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Joined: 31 Jan 2009
Location: Harrison, AR
|Posted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:42 am Post subject: Chapter 26: Death of a Lieutenant
|Death of a Lieutenant
The Years Before
Lucas McCain laid on his cot that morning and stared at the picture of his beloved Margaret. Being away from her was harder some days than others; and today was one of the hard days. He had such a longing to hold her in his arms and kiss her. Oh, today he’d settle just to hear her sweet laugh or stare at her face from a distance. “Margaret…” Lucas mumbled. “My sweet Margaret, I miss you so very much! Oh, I wish this war would end so…”
Lucas shook his head and reminded himself he was a lieutenant. Lieutenants didn’t lay on a cot staring at a woman’s picture and talking to it. He had work to do…important work. Lucas picked up the letter lying on the makeshift table beside his bed. He opened it and reread those words he’d read yesterday.
Another year is upon us, my love. It’s another year I have to face without you. I make the same wish every December 31, and every year I get the same answer. Oh, I’m trying to be patient, Lucas. Really, I am. Some days I think that I can because I got so much work to do…I’m still helping Julie with the children. Yet other days, I…Oh Lucas today I feel so lonely. I just want to see you…to feel your arms around me. Oh, how I wish you could come home. I…don’t know how much longer I can bare this.
I love you, Lucas. You are always in my heart.
Lucas stuffed the letter back in the envelope and stuffed it back in his jacket pocket. He grabbed his Bible and opened it. He placed the picture inside the Bible so he could feel they were reading the Bible together, then he began reading. But he’d only read two words when he heard the trumpet sound the battle cry. Lucas quickly placed his open Bible on the cot, grabbed his rifle, and ran out of the tent.
The picture never made it back in his pocket.
Lucas shouted out orders to his men. Those men who had horses mounted and quickly got in formation. The United States flag always went first. The Captain held up his hand and called the charge. Then they all hurried to do the job they were paid to do.
The fighting was dirty and exhausting work. Captain Benton continued shouting out orders to his men, while Lucas did more of the same. Lieutenant Lucas McCain hurried toward the cannon to tell the men to work harder. Captain Benton fired another shot from his rifle, as he watched Lucas go. He was proud of what Lucas had become. Lucas, he must admit, was one of the finest Lieutenants he had ever had. Lucas knew how to get the job done without taking much flack from his men. Lucas was good at giving out orders, and it only took one of his many facial expressions to get his point across. Only a few men had dared the expression, and none of them remained standing after doing so.
Captain Benton’s thoughts were suddenly brought back to the present when the air was suddenly filled with a loud explosion. Captain Benton shielded his face from being hit by debris, then turned to look in the direction of the explosion. There was too much smoke to see what the damage was. Captain Benton hurried toward the place of the accident. Some of his men started to follow him, but he shouted at them. “Keep working! Nobody told you to stop! Just keep shooting the enemy! Push them back and make them run.”
Captain Benton felt his heart beating faster and faster as he ran toward the explosion. He had last seen one of his favorite soldiers…a man he counted as a dear friend…go in this direction. Oh God…please let Luke be okay! Please! Captain Benton prayed silently.
But he had a sinking feeling deep in the pit of his gut. He knew what he was going to find. Some of the smoke lifted away, and he saw a sight he’d never seen before. Captain Benton felt the contents of his stomach begin to swirl as he walked through the smoke and stared at the charred remains of soldiers he’d eaten breakfast with earlier that morning. There was no way of knowing who they were. There was no way of knowing even how many…
Captain Benton looked through the sickening heap. He looked at the jackets hoping…praying…he wouldn’t see any with charred bars on them. But then his eyes stopped. He stared at one of the bodies. It was obvious the man had been tall and strong and…there was no way of knowing who it had been, but Captain Benton dropped to his knees and searched the pocket. The bars on the jacket wasn’t enough. He had to know for sure.
Captain Benton’s hand paused from inside the deceased soldier’s pocket when his hand brushed against something. Slowly, he pulled the charred remains of a letter from the pocket. He stared at the writing mixed with blackness. Unfortunately, he could still make out enough of the words to know the truth. Captain Benton felt his eyes fill with tears as he stared at the name.
Johnny rushed toward Captain Benton’s tent. When he got to the opening, he stopped dead in his tracks. The image that met his eyes was much, much more than he could stand. Captain Benton was on his knees with his head in his hands. Johnny could hear his sobs from deep within.
That’s when he knew the news he had heard was true. “Captain Benton?” Johnny called softly. Captain Benton paused and lifted his head, but he didn’t turn. “Is it true? Is he really dead?” Johnny watched as the Captain bobbed his head up and down. Johnny wasn’t one given to crying, but in that moment, he felt tears he hadn’t cried since his boyhood suddenly come to his eyes. Johnny’s legs felt shaky as he slowly sat down on the cot. “N…no…” Johnny shook his head. “No…It can’t…it just can’t be true!”
“I’m afraid it is.” Captain Benton turned and slowly walked over to Johnny. “The cannon exploded. The bodies were unrecognizable, but I found this in the jacket pocket of one of the bodies.” Captain Benton picked up an envelope and handed it to Johnny. Johnny saw Margaret’s name on the envelope. He saw her beautiful handwriting as she had lovingly written his name on the front. “I’m sorry…” Captain Benton swallowed hard as he again lowered himself to the cot. “I’d give my own life for it not to be true.”
Johnny could say nothing as he stared at the envelope. He was remembering the conversations he and Lucas had had around the campfire. He was remembering all the fights they’d had growing up, and all the jokes they had played on each other. Tears filled his eyes and slowly flowed down his face. He put the envelope to his head, his hands folded, and he sobbed deep sobs. Captain Benton put an arm around Johnny as they both wept some more for the truth that had happened that day.
Finally, the men were quiet. “I have to send a telegram to the family…” Captain Benton spoke in a whisper.
“No.” Johnny shook his head. “We can’t…we just…We can’t! They don’t deserve to find out in a telegram…That’s so cold…so…We just can’t!”
“It’s procedure, Drako!” Captain Benton declared. “No family deserves a cold telegram when they are told their loved one has died, but it’s the only way we have to contact the family. A letter…it would take too long. You and I both know they have the right to know as soon as possible. I have no choice.”
“Oh…” Johnny sighed as more tears fell from his eyes. “This is going to kill Margaret…I wish I could tell her myself.”
“I’m sorry. We need you here.” Captain Benton stood up. His knees shook as he walked to his desk. “I don’t want to do this anymore than you. But I do want to send the family a personal note home as well…to express my condolences to them…And send his personal things.”
Johnny stood. “I’ll do the same. I…” Johnny turned and looked at Captain Benton. “What do I say to them?”
“You’ll have to let your heart speak.”
Johnny nodded as he turned away. His feet felt like jelly as he forced himself to walk. “I’ll get his things ready.” Johnny’s voice broke.
“Johnny…” Captain Benton hurried up to him. “Johnny, no one would expect you to do that. I’ll get one of the Private’s too…”
“No.” Johnny shook his head. “No. I…I’ll do it.”
Johnny felt numb as he left the tent. How does one get over the death of a best friend – a man who had been a mentor all these years? If anyone had survived this war, Johnny was sure it would have been Lucas McCain. But now…Lucas was no longer on this earth. Johnny stopped at the entrance of the tent and turned back. “His body…”
“We’ll have a small ceremony later. Why don’t you pick the spot.”
“And I’ll dig the grave!” Johnny declared.
“He’d do the same for me. He deserves so much more respect than we can give him!” Johnny declared. “Sir, please let me do this.”
Captain Benton nodded. “Alright. You bury Lucas.”
Johnny slowly made his way from the tent. He felt tears on his cheeks and didn’t care at the moment. “Sergeant Drako, is it true?” He heard some soldier ask a question, but he brushed him off. He felt the stares and watched men without faces bow their heads in mourning. In spite of Lucas’ rough and tough attitude, the men held him high in respect and loved him. He was a wonderful Officer to work under because he listened to them. He tried to feel their pain.
“Drako!” Johnny continued to ignore those who called his name. He paused at the tent Lucas had stayed in and closed his eyes. He wasn’t much of a praying man, but in this moment he found himself speaking to the Creator. How do I do this, God? How do I say goodbye? Please give me strength.
Johnny swallowed hard, then licked his lips as he slowly went inside the tent. He hurried to the table and lit the lantern. The small light cast a haunting glow over the tent. Johnny shivered. Though it was freezing outside, he was used to that cold by now. But this was a different kind of cold. It ran through his whole body and he shook from it.
Johnny wiped his eyes and picked up the bag that would hold the contents – he’d make sure it made it back to Enid. He started to pick up a small book on the makeshift bedside table, but his hand froze. He turned and stared at the open Bible sitting on the cot. He slowly lowered himself to his knees and stared at the Bible. The picture of Margaret poked upwards from the spine. Johnny sat down as he picked up the picture. It never left Lucas’ pocket…at least he never knew it to. But today, here it sat.
Johnny wept as he held the picture in his hand and balled his fist up against his forehead. His body shook as he allowed himself to grieve for Lucas in the privacy of the tent. Those going by could hear the grief, but it wasn’t exactly unheard of in the camp. Others had lost loved ones, both in the war and at home. What happened in the tent was never mentioned so Johnny felt safe on allowing himself to express his grief.
He’d known Margaret for about as long as he’d known Lucas. Margaret Gibbs was always a wonderful woman, and Johnny had an eye on her himself when he was younger. But he was loyal and immediately stepped away when she and Luke went to the dance together that first year. Johnny didn’t deserve her, after all…he’d been one of the boys to refuse to ask her since she still had pox all over her face from the recent chicken pox she had…
Johnny wiped his eyes as he lifted the open Bible from the bed. He stared at the words written in the margin. “I need strength every day, Lord. And every day you give it to me. Blessed be your name…” He read the Psalm Lucas had apparently spent hours memorizing. The page was well worn – obviously a place that was often looked toward.
Johnny read the words out loud in his broken voice:
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Johnny’s voice quieted. He heard muffled crying coming from the tent entrance and looked up to see his Captain standing there. Captain Benton cleared his throat, trying to clear the grief from his shaky voice. “We…need to get to the burying…” He walked into the tent and kneeled down in front of Johnny. “Those words you read…they can give you strength during this time as well.”
“I’m not much of a Bible reader myself,” Johnny declared as he closed the Bible. “But I’ll send this home to the family. He has a lot written in the margin. I think that it’ll…show them a side of Lucas they didn’t know existed.”
“Alright.” Captain Benton laid a hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “You know I’d send his body home to the family if I could. I mean…you know that I would…”
Johnny stood up. “No matter. I don’t think Lucas would care one way or the other.” Johnny forced his rough attitude to resurface. He hurried and packed the remainder of Lucas’ belongings. “Well…I guess someone can sleep a bit warmer tonight. They can use Lucas’s bedroll.”
But Captain Benton heard Johnny’s voice shake. He simply nodded his head and patted Johnny on the shoulder. “Let’s go.”
Silas heard the telegraph buzzing and hurried to transcribe the message that was coming from the United States Army. But it didn’t take long for his hand to begin shaking. His eyes filled with tears as he forced himself to record the message. “This can’t be…” he mumbled. “Oh, this can’t be…”
Mike, his assistant, looked up from sorting mail. “What is it?”
Silas stood up, not acknowledging his assistant’s question. “Mike, I have to run an errand. You stay here until I return.” There were tears in his voice as he hurried from the office.
Abe McCain laughed as he listened to Laura tell the latest happening at school. His four sons laughed with him, even though they didn’t understand everything that was being said. Julie held their daughter, Rachel on her lap as she tried to get her to sleep. But then Abe heard a knock on the door. “Well, I wonder who would be coming at this time of night!” Abe wondered as he went to answer the knock.
When he opened it, he saw Silas standing there. “Silas! What brings you here? Don’t you know it’s…” But Abe’s voice died when he saw the pained look in Silas’ face. He looked down and saw him clinching a telegram. “Silas?” Abe suddenly said. His face turned to worry as Silas continued to stare at him.
From behind him, he heard Julie come up. “Julie, go get the boys ready for bed.”
“Abe, I…” Julie started.
Abe turned his head sideways. “DO AS I SAY!” His voice boomed with emotion. Julie hurried to gather the boys up. “Laura, you go help her.”
Abe stepped onto the porch and closed the door. Silas finally spoke. “Abe…I don’t want to do this. You know I don’t want to do this.”
“Is it Luke?” Abe suddenly asked.
“I asked you a question!” Abe shouted. “Is it Luke?”
Silas grew very quiet. His lips trembled as he tried to get the words out. “Yes. I’m sorry.” Abe took the telegram from Silas and watched Silas mount his horse and hurry away.
Abe stared down at the telegram in his hand. His eyes filled with tears at the mere thought of reading the words. Without hesitation, Abe stuck the unopened telegram in his pocket and hurried toward the barn. He slowly sat in the darkness of the barn and remembered back over the years to all the times he and Luke had been together. The memories were good for the most part. Abe just stared as he sat in the darkness and remembered.
He was so deep in his thoughts that he didn’t even hear the door open. Julie lit the lantern and gasped when she saw her husband staring at the ground as he sat still. His face was white. Julie slowly walked over to him and kneeled down in front of him. “Abe?” she said softly. Abe looked at her, but his eyes didn’t focus. “What is it?”
“I think you know…as well as I do…” Abe answered as his voice choked. Abe sighed. “I don’t have to open it to know what it says.”
“Let me have it, Abe,” Julie ordered softly.
“No.” Abe shook his head. “You can’t do that. I…”
“Abe…” Julie took her husband’s hand. “Let me have it.”
Abe reached in his pocket and pulled it out. Julie stared at the writing on the front:
To: Abraham McCain.
From: The United States Army.
Julie felt her eyes fill with tears as she slowly sat on the floor of the barn. She bit her lip as she slowly turned the envelope over and opened it. Abe’s moist eyes focused on hers as she bravely removed the single piece of paper and opened it. Silently, she read it and started weeping. Abe felt his own eyes fill with tears. Julie forced her tears down. She had to get the words out before she completely broke down.
To the family of Lieutenant Lucas McCain. We regret to inform you that Lieutenant Lucas McCain was killed in the line of duty on Friday, January 13, 1865. He was a fine Lieutenant and will be dearly missed. I’m so sorry for your loss. A letter will follow. Captain Tom Benton.
Julie allowed the telegram to fall from her hands and float to the floor of the barn. She felt the sobs deep within herself. Her body started shaking as she allowed the sobs to come. At the sound of her deep, painful sobs; Abe slid to the floor and buried his face in her shoulder. They held each other tight, and didn’t move for a long time as they cried for the loss of his brother, Lucas McCain.
Sleep didn’t come to Abe and Julie that night. They laid in bed holding each other, trying to come to terms with the truth. The darkness was appropriate, for it matched their grief. Abe wondered how they would break the news to the others. Everyone would need to be told as soon as possible, yet Julie and Abe didn’t feel telling everyone together was appropriate.
Regardless of the dark mood, the sun decided to shine as usual on that January morning. The rooster crowed as he always did, announcing that it was time to start another day. Abe went to feed the animals and milk the cow. Laura rose from the bed and dressed for school, but when she came out she sensed the mood her mama was in, and she didn’t like it. She knew that something was wrong.
“When you’re finished eating, Laura, I would like you to help get the children dressed,” Julie said quietly as she sat the oatmeal in front of Laura.
“What about school?”
Julie turned from her and put a hand to her mouth. “You won’t be going to school today.” She tried to keep the tears from her voice, but didn’t quite make it.
Abe came in and sat the milk on the counter. He saw Julie trying to keep from crying in front of Laura. As Laura went to help the children dress, he took his wife in his arms and they shed more tears. “We’ve got to be strong, honey. Laura’s going to need us so badly.”
“How do we tell her? How do we make her understand?” Julie asked. “Oh Abe. This is something I never…never wanted to do!”
“I know.” Abe sighed. “I think we’ll take the children down the hill. We can break the news all at once, then I’ll go tell Jeremiah and Em.”
“What about Margaret?” Julie asked.
“Margaret…” Abe mumbled. “That’s one I don’t want to do.”
“Perhaps we should tell Scott. Then he and Amanda can tell Margaret.” Julie sniffed as fresh tears ran down her cheeks. “Oh Abe…this shouldn’t be happening!”
Abe clinched his jaw as he forced himself to be strong. “Julie, we knew this could happen when Luke joined the army to fight this war. We just have to come to terms with it!” Abe turned and went toward the door.
“Where are you going? I have your breakfast!”
“Out,” Abe answered. “I couldn’t eat a bite.”
The children were sent to Ruthie’s room to play. After Tiffany closed the door, she poured coffee and sat down. “What’s this all about?” Peter asked, not liking the look his older brother was giving him.
Abe cleared his throat. He looked at Laura and took her hand. “I’m afraid that…I have some news.”
Peter and Tiffany looked at each other. Tiffany took Peter’s hand and held it tight. “What is it?” Peter asked.
“We…received a telegram last night…” Abe pulled it from his pocket and sat it on the table. Peter stared at it. He felt his mouth grow dry and looked up at Abe. His eyes held a silent question. Abe gave him a slight nod. Then, slowly, he lifted his hand to take the telegram. He lifted the telegram and opened it. Abe turned away, not being able to stand the look that would soon cross his face.
Peter fell on his knees from the chair. “Oh Dear God…” Peter cried. He put his face in his hands and wept. “No…Oh God, please NO!” Peter cried out.
Tiffany got on her knees in front of her husband and took him in her arms. She had a pretty good idea what the telegram said as she smoothed his hair and spoke to him softly.
“What is it, Papa?” Laura asked, suddenly very alarmed. “What’s wrong?”
Abe reached out a hand to his sister and lifted her onto his lap. “Laura…the telegram’s about…Luke…”
Laura’s mouth opened. Her eyes filled with tears. “No…” She shook her head slowly. “No…”
“I’m sorry, honey.” Abe pressed her to him and wrapped his arms around her. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Abe began crying as he listened to Laura’s sobs. “I would do anything…ANYTHING to make this not true!”
“It can’t be!” Laura gasped in deep breaths. “He can’t be dead!”
Abe and Julie held Laura as she cried.
