The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Next Step…
Chapter 83 - The Defenders
Written by Deanne Bertram

The last day of school before summer break had finally arrived. Milly had fallen back asleep after Lucas climbed from bed, well before the sun rose. She startled awake after hearing a knock on the front door to their home, and Mark calling, “Gabby are you read for your last day of school?” Hurriedly, Milly climbed from bed and pulled on her robe.

“Mark, I fell back asleep. Would you get the boys up, I’ll get Myra.”

Milly worked feverishly to make sure Myra had something to eat for breakfast, tied her schoolbooks together, and packed a lunch for her daughter.

“Ma, slow down, we can make up a few minutes in getting her to school.”

“Mark, I can’t believe I fell back asleep!” Milly exclaimed.

Myra stepped from her room, seeing how rusher her mother was she exclaimed, “What the hell…”

Milly dropped the pan of oatmeal back to the stove, whirled around with a look of shock on her face. “Just where did you hear that word?!” Pointing the spatula to Mark, “And you, wipe that smirk from your face.” Returning her attention to Myra, “Young lady, where did you hear that word used like that?”

“Uh, I guess I should have kept my mouth shut,” Myra answered.

“Well don’t start now, answer my question.”

Myra looked to Mark to help her.

“Don’t look at me Gabby. I can’t help you this time,” Mark replied and tried to keep a straight face.

“Well?” Milly asked.

“Papa said it before he and Marshal Drako went to bring Mark back home,” Myra answered.

“Your father?!” Milly asked surprised.

“Yes, Mama. He yelled it after he looked at the piece of paper that Mr. Montana handed them.”

“Ma, that would probably be the wanted poster with my picture on it,” Mark added.

“I don’t care what the paper was. Your father should known better.”

“Gabby, get your bowl and eat quickly. We’ll have to ride double time to get you to school,” Mark told his sister.

Milly spooned the oatmeal into her daughter’s bowl, as well as bowls for her two sons.

*****

They made it to the school grounds just as the bell was starting to ring.

“Do you think Papa will take me to the barn tonight for a whippin?”

“Has Pa ever whipped you?” Mark replied.

“No.”

“Pa will be here this afternoon to pick you up.”

“Aren’t you marshaling in town today?” Myra asked, glumly.

“No, I’ve got chores to do at the ranch. Hey, cheer up.”

“I don’t think I can.”

“Well, think on this, maybe it’ll cheer you up. Ma might take Pa to the barn for a whipping, for saying that word so that you could hear it,” Mark smiled and waved goodbye to his sister as he headed back home.

*****

A hot and tired Lucas was thankful that this would be the last day that he, or Mark, would need to ride into town to escort Myra home from school. Though both enjoyed the duty of seeing her home safely, but the heat of summer was already full upon the territory and it had been sometime since adequate rainfall had crossed the land. Everyone was working tirelessly in an effort to keep their crops and their herds alive.

Approaching the schoolyard, Lucas heard the sounds of a fight, children yelling and hollering, encouraging one or another of the opponents on. Stepping from his horse, Lucas saw Percy Bullock trying to make his way through the crowd of children, from one side of the group while he tried making his way through from the other side. Lucas reached the center first and was surprised to see the smaller of the two opponents sitting upon the stomach of the larger boy. The smaller boy had the other boy’s shirt held tightly in his right fist, with his left fist raised in the air. The boy on the ground had both his arms protectively over his face.

Lucas heard the boy demand, “Apologize! You will apologize to her!” Lucas placed one hand on the back of the boy’s collar and grabbed the boy’s belt with his other hand. He pulled the boy off the larger boy. “NO!” the boy yelled. “Not until he apologizes!”

Lucas watched as Percy hauled the larger boy to his feet; both saw the bloody nose. Lucas set the boy he was holding to his feet and let go of his belt, but not the back of his collar. The boy still felt as if he would attempt to bolt forward, towards his opponent, again.

“Easy there,” Lucas called.

“He will apologize!”

“Isaiah, what’s this all about?” Percy demanded.

“He will apologize to her!” Isaiah announced.

“We already know that, but for what and to whom?” Lucas asked.

“I ain’t done nuttin’” the larger boy taunted.

“You’re a bully and you made her cry!” Isaiah yelled and tried to lunge forward.

Again, Lucas had to grab tight to Isaiah’s collar.

“I’s jist havin’ some fun. We’s playin’ a game,” the boy called out.

“Fun! It’s no game when the other party doesn’t agree to play your ‘game’ and you made her cry!” Isaiah yelled and attempted to throw another punch.

“Isaiah!” Percy’s voice warned.

“I won’t apologize Mr. Bullock. I was defending her honor! The brute pulled her pigtails. We were just sitting on the bench, talking about how excited we were for summer break and what we planned to do. I was waiting for Mr. McCain to arrive. Myra shouldn’t sit alone out here.”

Lucas took a deep breath when he realized the offended party was his daughter. For the first time, Lucas looked around to see where she was in the group of children. Lucas saw her standing towards the back of the crowd, evident that she had been crying. He noticed the dirt on her dress.

Isaiah relaxed his stance when he realized it was none other than Lucas McCain who held him by the scruff of his collar.

“Mr. McCain, I was only doing what my father said a gentleman would do to defend the honor of a young woman who had been disparaged. She did nothing wrong. I’m sorry if my actions upset her any further. But she must have a champion!”

Trying to hide his grin, Lucas replied, “Isaiah, I thank you for looking out for my daughter, but fighting…”

“He threw the first punch, sir,” Isaiah stated.

Isaiah’s opponent proclaimed, “My Pa taught me a’body raise deir fists ta me, I git ta punch ‘em first. Don’t wait ta giv da other body time ta punch.”

“Bobby Bolton, I’ll see you to your parents’ home and I will have words concerning your actions today. I hope your father will feel justified with a trip to the woodshed for you. And I will also see about your being tutored over the summer. Your comprehension of the English language is atrocious.”

“Ain’t need no learning. Pa only sends me ta school ‘cause he says I gotta,” Bobby pointed to Lucas.

“Every child needs an education and I’m in agreement with Mr. McCain and the entire school board. Come on, let’s get you over to the clinic and have Doc take a look at you before I take you home.”

“My Pa’s gonna teach yur Pa a lesson, Cooperton! Jist you wait ta see!” Bobby hollered as Percy held tight to his arm and led him to the clinic.

But before leaving, Percy ordered, “The rest of you children will go home or I will see to it that you also join Bobby for summer school. I can just imagine reading all the compositions regarding why it is NOT proper to fight or to encourage those who are fighting!”

The crowd of children ran from schoolyard, fearing their teacher would hold true to his word.

“Papa, please…” Myra stated as she walked to her father. “Don’t be angry with Isaiah. He was telling the truth. We were just sitting on the bench, waiting for you. He was talking about what it was like living in Boston, before his family moved to North Fork. Bobby came up from behind and pulled my hair so hard, it hurt. I couldn’t help but yell out and cry. He’s just a bully. He doesn’t pay attention in school and so often Percy… Mr. Bullock makes him stay in at lunch so he can try to teach him… Papa, please don’t be mad at Isaiah.”

Lucas knelt to his daughter and placed his hands to her shoulders, “I’m not mad. Are you okay, now?”

“Yes sir. It doesn’t hurt as much,” Myra answered while rubbing her head, as her father pulled her into a hug.

“Isaiah, I would like to thank you for standing up for my little girl.”

“Sir, you don’t need to thank me. It was the only thing that a gentleman could have done.” Turning to Myra, “Now that your father is here, I’ll head on home.”

“One moment, Isaiah,” Lucas said as he stood. “You still need to explain to your father what you did, that you were in a fight. Justified or not…”

“Yes sir. I know I have too. Mr. McCain, my Pa taught me how to box when we lived back in Boston, because I was always smaller than the other boys my age and because of who he was, they always thought they could pick on me. That’s sort of why we moved out west, to get away from those kinds of people. Ma and Pa have been so much happier since we moved here. I just hope they don’t feel they need to move again, because of me.”

“Come on, let’s get you home,” Lucas announced. He was curious of Isaiah’s statement, but decided to let it be. He picked up Myra, carried her to and set her in the saddle on top of BlueBoy.

“Papa, can Isaiah ride BlueBoy with me?” Myra asked.

“Oh, it wouldn’t be proper for me to ride with you.”

“Isaiah, you can ride in the saddle on Blade and I’ll walk you home.”

“Yes sir,” Isaiah answered. “Thank you, sir.”

*****

Milly sat at the table attempting to instruct Little Ted in his alphabet.

“I don’t wanna. I’m gonna be a rancher, I don’t need to learn letters,” Little Ted stated as he pouted.

“You’ve seen your father sitting in his chair, reading from the bible, you won’t be able to read if you don’t know your alphabet.”

“Why can’t I just ride my pony and work the cattle?” Little Ted complained.

“Because your father and I want you to have a good education so that you can grow up and be better educated than we were. You could be a doctor or a lawyer,” Milly answered.

“I want to be a rancher,” Little Ted stated as he crossed his arms.

“Okay, you can be a rancher but you have to know how to read contracts for purchasing cattle, you have to know how to do math, so you can keep your books to know how many cattle you have and if you’ll have money to take care of them,” Milly patiently explained.

“Then why do I have to go to school. You can teach me.”

“Little Ted, Mr. Bullock will be pleased in the fall when you start school and sees that you already know your alphabet. He’s a very good teacher, and besides, he’s friends with Mark, they went to school together.”

“Did Mark like going to school when he was my age?

“Well, I don’t know…” Milly answered without thinking.

“You don’t know?” Little Ted asked. “How can you… don’t know?”

“Ted, I’m not Mark’s mother,” Milly answered with regret in her voice.

“You’re not Mark’s Mama, but he calls you…”

“Mark’s real mother died a long time ago,” regretfully, Milly answered and saw confusion on her son’s face.

Little Ted jumped down from his chair and ran out the front door, leaving it open as he ran. Milly watched from the table as he ran to the barn. She regretted the slip of her tongue. It had been a long time since Myra had found out about Mark’s Ma… right after the twins and Little Ted had been born. Milly remembered the tailspin Mark started down, that day.

Milly walked out across the yard and into the barn. She heard sobs coming from the hayloft.

“Little Ted?” Milly called.

“Go away!”

“Little Ted, please, come talk with me?”

“No!” Sobbing. “Leave me alone!”

Milly returned to her home and sat on the front porch.

A half hour later, Milly heard a rider approaching and looked up to see Mark riding in.

“Mark!” Milly called as she stood.

“Hi Ma,” he replied as he halted Rainmaker at the hitching rail and stepped down. “Is Pa back from getting Gabby at school?”

“Not yet, but…”

Mark looked up from dusting his pants off when he heard the tone in Milly’s voice. “What’s wrong?”

“I was working with Little Ted and his alphabet a little while ago…”

“Uh, oh, it’s the McCain boys. He didn’t take to learning,” Mark laughed.

“Not exactly, well… Mark, he asked me if you liked going to school when you were his age. I wasn’t thinking and I told him I didn’t know. I tried to explain to him that I wasn’t your real mother, that Margaret had died a long time ago…”

Mark heard the hurt in Milly’s voice.

“Mark, I’m…”

“Where is he?” Mark asked. He too remembered when Gabby found out.

“He ran to the barn. I tried to get him to come talk to me… He was in the hayloft crying.”

“Ma, why don’t you go inside and let me talk with my brother.”

“Mark, I am sorry….”

Mark pulled Milly into a hug and said, “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.” Mark put his hands to Milly’s shoulders, turned her around and gave her a gentle push towards the house. “He was bound to find out some day…”

*****

Lucas led the two horses through town, to Isaiah’s home. Mrs. Cooperton was sitting on the porch, peeling potatoes when they entered the yard. “Leon,” she called.

Isaiah was dusting himself of after Lucas set him to his feet when Leon came from the barn, “Mr. McCain?” Leon called as he saw evidence his boy had been in a fight. His attempt at brushing himself off had failed as the dust had clung to the sweat from Isaiah’s exertions in defending Myra’s honor.

“Father, I’m sorry. I know you’ve taught me better, but Bobby Bolton…”

“You were fighting with him?” Leon asked, with a look of disapproval on his face.

“Yes sir, but he pulled Myra’s pigtails and made her cry. I only fought to defend her. It’s not right for him, or anybody, to be so mean!”

“Inside and to your room. We’ll discuss this later.”

“Yes sir. Myra, I hope I’ll see you at church, come Sunday.”

“I’m sure we’ll be there,” Myra answered as she looked to her father.

The group watched as Isaiah climbed the three steps of the front porch. They heard him apologize to his mother and excuse himself.

“Mighty fine boy you have there Mr. Cooperton,” Lucas stated. “His actions are of someone more than ten years old.”

“Please call me Leon. And thank you. Lord knows we’ve tried, but him being an only child… Ethyl was a schoolteacher back in Boston. We both felt the school system was lacking in ‘encouraging’ the children to grow beyond what was required, so my misses started home schooling him. He is a good boy and he’s smart too. Uses a lot of words that I have to ask Ethyl about later. We were pleased when we met Stevan and Percy, they seem to want to challenge the children who really want to learn and they’ll work with those who are reluctant to learn. But Isaiah’s fighting…”

“He was telling the truth, Mr. Cooperton,” Myra stated. “Please don’t whip him.”

“I won’t whip him. He knows each time he gets into a fight we have a long discussion and we try to find another solution that could have prevented the situation.”

“He could have not sat with me while I waited for my Pa,” Myra answered and looked down to her feet.

“Myra, would you mind asking my wife if you can help her peel the potatoes, I’d like to talk with your father.”

