The Writer's Corner
Chapter 118 - Loss
Written by Deanne Bertram
Milly lay in their bed, resting back against Lucas and asked,
“Lucas, how did you tell Mark about Santa Claus?”
Lucas remained quiet for a few moments, growing concerned, Milly
turned to look at him, “Lucas?”
“I didn’t… After Margaret died… Well, we didn’t celebrate the
holidays anymore; we were never in one place long enough. And,
Margaret so loved them, that…it hurt just thinking about
Christmas, so instead, we read passages from the bible. Once we
settled in North Fork, we just continued to read from the bible
on Christmas morning and that became our tradition. I never had
the opportunity to need to tell Mark about Santa...”
“Lucas, I’m so sorry… I shouldn’t have asked…” as she leaned
back against him.
“Milly, don’t be. As I’ve told you before, I’ll answer any
question you want to ask about my past.” Lucas needed to squelch
the regret he felt creeping inside, he took Milly by the
shoulders, turned her around and pulled her close, and
passionately kissed her. Milly understood the emotions behind
Lucas’ passion and willingly gave into to his needs; she enjoyed
the pleasures that marriage afforded a husband and wife.
“Happy Anniversary, Mrs. McCain,” Lucas whispered in his wife’s
ear before he fell asleep with her in his arms.
Lucas and Milly were dressing for the day when Milly asked,
“When is Robert supposed to come with the documents?”
“He said he’d be out early in the week for our signatures and
he’d file the official paperwork after the New Year.”
“When do we tell Robbie and Eloise?” inquired Milly.
“I was thinking it could be their final Christmas present this
morning,” answered Lucas.
“I hope they love their Christmas present.”
Lucas walked up behind his wife, pulled her close, and kissed
the back of her neck.
“Lucas McCain, if you want any breakfast…” she teased, as she
worked to tie her hair into a ponytail.
“Yes, ma’am,” Lucas full-well understood her comment.
The McCain families shared what started as a quiet Christmas
together, as quiet as it could be with eight young children, but
when Lucas and Milly informed Robbie and Eloise that their
adoptions would be official after the New Year, it was difficult
for any of the children to keep their excitement in check.
Two days after Christmas, Robert Garrison rode to the McCain
ranch, and a man and a woman followed behind him in a surrey.
Lucas stepped from the house calling, “Good Morning Robert.”
“Lucas, we need to talk… In private,” answered Robert, not quite
as cordial. “Can you take the children over to Mark and Hope’s
“Welcome Robert!” Milly happily called as she stepped to the
porch. Wiping her hands on her apron, Milly sensed that
something was amiss when she saw his expression.
“Milly,” Lucas stated. “Take the children over to Hope.”
Milly re-entered her home and saw Robert and the strangers
standing in front of the fireplace. She noticed the fashionable
hat upon the woman’s head, as well as the stylish, well tailored
clothing they both wore as they removed their coats.
“I don’t know exactly how to tell you…” Robert started to say as
Milly took their coats and hung them on the coat rack behind the
door. “Except to come right out and say it. This is Adam and
Regina Weyrling, they’re Robbie and Eloise’s aunt and uncle.”
Milly gasped in understanding at what the introduction meant,
she stepped closer to Lucas.
“Their aunt and uncle, I thought Martha said they didn’t have
any relatives…” Lucas stated; his mind racing to how the
children would react.
“Mr. McCain, Martha was my half-sister; we had the same father,
but different mothers…” the woman started to explain. “Martha
was ten years younger than me and we weren’t raised together…so
she probably didn’t think she had any family.”
“Why now?” Milly asked, trying to keep emotion from her voice.
“Milly, Lucas, they came in response to the notices we placed in
the newspapers. You knew there was a chance someone could claim
relation…” Robert stated.
“But we placed those notices in the paper two months ago and it
was a month ago we expected to receive a response,” Milly cried.
Lucas wrapped his arms around his wife.
“We only saw the notice in the newspaper a week ago and made
immediate arrangements to travel here,” Mr. Weyrling stated.
“Mr. Garrison has informed us of how you have cared for Robbie
and Eloise. We appreciate all that you have done for the
children, and would be willing to reimburse you for your
“We didn’t do it for money!” exclaimed Milly as she turned to
face the strangers who stood in her home. “Those children needed
someone to love them, they sure weren’t getting enough at home!
Why weren’t you sooner?!”
“We arrived as soon as we could. We just returned from a lecture
series in England and I was catching up in reading some of the
newspapers… I almost missed the notification,” replied Mr.
“Adam, Regina, please. Lucas, Milly, I think we should all take
a seat,” Robert stated.
After everyone was seated, Mr. Wyerling asked, “How did Martha
and Quinton die?”
“The report of the events surrounding Quinton and Martha’s
deaths are on file at the Marshal’s Office, but you should know
that it all started because Quinton had prevented the children
from going to school for a whole week before that Monday,”
“They could have been sick,” Mrs. Weyrling offered.
