The Rifleman
Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Fan Fiction

The Years Before
 
Chapter 6 - Mischief Night
Written by Michelle Palmer

Laura jumped on the bed and watched as her brother stood in front of the small mirror and put on some smelly stuff. She screwed up her face as she sat up and stared at him. “What is that stuff?” she asked.
 
“It makes you smell good,” Peter answered.
 
“Why do you want to smell good?” Laura put her hands on her hips. “Didn’t you take a bath yesterday?”
 
Peter chuckled. “Laura, a man going into town wants to smell good for the ladies.”
 
“Ladies? What lady?” Laura asked then.
 
Peter chuckled again. “Just a lady I know.”
 
“In town?”
 
“That’s right. She lives in town.” Peter tied his tie and put on his jacket. “She works there.”
 
“Works there? Where?” Laura asked.
 
“Uh…” Peter turned around and looked at his sister. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready to go to Abe’s house?”
 
“Why can’t I go with you?” Laura asked. “The party ain’t until 7:00. Then I can spend the night at Jessie’s.”
 
“You’re spending the night at Abe’s house tonight, young lady, and that’s final!” Peter picked his sister up and put her on the floor. “Ma is at Aunt Jenny’s house and I won’t be home until very late!”
 
“Why can’t I stay here with Emily?” Laura asked then.
 
“Because, honey, Emily’s having a party with all her friends. She doesn’t want interrupted.” Peter shooshed her out the door. “Now, go get your boots on so you can go.”
 
Laura obeyed her brother. He scooted her out the door and made her way across the field to Abraham’s house. As she got into the yard, she saw Abraham working on a fence as Charlie toddled close by. She walked up to him. “Go take your stuff inside then we’ll get to work on the pumpkin.”
 
“The pumpkin?” Laura asked.
 
“We’re going to carve it, remember?” Laura’s eyes grew wide with excitement. “Then when it gets dark we’ll light the candle for all to see!”
 
Laura walked beside her brother as he carried the big pumpkin to a bench. Julie came to the door of the house and called to Laura. She ordered Laura to put some old clothes on before helping her brother. Laura started to protest, but Julie put her hands on her hips and ordered her inside. When she came back out, Abraham had the top cut off and allowed Laura to help him scoop out the inside.
 
“Abe?” Abraham turned his head and looked at his sister. “Where’s Peter going?”
 
“He’s going with some of his friends for Devil’s…er…mischief night,” Abraham answered as he continued removing the pumpkin’s contents.
 
“Devil?” Laura mumbled the word.
 
Abraham laughed. “Well, this is the last year Peter will be participating. On MISCHIEF night, they do things like soap windows or chase cows or maybe uh…spook unsuspecting people…”
 
“Oh.” Laura poked her head above the pumpkin and looked inside. “Then how come he put on that smelly stuff and said he was going to meet a girl?”
 
“A girl?” Abraham raised an eyebrow. “What…girl?”
 
“He said there’s a girl he’s meeting in town and she lives and works there.”
 
Abraham groaned. “He better not be!” he exclaimed. “Ma will skin him alive!”
 
“Be what?” Laura asked.
 
“Uh…” Abraham shook his head. “Never mind.”
 
“Did you do mischief night?” Abraham nodded. “What did you do?”
 
“Well…We uh…did a lot of things to get us into trouble. My brothers and I got a lot of whippings on Halloween when we were growing up.”
 
“How come?”
 
Abraham lifted his head and raised an eyebrow at his sister. “How come you ask so many questions, Laura Rose?”
 
Laura shrugged. “Mama says a person can’t learn unless she asks questions.”
 
“Mm,” Abraham mumbled.
 
“How come you got into so much trouble, Abe?” Laura asked again.
 
Abraham chuckled. “Well…my brothers and I did some rather mischievous things. I remember one year…” Abraham chuckled as he shook his head. “Boy…I must have been 17 or so, so Lucas was uh…10. Lucas wanted to participate in Devil’s Night with us, but Pa gave us strict orders to stay at home that evening.” Abraham chuckled as he stopped working and remembered back. “Well…we decided to sneak out our window that night and give Luke a really good lesson. So Peter, Jeremiah, and I gathered up chicken eggs all week long. We sure had a big pile of them. Andy and Scott helped us through some of the neighboring farms and when Devil’s Night came along…we taught Luke how to egg a house.”
 
“Egg…a house?” Laura asked. “What’s that?”
 
Abraham chuckled. But suddenly he stopped and turned toward his sister. “Well now…I don’t think I should tell you!”
 
“Oh Abe, PLEASE!” Laura begged. “PLEASE tell me!”
 
Abraham laughed as he pinched her chin. “Okay, little one. Well…we go to houses of neighbors we didn’t like and we throw eggs at their windows. Then when someone came to the door we ran away.”
 
Laura’s eyes grew wide. “YOU did, Abe?” Abraham nodded. Laura’s mouth opened wide as she stared at her brother in disbelief.
 
“But after about five or six houses, we discovered to our horror that it was no longer fun. When we got to this one house, the farmer was in the barn and he grabbed Luke and Peter by the collar. Jeremiah and I got away though. We ran FAST!”
 
“Then what happened?” Laura wondered.
 
“Well…the farmer took Luke and Peter straight home to Pa. Pa gave them the strap and by the time I got home, both boys were crying and rubbing their bottoms. They sure were hurting! Then while Jeremiah and I were laughing, Pa grabbed us by the arms and took us to the barn. Well…we weren’t laughing anymore!”
 
“Pa whipped you?” Laura asked with a smile.
 
“He sure did! And my backside was blistered! I didn’t do much sitting for a few days after that. Jeremiah and I had to do all our brothers’ chores, and Luke and Peter had to clear a rock pile out in the field. We were too tired to do anymore mischief for a long, long time!”
 
“So did ya?”
 
“Did I what?” Abe went back to cleaning out the pumpkin.
 
“Did you do Mischief Night again?” Abraham nodded. “What’d you do?”
 
Abraham paused and looked up at his sister. “Just never mind, Laura! I’ll tell you when you get older.
 
He started carving out the face. “Don’t make it too scary!” Laura warned.
 
“It’s Halloween! It has to be scary!” Abraham declared with a chuckle.
 
Laura watched him work. “Abe? What’s Halloween?”
 
Abraham sat down on the ground and brushed his hands together. “Well…it’s a time we can feel all spooky and celebrate the end of harvest. I don’t rightly know who started the tradition, and almost every place does it different. But here, we have parties and tell ghost stories on Halloween eve. That’s when mischief night is. Then tomorrow night we hold a great big bonfire and bring the best of the crops from our fields all cooked up special. The ranchers bring their best cows all cooked up mighty tasty and we enjoy a great big harvest supper.”
 
“Oh.” Laura sighed. “Why do I hafta go home early tomorrow night then?”
 
“Because you have school Tuesday morning, honey. Go on inside and ask Julie for the candle.”
 
Laura did as she was told. As she watched Abraham put the candle inside and ready the jack-o-lantern to be lit in a few hours, Julie came to the door. “Laura Rose, come on inside and get ready for your nap!”
 
“My nap?” Laura groaned. “Do I hafta take a…”
 
“Laura…” Julie warned through clinched teeth.
 
Laura sighed. “Yes ma’am.” Julie shook her head and walked back inside. Laura turned back to her brother. “Can I just ask you one more question?”
 
Abraham smiled. “Alright. One more.”
 
“Why’s that called a jack-o-lantern?”
 
“Well…” Abraham brushed the rest of the juice from his hands and stood up. He towered over her and got a really spooky expression on his face. “Well…there was a man named Jack.” Abraham lifted her and walked toward the house. He laid Laura down on the bunk in Charlie’s room. “Jack was a mean ol’ man. You see, he didn’t believe in God. In fact, he tried to teach people to do bad things instead of good things. Jack was so mean, in fact, that he would do ANYTHING to get what he wanted. He was even known to trick the devil himself!”
 
“Th…” Laura swallowed as her eyes grew really big. “The devil?” Abraham nodded. “Why?”
 
“Because, like I said, he was selfish and mean. Why, he’d do ANYTHING to get what he wanted! Even…KILL!”
 
“Kill?” Laura shuddered.
 
“Well, one day Jack’s luck ran out. He tried getting his way one too many times and he died. And when he died, he tried to go to heaven, but St. Peter stopped him at those big pearly gates and said, “Sorry…you hated God! You cannot come in here!”
 
“So…” Laura swallowed. “He had to go to…”
 
“Well now…I’m getting to that part.” Abraham bent down close to her as he announced the next part. “He couldn’t go to hell either because he was so BAD that he tricked the devil a few times. The devil remembered this and told Jack he couldn’t come in. So that left Jack all alone. Jack was so sad, but the devil didn’t turn him away empty handed…no siree! He gave Jack a hot coal and pressed it in his hand. It burned something awful, then Jack had to just walk throughout the land carrying this hot coal. And the coal was so hot that it lit his path in the dark.”
 
Laura’s eyes grew wide as Abraham tucked the covers around her. “What did he do that was so terrible?”
 
Abraham bent over and kissed her forehead. “He kept little girls from going to sleep and made them miss their parties for one.” He kissed her again. “Now, go to sleep so you can go to your party later.”
 
Laura shivered. Abraham sat beside her and smiled down as she closed her eyes. She was soon asleep.
 
***
“Laura…Laura…” Laura mumbled as she opened her eyes and sat up. Julie smiled down at her. “It’s time to get ready for your party. Get your dress on so you can go.”
 
Laura hurried and got all dressed for the party. She hurried out the door and ran out of the yard. It was dark. The moon was high in the sky and not very far away, she could hear an owl hooting. She gasped suddenly when she heard a coyote’s cry. “Hi!” Laura gasped and turned around when she heard a man’s voice. The man was all dressed in black but had a great big red hat on top of his head. “Did I scare ya?” he asked in a really loud and evil-sounding voice.
 
“N…no,” Laura answered as she stared him up and down. He looked pretty normal, but she noticed his left hand was clinched in a fist and looked awfully red. “Wh…who are you?”
 
“Oh, I’m just passing through.” Jack walked up to stand beside her. “So…what’s a little girl like you doing out here in the dark woods all by herself?”
 
“I…I…” Laura swallowed. “I’m going to a party.”
 
