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Georgia’s Ruling
by [?]

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 German–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 in splendid, undecipherable German text, ornamented with classic Teutonic designs–very likely Ceres or Pomona leaning against the initial letters with cornucopias venting grapes and wieners. You must tell him that this is not the map you wish to see; that he will kindly bring you its official predecessor. He will then say, “Ach, so!” and bring out a map half the size of the first, dim, old, tattered, and faded.

By looking carefully near its northwest corner you will presently come upon the worn contours of Chiquito River, and, maybe, if your eyes are good, discern the silent witness to this story.

The Commissioner of the Land Office was of the old style; his antique courtesy was too formal for his day. He dressed in fine black, and there was a suggestion of Roman drapery in his long coat-skirts. His collars were “undetached” (blame haberdashery for the word); his tie was a narrow, funereal strip, tied in the same knot as were his shoe-strings. His gray hair was a trifle too long behind, but he kept it smooth and orderly. His face was clean-shaven, like the old statesmen’s. Most people thought it a stern face, but when its official expression was off, a few had seen altogether a different countenance. Especially tender and gentle it had appeared to those who were about him during the last illness of his only child.

The Commissioner had been a widower for years, and his life, outside his official duties, had been so devoted to little Georgia that people spoke of it as a touching and admirable thing. He 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. There 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 checks, she said suddenly:

“Papa, I wish I could do something good for a whole lot of children!”

“What would you like to do, dear?” asked the Commissioner. “Give them a party?”

“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 give you, but just lend you, for you must come to mamma 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, the Commissioner 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 Georgia’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 office, a little more courteous, a little paler and sterner, with the black frock-coat hanging a little more loosely from his tall figure.