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Viney’s Free Papers
by [?]

For answer, the big fellow dropped the hoe and, seizing the slight form in his arms, swung her around until she gasped for breath.

“Oh, Ben,” she shrieked, “you done tuk all my win’!”

“Dah, now,” he said, letting her down; “dat’s what you gits fu’ talkin’ sassy to me!”

“Nev’ min’; I’m goin’ to fix you fu’ dat fus’ time I gits de chanst–see ef I don’t.”

“Whut you gwine do? Gwine to pizen me?”

“Worse’n dat!”

“Wuss’n dat? Whut you gwine fin’ any wuss’n pizenin’ me, less’n you conjuh me?”

“Huh uh–still worse’n dat. I’m goin’ to leave you.”

“Huh uh–no you ain’, ’cause any place you’d go you wouldn’ no more’n git dah twell you’d tu’n erroun’ all of er sudden an’ say, ‘Why, dah’s Ben!’ an’ dah I’d be.”

They chattered on like children while she was putting the supper on the table and he was laving his hot face in the basin beside the door.

“I got great news fu’ you,” he said, as they sat down.

“I bet you ain’ got nothin’ of de kin’.”

“All right. Den dey ain’ no use in me a tryin’ to ‘vince you. I jes’ be wastin’ my bref.”

“Go on–tell me, Ben.”

“Huh uh–you bet I ain’, an’ ef I tell you you lose de bet.”

“I don’ keer. Ef you don’ tell me, den I know you ain’ got no news worth tellin’.”

“Ain’ go no news wuff tellin’! Who-ee!”

He came near choking on a gulp of coffee, and again his knee suffered from the pounding of his great hands.

“Huccume you so full of laugh to-night?” she asked, laughing with him.

“How you ‘spec’ I gwine tell you dat less’n I tell you my sec’ut?”

“Well, den, go on–tell me yo’ sec’ut.”

“Huh uh. You done bet it ain’ wuff tellin’.”

“I don’t keer what I bet. I wan’ to hyeah it now. Please, Ben, please!”

“Listen how she baig! Well, I gwine tell you now. I ain’ gwine tease you no mo’.”

She bent her head forward expectantly.

“I had a talk wid Mas’ Raymond to-day,” resumed Ben.


“An’ he say he pay me all my back money fu’ ovahtime.”


“An’ all I gits right along he gwine he’p me save, an’ when I git fo’ hund’ed dollahs he gwine gin me de free papahs fu’ you, my little gal.”

“Oh, Ben, Ben! Hit ain’ so, is it?”

“Yes, hit is. Den you’ll be you own ooman–leas’ways less’n you wants to be mine.”

She went and put her arms around his neck. Her eyes were sparkling and her lips quivering.

“You don’ mean, Ben, dat I’ll be free?”

“Yes, you’ll be free, Viney. Den I’s gwine to set to wo’k an’ buy my free papahs.”

“Oh, kin you do it–kin you do it–kin you do it?”

“Kin I do it?” he repeated. He stretched out his arm, with the sleeve rolled to the shoulder, and curved it upward till the muscles stood out like great knots of oak. Then he opened and shut his fingers, squeezing them together until the joints cracked. “Kin I do it?” He looked down on her calmly and smiled simply, happily.

She threw her arms around his waist and sank on her knees at his feet sobbing.

“Ben, Ben! My Ben! I nevah even thought of it. Hit seemed so far away, but now we’re goin’ to be free–free, free!”

He lifted her up gently.

“It’s gwine to tek a pow’ful long time,” he said.

“I don’ keer,” she cried gaily. “We know it’s comin’ an’ we kin wait.”

The woman’s serious mood had passed as quickly as it had come, and she spun around the cabin, executing a series of steps that set her husband a-grin with admiration and joy.

And so Ben began to work with renewed vigor. He had found a purpose in life and there was something for him to look for beyond dinner, a dance and the end of the day. He had always been a good hand, but now he became a model–no shirking, no shiftlessness–and because he was so earnest his master did what he could to help him. Numerous little plans were formulated whereby the slave could make or save a precious dollar.