The Rifleman
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The Next Step…
Chapter 6 - Thanksgiving
Written by Deanne Bertram

Lucas and Mark spent a quiet Thanksgiving at Milly’s. Between Milly and Hope, they prepared an excellent feast of turkey and all the fixings. The group was settling in around the fire place when a knock sounded at the door.

Milly’s rose to answer. “Yes, may I help you?”

A voice from Lucas’ past answered, “Ma’am, I’m sorry to intrude, but, I was told that Lucas McCain might be here this evening.”

“Yes he…” Before she could finish her sentence, Lucas was at her side.

“Tom, Tom Benton. Happy Thanksgiving, man, it’s been too long. Please come in, can I get you some coffee?”

“Thanks Lucas. I’d be obliged to take the chill off.”

They entered the parlor where Lucas introduced Milly and Hope to his old Army Captain.

“So, Tom, tell me. What brings you back to North Fork this time?”

“Lucas, I stopped over at the Marshal’s and he wasn’t there.”

“No, he’s spending the evening at the Mallory House.”

“Well, I put my horse up at the livery and asked about you, I hate to intrude on your evening.”

“Tom, it’s no intrusion. This time of year is all about friends and giving thanks.”

“Lucas, the reason I came to North Fork, is.., the U.S. Marshal Service is putting together an official training class. We’re wanting to train our upcoming Marshals on some of the newest investigative techniques and more importantly, making sure they understand their responsibilities. I read some of the latest reports that Marshal Torrance has filed and I’m quite impressed with what he has to say about his newest deputy. Even Deputy Drako’s reports are complimentary about the new deputy, but they never identify him. I was wanting to invite the deputy to Denver to participate. Do you think you could help me?

“Lucas, why are you laughing? We’re taking seriously the training of our future Marshals.”

“Tom, I’m not laughing about the training. Tom, you’ve already met Micah’s newest deputy.”

“I have?”

“Yeah, a few years back, he kind of stole some stolen money from some outlaws who had kidnapped him. A thief among thieves, if you remember,” Lucas grinned, waiting to see how long it would take Tom to remember.

“Mark? You mean, Mark’s his deputy? But he can’t be…”

“I’ll be seventeen in two weeks Marshal Benton,” Mark answered.

“Well Lucas, I can’t believe it.”

“Believe it Tom.”

“Lucas, Mark, the offer still stands. Classes start February 1st, in Denver. It’s up to you if you attend.”

“Marshal Benton, can we have a few days to talk about it?” Mark asked.

“Sure Mark. I’ll be here through Sunday. Planning to stay at the hotel. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll say goodnight. Ladies.”

Lucas escorted Tom back to the front door. When he returned to the parlor, he saw the look of incredulity on Mark’s face.

“Mark?”

“Pa, let’s not talk about it tonight. I’d like tonight to just be about family and forget all the other stuff? Please?”

“Okay.”

All too soon, it came time for Lucas and Mark to return home. As they rode, they turned up their collars to the cold winter breeze that was blowing.

*****

Morning came to find the cold wind from the night before had brought in a snow fall. After finishing chores in the barn, both McCain’s returned to the house. Mark was putting away the last of the dishes when he turned and watched Lucas, bible in hand, concerned etched in his face.

“Pa?” Mark asked. “Are you alright?”

“Mark, we need to have a talk about last night.”

“Yes, Pa.” Mark stated and walked over to his Pa, pulled a chair from the table and sat down. “Pa, I know that you’re probably surprised with what Marshal Benton had to say. I know I sure was, but can you believe it?”

“Mark, that’s not exactly what I was wanting to talk about.”

Mark looked to his Pa, curious.

“You said something last night that got me to thinking. After Tom left, you asked for last night to be about family.” Lucas paused and mused to himself. “Mark, how you would feel if I invited Milly…” he remembered back to another day.