“They could have been, but there were too many other times where
Quinton refused the children schooling; and they had not called
our town’s doctor out to their home. Quinton had a history of
not making sure the children attended school. As a result, one
of our teacher’s grew concerned and he insisted that one of our
Marshals address the situation. The following Monday, our senior
teacher, who is also holds a seat on our town council, rode out
with the Marshal to your sister’s and the end result was that
Quinton murdered his wife and wounded our school teacher, as
well as the marshal,” Robert answered, thankful that Lucas and
Milly were allowing him to do the talking.
“My God!” exclaimed Mrs. Weyrling, covering her mouth with her
“Good heavens,” commented Mr. Weyrling.
“Robbie and Eloise have been treated as members of our family
ever since…” Milly stated. “Our children already call them their
brother and sister…”
“I know this is going to be difficult for the children, but we
are blood relations…” Mrs. Weyrling answsered.
Mr. Weyrling added, “And we have the law on our side.”
“I don’t care about the law; I care about the children…” Milly
stated. “You don’t know how much they’ve been looking forward to
becoming members of our family.”
“That’s only because they didn’t know they had other options.
I’m sure if they knew about us, they would gladly come with us
from the start,” Mrs. Weyrling replied.
“But you weren’t here!” cried Milly.
“How can we be sure you are relatives?” asked Lucas.
“Lucas, Milly” Robert cautioned. “I’ve seen the paperwork and
everything is in order.”
“Mr. Garrison,” Mrs. Weyrling stated. “You said, Quinton killed
Martha, and wounded the others; how bad were the teacher and the
“Mr. Griswald was on crutches for about a month while his leg
healed and the marshal received a flesh wound to the arm,”
“And Quinton’s death?” Mr. Weyrling asked. “Marshal Drako killed
him, I presume?”
“No, it was my son,” Lucas coldly replied.
“Your son…” interrupted Mrs. Weyrling. “They’re just children…”
and she looked out the window towards the other house where
Milly had taken the children.
“Our eldest son lives next door and is the U.S. Marshal for the
territory,” Milly stoically answered.
Lucas continued, “He doesn’t relish taking any life, and tried
not to in this case, but Trumble fired and the bullet struck my
son as he fired to disarm him.”
“I’m sorry, but in regard to the children, you have to
understand Robbie and Eloise will be cared for as if they were
our own. We have three other children who are looking forward to
meeting their younger cousins,” Mr. Weyrling stated.
“Cared for, they need love!” exclaimed Milly.
“Believe me,” Mrs. Weyrling replied. “They will be loved.”
“We were supposed to sign the adoption papers this week and they
were to be filed after the New Year,” Milly stated, wanting
these people just to go away.
Though the words he was about to speak, hurt, but Lucas knew he
had to ask, “How soon are you wanting to take the children?”
“Lucas?!” cried Milly.
“Milly, if they didn’t have the law on their side, Robert
wouldn’t be here.”
“We can stay only stay until Wednesday, we need to return home
to New Orleans so I will have enough time to prepare to return
to court on Monday,” Adam stated.
“Lucas, Milly, Mr. Weyrling is a judge back east,” Robert added.
“We’ll be able to provide a comfortable home for the children.
Two more mouths to feed won’t be a burden to us,” Mr. Weyrling
“You think Robbie and Eloise were a burden to us? They were
loved! You think they’ll be more comfortable, just because you
have money; the children have a comfortable home here! They’re
not a burden! There’s more to being comfortable than having
money!” exclaimed Milly at the insult she perceived.
“My husband didn’t mean to insult you, you have a lovely home,
but you must understand, the children will be loved and we can
provide better for them back home,” Mrs. Weyrling explained.
“Lucas, if you’d like, I’ll go get the children from Mark’s
home,” offered Robert.
“No, I’ll inform them,” Lucas stood and headed to the front door
of their home.
Lucas took a deep breath before he knocked and opened the door,
“Hope, I need to talk to Robbie and Eloise.”
Hope shooed the other children from around the table and into
“Papa, Lucas, you don’t look happy,” Eloise stated as Lucas
pulled a chair to sit at the table.
“You’re right, I’m not,” Lucas replied.
“Did we do something wrong?” asked Robbie.
“No, you didn’t do anything wrong. I just have some news that’s…
It’s…” Lucas struggled with how to tell the children. “The
couple who came with Mr. Garrison, they’re your aunt and uncle.”
“Pa?” queried Hope, knowing what Lucas’ statement meant.
“You know that we had to place notices in the papers back east,
inquiring if you had any other family,” stated Lucas.
“Sure, you told us,” answered Robbie.
“It also meant that if you did have any other family, and if
they were able, they would take you into their family.”
“Their family? We’re part of your family. You and Mama Milly are
adopting us,” a confused Robbie stated.
“We wanted to, as long as no one else stepped forward.”
“You don’t want us no more?” Eloise asked, her lip quivered as
tears started to form in her eyes.
