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One Christmas at Shiloh
by [?]

“I ‘low you labo’in’ de mos’ to git dat wife o’ yo’n a new dress,” and her tormentor’s guffaw seemed to admit some such benevolent intention.

In the corners of every house where the younger and more worldly-minded people congregated there was much whispering and giggling, for they had their own plans for Christmas outside of the church affair.

“You goin’ to give me de pleasure of yo’ comp’ny to de dance aftah de festabal?” some ardent and early swain would murmur to his lady love, and the whisper would fly back in well-feigned affright, “Heish, man, you want to have Brothah Todbu’y chu’chin’ me?” But if the swain persisted, there was little chance of his being ultimately refused. So the world, the flesh, and the devil kept pace with the things of the spirit in the great preparation.

Meanwhile Martha Maria Mixon went her own way, working hard, fixing and observing. She had determined to excel herself this time, and not only should her part at the church be above reproach, but the entertainment which she would give that strange preacher would be a thing long to be remembered. And so, almost startled at all that Shiloh was preparing for his reception, hoary Christmas approached.

All New York was a dazzling bazar through which the people thronged ceaselessly, tumultuously. Everyone was a child again; holly wreaths with the red berries gleaming amid the green were everywhere, and the white streets were gay with laughter and bustle and life.

On the night before the great day Martha sat before her fire and hummed softly to herself. There was a smile upon her face, for she had worked and worked well, and now all was ready and to her entire satisfaction. Something which shall be nameless simmered in a tin cup on the back of the stove before her, and every now and then she broke her reverie to sip of it. It smelled sweet and pungent and suspicious, but, then–this was Christmas Eve. She was half drowsing when a brisk knock startled her into wakefulness. Thinking it was one of the neighbours in for a call she bade the visitor enter, without moving. There was a stamping of feet, and the door opened and a black man covered with snow stood before her. He said nothing. Martha rubbed her eyes and stared at him, and then she looked at the cup accusingly, and from it back to the man. Then she rubbed her eyes again.

“Wha–wha—-” she stammered, rising slowly.

“Don’ you know me, Marthy, don’ you know me; an’ don’ you want to see yo’ husban’?”

“Madison Mixon, is dat you in de flesh?”

“It’s me, Marthy; you tol’ me ef evah I made a man o’ myse’f, to seek you. It’s been a long road, but I’s tried faithful.”

All the memories of other days came rushing over Martha in an overwhelming flood. In one moment everything was forgotten save that here stood her long delinquent husband. She threw out her arms and took a step toward him, but he anticipated her further advance and rushing to her clasped her ample form in a close embrace.

“You will tek me back!” he cried, “you will fu’give me!”

“Yes, yes, of co’se, I will, Madison, ef you has made a man of yo’se’f.”

“I hopes to prove dat to you.”

It was a very pleasant evening that they spent together, and like old times to Martha. Never once did it occur to her that this sudden finding of a husband might be awkward on the morrow when the visitor came to dinner. Nor did she once suspect that Madison might be up to one of his old tricks. She accepted him for just what he said he was and intended to be.

Her first doubt came the next morning when she began to hurry her preparations for church. Madison had been fumbling in his carpet bag and was already respectably dressed. His wife looked at him approvingly, but the glance turned to one of consternation when he stammered forth that he had to go out, as he had some business to attend to.