Lucas nodded as Myra looked to him in askance. While Myra skipped up the walk and climbed the steps of the porch, the two men walked into the barn.

“Leon, your boy stated that you lived in Boston and I take it you were in the fighting ring?”

“How?...” Leon asked, surprised at Lucas’ question.

“He said you taught him to box, most boys around these parts would say fight, not box,” Lucas stated.

“Lucas, I was known as Leon the Lion. I was ferocious in the ring. I won every one of the matches I fought. Had a boxing promoter and everything. People came from miles around just to see me in the ring.”

“I’ve heard of boxing matches back east. They have rules and referees to see that the rules are followed.”

“Isaiah is so much like his Ma, can’t believe a big brute like me can have such a son. I’m thankful though, he’ll never be forced to fight… because of his size.”

“Isaiah said you taught him how to box, because of his size.”

“As a means to defend himself, only. Being my son, the other boys in school would pick on him, bully him. He knows each time he fights, I’ll be the final judge on whether he was right or wrong. Just because one knows how to fight, doesn’t mean he has to fight, but maybe… just having someone knowing that you know how to fight, might make your opponent think twice about fighting you.” Leon hesitated before he continued, “Sort of like you and your reputation with your rifle. We heard about you back east from the stories in the newspapers.”

“I think I know what you’re meaning. But your son also stated that he hoped you wouldn’t have to move again, because of him?”

“Lucas, you spoke of the boxing matches having rules and referees, but one lucky or unfortunate punch can destroy two men at the same time,” Leon stopped speaking as his memories returned to that night from his past. He relived the crowd, the smells of sweat and cigars, the noise… “I was the one who got in the unfortunate punch… It was a fluke accident. I killed a man.”

Lucas waited for Leon to continue.

“My promoter wanted to use that to advertise that I was the greatest boxer ever, but he didn’t realize how much that night was weighing on my soul. Lucas, I’m a God-fearing man, and once people find out who I am, they tend to want to always challenge me. Every town we’ve settled in, once people find out… Some ‘man’ has to see who’s better. I won’t fight anymore. I’ll not risk taking another’s life.”

“I understand. Like you said, we’re a lot alike, you with your fists and me with my rifle. It’s a strong and courageous man who can find a different path to turn away conflict. Lord knows how tormented I’ve been when I’ve been forced to take a life with this.”

“Yes sir. I hope this is between us and you’ll understand Isaiah a little better.”

“Leon, I raised a son, too. I worried about what life would be like for him, because of my reputation. That’s also why I waited so long before letting Mark ever have a rifle.”

“Yes, one seems to forget that Mark is your son, what with the difference in ages between your chil.. I’m sorry Lucas, that was uncalled for.”

“No, it’s the truth. Never apologize for speaking the truth. Leon, you should know that Bobby Bolton threatened he’d tell his Pa about what Isaiah did. But I’m sure, once Jack Bolton sees the difference in size between the boys. You can count that Bobby will forget to tell his Pa, just how much bigger he was than the boy who beat him up. Come Sunday, stay close to Mark or myself before and after services. Just in case Jack Bolton tries to cause trouble.”

“Lucas,” Leon held out his hand. “Thank you for your friendship and understanding. I’ll do as you ask.”

*****

Mark led Rainmaker into his father’s barn, put him in one of the empty stalls and removed his saddle and bridle, before closing the stall door. Overhead, he heard his little brother shifting around.

“I know you’re up there, Little Brother,” Mark called.

“You not my brother!” Little Ted answered.

“I’m not?” Mark asked with surprise in his voice.

“No!”

Mark slowly climbed the ladder. As he crawled across the floor to his brother, he watched as he wiped away the tears that were falling down his cheeks.

“How come I’m not your brother?”

“We don’t have the same Mama,” Little Ted answered, without looking to Mark. “Mama said she’s not your Mama.”

“No, she didn’t give birth to me. But your Mama and I love each other as if we were mother and son.”

“Pauley stated that just because horses have the same father, don’t mean they’re related, only if they have the same mothers are they considered family,” Little Ted sniffled.

“That’s true for horses, but we’re not horses. We’re people.”

“So?”

“Ted, please. I know it’s difficult for you to understand. Can I tell you about my growing up and my Ma?”

“If you want,” a sulking Little Ted replied.

“I was born in a town called Enid, Oklahoma…” Mark continued to talk of what he remembered from his childhood. As he told of his growing up, Mark could tell that Little Ted was getting interested in his story. “I was six when there was illness and my Ma took sick.”

“Like Mama did last year?”

“Yeah, like Ma did, only my Ma… My Ma wasn’t strong like your Mama, her body couldn’t fight off the sickness, and she went to heaven.”

