Then, changing his tone to one of defiance, he added:
“Since you are not inclined to part with either of your pets, you’ll oblige me with the money, and before to-morrow night. You understand me, I presume?”
“I do,” and bowing haughtily, Hugh passed through the open door.
In a kind of desperation he mounted Rocket, and dashed out of town at a speed which made more than one look after him, wondering what cause there was for his headlong haste. A few miles from the city he slacked his speed, and dismounting by a running brook, sat down to think. The price offered for Lulu would set him free from every pressing debt, and leave a large surplus, but not for a moment did he hesitate.
“I’d lead her out and shoot her through the heart, before I’d do that thing,” he said.
Then turning to the noble animal cropping the grass beside him, he wound his arms around his neck, and tried to imagine how it would seem to know the stall at home was empty, and his beautiful Rocket gone.
“If I could pawn him,” he thought, just as the sound of wheels was heard, and he saw old Colonel Tiffton driving down the turnpike.
Between the colonel and his daughter Ellen there had been a conversation that very day touching the young man Hugh, in whom Ellen now felt a growing interest. Seated in their handsome parlor, with her little hands folded listlessly one above the other, Ellen was listening, while her father told her mother.
“He didn’t see how that chap was ever to pay his debts. One doctor twice a day for three months was enough to ruin anybody, let alone having two,” and the sometimes far-seeing old colonel shook his head doubtfully.
“Father,” and Ellen stole softly to his side, “if Mr. Worthington wants money so badly, you’ll lend it to him, won’t you?”
Again a doubtful shake as the prudent colonel replied: “And lose every red I lend, hey? That’s the way a woman would do, I s’pose, but I am too old for that. Now, if he could give good security, I wouldn’t mind, but what’s he got, pray, that we want?”
Ellen’s gray eyes scanned his face curiously a moment, and then Ellen’s rather pretty lips whispered in his ear: “He’s got Rocket, pa.”
“Yes, yes, so he has; but no power on earth could make him part with that nag. I’ve always liked that boy, always liked old John, but the plague knows what he did with his money.”
“You’ll help Hugh?” and Ellen returned to the attack.
“Well,” said the old man, “we’ll see about this Hugh matter,” and the colonel left the house, and entered the buggy which had been waiting to take him to Frankfort.
“That’s funny that I should run a-foul of him,” he thought, stopping suddenly as he caught sight of Hugh, and calling out cheerily: “How d’ye, young man? That’s a fine nag of yours. My Nell is nigh about crazy for me to buy him. What’ll you take?”
“What’ll you give?” was Hugh’s Yankee-like response, while the colonel, struck by Hugh’s peculiar manner, settled himself back in his buggy and announced himself ready to trade.