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fozrulz

 

 

Juliana's Ride

Lancer Fanfic:  All the normal disclaimers apply.

This is a continuation of my first story Meeting Juliana.  It's now 6 months later.  So, now Juliana is 5, Johnny is still 10 and Scott is 16.

My Lancer stories assume that Scott has always been with Murdoch.  I also assume that Maria took off with Johnny when he was 4½ and that she was pregnant at the time.  I also assume that Murdoch found Johnny when he was about 10 years old. The Pinkertons had found Johnny and Juliana in an orphanage in Mexico City.

 

Morning found the Lancer's sitting around the breakfast table staring at the empty chair where Juliana should be.  Scott was nervously playing with his breakfast.  Johnny was glancing at the stair case and Papa was not happy that his youngest was not sitting in her seat.

Only to tread foolishly into hostile territory, Johnny looked at his Papa.  “Pa, I can go get her.” he offered.  It had taken a few months for Johnny to call his father Pa and to be respectful.  A few trips over his father's knee had taught him respect.  But with that respect came love and understanding on the part of both father and son.

“NO!” Murdoch barked.

Johnny shrank back.  “Lo siento, Papi.” he whispered.

Murdoch sighed.  He didn't want to scare Johnny or make Johnny think he was angry with him.  He reached out and touched Johnny's face with his palm.  “I'm sorry I shouted, son.  I'm not angry with you.  Come here.”

Johnny got slowly out of his chair and came to stand in front of his father.  Murdoch reached out for him and wrapped him in a big hug.  “It's ok my boy, eat your breakfast.  I'll get your sister.”  Murdoch gave him another hug and then pushed him toward his chair.

Johnny sat in his chair and looked at Scott at their father marched determinedly up the stairs. “Scott, what's he going to do?  He looks mad.”  Johnny asked his older brother.

Scott sighed, “I don't know Johnny, but you know how he feels if everyone isn't sitting down together for meals.”

Johnny shook his head, “I don't know why she can't get in here.  She wasn't even in her bed when I went to get her up.  I figured she was down in the barn with the new kitties.  I bet Pa's gonna give her a spanking.”

Scott looked at his little brother. “Why didn't you tell Pa, she wasn't upstairs?”

Johnny shrugged his shoulders.  “I don't know, he didn't ask.”

Scott wanted to bang his head on the table.  “Johnny, Pa's gonna be even madder when he gets up there and she's not in her room.”

“Aww Scott, she's probably just in the barn and didn't know it was time to come in for breakfast.” Johnny said confidently.

Just about that time, Murdoch Lancer was bellowing for Juliana.  “Juliana Elena Lancer, you come down here right this minute!”

Murdoch strode into the kitchen.  “Where's your sister?” he demanded looking at the boys.

“I don't know Pa, she wasn't there when I went to wake her up.” said Johnny as he shoved a fork full of eggs into his mouth.

“WHAT???” he bellowed.

Johnny stopped in mid chew and got wide-eyed.  He starting shrinking back again.

Murdoch counted to 10.  “Son, son, please I'm not angry with you, I'm just worried about Juliana.”

Johnny relaxed.  “I think she's in the barn with the new kitties.” he whispered.

Murdoch looked at his son, “I'm sorry son, what did you say?” he asked patiently.

Johnny looked up, “Barn, Pa, I think she's in the barn.”

“Why in the world would she be in the barn?” he asked.

“Kitties, Pa, there's kitties in the barn.” Johnny said staring at his father as if he were the village idiot.

“Oh,” said Murdoch wisely.  “I'll go check the barn.”

Murdoch counted to ten for the umpteenth time that morning and headed for the barn.  He marched determinedly toward the barn.  He kept reminding himself that he had prayed to have all his children home.  He also remembered how his mother had always reminded him, be careful what you pray for because you might just get it.  The madder he got with each step he took.  He was trying to calm himself and remember that Juliana was only five and she probably forgot the rule of not leaving the house without someone.  He steeled himself as he opened the barn door.  There was Juliana sitting in the hay in the middle of the barn with 4 newborn kitties in her lap.

“Juliana?” Murdoch ground out.

Juliana looked at her father curiously.  “Yes, Papa?”

“What are you doing out here?” he asked.

“Playing with the kitties.  Look, aren't they pretty?” she asked.

Murdoch took a deep breath.  “Let me rephrase that, do you have permission to be out of the house?”

“Oh.  No Papa.” Juliana said shaking her head.

Murdoch sighed.  “Come here.”

Juliana debated.  She just sat there with the kitties in her lap.  She could tell by the look on her papa's face that he was very angry.  She wasn't sure she wanted to come to him.  She looked at the ground.

“Ahora, Juliana, NOW!” Murdoch motioned her to the spot just in front of him.

Silently Juliana moved each kitty painstakingly out her lap.  She was sorely trying Murdoch's patience.  Finally, all the kitties were in the hay.  She stood up and moved toward her papa until she was standing just in front of him.  Murdoch took her arm and turned her sideways.  He landed three hard swats to her behind.

“You will not leave the house without permission.  Do you understand?” he asked severely.

Juliana just nodded.

“Good.  Now, come eat your breakfast.” he said as he picked her up and swung her on his hip.  He entered the kitchen and deposited her in her chair.  Juliana couldn't reach the table in a regular chair.  He had one of the hands make her a booster seat to put in her chair.  Juliana just sat there looking at her breakfast.  Scott and Johnny felt the tension.  They had already finished breakfast and were ready to go to school.  But, they hadn't been excused from the table and weren't about to leave the table without permission.  The knew better than to try their father's patience.

Scott coughed.  “Pa, may Johnny and I be excused?  We need to get our books and get to school.”

Murdoch was distracted by the morning events.  He didn't respond.

Scott and Johnny exchanged worried glances.  Fearing he was treading on thin ice, Scott ventured on, “Pa, Pa?”

Murdoch looked at Scott, “Yes son, what is it?” he asked.

“I asked for permission for me and Johnny to be excused.”

“Oh sorry, son, yes of course, you need to be getting to school.”

“Yes sir.” Scott agreed.

Scott and Johnny got up from the table.  Johnny walked by his father only to be caught by his long arms for a kiss good-bye.  “Aww, Pa.” Johnny blushed.

“Have a good day, boys,” said Murdoch smiling.  Unbeknownst to Murdoch, Juliana had slipped out of her seat and was heading back to the barn.  She was determined to go to school with Johnny.  She didn't want to stay home, she wanted to be with her big brothers.  As soon as Scott and Johnny departed, Murdoch turned to see Juliana's seat empty.  Murdoch raised his eyes to the heavens, ‘why me?' he muttered to himself.  He couldn't imagine where she was this time.  He started looking.

Meanwhile, Scott and Johnny were walking out to the barn to saddle their horses.

“He don't seem too mad.” remarked Johnny.

Scott eyed his baby brother.  “She better start listening.  Or she's going to get a worse spanking than she got this morning.”

“She weren't crying.  How'd ya know Pa spanked her?” Johnny asked.

“She was having trouble sitting down, silly.” Scott grinned.

“Oh,” said  Johnny as he pulled the door to his pony's stall open.  As he pulled the door open, there sat Juliana.

“Juliana! What are you doing out here?” Johnny whispered furiously.  “You‘re going to get in trouble.”

Juliana stood up defiantly.  “I'm going to school with you.  I wanna go.  I'm big now.  I wanna go.” she said stamping her foot defiantly.

Johnny whispered, “You can't go.  You ain't big enough.  You better get back inside before Pa finds out you're out here.”

Juliana started to pout, “I am so big, I wanna go.”

“Stop it Juliana, go back in the house before Pa comes out here.” Johnny whispered.

“What's going on Johnny,” Scott asked, “who are you talking to.”

Johnny grimaced, “Juliana's out here, she wants to go to school with us.”

Scott looked surprised.  “Juliana, you better get your behind inside before Pa gives you a worse spanking than you already had.”

Juliana stuck out her lip stubbornly.  “I'm going to school.  I'm big.”

“Juliana,” Scott said exasperated, “you can't go until next year.  Go on back in the house.”