“No, we want you, but the law says they’re blood relatives and
you have to go with them.”
“The law? Tell Marshal Mark we want to stay here!” pleaded
“It’s not Mark’s decision, I don’t even know if he knows.”
“Then tell him! He said he wanted me as a brother! He can’t go
back on his word!” Robbie cried. He tried to run away, but Lucas
restrained him. “No! I won’t go! You can’t make me go!”
Little Ted opened the bedroom and ran out, yelling, “You can’t
let them take ‘em.”
“Little Ted, back inside, please,” begged Hope as she tried to
usher him back into her sons’ bedroom.
“No! You can’t let them take Robbie!” Little Ted yelled louder.
“Theodore!” Lucas sternly called, stopping his son in his tracks
by his tone of voice.
“Children, I’ve tried to explain this the best that I can. Now
Robbie, Eloise, I’ll take you back to the house to meet your
aunt and uncle, and you’ll show them the respect you’d give any
“Yes sir,” Robbie answered, while Eloise nodded.
“Little Ted, we’ll talk when I come back,” stated Lucas.
Little Ted ran for the front door yelling, “NO!”
Mark returned home Monday afternoon, earlier than planned, he
had waited as Robert Garrison had asked. He tied Rainmaker to
the hitching rail, meeting Milly on the porch.
“Robert told me the news,” stated an incredulous Mark. “He asked
me to give him an hour before I came home.”
Milly could only answer by nodding her head, she knew if she
said anything she would start crying again.
Mark walked over and pulled Milly into his arms and held her,
“Ma, I’m so sorry. How did they take the news?”
Milly couldn’t answer she just shook her head. Both looked to
Hope and Mark’s home when they heard Hope yell, “Little Ted!”
and saw the boy running across the yard to the barn.
Hope followed as Lucas led Robbie and Eloise into the home they
had known for the past few months.
After listening to Hope tell what happened at the house, Mark
followed Little Ted into the barn and was surprised to see he
had saddled and bridled Cappy all by himself.
“What do you think you’re doing?” asked Mark.
“I’m not talking to you.”
“Pa said you wouldn’t stop them from taking Robbie away.”
“Little Ted, you have to understand, I have to follow the law
and the law says that Robbie and Eloise have to go with their
aunt and uncle.”
“I HATE YOU! GO AWAY!”
“Is that anyway to talk to me?” asked a sympathetic Mark,
understanding the hurt his brother was feeling.
“You’re not my pa and you’re not my brother!” Little Ted angrily
replied as he climbed into the saddle.
“No, I’m not our Pa and yes, I am your brother. And if I were
you, I’d changed my attitude.” Mark’s tone indicated his
disapproval for how his brother was behaving; he reached for the
rein to prevent Little Ted from leaving.
“You’re not me! LET GO!” Little Ted slapped the ends of the
reins across Mark’s face, kicked his horse into a gallop, and
rode from the barn.
“TED!” Mark yelled as he ran out the barn behind his brother,
ignoring the smarting of his cheek.
Mark ran to Rainmaker and swung up into the saddle, pausing when
he heard, “Mark!”
Wheeling his horse around Mark called, “Pa, it’s Little Ted, he
raced Cappy out of here, heading North. He’s upset that I
wouldn’t stop Mr. and Mrs. Weyrling from taking Robbie and
Lucas watched Mark race from the yard as he ran to the barn to
hurriedly saddled Blade. Shaking her head, Milly watched as Hope
return to her home and turned her attention to Lucas as he raced
Blade from the barn, after two of his sons.
To keep her children occupied and their minds off the news
concerning Robbie and Eloise, Hope decided everyone should work
on chores. Hope told the boys to climb the ladder to see if any
of the chickens had laid eggs in the hayloft. She set Mykaela on
the stool and told her to stay put. Hope allowed her mind to
drift from her task of milking one of the cows, and was
oblivious to the chicken fluttering down to get away from the
boys. It landed on the cow’s spine, startling the animal. The
cow kicked sideways, striking Hope in the abdomen. She screamed
in shock at the strike and landed a few feet away from where she
had sat; she curled into a fetal position, her arms wrapped
around her stomach, crying from the pain.
The twins ran to the edge of the loft as the chicken took
flight, saw it land on the cow, heard the cow bawl and the
chicken cackle, and then their Mama screamed as the cow kicked
“Mama!” the twins yelled as they ran for the ladder. Eli sat on
the hayloft, scared and crying.
Zach tried to cradle Hope’s head in his lap, while Josh ran to
get his Grandpa.
“Mrs. McCain, I think it’s best if we head back to town,” Mrs.
“Grandpa! Grandpa!” Josh yelled as he ran into his grandparents’
“Josh? What’s wrong?” Milly asked as she stopped her grandson.
“We tried to be quiet,” Josh paused trying to catch his breath,
“but we spooked the chicken and the cow hurt Mama!”
