The Writer's Corner
Chapter 35 - Fort Sam Houston
Written by Deanne Bertram
As Mark and Hope were walking past the general store, Mrs.
Donner announced that there was a letter addressed to Mr. and
Mrs. Mark McCain, posted from San Antonio, Texas. Hope accepted
the letter and opened it.
Dear Sis and Mark,
I pray that this letter finds both of you happy. I have good
news, I am to be married. Antoinette has accepted my marriage
proposal. We’re to be married October 19th, hoping that you can
travel to Fort Sam for our ceremony. Please wire, father and I
will make all the arrangements for your stay.
PS: Father sends his love.
“Mark, Ethan sent wonderful news. He and Antoinette are to be
married next month. He’s asked if we could come.”
“You’d really like to go wouldn’t you?” Mark asked as he pulled
her into an embrace.
“Yes Mark, it’s been over a year since I’ve seen father and
Ethan and I’ve never met my future sister-in-law. Ethan just
writes of her in his letters. Mark, please, may we go?”
“Hope, you don’t have to ask. We’ll talk with Pa and Ma tonight
when they come back to town for supper, and then I’ll make
arrangement once Micah returns. You’ll need to find someone else
to help out at the day care center while we’re gone. If your
father agrees, we can arrive a few days early and then plan to
stay a few extra days afterwards so we can visit.”
“Oh, Mark. Do you know how much I really love you?”
“Well you could prove it to me tonight,” Mark quietly whispered
in her ear.
“Mark! That will have to wait until Micah returns and I can get
It was a week before Ethan’s scheduled wedding when Mark and
Hope boarded the train bound for San Antonio, Texas. This was
the first time that Hope had been on a train and she marveled as
the scenery passed by, outside their window. As passengers would
come and go, they’d strike up conversations with their seat
As they left the train in San Antonio, Mark and Hope were amazed
at the sight that greeted them. The hustle and bustle of the big
city and all the soldiers coming and going. Soon, they heard
their names being called and turned around to see Major Seth
Lane striding towards them.
“Father!” Hope called and ran to hug her father.
As Mark approached, Seth held out his hand to greet is
son-in-law. “Mark, we’re pleased that you and Hope could join
“It’s our pleasure sir. Seeing as how many times you and Ethan
have made the trip to North Fork.”
“Come on then, let’s get your bags and get the two of you
settled in at the hotel. I’ve a room already reserved that I
think will be just fine.”
The Major motioned for a private to collect Mark and Hope’s
luggage. The Major showed them to a coach for the trip to the
“Father, how far is it to the hotel?” Hope asked.
“Its a few blocks away. Why?”
“Well, we’ve been sitting on the train for almost three days and
I thought, maybe we could walk?”
Seth turned to the private and instructed him to drive the coach
to the hotel and see that their bags were placed in their room.
As Seth escorted them along the street to the hotel, he pointed
out buildings of interest and told some of the history behind
the buildings. As a number of people they encountered stopped
and greeted Seth, he introduced his daughter and son-in-law to
them. A number of the women were wives of officers.
Once they arrived in their room, Mark and Hope declared the room
was too grand for them. To them, it appeared to be a
“Non-sense. You’ll stay here and I won’t take no for an answer.
This isn’t the best room in the hotel, but I think you’re both
entitled to stay in luxury, besides, I’m the one who’s paying
the bill. Subject closed.
“Now, I’m sure that both of you will want to freshen up, before
dinner. There’s an attendant down the hall who can draw your
baths. Ethan, Antoinette and I will meet you in the hotel lobby
at five, thirty, okay?” Seth started to leave, but stopped and
hugged his daughter one more time. “Hope, I’m happy that you
As they unpacked their bags Mark notice a slight trace of worry
in Hope’s face. “Hope, what’s the matter?” he asked.
“It’s just that all the women we met have such elegant dresses.
Even my best seems, a little plain.”
“Hope, if you like, we can go shopping tomorrow. Buy you
something to make you feel like the belle of the ball,” Mark
stated as he pulled her into an embrace.
There was a knock at the door. Mark opened the door to see a two
women standing in the hallway.
“We met briefly on the street, I’m Mrs. Abernathy and this is
Mrs. Rosemont, may we come in?”
Mark opened the door to allow the women inside.
“Please,” Hope answered. “My name is Hope.”
