16. April 2014 · Comments Off on A New Lone Star Sons Adventure – The Secret of San Saba! · Categories: Chapters From the Latest Book, Old West

(Herewith a new adventure in my proposed YA series, Lone Star Sons Lone Star Sons Logo - Cover– where the young Texas Ranger Jim Reade, and his stalwart friend, guide and translator, Toby Shaw of the Delaware have many interesting missions on behalf of the Republic of Texas. Yes, I haven’t had time to work on a new adventure for them in some time. My apologies, seriously – but I have been busy.)

            “Your friend is back in town,” Jack Hays remarked, as Jim walked into the parlor of the little old-fashioned adobe house on Main Plaza, where he kept a bachelor household whenever he was between surveying trips into the Hills, or those other and rather secretive missions ventured upon in the cause of an independent Texas nation.

            “Which friend?” Jim dropped his saddle bags and hung his coat and gun-belt on the pegs affixed to the wall conveniently close to the door which led out to the Plaza. Even with the door closed, the evening sound of music, of voices and the hubble-bubble of town life floated distantly – but in a manner altogether pleasing – into the cozy parlor. Life of an evening in San Antonio was usually a lively matter, no matter what the season. A tiny fire of aromatic cedar burned on the clay hearth, and Jack knocked dottle of burned tobacco into it, rapping his pipe against the side of the fireplace.

            “Your friend, Albert Biddle,” Jack smiled. “Or, I should say – Don Alberto. I must agree that marriage agrees with him splendidly.”

            “Dona Graciela is a most admirable woman,” Jim agreed, a little heatedly, since he had no notion of where this conversation was leading. “Poor Albert was wounded most grievously in the course of our mission to Laredo last year. Dona Graciela took us into her home, treated us as kin – well, seeing that we had sworn an oath to be god-fathers to her sister’s infant – I felt that we had done nothing much to deserve such generous regard. But she was kindness herself…”

            “And Don Alberto is a very lucky man,” Jack added, with a smile. “A widow of good family – would that one such as she takes you into such deep affection, Jim; you would be blessed indeed. There are many among us – mostly of the older generation here in Texas who have married ladies of the old established Mexican families. Men and women are made for marriage, and he is lucky beyond most, in having a family ready-made. Don Alberto carried your little god-son on his saddle-bow, when they rode in today, with a train of mules, and Dona Graciela and her daughters following in a mule-litter in the old-fashioned way.”

            “He is a lucky man,” Jim agreed, even though Dona Graciela was a woman as far from his taste in courting as a woman could get and still be recognizably female. Dona Graciela was a tall and regal-appearing woman, with fine eyes and an ink-dark spill of hair, piled high in the old Spanish fashion, with a tall comb at the back of her head. Jim was more often drawn to pretty, fair-haired girls, who looked up at him with soft brown eyes, as if they hoped to be rescued from a dragon or an unwelcome suitor. Dona Graciela had likely never looked to be rescued in her life. He sank into the empty chair across from Jack, fixed his commanding officer with a searching expression, and demanded, “So – your purpose in making mention of this is?”

            “It was a pleasing sight,” Jack protested mildly. “Most picturesque – like a medieval procession of a nobleman and all of his household and train. They are coming to visit us at half-past the hour, after Compline at San Fernando.”

            “I’m tired, Jack,” Jim groaned, somewhat theatrically. “I’ve had a long day on horseback, and all I want is my supper and my bedroll, in that order. I don’t want to receive social calls – even from such as good a friend as Albert Biddle and his lady.”

            “Go get something from the chili-women,” Jack ordered, with a distinct lack of sympathy. “If you go now, you may bring it back here and be done before the bells ring for the nightly silence. They’ve traveled long themselves – and wouldn’t be stirring themselves over something of no moment.”


            Seeing that Jack was adamant, and that the bells of San Fernando were already chiming the call to services, Jim had little choice but to take himself to the nearest of the stalls, where the peppery meat and bean stew so popular with everyone – Anglo and Mexican alike – was being sold from a vast kettle, presided over by one of the black-garbed women. The tables were crowded, even though the hour was late, and he carried his bowl and a sheaf of the thin Mexican flat-breads back to Jack’s house. By the time that he had put himself on the outside of it, Jim was in a rather better frame of mind, belly-full-content and slightly sleepy. And yes, he admitted to himself, he was rather looking forward to seeing Albert Biddle again; from what Jack had said in passing, it sounded as if the gentlemanly Yankee clerk now had a different standing in the world.


Even with that expectation, Jim would hardly have known Albert Biddle, when Jack answered a quiet knock at the parlor door, and showed Don Alberto and his lady wife into the room. During the brief interlude, Jack had hastily scooped such evidence of careless bachelor housekeeping into the inner room, but still, Jim thought Dona Graciela looked upon the tiny parlor with the severe eye of an exacting housekeeper. Her husband had no such reserve – but even so, Jim would not have recognized him at first; so different in manner and garb was he now.

“I have a position to keep up,” Albert Biddle explained, with a look of affection towards his formidable wife. “Gracie insists, of course – but I am not adverse.”  Indeed, the black trousers and short jacket, elegantly trimmed with braid and silver buttons in the manner favored by the wealthy Mexicans of Bexar, suited him very well. “But,” he added, upon settling Dona Graciela into the most comfortable chair in the room – the only cushioned one, as it happened, “We did not come from Laredo merely to exchange remarks on the latest trends in haberdashery.”

Jim noticed that Dona Graciela sat with her hands on a small coffer in her lap, a thing of dark wood trimmed in silver. He thought it might be a jewel-case, although why the lady should bring her gems and ear-bobs to Compline was beyond him.

“And here I was thinking it was because you had a hankering to go traveling with Toby and I,” Jim observed, and Albert Biddle laughed.

“It may come to that, James.” Then his face went sober again. “This is a matter in earnest – and Gracie insisted that we maintain the utmost discretion. It may be the means by which we save your – our Republic.”

“So you are a Texian now,” Jim observed, and Albert Biddle grinned.

“Gracie insisted,” he said, fondly, and Dona Graciela spoke for nearly the first time.

“What concerns my husband is of my concern as well,” she said. “And when I told him what I had found in the rooms of my grandfather’s younger brother … Tio Maximiliano is gone to his reward these many months ago. He was married to the daughter of a soldier in his youth, an officer of the presidio of San Saba, in the time that the Spanish tried to hold the Llano.”

“San Saba…” Jim ventured; a small light began to dawn on him, cutting through the bone-weariness of his last journey. “Wasn’t there supposed to be rich silver mines around there? The old missionaries had a mission there for the Lipan Apache, but the Comanches massacred them all in a day and a night, and the presidio garrison was withdrawn … about a hundred years ago, wasn’t it?”

Dona Graciela nodded, graciously, and Jack observed, “There’s always been talk about silver mines and treasure hidden in the walls of the old fort. I never put much credence in those stories, myself. Folks hear about an abandoned castle or a fortress in ruins, and it just naturally comes to them to want to make up stories of treasures and ghosts and all. Now it seems there might be a basis for them … according to Dona Graciela.” He inclined his head towards the lady, who opened the casket in her lap.

“Tio Maximiliano preserved this coffer most carefully – he had it from the father of his wife.”

“What are these papers?” Jim asked, and this time Albert Biddle answered,

“A guide to a real treasure-trove – one which might save Texas, as far as financial matters are concerned – for I have reviewed them with care. My written understanding of Spanish exceeds that of the spoken language by the power of three to one. These papers and map were things of immense value, according to Tio Maximiliano’s father-in-law, who was an aide-de-camp to one Governor Yorba. An important man at the time, for all that he is recalled now; these were supposed to be sent to the Spanish archives for the province in Monclava, but for some reason, he did not follow the orders given to him.”

“He fell ill of the yellow fever,” Dona Graciela put in. “And died within days. On his death-bed, he gave this little coffer to his daughter and her affianced, Tio Maximiliano, saying that it would dower her, if she were ever in need. It was locked, when he gave it to them, and no one could provide a key. His daughter thought he was delirious and it was a paltry matter, so she put it away in her grief, thinking it no more than a memento of her father. It was a long-forgotten thing until I found it…”

“It is open now,” Jim remarked, dryly and Albert Biddle looked at the ceiling-beams overhead. “One of my unheralded talents is that I am adept at picking locks, without leaving any damage or trace. The archives at Monclava would have liked to have known of this matter, doubtless – but it is now a matter for Texas, and well-worth the candle, if I am any judge of these matters.”

Jim looked between the three; Biddle, his wife, and Jack Hays, whose’ sober face held the expression of a man quickly doing sums in his head.

“What did you find, among these papers?” Jack asked, with careful diplomacy. “That would provide a dowry to a soldier’s daughter – and the salvation of Texas?”

“A map to the location of a treasure – and an inventory of what we may expect to find in it,” Alfred Biddle answered firmly.

(To be continued – naturally.)

Comments closed.