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PAGE 2

Cahoots
by [?]

“Well, of course, the advent of a young male Fairfax would under any circumstances have proven a great event, although it was afterwards duplicated, but there would have been no story to tell, there would have been no ‘Cahoots,’ if by some fortuitous circumstance one of the slave women had not happened to bring into the world that day and almost at the same time that her mistress was introducing young Vaughan Fairfax to the light, a little black pickaninny of her own. Well, if you’re a Southern man, and I take it that you are, you know that nothing ever happens in the quarters that the big house doesn’t know. So the news was soon at the white father’s ears and nothing would do him but that the black baby must be brought to the house and be introduced to the white one. The little black fellow came in all rolled in his bundle of shawls and was laid for a few minutes beside his little lord and master. Side by side they lay blinking at the light equally strange to both, and then the master took the black child’s hand and put it in that of the white’s. With the convulsive gesture common to babyhood the little hands clutched in a feeble grasp.

“‘Dah now,’ old Doshy said–she was the nurse that had brought the pickaninny up–‘dey done tol’ each othah howdy.’

“‘Told each other howdy nothing,’ said old Fairfax solemnly, ‘they have made a silent compact of eternal friendship, and I propose to ratify it right here.’

“He was a religious man, and so there with all the darkies clustered around in superstitious awe, and with the white face of his wife looking at him from among the pillows, he knelt and offered a prayer, and asked a blessing upon the two children just come into the world. And through it all those diminutive specimens of humanity lay there blinking with their hands still clasped.

“Well, they named the white child Robert Vaughan, and they began calling the little darky Ben, until an incident in later life gave him the name that clung to him till the last, and which the Fairfaxes have had chiseled on his tomb-stone.

“The incident occurred when the two boys were about five years old. They were as thick as thieves, and two greater scamps and greater cronies never tramped together over a Virginia plantation. In the matter of deviltry they were remarkably precocious, and it was really wonderful what an amount of mischief those two could do. As was natural, the white boy planned the deeds, and the black one was his willing coadjutor in carrying them out.

“Meanwhile, the proud father was smilingly indulgent to their pranks, but even with him the climax was reached when one of his fine young hounds was nearly driven into fits by the clatter of a tin can tied to its tail. Then the two culprits were summoned to appear before the paternal court of inquiry.

“They came hand in hand, and with no great show of fear or embarrassment. They had gotten off so many times before that they were perfectly confident of their power in this case to cajole the judge. But to their surprise he was all sternness and severity.

“‘Now look here,’ he said, after expatiating on the cruel treatment which the dog had received. ‘I want to know which one of you tied the can to Spot’s tail?’

“Robert Vaughan looked at Ben, and Ben looked back at him. Silence there, and nothing more.

“‘Do you hear my question?’ old Fairfax asked with rising voice.

“Robert Vaughan looked straight ahead of him, and Ben dug his big toe into the sand at the foot of the veranda, but neither answered.

“‘Robert Vaughan Fairfax,’ said his father, ‘who played that trick on Spot? Answer me, do you hear?’

“The Fairfax heir seemed suddenly to have grown deaf and dumb, and the father turned to the black boy. His voice took on the tone of command which he had hardly used to his son. ‘Who played that trick on Spot? Answer me, Ben.’