“Thank you Hope,” Mrs. Abernathy stated. “My name is Gloria and
this is Elinor. Please don’t think us rude, but San Antonio is a
little bit larger town that you’re used to, so we thought we’d
help you out.”
“Help me out?” Hope inquired.
“Child, we know you’re wearing traveling clothes and we want you
to feel more comfortable when you meet some of the other wives
of the officers, so if you’d allow us, a few of us have some
dresses that might fit you that we’d be pleased to let you
borrow for your stay.”
Elinor then continued, “We’ve a room down the hallway, where
some of the wives have donated some dresses, hoping you might
find some you’d like.”
“Mark?” Hope said as she turned to her husband.
“Go ahead. I’ll see you when you’re done.”
Gloria and Elinor escorted Hope to the room, where as they
entered, Hope saw more dresses in different colors and fabrics
than she could imagine. The women assisted Hope in trying on a
number of the dresses. Many Hope felt were way too fancy or too
expensive for her, but a few, Elinor and Gloria convinced Hope
to go ahead and borrow.
“Goria, Elinor, I don’t know how to thank you. This is so much
more than I ever imagined,” Hope stated as they carried the
dresses back to their room.
“Child, we’d do this for any new wife coming to the post. Most
new officers and their wives aren’t quite as young as you
appear, but we know how tight money can be when you’re first
For this evening’s dinner, Hope chose a lovely green dress that
she felt matched her eyes and contrasted wonderfully with her
red hair, it had finally grown long enough that it reached past
Once she was finished with her bath and had changed into the
dress, she returned to her room to see Elinor standing in front
of the door, getting ready to knock.
“Elinor?” Hope called.
“Child, oh my, that dress is exquisite on you. Now, if you’ll
let me do up your hair, you’ll be the most beautiful woman
present tonight at dinner.”
Once Elinor was done, Hope looked in the mirror and couldn’t
believe the transformation. Mark came in a few minutes later and
Hope turned around. Mark stumbled out an apology for entering
the wrong room, but then looked at the number on the door.
“Mark?” Hope asked.
“You… Are you really my wife?”
Elinor excused herself.
“Do you really like?”
“Hope, you’re more beautiful than I ever envisioned.”
“You’ll wear your badge on your jacket tonight?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a deputy for San Antonio.”
“But you are a deputy. I think you should.”
“For you my love, I’ll wear it.”
Mark pinned his badge on and Hope re-tied his tie. “Can’t have
you looking sloppy tonight,” Hope stated.
“I don’t think anyone will notice me tonight, not with you by my
side,” Mark replied.
It was a few minutes before five, thirty when Mark escorted Hope
down the grand staircase of the hotel. At the bottom of the
landing, Mark saw Seth Lane standing, and knew he was mirroring
the same expression Mark had worn a few minutes earlier.
With her husband on one arm and her father on the other, Hope
was escorted into the dining room. The sight that greeted them,
when the door opened, was more than either had planned on. It
wasn’t the simple family dinner, but a fully military dinner.
All the officers and their wives were present. Mark briefly
tugged at his collar, hoping to loosen it.
Seth guided them to chairs, across from Ethan and Antoinette,
they presumed. Ethan whispered across the table, “Mark is she
really Hope?” and got a swift kick in the shin from his fiance’.
Soon the room was called to order and everyone quieted.
“For those of you who don’t know me, I am Colonel Jacob
Albright, I’m the commanding officer of this post. Tonight is a
special occasion. Not only is this the monthly dinner my wife
and I host for our officers and their wives, but we have guests
tonight. The daughter and son-in-law of Major Seth Lane. Ladies
and gentlemen, Deputy Mark McCain and his wife, Hope, from North
Fork in the New Mexico Territory, join us.”
As those present offered their welcomes, Mark was sure he heard
a few of the people sitting to their backs commenting about him
being a deputy and how young he looked.
The Colonel ordered the room to quiet. “Mark, Hope, welcome, we
hope you enjoy your stay.” The Colonel sat down and the servers
started carrying in plates of food and set them in front of
everyone. Later, they came around and offered wine to everyone.
Hope and Mark both declined, stating that water would do for
During dinner, Ethan did introduce Antoinette to Hope and Mark,
but they weren’t able to carry on too much of a conversation for
the officers around them had questions for Mark and the wives
had questions for Hope.
After dessert was served, the Colonel stood and called the room
“I have one more announcement that needs to be made this evening
before the evening concludes. There is a standing promotion that
has not yet been posted. I thought it might be a good idea to
make that promotion this evening, seeing as how his family is
present. Lieutenant Ethan Lane, front and center.”
