The Writer's Corner
Chapter 2 - The Letter
Written by Michelle Palmer
Margaret sighed as she lifted the eggs from the roost at the
McCain farm. When she had ridden in, she had automatically
looked for Lucas to hurry from the barn or the fields to help
her dismount her horse. That’s what he used to do, every day
when she came. The one person she could always count on being
there to greet her was Lucas McCain. And when he wasn’t helping
her dismount, he would cross his arms and grin that silly grin
as he watched her dismount herself.
But now, Lucas was gone. Margaret actually felt her heart sink
when she had to make her way to the chicken coop alone. Lucas
had always been there to greet her. They looked forward to this
time every day when she would come to the McCain Ranch to gather
eggs for her family. She and Lucas would talk. He’d always smile
But those days were gone, at least for now. It had been a week
since Lucas, Andy, and Johnny Drako had ridden out of Enid
toward Indiana to join the Cavalry so they could join the fight
in the Civil War. Margaret had avoided gathering the eggs last
week. She’d asked her sister, Beth to do the egg gathering for
her because she simply couldn’t stand coming to the McCain Ranch
and being reminded that, not only was her brother gone, but her
best friend as well.
But that morning at breakfast, her father had cleared his throat
and…Margaret always knew that when he cleared his throat like
that he was about to lay down a law. He had turned to her and
said, “Now Margaret, I know how worried and sorrowful you are
about those three boys riding off to war, but that’s no reason
for you to mope around. They just went off to war. They’ll be
back – all three of them!”
“My heart’s just so heavy, Pa!” Margaret had said quietly as she
looked towards the empty chair that now sat at their table.
“It’s best to get back to your normal activities, daughter. That
includes gathering the eggs.” Her father had left no room for
argument. So, here she was.
“Hi, Margaret!” Emily McCain, Lucas’s seventeen year old sister,
hurried from the house. “Do you need help?” Margaret shook her
head as worry lines stretched across her forehead. Emily gently
picked up an egg as she studied her friend. “We’ve been missing
you around here.” Margaret turned and smiled at her friend as
Emily gently laid the egg in the basket. “I know I’m not Lucas,
but I’ll listen if you need someone to talk to.”
Margaret gave Emily another small smile then went back to her
task. Emily looked at the egg in her hand. “You’re worried
about them, aren’t you?”
“I’m worried about ALL of them,” Margaret answered. “I’ve a bad
feeling about this. Way down deep inside, I have this feeling
that…” Margaret shook her head, but she couldn’t shake the
thoughts that plagued her. “…that one of them won’t come back.”
Such words spoken by Margaret Gibbs was shocking. Margaret was
always the strong one – the one that tried to see the good in
people. But, she was always overly sensitive as well.
“Oh Margaret!” Emily grasped her friend’s hand. “You mustn’t
think like that!” She shook her head. “Listen, why don’t you
join Claire, Ann and I? We’re all going to make care packages to
send to the soldiers. We’re gathering at the town hall later
today. We’re just sending stuff like beef jerky, paper, books,
and some old magazines…stuff like that.” Margaret paused in her
task and looked up at Emily. “We haven’t seen much of you since
those young men left for war! Ann’s worried about you!”
“I’m surprised you aren’t more worried yourself. After all, it’s
your brother and…” Margaret started.
“Oh, but I AM worried!” Emily declared. “You should have seen
how much I cried after Luke rode away! But Mama just brushed my
hair back and held me while I cried. Then she lit a candle and
put it in the window. She said she’d let a candle burn until
Luke returned.” Emily smiled. “Why don’t you come with us?” She
smoothed her friend’s hair back from her face. “It would do you
a lot of good.”
“Okay.” Margaret smiled. “I just wish I’d hear from him.” She
turned back to her task. Then she turned and looked up at Emily
again. “If something happens…”
“They’d send a telegram right away.” Emily smiled. “Besides,
it’s too early to worry yet. They’ve probably just started their
training! My brother is as tough as they come. He’ll come back.”
“And Andy?” Margaret asked as she raised her eyebrows at her
friend. They both just looked at each other. They both knew Andy
had always been weaker than her older brother Scott. But Scott’s
leg was injured during a wagon accident at the age of six, which
left him with a limp. Since then, Samuel Gibbs had expected more
from his son, Andy.
“I’ll ask Peter to ride over and tell your folks where you are,”
Emily said as she avoided answering Margaret’s question.
“Alright,” Margaret finally agreed.
After the girls got started on the way into town, Margaret asked
Emily about her folks. “Pa’s not doing too well. Luke’s leaving
has put quite a strain on his heart. He hasn’t been able to work
much…Stays in bed most of the day.”
“I’m sorry,” Margaret sighed as she shook her head. “What does
the doctor say?”
Emily slowed as they got closer to town. “Well…” She sighed as
she tucked some loose blond hairs behind her ear. “He said Pa’s
heart’s giving out fast. I watched Pa and Lucas say goodbye in
the yard that day he left. Pa kissed Lucas and when he came
inside, I think Pa knew he’d never see Lucas again.”
Margaret turned her head to look at her friend. She knew Emily
was worried about it. “You’re so cheerful…even knowing your
father’s…” she stopped.
“I got that from you, you know. No matter how bad things get,
you always have a positive word and a smile.” Emily raised her
eyebrows at Margaret. “What’s different this time?”
Margaret shrugged. “I just have this feeling that…This war is
going to steal so much from my brother and Lucas and…” Margaret
stopped, unwilling to voice the rest of her fear.
“You?” Emily smiled at her friend. “You love him, don’t you?”
Margaret smiled, glad she’d used the word ‘him.’ “My brother? Of
course I do!” she declared.
“That’s not who I’m talking about, and you know it!” Emily
acknowledged as she rolled her eyes. “I’m talking about Lucas
Margaret smiled as they arrived at the Town Hall. She turned and
looked at her friend. “I know who you’re talking about.” She
shook her head. “He can be impossible sometimes what with his
stubborn ways and being insensitive, but…”
“But?” Emily smiled.
“But he DID kiss me before he left. You think…” Margaret
stopped when she saw the disgusted look on Emily’s face. She
couldn’t help laughing as Emily shook her head in disgust.
The girls walked inside. Ann Pritchard and Claire Wheatley
hurried up to Margaret and hugged her. They hadn’t seen her in a
whole week and knew she had suffered a loss as her brother and
best friend rode off to war together. As they sat down and
started working on the care packages, Emily cleared her throat.
She knew just what Margaret needed! “Ladies, do you remember the
dance when we were fourteen years old?”
“Do I ever!” Claire declared. “I had to go with Herbert Barslow!
That was so humiliating!” The ladies giggled. “He has a great
big wart on his forehead and…”
“Claire!” Anne and Margaret snapped out at the same moment.
“And he has a dirty mind…trying to kiss me…” Claire shuddered at
Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Well, one of us at this table
almost didn’t get to go at all. Seems she was just getting over
chicken pox. You remember that, Ann?”
“Indeed I do!” Ann giggled. “Lucas McCain showed up and saw you
crying, Margaret. He asked you to the dance!”
“I know,” Margaret answered with a nod of her head. “I was
They ignored Margaret’s sarcasm. “And you said your feelings for
him changed that night!” Clair reminded her.
“I should have never told you that!” Margaret blushed as she
stuck the card in the box and closed it. “You’ll never let me
“And…” Ann smiled at Emily. “You said you were going to marry
that boy someday.” The girls giggled as they all agreed she had
“I was still getting over Chicken Pox. I must have been
feverish…or something!” Margaret tried.
“And regardless of what my brother says, he IS going to marry
you someday because he loves you!” Emily assured her friend.
“How do you know he loves me? Did he say so?” Margaret suddenly
Emily shrugged. “He doesn’t have to say so!” She looked around
at the other ladies and smiled. “Besides, you said he kissed you
before he left.”
Margaret gasped as she put her hand on her hips and declared,
Suddenly, the door opened and male voices could be heard. “Well,
hello ladies! Let’s see which one of you will be lucky enough to
go with me to the dance Saturday night!” Tom Birch walked in
with a big grin on his face.
Emily rolled her eyes. “Oh please! I don’t think anyone in THIS
room is in the least interested in going to the dance with YOU!”
She rolled her eyes. “Besides, if any of my brothers caught me
anywhere near you they’d tan my hide for sure!”
“What’s your brothers got against me anyhow?” Tom asked as he
stood over her and grinned down at her.
“You remind them of a bank robber the way you have that easy
smile.” Emily stood and turned to glare at him. Then she looked
behind Tom. “Now Richard here…” She smiled as she put a hand on
“It’s Lariat!” the man reminded her.
Emily smiled. “Lariat! Oh, that’s right. That’s your ‘NEW’
name!” Emily cleared her throat. “Lariat here will probably play
a hand of poker with you to see who will take me to the dance.”
For the last couple of years, Richard…er, Lariat as he loves to
be called, had really taken a shine to poker. Emily remembered
her brothers, Lucas and Peter, coming into town one evening each
with a dollar burning a hole in their pockets. They did a little
bit of drinking and a lot of gambling before they found
themselves owing Lariat two dollars apiece. Since they didn’t
have the money, they had to admit their transgression to their
father. What followed was not pretty for either one of them!
Tom put his hands on his hips and glared at Emily. “Now aren’t
you just a little spit fire!”
Emily smiled mischievously. “You know, my brothers tell me the
same thing ALL the time!” Emily shrugged. “It must be true.”
“What about you, Margaret?” Tom walked up to her. “Who‘s taking
Margaret didn’t look up. She concentrated on the magazine she
held in her hands as she stared at the cover which read “The
Truth About Outlaws.” She bit her lip. “Not me, no…” she spoke
“You mean to tell me you’re not going to the dance?” Tom asked
with a chuckle. “You HAVE to go to the dance! You’re the most
beautiful gal in town!”
Margaret lifted her head and gasped. His words stung her. She’d
remembered another man who always told her she was the most
beautiful girl in town. Then she threw a hand to her face and
ran out the door. She ran to the edge of town and soon found
herself at a brook. Margaret unlaced her boots then dipped her
bare feet into the cool water. She stared into the water as
she remembered back to the last dance.