“No!”

“Go on,” Scott said, as he grabbed her and bodily lifted out of the stall and turned her toward the house.  Juliana stood fast.  She planted her feet and got stiff as a soldier.  Scott sighed.  He picked her up and tried to put her on his hip.  She kicked him in the shin.  Scott dropped her like a hot potato.

Scott yelped.  “You little brat!”  He grabbed her and popped her behind a couple of times.  She starting bawling.  He started to pick her up again and found Cipriano staring at him with his hands on his hips.

“SCOTT!” barked Cipriano.

Scott turned toward the Segundo, “Yes Sir?”

“WHAT'S THE MEANING OF THIS?”

Scott looked a little ashamed.  He knew he wasn't suppose to spank Juliana unless his father wasn't home.  He just got so mad and frustrated, he popped her without thinking.  He stuttered, “Well……..”

Cip purposefully strode over to Juliana and picked her up.  Cip know held the weeping baby on his hip, for she was still the baby to him.  He looked angrily at Scott and nodded.  “We will go see your father, now.”

“But, Johnny and I need to get to school.” whined Scott.

“Ahora!” Cip flashed.

Scott hesitated.  He knew that Cip was like a second father to him.  He knew the penalty of disobeying Cip was every bit as bad as disobeying his own father.  But, he didn't want to be late to school either.

“Do you mean to disobey me, chico?” asked the Segundo harshly.

Scott sighed, “No sir, I'm coming.”

Murdoch was making his way to the barn. As Cip, Scott and Juliana exited the barn, they ran into Murdoch.  Murdoch was surprised to see Cip holding a crying Juliana and Scott looking like he was going to be facing a firing squad.  He wondered where Johnny was.

“What's going on here?” he demanded.

“Scott, he spanked the baby.” Cip growled.

“She kicked me in the shin, Pa.” said Scott in his defense.

“What?” asked Murdoch.

“She kicked me hard, Pa.  I'm sorry.  I just reacted.” said Scott.

Murdoch reach for Juliana.  She clung firmly to Cip.  As he reached for her, he asked, “Did you kick your brother?”

“He's mean.” she sniffed.

“Juliana, I'm getting angry.  Did you kick your brother?”

“Si.” she said looking at the ground.

Murdoch took in a deep breath.  “I see.  You and I need to have a discussion in your room.  Scott, you and Johnny need to get to school.” he said turning toward his oldest.

“Yes sir, right away.” Scott said grateful for the escape.  Scott took off into the barn.  Lucky for him, Johnny had saddled both horses.  He quickly mounted up and said, “Come on, Johnny, let's go.”

Murdoch looked over at Cip, “Thanks Cip, I think a certain young lady needs a N…A…P.”  He said as Juliana laid her head on his shoulder and stuck her thumb in her mouth.  He rocked her a little in his arms as he headed for the house.

“No nap, papa.” she said yawning.

Murdoch felt surprised, he guessed she figured out what n…a…p spelled.  He also guessed she had been up for hours playing in the barn.  She was about to get another spanking for kicking Scott and being out of the house, but that could wait.  She was much too tired to try and reason with at this point.  He just kept swaying back and forth with her as he headed for the house.  He climbed the stairs and toed the door to her room open with his boot.  He headed for the over sized rocker in her room.  As he lowered himself into the rocker, he settled her on his lap and rocked her until the noisiness of her thumb sucking stopped and he knew she had fallen asleep.  He laid her down on the bed and took her shoes off.  He debated undressing her completely and putting her night gown on.  He decided to just take her dress off and lay her down in her drawers.  He covered her up with a quilt and left her room quietly.  As he closed her door, he remembered a time when he would lay Johnny down just in his diaper and close the door while he napped.  The difference was Johnny was still in a crib.  He wished Juliana was still in a crib, at least he would know where she was.  Murdoch sighed, he had missed out on so much with both Johnny and Juliana.

A couple hours later, Juliana woke up.  She stretched and yawned and wondered why she wasn't in school with Johnny and Scott.  Oh, then she remembered that she had kicked Scott and that Papa had carried her to her room.  He must not be mad anymore she thought.  Not thinking about getting dressed, Juliana jumped off her bed and headed downstairs.  Murdoch was sitting at his desk working on the ranch accounts when he heard her door open.  He grimaced because he knew that he needed to give her a spanking for kicking Scott and going outside.  He looked toward the stair case to see one half naked little girl yawning and coming down the staircase.

“Juliana,” he called.

“Papi?” she yawned.

“Come here baby, in my office.”

Juliana descended the stairs and headed toward his office.  She went around behind his desk and stood by his knee.  Murdoch picked her up and set her on his lap.

“Are you awake?' he asked her seriously.

Juliana nodded her headed. “Si.”

He lifted her chin with his big hand.  Such a tiny little chin and such a big hand.  “Juliana, you've been very naughty this morning.” he said softly.

Juliana tried to look down, but her father held her chin firmly.  “Why were you out in the barn again?” he asked.

“Going with Johnny.” she said.

Murdoch was perplexed.  “Where were you going?”

“School.  I'm a big girl.  I wanna go to school with Johnny.” she said stubbornly.

Murdoch got very serious.  “Juliana Elena, we've already talked about this.  You can't go to school until you're six.”

“I'm going.  I'm big.” she said shaking her head stubbornly.

“Juliana, you are not going to school until you are six.  You are not going out of this house without permission.  Do you understand me?” Murdoch said clearly agitated.

Juliana shook her head defiantly.  “I'm going!”

Murdoch sighed.  He quickly moved her from on his lap to over his knee.  He pulled down her drawers and delivered five solid smacks to her bare behind.  He up righted her and hugged her.  “I love you, but you are going to learn to mind, Papa.”

Juliana was crying.  He took her shoulders and lowered his face to hers.  “Go to your room until Mamacita comes to get you for lunch.  I want you to think about how you can be a good girl today.”

Juliana fled to her room.  She flung herself on her bed, grabbed her rag doll and stuck her thumb in her mouth.  She was not happy.

Murdoch was not happy either.  He really hated spanking the children.  Especially Juliana.  She was the baby.  He was a little more indulgent with her.  Maybe it was because she was a girl, maybe it was because she was the baby, maybe it was because of both.  He sighed as he headed to the kitchen to tell Maria about Juliana's punishment.  He then headed outside to oversee the ranch.

Juliana's head swirled with ways that she could go to school with Johnny.  If she could just get to the school somehow and show Papa she could learn as well as they could, well, then he would let her go.  She was mad at her papa and mad at Scott, she'd had 10 pops on her behind.  Her behind was awful sore.  She couldn't sit on the wooden chair at her table to draw and she couldn't sit on the floor and play blocks or dolls.  She was even having trouble sitting on her bed.  She was laying on her bed, belly down, looking at a picture book.   Her window was open and faced the court yard and she heard her papa.

“Cip, we couldn't get everything we needed in Morro Coyo, we'll need to get the rest of the supplies in Green River.  It can wait until tomorrow, but I'd like to get the supplies early.  So, why don't we leave first thing in the morning.  I‘d like to ride along.”

“Si, Patron.” agreed the Segundo.  “Patron?  What about the baby?” he asked.

“Oh, I'll get Maria to watch her.  I think we will leave before she gets up, less fuss that way.”

“Si Patron, good idea.”

Little did he know that little ears heard all.  Juliana smiled to herself.  Scott and Johnny went to school in Green River.  She could just ride with Cip and Papa to town and then she would find the boy's school and go to school.  Simple plan.  She could get up early like she did today and hide in the wagon.  The when they reached town, she could sneak out and go to school.  All was right in Juliana's world.  She jumped off her bed to search for Mamacita Maria.  She forgot she was suppose to stay in her room.  She wanted to play with her farm set, which she had left in the great room.

She got herself dressed and went in the great room.  She found her farm set in the basket by the fire place.  She sat on the floor to play.  The clock was about to strike noon.  Maria had lunch on the table for the Patron and her nina.  She went in search of Juliana.  As Maria reached Juliana's room she noticed to door was open.  She looked in the room and momentarily panicked.  Juliana was not in her room.  Just then she heard a crash in the great room.  She raced down the stairs.

She raced into the great room to find Juliana covered in soot.  The fire place tools had crashed onto the slate floors and there was soot all over the floor.  “Ahh, Juliana,” she wailed, “what are you doing?”

“Playing mamacita.” said Juliana.  “I was playing Christmas and Santa's coming down the chimney.”

Maria smiled indulgently at the little girl.  “Oh, come, come little one, you must get cleaned up for lunch.”

Juliana looked suspiciously at Maria, “I don't want a bath.” she said frowning. 

Maria shook her head.  “Come, you must have a very quick bath before your Papa gets home.  He will not be happy.”

Juliana frowned.  Every time her papa had not been happy today, she got a spanking.  She didn't want any more.  Maria picked her up and carried her to the downstairs bath house.  She started the water as she stripped Juliana.

“You sit in the tub, until I come. Si?” she asked Juliana.

Juliana sat in the tub and played with the little boats Johnny had left.  She was playing when Maria came in to finish bathing her.  She wasn't happy, but she didn't want anymore spankings, so she just let Maria bathe her.  Maria finally lifted her out of the tub with a big towel and rubbed her down.  She heard the front door open and the Patron bellow.

Maria sighed, “Aiy, Aiy, in the bathhouse Patron.” she called.

Murdoch entered the bath house to find Maria drying Juliana off.  “Do I even want to ask?” he said curiously.

“I was playing Santa Clause coming down the chimney.” said Juliana proudly.

Murdoch rolled his eyes.  “Let me finish getting her dressed.” he said as he took Juliana from Maria.

“Bueno, Patron.  I'll finish putting lunch on the table.”  Maria said as she bustled off the complete her task.

As Murdoch finished drying Juliana and was holding her drawers for her to step in, he said, “Juliana, you were suppose to stay in your room and think about being a good girl.”

Juliana teetered on one foot as she picked her foot up to step into her drawers, she grabbed her Papa's shirt sleeves to steady herself.  “I was being a good girl.” she said stubbornly.

“I see, is playing in the chimney and getting dirty, a good girl?” he asked.

“I was playing, good girl.” she grouched.

Murdoch sighed as he finished getting her dressed.  “Yes, well, no more getting in the chimney.”

“But Papa, how am I suppose to play Santa Clause?” she asked.

“You'll need to find something else to play that doesn't involve the chimney.” he said sternly as he grabbed her hand to head to the kitchen for lunch.

Juliana took her Papa's hand.  She was pouting, she like playing Santa Clause.  But, she didn't want to get another spanking and Papa was using his counting and spanking voice.  Lunch progressed to its normal quiet meal.  Usually during the week it was just Murdoch and Juliana or just Juliana.  Murdoch eyed his youngest.  She sure was full of spit and vinegar today.  Normally, she was very obedient, but she sure had her days.  He could see her getting tired even though she had already had a nap this morning.  She must have been up for hours playing in that barn with the new kittens.

As lunch finished, Murdoch held out his hand for her.  “Come on Juliana, let's go rock and read a story.”  Murdoch knew that he would rock her for less than 10 minutes and she would be out.  He climbed the stairs with her to the nursery and sat down in the rocker.  She climbed on his lap with her doll and her favorite picture book.  As Murdoch rocked and read, sleep over took the little whirlwind and within minutes, she was out.  He cuddled with her for a minute.  He breathed in her baby scent.  He rocked and thought of how grateful he was to have three wonderful children.  Oh, they could all be a handful individually or collectively, but he enjoyed every bit of it.  He heaved himself out of the rocker and laid her on her bed and covered her up.  He figured she'd be out for a little while.  He headed down to work on the books.  He tried to stick around the house while she was napping, so he'd be around when she got up.

Juliana woke about two hours before the boys were due to come home from school.  She made her way down the stairs to the great room.  She went to play with her farm set that she had left on the floor.  When Murdoch walked into the great room, Juliana was playing quietly with her toys.  “Thank you for being such a good girl.” Murdoch complimented her as he walked over to plant a kiss on her head.

“I'm a good girl,” said Juliana.  “See Papa, no chimney.”

“Yes you are.” chuckled Murdoch.

“Papa?” asked Juliana.

“Yes?”

“Can I ride my pony?” she asked.

“Well, honey, Papa has to ride over to the north pasture.  Why don't you just ride with me, it's a long way to ride on your pony.”

Juliana shrugged, she was just happy to ride and get out of the house. 

Murdoch took her by the hand and led her to the barn.  He saddled up his horse and tossed her up in the air as he placed her on the saddle.  Juliana squealed with delight.  She loved being with the horses and being outside.  Murdoch swung up in the saddle behind her and headed for the north pasture.  He wanted to make sure the creek was cleared out and the men were working on the fence.

As he rode out, Juliana leaned into him.  She enjoyed his smell.  He smelled like leather and pipe tobacco.   For once the little whirlwind was quiet, she was enjoying being on a horse and being with her papa.  She loved when she had him all to herself. He approached the creek and noticed it was still crammed with a beaver dam.  Frustrated, he dismounted.  He inspected the creek.  He wondered why Paco and Mateo hadn't cleared the creek.  He huffed.

Juliana noted her papa's displeasure.  She was sure hoping that she hadn't done anything to make him mad.  “Papa, can I get down?” she asked.  She was pretty far off the ground on his horse.  She didn't think she could jump down without getting hurt.  She thought maybe if she slid down.  She put one leg over the saddle and was hanging on the horn.  “Papa, Papa, help.” she begged.

Murdoch was startled out of his inspection of the creek.  He looked toward his horse and saw his daughter dangling from the saddle.  Her feet were no where near the ground.  He momentarily panicked.  “Juliana!!” he exclaimed as he ran to his horse and caught his daughter.  He hugged her tight.

“Papa,” she breathed, “too tight.” she said as she struggled.

Murdoch sighed, “Next time, young lady, wait for Papa to take you down.  Understand?”

Juliana nodded her head vigorously.  “Yes, Papa.”

Murdoch set her on the ground.  He started clearing the creek.  Juliana asked, “Can I help, Papa?”

“No baby, you just sit there for a few minutes.”  he said as he moved branches and debris away from the water flow.

Juliana sat on a rock and watched her father working.  She soon grew bored and started to wander away toward the woods.  She found a guinea hen and began to follow it towards it's nest.  Murdoch didn't notice that she had wandered away right off.  He was working hard and sweating up a storm.  He stopped to take a breather and looked toward the rock, Juliana was gone.

He grimaced.  He told himself not to panic.  She couldn't be far.  He hadn't really been working too long.  He'd only been working twenty minutes at the most.  He scanned the surrounding area.  He didn't see a thing.  Panic was welling up in him.  Where could she have gone?  He forced himself to calm down.  He immediately realized he could probably track her.  He started toward the rock with his eyes fixed on the ground.  He didn't notice that she was standing at the tree line.  He started tracking when he heard a shout.

“Papa, Papa, come see the chicken I found.”  Juliana shouted as she was jumping up and down.

Murdoch looked up toward the direction of the shout.  He saw his daughter jumping up and down.  Obviously, she was very excited about something.  He breathed a huge sigh of relief and teared up a little.  He was so grateful that she was unharmed.  He wasn't sure he was up to parenting a five year old.  He had missed those years with Scott and Johnny.  They were much more self reliant and didn't generally wander off.

In a few strides, Murdoch reached Juliana.  “Juliana, where have you been?' he demanded.

Juliana looked bewildered, “Right here Papa.  I was right here.”

Murdoch huffed, “But I didn't know you were right here.  You didn't tell me you were going anywhere.”

Juliana looked at her Papa, “But Papa, you were busy.”

Murdoch sighed, he held his hand out for her, “Come on, we need to get home before the boys get home from school.”

Juliana took her father's hand and then tugged on his hand and held her arms up.  She wanted to be picked up and held.  She needed his reassurance he was not really angry.  She wanted to make sure that he still loved her.  Murdoch picked her up and patted her back as she nestled into his neck.  “Come on.” he murmured in her ear.

“Love you, Papa.” she said as she nestled into his arms.

“Love you too, angel.” he said as he cuddled her.  All his anger and worried was washed away with a simple “Love you.”  Murdoch carried her toward his horse and deposited her in the saddle.  He swung up behind her and headed toward home.  He wanted to make sure he got home before the boys.  He always tried to be there when they got home so they could tell them about their day.

As Murdoch headed toward home, Scott and Johnny were coming home from school.  The ride was silent.  Scott was dirty, his clothes were torn and he was sporting a black eye.  He knew Pa was going to tan him for sure.  Pa said absolutely no fighting.  It didn't usually matter whose fault it was or who threw the first punch.  There was to be no fighting at school.  Generally Scott was very well mannered and didn't get into trouble at school.  But, since Johnny had come home, Scott managed to get himself into trouble defending Johnny or pulling Johnny out of a few fights, or trying to cover for Johnny.  This was one of those times.  Pa had promised to tan his behind if he got into another fight.  That promise had only been made a week ago.  Scott sighed.

As Scott and Johnny rode under the arch, Johnny looked at Scott.  “Scott, I'm sorry.  Really, I'm sorry.”  Johnny blurted out.  “I just hate that Jeff Masters, I just couldn't stand him making fun of Pa and my mama.”  Johnny said fiercely as he tried to stop the tears.

Scott stopped and looked long and hard at his brother.  “It's ok Johnny, if someone had been saying that stuff about my mother, I would have punched him too.  Sometimes, you just have to fight for what's right, no matter the consequences.”

“What's consequences?  Pa's always talking about them.”  Johnny sniffed as he wiped away the tears with his shirt sleeve.

“It means that no matter what happens, you do something anyway.  Like getting in trouble for fighting is the consequence for fighting.”

“Pa's going to whip us both.”  Johnny whispered with his head down.  He mumbled where Scott could hardly hear him.

“What's that?” asked Scott.

Johnny lifted his head and looked his brother in the eye, “I said Pa's going to whip us both.  Sorry Scott.  Please don't be mad at me.”

“Well, I don't want a whipping, but I'm not mad at you.  I already told you, I would have done the same thing and if we had to do it over, I still would have done the same thing.” said Scott placing a hand on Johnny's shoulder.

“Really?” asked Johnny looking at his big brother in awe.

“Really, little brother.” smiled Scott.

“Wow,” said Johnny.

“Is that so surprising?  It's what big brothers do for little brothers.” grinned Scott.

Johnny eyed Scott, “I think I sure missed having you around.”

“Come on Johnny, we better get moving before Pa whips us for being late and fighting.”  said Scott as he spurred his horse forward. 

The boys arrived in the yard and looked around.  Scott breathed sigh of relief.  He thought maybe he could get him and Johnny cleaned up before anyone was the wiser.  Hopefully Pa wouldn't notice that the boys changed into clean clothes.  He forgot about his black eye and Johnny's busted lip, which would be dead giveaways.  Scott thought for sure he beat himself out of a licking this time.

“Heh, Johnny, no one seems to be around.” said Scott as they dismounted.

“So,” Johnny shrugged.

“Come on, if we hurry and go up the back stairs we can clean up, change clothes and get back down here to take care of the horses before anyone sees us.”  Scott said trying to hurry Johnny along.

“Oh yeah and Pa won't know we was fighting, huh?” asked Johnny.

“It's worth a shot.” agreed Scott. 

The boys hightailed it up the back stairs.  Each one quickly entered his own room and changed clothes.  Scott finished first and went to find Johnny.  “Johnny?” he asked pushing open Johnny's door.

“Yeah?” Johnny responded as he turned toward the door.  He was buttoning up his shirt.  He hadn't washed his face.

“You need to wash your face and clean the blood off your lip, little brother.  Or Pa will know for sure we've been fighting.”

“Ok,” said Johnny swiping at his mouth with the towel.  “Scott, what about that black eye of yours?”

Scott grimaced, he had forgotten about the black eye.  “Maybe some of Maria's flour?  Something to cover up the black part.”

Johnny sat there for a minute.  “Scott, my mama used to use some kind of face powder to cover up the bruises….”

Scott got wide-eyed.  Johnny had never talked about his mama or her having bruises.  He recovered quickly and realized that Johnny didn't even realize what he had said.

“Well, let's find something.  We better hurry before Pa gets home.” Scott said.

The boys hurried down the stairs to the kitchen.  Luckily Maria wasn't in the kitchen.  Scott took down the flour and patted a little on his face.  He looked at Johnny.  “Well, did it work?” he asked his brother.

Johnny looked at Scott skeptically.  “Yeah, it don't look so bad now.”

“Come on,” said Scott pulling his brother, “we better get out to the barn and get the horses cleaned up.”

Scott and Johnny had been in the barn less than 5 minutes, when the heard their father and sister ride in.

“Hi boys.” called Murdoch as he entered the barn.

“Heh, Pa.” he heard.  Both boys were behind their horses brushing them.  Murdoch thought it was a little strange that they didn't come out and greet him.  He usually tried to get a hug from the boys when they got home and Scott usually was assaulted by Juliana when he got home.  Murdoch was busy trying to put Juliana down and dismount, so he didn't pay much attention to the boys.

“You boys have homework?” asked their father.

Johnny started to say “No”, but Scott threw the curry brush at him.  “Yes, sir.” said Scott.  “We both have homework.”

“Well get to it.” said Murdoch.

“Yes sir, just as soon as we finish up with the horses.” said Scott.

Murdoch held out his hand for Juliana.  She shook her head.  “I want Scott.“ she said petulantly.

Juliana walked around toward Charlie's stall to greet Scott.  Scott picked her up and gave her a kiss.  “How's my girl?” he asked.

“Good,” she said giving him a kiss.  Scott was horrified when he looked at Juliana, she had flour on her face.  He quickly wiped off her face and set her down. 

“Be a good girl and go in the house with Papa, ok?” Scott said setting her down on the ground.

She looked at him.  “Play with me.” she demanded.

Johnny came around into Charlie's stall.  “Heh, Juliana.”

Juliana ran to him and gave him a hug.  “Johnny, play with me.”

Johnny kneeled down.  “Me and Scott gotta go do homework.  We can play when we're done.”

Juliana pouted.  “I wanna play now.” she said kicking her foot in the dirt.

“Juliana, Pa's gonna get mad if me and Scott don't do our homework.  You don't want Pa to give us a licking just cuz you want to play, do you?” Johnny asked.

Juliana shook her head “no”.  She didn't want anyone getting a licking anytime.

“Ok, so you go in the house with Papa and we can come down and play as soon as we're done and you get to pick the game, ok?” asked Scott.

Juliana nodded her head, “Ok, Scott.” she said as she scampered off toward the house.

“Whew,” said Scott, “that was close.  Let's go up the back stairs to our rooms and stay until dinner.  We can go to the icehouse first and get a piece of ice to put on your lip and my eye.  Hopefully, by dinner the swelling will go down and Pa won't notice.”

Johnny nodded his head in agreement.  The boys finished up their horses and headed for the icehouse.  They grabbed some ice and headed for their rooms.  “Heh Scott, I don't got no homework.  What am I suppose to do?” asked Johnny.

“I don't know, just think of something, read a book, just write on a piece of paper, put the ice on your lip.  Wait about an hour and I will come get you and we can tell Pa we're done with our homework.” Scott said exasperated.  All this lying and deceiving was getting to be a chore.

“What if Pa wants to check my homework?” asked Johnny.

“Johnny!” Scott groaned, “Tell him I already checked it.”

“Ok, ok.” said Johnny as he slunk into his room.

Scott reached his door, sighed and gratefully entered his room and shut the door.  He wrapped the ice in the towel from the washstand and put the ice on his eye.  He lay down on his bed and heaved a huge sigh of relief.  Before he knew it, Scott was fast asleep.  The hour passed and Johnny got restless.  He left his room and headed for Scott's.  He opened the door to find his big brother fast asleep.  The flour had worn off and Scott's eye was getting ugly and black.  There was no way that his father wouldn't notice.

Johnny sighed.  He figured, he might as well go play with Juliana before she came up and started bugging Scott.  Juliana was in the nursery playing dolls.  “Heh, Juliana.” said Johnny as he pushed the door open.   He heard the clock chime 5:00, they had an hour before dinner.

“Johnny, where's Scott?  He said he'd come play.” she pouted as she looked around her brother to see if her oldest brother was coming.

“He don't feel good.  He's asleep.” said Johnny.

“Get Papa.” Juliana stated firmly as she stood up.

The last thing Johnny wanted was for his father to go get Scott up.  “No, no Juliana.  Let's let him sleep.  He'll feel better later.” he said as he stuck his hand out for hers, “Let's go play outside.”

Juliana nodded her head, “Johnny, can we play shuttlecock?”

Johnny shrugged his shoulders, “Sure, come on.  The rackets and stuff are in the barn.”

Johnny and Juliana passed their father as they exited the house.

“Where are you two going?” he asked.

“Juliana wants to play shuttlecocks, Pa.”  Johnny said dipping his head down.  He didn't want Murdoch to see his lip.  It was still swollen despite the ice.

Murdoch didn't miss much.  He walked over to Johnny and put a finger beneath his chin.  “Johnny?”

“Yes, Pa?”  Johnny asked nervously.

“What happened to your lip, son?”

“Um, nothing Pa.  Uh, I just bumped into the door.” said Johnny hastily.

“A door?” asked his father.

“Yes Pa.  It's fine.  Can we go play?” asked Johnny trying to move his chin from his father's grasp.

Murdoch shook his head.  “Go ahead, but listen for the dinner bell.  Please be on time for dinner.”

“Yes sir.” said Johnny and he and Juliana beat a hasty retreat outside.

Murdoch shook his head once again, something was up.  He'd just go ask  Scott.  Murdoch made his way to Scott's room.  He tapped on the door and got no response.  He thought that was awfully strange since Scott hadn't taken a nap in years.  He pushed the door open and smiled at his oldest stretched on his bed sound asleep.  Murdoch was a proud papa, he loved to watch his children sleep.  When they were asleep, they were close, safe and warm.  He went to stroke his son's head.  He approached the side of the bed and realized that Scott's eye was black and blue.  Murdoch sighed, he'd obviously been fighting again.

“Scott,” said Murdoch rubbing his arm gently.  “Come on son, wake up for me.”  Murdoch patted the other side of Scott's face.  Scott just sighed and snuggled into his father's big hand.

“Come on son,” Murdoch said again.

Scott barely opened his eyes.  He was in such a deep sleep.  “Papa?”

Murdoch chuckled softly.  Scott must have been in a deep sleep.  He almost never called his father “papa” anymore.  “Yes son, come on, wake up for me.”

Scott sat up bleary eyed.  He'd forgotten about the black eye until he tried to blink.  He winced, his hand went to his face.  Then he looked over at his father, he knew he'd been found out by the look on his father's face.

“Scott, what happened to your eye?  Did you get in a fight at school?” Murdoch asked.

“Yes sir.” said Scott hanging his head.

“What did I tell you about the next fight at school?” Murdoch asked seriously cupping his boy's chin forcing his head up.

“You told me I was going to get a whipping.  But Pa, please can I just explain?” pleaded Scott.

“Go on ,” said Murdoch as he sat back and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Well, you know that kid Jeff Masters?” asked Scott.  He sneaked a peak at his father who nodded.

“Well, Pa, he was teasing Johnny about his mother.  He called her a whore and a lot of other stuff.  Johnny jumped him and I stepped in the middle to try and pull them apart and Jeff hit me in the eye.” Scott finished and snuck another peak at his father.  Scott breathed a little easier, his father didn't seem all that angry.

Murdoch just nodded.  “So, Johnny started the fight?”

“Yes sir, I mean no sir, I mean Pa, really Jeff was being so mean, Johnny just couldn't take it any more.  He tried to walk away, but Jeff just kept taunting him.  Please Pa, please don't give us a whipping.”  Scott begged.

Murdoch sat there thoughtfully.  “No whipping son.  I know sometimes that there is nothing else to be done.  I don't want this to become a habit.”

“No sir, it won't.” Scott breathed a sigh of relief.

Murdoch smiled at his oldest.  “I'm proud of you son for being there for your brother.” he said as he pulled is oldest in for a hug.  “I want you to wash up for dinner and go see Maria about putting something on that eye.”

Scott smiled, “Yes, Pa.” as he slid off the bed to go do his father's bidding.

Murdoch left the room and headed downstairs to call his other two in for dinner.  He was pleasantly surprised to see Johnny and Juliana in the front yard playing.  “Johnny, Juliana,” he called, “come get washed for dinner.”

“Oh Papa, we were playing,” pouted Juliana.

“Ahora,” said Murdoch.

Johnny looked up at his father to see that “look” on his face.  “Coming Pa,” said Johnny.

The children went and washed up.  The whole family sat down for dinner and Murdoch looked at Johnny.  “Johnny?”

“Yes Pa?” Johnny asked warily.

“I know about the fight with Jeff Masters.”

Johnny shot Scott a dirty look.

“In the future when I ask you a question, I want an honest answer.”

Johnny looked down and mumbled, “Yes Pa.”

Murdoch didn't say another word and returned to his meal.  He glanced around the  table and watched the children.  They all seemed to be breathing a little easier.  As they finished, the children asked to be excused.  Before he knew it, the clock chimed 7:00 and it was time for Juliana to go to bed.

“Juliana, come here angel, it's time to go to bed.” said Murdoch holding his hand out for her.

“But I'm not tired Papa,” she whined.

Murdoch picked her up and swung her on his hip.  “Come on, we can read a story and rock a little.  Tell Scott and Johnny good night.”  Murdoch said as he stopped by Scott for Juliana to give him a kiss.

“Night Scott and Johnny,” she said as she kissed Scott.

“Night little sister.” said Scott smiling as he kissed her good night.

“Night.” said Johnny looking up from the soldiers he was playing with.

Murdoch took her up stairs, changed her into a nightgown and sat down in the rocker.  She fell asleep before he even finished the first chapter.  By the time he was done, it was 8:00 and it was Johnny's bed time.

“Come on Johnny, bed time,” said his father.

Johnny eyed his father.  He couldn't believe that his father hadn't said anymore about the fight.  He couldn't believe he wasn't getting a whipping.  His father didn't seem at all angry.  Normally Johnny would have protested going to bed, but he wasn't going to take any chances of making his father angry.  “Yes, Pa.”

“Go on, son.  I'll be up to say goodnight in a few minutes.”

Johnny looked at Scott, “Night Scott.”

Scott smiled at his little brother, “Night, brother.”

“Scott, I'm going into town early to get supplies.  So, tomorrow morning, I need you to get Juliana up and dressed for breakfast.  You can leave her with Maria.  You also need to get yourself and Johnny to school on time.”

“Yes sir,” Scott nodded.

“You know son, you are becoming such a man.  I'm glad that I have you to rely on.” Murdoch said as he rose to go tuck Johnny in.

Scott beamed at the praise.  “Thanks Pa,” Scott said shyly.

Murdoch sighed contentedly.  He really was a proud father.  He loved his children and nights like tonight just made him smile and be grateful that God had restored his children to him.  He stopped in front of Johnny's door and heard the scramble of little bare feet on the floor jumping into bed.  He rapped on the door once and opened the door.  “Ready for bed?” he asked his youngest boy.

Johnny nodded.  “Pa…” he hesitated.

“Yes?” asked Murdoch as he straightened the blankets.

Johnny took a big breath, he just wanted to make sure he wasn't going to get punished for the fight.  “I'm sorry about the fight.” he blurted out.

“I know, son.  We're going to let it slide this time.  Scott told me what happened.” Murdoch said as he brushed a stray lock of hair out of his son's face.

Johnny breathed a sigh of relief.  He grabbed his father's neck and planted a kiss on his cheek.  “I love you Pa.”

“I love you, son.  Good night.” said Murdoch as he blew out Johnny's lamp.

All was right in the Lancer household.  Murdoch sighed contentedly.  All  he had to do was see Scott off to bed and then he could go to bed himself.  After all, he had an early morning coming.

“Scott,” Murdoch called as he descended the stairs.

“Sir?” asked Scott.

“I know it's a little early son, but I think we've all had a long day and we have a lot to do for tomorrow.  So, it's time to turn in.”

Scott looked at his father.  “May I read in my room?”

“Yes, but I want that light out at 9:30.  Understand?”

“Yes sir, 9:30.”  Scott said as he got up and headed upstairs.

Murdoch extinguished all the lights in the great room and headed to bed himself.  He rose early in the morning and met Cip out in the yard.  Cip had the wagon loaded and ready to go.  He had several boxes and barrels to hold all the supplies.  Before Murdoch left, he slipped into Scott's room.

He walked over to his son's bed.  He hated to wake him so early, Scott still had another hour before he was suppose to be up.  He wanted to make sure Scott was up and ready to get himself and Johnny ready for school.  He softly called to his oldest, “Scott, Scott, time to get up, son.”

Scott didn't move a muscle.  He was sleeping peacefully.

Murdoch sat down on Scott's bed and rubbed his arm until Scott started to stir.  “Pa?” asked a bleary-eyed Scott.

Murdoch grinned, “Good morning, my son.  I need you to wake up for me.”

Scott was struggling to wake up.  “Yes, Pa, I'm up.”

Murdoch wasn't so sure.  Scott had been known to say he was awake and then fall right back to sleep.  “Come on son, feet on the floor, then I'll know you're awake for sure.”  Murdoch smiled offering his hand to his son as he stood up.

Scott grabbed his father's hand as Murdoch pulled him into a hug.  He kissed the top of Scott's head as he held him for a minute.  Murdoch was relishing the closeness of his son as Scott leaned his head on his father's chest and felt the warmth of his father's arms around him.  Once Scott really started to wake up, he was a bit embarrassed.  “Uh, gosh Pa..” Scott started.

Murdoch sighed, he really missed those days when Scott was little and let his father hold him.  He released Scott.  “Ok son, it's 6:00 am, I'm leaving, do you remember what I need you to do?”

“Yes sir, get Johnny ready for school and wake up Juliana, make sure they have breakfast, leave Juliana with Maria and take Johnny to school.” Scott recited.

“That's my boy.” said Murdoch proudly.  I'll see you after school.”

“Yes sir.”

“Scott?”

“Sir?”

“Don't go back to sleep son, you need to stay awake.”

“Aw Pa, I'm up now.  I won't go back to sleep.” Scott said as he stretched and yawned.

In the mean time, Juliana had woken up.  She heard her father walk down to Scott's room at the other end of the hall.  She knew this was the morning that her father was going into Green River and all she had to do was hide in the wagon and she would be able to go to school with Scott and Johnny.  She quickly dressed and went down the back stairs.  Nobody saw her or heard her.  She frequently was able to sneak down the back stairs and make it to the barn without anyone knowing.  She was very lucky, her father was still talking to Scott and Cip was in the barn.  She climbed under the tarp that covered the boxes and barrels in the wagon.   She snuggled under the tarp and promptly fell back asleep.

Murdoch met Cip in the yard, tightened the tarp and the two took off for Green River, none the wiser of the special passenger they carried.

Scott watched his father leave his room.  He slumped back on his bed and just thought to himself, ‘I can just rest for a little while'.  Before he knew it, he was fast asleep.  When he woke again, it was 7:30 am.  “Oh, no.  Pa's gonna kill me.  Johnny and I have to leave in 30 minutes.” he said to himself.  He ran into Johnny's room.

“Johnny, Johnny,” Scott hollered as he ran down the hall.  He banged open the door to his brother's room.  Johnny was stretched out on his bed sound asleep.  Scott raced over to Johnny's bed and shook him,  “Johnny, Johnny, wake up!  We have to get to school.”

“Huh?” asked Johnny trying to open his eyes.

“Johnny, I overslept and Pa went to town for supplies early.  We only have 30 minutes to dress and eat breakfast.” Scott said as he started pulling clothes for Johnny out of his dresser.  Scott pulled out brown pants and a blue shirt.

Johnny  looked at Scott, “Heh, I hate that shirt, I want the red one.”

Scott looked at Johnny exasperated, “Blue, red, I don't care.  Just get dressed and get down to breakfast.  We can't be late to school, Pa'll have our hides.”

Johnny looked at his big brother who was standing there in his night shirt.  “Uh Scott?”

“What?” asked Scott irritably.

“Don't you think you should get dressed?” Johnny giggled.

Scott looked down at his night shirt.  “Uh, yeah, I was going to do that after I got you up and oh jeez, I'm suppose to get Juliana up.  Maybe Maria will do that for me, I don't have time to deal with her.”  Scott said as he ran out of the room to get dressed.

Johnny just laughed.  He dressed quickly and headed down to breakfast.  He didn't really want to be late to school, either.  He reached the breakfast table to find Maria putting out eggs, bacon and biscuits.  “Hola, mamacita.”

“Eat quickly nino, you must leave in a few minutes for school.  Where is your hermano and hermana?”  she said as she brushed his face with her hand.

Johnny sat down and started to put a piece of bacon in his mouth.  “Scott is getting dressed and I guess Juliana is still in bed.”

Just then Scott skated into the kitchen.  “Maria, I was suppose to get Juliana up and down to breakfast.  I'm sorry I fell back asleep and if Johnny and I don't hurry, we're going to be late for school.  Please, would you get her up.”

Maria smiled indulgently.  “Of course, be calm, I will get her.  You must eat slowly or you will be sick.”

“Yes ma'am.  Thank you.” said Scott gratefully as he was trying to stuff a biscuit in his mouth and drink his milk at the same time.

“Scott,” Maria admonished.  “Eat slowly.  You still have 10 minutes.  I will ask Paco to saddle your horses.”

“Yes ma'am.  Thank you.”  he said again.

Maria chuckled as she left to ask Paco to saddle the boy's horses.  When she had come back in the house, the clock struck 8.  Scott had a momentary panic attack.

Maria looked at the boy, he was trying to be such a grown-up.  “Scott, it's time to leave.  Your books are here, your lunch is here.  See, no reason to worry.  You have plenty of time.”

Scott looked at Maria sheepishly, “Gracias, Maria.  I'm sorry to have made such a fuss.”

Maria caressed the back of Scott's head.  “Go on to school.  Have a nice day.”

Scott and Johnny gathered up their books and their lunches and raced out the door.  Once they were in the saddle and headed for school, Scott relaxed.  He didn't do exactly what his father said, but the boys would be on time for school and he knew that Maria would look after Juliana.

In the meantime, Murdoch and Cip had reached Green River.  It was far too early to get supplies, it was only 7:30.  The store didn't open until 8 am.  Murdoch looked at Cip.  “What say you and I have a big breakfast at Rosie's?” Murdoch asked his Segundo and old friend.

“Si Patron.” smiled Cip, leaning back and patting his ample stomach.  “Tamales, beans, migas, sounds good.”

The men jumped down from the wagon and headed into Rosie's.  Little did they know, their extra special passenger had woken up and was hiding under the tarp.  Juliana waited until the coast was clear, she wiggled out of her spot and climbed down from the wagon.  She wasn't exactly sure of where the school was, so she just started walking down the middle of the street.  As she was walking down the middle of the street, she didn't notice a wagon approaching.  She walked right in front of the horses.

The man driving the wagon shouted, “Heh, get out the way little girl!”  Juliana didn't really notice.  By the time she noticed, the horses were almost on top of her.  The man driving pulled up hard on the reins and was able to stop the horses at the last minute.  She just stood there in the middle of the street terrified.  The man jumped out of the wagon.

“What in the name of all that's holy are you doing?” asked the man as he grabbed Juliana's arm.

Juliana got angry, “Let go, I'm going to school.” she said as she kicked the man in the shin.

The man howled in pain and grabbed his shin.  “Well for God's sake stay out of the middle of the street.” he called after her as she turned to run.  He shook his head and ran his hand through his hair.  “My God, what are her parents thinking, letting a little girl like that going to school by herself.” he muttered to himself.  He hitched his horses to the rail outside of Rosie's.  When he entered Rosie's he heard, “Heh, Jason, how are ya?” asked Rosie.

“Well, I'd be a heck of a lot better if parents would keep a watch on their kids.  I almost ran down a little girl just now.  She was out in the middle of the street by herself.  When I went to grab her, she kicked me in the shin and took off. ”

“Some parents are just irresponsible,” said Rosie, “Sit yourself down and I'll get you a plate and some coffee.”

Murdoch and Cip overheard the conversation between Rosie and Jason.  Murdoch shook his head, unbelievable how some parents let their kids run wild in town.

Juliana was frightened and angry all at once.  She got up on the wooden side walk and sat down for a minute.  She still wasn't sure where the school was.  She didn't realize it, but she ended up right in front of the bakery.  She had missed breakfast and the smells of the bakery were making her stomach growl.  She pushed the door open and went to stand in front of the counter.  She heard a bell tinkle as she pushed the door open.

A portly women with an apron and a white hat came to the counter.  “We're not open yet,” she called as she came to the counter.  “Funny,” said the woman, “I could of sworn I heard the bell.”  Just then the woman thought to look down and she saw a little girl with her hands on the glass case looking at the pastries.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” she asked.  She eyed the little girl.  Very obviously, the little girl was half-Mexican, but she had blue eyes.  Oh, that one is going to have a hard life, she thought.

Juliana was startled.  She looked up.

“Did you want to buy something?” asked the woman.  “Where's your ma or your pa?”

“Umm, he's at Rosie's.” said Juliana.

“Well, honey do you want something?  Because I have to get back to my baking.”

“Uh, no ma'am, I don't gots any money and papa says if you don't gots money then you don't need it.”

The woman chuckled.  “Well, I guess that's true enough.  Does he know  you're here?”

Juliana shook her head ‘no'.

“Oh I see, you're doing a little exploring?”

“Yes ma'am.”

“Honey, what's your father's name?  You really shouldn't be running around by yourself.”

“Papa.”

“What?” asked the confused woman.

“My father's name, it's Papa.” said Juliana.

The woman chuckled.  “Well my name is Annie.  Does he have a first name?  You know like Annie?”

Juliana shook her head, “No, just Papa.”

“Well, what does your mama call him?“

“My mama's dead.” said Juliana.

Annie regarded her sadly.  “Well you probably need to go back to your papa before you get into trouble.”

Juliana looked sorrowfully at the pastries and her stomach grumbled.  “Yes ma'am.”

Annie's heart melted.  She had raised six children and couldn't stand to see a hungry child, not for one minute.  “Honey, are you hungry?”

Juliana nodded.

“Here, you pick out a pastry and you can have one.”  Annie said pointing to the pastries.

Juliana shook her head, “No, I can't.  I don't gots no money.  Papa‘d be mad.  Taking something for no money is bad.”

Annie took out a pastry filled with peach preserves.  She wrapped in a napkin and handed it to Juliana.  “Well he can't be mad if it's a present, right?”

Juliana looked at Annie.  “It's not my birthday.” she said shaking her head.

“Oh,” said Annie, “well, I give presents to all my new friends and we're friends now, right?”

Juliana smiled.  She nodded her head.

“Ok,” said Annie.  “You take this and you go find your papa, all right?”

Juliana nodded her head, “Yes ma'am.  Gracias.”

As Juliana left the bakery, Annie had to wonder what kind of parent let his little girl wander all over the town by herself.

Juliana left the bakery happily eating her pastry.  She knew she had to stay on the sidewalk so the mean man with the horse wouldn't run her over.  Shortly after Juliana left the bakery, Murdoch and Cip left Rosie's. 

“Heh Cip, why don't we go over to the bakery and get some treats for the kids.  We can drop off the list of supplies and then go to the bakery.”

Cip nodded his head as they headed for the mercantile.  “Patron, don't forget we need to stop at the livery for the new bridle you had made for Johnny's birthday.”

Murdoch just nodded his head in agreement as he entered the mercantile and started going over the list with the shop keep.  Once he finished dropping off his list, he and Cip headed for the bakery.  Murdoch stepped into the bakery and the little bell tinkled his arrival.  Annie greeted them.

“Good morning, may I help you?” she said cheerfully.

“Yes, I'd like to get a few pastries.  I thought I'd surprise my children with a treat.” said Murdoch.

“Well, what can I get you?” she asked smiling.

Murdoch was studying the pastries.

“How many children do you have, sir?” asked Annie.

“Oh, I have three, two boys and a girl.”

“That sounds lovely, how old are they?”

“My boys are 16 and 10 and my daughter is 5.” said Murdoch proudly.

“Oh and their mother doesn't bake?” she asked.

Murdoch looked a little uncomfortable.  “Well, their mother died a couple of years ago.”

“Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to pry.” Annie said softly.

“Oh, no offense.  The children do well.”  Murdoch said.  “I think I'll take a pastry with peach, apple and plum.”

“Coming right up.  You know I had a little girl come in here this morning and I gave her a peach pastry.  She was about five.  She sure like it.  Funny thing though, she came in by herself.  When I asked her what her Papa's name was, she told me “papa”.  She was the cutest thing ever.” chuckled Annie.

Murdoch looked at her incredulously, “She was here by herself?”

“Yes, I don't know about some parents.  She said her mother was dead and her papa was at Rosie's.  She seemed awfully young to be wandering around town by herself.  I've raised six and I wouldn't have let mine do that.”

Murdoch just shook his head as he thanked Annie and left the bakery to head over to the livery.

Meanwhile, Juliana had finished her pastry and was trying to find the school when she happened on the livery.  She stood at the corner of the door and watched the man at the forge.  The man reminded her of Papa at the forge.  The man seem to be struggling as he tried to bend and work a piece of iron.  “My papa knows  how to do that.” she commented as the man wiped his brow.

Sam Wright looked at the little girl.  “Oh he does, does he?”

“Yes sir, my papa does that, only he doesn't make it look hard.” Juliana said walking toward him.

Sam smiled at the little girl.  She sure was cute.  Black hair, blue eyed and obviously part white and part Mexican.  Sam wiped his face again.  “So, little missy, what are you doing here, where's your mama and papa?”

Juliana suddenly got defensive, “I'm going to school and I don't have no mama.”

“Well honey if your going to school, you better hurry.  The school bell's going to ring soon.” Sam said.  Sam's son suddenly appeared at the door.

“Bye Pa, going to school.” he said.

“James Mathew, I'm gonna tan your hide if your late.” Sam said eyeing his son.

“No sir, I'm leaving right now.” said James as he started to run out of the livery.

“Just a minute young man.” Sam said to his son's fleeting back.

James stopped in his tracks, “Sir?” he asked turning around.

“Take this little one with you, I think she's a little lost and she says going to school.” Sam said pointing to Juliana.

“Come on,” said James grabbing her hand.

Juliana stepped back.  She was a little scared.  James looked to be about Johnny's age.

James sighed, “Come on little girl, we don't want to be late.  I ain't gonna hurt you.”

Juliana was scared.  “I want Scott.” she said putting her hands behind her back.

“Who's Scott?” asked Sam and James simultaneously.

“My brother, he's at school with Johnny.”

The light dawned on Sam.  This must be Murdoch Lancer's daughter.  His son's names are Scott and Johnny.  What in the world was she doing in town alone.  Did the boys lose her? Was she even old enough to go to school?  He thought she wasn't, but then again maybe he was wrong.

James caught on quickly, “Scott and Johnny Lancer?  Are you Scott Lancer's little sister?”

Juliana nodded her head. 

“Well, I'm Johnny's friend James.  I'll take you to them, o.k.?”

Juliana finally relaxed and let James take her  hand.  “Pa, I'll just take her to school and hand her over to Scott.  I've never seen her in school before, I thought Johnny told me she doesn't start until next year.”

