The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Next Step…
Chapter 86 - A Queen Returns
Written by Deanne Bertram

Thadd entered the room and happily suggested, “Let’s give Mark some privacy so he can get dressed to head home to Seth’s. I need this room for sick people.”

“When can I return to work?” Mark asked as Lucas tossed him his clothes.

“Work?! Mark McCain, how can you think of work? You could have died,” Hope proclaimed.

“But I didn’t. I feel fine. Besides I have a job to do.”

Seth informed the group, “Mark, I’ll see you at the house later tonight. I probably should relieve Johnny, considering all the trouble I caused.”

“With your hand in a cast, Father?” Hope inquired.

“We have a nice quiet town, for the most part,” Seth answered.

*****

After dressing, Mark stepped from the room and into the arms of his waiting wife.

“Mark,” Thadd stated. “If you’re feeling up to it, I think you can return to work tomorrow, just take it easy with your shoulder.”

“No problem with that. We got ourselves a nice quiet town,” Mark laughed as he wrapped the arm around Hope’s shoulders.

As they stepped from the clinic, Mark hugged Lucas goodbye. Continuing towards Seth’s home, they heard the train whistle announcing its arrival, causing Mark to hesitate in his steps.

“No you don’t!” Hope stated as she held tight to Mark’s arm.

“But…”

“No buts about it. You’re coming to Father’s home and spending some time with OUR children. This town has two other very capable law officers!”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Upon entering Seth’s home, Mark was overrun by his children attempting to climb on him, calling “Papa.”

“Children,” Lilah called from the hallway.

“Its okay, Lilah,” Mark happily replied as he knelt down to hug his children.

“Mark, I want you to know how really sorry I am for not allowing you to come inside the other day. Will you accept my apology?” Lilah asked with sincerity.

“Lilah, I’m beginning to understand why all of you acted the way you did. It hurt that you wouldn’t allow me to explain, but if it will make you feel better, yes, I’ll accept your apology. Sure would be a shame for Seth to call off the wedding because I didn’t,” Mark teased.

“Mark!” Hope exclaimed.

“I deserve that Hope. Let him have his fun with us.” Turning to the children Lilah stated, “Come along, we’ve cookies in the oven and we can’t have them burning.”

Mark shook his head and laughed as all four ran through the hallway to the kitchen.

*****

Lilah and Hope were putting a late supper on the table when Seth arrived home for the meal.

“You’re never going to guess who came into town on the train today,” Seth stated after saying grace.

“Who?” Lilah asked as she placed her napkin in her lap.

“We’ve royalty in town,” Seth answered, keeping a straight face.

“Now father, don’t you think we’ve put Mark through enough?” Hope asked, as she began filling the plate for one of their children.

“She’s specifically requested to see Mark.”

“Father!”

“Hope, let your father have his fun, if this will make him feel better,” Mark answered as he placed his hand over Hope’s hand.

“Queen…” Seth started to say.

“A queen, now father, you’ve taken this much too far!” Hope scolded.

“If you’ll let me finish… Mark, I know after what we just went through, you probably think I’m jesting…” Seth stated. “I’m serious.”

Seth took notice of the look on his daughter’s face, but continued to talk to Mark. “Queen Jennifer and her family, including Prince Charles arrived on the train today. They were hoping that they could talk with you and your father.

“Jennifer? Here?!” Mark asked. “I can’t wait to introduce Hope and the children to them. Are they really here?”

“Father, you’re serious?” Hope asked. “There really is a queen in town?”

Seth nodded his answer to their questions.

“Mark, who is this Queen Jennifer?” Lilah asked as she set a plate filled with food in front of Mykaela.

“I was probably thirteen when I found her and her brother hiding in our hayloft.” Mark paused as he remembered back. “Now she was only a princess back then. They were visiting the States and slipped away from their security detail, they wanted to see what the American west was really like. Anyway, Charles had come down sick with the measles and they stayed with us until he recovered. While here, they received word their father had passed away, and Jennifer and Charles had to return to their home country so she could assume the throne.”

“A queen?” Mykaela asked.

“Yes, a real queen, Emmy.” Turning to Hope, “Don’t you fret none. She’s real royalty. You’ll like her.”

