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The Ancient City in Two Parts - Part I.

Introduction

The Gardens of St. Augustine
"The world is far away ; the broad pine-barrens
Like deserts roll between ;
Be then our mother - take us for thy children,
0 dear St. Augustine!"

It was a party of eight, arranged by Aunt Diana. She is only my art by marriage, and she had with her a bona fide niece, Iris Carew, a gay school-girl of seventeen, while I, Niece Martha, as Aunt Diana always calls me, own to full forty years. Professor Macquoid went for two reasons—his lungs, and the pleasure of imparting information. It was generally understood that Professor Macquoid was engaged upon a Great Work. John Hoffman went for his own amusement; with us, because he happened to sail on the same steamer. He had spent several winters in Florida, hunting and fishing, and wasin his way something of a Thoreau, without Thoreau's love of isolation. Mr. Mokes went because Aunt Diana persuaded him, and Sara St. John because I made her. These, with Miss Sharp, Iris Carew's governess, composed our party.

The Journey

We left New York in a driving January snow-storm, and sailed three days over the stormy Atlantic, seeing no land from the winter desolation of Long Branch until we entered the beautiful harbors of Charleston and Savannah, a thousand miles to the south. The New York steamer went no farther; built to defy Fear, Lookout, and the terrible Hatteras, she left the safe, monotonous coast of Georgia and Upper Florida to a younger sister, that carried us on to the south over a summer sea, and at sunrise one balmy morning early in February entered the broad St. Johns, whose slow coffee-colored tropical tide, almost alone among rivers, flows due north for nearly its entire course of four hundred miles, a peculiarity expressed in its original name, given by the Indians, Il-la-ka - "It hath its own way, is alone, and contrary to every other."

"The question is," said Sara St. John, "is there any thing one ought to know about these banks?"

"Ye banks and bray-aas of bon-onny Doooon,' " chanted Iris, who, fresh as a rose-bud with the dew on it, stood at the bow, with the wind blowing her dark wavy hair back from her lovely face ; as for her hat, it had long ago found itself discarded and tied to the railing for safe-keeping.

"The fresh-water shell heaps of the St. Johns River, East Florida," began the Professor, "should be—should be somewhere about here." He peered around, but could see nothing with his near-sighted eyes.

"Iris," called Aunt Diana .through the closed blinds of her state-room, "pray put on your hat. Miss Sharp! Where is Miss Sharp?"

"Here," answered the governess, emerging reluctantly from the cabin, muffled in a brown veil. Sunrise enthusiasm came hard to her ; she knew that hers was not the beauty that shines at dawn, and she had a great longing for her matutinal coffee. Miss Sharp's eyes were faintly blue, she had the smallest quantity of the blondesthair disposed in two ringlets on each side of her face, a shadowy little figure, indistinct features, and a complexion that turned aguish on the slightest provocation. Nevertheless, equal to the emergency, she immediately superintended the tying down of Iris's little round hat, and then, with her heelless prunella gaiters fully revealed by the strong wind, and her lisle- threaded hands struggling to repress the fluttering veil, she stood prepared to do her duty by the fresh-water shell heaps or any other geological formation. John Hoffman was walking up and down smoking a Bohemian-looking pipe. "There is only one item, Miss St. John, in all the twenty-five miles between the mouth of the river and Jacksonville," he said, pausing a moment near the bench where Sara and I sat as usual together. "That headland opposite is St. Johns Bluff, the site of old Fort Caroline, where, in 1564, a colony of French Huguenots established themselves, and one year later were massacred, men, women, and children, by the cut-throat Menendez, who took the trouble to justify his deed by an inscription hung up over the bodies of his victims, 'No por Franceses, lino por Luteranos'—' Not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans.' It is a comfort to the unregenerate mind to know that three years later a Frenchman sailed over and took his turn at a massacre, politely putting up a second inscription, Not as Spaniards, but as traitors, thieves, and murderers.' "

Shooting Alligators on the St. Johns River.

 
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