Sam smiled, he'd bet that Murdoch Lancer was going to be awfully surprised.  He wondered how she got all the way into town by herself.  He'd probably better send some one out to the Lancer ranch to let them know where his daughter was.  “Go on son, I'll send some one to Lancer to let them know where she is.”

James and Juliana took off for school.  Sam just wanted to finish the wagon wheel he was working on before going to find some one to head out to Lancer.  In the meantime, Murdoch and Cip were headed for the livery.

Murdoch approached the livery, “Heh Sam.” he greeted.

“Mr. Lancer, how are you?” asked Sam putting his hand out.

“Good, good, just wanted to see if you had that new bridle?”

“Uh, not quite done, yet.”

Murdoch sighed, “Oh well, we can come by another day.”

“Mr. Lancer before you go, I don't have the bridle, but I do have a story for you.”

“Really?” asked Murdoch.

“Oh yes, sir.  I had a little girl come in here today.”

“Really, what does that have to do with me?” asked Murdoch curiously.

“Told me her daddy could bend iron, only he made it look easy, not hard like me.”

Murdoch laughed, “I doubt there is a man stronger than you Sam.”

Sam chuckled, “Maybe you, Mr. Lancer.”

Murdoch raised his eyebrows.

“She also told me she was going to school.”

Murdoch eyed the smithy, “Sam, get to the point.”

“She had black hair and blue eyes….” Sam continued.

Murdoch rolled his eyes, “Sam…..”

“She's part Mexican…” Sam continued.

“Mex…” stuttered Murdoch.

“Yep and said she wanted her brother Scott.” Sam finished hardly containing his mirth.

“Scott?” ask Murdoch dumbfounded.

Sam smiled and nodded, “Missing a little girl, Mr. Lancer?”

“No she's at home with Maria.  At least I think she's at home with Maria.  Well, I….” Murdoch stuttered.

“I think you must have had a stowaway this morning Mr. Lancer.” grinned Sam.

Murdoch started to turn red in the face, from embarrassment, from fear, from shock.  It was all starting to make sense.  The little girl that almost got run down by the horse this morning, the little girl in the bakery, the little girl at the livery.  Unbeknownst to him, he had been following Juliana all over town.  “Where is she?” he ground out.

“I had my James take her to school, she's probably at the school right now.”

Murdoch took off toward the school, “When I get my hands on her……”

Sam laughed as he watched Mr. Lancer stomp off toward the school.  ‘I'll be that little girl is going to have one sore little behind.' he thought as he went back to his work.

While Murdoch had been at the livery, James had taken Juliana to the school.  As they entered the school yard, Juliana saw Scott.

“Scott, Scott…” she yelled as she ran toward him.

Scott stopped short.  He could just swear he heard Juliana call him name.  He turned around and saw his sister running toward him.  “Juliana?”

Scott knelt down as Juliana ran into his arms.  He picked her up and hugged her.  “Scott!” she said as she buried her face in his neck.  He patted her on the back.

“Juliana, what are you doing here?  How'd you get here?” Scott asked her pulling here away enough to look her in the face.

“I wanna go to school.” said Juliana.

Scott rolled his eyes.  “How'd you get here?”

Juliana ignored his question, “I'm at school.  Going to school.” she said as she tried to wiggle away.

Scott put her down, but held on firmly to her hand.  “You hold my hand.” Scott told her sternly.

Juliana tried to wiggle away.  Scott grabbed her hand more firmly.  “Juliana, if you don't stay right here next to me, I'm going to spank your behind.”

Juliana stopped struggling.  Scott's spankings didn't hurt as much as Papa's, but they still hurt.  Scott dragged Juliana toward his teacher.  She had just come outside to ring the bell.  “Ma'am?” Scott asked.

Mrs. Simms looked over at Scott, “Yes, Scott and who do you have here?” she asked glancing at Juliana.

“Ma'am, somehow my little sister got to town and I need to take her home.”

Mrs. Simms smiled.  “I see, you take her straight home and come straight back.”

“But, I wanna go to school.” whined Juliana.

Mrs. Simms smiled at Juliana, “You came to town because you want to go to school, too?” she asked.

“Yes ma'am.  I'm a big girl.  I want to go to school with Scott and Johnny.”

“Oh, I see.  Well, you can't go just yet.  If you try and wait just a little while, you can come to school.”

“I wanna go now.” said Juliana jutting her chin out.

“Just a minute.” said Mrs. Simms.  She went into the school house and came back with some crayons and paper.

“Ok, well you can't go just yet, but you can go home and draw me a picture of what you'd like to do when you do come to school.  Ok?” said Mrs. Simms handing Juliana the crayons and paper.

“Wow, I have homework?” asked Juliana excitedly.

“Yes.” smiled Mrs. Simms.  Then she turned toward Scott, “Scott, you best take her home right away so you won't miss much.”

“Yes, ma'am.” said Scott gratefully as he headed toward the stable with Juliana.  Scott quickly mounted with Juliana and took off for home.  As he settled himself in behind her, he leaned down and said, “Little girl you are in some kind of trouble.”

“No spanking Scott, I stayed with you.” said Juliana frowning.

“Yeah, you stayed with me, but you didn't listen to Pa, he's going to give you a spanking for sure.”

The tears started pouring down her face, “I don't wanna spanking..” she sobbed.  Scott pulled her in tight for a hug.  He wished he hadn't said anything.  He sighed.

“Juliana, you know you aren't allowed to leave the house.  Pa's going to be mad.”

While Scott and Juliana were making their way home, Murdoch and Cip had reached the school.  Murdoch came upon an empty school yard.  All the children must be in school.  Murdoch steeled himself.  He climbed the steps of the school house and quietly opened the door.  He glanced around the room.  All the children were working quietly at their desks.  He cleared  his throat.

“Uh, Mrs. Simms, please pardon the intrusion.”

Johnny whirled around at hearing his father's voice.  “Pa?”

“Johnny, go back to your work.” said Mrs. Simms sternly.

Johnny was about to protest, but took one look at the expression on his father's face and immediately went back to work.  “Yes ma'am.”

Mrs. Simms came to the back of the room and motioned Murdoch to step outside.

“Mrs. Simms, I'm looking for my daughter.” said Murdoch running his hand exasperatedly through his hair.

Mrs. Simms smiled, “Well, Mr. Lancer she showed up here at school and Scott's taken her home.  I told him to go straight home and come straight back.”

Murdoch sighed, he had just missed her, again.

“Thank you, Mrs. Simms.”

“Certainly sir,” said Mrs. Simms.  She laughed to herself, that little girl was going to be quite a challenge in the years to come.  She sent up a silent prayer of thanks that Juliana Lancer would not be a student for another year.

Murdoch turned toward Cip, “Let's finish up and pick up the supplies.  I'm sure Juliana will be in good hands soon.  Scott will leave her with Maria.”

“Si, Patron.”

By the time Murdoch had picked up the supplies and was on his way home, he had calmed down considerably.  Scott had dropped Juliana off with a very worried Maria and hightailed it back to school.  Maria heard Murdoch and Cip pull into the yard with the wagon.  She went out to greet the Patron.

“Patron.” she greeted.

“Where is she?” Murdoch ground out.

“Taking a nap, Patron.”

“Cip, get some help unloading the wagon.  I'm going to check on a certain little girl.” Murdoch huffed as he headed toward the hacienda.

Maria looked and Cip and laughed, “Ah, that one, she is a test for her Papa? No?”

Cip laughed heartily.

Murdoch was determined to have more than just a talk with his daughter.  He opened the door.  She was on her belly, with her behind in the air and her feet tucked underneath her behind.  Her thumb was in her mouth and her hair was spread over her pillow like a fan.  He had a great desire to swat that raised behind, but instead he patted it and closed the door.

That talk would just have to wait, just like the talk with his oldest about what had happened that morning.  He made his way to the great room and prayed, “God grant me the strength to raise these children, I'm not sure I'm up for the challenge.” he prayed as he sank wearily into his chair.
 

~ end ~

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