Josh waited for Milly to excuse herself from Robert and the
strangers; he tried to follow as she ran from the house to the
barn. The man restrained him from following his Grandma, “Wait
“My Mama’s hurt!” Josh declared and tried to pull away from the
grip the man had on his shoulder.
The strangers watched as Robert Garrison followed Milly out the
Upon arriving in the barn and assessing the situation, Robert
stated, “Milly, take the other children to your home, I’ll use
the Weyrling’s surrey and we can take her to town.”
“Hope,” Milly called as she laid Hope back to the ground, “I
need to get the children to the house. I’ll be right back and
we’ll get you to town.”
Only a few minutes later, Robert carried Hope to the surrey,
trying not to cause her any additional pain, and placed her so
she rested against Milly. He ran behind the surrey, climbed in
the seat, rein slapped the horse, and raced back to town.
Lucas crested the rise to see Mark pulling a fighting Little Ted
from the saddle; he urged Blade forward.
“Stop this right now!” Lucas heard Mark declare as the younger
brother continued to struggle from Mark’s arms.
“I HATE YOU!”
“THEODORE!” Lucas declared upon arriving and jumping down from
“PUT ME DOWN!” Little Ted yelled, still kicking with his legs
and striking out with his fists.
“Only when you stop fighting me,” replied Mark as Little Ted
kicked out, catching Mark in the knee.
Lucas forcefully took Ted from Mark; giving him a shake before
setting him to his feet.
“STOP THIS, RIGHT NOW!” declared Lucas.
Without relinquishing his grip, Lucas knelt in front of his
crying son, “Ted, I know you’re hurting, but behaving like this
isn’t the answer.”
“Then don’t let them take my brother!”
Mark knelt beside his brother, “Ted, they’re Robbie’s family.”
“It’s all your fault! You don’t want me to have another
“That’s not true,” Lucas answered before Mark could say
“Ted, if the Weyrling’s hadn’t come, I’d love to have another
brother. How would you feel if you were Robbie?” asked Mark.
“I’d want to stay here!”
“Yes, I’m sure he does, but that’s not what Mark meant. How do
you think he feels knowing you ran out on him. That you couldn’t
be happy for him to have an Aunt and an Uncle come all this way
just for him and Eloise?” asked Lucas.
“Don’t you think we’re all hurting?” asked Mark. “I’ve looked
forward to them becoming members of our family as long as you
have.” Mark paused waiting to hear his brother say something.
“Or are you the only one who’s allowed to hurt?”
“But you…” Little Ted tried to talk but his words were choked by
tears and he reached up and wrapped his arms around his Pa’s
neck and buried his face in his Pa’s shoulder.
“I don’t want them to go,” Little Ted whimpered.
“I don’t either. But they are Robbie and Eloise’s family, just
like we’re family. Would you want someone else to keep you away
from your family?” asked Mark, placing a hand to his brother’s
shoulder and rubbing his back.
“Son, it may not be the best for us, but it is the best for
Robbie and Eloise,” Lucas stated as he stood to his feet,
carrying his son. “Can you be happy for them to have real
Sniffling and wiping his running nose with the back of his
sleeve, Little Ted replied, “I guess so.”
“Little Ted, you’ll have to be brave. Let Robbie know that
you’re happy for him. Can you do that?” asked Lucas.
Little Ted nodded.
Holding Blade steady so Lucas could mount while still holding
his son, Mark choked back his own tears.
After mounting Rainmaker, Mark reached for Cappy’s reins and
rode for home next to Lucas.
Seth and Lilah sat with Milly as they waited for news on Hope.
Aaron exited the examination room and quietly announced, “She’s
in a lot of pain.”
“Can we see her?” Lilah asked.
“Not yet, Thadd’s still examining her. Do you know where the
Marshal is? I think he should be here.”
“He’s out with Lucas,” Milly replied.
“Is Hope going to be okay?” a worried Seth asked.
“I hope so. We want to keep her here for a while longer, to keep
an eye on her. We need to evaluate the cause of her pain,” Aaron
“From taking a tumble?” Lilah asked.
“Mrs. Lane, it not that simple, a cow’s kick can be powerful.
We’re concerned about possible internal injuries from the blow;
it would be best to keep her here, under observation, until we
know for certain,” Aaron stated.
“You’re saying she might require…surgery?” Milly asked.
“I pray not, but you have to understand our concerns, we won’t
know for a while if there was any damage inflicted internally,”
Thadd stated as he stepped from the examination room. “It’s
going to be a while before we know, why don’t you go to the
hotel; I’ll send Abigail or Sarah for you, if it comes to that.”
Over the course of the next hour, Hope’s appearance grew paler
and the pain increased in intensity. Aaron and Thadd examined
Hope again and couldn’t help but notice the deepening bruise to
her abdomen. Thadd gently pressed on the bruised area, noted it
was hardening and Hope couldn’t help but cry out from the pain.
“This isn’t just a bruise, is it? You think she’s bleeding
internally,” Aaron whispered.
