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Charlotte Street

We walked down Charlotte Street, and presently came to a small house with a low wing, whose open shutter showed the studio within. On the roof were two figures in coquina, one a nondescript animal like the cattle of a Noah's ark, the other a little stone man who seemed to have been so dwarfed by the weight of his hat that he never smiled again.

"The lion, and Henry Clay,"said John, introducing the figures.

"Passé for the lion; but how do you make out the other?"

"Oh, Henry seems to be the beau ideal of the South. You meet him every where on the way down in a plaster and marble dress-coat, extending his hand in a conversational manner, and so, of course, I supposed this to be another one. And as to the gardens of Ashland, as he has his hat on—indeed, he is principally hat—he must be taking a walk somewhere, and where so likely as his own bucolic garden?"

"I shall go back to my after-glow, Mr. Hoffman. Your Henry Clay is a fraud.""Wait and see the artist, Martha,"said Sara. "He is a colored man and a cripple."We tapped on the shutter, and the artist appeared, supporting himself on crutches; a young negro, with a cheerful shining countenance, and an evident pride in the specimens of his skill scattered about the Roofless studio—alligators, boxes, roughly cut vases, all made of the native coquina; or, as the artist's sign had it,

CoKENA WoRK, DoNE To oRDER


"It must require no small amount of skill to cut any thing out of this crumbling shell-rock,"I said, as, after purchasing a charming little alligator, and conversing some time with the dusky artist, we turned homeward. "It does,"replied John. "Ignorant as he is, that man is not without his ideas of beauty and symmetry—another witness to the capability for education which I have every where noticed among the freedmen of the South."

"I too have been impressed with this capability," said Sara — "strongly impressed. Last Sunday I went to the Methodist colored Sunday - school on St. George Street. The teachers are Northerners; some resident here, some winter visitors; and the classes were filled up with full-grown men and women, some of them aged and gray-haired, old uncles and aunties, eager to learn, although they could scarcely see with their old eyes. They repeated Bible texts in chorus, and then they began to read. It was a pathetic sight to see the old men slowly following the simple words with intense eagerness, keeping the place under each one with careful finger. The younger men and girls read fluently, and showed quick understanding in the answers given to the teachers' questions. Then the little children filed in from another room, and they all began to sing. Oh, how they sang! The tenor voice of a young jet-black negro who sat near me haunts me still with its sweet cadences. Singularly enough, the favorite hymn seemed to be one whose chorus, repeated again and again, ended in the words,

"'Shall wash me white as snow—
White as snow.'"

"The negroes of St. Augustine were formerly almost all Romanists,"said John, "and many of them still attend the old cathedral on the Plaza, where there is a gallery especially for them. But of late the number of Methodists and Baptists has largely increased, while the old cathedral and its bishop, who once ruled supreme over the consciences of the whole population of la siempre fiel Ciudad de San Augustin, find themselves in danger of being left stranded high and dry as the tide of progress and education sweeps by without a glance. The Peabody Educational Fund supports almost entirely two excellent free schools here, one for white and one for colored children; and in spite of opposition, gradually, year by year, even Roman Catholic parents yield to the superior advantages offered to their children, and the church schools hold fewer and fewer scholars, especially among the boys. The Presbyterian church, with its pastor and earnest working congregation, has made a strong battle against the old-time influences, and it now looks as though the autocratic sway of the religion of Spain were forever broken in this ancient little Spanish city."

"At least, however, the swarthy priests look picturesque and appropriate as they come and go between their convent and the old cathedral through that latticed gate in their odd dress,"said Sara. "Do you remember, in Baddeck, the pleasing historical Jesuit, slender too corpulent a word to describe his thinness, his stature primeval ? Warner goes on to say that the traveler is grateful for such figures, and is not disposed to quarrel with the faith that preserves so much of the ugly picturesque."

"The principal interest I have in the old cathedral is the lost under-ground passage which, according to tradition, once extended from its high altar to Fort San Marco,"I remarked. "I am perpetually haunted by the possibility of its being under my feet somewhere, and go about stamping on the ground to catch hollow echoes down below. We moderns have discovered at San Marco a subterranean dungeon and bones: then why not an under-ground passage?"

"And bones?"asked Sara.

"No; Spanish jewels, plate, and all kinds of mediaeval treasures. I consider the possibility far more promising than Captain Kidd's chest. I have half a mind to begin digging."

"You would be obliged to take the shovel yourself, then, Miss Martha,"said John. "Do you suppose you could hire the St. Augustiners to dig, really dig, day after day, Northern fashion ? Why, they would laugh in your face at the mere idea. I am inclined to think there would never be another house built here if regular foundations and cellars were required; as it is, they set up the timbers as the children set up their houses of blocks. How clearly that sail-boat is out-lined against the gray water, like a sketch in India ink! Is not that Miss Carew on board?"

"Yes, with Mr. Mokes,"said Sara.

"And Aunt Diana,"I added. "I remember now; Mr. Mokes gives a chowder dinner to-day over on the North Beach."

"I would not give much for chowder made by a Mokes,"said John, with the scorn of an old camper-out in his voice.

"Oh, Mokes does not make it, Mr. Hoffman. What are you thinking of? Mokes make chowder! By no means. He has his servant and the boatmen to do all the work, and sends over his wines and ice beforehand. It will be an elegant dinner, I assure you."

"On the beach?"

"Yes, on the beach. Unfortunately, tables can not be transported, unless, indeed, Dundreary should arrive with his waft.' But the table-cloth will be damask, with a monogram worked in gold thread, and the conversation will be strictly Fifth Avenueish, I will answer for that."

"Great is the power of youthful beauty,"I said, when we had reached our room again. "Here is Mokes with his money and wines, the Professor with his learning and bones, the Captain with his beauty and buttons, all three apparently revolving around that giddy little cousin of mine. And now comes John Hoffman!"

"With all his ancestors behind him! Has he taken her to the demi-lune yet?"said Sara, opening the Princess of Thule, which she read after a dose of Florida history, like sugar after a pill. "Do you know, Martha, I think poor Lavender is rather unfairly treated by the author of this book. He is ordered about by Ingram, and most unmercifully snubbed by Sheila, who, after all, manages to have her own way, whatever.'"

Now I had thrown John Hoffman purposely into my list of Iris's admirers in order to provoke something like a denial from Sara—these two seemed to feel such a singular kind of interested dislike toward each other; but my little bait caught nothing; Sara remained impassive.


 
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