“She’s with Jesus?”

“Yes.”

“But isn’t she sad you call someone else Mama?”

“I hope not, see, after Ma died, I wanted more than anything else to have a Ma. But Pa, his heart hurt and we left home, never to return.”

“You and Papa, ran away from home and never went back?”

“No, we didn’t. Pa and I spent four years of traveling and staying in one town or another for a while, only to move on. Pa was looking for some place special. We finally found it and decided to make a new home, here in North Fork.”

“And Mama became your Mama?” Little Ted asked.

“Not at first. Miss Milly arrived in North Fork two years after we did.”

“That’s when she became your Mama?”

“No quite. She was a real good friend to Pa and me, and I secretly hoped that she would become my new Ma,” Mark answered.

“Really?”

“More than anything. And, I could tell that Pa really liked her, but he still loved my Ma. And I don’t think Ma was ready to marry Pa, even if he’d of asked.”

“Why not?”

“See, like Pa was trying to find a place where we could call home again. Ma… she was running away from a bad memory.”

“She was scared?”

“Sort of, see…” Mark worried about what he was about to tell his little brother… and if he could really understand. “Little Ted, do you know you were named after somebody?”

“I’m named Theodore Scott McCain,” Little Ted boldly stated.

“That’s right, and you’re named after Ma’s brother.”

“I am? Is he happy I’m named after him?”

“I would hope he would be. See Ma’s brother was killed during the Civil War, you’ll learn about the war after you start school.”

“Is he with Jesus and your Ma?” Little Ted asked.

“Yes, I’m sure he is.”

“Did you know him?”

“No, he died before I was born. Ma and her brother were very close growing up, and when Ma and her family received word of her brother’s death, she sort of, refused to accept it. She left Philadelphia and headed west, anywhere so she wouldn’t have to face the memory that her brother wasn’t coming home. She wanted to live somewhere that she could believe that he was still alive…”

“Why?”

“Because she really missed him. He was her big brother.”

“Like you’re my big brother?”

“Yeah, like I’m your big brother.”

“I want you to be my big brother,” Little Ted stated as he dried another tear. “Do I make Ma sad by having his name?”

“No, because through you, his memory can live on. And Ma hopes that you’ll grow up and be just as smart as he was.”

“Because he went to school?”

“Yes, because he went to school.”

“Did you love learning? When you were my age?”

“No, I fought it and it made my Ma so upset. But I did learn to love school.”

“When? How?” Little Ted asked, curiously.

“Oh my… I thought this was going to be a simple conversation. You know, you really do like learning, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking me all these questions.”

“Come on, then teach me…”

“See, after we left home, Pa did his best to work with me in my school books. He always made sure I read. Even when we settled here, I wanted so much to be like Pa, a Rancher. I did well enough in school to try to please Pa, but I knew if Ma had been alive, she’d of made me work harder.”

“But you said you learned to love school?”

“I learned to love school after I met Percy, Mr. Bullock, and his father. Their home is filled with books from all over the world. Literature is what Mr. Bullock called them. He read to Percy and me from the books and let me borrow a few of them. While he read, I listened as a whole new world opened up in front of me.”

“And you learned to love school, just from him reading?”

“That was the start. Then Reverend McCafferty and his family arrived in town. Jake and Sarah had trouble making friends at school, so I kind of started a game with them through their school work and the other children took to it. Mr. Griwald asked me if I’d agree to be his student teacher, working with the younger children.”

“Did you?”

“After talking with Pa I agreed. It was so much fun watching the younger children get the answers correct and their eyes would brighten.”

“Wow, I didn’t know you were a teacher,” Little Ted stated.

“I wasn’t really a teacher, I just helped out. But Ma, she is a teacher. At least she used to be before you were born.”

“Was Mama your Mama then?”

“When you were born, yes, Mama was my Ma.”

“When did she become your Ma? When Mr. Bullock was reading to you?”

“No, she had left town before Percy and his father arrived. Little Ted, I don’t know how to tell you this, but… see.. There was another man who came to North Fork and he told Ma stories about knowing her brother. Actually, he wasn’t very nice in what he did. He upset Ma very much and she ended up returning to Philadelphia to face the fact that her brother had died, so many years before.”

“She ran away?”

“Yeah.”

“But she came back, otherwise she wouldn’t be here!” Little Ted declared.

“Yes, she read an article in a newspaper and she just had to come back.”

“And then she became your Mama?”

“Only after Pa realized that he really did love her, then she became my Ma,” Mark answered.

“How old were you?”

“I was seventeen when they married. Ted, whether we have the same parents or not, what matters is in our hearts. We have the same father and we’re considered half-brothers. But I think it’s better to say we’re just plain and simple, brothers.”

