The disclaimer is and always will be I don’t own ‘em and never made a plug nickel off ‘em. Wish I did. This is a series of stories where Ezra’s a child and the remaining seven are adults this story taking place prior to Ezra’s arrival in Four Corners a little AU created by Wyvern. This is a sequel to my story The Little Mister so please do enjoy. This story ain’t beta-ed all the mistakes are my own.
Ezra Standish’s cousins weren’t really cousins after all it was just another family Maude conned into taking her boy in and they didn’t live in San Francisco but days ride outside the small town of Whispering Pines. Which itself was two days ride by stage outside San Francisco. One would be hard pressed to tell the Reilly clan that Ezra wasn’t one of their own, the large family had ten children ranging in age from 18 months to sixteen almost all had red hair and freckles except Darla who was ten and Shannon the baby both had jet black hair like their mother. It was the baby who was trying to wake her ‘cousin’ from his fevered stupor by petting him gently on the top of his sweat-slicked hair.
“Shannon silly girl I told you to leave Ezra alone because he’s sick and needs to sleep.”
A pair of bright blue eyes blinked up from under a mop of curly black hair, with a tiny thumb in her mouth as she continued to pet her cousin. Margaret was smiling as she snatched her youngest off the bed, started tickling her as did causing the baby too squeal loudly.
“Jimmy come and get your wee sister.”
An eight year-old boy poked his head in the door so that he could see Ezra too.
“Take the baby outside and play I’ve got to tend to your cousin.”
Mrs. Reilly shooed the children out, turning her attention back to frail boy in the bed.
“Cousin…ha.” she laughed at the conversation she had with Mrs. Peterson. The woman thought that her large brood was the boy’s cousins. That Mrs. Standish had talked to the town’s priest into looking for someone to take her ‘sick’ son in. Father Brennan mentioned her family and before you could spit the boy was on his way. When Mrs. Peterson arrived at her door the child was indeed ill, the trip had taken it’s toll and had a high fever. Being a good-hearted woman she didn’t have the heart to tell the elder woman the truth especially after Mrs. Peterson had explained the whole heart-wrenching affair. That was two days ago the boy was still fevered drifting in and out of nightmarish dreams.
Mrs. Peterson and her man had left early the previous morning genuinely sorry that she could not stay longer but she had a business to run. Last night the boy woke up screaming and there didn’t seem be anything that would calm him. The ruckus woke everyone in the house. Her husband Shamus tried to help but huge red headed man terrified the ill boy even more. Ezra eventually screamed himself hoarse before he fell back into an exhausted sleep. Margaret was bone tired when she wrung out a wet rag and gently wiped the young lad down. The boy’s fevered outburst sent her husband out into the early morning to fetch the local healer Ma Campbell they hadn’t returned. The eldest children rose early and took charge breakfast had been made, devoured and cleaned up before they set out to take care of the livestock. The younger children were playing quietly in front of the house by the time their Papa and Ma Campbell arrived. Mrs. Reilly could hear the woman come in demanding to see the boy.
“Where’s the youngin’?”
“In the back room with my Maggie.”
“Well go on Man I know you have a farm to run, and you’ll know soon enough how the boy is.”
Margaret heard the front door close and Ma Campbell calling to her as she walked into the room.
“Missy I can see you had a rough night…”
Margaret wearily nodded.
“Shamus told me about the boy-O, you best draw up enough warm water for a bath and get those youngin’ of yours to help. I’m goin’ set with our young friend here and have a look at him.”
Ma Campbell tough by nature set about removing the lad’s bandages, it would do no good to get them wet and she would have a better idea what she was dealing with. Although she had been told by Shamus in detail, Ma was prepared but the damage was still sickening. The crop had torn dozens of deep furrows that rested within painfully raised welts across Ezra’s back, the painful bruising that began below the boy’s hips and ended at the neck was a mottled mix of black and deep purple. Ribs were healing along with the shoulder, the boy looked a mess and he’d been healing for two weeks. Ma was convinced there was monsters that walked among men this only deepened her belief. Margaret gasped as she walked back in paling at the sight.
