The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 22 - New Year's Eve
Written by Deanne Bertram
Mark had asked his parents for permission for Hope to spend New
Year’s with them, again, he’d sleep on a cot in the front room.
He planned a special dinner for her. With Milly so close to her
time, Mark and Lucas insisted that she take it easy, while Mark
fixed dinner, Lucas, Seth, and Ethan tended to the chores around
the barn, and Hope and Milly chatted in the front room.
While eating dinner, Mark started to daydream, about what it
would be like once he and Hope were married. He knew it would
take time to build their own home and until they were older, his
parents insisted that they live in the home. Mark cleared the
table and brought out desert. He served his Ma first and then
his Pa, Seth, and Ethan. Then he brought Hope’s, but on her
slice of apple pie was a candle, and around the candle was a
ring. Mark knelt as he handed Hope her pie.
“Hope, tonight is the end of this year and tomorrow starts a new
year. A new year that I hope will see you as my wife. Hope, in
front of our families, I’m asking for your hand in marriage.
Will you agree to be my wife?”
Hope looked into Mark’s eyes and then looked into the faces of
their family around the table, before her eyes returned to Mark.
She nodded and said “Yes.” Mark removed the candle and picked up
the ring and placed it on the ring finger of her left hand. He
quickly gave her a kiss, then went to get his piece of pie.
Lucas had noticed how uncomfortable Milly had been during
dinner. And knew why she had kept quiet, she knew tonight was a
special night for their son. After he bid goodnight to the
Lane’s, he insisted that Milly immediately get to bed and rest.
Hope, Mark, and Lucas sat up for a while and read, Lucas from
the bible, Hope from her studies, and Mark, another book from
Johnny. Later, Lucas watched as Mark stood at the door to his
bedroom and kissed Hope goodnight. Mark closed the door and
returned to the cot in the front room.
“Mark, I hope you’re ready for the life that awaits you
“Pa, it’s going to be the start of something wonderful,” Mark
Lucas and Mark walked to the barn to tend to the horses for the
final time that night. As they left the house, snow was starting
to fall. They were just about finished when Hope came running
in, barefoot and without a coat.
“Hope, what are you doing? You’ll catch your death coming out
like this,” Mark yelled as he removed his coat and wrapped it
“Mark, it’s your Ma. Mr. McCain, please, it’s the baby,” Hope
The three ran back to the house and heard Milly screaming as
they entered. Lucas went to his bedroom. A few minutes later he
came out and ordered Mark to go fetch Doc Burrage.
Mark ran to the barn and quickly saddled Blue Boy, he raced into
town as the snow fell harder. He jumped off Blue Boy in front of
Doc’s, pounding on the door as he yelled for Doc Burrage and
received no answer. A neighbor opened their door hearing the
“Mark, Mark McCain, what’s the matter?”
“Do you know where Doc Burrage is?
“I think both were spending the evening out at Judge Tanner’s
place over in Marionette.”
“Mark, where’s your coat? It’s snowing out here!”
“No time, Ma’s having the baby!” Mark jumped on Blue Boy and
headed to Marionette.
The night drew on as Lucas and Hope tended to Milly and her
contractions. Lucas became increasingly worried when he realized
the time and how long Mark had been gone.
The sun was well up and Milly’s contractions had become closer
and closer when Lucas heard the sound of a horse and buggy
arriving. He opened the door to see young Doc Burrage climbing
from the buggy and walking to the house.
“Lucas, how is she?”
“Doc, it’s too soon. The baby isn’t due for another couple of
weeks. She’s been in labor all night.” Lucas showed Thadd to the
bedroom, but was stopped from entering as Hope shut the door in
front of him. Lucas paced. He prayed at every one of Milly’s
screams. He was unaware of how much time elapsed when he heard
the sounds of a baby crying. Finally the door opened and Doc
“Lucas congratulations, you have a fine, healthy baby. Give us a
few minutes to clean up and then you can come in and see Milly
and meet your daughter.”
Hope led Lucas into the bedroom, he climbed up on the bed and
sat beside Milly and put his arm around her shoulder. He watched
as his daughter suckled from her mother’s breast. Lucas kissed
Milly on the forehead and said, “I love you Milly.”
“You know, Mark was right, today is the start of something
beautiful,” Lucas rested his cheek on Milly’s head.
As Doc was putting his instruments away, he asked Lucas if he
could have a word with him in the front room. From the look on
his face, Lucas followed him.
“Lucas, Uncle Jay and I were at Judge Tanner’s place over in
Marionette last night. Mark arrived, half frozen, we barely
understood him, but heard enough to know Milly was giving
It was then that Lucas noticed Mark’s winter jacket hanging on
the back of the chair by the table.
“Lucas, as I said Uncle Jay was there. Before I left, they were
warming hot water to submerge him in a bath. Milly and the baby
will be fine, even though she is a couple weeks premature. I’m
going to head on back to Marionette and see what help I can be.
Lucas, I’m sorry to bear such news to you.”
“Thanks Doc, just take care of my boy.”
Lucas showed Doc to his buggy and then returned to his bedroom.
Milly was asleep and Hope was laying their daughter into her
“Hope…” Lucas stood at the door and motioned for Hope to come to
him. He took her to the kitchen and told her the news of Mark.
He hugged her and together they cried.
The Next Step — The Race
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch