Eileen...Colleen O' Flanagan's Fen

By the time she reached eighteen, Eileen O'Rourke was the prettiest colleen in Flanagan's Fen and could have her pick of the likely lads that came a-courting with marriage in mind. To be sure, the selection was limited, but Eileen had cast a favorable eye on three hopefuls: Dermott Clancy, Donovan Delaney and Brendan Flynn. Each took her fancy in a different way. Eileen knew the decision would not be easy.

Charming Dermott Clancy, with his dark auburn hair and brandywine eyes, was handsome and a perfect gentleman. He opened doors for her and kissed her hand when he escorted her home. Cultured...for a farm boy at least...Dermott knew all there was to know about Celtic history. Eileen loved sitting with him under the stars, her head resting against his broad shoulder, while he recounted tales of ancient chieftains who had bravely fought tooth and nail against the pillaging Picts and Scots.

Though barely twenty, Dermott was solid and reliable as Connemara marble. He had already bought and paid for a pony and trap with his own hard-earned brass and held title to a piece of land which grew the finest potatoes in the county. His prize hogs never failed to win anything less than a blue ribbon and he spent two Saturdays out of every month teaching illiterate adults how to read. Dermott was the salt of the earth and would be a champion choice indeed. Eileen would want for nothing...but then, there was Donovan.

Moody Donovan Delaney, of the brooding hazel eyes and chestnut curls, was handsome and a dyed-in-the-wool romantic. He always appeared on Eileen's doorstep with a bouquet of sweet-smelling flowers and a box of the sugared almonds she found so tempting. Though not totally opposed to hand-kissing, Donovan preferred more sensual areas...delicate skin at the crook of the elbow or inside the wrist...responsive flesh of the throat and neck.

Donovan declared he would hurl himself from the very top of Paddy's Peak if she refused his proposal...unless he died of a broken heart before reaching the summit. Eileen would hate to have his death on her conscience, assuming, of course, that he spoke the truth, which was a matter of some speculation. At twenty-one, the passionate Donovan had already acquired the reputation of a Don Juan and Eileen wanted to be the one to tame his tiger. He was forbidden fruit, a silver-tongued devil who was difficult to resist...but then again, there was Brendan.

Brendan Flynn, handsome in a boyish way, exhibited a love for life which was contagious. With his ruddy complexion, sandy hair and sparkling green eyes, he was a breath of fresh air...and could have been the poster boy for Irish Spring soap! He'd once entertained hopes of being a jockey but, in the course of only one year, had overshot the appointed height by a good six inches. Ever the optimist, he never dwelt on what might have been and, at the tender age of eighteen, was the youngest and most successful horse trainer Flanagan's Fen had ever produced.

As Eileen held tight to his slim waist, Brendan would gallop bareback through the peat bogs so swiftly that she wondered the horse was able to maintain its footing...and could the lad cut a rug! It was said Michael Flatley had been lucky Brendan didn't try out for "Riverdance," or he might have found himself in the chorus instead of the star of the show! Brendan was ambitious and aspired to have his own stable of top-notch steeplechasers one day. Sensitive beyond belief, kind to a fault, and gentle as a lamb with all manner of living things, Brendan was a true broth of a boy...but then, there was Dermott.

Eileen sighed. Choosing was going to be tough...tough as some of the leather her Dad used in his cobbler shop. At the thought of her Father, Eileen snapped her fingers. She'd go to him for advice. It might be a wise move...bring him up to snuff on the situation before one of her anxious suitors jumped the gun and asked him for her hand.

Shamus O'Rourke hammered diligently as Eileen explained her dilemma. He nodded sagely. "Name o' the first lad?" he asked. "Dermott Clancy" she replied. Shamus cursed as he pounded his thumb. "Out o' the question, daughter!" he muttered, sucking on the injured digit. "Why so, father?" questioned Eileen. Shamus had the decency to look abashed.

"About twenty-odd years ago I had a bit o' a fling with one Shelagh Clancy and...um...she gave birth to a wee boy..."

"Father!" exclaimed Eileen. "Are yae tellin' me Dermott is me own brother?" Shamus nodded. "Half-brother," he sheepishly corrected, tossing a handful of nails into his mouth and mumbling, "Name o' the next one?"

"Donovan Delaney."

Shamus choked as he almost swallowed the shoe tack. "Oh no," whispered Eileen. "Not Donovan too?" Shamus spat iron and coughed.

"Brendan Flynn?" queried Eileen hopefully. Sadly, Shamus shook his head.

"By all that's holy," shouted Eileen, running from the shop in tears. "Yae've left me no one decent to marry, Father!"

Eileen sobbed all the way home. "Whatever's the matter with yae, child?" asked her Mother. Eileen prayed Mam would give her whoring Father hell when she heard the story, but Kathleen O'Rourke simply stirred the pot of rabbit stew simmering on the stove.

"Shamus was always a ladies' man," she said matter-of-factly. "Had ta accept that. He's a sweet-talker and full o' the Blarney. Almost made kissin' the stone his profession!"

Kathleen smiled. "Wed whichever o' those fine young lads yae most fancy, Eileen," she said with a wink. "Shamus O'Rourke may have fathered each o' THEM but...let's just say what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and a lonely woman is apt to take a wee bit o' comfort when and where she can!"

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