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"That was certainly poetic justice," I said. "Who would imagine that such a drama had been enacted on that innocent hillside? What terrible days they were !"

"Terrible, perhaps, but at least far more earnest as well as more picturesque than our commonplace era," said Sara, with her indifferent air. She was generally either indifferent or defiant, and Aunt Diana regarded her with disfavor as "a young person who wrote for the magazines." Sara was twenty-eight years old, a woman with pale cheeks, weary eyes, a slight frown on her forehead, clear-cut features, and a quantity of pale golden hair drawn rigidly back and braided close around the head with small regard for fashion's changes. I had met her in a city boarding-house, and, liking her in spite of herself, we grew into friendship ; and although her proud independence would accept nothing from me save liking, I was sometimes able to persuade her into a journey, which she always enjoyed notwithstanding the inevitable descriptive article which she declared lurked behind every bush and waved a banner of proof-sheets at her from every sunshiny hill.

At Jacksonville the St. Johns bends to the south on its long course through the chain of lakes and swamps that leads to the mysterious Okeechobee land, a terra, or rather aqua incognita, given over to alligators and unending lies. The last phrase was added by Miss Sharp, who laboriously wrote down the Okeechobee stories current on the St. Johns, about buried cities, ruins of temples on islands, rusty convent bells, and the like, only to have them all demolished by the stern researches of the Professor. The Professor was not romantic.

"A buried city on the brim
Of Okeechobee was to him
A lie, and nothing more!"

Arrival

The Entrance to St. Augustine, The Ancient City.

We found Jacksonville a thriving, uninteresting brick-and-mortar town, with two large hotels, from whence issued other tourists and invalids, with whom we sailed up the river as far as Enterprise, and then on a smaller steamer up the wild, beautiful Ocklawaha, coming back down the St. Johns again as far as Tocoi, where, with the clear consciences of tourists who have seen every thing on the river, we took the mule train across the fifteen miles to the sea, arriving toward sunset at the shed and bonfire which form the railroad depot of St. Augustine. This shed has never been seen open. What it contains no one knows ; but it has a platform where passengers are allowed to stand before their turn comes to climb into the omnibus. The bonfire is lighted by the waiting darkies as a protection against the evening damps. But they builded better than they knew, those innocent contrabands ; their blazing fire only mildly typifies the hilarious joy of the Ancient City over the coming of its annual victim, the gold-bearing Northern tourist.

"But where is the town?" demanded Aunt Diana.

"'Cross do ribber, mistis. De omnibuster waitin'," replied a colored official, armed with a bugle. John Hoffman, having given directions as to his trunks, started off on foot through the thicket, with an evening cigar for company. Aunt Diana, however, never allowed desertion from her camp, whether of regulars or volunteers. She had her eye upon Mokes ; she knew he was safe ; so she called after the retreating figure, "Mr. Hoffman ! Mr. Hoffman ! We shall not know where to go without you."

"Oh, I never ride in that omnibus;" and the tall figure disappeared among the trees. He was gone; but Mokes remained, eyes and all. Mokes had large eyes; in fact very large, and pale green; but his fortune was large also, and Aunt Diana had a prophetic soul. Was not Iris her dear sister's child? So she marshaled us into the omnibus, which started off across the thicket, through the ever-present and never-mended mud hole, and out into a straight road leading toward the town through the deep white sand, which, logged over with the red legs of the saw-palmetto, forms the cheerful soil of Eastern Florida. The road was built on a causeway over a river and its attendant salt marshes ; on the east side we could see two flags and the two spires of the city rising above the green.

"St. Augustine Hotel," replied Hoffman, over his shoulder.

"But you?"

"What river is this?" asked Aunt Diana, as we rolled over a red bridge.

"The San Sebastian," replied Miss Sharp, reading slowly from her guide-book in the facing light. "'After three hours and one-half of this torture the exhausted tourist finds himself at the San Sebastian River, where a miserable ferry conveys him, more dead than alive, to the city of St. Augustine.'"

"But here is no ferry," I said.

"The exhausted tourist,' however, is here," observed Sara, wearily.

Sebastian—so called, I presume, from the mythical saint of that name," remarked the Professor, peering out over

"The guide-book is at least so far correct that we may reasonably conclude this to be the St. his spectacles.

"Allow me," said Miss Sharp, eagerly producing a second small volume from her basket. " This saint was, I believe, thrown into a well—no, that isn't it. He was cast into a dungeon, and rescued by—by flying dragons—"

"Oh no, Miss Sharp," said Iris, as thebaffled governess wrestled with the fine print. "Sebastian was the one noted for his arrows ; don't you remember the picture in my hand-book?"

Leaving the causeway, the omnibus entered the town through a gate of foliage, great pride - of-India - trees mingling their branches over the street for some distance, forming a green arched way whose vista made beautiful the entrance to the Ancient City, like the shaded pathway that led to the lovely land of Beulah in the old pictures of Pilgrim's Progress. On each side we could see a residence back among the trees—one of stone, large and massive, with an orange grove behind, the golden fruit gleaming through the glossy foliage, and protected by a picturesque hedge of Spanish- bayonets ; the other a wide house surrounded by piazzas overhung with ivy and honeysuckle, a garden filled with roses and every variety of flower, gray moss drooping from the trees at the gate, and a roof painted in broad stripes which conveyed a charming suggestion of coolness, as though it were no roof at all, but only a fresh linen awning over the whole, suited to the tropical climate. Sara said this, and added that she was sure there were hammocks there too, hanging somewhere in shady places.

"Really, very meritorious," remarked Aunt Diana, inspecting the houses through her glasses, and bestowing upon them, as it were, her metropolitan benediction.


 
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