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´╗┐Title: Uncle Noah's Christmas Inspiration
Author: Dalrymple, Leona, 1884-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Uncle Noah's Christmas Inspiration" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.





Author of "Diane of the Green Van," "In the Heart of the Christmas
Pines," "Uncle Noah's Christmas Party," etc.

Illustrations by Charles L. Wrenn

Decorations by Charles Guischard

New York
McBride, Nast & Company
Third Printing


[Frontispiece: He caught sight of the orchids and the tear-stained face
of his wife bending over them]

  To C. A. W.

  in grateful recognition
  of an unfailing source of encouragement
  and impartial criticism








The Illustrations

He caught sight of the orchids and the tear-stained face of his wife
bending over them . . . . Frontispiece

"Now, sah, yoh be quiet and listen to dis note I gets from young Massa

"I'se jus' come in--to ask yoh, Miss, if you'd like to buy an ol'
nigger servant.  I'se foh sale"

"Dick," he said queerly, holding out a trembling hand, "we're both
citizens of the United States, and--it's Christmas day"


Christmas Cheer

Uncle Noah's Christmas Inspiration


The twilight of a Christmas Eve, gray with the portent of coming snow,
crept slowly over the old plantation of Brierwood, softening the
outlines of a decrepit house still rearing its roof in massive dignity
and a tumbledown barn flanked by barren fields.  A quiet melancholy
hovered about the old house as if it brooded over a host of bygone
Yuletides alive with the shouts of merry negroes and the jingle of
visiting sleighs--Yuletides when the snowy dusk had been ushered in to
the lowing of cattle and the neighing of horses safely housed in the
old barn.  There were no negroes now, no blooded stock--no fluttering
fowls save one belligerent old turkey gobbler fleeing from a
white-haired darky who tried in vain to drive him to his roost in the

In the library of the old house a man, tall and eagle-eyed, peered out
beneath bushy white eyebrows at the fading landscape blurred by the
dancing forms of the negro and the recalcitrant turkey.  He watched the
chase end with an impertinent gobble from the turkey, and, at the sound
of a closing door in the rear of the house, tapped a bell at his side.
Footsteps shuffled along the hallway, and, breathless from his chase,
the old negro entered.

Colonel Fairfax wheeled with military precision.  "Uncle Noah," he said
sternly, "to-morrow will be Christmas."

The darky nodded and hobbled hurriedly to the wood fire, bending over
as he poked it to hide the look of anxiety in his face.  "Laws-a-massy,
Massa Fairfax," he grumbled in good-natured evasion, "yoh'd mos' freeze
to deaf, I reckons, 'thout sendin' foh me"--he coughed, and amended
hastily: "'thout sendin' foh one ob de servants to pile up dis yere

The amendment was but one of Uncle Noah's many subterfuges to convince
himself and his master that there had been no changes in the Fairfax
fortunes since the old days.  That he was the last of the Colonel's
retainers, a wageless, loyal old dependent attending to the manifold
tasks of a sole domestic, the negro never admitted even to himself.
That his quaint pretensions, however, were daily stimulants to the
fierce old Colonel hungrily eating his heart out with memories Uncle
Noah was well aware.  So the pitiful little subterfuges, revealing the
subtle understanding of the two, peopled the old house with swarming
negroes and the horn of plenty to the joy of both.

But to-day Uncle Noah felt uneasily that the reference to the servants
had not bolstered the Colonel as it usually did, and the old darky
groaned inwardly as he added wood to the fire.  From the corner of his
eye he saw that the Colonel had drawn himself up to military rigidity,
an evidence that the old soldier was on his mettle and would brook no

"Uncle Noah," he said, fixing a stern eye on the old man, "in the
Fairfax family there has always been a turkey at Christmas."

There was no suggestion in the darky's affable tones of the erratic
manner in which his heart was beating.  "Yes, sah," he agreed,
"ofttimes mo' than one."

"Owing to circumstances understood by you and myself, but by ho one
else, there would be no turkey this year save that--"

"Y-e-e-s, sah?"  Uncle Noah laid a wrinkled brown hand upon the nearest
chair for support.

"We have a live turkey in stock," ended the Colonel firmly, looking
squarely into the trembling negro's eyes.

Uncle Noah's heart gave a convulsive leap.  The thunderbolt had fallen!
The fierce old turkey gobbler, solitary tenant of the crazy
outbuildings, the imperial tyrant upon whom Uncle Noah had bestowed the
affection of his loyal old heart, had been sentenced to death by the
highest earthly tribunal the old negro recognized.

"I'se--I'se afeard he'll be tough, Colonel Fairfax," he quavered.
"I--I--Gord-a-massy,  Massa  Dick, yoh wouldn't kill ol' Job?  He's too
smart foh a bird an' he's done a most powahful sight o' runnin', sah; I
reckons he's mos' all muscle."

There was an agonized appeal in the darky's voice that cut straight to
the Colonel's heart.  "Uncle Noah," he said kindly, "it can't be
helped.  Job goes for the sake of--someone else."

"Ol' Missus?"

"Yes.  Thank God, Uncle Noah," the Colonel laid a gentle hand on the
negro's shoulder, "that she doesn't know of our--er--financial
crisis"--his halting utterance showed how distasteful the words were to
him--"save, of course, that we must live with economy, as we have for
years.  Of the catastrophe of last fall she is ignorant, and a Fairfax
Christmas without a turkey would--she must not know," he finished

The Colonel had spoken with a simple dignity and confidence that
brought the old negro back from the field of sentiment to the barren
desert of reality.  Dimly in his mental chaos stood forth three
pitiless facts: "Ol' Missus" was grieving her heart out for the son
with whom the Colonel had quarreled three years before; of this money
trouble from which Colonel Fairfax had shielded her she must as yet
know nothing; and there was no turkey for the Christmas dinner.  Verily
things looked dark for the ill-fated Job, roosting in unsuspecting
security in the desolate old barn.  With bowed head the darky walked
slowly toward the door.

"Uncle Noah," the Colonel's tones were incisive, "you will kill Job

"I mos' forgot, Massa Dick," faltered Uncle Noah, "dat supper's ready,
sah.  Ol' Missus done come downstairs jus' foh I chases Job to roost.
Laws-a-massy, Massa Dick, can't he live till after supper?"

The Colonel nodded, carefully avoiding the old man's troubled eyes, and
went to join his wife at supper.

"Christmas Eve, my dear," he announced cheerfully as he bent to kiss
the sweet, wistful face that turned to greet him.  "I beg your pardon
for keeping you waiting.  Uncle Noah and I were discussing to-morrow's
turkey;" he gazed calmly at the old negro nervously handling the tea
things; "he has selected a large bird and I have been advising a

The Colonel opened his napkin and deftly tucked the hole in the end out
of sight beneath the table.  "Now, Uncle Noah, what is there to-night
for supper?"

To Uncle Noah this nightly question had become a sacred institution, a
stimulus to imaginative powers highly developed in his quaint dialogues
with the Colonel.  He forgot the doomed Job.  It was Christmas Eve, and
his creative gift took festive wings.

"Well, sah," he beamed, "we has a little chicken gumbo, some fried
chicken jus' the right golden brown, sah, creamed potatoes, hot
biscuits with currant jelly--er--sliced ham and baked potatoes."