She heard someone behind her but didn’t turn. Ann sat down next
to her. “I’m going with Tom to the dance,” She announced
“You?” Margaret shot her head around and stared at Ann. Ann
nodded as she smiled. “Why?”
Ann sat with her back to Margaret. She turned her head sideways
to look at her best friend. “Oh…because I don’t want him to
bother you.” Ann smiled. “You’re already upset enough now that
your beau isn’t here to take you to the dance.”
“He’s not my beau,” Margaret mumbled.
“I’m sorry. We shouldn’t tease you.” Ann turned to look at her
friend. “You know, you could do a lot worse than Lucas McCain.”
Margaret smiled. She knew that. She wondered how long it would
be before he came back. He said they’d talk when he came back,
but so much could happen between now and then.
“What about Hal Dodd?” Margaret asked. “Seems to me your sort of
sweet on him.”
“Well…” Ann lifted her head and stuck out her chin. “Hal is
skirting the issue. He keeps hinting that he wants to go with
me, but he won’t come out and ask.” She folded her arms. “So…”
Margaret raised her eyebrows. “If you’re trying to make him
jealous…” she started.
“I’m indeed not trying to make him jealous!” Ann declared. “I’m
trying to teach him that if a man wants to take a lady to the
dance, he just comes on out and asks her.” Ann smiled. “I think
he’ll dance with me. He’ll be there to protect me from the
Margaret shook her head. “You’re playing with fire. Tom Birch is
nothing but trouble!”
“Oh?” Ann turned to face her friend. “Lucas McCain’s good
friends with him.”
Margaret nodded. “Yes. He is.” She rolled her eyes. “Tom got
Lucas out of sticky situation a couple years ago. Lucas was
almost killed. I’ll be forever grateful for that, but I still
don’t trust him.”
“And I know your instincts are always right.” Ann smiled. “I’ll
be careful.” She took her friends hand in hers. “Now…what about
“Me?” Margaret turned from her. “I’m not going.”
“You’re not…” Ann turned her friend around to face her. “What do
you mean you’re not going? You HAVE to go! You’ve gone to this
dance every year since you were 14 with…” Ann stopped.
Margaret stood up and walked away from her friend. She lifted
her arm to a nearby limb on the tree and stared across the
brook. “I don’t feel much like dancing these days.”
Ann stood and walked up behind her friend. “You really love him
don’t you?” Margaret didn’t answer. She just stared out over the
brook. “He’s so wild. Why do you care so much for him?”
“When I was 14 years old, Pa announced that that year I’d be
able to go to the dance. I was so excited, but when I came down
with chicken pox, I heard that Steve, the boy who WAS going to
take me, promised to take someone else. No other boy wanted to
take me, not with those spots on my face. When Lucas saw me
sitting there crying in the living room, he…” Margaret bit her
lip. “He said, ‘I don’t see anything wrong with your face. In
fact, I would have asked you if I knew…’” Margaret turned and
smiled. She leaned her back against the tree. “Then he asked me
to the dance.” Margaret laughed. “And he couldn’t even dance! I
had to teach him.”
Ann giggled. “I remember that! He looked awful funny out on the
dance floor.” Then she sobered. “But by the end of the night, we
were watching you both. You danced so…” Ann shivered. “There
were stars in your eyes.” She narrowed her eyes at Margaret.
“There still are.”
Margaret turned away from her friend. “Yeah.” She sighed. “But
I’m worried. I’m afraid that things will never be the same
“Well…” Ann slid down to the ground again as she pulled her
knees up to her chest and tucked her dress under her knees.
“From what Pa says…this war will be going on for quite some
time, so I suspect things WILL be different.” She turned and
smiled at her friend. “A good friend told me once that the world
doesn’t stop spinning just because we ask it to. People keep on
living and changes keep on coming.”
“Hm…” Margaret smiled. “That sounds familiar.” Then she shook
her head in frustration. “I wish it were just some childhood
carnival we wanted the world to stop spinning for! When I said
those words, I…”
“…You never thought you were going to be saying them about the
man you love?” Ann raised her eyebrows. “About…Lucas?”
Ann turned to her friend. Margaret hesitated before she finally
nodded. “You see? That wasn’t so hard, now was it?”
“But what if he doesn’t love me?” Margaret moaned. “What if
after the war…”
Ann chuckled again. “A good friend also told me that we can’t go
through life on ‘what if’s’. Oh, he loves you alright. Everyone
knows it. You two fell hard for each other when you were 14
Margaret turned and looked at Ann. “If I tell you a secret,
would you promise not to tell anyone? I mean NO ONE!”
“Sure!” Ann promised.
“After the dance…when he walked me home?” Ann nodded. “He kissed
me,” she whispered.
Ann’s eyes grew wide as she stared at her friend in shock. “He
WHAT???????” Margaret nodded as she blushed. “And you LET him?”
“Well…” Margaret smiled. “It sorta just…happened.” She laughed
as she remembered. “You should have seen the look on his face
afterwards! He was petrified!”
Ann bobbed her head up and down in surprise. “I’d say so! He was
probably afraid your father was going to come out of that house
with a shot gun!” Ann giggled. “And…he probably realized that he
loved you and it scared him to death. After all, a 14 year old
boy doesn’t quite understand what that’s all about.”
“Neither does a 14 year old girl!” Ann declared. She laughed at
“You see?” Ann grasped her friend’s hand. “Those are the things
that will get you through. You HAVE so many happy memories with
him. I want to see you smile…and dance.”
“It just won’t be the same without Lucas there…” Margaret
“I hope not!” Anne declared. “Because if it was, you wouldn’t be
in love with Lucas.”
Margaret laughed in spite of her mood. She knew her friend was
right. And she knew she couldn’t force her world to stay still
as she waited for Lucas to return.
Anne grinned. “Rich…” She cleared her throat. “Lariat Jones
wants to take you.”
“Lariat?” Margaret gasped. “He and Lucas have always been good
“Yes.” Ann nodded. “And he wants to take you as a friend. He
said he has no intention of stepping on Lucas’s territory.”
Margaret screw up her face. “I don’t know if I like that way of
putting it!” She giggled. “MEN!” Then again she sobered. “If
only I’d hear from him. If only I could write him.”
“Why can’t you?” Ann asked.
“Well…” Margaret shook her head. “I have no way of knowing where
to send it.”
“Then give it to him when he gets back.” Ann smiled. “Who says
you have to mail the letters?”
Margaret bit her lip as she stood up. “I’m going home!” She
“Why?” Ann asked.
“I’ve a letter to write!” Ann smiled at her friend. It was good
to see the spring back in her step!
It’s been a week since you left me beside my horse. I watched
you and Andy ride away with Johnny Drako. I couldn’t help but
wonder how long you’d be gone. Oh, I wish there was some way of
knowing how long this war will last. I heard Papa and Scott
talking a while ago, and they said things are really heating up.
They think this war will go on for years.
I worry about you and Andy. Johnny…well, he can take care of
himself. He’s always been a bit more wild than you. And I know
you can take care of yourself also, but you’re such a good
friend that…Well, I don’t know if putting those words down on
paper is such a good idea right now. But Lucas, I worry for
Andy. Andy has had a hard place to fill. I know that you’ve had
to go against what your father wanted for you and I admire you
for standing up for yourself. But Andy, well Andy is weaker.
He’s afraid of hurting Papa and Ma. He’s never stood up for
himself like the others have. I’m just afraid. I know Papa
forced him into this war.
Lucas, would you protect Andy for me? Would you watch out for
him and try to keep him safe?
The annual dance is Saturday night. I know if you were here
you’d ask me, because you always have. But you aren’t here.
Richard, Lariat rather, has asked me to the dance. I’m thinking
about going with him, but I hope you know that I’ll be thinking
about you every step of the way. Lariat promised he’d be a
I’m worried, Lucas. I hope all three of you can come home soon.
Please hurry home.
Margaret looked down at her desk as she got ready for the dance.
The letter she had written to Lucas five days ago was still
sitting there. She picked it up and held it close to her as she
wondered if she’d ever be able to mail it to him.
Margaret heard the door to their house open and close. She
hurried out to see Scott back from town. “Well?” she asked
anxiously. Scott looked from his mother, Jennifer, then to Beth,
then to Margaret. He shook his head.
Margaret forced a smile on her face. “Well…they must be really
busy with training and all.” She turned to the mirror and
smoothed her dress.
Her mother walked up behind her and put her hands on her
shoulders. She gazed at her daughter’s reflection in the mirror.
“I’m sorry, honey,” she said softly.
“Sorry?” Margaret asked as she fought back tears. She turned and
looked at her mother. “I should be the one telling you I’m
sorry. Andy’s your son. You must be beside yourself with worry.”
Jennifer smiled at her daughter. “I am, sweetie. And so are you.
But I only have one son to be worried about. You have a brother
and a…good friend…to be worried about.” She looked into her
daughter’s eyes as she pressed her hands to her cheeks.
Margaret turned and looked into the mirror. “Well, I’m not. I…”
Margaret could feel her tears coming. She hurried into her
bedroom and closed the door.
Margaret sat down at her desk and opened the drawer as tears
began to fall down her cheeks. She slowly took out her
stationary and began writing another letter.
My dearest Lucas,
I hope you don’t mind my starting the letter that way. This is
just a really hard night for me. I’m remembering four years ago
when you showed up at my door to take me to the dance. Oh, I was
so nervous as I wondered if you would indeed take me. Then my
brothers…Oh, how I laugh remembering how my brothers warned you
to be respectful of me.
I don’t really want to go to this dance, but Anne, Claire and
Emily all think it would be good for me. Emily assured me you
wouldn’t mind, but I’m not so sure. For some reason, I almost
feel like I should be asking you permission to go to the dance
with Lariat, yet we don’t own each other – not even a little
bit. So why does my heart feel like it’s breaking? Why do I feel
this ache deep inside me?
A knock suddenly sounded on the door. “Who is it?” Margaret
asked as she sat her pen down and wiped at her cheeks.
“Lariat’s here, honey,” Jennifer called through the door.
Margaret didn’t say anything. She stood and walked over to her
bed. She grabbed the rail at the foot of her bed as if it were a
lifeline. “Margaret?” She heard the door open as her mother came
inside. Then she heard the door close. She heard her mother’s
footsteps cross the room. “Come here, darling.”
