The Bairn of Brianag (Chapter Three, page 2 of 8)

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When John came home that evening, my happiness for Cathy increased, and with it my pain for myself. Their attachment to each other was plain for all to see. He treated her like a queen, and the adoration in her face matched his. My heart twisted as I looked across the table at Robbie. He was talking to August, who was sitting beside him, and did not look at me.

We sat up late, playing cards, and once again I found myself the butt of Robbie's jokes.

"The bairn, here, has told us that she is a lady now," he said, as he dealt the cards for cribbage.

"Indeed she is!" said Cathy, smiling her angelic smile at me. "She is quite grown up."

"We are both ladies," said August. "Is it not so, Mr. Belden?"

"Most accomplished and beautiful ladies, indeed," he said.

"There, you see," I said. "It is only you, Robbie, who believe that I am still a child."

"Ahem," said Kevin.

"You do not matter; you are my brother," I said, and felt my face color. I said quickly, "Mr. Belden is a better judge, as he has only known me since I have been a lady."

Robbie burst out laughing. "Perhaps that makes him a worse judge, not better!" he said. "It is we who have known you since you were swaddled in linen who know you truly!"

I took a sip of wine, willing the heat in my face away. His teasing left me without repartee, and made me furious. Cathy's sweet voice assuaged me.

"She is a very lovely lady now; one day soon some man will claim her and take her away from us," she said. "I would keep her a bairn longer, if I could."

I smiled at her gratefully, and thought, Dear Cathy. I shall not leave you, for the man I shall marry is Robbie. I leaned over and kissed her.

John began to tell an amusing story of his trip to Town, and turned the attention away from teasing me for a while. After our game was over, he and Cathy said that they would retire. We all stood to say goodnight; we all kissed her.

She received our caresses graciously, and held John's arm as they ascended the stairs together. I felt tears welling up, and when I turned away, found Robbie's eyes upon me; I brushed at my cheeks and fled from the room, out onto the terrace.

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