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Authors: Ann Rinaldi

Brooklyn Rose

Brooklyn Rose
Ann Rinaldi

HARCOURT, INC.
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Copyright © 2005 by Ann Rinaldi

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rinaldi, Ann.
Brooklyn Rose/Ann Rinaldi.
p. cm.
Summary: On St. Helena Island, South Carolina,
fifteen-year-old Rose meets and marries Rene, a Yankee from
Brooklyn, New York, who takes her north to his home, where
she encounters many differences in attitudes and lifestyles.
[1. Coming of age—Fiction. 2. Marriage—Fiction.
3. Love—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.R459Bt 2005
[Fic]—dc22 2004002372
ISBN 0-15-205117-1

Text set in Stempel Garamond
Designed by Cathy Riggs

First edition
A C E G H F D B

Printed in the United States of America

In memory of my grandparents
Rose and Rene

PART ONE
Beaufort County, South Carolina 1899–1900
1
December 16, 1899

MY BIRTHDAY
. Why does one feel so special on her birthday, as if something is about to happen? I received many lovely presents, including this gilt-edged journal book from Daddy. The pages are creamy white and just waiting for my words. They even smell nice, as if they are scented. I'm so excited about it. More excited than I am over the new Gibson Girl shirtwaist Mama gave me or the hair ribbons from my sister.

I'm writing in my new journal this very moment. What shall I say? What could possibly be good enough about my silly old dull life to put down in here?

It is a cold, drizzly day with rain. Some workers are ginning cotton and others are killing the last of the beef. Daddy sold a pair of turkeys to old Mrs. Lewis for a dollar and fifty cents. Oh, this is all so ordinary! But Mama says everything is worth setting down, that someday my granddaughter may read this. Ho! Me with a granddaughter! Imagine!

Here is something worth noting. The Gullah people who live and work around here believe that when you die your soul goes to God but your spirit stays on earth and takes part in all the activities of your people. I like that part of their belief. If I died of a sudden, I'd like my spirit to stay here.

Well, I'm not dying, at least I don't plan to yet, but Daddy talks constantly these days about sending me to school in the North, where I would get a proper American education.

Imagine that! Yankee land. And his own uncle Sumner killed at Chancellorsville!

"North is the only place you have chances," Daddy says. "The chances are all done around here."

Chances for what? I want to ask. But I know he'd say, "To marry the right person." He wants me to wed somebody with money. "Even though that person is a Yankee?" I'd ask. To which he'd say, "The only ones who have money are the Yankees."

This family has had such a problem with money since the war ended thirty-five years ago.

I know one thing. I'm not ever going north. I'm staying right here on Saint Helena's Island. Why, Daddy was only able to buy the house back the year I was born. I know he spent most of his money restoring it to what it was before the war and hasn't got much to dower me with. But I've only just turned fifteen, and he's doing well with the cotton and the horses. We have the best horse farm in the county. And how could I leave here, anyway?

I know another thing, too. If I ever do go away, I'm going to leave my spirit here to help my family. Like the Gullah people do when they die.

***

MAYBE I OUGHT
to get things down right, if I'm going to keep this as a proper journal. The house I sit in, the very room I sit in, is on Saint Helena's Island, off the coast of South Carolina. I'm so used to this place I think everyone should know of it. Certainly they should, upon second thought. Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone lived in a house made of a strong tabby foundation with a double piazza held up by great pillars and a front yard that sloped down to the water? If everyone could hear the wind in the palmetto trees and taste the sand in their mouths when the wind blew? And what about the tides that flow toward land twice each day, then back out again?

To say nothing of the wild ducks and the swampy lands and the cypress trees, the long-leaf pine. And the sea oats on the sand dunes that keep the sand from being washed away.

This house I sit in was built years ago by my great-grandfather. My grandparents lost it when General Sherman came through and burned a lot of the homes around here. The white owners were driven away. But General Sherman left this house and a few others standing so the Negroes could live in them and work the land. Then Yankee agents went from plantation to plantation and took the cotton and shipped it north.

My Grandfather Frampton had to go to work as a teacher in the Freedman's School here on the island because he was so destitute after the war. I recollect Grandmother Frampton telling us, before she died, how he looked of a morning when he would get ready to go to work, this wonderful gentleman who'd once been rich and owned dozens of slaves. How she'd hear him early in the morning in the kitchen, getting his own lunch pail ready and moving about quietly. How she couldn't get up to help him for fear of embarrassing him. And how he'd go off, day after day, like a common workingman to earn his living. They were living in a log cabin on the island then, even though this house was still standing. He made sixty dollars a month. Grandmother Frampton couldn't abide seeing him so demeaned, so she started making pies. Not sweet potato and pecan like they do hereabouts, but fruit and cream like they do up north, since that was where she came from. And soon they had to hire people to help her because the pies sold so fast. She made a fortune, so Grandfather didn't have to teach anymore. And that fortune they left to Daddy, who was able to buy this place back for the family. I'm so proud of him for doing that.

Now my daddy grows his cotton again. And breeds his horses. Right now we have thirteen mares and two stallions, and five two-year-olds to be broken to the saddle and bridle before they get shipped to Lexington for the horse auctions.

The pie business is sold. And we're well-off. But still Daddy wants me to go north to school. We have relatives in Connecticut, from Grandmother's connections.

Oh, sometimes the future frightens me so much, I don't want to grow up. I want to be a young girl forever. But I do have opinions. We were brought up in this family to have opinions, but Mama says a proper young lady shouldn't voice hers too loudly or her husband will think her forward and brash. And so I am forward and brash. My husband will just have to abide that in me.

2
December 17

I HAVE A LITTLE
brother named Benjamin, who is fourteen months old and the most cunning baby I have ever known. He toddles about now, getting into everything. I'm jealous of Lilly, who is our Opal's daughter, because she is assigned by Mama to watch him. Mama says I have better things to do, like studying or working on my sewing. Opal and Lilly and all the other help we have here are descended from the Gullah slaves who used to work for my grandparents. Of course, they aren't slaves anymore. Daddy pays them right well. Still, they could leave anytime but don't. They have a loyalty to my family.

The Gullah people believe the strangest things. They believe that to stop a hooty owl from hooting, you should cross your fingers, take off a shoe, and turn it over. Because a hooting owl is a bad omen. Then you have to point your finger in the direction of the sound, put a poker in the fire, and squeeze your right wrist with your left hand. Never mind that by the time you get to the wrist-squeezing part, the owl has flown away.

I'm the middle child. My older sister, Heppi, is seventeen going on twenty-five, and everything I do, according to her lights, is wrong. Sometimes she is so snobbish and picks on me so much that I hate her outright. When she plagues me, I threaten to tell people what her real name is. It's Hephzibah. Isn't that terrible? She is named after Grandmother Frampton, who made the pies. Heppi's middle name is Maria, and that's what she wants us to call her, but nobody does. I'm so glad I wasn't born first, or I'd have that name. My name is Rose.

Heppi has beaux all over the place. The way she flirts is shameful. I couldn't do that if I tried. But, somehow, when I see how the boys respond to her, I envy her so much I could die.

I don't like many of her beaux, but one I think is very nice. His name is Joshua Denning, and he is down here from the North to collect Negro music and publish it in a book. He goes about Beaufort, on the mainland, and this and other islands, listening to the Negroes sing. He goes into their churches and their homes. I think it is so decent of him to honor their work like that. I also think he is too good for Heppi.

I love holding Benjamin. He used to fit just right into the crook of my arm, but he is too big for that now. I love his dimpled face, his little fists, his fat arms. And when he smiles at me with those eyes of his and that crooked little smile, I just melt into nothing. Oh, I think it would be so good sometimes to be married and to have him be mine.

I am making him a new embroidered nightgown of white lawn in my spare moments.

I'm writing this early in the morning. I must go down to breakfast.

***

DADDY WAS
out hunting when I took breakfast. He killed four ducks and came back for the noon meal. Eight of "his people," as he calls the help, are down with the ague. Little Benjamin was cranky and I took him in the sunporch, where the sun was lovely coming in the windows and the stove was lit. I put him to sleep for Mama, because Lilly is one who has the ague. Mama sent for the doctor for the Negroes who are ill even though they have their own remedies, like cockroach tea for coughing.

Opal has the ague, too. And she's our cook. She runs the kitchen and sometimes the whole house. I made one of Grandmother's pies. Mama can still cook, but Opal sent her other daughter, Ruth, in to take her place. We made an excellent supper, if I must say so myself. Fresh wild duck that Daddy brought home from his hunting expedition.

Joshua Denning was at the noon meal with us. I'd forgotten that Heppi was supposed to accompany him today on one of his calls to do an interview about Negro music. Heppi took advantage of his presence to ask me for my good blue velvet cloak to wear. I didn't want to give it. "You have yours, trimmed with ermine," I said, to which she replied, "It's cloth, not velvet."

Well, what does she want to show off in front of the Negroes for, anyway? But she must have it, of course, just like she must have everything she wants. Mama indulges her so. Mama always takes up for her because she's the oldest. I was near tears when Mama said how lovely Heppi looked in my cloak. Mr. Denning did nothing but smoke his pipe and smile at her. I declare, he is smitten. And what means does he have? Why, plenty, or you can be assured Daddy would never let him be courting my sister. His father is a captain of industry, Mama says. They are from Pennsylvania and his father does something important with coal up there. I do like Josh, and if he weren't so smitten I'd like him for myself. Is that terrible to say?

I'm fifteen now and Mama and Daddy have been looking at me and thinking of my marriage. I just know it. Time to grow up. I'm a woman.

Then why do I still get ordered around? It pleases my family to treat me like a woman, it seems, when they want me to act like one. But otherwise I'm still considered a child.

December 18

TODAY DADDY
had an accident with the carriage. He had taken Mama and little Benjamin for a ride, since the day was fine. Becky Sharp and Little Dorrit were pulling the carriage. I should say here that Daddy names all his horses after characters in stories from England. Jimmy, Opal's son, was holding the reins.

They were crossing the bridge on the causeway over the sands when a plank in the bridge gave way, and the two horses fell through the opening that was caused when more planks broke. They both fell in backward and clung with their front legs to the remaining bridge while Daddy got Mama and little Benjamin out. Jimmy was holding the reins in front of the horses so they wouldn't fall through, and somehow together they managed to hoist Becky Sharp and Little Dorrit out of the opening. The horses were cut and bruised, and Daddy was very upset. But the horses brought them home. Daddy had Jimmy bathe the horses and rub them down with ointment, and they are resting.

To think what could have happened! Mama and little Benjamin in such danger. Oh, my heart stops and my hands shake thinking of it. I never dwell on death, but Daddy always says it is around us all the time. I am beginning to believe him.

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