Aunt Gertrude ‘felt’ she’d been treated over the years,
Margaret didn’t feel that a daughter had the right to neglect
the woman who had given her life.
Margaret helped her grandmother into the tub and held tight to
her as she bathed her. She allowed Grandma Bertha to do as much
for herself as she could, but there were limits to how much she
could do. During those times, Margaret took the rag and washed
her. The whole time, Margaret spoke gently to her and smiled at
her. Margaret scrubbed Grandma Bertha’s hair until her arms
ached. She washed her matted hair three times before her hair
was clean enough to pass Margaret’s inspection. “We just have to
get all that dirt from the trail out of your hair! My, but I had
to scrub my hair twice myself that first night. I’m so sorry I
didn’t help you bathe then. I didn’t realize...” Margaret
allowed her voice to die. “Grandma Bertha, I promise you that as
long as I’m here, I’ll make sure you stay clean and pretty. ”
After the bath, Margaret worked at drying the hair before
brushing it out and putting it up into a bun. Her grandmother’s
hair was still quite thick and took awhile to dry. Margaret
prettied Grandma Bertha’s hair, allowing some whips of grey hair
to curl around her face. When she was satisfied, Margaret let
her look in the mirror. “There now.” She kissed her grandmother
on the cheek. “Would you like to stay and keep me company while
I get myself ready for the party?”
“Yes…Yes…” Grandma Bertha’s eyes shined, silently thanking
Margaret for her assistance.
“I don’t really want to go, you know…I’d rather stay here and
keep you company.” Margaret sighed. “But…I’ve learned that with
Aunt Gertrude, going along with her is sometimes easier than
“Yes…” The way Grandma Bertha said the word made Margaret
understand the strain her grandmother had lived under.
After her own bath, Margaret talked about anything and
everything to her grandmother while she readied herself for the
party she really didn’t want to go to. Perhaps tomorrow she
could spend some time reading to her Grandma Bertha from the
Bible. She would make a point to spend more time with her during
Margaret made her way down the stairs to her Aunt Gertrude, who
by this point was seething at what time it was. “Its half past
five now! I hope you’re happy!” Aunt Gertrude grabbed her
handbag and gave herself one more look in the mirror. “You know
we are late for the party, don’t you? Oh…I hate being late! How
will I ever explain this to our host?”
Margaret cleared her throat. “Perhaps, Aunt Gertrude, you can
simply explain that I was caring for YOUR mother.”
Aunt Gertrude turned form the mirror and stared Margaret up and
down with a disapproving eye. “Is that what you’re going to
wear?” Margaret looked down at her dress, wondering what could
possibly be wrong with it. “Why don’t you wear that yellow dress
of yours I saw you looking at the other day when you were
“I didn’t bring that dress,” Margaret answered as she smoothed
her dress in the mirror.
Margaret turned. “Luke bought that dress for me to wear to a
dance with him. It’s a bit too…revealing…to wear among
strangers. I don’t want to give anyone the idea that I’m
available.” Margaret started out the door. She didn’t see the
look on her aunt’s face. If she had, perhaps she would have
never gone to the party that would, in time, prove to be a big
Aunt Gertrude apologized profusely to the host as he held a
brandy in one hand and a cigar in his mouth. He smiled kindly,
but couldn’t take his eyes off of Margaret, who stood quietly
beside her aunt waiting to be introduced. “Oh…” Aunt Gertrude
turned and rested a hand on Margaret’s arm. “This is my niece
whom I was telling you about…Margaret Gibbs, meet Dallas
Dallas nodded to her as he took her hand and kissed it. “Miss
Gibbs…It’s a pleasure.”
“Thank you.” His hand lingered on hers as he smiled at her.
Margaret snatched her hand away, suddenly feeling uncomfortable
under the strong gaze of his eyes. She wanted to escape from
this man. She couldn’t explain it, but she felt so strange
standing before him. Margaret turned and looked at her aunt,
asking ‘what now?’ She could already tell that this wasn’t a
party like those she attended back home. There were a lot of
classy people in this room. She could tell by the way they
dressed that they had money.
“Your aunt told me your father’s a rancher.”
“Yes.” Margaret nodded and smiled politely as she turned her
attention back to her host. “We have a nice ranch in Enid. We’re
not rich, and it’s nothing like the one you have…but we’re very
happy.” Margaret cleared her throat. “I’m actually going to…”
“Oh my…I see someone I wanted to talk to.” Aunt Gertrude’s voice
suddenly interrupted Margaret’s words. She smiled at her niece.
“If you’ll excuse me…” Before Margaret could do or say anything,
her aunt disappeared into the crowd.
Mr. Parnell nodded to her aunt and watched her leave. Margaret
suddenly felt very uncomfortable to be left alone with this man
she didn’t know. She wondered why her aunt had suddenly lit off
like she had. Margaret turned back to her host and smiled
politely. “To be honest with you, Mr. Parnell…I’ve never
actually…attended a party quite like this.”
“Oh?” Mr. Parnell turned to walk toward the bar. “Would you like
a drink? Perhaps some Champaign?”
“Oh, uh…no.” Margaret lowered her head bashfully. She’d never
been offered spirits before.
“Fine.” Mr. Parnell smiled. “There are some ladies in the
parlor. Or perhaps there are a few ladies in my library.
Sometimes they go in there to look at my collection. I’m sure
you’d like to see it?”
“You have a…a library?” Margaret’s eyes shone. Mr. Parnell sat
down his glass and urged her to follow him. She walked into a
room that served as an office, and all four walls were lined
with shelves. Every shelf was filled with books. Margaret walked
into the room and stared at the shelves and shelves of books.
She ran her hand along the spines and smiled.
“I’ve all the classics. Perhaps you could borrow a book to
“Oh, I’m only here for a short time,” Margaret answered. “I’ve
just come to do some shopping for my wedding.”
“Your wedding?” Mr. Parnell leaned against the doorjamb. “You’re
“Didn’t my aunt tell you?”
Margaret suddenly felt very uncomfortable. She had a sinking
feeling that her aunt had kept this information from Mr. Parnell
on purpose. “Perhaps I should go find the ladies.”
Margaret started to go, but Mr. Parnell put his hand up in the
door to stop her. “This man you’re marrying…what does he do?”
“He’s a rancher,” Margaret answered simply. She tried to pass
him again, but his hand remained firm against the door frame.
“And you love him?”
Margaret’s lips parted slightly as she let out a small gasp. “I
would like to leave, now, sir.”
“Certainly.” Mr. Parnell smiled down at her as he shifted to one
side, giving her just enough room to squeeze through. Margaret
closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then she hurried past
him, cringing as she brushed against him on her way out.
Margaret hurried to the parlor to join the women. They were all
very nice, and she learned a lot about the well-to-do in
Oklahoma City. Some were married with children and discussed the
joys and challenges of caring for the family. The women all
seemed happy with their lot in life, and Margaret was surprised
to learn just how many hadn’t married for love.
It was getting rather late, and many of the guests had left. She
was growing very bored of the prideful conversations and gossip
that seemed to be the women’s lot in life. Such conversation
didn’t interest Margaret in the least. Margaret searched her
aunt out and informed her she was rather tired and would like to
excuse herself and go home. “Oh, but you’ve hardly talked with
Mr. Parnell!” Aunt Gertrude suddenly argued.
Margaret lifted her eyebrows. Dread suddenly entered her as she
mentally began to lift the blinders from her eyes. Now, she was
able to see Aunt Gertrude’s whole reason for bringing her to
Oklahoma City. “Why would I want to talk to him?” Margaret asked
calmly as she folded her arms. With a question in her voice, she
stated, “And I’ve yet to meet MRS. Parnell.”
Aunt Gertrude turned and smiled nervously at her friend, with
whom she’d been talking when Margaret walked up. Then she turned
back to Margaret. In an accusing tone of voice, she gave
Margaret a piece of information that confirmed her suspicions.
“Dear…Mr. Parnell is a widower. His wife died a while back in
Texas, and he’s yet to meet another.”
Margaret stared at her aunt, suddenly feeling sick to her
stomach. “Is THAT why you brought me here tonight?” She licked
her lips angrily. “Aunt Gertrude, I want to leave. NOW!” With
that, Margaret turned and hurried toward the door.
Margaret could hear her aunt apologizing for her rudeness as she
walked away. Margaret waited at the door, seething with anger
against her aunt. She thought her aunt had accepted her and
Lucas, but now she could see that wasn’t true. Lucas had been
right. She should have listened to him! “Are you leaving, Miss
Gibbs?” Margaret turned to see Mr. Parnell hurrying up to her.
That same stupid smile was on his face as he looked her from top
to bottom. “I’d hope you’d stay and see the rest of the ranch
house. It’s quite exquisite.” He looked her up and down a second
time. “I figure a woman like you would uh…find it
Margaret felt sickened by this man’s bold underlying question.
“I’m sorry. My Grandmother isn’t well and I want to check on
“Then perhaps you could come for dinner tomorrow. You could
Margaret straightened up to her full height and glared at this
bold man who stood in front of her. “In answer to the question
you asked earlier, Mr. Parnell, I am very much in love with my
fiancé. I have loved him for a long time, and plan to marry him
as soon as I get back. Goodnight.”
Margaret turned and hurried from the house. She climbed into the
buggy where the driver sat and waited for her aunt to come out.
Aunt Gertrude finally came out. She silently got into the buggy
and waited to speak until the buggy had pulled away. When she
did speak, her voice was very low and accusing. “Margaret, you
were quite rude with my friends!”
“I didn’t mean to be,” Margaret answered tartly. She turned and
glared at her aunt. “You were dishonest with me. You lied to
me!” She didn’t try to sugar coat her words. They came out as if
she was lashing out at her aunt.
“I just want what’s best for you.” Margaret turned away. Tears
stung her eyes, but she held them at bay. She wouldn’t give her
aunt the satisfaction of seeing her cry. Margaret refused to
look at her or talk to her anymore. The moment the buggy stopped
at the gate, Margaret got down and hurried inside. She paused,
her back to the door and waited for Aunt Gertrude to come
inside. Aunt Gertrude gently closed the door. “Margaret…” She
said her name softly. “Margaret…I’m…”
“Don’t!” Margaret turned, tears falling freely down her face
now. “Don’t you dare try to make excuses for what you’ve done!”
Margaret hastily wiped at her tears. “I…excuse a lot of
things…But your outright deception…your…your…TRCKING me under
false pretenses…I just cannot believe…” Margaret paused and
closed her eyes as she pressed her fingers to her forehead.
“Luke was right. I should have listened to him.” She lifted her
head back up to her aunt and raised her chin in the air. “Now,
you listen, and you listen good, Aunt Gertrude. I will be very
happy with Luke.” Margaret clinched her fists to her side.
“I’m rather tired.” Margaret started for the stairs. “And I want
to check on Grandmother.” She climbed the stairs. Over her
shoulder, she said, “Goodnight, Aunt Gertrude, and thank you for
the lovely evening.” The tone in her voice was laced with
sarcasm. Margaret wasn’t a spiteful person, but tonight she
hoped her words hurt Aunt Gertrude.