Margaret suddenly turned at the invitation. “Oh Mother!” She
threw her arms around her mother and cried. “Why do I hurt so
bad? Why do I feel so empty?”
“Because you love him, Darling.” She took her daughter’s head in
her hands and lifted her face to hers. “You’ve loved him for
“But I’ve never felt like this before!” Margaret declared.
“These feelings are so much stronger now. I don’t understand,
Jennifer smiled down at her daughter. “They say absence makes
the heart grow fonder. I never really understood that, but
watching you…it makes sense.” She sat down on the bed and patted
the bed beside her for Margaret. Jennifer took a handkerchief
from her pocket and wiped her daughter’s face. “As long as Lucas
was here, you had confidence of seeing him. There was no reason
for those feelings to come to the surface because you two were
already courting, and for now that was enough.”
“No Mama!” Margaret argued. “We weren’t courting!”
Jennifer smiled. “You were, my darling. You were.” She pressed
her hands to her daughter’s cheeks and kissed her forehead.
“Love comes in all different shapes and sizes. You and Lucas
have always had a special relationship. In the beginning, it was
a friendship. You needed someone to care for and worry over, and
he needed someone, in his own special way, to worry about him.
Then when you were fourteen he took you to the dance…”
Margaret lowered her head as the memories flooded her. “Oh
darling, I watched you at that dance. I just stood beside your
father and watched you and Lucas McCain fall in love. It did my
heart proud, because underneath that rough exterior of his,
Lucas is a wonderful, gentle man. Then when he walked you home…”
Jennifer smiled. “I saw him kiss you.”
Margaret lifted her head and stared into her mother’s eyes.
“You…you did?????” She asked in shock. Jennifer nodded. “But you
Jennifer shrugged. “I also saw the look on his face when you
parted. He was so terrified! I wasn’t sure if he was scared of
you or of your father!”
Margaret blushed. “I had no idea you knew that.” Then her eyes
filled up with tears again. “How do I make the pain go away,
“Well…” Jennifer wiped her daughter’s eyes again. “You can’t
make it go away. But you can just keep on living.”
“But what if…” Margaret lowered her head.
“What if he doesn’t come back?” Jennifer smiled. “Then you get
over that as well. You go on living.”
“That’s not what I was asking…” Margaret sighed. “Mama, what
if…” She looked toward her bedroom door.
“Oh.” Jennifer nodded as she placed a hand to the back of her
daughter’s head. “If your heart changes and you drift apart?”
Margaret nodded. “Well, don’t you think it’s better you find
that out now?”
“I don’t want to, Mama.” Margaret shook her head. “I…” she
swallowed as she said the words out loud for the first time. “I
love Lucas McCain.”
Jennifer smiled. “Then you have nothing to worry about.”
“Mama?” Margaret looked her mother in the eyes as Jennifer
lifted her eyebrows. “Do…do I have to go tonight?”
“Well, you already told Lariat you would go.” Margaret saw the
sternness in her mother’s eyes.
“Yes, Mama.” She stood up and walked to the mirror. Her eyes
were red from crying and there wasn’t a thing she could do about
it. She looked down at the unfinished letter and wondered when
she’d see Lucas again.
Three Privates sat chatting around a campfire. Johnny Drako took
a long puff from the cigar then passed it to Lucas. Lucas was
getting used to the smoke entering his lungs. He had coughed the
first few times and Johnny laughed so hard, he decided he
wouldn’t do that anymore. Andy shook his head and declined the
offer to smoke – for now anyhow.
“So,” Johnny threw the coffee from his cup and made a face. “Ya
wanta tell me what’s got you so moody tonight?”
“Just missing home,” Lucas grumbled as he stared into the fire.
“Missing someone in particular?” Andy teased then.
Lucas turned and shot Andy a dirty look. Andy lost the teasing
smile on his face, but Johnny wasn’t so smart. Lucas narrowed
his eyes at him. “As a matter of fact,” Lucas grumbled quietly,
“I miss everyone. It’s a bit lonely out here. Never really been
away from my family before.”
“He means,” Johnny mumbled to his friend. “…he’s never been too
far away from Margaret Gibbs before!”
Lucas stood up and glared at his friend. “You just hush your
mouth!” he suddenly shouted.
Captain Benton ran up to the group. “Is there a problem here,
Privates?” Johnny and Lucas continued to stare at each other.
Captain Benton raised his voice. “I said is there a problem
“No sir,” Lucas answered. “My friend just doesn’t know when to
keep his mouth shut.”
“Training starts at 4:00 AM. I suggest you men sleep it off!”
Captain Benton ordered. Lucas slowly sat down and took another
drag off the cigar as he stared into the fire.
Johnny laid down on his bedroll and looked at Lucas. “I’m sorry.
I shouldn’t have been so mean. I miss my family too.” Lucas
nodded. “But Lucas…tell me the truth.” Lucas turned and looked
at Johnny as he turned on his side to go to sleep. “It’s the
dance. It was tonight.”
Lucas turned and stared into the fire. “Yeah…” He closed his
eyes and pictured his beautiful Margaret twirling around on the
dance floor. He longed to feel her in his arms. That’s exactly
where she would be, had he not left her.
“Would you like some punch?” Lariat asked as the music ended and
they made their way to some chairs. Margaret nodded and watched
Lariat make his way to the refreshment table.
“Oh!” Ann sat down and laughed. “That Hal…he sure can dance!”
“Yes.” Margaret looked toward Tom Birch. “But what about Tom?”
“Tom?” Ann smoothed her hair as she looked at him. “He does look
like he’s about to start something.”
“Yes.” Margaret nodded. She stood up. “And it looks like he’s
about to start it with Lariat Jones!”
“I was in line first!” Tom declared as he stood face-to-face
with Lariat. “And I want the punch!”
“I just watched you dump something from a flask in that punch!”
Lariat shouted at Tom. “And I want to know what it was!”
Margaret watched as Marshal Williams hurried up to the two.
“Alright, what’s going on here?”
“Marshal, I saw Tom put something in this here punch!” Lariat
declared. “He spiked it!”
“You’re out of your mind!” Tom declared angrily. “Marshal, he’s
“Jealous?” Lariat laughed. “Jealous of what?”
“You know darn well Margaret doesn’t want to be here with you!
You’re just trying to…” Suddenly, Lariat punched Tom.
“Alright, both of you…out!” Marshal Williams declared.
Margaret watched as both Tom and Lariat were escorted outside.
“Well…” Ann shook her head. “I guess now I can have Hal all to
myself!” Just then, Hal grabbed Ann and pulled her out onto the
Peter came up and asked Margaret to dance. She smiled her
acceptance. For the next hour, Margaret danced. She danced with
every McCain brother, including Abraham, and several other boys.
But her heart wasn’t in it. She felt like she was being
smothered with the memories of the dances she and Lucas had come
She looked around to tell someone she was going outside. But
everyone seemed busy. Grabbing her wrap, she quietly made her
way out the back door so she could get some fresh air.
Margaret turned to see Tom Birch walking towards her. He took a
deep puff on the cigar he was smoking. “Fancy finding you out
here all by yourself.” He grinned. “Say, you wouldn’t mind
having a private dance out here with me…just the two of us?”
Margaret stared at Tom as he started toward her. “No. I…”
Margaret swallowed. “I just came out to get some fresh air.”
Tom grinned as he walked toward her. Margaret began backing up
against the wall. “Fresh air, huh? Well…you know Luke and I have
always been good friends, huh? While he’s gone, I’d like to keep
“Birch!” Margaret and Tom both turned to see Jeremiah coming
toward them. He put his hand on his hip where his gun was
holstered. “Get moving.”
“As a matter of fact…” Tom threw his cigar in the dirt and
smashed it. “I was just leaving. Meeting up with some fellas
down south a ways.” He tipped his hat to Margaret then turned
and walked away.
“Probably turning him into a regular bank robber or something,”
Jeremiah declared. He turned toward Margaret and folded his
arms. “Now, what are you doing out here by yourself, young
“I just needed some fresh air,” Margaret mumbled.
Jeremiah gently took her arm. “Yes. Well, we best get you back
“No!” Margaret gasped. She pulled her arm away. “I’m..sorry. I
just…The memories…” Margaret swallowed. “Can I please sit out
“Alright.” Jeremiah motioned for her to sit on the bench. He sat
down beside her. “Emily had to go home. She wasn’t feeling
“I’m sorry.” Margaret knew he was talking about his fiancée, not
his sister. “When’s the wedding?”
Jeremiah smiled. “In a couple months. I want to get a house
built first. Pa gave me a piece of land on the south side of the
“That’s great.” Margaret smiled. Then she grew quiet.
“Do you want me to tell you what my brother would say right
now?” Margaret turned and looked at him. “He’d say you should
get back inside and have a good time.”
Margaret smiled. “Have you heard from him?”
“No.” Jeremiah leaned his head back against the wall and sighed.
“It’ll be awhile for him to get settled. I’m sure this is like
an adventure to the three boys.” Margaret turned and looked at
him. “Well…anyway, I know it’s hard to wait for his letter, but
he’ll write when he can.”
“I know.” Margaret looked down at her dress. “He helped me pick
out the material for this dress, you know.”
“Oh?” Jeremiah raised an eyebrow. “You actually dragged him into
the General Store and made him pick it out?”
Margaret giggled. “I didn’t ‘MAKE’ him.” He turned and lifted an
eyebrow. “I just used a little friendly persuasion.”
“Uh huh.” Jeremiah chucked. “I’ve seen you use that on him
before. You MADE him.” They both chuckled. Then they grew quiet
“You think this war will go on for years?” Margaret asked then.
Jeremiah turned and studied her. Then he stood up with a sigh.
“What I think, young lady, is that you better get back into that
dance and stop worrying about things you can’t change! God’s in
Margaret did manage to dance a few more dances, but she refused
the last dance as she followed her brother Scott outside. She
would never dance the last dance again – not until she was back
in Lucas McCain’s arms.
