The Rifleman
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The Next Step…
Chapter 40 – Introductions
Written by Deanne Bertram

Sunday dawned early for the household, as it had ever since the birth of the McCain trio; babies needing to be fed and changed at all hours of the day and night. Today was their first outing. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best. As they prepared to leave Micah and Hattie’s, Milly carried little Ted, while Lucas carried Myra on his hip. Great-Grandparents Micah and Hattie carried Joshua and Zachariah, as Mark escorted Hope on his arm – he hadn’t wanted Hope to walk to church, he felt she still needed time to recover.

“Mark, I’ll be fine as long as I’m on your arm. Besides, Doc said I do need to get up and about.” She looked into his eyes and Mark knew he couldn’t refuse.

*****

Towards the end of the service, Reverend McCafferty stated that Nils Swenson had returned to town and as Nils stated his ‘piddlin’ injury wouldn’t keep him down’. The Reverend offered thanks to Marshal James Carson, who had returned Nils home.

“Unfortunately, Marshal Carson was recalled to Denver, where he could recover from his own injuries with his family. I pray for his quick recovery.” At Lucas’ request, the Reverend did not mention the fact that he and Mark were also wounded during the capture of the Domingo Gang.

Then Reverend McCafferty asked for the McCain’s to please stand.

“Now as everyone present knows, a blessed event happened four days ago over at Hattie and Micah’s. I spoke with the proud parents earlier this morning and I’d like to introduce to everyone, Theodore Scott McCain, the new son of Milly and Lucas McCain.

“My brother,” Myra said as Lucas lifted her and set her to his hip. Which brought a few laughs from their friends.

“And, yes Myra, he is your baby brother.” Reverend McCafferty answered. “Also, everyone, I’ll like to introduce, Joshua Lucas McCain and Zachariah James McCain, sons of Hope and Mark McCain.”

“My brothers too,” Myra called out, before Lucas could put his hand over her mouth.

That brought a spate of laughter from practically everyone present. It brought a blush to the McCain’s. It took a few moments for Reverend McCafferty to bring everyone’s laughter under control.

“Now, I’m sure both sets of parents will raise their children, proper, in the eyes of the Lord, and I look forward to performing each baptismal.

*****

As the McCain family walked down the steps, members of the congregation stopped and offered further congratulations to the proud parents. All the women hugged both Milly and Hope, whereas the men shook hands with Lucas and Mark. Afterwards, the McCain’s, the Torrance’s, and the Drako’s headed to the Mallory House for lunch. As they were sitting back from finishing dessert, they heard the afternoon train arrive in town. Mark stood up and told everyone he would return shortly, “Love, it’s been a tradition for the Marshal or Deputy to meet the train. Right now, I’m the only law officer fit duty.” He stopped next to Hope and lifted her chin and lightly kissed her. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

Those present watched as Mark picked up his rifle and put his hat back on his head as he left the restaurant.

*****

As he approached the train, he caught the packet the conductor had tossed his way, “Thanks Jesse,” he called.

Mark turned as he felt the presence of someone standing behind him.

“I understand many congratulations are in order, Marshal McCain.” The man stated as he held out his hand. “It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been back in this territory. Can’t believe how much North Fork has grown.”

“Marshal Buckhart, what brings you here?” Mark asked, as he shook his hand.

“On assignment, Mark. At least until your Marshal or Deputy can resume their duties. Tom Benton filed his initial report and when Cole Barker told me about the situation, I volunteered to help out,” Sam stated. “Let me get my horse from the livestock car and I’ll join you. By the way, there’s someone else on the train I think you’ll be pleased to see.” Sam pointed over Mark’s shoulder.

Mark turned around to see a soldier stepping down from the car, his bag in hand.

“Major!” Mark called as he rapidly walked over and welcomed his father-in-law.

“Mark, congratulations! When I got the wire, I just had to come. How are they?” he asked as he released Mark from a hug. “How are you doing?”

“They’re doing fine. Not so sure I am?” Seeing the expression on Seth’s face, “Oh, nothing that getting a little more sleep wouldn’t fix sir.”

As Mark walked with the two men to town, he invited Sam to join them for lunch.

“Mark, you’ve family to tend to. I’ll take the packet and expect you in the Marshal’s office in two hours. You’ve a report to write so we can close the file on the Domingo Gang. I’ll also need to talk with your father, too.”

“Yes sir. I’ll let him know.”

Sam led his horse and tied it up in front of the Marshal’s Office and entered.

*****

Mark escorted Seth to the hotel. As he entered the restaurant, the look on his face asked where his family was. Lucas called over to Mark, “They’re upstairs, room three.” Lucas stood and walked over and welcomed Seth Lane, while Mark ran to be with his family.