Margaret softly knocked on her grandmother’s bedroom door then
opened it. Moonlight shone in the window, allowing Margaret to
have a good view of the room. She saw her grandmother tucked in
her bed. Something was clasped in her hand. Margaret opened the
hand and lifted out a picture. It was a picture of her
grandmother and all the children when they were little.
“Oh…Grandma…” Margaret bent down and softly laid a kiss on her
grandmother’s cheek. Then she turned and hurried from the room
to go and cry herself to sleep.
August 8, 1866
Dallas Parnell stood from the table that morning and went to
stare out the window. “Mr. Parnell, you be wantin’ more
Dallas turned and looked at his cook. “Uh…no, Rosie. That’ll be
all.” Rosie started to clear the table. “Rosie…that woman at the
party last night…Miss Gibbs.”
“She’s purty, alright…”
“Yes.” Dallas nodded his head. “Do you know how long she’s
“I’s hear her aunt a talkin’ last night whilest I was a servin’
th’ food.” Rosie chuckled. “Her aunt a sayin’ that gal a hers’ a
stayin’ here fer as long as she cen keep her. Wants a her ta
find a nice, rich fella…” Rosie shook her head. “Jest likea her
Mama, she is…”
“Rosie…” Dallas turned to look at his cook. “Would you please
send Jed in here?”
Dallas turned back to look out the window. He folded his hands
behind his back as he patiently waited. Finally, he heard
footsteps behind him as spurs jingled. “Mr. Parnell, you needed
Dallas turned with a nod as he looked at his foreman. He
clinched the back of the chair with his hands. “There’s
something I want…and as you know, I always get what I want.”
“Yes sir,” Jed answered.
“It’s a woman…by the name of Margaret Gibbs. She’s going to
marry me very soon. I…may need your assistance.”
“Miss Gibbs…I saw her last night at the party.”
“Indeed.” Dallas slowly slid a cigar from his pocket and put it
in his mouth. He took his time in lighting it, then toyed with
his string tie as he took a long smoke. “That woman will make
some fine children. I…won’t push her, but in the end she’ll be
mine.” He smiled as he chewed on the end of his cigar. “Just in
case I’m unsuccessful in my attempts, here’s what I want you to
That same morning just outside town, Margaret brushed her
grandmother’s hair and helped her get cleaned up for the day.
“You love your family, don’t you? Oh, you don’t have to answer,
Grandmother. I know you do.” Margaret continued brushing her
grandmother’s hair. “Your hair is beautiful, just like my
mother’s. I can see where she got her beautiful, long hair.”
Margaret continued to brush. “You know…when I was little, I
remember my mother telling me about you brushing her hair when
she was little. You would sing to her. I love to sing. I think I
got that from you.” Margaret twisted her grandmother’s hair and
put it up in a bun. “There. Now, I would love for you to eat
breakfast with me.” Margaret watched her grandmother in the
mirror and saw the hesitation in her eyes. Margaret stepped in
front of her and stooped down to Grandma Bertha’s eye-level.
“Now, if Aunt Gertrude has a problem with it, she’ll have to eat
alone, because I want to eat breakfast with you, Grandma
They made their way down the stairs. Margaret took it slow, not
wanting to rush her grandmother. As they sat down at the table,
Aunt Gertrude looked up from the book she was reading and
gasped. “Margaret, Mother likes to eat in her room.”
“Did she tell you that?” Margaret asked as she lifted an
eyebrow. “Or is THAT the way YOU want it?”
“Of course not. I…” She slammed the book closed and straightened
up as she slowly began eating.
Margaret took her grandmother’s hand and bowed her head. “For
this food set before us, may we be grateful. Bless it and the
hands that prepared it. Amen.”
Aunt Gertrude looked a bit flustered as Margaret looked up at
her, but she quickly recovered, ready for round two. “About last
night…This man…Mr. Parnell…He’s a fine rancher. He’s one of the
richest ranchers in these parts, and he owns a lot of land. He’s
young and nice-looking, if that’s important to you.”
“It’s not,” Margaret answered as she put the scrambled eggs on
her grandmother’s plate.
“Well, I just assumed…I mean…the farmer…”
Margaret sat down the bowl of eggs harder than intended. “His
name is Lucas McCain, Aunt Gertrude,” Margaret declared
impatiently. “I wish you would call him that.” Margaret took a
bite of eggs. When her mouth was empty, she said, “And Luke is
very handsome, but that’s not why I fell in love with him. I’d
love him even if he was the ugliest man on earth! I love him for
what’s inside, because someday he’ll be old and his looks will
wear away.” Margaret took a drink of coffee before continuing.
“You can’t love someone based on looks or money. That’s shallow,
and I’m not shallow.”
“Then what do you WANT in a man?” Aunt Gertrude asked quite
“What Lucas has.”
“What IS that exactly?”
Margaret paused in her eating to look at her aunt. She chose not
to answer that question, but instead asked one of her own.
“This…gentleman that you were in love with…why did you love
Aunt Gertrude lifted her shoulders in a stubborn stance. “We
aren’t talking about him!”
“Aren’t we?” Margaret spread her hand into the air. “Isn’t that
what all this is about? That you didn’t get the happiness you
wanted, so neither should I? Is that even fair?”
Aunt Gertrude pressed her lips together and refused to answer.
“I would like to go shopping for my wedding dress today,”
Margaret sternly announced.
“I’m busy.” Aunt Gertrude busied herself with her eggs. “I…have
the women’s society coming over here this afternoon.”
“I see.” Margaret finished her breakfast in silence. “I’m
anxious to get home. I’d like to go shopping today. You don’t
have to come with me.”
“You can’t!” Aunt Gertrude insisted. “Margaret, I want you to
come to the meeting…to meet these women.”
“Why?” Margaret folded her arms. “So you can show me just how
happy they are, even though they married for money instead of
“Oh, but they are! Why, they’re happier because they don’t have
to scrape by, worrying where the family’s next meal will come
Margaret shook her head as she stood and helped her grandmother
to her feet. “They put on a good act, but I assure you that when
problems arise, they are quite miserable. I’m sure the husband
she married for money won’t give her the comfort my husband will
someday give me when things get really rough.”
Margaret started out the door. “You promised me two weeks,”
Gertrude suddenly shouted as she stood from the table.
Margaret paused and turned back. “And I’ll give you those two
weeks, Aunt Gertrude…as long as you behave.” She turned and
looked at her grandmother. “It will give me some time to decide
on a few things.” Margaret smiled at her grandmother. “Come on,
let’s get you settled on the porch.”
Margaret read from the Bible for awhile, and was surprised at
just how much life came into her Grandmother’s face as she read.
Margaret wondered just how well Aunt Gertrude really knew this
woman that sat beside her. She didn’t seem like the person her
aunt had described…not at all. Margaret saw a deep love in her
spirit. There was an aching to love in her eyes, and they seemed
to shine anytime Margaret was around. Margaret longed to get to
know the woman who had given her own mother life. “Oh, if only
you could talk….” Margaret reached out and took her
grandmother’s hand. “Would you like some soup?” Grandma Bertha
turned and smiled at Margaret. Margaret smiled back. “I’ll get
you some before I leave for town.”
After getting her Grandmother settled in the parlor, Margaret
readied herself for town. She soon returned to the parlor and
kissed her grandmother, promising she’d be back before supper.
They’d go for a short walk. “You can use the exercise,” Margaret
said. Before she left, she sought the cook out and requested she
put Grandma Bertha down for her nap in an hour. The cook
surprised Margaret by smiling and nodding her head.
Margaret turned to leave. “Miss Gibbs…” Margaret turned to look
at Patsy. Patsy gave her a thankful smile. “I haven’t seen life
in those eyes for a long time. I wish you’d take her away from
this dreadful place. Allow her eyes to shine.”
Patsy’s words stung Margaret, it hurt knowing her own fears were
being confirmed. She quickly turned and hurried away without
saying a word. As she left to go to town, Margaret realizxed
just how neglected her grandmother had been over the last years.
Perhaps her getting better had something to do with the
treatment she was now receiving. Aunt Gertrude hardly ever
looked at her Grandmother, and Margaret wondered if Aunt
Gertrude’s taking Grandma Bertha to Enid was just for appearance
sake only…to make herself look like the loving, devoted older
daughter she wanted everyone to believe she was.
The shopping trip turned out to be promising. Scott had wired
some money to the bank in Oklahoma City for her to make
purchases, and Margaret had narrowed her choice of wedding
dresses down to two. Oh, how she wished her mother and Amanda
were here to help her decide! How she wished Ann could help her
shop for her dress!
Margaret stepped out of the dress shop and practically ran into
Dallas Parnell. Mr. Parnell chuckled as he took her shoulders
and pushed her back at arm’s length. Again, his eyes strayed,
looking at her from top to bottom. “Where’s the fire?” he teased
as he smiled into her eyes.
“I’m sorry.” Margaret straightened up. “I should have watched
where I was going.” Margaret stepped out of reach and shuddered
at the look he continued to give her.
“How’s your grandmother?” He asked suddenly.
Margaret paused at the question. She gave him a small smile.
“She’s getting better.” She opened her hand bag and took out the
letter she had to mail to Lucas. “If you’ll excuse me…”
“Wait!” Margaret turned to look at Mr. Parnell. “I wanted
to…apologize for last night. I had no call to speak to you the
way I did…you being engaged and all.”
“It’s alright. I’m sure you meant no harm. I’m…sorry for any
“I would love if you and your aunt would come over for dinner
tonight. I’ve a few…close friends who will be there.”
Yes, Margaret was sure there would be several…close friends
there. She was beginning to see through this man, and saw him
for the brute he was. “I’m sorry. I can’t.” Margaret hurried
Dallas Parnell clinched his jaw as he watched her go. This would
require some thinking. “Maybe not today, Miss Gibbs…but
soon…very, very soon.”
After mailing her letter, Margaret walked back home. She found
her Aunt in her flower garden still fuming over the fact that
Margaret had gone shopping for a wedding dress. Stiffly, Aunt
Gertrude asked if she had found what she was looking for.
Margaret nodded, stating she had found a few dresses she really
liked. Since she was only getting married once, she wanted to
think on just which dress Lucas would like the best. Her
announcement made Aunt Gertrude make some noises under her
breath and return to her flowers.
“I ran into your rancher friend…Mr. Parnell,” Margaret announced
“Oh?” Aunt Gertrude paused in her work, waiting for Margaret to
“Yes. It seems he’s having some friends over tonight for dinner
and wondered if we’d join him.” Margaret waited for her aunt to
turn and look at her. “I refused his invitation. I would like to
spend more time getting to know my family. But if you so desire
to go, I’ll understand.” Margaret saw the question in her eyes.
“But I won’t be joining you.”
Finally, she questioned, “Your…family?” She shook her head. “I
don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve been spending time
with your family.
Margaret nodded. “You told me I could meet my uncles. Where are
Gertrude turned back around and again busied herself with her
flowers. “Dinner’s in an hour. Perhaps you should go rest.”
Margaret paused for only a moment, wondering just where her
uncle’s were. Obviously, there was more to this story. She
decided to let it drop for now.
The next day, Margaret spent a lot of time with her grandmother.