“Can we meet her brother?” Josh asked.

“Don’t see why not. But I guess I’ll need to get that approved through her security detail. But first, you eat! Your Mama and Miss Lilah fixed this supper for us.”

*****

While Seth walked Lilah to the boarding house before returning to the Marshal’s Office, Mark assisted Hope in putting their children to bed for the night.

“A real prince?” Zach asked.

“Yes, Charles is a real prince,” Mark replied. “Now, I was you three to go sleep and no talking.”

After covering up their sons and kissing them goodnight, Hope pulled the door to the room closed and they walked across the hall and kissed their daughter goodnight.

*****

“Are you going to the hotel to meet her, tonight?” Hope inquisitively asked.

“Not tonight. Tonight is a night for us. But in the morning… Will you come with me? I really want you to me her.”

“Are you sure it will be alright?” Hope replied.

“I know it will be.”

*****

The following morning, Hope stood in front of the full-length mirror in the bedroom she and Mark were sharing.

“Ohhh!” Hope let out as she looked at herself, turning left and then right.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t wear this to meet a queen. And I don’t have anything that would even be proper.”

Walking up behind Hope, Mark turned her around to face him.

“Hope, Jennifer won’t mind what you’re wearing. Besides, I’m the one you have to impress and you look beautiful to me. Come on, it’s about time we get the children over to the daycare.”

*****

After dropping their children off at the daycare, Mark wrapped an arm around Hope’s waist and held his rifle in his other hand. Entering into the lobby of the hotel, they greeted Lou and asked about Queen Jennifer and Prince Charles.

“They’re waiting for ye, in the restaurant,” Lou stated an nodded her head towards the restaurant.

Mark started to escort Hope into the restaurant and was stopped just before the archway.

“You’ll have to leave your rifle with me,” the man stated as he blocked Mark’s path.

“Edgerton! I have asked you before, do not make a scene,” a feminine voice called from further in the room.

“Your Highness, he’s carrying a rifle.”

“Find out who he is,” another voice, a man’s voice stated.

“Mark and Hope McCain,” Mark stated.

“Edgerton, let him in and why don’t you go outside,” the man replied.

Removing his hat, Mark stepped further into the restaurant, “Jennifer?” he stated as he briefly bowed and Hope curtsied.

“Mark, how wonderful to see you again after all these years. Can you really be this grown up, married and about to become a father,” Jennifer stated as she stepped from the table. “Mrs. McCain, I am pleased to meet you, I’d like to introduce to you my husband, Prince Wykestrom and our son, Prince Peter.”

After greeting the two, Mark inquired, “How is Prince Charles?”

“Don’t you recognize me?” a younger man asked as he came up from behind. “A lot taller than you remember me being.”

While shaking hands, Mark stated, “Charles, how are you? I’d like you to meet my wife, Hope.”

“And I’d like to introduce my fiancée, Amelia,” Charles replied.

Pleasantries continued to be exchanged, when Jennifer invited Mark and Hope to join them at their table.

After having taken their seats, “Your father Mark, is he well?” Jennifer asked.

“Yes, and I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you and your family. I’d really like for you to meet the rest of our family.”

“The rest of your family?” Jennifer inquired.

“Pa finally remarried, and I’ve a younger sister and two brothers.”

“I’m so happy for you Mark. And, is this your first child?” Jennifer asked, looking to Hope.

“Actually, this will be our fifth,” Hope answered.

“Fifth!” Charles squeaked out.

Jennifer scolded, “Charles, don’t be so rude.” At the same time, Charles took an elbow in the ribs from Amelia.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any…”

“Charles, don’t apologize. I’d like for you and Jennifer to meet our children later today,” Mark stated.

“Oh, Mark, we’d love to meet your children. How old are they?” Jennifer asked of Hope.

“The twins, Joshua and Zachariah, are five, Elijah is three, and Mykaela is two.”

Amelia asked, “And when is your next child due?”

“Around Thanksgiving,” Hope replied.

“To be a mother, how I’ve dreamed of… I’m sorry, I…” Amelia stated as her cheeks blushed.

“Carrying a child is an amazing experience and raising them…” Hope started to say.

