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Title: Casey Ryan
Author: Bower, B. M., 1871-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Casey Ryan" ***

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CASEY RYAN

BY

B. M. BOWER

Author of "Chip of the Flying U", "Rim O' the World", "Cow-Country", etc.

1921



[Illustration: Casey reached for his pocket, and the white man also
reached for his. FRONTISPIECE. _See page_ 237.]



CHAPTER I


From Denver to Spokane, from El Paso to Fort Benton, men talk of Casey
Ryan and smile when they speak his name. Old men with the flat tone of
coming senility in their voices will suck at their pipes and cackle
reminiscently while they tell you of Casey's tumultuous youth--when he
drove the six fastest horses in Colorado on the stage out from Cripple
Creek, and whooped past would-be holdups with a grin of derision on his
face and bullets whining after him and passengers praying disjointed
prayers and clinging white-knuckled to the seats.

They say that once a flat, lanky man climbed bareheaded out at the stage
station below the mountain and met Casey coming springily off the box with
whip and six reins in his hand. The lanky man was still pale from his
ride, and he spluttered when he spoke:

"Sa-ay! N-next time you're held up and I'm r-ridin' with yuh, b-by gosh,
you s-_stop_. I-I'd ruther be shot t-than p-pitched off into a
c-canyon, s-somewhere a-and busted up!"

Casey is a little man. When he was young he was slim, but he always has
owned a pale blue, unwinking squint which he uses with effect. He halted
where he was and squinted up at the man, and spat fluid tobacco and
grinned.

"You're here, and you're able to kick about my drivin'. That's purty good
luck, I'd say. You _ain't_ shot, an' you ain't layin' busted in no canyon.
Any time a man gits shot outa Casey Ryan's stage, he'll have to jump out
an' wait for the bullet to ketch up. And there ain't any passengers offn'
this stage layin' busted in no canyon, neither. I bring in what I start
out with."

The other man snorted and reached under his coat tail for the solacing
plug of chewing tobacco. Opposition and ridicule had brought a little
color into his face.

"Why, hell, man! You--you come around that ha-hairpin turn up there on two
wheels! It's a miracle we wasn't--"

"Miracles is what happens once and lets it go at that. Say! Casey Ryan
_always_ saves wear on a coupla wheels, on that turn. I've made it on one;
but the leaders wasn't runnin' right to-day. That nigh one's cast a shoe.
I gotta have that looked after." He gave up the reins to the waiting
hostler and went off, heading straight for the station porch where waited
a red-haired girl with freckles and a warm smile for Casey.

That was Casey's youth; part of it. The rest was made up of fighting,
gambling, drinking hilariously with the crowd and always with his temper
on hair trigger. Along the years behind him he left a straggling
procession of men, women and events. The men and women would always know
the color of his eyes and would recognize the Casey laugh in a crowd,
years after they had last heard it; the events were full of the true Casey
flavor,--and as I say, when men told of them and mentioned Casey, they
laughed.

From the time when his daily drives were likely to be interrupted by
holdups, and once by a grizzly that reared up in the road fairly under the
nose of his leaders and sent the stage off at an acute angle, blazing a
trail by itself amongst the timber, Casey drifted from mountain to desert,
from desert to plain and back again, blithely meeting hard luck face to
face and giving it good day as if it were a friend. For Casey was born an
optimist, and misfortune never quite got him down and kept him there,
though it tried hard and often, as you will presently see. Some called him
gritty. Some said he hadn't the sense to know when he was licked. Either
way, it made a rare little Irishman of Casey Ryan, and kept his name from
becoming blurred in the memories of those who once knew him.

So in time it happened that Casey was driving a stage of his own from
Pinnacle down to Lund, in Nevada, and making boast that his four horses
could beat the record--the month's record, mind--of any dog-gone
auty-_mo_-bile that ever infested the trail. Infest is a word that Casey
would have used often had he known its dictionary reputation. Having been
deprived of close acquaintance with dictionaries, but having a facile
imagination and some creative ability, Casey kept pace with progress and
invented words of his own which he applied lavishly to all automobiles;
but particularly and emphatically he applied the spiciest, most colorful
ones to Fords.

Put yourself in Casey's place, and you will understand. Imagine yourself
with a thirty-mile trip to make down a twisty, rough mountain road built
in the days when men hauled ore down the mountain on wagons built to bump
over rocks without damage to anything but human bones. You are Casey Ryan,
remember; you never stopped for stage robbers or grizzlies in the past,
and you have your record to maintain as the hardest driver in the West.
You are proud of that record, because you know how you have driven to earn
it.

You pop the lash over the ears of your leaders and go whooping down a
long, straight bit of road where you count on making time. When you are
about halfway down and the four horses are running even and tugging
pleasantly at the reins, and you are happy enough to sing your favorite
song, which begins,

  "Hey, ole Bill! Can-n yuh play the fiddle-o?
  Yes, by gosh! I--I--kin play a liddle-o--"

and never gets beyond that one flat statement, around the turn below you
comes a Ford, rattling all its joints trying to make the hill on "high."
The driver honks wildly at you to give him the road--you, Casey Ryan!
Wouldn't you writhe and invent words and apply them viciously to all Fords
and the man who invented them? But the driver comes at you honking,
squawking,--and you turn out.

You have to, unless the Ford does; and Fords don't. A Ford will send a
twin-six swerving sharply to the edge of a ditch, and even Casey Ryan must
swing his leaders to the right in obedience to that raucous command.

Once Casey didn't. He had the patience of the good-natured, and for awhile
he had contented himself with his vocabulary and his reputation as a
driver and a fighter, and the record he held of making the thirty miles
from Pinnacle to Lund in an hour and thirty-five minutes, twenty-six days
in the month. (He did not publish his running expenses, by the way, nor
did he mention the fact that his passengers were mostly strangers picked
up at the railway station at Lund because they liked the look of the
picturesque four-horses-and-Casey stagecoach.)

Once Casey refused to turn out. That morning he had been compelled to wait
and whip a heavy man who berated Casey because the heavy man's wife had
ridden from Pinnacle to Lund the day before and had fainted at the last
sharp turn in the road and had not revived in time to board the train for
Salt Lake which she had been anxious to catch. Casey had known she was
anxious to catch the train, and he had made the trip in an hour and
twenty-nine minutes in spite of the fact that he had driven the last mile
with a completely unconscious lady leaning heavily against his left
shoulder. She made much better time with Casey than she would have made on
the narrow-gauge train which carried ore and passengers and mail to Lund,
arriving when most convenient to the train crew. That it took half an hour
to restore her to consciousness was not Casey's fault.

Casey had succeeded in whipping the heavy man till he hollered, but the
effort had been noticeable. Casey wondered uneasily whether by any chance
he, Casey Ryan, was growing old with the rest of the world. That
possibility had never before occurred to him, and the thought was
disquieting. Casey Ryan too old to lick any man who gave him cause, too
old to hold the fickle esteem of those who met him in the road? Casey
squinted belligerently at the Old-man-with-the-scythe and snorted. "I
licked him good. You ask anybody. And he's twice as big as I am. I guess
they's a good many years left in Casey Ryan yet! Giddap, you--thus-and-so!
We're ten minutes late and we got our record!"

At that moment a Ford touring car popped around the turn below him and
squawked presumptuously for a clear passage ahead. Casey pulled his lash
off the nigh leader, yelled and charged straight down the road. Did they
think they could honk him off the road? Hunh! Casey Ryan was still Casey
Ryan. Never again would he turn out for man or devil.

Wherefore Casey was presently extricating his leaders from the harness of
his wheelers ten feet below the grade. On the road above him the driver of
the Ford inspected bent parts and a smashed headlight and cranked and
cranked ineffectively, and swore down at Casey Ryan, who squinted
unblinkingly up under his hatbrim at the man he likewise cussed.

They were a long while there exchanging disagreeable opinions of one
another, and Casey was even obliged to climb the steep bank and whip the
driver of the Ford because he had applied a word to Casey which had never
failed as automatic prelude to a Casey Ryan combat. Casey was frankly
winded when he finally mounted one of his horses and led the other three,
and so proceeded to Lund as mad as he had ever been in his life.

"That there settles it final," he snorted, when the town came into view in
the flat below. "They've pushed Casey off'n the grade for the first time
and the last time. What pushin' and crowdin' and squawkin' is done from
now on, it'll be Casey Ryan doin' it! Faint! I'll learn 'em something to
faint about. If it's Fords goin' to run horses off'n the trail, you watch
how Casey Ryan'll drive the livin' tar outa one. Dog-gone 'em, there ain't
no Ford livin' that can drive Casey off'n the road. I'll drive 'em till
their tongues hang out. I'll make 'em bawl like a calf, and I'll pound 'em
on the back and make 'em fan it faster."

So talking to himself and his team he rode into town and up to one of
those ubiquitous Ford agencies that write their curly-tailed blue
lettering across the continent from the high nose of Maine to the shoulder
of Cape Flattery.

"Gimme one of them dog-goned blankety bing-bing Ford auty-_mo_-biles," he
commanded the garage owner who came to meet Casey amiably in his shirt
sleeves. "Here's four horses I'll trade yuh, with what's left of the
harness. And up at the third turn you'll find a good wheel off'n the
stage." He slid down from the sweaty back of his nigh leader and stood
slightly bow-legged and very determined before the garage owner, Bill
Masters.

"Wel-l--there ain't much sale for horses, Casey. I ain't got any place to
keep 'em, nor any feed. I'll sell yuh a Ford on time, and--"

Casey glanced over his shoulder to make sure the horses were standing
quiet, dropped the reins and advanced upon Bill.

"You _trade_," he stated flatly.

Bill backed a little. "Oh, all right, if that's the way yuh feel. What yuh
askin' for the four just as they stand?"

"Me? A Ford auty-_mo_-bile. I told yuh that, Bill. And I want you to put
on the biggest horn that's made; one that can be heard from here to
Pinnacle and back when I turn 'er loose. And run the damn thing out here
right away and show me how it works, and how often you gotta wind it and
when. Lucky I didn't bring no passengers down--I was runnin' empty. But I
gotta take back a load of Bohunks to the Bluebird this afternoon, and my
stage, she's a total wreck. I'll sign papers to-night if you got any to
sign."



CHAPTER II


Thus was the trade effected with much speed and few preliminaries, because
Bill knew Casey Ryan very intimately and had seen him in action when his
temper was up. Bill adjusted an extra horn which he happened to have in
stock. One of those terrific things that go far toward making the life of
a pedestrian a nerve-racking succession of startles. Casey tried it out on
himself before he would accept it. He walked several doors down the street
with the understanding that Bill would honk at him when he was some little
distance away. Bill waited until Casey's attention was drawn to a lady
with thick ankles who was crossing the street in a hurry and a stiff
breeze. Bill came down on the metal plunger of the horn with all his
might, and Casey jumped perceptibly and came back grinning.

"She'll do. What'll put a crimp in Casey Ryan's spine is good enough for
anybody. Bring her out here and show me how yuh work the damn thing. Guess
she'll hold six Bohunks, won't she--with sideboards on? I'll run 'er
around a coupla times b'fore I start out--and that's all I will do."

Naturally the garage man was somewhat perturbed at this nonchalant manner
of getting acquainted with a Ford. He knew the road from Lund to Pinnacle.
He had driven it himself, with a conscious sigh of relief when he had
safely negotiated the last hair-pin curve; and Bill was counted a good
driver. He suggested an insurance policy to Casey, not half so jokingly as
he tried to sound.

Casey turned and gave him a pale blue, unwinking stare. "Say! Never you
mind gettin' out insurance on _this_ auty-_mo_-bile. What you wanta do is
insure the cars that's liable to meet up with me in the trail."

Bill saw the sense of that, too, and said no more about insuring Casey. He
drove down the canyon where the road is walled in on both sides by cliffs,
and proceeded to give Casey a lesson in driving. Casey did not think that
he needed to be taught how to drive. All he wanted to know, he said, was
how to stop 'er and how to start 'er. Bill needn't worry about the rest of
it.

"She's darn tender-bitted," he commented, after two round trips over the
straight half-mile stretch,--and fourteen narrow escapes. "And the man
that made 'er sure oughta known better than to make 'er neck rein in
harness. And I don't like this windin' 'er up every time you wanta start.
But she can sure _go_--and that's what Casey Ryan's after every day in the
week.

"All right, Bill. I'll go gather up the Bohunks and start. You better
'phone up to Pinnacle that Casey's on the road--and tell 'em he says it's
his road's long's he's on it. They'll know what I mean."

Pinnacle did know, and waited on the sidewalk that afforded a view of the
long hill where the road curled down around the head of the gulch and into
town. Much sooner than his most optimistic backers had a right to expect--
for there were bets laid on the outcome there in Pinnacle--on the brow of
the hill a swirl of red dust grew rapidly to a cloud. Like a desert
whirlwind it swept down the road, crossed the narrow bridge over the deep
cut at the head of the gulch where the famous Youbet mine belched black
smoke, and rolled on down the steep, narrow little street.

Out of the whirlwind poked the pugnacious little brass-rimmed nose of a
new Ford, and behind the windshield Casey Ryan grinned widely as he swung
up to the postoffice and stopped as he had always stopped his four-horse
stage,--with a flourish. Stopping with a flourish is fine and spectacular
when you are driving horses accustomed to that method and on the lookout
for it. Horses have a way of stiffening their forelegs and sliding their
hind feet and giving a lot of dramatic finish to the performance. But
there is no dramatic sense at all in the tin brain of a Ford. It just
stopped. And the insecure fourth Bohunk in the tonneau went hurtling
forward into the front seat straight on his way through the windshield.
Casey threw up an elbow instinctively and caught him in the collar button
and so avoided breakage and blood spattered around. Three other foreigners
were scrambling to get out when Casey stopped them with a yell that froze
them quiet where they were.

"Hey! You stay right where y'are! I gotta deliver yuh up to the Bluebird
in a minute."

There were chatterings and gesticulations in the tonneau. Out of the
gabble a shrill voice rose be-seechingly in English. "We will _walk_,
meester'. If you _pleese_, meester! We are 'fraid for ride wit' dees
may_chine_, meester!"

Casey was nettled by the cackling and the thigh-slapping of the audience
on the sidewalk. He reached for his stage whip, and missing it used his
ready Irish fists. So the Bohunks crawled unhappily back into the car and
subsided shivering and with tears in their eyes.

"Dammit, when I take on passengers to ride, they're goin' to _ride_ till
they git there. You shut up, back there!"

A friend of Casey's stepped forward and cranked the machine, and Casey
pulled down the gas lever until the motor howled, turned in the shortest
possible radius and went lunging up the crooked steep trail to the
Bluebird mine on top of the hill, his engine racing and screaming in low.

Thereafter Pinnacle and Lund had a new standard by which to measure the
courage of a man. Had he made the trip with Casey Ryan and his new Ford?
He _had_? By golly, he sure had nerve. One man passed the peak for sheer
bravery and rode twice with Casey, but certain others were inclined to
disparage the feat, on the ground that on the second trip he was drunk.

Casey did not like that. He admitted that he was a hard driver; he had
always been proud because men called him the hardest driver in the West.
But he argued that he was also a safe driver, and that they had no
business to make such a fuss over riding with him. Didn't he ride after
his own driving every day of his life? Had he ever got killed? Had he ever
killed anybody else? Well! What were they all yawping about, then?
Pinnacle and Lund made him tired.

"If you fellers think I can't bounce that there tin can down the road fast
as any man in the country, why don't yuh pass me on the road? You're
welcome. Just try it."

No one cared to try, however. Meeting him was sufficiently hazardous.
There were those who secretly timed their traveling so that they would not
see Casey Ryan at all, and I don't think you can really call them cowards,
either. A good many had families, you know.

Casey had an accident now and then; and his tire expense was such as to
keep him up nights playing poker for money to support his Ford. You simply
can't whirl into town at a thirty-mile gait--I am speaking now of
Pinnacle, whose street was a gravelly creek bed quite dry and ridgy
between rains--and stop in twice the car's length without scouring more
rubber off your tires than a capacity load of passengers will pay for.
Besides, you run short of passengers if you persist in doing it. Even the
strangers who came in on the Salt Lake line were quite likely to look once
at the cute little narrow-gauge train with its cunning little day coach
hitched behind a string of ore cars, glance at Casey's Ford stage with
indifference and climb into the cunning day coach for the trip to
Pinnacle. The psychology of it passed quite over Casey's head, but his
pocket felt the change.

In two weeks--perhaps it was less, though I want to be perfectly just--
Casey was back, afoot and standing bow-legged in the doorway of Bill
Master's garage at Lund.

"Gimme another one of them Ford auty-_mo_-biles," he requested, grinning a
little. "I guess mebby I oughta take two or three--but I'm a little short
right now, Bill. I ain't been gitting any good luck at poker, lately."

Bill asked a question or two while he led Casey to the latest model of
Fords, just in from the factory.

Casey took a chew of tobacco and explained. "Well, I had a bet up, y'see.
That red-headed bartender in Pinnacle bet me a hundred dollars I couldn't
beat my own record ten minutes on the trip down. I knowed I could, so I
took him up on it. A man would be a fool if he didn't grab any easy money
like that. And so I pounded 'er on the tail, coming down. And I had eight
minutes peeled off my best time, and then Jim Black he had to go git in
the road on that last turn up there. We rammed our noses together and I
pushed him on ahead of me for fifty rods, Bill--and him yelling at me to
quit--but something busted in the insides of my car, I guess. She give a
grunt and quit. All right, I'll take this one. Grease her up, Bill. I'll
eat a bite before I take her up."

You've no doubt suspected before now that not even poker, played
industriously o' nights, could keep Casey's head above the financial
waters that threatened to drown him and his Ford and his reputation. Casey
did not mind repair bills, so long as he achieved the speed he wanted. But
he did mind not being able to pay the repair bills when they were
presented to him. Whatever else were his faults, Casey Ryan had always
gone cheerfully into his pocket and paid what he owed. Now he was haunted
by a growing fear that an unlucky game or two would send him under, and
that he might not come up again.

He began to think seriously of selling his car and going back to horses
which, in spite of the high cost of feeding them, had paid their way and
his, and left him a pleasant jingle in his pockets. But then he bumped
hard into one of those queer little psychological facts which men never
take into account until it is too late. Casey Ryan, who had driven horses
since he could stand on his toes and fling harness on their backs, could
not go back to driving horses. The speed fiend of progress had him by the
neck. Horses were too slow for Casey. Moreover, when he began to think
about it, he knew that the thirty-mile stretch between Pinnacle and Lund
had become too tame for him, too monotonous. He knew in the dark every
twist in the road, every sharp turn, and he could tell you offhand what
every sharp turn had cost him in the past month, either in repairs to his
own car or to the car that had unluckily met him without warning. For
Casey, I must tell you, habitually forgot all about that earsplitting
klaxon at his left elbow. He was always in too much of a hurry to blow it;
and anyway, by the time he reached a turn, he was around it; there either
was no car in the road or Casey had scraped paint off it or worse and gone
on. So why honk?

Far distances called Casey. In one day, he meditated, he could cover more
desert with his Ford than horses could travel in a week. An old,
half-buried passion stirred, lifted its head and smiled at him
seductively,--a dream he had dreamed of finding some of that wealth which
Nature holds so miser-like in her hills. A gold mine, or perhaps silver or
copper,--what matter which mineral he found, so long as it spelled wealth
for him? Then he would buy a bigger car and a faster car, and he would
bore farther and farther into yonder. In his past were tucked away months
on end of tramping across deserts and up mountain defiles with a packed
burro nipping patiently along in front of him and this same, seductive
dream beckoning him over the next horizon. Burros had been slow. While he
hurtled down the road from Pinnacle to Lund, Casey pictured himself
plodding through sand and sage and over malapai and up dry canyons, hazing
a burro before him.

"No, sir, the time for that is gone by. I could do in a week now what it
took me a month to do then. I could get into country a man'd hate to
tackle afoot, not knowing the water holes. I'll git me a radiator that
don't boil like a teakettle over a pitch fire, and load up with water and
grub and gas, and I'll find the Injun Jim mine, mebby. Or some other darn
mine that'll put me in the clear the rest of my life. Couldn't before,
because I had to travel too slow. But shucks! A Ford can go anywhere a
mountain goat can go. You ask anybody."

So Casey sold his stage line and the hypothetical good will that went with
it, and Pinnacle and Lund breathed long and deep and planned trips they
had refrained from taking heretofore, and wished Casey luck. Bill Masters
laid a friendly hand on his shoulder and made a suggestion so wise that
not even Casey could shut his mind against it.

"You're starting out where there won't be no Bill handy to fix what you
bust," he pointed out. "You wait over a day or two, Casey, and let me show
yuh a few things about that car. If you bust down on the desert you'll
want to know what's wrong, and how to fix it. It's easy, but you got to
know where to look for the trouble."

"Me? Say, Bill, I never had to go lookin' for trouble," Casey grinned.
"What do I need to learn how for?"

Nevertheless he remained all of that day with Bill and crammed on
mechanics. He was amazed to discover how many and how different were the
ailments that might afflict a Ford. That he had boldly--albeit
unconsciously--driven a thing filled with timers, high-tension plugs that
may become fouled and fail to "spark," carburetors that could get out of
adjustment (whatever that was) spark plugs that burned out and had to be
replaced, a transmission that absolutely _must_ have grease or something
happened, bearings that were prone to burn out if they went dry of oil,
and a multitude of other mishaps that could happen and did happen if one
did not watch out, would have filled Casey with foreboding if that were
possible. Being an optimist to the middle of his bones, he merely felt a
growing pride in himself. He had actually driven all this aggregation of
potential internal grief! Whenever anything had happened to his Ford
auty-_mo_-bile between Pinnacle and Lund, Casey never failed to trace the
direct cause, which had always been external rather than internal, save
that time when he had walked in and bought a new car without out probing
into the vitals of the other.

"I'd ruther have a horse down with glanders," he sighed, when Bill finally
washed the grease off his hands and forearms and rolled down his sleeves.
"But Casey Ryan's game to try anything once, and most things the second
and third time. You ask anybody. Gimme all the hootin'-annies that's
liable to wear out, Bill, and a load uh tires and patches, and Casey'll
come back and hand yuh a diamond big as your fist, some day. Ole Lady
Trouble's always tryin' to take a fall outa me, but she's never got me
down so't I had to holler 'nough. You ask anybody. Casey Ryan's goin' out
to see what he can see. If he meets up with Miss Fortune, he'll tame her,
Bill. And this little Ford auty-_mo_-bile is goin' to eat outa my hand. I
don't give a cuss if she does git sore and ram her spark plugs into her
carburetor now and agin. She'll know who's boss, Bill. I learnt it to the
burros, and what you can learn a burro you can learn a Ford, take time
enough."

Taking that point of view and keeping it, Casey managed very well.
Whenever anything went wrong that his vocabulary and a monkey wrench could
not mend, Casey sat down on the shadiest running board and conned the
Instruction Book which Bill handed him at the last minute. Other times he
treated the Ford exactly as he would treat a burro, with satisfactory
results.



CHAPTER III


Away out on the high mesas that are much like the desert below, except
that the nights are cool and the wind is not fanned out of a furnace,
Casey fought sand and brush and rocks and found a trail now and then which
he followed thankfully, and so came at last to a short range of mountains
whose name matched well their inhospitable stare. The Starvation Mountains
had always been reputed rich in mineral and malevolent in their attitude
toward man and beast. Even the Joshua trees stood afar off and lifted
grotesque arms defensively against them. But Casey was not easily daunted,
and eerie places held for him no meaning save the purely material one. If
he could find water and the rich vein of ore some one had told him was
there, then Casey would be happy in spite of snakes, tarantulas and
sinister stories of the place.