He knocked on the door and heard Hope say, “Come in.” Hope was sitting in a rocker, nursing one of the babies while Hattie was changing the other. Mark set his rifle down next to the door and placed his hat on the dresser, then walked and knelt down next to his wife.

“I still can’t believe this life we created,” Mark said as he ran his hand over the back of his son’s head. Hattie came up and handed the other baby to Mark.

“I’ll leave you four be.” And she left.

Mark looked to his son in his arms and then to his wife. Hope pulled Zachariah from her breast when she sensed he stopped nursing. Mark set Joshua in his lap and took Zach, allowing Hope to re-dress herself. Then he handed Joshua to her. After Mark finished changing Zach, Mark announced, “There’s another surprise for you downstairs.”

“Mark, I am tired. I guess the walk to and from church and everything else took more out of me than I realized. Can your surprise wait?” Hope asked, apologetically.

“No, but I can bring your surprise up here.” Mark helped Hope get up from the rocker and into the bed. He placed Joshua and Zachariah on the bed, next to Hope. “I’ll be right back.”

*****

Mark arrived downstairs and walked to stand beside Seth, “Sir, Hope is tired, but I think seeing you will perk her up. Today was her first day up and about, and I guess the walk to church was a little much for her. If you’d come with me, I’ll introduce you to grandsons.”

Seth followed Mark upstairs to room three. Mark lightly knocked on the door before entering. As he peaked in, he saw Hope caressing one baby and then the other, “Hope, do you care for a visitor? I’ve someone here who really wants to see you, and to meet his grandsons.”

“Meet his… Father!” Hope exclaimed as Mark opened the door wide. He closed the door behind them once they were inside.

“Hope,” Seth stated as he walked to his daughter. “Congratulations! When I received Mark’s wire that the babies had been born, I told Colonel Albright that I was taking time off to spend with my grandsons, and their family. I just can’t believe; twins.”

“Sir, if you’d like, have a seat,” Mark motioned to the rocker. Seth sat down and Mark picked up one of their sons from the bed, quickly peaked at the boy’s wrist. Joshua Lucas, I’d like you to meet your Grandfather Seth. Sir, this is our first born, Joshua Lucas.”

Seth took the baby in his arms, a smile was beaming across his face. “With twins and both being boys, how are you so sure this one is your first born?”

“Joshua has a birthmark on the inside of his left wrist, right now, it’s the only clue I have,” Mark said with a slight laugh.

“And my other grandson?”

Mark took his other son from Hope’s arms, “Zachariah James, I’m pleased to introduce you to your Grandfather Seth. Sir, Zachariah James.”

“Father, please don’t be upset that we didn’t name one after you. But Mark and I talked that, that honor should go to Ethan, when he and Annie have children,” Hope said, hoping her father understood.

“Hope, as long as you and the babies, and Mark, are healthy, you could have named them Ebeneezer and I wouldn’t have minded, well, maybe not that name. Hope, these boys are yours and Mark’s family, I’m just proud to have a small part in your family.”

“Father , it will never be a small part. Even though you live at the fort, the boys will know you as they grow up.”

A short time later, there was a knock at the door, Lucas stuck his head in. Well I see I’m being challenged already for the title of Best Grandfather,” and laughed. “Mark, just checking to see how you are and to let you know that Milly and I are heading back to Micah and Hattie’s.”

Mark stepped to the hallway to talk with his father.

“Thanks Pa, I think I’m going to talk with Lou about us staying here tonight. Today took a lot out of Hope.”

“I understand, but make sure when Hope sees Doc Thadd tomorrow, that you talk to him about this. Remember Mark, Hope is young, and with the difficulties during her pregnancy and then birthing the twins, it’s going to take her a while to regain her strength, But, don’t brush it off.” Giving Mark a squeeze to the shoulder, Lucas bid goodbye.

“Oh Pa. Marshal Buckhart is in town. He volunteered to help out until Doc Burrage releases either Micah or Johnny for duty. He wants to talk with you so he can finish his report. As soon as I see Hope settled, I’m heading to the office.”

“Let Sam know I’ll stop in tomorrow morning.”

*****

Monday morning, Mark and Hope walked to Doc’s, each carrying one of the boys. First Mark checked at the Marshal’s office. Lucas was just finishing give his account to Sam. As he was getting ready to leave he told Mark,

“I’m heading to the ranch to work for a while this morning. I’ll be back this afternoon, your Ma has an appointment with Doc Burrage. Good luck with your appointment this morning.”

Mark said goodbye to his Pa, then turned to Sam, “Sam, I’d like to introduce you to my wife, Hope and our sons, Joshua and Zachariah. Hope this is Marshal Sam Buckhart, he’s here to help out until Doc Burrage allows Johnny or Micah to return to duty.”