Ethan quickly swallowed a gulp of water to help force his bite
of pie go down, he hadn’t been paying attention and then to hear
his name called out. A Corporal waited behind Ethan and pulled
out his chair as he stood. Ethan approached the Colonel and
“Lieutenant Lane, I don’t think these bars suit you any more.
From this moment forward, you are to be recognized and addressed
as Captain Ethan Lane.” The Colonel removed the lieutenant bars
from Ethan’s shoulders and replaced them with captain’s bars.
“Congratulations son! Now, go back to your fiancé.”
As Ethan walked back to his seat, the other officers in
attendance stood and clapped. When the Colonel finally regained
order to the room, “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your
attendance and company. Good night.” Colonel Albright extended
his arm to his wife and they left the room.
As they left the hotel, Seth led the way to his quarters where
the family could talk and catch up.
Antoinette embraced her future sister-in-law as each tried to
welcome the other into the family, talking at the same time. The
whole group laughed.
“Antoinette, it is a pleasure to finally meet you. Ethan has
written so much about you in his letters, I feel I already know
“Well, first off, since we’re going to be family, I insist that
you call me Annie.”
For the next few hours they talked of the upcoming wedding and
the fact that Ethan and Annie would be heading East for their
honeymoon and then Ethan was to take his new post, outside of
“Mark, I remember the first time we met and I thought that maybe
Washington would be your calling. Never imagined I’d be posted
there, but it will only be for two years, then two years posted
at West Point, before I’m transferred back West.”
Seth inquired how Hope was enjoying her stay so far.
Hope then turned and addressed her father. “Father, the women of
the post, they’ve all been so kind and gracious. It’s more than
“Hope,” Annie stated. “I’m happy Gloria or Elinor didn’t upset
you. It can be difficult for a young woman, especially attending
one of the Colonel’s dinners. Besides, I don’t think there was
an officer present who’s not getting an earful right now from
their wife or their intended, because of the stares they gave
you as you entered. You are quite beautiful.”
The day after their wedding, Ethan and Annie left on the
afternoon train. Seth was busy with duties and told Mark and
Hope, he would see them for supper that evening.
While walking the town, Hope overheard a few young children
talking and realized they were Kiowa. As she started to walk
over to them, she asked, “Please Mark, they are Kiowa. It’s been
so long, please…?”
Mark escorted Hope to the children, where she knelt down and
started a conversation. At first the children were reluctant to
speak, but soon, they started talking and laughing with Hope. As
she got up to leave, she handed each one of the children a piece
of candy and watched as they scampered away. Mark helped her to
her feet and smiled, as he asked, “Are you happy?”
“Yes Mark, I am. I miss Iron Heart’s family, but I wouldn’t
trade the family I have now for anything.” Hope looked into
Mark’s eyes and then gave him a quick kiss. Arm in arm they
returned to the hotel and supper with the Major.
That night, the quiet of their room was shattered in the dead of
night by a rock thrown through the window and the sound of a
horse running away, hard and fast.
“Hope stay on the other side!” Mark called as he reached for his
rifle and carefully made his way past the glass shards on the
floor and over to the broken window. Shortly, pounding could be
heard on the door to their room. Mark made his way over to and
opened the door. Light from the hallway shone in. In the middle
of the room, along with the shattered glass, a rock laid with a
note tied to it. Mark picked up the rock, pulled out the note
Take your squaw and leave.
This is your only warning!
He clenched his hand into a fist, wadding up the note inside.
Turning to the hotel owner, “Get your sheriff and Major Lane.”
Seeing the anger in Mark’s face and hearing it in his voice; was
something Hope had never known. Even back when he rescued her
from McCormick, she’d never witnessed this kind of rage.
“Everyone get out of here! NOW!” Mark ordered as he pushed the
other guests from their room. He lit the lantern on the dresser
on the far side of the room. “Hope, get dressed. We’re not
staying here. You’re moving to the fort, tonight!”
“Mark?! You’re scaring me. What’s wrong?” Hope asked, fear was
in her voice.
Both were dressed and bags packed and on the bed when a knock
was heard at the door and two voices identifying themselves as
Sheriff Madison and Major Lane. Mark opened the door, rifle in
“Mark, Hope,” Seth stated as they entered, saw Mark’s rifle in
hand, and saw the glass on the floor. “What happened?”