She told her grandmother all about Lucas, which made her miss
him even more. She read from the Bible, then did some sewing on
articles she would need for her new home. In fact, for the next
three days, Margaret spent a lot of time with her Grandmother.
Aunt Gertrude made appearances every now and then, but was quite
solemn when they were together.
Margaret continued to mentally mark the days off the calendar to
when she could return home to her family and continue
preparations on her wedding.
It was now August 12. Eight days had passed since Margaret came
to Oklahoma City. Margaret was still trying to decide on the
wedding dress and assured the store keeper the day before that
she would come in with her decision on Monday. After church that
day, Margaret spent most of her time with her Grandmother.
Grandma Bertha seemed to be getting stronger each day under the
watchful eye of her granddaughter. Margaret continued to help
her with her hair and dressing, but Grandma Bertha was able to
sit up for longer periods of time, as well as well as eat more.
Her smiles were becoming more frequent, yet she still grew
uncomfortable when Aunt Gertrude came into the room.
Margaret was becoming more and more convinced that removing
Grandma Bertha from her current living arrangement would be
necessary, less Grandma Bertha fall back into the state she was
in. That morning, Grandma Bertha showed Margaret that she was
continuing to improve. As Margaret opened the Bible to read to
her Grandma, Grandma Bertha patted her hand and said, “Love
Margaret paused and turned to look at her grandma. “Oh Grandma…”
Margaret hugged her. “I…I love you too!”
August 13 entered a bit dreary. Low, grey clouds loomed outside
and a light mist fell from the sky. The clouds seemed to mark
Margaret’s mood that morning. She had been in Oklahoma City for
nine days now, and her aunt had yet to follow through on any of
her promises. There had been no mention of the dishes, and
Margaret didn’t care because she wouldn’t accept them now even
if Aunt Gertrude offered them to her. As for the wedding
dress…well, Margaret just didn’t have the heart to go into town
today. She had made her decision on which one to get, yet all
she wanted to do was sit with her grandmother and read the
As yet, there had been no mention of the other children.
Margaret wondered if they had all rejected this family and
stayed away, or if they even were still around like Aunt
Gertrude had led her to believe. Anytime she mentioned her
uncles, Aunt Gertrude quickly walked away and changed the
subject. Margaret wondered on this. If she passed them in town,
she would never have known it. Her heart ached over the fact
that she didn’t know any of her uncles or their families.
The gloomy day had an ill effect on her Grandmother as well.
Grandma Bertha was a bit down that morning and didn’t spend much
time smiling. Margaret wondered if there was something on her
mind, but decided after a while that the gloom had just simply
caused Grandma Bertha to be rather tired. Margaret felt rather
tired herself. She made her grandmother some good soup then
suggested that she lay down. Grandma Bertha agreed, not feeling
like doing anything else.
After getting her grandmother tucked in for an afternoon nap,
Margaret came out of the bedroom to hear voices downstairs.
Curious at the visitor, Margaret slowly walked down the stairs
to find her aunt having tea with Mr. Parnell. Margaret turned to
hurry back up the stairs, but it was too late. Her aunt had seen
her. “Oh, please join us!” Aunt Gertrude suddenly begged.
Margaret was too gloomy and too tired to argue and decided to
Mr. Parnell stood as Margaret came and sat down. “I was just
telling your Aunt here about a trip I will be going on in a few
months, Miss Gibbs. I’ll be traveling all the way to Europe.”
Mr. Parnell spoke rather proudly.
“Europe?” Margaret smiled excitedly. “Oh, how exciting! I would
love to see Europe!” She had read about the fascinating places
in books, but never did she ever imagine ever going to such a
magnificent place full of thousands of years of history. It was
hard to believe the things she read about…Every child had always
discussed the romantic side of Europe with knights on white
horses and swords, castles and moats full of alligators…But it
was like a fairy tale…some story from Aesop…
Margaret’s excitement pleased both Mr. Parnell and her Aunt
Gertrude. They both smiled in satisfaction. “Would you?” Mr.
Parnell smiled as he leaned forward.
“What part of Europe are you going to?”
“Oh…” Mr. Parnell’s smile widened as he looked into Margaret’s
shining eyes. “I haven’t quite decided yet…England or France,
perhaps.” He studied her expression for another moment. “I’m
sure you’ve never been out of the country.”
“I’ve never been out of Oklahoma…hardly even Enid…Oh, except for
when we traveled to go to my…” Margaret smiled. How did she
explain the relationship she had with the McCain family? “Uh…Abe
McCain’s wedding in Fort Smith. That was years ago, and I
remember how exciting THAT was…Why, Luke and I got into so much
trouble wondering off by ourselves…”
“You should go East. They’ve all sorts of things there you’ve
probably never even heard of.” Mr. Parnell picked up a
contraption from the table. “As a matter of fact, I’ve some
“What is that?” Margaret asked as she studied the strange
contraption in his hands.
“It’s a picture viewer.” He held it out to her. “You put the
picture right here…” He inserted a picture into the slot. “And
you look through there.”
Margaret did as instructed. She gasped with excitement. “Why,
it’s almost like being there!” Margaret cried.
“Yes.” He inserted another picture, showing her a tall building
that was in New York City. Then another picture showed her all
the people who stood in front of the town hall. Margaret had
never seen anything so amazing. “I never even knew something
like this existed!”
Mr. Parnell laughed as he took the contraption from Margaret.
“Well, there are much fancier things than this. There’s a
Victrola that plays real music, machines that practically plow,
plant, and harvest your crops…You can see amazing things…have
amazing adventures if you go East or North or…to another
country! The whole world is an opportunity!”
Margaret smiled. “Oh, it would be a dream to go but…” Margaret
shook her head. “Oh, it’s just that…a dream. That’s not for me,
Mr. Parnell. I don’t think I’ll ever get such an opportunity.”
“Oh, but you CAN have it if you want it!” Aunt Gertrude declared
as she leaned forward in her chair. “The adventure is there…it’s
just waiting for you!”
“Yes.” Mr. Parnell nodded. “If you make the right choices in
life, you can go anywhere your heart desires! You can have all
the adventure you want!”
Margaret smiled. “Adventure?” She shook her head. “I’m okay here
in Oklahoma. I don’t need to travel to find adventure. Life, Mr.
Parnell, is an adventure if you allow it to be. When I marry,
I’ll be starting on a wonderful adventure…An adventure that will
last my whole lifetime.”
Mr. Parnell leaned forward again. “Yes, but don’t you want to
have more adventures than just marriage and children…working as
a rancher’s wife? Oh, just think about the possibilities you can
Margaret shook her head. “Those WOULD be nice, but
motherhood…being a wife…those are the most exciting adventures
of all. To bring a child into the world to love and hold,
watching him grow into a man and then marrying and starting a
family of his own…Growing old with the man you married…Not
caring when he no longer looks young and handsome…Even when his
hair grays, and his skin wrinkles, the love we have is stronger
than ever.” Margaret shook her head. “There’s nothing on this
earth more adventurous than THAT, Mr. Parnell.”
“There is!” Mr. Parnell argued again. “Why anybody can have
children! Anybody can…”
“Not for me, Mr. Parnell. For twenty-two years I’ve been on a
wonderful adventure. Oh, it hasn’t always been easy. There’s
been hard times…really hard times…but in the end, the love I
have for my family has sustained me through. Mr. Parnell, if a
storm comes up at sea, will this adventure save you?” She didn’t
wait for him to answer. “No...but when storms come up in life,
your loved ones surround you and hold you tight, protecting you
from the raging storm. When the storms over, you’re stronger.”
“You’re wrong,” Aunt Gertrude declared. “That’s nothing. Your
children will grow up and leave you alone. They’ll have their
own lives. And then what do you have?”
Margaret smiled. “The satisfaction that I did everything I could
for my children. I’ll KNOW that every single day of my life, I
was there caring for my husband and my children. When I stand
before the Father in Heaven, He’ll say to me…’Well done, my good
and faithful servant,’ because I raised my children in the eyes
of God. I taught them how to live…how to grow…how to love.”
Margaret stood up. “I think I’ve had enough conversation. I’ll
go for a walk.”
“Margaret…” Mr. Parnell stood and hurried forward. “If you
choose this adventure…you won’t have the storms of life. There
will be nothing before you but hope, looking forward to the next
“Hm…” Margaret took a couple steps backwards as she smiled. “I
think I’d rather have the storms in my adventure, Mr. Parnell.”
She nodded her head at him, then turned and hurried from the
Dallas Parnell watched Margaret leave. He stood still, staring
at the door Margaret had just retreated from as Gertrude again
apologized for her niece’s rudeness. He nodded to her and walked
out to mount his horse. “Well...well…well…You’re going to play
that way, little lady?” Dallas turned his horse around as he
watched her walk out into the field behind the house. “You are
just slow to learn…sheltered your whole life! I’ll draw you out,
Margaret Gibbs. I’ll draw you out and your eyes will be
Dallas dug his heels into the horse’s flank and urged him to go
on. He formed a plan as he rode home. When he got there, one of
the ranch hands came to take his horse. “Jed…” Dallas took off
his gloves. “Do you remember the plans we discussed the other
day?” Jed nodded. “I’ve some arrangements that need made.” He
rubbed his chin as he looked down the road. “Not today, mind
you…but in about three days. Yes.” Dallas nodded his head
slowly. “I’ll give the little lady three days to think on
things…Then in three days, we’ll perform the arrangement. It
will be for the lady’s own good. In time, she’ll come to see
August 16, 1866
The sun peaked in the window and woke her. Margaret got up and
hurriedly dressed. Two days…she only had two days before she
would telegraph her fiancé to let him know she was coming home!
She had not gotten the dress she wanted yet. Things had been so
tense, and her grandmother seemed so worried, that Margaret
couldn’t leave her alone. She had slipped away only long enough
to telegram Lucas.
After dressing, she went into Grandma Bertha’s room and found
her awake and sitting in a chair. “Mar…garet…” Grandma Bertha
smiled at her. “Come…”
Margaret walked over to her grandmother and sat down next to
her. “Oh, you are looking so much better this morning. Let’s get
But Grandma Bertha held tight to Margaret’s hand. “You go?”
Grandma Bertha asked as she pointed a finger at her
“Very soon, Grandma Bertha.” Margaret smoothed her hair. She
could tell the news pained her. Margaret was still trying to
decide on what to do with her grandmother. She couldn’t leave
her here, and that was for sure! “Would you like me to brush
your hair?” Margaret started to stand, but Grandma Bertha took
her hand. She had a sad, pleading look in her eyes. “What’s
“Don’t...leave…me…” Grandma Bertha’s eyes filled with tears.
Slowly, she shook her head. “Don’t…leave…me…”
“Oh Grandma…” Margaret hugged her. “Grandma, my wedding is in
two weeks. I must go!”
“Yes…You must…” Grandma Bertha shook her head. “Take me…”
“Can’t stay…Can’t stand…” Tears fell from Grandma Bertha’s eyes.
The next words she spoke cost her dearly, and Margaret knew it.
