The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 2, page 3 of 10)

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Chapter 2

The ceremony ended, the onlookers came forward with pleasant words on their lips, pleasant smiles on their faces. The children filed by his couch, bashful yet sympathetic; the women murmured, the young men grasped his hand. Mescal flitted by with downcast eye, with shy smile, but no word.

"Your fever is gone," said August Naab, with his hand on Hare's cheek.

"It comes and goes suddenly," replied Hare. "I feel better now, only I'm oppressed. I can't breathe freely. I want air, and I'm hungry."

"Mother Mary, the lad's hungry. Judith, Esther, where are your wits? Help your mother. Mescal, wait on him, see to his comfort."

Mescal brought a little table and a pillow, and the other girls soon followed with food and drink; then they hovered about, absorbed in caring for him.

"They said I fell among thieves," mused Hare, when he was once more alone. "I've fallen among saints as well." He felt that he could never repay this August Naab. "If only I might live!" he ejaculated. How restful was this cottage garden! The green sward was a balm to his eyes. Flowers new to him, though of familiar springtime hue, lifted fresh faces everywhere; fruit-trees, with branches intermingling, blended the white and pink of blossoms. There was the soft laughter of children in the garden. Strange birds darted among the trees. Their notes were new, but their song was the old delicious monotone--the joy of living and love of spring. A green-bowered irrigation ditch led by the porch and unseen water flowed gently, with gurgle and tinkle, with music in its hurry. Innumerable bees murmured amid the blossoms.

Hare fell asleep. Upon returning drowsily to consciousness he caught through half-open eyes the gleam of level shafts of gold sunlight low down in the trees; then he felt himself being carried into the house to be laid upon a bed. Some one gently unbuttoned his shirt at the neck, removed his shoes, and covered him with a blanket. Before he had fully awakened he was left alone, and quiet settled over the house. A languorous sense of ease and rest lulled him to sleep again. In another moment, it seemed to him, he was awake; bright daylight streamed through the window, and a morning breeze stirred the faded curtain.

The drag in his breathing which was always a forerunner of a coughing-spell warned him now; he put on coat and shoes and went outside, where his cough attacked him, had its sway, and left him.

"Good-morning," sang out August Naab's cheery voice. "Sixteen hours of sleep, my lad!"

"I did sleep, didn't I? No wonder I feel well this morning. A peculiarity of my illness is that one day I'm down, the next day up."

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