The Writer's Corner
Chapter 71 – Young Love
Written by Deanne Bertram
Mark woke his children for the morning and helped them get
dressed and brought them into the front room. After seeing that
they were going to behave for Gwen to watch over, he stepped
from his home and walked to the barn. Across the yard he watched
as Lucas and Myra walked from their home and into their barn.
Mark threw out hay for the team and Two-Bits and turned them
loose into the corral and walked over to the his father’s barn.
“First school day of the semester?” Mark asked as he entered.
“Oh, Mark, Papa said he’d ride me to school today. Can you come
too?” Myra asked.
“Fraid not this morning, Gabby. I have some chores to do here
before I head into town to return to my duties as a marshal,”
Mark replied. “But, if you’re a good girl at school this
morning, I’ll stop by and take you to lunch.”
“I’d like that Mark,” Myra answered.
“So today’s your first day back too?” Lucas asked.
“Don’t you figure it’s about time I got back to work? Guess
you’re feeling the same way about Razor?” Mark asked, seeing his
father had saddled up his old horse. Mark petted the old boy as
Lucas finished bridling Blue Boy for Myra.
“He enjoys getting out and being ridden every now and then.
Taking Myra to school is a lot easier on him compared to working
the ranch. He seems to enjoy getting off the property.”
“I think it’s more that he likes being out with Blue Boy,” Mark
commented. “I remember when I’d ride to school and Razor would
be left here how he got so upset that he couldn’t go, too.”
Lucas smiled, remembering back to those days.
Mark followed Lucas and Myra as his Pa led Razor and Blue Boy
out of the barn. Mark hefted Myra up into the saddle and handed
her the reins. He waved as they rode to take Myra to school.
Once they were over the rise, Mark returned to his barn and
started to clean stalls.
Upon returning to his home, he found Gwen getting his sons
seated at the table, while Hope was carrying the food from the
Mark noticed the boys were quieter than usual and he finally
asked, “Why the long faces?”
“You leaving us,” Josh sorrowfully spoke up.
“But only to do my job. I’ll be back home tomorrow evening, just
like I used to be.”
“You not here to pway with us,” Eli whimpered as he played with
“No, but Gwen and your Mama, and Grandma Milly and Grandpa Lucas
will be here with you. Just like before,” Mark answered.
“Not the same. You play with us. They too busy,” Zach stated.
“Boys, I have a job in town that I need to get back to doing.”
Trying to find a way to make his boys smile, Mark stated, “If
you’ll be good and mind your Mama and Gwen while I’m gone, then
Sunday, after services, I’ll take you fishing.”
Mark looked to Hope after hearing her exclaim, “Oh, Mykaela!”
Mark saw that his daughter had slammed her tiny fists into the
bowl of oatmeal Hope was feeding her from and it flew back on
Hope, Mykaela, the table, and the floor.
“Here, Hope, let me take Emmy.” Mark tried to keep a straight
face as he saw the oatmeal on Hope’s face as well as his
daughter’s. Emmy squealed with laughter as Mark sat her on his
lap. “Now young lady, why did you go and do something like
“Popy,” Mark heard and asked, “What did you say?”
“Popy” Mykaela squealed as she reached her oatmeal covered hands
to Mark’s face and smeared the oatmeal over him, before Gwen
could return to the table with a wash cloth.
“Hope, I think our daughter just spoke her first word,” Mark
“Well, since she’s happily calling for you, you can wash her up
and change her clothes,” Hope stated as she stood and tried to
wipe the oatmeal off her own dress.
Mark couldn’t help but laugh at the scene, which just set their
three sons to laughing. As flustered as Hope felt, everyone’s
laughter was infectious and soon she, and Gwen, were laughing
along with the rest.
It was late morning when Mark set out for North Fork, it felt
strange to him to be riding Two-Bits, again. He’d not ridden her
since he chased after Grid Maule the previous summer. And it had
been a long time before that. Mark remembered back to the day he
had presented her to Hope as a Christmas present. Mark mused to
himself as he thought back to the look on Hope’s face that
morning, when she saw the red bow tied on the saddle horn and
realized the mare was for her.
Mark arrived in town and halted in front of the livery after he
heard Micah calling to him.
“Mark! Glad to see you back in the saddle!” Micah hollered.
“Nils has a couple of horses he was telling me about, thought
you might want to take a look.”
Mark dismounted from the saddle and led Two-Bits into the
livery. Nils was just closing the door to one of the stalls and
eagerly welcomed Mark back to town. He showed Mark both the
horses and watched as Mark inspected each one. He ran his hands
over their backs and down their legs, feeling for any bumps or
hot spots. Mark led one of horses into the corral on the back
side of the livery. He watched carefully as it moved about,
walking, trotting, and doing a little bit of a lope. After a few
minutes, Mark caught the horse, led it back to its stall and
brought the other horse out and watched as it pranced around the
corral. It didn’t take long for Mark to catch the horse and lead
him back to his stall.
“Well?” Nils asked, followed by Micah asking, “What do you think
of them boy?”
“Nils, they’re great looking animals, but…”
“But?” Nils asked, nervous that Mark might have seen something
that he had missed before he bought the horses.
