Editor’s note: The Duchess of Angus is a novel written in the 1950s by Margaret Brown Kilik, who lived in San Antonio briefly during World War II. The story, which is set in the city, follows the day-to-day adventures of 20-year-old Jane Davis, whose life closely mirrors that of Kilik. In advance of the March 17 publication date, Trinity University Press has granted the Rivard Report permission to publish five excerpts, one of which will appear each day this week.
On the mezzanine of the Gunter Hotel, Mrs. Gordon Nickerson had spread herself over two plush rooms, which she called “our little workshop.” But it was she who managed to dominate her surroundings. And anything else that might get in her way. She was a slickly groomed segment of our social set, and I was glad that she had found a satisfying niche. Otherwise she might have proven dangerous. Even so, I was thankful that our introduction was taking place in a bright room. I would have been terrified if I came upon that face lit up like some sinister mask against a dark background.
More from the Duchess of angus
Excerpts from the novel, a rarely seen picture of San Antonio in the post-WWII, pre-feminist era from a female point of view, will appear daily this week.
“This is Jane Davis. Mrs. Gordon Nickerson.”
“I’m delighted you have brought me such a lovely girl. Where on earth did you find her?”
“At Joske’s,” Wade said. “Did you find me a room?”
“Let me see to this first.” And Mrs. Gordon Nickerson began to swallow me up. She wrote my name on a card that looked like a wedding invitation.
“What is the address?”
“310-12-14 South Alamo.”
She looked up, and well she might. “You must be from a large family.”
“It’s a hotel.”
“Oh, fine. That would be the Menger.”
“A new hotel?”
“It’s one of the oldest buildings in the city.” I often found myself saying this with the same pride in my voice that my mother had when she spoke of the Angus.
“How terribly clever.” With this incongruous expression, she managed to dismiss our whole way of life.
“It’s a darling place when you get up there,” Wade Howell explained.
At first I was surprised, because of course she had never been to the Angus. Then I was annoyed, because I realized she was defending me.
“I’m sure . . . ” Mrs. Gordon Nickerson gave me a spooky smile and handed me the card in two envelopes. “You’re just what the cadets are looking for.”
I wasn’t at all convinced of this, and it occurred to me that the methods for screening young ladies to entertain our young men in uniform were sloppy. Oh well, at that very moment they were probably being shown colored films on venereal disease.