Always & Forever: A Saga of Slavery and Deliverance (The Plantation Series Book 1)

BOOK: Always & Forever: A Saga of Slavery and Deliverance (The Plantation Series Book 1)
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Praise for Gretchen Craig’s
Always
and Forever

 

A powerful saga . . . .  Craig’s sweeping debut brings you straight into her characters’ lives, and her vivid descriptions and historical details allow you to see, hear, smell and fully experience the story of two remarkable women.  Not only is this a wonderful portrait of the Old South, it’s a testament to the people of New Orleans, yesterday and today. --
Romantic Times
(Four Stars)

~~~

Though labeled as a romance, this is really a family saga in the grand old style, told by a master storyteller. The setting is vividly described, from the sugar cane crops and wild honeysuckle on the Tassins’
plantation to the nightclubs, velvet evening gowns, and deadly yellow fever in antebellum New Orleans.  Racial issues, always at the forefront, are handled realistically and perceptively. I can’t say how much I enjoyed visiting with Craig’s fascinating and believable characters; while I was reading, the hours flew by. --
Historical Novels Review
(Editor’s Choice)

~~~

Gretchen Craig’s debut novel, Always and Forever, receives a standing ovation from me! I absolutely loved it. It’s a novel rich in compelling characters, beautifully described landscapes and enough drama to keep you reading until the end. --
Romance Reader at Heart
(Top Pick)

~~~

A powerful story that is reminiscent of the great epic novels of early writers such as Mitchell and Steinbeck. --
Fresh Fiction

~~~

Told with strength and honesty . . . age-old values and true love hoping to conquer all will captivate the audience. --
Mystic Castle
(Four Hearts)

~~~

 

Also by Gretchen Craig

 

Ever My Love: A Saga of Slavery and Deliverance
(The Plantation Series, Book II)
Evermore: A Saga of Slavery and Deliverance
(The Plantation Series, Book III)
Tansy
The Bargain
Crimson Sky
Theena's Landing

 

Short Stories

 

The Color of the Rose
Bayou Stories: Tales of Troubled Souls
Lookin' for Luv: Five Short Stories
Always and Forever
A Saga of Slavery and Deliverance
The Plantation Series, Book I

 

Gretchen Craig

 

Reissue published by Gretchen Craig.
Originally published by Kensington Press.

 

Book cover design and layout by
Ellie Bockert Augsburger of Creative Digital Studios.
www.CreativeDigitalStudios.com

 

Text copyright © 2006, 2014 by
Gretchen Craig.
All rights reserved.
Cover photograph copyright © 2004 by Steve Craig.

 

www.GretchenCraig.com
Gretchen's Amazon Author Page
Table of Contents

 

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15

 

Part II
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26

 

Part III
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42

 

Bonus Section:
Chapter 1 of
Ever
My Love

 

Always & Forever
Discussion Questions
CHAPTER ONE

 

August 1823
Toulouse Plantation

 

Elbow John stepped into the pirogue with one leg and shoved
off with the other. Josie, who dreaded the loops of black snake that sometimes
dropped into the boat, breathed easier when Elbow John poled out from under the
cypresses into the full sun.

“You put dat bonnet back on yo head, Mam’zelle,” Elbow John
said.

Josie, five years old, shook out the bonnet strings. “Cleo
doesn’t have to wear a hat.”

“Cleo don’ get no freckles.”

He handed Cleo a gourd. “See can you get dis boat bailed.”

Josie reached for the gourd and tugged, but Cleo, a little
younger, held on.

“Ya’ll don’ start, now. Mam’zelle, you set down. I needs yo
eyes to find de fust trap.”

Josie scanned the bayou, searching for a cane pole sticking
out of the water to mark Elbow John’s crawfish traps. “I see it! Over there.”

Josie and Cleo together hauled on the rope, but they
couldn’t break the suck of the mud holding the trap. Elbow John took the line
and with his good arm raised a tangled mess into the boat. Water and mud
streamed out of the busted trap.

“What happened to it?” Josie said.

“Ol’ blind gator likely chomped it. He got more teeth than
sense, don’t he?” Elbow John tossed the trap back overboard and picked up his
pole. “You gals keep a sharp eye out. Next trap coming up'round dis bend.”

“There it is!” Cleo shouted. She stretched to reach the
trap’s line, Josie holding on to the tail of her dress.

“Hold on dere. Don’ need no gals falling in de water. I get
it wid de gaff.” Elbow John raised the trap, the water straining through a mass
of hungry crawfish. “Dis mo like it,” he said. “We gone have us crawfish pie
for supper, yessir. Hold dat bag open, Cleo.”

The three fished the traps till they’d emptied every one
into a burlap sack. “Dis one fine day,” Elbow John said. “God in his heaven,
and crawfish in de bag.”

Cleo pointed to the mud on Josie’s white dress. “Your maman
gone be mad when she see that.”

Josie smeared it, trying to rub it away with her grimy
hands. “Oh, no,” she whispered.

“Don’t worry none, Mam’zelle,” Elbow John said. “Bibi wash
it for you, and Madame Celine won’t know nothin’ bout it.”

The girls lay back on an old smelly pillow and watched blue
dragon flies hover above the water. Elbow John poled them back to the landing,
hauled the pirogue up on the bank, and tossed the bag of crawfish over his
shoulder. “Les get out o dis sun.”

Hand in hand, Josie and Cleo led the way to the big house,
Josie in her soiled white dress with the blue satin ribbons, Cleo in her
too-small hand me down. Muck clung to Josie’s leather shoes, mud oozed between
Cleo’s bare brown toes.

As they approached the grounds of the big house, voices came
to them through the trees. The murmur grew into a clamor, and Josie turned to
Elbow John with a question on her face.

John listened. “Lawd, I hope dat ain’t what I tink it is.”
He dropped the bag of crawfish and sprinted toward the courtyard behind the big
house, Josie and Cleo struggling to catch up.

The girls drew up at sight of the confusion in the
courtyard. Three dusty men, strangers, were forcing men and women from the dark
little houses in the quarters into an over-sized wagon. The people resisted,
crying and arguing and pulling back.

Elbow John dragged the girls around a corner of the big
house. “Neither one of ya’ll needs to see dis.”

Josie and Cleo held on to each other. “What’s happening?”
Cleo said.

“Nothin make no difference to ya’ll. Madame Emmeline done
sell off some slaves, dat’s all.”

But Josie saw how Elbow John’s hands trembled. She gripped
Cleo tighter.

A single wail cut through the din, and a woman screamed,
“Let go o’ me!” The girls stared at each other.

“Bibi?” Josie whispered. She and Cleo broke free of Elbow
John and ran to the courtyard. They pushed through the crowd to the big wagon.

“Bibi!” Josie shouted, but Bibi didn’t hear.

Bibi clambered to get out of the wagon. A
slaver grabbed at her to shove her back. She twisted away from him and threw
her leg over the side. He grabbed her again and she scratched at his eyes.
Finally, the man threw his fist into Bibi’s jaw, and she collapsed.

“Maman!” Cleo cried. She tried to climb the wagon wheel to
get to her mother.

“This the one?” A red-headed man said, and pointed to Cleo.

“Gotta be. She’s going right to her.”

While Bibi lay stunned in the bottom of the wagon, the man
manacled Bibi’s ankles to a bolt on the floor. Then he helped Cleo climb aboard
and sat her down on top of her mother. Bibi quit struggling against the chains
and hugged Cleo to her.

Josie started to climb the wheel, too, to get Bibi out of
the wagon and take her back into the house where she belonged. But Mr. Gale,
the overseer, caught her and pulled her down. She stretched her arms toward the
wagon. “Bibi! Cleo!”

 “Mam’zelle Josephine, you best go up to your mother.” Mr.
Gale carried Josie, kicking and struggling, over to the back gallery steps
before he set her down. “Go on up to your maman, there’s a good girl,” he said.

“Maman!” Josie ran up the tall staircase to the back gallery
overlooking the courtyard. Her mother stood erect, motionless, her gaze fixed
on the scene below. “Maman, they put Bibi in that wagon.” Josie grabbed her
mother’s skirts and tugged. “Maman, Cleo’s in the wagon!”

Maman, her back stiff and straight, neither comforted nor
explained. Her lips were curved, but her eyes were hard and unreadable. Josie
shrank from her.

A slaver’s whip cracked, and Josie gripped the railing, her
panic rising. She sobbed and pushed her hands through the bars as if she could
reach them – Bibi, who woke her with a kiss every morning, who sang her to
sleep at night, who dried all her tears, and Cleo, who shared all her whittled
toys from Grammy Tulia’s cabin.

Grand-mère Emmeline, square shouldered and clad all in black,
appeared on the gallery. The voices below swelled in supplication.

A muscled young man called to her from the wagon. “Don’t
sell me off, Madame Emmeline. Please. I got chilren here.”

Another hollered, “I won’t run off no more. I promise I
won’t.”

And from grizzled old Henri, “Where M’sieu Emile? He not do
dis!”

Josie flung herself against her grandmother’s skirts.
“Please,” she sobbed.

Grand-mère patted Josie’s back, then crossed her arms.

Down below in the big wagon, Bibi clutched Cleo to her
breast. Josie was going to lose them both. She screamed and pulled her hair.

Without warning, Papa’s black stallion charged into the
courtyard, scattering the slavers.

“M’sieu!” the slaves cried out. “M’sieu!”

Papa pulled hard on the reins and the big horse reared.

“M’sieu, don let dem sell us off!”

“M’sieu, you got to hep us!”

Josie leaned over the gallery rail to see him. “Papa,” she
breathed.

Papa slid from the saddle and ran up the stairs. He leaned
close into his mother’s face. “This is obscene,” he hissed. “You have no need
to sell these people.”

Grand-mère shrugged. “You have gambled a great deal these
last months, Emile. And lost.”

Papa turned away from his mother in disgust.

“Emile!” came a desperate voice from the courtyard. Papa’s
eyes found Bibi and Cleo in the wagon below. He paled and wheeled on
Grand-mère. Grand-mère cocked her head toward Maman.

Papa locked eyes with Maman in silent duel, and Josie
quailed at the fire passing between them. Papa’s face dark now, he tore back
down the stairs to the wagon and reached up to pull Bibi out, but the chains
held her fast. He turned on Mr. Gale. “Unlock these manacles,” he demanded.

The overseer glanced up at Grand-mère, then held his palms
up. “The sale’s been made, M’sieu Emile.”

“Let’s move out,” a slaver called, and the wagons began to
roll.

“Stop,” Papa called, and lunged toward the lead mule. The
slaver spurred his horse between Papa and the mules, knocking Papa off his
feet.

The wagon driver snapped his whip, and the mules picked up
speed. Papa scrambled to his feet, too late. He grabbed at his hair with both
hands as the wagon rumbled down the lane.

From the gallery Josie gripped the railing and watched the
wagon roll away. Bibi held Cleo tight, her eyes fastened on Papa as if her
whole being reached for him. Couldn’t Papa stop them? “Bibi,” she sobbed.

BOOK: Always & Forever: A Saga of Slavery and Deliverance (The Plantation Series Book 1)
5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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