“Oh. And your Pa let’s you walk out here all by yourself?”
 
“N…no sir…” Laura swallowed the lump in her throat. “My Pa’s dead. He died back in May.”
 
“Oh…That’s a terrible thing…dying like that.” The man walked beside her. “So who takes care of ya?”
 
“My Ma and sister and brothers. Tonight I’m staying at my brother Abe’s house. He made a jack-o-lantern. Have you ever seen one?” Laura stopped and turned to the man.
 
“Oh….” The man cleared his throat. “Uh…what is your brother going to do to get into trouble tonight?”
 
“Trouble?” Laura gasped as her eyes widened. “My brother never gets into trouble! He yells at ME for getting into trouble!”
 
“I bet he gets in trouble aplenty!” the man declared. Laura shook her head. “Oh no?” He laughed. “Follow me! I’ll show you!”
 
Laura turned as they walked back toward the house. They crouched behind a tree and watched as Abraham stepped out onto the porch. He slowly walked across the yard and lit the candle inside the jack-o-lantern. Then he walked to the barn. “Well?” Laura asked. But the man put a finger to his lips and told her to watch. She watched as her brother carried something really big. He hung it from the front door then laughed before going inside.
 
Laura’s eyes grew big. “That looks like a great big spider!” Laura declared.
 
“That’s just what it is!” The stranger stated. “Now watch what happens.”
 
Laura waited just a few moments. The door opened and Julie stepped out onto the porch. She turned and her face smacked into the object. Then she looked up and screamed really loud. She threw her hands up in the air as her eyes grew wide. Julie threw a hand to her mouth and backed up. “Abe! Abe!”
 
Abraham hurried toward the doorway. Julie turned and hugged him as she buried her head in his chest. Then Laura heard her brother chuckle. Julie stood up straight and put her hands on her hips. “Abraham McCain, you did that on purpose!” she declared. She turned and stomped her foot as she pointed to the barn. “You get to that barn right now young man!” Abraham lowered his head and started down the steps. “I’ll deal with YOU later!”
 
“Uh oh…now he’s in trouble!” Laura’s eyes grew wide as she watched her brother walk to the barn. But no sooner had the front door closed when Abraham walked back out with something in his hand.  “What’s he doing now?”
 
“Getting into more trouble,” the stranger answered. “Tonight’s Devil’s Night. Boys all over the land are getting into some sort of trouble. Your brother is going to soap up all the windows so Julie can’t look out.”
 
Sure enough, Laura watched as he walked from window to window. As he was finishing up the last window, the front door opened and Julie stood on the porch with her hands on her hips. “Now you’ve done it, Abraham McCain! Now you’re getting the whipping of your life!”
 
Laura chuckled. This she just had to see! But the stranger stood up. “Let’s see about your party.” They walked down the road until they got to her party. Laura felt really strange as she walked beside the stranger. They walked into the Layton’s yard. There was a big barrel filled with water in the yard. “Oh boy! Bobbing for apples!” Laura tried to run ahead, but she couldn’t. She watched as a head came up from the water. The head wasn’t attached to anything, but sort of floated in the air. From the head’s mouth came an egg. Then she heard laughing as everyone started throwing eggs at the house!
 
Laura screamed, but nobody heard her! She screamed again. A man turned around. It was her brother, Abraham. “What’s he doing?”
 
“He’s here to give you a spanking!” the stranger answered.
 
“I didn’t do anything!” Laura declared. “I didn’t!”
 
“Oh, but you did!” The stranger laughed evilly again. “You threw eggs at the house!”
 
“No! I didn’t!” Suddenly, everyone turned around. The heads started coming off the shoulders. They seemed to float in the air. Laura saw a fire begin to burn in front of her as all the heads started laughing. The hands of the headless people pointed at her as the heads laughed harder.
 
Laura tried to turn and run but she couldn’t! The stranger grabbed her by the neck and continued to laugh.
 
Laura turned and looked at the man. He suddenly turned all red all over. “Who are you? Why are you turning red all over? Who are you?”
 
A slow, evil smile suddenly crossed the man’s face. The smile looked identical to that of the Jack-O-Lantern’s Abraham had carved earlier. Laura’s eyes grew wide as she watched the man’s red hand slowly open. Inside was a great big piece of hot coal. Laura started trembling all over as he slowly spoke. “My…name…is…JACK!”
 
“J…j…j…j…Jack??????” Laura suddenly let out a loud scream. “HELP ME! SOMEBODY HELP ME!” She turned to run but she couldn’t go anywhere. Her feet were moving, but her body wasn’t! “HELP ME! SOMEBODY! ANYBODY!”
 
“Laura! Laura!” She heard a voice far away. “Honey, wake up! Come on….” The voice was slowly coming closer. She felt something patting her cheek.
 
“No! Jack, go away! Go…” Her voice died as her eyes opened. She stared into the eyes of Julie. “Julie…” she whispered. Laura suddenly sat up and threw her arms around Julie. Her body shook with fear. “Oh, I was so scared!”
 
“It must have been some nightmare you were having!” Julie declared softly as she patted Laura’s cheek.
 
“I was dreaming Jack found me. Oh, it was awful!”
 
“Jack?” Julie questioned. “Who’s Jack?”
 
“Jack?” Laura’s eyes grew wide. “Jack’s the man who died and couldn’t go to heaven or hell because neither wanted him so he had a hot coal in his hand! Oh, it was so scary!”
 
Abraham’s mouth opened as he realized he was the cause of Laura’s nightmare. He had been standing in the doorway listening. But he quietly turned and started to tip toe out the door. “Hold it right there, mister!” Abraham froze in the doorway and cringed. He was pretty sure he knew what would come next. Julie jumped up from the bed and folded her arms as she glared at him. “Abraham McCain!”
 
Slowly, Abraham turned around. He gave her a sweet smile. “Yes honey?”
 
“Don’t you ‘yes honey’ me!” Julie walked up to him in three big steps. She pointed to Laura. “Did you tell her that story?”
 
“Well…” Abraham groaned. “She asked me what a jack-o-lantern was.”
 
“And you told a seven year old girl a scary story?” Abraham nodded, but said nothing. He knew he was in trouble. “You…ought to be ashamed of yourself!” His wife shook her head at him.
 
The wind began blowing outside. A limb smacked the window. Laura screamed and covered her head with the blankets. Abraham and Julie turned and watched her disappear under the blankets. Julie turned back and glared at her husband. “Well…I hope you’re proud of yourself!”
 
Abraham hurried over to the bed. The wind outside suddenly grew louder and the branch banged against the window even harder. Abraham bent over and touched Laura through the blankets at the same moment. Laura let out a loud scream. “Abe!” Julie shouted. “I’ll take care of her. You light a lantern!”
 
Abraham hurried across the room and lit the lantern. He hurried out to check on the children while Julie sat on the side of the bed. “Laura, it’s just the wind, honey.”
 
“Are you sure?” Laura’s muffled voice asked from under the covers.
 
“I’m quite sure.” Julie waited. “You have a party to get to.”
 
“I’m not going!” Laura cried. “I’m not going out there in the dark! I’m not!”
 
Julie slowly moved the covers from Laura’s head. Laura lifted her head from the bed just a bit to look at Julie. “Now then…” Julie smiled. “You see? There’s nothing there.”
 
The wind whistled through the trees. Laura hid her head in her arms. “What’s that?”
 
“It’s just the wind, Laura. I promise!” Julie sighed. She stood from the bed and walked to the doorway. Leaning against it, she shook her head at her husband. “I am supposed to be down at the main farm in thirty minutes, Abraham McCain; and if you think I’m going to miss it because you decided to tell a little girl a scary story…”
 
“Scary…” Abraham rolled his eyes. “Honey, that’s just a fable! It’s been around for…”
 
“Just a fable?” Julie sighed as she shook her head again. “Abraham, a seven year old girl doesn’t need to hear about a man dying and walking around because he couldn’t go to heaven or hell! To a man, it’s not scary. But to a young girl it’s terrifying.” They heard Laura scream again. Julie turned and hurried back inside.
 
“At the window!” Laura cried from under the covers again. “He’s at the window!”
 
“Laura, Abraham was just telling you a story, honey. Jack’s not real.” Julie sighed as she carefully sat on the edge of the bed. “Laura, it’s just a branch! The wind is howling and…”
 
“No!” Laura cried. “No, no, no, no, no!”
 
“Julie…” Julie turned and shot her husband an annoyed look. He motioned for her to leave. “This may be ugly, so just…go tend to the children.”
 
“Abraham…I don’t know if I trust you…” Julie said as she studied him.
 
“Go on.”
 
Julie slowly walked out the door. Abraham walked over to the bed and sat down. “Alright, come on out of there,” Abraham ordered gruffly.
 
“No!” Laura cried. “There’s a monster!”
 
“Laura, do you really believe I’d want to hurt you?” There was no answer. “Do you know that I love you?”
 
“Yes,” Laura’s muffled voice sounded.
 
“And…you know I wouldn’t lie to you, right?”


Laura slowly uncovered her head. She lifted her head up just a bit and looked at her brother. “You told me about Jack. That’s not the truth is it?”
 
“Now Laura!” Abraham shook a finger at her. “You know I was telling you a story. Don’t you?”
 
“Yes sir.”
 
“And you know I love you. There’s no such thing as monsters, Laura. That’s the truth.” Abraham lifted her into his arms. The branch hit the window again and Laura clung to Abraham and cried. Abraham stood up. “Let’s go.”
 
“No!” Laura screamed. “No! Jack’s out there!”
 
Abraham held her tight as she kicked and fought. He carried her out of the bedroom and started toward the front door. “I’ll show you…” he started.
 
“No! Don’t make me go! No!” Laura screamed.
 
“Laura Rose!” Abraham declared as he opened the front door. Abraham jumped a foot in the air when he saw the man standing in his doorway. Laura felt him tense and started screaming. Julie hurried from the other bedroom where the babies and Charlie were sleeping and hurried up to Abraham. Abraham handed her Laura and Julie held her tight as Laura continued screaming.
 
“Who are you?” Abraham asked.
 
“I’m…” Laura’s screams kept him from answering. Julie backed up a few paces and began shushing her. “I’m afraid I’m lost. I’m looking for the town of Enid.”
 
“It’s two miles on down that road!” Abraham shouted above the screams. He turned. “Julie, hush her up!”
 
“It’s Jack! It’s Jack!” Laura screamed.
 
“No! No, honey it’s not!”
 
The stranger stared at the little girl in Julie’s arms. “My name is Jack.” Abraham rolled his eyes as Laura suddenly started screaming even louder. “Jack Collins. I…”
 
“My husband told her the story of Jack-O-Lanterns!” Julie shouted above the screaming. She heard crying suddenly erupt from the bedroom. She hurried over to Abraham and handed Laura back to him.
 
“You told your daughter the story of Jack?” Jack asked. “My wife would send me to sleep in the barn if I did a thing like that.”
 
“Good idea!” Julie shouted from the doorway of her bedroom.
 
Abraham frowned. “Don’t’ give her any ideas…” Laura screamed again. “Laura, stop it this instant!” Abraham hurried out the door. “I have to show her something.” But as he started around the corner of the house, Laura’s screams became louder. She started shaking even heavier. “Look, honey! Look!” Abraham forced her head from his chest and turned her around toward the window. “You see? It’s a branch. Look.”
 
The wind picked up again and howled. Laura’s eyes grew wide as she watched the branch hit the window. “You see? It’s just a branch. That’s it.”
 
Laura watched as the branch hit against the window. Then she turned and looked at the stranger. “Who is he?”
 
“I’m a stranger just passing through. I’m on my way into Enid to pick up a cousin. We’re headed on to Oklahoma City in the morning.”
 
“Oh.” Laura shuddered as she turned back to look at her brother. “Are ya sure Jack’s not out here?”
 
“No he’s not!” Jack answered. “You see, your Pa didn’t finish the story. Jack…”
 
“He’s not my Pa. He’s my brother!” Laura declared.
 
“Oh!” Jack smiled. “Well now, that’s different! Your brother’s job is to scare you but…”
 
Again, Laura interrupted. “Not this brother! He’s supposed to be like my Pa…”
 
“Laura Rose, don’t interrupt!” Abraham ordered harshly.
 
“See?”
 
Jack laughed a loud, deep laugh that came from deep inside. Julie came out carrying little Sammy. “Abraham, I’ve got to get down to the main house. I’m late already.”
 
“Oh.” Abraham turned and looked at Laura. “Are you going to your party?” Laura didn’t answer, but clung to her brother again.
 
“Abraham!” Julie shouted at Laura’s response. “She has to go to the party! She’s been looking forward to it!”
 
“No!” Laura shouted in a shaky voice as she once again buried her head in Abraham’s chest.
 
“You know…Jack doesn’t walk back and forth anymore,” Jack declared suddenly.
 
“He doesn’t?”
 
Jack shook his head. “You see…He was so sorry for what he did that he just…” Jack snapped his fingers. “…Vanished one day. That was the end of Jack.”
 
“Honest?” Laura cocked her head to one side and studied the stranger. “He’s really gone?” Jack nodded. “Then who was in my dream?”
 
Jack smiled as he took her from Abraham and turned to walk toward the house. “That, my dear, was your imagination. You see he lives in our heads. We all have an imagination and he usually comes out in our dreams.”
 
“Honest?” Laura asked again.
 
“Honest!” Jack declared. “I have a little girl who’s eight years old and she cannot stand the dark! Do you want me to show you something?” He sat Laura on top of the kitchen table and blew out the lantern. “What’s different now that the light’s out?”
 
“Well…” Laura bit her lip. “It’s spookier cause I can’t see what’s in the dark.”
 
Jack asked Abraham to light the lamp. “What you see now is the same thing as in the dark. You see, our imaginations just like to play tricks on us. The next time your brother tells you a scary story, you just tell your imagination that it’s a story. And if you start to dream it, you think of something silly. Okay?”
 
“Like what”
 
“Well…” Jack looked toward the ceiling as he thought of something. “What was something in your dream?”
 
“Something scary?” Jack nodded. “Well…the heads lifted off of people’s necks!”
 
“Oh my! Now, that IS scary! Did they stick their tongues out like this?” Jack stuck is tongue out and made a funny face.
 
Laura giggled. “I can’t do that. Mama says I’d get my mouth washed out with soap! Actually, Mama DID wash my mouth out with soap once!”
 
“Ah.” Jack chuckled softly. “But it’s different in your dreams. You can do silly things in your dreams that you can’t do for real.” Jack smiled. “Now, do you feel better?”


Laura nodded.
 
“Now do you want to go to your party?” Abraham asked as he lifted his eyebrows. “If you don’t, you can help me with the babies.”
 
Julie came from the bedroom. She was all dressed, ready to take the smaller lantern and walk down to the main house. “Abe, I’m leaving!” Julie declared.
 
“Julie, Laura can’t go to the party alone! Someone has to walk her!” Abraham argued.
 
“It’s after seven now, Abe!” Julie declared. She rolled her eyes and grabbed Laura’s hand. “Come on. Let’s get you dressed.”
 
Abraham could tell Julie was pretty annoyed with him. When she brought Laura out all ready for her party, he knew she was upset. Somehow, this was all his fault. “You best be back in ten minutes!” Julie declared.
 
Jack announced he’d ride with Abraham. Laura sat quietly in front of her brother on the saddle as they rode. When they arrived at the house where the party was being held, Abraham helped her from the horse and walked her inside. He started to leave but Laura grabbed his hand and gasped. She was still a bit spooked. Abraham sighed as he bent down in front of her. “I told you, honey, that everything’s okay! Now, I’ll be back to get you in two hours. You have fun.”
 
When Abraham got back to his house, he saw Julie in the kitchen wiping off the counter. She didn’t even look up at him as he walked toward her. “Babies asleep?” Julie nodded. Abraham leaned against the counter and looked down at her. Julie kept her head lowered. “I’m sorry.”
 
“You should be,” Julie declared.
 
“I am.” Abraham put his hand under her chin and lifted her head up. “I really…really…” Abraham bent down and kissed her on one cheek. “am…” He kissed her on the other cheek. “…sorry.” Then Abraham found her lips. He kissed her long and deep as she melted in his arms. She gave in to his kiss and wrapped her arms around his neck. Finally, Abraham allowed his lips to part from hers. “So…can you forgive me?”
 
Julie looked up into his eyes. “You think you can just give me a kiss and all’s forgiven?”
 
“Well…” Abraham grinned. “You DO have a party to get to.” Julie nodded. “But uh…” Abraham kissed her lips softly. “Maybe after you get back from the party and the kids are asleep for the night I could uh…” Abraham toyed with the button on the front of her dress. “…find some way to make it up to you.”
 
“Oh.” Julie smiled. “Won’t it be a little difficult…sleeping in the barn?” Julie’s eyes twinkled.
 
“In the barn?” Abraham almost shouted. But his voice softened as he touched her cheek. “Well…maybe I could find some way to persuade you to uh…let me off with a warning this time? After all…it is my first offense.”
 
“Maybe you can.” She pressed her lips to his and kissed him deeply. Abraham groaned softly as her hands trailed down his back. “but right now…I’ve a party to get to!”
 
***
If Abraham thought he would get anything done that evening, he was badly mistaken. The triplets and Charlie made sure to cause him plenty of grief, which Julie would no doubt find it just punishment for the transgression he had performed earlier.
 
Meanwhile, at the party, Laura was having a lot of fun. The children got to play games like bobbing for apples and  London Bridges. Then they had cake and ice cream. Laura ate three pieces. Nobody paid much mind to how many pieces the kids ate.
 
After the cake and ice cream was devoured, Laura saw the candy dish on the table. She couldn’t stop at one piece either. The candy was so good that she found herself going back for another piece…and another…
 
Then she sat and listened as some of the boys told scary stories. She began to get more images in her head – like a headless horseman and ghosts walking through walls…The whole time, she continued to munch on candy.
 
By the time nine o’clock came, the wind was blowing mighty fierce. Snow was begging to fall, and Laura loved snow. But at the moment, Laura was sitting on the floor by the wall groaning. Jessie bent down beside her to ask her what was wrong, but Laura just started groaning louder. “Are you sick?” Laura nodded.
 
Suddenly, the front door opened. The icy cold wind blew in something fierce. “It’s starting to storm!” Abraham announced. “Best get these kids home!”
 
“Mr. McCain, something’s wrong with Laura!” Jessie declared. Then she pointed to Laura who was holding her middle and groaning. Abraham hurried over to her and bent down in front of her. Laura groaned when he asked what was wrong.
 
Abraham lifted her into his arms and stood. “Let’s get you home.” He had hitched up the wagon to take her home so she could cover up with blankets and not get a chill. He gently laid her in the wagon then hurried home. By the time they got home, Laura was feeling worse. Abraham picked her up and hurried inside. “Julie!” Abraham called as he opened the door. “Something’s wrong with Laura!”
 
Julie hurried into the bedroom as she was gently laid down. Abraham sat down beside her as Julie felt her head. “There’s no fever.” She bent down next to Laura. “Where do you hurt?”
 
“My tummy…” Laura groaned.
 
“Did you eat anything?”
 
“Uh huh…” Laura moaned louder.
 
“What did you eat?”
 
“Three pieces of cake and lots of candy!” Laura declared.
 
“Three pieces…” Abraham gasped. “Laura Rose McCain, you know better than to behave in such a manner at a party!”
 
“I’m sorry!” Laura cried. “Julie, it hurts! It hurts something awful!”
 
“I should say so!” Julie hurried from the room Abraham stood from the bed and waited for Julie to return with the castor oil and a spoon. Julie began pouring the medicine on the spoon.
 
“What are you gonna do?” Laura suddenly asked.
 
“I’m going to help your tummy ache go away,” Julie answered as she walked toward the bed and held the spoon out to her.
 
“No!” Laura cried. “I don’t like that stuff!”
 
“Open!” Julie demanded.
 
“No!” Laura shouted. “I don’t like it!”
 
“Laura Rose!” Abraham said sternly. “You open your mouth right now, young lady!”
 
“Mm mm!” Laura mumbled.
 
“NOW!” Abraham boomed.
 
Laura did as told. She knew she had no choice, but she let them know what she thought of the medicine as she made a face. Julie sat down the bottle and spoon. “Now…if you get to feeling sick later we’ll give you another good dose.” Abraham left the room and Julie helped Laura undress and get settled into bed. “That’s what you get for being so ill-mannered, young lady!”
 
Julie sat in a chair beside the bed and waited for Laura to fall asleep. Then she slowly stood up and blew out the lamp. She bent over and kissed Laura on the forehead before leaving the room.
 
Abraham had just come inside from unhitching the team. He saw Julie walk into their bedroom where the triplets were sleeping.  Charlie slept in the other bunk in the room Laura was sleeping in. “Did Mother make it home alright?”
 
Julie sat down in front of the cracked mirror in their bedroom and started to take her hair down. But her hands paused as Abraham walked up behind her. He placed his hands gently on her shoulders. “No. I’m sure she’ll just stay at the Gibbs’ tonight. The storm was picking up when I left the main house.”
 
“Oh.” Julie turned back to look in the mirror. She removed a clip as she began taking her hair down.
 
Abraham bent down behind her and grabbed her hands. Slowly, he lowered her hands into her lap. He stared at her in the mirror and smiled. Then he lifted his hands to her hair and removed the pins. Her golden hair fell down around her shoulders. Abraham softly ran his hands through it. “I love you, Mrs. McCain,” he whispered softly.
 
“Oh?”  Julie turned in the chair and smiled at him.
 
Abraham stood and grabbed her hands. He pulled her up beside him and kissed her passionately. He trailed kisses down her neck and nuzzled his lips against her shoulder as he slowly moved his hands to her dress. “It’s been…a long time…” he mumbled.
 
“Too long,” Julie sighed as his hands moved down her dress to unbutton it. Slowly, his lips found hers again and they became lost in the kiss.
 
Julie lifted her hands to his shirt and began unbuttoning it. Their kiss deepened as her hands moved lower and lower. She lifted his shirt from his pants and slowly slipped it off. Her lips trailed down his throat. She kissed his shoulder as he slipped her dress from her shoulders and allowed it to fall into a heap on the floor. Julie parted from him and slowly finished undressing herself as Abraham stared at her. She smiled as he finished undressing himself. They just stared at each other.
 
Slowly, Julie lifted her head back up to look in his eyes. As they stood in the middle of their bedroom, their hands caressed each other. Their eyes showed the passion as it became more intense. Then suddenly, Abraham drew his arms around her and pulled her close to him. They felt the other’s bare skin against their own as their kisses again became passionate. Slowly, Abraham lifted her in his arms and carried her to the bed. He kissed her as he pulled back the covers and lowered her down onto the bed. He immediately crawled in next to her.  They wrapped themselves in an embrace as they became lost in their kisses and caressing.
 
 
Both were lost in the moment when they heard a scream from the other room. It was Laura. Julie pushed hard against Abe’s chest and stood from the bed. She reached for her robe so she could go to the little girl. Abraham sighed as he lay alone in his bed. He’d really done it this time…and he was really beginning to regret it!
 
***
 
The house was total chaos. All three babies woke up screaming, demanding to be fed and changed immediately. Julie had mumbled something in her sleep but refused to wake up. Abraham stared down at her as he held two of the screaming babies in arms. “What do you mean I HAVE to do it?” Abraham shouted over the noise. “You have to feed them!” But Julie just rolled over and went back to sleep. Abraham shook his head and rolled his eyes. Sammy was still in his cradle and was screaming just as loud as he could. Abraham rushed over to the cradle and rocked it with his foot as he bounced the two babies he was holding up and down in his arms.
 
But that wasn’t enough for his bad night. Suddenly, from the other room a scream erupted. Abraham looked towards the bed, shaking his head as his wife continued to sleep peacefully. He hurried to the bedroom door and tried to jiggle the knob with his occupied hand. Adam let out a scream as Abraham opened the door.
 
He hurried into the bedroom, still in his long johns. Charlie screamed and screamed. “Papa! Papa!”
 
“What is it?” Abraham asked. “Why are you screaming?”
 
“Scared, Papa! Scared!” Charlie declared as he stood up on the bed and wrapped his arms around his father’s neck.
 
“Now Charlie, I…” But Charlie grabbed tightly to his neck and held on to dear life. “Charlie, I can’t! I…”
 
Abraham’s feet suddenly stepped in something. He looked up to see Laura in the other bed. She was crying as well. He closed his eyes, remembering that her tummy was hurting the night before. “Oh no!” Abraham mumbled. “This is a nightmare!”
 
“Abe, I’m sick!” Laura cried. “I’m sick! I’m sick…” Her words echoed in his head.
 
Abraham suddenly laid everything down, turned, and ran out into the darkness. He tried to run to the barn but the jack-o-lantern suddenly started growing in front of him. His eyes stared at it as it grew legs and arms. A man’s face took place of the pumpkin and he laughed evilly. Abraham fell to the ground as the jack-o-lantern towered over him. “Who are you? What do you want?” Abraham screamed as he shielded his face with his arms.
 
The man slowly opened his hand. A hot piece of coal was in the man’s hand. He laughed evilly. “I am your life!” Abraham screamed as the hot coal fell from the man’s hand and slowly started falling toward his face. Abraham tried to turn away, but he was paralyzed. He let out a blood curling scream.
 
***
He sat straight up in bed and took in deep gulps of air as he realized it HAD just been a nightmare. Abraham turned his head and saw Julie on the bed beside him. He ran his hands down his face and realized he’d been sweating. Slowly, Julie sat up. “What’s wrong with you? You sick or something?”
 
“No. I had a nightmare,” Abraham mumbled.
 
“You what?”
 
“I had a nightmare!” Abraham said louder.
 
“Oh.” Julie shook her head. “I don’t recall you ever having a nightmare.”
 
“Something’s happened. I just know it.” Abraham shook a finger in the air. “The man said that I am his life. If that’s the case then…that mean’s something’s about to happen. I can just feel it!”
 
“Abraham!” Julie chuckled softly. “It was a bad afternoon and evening, that’s all…”
 
“The triplets were screaming but you just slept right through. There was only so much I could do. Then Charlie woke up saying he was scared. I had two of the babies in my arms and ran to Charlie. Charlie grabbed my neck and held on, then Laura was sick. I stepped right into her…” Abraham shook his head. Then this hot coal started coming toward my face. I was…” Abraham shook his head again.
 
“You know what I think?” Julie put a hand to her husband’s cheek and turned his face around to face her. “I think we should have finished what we started last night.”
 
“What did we start?” Abraham asked.
 
“Well…let me give you a hint, husband!” Julie sat up in bed and pressed her hands to his stomach. Slowly, she drew her hands up his bare chest and around his neck. Then she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him passionately. Their lips didn’t part until she heard a quiet moan escape him. “Now do you remember?”
 
“I think I need another hint,” Abraham grinned as he kissed her again.
 
They enveloped in a passionate embrace under the covers as Julie reminded Abraham of the reasons she married him – because she loved him as only she could. Their desires grew as they continued to kiss. Their caresses became more intense. Then they reminded each other of their love as they made love that Halloween morning.
 
In time, Julie lay against him and softly kissed his chest as he pressed his chin to the top of her head and held her close. “How long’s it been?” Julie mumbled.
 
Abraham laughed. “Oh…a long time. Things have been so crazy these last few months. I’m ready for some normalcy to return.” A comfortable silence lay before them as they enjoyed holding each other. “Thank you for this morning, Julie,” Abraham quietly mumbled
 
Julie lifted her head from his chest and slowly kissed him. “Thank you, husband.”
 
Suddenly, a thump erupted from the other room followed by Charlie’s cry. The couple chuckled as Julie slipped out of bed and put her robe on. “I’m coming, honey!” she called. She paused at the door and turned around. “Abe?” Abraham looked up at her from the bed. “I love you.” Abraham smiled as he watched her hurry from the room.
 
***
 
Abraham sat at the table drinking his coffee when the door to Charlie’s bedroom opened. “Morning, Abe!” Laura greeted her brother as she sat down at the table. Abe mumbled something as he took a drink from his coffee cup. “Today’s Halloween!”
 
“It feels more like Christmas,” Julie declared as she sat the cinnamon rolls on the table. Laura started to reach for one. “Laura Rose! Go get your clothes on and wash up. Then you can have one.”
 
“What do you mean it feels more like Christmas?” Laura asked as she stood from the table.
 
Julie smiled as she looked down at Laura. “Go see for yourself.”
 
Laura hurried to the window and looked out. “Snow!” she shouted. “Abe, there’s lots of snow! Everything’s white outside!” Snow was still falling and the wind was still howling. “What about Mama?” Laura asked. “Is Mama home?”
 
“I’m sure she stayed at the Gibbs last night.” Abraham looked over at his sister. “Mind Julie now, Rosebud. Then later we’ll walk down and check on your brother and sister.”
 
Laura chatted happily through breakfast. She was already hoping that her brothers would take her sledding. She recalled last winter when Luke had taken her sledding. After breakfast, Abraham told her to help Julie with the dishes. Then he bundled her up and they made their way across the field to the main house.
 
Emily was hurrying from the barn. Her face held a worried expression. “Peter never came home last night!” Emily declared. “The weather was so bad that I couldn’t get to your or Jeremiah’s house to tell you! Oh Abe, what could have happened?”
 
“I’m sure he just stayed in town.” Abraham smiled. “I tell you what, I’ll ride into town and look for him.”
 
“What about our party tonight, Abe?” Laura asked.
 
“We’ll see, sweetheart,” Abraham answered. He shivered and pointed toward the house. “You two get on inside and stay there. From the look in the sky, the snow’s about to pick up again. I’ll finish the chores in the barn.”
 
“Can I go with ya to town, Abe? Can I?” Laura pleaded.
 
“No. I want you to stay home and help your sister. She’s got plenty of baking to do.” Abe turned to go to the barn.
 
“Oh, but Abe, I…” Abe suddenly turned back around and came back up to Laura. “Don’t start that today, young lady, or they’ll be no sledding for you this afternoon!” Laura turned and hurried into the house.
 
“Abe…” Emily reached out and grabbed her brother’s hand. “Are you sure Peter’s alright? I’m worried.”
 
“He told Laura he was meeting a girl in town. He said she works and lives in town. That’s the first place I’m going to look.”
 
“A girl?” Emily asked then. “What girl?”
 
“I’ve seen him talking friendly-like to a saloon girl named Tiffany. Peter’s easily taken in by a pretty face, especially after having a few drinks. If he’s done anything disrespectful, I’ll nail his hide to a wall, that’s for certain!” He shook his head. “Either that, or he’s in jail after getting into trouble last night.”
 
“He’s getting a bit old for Devil’s Night, isn’t he?” Emily asked.
 
“Yep.” Abraham turned and started for the barn. “I’ll hitch up the team and get started. You go on inside and make sure Laura works. Oh…” Abraham turned back toward his sister. “Uh..Laura heard some scary stories and ate too many sweets so…”
 
“Yes.” Emily nodded. “I heard about the scary story. Julie told us all about it last night!”
 
“I figured. If she starts having stomach pains, Julie said just give her a couple spoonfuls of Castor Oil. If you have any trouble, tell her I’ll deal with her when I get back.” Emily nodded and watched Abraham walk into the barn. Then she quickly turned and hurried into the house.
 
***
 
The wind had picked up by the time Abraham was riding into town. The town was pretty quiet on that Halloween morning, but then there wasn’t much reason to get out when the snow was falling. Regardless of the weather, Mr. Marvin always had the General Store open, and today was no exception. When Abraham walked inside he saw Scott Gibbs paying for some supplies. They greeted each other then Abraham questioned Scott on his mother. Scott assured him Ruth was fine. Scott’s mother had insisted she stay the night. They would have the Harvest party at the Gibbs house since it was snowing, and Scott was spreading the word.
 
“Then Ma can stay until the party?” Abraham asked. Scott nodded. “I’m actually here on another matter. Peter didn’t come home last night.”
 
“Ah…” Scott nodded. “He had himself quite a time!”
 
“With…Tiffany?” Abraham asked.
 
Peter slapped the money on the counter and walked toward the door. “Your little brother got pretty wild last night. I think he was drunk, and when the saloon closed he left with Tiffany. This morning at six o’clock, I saw him and Tiffany walking together outside the hotel.”
 
“Are you telling me that my little brother was in the company of a woman…” Abraham tipped up the collar of his jacket and held tight to his hat as he stepped out onto the street. “…all night?”
 
“That’s what I’m telling you,” Scott answered. But he held up a hand. “I don’t think you should jump to conclusions though. He may have a very good reason.”
 
“He better!” Abraham declared as he hurried down the street toward the hotel. Abraham walked into the lobby and looked around. “Have you seen my brother?” he asked the clerk behind the desk.
 
The look on the clerk’s face gave Abraham all the answer he needed. “Uh…which one?” he asked nervously.
 
Abraham glared at him. “Let’s try any of them since I’m sure Luke or Jeremiah weren’t here last night!” The clerk looked down at his ledger nervously. “He WAS here last night, wasn’t he?” The clerk nodded, but said nothing. “Where’s he at now?”
 
“He took the girl down the street to have breakfast,” the clerk answered.
 
“’The girl?’” Abraham raised his eyebrows at the clerk. “What girl? Tiffany?” His voice boomed.
 
“Ye…Yes sir!” The clerk answered as he raised his hands to protest any involvement. “They…they took a room here last night!”
 
Abraham glared at the clerk and pressed his hands firmly down on the counter. “THEY DID WHAT??????”
 
“Yes sir!” the clerk answered. “Th…th…they came in here in the wee hours of the morning and said they wanted a room…They were making quite a scene here in the lobby. Now, I run a respectable hotel, Abe, you know that!”
 
“Then why in the name of COMMON SENSE, did you rent them a room?” Abraham could feel his blood boiling. His brother Luke had always been the ‘wild’ one. Peter had a good head on his shoulders, but did tend to get into trouble when he drank. But this topped anything Peter or Luke had ever tried to do!
 
“I just rent rooms!” the clerk answered. “I don’t ask questions!” The clerk swallowed. “Besides, he signed the register as ‘Mr. and Mrs. McCain!”
 
“Over my dead body!” Abraham declared. He turned and stormed out of the hotel. Quickly, he made his way down the street to the restaurant. He saw THEM sitting together in a corner. Peter was laughing as he held her hand in his and stared into her eyes. Their breakfasts had been forgotten. Tiffany was actually dressed decently that morning – not in her saloon attire.
 
Abraham stared at the couple then quickly stomped over to them. Peter jerked his head up and slowly stood up as he saw Abraham approaching. “Abe!” he greeted his brother with a nervous smile. “Didn’t expect to see you in town this morning!”
 
“I guess not!” Abe shouted as he walked up to his brother and grabbed him by the collar. “Come with me, boy!”
 
“Abe, it’s not what you think!” Peter declared. “Let me explain!”
 
“Oh, you’ll explain alright! But I’d rather not air our dirty laundry all over town! Let’s speak in private!” Abraham tightened his grip on Peter’s shirt and dragged him from the restaurant. Peter shouted for Tiffany to stay there. Abraham didn’t stop until they were up the stairs of the hotel and in the room Peter had shared with Tiffany.
 
Only after the door to the hotel room was firmly closed did Abraham let go of his brother. Then he sucked in his breath when he saw the women’s and men’s clothing strewn all over the room. Peter quickly picked up the clothing and stuffed it under the unmade bed. “Alright…what were you…” Abraham jabbed a finger into Peter’s chest. “…doing in here…” Abraham pointed to the floor. “…with HER?”
 
“Abe, she’s my wife!”
 
The silence that followed was so filled with tension that a butcher knife wouldn’t have cut through it. Abraham sucked in his breath and stared at Peter. His face turned many expressions in mere seconds. The expression that finally settled on his face was one mixed with anger and disgust. It took quite awhile for Abraham to find his voice. When he did, it was shaky and very controlled. “She’s your wife?” He gave a short laugh. Then he threw his arms up in the air. “Oh…I get it…I’m having another nightmare!”
 
“I married her last night.” Peter turned from his brother as he mumbled the next announcement. “Scott witnessed it.”
 
“Are you telling me that you went to the Justice of the Peace and got married last night?” Abraham asked then. “And you are okay with this now that you’re sober?” Abraham paused and turned to stare at his brother. “Or are you STILL drunk?”
 
Peter whirled around and glared at his brother. “Now look Abe, contrary to what you heard, I was NOT drunk last night! I was acting pretty wild, but that’s because I…I…I loved Tiffany and wanted to marry her!” Peter declared. “Then we got to talking and we decided to just do it. We went and found the Justice of the Peace. He was pretty angry, but he did it.”
 
Abraham closed his eyes, trying to take all this in. “You…” He shook his head. “Have you gone completely loco?” Abraham felt his temper quickly rising. “You married a saloon girl just like that? Did you stop to think what this would do to Mother and the rest of the family? Did you stop to think about HER…” Abraham shook his head. “I cannot believe you would do this!” He planted his hands on his hips. “Do you REALIZE that your sister is at home frantic because you didn’t come home last night? Do you realize we’ve got a farm to run? Do you realize…what kind of girl this..this…Tiffany is?”
 
“I love her, Abe!” Peter shouted.
 
“You love her?” Abraham shouted back. “Peter, you hardly know her! You met her two weeks ago!”
 
“Three weeks…” Peter mumbled.
 
“Where are you planning on living?” Abraham asked. “How are you going to make a home for her?”
 
“Well…I’m living in the main house, and I’m the only man there now. She can just move in with me.”
 
“Your planning on bringing that…that…hussy into our MOTHER’s home with Laura there????” Abraham boomed as he grabbed Peter by the shirt once again. “No! No way!”
 
“You have no right to call her that!” Peter shouted back as he pushed Abraham’s grip off of him. “You don’t even know her!”
 
“I know her kind!” Abraham said. “You think last night was her first…”
 
Peter reared back and threw a hard punch at Abraham. Abraham toppled to the floor and cried out. He put a hand to his mouth and wiped the blood that trickled down his chin as he stared up at his brother in shock.
 
“You had…absolutely no right judging her!” Peter shouted. “Tiffany came here just three months ago. Her mother was all she had and her mother died in a wagon accident. Tiffany was on her way through Arkansas to meet up with family in Oklahoma, but she had to stop here because she ran out of money. She took the job at the saloon with the understanding that she was an entertainer only. The first night I met her and asked to buy her a drink, she informed me that she didn’t hire herself out, but merely entertained. We got to talking and I realized she shouldn’t be in this kind of work. She was pure and sweet. Last night with me WAS her first time and I know that, Abraham. The reason we got married like we did is because I didn’t want to bring a lot of attention on the family name! I knew I’d never get everyone’s blessing, because pure or not she was still seen as a saloon girl!”
 
Peter picked up his coat. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my wife!” Abraham stayed propped up on the floor staring at his brother. Peter walked toward the door and opened it. “I suggest that next time you get all the facts before you start judging other people!”
 
The door slammed shut. Abraham slowly stood up and stared at the door as he wiped away more blood with his fist. He still couldn’t believe this, but he decided to head on back home and prepare the family for what was to come. He was by no means happy with this. The way Peter handled the whole situation was dishonest and disrespectful and there was no way he would stand by quietly and allow this to happen! He hurried toward the door and opened it. Then he gave it a hard slam as he dashed down the stairs.
 
“I’m having another nightmare!” Abraham mumbled to himself. “Of course…this is Halloween. This is all a nightmare!”
 
Abe untied the horse and started to mount when he saw Scott making his way across the street. “I found Peter,” Abraham mumbled as Scott started to pass.
 
“Oh.” Scott stopped. “So you know.”
 
“Yes.” Abraham whirled around and stared at Scoot. “How could you? How could you let Peter do such a thing?”
 
“You think I could stop him?” Scott asked. “I told him it wasn’t smart. I tried to talk him out of it, but his mind was made up. He said he was going to marry her and that was final.”


“You should have refused to be a witness. If you had…”
 
Scott held up a hand. “Look, Abe…If I’d refused, he would have just gotten someone else.”
 
“Why?” Abraham asked. “Why did he do it?”
 
“Like I said, he was drunk.”
 
“Peter said he wasn’t drunk,” Abraham grumbled.
 
“I don’t care what Peter said, Abe. He was smashed. He and Tiffany were all over each other. The barkeep finally threw them out. The next thing I know, Peter asked me to witness them at the Justice of the Peace. I told him there was no way in Hades I was going to get involved in his ridiculous plan, but he told me he loved her and wanted to marry her.”
 
