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   Chapter 17 No.17

Casey Ryan By B. M. Bower Characters: 15050

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


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 emphati

c.

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."

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