The Bairn of Brianag (Chapter One, page 1 of 13)

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Spring, 1766

In the quiet of the evening, when everyone at Gillean had gone to bed, I paced the floor of my room in my night dress, waiting for my brother Kevin to come home. The night was chilly and the windows were closed; I looked through the glass every few minutes, hoping to see him in the moonlight, coming up the driveway. I opened the window to listen for the sound of his horse's feet, then drew it closed again. At last I heard him, and then saw him; throwing a shawl about my shoulders, I crept from my room and down the stairs. I softly opened the front door and slipped out onto the porch, closing it silently behind me.

Kevin had dismounted and the horse was being led away. He saw me as he started up the steps.

"Jessie!" he said. "What on earth are you doing out of bed, bairn? You'll catch your death!"

"I'm not cold," I said, my teeth chattering lightly. "I must speak with you, Kevin."

He held out his hand to me as he sat in a chair on the porch, drawing me onto his knee. I pulled my feet up under my nightdress. "What is it, lass?"

"Kevin," I said, and felt for a moment as if I might faint; the shivering grew until it became a knot in my middle, and Kevin drew me into his embrace. I pressed my face against his shoulder.

"Lass, what is it?" he said again. "Is our mother mistreating you?"

"Oh, no! I mean to say-not more than ever. Kevin, I must know-do you thinkcould Robbie Stewart love me?"

I felt his quick intake of breath; then his hand stroked my hair. "Oh, lass, lass," he said. "Do not let yourself love Robbie, I entreat you. He is not for you."

I pushed myself away from him. "Why? Why do you say so?" I whispered passionately, afraid our parents would awaken. "Why can he not be for me?"

"Robbie is not the marrying kind, Jessie. He loves horses and games and fighting and girls-too many to settle down with just one! Please, heed me in this. I do not wish to see my little sister with a broken heart."

"It is too late, if Robbie will not have me. My heart shall be broken, for I love him with all of it," I said, and tears filled my eyes.

"Desist, Jessie. You do not know what you are saying."

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