“This is what happened!” Anger could still be heard in Mark’s
voice as he handed the rock to the sheriff and the note to Major
“Major, we need to get Hope to the fort tonight. I’ll not risk
“My life? Mark, please, talk to me!” Hope pleaded.
“Hope, you were right when you asked your father whether the
people of this town would accept you as his daughter or as a
Kiowa. Someone here is directing their hate towards you. Hope,
I’ll not turn tail and run, but I won’t risk your life. You’re
going to the fort where your father and the soldiers can help
“Hope, Mark is right,” Seth stated. “Until we find out whoever
it was that wrote this note, you’re not safe here. Please, I’ll
see to it that the commander’s guest quarters are made available
for you and Mark until you’re scheduled to return home.”
Colonel Albright ordered soldiers to be stationed outside as
Mrs. Albright lit the lanterns and escorted Hope and Mark to the
guest quarters. Mrs. Albright pulled the door closed behind her
as she left them in their room, Mark holding Hope as she was
“Colonel,” Seth stated. “I’m sorry to wake you and your wife so
early in the morning.”
“No need for apology Major,” Colonel Albright replied, as Mrs.
Albright returned to their living room.
“Major, what on earth happened to frighten your daughter and her
husband so much?” Coralee asked.
“Colonel, you and your wife have only been posted here about a
year, there’s a long story.”
“Seth, I think right now you need a friend more than a
commanding officer. Tell us what happened.” Jacob Albright
Seth sat down and told the Albrights of his family’s past and
his finding Hope alive and living among the Kiowa. Told of how
Stedman had used her as a pawn to try to start an Indian war and
how Mark had rescued her, twice. Told of how Hope had asked
whether the people of the town would accept her as his daughter
or Kiowa. “Sir, that’s why I left my daughter in North Fork.
They accepted her right off. I know Mark McCain had a lot to do
with that, just because he cared so much about her. Evidently,
Hope was right. Someone here found out and sees her as Kiowa,
and not my daughter.”
For the next two days, wherever Hope and Mark left the post, two
soldiers weren’t far behind. On the afternoon of the third day,
Mrs. Albright invited Hope to join her for lunch in town, while
the men rode to look over some of the new horses that had
arrived. Mark was hesitant to leave, but Colonel Albright
assured him Hope would not be at risk.
The men were just returning to the fort when one of the soldiers
came running up.
“Sirs, I’m sorry, but…” trying to catch his breath. “It was
Nicholson. He’s the one!”
“Nicholson?” The Colonel asked. “What do you mean?”
“He knocked me out, when I came too, and went to find your wife
and Hope. Then turning to the Major, “Mrs. Albright told me
Nicholson came and told your daughter her husband had been
thrown from a horse and hurt. Sir, he took your daughter! I’m
“Where’d he take her?” Mark demanded.
“They said he took a horse and headed east.”
Mark spun his horse around and raced on while the others
organized a proper search party. Mark arrived at a fork in the
road and examined the tracks; only one set represented a
galloping horse. He marked the trail and took the right fork.
Mark finally caught up with Nicholson and Hope after the horse
they were riding broke down. He jumped from his horse, rifle at
the ready. Nicholson held Hope in front of him, his arm around
her throat and a gun in his other hand. Hope was struggling to
pull his arm from around her throat.
“You keep back! I warned you to get your squaw out of town. No,
you had to stay! To make matters worse, the Colonel made me
protect her. Well, I’m going to get rid of this squaw!”
“She’s not a squaw! She’s my wife!” Mark yelled.
“You married a squaw, you’re just as guilty as them stinkin’
Mark watched as Nicholson kept backing away, squeezing his arm
around Hope’s throat, tighter. He watched as Hope struggled and
fought against Nicholson.
“Nicholson, she’s the Major’s daughter! Iron Heart saved her
life when she was eleven and raised her. That doesn’t make her
“She lived with them. That makes her injun. Injuns killed my
brother. I joined the army to kill injuns!”
“Let my wife GO!” Mark yelled, tears were forming in his eyes as
he realized Hope was losing the ability to struggle. He saw her
lips turning blue and her skin turning ash colored. He watched
as she mouthed I love you, before her eyes closed and she sagged
in Nicholson’s arm.
“NICHOLSON!” Mark screamed.
