Roads of Destiny
A Double-Dyed Deceiver
The trouble began in Laredo. It was the Llano Kid's fault, for he should have confined his
habit of manslaughter to Mexicans. But the Kid was past twenty; and to have only
Mexicans to one's credit at twenty is to blush unseen on the Rio Grande border.
It happened in old Justo Valdos's gambling house. There was a poker game at which sat
players who were not all friends, as happens often where men ride in from afar to shoot
Folly as she gallops. There was a row over so small a matter as a pair of queens; and
when the smoke had cleared away it was found that the Kid had committed an
indiscretion, and his adversary had been guilty of a blunder. For, the unfortunate
combatant, instead of being a Greaser, was a high-blooded youth from the cow ranches,
of about the Kid's own age and possessed of friends and champions. His blunder in
missing the Kid's right ear only a sixteenth of an inch when he pulled his gun did not
lessen the indiscretion of the better marksman.
The Kid, not being equipped with a retinue, nor bountifully supplied with personal
admirers and supporters—on account of a rather umbrageous reputation, even for the
border—considered it not incompatible with his indisputable gameness to perform that
judicious tractional act known as "pulling his freight."
Quickly the avengers gathered and sought him. Three of them overtook him within a rod
of the station. The Kid turned and showed his teeth in that brilliant but mirthless smile
that usually preceded his deeds of insolence and violence, and his pursuers fell back
without making it necessary for him even to reach for his weapon.
But in this affair the Kid had not felt the grim thirst for encounter that usually urged him
on to battle. It had been a purely chance row, born of the cards and certain epithets
impossible for a gentleman to brook that had passed between the two. The Kid had rather
liked the slim, haughty, brown-faced young chap whom his bullet had cut off in the first
pride of manhood. And now he wanted no more blood. He wanted to get away and have a
good long sleep somewhere in the sun on the mesquit grass with his handkerchief over
his face. Even a Mexican might have crossed his path in safety while he was in this
The Kid openly boarded the north-bound passenger train that departed five minutes later.
But at Webb, a few miles out, where it was flagged to take on a traveller, he abandoned
that manner of escape. There were telegraph stations ahead; and the Kid looked askance
at electricity and steam. Saddle and spur were his rocks of safety.
The man whom he had shot was a stranger to him. But the Kid knew that he was of the
Coralitos outfit from Hidalgo; and that the punchers from that ranch were more relentless
and vengeful than Kentucky feudists when wrong or harm was done to one of them. So,
with the wisdom that has characterized many great fighters, the Kid decided to pile up as