(From the current work in progress, which follows the experiences of Dolph Becker and his English bride, Isobel. Many of the secondary characters are from the Adelsverein Trilogy, or from Deep In the Heart. With luck and a bit, The Quivera Trail will be released late in 2013.)
“So, what did you think of her?” Hansi Richter asked of his sister-in-law late that evening. The tall windows on either side of the study stood opened to the breeze which wandered through, bearing with it the smell of the salt-sea and the night-blooming jasmine shrubs which had been planted under the windows of the house which overlooked West Bay. The faint sounds of piano music came from the parlor at the other side of the house, and the sounds of laughter, where the younger element had rolled back the parlor carpet, and brought out the latest sheet music from the east. Hansi uncorked the decanter which sat on a silver tray on the sideboard, and Magda Vogel Becker sniffed in disapproval.
“She is now Dolphchen’s wife,” she answered. “I had best think well of her.”
They had known each other all their lives, having been born in the same little Bavarian village of Albeck. Hansi had once courted her, the stepdaughter of Christian Steinmetz, the clockmaker of Ulm, whose ancestral acres were adjacent to those few owned by Hansi’s father. Thirty years and a lifetime ago, they had come from there to Texas, following the promises of the Mainzer Adelsverein; Vati Steinmetz, his wife and twin sons, his stepdaughter Magda and his daughter Liesel and her husband. Years and lives ago … now Hansi chuckled, and drew on his pipe, which glowed briefly in the twilight. Beyond the tall windows, with their blowing muslin curtains, the sky in the west still held the pale golden flush of a departing sunset.
“But what were your first thoughts, eh?” Hansi persisted, and Magda’s strong-featured, intelligent countenance bore on it an expression of fond exasperation.
“I thought – God in Heaven, he has not brought a wife, he has found three sad little orphans, gathered them up and brought them home – just as he has always brought home those poor starving dogs! Where did he find that skinny little lad, Hansi? In some English gutter, I think – and then he felt sorry for him. They all looked so terribly frightened – even Isobel, my new daughter. Are we that fearsome in our aspect, Hansi?”
“You have your moments, Margaretha,” Hansi answered, vastly amused, and Magda snorted.
“But why did he do this, Hansi – do you have any idea? Why did he want to marry the daughter of a First? We are plain people at heart; I cannot see for a moment what my son saw in her, or any advantage in marrying a woman so far outside of what we know. He had his pick of the daughters of our friends … I would that he had married someone of our own kind, like Charley Nimitz’s Bertha.”
Hansi grinned. “He’s a man, Margaretha – and a damned good-looking one. The daughter of a First or a peasant-farmer; they’re all the same in their shifts … and between the sheets. Perhaps she’s uncommonly lively in that respect.”
“You’re disgusting, Hansi,” Magda answered, without any particular heat. In truth, Magda sometimes felt oddly honored that Hansi should converse with her without reservation or guard upon his tongue, as if she was one of his men friends or associates … or sometimes as Dolph’s father would have done, in the privacy of the marriage bed. Yes, she could imagine Carl Becker – fifteen years buried in a grave in a corner of the orchard that he had planted and cherished – saying something of the sort. She could almost hear his voice, see him in candlelight with the bedding fallen to his naked waist … No. Magda wrenched her thoughts from that image. She continued. “And a ladies’ maid – indeed, what earthly use will she have for a ladies’ maid, in our summer in the hills. To assist her in dressing for the garden, for a day of weeding … or to put her apron upon her, when we retire to the kitchen to skim the cream and make cheese?” Hansi chuckled again and drew on his pipe.
“The maid? She’s a pretty little thing, too – and if I noticed it, so will the lads. I don’t think she’ll be a maid for long, in any and either case. Ah, well – Lise will be thrilled no end. There will be at least three or four occasions for your new daughter to dress in all her furbelows and fashions. Every woman of good family in San Antonio will be calling, just to see the daughter of a real First. My wife is probably already planning a whole series of parties and balls … although she needs an excuse, eh?” He puffed on his pipe, and the embers glowed briefly red, as the door to his study opened, admitting his daughter Anna.