“You raise them?” Amelia asked. “You don’t have nannies?”

“We have a nanny who lives with us and helps out, but yes, we raise our children,” Mark answered.

“It’s a wonderful dream to raise a child, don’t let anyone tell you any differently,” Hope stated as she looked at her pregnant belly and ran her hand over the top.

Mark turned to Jennifer and asked, “How long will you be staying in North Fork?”

“We have a few extra days before we have to be in San Francisco.”

“Why that’s great! Prince Wykestrom, do you shoot?” Mark asked.

“I’m not so good with a pistol, but I figure I’m fair with a rifle. Why do you ask?”

“I’m sure the ladies would like a chance to talk without the men folk present and I thought that we could take you pheasant or grouse hunting.”

“Does the offer include me?” Charles asked.

“Sure,” Mark answered.

*****

Patrons started to fill the restaurant as lunchtime approached, causing the group to realize how long they had been talking.

“Can we meet your children?” Jennifer asked.

Mark and Hope escorted the royal family over to the daycare where they introduced also Hattie and Gwen.

Peter stood beside his father as he was introduced to the McCain children.

“Your children are precious,” Jennifer stated as she knelt in front of each child.

“You a queen?” Mykaela asked.

“Why, yes, I am,” Jennifer answered as she turned back to Mykaela.

“You don’t look like a queen,” Josh stated.

“And just what is a queen supposed to look like,” Prince Wykestrom asked.

“Old,’ Mykaela answered.

“Oh, old. I see.” The prince answered and gave a brief laugh. “I for one am thankful this queen is not old.”

Josh asked, “Can Peter play with us?”

“Please Papa?” Zach chimed in.

“Would is be okay for us to leave Peter here?” Jennifer cautiously asked.

“Sure you can leave the boy here,” Hattie declared as she extended a hand to take Peter to introduce him the other children in the daycare.

*****

“Your Majesty, there’s something else?” Hope asked as they started to leave the daycare.

“If you’d like to talk with a little more privacy, we can go to Hope’s father’s home,” Mark suggested.

“Edgerton, you will stay here and keep an eye on Peter,” Wykestrom ordered. “Make sure he doesn’t cause any trouble.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

*****

Upon arrival back at Seth Lane’s home, Mark opened the door, allowing the others to enter first. Hope prepared cups of coffee and tea and served them to their guests in the parlor.

“Mark, we do have a favor to ask of you and your father,” Jennifer stated. “I know we probably should have written or wired, but…”

“What kind of a favor we can do for you?” Mark replied.

“Well…” Jennifer started.

“Our son is seven,” Wykestrom replied. “Though compared to your sons, he looks to be their age. Mark, he’s the favor we were hoping to ask of you.

“I don’t understand,” Mark replied.

“Mark, when Charles and I were here before, I marveled at the way of your American West. And I loved the relationship between you and your father in how you took pride in working the land.”

“We still do,” Mark stated.

“As Hope said earlier, it is something special to raise a child and I’ve tried my best, but with the staff at the palace… Mark, we want our son to know that being a Prince is nothing, if you don’t respect the people and the land. Back home, he’s too recognizable to do what we want to do. And with the way he’s starting to behave, others would only encourage him to continue to misbehave,” Jennifer stated.

“Just how can we help you?” Hope asked.

Wykestrom answered, “We’d like to leave him here for a few weeks. Let him realize how real people live, and here, he’d just be another child.”

“Would you leave Edgerton here?” Mark asked.

“No, but my sister was hoping that you’d be able to convince the deputy or the marshal we met last night to offer him some form of protection,” Charles stated.

“That won’t be necessary,” Hope said.

Amelia gave a small gasp when she thought Hope was suggesting Peter go without someone of authority to protect him.

“What Hope means is, it won’t be necessary to convince Johnny or Seth to keep an eye on Peter. I’m the U.S. Marshal for the Territory. And the deputy you met last night…”

“He’s my father,” Hope completed Mark’s sentence.

“We’d love to help you out, but are you sure?” Mark stated, realizing the responsibilities this would entail.

“Maybe it’s not a good idea, I mean, with your wife expecting. It was unfair of us to ask,” Jennifer replied as if having second thoughts.