“Pleased to meet you Marshal Buckhart, but I think we’ve met before,” Hope stated.

“Ma’am, it’s my pleasure, but I’m not sure we have. It’s been a long time since I was last in North Fork.”

“No, it wasn’t here. I think you visited the reservation. Sir, I…” Hope looked to Mark.

“Sam, for six years, Hope lived with the Kiowa tribe lead by Iron Heart. She came to live in North Fork shortly before we turned seventeen.”

Sam looked at Hope and a look of recognition came across his face. “Dawn Fire, if my memory serves me correct.”

“It does,” Hope replied with a smile.

“So, I would be interested in learning how the daughter of Major Lane became the daughter of Iron Heart, and then the wife of Mark McCain. Maybe we could share supper one night.”“Sam, why not tonight?” Mark asked.

“It would make a great celebration,” Sam stated.

“Celebration? Sam what are you talking about?” Mark asked.

“Mark, when we met at the train yesterday, I told you that many congratulations were due to you. First, I’m a little late in congratulating you on your marriage. Second, for the birth of your sons. Third, you already know, but maybe it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Cole Barker told me I was to exchange your town deputy badge and give you this one.”

Sam Buckhart held out his hand to Mark and presented him a new badge, stamped U.S. Marshal.

“But, I’ve not made my mind up, Marshal Benton said nothing could happen until I turned twenty-one,” Mark stated.

“Mark, you’ll still be located in North Fork, we won’t ask you to travel about as a lot of us do, but this gives you more authority for when we do need you. Besides, Benton said I wasn’t to take no for an answer and remind you that you’ve already taken a bullet in the line of duty as a U.S. Marshal.”

“Sam, I need to get Hope and the boys over to Doc’s.” And then seeing the expression on Hope’s face. “Give me some time to talk with Hope. I’ll be back later.”

“Ma’am, Mark.”

*****

“Mark McCain, what did he mean that you’ve already taken a bullet?” Hope demanded once they were out of the office.

“Hope, we’ll talk, once we’re done at Doc’s,” Mark said as his eyes pleaded.

*****

After finishing his examination of Hope, Doc Thadd stated, “I’d really prefer if Hope stays in town for another week or so. Nothing’s wrong, I just want to keep an eye on her for a little while longer. Hope, you still are weak, it’s nothing to be overly concerned about, but this way, you won’t try to do too much too soon to help out, as you would if you were out at the ranch. And I know that Hattie will keep an eye on you and the boys too.”

“Doc, we can’t continue to be a burden on Hattie and Micah. I mean, they’re like family… But Hattie has her hands full keeping Micah resting.”

“Mark, if you feel that way, then stay at the hotel. Besides, I think Abigail might appreciate talking with Hope, seeing as how we’re expecting our first child.”

“Thadd, that’s great news!” Mark exclaimed. “When?”

“Around Thanksgiving. Abigail told me shortly after you found out the two of you were expecting twins. We kind of kept it quiet, but she’s really starting to show, so, the whole world can know now.”

“Doc?” Hope asked. “Maybe I might get a straight answer from you. Did you know Mark was shot?”

Thadd looked to Mark and saw him nod his head. “Yes Hope, I did,” Thadd stated as he looked at Hope.

“So everyone was just going to keep this a secret from me?”

“Hope, please, let’s go where we can talk,” Mark replied.

“No! I’m your wife and no one has said anything about this? Who else knew?”

Neither Mark nor Thadd said anything. Abigail entered the room after hearing Hope’s voice.

“If Marshal Buckhart hadn’t said anything, would you have told me?” Mark could hear her anger and worry.

“I…” Mark started.

“No, I don’t want to hear it from you! You wanted to keep this as a secret, so keep it!”

Turning to Abigail, Hope asked, “Abigail, would you help me get MY sons back to Hattie’s?” Abigail looked to Mark and then to her husband, who nodded.

After the women left, Thadd turned to Mark and said, “I’m sorry Mark.”

“It’s not your fault Thadd. With the babies and everything else, the opportunity just never presented itself to tell her, I just didn’t want to worry her. And it’s not bothered me since those first couple of days after Pa and I got home…”

*****

Milly spent the morning with Lou at the hotel, after lunch, Lucas joined her for the walk to Doc’s, where they received news that she and little Ted could go home.

As they were starting to leaving, Doc Burrage spoke, “Lucas, Milly, know how anxious you probably are to head home. But, you might want to stay in town for a while though. I think Mark and Hope could use your help right now.”

Thadd proceeded to tell them what happened earlier, neither had realized that Mark hadn’t said anything to Hope.

The Next Step — Broken Fences

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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