O. Henry came
sometime in the 1880s to collect subscriptions for The Rolling
Stone. Mrs. Dora Reagan, granddaughter of Captain Charles Nimitz,
recalled hearing her grandfather tell of O. Henry spending days
at the Nimitz Hotel.
Just about everyone who likes to read has his or her favorite O.
Henry story. My favorite, "A Chaparral Prince," came from that that
road trip to Fredericksburg.
The story, in brief, is about Lena Hildesmuller, an 11 year old
girl from Fredericksburg
sent to work as a kitchen maid 30 miles away at the Quarrymen's
Hotel. She worked hard; too hard for a little girl "no bigger than
a frankfurter." Her only source of enjoyment, in fact the only thing
that kept her going, was spending her evenings with Grimm.
Then one night Mrs. Maloney, the lady who ran the hotel, took Grimm
away. Mrs. Maloney, who was mean as a rattlesnake, claimed it was
not good for servants to read stories about children lost in enchanted
forests and gallant princes who rescued maidens from the witch's
Servants needed their rest, so no more Grimm.
Unable to carry on without Grimm, Lena wrote a letter begging her
mother to come and get her. Otherwise Lena planned to drown herself
in the river.
But the letter fell into the hands of an outlaw named Hondo Bill
who, along with and his gang, robbed the Fredericksburg
Hondo Bill was a tall, strong man with a soft voice, a rough unshaven
face and a fondness for schnapps.
During the robbery, Fritz the mail wagon driver tried to shield
Lena's letter, but Hondo Bill, his curiosity aroused, opened it.
The letter was written in German. Hondo Bill forced Fritz to translate
it into English.
Before making his getaway, Hondo Bill tied Fritz to a tree. Fritz
fell asleep only to be awakened several hours later by Hondo Bill.
"Hit it out for home, Dutch," Hondo Bill commanded, untying the
driver, shoving him into the wagon seat and placing the reins in
his hands. "You've given us lots of trouble and we're pleased to
see the back of your neck."
When Fritz arrived in Fredericksburg,
Frau Hildesmuller asked Fritz if he had news from her daughter Lena.
Fritz told her about the letter.
Believing Lena may have drowned, Frau Hildesmuller began to cry.
Then she heard a faint voice coming from the rear of Fritz's wagon.
There was little Lena, half asleep, hidden among the mail sacks.
Frau Hildesmuller's sobs turned to tears of joy.
No one was more surprised to see Lena than Fritz. "How did you get
in the wagon?" he asked.
"The prince brought me," Lena replied. "I always knew he would.
Last night he came with his armed knights and captured the ogre's
castle. They broke the dishes and kicked down the door. They pitched
Mr. Maloney into a rain barrel and threw flour all over Mrs. Maloney.
Then the prince came up, wrapped me in bedclothes and carried me
away. He was tall and strong. His face was rough as a scrubbing
brush. He had a soft, kind voice, and he smelled like schnapps.
I fell asleep in his arms and woke up here."
"Rubbish," cried Fritz. "Fairy Tales."
"The prince brought me," Lena said.