Cover image for Under the same heaven
Under the same heaven
Bradford, Marjorie, 1922-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Montgomery, AL : Black Belt Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
459 pages ; 23 cm
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Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In the small town of Hayley, Georgia, the town's most powerful and feared man has been killed in a plane crash, but his influence lives on in a series of odd events. Marjorie Bradford's unusually well-turned novel of romance and mystery is a sweeping saga of a rural Georgia just beginning to emerge from the Great Depression.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

With a good deal of purple prose and a host of shallowly drawn characters, this long first novel re-creates life in rural Georgia earlier in the century. Reminiscent of thick paperback romances, it abounds with villains and heroes and the always lovely females who yearn for them. Family secrets, fortunes lost and found, brother against brother, and a single overplayed mystery feed the plot, which centers on the death of Hayley, Georgia's most powerful citizen. That said, the story of this small Georgia town and its many inhabitants, living in simpler times when good and evil are clearly defined, comes straight from Bradford's heart. It will be entertaining and satisfying for readers who like to root for the good guys and want everything to come out right. Not great literature, not even Margaret Mitchell, but sure to appeal to undemanding fiction readers with a few afternoons to while away.ÄAnn H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One     The legend began the moment Price Townsend died. He was the richest man in south Georgia, powerful enough to control bankers and politicians, powerful enough to touch the life of every citizen of Dougherty County. He died as he had lived, colorfully, mysteriously, when the plane he chartered crashed seven hundred miles off course. A year had passed, but his presence was still felt in Dougherty County. The simple folk of the region feared him no less now than when he was alive, and for good reason. For now, it was said, the ghost of County Pa walked the Townsend game preserve by night.     During his lifetime, Price Townsend not only ran the county, he owned most of it; including the game preserve, a dense green forest a few miles from the Townsend plantation, in the little town of Hayley. Three miles of barbed wire guarded the boundaries of the preserve on each side of Southland Road, with No Trespassing signs posted every five hundred feet. Local residents took the signs seriously: trespassers were shot. Thirteen years ago, not a legal eyebrow was raised when County Pa shot and killed a poacher. In Hayley, County Pa interpreted the law as he wished.     It was rumored in Hayley that many such unfortunates who wandered innocently into the preserve never came out. Some doubted that the rumors were true, but Price Townsend never denied them. If anything, he encouraged the rumors, as a useful deterrent to keep people off his land. Inevitably, after his death, children believed that strangers who wandered onto the preserve met their deaths, horribly, at the hands of the ghost of County Pa.     Price Townsend's widow, Laura, and his two sons lived several miles away, north of Hayley on Albany Road. A long red-brick wall ran around the plantation, and beautiful horses could often be seen running free. Carlton Townsend, the younger son, was an avid hunter, and frequently brought parties of his friends out to the game preserve. Carlton's reputation was scandalous, and no one doubted that he would deal with trespassers the same way his father did. No sane person ventured onto Townsend land.     Carlton was much like his father: reckless, flamboyant, selfish, and devious. But he lacked his father's cold heart and tenacious ambition--few people knew that part of the Townsend fortune had been secretly built on greed, graft, and cruelty. Carlton spent County Pa's money in an endless pursuit of fun, spawning an endless debt of trouble.     Carlton, with his wild ways, was nothing like his older brother, Rudolph, who preferred raising animals to hunting them. In truth, Rudolph could never bring himself to shoot a deer. His love of animals, music, and literature had evoked many cruel jibes from both his father and his younger brother over the years.     Rudolph never lived up to his father's expectations, but then, neither did Carlton. In different ways, both his sons disappointed him. But it was to the responsible Rudolph that County Pa passed the power and the purse strings, upon his death. Within months, Rudolph had risen to a position of respectability in the community that could not be bought with money; respectability that was never afforded to Price Townsend in his lifetime.     It was Rudolph's influence that kept Carlton out of trouble, but even so, the brothers fought constantly. It was not in Carlton's nature to honor his father's decision to leave Rudolph in control of the estate, and he resented his brother bitterly. Carlton's disappointment at his relatively small endowment had frozen what goodness he possessed, and he was determined to claim his father's power for himself.     Carlton had a plan. He knew things about his father that had always been hidden from his mother and brother. He knew, because he had discovered the real reason County Pa wanted no trespassers on the game preserve--the reason intruders were threatened with death, the reason he encouraged rumors of unlucky hobos who never returned. County Pa had had a secret, and he never knew that Carlton had uncovered it. And now that the secret was Carlton's, it would be the legend of the ghost of County Pa that would perpetuate fear in the minds of the people, and keep them away from the truth buried deep in the shadows of the game preserve. It was Carlton who frightened the children with stories, who encouraged the superstition among the Negroes, and who left drunken hunting pals alone in the darkness of the forest. It was Carlton who created the ghost of County Pa. In the beginning, the ghost was just a legend to the children of Hayley. It was the summer of 1938, and life was simple in rural Georgia, and ghosts and superstitions were part of the fun of growing up. The country was getting back on its feet, the Great Depression becoming an unpleasant memory. It was a time for forgetting, a time for growth and optimism. Like their children, the parents of south Georgia looked to the future with hope.     That summer, as for many summers past, Tori Tanner and Jessie Mae Potter were best friends. The difference in their backgrounds didn't matter to the eleven-year-olds, although many Hayley mothers would not have encouraged a child's friendship with Jessie, who was considered not much better than poor white trash.     Rudolph Townsend was very fond of Tori, the daughter of his boyhood friend, Paul Tanner, also a native of Hayley. Rudolph had done much to foster tolerance in the community of Tori's maternal grandmother, Mrs. Cooper from New York, when she moved to Hayley with her daughter and son-in-law. After Paul's wife died, and he left town looking for work, Rudolph's patronage of the elderly Mrs. Cooper said much for her position in the community, now that only she and her granddaughter remained.     Paul was ruined by the big city, folks said. Once he had seen the world, he was not content to return to his hometown. How a good Southern boy could end up playing baseball in New York City and marrying a northern heiress defied the imagination. At any rate, what Paul Tanner did, or what his motherless child was allowed to do, was less important now than it once had been. IT WAS the last day of August when Tori and Jessie began the adventure that was to change forever the meaning of the legend of the ghost of County Pa. Perhaps if both of them had not lived on Southland Road, the events that would take place when summer came again would have been different. If they had never crossed paths with Carlton Townsend that day, perhaps the ghost of County Pa would have remained only a legend. But Tori Tanner was destined to learn County Pa's secret, and her fate would be bound to the ghost of County Pa forever.     It was a beautiful morning. It was still early, and the air was thin. By nine o'clock the sun would be high enough, and the air humid enough, to send yard dogs under the porches for shade. Tori and Jessie were on Southland Road, picking blackberries at their favorite patch, which was close to the edge of the forbidden game preserve.     Jessie believed that the ghost of County Pa inhabited the preserve, and she was nervous about being so close, even in the morning. Tori was much more sensible. It was daytime, after all. Still, neither had ever dared to trespass.     With their pails full, and their hands and clothes stained black with juice, the girls climbed to the road, when the quiet of the morning was broken by the roar of an automobile engine. Turning, the girls saw Carlton Townsend's little red Jaguar sports car racing toward them.     When Carlton saw the children, he slammed on the brakes and the car spun to a stop beside them. Frightened, Jessie cried out and jumped behind Tori. Tori yanked her arm.     "Stop it, you goose," she told Jessie. "He'll think you're scared."     "I am scared," said Jessie, coughing as the dust enveloped them.     Through the dust Carlton yelled, "Whatcha got there, girlies? Blackberries? How about givin' me some?"     Tori stared at Carlton. She was used to his taunts. As a Yankee in Georgia, Tori was no stranger to teasing or to prejudice.     Carlton laughed at the defiant child. "Tell you what," he said. "Y'all come on and get in my car and I'll give you both a ride. Would you like that?"     Jessie's eyes widened.     "I'll carry you all over the game preserve if you've got the nerve," Carlton continued. "Of course, you gotta watch out for the ghost of County Pa. He just loves to scare little girls like you."     It was too much for Jessie. She dropped her pail and scampered down the slope, straight through the blackberry bushes.     Carlton laughed heartily, and Tori stomped her foot in anger.     "You stop trying to scare us, Carlton Townsend! We're not on your crummy old land. You leave us alone or I'll tell Rudolph on you."     Carlton feigned dismay.     "Oooh! Tell big brother? Please don't do that."     But the mention of his brother quickly took the fun out of it for Carlton. "Go ahead and tell, little girl," he said. "Tell the great and mighty Rudolph whatever you want. There's nothing he can do about it. Just don't let me catch you or your little friend on my land."     He revved up the engine of the shiny car and screeched off, leaving a cloud of red dust in his wake to choke Tori. She watched as he turned onto the dirt trail leading off Southland Road into the game preserve.     Jessie, looking wounded, climbed back to her friend and stared after Carlton with a pout. She looked at Tori, who was staring intently at the entrance to the preserve.     "I wonder what he does in there?" Tori mused. "He goes in there alone all the time. Never stays that long, either."     "I don't care what he does," said Jessie. "That's one mean man, jus' like his Pa. You got no call to be wonderin' about him."     "He's mean, all right," Tori replied. "And bad, too. I'll just bet he's got a still hid back in those woods. I'll bet Rudolph doesn't know a thing about it, either."     "So what if he does?" said Jessie. "Let him have his old still. I don't care."     "I do," said Tori. "He'd never expect us to follow him. So that's just what I'm going to do. And you're going with me. Come on, it'll be fun!"     Tori took Jessie by the hand and began to pull her along.     "Fun?" wailed Jessie. "That's foolish talk." She jerked her hand away. "Let go of me. I'm not going anywhere."     "Okay, I'll go by myself," said Tori, who began to walk along the road. "Stay here," she called back as Jessie stared after her. "Be scared. Be a chicken. I don't care."     "What about the ghost?" Jessie protested.     "It's daytime, goose," said Tori. "He can't come out in the daytime."     "Don't leave me," yelled Jessie.     Tori stopped and waited for Jessie to catch up.     "Oh, come on, scaredy cat," she said. "We won't let him see us. Let's just see what he's up to. We won't get caught, I promise."     With great reluctance, Jessie followed Tori down the slope to the border of the preserve. They slipped through the rusty barbed-wire fence, and walked until they found the dirt road Carlton had taken. Staying under cover of the brush, they sneaked alongside the dirt road, moving carefully, silently, always listening for the sound of Carlton's car. About a mile down the road they ventured into the woods to peek over a high ridge. There they spotted the car, pulled over to the side of a clearing. In the clearing was an old, run-down cabin.     "Look," said Jessie, "there's his car."     "Shhhh! Get down."     The ridge was high above the cabin. They crouched down behind a thick clump of bushes and waited. Once they stopped moving, they became aware of a strange silence in the forest. The branches of the trees high overhead were thick and intertwined, and the sun broke through the canopy in dusty patches.     "It's spooky in here," whispered Jessie. "Where are all the birds and crickets and things?"     "Watching us probably."     "Tori, maybe we should get out of here. I'm scared."     Just then, the door of the cabin opened and Carlton emerged, carrying a rifle. He walked to the car and opened the trunk. Horrified at seeing the weapon in his hands, Jessie stood up and started inching back before Tori could stop her. Suddenly, there was a loud snap as a dry branch broke under Jessie's weight. Carlton jerked around, cocking the rifle. Tori grabbed Jessie and pulled her back down.     "Don't even breathe," whispered Tori.     Carlton searched the ridge quickly with his hard gaze, ready to shoot anything that moved. After a few moments, he lowered the rifle to his side, satisfied that what he had heard in the silent forest was only a squirrel or a possum. He threw the gun carelessly into the trunk of the car, closed the trunk, got into the Jaguar and screeched off down the dirt road.     When he was gone, Tori stood up and looked curiously at the cabin.     "If we don't get out of here," said Jessie, "I think I'm gonna die."     "He's gone," said Tori. "I told you he wouldn't catch us. That was close, though." She looked down at her friend, who was still crouching down behind the bushes. "Hey, are you just going to sit there, or are you coming with me? Come on, I want to see what's inside that cabin."     "You go on," said Jessie. "I'll wait here and be your lookout."     "Oh, all right. Be scared." What a chicken, she thought.     Tori descended the slope carefully until she stood in the clearing below. Jessie watched as Tori crossed the clearing and mounted the steps of the cabin. The door was held with only a wooden latch. There was no lock. Tori slid back the latch and opened the door.     When something suddenly touched her from behind, Tori screamed and jumped away, throwing her hand out defensively, and knocking Jessie to the floor.     "Jessie Potter!" yelled Tori. "You scared the life out of me. Don't you ever sneak up on me again, you hear?"     The necessity for whispering had, by this time, been forgotten.     "I'm sorry," whimpered Jessie. She got up, rubbing her bottom. "I got afraid to be up there on my own."     Tori turned back to the door and peered into the darkened room. She took a few steps inside and stopped, looking around.     "See anything?" asked Jessie.     "No," Tori answered, "it's okay. Come on."     The room was empty except for some old cartons along one wall. It was dusty and dark. The boards in the wooden floor were rotten, and creaked as the children walked across them. The windows were covered with dirt, letting little light in. Old yellowed papers and sticks of broken, rotting furniture littered the floor. It was a thoroughly deserted and unpleasant shack.     "There's nothing here," said Tori. "What in the world does he come here for?"     "It's awful," said Jessie. She sneezed. "There must be rats in here."     Tori walked through an archway into the next room and stopped, staring.     "What is it?" asked Jessie.     "Come and look," answered Tori.     Jessie came around the corner and gasped as she met the face on the wall. It was a faded portrait of County Pa. It was very old, thirty years or more, painted when Price Townsend was about Rudolph's age. Jessie's hands flew to her face and she covered her eyes in fright.     Tori pressed her lips together in practiced tolerance as she looked at her friend. She grabbed at Jessie's arm.     "It's only a picture, silly," she said.     "But it's him!" Jessie croaked.     "Oh, come on," said Tori. "You remind me of Boozie. You're worse than Boozie, and she's nine."     Jessie peeked through her fingers at the horrible image. She glanced at Tori, who didn't seem scared at all.     "There's another room in back," said Tori. "Maybe there's something in there."     The eyes of the dead man followed the girls as they went through another door into a kitchen. It was small, consisting only of a row of cabinets with a sink along one wall, and a pantry. The back door was opposite the sink, and another archway led beyond the kitchen to another room. Tori walked into the kitchen and opened the pantry door. It was empty.     Before they had time to explore farther, they heard the unmistakable roar of an automobile engine coming down the dirt road.     "He's coming back!" screamed Jessie.     There was no time to run. Frantically, the girls tried to pry the back door open. It was no use. The car pulled up into the clearing and stopped.     "Quick!" said Tori. "Into the pantry!"     She pulled Jessie into the moldy pantry, pushing her down on the rotting floor. Yanking the door shut, she sat down beside her terrified friend.     The front door swung open with a bang and Carlton walked in. Tori knew at once that he suspected nothing; he was happily humming his favorite tune, a tune that, Tori had been told, had naughty words. She grabbed Jessie and clapped her hand over Jessie's mouth.     Carlton heard nothing as he walked straight through the kitchen and into the little back room. From their hiding place, the girls heard the sound of a door opening, and the sound of his footsteps on a stair. They huddled together in the darkness afraid to move.     There was a period of silence, save for a few muffled sounds the girls could not make out. After many long minutes, Carlton's steps could be heard again. The door closed and he dragged something across the room. Tori held Jessie tighter as Carlton walked back through the kitchen and out into the front room. He never hesitated, and as he went out the door he began to sing, "I'm gonna get me a dolly tonight, and I'm gonna love her till the broad daylight."     "Don't listen," whispered Tori. "Put your hands over your ears."     "Why?"     "Just do it."     The door slammed shut, and the voice faded away. Soon the car started, and Carlton roared off down the road.     When the sound of the engine died away, the girls jumped up and raced out of the cabin. They ran headlong across the clearing and up the slope, stumbling and falling through the brush, all the way to the barbed-wire fence. They found their pails where they had left them on the other side of the fence. Grabbing up the heavy pails, they ran back to the road and headed back towards Hayley. They gave out when they reached the Potter place, a mile outside of town. Exhausted and panting for breath, they sank down in the grass behind Jessie's house.     When she could breathe again, Tori began to laugh. Now that they were safe the girls talked of their forbidden adventure with glee. Tori could not know the significance of the little cabin, or that they had stumbled upon County Pa's secret lair. It was not to be her last encounter with Carlton, or with the ghost of County Pa. Copyright © 1999 Marjorie Bradford. All rights reserved.

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