Nicholson felt Hope’s weight in his arm. In one movement he
pushed her to the ground and raised his gun to aim at Mark. He
pulled the trigger just as the bullet from Mark’s rifle struck
him in the chest. Nicholson’s bullet struck a tree next to Mark.
Mark dropped his rifle and ran to his wife. Tears streamed down
his face as he knelt next to her and pulled her into his
“Hope, please… don’t leave me! God please?!” he cried as he
pulled her head to his chest.
Mark turned his head as he felt a hand on his shoulder, he
hadn’t heard the others arrive.
“Major, he strangled…”
“Mark, do you know the Silvester Method? Lay her flat, on her
back, place her arms above her head, then lift her neck and
breathe into her mouth. Then pull her arms down and press them
to her chest. Mark, do it!”
Mark allowed the Major to pull his wife from his arms. He felt a
slap across his face, “Mark, breathe into her!”
Mark obeyed, crying and praying to God to bring Hope back to
him. It was his seventh breath when Mark felt Hope’s body
stiffen and she began to cough and gulp in air. Mark pulled Hope
into his arms and thanked God. Through tear-filled eyes he
looked at his wife as she lay in his arms, shaking, eyes closed,
“Mark, you did it boy! You brought her back! Let’s get both of
you in the saddle and get her back to the fort so Doc can look
her over.” Then turning to the men who accompanied him,
“Gardner, Holmes, bury the body.”
Mark allowed the Major to help Hope get into the saddle in front
of him. He felt her lapse into unconsciousness as she rested her
head against his shoulder. The Major grabbed the reins and led
them back to the fort.
By the time they had returned to the fort and had Hope in the
infirmary, the bruise on the side of her temple was beginning to
After a thorough examination, the doctor recommended she stay
under observation for the night. He told two orderlies to bring
a gurney and to return Hope to the Colonel’s guest quarters.
Mark refused, said he’d carry his wife. Doc Pullman told one of
his nurses that she would be accompanying them, to keep an eye
“Mark, she’s got a mild concussion. She’s going to need to stay
in bed for a few days, until her body can adjust from the shock.
Then I want her to take it easy once you get her back home. Seth
told me you live on a ranch; I don’t want her working hard until
your doctor says she’s okay. That should probably be another
week after you get her home.”
“Thank you sir.”
Mrs. Albright let them into the guest quarters and helped settle
Hope in the bed and pulled the covers up over her. After Mrs.
Albright left, Mark crawled on top of the covers and laid on his
side, next to his wife, his arm draped over her ribs, tears
falling across his face.
Mrs. Albright let Seth into the guest quarters the following
morning. He entered to find his daughter and son-in-law still
sleeping and the nurse sitting in a chair, reading a book.
“How are they?” he asked.
“She’s sleeping quietly, but he’s been having some bad dreams.
Sir, if you don’t mind my asking, just how young are they?”
“They’ll be twenty in a few months.”
“Sir, if I may, I’m going to report in to the doctor and I’m
sure he’ll be over afterwards to check on your daughter. It was
my pleasure to watch over them last night.”
“Thank you nurse.”
Seth settled into the chair and watched Hope and Mark sleep. He
heard Mark become restless, saw him bolt upright, eyes wide
awake. Seth walked over to the side of the bed.
“Easy there Mark, you’re safe. You’re both safe,” He said as he
laid a hand on Mark’s arm. “Breathe easy son, take deep
“I’m sorry sir, I just…” Mark couldn’t continue. He looked at
his wife and brushed a strand of hair from Hope’s face as she
continued to sleep. Pained at seeing the bruise at her temple.
“It’s okay Mark, I understand. The nurse said Doc Pullman would
be here soon. He’ll let you know how she’s doing.”
The train ride home for Mark was agonizingly slow. He continued
to worry about Hope, whenever she’d lie asleep in his arms. When
she was awake, he tried his best to pretend everything was as it
should be. He slept little ever since Nicholson had tried to
kill his wife, his dreams kept haunting him.
As the train made its last stop before North Fork, Mark left
Hope sleeping in their seat. He stepped to the telegraph office
and sent a wire;
Doc Thaddeus Burrage
North Fork, New Mexico Territory
Thadd, please meet six o’clock train tonight /stop/
Will explain, once we arrive /stop/
Mark continued to let Hope sleep as the train pulled ever closer
to North Fork. When he finally woke her, Doc Burrage was
kneeling in front of her.
“Good Evening Hope, how are you feeling?” he asked.
“I… Mark, what?”