Water he found, not too far up a gulch. So he pitched his tent within
carrying distance from the spring, thanked the god of mechanics that an
automobile neither eats nor drinks when it does not work, and set out to
find his fortune.

Casey knew there was a mining camp on the high slope of Barren Butte. He
knew the name of the camp, which was Lucky Lode, and he knew the foreman
there--knew him from long ago in the days when Casey was what he himself
confessed to be wild. In reaching Starvation Mountains, Casey had driven
for fifteen miles within plain sight of Lucky Lode. But gas is precious
when you are a hundred miles from a garage, and since business did not
take him there Casey did not drive up the five-mile hill to the Lucky Lode
just to shake hands with the foreman and swap a yarn or two. Instead, he
headed down on to the bleached, bleak oval of Furnace Lake and forged
across it as straight as he could drive toward Starvation Mountains.

But the next time Casey made the trip--needing supplies, powder, fuse,
caps and so on--Fate took him by the ear and led him to a lady. This is
how Fate did it,--and I will say it was an original idea:

Casey had a gallon syrup can in the car which he used for extra oil for
the engine. Having an appetite for sour-dough biscuits and syrup, he had
also a gallon can of syrup in the car. It was a terrifically hot day, and
the wind that blew full against Casey's left cheek as he drove burned even
his leather skin where it struck. Casey was afraid he was running short of
water, and a Ford's comfort comes first,--as every man knows; so that
Casey was parched pretty thoroughly, inside and out. Within a mile of
Furnace Lake he stopped, took an unsatisfying sip from his big canteen and
emptied the rest of the water into the radiator. Then he replenished the
oil in the motor generously, cranked and went bumping along down the trail
worn rough with the trucks from Lucky Lode.

For a little way he jounced along the trail; then the motor began to
labor; and although Casey pulled the gas lever down as far as it would go,
the car slowed and stopped dead in the road. After an hour of fruitless
monkey-wrenching and swearing and sweating, Casey began to suspect
something. He examined both cans, "hefted" them, smelt and even tasted the
one half-empty, and decided that Ford auty-_mo_-biles do not require two
quarts of syrup at one dose. He thought that a little syrup ought not to
make much difference, but half a gallon was probably too much.

He put in more oil on top of the syrup, but he could not even move the
crank, much less "turn 'er over." So long as a man can wind the crank of a
Ford he seems able to keep alive his hopes. Casey could not crank,
wherefore he knew himself beaten even while he heaved and lifted and
swore, and strained every muscle in his back lifting again. He got so
desperately wrathful that he lifted the car perceptibly off its right
front wheel with every heave, but he felt as if he were trying to lift a
boulder.

It was past supper time at Lucky Lode when Casey arrived, staggering a
little with exhaustion, both mental and physical. His eyes were bloodshot
with the hot wind, his face was purple from the same wind, his lips were
dry and rough. I cannot blame the men at Lucky Lode for a sudden thirst
when they saw him coming, and a hope that he still had a little left. And
when he told them that he had filled his engine with syrup instead of oil,
what would any one think?

Their unjust suspicions would not have worried Casey in the least, had
Lucky Lode not possessed a lady cook who was a lady. She was a widow with
two children, and she had the children with her and held herself aloof
from the men in a manner befitting a lady. Casey was hungry and thirsty
and tired, and, as much as was possible to his nature, disgusted, with
life in general. The widow gave him a smile of sympathy which went
straight to his heart, and hot biscuits and coffee and beans cooked the
way he liked them best. These went straight to ease the gnawing emptiness
of his stomach, and being a man who took his emotions at their face value,
he jumped to the conclusion that it was the lady whose presence gave him
the glow.

Casey stayed that night and the next day and the next at Lucky Lode. The
foreman helped him tow the syruppy car up the hill to the machine shop
where he could get at it, and Casey worked until night trying to remove
the dingbats from the hootin'annies,--otherwise, the pistons from the
cylinders. The foreman showed him what to do, and Casey did it, using a
"double-jack" and a lot of energy.

Before he left the Lucky Lode, Casey knew exactly what syrup will do to a
Ford if applied internally, and the widow had promised to marry him if he
would stop drinking and smoking and swearing. Since Casey had not been
drunk in ten years on account of having seen a big yellow snake with a
green head on the occasion of his last carouse, he took the drinking
pledge quite cheerfully for her sake. He promised to stop smoking, glad
that the widow neglected to mention chewing tobacco, which was his
everyday comfort. As for the swearing, he told her he would do his best
under the circumstances, and that he would taste the oil hereafter, and
try and think up some new names for the Ford.

"But Casey, if you leave whisky alone, you won't need to taste the oil,"
the widow told him. Whereat Casey grinned feebly and explained for the
tenth time that he had not been drinking. She did not contradict him. She
seemed a wise woman, after a fashion.

Casey drove back to his camp at Starvation Mountain happy and a little
scared. Why, after all these years of careless freedom, he should
precipitate himself into matrimony with a woman he had known casually for
two days puzzled him a little.

"Well, a man gits to feelin' like he wants to settle down when he's
crowdin' fifty," he explained his recklessness to the Ford as it hummed
away over Furnace Lake which was flat as a floor and dry as a bleached
bone,--and much the same color. "Any man feels the want of a home as he
gits older. And Casey's the man that will try anything once, you ask
anybody." He took out his pipe, looked at it, bethought himself of his
promise and put it away again, substituting a chew of tobacco as large as
his cheek would hold without prying his mouth open. "G'long, there--can't
you? You got your belly full of oil--shake a wheel and show you're alive."

After that, Casey spent every Sunday at Lucky Lode. He liked the widow
better and better. Especially after dinner, with the delicious flavor of
pie still caressing his palate. Only he wished she would take it for
granted that when Casey Ryan made a promise, Casey Ryan would keep it.

"I've got so now I can bark a knuckle with m'single-jack when I'm puttin'
down a hole, and say, 'Oh, dear!' and let it go at that," he boasted to
her on the second Sunday. "I'll bet there ain't another man in the state
of Nevada could do that."

"Yes. But Casey dear, if _only_ you will never touch another drop of
liquor. You'll keep your promise, won't you, dear boy?"

"Hell, yes!" Casey assured her headily. It had been close to twenty years
since he had been called dear boy, at least to his face. He kissed the
widow full on the lips before he saw that a frown sat upon her forehead
like a section of that ridgy cardboard they wrap bottles in.

"Casey, you swore!"

"Swore? Me?"

"I only hope," sighed the widow, "that your other promise won't be broken
as easily as that one. Remember, Casey, I cannot and I will not marry a
drinking man!"

Casey looked at her dubiously. "If you mean that syrup--"

"Oh, I've heard awful tales of you, Casey dear! The boys talk at the
table, and they seem to think it's awful funny to tell about your fighting
and drinking and playing cards for money. But I think it's perfectly
awful. You _must_ stop drinking, Casey dear. I could never forgive myself
if I set before my innocent little ones the example of a husband who
drank."

"You won't," said Casey. "Not if you marry me, you won't." Then he changed
the subject, beginning to talk of his prospect over on Starvation. The
widow liked to hear him tell about finding a pocket of ore that went
seventy ounces in silver and one and seven tenths ounces in gold, and how
he expected any day to get down into the main body of ore and find it a
"contact" vein. It all sounded very convincing and as if Casey Ryan were
in a fair way to become a rich man.

The next time Casey saw the widow he was on his way to town for more
powder, his whole box of "giant" having gone off with a tremendous bang
the night before in one of those abrupt hailstorms that come so
unexpectedly in the mountain country. Casey had worked until dark, and was
dog-tired and had left the box standing uncovered beside the dugout where
he kept it. He suspected that a hailstone had played a joke on him, but
his chief emotion was one of self-congratulation because he had prudently
stored the dynamite around a shoulder of the canyon from where he camped.

When he told the widow about it as one relates the details of a narrow
escape, and pointed out how lucky he was, she looked very grave. It was a
very careless thing to do, she said. Casey admitted it was. A man who
handled dynamite ought to shun liquor above all things, she went on; and
Casey agreed restively. He had not felt any inclination, to imbibe until
that minute, when the Irish rose up hotly within him.

"Casey dear, are you _sure_ you have nothing in camp?"

Casey assured her solemnly that he had not and drove off down the hill,
vaguely aware that he was not so content with life as he had been.

"Damn that syrup!" he exploded once, quite as abruptly as had the giant
powder. After that he chewed tobacco and drove in broody silence.



CHAPTER IV


Being Casey Ryan, tough as hickory and wont to drive headlong to his
destination, Casey did not remain in town to loiter a half a day and sleep
a night and drive back the next day, as most desert dwellers did. He
hurried through with his business, filled up with gas and oil, loaded on
an extra can of each, strapped his box of dynamite upon the seat beside
him where he could keep an eye on it--just as if that would do any good if
the tricky stuff meant to blow up!--and started back at three in the
afternoon. He would be half the night getting to camp, even though he was
Casey Ryan and drove a mean Ford. But he would be there, ready to start
work at sunrise. A man who is going to marry a widow with two children had
best hurry up and strike every streak of rich ore he has in his claim,
thought Casey.

All that afternoon, though the wind blew hot in his face, Casey drilled
across the desert, meeting never a living thing, overtaking none. All that
afternoon a yellow dust cloud swirled rapidly along the rough desert road,
vainly trying to keep up with Casey who made it. In Yucca Pass he had to
stop and fill motor and radiator with oil and water, and just as he topped
the summit a front tire popped like a pistol.

Casey killed the engine and got out a bit stiffly, pried off a chew of
tobacco and gazed pensively at Barren Butte that held Lucky Lode, where
the widow was cooking supper at that moment. Casey wished practically that
he was there and could sit down to some of her culinary achievements.

"I sure would like to flop m'lip over one of her biscuits right now," he
said aloud. "If I do strike it, I wonder will she git too high-toned to
cook?"

His eyes went to Furnace Lake, lying smooth and pale yellow in the
saucerlike basin between Barren Butte and the foothills of Starvation. In
the soft light of the afterglow it seemed to smile at him with a glint of
malice, like the treacherous thing it was. For Furnace Lake is
treacherous. The Big Earthquake (America knows only one Big Earthquake,
that which rocked San Francisco so disastrously) had split Furnace Lake
halfway across, leaving an ugly crevice ten feet wide at the narrowest
point and eighty feet deep, men said. Time and passing storms had partly
filled the gash, but it was there, ugly, ominous, a warning to all men to
trust the lake not at all. Little cracks radiated from the big gash here
and there, and the cattle men rode often that way, though not often enough
to save their cattle from falling in.

By day the lake shimmered deceptively with mirages that painted it blue
with the likeness of water, Then a lone clump of greasewood stood up tall
and proclaimed itself a ship lying idle on a glassy expanse of water so
blue, so cool, so clear, one could not wonder that thirsty travelers went
mad sometimes with the false lure of it.

Just now the lake looked exactly like any lake at dusk, with the far shore
line reflected along its edge; and Casey's thought went beyond, to his
claim on Starvation. Being tired and hungry, he pictured wistfully a cabin
there, and a light in the window when he went chuckling up the long mesa
in the dark, and the widow inside with hot coffee and supper waiting for
him. Just as soon as he struck "shipping values" that picture would be
real, said Casey to himself; and he opened his tool box and set to work
changing the tire.

By the time he had finished it was dark, and Casey had yet a long forty
miles between himself and his sour-dough can. He cranked the engine,
switched on the electric headlights, and went tearing down the
fifteen-mile incline to the lake.

"She c'n see the lights, and she'll know I ain't hangin' out in town
lappin' up whisky," he told himself as he drove. "She'll know it's Casey
Ryan comin' home--know it the way them lights are slippin' over the
country. Ain't another man on the desert can put a car over the trail like
this! You ask anybody."

Pleased with himself and his reputation, urged by hunger and the desire to
make good on his claim so that he might have the little home he
instinctively craved, Casey pulled the gas lever down another eighth of an
inch--when he was already using more than he should--and nearly bounced
his dynamite off the seat when he lurched over a sandy hummock and down on
to the smooth floor of the lake.

It was five miles across that lake from rim to rim and taking a straight
line, as Casey did, well above the crevice. In all that distance there is
not a stick, or a stone, or a bush to mark the way. Not even a trail,
since Casey was the only man who traveled it, and Casey never made tracks
twice in the same place, but drove down upon it, picked himself a landmark
on the opposite side and steered for it exactly as one steers a boat. The
marks he left behind him were no more than pencil marks drawn upon a sheet
of buff wrapping paper. Unless the lake was wet with one of those sporadic
desert rains, you couldn't make any impression on the cement-like surface.

And when the lake was wet, you stuck where you were until wind and sun
dried it for you. Wherefore Casey plunged out upon five miles of blank,
baked clay with neither road, chart nor compass to guide him. It was the
first time he had ever crossed at night, and a blanket of thin, high
clouds hid the stars.

Casey thought nothing much of that,--being Casey Ryan. He had before him
the dim--very dim--outline of Starvation, and being perfectly sober, he
steered a straight course, and made sure he was well away from the upper
end of the crevice, and pulled the gas lever down another notch.

The little handful of engine roared beautifully and shook the car with the
vibration. Casey heaved a sigh of weariness mingled with content that the
way was smooth and he need not look for chuck holes for a few minutes, at
any rate. He settled back, and his fingers relaxed on the wheel. I think
he dozed, though Casey swears he did not.

Suddenly he leaned forward, stared hard, leaned out and stared, listened
with an ear cocked toward the engine. He turned and looked behind, then
stared ahead again.

"By _gosh_, I bet both hubs is busted!" he ejaculated under his breath,--
Furnace Lake subdues one somehow. "She's runnin' like a wolf--but she
ain't goin'!"

He waited for a minute longer, trifling with the gas, staring and
listening. The car was shaking with the throb of the motor, but Casey
could feel no forward motion. "Settin' here burnin' gas like a 'lection
bonfire--she sure _would_ think I'm drunk if she knowed it," Casey
muttered, and straddled over the side of the car to the running board.

"I wish--to--_hell_ I hadn't promised her not to cuss!" he gritted, and
with one hand still on the wheel, Casey shut off the gas and stepped down.

He stepped down upon a surface sliding beneath him at the rate of close to
forty miles an hour. The Ford went on, spinning away from him in a wide
circle, since Casey had unconsciously turned the wheel to the left as he
let go. The blow of meeting the hard clay stunned him just at first, and
he had rolled over a couple of times before he began to regain his senses.

He lifted himself groggily to his knees and looked for the car, saw it
bearing down upon him from the direction whence he had come. Before he had
time to wonder much at the phenomenon, it was upon him, over with a lurch,
and gone again.

Casey was tough, and he never knew when he was whipped. He crawled up to
his knees again, saw the same Ford coming at him with dimming headlights
from the same direction it had taken before, made a wild grab for it, was
knocked down and run over again. You may not believe that, but Casey had
the bruises to prove it.

On the third round the Ford had slowed to a walk, figuratively speaking.
Casey was pretty dizzy, and he thought his back was broken, but he was mad
clear through. He caught the Ford by its fender, hung on, clutching
frantically for a better hold, was dragged a little distance so and then,
as its speed slackened to a gentle forward roll, he made shift to get
aboard and give the engine gas before it had quite stopped. Which he told
himself was lucky, because he couldn't have cranked the thing to save his
life.

By sheer dogged nerve he drove to camp, drank cold coffee left from his
early breakfast, and decided that the bite of a Ford, while it is
poisonous, is not necessarily fatal unless it attacks one in a vital spot.

Casey could not drill a hole, he could not swing a pick; for two days he
limped groaning around camp and confined his activities to cooking his
meals. Frequently he would look at the Ford and shake his head. There was
something uncanny about it.

"She sure has got it in for me," he mused. "You can't blame her for
runnin' off when I dropped the reins and stepped out. But that don't
account for the way she come _at_ me, and the way she _got_ me every
circle she made. That's human. It's dog-_gone_ human! I've cussed her a
lot, and I've done things to her--like that syrup I poured into her--and
dog-gone her, she's been layin' low and watchin' her chance all this
while. Fords, I believe, are about as human as horses, and I've knowed
horses I believe coulda talked if their tongues was split. Ask anybody.
That there car _knowed_!"

The third day after the attack Casey was still too sore to work, but he
managed to crank the Ford--eyeing it curiously the while, and with
respect, too--and started down the mesa and up over the ridge and on down
to the lake. He was still studying the matter incredulously, still
wondering if Fords can think. He wanted to tell the widow about it and get
her opinion. The widow was a smart woman. A little touchy on the liquor
question, maybe, but smart. You ask anybody.

Lucky Lode greeted him with dropped jaws and wide staring eyes, which
puzzled Casey until the foreman, grasping his shoulder--which made Casey
wince and break a promise--explained their astonishment. They had, as
Casey expected, seen his lights when he came off the summit from Yucca
Pass. By the speed they traveled, Lucky Lode knew that Casey and no other
was at the steering wheel, even before he took to the lake.

"And then," said the foreman, "we saw your lights go round and round in a
circle, and disappear--"

"They didn't," Casey cut in trenchantly. "They went dim because I was
taking her slow, being about all in."

The foreman grinned. "We thought you'd drove into the crevice, and we went
down with lanterns and hunted the full length of it. We never found a sign
of you or the car--"

"'Cause I was over in camp, or thereabouts," interpolated Casey drily. "I
wish you'd of come on over. I sure needed help."

"We figured you was pretty well lit up, to circle around like that. I've
been down since, by daylight, and so have some of the boys, looking into
that crevice. But we gave it up, finally."

Then Casey, because he liked a joke even when it was on himself, told the
foreman and his men what had happened to him. He did not exaggerate the
mishap; the truth was sufficiently wild.

They whooped with glee. Every one laughs at the unusual misfortunes of
others, and this was unusual. They stood around the Ford and talked to it,
and whooped again. "You sure must have had so-ome jag, Casey," they told
him exuberantly.

"I was sober," Casey testified earnestly. "I'll swear I hadn't a drop of
anything worse than lemon soda, and that was before I left town."
Whereupon they whooped the louder, bent double, some of them with mirth.

"Say! If I was drunk that night, I'd say so," Casey exploded finally.
"What the hell--what's the matter with you rabbits? You think Casey Ryan
has got to the point where he's scared to tell what he done and all he
done? Lemme tell yuh, anything Casey does he ain't afraid to _tell_ about!
Lyin' is something I never was scared bad enough to do. You ask anybody."

"There's the widow," said the foreman, wiping his eyes.

Casey turned and looked, but the widow was not in sight. The foreman, he
judged, was speaking figuratively. He swung back glaring.

"You think I'm scared to tell her what happened? She'll know I was sober
if I say I was sober. She ain't as big a fool--" He did not want to fight,
although he was aching to lick every man of them. But for one thing, he
was too sore and lame, and then, the widow would not like it.

With his neck very stiff, Casey limped down to the house and tried to tell
the widow. But the widow was a woman, and she was hurt because Casey,
since he was alive and not in the crevice, had not come straight to
comfort her, but had lingered up there talking and laughing with the men.
The widow had taken Casey's part when the others said he must have been
drunk. She had maintained, red-lidded and trembly of voice, that something
had gone wrong with Casey's car so that he couldn't steer it. Such things
happened, she knew.

Well, Casey told the widow the truth, and the widow's face hardened while
she listened. She had permitted him to kiss her when he came in, but now
she moved away from him. She did not call him dear boy, nor even Casey
dear. She waited until he had reached the point that puzzled him, the
point of a Ford's degree of intelligence. Then her lips thinned before she
opened them.

"And what," she asked coldly, "had you been drinking, Mr. Ryan?"

"Me? One bottle of lemon soda before I left town, and I left town at three
o'clock in the afternoon. I swear--"

"You need not swear, Mr. Ryan." The widow folded her hands and regarded
him sternly, though her voice was still politely soft. "After I had told
you repeatedly that my little ones should ever be guarded from a drinking
father; after you had solemnly promised me that you would never again put
glass to your lips, or swallow a drop of whisky; after that very morning
renewing your pledge--"

"Well, I kept it," Casey said, his face a shade paler under its usual
frank red. "I swear to Gawd I was sober."

"You need not lie," said the widow, "and add to your misdeeds. You were
drunk. No man in his senses would imagine what you imagine, or do what you
did. I wish you to understand, Mr. Ryan, that I shall not marry you. I
could not trust you out of my sight."

"I--was--_sober_!" cried Casey, measuring his words. Very nearly shouting
them, in fact.

The widow turned pointedly away and began to stir something on the stove,
and did not look at him.

Casey went out, climbed the hill to his Ford, cranked it and went
larruping down the hill, out on the lake and, when he had traversed half
its length, turned and steered a straight course across it. Where tracings
of wheels described a wide circle he stopped and regarded them intently.
Then he began to swear, at nothing in particular, but with a hearty
enjoyment of the phrases he intoned.

"Casey, you sure as hell have had one close call," he remarked, when he
could think of nothing new and devilish to say. "You mighta run along, and
run along, till you got _married_ to her. Whadda I want a wife for,
anyway? Sour-dough biscuits tastes pretty good, and Casey sure can make
'em!" He got out his pipe, filled it and crammed down the tobacco, found a
match and leaned back, smoking with relish, one leg thrown over the wheel.

"A man's best friend is his Ford," he exclaimed. "You can ask anybody." He
grinned, and blew a lot of smoke, and gave the wheel an affectionate
little twist.



CHAPTER V


Some months later Casey waved good-by to the men from Tonopah, squinted up
at the sun and got a coal-oil can of water, with which he filled the
radiator of his Ford. He rolled his bed in the tarp and tied it securely,
put flour, bacon, coffee, salt and various other small necessities of life
into a box, inspected his sour-dough can, and decided to empty it and
start over again if hard fate drove him to sourdough.

"Might bust down and have to sleep out," he meditated. "Then, agin, I
ain't liable to; and if I do, I'll be goin' so fast I'll git somewhere
before she stops. I'm--sure--goin' to go!"

He cranked the battered car, straddled in over the edge on the driver's
side and set his feet against the pedals with the air of a man who had
urgent business elsewhere. The men from Tonopah were not yet out of sight
around the butte scarred with rhyolite ledges before Casey was under way,
rattling down the rough trail from Starvation Mountain and bouncing clear
of the seat as the car lurched over certain rough spots.

Pinned with a safety pin to the inside pocket of the vest he wore only
when he felt need of a safe and secret pocket, Casey Ryan carried a check
for twenty-five thousand dollars, made payable to himself. A check for
twenty-five thousand dollars in Casey's pocket was like a wildcat clawing
at his imagination and spitting at every moment's delay. Casey had endured
solitude and some hardship while he coaxed Starvation Mountain to reveal a
little of its secret treasure. Now he wanted action, light, life and
plenty of it. While he drove he dreamed, and his dreams beckoned, urged
him faster and faster.

Up over the summit of the ridge that lay between Starvation and Furnace
Lake he surged, with radiator bubbling. Down the long slope to the lake,
lying there smiling sardonically at a world it loved to trick with its
moods, Casey drove as if he were winning a bet. Across that five miles of
baked, yellow-white clay he raced, his Ford a-creak in every joint.

"Go it, you tin lizard!" chortled Casey. "I'll have me a real wagon when I
git to Los. She'll be white, with red stripes along her sides and red
wheels, and she'll lay 'er belly to the ground and eat up the road and
lick her chops for more. Sixty miles under her belt every time the clock
strikes, or she ain't good enough fer Casey! Mebby they think they got
some drivers in Californy. Mebby they _think_ they have. They ain't,
though, because Casey Ryan ain't there yet. I'll catch that night train.
Oughta be in by morning, and then you keep your eye on Casey. There's
goin' to be a stir around Los, about to-morrow noon. I'll have to buy some
clothes, I guess. And I'll git acquainted with some nice girl with yella
hair that likes pleasure, and take her out ridin'. Yeah, I'll have to git
me a swell outfit uh clothes. I'll look the part, all right---"

Up a long, winding trail and over another summit to Yucca Pass Casey
dreamed, while the stark, scarred buttes on either side regarded him with
enigmatic calm. Since the first wagon train had worried over the rough
deserts on their way to California, the bleak hills of Nevada had listened
while prospectors dreamed aloud and cackled over their dreaming; had
listened, too, while they raved in thirst and heat and madness.
Inscrutably they watched Casey as he hurried by with his twenty-five
thousand dollars and his pleasant pictures of soft ease.

At a dim fork in the trail Casey slowed and stopped. A boiling radiator
will not forever brook neglect, and Casey brought his mind down to
practical things for a space. "I can just as well take the train from
Lund," he mused, while he poured in more water. "Then I can leave this
bleatin' burro with Bill. He oughta give me a coupla hundred for her,
anyway. No use wasting money just because you happen to have a few
thousand in your pants." He filled his pipe at that sensible idea and
turned the nose of his Ford down the dim trail to Lund.

Eighty miles more or less straight away across the mountainous waste lay
Lund, halfway up a canyon that led to higher reaches in the hills, rich in
silver, lead, copper, gold. Silver it was that Casey had found and sold to
the men from Tonopah, and it was a freak of luck, he thought whimsically,
that had led him and his Ford away over to Starvation Mountains to find
their stake when they had probably been driving over millions every day
that they made the stage trip from Pinnacle down to Lund.

The trail was rutted in places where the sluicing rains had driven hard
across the hills; soft with sand in places where the fierce winds had
swept the open. For awhile the thin, wobbly track of a wagon meandered
along ahead of him, then turned off up a flat-bottomed draw and was lost
in the sagebrush. Some prospector not so lucky as he, thought Casey, with
swift, soon forgotten sympathy. A coyote ran up a slope toward him, halted
with forefeet planted on a rock, and stared at him, ears perked like an
inquisitive dog. Casey stopped, eased his rifle out of the crease in the
back of the seat cushion, chanced a shot,--and his luck held. He climbed
out, picked up the limp gray animal, threw it into the tonneau and went
on. Even with twenty-five thousand dollars in his pocket, Casey told
himself that coyote hides are not to be scorned. He had seen the time when
the price of a good hide meant flour and bacon and tobacco to him. He
would skin it when he stopped to eat.

Eighty miles with never a soul to call good day to Casey. Nor shack nor
shelter made for man, and only one place where there was water to wet his
lips if they cracked with thirst,--unless, perchance, one of those swift
desert downpours came riding on the wind, lashing the clouds with
lightning.

Far ahead of Casey such a storm rolled in off the barren hills to the
south. "She's a-wettin' up that red lake a-plenty," observed Casey,
squinting through the dirty windshield. "No trail around, either, on
account of the lava beds. But I guess I can pull acrost, all right." Doubt
was in his voice, however, and he was half minded to turn back and take
the straight road to Vegas, which had been his first objective. But he
discarded the idea.

"No, sir, Casey Ryan never back-trailed yet. Poor time to commence, now
when I got the world by the tail and a downhill pull. We'll make out, all
right--can't be so terrible boggy with a short rain like that there. I
bet," he continued optimistically to the Ford, which was the nearest he
had to human companionship, "I bet we make it in a long lope. Git along,
there! Shake a wheel--'s the last time you haul Casey around. Casey's
goin' to step high, wide and handsome. Sixty miles _an hour_, or he'll ask
for his money back. They can't step too fast for Casey! Blue--if I get me
a lady friend with yella hair, mebby she'll show up better in a blue car
than she will in a white-and-red. This here turnout has got to be tasty
and have class. If she was dark--" He shook his head at that. "No, sir,
black hair grows too plenty on squaws an' chilli queens. Yella goes with
Casey. Clingin' kinda girl with blue eyes--that's the stuff! An' I'll sure
show her some drivin'!"

He wondered whether he should try and find the girl first and buy the car
to match her beauty, or buy the car first and with that lure the lady of
his dreams. It was a nice question and it required thought. It was
pleasant to ponder the problem, and Casey became so lost in meditation
that he forgot to eat when the sun flirted with the scurrying clouds over
his wind-torn automobile top.

So he came bouncing and swaying down the last mesa to the place called Red
Lake. Casey had heard it spoken of with opprobrious epithets by men who
had crossed it in wet weather. In dry weather it was red clay caked and
checked by the sun, and wheels or hoofs stirred clouds of red dust that
followed and choked the traveler.

Casey was not thinking at all of the lake when he drove down to it. He was
seeing visions, though you would not think it to look at him; a stocky,
middle-aged man who needed a shave and a hair-cut, wearing cheap,
dirt-stained overalls and a blue shirt and square-toed shoes studded
thickly on the soles with hobnails worn shiny; driving a desert-scarred
Ford with most of the paint gone and a front fender cocked up and flapping
crazily, and tires worn down to the fabric in places. But his eyes were
very keen and steady, and there was a humorous twist to his mouth. If he
dreamed incongruously of big, luxurious cars gorgeous in paint and nickel
trim, and of slim young women with yellow hair and blue eyes,--well,
stranger dreams have been hidden away behind exteriors more unsightly than
was the shell which holds the soul of Casey Ryan.

Presently the practical, everyday side of his nature nudged him into
taking note of his immediate surroundings. Red Lake had received a
wetting. The dark, shiny surface betrayed that fact, and it was surprising
how real water, when you did see it on a lake subject to mirage, was so
unmistakably real. It is like putting flakes of real gold beside flakes of
mica; you are ready to swear that the mica is gold--until you see the real
gold beside it. So Casey knew at a glance that half of Red Lake was wet,
and that the shiny patches here and there were not mirage pictures but
shallow pools of water. Moreover, out in the reddest, wettest part of it
an automobile stood with its back to him, and pigmy figures were moving
slowly upon either side.



CHAPTER VI


"Stuck," diagnosed Casey in one word, as he caught sight of the group
ahead. He tucked his dream into the back of his mind while he pulled down
the gas lever a couple of notches and lunged along the muddy ruts that
led straight away from the safe line of sagebrush and out upon the
platter-like red expanse.

The Ford grunted and lugged down to a steady pull, but Casey drove as he
had driven his six horses on a steep grade in the old days, coaxing every
ounce of power into action. He juggled with spark and gas and somehow kept
her going, and finally stopped with nice judgment on a small island of
harder clay within shouting distance of the car ahead. He killed the
engine then and stepped down, and went picking his way carefully out to
it, his heavy shoes speedily collecting great pancakes of mud that clung
like glue.

"Stuck, hey? You oughta kept in the ruts, no matter if they are
water-logged. You never want to turn outa the road on one of these lake
beds, huntin' dry ground. If it's wet in the road, you can bank on sinkin'
in to the hocks the minute you turn out." He carefully removed the mud
pancakes from his shoes by scraping them across the hub of the stalled car
and edged back to stand with his arms on his hips while he surveyed the
full plight of them.

"She sure is bogged down a-plenty," he observed, grinning sympathetically.

"Could you hitch on your car, Mister, and pull us out?" This was a woman's
voice, and it thrilled Casey, woman hungry as he was.

Casey put up a hand to his mouth and surreptitiously removed a chew of
tobacco almost fresh. With some effort he pulled his feet closer together,
and he lifted his old Stetson and reset it at a consciously rakish angle.
He glanced at the car, behind it and in front, coming back to the
depressed male individual before him. "Yes, ma'am, I'll get you out, all
right. Sure, I will."

"We've been stalled here for an hour or more," volunteered the depressed
one. "We was right behind the storm. Looked a sorry chance that anybody
would come along for the next week or so."

"Mister, you're a godsend, if ever there was one. I'd write your name on
the roster of saints in my prayer book, if I ever said prayers and had a
prayer book and a pencil and knew what name to write."

"Casey Ryan. Don't you worry, ma'am. We'll get you outa here in no time."
Casey grinned and craned his neck. Looking lower this time, he saw a pair
of feet which did not seem to belong to that voice, though they were
undoubtedly feminine. Still, red mud will work miracles of disfigurement,
and Casey was an optimist by nature.

"My wife is trying out a new comedy line," the man observed unemotionally.
"Trouble is it never gets over, out front. If she ever did get it across
the footlights, I could raise the price of admission and get away with it.
How far is it to Rhyolite?"

"Rhyolite? Twenty or twenty-five miles, mebby." Casey gave him an
inquiring look.

"Can we get there in time to paper the town and hire a hall to show in,
Mister?" Casey saw the mud-caked feet move laboriously toward the rear of
the car.

"Yes, ma'am, I guess you can. There ain't any town, though, and it ain't
got any hall in it, nor anybody to go to a show."

The woman laughed. "That's like my prayer book. Well, Jack, you certainly
have got a powerful eye, but you've been trying to Svengali this out-fit
out of the mud for an hour, and I haven't seen it move an inch, so far.
Let's just try something else."

"A prayer outa your prayer book, maybe," her husband retorted, not
troubling to move or turn his head.

Casey blinked and looked again. The woman who appeared from the farther
side of the car might have been the creature of his dream, so far as her
face, her hair and her voice went. Her hair was yellow, unmistakably
yellow. Her eyes were bluer than Casey's own, and she had nice teeth and
showed them in a red-lipped smile. A more sophisticated man would have
known that the powder on her nose was freshly applied, and that her reason
for remaining so long hidden from his sight while she talked to him was
revealed in the moist color on her lips and the fresh bloom on her cheeks.
Casey was not sophisticated. He thought she was a beautiful woman and
asked no questions of her make-up box.

"Mister, you certainly are a godsend!" she gushed again when she faced
him. "I'd call you a direct answer to prayer, only I haven't been praying.
I've been trying to tell Jack that the shovel is not packed under the
banjos, as he thinks it was, but was left back at our last camp where he
was trying to dig water out of a wet spot. Jack, dear, perhaps the
gentleman has got a shovel in his car. Ain't it a real gag, Mister, us
being stuck out here in a dry lake?"

Casey touched his hat and grinned and tried not to look at her too long.
Husbands of beautiful young women are frequently jealous, and Casey knew
his place and meant to keep it.

All the way back to his car Casey studied the peculiar features of the
meeting. He had been thinking about yellow-haired women--well! But of
course, she was married, and therefore not to be thought of save as a
coincidence; still, Casey rather regretted the existence of Jack dear, and
began to wonder why good-looking women always picked such dried-up little
runts for husbands. "Show actors by the talk," he mused. "I wonder now if
she don't sing, mebby?"

He started the car and forged out to them, making the last few rods in low
gear and knowing how risky it was to stop. They were rather helpless, he
had to admit, and did all the standing around while Casey did all the
work. But he shoveled the rear wheels out, waded back to the tiny island
of solid ground and gathered an armful of brush, which he crowded in front
of the wheels, covering himself with mud thereby; then he tied the tow
rope he carried for emergencies like this, waded to the Ford, cranked and
trusted the rest to luck. The Ford moved slowly ahead until the rope
between the two cars tightened, then spun her wheels and proceeded to dig
herself in where she stood. The other car, shaking with the tremor of its
own engine, ruthlessly ground the sagebrush into the mud and stood upon it
roaring and spluttering furiously.

"Nothing like sticking together, Mister," called the lady cheerfully, and
he heard her laughter above the churn of their motors.

"Say, ain't your carburetor all off?" Casey leaned out to call back to the
husband. "You're smokin' back there like wet wood."

The man immediately stopped the motor and looked behind him.

Casey muttered something under his breath when he climbed out. He looked
at his own car standing hub deep in red mud and reached for the solacing
plug of chewing tobacco. Then he thought of the lady and withdrew his hand
empty.

"We're certainly going to stick together, Mister," she repeated her
witticism, and Casey grinned foolishly.

"She'll dry up in a few hours, with this hot sun," he observed
hearteningly. "We'll have to pile brush in, I guess." His glance went back
to the tiny island and to his double row of tracks. He looked at the man.

"Jack, dear, you might go help the gentleman get some brush," the lady
suggested sweetly.

"This ain't my act," Jack dear objected. "I just about broke my spine
trying to heave the car outa the mud when we first stuck. Say, I wish
there was a beanery of some kind in walking distance. Honest, I'll be dead
of starvation in another hour. What's the chance of a bite, Hon?"

Contempt surged through Casey. Deep in his soul he pitied her for being
tied to such an insect. Immediately he was glad that she had spirit enough
to put the little runt in his place.

"You _would_ wait to buy supplies in Rhyolite, remember," she reminded her
husband calmly. "I guess you'll have to wait till you get there. I've got
one piece of bread saved for Junior. You and I go hungry--and cheer up,
old dear; you're used to it!"

"I've got grub," Casey volunteered hospitably. "Didn't stop to eat yet.
I'll pack the stuff back there to dry ground and boil some coffee and fry
some bacon." He looked at the woman and was rewarded by a smile so
brilliant that Casey was dazzled.

"You certainly are a godsend," she called after him, as he turned away to
his own car. "It just happens that we're out of everything. It's so hard
to keep anything on hand when you're traveling in this country, with towns
so far apart. You just run short before you know it."

Casey thought that the very scarcity of towns compelled one to avoid
running short of food, but he did not say anything. He waded back to the
island with a full load of provisions and cooking utensils, and in three
minutes he was squinting against the smoke of a camp-fire while he poured
water from a canteen into his blackened coffee pot.

"Coffee! Jack, dear, can you believe your nose!" chirped the woman
presently behind Casey. "Junior, darling, just smell the bacon! Isn't he a
nice gentleman? Go give him a kiss like a little man."

Casey didn't want any kiss--at least from Junior. Junior was six years
old, and his face was dirty and his eyes were old, old eyes, but brown
like his father's. He had the pinched, hungry look which Casey had seen
only amongst starving Indians, and after he had kissed Casey perfunctorily
he snatched the piece of raw bacon which Casey had just sliced off, and
tore at it with his teeth like a hungry pup.

Casey affected not to notice, and busied himself with the fire while the
woman reproved Junior half-heartedly in an undertone, and laughed stagily
and remarked upon the number of hours since they had breakfasted.

Casey tried not to watch them eat, but in spite of himself he thought of a
prospector whom he had rescued last summer after a five-day fast. These
people ate more than the prospector had eaten, and their eyes followed
greedily every mouthful which Casey took, as if they grudged him the food.
Wherefore Casey did not take as many mouthfuls as he would have liked.

"This desert air certainly does put an edge on one's appetite," the woman
smiled, while she blew across her fourth cup of coffee to cool it, and
between breaths bit into a huge bacon sandwich, which Casey could not help
knowing was her third. "Jack, dear, isn't this coffee delicious!"

"Mah-mal Do we have to p-pay that there g-godsend? C-can you p-pay for
more b-bacon for me, mah-ma?" Junior licked his fingers and twitched a
fold of his mother's soiled skirt.

"Sure, give him more bacon! All he wants. I'll fry another skillet full,"
Casey spoke hurriedly, getting out the piece which he had packed away in
the bag.

"He's used to these hold-up joints where they charge you forty cents for a
greasy plate," the man explained, speaking with his mouth full. "Eat all
yuh want, Junior. This is a barbecue and no collection took up to pay the
speaker of the day."

"We certainly appreciate your kindness, Mister," the woman put in
graciously, holding out her cup. "What we'd have done, stuck here in the
mud with no provisions and no town within miles, heaven only knows. Was
you kidding us," she added, with a betrayal of more real anxiety than she
intended, "when you said Rhyolite is a dead one? We looked it up on the
map, and it was marked like a town. We're making all the little towns that
the road shows mostly miss. We give a fine show, Mister. It's been played
on all the best time in the country--we took it abroad before the war and
made real good money with it. But we just wanted to see the country, you
know--after doing the cont'nent and all the like of that. So we thought
we'd travel independent and make all the small towns--"

"The movie trust is what put vodeville on the bum," the man interrupted.
"We used to play the best time only. We got a first-class act. One that
ought to draw down good money anywhere, and would draw down good money, if
the movie trust--"

"And then we like to be independent, and go where we like and get off the
railroad for a spell. Freedom is the breath of life to he and I. We'd
rather have it kinda rough now and then to be free and independent--"

"I've g-got a b-bunny, a-and it f-fell in the g-grease box a-and we
c-can't wash it off, a-and h-he's asleep now. C-can I g-give my b-bunny
some b-bacon, Mister G-godsend?"

The woman laughed, and Jack dear laughed, and Casey himself grinned
sheepishly. Casey did not want to be called a godsend, and he hated the
term "Mister" when applied to himself. All his life he had been plain
Casey Ryan and proud of it, and his face was very red when he confessed
that there was no more bacon. He had not expected to feed a family when he
left camp that morning, but had taken rations for himself only.

Junior whined and insisted that he wanted b-bacon for his b-bunny, and the
man hushed him querulously and asked Casey what the chances were for
getting under way. Casey repacked a lightened bag, emptied the coffee
grounds, shouldered his canteen and waded back to the cars and to the
problem of red mud with an unbelievable quality of tenacity.

The man followed and asked him if he happened to have any smoking tobacco,
afterwards he begged a cigarette paper, and then a match. "The dog-gone
helpless, starved bunch!" Casey muttered, while he dug out the wheels of
his Ford, and knew that his own haste must wait upon the need of these
three human beings whom he had never seen until an hour ago, of whose very
existence he had been in ignorance, and who would probably contribute
nothing whatever to his own welfare or happiness, however much he might
contribute to theirs.

I do not say that Casey soliloquised in this manner while he was sweating
there in the mud under hot midday. He did think that now he would no doubt
miss the night train to Los Angeles, and that he would not, after all, be
purchasing glad raiment and a luxurious car on the morrow. He regretted
that, but he did not see how he could help it. He was Casey Ryan, and his
heart was soft to suffering even though a little of the spell cast by the
woman's blue eyes and her golden hair had dimmed for him.

He still thought her a beautiful woman who was terribly mismated, but he
felt vaguely that women with beautiful golden hair should not drink their
coffee aloud, or calmly turn up the bottom of their skirts that they might
use the underside of the hem for a napkin after eating bacon. I do not
like to mention this; Casey did not like to think of it, either. It was
with reluctance that he reflected upon the different standard imposed by
sex. A man, for instance, might wipe his fingers on his pants and look the
world straight in the eye,--but dog-gone it, when a lady's a lady, she
ought to _be_ a lady.

Later Casey forgot for a time the incident of the luncheon on Red Lake.
With infinite labor and much patience he finally extricated himself and
the show people, with no assistance from them save encouragement. He towed
them to dry land, untied and put away his rope and then discovered that he
had not the heart to drive on at his usual hurtling pace and leave them to
follow. There was an ominous stutter in their motor, for one thing, and
Casey knew of a stiffish hill a few miles this side of Rhyolite, so he
forced himself to set a slow pace which they could easily follow.



CHAPTER VII


It was full sundown when they reached Rhyolite, which was not a town but a
camp beside a spring, usually deserted. Three years before, a mine had
built the camp for the accommodation of the truck drivers who hauled ore
to Lund and were sometimes unable to make the trip in one day. Casey,
having adapted his speed to that of the decrepit car of the show people,
was thankful that they arrived at all. He still had a little flour and
coffee and salt, and he hoped there was enough grease left on the bacon
paper to grease the skillet so that bannocks would not stick to the pan.
He also hoped that his flour would hold out under the onslaught of their
appetites.

But Casey was lucky. A half dozen cowboys were camped there with a pack
outfit, meaning to ride the canyons next day for cattle. They were cooking
supper, and they had "beefed a critter" that had broken a leg that
afternoon running among rocks. Casey shuffled his responsibility and
watched, in complete content, while the show people gorged on broiled
yearling steaks. (I dislike to use the word gorge where a lady's appetite
is involved, but that is the word which Casey thought of first.)

Later, the show people very amiably consented to entertain their hosts. It
was then that Casey was once more blinded by the brilliance of the lady
and forgot certain little blemishes that had seemed to him quite
pronounced. The cowboys obligingly built a bonfire before the tent, into
which the couple retired to set their stage and tune their instruments.
Casey lay back on a cowboy's rolled bed with his knees crossed, his hands
clasped behind his thinning hair, and smoked and watched the first pale
stars come out while he listened to the pleasant twang of banjos in the
tuning.

It was great. The sale of his silver claim to the men from Tonopah, the
check safely pinned in his pocket, the future which he had planned for
himself swam hazily through his mind. He was fed to repletion, he was
rich, he had been kind to those in need. He was a man to be envied, and he
told himself so.

Then the tent flaps were lifted and a dazzling, golden-haired creature in
a filmy white evening gown to which the firelight was kind stood there
smiling, a banjo in her hands. Casey gave a grunt and sat up, blinking.
She sang, looking at him frequently. At the encore, which was livened by a
clog danced to hidden music, she surely blew a kiss in the direction of
Casey, who gulped and looked around at the others self-consciously, and
blushed hotly.

In truth, it was a very good show which the two gave there in the tent;
much better than the easiest going optimist would expect. When it was over
to the last twang of a banjo string, Casey took off his hat, emptied into
it what silver he had in his pockets and set the hat in the fireglow.
Without a word the cowboys followed his example, turning pockets inside
out to prove they could give no more.

Casey spread his bed apart from the others that night, and lay for a long
while smoking and looking up at the stars and dreaming again his dream;
only now the golden-haired creature who leaned back upon the deep cushions
of his speedy blue car, was not a vague bloodless vision, but a real
person with nice teeth and a red-lipped smile, who called him Mister in a
tone he thought like music. Now his dream lady sang to him, talked to
him,--I consider it rather pathetic that Casey's dream always halted just
short of meal time, and that he never pictured her sitting across the
table from him in some expensive café, although Casey was rather fond of
café lights and music and service and food.

Next morning the glamor remained, although the lady was once more the
unkempt woman of yesterday. The three seemed to look upon Casey still as a
godsend. They had talked with some of the men and had decided to turn back
to Vegas, which was a bigger town than Lund and therefore likely to
produce better crowds. They even contemplated a three-night stand, which
would make possible some very urgent repairs to their car. Casey demurred,
although he could not deny the necessity for repairs. It was a longer
trail to Vegas and a rougher trail. Moreover, he himself was on his way to
Lund.

"You go to Lund," he urged, "and you can stay there four nights if you
want to, and give shows. And I'll take yuh on up to Pinnacle in my car
while yours is gettin' fixed, and you can give a show there. You'd draw a
big crowd. I'd make it a point to tell folks you give a fine show. And
I'll git yuh good rates at the garage where I do business. You don't want
nothin' of Vegas. Lund's the place you want to hit fer."

"There's a lot to that," the foreman of the cowboys agreed. "If Casey's
willin' to back you up, you better hit straight for Lund. Everybody there
knows Casey Ryan. He drove stage from Pinnacle to Lund for two years and
never killed anybody, though he did come close to it now and again. I've
saw strong men that rode with Casey and said they never felt right
afterwards. Casey, he's a dog-gone good driver, but he used to be kinda
hard on passengers. He done more to promote heart failure in them two
towns than all the altitude they can pile up. But nobody's going to hold
that against a good show that comes there. I heard there ain't been a show
stop off in Lund for over a year. You'll have to beat 'em away from the
door, I bet." Wherefore the Barrymores--that was the name they called
themselves, though I am inclined to doubt their legal right to it--the
Barrymores altered their booking and went with Casey to Lund.

They were not fools, by the way. Their car was much more disreputable than
you would believe a car could be and turn a wheel, and the Barrymores
recognized the handicap of its appearance. They camped well out of sight
of town, therefore, and let Casey drive in alone.

Casey found that the westbound train had already gone, which gave him a
full twenty-four hours in Lund, even though he discounted his promise to
see the Barrymores through. There was a train, to be sure, that passed
through Lund in the middle of the night; but that was the De Luxe,
standard and drawing-room sleepers, and disdained stopping to pick up
plebeian local passengers.

So Casey must spend twenty-four hours in Lund, there to greet men who
hailed him joyously at the top of their voices while they were yet afar
off, and thumped him painfully upon the shoulders when they came within
reach of him. You may not grasp the full significance of this, unless you
have known old and popular stage drivers, soft of heart and hard of fist.
Then remember that Casey had spent months on end alone in the wilderness,
working like a lashed slave from sunrise to dark, trying to wrest a
fortune from a certain mountain side. Remember how an enforced isolation,
coupled with rough fare and hard work, will breed a craving for lights and
laughter and the speech of friends. Remember that, and don't overlook the
twenty-five thousand dollar check that Casey had pinned safe within his
pocket.

Casey had unthinkingly tossed his last dime into his hat for the show
people at Rhyolite. He had not even skinned the coyote, whose hide would
have been worth ten or fifteen dollars, as hides go. In the stress of
pulling out of the mud at Red Lake, he had forgot all about the dead
animal in his tonneau until his nose reminded him next morning that it was
there. Then he had hauled it out by the tail and thrown it away. He was
broke, except that he had that check in his pocket.

Of course it was easy enough for Casey to get money. He went to the store
that sold everything from mining tools to green perfume bottles tied with
narrow pink ribbon. The man who owned that store also owned the bank next
door, and a little place down the street which was called laconically The
Club. One way or another, Dwyer managed to feel the money of every man who
came into Lund and stopped there for a space. He was an honest man, too,--
or as honest as is practicable for a man in business.

Dwyer was tickled to see Casey again. Casey was a good fellow, and he
never needed his memory jogged when he owed a man. He paid before he was
asked to pay, and that was enough to make any merchant love him. He
watched Casey unpin his vest pocket and remove the check, and he was not
too eager to inspect it.

"Good? Surest thing you know. Want it cashed, or applied to your old
checking account? It's open yet, with a dollar and sixty-seven cents to
your credit, I believe. I'll take care of it, though it's after banking
hours."

Casey was foolish. "I'll take a couple of hundred, if it's handy, and a
check book. I guess you can fix it so I can get what money I want in Los.
I'm goin' to have one hell of a time when I git there. I've earned it."

Dwyer laughed while he inked a pen for Casey's endorsement. "Hop to it,
Casey. Glad you made good. But you'd better let me put part of that in a
savings account, so you can't check it out. You know, Casey--remember your
weak point."

"Aw--that's all right! Don't you worry none about Casey Ryan! Casey'll
take care of himself--he's had too many jolts to want another one. Say,
gimme a pair of them socks before you go in the bank. I'll pay yuh," he
grinned, "when yuh come back with some money. Ain't got a cent on me,
Dwyer. Give it all away. Twelve dollars and something. Down to twenty-five
thousand dollars and my Ford auty-_mo_-bile--and Bill's goin' to buy that
off me as soon as he looks her over to see what's busted and what ain't."

Dwyer laughed again as he unlocked the door behind the overalls and
jumpers and disappeared into his bank. Presently he returned with a
receipted duplicate deposit slip for twenty-four thousand eight hundred
dollars, a little, flat check book and two hundred dollars in worn bank
notes. "You ought to be independent for the rest of your life, Casey. This
is a fine start for any man," he said.

Casey paid for the socks and slid the change for a ten-dollar bill into
his overalls pocket, put the check book and the bank notes away where he
had carried the check, and walked out with his hat very much tilted over
his right eye and his shoulders swaggering a little. You can't blame him
for that, can you?

As he stepped from the store he met an old acquaintance from Pinnacle.
There was only one thing to do in a case like that, and Casey did it quite
naturally. They came out of The Club wiping their lips, and the swagger in
Casey's shoulders was more pronounced.

Face to face Casey met the show lady, which was what he called her in his
mind. She had her arms clasped around a large paper sack full of lumpy
things, and her eyes had a strained, anxious look.

"Oh, Mister! I've been looking all over for you. They say we can't show in
this town. The license for road shows is fifty dollars, to begin with, and
I've been all over and can't find a single place where we could show, even
if we could pay the license. Ain't that the last word in hard luck? Now
what to do beats me, Mister. We've just got to have the old car tinkered
up so it'll carry us on to the next place, wherever that is. Jack says he
must have a new tire by some means or other, and he was counting on what
we'd make here. And up at that other place you've mentioned the mumps have
broke out and they wouldn't let us show for love or money. A man in the
drug store told me, Mister. We certainly are in a hole now, for sure! If
we could give a benefit for something or somebody. Those men back there
said you're so popular in this town, I believe I've got an idea. Mister,
couldn't you have bad luck, or be sick or something, so we could give a
benefit for you? People certainly would turn out good for a man that's
liked the way they say you are. I'd just love to put on a show for you.
Couldn't we fix it up some way?"

Casey looked up and down the street and found it practically empty. Lund
was dining at that hour. And while Casey expected later the loud
greetings, and the handshakes and all, as a matter of fact he had thus far
talked with Bill, the garage man, with Dwyer, the storekeeper and banker,
and with the man from Pinnacle, who was already making ready to crank his
car and go home. Lund, as a town, was yet unaware of Casey's presence.

Casey looked at the show lady, found her gazing at his face with eyes that
said please in four languages, and hesitated.

"You could git up a benefit for the Methodist church, mebby," he
temporized. "There's a church of some kind here--I guess it's a Methodist.
They most generally are."

"We'd have to split with them if we did," the show lady objected
practically. "Oh, we're stuck worse than when we was back there in the
mud! We'd only have to pay five dollars for a six-months' theater license,
which would let us give all the shows we wanted to. It's a new law that I
guess you didn't know anything about," she added kindly. "You certainly
wouldn't have insisted on us coming if you'd knew about the license."

"It's a year, almost, since I was here," Casey admitted; "I been out
prospecting."

"Well, we can just work it fine! Can't we go somewhere and talk it over?
I've got a swell idea, Mister, if you'll just listen to it a minute, and
it'll certainly be a godsend to us to be able to give our show. We've got
some crutches amongst our stage props, and some scar patches, Mister, that
would certainly make you up fine as a cripple. Wouldn't they believe it,
Mister, if it was told that you had been in an accident and got crippled
for life?"

In spite of his embarrassment, Casey grinned. "Yeah, I guess they'd
believe it, all right," he admitted. "They'd likely be tickled to death to
see me goin' around on crutches." He cast a hasty thought back into his
past, when he had driven a careening stage between Pinnacle and Lund,
strewing the steep trail with wreckage not his own. "Yeah, it'd tickle 'em
to death. Them that's rode with me," he concluded.

"Oh, you certainly are a godsend! Duck outa sight somewhere while I go
tell Jack dear that we've found a way open for us to show, after all!"
While Casey was pulling the sag out of his jaw so that he could protest,
could offer her money, do anything save what she wanted, the show lady
disappeared. Casey turned and went back into The Club, remained five
minutes perhaps and then walked very circumspectly across the street to
Bill's garage. It was there that the Barrymores found him when they came
seeking with their dilapidated old car, their crutches, their grease paint
and scar patches, to make a cripple of Casey whether he would or no.

Bill fell uproariously in with the plan, and Dwyer, stopping at the garage
on his way home to dinner, thought it a great joke on Lund and promised to
help the benefit along. Casey, with three drinks under his belt and his
stomach otherwise empty, wanted to sing,

  "Hey, ok Bill! Can-n yuh play the fiddle-o?
  Yes, by--"

and stuck there because of the show lady. Casey wouldn't have recognized
Trouble if it had walked up and banged him in the eye. He said sure, he'd
be a cripple for the lady. He'd be anything once, and some things several
times if they asked him in the right way. And then he gave himself into
the hands of Jack dear.



CHAPTER VIII


Casey looked battered and sad when the show people were through with him.
He had expected bandages wound picturesquely around his person, but the
Barrymores were more artistic than that. Casey's right leg was drawn up at
the knee so that he could not put his foot on the ground when he tried,
and he did not know how the straps were fastened. His left shoulder was
higher than his right shoulder, and his eyes were sunken in his head and a
scar ran down along his temple to his left cheek bone. When he looked in
the glass which Bill brought him, Casey actually felt ill. They told him
that he must not wash his face, and that his week's growth of beard was a
blessing from heaven. The show lady begged him, with dew on her lashes, to
play the part faithfully, and they departed, very happy over their
prospects.

Casey did not know whether he was happy or not. With Bill to encourage him
and give him a lift over the gutters, he crossed the street to a
restaurant and ordered largely of sirloin steak and French fried potatoes.
After supper there was a long evening to spend quietly on crutches, and
The Club was just next door. A man can always spend an evening very
quickly at The Club--or he could in the wet days--if his money held out.
Casey had money enough, and within an hour he didn't care whether he was
crippled or not. There were five besides himself at that table, and they
had unanimously agreed to remove the lid. Moreover, there was a crowd ten
deep around that particular table. For the news had gone out that here was
Casey Ryan back again, a hopeless cripple, playing poker like a drunken
Rockefeller and losing as if he liked to lose.

At eight o'clock the next morning Bill came in to tell Casey that the show
people had brought up their car to be fixed, and was the pay good? Casey
replied Without looking up from his hand, which held a pair of queens
which interested him. He'd stand good, he said, and Bill gave a grunt and
went off.

At noon Casey meant to eat something. But another man had come into the
game with a roll of money and a boastful manner. Casey rubbed his cramped
leg and hunched down in his chair again and called for a stack of blues.
Casey, I may as well confess, had been calling for stacks of blues and
reds and whites rather often since midnight.

At four in the afternoon Casey hobbled into the restaurant and ate another
steak and drank three cups of black coffee. He meant to go across to the
garage and have Bill hunt up the Barrymores and get them to unstrap him
for awhile, but just as he was lifting his left crutch around the edge of
the restaurant door, two women of Lund came up and began to pity him and
ask him how it ever happened. Casey could not remember, just at the
moment, what story he had already told of his accident. He stuttered--a
strange thing for an Irishman to do, by the way--and retreated into The
Club, where they dared not follow.

"H'lo, Casey! Give yuh a chance to win back some of your losin's, if
you're game to try it again," called a man from the far end of the room.

Casey swore and hobbled back to him, let himself stiffly down into a chair
and dropped his crutches with a rattle of hard wood. Being a cripple was
growing painful, besides being very inconvenient. The male half of Lund
had practically suspended business that day to hover around him and
exchange comments upon his looks. Casey had received a lot of sympathy
that day, and only the fact that he had remained sequestered behind the
curtained arch that cut across the rear of The Club saved him from
receiving a lot more. But of course there were mitigations. Since walking
was slow and awkward, Casey sat. And since he was not a man to sit and
twiddle thumbs to pass the time, Casey played poker. That is how he
explained it afterwards. He had not intended to play poker for twenty-four
hours, but tie up a man's leg so he can't walk, and he's got to do
_something_.

Wherefore Casey played,--and did not win back what he had lost earlier in
the day. Daylight grew dim, and some one came over and lighted a hanging
gasoline lamp that threw into tragic relief the painted hollows under
Casey's eyes, which were beginning to look very bloodshot around the blue
of them.

Once, while the bartender was bringing drinks--you are not to infer that
Casey was drunk; he was merely a bit hazy over details--Casey pulled out
his dollar watch and looked at it. Eight-thirty--the show must be pretty
well started, by now. He thought he might venture to hobble over to Bill's
and have those dog-gone straps taken off before he was crippled for sure.
But he did not want to do anything to embarrass the show lady. Besides, he
had lost a great deal of money, and he wanted to win some of it back. He
still had time to make that train, he remembered. It was reported an hour
late, some one said.

So Casey rubbed his strapped leg, twisting his face at the cramp in his
knee and letting his companions believe that his accident had given him a
heritage of pain. He hitched his lifted shoulder into an easier position
and picked up another unfortunate assortment of five cards.

At ten o'clock Bill, the garage man, came and whispered something to
Casey, who growled an oath and reached almost unconsciously for his
crutches before trying to get up; so soon is a habit born in a man.

"What they raisin' thunder about?" he asked apathetically, when Bill had
helped him across the gutter and into the street. "Didn't the crowd turn
out like they expected?" Casey's tone was dismal. You simply cannot be a
cripple for twenty-four hours, and sit up playing unlucky poker all night
and all day and well into another night, without losing some of your
animation; not even if you are Casey Ryan. "Hell, I missed that train
again," he added heavily, when he heard it whistle into the railroad yard.

"Too bad. You oughta be on it, Casey," Bill said ominously.

At the garage the Barrymores were waiting for him in their stage clothes
and make-up. The show lady had wept seams down through her rouge, and the
beads on her lashes had clotted unbecomingly.

"Mister, you certainly have wished a sorry deal on to us," she exclaimed,
when Casey came hobbling through the doorway. "Fifteen years on the stage
and _this_ never happened to us before. We've took our bad luck with our
good luck and lived honest and respectable and self-respecting, and here,
at last, ill fortune has tied the can on to us. I know you meant well and
all that, Mister, but we certainly have had a raw deal handed out to us in
this town. We--certainly--have!"

"We got till noon to-morrow to be outa the county," croaked Jack dear,
shifting his Adam's apple rapidly. "And that's real comedy, ain't it, when
your damn county runs clean over to the Utah line, and we can't go back
the way we come, or--and we can't go anywhere till this big slob here puts
our car together. He's got pieces of it strung from here around the block.
Say, what kinda town is this you wished on to us, anyway? Holding night
court, mind you, so they could can us quicker!"

The show lady must have seen how dazed Casey looked. "Maybe you ain't
heard the horrible deal they handed us, Mister. They stopped our show
before we'd raised the curtain,--and it was a seventy-five dollar house if
it was a cent!" she wailed. "They had a bill as long as my arm for
license--we couldn't get by with the five-dollar one--and for lights and
hall rent and what-all. There wasn't enough money in the house to pay it!
And they was going to send us to jail! The sheriff acted anything but a
gentleman, Mister, and if you ever lived in this town and liked it, I must
say I question your taste!"

"We wouldn't use a town like this for a garbage dump, back home," cut in
Jack with all the contempt he could master.

"And they hauled us over to their dirty old Justice of the Peace, and he
told us he'd give us thirty days in jail if we was in the county to-morrow
noon, and we don't know how far this county goes, either way!"

"Fifty miles to St. Simon," Bill told them comfortingly. "You can make it,
all right--"

"We can make it, hey? How're we going to make it, with our car layin'
around all over your garage?" Jack's tone was arrogant past belief.

Casey was fumbling for strap buckles which he could not reach. He was also
groping through his colorful, stage-driver's vocabulary for words which
might be pronounced in the presence of a lady, and finding mighty few that
were of any use to him. The combined effort was turning him a fine purple
when the lady was seized with another brilliant idea.

"Jack dear, don't be harsh. The gentleman meant well--and I'll tell you,
Mister, what let's do! Let's trade cars till the man has our car repaired.
Your car goes just fine, and we can load our stuff in and get away from
this horrible town. Why, the preacher was there and made a speech and said
the meanest things about you, because you was having a benefit and at the
same identical time you was setting in a saloon gambling. He said it was
an outrage on civilization, Mister, and an insult to the honest,
hard-working people in Lund. Them was his very words."

"Well, hell!" Casey exploded abruptly. "I'm honest and hard-workin' as any
damn preacher. You can ask anybody!"

"Well, that's what he said, anyhow. We certainly didn't know you was a
gambler when we offered to give you a benefit. We certainly never dreamed
you'd queer us like that. But you'll do us the favor to lend us your car,
won't you? You wouldn't refuse that, and see me and little Junior
languishin' in jail when you know in your heart--"

"Aw, take the darn car!" muttered Casey distractedly, and hobbled into the
garage office where he knew Bill kept liniment.

Five minutes, perhaps, after that, Casey opened the office door wide
enough to fling out an assortment of straps and two crutches.

The show lady turned and made a motion which Casey mentally called a
pounce. "Oh, thank you, Mister! We certainly wouldn't want to go off and
forget these props. Jack dear has to use them in a comedy sketch we put on
sometimes when we got a good house."

Casey banged the door and said something exceedingly stage-driverish which
a lady should by no means overhear.

Sounds from the rear of the garage indicated that Casey's Ford was r'arin'
to go, as Casey frequently expressed it. Voices were jumbled in the tones
of suggestions, commands, protest. Casey heard the show lady's clear
treble berating Jack dear with thin politeness. Then the car came snorting
forward, paused in the wide doorway, and the show lady's voice called out
clearly, untroubled as the voice of a child after it has received that
which it cried for.

"Well, good-by, Mister! You certainly are a godsend to give us the loan of
your car!" There was a buzz and a splutter, and they were gone--gone clean
out of Casey's life into the unknown whence they had come.

Bill opened the door gently and eased into the office, sniffing liniment.
The painted hollows under Casey's eyes gave him a ghastly look in the
lamp-light when he lifted his face from examining a chafed and angry knee.
Bill opened his mouth for speech, caught a certain look in Casey's eyes
and did not say what he had intended to say. Instead:

"You better sleep here in the office, Casey. I've got another bed back of
the machine shop. I'll lock up, and if any one comes and rings the night
bell--well, never mind. I'll plug her so they can't ring her." The world
needs more men like Bill.

       *       *       *       *       *

Even after an avalanche, human nature cannot resist digging in the
melancholy hope of turning up grewsome remains. I know that you are all
itching to put shovel into the debris of Casey's dreams, and to see just
what was left of them.

There was mighty little, let me tell you. I said in the beginning that
twenty-five thousand dollars was like a wildcat in Casey's pocket. You
can't give a man that much money all in a lump and suddenly, after he has
been content with dollars enough to pay for the food he eats, without
seeing him lose his sense of proportion. Twenty-five dollars he
understands and can spend more prudently than you, perhaps. Twenty-five
thousand he simply cannot gauge. It seems exhaustless. It is as if you
plucked from the night all the stars you can see, knowing that the Milky
Way is still there and unnumbered other stars invisible, even in the
aggregate.

Casey played poker with an appreciative audience and the lid off. Now and
then he took a drink stronger than root beer. He kept that up for a night
and a day and well into another night. Very well, gather round and look at
the remains, and if there's a moral, you are welcome, I am sure.

Casey awoke just before noon, and went out and held his head under Bill's
garage hydrant, with the water running full stream. He looked up and found
Bill standing there with his hands in his pockets, gazing at Casey
sorrowfully. Casey grinned. You can't down the Irish for very long.

"How's she comin', Bill?"

Bill grunted and spat. "She ain't. Not if you mean that car them folks
wished on to you. Well, the tail light's pretty fair, too. And in their
hurry the lady went off and left a pink silk stockin' in the back seat.
The toe's out of it though. Casey, if you wait till you overhaul 'em with
that thing they wheeled in here under the name of a car--"

"Oh, that's all right, Bill," Casey grunted gamely. "I was goin' to git me
a new car, anyway. Mine wasn't so much. They're welcome."

Bill grunted and spat again, but he did not say anything.

"I'll go see Dwyer and see how much I got left," Casey said presently, and
his voice, whether you believe it or not, was cheerful. "I'm going to
ketch that evenin' train to Los." And he added kindly, "C'm on and eat
with me, Bill. I'm hungry."

Bill shook his head and gave another grunt, and Casey went off without
him.

After awhile Casey returned. He was grinning, but the grin was, to a
careful observer, a bit sickish. "Say, Bill, talk about poker--I'm off it
fer life. Now look what it done to me, Bill! I puts twenty-five thousand
dollars into the bank--minus two hundred I took in money--and I takes a
check book, and I goes over to The Club and gits into a game. I wears the
check book down to the stubs. I goes back and asks Dwyer how much I got in
the bank, and he looks me over like I was a sick horse he had doubts about
being worth doctorin', and as if he thought he mebby might better take me
out an' shoot me an' put me outa my misery.

"'Jest one dollar an' sixty-seven cents, Casey,' he says to me, 'if the
checks is all in, which I trust they air!'" Casey got out his plug of
chewing tobacco and pried off a blunted corner. "An' hell Bill! I had that
much in the bank when I started," he finished plaintively.

"Hell!" repeated Bill in brief, eloquent sympathy.

Casey set his teeth together and extracted comfort from the tobacco. He
expectorated ruminatively.

"Well, anyway, I got me some bran' new socks, an' they're paid for, thank
God!" He tilted his old Stetson down over his right eye at his favorite,
Caseyish angle, stuck his hands in his pockets and strolled out into the
sunshine.



CHAPTER IX


"At that," said Bill, grinning a little, "you'll know as much as the
average garage-man. What ain't reformed livery-stable men are second-hand
blacksmiths, and a feller like you, that has drove stage for fifteen
year--"

"Twenty," Casey Ryan corrected jealously. "Six years at Cripple Creek, and
then four in Yellowstone, and I was up in Montana for over five years,
driving stage from Dry Lake to Claggett and from there I come to Nevada--"

"Twenty," Bill conceded without waiting to hear more, "knows as much as a
man that has kept livery stable. Then again you've had two Fords--"

"Oh, I ain't sayin' I can't _run_ a garage," Casey interrupted. "I don't
back down from runnin' anything. But if you'd grubstake me for a year,
instead of settin' up this here garage at Patmos, I'd feel like I had a
better chance of makin' us both a piece uh money. There's a lost gold mine
I been wantin' fer years to get out and look for. I believe I know now
about where to hit for. It ain't lost, exactly. There's an old Injun been
in the habit of packin' in high grade in a lard bucket, and nobody's been
able to trail him and git back to tell about it. He's an old she-bear to
do anything with, but I got a scheme, Bill--"

"Ferget it," Bill advised. "Now you listen to me, Casey, and lay off that
prospectin' bug for awhile. Here's this long strip of desert from Needles
to Ludlow, and tourists trailin' through like ants on movin' day. And
here's this garage that I can get at Patmos for about half what the
buildin's worth. You ain't got any competition, none whatever. You've got
a cinch. There'll be cars comin' in from both ways with their tongues
hangin' out, outa gas, outa oil, needin' this and needin' that and looking
on that garage as a godsend--"

"Say, Bill, if I gotta be a godsend I'll go out somewheres and holler
myself to death. Casey's off that godsend stuff for life; you hear me,
Bill--"

"Glad to hear it, Casey. If you go down there to Patmos to clean up some
money for you 'n' me, you wanta cut out this soft-hearted stuff. Get the
money, see? Never mind being kind; you can be kind when you've got a stake
to be it with. Charge 'em for everything they git, and see to it that the
money's good. Don't you take no checks. Don't trust nobody for anything
whatever. That's your weakness, Casey, and you know it. You're too
dog-gone trusting. You promise me you'll put a bell on your tire tester
and a log chain and drag on your pump and jack--say, you wouldn't believe
the number of honest men that go off for a vacation and steal everything,
by golly, they can haul away! Pliers, wrenches, oil cans, tire testers--
say, you sure wanta watch 'em when they ask yuh for a tester! You can lose
more tire testers in the garage business--"

"Well, now, you watch Casey! When it comes to putting things like that
over, they wanta try somebody besides Casey Ryan. You ask anybody if
Casey's easy fooled. But I'd ruther go hunt the Injun Jim mine, Bill."

"Say, Casey, in this one summer you can make enough money in Patmos to
_buy_ a gold mine. I've been reading the papers pretty careful. Why, they
say tourist travel is the heaviest that ever was known, and this is early
May and it's only beginning. And lemme tell yuh something, Casey. I'd
ruther have a garage in Patmos than a hotel in Los Angeles, and by all
they say that's puttin' it strong. Ever been over the road west uh
Needles, Casey?"

Casey never had, and Bill proceeded to describe it so that any tourist who
ever blew out a tire there with the sun at a hundred and twenty and
running in high, would have confessed the limitations of his own
vocabulary.

"And there you are, high and dry, with fifteen miles of the ungodliest,
tire-chewinest road on either side of yuh that America can show. About
like this stretch down here between Rhyolite and Vegas. And hills and
chucks--say, don't talk to me about any Injun packin' gold in a lard
bucket. Why, lemme tell yuh, Casey, if you work it right and don't be so
dog-gone kind-hearted, you'll want a five-ton truck to haul off your
profits next fall. I'd go myself and let you run this place here, only I
got a lot of credit trade and you'd never git a cent outa the bunch. And
then you're wantin' to leave Lund for awhile, anyway."

"You could git somebody else," Casey suggested half-heartedly. "I kinda
hate to be hobbled to a place like a garage, Bill. And if there's anything
gits my goat, it's patchin' up old tires. I'll run 'em flat long as
they'll stay on, before I'll git out and mend 'em. I'd about as soon go to
jail, Bill, as patch tires for tourists; I--"

"You don't have to," said Bill, his grin widening. "You sell 'em new
tires, see. There won't be one in a dozen you can't talk into a new tire
or two. Whichever way they're goin', tell 'em the road's a heap worse from
there on than what it was behind 'em. They'll buy new tires--you take it
from me they will. And," he added virtuously, "you'll do 'em no harm
whatever. If you got a car, you need tires, and a new one'll always come
in handy sometime. You know that yourself, Casey.

"Now, I'll put in an assortment of tires, and I'll trust you to sell 'em.
You and the road they got to travel. Why, when I was in Ludlow, a feller
blew in there with a big brute of a car--36-6 tires. He'd had a blow-out
down the other side of Patmos and he was sore because they didn't have no
tires he could use down there. He bought three tires--_three,_  mind yuh,
and peeled off the bills to pay for 'em! Sa-ay when yuh figure two hundred
cars a day rollin' through, and half of 'em comin' to yuh with grief of
some kind--"

"It's darn little I know about any car but a Ford," Casey admitted
plaintively. "When yuh come to them complicated ones that you can crawl
behind the wheel and set your boot on a button and holler giddap and
she'll start off in a lope, I don't know about it. A Ford's like a mule or
a burro. You take a monkey wrench and work 'em over, and cuss, and that's
about all there is to it. But you take them others, and I got to admit I
don't know."

"Well," said Bill, and spat reflectively, "you roll up your sleeves and
I'll learn yuh. It'll take time for the stuff to be delivered, and you can
learn a lot in two or three weeks, Casey, if you fergit that prospectin'
idea and put your mind to it."

Casey rolled a cigarette and smoked half of it, his eyes clinging
pensively to the barren hills behind Lund. He hunched his shoulders,
looked at Bill and grinned reluctantly.

"She's a go with me, Bill, if you can't think of no other way to spend
money. I wisht you took to poker more, or minin', or something that's got
action. Stakin' Casey Ryan to a garage business looks kinda foolish to me.
But if you can stand it, Bill, I can. It's kinda hard on the tourists,
don't yuh think?"

Thus are garages born,--too many of them, as suffering drivers will
testify. Casey Ryan, known wherever men of the open travel and spin their
yarns, famous for his recklessly efficient driving of lurching
stagecoaches in the old days, and for his soft heart and his
happy-go-lucky ways; famous too as the man who invented ungodly
predicaments from which he could extricate himself and be pleased if he
kept his shirt on his back; Casey Ryan as the owner of a garage might
justly be considered a joke pushed to the very limit of plausibility. Yet
Casey Ryan became just that after two weeks of cramming on mechanics and
the compiling of a reference book which would have made a fortune for
himself and Bill if they had thought to publish it.

"A quort of oil becomes lubrecant and is worth from five to fifteen cents
more per quort when you put it into a two-thousand dollar car or over,"
was one valuable bit of information supplied by Bill. Also: "Never cuss or
fight a man getting work done in your place. Shut up and charge him
according to the way he acts."

It is safe to assume that Bill would make a fortune in the garage business
anywhere, given normal traffic.

Patmos consists of a water tank on the railroad, a siding where trains can
pass each other, a ten-by-ten depot, telegraph office and express and
freight office, six sweltering families, one sunbaked lodging place with
tent bedrooms so hot that even the soap melts, and the Casey Ryan garage.
I forgot to mention three trees which stand beside the water tank and try
to grow enough at night to make up for the blistering they get during the
day. The highway (Coast to Coast and signed at every crossroads in red
letters on white metal boards with red arrows pointing to the far skyline)
shies away from the railroad at Patmos so that perspiring travelers look
wistfully across two hundred yards or so of lava rock and sand and wish
that they might lie under those three trees and cool off. They couldn't,
you know. It is no cooler under the trees than elsewhere. It merely looks
cooler.

Even the water tank is a disappointment to the uninitiated. You cannot
drink the water which the pump draws wheezingly up from some deep
reservoir of bad flavors. It is very clear water and it has a sparkle that
lures the unwary, but it is common knowledge that no man ever drank two
swallows of it if he could help himself. So the water supply of Patmos
lies twelve miles away in the edge of the hills, where there is a very
good spring. One of the six male residents of Patmos hauls water in
barrels, at fifty cents a barrel. He makes a living at it, too.

One other male resident keeps the lodging place,--I avoid the term lodging
house, because this place is not a house. It is a shack with a sign
straddling out over the hot porch to insult the credulity of the
passers-by. The sign says that this place is "The Oasis,"--and the nearest
trees a long rifleshot away, and the coolest water going warm into parched
mouths!

The Oasis stands over by the highway, alongside Casey's garage, and the
proprietor spends nine tenths of his waking hours sitting on the front
porch and following the strip of shade from the west end to the east end,
and in watching the trains go by, and counting the cars of tourists and
remarking upon the State license plate.

"There's an outfit from Ioway, maw," he will call in to his wife. "Wonder
where they're headed fer?" His wife will come to the door and look
apathetically at the receding dust cloud, and go back somewhere,--perhaps
to put fresh soap in the tents to melt. Toward evening the cars are very
likely to slow down and stop reluctantly; sunburned, goggled women and men
looking the place over without enthusiasm. It isn't much of a place, to be
sure, but any place is better than none in the desert, unless you have
your own bed and frying pan with you, roped in dusty canvas to the back of
your car.

Alongside the Oasis stands the garage, and in the garage swelters Casey,--
during this episode. Just at first Bill came down from Lund and helped him
to arrange and mark prices on his stock of tires and "parts" and
accessories, and to remember the catalogue names for things so that he
would recognize them when a car owner asked for them.

Casey, I must explain, had evolved a system of his own while driving his
Ford wickedly here and there to the consternation of his fellow men.
Whatever was not a hootin'-annie was a dingbat, and treated accordingly.
The hootin'-annie appeared to be the thing that went wrong, while the
dingbat was the thing the hootin'-annie was attached to. It was perfectly
simple, to Casey and his Ford, but Bill thought it was a trifle limited
and was apt to confuse customers. So Bill remained three days mopping his
face with his handkerchief and explaining things to Casey. After that
Casey hired a heavy-eyed young Mexican to pump tires and fill radiators
and the like, and settled down to make his fortune.



CHAPTER X


Cars came and cars went, in heat and dust and some tribulation. In a month
Casey had seen the color of every State license plate in the Union, and
some from Canada and Mexico. From Needles way they came, searching their
souls for words to tell Casey what they thought of it as far as they had
gone. And Casey would squint up at them from under the rim of his greasy
old Stetson and grin his Irish grin.

"Cheer up, the worst is yet to come," he would chant, with never a qualm
at the staleness of the slogan. "How yuh fixed for water? Better fill up
your canteens--yuh don't wanta git caught out between here and Ludlow with
a boilin' radiator and not water enough. Got oil enough? Juan, you look
and see. Can't afford to run low on oil, stranger. No, ma'am, there ain't
any other road--and if there was another road it'd be worse than what this
one is. No, ma'am, you ain't liable to git off'n the road. You can't.
You'd git stuck in the sand 'fore you'd went the length of your car."

He would walk around them and look at their tires, his hands on his hips
perhaps and his mouth damped shut in deep cogitation.

"What kinda shape is your extras in?" he would presently inquire. "She's a
tough one, from here on to the next stop. You got a hind tire here that
ain't goin' to last yuh five miles up the road." He would kick the tire
whose character he was blackening. "Better lay in a supply of blow-out
patches, unless you're a mind to invest in a new casing." Very often he
would sell a tire or two, complete with new tubes, before the car moved
on.

Casey never did things halfway, and Bill had impressed certain things deep
on his mind. He was working with Bill's money and he obeyed Bill's
commands. He never took a check or a promise for his pay, and he never
once let his Irish temper get beyond his teeth or his blackened finger
tips. Which is doing remarkably well for Casey Ryan, as you would admit if
you knew him.

At the last moment, when the driver was settling himself behind the wheel,
Casey would square his conscience for whatever strain the demands of
business had put upon it. "Wait and take a good drink uh cold water before
yuh start out," he would say, and disappear. He knew that the car would
wait. The man or woman never lived who refused a drink of cold water on
the desert in summer. Casey would return with a pale green glass water
pitcher and a pale green glass. He would grin at their exclamations, and
pour for them water that was actually cold and came from the coolest water
bag inside. Those of you who have never traveled across the desert will
not really understand the effect this would have. Those who have will know
exactly what was said of Casey as that car moved out once more into the
glaring sun and the hot wind and the choking dust.

Casey always kept one cold water bag and one in process of cooling, and he
would charge as much as he thought they would pay and be called a fine
fellow afterwards. He knew that. He had lived in dry, hot places before,
and he was conscientiously trying to please the public and also make money
for Bill, who had befriended him. You are not to jump to the conclusion,
however, that Casey systematically robbed the public. He did not. He aided
the public, helped the public across a rather bad stretch of country, and
saw to it that the public paid for the assistance.

Casey saw all sorts and sizes of cars pass to and fro, and most of them
stopped at his door, for gas or for water or oil, or perhaps merely to
inquire inanely if they were on the right road to Needles or to Los
Angeles, as the case might be. Any fool, thought Casey, would know without
asking, since there was no other road, and since the one road was signed
conscientiously every mile or two. But he always grinned good-naturedly
and told them what they wanted him to tell them, and if they shifted money
into his palm for any reason whatever he brought out his green glass
pitcher and his green glass tumbler and gave them a drink all around and
wished them luck.

There were strip-down Fords that tried to look like sixes, and there were
six-cylinder cars that labored harder than Fords. There were limousines,
sedans, sport cars,--and they all carried suitcases and canvas rolls and
bundles draped over the hoods, on the fenders and piled high on the
running boards.

Sometimes he would find it necessary to remove a thousand pounds or so of
ill-wrapped bedding from the back of a tonneau before he could get at the
gas tank to fill it, but Casey never grumbled. He merely retied the
luggage with a packer's hitch that would take the greenhorn through his
whole vocabulary before he untied it that night, and he would add two bits
to the price of the gas because his time belonged to Bill, and Bill
expected Casey's time to be paid for by the public.

One day when it was so hot that even Casey was limp and pale from the
heat, and the proprietor of the Oasis had forsaken the strip of shade on
his porch and had chased his dog out of the dirt hollow it had scratched
under the house and had crawled under there himself, a party pulled slowly
up to the garage and stopped. Casey was inside sitting on the ground and
letting the most recently filled water bag drip down the back of his neck.
He shouted to Juan, but Juan had gone somewhere to find himself a cool
spot for his siesta, so Casey got slowly to his feet and went out to meet
Trouble, sopping his wet hair against the back of his head with the flat
of his hand before he put on his hat. He squinted into the sunshine and
straightway squared himself for business.

This was a two-ton truck fitted for camping. A tall, lean man whose
overalls hung wide from his suspenders and did not seem to touch his
person anywhere, climbed out and stood looking at the bare rims of two
wheels, as if he had at that moment discovered them.

"Thinkin' about the price uh tires, stranger?" Casey grinned cheerfully.
"It's lucky I got your size, at that. Fabrics and cords--and the
difference in price is more'n made up in wear. Run yer car inside outa the
sun whilst I change yer grief into joy."

"I teen havin' hard luck all along," the man complained listlessly.
"Geewhillikens, but it shore does cost to travel!"

Casey should have been warned by that. Bill would have smelled a purse
lean as the man himself and would have shied a little. But Casey could
meet Trouble every morning after breakfast and yet fail to recognize her
until she had him by the collar.

"You ask anybody if it don't!" he agreed sympathetically, mentally going
over his rack of tires, not quite sure that he had four in that size, but
hoping that he had five and that he could persuade the man to invest. He
surely needed rubber, thought Casey, as he scrutinized the two casings on
the car. He stood aside while the man backed, turned a wide half-circle
and drove into the grateful shade of the garage. It seemed cool in there
after the blistering sunlight, unless one glanced at Casey's thermometer
which declared a hundred and nineteen with its inexorable red line.

"Whatcha got there? Goats?" Casey's eyes had left the wheels of the trucks
and dwelt upon a trailer penned round and filled with uneasy animals.

"Yeah. Twelve, not countin' the little fellers. And m'wife an' six young
ones all told. Makes quite a drag on the ole boat. Knocks thunder outa
tires, too. You say you got my size? We-ell, I guess I got to have 'em,
cost er no cost."

"Sure you got to have 'em. It's worse ahead than what you been over, an'
if I was you I'd shoe 'er all round before I hit that lava stretch up
ahead here. You could keep them two fer extras in case of accident. Might
git some wear outa them when yuh strike good roads again, but they shore
won't go far in these rocks. You ask anybody."

"We-ell--I guess mebby I better--I don't see how I'm goin' to git along
any other way, but--"

Casey had gone to find where Juan had cached himself and to pluck that
apathetic youth from slumber and set him to work. Four casings and tubes
for a two-ton truck run into money, as Casey was telling himself
complacently. He had not yet sold any tires for a two-ton truck, and he
had just two fabrics and two cords, in trade vernacular. He paid no
further attention to the man, since there would be no bickering. When a
man has only two badly chewed tires, and four wheels, argument is
superfluous.

So Casey mildly kicked Juan awake and after the garage jack, and himself
wheeled out his four great pneumatic tires, and with his jackknife slit
the wound paper covering, and wondered what it was that smelled so
unpleasant. A goat bleated plaintively to remind him of their presence.
Another goat carried on the theme, and the chorus swelled quaveringly and
held to certain minor notes. Within the closed truck a small child
whimpered and then began to cry definitely at the top of its voice.

Casey looked up from bending over the fourth tire wrapping. "Better let
your folks git out and rest awhile," he invited hospitably. "It's goin' to
take a little time to put these tires on. I got some cold water back
there--help yourself."

"Well, I'd kinda like to water them goats," the man observed diffidently.
"They ain't had a drop sence early yest-day mornin'. You got water here,
ain't yuh? An' they might graze around a mite whilst we're here. Travelin'
like this, I try to kinda give 'em a chanct when we stop along the road.
It's been an awful trip. We come clear from Wyoming. How far is it from
here to San Jose, Californy?"

Casey had in the first week learned that it is not wise for a garage man
to confess that he does not know distances. People always asked him how
far it was to some place of which he had never heard, and he had learned
to name figures at random very convincingly. He named now what seemed to
him a sufficient number, and the man said "Gosh!" and went back to let
down the end gate of the trailer and release the goats. "You said you got
water for 'em?" he asked, his tone putting the question in the form of
both statement and request.

When you are selling four thirty-six-sixes, two of them cords, to a man,
you can't be stingy with a barrel of water, even if it does cost fifty
cents. Casey told Juan to go borrow a tub next door and show the man where
the water barrel stood. Juan, squatted on his heels while he languidly
pumped the jack handle up and down, and seeming pleased than otherwise
when the jack slipped and tilted so that he must lower it and begin all
over again, got languidly to his bare feet and lounged off obediently.
According to Juan's simple philosophy, to obey was better than to dodge
hammers, pliers or monkey wrenches, since Casey's aim was direct and there
was usually considerable force of hard, prospector's muscle behind it.

Juan was gone a long while, long enough to walk slowly to the station of
Patmos and back again, but he returned with the tub, and the incessant
bleating of the goats stilled intermittently while they drank. By this
time Casey had forgotten the goats, even with the noise of them filling
his ears.

Casey was down on his knees hammering dents out of the rim of a front
wheel so that the new tire could go on. Four of the six offspring crowded
around him, getting in the way of Casey's hammer and asking questions
which no man could answer and remain normal. Casey had, while he unwrapped
the casings, made a mental reduction in the price. Even Bill would throw
off a little, he told himself, on a sale like this. Mentally he had
deducted twenty-five dollars from the grand total, but before he had that
rim straightened he said to himself that he'd be darned if he discounted
more than twenty.

"Humbolt an' Greeley, you git away from there an' git out here an' git
these goats a-grazin'," the lean customer called sharply from the rear of
the garage. Humbolt and Greeley hastily proceeded to git, which left two
unkempt young girls standing there at Casey's elbow so that he could not
expectorate where he pleased, or swear at all. Wherefore Casey was
appreciably handicapped in his work, and he wished that he were away out
in the hills digging into the side of a gulch somewhere, sun-blistered,
broke, more than half starving on short rations and with rheumatism in his
right shoulder and a bunion giving him a limp in the left foot. He could
still be happy--

"_What_ yuh doin' that for?" the shrillest voice repeated three times
rapidly, with a sniffle now and then by way of punctuation.

"To make little girls ask questions," grunted Casey, glancing around him
for the snub-nosed, double-headed, four-pound hammer which he called
affectionately by the name Maud. The biggest girl had Maud. She had turned
it upright on its handle and was sitting on the head of it. When Casey
reached for it and got it, without apology or warning, the girl sprawled
backward and howled.

"Porshea, you git up from there! _Shame_ on yuh!" A shrill woman voice,
very much like the younger voices except that it was worn rough and
querulous with age and many hardships, called down from the truck. Casey
looked up, startled, and tried to remember just what he had said before
the girls appeared to silence him. The woman was very large both in height
and in bulk, and she was heaving herself out of the truck in a way that
reminded Casey oddly of a disgruntled hippopotamus he had once watched
coming out of its tank at a circus. Casey moved modestly away and did not
look, after that first glance. A truck, you will please understand, is not
a touring car, and ladies who have passed the two-hundred-pound notch on
the scales should remain up there and call for a step-ladder.

She descended, and the jack slipped and let the car down with a six-inch
lurch. Casey is remarkably quick in his motions. He turned, jumped three
feet and caught the lady's full weight in his arms as she was falling
toward him. Probably he would have caught it anyway, but then there would
have been little left of Casey, and his troubles would have been finished
instead of being just begun.

He had just straightened the jack and was beginning to lift the bare wheel
off the ground again when the fifth offspring descended. Casey thought
again of the hippopotamus in its infancy. The fifth was perhaps fifteen,
but she had apparently reached her full growth, which was very nearly that
of her mother. She had also reached the age of self-consciousness, and she
simpered at Casey when he assisted her to alight.

Casey was not bashful, nor was he over-fastidious; men who have lived long
in the wilderness are not, as a rule. Still, he had his little whims, and
he failed to react to the young lady's smile. His pale blue eyes were keen
to observe details and even Casey did not approve of "high-water marks" on
feminine beauty.

Well, that brought the whole family to view save the youngest who had
evidently dropped asleep and was left in the truck. Casey went to work on
the wheel again, after directing mother and daughter to the desert water
bag which swung suspended from ropes in the rear of the garage.

Ten minutes later a dusty limousine stopped for gas and oil, and Casey
left his work to wait upon them. There was a very good-looking girl
driving, and the man beside her was undoubtedly only her father, and Casey
was humanly anxious to be remembered pleasantly when they drove on. He
asked them to wait and have a drink of cold water, and was deeply
humiliated to find that both water bags were empty,--the overgrown girl
having used the last to wash her face. Casey didn't like her any the
better for that, or for having accentuated the high-water mark, or for
forcing him to apologize to the pretty driver of the limousine.

He refilled the water bags and remarked pointedly that it would take an
hour for the water to cool in them and that they must be left alone in the
meantime. He did not look at the girl, but from the tail of his eye he saw
her pull a contemptuous grimace at him when she thought his back safely
turned.

Wherefore Casey finished the putting on of the fourth tire pretty well up
toward the boiling point in temper and in blood. I have not mentioned half
the disagreeable trifles that nagged at him during the interval,--his
audience, for instance, that hovered so close that he could not get up
without colliding with one of them, so full of aimless talk that he
mislaid tools in his distraction. Juan was a pest and Casey thought
malevolently how he would kill him when the job was finished. Juan went
around like one in a trance, his heavy-lidded, opaque eyes following every
movement of the girl, which kept her younger sisters giggling. But even
with interruptions and practically no assistance the truck stood at last
with four good tires on its wheels, and Casey wiped a perspiring face and
let down the jack, thankful that the job was done; thinking, too, that ten
dollars would be a big reduction on the price. He had to count his time,
you see.

"Well, how much does it come to, mister?" the lord of the flock asked
dolefully, when Casey called him in and told him that he could go at any
time now.

Casey told him, and made the price only five dollars lower than the full
amount, just because he hated to see men walk around loose in their pants,
with their stomachs sagged in as though they never were fed a square meal
in their lives.

"It's a pile uh money to pay out for rubber that's goin' to be chewed off
on these here danged rocks," sighed the man.

Casey grunted and began collecting his tools, rescuing the best hammer he
had from one of the girls. "I wisht it was all profit," he said. "Or even
a quarter of it. I'm sellin' 'em close as I can an' git paid fer my time
puttin' 'em on."

"Oh, I ain't kickin' about the price. I'm satisfied with that." Men
usually are, you notice, when they want credit. "Now I tell yuh. I ain't
got that much money with me--"

Casey spat and pointed his thumb toward a sign which he had nailed up just
the day before, thinking that it would save both himself and his customers
some embarrassment. The sign, except that the letters were not even, was
like this:

  "CHECKS MUST BE CASHED
  BY THE ONER
  OR THEY AIN'T CASHED"

The lean man read and looked at Casey humbly. "Well, I ain't never wrote a
check in my life. Now I tell yuh. I ain't got the money to pay for these
tires, but I tell yuh what I'll do; I'm goin' on up to my brother--he's
got a prune orchard a little ways out from San Jose, an' he's well fixed.
Now I'll write out an order on my brother, fer him to send you the money.
He's good fer it, an' he'll do it. I'm goin' on up to help him work his
place on shares, so I c'n straighten up with him when I get--"

Casey had picked up the jack again and was regretfully but firmly
adjusting it under the front axle. "That ain't the first good prospect I
ever had pinch out on me," he observed, trying to be cheerful over it. He
could even grin while he squinted up at the lean man.

"Well, now, you can't hardly refuse to trust a man in my fix!"

"Think I can't?" Casey was working the jack handle rapidly and the words
came in jerks. "You stand there and watch me." He spun the wheel free and
reached for his socket wrench. "I wisht you'd spoke your piece before I
set these dam nuts so tight," he added.

The lean man turned and looked inquiringly at his wife. "Ain't I honest,
maw, and don't I pay my debts? An' ain't my brother Joe honest, an' don't
he pay _his_ debts? Would you think the man lived, maw, that would set a
man with a fambly afoot out on the desert like this?"

"Nev' mind, now, paw. Give him time to think what it means, an' he won't.
He's got a heart."

The baby awoke and cried then, and Casey's heart squirmed in his chest.
But he thought of Bill and stiffened his business nerve.

"I got a heart; sure I've got a heart. You ask anybody if Casey's got a
heart. But I also got a pardner."

"Your pardner's likely gen'l'man enough to trust us, if you ain't," maw
said sharply.

"Yes, ma'am, he is. But he's got these tires to pay fer on the first of
the month. It ain't a case uh not trustin'; it's a case of git the money
or keep the tires. I wisht you had the money--she shore is a good bunch uh
rubber I let yuh try on."

They wrangled with him while he removed the tires he had so painstakingly
adjusted, but Casey was firm. He had to be. There is no heart in the
rubber trust; merely a business office that employs very efficient
bookkeepers, who are paid to see that others pay. He removed the new
tires; that was his duty to Bill. By then it was five o'clock when all
good mechanics throw down their pliers and begin to shed their coveralls.

Casey was his own man after five o'clock. He rolled the tattered tires out
into the sunlight, let out the air and yanked them from their rims. "Come
on here and help, and I'll patch up your old tires so you c'n go on," he
offered good-naturedly, in spite of the things the woman had said to him.
"The tire don't live that Casey can't patch if it comes to a showdown."

Before he was through with them he had donated four blow-out patches to
the cause, and about five hours of hard labor. The Smith family--yes, they
were of the tribe of Smith--were camped outside and quarreling
incessantly. The goats, held in spasmodic restraint by Humbolt and Greeley
and a little spotted dog which Casey had overlooked in his first
inventory, were blatting inconsequently in the sage behind the garage.
Casey cooked a belated supper and hoped that the outfit would get an early
start, and that their tires would hold until they reached Ludlow, at
least. "Though I ain't got nothin' against Ludlow," he added to himself
while he poured his coffee.

"Maw wants to know if you got any coffee you kin lend," the shrill voice
of Portia sounded unexpectedly at his elbow. Casey jumped,--an indication
that his nerves had been unstrung.

"Lend? Hunh! Tell 'er I give her a cupful." Then, because Casey had
streaks of wisdom, he closed the doors of the garage and locked them from
the inside. Cars might come and honk as long as they liked; Casey was
going to have his sleep.

Very early he was awakened by the bleating, the barking, the crying and
the wrangling of the Smiths. He pulled his tarp over his ears, hot as it
was, to shut out the sound. After a long while he heard the stutter of the
truck motor getting warmed up. There was a clamor of voices, a bleating of
goats, the barking of the spotted dog, and the truck moved off.

"Thank Gawd!" muttered Casey, and went to sleep again.



CHAPTER XI


At two o'clock the next afternoon, the Smith outfit came back, limping
along on three bare rims. Casey's jaw dropped a little when he saw them
coming, but nature had made him an optimist. Now, perhaps, that
hungry-looking Smith would dig into his pocket and find the price of new
tires. It had been Casey's experience that a man who protested the loudest
that he was broke would, if held rigidly to the no-credit rule, find the
money to pay for what he must have. In his heart he believed that Smith
had money dangling somewhere in close proximity to his lank person.

But if Smith had any money he did not betray the fact. He asked quite
humbly for the loan of tools, and tube cement, and more blow-out patches,
and set awkwardly to work mending his tattered tires. And once more Casey
sent Juan to borrow the Oasis tub, and watered the goats and picked his
way amongst the Smith offsprings and pretended to be deaf half of the
time, and said he didn't know the other half. His green glass water
pitcher was practically useless to travelers, and Juan was worse. A goat
got away from Humbolt and Greeley and went exploring in the corner of the
garage where Casey lived, and ate three pounds of bacon. You know what
bacon costs. Maw Smith became acquainted with Casey and followed him about
with a detailed recital of her family history, which she thought would
make a real exciting book. What Casey thought I must not tell you.

That night Casey patched tires and tubes. He had to, you see, or go crazy.
Next morning he listened to the departure of the Smith family and the
Smith goats, and prayed that their tires would hold out even as far as
Bagdad,--though I don't see why, since there was no garage in Bagdad, or
anything else but a flag station.

That afternoon at three o'clock, they came back again! And Casey neglected
to send Juan after the tub to water the goats. Wherefore paw sent Humbolt,
and watered the goats himself from Casey's barrel and seemed peevish
because he must. Maw Smith came after coffee again, and helped herself
with no more formality than a shrill, "I'm borrying some more coffee!"
sent to Casey out in front.

That night Casey patched tires and tubes.

At six o'clock Smith pounded on the back door and called in to Casey that
he would have to have some gas before he started. So Casey pulled on his
pants and gave Smith some gas, and paid the garage out of his own pocket.
He didn't swear, either. He was past that.

That afternoon Casey watched apprehensively the road that led west. It was
two-thirty when he saw them coming. Casey set his jaw and went in and hid
every blow-out patch he had in stock, and all the cement.

Smith went into camp, sent Greeley after the Oasis tub and watered the
goats from one of Casey's water barrels. Casey went on with his work,
waiting upon customers who paid, and tried not to think of the Smiths,
although most of them were underfoot or at his elbow.

"Them tires you mended ain't worth a cuss," Smith came around finally to
complain. "I didn't get ten mile out with 'em before I had another
blowout. I tell yuh what I'll do. I'll trade yuh goats fer tires. I got
two milk goats that's worth a hundred dollars apiece, mebby more, the way
goats is selling on the Coast. I hate to part with 'em, but I gotta do
somethin'. Er else you'll have to trust me till I c'n get to my brother
an' git the money. It ain't," he added grievedly, "as if I wasn't honest
enough to pay my debts."

"Nope," said Casey wearily, "I don't want yer goats. I've had more goats
a'ready than I want. And tires has gotta roll outa this shop paid for. We
talked that all over, the first night."

"What am I goin' to do, then?" Smith inquired in exasperation.

"Hell; I dunno," Casey returned grimly. "I quit guessin' day before
yesterday."

Smith went off to confer with maw, and Casey overheard some very harsh
statements made concerning himself. Maw Smith was so offended that she
refused to borrow coffee from Casey that night, and she called her
children out of his garage and told them she would warm their ears for
them if they went near him again. Hearing which Casey's features relaxed a
little. He could even meet customers with his accustomed grin when Smith
in his anger sent the goats over to the water tank next day, refusing to
show any friendship for Casey by emptying a water barrel for him. But he
had to fire Juan for pouring gasoline into the radiator of a big sedan,
and later he had to stalk that lovesick youth into the very camp of the
Smiths and lead him back by the collar, and search him for stolen tools.
He recovered twice as many as you would believe a Mexican's few garments
could conceal.

Casey was harassed for two days by the loud proximity of the Smiths, but
not one of them deigned to speak to him or to show any liking for him
whatever, beyond helping themselves superciliously to the contents of his
water barrel. On the morning of the third day the lean man presented his
thin shadow and then himself at the front door of the garage, with a
letter in his hand and a hopeful look on his face.

"Well, mebby I c'n talk business to yuh now an' have somethin' to go on,"
he began abruptly. "I went an' sent off a telegraft to my brother in San
Jose about you, and he's wrote a letter to yuh. My brother's a business
man. You c'n see that much fer yourself. An' mebby you'll see your way
clear t' help me leave this dod-rotten hole. Here's yer letter."

Casey held himself neutral while he read the letter.
As it happens that I have a copy, here it is:

 (Printed Letterhead)

  VISTA GRANDE RANCHO

  Smith Bros.

  San Jose, Calif.

_Garage Owner, Patmos, Calif._

Dear Sir: I am informed that my brother Eldreth William Smith, having
suffered the mishap to lose his tires at your place or thereabouts, and
having the misfortune to fall short of immediate funds with which to pay
cash for replacement, has been denied credit at your hands.

I regret that because of business requirements in my own business it is
impossible for me to place the amount necessary at his immediate disposal.
It is therefore my advise that you lend to my brother Eldreth William
Smith such money or moneys as will be necessary to purchase railroad
tickets for himself and family from Patmos to this place, and

Furthermore that you take as security for said loan such motor truck and
equipment etc. as he has now stored at your place of business. I am aware
of the fact that a motor truck in any running condition would amply secure
such loans as would purchase tickets from Patmos to San Jose, and I hereby
enclose note for same, duly made out in blank and signed by me, which
signature will be backed by the signature of my brother. Upon receiving
from you such money as he may require he will duly deliver note and
security duly signed and filled with the amount. I trust this will be
perfectly satisfactory to you as amply securing you for the loan of the
desired amount.

  Thanking you in advance,

  Yours very Truly,

  J. Paul Smith.

In spite of himself, Casey was impressed. The very Spanish name of the
prune orchard impressed him, and so did the formal business terms used by
J. Paul Smith; and that "thanking you in advance" seemed to place him
under a moral obligation too great to shirk. There was the note, too,--
heavy green paper with a stag's head printed on it, and looking almost
like a check.

"Well, all right, if it don't cost too much and the time don't run too
long," surrendered Casey reluctantly. "How much--"

"Fare's a little over twenty-five dollars, an' they'll be four full fares
an' three half. I guess mebby I better have a hundred an' seventy-five
anyway, so'st we kin eat on the way."

Casey chanced to have almost that much coming to him out of the business,
so that he would not be lending Bill's money. He watched the lean Smith
fill in the amount and sign the note, identifying the truck by its engine
and license numbers, and he went and borrowed fifteen dollars from the
proprietor of the Oasis and made up the amount. There was a train at noon,
and from his garage door he watched the Smith family start off across the
lava rocks to the depot, each one laden with bundles and disreputable
grips, the spotted dog trotting optimistically ahead of the party with his
pink tongue draped over the right side of his mouth. Smith turned, the
baby in his arms, and called back casually to Casey:

"Yuh better tie up them two milk goats when yuh milk 'em. They won't stand
if yuh don't."

Casey's jaw sagged. He had not thought of the goats. Indeed, the last two
days they had not troubled him except by their bleating at dawn. Humbolt
and Greeley had grazed them over by the railroad track so that they could
watch the trains go by. Casey looked and saw that the goats were still
over there where they had been driven early. He took off his hat and
rubbed his palm reflectively over the back of his head, set the hat on his
head with a pronounced tilt over one eyebrow, and reached for his plug of
tobacco.

"Oh, darn the goats! Me milkin' goats! Well, now, Casey Ryan never milked
no goats, an' he ain't goin' to milk no goats! You can ask anybody if they
think't he will."

Casey was very busy that day, and he had no dull-eyed Juan to do certain
menial tasks about the cars that stopped before his garage. Nevertheless
he kept an eye on the station of Patmos until the westbound train had come
and had departed, and on the rough road between the railroad and the
garage for another half hour, until he was sure that the Smith family were
not coming back. Then he went more cheerfully about his work, now and then
glancing, perhaps, at the truck which had been driven into the rear of the
garage where it was very much in his way, but was safe from pilfering
fingers. It was not such a bad truck, give it new tires. Casey had already
figured the price at which he could probably sell it, on an easy payment
plan, to the man who hauled water for Patmos. It was more than the amount
of his loan, naturally. By noon he was rather hoping the "Smith Bros."
would fail to take up that note.

Casey, you see, was not counting the goats at all. He had a vague idea
that, while they were nominally a part of the security, they were actually
of no importance whatever. They would run loose until Smith came after
them, he guessed. He did not intend to milk any nanny goats, so that
settled the goat question for Casey.

Casey simply did not know anything about goats. He ought to have used a
little logic and not so much happy-go-lucky "t'ell with the goats." That
is all very well, so far as it goes, and we all know that everybody says
it and thinks it. But it does, not settle the problem. It never occurred
to Casey, for instance, that the going of Humbolt and Greeley and the
little spotted dog would make any difference. It really did make a great
deal, you see. And it never occurred to Casey that goats are domesticated
animals after they have been hauled around the country for weeks and weeks
in a trailer to a truck, or that they will come back to the only home they
know.

I don't know how long it takes goats to fill up. I never kept a goat or
goats. And I don't know how long they will stand around and blat before
they start something. I don't know much more about goats than Casey, or
didn't, at least, until he told me. By that time Casey knew a lot more, I
suspect, than he could put into words.

Casey says that he heard them blatting around outside, but he was busy
trying to straighten a radius rod--Casey _said_ he was taking the kinks
outa that hootin'-annie that goes behind the front ex and turns the
dingbats when you steer--for a man who walked back and forth and slapped
his hands together nervously and kept asking how long it was going to
take, and how far it was to Barstow, and whether the road from there up
across the Mojave was in good condition, and whether the Death Valley road
out from Ludlow went clear through the valley and was a cut-off north, or
whether it just went into the valley and stopped. Casey says that the only
time he ever was in Death Valley it was with a couple of burros and that
he like to have stayed there. He got to telling the man about his trip
into Death Valley and how he just did get out by a scratch.

So he didn't pay any attention to the goats until he went back after some
cold water for the white little woman in the car, that looked all tuckered
out and scared. It was then he found the whole corner chewed off one water
bag and the other water bag on the ground and a lot more than the corner
gone. And the billy was up on his hind feet with his horns caught in the
fullest barrel, and was snorting and snuffling in a drowning condition and
tilting the barrel perilously. The other goats were acting just like plain
damn goats, said Casey, and merely looking for trouble without having
found any.

Casey says he had to call the Oasis man to help him get Billy out of the
barrel, and that even then he had to borrow a saw and saw off one horn--
either that, or cave in the barrel with Maud--and he needed that barrel
worse than the billy goat needed two horns; but he told me that if he'd
had Maud in his two hands just then he sure would have caved in the goat.

At that, the nervous man got away without paying Casey, which I think
rankled worse than a spoiled barrel of water.

Casey told me that he aged ten years in the next two weeks, and lost
eighty-nine dollars and a half in damages and wages, not counting the two
water bags he had to replace out of his stock, at nearly four dollars
wholesale price. When he chased the goats out of his back door they went
around and came in at the front, determined, he supposed, to bed down near
the truck.

It was late before that occurred to him, and when it did he cranked up and
drove the truck a hundred yards down the road that led to the spring. The
goats did not follow as he expected, but stood around the trailer and
blatted. Casey went back and hooked on the trailer and drove again down
the road. The goats would not follow, and he went back to find that Billy
had managed to push open the back door and had led his flock into Casey's
kitchen. There was no kitchen left but the little camp stove, and that was
bent so that it stood skew-gee, Casey said, and developed a habit of
toppling over just when his coffee came to a boil.

Casey told me that he had to barricade himself in his garage that night,
and he swore that Billy stood on his hind feet and stared at him all night
through the window in spite of wrenches and pliers hailing out upon him.
However that may be, Billy couldn't have stood there all night, unless
Casey got his dates mixed. For at six o'clock the Oasis man came over,
stepping high and swinging his fists, and told Casey that them damn goats
had et all the bedding out of one tent and the soap, towel and one pillow
out of another, and what was Casey going to do about it?

Casey did not know,--and he was famous for his resourcefulness too. I
think he paid for the bedding before the thing was settled.

Casey says that after that it was just one thing after another. He told me
that he never would have believed twelve goats could cover so much
cussedness in a day. He said he couldn't fill a radiator but some goat
would be chewing the baggage tied behind the car, or Billy would be
rooting suitcases off the running board. One party fell in love with a
baby goat and Casey in a moment of desperation told them they could have
it. But he was sorry afterward, because the mother stood and blatted at
him reproachfully for four days and nights without stopping.

Casey swears that he picked up and threw two tons of rocks every day, and
he has no idea how many tons the six families of Patmos heaved at and
after the goats. When they weren't going headfirst into barrels of water
they were chewing something not meant to be chewed. Casey asserts that it
is all a bluff about goats eating tin cans. They don't. He says they never
touched a can all the while he had them. He says devastated Patmos wished
they would, and leave the two-dollar lace curtains alone, and clotheslines
and water barrels and baggage. He says many a party drove off with chewed
bedding rolls and didn't know it, and that he didn't tell them, either.

You're thinking about Juan, I know. Well, Casey thought of Juan the first
day, and took the trouble to hunt him up and hire him to herd the goats.
But Juan developed a bad case of sleeping sickness, Casey says, which
unfortunately was not contagious to goats. He swears that he never saw one
of those goats lying down, though he had seen pictures of goats lying down
and had a vague idea that they chewed their cuds. Casey tried to be funny,
then. He looked at me and grinned, and observed, "Hunh! Goats don't chew
cuds. That's all wrong. They chew _duds._ You ask anybody in Patmos." So
Juan slept under sagebushes and grease-wood, and the goats did not.

Casey declares that he stood it for two weeks, and that it took all he
could make in the garage to pay the six families of Patmos for the damage
wrought by his security. He lost fifteen pounds of flesh and every friend
he had made in the place except the man who hauled water, and he liked it
because he was getting rich. Once Casey had a bright idea, and with much
labor and language he loaded the goats into the trailer and had the
water-hauler take them out to the hills. But that didn't work at all. Part
of the flock came back afoot, from sheer homesickness, and the rest were
hauled back because they were ruining the spring which was Patmos' sole
water supply.

Casey would have shot the goats, but he couldn't bring himself to do
anything that would offend J. Paul Smith of the _Vista Grande Rancho._
Whenever he read the letter J. Paul Smith had written him he was ashamed
to do anything that would lower him in the estimation of J. Paul Smith,
who trusted him and took it for granted that he would do the right thing
and do it with enthusiasm.

"If he hadn't wrote so dog-gone polite!" Casey complained to me. "And if
he hadn't went an' took it for granted I'd come through. But a man can't
turn down a feller that wrote the way he done. Look at that letter! A
college perfessor couldn't uh throwed together no better letter than that.
And that there 'Thanking you in advance'--a feller _can't_ throw a man
down when he writes that way. You ask anybody." Casey's tone was one of
reminiscent injury, as if J. Paul Smith had indeed taken a mean advantage
of him.

One day Casey reached the limit of his endurance,--or perhaps of the
endurance of Patmos. There were not enough male residents to form a mob
strong enough to lynch Casey, but there was one woman who had lost a sofa
pillow and two lace curtains; Casey did not say much about her, but I
gathered that he would as soon be lynched as remonstrated with again by
that woman. "Sufferin' Sunday! I'd shore hate to be her husband. You ask
anybody!" sighed Casey when he was telling me.

Casey moralized a little. "Folks used to look at the goats that I'd maybe
just hazed off into the brush fifty yards or so with a thousand pounds
mebby of rocks, an' some woman in goggles would say, 'Oh, an' you keep
goats! How nice!' like as if it were something peaceful an' homelike to
keep goats! Hunh! Lemme tell yuh; never drive past a place that _looks_
peaceful, and jump at the idea it _is_ peaceful. They may be a woman
behind them vines poisinin' 'er husband's father. How could them darn
tourists tell'what was goin' on in Patmos? They seen the goats pertendin'
to graze, an' keepin' an eye peeled till my back was turned, an' they
thought it was _nice_ to keep goats. Hunh!"

At last Casey could bear no more. He gathered together enough hardwood,
three-inch crate slats to make twelve crates, and he worked for three
nights, making them. And Casey is no carpenter. After that he worked for
three days, with all the men in Patmos to help him, getting the goats into
the crates and loaded on the truck. Then he drove over to the station and
asked for tags, and addressed the crates to J. Paul Smith, _Vista Grande
Rancho,_ San Jose, Calif. Then he discovered that he could not send them
except by express, and that he could not send them by express unless he
prepaid the charges. And the charges on goats sent by express, was, as
Casey put it, a holy fright.

But he had to do it. Patmos had been led to believe that he would send
those goats off on the train, and Casey did not know what would happen if
he failed. There were the heads of the six families, and all the children
who were of walking age, grouped around the crates and Casey expectantly.
Casey went back to the garage safe and got what money he had, borrowed the
balance from the male citizens of Patmos and prepaid the express. Patmos
helped to load them into the first express car going west, and Casey felt,
he said, as if some one had handed him a million dollars in dimes.

Casey seemed to think that ended the story, but I am like the rest of you.
I wanted to know what the Smith family did, and J. Paul Smith, and whether
Casey kept the truck and sold it to the man who hauled water.

"Who? Me? Say! D'you ever know Casey Ryan to ever come out anywheres but
at the little end uh the horn? Ain't I the bag holder pro tem?" I don't
know what he meant by that. I think he was mistaken in the meaning of "pro
tem."

"You ask anybody. Say, I got a letter sayin' in a gen'ral way that I'm a
thief an' a cutthroat an' a profiteer an' so on, an' that I would have to
pay fer the goat that was missin'--that there was the one I give away--an'
that the damages to the billy goat was worth twenty-five dollars and same
would be deducted from the amount of the loan. _Darn_ these fancy word
slingers!" said Casey. "An' the day before the note come due, here comes
that shoestring in pants with the money to pay the note minus the damages,
and four new tires fer the truck! Yessir, wouldn't buy tires off me, even!
Could yuh beat that fer gall? And he wouldn't hardly speak."

Casey grinned and got his plug of tobacco and inspected the corners
absently before he bit into it. "But I got even with 'im," he added. "I
laid off till he got his tires on--an' I wouldn't lend him no tools to put
'em on with, neither. And then I looked up an' down the road an' seen
there was no dust comin' an' we wouldn't be interrupted, an' I went up to
the old skunk an' I says, 'I got a bill to colleck off you. _Thankin' you
in advance!'_ an' then I shore collected. You ask anybody in Patmos. Say,
I bet he drove by-guess-an'-by-gosh to the orange belt, anyway, the way
his eyes was swellin' up when he left!"

I mentioned his promise to Bill, that he would not fight a customer. Casey
spat disgustedly. "Hell! He wasn't no customer! Didn't he ship his rubber
in by express, ruther'n to buy off me?" He grinned retrospectively and
looked at his knuckles, one of which showed a patch of new skin, pink and
yet tender.

"'Thankin' you in advance!' that's just what I told 'im. An' I shore got
all I thanked 'im for! You ask anybody in Patmos. They seen 'im
afterwards."



CHAPTER XII


"Look there!" Casey rose from the ground where he had been sitting with
his hands clasped round his drawn-up knees. He pointed with his pipe to a
mountain side twelve miles away but looking five, even in the gloom of
early dusk. "Look at that, will yuh! Whadda yuh say that is, just makin' a
guess? A fire, mebby?"

"Camp fire. Some prospector boiling coffee in a dirty lard bucket, maybe."

Casey snorted. "It's a darn big fire to boil a pot uh coffee! Recollect,
it's twelve miles over to that mountain. A bonfire a mile off wouldn't
look any bigger than that. Would it now?" His tone was a challenge to my
truthfulness.

"Wel-l, I guess it wouldn't, come to think of it."

"Guess? You know darn well it wouldn't. You watch that there fire. I ain't
over there--but if that ain't the devil's lantern, I'll walk on my hands
from here over there an' find out for yuh."

"I'd have to go over there myself to discover whether you're right or
wrong. But if a fellow can trust his eyes, Casey--"

"Well, you can't," Casey said grimly, still standing, his eyes fixed upon
the distant light. "Not here in this country, you can't. You ask anybody.
You don't trust your eyes when yuh come to a dry lake an' you see water,
an' the bushes around the shore reflected in the water, an' mebby a boat
out in the middle. _Do_ yuh? You don't trust your eyes when you look at
them hills. They look close enough to walk over to 'em in half or three
quarters of an hour. _Don't_ they? An' didn't I take yuh in my Ford
auto-_mo_-bile, an' wasn't it twelve? An' d'yuh trust your eyes when yuh
look up, an' it looks like you could knock stars down with a tent pole,
like yuh knock apples off'n trees? Sure, you can't trust your eyes! When
yuh hit the desert, oletimer, yuh pack two of the biggest liars on earth
right under your eyebrows." He chuckled at that. "An' most folks pack
another one under their noses, fer luck. Now lookit over there! Prospector
nothin'. It's the devil out walkin' an' packin' a lantern. He's mebby
found some shin bones an' a rib or two an' mebby a chewed boot, an' he
stopped there to have his little laugh. Lemme tell yuh. You mark where
that fire is. An' t'-morra, if yuh like, I'll take yuh over there. If you
c'n find a track er embers on that slope--Gawsh!"

We both stood staring; while he talked, the light had blinked out like
snapping an electric switch. And that was strange because camp fires take
a little time in the dying. I stepped inside the tent, fumbled for the
field glasses and came out, adjusting the night focus. Casey's squat,
powerful form stood perfectly still where I had left him, his face turned
toward the mountain. There was no fire on the slope. Beyond, hanging black
in the sky, a thunder cloud pillowed up toward the peak of the mountain,
pushing out now and then to blot a star from the purple. Now and then a
white, ragged gash cut through, but no sound reached up to where we were
camped on the high mesa that was the lap of Starvation Mountain. I will
explain that Casey had come back to Starvation to see if there were not
another good silver claim lying loose and needing a location monument. We
faced Tippipah Range twelve miles away,--and to-night the fire on its
slope.

"Lightning struck a yucca over there and burned it, probably," I hazarded,
seeking the spot through the glasses.

"Yeah--only there ain't no yuccas on that slope. That's a limestone ledge
formation an' there ain't enough soil to cover up a t'rantler. And the
storm's over back of the Tippipahs anyhow. It ain't on 'em."

"It's burning up again--"

"Hit another yucca, mebby!"

"It looks--" I adjusted the lenses carefully "--like a fire, all right.
There's a reddish cast. I can't see any flames, exactly, but--" I suppose
I gave a gasp, for Casey laughed outright.

"No, I guess yuh can't. Flames don't travel like that--huh?"

The light had moved suddenly, so that it seemed to jump clean away from
the field of vision embraced by the glasses. I had a little trouble in
picking it up again. I had to take down the glasses and look; and then I
left them down and watched the light with my naked, lying eyes. They did
lie; they must have. They said that a camp fire had abruptly picked itself
up bodily and was slipping rapidly as a speeding automobile up a bare
white slide of rock so steep that a mountain goat would give one glance
and hunt up an easier trail. All my life I have had intimate acquaintance
with camp fires; I have eaten with them, slept with them, coaxed them in
storm, watched them from afar. I thought I knew all their tricks, all
their treacheries. I have seen apparently cold ashes blow red quite
unexpectedly and fire grass and bushes and go racing away,--I have fought
them then with whatever came to hand.

I admit that an odd, prickly sensation at the base of my scalp annoyed me
while I watched this fire race up the slope and leave no red trail behind
it. Then it disappeared, blinked out again. I opened my mouth to call
Casey's attention to it--though I felt that he was watching it with that
steady, squinting stare of his that never seems to wink or waver for a
second--but there it was again, come to a stop just under the crest of the
mountain where the white slide was topped by a black rim capped with
bleak, bare rock like a crude skullcap on Tippipah. The fire flared,
dimmed, burned bright again, as though some one had piled on dry brush. I
caught up the glasses and watched the light for a full minute. They were
good glasses,--I ought to have seen the flicker of flames; but I did not.
Just the reddish yellow glow and no more.

"Must be fox fire," I said, feeling impatient because that did not satisfy
me at all, but having no other explanation that I could think of handy.
"I've seen wonderful exhibitions of it in low, swampy ground--"

Casey spat into the dark. "I never heard of nobody boggin' down, up there
on Tippipah." He put his cold pipe in his mouth, removed it and gestured
with it toward the light. "I've seen jack-o'-lanterns myself. You know
darn well that ain't it; not up on them rocks, dry as a bone. A minute ago
you said it was lightnin' burnin' a yucca. Why don't yuh come out in the
open, an' say you don't _know_? Mebby you'll come closer to believin' what
I told yuh about that devil's lantern I follered. He's lit another one--
kinda hopin' we'll be fool enough to fall for it. You come inside where
yuh can't watch it. That's what does the damage--watchin' and wonderin'
and then goin' to see. I bet you wanta strike out right now and see just
what it is."

I didn't admit it, but Casey had guessed exactly what was in my mind. I
was itching with curiosity and trying to ignore the creepiness of it.
Casey went into the tent and lighted the candle and proceeded to unlace
his high hiking boots. "You come on in and go to bed. Don't yuh pay no
attention to that light--that's what the Old Boy plays for first, every
time; workin' your curiosity up. You ask anybody. He played me fer a
sucker and I told yuh about it, and yuh thought Casey was stringin' yuh.
Well, I can take a joke from the devil himself and never let out a yip--
but once is enough for Casey! I'm goin' to bed. Let him set out there and
hold his darn lantern and be damned; he ain't going to make nothin' off'n
Casey Ryan this time. You can ask anybody if Casey Ryan bites twice on the
same hook."

He got into bed and turned his face to the wall with a finality I could
not ignore. I let it go at that, but twice I got up and went outside to
look. There burned the light, diabolically like a signal fire on the peak,
where no fire should be. I began to seek explanations, but the best of
them were vague. Electricity playing a prank of some obscure kind,--that
was as close as I could get to it, and even that did not satisfy as it
should have done, perhaps because the high, barren mesas and the mountains
of bare rocks are in themselves weird and sinister, and commonplace
explanations of their phenomena seem out of place.

The land is empty of men, emptier still of habitations. There are not many
animals, even. A few coyotes, all of them under suspicion of having
rabies; venomous things such as tarantulas and centipedes, scorpions,
rattlers, hydrophobia skunks. Not so many of them that they are a constant
menace, but occasionally to be reckoned with. Great sprawling dry lakes
ominous in their very placidity; dust dry, with little whirlwinds
scurrying over them and mirages that lie to you most convincingly,
painting water where there is only clay dust. Water that is hidden deep in
forbidding canyons, water that you must hunt for blindly unless you have
been told where it comes stealthily out from some crevice in the rocks.
Indians know the water holes, and have told the white men with whom they
made friends after a fashion--for Casey tells me he never knew a red man
who was essentially noble--and these have told others; and men have named
the springs and have indicated their location on maps. Otherwise the land
is dry, parched and deadly and beautiful, and men have died terrible,
picturesque deaths within its borders.

I was thinking of that, and it seemed not too incongruous that the devil
should now and then walk abroad with a lantern of his own devising to make
men shrink from his path. But Casey says, and I think he means it, that
the light is a lure. He told me a weird adventure of his own to back his
argument, but I thought he was inventing most of it as he went along.
Until I saw that light on Tippipah I had determined to let his romancing
go in at one ear if it must, and stop there without running out at the
tips of my fingers. Casey has enough ungodly adventures that are true. I
didn't feel called upon to repeat his Irish inventions.

But now I'm going to tell you. If you can't believe it I shall not blame
you; but Casey swears that it is all true. It's worth beginning where
Casey did, at the beginning. And that goes back to when he was driving
stage in the Yellowstone.

Casey was making the trip out, one time, and he had just one passenger
because it was at the end of the season and there had been a week of nasty
weather that had driven out most of the sightseers and no new ones were
coming in. This man was a peevish, egotistical sort, I imagine; at any
rate he did a lot of talking about himself and his ill luck, and he told
Casey of his misfortunes by the hour.

Casey did not mind that much. He says he didn't listen half the time. But
finally the fellow began talking of the wealth that is wasted on folks who
can't use it properly or even appreciate the good fortune.

To illustrate that point he told a story that set Casey's mind to seeing
visions. The man told about an old Indian who lived in dirt and a
government blanket and drank bad whisky when he could get it, and whipped
his squaw and behaved exactly like other Indians. Yet that old Indian knew
where gold lay so thick that he could pick out pieces of crumbly rock all
plastered with free gold. He was too lazy to dig out enough to do him any
good. He would come into the nearest town with a rusty old lard bucket
full of high grade so rich that the storekeeper once got five hundred
dollars from the bucketful. He gave the Indian about twenty dollars' worth
of grub and made him a present of two yards of bright blue ribbon, which
tickled the old buck so much that in two weeks he was back with more high
grade knotted in the bottom of a gunny sack.

Casey asked the man why some one didn't trail the Injun. Casey knew that
an Indian is not permitted to file a claim to mineral land. He could not
hold it, under the law, if some white man discovered it and located the
ground, but Casey thought that some white-hearted fellow might take the
claim and pay the buck a certain percentage of the profits.

The man said that couldn't be done. The old buck--Injun Jim, they called
him--was an old she-bear. All the Indians were afraid of him and would
hide their faces in their blankets when he passed them on his way to the
gold, rather than be suspected by Injun Jim of any unwarranted interest in
his destination. Casey knew enough about Indians to accept that statement.
And white men, it would seem, were either not nervy enough or else they
were not cunning enough. A few had attempted to trail Injun Jim, but no
one had ever succeeded, because that part of Nevada had not had any gold
stampede, which the man declared would have come sure as fate if Injun
Jim's mine were ever uncovered.

Casey asked certain questions and learned all that the man could tell
him,--or would tell him. He said that Injun Jim lived mostly in the
Tippipah district. No free gold had ever been discovered there, nor much
gold of any kind; but Injun Jim certainly brought free gold into Round
Butte whenever he wanted grub. It must have been ungodly rich,--five
hundred dollars' worth in a ten-pound lard bucket!

The tale held Casey's imagination. He dreamed nights of trailing Injun
Jim, and if he'd had any money to outfit for the venture he surely would
have gone straight to Nevada and to Round Butte. He told himself that it
would take an outsider to furnish the energy for the search. Men who live
in a country are the last to see the possibilities lying all around them,
Casey said. It was true; he had seen it work out even in himself. Hadn't
he driven stage in Cripple Creek country and carried out gold by the
hundred-thousand,--gold that might have been his had he not been content
to drive stage? Hadn't he lived in gold country all his life, almost, and
didn't he know mineral formations as well as many a school--trained
expert?

But even dreams of gold fluctuate and grow vague before the small
interests of everyday living. Casey hadn't the money just then to quit his
job of stage driving and go Indian stalking. It would take money,--a few
hundred at least. Casey at that time lacked the price of a ticket to Round
Butte. So he had to drive and dream, and his first spurt of saving grew
half--hearted as the weeks passed; and then he lost all he had saved in a
poker game because he wanted to win enough in one night to make the trip.

However, he went among men with his ears wide open for gossip concerning
Injun Jim, and he gleaned bits of information that seemed to confirm what
his passenger up in the Yellowstone had told him. He even met a man who
knew Injun Jim.

Injun Jim, he was told, had one eye and a bad temper. He had lost his
right eye in a fight with soldiers, in the days when Indian fighting was
part of a soldier's training. Injun Jim nursed a grudge against the whites
because of that eye, and while he behaved himself nowadays, being old and
not very popular amongst his own people, it was taken for granted that his
trigger finger would never be paralyzed, and that a white man need only
furnish him a thin excuse and a fair chance to cover all traces of the
killing. Injun Jim would attend to the rest with great zeal.

Stranger still, Casey found that the tale of the lard bucket and the gold
was true. This man had once been in the store when Jim arrived for grub.
He had taken a piece of the ore in his hands. It was free gold, all right,
and it must have come from a district where free gold was scarce as women.

"We've got it figured down to a spot about fifty miles square," the man
told Casey. "That old Injun don't travel long trails. He's old. And all
Injuns are lazy. They won't go hunting mineral like a white man. They know
mineral when they see it and they have good memories and can go to the
spot afterwards. Injun Jim prob-ly run across a pocket somewheres when he
was hunting. Can't be much of it--he'd bring in more at a time if there
was, and be Injun-rich. He's just figurin' on making it hold out long as
he lives. 'Tain't worth while trying to find it; there's too much mineral
laying around loose in these hills."

Casey stored all that gossip away in the back of his head and through all
the ups and downs of the years he never quite forgot it.



CHAPTER XIII


Casey earned a good deal of money, but there are men who are very good at
finding original ways of losing money, too. Casey was one. (You should
hear Casey unburden himself sometime upon the subject of garages and the
tourist trade!) He saved money enough in Patmos to buy two burros and a
mule, and what grub and tools the burros could carry. There were no poker
games in Patmos, and a discouraged prospector happened along at the right
moment, which accounts for it.

In this speed-hungry age Casey had not escaped the warped viewpoint which
others assume toward travel. Casey always had craved the sensation of
swift moving through space. His old stage horses could tell you tales of
that! It was a distinct comedown, buying burros for his venture. That took
straight, native optimism and the courage to make the best of things. But
he hadn't the price of a Ford, and Casey abhors debt; so he reminded
himself cheerfully that many a millionaire would still be poor if he had
turned up his nose at burros, sour-dough cans and the business end of pick
and shovel, and made the deal.

At that, he was better off than most prospectors, he told himself on the
night of his purchase. He had the mule, William, to ride. The prospector
had assured Casey over and over that William was saddle broke. Casey is
too happy-go-lucky, I think. He took the man's word for it and waited
until the night before he intended beginning his journey before he gave
William a try-out, down in a sandy swale back of the garage. He returned
after dark, leading William. Casey had a pronounced limp and an eyetooth
was broken short off, about halfway to the gums, and his lip was cut.

"William's saddle broke, all right," he told his neighbor, the proprietor
of the Oasis. "I've saw horses broke like that; cow-punchers have fun in
the c'rall with 'em Sundays, seein' which one can stay with the saddle
three jumps. William don't mind the saddle at all. All he hates is anybody
in it." Then he grinned wryly because of his hurt. "No use arguin' with a
mule--I used to be too good a walker."

Casey therefore traded his riding saddle for another packsaddle, and
collected six coal-oil cans which he cleaned carefully. William was loaded
with cans of water, which he seemed to prefer to Casey, though they
probably weighed more. The burros waddled off under their loads of beans,
flour, bacon, coffee, lard, and a full set of prospector's tools. Casey
set his course by the stars and fared forth across the desert, meaning to
pass through the lower end of Death Valley by night, on a trail he knew,
and so plod up toward the Tippipah country.

He was happy. He owed no man a nickel, he had grub enough to last him
three months if he were careful, he had a body tough as seasoned hickory,
and he was headed for that great no-man's-land which is the desert. More,
he was actually upon the trail of his dream that he had dreamed years
before up in the Yellowstone. An old, secretive Indian was going to find
his match when Casey Ryan plodded over his horizon and halted beside his
fire.

By the way, don't blame me for showing a fondness for gloom and gore when
you read the names Casey carried in his mind the next few weeks. Casey
crossed Death Valley and the Funeral Mountains--or a spur of them--and
headed up toward Spectre Range, going by way of Deadman's Spring, where he
filled his water cans. That does not sound cheerful, but Casey was still
fairly happy,--though there were moments when he thought seriously of
killing William with a rock.

Every morning, without fail, he and William fought every minute from
breakfast to starting time. From his actions you would think that William
had never seen a pack before, and expected it to bite him fatally if he
came within twenty feet of it. You could tell Casey's camp by the manner
in which the sagebrush was trampled and the sand scored with small
hoofprints in a wide circle around it. But once the battle was lost to
William for that day, and Casey had rested and mopped the perspiration off
his face and taken a comforting chew of tobacco and relapsed into silence
simply because he could think of nothing more to say, William became a pet
dog that hazed the two lazy burros along with little nippings on their
rumps, and saw to it that they did not stray too far from camp.

Casey strung into Searchlight one evening at dusk and camped on a little
knoll behind the town hall, which was open beyond for grazing, and the
village dogs were less likely to bother. Searchlight was not on his way,
but miles off to one side. Casey made the detour because he had heard a
good deal about the place and knew it as a favorite stamping ground of
miners and prospectors who sought free gold. Searchlight is primarily a
gold camp, you see. He wanted to hear a little more about Injun Jim.

But there had been a murder in Searchlight a dark night or so before his
coming, and three suspects were being discussed and championed by their
friends. Searchlight was not in the mood for aimless gossip of Indians.
Killings had been monotonously frequent, but they usually had daylight and
an audience to rob them of mystery. A murder done on a dark night, in the
black shadow of an empty dance hall, and accompanied by a piercing scream
and the sound of running feet was vastly different.

Casey lingered half a day, bought a few more pounds of bacon and some
matches and ten yards of satin ribbon in assorted colors and went his way.

I mention his stop at Searchlight so that those who demand exact geography
will understand why Casey journeyed on to Vegas, tramped its hot sidewalks
for half a day and then went on by way of Indian Spring to the Tippipah
country and his destination. He was following the beaten trail of miners,
now that he was in Jim's country, and he was gleaning a little information
from every man he met. Not altogether concerning Injun Jim, understand,--
but local tidbits that might make him a welcome companion to the old buck
when he met him. Casey says you are not to believe story-writers who
assume that an Indian is wrapped always in a blanket and inscrutable
dignity. He says an Indian is as great a gossip as any old woman, once you
get him thawed to the talking point. So he was filling his bag of tricks
as he went along.

From Vegas there is what purports to be an automobile road across the
desert to Round Butte, and Casey as he walked cursed his burros and
William and sighed for his Ford. He was four days traveling to Furnace
Lake, which he had made in a matter of hours with his Ford when he first
came to Starvation.

He struck Furnace Lake just before dusk one night and pushed the burros
out upon it, thinking he would have cool crossing and would start in the
morning with the lake behind him, which would be something of a load off
his mind. In his heart Casey hated Furnace Lake, and he had good reason.
It was a place of ill fortune for him, especially after the sun had left
it. He wanted it behind him where he need think no more about it and the
grewsome crevice that cut a deep, wide gash two thirds of the way across
it through the middle. Casey is not a coward, and he takes most things as
a matter of course, but he admits that he has always hated and distrusted
Furnace Lake beyond all the dry lakes in Nevada,--and there are many.

He yelled to William, and William nipped the nearest burro into a
shambling half trot, and then went out upon the lake, Casey heading across
at the widest part so that he would strike his old trail to Starvation
Mountain on the other side. From there to the summit he could make it by
noon on the morrow, he planned. Which would be the end of his preliminary
journey and the beginning of Casey's last drive toward his goal; for from
the top of the divide between Starvation Mountain country and that
forbidding waste which lies under the calm scrutiny of Furnace Peak he
could see the far-off range of the Tippipahs.

He was a mile out on the Lake when he first glimpsed the light. Casey
studied it while he walked ahead, leaving no footprints on the hard-baked
clay. He had not known that any road followed just under the crest of the
ridge that hid Crazy Woman lake, yet the light was plainly that of an
automobile moving with speed across the face of the ridge just under the
summit.

Away out in the empty land like that you notice little things and think
about them and try to understand just what they mean, unless they are
perfectly familiar to you. One print of a foot on the trail may betray the
lurking presence of a madman, a murderer, a traveling, friendly, desert
dweller or the wandering of some one who is lost and dying of thirst and
hunger. You like to know which, and you are not satisfied until you do
know.

A light moving swiftly along Crazy Woman ridge meant a car, and a car up
there meant a road. If there were a road it would probably lead Casey by a
shorter route to the Tippipahs. While he looked there came to his ears a
roaring, as of some high-powered  car traveling under full pressure of
gas. The burros followed him, but William lifted his head and brayed
tremulously three times in the dark. Casey had never heard him bray
before, and the sudden rasping outcry startled him.

He went back and stood for a minute looking at William, who turned tail
and started back toward the shore they had left behind them. Casey ran to
head him off, yelling threats, and William, in spite of his six water
cans--two of them empty--broke into a lope. Casey glanced over his
shoulder as he ran and saw dimly that the burros had turned and were
coming after him, their ears flapping loosely on their bobbing heads as
they trotted. Beyond him, the light still traveled towards the Tippipahs.

Then, with an abruptness that cannot be pictured, everything was blotted
out in a great, blinding swirl of dust as the wind came whooping down upon
them. It threw Casey as though some one had tripped him. It spun him round
and round on his back like an overturned beetle, and then scooted him
across the lake's surface flat as a floor. He thought of the Crevice, but
there was nothing he could do save hold his head off the ground and his
two palms over his face, shielding his nostrils a little from the smother
of dust.

Sometimes he was lifted inches from the surface and borne with incredible
swiftness. More than once he was spun round and round until his senses
reeled. But all the time he was going somewhere, and I suspect that for
once in his life Casey Ryan went fast enough to satisfy him. At last he
felt brush sweep past his body, and he knew that he must have been swept
to the edge of the lake. He clutched, scratched his hands bloody on the
straggly thorns of greasewood, caught in the dark at a more friendly sage
and gripped it next the roots. The wind tore at him, howling. Casey
flattened his abused body to the hummocky sand and hung on.

Hours later, by the pale stars that peered out breathlessly when the fury
of the gale was gone, Casey pulled himself painfully to his feet and
looked for the burros and William. Judging by his own experience, they had
had a rough time of it and would not go far after the wind permitted them
to stop. But as to guessing how far they had been impelled, or in what
direction, Casey knew that was impossible. Still, he tried. When the air
grew clearer and the surrounding hills bulked like huge shadows against
the sky, he saw that he had been blown toward the ridge that guards Crazy
Woman lake. His pack animals should be somewhere ahead of him, he thought
groggily, and began stumbling along through the brush-covered sand dunes
that bordered Furnace Lake for miles.

And then he saw again the light, shining up there just under the crest of
the ridge. He was glad the car had escaped, but he reflected that the
tricky winds of the desert seldom sweep a large area. Their diabolic fury
implies a concentration of force that must of necessity weaken as it flows
out away from the center. Up there on the ridge they may not have
experienced more than a steady blow.

He walked slowly because of his bruises, and many times he made small
detours, thinking that a blotch of shadow off to one side might be his
pack train. But always a greasewood mocked him, waving stiff arms at him
derisively. In the sage-land distances deceive. A man may walk unseen
before your eyes, and a bush afar off may trick you with its semblance to
man or beast. Casey finally gave up the hopeless search and headed
straight for the light.

It was standing still,--a car facing him with its headlights burning, the
distance so great that the two lights glowed as one. "An' it ain't no
Ford," Casey decided. "They wouldn't keep the engine runnin' all this
time, standin' still. Unless it's one of them old kind with lamps."

I don't suppose you realize, many of you, just what that would mean to a
man in the desert country. It is rather hard to define, but the
significance would be felt, even by Casey in his present plight. You see,
small cars, of the make too famous to be hurt or helped by having its name
mentioned in a simple yarn like this, have long been recognized as the
proper car for rough trails and no trails. Those who travel the desert
most have come to the point of counting "Lizzie" almost as necessary as
beans. Wherefore a larger car is nearly always brought in by strangers to
the country, who swear solemnly, never to repeat the imprudence. A large
car, driven by strangers in the land, means hunters, prospectors from the
outside brought in by some special tale of hidden wealth,--or just plain
simpletons who only want to see what lies over the mountain. There aren't
many of the last-named variety up in the Nevada wastes. Even your
nature-loving rovers oddly keep pretty much to the beaten trails of other
nature lovers, where gas stations and new tires may be found at regular
intervals. The Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the National Old
Trails they explore,--but not the high, wind-swept mesas of Nevada's
barren land.

A fear that was not altogether strange to him crept over Casey. It would
be just his grinning enemy Ill-luck on his trail again, if that light
should prove to be made by men hunting for Injun Jim and his mine. Casey
used to feel a sickness in his middle when that thought nagged him, and he
felt a growing anger now when he looked at the twinkling glow. He walked a
little faster. Now that the fear had come to him, Casey wanted to come up
with the men, talk with them, learn their business if they were truthful,
or sense their lying if they tried to hide their purpose from him. He must
know. If they were seeking Injun Jim, then he must find some way to head
them off, circumvent their plans with strategy of his own. He had dreamed
too long and too ardently to submit now to interlopers.

So he walked, limping and cursing a little now and then because of his
aches. Up a steep slope made heavy with loose sand that dragged at his
feet; over the crest and down the other side among rocks and gravel that
made harder walking than the sand. Up another steep slope: it was
heartbreaking, unending as the toils of a nightmare, but Casey kept on. He
was not worried over his own plight; not yet. He believed that William and
his burros were somewhere ahead of him, since they could not cling to a
bush as he had done and so resist the impetus of that terrific wind. There
was a car standing on the ridge toward which he was laboriously making his
way. It did not occur to Casey that morning might show him a rather
desperate plight.

Yet the morning did just that. Hours before dawn the light had disappeared
abruptly, but Casey had no uneasiness over that. It was foolish for them
to run down their battery burning lights when they were standing still, he
thought. They had not moved off, and he had well in mind the contour of
the ridge where they were standing. He would have bet good money that he
could walk straight to the car even though darkness hid it from him until
he came within hailing distance.

But daylight found him still below the higher slope of the ridge, and
Casey was very tired. He had been walking all day, remember, and he had
missed his supper because he wanted to eat it with the lake behind him. He
did not walk in a straight line. He was too near exhaustion to forge ahead
as was his custom. Now he was picking his way carefully so as to shun the
washes out of which he must climb, and the rock patches where he would
stumble, and the thick brush that would claw at him. He would have given
five dollars for a drink of water, but there would be water at the car, he
told himself. People were rather particular about carrying plenty of water
when they traveled these wastes.

And then he was on the ridge, and his keen eyes were squinted half-shut
while he gazed here and there, no foot of exposed land surface escaping
that unwinking stare. He took off his hat and wiped his face, and reached
mechanically for a chew of tobacco which he always took when perplexed, as
if it stimulated thought.

There was no car. There was no road. There was not even a burro trail
along that ridge. Yet there had been the lights of a car, and after the
lights had been extinguished Casey had listened rather anxiously for
sound of the motor and had heard nothing at all. The most powerful,
silent-running car on the market would have made some noise in traveling
through that sand and up and down the washes that seamed the mountain
side. Casey would have heard it--he had remarkably keen hearing.

"And that's darn funny," he muttered, when he was perfectly sure that
there was no car, that there could never have been a car on that trackless
ridge. "That's mighty damn funny! You can ask anybody."



CHAPTER XIV


Other things, however, were not so funny to Casey as he stood staring down
over the vast emptiness. There was no sign of his pack train, and without
it he would be in sorry case indeed. He thought of the manner in which the
tornado had whirled him round and round. Caught in a different set of
gyrations and then borne out from the center--flung out would come nearer
it--the burros and William might have been carried in any direction save
his own. Into that gruesome Crevice, for instance. They had not been more
than a mile from the Crevice when the storm struck.

He glanced across to Barren Butte, rising steeply from the farther end of
the lake. But he did not think of going to the mine up there, except to
tell himself that he'd rot on the desert before he ever asked there for
help. He had his reasons, you remember. A man like Casey can face
humiliation from men much easier than he can face a woman who had
misjudged him and scorned him. Unless, of course, he has a million dollars
in his pocket and knows that she knows it.

Having discarded Barren Butte from his plans--rather, having declined to
consider it at all--he knew that he must find his supplies, or he must
find water somewhere in the Crazy Woman hills. The prospect was not
bright, for he had never heard any one mention water there.

He rested where he was for awhile and watched the slope for the pack
animals; more particularly for William and the water cans. He could shoot
rabbits and live for days, if he had a little water, but he had once tried
living on rabbit meat broiled without salt, and he called it dry eating,
even with water to wash it down. Without water he would as soon fast and
let the rabbits live.

A dark speck moving in the sage far down the slope caught his eyes, and he
got up and peered that way eagerly. He started down to meet it hopefully,
feeling certain that his present plight would soon merge into a mere
incident of the trail. Sure enough, when he had walked for half an hour he
saw that it was William, browsing toward him and limping when he moved.

But William was bare as the back of Casey's hand. There was no pack, no
coal-oil cans of water; only the halter and lead rope, that dangled and
caught on brush and impeded William's limping progress. I suppose even
miserable mules like company, for William permitted Casey to walk up and
take him by the halter rope. William had a badly skinned knee which gave
him the limp, and his right ear was broken close to his head so that the
structure which had been his pride dropped over his eye like a wet
sunbonnet.

Casey swore a little and started back along William's tracks to find the
water cans. He followed a winding, purposeless trail that never showed the
track of burros, and after an hour or so he came upon the pack and the
cans. Evidently the water supply had suffered in the wind, for only four
cans were with the blankets and pack saddle.

William had felt his pack slipping, Casey surmised, and had proceeded to
divest himself of the incumbrance in the manner best known to mules.
Having kicked himself out of it, he had undoubtedly discovered a leaking
can--supposing the cans had escaped thus far--and had battered them with
his heels until they were all leaking copiously. William had saved what he
could.

Casey read the whole story in the sand. The four cans were bent with
gaping seams, and their sides were scored with the prints of William's
hoofs. In a corner of one of them Casey found a scant half-cup of water,
which he drank greedily. It could no more than ease for a moment his
parched throat; it could not satisfy his thirst.

After that he led William back along the trail until the mounting sun
warned him that he was making no headway on his journey to the Tippipahs,
and that with no tracks in sight he had small hope of tracing the burros.

It was sundown again before he gave up hope, and Casey's thirst was a
demon within him. He had wasted a day, he told himself grimly. Now it was
going to be a fight.

Through the day he had mechanically studied the geologic formation of
those hills before him, and he had decided that the chance for water there
was too slight to make a search worth while. He would push on toward the
Tippipahs. _Pah_, he knew, meant water in the Indian tongue. He did not
know what _Tippi_ signified, but since Indians lived in the Tippipah range
he was assured that the water was drinkable. So he got stiffly to his
feet, studied again the darkling skyline, sent a glance up at the first
stars, and turned his face and William's resolutely toward the Tippipahs.

He had applied first aid to William's knee in the form of chewed tobacco,
which if it did no more at least discouraged the pestering flies. Now he
collected a ride for his pay. He had reasoned that William was probably
subdued to the point of permitting the liberty, and that he had other
things to think of more important than protecting his mulish dignity.
Casey guessed right. William merely switched his tail pettishly, as mules
will, and went on picking his way through brush and rocks along the ridge.

It was perhaps nine o'clock when Casey saw the light. William also spied
it and stopped still, his long left ear pointed that way, his broken right
ear dropping over his eye. William lifted his nose and brayed as if he
were tearing loose all his vitals and the operation hurt like the
mischief. Casey kicked him in the flanks and urged him on. It must be a
camp fire, Casey thought. He did not connect it with that moving light he
had seen the night before; that phantom car was a mystery which he would
probably never solve, and in Casey's opinion it had nothing to do with a
camp fire that twinkled upon a distant hilltop.

From the look of it, Casey judged that it was perhaps eight miles off,--
possibly less. But there was a rocky canyon or two between them, and
William was lame and Casey was too exhausted to walk more than half a mile
before he must lie down and own himself whipped. Casey Ryan had never done
that for a man, and he did not propose to do it for Nature. He thought
that William ought to have enough stamina to make the trip if he were
given time enough. And at the last, if William gave out, then Casey would
manage somehow to walk the rest of the way. It all depended upon giving
William time enough.

You know, mules are the greatest mind readers in the world. I have always
heard that, and now Casey swears that it is so. William immediately began
taking his time. Casey told me that a turtle starting nose to nose with
William would have had to pull in his feet and wait for him every half
mile or so. William must have been very thirsty, too.

The light burned steadily, hearteningly. Whenever they crawled to high
ground where a view was possible, Casey saw it there, just under a certain
star which he had used for a marker at first. And whenever William saw the
light he brayed and tried to swing around and go the other way. But Casey
would not permit that, naturally. Nor did he wonder why William acted so
queerly. You never wonder why a mule does things; you just fight it out
and are satisfied if you win, and let it go at that.

Casey does not remember clearly the details of that night. He knows that
during the long hours William balked at a particularly steep climb, and
that Casey was finally obliged to get off and lead the Way. It established
an unfortunate precedent, for William refused to let Casey on again, and
Casey was too weak to mount in spite of William. They compromised at last;
that is, they both walked.

The light went out. Moreover, Casey's star that he had used to mark the
spot moved over to the west and finally slid out of sight altogether. But
Casey felt sure of the direction and he kept going doggedly toward the
point where the light had been. He says there wasn't a rod where a snail
couldn't have outrun him, and when the sky streaked red and orange and the
sun came up, he stood still and looked for a camp, and when he saw nothing
at all but bare rock and bushes of the kind that love barrenness, he
crawled under the nearest shade, tied William fast to the bush and slept.
You don't realize your thirst so much when you are asleep, and you are
saving your strength instead of wearing it out in the hot sun. He remained
there until the sun was almost out of sight behind a high peak. Then he
got up, untied William, mounted him without argument from either, and went
on, keeping to the direction in which he had seen the light.

Even the little brown mule was having trouble now. He wavered, he picked
his footing with great care when a declivity dipped before him; he stopped
every few yards and rested when he was making a climb. As for Casey, he
managed to hold himself on the narrow back of William, but that was all.
He understood perfectly that the next twenty-four hours would tell the
story for him and for William. He had a sturdy body however and a sturdy
brain that had never weakened its hold on facts. So he clung to his reason
and pushed fear away from him and said doggedly that he would go forward
as long as he could crawl or William could carry him, and he would die or
he would not die, as Fate decided for him. He wondered, too, about the
camp whose fire he had seen.

Then he saw the light. This time it burned suddenly clear and large and
very bright, away off to the left of him where he had by daylight noticed
a bare shale slide. The light seemed to stand in the very center of the
slide, no more than a mile away.

William stopped when Casey pulled on the reins he had fashioned from the
lead rope, and turned stiffly so that he faced the light. Casey kicked him
gently with his heels to urge him forward, for in spite of what his reason
told him about the shale slide his instinct was to go straight to the
light. But William began to shiver and tremble, and to swing slowly away.
Casey tried to prevent it, but the mule came out in William. He laid his
good ear flat along his neck as far as it would go, and took little,
nipping steps until he had turned with his tail to the light. Then he
thrust his fawn-colored muzzle to the stars and brayed and brayed, his
good ear working like a pump handle as he tore the sounds loose from his
vitals.

Casey cursed him in a whisper, having no voice left. He kicked William in
the flanks, having no other means of coercion at hand. But kicking never
yet altered the determination of a mule, and cursing a mule in a whisper
is like blowing your breath against the sail of a becalmed sloop. William
kept his tail toward the light, and furthermore he momentarily drew his
tail farther and farther from that spot. Now and then he would turn his
head and glance back, and immediately increase his pace a little. He was
long past the point where he had strength to trot, but he could walk, and
he did walk and carry Casey on his back, still whispering condemnation.

They did not travel all night. Casey looked at the Big Dipper and judged
it was midnight when they stopped on the brink of a deep canyon, halted
there in William's sheer despair because the light appeared suddenly on
the high point of a hill directly ahead of them. William's voice was gone
like Casey's, so that he, too, cursed in a whisper with a spasmodic
indrawing of ribs and a wheezing in his throat.

When it was plain that the mule had stopped permanently, Casey slid off
William's back and lay down without knowing or caring much whether he
would ever get up again. He said he wasn't hungry--much; but his mouth was
too full of tongue, he added grimly.

He lay and watched through half-closed, staring eyes the light that mocked
him so. His dulling senses told him that it was no camp fire, nor any
light made by human hands. He did not know what it was. He didn't care any
more. William crumpled up and lay down beside him, breathing heavily. It
was getting close to the end of things. Casey knew it, and he thinks
William knew it too.

The sun found them there and forced Casey to move. He sat up painfully,
the fight to live not yet burned out of him, and gazed dully at the
forbidding hills that closed around him like great, naked rock demons
watching to see him die for want of the things they withheld. Where he
remembered the light to have been when last he saw it was bleak, bare
rock. It was a devil's light and there was nothing friendly or human about
it.

He looked down into the canyon which William had refused to enter. A faint
interest revived within him because of a patch of green. Trees,--but they
might easily be junipers which will grow in dry canyons as readily, it
would seem, as in any other. He kept looking, because green was a great
relief from the monotonous gray and black and brown of the hills. It
seemed to him after awhile that he saw a small splotch of dead white.

In the barren lands two things will show white in the distance; a white
horse and a tent of white canvas. Casey shifted his position and squinted
long at the spot, then got up slowly with the help of a bush and took
William by the rope. William was on his feet, standing with head dropped,
apparently half asleep. Casey knew that William was simply waiting until
he could no longer stand.

Together they wabbled down the sloping canyon side and over a grassy
bottom to the trees, which were indeed juniper trees, but thriftier
looking than their brethren of the dry places. There was water, for
William smelled it at last and hurried forward with more briskness than
Casey could muster, eager though he was to reach the tent he saw standing
there under the biggest juniper.

Beside the tent was a water bucket of bright, new tin. A white granite
dipper stood in it. Casey drank sparingly and stopped when he would have
given all he ever possessed in the world to have gone on drinking until he
could hold no more. But he was not yet crazy with the thirst. So he
stopped drinking, filled a white granite basin and soused his head again
and again, sighing with sheer ecstasy at the drip of water down his back
and chest. After a little he drank two swallows more, put down the dipper
and went into the tent.



CHAPTER XV


We can all remember certain experiences that fill us with incredulity even
while we admit that the facts could be proved before a jury of twelve men.
So Casey Ryan, having lost his outfit and come so near to death that he
could barely keep his feet under him, walked into a tent and stood there
thinking it couldn't be true.

A folding camp chair stood near the opening, and Casey sat down from sheer
weakness while he looked about him. The tent was a twelve-by-fourteen,
which is a bit larger than one usually carries in a pack outfit. It had a
canvas floor soiled in strips where the most walking had been done, but
white under table and beds, which proved its newness. Casey was not
accustomed to seeing tents floored with canvas, and he stared at it for a
full half-minute before his eyes went to other things.

There was a folding camp table of the kind shown in the window display of
sporting-goods stores, but which seasoned campers find too wobbly for
actual comfort. The varnish still shone on legs and braces, which helped
to prove its newness. There was a two-burner oil stove with an
enamel-rimmed oven that was distinctly out of place in that country and
yet harmonized perfectly with the tent and furnishings. The dishes were
white enamel of aluminum, and there were boxes piled upon boxes, the
labels proclaiming canned things too expensive for ordinary eating. Two
spring cots with new blankets and white-cased pillows stood against the
tent wall, and beneath each cot sat two yellow pigskin suitcases with
straps and brass buckles. They would have been perfectly natural in a
Pullman sleeper, but even in his present stress Casey snorted disdainfully
at sight of them here.

Things were tumbled about in the disorder of inexperienced campers, but
everything was very new and clean except an array of dishes on the table,
which told Casey that one man had eaten at least three meals without
washing his dishes or putting away his surplus of food. Casey had eaten
nothing at all after that one toasted rabbit which he had choked down on
the evening when he gave up hope of finding the burros. He got up and
staggered stiffly to the table and picked up a piece of burned biscuit,
hard as flint.

While he mumbled a fragment of that he looked into various half-filled
cans, setting them one by one in a compact group on the table corner;
which was habit rather than conscious thought. Poisonous ptomaine lurked
in every one of them, which was a shame, since he had to discard half a
can of preserved peaches, half a can of roast beef, half a can of
asparagus tips, a can of chicken soup scarcely touched and two thirds of a
can of sweet potatoes. He salvaged a can of ripe olives which he thought
was good, a can of India relish and a can of sweet gherkins (both of the
fifty-seven varieties). You will see what I meant when I spoke of
expensive camp food.

There was cold coffee in a nickel percolater, and Casey poured himself a
cup, knowing well the risk of eating much just at first. It was while he
was unscrewing the top of the glass jar that held the sugar that he first
noticed the paper. It was folded and thrust into the sugar jar, and Casey
pulled it out and held it crumpled in his hand while he sweetened and
drank the coffee, forcing himself to take it slowly. When the cup was
empty to the last drop he went over and sat down on the edge of a spring
cot and unfolded the note. What he read surprised him a great deal and
puzzled him more. I leave it to you to judge why.

  "I saw it again last night in a different place. The last horse died
  yesterday down the canyon. You can have the outfit. I'm going to beat
  it out of here while the going's good. Fred."

"That's mighty damn funny," Casey muttered thickly. "You can--ask--" He
lay back luxuriously, with his head on the white pillow and closed his
eyes. The reaction from struggling to live had set in with the assurance
of his safety. He slept heavily, refreshingly.

He awoke to the craving for food, and immediately started a small fire
outside and boiled coffee in a nice new aluminum pail that held two quarts
and had an ornamental cover. The oil stove he dismissed from his mind with
a snort of contempt. And because nearly everything he saw was catalogued
in his mind as a luxury, he opened cans somewhat extravagantly and dined
off strange, delectable foods to which his palate was unaccustomed. He
still thought it was mighty queer, but that did not impair his appetite.

Afterwards he went out to look after William, remembering that horses were
said to have died in this place. William was almost within kicking
distance of the spring, as if he meant to keep an eye upon the water
supply even though that involved browsing off brush instead of wandering
down to good grass below the camp.

Casey knelt stiffly and drank from the spring, laving his face and head
afterward as if he never would get enough of the luxury of being wet and
cool. He rose and stood looking at William for a few minutes, then took
the lead rope and tied him to a juniper that stood near the spring. The
note had said that the last horse died down the canyon, the implication of
mystery lying heavy behind the words.

Casey went back to the tent and read the note through again twice,
studying each word as if he hoped to twist some added information out of
it. It sounded as though the writer had expected his partner back from
some trip and had left the note for him, since he had not considered it
necessary to explain what it was that he had seen again in a different
place. Casey wondered if it might not have been that strange light which
he himself had followed. Whatever it was, the fellow had not liked it. His
going had all the earmarks of flight.

Well, then, why had the last horse died down the canyon? Casey decided
that he would go and see, though he was not hankering for exercise that
day. He took a long drink of water, somewhat shamefacedly filled a new
canteen that lay on a pile of odds and ends near the tent door, and
started down the canyon. It couldn't be far, but he might want a drink
before he got back, and Casey had had enough of thirst.

He was not long in finding the horse that had died, and in fact all the
horses that had died. There had been four, and the manner of their death
was not in the least mysterious. They had been staked out to graze in a
luxurious patch of loco weed, which is reason enough why any horse should
die.

Of course, no man save an unmitigated tenderfoot would picket a horse on
loco, which looks very much like wild peavine and is known the West over
as the deadliest weed that grows. A little of it mixed with a diet of
grass will drive horses and cattle insane, and there is no authentic case
of recovery, that I ever heard, once the infection is complete. A lot of
it will kill,--and these poor beasts had actually been staked out to graze
upon it, I suppose because it looked nice and green, and the horses
liked it.

The performance matched very well the enamel-trimmed oil stove and the
tinned dainties and the expensive suitcases. Casey went back to camp
feeling as though he had stumbled upon a picnic of feeble-minded persons.
He wondered what in hell two men of such a type could be doing out there,
a hundred miles and more from an ice-cream soda and a barber's chair. He
wondered too how "Fred" had expected to get himself across that hundred
miles and more of dry desert country. He must certainly be afoot, and the
camp itself showed no sign of an emergency outfit having been assembled
from its furnishings.

Casey made sure of that, inspecting first the bedding and food and then
the cooking utensils. Everything was complete--lavishly so--for two men
who loved comfort. Even their sweaters were there; and Casey knew they
must have discovered that the nights can be cool even though the days are
hot, in that altitude. And there were two canteens of the size usually
carried by hikers.

Casey was so worried that he could not properly enjoy his supper of pâté
de foi gras and crackers, with pork and beans, plum pudding--eaten as
cake--and spiced figs and coffee. That night he turned over on his
spring-cot bed as often as if he had been lying on nettles, and when he
did sleep he dreamed horribly.

Next morning he set out with William and an emergency camp outfit to trace
if he could the missing men. The great outdoors of Nevada is not kind to
such as these, and Casey had too lately suffered to think with easy-going
optimism that they would manage somehow. They would die if they were left
to shift for themselves, and Casey could not pretend that he did not know
it.

But there was a difficulty in rescuing them, just as there had been in
rescuing the burros. Casey could not find their tracks, and so could not
follow them. He and William hunted the canyon from top to bottom and
ranged far out on the valley floor without discovering anything that could
be called the track of a man. Which was strange, too, in a country where
footprints are held for a long, long while by the soil,--as souvenirs of
man's passing, perhaps.

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.
  Art."

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
found.

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.



CHAPTER XVI


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
lose.

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
here?"

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
all.

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
own.

"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.



CHAPTER XVII


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
said.

"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
knows."

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
his name.

"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
shows."

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
git!"

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,
  Yours truly,
  LUCY LILY."

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
died.

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
any.

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."



CHAPTER XVIII


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
grin tolerantly.

"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, blasé 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.



CHAPTER XIX


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
destiny.

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
car.

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
Joe.

"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
hour.

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
car.

"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
me. Git!"

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
business--"

"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
September already."

"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.



CHAPTER XX


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
whatever.

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
mule.

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
well!"

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
again.

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
me!"

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
see that.

"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
fer stayin'.

"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
rockers.

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
hurt you--"

"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.
Always."

I think Casey was an awful fool to walk out and never let her know that he
heard that "Always."



CHAPTER XXI


"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
like."

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
ear?"

"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 piñon 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
prospectin'."

"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
a wabbit!"

"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.



CHAPTER XXII


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
'bacco."

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
September,19--.

"'2. That the undersigned locators are citizens of he United States or have
declared their intention to become such, and have discovered
mineral-bearing rock--!'"

"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.

  "'Locators
  Jack I. Gleason,
  Margaret Sutten.'

"Why--why-y--Good Lord!"

"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
fight."





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
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+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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