Sgt. Mom

Sgt. Mom
Location
San Antonio, Texas,
Birthday
February 21
Bio
Retired military, novelist and mother, sucker for animals and homebody

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MAY 21, 2010 10:37AM

Gone to Texas - The Marriage of True Minds

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  Eggleston House - Gonzales-smaller

(From Chapter Six of the WIP - Gone to Texas - enjoy! Picture is of the historic Eggleston House in old Gonzales - which is very similiar to what Margaret and her husband would have lived in.)         

 

          Margaret Becker and Horace Vining were married by Mr. Ponton, the alcalde – as the Mexicans termed the mayor-magistrate, some six months after Horace’s arrival in Gonzales. To Margaret’s secret relief, Papa gave his consent willingly – although it seemed to Margaret that he did so in a fit of absent-mindedness, as if he were already thinking of something else.

            “He likes you, my love,” Margaret confided to her affianced, on one of those afternoons, when he came to spend time with her and to take the evening meal with the family after the school-day was done. They sat very close, on the same long rawhide-covered settle, in the breezeway of the Becker’s log-house, with the regular thump-thumping of Mama’s shuttle as she sat at her loom being a discrete reminder that they were properly chaperoned. “Which is a relief, for I was afraid that Papa would find fault with any man who dared to come courting! Papa is a bit of a domestic tyrant, if you have noticed.”

            “Thank god for that, Daisy-mine,” Horace Vining laughed, “And yes – I did indeed notice all of that and more. I would have hated to have asked for your hand without his liking and approval – he is quite formidable.” His face sobered. “He may be all bluster and roaring, but for those of us of a quiet and retiring nature, that can be an insurmountable obstacle. I am glad that he approves.”

            “He would not have frightened you off?” Margaret asked, and Horace’s arm around her tightened most affectionately. He had taken to calling her Daisy, as a pet-name, explaining that Marguerite was a fancy names for a plain garden daisy, and she reminded him of one, especially when she wore a white house-cap over her yellow hair. Margaret had at last begin using the names that his friends called him by, when he confessed that he hated the name of Horace, and preferred the shortening of it.

            “No such fear! I would have done such labor for you as would have made Jacob’s years of service to Laban appear a small thing in comparison – but I am everlastingly grateful that I did not have to brave his bad-temper  . . .  at least, no more than strictly necessary.”  Margaret laid her head against his shoulder, utterly content. They would marry the following week: her bride’s chest was already packed. She had already begun making a home for the two of them in a tiny cabin on what was called St. Francis Street. The block opposite was intended to have a public school built upon it, when the fortunes of the colony permitted – in the mean time, her husband would hold his schoolroom on the verandah of their house or under the large oak tree in front of it, much as he had in San Felipe. She had already brought many of her own possessions to it, as well as gifts from Mama and from their friends, to make the tiny cabin truly a home. She walked from the Becker’s home to his, every day to sweep the floor and to dust. It pleased her yet more that Race Vining was a fastidious man, so there was no need for her to wage an unrelenting campaign against bachelor squalor. About the only male vanity he possessed – aside from his collection of books and a rather daintier wardrobe than most men in Gonzales sported – was a powerfully-built black gelding named Bucephalus. Race had bought him in San Felipe, and already had won so many scratch races with him, that no one who had ever seen Bucephalus run would ever bet against him more than once.  Bucephalus, along with a white blaze on his nose, had a great fondness for apples, so Margaret had made friends with him almost at once. She had been also been touched and amused to see that he still possessed the red-wool blanket of Mama’s weaving that she and Carl had brought to him as their gift.

            “Papa is quite contented, regarding our marriage,” Margaret ventured at last, “But Carl is most unhappy, that I will be going from Papa’s roof to yours.”

            “Is he?” Race answered, thoughtfully, “I had not noticed, particularly. Has he said anything to you at all?”

            “No, not to me, or anyone – which is why I know that he is unhappy. If he would talk at all, he would talk to me,” Margaret answered, “And he has been silent. Carl wraps silence around him and he goes away to the woods.”

            “I have taught many boys of his age, in my time – some of them sulky and sullen, and others bright and biddable,” Race mused, “And all of them, especially the ones of ten years or so, the age that your brother is – think to themselves that the world revolves around them. He’ll outgrow it, Daisy-mine. After all, you are not going that far away.”

