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Authors: Georgia Daniels

The Wilful Daughter

BOOK: The Wilful Daughter
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The Wilful Daughter




Georgia Daniels




All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


'The Wilful Daughter' is published by Night Publishing, a trading name of Valley Strategies Ltd., a UK-registered private limited-liability company, registration number 5796186. Night Publishing can be contacted at:


'The Wilful Daughter' is the copyright of its author, Georgia Daniels, 2010. All rights are reserved.


All characters are fictional, and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is accidental.





Dawn, the beginning of the southern work day. The sky ain’t blue yet, and the air is still damp with dew but all is right with mother earth once you hear the Blacksmith’s hammer hit the anvil.

The big man forges metal with long even strokes and the sound, a sound that assures you that God is in his heaven, echoes through the sweet smelling morning as the sun shines on trees filled with hummingbirds, bushes dripping of honeysuckle, roads lined with dogwoods and pines, yards filled with cocks crowing and their hens cackling as they lay. All God’s creatures and all God’s children are in dreamy attendance as the sound fills the universe for the steady ringing of the Blacksmith’s hammer is calling it to order.

While some folks still lay snug under their covers in the dewy Atlanta dawn, the big cocoa brown Blacksmith has risen and seen what those who dream under the watchful eye of the Lord could not see. While dark still rules the sky the big man, the Blacksmith named William Brown, rolls over in a bed almost too small for him to share with another person and kisses the long haired part Indian woman at his side. He clings to her with a passion they have never spoken of, and then he lets her go. There is no time to go beyond the morning kiss to linger in their familiar embrace. He is the last of Atlanta’s great smithies and the city will be waiting for him come dawn. She rises with him, the long gown that has rolled up above her hips in the night falling daintily to cover her legs. She stares at the mirror above the heavy wood dresser, picks up a silver handled brush and begins to go at her hair with quick strokes.

Out of the corner of his eye he watches her thinking this is my wife, this is my hair as he removes his night shirt and stretches in the almost dark. She sighs a bit, it is not often she sees him naked and there is the desire to turn and let him know that she misses that one thing about youth: the shamelessness of the body. But she brushes her hair faster, as if the passion in her arms and legs has found its way to the brush. She knots her hair tightly into a bun, as he prepares to shave in an old basin given to them by his mother on the day they were married and left Alabama. She lies out a freshly hand-starched jumper and work shirt and pats the muscles in his arm. They exchange glances and she grabs her robe and goes to the kitchen of the big house to start the coffee.

When the pot is on the stove with its fire burning big and high she goes to awaken their five daughters and lone son for the Blacksmith’s family always takes the morning meal together.

The older girls, no longer girls, but women no longer very young, have no trouble rising. Minnelsa and Fawn will dress before the others and then prepare to go teach at the college they once attended in a youth they remember as a million years ago. Rosa and Jewel are a little harder to get up having spent the night being courted by beaus both handsome and entertaining but useless in their father’s eyes. June will be the hardest to awaken. Barely eighteen and the baby of the family she hates getting up at any time and her mother will have to call her only son to rouse his beautiful sister. The Blacksmith’s son, William Brown the Second, pulls himself about on crutches, his crippled legs so small and deformed he can barely use them, but he has a way with June. She listens to him and loves him like no one else. Willie, as she calls him when everyone else knows him as Brother, will make her get out of bed with some story he has created in his ever fruitful mind, so that by the time the Blacksmith is at the table his children are all seated, the younger ones still dressed in their bedclothes but present and yawning ever so slightly.

Fawn, the best cook of the family, will prepare the breakfast under her mother’s watchful eye. And anyone who has ever eaten at the Blacksmith’s table knows of Jewel’s mouth watering biscuits. While Minnelsa feeds the chickens, Brother gets June to help him bring in extra wood for the fire. Mama Bira sets the table with the finest china owned by any black man in the south, china more beautiful and delicate than most white folks in Atlanta have ever seen, and Rosa sweeps the night off the porch.

Breakfast in the Blacksmith’s house was better than dinner in most. Plates of bacon or ham or maybe both served on silver platters were the centerpiece of the table. Next came the bowls of eggs, one day scrambled, the next day fried, and Jewel’s prized biscuits or whatever bread recipe she was teaching the girls at the high school. In the spring and summer there would be cut up fresh peaches or plums, even figs from the trees growing on the Blacksmith’s various properties, but in winter and fall the put up ones that mother had prepared before they all went bad were placed in dainty bowls on the table next to each plate. And of course there was lots of thick, black coffee that they sweetened with pure cane sugar and cream from a neighbor’s cow served in a sterling silver set.

The Blacksmith’s wife decided who said grace. And before starched linen napkins were placed in any lap, heads bowed and hands folded for the Blacksmith’s family to give thanks for all they had. Then the ladies and gentleman that had been sired by Mr. and Mrs. William Brown of Atlanta would eat their food as they discussed the dawning day. Who was teaching what, whose students were better, Rosa’s orphan babies that she nursed at the hospital, and Brother’s painting. What will it be today, Brother? A dogwood tree, a neighbor on horseback prancing down the street? Or mother as she did her fine hand stitching? June never had anything much to say and the Blacksmith, papa who loved her dearly, would look past his son to this beauty of a girl and go: “June, there must be something that you have to do today.”

June would sigh and the family would hold its breath for in the past ten years papa left the house storming and furious at least once a week because of something June had uttered at breakfast. Before dawn, before most people even knew they were mad at each other, June had declared war on her elegantly old fashioned father so that when the anvil rang across the Piedmont more often than not the first strikes were blows William Brown sent to the metal dreaming, wishing, thinking, that this would be the only way to get something into that stubborn gals head.

Well, Papa,” she looked at the mother she adored and the sisters she didn’t care much for and then at her favorite person in the whole world. “I’m taking Willie over to the church with me and we’re doing the flowers in the pulpit for first Sunday.” She went back to her eggs and ham and relief was syrup across the room.

The Blacksmith smiled at his beloved baby girl. Although relieved that there would be peace this morning, the sisters felt a twinge of jealousy every time he looked at his youngest daughter this way. He had never lavished his words or his smiles on them the way he did on her.

And she wasn’t perfect, mind you. Each of the sisters knew something just awful about baby June. Minnelsa had smelled liquor on June’s breathe when she escorted the young girl and some boy home from what she was told was afternoon tea with one of the snobbiest colored women in Atlanta. Jewel caught her with cigarettes in the back yard under the porch and was told, impudently: “Don’t be such an old biddy. You’re worse than papa. You got to try something new. Nobody around here ever tries anything new.”

Fawn heard she was taking money from the undertaker’s wife to teach her how to read although Fawn couldn’t prove a thing without embarrassing the old woman. And Rosa knew that some nights, when their mother and father thought they were all tucked safely in their single beds, going to sleep as early as farmhands, that sweet little June tiptoed down the back stairs and off to parts unknown. They kept their secrets from their parents, from each other, to keep the family peace and not be blamed for starting trouble.

They each waited for the day when June, rebellious little June, would be caught, brought back to her senses and shown the error of her ways.

The Blacksmith touched his napkin to his lips, a gentile gesture for such large hands and then he spoke. “Each of you have a lovely day. Perhaps later Rosa and Fawn could bring my lunch to the shop and pick up the beef Mr. Gamble is bringing me. Ribs, mother,” he said with affection to his bride and touched her face tenderly. She smiled back at him with a small knowledgeable look.

Papa, maybe we could bar-b-que them tonight. I mean it is Friday, papa. Be enough for lunch and dinner for you tomorrow,” Willie suggested.

The Blacksmith smiled at his son. “Very well, Brother. A barb-b-que it is. Is it alright to eat under the trees mother, we still have weeks before fall is upon us.”

Of course my dear. I think that would be lovely this evening. Everything will be ready by the time you get home.”

They touched lips, barely what June would have called a kiss and nothing remotely like a peck and the Blacksmith headed out the door. While the others finished eating June watched her mother watching the big man leave. There was that look in her eyes again. Once June had noticed that look when she was almost sixteen and in love for the first of a thousand times. She asked her mother: “When papa leaves why do you follow him like that with your eyes?”

Mother had blushed, crimson steaming beneath her pale brown skin. She squeezed June’s hand: “I send my love with him and my eyes follow to watch over him.”

June didn’t follow. Must have been the Indian in her was all the daughter thought.

Then she saw Minnelsa look that way the day John Woods went off to the war in 1917. June told Brother: “You see how Minnelsa’s eyes sparkle every time John Woods comes around? You see how she just locked herself in her room so no one could see her crying? That’s real love.” Then she added very proudly: “I will know the right man for me, I’ll know when I am really and everlastingly in love when a man makes my eyes must follow him to protect him wherever he goes.”

And so the Blacksmith took his horse drawn wagon across the two miles to his shop. While colored live-ins were sipping their sugar sweetened coffee and rolling the dough for the mistresses’ biscuits, sweeping their pine needles from the long white cement drives, polishing the breakfast service for the madam’s tray, the Blacksmith began beating the anvil stronger and louder than voices could lift to sing.

William Brown was the last of his breed in Atlanta. Other blacksmiths existed in the sparse lily white communities that breed red neck trash and their reputations preceded them: horses improperly shoed, wheels that didn’t stay on, chipped metal works. Those with ‘the know’ came to Brown’s Shop as it has simply been known for over thirty five years. He had never let a customer down, black or white. And just after dawn, so as to get the best service and the jump on the day, the colored with their needs would come to him first. William Brown had made a lot of money with his trade and for his people had his own sliding fee scale.

He charged coloreds and Indians less cause they had less. They would come to him with things to barter and trade. He would smile and make a deal, always a good deal, always in his favor. Their horses were shoed well, their wagons fixed to last for years. His work was perfection they’d tell you.

But they hated him.

After nine, close to ten in the morning with the day half wasted and gone, the whites would come. Most of them didn’t want to be in colored territory even if their boss told them: “Take it to William Brown ’cause he knows best.” Carriages, carts, race horses. Brown may have been the best and they may have called him a nigger under their breath but he made no house calls, no matter what the amount of money. He didn’t bow and scrape for them, like they felt he should. He didn’t greet them with a toothy smile and say “Yes, sir, boss” or “No, sir, boss.” He was the best and had known it for years. To them, he was no ordinary Negro, so they let him have his high and mighty ways.

BOOK: The Wilful Daughter
13.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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