“My own…daughter…” She slowly put her hands to her face and
“Oh…Oh, Grandma!” Margaret took the older woman in her arms and
held her while she wept. Margaret heard a gasp at the door and
turned to see Aunt Gertrude with a hand to her mouth. Her eyes
didn’t look sad or guilty..just…empty and surprised. Margaret
stared into those surprised eyes as her grandmother continued to
cry in her arms. Aunt Gertrude escaped the doorway and hurried
down the stairs.
In time, Margaret was able to coax her grandmother to let her
help her dress and brush her hair. Then they made their way down
to breakfast. The meal was eaten in silence. Margaret could tell
her Aunt Gertrude was seething with anger. She clinched her jaw
several times, trying to hold her tongue. Finally, Aunt Gertrude
said in a very calm voice, “Mother, would you leave Margaret and
me? We need to talk.” Margaret didn’t like the look in Aunt
Margaret turned to see Grandma Bertha looking at her. She stood
and helped her grandmother from the chair. “Let’s get you out on
the porch. I’ll come out in a bit and read the Bible to you.”
Only AFTER Margaret had Grandma Bertha all settled did she come
into the dining room and sit back down. “Well?” she asked as she
lifted an eyebrow.
Aunt Gertrude took a sip from her coffee cup, then sat it down
on the saucer with a ding. “Margaret…I’ve been very patient with
you. I’m not sure where your grandmother went wrong as far as
your mother’s concerned, but your mother has not raised you to
be respectful and understanding the way you should be.” Aunt
Gertrude folded her hands in her lap and straightened her
shoulders. “Now…I’ve done everything I can to show you that
there are things more important in life than simply falling in
love with some…farmer…”
Margaret held up a hand. “YOU haven’t been respectful or
understanding!” Aunt Gertrude started to speak, but Margaret
shook her head. “No! You will listen…and you will listen good…”
Aunt Gertrude was a bit taken back with Margaret’s firmness and
anger. “Back in Enid, you told me that you had buried that young
man you were so in love with, but you didn’t! You have brought
him back to life and are fighting with everything you have. You
are miserable because you didn’t have the courage to stand up
for what was right. You want to strike out at my mother any way
you can, and if you can hurt her through me, you will! Well, I
won’t have it! I will not stay here another day and be
Margaret stood up and went to the doorway. “I’m going up to
pack.” She paused and turned around. “And I’m taking Grandma
Bertha with me!”
“No!” Aunt Gertrude cried. “You’re not taking my mother from
Margaret turned around and glared at her aunt. “Why not?! You
don’t love her.” Margaret swallowed again. “You told me…back in
Enid…that Grandmother doesn’t love you…but the truth is…it’s you
who holds all the bitterness. You hate her because of what she
tried to force you to do. The truth is, Grandmother wanted what
she thought was best for you, and in the end she learned the
truth.” Margaret had tears falling from her cheeks. “She gave
you life! She loves you, and you cannot see that. What you are
doing is on purpose and for spite.”
“YES!” Margaret yelled. She took a step toward Aunt Gertrude.
“Why aren’t your brothers around? What, did you poison them
“They want nothing to do with Mother because they know she’s
mean and evil!”
“NO!” Margaret shouted again. “You filled their minds with lies!
You poisoned them…Its you they hate. Isn’t it?” Aunt Gertrude
turned away. “Isn’t it?????”
“YES!” Aunt Gertrude turned around. “Dear God, YES!!!!!”
Margaret lowered her head and sobbed. Then she cleared the tears
from her throat and spoke. “I owe it to my Mother…and to my
Grandmother. When I leave, I’m taking her with me. Either you
pack her things for me, or I’ll do it myself.”
Margaret left the room. She went to her room to pack before
going to the stage depot to purchase two tickets. Afterwards,
she’d get that wedding dress. She was excited about leaving this
town with her grandmother and returning home to Luke so she
could prepare for her approaching wedding.
Margaret came from her room to find Aunt Gertrude in her
Grandmother’s room packing a trunk. Aunt Gertrude felt more than
saw Margaret behind her. “I’ll only pack those dresses she’ll
need on a FARM. You’ll be sorry. She’ll hate you as much as she
hates me.” Aunt Gertrude’s back slumped as she continued
speaking. “Your Mother has always been jealous of what I had.
Our brothers left home the moment they could because they
couldn’t…couldn’t…” She couldn’t go on, because she knew the
truth. It was her they had run from.
“I’m going to send a telegram to Luke and purchase the tickets
to go home. Then I’m buying that dress.” Margaret turned. “You
can forget the dishes. I wouldn’t take them now anyways.”
Without another word, Margaret slipped down the stairs. She
picked up the Bible and read to her grandmother for a few
minutes. Then she kissed her Grandmother’s cheek. “I’ll be back,
Grandmother. I’m taking you with me.” Margaret saw the smile on
her Grandmother’s face. She knew she was doing the right thing.
Finally, the years of misery her Grandmother had been living in
Lucas STOP Will leave on the afternoon stage today STOP Should
arrive home on Saturday STOP Things weren’t as expected STOP
Bringing Grandma with me STOP I love you and cannot wait to
marry you STOP See you soon STOP Margaret
Margaret stepped out of the telegraph office and started toward
the stage depot to purchase the tickets.
But she never made it…
August 18, 1866
Lucas whistled as he walked into the doctor’s office and kissed
his sister on the cheek. “She’s coming home today.”
Emily turned and smiled at Lucas. “I know. You’ve missed her,
“I’ve been worried sick!” Lucas declared. Then he wrinkled his
brow. “I must admit that I’m still a bit puzzled over the
telegram. She said things weren’t as expected and she’s bringing
Grandma Bertha back. Why would she be doing that?”
“I’ve no idea.” Emily turned away and began arranging bottles of
medicine again. “But I’m sure everything’s going to be fine.”
Jason came in then and frowned at his wife. “You look tired.
Best lay down for awhile.”
Emily folded her arms and shook her head at her husband. “I’m
with-child, not sick…DR. Livingston!”
Jason slowly walked up to her. “Yes. And as your doctor, I’m
ordering you to lay down.”
Emily rolled her eyes. “Oh now, don’t give me that doctor stuff!
I know it’s my HUSBAND who wants me to lay down! The doctor
“Emily…” Jason gave her a stern look as he gave her a warning.
“Now, let’s not start something.”
She sighed and turned to Lucas. “You’d think a doctor would know
“Emily…” Lucas laid his hands on her shoulders. “You are looking
a bit peaked. You should get some rest.” Lucas raised his
eyebrows up at her. Emily threw up her arms and went to obey.
As the two men chuckled, Lucas heard the stage coming. “She’s
here!” He hurried across the street, followed by Jason. Lucas
wasted no time, but opened the door with a big grin on his face.
“Margaret…” His smile died when he realized Margaret wasn’t on
the stage. “Amos…” Lucas roughly grabbed the stage driver’s
shoulder and turned him around. “Where’s Margaret?” Panic was in
“She wasn’t there,” Amos answered with a shake of his head. “As
far as I know, she wasn’t supposed to be there.”
“She was!” Lucas took the telegram from his pocket and showed it
Amos read it and shook her head. “Well Luke, I didn’t see her
anywhere. Nobody said a word to me about it. I’m sorry.”
“She said she’d leave that afternoon!” Lucas argued, still
gripping Amos’s shoulder.
“Maybe she changed her mind.”
“No!” Lucas shook his head violently. “She wouldn’t worry me
like this. She would have told me.”
Lucas turned to look at Scott and Amanda who had also come to
meet the stage. “Something’s wrong! Something’s terribly
wrong!” Lucas breathed. “She’s in trouble!”
“Let’s get the horses ready,” Scott said.
“You’re not going,” Lucas declared. “I’ll go!”
Jason stepped forward. “He’s right, Scott. Your leg would never
stand that kind of ride.”
“She’s my sister!” Scott argued, his face reddening with anger.
Amanda put a concerned hand on her husband’s arm to try and calm
“And she’s about to be my wife!” Lucas put a hand on Scott’s
shoulder. “We both know you’d never make it to Oklahoma City.”
Scott looked away from Lucas. “I’ll go.”
“Cursed leg!” Scott grumbled. “I should be going to look for my
sister instead of…”
“You just try and keep the family calm, Scott. I’m sure she’s
fine.” Lucas hurried to his horse. “Tell my family not to worry.
I’ll send word when I know anything at all. And I’ll not come
back without Margaret!”
Lucas jumped on his horse, but Jason grabbed the reins before he
could take off, keeping the horse from moving. “Before you go,
you get over to the cottage and ask Emily to pack you some
provisions, understand?” Lucas didn’t want the delay, but he did
as told knowing he’d get what for later if he didn’t.
August 20, 1865
When Lucas got into Oklahoma City that morning, he made some
inquiries as to the whereabouts of Margaret’s family. He made
his way for the big, yellow house with the white picket fence
that stood on the outskirts of town. He quickly dismounted his
horse and hurried through the gate. After climbing the steps, he
knocked loudly on the front door. When the door opened, he came
face-to-face with a surprised Aunt Gertrude. Lucas wasted no
time, but pushed his way inside. “I’ve come for my fiancée,” he
stated angrily. Aunt Gertrude said nothing. Lucas turned around.
“Where is she?”
Aunt Gertrude coldly looked at Lucas,. “She’s not here.”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE’S NOT HERE?!” Lucas’ voice boomed.
“I mean she’s…she’s…” Aunt Gertrude proclaimed, “She left.
“LEFT WHERE?! And don’t tell me for home, because she didn’t
leave Oklahoma City!” Lucas argued.
“She’s missing!” Aunt Gertrude answered in a quiet defiance.
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” Aunt Gertrude whirled
around, away from him, . Lucas roughly grabbed her by the
shoulders and turned her back around. “TELL ME NOW!!!!”
“Oh Lucas…All I wanted was for her to marry weathly, to never
have to want for anything again!”
“I’m not sure…I…” She looked away from him, unwilling to look
him in the eye.
Lucas shook her gently. “You’re not making sense! WHERE’S
“Luke…We had a…a big argument the other day. She said some
uppity things to me…Like mother, like daughter. Jennifer could
have had it all, but she threw it all away and raised children
with no appreciation of their elders…She said she was leaving
early because…because she couldn’t stand being here another day.
She went to town to send you a telegram, purchase some tickets
and buy a wedding dress, and she NEVER came back!” Aunt Gertrude
stated. “That’s all I know! I SWEAR IT!!!” she screamed.
It took a moment for the news to sink in. He paused in his rage
to think on that. “That was…FOUR days ago!!!” Rage again boiled
up inside him. “ARE YOU TELLING ME SHE’S BEEN MISSING FOR FOUR
DAYS???” Lucas screamed at her as his heart filled with fear.
“WHERE is she????”
“I…I…I don’t…I mean…I’m not…” Aunt Gertrude couldn’t think of
anything to say.
Lucas grabbed a firmer hold of her shoulders. “ So help me God,
tell me NOW!!!” Lucas demanded. “WHERE THE HELL IS MARGRET???”
“A man…” Aunt Gertrude turned around…”I brought Margaret here to
“YOU DID WHAT?!” Lucas yelled again as he rushed up behind her
and held up his hands. He made fists and pulled them down to his
side to control himself.
