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The Coquina Quarry

Miss Sharp Waiting for the Professor

John looked after the three as they wound down the long spiral with a smile of quiet amusement.

"All alike," he said to me, with the "old-comrade" freedom that had grown up between us. " La richesse est toujours des femmes le grand amour, Miss Martha."

" Don't quote your pagan French at me," I answered, retreating outside, where on the little platform I had left Sara gazing out to sea. She was looking down now, leaning over the railing as if measuring the dizzy height.

" If I should throw myself over," she said, as I came up, "my body would go clown; but where would my soul go, I wonder?"

" Don't be morbid, Sara."

" Morbid ? Nonsense! That is a duty word, a red flag which timid people always hang out the moment you near the dangerous ground of the great hereafter. We must all die some time, mustn't we ? And if I should die now, what difference would it make ? The madam-aunt would think me highly inconsiderate to break up the party in any such way; Iris would shed a pretty tear or two; Mokes would really feel relieved; the Professor would write an ac-count of the accident for the , with a description of the coquina quarry thrown in; Miss Sharp would read it and be 'so interested;' and even you, Martha, would scarcely have the heart to -wish me back again." Tears stood in her eyes as she spoke, her face had softened with the sad fancies she had woven, and for the moment the child-look came back into her eyes, as it often comes with tears.

"And John Hoffman," I said, involuntarily. I knew he was still within hearing.

"Oh, he would decorously take his prayer-book and act as chief mourner, if there was no one else," replied Sara, with a mocking little laugh.

"Come down!" called Aunt Di's voice from below; "we are going to the coquina quarry.”

I lingered a moment that John might have full time to make his escape, but when at length we went inside, there he was, leaning on the railing; he looked full at Sara as she passed, and bowed with cold hauteur.

"It is useless to try and make any body like her," I thought as I went down the long stairway. " Why is it that women who write generally manage to make themselves disagreeable to all mankind?"

We found Miss Sharp seated on a stair, half - way down, loaded with specimens, shells, and the vicious-looking roots of Fish Island.

"I am waiting for Professor Macquoid," she explained, graciously. "He came as far as this, and then remembering a rare plant he had forgotten to take up, he went back for it, leaving the other specimens with me. I have no doubt he will soon return; but pray do not wait."

We did not; but left her on the stair.

Sara and I strolled over to the old light house — a weather-beaten tower standing almost in the water, regularly fortified with walls, angles, and loopholes—a lonely little stronghold down by the sea. It was a picturesque old beacon, built by the Spaniards a long time ago as a look - out; when the English came into possession of Florida, in 1763, they raised the look - out sixty feet higher, and planted a cannon on the top, to be fired as a signal when a vessel came in sight. The light that we had so often watched flashing and fading in the twilight as we walked on the sea-wall was put in still later by the United States government; in old times a bonfire was lighted on top every night.

"I like this gray old beacon better than yonder tall, spying, brand-new tower," I said. "This is a drowsy old fellow, who sleeps all day and only wakes at night, as a light-house should, whereas that wide-awake striped Yankee over there is evidently keeping watch of all that goes on in the little city. Iris must take care."

The Old Lighthouse, Anastasia Island

"Do you think he can spy into the demilune?" said Sara, smiling.

At the coquina quarry we found the Professor, scintillating all over with enthusiasm. "A most singular conglomerate of shells cemented by carbonate of lime," he said, putting on a stronger pair of glasses" a recent formation, evidently, of the post-tertiary period. You are aware, I suppose, that it is found nowhere else in the world? It is soft, as you see, when first taken out, but becomes hard by exposure to the air." Knee-deep in coquina, radiating information at every pore, he stood—a happy man!

"And Miss Sharp?" I whispered.

" On the stair," replied Sara.

Not until we were on our way back to the sail-boat was the governess relieved from her vigil; then she heard us passing, andcame out of her own accord, loaded with the relics.

"Why, Miss Sharp, have you been in the light-house all this time?" asked Aunt Diana.

The governess murmured something about a "cool and shady place for meditation," but bravely she held on to her relics, and was ready to hear every thing about coquina and the post-tertiary, as well as a little raid into the glacial theory, with which the Professor entertained us on the way to the landing.

"Do you hear the drum-fish drumming down below?" said John, as the Osceola sailed merrily homeward. We listened, and caught distinctly the muffled tattoo—the marine band, as Iris said.

"I came across an old dilapidated book, written, I suppose, fifty years ago," said John. " Here is an extract about the old light-house and the drum-fish, which I copied from the coverless pages : We landed on Anastasia Island, and walked to the old light-house. Here a Spaniard lives with his family, the eldest, a beautiful dark-eyed little muchacha (young girl), just budding into her fourteenth year. Here, in this little fortified castle, Senor Andro defies alike the tempests and the Indians. Having spent an hour or two in the hospitable tower, and made a delicious repast on the dried fish which garnishes his hall from end to end, eked out with cheese and crackers and a bottle or two of Frontignac, besides fruit and brandy, we bade farewell to the pretty Catalina and the old tower, for it was time to go drumming. Fair Anastasia, how delightful thy sunny beach and the blue sea that kisses buxomly thy lonely shore! Before me rolls the eternal ocean, mighty architect of the curious masonry on which I stand, the animal rock which supports the vegetable soil. How many millions upon millions of these shell-fish must have been destroyed to form a substratum for one rood of land! But it was time for drumming, the magic hour (between the fall of the ebb and the rise of the flood) for this delightful sport, whose superior enchantment over all others in the Walton line I had so often heard described with rapture—the noble nature of the fish, his size and strength, the slow approach which he makes at first to the hook, like a crab; then the sudden overwhelming transport that comes over you when you feel him dashing boldly off with the line is comparable to nothing save pulling along a buxom lass through a Virginia reel.' What do you say to that, Mokes ? That part about the Virginia reel, now, is not to be despised."


 
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