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Viney’s Free Papers
by [?]

“Oomph! You done gone now! Yo’ naik so stiff you can’t ha’dly ben’ it. I don’ see how dat papah mek sich a change in anybody’s actions. Yo’ face ain’ got no whitah.”

“No, but I’s free, an’ I kin do as I please.”

Mandy went forth and spread the news that Viney had changed her name from Raymond to Allen. “She’s Mis’ Viney Allen, if you please!” was her comment. Great was the indignation among the older heads whose fathers and mothers and grandfathers before them had been Raymonds. The younger element was greatly amused and took no end of pleasure in repeating the new name or addressing each other by fantastic cognomens. Viney’s popularity did not increase.

Some rumors of this state of things drifted to Ben’s ears and he questioned his wife about them. She admitted what she had done.

“But, Viney,” said Ben, “Raymond’s good enough name fu’ me.”

“Don’ you see, Ben,” she answered, “dat I don’ belong to de Raymonds no mo’, so I ain’ Viney Raymond. Ain’ you goin’ change w’en you git free?”

“I don’ know. I talk about dat when I’s free, and freedom’s a mighty long, weary way off yet.”

“Evahbody dat’s free has dey own name, an’ I ain’ nevah goin’ feel free’s long ez I’s a-totin’ aroun’ de Raymonds’ name.”

“Well, change den,” said Ben; “but wait ontwell I kin change wid you.”

Viney tossed her head, and that night she took out her free papers and studied them long and carefully.

She was incensed at her friends that they would not pay her the homage that she felt was due her. She was incensed at Ben because he would not enter into her feelings about the matter. She brooded upon her fancied injuries, and when a chance for revenge came she seized upon it eagerly.

There were two or three free negro families in the vicinity of the Raymond place, but there had been no intercourse between them and the neighboring slaves. It was to these people that Viney now turned in anger against her own friends. It first amounted to a few visits back and forth, and then, either because the association became more intimate or because she was instigated to it by her new companions, she refused to have anything more to do with the Raymond servants. Boldly and without concealment she shut the door in Mandy’s face, and, hearing this, few of the others gave her a similar chance.

Ben remonstrated with her, and she answered him:

“No, suh! I ain’ goin’ ‘sociate wid slaves! I’s free!”

“But you cuttin’ out yo’ own husban’.”

“Dat’s diff’ent. I’s jined to my husban’.” And then petulantly: “I do wish you’d hu’y up an’ git yo’ free papahs, Ben.”

“Dey’ll be a long time a-comin’,” he said; “yeahs f’om now. Mebbe I’d abettah got mine fust.”

She looked up at him with a quick, suspicious glance. When she was alone again she took her papers and carefully hid them.

“I’s free,” she whispered to herself, “an’ I don’ expec’ to nevah be a slave no mo’.”

She was further excited by the moving North of one of the free families with which she had been associated. The emigrants had painted glowing pictures of the Eldorado to which they were going, and now Viney’s only talk in the evening was of the glories of the North. Ben would listen to her unmoved, until one night she said:

“You ought to go North when you gits yo’ papahs.”

Then he had answered her, with kindling eyes:

“No, I won’t go Nawth! I was bo’n an’ raised in de Souf, an’ in de Souf I stay ontwell I die. Ef I have to go Nawth to injoy my freedom I won’t have it. I’ll quit wo’kin fu’ it.”

Ben was positive, but he felt uneasy, and the next day he told his master of the whole matter, and Mr. Raymond went down to talk to Viney.

She met him with a determination that surprised and angered him. To everything he said to her she made but one answer: “I’s got my free papahs an’ I’s a-goin’ Nawth.”