As Lucas lay staring up at the stars, he thought about his sweet
Margaret at the dance. Lucas sighed as he put an arm behind his
head and remembered back to the year before. He and Margaret had
had a bit of a spat over a dress. This year, Margaret had
assured him they wouldn’t have the same problem because he would
help her decide what to make the dress from! She had cornered
him inside the General Store one day. She had laid three
different materials in front of him and asked him to choose the
one to use. Lucas smiled as he remembered his reaction to that
question as he raised his eyebrows and asked, “What are you
asking me for?”
“Because,” Margaret had declared as she planted a fist on her
hip and gave him a hard look. “It just so happens I’m making a
dress for the dance, Lucas McCain!”
“Oh.” Lucas had grinned at her. Then he studied the material.
“Why do you need a dress at all? I’ll only be staring at your
beautiful face the whole evening!”
“Lucas McCain!” she gasped in horror at his words.
It had taken Lucas several moments to figure out what he had
said. “OH!” His eyes suddenly grew wide in horror. He held up
his hands as she continued to glare at him. “I didn’t mean for
you not to wear a dress. I just meant…” Lucas looked down at the
material again and pointed to the middle one. “I think this one
would look beautiful on you!” Then he had picked up the keg of
nails and started for the door. “I take it I wasn’t being
romantic in the least?”
Margaret just shook her head at him. The look she shot him was
enough to make him turn and run.
Lucas sighed as he looked up at the stars. He wondered who was
escorting her to the dance in that beautiful dress tonight. He
wondered if she was thinking about him that night. Ever since
they were 14, they had gone to that dance together, and last
year was the only year he hadn’t kissed her goodnight after the
dance. Lucas turned on his side and closed his eyes. As he fell
asleep, he remembered their spat and wondered if Margaret was
thinking of the same thing.
Margaret sighed as she closed the door to her room and leaned
against it. She remembered the last dance she had been on with
Lucas. She laughed to herself as she remembered him not even
helping her from the wagon. Margaret had sat still in the seat
while he looked at her. “Don’t you have any manners?” she asked
“Huh?” Margaret had raised her eyebrows at that. “I mean…what?”
She continued to stare at him as she pressed her lips together
in a thin line. “Oh.” Lucas took off his hat. “Ma’am?”
“That’s better!” Margaret shook his head at him as she folded
her arms and sat up straighter in the seat. “I thought we went
all through this last time!” Lucas just raised his eyebrows in
confusion. She shook her head at him. “Lucas McCain, you are
about as romantic as a chicken!”
“A chicken???” Lucas had questioned, a bit offended.
“Can you help me down?” Margaret asked then.
“Oh, of course!” Margaret hadn’t missed the blush on his face as
he jumped from the wagon and put his hands around her waist. She
didn’t pretend not to know exactly why he had been so nervous.
He was afraid of touching her. She could tell by the way his
hands shook when he did so. As he twirled her around and sat her
down on the ground, he started to remove his hands from her
waste, but he suddenly stood still and stared at her.
Margaret saw the look in his face. Her heart soared. She kept
her eyes fixed on him before finally lowering them. “Did you
like my dress?”
“Huh?” Lucas raised his eyebrows. He saw some of the light leave
her eyes and suddenly wanted it back again. “I mean…what…I
mean…ma’am?” Her eyes smiled at him once again.
“I said did you like my dress?”
“Your dress?” Lucas’s gaze stayed fixed on her eyes. “I didn’t
even notice it.”
“Lucas McCain!” Margaret suddenly grabbed his hands and removed
them from her waste as she turned and hurried into the house.
She had been furious with him! How dare he say such a thing to
her. She had spent weeks making the dress just for the occasion
of pleasing him. He always told her green made her eyes shine,
and she had ordered the material all the way from Kansas City!
She had worked on perfecting the dress with the anticipation of
Lucas seeing her in it.
The next day, she had gone to collect the eggs. She’d seen Lucas
stop his work in the field and turn to stare at her, but she
didn’t even acknowledge he was there. She was still angry with
him about the night before. Of all the nerve of him! As she
concentrated on gathering the eggs from the roost, she suddenly
felt a presence behind her and watched a strong, familiar hand
reach into the roost and lift out an egg. “Hi.” Margaret said
nothing as she snatched the egg from his hand. “I…guess I’ve got
a lot to learn about women.”
She forced the smile to stay hidden from her face as she
continued working silently. He finally leaned against the
chicken coop and put a hand under Margaret’s chin. Then he
lifted her face to look at him. “Alright, alright…so I AM as
romantic as a chicken!”
She couldn’t keep the smile from her face. “Yes. You are.”
Lucas cleared his throat. “I’m…sorry.”
“You should be.” Margaret turned and started gathering the eggs
from the roost again. “Do you realize I worked on that dress for
a whole month just for you?”
“For me?” Lucas’s voice cracked. “Why would you make a dress for
Margaret paused again and stared at him. She rolled her eyes.
“Because, Lucas McCain, I wanted to look beautiful for you.”
“Oh!” Lucas chuckled as he thought on that.
His laughter just riled her even more. “I don’t see anything
funny, Lucas McCain! I ordered that material three months
ago…had to do a lot of sweet talking to my folks to let me order
the material for that dress. Then I worked every single
evening…not to mention every Sunday afternoon… on it for a whole
month! I just…”
Lucas suddenly pressed a finger to her lips to quiet her. “The
reason I was laughing, my sweet Margaret, is because I didn’t
notice your dress because I couldn’t take my eyes off this
beautiful face of yours.”
Margaret narrowed her eyes and tipped her head to one side as
she studied him. “Hm…” She put a finger to her chin as she
thought about it. “I’m not sure if you’re telling me the truth
“You think I’d lie?” Lucas asked her in a husky voice.
“Maybe…if you were trying to get back into my good graces.”
Margaret smiled at him. “But if you’re telling me the truth, it
may be that you aren’t as romantic as a chicken after all!”
“Oh.” Lucas smiled. “Then…I’m forgiven?”
Margaret stared into his eyes. “Lucas, you best get back to the
Lucas had been interrupted by his sister just in time. He turned
and hurried away. That was the year she didn’t get a kiss after
the dance, and it was her own darn fault for being so
Margaret smiled as she slipped her dress off her head and hung
it into the closet. There had been another dance just a couple
months later, and Lucas had taken her to that one as well. He
had made a point to admire her dress, not even realizing it was
the same dress they had fought over. She had simply swallowed
hard and thanked him for noticing.
Margaret hung the dress up in the closet she had worn to the
dance that night. It wasn’t the green dress. But now, she ran
her hand down it and promised herself that the next time she put
the green dress on, it would be to dance with Lucas McCain.
Beth walked into the room then. “How was the dance?” Beth hadn’t
been able to go that year. She had stayed out too late with a
boy the last time and was restricted from dances until she
Margaret walked over to her desk and sat down. As she dipped her
pin in the ink well, she answered her sister. “I’d rather forget
Anything else her sister had to say was blocked out as she once
again began writing a letter to the unromantic Lucas McCain.
Lucas, I…I don’t even know what I was about to say. I’m home from the
dance now and must go to bed, but I wanted to finish this letter
tonight. I don’t know if I’ll even be able to mail it, but I
just had to talk to you, even if it is just in my heart.
Lucas, I…Well, there I go again. I was thinking about the dance
we went to last year. You know, the annual sweetheart dance? Do
you ever think about the first Sweetheart dance we went to? Then
you asked me again when we were 15, and again at 16. Then last
year you just simply announced that we were going to the dance
together. You didn’t even ask me.
I was thinking about the dance you took me to last year and the
spat we had over the dress. So, Lucas, do you remember what
color the dress was? Do you, Lucas? I didn’t wear it to the
dance this year. I’ve decided the next time I wear it is when
you come back.
You will come back, won’t you? I mean, you aren’t going to get
to liking the East so much that you just never come back. Oh,
I’m so afraid for what the future will hold! Why did we have to
have this war anyhow? Things were going so wonderfully!
Oh, I need to stay positive for you and Andy.
Stay safe, Lucas.
A cold rain poured down on the training camp. Captain Tom Benton
yelled at his troops to keep on moving, crawling, and sliding.
He yelled for them to fire at moving targets. The days of
training were long and hard. The cold rain stayed a whole week.
Lucas worked just as hard as the others. In the evenings, he
tried to sleep but sleep was hard to come by. He was getting
chills and feeling feverish.
By the fifth day of training, Lucas had developed a cough.
Captain Benton studied him and noticed that Lucas looked pale
and feverish. He had been getting worse. The Captain then asked
Lucas if he needed relieved to get checked out by the army
doctor. “No sir,” Lucas had answered as he coughed again.
But Captain Benton studied him even more. He looked Lucas in the
eye and saw how sick the boy was. “I can see a good Private in
front of me, and I can’t afford for a good private to get sick
on me!” Captain Benton yelled at Lucas. “Private McCain, I’m
ordering you go to the army quarters outside Corydon! I’m
ordering Private Gibbs to escort you!” Captain Benton turned
back toward Andy. “When he’s escorted and the doctor checks him
out, you get back here on the double!”
“Yes sir, Captain Benton!” Andy answered.
Lucas started to argue, but Captain Benton held up hand. “You do
not argue with a Captain, Private McCain! You are dismissed!”
Lucas turned toward his horse. “Private McCain!” Lucas turned
back. “Hurry back. We need you.”
Lucas got on his horse and he and Andy went on their way.
Throughout the rough ride across the country, Lucas’s cough grew
worse. During his coughing spells, Andy would take the reins and
guide the horse toward Corydon. Andy worried about him, but
Lucas just held up a hand and assured him he was okay.
Before they got to the Army doctor’s camp, he was weak to the
point that he could hardly sit in his saddle anymore. The cold
rain continued to pour down. At one point, they rode into a
flash flood and Andy had to take the long way around. This just
made Lucas’s condition worse. By this point in the trip, Lucas
was unable to lead his own horse. Andy pulled the boy’s horse
behind him along through the cold rain as he tried to hold Lucas
in the saddle.
But before they got there, Lucas fell out of the saddle and
landed face down in the cold, wet mud.
Andy jumped off his horse. “Lucas!” he yelled through the rain.
