“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 it.
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.
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.