A Chaparral Christmas Gift
by O. Henry [1862-1910]
Page 4 of 5
Christmas Eve fell as balmy as April. Perhaps there was a
hint of faraway frostiness in the air, but it tingled like
seltzer, perfumed faintly with late prairie blossoms and the
When night came the five or six rooms of the ranch-house were
brightly lit. In one room was a Christmas tree, for the Lanes had
a boy of three, and a dozen or more guests were expected from the
At nightfall Madison Lane called aside Jim Belcher and three
other cowboys employed on his ranch.
"Now, boys," said Lane, "keep your eyes open. Walk around the
house and watch the road well. All of you know the 'Frio Kid,' as
they call him now, and if you see him, open fire on him without
asking any questions. I'm not afraid of his coming around, but
Rosita is. She's been afraid he'd come in on us every Christmas
since we were married. "
The guests had arrived in buckboards and on horseback, and
were making themselves comfortable inside.
The evening went along pleasantly. The guests enjoyed and
praised Rosita's excellent supper, and afterward the men
scattered in groups about the rooms or on the broad "gallery",
smoking and chatting.
The Christmas tree, or course, delighted the youngsters, and
above all were they pleased when Santa Claus himself in
magnificent white beard and furs appeared and began to distribute
"It's my papa," announced Billy Sampson, aged six. "I've seen
him wear 'em before. "
Berkly, a sheepman, an old friend of Lane, stopped Rosita as
she was passing by him on the gallery, where he was sitting
"Well, Mrs. Lane," said he, "I suppose by this Christmas
you've gotten over being afraid of that fellow McRoy, haven't
you? Madison and I have talked about it, you know."
"Very nearly," said Rosita, smiling, "but I am still nervous
sometimes. I shall never forget that awful time when he came so
near to killing us. "
"He's the most cold-hearted villain in the world," said
Berkly. "The citizens all along the border ought to turn out and
hunt him down like a wolf. "
"He has committed awful crimes," said Rosita,
"but--I--don't-- know. I think there is a spot of good somewhere
in everybody. He was not always bad--that I know. "
Rosita turned into the hallway between the rooms. Santa
Claus, in muffling whiskers and furs, was just coming through.
"I heard what you said through the window, Mrs. Lane," he
said. "I was just going down in my pocket for a Christmas present
for your husband. But I've left one for you, instead. It's in the
room to your right. "
"Oh, thank you, kind Santa Claus," said Rosita, brightly.