A large clap of thunder was his only answer. “Lucas!” he tried
again. But Lucas was out cold. Andy desperately looked around,
searching for some sort of shelter for Lucas. The land was dark
with the rain still coming. A large bolt of lightning lit up the
sky and Andy saw a group of trees off the road. He quickly
grabbed Lucas by the shoulders and dragged him off the road.
Thunder sounded and the rain poured as Andy dragged him under
the trees. “I’ll be back!” Andy cried, though he knew Lucas
couldn’t hear him. “I’ll be back! I promise!”
Andy took off his coat and gently laid it over Lucas. The trees
weren’t of much shelter, so Andy had to hurry.
Then he jumped on his horse and rode like the devil.
It was two hours later when a wagon driven by a Lieutenant and
his Privates from the camp came. From the sound of Andy, the
doctor had to assume there wasn’t much hope for Lucas, but Andy
couldn’t believe that. Lucas was like a brother to him. They
lifted the sick, tall man into the wagon and hurried back to
camp. Andy sat beside his friend as Lucas moaned. “Mama, help
“You’re going to be okay!” Andy hollered as another loud crack
of thunder sounded. “You’ll be okay!” Andy grabbed onto the side
of the wagons as the driver hurried over bumps in the road.
“Margaret, oh my sweet Margaret!” Lucas moaned then.
“Margaret’s fine, Lucas! She’s just fine!” Andy leaned over
Lucas, trying to shelter him from anymore rain on his face. He
could hear Lucas wheezing and felt the heat pouring from his
Andy jumped from the wagon the minute it pulled up beside a
tent. He and another private carried Lucas inside. The doctor
hurried over to the cot they laid him on and immediately began
examining him. Andy stood patiently, waiting…watching…The doctor
straightened up from the cot and walked over to the table as he
sat his medical instruments down. “Where’s the boy from?”
“Our hometown is in Enid, Oklahoma Territory, sir,” Andy
The doctor turned toward Andy. “You don’t have to call me ‘sir,’
son.” He scratched his stubby chin as he turned and looked at
Lucas again. “I’m afraid the news isn’t good. He’s got pneumonia
in both lungs.”
A large clap a thunder sounded, rocking the tent. Andy stared at
the doctor as he allowed the words to sink in. “Pneumonia?” He
felt his heart sink. He didn’t want to ask the next question,
but he had to. “Is he going to…” Andy swallowed. “…die?”
The doctor turned to look at Andy. “Right now, son, I’d say his
chances of dying are a lot greater than his chances of living.
The boy’s in a bad way.” The doctor could see the pain and
sorrow in Andy’s eyes. “Does he have a family?”
“A very large family,” Andy answered. “We both do. And his girl
is my sister.”
“I think you best contact them and let them know, Private.
You’ll have to go into Corydon to send the wire.”
“What about ice for the fever?” Andy asked then.
“Ice?” the doctor lifted his eyebrows and stared at Andy. “We’re
in the middle of a bloody war, son. Even if they gave you ice,
you’d never make it back here with enough to help the boy.”
“But his fever…” Andy started.
The doctor shook his head. “I’m sorry, son. I’ll do all I can.”
He patted Andy’s shoulder. “But right now, it looks bad.”
“Uh…uh…Margaret! Don’t go, Margaret!” Lucas moaned as he began
tossing in the bed.
The doctor turned and looked at Andy. “That his girl?” Andy
nodded. “He must really love her.” The doctor walked toward the
entrance. “You best warn his family, Private.”
“Help us, Mama!” Lucas yelled again.
Andy nodded. “I will.” Without turning toward Lucas again, he
left the shelter of the tent and rode into the dark, dangerous
storm to send the wire he didn’t want to send.
Two weeks passed. May slowly crept upon the land. The crops
Lucas helped plant were growing. They were getting an abundance
of rain that year and that made the families happy. It was a
sunny Friday morning in early May when Margaret rode up to the
McCain house when she got some news.
She had just started toward the chicken coop when Laura rushed
outside. “Margaret, Margaret!” she called.
Margaret turned and bent down to hug the little girl. “How are
you today, Rosebud?” She enjoyed using Lucas’s pet name for his
sister. It made him seem closer then he really was.
“I’ve got a secret!” Laura declared with a mischievous grin.
“Oh?” Margaret asked as she raised her eyebrows at the little
girl. “And am I going to get to hear about this secret.”
Laura bobbed her head up and down as her smile widened. “It’s
At the mere mention of his name, Margaret’s heart fluttered.
“Luke sent a letter!” Laura declared. “I had to leave the room.
Papa made me. But Luke sent a letter!”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Margaret jumped up and rushed
toward the McCain house. No one had heard a word in three weeks.
For three weeks, Margaret had desperately been looking for a
letter. Each day, her heart sank more and more and she became
more and more worried about Luke. But today…finally there was a
letter! Laura led Margaret inside the house where she found
Emily sitting at the table snapping beans. “Is it true?”
Margaret asked as she rushed inside. “You heard from Lucas?”
Emily stopped snapping the beans as her eyes registered
surprise. Then she narrowed her eyes at her seven year old
sister and quickly stood from her chair and hurried over to
Laura. “Laura Rose, you march right into that room! And don’t
you come out until I tell you!” Emily gave Laura a hard swat on
the backside as Laura hurried toward her room. Laura let out a
loud cry of protest.
“I declare!” Emily untied her apron and sat it on the table. “I
told her not to say anything! I was going to tell you myself!”
Emily hurried over to the fireplace and took a piece of paper
from off the top of the mantle. “It’s not a letter, really. It’s
a…” Emily‘s voice cracked as she turned away from Margaret..
“Let’s go outside.” Emily turned her head toward her parent’s
bedroom door. Mama’s in with Papa. I’m afraid he’s taken a turn
for the worse.”
Margaret stared at the closed door of the bedroom wondering what
had caused this turn for the worse. She suddenly got a bad
feeling deep in the pit of her stomach. Margaret turned and
walked outside, closing the door to the house behind her. Emily
walked Margaret away from the house before turning to her and
holding up the paper. “It’s actually a telegram from your
brother. Luke is…” Emily swallowed. “He’s ill, I’m afraid.”
“Ill?” Margaret tried to grab the telegram from Emily. “What do
you mean he’s ill?”
“Well…” Emily hesitated as she looked back toward the house.
“When Papa read the telegram, it gave him some awful pains.
Peter’s gone for the doctor.” Emily’s voice died in grief.
Margaret shook her head. “What do you mean he’s ill?” She asked
Emily sighed as she handed Margaret the telegram. “ “Margaret,
he has a terrible case of pneumonia!”
“So, then he’s coming home?” Margaret asked. “He’s…”
Margaret’s voice died as she read the telegram:
Lucas has developed double pneumonia.
Doctor says his condition is critical.
In Army camp in Corydon.
Pray for him.
Send family my love
Emily’s eyes filled up with tears. “Margaret, he may not…” She
stopped as she began sobbing.
“No!” Margaret grabbed Emily by the arm as if she suddenly
needed strength. “No! He’ll survive! He’s strong!”
“I hope so.” Emily’s sobs became deeper then.. “Margaret, I’m
afraid Pa doesn’t have long for this world. He told Ma this
morning shortly after we received this telegram that he’s ready
to meet Jesus.”
Margaret suddenly threw her arms around Emily. “I’m sorry! Oh,
I’m sorry!” They wept in each other’s arms for a bit, then
Margaret lifted from her friend. “Will Lucas come home after
“No, Margaret. If he recovers, they’ll put him back to work.”
“But they can’t!” Margaret declared protectively. “It’ll take
him a while to get his strength back. They need…”
Emily shook her head. “He signed up to be in the army, Margaret.
If he gets better, they expect him to continue his service.”
“And if he doesn’t?” Margaret asked.
“Well….” Emily swallowed. “I guess no one will need his
services.” She sat down on a stump in the yard. “Oh
Margaret…First Papa and now…Luke…” Emily again threw her hands
to her face and cried.
Margaret quickly made some sandwiches and packed them in
Abraham’s saddlebags as he hurried into the house. “It’ll take a
week’s hard riding to get there,” he announced as he grabbed the
bag from Margaret. Then he stopped when he saw Margaret’s
concerned eyes. “How’s Pa?”
Margaret shook her head. “He’s very ill I’m afraid.” Margaret
felt her eyes fill with tears. “Abraham…” Abraham paused from
filling his saddle bags and turned back to her. “Abe, I know you
want to get to him as fast as you can, but…don’t kill yourself
in doing it. Your family’s already suffering enough.”
“I know.” Abraham looked towards his father door. “How long does
he have?” Margaret heard the crack in Abraham’s voice. “I mean,
when I get back…”
“I’m sorry, Abraham, but you should say goodbye now,” Margaret
whispered. She watched as Abraham went toward his parent’s
bedroom to say goodbye.
It was some time later that he came out. Margaret saw the pain
in his eyes as he reached for his saddle bags. “Abraham…”
Margaret took the letters from her pocket. “Could you…” she
stared at the letters. Pressing them to her lips, she asked,
“Would you take these to Luke?”
Abraham nodded as he grabbed the letters. “I’ll be back as soon
as I can!” He laid a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll…tell him you
love him…” Margaret nodded.
“Abe?” Laura called from the door. “Ya goin’ to see Luke?”
Abraham bent down in front of his sister and nodded. “Yes,
Laura held up the silver dollar. “Kiss it quick.” Abraham did as
instructed. “Will you kiss his for me?” Abraham nodded. Then he
gave her a kiss. “And I’ll give him a kiss for you.” Abraham
stood up. “You mind your Ma and sister while I’m gone.”
“Abraham?” Margaret called as he started out the door. She took
his hand. “Godspeed?” Abraham nodded then he hurried out the
The next days passed slowly for Margaret and the McCain family.
They spent a lot of time together praying and waiting for word
on Lucas. They prayed for Marcus who was still in bed very ill.
The doctor said his heart was quickly giving out. In fact, he
wasn’t sure why Marcus was still alive.
