Hugh knew he could trust the colonel, and after a moment’s hesitation told of his embarrassments, and asked the loan of five hundred dollars, offering Rocket as security, with the privilege of redeeming him in a year.
“You ask a steep sum,” he said, “but I take it you are in a tight spot and don’t know what else to do. That girl in the snow bank—I’ll be hanged if that was ever made quite clear to me.”
“It is to me, and that is sufficient,” Hugh answered, while the old colonel replied:
“Good grit, Hugh. I like you for that. In short, I like you for everything, and that’s why I was sorry about that New York lady. You see, it may stand in the way of your getting a wife by and by, that’s all.”
“I shall never marry,” Hugh answered, thinking of the Golden Haired.
“No?” the colonel replied. “Well, there ain’t many good enough for you, that’s a fact, and so I tell ’em when they get to—get to—”
Hugh looked up inquiringly, his face flashing as he guessed at what they got.
“Bless me, there’s ain’t many girls good for anybody. I never saw but one, except my Nell, that was worth a picayune, and that was Alice Johnson.”
“Who? Who did you say?” And Hugh grew white as marble.
The colonel replied: “I said Alice Johnson, twentieth cousin of mine—blast that fly!—lives in Massachusetts; splendid girl—hang it all can’t I hit him?—there, I’ve killed him.” And the colonel put up his whip, never dreaming of the effect that name had produced on Hugh, whose heart gave one great throb of hope, and then grew heavy and sad as he thought how impossible it was that the Alice Johnson the colonel knew could be the Golden Haired.
“There are fifty by that name, no doubt,” he said, “and if there were not, she is dead.”
Hugh dared not question the colonel further, and was only too glad when the latter said: “If I understand you, I can have Rocket for five hundred dollars, provided I let you redeem him within a year. Now that’s equivalent to my lending you five hundred dollars out and out. I see, but seeing it’s you, I reckon I’ll have to do it. As luck will have it, I was going down to Frankfort this very day to put some money in the bank, and if you say so, we’ll clinch the bargain at once,” and the colonel began to count the amount.
Alice Johnson was forgotten in that moment when Hugh felt as if his very life was dying out. Then chiding himself as weak, he lifted up his head and said: “Rocket is yours.”
The words were like a sob; and the generous old man hesitated. But Hugh was in earnest. His debts must be paid, and that five hundred dollars would do it.
“I’ll bring him around to-morrow. Will that be time enough?” he asked, as he rolled up the bills.
“Yes, oh, yes,” the colonel replied, while Hugh continued: “And, colonel, you’ll—you’ll be kind to Rocket. He’s never been struck a blow since he was broken to the saddle. He wouldn’t know what it meant.”