“They both have strong backs and sound legs, and good bone
structure. And both look to have pretty smooth trots and lopes
for riding long times in the saddle. I just… there’s just no…,
draw. I mean, when I first met Blue Boy, there was something
special that I just knew he was meant to be mine. Then when I
went to Oats and saw Copper, there was just something about him
that drew me to him. Don’t get me wrong Nils, both these horses
are worth whatever you paid for them, but I don’t feel a
connection. I mean, even when I purchased Two-Bits for Hope, I
knew she was the right mare for Hope.”
“Aw, you sentimental fool,” Nils jested. “I understand Mark. In
fact, Oat was in here earlier today and when he saw these two,
he offered me top dollar. I told him I had another buyer
possibly lined up for them. He acted all upset that I wouldn’t
sell them to him, until he knew I was holding them for you.”
Micah commented, “He can sure act all mean and gruff around
everyone else, but when it comes to Mark McCain, Oat’s an old
“No more than you old man!” Oat gruffed as he walked into the
livery. “You’re more of a softy towards the boy than anyone
else, ‘cept maybe his Pa.”
Oat stepped next to Mark and placed a hand to his shoulder,
“Well son, what do you say? Are you buying either one of these
flea bitten old nags?”
“Flea bitten old nags?! While I have you…” Nils tried to spit
“Nils, he’s teasing you. You just fell for one of the oldest
horse trading tricks in the book,” Mark laughed out loud as Oat
slapped him on the back.
“Now, Mark, don’t give away all my bargaining chips. So?”
“No sir. They’re both fine animals, but I don’t think either one
are for me.”
“Sorry to hear that boy, but you do know that once I take both
these horses off Nils’ hands, I’ll just have to brag around town
how I outsmarted you and got the better deal from Nils.”
“No one would believe that in a minute,” Micah boasted. “People
around here know Mark to be a fine judge of horse and no one
would believe that…”
Mark turned to Micah and said, “Grandpa, he’s teasing you, too.”
“Well! My day just got made!” Oat exclaimed. “Boy you best get
going. Here tell today’s your first day back on the job and we
don’t want you to be late.”
“I’m here early enough,” Mark answered. “I promised Gabby that
if she was good at her first day back to school that I’d treat
her to lunch today, before I reported for duty.”
“Good, good. You tell your family when you see them that Oat
Jackford said ‘hi’.”
“Sure Mr. Jackford. I’ll tell them.
“You ever going to feel comfortable in calling me Oat instead of
“Maybe someday, but then…, we don’t way to spread the news about
just how much of a ‘softy’ you are about me, do we?”
“No we don’t, no we don’t. Now get on out of here so I can
discuss these two beasts with Nils.”
Before leaving Mark stated, “Thanks, Nils. You’re a good
With Micah walking by his side, Mark led Two-Bits back outside.
“So, were you telling Nils the truth?” Micah asked.
“What do you mean?” Mark started to ask and then realized what
he meant. “Yes sir. I don’t know. Blue Boy was my horse growing
up and now he’s Gabby’s. Copper was my first horse as an adult
and he was a mighty fine horse...”
“Nils was right, you are a sentimental fool. Mark, a horse is a
tool. I know it probably pained you to hear that Nils had to end
his suffering… that night. But you need a horse of your own. Not
that Hope does much riding, with taking care of your four
children, but still, you bought Two-Bits to be her horse.”
“I know I did. And I guess you’re right. It’s just knowing
that... I bought Copper as a horse for me, and never gave
thought that there would be a day where she’d need to ride my
horse on her own and he’d way too much for her to handle.”
Micah realized Mark had finally spoken the truth about why he
was hesitant to buy another horse. “Mark, any other time, I
think Hope could have handled riding Copper. But that night, the
storm was fierce and Hope was distraught over someone having
taken your Ma… Don’t doubt your abilities to choosing a horse
for yourself.” Seeing that his words weren’t having the desired
effect, “Maybe you are right, you’ll know the right horse when
it presents itself. Tell Gabby I said howdy.” As Micah walked
off, he hollered, “Glad to have you wearing the badge again
Mark arrived at the schoolhouse just as Percy was dismissing the
students for lunch, he stopped next to where Blue Boy was tied
and pulled a couple of sugar cubes from his shirt pocket.
“Been a long time since the two of us stood here, ol’ boy,” Mark
stated as he slipped the sugar cubes to his former horse and
scratched him over the eye. Blue Boy butted his head into Mark,
looking for more treats. “Not now, fella.”
Mark watched as Myra came bounding down the steps of the school
house, calling, “Mark! You came!”
“Sure did. I couldn’t disappoint my favorite sister. Now, could
I?” Mark stated as Myra jumped up into his arms.
“I’m your only sister!”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t still be my favorite.” As Percy
walked to where they stood, Mark asked, “Percy, has she behaved
“Well…” Percy drew out.
“Mr. Bullock, that’s not funny. Mark said he’d take me to lunch
if I was a good girl today. I promise, I been good!” Myra
“Well Mark,” Percy stated as he continued to hem and haw. “I
wouldn’t say that she’s necessarily been a good girl today…
She’s been quite exceptional. Myra, go enjoy lunch with your
brother, but do not be one minute late in your return.”