Margaret would come to sit with Marcus quite often so the family
could do their chores. It had been two weeks since they received
the telegram about Lucas. Margaret finally got the courage to
write a third letter to Lucas. She had sent the first two with
Abraham when he left to travel to Indiana to be with him during
My dearest Lucas,
My heart is so troubled. As I sit here beside your father
listening to him breathe, I’m thinking about you in that army
camp suffering from pneumonia. I begged Pa and Abraham to let me
go, but neither would permit it. I so wanted to be there and see
you. They said the trip is quite dangerous, even for Abraham. I
do hope you were able to visit with him. I hope he was able to
care for you the best way he knew how.
As I sit here, I’m remembering the kisses you gave me. I
remember the way I felt when you kissed me late Saturday night,
then Sunday when I just had to see you again. I wanted you to
know that they meant a lot to me. I think of it often and hope
that someday I’ll again feel your arms around me.
I pray that by the time you get this letter things will already
be improving for you. I…Well, I just hold you close in my heart
and can’t wait for you to return.
Margaret heard Marcus groan. She reached for the water on the
side of the bed. “Luke…Luke…” he mumbled weakly.
“Abraham’s not back yet, Uncle Marcus. You just lay there and
rest.” Marcus gasped for breath. He lifted his head to take a
few sips of water as he pressed a hand against his chest.
Margaret gently laid his head back onto his pillow as she
allowed a tear to slip from her eye. She ached for the family.
She couldn’t imagine how she would feel if something were to
happen to her father. In fact, Marcus McCain was like a father
to her. The two families were so close that at times it felt
like they were all family.
“Luc…as…” Marcus mumbled. He opened his eyes and looked at
Margaret. “He loves you.”
Margaret smiled as she smoothed back his hair and straightened
his blankets. “I hope so, because I love him.”
“I pray…” Marcus swallowed hard. “…he lives…for you…” He gasped
Margaret tried to stand, but he grabbed a firm hold of her hand.
“No, don’t…don’t go!”
“I should get Aunt Ruth!” Margaret whispered.
“No…” Marcus shook his head. “No…You stay with me.” Marcus
swallowed. “I’m not going yet.”
Margaret sat back down beside him. “When Luke comes back…”
Marcus swallowed. “…You marry him…Have lots of babies…”
“I don’t know if he loves me, Uncle Marcus!” Margaret felt tears
in her eyes. She felt Lucas’s father was giving her his last
“He loves you.” Marcus turned and looked at her. He lifted a
hand and wiped a tear. “He loves you like I love Ruth.” He
lowered his hand and reached for her hand. “I see the…” he
swallowed. “…the same light in his eye that I had for his
mother. I see…his smile when he says…says…Margaret…” Marcus
smiled faintly. “So you marry him! You become a…a…rancher’s
Tears fell from Margaret’s eyes as she smiled down into Marcus’s
eyes. He’d finally accepted the fact that Lucas wanted to be a
rancher. She licked her lips as her tear fell onto his cheek. “I
want you to be there to see us married.”
Marcus smiled. “I’ll be there.”
He fell asleep. Margaret stood from her chair and walked out
into the living room. When Emily and Ruth saw her tears, they
jumped up. “He’s not gone,” Margaret shook her head. “But I
don’t think it’ll be long. I think he’s waiting.”
“Waiting?” Emily asked. “Waiting for what?”
Ruth smiled sadly as she walked toward the bedroom. “To see if
your brother’s going to be joining him,” she answered in a
broken voice as she walked inside and closed the door.
Abraham pulled his horse up outside the army camp. Two privates
hurried up to him and restrained him from going any further.
Abraham tried to break away, but their grip was strong and
forceful. “My name’s Abraham McCain!” Abraham gasped
breathlessly. “I’ve come from Oklahoma Territory. I’ve ridden a
horse, traveled by train, and ridden a horse some more to get
here!” The men only stared at him. “Lucas McCain!” His head
quickly jerked back and forth as he looked from one man to the
other. “Is Private Lucas McCain here?”
“At ease, men!” A Lieutenant slowly walked up to the group.
Abraham straightened up as the men let go of him. “He’s in
here. Follow me.” Abraham didn’t like the cold sound in the
man’s voice. He wondered if he was already too late.
Abraham followed the Lieutenant toward the tent. “I’m glad you
got here so quickly. He hasn’t much longer.”
“Then he’s alive?” Abraham felt his heart leap inside his chest.
“My brother’s alive?”
The Lieutenant nodded as he motioned toward the doctor.
Abraham stopped at the foot of his brother’s bed. He threw a
hand to his mouth as he listened to his brother struggle through
his breathing. The gurgling sound was loud. Lucas’s face was
blue. He turned and looked at the doctor. “Doc?” he asked
“I’m sorry. He’s gotten worse in the three days since he got
here.” The doctor turned and looked at Abraham. “I…didn’t
expect you so soon.”
“I was able to catch a train for most of the way,” Abraham
answered. He sat down in the chair at the head of his brother’s
bed. The doctor slowly walked away. “Luke!” Abraham swallowed
hard as he grabbed his brother’s hand and held it up to his
face. “Luke, this is your big brother talking. You can’t die!
You can’t die!” Lucas struggled to breathe. His breaths were
“He should be gone in mere minutes. Be glad you got here when
you did,” the doctor announced.
Abraham turned and stared at the doctor, not quite believing the
little faith he seemed to put in miracles. Abraham leaned
forward. “Lucas Mark McCain, now you listen to me!” Abraham
swallowed as his eyes filled with tears. “Margaret Gibbs loves
you! That woman is crazy about you! You must live for her! You
hear me, baby brother? You must live for Margaret!”
Lucas’s breathing slowed. “Mar…ga…ret…” Lucas mumbled. “Mar…ga…ret.”
“That’s right!” Abraham pressed a hand to his brother’s
forehead. “That’s right, Luke! Margaret is waiting for you! She
loves you so very much. You must live! You must live so you can
go fight in the war then move back home and marry Margaret!”
Abraham continued talking to him. He reminded Lucas of Margaret,
Emily, Laura and their brothers waiting for him at home. Abraham
spoke softly to Lucas all through the night. He read Margaret’s
letters to him, then he told Lucas story after story of all the
things he and Margaret had done together. He reminded Lucas of
the dances, the church socials, and even the trouble they got
into. At some point, they both fell asleep.
As the sun shone through the tent the next morning, Abraham
lifted his head from his brother’s chest. He stared into his
brother’s face. “Oh, Dear God!”
Margaret had just gotten to the McCain Ranch on Sunday morning
to sit with Marcus again when she heard a horse racing up. She
turned in the yard to see Abraham returning. Margaret dropped
what was in her hands and raced into the McCain house. “He’s
here! Abraham’s here!” she shouted.
The family was at the table having breakfast. Abraham hurried up
to stand behind Margaret. He had a tired expression on his face,
but the news he was carrying was hard to see. He laid his hands
on Margaret’s shoulders and pushed her inside. “Pa?” he
“Pa’s still alive.” Jeremiah stood. “He’s…waiting for the news.”
Abraham nodded as he took his hat off and slowly walked towards
the bedroom. Margaret stood back watched the McCain family walk
toward Marcus McCain’s bedroom. Abraham paused at the door and
turned. He looked at Margaret. “This news concerns you too,” he
stated softly. Then he held out an arm to her. Margaret hurried
forward and allowed him to put an arm around her shoulders.
The family gathered around the bed of Marcus McCain. “Pa?”
Abraham swallowed as he sat down on the side of the bed. Marcus
barely opened his eyes. Abraham turned and looked at his family
with a look of sadness, realizing his father was barely alive.
“Abraham?” Marcus questioned as he tried to lift a hand from the
bed. Abraham reached down and grabbed his father’s hand.
“Abraham, is that…you, son?”
“Yes, Papa.” Margaret saw tears slip from Abraham’s face and mix
into his beard as he stared into his father’s face. “Papa, I’ve
“He’s alive?” Marcus swallowed. “Is my boy alive?”
“He lives, Papa.”
Margaret threw her hands to her mouth as she started weeping
with relief. Her heart swelled in love. She dropped to her knees
and thanked God for the news. Emily moved to Margaret and
dropped to her knees as well. They held each other and cried in
“My…boy…lives…” Marcus mumbled. “He…lives…”
Then a slow breath sounded as it was released from the man in
Then everything was quiet. Not a sound could be heard for
“Papa?” Marcus almost whispered the word. “Papa!” Margaret
lifted her head when she heard the desperate question in
Abraham’s voice. “Papa, don’t…don’t leave me! Please, Papa!”
Abraham begged as if he were that six year old little boy again.
Everyone began weeping as they slowly came to the realization
that Marcus McCain was now in the arms of Jesus. Emily and
Margaret clung to each other and wept tears – happy tears for
Lucas, yet mournful tears for Marcus. Peter and Jeremiah dropped
to their knees at the side of the bed and laid their head on
their father’s lifeless body. Abraham wept as he laid his head
on his father’s chest.
“Pa? Pa?” Laura cried suddenly.
Ruth picked her daughter up and clung to her. “Papa’s with the
angels, darling. He’s in heaven with Jesus.”
“I don’t want him to go!” Laura cried. “Papa, please don’t go!
Please!” she pleaded.
Margaret lifted her head from Emily’s shoulder and wiped her
eyes. “He was holding on for Luke. Emily, he wants Lucas to be a
rancher. He told me.”
They hugged again as the room was filled with quiet sobbing as
the family mourned the passing of Marcus Luke McCain.
Margaret quietly stood and left the room, leaving the family to
grieve. She began gathering up the dishes and cleaning the
kitchen. Her hands shook. She wanted to drop to her knees right
there and cry, but she forced herself to work. It wasn’t long
before she heard the door open and close. “Margaret?”
Margaret turned to see Laura wiping her eyes. She bent down in
front of the little girl and put her hands on the little girl’s
cheeks. “What’s heaven like?”
Margaret fought back her own tears. She knew Laura needed her
right now. “Well…” Margaret stood and took Laura’s hand. They
went to sit down at the table. Margaret propped her head up with
her hand and thought. “Heaven is so wonderful that once you’re
there, you will never want to leave.”
“You mean…” Laura bit her lip. “Papa won’t come back to visit?”
Margaret shook her head. “He’s there for…forever?” Margaret
nodded. Laura looked toward the room. “Mama says that Jesus came
and took his soul.”
Margaret nodded. “And the soul, Laura, is the source of life.