“Jennifer, we’ve talked of this. Having him spend time on a ranch is something you dreamed of,” Wykestrom stated, sensing the change of mood in his wife.

“Jennifer if you’re concerned about leaving Peter here because Hope is expecting, don’t be. Tell, you what, why don’t we all ride out to the ranch this afternoon and talk with Pa. I’m sure my parents would be happy to help out.”

“Mark, you have to stand your shift this afternoon,” Hope reminded.

“Oh, I forgot,” Mark answered. “We could ride out tomorrow morning, once I get off shift.”

“Do you no longer live on the ranch?” Jennifer asked.

“Normally we do, but we’ve been living here, with my father, just until the wedding. I’ve been helping with the preparations,” Hope answered.

“Who’s the lucky groom?” Charles asked.

“My father,” Hope answered. “He’s marrying a lovely woman.”

“How exciting,” Amelia answered. “Are you really doing all the planning yourselves?”

“Yes, that makes the wedding ceremony all the more special. Aren’t you going to plan your wedding to Charles?”

“No, I’m not allowed. My mother will have others plan everything, I just show up for the dress fittings and at the church,” Amelia answered.

Hope could see the disappointment in Amelia’s face and hear it in her voice.

“When is your father to be married?” Jennifer asked.

“A week from Friday night,” Mark stated with a grin on his face as Seth and Lilah came through the front door.

Introductions and offers of congratulations on the impending wedding were made.

*****

As the afternoon progressed, Mark stated he needed to collect their children from the daycare and bring them back to Seth’s, before heading to the Marshal’s Office.

“We should go too. I’m sure Edgerton is beside himself with so many children around,” Wykestrom stated.

*****

“Papa,” Zach called as he ran to Mark.

“What is it Zach?” Mark asked.

“Can Peter spend the night with us? Please?”

“Please Papa?” Josh echoed.

“I don’t know,” Mark answered.

“Mark,” Jennifer stated. “Peter’s not had that many friends who are close to his age. I have a better suggestion, why don’t you let the twins spend the night at the hotel with us?”

“Papa, can we?” an excited Josh asked.

“Jennifer, are you sure you want to do this?” Mark asked.

“Oh Mark, it will be so much fun to hear children laughing,” Jennifer stated.

“Mark, your boys are welcome to spend the night at the hotel with us,” Wykestrom confirmed.

Talking to his sons, “Well, let’s go get an overnight bag packed.” After watching the three boys circle around, Mark looked to Wykestrom, “I’ll bring them over before I report for duty.”

Josh and Zach rapidly talked between themselves as they walked in front of Mark, back to Seth’s home.

After Mark informed Hope of the boys’ invitation, she prepared an overnight bag. Kneeling in front of the twins, Hope slicked back their hair and made sure they were as presentable as possible.

“Now you will both behave yourselves and not cause any trouble?” Hope carefully stated and asked.

“Mama, Peter’s fun. We won’t get into trouble,” Josh answered.

Hope stood on the porch, watching as Mark led the twins to the hotel. “Have a fun adventure, sons,” she quietly spoke.

*****

Later that night, Mark was contemplating stopping by the hotel while walking the town, walking past the front of the hotel twice before continuing. Once Mark was satisfied, that North Fork was at peace, he stopped at the hotel before returning to the Marshal’s Office.

“Lou,” Mark called to Lou as she was cleaning up in the restaurant. “How have they been? Any trouble?”

“Trouble? Twice ye’ve stopped and looked in the window and twice ye’ve walked on. There’s been quite the laughter coming from the room the boys are in,” Lou answered. “I think the three of them finally settled down and fell asleep about twenty minutes ago.” Taking on the tone of a genuine friend, Lou stated, “They’re in good hands.”

“I know they’re in good hands, I just don’t want to hear they’ve not been good.”

“They’re McCain’s…”

“I know and that’s what has me worried.”

“Oh, you… Ye’re sons haven’t given anyone near any much trouble as I remember you given us. Go back to the Marshal’s Office. I’ll see you in the morning.”