            “It’s not that,” Margaret relished again the thought that in acquiring a husband, she was also gaining a sensible and rational confidant. “It’s that  . . .  in some ways – because of the years between us and Papa’s disfavor of him, he is as almost my own child. It’s very curious, and rather sad, Race – Papa favors Rudi, over and above Carl and I. We all love Rudi – for he is a good boy, although I fear that Papa favors him to excess. But Mama favors Carl, and I . . .  I stand almost as a second to Mama. I have always thought of him as more nearly my own baby, and now that I am marrying you, I might seem to be abandoning him . . .”

            “No, you are not, Daisy-Mine,” Race answered, in robust confidence. “Your little brother only fears that this change in your station will mean a change to his world – and it will not, for he will be as welcome in my house as he is to your fathers, and possibly something more. For I am myself a fourth son, and borne by my father’s third wife to boot, so I am in perfect sympathy with your forlorn little brother.”

            “You were not cast out, to find your own way in the world?” Margaret asked, in swift concern and Race laughed, comfortably.

            “No – never think that! My father was a loving and attentive parent to me; it’s just that my oldest brother is his heir. I was spoiled and petted all my life, as my mother was the wife of his elder years  . . .  but there is one more thing that you should know, Daisy-mine. I will most likely not make old bones.” He looked down at her, held in the curve of his arm, and Margaret felt her heart turn over in her breast. This was what the witch-woman had hinted at, and something of what Edwina had said, all those years ago in San Felipe. “My mother was consumptive – and the doctors say that I have inherited that weakness. I was in poor health from my schooldays on, so I was taught at home. I am fit now – and have been for some years, but the consumption, or some other affliction of the lungs waits for me around every corner, unless I take the greatest of care. Good health is not the natural and ordinary thing for me, as it is for you, or your brothers, or most other men; rather, it is doled out to me in teaspoonfuls . . . and in time, my ration of it will run short. I thought you should know, Daisy-mine – I am very likely to leave you in sorrow and wearing widow-black.”

            “No, you will not,” Margaret answered swiftly. “Yes; our time together may be short, or at any rate, no longer than that which others have. But other men do die untimely, especially here. They die of an Indian’s arrow, or of the ague or accident, leaving wives and children. There is no telling what the future may hold, my dear love, and so I am content and happy for today.”

            “Carpe Diem,” Race chuckled, approvingly. “Live for the day, then is it, Daisy-mine?”

            “Yes,” Margaret answered.  Ten years and one, the witch-woman promised her, all those years ago. Silently, Margaret vowed to herself to make every day of every one of those years happy ones for herself and Race. And then she folded up the thought of the witch-woman’s prophecy, folded it very small and tucking in into a corner of her mind, resolved to not think on it ever again, until she had to.

 

            To the very end of her life, Margaret held the memory of the first years of her marriage to Race Vining as a precious talisman, for it was a time of quiet and undiluted happiness for them both, sharing their tiny but comfortable log house. She braided a rag-rug for the floor, and planted a vegetable garden on the sunward side of it, a garden in which she worked in the cool mornings of the spring and fall, while Race taught school on the verandah, and Bucephalus dozed in the little paddock in back of the house. Her brothers were his pupils again for a time; Carl more than Rudi, for Papa often took Rudi with him on his errands. Around them, Gonzales town grew, by fits and starts, as more and more settlers finished houses and establishments on their town-lots. The tiny cannon, on the gate-tower of the fortress built of standing timbers watched over theirs and other households, and the green river slipped past, noiselessly. Sometimes she and her husband spent their evenings, reading by the firelight. She felt sometimes that her schooldays had only just begun; there was so much she was learning, now that she shared his library, as well as his life and name. She had read all of Vitruvius, guided by her husband; marvelous, to have it explained how so many things worked, by a Roman engineer nearly two millennia in his grave!

            At other times, friends came to visit; Esteban Menchaca rode in from San Antonio, with his brother and their friend, Juan Seguin who was tall and courtly in the Spanish fashion, the son of the Alcalde of Bexar, but who also shared the same political leanings. They desired to see Mexico as a federation of states, each more or less self-governing; indeed Esteban and Juan, and men like the neighboring entrepreneur De Leon, upriver at Victoria hoped that Texas would form a separate state from Coahuila, with a provincial capital at Bexar, instead of at Monclova. They would stay up very late at night, talking of this, of politics and history, of the natural rights of man and the obligations of a government. Of an evening, sometimes Almaron Dickenson came, to continue his study of Spanish, and practice speaking the language with Esteban and Juan. Margaret would sit quietly in a corner, her sewing in her hands, and listening.

            One afternoon, the year after Race and Margaret were wed, Esteban and Juan arrived with another man, an American. Their friend was a burly square-jawed man, with long sideburns, who spoke in English adorned with a soft Kentucky drawl and bowed over her hand with the grace of a polished courtier. But he was dressed in Mexican-style coat and trousers, with a monstrously large sheathed hunting knife thrust through the silk sash at his waist.

            “Here is Senor Bouey, who is affianced to wed the daughter of the Governor Veramendi,” Esteban said, when he introduced Margaret to him, the very first time. Senor Bouey swept off his hat, at once.

            “I am honored to make your acquaintance, ma’am,” he said simply. His hands were very strong; looking down at them, Margaret noticed that they were knotted with old injuries and seamed with scars, as if he had often used his fists. He was not handsome, she thought, until she looked up into his eyes, and felt something of a magnetic sense of attraction. That evening, she sat as was her habit, in the corner, listening to the men converse; now and again her eyes went to Senor Bouey, whom the other men addressed familiarly as Jaime, or James. There was something in him which drew their regard and hers as well, with the irresistible force of a needle pointing towards a lump of iron. She looked towards him, and was taken back when he met her gaze so boldly that it was almost as if he was touching her – touching her in a way that only Race had the right to do. Margaret dropped her eyes, aware that she was flushing pink. But in departing, the disturbing Senor Bouey was all gentle courtesy, which unsettled Margaret even farther. That night in bed, she said to Race,

            “That friend of Estebans’, who is to marry the governor’s daughter - I am indeed sorry for her, for I fear that he is a scoundrel.”

            “Well, yes he is,” Race chuckled, “Famously so. Also a land-speculator, a slave-runner and bare-knuckle brawler; a mad, bad and dangerous man altogether – and that is just what his friends acknowledge freely of him. What his enemies say of him, I can’t even repeat to you, Daisy-mine; but scoundrel though he is, he has never been discourteous to a woman of any degree, or failed to defend an unarmed man against unjust attack.”

            “Famous?” Margaret asked, much puzzled.

            “Of a certainty – had not you ever heard of James Bowie?”

            “Ohhh . . .” Margaret considered. “Yes, I had heard of him, but such tall tales, as my brothers heard from other boys – and based on what they said, I would have expected him to have been ten or fifteen feet tall, with his hunting knife in his teeth and dragging a defeated enemy under each arm.” Her husband laughed, in great amusement, while Margaret thought how that was one of the delights of marriage, to laugh with each other, alone and privily in bed. “So that was indeed the famous Mr. Bowie  . . .  what brings him now to Texas, do you think?”

            “Land,” her husband answered, wryly, “Of which Texas has in plenty – if you can wrest it first from the government in Mexico City – and secondly from the Comanche Indians. Bowie has none, and desires more; better yet, be desires a higher place in society, which heretofore has been denied him. I expect that is why he courted the Veramendi’s daughter – though I suppose it could be love on both their parts. Yet, he will be a son-in-law to a rich and able family, which will be to his advantage, even if no more new American settlers are allowed to purchase land or take up grants.” His voice trailed off in the darkness. Outside the closed shutters on one side of their house, pale silver moonlight crept through the cracks, tracing a white shadow on the floor by the foot of their bed.

            “Is that what is happening?” Margaret asked, with a sudden chill of foreboding. “There has been talk – Papa said something of the sort, about how the Mexican authorities seem suddenly less hospitable...”

            “Dearest Daisy,” Race’s arms tightened around here, “Yes, I perceive that there is. The first faint flickering of a certain coldness, and a sad thing it is, too. Settlers like Austin’s and like the Colonel’s; we came at an invitation and with every honest inducement and in good faith, to settle their un-peopled lands. With our labor and our lives to build our houses and fight back the Indians, to do what they could not induce their own folk to do  . . .  that is, to venture into the farthest wilderness and make our homes there. We came, as was their intention, to establish a buffer state against the marauding Indians and perhaps the French, with their own imperial ambitions, and make the northern border safer yet . . .  and to demonstrate the way to a responsible government chosen by free men. We are two different peoples, yet wanting much of the same things in life. Alas, my love – it seems that the central government in Mexico City has waked to the realization that they have invited a tiger over the door, to sup freely and settle by their fire – and now are regretting their former agreement. Which is frustrating,” Race added, “For all of this land’s beauty and utility – for them, the farthest reaches of Texas, beyond the Nueces and San Antonio was a desert, until we came. Of no use at all, or so they thought. And having made the desert bloom, without much outlay of effort on their own – now, it strikes me, Daisy  . . .  that a central government out of touch, and accustomed to wielding autocratic and unaccountable authority . . .  that would be very much like the Crown, attempting to rein in the rebellious Colonies and control them to the Crown’s advantage. I do not like to dwell overmuch on this parallel, Daisy-mine, and have not voiced such of my misgivings which have come to me to any but my closest and dearest, but it seems to me that a crisis may soon come to pass.”  Margaret felt the swell of his chest as he sighed, and thought, ‘How very clever of my dear husband, to see and sense such matters, long before others see the same!’

            “What do you see, of our future?” she asked, in some apprehension. Just this very day, her regular monthly course had not begun when it should – and Margaret kept careful a careful accounting of such, for she hoped for a child. Several children, if such were granted to her and Race.

            “I think that it is a curse upon me, being obsessed by history, and the accounts of the deeds of great men,” Race answered at last, “When I was a boy, I loved to hear the accounts of my fathers and uncles – who were soldiers or some such, in the Revolution. I used to wonder at their accounts, and envy them their opportunities to perform such brave deeds . . .” He fell silent, and at last, Margaret asked,

            “Why should you think that a curse, my love?”

            “Because I fear that I may be asked to live in such times,” he answered, in bleak and despairing tones. “To experience them at first-hand; I am a schoolteacher, Daisy-mine. I love peace and my books and a quiet life. I have never wanted to be involved in great things, only to read of them, safely removed and a long while afterwards. I want nothing to do with great men, if a trial is to come for us – and my greatest fear is that I shall be revealed as having nothing of greatness myself . . . “

            “Fear not,” Margaret drew her husband towards her. “You are all the man that I want, and should such a trial as you fear come upon us  . . .  well, then I expect that we shall muddle our way through, day to day. You could never be less than an honorable man, in my eyes and in the eyes of your friends.” Race sighed deeply, and kissed her forehead, answering,

            “Every day, I pray that such a cup will pass from us, but between those hot-heads and filibusteros newly arrived from the United States and the naked ambition of certain fools and factions in Mexico City  . . .  in the worst of times, I fear that we may have to drink deeply of it. Go to sleep, Daisy-mine – it is only my darkest fears, speaking, now that I am a married man...”

            Long afterwards, when she considered those happy years, Margaret wondered if that was the moment when the serpent first slithered into her perfect Eden, for as their life continued much as before, her husband’s words made her aware of that which was beyond the boundaries of her sight and experience. If she still lived in an Eden, she was reminded of how illusory and temporary such boundaries could be, on the afternoon that Carl came running down Saint Francis Street, from the direction of Smith’s store. It was early spring, the wildflowers were just beginning to adorn the meadows and hillsides.

            “M’Gret, you must come with me at once,” he gasped, “There is a message come with Rudi from the customs officer at Anahuac! Papa has been arrested, and is being held prisoner by the commander of the Mexican garrison, Colonel Bradburn! Mama does not know what to do!”

            “Oh, my god,” Margaret caught up her wide-brimmed hat, and called to Race, who had been reading peacefully in the breezeway until that very moment. He set aside his book, saying,

            “Here, lad – catch your breath. Where did this news come from? Why has your father been arrested? Did Rudi say?”

            “He was accused of helping to smuggle tobacco,” Carl answered, readily. “Rudi says that Papa did nothing of the sort, they only loaded goods for Mr. Smith.  Papa was in a great fury, saying that he knew nothing of tobacco that the soldiers found when they searched  . . .  please come, M’Gret! Mama and Rudi are waiting, at the Smiths!”

            “We’ll both come,” Race answered, decisively, “Not to fear, lad – we are coming at once!”  The two of them followed Carl, towards Smith’s general emporium, in a plank-walled building next to their house, on the corner of St. Louis and St. John Streets. Mama and Rudi waited for them, much distraught, in the tiny office at the back of the store. Stephen Smith, the proprietor of the store and Alois Becker’s sometime partner, walked up and down, as if he were in such a fury that only constant motion assuaged his anger.

            “ . . .  such an accusation!” he was saying. “I cannot brook such a lack of trust, that Mr. Becker would so readily assume my guilt in this matter . . . “

            Oh, dear, Margaret thought, with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes met Races’ – It sounds as if Papa had quarreled again. What will it mean for Mama and the boys, when Papa looses his temper with everyone – and Mama cannot smooth it over!

            “What has happened,” Race asked, in a deliberately calm voice. “No, don’t speak at once; just one at a time. For what crime has my father-in-law been accused of committing?”

            “Of smuggling tobacco,” Rudi answered, impatiently, “Which was concealed in a bale of dry goods . . . “ he looked wrathfully on Stephen Smith, who paused in his up-and down pacing, and snapped,

            “Don’t you start with that slander, boy! I have no need to cheat the Mexicans out of their duties on imported goods, and even less desire to try it, under the very nose of that officious turncoat!”

            “Enough, Rudi,” Mama said, in German, “Then, what happened to your Papa – tell us, now in English, without further angering Mr. Smith.” Rudi looked from adult to adult, rather abashed at Mama’s rebuke and answered,

            “Colonel Bradburn’s men searched the wagon, after it was loaded, and Papa was very angry, when they found the tobacco in a little cask – and what he said made Colonel Bradburn’s soldiers so angry that they arrested him and confiscated the wagon and cargo. They put him in a little room with no windows, and said he would have to stay, until the duty was paid. Papa refused to pay.”

            “And I did not pay, either,” Stephen Smith seemed just as angry as Papa would have been. “For the tobacco was not goods that I had ordered, nor did I give anyone instructions to conceal it. Partner or not, that damned stubborn Dutchman can stay in the customhouse lockup until he takes back his intemperate words to me!”  Race cleared his throat, saying,

            “If you had no part in concealing the tobacco  . . .  and if Father Becker swears he did not – might I suggest that someone at Anahuac or perhaps someone among the ship’s crew concealed the cask among your goods, intending to retrieve them at a later time. You did not place a heavy guard upon the wagon, once away from the harbor, did you?”

            “No need,” Stephen Smith answered, somewhat mollified. It looked to Margaret that he had not considered that a third party might have concealed smuggled tobacco among his merchandise, trusting to opportunity to retrieve it. “We have never had to guard against anything other than Indian raiders.”

            “What can you do then for my husband?” Mama asked, directly, and Stephen Smith looked at the floorboards.

            “I cannot return to Anahuac until next month – my business and my family require that I remain here – and my former regard for Mr. Becker is now at such a low degree, I care no more for his imprisonment than I would for a stranger. If it weren’t for my part-share in the confiscated goods, I would not care even that little. I am sorry.”

            “Then I will go, Margaret and I with Rudi,” Race answered, “And if need be, hire a lawyer. I might even pay such fines and duties as are required,” and he smiled with special affection at Mama and Margaret, “Anything within my power to restore my father-in-law to the bosom of his family. And I am sure that once released – and if the matter came about as I suspected - you and Father Becker will resume your mutual good regard.”

            “I doubt that, very much,” Stephen Smith answered with considerable heat, “For accusations were made by him which I found to be intolerable. Nonetheless, I wish you the best – and I will go as far as make the loan of a trap and a pair of team animals for the journey.”

            Race and Margaret, and her family made their departure from Smith’s store, and walked to their house, making plans for the journey all the while. It would be but a swift and short excursion, in Smith’s light trap – to San Felipe, and thence to Anahuac. They would stay with friends, and such acquaintances as Alois Becker had made, in driving his wagons between such settlements along the road. Although Margaret did not particularly relish the thought of the discomforts attendant on a journey, she looked forward to traveling with her husband, and to see how San Felipe had prospered in the years since her father had brought them away from there. And to see the ocean, also – Margaret had never seen the ocean, although Race laughed at her, and allowed that she wouldn’t see it from Anahuac either, since the town sat at the head of a long bay, which reached far inland.

           

            Rudi was their guide, once they reached Anahuac – dusty and tired, and Margaret felt rather ill, she thought from the swaying of the trap. Still, there was a fresh salt-smell borne on the breeze, and gulls – great white birds with long wings, wheeling almost motionless on the updrafts – and crying in shrill voices. The customs-house citadel was a tall-walled brick enclosure on a tall bluff which overlooked the harbor and the town, huddled at its foot, like a shawl spread out. They had a room at the boarding house where Alois Becker had always stayed before – and since her father had always insisted on a modicum of comfort, the boarding house was not the squalid and noisy place which many of the inns and boarding houses were.

            “You should go see Lawyer Jack,” the landlord advised. Anahuac was yet a small town and even newer than Gonzales, yet rumors of Colonel Bradburn’s high hand and ill-temper were everywhere. “He’s an ornery young cuss, argue the hinder leg off a donkey, and that partner of his will back you up in a corner and lecture you about anything under the sun until you fair want to cut your own throat or his, just to get him to stop yammering at you. Both of them good lawyers, though – latch onto a case as if they were bulldogs, with jaws that just won’t let go.”

            “Sounds like just the men we need,” Race allowed, with a note of cheer in his voice. The landlord laughed, sourly,

            “As a bonus, they’ve both good reason to dislike Bradburn – matter o’fact they hate him so much, they may just take your case merely for the pleasure of going after him yet again.”

            “Although, I don’t know if that is a good thing or not,” Race confessed to Margaret, as they were walking along the street, towards Lawyer Jack’s place of business. “I have brothers and other kin who are guilty of committing the practice of law. If they are moved to embrace your grievance as if it were their own – that is well and good, but to have special cause to make an enemy of the very person you are appealing to? That is a perilous affair to bring to law, Daisy-mine.”

            “Perhaps we should search for another lawyer,” Margaret suggested, and Race shrugged,

            “The only lawyers in this town are Americans – I don’t imagine that any of the rest of them are any more qualified, or bear less of a grudge against Bradburn and the Mexican customs authority.” He smiled very wryly at Margaret, as they walked side by side, “We’ll chance our luck  . . .  after all, with your father’s temper, they might very well let him go, just to have a little peace and quiet. I don’t image that your father has been the easiest of prisoners.”

            “But if they send him to Mexico, to be judged by their harsh law,” Margaret shivered suddenly, and Race answered,

            “Mexico is so very disrupted with fighting between factions these days – between the Centralists and the Federalists – I do not think they would bother, over the matter of a small cask of tobacco, of which the ownership is in considerable doubt. Bradburn is an American by birth – I cannot see that he would be so lost to reason and logic by long service to the Mexicans that he would condemn a fellow to an unjust trial in a far place. Especially if the ownership of the tobacco can be cast in sufficient doubt . . .”

            “Tell me where a man earns his bread, and I will tell you where his loyalty lies,” Margaret retorted, and Race smiled in great pleasure,

            “That has the sound of a quote, Daisy-mine, although I cannot bring to mind the source. But you are correct – Bradburn is in service to a master. With luck, he might be brought to consider matters of justice and proof of intent.” He shrugged, “Well, let us see what Lawyer Jacks and his single-minded partner can accomplish on your father’s behalf.”

            They found Lawyer Jack’s office easily enough, for the name of his practice and that of his partner were painted on a single hanging over the door, a door which stood open to the breeze which came off the bay and the salt-marsh beyond: Jacks & Travis, Att’ys at Law.

            “A very small and select firm, I see,” Race observed quietly to Margaret, as he and Lawyer Jacks conducted her to a comfortable chair – the only one in the room which was not piled with books, files of paper or collections of clothing and horse-tack. Lawyer Jacks was a stocky and able-looking man, with dark eyebrows – the left one quirked upwards towards his hairline, which lent him a quizzical look. He had the grace to look apologetic about the untidy office, as his partner hastily removed a stack of newspapers from another chair. Jacks’ fellow lawyer was much younger, seeming hardly older than Margaret. He was thin and fair, and might have been thought handsome but for the nervous intensity of his gaze, and the blunt directness of his speech.

            “I hear you have come to Anahuac to see about the release of Becker the Dutchman,” he said at once, even before Race could introduce himself and explain their purpose. Lawyer Jacks closed his eyes, briefly, in an expression of mild exasperation.

            “Courtesy, Buck, courtesies before business,” he murmured in reproof, as Race answered,

            “Yes, that is indeed our purpose – and we have come a long way in pursuit of it, so we are amenable to dispensing with them. We understand that Colonel Bradburn has charged him with smuggling tobacco, and that my father-in-law refuses to pay the duty on it, as he insists that the tobacco is not actually his property.”

            “It was found hidden in his wagon,” Buck answered, “And therefore assumed by Colonel Bradburn to be his property.” He himself took a chair, a wooden one, straddling the chair backwards and resting his arms and chin on the back frame. “We might make a case that the tobacco in question was the property of another party . . . “

            “We have considered that aspect,” Race nodded, “And truthfully – we do not wish to quibble over who owns the tobacco, although I suspect that my father-in-law would rather spend the rest of his days in confinement rather than compromise a single iota in this matter. We, however – being rather more open to practicalities, would rather pay the duties on the tobacco and whatever fine has been imposed, and secure his release – with, I might add, a minimum of fuss. We had hoped that you were in a position to do so.”

            “That might be within the scope of our capability,” Lawyer Jacks admitted, thoughtfully scratching his jaw, and Buck Travis frowned.

            “It is the principal of the thing, sir – these duties on goods are imposed illegally by a corrupt government – by god, sir, an injustice such as this ought to be resisted, and by any means at our command . . . “

            “Perhaps another time,” Race answered, while Lawyer Jacks cleared his throat, warningly. “We do not want to make a grand gesture over principals, gentleman – we wish only to free my father-in-law and his goods from detainment. The rest is a fight I will gratefully leave to others.”

            “The fight may come to you, sir,” Buck retorted, and his eyes were lit with the gleam of single-minded fanaticism, “At a time and in a place not of your choosing – and what will you do then? Will you tamely submit to tyranny, or  . . . “

            “Never!” Race insisted, and Margaret could see that he was exasperated – and so was Lawyer Jacks. She placed her hand on Race’s arm, just as Lawyer Jacks held up his own hand, saying,

            “Enough, Buck – enough politics for the day; our client has made it plain what his desires in this matter are. Our duty with regard to this matter is quite plain. Mr. Vining and I will endeavor to meet with Colonel Bradburn within the hour.”

            “I thank you, sir,” Race answered, grateful to have the discussion steered back to where it belonged. He and Margaret rose, “My wife will wait for us at the boarding house.” He nodded to Lawyer Jacks, and to Buck Travis, who once rebuked now appeared to be brooding, and barely acknowledged their departure.

            “What an uncomfortable young man,” Margaret said, as they walked away. “Is he one of those fire-eaters that you spoke of once, when you talked to me of your fears for the future?” Race nodded in assent, and with a touch of laughter

            “Yes, Daisy-mine. Not him specifically, but of his ilk, men who thirst to perform great deeds, and are fixed upon a grandiloquent vision of themselves. Very discomforting for the rest of us, I assure you!”

 

            Lawyer Jacks worked a miracle, as far as Margaret was concerned; by a combination of his skill and Race’s money, Papa and his goods were released that very day. Papa seemed hardly grateful for those efforts taken on his behalf, and refused to accept the disputed cask of tobacco. He put it out of the wagon, and stood with arms folded stubbornly.

            “What would I want with such a thing?” Race exclaimed, and Papa answered,

            “I care nothing, for it is not my property.”

            Race gave the tobacco to Lawyer Jacks, in part-payment for his fee. Margaret thought the matter was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. But when they returned to Gonzales – and she was happy to be at home once again, since her courses still had not resumed, and she thought she might be with child – Papa quarreled again with Mr. Smith, and with Colonel DeWitt, who took Mr. Smith’s part. Before Margaret even was certain of her pregnancy, Papa had resolved to leave Gonzales. In a fit of temper, he sold his town-lots, the house and orchard. Dry-eyed, Mama had disassembled her loom, speaking not a word of reproach to Papa. He had found a tract in the hills, far to the north on the Upper Guadalupe, in a tiny settlement called Waterloo. Before mid-summer, he and the boys had packed the wagons, even going so far as to dig up the smallest of the apple trees and wrapping their roots in damp tow-sacks.

            “I think your father has discovered how best to get along with his neighbors,” Race observed to Margaret, as they stood on the verandah of their house, and sadly watched Papa’s wagons vanish around the curve of the road leading north.

            “How is that?” Margaret asked, and Race gently patted the swell of her belly.

            “He gets along with them best, if he has no neighbors at all.”

            Margaret couldn’t bring herself to laugh at that observation, as she had begun to suspect that it was all too sadly true.

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I like that you let us see the goings on of so many branches of the same family through your writings. The frontier offers a rich spring of fascinating stories!