Colonel Fairfax thoughtfully considered the appetizing prospect in
accordance with the rules of the game.  What mattered it that the
luscious edibles existed only in the brain of the loyal old darky?  The
little pretense gave to each a delightful thrill--surely an adequate
extenuation of the harmless diversion.  As usual Colonel Fairfax found
the key to the situation in the closing items of Uncle Noah's list.

"It all sounds delicious, Uncle Noah," he observed graciously, "but I
have a touch of my old enemy the dyspepsia today.  I think I shall have
sliced ham and baked potatoes.  That, I think, will do for us both."

Mrs. Fairfax agreed, her kindly eyes fixed upon Uncle Noah's attentive

"And, sah," Uncle Noah began--it was Christmas Eve and this game must
be perfectly played--"shall I attend to de distribution of gifts in de
negroes' quarters, sah?"

"Yes," agreed the Colonel, "see that no one is slighted!"

Mrs. Fairfax bowed her wistful face upon her hands to hide the blinding
tears, and an odd, uncomfortable silence fell upon the little group.

At length the Colonel pushed his chair back and rose.  "Uncle Noah," he
said sternly, a suspicious brightness gleaming in his eyes, "that
turkey of yours is making a terrible noise under the window.  Make him
quit gobbling.  Patricia, I don't wonder he makes you nervous.  He's an
old renegade!"

That the object of the Colonel's wrath had long since retired to roost
mattered not to his accuser.  The turkey had developed a convenient
habit of gobbling under the window whenever emotion forced the Colonel
to seek a vent in stern commands.  Uncle Noah crossed to the window and
commanded Job to be silent.  Mrs. Fairfax, southern gentlewoman and
thoroughbred from tip to toe, quivered proudly, and, as Uncle Noah
returned, bade him serve the supper in tones as well controlled as they
were gentle.


The Inspiration


In the great barren kitchen Uncle Noah wiped his steel-rimmed
spectacles and glared angrily about him.

"Ol' Missus grievin' her heart out foh young Massa Dick," he reflected,
"and de Colonel say '_slight no one_!'  Gord-a-massy, whut am dis yere
ol' worl' a-comin' to?  Ebery time ol' Mis' cry for young Massa Dick,
Colonel say Job gobbles--"

The old darky choked miserably at the thought of the destined check to
Job's gobbling career and, replacing his spectacles, carefully carried
in the supper, prolonging its simple service to the uttermost, with the
single idea of adding precious minutes to the doomed turkey's span of

When at length he sought the barn it was quite dark and the velvet
stillness of the night was dotted thickly with snowflakes.  With
trembling fingers he opened the great barn-door, lit a queer old
lantern hanging just within, and hung it high upon a projecting hook.
The dim light revealed an antique carriage-house, in one corner of
which upon a rude, improvised roost of shingles the tyrant Job slept
the sleep of the just and the unjust rolled into one.  As the lights
flickered upon his ruffled feathers the turkey emitted a throaty grunt
of disapproval and moved cumbrously around to avoid the light.

Uncle Noah addressed him with great firmness.  "Now see yere, Massa
Job," he said, "tain't no use yoh puttin' on yoh high and mighty airs
to-night.  I'se come to interview yoh, sah!  Understand?"

Job majestically tucked his head beneath his wing as if to intimate his
indifference to the proposed interview.

Uncle Noah surveyed his ruffled back feathers with increased respect.
"So," he said, "yoh refuse me an interview, Massa Job Fairfax.  Yoh is
sleepy, sah, dat's whut's got into yoh."  He stroked the turkey with a
gentle hand, and, Job, resenting the indignity, withdrew his head from
the sheltering wing and pecked at the brown fingers, turning around
with a stately movement and facing the light once more with a sleepy
blink of his bright, beadlike eyes.

"Now, sah, we can talk," exclaimed the negro in delight.  Drawing up an
old box he seated himself before the roost and beamed benevolently over
his glasses.

"Colonel done say yoh gobble under de winder 'bout suppertime," he
began confidentially.  "When ol' Mis' cry 'bout young Massa Dick de
Colonel he jus' gotta scold 'bout sumthin', and as yoh is de mos'
important person about he jus' naturally selects yoh."

The turkey held his head upon one side, apparently in critical
admiration of the darky's quaint old scarfpin which resembled a grain
of corn mounted on a needle.

Uncle Noah, who had always had a faint mistrust of Job's attitude
toward this ancient Ethiopian heirloom, promptly removed it to a place
of safety.  Then with a sudden resolve that no thought of the coming
tragedy should mar his last visit with his old companion he rose and
sought a dim, cobwebby corner of the barn, whence he returned with a

"Dese yere, Job," he explained, "is de flowers whut young Massa Dick
have sent to his mother ebery holiday since he done went away from
yere.  Mornin', I specs, when de Colonel sees 'em at her plate, he'll
declare yoh gobblin' sumthin' fierce under de winder again; he always

The old negro broke the string of the box and removed a glowing mass of
purple orchids--odd, transient tenants of the crazy old barn.  Job
suddenly reached over and pecked a blossom from its stem, ate the heart
with the dainty air of an epicure, and discarded the remainder with a
noise akin to a gobble of disgust.

Uncle Noah rose in scandalized protest.  "Yoh good-foh-nothin',
miserable, sassy turkey!" he scolded, hastily removing the orchids;
"you sartinly is de mos' scan'lous, no-'count bird I ever knowed.  Eat
one o' ol' Missus's orchards!  Laws-a-massy, Job, yoh goes mos' too
far.  Now, sah, yoh be quiet and listen to dis note I gets from young
Massa Dick," and he carefully deciphered the written lines for the
listening Job.

_Dear Uncle Noah_: I have written Foster and Company as usual to send
Mother's orchids.  They should get there Christmas Eve.  Will you put
them at her plate in the morning?  I find they are the only suggestion
of me that the Colonel will allow in the house.  I tried another letter
this week, but it came back unopened.  Uncle Noah, give Mother "A Merry
Christmas" for me.                 DICK.

[Illustration: Now, sah, yoh be quiet and listen to dis note I gets
from young Massa Dick]

Uncle Noah laid the letter on his knee and drew from a worn leather
wallet several newspaper clippings.  They were glowing reports, gleaned
from a stray newspaper, of the success of a young architect in a
distant northern city, one Richard Fairfax, Jr.  Uncle Noah proudly
read them aloud for the hundredth time, interpolating little
explanatory remarks to the turkey, who gobbled threateningly but failed
to intimidate his tormentor.

"Job, whut yoh think 'bout dis yere quarrel?" Uncle Noah said as the
turkey eyed him sternly.  "I say de Colonel's too hard on de boy.  A
quarrel's a quarrel, yoh say.  H'm, maybe yoh right, but it's dis
Fairfax pride ob de Colonel's dat keep him from readin' de boy's
letters, and nothin' else, sah.  He sorry for dat quarrel, doan you
fo'get it.  But de Colonel he prouder'n Lucifer.  H'm, yoh say yoh
understan' pride cause yoh is proud yohself."  Then as the turkey
relapsed into slumber, "Now, see yere, Massa Job, yoh ain't no mo'
sleepier'n I is."  Uncle Noah poked the turkey with his finger, and Job
arched his neck with a threatening flap of his wings and descended from
his perch.  "Fight me, will yoh?" demanded Uncle Noah in secret
delight, "yoh is de touchiest bird!  Yere, fight wid dese yere crusts
o' bread."

