Part 3 out of 3
So it transpired that Casey at length returned to the new tent just below
the spring in the nameless canyon beyond Crazy Woman Lake. Chipmunks had
invaded the place and feasted upon an opened package of sweet crackers,
but otherwise the tent had been left inviolate. Neither Fred nor his
partner had returned. Wherefore Casey opened more cans and "made himself
to home," as he naively put it.
He was impatient to continue his journey, but since he had nothing of his
own except William, he meant to beg or buy a few things from this camp, if
either of the owners showed up. Meantime he could be comfortable, since it
is tacitly understood in the open land that a wayfarer may claim
hospitality of any man, with or without that man's knowledge. He is
expected to keep the camp clean, to leave firewood and to take nothing
away with him except what is absolutely necessary to insure his getting
safely to the next stopping place. Casey knew well the law, and he busied
himself in setting the camp in order while he waited.
But when five days and nights had slipped into history and he and William
were still in sole possession, Casey began to take another viewpoint. Fred
might possibly have left in a flying machine. The partner might have
decamped permanently before Fred lost his nerve. Several things might have
happened which would leave this particular camp and contents without a
claimant. Casey studied the matter for awhile and then pulled the four
suitcases from beneath the cots and proceeded to investigate. The first
one that he opened had a note folded and addressed to Fred. Casey read it
through without the slightest compunction. The handwriting was different
from that of the first note, hurried and scrawly, the words connected with
faint lines. Here is what Fred's partner had written:
"Dear Fred: Don't blame me for leaving you. A man that carries the
grouch you do don't need company. I'm fed up on solitude, and I don't like
the feel of things here. My staying won't help your lung a damn bit and if
you want anything you can hunt up the men that carry the light. Maybe they
are the ones that are killing off the horses. Any way, you can wash your
own dishes from now on. It will do you good. If I had of known you were
the crab you are I'll say I would never have come. You are welcome to my
share of the outfit. I hope some one shoots me and puts me out of my
misery quick if I ever show symptoms of wanting to camp out again. I am
going now because if I stayed I'd change your map for you so your own
looking glass wouldn't know you. I'll say you are some nut.
Casey had to take a fresh chew of tobacco before his brain would settle
down and he could think clearly. Then he observed that it was a damn funny
combination and you could ask anybody. After that he began to realize that
he was heir to a fine assortment of canned delicacies and an oil stove and
four suitcases filled, he hoped, with good clothes. Not omitting
possession of two spring cots and several pairs of high-grade blankets,
and two sweaters and Lord knows what all.
Those suitcases were enough to make any man sit and bite his nails,
wondering if he were crazy. Fred and Art had evidently fitted their
wardrobe to their ideas of a summer camp with dancing pavilion and plenty
of hammocks in the immediate neighborhood. There were white flannel
trousers and white canvas shoes and white silk socks, and fine ties and
handkerchiefs and things. There were striped silk shirts which made Casey
grin and think how tickled Injun Jim would be with them,--or one or two of
them; Casey had no intention of laying them all on the altar of diplomacy.
There was an assortment of apparel in those suitcases that would qualify
any man as porch hound at Del Monte. And Casey Ryan, if you please, had
fallen heir to the lot!
He dressed himself in white flannels with a silk shirt of delf blue and
pale green stripes, and wished that there was a looking-glass in camp
large enough to reflect all of him at once. Then, because his beard
stubble did not harmonize, he shaved with one of the safety razors he
After that he sorted and packed a careful wardrobe, and stored strange
food into two canvas kyacks. And the next evening he tied the tent flaps
carefully and fared forth with William to find the camp of Injun Jim and
see if his dream would come true.
You may not believe this next incident. I know I did not, when Casey told
me about it,--but now I am not so sure. Casey said that the light appeared
again, that night, moving slowly along the lip of the canyon like a man
with a large lantern. There was a full moon, which had made him decide to
travel at night on account of the heat while the sun was up. But the moon
did not reveal the cause of the light, though the canyon crest was plainly
visible to him.
William swung away from that light and walked rather briskly in the other
direction, and Casey did not argue with him. So they headed almost due
west and kept going. It seemed to Casey once or twice that the light
followed them; but he could not be sure.
Two full nights he journeyed, and on both nights he had the light behind
him. Once it came up swiftly to within a mile or so of him and William,
and stopped there for awhile and then disappeared. Casey camped rather
early and slept, and took the trail again in the morning. Night travel was
getting on his nerves.
All that day he walked and toward evening, with thunder heads piling high
above the Tippipahs, he came upon a small herd of Indian ponies feeding
out from the mouth of a wide gulch. He knew they were Indian ponies by
their size, their variegated colors, and their general unkemptness. They
presently spied him and went galloping off up the gulch, and Casey
followed until he spied a thin bluish ribbon of smoke wavering up toward
the slate-black clouds.
He made camp just out of sight around a point of rocks from the smoke,
stretching the canvas tarp which had floored the tent to make shelter
between boulders. He changed his clothes, dressing himself carefully in
the white flannel trousers, blue-and-green striped silk shirt, tan belt,
white shoes and his old Stetson tilted over his right eye at the
characteristic Casey angle. He was taking it for granted that an Indian
camp lay under that smoke, and he knew Indians. Inquisitiveness would shut
them up as effectively as poking a stick at a clam; but there were ways of
coaxing their interest, nevertheless, and when an Indian is curious you
have the trumps in your own hand and it will be your own fault if you
Casey's manner therefore was extremely preoccupied when he led a suddenly
limping William up the gulch and past a stone hut with a patched tepee
alongside it. A lean squaw stood erect before the tepee and regarded him
fixedly from under the shade of a mahogany-colored hand, and when Casey
came closer she stooped and ducked out of sight like a prairie dog diving
into its burrow. Casey paid no attention to that. He knew without being
told that he was under close scrutiny from eyes unseen; which was what he
desired and had prepared for.
The spring, as he had guessed, was above the camp. He threw a rock at two
yammering curs that rushed out at him, and drove them back with Caseyish
curses. Then he watered William at the trampled spring, made himself a
smoke, and went back down the gulch. Opposite the tepee the squaw stood
beside the trial. Casey grinned amiably and said hello.
"Yo' ketchum 'bacco? My man, him heap sick. Mebby die. Likeum 'bacco,
him." The squaw muttered it as if she would rather not speak, but had been
commanded to beg tobacco from the stranger.
"Sure, I got tobacco!" Casey's tone was a bit more friendly than before.
He pulled a small red can from his shirt pocket, hesitated and then tied
William to a bush. "Too bad your man sick. Mebby I can help him. He in
The squaw gestured dumbly, and Casey stooped and went into the tepee.
Inside it was so dark that he stood still just within the opening to get
his bearings. This happened to be very good form in Indian society, and we
will assume that Casey lost nothing by the pause. He dimly saw that a few
blankets lay untidily against the tepee wall and that an old Indian was
stretched upon them, watching Casey with one black eye, the other lid
lying in sunken folds across the socket. Casey was for once in his life
speechless. He had not expected to walk straight into the camp of Injun
Jim. He had thought that of course he would have to go on to Round Butte
and glean information there, perhaps; if he were exceptionally lucky he
would meet Indians who would tell him what he wanted to know. But here was
a one-eyed buck, and he was old, and he lived in the Tippipahs,--Injun Jim
by all description.
"Your squaw says you want tobacco." Casey advanced and held out the red
can. He knew better than to waste words, especially in the beginning.
Indians are peculiar; you must approach them by not seeming to approach at
The old fellow grunted and turned the can over and over in clawlike hands,
and said he wanted a match and a paper. Casey went farther; he rolled a
cigarette and gave it to him and then rolled one for himself. They smoked,
there in that unsavoury tepee, saying nothing at all. Casey had achieved
the first part of his dream; he was making friends with Injun Jim.
Later he went down to his own camp, leading William. It was hard to wait
and watch for the proper moment to broach the subject that filled his
mind, and then induce the old Indian to talk. Casey was beginning to
understand why no one had wormed the secret from Jim. When you are
hundreds of miles and many months distant from a problem, it is easy to
decide that you will do so and so, and handle the matter differently from
the bungling men you have heard about. To find Injun Jim and get him to
tell where his gold mine was had seemed fairly easy to Casey when he was
driving stage elsewhere, and could only think about it. But when he
sat on his haunches in the tepee, smoking with Injun Jim and conversing
intermittently of such vital things as the prospect of rain that night,
and the enforced delay in his journey because his pack mule was lame,
speaking of gold mines in a properly disinterested and casual manner was
not at all easy.
However, Casey ate a very hearty supper and went to bed studying the
problem of somehow winning the old fellow's gratitude. Morning did not
bring a solution, as it properly should have done, but he ransacked his
pack, chose a small glass jar of blackberry jam and a little can of maple
syrup, fortified himself with another red can of tobacco and went up to
the camp, hoping for a streak of good luck. As for medicine, he hadn't a
drop, and if he had he did not know for certain what ailed Injun Jim. He
thought it was just old age and general cussedness.
Injun Jim ate the jam, using a deadly looking knife and later his fingers,
when the jam got low in the jar. When he had finished that he opened the
can and drank the maple syrup just as he would have drunk whisky,--with a
relish. He smoked Casey's tobacco in the stone pipe which the squaw
brought him and appeared fairly well satisfied with life. But he did not
talk much, and what he did say was of no importance whatever. Not once did
he mention gold mines.
Casey went back to camp and swore at William as he counted his cans of
luxuries. He did not realize that he had established a dangerous
precedent, but when he led William up to water, meaning to pass by the
camp without stopping, the squaw halted him on his way back and told him
briefly that her man wanted him.
Injun Jim did not want Casey; he wanted more jam. Casey went back to camp
and got another can, this time of strawberry, and in a spirit of
peevishness added a small tin of the liver paste that had caused him a
night's discomfort. He took them to the tepee, and Injun Jim ate the
complete contents of both cans and seemed disgruntled afterwards; so much
so that he would not talk at all but smoked in brooding silence, staring
with his one malevolent eye at the stained wall of the tepee.
An hour later he began to move himself restlessly in the blanket and to
mutter Piute words, the full meaning of which Casey did not grasp. But he
would not answer when he was spoken to, so Casey went back to his camp.
And that night Injun Jim was very sick.
Next day however he was sufficiently recovered to want more jam. Casey
filled his pockets with small cans and doled them out one by one and
gossipped artfully while he watched Injun Jim eat pickles, India relish
and jelly with absolute, inscrutable impartiality. Casey felt sympathetic
qualms in his own stomach just from watching the performance, but he was
talking for a gold mine and he did not stop.
"You know Willow Pete?" he asked garrulously. "Big, tall man. Drinks
whisky all the time. Willow Pete found a gold mine two moons ago. He's
rich now. Got a big barrel of whisky. Got silk shirts like this--" he
plucked at his own silken sleeve "--got lots of jam all the time. Every
day drinks whisky and eats jam."
"Hunh!" Injun Jim ran his forefinger dexterously around the inside of a
jelly glass and licked the finger with the nonchalance of a two-year-old.
"Hunh. Got heap big gol' mine, me. No can go ketchum two year, mebby. I
dunno. Feet no damn good for walk. Back no damn good for ride. No ketchum
gol' long time now."
Casey took a chew of tobacco. This was getting to the point he had been
aiming for, and he needed his wits working at top speed.
"Well, if you got a gold mine, you can eat jam all the time. Drink whisky,
too," he added, hushing his conscience peremptorily. "If you've got a
white man that's your friend, he might take your gold to town and buy
whisky and jam."
Injun Jim considered, his finger searching for more jelly. "White man no
good for Injun, mebby. I dunno. Ketchum gol', mebby no givum. Tell all
white mans. Heap mans come. White man horses eat grass. Drink all water.
Shootum deer, shootum rabbit, shootum all damn time. Make big house. Heap
noise all time. No place for Injuns no more. No good."
"White man not all same, Jim. One white man maybe good friend. Help get
gold, give you half. You buy lots of jam, lots of whisky, lots of silk
shirts, have good time." Casey looked at him straight. He could do it,
because he meant what he said; even the whisky, I regret to say.
Injun Jim accepted a cigarette and smoked it, saying never a word. Casey
smoked the mate to it and waited, trying to hide how his fingers trembled.
Injun Jim turned himself painfully on the blankets and regarded Casey
steadily with his one suspicious eye. Casey met the look squarely.
"You got more shirt?" Jim's finger pointed at the blue and green stripes.
"Yo' got more jam? You bringum. Heap sick, me, mebby die. Me no takeum
gol' me die. No wantum, me die. Yo' mebby good man. I dunno. Me ketchum
heap jam, ketchum heap silk shirt, ketchum heap 'bacco, heap whisky, mebby
me tellum you where ketchum gol' mine. Me die, yo' heap rich--"
He turned suddenly, lifted his right arm and sent his knife swishing
through the air. It sliced its way through the tepee wall and hung there
quivering, Caught by the hilt. Injun Jim called out vicious, Piute words.
"Hahnaga!" he commanded fiercely. "Hahnaga!"
The lean old squaw came meekly, stood just within the tepee while her lord
spat words at her. She answered apathetically in Piute and backed out.
Presently she returned, driving before her a young squaw whom Casey had
not before seen. The young squaw was holding a hand upon her other arm,
and Casey saw blood between her fingers. The young squaw was not
particularly meek. She stood there sullenly while Injun Jim berated her in
the Indian tongue, and once she muttered a retort that made the old man's
fingers go groping over the blankets for a weapon; whereat the young squaw
laughed contemptuously and went out, sending Casey a side glance and a
fleeting smile as full of coquetry as ever white woman could employ.
The interruption silenced the old buck upon the subject of gold. Casey sat
there and chewed tobacco and waited, schooling his impatience as best he
could. Injun Jim muttered in Piute, or lay with his one eye closed. But
Casey knew that he did not sleep; his thin lips were drawn too tense for
slumber. So he waited.
Injun Jim opened his eye suddenly, looked all around the tepee and then
stared fixedly at Casey. "Young squaw no good. Heap much white talk.
Stealum gol' mine, mebby. I dunno." He gestured for his knife, and Casey
got it for him. Injun Jim fondled it evilly.
"Bimeby killum. Mebby. I dunno. Yo' ketchum jam, ketchum shirt--how many
jam yo' ketchum?"
Casey meditated awhile. He had not planned an exclusive jam diet for Injun
Jim, therefore his supply was getting low. But at the tenderfoot camp was
much more, enough to last Injun Jim to the border of the happy hunting
grounds,--if he did not loiter too long upon the way. There was no telling
how long Injun Jim would be able to eat jam, but Casey was a good gambler.
"If I go get a lot more, and get silk shirts--six," he counted with his
fingers, "you tell me where your gold mine is."
"Yo' bringum heap jam, bringum shirt. Me tellum." His one eye was bright.
"Yo' bringum jam. Yo' bringum shirt. Yol giveum me." He patted the bare
dirt beside the blankets, signifying that he wanted the jam and shirts
there, within reach of his hand. He even twisted his cruel old lips into a
smile. "Me tellum. Me shakeum hand."
He held out his left hand and Casey clasped it soberly, though he wanted
to jump up and crack his heels together,--as he confided afterwards. Injun
Jim laid the blade of his knife across the clasped hands.
"Yo' lie me, yo' die quick. Injun god biteum. Mebby snake. I dunno. How
long yo' ketchum heap jam, heap shirt?"
Now that he knew the way, Casey had in mind a certain short-cut that would
subtract two days from the round trip. He held up his hand, fingers
spread, and got up. Then he thought of the threat and added one of his
"I've got a God myself, Jim. You lie about that gold mine and the jam'll
choke yuh to death. You can ask anybody."
Casey went out and straightway packed for the journey. Fate, he told
himself, was playing partners with him. I don't suppose Casey, even in his
most happy-go-lucky mood, had ever been quite so content with life as when
he returned to the camp of the tenderfeet for a mule load of jam and silk
shirts. Trading an old muzzle-loading shotgun to an Indian chief for the
future site of a great city could not have seemed more of a bargain in the
days of our forefathers.
He made the trip almost half a day sooner than he had promised and went
straight up to Injun Jim's camp with his load. He was whistling all the
way up the canyon to the tepee; but then he stopped.
Inside the hut was the sound of wailing. Casey tried not to guess what
that meant. He tied William and went to the door of the tepee.
The young squaw came from within and stood just before the opening,
regarding Casey with that maddening, Indian immobility so characteristic
of the race. She did not speak, though Casey waited for fully two minutes;
nor did she move aside to let him go in. Casey grinned disarmingly.
"Me ketchum heap jam for Injun Jim. Heap silk shirts. Me go tellum," he
"Are those they?" the young squaw inquired calmly, and pointed to William.
Casey jumped. Any man would, hearing that impeccable sentence issue from
the lips of a squaw with a blanket over her head.
"Uh-huh," he gulped.
"My father is dead. He died yesterday from eating too much pickles that
you gave him. I should like to have what you have brought to give him. I
should thank you for the silk shirts. I can fix them so that I can wear
them. I will talk to you pretty soon about that gold mine. I know where it
is. I have helped my father bring the gold away. My father would not tell
you if you gave him all the jam and all the silk in the world. My father
was awful mean. I thought he would maybe kill you and that is why I
listened beside the tepee. I wished to protect you because I know that you
are a good man. Will you give me the silk shirts and the jam?"
She smiled then, and Casey saw that she had a gold tooth in front, which
further demonstrated how civilized she was.
"You will excuse the way I am dressed. I have to dress so that I would
please my father. He was very mean with me all the time. He did not like
me because I have gone to school and got a fine educating. He wanted me to
be Indian. But I knew that my father is a chief and that makes me just
what you would say a princess, and I wished to learn how to be educate
like all white ladies. So I took some gold from my father's mine and I
spent the money for going to school. My name," she added impressively, "is
Lucy Lily. What is your name?"
"Mr.--Casey Ryan," he stuttered, floundering in the mental backwash left
by this flood of amazing eloquence.
"I like that name. I think I will have you for my friend. Do not talk to
my mother, Hahnaga. She is crazy. She tells lies all the time about me.
She does not like me because I have went to school and got a fine
educating. She is mad all the time when she sees that I am not like her.
Now you give me the silks. I will put on a pretty dress. My father is dead
now and I can do what I wish to do; I am not afraid of my mother. My
mother does not know where to find the gold mine. I am the only one who
Casey is a simple soul, too trustful by far. He was embarrassed by the
arch smile which Lucy Lily gave him, and he wished vaguely that she was
the blanket squaw she looked to be. But it never occurred to Casey that
there might be a wily purpose behind her words. He unpacked William and
gave her the things he had brought for Injun Jim, and returned with his
camp outfit to the spring to think things over while he boiled himself a
pot of coffee and fried bacon.
Lucy Lily appeared like an unwarranted vision before him. Indeed, Casey
likened her coming to a nightmare. Casey no longer wondered why Injun Jim
insisted upon Indian dress for Lucy Lily.
Now she wore a red silk skirt much spotted with camp grease. A
three-cornered tear in the side had been sewed with long stitches and
coarse white thread, and even Casey was outraged by the un-workmanlike
job. She had on one of the silk shirts, which happened to be striped in
many shades, none of which harmonized with the basic color of the skirt.
She also wore two cheap necklaces whose luster had long since faded, and
her hair was coiled on top of her head and adorned with three combs
containing many white glass settings. Her face was powdered thickly to the
point of her jaws, with very red cheekbones and very red lips. She wore
once-white slippers with French heels much run over at the side and dirty
white silk stockings with great holes in the heels. I must add that the
shirt was too narrow in the bust, so that her arms bulged and there were
gaping spaces between the buttons. And for a belt she wore a wide blue
ribbon very much creased and soiled, as if she had used it for a long
while as a hair bow.
She sat down upon a rock and watched Casey distractedly bungle his
cooking. She must have had a great deal of initiative for a squaw, for she
plunged straight into the subject which most nearly concerned Casey, and
she was frank to the point of appalling him with her bluntness. Casey is a
rather case-hardened bachelor, but I suspect that Lucy Lily scared him
from the beginning.
"Do you like me when I have pretty dress on?" she inquired, smoothing the
red silk complacently over her knees.
Casey swears that he told her it didn't make a darn bit of difference to
him what she wore. If that is the truth, Lucy Lily must have been very
stupid or very persistent, for she went on blandly stating her plans and
her dearest wish.
"That gold mine I am keeping for my husband," she announced. "It is a
present for a wedding gift for my man. I shall not marry an Indian man. I
am too pretty and I have a gold mine, and I will marry a white man.
Indians don't know what money is good for. I want to live in a town and
wear silk dresses all the time every day and ride in a red automobile and
have lots of rings and go to shows. Have you got lots of money?"
I don't know what Casey told her. He says he swore he hadn't a nickel to
"I think you have got lots of money. I think perhaps you are rich. I don't
see white men walk in the desert with silk shirts and have lots of jam and
pickles if they are not rich. I think you want that gold mine awful bad.
You gave Jim lots of jam so he would tell you. White men want lots of more
money when they have got lots of money. It is like that in shows. If a man
is poor he don't care. If a man is rich he is hunting all the time for
more money and killing people. So I think you are like them rich mans in
Casey told her again that he was poor; but she couldn't have believed
him,--not in the face of all the silk and sweets he had displayed.
"I am awful glad Jim is dead. Now you have gave me the things. We will go
to Tonopah and you will buy a red automobile and we will ride in it. And
you will buy me lots of silk and rings. I shall be a lady like a princess
in a show."
"Your mother has got something to say about that gold mine," Casey blurted
desperately. "It's hers by rights. She'd have to go fifty-fifty on it.
She's got it coming, and I never cheated anybody yet. I ain't going to
commence on an old squaw."
"She is a big fool. What you think Hahnaga want of money? The agent he
gives her blankets and tea and flour. If you give Hahnaga silk, I will be
awful mad. She is old. She will die pretty quick."
"Well," said Casey, "I dunno as any of us has got any cinch on living.
And if there's a gold mine in the family, she sure has got to have an even
break. What about old Jim? Buried him yet?"
"He is in the tepee. I think Hahnaga will dig a grave. I don't care. I
will go with you, and we will find the gold mine. Then you will buy me--"
"I'll buy you nothin'!" Casey's tone was emphatic.
Lucy Lily looked at him steadily. "Before we go for the gold mine we will
go to Tonopah and get marriage, and you will give me a gold ring on my
finger. Then I will show you where is gold so much you will have money to
buy the world full of things." She smiled at him, showing her gold tooth.
"I like you for my man," she said. "I am awful pretty. I have lots of
fellows. I could marry lots of other white mans, but I will marry you."
"Like hell you will!" snorted Casey, and began to wipe out his frying pan
and empty his coffeepot and make other preparations for instant packing.
"Like hell you'll marry me! Think I'd marry a squaw--?"
"Then I will not tell you where is the gold! Then I hate you and I will
fix you good! You want that gold mine awful bad. You will have to marry me
before I tell you."
Casey straightened and looked at her, his frying pan in one hand, his
coffeepot in the other. "Say, I never asked you about the darn mine, did
I? I done my talkin' to Injun Jim. It's you that butted in here on this
deal. Seein' he's dead, I'll talk to his squaw and make a deal with her,
mebby." He looked her over measuringly. "Princess--hunh! I'll tell yuh in
plain American what you are, if yuh don't git outa here. I may want a gold
mine, all right, but I sure don't want it that bad. Git when I tell yuh to
A squaw with no education would have got forthwith. But Lucy Lily had
learned to be like white ladies,--or so she said. She screamed at him in
English, in Piute, and chose words in each that no princess should employ
to express her emotions. Her loud denunciations followed Casey to the
tepee, where he stopped and offered his services to Hahnaga as undertaker.
She accepted stolidly and together they buried Injun Jim, using his best
blanket and not much ceremony. Casey did not know the Piute customs well
enough to follow them, and his version of the white man's funeral service
was simple in the extreme. Hahnaga, however, brought two bottles of
pickles and one jar of preserves which had outlasted Injun Jim's appetite,
and put them in the grave with him, together with his knife and an old
rifle and his pipe.
To dig a grave and afterwards heap the dirt symmetrically over a discarded
body takes a little time, no matter how cursory is the proceeding. Casey
ceased to hear Lucy Lily's raucous voice and so thought that she had
settled down. He misjudged the red princess. He discovered that when he
went back to where William had stood.
He no longer stood there. He was gone, pack and all, and once more Casey
stood equipped for desert journeying with shirt, overalls, shoes and
socks, and his old Stetson, and with half a plug of tobacco, a pipe and a
few matches in his pocket. On the bush where William had been tied a piece
of paper was impaled and fluttered in the wind. Casey jerked it off and
read the even, carefully formed script,--and swore.
"_Dear Sir:_ I am going to Tonopah. If you try to come I will tell the
sherf to coming and see Jim and put you in jail. I will tell the judge you
killed him and the sherf will put you in jail and hung you. Those are fine
shirts. I will wear them silk. As ever your friend,
Casey sat down on a rock to think it over. The squaw was moving about
within the hut, collecting the pitifully few belongings which Lucy Lily
had disdained to steal. An Indian does not like to stay where one has
Casey could overtake Lucy Lily, if he walked fast and did not stop when
dark fell, but he did not want to overtake her. He was not alarmed at her
threat of the sheriff, but he did not want to see her again or hear her or
think of her.
So Casey tore up the note and went and begged a little food from Hahnaga;
then he broached the subject of the gold mine. The squaw listened, looking
at him with dull black eyes and a face like a stamped-leather portrait of
an Indian. She shook her head and pointed down the gulch.
"No find gol', bad girl. I think killum my mans. I dunno. No fin' gol'--
Jim he no tellum. No tellum me, no tellum Lucy, no tellum nobody. I think,
all time Jim hide." She made a gesture as of one covering something with
dirt. "Lucy all time try for fin' gol'. Jim he no likeum. Lucy my sister
girl. Bad. No good. All time heap mean. All time tellum heap big lie so
Indian no likeum. One time take monee, go 'way off. School for write. Come
back for fin' gol', make Jim tellum. Jim sick long time. Jim no tellum.
Jim all time mad for Lucy. Las' night--talk mean--mebby fight--Jim he die
quick. Lucy say killum me, I tell.
"Now me go my brother. Walk two day. Give you grub--no got many grub. You
takeum gol' you fin'. Me no care. No want. You don' give Lucy. Lucy bad
girl all time. No fin' gol'--Jim he no tellum. I dunno."
That left Casey exactly where he had been before he found Injun Jim. There
was no getting around it; the squaw repeated her statements twice, which
Casey thought was probably more talking that she had done before in the
course of six months. She impressed Casey as being truthful. She really
did not know any more about Injun Jim's mine than did Casey. Or perhaps a
little more, because she knew, poor thing, just how drunk Jim could get on
the whisky they gave him for the gold. He used to beat her terribly when
he came to camp drunk. Casey learned that much, though it didn't help him
Hahnaga did not seem to think that anything need be done about the manner
of Jim's death. She said he was heap sick and would die anyway, or words--
not many--to that effect. Casey decided to go on and mind his own
business. He did not see why, he said, the county of Nye should be let in
for a lot of expense on Injun Jim's account, even if Jim had been killed.
And as for punishing Lucy Lily, he was perfectly willing that it should be
done, only he did not want to do it. I have always believed that Casey was
afraid she might possibly marry him in spite of himself if she were in his
immediate neighborhood long enough.
They made themselves each a small pack of food and what was more vital,
water, and went their different ways. Hahnaga struck off to the west, to
her brother at the end of Forty-Mile Canyon. At least, that was where she
said her brother mostly camped. Casey retraced his steps for the second
time to the camp of the tenderfeet. Loco Canyon, Casey calls the place,
claiming it by right of discovery.
Now I don't see, and possibly you won't see, either, what the devil's
lantern had to do with Casey's bad luck. Casey maintains rather stubbornly
that it had a great deal to do with it. First, he says, it got him all off
the trail following it, and was almost the death of him and William. Next,
he declares that it drove him to Lucy Lily and had fully intended that he
should be tied up to her. Then he suspects that it had something to do
with Injun Jim's dying just when he did, and he has another count or two
against the lantern and will tell you them, and back them with much
argument, if you nag him into it.
It taught him things, he says. And once, after we had talked the matter
over and had fallen into silence, he broke out with a sentence I have
never forgotten, nor the tone in which he said it, nor the way he glared
into the fire, his pipe in his hand where he always had it when he was
extremely in earnest.
"The three darndest, orneriest, damndest things on earth," said Casey, as
if he were intoning a text, "is a Ford, or a goat, or an Injun. You can
ask anybody yuh like if that ain't so."
Casey was restless, and his restlessness manifested itself in a most
unusual pessimism. Twice he picked up "float" that showed the clean indigo
stain of silver bromyrite in spots the size of a split pea, and cast the
piece from him as if it were so much barren limestone, without ever
investigating to see where it had come from. Little as I know about
mineral, I am sure that one piece at least was rich; high-grade, if ever I
saw any. But Casey merely grunted when I spoke to him about it.
"Maybe it is. A coupla hundred ounces, say. What's that, even with silver
at a dollar an ounce? It ain't good enough for Casey, and what I'm wastin'
my time for, wearing the heels off'n my shoes prospectin' Starvation, is
somethin' I can't tell yuh." He looked at me with his pale-blue, unwinking
stare for a minute.
"Er--I can--and I guess the quicker it's out the better I'll feel."
He took out his familiar plug of tobacco, always nibbled around the edges,
always half the size of his four fingers. I never saw Casey with a fresh
plug in his pocket, and I never saw him down to one chew; it is one of the
little mysteries in his life that I never quite solved.
"I been thinkin' about that devil's lantern we seen the other night," he
said, when he had returned to his pocket the plug with a corner gone.
"They's something funny about that--the way it went over there and stood
on the Tippipahs again. I ain't sooperstitious. But I can't git things
outa my head. I want to go hunt fer that mine of Injun Jim's. This here is
just foolin' around--huntin' silver. I want to see where that free gold
comes from that he used to peddle. It's mine--by rights. He was goin' to
tell me where it was, you recollect, and he woulda if I hadn't overfed him
on jam--or if that damn squaw hadn't took a notion for marryin'. I let her
stampede me--and that's where I was wrong. I shoulda stayed."
I was foolish enough to argue with him. I had talked with others about the
mine of Injun Jim, and one man (who owned cattle and called mines a
gamble) told me that he doubted the whole story. A prospectors' bubble, he
called it. Free gold, he insisted, did not belong in this particular
formation; it ran in porphyry, he said,--and then he ran into mineralogy
too technical for me now. I repeated his statement, however, and saw Casey
"Gold is where yuh find it," he retorted, and spat after a hurrying
lizard. "They said gold couldn't be found in that formation around
Goldfield. But they found it, didn't they?"
Casey looked at me steadily for a minute and then came out with what was
really in his mind. "You stake me to grub and a couple of burros an' let
me go hunt the Injun Jim, and I'll locate yuh in on it when I find it. And
if I don't find it, I'll pay yuh back for the outfit. And, anyway, you're
makin' money off'n my bad luck right along, ain't yuh? Wasn't it me you
was writin' up, these last few days?"
"I was--er--reconsidering that devil's lantern yarn you told me, Casey.
But the thing doesn't work out right. It sounds unfinished, as you told
it. I don't know that I can do anything with it, after all." I was
truthful with him; you all remember that I was dissatisfied with the way
Casey ended it. Just walking back across the desert and quitting the
search,--it lacked, somehow, the dramatic climax. I could have built one,
of course. But I wanted to test out my theory that a man like Casey will
live a complete drama if he is left alone. Casey is absolutely natural; he
goes out after life without waiting for it to come to him, and he will
forget all about his own interests to help a stranger,--and above all, he
builds his castles hopefully as a child and seeks always to make them
substantial structures afterwards. If any man can prove my theory, that
man is Casey Ryan. So I led him along to say what dream held him now.
"Unfinished? Sure it's unfinished! I quit, didn't I tell yuh? It ain't
goin' to be finished till I git out and find that mine. I been studyin'
things over. I never seen one of them lights till I started out to find
Injun Jim's mine. If I'd a-gone along with no bad luck, I wouldn't never
a-found that tenderfoot camp, would I? It was keepin' the light at my back
done that--and William not likin' the look of it, either. And you gotta
admit it was the light mostly that scared them young dudes off and left me
the things. And if you'd of saw Injun Jim, you'd of known same as I that
it was the jam and the silk shirts that loosened him up. Nothin' in my
own pack coulda won him over,--"
"It's all right that far," I cut in. "But then he died, and you were set
afoot and all but married by as venomous a creature as I ever heard of,
and the thing stops right there, Casey, where it shouldn't."
"And that's what I'm kickin' about! Casey Ryan ain't the man to let it
stop there. I been thinkin' it over sence that devil's lantern showed up
again, and went and set over there on Tippipah. Mebby I misjudged the
dog-gone thing. Mebby it's settin' somewheres around that gold mine. Funny
it never showed up no other time and no other place. I been travelin' the
desert off'n on all my life, and I never seen anything like it before.
And I can tell yuh this much: I been wanting that mine too darn long to
give up now. If you don't feel like stakin' me for the trip, I'll go back
to Lund and have a talk with Bill. Bill's a good old scout and he'll
stake me to an outfit, anyway."
That was merely Casey's inborn optimism speaking. Bill was a good old
scout, all right, but if he would grubstake Casey to go hunting the Injun
Jim mine, then Bill had changed considerably.
The upshot of it was that we left Starvation the next morning, headed for
town. And two days after that I had pulled myself out of bed at daybreak
to walk down to his camp under the mesquite grove just outside of town. I
drank a cup of coffee with him and wished him luck. Casey did not talk
much. His mind was all taken up with the details of his starting,--whether
to trust his water cans on the brown burro or the gray, and whether he had
taken enough "cold" shoes along for the mule. And he set down his cup of
coffee to go rummaging in a kyack just to make sure that he had the hoof
rasp and shoeing hammer safe.
He was packed and moving up the little hill out of the grove before the
sun had more than painted a cloud or two in the east. A dreamer once more
gone to find the end of his particular rainbow, I told myself, as I
watched him out of sight. I must admit that I hoped, down deep in the
heart of me, that Casey would fall into some other unheard-of experience
such as had been his portion in the past. I felt much more certain that he
would get into some scrape than I did that he would find the Injun Jim,
and I was grinning inside when I went back to town; though there was a bit
of envy in the smile,--one must always envy the man who keeps his dreams
through all the years and banks on them to the end. For myself, I hadn't
chased a rainbow for thirty years, and I could not call myself the better
for it, either.
* * * * *
In September the lower desert does not seem to realize that summer is
going. The wind blows a little harder, perhaps, and frequently a little
hotter; the nights are not quite so sweltering, and the very sheets on
one's bed do not feel so freshly baked. But up on the higher mesas there
is a heady quality to the wind that blows fresh in your face. There is an
Indian-summery haze like a thin veil over the farthest mountain ranges.
Summer is with you yet; but somehow you feel that winter is coming.
In a country all gray and dull yellow and brown, you find strange,
beautiful tints no artist has yet prisoned with his paints. You dream in
spite of yourself, and walk through a world no more than half real, a
world peopled with your thoughts.
Casey did, when the burros left him in peace long enough. They were
misleading, pot-bellied animals that Casey hazed before him toward the
Tippipahs. They never showed more than slits of eyes beneath their
drooping lids, yet they never missed seeing whatever there was to see, and
taking advantage of every absent-minded moment when Casey was thinking of
the Injun Jim, perhaps. They were fast-walking burros when they were
following a beaten trail and Casey was hard upon their heels, but when his
attention wandered they showed a remarkable amount of energy in finding
blind trails and following them into some impracticable wash where Casey
wasted a good deal of time in extricating them. He said he never saw
burros that hated so to turn around and go back into the road, and he
never saw two burros get out of sight as quickly as they could when they
thought he wasn't watching. They would choose different directions and
hide from him separately,--but once was enough for Casey. He lost them
both for an hour in the sand pits twelve miles out of town, and after that
he tied them nose to tail and himself held a rope attached to the
hindmost, and so made fair time with them, after all.
The mule, Casey said, was just plain damn mule, sloughed off from the
army, blase beyond words,--any words at Casey's command, at least. A
lopeared buckskin mule with a hanging lower lip and a chronic
tail-switching, that shacked along hour after hour and saved Casey's legs
and, more particularly, a bunion that had developed in the past year.
Casey knew the country better than he had known it on his first
unprofitable trip into the Tippipahs. He avoided Furnace Lake, keeping
well around the Southern rim of it and making straight for Loco Canyon and
the spring there while his water cans still had a pleasant slosh. There he
rested his longears for a day, and disinterred certain tenderfoot luxuries
which he had cached when he was there last time. And when he set out again
he went straight on to the old stone hut where Injun Jim had camped. The
tepee was gone, burned down according to Indian custom after a death, as
he had expected. The herd of Indian ponies were nowhere in sight.
Hahnaga's brother, he guessed, had driven them off long ago.
Casey had worked out a theory, bit by bit, and with characteristic
optimism he had full faith that it would prove a fact later on. He wanted
to start his search from the point where Injun Jim had started, and he had
rather a plausible reason for doing so.
Injun Jim was an Indian of the old school, and the old school did a great
deal of its talking by signs. Casey had watched Jim with that pale,
unwinking stare that misses nothing within range, and he had read the
significance of Jim's unconscious gestures while he talked. It had been
purely subconscious; Casey had expected the exact location of the mine in
words, and perhaps with a crudely accurate map of Jim's making. But now he
remembered Jim's words, certain motions made by the skinny hands, and from
them he laid his course.
"He was layin' right here--facin' south," Casey told himself, squatting on
his heels within the rock circle that marked the walls of the tepee. "He
said, 'Got heap big gol' mine, me--' and he turned his hand that way."
Casey squinted at the distant blue ridge that was an unnamed spur of the
Tippipahs. "It's far enough so an old buck like him couldn't make it very
well. Fifteen mile, anyway--mebby twenty or twenty-five. And from the sign
talk he made whilst he was talkin', I'd guess it's nearer twenty than
fifteen. There's that two-peak butte--looks like that would be about right
for distance. And it's dead in line--them old bucks don't waggle their
hands permiskus when they talk. Old Jim woulda laid on his hands if he'd
knovved what they was tellin' me; but even an ornery old devil like him
gits careless when they git old. Casey hits straight fer Two Peak."
That's the way he got his bearings; just remembering the unguarded motion
of Injun Jim's grimy hand and adding thereto his superficial knowledge of
the country and his own estimate of what an old fellow like Jim could call
a long journey. With this and the unquestioning faith in his dream that
was a part of him, Casey threw his favorite "packer's hitch" across the
packed burros at dawn next morning, boarded his buckskin mule and set off
hopefully across the barren valley, heading straight for the distant butte
he called Two Peak.
I don't suppose Casey Ryan ever started out to do something for himself--
something he considered important to his own personal welfare and
happiness--without running straight into some other fellow's business and
stopping to lend a hand. He says he can't remember being left alone at any
time in his life to follow the beckoning finger of his own particular
Casey had made camp that night in one of several deep gulches that ridged
the butte with two peaks. We had been lucky in our burro buying, and he
had two of the fastest walking jacks in the country, so that he was able
to give them a good long nooning and still reach the foot of the butte and
make camp well before sundown. For the first time since he first heard of
the Injun Jim gold mine, Casey felt that he was really "squared away" to
the search. As he sat there blowing his unhurried breath upon a blue
granite cup of coffee to cool it, his memory slanted back along the years
when he had said that some day he would go and hunt for the Injun Jim mine
that was so rich a ten-pound lard bucket full of the ore had been known to
yield five hundred dollars' worth of gold. Well, it had been a long time
since he first said that to himself, but here he was, and to-morrow he
would begin his search with daylight, starting with this gulch he was in
and working methodically over every foot of Two Peak.
He took two long, satisfying swallows of coffee and poised the cup and
listened. After a minute had gone in that way, he finished the coffee in
gulps and stood up, dangling the empty cup with a finger crooked in the
handle. From somewhere not more than a long rifle-shot away, a Ford was
coughing under full pressure of gas and with at least one dirty spark plug
to give it a spasmodic stutter. While Casey stood there listening, the
stutter slowed and stopped with one wheezy cough. That was all.
"They'll have to clean up her hootin'-annies before they git outa here,"
Casey observed shrewdly, having intimate and sometimes unpleasant
knowledge of Fords and their peculiar ailments. "And I wonder what the
sufferin' Chris'mas they're doin' here, anyway. If it's huntin' the Injun
Jim they're after, the quicker they scrape the sut off them dingbats and
git outa here, the healthier they'll ride. You ask anybody if Casey Ryan's
liable to back up now he's on the ground and squared away!"
He stood there uneasily for a minute or two longer, caught a whiff of his
bacon scorching and stooped to its rescue. Then he fried a bannock hastily
in the bacon grease, folded two slices of bacon within it and ate in a
hurry, keeping an ear cocked for any further sounds from the concealed
He finished eating without having heard more and piled his dishes without
washing them. I don't suppose he had used more than ten minutes at the
longest in eating his supper. That was about the limit of Casey's inaction
when he smelled a mystery or a scrap. This had the elements of both, and
he started out forthwith to trail down the Ford, wiping crumbs from his
mouth and getting out his plug of tobacco as he went.
In broken country sounds are deceptive as to direction, but Casey was
lucky enough to walk straight toward the spot, which was over a hump in
the gulch, a sort of backbone dividing it in two narrow branches there at
its mouth. He had noticed when he rode toward it that it was ridged in the
middle, and had chosen the left-hand branch for no reason at all except
that it happened to be a little smoother traveling for his animals.
He topped the ridge and came full upon a camp below, almost within calling
distance from where he first sighted it. There was a stone hut that could
not possibly contain more than two small rooms, and there was a tent
pitched not far away. There seemed to be a spring just beyond the cabin.
Casey saw the silver gleam of water there, and a strip of green grass, and
a juniper bush or two.
But these details were not important at the moment. What sent him down the
hill in an uneven trot was a group of three that stood beside a car. From
their voices, and the gestures that were being made, here was a quarrel
building rapidly into a fight. To prove it the smallest person in the
group suddenly whipped out a revolver and pointed it at the two. Casey saw
the reddening sunlight strike upon the barrel with a brief shine,
instantly quenched when the gun was thrust forward toward the other two
whom it threatened.
"You get out of my camp and out of my sight just as fast as your legs can
take you. This car belongs to me, and you're not going to touch it. You've
got your wages--more than your wages, you great hulking shirks! A fine
exhibition you're making of yourselves, I must say! You thought you could
bluff me--that I'd stand meekly by and let you two bullies have your own
way about it, did you? You even waited until you had gorged yourselves on
food you've never earned, before you started your highwaymen performance.
You made sure of one more good meal, you--you _hogs._ Now go, before I
empty this gun into the two of you!"
Casey stopped, puffing a little, I suppose. He is not so young as when
they called him the Fightin' Stagedriver, and he had done his long day of
travel. The three did not know that he was there, they were so busy with
their quarrel. The woman's voice was sharp with contempt, but it was not
loud and there was not a tremble in any tone of it. The gun she held was
steady in her hand, but one man snarled at her and one man laughed. It was
the kind of laugh a woman would hate to hear from a man she was defying.
"Aw, puddown the popgun! Nobody's scared of it--er you. It ain't loaded,
and if it was loaded you couldn't hit nothin'. No need to be scared
'long's a woman's pointing a gun at yuh. Crank 'er up, agin, Ole. Don't
worry none about _her._ She can't stop nothin', not even her jawin'. Go
awn, start the damn Lizzie an' let's go."
Ole bent to the cranking, then complained that the switch must be off. His
companion growled that it was nothing of the kind and kept his narrowed
gaze fixed upon the woman.
She spied Casey standing there, a few rods beyond the car. The gun dropped
in her hand so that its aim was no longer direct. The man who faced her
jumped and caught her wrist, and the gun went off, the bullet singing ten
feet above Casey's head.
A little girl with flaxen curls and patched overalls on screamed and
rushed up to the man, gripping him furiously around the legs just above
the knees and trying her little best to shake him. "You leave my mamma
alone!" she cried shrilly.
Casey took a hand then,--a hand with a rock in it, I must explain. He
managed to kick Ole harshly in the ribs, sending him doubled sidewise and
yelping, as he passed him. He laid the other man out senseless with the
rock which landed precisely on the back of the head just under his hat.
The woman--Casey had mistaken her for a man at first, because she wore bib
overalls and had her hair bobbed and a man's hat on--dropped the gun and
held her wrist that showed angry red finger prints. She smiled at Casey
exactly as if nothing much had happened.
"Thank you very much indeed. I was beginning to wonder how I was going to
manage the situation. It was growing rather awkward, because I should have
been compelled to shoot them both, I expect, before I was through. And I
dreaded a mess. Wounded, I should have had them on my hands to take care
of--their great hulks!--and dead I should have had to bury them, and I
detest digging in this rocky soil. You really did me a very great--"
Her eyes ranged to something behind Casey and widened at what they saw.
Casey whirled about, ducked a hurtling monkey wrench and rushed Ole, who
was getting up awkwardly, his eyes malevolent. He made a very thorough job
of thrashing Ole, and finished by knocking him belly down over the
un-hooded engine of the Ford.
"I hope Jawn doesn't suffer from that," the little woman commented
whimsically. "Babe, run and get that rope over there and take it to the
gentleman so he can tie Ole's hands together. Then he can't be naughty any
more. Hurry, Baby Girl."
Baby Girl hurried, her curls whipping around her face as she ran. She
brought a coil of cotton clothesline to Casey, looking up at him with
wide, measuring eyes of a tawny shade like sunlight shining through thin
brown silk. "I wish you'd give Joe a beating too," she said with grave
earnestness. "He's a badder man than Ole. He hurt my mamma. Will you give
Joe a beating and tie his naughty hands jus' like that when he wakes up?"
She lifted her plump little body on her scuffed toes, her brown, dimpled
fingers clutching the radiator to hold her steady while she watched Casey
tie Ole's naughty hands behind his back.
"Now will you tie Joe's naughty hands jus' like that? Don't use up all the
rope! My mamma hasn't got any more rope, and you have to tie--"
"Babe! Come over here and don't bother the gentleman. Stand away over
there so you can't hear the naughty words Ole is saying." The little woman
smiled, but not much. Casey, glancing up from the last efficient knot,
felt suddenly sorry that he had not first gagged Ole. Casey had not
thought of it before; mere cussing was natural to him as breathing, and he
had scarcely been aware of the fact that Ole was speaking. Now he cuffed
the Swede soundly and told him to shut up, and yanked him off the car.
"Joe is regaining consciousness. He'll be nasty to handle as a rabid
coyote if you wait much longer. Just cut the rope. It's my clothesline,
but we must not balk at trifles in a crisis like this." The little woman
had recovered her gun and was holding it ready for Joe in case the
predicted rabidness became manifest.
Casey tied Joe very thoroughly while consciousness was slowly returning.
The situation ceased to be menacing; it became safe and puzzling and even
a bit mysterious. Casey reached for his plug, remembered his manners and
took away his hand. Robbed of his customary inspiration he stood
undecided, scowling at the feebly blinking ruffian called Joe.
"It's very good of you not to ask what it's all about," said the little
woman, taking off the man's hat and shaking back her hair like a
schoolgirl. "I have some mining claims here--four of them. My husband left
them to me, and since that's all he did leave I have been keeping up the
assessment work every year. Last year I had enough money to buy Jawn." She
nodded toward the Ford. "I outfitted and came out here with an old fellow
I'd known for years, kept camp until he'd done the assessment work, and
paid him off and that was all there was to it.
"This summer the old man is prospecting the New Jerusalem, I expect. He
died in April. I hired these two scoundrels. I was foolish enough to pay
half their wages in advance, because they told me a tale of owing money to
a widow for board and wanting to pay her. I have," she observed, "a
weakness for widows. And they have just pretended to be working the
claims. I hurt my ankle so that I haven't been able to walk far for a
month, and they took advantage of it and have been prospecting around on
their own account, at my expense, while I religiously marked down their
time and fed them. They have located four claims adjoining mine, and put
up their monuments and done their location work in the past month, if you
please, while I supposed they were working for me."
"D'they locate you in on 'em?"
"Locate me--in? You mean, as a partner? They emphatically did not! I went
up to the claims to-day, saw that they had not done a thing since the last
time I was there; they had even taken away my tools. So we tracked them,
Baby and I, and found their location monuments just over the hill, and saw
where they had been working. So to-night I asked them about it, and they
were very defiant and very cool and decided that they were through out
here and would go to town. They were _borrowing_ Jawn--so they said. I was
objecting, naturally. I was quite against being left alone out here,
afoot, with Babe on my hands. It will soon be coming on cold," she said.
"I'd have been in a fine predicament, with supplies for only about a month
longer. And I must get the assessment work done, too, you know."
"D'you want 'em to stay and finish your work?" Casey reached out with his
foot and pushed Joe down upon his back again.
The little woman looked down at Joe and across at Ole by the car. "No,
thank you. I should undoubtedly put strychnine in their coffee if they
stayed, I should hate the sight of them so. I have some that I brought for
the pack rats. No, I don't want them--"
She had sounded very cool and calm, and she had impressed Casey as being
quite as fearless as himself. But now he caught a trembling in her voice,
and he distinctly saw her lip quiver. He was so disturbed that he went
over and slapped Ole again and told him to shut up, though Ole was not
saying a word.
"Where's their bed-rolls?" Casey asked, when he turned toward her again.
She pointed to the tent, and Casey went and dragged forth the packed
belongings of the two. It was perfectly plain that they had deliberately
planned their desertion, for everything was ready to load into the car.
Casey went staggering to the Ford, dumped the canvas rolls in and yanked
Ole up by the collar, propelling him into the tonneau. Then he came after
"If you can drive, you'll mebby feel better if yuh go along," he said to
the woman. "I'm goin' to haul 'em far enough sos't they won't feel like
walkin' back to bother yuh, and seein' you don't know me, mebby you better
do the drivin'. Then you'll know I ain't figurin' on stealin' your car and
makin' a getaway."
"I can drive, of course," she acquiesced. "Not that I'd be afraid to trust
Jawn with you, but they're treacherous devils, those two, and they might
manage somehow to make you trouble if you go alone. Jawn is a
temperamental car, and he demands all of one's attention at times."
She walked over to the car, reached out in the gathering dusk and fingered
the carburetor adjustment. "When they first revealed their plan of making
away with Jawn," she drawled, "I came up like this and remonstrated. And
while I did so I reached over and turned the screw and shut off the gas
feed. Jawn balked with them, of course--but they never guessed why!"
The two in the tonneau muttered something in undertones while the little
woman smiled at them contemptuously. Casey thought that was pretty smart--
to stall the car so they couldn't get away with it--but he did not tell
her so. There was something about the little woman which restrained him
from talking freely and speaking his mind bluntly as was his habit.
He cranked the car, waited until she had the adjustment correct, and then
went back and stood on the running board, holding with his left hand to a
brace of the top and keeping his right free in case he should need it. The
little woman helped the little girl into the front seat, slid her own
small person behind the wheel and glanced round inquiringly, with a
flattering recognition of his masculine right to command.
"Just head towards town and keep a-going till I say when," he told her,
and she nodded and sent Jawn careening down over the rough tracks which
Casey had missed by a quarter of a mile or less.
She could drive, Casey admitted, almost as recklessly as he could. He had
all he wanted to do, hanging on without being snapped off at some of the
sharp turns she made. The road wandered down the valley for ten miles,
crept over a ridge, then dove headlong into another wide, shallow valley
seamed with washes and deep cuts. The little woman never eased her pace
except when there was imminent danger of turning Jawn bottomside up in a
wash. So in a comparatively short time they were over two summits and
facing the distant outline of Crazy Woman Hills. They had come, Casey
judged, about twenty miles, and they had been away from camp less than an
Casey leaned forward and spoke to the woman, and she stopped the car
obediently. Casey pulled open the door and motioned, and the Swede came
stumbling out, sullenly followed by Joe, who muttered thickly that he was
sick and that the back of his head was caved in. Casey did not reply, but
heaved their bedding out after them. With the little woman holding her gun
at full aim, he untied the two and frugally stowed the rope away in the
"Now, you git," he ordered them sternly. "There's four of us camped just
acrost the ridge from this lady's place, and we'll sure keep plenty of
eyes out. If you got any ideas about taking the back trail, you better
think agin, both of yuh. You'd never git within shootin' distance of this
lady's camp. I'm Casey Ryan that's speakin' to yuh. You ask anybody about
Sourly they shouldered their bed-rolls and went limping down the trail,
and when their forms were only blurs beyond the shine of the headlights,
the little woman churned Jawn around somehow in the sand and drove back
quite as recklessly as she had come. Casey, bouncing alone in the rear
seat, did a great deal of thinking, but I don't believe he spoke once.
"Casey Ryan, I have never had much reason for feeling gratitude toward a
man, but I am truly grateful to you. You are a man and a gentleman." The
little woman had driven close to the stone cabin and had turned and rested
her arm along the back of the front seat, half supporting the sleeping
child while she looked full at Casey. She had left the engine running,
probably for sake of the headlights, and her eyes shone dark and bright in
the crisp starlight.
"'Tain't worth mentionin'," Casey protested awkwardly, and got out.
"I've been wondering if I could get a couple of you men to do the work on
my claims," she went on. "I'm paying four dollars and board, and it would
be a great nuisance to make the long trip to town and find a couple of men
I would dare trust. In fact, it's going to be pretty hard for me to trust
any one, after this experience. If you men can take the time from your own
"I don't know about the rest," Casey hedged uncomfortably. "They was
figurin' on doing something else. But I guess I could finish up the work
for yuh, all right. How deep is your shaft?"
"It's a tunnel," she corrected. "My husband started four years ago to
drift in to the contact. He'd gone fifty feet when he died. I don't know
that I'll strike the body of ore when I do reach the contact, but it's the
only hope. I'm working the four claims as a group, and the tunnel is now
eighty feet. Those two brigands have wasted a month for me, or it would be
a hundred. One man can manage, though of course it's slower and harder. I
have powder enough, unless they stole it from me. They did about five feet
all told, and tore down part of my wall, I discovered to-day, chasing a
stringer of fairly rich ore, thinking, I suppose, that it would lead to a
pocket. The old man I had last year found a pocket of high grade that
netted me a thousand dollars."
Casey threw up his head. "Gold?" he asked.
"Mostly silver. I sent a truck out from town after the ore, shipped it by
express and still made a thousand dollars clear. There wasn't quite a ton
and a half of it, though. You'll come, then, and work for me? I wish you
could persuade one of your partners to help. It's getting well into
"I wouldn't depend on 'em," Casey demurred uncomfortably. "I can do it
alone. And I'll board m'self, if you'd ruther. I've got grub enough. I
guess I better be gittin' along back to camp--if you ain't afraid to stay
alone. Them two couldn't git back much b'fore daylight, if they run all
the way; and by that time I'll be up and on the lookout," and Casey swung
off without waiting for an answer.
Casey was out of his blankets long before daylight the next morning and
sitting behind a bush on the ridge just back of the cabin, his rifle
across his knees. He hoped that his mention of three other men would
discourage those two from the attempt to revenge themselves, much as a
lone woman would tempt them. But he was not going to take any risk
At sunrise he went back to his camp--which he had moved closer to the
cabin, by the way, just barely keeping it out of sight--and cooked a hasty
breakfast. When he returned the little woman was ready to show him her
claims, and she seemed to have forgotten those two who had been so
ignominiously hauled away and dropped like unwanted cats beside the road.
She inquired again about Casey's partners, and Casey lied once more and
said that they had gone on over the range, prospecting.
I don't know why he did not tell the little woman that he had lied to Ole
and Joe and let it go at that. But he seemed to dread having her discover
that he had lied at all, and so he kept on lying about those three
imaginary men. Perhaps he had a chivalrous instinct that she would feel
safer, more at ease, if she thought that others were somewhere near. At
any rate he did not tell her that his only partners were two burros and a
I don't know what the little woman's opinion of Casey was, except that in
the first enthusiasm of her gratitude to him she had called him a man and
a gentleman. She drove a bargain with him, as she supposed. She would pay
him so much more per day if he preferred to board himself, and having
named the amount, Casey waited two minutes, as if he were meditating upon
the matter, and then replied that it suited him all right.
Casey did not think much of her claims, though he did not tell her so. In
his opinion that tunnel should have been driven into the hill at a
different point, where the indications of mineral were much stronger and
the distance to the contact much less. A light, varying vein had been
followed at an incline, and Casey, working alone, was obliged to wheel
every pound of dirt up a rather steep grade to the dump outside. The rock
was hard to work in, so that it took him a full half a day to put in four
shots, and then he would be likely to find that they had "bootlegged." The
tunnel also faced the south, from where the wind nearly always blew, so
that the gas and smoke from his shots would hang in there sometimes for a
full twenty-four hours, making it impossible for him to work.
The little woman seemed slightly surprised when Casey told her, at the end
of the first week, to knock off three days on account of gas. She and the
little girl came to his camp next day and brought Casey a loaf of light
bread and interrupted him in the act of shaving. The little woman looked
at the two burros and at the mule, measured the camp outfit with her keen
gray eyes, looked at Casey who had nicked his chin, and became thoughtful.
After that she stopped calling him Mr. Ryan and addressed him as Casey
Ryan instead, with a little teasing inflection in her voice. Once Casey
happened to mention Lund, and when he saw her look of surprise he
explained that he drove a stage out of Lund, for awhile.
"Oh! So you _are_ that Casey Ryan!" she said. "I might have known it." She
laughed to herself, but she did not say why, and Casey was afraid to ask.
He could remember so many incidents in his past that he would not want the
little woman to know about, and he was afraid that it might be one of them
at which she was laughing.
She formed the habit of coming up to the tunnel every day, with Babe
chattering along beside her, swinging herself on her mother's hand. At
first she said whimsically that she had found it best to keep an eye on
her miners, as if that explained her coming. But she always had something
good to eat or drink. Once she brought a small bucket of hot chocolate,
which Casey gulped down heroically and smacked his lips afterwards. Casey
hated chocolate, too, so I think you may take it for granted that by then
he was a goner.
He used to smoke his pipe and watch the little woman and Babe go
"high-grading" along the tunnel wall. That was what she called it and
pretended that she expected to find very rich ore concealed somewhere. It
struck him one day, quite suddenly, that the Little Woman (I may as well
begin to use capitals, because Casey always called her that in his mind,
and the capitals were growing bigger every day) the Little Woman never
seemed to notice his smoking, or to realize that it is a filthy habit and
immoral and degrading, as that other woman had done.
He began to notice other things, too; that the Little Woman helped him a
lot, on afternoons when help was most likely to be appreciated. She
sometimes "put down a hole" all by herself, skinning a knuckle now and
then with the lightest "single-jack" and saying _"darn!"_ quite as a
matter of course.
And once, when the rock was particularly hard, she happened along and
volunteered to turn the drill while Casey used the "double-jack", which I
suppose you know is the big hammer that requires two hands to pound the
drill while another turns it slightly after each blow, so that the bitted
end will chew its way into hard rock.
You aren't all of you miners, so I will explain further that to drill into
rock with a double-jack and steel drill is not sport for greenhorns
exactly. The drill-turner needs a lot of faith and a little nerve, because
one blow of the double-jack may break a hand clasped just below the head
of the drill. And the man with the double-jack needs a steady nerve, too,
and some experience in swinging the big hammer true to the head of the
drill,--unless he enjoys cracking another man's bones.
Casey Ryan prides himself upon being able to swing a double-jack as well
as any man in the country. It is his boast that he never yet broke the
skin on the hand of his drill-turner. So I shall have to let you take it
for granted that the Little Woman's presence and help was more unnerving
than a wildcat on Casey's back. For, while the first, second and third
blows fell true on the drill, the fourth went wild. Casey owns that he was
in a cold sweat for fear he might hit her. So he did. She was squatted on
her heels, steadying one elbow on her knee. The double-jack struck her
hand, glanced and landed another blow on her knee; one of those terribly
painful blows that take your breath and make you see stars without
crippling you permanently.
Casey doesn't like to talk about it, but once he growled that he did about
every damn-fool thing he could with a double-jack, except brain her. The
Little Woman gave one small scream and went over backward in a faint, and
Casey was just about ready to go off and shoot himself.
He took her up in his arms and carried her down to the cabin before she
came to. And when she did come to her senses, Babe immediately made
matters worse. She was whimpering beside her mother, and when she saw that
mamma had waked up, she shrilled consolingly: "It's going to be all well
in a minute. Casey Ryan kissed it des like _that!_ So now it'll get all
If the Little Woman had wanted to tell Casey what she thought of him, she
couldn't just then, for Casey was halfway to his own camp by the time she
glanced around the room, looking for him.
Common humanity drove him back, of course. He couldn't let a woman and a
child starve to death just because he was a damned idiot and had
half-killed the woman. But if there had been another person within calling
distance, the Little Woman would probably never have seen Casey Ryan
Necessity has a bland way of ignoring such things as conventions and the
human emotions. Casey cooked supper for Babe and the Little Woman, and
washed the dishes, and wrung out cloths from hot vinegar and salt so that
the Little Woman could bathe her knee--she had to do it left-handed, at
that--and unbuttoned Babe's clothes and helped her on with her pyjamas and
let her kneel on his lap while she said her prayers. Because, as Babe
painstakingly explained, she always kneeled on a lap so ants couldn't run
over her toes and tickle her and make her laugh, which would make God
think she was a bad, naughty girl.
Can you picture Casey Ryan rocking that child to sleep? I can't--yes, I
can too, and there's something in the picture that holds back the laugh
you think will come.
Before she gave her final wriggle and cheeped her last little cheep, Babe
had to be carried over and held down where she could kiss mamma good
night. Casey got rather white around the mouth, then. But he didn't say a
word. Indeed, he had said mighty little since that fourth blow of the
double-jack; just enough to get along intelligently, with what he had to
do. He hadn't even told the Little Woman he was sorry.
So Babe was asleep and tucked in her bed, and Casey turned down the light
and asked perfunctorily if there was anything else he could do, and had
started for the door. And then--
"Casey Ryan," called the Little Woman, with the teasing note in her voice.
"Casey Ryan, come back here and listen to me. You are not going off like
that to swear at yourself all night. Sit down in that chair and listen to
Casey sat down, swallowing hard. All the Casey Ryan nonchalance was
gone,--never had been with him, in fact, while he faced that Little Woman.
Somehow she had struck him humble and dumb, from the very beginning. I
wish I knew how she did it; I'd like to try it sometime myself.
"Casey Ryan, it's hard for a woman to own herself in the wrong, especially
to a man," she said, when he had begun to squirm and wonder what biting
words she would say. "I've always thought that I had as good nerve as any
one. I have, usually. But that double-jack scared the life out of me after
the first blow, and I thought I wouldn't let on. I couldn't admit I was
afraid. I was terribly ashamed. I knew you'd never miss, but I was scared,
just the same. And like a darn fool I pushed the drill away from me just
as you struck. It was coming down--you couldn't change it, man alive.
You'd aimed true at the drill, and--the drill wasn't just there at the
moment. Serves me right. But it's tough on you, old boy--having to do the
cooking for three of us while I'm laid up!"
I'm sure I can't see how Casey Ryan ever got the name of being a devil
with the ladies. He certainly behaved like a yap then, if you get my
meaning. He gave the Little Woman a quick, unwinking stare, looked away
from her shamedly, reached for his plug of tobacco, took away his hand,
swallowed twice, shuffled his feet and then grunted--I can use no other
word for it:
"Aw, I guess I c'n stand it if you can!"
He made a motion then to rise up and go to his own camp where he would
undoubtedly think of many tender, witty things that he would like to have
spoken to the Little Woman. But she was watching him. She saw him move and
stopped him with a question.
"Casey Ryan, tell me the truth about that tunnel. Do you think it's ever
going to strike the ore body at all?"
Start Casey off on the subject of mining and you have him anchored and
interested for an hour, at least. The Little Woman had brains, you must
"Well, I don't want to discourage you, ma'am," Casey said reluctantly, the
truth crowding against his teeth. "But I'd 'a' gone in under that iron
capping, if I'd been doing it. The outcropping you followed in from the
surface never has been in place, ma'am. It's what I'd call a wild
stringer. It pinched out forty foot back of where we're diggin' now.
That's just an iron stain we're following, and the pocket of high grade
don't mean nothin'. You went in on the strength of indications--" He
stopped there and chuckled to himself, in a way that I'd come to know as
the "indications" of a story,--which usually followed.
The Little Woman probably guessed. I suppose she was lonely, too, and the
pain of her hurts made her want entertainment. "What are you laughing at,
Casey Ryan?" she demanded. "If it's funny, tell _me."_
Casey blushed, though she couldn't have seen him in the dusky light of the
cabin. "Aw, it ain't anything much," he protested bashfully. "I just
happened to think about a little ol' Frenchman I knowed once, over in
Cripple Creek, ma'am." He stopped.
"Well? Tell me about the little ol' Frenchman. It made you laugh, Casey
Ryan, and it's about the first time I've seen you do that. Tell me."
"Well, it ain't nothin' very funny to tell about," Casey hedged like a
bashful boy; which was mighty queer for Casey Ryan, I assure you. For if
there was anything Casey liked better than a funny story, it was some one
to listen while he told it. "You won't git the kick, mebby. It's knowin'
the Frenchman makes it seem kinda funny when I think about it. He was a
good little man and he kept a little hotel and was an awful good cook. And
he wanted a gold mine worse than anybody I ever seen. He didn't know a
da--nothin' at all about minin' ma'am, but every ol' soak of a prospector
could git a meal off him by tellin' him about some wildcat bonanza or
other. He'd forgit to charge 'em, he'd be so busy listenin'.
"Well, there was two ol' soaks that got around him to grubstake 'em. They
worked it all one year. They'd git a burro load of grub and go out
somewheres and peck around till it was all et up, and then they'd come
back an' tell Frenchy some wild tale about runnin' acrost what looked like
the richest prospect in the country. They'd go on about havin' all the
indications of a big body uh rich ore. He'd soak it in, an' they'd hang
around town--one had a sore foot one time, I remember, that lasted 'em a
month of good board at Frenchy's hotel before he drove 'em out agin to his
mine, as he called it.
"They worked that scheme on him for a long time--and it was the only da--
scheme they wasn't too lazy to work. They'd git money to buy powder an'
fuse an' caps, ma'am, an' blow it on booze, y'see. An' they'd hang in
town, boardin' off Frenchy, jest as long as they c'ld think of an excuse
"So somebody tipped Frenchy off that he was bein' worked for grub an'
booze money, an' Frenchy done a lot uh thinkin'. Next time them two come
in, he was mighty nice to 'em. An' when he finally got 'em pried loose
an' headed out, he appeared suddenly and says he's goin along to take a
look at his mine. They couldn't do nothin' but take him, uh course. So
they led him out to an old location hole somebody else had dug, an' they
showed him iron cappin' an' granite contact an' so on--just talkin' wild,
an' every few minutes comin' in with the 'strong indications of a rich ore
body.' That was their trump suit, y'see, ma'am.
"Frenchy listened, an' his eyes commenced to snap, but he never said
nothin' for awhile. Then all at once he pulled one uh these ol'-style
revolvers an' points it at 'em, an' yells: _'Indicaziones! Indicaziones!_
T'ell weez your _indicaziones!_ Now you show me zee me-_tall_!'" Casey
stopped, reached for his plug and remembered that he mustn't. The Little
Woman laughed. She didn't seem to need the tapering off of the story, as
most women demand.
"And so you think I have plenty of _indicaziones_, but mighty little
chance of getting the me-_tall_," she pointed the moral. "Well, then tell
me what to do."
It was in the telling, I think, that Casey for the first time forgot to be
shy and became his real, Casey Ryan best. The Little Woman saw at once,
when he pointed it out to her, that she ought to drift and cut under the
iron capping instead of tunnelling away from it as they had been doing.
But she was not altogether engrossed in that tunnel. I think her
prospecting into the soul of Casey Ryan interested her much more; and
being a woman she followed the small outcropping of his Irish humor and
opened up a distinct vein of it before the evening was over. Just to
convince you, she led him on until Casey told her all about feeding his
Ford syrup instead of oil, and all about how it ran over him a few times
on the dry lake,--Casey was secretly made happy because she saw at once
how easily that could happen, and never once doubted that he was sober!
He told her about the goats in Patmos and made her laugh so hard that Babe
woke and whimpered a little, and insisted that Casey take her up and rock
her again in the old homemade chair with crooked juniper branches hewn for
With Babe in his arms he told her, too, about his coming out to hunt the
Injun Jim mine. He must have felt pretty well acquainted, by then, because
he regaled her with a painstaking, Caseyish description of Lucy Lily and
her educated wardrobe, and--because she was a murderous kind of squaw and
entitled to no particular chivalry--even repeated her manner of proposing
to a white man, and her avowed reason and all. That was going pretty far,
I think, for one evening, but we must keep in mind the fact that Casey and
the Little Woman had met almost a month before this, and that Casey had
merely thrown wide open the little door to his real self.
At any rate it was after ten o'clock by Casey's Ingersoll when he tucked
Babe into her little bed, brought a jelly glass of cold water for the
Little Woman to drink in the night, and started for the door.
There he stopped for a minute, debated with his shyness and turned back.
"You mebby moved that steel at the wrong time," he said abruptly, "I guess
you musta, the way it happened. But I was so scared I'd hit yuh, my teeth
was playin' the dance to _La Paloma_. I was in a cold sweat. I never did
hit a man with a double-jack in my life, and I guess I've put down ten
miles uh holes, ma'am, if you placed 'em end to end. I always made it my
brag I never scraped a knuckle at that game. But--them little hands of
yours on the drill--I was shakin' all over for fear I might--hurt yuh. I--
I never hated anything so bad in my life--I'd ruther kill a dozen men than
"Man alive," the Little Woman exclaimed softly from her dusky corner,
"you'd never have hurt me in the world, if I'd had the nerve to trust
you." And she added softly, "I'll trust you, from now on, Casey Ryan.
I think Casey was an awful fool to walk out and never let her know that he
heard that "Always."
"Casey Ryan," the Little Woman began with her usual abruptness one
evening, when she was able to walk as far as the mine and back without
feeling; the effect of the exercise, but was still nursing a bandaged
right hand; "Casey Ryan, tell me again just what old Injun Jim looked
Casey laughed and shifted Babe to a more secure perch on his shoulder, and
drew his head to one side in an effort to slacken Babe's terrific pull on
his hair. "Him? Mean an' ornery as the meanest thing you can think of.
Sour as a dough can you've went off an' left for a coupla weeks in July."
"Oh, yes; very explicit, I admit. But just what did he look like? Height,
weight, age and chief characteristics. I have," she explained, "a
very-good reason for wanting a description of him."
"What yuh want a description of him for? He's good an' dead now." You see,
Casey had reached the point of intimacy where he could argue with the
Little Woman quite in his everyday Irish spirit of contention.
The Little Woman had spirit of her own, but she was surprisingly meek with
Casey at times. "It struck me quite suddenly, to-day, that I may know
where that gold mine is; or about where it is," she said, with a hidden
excitement in her voice. "I've been thinking all day about it, and putting
two and two together. I merely need a fair description now of Injun Jim,
to feel tolerably certain that I do or do not know something about the
location of that mine."
"How'd _you_ come to know anything about it?" Casey stopped to move Babe
to his other shoulder. He had put in a long hard day in the tunnel, and
Babe was a husky youngster for four-and-a-half. Also she had developed a
burr-like quality toward Casey, and she liked so well to be carried home
from the mine that she would sit flat on the ground and rock her small
body and weep until she was picked, up and placed on Casey's shoulder.
"Set still, now, Babe, or Casey'll have to put yuh down an' make yuh walk
home. Le'go my ear! Yuh want Casey to go around lop-sided, with only one
"Yes!" assented Babe eagerly, kicking Casey in the stomach. "Give me your
knife, Casey Wyan, so I can cut off one ear an' _make_ you lop-sided!"
"An' you'd do it, too!" Casey exclaimed admiringly.
"Baby Girl, you interrupted mother when mother was speaking of something
important. You make mother very sad."
Babe's mouth puckered, her eyelids puckered, and she give a small wail.
"Now Baby's sad! You hurt--my--_feelin's_ when you speak to me cross!"
She shook her yellow curls into her eyes and wept against them.
There was no hope of grown-ups talking about anything so foolish as a gold
mine when Babe was in that mood. So Casey cooked supper, washed the dishes
and helped Babe into her pyjamas; then he let her kneel restively in his
lap while she said her prayers, and told her a story while he rocked her
to sleep--it was a funny, Caseyish story about a bear, but we haven't time
for it now--before he attempted to ask the Little Woman again what she
meant by her mysterious curiosity concerning Injun Jim. Then, when he had
his pipe going and the stove filled with pinon wood, he turned to her with
the question in his eyes.
The Little Woman laughed. "Now, if that terrible child will kindly consent
to sleep for fifteen minutes, _I'll_ tell you what I meant," she said. "It
had slipped my mind altogether, and it was only to-day, when Babe was
scratching out a snake's track--so the snake couldn't find the way back
home, she said--that I chanced to remember. Just a small thing, you know,
that may or may not mean _something_ very large and _important_--like a
gold mine, for instance."
"I don't have to go to work 'til sunup," Casey hinted broadly, "and I've
set up many a night when I wasn't havin' half as much fun as I git
listenin' to you talk."
Again the Little Woman laughed. I think she had been rambling along just
to bait Casey into something like that."
"Very well, then, I'll come to the point. Though it is such a luxury to
talk, sometimes! For a woman, that is.
"Three years ago we had two burros to pack water from your gulch, where
there were too many snakes, to this gulch where there never seemed to be
so many. We hadn't developed this spring then. One night something or
other frightened the burros and they disappeared, and I started out to
find them, leaving Babe of course with her father at the tunnel.
"I trailed those burros along the mountain for about four miles, I should
think. And by that time I was wishing I had taken a canteen with me,
though when I started out from camp I hated the thought of being burdened
with the weight of it. I thought I could find water in some of the
gulches, however, so I climbed a certain ridge and sat down to rest and
examine the canyon beneath with that old telescope Babe plays with. It has
been dropped so many times it's worthless now, but three years ago you
could see a lizard run across a rock a mile away. Don't you believe that?"
she stopped to demand sternly.
"Say! You couldn't tell me nothin' I wouldn't believe!" Casey retorted,
fussing with his pipe to hide the grin on his face.
"This is the truth, as it happens. I merely speak of the lizard to
convince you that a man's features would show very distinctly in the
telescope. And please observe, Casey Ryan, that I am very serious at the
moment. This may be important to you, remember.
"I was sitting among a heap of boulders that capped the ridge, and it
happened that I was pretty well concealed from view because I was keeping
in the shade of a huge rock and had crouched down so that I could steady
the telescope across a flat rock in front of me. So I was not discovered
by a man down in the canyon whom I picked up with the telescope while I
was searching the canyon side for a spring.
"The man was suddenly revealed to me as he parted the branches of a large
greasewood and peered out. I think it was the stealthiness of his manner
that impressed me most. He looked up and down and across, but he did not
see me. After a short wait, while he seemed to be listening, he crept out
from behind the bush, turned and lifted forward a bag which hadn't much in
it, yet appeared quite heavy. He went down into the canyon, picking his
way carefully and stepping on rocks, mostly. But in one place where he
must cross a wash of deep sand, he went backward and with a dead branch he
had picked up among the rocks he scratched out each track as he made it.
Babe reminded me of that to-day when she scratched out the snake's track
in the sand up by the mine."
Casey was leaning toward her, listening avidly, his pipe going cold in his
hand. "Was he--?"
"He was an Indian, and very old, and he walked with that bent, tottery
walk of old age. He had one eye and--"
"Injun Jim, that was--couldn't be anybody else!" Casey knocked his pipe
against the front of the little cookstove, emptying the half-burned
tobacco into the hearth. The Little Woman probably wondered why he seemed
so unexcited, but she did not know all of Casey's traits. He put away his
pipe and almost immediately reached for his plug of tobacco, taking a chew
without remembering where he was. "If you feel able to ride," he said,
"I'll ketch up the mule in the morning, and we'll go over there."
"So your heart is really set on finding it, after all. I've been wondering
about that. You haven't seemed to be thinking much about it, lately."
"A feller can prospect," Casey declared, "when he can't do nothin' else."
And he added rather convincingly, "Good jobs is scarce, out this way. I'd
be a fool to pass up this one, when I'd have the hull winter left fer
"And what about those partners of yours?"
"Oh, them?" Casey hesitated, tempted perhaps to tell the truth. "Oh,
they've quit on me. They quit right away after I went to work. We--we had
a kinda fuss, and they've went back to town." He stopped and added with a
sigh of relief, "We can just as well count them out, fr'm now on--an'
fergit about 'em."
"Oh," said the Little Woman, and smiled to herself. "Well, if you are
anxious about that patch of brush in the canyon, we'll go and see what's
behind it. To-morrow is Sunday, anyway."
"I'd a made up the time, if it wasn't," Casey assured her with dignity.
"I've been waitin' a good many years for a look at that Injun Jim gold."
"And it's just possible that I have been almost within reach of it for the
past four years and didn't know it! Well, I always have believed that Fate
weaves our destinies for us; and a curious pattern is the weaving,
sometimes! I'll go with you, Casey Ryan, and I hope, for your sake, that
Indian Jim's mine is behind that clump of bushes. And I hope," she added,
with a little laugh whose meaning was not clear to Casey, "I hope you get
a million dollars out of it! I should like to point to Casey Ryan, the
mining millionaire and say, 'That plutocratic gentleman over there once
knocked me down with a hammer, and washed my dishes for two weeks, and
really, my dears, you should taste his sour-dough biscuits!'"
Casey went away to his camp and lay awake a long time, not thinking about
the Injun Jim mine, if you please, but wondering what he had done to make
the Little Woman give him hell about his biscuits. Good Lord! Did she
still blame him for hitting her with that double-jack?--when he knew and
she knew that she had made him do it!--and if she didn't like his
sour-dough biscuits, why in thunder had she kept telling him she did?
He tucked the incident away in the back of his mind, meaning to watch her
and find out just what she did mean, anyway. Her opinion of him had become
vital to Casey; more vital than the Injun Jim mine, even.
He saddled the buckskin mule next morning and after breakfast the three
set out, with a lunch and two canteens of water. The Little Woman was in a
very good humor and kept Casey "jumpin' sideways," as he afterwards
confessed to me, wondering just what she meant or whether she meant
nothing at all by her remarks concerning his future wealth and dignity and
how he would forget old friends.
She even pretended she had forgotten the place, and was not at all sure
that this was the right canyon, when they came to it. She studied
landmarks and then said they were all wrong and that the place was marked
in her mind by something entirely different and not what she first named.
She deviled Casey all she could, and led him straight to the spot and
suggested that they eat their lunch there, within twenty feet of the
bushes from which she had seen the Indian creep with the sack on his back.
She underrated Casey's knowledge of minerals; or perhaps she wanted to
test it,--you never can tell what a woman really has in the back of her
mind. Casey sat there eating a sour-dough biscuit of his own making, and
staring at the steep wall of the canyon because he was afraid to stare at
the Little Woman, and so his uncannily keen eye saw a bit of rock no
larger than Babe's fist. It lay just under that particular clump of
bushes, in the shade. And in the shade he saw a yellow gleam on the rock.
He looked at the Little Woman then and grinned, but he didn't say anything
until he had taken the coffeepot off the fire, and had filled her cup.
"This ain't a bad canyon to prospect in. You can brush up your memory
whilst I take a look around. Mebby I can find Jim's mine myself," he said
impudently. Then he got up and went poking here and there with his
prospector's pick, and finally worked up to the brush and disappeared
behind it. In five minutes or less he came back to her with a little
nugget the size of Babe's thumb.
"If yuh want to see something pretty, come on up where I got this here,"
he told her. "I'll show yuh what drives prospectors crazy. This ain't no
free gold country, but there's a pile uh gold in a dirt bank I can show
yuh. Mebby you forgot the place, and mebby yuh didn't. I've quit guessin'
at what yuh really do mean an' what yuh don't mean. Anyway, this is where
we headed for."
"Well, you really are a prospector, after all. I just wondered." The
Little Woman did not seem in the least embarrassed. She just laughed and
took Babe by the hand, and they went up beyond the clump of bushes to what
lay hidden so cunningly behind it.
Cunning--that was the mood Nature must have been in when she planted free
gold in that little wrinkle on the side of Two Peak, and set the bushes in
the mouth of the draw, and piled an iron ledge across the top and spread
barren mountainside all around it. In the hiding Injun Jim had done his
share, too. He had pulled rubble down over the face of the bank of
richness, and eyes less keen than Casey's would have passed it by without
a second glance.
The Little Woman knelt and picked out half a dozen small nuggets and stood
up, holding them out to Casey, her eyes shining. "Casey Ryan, here's the
end of your rainbow! And you're luckier than most of us; you've got your
pot o' gold."
Casey looked down at her oddly. "It's mebby the end of one," he said. "But
they's another one, now, 't I can see plainer than this one. I dunno's
I'll ever git to where that one points."
"A man's never satisfied," scoffed the Little Woman, turning the precious
little yellow fragments over thoughtfully in her palm. "I should think
this ought to be enough for you, man alive."
"Mebby it had. But it ain't." He looked at her, hesitating,--and I think
the Little Woman waited and held her breath for what he might say next.
But Casey was scarcely himself in her presence. He turned away without
another glance at the nuggets.
"You'n the kid can gopher around there whilst I go step off the lines of a
claim an' put up the location notice," he said, and left her standing
there with the gold in her palm.
That night it was the Little Woman who planned great things for Casey, and
it was Casey who smoked and said little about it. But once he shook his
head when she described the gilded future she saw for him.
"Money in great gobs like that ain't much use to me," he demurred. "Once I
blew into Lund, over here, with twenty-five thousand dollars in my pocket
that I got outa silver claims. All I ever saved outa that chunk was two
pairs of socks. No need of you makin' plans on my being a millionaire. It
ain't in me. I guess I'm nothin' but a rough-neck stagedriver an'
prospector, clear into the middle of my bones. If I had the sense of a
rabbit I never'd gone hellin' through life the way I've done. I'd amount
to somethin' by now. As it is I ain't nothin' and I ain't nobody--"
"You're Casey Wyan! You make me sad when you say that!" Babe protested
sleepily, lifting her head from his shoulder and spatting him reprovingly
on the cheek. "You're my bes' friend and you've got a lots more sense than
"And your rainbow, Casey Ryan?" the Little Woman asked softly. "What about
this other, new rainbow?"
"It's there," said Casey gloomily. "It'll always be there--jest over the
ridge ahead uh me. I c'n see it, plain enough, but I got more sense 'n to
think I'll ever git m'hands on it."
"I'll go catch your wainbow, Casey Wyan. I'll run fas' as I can, an' I'll
catch it for you!"
"Will yuh, Babe?" Casey bent his head until his lips touched her curls.
And neither Casey nor the Little Woman spoke of it again.
Oddly enough, it was Lucy Lily who unconsciously brought Casey to his
rainbow. Lucy Lily did not mean to do Casey any favor, I can assure you,
but Fate just took her and used her for the moment, and Lucy Lily had
nothing to say about it.
Don't think that a squaw who wants to live like a white princess will
forget to go hunting a gold mine whose richness she had seen,--in a lard
bucket, perhaps. Lucy Lily did not abandon her bait. She used it again,
and a renegade white man snapped at it, worse luck. So they went hunting
through the Tippipahs for the mine of Injun Jim. What excuses the squaw
made for not being able to lead the man directly to the spot, I can't say,
of course; but I suppose she invented plenty.
She did one clever thing, at least. In their wanderings she led the way
into the old camp of Injun Jim. There had been no storm to dim the tracks
Casey had made, and Lucy Lily, Indian that she was, knew that these were
the tracks of Casey Ryan and guessed what was his errand there. So she and
her white man trailed him across the valley to Two Peak.
They came first to the camp, and there the Little Woman met them, and by
some canny intuition knew who they were and what they wanted,--thanks to
Casey's garrulous mood when he told her of Lucy Lily. They said that they
were hunting horses, and presently went on over the ridge; not following
Casey's plain trail to the tunnel, but riding off at an angle so that they
could come into the trail once they were hidden from the house.
Casey, as it happened, was not at the tunnel at all, but over at the gold
mine, doing the location work. Doing it in the side hill a good two
hundred feet away from the gold streak, too, I will add.
The Little Woman watched until the squaw and her man were out of sight,
and then she took a small canteen and filled it, got her rifle, pocketed
her automatic revolver, and tied Babe's sunbonnet firmly under Babe's
double chin. She could not take the mule, because Casey had ridden him, so
she walked, and carried Babe most of the way on her back. She kept to the
gulches until she was too far away to be seen in the sage, even when a
squaw was squinting sharp-eyed after her.
She came, in the course of two hours or so, to the lip of the canyon, and
who-whooed to Casey, mucking out after a shot he had put down in the
location hole. Casey looked up, waved his hand and then came running. No
whim would send the Little Woman on a four-mile walk with a heavy child
like Babe to carry, and Casey was as white as he'll ever get when he met
her halfway to the bottom of the canyon.
"Take Babe and let's get back to the claim," she panted. "I came to tell
you that squaw is on your trail with a white man in tow, and it'll be a
case of claim-jumping if they can see their way tolerably clear. He's a
mate for the two you helped me haul out of camp, and I think, Casey Ryan,
the squaw would kill you in a minute if she gets the chance."
Casey did rather a funny thing, considering how scared he was usually of
the Little Woman. "You pack that kid all the way over here?" he grunted,
and picked up the Little Woman and carried her, and left Babe to walk. Of
course he helped Babe, holding her hand over the roughest spots, but it
was the Little Woman whom he carried the rest of the way. And Babe, if you
please, was quite calm about it and never once became "sad" so that she
must sit down and cry.
"All the claim-jumpin' they'll do won't hurt nobody," Casey observed
unexcitedly, when he had set the Little Woman down on a rock beside his
location "cut" in the canyon's side. "She likely picked on a white man
so's he could locate under the law, but this claim's located a'ready." He
waved a hand toward the monument, a few rods up the canyon. "And Casey
Ryan ain't spreadin' no rich gold vein wide open for every prowlin' desert
rat to pack off all he kin stagger under. I'm callin' it the Devil's
Lantern. You c'n call a mine any name yuh darn want to. And if it wasn't
fer the Devil's Lantern, I wouldn't be here. That name won't mean nothin'
to 'em. Let 'em come." His eyes turned toward the hidden richness and
dwelt there, studying the tracks, big and little, that led up to it, and
deciding that tracks do not necessarily mean a gold mine, and that it
would be better to leave them as they were and not attempt to cover them.
"You just say it's your claim, if they come snoopin' around here. I'm
supposed to be workin' for yuh," he said abruptly, giving her one of his
quick, steady glances.
"They can go and read the location notice," the Little Woman pointed out.
Casey did not make any reply to that, but picked up his shovel and went to
work again, mucking out the dirt and broken rocks which the dynamite had
loosened in the cut.
"She's a bird, ain't she?" he grinned over his shoulder, his mind
reverting to Lucy Lily. "Did she have on her war paint?"
"She will have, when she sees you," the Little Woman retorted, watching
the farther rim of the canyon. Then she remembered Babe and called to her.
That youngster was always prospecting around on her own initiative, and
she answered shrilly now from up the canyon. The Little Woman stood up,
looking that way, never dreaming how wishfully Casey was watching her,--
and how reverently.
"Baby Girl, you must not run off like that! Mother will be compelled to
tie a rope on you."
"I was jes' getting--Casey Wyan's--'bacco. Poor Casey Wyan forgot--his
'bacco! He's my frien'. I have to give him his 'bacco," Babe defended
herself, coming down from the location monument in small jumps and
scrambles. Close to her importantly heaving chest she clutched a small,
red tobacco can of the kind which smokers carelessly call "P.A." "Casey
Wyan lost it up in the wocks," Babe explained, when her mother met her
disapprovingly and caught her by the hand.
"Why, Babe! You've been naughty. This must be Casey Ryan's location
notice. It must be left in the rocks, Baby Girl, so people will know that
Casey Ryan owns this claim."
"It's his 'bacco!" Babe insisted stubbornly. "Casey Wyan needs his
The Little Woman knew that streak of stubbornness of old. There was just
one way to deal with it, and that was to prove to Babe that she was
mistaken. So she opened the red can and pulled out a folded paper,
unfolded the paper and began to read it aloud. Not that Babe would
understand it all, but to make it seem very convincing and important,--and
I think partly to enjoy for herself the sense of Casey's potential wealth.
"'Notice of Location--Quartz,'" she read, and glanced over the paper at
her listening small daughter. "'To Whom it May Concern: Please take
notice that: The name of this claim is the Devil's Lantern Quartz Mining
Claim. Said Claim is situated in the--Unsurveyed--Mining District, County
of Nye, State of Nevada. Located this twenty-fifth day of September, 19--.
This discovery is made and this notice is posted this twenty-fifth day of
"'2. That the undersigned locators are citizens of he United States or have
declared their intention to become such, and have discovered
"What's mineral-bearing wock, mother?"
"That's the gold, Baby Girl. '--in place thereon and do locate and claim
same for mining purposes.
"'3. That the number of linear feet in length along the course of the vein
each way from the point of discovery whereon we have erected a monument--'
That's the monument, up there, and Babe must not touch it-- '--is
Easterly 950 feet; Westerly 550 feet; that the total length does not
exceed 1500 feet. That the width on the Southerly side is 300 feet; that
the width on the Northerly side is 300 feet; that the end lines are
parallel; that the general course of the vein or lode as near as may be is
in an Easterly and Westerly direction; that the boundaries of this claim
may be readily traced and are defined as follows, to-wit:--!'"
She skipped a lot of easterly and westerly technique in Casey's clear,
uncompromising handwriting--done in an indelible pencil--and came down to
the last paragraph:
"'That all the dips, variations, spurs, angles and all veins, ledges, or
deposits within the lines of said claim, together with all water and
timber and any other rights appurtenant, allowed by the law of this State
or of the United States are hereby claimed.
Jack I. Gleason,
"Here they come," Casey called at that moment. "Put 'er back in the
monument and don't let on like we think they're after this claim at all.
It's a darn sight harder to start a fuss when the other fellow don't act
like he knows there's any fuss comin'. You ask anybody that ever had a