“I won’t Mr. Bullock, I promise!” Then turning her head to Mark,
Myra asked, “So where are we going for lunch?”
“I thought the hotel,” Mark replied as he saw Johnny Drako
coming into the school yard.
Mark smiled as he watched Connor run from the group of boys and
jump into his father’s arms.
“You want to see the other twins?” Myra asked as she pulled
Mark’s face back around to look at her.
Johnny Drako, carrying Connor, walked over to Mark, “Heading to
the hotel restaurant?” Johnny asked.
“I promised my sister if she was good, I’d take her to lunch
before I came to the office,” Mark replied.
“I heard Tom Benton say you ‘d be back today,” Johnny stated.
“I’m ready to stand my shifts again, Johnny. Sorry, it’s been so
“No need to apologize. I’m glad to have you back.”
“Marshal Drako?” Myra asked. “Can we see the babies?”
“Well…” Johnny started to answer.
“We’ll be real quiet and not wake them, if they’re sleeping.”
“I was going to say that Lou probably has both of them in the
kitchen with her. Come on.”
As they walked into the kitchen Mark asked, “How did Connor and
Danielle take to the newest members of the family?”
“About as surprised as I was to find out there was two of them,
but both are pleased that they’re not outnumbered,” Johnny
laughed as he led Mark and Myra over to the bassinets.
“Yeah,” Myra commented. “We got more boys at the ranch than
girls. It just don’t seem fair!”
“Doesn’t seem fair,” Mark correct.
“See, even Mark agrees with me!” Myra exclaimed.
Mark and Johnny laughed over Myra not realizing Mark was
correcting her grammar.
Lou stopped what she was doing when she heard the exchange and
took Myra from Mark’s arms. While Lou was busily talking with
Myra, Mark turned to Johnny and stated, “You do know what they
say about payback?”
“Boy, if I’d of only known. You do know that this is all your
fault,” Johnny stated, with a dead serious tone to his voice.
“My fault?! And just how is your wife’s pregnancy and having
twins, all my fault?”
“Well, maybe not all your fault. But… If you Grid hadn’t
concocted your ‘death’ and then your miraculous resurrection, I
wouldn’t of had to…”
“Now what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is your
business,” Mark teased back. “But between you and Uncle Johnny,
I’m going to have sooo much fun.”
“Mind your elders, boy!” Johnny said as he eyes turned steely.
“So you can dish it out, but you can’t take it?” Mark jested.
“Guess, I deserve everything you give me.” Johnny smiled as he
knew he deserved everything Mark had to give him in return.
Johnny knew that Mark was so much like his father and that he
knew the difference between Johnny being truly serious and
jesting, and Johnny was at ease in teasing with Mark.
“I’ll take it easy on you, old man,” Mark declared as Myra came
back to stand next to him, before they returned to the dining
room for their meal.
Over lunch, Mark inquired of Connor how he liked his first day
of school. Both Connor and Myra took turns telling of their
Once they were finished eating lunch and Mark had paid their
tab, he and Johnny returned Myra and Connor to the school.
“You mind your manners still. I’m in town and I’ll be at the
schoolhouse quicker than a rattlesnake can strike if I hear of
you misbehaving,” Mark stated as he knelt in front of his sister
and pointed his finger at her.
“I’ll be good. I don’t want to get into any more trouble. I
remember it’s too much trouble getting out of trouble. I learned
my lesson, it’s best to not get into touble in the first place.”
Mark laughed and smiled at his sister.
They waited for Connor and Myra to disappear into the school
before they turned to walk to the Marshal’s Office, Mark leading
As Mark neared the parsonage, Jake McCafferty called to Mark. He
waited while Jake ran over to him.
“Mark, I was wanting to ask you…”
“Mark, I’ll see you at the office,” Johnny stated as he
“Would you and Miss Hope and your children come over to my
parents for dinner Saturday evening? Ma was so pleased to see
you and the family in town yesterday and she’s been missing
having your young ones and Gwen in the house.”
“I don’t see why not. So Gwen is invited?” Mark curiously asked.
“Didn’t I say her name, too?” Jake blushed and fidgeted with his
hat he held in his hands.
“No” Mark replied.
“Oh, well, uh, yes, Gwen’s invited too. Can I tell my Ma that
you accepted her invitation?”
“Sure Jake. What time should we plan to arrive?”
“T-time?” Jake stammered.
“Yes, when would you like for us to arrive?” Mark asked.
“You already said that,” Mark quipped.
“Um, about four o’clock?”
“We’ll be there. Thank your parents for the invitation,” Mark
stated as he watched Jake turn and trip over his feet. Mark
laughed and shook his head as he proceeded on to the Marshal’s
Johnny Drako and Tom Benton were sitting in the chairs on the
boardwalk when Mark walked up and tied Two-Bits to the hitching
“So what was that all about?” Johnny asked. “Watching him walk
away from you I’d swear he’d been nipping at the sacramental
wine in the church.”
“Not exactly sure,” Mark answered. “Only thing I know is that my
family and Gwen are invited to dinner Saturday.”
“Dinner?” Tom asked. “Kinda sounds formal.”
Jake ran to the church and slowed to a walk before he entered.
