Background: In Texas at Last, Prince Carl Franz von Altmann struggles with the problem of newly arriving immigrants and lack of land on which to settle them.
Calling together Schmitt, Hagerdorn, Wilhelm and Ernst, he said, “We must visit the stockman, Isaack Covington, Why have you four not insisted that I meet him sooner?”
Scmitt snapped, “Do not press your luck, Herr Carl. Until now your reputation for honesty is unmolested. Always you have excuses – the upcoming fest, letters of credit, the construction…”
Carl closed his ledger and rose. “As though I must make excuses to you, I’ll tell you, I have been uncomfortable with my command of the English language.”
Carl was amazed at the man’s youth, no more than thirty. His young wife stood at the door of their two-part log cabin with an infant son in her arms. Covington recognized the Germans from the new colony and marched forward to greet them. His broad-brimmed straw hat spoke of Mexican origin; his gray clothes, homespun. Though the man commanded more acres of land than many German principalities, Carl read no pretense about him, though he did note confidence in the way he carried his tall slender frame.
“Howdy, gentlemen. Git down and git in the shade. Shore hot for October.” He extended his hand as the men dismounted. “I believe I’ve met some of you. Doctor Schmitt, ain’t it? And I’d know this soldier anywhere,” he thumbed toward Wilhelm.
Schmitt took Covington’s hand as they dismounted. “Herr…Mr. Covington, I want you to meet the director of our colony, Prince Carl von Altmann. He much regretted that he missed meeting you when we were trading.”
“Mr. Carl, pleased to meet you. Ya’ll come on up on the porch outa the sun.” Covington immediately turned from Carl to Ernst. “Ike Covington’s the name. I didn’t get yours.”
Ernst spoke politely as they moved to the shade. Carl noted the lack of special attention paid him but forced the thought from his mind.
Covington introduced them to his wife, June. Carl took note that her beauty was still intact after giving birth. Her brown hair, pulled straight back, offered a few loose curls above her dark eyebrows, giving her an appearance of working but never failing to care for her appearance.
Covington said, “This youngun is John. He’s gonna make me a fine horseman one of these days. Need him now, though.” June smiled and spoke collectively to the visitors, adding that her husband was already taking the baby on long horseback rides.
Covington’s only deference to rank was to offer the community water dipper to Carl first. He took it, drained it, dipped again before handing it to Schmitt. Covington said he would bring chairs out to the porch “where it’s cooler,” and told June to “fix some vittles for the company.”
June said, “Ike, remember what Captain Hays told you. Do not use contractions when you speak to German people. Say every word full out.”
The visitors didn’t follow her words until Covington responded. “Contractions? What’s a contraction? Ain’t I talkin’ right?”
She faced her husband, babe in arms. “You say ‘what is,’ and do not use the word ‘ain’t’ now or ever. And add the ‘g’s’ on every word. These are educated men and they know good English. Do not show your ignorance.”
Covington’s brow knotted for a second. “Oh, yeah. Now I got it.” He grinned, a hand on her shoulder as his wife explained that the word is “‘yes,” not “yeah.”
Carl, often insensitive to the personal relationships of married couples, noticed the easy rapport between the pair and felt admiration, if not envy. These frontier people with little start had found land, happiness, and love in a hostile world. With any luck, they would raise a fine son, maybe a half dozen, to carry on their name and their pride. Carl, born a prince, had no wife, no love, no son and no land.