Job spread his tail magnificently and began an erratic consumption of
the bread crusts, pertly taking them one by one from the old negro's
hand and arranging them upon the barn floor for later and more personal
inspection.  Uncle Noah watched him with misty eyes.  Presently his
gaze furtively sought the rusty ax in the corner, and great tear rolled
down his cheek.  Caught in the wave of a sudden panic he dropped upon
his knees and clasped his trembling hands.  The dusky barn, littered
with odds and ends, was dimly visible in the glimmering light of the
old-fashioned lantern whose slanting rays fell upon the doomed bird and
the praying negro.  No thought of sacrilege marred the quaint, halting
prayer.  A terrible earnestness lined the negro's face with a holiness
of purpose and made it beautiful.

"Oh, Lord," he prayed, "save dis yere ol' turkey gobbler.  I knows,
Lord, he's a powahful wuthless bird, but he's all I'se got.  I'se jus'
an' ol' slave, Massa, what's been free since de War, an' Job, sah, he
understan's me.  Lord, I doan wanta live no mo' if I has to kill ol'
Job.  Send me an inspiration, Lord, an' tell me how I can save his
wuthless ol' hide.  Save him an'--an' God bless de Colonel!  Amen."

For an interval, in which the only sound was that of Job's feet as he
strutted about seeking an edible successor to the bread, Uncle Noah
remained upon his knees in the attitude of prayer, perhaps awaiting
inspiration.  At length he rose, and, seating himself upon the box once
more, buried his white head dejectedly in his hands.  The snow-flakes
filtered slowly through a crevice at the side, heaping fantastically
into a miniature drift.  Absently Uncle Noah watched them, his mind
traveling back to many a snowy Christmas "before the War."

Suddenly his brown face glowed with radiance and he drew a long breath
of relief.  "Job," he said, leaning forward and patting the turkey, "I
has it! Yoh'd scarcely believe it, sah, but I'se a-goin' to save yoh."

He arose transformed, the despondent droop of his lean body replaced by
an alert energy.  "Now, Job," he coaxed, "I jus' wants yoh foh to come
along wif me peaceable, sah.  I'se after yoh to save yoh ol' hide from
de Christmas platter."

But Job, with a malicious enjoyment of the game, was prancing wildly
about the barn, flapping his wings in hysterical derision of his
breathless pursuer.  Brought to bay he squawked a protest and struggled
violently as Uncle Noah unceremoniously imprisoned him beneath one arm.

"There, sah," exclaimed the negro triumphantly, "I has yoh!  Yoh is
sartinly the mos' wuthless turkey on dis yere plantation."

Tightly clasping the outraged tyrant Uncle Noah tiptoed to the lantern
and blew it out.  Then stumbling across the floor he stealthily left
the barn and set out across the snowy fields to a tumble-down shanty,
sole survivor of a string of negro huts long since burned one by one in
the library fireplace.  Into its dilapidated interior he thrust the
protesting turkey, pausing at the door as he struck a match to view the
bird's temporary quarters.

"Now, Massa Job Fairfax," he began, "I knows yoh is jus' mad clean
through.  Yoh jus' naturally objects to bein' toted out in de snow in
de middle o' de turkey night 'thout bein' asked.  Yoh says yoh back is
full o' snow?  Well, I jus' asks yoh, Massa Job Fairfax, ain't dat
better'n bein' wifout a head?  Now, sah, I asks yoh to be mos' terrible
quiet dis yere night.  I'se a-goin' into Cotesville on a little trip
an' I doan want de Colonel to know yoh here."

He closed the rickety door, and, hurrying back across the fields,
sought the kitchen, his eyes behind their spectacles shining with
excitement.  Muffling himself in a quaint red knitted scarf, a dingy
overcoat and a worn fur cap, plentifully earlapped, he left the house
again, pausing only long enough to peer through the library window at
the Colonel, who was reading aloud to his wife, both drawn up in the
cheery warmth of a blazing wood fire.  Then he hurried on along the
road to town.

With a prayer in his heart for the success of his mission Uncle Noah
trudged sturdily down the two miles to Cotesville, past Major Verney's
old plantation, the cheery lights of the great house twinkling brightly
through a curtain of snow, and into the snow-laden air of the village
streets alive with Christmas shoppers.  Holly and mistletoe, Christmas
trees filling the air with the odor of pine, dancing snowflakes and
bright lights, wonderful windows wreathed and dotted in Christmas
glitter, and cheery voices--who could resist them?  Uncle Noah felt his
heart quiver with hope; jubilantly he turned his steps toward the
railroad station ahead.

The Northern Express flashed through the snow and came to a stop with a
clang and a roar, disgorging a chattering holiday crowd who paused for
a change of cars at Cotesville on their southbound trips.  Uncle Noah
hastened his shuffling footsteps: the Northern Express with its horde
of transient visitors had been a vital part of the inspiration.  Upon
the station platform people stamped up and down in the snow or laughed
and chatted, quite oblivious to the timid gaze of the old darky who
slowly made his way among them.  One by one Uncle Noah left them all
behind, a great disappointment in his face.  In their laughing
countenances he had found nothing of what he sought.


The Gray-Eyed Lady


Just ahead a girl appeared from the shadows and walked quickly toward
the waiting-room.  Uncle Noah looked into her fresh, sweet face; then
his own lit up with renewed hope and he followed her in and touched her
timidly on the arm.  The girl turned, revealing a face rosy with cold,
and a pair of warm gray eyes fringed in lashes of black, eyes that
frankly offered a glimpse of a girl's impulsive heart brimming over
with Christmas spirit.

Uncle Noah removed the battered fur cap and bowed low with the
deference of a Cavalier.  "I'se jus' come in to--to ask yoh, Miss," he
said simply, "if yoh'd like to buy an ol' nigger servant.  I'se foh

[Illustration: "I'se jus' come in to--to ask yoh, Miss," he said
simply, "if yoh'd like to buy an ol' nigger servant.  I'se foh sale."]

"For sale!"  The girl took in the quaint figure with a glance of blank
astonishment.  "Why,"  she gasped, "surely you--"

"I'se ol', Miss," he interrupted timidly, but meeting her gaze with
unwavering sincerity; "I specs I'se mos' a hundred; but I'se powahful
tough an' full o' work, an'--an', Miss, I has to sell maself tonight

Uncle Noah paused uncertainly, seeking a fit expression of his dilemma,
and the girl, readily intuitive, glanced swiftly about to assure
herself that the waiting-room was free from unsympathetic
eavesdroppers.  Then, strangely drawn by this quaint old vender of
humanity, and warmly eager to put him more at his ease, she impulsively
pushed a rocking-chair toward the old stove in the center and motioned
him to be seated.  But Uncle Noah had been reared in the Fairfax
family, and a Fairfax never sat when a lady was still upon her feet.
With a courtly gesture the old man bowed her to the chair she had drawn
for him.  A quick gleam of approval flashed in the gray eyes and with a
deepening flush of puzzled interest, the girl instantly seated herself,
unfastening the silver fox at her throat as she felt the warmth of the
old country stove.

