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 breakfast?”
“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’ coffee!”
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 teapot.”
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.