January 31, 2018

The Silversmith's Daughter - Beverly Alice Black

To every problem
there is a solution...

A silversmith and his clever daughter lived in a small Massachusetts town. The frugal, hard-working man toiled day and night creating such fine tea sets and silverware that the townsfolk preferred his goods to any that could be shipped from Boston. The man and his daughter lived comfortably.

The silversmith’s daughter loved the blacksmith’s apprentice, but, as he was a poor boy, her father refused to consider him a match for his daughter. The girl never lost hope that she and the apprentice would marry someday so she hatched a plan to make the apprentice appear wealthier than he was.

“In our attic,” the girl said to her beloved, “Father keeps a cupboard where he stores platters and cups, spoons and ladles, teapots and tankards and many other things to safeguard for his old age. I keep the key as my mother did before me.”


“You could borrow some—Father would never miss them—melt them down into silver bars at the furnace when your master goes to market. You could then use the bars to buy fine clothing and a good horse and impress Father with your wealth.”  

“But how would I repay him? I could never make a platter or a ladle as fine as his though I would surely love to learn.”

The girl pondered their dilemma. “To every problem there is a solution,” she said.
A few months later, the silversmith’s daughter set the table for dinner with their finest china, best imported crystal and her father’s own engraved flatware as she did every noonday. She placed the basket of rye next to the pickles and sauces, saving the center for the rosemary chicken and porringer of pea soup.

Precisely at twelve, the silversmith pushed open the door that connected his shop to the house and entered, wiping the sweat from his brow. “There are not enough hours in the day, Daughter.”

“Why do you fret so, Father?”

“This delivery of silverware is due in Waltham by Tuesday. I’ll be lucky to have it finished by then.”
“If anyone can get the job done, it’s you, Father.”

The silversmith marched over to the kitchen as if he hadn’t heard her and dunked his hands into the bucket of wash water in the sink. “At least, I have good news for you,” he said, as he grabbed the bar of soap.  

The girl carried the steaming tray of roasted chicken and placed it on the table. “Good news?” She hurried back for the pot of soup.

The silversmith rinsed his face and beard, patted himself with a cloth. “I made a match for you.”

The soup bowl slipped from the girl’s hands and crashed on the wooden floor. She stared at her father.

“I’m only sixteen.”

The silversmith rushed to her, towel in hand. “Don’t be a ninny, girl. Clean this up.”

The girl sank to her knees, her long skirt already tinged with the green soup. “With whom have you made the match, Father?” she said, mopping up the mess.

The silversmith pulled out the wooden chair and sat at the head of the small, square table which was awash in the most appetizing aromas. He grabbed the warm loaf of rye and ripped off a piece. “With a goldsmith from Lexington. He lost his wife two months back and is in dire need of a mother for his young son.”

The girl rose, placed the wet towel and shards of china into the sink then turned to fetch the beans and sweet potatoes. “I have no desire to live so far from you, Father,” she said, setting the vegetables on the table, trying to hide her trembling. “I would miss you tremendously.”

He shook his spoon at her. “It’s only a day’s travel. Not so far. I need to find you a good husband. This man is a jewelry maker.” Her father laughed and sat back in his chair. “He wears a ring on every finger! Can you imagine? I saw the rings myself when we met last month in Boston. His hands are covered in garnets and gold. He can provide for you.”

The girl took her seat across from her father, but her appetite had vanished. “And how old is this fine gentleman?”

The silversmith shrugged. “He’s a bit older.”

“How old?”

“I doubt he’s fifty yet.”

The girl’s stomach flipped. “Fifty?”

“But that’s a good thing, Daughter. He’s mature. Not prone to violence and shenanigans like the young ones can be. He won’t be bothering you every night. He has a sterling reputation as an astute businessman. He can provide.”

“I like it here. There must be someone here who could provide for me.”

The silversmith ripped into the chicken leg, juices flowing into his beard. “Not like him.” He placed the leg on the plate, wiped his face with the napkin. “He’ll be arriving in two days’ time to meet you and to finalize the match. We need to make a good impression. I want you to go up to the cupboard, bring out all our best silver. Don’t be ostentatious but scatter them here and there and make sure they shine like the sun. Can you do that?”

The silversmith’s daughter swallowed hard. No, she could not.

The girl thought long and hard about this new development. When her father finished his meal and returned to his workshop she took up the plates and washed them.

“To every problem there is a solution,” she said to herself.
The next morning when her father was again toiling in his workshop, the daughter threw on her shawl and hurried out the door. She stopped in front of the blacksmith’s shop, glanced up and down the street, then ducked inside. The full heat of the forge hit her, and the clanging of hammer on anvil made her ears ring.

The blacksmith’s apprentice was shoveling wood into the kiln. When he turned and saw her, his face registered alarm as he glanced at his master. He jerked his head to indicate she should go back outside. In moments, the apprentice was by her side, grabbing her elbow, guiding her into the alley by the side of the shop.

“What are you doing here?”

“I need the silver back. My father wants to display it tomorrow.”

“I’ve melted it all down. Made bars. That’s what you told me to do.”

“But I need it back.”

The apprentice stared at her, his kind face a mixture of confusion and concern. “You said he never looks in the cupboard.”

The girl wrung her hands. “He’s bringing someone from Lexington tomorrow to arrange a marriage for me. He wants to show off all our silver but...”

“I’ve made sixteen bars. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? I’ll ask for your hand tonight.”

She shook her head, felt tears sting her eyes. “He doesn’t think anyone here can provide for me.”

“But I have sixteen bars!”

The silversmith’s daughter thought hard. “Have you bought new clothes? You cannot present the silver dressed like that,” she said, pointing to his leather apron.

“I’ll talk to the tailor, tell him I need something right away. He’ll work quickly if I pay him extra. Can you delay the suitor’s arrival?”

“His carriage will arrive tomorrow at noonday.”

Seeing that she was shaking, the apprentice took her up in his arms and kissed her cheek gently. “If you find a way to rid yourself of this interloper, I will convince your father I deserve your hand in marriage.”

With that, the apprentice bade her farewell and returned to his forge.

The silversmith’s daughter wiped her tears and squared her shoulders. “To every problem there is a solution.”  
The next morning the silversmith’s daughter fretted through breakfast for the blacksmith’s apprentice had not appeared the night before as promised.  A heavy rap sounded at the front door, and the silversmith’s daughter startled at the sound. She immediately knew what she must do.

The clever girl removed her apron, patted her skirt and took a deep breath. She pulled open the wooden door and found a portly, middle-aged, red-faced man dressed in a fine pink coat, waistcoat and breeches. Even his stockings and pumps were pink, his cloak a brilliant scarlet. He held a cane with a gold lion’s head in one hand and his three sided cocked hat in the other. Just as her father had said, the man wore gold and garnet on all his fingers, even his thumbs.

“Ith thith the rethidence of the thilversmith?” the man sputtered, his jowls jittering at the effort.

The girl stared at him. Old, fat and a lisp? Oh, no!

She stepped onto the street, quickly pulling the door shut behind her and drew close to the man.

“It is indeed, kind sir. Are you the jeweler from Lexington?”

“I am.” He opened his mouth to speak again, but she grabbed him by the arm, throwing him off balance.

“I am afraid my father has brought you here under false pretenses.”

The man squinted at her as if that would help him understand.

“He has no intention of making a wedding match for you, kind sir, but to steal your fine jewels.”

“How can thith be?”

“I am loathe to say this of my own blood, but my father’s a jealous man. He confided in me his plan to cut off your fingers, one by one, steal your fine rings and then throw your fingers into the furnace. Do you hear it roaring?”

The fat man’s eyes grew large as he listened to the churning and hissing of the forge from the shop attached to the cottage.

“He has started the fire so it will have a fine heat when his treachery begins.”

The man drew back from the girl in horror. “I am forever in your debt,” he said, anxiously glancing around for his carriage.

She pushed the petrified man from her step. “Go now before my father sees you.”

The man turned on his fine low heels and hurried off towards the tavern at the end of the road where his carriage was waiting.

As soon as the man left, the silversmith’s daughter returned to the house and took a deep breath. When her hands stopped trembling, she walked through the living room to the door of her father’s shop. Raising her chin, the girl yanked open the door and yelled, “Father, come quick. That dreadful goldsmith has stolen all our silver.”

The silversmith set down his engraver and ripped off his apron. “What say you?”

“It’s my fault, Father. I stupidly let him into the house and upon seeing all the lovely silver works you have created, he grabbed a burlap bag from under his cloak and filled it with everything he saw until he could hardly lift it.”


“All our special silver from the attic.”

“He must have misunderstood. I was saving some of those things for your wedding day, but he couldn’t expect to take all of them. Where did he go?”

The girl brought tears to her eyes. “He handed the bag to his coachman who took off then he waddled down the lane towards the tavern.”

“I will catch him and clear this up,” said the silversmith and with that he rushed out of the house. He took off after the jeweler yelling “Not all of them! Not all of them!”

No sooner had the goldsmith reached his carriage but he heard the shouts of the silversmith. Believing the silversmith meant he wouldn’t cut off all his fingers, the portly, pink jeweler ordered his coachman to make haste, and the horses galloped away.
The silversmith watched the jeweler’s carriage disappear in a cloud of dust. Despondent, he trudged back to his home.

“What am I to do, Daughter? We are destitute. Our savings are gone.”

“Surely, things cannot be so bleak, Father. When you deliver your wares in Waltham, you will be paid handsomely.”

The old man shook his head. “They paid me early so I had money to buy the silver to make the tea set and silverware.”

“You must have money saved.”

“Any profit I earned I turned into a teapot or tankard and stored it in our cupboard. Now we have nothing.”

“But, Father, you always taught me that for every problem there is a solution.”

The man shook his head and returned crestfallen to his workshop.
That night, the blacksmith’s apprentice finally appeared at their door dressed in his new waistcoat and breeches, looking very much the gentleman. When the silversmith answered his door, the apprentice explained to the confused man that he had learned of his misfortune and was prepared to award him fifteen silver bars if only he could have the hand of his daughter in marriage.

The silversmith stared at the youth in amazement. “But how did you come upon such a fortune? You’re just a blacksmith’s apprentice.”

The young man blushed, glancing at his beloved standing behind her father. The silversmith’s daughter held her breath because she knew him to be a man of the utmost honesty.

The blacksmith’s apprentice removed his fine tri-cornered hat and bent his head. “I promise to be as frugal in the future as I am today,” he said. He pressed the heavy box of silver at the silversmith.

The old man pondered his situation. He eyed the youth who clearly appeared quite prosperous. He invited the boy into their home.

“Father,” the silversmith’s daughter said, threading her arm through his, “may I have a word in private?”

The silversmith guided her across the room. “We have known this boy since I was child, have we not?”

The silversmith nodded, still dazed with this twist of fortune.

“And we know him to be good, honest and hardworking, do we not?”

The silversmith nodded again because this was true.

“And could you not use someone to assist you with all the work you have accepted? One you could trust and, at the same time, teach to be a fine silversmith?”

The man studied the floor.

“He may never be as expert as you, but he has potential,” she said.

A smile slowly tugged at his lips. He raised his head and pointed a finger into the air. “I have a solution to the problem,” he said.

“What, Father?”

“He could join me in my shop and become my apprentice.”

“Do you really think so, Father?”

“Of course!”

“You don’t think it would be too much of a burden?”

The man bounced the box of silver in his hands. “Of course not!”

“Father, what a wonderful idea.”

The silversmith’s daughter grinned with glee when her father shook the hand of the apprentice and agreed to the match, provided the youth would join him in his shop.

Before the next full moon the young couple were married, and the silversmith’s apprentice was happily replacing the stolen wares.

Beverly Alice Black is an immigration attorney from Philadelphia, PA. Her short stories have been published by The Saturday Evening Post, Disturbed Digest and Penny Shorts.
Follow her on Facebook at attybeverlyblack.
and follow her on Twitter @AuthorBevBlack

Cover by Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

1 comment:

AMOffenwanger said...

What a fun story of a clever girl.