*****

The following morning, after being relieved by Johnny, Mark stopped at the hotel to collect the twins and Peter, before he and Edgerton took them to the daycare. Edgerton didn’t say a word to Mark as they walked along the boardwalk. He stopped outside the door and took a seat as Mark took the boys inside.

Next, Mark head to Seth’s, collected Hope and their two youngest children, before returning to the daycare. After escorting Hope to the hotel where she would wait with the royal families, Mark ran to the livery to harness a team and hitch them to a surrey, before saddling Rainmaker.

“Can I help?” Charles asked as he came up behind Mark.

“I can… Sure,” Mark answered as he saw that this was something that Charles really wanted to do.

“Mark, can we talk?” Charles asked in between Mark instructing him in what to do.

“What’s on your mind?”

“When Jennifer stated the family was invited to San Francisco, I was happy to hear we would return to America. As we crossed the ocean, I asked if we could manage to come to North Fork. Mark, I’m now second in line to the throne, and if Jennifer and Wykestrom were to have any more children, I get pushed further down the line of succession. I don’t really care to be King and actually, I don’t want to return home. I mean, just spending the day with you and your wife, and then your sons spending the night with us at the hotel… That’s the kind of life I want with Amelia. I want to make my future wife happy and I know she’s not.”

“She’s not?” Mark asked.

“She’s the fourth daughter and her family is extremely well thought of in our country, it’s just that, she’s read the novels of your American West and has fallen in love with it.”

“Charles, you know better than anyone, those novels aren’t the real America,” Mark tried to explain.

“I’m not talking the dime-store novels, I’m talking the true novels, your history. We talked last night before retiring and we want to make our own wedding arrangements and to raise our own children… That’s the life we want…”

“It’s a good life in America, but you’re a prince…”

“A prince, who will never be king.”

“How can I help?” Mark asked.

“Convince Jennifer to let me stay here, while Peter is here. Hire me on to help on your ranch. Find some way for Amelia to decide if this is what she really wants, and if so… I just need a chance to get Jennifer to allow us to stay.”

“I don’t know I can convince her to let you stay permanently, but maybe until they return for Peter.”

“Mark, please, for the little boy I used to be?”

Tying his horse to the back of the surrey, Mark climbed in the seat and allowed Charles to drive the team to the hotel.

After helping Hope into the surrey, Mark stepped aside and watched as Charles and Wykestrom helped Amelia and Jennifer to their seat, before taking their own seats in preparation to drive the team. Mark swung up into the saddle, and signaled Rainmaker to keep pace with the surrey as he rode beside it, while heading for the McCain Ranch.

*****

As they rode, Amelia asked about the reception they received from the owner of the hotel upon their arrival, “She acted as if she didn’t believe us when we told her who we were.”

“Well, I don’t blame her or anyone else, see, we just finished dealing with a couple claiming to be royalty when they really were here to steal a money transfer from the bank. They were quite the pair,” Hope answered, embarrassment showed on her face.

“Oh?” Wykestrom stated.

“Please, I’d prefer if we could just forget about them. They are being transferred to Denver today. And it’s pretty much a closed subject,” Mark stated.

*****

Pulling into the yard, the group was greeted by Lucas, walking from the barn.

“Mark? Hope?” Lucas called as he recognized them while wiping grease from his hands.

“Pa, you’ll never guess who came to town,” Mark called as he stepped from his horse.

“Do I want to?” Lucas replied as he didn’t recognize the men stepping from the surrey.

“Mark, Hope!” Milly called as she stepped down from the porch. She stopped short as the younger of the two male strangers offered Hope his hand and assisted her down from the surrey.

“Ma!” Hope called as she made her way to give Milly a hug.

“Ma,” Mark called. “I’d like to introduce you to Queen Jennifer and her husband Prince Wykestrom, and her brother, Prince Charles, and his fiancée Amelia.”

“Queen Jennifer,” Lucas called. “Welcome back, Your Majesty.”

Milly attempted to wipe her hands on her apron and gave Mark the un-approving look of a woman who realized company had arrived and her home was in need of attention.

“Ma, don’t fret. Jennifer and Charles stayed with us once before,” Mark answered. “They’re not here to be impressed by us.”

“Your Majesty,” Milly called as she curtsied.

