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Silas could feel his mother’s despair, layered with her widow’s grief, waft to him on the crisp, autumn breeze, but it couldn’t be helped. He was going to Texas and taking his son and bride with him. Theirs was an age-old argument. Family was all to his mother. Land, a man’s inherent connection to his very being, was everything to him. Without his own land to till and sow, a man was nothing, no matter who his family was. His mother had mounted every reason against her younger son leaving the comfort, security, and safety of his home to set out with his family to the territory of Texas on the verge of revolution. Reports had filtered back that the Texas colonists were organizing to declare their newly settled land independent of Mexico, a move that would undoubtedly lead to war with that country.

“What am I to do, Mother? Stay here under the boot of mybrother where my son, like his father, will never be master of his own house?”

“Don’t put this off on what you want for Joshua,” his motherhad argued. “This is what you want for yourself—what you’ve always wanted—but now you have Lettie and your little son to consider.” She had covered her face with her hands at the monstrous images she’d warned him about: terrible diseases (there had been a cholera outbreak in Stephen F. Austin’s colony in 1834), savage Indians, wild animals and snakes, bloodthirsty Mexicans, dangerous water crossings, exposure to extremes of weather. The list of horrors went on and on, the most horrible being the possibility that she’d never see her son and Joshua and Lettie again.

“And don’t you put this off on them, Mother. If I were offered acreage anywhere else in the South where it’s safe, you’d still want me to remain at Queenscrown, all of us together as a family, never mind that my father practically disowned me and my brother loathes me.”

“You exaggerate. Your father did what he thought best for Queenscrown, and your brother does not loathe you. He simply doesn’t understand you.”

“And I will do what I think is best for Somerset.”


“The name I’m calling my plantation in Texas in honor of the Tolivers’ forebear, the Duke of Somerset.”

His mother had fallen mute, her arguments futile against so powerful an ambition.

She had her husband’s last will and testament to thank for her sorrow, Silas had reminded her, but it didn’t pardon his brusque behavior toward her these past weeks, and he felt ashamed. He loved his mother and would miss her sorely, but he could not rid himself of the feeling that she had intentionally failed to foresee and therefore prevent the unfair dispensations of his father’s estate. If Benjamin Toliver had divided his property equally, Silas would have forever abandoned his dream. He had promised himself to do everything in his power to live peaceably with his brother. Morris, a bachelor, loved his nephew and was fond of his sister-in-law-to-be and her sweet, gentle ways. Lettie and his mother got along gloriously. Elizabeth regarded Lettie as the daughter she’d never had, and his fiancée considered his mother the surrogate for the one she’d lost as a child. They would have made a tranquil household.

Even Morris now realized what he stood to lose by his gain.“We’ll work something out,” he’d said, but for Silas, nothing his brother could offer would make up for the deficit of his father’s affection so hurtfully demonstrated by the terms of the will. He would not take from his brother what their father had not meant for him to have.

So he was going to Texas.

by by Leila Meacham