“That water ready?” The old woman cut off Mrs. Reilly there was much to do and they had to get beyond the nature of the boy’s injuries to help him. The lad needed that help now, this wasn’t the time to think on the vicious assault.
“Yes Ma it’s in the kitchen by the stove and I chased the children off they shouldn’t see this.” Margaret quickly composed herself.
Together the women carried the boy wrapped in a sheet into the kitchen where they settled him in the tepid water. Limply laying in their arms Ezra mumbled something over and over words the women couldn’t understand. Margaret had to put her head next his to hear the softly spoken.
“It’s all right child you’re safe…” Dull glazed green eyes stared at her as she pulled away, intently watching her as she bathed his fevered brow with the water before he slipped into a peaceful slumber.
Another two days passed before Ezra woke again feeling better than he had for along time. For some strange reason he felt safe even though he didn’t know where he was, the distant sound of children’s laughter floated on the air. His body felt strangely numb when he opened his eyes realizing he rested on his side. A dark haired woman sat darning socks at his bedside. Definitely not his mother, he watched as the door opened a dark haired girl looked in.
You know your not supposed to be in here.”
“But Mama he’s awake…” The woman turned at looked at him smiling.
“That he is… Darla go and fetch some of Ma Campbell’s tea.”
The little girl quickly disappeared.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better I think…. where am I?”
“Young Mister Standish you’re at the home of the Reilly clan, I’m their proud mother Margaret.”
“A pleasure to meet you Mrs. Reilly…. but how did I get here? Where’s my Mother?” The boy’s voice was barely above a whisper.
At that moment Darla skittered back in with the tea and after a look from her Mama she tiptoed out of the room.
“You need to drink this first, but I need to prop you up a bit in bed before I can do that.” Mrs. Reilly carefully sat him up wedging some pillows behind him. Before she let him go she told him. “If this hurts too much you let me know.” He sucked in a quick breath as she let him go and she gently pulled him up again.
“You’ll just have to lean on me for a moment while you drink this then I’ll put you back on your side.”
Ezra made a face as he drank the tea.
“Awful tasting but it helps with the pain. Now here’s a bit of water… That’s a good laddie.”
Once Ezra was settled she went to the door telling Darla to bring in the broth before returning to the boy’s side to answer his questions only to find he was sleeping, she crossed the room quickly to intercept her dark haired daughter. Calling out the open door.
“Darla never mind girl... the laddie’s asleep again.”
Another week went by before Ezra was well enough to leave his bed. Actually the bed belonged to Sean, Michael and Jimmy, they had been temporarily bedded down in their older brothers room down the hall. The eldest boy William had brought actually carried him in him into the kitchen for his first meal with the family-supper. The southern boy was embarrassed, unnerved and uncomfortable with all the attention had received from the Reilly family. The children one by one had started to visit him at the start of the day the younger ones came in the morning and the elder children after their chores in the afternoon.
The day had started off with Three year-old Molly and Shannon sitting at the end of the bed when woke insisting that he see their corn husk dolls. A short time later Sean, Michael and Jimmy had caused a ruckus when they snuck in a very slippery wet frog, which promptly escaped, a mad merry chase ensued with the younger boys crawling under the bed and over the rest of the room. Their mother had come and ordered the trio out without capturing their prized frog. Ezra had watched the entire fiasco wide eyed. Particularly when Mrs. Reilly crawled under the bed and captured the rogue amphibian herself promptly freeing it through the closest window.
Ma Campbell had arrived before lunch to remove the stitches in his head and free his arm with a promise he wouldn’t over do it, the tea would keep the pain from his back bearable. The ribs would have to remain wrapped for another week or so at the very least. Fourteen year-old Brigid brought in a bowl of stew for him at lunch, while her sisters twelve year-old Adelaide and Darla read fairy tales to him. The sixteen year-old twins William and Edmund gave a quiet greeting before dinner. The only person that hadn’t stopped in was Papa Shamus he was in town but he wasn’t due back until after dinner.
Ezra was given a comfortably padded seat next Margaret who was good enough to make sure he got served first a healthy portion of Beef stew, corn meal biscuits and a cold mug of milk. Edmund led the thanks then dove in with the rest of his siblings in the scramble for food. Ezra watched in amazement as the food quickly disappeared from the table in a flurry of activity. Laughter filled the air, smiles spread around the table as the food dwindled. He slowly picked at his food unsure and a little suspicious of the kindness. The door flew open startling the nervous boy and his stew flew off the table and on to the floor shattering the bowl. The room was silent as all eyes fell on the pale young southerner who was out of his chair and backing away from the table visibly shaking.
“Brigid be a dear and clean that up?” Shamus asked his daughter then called to the boy “Come here Laddie no need to fear, it’s alright no harm done.” Mr. Reilly got down on his knees so that he could look Ezra in the eyes purposely keeping his hands to his side resisting the urge to reach out and steady the boy who was beginning to sway.
“No worries. Now come sit and My Maggie will get another bowl for you.”
The boy eyeing him nervously slowly nodded and allowed Mr. Reilly assist him as sat down again while Margaret but a fresh bowl of stew in front of the boy. The children once again broke into their raucous bantering as Papa Shamus helped himself to his own dinner being regaled by his children exploits. Once while glancing in the boy’s direction he was rewarded with a small smile, which he returned. Ezra was secretly grateful that no one fussed over his transgression, although wary he felt safer than he had in a long time as he slowly ate his meal.
The next morning Ezra had found himself outside sitting in the pillowed lined rocker that Mrs. Reilly set out for him. Wrapped in a light blanket fretting instead of resting quietly under the early morning sun Mr. Reilly had set him there claiming the fresh air would do him good. The boy watched as Adelaide and Darla left the house to feed the chickens and gather eggs for breakfast. Little Jimmy was just returning from milking their dairy cow with Sean, the pair carried the milk-laden bucket between them with their younger brother Michael following closely behind them. The trio waved to Ezra as they approached the house, he returned in kind wincing as the sudden movement caused a painful spasm in his back. Sucking in a quick breath he squeezed his eyes shut, Stupid Ezra he silently berated himself, the young southerner was feeling better but he was still in a fair amount of pain, the bruising was extensive, a dull ache settled in his shoulder and his ribs were mending. He waited as the pain slowly ebbed away opening his eyes to find Michael staring at his with a thumb stuck in his mouth watching. The other two boys apparently had walked right by him without him noticing. Michael stood there with snot dribbling out of his nose while spittle dripped down his hand watching him. This morning they woke him early to air out his ‘sick’ room and change the bedding. The smallest children subdued by the early hour and stayed close to their mother, Brigid as the eldest girl was helping her mother prepare biscuits, bacon and flapjacks. Margaret stepped onto the porch with of warm cup of Ma Campbell’s tea.
She watched as he shook slowly his head. Bad enough, she thought to herself, to frighten her younger boys when suddenly after the lad had waved to them he paled, scrunched his eyes shut and started panting, the two boys rushed in alerting their mother to Ezra’s discomfort.
“I brought some Ma Campbell’s brew, it’ll help.”
Not waiting for a response she helped him drink the brew, and then brushed his hair off noting the light sheen of sweat had developed on his pale face.
“Too much too soon… Sorry Laddie we’ll give it a few moments and then it’s back to bed with you.”
“No… No… Mrs. Reilly I’m fine really…”
“If this is fine young man I’d hate to see feeling poorly.”
The boy’s down cast eyes spoke volumes to Margaret, he was ashamed of being ill, she stood by not wanting to upset him while she waited for the strong tea’s medicinal effects to take hold. Within five minutes Ezra’s chin had settled on his chest, he was asleep and Shamus had returned for the morning meal to find the pair on the porch. Maggie smiled at her man as he gently lifted the boy and carried him inside.
It was mid-morning a few days later when the young southerner woke from his slumber rigid with fear until he relaxed a little remembering where he was. The nagging worry ate away at the very center of his being, the Reilly family seemed friendly but his mother’s teachings held firm everything had a price attached in some form. The fear reinforced itself as events from the stay at his uncle’s flickered through his mind, moreover he missed his mother and all this was making his back tense up and hurt again. After taking several deep breaths his body responded by loosening up and the pain lessened.
For the first time since his arrival he was alone as he sat up slowly he surveyed the room. His carpetbag was safely tucked into the corner, Ezra carefully climbed off the bed and stood in a nightshirt on his bare feet listening to see if anyone was nearby. All he heard were the birds chirping through the open window and the sound of children’s laughter in the distance, the boy took a chance and stiffly lowered himself to the floor to look through the bag. He felt underneath the bottom lining inside the bag and was amazed to find his hidden stash of money still there. Ezra didn’t bother to count the roll of bills it was still held tight in the red ribbon he bound it in, nearly a hundred dollars-ninety six to be exact. Everything was the way he had packed it before leaving Pine Gulch, his jacket neatly folded on top the derringer hidden within it’s lining except the addition of his shoes nothing was out of place. That surprised him he was sure his uncle would have defiled the bag or at least the Reilly’s curiosity would have gotten the best of them. He thanked lady luck as he pulled out his shoes along with a change of clothes. With a determination that bore him through life Ezra slowly donned his clothes trying to fulfill his desire to finish before someone could stop him and make him return to bed.
Margaret walked in to find Ezra out of bed and sitting on the edge of the rocking chair fully dressed holding his shoes. He stared at her wide-eyed almost guilty looking. The dark haired woman smiled and held out her hand for the shoes which the boy reluctantly handed over before she knelt down to help him put them on.
“Come on I’ll get you some breakfast.” He didn’t want her to fuss, although he was sure his mother had paid these people to care for him Ezra didn’t want to cause any more trouble than he had strength to deal with.
“Ezra could you please call me Aunt Maggie?”
“No… Mrs. Reilly…Ma’am I’m not that hungry…” He quietly protested as she ushered him into the kitchen. He couldn’t do it as much as he wanted to familiarity had a price too. The woman was surprised he didn’t call her Aunt but didn’t push the already nervous lad.
“Then what would you like to have?” Ezra watched as she got a cup of coffee from a fresh pot of coffee on the stove.
“Coffee…” he asked quietly.
Margaret poured another cup and added a liberal amount of cream and sugar before handed it to the boy and indicated for him to sit down at the table. Watching quietly from across the table as he took a small sip of the hot coffee.
“Would you like to have some of my biscuits and strawberry preserve?” He gave her a small nod and she set about making him up plate.
That was how it went small almost imperceptible ascensions on Ezra’s part, though it didn’t seem that they would harm him he was still wary. They slowly won him over with their kindness as he healed physically. Ezra still had a difficult time calling the elder Reilly’s anything but Mr. and Mrs. despite their insistence it was alright that he call them Aunt and Uncle. As time went on the days got better it seemed that he was a member of the family that had always been among them but after dark it was another struggle entirely. As his boy recovered petrifying dreams plagued the boy’s nights waking almost the entire household with his terrified screams. After first few nights Maggie start to stay by the boy’s side waking him before the nightmare hit him full force, lulling him back to sleep with the Irish tunes she hummed to her own children. Ezra injuries healed and as time went by the nightmares lessened and the little boy found out the joy of have so many cousins.
Maude’s baby boy was screaming as he ran down the hill the enemy in hot pursuit. His feet flying over the uneven ground when his small frame connected with another body in motion leaving them in a tangled heap. His head was spinning, breathing ragged unable to remove the heavy body that pinned him face down.
“Ezra?” Came a worried whisper from above him it was little Jimmy. “You okay?” When he didn’t answer, oh why couldn’t he catch his breath, he heard his cousin scream. “Papa… Papa…Papa…” followed by heavy running footsteps. Then he was gently rolled over while he blinked rapidly as he tried to regain his bearings. Shamus gently took the boy’s face in his hand looking in his eyes.
“You alright Laddie?” Ezra just blinked again. “Jimmy what did I tell you?” The small red head boy looked down as he nudge a rock around with the toe of his shoe.
“Don’t play too rough with cousin Ezra. Sorry…” The boy flushed a deep red as his father quietly spoke to him. “But we was playing tag…” by then the two other culprits had arrived Sean and Michael were panting hard as they skidded to a halt beside their father. “Papa?” the pair called out in unison. Shamus turned his attention back to the lad leaning on him.
“Not hurt are you?” Ezra shook his head as he tried to stand then faltered slightly. Papa Reilly quickly supported him. “Was that a yes or no Laddie?”
“I’m okay…” the boy finally found his voice. “…Don’t blame Jimmy… I wanted…”
“To play I know boy-O, but you can’t over do it you just got out of those wraps and My Maggie would kill me if I let these hooligans do any harm to you.” Shamus turned to his eldest there. “Jimmy can you find a way to play without jumping all over your cousin Ezra?”
“Sure Papa…Come on Ezra we can go fishing…” Jimmy replied as he took his cousin’s hand and the three younger boys were off again with Ezra leaving their father smiling in their wake. Young Mr. Standish had been with them for almost two months and there hadn’t been a word from the boy’s mother. Not that Maggie and he minded after all what was one more mouth to feed. It had taking a lot of doing on their behalf but the boy was beginning to relax and be just that a little boy. Shamus was proud of his children each and every one of them in their own way was responsible for the change in the lad. Their kindness had won Ezra over he was even beginning to take a shine to the big man himself no small feat considering what had happened with the boy’s Uncle. At night it was entirely different when the boy woke from the nightmares only His Maggie could comfort the child. He stood their thinking for a moment when he saw his beloved wife walking his way with tears in her eyes.
“Oh Shamus…” she cried as she got closer.
“Heaven’s Maggie what’s wrong?” he whispered to her as he held her close.
“A letter came…” She sobbed. “His Mother wants him back. In San Francisco she sent money to send him along.”
“From his mother she wants us to send him along on the stage to meet her. There’s a letter here for the boy too. It’s not right…he’s just getting settled here.”
“I know Maggie… but we knew that when we took him in. When does she want him back?”
“Day after tomorrow he’s supposed to meet her at the Crystal Palace. Mrs. Standish sent enough for Father Brennan to accompany Ezra there and back.”
“A might different than sending that boy out here with Mrs. Peterson…”
“He was in danger from that Uncle of his, Maggie we don’t know about this woman’s circumstances.”
“I know we shouldn’t judge the woman but…”
“Not Hell nor High water would come between you and yours. I know Maggie but from what I understand she doesn’t have a man…we’ve been lucky you and I. “
“Don’t make it any easier... how are we going to tell the boy?”
Shamus hugged his wife and held her tight as they watched the children running through the yard again apparently ignoring their father’s warning to take it easy with the young southerner, the pair laughed as he turned the tables on the youngsters by tackling the trio as they returned from the pond. Another chase began with the smaller boys hot on the heels of older one.
“We’ll talk to him after dinner.”
The two boys ran as fast as their legs could carry them.
Shamus was behind his old plow horse unhitching him after they brought a small wagon laden with fence rail he had made across the property so that he could do the needed repairs to the barnyard. The man was removing the harness when his boys ran up to him frantic and breathless. Jimmy started babbling.
“Papa… Michael fell… Ezra told us to come get you and for you to bring rope.”
“Where are they?” The big man asked his boys as he jogged into the barn to fetch a coil of rope.
“Jimmy you go get Willie and Eddie send them out there after me and Sean you go tell your Mama.” Shamus told his young sons as he finished removing the harness and pulled himself on the saddle-less horse.
Ezra lay on his belly hanging over the edge of the large boulder calling to Michael but the child couldn’t hear him because the little boy was wailing loudly over twenty feet below the young southerner then suddenly the youngest Reilly boy went silent and curled up into a ball.
“Michael…Michael.” He just couldn’t get the boy to look up at him. He cursed himself he shouldn’t have been playing, if he hadn’t been chasing the younger boys Michael wouldn’t have fallen. There wasn’t time to waste on such thoughts as he lowered himself over the edge inching slowly down towards narrow ledge to where the younger boy was. After a harrowing climb down Ezra reached the boy who was huddled against the cliff. The earthen ledge he had climbed on to wasn’t stable, the ground underneath him started to crumble and he stopped where he was afraid to take another step. Little Michael began to move around cause the dirt and rocks to skitter away.
“Michael, please don’t move.” Ezra whispered.
“Yeah I’m here, you have to listen to me and stay still. Do you understand?”
“I know are you hurt?”
“My arm hurts real bad.”
“Your Papa will be coming soon…so you got to stay still… so that you don’t fall again.”
Twenty tense minutes passed as Ezra did his best to soothe the frightened boy before he heard Shamus call to him.
“Ezra? Are you boys okay?” Mr. Reilly looked down at the boys, Michael was curled up near the edge of the small ledge and Ezra was stock still three feet away. Not even looking up when he replied.
“Michael hurt his arm…”
“I am going to come down…”
“Don’t please don’t the ledge isn’t stable…I’m afraid to move.”
William and Edmund had joined their father at Culver’s rock trying to decide the best way to extradite the young boys without disturbing the ledge they were perched upon.
“Laddie we’re going to toss down a rope, I want you to tie it around Michael.”
Ezra heard the uncoiled rope hit the cliff side next to him. Careful he reached behind himself, grabbed on to the rope then slowly inched his way towards Michael. As quickly as he could he looped the roped under the child’s arms all the while apologizing for any pain he might be causing and reassuring the frightened boy before knotting the rope twice.
“Okay…” he shouted then he felt the earth slip out from under his feet. The air rushed past him and then the impact knocked his breath away.
Shamus, William and Edmund held tight to the rope, they watched the ledge disintegrate, as Ezra toppled further down the cliff side leaving Michael dangling in mid-air. The trio made quick work of getting their youngest boy up top and into his father’s arms.
“You okay little one?”
Margaret rode up on a buckboard just as they pulled her baby boy up.
”Shamus give him here.” Shamus handed up his precious burden to his wife then returned to the edge of Culver’s Rock.
“Laddie…” He yelled down to the boy who had slipped another five feet down and was clinging desperately to some old tree roots, William and Edmund had once again dropped down the rope but the boy hadn’t noticed.
“Pa, I’ll go down and get him.” Offered Eddie. Mr. Reilly wanted to object but he didn’t see another way to rescue young Ezra.
“Be careful boy-O…”
With an ease that contradicted with his size Edmund quickly climbed down to his ‘cousin’s’ side calling out to the boy while he tied the rope around himself.
“Ezra, give me your hand.” He didn’t get a response so he called out again.
“Look up here.” Finally the mop of brown hair turned towards him revealing frightened green eyes. “That’s good now give me your hand.” Ezra reached out and Eddie pulled him tightly against his body telling the younger boy. “Hold on and don’t let go.” Then yelled to his father.
“Pull us up…”
Moments later Eddie was safely up top with Ezra in tow, the lad stood wide-eyed rigid with fear watching as Shamus approached him. The large man picked up and embraced the young southern boy who relaxed immediately after a moment when he heard.