“I’m sure of it, we can’t wait any longer for Mark to arrive,”
Thadd replied. “Sarah, please prep Hope for surgery, I’ll go
inform her family.”
Mark and Lucas return home with Little Ted, only to find Mr. and
Mrs. Weyrling watching all the children.
“Mr. McCain, there’s been an accident…” the woman started to say
as she stepped to the porch.
“An accident?” Mark asked.
“Robert drove the women to town…” Mr. Weyrling stated as he
stood beside his wife.
“Who’s hurt,” demanded Lucas, dreading the answer as a coldness
settled in the pit of his stomach.
“The younger Mrs. McCain,” Mrs. Weyrling answered.
“Without waiting to hear any more, Mark dropped Cappy’s reins
and whirled his horse around and raced Rainmaker to North Fork.
Watching his son race away, Lucas asked, “What happened?”
“Grandpa!” Josh and Zach called as they stepped to the porch.
Lucas stepped from Blade, leaving Little Ted sitting in the
saddle, he hugged his grandsons.
“The cow kicked Mama,” Josh stated, tears still streaking his
“We didn’t mean to startle the chicken, Mama sent us up to the
hayloft to look for eggs,” Zach replied, having been crying as
“We tried to be quiet,” Josh answered, as he tried to be brave.
“Mr. McCain, if you’d like, I’ll take the horses to the barn,
and you can be with the children, I think it would be best for
them to be with family,” Adam offered.
“Go away! It’s all your fault!” Little Ted declared.
“Theodore!” Lucas reprimanded.
“None of this would of happened if they hadn’t come!”
“We’ve talked about this already! To your bedroom, NOW!” Lucas
ordered. “You will not be disrespectful to guests while they are
in our home.”
“Then it’s not my home!” Little Ted jumped from the saddle and
ran to the barn.
“Mr. Weyrling, Mrs. Weyrling, I’m sorry for my son’s behavior,”
Lucas begged to apologize.
“No Mr. McCain, in a way, your son is right. I think its best we
return to town, as soon as Mr. Garrison returns with our
As they spoke a small cloud of dust appeared on the horizon, as
they watched the surrey came closer.
“Nils?” Lucas asked.
“Lucas, Robert asked me to come back and get the Weyrlings,”
Nils answered, turning to the couple stepping to the porch,
“Sorry, I didn’t get back sooner, but I had to change out the
“Mr. McCain, we will expect the children in town tomorrow so we
may leave on the Wednesday train,” Mr. Weyrling stated as he
escorted his wife to the surrey.
Sarah McCafferty prepped Hope for surgery and administered the
ether as instructed. A few minutes later, she silently watched
as Thadd made the first incision through Hope’s skin. Aaron
worked to wipe away the darkened blood that seeped from the
incision as Thadd cut deeper. In time, the incision revealed the
origination of the loss of blood; feverishly the two physicians
worked to stem the flow of blood and repair the damage done.
Aaron was first to see it, “Thadd, her liver…”
“I see it; looks like bottom section of the lower lobe is
“What do we do? I mean…” Aaron stated.
“I think its best to remove the lacerated section to prevent any
necrosis and hopefully, if I suture the rest of it closed, maybe
it will heal and still properly function.”
“The rest of the liver does appear to be healthy,” answered
Aaron. “I wish we could study the internal working of the human
body in more detail.”
“Maybe someday there will be a way to do it, but right now, we
best focus on saving Hope’s life.”
“Yes, doctor,” Aaron stated as he followed the instructions
given to him by Thadd.
The two doctors worked to remove the damaged section of Hope’s
liver and suture the remaining portion. With as much attention
as they could give, they examined the other internal organs near
the liver to make sure there was no further damage. An hour and
a half after the surgery started, Aaron cut the thread of the
last suture to close the incision Thadd had made.
“How’s is Hope’s respiration?” Thadd asked as he stepped to the
head of the table where Sarah was removing the ether mask from
“She’s breathing shallow, but it is steady and regular.”
“Thadd, her pulse is strong,” Aaron added as he placed Hope’s
arm back to her side, having lifted it to take her pulse.
Abigail entered the room and operated the sink pump to allow her
husband and Aaron to wash their hands and arms. Afterwards, she
helped Sarah clean up the inevitable mess that had been made
during the surgery.
“Let’s move her to the resting room at the end of the hallway,”
Having settled their patient in her new room, the two doctors
headed to the hotel to talk with her family.
Mark arrived at the clinic and pleaded with Abigail to tell him
what was wrong with Hope.
“Mark, I wasn’t here when they brought Hope in, I’ve been taking
care of other patients while they’re performing surgery.”
“Surgery?” cried Mark. “Why?”
“Mark, please… Milly, Lilah, and Seth are over at the hotel. Go
to the hotel. We’ll come get you when she’s out of surgery.”
Mark entered the hotel to be greeted by Lou, “Come along Mark,
yer family is in the kitchen.”
