Mel’s voice broke the spell. Lane made a savage gesture, as if he were in the act of striking. Thought of Mel recalled the stingingly sweet and bitter fact of his love, and of life that called so imperiously.
“If Amanda would only marry me!” sighed Colonel A Pepper, as he stacked the few dishes on the cupboard shelf and surveyed his untidy little kitchen with disparaging eyes.
The once-contented Colonel was being consumed by two great fires—remorse and love. For more years than he could remember he had been a victim of a deplorable habit. Then two soft eyes shone into his life, and in their light he saw things differently, and he tried to redeem himself.
Even good fortune, in the shape of some half-forgotten meadow property suddenly becoming valuable, had not revived his once genial spirits. Remorse was with him because Miss Hill refused to marry him till he overcame the habit which had earned him undesirable fame.
So day by day poor Colonel Pepper grew sicker of his lonely rooms, his lonely life, and of himself.
“If Amanda only would,” he murmured for the thousandth time, and taking his hat he went out. The sunshine was bright, but did not give him the old pleasure. He walked and walked, taking no interest in anything. Presently he found himself on the outskirts of Middleville within sound of the muffled roar of the flooded river, and he wandered in its direction. At sight of the old wooden bridge he remembered he had read that it was expected to give way to the pressure of the rushing water. On the levee, which protected the low-lying country above the city, were crowds of people watching the river.
“Ye’ve no rivers loike thot in Garminy,” observed a half-drunken Irishman. He and several more of his kind evidently were teasing a little German.
Colonel Pepper had not stood there long before he heard a number of witticisms from these red-faced men.
After the manner of his kind the German had stolidly swallowed the remarks about his big head, and its shock of stubby hair, and his checked buff trousers; but at reference to his native country his little blue eyes snapped, and he made a remark that this river was extremely like one in Germany.
At this the characteristic contrary spirit of the Irishman burst forth.
“Dutchy, I’d loike ye to know ye’re exaggeratin’,” he said. “Garminy ain’t big enough for a river the loike o’ this. An’ I’ll leave it to me intilligint-lookin’ fri’nd here.”
Colonel Pepper, thus appealed to, blushed, looked embarrassed, coughed, and then replied that he thought Germany was quite large enough for such a river.
“Did ye study gographie?” questioned the Irishman with fine scorn.
Colonel Pepper retired within himself.
The unsteady and excitable fellow had been crowded to the rear by his comrades, who evidently wished to lessen, in some degree, the possibilities of a fight.