A Chaparral Christmas Gift
by O. Henry [1862-1910]
Page 2 of 5
The guests spurned their chairs and jumped for their weapons.
It was considered an improper act to shoot the bride and groom at
a wedding. In about six seconds there were twenty or so bullets
due to be whizzing in the direction of Mr. McRoy.
"I'll shoot better next time," yelled Johnny; "and there'll
be a next time." He backed rapidly out the door.
Carson, the sheepman, spurred on to attempt further exploits
by the success of his plate-throwing, was first to reach the
door. McRoy's bullet from the darkness laid him low.
The cattlemen then swept out upon him, calling for vengeance,
for, while the slaughter of a sheepman has not always lacked
condonement, it was a decided misdemeanour in this instance.
Carson was innocent; he was no accomplice at the matrimonial
proceedings; nor had any one heard him quote the line "Christmas
comes but once a year" to the guests.
But the sortie failed in its vengeance. McRoy was on his
horse and away, shouting back curses and threats as he galloped
into the concealing chaparral.
That night was the birthnight of the Frio Kid. He became the
"bad man" of that portion of the State. The rejection of his suit
by Miss McMullen turned him to a dangerous man. When officers
went after him for the shooting of Carson, he killed two of them,
and entered upon the life of an outlaw. He became a marvellous
shot with either hand. He would turn up in towns and settlements,
raise a quarrel at the slightest opportunity, pick off his man
and laugh at the officers of the law. He was so cool, so deadly,
so rapid, so inhumanly blood-thirsty that none but faint attempts
were ever made to capture him. When he was at last shot and
killed by a little one-armed Mexican who was nearly dead himself
from fright, the Frio Kid had the deaths of eighteen men on his
head. About half of these were killed in fair duds depending upon
the quickness of the draw. The other half were men whom he
assassinated from absolute wantonness and cruelty.
Many tales are told along the border of his impudent courage
and daring. But he was not one of the breed of desperadoes who
have seasons of generosity and even of softness. They say he
never had mercy on the object of his anger.
Yet at this and every
Christmastide it is well to give each one credit, if it can be
done, for whatever speck of good he may have possessed. If the
Frio Kid ever did a kindly act or felt a throb of generosity in
his heart it was once at such a time and season, and this is the
way it happened.