Ryan had Thursday off and Fiona talked Eileen into going riding. Collin and Ryan had a discussion about who would be the better person to teach Eileen to ride. Ryan won out because Collin was going to go help the neighbor.
Fiona dressed Eileen in an pair of her own riding pants and boots. They were a little loose on Eileen but they would do.
Collin said he would help Ryan get the horses then go to the neighbors. But, at the last minute, the neighbor called up to say he would not be needing Collin’s help after all. Eileen took the message out to the barn with her.
Collin helped them mount up and watched them move off. Ryan started them out slow and headed for the back pasture.
“The horses don’t look so tall till you are sitting on the back of one,” Eileen said.
“That they don’t. Sure and don’t be looking down, just look ahead,” Ryan smiled at her. Eileen felt amazingly happy. She did not know if it was the riding that was making her feel like this or the man she was riding with. She pushed the thought out of her head and just concentrated on the horse.
When they reached the back fence, Ryan said.
“We be getting off for a few minutes. Sure, and it will make the ride back easier.” He pulled up and Eileen stopped the mare beside him. Ryan dismounted and helped Eileen to the ground,
“And how do you be liking it?” he asked.
“Sure, and it’s not so scary. But it’s a lot different than the city. I do be loving it out here but I think I was born a city girl,” Eileen looked around her at the surrounding fields.
“You could get used to bein’ out here in time. I be thinkin’ if you go deep enough you’ll be finding you have a lot of room for the country. And it’d soon be taking over the city part of ya,” Ryan said.
“Well I don’t have time for that right now,” laughed Eileen.
“Really.” Ryan did not sound convinced. “Do you be having time to get back up in this saddle and head back to the house?” Ryan’s eyes had a twinkle in them.
“I think I do,” Eileen teased. Ryan helped her mount up.
“Sure and hold her steady now while I mount up,” Ryan said. But just as he settled into the saddle two short and one long, loud whistles came from the direction of the house. The mare Eileen was riding reared and Eileen fell to the ground. The horse, rid of its rider, took off for the barn. Ryan jumped to the ground and knelt next to Eileen. He kept hold of the reins of his horse so he would not follow the mare.
“Sure and you’ll be hurt?” Ryan asked as Eileen started to sit up.
“I don’t think so. I don’t feel hurt,” she replied.
“You’d better be sitting still a minute and make sure,” concern colored Ryan’s voice.
“Who was whistling?” Eileen asked.
“Sure and that would be Fiona, something is wrong up at the house. When we were little we be arranging that whistle so we could call each other over a distance if something was wrong.” At Ryan’s words a worried look came into Eileen’s face.
“Could it be one of the children? Come on, let’s be getting to the house,” Eileen stood up, Ryan steadying her.
“We’ll have to be riding double.” He swung into the saddle and Eileen let him pull her up behind him.
“You be holding on tight. We be getting there in no time,” Ryan said. Eileen wrapped her arms around Ryan’s middle and held on. Ryan kicked the gelding into a gallop.
The wind whipped Eileen’s hat off her head. It hung around her neck by the string. Over the fear of something having happened to one of the children that had settled in her heart, came a great feeling of happiness. This time she knew the happiness was caused by the man she was riding with.
Collin caught the bridle as they rode up to the barn. He had caught and tied the mare. Eileen slid to the ground, her hair falling around her head in soft waves. It had come loose from the bun at the back of her head. Ryan jumped down to stand next to her but he looked at Collin.
“Sure and Mella fell out of a tree,” was all Collin said. Eileen gasped and headed for the house at a run. Ryan was close behind her. They found Mella sitting at a kitchen chair at the table and Fiona sitting on the floor in front of her. The girls dress was pulled up just above her left knee. The knee was swollen and there was a scrape on it.
Mella looked up as Eileen and Ryan walked in. Eileen could see the pain in Mella’s eyes though she made no sound. Fiona stood up.
“I do be getting some ice. It be pretty swollen,” she said. Eileen took Fiona’s place on the floor by Mella.
Orla had taken the other children to the front porch to be out of the way with help from Connery. “It not be hurting that bad,” said the brave Mella.
“You still can’t be walking on it. Look at how swollen it be,” Eileen said.
Collin came in after tying up the other horse and stood by the door.
“But I have to be working on the morrow,” persisted Mella.
“You will not be working with your knee as it be!” Eileen was firm.
“Sure and I can. I have too!” Mella’s eyes spoke trouble.
“No, Mella, listen to me for once please,” Eileen pleaded.
“I don’t have to be listening to you if I don’t want to. Sure and I’m big enough to care for meself!” stormed Mella.
“And you’ll not be talking like that, Mella Dempsey! Sure and you’re not going to work with your knee like that as your Aunt says.” Everyone in the kitchen was a little startled by Ryan’s voice. But Mella hung her head. She knew she could not fight Ryan even if she could fight Eileen. It was the first time Ryan had ever used such a stern voice on any of the children and Mella was not entirely sure what to make of it. One thing she knew was that there was no talking back to him.
“Sure and we’d better be getting her to bed. Ryan, you be bringing her up.” Fiona said after a moment’s silence and headed for the stairs. Eileen watched Ryan carefully lift Mella into his arms, then followed him up the stairs and into the room where Mella slept. Collin went outside to be with the children.
Ryan retuned to the kitchen and paced back and forth till Fiona came down.
“She has twisted it badly. I’m going to be making some tea for her and hopefully she be going to sleep for a while,” she told her brother.
Upstairs Eileen tried to talk to Mella but the girl turned her face to the wall and ignored Eileen.
“I know you be hurting and not just from your knee. Losing your mother was not a good thing, or something that any of us wanted to be happening. But it’s happened and now we have to make the best of it. Sure, and I be doing the best I can for all of you to give you a better life.”
Fiona walked in then with the tea.
“Thanks I’ll be down shortly,” Eileen said, taking the cup. Fiona left and Eileen held the cup out to Mella
“You do be needing to drink this, it will help you relax and rest some.”
Mella turned enough to take the cup. After drinking the tea she turned her face back to the wall. Eileen could tell the girl was making a great effort to hide her pain. Standing up, Eileen leaned over and kissed Mella’s cheek. Turning, she went down to the kitchen.
Ryan and Fiona sat at the kitchen table. Ryan pulled out a chair and Eileen sank thankfully into it.
“I can’t leave and let you be dealing with this on your own,” Eileen leaned her head in her hands.
“Sure and we’ll be fine. You stay as long as you can, then when you leave we be taking care of what has to be done,” Fiona took Eileen’s hand and squeezed it.
Later that night Eileen came down the stairs, all the children were in bed and she had sung the song for the girls. The glance Eileen cast into the sitting room door as she passed showed Rory, Collin, Ryan and Fiona all sitting there. Eileen went through the hall and out the door to stand on the porch. As she leaned against the railing she heard the door open and close and footsteps across the porch. Ryan came to lean on the railing next to her. She gave him a rather weak smile.
“Sorry, if I be out of place when me stepped in earlier,” he said.
“Mella needs someone to be firm with her. I am too soft hearted.”
“Do you think she be bein’ harder to get along with after this?” he asked.
“I don’t know. She still won’t talk to me. Sure, she ate the supper I took up to her but she not be saying a word or even look at me,” Eileen sighed and her shoulders slumped.
“Faith and you be cheering up. It’ll all work out,” Ryan laid a hand on Eileen’s arm.
Things were not so bad over the next day and a half and Eileen left Saturday evening. Uncle Rory drove her to the station.
“Sure and Mella will be fine. We can handle her. Fiona, sure and she has always been a spirited one. Ryan be used to handling her. And I be having plenty of practice with spirited young un’s myself,” Uncle Rory gave her an encouraging smile, and Eileen took her way back to the city, leaving orders that they were to call if Mella got worse.