Antonie lusted after his cousin Renata from the first moment he caught sight of her on that warm sunny day at the end of May, 1874 when she stepped off the stagecoach in a cloud of dust on the Main Street of San Jose. She carried a small purse and a tiny leather suitcase. She had been traveling for nearly seven weeks. She had started her journey in southern Spain, boarding a steamer in the port city of Cadiz. She landed in New York and rode the train across the continent to Vallejo. There, she boarded a stagecoach headed south to Monterrey.
Senora and Antonie were waiting with the grey wagon when the door to the stagecoach flew open. The young woman, wearing a rather stark-looking navy blue dress, was framed in the open door of the coach. She blinked and raised one arm to her face because there was so much dust. Yellow road dust. Dust in clouds. Dust in swirls. Dust collecting in lungs and throats. Dust sticking to shoes and sinking into shirt collars.
The dress Renata wore -- tightly fitted at the bodice, with a rounded white collar and a rather full skirt—was coated in the same dust. Her black high top shoes were scuffed and caked in dry mud. One of the laces –on the right shoe—had snapped and she had repaired the lace with a knot. The lace was not long enough, however, so the top edges of her right shoe flopped forward. Grit lined both shoes. Grit had also settled deeply into her scalp and her hair was matted to her skull. She had not brushed her teeth for at least three days
And yet, despite all this, her beauty was quite startling. Her cousin took one look at her and he literally stopped breathing. Later, as he lay in bed, he would review her looks, taking stock, trying to unlock the key, trying to figure out what it was that lured him. He would never be cured of this fascination. His love for Renata would haunt him until he took his final breath eight years later....