By 0. Henry
Author of " Whistling Dick's Christmas," etc., etc.
IF you should chance to visit the
General Land (Office, step into the
draughtsmen's room and ask to be
shown the map of Salado County. A
leisurely (;erman--possibly old Kampfer
himself will bring it to you. It will be
four feet square, on heavy drawing-cloth.
The lettering and the figures will be
beautifully clear and distinct. The title
will be ill splendid, undeccipheralble Ger-
man text, ornamented with classic Teutonic
designs--very likely Ceres or Pomona
caning against the initial letters with
cornuclopias venting grapes and wieners.
\'u must tell him that this is not the map
you wish to see ; that he will kindly bring
you its official predecessor. IHe will then
say, "Ach, so!" and bring out a map
half tile size of the first, dim, old, tattered,
By looking carefully near its northwest
corner yonu will presently come upon the
worn contours of Chiquito River, and,
maybe, if your eyes are good, discern thje
silent witness to this story.
'he Commllissioner of the Land Office
was of the old style ; his antique courtesy
was too formal for his day. He dressed
in line black, and there was a suggestion
of Roman drapery in his long coat-skirts.
Ills collars were undetached " ('blame
habWcrdashery for the word); his tie was
a narrow, funereal strip, tied in the same
knot as were his shoe-strings. l is gray
hair was a trifle too long behincl, but he
kept it smooth and orderly. Iis face was
clean-shaveln, like the old statesmen's.
Most people thought it a stern face, but
when its olicial expression was off, a few
had seen algtoether a different counte-
nance. Especially tender and gentle it
had appeared to those who were about
himi during the last illness of his only
The Commissioner had been a widower
for years, and his life, outside his official
duties, had been so devoted to little Geor-
gia that people spoke of it as a touching
andl admirable thing. Ie was a reserved
man, and dignified almost to austerity, but
the child had come below it all and rested
upon his very heart, so that she scarcely
missed the mother's love that had been
taken away. IThere was a wonderful
companionship between them, for she had
many of his own ways, being thoughtful
and serious beyond her years.
One day, while she was lying with the
fever burning brightly in her cheeks, she
said, suddenly :
" Papa, I wish I could do something
good for a whole lot of children i"
"What would you like to do, dear?"
asked the Commissioner. " Give them a
"Oh, I don't mean those kind. I
mean poor children who haven't homes,
and aren't loved and cared for as I am.
I tell you what, papa!"
" What, my own child ?"
" If I shouldn't get well, I'll leave them
you-not gi-r you, but just lend you, for
you must come to llmamma and me
when you die too. If you can find time,
wouldn't you do something to help them,
if I ask you, papa ?"
" Hush, hush, dear, dear child," said
the Commissioner, holding her hot little
hand against his cheek; " you'll get well
real soon, and you and I will see what we
can do for them together."
But in whatsoever paths of benevolence,
thus vaguely premeditated, that the Com-
missioner might tread, he was not to have
the company of his beloved. That night
the little frail body grew suddenly too
tired to struggle further, and Geofrgia's
exit was made from the great stage when
she had scarcely begun to speak her little
piece before the footlights. But there
must be a stage manager who understands.
She had given the cue to the one who was
to speak after her.
A week after she was laid away, the
Commissioner reappeared at the O)fice, a
little more courteous, a little paler and
sterner, with the black frock-coat hang-
ing a little more loosely from his tall
HIis desk was piled with work that had
accumulated during the four heartbreaking
IlPrd---- - -l"""'~l"~~-
... . . . . . . . . . ... . . ' ' 1lrl IiI . !4
Henry, O., 1862-1910. Georgia's Ruling. New York. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth139371/. Accessed December 18, 2013.