“So you really are my brother and your really want me to be your brother?” Little Ted asked.

“I had always wished that Pa would remarry and I’d have a mother, but more than that, I wanted a little brother or a little sister.”

“Does Myra know about your Mama?”

“Yes, she found out shortly after you and the twins were born,” Mark replied. “Little Ted, we didn’t mean to keep this a secret from you, we just didn’t think it mattered. We’re a family and I love your Ma as if she were my Ma. It takes a special woman to be a mother and love someone as a son, even if she didn’t give birth to them.”

After being quiet for a few minutes, Little Ted asked, “Do you think I upset Ma?”

“What do you think?” Mark replied.

“Will you be with me when I tell her I’m sorry?”

“Only if I can be your brother again.”

Little Ted reached up and hugged Mark, “You’re my big brother! I’m sorry if I made you sad when you were remembering your Ma.”

“I’m sad that she’s not here, but remembering her, I’ll never be sad.”

“Mark, I may not like learning, but I’ll try. I want to be just like you when I grow up!” Little Ted hollered as he crawled his way over to the ladder and climbed down.

‘I don’t know if Pa is ready for another me!’ Mark quietly said as he looked up and shook his head, before following his brother down the ladder.

*****

During their ride home, Lucas asked Myra if she was involved in the fight.

She replied, “Me, fighting?”

“Your dress is mighty dirty for someone who wasn’t involved in the fight.”

Myra halted BlueBoy as tears welled in her eyes, “Papa honest, I wasn’t fighting.”

“Okay, can you explain the dirt on your dress?”

“Papa, I don’t want to get Bobby in any more trouble,” she sniffled.

“What else did Bobby do?” Lucas asked, seriously. He was going to get to the secret Myra was holding. “Myra, the one rule that I will not see broken is to keep secrets. Especially if you’re upset or don’t understand what happened. Tell me what happened, please…”

“Papa, when… when he pulled my hair…”

“Yes.”

“He pulled it so hard that he pulled me off the back of the bench, I fell and got my dress all dirty and I hit my head. Oh Papa, why was he so mean to me? I didn’t do anything to him,” Myra stated as the tears streaked her face.

“He pulled you backwards off the bench?!”

“Papa, please, I just want to go home.”

Lucas maneuvered Blade even closer to BlueBoy and reached for BlueBoy’s reins and tied them to his saddle horn. Next, he reached for his daughter. He lifted her from her saddle and sat her in front of him, sideways in the saddle, so he could wrap a protective arm around her and she could lean against him. Lucas felt her sobs against his chest and tried to quiet her. Lucas continued to ride Blade at a walk and soon felt Myra’s sobs stop, upon looking down, he saw that she had fallen asleep in his arms.

Lucas arrived home with Myra still sleeping in front of him as Mark exited the barn with Little Ted on his hip, head resting on his shoulder.

*****

Through the remainder of the afternoon and during supper, Myra was quiet. Lucas was concerned for his daughter, and could tell she was still upset by what happened. That night, as the boys were put to bed, Lucas overheard Little Ted state, “Mama, I’m glad you named me after your brother and you know what? You are special. Thank you for letting Mark be my brother.” Milly was a little taken back at her son’s comments.

As they left the room, Lucas asked Milly what Little Ted meant, “I’ll tell you about that later, right now we need to help Myra.” Milly and Lucas stepped to Myra’s room, she was kneeling at the foot of her bed, “Myra, it’s not your bedtime, just yet.” Milly stated. They invited Myra to the porch.

"But that’s where you grownups talk..." Myra stated, surprised at the invitation.

"I think tonight, you deserve to join us on the porch. I think we still need to talk to help you understand and be able to put today behind you," Milly answered.

In talking with Myra, they tried to explain the reasons for Bobby Bolton’s actions.

Myra finally asked why Isaiah picked the fight with Bobby, as Mark and Hope join them on the front porch.

“Myra, Isaiah was raised to respect young ladies. He was upset that someone like Bobby had hurt you. Since I wasn’t there, he chose to defend you, since you couldn’t because you are a young lady,” Lucas replied.

“I know, but what I wouldn’t have given to punch mean Bobby in the nose. Let him explain to his Papa that a girl beat him up,” Myra answered as she balled her fish and playfully punched her other hand.

“As Isaiah has probably had a long talk with his father, regarding his actions, so would you, had you punched him,” Lucas scolded.

“Yes sir,” Myra stated as she looked downwards. “Papa, will Bobby’s Papa cause trouble for Isaiah’s Papa at church?”

“Gabby, if he tries anything, I’ll be there to make sure Mr. Bolton knows who was in the right and who was in the wrong,” Mark replied.

