Roads of Destiny
"You are a man of many novel adventures and varied enterprises," I said to Captain
Patricio Maloné. "Do you believe that the possible element of good luck or bad luck—if
there is such a thing as luck—has influenced your career or persisted for or against you to
such an extent that you were forced to attribute results to the operation of the aforesaid
good luck or bad luck?"
This question (of almost the dull insolence of legal phraseology) was put while we sat in
Rousselin's little red-tiled café near Congo Square in New Orleans.
Brown-faced, white-hatted, finger-ringed captains of adventure came often to Rousselin's
for the cognac. They came from sea and land, and were chary of relating the things they
had seen—not because they were more wonderful than the fantasies of the Ananiases of
print, but because they were so different. And I was a perpetual wedding-guest, always
striving to cast my buttonhole over the finger of one of these mariners of fortune. This
Captain Maloné was a Hiberno-Iberian creole who had gone to and fro in the earth and
walked up and down in it. He looked like any other well-dressed man of thirty-five whom
you might meet, except that he was hopelessly weather-tanned, and wore on his chain an
ancient ivory-and-gold Peruvian charm against evil, which has nothing at all to do with
"My answer to your question," said the captain, smiling, "will be to tell you the story of
Bad-Luck Kearny. That is, if you don't mind hearing it."
My reply was to pound on the table for Rousselin.
"Strolling along Tchoupitoulas Street one night," began Captain Maloné, "I noticed,
without especially taxing my interest, a small man walking rapidly toward me. He
stepped upon a wooden cellar door, crashed through it, and disappeared. I rescued him
from a heap of soft coal below. He dusted himself briskly, swearing fluently in a
mechanical tone, as an underpaid actor recites the gypsy's curse. Gratitude and the dust in
his throat seemed to call for fluids to clear them away. His desire for liquidation was
expressed so heartily that I went with him to a café down the street where we had some
vile vermouth and bitters.
"Looking across that little table I had my first clear sight of Francis Kearny. He was
about five feet seven, but as tough as a cypress knee. His hair was darkest red, his mouth
such a mere slit that you wondered how the flood of his words came rushing from it. His
eyes were the brightest and lightest blue and the hopefulest that I ever saw. He gave the
double impression that he was at bay and that you had better not crowd him further.
"'Just in from a gold-hunting expedition on the coast of Costa Rica,' he explained.
'Second mate of a banana steamer told me the natives were panning out enough from the
beach sands to buy all the rum, red calico, and parlour melodeons in the world. The day I