Lou escorted Mark to the back of the hotel. Milly stood and
hugged Mark as he entered. Lou walked to the stove and picked up
the coffee pot, grabbed another coffee cup and filled it for
Mark, before she refilled other’s.
“Ma, what happened?” Mark asked.
“The boys said the cow kicked her. It caught her in the
abdomen,” answered Seth when Milly couldn’t bring herself to
explain. “The Thadd thinks she might be bleeding internally.”
Seth placed a chair behind Mark as his knees buckled.
“Milly, I’ll have Nils hitch our surrey and I’ll drive you back
home. I’m sure Lucas is frantic to hear any news,” Seth stated
as he placed a hand under Milly’s arm to help her to her feet.
“Mark?” pleaded Milly.
“Ma, please… Go home with Seth, and I’d appreciate it you could
take care of…”
“Mark, you don’t have to ask…” Milly replied as she and Seth
left the kitchen.
“Mark, can I refresh your cup of coffee?” Lilah asked.
“Lilah, thanks, but no sense call of us sitting here worrying,”
replied Mark without thinking.
“Mark, she’s my daughter and you’re my son-in-law. I’ll stay
here with you. You don’t need to be alone at a time like this,”
Lilah made herself busy around the kitchen by helping Lou and
her cook fix supper for the hotel guests; she set a plate of
steak and fried potatoes in front of Mark.
“I’m not hungry,” Mark answered, pushing the plate aside.
“Lilah put food in front of ye young man and ye will eat it.
I’ll not see food served in my restaurant go to waste!” Lou
stated and humpf’d, crossing her arms.
Mark looked to Lou, knowing he best eat something. Fifteen
minutes later, Mark pushed the plate aside and wiped his mouth.
“Not hungry, huh?” Lilah asked.
“Guess I was…”
The sun had set by the time Thadd and Aaron entered the kitchen
to get Mark.
“Mark,” Thadd called quietly.
“She’s out of surgery and should be waking soon.”
Mark followed Thadd out the hotel, across the street, and down
the boardwalk to the clinic, while Aaron stayed behind and spoke
Mark stopped in the doorway as he looked upon his sleeping wife.
“Thadd, will she?”
“In a few days she’ll be up and around, but it will take a few
weeks until she’s fully recovered,” answered Thadd.
“The kick lacerated her liver… Mark, if we hadn’t performed
surgery, she would have bled to death. We had no choice but to
start surgery without your consent.”
“If it saved her life, you didn’t need my consent,” answered
Mark. “Can I stay with her?”
“Sure, just try not to jostle her when you sit on the bed beside
Thadd left the room, closing the door behind him.
Mark slipped off his boots and quietly set them to the floor,
before climbing onto the bed and lying down on his side next to
his wife, on top of the sheet. He took her hand in his, placing
a kiss to it and waited.
An hour had passed when Mark roused, realizing he had fallen
asleep, he heard Hope whimpering.
“I’m right here Hope.”
He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and watched as her eyes
fluttered, and stilled.
“I’m right here beside you, always and forever.”
“Mark?” Hope breathily whispered.
“Who else?” he teased as relief swept through him. “How are you
“I hurt,” she quietly answered.
“I’ll be right back, I’ll get Doc,” Mark stated as he swung his
legs over the bed and sat up.
“I’m right here Mark. I was coming to check in on her.”
Mark watched as Doc twisted off the top to the bottle he
carried, measured out some of it’s contents and mixed it with a
glass of water he picked up from the side table.
“Here Mark,” Thadd handed the glass to Mark. “Make sure she
drinks it all. I mixed some laudanum in the water to help
alleviate the pain.”
Holding Hope’s head, Mark placed the glass to her lips and
encouraged her to drink.
Thadd smiled when Mark handed him back the empty glass.
“She’ll still be groggy for the rest of the night, but that
should clear up in the morning by the time I come back to
examine her. If you need anything, just come get me from the
Mark woke to a rooster crowing in the distance and the door to
the room opening, “Morning Mark,” Thadd stated. “How’s our
“I guess we both slept through the night.”
“Mark, if you wouldn’t mind stepping out into the hallway so I
can examine Hope?”
Ten minutes later Thadd exited the room, “She woke while I was
examining her. She’ll be in pain for a while yet, and I’ve given
her some pain medication that won’t make her as sleepy, but if
she wants to sleep, it would be for the best. We’ll plan to get
her on her feet tomorrow.”
“So soon?” asked Mark.
“It will be for the best to get her up and about. Just a few
steps here and there. Mark, you’ll be right beside her, and
Aaron and I will be right here with you.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, Lucas returned to North Fork and
escorted Robbie and Eloise to the entrance of hotel.
“I expect both of you to behave yourselves and show the
Weyrlings that you have proper manners,” Lucas stated.
“You won’t forget us, will you?” Robbie asked, trying to be
“Do we have to go?” Eloise asked.
“We won’t forget you. And yes, the law says you have to go with
your aunt and uncle,” replied Lucas.