“You scared the life out of me…”
The boy didn’t hear another word as he collapsed shaking in Mr. Reilly’s arms and the man whispered into his ear. “Scared yourself too...”
The man was grateful that he got the boys back in one piece.
“Maggie is Michael alright?” He called to his wife watching her as she brushed the hair off her baby’s face.
“Twisted his arm, nothing is broken as far as I can tell other than that he’s just dirt from head to toe and frightened. Ezra?”
“Just scared and dirty is all.”
“Well then let us get these boys home.”
The excitement had died down a few hours after they returned to the house with Michael and Ezra. After a hot bath the five year old was safely tucked into bed with his sprained arm wrapped and held in a sling, there was no need to send for Ma Campbell both boys had escaped with a few minor scrapes and bruises. Ezra was resting in a chair at the kitchen table when Maggie came back into the room after the remaining children had been shooed away, she looked unhappy and the boy knew the reason why. The woman was fiddling with the dirty dishes not daring to look at the boy.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Reilly…” Her head snapped around, what had he to be sorry for? The boy misread her expression and continued his rambling and totally unnecessary apology. “Sorry…I shouldn’t have been playing…”
“There’s no need to be sorry Laddie accidents happen no matter how careful we are, I’m relieved that neither of you boys were hurt badly.” Ezra looked at her she didn’t look very happy and he wondered what he said wrong.
“Ezra, we love having you here with our clan. Your mother… we got the letter from her today she sent along you a letter for you… she wants you to go to her in San Francisco within a weeks time.”
Maggie slid the unopened letter towards the silent child, watching as he opened and read the letter. She was unable to read past the placid expression on his face and could not tell what was going through his mind as she eyed him intently waiting for him to do something. Smile, laugh, be angry or even cry but he didn’t do anything but carefully fold the letter and place it in his pocket.
“When do I depart?”
“You have to leave in the morning to meet her in time, I’m sorry Ezra… I didn’t want to tell you like this but I don’t want you blaming yourself for what happened to my wee boy Michael either. Your mother arranged for Father Brennan to take you there Shamus or I would love to go with you but we can’t leave on such short notice.” She walked around the table and rested a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s quite alright …”
“No, its not okay…Ezra, look at me…we love you as if you were are our own…”
“I’ve missed my mother. It’s time I go back to her.” Ezra honestly liked this family and wanted badly to stay but he was all the family mother had, how could he even consider not returning to her side. When Maude had a mindset to something she was a force to be reckoned with and being a sensible son he wouldn’t protest returning to her side.
Margaret leaned down giving the quiet boy a warm hug and a kiss on he cheek.
The remainder of the evening was a bit awkward for Ezra as he tried to distance himself from the gregarious family that had taken him in, while at the same time they wanted to express their love for him and their sorrow about his pending departure and young Michael had woke from his nap to join in. The Reilly Clan finally won and at the evenings end Ezra was singing old Irish tunes along with the family as they celebrated his time with them. Early that morning Ezra Standish had risen before the sun to ride to town with Mr. Reilly to meet Father Brennan in town they would arrive there around sunset.
Once there, Ezra would stay with Father Brennan until the following morning when the priest and the boy would take the first stage out. Ezra had said his good-byes to the children the night before and received a tearful hug from Margaret before he climbed into the wagon with Shamus.
The boy had been quiet for most of the morning and he was eating an apple from the basket of food Mrs. Reilly packed for the trip, he didn’t know what to say. This wasn’t new it was the way he had spent he young life never staying anywhere more than a couple months and he wondered why he had expected to be different this time. Maude had sent for him and Ezra would go to her because she was his mother. The boy sat there contemplating the time he had spent with his ‘cousins’ but quickly pushed the thoughts away, they weren’t his family and in the end like all the others before them they had in the end sent him back to his mother. The young southerner took another bite from his apple and watched the road ahead.