“Does he?” Abraham asked.
 
“Does he what?”
 
“Love her?” Abraham sighed. “Does he love her?”
 
“It’s not love. It’s more like he lusts after her. She’s pretty and she gave him all the attention.”
 
“What were you doing in town last night anyhow?”
 
Scott cleared his throat. “Same as Peter, I suspect. Look Abe, I know you are upset. I told Peter he would regret his rash decision later, and I think he will. After all, what sort of marriage can be built without love?”
 
“Marriage is hard even with love. Believe me, I know!” Abraham shook his head. “This is going to break Ma’s heart.”
 
“What are you going to do?”
 
Abraham looked down the street and saw Peter and Tiffany walking out of the hotel together. “Is it true? Is she pure and innocent like he said?”
 
“Well…” Scott folded his arms as he turned and looked at the newly married couple. “I don’t know much about her, but she says she came from Arkansas and her mother died in a wagon accident. I’ve never seen her leave with anyone.”
 
“He wants to move her into my mother’s house!” Abraham grumbled. “How can I allow that?”
 
Scott sighed. “Abe…trust me…I tried to stop him.”
 
Abe nodded and mounted his horse. Scott shook his head. As he turned to go back to his chores, he mumbled, “I warned you, Peter…to watch out for the wrath of Abraham McCain!”
 
***
 
Emily looked up from the table as Abraham stormed into the house. She quickly stood up realizing that something was wrong. Abraham took off his gloves and threw them on the table. “What’s wrong?”
 
“You know…I had nightmares last night! The nightmares were awful, but I’d make those a reality over the truth any day!” Abraham paced the floor as he grumbled. “It’s Halloween, right?” He stopped. “Maybe this is some sick Halloween prank he’s pulling on me. Maybe the whole town is in on it…But then that wouldn’t explain the female clothing strewn all over his room. That wouldn’t explain why she was…” He stopped when his eyes focused on Laura. “Uh…Laura, let’s get you bundled up. You can go back to my house.”
 
“Why, Abe?”
 
“Because I need to talk to Emily.” Abraham grabbed her boots and started to put them on her. “You stay there until I come for you.”
 
Emily stood silently and watched Abraham bundle their sister up. He went out and watched Laura make her way through the snow. “Is Jeremiah home?” Emily nodded. “We best go up and talk to him. The fewer times I have to announce this, the better.”
 
Emily bundled up and walked across the snow-covered field to Jeremiah’s house with Abraham. After they were settled at Jeremiah and Em’s table, Abraham turned from the fireplace. “It’s about Peter.”
 
“Is he hurt?” Emily asked worriedly.
 
“No. Not yet. But I may beat him to a pulp before the day’s over!” Abraham picked up the poker and stirred the fire as he thought on how to break the news to his family. “Peter stayed in town last night. He…uh…” Abraham turned around. “He…got married.”
 
“He WHAT???” Jeremiah and Emily both shouted at the same time.
 
“Her name’s Tiffany. She works at the Circle Q. They got married at one o’clock in the morning by the Justice of the Peace.”
 
“One O’clock?” Emily slowly stood up and looked her brother in the eye. “Abe…is this a Halloween joke? Are you pulling one of your dirty tricks on us?”
 
“Ohhhhh….” Abraham shook his head. “I only wish I was.”
 
Jeremiah slowly stood up. “No…this IS a joke, Abe. You’re pulling your old Halloween jokes on us like you do every year.”
 
Abraham planted his hands on his hips. “Would I come here in the snow and tell you our brother married a…a…saloon girl as a joke?”
 
“Why?” Emily suddenly asked, her eyes wide with shock. Abraham quickly told Emily everything he knew. “Wait a minute…doesn’t a marriage have to be witnessed?” Abraham nodded. “Who?”
 
“Scott Gibbs.” Abraham slowly sat down at the kitchen table. Em handed him a cup of coffee. “He said he’s moving her into the farm house.”
 
“No!” Jeremiah shouted. “No way!” Jeremiah looked at his wife’s raised eyebrows. “Now look, honey, I’m as understanding as the next man, but there is NO WAY…No way that I’m going to allow our little sister and mother to be exposed to this! No way!”
 
“I agree,” Abraham nodded. “But we should tell Mother. See what she has to say.”
 
“What if she gives them her blessing, Abe?” Emily asked. “What if she tells Tiffany she can move in?”
 
“Well…” Abraham shrugged. “I guess she moves in.”
 
“What about Laura?”
 
“Look…” Abraham held up a hand. “Peter was pretty sensitive about this whole matter this morning. Maybe she really is as innocent as he said. Maybe she did just have a run of bad luck.”
 
“He doesn’t love her, yet he’s…sharing his bed with her?” Emily shook her head. “How can he do that?”
 
“I don’t know.” Abraham finished his coffee and stood up. “I need to tell my wife. I’d rather Mother find out from us then from Peter.” The others agreed. “I don’t know what Peter’s planning on doing, but I’ll go to the Gibbs house and see about talking to Ma.”
 
Jeremiah declared that he’d go with Abraham. He kissed Em, left Emily with her to visit, then left.
 
***
 
Peter drove the rented buggy into the Gibbs yard. Scott was just taking his horse to the barn. Before leaving town, Scott had told Peter that his mother was at his house. Peter jumped from the buggy and grabbed his wife by the waist. He swung her around and plopped her down on the ground. “Peter…” Peter turned back toward her. “Are you sure this is the best way?”
 
“They say there’s safety in numbers,” Peter answered. He saw the doubt in Tiffany’s eyes. “Look…maybe we did get married on a whim. Maybe I didn’t handle the situation right, but I know I’m going to fall madly in love with you. You are so beautiful and sweet. I have strong feelings for you and that’s all the matters.”
 
Tiffany turned toward the house. “Ever since my mother died in that horrible accident, I’ve felt so alone.” She turned back toward her husband and smiled. “Now I don’t.”
 
“Then let’s go.”
 
They slowly walked into the Gibbs’ house. Margaret looked up from her sewing and raised her eyebrows. Beth came from the bedroom. “Hi.” They greeted him. “Where’s Ma?”
 
“In the kitchen,” Margret answered with a question. She stood up, waiting to be introduced to the young woman.
 
Ruth and Jennifer walked out of the kitchen just then carrying a big pot of stew. “Well Peter, you are here just in time.” Jennifer sat the big pot on the table and turned to go back into the kitchen. But then she turned back around when she saw the lady on his arm.
 
“Mother…” Peter nodded toward her. “If everyone would sit down, I’ll introduce this pretty lady.”
 
Ruth knew. Somehow she knew exactly what the news was about to be. An inquisitive look crossed her face as she slowly lowered herself into a chair. The truth was, her legs were suddenly feeling very shaky. Peter cleared his throat and turned to smile at the lady. “Ma…Aunt Jenny…Margaret and Beth…I want you to meet Tiffany.” Everyone nodded toward her but didn’t say a word. Peter cleared his throat. “…my wife.”
 
The room was filled with a pregnant silence. Peter stood silent before them as if he were suddenly a convict. The door opened and an icy wind blew in. Johnny, Samuel, and Scott walked inside. “Boy. It sure is cold out there! It’s about to snow again too. Are you sure we shouldn’t just cancel the party tonight?” He paused when he realized the room was filled with tension. “What’s wrong?”
 
“Samuel…” Jennifer swallowed hard before continuing. “…this is Tiffany…Peter’s wife.”
 
Samuel turned and stared at the newly married couple in surprise. Then a smile slowly spread across his face. “Well congratulations!” Samuel declared heartedly as he pumped Peter’s hand up and down.
 
“Samuel…” Jennifer warned.
 
Ruth’s face had paled as she stared at her son and his new wife. “Your…wife?” Ruth finally asked.
 
“Yes ma’am!” Peter declared with a forced smile on his face. He hurried to his mother and bent down in front of her. “As soon as I met her I fell head over hills in love with her! Isn’t she beautiful?”
 
Ruth removed her eyes from Peter’s gaze and slowly looked up at Tiffany. “Yes…” she started…”How…where…” Ruth shook her head as she slowly lifted a hand to her forehead.
 
“I met her three weeks ago in town. She came here from Arkansas. Her mother was killed in a wagon accident and Tiffany ran out of money. So…here she is.”
 
“Met her in town?” Ruth slowly stood up. “Where?”
 
Peter lost his smile at the question. He turned and looked at Tiffany. “Well Ma, she was broke. She had no money and had to find a job.”
 
“Where?” Ruth asked quietly again as she turned away from him.
 
“You see Ma, I had to marry her to get her out of there before she was corrupted. I…”
 
Peter stopped when Ruth slowly turned and faced him. She had a shocked look on her face. “WHERE?” Her voice was hard and stern this time.
 
“She worked at the Circle Q.”
 
“The Circle…” Ruth closed her eyes and turned from her son again. She put a hand to her mouth and slowly walked toward the window. Peter looked down at Tiffany then hurried up behind his mother. “You see, Ma…I…”
 
Ruth held up a hand to silence her son. “Your father and I have always taught you right from wrong. We’ve always taught you to live by the Good Book and…”
 
“Ma, that’s not fair!” Peter suddenly protested.
 
Ruth whirled around and glared at her son. “Don’t you DARE talk back to me!” Peter lowered his head. “You can speak when I’m done.” She turned and looked at the Gibbs family. “Let’s go into the kitchen.” Peter took Tiffany and started to follow.
 
“Uh…Tiffany…” Jennifer hurried up to the young woman. “Why don’t you stay out here and keep us company.” Tiffany looked up at Peter. Peter nodded then walked into the kitchen.
 
Ruth sat down in a chair. Peter sat down across from her and waited for his mother to speak. “Now, as I was saying…We’ve always taught you to live by the Good Book and I know that you haven’t always done that. Peter, as your mother I love you very much and I excuse certain behaviors, but this…this breaks my heart.”
 
In her pause, Peter chose to speak. “You’re judging her, Ma. That’s not like you.”
 
“No son…” Ruth shook her head. “I’m not judging her. I’m judging you and what you have chosen to do. You didn’t tell anybody you were getting married. You didn’t say a word when you went into town last night.”
 