Abe hated leaving his family at such a time. Everyone was gathered at the McCain house to grieve the death of their beloved brother, Lucas. Emily was the only other McCain who didn’t know. Abe made his way into town to give his sister the bad news.
His heart was heavy as he slid from his horse and walked toward the clinic. “Abe!” Abe stopped and turned when he heard his name. Abe sucked in his breath when he saw Scott hurrying toward him. “Abe, I didn’t figure on seeing you in town today. I…” Scott stopped when he saw the saddened look on Abe’s face. Suddenly realizing that Abe was on his way to the clinic, he lost and smile and asked, “Abe, what’s wrong? What is it?”
Abe sighed as he put a hand to his face. “Yes. Something’s wrong, Scott.” Abe felt his eyes fill with tears. “Walk with me to the clinic.” His voice was again broken.
When they came in, Jason hurried from the back room. “Abe!” He called his name cheerfully, but stopped speaking and lost his smile when he saw the somber look on his face. “Abe, what’s wrong?”
Jason folded his arms. “She’s in the house cleaning.”
“Oh.” Abe sat down on the chase lounge. “It’s just as well…” Scott and Jason sat down beside him. “We got some bad news last night.” Abe lifted his head. “A…telegram.”
“A…” Scott allowed the words to sink in. “No…Oh NO!” Scott jumped up and started pacing the floor. He put a hand to his forehead. “NO!!!!!” He cried out suddenly.
Abe lowered his head and rubbed his hands together. “I’m willing to tell Margaret if you want. But I thought you should know first.” Abe sighed. “I’m sorry. This is going to be hardest for her, I’m afraid.”
“Pa came to town last night and got smashed.” Scott mumbled. “She’s already upset about that. Now this…” Scott shook his head. “This is going to kill her…” Scott stood up. “I’ll go home and tell her now. I…” Scott turned. “Would you like us to…”
“I hoped you would. We all need each other right now.” Abe looked toward Jason.
“I’ll…close up the office then go tell Emmy.” Jason shook his head. “This…This is going to set her back…”
“If you want, I’ll tell her.”
“No.” Jason shook his head. “I’m her husband. It’s my job. I’ll break it to her as gently as I can.”
Abe suddenly broke into tears. “It’s just so hard…so hard to believe!” He suddenly cried out.
Jason put his hand on one of Abe’s shoulders while Scott did the other. The three men just sat there for awhile, silently letting Abe know they were all in this together. They would have to lean on each other more now. Scott sighed as he stood up. “Come on. Let’s get you out of town. We’ll let the others know tomorrow. But for now…I think we should keep this just between us.”
Jason nodded. “We’ll be at the farm soon, Abe.”
Amanda smiled when she saw Scott riding back into the yard. He had been so upset the night before about his father that she hadn’t had time to give him the news. She imagined how happy he would be to learn that he would soon be a father. Amanda hurried to the bedroom and ran a comb through her hair, then hurried out to meet her husband.
But as she ran towards him, she saw the sagging in his shoulders and the wrinkles on his forehead. “Did you find your father?”
“No,” Scott answered. “I heard he was there all night but…” Scott punched the door with his fist. “Right now I don’t give a damn where Pa is. We have bigger problems.”
“What, Scott?” Amanda had hardly ever seen her husband cry; but right now he was on the verge of it. She saw his eyes fill with tears.
“Luke’s gone,” Scott said simply.
“Luke McCain?” Scott nodded. “You mean’s he’s…”
“Oh no…” Amanda pressed a hand to her belly as she tried to come to terms with what this would mean. “Poor Margaret…”
“Where is she?”
Amanda turned and looked toward the house. “Sh…she received a letter from him yesterday. She’s at the pond….writing him another…” Scott nodded and started toward the pond. “Scott…”
“If you could tell the rest of the family for me…I’ll handle Margaret.”
“No, Scott!” Amanda hurried forward and grabbed him. “I think Mama Jenny should tell her.”
“I’m her brother!” Scott shouted suddenly.
“I know.” Amanda’s eyes filled with tears. “Scott…This is something that takes a lot of thought and sensitivity. I love you dearly, but you’re not exactly the most sensitive man in the world…Please, let your mother handle her.”
Scott nodded. He walked toward the house to tell his mother.
Jennifer wiped her eyes as she stepped out into the bright sunlight. She shivered as she tightened the coat around herself and looked toward the pond. Jennifer’s legs felt shaky and weak as she started forward, but she stopped when she heard a horse quickly approaching. Jennifer turned to see Emily racing into the yard as if the devil was after her. Emily jumped from her horse and ran over to Jennifer. “Oh Aunt Jenny!” Emily cried. “It’s just awful! It’s awful!” Emily laid her head on Jenny’s shoulder. She was the closest thing to a mother Emily had now, and she needed a mother’s comfort so badly.
Jennifer didn’t disappoint her. She put her arms around Emily and held her while they both cried. “I know, baby. I know.”
“Why? Why did he have to die?” Emily’s screaming question was muffled.
“I don’t know.” Jennifer lifted Emily’s head and looked into her eyes. “Does your husband know you’re here?”
“N…not exactly,” Emily answered. “He went to tend to a last minute patient and I couldn’t stay there. I just couldn’t! Not when Margaret is…” Emily clung to Jennifer again and cried.
Jennifer called to Scott. The front door of the house opened and Scott stepped out. “You need to go into town and tell the doctor Emily’s here so he won’t worry.” Scott, still numb from the news, looked towards his mother and Emily. “Don’t just stand there! Do it!” Jennifer looked down at Emily again. “I haven’t told Margaret yet. I was just on my way to..”
Emily quickly wiped her eyes. “I’ll come…if you want.”
“I do.” Jennifer nodded. They started walking out onto the range as Jennifer kept a strong arm around Emily. “This is a hard time. I remember when we learned of Andy’s death…I couldn’t get out of bed for several days afterwards, but in time we learn to…well, to accept the hard things in life. Now I can smile because I remember all the good times my boy had on this earth. Even though his life was short, he was a wonderful young man and I’m proud of how he died.”
“I’m worried, I’ll admit that. She and Lucas have always been so close. She has so many happy memories of Lucas and she’ll move on eventually. Eventually, it’ll be those memories that take her through these hard times.” They paused when they saw Margaret stand up from the bank and turn. She started toward them. “Let’s be strong, Emily…For Margaret.”
Both women straightened their shoulders, grabbed hands for mere strength, and waited for Margaret to approach. “Mother!” Margaret smiled as she approached the women. “You shouldn’t be here. It’s so cold. I was just about to…”
“Margaret, we need to talk.” Margaret looked from her mother to Emily. Emily couldn’t stand to look Margaret in the eye. She quickly lowered her head away.
“Talk, Mother?” Margaret’s voice suddenly grew shaky. “Talk about what?”
“Margaret, let’s sit…”
“NO!” Margaret shook her head. “I can see it in your eyes, Mother. And in Emily’s. Something dreadful has happened. What is it?” Emily and Jennifer looked at each other. How would they get the words out? “Is it Pa?”
“No.” Jennifer’s eyes filled with tears. “It’s not your father, Margaret. It’s…” Jennifer swallowed hard as she reached out for her daughter’s hand. “It’s Luke, honey.”
“Luke?” Margaret looked from her mother to Emily again. Her eyes grew wide and her mouth opened. She slowly shook her head. “Nooooo…..You’re wrong!” Margaret held up the letters in her hand. “See? I just got a letter from Luke yesterday. He misses me and wants to come home to marry me. Look!”
“Oh Margaret…” Emily reached out for her hand but Margaret snapped her hand back. “Margaret, I’m afraid Luke’s…he’s…”
“No…” Margaret shook her head as she slowly walked backwards away from them. “NO! You’re…you’re wrong! You’re both wrong!”
“Honey…” Jennifer started. But Margaret turned and ran away onto the range as fast as her legs would let her run.
“I’ll go after her,” Emily mumbled.
“We’ll go to her.” Jennifer’s voice broke into a whisper as tears slid down her face. “Soon…But for now, let her heart speak to her.” Jennifer put her arm around Emily and they turned back to the house.
Margaret ran blindly for some time as tears clouded her vision. She ran until her feet would go no more than she collapsed to the ground. She stayed face down on the ground and allowed her body to shake with sobs. She couldn’t think…She could hardly even breathe. All she could do was cry. She began shaking all over,. “It’s not true!” Margaret cried. “Oh God, it can’t be true!” Margaret found some strength to stand up. She clinched her fists and stood in the middle of the field as the icy wind started to blow through her. “GOD, TELL ME IT’S NOT TRUE…PLEASE…” She hugged herself and closed her eyes. Her voice was a mere whisper. “Please…tell me…”
Something inside her snapped. She ran blindly through the field as she sobbed out loud. But she didn’t see the tree in front of her. She felt the thud as she ran into the tree, then she fell to the ground.
She felt her feet running…running through a tall field of grass as she called the name of her beloved over and over, but there was no answer. She looked one way, then another; but as far as they eye could see, she saw nothing. “LUKE!” she screamed with all her might. “LUKE!”
Suddenly, she stopped short. Ahead there was a grave, only it hadn’t been covered yet. Margaret slowly made her way forward. She had to see. She had to know for sure. Slowly, her feet moved until she was finally at the grave. Margaret lowered her head and looked into the grave. Then she threw her hands to her mouth and gasped.
The grave was empty! It was empty!
“Luke!” Margaret called again. She screamed his name over and over, waiting for her beloved to answer.
“Margaret, I’m here…” His voice was faint and so far away. “I’m here, my love! I’m here! I’m alive! Help me!” Margaret turned and raced toward the sound of his voice, but her feet suddenly tripped. She felt herself falling…falling…falling…
“He’s alive…” Margaret mumbled as she shook her head from side to side. “He’s alive…He’s alive…”
Margaret felt a warm blanket cover her. A hand pressed to her head as she forced her eyes to open. She blinked rapidly as the figure over her came into focus. It was a man. Margaret gasped. “Dr. Livingston!”
“Welcome back,” Jason said as he smiled down at her.
“Jason…” Margaret turned to look at her surroundings and found that she was in her own bed. “How did I…”
“That wasn’t smart running like that, young lady! You tripped and fell…hit your head on a rock. Don’t you remember?”
“No, I…” Margaret saw her mother standing behind her. “Mother…Luke’s alive! He’s alive…”
“Oh Margaret…” Jennifer shook her head. “Honey…He’s not! He’s dead.”
“No!” Margaret shook her head. “You know how I feel when Luke’s in danger? Well, I don’t feel that! I feel he’s safe somewhere. The army made a mistake! Luke’s alive!”
“No, honey…He’s not! He’s dead!” Jennifer declared. She laid a hand on Margaret’s cheek. “You must accept that.”
“No!” Margaret flung her mother’s hand from her cheek. She tried to sit up, but the room suddenly started spinning. “No! He’s alive, Mother! He’s alive!”
Jason pressed his hands on Margaret’s shoulders and forced her to lay back. “You have a concussion. You just lay still there!” Jason ordered. He turned to Jennifer. “That’s enough. She’s too sick to take the emotions of this right now. Just leave her be.”
His voice was harsher than he than he had intended, but he couldn’t help it. He had to think first about his patient. He heard Jennifer let out a cry then turn and hurry from the room. “Now, you just lay back there and rest. Just rest. You’ll feel better tomorrow.”
“But he IS alive, Dr. Livingston! He IS alive! I know he is!”
“Alright.” Jason nodded. “We can talk about this later.”
“NO!” Margaret licked her lips. “He’s in trouble! You’ve got to find him.”
“Margaret…” Jason turned to see his wife standing behind him. “Honey…” Emily dropped to her knees. “You must calm yourself. You got a very bad hit on the head.”
Jason turned and opened his bag to get out a sedative. Margaret was too upset. She needed to sleep.
“Won’t anybody listen to me?” Margaret cried as hot tears burned her cheeks. “Won’t you listen? Emily, he’s ALIVE! Your brother’s ALIVE!”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because…” Margaret’s voice became weaker as she felt a sting in her arm. “Emily…if he were dead, my heart would tell me so. But he spoke to me…He’s alive and he’s hurt! He…” Margaret suddenly felt like she was floating. “He’s…he’s…alive.” Her eyes closed as the sedative took affect.
Emily stood and tucked the blankets around Margaret. She turned and looked at her husband. He hardly looked at her as he remembered the scare he’d given him earlier. “Are you…still angry with me?”
“What do you think?” Jason asked with a hint of hurt in his voice.
“Jason…my heart was breaking! My brother and I…we grew up together. We were the closest in age and I…” Emily started crying. Jason put an arm around her shoulder and led her out into the other room.
Jennifer stood in alarm as she clinched her hands together. “Jason…Margaret?”
“She’s okay. I gave her something to help her sleep.”
Jason sat Emily down at the table, then went to pour himself a cup of coffee. He could see the grief in the Gibbs’ eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss,” Jason said as he turned back to them. “I wish I could have met him.”
“Maybe…Maybe he is alive,” Emily mumbled. “Maybe…”
“Emily!” Jason hurried over to his wife and dropped in front of her. “No! Don’t even think that! Margaret’s heart is breaking. She’s hit her head pretty hard and…”
“No, Jason…” Emily shook her head. “You don’t understand the bond between Margaret and Lucas. If he were dead, she’d feel it in her heart. She would.”
“No, honey.” Jason shook his head. “She’s in denial right now. She hasn’t accepted the truth…”
“I don’t know. Maybe…just maybe…”
Yesterday, I received some bad news. I feel I’m not grieving enough to suit everyone. They keep asking me if I’m accepting of the news, but…Something’s not right. When Luke’s been in trouble before, I felt so afraid, as if he was saying goodbye. But I feel such a peace in my heart. I feel that he’s alive and he’ll come home to me soon.
I just…can’t believe he’s dead. I won’t believe it because my heart tells me different. My heart screams that he’s alive.
Four Days Earlier
Lucas ran across the field. His face sweaty in spite of the cold temperatures. He watched another man fall as he ran to the men behind the cannon. “I want you men to blast them!” Lucas ordered. “You need to get that cannon going faster!”
Lucas started to turn away, but paused when he saw a man without a coat shivering in the cold. “Where’s your coat?” Lucas asked the Private.
“Sir…the attack came so fast that…I had no time to put it on! I had to run – to fight for my country!” The man answered proudly. “I’ll be okay! Honestly, I will!”
Lucas’ heart swelled at the devotion this man felt. He smiled as he took off his coat and handed it to the Private. “Wear mine. I think it’s hot out here! I don’t need it right now.”
“But sir…” The Private started to protest as Lucas held his coat out to him.
“It’s an order!” Lucas declared. He nodded as the Private put his coat on. “Now, let’s get moving!” Lucas bent down to open the keg.
Lucas heard the explosion, but he didn’t see it. He coughed as he felt pain in his head from the blast. It only took a second before Lucas realized he had to get out of there. He forced himself weakly on his feet and ran through the thick smoke. Gunshots fired all around him and he felt a bullet hit him in the shoulder, but he kept running. Lucas screamed, then fell to the ground.
Lucas’s heard sounds and a voice, but he couldn’t make out what the noises were. He felt someone touch his forehead. He screamed out in pain, but he couldn’t open his eyes. Lucas shook from head to toe. He was so incredibly cold. He felt something rub down his shoulder, then across his chest. What was that, he wondered? Lucas tried to move his lips, but a soothing voice stopped him. He laid back on the pillow and went to sleep.
Sometime later, consciousness returned. Lucas again heard the soothing voice speak to him. He forced his eyelids to open, and they did a bit, but he could only see a blur. Lucas moved his head and touched his face. He felt bandages wrapping his head. “Margaret…” Lucas mumbled from somewhere in the recesses of his mind. “Margaret…”
He again heard that soothing voice, but he couldn’t open his eyes enough to see who was speaking to him or where he was. He once again drifted off to sleep.
But this time, he dreamed. He couldn’t hear any sound, but he saw Margaret crying. Her lips silently cried his name. Lucas tried to focus, but her face faded away.
This time when he awoke, he sat straight up in bed. A man…a stranger…hurried across the room and pushed him back down onto the pillow. “Ya jest lay still now, ya hear?” Lucas focused on the man’s face. It was a black man, and he held a comforting smile on his face. “Ya been out cold fer days.”
Lucas laid back as the man pressed a cup up to his lips. “Name’s Tom.”
Lucas took deep gulps of water then laid back on his pillow. “What…what happened? Where…where am I?”
“Found ya in the woods.” Tom stood up and wet another damp cloth. “I’s had ta dig a bullet out a yer shoulder and lots a metal out a yer head. Ya still have quite a lump on yer head. What were ya hit with?”
Lucas forced his mind to go back, but he couldn’t. “I…I don’t know. I…”
“Ya a soldier. Ya remember thet?”
“Yes. A Lieutenant. But it’s all burry. I…” Lucas shook his head. He groaned at the severe pain in his head. “How did I get in the woods? Why wasn’t I found on the battlefield? I don’t understand!”
Lucas was becoming agitated. Tom pressed a hand to Lucas’ good shoulder and pushed him back down. “Now ya’s jest sleep. I hafta change those bandages again in a while. It’s quite painful and you scream awful loud when I change ‘em. Ya must have quite a hard head not to have kilt over!”
“You found me?”
“I was out huntin’ and came across ya, sir. Thought ya were dead, I did! Yer head was all bloodied, and yer shoulder…Don’t know how ya got there, but I’s sure glad I found ya!”
“Yeah. I…” Lucas suddenly felt very weary. He felt sleep coming over him once again.
Lucas cried out in pain as Tom washed his wounds out. He cursed at the pain he felt and took another swig of the homemade whisky the kind man gave him to drink. “I’s sorry I’s hurtin’ ya, Mista. I’s hafta clean those so gangrene don’t come in. I’s seen a plenty of thet, and it ain’t purty!” Tom continued to wash his face, then moved to his shoulder. Lucas continued to scream, curse and drink. He finally relaxed and laid back on the pillow after Tom wrapped his head.
“Name’s McCain,” Lucas said. “Lucas McCain.”
“I’s didn’t know. I’s…”
“Didn’t you check my jacket pocket? I should have had my name in there. It always is.”
“No sir,” Tom answered. “Ya had no jacket an’ I can’t read.”
“Oh. I’m sorry…I should have realized…” Lucas’ eyes suddenly grew wide. “I didn’t have a…” Lucas gasped and sat up. “Oh NO!”
Tom was a strong man and forced Lucas back onto the bed. “Mista, ya not fit ta move around!”
“I remember! It was cold and we were fighting a battle.”
“Yes sir, I’s heard the gunfire and cannons. I’s heard it all!” Tom answered with a nod of his head. “I’s stayed here til the fire died down, then I went out to look while I’s hunted fer my suppa, but I’s come across ya a ways from where the shootin’ was happenin’. I brung ya back here.”
“I gave my coat to a private because he didn’t have his. I was hot and he was shivering, just standing over the cannon stuffing gun powder into it. So I gave him my coat…” Lucas’ eyes grew wide as he continued to think on it. “Oh….I bent down and an explosion happened. I felt sharp pains in my face, then I ran to get out of there…trying to survive…I was shot and I kept running, but I couldn’t see anything. My face was on fire and I…”
“Sounds like ya did all ya could do!” Tom declared. “Th’ others weren’t so lucky, I bet.”
“The others…” Lucas’ eyes suddenly grew wide. “They think I’m dead! They…” Lucas tried again to get up, but Tom again pushed him down. “They think I’m dead! You don’t understand! A man had my jacket on and he was about my size. They’ll think…”
“Sir…You are very hurt! You’re shoulder will start bleedin’ again!”
“But I have to send word! I have to get back to the camp and…”
“No!” Tom shouted. “Ya can’t, Mista! Ya jest can’t!”
Lucas cringed when he felt the pain in his leg. He lowered himself back down on the cot and groaned. “Where’s my pants?”
Tom hurried across the room and grabbed his pants. “Ya musta hurt yer leg going down, Mista!”
Lucas dug through his pockets for the picture. “Where is it?” Lucas dug fiercely. He needed her strength right now. “Where’s her picture?”
“Margaret’s?” Tom asked. Lucas raised his eyebrows. “Said her name time aplenty when ya was out of yer head, Mista. She yer woman?”
“Yes.” Lucas nodded. “I need her picture! I…” Lucas’ eyes grew wide. “It’s on the way back to Enid! I left it in the Bible!”
Lucas sat up. “Tom, listen to me. You’ve got to get me back to that camp. I’ve got to…I’ve GOT to send word that I’m alive!”
“It’s a long way and it’s a snowin’!” Tom declared. “Ya’s gonna hafta wait!”
Lucas hit the wall beside his bed and cursed. “They think I’m dead…I’m causing them all such grief because they think I’m dead!”
The snow storm lasted three long days. Lucas and Tom had no choice but to sit around the cabin and talk. Lucas enjoyed talking to Tom. Tom was very intelligent about the woods, as well as so many other things. One day, Tom even told him Bible stories from memory. Lucas wondered where he’s learned the stories with such detail.
Lucas enjoyed listening to the man very much, but felt frustrated that his family was mourning his death. “I’ve got to get home!” Lucas declared the morning they heard the winds stop howling.
Tom bundled up and went outside. When he came back in, he shook his head. “Snow is deep, mista!” Tom shook his head. “Ya’s in no condition to ride. Yer cuts er still a healin’!”
Lucas sat on the side of the bed and rubbed his leg. It was really swollen now, but he clinched his jaw. “You don’t understand, Tom. I have three brothers and two sisters! I have a girl who loves me, and right now they all think I’m dead! I’ve got to get back! I’ve got to let them know I’m alive!” Lucas groaned and grabbed his head. It still hurt something fierce, but telling Tom that wouldn’t get him what he needed. “Look…don’t you have a horse?”
“I have an ol’ mule,” Tom answered. “Mista, it won’t get ya fer!”
“Help me get on him. You can lead me into the camp!” Lucas demanded impatiently.
“But mista, yer head’s still woozy!”
“I have to get out of here! Today!” Lucas declared.
“NOW!” Lucas shouted.
Lucas closed his eyes in regret as Tom turned from him and grabbed his old, raggedy coat. “I’m sorry. I appreciate all your doing for me. But you have to understand…”
Tom stepped over to Lucas. He saw Lucas’ head wobbling around from dizziness. “Listen Mista, I know what ya feel. Had me a family once myself. Had me a wife and two young ‘uns.”
Lucas slowly lifted his head toward Tom. Tom shoved Lucas down onto the cot and covered him up. “I’ll go saddle my mule. Then I hafta clean yer cuts and wrap ‘em real good. Then I’ll ride ya to th’ camp.”
Lucas screamed in pain again as Tom doctored his wounds. Tom shook his head as he looked at them. “Mista, I fearin’ ya in need of a docta!” Tom declared. “Them’s infected.” He wrapped the cuts. Lucas’ head was throbbing from pain right now. His shoulder ached as Tom wrapped it up tight. Then Tom helped Lucas stand. Lucas cried out as pain shot through his leg. “Ya can’t ride, Mista!” Tom declared. “Ya’s a sick man.”
“I know…” Lucas pressed his lips together. “But I have to! I just have to!”
It took an hour for Tom to get Lucas up on that mule. Lucas felt pain shoot through his entire leg. He screamed a curse and only half sat in his saddle. Tom took a rope and tied him down to keep him in the saddle, then he took the reins and led the mule away from his small cabin.
They traveled for quite awhile. Lucas felt as if he were about to pass out as Tom walked the horse through the snow and toward the camp where Lucas’ regiment was last seen. But when they got there, they were gone. “Ya sure this is where they was?” Tom asked.
Lucas pressed a hand to his forehead and groaned as his vision went blurry. “Get me down…” Lucas mumbled. Tom untied the ropes and slid Lucas from the saddle. He laid Lucas against a tree and wrapped him in a blanket. Lucas swallowed. “We have to…rest…until…I can…”
“Ya can’t travel no more, Mista! Ya’s runnin’ a fever. No sir…” Tom pressed a hand to Lucas’ forehead. “Ya’s stay here and I’s bring back help!”
Lucas didn’t even hear. He passed out. He drifted in and out of consciousness until finally he felt himself being lifted and slung over a horse. Lucas could hear his friend talking rapidly beside him, then he passed out again when he started moving. The next time he woke up, he was in a bed and again, somebody was messing with his bandages.
“Mister?” Lucas opened his eyes to see a young woman standing over him. “Mister, I must change your bandages.”
But Lucas grabbed her hand. He licked his lips to speak, but no words came out. The young woman lifted a cup to his lips and Lucas took several sips. Then he laid back on his pillow. “My name…is Lieutenant Lucas McCain…”
“Lieutenant?” The young woman looked down at him. “I didn’t know you were a soldier.”
“Tom didn’t tell you?”
“No sir. He’s downstairs praying. Black men aren’t allowed up here. owner’s rules.”
Lucas licked his lips. “He’s my friend. I…” He shook his head. “I need a telegram sent to the 13th Indiana…”
“Mister, we don’t have any way to send a telegram!”
Lucas turned his head and looked at the woman through squinted eyes. He felt such pressure on his head and wanted to go to sleep, but he forced himself to stay awake. “No…My Captain sent telegrams here before. He…”
“The snowstorm knocked it out, sir.” The young lady shook her head. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, I…” Lucas started to lift himself from the bed. The room spun.
“Mister, you shouldn’t move! You’re in a bad way and need a doctor!” The woman pressed against his shoulder and Lucas let out a loud scream. “I’m sorry…Listen, I can have your friend ride out further East of here. I believe there’s a Union Regiment camped there. Some of them came into town yesterday.”
“Alright.” Lucas licked his lips. “Can you write?” The woman nodded her head. Lucas gasped deep breaths as he felt himself start to fade away again. “Tell them…Lucas McCain of the 13th…Indiana…”
“Mister?” Jenny shook him, but he was out cold. She hurried out to give Tom the message.
Johnny Drako stared into the flames. He watched the ambers pop from the fire as he took another long puff off his cigar. Johnny allowed a small smile to play at the corners of his mouth as he remembered all the nights he and Lucas had sat there together. “Mind if I sit?” Johnny turned to see Captain Benton standing behind him. Johnny motioned for him to sit down. “We’ll leave to go further East in the morning.”
Johnny looked back West where he’d buried his friend. “I wish…”
“I know. It’s hard, but Luke wouldn’t want us to stop living.” Captain Benton shook his head. “I didn’t realize just how much of a friend he was until now.”
“Yeah.” Johnny threw his cigar into the fire and started to stand up, but they heard a horse rapidly approaching.
Captain Benton removed his gun from his holster and hurried forward. He and Johnny stepped into the light as a black man rode into the light of the fire. “Sir…” Tom dismounted his borrowed horse. “I come with important news.”
Captain Benton took the note from Tom and opened it. “Great God in Heaven!” he declared as he read the words again. He lifted his head. “Who are you?”
“Name’s Tom. I’s the one thet found him in the woods!”
“You…” Captain Benton turned and looked at Johnny. He slowly handed Johnny the note.
Johnny read the note. His eyes popped as he stared at the words. “He’s…he’s alive? Luke’s alive?” Johnny started to smile, but then shook his head. “No…I buried him! The coat…”
“Mista, I’s don’t know who ya buried in thet hole, but it weren’t McCain! I’s found him ‘most dead in them woods! He’s bad off an’ needs a docta!”
“But how?” Johnny mumbled as he looked at Captain Benton.
“He’s give his coat to another who didn’t have his. He’s a real nice man and love a woman named Margaret, he does. I reckon he’s worried they think he’s dead.”
Captain Benton dropped the cup in his hand. He turned to the First Lieutenant. “Take over here! I’m going to town!” Captain Benton and Johnny hurried and jumped on their horses. Then they rode away – FAST – with Tom right behind them.
A soft knock sounded on the door. Jenny looked toward the lieutenant who was tossing and turning on the bed, his fever was causing him much discomfort which only added to the other problems he was having. Jenny opened the door and smiled at the Captain and Sergeant standing outside with their hats in their hands. “Ma’am.” Captain Benton nodded at her. “Is it true? Is Lucas McCain really alive?”
They heard Lucas mumbling from the bed in his fevered state. Johnny wasted no time in pushing the door open and hurrying in. “Great Jehosephat!” Johnny declared as he dropped to the chair beside the bed. “Captain, it is Lucas!” Johnny reached out for Lucas’ hand and held it in both of his. “Lucas, ol’ buddy! You’re alive! Thank the good Lord almighty!”
Captain Benton hurried into the room. “What’s wrong with him?”
“I think some of his cuts are infected. I’m doing the best I can, but without a doctor…”
“Johnny…There’s an army hospital about twenty-five miles from here. We’ve got to get him there! It’s a miracle he’s a live and I want to send word to his family that he’ll be coming home to them.” Captain Benton started unwrapping the bandages on Lucas’ face and shook his head. “Yes…They ARE infected! Johnny, you go on to the livery and see about getting a covered wagon.” Captain Benton stood up and hurried over to Jenny. “Miss, we’ll need a lot of blankets to keep him warm. Find as many as you can find. And send some broth we can try and feed him.” Jenny and Johnny ran from the room.
“Margaret! Margaret!” Lucas cried out suddenly.
Captain Benton turned back to Lucas. “You just hang on, Luke! Hang on! We’re going to get you home to her just as fast as we can!” Lucas cried out in his delirium. “Thank God you’re alive! Thank God we were wrong!” Captain Benton felt tears of joy fill his eyes.
When everything was ready, together Captain Benton and Johnny carried Lucas downstairs and laid him gently in the back of the wagon. Captain Benton inquired at the hotel, asking for a couple responsible men that could ride with Johnny to the army hospital. Two men were chosen and soon they were all on their way. “God speed. Protect him with your life, Johnny. Let’s try to get word to his folks.”
“Right!” Johnny clucked to the horses and took off. Captain Benton smiled as he watched the wagon disappear. He still couldn’t believe Lucas was alive!
"Of course, I didn’t ask her about cookin’ and such, cause all women can do that."
Joined: 31 Jan 2009
Location: Harrison, AR
|Posted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:44 am Post subject:
Moving on was something Abe struggled to do. He found himself pausing throughout the day to remember his brother. It just didn’t seem like Lucas was dead. He’d come near death so many times with his reckless behavior as a youth, came near to shooting his own face off when cleaning his rifle once. Abe wiped a tear that started to roll down his cheek and slowly walked into the house.
Julie turned from her place in the kitchen and saw the saddened look on her husband’s face as he bent to kiss Charlie on top of the head. She hurried over to Abe and gave him a gentle hug. “Things will get easier, honey. They will!” Julie tried to assure him. But she saw the truth in his face. Getting over the death of his little brother was going to be hard. This was the third member of the family Abe had lost in as many years, and Abe was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to stop.
A knock sounded on the door. Julie hurried to go pick up Baby Rachel while Abe went to open the door. “Silas…” Abe put his head against the door jam. “If you’ve come with more bad news, I’m afraid I can’t bear anymore.” Silas had a strange expression on his face. Abe slowly lifted his head and looked at the telegrapher. “What is it? Why are you looking at me like you just saw a ghost?”
Silas opened his mouth to speak, but when he saw Laura come up behind her brother, he said, “Can I…see you outside?”
Abe turned and looked at his children. He nodded and stepped outside. Snow was falling again as they walked out into the yard. “I received a telegram from the United States Army earlier today and, quite frankly, I’m not sure what to make of it.” He held out the telegram for Abe.
“Lucas is dead. What else matters?” Abe asked.
“Just read it, Abe. I’m a bit confused…”
Abe sighed and took the telegram from Silas. He opened it and slowly began reading. Color drained from his face and he suddenly felt an urge to sit down. Abe stumbled to the chopping block and lowered himself down as his hands shook. “How can this be?” Abe mumbled. “How can this be?”
“I don’t know…Like I said, I’m not sure what to make of it. Could it be true?”
Abe read the words again:
Abe. Lucas is alive and in an Army Hospital just outside Charlottesville, VA. I have permission to stay until you arrive. Doctor said he will be fine in time. Please hurry. Johnny Drako.
Abe shook his head. “I can’t believe it.” He lifted his head. “Silas, my brother’s alive?”
Abe turned when he saw the door open. Julie came out carrying Baby Rachel. “Silas, you’ll stay for supper?”
Abe stuffed the telegram in his pocket as Silas declined her invitation. “I’m afraid I have to get going,” Silas answered. He tipped his hat then mounted his horse and rode out.
“Abe?” Julie didn’t miss the pale look on her husband’s face. “More bad news?”
Abe slowly shook his head as he watched Silas leave. “To tell you the truth, Julie…I don’t know what to make of it…”
“Abe, what is it?” Rachel fussed in her arms. She shifted her to her shoulder. “Abe, talk to me! You’re scaring me!”
“Julie…” Abe turned and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Julie, I have to go away for a few days. I’m going to see if Peter can ride with me. Jeremiah can keep an eye on you women.”
“Abe, what’s this all about?” Julie asked.
“Julie…I got some news, but…I’m not going to tell you until I know more.”
“Abe, we don’t keep secrets from each other!” Julie reminded him tartly.
“Yes, honey, I know that but..” Abe closed his eyes. “Honey, this is one time I’m going to have to. Look…there’s harm that can come to the family if I tell you. I want to find out more before I say anything. Please…Please understand.”
“You aren’t in any danger?”
“No ma’am.” Abe kissed her. “I assure you it’s nothing like that. But please…please trust me.” Julie nodded as she watched Abe make his way down the hill.
An hour later, Abe and Peter ate a quick meal in silence. Julie couldn’t make out the expression on their faces. She didn’t like being left in the dark, but she knew that Abe had very good reasons for not telling her anything. Laura questioned Abe on why he had to leave, but Abe told her he’d explain everything when he got back. “But where are you going?” Laura asked as Abe and Peter stood from the table.
“Laura, I want you to help your Ma with the children and obey her while I’m gone.” He kissed her on top of the head.
“I mean it now, Laura Rose. You do as I say.” Abe’s voice was firm, and Laura could only reply with a meek yes sir. Abe bent down and hugged his four boys. “You mind your Mama now. You know what happens if I come back and find out you were bad.”
Julie went to the doorway to say goodbye. Abe bent down and kissed Baby Rachel. Then he gently laid a hand on Julie’s cheek. He smiled at her. “Don’t you worry none, honey. We’ll be back just as soon as we can. If the news is good, I’ll send a telegram.”
“What news?” Julie asked. But Abe turned and hurried to the wagon. He and Peter waved one last time then quickly rode from the yard.
Johnny turned from the tent entrance when he heard Lucas mumble Margaret’s name again. He went over and put a hand on Lucas’ forehead. The nurse stepped up behind him. “His fever’s broke,” Johnny said. He turned to her. “That’s good, ain’t it?”
Nurse Dorothy smiled at Johnny. “Yes sir. That’s very good. She took a bandage from his wound on his cheek. “It’s healing nicely. I think your friend’s going to be fine.”
A commotion sounded at the entrance. Johnny excused himself and hurried to the opening. There he froze when he saw the two men standing in front of him. “Johnny Drako!” Abe declared as he hurried forward and shook his hand. “Johnny, you’re a sight for sore eyes!”
“Abe! Peter!” Johnny put a hand on their shoulders. “It’s been a long time! I’m glad you got here so quickly. I bet the family’s relieved.”
Peter and Abe looked at each other and smiled. “So it’s true? Luke’s…Luke’s alive?”
“Yes!” Johnny suddenly heard Luke cry out. “And I believe he’s awake! Come on in here!”
Abe and Peter hurried forward. Their hearts leapt in their throats when they saw the figure trying to sit up on the bed. The brothers hurried forward. Abe grabbed one shoulder while Peter the other. “What the hell are you doing!” Lucas suddenly cried as he gave Peter a hard shove back. “Trying to inflict more pain on me?”
“He’s a bit moody…” Johnny declared. “Luke, don’t be treating your brother that way!”
Lucas allowed his eyes to focus. “Peter?” He turned his head toward the other brother. “Abraham?” He embraced them both, cringing at the pain that shot through his shoulder. “It’s so good to see you!”
Abe pulled from the embrace and pointed a finger at him. “Are you giving this nice nurse a hard time?”
“I’m tired of laying in this bed!” Lucas declared. “I’m ready to get up!”
Nurse Dorothy shook her head. “You’re lucky to be alive!” She turned to the brothers. “Gentlemen, when Sergeant Drako brought him in, he was more dead than alive. A bad infection settled in his cuts. And still, we had to hog tie him to keep him in bed!”
“He’ll be okay though?” Peter asked, concerned.
“He’ll be fine!” Nurse Dorothy declared. “He won’t be walking for awhile – has quite a break in his leg from falling or something. The bullet wound in his shoulder will take some time, and the cuts and bruises on his face…”
“Looks like he had a fight with dynamite or something!” Abe declared as he shook his head.
“It was gunpowder. A cannon exploded,” Johnny explained.
Lucas laid back on his pillow. A somber mood suddenly came over the group. “Luke…we thought you were dead.”
“I know.” Lucas sighed. “And I’m sorry. I woke up in a man’s cabin. He nursed me and I was getting better, but I ordered him to get me back to camp so I could send word that I was alive…Only, the camp moved on. It was cold and I was still in a bad way. I guess that’s what made the infection set in. Anyway, Tom found the camp and told them where I was.”
“But why did they think you were dead?” Abe turned and glared at Johnny. “What sort of a regiment is your Captain running? Don’t they know to declare a person missing in action when there’s no body?” Abe’s voice started to boom. “Your captain put my family through hell!”
“Abe!” Lucas’ voice sounded sharply. Lucas put a hand to his head and groaned. “Abe…I…”
“He was being the good officer that day,” Johnny interrupted Lucas. “There was a fellow private who was in such a hurry to fight in his first battle that he didn’t stop to get his coat. He was shivering and Lucas felt sorry for him, so Luke gave him his own coat, insisting that he was hot.”
“I was! Running around the battlefield giving orders and making sure all you men were doing what you should be doing…”
“Yes.” Johnny nodded. “He certainly is good at giving out orders.” He chuckled as Lucas glared at him. “Captain Benton found a charred letter from Margaret and…”
“Margaret…” Abe and Peter looked at each other. “I guess she was right.”
“What?” Lucas asked suddenly.
“Well Luke, Margaret insisted that you were not dead. She said if you were dead, her heart would tell her so.”
Lucas smiled proudly. “That’s Margaret!”
Abe stared at Lucas and again shook his head. “I still can’t believe it! I can’t believe you’re really here!” Abe stood as the doctor approached them. “Doctor? How soon can he travel?”
“Well now...how far will you be going?” The doctor answered as he folded his arms.
“Well…We’re going to Oklahoma. That’s where we live. We’ll probably travel through Kentucky and Tennessee, then into northern Arkansas and finally to Oklahoma. It’ll take us a solid week of hard riding, but our family will be mighty anxious to see our brother, seeing as how they think he’s dead.”
“Yes. I heard about that.”
Lucas heard the conversation. “As much as I want to return home, I’ve still a war to fight and…”
Johnny cleared his throat. “I received the telegram from Captain Benton yesterday, Luke. The doctor expressed concerns about your leg and shoulder. They will take months to heal proper and…”
“I’m going back!” Lucas shouted.
“Lucas, listen to Johnny!” Abe ordered in a stern voice. Even after all his months as Lieutenant, the sternness in Abe’s voice quieted Lucas.
Johnny cleared his throat. “It was decided by your superiors, after Dr. McVey here gave his report, that you will receive a medical discharge from the United States Army.” Johnny nodded as he kept his stern, professional posture. “So as far as you’re concerned, Luke, the war IS over.”
“But I signed up to fight!” Lucas declared as he cursed under his breath. “They can’t do this to me! They…”
“Mr. McCain…” Dr. McVey made it a point to stress ‘mister.’ “If you use that leg before it’s healed, you can cause permanent damage to it and may never walk again. Is THAT what you want?”
Lucas grumbled. “No sir.”
“Then I suggest, Mr. McCain, that you go home and proudly report that you were a fine officer in the United States Army. From what Sergeant Drako here tells me, you were one of the finest officers. That’s something to be proud of.”
“Yes sir,” Lucas nodded. He watched the doctor walk away then turned to Johnny. “Just like that?” he asked with a snap of his fingers. “Captain Benton dismissed me just like that?”
“Captain Benton is your friend, Luke. You should have seen how broken up he was over your death. But he’s also in charge of the regiment and must abide by the regulations, and one of those regulations is to do what’s best for his men. After reading the doctor’s report, he couldn’t, with good conscience, allow you to return to fight and possibly risk having to have your leg amputated.”
Lucas nodded with a disgruntled sigh. “When can we leave?” Lucas asked. “I’m ready to get out of here.”
“If the doctor gives us permission, we’ll take you home tomorrow,” Abe answered.
“Uh…and maybe as you’re heading home, you can stop by and uh…say farewell to the boys?”
Lucas smiled with a nod. “I’d say that’s a good plan!”
Jeremiah had received a telegram a week ago to let the family know that Abe and Peter were on their way home and would be bringing a surprise with them. Jeremiah was happy his brothers were on his way back. Even with Johnny’s ‘forced’ help and Samuel Gibbs pitching in every now and then, tending three farms was almost more than he could handle. Every night when he returned home, he assured Em that as soon as those two lazy brothers of his got back, they would be taking over all the work on the three farms while he took it easy!
Every day, the family watched for the men to return, wondering what the telegram Abe had received was all about. One day when Jeremiah was in town, he even tried to get the truth from Silas, but Silas mumbled something about his oath of confidentiality. None of Jeremiah’s threats seemed to make a difference.
Margaret made a few appearances in town, but she mainly stayed home or at Julie’s helping with the children. People quickly learned not to mention Lucas to her, and Margaret continued to insist that Lucas McCain was still very much alive. Her faith was unnerving for the others who had already accepted his death as a reality and moved on. Her mother and brother fretted over her refusal to admit the truth; but when Dr. Livingston was questioned about it, he said that it just took time.
Then one day in early February, men came to stand out on the boardwalk as the two missing McCain brothers slowly rode their wagon into town. A canopy covered the wagon, so the contents couldn’t be revealed. As they made their way through town, snow was just beginning to fall. The men watched as Peter and Abe slowly drove their wagon towards the doctor’s office.
Emily stepped from the office and shivered. She let out a gasp when she saw that it was her brothers. “Jason! Jason!” Emily called. “They’re back!” Emily lifted her skirt and stepped from the boardwalk, running toward her brothers. She crossed her arms and watched the brothers jump down from the wagon and stand in front of her. Abe smiled and tipped his hat. Emily folded her arms. “Well, I must say that you two are a fine pair! You left your family for weeks on end with no explanation as to where you were going or what you were…”
“Emily…” Peter stopped his sister as he planted a kiss on her forehead. “I’m afraid we have a patient back here to get inside. He’ll be needing some doctoring before we take him on home.”
“Who is he?” Emily asked as she started to the back of the wagon.
“Emily, wait! I think we should…” Abe started, but his words were interrupted by a loud screech.
Jason rushed from his office at the sound of his wife’s scream. “What’s wrong?”
Emily backed away from the back of the wagon. Her hands covered her face and she looked as if she were about to pass out. “Emmy? What is it?” Jason bolted forward and took her protectively in his arms. He turned and looked at the two brothers. “What has happened here?”
“It’s…it’s Luke!” Emily declared as a crowd began gathering around. “He…He’s...”
Jason turned and looked at Abe who merely smiled at his sister. “Abe?”
“He ain’t dead,” Abe announced. “And if you’ll help us get him inside and treated, you can both come to the McCain house where we’ll explain it all to you!”
Emily reached out and gave her brother a hard punch in the arm. “Is THIS why you went away?” Abe nodded. “Why didn’t you tell us? We were beside ourselves with worry and…”
Abe held his hands up in surrender. “Now Sis, if you’ll just let us explain…But first, let’s get Luke inside!”
Emily looked back inside the wagon. Lucas was propped up on his good elbow and grinned at her. “Hello, little Sis.”
“Well…” Emily folded her arms. “Aren’t you a sight!” She shook her head. “Scaring us all like that…making us believe you were dead!” Peter grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back from the wagon so men could carefully lift him out of the wagon. “What sort of trouble did you get yourself into this time?”
“A cannon,” Lucas retorted at her tongue lashing. “I wanted to see how it would feel to have one blow up in my face!”
“I don’t think this is funny! Not at all!” Emily declared.
“Now Emily, you just mind yourself!” Peter shook a finger at his sister. “Luke’s been through h…er…been through a lot these last few weeks. He almost died!”
Emily watched as the men hurried Lucas toward the clinic. They stepped inside and took Lucas to the back. Emily put her hands to her face as she watched them go and started crying. Jason turned at the door and saw her tears. “Emmy?” He held out his arm. Emily ran toward him and buried her face in his chest. “I know it’s an emotional time for you right now, but we DO need to clean his wounds and check his injuries. I need my nurse.” Jason smiled at her as he wiped her tears with his finger.
Emily nodded. “But they better have a very good reason for putting us through this!” She declared.
The wounds on Lucas’s face still hurt him a bit, but he was able to bear the cleaning without too much discomfort. But when Dr. Livingston cleaned the bullet wound in his shoulder, he announced that it was becoming infected again. Abe and Peter apologized, stating they did the best they could in following the doctor’s orders. Jason cleaned it out very well, Lucas cursing and wincing the whole time; then he wrapped it up and checked his leg. Jason shook his head, stating it would be some time before Lucas would be doing any work.