He removed his hat as he saw his father standing behind the
pulpit. Quietly he waited until his father noticed him.
“Jake, didn’t see you come in. Come on in, son. It’s been a long
time since you’ve visited me while I worked on my sermon.”
The Reverend stepped from the pulpit and motioned his son to sit
with him in the front pew.
“Father, when did you know?” Jake asked.
“Know? Not sure I understand,” Reverend Mark McCafferty replied.
“Know about Mother. That she was the girl for you?”
“Don’t rightly know. Your Mother and I had been friends growing
up and one day, I told your Mother that I knew my calling, that
I was going to be a servant of God. That I saw myself taking the
Lord’s words to the people.”
Reverend Mark paused as he looked at his son, watching him.
“Your Mother smiled when I told her. She asked me if I was going
to minister to the people by myself, and before I knew it, I
told her that I had hoped she would be by my side.” The Reverend
smiled and laughed as he remembered that day. “Your Mother
didn’t seem surprised at all. I told her that I knew we were
friends, but as with my calling from God, I knew that one day,
we’d get married and I hoped she would consent.”
“You hadn’t talked about it before?” Jake asked.
“No, but I guess that we both knew that we would marry each
other. It just felt right. That night, I spoke with your Grandpa
Horatio and told him my feelings towards his daughter. I asked
him if, once I was graduated from seminary school, if I could
have his daughter’s hand in marriage.”
“I take it he said yes?”
“No, not right at first. We spent the next two hours talking
about my dreams and plans. He came to realize that I was
serious, about my commitment to God and his daughter. He stated
I had to promise to graduate and then he would bless our wish to
“How old were you when you asked Grandpa?”
“I was nineteen. I went to school for two years and then a year
later, your Grandpa Horatio married us.” Reverend McCafferty
looked at his son. “Why do you ask?”
“Father, you know that I’ve been calling on Gwen, over at Mark
and Miss Hope’s home?”
“Sure, you’ve even taken her to a few dances.”
“Father, when she was staying here, in town, she was so close.
But ever since she returned to the McCain ranch…”
“Son, you get to see her every day you go out there to work with
Lucas and Mark.”
“I know, but I miss her something terribly each day after I have
to say goodbye. Father, I talked with Mother if I could ask Mark
and his family over for dinner Saturday night. I told Mark,
Mother missed the children. I want to…” Jake fidgeted with his
“Father, if Mark consents, and if Gwen says yes… Would you marry
“Can’t say that this is a surprise,” Reverend Mark smiled and
placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Do you know that Gwen
feels the same way about you, that you do about her? Have you
spoken with her about her feelings?”
“Father, I… She looks at me the same way Mother looks at you…”
“Didn’t think my son would notice something like that. All
right. If Mark and Gwen both say yes to your proposal, I would
be honored to officiate your wedding.”
Jake sat there next to his father, in a way, he didn’t know what
to do next. He knew this was the most important day of his life,
to date, he was excited yet, he feared Saturday’s arrival.
“What if they say, no?” Jake whispered.
“If that were the case, I don’t think Mark would have given you
permission to call on Gwen. And I don’t think she would have
accompanied you to those dances…”
“Are you sure, Father?”
“I have it on good authority,” Reverend Mark replied as he
pointed his index finger skyward.
“You won’t say anything to Mark? If you see him between now and
then, will you? I want to do this proper.”
“I won’t say a word other than to say how much we look forward
to their visit. Would you like some time to be alone?”
“I don’t know. I thought this would be easy. It’s so…
“Anything involving women, generally is, son. You’ll get used to
“Use to it?” Jake gulped.
“You’ll survive son, you’ll survive.”
Reverend Mark stood from the pew, placed his hands behind his
back and walked to the church office.
Eventually, Jake left the church to head home. He hesitated on
the steps and looked towards the Marshal’s Office and then to
the sky, “Please God, let my Father be right.”
Hattie arrived at the hotel shortly before three o’clock. She
walked to the kitchen and knocked before entering. Inside, she
saw Johnny pleading with Lou.
“You can leave them for a few minutes, just long enough to go
meet our son as he gets out of his first day of school and to
walk him home.”
“But they’re too young to be left alone.”
“Lou,” Hattie placed a hand on Lou’s shoulder and helped guide
her to the door. “That’s why I’m here. Now, go with your husband
and meet your son. Danielle and I’ll look after your twins. Now
Johnny placed his arm around Lou’s waist and led her through the
restaurant and lobby, and to the school house. Every few steps,
Lou would look over her shoulder, back towards the hotel.
“They’ll be fine. Hattie’s looked after our other two children.”
“I know, it’s just…”
“Mrs. Drako, you have two other children who still need you as
their mother,” Johnny stated as he escorted his wife along the
boardwalk. “Now, won’t you put a smile on your face as we go to
greet your eldest son as he gets out of his first day of
school?” Johnny begged of his wife.
The smile Johnny requested appeared on Lou’s face and it
genuinely spoke of the love she held for her family.
That evening, Maggie McCafferty knocked on the door to her son’s
bedroom. “Well?” she asked as she entered.