“I didn’t know last night,” Peter admitted quietly.
 
“Oh. Were you drunk when you married her?” Ruth asked then.
 
Peter had never heard his mother talk to him like this before. He stood up and walked across the room. “Ma…I married her because I am falling in love with her. She’s beautiful and sweet. She had only been working in that saloon for a couple months and had NEVER done that kind of work before. She needed someone to take care of her.” Peter turned and hurried back to his mother. He bent down in front of her. “Oh Ma…She didn’t belong there! She was pure and innocent!”
 
“You have yet to mention a good reason for marrying her, Peter.” Peter searched her eyes in desperation. “You marry someone because you cannot live without them…because the love you feel for her surpasses everything else. When your father married me, it was the happiest day of my life and I wanted to share that with him. When Abraham married Julie, it was because he loved Julie passionately. When Jeremiah…”
 
“I understand that, Mother!” Peter said. “But if she stayed there, she may have been hurt! Some drunk man may have taken advantage of her or worse!”
 
“When you marry a woman, it’s for life, Peter. She’s your wife forever. You have to take care of her for the rest of your life.”
 
Peter slowly stood up. “I was hoping you’d be happy for me. I was hoping you, of all people, would give me your blessing.” Ruth stood up and looked up at her son silently. “You gave Luke your blessing when he went off for war! What I did is nothing…”
 
“That’s not fair!” Ruth declared. “Luke went off to fight for our country. He didn’t go to some saloon, get drunk, and marry a saloon girl!” Ruth turned from him. “Oh Peter…I want to give you my blessing, but right now I…I can’t!”
 
“I was planning on bringing her home to…to live.” Peter stated.
 
“She’s your wife. She’ll live with you.” Ruth turned back to look at Peter. “Peter, I’m very disappointed in you. But I want to talk to Tiffany. I want to get to know her and understand exactly where we stand on things. She’s a stranger to me and I’m being forced to invite her into my home to live.”
 
Peter said nothing as Ruth left the kitchen. He stood up into the front room. Ruth was asking Tiffany to come into the kitchen.  He knew he wasn’t going to be invited into the conversation so he grabbed his coat and hat and slowly walked out the door.
 
***
Abraham rode into the Gibbs’ yard. He stopped when he saw Peter leaning over the corral fence smoking a cigarette. Slowly, Abraham dismounted and tied his horse to a hitching post. “You had to do it,” he declared as he raced up to his brother. “You had to come over here and make your big announcement!”
 
“Leave me alone, Abe,” Peter grumbled.
 
“Did you tell Ma?” Peter nodded. “In private or in front of everyone else?”
 
“There were others there.” Peter took another puff off his cigarette. He breathed the smoke out slowly as he stared into the empty corral. “Ma’s upset with me.”
 
“What’d you expect?” Abraham shouted. “Did you expect her to accept Tiffany into her arms and welcome her to the family?” Peter nodded. “Why? Because Ma’s so loving and understanding? Peter, Ma’s one of the most understanding women I know, but she has her limits! You broke her heart, you know.”
 
Peter twirled around and stared hard at his brother. “Why? Because I found a woman who can make me happy and married her without asking for permission first? Because she just happened to work in a saloon? Because I chose to do something my own way. I was thinking about the family when I did it!”
 
Abraham slowly shook her head. “Peter, you can lie to yourself but not to me. You did this because you were drunk and because you were too chicken to come to your family. You didn’t want to wait to get married. You acted wild and impulsively.”
 
“Tiffany’s a nice girl! What can I do to convince you of that?” Peter shouted.
 
“This isn’t about Tiffany! This is about you, Peter!” Abraham shouted back. “You say you married her to spare the family embarrassment and because you knew we wouldn’t approve! That’s not true, Peter. If you brought her over for supper and let us get to know her, in time Ma would have given you her blessing. But you’ve forced all of us to accept something. Of all times…you HAD to do it on Halloween!”
 
“You don’t understand me! You don’t understand at all!” Peter shouted.
 
“Now you listen to me, boy…” Abraham started, but Peter reared back to punch him. Abraham caught his arm before he was able to get the punch off. Abraham tried to punch him with the other hand. Abraham gave Peter a hard slap across the face. That made Peter even madder and this time he DID get a hard punch off. Abraham reared back and punched Peter back and before they knew it they were rolling around in the snow in a fist fight.
 
The door to the Gibbs house opened and Margaret ran out. “Stop it!” she shouted as she ran up to the two. “Stop it right now!”
 
Samuel and Scott ran out to stop the fight. Samuel grabbed Abraham while Scott tried to peel Peter off of him. “What is this?” Margaret shouted. “Brother against brother? Your brother is away trying to help end a bloody war that has brother fighting against brother, yet you two are out here fighting?” Margaret stepped up to the two brothers as her father and brother held onto them tight. “Peter, what you tried to do was noble, but you went about it the wrong way. Abraham, Peter’s actions cannot be undone, and fighting him isn’t going to get this solved! So just stop fighting and try to come to terms with this…both of you!”
 
The four men watched as Margaret briskly turned and hurried back into the house. “She’s right,” Abraham said quietly.
 
“She usually is right,” Scott nodded as he let go of Peter. “God has given Margaret a wisdom that most men don’t possess. His given her a way of speaking her mind in a no-nonsense manner.”
 
Abraham started dusting himself off. “Well…” he pressed a fist to his nose. “Peter, I think a family meeting is in order. Shall we take Mother and…Tiffany….home and discuss this like adults?”
 
“I think that’s best,” Samuel answered. “This is something that should be settled among the McCain family in private. I hope you can return for the party tonight.”
 
Peter nodded. “I hope we can.”
 
***
 
Abraham lifted baby Sammy up after wrapping him in the blanket. “Abe?” Laura asked as Julie helped her button her coat up. “If Peter’s married now where will he live?”
 
“That’s one thing we’ll discuss,” Abraham answered.
 
“Oh.” Laura sighed. “You said this is a FAMILY meeting.” Abraham nodded. “Well, ain’t I part of the family?”
 
“Of course you are, honey,” Abraham answered. “You are an important part of the family.”
 
“Then why do I have to go to Aunt Jenny’s?”
 
Abraham sighed as he gently laid Sammy down in the cradle. He bent down in front of her. “Because, honey, the things we talk about are really important and things that children don’t understand.” He heard Scott pull up with the wagon. Margaret hurried inside. “Look Laura, someday you’ll be old enough to understand this, but there are just some things adults talk about that children can’t talk about.”
 
“Oh.” Laura hung her head. “It sure don’t feel like Halloween!”
 
Abraham chuckled. “It feels more like Christmas, huh?” Laura nodded. “Well, I can’t control the weather. But Aunt Jenny and Uncle Sam will make sure there’s plenty of cake there for little girls. But…” Abraham poked the tip of her nose. “…Tonight you’ll only eat one tiny piece!”
 
“Oh Abe!” Laura rolled her eyes.
 
“Hey, you should be lucky we’re letting you have any at all after the trick you pulled last night!” Abraham declared. “You start belly aching about it and I’ll take that little piece away too.”
 
“Belly aching?” Julie gave her husband a look. “That was a bad play on words.”
 
Abraham chuckled as he stood up. Margaret took little Samuel from the cradle while Julie took Adam. Abraham picked Laura up and bounced her up and down as he hurried her to the wagon. They gently laid the babies in the hay and Margaret and Scott covered all five children up really snuggly. “Now then, you help Margaret and Aunt Jenny with the babies, understand?”
 
“Yes sir,” Laura answered. “I’ll be a good aunt.” Abraham chuckled as he kissed her forehead. Then he stepped back and watched them ride away.
 
Julie stepped up beside her husband. She slipped her arm around him and looked up at the sky. “It’s about to start up again.”
 
Abraham looked down at her. “What? The snow or the arguing?”
 
Julie smiled. “The snow. I’ll be there to make sure you keep your temper at bay, husband!”
 
***
Abraham stepped into the doorway of his mother’s house and watched Peter pull up in the buggy. “Well, here the love birds come,” he grumbled under his breath.
 
Julie walked up behind him. “Now Abe, don’t start! We are going to talk this all out rationally. Remember what Margaret told you.”
 
Abraham looked down at his wife and put an arm around her shoulders. “What would I do without you?”
 
“You wouldn’t do very well, I’m afraid,” Julie answered as she stood on her tippy toes and kissed him.
 
Ruth and Emily were setting supper on the table when Tiffany and Peter walked in the door. Tiffany was very reserved and stayed a pace behind Peter. After the confrontation that had happened earlier, she wanted to stay hidden behind her husband until they accepted her into their home. Julie smiled at her and took her arm. “I’m Julie. I’m the ill-tempered man’s wife. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!”
 
Tiffany smiled but said nothing. Emily walked up to her then. “I’m the ill-tempered man’s sister, Emily. I live here with Ma, and Peter.”
 
Abraham relaxed a bit as the ladies tried to make light of a tense situation. “And now you see why I am so ill-tempered! They try to rile me!” Abraham put one arm around Julie and the other around Emily. “Listen…” he cleared his throat. “My wife said I tend to fly off the handle a bit…” Julie cleared her throat. “Okay…maybe I tend to get that way a lot, but I want you to know it has nothing to do with you.”
 
Tiffany smiled. “I understand.” Everyone could see her relax a bit. “I take part of the blame because I agreed to it last night. Oh, I knew he had a few drinks and he wasn’t thinking rationally but…” Tiffany shrugged. “I just felt so lonely. My mother and I were very close and I just…”
 
Peter cleared his throat. “Uh…let me take your coat.” He helped Tiffany remove her coat. Julie and Emily led her to the table. After everyone was seated, they took hands around the table. Tiffany, not used to such actions, stared at the hands offered to her. She locked eyes with Emily who simply smiled at her. After she took Emily and Julie’s hands, she lowered her head so Abraham could pray.
 
After they started eating, Julie asked the question. “You go to church?”
 
“No.” She felt some heads look up at her. “I mean…My Ma didn’t like church. She said it didn’t do her any good once Papa died so she sort of turned her back on God.” Tiffany took a bite of her food. “I found a Bible in my Mother’s old trunk once and read it. I asked her some questions but she told me not to mention anything about religion again.”
 