“Hope, I want Thadd to check you over before we get off the
train. We’ve time.”
After a quick once over, and after hearing what had happened
Thadd stated, “Mark I think she’s okay, but I’d rather you both
stay in town tonight and let me check her again first thing in
the morning, before you head home.”
Mark escorted Hope from the train, while a porter gathered their
bags and followed them to the hotel. They had just stepped into
the lobby when he heard a buckboard approaching, Mark looked
over his shoulder to see his Pa and Ma arrive. Lou was at the
front desk and immediately had a key to a room and was leading
them upstairs. After seeing that Hope was resting comfortably,
Mark returned downstairs. He saw the pained look in his parents’
eyes as Doc Burrage left them standing in the lobby.
“We ran into some trouble after the wedding,” Mark stated as
they walked into the restaurant. “There was a soldier there who
found out Hope had lived as a Kiowa. He blamed her for his
brother’s death. He almost killed her…” Mark couldn’t continue.
He folded his arms on the table, then laid his head down on them
and cried. In time his crying stopped, only for Lucas to realize
Mark’s body had given into exhaustion and he had fallen asleep,
knowing he was home and others were there to protect him.
Johnny came into the restaurant; he had heard what happened and
came to check in on Mark and Hope. He helped Lucas carry Mark
upstairs. They placed him on the bed, next to Hope. Milly blew
out the lantern and pulled the door closed behind them, as they
The following morning, Mark woke unsure of his surroundings at
first, then realized there was a knocking on the door. He
climbed from the bed and opened the door.
“Thadd, what time is it?” Mark asked.
“It’s almost lunch time. I tried to stop by earlier, but your
folks suggested that you needed the sleep more than Hope needed
checked up on. Why don’t you wake her and let me see how she’s
After he finished examining Hope, he said, “Well, I like what
I’m seeing. You can head back to the ranch today, but Hope, I
want you to take it easy for another week. Any sign of the
slightest of headache, I want you back in bed and for me to be
sent for. Promise?”
“I promise, Doc,” Hope replied.
“Good, then I’ll see you next Friday for one final check up.
Mark, you’ll see to it that she follows my instructions.”
“Yes sir and thank you.”
They walked downstairs to find Lucas, Milly, and Myra in the
restaurant. After lunch, Mark stopped in at Micah’s to let him
know he’d report for duty on Monday. Then group returned to the
ranch. On Saturday, Lucas and Mark worked the ranch, while Milly
and Hope tended to the house and Myra.
During the next week, Mark talked some of what had happened, but
Lucas realized he was holding something back, he’d not told the
whole story. Lucas decided to be patient and wait for Mark to
tell him, in his own time.
Friday afternoon, the McCain’s returned to North Fork. Lucas and
Milly waited in the restaurant, while Mark and Hope went to Doc
Burrage’s. As they waited, Johnny and Micah joined them.
“LucasBoy, you need to talk to Mark.” Micah stated.
“About what?” Lucas asked.
“Luke, he’s different since he came back. When other people are
around, he seems okay, but when he doesn’t think anyone’s
watching, he’s different. Something happened that he’s not
accepted yet.” Johnny said.
“Johnny, how would you feel if someone tried to kill Lou in
front of your eyes?” Milly asked.
“Milly, that’s not the problem. He’ll talk about that soldier
trying to kill Hope and he’s come to terms with that and knowing
she’s going to be okay. There’s something else and I don’t know
how to get him to talk, but he needs to get whatever it is out.
Lucas, talk with him. Get him to talk about whatever it is he’s
Johnny and Micah left before Mark and Hope returned. As they sat
down at the table with their parents, Mark took Myra from Milly.
He started talking and cooing to his sister. “Yes Gabby, that’s
Ma and Pa., and who’s this? Who’s sitting next to us?” Mark
asked as he pointed to Hope.
“Ope” Myra stated.
“Well, one of these days you’re going to learn how to pronounce
your H’s.” Mark stated with a small grin.
“I think it’s cute,” Hope answered as she took Myra from Mark,
as Myra was reaching for her. Then turning to Lucas and Milly,
“Doc says I’m fine. I can go about my regular responsibilities,
just that if I do get the headaches or any nausea, he’s to be
sent for, right away.”
Turning to Myra, “So, little sister, are you ready to go home?
I’m sure we have chores that need to get done.”
It had been a tiring week, but the family joyfully returned to
the McCain ranch.