“I just thought that…” Aunt Gertrude whirled around. “I mean she
could…” She threw her hands up in frustration. “She could do so
much better than you!”
Lucas grabbed her shoulders. He tried not to be too rough, but
he was furious! “WHAT MAN??? WHAT RANCHER???” Lucas was getting
very frustrated. His voice shook with both anger and terror.
“Dallas…” Lucas’ eyes widened. Fear gripped his very being. He
HAD heard that name. When he was in Texas last year, he’d heard
about how Parnell had bought up a lot of land by any means he
wanted. He owned land down in Texas, then he came to Oklahoma
City and began threatening and burning families out of their
land. “OH DEAR GOD!!!” He again tightened his grip on her
shoulders. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO THIS MAN IS???? DO YOU HAVE
ANY IDEA WHAT YOU’VE DONE???” Lucas had to regain control…He HAD
to stay focused on finding Margaret. Now was not the time for
him to get angry. He’d deal with Aunt Gertrude later! “WHERE’S
Lucas had to get quite firm with her before she finally would
answer where he lived. Lucas turned to leave, but her voice once
again stopped him in his tracks. “You’re probably too late.”
He whirled around and pointed a finger in her face. “Do you have
ANY IDEA WHAT YOU DID?!!” He had never been more angered against
a woman in his life! Lucas’ voice got louder and louder as he
spoke those words.
“Luke…Luke…” Lucas turned to see Grandma Bertha hurrying toward
him. She was obviously upset by the yelling she had heard.
“Margaret…she said she’d…take me…”
“I know. She told me.” Lucas nodded. He saw the worry in her
eyes. He forced his voice to be gentle, and his eyes tried to
calm her. He took her hand gently and turned her around. “I’ll
find her, then we’ll…” Lucas turned and looked at Grandma
Bertha. “Margaret and I will take you home.” He patted her
shoulder gently to calm her, but inside, his mind was racing
mad. He turned back to Grandma Bertha and spoke directly to
Gertrude. “Now, I don’t know what is going on here, but you
better stay with your mother and TRY to show her some comfort!”
Lucas shifted his rifle in his other hand and hurried out the
door. After leaving the house and riding toward the ranch, Lucas
realized he had no idea why this woman had kept this information
to herself. Why hadn’t she told someone? Had she talked to the
Marshal? Perhaps the marshal was the first place Lucas should go
to – that would be the best idea, but time was of the essence.
The woman he loved had been missing for four days already!
This was partly his fault. He should have trusted his instincts.
He should have NEVER allowed Margaret to go on this trip!
“If anything’s happened…I’ll kill him!” Lucas dug his heels into
Bullet’s flank and rode like the wind. When he got to the A.P.
Ranch, he was surprised to find the Marshal and several men
already there. Lucas hurried up to the group. “Marshal…what’s
going on?” Lucas’ voice was aggressive and ordering.
The Marshal raised his eyebrow at Lucas. “Who are you?”
“Luke McCain.” That’s all the information he felt he should need
to give. His eyes were hard and demanding. He again shifted his
rifle to his other hand as he kept his eyes locked on the
The Marshal shook his head. “That name don’t mean a thing around
here.” He looked Lucas up and down. “You from around here?”
“No,” Lucas growled. “I’m from Enid. I’m here for…”
“Margaret Gibbs,” The Marshal answered with a nod of his head.
“Her aunt told us yesterday she was missing.”
“YESTERDAY???” Lucas turned and glared at all the men. “She’s
been missing for four days!!!”
“I know.” The Marshal nodded his head. “I’ll deal with her
later. Right now we have to find your friend.”
“My fiancée!” Lucas corrected him. “We’re getting married in
less than TWO weeks!” Lucas turned an accusing eye at the group.
“What are you all doing here standing around? You should be out
looking for my…”
“If you intend to help, McCain, you just get a hold on
yourself!” He cleared his throat. “Now, what we’re doing here is
trying to pick up her trail. We can’t go about this thing
half-cocked, you know!”
“You’re trying to pick up her trail here???” Lucas shook his
head. “She’d never come here!”
“She did.” The Marshal pointed to some tracks. “This here…the
horse was ridden by Margaret Gibbs.”
“NO!” Lucas closed his eyes to again regain control of his
“Marshal Larson, I’ve heard of Parnell from down in Texas. Some
“Killed his wife…” Marshal Larson nodded. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” Lucas again stared at the men. “No need to be
“Mr. McCain…” Marshal Larson started.
“I said find her!” Lucas shifted his rifle in his other hand.
The Marshal looked down at the rifle in Lucas’ hand and stared
at the large ring. “That’s an…interesting rifle you got there,
mister. You plan on using it?”
Lucas pressed his lips together. “Maybe. If it’s needed.”
“Alright.” Marshal Williams turned. “You men go that way…the
other half…go that way!” He watched the men leave as Lucas
climbed down from his horse. “I think you should…”
“Tell me…Tell me EVERYTHING!” It was evident that Lucas thought
he was in control, and as long as he held that rifle in his
hands, the Marshal reckoned he was.
Marshal Larson took off his hat and ran a hand through his hair.
Lucas grabbed him by the shirt and got nose to nose with the
Marshal. “Now, you listen to me…I’ve been in love with that
woman since I was a kid, and no man is going to keep her from
marrying me! I want to know everything you know and I want to
know NOW!” Lucas’ upper lip curled as he gave his final orders.
His hot breath stung the Marshal’s face.
“Alright.” Marshal Larson consented. “Alright. I’ll tell you
everything I know.” Lucas released his hold on the man and
waited for him to go on. “We know she sent the telegram.” Lucas
nodded. “And we know she never purchased the stage tickets. Some
say they saw a woman riding out of town around that time with
Parnell. They said she was riding toward the ranch.”
“Did they check the house?”
Lucas bent down and studied the tracks, one by one. Finally, he
turned and pointed a finger at Marshal Larson. “Are you sure you
checked the entire house?”
Lucas pointed to the tracks. “These are leading in. They don’t
go back out.”
Marshal Larson pointed to some more tracks. Lucas shook his
head. “I learned all about tracking in the war, Marshal. That
horse was not carrying Margaret.”
“How do you know?”
Lucas lifted his head. “We’ll discuss that later. Right now,
let’s find Margaret.”
Lucas rushed through the gate and went inside. “Is Parnell
“No. We’re not sure where he is at the moment.” Lucas started
walking through the house. He searched every inch of the house,
being careful to not miss anything, but could find nothing. He
searched for a long time, sure she was in there. It wasn’t only
the tracks that told him so, it was the feeling he had deep
inside. “You’re right. She’s not here.”
They walked back outside. Lucas slapped the post on the porch in
frustration as he closed his eyes and leaned his head against
the post. Marshal Larson watched him. “What are you doing?”
Lucas turned to look at the Marshal. “I’m praying.” Lucas
grabbed his horse’s reins and went to track.
The one set of tracks going out led straight to town. This was a
bad thing since the entire road was littered with tracks. Lucas
cursed under his breath as he realized they had lost any
possible sign. “What now, Marshal?” Lucas asked as he stayed in
his saddle and looked around town.
“Well…I sent the men North and South. I reckon we’ll head East.”
“How about if I head East and you head West? I’ll fire a shot
“Oh no!” Marshal Larson held up a hand. “Now, up to this point
I’ve let you think you were in control.” Marshal Larson jabbed a
finger into his own chest. “But I’m the Marshal here and I am in
control! And I’m telling you right now that there’s no way in
hell I’m letting you go off by yourself!” He pointed a finger at
Lucas. Marshal Larson shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. “If
you find her dead…er…there’s no telling what you’ll do!”
“There is telling what I’ll do!” Lucas declared. “Well then,
I’ll tell you what I’ll do! If one hair on that precious head of
hers is out of place, I’ll bury him where he drops!” Lucas had
pure rage in his eyes. Marshal Larson knew he had a desperate
situation on his hands. He knew there was no talking straight to
Lucas. He would just have to try and make sure any gunplay was
Lucas and Marshal Larson rode East. There was no sign of the
men…absolutely NO sign at all! As the sun went down, the posse
met up and made camp for the night. They all agreed to start
searching at first light in the morning. Until then, it was
hurry up and wait. Lucas laid on his bed roll that night and
closed his eyes. “Eight hours…” He turned his head around to
look at the Marshal. “Eight hours for that beast to hurt
Margaret…And I’m just laying here staring at the stars!” Lucas
cursed under his breath again. He felt so frustrated!
“You were in the war,” Marshal Larson pointed out calmly. “You
know how hard it is to track at night.”
“Yes.” Lucas nodded his head. “I know how hard it is, but
sometimes we had to do it anyhow.” Lucas turned on his side and
stared into the fire. He didn’t sleep, but he watched the
memories of his and Margaret’s life together dance in the flames
August 21, 1866
Lucas dismounted his horse and sighed in frustration. “Oh
Margaret…where are you?” He felt his eyes fill with tears. If
only he could hold her in his arms again. If only he could kiss
her sweet lips and whisper ‘I love you.’ Lucas clinched his lips
together. “I’ll find you, Margaret…I’ll find you.”
Lucas slowly sat down on the log. They had stopped for a rest.
“I should have never let her come here. I knew it was a bad
idea, yet I thought I was being over…” Lucas rubbed his hands
through his hair and lowered his head toward the ground as he
thought. “It’s like you’ve…vanished into…”
Lucas suddenly stopped. “Vanished…” He whispered the word as a
new thought entered his mind. It was a far-fetched idea, but it
was worth a shot. The more he got to thinking on the idea, the
less crazy it sounded. At this point, he was desperate enough to
try anything if it would help Margaret! He stood up and turned
to look at the Marshal. His eyes grew wide and the color drained
from his face as he began to think harder on the possibility.
“What is it?” Marshal Larson hurried over to Lucas, alarmed at
the expression Lucas was wearing.
“Marshal…” Lucas swallowed hard. “Do you remember how I told you
the tracks showed us that she had never left the ranch?”
“Yes. But we searched the whole house, Lucas.”
Lucas shook his head as he held his mouth open in shock. “No
sir…I don’t think we did. I…” Lucas held out a hand to the
Marshal. “Marshal…When I was in the war, I heard tell about
people on both sides of the war who would hide runaway slaves in
secret rooms of their houses.” The marshal nodded as a confused
look crossed his face. “Yesterday when we were at Parnell’s…I
remember…that bookcase in the office…There was something rather
strange about it…”
Marshal Larson’s eyes widened. “That wall WAS thick.” He jumped
up and hurried to his horse. “Let’s go!”
Lucas and Marshal Larson raced back to the house. They barged in
and hurried toward the library. Lucas shifted his rifle to his
other hand and pointed to the wall. “Yes. If we go into the next
room, it looks like its awful thick.” Lucas and the Marshal
started looking for a handle or something to pull the wall out.
The more they looked, the more they realized that this was
indeed a trick wall. Lucas started throwing books from the shelf
as fast as he could, his heart pumped harder as he began working
faster and faster. “Keep looking! It has to be here!” Lucas
cried excitedly and desperately.