“Please, won’t you call us by our given names?” Jennifer pleaded.

“Only if you call us Lucas and Milly,” Lucas stated as he offered his hand to Wykestrom and then to Charles.

*****

During their visit, Jennifer and Wykestrom explained how they had been invited to San Francisco where wealthy benefactors were to hold a reception in their honor.

“We donated money for the establishment of the Morosco’s Grand Opera House in San Francisco. My father was passionate about San Francisco and the opera, so what better way to honor him.”

“Sounds as if you’ll have a wonderful time,” Milly stated.

“Most all of us will,” Wykestrom replied. “Lucas, we know that our son Peter would be terribly bored while we stay in San Francisco. And I remembered what a wonderful time Charles and I had here, the first time we visited America.”

“Lucas, what Jennifer is trying to say is that we’d like to let him stay here, with you. To understand what it is to work the land. We’d be more than happy to pay you for your inconvenience in watching after Peter,” Wykstrom stated.

“I won’t hear of it. We’d be happy to have the boy stay with us,” Lucas stated.

“Pa, if it wouldn’t be any problem, why don’t I bring the twins over tomorrow when I bring Peter. That way the four of them can have fun playing together. I know the boys are getting a little bored staying in town all the time.”

“You most certainly will bring the twins. I’ve missed them,” Milly replied.

From behind one of the closed bedroom doors all in the front room heard a loud “Yippee!” and sounds of a someone jumping up and down.

Milly stood from her chair, walked to the door, and opened it to see Little Ted jumping around in his bedroom.

“You’re supposed to be cleaning your room,” Milly stated with one hand still on the doorknob and the other on her hip.

“But Ma, Josh and Zach are coming home! They won’t care if my toys are put away. We’ll be playing with them anyhow!”

Milly stood to the side when Lucas called Little Ted to the front room.

“It seems someone was eavesdropping at the door instead of doing his chores,” Lucas scolded.

“But Pa,” Little Ted pleaded.

“Lucas, he’s precious. Please don’t be too mad at him,” Jennifer stated.

“Young man, I can’t go against the Queen’s request.”

“She’s a queen?” Little Ted asked.

“Don’t tell me she doesn’t look like a queen because she’s not old,” Wykestrom stated.

“No sir. But she does look too pretty to be a queen,” Little Ted stated, sending the adults into laughter.

From the doorway, Amelia saw Levi peeking around the door jam, “And who is this little prince?”

“Me not a prince. Me Levi.”

“Mark, you said you also have a sister?” Jennifer asked.

Milly opened the door to the other bedroom and asked for Myra to come into the front room.

Upon being introduced, Lucas told Myra why the others were there.

“Another boy! Geesh, why couldn’t you bring a girl? All we got around here is boys,” Myra declared.

“Myra!” Milly scolded.

“But what of Mykaela?” Amelia asked.

“She’s in town.” Upon seeing her mother’s expression Myra added, “I’m sorry. That wasn’t proper of me.”

“I think its darling. I only wish I had a younger sister like you,” Amelia added.

By mid-afternoon, it was agreed that Mark would bring the twins and Peter to the McCain Ranch and they would stay with Lucas and Milly until after Seth and Lilah’s wedding. Mark and Hope would return home at that time and Peter would stay with them.

“Pa, do you think we could take Wykestrom and Charles hunting tomorrow?” Mark asked.

“Yes, I need plenty of time in the house to make sure it is properly cleaned before royalty returns,” Milly stated adamantly.

“Please, Milly. Do not be embarrassed by your homestead. It is quite charming and I wish I could stay here instead of traveling on to San Francisco. But a person of my station knows where her duty lies,” Jennifer answered.

*****

Upon their return to North Fork, Charles announced that since there was no real business for him to attend to in San Francisco, he wanted to stay in North Fork, with Amelia.

“Jennifer, you want your son to respect the people and the land, let Charles stay. I can put him to work on the ranch and he can learn that being a ‘commoner’ isn’t that easy,” Mark offered.

“Charles? Is this what you really want?” Jennifer asked.

“It is. I promise, I won’t interfere with the McCain’s taking care of Peter, but I just can’t see tagging along to San Francisco. Everyone really wants to talk with you. I’m just extra baggage. Please sis?” Charles asked.