Without it, you can’t breathe and your heart can’t beat.”
Laura looked down at the table. Then she looked back up to
Margaret. “Is Jesus going to take Luke’s soul?”
Margaret felt her eyes fill with tears. She scooted her chair
out and tapped her legs. “Come here, honey.” Laura crawled up
into Margaret’s lap and laid her head against her chest. “I know
it’s really hard to understand because…well, it’s hard for
grownups to understand.” Margaret smoothed Laura’s hair down. “I
don’t know how long Luke has on this earth. I don’t know how
long I have. But…God knows.”
“Abraham went to see Luke. He wouldn’t let me go.”
“I know. That’s because Luke was really, really sick,” Margaret
Laura lifted her head from Margaret’s chest and hung it down.
“Papa was really sick.” Laura raised her head back up to look at
Margaret. “Why’d God take Papa and not Luke?”
“I don’t know, honey,” Margaret answered as she pressed a hand
to the little girl’s cheek. “I don’t know.”
The door opened. Margaret stood as the family started exiting
the bedroom. “We’ll burry him up on the hill, Mama. I think he’d
Margaret turned to leave. Abraham stopped her. “We’ll have a
small funeral for him this afternoon. Can you ask your family to
come?” Margaret nodded. “Margaret…” She turned back to look at
Abraham. “Uh…I have to burry my father now, but tomorrow, we
have some things to talk about.”
Margaret nodded as she hurried out.
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my
life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.”
Abraham’s voice died, leaving an eerie silence in the air.
Everyone kept their heads bowed as they stared at the coffin
that would soon be lowered into the ground. No one spoke. Each
member of the Gibbs family squeezed Ruth’s hand as she cried
softly. Her black dress set the mood for the whole group who had
gathered to say goodbye to Marcus McCain.
“Why don’t you take your family and go home, Abraham. You’ve
been awake for days,” Jeremiah mumbled.
“No, no…” Abraham wiped the remaining tears from his eyes. “I
have to do this…for Luke.”
Margaret turned and stared at Abraham. Her eyes grew wide at the
statement. Abraham lifted his head and looked at her. “Tomorrow,
honey. I’ll explain everything tomorrow.”
Margaret said nothing as she quietly walked away. She saw Laura
standing beside the coffin. Her hand was pressed to the top as
she silently whispered, “Papa…Papa…” Margaret saw tears resting
on the little girl’s cheeks as she tried to wrap her mind around
the fact that her father was gone.
“Come on, honey. They need their privacy.” Margaret felt Scott’s
arm go around her and she turned and walked away.
When the Gibbs got home, no one wanted to do anything. Losing
Marcus was like losing a close member of their own family. There
was such a deep, mournful feeling in the air. Scott and Johnny
helped their sisters from the back of the wagon, then they drove
the wagon toward the barn. Beth slowly walked inside and,
without a word, went to her bedroom and closed the door. But
Margaret slowly sat down at the table as her knees gave out.
Now she could grieve. Now she could let her tears flow. Her
tears started slowly. She could feel the concerned eyes of her
parents watching her as they stood in the living room. Margaret
suddenly began shaking with sobs. Jennifer lowered herself down
beside Margaret and took her daughter in her arms. “There,
there,” Jennifer soothed her. “Let it all out, my darling. Cry
it all out.”
From experience, her parents knew that Margaret had to cry in
her own time. She was very sensitive and had a big heart.
Finally, Margaret’s sobs subsided. “I…can’t believe he’s gone,”
Margaret said as she sniffed.
“I know, honey.” Samuel sat down beside her. “We’re only
guaranteed today. We don’t know if we’ll be here tomorrow or
“I can’t imagine…” Margaret closed her eyes as more tears
slipped down her cheeks. “I can’t imagine a child having to grow
up without his or her mother or father. It’s hard for Laura to
understand why. Why would God take a father away like that?”
Jennifer continued to smooth her daughter’s hair. Margaret had
always been sensitive. She was really struggling to understand
all this. “He was sick for a long time, honey. Now his suffering
Margaret lifted her head from her father’s shoulder and looked
at her mother. “And Laura’s has begun. She has to grow up
without a father.”
“She has four brothers that will raise her right. She’ll never
lack love.” Samuel put a gentle hand on his daughter’s shoulder,
while her mother laid a hand on her other. Margaret closed her
eyes and cried. Together, both parents sat with Margaret as she
The next day, there was a knock on the door of the Gibbs’ house
just before it opened. When the McCain’s came to visit, they
didn’t wait permission to enter, and it was the same when the
Gibbs’ went calling on the McCain’s. The families were too close
Margaret turned from kneading the bread. She wiped her hands on
her apron and gave Abraham a sad smile. There was still so much
sadness in his eyes. “Can we talk?”
Margaret nodded. “But if you need to wait longer, I…” Margaret
paused when she saw a pained expression on Abraham’s face.
“No.” He took his hat off. “Um…I promised myself I’d talk to you
as soon as I got back.”
“Alright.” Margaret untied her apron and walked toward the door.
Abraham took her arm and led her behind the house as they made
their way to the pond.
There was silence between them while they walked. Abraham didn’t
speak until they were actually sitting on the bank looking out
onto the water. “Does Luke know about his father?” Margaret
Abraham nodded. “He knows.” There was a sadness between them.
Marcus’s passing was still very difficult to accept. He had been
a Patriarch between the two families for so long. Margaret
could tell Abraham was struggling with his words. His voice was
so raw with emotion when he finally spoke. “I didn’t figure he’d
still be alive when I got back.”
“He was waiting for you.” Margaret announced this softly. “He
was waiting for you to get back.”
“I know. And I’m everlastingly grateful I was able to be there
when he died. I never expected it.” Abraham turned to her.
“Margaret, Luke was really, really sick. He almost…” Margaret
lowered her head and slowly closed her eyes. “If I hadn’t come,
I really believe…”
“How…” Margaret stopped, allowing the rest of her question to
lie between them.
“I told him that…” Abraham swallowed the tears that were coming
in his throat. “I told him he had to live for you.”
Margaret allowed a tear to slip from her eye and roll down her
cheek as she allowed the thought to wrap around her heart. “Live
for me?” she questioned.
Abraham reached out and grabbed Margaret’s hand. “Honey, you are
like a sister to me, you know that. I’ve known for quite some
time that Lucas is in love with you, though he would have never
admitted it…” Abraham looked her in the eye. “…before.”
“Before?” Abraham nodded as he told her about his reunion with
“Oh, Dear God in heaven!” Abraham lifted from the chair as he
stared into his brother’s wide eyes. “Lucas, you’re alive!”
Lucas’s face held a look of surprise. Weakly, he said his
brother’s name. “What are you…”
“Luke, you almost died last night. You were…you were…Oh, Luke!”
Abraham’s eyes filled with tears as he stared into his brother’s
“What happened?” Lucas asked as he licked his lips. “I remember
me and Andy traveling to…but I don’t remember…” Lucas stopped to
lick his lips again.
Abraham hurried and gave him a drink of water. “You developed
double pneumonia. You were high with fever and they didn’t think
you’d pull through. I arrived last night.”
“Did you come by yourself?” Lucas looked around the room as he
tried to sit up, but he was still so weak. “Didn’t she come with
you?” Lucas suddenly became agitated and confused.
“Margaret. She was here last night. She was right here.” Lucas
patted the side of the bed. “She kissed me and told me I was
okay. I…” Lucas stopped when he saw his brother’s raised
eyebrows. “I was hallucinating.” Lucas shook his head. “She was
Abraham shook his head at his brother. He couldn’t help riling
him just a bit. “And you say you’re not in love with her.”
“I’m not! I…” Lucas stopped and looked up at Jeremiah. He tried
sitting up again. This time he was a bit more successful. “I’m
glad she’s not here. I would have had a few things to say to
Abraham smiled. “Is that before…or after…you kissed her?”
“Oh, stop it!” Lucas grumbled. “I’m never going to live this one
Abraham sobered. “Look, Luke…You were almost gone last night.
When I got here, the doctor said you only had a few minutes to
live – that’s how bad you were. I said Margaret’s name. All
night, I talked to you about how much she loves you. I reminded
you of all the things you have been through together, the dances
you’ve gone to, and the kiss you shared after each dance.”
Lucas turned and narrowed his eyes at his brother. Abraham
shrugged. “You just thought you were alone.” Abraham sighed.
“Anyhow, she’d written you two letters and I read them to you
several times last night. That helped get you through.”
“I…” Lucas sighed. “I can’t believe they sent word to you. I
can’t believe they allowed you to come.”
“Well, first of all, Luke, Andy sent word. He knew we’d want to
know. Andy had to go back to his camp afterwards, I’m sure.
Second of all, nobody can stop a McCain! I rode like mad getting
here, had to jump on a train and hide in the stock car, then
rode like mad to get here the rest of the way.”
“Pa would lick you if he knew you’d stolen a ride!” Lucas
declared. Abraham’s eyes suddenly averted from him, but not
before Lucas saw the pained expression come over his face.
Abraham stood and turned from Lucas. “Is it Pa?” Luke sat up
even more. He groaned at the pain he still felt in his chest.
“Abraham, is it Pa?”
Abraham nodded without turning. Lucas watched his eldest brother
lift his head sideways. He saw his brother’s shoulders rise then
slump. Finally, Abraham turned. He had tears on his cheeks.
Lucas’s eyes suddenly clouded. “He’s gone? Pa’s…gone?” Lucas’s
voice was mixed with grief and disbelief. Abraham didn’t say
anything as he allowed the realization to sink in. “Oh God, no!
Papa! Papa!” Lucas buried his face in his hands and began
Abraham sat down on the cot and took his brother in his arms. He
allowed him to cry. Abraham’s heart broke as he held his
brother. He hated doing this. He hated telling Lucas their
father had already passed, but he couldn’t send a cold letter
and allow Lucas to mourn alone. Lucas needed someone there to
help him through this ordeal. Abraham allowed the tears to fall
down his own cheeks as Lucas wept like a child for his father.
Abraham was relieved that Lucas didn’t ask any more questions.