The Weyrlings met Lucas in the lobby, smiling they greeted
Robbie and Eloise.
“Thank you for taking us in, Mr. and Mrs. Weyrling,” Robbie
“No need to be so formal, we’re family, you may call us Uncle
Adam, Aunt Regina,” Mrs. Werling stated.
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Robbie.
“My, you’re a very pretty young lady, with a very pretty
bonnet,” Mrs. Weyrling stated as she knelt in front of Eloise
and began to untie her niece’s bonnet.
Eloise stepped closer to Robbie and held tighter to her doll,
but didn’t speak.
“Do you not speak when spoken to?” Mr. Weyrling asked, his tone
indicated he was not amused.
“Judge Weyrling, she didn’t speak for over a week when she first
came to live with us,” Lucas answered. “Give her time to adjust,
this is traumatic for her.”
“Adam, please…” Mrs. Weyrling stated, more accepting of the
He nodded, “Thank you for bringing them to town. We’re scheduled
on the eleven o’clock train tomorrow morning.”
Mrs. Weyrling ushered the children upstairs. Lou rushed into the
kitchen to keep anyone else from seeing her tears as she watched
“Mr. McCain,” Mr. Weyrling called as Lucas started to leave.
“Judge Weyrling?” Lucas replied.
“I wanted to let you know, there will be no formal charges
brought against your son for his part in the death of Quinton
“Formal charges? Why you…” Lucas came close to losing his
“Mr. McCain,” Judge Weyrling interrupted. “I spoke with Marshal
Drako, as well as Mr. Griswald. I would be remiss in my job as a
judge had I not fully reviewed the facts of the case.”
“You have no jurisdiction in this territory. How much trouble
did you hope to stir up?” Lucas asked, as he stepped closer to
the judge, the difference in the two men’s height was more
“None, I just wanted to make sure there was nothing amiss in
what happened. I mean, your son killed the children’s parents
and you take them in? Anyhow, the reports are accurate enough
and enough differences in how the reports were written that I’m
relieved that everyone gave their individual account, and
weren’t repeating something they were told to say.”
“You would sink so low as to try to stir up trouble, just to
ensure you took custody of the children?” Lucas insinuated.
“Mr. McCain, when I returned to town Monday, that was a small
part of my wanting to review the case, but after reading the
reports and talking with the others involved, I probably asked
more questions than I should have, but…”
“But what?” a disgusted Lucas asked.
“After talking with others around town, I wanted to make sure I
understood all the facts so that I could talk with Robbie and
Eloise when they’re older. I’m sure they will have
questions…children always do. I understand there was no malice
in the actions your oldest son took.”
“My son bears no malice against anyone. He does his job, by the
book!” Lucas boldly stated as he jabbed his index finger into
Judge Weyrling’s chest.
“I know sir.” He averted his eyes for a moment. “In talking with
people of this town, I realized Quinton had set his actions in
motions a long time ago. Your son acted in the only possible way
that Quinton left open for him. You know, from what others say,
you eldest isn’t exactly the way I envisioned a lawman out here.
In fact, what I wouldn’t give to see him in Washington some day;
a person of his character is refreshing. I hope you’ll accept my
hand as a thank you for taking in the children and providing
them a comfortable family life and as an apology for my original
intentions,” said Judge Weyrling as he offered his hand.
Lucas stood back, surprised at the turn of words; he accepted
the offer and shook hands.
“Regina and I will keep your family and the younger Mrs. McCain
in our prayers.”
Judge Weyrling turned and proceeded upstairs to be with his
The following morning, Lucas and Milly returned to town with all
the McCain children and watched as Judge and Mrs. Weyrling left
on the train with Robbie and Eloise. As they tried to comfort
the crying children, they didn’t see Ethan Lane step from the
Wearing civilian attire, Ethan headed straight to his father’s
home, eager of the news he bore.
“They can’t do this! I retired!” Seth yelled to his son as he
crumpled the letter in his hand.
“Father, I know you retired. But these orders are direct from
Washington. When I learned about the orders, I requested to be
the one to give you the news; I thought you’d be happy to know
“Why am I needed, we’re not a war!” declared Seth.
“Father, its taken time, and the army has calmed the settlers
near Fort Wingate over the uprising of the Navajo nation and
we’ve helped the Arizona troops quell the trouble with the
Hopis, but there are still people on both sides who are bitter.
The garrison is crumbling from faulty leadership, we have a
temporary command in place, but they’re not ready for this
assignment full time. If the right person doesn’t lead the
troops, another bloody Indian uprising can, and I fear, will
happen. We need someone of strong character and someone the men
will respect to take command.”
“Then let them send you!” demanded Seth.
“They already are, I’ll be your Lieutenant Colonel, reporting
directly to you, Colonel,” Ethan proudly saluted. “Father, you
have no choice. These orders are signed by the President…”
Lilah entered the parlor and offered a greeting only to see Seth
storm from his home declaring, “President, be damned!”
“Ethan?” Lilah asked.