They were working so intently that they didn’t hear a man enter
the room. “What’s going on here?” Lucas and Marshal Larson
turned to stare into the angry eyes of Dallas Parnell. He had
his gun drawn and was pointing it straight at Lucas McCain.
Lucas and Marshal Larson looked at each other, neither sure what
should be done. “I asked you a question, Marshal.” Parnell
didn’t take his eyes off of Lucas.
“Where is she, Parnell?” Lucas sneered.
Parnell moved his eyes down toward Lucas’s middle where he held
the rifle at a good aim. “That’s an interesting rifle you got
there, mister.” He nodded toward it.
“Answer my question!” Lucas demanded. “Where is she?”
“You know who!” Lucas declared. “Answer me or I’ll drop you!”
Parnell laughed. “Ain’t even cocked.”
“As soon as it’s cocked, you’re dead!” Lucas lifted the rifle a
bit more. “Now, where is she?”
Parnell didn’t take his eyes off of Lucas. “Who is this,
“Lucas McCain.” Marshal Larson didn’t move a muscle as he held
his gun on Parnell. “Margaret’s fiancée.”
Instead of startling, Parnell allowed a small smile to cross his
face. “Well…a sore loser, aren’t you, McCain? I guess the best
Lucas gave him a confused look, the man’s sneer was revolting.
Lucas narrowed his eyes and nodded toward him. “I don’t think
so,” Lucas answered. “I’ll kill you before I let you get your
hands on her.”
“I’m afraid you’re too late!” Parnell laughed. “Well, seeing as
how there’s a gun at your head, I’d rethink that if I were you.”
Lucas slowly turned his head. He heard the cock of a pistol and
soon felt the cold steel pressing against his head. Lucas closed
his eyes and dropped his rifle on the floor. The Marshal did the
same. “Now…who’s won?” Parnell laughed. He walked over to the
bookcase and lifted three books out. “You heard of me, Mr.
Lucas glared at him. “I heard of you.”
Parnell laughed. “All good, I’m sure.”
“Heard you killed your wife,” Lucas said. “Heard you are a
monster…despicable…a snake that needs his head bashed in before
he strikes again…that’s what I heard!”
Parnell laughed. “Well now…that’s not far from the truth I
reckon. You see, folks here never heard tell of my going-ons in
Texas. But a big ugly cuss like you with a rifle like
that…you’ve probably heard of me. I reckon that you’ve also
heard that…I…always…win.” Parnell slid the bookcase open. An
evil smile widened on his face.
Lucas looked over Parnell’s shoulder into the secret room. His
eyes widened with surprise. “Margaret…” Lucas whispered. His
eyes filled with tears. That was the most beautiful sight he’d
ever seen! She was alive!
Margaret stood from the chair. Her face was dirty and her dress
torn a bit, but she looked okay. Lucas’ eyes opened wide when he
saw her tears smeared with the dirt on her face.
“Lucas!” Margaret cried. “Thank God you came!”
“Stay there!” Parnell held up his hand when Margaret started
forward. “Or I’ll shoot your man!”
“Luke…” Margaret pleaded.
“Just do as he says. You’ll be okay. I’m here. I won’t let
anything happen to you.” Lucas continued glaring at Parnell.
Parnell laughed. “You see…she’s going to marry me. A woman as
pretty as this is bound to make beautiful children and I’m sure
she’ll enjoy all the finest…Traveling around the world and…”
Lucas took a step forward. Parnell held his gun up higher. “Uh
uh uh…” Parnell shook his finger at him. “I will treat her like
a queen, but I just have to have a little more time to
uh…convince her, you might say.” Parnell turned and looked at
Margaret. “Ain’t that right…HONEY?”
“Keep quiet, Margaret,” Lucas ordered. “Just stay back.”
“No, no, no…” Parnell reached out and grabbed her, pulling her
in front of him. Margaret let out a fearful cry as he grabbed
her roughly. “Don’t say a word!” Parnell ordered through
clinched teeth. Parnell wrapped one arm around her neck and the
other around her middle. “You see, she takes orders from me
now.” Parnell held his gun, still pointed at Lucas. Lucas felt
the steel move away from his head. Suddenly, a shot rang out and
the man behind him fell to the floor.
“Alright, Parnell…It’s all over.”
Lucas turned to see a deputy standing behind him. “Well now…”
Parnell gave a little laugh. “It looks like I’ll have to raise
the stakes.” Lucas turned back in time to see Parnell point the
gun at Margaret’s temple. Margaret saw the gun from the corner
of her eye. Tears filled her eyes. “LUCAS!” She cried out,
suddenly frightened. “Luke, HELP ME!” she screamed as loud as
she could. “Oh PLEASE HELP ME!!!”
“Shut up!” Parnell ordered as he tightened his grip on her.
“Just shut up!”
“Parnell, you hurt one hair on her head, and I swear to God, I
will hunt you down and I will KILL you!” Lucas felt his eyes
filling with tears. He fought them back. This was no time to get
emotional. “Now, LET HER GO!”
“I don’t think so. You see, she’s my shield.” Parnell laughed.
“You see…You can’t shoot me and protect her…”
Lucas looked into Margaret’s eyes. They were filled with pure
fear. “Did this man hurt you, Margaret?” Lucas asked. Margaret
stayed silent. She was so fearful, she could hardly talk. Her
lips shook. She closed her eyes and prayed for God to help them
out of this situation. “Answer me, Margaret. Did this man hurt
“N…no!” Margaret cried. “Lucas, help me!” Her voice was so
desperate, yet at the moment Parnell was holding the ace. “Oh,
please, Luke…HELP ME!”
“I will, sweetheart. You just hold on.” Lucas looked at Parnell.
“Alright…What do you want?”
“You just let us go. That’s all. You let us go and get on the
stage. We’ll ride to Texas and you’ll never have to see me
“Not a chance in hell,” Lucas snarled. His eyes shifted back to
Margaret. “Honey, no matter what happens…I love you. Did you
hear me? We’ll always be…” Lucas swallowed, hoping she’d read
his message loud and clear. “…partners.”
Margaret suddenly relaxed in this man’s arms. She shot Lucas an
understanding look. They both knew what had to be done, and it
sickened her to even think about it. But this was the only way.
Her face went into disgust as she began talking. “No, Lucas,
he’s right. It’s the only way.” Margaret turned her face toward
Parnell. “Dallas, I understand now. I want to travel the world
“You do?” There was still doubt in Parnell’s voice.
Margaret nodded. She hoped she wouldn’t have to stoop too low to
his level to help Lucas, but she would do anything she could. It
took everything in her to do so, but she gently reached up and
put a hand to his cheek.
She could feel her hand shaking. She knew this was hurting Lucas
as much as it was hurting herself, but she had to help him.
Please God…Please don’t let this go too far…I can’t stand
touching this man!
“I…I’ll marry you. I just have to…have to go buy a wedding
dress.” Margaret forced a smile on her face. “Then we can go to
Texas. I can’t wait to see that big ranch house you told me all
Parnell began relaxing a bit more. Lucas hated watching this,
but he knew it was the only way. He prayed Margaret’s subtle
seduction would work. He prayed she wouldn’t have to carry it
too far. “Margaret, what are you doing?” Lucas forced his voice
to sound mortified.
Margaret bit her lip as she forced her eyes to stare into his.
She rested her other hand on his other cheek. “Oh Dallas, let’s
go to the preacher right now. I just need to freshen up some. I
want to…” Margaret swallowed as she threw her head back to toss
her hair. “I want to look beautiful for you.”
“Margaret…” Lucas acted out his most hurtful voice he could.
The way she was looking at him brought lust to Parnell’s heart.
He relaxed even more and lowered his gun just a bit. He drew his
head toward hers to kiss her as a smiled crawled across his
But suddenly, Margaret gave him a hard shove. “Lucas!” she
shouted as she ducked and rolled out of the way. Margaret
covered her head with her hands as she listened to the exchange
Then it was quiet.
Slowly, Margaret lowered her hands and sat up. She saw Parnell
laying dead on the floor, a pool of blood slowly growing around
him. Then she saw Lucas, rifle in hand, with smoke still coming
from the end of the barrel. He was still on one knee, staring at
She sat frozen in her spot. Lucas slowly lowered his rifle and
turned to look at her, pain and regret on his face. They stared
at each other. Lucas’ eyes softened as he tried to decide if she
was really okay.
“Lucas!” Margaret cried out suddenly as she crawled over to him.
She burst into tears as Lucas dropped his rifle and took her
into his arms. “Oh Lucas…” Margaret wept as he sat her on his
lap and cuddled her like a he would a child. “I was so scared…so
“Shh…” Lucas smoothed her hair and kissed her forehead as he
tightened his other arm around her. “It’s okay now, Honey. It’s
okay.” He rocked her gently as she continued to shake and sob.
She clung to his shirt and allowed all her fears and
frustrations from the past five days to leave her body. “It’s
okay, honey. He’ll never hurt you again.”
“I knew you’d come! I knew you’d come!” Margaret swallowed hard.
“I…I’ve never been so scared in my life…” She continued to cry
as Lucas continued to hold her. He kissed her forehead over and
over, whispering quiet words of comfort to her. It was a long
time before either moved.
In time, Margaret lifted her head from his chest and laid her
hands on his cheeks. “I love you.”
“I love you…” Lucas tightened his arms around her as she laid
her head back on his shoulder and just rested quietly. When
Lucas thought he could trust his voice, he asked, “Are you okay?
Did he…hurt you?” Margaret shook her head. “It doesn’t look like
he fed you either. Was it bad?”
“He…He…” Suddenly, sobs returned and she clung to him again. “Oh
Luke…It was awful! Just…just awful!” Margaret gripped her arms
around him tightly. “Luke, hold me…Oh, just hold me!”
But this time, Lucas stood and lifted her into his arms.
Margaret kept her head on his chest and her arms around his
neck. Her body shook. “I’m c…cold…so c…cold!”
Lucas looked up at the marshal as he came back into the room.
“She’s in shock. You should get her over to the doctor.”
Lucas nodded and hurried outside. It took some coaxing to get
her to mount his horse. She didn’t want to let go of
him…ever…But finally, she was in the saddle with Lucas behind
her. He rode her to the doctor and carried her inside. The
doctor examined her and assured Lucas that, aside from
malnourishment and shock, she was fine.
“I gave her something to help her sleep. That’s what she needs
right now. Perhaps when she wakes up she can talk.”
“Should she talk, Doctor?” Lucas asked. “Would it be better if
she just forgot it?”
“You should make her give you enough information to know he
didn’t hurt her, Mr. McCain. She doesn’t have to give you
details…but she needs to know that you’re there to listen. Don’t
try for every detail, just enough to know that…that she’s okay.”
Lucas nodded in understanding.
Suddenly, the door opened and Aunt Gertrude walked in. “I heard
you found her!” There was sincere concern in her eyes, but Lucas
was blinded by his anger.
“Get out!” His words snarled at her like a mad dog. “I don’t
EVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN! NOT AS LONG AS I LIVE!” Lucas
shouted. “YOU STAY AWAY FROM HER AND HER FAMILY!”
“Please…let me…” Aunt Gertrude held out a hand, but the look on
Lucas’ face made her snatch it back.
