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 hut.
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—”
“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 discomfiture.