When they were finished with the doctoring, Jason ordered two men to carry Lucas back out to the waiting wagon. He grabbed his and Emily’s coats, then after helping Emily into her coat, announced to the citizens out on the street that they would be leaving town for the evening. There was no question as to where the Livingstons’ would be found, should their assistance be needed in town.
Abe decided to let Emily and Jason ride in the wagon while he borrowed a saddle horse from the livery and went ahead to prepare the family for what was coming. He didn’t want Dr. Livingston to send them a bill for having to pass out smelling salts to any women who may faint upon seeing a ‘ghost’. As he got closer to home, he began wondering how he would prepare his family with this without causing them to drop dead of a heart attack.
Abe hurried into this yard. The door opened and Julie hurried out with Rachel in her arms and five children running beside her. Laura was actually the first one to arrive to Abe, and she jumped into his arms. “Papa! Papa!” She kissed his bearded cheek and cried, so happy he was back.
Abe passed out hugs and kisses, and didn’t miss the stiff kiss given by his wife. He scratched his beard as he tried to find an easy way to put his announcement. “Let’s…go on down to the main house. I think I want to get this piece of news out once. That way, when you squeal with delight, it’ll be all at once instead of several times today!”
Abe offered no other explanation as he jumped on his horse and went to get Jeremiah and his family. The wagon was just arriving when Abe rode his horse back into the yard. He held up a hand. “Now, just stay there until I get this all out!” Abe demanded.
He hurried inside and felt every eye of his family on him. Peter and Emily slipped inside as well. Jason stayed out with Lucas. “Alright now…You know that sometimes, mistakes can happen. And sometimes it’s those mistakes that help us understand just how much a person means to us.”
“What’d you do, Papa? Is Mama gonna yell at ya for being gone so long?” Laura suddenly asked.
Abe turned and glared at his sister. “NO!” He cleared his throat. “As a matter of fact, it’s not me who made the mistake.” He turned and looked at his family. “It was the United States Army.”
“The army?” Jeremiah wrinkled his brow. “What sort of mistake?”
“Well now…sometimes during a battle, the army does its best to figure out who’s who and what’s what…But sometimes appearances can be deceiving and…”
“Abraham McCain, will you just tell us!” Julie declared as she stood to her feet.
“Alright. It’s about Luke.” Abe cleared his throat. “He’s alive.”
He wasn’t sure what to expect, but he didn’t expect what he actually got. Dead silence was in the room. Even Baby Rachel laid quietly in the cradle by the fire. Abe watched as the expressions on his family’s faces changed. Some appeared doubtful, while others looked rather shocked. Laura was very confused. “We received a telegram a few weeks back that he was alive…from Johnny Drako. But we couldn’t tell anyone just in case it was some sort of sick joke or something. Julie, I couldn’t tell you because you wouldn’t have been able to keep it from Laura or Margaret. I’m sorry.”
“Luke’s…alive?” Julie breathed as she put her hands on Laura’s shaking shoulders. “How? Why?”
Emily cleared her throat. “Abe, if you would go into my old bedroom and clean off that bed so we can bring him in…He must be exhausted from all the travel!”
Tiffany wiped her hands and stood up. “I’ll…I’ll go.” She hurried from the room.
“He’s…he’s alive?” Laura asked quietly. “Luke’s…alive?”
Abe knew he had caused quite a shock. He cleared his throat and motioned toward Peter and Jeremiah. “Help me get him inside.”
But he was overrun by screaming women and children as they ran from the house to see just who it was in the back of that wagon. Julie was the first to arrive, and when she saw Lucas laying in the back, she threw her hands to her face. “Luke!” She cried. “It’s true! You…you are alive!”
Soon, Em and Laura had joined her. They stood there talking a mile a minute in disbelief. Jason held his hands up from the back of the wagon to quiet the shouting. “Now…I know you are all excited and anxious to know the details of his rather frightening ordeal, but I want him to rest a bit before he has any visiting! This man is still ill and needs his rest!”
With that, the women and children stood in the cold and watched the men carry Lucas inside. Julie let out a gasp. “A party! We must have a party!”
“NO!” Jason declared. “Not tonight!”
“Oh, but Jason…” Emily started to argue with her husband.
“Now Emmy…” Jason shook a finger at her. “You know as well as I do that Luke needs his rest! And I am going to see that he gets that! Your questions and party will have to wait until tomorrow!”
Jason did allow one person at a time to go into the room and greet Lucas, but several of them still couldn’t believe he was alive. Eventually, Abe and Jeremiah took their families home. Jason and Emily eventually left with Peter, who would return them to town. Tiffany stayed behind to take care of her brother-in-law until Peter returned.
Luke’s alive. Margaret stopped in the doorway to her room, unsure she was hearing those words out loud, or if her heart was saying them. She stepped back into the shadows and listened as her brother and Amanda spoke.
“He was hurt really bad by a cannon explosion and the Captain found Margaret’s letter in his jacket. But Luke had loaned his jacket to another man on the battlefield. Luke’s alive, Amanda! He’s alive!”
Margaret slowly shot a hand to her mouth. As Scott and Amanda slowly made their way to the bedroom for the night, she heard Scott say, “Unfortunately his injuries got him discharged. Peter said he’s resting comfortable at home. He…” Their bedroom door closed. Margaret stepped from the shadows. Tears filled her eyes as she allowed the words to sink in.
Margaret gasped as she scribbled out a note and grabbed her coat. Then without another thought, she hurried from the house and ran to the barn.
In no time, Margaret was on Andy’s horse riding toward the McCain Ranch. Oh, her brother would thrash her when he found out she had ridden out in the middle of the night, but she had to know! She had to see him – to hold him – to kiss…
Margaret dug her heals into the horse’s flank and told him to get moving faster. She lowered herself in the saddle and leaned forward to give the horse more speed down the road. The cold wind blew bitterly at her face. Her hair flew around her, but she raced forward.
When she got into the yard, she slid from her horse and tied him to the hitching post. Margaret lifted her hand and knocked constantly on the door until someone opened it. “Margaret!” Peter greeted her. He stepped out onto the porch. “Did you come by yourself?”
“Is it true?” Margaret asked without answering his question. “Is he really alive?”
Peter leaned against the door. He folded his arms and smiled. “It’s true.” He lifted an eyebrow. “But you shouldn’t be…”
Margaret pushed him out of the way and hurried inside. “Luke?” She whipped off her coat and slung it over a chair on the table. “Luke!”
“Margaret?” She heard his beautiful voice coming from the closed bedroom door. “Margaret, I’m in here!”
Margaret threw all discretion into the wind and hurried toward the bedroom. Without hesitation, she flung the door open and hurried to the bed. “Lucas?” She struck a match and lit the lantern. Turning the wick all the way up, she stared at his face. “Oh…Oh Lucas!” Margaret put her hands to his cheeks. She sat down and leaned forward to kiss his lips. “Luke…Luke…” She said his name between short kisses. “I told them you were alive! I told them!”
Lucas leaned his head forward as he put his good hand to the back of her head. He pressed her lips against his and kissed her passionately. “Oh Margaret…” Lucas allowed their lips to part. He pressed a hand against her cheek. “My sweet Margaret…Oh, I missed you so!” They shared another kiss.
“Alright you two!” Peter folded his arms and stood in the doorway. “Margaret Gibbs, you…” But suddenly, Peter was grabbed by the collar and yanked from the room by his wife.
“Peter McCain, Margaret is a very proper young woman! You just leave them be!” Tiffany ordered.
Margaret’s eyes smiled into his. “Oh Lucas…they said you were dead! I wouldn’t believe it!” Margaret whispered as she ran a hand down his cheek. “You were hurt! What happened?”
Lucas smiled. “It’s a long story, my darling.”
“We have our whole lifetime.” Margaret smiled as she kissed him again.
“You’re right!” Lucas declared. They kissed again. Lucas hugged her as he rested her lips near her neck. “And I’m never letting you go!” He kissed her softly. “Marry me, Margaret! Marry me!”
"Of course, I didn’t ask her about cookin’ and such, cause all women can do that."
Joined: 31 Jan 2009
Location: Harrison, AR
|Posted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:46 am Post subject:
|What was the answer???
Well folks, you'll have to wait a while until I get Chapter 1 written of "The Margaret Years" entitled...
"Of course, I didn’t ask her about cookin’ and such, cause all women can do that."
Deputy Lucas McCain
Joined: 07 Jul 2009
Location: Wishing in the Old West
|Posted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:15 pm Post subject:
|How many times does Lucas have to propose before you let Margaret say yes?
From Milly's Wedding... Lucas told of how he was sick with Malaria when he asked Margaret to marry him, once he was recovered, she made him ask her again.
Now we find out that Lucas asked Margaret to marry him upon his return from the war.
I'm beginning to wonder if that wedding is ever going to really happen...
Some of the best lessons we ever learn are learned from the mistakes and failures of our past. Because the errors of our past, are the wisdom and success of our future.
Joined: 31 Jan 2009
Location: Harrison, AR
|Posted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 1:07 pm Post subject:
|I think in the next story, you'll see just WHY Lucas didn't tell Milly about this proposal...
"Of course, I didn’t ask her about cookin’ and such, cause all women can do that."
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