“She’s asleep. I gave her a sedative. You go on home and care
for your mother,” the doctor ordered firmly.
Aunt Gertrude put her hands to her face, “Lucas…please…when
Margaret’s better…before you leave, please allow us to talk once
more. You can be there too, and you can remove her at any time.”
“NO!” Lucas shouted. “I despise you! I despise what you’ve done
“After all I’ve done…I only wanted what was best for her!” Aunt
“Three days!” Lucas glared at her. Anger laid heavily on his
voice. “She was held hostageTHREE days before you did anything!”
“I thought she had left that day on the stage, but one of the
ladies said they saw her ride with Mr. Parnell. I thought she
had changed her mind, that she came to her senses. But…” Aunt
Gertrude turned from him, no longer being able to look at him.
“But no…I knew that wasn’t true because she wouldn’t have left
“What about your Mother?”
“She was going to take her away from me because…because…” Aunt
Gertrude turned and looked at Lucas. “I did everything just to
spite my sister who followed her heart and had the courage to
stand up for what she believed. Her courage changed my mother,
but…but…” Aunt Gertrude shook her head. “I felt more hatred for
my sister. That’s why I did this. I NEVER thought he’d hurt her!
Lucas only glared at her. Aunt Gertrude turned and hurried out.
Lucas turned back to the doctor. “How long will she sleep?”
“A few hours,” Doctor Rogers answered.
“I have to send a telegram. Then I have some things to buy. I’ll
be back.” Lucas left the office and hurried down the street.
Margaret moaned as she opened her eyes. She felt a hand press
against her shoulder when she tried to sit up. “No, no honey.
Just lay still,” his gentle voice orderd softly. She opened her
eyes wider and saw Lucas leaning over her with a big smile on
“Luke…” Margaret mumbled. “Luke…I…I love you.”
“Hmmmm…” Lucas smiled .. “Seems I’ve heard that before.”
Margaret slowly sat up. Lucas tried to convince her to lay back
down, but she assured him she was fine. He helped her sit up on
the side of the cot. He sat down beside her on the cot.
“Luke…I’m sorry I let this happen.”
“You didn’t want me to come. I knew that.” Margaret slowly shook
her head. “I…should have listened to you, Luke.” Margaret
pressed a hand to her head and cried softly. “My stubbornness
almost got me killed.” Lucas said nothing as he pressed her head
into his chest and held her tight.
“We don’t have to talk about it now,” Lucas whispered. “When
you’re feeling better…”
“I have to now, Luke.” Margaret swallowed. “Because when I leave
this room, I never want to…”
Lucas kissed the top of her head. “Alright, honey. Talk.”
“I went to buy the tickets, then I started for the dress shop
where I was going to buy my wedding dress. Mr….” Margaret
swallowed hard. “That man…he approached me and told me something
was wrong with my aunt…that she had raced out to the ranch in a
panic. I don’t know why I believed him except the way he said it
was so..so…real.” Margaret put a hand to her forehead as the
memories came flooding back. “When I got there, his foreman…Jed,
I think his name was…He helped me out of the saddle, and then he
took me inside…told me to wait in the library. The next thing I
know, he was shoving me into that room.”
Margaret stopped. Lucas sighed as he clung to her tighter. “I
heard of Parnell when I was in Texas. He was no good…He was pure
Margaret licked her lips as she lifted her head from his chest
and stared into his eyes. “He was so strange, Luke. He tried to
make me put on a dress that I guess belonged to his wife. I
refused and it made him angry, but he didn’t even try to strike
me. He had a whole feast prepared and brought into the library.
He let me out and told me I could stay out if I would accept his
dinner invitation. I wouldn’t, Luke! I refused to eat anything
he offered me…except water...I’d drink water to stay alive, but
I wouldn’t eat.” Margaret shook her head. “He kept me in there
for four days…kept telling me if I agreed to marry him…”
“Margaret…” Lucas swallowed hard. A tear escaped his eye and
traveled down his cheek. “Honey…” He took her face in his hands.
“There’s only one more thing I have to know and then we can drop
it.” Lucas clinched her face tighter, letting her know he wanted
the truth. “Did he…did he hurt you?”
“No, Luke.” Margaret looked him right in the eye as she
answered. “Not in the way you’re talking about. He hurt me
emotionally and…my pride was hurt but…physically…no.”
Lucas continued to stare in her eyes, searching to make sure she
wasn’t holding anything back. When he was finally satisfied she
had told him the truth, he released her.. “You don’t have to say
anymore, Margaret. I think I understand. It’s over. He’s dead.”
“Oh Luke…Luke…I was so scared! I kept praying…begging God to
help you find me. I could hear you and the Marshal in there the
day before, but you left. I didn’t think you’d find me.” Tears
again fell down her face.
Lucas again took her in his arms as she started sobbing. “You’re
okay, now honey. He’s dead. He’ll never hurt you again.”
Margaret shed a few more tears then sat up. She wiped the last
of her tears and smiled. “Then it’s over.” She kissed him
softly. “Luke, how’s Grandma Bertha?”
“She’s fine, honey.” Lucas smiled at her. She was focusing on
the health of others instead of herself now. He knew she’d be
okay. “But right now, I want to get some food in you. The doc
said you can go to the hotel and eat when you wake up.” Lucas
looked down at her torn dress. “But I suppose you want to get
cleaned up first.”
“No.” Margaret shook her head. “No. I…I want to go home.”
“Soon. I’ll talk to you about it while we eat.”
Lucas led Margaret over to the restaurant and ordered her some
broth. She said she was starving and needed something a bit more
substantial, but he frowned and shook his head. He didn’t want
her to overdo it. “You haven’t eaten in five days, Honey. I
think you should try the broth first. If you do okay with that,
I’ll…buy you a whole feast!”
He didn’t allow her to talk until she had eaten every ounce of
the broth. Finally, she sat down her spoon and spoke. She told
Lucas all about her adventures after she arrived in Oklahoma
City. She told Lucas about Grandma Bertha and Aunt Gertrude.
“Luke…I know it’s a burden, but I really want to bring her home.
She begged me…Aunt Gertrude…she can’t take care of Grandma
Bertha…or won’t…She hates her, Luke…Grandma Bertha needs to be
around family who loves her.”
Lucas laid a hand on hers. “Alright. We’ll take her home.” Lucas
“Grandma Bertha and I can take the stage,” Margaret mentioned.
“It won’t be any trouble.”
“Oh no you can’t!” Lucas shook his head and waved his hands from
side to side. “I’m not letting you out of my sight for a long
Margaret giggled as he bent in and kissed her. His lips lingered
on hers for a bit. She could feel people staring, and Lucas
suspected her thoughts. “Let them stare,” he declared as he
again kissed her, this time a bit deeper than the first.
After he finally leaned back in his chair, she turned serious.
“She won’t be a burden, Luke.”
“I understand, honey. She’s your grandmother. She won’t be a
burden.” Lucas smiled. “I think your mother will be very, very
proud of you.”
“We’ll have to find her a place to live. If Mother doesn’t…”
“Margaret…” Lucas laid a hand on her. “If she has to live with
us, then she’ll live with us.” Lucas rested a hand on her cheek.
“I’ll make sure she’s always cared for. I promise.”
“What about Aunt Gertrude?”
Lucas clinched his jaw at the mere mention of her name. “What
“I want to talk to her.”
Lucas sighed. “Well, I don’t want you to.” He gave a short
laugh. “But it looks like there’s no way around it. We have to
go back to her house and get your stuff and your grandmother.”
“Luke…” Margaret started.
“Margaret, she told me what she did. I’m not happy about it and
I told her to stay away from you and your family from now on.”
Lucas took a sip of his coffee. “She could have gotten you
Margaret sat quietly and sipped her coffee. Lucas finally stood
and paid for the food before lifting her from the chair. “Let’s
Aunt Gertrude stood back from the door and allowed Margaret and
Lucas to enter. Lucas started for the stairs, mumbling for
Margaret to finish packing. “Mr. McCain…” Aunt Gertrude stopped
him. “Could we talk before you go up?”
Lucas turned and stared at Aunt Gertrude. “I’ve nothing to…” he
started to say.
“Margaret…” Grandma Bertha stood in the doorway with a big smile
on her face. “Margaret…come.” She stretched out her arms to hug
Margaret. Margaret accommodated her. Grandma Bertha began
crying. “You’re safe…You’re safe…”
Lucas came to stand behind Margaret. He smiled as he laid a hand
on Grandma Bertha’s shoulder. “She’s safe, Grandma,” Lucas said
quietly. “I found her and brought her back to you.”
Grandma Bertha lifted from Margaret’s embrace and clasped Lucas’
hand. “Thank you…Thank you…” Tears filled her eyes. “You stay?”
Margaret turned and looked at Lucas, then turned and looked at
Aunt Gertrude. “Grandma Bertha…” Margaret turned back to look at
her grandmother. “Let me take you out to the back porch and get
you settled. Luke and I will be out to talk to you soon.” Lucas
stood with his hat in his hand as he watched Margaret go. There
was dead silence in the room as they waited for Margaret to
return. Both Luke and Aunt Gertrude knew there was nothing more
to be said to each other. Lucas loathed the woman, and that was
plain to see.
When Margaret returned, she suggested they all sit down in the
living room. When they were seated, Margaret folded her hands in
her lap as Lucas put a protective arm around her shoulders, and
waited for her Aunt Gertrude to speak. Aunt Gertrude’s eyes
filled with tears and started falling down her cheeks. “You can
turn off the tears, Aunt Gertrude,” Lucas grumbled.
“Lucas!” Margaret warned him.
“I deserve everything you have to say to me. I had…no…idea Mr.
Parnell was that way! I never knew he’d…he’d kidnap Margaret
“For your information, Aunt Gertrude, The officials in Texas
suspect Dallas Parnell killed his first wife. He’s burned out
and threatened many small ranchers and farmers in Texas to
acquire a large amount of land. He came here intending to do the
same thing…built a house awful fast with a secret room…Makes me
wonder what his intentions were. YOU…Aunt Gertrude…ate right out
of his hand…with MY fiancée!”
Aunt Gertrude lowered her head. “ Margaret, I…I wanted to get
back at your mother…any way I could. I was using you to hurt my
sister, and I know now that was wrong.”
“That…” Margaret suddenly stood from the couch as she clinched
her fists in anger. “THAT was wrong? Aunt Gertrude, everything
you’ve done has been wrong! Setting me up with that…that…monster
was just one of many, many things you’ve done wrong.” Hot, angry
tears tempted to burn from her eyes, but Margaret forced them
“I only did it to hurt your mother.” Aunt Bertha clasped her
hands. “I never meant to hurt you.”
“YOU NEVER MEANT TO…” Margaret turned away and hurried to the
window. She stared out the window hoping to calm herself, but it
just served to make her even angrier. She turned, clinching her
fists, and began yelling and crying at the same time. “MY MOTHER
DID NOTHING BUT LOVE YOU…ALL THESE YEARS, SHE CONTININUED TO
MAKE EXCUSES FOR YOU!!! ‘YOUR AUNT GERTRUDE’S HAD A HARD TIME,’
SHE SAID. ‘HER HEARTS’S IN THE RIGHT PLACE…’ YET ALL THIS
TIME…ALL THESE YEARS…”
Margaret turned away and closed her eyes as her shoulders shook
with sobs. Lucas jumped from the couch and went over to hold her
as she cried. He turned and looked at Aunt Gertrude. “You’ve
managed to do what you set out to do. You’ve used Margaret to
hurt your sister…You almost cost her her life.” Lucas smoothed
Margaret hair and whispered words of endearment in her ear as
Aunt Gertrude watched from the couch in desperation.