“I know father would prefer to inform you,” replied Ethan as he
turned and walked after Seth.
The McCains stepped from the train depot and headed towards
“Mama, can we go see Hope?” Myra asked, not wanting to go home
an empty bedroom.
Milly answered her daughter, “We’ll need to check with Mark to
make sure it isn’t too soon after her accident.”
“Weren’t no accident, those people came on purpose!” Little Ted
“Theodore!” Milly demanded as she grabbed her son’s arm.
“I don’t want to be here,” Little Ted hollered and tried to pull
away. “I don’t wanna go!”
“Young man,” Lucas sternly voiced. “You will stop this attitude.
With the way you’re behaving I don’t think Hope would appreciate
you visiting her.”
“Then let me go home!” replied Little Ted.
“No! You know you’re too young to ride home on your own,”
“Then let me go to Papaw Micah’s.”
“You will stay with us,” ordered Lucas.
Ethan followed Seth to Sweeney’s, motioning that he’d have what
his father was having. Sweeney poured a glass of beer and
delivered it to the table where the two men sat.
“They can’t do this to me,” Seth stated as his son sat down.
“Father, they can and they have. Whether you remember or not,
any soldier can be recalled, if the circumstances warrant their
“They’ve not given me enough time!” Seth declared as he again
lost his temper.
“Father, when you retired, you didn’t even take a week to move
to North Fork.”
“I wasn’t married back then, and only had two grandchildren.
Besides, North Fork still needs a second Marshal. Mark’s not
going to be in any condition to stand his watch for a while.”
“What happened to Mark?”
“Not Mark, Hope. She barely survived surgery two days ago, and
you show up today…”
“Father, I didn’t know Hope had surgery, what happened?”
“Damn cow kicked her. Mark’s going to need to stay home to help
take care of their children until Hope can get on her feet, and
that means I’m needed here, standing watch.”
“I’m sure Hope will be on her feet by the end of January, it’s
still a month away.”
“What will I tell my grandchildren?”
“Father, what do you want me to tell my children? Like I said,
I’m being reassigned too; Annie and the children are coming with
Mark stepped from the room when Sarah had informed him that his
family was in the waiting room. He eagerly knelt down to hug his
sons and daughter, telling them that their Mama was going to be
okay. As he took his youngest daughter from Milly, he noticed is
brother sitting in one of the chairs, arms crossed, looking
“The children would like to see Hope and wish her a speedy
recovery,” Milly offered as she hugged Mark.
“I’m sorry. She not ready to see anyone, just yet,” answered
“You mean she doesn’t want to see me,” Little Ted pouted.
“That’s not what I said, Little Ted,” Mark couldn’t keep the
tiredness from his voice. But to Little Ted, he sounded upset.
“You mad at me, too.”
“Ted, I’m not mad at you or anybody. Hope’s in a lot of pain,
and I’m just tired,” Mark stated as an apology.
“Mark, I’m sorry. We shouldn’t have brought the children…” Milly
“No, I need to see them. Have you had lunch?” asked Mark, his
spirits a little brighter. “Doc said she’d be asleep for a while
longer, we got her up from bed this morning and had her walk the
hallway, it exhausted her.”
“I’m not hungry,” pouted Little Ted.
“Young man!” Lucas’ voice warned.
“What happened?” Mark asked.
“The Weyrlings left with Robbie and Eloise today,” Lucas
“Pa… I forgot all about. I…”
“You’ve a lot on your mind,” stated Milly as she took Faith back
into her arms. “Come on, we can at least see that you eat a good
Mark and his family headed to the hotel restaurant.
That evening, Seth returned to the Marshal’s Office.
“Have you told Hope and Mark?” asked Johnny after Seth informed
him of the orders he had received from Washington.
“Haven’t had the heart; Hope’s still recovering from surgery. I
don’t know what to do. Hope and the grandchildren are so much a
part of my life now…”
“Seth, you have other grandchildren, Ethan and Annie’s.”
“That’s what Ethan stated; he’s being promoted and reassigned to
be my second in command.”
“Seth, you’ll be a lot closer to North Fork at Fort Wingate than
they were at Fort Stanton.”
“That’s not the point, I retired.”
“Seth, you can take the man from the army, but you can’t take
the army from the man; that’s why you made such a great deputy.
It’ll be hard to replace you. When do you have to report?”
“No later than the end of January.”
“Has Ethan been to see Hope since he arrived?” Drako asked.
“No, didn’t want to intrude. Guess my attitude didn’t help any.”
“Seth, why don’t you and Ethan spend a little time visiting with
Hope. I’m sure by his being here, Mark and Hope will want to
know why. You won’t have to figure out a way to tell them.” When
Seth didn’t reply, Johnny continued, “You know the longer you
put off telling them, the harder it will become.”
“It just doesn’t seem right to burden them now…” Seth debated.
“When will it seem the right time? When you’re boarding the
“That’s not fair!”
The Next Step — The Goodbye
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch