“Ryan Ryans” the old man nodded.
“Idolize him, them people do. I heard a couple o’ fellers here in El Paso argyin’ t’ beat the band, one claimin’ he seen Billy kill a man somewhere in Arizona and t’other’n tellin’ how he seen The Kid shoot a man in some Texas town. Trouble was, both killin’s took place the selfsame night! Well, the jasper that claimed it happened in Arizona was too slow on the draw when it come t’ backin’ up his argyment, so he musta been lyin’!’’ Uncle joe chuckled whimsically. “When a feller gets a repytation fer bein’ quick with guns he gets the blame fer every killin’ that takes place within a hundred miles. Likely there’s youngsters posin’ as The Kid, too; tryin’ t’ look like and be like him, or anyway t’ shift the blame on him fer things they’ve did.” Uncle Joe tilted his hat back a little, -warmed to the subject. “I ain’t sayin’ The Kid ain’t bad, y’understand. I reckon he is. Like enough he’s killed a right-smart passel o’ men. Fellers that’s seen him say he’s chain Jightnin’ with a gun, willin’ t’ fight yuh at the drop of a hat. He killed his first man when he was a twelve-year-old, they say. Feller insulted Billy’s mother and Billy put a knife in him. That was in Silver City, New Mexico, some six years back.
“It stirred up a rumpus, o’ course, but when they went lookin’ fer Billy he was gone. Lit out alone, his ma said, in the night. Most kids his age woulda hid under the bed and bawled, I reckon, but this’n wasn’t made that way. Knowed what he’d done, didn’t regret doin’ it, fig-gered he was able t’ take care o’ himself and started out a-doin it! That’s the kind o’ kid he was.” The girl stirred slightly. “Poor little boy!” she said. “Poor, lonely little boy!” The old man glanced sharply at her before he spoke again. “Never thought of it that way before, but like enough he was, at that. Time when most young-uns are playin’ Injun, Billy was fightin’ ‘em! Goin’ on the dodge that way is a real tough life even fer a man and he was jest a kid. But he made a go of it. Maybe the way he was brung up had somethin’ t’ do with it, I dunno. “Yuh see, Billy was born in New York and come West with his folks when he was just a shaver. Daddy died somewhere on the trail and his ma married her another man. They was poor hard-workin’ folks and Billy sort o’ had t’ fetch himself up, so t’ speak. Livin’ in saloons and gamblin’ joints, he mixed with all kinds o’ men. He was a bright, quick kid and a born gambler, so I heard; bet yuh his shirt on the turn of a card, or gamble his life ‘on his speed with a gun, or both, and beat yuh, too!
“He’s killed some men, o’ course. May-/ be not as many as folks say, but some. Man that makes a trade o’ gamblin’ is bound t’ get himself into some shootin’. Some folks claim The Kid’s a rustler, too, and an all-round bad hombre. I dunno ’bout that.” “But you like him, don’t you, Uncle Joe?” Katie was smiling now. “It ain’t a crime, I reckon!” He glared in embarrassment. “But don’t you go get-tin’ fool romantic notions in yuhr head! If I jest thought yuh was makin’ a hero out o’ some wuthless, no-count youngster jest cause he’d killed a man or two I’d—by god-freys, big as yuh be and me no kin o’ yuhrs even, I’d paddle yuh!”
We continue right here after small break …