Finally, she spoke. “I…I don’t know what to say. I…I…” Aunt
Gertrude stood and started over toward the couple. She reached
out a hand and laid it on Margaret’s shoulder.
“Don’t touch me!” Margaret cried as she pulled away and clung
closer to Lucas. “Don’t you EVER…TOUCH ME!”
“Margaret…I want to apologize. I…I want another chance.”
Margaret shot her head up. She angrily wiped her tears as she
stared at her aunt. “Another chance?! How dare you even ask for
such a thing!” Margaret shook her head. “Are you willing to give
up all that bitterness and show compassion?” Margaret stepped
away from Lucas. “ARE YOU WILLING TO LOVE MY MOTHER…MY
The two women stared at each other for a long time. Finally,
Aunt Gertrude turned away from her. “No.” She shook her head.
Margaret fled the room in tears. Lucas watched her leave then
turned to Aunt Gertrude. “You know…I feel sorry for you. You
don’t have a friend in the world…The one person who believed in
you no longer believes in you…She is the most compassionate and
forgiving person on earth…I oughta know…yet you’ve managed to
isolate even her. I hope you’re proud of yourself.”
“Well!” Aunt Gertrude shouted as Lucas started to leave the
room. Lucas turned and watched Aunt Gertrude plop herself down
on the couch. She lifted her head. “Are you really taking my
mother from me?”
“Yes. We’re definitely not going to let her stay so you can feed
off of your anger through her.” Lucas turned and left. He found
Margaret crying in the kitchen as she watched her grandmother
gently rock back and forth on the back porch. Lucas sat his hat
on the table as he stood behind her. He clasped her shoulders
with his hands and pressed a kiss to her head. “I’m sorry she’s
“She has so much hate, Luke…” Margaret sobbed. “So much…”
“She was hurt a long time ago, and she never forgave her mother.
She’s fed off of that bitterness all these years, honey.” Lucas
turned her around.
Margaret turned back to look at her grandmother on the back
porch. “What now?”
“We go home.”
Margaret gave an involuntary shiver. “Oh Luke…Just thinking
about being in that room and that man…”
“Honey, it’s over.” Lucas turned her back around and gave her a
stern look. “We left it back there in that room, remember?’
Lucas shook his head. “And we’re never coming back here!” He
smiled and hugged her to him. “You need to put this behind you.”
“I was so stupid…” Margaret laid her head against his chest as
she sighed. “She promised me fancy dishes and a dress and I came
running. I should have listened to you…”
“Love is blind…” Lucas mumbled. “You’re far from stupid,
Margaret.” He lifted her face and looked sternly into her eyes.
“And I NEVER want to hear you say that again.” Lucas waited for
her to nod. “I should have listened to my instincts, but I was
afraid that if I said no…you’d resent me.”
Margaret saw the question in Lucas’ eyes. “I don’t know, Luke.”
Margaret bit her lip. “But from now on, I’ll listen to you.”
“Hm…Well, I’m wrong sometimes too. But for now on, we’ll talk it
out. We’ll both discuss it then come to a decision.” Lucas
smiled at her. “I don’t want to make all the tough decisions on
my own, honey…Not when I have myself such a smart wife.”
Margaret smiled. “I don’t mind you making the decisions…That’s
the way God intended it, but…if you want my opinions, I don’t
mind that either.” Margaret and Lucas laughed together. “Shall
we go talk to Grandma Bertha?”
Lucas and Margaret made their way to Grandma Bertha. Lucas took
one of her feeble hands while Margaret the other. “Margaret and
I have been talking,” Lucas started. “Margaret told me you’re
not happy here. Is that right?” Lucas saw the answer in her
tear-filled eyes. “Well, Grandma Bertha, what would you think
of…coming back to Enid with us?”
The answer was evident in her face. Grandma Bertha smiled.
“Yes…Yes…” She nodded her head as she smiled. “Yes…Yes…”
Margaret squeezed her hand as she wiped tears from the older
woman’s face. “We don’t know all the details yet, Grandmother.
But you’ll be loved…and well taken care of.” Margaret smiled at
Luke. “The whole family…we’ll sit down and talk about what to
do. But you’ll ALWAYS be loved.”
“Thank you…” Grandma Bertha pressed a shaking hand to Margaret’s
cheek, and then to Lucas’. “Thank you…”
“Alright.” Lucas nodded his head. He turned to Margaret. “Honey,
why don’t you go get her things packed as well as yours. I’ll go
into town and see about getting a wagon to bring you home.”
Margaret smiled. She leaned over and kissed him. “Thank you.”
Lucas smiled at her, then stood and hurried out the door.
The day was late by the time Lucas was able to rent the horses
and wagon with a canopy. Lucas prepared the back for Margaret’s
grandmother so he could make it as comfortable as possible. When
he got back to Aunt Gertrude’s house, he loaded the trunks,
telling Margaret to keep just enough for their travel for the
next week. Margaret made sure she did as Lucas suggested. Aunt
Gertrude allowed Lucas to take as many types of linen and other
supplies as needed to make the trip home comfortable. Lucas made
sure to only take as much as he needed, and not a thing more.
Margaret helped Grandma Bertha take a bath and wash her hair,
then helped her to bed. After her task was done, she came
downstairs where Lucas was sitting in the living room. Lucas
stood up, kissed her on the forehead, then excused himself,
stating he’d sleep in the wagon that night. “Can’t you stay for
awhile?” she asked.
He winked at her. “Goodnight.”
Margaret turned to look at her Aunt Gertrude. So many things had
been said. She opened her mouth to speak, but really didn’t know
what to say. Instead, she excused herself to draw her own bath
so she could be ready for travel first thing in the morning.
The next morning, Margaret prepared breakfast for the three of
them. Aunt Gertrude did not join them. In fact, she hadn’t left
her room by the time Margaret had put breakfast on the table.
After Lucas said a quick prayer to bless the food and their
They ate in silence for awhile. After a few minutes of silence,
Lucas sat his coffee cup down and laid a hand on hers. He saw
the look in her eyes. “Honey, she’s hurting. She’ll eat when
she’s ready. For what she’s done to you, she deserves to be left
“I know, but…” Margaret stopped when they heard a noise behind
Margaret and Lucas turned in their chairs to see Aunt Gertrude
standing in the doorway of the dining room. Lucas slowly sat
down his cup and watched her enter the room. Aunt Gertrude
clasped her hands together. “I’m not going to apologize. I’m not
going to even try to beg for you to stay.” Aunt Gertrude looked
at her mother. “I don’t want you to take my mother from me.”
Margaret lowered her eyes to the table. “The discussion’s
closed, Aunt Gertrude. We’re taking Grandma Bertha with us.”
Aunt Gertrude turned and walked out of the kitchen. Margaret
started to stand, but Lucas gently restrained her, telling her
to eat her breakfast. When she was finished, Lucas mumbled that
he would help her with the dishes. After the dishes were washed,
Margaret and Lucas walked into the living room to see Aunt
Gertrude standing in the middle of the room with her hands
clasped in front of her. “I know you’re doing what you think is
best.” Lucas turned and looked at Margaret. Margaret nodded. “
“I think we should get going.” Lucas turned to Margaret. “Honey,
get your Grandmother.”
“Wait.” Margaret and Lucas turned to look at Aunt Gertrude.
“Margaret, I promised you a wedding dress and dishes.”
“And I’m leaving without either,” Margaret answered simply.
“I…want you to have them,” Aunt Gertrude stated. “They are just
in the closet…”
“No.” Lucas and Margaret both answered at the same time.
“But they are…”
Lucas took Margaret’s hand. “I’ll provide for my wife. We don’t
want your dishes.” He turned to Margaret. “We should get going.”
Margaret nodded and went to get her Grandmother. As they walked
into the living room, Grandma Bertha walked up to Aunt Gertrude
and stopped in front of her. She clasped Aunt Gertrude’s hands
and said, “I love you.” Aunt Gertrude lowered her head and
hastily turned around. Margaret didn’t miss the sad look in
Grandma Bertha’s eyes as she was rejected by her daughter.
Margaret walked Grandma Bertha out to the waiting wagon. Lucas
helped her into the back of the wagon, and they got her situated
against the back of the wagon.
“We’ll try to take it easy,” Lucas promised Grandma Bertha. She
smiled and nodded, but there was a sadness in her eyes.
Margaret scooted out from the wagon and stood back on the
ground. Lucas took her arm and started to lead her up front, but
then she paused and turned around to look at the house.
“Luke…I’ll be right back.”
Lucas took a firm hold of her arm. “Hasn’t she hurt you enough?”
“Please, Luke…I’ll just be a minute.” Lucas unwillingly let go
of her arm and watched her walk back inside. But what met
Margaret’s eyes when she came back in was more than she could
bear. Aunt Gertrude was on the floor in front of the fire
sobbing uncontrollably. Margaret stepped up behind her, but said
nothing. Finally, Aunt Gertrude realized someone was behind her.
Margaret stooped down as Aunt Gertrude turned around. “Aunt…”
“GO AWAY! I DON’T NEED ANYBODY! JUST GO AWAY! GET OUT OF HERE
AND LEAVE ME ALONE!!!”
“Oh, Aunt Gertrude…I just wanted to say, I can’t hate you, but
it will be a long time before I can ever forgive you,” Margaret
“JUST GO AWAY! GO AWAY!!!”
“Margaret.” Margaret turned to see Lucas standing in the
doorway. He slowly walked over to her and put an arm around her.
“Let’s go.” Margaret hesitated, but Lucas firmly moved her from
the house. He helped her up onto the seat, then started the
wagon in motion. Lucas left Margaret to her own thoughts as she
sat silently beside him. As they rode their wagon out of town,
with Bullet tied behind, Margaret allowed the tears to fall, but
still she said nothing.
“We’ll take the longer road. It’ll take us longer to get to
Enid, but it’ll be gentler on Grandma.”
Margaret turned and looked at Lucas. “Why didn’t she do that?
Why didn’t she take the longer road?”
Lucas turned and searched her face. “Your aunt?” Margaret
nodded. “I don’t know. I guess that…sometimes the shorter way
looks better…easier, but then we start down and realize that
it’s rough, but by then it’s too late...”
Margaret turned and looked behind her. Lucas squeezed her hand.
“There’s no looking back. From here on out, we look forward.”
Lucas patted her hand as it rested on his thigh. “We’ve come too
“Will she be okay, Luke?”
Lucas leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Only time will tell,
honey. Now…what do you say we start from here?”
Margaret wiped her eyes and smiled at Lucas. With a nod, she
said…”There’s no looking back. We’ve come too far.”
The Margaret Years — A Promise Kept
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
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around The McCain Ranch