Louisa May Alcott: Rose in Bloom

Chapter 12. AT KITTY'S BALL (continued)

It was well for the success of Mac's first crusade that his hearers were gentlemen and sober, so his outburst was not received with jeers or laughter but listened to in silence, while the expression of the faces changed from one of surprise to regret and respect, for earnestness is always effective and championship of this sort seldom fails to touch hearts as yet unspoiled. As he paused with an eloquent little quiver in his eager voice, Van corked the bottle at a blow, threw down the corkscrew, and offered Mac his hand, saying heartily, in spite of his slang: "You are a first-class old brick! I'll lend a hand for one, and do my best to back up Charlie, for he's the finest fellow I know, and shan't go to the devil like poor Randal if I can help it."

Murmurs of applause from the others seemed to express a general assent to this vigorous statement, and, giving the hand a grateful shake, Mac retreated to the door, anxious to be off now that he had freed his mind with such unusual impetuosity.

"Count on me for anything I can do in return for this, Van. I'm sorry to be such a marplot, but you can take it out in quizzing me after I'm gone. I'm fair game, and Steve can set you going."

With that, Mac departed as abruptly as he had come, feeling that he had "made a mess" of it, but comforting himself with the thought that perhaps he had secured help for Charlie at his own expense and thinking with a droll smile as he went back to his mother: "My romance begins by looking after other girls' lovers instead of finding a sweetheart for myself, but I can't tell Rose, so she won't laugh at me."

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