The Writer's Corner
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
“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
“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.
“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!”
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
“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
“She’s specifically requested to see Mark.”
“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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
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?”
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“You don’t look like a queen,” Josh stated.
“And just what is a queen supposed to look like,” Prince
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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,”
“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
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
“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
“I know they’re in good hands, I just don’t want to hear they’ve
not been good.”
“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
“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
“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
“Your Majesty,” Milly called as she curtsied.
“Please, won’t you call us by our given names?” Jennifer
“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,”
From behind one of the closed bedroom doors all in the front
room heard a loud “Yippee!” and sounds of a someone jumping up
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
“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
“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
“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
“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?”
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
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
“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.
“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.”
“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
“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!
around The McCain Ranch