Lucas remembered back to the day he had asked Samuel Gibbs for Margaret’s hand. That was the only good memory Lucas had of the man, until a few years back, when he arrived in North Fork, looking for help. The pain Lucas felt was still was there, but he finally understood what had happened. That Samuel had tried, but weariness, worry, and the elements had taken their toll on the man the night that Margaret died. The last time he had seen Samuel Gibbs, he saw light return to a defeated man, because of the forgiveness of his grandson.

Lucas’s thoughts returned to the present, it felt odd, asking his son for permission to get married.

“Mark, how would you feel if I were to ask Milly to marry me, I…”

“Pa, I’m a little disappointed.” A smile played at Mark’s lips and a gleam showed in his eyes, but Lucas didn’t see it, he hadn’t looked up from his bible.

“Mark, if you’re against it, I won’t ask her. I just hoped you would understand.”

“Pa, I’m disappointed it took you this long to realize you loved her.” Mark started laughing. “So, when are you going to ask her? Can I be there?”

Lucas looked to Mark, a smile spread across his face and through his heart as he realized his boy was in favor of his union. “Mark, you weren’t there when I proposed to your Ma, so I don’t think it’s appropriate that you be present this time.”

“Aw, Pa.”

*****

Lucas came from the bedroom, looking a little more dressed up than he had before he entered. “Mark, I have an errand to run in town. While I’m gone, why don’t you check the weanlings in the south meadow, make sure their water supply isn’t frozen over.”

“Yes, Pa. Oh, and Pa? I hope she says yes.”

“Get to your chores boy!” Lucas grinned at his impertinent son.

*****

Lucas rode to town, nervous. Had he really felt this nervous… It had been so long ago.

“He dismounted Razor in front of Milly’s. Slowly he walked to the door, for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to knock on the door. Finally, he raised his hand, but before he could knock, the door opened and out stepped Hope.

“Mr. McCain, I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting anyone at the door.”

“That’s okay Hope. Is Milly home?”

Hope turned and called to Miss Milly.

“Lucas, this is a surprise,” Milly exclaimed as she came to the door. Lucas stepped aside to let Hope leave.

“Milly, may I come in?”

“Lucas, you know you’re always welcome in this house.” Milly closed the door behind them.

Lucas followed Milly to the parlor, he toyed with his hat. Nervously sweating.

“Lucas, let me take your coat,” Milly offered.

“Uh, no Milly, I might not be staying long.”

“Lucas, you’re not making any sense. Please, take off your coat.”

“Milly, I got to thinking about last night and...” Milly waited for Lucas to continue, she knew he wasn’t a talkative man. “Milly it felt good, all of us together. And after Tom left, Mark said he wanted last night to be about family… I spent most of last night awake, thinking, wondering… Milly, this morning I asked Mark…” Lucas took a step backwards, Milly felt like he was ready to bolt.

“Lucas, I’m not sure what’s going on in that head of yours, but spit it out. I’ve never known you to hem and haw around a subject. You’re always to the point. If it’s about what Marshal Benton had to say, you’ve time to talk with him and Mark before any decision has to be made.” Milly knelt to stir the embers in the fireplace and add another log.

“Milly, that’s not the decision I was thinking about. Milly,” Lucas strode to stand in front of Milly as he turned her from her task. “Milly, would you consent to be my wife?”

Tears formed in Milly’s eyes. Lucas held his breath. “Lucas, I…” She nodded and was in Lucas’ arms and they passionately kissed.

They spent the rest of the afternoon planning their wedding, Christmas Eve.

*****

Hope returned home, calling as she entered, “It’s snowing again.” Lucas stood to help her in with her packages.

“Well, I best be getting home. Need to see what mischief that boy of mine has gotten into.”

Before he left, Lucas gave Milly a deep kiss. She sighed as she closed the door behind Lucas and she turned to see Hope staring.

“Hope, we have a lot of work to do. Lucas proposed and I said yes. We’re to be married Christmas Eve.” Hope squealed and the two women hugged.

The Next Step — Cougar

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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