“They’re coming,” Jake replied. “Mother, I need to find a
betrothal ring for Gwen, but if I go to town, everyone will know
“Jake, I have your Grandmother Cleo’s betrothal ring,” Maggie
answered as she pulled a small box from the pocket of her dress.
“I’m sure your she would love for you to present it to your
“Grandmother didn’t… She didn’t get buried with it?”
“No, she was buried with her wedding ring, but this betrothal
ring, it belonged to your Grandfather Horatio’s grandmother,
sort of a tradition, to be passed down. Once Gwen says yes, you
can buy a ring of her own ring and present it to her on your
“Mother, did you ever doubt that Father was the one for you?”
“No, I knew from early on that we were meant to be together.”
Once his Mother left his room, Jake prepared for bed. As he
stretched out, he looked through the window to the stars,
wondering, what would it be like to have a wife and create a
family. If his love for Gwen was anything like the love his
parents shared, he knew he was doing right.
Mark returned home later than usual Tuesday evening. Hope and
Gwen already had the children to bed and Gwen had retired to her
Hope met Mark at the door as he stepped to the porch. “Long
shift?” she asked as she held the door open for him.
“Yeah,” Mark said as he placed his rifle over the mantle. “Lots
of reports to read and briefings to catch up on.” He plopped
heavily in his chair as he set his hat and a packet of papers
down on the lamp stand.
“I’ve supper still warm on the stove?” Hope stated, unsure if
Mark had eaten before coming home.
“Please. I was too tired to say in town to eat anything before
Hope filled a bowl with stew and brought it to the table. She
watched as Mark wearily stood and took the few steps to the
table. She allowed him to eat in silence. After Mark ate, he
returned to his chair and pulled out the packet and started
leafing through the papers. Hope finished washing, drying, and
putting away the last of the dishes, turned and saw Mark sound
asleep in his chair. She walked to the lantern and blew out the
flame. Next, from the chest along the back wall of their front
room, she pulled a blanket and lovingly cover Mark with it.
Mark was still asleep when his sons rowdily entered the front
room the following morning, calling, “Papa! Papa!” when they saw
him in his chair.
Hope quickly ran from their bedroom in an attempt to quiet their
sons, but it was too late. They were already climbing onto
Mark’s lap as Mark struggled awake for the morning. The door
from Gwen’s sitting room opened quickly as she too hurried into
the front room to see what had caused the boys’ excitement.
Good naturedly, Mark greeted his rowdy sons. Gwen returned to
her room to dress for the day. Hope walked to her sons and
shooed them to their bedroom to get dressed as well. She turned
around to find Mark behind her and pulling her into a hug.
“Did they behave themselves while I was gone?” Mark whispered
into her ear.
“Yes, especially once you promised to take them fishing this
“By the way, thank you for letting me sleep last night.”
“You looked so…”
Both walked to their bedroom to get dressed for the day and to
get Mykaela up and dressed as well.
As the McCain family chatted over breakfast, Mark announced they
had been invited to the parsonage for dinner Saturday night.
“Per Jake, seems Maggie misses the children. And Gwen, you’re
Mark saddled Two-Bits and waited for his father to exit his barn
since the two of them had planned to spend the day riding the
range, checking the cattle and fence lines.
“You think you can handle Blade today?” Mark asked as he saw his
father’s horse acting up.
“Well, you’ve ridden Razor for the past few days. Just thought
I’d check...,” Mark stated teasingly.
“I’ll check you. Come on, we have work to do,” Lucas stated,
laughing at his son, as they signaled their horses into a lope.
Jake McCafferty woke and felt panicked, three and a half more
days. How agonizingly slow the days went. Even though he had
spent time helping his mother clean their home and helped his
father at the church, time crept by.
After breakfast, he saddled his horse and headed to the McCain
Ranch. He headed out to their western pasture where he had
planned to meet Lucas and Mark. Throughout the day, Jake worked
just as hard as he always had. Lucas finally called it quits
from moving cattle and mending a few sections of fence and
invited Jake back to the ranch to clean up a bit before he
“Thank you, Lucas, but, I think it’s best I head home from
here,” Jake commented and then the three said their goodbyes.
As he watched Jake ride away, Lucas stated, “First time I’ve
known him to pass up the chance to stop by the ranch to say
hello to Gwen after working with us all day.”
“That is strange,” Mark agreed.
Gwen was standing on the front porch when Lucas and Mark rode
into the yard. Both could see the look of disappointment on her
face. She quickly turned and walked into the house. Hope saw the
tears starting down Gwen’s face as she rushed into her bedroom.
Before leaving the stove, Hope set the frying pan to the side,
not wanting to burn their supper.
Lightly she knocked on the door, “Gwen, may I come in?” When she
heard no response other than crying, Hope opened the door and
entered. “Would you like to talk?”
“It’s been three days and he’s not stopped by or anything.”
“I take it you’re talking about Jake?,” Hope asked, feeling
sorry for Gwen. “Did something happen Sunday, when you went for
the walk after lunch?”
Hope sat on the edge of the bed and wrapped her arms around
Gwen. “Tell me what happened.”
Gwen sat back as she told Hope of the events, “We went for a
walk, like usual, he held my hand the whole time and he was
smiling, while we were talking. It was starting to get hot, so
when we came to the bench beside the livery, Jake suggested we
sit down and rest for a while.”