The following morning, Milly was woken by the sounds of wood
chopping. She sensed Lucas was still in bed and as she looked
out the window, she realized dawn had barely broke. Milly shook
“Lucas, I think you need to talk to Mark. Now!”
“What?” Lucas replied still asleep.
“Lucas, he’s outside chopping wood and it’s barely daylight.
Johnny and Micah were right… Something’s bothering him. Go talk
to him Lucas.”
They stepped from their bedroom to see Hope sitting in Mark’s
chair, knees drawn to her chest, head down crying. She looked up
at hearing her name.
“Pa, please. I don’t know how to help him. He won’t talk to me
about it,” Hope pleaded.
Lucas walked out the door and called to Mark. Mark didn’t
hesitate in his swing. Lucas could see the anger in Mark’s body,
just from how hard he brought the ax down on the piece of wood.
“Mark, we need to talk,” Lucas stated.
“Let me finish with the firewood,” Mark answered.
“No Mark, now. We’re going to talk now.” Hearing the tone in
Lucas’ voice, Mark looked up from picking up a piece of wood. He
saw the expression on his father’s face. He wasn’t ready, he’d
hoped to get some of his frustration out by chopping wood, but
it wasn’t working. Mark wasn’t ready to talk to anyone. He ran
to the barn, hopped on Blue Boy, bareback, and rode away.
Lucas took his time following, he knew exactly where Mark was
“Ma,” Hope pleaded. “Ever since our return, he cries out so at
night. I remember the look in his eyes, showing how much he
loved me and how pained he was that, that man held me. He won’t
talk to me about this and I hurt for him.”
“Hope, let Lucas try. Johnny and Micah told us yesterday, when
you were at Doc’s, that they felt Mark was hiding something.
Something he wasn’t ready to face. You don’t know what it is
“No, and it’s tearing Mark up at night.”
Milly pulled Hope into her arms, trying to comfort her.
Lucas slowly rode Razor to the pond. He saw Mark standing in
front of the two crosses, hat in hand. He watched as Mark fell
to his knees and pounded his fist on the ground. Lucas
dismounted and walked to his son.
“Mark, talk with me. Tell me what’s wrong,” Lucas pleaded.
“I can’t Pa…, I… can’t,” Mark said through his sobs.
Lucas raised Mark’s head and forced him to sit up and look at
him. “Mark, I’m your father. Whatever it is that’s tearing you
up inside, tell me about it. I’ll do my best to get you through
“Pa…” Mark stopped, closed his eyes, and shook his head. “When I
thought he had killed Hope. I… I…” Mark’s voice was barely a
whisper when he admitted to his Pa, “I killed Nicholson.”
Everything now made sense to Lucas. His heart broke for what he
knew his son was feeling, thankfully, he knew exactly how to
help Mark. He had Mark walk him through every detail of what had
happened that day, stopping Mark occasionally and drawing out
more detail. At the end, Lucas stated “Mark, you had to know
that this day would come, once you put on the deputy badge,
guess I should have known it too and been prepared to talk with
you before this.”
“But I wasn’t out there as a deputy, I was there as Hope’s
“Mark, just because you were defending your wife, doesn’t mean
that you weren’t acting in the best interests of the law. There
have been plenty of times, when I was forced to take a life and
yet I wasn’t legally deputized. As long as you were defending
yourself or another, it was within the law. I know it hurts, and
you’ve seen me after I’ve been forced to take a life. I know
it’s not easy. But from what you said, it was either your life
“I could have pulled my shot! I didn’t have to kill him!” Mark
“Mark, I don’t believe he would have pulled his shot in order
not to kill you. There were times, in the past, when I had the
time to plan on how to pull a shot so that I didn’t take a life,
but more times than not, I never got that time and neither will
you. It’s reaction. It’s kill or be killed. Mark, each time it
happens, it won’t get any easier. But you can’t keep this
inside. Don’t hide it. Each time, you have to talk. I’ve had
Micah to talk to afterwards, and yes, it does grieve me at being
forced to take a life, but that’s just it. Each time, I was
forced into the situation, just as you were. Mark, if you hadn’t
acted as you had -- neither you nor Hope might be alive right
“Mark, I know God understands what happened and he forgives you.
You just have to learn to forgive yourself.”
“Pa, how can I?” Mark quietly asked.
“Talk to God as you just talked with me. When you’re ready, your
family will be waiting for you at home.” With that, Lucas stood
and walked to Razor. After getting in the saddle, Lucas called,
“Mark, remember, we love you.” Then he rode for home.
