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Cabin Fever by B. M. Bower

Part 4 out of 4

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were flapping lazily in the little breeze. Marie stopped and
looked at them. A man's shirt and drawers, two towels gray for
want of bluing, a little shirt and a nightgown and pair of
stockings--and, directly in front of Marie, a small pair of
blue overalls trimmed with red bands, the blue showing white
fiber where the color had been scrubbed out of the cloth, the two
knees flaunting patches sewed with long irregular stitches such
as a man would take.

Bud and Lovin Child. As in the cabin, so here she felt the
individuality in their belongings. Last night she had been
tormented with the fear that there might be a wife as well as a
baby boy in Bud's household. Even the evidence of the mail order,
that held nothing for a woman and that was written by Bud's hand,
could scarcely reassure her. Now she knew beyond all doubt that
she had no woman to reckon with, and the knowledge brought relief
of a sort.

She went up and touched the little overalls wistfully, laid her
cheek against one little patch, ducked under the line, and
followed a crooked little path that led up the creek. She forgot
all about her horse, which looked after her as long as she was in
sight, and then turned and trotted back the way it had come,
wondering, no doubt, at the foolish faith this rider had in him.

The path led up along the side of the flat, through tall grass
and all the brilliant blossoms of a mountain meadow in June.
Great, graceful mountain lilies nodded from little shady tangles
in the bushes. Harebells and lupines, wild-pea vines and
columbines, tiny, gnome-faced pansies, violets, and the daintier
flowering grasses lined the way with odorous loveliness. Birds
called happily from the tree tops. Away up next the clouds an
eagle sailed serene, alone, a tiny boat breasting the currents of
the sky ocean.

Marie's rage cooled a little on that walk. It was so beautiful
for Lovin Child, up here in this little valley among the snow-
topped mountains; so sheltered. Yesterday's grind in that beehive
of a department store seemed more remote than South Africa.
Unconsciously her first nervous pace slackened. She found herself
taking long breaths of this clean air, sweetened with the scent
of growing things. Why couldn't the world be happy, since it was
so beautiful? It made her think of those three weeks in Big
Basin, and the never-forgettable wonder of their love--hers
and Bud's.

She was crying with the pain and the beauty of it when she
heard the first high, chirpy notes of a baby--her baby. Lovin
Child was picketed to a young cedar near the mouth of the Blind
ledge tunnel, and he was throwing rocks at a chipmunk that kept
coming toward him in little rushes, hoping with each rush to get
a crumb of the bread and butter that Lovin Child had flung down.
Lovin Child was squealing and jabbering, with now and then a real
word that he had learned from Bud and Cash. Not particularly nice
words--"Doggone" was one and several times he called the
chipmunk a "sunny-gun." And of course he frequently announced
that he would "Tell a worl'" something. His head was bare and
shone in the sun like the gold for which Cash and his Daddy Bud
were digging, away back in the dark hole. He had on a pair of
faded overalls trimmed with red, mates of the ones on the rope
line, and he threw rocks impartially with first his right hand
and then his left, and sometimes with both at once; which did not
greatly distress the chipmunk, who knew Lovin Child of old and
had learned how wide the rocks always went of their mark.

Upon this scene Marie came, still crying. She had always been
an impulsive young woman, and now she forgot that Lovin Child had
not seen her for six months or so, and that baby memories are
short. She rushed in and snatched him off the ground and kissed
him and squeezed him and cried aloud upon her God and her baby,
and buried her wet face against his fat little neck.

Cash, trundling a wheelbarrow of ore out to the tunnel's mouth,
heard a howl and broke into a run with his load, bursting out
into the sunlight with a clatter and upsetting the barrow ten
feet short of the regular dumping place. Marie was frantically
trying to untie the rope, and was having trouble because Lovin
Child was in one of his worst kicking-and-squirming tantrums.
Cash rushed in and snatched the child from her.

"Here! What you doing to that kid? You're scaring him to death
--and you've got no right!"

"I have got a right! I have too got a right!" Marie was clawing
like a wildcat at Cash's grimy hands. "He's my baby! He's mine!
You ought to be hung for stealing him away from me. Let go--
he's mine, I tell you. Lovin! Lovin Child! Don't you know Marie?
Marie's sweet, pitty man, he is! Come to Marie, boy baby!"

"Tell a worl' no, no, no!" yelled Lovin Child, clinging to

"Aw--come to Marie, sweetheart! Marie's own lovin' little
man baby! You let him go, or I'll--I'll kill you. You big

Cash let go, but it was not because she commanded. He let go
and stared hard at Marie, lifting his eyebrows comically as he
stepped back, his hand going unconsciously up to smooth his

"Marie?" he repeated stupidly. "Marie?" He reached out and laid
a hand compellingly on her shoulder. "Ain't your name Marie
Markham, young lady? Don't you know your own dad?"

Marie lifted her face from kissing Lovin Child very much
against his will, and stared round-eyed at Cash. She did not say

"You're my Marie, all right You ain't changed so much I can't
recognize yuh. I should think you'd remember your own father--
but I guess maybe the beard kinda changes my looks. Is this true,
that this kid belongs to you?"

Marie gasped. "Why--father? Why--why, father!" She leaned
herself and Lovin Child into his arms. "Why, I can't believe it!
Why--" She closed her eyes and shivered, going suddenly weak,
and relaxed in his arms. "I-I-I can't--"

Cash slid Lovin Child to the ground, where that young gentleman
picked himself up indignantly and ran as far as his picket rope
would let him, whereupon he turned and screamed "Sunny-gun!
sunny-gun!" at the two like an enraged bluejay. Cash did not pay
any attention to him. He was busy seeking out a soft, shady spot
that was free of rocks, where he might lay Marie down. He leaned
over her and fanned her violently with his hat, his lips and his
eyebrows working with the complexity of his emotions. Then
suddenly he turned and ducked into the tunnel, after Bud.

Bud heard him coming and turned from his work. Cash was not
trundling the empty barrow, which in itself was proof enough that
something had happened, even if Cash had not been running. Bud
dropped his pick and started on a run to meet him.

"What's wrong? Is the kid--?"

"Kid's all right" Cash stopped abruptly, blocking Bud's way.
"It's something else. Bud, his mother's come after him. She's out
there now--laid out in a faint."

"Lemme go." Bud's voice had a grimness in it that spelled
trouble for the lady laid out in a faint "She can be his mother a
thousand times--"

"Yeah. Hold on a minute, Bud. You ain't going out there and
raise no hell with that poor girl. Lovins belongs to her, and
she's going to have him. ... Now, just keep your shirt on a
second. I've got something more to say. He's her kid, and she
wants him back, and she's going to have him back. If you git him
away from her, it'll be over my carcass. Now, now, hold on!
H-o-l-d on! You're goin' up against Cash Markham now, remember!
That girl is my girl! My girl that I ain't seen since she was a
kid in short dresses. It's her father you've got to deal with
now--her father and the kid's grandfather. You get that? You be
reasonable, Bud, and there won't be no trouble at all. But my
girl ain't goin' to be robbed of her baby--not whilst I'm
around. You get that settled in your mind before you go out
there, or--you don't go out whilst I'm here to stop you."

"You go to hell," Bud stated evenly, and thrust Cash aside with
one sweep of his arm, and went down the tunnel. Cash, his
eyebrows lifted with worry and alarm, was at his heels all the

"Now, Bud, be calm!" he adjured as he ran. "Don't go and make a
dang fool of yourself! She's my girl, remember. You want to hold
on to yourself, Bud, and be reasonable. Don't go and let your

"Shut your damn mouth!" Bud commanded him savagely, and went on

At the tunnel mouth he stopped and blinked, blinded for a
moment by the strong sunlight in his face. Cash stumbled and lost
ten seconds or so, picking himself up. Behind him Bud heard Cash
panting, "Now, Bud, don't go and make--a dang fool--" Bud
snorted contemptuously and leaped the dirt pile, landing close to
Marie, who was just then raising herself dizzily to an elbow.

"Now, Bud," Cash called tardily when he had caught up with him,
"you leave that girl alone! Don't you lay a finger on her! That's

Bud lifted his lips away from Marie's and spoke over his
shoulder, his arms tightening in their hold upon Marie's
trembling, yielding body.

"Shut up, Cash. She's my wife--now where do you get off at?"

(That, o course, lacked a little of being the exact truth.
Lacked a few hours, in fact, because they did not reach Alpine
and the railroad until that afternoon, and were not remarried
until seven o'clock that evening.)

"No, no, no!" cried Lovin Child from a safe distance. "Tell a
worl' no, no!"

"I'll tell the world yes, yes!" Bud retorted ecstatically,
lifting his face again. "Come here, you little scallywag, and
love your mamma Marie. Cash, you old donkey, don't you get it
yet? We've got 'em both for keeps, you and me."

"Yeah--I get it, all right." Cash came and stood awkwardly
over them. "I get it--found my girl one minute, and lost her
again the next! But I'll tell yeh one thing, Bud Moore. The
kid's' goin' to call me grampaw, er I'll know the reason why!"

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