Chapter 6: Polishing Mac

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“Please could I say one word?” was the question three times repeated before a rough head bobbed out from the grotto of books in which Mac usually sat when he studied.

“Did anyone speak?” he asked, blinking in the flood of sunshine that entered with Rose.

“Only three times, thank you. Don’t disturb yourself, I beg, for I merely want to say a word,” answered Rose as she prevented him from offering the easy chair in which he sat.

“I was rather deep in a compound fracture and didn’t hear. What can I do for you, Cousin?” And Mac shoved a stack of pamphlets off the chair near him with a hospitable wave of the hand that sent his papers flying in all directions.

Rose sat down, but did not seem to find her “word” an easy one to utter, for she twisted her handkerchief about her fingers in embarrassed silence till Mac put on his glasses and, after a keen look, asked soberly: “Is it a splinter, a cut, or a whitlow, ma’am?”

“It is neither. Do forget your tiresome surgery for a minute and be the kindest cousin that ever was,” answered Rose, beginning rather sharply and ending with her most engaging smile.

“Can’t promise in the dark,” said the wary youth.

“It is a favor, a great favor, and one I don’t choose to ask any of the other boys,” answered the artful damsel.

Mac looked pleased and leaned forward, saying more affably, “Name it, and be sure I’ll grant it if I can.”

“Go with me to Mrs. Hope’s party tomorrow night.”

“What!” And Mac recoiled as if she had put a pistol to his head.

“I’ve left you in peace a long time, but it is your turn now, so do your duty like a man and a cousin.”

“But I never go to parties!” cried the unhappy victim in great dismay.

“High time you began, sir.”

“But I don’t dance fit to be seen.”

“I’ll teach you.”

“My dress coat isn’t decent, I know.”

“Archie will lend you one he isn’t going.”

“I’m afraid there’s a lecture that I ought not to cut.”

“No, there isn’t I asked Uncle.”

“I’m always so tired and dull in the evening.”

“This sort of thing is just what you want to rest and freshen up your spirits.”

Mac gave a groan and fell back vanquished, for it was evident that escape was impossible.

“What put such a perfectly wild idea into your head?” he demanded, rather roughly, for hitherto he had been left in peace and this sudden attack decidedly amazed him.

“Sheer necessity, but don’t do it if it is so very dreadful to you. I must go to several more parties, because they are made for me, but after that I’ll refuse, and then no one need be troubled with me.”

Something in Rose’s voice made Mac answer penitently, even while he knit his brows in perplexity. “I don’t mean to be rude, and of course I’ll go anywhere if I’m really needed. But I don’t understand where the sudden necessity is, with three other fellows at command, all better dancers and beaus than I am.”

“I don’t want them, and I do want you, for I haven’t the heart to drag Uncle out anymore, and you know I never go with any gentleman but those of my own family.”

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