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Lighthouse

John and Iris

They did. The woman came to meet us with her brown baby, and the young husband took his gun and went out to find his supper—partridge from the wood, probably, and oysters from the beach. They had lived there three years, the woman said. Her name was Anita, her husband's Gaspar, the baby was Rafaello. No, they did not work much. They had a few sweet-potatoes yonder, and sometimes she braided palmetto and took it clown to the city to sell. Gaspar had a dug-out, and sometimes he sold fish, but not often. They had every thing they wanted. Did she know any thing about this old place? No, she did not. Couldn't she find out? Yes, she supposed she could; her people had lived along the Matanzas for years; but she never took the trouble to ask. Should she send that brown baby to school when it grew larger?

"To school?" And the young mother laughed merrily, showing even, white teeth, and tossing up the little Rafaello until he crowed with glee. "None of us-uns goes to school, my lady."

"But what will he do, then?"

"Do ? Why, live here or somewhars, jes as we're doing," replied Anita. "That's all he wants."

"A great many people come over here in the season, do they not?" I asked, abandoning my educational efforts.

"Yes, pleasant days folks come."

"Do you think the ladies are pretty?"

"Sometimes," replied Anita, with a critical air.

"Wouldn't you like to look as they do?"

"Oh no," replied our " nut-brown mayde," with a broad, contented smile.

"And the gentlemen. What do you think of them?"

"Eh' the mens, did you say? Oh, they're so wimpsy!" And bursting into a peal of laughter, the mother tossed up the baby again until he too joined in the merriment over the " wimpsyness," whatever that was, of the tourists from the North.

"Do you know, I feel as though Calhoun himself was laughing at me from his grave," I said, as we walked away. "Your Arcadians, Sara, have made me more conscious of my bodily defects than a whole regiment of fine city people. What a shape that woman had what eyes! what teeth! But what did she mean by wimpsy?"

" Very likely she meant Mokes. He is certainly limpsy; then why not wimpsy There he is, by-the-way."

So he was, sitting with (of all persons in the world!) the governess. "In 1648 there were three hundred householders resident in St. Augustine, Mr. Mokes," we heard her say as we drew near.

"Must have wanted to—beast of a place," commented Mokes. ' He looked up doubtfully as we went by, but not having decided exactly how strong-minded Sara might be, he concluded not to venture; the governess at least never posed a fellow with startling questions.

"Poor Mokes!" I said.

" Oh yes, very poor!"

"I was thinking of his forlorn love affair, Sara."

"Iris may still be Mrs. Mokes."

"Oh no!"

"Do not be too sure, Martha. In my opinion—nay, experience—a young girl is far more apt to be dazzled by wealth than an older woman. The older woman knows how little it has to do with happiness, after all; the young girl has not yet learned that."

The Osceola carried us northward again, and then around into a creek where was the landing-place of Anastasia Island.

"This Anastasia was a saint," I said, as we strolled up the path leading to the new light-house. " She belonged to the times of Diocletian, and we know where to find her, which is more than I can say of Maria Sanchez over in the village."

"And who is this Maria Sanchez?" inquired Aunt Diana, in her affable, conversational tone. Aunt Di always asked little questions of this kind, not because she cared to know, but because she esteemed it a duty to keep the conversation flowing.

"Ah! that is the question, aunt—who was she ? There are persons of that name in the town now, but this creek bore the name centuries ago; wherefore, nobody knows. Maria is a watery mystery."

The New Lighthouse, Anastasia Island

The new light-house, curiously striped in black and white like a barber's pole, rose from the chaparral some distance back from the beach, one hundred and sixty feet into the clear air; there was nothing to compare it with, not a hill or rise of land, not even a tall tree, and therefore it looked gigantic, a tower built by Titans rather than men.

"Let us go up to the top," said Iris, peeping within the open door. We hesitated: one hundred and sixty feet of winding stairway may be regarded as a crucial test between youth and age.

"Oh, Aunt Di, not you, of course! nor you either, Miss Sharp, nor the Professor, nor Cousin Martha," said Iris, heedlessly. "You can all sit here comfortably in the shadewhile the rest of us run up; we shall not stay long."

Upon this instantly we all arose and began to climb up those stairs. Sit there comfortably in the shade, indeed! Not one of us!

The view from the summit seemed wonderfully extensive—inland over the level pine-barrens to the west; the level blue sea to the east; north, the silver sands of the Florida main-land; and south, the stretch of Anastasia Island, its backbone distinctly visible in the slope of the low green foliage.

"How soft and blue the ocean looks!" said Iris. "I should like to sail away to the far East and never come back."

"If I only had my yacht here now, Miss Iris!" said Mokes, gallantly. "But we should want to come back some time, you know. Egypt and the Nile —well, they are dirty places; although I—er—I always carry every thing with me, it is almost impossible to live properly there."

We all knew what Mokes meant; he meant his portable bath. He aped English fashions, and was always bringing into conversation that blessed article of furniture, which accompanied him every where in charge of his valet. So often indeed did he allude to it that we all felt, like the happy-thought man, inclined to chant out in chorus, to the tune of the Mistletoe Bough,

"Oh, his portable ba-ath!
Oh, his por-ta-ble ba-ath!"

"You have, I am told, Mr. Mokes, the finest yacht in this country," said John Hoffman.

Well, it wasn't a bad one, Mokes allowed.

"I don't know which I would rather own," pursued John, " your yacht or your horses. Why, Sir, your horses are the pride of New York."

I glanced at John; he was as grave as a judge. Mokes glowed with satisfaction. Iris listened with downcast eyes, and Aunt Diana, who had at last reached the top stair, gathered her remaining strength to smile upon the scene. Mokes came out of his shell entirely, and graciously offered his arm to Aunt Diana for the long descent.

But Aunt Di could—" excuse me, Mr. Mokes"—really hold on " better by the railing;" but "perhaps Iris—"

Yes, Iris could, and did.


 
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