20 September 2012
Excerpt Thursday: DAUGHTER OF TEXAS by Celia Hayes
This week, we’re welcoming historical fiction author Celia Hayes, who writes novels of the Old West. Her novel, Daughter of Texas, is the first of her series on the drama of a woman's life in Texas. Join us Sunday, when Celia will be here to talk about the novel and offer a copy to a lucky winner. Here's the blurb:
Before the cattle drives … Before the Alamo …Before the legends were born. She was there, and she saw it all. On the day that she was twelve years old, Margaret Becker came to Texas with her parents and her younger brothers. The witch-woman looked at her hands, and foretold her future; two husbands, a large house, many friends, joy, sorrow and love.
The witch woman would not say what she saw for Margaret's younger brothers, Rudi and Carl – for Texas was a Mexican colony. Before the Becker children were full-grown, the war for Texas independence would come upon them all and show no mercy.
During her life, she would observe and participate in great events. She would meet and pass her own judgment on great men and lesser men as well; a loyal friend, able political hostess . . . and at the end, a survivor and witness. But in all of her life, there would be only one man who would ever hold – and break – her heart!
**An Excerpt from Daughter of Texas**
Chapter 15 – A Muddy Field Near Harrisburg
“Ma! Miz Vining!” Davy called. “It’s the Army! They’re coming, just along the road there. General Sam and all! The Army is coming!”
“Oh, my God – a prayer answered,” Margaret breathed, but Maggie’s expression remained bleak. Others of the families encamped in that muddy meadow began to gather as they heard the sounds of marching feet and men’s voices raised in the notes of a ribald song, borne on the morning air.
There was a party of mounted men, first – with General Houston among them, on a brave white horse. His face was set with determination, and he looked neither right nor left. The men following were at first hidden by trees around the turn in the road, but the sound of their voices and brisk but uneven marching filled the morning. The song – which truly was rather rude – died abruptly away as the first marchers saw the women and children watching by the roadside. A slight rustle of consternation rippled through the ranks. Margaret searched for her husband among the horsemen, looked for the elegant black shape of Bucephalus, but did not see either of them.
“There are so many more!” Maggie exclaimed, standing beside her. Roused by the noise of the marching men, and by Davy’s calls, other refugees were joining them at the side of the road, women looking frantically at each face among the marching ranks, searching for a dear face, familiar garments among the motley throng, or holding up their smaller children. There wasn’t a uniform among them that Margaret could see, other than a small cluster of men in grey and others in blue coats – coats with darker patches upon them where shapes picked out in gold braid had been torn off. Most wore plain coats, or round jackets; the men whom she recognized mostly had fringed hunting coats. Every man bore a rifle or a musket, on a sling over their shoulders, though – and all at very nearly the same angle. The general’s drillmasters must have been at it night and day, for weeks.
“Dragon’s teeth,” Margaret said, teased by a faint memory of a tale that Opa Heinrich had told her once, long ago. Maggie looked at her in surprise. “Dragon’s teeth. When the dragon’s teeth were sown, as we sow corn – the teeth become fully armed fighters, springing up from the furrows. Such were sown, all across our lands, and now here they are!”
The children were cheering, crying excitedly when they saw a familiar face, the face of brothers, uncles and fathers; Mrs. Burnett, with her gray hair straggling down her shoulders, came running from her wagon, hastily rolling it into a bun as she ran.
“William!” she called, “William Burnett – where are you!”
“I’m here, Liddy!” an older man called to her from middle of the ranks of marching men, men who were so much younger it wrung Margaret’s heart. “Stay with the girls, Liddy!” Mrs. Barnett darted into the crush and threw her arms around him, snatching a kiss and a brief embrace, before his company marched on. Many faces were familiar to Margaret – neighbors and friends of her husbands’, faces which she recognized from last fall when the militia volunteers had come to Gonzales in defense of their little cannon – men from Mina, from Bexar, from Beeson’s Crossing, the two soldier-volunteers who had brought them meat and firewood on that first day of this long march east, the flaming red hair and pale freckled face of Harry Karnes, but they were a mere scattering among the larger number of strangers. One by one, with their limbers following, came the two cannon that Margaret had seen in the camp at Groce’s Crossing, drawn each by several teams of horses straining at their harnesses to draw the heavy gun-carriages through the mud and ruts of the Harrisburg Road.
“Where have they all come from?” Pru marveled, holding up Sarah’s baby, “Darlin’ little girl, now you can say you saw the Army of Texas on the march!”
“Where are you going?” Margaret called to them, hardly expecting an answer, but several passing close by answered in chorus, amid jovial laughter.
“To fight Santy-Anna, ma-am! Word is that he has gone up the river looking for us!” “We ain’t but a days march away from him, ma’am!” “Oh, but we aim to surprise him, for sure!” “Aim is right, ma’am, aim is right!”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Davy Darst shrugging into his jacket, running at a purposeful jog, his musket and haversack and a rolled blanket slung over his shoulders.
Maggie saw him too, and cried, “David Darst – where do you think you’re going?”
“With the Army, Ma!” he answered, hastily embracing her. “’Bye, Ma!”
“You come right back here, David Darst!” Maggie shouted after him, but he had already run into the mass of men and boys, falling into a place in the march. He waved at them once, cheerfully. Then he was gone, lost in the ranks and leaving Maggie distraught and furious, and Margaret feeling as if she had seen this many times and would see it again. “Come with me,” Maggie commanded. “We must fetch him back, at once!”
“I think not,” Margaret answered slowly. “I believe he will be in a better and safer place with his fellows than he will be with us. If the Mexican Army comes upon us, with our tents and wagons, and Mama and Sarah’s babe – then all they will find will be women and little children. He is a boy of near to fighting age. With that musket – they will assuredly execute him as a rebel.”
“But you heard what they said – they are going to turn and fight now!” Maggie was still distraught. Margaret looked after the last of the Army, a handful of horsemen ranging this way and that. None of them were Race, and she sighed a little in disappointment.
“So they are,” she answered, with an assurance that she did not in truth feel. “But I have a better feeling in trusting General Houston with the lives of our own. He will not fail us, Maggie – or our men. I am confident of it.”