Chapter Four
The fool doth think he is wise,
but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
-William Shakespeare -

The Meeting
Camryn O'Neil eagerly checked the post to see if anyone had showed any interest in contacting him, but alas same as usual.
"Nothing, nothing." He grumbled. "but a letter for a Mr. Malcolm O'Neil from a Jeremy Nickerson."
"Camryn!" Malcolm called, " did you get anything?"
"No!" Camryn called back, "but you did."
"Who from?" Malcolm asked coming down the hall and joining his brother at the breakfast table.
"The bloke you gave a thrashing to the other night at the pub." Camryn smirked, while handing him the letter.
Malcolm winced at the mention of Jeremy. Since his meeting with the beautiful Emmalyne Nickerson he had no ill wishes towards her brother and strongly hoped that Jeremy felt the same. Ian had been acting so strangely since then and he was definitely being a bit to harsh towards Nessa but that girl was tough and she could handle anything that boy threw at her. Still Malcolm felt sorry for her, he still did not know who the English fellow was since Ian had not told him, but if Nessa did like this boy whoever it was then he now understood a bit more how she felt.
Malcolm read the letter aloud and when he finished he noticed that Nessa, and Ian had also entered the dining room and were watching him.
"Well, that was rather polite, now wasn't it?" Camryn commented.
"Are you going to go?" Ian asked casually.
Malcolm nodded, "I think I should."
"I could go with you if you want," Nessa offered not looking at any of her brothers, "You know to make it less awkward. "
Ian glared at her, "No I don't think Nessa should go she doesn't even know any of the Nickerson's." Ian smiled devilishly at Nessa because he knew now she could not say she did know Alec because that would be telling Malcolm that he was the English boy that she like.
Nessa smiled sweetly back at him, "You're wrong, Ian, Malcolm introduced me to Emmalyne at the market." She paused and stared straight at him, "And I think I vaguely remember your friend...Alec was it?"
Ian froze, "I just don't think that it is a good idea." He tried ignoring Nessa and speaking to Malcolm, "And it has been a long time since I saw my friend."
"I thought you met and spoke with him yesterday at the market." Camryn said looking from Nessa to Ian, knowing there was a silent fight going on.
Malcolm cleared his throat and his three younger siblings stared at him, "You can all go for all I care, It will make it a bit less awkward."
Nessa flashed a superior grin at Ian, "Perfect, when do you plan on going?"
"Today I suppose."
When they reached to residence of the Nickerson's, Ian noticed that Nessa's eyes sparkled, when Alec came to the door. Alec disguised himself well and look Ian straight in the face with no trace of the anger he still felt from their last meeting.
"Ian, Hello." Alec said, gravely. "To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?" Sarcasm stung his words.
"Um... it was actually I, Malcolm O'Neil, who have come to call." Malcolm spoke awkwardly. "At the request of Jeremy Nickerson."
Alec let them in and winked at Nessa, who tried to stifle a giggle. This exchange, however, did not go unnoticed by Camryn, who smiled silently to himself at his discovery. When they were all inside the house Jeremy, Emmalyne, Alec, Samson, Gerald, and Victoria Nickerson were sitting across from Malcolm, Camryn, Ian and Nessa O'Neil.
Gerald cleared his throat to break the uncomfortable silence that had fallen upon them, "I think that the presence of my wife and myself are no longer necessary. We should go see if our two youngest children, Oliver and Elsie, are still breathing." He said standing and reaching for Malcolm's hand, "However, it was meeting you all."
When the adults left Jeremy realized it was his time to speak to Malcolm first to apologize and then to inquire about his intentions towards his sister. Neither was he looking forward to.
As if sensing Jeremy's decision, the rest of the party arose and gathered in the small sitting room, directly beside the one they were in now.
"I would like to start with an apology," Jeremy mumbled, "I would never act that immature had I been myself. I never drink that much and I am also extremely ashamed of it."
Malcolm nodded, "I also would like to apologize, unfortunately I can not blame alcohol for my behavior. I should have thought and reasoned before I acted the way I did."
"Well, I do suppose I pushed you." Jeremy finished, and tried to find words to start the conversation of the other topic he had been intending to speak to him about.
"I do have a question, though," said Jeremy, nervously.
"And what may that just be?" Malcolm's insides were caving in on him. He wasn't positive if he knew of his and Emmalyne's meeting. And he certainly wasn't planning on bringing it up.
"Well," Jeremy fiddled with his vest buttons, "it's about you and my sister."
Malcolm's breath stopped. "Oh? What about?" He managed to squeak.
"Do you like her?" Jeremy stated, plain as day.
Malcolm looked into the steady gaze that Jeremy was giving him. He managed to nod, "yeah, quite a bit."
Jeremy breathed a sigh of relief. At the same time, he groaned inwardly. "Are you sure? She is English after all."
The Irish man's eyes widened, "why would that matter?" He spat.
Jeremy raised his eyebrows reflexively, "I thought that - my brother said that, he said," he cleared his throat, "Ian told him that you didn't like the English."
"Ian's kind of stupid," Malcolm said blandly, as though he was talking about well known facts, like hanging the clothes out to dry will in fact dry them or that the sky was blue.
Jeremy grinned, "yeah, brother's tend to be that way."

