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A glimmering breadth of sand burn ing hot, a pitiless hot sun that made the back tingle; far away a desolate range of hills, still farther away the | limit where sight ceased and sand and sky met. A spring of cool, sweet wa ter oozed up and noiselessly seeped out and spread around and lost itself again in the sand. There were a few bunches of green grass at the rim of the well, and some yerba mansa, with its rank smelling white and gold blos soms, grew in the seepage. A solitary palm tree stood there, too; the mys tery of the desert rustled in the broad * fan leaves which it drooped over the water. A hut built of mesqult poles, gunny sacks and mud mostly mud— scooped from where the yerba mansa grew, was near the Spring, the back of it against the hill of sand which was higher than the hut, and on the top of which grew a tall, ragged bunch of gallete. The piece of canvas that hung for a door was pulled back and a woman stepped out. She was young and tall and gracious and queenly of presence; her eyes and hair were the soft dark ness of a desert summer night, A man, tall and dark also, but of a forbidding darkness that seemed rath er of soul than of complexion, sat laz ily against the palm and blew whiffs of pale smoke up among the cool-look ing hot leaves. The woman paused with the canvas doer in her hand; he indolently turned his head and looked a slow, searching look into her face, and watching her thus, he slowly quoted: .""- i'.'■■' "Oh! What larks !'* "Y-e-s; but the joke's off color." "Possibly. But what's a fellow—" "Two fellows "Well, two fellows, then. And what are we to do, left at the mercy of this stupid little town and no boat till Mon day?" ' :v "And to-morrow Christmas!" "And the kids' stockings all in a row with mouths just yawning!" "And Madeline crying her eyes out! What are kids to a sweetheart, Jack?" "Promises, Malcolm, promises. Those sisters of" mine will make adorable sweethearts some day. They are mine now." "And, otherwise, you are fancy free?" "Fancy free?" "Well, don't say that a year from now. Great guns! How it pours!" The two young men stood at a win dow of their small parlor in the hotel at watching the great waves dash ing over the rocks and the. rain that came in torrents from a sky as black as Erebus. There was no help for it. Their steamer was laid up with a broken crank. There was none to take its place, and they must wait as pa tiently as might be for the Portland, due on Monday. Meanwhile they must be amused, if possible, and so the little joke that was to furnish "larks" was planned in de tail and a messenger dispatched in grumbling haste to fetch the woman doctor who lived in the red house on the hill and whose card "Dorothy Lane, M. D." — hanging, framed, against the office wall, had attracted their at tention and suggested relief from ennui. • : '_ "You shall be the patient, Jack," said Malcolm, who was rather robust, "You're slightly delicate, you know, and — "So's your grandmother delicate," in terrupted Jack. "I'll try you a race on the beach this minute, storm or no storm, and win it, too. Come on." "And the doctor, Dorothy Lane?" "Oh!" "What do you suppose she looks like, Jack?" /: .-. "Looks like? A vinegary old maid, of course; slab-sided, slab-chested and poky. Here, I say, fix these infernal The MYstery of One Palm Spring. "A face a face that launched a thou sand battle-ships, and fired the cloud topped towers of Ilium." ! ' ; A flush of displeasure swept red across her face. She turned away from him and called in a soft voice that took into it a tone of tenderness: "Children!" Two fairy like children, a boy and a girl, slid down from the tall bunch of gallete and trotted around the hut. Their yellow hair glistened like sun light caught in a spider web, and so exactly alike were they that, but for the clothes they wore, their own moth er could not have told them apart. "What did you want, mamma?" said the girl. "What did you want, mamma?" ech oed the boy. "I wanted you, my darlings — I al ways want you." She hugged them to her breast and kissed them again and again. "How you do dote on those chip munks," said the man, still blowing the pale smoke up among the leaves. "I never could understand how a full grown, sensible person could lavish so much affection on a child; it's a sinful waste of material. Nobody with a love nature so abnormally developed as yours ever amounted to anything in the world ever did anything for hu manity, ever made any great discov ery in science, or thought out an in vention, or found a new planet; they can do nothing but love, love, love!" "You never loved anybody, did you?" "Never; I once made a foolish wo A Christmas Lark. pillows so they'll stay somewhere. Now, the afghan. Do I look pale enough?" . ; -i**--. ■ "Might have been sick a month, I should say. Jove! Let me brush off a pound or so of flour. We played the cook beautifully. Hope she won't run short of the needful before Monday. A-h! There she comes, tripping along the wet beach like a girl. I do hate old maids putting on airs. Guess I'll lower the shade. Be quiet, can't you? You'll THE SAX FRAXCISCO CALL, SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1897. man believe that I did," __ reminis cent smile lingered in the cruelly curved corners of his mouth. The woman shrugged her shoulders contemptuously. ' r .' V "Poor fool! She did not believe it long?" "Not — oh, no; not long. Be sides," continued he between the whiffs of smoke*, "your kind of love-nature is small, very small; it winds itself around its own and shuts the world of humanity out. It would make any sacrifice, even to life itself, for the thing it loves, but would not sacrifice the thing it loves for all humanity. Now, I suppose you would not be will ing to give up those chipmunksal though they'd make such beautiful angels if it would stop the plague or save a million lives." She clasped the children closer to her breast. "You have no heart," she said. "Heart Is not what a civilized world needs; it needs intellect and philosophy i and reason. Heart is simply instinct; it is what the wild animal has that stands at bay with her young ones be hind her and lets the dogs tear her to pieces." "Mamma, did the dogs tear the little young animals all up?" said the girl. "Mamma, did the dogs tear the little young animals all up?" echoed the boy. "No, darlings." They cuddled nearer to her, and patted her face in trustful lovingness. The man knocked the ashes out of his pipe and put it into his shirt pocket; he laughed an amused chuckle. "Nature was prodigal of beauty to this family, but was very niggard of brains." He smiled at his own witti cism. The children lay down In the shade of the hut and slept; the woman sat by and fanned them with a leaf of the palm. When the sun was near set and the oven-like heat of the desert began to cool, then the man went out to where his two horses were staked on the scat tering bunches of gallete, and led one of them to the hut and turned the other loose. He saddled as leisurely as j though all the time in the world were his, and then called to the children. "Come, chipmunks, and take your ride." They came trotting to him, but when he stooped to lift them, the girl darted away. "I forgot to kiss mamma," she said. "I forgot to kiss mamma," cried the boy, darting after her. He waited patiently; when they came back he set the girl before him and the boy behind the saddle. '"Why do you always put him be hind — because he Is a boy?" "No; because he is an echo; why, he hasn't enough individuality to be hyp notized, except through her." The dark eyes of the woman con tracted with displeasure. "I wish you would not keep the chil dren out as late as you did last night," then wistfully, "please." "Why?" he asked unconcernedly. "I was frightened," she said simply; give away the whole business. There, shut your eyes, breathe hard, shiver a little! Very good. Now " But at this Juncture there was a light tap at the door, followed imme diately by the entrance of - Dr. Dor othy Lane. She had left every evi dence of storm in the room below and stood before the astonished young men in skirted bicycle suit, her cheeks flushed, her eyes ashine and her wind blown hair curling about her face and "it was quite dark when you came back." ../ "Why should you be frightened? This is the safest place in the world for you, and what could happen to the chipmunks— haven't I had them out riding every evening for a week?" "And each evening have stayed a little later. Why can I not go along — I would like to go to-night. I used to ride well." He glanced uneasily at the loose horse. "There's no saddle for you." "I have heard of men who were gal lant enough to ride bareback and let women have their saddles." "They were probably the kind who have hearts," he answered with a joking smile; "to-morrow evening, if you still wish to go." He touched spur to the horse and gal loped away. She stood watching them; a dread settled heavily upon her heart. She watched, them till they were a mere moving dot on the sand— watched till she could see them no more. Turning away with a sharp sigh she spoke un consciously aloud: "I wish I had not let them go." clinging to the edges of her rough little cap as if rain was the best.curl ing fluid in the world. Not a "vine gary old maid" by any means was this daughter of Esculapius, but a lady young and fair, having an eye to busi ness and herself well in hand as if for emergency. She seated herself by the patient, smiling pleasantly, the tips of her fingers on his wrist and her eyes on the open watch that had served her father on kindred occasions. Then she took, her clinical thermometer from its case, wiped it carefully on a bit of chamois and, while waiting the re quisite three minutes to secure correct temperature, made herself sure that her patient's respiration was exactly eighteen the first minute but quicken ing perceptibly toward the last. Then she said, still smiling, as though think ing aloud: , "Pulse 80, respiration 18, temperature Startled at the sound of her voice in the stillness, she went into the hut and busied herself shaking up the chil dren's bed. She shook each sheet and quilt, that no bit of dust or sand might be left in it. She patted the pil lows lovingly and smoothed them with the palms of her hands. She sat down in the door and waited. The twilight gathered deeper and duskier, but they did not come. The silence overwhelmed her; it had a million voices. She wait ed and waited longer yet. A coyote came stealing up to the spring; she heard it lap, then its light step as it trotted away, and then its sharp bark ending in a long, whining howl. A big, long-winged black bird swooped over the spring and flopped away in the gathering night; and the big, round moon rolled up out of the hem of the desert. Y'YY : --; She could endure the silence and the suspense no longer. She climbed to the top of the sandhill behind the hut and called and shouted their names ; until her voice was hoarse. A chorus of coyote howls was the only answer that came back to her. Midnight came and they did not re turn. She slung a canteen of water over her shoulder, caught the loose horse, which for some strange reason had not followed its master, and start ed on their track. The brilliancy of the full moon made it possible to follow the tracks in the sand on and on until in the waning light before the dawn she A SCREAM BROKE THE SILENCE. lost them and slid from her horse and sank down and slept. A lizard ran across her neck and its scratching feet woke her; it was day light. The horse stood near eying her with humanlike intent. She arose and rode away again on the tracks. The day came hot and grew hotter and hotter. It was noon; the baking sun beat down on her head, her back tingled with Innumerable blisters, her brain began to simmer. She came to a place where the tracks confused her, 9S degrees," and with this comment she crossed the — "like a Queen" Mal colm said later rinsed her thermom eter in the basin on the little wash stand, put it back again in its pretty case and turning to Malcolm said: "You may order hot water, please, some mustard and a foot-bath tub.' Then, with blisters on the soles of his feet and over his chest, we may be able to draw the trouble from the brain, which doubtless has been trans ferred from the stomach or lungs. There has been no fall or concussion that could have . caused so serious a condition" — Jack groaned—"no intense mental emotions or excesses of any kind?" "Not that I am aware of," faintly articulated Malcolm. "Because, you see," she continued, smiling her very sweetest, "a physi cian must learn, if possible, the causes leading up to the disease in order to prescribe intelligently. Now for the foot-bath and the mustard. I have all else that will be needed." "By Jove!" groaned Jack, and Mal colm rushed to his side as if in mortal terror. "There Is no occasion for Immediate alarm," the doctor explained, coolly. "There is always a tendency to deli rium in such cases. You see, his eyes look heavy and void of expression. If the stupor becomes more apparent and convulsions appear death must sooner or later take place." Jack threw the afghan from him and jumped to his feet, an action which seemed not at all to surprise Dr. Doro thy Lane. She stood erect, still smiling, "demoniacally," Malcolm said after ward, and very quiet, while Jack rush ed to the window and back again, stop ping abruptly before the girl. "I can't stand this any longer," he said, speaking rapidly. "I have de ceived you, Miss — — " "Dr. Lane," corrected she; "and you have not deceived me." "You knew — " "Yes, I knew." "But I shall feel myself more of a man if you'll let me confess, as naughty kids do, and say I am sorry. You see, it was this way, doctor: We were two poor fellows shut up in this beastly inn and literally dying for something to amuse us. And so we perpetrated this little Joke on you. 'Twas beastly bad form and I'm ashamed of it." "You see," said Malcolm, "if we had known — " "What?" Her voice was controlled, but something that was not laughter flashed from her big brown eyes. "That you were not on old maid after all, but young, and bonnie — — Dr. Lane straightened herself. "Being 'young and bonnie and—' has nothing to do with a simple matter of business," she said; "and," turning to Jack, "you need not be at all ashamed. You are quite at. liberty to per petrate as many such jokes upon me as will amuse — at $10 each." The money was paid instantly, and Dr. Dorothy Lane said "Thank you" and "Good morning" very sweetly, and went out into the rain and up the slip pery way to the red house on the hill. "And now I can have my longed-for books!" she said to her mother, after there was such tramping round and round. She stopped and felt strangely dull and puzzled. A coyote trotted from a knoll; she looked where it had been and saw something lying on the sand. She dropped heavily down the horse s side and staggered to it. Then such a scream broke the silence as never the desert had heard. One of her children lay dead, its little upturned face singe ing in the sun; its pretty hands crossed on its breast. Its limbs were straight ened and its dress wrapped lightly about its knees. It had been laid there after it was dead. She sat down beside it and gathered it to her breast and rocked it to and fro. "My pretty one, my little one," she murmured, fondling and kissing it as she talked. Presently she bethought her of the canteen. There fras a little water In it; it was hot. She parted the child's lips and poured the water between them; it ran out of the corners of its mouth. She set it up in her lap and smoothed its silky, hot hair and rubbed her cheek against its cheeks, then let it go and clasped her hands, making a hoop around it of her arms. The part ly stiffened body balanced a moment on her lap, then fell over. She caught it again to her breast, laughing a wild, terrible laugh, and started back on the track she had come. » •»■»*• • When the gray dawn was fading in to light a woman with wild eyes and long, loose-hanging hair, with blis tered face and hands and feet, carry ing a dead child in her arms, came in to the hut by the One Palm Spring and laid it in the bunk in the corner. She crooned hoarsely a sleep song to it. The horse came up to the door. "Come in," she called to him. "Come in— come in and see the transmigration of souls. Keep still, though keep still; they are asleep." One Christmas morning three men relating in detail the events of her morning — her pretty feet on the fender and her happy laugh waking all the echoes. "But, oh, it was hard to keep a straight face when I first saw my patient. Even his hair was full of flour, and wherever he got his fever passes my comprehension. He must have punctured a vein or discov ered a bit of red flannel somewhere. But here are $5 for your Christmas, mother mine, and $5 for my precious books. We shall have a merry Christ mas, ma mere thanks to the 'little joke' that did no one any harm." * * » " 'Twas an infernal shame bringing that girl out In this storm," Jack said as "that girl" disappeared under the porch of the red house on the hill. "I was sure she saw through the whole scheme at a glance, and you could have drawn me through the proverbial knot hole when she mused in that adorable way of hers: " 'Pulse 80, respiration 18, tempera ture 98.' " Malcolm laughed outright. "Everything normal, and she knew it." 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The glimmering, de fiant Cocopah range, toward which so many bleaching skeletons lay headed, stood out boldly against the dawn. But what is that nearer thing? The men caught their breath and looked harder southward. High in the air— so gratefully near— it was a house; be fore it a giant palm tree— one solitary palm— in the midst of a green lawn. There was a horse on the lawn and a woman sat in the door of the house. It all vanished in a moment. In an other moment it was there again— house so impossibly tall, the legs of the horse so grotesquely long. A long straggling grove of mesquit was this time a part of the scene. The three men hailed it with different expressions. "Deliverance!" "A mirage!" "But this kind of a mirage always has a reality, at the bottom of it. There Is a horse on that green stuff; there is •*-__.■-* -fee there of some sort, and a womtr*. sitting in the door. jusj-A;-'* surely as yon range of mountain*-.^^ tually exists. It may be twenty miles away, but it is there." Quicker that thought it all vanished. The shafts of the sun had touched the sand. , 4f Several hours later three leg-weary' thirsty men, toiling around the end of a long bluff of sand, stopped and shouted simultaneously; "There!" "Look there!" "Look!" :■-- There, right before their eager eyes, was the place the mirage had shown, them. The woman still sat in the door, the horse still stood on the lawn. They felt awed, they knew not why. Nearer, the green lawn was a long Irregular patch of coarse grass and yerba mansa; the house a mere mud walled hut, roofed with poles, from which hung tattered remnants of cloth. But the woman sat in the door. She leaned against the side of it. They could see her— see her attitude of ex pectancy as plainly as they had seen her in the mirage. The grove of mesqult began just a little way from the hut. The men talked — "Enough beans on that grove to feast a whole tribe of Indians." "If I were a great artist I would paint that scene and call it 'Waiting.' " "No need to name it; every one who saw it would know its name." "That woman is waiting for some man, I'll bet." They lowered their voices. "Maybe she is alone and is afraid of us." "I wouldn't blame her to be." They stepped around the wide-spread palm and stood before the womk Then they took off their hats **- ■_*__. bowed their heads in silence. '" "* It was a mummy in shreds of a dre/Ss. On that same bright Christmas day a priest in a foreign land confessed a dying man. And he alone of all the living knows the mystery of the One Palm Spring. MADGE MORRIS. "Of course she knew it." Then, after^ a pause: "Mack!" "Yes?" Puff, puff— a longer pause. "She said I might, you know." "Might what?" "And I've several tens — "Get out!" ■-;;. "Yes' that's better. Suppose we go at once and make, or try to make, a lasting peace with the divinity on the hill?" "S— 'Sits the wind In that cor ner'?" Jack winced. "Don't, Mack," he said; "at least not yet." * • • This happened a year ago. To-morrow there will be a wedding in the red house on the hill. Malcolm McLean will be best man; his Made line maid of honor, and Dorothy's pro motion will constitute her, for life, physician in ordinary at the house of Jack Ormsby, "the happiest man alive. So he says. And a merry, merry Christmas*. "._i them all. HESTER A. BENEDICT.