Part 3 out of 4
it gave a little, piteous whimper. "Take--Uvin Chal!" it
beseeched Bud with voice and starlike blue eyes together. "Take!"
There was that in the baby's tone, in the unbaby-like
insistence of its bright eyes, which compelled obedience. Bud had
never taken a baby of that age in his arms. He was always in fear
of dropping it, or crushing it with his man's strength, or
something. He liked them--at a safe distance. He would chuck
one under the chin, or feel diffidently the soft little cheek,
but a closer familiarity scared him. Yet when this baby wriggled
its other arm loose and demanded him to take, Bud reached out and
grasped its plump little red-sweatered body firmly under the
armpits and drew it forth, squirming with eagerness.
"Well, I'll tell the world I don't blame yuh for wanting to git
outa that hog's nest," said Bud, answering the baby's gleeful
Freed from his detaining grip on her shoulder, the squaw ducked
unexpectedly and scuttled away down the trail as fast as her old
legs would carry her; which was surprisingly speedy for one of
her bulk. Bud had opened his mouth to ask her again where she had
gotten that baby. He left it open while he stared after her
astonished until the baby put up a hand over one of Bud's eyes
and said "Pik-k?" with that distracting little quirk at the
corners of its lips.
"You son of a gun!" grinned Bud, in the tone that turned the
epithet in to a caress. "You dog gone little devil, you! Pik-k!
then, if that's what you want."
The squaw had disappeared into the thick under growth, leaving
a track like a hippo in the snow. Bud could have overtaken her,
of course, and he could have made her take the baby back again.
But he could not face the thought of it. He made no move at all
toward pursuit, but instead he turned his face toward Alpine,
with some vague intention of turning the baby over to the hotel
woman there and getting the authorities to hunt up its parents.
It was plain enough that the squaw had no right to it, else she
would not have run off like that.
Bud walked at least a rod toward Alpine before he swung short
around in his tracks and started the other way. "No, I'll be
doggoned if I will!" he said. "You can't tell about women, no
time. She might spank the kid, or something. Or maybe she
wouldn't feed it enough. Anyway, it's too cold, and it's going to
storm pretty pronto. Hey! Yuh cold. old-timer?"
The baby whimpered a little and snuggled its face down against
Bud's chest. So Bud lifted his foot and scraped some snow off a
nearby log, and set the baby down there while he took off his
coat and wrapped it around him, buttoning it like a bag over arms
and all. The baby watched him knowingly, its eyes round and dark
blue and shining, and gave a contented little wriggle when Bud
picked it up again in his arms.
"Now you're all right till we get to where it's warm," Bud
assured it gravely. "And we'll do some steppin', believe me. I
guess maybe you ain't any more crazy over that Injun smell on
yuh, than what I am--and that ain't any at all." He walked a
few steps farther before he added grimly, "It'll be some jolt for
Cash, doggone his skin. He'll about bust, I reckon. But we don't
give a darn. Let him bust if he wants to--half the cabin's
So, talking a few of his thoughts aloud to the baby, that
presently went to sleep with its face against his shoulder, Bud
tramped steadily through the snow, carrying Lovin Child in his
arms. No remote glimmer of the wonderful thing Fate had done for
him seeped into his consciousness, but there was a new, warm glow
in his heart--the warmth that came from a child's
unquestioning faith in his protecting tenderness.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN. CASH GETS A SHOCK
It happened that Cash was just returning to the cabin from the
Blind Ledge claim. He met Bud almost at the doorstep, just as Bud
was fumbling with the latch, trying to open the door without
moving Lovin Child in his arms. Cash may or may not have been
astonished. Certainly he did not betray by more than one quick
glance that he was interested in Bud's return or in the
mysterious burden he bore. He stepped ahead of Bud and opened the
door without a word, as if he always did it just in that way, and
Bud followed him in silence, stepped across the black line to
his own side of the room and laid Lovin Child carefully down so
as not to waken him. He unbuttoned the coat he had wrapped around
him, pulled off the concealing red cap and stared down at the
pale gold, silky hair and the adorable curve of the soft cheek
and the lips with the dimples tricked in at the corners; the
lashes lying like the delicate strokes of an artist's pencil
under the closed eyes. For at least five minutes he stood without
moving, his whole face softened into a boyish wistfulness. By the
stove Cash stood and stared from Bud to the sleeping baby, his
bushy eyebrows lifted, his gray eyes a study of incredulous
Then Bud drew a long breath and seemed about to move away from
the bank, and Cash turned abruptly to the stove and lifted a
rusty lid and peered into the cold firebox, frowning as though he
was expecting to see fire and warmth where only a sprinkle of
warm ashes remained. Stubbornness held him mute and outwardly
indifferent. He whittled shavings and started a fire in the cook
stove, filled the teakettle and set it on to boil, got out the
side of bacon and cut three slices, and never once looked toward
the bunk. Bud might have brought home a winged angel, or a
rainbow, or a casket of jewels, and Cash would not have permitted
himself to show any human interest.
But when Bud went teetering from the cabin on his toes to bring
in some pine cones they had saved for quick kindling, Cash craned
his neck toward the little bundle on the bunk. He saw a fat, warm
little hand stir with some baby dream. He listened and heard soft
breathing that stopped just short of being an infantile snore. He
made an errand to his own bunk and from there inspected the
mystery at closer range. He saw a nose and a little, knobby chin
and a bit of pinkish forehead with the pale yellow of hair above.
He leaned and cocked his head to one aide to see more--but at
that moment he heard Bud stamping off the snow from his feet on
the doorstep, and he took two long, noiseless strides to the dish
cupboard and was fumbling there with his back to the bunk when
Bud came tiptoeing in.
Bud started a fire in the fireplace and heaped the dry limbs
high. Cash fried his bacon, made his tea, and set the table for
his midday meal. Bud waited for the baby to wake, looking at his
watch every minute or two, and making frequent cautious trips to
the bunk, peeking and peering to see if the child was all right.
It seemed unnatural that it should sleep so long in the daytime.
No telling what that squaw had done to it; she might have doped
it or something. He thought the kid's face looked red, as if it
had fever, and he reached down and touched anxiously the hand
that was uncovered. The hand was warm--too warm, in Bud's
opinion. It would be just his luck if the kid got sick, he'd have
to pack it clear in to Alpine in his arms. Fifteen miles of that
did not appeal to Bud, whose arms ached after the two-mile trip
with that solid little body lying at ease in the cradle they
His back to that end of the room, Cash sat stiff-necked and
stubbornly speechless, and ate and drank as though he were alone
in the cabin. Whenever Bud's mind left Lovin Child long enough to
think about it, he watched Cash furtively for some sign of
yielding, some softening of that grim grudge. It seemed to him as
though Cash was not human, or he would show some signs of life
when a live baby was brought to camp and laid down right under
Cash finished and began washing his dishes, keeping his back
turned toward Bud and Bud's new possession, and trying to make it
appear that he did so unconsciously. He did not fool Bud for a
minute. Bud knew that Cash was nearly bursting with curiosity,
and he had occasional fleeting impulses to provoke Cash to speech
of some sort. Perhaps Cash knew what was in Bud's mind. At any
rate he left the cabin and went out and chopped wood for an hour,
furiously raining chips into the snow.
When he went in with his arms piled full of cut wood, Bud had
the baby sitting on one corner of the table, and was feeding it
bread and gravy as the nearest approach to baby food he could
think of. During occasional interludes in the steady procession
of bits of bread from the plate to the baby's mouth, Lovin Child
would suck a bacon rind which he held firmly grasped in a greasy
little fist. Now and then Bud would reach into his hip pocket,
pull out his handkerchief as a make-shift napkin, and would
carefully wipe the border of gravy from the baby's mouth, and
stuff the handkerchief back into his pocket again.
Both seemed abominably happy and self-satisfied. Lovin Child
kicked his heels against the rough table frame and gurgled
unintelligible conversation whenever he was able to articulate
sounds. Bud replied with a rambling monologue that implied a
perfect understanding of Lovin Child's talk--and incidentally
doled out information for Cash's benefit.
Cash cocked an eye at the two as he went by, threw the wood
down on his side of the hearth, and began to replenish the fire.
If he heard, he gave no sign of understanding or interest.
"I'll bet that old squaw musta half starved yah," Bud addressed
the baby while he spooned gravy out of a white enamel bowl on to
the second slice of bread. "You're putting away grub like a
nigger at a barbecue. I'll tell the world I don't know what
woulda happened if I hadn't run across yuh and made her hand yuh
"Ja--ja--ja--jah!" said Lovin Child, nodding his head
and regarding Bud with the twinkle in his eyes.
"And that's where you're dead right, Boy. I sure do wish you'd
tell me your name; but I reckon that's too much to ask of a
little geezer like you. Here. Help yourself, kid--you ain't in
no Injun camp now. You're with white folks now."
Cash sat down on the bench he had made for himself, and stared
into the fire. His whole attitude spelled abstraction;
nevertheless he missed no little sound behind him.
He knew that Bud was talking largely for his benefit, and he
knew that here was the psychological time for breaking the spell
of silence between them. Yet he let the minutes slip past and
would not yield. The quarrel had been of Bud's making in the
first place. Let Bud do the yielding, make the first step toward
But Bud had other things to occupy him just then. Having eaten
all his small stomach would hold, Lovin Child wanted to get down
and explore. Bud had other ideas, but they did not seem to count
for much with Lovin Child, who had an insistent way that was
scarcely to be combated or ignored.
"But listen here, Boy!" Bud protested, after he had for the
third time prevented Lovin Child from backing off the table. "I
was going to take off these dirty duds and wash some of the Injun
smell off yuh. I'll tell a waiting world you need a bath, and
your clothes washed."
"Ugh, ugh, ugh," persisted Lovin Child, and pointed to the
So Bud sighed and made a virtue of defeat. "Oh, well, they say
it's bad policy to take a bath right after yuh eat. We'll let it
ride awhile, but you sure have got to be scrubbed a plenty before
you can crawl in with me, old-timer," he said, and set him down
on the floor.
Lovin Child went immediately about the business that seemed
most important. He got down on his hands and knees and gravely
inspected the broad black line, hopefully testing it with tongue
and with fingers to see if it would yield him anything in the way
of flavor or stickiness. It did not. It had been there long
enough to be thoroughly dry and tasteless. He got up, planted
both feet on it and teetered back and forth, chuckling up at Bud
with his eyes squinted.
He teetered so enthusiastically that he sat down unexpectedly
and with much emphasis. That put him between two impulses, and
while they battled he stared round-eyed at Bud. But he decided
not to cry, and straightway turned himself into a growly bear and
went down the line on all fours toward Cash, growling "Ooooooo!"
as fearsomely as his baby throat was capable of growling.