“He was such a gentleman and showed me to the bench, then, after
he sat down, he placed his arm around my shoulder. At first I
tensed, but then, the warmth of his arm around me felt so
comforting. He talked, like he always does, he tells me of what
he’s been doing out on the range and everything he does for Mark
and Pa. Sunday, he started talking about… building a homestead
of his own some day. The wind blew my hair into my face and he
swept it back behind my ear. Oh, Hope, he…”
“Did he kiss you?” Hope inquired as she lifted Gwen’s chin so
she could look her in the eyes.
The expression on Gwen’s face turned to one of panic while she
“Did you kiss him back?”
Gwen’s voice held alarm when she answered, “Please don’t think
badly of me, but I did.” Then her voice softened as she
remember, “He wrapped his arms around me and… I wrapped my arms
around him. It was nothing like I ever imagined. I know I
shouldn’t have, but…, why does something that feels so right,
how can it be so wrong?” Gwen cried as she threw her head into
her hands. “He must think me a floozy. That I’m one of those
‘loose’ women they write of in dime-store novels.”
“Gwen, I don’t think Jake would think anything of the sort. You
know, I went through something similar with Mark.
“You did?” Gwen asked as she tried to dry her tears.
“I did. Gwen I know I’m not your mother, but… In a way we’re a
lot alike, neither of us having a mother to help raise us. I
mean, I did have an adopted mother, for the years I was living
with and being raised by the Kiowa. But being raised… It was
different than being raised among the whites.”
Gwen nodded, “I know a little bit of your past, from what Miss
Milly and Mr. Lucas said, when…”
“I had been forcibly taken from my adoptive family by some very
bad men. As they were forcing me to ride with them, we happened
across McCain land one day, out by the bluffs. Mark rescued me.
Then, the men found me again and took me. And again, Mark
rescued me and in the process, I was reunited with my father and
brother. They had found out I hadn’t been killed when Aunt Susan
and her family were. Anyway, we all knew that I would never
really be accepted at the fort where they lived and worked,
because of being raised the way I was. So, it was agreed that I
would live here, with Miss Milly. This was right after she had
returned to North Fork and before she married Mark’s father.”
“They didn’t mind that you had been raised… as an Indian?”
“No, they accepted me as Hope Lane and the fact that Mark cared
for me, even though no one knew what the future would hold, they
respected me as a person. It was… I think the following April,
after Mark had returned from a training class up in Denver. We
went for a ride. We stopped to water the horses and the horse I
had been riding decided instead of drinking from the creek, he’d
push me into the water. Mark just stood there laughing at me and
I got so riled at him… Well, when he finally offered me his hand
to help me up, I pulled him in, right beside me.”
“You didn’t?!” Gwen was astounded that Hope would do something
“I did. When we finally stopped laughing so hard, Mark helped me
to my feet and we walked to the bank and sat down. It was a
beautiful day, and as we sat so close beside each other, Mark
leaned over and kissed me.”
“On the lips?” Gwen bashfully asked.
“Yes, at first it was gentle, like a butterflies wings, but
then, something inside me, I had a desire to kiss him back. I
don’t know how long we kissed, but we were both plenty
embarrassed when our lips parted.”
“Embarrassed is an understatement.”
“I remember Mark lying back on the bank and pulling me to lie
down next to him. We fell asleep in each other’s arms.”
“Did anyone see you?”
“I don’t know. But the following week, I felt like you do now. I
felt that I had done something wrong and Mark was avoiding me. I
told Miss Hattie what had happen and she told me, give him time.
He has to understand his feelings too.”
“Gwen, a lady you will always be and a gentleman Jake will
always be. Let him sort out his feelings. He’ll come around in a
few days. Besides, he was the one who Mark said invited the
family and you to dinner Saturday night.”
Thursday and Friday nights, Mark stood his shift in town. Johnny
and Mark were sitting in front of the Marshal’s Office when
Lucas arrived in town Saturday morning, with the buckboard. Mark
stood up to greet him as he pulled the team to a halt.
“Quiet morning!” Lucas called as the leaned forward.
“It was, until a noisy rig just pulled up,” Johnny teased.
“Morning Lucas, how ya been?”
“Just fine,” Lucas answered Johnny. “Son, you ready to head to
the general store, Milly and Hope saddled me with a rather large
“Sure Pa. See you and the family at church tomorrow?” Mark asked
“As always. Lucas, don’t wear my deputy out with too much work
“I won’t Johnny, but I don’t know about once we get home. The
wives sure have a list for us.”
Once their supplies were loaded in the back, Mark headed to the
livery to get Two-Bits and his gear. For the return trip home,
Mark tied Two-Bits to the back of the buckboard and placed the
saddle in the back.
“Any luck on find a horse for yourself?” Lucas asked as Mark
climbed up to sit next to his father.
“Nils has some mighty fine stock coming through, but none of
them seem to be the one. I know I need to find a horse of my
own, even though Hope doesn’t mind my riding her mare. I don’t
know how to explain what I felt when I first met Blue Boy and
then with Copper. There was something that drew me to both of
“You’ll know when you find the right one.”
As they rode home, Mark told of their invitation to the
parsonage for supper that evening.
