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Dress Parade

The poet staid with us a day or two longer, and charmed us all with his delightful, winsome humor.

"Do you know, I really love that man," I announced.

"So do I," said Iris.

"That is nothing," said John; "he is the poet whom poets love,' you know."

"But we are not poets, Mr. Hoffman." "We are only plebes, and plebes may very well love what poets love, I think."

"But it does not always follow," I said.

"By no means. In this case, however, it is true. All love Eugenio, both poets and plebes."

"He is the Mendelssohn of poets," I said; "and, besides that, he is the only person I ever met who reminded me of my idea of Mendelssohn personally—an idea gathered from those charming letters' and the Auchester book."

The next evening Eugenio and Sara went off for a stroll on the sea-wall; two hours later Sara came back to our room, laid a blank book on the table, and threw herself into a chair.

"Tired?" I asked.

"Yes."

"It is a lovely evening."

"Yes."

"Did you have a pleasant time?"

"Yes."

I knew that blank book well; it contained all Sara's printed stories and verses; my eyes glanced toward it.

"Yes," said Sara; "there it is! I gave it to him yesterday. I knew he would read it through, and I knew also that I could read his real opinion in those honest eyes of his."

"Well?"

"There isn't a thing in it worth the paper it is written on."

"Oh, Sara!"

"And what is more, I have known it myself all along."

"Is it possible he said so?"

"He? Never. He said every thing that was generous and kind and cordial and appreciative; and he gave me solid assistance, too, in the way of advice, and suggestive hints worth their weight hi gold to an isolated beginner like myself. But—"

"But?"

"Yes, but.' Through it all, Martha, I could see the truth written in the sky over that old look-out tower; we were on the glacis under that tower all the time, and I never took my eyes off from it. That tower is my fate, I feel sure."

"What do you mean? Your fate?"

"I don't know exactly myself. But, nevertheless, in some way or other that look-out tower is connected with my fate—the fate of poor Sara St. John."

In John Hoffman's room at the same time another conversation was going on.

JOHN. "Has she genius, do you think?"

EUGENIO. "Not an iota."

JOHN. "What do you mean, you iron-hearted despot? Has the girl no poetry in her?"

EUGENIO. " Plenty; but not of the kind that can express itself in writing. Sara St. John has poetry, but she ought not to try to write it; she is one of the kind to—"

JOHN. " Well, what?"

EUGENIO. "Live it."

Eugenio went, leaving real regret behind. The crowd of tourists began to diminish, the season was approaching its end, and Aunt Diana gathered her strength for a final contest.

"We are not out of the wilderness yet, it seems," said Sara to me, in her mocking voice. " Mokes, the Captain, the Professor, and the Knickerbocker, and nothing settled! How is this, my countrymen?"

Our last week came, and the Captain and Iris continued their murmured conversations. In vain Aunt Diana, with the vigilance of a Seminole, contested every inch of the ground; the Captain outgeneraled her, and Iris, with her innocent little ways, aided and abetted him. Aunt Di never made open warfare; she believed in strategy; through the whole she never once said, "Iris, you must not," or wavered for one moment in her charming manner toward the Captain. But the pits she dug for that young man, the barriers she erected, the obstructions she cast in his way, would have astonished even Osceola himself. And all the time she had Mokes to amuse, Mokes the surly, Mokes the wearing, Mokes who was even beginning to talk openly of going!—yes, absolutely going! One day it came to pass that we all went up to the barracks, to attend a dress parade. The sun was setting, the evening gun sounded across the inlet, the flash of the light-house came back as if in answer, the flag was slowly lowered, and the soldiers paraded in martial array—artillery, "the poetry of the army," as the romantic young ladies say" the red-legged branch of the service," as the soldiers call it.

United States Barracks - A Dress Parade

"What a splendid-looking set of officers!" exclaimed Iris, as the tall figures in full uniform stood motionless in the sunset glow. "But who is that other young officer?"

"The lieutenant," said the "other young lady."

"He is very handsome," said Iris, slowly.

"Yes, very. But he is a provoking fellow. Nobody can do any thing with him."

" Can't they?" said Iris, warming to the encounter. (Iris rather liked a difficult subject.) Then, "Oh, I forgot we were going so soon," she added, with a little sigh. " But I wonder why, the Captain never brought him to call upon us?"

"Simply because he won't be brought," replied the "other young lady."

"I will tell you what he is like, Iris," I said, for I had noticed the young soldier often. "He is like the old Indian description of the St. Johns River It hath its own way, is alone, and contrary to every other.'"

Review over, we went on to the post cemetery, beyond the barracks, the Captain accompanying us, glittering in gold-lace.

"Were there any encounters in or near St. Augustine during the late war?" began Aunt Di, in a determined voice. Time was short now, and she had decided to cut the Gordian knot of Mokes; in the' mean time the Captain should not get to Iris unless it was over her dead body.

"No," replied Antinous. "The nearest approach to it was an alarm, the gunners under arms, and the woods shelled all night, the scouts in the morning bringing in the mangled remains of the enemy—two Florida cows."

"A charmingly retired life you must lead here," pursued Aunt Di; "the news from the outside world does not rush in to disturb your peaceful calm."

No, the Captain said, it did not rush much. Four weeks after President Fillmore's death they had received their orders to lower the flag and fire funeral guns all day, which they did, to the edification of the Minor-cans, the Matanzas River, and the Florida beach generally.


 
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