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The amendment was but one of Uncle Noah's many subterfuges to convince
himself and his master that there had been no changes in the Fairfax
fortunes since the old days. That he was the last of the Colonel's
retainers, a wageless, loyal old dependent attending to the manifold
tasks of a sole domestic, the negro never admitted even to himself.
That his quaint pretensions, however, were daily stimulants to the
fierce old Colonel hungrily eating his heart out with memories Uncle
Noah was well aware. So the pitiful little subterfuges, revealing the
subtle understanding of the two, peopled the old house with swarming
negroes and the horn of plenty to the joy of both.
But to-day Uncle Noah felt uneasily that the reference to the servants
had not bolstered the Colonel as it usually did, and the old darky
groaned inwardly as he added wood to the fire. From the corner of his
eye he saw that the Colonel had drawn himself up to military rigidity,
an evidence that the old soldier was on his mettle and would brook no
"Uncle Noah," he said, fixing a stern eye on the old man, "in the
Fairfax family there has always been a turkey at Christmas."
There was no suggestion in the darky's affable tones of the erratic
manner in which his heart was beating. "Yes, sah," he agreed,
"ofttimes mo' than one."
"Owing to circumstances understood by you and myself, but by ho one
else, there would be no turkey this year save that--"
"Y-e-e-s, sah?" Uncle Noah laid a wrinkled brown hand upon the nearest
chair for support.
"We have a live turkey in stock," ended the Colonel firmly, looking
squarely into the trembling negro's eyes.
Uncle Noah's heart gave a convulsive leap. The thunderbolt had fallen!
The fierce old turkey gobbler, solitary tenant of the crazy
outbuildings, the imperial tyrant upon whom Uncle Noah had bestowed the
affection of his loyal old heart, had been sentenced to death by the
highest earthly tribunal the old negro recognized.
"I'se--I'se afeard he'll be tough, Colonel Fairfax," he quavered.
"I--I--Gord-a-massy, Massa Dick, yoh wouldn't kill ol' Job? He's too
smart foh a bird an' he's done a most powahful sight o' runnin', sah; I
reckons he's mos' all muscle."
There was an agonized appeal in the darky's voice that cut straight to
the Colonel's heart. "Uncle Noah," he said kindly, "it can't be
helped. Job goes for the sake of--someone else."
"Yes. Thank God, Uncle Noah," the Colonel laid a gentle hand on the
negro's shoulder, "that she doesn't know of our--er--financial
crisis"--his halting utterance showed how distasteful the words were to
him--"save, of course, that we must live with economy, as we have for
years. Of the catastrophe of last fall she is ignorant, and a Fairfax
Christmas without a turkey would--she must not know," he finished
The Colonel had spoken with a simple dignity and confidence that
brought the old negro back from the field of sentiment to the barren
desert of reality. Dimly in his mental chaos stood forth three
pitiless facts: "Ol' Missus" was grieving her heart out for the son
with whom the Colonel had quarreled three years before; of this money
trouble from which Colonel Fairfax had shielded her she must as yet
know nothing; and there was no turkey for the Christmas dinner. Verily
things looked dark for the ill-fated Job, roosting in unsuspecting
security in the desolate old barn. With bowed head the darky walked
slowly toward the door.
"Uncle Noah," the Colonel's tones were incisive, "you will kill Job
"I mos' forgot, Massa Dick," faltered Uncle Noah, "dat supper's ready,
sah. Ol' Missus done come downstairs jus' foh I chases Job to roost.
Laws-a-massy, Massa Dick, can't he live till after supper?"
The Colonel nodded, carefully avoiding the old man's troubled eyes, and
went to join his wife at supper.
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