But Cash would not be scared. He refused absolutely to jump up
and back off in wild-eyed terror, crying out "Ooh! Here comes a
bear!" the way Marie had always done--the way every one had
always done, when Lovin Child got down and came at them growling.
Cash sat rigid with his face to the fire, and would not look.
Lovin Child crawled all around him and growled his terriblest.
For some unexplainable reason it did not work. Cash sat stiff as
though he had turned to some insensate metal. From where he sat
watching--curious to see what Cash would do--Bud saw him
flinch and stiffen as a man does under pain. And because Bud had
a sore spot in his own heart, Bud felt a quick stab of
understanding and sympathy. Cash Markham's past could not have
been a blank; more likely it held too much of sorrow for the
salve of speech to lighten its hurt. There might have been a
"Aw, come back here!" Bud commanded Lovin Child gruffly.
But Lovin Child was too busy. He had discovered in his circling
of Cash, the fanny buckles on Cash's high overshoes. He was
investigating them as he had investigated the line, with fingers
and with pink tongue, like a puppy. From the lowest buckle he
went on to the top one, where Cash's khaki trousers were tucked
inside with a deep fold on top. Lovin Child's small forefinger
went sliding up in the mysterious recesses of the fold until they
reached the flat surface of the knee. He looked up farther,
studying Cash's set face, sitting back on his little heels while
he did so. Cash tried to keep on staring into the fire, but in
spite of himself his eyes lowered to meet the upward look.
"Pik-k?" chirped Lovin Child, spreading his fingers over one
eye and twinkling up at Cash with the other.
Cash flinched again, wavered, swallowed twice, and got up so
abruptly that Lovin Child sat down again with a plunk. Cash
muttered something in his throat and rushed out into the wind and
the slow-falling tiny white flakes that presaged the storm.
Until the door slammed shut Lovin Child looked after him,
scowling, his eyes a blaze of resentment. He brought his palms
together with a vicious slap, leaned over, and bumped his
forehead deliberately and painfully upon the flat rock hearth,
and set up a howl that could have been heard for three city
CHAPTER FIFTEEN. AND BUD NEVER GUESSED
That night, when he had been given a bath in the little zinc
tub they used for washing clothes, and had been carefully
buttoned inside a clean undershirt of Bud's, for want of better
raiment, Lovin Child missed something out of his sleepytime
cudding. He wanted Marie, and he did not know how to make his
want known to this big, tender, awkward man who had befriended
him and filled his thoughts till bedtime. He began to whimper and
look seekingly around the little cabin. The whimper grew to a cry
which Bud's rude rocking back and forth on the box before the
fireplace could not still.
"M'ee--take!" wailed Lovin Child, sitting up and listening.
"M'ee take--Uvin Chal!"
"Aw, now, you don't wanta go and act like that. Listen here,
Boy. You lay down here and go to sleep. You can search me for
what it is you're trying to say, but I guess you want your mama,
maybe, or your bottle, chances are. Aw, looky!" Bud pulled his
watch from his pocket--a man's infallible remedy for the
weeping of infant charges--and dangled it anxiously before
With some difficulty he extracted the small hands from the long
limp tunnels of sleeves, and placed the watch in the eager
"Listen to the tick-tick! Aw, I wouldn't bite into it... oh,
well, darn it, if nothing else'll do yuh, why, eat it up!"
Lovin Child stopped crying and condescended to take a languid
interest in the watch--which had a picture of Marie pasted
inside the back of the case, by the way. "Ee?" he inquired, with
a pitiful little catch in his breath, and held it up for Bud to
see the busy little second hand. "Ee?" he smiled tearily and
tried to show Cash, sitting aloof on his bench beside the head of
his bunk and staring into the fire. But Cash gave no sign that he
heard or saw anything save the visions his memory was conjuring
in the dancing flames.
"Lay down, now, like a good boy, and go to sleep," Bud
wheedled. "You can hold it if you want to--only don't drop it
on the floor--here! Quit kickin' your feet out like that! You
wanta freeze? I'll tell the world straight, it's plumb cold and
snaky outside to-night, and you're pretty darn lucky to be here
instead of in some Injun camp where you'd have to bed down with a
mess of mangy dogs, most likely. Come on, now--lay down like a
"M'ee! M'ee take!" teased Lovin Child, and wept again;
steadily, insistently, with a monotonous vigor that rasped Bud's
nerves and nagged him with a vague memory of something familiar
and unpleasant. He rocked his body backward and forward, and
frowned while he tried to lay hold of the memory. It was the
high-keyed wailing of this same man-child wanting his bottle, but
it eluded Bud completely. There was a tantalizing sense of
familiarity with the sound, but the lungs and the vocal chords of
Lovin Child had developed amazingly in two years, and he had lost
the small-infant wah-hah.
Bud did not remember, bat for all that his thoughts went back
across those two years and clung to his own baby, and he wished
poignantly that he knew how it was getting along; and wondered if
it had grown to be as big a handful as this youngster, and how
Marie would handle the emergency he was struggling with now: a
lost, lonesome baby boy that would not go to sleep and could not
Yet Lovin Child was answering every one of Bud's mute
questions. Lying there in his "Daddy Bud's" arms, wrapped
comically in his Daddy Bud's softest undershirt, Lovin Child was
proving to his Daddy Bud that his own man-child was strong and
beautiful and had a keen little brain behind those twinkling blue
eyes. He was telling why he cried. He wanted Marie to take him
and rock him to sleep, just as she had rocked him to sleep every
night of his young memory, until that time when he had toddled
out of her life and into a new and peculiar world that held no
By and by he slept, still clinging to the watch that had
Marie's picture in the back. When he was all limp and rosy and
breathing softly against Bud's heart, Bud tiptoed over to the
bunk, reached down inconveniently with one hand and turned back
the blankets, and laid Lovin Child in his bed and covered him
carefully. On his bench beyond the dead line Cash sat leaning
forward with his elbows on his knees, and sucked at a pipe gone
cold, and stared abstractedly into the fire.
Bud looked at him sitting there. For the first time since their
trails had joined, he wondered what Cash was thinking about;
wondered with a new kind of sympathy about Cash's lonely life,
that held no ties, no warmth of love. For the first time it
struck him as significant that in the two years, almost, of their
constant companionship, Cash's reminiscences had stopped abruptly
about fifteen years back. Beyond that he never went, save now and
then when he jumped a space, to the time when he was a boy. Of
what dark years lay between, Bud had never been permitted a
"Some kid--that kid," Bud observed involuntarily, for the
first time in over three weeks speaking when he was not compelled
to speak to Cash. "I wish I knew where he came from. He wants his
Cash stirred a little, like a sleeper only half awakened. But
he did not reply, and Bud gave an impatient snort, tiptoed over
and picked up the discarded clothes of Lovin Child, that held
still a faint odor of wood smoke and rancid grease, and, removing
his shoes that he might move silently, went to work
He washed Lovin Child's clothes, even to the red sweater suit
and the fuzzy red "bunny" cap. He rigged a line before the
fireplace--on his side of the dead line, to be sure--hung
the little garments upon it and sat up to watch the fire while
While he rubbed and rinsed and wrung and hung to dry, he had
planned the details of taking the baby to Alpine and placing it
in good hands there until its parents could be found. It was
stolen, he had no doubt at all. He could picture quite plainly
the agony of the parents, and common humanity imposed upon him
the duty of shortening their misery as much as possible. But one
day of the baby's presence he had taken, with the excuse that it
needed immediate warmth and wholesome food. His conscience did
not trouble him over that short delay, for he was honest enough
in his intentions and convinced that he had done the right thing.
Cash had long ago undressed and gone to bed, turning his back
to the warm, fire-lighted room and pulling the blankets up to his
ears. He either slept or pretended to sleep, Bud did not know
which. Of the baby's healthy slumber there was no doubt at all.
Bud put on his overshoes and went outside after more wood, so
that there would be no delay in starting the fire in the morning
and having the cabin warm before the baby woke.
It was snowing fiercely, and the wind was biting cold. Already
the woodpile was drifted under, so that Bud had to go back and
light the lantern and hang it on a nail in the cabin wall before
he could make any headway at shovelling off the heaped snow and
getting at the wood beneath. He worked hard for half an hour, and
carried in all the wood that had been cut. He even piled Cash's
end of the hearth high with the surplus, after his own side was
A storm like that meant that plenty of fuel would be needed to
keep the cabin snug and warm, and he was thinking of the baby's
comfort now, and would not be hampered by any grudge.
When he had done everything he could do that would add to the
baby's comfort, he folded the little garments and laid them on a
box ready for morning. Then, moving carefully, he crawled into
the bed made warm by the little body. Lovin Child, half wakened
by the movement, gave a little throaty chuckle, murmured "M'ee,"
and threw one fat arm over Bud's neck and left it there.
"Gawd," Bud whispered in a swift passion of longing, "I wish
you was my own kid!" He snuggled Lovin Child close in his arms
and held him there, and stared dim-eyed at the flickering shadows
on the wall. What he thought, what visions filled his vigil, who
CHAPTER SIXTEEN. THE ANTIDOTE
Three days it stormed with never a break, stormed so that the
men dreaded the carrying of water from the spring that became
ice-rimmed but never froze over; that clogged with sodden masses
of snow half melted and sent faint wisps of steam up into the
chill air. Cutting wood was an ordeal, every armload an
achievement. Cash did not even attempt to visit his trap line,
but sat before the fire smoking or staring into the flames, or
pottered about the little domestic duties that could not half
fill the days.
With melted snow water, a bar of yellow soap, and one leg of an
old pair of drawers, he scrubbed on his knees the floor on his
side of the dead line, and tried not to notice Lovin Child. He
failed only because Lovin Child refused to be ignored, but
insisted upon occupying the immediate foreground and in helping
--much as he had helped Marie pack her suit case one fateful
afternoon not so long before.
When Lovin Child was not permitted to dabble in the pan of
soapy water, he revenged himself by bringing Cash's mitten and
throwing that in, and crying "Ee? Ee?" with a shameless delight
because it sailed round and round until Cash turned and saw it,
and threw it out.
"No, no, no!" Lovin Child admonished himself gravely, and got
it and threw it back again.
Cash did not say anything. Indeed, he hid a grin under his
thick, curling beard which he had grown since the first frost as
a protection against cold. He picked up the mitten and laid it to
dry on the slab mantel, and when he returned, Lovin Child was
sitting in the pan, rocking back and forth and crooning "'Ock-a-
by! 'Ock-a-by!" with the impish twinkle in his eyes.
Cash was just picking him out of the pan when Bud came in with
a load of wood. Bud hastily dropped the wood, and without a word
Cash handed Lovin Child across the dead line, much as he would
have handed over a wet puppy. Without a word Bud took him, but
the quirky smile hid at the corners of his mouth, and under
Cash's beard still lurked the grin.
"No, no, no!" Lovin Child kept repeating smugly, all the while
Bud was stripping off his wet clothes and chucking him into the
undershirt he wore for a nightgown, and trying a man's size pair
of socks on his legs.
"I should say no-no-no! You doggone little rascal, I'd rather
herd a flea on a hot plate! I've a plumb good notion to hog-tie
yuh for awhile. Can't trust yuh a minute nowhere. Now look what
you got to wear while your clothes dry!"
"Ee? Ee?" invited Lovin Child, gleefully holding up a muffled
little foot lost in the depths of Bud's sock.
"Oh, I see, all right! I'll tell the world I see you're a
doggone nuisance! Now see if you can keep outa mischief till I
get the wood carried in." Bud set him down on the bunk, gave him
a mail-order catalogue to look at, and went out again into the
storm. When he came back, Lovin Child was sitting on the hearth
with the socks off, and was picking bits of charcoal from the
ashes and crunching them like candy in his small, white teeth.
Cash was hurrying to finish his scrubbing before the charcoal
gave out, and was keeping an eye on the crunching to see that
Lovin Child did not get a hot ember.
"H'yah! You young imp!" Bud shouted, stubbing his toe as he
hurried forward. "Watcha think you are--a fire-eater, for gosh
Cash bent his head low--it may have been to hide a chuckle.
Bud was having his hands full with the kid, and he was trying to
be stern against the handicap of a growing worship of Lovin Child
and all his little ways. Now Lovin Child was all over ashes, and
the clean undershirt was clean no longer, after having much
charcoal rubbed into its texture. Bud was not overstocked with
clothes; much traveling had formed the habit of buying as he
needed for immediate use. With Lovin Child held firmly under one
arm, where he would he sure of him, he emptied his "war-bag" on
the bunk and hunted out another shirt
Lovin Child got a bath, that time, because of the ashes he had
managed to gather on his feet and his hands and his head. Bud was
patient, and Lovin Child was delightedly unrepentant--until he
was buttoned into another shirt of Bud's, and the socks were tied
"Now, doggone yuh, I'm goin' to stake you out, or hobble yuh,
or some darn thing, till I get that wood in!" he thundered, with
his eyes laughing. "You want to freeze? Hey? Now you're goin' to
stay right on this bunk till I get through, because I'm goin' to
tie yuh on. You may holler--but you little son of a gun,
you'll stay safe!"
So Bud tied him, with a necktie around his body for a belt, and
a strap fastened to that and to a stout nail in the wall over the
bunk. And Lovin Child, when he discovered that it was not a new
game but instead a check upon his activities, threw himself on
his back and held his breath until he was purple, and then
screeched with rage.
I don't suppose Bud ever carried in wood so fast in his life.
He might as well have taken his time, for Lovin Child was in one
of his fits of temper, the kind that his grandmother invariably
called his father's cussedness coming out in him. He howled for
an hour and had both men nearly frantic before he suddenly
stopped and began to play with the things he had scorned before
to touch; the things that had made him bow his back and scream
when they were offered to him hopefully.
Bud, his sleeves rolled up, his hair rumpled and the
perspiration standing thick on his forehead, stood over him with
his hands on his hips, the picture of perturbed helplessness.
"You doggone little devil!" he breathed, his mind torn between
amusement and exasperation. "If you was my own kid, I'd spank
yuh! But," he added with a little chuckle, "if you was my own
kid, I'd tell the world you come by that temper honestly. Darned
if I wouldn't"
Cash, sitting dejected on the side of his own bunk, lifted his
head, and after that his hawklike brows, and stared from the face
of Bud to the face of Lovin Child. For the first time he was
struck with the resemblance between the two. The twinkle in the
eyes, the quirk of the lips, the shape of the forehead and,
emphasizing them all, the expression of having a secret joke,
struck him with a kind of shock. If it were possible... But, even
in the delirium of fever, Bud had never hinted that he had a
child, or a wife even. He had firmly planted in Cash's mind the
impression that his life had never held any close ties
whatsoever. So, lacking the clue, Cash only wondered and did not
What most troubled Cash was the fact that he had unwittingly
caused all the trouble for Lovin Child. He should not have tried
to scrub the floor with the kid running loose all over the place.
As a slight token of his responsibility in the matter, he watched
his chance when Bud was busy at the old cookstove, and tossed a
rabbit fur across to Lovin Child to play with; a risky thing to
do, since he did not know what were Lovin Child's little
peculiarities in the way of receiving strange gifts. But he was
lucky. Lovin Child was enraptured with the soft fur and rubbed it
over his baby cheeks and cooed to it and kissed it, and said "Ee?
Ee?" to Cash, which was reward enough.
There was a strained moment when Bud came over and discovered
what it was he was having so much fun with. Having had three days
of experience by which to judge, he jumped to the conclusion that
Lovin Child had been in mischief again.
"Now what yuh up to, you little scallywag? " he demanded. "How
did you get hold of that? Consarn your little hide, Boy..."
"Let the kid have it," Cash muttered gruffly. "I gave it to him."
He got up abruptly and went outside, and came in with wood for
the cookstove, and became exceedingly busy, never once looking
toward the other end of the room, where Bud was sprawled upon his
back on the bunk, with Lovin Child astride his middle, having a
high old time with a wonderful new game of "bronk riding."
Now and then Bud would stop bucking long enough to slap Lovin
Child in the face with the soft side of the rabbit fur, and Lovin
Child would squint his eyes and wrinkle his nose and laugh until
he seemed likely to choke. Then Bud would cry, "Ride 'im, Boy!
Ride 'im an' scratch 'im. Go get 'im, cowboy--he's your meat!"
and would bounce Lovin Child till he squealed with glee.
Cash tried to ignore all that. Tried to keep his back to it.
But he was human, and Bud was changed so completely in the last
three days that Cash could scarcely credit his eyes and his ears.
The old surly scowl was gone from Bud's face, his eyes held again
the twinkle. Cash listened to the whoops, the baby laughter, the
old, rodeo catch-phrases, and grinned while he fried his bacon.
Presently Bud gave a whoop, forgetting the feud in his play.
"Lookit, Cash! He's ridin' straight up and whippin' as he rides!
He's so-o-me bronk-fighter, buh-lieve me!"
Cash turned and looked, grinned and turned away again--but
only to strip the rind off a fresh-fried slice of bacon the full
width of the piece. He came down the room on his own side the
dead line, and tossed the rind across to the bunk.
"Quirt him with that, Boy," he grunted, "and then you can eat
it if you want."
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. LOVIN CHILD WRIGGLES IN
On the fourth day Bud's conscience pricked him into making a
sort of apology to Cash, under the guise of speaking to Lovin
Child, for still keeping the baby in camp.
"I've got a blame good notion to pack you to town to-day, Boy,
and try and find out where you belong," he said, while he was
feeding him oatmeal mush with sugar and canned milk. "It's pretty
cold, though ..." He cast a slant-eyed glance at Cash, dourly
frying his own hotcakes. "We'll see what it looks like after a
while. I sure have got to hunt up your folks soon as I can. Ain't
That salved his conscience a little, and freed him of the
uneasy conviction that Cash believed him a kidnapper. The weather
did the rest. An hour after breakfast, just when Bud was
downheartedly thinking he could not much longer put off starting
without betraying how hard it was going to be for him to give up
the baby, the wind shifted the clouds and herded them down to the
Big Mountain and held them there until they began to sift snow
down upon the burdened pines.
"Gee, it's going to storm again!" Bud blustered in. "It'll be
snowing like all git-out in another hour. I'll tell a cruel world
I wouldn't take a dog out such weather as this. Your folks may be
worrying about yuh, Boy, but they ain't going to climb my
carcass for packing yuh fifteen miles in a snow-storm and letting
yuh freeze, maybe. I guess the cabin's big enough to hold yuh
Cash lifted his eyebrows and pinched in his lips under his
beard. It did not seem to occur to Bud that one of them could
stay in the cabin with the baby while the other carried to Alpine
the news of the baby's whereabouts and its safety. Or if it did
occur to Bud, he was careful not to consider it a feasible plan.
Cash wondered if Bud thought he was pulling the wool over
anybody's eyes. Bud did not want to give up that kid, and he was
tickled to death because the storm gave him an excuse for keeping
it. Cash was cynically amused at Bud's transparency. But the kid
was none of his business, and he did not intend to make any
suggestions that probably would not be taken anyway. Let Bud
pretend he was anxious to give up the baby, if that made him feel
any better about it.
That day went merrily to the music of Lovin Child's chuckling
laugh and his unintelligible chatter. Bud made the discovery that
"Boy" was trying to say Lovin Child when he wanted to be taken
and rocked, and declared that he would tell the world the name
fit, like a saddle on a duck's back. Lovin Child discovered
Cash's pipe, and was caught sucking it before the fireplace and
mimicking Cash's meditative pose with a comical exactness that
made Bud roar. Even Cash was betrayed into speaking a whole
sentence to Bud before he remembered his grudge. Taken
altogether, it was a day of fruitful pleasure in spite of the
That night the two men sat before the fire and watched the
flames and listened to the wind roaring in the pines. On his side
of the dead line Bud rocked his hard-muscled, big body back and
forth, cradling Lovin Child asleep in his arms. In one tender
palm he nested Lovin Child's little bare feet, like two fat,
white mice that slept together after a day's scampering.
Bud was thinking, as he always thought nowadays, of Marie and
his own boy; yearning, tender thoughts which his clumsy man's
tongue would never attempt to speak. Before, he had thought of
Marie alone, without the baby; but he had learned much, these
last four days. He knew now how closely a baby can creep in and
cling, how they can fill the days with joy. He knew how he would
miss Lovin Child when the storm cleared and he must take him
away. It did not seem right or just that he should give him into
the keeping of strangers--and yet he must until the parents
could have him back. The black depths of their grief to-night Bud
could not bring himself to contemplate. Bad enough to forecast
his own desolateness when Lovin Child was no longer romping up
and down the dead line, looking where he might find some mischief
to get into. Bad enough to know that the cabin would again be a
place of silence and gloom and futile resentments over little
things, with no happy little man-child to brighten it. He crept
into his bunk that night and snuggled the baby up in his arms, a
miserable man with no courage left in him for the future.
But the next day it was still storming, and colder than ever.
No one would expect him to take a baby out in such weather. So
Bud whistled and romped with Lovin Child, and would not worry
about what must happen when the storm was past.
All day Cash brooded before the fire, bundled in his mackinaw
and sweater. He did not even smoke, and though he seemed to feel
the cold abnormally, he did not bring in any wood except in the
morning, but let Bud keep the fireplace going with his own
generous supply. He did not eat any dinner, and at supper time he
went to bed with all the clothes he possessed piled on top of
him. By all these signs, Bud knew that Cash had a bad cold.
Bud did not think much about it at first--being of the
sturdy type that makes light of a cold. But when Cash began to
cough with that hoarse, racking sound that tells the tale of
laboring lungs, Bud began to feel guiltily that he ought to do
something about it.
He hushed Lovin Child's romping, that night, and would not let
him ride a bronk at bedtime. When he was asleep, Bud laid him
down and went over to the supply cupboard, which he had been
obliged to rearrange with everything except tin cans placed on
shelves too high for a two-year-old to reach even when he stood
on his tiptoes and grunted. He hunted for the small bottle of
turpentine, found it and mixed some with melted bacon grease, and
went over to Cash's bunk, hesitating before he crossed the dead
line, but crossing nevertheless.
Cash seemed to be asleep, but his breathing sounded harsh and
unnatural, and his hand, lying uncovered on the blanket, clenched
and unclenched spasmodically. Bud watched him for a minute,
holding the cup of grease and turpentine in his hand.
"Say," he began constrainedly, and waited. Cash muttered
something and moved his hand irritatedly, without opening his
eyes. Bud tried again.
"Say, you better swab your chest with this dope. Can't monkey
with a cold, such weather as this."
Cash opened his eyes, gave the log wall a startled look, and
swung his glance to Bud. "Yeah--I'm all right," he croaked,
and proved his statement wrong by coughing violently.
Bud set down the cup on a box, laid hold of Cash by the
shoulders and forced him on his back. With movements roughly
gentle he opened Cash's clothing at the throat, exposed his hairy
chest, and poured on grease until it ran in a tiny rivulets. He
reached in and rubbed the grease vigorously with the palm of his
hand, giving particular attention to the surface over the
bronchial tubes. When he was satisfied that Cash's skin could
absorb no more, he turned him unceremoniously on his face and
repeated his ministrations upon Cash's shoulders. Then he rolled
him back, buttoned his shirts for him, and tramped heavily back
to the table.
"I don't mind seeing a man play the mule when he's well," he
grumbled, "but he's got a right to call it a day when he gits
down sick. I ain't going to be bothered burying no corpses, in
weather like this. I'll tell the world I ain't!"
He went searching on all the shelves for something more that he
could give Cash. He found a box of liver pills, a bottle of
Jamaica ginger, and some iodine--not an encouraging array for
a man fifteen miles of untrodden snow from the nearest human
habitation. He took three of the liver pills--judging them by
size rather than what might be their composition--and a cup of
water to Cash and commanded him to sit up and swallow them. When
this was accomplished, Bud felt easier as to his conscience,
though he was still anxious over the possibilities in that cough.
Twice in the night he got up to put more wood on the fire and
to stand beside Cash's bed and listen to his breathing.
Pneumonia, the strong man's deadly foe, was what he feared. In
his cow-punching days he had seen men die of it before a doctor
could be brought from the far-away town. Had he been alone with
Cash, he would have fought his way to town and brought help, but
with Lovin Child to care for he could not take the trail.
At daylight Cash woke him by stumbling across the floor to the
water bucket. Bud arose then and swore at him for a fool and sent
him back to bed, and savagely greased him again with the bacon
grease and turpentine. He was cheered a little when Cash cussed
back, but he did not like the sound of his voice, for all that,
and so threatened mildly to brain him if he got out of bed again
without wrapping a blanket or something around him.
Thoroughly awakened by this little exchange of civilities, Bud
started a fire in the stove and made coffee for Cash, who drank
half a cup quite meekly. He still had that tearing cough, and his
voice was no more than a croak; but he seemed no worse than he
had been the night before. So on the whole Bud considered the
case encouraging, and ate his breakfast an hour or so earlier
than usual. Then he went out and chopped wood until he heard
Lovin Child chirping inside the cabin like a bug-hunting meadow
lark, when he had to hurry in before Lovin Child crawled off the
bunk and got into some mischief.
For a man who was wintering in what is called enforced idleness
in a snow-bound cabin in the mountains, Bud Moore did not find
the next few days hanging heavily on his hands. Far from it.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. THEY HAVE THEIR TROUBLES
To begin with, Lovin Child got hold of Cash's tobacco can and
was feeding it by small handfuls to the flames, when Bud caught
him. He yelled when Bud took it away, and bumped his head on the
floor and yelled again, and spatted his hands together and
yelled, and threw himself on his back and kicked and yelled;
while Bud towered over him and yelled expostulations and
reprimands and cajolery that did not cajole.
Cash turned over with a groan, his two palms pressed against
his splitting head, and hoarsely commanded the two to shut up
that infernal noise. He was a sick man. He was a very sick man,
and he had stood the limit.
"Shut up?" Bud shouted above the din of Lovin Child. "Ain't I
trying to shut him up, for gosh sake? What d'yuh want me to do?
--let him throw all the tobacco you got into the fire? Here,
you young imp, quit that, before I spank you! Quick, now--we've
had about enough outa you! You lay down there, Cash, and
quit your croaking. You'll croak right, if you don't keep covered
up. Hey, Boy! My jumpin' yellow-jackets, you'd drown a Klakon
till you couldn't hear it ten feet! Cash, you old fool, you shut
up, I tell yuh, or I'll come over there and shut you up! I'll
tell the world--Boy! Good glory! shut up-p!"
Cash was a sick man, but he had not lost all his
resourcefulness. He had stopped Lovin Child once, and thereby he
had learned a little of the infantile mind. He had a coyote skin
on the foot of his bed, and he raised himself up and reached for
it as one reaches for a fire extinguisher. Like a fire
extinguisher he aimed it, straight in the middle of the uproar.
Lovin Child, thumping head and heels regularly on the floor and
punctuating the thumps with screeches, was extinguished--
suddenly, completely silenced by the muffling fur that fell from
the sky, so far as he knew. The skin covered him completely. Not
a sound came from under it. The stillness was so absolute that
Bud was scared, and so was Cash, a little. It was as though Lovin
Child, of a demon one instant, was in the next instant snuffed
out of existence.
"What yuh done?" Bud ejaculated, rolling wild eyes at Cash.
The coyote skin rattled a little. A fluff of yellow, a spark of
blue, and "Pik-k?" chirped Lovin Child from under the edge, and
ducked back again out of sight
Bud sat down weakly on a box and shook his head slowly from one
side to the other. "You've got me going south," he made solemn
confession to the wobbling skin--or to what it concealed. "I
throw up my hands, I'll tell the world fair." He got up and went
over and sat down on his bunk, and rested his hands on his knees,
and considered the problem of Lovin Child.
"Here I've got wood to cut and water to bring and grub to cook,
and I can't do none of them because I've got to ride herd on you
every minute. You've got my goat, kid, and that's the truth. You
sure have. Yes, 'Pik-k,' doggone yuh--after me going crazy
with yuh, just about, and thinking you're about to blow your
radiator cap plumb up through the roof! I'll tell yuh right here
and now, this storm has got to let up pretty quick so I can pack
you outa here, or else I've got to pen you up somehow, so I can
do something besides watch you. Look at the way you scattered
them beans, over there by the cupboard! By rights I oughta stand
over yuh and make yuh pick every one of 'em up! and who was it
drug all the ashes outa the stove, I'd like to know?"
The coyote skin lifted a little and moved off toward the
fireplace, growling "Ooo-ooo-ooo!" like a bear--almost. Bud
rescued the bear a scant two feet from the flames, and carried
fur, baby and all, to the bunk. "My good lord, what's a fellow
going to do with yuh?" he groaned in desperation. "Burn yourself
up, you would! I can see now why folks keep their kids corralled
in high chairs and gocarts all the time. They got to, or they
wouldn't have no kids."
Bud certainly was learning a few things that he had come near
to skipping altogether in his curriculum of life. Speaking of
high chairs, whereof he had thought little enough in his active
life, set him seriously to considering ways and means. Weinstock-
Lubin had high chairs listed in their catalogue. Very nice high
chairs, for one of which Bud would have paid its weight in gold
dust (if one may believe his word) if it could have been set down
in that cabin at that particular moment. He studied the small
cuts of the chairs, holding Lovin Child off the page by main
strength the while. Wishing one out of the catalogue and into the
room being impracticable, he went after the essential features,
thinking to make one that would answer the purpose.
Accustomed as he was to exercising his inventive faculty in
overcoming certain obstacles raised by the wilderness in the path
of comfort, Bud went to work with what tools he had, and with the
material closest to his hand. Crude tools they were, and crude
materials--like using a Stilson wrench to adjust a carburetor,
he told Lovin Child who tagged him up and down the cabin. An axe,
a big jack-knife, a hammer and some nails left over from building
their sluice boxes, these were the tools. He took the axe first,
and having tied Lovin Child to the leg of his bunk for safety's
sake, he went out and cut down four young oaks behind the cabin,
lopped off the branches and brought them in for chair legs. He
emptied a dynamite box of odds and ends, scrubbed it out and left
it to dry while he mounted the four legs, with braces of the
green oak and a skeleton frame on top. Then he knocked one end
out of the box, padded the edges of the box with burlap, and set
Lovin Child in his new high chair.
He was tempted to call Cash's attention to his handiwork, but
Cash was too sick to be disturbed, even if the atmosphere between
them had been clear enough for easy converse. So he stifled the
impulse and addressed himself to Lovin Child, which did just as
Things went better after that. Bud could tie the baby in the
chair, give him a tin cup and a spoon and a bacon rind, and go
out to the woodpile feeling reasonably certain that the house
would not be set afire during his absence. He could cook a meal
in peace, without fear of stepping on the baby. And Cash could
lie as close as he liked to the edge of the bed without running
the risk of having his eyes jabbed with Lovin Child's finger, or
something slapped unexpectedly in his face.
He needed protection from slight discomforts while he lay there
eaten with fever, hovering so close to pneumonia that Bud
believed he really had it and watched over him nights as well as
daytimes. The care he gave Cash was not, perhaps, such as the
medical profession would have endorsed, but it was faithful and
it made for comfort and so aided Nature more than it hindered.
Fair weather came, and days of melting snow. But they served
only to increase Bud's activities at the woodpile and in hunting
small game close by, while Lovin Child took his nap and Cash was
drowsing. Sometimes he would bundle the baby in an extra sweater
and take him outside and let him wallow in the snow while Bud cut
wood and piled it on the sheltered side of the cabin wall, a
reserve supply to draw on in an emergency.
It may have been the wet snow--more likely it was the cabin
air filled with germs of cold. Whatever it was, Lovin Child
caught cold and coughed croupy all one night, and fretted and
would not sleep. Bud anointed him as he had anointed Cash, and
rocked him in front of the fire, and met the morning hollow-eyed
and haggard. A great fear tore at his heart. Cash read it in his
eyes, in the tones of his voice when he crooned soothing
fragments of old range songs to the baby, and at daylight Cash
managed to dress himself and help; though what assistance he
could possibly give was not all clear to him, until he saw Bud's
glance rove anxiously toward the cook-stove.
"Hand the kid over here," Cash said huskily. "I can hold him
while you get yourself some breakfast"
Bud looked at him stupidly, hesitated, looked down at the
flushed little face, and carefully laid him in Cash's
outstretched arms. He got up stiffly--he had been sitting
there a long time, while the baby slept uneasily--and went on
his tiptoes to make a fire in the stove.
He did not wonder at Cash's sudden interest, his abrupt change
from moody aloofness to his old partnership in trouble as well as
in good fortune. He knew that Cash was not fit for the task,
however, and he hurried the coffee to the boiling point that he
might the sooner send Cash back to bed. He gulped down a cup of
coffee scalding hot, ate a few mouthfuls of bacon and bread, and
brought a cup back to Cash.
"What d'yuh think about him?" he whispered, setting the coffee
down on a box so that he could take Lovin Child. "Pretty sick
kid, don't yuh think?"
"It's the same cold I got," Cash breathed huskily. "Swallows
like it's his throat, mostly. What you doing for him?"
"Bacon grease and turpentine, " Bud answered him despondently.
"I'll have to commence on something else, though--turpentine's
played out I used it most all up on you."
"Coal oil's good. And fry up a mess of onions and make a
poultice." He put up a shaking hand before his mouth and coughed
behind it, stifling the sound all he could.
Lovin Child threw up his hands and whimpered, and Bud went over
to him anxiously. "His little hands are awful hot," he muttered.
"He's been that way all night."
Cash did not answer. There did not seem anything to say that
would do any good. He drank his coffee and eyed the two, lifting
his eyebrows now and then at some new thought.
"Looks like you, Bud," he croaked suddenly. "Eyes, expression,
mouth--you could pass him off as your own kid, if you wanted
"I might, at that," Bud whispered absently. "I've been seeing
you in him, though, all along. He lifts his eyebrows same way you
"Ain't like me," Cash denied weakly, studying Lovin Child.
"Give him here again, and you go fry them onions. I would--if
I had the strength to get around."
"Well, you ain't got the strength. You go back to bed, and I'll
lay him in with yuh. I guess he'll lay quiet. He likes to be
cuddled up close."
In this way was the feud forgotten. Save for the strange habits
imposed by sickness and the care of a baby, they dropped back
into their old routine, their old relationship. They walked over
the dead line heedlessly, forgetting why it came to be there.
Cabin fever no longer tormented them with its magnifying of
little things. They had no time or thought for trifles; a bigger
matter than their own petty prejudices concerned them. They were
fighting side by side, with the Old Man of the Scythe--the Old
Man who spares not.
Lovin Child was pulling farther and farther away from them.
They knew it, they felt it in his hot little hands, they read it
in his fever-bright eyes. But never once did they admit it, even
to themselves. They dared not weaken their efforts with any
admissions of a possible defeat. They just watched, and fought
the fever as best they could, and waited, and kept hope alive
with fresh efforts.
Cash was tottery weak from his own illness, and he could not
speak above a whisper. Yet he directed, and helped soothe the
baby with baths and slow strokings of his hot forehead, and
watched him while Bud did the work, and worried because he could
not do more.
They did not know when Lovin Child took a turn for the better,
except that they realized the fever was broken. But his
listlessness, the unnatural drooping of his whole body, scared
them worse than before. Night and day one or the other watched
over him, trying to anticipate every need, every vagrant whim.
When he began to grow exacting, they were still worried, though
they were too fagged to abase themselves before him as much as
they would have liked.
Then Bud was seized with an attack of the grippe before Lovin
Child had passed the stage of wanting to be held every waking
minute. Which burdened Cash with extra duties long before he was
Christmas came, and they did not know it until the day was half
gone, when Cash happened to remember. He went out then and groped
in the snow and found a little spruce, hacked it off close to the
drift and brought it in, all loaded with frozen snow, to dry
before the fire. The kid, he declared, should have a Christmas
tree, anyway. He tied a candle to the top, and a rabbit skin to
the bottom, and prunes to the tip of the branches, and tried to
rouse a little enthusiasm in Lovin Child. But Lovin Child was not
interested in the makeshift. He was crying because Bud had told
him to keep out of the ashes, and he would not look.
So Cash untied the candle and the fur and the prunes, threw
them across the room, and peevishly stuck the tree in the
"Remember what you said about the Fourth of July down in
Arizona, Bud?" he asked glumly. "Well, this is the same kind of
Christmas." Bud merely grunted.
CHAPTER NINETEEN. BUD FACES FACTS
New Year came and passed and won nothing in the way of
celebration from the three in Nelson's cabin. Bud's bones ached,
his head ached, the flesh on his body ached. He could take no
comfort anywhere, under any circumstances. He craved clean white
beds and soft-footed attendance and soothing silence and cool
drinks--and he could have none of those things. His bedclothes
were heavy upon his aching limbs; he had to wait upon his own
wants; the fretful crying of Lovin Child or the racking cough of
Cash was always in his ears, and as for cool drinks, there was
ice water in plenty, to be sure, but nothing else. Fair weather
came, and storms, and cold: more storms and cold than fair
weather. Neither man ever mentioned taking Lovin Child to Alpine.
At first, because it was out of the question; after that, because
they did not want to mention it. They frequently declared that
Lovin Child was a pest, and there were times when Bud spoke
darkly of spankings--which did not materialize. But though
they did not mention it, they knew that Lovin Child was something
more; something endearing, something humanizing, something they
needed to keep them immune from cabin fever.
Some time in February it was that Cash fashioned a crude pair
of snowshoes and went to town, returning the next day. He came
home loaded with little luxuries for Lovin Child, and with the
simpler medicines for other emergencies which they might have to
meet, but he did not bring any word of seeking parents. The
nearest he came to mentioning the subject was after supper, when
the baby was asleep and Bud trying to cut a small pair of
overalls from a large piece of blue duck that Cash had brought.
The shears were dull, and Lovin Child's little rompers were so
patched and shapeless that they were not much of a guide, so Bud
was swearing softly while he worked.
"I didn't hear a word said about that kid being lost," Cash
volunteered, after he had smoked and watched Bud awhile.
"Couldn't have been any one around Alpine, or I'd have heard
something about it."
Bud frowned, though it may have been over his tailoring
"Can't tell--the old squaw mighta been telling the truth,"
he said reluctantly. "I s'pose they do, once in awhile. She said
his folks were dead." And he added defiantly, with a quick glance
at Cash, "Far as I'm concerned, I'm willing to let it ride that
way. The kid's doing all right."
"Yeah. I got some stuff for that rash on his chest. I wouldn't
wonder if we been feeding him too heavy on bacon rinds, Bud. They
say too much of that kinda thing is bad for kids. Still, he seems
to feel all right."
"I'll tell the world he does! He got hold of your old pipe to-day
and was suckin' away on it, I don't know how long. Never
feazed him, either. If he can stand that, I guess he ain't very
"Yeah. I laid that pipe aside myself because it was getting so
dang strong. Ain't you getting them pants too long in the seat,
Bud? They look to me big enough for a ten-year-old."
"I guess you don't realize how that kid's growing!" Bud
defended his handiwork "And time I get the seams sewed, and the
side lapped over for buttons--"
"Yeah. Where you going to get the buttons? You never sent for
"Oh, I'll find buttons. You can donate a couple off some of
your clothes, if you want to right bad."
"Who? Me? I ain't got enough now to keep the wind out," Cash
protested. "Lemme tell yuh something, Bud. If you cut more
saving, you'd have enough cloth there for two pair of pants. You
don't need to cut the legs so long as all that. They'll drag on
the ground so the poor kid can't walk in 'em without falling all
"Well, good glory! Who's making these pants? Me, or you?" Bud
exploded. "If you think you can do any better job than what I'm
doing, go get yourself some cloth and fly at it! Don't think you
can come hornin' in on my job, 'cause I'll tell the world right
out loud, you can't."
"Yeah--that's right! Go to bellerin' around like a bull
buffalo, and wake the kid up! I don't give a cuss how you make'm.
Go ahead and have the seat of his pants hangin' down below his
knees if you want to!" Cash got up and moved huffily over to the
fireplace and sat with his back to Bud.
"Maybe I will, at that," Bud retorted. "You can't come around
and grab the job I'm doing." Bud was jabbing a needle eye toward
the end of a thread too coarse for it, and it did not improve his
temper to have the thread refuse to pass through the eye.
Neither did it please him to find, when all the seams were
sewn, that the little overalls failed to look like any garment he
had ever seen on a child. When he tried them on Lovin Child, next
day, Cash took one look and bolted from the cabin with his hand
over his mouth.
When he came back an hour or so later, Lovin Child was wearing
his ragged rompers, and Bud was bent over a Weinstock-Lubin
mail-order catalogue. He had a sheet of paper half filled with
items, and was licking his pencil and looking for more. He looked
up and grinned a little, and asked Cash when he was going to town
again; and added that he wanted to mail a letter.
"Yeah. Well, the trail's just as good now as it was when I took
it," Cash hinted strongly. "When I go to town again, it'll be
because I've got to go. And far as I can see, I won't have to go
for quite some time."
So Bud rose before daylight the next morning, tied on the
makeshift snowshoes Cash had contrived, and made the fifteen-mile
trip to Alpine and back before dark. He brought candy for Lovin
Child, tended that young gentleman through a siege of indigestion
because of the indulgence, and waited impatiently until he was
fairly certain that the wardrobe he had ordered had arrived at
the post-office. When he had counted off the two days required
for a round trip to Sacramento, and had added three days for
possible delay in filling the order, he went again, and returned
in one of the worst storms of the winter.
But he did not grudge the hardship, for he carried on his back
a bulky bundle of clothes for Lovin Child; enough to last the
winter through, and some to spare; a woman would have laughed at
some of the things he chose: impractical, dainty garments that
Bud could not launder properly to save his life. But there were
little really truly overalls, in which Lovin Child promptly
developed a strut that delighted the men and earned him the title
of Old Prospector. And there were little shirts and stockings and
nightgowns and a pair of shoes, and a toy or two that failed to
interest him at all, after the first inspection.
It began to look as though Bud had deliberately resolved upon
carrying a guilty conscience all the rest of his life. He had
made absolutely no effort to trace the parents of Lovin Child
when he was in town. On the contrary he had avoided all casual
conversation, for fear some one might mention the fact that a
child had been lost. He had been careful not to buy anything in
the town that would lead one to suspect that he had a child
concealed upon his premises, and he had even furnished what he
called an alibi when he bought the candy, professing to own an
inordinately sweet tooth.
Cash cast his eyes over the stock of baby clothes which Bud
gleefully unwrapped on his bunk, and pinched out a smile under
"Well, if the kid stays till he wears out all them clothes,
we'll just about have to give him a share in the company," he
Bud looked up in quick jealousy. "What's mine's his, and I own
a half interest in both claims. I guess that'll feed him--if
they pan out anything," he retorted. "Come here, Boy, and let's
try this suit on. Looks pretty small to me--marked three year,
but I reckon they don't grow 'em as husky as you, back where they
make all these clothes."
"Yeah. But you ought to put it in writing, Bud. S'pose anything
happened to us both--and it might. Mining's always got its
risky side, even cutting out sickness, which we've had a big
sample of right this winter. Well, the kid oughta have some
security in case anything did happen. Now--"
Bud looked thoughtfully down at the fuzzy yellow head that did
not come much above his knee.
"Well, how yuh going to do anything like that without giving it
away that we've got him? Besides, what name'd we give him in the
company? No, sir, Cash, he gets what I've got, and I'll smash any
damn man that tries to get it away from him. But we can't get out
any legal papers--"
"Yeah. But we can make our wills, can't we? And I don't know
where you get the idea, Bud, that you've got the whole say about
him. We're pardners, ain't we? Share and share alike. Mines,
mules, grub--kids--equal shares goes."
"That's where you're dead wrong. Mines and mules and grub is
all right, but when it comes to this old Lovin Man, why--who
was it found him, for gosh sake?"
"Aw, git out!" Cash growled. "Don't you reckon I'd have grabbed
him off that squaw as quick as you did? I've humored you along,
Bud, and let you hog him nights, and feed him and wash his
clothes, and I ain't kicked none, have I? But when it comes to
"You ain't goin' to horn in there, neither. Anyway, we ain't
got so darn much the kid'll miss your share, Cash."
"Yeah. All the more reason why he'll need it I don't see how
you're going to stop me from willing my share where I please. And
when you come down to facts, Bud, why--you want to recollect
that I plumb forgot to report that kid, when I was in town. And I
ain't a doubt in the world but what his folks would be glad
"Forget that stuff!" Bud's tone was so sharp that Lovin Child
turned clear around to look up curiously into his face. "You know
why you never reported him, doggone yuh! You couldn't give him up
no easier than I could. And I'll tell the world to its face that
if anybody gets this kid now they've pretty near got to fight for
him. It ain't right, and it ain't honest. It's stealing to keep
him, and I never stole a brass tack in my life before. But he's
mine as long as I live and can hang on to him. And that's where I
stand. I ain't hidin' behind no kind of alibi. The old squaw did
tell me his folks was dead; but if you'd ask me, I'd say she was
lying when she said it. Chances are she stole him. I'm sorry for
his folks, supposing he's got any. But I ain't sorry enough for
'em to give him up if I can help it. I hope they've got more, and
I hope they've gentled down by this time and are used to being
without him. Anyway, they can do without him now easier than what
I can, because ..." Bud did not finish that sentence, except by
picking Lovin Child up in his arms and squeezing him as hard as
he dared. He laid his face down for a minute on Lovin Child's
head, and when he raised it his lashes were wet.
"Say, old-timer, you need a hair cut. Yuh know it?" he said,
with a huskiness in his voice, and pulled a tangle playfully.
Then his eyes swung round defiantly to Cash. "It's stealing to
keep him, but I can't help it. I'd rather die right here in my
tracks than give up this little ole kid. And you can take that as
it lays, because I mean it."
Cash sat quiet for a minute or two, staring down at the floor.
"Yeah. I guess there's two of us in that fix," he observed in his
dry way, lifting his eyebrows while he studied a broken place in
the side of his overshoe. "All the more reason why we should
protect the kid, ain't it? My idea is that we ought to both of us
make our wills right here and now. Each of us to name the other
for guardeen, in case of accident, and each one picking a name
for the kid, and giving him our share in the claims and anything
else we may happen to own." He stopped abruptly, his jaw sagging
a little at some unpleasant thought.
"I don't know--come to think of it, I can't just leave the
kid all my property. I--I've got a kid of my own, and if she's
alive--I ain't heard anything of her for fifteen years and
more, but if she's alive she'd come in for a share. She's a woman
grown by this time. Her mother died when she was a baby. I
married the woman I hired to take care of her and the house--
like a fool. When we parted, she took the kid with her. She did
think a lot of her, I'll say that much for her, and that's all I
can say in her favor. I drifted around and lost track of 'em. Old
woman, she married again, and I heard that didn't pan out,
neither. Anyway, she kept the girl, and gave her the care and
schooling that I couldn't give. I was a drifter.
"Well, she can bust the will if I leave her out, yuh see. And
if the old woman gets a finger in the pie, it'll be busted, all
right. I can write her down for a hundred dollars perviding she
don't contest. That'll fix it. And the rest goes to the kid here.
But I want him to have the use of my name, understand. Something-
or-other Markham Moore ought to suit all hands well enough."
Bud, holding Lovin Child on his knees, frowned a little at
first. But when he looked at Cash, and caught the wistfulness in
his eyes, he surrendered warm-heartedly.
"A couple of old he-hens like us--we need a chick to look
after," he said whimsically. "I guess Markham Moore ought to be
good enough for most any kid. And if it ain't, by gosh, we'll
make it good enough! If I ain't been all I should be, there's no
law against straightening up. Markham Moore goes as it lays--
hey, Lovins?" But Lovin Child had gone to sleep over his foster
fathers' disposal of his future. His little yellow head was
wabbling on his limp neck, and Bud cradled him in his arms and
held him so.
"Yeah. But what are we going to call him?" Methodical Cash
wanted the whole matter settled at one conference, it seemed.
"Call him? Why, what've we been calling him, the last two
"That," Cash retorted, "depended on what devilment he was into
when we called!"
"You said it all, that time. I guess, come to think of it--
tell you what, Cash, let's call him what the kid calls himself.
That's fair enough. He's got some say in the matter, and if he's
satisfied with Lovin, we oughta be. Lovin Markam Moore ain't half
bad. Then if he wants to change it when he grows up, he can."
"Yeah. I guess that's as good as anything. I'd hate to see him
named Cassius. Well, now's as good a time as any to make them
wills, Bud. We oughta have a couple of witnesses, but we can act
for each other, and I guess it'll pass. You lay the kid down, and
we'll write 'em and have it done with and off our minds. I dunno
--I've got a couple of lots in Phoenix I'll leave to the girl.
By rights she should have 'em. Lovins, here, 'll have my share in
all mining claims; these two I'll name 'specially, because I
expect them to develop into paying mines; the Blind Lodge,
A twinge of jealousy seized Bud. Cash was going ahead a little
too confidently in his plans for the kid. He did not want to hurt
old Cash's feelings, and of course he needed Cash's assistance if
he kept Lovin Child for his own. But Cash needn't think he was
going to claim the kid himself.
"All right--put it that way. Only, when you're writing it
down, you make it read 'child of Bud Moore' or something like
that. You can will him the moon, if you want, and you can have
your name sandwiched in between his and mine. But get this, and
get it right. He's mine, and if we ever split up, the kid goes
with me. I'll tell the world right now that this kid belongs to
me, and where I go he goes. You got that?"
"You don't have to beller at the top of your voice, do yuh? "
snapped Cash, prying the cork out of the ink bottle with his
jackknife. "Here's another pen point. Tie it onto a stick or
something and git to work before you git to putting it off."
Leaning over the table facing each other, they wrote steadily
for a few minutes. Then Bud began to flag, and finally he stopped
and crumpled the sheet of tablet paper into a ball. Cash looked
up, lifted his eyebrows irritatedly, and went on with his
Bud sat nibbling the end of his makeshift penholder. The
obstacle that had loomed in Cash's way and had constrained him to
reveal the closed pages of his life, loomed large in Bud's way
also. Lovin Child was a near and a very dear factor in his life
--but when it came to sitting down calmly and setting his
affairs in order for those who might be left behind, Lovin Child
was not the only person he must think of. What of his own
man-child? What of Marie?
He looked across at Cash writing steadily in his precise way,
duly bequeathing his worldly goods to Lovin; owning, too, his
responsibilities in another direction, but still making Lovin
Child his chief heir so far as he knew. On the spur of the moment
Bud had thought to do the same thing. But could he do it?
He seemed to see his own baby standing wistfully aloof, pushed
out of his life that this baby he had no right to keep might have
all of his affections, all of his poor estate. And Marie, whose
face was always in the back of his memory, a tearful, accusing
vision that would not let him be--he saw Marie working in some
office, earning the money to feed and clothe their child. And
Lovin Child romping up and down the cabin, cuddled and scolded
and cared for as best an awkward man may care for a baby--a
small, innocent usurper.
Bud dropped his face in his palms and tried to think the thing
out coldly, clearly, as Cash had stated his own case. Cash did
not know where his own child was, and he did not seem to care
greatly. He was glad to salve his conscience with a small
bequest, keeping the bulk--if so tenuous a thing as Cash's
fortune may be said to have bulk--for this baby they two were
hiding away from its lawful parents. Cash could do it; why
couldn't be? He raised his head and looked over at Lovin Child,
asleep in his new and rumpled little finery. Why did his own baby
come between them now, and withhold his hand from doing the same?
Cash finished, glanced curiously across at Bud, looked down at
what he had written, and slid the sheet of paper across.
"You sign it, and then if you don't know just how to word
yours, you can use this for a pattern. I've read law books enough
to know this will get by, all right. It's plain, and it tells
what I want, and that's sufficient to hold in court."
Bud read it over apathetically, signed his name as witness, and
pushed the paper back.
"That's all right for you," he said heavily. "Your kid is grown
up now, and besides, you've got other property to give her. But
--it's different with me. I want this baby, and I can't do
without him. But I can't give him my share in the claims, Cash. I
--there's others that's got to be thought of first."
CHAPTER TWENTY. LOVIN CHILD STRIKES IT RICH
It was only the next day that Bud was the means of helping
Lovin Child find a fortune for himself; which eased Bud's mind
considerably, and balanced better his half of the responsibility.
Cutting out the dramatic frills, then, this is what happened to
Lovin Child and Bud:
They were romping around the cabin, like two puppies that had a
surplus of energy to work off. Part of the time Lovin Child was a
bear, chasing Bud up and down the dead line, which was getting
pretty well worn out in places. After that, Bud was a bear and
chased Lovin. And when Lovin Child got so tickled he was
perfectly helpless in the corner where he had sought refuge, Bud
caught him and swung him up to his shoulder and let him grab
handfuls of dirt out of the roof.
Lovin Child liked that better than being a bear, and sifted
Bud's hair full of dried mud, and threw the rest on the floor,
and frequently cried "Tell a worl'!" which he had learned from
Bud and could say with the uncanny pertinency of a parrot.
He had signified a desire to have Bud carry him along the wall,
where some lovely lumps of dirt protruded temptingly over a
bulging log. Then he leaned and grabbed with his two fat hands at
a particularly big, hard lump. It came away in his hands and fell
plump on the blankets of the bunk, half blinding Bud with the
dust that came with it.
"Hey! You'll have all the chinkin' out of the dang shack, if
you let him keep that lick up, Bud," Cash grumbled, lifting his
eyebrows at the mess.
"Tell a worl'!" Lovin Child retorted over his shoulder, and
made another grab.
This time the thing he held resisted his baby strength. He
pulled and he grunted, he kicked Bud in the chest and grabbed
again. Bud was patient, and let him fuss--though in self-defense
he kept his head down and his eyes away from the expected dust
"Stay with it, Boy; pull the darn roof down, if yuh want.
Cash'll get out and chink 'er up again. "
"Yeah. Cash will not," the disapproving one amended the
statement gruffly. "He's trying to get the log outa the wall,
"Well, let him try, doggone it. Shows he's a stayer. I wouldn't
have any use for him if he didn't have gumption enough to tackle
things too big for him, and you wouldn't either. Stay with 'er,
Lovins! Doggone it, can't yuh git that log outa there nohow? Uh-
h! A big old grunt and a big old heave--uh-h! I'll tell the
world in words uh one syllable, he's some stayer."
"Tell a worl'!" chuckled Lovin Child, and pulled harder at the
thing he wanted.
"Hey! The kid's got hold of a piece of gunny sack or something.
You look out, Bud, or he'll have all that chinkin' out. There's
no sense in lettin' him tear the whole blame shack to pieces, is
"Can if he wants to. It's his shack as much as it's anybody's."
Bud shifted Lovin Child more comfortably on his shoulder and
looked up, squinting his eyes half shut for fear of dirt in them.
"For the love of Mike, kid, what's that you've got? Looks to me
like a piece of buckskin, Cash. Here, you set down a minute, and
let Bud take a peek up there."
"Bud--pik-k?" chirped Lovin Child from the blankets, where
Bud had deposited him unceremoniously.
"Yes, Bud pik-k." Bud stepped up on the bunk, which brought his
head above the low eaves. He leaned and looked, and scraped away
the caked mud. "Good glory! The kid's found a cache of some kind,
sure as you live!" And he began to claw out what had been hidden
behind the mud.
First a buckskin bag, heavy and grimed and knobby. Gold inside
it, he knew without looking. He dropped it down on the bunk,
carefully so as not to smash a toe off the baby. After that he
pulled out four baking-powder cans, all heavy as lead. He laid
his cheek against the log and peered down the length of it, and
jumped down beside the bunk.
"Kid's found a gold mine of his own, and I'll bet on it," he
cried excitedly. "Looky, Cash!"
Cash was already looking, his eyebrows arched high to match his
astonishment. "Yeah. It's gold, all right. Old man Nelson's
hoard, I wouldn't wonder. I've always thought it was funny he
never found any gold in this flat, long as he lived here. And
traces of washing here and there, too. Well!"
"Looky, Boy!" Bud had the top off a can, and took out a couple of
nuggets the size of a cooked Lima bean. "Here's the real stuff
"It's yours, too--unless--did old Nelson leave any folks,
Cash, do yuh know?"
"They say not. The county buried him, they say. And nobody ever
turned up to claim him or what little he left. No, I guess
there's nobody got any better right to it than the kid. We'll
inquire around and see. But seein' the gold is found on the
claim, and we've got the claim according to law, looks to me
"Well, here's your clean-up, old prospector. Don't swallow any,
is all. let's weigh it out, Cash, and see how much it is, just
for a josh."
Lovin Child had nuggets to play with there on the bed, and told
the world many unintelligible things about it. Cash and Bud
dumped all the gold into a pan, and weighed it out on the little
scales Cash had for his tests. It was not a fortune, as fortunes
go. It was probably all the gold Nelson had panned out in a
couple of years, working alone and with crude devices. A little
over twenty-three hundred dollars it amounted to, not counting
the nuggets which Lovin Child had on the bunk with him.
"Well, it's a start for the kid, anyway," Bud said, leaning
back and regarding the heap with eyes shining. "I helped him find
it, and I kinda feel as if I'm square with him now for not giving
him my half the claim. Twenty-three hundred would be a good price
for a half interest, as the claims stand, don't yuh think, Cash?"
"Yeah--well, I dunno's I'd sell for that. But on the showing
we've got so far--yes, five thousand, say, for the claims
would be good money. "
"Pretty good haul for a kid, anyway. He's got a couple of
hundred dollars in nuggets, right there on the bunk. Let's see,
Lovins. Let Bud have 'em for a minute."
Then it was that Lovin Child revealed a primitive human trait.
He would not give up the gold. He held fast to one big nugget,
spread his fat legs over the remaining heap of them, and fought
Bud's hand away with the other fist.
"No, no, no! Tell a worl' no, no, no!" he remonstrated
vehemently, until Bud whooped with laughter.
"All right--all right! Keep your gold, durn it. You're like
all the rest--minute you get your paws on to some of the real
stuff, you go hog-wild over it."
Cash was pouring the fine gold back into the buck skin bag and
the baking-powder cans.
"Let the kid play with it," he said. "Getting used to gold when
he's little will maybe save him from a lot of foolishness over it
when he gets big. I dunno, but it looks reasonable to me. Let him
have a few nuggets if he wants. Familiarity breeds contempt, they
say; maybe he won't get to thinkin' too much of it if he's got it
around under his nose all the time. Same as everything else. It's
the finding that hits a feller hardest, Bud--the hunting for
it and dreaming about it and not finding it. What say we go up to
the claim for an hour or so? Take the kid along. It won't hurt
him if he's bundled up good. It ain't cold to-day, anyhow."
That night they discussed soberly the prospects of the claim
and their responsibilities in the matter of Lovin Child's
windfall. They would quietly investigate the history of old
Nelson, who had died a pauper in the eyes of the community, with
all his gleanings of gold hidden away. They agreed that Lovin
Child should not start off with one grain of gold that rightfully
belonged to some one else--but they agreed the more cheerfully
because neither man believed they would find any close relatives;
a wife or children they decided upon as rightful heirs. Brothers,
sisters, cousins, and aunts did not count. They were presumably
able to look after themselves just as old Nelson had done. Their
ethics were simple enough, surely.
Barring, then, the discovery of rightful heirs, their plan was
to take the gold to Sacramento in the spring, and deposit it
there in a savings bank for one Lovins Markham Moore. They would
let the interest "ride" with the principal, and they would--
though neither openly confessed it to the other--from time to
time add a little from their own earnings. Bud especially looked
forward to that as a compromise with his duty to his own child.
He intended to save every cent he could, and to start a savings
account in the same bank, for his own baby, Robert Edward
Moore--named for Bud. He could not start off with as large a sum
as Lovins would have, and for that Bud was honestly sorry. But
Robert Edward Moore would have Bud's share in the claims, which
would do a little toward evening things up.
Having settled these things to the satisfaction of their
desires and their consciences, they went to bed well pleased with
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE. MARIE'S SIDE OF IT
We all realize keenly, one time or another, the abject poverty
of language. To attempt putting some emotions into words is like
trying to play Ave Maria on a toy piano. There are heights and
depths utterly beyond the limitation of instrument and speech
Marie's agonized experience in Alpine--and afterward--was
of that kind. She went there under the lure of her loneliness,
her heart-hunger for Bud. Drunk or sober, loving her still or
turning away in anger, she had to see him; had to hear him speak;
had to tell him a little of what she felt of penitence and
longing, for that is what she believed she had to do. Once she
had started, she could not turn back. Come what might, she would
hunt until she found him. She had to, or go crazy, she told
herself over and over. She could not imagine any circumstance
that would turn her back from that quest.
Yet she did turn back--and with scarce a thought of Bud. She
could not imagine the thing happening that did happen, which is
the way life has of keeping us all on the anxious seat most of
the time. She could not--at least she did not--dream that
Lovin Child, at once her comfort and her strongest argument for a
new chance at happiness, would in ten minutes or so wipe out all
thought of Bud and leave only a dumb, dreadful agony that hounded
her day and night.
She had reached Alpine early in the forenoon, and had gone to
the one little hotel, to rest and gather up her courage for the
search which she felt was only beginning. She had been too
careful of her money to spend any for a sleeper, foregoing even a
berth in the tourist car. She could make Lovin Child comfortable
with a full seat in the day coach for his little bed, and for
herself it did not matter. She could not sleep anyway. So she sat
up all night and thought, and worried over the future which was
foolish, since the future held nothing at all that she pictured
She was tired when she reached the hotel, carrying Lovin Child
and her suit case too--porters being unheard of in small
villages, and the one hotel being too sure of its patronage to
bother about getting guests from depot to hall bedroom. A deaf
old fellow with white whiskers and poor eyesight fumbled two or
three keys on a nail, chose one and led the way down a little
dark hall to a little, stuffy room with another door opening
directly on the sidewalk. Marie had not registered on her
arrival, because there was no ink in the inkwell, and the pen had
only half a point; but she was rather relieved to find that she
was not obliged to write her name down--for Bud, perhaps, to
see before she had a chance to see him.
Lovin Child was in his most romping, rambunctious mood, and
Marie's head ached so badly that she was not quite so watchful of
his movements as usual. She gave him a cracker and left him alone
to investigate the tiny room while she laid down for just a
minute on the bed, grateful because the sun shone in warmly
through the window and she did not feel the absence of a fire.
She had no intention whatever of going to sleep--she did not
believe that she could sleep if she had wanted to. Fall asleep
she did, however, and she must have slept for at least half an
hour, perhaps longer.
When she sat up with that startled sensation that follows
unexpected, undesired slumber, the door was open, and Lovin Child
was gone. She had not believed that he could open the door, but
she discovered that its latch had a very precarious hold upon the
worn facing, and that a slight twist of the knob was all it
needed to swing the door open. She rushed out, of course, to look
for him, though, unaware of how long she had slept, she was not
greatly disturbed. Marie had run after Lovin Child too often to
be alarmed at a little thing like that.
I don't know when fear first took hold of her, or when fear was
swept away by the keen agony of loss. She went the whole length
of the one little street, and looked in all the open doorways,
and traversed the one short alley that led behind the hotel.
Facing the street was the railroad, with the station farther up
at the edge of the timber. Across the railroad was the little,
rushing river, swollen now with rains that had been snow on the
higher slopes of the mountain behind the town.
Marie did not go near the river at first. Some instinct of
dread made her shun even the possibility that Lovin Child had
headed that way. But a man told her, when she broke down her
diffidence and inquired, that he had seen a little tot in a red
suit and cap going off that way. He had not thought anything of
it. He was a stranger himself, he said, and he supposed the kid
belonged there, maybe.
Marie flew to the river, the man running beside her, and three
or four others coming out of buildings to see what was the
matter. She did not find Lovin Child, but she did find half of
the cracker she had given him. It was lying so close to a deep,
swirly place under the bank that Marie gave a scream when she saw
it, and the man caught her by the arm for fear she meant to jump
Thereafter, the whole of Alpine turned out and searched the
river bank as far down as they could get into the box canyon
through which it roared to the sage-covered hills beyond. No one
doubted that Lovin Child had been swept away in that tearing,
rock-churned current. No one had any hope of finding his body,
though they searched just as diligently as if they were certain.
Marie walked the bank all that day, calling and crying and
fighting off despair. She walked the floor of her little room all
night, the door locked against sympathy that seemed to her
nothing but a prying curiosity over her torment, fighting back
the hysterical cries that kept struggling for outlet
The next day she was too exhausted to do anything more than
climb up the steps of the train when it stopped there. Towns and
ranches on the river below had been warned by wire and telephone
and a dozen officious citizens of Alpine assured her over and
over that she would be notified at once if anything was
discovered; meaning, of course, the body of her child. She did
not talk. Beyond telling the station agent her name, and that she
was going to stay in Sacramento until she heard something, she
shrank behind her silence and would reveal nothing of her errand
there in Alpine, nothing whatever concerning herself. Mrs. Marie
Moore, General Delivery, Sacramento, was all that Alpine learned
It is not surprising then, that the subject was talked out long
before Bud or Cash came down into the town more than two months
later. It is not surprising, either, that no one thought to look
up-stream for the baby, or that they failed to consider any
possible fate for him save drowning. That nibbled piece of
cracker on the very edge of the river threw them all off in their
reasoning. They took it for granted that the baby had fallen into
the river at the place where they found the cracker. If he had
done so, he would have been swept away instantly. No one could
look at the river and doubt that--therefore no one did doubt
it. That a squaw should find him sitting down where he had
fallen, two hundred yards above the town and in the edge of the
thick timber, never entered their minds at all. That she should
pick him up with the intention at first of stopping his crying,
and should yield to the temptingness of him just as Bud bad
yielded, would have seemed to Alpine still more unlikely; because
no Indian had ever kidnapped a white child in that neighborhood.
So much for the habit of thinking along grooves established by
Marie went to Sacramento merely because that was the closest
town of any size, where she could wait for the news she dreaded
to receive yet must receive before she could even begin to face
her tragedy. She did not want to find Bud now. She shrank from
any thought of him. Only for him, she would still have her Lovin
Child. Illogically she blamed Bud for what had happened. He had
caused her one more great heartache, and she hoped never to see
him again or to hear his name spoken.
Dully she settled down in a cheap, semi-private boarding house
to wait. In a day or two she pulled herself together and went out
to look for work, because she must have money to live on. Go home
to her mother she would not. Nor did she write to her. There,
too, her great hurt had flung some of the blame. If her mother
had not interfered and found fault all the time with Bud, they
would be living together now--happy. It was her mother who
had really brought about their separation. Her mother would nag
at her now for going after Bud, would say that she deserved to
lose her baby as a punishment for letting go her pride and self-
respect. No, she certainly did not want to see her mother, or any
one else she had ever known. Bud least of all.
She found work without much trouble, for she was neat and
efficient looking, of the type that seems to belong in a well-
ordered office, behind a typewriter desk near a window where the
sun shines in. The place did not require much concentration--a
dentist's office, where her chief duties consisted of opening the
daily budget of circulars, sending out monthly bills, and telling
pained-looking callers that the doctor was out just then. Her
salary just about paid her board, with a dollar or two left over
for headache tablets and a vaudeville show now and then. She did
not need much spending money, for her evenings were spent mostly
in crying over certain small garments and a canton-flannel dog
For three months she stayed, too apathetic to seek a better
position. Then the dentist's creditors became suddenly impatient,
and the dentist could not pay his office rent, much less his
office girl. Wherefore Marie found herself looking for work
again, just when spring was opening all the fruit blossoms and
merchants were smilingly telling one another that business was
Weinstock-Lubin's big department store gave her desk space in
the mail-order department. Marie's duty it was to open the mail,
check up the orders, and see that enough money was sent, and
start the wheels moving to fill each order--to the
satisfaction of the customer if possible.
At first the work worried her a little. But she became
accustomed to it, and settled into the routine of passing the
orders along the proper channels with as little individual
thought given to each one as was compatible with efficiency. She
became acquainted with some of the girls, and changed to a better
boarding house. She still cried over the wooh-wooh and the little
garments, but she did not cry so often, nor did she buy so many
headache tablets. She was learning the futility of grief and the
wisdom of turning her back upon sorrow when she could. The sight
of a two-year-old baby boy would still bring tears to her eyes,
and she could not sit through a picture show that had scenes of
children and happy married couples, but she fought the pain of it
as a weakness which she must overcome. Her Lovin Child was gone;
she had given up everything but the sweet, poignant memory of how
pretty he had been and how endearing.
Then, one morning in early June, her practiced fingers were
going through the pile of mail orders and they singled out one
that carried the postmark of Alpine. Marie bit her lips, but her
fingers did not falter in their task. Cheap table linen, cheap
collars, cheap suits or cheap something-or-other was wanted, she
had no doubt. She took out the paper with the blue money order
folded inside, speared the money order on the hook with others,
drew her order pad closer, and began to go through the list of
This was the list:--
XL 94, 3 Dig in the mud suits, 3 yr at 59c $1.77
XL 14 1 Buddy tucker suit 3 yr 2.00
KL 6 1 Bunny pumps infant 5 1.25
KL 54 1 Fat Ankle shoe infant 5 .98
HL 389 4 Rubens vests, 3 yr at 90c 2.70
SL 418 3 Pajamas 3 yr. at 59c 1.77
OL 823 1 Express wagon, 15x32 in. 4.25
For which money order is enclosed. Please ship at once.
R. E. MOORE,
Mechanically she copied the order on a slip of paper which she
put into her pocket, left her desk and her work and the store,
and hurried to her boarding house.
Not until she was in her own room with the door locked did she
dare let herself think. She sat down with the copy spread open
before her, her slim fingers pressing against her temples.
Something amazing had been revealed to her--something so
amazing that she could scarcely comprehend its full significance.
Bud--never for a minute did she doubt that it was Bud, for she
knew his handwriting too well to be mistaken--Bud was sending
for clothes for a baby boy!
"3 Dig in the mud suits, 3 yr--" it sounded, to the hungry
mother soul of her, exactly like her Lovin Child. She could see
so vividly just how he would look in them. And the size--she
certainly would buy than three-year size, if she were buying for
Lovin Child. And the little "Buddy tucker" suit--that, too,
sounded like Lovin Child. He must--Bud certainly must have him
up there with him! Then Lovin Child was not drowned at all, but
alive and needing dig-in-the-muds.
"Bud's got him! Oh, Bud has got him, I know he's got him!" she
whispered over and over to herself in an ecstasy of hope.
"My little Lovin Man! He's up there right now with his Daddy
A vague anger stirred faintly, flared, died almost, flared
again and burned steadily within her. Bud had her Lovin Child!
How did he come to have him, then, unless he stole him? Stole him
away, and let her suffer all this while, believing her baby was
dead in the river!
"You devil!" she muttered, gritting her teeth when that thought
formed clearly in her mind. "Oh, you devil, you! If you think you
can get away with a thing like that--You devil!"
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO. THE CURE COMPLETE
In Nelson Flat the lupines were like spilled bluing in great,
acre-wide blots upon the meadow grass. Between cabin and creek
bank a little plot had been spaded and raked smooth, and already
the peas and lettuce and radishes were up and growing as if they
knew how short would be the season, and meant to take advantage
of every minute of the warm days. Here and there certain plants
were lifting themselves all awry from where they had been pressed
flat by two small feet that had strutted heedlessly down the
The cabin yard was clean, and the two small windows were
curtained with cheap, white scrim. All before the door and on the
path to the creek small footprints were scattered thick. It was
these that Marie pulled up her hired saddle horse to study in hot
"The big brute!" she gritted, and got off and went to the cabin
door, walking straight-backed and every mental and physical fiber
of her braced for the coming struggle. She even regretted not
having a gun; rather, she wished that she was not more afraid of
a gun than of any possible need of one. She felt, at that minute,
as though she could shoot Bud Moore with no more compunction that
she would feel in swatting a fly.
That the cabin was empty and unlocked only made her blood boil
the hotter. She went in and looked around at the crude
furnishings and the small personal belongings of those who lived
there. She saw the table all set ready for the next meal, with
the extremely rustic high-chair that had DYNAMITE painted boldly
on the side of the box seat. Fastened to a nail at one side of
the box was a belt, evidently kept there for the purpose of
strapping a particularly wriggly young person into the chair.
That smacked strongly of Lovin Child, sure enough. Marie
remembered the various devices by which she had kept him in his
She went closer and inspected the belt indignantly. Just as she
expected--it was Bud's belt; his old belt that she bought for
him just after they were married. She supposed that box beside
the queer high chair was where he would sit at table and stuff
her baby with all kinds of things he shouldn't eat. Where was her
baby? A fresh spasm of longing for Lovin Child drove her from the
cabin. Find him she would, and that no matter how cunningly Bud
had hidden him away.
On a rope stretched between a young cottonwood tree in full
leaf and a scaly, red-barked cedar, clothes that had been washed