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 rheumatism.”
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 memories.
“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 fire.”
“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.”