“Are you feeling better?” Lucas asked.

“I am, goodnight,” Myra hopped from her place and started to run into the house. “Oh!” she exclaimed, turned around, and kissed her parents, Mark, and Hope, before turning to run inside.

*****

Once it was just the adults, Milly asked Hope, “How are you and the baby?”

“Three months along and I’m starting to show.” She pressed her hands against her growing belly.

“So are you going to give me a grandson or granddaughter?” Lucas asked with a smile, as Milly leaned back against his chest.

“Lucas, it doesn’t matter, as long as the baby is healthy!” Milly declared as she looked over her shoulder. Lucas promptly kissed the lovely lips that belonged to his wife.

As their lips parted, Lucas asked, “So you mind telling me what happened today with Little Ted?”

“He and I needed a ‘brother to brother’ talk,” Mark replied when he realized that Milly was still a little upset over what had happened. “He asked an innocent question and Ma answered it.”

Seeing Lucas raise his eyebrows in askance, Mark stated, “He asked if I liked going to school when I was his age.”

“Oh?” Lucas answered.

“I got home from checking the calves and Ma told me he was crying in the barn. He was upset because he thought I wasn’t his brother.”

“How could he say that?” Lucas’ voice held surprise.

“Because his friend, Pauley, was telling him about horses and how they are only considered ‘related’ if they share the same mother. Pa, I told him that we weren’t horses and that didn’t apply to us.”

“And he accepted that?” Milly asked.

“Not at first. I told him about Enid and my Ma. And how Milly came to be my Ma. I also told him it took a real special woman to be a mother.”

“As we were putting him to bed he told us he was glad we named him after my brother. Mark, I’ve never told Little Ted about my brother,” Milly stated.

“Well, our conversation kind of went all over the place in telling of how you became my Ma. I’m sorry, I hope it didn’t up set you,” Mark sincerely commented.

“No, I’m not upset, he seemed happy that he was named after someone, and I think even more happy to have you back as his brother,” Milly replied.

“He was upset because Ma’s not your mother?” Hope asked.

“I think he was upset at losing me as a brother, more than us not having the same Ma.”

*****

Mark and Hope returned to their home, allowing Lucas and Milly to retire to their bedroom.

Lucas stretched himself long in bed and patted the spot beside him, motioning for Milly to join him.

“We need to talk,” Milly stated as she turned from sitting at her dressing table, having brushed her hair, she crossed her arms.

Lucas turned over on his side and propped his head up with his hand, “We’ve helped Myra. Mark’s helped Little Ted. What else do we need to talk about?” Lucas jested.

“Your language,” Milly answered.

“My language?”

“Yes, seems that my daughter overheard you swear and she used the word today.”

“She what?”

“My daughter came from her bedroom this morning and said, ‘what the hell…’ I stopped her before she could say anything more.”

“And what caused her to say that?”

“I fell back asleep and woke when Mark arrived to take her to school. I was rushing around to get their breakfast made and get her out the door…”

“Oh! So because…” Lucas started to say.

“Don’t you change this to being my fault, Lucas McCain! She wouldn’t have said it had she not heard you say it.”

“Honest, I watch what I say around the children,” Lucas pleaded.

“Evidently, you forgot she was around when you and Johnny were looking at the wanted poster bearing Mark’s picture.”

Lucas cringed as he accepted his guilt. “Milly, there were extenuating circumstances…” Lucas stood from the bed, wearing only his long john bottoms and walked to where Milly still sat. “Milly, once in how many years did I forget to watch my language. Can’t you forgive me?”

Milly couldn’t help but laugh at the expression Lucas gave her as he extended his hands to her. She took his hands and let him help her to her feet and walked her to their bed. As a gentleman, Lucas lifted the covers for Milly to slip under, before he walked around the end of the bed to lie down on his side.

“So, am I forgiven?” Lucas asked.

“Yes, but please… talk with your daughter in the morning?”

“Now she’s my daughter?”

“Lucas!”

“Yes, my love.”

*****

After breakfast dishes were washed and put away, Lucas asked for Myra to come with him to the barn.

“Do I have to?”

“Myra, do as your father asks,” Milly replied.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Lucas walked with his daughter to the barn; he motioned for her to sit on a bale of hay.

“You do know that you shouldn’t say what you said, yesterday morning.”

“I kinda figured that out from the way Mama acted. I’m sorry.”

“I know you are,” Lucas answered.

“You gonna whup me?”

“Well, since your Mama and I talked last night, I think you’ll get by with just a talking to from me.”

“Did you get in trouble with Mama?”

“Sort of. Promise me you’ll never use that word, at least until you’re as old as your Mama.”

