Now I don’t see, and possibly you won’t see, either, what the devil’s lantern had to do with Casey’s bad luck. Casey maintains rather stubbornly that it had a great deal to do with it. First, he says, it got him all off the trail following it, and was almost the death of him and William. Next, he declares that it drove him to Lucy Lily and had fully intended that he should be tied up to her. Then he suspects that it had something to do with Injun Jim’s dying just when he did, and he has another count or two against the lantern and will tell you them, and back them with much argument, if you nag him into it.
It taught him things, he says. And once, after we had talked the matter over and had fallen into silence, he broke out with a sentence I have never forgotten, nor the tone in which he said it, nor the way he glared into the fire, his pipe in his hand where he always had it when he was extremely in earnest.
“The three darndest, orneriest, damndest things on earth,” said Casey, as if he were intoning a text, “is a Ford, or a goat, or an Injun. You can ask anybody yuh like if that ain’t so.”
Casey was restless, and his restlessness manifested itself in a most unusual pessimism. Twice he picked up “float” that showed the clean indigo stain of silver bromyrite in spots the size of a split pea, and cast the piece from him as if it were so much barren limestone, without ever investigating to see where it had come from. Little as I know about mineral, I am sure that one piece at least was rich; high-grade, if ever I saw any. But Casey merely grunted when I spoke to him about it.
“Maybe it is. A coupla hundred ounces, say. What’s that, even with silver at a dollar an ounce? It ain’t good enough for Casey, and what I’m wastin’ my time for, wearing the heels off’n my shoes prospectin’ Starvation, is somethin’ I can’t tell yuh.” He looked at me with his pale-blue, unwinking stare for a minute.
“Er—I can—and I guess the quicker it’s out the better I’ll feel.”
He took out his familiar plug of tobacco, always nibbled around the edges, always half the size of his four fingers. I never saw Casey with a fresh plug in his pocket, and I never saw him down to one chew; it is one of the little mysteries in his life that I never quite solved.
“I been thinkin’ about that devil’s lantern we seen the other night,” he said, when he had returned to his pocket the plug with a corner gone. “They’s something funny about that—the way it went over there and stood on the Tippipahs again. I ain’t sooperstitious. But I can’t git things outa my head. I want to go hunt fer that mine of Injun Jim’s. This here is just foolin’ around—huntin’ silver. I want to see where that free gold comes from that he used to peddle. It’s mine—by rights. He was goin’ to tell me where it was, you recollect, and he woulda if I hadn’t overfed him on jam—or if that damn squaw hadn’t took a notion for marryin’. I let her stampede me—and that’s where I was wrong. I shoulda stayed.”