“Is Gwen invited? Lucas asked.
“Gwen?” Mark asked. “Sure, Jake said she was.”
“Not sure what’s up between those two, the other day, Jake
passing up the opportunity to stop and say hello and Gwen’s just
not seemed herself for the past week.”
“I know, Hope talked with her the other day, but won’t tell me
“Son, sometimes what’s discussed between women is best left,
between women,” Lucas smiled and shook his head.
While Hope and Gwen finished dressing for their evening with the
McCafferty’s, Mark instructed his three sons on how he expected
them to behave. He pointed to each one of them, giving them a
Maggie and Mark McCafferty warmly welcomed them to their home
and showed everyone to the front parlor where the topics of
conversations ranged from Sarah at school, to how quiet the
house was since the McCain children returned home. Shortly,
Maggie announced that dinner would be ready in ten minutes.
Jake asked Mark if they could talk, Mark nodded and followed
Jake to the front porch of his home, “Mark, I know it’s not been
that long since Gwen arrived in North Fork. Nor has it been that
long ago since I asked permission to come calling on her at your
“I know. But what’s happened between the two of you? The past
week, you’ve been working hard, yet you don’t stop by the main
house. And Gwen’s been, I don’t know… And then tonight, you’ve
barely looked at each other.”
“That’s just it Mark, last Sunday after church, when we went for
a walk after lunch? I…” Jake nervously pulled at his collar, “I
have a confession to make.”
“Don’t you think your father is better suited to hear your
“Well… Gwen’s father isn’t alive and since… since you granted me
permission to call on her… Mark, you’re about the closest male
relation she has…”
“I hadn’t thought on it that way,” Mark replied. “So what
happened last Sunday that has both of you avoiding each other?”
“I kissed her Mark. I don’t know why, only that I was drawn to
do it. She’s so sweet, I swear I heard angels singing. Her lips
were like honey and…” Jake halted as he started to get
“Oh, that kinds of explains a lot. Jake, I did something similar
with Hope, down by Miller’s Creek and we were a lot younger than
“I need to ask you a question, I want to marry her, to ask her
to be my wife. Would you give us your blessing?”
Mark was truly surprised with all that Jake had just said, he
hadn’t stuttered or stammered through his words. He was even
more surprise that the question was being asked of him.
“Mark, I really love Gwen and I think she feels the same way
about me. Now she is eighteen and of proper age… And I’m older
than you were, when you married Hope.”
“Jake, I’m not doubting that you love her or that you both are
old enough. I just never thought I’d be asked that question,
least not yet. I’d be honored to give you permission to ask Gwen
for her hand in marriage. Is that why we’re here tonight?”
“Yes sir, I wanted your permission to ask her, and if you said
yes, then I was going to ask her over dessert tonight.”
“Well, let’s get you inside and supper eaten so you can ask your
question,” Mark smiled as they walked back into the parlor. Hope
gave Mark an inquiring look as he picked Mykaela up to carry her
into the dining room.
“Everything will be fine, after dessert,” Mark whispered under
the guise of giving Hope a kiss on the cheek.
Reverend Mark blessed the food and then served the food as
plates were handed around the table. Once dinner was finished,
the ladies cleared the dishes from the table and Hope and Gwen
helped Maggie carry in plates with dessert. Mark kept looking to
Jake. Finally, once his mother brought in coffee to serve her
husband and Mark, Jake cleared his throat and stood.
“Earlier this week, I asked my father a very important question
and he helped me see things a lot clearer than I had for a few
days. Earlier this evening I asked Mark a question, as well.
It’s strange how life happens. I mean, when we first arrived in
North Fork, Mark and his father helped rescue my family. If it
weren’t for Mark, I know I wouldn’t be alive today. And then
because of Mark, I… I met Gwen. I stand here and ask each one of
you to be a witness to the last question I... I have to ask.”
Jake walked over to where Gwen sat and dropped to his knees,
looked Gwen in the eye, and said, “Gwen, I know we’ve not known
each other that long, but the question I have to ask is for you.
I know I love you and I hope you feel the same way?”
If possible, the room grew even quieter, “I asked Mark’s
permission if I could ask for your hand in marriage and he said
yes. So I want to ask you, would you show me how much you love
me, by agreeing to be my wife?”
Jake, and everyone in the room, looked to Gwen and waited,
slowly Gwen had placed her hand over her mouth and started
nodding her head. From his shirt pocket, Jake pulled the ring
that had once belonged to his great, great-grandmother and
placed it on the ring finger of Gwen’s left hand. He reached
forward and kissed his intended as those around clapped and
offered their congratulations.
Maggie stood from her chair and placed it next to Gwen and
motioned for Jake to have a seat. She saw the tears in Gwen’s
eyes and offered her a clean napkin to wipe her eyes. Mark
noticed the relived look in Jake’s face when he realized that
Gwen had said yes. Hope saw the relieved look in Gwen’s face as
she realized why Jake had been ‘avoiding’ her.
Finally, the evening came to a close, Mark carried the sleeping
Eli while Hope carried Mykaela to the buckboard. The twins
walked to and climbed in the back of the buckboard on their own.
