I Live in a Palace, Part 3

By Sister Barbara Engs, 1891-1979
Written in 1963.


Now that we have sketched the general plan at our going, it remains to effect the transfer from San Jose to the wooded hills of our new home. Rumor has it that the local junkmen wintered in Florida after reselling the antiques they had bought from us for a song. Furniture, fittings, utensils, and objects d’art considered inadequate or superfluous for the exotic setting awaiting them were discarded in favor of the new and up-to-date. How little they knew, the owners, proprietors or users, as they flung to the itching palms of the second-hand dealers the treasures of three quarters of a century.

At last everything was packed and by degrees there rolled between our entrance pillars trucks, cars, more trucks, more cars, and the faithful Black Maria. It was through this same entrance that more than a half century before, the Ralston carriage, high-stepping horses in silver-mounted harness, the Master himself holding the reins, after racing the train down the Peninsula, had turned up what is now Ralston Avenue, to cover the final mile of tree-bordered road. At the entrance to the estate, just where our pillars now stand, was a gate that, by an ingenious mechanism in the road bed, opened automatically when the wheels of the incoming vehicle touched it. Halfway up the driveway, in a rocky cave in the fern-studded hillside, was a drinking trough for the horses that were Ralston’s special love.

Our processions did not dash; they dragged. Finally, however, the most cumbersome of the possessions were deposited – of all places — on the spacious front lawn facing the mansion. The trucks and cars chugged off — and we were left, feeling like Orphans of the Storm in the middle of a typhoon. Everything was there; but there was more.  Knowing the tendency of human nature to cling to one more bit of earth, the directing power in our move had allowed each of the fifty movees to bring from the abandoned home which had been for many a lifetime dwelling place some item which would reconcile her to the new and pristine splendor of a mansion, albeit we were not to live in the mansion area, we soon learned.

A word was enough.  Everyone brought something, in the expansive selectivity of the twelve gifts of Christmas.  Alas for the junkmen, defeated in the securing of many a prize.  Into the fabled decor of Victorian splendor came here a plebian chair, there a mat, table, or other cherished bit of rubbish.  Some brought “devotions” — statues, shrines, pictures — and someone cut slips of the Castilian rose said to have been planted by General Sherman for the Spanish beauty to whom he failed to return.

PART 4, I Live in a Palace