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poor fellow caught at a ray of hope and, brightening suddenly, said
in his own odd way: "Couldn't you take me on trial while you are
waiting for a true hero? It may be years before you find him;
meantime, you could be practicing on me in ways that would be
useful when you get him."
"Oh, Mac! What shall I do with you?" exclaimed Rose, so
curiously affected by this very characteristic wooing that she did
not know whether to laugh or cry, for he was looking at her with
his heart in his eyes, though his proposition was the queerest ever
made at such a time.
"Just go on being fond of me in your own way, and let me love you
as much as I like in mine. I'll try to be satisfied with that." And he
took both her hands so beseechingly that she felt more ungrateful
"No, it would not be fair, for you would love the most and, if the
hero did appear, what would become of you?"
"I should resemble Uncle Alec in one thing at least fidelity, for my
first love would be my last."
That went straight to Rose's heart, and for a minute she stood
silent, looking down at the two strong hands that held hers so
firmly yet so gently, and the thought went through her mind, "Must
he, too, be solitary all his life? I have no dear lover as my mother
had, why cannot I make him happy and forget myself?"
It did not seem very hard, and she owned that, even while she told
herself that compassion was no equivalent for love. She wanted to
give all she could, and keep as much of Mac's affection as she
honestly might, because it seemed to grow more sweet and
precious when she thought of putting it away.
"You will be like Uncle in happier ways than that, I hope, for you,
too, must have a high ideal and find her and be happy," she said,
resolving to be true to the voice of conscience, not be swayed by
the impulse of the moment.
"I have found her, but I don't see any prospect of happiness, do
you?" he asked wistfully.
"Dear Mac, I cannot give you the love you want, but I do trust and
respect you from the bottom of my heart, if that is any comfort,"
began Rose, looking up with eyes full of contrition for the pain her
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