Alec's face was beaming as he gazed at Nessa, "So, Nessa , How have you been?"
"Good," Nessa answered happily, "How have you been doing?"
"Better now." Alec smiled in a potentially flirtatious manner.
Ian groaned. "You people make me sick." He grumbled. "I can actually feel the bile rising in my throat."
"That's disgusting, Ian." Nessa remarked, stomping on his foot.
"Your disgusting, Nessa." Ian snapped back stomping on her foot.
Nessa yelped and then gritted her teeth glaring at him, while he smiled maliciously back at her.
Alec forced a smile nervously. "Ian, my friend, I don't suppose that is how we should treat ladies." Alec smiled sweetly at Nessa and scowled at his friend.
"Oh, please, and you would know how to treat a lady wouldn't you, Alec?" Ian laughed mockingly, as Alec's face became a deep red, and he tried to cover it by taking a sip from a glass filled with what looked like wine. Alec discovered that it was not, in fact wine, but instead his mother's medicine she had been taking recently. None of the children were told the reason for it.
"Smooth." Ian hissed, his eyes dancing.
"This is pretty awkward," Samson frowned.
Emmalyne nodded, "extremely."
"I mean, I appreciate their tension over me, obliviously, I mean, I'd be a fool not to. But, seriously, older brother's are such pains," Nessa said to Emmalyne, her voice low. "You must know where I'm coming from.
Emma nodded in response, "but, it's kind of endearing when they try, so terribly, to protect your honor. Or something else that requires a great deal of masculinity."
Nessa laughed quietly, "I really like your brother," she stated simply, her voice barely a whisper.
Alec and Ian were still feuding at each other. Camryn and Samson looked bored out of their minds. They were starting to get a timid conversation flowing.
"Good," Emma whispered just as quietly, "because I like yours."

Emma smiled as she excited her home. She really enjoyed the company of another girl. She had her mother and Elsie, but one of no relation and closer to her own age was a pleasant change. Also, she had a very attractive brother that Emma enjoyed quite a bit.
She smiled listlessly, thinking back on her conversation with Malcolm, walking towards the garden.
She wasn't aware of the presence behind her until a strong hand clamped onto her elbow. Firm, yet soft. Not intruding in any way.
"Malcolm?" She said, turning to the presence.
"Emmalyne," he smiled largely, reaching his ears.
Emma saw his face and in came the rushing words of Alec. She tried to shake the thoughts out of her mind, but they never ceased.
"What's wrong?" Malcolm asked, feeling her forehead for a fever.
He acted as though he cares, thought Emmalyne. "It's nothing," she decided, fake smile spread across her lips.
Malcolm's eyebrows furrowed, "this has nothing to do with what Alec said, right?"
Emma swallowed, but said nothing.
"I want you to know that it isn't true," Malcolm pronounced his words slowly, "I do care for you. More than you'll ever know," he added the last part to himself.
She looked down at her hands, tears forming in her eyes. She absolutely hated this control he had over her. Emmalyne was always in control of her emotions. She barely knew the boy, how could he effect her so strongly after a single meeting? It didn't make any sense. It was the sort of thing that kept Emma awake at night.
Malcolm embraced her, an informal reaction to their scant knowledge of each other. He figured it would be acceptable to ignore the social regularities for the time being. "Shh," he whispered, "it's okay, I'm here. I'll make sure everything's okay."
Emma shook her head, "you're the problem." Her tone was teasing, but had a nasally edge to it, because of her whimpering state.
"That's not the kindest thing you've ever said to me," he joked.

"I want you to know how put out I am by all of this," Samson sighed. He was leading Camryn into the stables to look at Samson's pride and joy, a young stallion named Orvis.
"Yeah, I bet. You hate showing off," scoffed Camryn.
"That is too true," Samson replied wryly.
The beautiful creature that was Orvis stood straight up on his muscular legs. His head held slightly higher. He was a chestnut brown all over, his coat sleek and thick. Orvis had a small white diamond shape between his eyes, and white 'stockings' on his front legs.
"He's gorgeous," said Camryn, in a state of awe.
Samson grinned widely, "I know."
"What are you gawking at?" Questioned Alec coming in through the doors, Ian just a few steps behind him, Nessa beside him.
Ian looked at the horse in full, "wow," was what he managed.
Samson's grin widened to some inhuman extent.
Nessa went up and pet the stallion's nose. Alec tossed her an apple to feed to him. She smiled and attentively turned her attention to feeding the horse, but not getting her fingers mauled in the attempt.
Alec cornered Ian and said in a husky tone, "come outside, please."
Ian nodded and followed him out of the doors.
"I want this whole situation over between us," Alec said, arms crossed over his chest, "it's immature and absolutely without a cause."
"I'm trying to protect my sister," Ian replied, hands tucked in his trousers.
"That's a lie, you know me. You know I would never do anything to hurt her."
Ian looked up at his friend, "what if you didn't mean to?"
"It wouldn't happen, Ian, drop it." Alec let his arms fall to his sides.
"I don't want her…" Ian stalled, struggling for the correct words.
"You don't want her out of your protection. I understand that, Ian, I honestly do. But, she's old enough to make her own decisions. You have to let her do that, you can't shelter her for the entirety of her life." Alec's voice was firm, but his eyes were soft.
Ian nodded. "And, you promise that you will never hurt her?" He looked directly into the eyes of his best friend.
"I promise that she shall never suffer while she is with me, by anyone."

Authors' note:

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