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.”
“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.