Ruth cleared her throat. “Well Tiffany, folks deal with grief in different ways. I suppose that your mother felt it was easier to blame God then to try and accept that some things have no answers.”
 
Tiffany nodded. “There was one thing I read that’s stuck with me all these years. The Bible’s divided up into different names and…”
 
“Books,” Julie explained. “There’s an Old Testament written before Jesus and a New Testament written after Jesus was born. There are 66 books in all.”
 
“Jesus…” Tiffany smiled. ‘I read about Him. He said “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.’ After the accident, I found my Mother Bible as I was crying. I opened the Bible and that verse came to me. I asked Jesus to give me rest. I felt a peace come over me when I asked Him for help.” She saw approving smiles on the family members around the table. “But there’s another verse…it talked about a man laying down his life for a friend.”
 
Everyone turned to Ruth when they heard her sigh. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13.”
 
“That’s Luke’s favorite Bible verse,” Emily stated. Tiffany looked around, wondering who Luke was. “Oh, Luke’s our 18 year old brother. He’s in the war. He’s fighting for the North.”
 
“Oh. Well anyway, I’d like to go to church if I can.” Tiffany smiled. “I’ve…always wanted to go.”
 
“We’ll go next Sunday,” Peter promised her. The whole family turned and stared at Peter. “What? Ma was just saying that she and Pa raised us all by the Good Book. Well…that includes going to church, right?” They continued to stare at him. Peter sat down his fork. “Listen…now that I’ve some time to think…I know what I did was wrong. You’re right, Abe. I was taking the chicken’s way out.” He turned to his mother. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
 
“Well…it’s done. I think we should move on.”
 
“I’ll try to find a job in town and get us a house until I figure out what to do,” Peter said. “I’ll come out here every day and work the farm.”
 
“Do you want to be a partner in the farm, Peter?” Jeremiah asked then.
 
“Well…of course I do!” Peter answered. “But Abe and Ma…”
 
“Uh…” Abraham stood up. “Peter, I must ask your forgiveness in my rash judgment. I did say some things that were out of line earlier but I was in shock. I give you my blessing and see no reason why Tiffany can’t move in here with you.”
 
Peter smiled. He turned and looked at his mother. “I still don’t agree with the way you did things, Peter…but…you have my blessing as well. I’m beginning to understand why you did what you did, though I don’t condone your actions.”
 
Peter nodded. “We can make some sort of sleeping arrangements until…”
 
“No.” Ruth held up her hands. “You are coming into this house as husband and wife. You should live in this house as such. We’ll adjust to that.”
 
Everyone started eating again. Emily finally cleared her throat. “Well, we’ve been so involved in Tiffany that we’ve neglected to tell her about our family. She smiled as she took a drink of milk. “Of course, you’ve met my mother and the oldest McCain son. He and Julie have four children of their own. Charlie’s one and the triplets are…oh my!” Emily gasped as she looked at Julie. “Are they really five months old?”
 
Julie laughed. “Almost!” she declared. “Hard to believe. It seems like only yesterday.”
 
“I know!” Abraham groaned at the memory. “That was a rough time for me!”
 
Julie rolled her eyes. ‘You have NO idea, husband!”
 
Tiffany chuckled, then turned to Julie. “Triplets? You mean…three babies at once?”
 
“It was a shock to all of us!” Julie declared. “Especially me. I was expecting one and I ended up with three.”
 
“I can’t imagine what you were thinking…” Tiffany laughed.
 
“Ask Margaret, but I think I declared, ‘No more!’ after the third.” Everyone laughed. Julie cleared her throat. Jeremiah here is the second oldest. He married Em…her name’s Emily, but we call her Em to keep the two separated….He married her on July 16. They aren’t expecting yet…are you?”
 
Em looked at her husband and blushed. “Not as far as we know,” Jeremiah answered.
 
Emily cleared her throat. “And you married the third oldest McCain. The youngest son is Luke. He left last April to fight in the war. He writes us every once in a while, but he writes Margaret all the time. They’re in love and have been for a long time.”
 
“Margaret?” Tiffany asked. “Margaret Gibbs? Oh, I met her earlier.” She shook her head. “She’s so beautiful…oh, especially on the inside! There’s just something special about her.”
 
“Yes…” Ruth smiled. “She’ll be my daughter-in-law someday. I can’t wait to see that happen.”
 
Emily cleared her throat. “Then there’s me of course. The youngest is Laura. You’ll meet her tonight. She’s Abraham’s charge since our father died back in May.”
 
“She’s a spit fire!” Abraham declared. “You’ll get to know her very well, I’m afraid.”
 
“Abraham!” Emily declared as she rolled her eyes. “She’s strong-willed!”
 
“She’s stubborn!” Jeremiah and Peter declared.
 
Emily laughed. “She gets the lion’s share of spankings around here. Luke was bad, but Laura may be giving Luke a run for his money.”
 
Tiffany smiled. “I never had any brothers or sisters. I never really had much of anything. My mother kept us pretty isolated. I hope you’ll give me plenty to do.”
 
“Oh…” Emily chuckled. “That won’t be a problem!”
 
“Well…” Abraham said with a nod. “Welcome to the McCain family!”
 
“Yes! Welcome to the family!” Emily declared.
 
***
 
Abraham, Peter, and Jeremiah worked at rearranging Peter’s bedroom that afternoon. They were able to set up a double bed that had been stored in the barn. Tiffany nodded her approval once they got everything arranged. It was soon time to get ready for the party. Tiffany nervously changed into another dress from the trunk the men had hauled in earlier and stared nervously at herself in the mirror. “You nervous?” Peter asked as he rested his hands on her shoulders from behind.
 
“Meeting more people? Yes. I’m afraid of them calling me a saloon girl and looking down at me.”
 
“Don’t you worry, Tiffany,” Peter said as he gently planted a kiss on the top of her head. “Us McCain’s and Gibbs will straighten anybody out who decides to call you any names!” He ran a hand through her hair. “One thing’s for sure…you sure are beautiful.”
 
“Mother told me my beauty would get me into trouble someday. I guess it finally did.” She turned. “As for you…I know it’ll take some time for you to fall in love with me.”
 
“I don’t think it’ll take that long.” Peter smiled as she turned to face him. “But when I do…I think what happened between us last night will be a lot better…at least according to my brother.”
 
Tiffany blushed as she lowered her head. She didn’t feel comfortable talking about such intimate things. Peter put a hand under her chin and lifted her head up. “Quite a hussy you are,” Peter said with the intent of making his new wife laugh, “…embarrassed at the mere mention of last night…” He lean down and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. “Shall we go, Mrs. McCain?” Tiffany blushed again, but took his arm and walked out of the bedroom.
 
Abraham and Jeremiah had their wagons hitched. Peter said he’d drive the buggy back into town and return it to the livery. Then he’d ride his horse over to the Gibbs.
 
When they arrived, the barn was full of farmers and ranchers who were celebrating another wonderful harvest. There were so many people in the barn that regardless of how cold it was outside, the barn was nice and toasty. Tiffany went with Emily and Julie into the house with the other ladies. Laura ran and hugged her sister. Then she stared at Tiffany. “She looks nice…” Laura said.
 
Emily laughed. “Tiffany, this is Laura. She’s the youngest McCain.”
 
“Yeah! And I have a lot of bosses!” Laura declared. “There’s plenty of people who tell me what to do!” She cocked her head to one side. “Are you…going to tell me what to do to?”
 
“Yes!” Emily declared with a laugh. “And you will do as she says! Now, go play with the other children! And mind Abraham! He said no sweets except for that SMALL piece of cake!” She turned and quickly told Tiffany about what happened the night before. Tiffany smiled.
 
The whole evening was a blur to the newest member of the McCain family. She met many people, and only a few knew the truth about her. But one of the McCain’s was always around her, and she quickly learned that they did protect what was theirs. She felt so loved by the end of the evening.
 
As they quietly rode home, Tiffany sat in the back of the wagon with Julie, Emily, and the children. Laura had her head laid on Tiffany’s lap and was fast asleep. “You’re awful quiet,” Julie stated.
 
“I guess I don’t talk much,” Tiffany stated. “I was just thinking.”
 
“Care to share?”
 
“Well…” Tiffany’s eyes filled up with tears. “I’ve never met folks who loved me when they didn’t even know me.”
 
“Tiffany…” Emily took her new sister’s hand. “I’ll admit that I was furious when I first heard the news, but the moment we met you we saw your heart. You have a gentle, sweet nature and I think we’ll all in time grow to love you. We’ll give you the love you always longed for. And we’ll teach you all about the Bible. I promise.”
 
Tiffany’s eyes filled up with tears. “I…I can’t believe that you are accepting me so easily…after what I did…”
 
“I think we see what Peter sees in you now. You have the makings of a true McCain!” Julie declared. “It’s hard to marry into this family! But…they grow on you.”
 
A nice, quiet, comfortable silence fell over the group as they rode for home.
 
***
Julie sighed as she lay down in bed that night. Abraham turned on his side and took her into his arms. They cuddled as he breathed a big sigh of relief. “Talk about your Mischief Night!” he mumbled.
 
Julie chuckled. “I hope you don’t mind my having Laura stay with us for a few days, Abe. I just didn’t want to put too much pressure on Tiffany yet. And we all know that Laura can be a lot of pressure on a body.”
 
“Of course I don’t mind…” Abraham lifted her head and kissed her softly. “I think it’s a good idea. So, what do you think of Tiffany?”
 
“I think she’s a sweet, gentle girl who needs a lot of love. Imagine her mother holding her husband’s death against God. That poor girl…” Julie mumbled. “How old do you think she is anyhow?”
 
Abraham pulled Julie closer to him as he wrapped his arms around her. He mumbled something. “She can’t be older than Emily. Maybe, Seventeen.”
 
“Hm…Well, we’ll all make her feel comfortable. After all, it is hard becoming a McCain. Remember when we married? I was so nervous when we came back from Fort Smith after the wedding. Do you remember that, Abe?” There was silence. “Abe?” The only answer she received was her husband’s steady breathing. Julie sighed as she snuggled up closer to him and closed her eyes. “Oh…how romantic…” she mumbled. “Oh well…what should I expect on Halloween…”
The house was quiet as Julie fell asleep.

The Years Before — The Telegram

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

The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents

Site Map
around The McCain Ranch