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The Mission Church

Poor Aunt Di — take it easy! She gave a sort of gulp, and then came up equal to the occasion. "You may well be surprised, my dear," she said, in a brisk tone, "but I have long wished to see the Rose Garden, and by moonlight the effect, of course, is much finer; quite—quite sylph-like, I should say,"she continued, looking around at the shadowy bushes. "We were out for a little stroll, Niece Martha, Miss St. John, and myself, and meeting Mr. Hoffman, he mentioned that you were out here, and so we thought we would stroll out and join you. Charming night, Captain?"

The Captain thought it was; and all the dangerous places haying been thus nicely coated over, we started homeward. The roses grew in ranks between two high hedges, and blossomed all the year round. They were all asleep now on their stems, the full-bosomed, creamy beauties, the delicate white sylphs, and the gorgeous crimson sirens; but John woke up a superb souvenir-de-Malmaison, and fastened it in Iris's dark hair: her hat, as usual, hung on her arm. Aunt Diana felt herself a little comforted; evidently the undoubted Knickerbocker antecedents were not frightened off by this midnight escapade, and Iris certainly looked enchantingly lovely in the moonlight, with her white dress and the rose in her hair. If Mokes were only here, and reconciled too. Happy thought! why should Mokes know? Aunt Diana was a skillful general: Mokes never knew.

"How large and still the house looks!"I said, as we turned toward the wicket; "who lives there?"

"Only the Rose Gardener,"answered John; "an old bachelor who loves his flowers and hates womankind. He lives all alone in his great airy house, cooks his solitary meals, tends his roses, and no doubt enjoys himself extremely."

"Oh yes, extremely,"said Sara, in a sarcastic tone.

"You speak whereof you do know, I suppose, Miss St. John?"

"Precisely; I have tried the life, Mr. Hoffman."

The Professor joined us at the gate, radiant and communicative. "All this soil, you will observe, is mingled with oyster shells to the depth of several feet,"he began. "This was done by the Spaniards for the purpose of enriching the ground. Ali! Miss Iris, I did not at first perceive you in the shadow. You have a rose, I see. Although —ahem—not given to the quotation of poetry, nevertheless there is one verse which, with your permission, I will now repeat as applicable to the present occasion:

"'Fair Phillis walks the dewy green;
A happy rose lies in her hair;
But, ah! the roses in her cheeks
Are yet more fair!'"

"Pray, Miss Sharp, can you not dispense with that horrible bone?" said Aunt Diana, in au under-tone. "Really, it makes me quite nervous to see it dangling."

"Oh, certainly,"replied the governess, affably, dropping the relic into her pocket. "I myself, however, am never nervous where science is concerned."

"Over there on the left,"began the Professor again, "is the site of a little mission church built as long ago as 1592 on the banks of a tide-water creek. A young Indian chieftain, a convert, conceiving himself aggrieved by the rules of the new religion, incited his followers to attack the missionary. They rushed in upon him, and informed him of his fate. He reasoned with them, but in vain; and at last, as a final request, he obtained permission to celebrate mass before he died. The Indians sat down on the floor of the little chapel, the father put on his robes and began. No doubt he hoped to soften their hearts by the holy service, but in vain; the last word spoken, they fell upon him and—"

"Massacred him,"concluded Sara. "You need not go on, Sir. I know all about it. I was there."

"You were there, Miss St. John "Certainly,"replied Sara, calmly. "I am now convinced that in some anterior state of existence I have assisted, as the French say, at all the Florida massacres. Indian, Spanish, or Huguenot, it makes no difference to me. I was there!"

"I trust our young friend is not tinged with Swedenborgianism,"said the Professor aside to John Hoffman. "The errors of those doctrines have been fully exposed. I trust she is orthodox."

"Really, I do not know what she is,"replied John.

"Oh yes, you do,"said Sara, overhearing. "She is heterodox, you know; decidedly heterodox."

In the mean while Aunt Diana kept firmly by the side of the Captain. It is safe to say that the young man was never before called upon to answer so many questions in a given space of time. The entire history of the late war, the organization of the army, the military condition of Europe, and, indeed, of the whole world, were only a portion of the subjects with which Aunt Di tackled him on the way home. Iris stood it a while, and then, with the happy facility of youth, she slipped aside, and joined John Hoffman.. Iris was a charming little creature, but, so far, for "staying"qualities she was not remarkable.

A second time we passed the cemetery. "I have not as yet investigated the subject,"said the Professor, "but I suppose this to be the Huguenot burying-ground."

"Oh yes,"exclaimed Miss Sharp; "mentioned in my guide-book as.a spot of much interest. How thrilling to think that those early Huguenots, those historical victims of Menendez, lie here—here in this quiet spot, so near, you know, and yet—and yet so far!"she concluded, vaguely conscious that she had heard that before somewhere, although she could not place it. She had forgotten that eye which, mixed in some poetic way with a star, has figured so often in the musical performances of the female seminaries of our land.

"Very thrilling; especially when we remember that they must have gathered up their own bones, swum up all the way front Matanzas, and buried each other one by one,"said Sara.

"And even that don't account for the last man,"added John.

Miss Sharp drew off her. forces, and retired in good order.


 
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