"Please, I would _so_ much rather you, too, would sit down," she said
impulsively, and as Uncle Noah drew forward another of the rickety old
rocking-chairs with which the Cotesville waiting-room was dotted, she
bent toward him--a light in the wonderful gray eyes that won Uncle
Noah's heart.

"Tell me," she said kindly: "Tell me just why you want to sell

No, she had not laughed at him.  Uncle Noah glowed to the tips of his
fingers at the ready sympathy of her tone.  He beamed mildly at her
over his spectacles, turning the old fur cap round and round in his
hands as he sought to voice the words that struggled to his lips.  "Ol'
Massa's money--an', Miss, he hain't had much since de War; jus' 'nuff
to live comfutable--all go in de Cotesville bank crash las' fall an' he
doan want ol' Mis' foh to know.  I'se de only one o' de niggers whut's
left, an' dere's only one ol' turkey gobbler left o' de stock.  He's my
ol' pet, Miss, mos' like a chile, an'--an'--"  Uncle Noah choked.

The girl's eyes were misty velvet.  "And he told you to kill your pet
for the Christmas dinner?" she finished gently.

Uncle Noah nodded.  "Massa done say we mus' hab a turkey for de
Christmas dinner, or ol' Mis'll suspect de--de financial crisis whut
we're in.  Out in de barn I prays foh an inspiration an' I 'spect it

"And so you decided to sell yourself--" began the girl.

"Yas'm."  Uncle Noah's voice had grown apologetic.  "Yoh see, Miss,
I'se de only thing whut I really owns 'cept dis yere ol' stickpin.
Cose I'se free now, but I reckons if I has a mind to sell maself de
Norf can't stop me.  I'se sellin' ma own property."  There was a gentle
defiance in the old negro's argument.

"And you--you wouldn't accept a--a loan?"  The girl flushed.

The negro's hurt eyes were answer enough.  Uncle Noah had not lived in
an atmosphere permeated with Fairfax pride without feeling its

"I'se not askin' foh charity, Miss," he averred stubbornly.  "I'se
a-sellin' sumthin'.  I reckons if yoh buy me, Miss, an' yoh lemme go
back an' stay Christmas wif ol' Massa, I'll sell maself cheap.  Yoh see
I'se a-plannin' first to buy a turkey whut'll take Job's place on de
platter, an' den to give de Massa a gran' Christmas wif de rest o' de
money what I gits foh maself, savin' out jus' enough to buy ma ol'
turkey an' come to yoh first day after Christmas.  It'll be hard to
leave ol' Massa and Mis', but I reckons it's jus' gotta be done."

Uncle Noah gulped and blinked, and there was a glimmer of wet lashes
about the warm gray eyes that had won his heart.

The girl was silent so long that Uncle Noah shifted uneasily; but at
last she spoke a little tremulously.  "For what price will you sell
yourself?" she asked, and Uncle Noah never doubted but that she
regarded the purchase in the same light in which he himself had viewed

He turned about for his purchaser's thorough inspection, his bald head
above the fringe of white wool about it glistening in the lamplight.
"Do yoh think I'se wuth, say, twenty-five dollahs?" he queried,
regarding her fixedly over his spectacles.

The girl touched her throat with an unconscious gesture.  "Yes, you
are," she cried impulsively; "you are indeed!"  And before Uncle Noah
had quite time to adjust himself to the joy of his unique sale the girl
thrust a roll of bills into his hands and disappeared through the
station door.


Christmas Intrigue


Uncle Noah hobbled after her.  His new mistress had quite forgotten to
tell him where to deliver himself when his Christmas with the Colonel
was over.  But when he reached the door she was eagerly greeting a man
who had just alighted from a waiting carriage.  Uncle Noah could but
dimly see him, but as the genial voice reached his ears he halted in
the shadow quite content.  It was Major Verney.  The fact that the
Colonel's old friend and neighbor had driven in from Fernlands to meet
the radiant lady whose great gray eyes, Uncle Noah now recalled, had
had the Verney look which endeared the owner of Fernlands to all who
knew him, seemed to the watching negro a direct interposition of
Providence.  A scant mile of cottonfields lay between the two
plantations, and, Christmas over, Uncle Noah had but to trudge across
the fields to deliver himself to the Major's guest.

"And, Ruth," concluded Major Verney in laughing reprimand, "you have
kept me waiting.  Why, child, the Northern Express came in fifteen
minutes ago."

Uncle Noah did not catch the girl's reply as Major Verney assisted her
into the carriage and they drove rapidly away.

The old darky beamed happily after the retreating carriage; then, with
his hand tightly clasped about the precious roll of greenbacks for
which he had so willingly bartered his freedom, he began a tour of the
Cotesville stores.  When at length he staggered into the big grocery
store for his final purchases he was laden with a miscellaneous
collection of Christmas packages from which he was cheerfully
disentangled by the bulky proprietor himself.  Uncle Noah made a
critical pilgrimage about the store, pausing at last before a counter
where the proprietor had laid out a number of turkeys for the careful
inspection of this beaming shopper about to select an understudy for
the incomparable Job.  A very respectable fowl was presently mantled in
brown paper and laid beside the other bundles, along with sundry bags
of cranberries and apples, oranges and nuts, celery and raisins, cigars
for the Colonel, a box of candy for Mrs. Fairfax, huge bunches of holly
and mistletoe, Christmas wreaths for the windows, and a great bag of
cracked corn for the reprieved tyrant gloomily roosting in the ruined

As Uncle Noah carefully counted out the money required to purchase this
astonishing outlay the bulky proprietor tasked pleasantly: "Uncle Noah,
do you happen to know where I can get a good woman to scrub up my store
every morning?"

Uncle Noah fingered his scarfpin uncertainly.  "How much do yoh pay foh
de work?" he queried.

"Fifty cents a day."

The negro leaned forward in tense expectancy.  "Do yoh 'spect I could
do it?" he demanded excitedly.

The proprietor, secretly astonished by the old man's manner, nodded
assuringly.  "Why, yes, you could easily; it's nothing much; but the

"Colonel doan have foh to know," exclaimed Uncle Noah.  "I comes yere
mornin's foh he's up--an I 'clare to goodness, sah, I needs de money
mos' powahful."

The proprietor was easy-going and too phlegmatic to harbor curiosity.
So the bargain was straightway sealed under a pledge of deepest secrecy.

Somewhat confused by the unusual series of events, Uncle Noah, his eyes
shining with a strange excitement, started for the door, quite
forgetting the countless packages on the counter.

The proprietor recalled him with a hearty laugh.  "Uncle Noah," he
called, "you've forgotten one or two little bundles here."

With a smothered gasp the old negro hurried back.  But try as they
would, room for all the numerous bundles could not be found.  The
proprietor energetically tucked bundles into all of Uncle Noah's
pockets, piled them tower fashion upon his arms, and even hung a
collection bound together with a string over his shoulder, while Uncle
Noah wheezed and groaned and struggled to find new and unsuspected
storage space in his clothes, but still there remained bundles and
bundles at which Uncle Noah gazed over his spectacles in growing

"Whut am I a-goin' to do?" he demanded.  "I nevah can come all de way
hack yere in de snow wif dese yere ol' legs o' mine."

"Get one of them station cabs," advised the grocer; and so, after
considerable discussion, the bundle problem was solved.

Ten minutes later Uncle Noah entered a hired carriage for the first
time in his life.  At the town florist's he rapped a timid signal to
the driver to stop, and, glowing with anticipation, spryly shuffled
into the warm, scented air of the little shop.  Here, to the smiling
clerk's astonishment, he ordered a bunch of violets to be delivered
Christmas morning to "de young lady wif de gray eyes whut's at Major

"Surely," smiled the clerk, "you don't want that on the card?"

But Uncle Noah was stubborn; more, he insisted on writing the
inscription himself, his orthography quite as quaint as his penmanship,
and so the card went to be read by the wonderful gray eyes in the

Back through the snow in his rickety carriage rolled Uncle Noah,
rattling home along the snowy road down which he had trudged in the
early evening, chuckling now intermittently in a mental rehearsal of
his new plan.

"Fifty cents a day!" he thought, "an' to-morrow I'se a-goin' to slip
over to Fernlands in de mornin' an' ask her to lemme buy maself back on
de 'stallment plan.  Mos' likely she'll take a dollar a week, an' wid
all de rest o' dat grocer money ol' Mis' doan have to know whut de
Colonel an' me is a-goin' through."

In accordance with Uncle Noah's whispered directions the cab crept
gently up the driveway at Brierwood and paused at the kitchen door,
where the driver, who had taken a great fancy to Uncle Noah, became
transformed into a benevolent stevedore, tiptoeing in and out of the
kitchen with the bundles which the old darky drew from the cavernous
pit of the cab.  Job's understudy came last, and Uncle Noah, tightly
pressing the precious fowl in his arms, watched the carriage drive
slowly away.  Then, after an interval in the kitchen devoted to hiding
his purchases, he sought the library, striving to simulate a decent
depression over the assumed decapitation of Job.

Colonel Fairfax looked up inquiringly as he entered.

"I'se jus' come to tell yoh, sah," said Uncle Noah with a meaning
glance at Mrs. Fairfax, "dat I has de turkey all ready foh de oven."

A faint red crept through the Colonel's skin, but he met the darky's
eyes squarely.  "Thank you, Uncle Noah!" he said, and the negro
shuffled hurriedly away.

In his old rocking-chair by the kitchen fire Uncle Noah, alert and
excited, waited until he heard the Colonel and Mrs. Fairfax go up to
bed; then, chuckling to himself, he extinguished the kitchen lights,
and, carrying one of his Christmas bundles, plodded across the field to
Job's nocturnal hermitage.  The light of a match revealed the tyrant
roosting glumly on the summit of a ruined plowshare.

"I'se brought yoh a Christmas surprise, Massa Job Fairfax," said Uncle
Noah, and he sprinkled the floor of the hut thick with corn that the
turkey might find it in the morning.

With his heart full of thanksgiving the negro plodded homeward through
the snow.  As he reached the old barn the great clock in the library
struck twelve and faintly through the snowy air floated the distant
silvery chimes of the Cotesville bells, clear and sweet, ringing in a
Christmas morning.

Creeping to bed long after the first rooster had crowed Uncle Noah had
sought the kitchen again with the sunrise, his tired eyes opening
jubilantly upon a snapping cold Christmas morning radiant in gold and
white.  Downstairs clusters of holly and mistletoe festooned doors and
windows, dotted the old-fashioned hanging lamps with spots of crimson,
and crowned the family portraits with royal diadems, and evergreen
wreaths hung in the windows--all the work of a wrinkled pair of
faithful brown hands toiling while the world slept.  In the library a
blazing wood fire leaped and crackled, while in the dining-room the
table was spread for breakfast.  Certain long-needed articles of china,
which had mysteriously disappeared from time to time since the autumn,
dotted a tablecloth free from holes (a new one subjected to a severe
laundry process during the night), and the napkins no longer resembled
Ku-Klux masks.  A great bowl of purple orchids glowed at Mrs. Fairfax's




The Colonel greeted the Christmas festoons of holly in the library with
a stare of astonished approval.  A question had risen to his lips, but
the warning look in Uncle Noah's eyes as they rested on Mrs. Fairfax
had checked it.  These two had had many financial and domestic secrets
from the dear lady, and the Colonel promptly decided that Uncle Noah
had sold some forgotten relic and had once more made use of his highly
developed faculty for expanding a small sum to incredible elasticity,
and he praised the result accordingly.  Mrs. Fairfax, too, brightened
wonderfully, yielding to the Christmas spirit with which the old darky
had contrived to fill the house.

Uncle Noah felt a glow of delight at their outspoken appreciation, and,
bowing elaborately, he ushered his master and mistress in to breakfast.
Here again, as he seated himself, the Colonel was conscious of an
agreeable flood of astonishment.  There was quite an air about this
Christmas breakfast.  Fixing his keen eyes on the tablecloth and
napkins, he stealthily fingered them with a searching look at the
waiting negro.  Fortunately his interest was speedily diverted.  He
caught sight of the orchids and the tear-stained face of his wife
bending over them.  With a wrench of his chair he arose.

"Patricia!" he said stormily, "did I not say that nothing of his--did I
not--" he paused and gulped.  "Uncle Noah," he added unsteadily, "that
turkey of yours is gobbling like a fiend under the window; you--he--"

The Colonel stopped abruptly, reddened as his eyes fell upon the negro
(Uncle Noah had wisely turned away), and sternly reseated himself,
somewhat confused by his thoughtless reference to the late lamented Job,

Uncle Noah hobbled from the room, his brown face working convulsively.
In the kitchen he shook with silent laughter, doubling over
breathlessly and clasping his hands over his stomach in aching distress.

"And what, Uncle Noah," asked the Colonel kindly as the old negro
presently re-entered the dining-room, "have we for our Christmas

"Well, sah," Uncle Noah began fluently, "we has grapefruit, cereal wif
cream, quail on toast, fried oysters--er--oatmeal, hot muffins, fried
chicken, co'nbread an' coffee!"

The Colonel, appearing to be thoughtfully considering his choice,
replied as usual: "It all sounds delicious, Uncle Noah, but I have a
touch of my old enemy dyspepsia to-day.  I think I shall have some
cornbread and coffee, and so will Mrs. Fairfax."

"I doan think you quite understand me, sah," averred Uncle Noah, "an'
sah, I 'spects yoh dyspepsia ain't so bad dis mornin'.  We has foh
breakfast, sah, grapefruit, cereal wif cream, quail on toast, fried
oysters--er--_oatmeal, fried chicken, hot muffins, co'nbread an'

There was no mistaking the emphasis this time.  Colonel Fairfax darted
a lightning glance at the negro and amended his selection with a
question in his voice.  "Well, now I come to think of it, Uncle Noah,"
he said, "my dyspepsia isn't nearly so bad.  I'll have, let me see,
oatmeal--that was in the list, I believe--er--fried chicken--am I
right?--muffins, cornbread and coffee."

There was a conviction in the Colonel's deep voice that something
extraordinary was afoot, and Uncle Noah, flurried by its ominous ring,
hurried from the room.  Dimly he had pictured his master's gracious
astonishment and pleasure.  Any queries relative to the financial
source of the Christmas delicacies, however, had been lost entirely in
the darky's jubilant excitement.  Now he groaned in dismay.

"Yoh is in a mess for sure, Uncle Noah," he apostrophized himself.
"Whut'll yoh do when it come time foh dinnah?  Yere yoh has a Christmas
dinnah fit foh a King, an' de Colonel he know right well dat we has
only a little 1ef from de money whut we done get when we sold de silver

It was Christmas, however, and Uncle Noah felt convinced that the
Providence that had watched so well over his Christmas Eve would order
a special dispensation for his new dilemma.  While awaiting its
manifestation he would studiously avoid the Colonel, and would slip
across to Fernlands, once the pseudo Job was safe in the oven, and beg
the gray-eyed lady to accept a dollar a week of the grocer's money in
his inspired scheme of self-redemption.

With this in mind Uncle Noah served the breakfast, hurried his
preparations for the midday feast, and at five minutes of eleven, the
turkey safely roasting, set out across the fields for Major Verney's.

At Fernlands the eleven strokes of the grandfather's clock in the great
hall found the gray-eyed lady in the arms of a young fellow who had but
that instant bounded lightly up the walk from the sleigh Major Verney
had dispatched to Cotesville to meet the Northern Express.  The Major,
smilingly awaiting his opportunity to greet the newcomer, ran his eye
approvingly over the lines of the well-knit figure and handsome face of
the young man.

"Well, Dick," said the Major, advancing with outstretched hand as the
girl flushed prettily and smoothed back the dark mist of hair from her
forehead, "how are you, my boy?  Busy, of course.  We read fine things
of you in the papers at times."  Then, as the young man took off his
overcoat, "What, sir," the Major inquired, "do you mean by falling in
love with my only niece?  Here my brother writes me that his daughter
is engaged to a man who knows me, and will I pack off a carload of
testimonials by special messenger indorsing the little rascal who used
to steal my apples.  What, sir, do you mean?"

"Well, Major," Dick answered as he was ushered into the big
living-room, his laughing eyes alight with happiness, "she had the
Verney eyes, and you remember I always liked them."  He sank into a
chair by Ruth with a smiling glance at the Major.  "It is unusually
cold for down here.  There's a real bracing Northern sting in the air.
And what a snow!  It's packed down so that the runners fairly flew.
Major, do sit down!"

The Major was still bustling about, urging Ruth into another chair by
the fire that he himself might sit by Dick, poking energetically at the
blazing logs, and firing a volley of directions at black Sam.

"There!" he exclaimed, finally seating himself.  "Now, sir, relative to
this infatuated young person on my left, who has condescended to visit
her uncle for the first time since she arrived on the planet.  I met
her last night according to telegraphed instructions, and she kept me
waiting--let me see--"

"Uncle!" protested Ruth, "you've added fifteen minutes to that wait
every time you've mentioned it."

"My dear child, politeness alone has kept me from naming the full
extent of my wait.  If you please, sir," he turned to Dick, "she was in
the clutches of a beggar who obtained twenty-five dollars by a most
extraordinary yarn."

"Twenty-five dollars!" Dick whistled, smiling at the flush that crept
up to the gray eyes.  "Was it an aged father this time or a hungry
brood of motherless waifs, Ruthie?"

"Dick, listen!" cried the girl.  "Uncle misjudges him.  It was a dear
old colored man and he told me the strangest story."

"You don't often find a grateful beggar who sends you violets in the
morning purchased with some of your own shekels," said the Major,
pinching the flushed cheek.  "Tell him, Ruthie; it was odd, and I
believe I'd have done the same thing myself."

The girl flashed a grateful look at him and then told the story of her
purchase of the night before so eloquently that the Major and Dick
heard her through with sober faces, secretly touched by its pathos.
"And he must have recognized Uncle," she ended, "for the violets came
this morning with the quaintest card."

For an instant she dreamily scanned the fire, seeing in its glowing
embers the brown wrinkled negro face with its honest eyes, peering at
her over his spectacles in troubled apprehension; then she sprang to
her feet.

"Uncle Edward," she cried, "did you tell Uncle Neb to wait with the
sleight?  Those sleigh-bells are beginning to sound hysterical."

"Merciful goodness!"  cried the Major; "I certainly did.  I had the
strictest commands to drive in to church for Mother Verney at eleven
o'clock.  Hi, Sam, you black rascal, tell Uncle Neb I'll be right out."

"I'll tell him, Uncle," called Ruth, flying swiftly up the long hall to
the library window.

But no clear call went ringing over the snow to Uncle Neb; instead,
there was silence, broken at length by a voice that called softly in
great excitement, "Dick!  Uncle Edward! do come here.  Look!" she cried
as they quickly joined her.  "You see, Uncle, he didn't forget!"

Smiling, the two men looked from the window.  An old negro muffled in a
threadbare overcoat was plodding up the walk, his eyes scanning the
house with evident curiosity.

The Major uttered a quick exclamation and the girl wheeled about.

"Don't you see?" she cried.  "He's come to-day, honest old fellow that
he is!  See, Dick--"

She stopped abruptly, looking from one to the other.  There was
something in the two stern faces staring beyond her at the bent negro
that struck a chill to her heart.  Dick's face had gone white, and the
Majors hand had stolen to the younger man's shoulder as if to steady

There was a startled incredulity in the Major's face as he said: "Brace
up, old man!  You didn't know, neither did I."

"Ruth," Dick asked unsteadily, "is that the old colored man
whose--whose master--"

"Yes!" cried the girl, the sharp pain of premonition in her voice.
"Oh, Dick, who is he?"

Dick's miserable eyes sought hers as he answered, "It's--it's Dad's
Uncle Noah.  Ruth, I--"  He turned and sought the hall.

Ruth's face flamed at his words.  Uncle Noah's pathetic story came
crowding over her again in the light of Dick's revelation.  His father
and mother!  The stern old Colonel, of whom Dick always spoke with such
respectful loyalty in spite of their quarrel, and the dear mother,
whose tender eyes gazing from the old-fashioned daguerreotype Dick
always carried had made her choke with sudden tears--these two were
Uncle Noah's beloved "ol' Massa an' ol' Mis'"!

She turned; the Major had followed Dick to the hallway.  A shuffling
step sounded on the porch outside, and the girl hurried toward the
door, a sudden light of daring in her eyes.  Impulse had always ruled
the Verneys, and Ruth was a Verney from the crown of her dark head to
the tips of her small feet.  Catching up Grandmother Verney's long
cloak hanging over a chair, she softly left the house.

Dick, struggling into his overcoat, turned at the Major's touch on his

"Just a minute, Dick."  Major Verney's genial voice was sympathetic as
a woman's.  "Remember that what the Colonel refused in prosperity he's
not likely to take in adversity.  Sit down here by the fire until we
talk it over."

"But, Major"--there was a note of anguish in the boy's voice--"I must
go to him.  Think of Uncle Noah selling himself to help them, and I--"

But the Major had already removed the overcoat and gently pushed his
guest into a chair by the fire.  "Yes, yes," he said as he seated
himself; "we know all about that, my boy; but I'm afraid, Dick," he
added regretfully, "that the Colonel wouldn't let you in.  He's very

Dick groaned.  He was calmer now.  "You're right, Major," he said
steadily; "it hurt so at first that I didn't think.  I can't go now."
He leaned forward anxiously.  "The Cotesville Bank--?" he questioned

"Crashed in the autumn--in September."  Dick bit his lip, and the Major
added: "He was heavily interested?"

Dick stared at the fire.  "It was all he had," he said.

"I see."  The Major's quiet voiced gave no hint of his own emotion.  "I
didn't know.  Of course I heard he had lost something; we all did; but
I thought he had other money."

"No.  Tell me, Major, you've been going to Brierwood this winter just
as usual?"

"Of course; every Wednesday night.  The Colonel and I are too old to
alter the habit of a lifetime, and besides we both love that long
evening playing chess.  There's always a roaring wood fire and a
steaming pot of coffee, and your mother always plays Beethoven for us
just before I go."

A look of relief shone in Dick's eyes.  "'Always a fire,'" he repeated.
"I'm glad of that.  There was no suggestion of--of want?"

"Heavens, no!"  The Major's deep voice was full of assurance.  "Last
week," he added thoughtfully, "the coffee was pretty weak, but it never
occurred to me that--" he stopped abruptly, rose from his chair with
sudden energy, violently blew his nose, and tramped down to the end of
the hall and back.  "Damn the Fairfax pride!" he exclaimed fiercely.
"Here Uncle Noah has been coming into the library Wednesday nights and
telling the Colonel that the stock had all been bedded down for the
night when all the time there's been nothing left but this confounded
old turkey gobbler we've been hearing about.  He swore last week that
somebody had stolen the silver teapot.  Abominable old liar!  He must
have sold it."  The Major threw out his arms with a wrathful gesture.
"All this comedy, if you please, for my benefit.  Here I've been there
every week, and never suspected, thanks to the infernal stratagems of
that black fiend of an Uncle Noah.  Damn the Fairfax pride!"

The Major sat down as suddenly as he had risen, and, bending over,
attacked the fire with vicious energy.

"Tell me, Major," Dick presently asked, "have you ever mentioned me to
the Colonel since I went North?"

"Once."  The Major made a wry face.  "I never tried again."

Dick colored.  "Does he know about Ruth?"

"No, I dared not mention it."  The Major looked at the other intently.
"Dick," he said, "what was this quarrel all about, anyway?"

"In the beginning, Major," admitted the young man, flushing, "it was so
childish--I'm ashamed to speak of it."

"Out with it!" commanded the Major.  "I won't be hoodwinked by a
Fairfax any longer."

"Well, sir, if you must know, it was about--the War."

"The War!" exploded the Major.  "By gad, sir, what about the War?"

"Dad and I were talking it over, and--well, to be frank, Major, I said
I thought the North had been right, and that, if I had been in the
world at the time, I would have fought with them despite my kinsmen."

"Go on!  Did you fight in any other post-mortem wars?  The Revolution,
or the fall of Rome?"

Dick ignored the sarcasm.  "My sympathy for the North made him
furious," he went on.  "We quarreled terribly and both of us said
things that I know we didn't mean.  It was the Fairfax temper, sir; I--"

"Damn the Fairfax temper!" roared the Major.  "Thank Heavens, the
Verneys are mild!"

Dick laughed, in spite of himself.  "I apologized," he continued
soberly, "but he wouldn't listen; told me to get out; said if I chose
to change my opinions about the North, we'd talk it over, and I, of
course, refused."

"Of course!" interpolated the Major trimly.

"I've written since, suggesting that we forget it all and start anew,
but he won't listen, sir."

The Major stroked his beard ominously.  "Did it ever occur to you,
Dick," he demanded, "that enough families were estranged by that War
without carrying it over into the Twentieth Century?  Let me see--how
long after the War were you born?  Twenty years, wasn't it?  I
remember; your father and Ruth's were married about the same time."

"Every man has a right to his opinions, Major," Dick asserted with
spirit.  "Of course I've no personal knowledge of the War,
but"--stubbornly--"the North was right."

"Fairfax to the core!" thought the Major in secret admiration.  "The
boy's his father all over again.  Well, Dick," he said mildly, "we
older men of the South feel a little differently about this War; but,
my boy, these post-bellum disputes don't pay, particularly when one
participant was born long after the guns were quiet.  In my opinion you
didn't know enough about the War to quarrel over it.  Great Scott,
quarreling over the War!  Dick, you deserved to be spanked."

The jingle of sleigh-bells rang blithely through the silence that
followed, and the Major sprang to his feet.  "Merciful Heavens!" he
exclaimed, staring at his watch, "it's twelve o'clock.  That must be
Uncle Neb still waiting, and Grandmother Verney's probably standing on
the church porch yet, mad as a hornet."  He was at the door now,
calling wildly to the negro: "Uncle Neb, why under the canopy didn't
you call me?"

The darky scratched his head.  "Massa Edward," he confessed, "I ain't
been yere.  I jus' druv Missy Ruth over to Brierwood with Uncle Noah to
see Colonel Fairfax."

The Major summoned Dick in great excitement.  "Dick," he exclaimed,
"get into your overcoat as fast as you can and drive over to Brierwood
with Uncle Neb.  Ruth's gone ahead of you, and you couldn't have a
better deputy short of an angel."

Dick wrung the Major's hand and fled to the waiting sleigh, the color
flooding his face.

"And, Uncle Neb," called the Major frantically, "hurry back, or
Grandmother Verney will be tramping home in the snow, rheumatism or no

With a wild jingle of bells that seemed to Dick the hysterical echo of
his own heartbeats the sleigh was off.


The Colonel's Christmas


At Brierwood the Colonel, wrought to a high tension of excitement by
the mysterious flood of Christmas prosperity, of which the latest
manifestation had been a fresh newspaper dated the night before,
surmounted by a cigar of no mean label, had been vainly searching for
Uncle Noah, bewildered by the darky's odd vagaries which had culminated
in the culprit's disappearance.  Just as the Colonel had returned to
the library, drawn his favorite chair up to the cheerful blaze of the
wood fire, and opened his favorite volume, a door in the rear of the
house shut softly, and, convinced that Uncle Noah had returned, the
Colonel closed his book and adjusted his glasses, determined to have an
immediate reckoning with the author of all this Christmas cheer.

A light step sounded behind his chair, and the Colonel turned, quite
primed for an altercation.  In an instant, however, the old man was on
his feet, bowing grandly in spite of his astonishment.  A girl stood in
the doorway, her cloak falling loosely about her figure.  Her cheeks
were blazing scarlet from the cold, and the deep gray eyes, fringed in
black, bore something in their warm depths that stirred familiar

"Colonel," she said, stretching out a slim, white hand, "I'm Ruth
Verney, Major Edward's niece.  I've just driven one of your servants"
(rare tact was but one of the Verney charms) "over from Fernlands and I
thought you wouldn't mind if I ran in for an instant to enjoy your

"Why, child," the Colonel cried, forgetting all else in his delight,
"you must be Walter Verney's daughter."  Ruth smilingly nodded.  "I
knew it," he went on; "you have his eyes.  Sit down here.  I knew your
father well; when we were boys he and I were inseparable."  He paused
and added simply:

"That was before the War."

The dark lashes veiled for an instant, a certain excitement in the gray
eyes.  "I'm down for Christmas with Uncle Edward," Ruth explained; and
before the Colonel had fully realized it they were chatting happily
together like old friends.  Suddenly the girl exclaimed: "Colonel
Fairfax, I know you'll be glad to hear that Dad and the Major are
friends again."

"Indeed I am!" agreed the Colonel heartily.  "In the old days we would
have laughed at the man who could possibly have suggested a quarrel for
the Verney twins."

"Nothing but a cruel war could have done it," said the girl quietly.
"What does it matter now," she demanded impetuously, "if Daddy did
fight for the North and the Major for the South?  It's all so long ago
that a quarrel about it is foolish."

The Colonel cleared his throat.  "Yes, it is foolish," he admitted.

"You see," Ruth leaned eagerly forward, "I met a man who knew the
Major, and he praised him so highly that I lay awake all one night
thinking what a pity it was that two such splendid men as Daddy and his
brother should still be enemies over an old bygone war.  You know,
Colonel, they would have been friends ages ago, only each was too proud
to make the first advance.  Wasn't it foolish?"

The Colonel nodded, carefully shading his eyes from the fire.

"They were just wasting precious years of companionship," went on the
girl.  "That thought came to me as I lay awake in bed, and the very
next morning I wrote to the Major.  You see, Colonel Fairfax, I feel
this way," she explained.  "There's no North and no South.  Daddy and
the Major are citizens of the United States."

The Colonel rose and busied himself about the fire.  When he put back
the tongs and reseated himself his cheeks were hot from its blazing

"And that's what I told Uncle Edward in the letter, and, Colonel, he
wrote me such a glorious letter back that I had to show it to Daddy.
He was delighted, and he said that any two men who fought over the
battles of a dead war were 'old fools.'"

Colonel Fairfax winced.

"So," finished the girl with glowing eyes, "Uncle Edward came rushing
North in a great state of excitement, and that's how I came to be down
here over Christmas."

In her impetuous criticism of the war-time quarrel that had separated
the Verney twins for more than forty years, and the expression of her
broad, impulsive patriotism.  Colonel Fairfax had listened to certain
truths which had long been subconsciously germinating in his own mind.
Before he could recover from the surprise of finding that he agreed
with her, Ruth, touched by the lines of care graven upon his fine old
face, had caught her breath with a little sob, slipped from her place
by the fire, and was kneeling, beside his chair, her eyes starry with
light, her lovely face glorified with its tender appeal.

"Colonel," she cried, a catch in her voice, "I'm going to marry Dick!
It was he who praised Uncle Edward so."

The Colonel's face grew scarlet; then he laid a trembling hand upon the
girl's bowed head.  "Child," he said, "you--you--"  Tears blinded his
eyes and he stopped.

In the silence that followed came the sharp sound of a quick footfall.
The Colonel looked up.  Dick Fairfax stood in the doorway, his eyes
burning strangely in the white misery of his face.

The father rose and straightened himself with something of his old,
stern dignity; but at a warm, girlish touch he gulped.

"Dick," he said queerly, holding out a trembling hand, "we're--we're
both citizens of the United States, and--it's Christmas Day."

[Illustration: "Dick," he said queerly, holding out a trembling hand,
"we're--we're both citizens of the United States, and--it's Christmas

Almost before he had finished the boy had bounded across the floor and
wrung the outstretched hand, his face radiant with delight.  By the
fire Ruth cried softly and the Colonel gently patted her dark head, his
eyes full of tenderness.  Then taking refuge from the sharp pain of his
emotion in austere command:

"Dick," he said sternly, "go to your mother."

When Uncle Noah, in a state of beatification impossible to describe,
summoned the four to the wonderful Christmas dinner Colonel Fairfax was
eagerly listening to the tales of Dick's success as told by Ruth, and
Dick was gently patting his mother's gray hair, a halo of silver
crowning a face radiant with happiness--a Christmas quartet whose
reconciliation Uncle Noah could as yet but imperfectly comprehend.
That he had been the unconscious instrument of it all the gray-eyed
lady had already told him; but Uncle Noah, busy with numberless
culinary problems in the kitchen, had not as yet had time to ferret it

At four o'clock Major Verney, who had been restrained from dashing over
to Brierwood hours before only by the necessity of soothing the ruffled
feelings of his irate mother after her long wait for a belated sleigh
on the porch of the Cotesville church, blustered in with the aggrieved
old lady upon his arm.

"We've come to supper," announced the Major.  "No, Dick," as the
Colonel rose, "sit down.  I know all about it, and to-night you're all
going back to Fernlands with me to celebrate the betrothal of these two

"It has been a day of mysteries," the Colonel said; "but will someone
please tell me what Uncle Noah was doing over at Fernlands this morning
when he was needed here?"

A silence fell over the little group.  The subject was one whose
delicacy forbade the ghost of a blunder.

It was the Major who at last drew his old friend into the deep window
recess where but the night before he had watched Uncle Noah pursuing
the elusive Job, and told him the story of the faithful old negro's
Christmas Eve.

The Colonel listened intently, the snowy landscape outside growing
blurred and misty as the record of the old man's devotion gradually
unfolded.  Before the Major had finished the Colonel's hand had crept
to the bell at his side, and, as the darky's shuffling footsteps echoed
along the corridor, he turned again and stared with unseeing eyes at
the outline of the old barn.  Dick shifted the log and a crimson glow
irradiated the old library, making a halo of soft fire about the figure
of the old darky as he paused before his master.

"Uncle Noah," said the Colonel brokenly, "I--" but his voice failed
him, and he wrung the old man's hand in silence.

The Major bent and whispered a few swift words to the startled darky
and a great light illumined the brown face.  "Doan yoh go foh to thank
me, Massa Dick," he crooned, patting the Colonel's hand with reverent
devotion; "I ain't wuth it.  All I needs, sah, is jus' a good kick for
disobeyin' orders.  'Spects I doan understan' it all, but I does know,
sah, dat de lady wid de gray eyes whut's at Major Verney's is--is a
good fairy, sah.  An', Colonel, de Christmas supper am ready."

Joyously they filed out, Dick lingering in the firelight for a word
with Ruth.  Grandmother Verney, in high good humor, went out on the
Colonel's arm, the grievance of the morning's belated sleigh quite
forgotten in the genial warmth of the Fairfax hospitality.

"And what, Uncle Noah," asked the Colonel of the old darky as usual,
"have we to-night for supper?"

"Well, sah," beamed Uncle Noah, "we has ham an' turkey, an' cranberry
sauce an' celery, an' baked apples an' mince pie an' fruitcake
an'--an'--laws-a-massy, Massa, I'se too kerflusterated to ricomember
any mo'."

"We'll have them all!" cried the Colonel.

A terrific gobbling arose beneath the dining-room window, and the Major
rose and stared out in astonishment.

"Merciful goodness, Dick," he demanded, "what is that horrible racket?'

"Laws-a-massy, Massa," cried the old darky, "it's Job!  I let him out a
while back, sah, an' I done fohgot to put him to roost.  I reckon he's
come to remind me."

And, beaming happily at the radiant Christmas party, Uncle Noah flung
up the window and in a terrible voice commanded the tyrant to be silent.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Uncle Noah's Christmas Inspiration" ***

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