Summary: Still too restless to head straight home after three years of travel, Adam makes a detour to Ireland. There he discovers the warmth of the people and their strength to overcome adversity. A new friend teaches him a certain truth about the Irish people:
“When Irish hearts are happy, All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling, Sure, they steal your heart away.”*
Rating: T, Word Count: 24,164
When Smiles Reach the Heart
Leaden pearl-gray clouds dulled what once was a cheery azure sky as brisk winds began to churn the waters of Dublin Bay. Adam Cartwright leaned on the stone wall, edges of his dark hair shifting with the gusty winds. His thoughts bobbed like the ships anchored nearby. After traveling around Europe for nearly three years, he was ready to begin his trip home. Well, almost ready. Rather than taking a steamer from France to America, he chose a detour to Ireland. He wasn’t quite sure why but perhaps it was because he still felt unsettled despite having satisfied his desires for travel, independence, and a change of scenery. He had enjoyed all of his travels, but something was still missing; some desire was not yet satiated. Having heard so much about the beauty of Ireland’s lush landscape and the warmth of the people, Adam decided a short visit might be in order. Perhaps it could be a time of reprieve, a transition before returning to his life in Nevada.
Noticing that the sun had slipped closer to the horizon, he pushed away from the wall and headed in the direction of town, pulling his jacket collar around his neck to ward off the chilled wind. He was finding springtime in Ireland to be a fickle season, warm and cheery one day, cold and rainy the next. He’d been in Dublin just over a week and found the city busy but friendly. Working his way through the streets Adam had one place in mind to go this particular evening – The Palace Bar.** It had become his favorite place to visit. Slipping inside, he stopped by the bar to order his drink then made his way to the back room to find a place to sit. It was still early so he smiled at having the chance to sit quietly and indulge his gloomy thoughts.
Settled at a table in the back room, Adam nursed his pint of Irish Red Ale, lost in a reflective mood. He’d happened on this quaint pub his first night in Dublin. Strolling down the street looking for a place to eat, he heard the laughter and singing drifting through the front door and followed the cheerful sounds. Wandering inside he noted the long bar with stools on the right and a small sitting area on the left, so much smaller than any saloon back home. After stopping to request a beer, Adam made his way through the crowd to the back room which widened out to include more tables and chairs. It also had a much higher ceiling with a stained glass window in the center. This room quickly became Adam’s favorite spot as it seemed his moodiness would vanish as soon as he took a seat.** After pulling up a chair to watch a card game in progress, Adam sipped his beer for the first time and frowned at the strong, bitter taste. The card players joked about his reaction before inviting him to join them. That was the night that he learned Ireland produced more than one kind of beer, and all of it quite different from what he was used to back home.
During that first week Adam took his time getting used to the different beers, and found he already had a few favorites. Enjoying his current pint of ale, Adam smirked at that random thought, wondering if he’d ever be able to drink Western beer again. He raised the mug to his lips and slowly finished the drink, hoping its light flavor might brighten his melancholy mood.
“Ach, that’s no way ta be drinkin’, lad. Here I’ll show ye how it’s done.” Paddy Magee spun a chair around backwards, straddled it, and took a deep drink from his own Guinness stout while settling in his chair. Wiping away the froth from his lips he set the mug down hard. “There. Now ye have a go, me boy, an’ see if ye can do it any better.” He pushed a second mug, filled with the darker brew, toward Adam.
Grinning, Adam took up the mug and drank down half of the beer in one breath. Returning his mug to the table with a loud thud, he released a hearty laugh as Paddy reached out and slapped him on the arm.
“Well done, me friend, well done. We’ll make a true Irishman of you yet!”
The two men laughed as Paddy ordered another round, despite Adam’s attempts to wave him off. The first night that Adam had drifted into the bar, Paddy was one of the card players. He was a longshoreman, and the pub was his favorite place to see friends and have some fun after a long day on the docks. Singing was also one of Paddy’s favorite pastimes so, after learning that Adam could sing, he convinced him to join in. The next day Paddy helped Adam find a better place to stay, to buy some new clothing to help him blend in, and to show him around the area. The two became fast friends after that.
Watching Adam’s face shift from cheery back to sullen, Paddy spoke up, “Now tell me what’s got ye so glum on this fair night.”
Adam cast his eyes down to his mug and traced the outline of the handle. “Just missing home I guess. I’ve been gone for nearly three years and, well…I guess it’s time to see my family again.”
“But somehow I get the feelin’ you’re not too happy ‘bout headin’ home?”
A hint of a smile appeared. “Oh, I do want to go home, but it feels like I haven’t accomplished all I set out to do when I left.”
Paddy leaned an elbow on the table, propping his chin with his hand. “An’ what would that be, my friend?”
“That’s the problem. I don’t know.” Adam shook his head and took a long draw on his beer.
Paddy studied his friend for a bit. He was a moody one to be sure but Paddy thought he might know how to lift his friend’s spirits. “Well I’ll tell ye somethin’, ye’ve not been here long an’ I’d sure hate to see ya leave us so soon. Won’t ye stay a bit longer, an’ give our fair country a chance?”
“I don’t know. You’ve been a good friend, Paddy, helping me find a place to stay and all, but…” Adam caught his friend’s hopeful expression and his own face brightened. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll stay two more weeks and I dare you to show me the best Ireland, and Dublin, have to offer. How’s that?”
Paddy slapped his hand on the table, “Ha! ‘Tis a deal. Now let’s drink to it, then we’ll see if we can teach you some of our songs tonight!”
Adam grinned as the friends saluted each other with their mugs and drank down their beers. Pushing away from the table and heading to a different corner of the room where a few musicians had settled, Paddy addressed the growing evening crowd. “Friends, this night we’ll be teachin’ my American friend here some of our favorite songs. Are ye with me?”
Cheers filled the small space, and Adam realized his gloom had been chased away once again by the warmth and friendship he’d found in Paddy Magee and The Palace Bar. As the crowd warmed up with a local song, a young barmaid carrying a tray of dirty mugs across the room paused to listen. However it wasn’t only the singing that held her attention, but also the dark-haired American who seemed to fit in perfectly with the jovial crowd. A call from the front room ended her musings as she returned to her tasks.
After several zesty songs, and his voice growing hoarse, Adam called it a night. The pub had become packed and he was ready for some fresh air. Maneuvering around the patrons standing near the front door, he came face to face with the barmaid, two mugs of beer in each of her hands. He paused in place to let her pass and that was when their eyes locked on one another. For a brief moment neither moved, then a shy smile graced her lips as she headed toward the back room. In turn Adam continued outside. He found the cool air refreshing as he made his way back to his apartment. On the way, his mind kept returning to the brief image of the young girl with chestnut hair the color of a Tahoe sunset and green eyes as clear as the lake itself. But it was her smile, which brightened those eyes, that followed him into his sleep.
The next morning Adam enjoyed a hearty Irish breakfast at a nearby cafe before heading out to explore the city. His head was full of family, home, and Ireland. Throughout the morning, Adam sat in parks and wandered through city streets, trying to sort out what was missing in his life and where he belonged. He missed his family and was ready to head home but that desire carried an emptiness he couldn’t understand. As he headed toward the Palace Bar late in the afternoon, he found himself hoping he would see the young lady he’d seen the evening before. As he approached the bar an omnibus stopped at the corner and she stepped off, walking briskly toward the pub. Adam came up from the other direction and offered to hold the door for her.
“Here, allow me.”
The girl hesitated for a moment, tightening her woolen shawl about her slim body, before giving Adam a curt nod and entering the pub followed by other patrons. When Adam entered he could not see her anywhere so he inquired of the bartender.
“The young lady that just entered, did you see where she went?”
“Aye, where she always goes. To th’ back.”
The man’s clipped tone and dark look kept Adam from asking any more questions. Not sure what to do next, he chose to sit on a stool nearby. A few minutes later she returned, tying on a white apron over her gray dress.
She paused only long enough to be polite, aware of the bartender’s scrutinizing gaze. “Hello.”
“We passed each other in here last night as I was leaving.”
“Aye, ‘twas a busy night. I’ve got to get to me work now.” She darted behind the bar, missing the look of disappointment on Adam’s face.
Adam saw the barkeeper glaring at him so he ordered a beer and a bowl of stew before heading to the back room.
The bartender scowled as he handed the girl a cleaning rag. “You best be watchin’ yerself, missy. Seamus will be after me own hide if anythin’ happens to ya.”
“Ach, leave it be, Uncle Danny. You know as well as I, me Da’s stuck too much in th’ old ways.” She scrubbed at the bar’s surface as her eyes drifted over to the back room where the American had just gone, a soft smile tugging at her lips.
Danny didn’t miss the look. His niece was headstrong to be sure and keeping an eye on her was a full-time job in itself. When Adam’s order was ready, the girl placed it on a tray and disappeared before Danny could stop her.
Adam sat up straighter when the young lady approached. She quickly set his bowl of stew and beer on the table.
“Just ask for Ellie if ye need anythin’ else.”
“I will… Ellie.” He tipped his head and smiled as she spun away to tend to other customers, her braided hair swinging across her back. Tucking into his meal he discreetly watched her as she flitted from table to table. Around the customers she was restrained as if not wishing to have extended contact with anyone, but she would throw furtive glances at Adam when she thought no one was looking. To him she was an enigma, and one he wanted to figure out.
Paddy eventually arrived and once again drew Adam into the singing. After a couple of spirited songs, the two friends took a break to enjoy their beers. Ellie brought the pints, long with a meal for Paddy, and as she turned to leave, Paddy caught her hand and drew her close to him.
“Here lass, let me introduce you to me friend, Adam Cartwright. He’s from America. Adam, this here’s Eleanor Rigby, the finest singer in all Ireland.” He gave her a warm hug. Her eyes flitted briefly to Adam’s wondering what he must be thinking about her and Paddy.
“‘Tis a pleasure, Mister Cartwright.” She gave Adam a warm smile before returning her attention to Paddy. “An’ don’t ye be talkin’ like that, Paddy Magee. I’m not that good a singer! You’re just sayin’ it ‘cause I’m your cousin,” she fussed as she worked out of Paddy’s embrace.
“Well, at least in all o’ Dublin. So why don’t ye give us a song, Ellie. A Sean-nós song.”
“Ach no, you’ll get me fired. Now leave me be.”
“Now then, ye won’t be losin’ yer job. Ye see Adam, Danny, who runs this fine establishment is me Da, an’ Ellie’s uncle.”
Ellie pushed away from Paddy. “An’ you best be rememberin’ that yeself, Paddy Magee.”
“Come on lass, give us a song, for ye ol’ Paddy?”
“Well, since ye asked so nicely, I guess I can’t refuse, now can I?” She waved a finger at him. “But just the one!”
“That’s me girl.” Ellie finally gave Paddy a smile as she set her tray on an empty table. When she headed toward the musicians Paddy scooted his chair around to sit by Adam. He leaned in and spoke quietly, “What Ellie’s goin’ to sing is called Sean-nós singin’. A song in the old style. The voice is the only instrument and the song usually reflects deep emotions – love, sadness, loss.”
One of the musicians offered her his stool and she settled on it, closed her eyes and let her voice fill the small room.
Adam’s heart fluttered with the angelic sounds that floated on the air. While he couldn’t understand the Gaelic words, he felt he didn’t need to. Ellie’s voice was all that was needed to convey the emotions of what she sang. He sat mesmerized until the song ended, the last note drifting away to silence.
When Ellie finished, she demurely accepted the gentle applause from the listeners, then quickly slipped from the group to return to her work.
Paddy eyed Adam as the musicians began to play once more. Taking up his pint, he waited for Adam’s response.
“You’re right, she has a beautiful voice, but somehow that doesn’t seem to describe it. Does she sing often?”
“Ach no. Not as much as she should. Her Da let’s her work here only because we’re family, otherwise he keeps her on a tight rein. Don’t get me wrong, Adam. Ellie’s a fine girl. She’s young, spirited and a hard worker. But her father is full of rules and such. He’s not happy with Ellie workin’ at all, but they need the money since her Da left the brewery due to an accident. The lass is ready ta meet the world but ‘tis her Da holdin’ her back with his strong beliefs in the old ways.”
Adam absorbed all Paddy said but didn’t feel comfortable discussing it further. Silently he felt that explained Ellie’s behavior around the patrons, and perhaps, around him.
As the evening crowd headed home, Adam slipped out with them. He stood just down the street in the shadows of a gas lamp. Not one to linger he just wanted one more chance to see her. A half hour later, he saw Ellie leave alone. She waited at the corner for her bus but Adam noticed she was becoming agitated, glancing up and down the street. He approached her, clearing his throat so as not to startle her.
“Good evening, Miss Rigby. I was heading home and saw you standing here by yourself. Is everything alright?”
“Mister Cartwright. Good evenin’ to ye. Just waitin’ on my bus. It should have arrived by now. If I don’t leave soon I’ll be late gettin’ home an’ me Da will be frettin’.”
“Perhaps it will come soon. Would it be alright if I waited with you? You shouldn’t be here at night all by yourself.”
Ellie gave a single nod without a word, but inside she was grateful for Adam’s companionship and thoughtfulness. It was the first time someone took an interest in her safety, without giving her a lecture about rules or propriety.
“I enjoyed your singing tonight. Paddy’s right. You have a lovely voice.”
“Thank ye for the kind words. You sing well too, Adam. I’m sorry, I should’ve asked. Is it alright if I call you Adam?”
“It is my name.” He smiled, then seeing her embarrassed look he quickly amended his small bit of teasing. “Forgive me. I’d be pleased to have you call me Adam, if I may call you Ellie, or do you prefer Eleanor.”
“Oh no, Ellie is fine. Only me Da calls me Eleanor.”
Hearing the jingle of harnesses both looked down the street to see the Omnibus coming.
“Well, I guess I’ll say good night.”
“Adam, I’m not workin’ t’morrow. Would you like me to show you around the city? Would you be interested in visiting some of our museums?”
“I’d like that very much. I promised Paddy I’d stay a couple more weeks and I’d like to learn as much as I can about Dublin before I leave.”
Ellie smiled as the bus arrived and she stepped aboard. “They’re not far from here. I can meet you outside the pub around ten.”
“I’ll be here.”
“Good night then.”
Adam touched the visor of his flat cap as the bus pulled away, then he headed off to his apartment, Ellie’s warm smile and bright eyes lingering in his thoughts. Paddy stepped from the doorway and watched his friend stroll down the street whistling a tune. He was pleased to hear that Adam and Ellie would be spending time together the next day. He planned to follow them for a bit to make sure Adam was the gentleman he appeared to be. If so, he felt Ellie’s future might be looking up, especially if her father didn’t recover enough from his injuries. The girl deserved a happy life with a family of her own. Being her cousin, Paddy knew Ellie had seen enough pain for one lifetime. It was time for someone to set her on a new path. As he headed home, he hoped he was doing the right thing by her.
The next morning Adam arrived outside the pub just as Ellie was stepping off the bus. She waited until the driver pulled away before she acknowledged Adam. He made his way closer to her, his eyes taking in how well her dark blue dress, though simple with a modest neckline and touches of lace on the sleeves, made her face glow. He also noticed she wore her hair loose but pulled away from her face.
“Good mornin’ to ye, Adam.”
“Good morning, Ellie. What do you have planned for us today?”
“Ach, only a couple of museums. We have an art gallery that opened a few years ago and a natural history museum, if that is alright?”
“Those sound just fine. I’m ready if you are.”
Adam waited for Ellie to indicate the direction then he fell into step beside her. As they walked, Ellie gave a brief history of the city and pointed out a few important buildings. Having shared only a few words the evening before, Adam was surprised and pleased at how engaging Ellie could be when she spoke about the city and its history.
After the museums, they bought some cheese and bread from a vendor and sat in a park to enjoy it.
“Thank you for a wonderful morning. I enjoyed hearing you tell about the history of Dublin.”
“I’m pleased you had a good time.” She lowered her eyes shyly. “I was afraid you would be bored with it all. I couldn’t tell if you were the kind of person who would enjoy such things.”
Adam chuckled. “I tend to give that impression to many people. You see I grew up on a wagon train traveling across America because my father had a dream to own his own land in the West. We had very little for many years, but it was his determination that saw us through. He’s made that dream come true with my help and that of my brothers. As we grew up he made sure we had a basic education and taught us good manners. When I returned to the East for college, I had many opportunities to learn about history, art and music. I guess I never lost my wanderlust as my dream was to travel and experience more than what my father’s ranch offered.”
Ellie’s eyes brightened when Adam mentioned college. “Are those things what you studied at college?”
Adam brushed bread crumbs from his fingers as he reached for a piece of cheese. “I did but my degree was in Engineering and Architecture.”
“You’re a builder?”
“When I get the chance. I was able to make some improvements to our ranch and sawmill. We grow our own timber for milling and selling to those who need it. We also raise cattle and horses. ”
Ellie tittered softly; music to Adam’s ears. “You’re a cowboy as well? You have so many talents, Adam. I’ve read about American cowboys, but you don’t seem anything like what I’ve read. You look more like an Irishman.”
“You can thank Paddy for that. He felt I needed to ‘blend in’ a bit better than wearing my city clothes all the time. I’ve been traveling through Europe these last three years and I’m making my way home.”
“Tell me more about your ranch and what you do as a cowboy. Please?”
Adam could tell Ellie was eager to learn, and it brought to mind Paddy’s words the night before about her being held back by her father. He settled back and told her all about growing up on the Ponderosa. He smiled as her eyes grew wide with his tales of cattle roundups, breaking wild horses, and cutting down trees that touched the sky.
When he ran out of stories, they listened to the birds singing and the sounds of the city. Adam turned toward Ellie, resting his arm on the back of the bench behind her. “Ellie, tell me how you came to know so much about your fair city?”
Ellie bit her lip before answering in a quiet voice, “I love to learn things, an’ I spend as much time as I can at the museums an’ talkin’ to folks.”
Adam sensed there was more to her answer but didn’t push for it when she stopped speaking and looked away into the distance.
Settling back into the bench, he glanced at the sky noting the sun’s position. “It’s nearing one o’clock. Do you have anything more planned for us today?”
When he finished speaking distant church bells rang out chiming the single hour.
Ellie was amazed. “How did you now the time so precisely?”
Adam chuckled. “Where I live we are far from any town. When we’re out on the range, we have to know how to read the position of the sun, and to recognize the weather patterns as they can change without notice.”
“Would you teach me some of those things, Adam?”
“If you like. My father taught me on our journey across America.”
“You’ve seen so much of the world. I wish I could see as much.” Ellie suddenly stood and packed away their remaining food and wrappings. “I’ve got to go an’ prepare dinner for Da. He likes to eat early, then go to bed by sundown.”
Adam carried the food as they walked back to the bus stop. He handed the package to Ellie as she boarded the bus and then bid her farewell, suggesting they could meet again for another tour around the city. Ellie gave him a bright smile. “I’d like that, Adam.”
Paddy ambled up just as the bus pulled away. Adam turned to find him leaning against the wall with his thumbs stuck through his suspenders. Adam leaned against a light post and crossed his arms.
“So how long have you been following us?”
Paddy pushed away from the wall and headed down the street, with Adam joining him.
“Long enough to know that you and Ellie enjoyed your morning together.”
“And checking to see if I would be a gentleman with her?”
Paddy shrugged. “Guilty as charged. She’s like a sister to me, Adam, and I feel responsible for her.”
“You know you could have joined us.”
Paddy released a hearty laughed. “An’ where would th’ fun be in that, for the two of you or me, my friend?”
That morning was only the beginning of a busy two weeks for Adam. Paddy lived up to his promise and gave his friend a tour of the Guinness Brewery, and the nightlife of Dublin, shows and pubs. Ellie took him to museums and parks, and on one sunny day Adam rented a carriage for a picnic with her in the countryside.
Those first days with Ellie opened Adam’s eyes to her true personality. At first he only knew her as the shy barmaid of The Palace Bar. Away from work she was playful, bold, and, as Adam discovered, quite knowledgeable in the arts and culture of the city. They found they had shared interests in history and literature. He told her more about his life and family in Nevada, and tried to explain some of the jobs of a cowboy. Her giggling at his pantomimes of roping a calf and busting a bronc sounded to Adam like angels singing. As each day passed, the two became stronger friends, she teaching him Gaelic and Irish lore, and he encouraging her to sing American songs with him. Both were finding many reasons to laugh and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
The more time Adam spent with Ellie, the more Paddy’s words about her father and uncle kept crossing his mind. He could see how she would shy away from men with her uncle keeping a close eye on her, but in Adam’s company she became a wonderful, bright, exciting young woman. She was just a couple of years older than Joe and for the most part self-educated in history, the arts and literature. A few times he tried to ask about her family, but she grew dark and changed the subject. He could see the undercurrent of an Irish temper, so he chose to let her bring up the topic on her own.
During their final days, before Adam was to leave for America Ellie announced she had a surprise for him. They had been strolling along the River Liffey admiring the view but with a twinkle in her eye, she led him away from the river and toward town, refusing to answer his questions as to their destination.
As they neared the location she stopped walking and turned to him.
“As I’ve shown you our fair city, I’ve noticed you ask many questions about the buildings – how they are made, their history. Well, what we are about to see is the seven hundred year old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral***. However, after many wars it had fallen into great disrepair. But come, let me show you.”
Clasping his hand in hers she led him down the block and around a corner. Ellie jerked to a stop when she realized that Adam was no longer moving. Looking back she grinned at his awestruck expression. Hoping to see an Irish cathedral but not expecting to see one fully restored, Adam gaped at the magnificent structure rising before him. Ellie knew he would appreciate the beauty of the structure that was invisible to most passersby.
“Come Adam. We can walk around the grounds then I’ll take you inside.”
As they explored the grounds and inside the Cathedral, Adam noticed many architectural differences from the cathedrals he’d studied in France and Italy. He asked Ellie if she could explain them.
“Aye, I’ll try. In the last hundred years the Cathedral fell into great disrepair. So much so the city wanted to tear it down, fearing its collapse.”
“No. All the history, and beauty, would be lost.”
“Aye. I knew ye would understand. Many in the church felt the same way, so Mister Benjamin Guinness, grandson son of Arthur Guinness, the man who founded Guinness Brewery, offered to fund the entire restoration, but on the condition that he be allowed to make changes to parts of the church. Reluctantly the church leaders accepted as they felt they had no other choice, and what you see now is the result of that grand work.”
Adam wandered around the nave, taking in every detail. “So it’s a mixture of Medieval and Victorian architecture. Amazing. Mister Guinness did an incredible job.”
Ellie’s heart soared as she observed how Adam reverently absorbed every detail of the building, gently touching a stone wall, brushing his fingertips across a colored window pain. As he wandered through the Nave, she realized she enjoyed every moment they could have together. She was sure Adam felt the same way, as his face always brightened when she came near. Today, she felt she was seeing another side of Adam, someone who was lost in his own world and having the time of his life exploring it.
While Ellie pondered these things, Adam returned to her side. She felt his hand slip around hers as he led her outside to a garden bench. She sat by him as he continued to hold her hand and study her face.
“Ellie, thank you for bringing me here. This is magnificent. But I also want to thank you for the last two weeks. You’ve given me a wonderful tour of your home and its culture. For that I’ll always be grateful.” He paused to consider whether his next words would spoil the moment, but forged ahead anyway. “This will sound trite but you have changed my life. When I first met you, I was adrift, feeling a deep dissatisfaction with my life. Now, you’ve shown me how to have fun and see the beauty in the smallest of things. You’ve brought sunshine into this lonely life with your warm smiles, spirited songs, and tales of Irish lore. I want to spend more time with you and get to know you so much more.” He paused to check her reaction. She turned her face away but didn’t pull her hand from his.
Adam spoke again, his voice quiet, his words gentle. “If you’re agreeable to our seeing more of each other, I’d like to postpone my trip home.”
Ellie lost her breath and struggled to get it back. She pulled her hand from Adam’s and wrapped her arms about herself. This was all she had dared hoped for but how would she ever explain to her father that she was falling in love with an American. She struggled to keep control over her quivering voice. “Adam, you don’t know how I have hoped you would stay. I want to know more about you too, but before you make that decision, you must understand about my background, my family and the strong traditions that tie them together. After you hear what I have to say, I will understand if you choose to leave.”
Adam’s heart pounded as she spoke. He drew her to his side. “I understand more than you may think. Paddy told me your father is strong-minded and expects you to follow the traditions of your people and your faith. I can respect that. I’ve grown up under my father’s directives, and they have given me my foundation in life. Mind you I love him very much and respect all that he has taught me, but there came a time when I needed to find my own way. I had a desire to find something different for my life. Something I couldn’t put a name to, until these past weeks.
A smile broke out on Ellie’s solemn face much as the sun would appear through storm clouds. “To be free, to choose your own path?”
“Yes. And to have someone to share that path with me.”
“Oh Adam, I wish that too, but I fear it canna be, at least for me. The Irish are held by their traditions, their faith in God, and their families. I don’t know how to explain it further.”
“Try telling about your family.”
She flicked her eyes up to see Adam’s earnest expression. It gave her courage to share about the difficulties in her life. “My life has not been easy but the potato famine made it worse. Ye know of it?”
Adam nodded solemnly.
“I was only five years old when it struck and me Ma died before it was over. Da was never the same after that. He lost so much – his wife, his livelihood, and many friends. We struggled just to stay alive for several years. About five years after the famine ended, Ma’s brother Danny found work at the Guinness brewery, an’ convinced Da to join him, so we moved here to Dublin. After a few years Da remained workin’ for the brewery but Uncle Danny left to manage the Palace Bar. By that time I was finishing my schooling an’ had a chance to continue on with a scholarship at a college here, but Da put his foot down. He said I needed ta marry a man with land and raise a family. He said I had enough education to be a good wife. We argued ‘bout it because most of the young men had other jobs away from farmin’, an’ weren’t interested in marryin’ anyway. I let the schoolin’ go an’ I felt lost, but I had to respect me Da’s wishes”
“Ellie, if your father wants you marry a landowner, I own land.”
Ellie shook her head. “No, ye don’t understand. It’s not just about the land. It’s also that you are an American. Da would never allow me to marry you.”
“Does he know that we’ve been spending time together?”
“I’m sorry Adam, I am afraid to tell him ‘cause his health is not good.”
“Because of his grief or the accident?”
“Ye know about that?”
“Paddy mentioned it to me. I don’t know the details.”
“Paddy…I don’t know what to do with him sometimes.” Ellie sighed and continued. “Last year, someone at the brewery was careless with storin’ the large empty barrels an’ some fell on Da, hittin’ him in th’ head and injurin’ his leg. He’s not worked since. The company paid for some of our bills and gave him a pension but it’s not enough to live on so I started workin’ at the pub for Uncle Danny. Paddy’s the one that got the job for me. Uncle Danny swore to Da he’d keep me safe and not let me stray around the men there.” Ellie blushed at that but could tell Adam knew what she meant. “Do ye see, Adam, why I can’t let ye get any closer? Why we can only be friends? ‘Tis not what would please Da, an’ he means the world to me. He has no one but me, an’ I canna leave him.”
Adam’s thoughts were racing as he tried to balance her situation with both their desires.
“Ellie, listen to me. I understand how you feel about your father, and I’d never ask you to give up your faith or go against your father. But don’t you see that he’s keeping you from pursuing your own dreams? You’ve given up on more education for him, you’ve not told him about me, because of his health, and you won’t consider a future with me, because you believe your father won’t approve.”
Ellie wanted to dispute all that Adam had said but knew she couldn’t.
“I really do understand how you’re feeling about all of this. You deserve a chance to find your own path. You are a vibrant and lovely young woman, and I love you for that.”
Scanning her face he saw her conflicts reflected there. He gently took her hand in his, kissed her fingertips, her palm, then leaned in to kiss her lips. Instead of drawing away, she returned his kiss. He drew back and caressed her cheek gently as she closed her eyes. His voice was low, almost a whisper, “I don’t want to lose you. If you will give me the chance, we can find a way to make this work. I promise.”
She leaned her head against his broad chest. In the comfort of each other’s arms they remained silent, listening to the songbirds, relaxing in their newfound love for each other, and both worrying about how to connect two different worlds.
Despite Ellie’s protests, Adam postponed his departure. He continued to see her whenever she was off during the week. Their love grew stronger as they began to talk through all their differences. Adam was patient with Ellie, not forcing her into anything she felt would harm her relationship with her father, but encouraging her to talk with him, to be honest with him. Paddy, as well as Danny, were aware of what was happening and tried to help the couple by offering to convince Ellie’s father to allow her to marry Adam. Adam even agreed to remain in Ireland, but Seamus Rigby refused to meet Adam much less let Ellie marry a non-Irishman. He had become more and more bitter over the years due to his personal losses, and refused to see the harm that bitterness was doing to his daughter’s life.
One evening Adam entered the bar and stopped to chat with Danny.
“Evenin’ Adam. What can I get ya?”
“Ellie or Paddy here?”
“Ellie’s not workin’ t’night. Seamus needed her at home. Paddy’s goin’ ta be late. They had some workers quit an’ a cargo ship needs loadin’ so it can leave at dawn. I expect he’ll be here in an hour or two. Go find ye a table. I’ll send some stew and Guiness your way.”
“Thanks, Danny. That’s sounds good.”
Adam settled at a corner table and let his thoughts drift. He needed to find a way to speak to Seamus Rigby, to get to know the man. When the food arrived he ate without tasting any of it while he formulated a plan. So focused on his ideas and meal, he didn’t immediately notice the shadow cross over his table. Thinking it was Paddy he looked up to see a well muscled-man standing there, large fists clenched in front of him, intense eyes glaring down at him.
“Ye the man been seein’ me Eleanor?”
Adam slowly set his mug down, resting his palms on the table. “Mister Rigby I presume.” Keeping his eyes fixed on the large man in front of him, Adam started to rise and hold out his hand in a peaceful gesture, when Seamus grabbed his arm and pulled him across the table. Adam landed face down on the floor as patrons scattered.
Recovering quickly, Adam rose to his feet in time to be hit broadside with a chair. After that Seamus grabbed Adam’s shirt and drew him to within inches of his face. “Ye leave me daughter alone ye heathen. I’ll not be havin’ the likes of you soilin’ her good reputation. If I see ye around her anymore, I’ll kill ye, ye hear me? I’ll kill ye.”
“Seamus Rigby what in tarnation are ye doin’ bustin’ up me bar and threatenin’ me patrons!! Put him down now!”
Adam twisted slightly against Seamus’ strong grip to see Danny standing with his feet spread and grasping a club in one hand.
Seamus shoved Adam away and turned to face Danny. “You stay out o’ this, Danny. ‘Tis between me an’ him!”
Adam straightened his clothes and stepped closer to Seamus.
“Adam step away,” Danny called but Adam ignored him.
“Mister Rigby, I don’t appreciate being manhandled and threatened. If you had taken time to ask I would tell you that I have nothing but good intentions toward your daughter. In fact–”
He never finished as Seamus’ large fist landed against his jaw and sent him reeling across a table.
“For the love of all that’s good, Seamus, are ye daft? Get out o’ here ‘fore I call the constable.”
Seamus huffed and limped past Danny who followed to make sure his brother-in-law was gone then returned to check on Adam.
Someone had helped Adam into a chair and another brought ice for his face.
“Are ye alright?”
“Yeah, nothing’s out of place.” He rolled his eyes at his worried friend. “Well, not quite the first meeting I expected to have with Seamus Rigby.” He winced as the ice touched the bruises that were beginning to form.
Danny helped Adam to the store room, grabbing a cloth and whiskey along the way. Sitting on a barrel, Adam remained quiet as Danny helped him clean the blood from his face and then handed Adam some fresh ice wrapped in a towel. “Don’t ye worry none. I’ll be havin’ a good talk with him t’morrow. I’ll not be havin’ him treatin’ you or anyone else that way.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m more concerned about Ellie. Someone should check on her, considering the mood Seamus is in.”
“Seamus has a temper, that ye’ve seen, but one thing I know is that he won’t hurt his daughter. She’s all he’s got, and he’ll fight to keep her.”
“Yeah, I’ve learned that the hard way.” Adam placed the ice back on his jaw and sighed. Danny patted Adam on the arm then returned to attend to his customers.
When Paddy arrived he walked Adam home. He offered to stay but left after Adam convinced him he didn’t need a nurse nor a bodyguard. Instead Paddy left his friend with a promise to check on Ellie as soon as he could.
Adam settled in bed and, despite his aching jaw, soon fell asleep, no closer to settling things with Seamus, and worried for Ellie’s safety.
The next afternoon, Adam found out just how complicated Seamus Rigby had made his and Ellie’s lives. He was reading by the fireplace when a pounding on the door broke the silence. When he opened the door, Ellie’s red-rimmed eyes grew wide and she gasped when she saw his bruised face.
“Oh Adam…” She fell into his arms, nearly hysterical, and Paddy stepped inside, shutting the door behind him.
Holding tightly to Ellie, Adam looked askance at Paddy. “What’s happened?”
“We best sit down.”
Adam guided Ellie to the sofa and sat with her. She refused to let go of him. Paddy sat on the edge of the chair and began to explain. “Seamus’ bitterness an’ anger has taken him to a dark place. It all started when Ellie tried to talk with him yesterday about how she felt toward you. Seamus wouldn’t listen, claiming you were leading her astray, lyin’ to her. He’s accused you of, well, defiling Ellie, an’ essentially sayin’ you’re forcin’ her ta go away with you.”
“He what?! That’s ludicrous! Just last night he told me to stay away from her. How…”
Paddy held up his hand to stay anymore of Adam’s outburst. “Aye, well, that’s why he showed up at the bar last night. We know it ain’t true but Seamus has convinced himself of it an’ there’ll be no changin’ his mind. He told Ellie ta stop seein’ ya a while back but she refused. When he discovered she’d defied him, he came out with his accusations ‘bout you. Now he’s plannin’ ta send Ellie away to a convent claimin’ you’ve drawn her into sin. An’ well, we know what he said to you last night.”
Adam shifted to look at Ellie. “Is it true that he told you not to see me?”
She held his gaze and nodded. “I’m sorry, Adam. I couldn’t stop seein’ ya an’ I told Da that. It only made him angrier. He hasn’t been himself for weeks and I no longer know what to do.”
Adam began pacing the small room. “What does all this mean, Paddy? What’s going to happen to Ellie now?”
“Da’s with Seamus now, tryin’ to convince him he’s believin’ a lie ‘bout you two. We think Seamus just isn’t right in the head anymore, an’ well, we don’t think any kind of reasoning will get through to him. We also think that after his threats to you last night perhaps it might be best if you leave the city, at least for a while.”
“No, I won’t leave Ellie to fend for herself in this mess, or let Seamus send her away, and I won’t run from a lie. I’m going to talk to Seamus.” He headed toward the door.
Ellie ran to him, grabbing his arm, her pale face flushed with fear. “No Adam, please don’t. Paddy told me what Da said last night. He’ll kill ye if you go. He’s that mad ‘bout it all. Please, ye need to stay way. I’ll be fine. Paddy will see to that. Please Adam?”
In that moment, Adam saw something other than fear in Ellie’s eyes that determined his next steps. Despite her words, her eyes told him something entirely different. Paddy sensed it too and nodded once to give Adam his encouragement.
Adam turned back to Ellie, lost himself for a moment in her emerald eyes, then spoke the words he’d wanted to say for weeks.
“Ellie, I love you. I have supported you in all your choices to stay true to your father’s wishes. You also know that I would do anything and everything to care for you, to protect you, to give you the life you crave. But the time has come for you to trust me completely, to know I have your best interests at heart.”
He gathered her shaking hands in his, never breaking his gaze. “Eleanor Mae Rigby, I want to marry you, right now. Let me give you your dreams. Allow me to protect you, to care for you, to give my love to you completely.”
Ellie’s hands flew to her mouth as her tears fell furiously. Her eyes flicked from Adam to Paddy and back to Adam. She began to shake her head, then her entire body began to shake. Fearing her collapse, Adam stepped forward but she moved away from him. “Adam, I–I cannot…I want to but….Da…”
Paddy moved in and took her into his arms. While she cried into his shoulder, he hoped his words would convince her to accept Adam’s proposal. “Ellie, ye don’t need ta listen to any of my words, ye only need to listen ta your heart. Ye have told me many times how much ye love Adam. Now is the time to trust him. I do.” He glanced at Adam to solidify that statement. “This is the path ye’ve dreamed of. Follow it, lass.”
It took several more minutes for Ellie to calm down. She sat down as Adam poured a small amount of whiskey for all three of them. Over the next hour, Adam and Paddy tried to figure out their options concerning Seamus, as Ellie remained silent and listened. As they talked openly and honestly, she began to comprehend the truth about her father, and realized she had been denying it for so long.
When the conversation drifted to silence, Adam noticed that Ellie had curled up in the corner of the sofa with her eyes closed. Paddy got his attention and moved toward the door.
“Guess I better get Ellie home, an’ see if Da’s made any progress with Seamus.”
“Paddy, look at her. She’s too exhausted to go anywhere. Let her stay here tonight. I’ll bring her home tomorrow and maybe Seamus will be in a better mood.” He saw Paddy’s questioning look and gave a tired smile. “She’s better off here than at home right now, and I’ve already said I’m not backing down from this.”
Paddy rested his hand on Adam’s shoulder. “I know, my friend. Take care of her. We’ll see you tomorrow.” With that he headed into the darkness.
Adam closed the door and returned to Ellie. She was sound asleep. He gently lifted her into his arms and carried her to his bed. After covering her with a blanket he lowered the lamp and pulled the door closed. Releasing a long sigh he stretched out on the sofa trying to shut out the entire evening so he could get some sleep.
Sometime during the night, Adam awoke with a start. Remaining still in the dark room, he waited, trying to determine what had awakened him. Hearing a strange sound, he rolled off the sofa and crept down the hall. Standing outside the bedroom, he heard muffled sobs.
Quietly he cracked the door open. “Ellie?” The sobs stopped. Adam slipped into the room. In the dimness, he saw Ellie balled up in the bed with the covers wrapped tightly about her. Adam slowly lowered himself onto the mattress and began to stroke her hair.
“Ellie? Talk to me, please?”
Suddenly she was in his arms, pouring out her heart between sobs. “I canna do this. I canna live in two worlds. Da needs me but I need to be free, to choose my path in life. I love him and it hurts to see what he’s become. I want to be with you, Adam. I love you, but how can we be together, ever, with Da the way he is!” She turned her tear-stained face toward him, pleading for him to give her the magic answer. Adam felt crushed; he had no solution for her save one.
He gently took her face in his hands and began wiping away the tears with his thumbs. He pushed her wavy hair back and smoothed it down. She reached up and lightly touched his rough chin, smiling at the dark beard trying to grow there.
They kissed, then Adam released a breath near her ear, “All I can give you is my love, and a promise that I’ll always be here for you, to care for you, to protect you.”
Ellie wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him toward her and the bed. She ran her hands through his tousled hair and down his back, savoring the strength in the muscles she felt through his shirt. She touched his lips with her fingers. He kissed her fingertips as he looked into her deep green eyes, seeing her desire for him. “‘Tis what I want Adam. I know it would be a sin but I love ye. That should count for somethin’ as our hearts want to beat as one.”
Adam pulled away from her embrace, keeping his eyes locked with hers for a moment longer. When he moved to the window, she sat up on the bed not understanding his silence; fearful he was rejecting her.
Adam turned back to her and saw her fear and uncertainty. He reached out for her to join him at the window. “Listen to me Ellie. You’ve fought too hard to protect what you’ve been taught, and I’ve supported you completely. Don’t give up on that now, in this one moment. I want you too, but not this way. I want to make love to you as my wife.”
Ellie raised her head and gave Adam a long kiss, a kiss that ignited buried passions in both. But then she pulled away, a tear trailing down her cheek. “I know this. But how can we get married right now with Da the way he is? He won’t give his blessin’. I’m torn between him an’ you.” She wrapped her arms about herself as if to keep herself from falling apart. “I don’t know anymore what to do. Adam will you just stay with me tonight? I canna be alone right now.”
Adam brushed her hair from her shoulder, stroked her soft skin. Oh, she was so beautiful. Yet there were still so many conflicts to sort out.
“I’ll stay, but not in the way you may want.”
Ellie accepted Adam’s restrictions. They settled in the bed, Ellie wrapped in her own blanket and safely ensconced in Adam’s arms as he lay on top of the covers. As emotional exhaustion overtook them, Ellie relaxed into Adam’s arms, a place she had longed to be since that day, weeks ago, outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A peace crept into her heart, trying to chase out the fear that resided there. His arms, and his words, gave her strength to face her father and the future. The two drifted off into slumber.
About an hour before dawn, Adam awoke to find Ellie standing by the open window. The day’s first sounds drifted up from the alley below as the curtains fluttered with a light breeze. He slipped from the bed to steal up behind her, not wishing to disturb her thoughts. Slipping his arms around her waist he drew her back to lean against him as he rested his head upon hers.
“Penny for your thoughts, my sweet.”
Ellie remained silent, causing Adam concern. He gently turned her toward him. “Ellie, what’s on your mind?”
She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him for dear life. “Promise ye won’t leave me. No matter what Da says to ye today.”
Adam lifted her chin so she could see his face. “The promises I gave you yesterday are there for a lifetime. I love you and I will never leave you. You understand that, right?”
“I understand. My heart believes you but it’s Da that worries me.” She rested her head on his chest.
Adam caressed her soft hair as emotion colored his words. “I know, my love. It’ll be difficult but just remember you are not facing this alone anymore. There is nothing your father can do to chase me away from you.” Turning back to the window they watched the rising sun brighten the early morning. Adam lifted a prayerful thought toward Heaven that all would go well this day with Seamus Rigby.
After freshening up and eating a light breakfast which Ellie fixed, the couple headed toward Ellie’s home.
They took the bus to the outskirts of town, then began to walk the rest of the way.
“Ellie, do you make this trip everyday on foot?”
“‘Tis not far an’ I enjoy the peacefulness of the countryside, especially after bein’ in the city. My home’s in a small village just the other side of that hill.” Noting the concern in Adam’s face, she added, “One of Da’s neighbors meets me at the bus stop on the nights I work in town. So you see, I don’t walk it at night, as you might be thinkin’.”
Ellie gave him a playful nudge then slipped her arm around Adam’s as they strolled passed fields of wildflowers and hills dotted with sheep. The morning had warmed up nicely from the cool night, and the sky was a cloudless blue. Adam paused for a moment along the path to take in the beauty around them. Ireland was a lovely and charming country. He felt comfortable in its midst and knew he could stay if he needed to for Ellie’s sake.
Seeing how captivated Adam was by the scenery, she took his hand to lead him across a flower-strewn hillside. The impromptu detour, and ensuing gathering of wildflowers, brightened their otherwise serious trip. Reaching the road once more she squeezed Adam’s hand as she sniffed the scented flowers.
With the village in sight, Adam and Ellie slowed their pace. Ellie pointed out one cottage among several with half-timber styling and a thatched roof. Adam admired the design, and silently noted it was the only one on the lane with an unkempt garden.
Adam followed her gaze and noticed a man in a dark suit leaving the residence and entering a black carriage. “Who is that?”
“‘Tis the doctor. Oh Adam, you don’t think…”
“We don’t know anything Ellie. Let’s go and see what’s happening. I see Paddy on the front steps.”
As they entered the garden, Ellie turned to watch the carriage go by. Paddy’s voice drew her back around.
“I’m glad to see you both. The doctor has just left and, well, we need ta talk. Let’s go ‘round back where it’s more private. Da’s in the house with Seamus.”
“Paddy, Da’s not…not…” Ellie’s voice broke with the thought that her father could be dead.
“Nah, lass, he’s alright but the doctor gave us some new information about his condition.”
Behind the house, Ellie refused to sit or be comforted by Adam. She stood by the back door with her arms wrapped tightly around herself listening to Paddy explain what the doctor had found.
“First, Da was not successful in changin’ Seamus’ mind about you and Adam. Since you didn’t come home Ellie last night, Seamus is convinced even more that you’ve been led inta sin. I told Da where you were and that I trusted Adam to keep you safe. Seamus over heard and locked himself in his room. He refused to come out for any reason. Da heard him bangin’ things around in his room and moaning somethin’ fierce. He sent me for the doctor. After about an hour, Seamus finally let the doctor in an’ we only just learned what he found out.” Paddy reached for Ellie’s hand and drew her to him. “Ellie, love, you’re Da’s not goin’ ta get any better. He’s got something wrong in his head that can’t be fixed. The doctor said the best we can do is make his life as comfortable and peaceful as possible. That means no arguing with him if he says things that don’t make sense. Just let him believe what he wants to believe.”
Adam stepped up. “But if we do that, he’ll try to send Ellie away. We can’t have that.”
“No we can’t, an’ we won’t.” Paddy rubbed the back of his neck, worried about Adam’s reaction to his next words. “Adam, I’m sorry but it seems best that Ellie stay here, to care for Seamus, and that ye head back to town.”
“Now wait a minute! I am not about to walk away and leave the woman I love to face her father alone. If she has to stay to care for Seamus, then I’m staying too.”
“Adam, you don’t understand.”
Adam’s eyes flared as he stepped to within a foot of his friend. The scowl on his face and angry eyes would have rivaled his father’s. Despite his riding anger, his voice was just above a whisper, “No Paddy, it’s you who doesn’t understand. Last night I promised Ellie I would never leave her, and that she won’t have to deal with Seamus alone. I don’t go back on my word, Paddy Magee.”
Danny came out. “Paddy, take Ellie inside for a bit. I’d like a word with Adam alone.” He waited for the door to close then turned to Adam. “I overheard most of what was said out here. I understand what you’re promise to help Ellie, but think about it from Seamus’ side for a moment. It could be dangerous for Ellie, and you, if Seamus saw you two together, especially since we don’t know what’s goin’ on in his head. Perhaps you both need some time to think about all of this. I believe ‘tis best right now for Ellie to stay here and for you to go back to town, before Seamus discovers you’re here. Just so you know either Paddy or I will be here at all times, so Ellie won’t be alone with Seamus. I’ll bring Ellie in tomorrow an’ the two of you can talk then.”
Adam glared at Danny for a moment, his eyes full of sparks, ready to snap at him for his suggestion. Then he thought of Ellie and calmed down. “Alright, I’ll go back to town but I’m not letting Ellie go through this alone. I love her, Danny, and at some point she and I will marry, but if she needs to be with Seamus, then that comes first.”
“Thank you, Adam. You’re a good man; I can see that. I only wish it could be better for Ellie right now.”
Suddenly, a scream from Ellie pierced the air and they heard Paddy call out to Seamus. Before Danny or Adam could react, Seamus burst through the back door, swinging what appeared to be a broken closet rod. He ran straight at Adam who attempted to jump out of the way in the small yard. It wasn’t enough and the rod connected with his arm. With pain shooting up to his shoulder and being knocked off balance, he fell to the ground.
“Get out of my house, ye heathen. An’ you let me Eleanor alone. Ye’ve done ‘nough to hurt her and you’ll be payin’ if ye show up ‘round here again!”
Seamus continued to hit Adam with the rod until Danny managed to grab Seamus’ arm. “Adam stay down. Don’t move.”
“I’ll kill ye, man, for what ye did to me daughter. Ye get out o’ here an’ ne’er come back if ye want ta live.”
Seamus stumbled as his bad leg gave away allowing Paddy to wrangle the rod from him. He tossed the rod over the fence and eased Seamus to the ground. At that point Seamus had gone quiet until Adam spoke. “Where’s Ellie? Is she alright?” He managed to get up but his arm was numb, and his ribs ached where Seamus had struck him across his back.
Seamus began to yell again and struggled against Paddy’s iron grip as Adam pushed passed all three men to get into the house.
“Ellie? Where are you?”
She came around a corner colliding with his injured arm causing him to wince. “You’re hurt. Oh Adam, I’m sorry. It’s all my fault. I mentioned you to Da an’…an’ he …”
As Adam was beginning to get the feeling back in his arm he reached for Ellie with his good arm. “Shh, it’s alright. I’ll be fine. Were you hurt?”
She shook her head then looked up into his face. “You’re goin’ ta leave, aren’t you? There’s no choice is there?”
“Ellie, I’m only going to go back to town and I won’t try to see Seamus again, but I’m not leaving Dublin. You and I need to talk; we need time to sort all of this out. When you are ready I’ll be waiting. I’m not going anywhere, my love.” He touched her lips with his.
Both heard Seamus starting to call out again. “I better go. I’ll see you tomorrow. I promise.” Ellie watched him leave through the front door, his kiss still warm on her lips, yet salted with her tears. Closing the door she took a deep breath, dried her face and headed out to the back garden to help with her father. Ellie had no idea what lay ahead but her heart was telling her that Adam would be part of it somehow.
With the village behind him Adam rounded a curve in the road that opened up to a green meadow filled with wildflowers. He paused for a moment, recalling their recent stroll along the hillside just a short time ago. For a moment he considered stopping near a stone wall and spending time to think but his feelings were still too raw. As he walked on, leaving the meadow behind, his thoughts began to fill with memories of Ross Marquette, a dark time he never wanted to remember but now Ellie was facing something similar. It pained him to realize he had no solution then, or now.
There was one thing he knew for certain. He was committed to making Ellie part of his life and helping her through this tragic time but she kept wavering. He knew it wasn’t about her feelings for him but more a question of whether she could handle her father and marriage at the same time? Adam felt the answer was yes, but even Paddy and Danny didn’t seem so sure.
All he could do now was to wait, and waiting was something he didn’t do very well when someone he cared about was in trouble. Reaching his apartment, he fixed a small meal and took a hot bath to ease his aching muscles. By the time he settled into his chair by the fire, sipping a brandy, the traumatic day was shifting into evening. His arm and ribs still ached but they dimmed in comparison to what he felt he was losing. How was it that he’d just found the missing piece in his life, yet it was being ripped away? Adam gulped down his brandy, and stared hard into the darkening room, lit only by the fire. This time he was not going to let the woman he loved slip away. He was going to fight for her. He rested his head against the back of the chair, letting the brandy do its work. Drifting off, Adam’s last thoughts were of Ellie’s weak smile through her tear-stained face.
Ellie expertly balanced the food tray with one arm as she slowly pushed the bedroom door open.
“Da? Are ye awake?”
A grunt was the only response so she entered anyway and set the tray by the window. The day before had been a long afternoon and difficult night with Paddy and Danny sitting with Seamus until he finally calmed down and fell asleep. Ellie was too exhausted to be of much help so she fixed the meals then went to bed, although sleep was elusive for her as well. All she could see in her mind was her father’s attack on Adam in the backyard and Adam’s worried expression when he left.
Now, with the sun just beginning to rise, Ellie decided to check on her father while Paddy and Danny slept.
“Da, I brought you some soup and eggs. Are ye hungry?”
When he tried to sit up, Ellie helped by adjusting the pillows. In the gray light, she saw how much her father had changed in only a couple of days. His eyes were sunken, his pallor pale. He accepted the tray and began to eat a little at a time. Ellie sat nearby and watched, her heart breaking as she realized her father would one day be gone from her, and she knew not when that would happen. As she remained silent, it seemed to her that her father had forgotten she was there. He never once looked up from his meal.
When he finished, he tried to move the heavy tray, and Ellie jumped to his side, taking it before it fell to the floor.
As the silence in the room continued, Ellie hung her head in sadness. She started to open the door when Seamus finally acknowledged her. “Eleanor, I told Danny to make arrangements for you to leave. Ye need to go to confession an’ ask the Almighty ta forgive your sins, an’ ye need to atone for you what you’ve done with that man. When ye’ve done that, I’ll let you back in me house.”
Seamus’ admonishing tone struck Ellie hard; the pain of his words crushed her heart. Unable to respond she rushed from the room, holding back her tears. Leaving the tray in the kitchen she rushed outside and ran as far as she could. Throwing herself down in a field, she sobbed until nothing was left inside. She lay for a while longer waiting for the maelstrom inside to cease before sitting up. Drawing her knees to her chest she stared blankly out over the sweeping hills. She felt hollow, empty inside. Her world, strictly controlled by her father, now crumbled around her. Searching her heart, she found that a flame still flickered for him. She did still love him and would stay by his side no matter what he accused her of doing.
But at the same time a second flame burned, one for a new man in her life. Adam could lead her into a future she craved, one she had dreamed of, but no, it was too much. She feared that managing both men in her life would tear her asunder. Her love for her father had withstood the test of many trials but she had no clue how it could it withstand this new challenge – his misjudgment of her behavior. Her love for Adam was young, fresh as the Spring wildflowers – tender and easily damaged. It needed time to grow stronger.
Ellie tightened her grip around her legs and began to rock. The motion reminded her of her mother’s embrace, and a calm came over her. Soon reason returned to her thoughts. As her emotions abated she found a new flame had ignited deep inside giving her a determination to remain by her father’s side until he was no longer in the world. She might have to keep out of his sight but she would care for him until the very end.
Ellie rested her chin on her knees as a breeze whipped loose strands of her hair around her face. She’d only made half the decision. Yes she would stay with her father but could she also accept Adam’s proposal of marriage? The thought thrilled her and terrified her at the same time. Oh how she wanted to be with him, to be his wife and travel with him wherever he went, but then she couldn’t share all the joy with her father. It broke her heart to think that he would never celebrate, nor bless, her marriage. She didn’t want to live any more of a lie around her father than she had to.
Paddy had told her to listen to her heart but that only confused her even more as Adam’s words spoken to her at the Cathedral mixed into her thoughts:
Don’t you see that he’s keeping you from pursuing your own dreams?
You deserve a chance to find your own path. You are a vibrant and lovely young woman, and I love you for that.
If you will give me the chance, we will find a way to make this work. I promise.
“Oh Adam, I long to be with you, to be your wife, but I cannot, not while Da is still alive. Will you wait for me? Will you let me care for my father before we begin our life together?”
Tears began anew but this time they were for Adam. She didn’t want to hurt him, but feared her decision to stay with her father would end any chance she had with the man she loved.
Catching her breath, she knew in her heart Adam would not accept her decision, and somehow she would have to convince him to leave, to go home. She would follow as soon as she could but she needed these last months, or weeks or days, with her father.
With a renewed spirit, she stood and brushed off her skirts. As she made her way back to the house she saw Paddy coming toward her. Coming closer Paddy knew something had changed in Ellie. He waited.
“I’m goin’ ta stay an’ care for Da until he doesn’t need me anymore. I may have to stay out of his sight but I’m not leavin’ him, Paddy. I don’t know what Adam will say but I’m goin’ ta try to convince him to go home, to America. If he’ll wait for me I’ll follow him when I’m able.”
With that, she brushed past her cousin, and headed into the house, throwing herself into her chores before getting ready to work at the Palace that night. Paddy told his father of Ellie’s plan and the two men agreed to help her in any way they could, even though they too worried it would be at the cost of her happiness with Adam.
By mid-afternoon, Ellie left her father’s house for town. She wanted to talk to Adam before work that night. The closer she got to his apartment the tighter her chest became. Could she tell him everything? Did she have the ability to convince him to leave Ireland?
His presence filled the open doorway and chased all coherent thought from Ellie.
“Ellie.” He moved aside to allow her entry.
Regaining her nerve she spun around and began explaining her plans.
“Adam, I’ve come to tell ye….”
Adam reached out to lay a finger gently on her lips. “I know. I have so much I want to say but in truth it’s already been said, many times over.” He dropped his hand. “I stayed up all night thinking about this. I want to marry you, today, Ellie, but I know it would not be good for either of us at this time.” He stepped closer and reached over to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. “I’m not giving up on us, and I know you aren’t either. We will keep in touch and when you are ready, I’ll return. We’ll marry and live wherever you wish.” Her emerald eyes opened to her soul, so trusting yet full of sorrow. Oh how they reflected the beauty and soul of Ireland. In that moment, lost in her searching gaze, his desire for her was rising, making his heart race. He inched toward her, resting his lips against hers. Not knowing how she would react, he was thrilled when she threw her arms around his neck and returned his kiss with passion.
Gently breaking the kiss, Ellie reached up and brushed a lock of his dark hair away from his face. Looking at him now, she could see he must have lost as much sleep as she had. Oh her plans were all crumbling around her, all for the love of this man.
The mantle clock chimed, momentarily reminding them both that time was marching on. The spell was broken.
“I have to leave for work. Will I see you tonight?” Ellie held her breath, feeling she didn’t even have a right to ask.
A weak smile and a shadow of a dimple was her answer. Adam watched her leave, powerless to stop another loss in his life. His jaw clenched again, as he cursed the circumstances that conspired to keep them apart. Reaching for the brandy, Adam paused. No, that’s not the answer. And I know what the answer is. I’ve known it all along.
Yes, he would be at the pub, and he would say goodbye to her properly. He moved about his apartment, cleaning up, and packing. Heading out for the evening he made one detour along the way, to purchase his passage home.
The pub was crowded when Adam finally arrived. Danny nodded a solemn greeting and waited for Adam’s order.
“Irish Whiskey, a bottle.”
Taking the bottle and glass he made is way to the back. A table in a dark corner suited him just fine and he poured his first jigger. Paddy drifted over, poured himself a round and sat down by his friend. Neither spoke, no need to.
As the evening rolled on, the crowd drifted away. All that were left were the regulars. Irish music carried through the smoky air, wafting toward the glass ceiling. Adam and Paddy had enjoyed nearly half the bottle.
All through the evening, Adam’s eyes scanned the ever-shifting crowd, spying Ellie every now and then. She had become adept at evasion where he was concerned. Every so often their eyes would meet and she would be the first too look away. He could see it plain on her face – if she looked too long, she’d never be able to look away again.
Time was closing a door between them, and Adam made his move before it became too late. Paddy watched as he left his place in the dark, sought her out, and whispered something in her ear. She nodded slowly, set her tray down, and allowed him to lead her toward the musicians.
Until the bar closed, they sang jaunty songs, lusty songs, and love songs. For Adam and Ellie no one else existed that night. The last song was a Sean-nos, Adam’s gift to Ellie. As his voice faded at the end, Adam and Ellie found themselves alone in the back room. He brushed the back of his hand along her cheek as she closed her eyes to savor his gentle touch. She felt his lips brush against hers, press harder for a heartbeat, then pull away.
“Goodbye, Ellie. You will always be the music for my soul. I love you.”
Her heart stopped at the sudden silence. Her eyes opened confirming the truth, he was gone.
Her heart seized, chasing away any indecision that remained. She ran through the bar and out to the dark street. A familiar figure drifted down the sidewalk, becoming one with the shadows. Quickening her pace she fell into step beside him, her hand slipping easily into his. Two shadows moved down the street under a canopy of stars and the soft glow of the gas lamps.
The apartment door closed with a soft click. Ellie remained in the tiny foyer while Adam lit a wall sconce. Turning back around, he was a breath away from her. In the glow of the lamp light her eyes glimmered like emeralds. As if controlled by their thoughts their bodies floated together and their lips touched ever so gently. Adam pulled away first, his eyes searching for something in Ellie’s eyes. Her eyes flickered over his face, conducting a search of their own. When their eyes finally locked, their arms entwined and lips met in a deep, passionate kiss. Their love ignited and all the world melted away.
Curtains fluttered as a gentle breeze drifted across the room. Silver tendrils from the moonlight caressed the quilt that covered the sleeping forms. The lovers had taken their time, not wishing to rush, choosing to savor the pleasures their love brought them.
As the moon drifted on its way, chased by the gray light of morning, Adam slipped from the bed, and eased into his clothes. Where his heart was alive and beating wildly early in the night, it now was heavy with his looming departure. They had shared their thoughts and their love, but both knew they could not remain together just yet.
Adam placed his bag by the door and returned to the bedroom one last time. Ellie was deep in sleep, her luxurious hair spread across the pillows. Adam leaned over to brush her cheek and kiss her lips once more. Breaking the trance that had come over him, he placed an envelope by the lamp, and departed.
Stirring from her slumber, Ellie found herself alone. She wrapped up in the quilt and hugged Adam’s pillow, still covered with his scent, as the fog-shrouded sun weakly lit the room. Through her tears, she saw the envelope propped against the lamp. When she opened it, a small picture fell out. She remembered when they had it taken on one of their trips through Dublin. They passed by a photographer’s studio and Adam suggested they step inside. This one was of the two of them, taken just as he had said something that made them both laugh. Now she was grateful to have this image of his dear face. Brushing the tears away she read the note, hearing Adam’s voice in her head.
My lovely Ellie,
Although it will be difficult, and I still feel it’s wrong, we will go our separate ways… for now. When the time is right, I will be waiting. All you need do is let me know when and I will come to get you. You are in my heart as I am in yours.
Don’t replace your smile with tears, for your smile is what beguiled me to love you. It is your strength, all that you are, brighter than any light the sun can offer. There is nothing better than seeing your Irish eyes twinkle and to hear your lilting laughter which sounds like angels singing. Your smile has reached my cold heart and brought it back to life. I will think of nothing else until you are back by my side once more.
I’ve left you the picture we took together. I hope you will keep it close, and be reminded that my thoughts will be with you always.
Until then…Grá Geal Mo Chroí – Bright love of my heart
A frigid breeze swirled the mist up from Dublin Bay, sending a shiver down Adam’s back as he leaned heavily on the rail of the boardwalk; his small valise felt like a thousand pounds hanging from his hand. The Irish weather had turned fickle once again as a fog formed over the chilled waters and began to drift toward the land. Through the mist the ship he was getting ready to board appeared as a ghost, something perhaps from Davy Jones’ locker. Pulling his eyes away from the ship to stare deeper into the thick mist, a pair of green eyes suddenly appeared. Adam blinked in surprise and they were gone. Scrubbing his face and eyes with his gloved hand, he realized those beautiful eyes were only in his thoughts. Memories of their time together just hours before flirted with his heart. Images of her golden chestnut hair, emerald eyes, milky-white skin that was as soft as a rose petal, and that sweet angelic laugh of hers filled him with joy and desire, and sorrow as he left her behind.
Straightening up Adam suddenly found himself in need of air. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly and began to wonder what in the world he was doing. Before he could finish the thought other passengers began to press around him and he was carried by the wave of bodies onto the ship. This was it. He was leaving Dublin for Liverpool, finally on his way home. A crushing panic began to set in convincing him his heart was tearing apart inside. Searching the landing behind him revealed no one but the dock workers and the port attendants. As the engines of the ship began to vibrate and the vessel drifted into the cold waters and murky fog, Adam chanced one more glance toward the shore. Nothing. His heart sank. Perhaps it was for the best, for if she had been there, anywhere, he surely would have jumped overboard to get back to her.
He turned his back on what was now the past, gripped his coat tighter to keep his heart from breaking out. If he had only watched for another instant, he would have seen her, stepping from the shadows of a warehouse. When she saw him turn away, she felt a snap inside. He might be leaving, out of her life, but he’d never be out of her heart. Never! Ellie gripped her shawl tightly in one hand and Adam’s note in the other. Hot tears streamed over her chilled cheeks as she recalled their last night together and Adam’s final words to her, ”Mo Ghrá Geal Mo Chroí – My bright love of my heart.”
When the ghostly mist churned around the vortex left by the disappearing ship, two souls became locked their separate worlds.
“Soon, Adam, I promise I will come. And we will be together again, my love.”
“Whew, sure glad that’s over. What do you say we go get some dinner and something cold to drink, brother? All that talking and finagling made me dry as a bone.” Joe pushed his hand through his wavy hair then plopped his hat over it as he eyed the saloon across the street. It was nearing sunset and Ogden, Utah was still a busy town. Adam was impressed with how quickly the town filled with commerce and travelers after the final connection of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point the previous year. Those improvements are what brought business opportunities to the Ponderosa.
“That ‘finagling’ as you call it is the fine art of negotiating. I hope you realize we’ve got them right where we want them. When they look over our final offer tonight they’ll realize they can’t afford to say no.” Adam smoothly slid his Stetson over his dark hair and stepped into the street, leaving his brother to ponder his last words.
Joe smirked at Adam’s show of confidence and ran to catch up with him. Entering the saloon, they took a table and ordered. As they enjoyed their meal and a couple of cold beers they observed a few businessmen holding a meeting in one corner and a couple of cowboys playing cards in another. After their quiet meal, they headed to their hotel room.
“You know, Adam, you sure have lightened up since coming on this trip.”
“Are you insinuating that I was of a darker mood at home, little brother?”
Joe didn’t miss the smirk as Adam unlocked the room door. “Oh, well, if that’s how you want to refer to it, I’ll go along. Listen, I know you weren’t happy having to come, since Hoss injured his foot, but you’ve been in and out of those dark moods for a long time, ever since you got home from your travels, especially after those letters quit coming.” Joe had quickly extricated himself from his suit and tossed the items over a chair before reaching for his nightshirt.
“Joe that’s been two years. I don’t think I’ve been that moody for that long. And those letters had nothing to do with it.”
“Oh come on, you can’t fool me. They sure did. But, brother, I have to say I’m glad to see you getting back to your old self. It sure is easier to be around you now. Guess a change of scenery was all you needed.”
“Who are you calling ‘old’?” Adam swung his arm not so lightly into Joe’s midsection.
“So are you ever gonna tell me why you came back like you did? I mean you hid it well from most folks but we could tell something happened.”
Adam paused in folding his clothes then answered with a quieter tone, “No. After all this time I don’t wish to discuss it.”
“Aw, come on Adam, we’re brothers. We share things, good and bad. And we look out for each other. I know Hoss knows. Come on, why not tell me?”
Adam sighed as he stretched out on his bed, a myriad of thoughts and regrets going through his head. “I met a girl in Ireland and felt sure it would work out, but it didn’t. Her father became ill so she stayed and I came home. I’m sorry I didn’t include you when I told Hoss, but you know him, he figured it out anyway.”
“I’m sorry too, that it happened like that. Couldn’t you have just stayed?” Noticing a darkness roll over Adam’s face Joe quickly regretted his last suggestion. But then the look was gone and the expected retort wasn’t there.
“It’s too complicated to explain, Joe. I have to admit I wish I had stayed but it could have made things worse rather than better. Listen, we need to get some sleep, to be ready to close that deal tomorrow.”
“Sure Adam. Good night.”
After he checked his clothes for the morning, Joe turned down the lamp and settled on his bed. He suddenly felt bone weary, and not just because of the negotiations over breeding stock. His heart ached for his brother having lost another chance at love. Letting his exhaustion take over he turned on his side and was asleep in minutes. In the other bed, Adam lay still but sleep was nowhere near. His thoughts were focused on emerald eyes and a warm smile. Memories of Ellie which he hadn’t had for some time kept him awake for another hour until he, too, succumbed to his fatigue. Although his heart ached, his dreams were full of smiles and laughter.
“Good morning, gentlemen.” Charles Hansen smiled warmly and shook hands with the Cartwright brothers as they entered the meeting room. “I trust last evening was relaxing for you.”
“You have quite a town here, Mister Hansen.”
Adam and Joe took their places at the long table.
“Yes. It has grown quite a bit since the railroad arrived last year and in light of being a primary stop on the East-West route many of the cattlemen in this area have learned that we need to be willing to change our ways of raising beef if we are to survive. Thus our inquiry to your ranch concerning breeding stock.” Hansen glanced at the other two gentlemen in the room to include them in the conversation. “We’ve read through your offer Mister Cartwright, and after considering it and the discussions of yesterday, we have decided to accept your offer as it stands.”
All five men took turns shaking each other’s hands. “I’m pleased to hear this, Mister Hansen. You won’t regret it once you see the quality of our cattle, and the changes in your own herds over the next few years.”
Nodding, Hansen looked square at Adam. “You are an excellent negotiator, Mister Cartwright. You and your brother. I had heard stories of that quality to which you refer and perhaps one day I may have a chance to travel to your ranch to observe your operations.”
Joe stepped forward. “You would be welcome any time. In fact, if you have the time, why don’t you come visit before we drive the cattle to the railhead at Reno? I know our brother Hoss, who runs our cattle operation, would certainly be pleased to show you around.”
“Do give him our best for a quick recovery, and I shall consider your generous offer. Well now gentlemen, perhaps we should sign the papers and then have a bit of brandy to celebrate.”
Everyone agreed, and an hour later Adam and Joe left the office with the signed contracts for two stud bulls and twenty-four heifers to be delivered in three months’ time. They would also be sending a hundred head of beef cattle for the town’s use. It was the opening Ben was looking for, more business away from Nevada and California, and the railroad**** was making it all possible.
After sending a wire home confirming the deal and putting the signed contracts back in their room, Adam and Joe found they had time on their hands. They had planned for two full days of negotiations but all the business was concluded in one day.
“Well Adam, what do we do now? We’ve got a couple of hours before lunch. I kind of wish our train left today instead of tomorrow.”
“I think we can use this time to our advantage. Let’s get changed and rent some horses so we can explore the area, then this evening we can see what Ogden offers as far as nightlife.”
“Sounds good to me. I’m more than ready to get out of this suit anyway.”
A short while later, dressed in their ranch clothes and laden with food for lunch on the trail, they rode out to explore the land around Ogden, the surrounding towns, and the railroad. By mid-afternoon they returned, armed with more possibilities of business opportunities for the Ponderosa.
After returning their horses to the livery, Adam and Joe made their way back to their room to clean up and prepare for a fun night on the town. After an early dinner and a play, they made their way to a saloon for a couple of beers and maybe a poker game to round out the evening. Pushing the batwing doors open, Adam froze causing Joe to bump into him.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
Adam ignored him and turned back to the street. Puzzled, Joe watched his brother scan the street, tilting his head as if listening for something. That’s when Joe heard the agitated voices of a woman and a man coming from across the street.
“I’ve told ye, I can manage on me own, sir. If you’ll excuse me now.”
“Ah, but a lady as pretty as you shouldn’t be walking anywhere by herself. I’ll make sure you get to where you’re going safely, ma’am.”
“”Tis Miss, an’ I can get there meself.”
Adam was already heading in the lady’s direction as he called over his shoulder. “Go on without me, Joe. I’ll catch up with you later.”
Joe rolled his eyes and sighed as he slipped away from the door to watch his brother. Leave it to Adam to go help a damsel in distress. He straightened up though when he saw Adam push his jacket away from his holster. The man and woman had moved further down the street making the conversation difficult to discern but the actions were quite clear. The man didn’t like Adam stepping in, but Joe imagined that his brother’s cold expression and hand on his pistol was what made the other man toss up his hands in surrender and back away. However, it was the lady’s response that shocked Joe the most. When Adam turned to her and removed his hat, she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a firm kiss. Adam lifted her off the ground and swung her around. Joe’s eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open when the pair kissed a second time, right there on the street. Setting the young woman back on her feet they gathered her luggage and headed toward the hotel.
Joe readjusted his hat, huffed, and headed into the saloon mumbling to himself. “Well, Joseph, looks like you’re on your own tonight, and any kind of explanation from older brother will have to wait ‘til tomorrow.” Stopping by the bar he ordered a beer and in a short time was caught up in a poker game.
As midnight closed in most of the town had finally gone to sleep. Joe wandered into the hotel, patting his bulging jacket pocket filled with his winnings. Stopping by the desk to retrieve his key from the hook noticed the guest book was opened. He quickly scanned it and saw a lady’s name written at the bottom of the list – Eleanor Rigby. She was assigned to a room just down the hall from his and Adam’s. Swinging the key on his finger, he headed up to bed. He wasn’t completely surprised to find the room empty, and wondered if he’d get anything out of Adam in the morning.
However, the scene in Miss Rigby’s room down the hall was nothing like Joe was imagining. Ellie sat curled up in a chair, her head resting on her drawn up knees. She watched Adam’s back as he leaned against the window frame. It had been an intense couple of hours since they had met on the street. Ellie’s thoughts roamed over their conversation once more, trying to determine if she could have handled any of it better.
Adam dropped Ellie’s bags onto the bed after closing the door. She explored the small room and when she turned around his eyes went from warm to cool. His arms were crossed and he waited for her to speak first.
Ellie drifted closer to him, reaching up to uncross his arms and take his hands in hers. “Where do I begin? When I recognized you on the street, an’ ye swung me around, my heart soared. ‘Twas the reunion I’d dreamed of, but I know we have much to discuss an’ I don’t really know where to start.”
Adam’s hands had remained unresponsive in hers so she released them and moved toward the bed, fingering the wrought iron frame. “Da passed away, God rest his soul, about three months after you left. ‘Twas a hard time to see him shrink away from us, from me, but Adam,” she spun around, her face lighting up, “I had a chance to talk, really talk with him about you an’ me, an’ he accepted that I loved you. I never got a chance to tell him we wanted to marry but somehow I think he would be fine with that now.” Ellie lowered her head, unable to bear Adam’s scrutiny.
“What happened after that, Ellie? Why didn’t you respond to more than two of my letters, or wire me so I could come get you?”
“I sent you letters, Adam. I swear. They must have gotten lost. I was ready to come but there were other changes an’ there was so much to do to take care of Da’s home, all the legal papers an’ such. Danny an’ Paddy helped me with that an’ to put what money I received into the bank. There wasn’t much as it turned out. Da owed a lot for medical bills an’ other bills. I had to raise more money to come, an’ by the time I did all that an’ was able to travel…” she shrugged. “Well, I’m here now.” She smiled and saw Adam’s stern look soften just a little.
He went to her, drew her into his arms. “I should never have left, Ellie. I promised to make things work out but…”
Ellie shook her head. “No, Adam. Don’t blame yourself. We made the agreement together that we thought was for th’ best.”
Adam stepped away to stand at the window as if to distance himself from her; to suppress his memories, his regrets, his desires for her at that moment. He needed time to determine how he really felt.
And that’s where he remained. Hearing Adam’s clothes rustle softly as he shifted his position, she tilted her head to study his broad back and his tall frame. He now stood like a sentry at the window, arms crossed tightly, but it was his silence that bothered her the most. Despite their discussion, both knew something had been left unspoken. Ellie sighed and unfolded her lithe body from the chair to go to him. She stopped just behind him and slid her arms around his waist, resting her head against his black shirt. She could feel his heart beating slow and steady. She felt a rumble as he began to speak, his voice just above a whisper. He turned in her arms and gazed down at her.
“Ellie, something is still not right. I know we’ve talked it all out but I feel there is still something between us and I can’t fathom what it could be. Have I changed that much? Have you? Why did it take you two years to come?”
Ellie pulled away and took Adam’s arm to guide him over to the bed. “Sit here with me for a moment.” Adam sat beside her, his posture guarded. He watched as she withdrew a locket from inside her blouse. She let it rest against her chest for a moment as she unfastened the chain. Gathering it gently into her hand she reached for Adam’s hand and placed it there.
Adam gave her a puzzled look but she encouraged him with a nod and a smile. He first examined the gold locket, laden with carved flowers on the front. Turning it over he noticed a faded engraving on the back – ‘To my dear Ellie, never stop smiling.’
“‘Twas a gift from me Ma. She bought it when I was born an’ had it engraved later. She gave it to me just before she died. She said I always smiled as a babe.” Ellie touched Adam’s fingers and encouraged him to open the locket.
When he saw the pictures inside his brows drew together, his lips parted, and his breathing quickened. He recognized the picture of himself, which was taken with Ellie in Dublin, but it was the other picture that had him confused. The sepia colored photo of a young child made the child’s hair appear dark, and Adam felt like he was looking into the past, at an image of himself.
“Who is this, Ellie?”
Ellie caressed Adam’s fingers and the picture. “I had his picture taken just before we left Ireland. His name is Sean Addison Rigby. He’s our son, Adam.”
The silence was heavy in the room. Adam remained seated on the bed unwilling to remove his hand from Ellie’s, nor did he look away from the pictures as his breathing became more rapid. The room was closing in on him and he had to move. He bolted from the bed.
“When? How?” He ran his hand over his face and turned back to Ellie, a sheepish expression showing. “The night before I left?”
She moved toward him and with a light touch stopped his pacing. “That night was meant ta be, Adam. ‘Twas a blessin’ neither of us knew about. That’s why I dinna come after Da passed, rest his soul. I had just discovered I was with child an’ was afraid to travel.” Feeling his body shaking, she wrapped her arms around him.
“Oh God, Ellie. If I had known I would never have left.” He took her face into his hands. “You know that don’t you?”
“Of course I do, Adam. But at that time, neither of us knew about it.”
“No of course not.” He shook his head as he tried to sort through the timeline. “When you found out why didn’t you write me? Ellie, I had a right to know about my son. Why wait for nearly two years?” Adam’s pacing grew erratic and his tone more irritated.
Ellie shied away from him. She had feared his reaction to the news about his son. “Please Adam, stop moving and just listen for a moment. Da was gone and I was near collapse as it was when I found out I was carrying our child. I was missin’ you somethin’ fierce an’ it all became too much. If Uncle Danny and Paddy hadn’t been there I–.” She collapsed in the chair in tears.
Adam dropped to his knees in front of her pulling her toward him. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I can only imagine what you had to go through. It’s all so much to take in after thinking I’d never see you again. Please forgive me.”
“It pained me the most that ye dinna know. I wanted ta tell ye in the letters, but how could I? What words could I use?” Tears continued to fall.
“Shh…” He looked passed her at the blackness beyond the window, then turned back to Ellie. “It’s well past midnight. You’ve got to be exhausted.”
She nodded and tried to calm herself. She kept her eyes focused on her hands in Adam’s, ashamed to look at him. “Adam, I was goin’ to send for you but that next year was so busy I couldn’t figure out when to contact you. Then Danny offered to pay passage for me an’ Sean to come here. What he dinna know was that our friends at the bar were raising money for Danny and Paddy to travel too. That’s part of what took so long. I wanted to let ye know we were comin’ but I had no idea when we would be able to leave.”
Adam touched her chin so she would make eye contact with him. “You’re here now and you’ve told me all I need to know. I’m sorry for only thinking about how miserable I was without you. I should have known you’d….”
“Oh Adam, no, don’t blame yourself. So many events conspired to keep us apart, but now….”
“Yes, now we are together again.” He leaned over and kissed her, then searched her face for a reaction. She trailed her fingers down his cheek keeping her eyes locked on his. For the first time since reuniting, they communicated silently. Adam felt their bond reconnect. He fastened the locket back around her neck, leaving a soft kiss where the chain rested. He trailed kisses across her cheek finishing at her lips.
“Ellie, I love you and I want to marry you. Will you finally say ‘yes’?”
“Yes, Adam. I will marry you.”
With a giddy chuckle and a grin he took her hand, pulling her to stand with him. When he tried to lead her through the door and down the hall, Ellie held back.
“Adam, it’s the middle of the night. Where are we going?”
“To get married. Wait here, I have to wake Joe up. We need a witness.”
Ellie tugged on his arm, releasing a quiet giggle. “No, don’t do that. We can get married in th’ mornin’.” She pulled him back to the room. “It’s only a few more hours. We’ve waited two years, I don’t think it’ll be too hard to wait till the sun rises.” She gave him a mischievous grin.
“Sweetheart, I’ve waited two long years and I don’t think I can wait those few hours, but I guess I’m not thinking very clearly, am I. You’re right, and we should get some sleep. It’s going to be a busy day tomorrow, with the wedding and then catching the train home.”
“The train home? Do ye mean Nevada? Adam, wait, slow down. I canna go with ya, not yet.”
“What do you mean? Ellie –”
Seeing the Adam’s new found joy drain from his face she hastened to give an answer. “It’s Sean. He’s in New York with Paddy and Danny. I came out here alone so I could see if ye still loved me, an’ to tell ye about him. They are waitin’ for me to wire them.”
“I…Oh Ellie, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. Of course, we have to get Sean.” She watched as Adam’s eyes grew distant. “Sean…my son.”
Ellie gave Adam a soft nudge and laughed at his confused state. “‘Tis quite a shock I’ve brought to ye. But we’ll have to wait to see your family ‘til after he gets here.”
Adam wrapped her in his arms and kissed the top of her head. “Of course. First thing in the morning we’ll get married, then we’ll send a wire to New York. We’ll stay here until they arrive and figure things out after that.”
Ellie snuggled deeper into Adam’s arms. “Now that’s the Adam I’m used to.”
He chuckled and kissed the top of her head again as he began to caress her arms and back. “I think we need some sleep, milady.”
“Only sleep, milord?”
After the couple rekindled their love, and drifted into much needed sleep, all the pieces of two broken hearts fell back into place. As the sun broke over the horizon, Adam and Ellie lay entwined in each other’s arms, he saw her bright smile appear as he kissed her awake. At long last, they were ready to start their new journey together.
Joe was just buttoning his shirt when there was a quick rap on the door and Adam’s head appeared around the edge.
“Mind if I come in?”
“It’s your room too.”
Joe’s tone told Adam he was in a good mood but expecting an explanation for Adam’s behavior the evening before.
“I see you’re nearly dressed, and I’m sure you have a few questions for me. If I agree to answer your questions would you be willing to change to your suit?”
Joe left several buttons undone as he studied Adam’s face, trying to decide if he was teasing.
“In answer to your expression, I’m not joking. Let’s sit for a minute and talk.”
“Alright. But really Adam, you don’t have to explain anything about last night, I mean, well…”
Adam chuckled. “Yeah, I certainly don’t need your approval to spend some time with a lady. But, in this case, I would like you to agree to be my best man.”
Adam got the look from Joe that he wanted, and more. Joe jumped up, and started to cheer when he froze in mid step and stared at Adam. “Wait a minute. A best man means a wedding. Who are you marrying? Not that gal from last night? Adam, that’s a bit soon isn’t it?”
“Hold on. I guess that wasn’t the best way to tell you so sit back down and let me fill you in.”
Joe sat on the edge of his bed, his impatience showing in his fidgety hands.
“Yes, I’m going to marry the girl from last night. Her name is Ellie, and she’s the girl I met in Ireland.” He paused to let Joe register that part.
Unable to sit any longer Joe sprang off the bed once more and paced along the end it. “But, are you sure? I mean you said she wouldn’t come with you, and it’s been two years, and…”
“Sit down and listen. I can’t concentrate with you pacing. It’s a long story and I don’t have time to tell you everything so I’ll give you the highlights.”
Joe sat down again and listened to everything Adam told him about his time with Ellie in Ireland. Adam said nothing about his son, as he didn’t want it to appear that Sean was the only reason he was marrying Ellie. When Adam finished speaking he waited for Joe to voice his concerns. But he had none.
“You’re really sure about this aren’t you?”
“I am. And so is Ellie.”
“Then all I’ve got to say, older brother, is yes, I’ll be your best man.” Joe held his hand out and when Adam took it Joe pulled him off his bed and into a hug.
“Thanks Joe. Let’s get ready, then I’ll take you to meet Ellie.”
As they changed clothes Joe asked about a minister or church and Adam said he had already decided on a little church he’d seen when he and Joe had been exploring outside of town. Joe then offered to rent a carriage and play chauffeur as well as best man.
Once they were dressed, the brothers walked down the hall and Adam quietly knocked on the door.
“Let me see if she’s ready. Wait here.”
He entered the room, but was not prepared for the angel standing before him.
Hearing the door open, Ellie turned to greet Adam. She stood before him in a dark green cotton dress with an open neckline and short puffed sleeves, all trimmed in ecru lace. Her auburn curls were braided and fastened into a bun at the nape of her neck, leaving a few ringlets to frame her face. The locket rested against the lace bodice of the dress.
“Is this okay to wear?”
Adam stepped closer and trailed his fingers down her bare arms as he leaned in to give her a kiss.
“It’s perfect, my love. You look ravishing.”
“Um, is it okay for me to come in? I’m kind of getting strange looks from guests in the hallway.”
The couple turned to see Joe enter. His grin and bright eyes put Ellie at ease immediately.
Joe reached for her hand as he spoke, “My brother seems to have forgotten his manners. I’m Joe, and you, my dear lady, must be Ellie, my future sister-in-law.” He kissed her finger tips and gave her his most charming smile and a wink.
The smile she gave him made her emerald eyes twinkle.
“Adam, you failed to tell me how enchanting Miss Ellie is.” Joe turned back to Ellie. “My dear, it is indeed my pleasure to welcome you to the Cartwright family.”
Ellie giggled as Adam guided her hand away from Joe’s and into his own.
“Joe, why don’t you go and rent the carriage, and bring it around. Ellie and I will meet you in the cafe for breakfast.”
“Sure Adam.” He tipped his head to Ellie then scooted out the door.
Ellie giggle some more. “Your brother is delightful, and a lot of fun.”
“Yeah, that’s Joe alright. Let’s get your wrap and we’ll head downstairs.”
Breakfast in the cafe gave Joe and Ellie plenty of time to get to know each other. Adam was thrilled to see Ellie so relaxed, thanks to Joe’s charming ways. She had confided in him the night before that she was quite nervous meeting his family. This way she had the chance to learn more about each of them through Joe’s stories.
The ride to the little church was brief as Joe guided the carriage through the foothills outside of Ogden. When Adam gave Joe the directions, he knew exactly where to go. As they approached a bend in the road, Adam asked Joe to drive more slowly. They were rounding the curve and he wanted Ellie to see the little church come into sight. Her quiet gasp and gentle squeeze of his hand let him know his choice was perfect for them.
“Oh Adam, ‘tis like the little churches in the dales back home. However did ye find such a lovely place?”
Adam could not stop grinning as he assisted his bride from the carriage. “Joe and I were exploring the area. When this came into view, all I could think about was you and our time together.” With her hand resting in the bend of his arm, he escorted her up the stone steps and inside.
It was a small stone church, with only a few pews inside. The altar, simply carved from a local wood and covered in a lace cloth, held a large bouquet of flowers, two lit candles, a cross and a Bible. Behind it was a stained glass window in three panels, which depicted all manner of wildflowers. Adam and Ellie stood at the entrance to enjoy the peacefulness of the small sanctuary.
Ellie closed her eyes and inhaled the fresh scent of flowers drifting on the breeze. “‘Tis so beautiful here. It’s almost like it was set up just for us.”
Adam’s heart soared as she floated around the small area, gently smelling the flowers and touching the lace cloth. “‘Tis a lovely place ta get married.”
Adam stepped forward to stand behind her just as the minister entered from a side door.
“Greetings and welcome. I’m Reverend Matthew. Is there something I may help you with?”
“Good morning, Reverend. I’m Adam Cartwright. My, um…I mean the lady and I would…”
“Hello, Reverend. I’m Joe Cartwright. I believe what my brother is trying to say is that he and his lovely lady would like to get married and wondered if you would be willing to perform the ceremony.”
Adam shot a look at Joe who deftly ignored it.
“Ah, yes, would you be able to marry us, Reverend?”
“Of course. It would be my pleasure. Grant me one moment to summon my sister for I would need her to act as the second witness.”
When the minister and his sister returned, he guided everyone to their places. Joe stood on Adam’s right, giving a wink to encourage him, as Ellie took her place on Adam’s left side. Sarah, the reverend’s sister who was close to Ellie’s age, handed Ellie a bouquet of daisies from their garden, and stood by her side. Reverend Matthew began, “We are gathered here today in the sight of God to join this man and this woman together in holy matrimony.”
The ceremony was simple and brief but to Adam and Ellie it was most elegant, and each word took on full meaning as they vowed their lives to one another. When the sun rose higher and began to shine through the stained glass window, Adam and Ellie shared their vows and the reverend pronounce them man and wife.
Their first kiss as husband and wife lasted perhaps a bit longer than was proper but no one objected.
Reverend Matthew and Sarah stood on the church steps ringing small bells as the newlyweds settled into the carriage for their ride back to town. Joe took a longer, more scenic route to give Adam and Ellie some time to relax and enjoy being together.
After dropping them off at the hotel to change, Joe returned the carriage and checked the train schedule. Their train for Nevada was scheduled to depart early in the afternoon. Satisfied that it had not been delayed, or worse cancelled, he returned to the hotel to change and find out the next steps toward getting home.
Finding the room empty, Joe flipped the key onto the bed and shook his head. “I’m gonna have to get used to Adam being married, and quit talking to myself.”
He quickly changed and packed his bags for the trip home. He realized his brother’s bags were not packed when he saw that Adam’s ranch clothes were missing and his suit was still laying on the bed. Well, there was still time, but he felt something was amiss. Reaching for his hat he found a note from Adam instructing him to join them in Ellie’s room. Joe twirled his hat in his hand as he headed down the hall.
Entering Ellie’s room he found she had changed to a simple dark blue dress and her hair was in one long braid hanging down her back. She sat in the chair while Adam balanced on the edge of the bed.
“Hi Joe. Are your bags packed?”
Joe scrunched his eyes suspiciously at Adam, in light of the strange question. “Yes. And I noticed yours aren’t. What’s going on, Adam?”
Adam stood and exchanged a look with Ellie. “We’re staying here for a while longer, shouldn’t be more than a month.”
“A month? Why?”
“Well, for one,” Adam winked at Ellie, “we would like a little time together before being surrounded by strangers on the train and then the rest of the family.”
“Okay, that makes sense. But what’s the other reason? You did say ‘for one’.”
Adam realized his blunder. “There is another reason but…” he looked at Ellie for guidance. She understood his reluctance to tell Joe about Sean at this time but shrugged, leaving the choice up to him. Adam turned back to his brother.
“I’m not willing to reveal that yet. Please trust me on this.”
Adam scrutinized his brother and saw the indecision but Joe nodded his acceptance of the terms. “Okay. But only a month right? Pa’s not going to be pleased that you didn’t come back. We’ve got round up soon, you know. Not to mention filling the new contract for Mister Hansen.”
“I know. I promise it shouldn’t be more than a month.” He reached for the door, his voice cool and quiet. “I’m going to pack and bring my things in here. Wait here and I’ll give you the contracts.”
In Adam’s absence, Joe dropped onto the bed with a loud sigh, and fidgeted with his hat. Ellie observed him, recalling Adam’s caution to her that Joe was not going to like not knowing their secret. She gently touched his arm to get his attention.
“Joe, please don’t be mad at Adam. I promise all will be made clear when we arrive in Nevada. An’ I think you’ll be quite pleased when you learn what it is.”
“I’m not mad at Adam, or you. I’m guessing Adam warned you that I don’t like being left in the dark about things. But I trust my brother, and I can tell this is something important.” Joe gave her a pat on the hand. “Of course, I guess having a month to yourselves isn’t such a bad thing, right?”
Ellie blushed and gave him one of her brightest smiles. “No, not such a bad thing at all.”
Joe smiled back, his heart lighter. He was beginning to see how Adam fell in love with Ellie. Her warm smile and bright eyes were captivating, almost to the point of being bewitching.
After lunch, Adam and Ellie said their farewells to Joe.
“Remember, Joe, not a word to Pa about Ellie.”
“I know, I know. You’re checking out some other business interests and will be home by the end of the month.”
Adam smirked and held out his hand to Joe. “Sorry to put you in such a bind, little brother, but I think it’s best he hear about Ellie from me, don’t you agree?”
Joe took his brother’s hand and gave it a good shake. “Oh most definitely, older brother. However, you’ll owe me big time when you do get home.” He winked and stepped onto the train. “And you remember, end of the month or I will start talking.”
Adam tried to glare at him but couldn’t hold it as the train pulled out. He smiled and waved, as Joe gave a single wave back before disappearing into the train car.
Adam watched after the train until it disappeared in a cloud of steam and smoke. Ellie slipped her arm through Adam’s and waited patiently for him to respond.
“I guess there’s nothing more to be gained by standing here.” He turned and together they walked toward town.
“I’m sorry we couldna go with him.”
“I know. The hardest part is going to be waiting until Danny, Paddy and Sean arrive. It will be a long week.”
“Only in one way.”
He turned his head and caught her wicked expression. “You’re quite right my dear. We do have plenty of time to spend together and some things to catch up on. Which reminds me, there is one stop we need to make before the day gets away from us.”
“Oh, an’ where would that be?”
“You will see, my dear.”
Adam led his wife of a few hours into town and to a jewelry store. A short while later, she was wearing a delicately engraved gold band. It was another turning point in their relationship. Ellie discovered that Adam enjoyed surprising his wife, but she also realized that she would no longer have to worry about being taken care of. While they waited for Danny, Paddy and Sean to arrive, she found she needn’t have worried about Adam accepting instant fatherhood. As the days passed, he grew more excited and asked many questions about their son. That was when she realized their family was secure no matter what might cross their paths in life.
As the sun reached its zenith over Ogden the train platform filled up. The eastbound to Cheyenne had departed two hours before, and the westbound was due to arrive any minute. Families mingled with businessmen and cowboys who were either meeting travelers or preparing to travel further west. Near the ticket office, a man and woman waited for the train to arrive. She, sitting on a bench wearing a pale blue dress and a straw bonnet covering her auburn hair, appeared calm and patient despite her fingers working the fringe of her shawl into knots. The man, dressed in a brown shirt and black pants with his arms crossed over his broad chest, stood still as a soldier beside her. His clenched jaw and constantly roving eyes beneath the brim of his black Stetson betrayed his impatience. A distant whistle sounded above the din of conversations and the couple shared a look before the lady stood to join the man near the front of the platform.
For this couple who were waiting to welcome the newest member of their family, it seemed to take an eternity for the train to arrive, stop, and release its passengers. The addition of more people onto the platform made it impossible for the lady to see anything.
“Adam, how will we know where they are? They could be near the back of the train for all we know.”
Hearing the panic rising in her voice he put an arm around her and drew her closer. “I know but it would be best that we wait here until the crowd thins. I’m keeping an eye out for Paddy. His height and blonde hair should make it easier to spot them.”
Halfway up the platform two men and a young child left the train and became trapped in the tide of passengers drifting toward the opposite end of the platform.
As the crowd thinned, with many making their way to the street, Adam spied a tall, blond man moving their way. He grabbed Ellie’s hand, leading her forward. “I see them.”
Ellie followed along blindly until she heard a squeal. “Mam-mee!” She released Adam’s hand and rushed toward Paddy. She barely made it when her fifteen-month old son squirmed from his cousin’s grasp and fell into Ellie’s outstretched arms.
“Oh Sean!” She held him tight as she planted kisses all over his small head. Adam remained a few steps away, strong emotions swirling through him. His first instinct was to join Ellie in greeting his son, but then he realized that he was a stranger to the child. So he waited for Ellie to come to him.
Danny noticed Adam’s awkwardness and headed toward him. “Adam, ‘tis a pleasure to see you again. Might I say, I’m not sure I would’ve recognized ye dressed as ye are.”
Adam warmly greeted Danny, and Paddy, but kept turning back to watch Ellie and Sean. Danny smiled wistfully. “Aye, he sure missed her.”
They all watched as Ellie spoke quietly to Sean while showing her opened locket to him. She then turned him around to see Adam. The child’s small fist held tight to Ellie’s dress as he stared at Adam. Ellie motioned for Adam to join them.
Paddy patted Adam on the back. “Go on, man. Meet your little one. Da and I will go get the luggage.”
Adam stepped forward and slipped his hat off his head. Sean’s tawny eyes remained glued to Adam’s face as Ellie continued to whisper to him. Adam smiled at the child and Sean’s face brightened. “Dah-dee?” The child looked at Ellie who nodded.
“Aye, Sean. He’s your Da. ‘Tis Dah-dee.”
Sean leaned across Ellie’s arms, and Adam took that as a cue to gather his son into his arms. Sean wrapped his arms around Adam’s neck, nestling his head into Adam’s shoulder. Adam took a quivering breath and his sparkling eyes met Ellie’s as Sean’s soft brown curls tickled his cheek. The joy on his face was unmistakable but he turned away to hide his misty eyes, pressing his son closer to his chest. Ellie waited until Adam turned back, then reached out and touch his arm. His smile mirrored hers but he raised a questioning brow. Having learned to read her husband’s expressions, she could tell he was puzzled by his son’s quick acceptance of him.
She began rubbing Sean’s back. “Since the day Sean was born I’ve been tellin’ him about you. I showed him your picture as often as I could, so did Danny and Paddy, when they helped to take care of him. You look different now with your hat an’ all, but ‘twas your smile he was used ta seein’ and that’s what told him ‘twas you today. I’m sorry that I dinna tell ye that Sean has grown up knowin’ you were his Da. Please forgive me but I was afraid that if you had known and Sean didn’t accept you right away that it’d hurt you more.”
She said it all so gently, so lovingly that Adam knew he could never be angry at her for here was his child perfectly content to nestle in his arms. All he could do was smile and hug her. “I love you, Ellie, and you’ve done a wonderful job with our son.”
With those words she relaxed in his embrace.
“I see Danny and Paddy coming. Let’s get them checked into their rooms and then get something to eat.”
Adam shifted Sean to one arm and gave his free arm to Ellie. Together the new family headed to the hotel, Adam walking proudly with his wife by his side and his son in his arms.
The hypnotic rocking of the train car worked its magic on several of its occupants. Ellie’s head rested against Adam’s shoulder while Sean was stretched out across their laps. Both had been sleeping for more than an hour. In the seats facing them Paddy and Danny carried on a quiet card game. Facing the back of the train, Adam leaned against the wall to watch the desert landscape rush away from him. As the train began to turn southward he noted the ever-growing mountains indicating they were getting closer to home.
Recalling the telegram he’d sent his father, Adam frowned. He knew it was cryptic but how do you tell your father that you’re bringing home a wife and son, plus two more guests?
Arriving by train at Reno on Tuesday. Expect four others. Bringing good news. -A
Adam let his eyes drift shut, and his thoughts meander where they may. It had been a busy month, reuniting with Ellie, getting married, getting used to having a child to take care of, and visiting with his friends. Ellie had been wonderful in showing Adam how to help with Sean. She knew he had experience from raising his brothers, and that was displayed many times with Sean, but she also knew he needed to get to know his own son so she let the two spend a lot of time together, with only a few guiding suggestions given when needed. Adam had enjoyed every moment, and it shone on his face.
As Danny watched Adam settle into a comfortable routine with his wife and child, he realized his earlier concerns over time and distance were unfounded. The man was a natural with children, and his love for Ellie showed in everything thing he did for her.
When the time came for them to head to Nevada, Danny and Paddy prepared to return to Ireland, but Adam and Ellie convinced them to extend their visit and join them on the Ponderosa. Ellie’s argument of wanting them to see where she and Sean would live sealed the deal.
The haunting train whistle sounded and Danny nudged Adam to wakefulness. “I think we’re arrivin’. Best wake Ellie an’ the little one.”
Adam shifted slightly to wake Ellie and to ease her into a straighter position. Rubbing her neck to loosen her stiff muscles, she looked around to get oriented. “Are we there?”
“We are. I’ll take care of Sean and you can stretch a bit.” Adam shifted the still sleeping child up to his shoulder. “Paddy, what’s the time?”
Paddy pulled out his pocket watch. “Almost five o’clock.” He leaned his head against the window trying to see ahead. “I think I can see the station ahead.”
Another loud whistle sounded and the car jerked as the train began to slow heading into the Reno station.
“Hopefully Pa, Hoss and Joe have already arrived. Otherwise, we’ll get the luggage and find rooms, then we’ll get something to eat. We’ll be able to rest tonight before we start the trip to the Ponderosa tomorrow.”
“How long will it take to get to your home?”
“About four hours. Pa should have a large carriage for us and wagon for the luggage.”
Ellie groaned. “‘Tis goin’ ta be hard gettin’ used to the distances here. But I canna wait ta see everything. I’m gettin’ excited now, and a wee bit nervous meetin’ your family.”
Adam put his arm around her and mimicked her accent. “Just a ‘wee bit nervous’?”
Ellie elbowed Adam in the ribs. “Ach, ye know what I mean.”
Chuckling, he hugged her tighter. “I’ve told you before, they’re going to love you, and Sean. You’ll see.”
Adam shifted Sean back to his lap and spoke quietly to him to help him wake up. The lad wasn’t too happy leaving his slumber but seeing the buildings creep by as the train slowed drew his attention. By the time the doors were opened Sean was his boisterous self, and Paddy took him so Adam could assist Ellie to the platform.
Adam stepped down and reached up to take Ellie’s hand as she made her way down the steps. Paddy followed with Sean wiggling in his arms, and Danny brought up the rear with their valises in each hand.
The group turned as one as Ben strode toward them.
Hiding his nervousness with a grin, Adam moved forward and gave his father’s hand a vigorous shake. “Good to see you Pa.”
“You too, albeit about a month late.”
Adam caught the admonition that was given along with a glint of humor in his father’s eyes. “Thanks Pa. And thanks for not complaining about my delay.”
The two men grinned at each other as they silently agreed to leave that topic alone. “I should apologize for my cryptic message. My news was pretty important, and a telegram didn’t seem the right method to deliver it.”
Although puzzled by Adam’s comment, Ben turned to acknowledge the two young adults and child along with the older man behind Adam. With their similar hair colors he assumed they might be related. The child gave him a coy smile and that’s when Ben noticed his hazel eyes that were nearly the color of gold. “Well son, would you like to introduce your friends?”
“Pa, it’s not quite what you’re thinking.” Adam turned around and held out his hand inviting Ellie to join him.
Ben’s gaze shifted from his son to the young woman coming toward him. Her striking green eyes held Adam’s gaze. His grin faded when he looked back at Adam. Adam’s eyes were on the woman and Ben didn’t miss the soft, loving expression on his son’s face. As Adam took her hand Ben turned back to her, becoming more perplexed.
“Pa, may I present Eleanor Mae Rigby Cartwright, my wife.”
Certainly not the introduction he was expecting, Ben brows shot up as he shifted his gaze back to Adam. Ben remained silent for a long moment as he processed the news.
Apprehension was building inside Adam. “Are you alright?”
“Of course I am,” he muttered, then reached toward Ellie with a warm smile and an embrace, “Welcome to our family, Eleanor.”
She relaxed with Ben’s bright smile and gentle arms around her. “Actually, ‘tis Ellie, Mister Cartwright.”
“Well, ‘Ellie’ it is, and we’ll work on what you wish to call me.” He gave her another hug.
Adam walked over to Paddy and took Sean in his arms, his eyes crinkling as the boy hugged him.
Still trying to piece everything together, Ben reached out to touch the child’s arm. “And who is this handsome young man?”
“This young man is your grandson, Sean Addison Rigby.”
When Ben’s face registered his shock, Ellie started to speak, but Adam shook his head. He spoke quietly to Sean. “Sean this is your Seanathair, your grandfather.”
Ben’s expression softened when he heard the foreign word followed by ‘grandfather’. The child studied Adam’s face then turned toward Ben with uncertainty but gave a small smile nonetheless before ducking his head under his father’s chin. That tiny smile melted Ben’s heart as joy filled his eyes.
He lightly touched Sean’s fingers. “Hello, Sean.”
Adam chuckled and eyed Ellie. “Well, we’re making progress.” Ellie thought Adam was only referring to Sean’s calmness around a stranger, but Adam was including his father’s reaction as well.
Before Ben had a chance to ask any questions, Adam turned to introduce the two men waiting patiently behind Ellie.
“Pa, this is Danny Magee and his son Paddy. Danny is Ellie’s uncle, and Paddy’s her cousin, and both are my good friends.” He waited as Ben welcomed them both then spoke up. “It’s been a long trip and we’re starved. We need to get our luggage and find a place to eat. I hope Hoss and Joe came with you.”
“Yes, they’re right over there.” Hoss and Joe had just stepped onto the platform, after finding a spot to park the wagon. Ben motioned for them to join him.
“It’s about time you decided to come home, big brother. You can’t imagine how hard it’s been on me this last month.” Joe gave Adam a look that left Ben and Hoss wondering about the odd comment considering Joe had been in an unusually good mood sense returning home.
“Well, I’m back now so you can rest easy little brother.” He quickly turned to greet his middle brother. “Good to see you back on your feet. Let me introduce you to some special friends.”
After another round of introductions and cheers from Hoss and Joe, the brothers headed off with Danny and Paddy to retrieve the luggage and load everything into the wagon. Having regained his composure, Ben escorted Adam’s family to the carriage. “We’ve been here since last night, not knowing when your train would arrive. After seeing the schedule, I figured you would need to eat, and based on the number of people you hinted at, I’ve found a small cafe willing to close early so we can eat there in private. Everything should be ready so we can go as soon as the luggage is loaded. There’s a small hotel near the cafe and I’ve already paid for the rooms.”
“Thanks, that helps a lot.” He assisted Ellie into the carriage then handed Sean over as he spoke quietly to her. “I’ll be right back. I need to speak with Pa.”
Walking toward the horses Adam turned to his father, his voice low and lacking the excitement of earlier. “Um, I should apologize about the way I delivered my news. I know it was a big surprise and you must have a lot of questions. Ellie and I are prepared to answer them but can they wait until we get home?”
“Of course son.” Realizing how serious Adam had become, Ben added, “I hold no judgement toward you, Adam, you should know that. I’m just trying to piece it all together. That was quite a shock earlier, son. Good news indeed, but still quite a shock.”
“I know.” Adam rubbed his neck and shrugged his shoulders to release his tension. “I met Ellie in Ireland two years ago, and due to some difficult circumstances with her father, I had to leave her behind. That’s a long story that we’ll tell you later. She promised to let me know when she was ready to come. It wasn’t supposed to be two years. When I left, we didn’t know she was with child, and that’s what prevented her from traveling until now. As Sean grew, she made sure he would know who I was when we finally did reunite. Danny and Paddy were instrumental in our getting together initially, and taking care of Ellie in my absence. They are just visiting so will return to Ireland in a month or so.”
“They’re welcome to stay as long they wish.”
“One more thing you should know. Ellie and I never had a chance to get married before I left. That’s why Sean doesn’t have my name. When she arrived in Ogden we married right away. She and I have talked and I plan to formally give Sean my name. I’m just not sure what that will entail.”
“I’m sure Hiram can advise you.” Ben placed his hand on Adam’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “I appreciate you filling me in, and I want you to know I’m very happy for you. You’ve got a fine looking family, son. I’ll look forward to hearing more stories later. By the way, what was the word you spoke to Sean about me?”
“Oh, it was ‘seanathair’. It’s Gaelic for ‘grandfather’. Ellie taught me some Gaelic and I’ve been trying to learn more with Annie Lunberg’s help. Ellie uses it quite a bit so you’ll probably hear more of it from time to time.” Adam nudged his father with his elbow as they shared a laugh together.
At that point, the luggage bearers arrived, and the wagon was loaded. Ben drove the carriage with Adam’s family and friends as Hoss and Joe followed with the wagon. They all eagerly headed toward the cafe for a family meal; the first of many to come.
The evening sky was afire with oranges, reds, and purples. In the shadows by the barn, Ben puffed on his pipe and paused to enjoy the fiery sunset and mull over the recent changes to his family. The trip home from Reno had gone smoothly, with everyone arriving at the Ponderosa in the early afternoon. Since Ben had sent a telegram ahead, Hop Sing was prepared with a light meal for the weary travelers, and showed his excitement at meeting Adam’s new family with a promise of all his favorite foods at dinner.
Turning toward the house Ben watched as his eldest son strolled out to the porch and took a seat by his wife and son. His own heart was brightened with memories of similar times with Marie. Now he felt his heart might burst to see the peace and contentment in his own son, and the love the couple shared.
Ellie sat on the edge of the porch with Sean fast asleep in her arms. She hummed an Irish lullaby as Adam settled down beside her. Inside the house, good-humored voices could be heard as games were played and tales were told.
“‘Tis been a wonderful day. I feel so much a part of your family. An’ now this glorious sunset. I’ve never dreamed of a place as beautiful as this.”
Adam took her free hand in his and leaned over to steal a kiss. “I told you they would love you. I love you, too. Your laughter is music to my ears, and your smiles have reached my heart.”
When she smiled at his words her emerald eyes lit her face. Adam placed his arms around her as she snuggled back against his chest. Together they watched as the Nevada sky exploded with vivid colors that slowly faded to lavender, violet, and indigo. He was still in awe of how Ellie had brought him to life, filling him with the lilt of her Irish laughter and the smiles that reached her Emerald eyes. Envisioning his life going forward, he recalled the engraving on her locket – Never stop smiling. He knew that would be true for him as long as she was by his side.
– End –
* When Irish Eyes are Smiling
Written by Chauney Olcott and George Graff, Jr. Melody composed by Ernest Ball. (Pub. 1912)
** The Palace Bar on Fleet Street, Dublin, Ireland was built in 1823. After 196 years it still retains its Victorian charm in its furnishings. It’s a pub where writers, journalists, artists , and others have gathered over the decades.
** The Palace Bar’s front room is long and narrow with a mahogany bar on one wall and separate sitting areas at the end of the bar. Beyond this room is a ‘backroom’ which is more open and full of light from the ornate stained glass roof light above. When the sun shines through, colored light fills the room, giving it an airy and relaxing feel.
*** St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191, is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. Being in great disrepair by the 19th century, Benjamin Lee Guinness, grandson of Arthur Guinness (founder of Guinness beer), offered to fund the full restoration if he could have free rein on the design. The restoration took place from 1860-1865, with the new Cathedral a mixture of medieval and Victorian styles.
**** On May 10, 1869 the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads connected at Promontory Point, north of Ogden Utah. The route passed through Reno, Nevada (founded 1868) on its way to Sacramento. Reno is 22 miles from Lake Tahoe. In 1871, the Virginia and Truckee RR was extended from Virginia City to Reno.
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