“Mark, I didn’t mean to saddle you with my entire family,” Jennifer stated as she gave into Charles.

“That means I can stay?! And Amelia too?”

Jennifer nodded.

*****

After leaving the women at the hotel and the younger children at the daycare, Mark, Wykestrom, Charles, the twins, and Peter headed to the livery. Wykestrom and Charles rented horses from Nils and watched as Mark also saddled the twins ponies.

“Is there another pony for me?” Peter dared to ask.

From the doorway Nils called, “I don’t know this one is pretty wild,” as he lead another already saddled pony into the livery from outside.

After seeing the questioning expression on Mark’s face, Nils answered, “Well there are quite a number of children living in town anymore, what’s one pony to take care of…”

After making sure the stirrups were set to the proper lengths, the men helped the children mount their ponies and soon the six were on their way to the McCain Ranch.

*****

After unsaddling the horses and ponies, the boys were told to play in the front yard together while the men helped move the Twin’s and Eli’s beds into Lucas and Milly’s home.

Milly finally shooed the men out of her home so she could properly prepare everything in the boys’ bedroom. She didn’t even wave goodbye as they left to go hunting. Before setting to her task, she asked Myra to keep an eye on the boys while they continued to play.

“Yes, Mama,” Myra respectfully answered.

*****

The afternoon was waning as four riders rode back into the yard, causing the young boys to run, whooping and hollering about the pheasants and grouse the men had hanging from their saddle horns. After tending to their horses, they set to task in cleaning the birds and setting them to soak in a brine solution.

“Should make you a quite fine feast,” Wykestrom stated.

“You’ll come back and enjoy a supper with us, won’t you?” Milly asked.

“I’m sorry, but we must depart on tomorrow’s train. We have truly enjoyed your hospitality.”

Before leaving Mark offered, “Ma, why don’t I bring the family back Saturday afternoon and we’ll help out and stay for supper. Hope and Lilah don’t have that much left to do for the wedding.”

“I’ve missed certain members of my family. I’d love to see all of you again,” Milly answered as a smile spread across her face.

“I do have a favor to ask. Let Gabby come to town and stay with Hope and me. Seems the least we can do seeing as you’re taking care of two of ours.”

“Please, Mama?” Myra asked.

Milly nodded.

“Mark, why don’t you leave the twins here tonight and bring Peter back after his parents leave,” Lucas suggested.

*****

After leaving the horses at Nils, Mark and Myra said good night to the royal family and made their way to Seth’s home.

“Now sis, Hope doesn’t know that you’re coming home with me.”

“She doesn’t?”

“No, I kind of had a feeling you might enjoy spending some time with Hope, away from all the boys.”

Mark knew he had made the right suggestion when he saw his sister’s and his wife’s faces light up when they saw each other in the foyer.

*****

The following morning, at the train station, saw a tearful Jennifer saying goodbye and telling her son to behave himself and not to cause the McCain’s any problems.

“Mother!?” Prince Peter pleaded as he rolled his eyes.

“This is the first time you will be away from your father and me,” Jennifer stated.

“Son, think of this as an adventure, but you must respect and mind your hosts.”

“I promise I’ll behave,” Peter stated as he hugged his mother and father goodbye.

“And Charles,” Jennifer said as she turned to look at her brother.

“I shall work to pay my room and board. Thank you sis,” Charles whispered as he leaned down to place a kiss on his sister’s cheek. Jennifer and Amelia hugged each other goodbye, as Charles and Wykestrom shook hands.

*****

After watching the train until it could no longer be seen, Peter stated, “Sir,” as he looked up to Mark.

“Yes Peter,” Mark answered.

“They will be back, won’t they?”

“Yes, they’ll be back. They just want you to know what it’s like to be a regular boy for a while.”

“Can I still play with Zach and Josh and Little Ted?”

“Yes. Come along with me and I’ll get you back to my parents’ home and get you all settled.”

“What about me?” Charles asked in childish voice.

“Guess you’re in my protective custody, too,” Mark laughed as Charles placed his arm across Peter’s shoulder.

The Next Step — Kidnapped

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

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