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“It means I love you, Violet. I have never said that aloud to another human being.”
He said it quickly and tonelessly. As if he was afraid of the words. Violet stood basking in those words the way she might a sunbeam after a long, gray day. She closed her eyes. And she knew she was lit from within.
“Do not let me just stand here having said those words,” he said stiffly. “It’s undignified.”
“I love you, too,” she said softly, hurriedly. Feeling abashed. Eyes still closed. Egads. So this was what it was like to be in love. Awkward and foolish, indeed.”
“Very well,” she said after a moment. “Here is how I see that loyalty and love are the same: You would lay down your life for someone for reasons of both love and loyalty. But loyalty implies dependence, doesn’t it? For instance, dogs are loyal. It also implies indebtedness. For instance, servants are loyal.”
“It also implies integrity. And honor. And—”
“Steadfastness,” she completed, with only a hint of irony.
“So you see them as absolutes then, Miss Redmond? Love means to be willing to die for someone, and loyalty perhaps the same?”
“How can they be otherwise?”