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A Pine Barren

That evening, happening to take up Sara's Bible, I found pinned in on the blank leaf these old verses:

"There is a calm for those who weep,
A rest for weary pilgrims found;
They softly lie and sweetly sleep
Low in the ground.
&nbps;
"The storm that wracks the wintry sky
No more disturbs their deep repose
Than summer evening's latest sigh
That shuts the rose.
 
"I long to lay this painful head
And aching heart beneath the soil,
To slumber in that dreamless bed
From all my toil."
A Pine Barren

"Poor child!"I said to myself—"poor child!"

"Who do you think is here, Niece Martha?"said Aunt Diana one morning a week later. "Eugenio; he came last night."

"What, the poet?"

"Yes; he will stay several days, and I can introduce him to all of you,"said Aunt Di, graciously.

"I shall be very glad, not only on my own account, but on Sara's also, aunt."

"Oh, Eugenio will not feel any interest in a person like Miss St. John, Niece Martha! He belongs to another literary world entirely."

"I know that; but may not Sara attain to that other world in time, I hope much from her."

"Then you will be disappointed, Niece Martha. I am not literary myself, but I have always noticed that those writers whose friends are always hoping much' never amount to much; it is the writer who takes his friends and the world by surprise who has the genius."

There was a substratum of hard commonsense in Aunt Diana, where my romantic boat often got aground. It was aground now.

The next morning Eugenio presented himself without waiting for Aunt Di, and John proposed a walk to the Ponce de Leon Spring in his honor.

"It is almost the only spot you have not visited," he said to us, "and Eugenio must see the sweep of a pine-barren."

"By all means,"replied the poet, "the stretching glades and far savannas, gemmed with the Southern wild flowers."

"You have missed the most beautiful flower of all," said Iris, "'the wild sweet princess of far Florida, the yellow jasmine."

The Captain was with us, likewise Mokes; but Aunt Diana had sliced in another young lady to keep the balance even; and away we went through the town, across the Maria Sanchez Creek, under the tree arches, and out on to the broad causeway beyond.

"What! walk to Ponce do Leon Spring!"exclaimed the languid St. Augustine ladies as we passed.

"They evidently look upon Northerners as a species of walking madmen,"I said, laughing.

"It is a singular fact,"commented Sara, "that country people never walk if they can help it; they go about their little town and that is all. City people, on the contrary, walk their miles daily as a matter of course. You can almost tell whether a young lady is city or country bred from the mere fact of her walking or not walking."

"Climate here has something to do with it," said John, "and also the old Spanish ideas that ladies should wear satin slippers and take as few steps as possible. The Minorcans keep up some of the old ideas still. Courtship is carried on through a window, the maiden within, a rose in her hair, and the favorite Spanish work in her hand, and the lover outside leaning on the casement. Not until a formal acceptance has been given is he allowed to enter the house and rest himself and his aspirations in a chair."

"We have adopted English ideas of exercise in New York," said Eugenio, "but they have not penetrated far into the interior as yet, and are utterly unknown south of Mason and Dixon's line. St. Augustine, however, is still Spanish, and no one expects the traditional Spanish senorita, with her delicate slippers, fan, and mantilla, to start out for a six-mile constitutional—it would not be her style at all. By-the-way, I saw a beautiful Spanish face leaning from a window on St. George Street this morning."

"Yes,"said Mokes, consequentially. "There are two on St. George Street, two on Charlotte, and one on St. Hypolita. I have taken pains to trace—er—to trace them out; they like it—er—and I have, I may say, some experience in outlines and that sort of thing—galleries abroad—old masters, etc. Paint a little myself."

"Indeed!"said Eugenio. "Original designs, I suppose?"

Oh no; Mokes left that to the regular profession. They had to do it, poor fellows —wouldn't interfere with them.

"Very generous,"said Eugenio.

Yes, Mokes thought it was. But gentlemen of—of fortune, you know, had their duties—as—as such.

"How muck I should like to see your pictures, Mr. Mokes!" said the poet, assuming an air of deep interest.

The highly flattered Mokes thought that "perhaps—er," he "might have one or two sent down by express;"he always liked "to oblige his friends."

"Don't chaff him any more,"whispered John, with a meaning glance toward Iris.

"What! not that lovely girl!"exclaimed Eugenio, under his breath.

"Two or three millions!"said John. "Ah!"replied the poet.

On the red bridge Sara paused a moment and stood gazing down the river. "What a misty look there is away down there over the salt marshes!"she said, "the boats tipped up on shore, with their slender masts against the sky. The river is certainly going down to the sea, and yet the sea-breeze comes from behind me."

"The Sebastian is nearer the ocean up here than it is down at its mouth,"said John. "Look across: there is only the North Beach between us here and the ocean."

"Between us and Africa, you mean."

"What is it that attracts you toward Africa, Miss St. John?" asked Eugenio.

"Antony," replied Sara, promptly. "Don't you remember those wonderful lines written by an Ohio soldier,

"I am dying, Egypt, dying;
Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast?'"

"Dear me, Miss St. John, I hope you are not taking up Antony and Cleopatra to the detriment of the time-honored Romeo and Juliet! Romeo is the orthodox lover, pray remember."

"But I am heterodox," replied Sara, smiling.

Beyond the river the road led through the deep white sand of Florida. Iris's little boots sank ankle deep.

"Take my arm," said the Captain.

Now taking the arm means more or less, according to the arm and the way it is offered. The Captain was tall, the Captain was strong, and he had a way with him. Iris was small, Iris was graceful, and she had a way with her. To say that from that moment they flirted boundlessly all the afternoon does not express it. I am sorry to say, also, that John and the poet openly, and Sara and I tacitly, egged them on. The bullion star of Mokes had been in the ascendant long enough, we thought. The Professor had a staff, a trowel, and a large basket for specimens. He made forays into the thicket, lost himself regularly, and Miss Sharp as regularly went to the rescue and guided him back.

"How many old tracks there are turning off to the right and the left!" I said. "Where do they go?"

"The most delightful roads are those that go nowhere," said Eugenio, "roads that go out and haze around in the woods just for fun. Who wants to be always going somewhere?"

"These roads will answer your purpose, then," said John. "Most of them go nowhere. They did go out to old military posts once upon a time, in the Seminole war, but the military posts have disappeared, and now they go nowhere. They are pretty tracks, some of them, especially the old Indian entrance to St. Augustine—a trail coming up from the south."


 
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