Maybe he was afraid of the answers. Finally, Lucas lifted from
his brother’s shoulder and wiped at his tears. “I knew…” Lucas
swallowed hard. “I knew he was saying goodbye that last day. He
knew that…” Luca’s eyes clouded with tears again. “Even then, Pa
“Yes.” Abraham nodded.
Lucas looked at his brother then. “Are you going to blame me for
this?” Lucas asked. “After all, it’s my fault.”
“Pa’s heart’s been bad for two years, Luke. It’s not your fault.
We all knew he was living on borrowed time already.” Lucas could
hardly believe his brother’s words. He had expected Abraham to
blame him. “I think…you and I need to have a little talk, Luke.”
Margaret sat quietly listening to everything Abraham said. His
words left her stunned and in shock. She could feel a hundred
emotions boiling up inside her. “Before I left, he had me write
this letter for him. He was still too weak to…Well, by now he’s
probably on his way back to his post.” Margaret stayed silent as
she continued to take in Abraham’s words. She felt him slip the
letter in her hand. “He loves you, honey. He said some pretty
important things in that letter.”
Margaret stared at Abraham. She finally found her voice. “You
lied to him?” She whispered these words angrily. “You told him
your father was…” she swallowed. “…was dead?”
“I had to, honey,” Abraham answered quietly as his eyes filled
with tears. They pleaded silently for her to understand. “I had
“You had no right!” Margaret cried. “You had no right to say
“I had to, Margaret! Don’t you see I…I had to?” Abraham grabbed
her hands. “The doctor…”
“No! No, you didn’t have to!” Margaret cried. “You should have
told Luke the truth – that his father was dying.”
“And then send him a cold letter or telegram that his father has
died? No, Margaret, it was better this way.” Margaret stood up.
She shook her head in disbelief. “Margaret, you’re like a sister
to me, so I’m asking you to trust me. I did what I thought was
best for my family. After all, with Pa gone…”
“…You’re the head of the family.” Margaret looked away from him.
“Are you going to tell him the truth?” Abraham studied her
silently. “Are you?”
“It’s better this way.”
“What if he hadn’t died? What if God had chosen to give him
longer and make him better for a spell?” Margaret shook her
head. “You were wrong, Abraham. You were wrong and nothing will
ever make you right.” She wiped hot, angry tears from her eyes.
“Do you…I mean…does the family know?”
“Then why did you tell me?” Margaret asked then.
“I…think you’ll understand once you read the letter why you are
the one I told.” Abraham stood and looked down at her.
“Margaret, I had to do it this way. Maybe someday you’ll forgive
“Maybe.” Margaret looked down at the letter. She was a very
understanding and forgiving person, but this…this was going to
take some time. “I guess you should know that your father gave
me his last wishes.”
Abraham stared at her. “What do you mean?”
“I was sitting with him three days ago. He told me he knew Luke
loves me and that I love him. He wants me to marry him.”
Abraham grinned as he dug his hands in his front pockets. “Oh.”
He pointed to the letter. “Then read it. I think Pa would
Margaret watched Abraham walk away as she sat back down to read
I don’t know where to start. There’s so many things I have to
say to you. By now, I’m sure you know just how close I was to
death. You know that when Abraham got here, the doctor had
pretty much declared I was dead. Well Margaret, getting that
close to death…it gets a man to thinking about things.
There are some things I should have told you before I left you.
I had no right to leave you the way I did – not when I knew the
truth about things. But, well I guess I just always figured you
were too good for me. When I took you to the dance at 14, I
never thought you’d entrap my heart the way you did. We’ve
always been best friends, and you know that. Ever since we were
in diapers, it seems like we had this bond between us, and it’s
only grown stronger with age.
I must admit, Margaret, that I’m a bit embarrassed at some of
the things I’m saying, but they are things that must be said, so
here I go. I fell in love with you that night of the dance. As
you patiently taught me to dance, you were so patient with me
and your eyes…they sparkled. You didn’t want to embarrass me
about my lack of training in certain areas, and you even formed
a code-word, “Bullet,” to keep my secret. But it was the moment
that we stood by the corral and I kissed you that I knew. You
had captured my heart.
Margaret, I wish I could tell you these things in person instead
in a letter. Things are said so much better in person. But…well,
I just can’t leave you like this. The truth is, I’m fighting in
a war; and though we don’t like to talk about it, there’s always
the chance that I won’t come back. After almost leaving you last
night, I just couldn’t…I couldn’t leave things like that.
Because in that instance when your brother told me I almost
died, the one thing I regretted was not telling you how I really
I love you, Margaret Gibbs. I love the way you wear your hair
down even when you’re working out on the ranch. I love the way
you look for me when you come to gather the eggs. I love the way
your hand brushes against mine as you playfully take an egg from
my hand and pretend my touch doesn’t make you shiver. I love the
way you get riled when I don’t remember my manners. I love the
way you sit in church and glance at me from the corner of the
eye, thinking I don’t notice.
There are a million things I love about you, my sweet darling. I
shiver when you say my name. I smile when I see you in places
that I don’t expect to see you. But one thing I hate is having
to leave you. It breaks my heart every time I have to say
goodbye to you. On Sunday’s when church is over, I simply wave
to you and ride off, but in truth it pains me to do that. Every
day after you gather the eggs, I hate watching you mount your
horse and leave me. I often let you mount your own horse, my
sweet, and it’s for reasons a man doesn’t like to think about.
Touching you…it scares me in ways I can’t explain.
But Margaret, in everything, I LOVE YOU. I can’t imagine my life
without you. When I picture my ranch, I picture you there with
me. I can’t see my future without seeing you. I love you, and
when I get back, we’ll talk about our feelings. But for
now…we’ll have to leave it here. I can’t make any commitments to
you – it wouldn’t be fair of me. But I just had to tell you now,
my Sweet Margaret.
Abraham told me about my father’s passing. He held me and
allowed me to cry it all out. I’m glad he was here when I found
out, because I don’t think I could have handled reading the
words in a cold telegram or being told the news by my Captain. I
don’t know how I would have gotten through this last ordeal
without my family by my side. So in a way, maybe my illness was
from God because He knew I’d need someone here during this time.
Abraham and I talked for a long time about our relationship too.
We are now closer than ever, and he’s accepted the fact that I
have different dreams. We laughed and cried together, and our
relationship is so much better now.
I pray your family is well, Margaret. I pray that you had a good
time at the dance. I’m sorry I couldn’t take you when you wore
that rose colored dress with the little green flowers on it and
a sparkle of white on each flower. I know you looked beautiful,
but…I’m afraid I would have been too busy staring at your
beautiful face to have ever noticed the dress!
And the dress you wore the year before was definitely green!
Write me soon, my sweet. I’ll be thinking about you always.
Julie opened the door when she heard the knock. She saw Margaret
standing there with tears in her eyes. “Come in!”
“I came to talk to Abraham,” Margaret said. “Some things were
“I know. He told me.” Julie put a hand on her swelled belly as
she felt a kick from the life inside her. “He went to take care
of some chores at the farm. You can wait. I…”
“Margaret?” Margaret turned to see Abraham standing in the
doorway. He sat his saddlebags down on a nearby table and closed
Margaret looked down at the letter in her hand. “I…read the
Abraham looked over Margaret’s head. Julie hurried outside to
leave the two alone. “Abraham, I can’t say that what you did was
right, but…I do understand.” She pressed her fingers on the
letter. “You’re right. Lucas needed you when he got the news,
Abraham motioned for Margaret to sit down at the table. He
rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “Listen, I thought on
the things you said, and I know it was wrong, but at the
time…Margaret, it just happened. I never intended to lie to him,
but once it was out I just couldn’t…”
“I know.” Margaret nodded.
“I’ll tell the family just to make sure they don’t tell Lucas.
If you want, I’ll tell him the truth when he comes home.”
Margaret nodded. “I’m…sorry I had to “listen” in on your private
conversation with Lucas.”
“So am I.” Margaret smiled. “I’m a little embarrassed.”
“Don’t be.” Abraham smiled. “It was good to see Luke humbled
like that and…it gave us a chance to get our feelings out in the
“I’m glad.” Margaret smiled.
“So?” Abraham lifted his eyebrows. “Am I forgiven?”
“You promise to tell Lucas the truth?” Margaret asked.
“As soon as he comes home, honey. I promise!” Abraham declared.
Then he cringed. “Though, I’d rather face a pit full of
rattlesnakes than tell him the truth.”
“You’re forgiven.” They hugged. Abraham had always been like a
big brother to her. She loved him as much as she loved her own
“Tell me something, Abraham.” Abraham raised his eyebrows and
waited for her to go on. “How much…help did you give Luke with
“Help?” Abraham poured a cup of coffee. “I don’t understand what
you mean? He told me what to say and I wrote it.”
“Exactly like he said it?” Margaret asked. Abraham nodded. “Oh…”
Margaret unfolded the letter. “Because Lucas remembers that the
dress I wore to the dance was uh…’ rose colored dress with the
little green flowers on it and a sparkle of white on each
flower.’” She looked up at Abraham.” He shrugged. “That’s very
interesting because he doesn’t know that was the color of my
Abraham’s hand froze as he lifted the cup to his lips. “I
thought you said he helped you pick it out.”
“Yes. He did.” She walked to the door. “But, he picked out a
yellow material and I don’t like yellow much. So, I went with
rose colored with little green flowers instead.”
“Oh.” Abraham shook his head. “Well, then I guess it’s a good
thing Luke’s fighting for our country right now, huh?”
“Imagine that!” Margaret declared as she shook her head. “Luke
had to turn to his married brother for help!” She opened the
door. “In fact, how is it that you were able to describe the
dress so well?”
“I’m married and have learned from experience to pay attention
to that sort of thing. When Julie saw your dress, she described
it to me later and told me she wanted some material like that
for Christmas. Having been married for three years, I’ve learned
to pay attention to such details.” Abraham grinned. “I reckon my
little brother will learn it as you train him.”
“Yes.” Margaret smiled as she turned to walk out the door. “I
imagine he will.”
After she closed the door behind her, Margaret looked down at
the letter and pressed it to her lips. “He does love me.” She
smiled. “Luke McCain, I’m going to marry you someday!”
The Years Before — A Distraction
This is a story based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch