Dog as Mrs. Santa

Yes, it is that time of year again – and for a wonder, the weather has finally decided to cooperate. One day we were running the AC because the temperature was in the 80s … and then the next morning, a chilly wind was blowing through the neighborhood – and we turned around on the doorstep to put on coats before we walked the doggies … because we had not expected it to be so suddenly cold!
So we were in the mood for Weihnachtsmarkt at the New Braunfels Civic center, and happy, happy, joy, joyful that it was an indoors venue! I don’t think we could have endured outdoors, as we did two weeks ago in Boerne, where it was cool and rainy, not ice-cold and windy. The author book tables are set up in the tall main hallway of the Civic Center, which runs from the front to the back of the building. There are three entrances from the front foyer and the hall into the rooms fitted out as for the market – and Santa is set up in the rear foyer. I am pretty certain it must be a tradition in New Braunfels to come and see Santa at Weihnachtsmarkt. Anyway, this is the third year they have had the author tables, and it’s just a short skip from home, it’s indoors, and most importantly, it draws people with money and the urge to shop, bit-time. I have lots of readers and fans in that area, too. And did I mention that it was indoors?

My daughter says, though – that if I write any more books, I will have to get another table, or at least a larger one. There’s only room for the seven, hardly any space for the various table-top attention-getting items or the little dish of candy that we like to put out … and it turned out that we had eaten all the dark chocolate and peanut-butter M&Ms anyway. This was supposed to be the official-official roll-out for The Quivera Trail – as I just knew that everyone who had read and loved the Trilogy would want to know what happened next!
All worked out as I had forseen – and we had much better results than at the Boerne Market; we came with three tubs and two boxes packed full of books, and brought home only two tubs. This recovered the table fee and the cost of the books themselves. One amusing sidelight was that on Friday afternoon, I realized that the author at the table next to us had a familiar name – and that I had used one of his books about the early history of Austin in researching Deep in the Heart – and that a good few of the incidents he included in his book I worked into mine. I even gave a credit in the notes at the back of Deep in the Heart. Jeffrey KerrThe Republic of Austin. This is not quite the first time this has happened to me; that was at the West Texas Book and Music Festival in Abilene a couple of years ago, when Scott Zesch was one of the headline guest speakers. I had read The Captured, and was moved to include a story-line in the Trilogy about the tragedy of a white child taken captive by the Comanche and returned – too late – as a young man, never able to re-assimilate to life outside the People again.

The gratifying thing is that the other vendors that my daughter talked to all reported having goodly sales – which is a relief after lackluster sales in Boerne. With this, we have hope that the economy will revive here, at least a little for Christmas. My daughter is already making lists for our own Christmas gift-giving, although some of that will involve going through the ‘gift closet’ to see what there is, and who it would be suitable for. In between the next Christmas Market – at Goliad’s Christmas on the Square, we have Thanksgiving to consider… a roast turkey breast and at least some of the traditional fixings. All good wishes to you – and thanks to everyone who bought books from me, or who will buy them this holiday season!

05. February 2013 · Comments Off on From ‘The Quivera Trail’ – Chapter 18 · Categories: Chapters From the Latest Book · Tags:

(While the gently-raised Isobel is ‘roughing it’ at a newly-established ranch in the new-ly opened Texas Panhandle country, her young ladies’ maid, Jane Goodacre is discovering new horizons for herself, in friendship and possibly something more enduring, in the person of Sam Becker, the younger brother of Lady Isobel’s husband…)

In the end, it turned out that posing for Sam was a tedious and muscle-cramping experience for Jane, who obediently trooped upstairs in the afternoon when she had finished schooling Harry and Christian. Lottie also came upstairs to the studio and sat in the corner during the painting sessions, pleading the excuse of keeping Jane company – and avoiding that of the poisonously disapproving Amelia Vining. Now Lottie fussed over the folds of the buckskin dress as Jane carefully lay on the blanket-draped platform propped on one elbow, and arranged the unbound waves of Jane’s dark hair to fall in the most artistic and graceful fashion.
“I’m glad it’s you who agreed to pose,” she exclaimed the first time. “Sam asked me – but he would have the trouble of painting my hair in dark, since I don’t look anything like an Indian at all! And Cousin Anna just laughed at him and said she had more than enough to do than to waste her days being an Indian dressmaker’s mannequin.”
“I can’t think that I look very much like a red Indian either,” Jane crossed her ankles, arranging her moccasin-clad feet into the same pose which Sam had specified on the day before.
“You have such dark hair – and you are oh so much prettier than most of the Indian women that I have ever seen,” Lottie replied. “Such plain drudges, and so very sunburnt and worn out with work. But Mr. Iwonski – he’s an old friend of Mama’s in San Antonio – had some paintings of Lipan Apache girls which a friend of his did in the earlies when all the Indians were at peace with the German towns – and they were quite beautiful … but he said the Comanche women were quite plain. Poor dears … they must do all the work, you know. Is that still true, Sam – now that they have been made to stay on the reserve?”
“I don’t know,” Sam answered, in a rather abstracted tone. He already had his paint palette in one hand, a brush in the other. Jane had already learned that once he had begun to paint or sketch, then he was absorbed in a world where no one could follow, listening to a music which no one else could hear.
“But you did visit Cousin Willi last year…” Lottie ventured, and then she stopped.
“I did,” Sam replied, as if this was a matter of no interest. “I didn’t see any of his Indian family. I assume he was married, but he didn’t offer to introduce me to his wife. Be still, Lottie – I’m thinking.”
Lottie did not remain silent, for more than a few seconds, whispering to Jane as she coaxed the long strands of leather fringe into the same shape as they had been the day before, “Our Cousin Willi – that is Onkel Hansi’s youngest boy. He had no liking for commerce or cattle, and so he went off to live with the Indians last year. Cousin Anna was relieved – she thought he was a bad influence on Harry and Christian.”
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(This months’ installment of the current work in progress: Isobel and her maid, Jane, have arrived at the Becker ranch, near Comfort, in the Hill Country of Texas. But Jane fell ill with malaria, and could not go with Isobel and Dolph to establish a new RB ranch in the Panhandle region, which with the end of the Indian Wars, is now open to ambitious and hardworking cattlemen. What will Jane do? Sam Becker has a plan…)

The dreams tormented Jane, although in her moments of waking she could not remember what it was that terrified her so, other than an oppressive sense of being watched and pursued by her stepfather down the endless halls and staircases of Acton. She dreamed also of Lady Caroline dancing in the ballroom; her person and her gown curiously transformed into glass and shattering into a thousand animated pieces on the hard floor, while Jane herself attempted to sweep up every particle, chasing the moving pieces of Lady Caroline with a broom and dustpan, and Auntie Lydia looked down at her from an enormous height and scolded her, saying, “Oh, dear – that will never do, child. You must try harder if you want to advance in service.” At other times, she dreamed that she was buried in snow, shivering so violently that she thought her own bones would break with the force of it – and then she was hot, and so thirsty … but the water often tasted so bitter that she thought it must be poison and wanted to spit it out, but someone made her to drink it.

At the end of that interminable period of torment and fever, the nightmares dissolved, like the ice melting at the end of winter. One early morning, Jane opened her eyes and looked up at the ceiling over her head, in a room that she didn’t recognize. Not the servant’s quarters at Acton Hall, or her parent’s tiny village house house … or any of the various small rooms she had slept in since her ladyship married. The last coherent memory she had was of her lady, and Mr. Becker and their party leaving San Antonio. Ah, she thought. This must be their house in the hills … but how long have I been here? Where was her ladyship? Surely, they would not have gone on without me? How would her ladyship manage without me? Suddenly apprehensive, Jane levered herself to sit up, pushing the bedcovers from her. Her head spun, and she held still until it steadied. She swung her feet to the floor, and sat for a moment on the edge of the bedstead to catch her breath. There was her own little trunk at the foot of the bed, her carpetbag sitting on top of it. Someone had thought to hang two or three of her dresses from the pegs in a little niche beside the tall window which served as a wardrobe, so that the wrinkles would not be so marked. And she was even wearing her own nightgown.
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