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. This excerpt jumps ahead to Chapter 7.

Chapter 7

My mother claimed that the Angus Hotel was the third oldest building in the city—next to the Alamo and the Governor’s Palace. When she first came to San Antonio, she carried on a sizzling correspondence with the historical society arguing the point. But in the end, she wore them down just as she did everyone else.

The only time she ever lost an argument was when she was battling with the Angelus Funeral Home, and then, she only conceded the point for her own convenience. At that time the hotel was called the Angelus, a name which my mother considered quite appropriate because of the proximity to a cathedral whose bells tolled morning, noon, and night.

“It summons tired wanderers off the streets,” she would say to Lillie du Lac when they were sitting over a sentimental beer.

Then it did not matter that mail belonging to the Angelus Funeral Home was delivered to the Angelus Hotel and vice versa. There was nothing very important anyway. But when Jess joined the navy, mail became a very big item indeed. Feelings between the two establishments became strained, particularly on my mother’s side. At one point, she openly accused them of keeping a picture postcard of the beach at Waikiki.

It was Lillie du Lac who suggested that my mother get the funeral home to change their name to something else.

“Nobody who goes there cares, anyway,” she said.

She even offered them the use of her own name. They refused. If my mother had not been going out with a man from the slaughterhouse at the time, I think she would have put up with the inconvenience of chasing down her mail rather than lose a battle. But she was quite taken with her butcher, and when he suggested the “Angus” and offered to give her a new sign as a token of a ection, she agreed.

The building was old. The outer layer of adobe was dry and brittle. Lately, when there was an unusual ruckus in the streets, portions of the old mud would shake loose and crumble about us. This did not detract from the hotel’s appearance. In fact, it became more picturesque after a severe jolt. Hardly a day went by when some amateur artist did not sit under the huisache tree in the back courtyard studying with interest the beautiful ruin.

Margaret Brown Kilik

Margaret Brown Kilik was a collage artist and writer. Her only novel, The Duchess of Angus, was written in the 1950s and discovered after her death in 2001.