“How old is she?”

“Myra!”

“Yes, Papa.”

*****

Before church services, the Cooperton family stayed close to the McCain’s, Leon wanted to avoid any trouble.

Jack Bolton called, “COOPERTON!” and purposefully strode to the church. “I want words with you. Your boy beat up on my son.”

“Bolton!” Lucas countered. “I was there and that’s not the whole truth.

“Stay out of this McCain! I’m warning ya!”

“Mr. Bolton, it is true. But did your boy tell you why?” Leon stated.

“A bully don’t need no excuse to beat up on another. Where is he? Where’s your son who sent my son home black and blue?”

Isaiah tried to step forward, but his mother restrained him.

“No, let me go!” Isaiah called out. “I’m the one.”

Bolton laughed, “No, your other son!”

“I only have one son,” Leon replied.

“One son!” The mirth on Bolton’s face turned to one of anger. “BOBBY BOLTON! Front and center!”

Those in front of the church parted as Bobby Bolton stepped forward, his pa grabbing him by the ear, “Is that him? Is this the bully who beat you?”

“Y… Yes sir…” Bobby stuttered.

“Mr. Bolton, it wasn’t Isaiah’s fault,” Myra called as she ran forward. “He was only protecting me!”

“Gabby!” Mark called and prevented his sister from running any further into the crowd.

“What’s this about him protecting that girl?” Bolton asked of his son. “Answer me, boy!”

Bobby shook his head.

“Mr. Bolton, from the report I took from Mr. Bullock, your son was bullying my sister and Isaiah was only protecting her until her father arrived.”

“You, picking on a girl? What kind of a son did I raise? You get home and you wait for me in the barn.”

The crowd tried to contain their laughter while they watched Bobby run down the road.

“Mr. Cooperton, guess we got off on the wrong foot. I’m sorry for not realizing what my boy was doing. He’ll get the tanning of his life when I get home. Accept my apologies.”

“Yes, they’re accepted.”

“Marshal, I’m thankful that you didn’t arrest him for assaulting your sister. I’ll see to it that he reports to you Monday after school. I’m sure the jail can use a good scrubbing.”

“Sir, school’s out for the summer,” Myra answered.

“Not for him. Mr. Bullock, you’ll see to it that he learns what he needs to learn and if he gives you any grief, he’ll get more grief from me.”

*****

Lucas helped load his family into the buckboard, after sharing lunch in town with the Cooperton’s. Isaiah stopped next to the McCain buckboard and spoke to Lucas, “Mr. McCain, when the time comes, I’ll do things proper, but just so you know, I want to marry Myra when we’re both old enough and have finished our educations.”

Lucas couldn’t help but hear the giggle that escaped from Milly, he was sure she was remembering back to Mark and his feelings towards her niece.

“We’ll see. When the time comes. But that’s quite a few years ahead of you, Isaiah.”

“Yes sir, I know.”

Isaiah ran back to his parents as they called his name.

“Now Lucas, it’s truly sweet of Isaiah,” Milly spoke as she tried to hide her grin behind her hand.

“Never thought of what it would be like to be on the other end of a boy making that statement. It was difficult enough with Mark... And Sally… But Isaiah is so much younger than Mark was.”

“Lucas, just get up here and we can talk, when the children aren’t present.”

Mark stopped the buckboard containing his family next to his father’s. Lucas climbed to his seat turned to look at Myra waving goodbye to Isaiah, a big smile on her face. The McCain’s headed for home.

*****

The boys were down for their afternoon naps and Myra was over at Mark’s helping Hope.

“Lucas, do you think Isaiah could really be serious? I mean, he’s just a child…”

“Milly, you weren’t there at school on Friday to see him. I don’t think his wanting to defend Myra could have been just because of how his father raised him…”

“It was precious today, and watching Myra waving goodbye to him. She reminded me so much of how Mark acted towards Sally.”

“Have you read the letter from Sally?”

“Lucas! Just like a man, change the subject when you don’t care to talk about something. And yes I did, she gave birth to a daughter, Millicent Anne Maguire, they’re planning to call her Milly for short.”

“So that’s your real name?” Lucas laughed as he walked up behind and wrapped his arms around his wife.

“No, that’s not my real name. You know very well my name is Mildred.” Milly turned and wrapped her arms around Lucas’ neck and responded to his playful kissing, only to be interrupted by Myra coming in the door, “Not again!” she moaned. “More mushy stuff!”

Parting as her cheeks blushed, Milly stated, “I thought you were supposed to be helping Hope this afternoon.”

“I am, I am. I want to change out of my dress and put on my pants.”

The Next Step — The Spark

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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