After helping Hope to the seat, they waited for Jake to finish
saying goodnight to Gwen.
Once home, Mark helped Hope put their children to bed. As she
entered their bedroom, she asked,
“Did you know he was going to propose?”
“No, I didn’t. Hope, why don’t you go talk to her, I think she
might need, a big sister.”
“Mark, how is it that you understand women so well?”
“Well, when you tell me what it is I understand about women,
maybe I’ll understand better,” Mark stated as he kissed his wife
Hope stood in front of the door to Gwen’s room and heard her
humming on the other side. She quietly knocked and called,
“Gwen, may I come in?”
The door opened for Hope to see Gwen standing on the other side,
her eyes sparkling and a beautiful smile on her face.
“Please Hope, come in,” Gwen said as she took Hope by the hand
and led her into her sitting room. “You were right. You were so
right. He wasn’t avoiding me. He proposed. Jake asked me to
marry him. I can’t believe I said yes, but Hope, I do love him.
Is this how you felt, after Mark proposed to you?”
Hope smiled as she remembered back to those days.
“I imagine so. I still feel the same way; every time Mark looks
at me or that I look at him,” Hope answered.
“Doesn’t it just feel like your insides want to burst right
“Yes, and it only gets better.”
“Did you know that he was going to ask me? Oh, that doesn’t
matter, what does matter is that you were right. He just needed
some time. Hope, can you believe?” Gwen felt as if she was
floating on air as she talked.
“Gwen, I don’t mean to bring your feet back down to the ground,
but between now and when you and Jake get married…”
Gwen’s expression changed as her emotions crashed, “Oh, Hope! I
can’t marry Jake!”
“What do you mean, you can’t marry Jake?” Hope asked.
“I have to be here, your children!”
“Gwen, no. You are going to marry Jake and you will create a
life and your own family together. I’ve appreciated the time
that you’ve been a nanny to our children, but neither Mark nor I
will let you give up on you own life. We’ll do fine and you can
come and visit any time you wish.”
“But you were saying something about between now and when we’re
to get married?” Gwen nervously asked.
“Gwen, it’s been a number of years since your mother was here to
guide you, same as with me, before I married Mark. I just wanted
to say, if you want to talk, I’d like to be here, sorta of like
a big sister to you. And I’m sure Ma would take you under her
wings, as another daughter.”
“I don’t understand?” Gwen asked, confused.
“Marriage is… well… it’s not just what you see publicly between
Mark and me or Lucas and Milly or any other married couple.
There’s more, it happens in the privacy of a man and a woman’s
marriage bed. I know you still have to set a date, but the
closer your wedding day arrives, you’ll start to get nervous,
you’ll question yourself, you may even get scared about…”
“Our wedding night? I hadn’t thought about that.” Gwen grew
quiet and reserved.
“That’s why I wanted to talk tonight. Milly and I talked before
I married Mark, but still… I was raised differently, living
among the Kiowa, and you’ve been on your own for some time. Oh,
Gwen, a woman’s wedding night is something special. I don’t know
exactly how to explain it to you, but that night you’ll have
experiences you never imagined.”
“Were you scared?”
“In a way, yes.”
“It was the first time I was ever intimate with someone. As Mark
and I stood in… our bedroom… I felt so vulnerable, yet, I felt
the love he had for me. But more importantly, I knew that was
where I belonged. Most women never talk of… their experiences,
in their marriage bed. It’s just something that women keep
private, they’re raised that it’s something to be kept between
her and her husband. Once you’re married and the first time you
make love, it is beautiful. And if Jake is the man I believe he
is, he’ll be just as loving and understanding as Mark was and
still is. When you join Jake in your marriage bed, as you make
love for the first time… I remember Milly told me it was the
greatest gift a woman could her husband. But what she didn’t
tell me, was… it was the greatest gift a man could give his
wife. And I hope that God’ blesses you by allowing you to bring
a new life into the world.”
“Is it…” Gwen started to ask and her embarrassment showed in her
“Gwen, as you and Jake… become one, there will be a strong
desire... You’ll desire to experience more.” Seeing Gwen blush
even more, Hope stated, “Oh, it is pleasurable. “
“Hope, I know I love Jake,” Gwen stated, thinking on what Hope
“And that’s all that really matters. But if you need to talk,
Milly and I are here for you.”
The two women hugged.
“Thank you,” Gwen said as she stood and hugged herself, then
held her hand in front of her and admired the ring upon her
Before Hope climbed into her own bed that night, she stopped by
the cradle to check on their daughter. She smiled as Mykaela
blissfully slept. Once in bed, Hope felt Mark wrap his arms
around her and pull her close, he whispered in her ear, “I
honestly thought we’d have a few more years before we had to go
through a night like tonight.”
“Aren’t you happy for Gwen?”
“Of course I’m happy for Gwen, and Jake, too. I was talking
about us and Emmy. Just surprised me that Jake would ask me for
permission. I mean before it was just to call on Gwen, and I
accepted that because she lives here, but now…” Mark replied as
he cuddled with his wife, running his hand up and down her arm.
“Do they remind you of anyone?”
“Us,” Hope whispered as she rolled over in bed, snuggled closer,
and kissed her husband.
The Next Step — The Adventure
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch