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Aunt Viny

Africa

Farther on I found a woman sitting at the door of a little shop with sweets to sell, and purchased some for the sake of making a mental sketch of her picturesque head with its white turban. "I have not the exact change, but will send it to you to-morrow," I said, intending to fee the Sabre to execute the errand. " Who shall I say it is?"

"Why, Viny, course. Every body knows Aunt Viny."

"I want to go over to Africa, Aunt Viny. Can you tell me the way?"

"Certain. You goes-- You know St. Francis Street?"

"No."

"De Bravo's Lane, den?"

"No."

"Well, nebber mind. You goes 'long down Bridge Street-you knows dat?"

"No."

"I deelar' fort, mistis, I don't jes know how to tell you, but whenebber I wants to go dar, I jes goes."

I laughed, and so did Aunt Viny. A colored girl came round the corner with a pail on her head. "Dar's Victoria; she'll show yar," said Aunt Viny.

"Your daughter?"

"Yas. Victoria Linkum is her name, mistis. You see, she was jes horned when Linkum died, and so I named her from him," said the woman, with simple earnestness.

The funny little Victoria showed me the way across a bridge over the Maria Sanchez Creek.

"Why is it called so-who was this Maria?" I asked. But Victoria Linkum did not know. Africa was a long straggling suburb, situated on a peninsula in shape not unlike the real Africa, between the Maria Sanchez Creek and the Sebastian River; it was dotted with cabins and an easy-going idle population of freedmen, who had their own little church there, and a minister whose large silver-rimmed spectacles gave dignity to his ebony countenance. "They do not quite know how to take their freedom yet," said a lady, a fellow-boarder, that evening. "The colored people of St. Augustine were an isolated race; they had been family servants for generations, as there were few plantations about here, and, generally speaking, they were well cared for, and led easy lives. They held a great celebration over their freedom; but the truth is they don't know what to do with it yet, and their ideas take the oddest shapes. The Sabre, for instance, always insists upon going and coming through the front-door; he calmly brings in all his provisions that way-quarters of venison, butter, fish, whatever it may be, no matter who is present."

Victoria Linkum

"Did you enjoy the afternoon, Sara?" I asked that evening.

"I can not tell you how much. If you could only have seen it-the blue inlet, the island, and the two light-houses, the surf breaking over the bar, and in front the broad ocean, thousands of miles of heaving water, with no land between us and Africa."

"You absurd child! as though that made any difference."

"But it does make a difference, Martha. If I thought there was so much as one Canary Island, the sense of vastness would be lost. I stood on that beach and drew in a long breath that came straight from the Nile."

"And Aunt Diana?"

"Oh, she was happy."

"Iris smiled upon Mokes, then?"

"Conspicuously."

"Naughty little flirt! And Miss Sharp?"

"One summer clay-with pensive thought -she wandered on-the sea-girt shore," chanted Sara. "The madam-aunt had the Professor, and kept him!"

"And John Hoffman?"

"Mr. Hoffman said that we ought to be very thankful for the simple, unalloyed enjoyment of the perfect day; how much better it was than the gaudy glare of cities, and so forth."

"I have noticed that no one ever says that who has not been well through the g. g. aforesaid, and especially the and-so-forth, Sara, my dear."

The sunny days passed; the delicious, indolent atmosphere affected us all; we wandered to and fro without plan or purpose in a lazy enjoyment impossible with Northern climate and Northern consciences.

"I feel as though I had taken hasheesh," said Sara.

Crowds of tourists came and went, and liked or liked not the Ancient City according to their tastes.

"You must let yourself glide into the lazy tropical life," I explained to a discontented city friend; "it is dolce far niente here, you know."

But the lady did not know. " Very uninteresting place," she said; "nothing to see-no shops."

"What! going, Mr. Brown?" I asked one morning.

"Yes, Miss Martha, I ant going," replied the old gentleman, decidedly. "I have been very much disappointed in St. Augustine-nothing to do, no cemeteries to speak of."

"Stay longer ? No, indeed," said a lady who had made three toilets a day, and found nobody to admire them. " What you find to like in this old place is beyond me!"

"She is not far wrong there," commented Sara, sotto roes; "it is beyond her; that is the very point of the thing."

But, on the other hand, all those in search of health, all endowed with romance and imagination, all who could appreciate the rare charming haze of antiquity which hangs over the ancient little city, grew into love for St. Augustine, and lingered there far beyond their appointed time. Crowds of old ladies and gentlemen sunned themselves on the south piazzas, and troops of young people sailed and walked every where, waking up the sleeping woods and the dreaming water with song and laughter. The enterprising tourists came and went with their accustomed energy; they bought palmetto hats and twined gray moss around them; they carried orange-wood canes and cigar boxes containing young alligators. (Why young alligators must always travel North in cigar boxes in preference to any other kind of box is a mystery; but in cigar boxes they always go!) Once a hand-organ man appeared, and ground out the same tune for two whole days on the Plaza.

"And what may be the name of that melody, Miss Iris-the one he is playing now?" asked the Professor, endeavoring to assume a musical air.

"He can only play one tune, and he has been playing that steadily for two days," replied Iris. "As far as I can make out from the discords it is intended to be Strauss's Tausend und Eine Nacht."

But the Professor, an expert in Hebrew, Greek, and Sanskrit, had never condescended to a modern tongue.

"Pray translate it for me," he said, playfully, with the air of an affable Sphinx.

"It is a subject to which I have given profound thought, Sir," said Iris, gravely. " It is not A thousand and one nights,' because the last night only is intended, and therefore the best way to translate it is, I think, The thousand and oneth.' I will give you some verses on the melody, if you like."

The Professor liked, and Iris began :

"'TAUSEND UND EINE NACHT.
"'The birds within their dells
Are silent; hushed the shining insect throng-Now human music swells,
And all the land is echoing with song;
The serenade, the glee,
The symphony-and forth, mit Macht und Pracht, Orchestral harmony
Is thrilling out Tausend und Eine Nacht.
 
"'0 thousand nights and one!
The witching magic of thy opening bars, In little notes begun,
Might move to swaying waltzes all the stars
In all their shining spheres;
Then, soft, a plaintive air the music sings
We dance, but half in tears-
To dearest joy a sadness always clings.
 
"'0 thousand nights and one!
Could we but have a thousand nights of bliss!
The golden stories spun
By dark-eyed Arab girl ne'er equaled this.
Soon over? Yes, we see
The summer's fading; but, when all is done,
There lives the thought that we
Were happy-not a thousand nights, but one!'

"Dancing at a watering-place, you know -two young people waltzing - orchestra playing Tausend and Eine Nacht. You have danced to it a hundred times I dare say."

No, the Professor had neglected dancing in his youth, but still it might not be too late to learn if-

" Oh, I beg your pardon," said Iris, waking up from her vision. "I forgot it was you, Sir; I thought you wore - were somebody else."


 
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