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 sale.”
[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 ’cause—’cause—”