Upon arrival, Lucas took time to tell Milly and Hope what Mark
had told him. They both were just as pained at hearing Mark’s
Mark did return to the house, but not until later that morning.
Lucas was walking to the house for lunch when he saw Mark
approach, he stopped and watched, pleased with what he saw in
his son. The burden had been lifted from his shoulders.
Late that afternoon, Milly had Myra dressed, and Lucas was just
finishing putting on his tie. They were almost ready to head
into town for dinner as a family. Hope exited from her bedroom
and told them to go ahead and have a good time. While Mark was
finishing with his bath, she told them, she wanted some time
alone, with Mark.
As they drove the buckboard to town, Lucas questioned Milly
about what was going on. “Why did you have me bring the cradle
and why the overnight bags?”
“Lucas, you helped heal Mark’s mind this morning. I think Hope
wants to heal his heart. Besides, sounds like a good excuse for
us to say at the hotel tonight,” Milly stated as she pulled Myra
closer to her and gave a coy smile to Lucas.
Lucas and Milly arrived at the hotel and were joined for dinner
by Johnny and Lou and Micah and Hattie. After dinner, Micah
asked if they had found out what was eating at Mark. Lucas
explained to the group the secret that Mark had been hiding. The
group was quiet afterwards, each understanding. Soon, it was
time for everyone to retire for the night.
Milly laid the sleeping Myra down in her cradle for the night
and turned around to see Lucas already lying on the bed, under
“Well, Mr. McCain,” Milly playfully called.
“Yes, Mrs. McCain?”
“So are you just going to sleep the night away?”
“Maybe later. Right now, I thought I might be a husband to my
wife. And this was the room where we spent our first night as
husband and wife.”
Milly slipped out of her dress and under the covers. After
almost three years, she still marveled at the strength of her
husband and yet, how gentle and loving he could be. They
responded to each other’s needs, as husband and wife. In time,
they were asleep in each other’s arms.
That night, after Hope had finished dishes, she and Mark retired
to their bedroom. Hope stood in front of Mark as he sat on the
side of the bed. She reached forward and unbuttoned his shirt,
pulled it off him, and caressed his shoulders and chest as she
straddled his lap.
“Hope, please, you need…”
“I need you, Mark. Doc Burrage stated I was fine and could
return to all my regular responsibilities. And one of those is
being your wife, in mind, spirit, and body…” she reached her
hands to Mark’s head and pulled him into a kiss.
Mark couldn’t stop himself, he needed Hope, and he pulled her
close to him. Carefully he unbuttoned the back of her dress, and
gently pulled it from her body. As they stood, he let it fall to
the floor, as he finished undressing himself. He pulled her to
him as he lay down, backwards to the bed. Both gave into their
desires as husband and wife. Mark totally lost himself, his
worries, his fears, everything was gone; the only thing that
mattered was the love they shared that moment. Neither knew how
much time had elapsed before they laid down next to each other
and fell asleep.
The sun was starting to enter their room when they woke the next
morning. They laid in each other’s arms, caressing each other.
“Hope, I’m so sorry,” Mark said as he brushed back a lock of her
hair and revealed the fading bruise at her temple.
“Mark, the bruise will heal.”
“That’s not it. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to protect you and then
afterwards, I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you everything. I was
ashamed at taking the life of another human being. But Pa and I
had a long talk. Thank you for sending him out after me
yesterday. I don’t know what I did to deserve a wife such as
you.” Mark stated as he kissed her again.
Still seeing the desire in the other’s eyes, they made love
again that morning.
Eventually they rose, and realizing the time, knew they wouldn’t
make it to church. Mark went out and saddled Blue Boy and
Two-Bits while Hope fixed a picnic lunch for them. They left a
note for Lucas and Milly before they headed out for their ride.
Enjoying the last warm day, for the beginning of November, as
they rode. Mark halted his horse and stepped down, then assisted
Hope from her horse. He tied both horses to a tree, loosened
their cinches, and then helped Hope set out their lunch. After
eating, Mark pulled out a bible from his saddle bag, sat down
against the tree, as Hope sat down in front of him and then
leaned back into Mark. They spent time reading to each other
from the bible. When they felt they had honored Sunday, Mark set
the bible down and then wrapped his arms around his wife and
thanked God, for his blessings.
The Next Step — The Gifts
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch