Mr. Marston sat upon his wide veranda in the cool of the summer Sabbath morning. His hat was off, the soft breeze was playing with his brown hair, and a fragrant cigar was rolled lazily between his lips. He was taking his ease after the fashion of a true gentleman. But his eyes roamed widely, and his glance rested now on the blue-green sweep of the great lawn, again on the bright blades of the growing corn, and anon on the waving fields of tobacco, and he sighed a sigh of ineffable content. The breath had hardly died on his lips when the figure of an old man appeared before him, and, hat in hand, shuffled up the wide steps of the porch.
It was a funny old figure, stooped and so one-sided that the tail of the long and shabby coat he wore dragged on the ground. The face was black and shrewd, and little patches of snow-white hair fringed the shiny pate.
“Good-morning, Uncle Simon,” said Mr. Marston, heartily.
“Mornin’ Mas’ Gawge. How you come on?”
“I’m first-rate. How are you? How are your rheumatics coming on?”
“Oh, my, dey’s mos’ nigh well. Dey don’ trouble me no mo’!”
“Most nigh well, don’t trouble you any more?”
“Dat is none to speak of.”
“Why, Uncle Simon, who ever heard tell of a man being cured of his aches and pains at your age?”
“I ain’ so powahful ol’, Mas’, I ain’ so powahful ol’.”
“You’re not so powerful old! Why, Uncle Simon, what’s taken hold of you? You’re eighty if a day.”
“Sh–sh, talk dat kin’ o’ low, Mastah, don’ ‘spress yo’se’f so loud!” and the old man looked fearfully around as if he feared some one might hear the words.
The master fell back in his seat in utter surprise.
“And, why, I should like to know, may I not speak of your age aloud?”
Uncle Simon showed his two or three remaining teeth in a broad grin as he answered:
“Well, Mastah, I’s ‘fraid ol’ man Time mought hyeah you an’ t’ink he done let me run too long.” He chuckled, and his master joined him with a merry peal of laughter.
“All right, then, Simon,” he said, “I’ll try not to give away any of your secrets to old man Time. But isn’t your age written down somewhere?”
“I reckon it’s in dat ol’ Bible yo’ pa gin me.”
“Oh, let it alone then, even Time won’t find it there.”
The old man shifted the weight of his body from one leg to the other and stood embarrassedly twirling his ancient hat in his hands. There was evidently something more that he wanted to say. He had not come to exchange commonplaces with his master about age or its ailments.
“Well, what is it now, Uncle Simon?” the master asked, heeding the servant’s embarrassment, “I know you’ve come up to ask or tell me something. Have any of your converts been backsliding, or has Buck been misbehaving again?”
“No, suh, de converts all seem to be stan’in’ strong in de faif, and Buck, he actin’ right good now.”
“Doesn’t Lize bring your meals regular, and cook them good?”
“Oh, yes, suh, Lize ain’ done nuffin’. Dey ain’ nuffin’ de mattah at de quahtahs, nuffin’ ‘t’al.”
“Well, what on earth then–“
“Hol’ on, Mas’, hol’ on! I done tol’ you dey ain’ nuffin’ de mattah ‘mong de people, an’ I ain’ come to ‘plain ’bout nuffin’; but–but–I wants to speak to you ’bout somefin’ mighty partic’ler.”
“Well, go on, because it will soon be time for you to be getting down to the meeting-house to exhort the hands.”
“Dat’s jes’ what I want to speak ’bout, dat ‘zortin’.”
“Well, you’ve been doing it for a good many years now.”
“Dat’s de very idee, dat’s in my haid now. Mas’ Gawge, huccume you read me so nigh right?”
“Oh, that’s not reading anything, that’s just truth. But what do you mean, Uncle Simon, you don’t mean to say that you want to resign. Why what would your old wife think if she was living?”