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The Sea Wall - St. Augustine

"I have never been in Italy," said Sara, shortly.

The reflection of an inward smile crossed John Hoffman's face.

"But where is the rose-tree?" I said.

"Here, madam. Do you see that little shop with the open window I Notice the old man sitting within at the forge. He is a fine old Spanish gentleman and lock-smith, and my very good friend. Senor Oliveros, may we see the rose-tree?"

The old man looked up from some delicate piece of mechanism, and, with a smile on his fine old face, waved us toward the little garden behind the shop. There it stood, the pride of St. Augustine, a rose-tree fifteen feet high, seventeen feet in circumference, with a trunk measuring fifteen inches around and five inches through, "La Sylphide," yielding annually more than four thousand beautiful creamy roses.

"What a wealth of bloom !" said Sara, bending toward a loaded branch.

"La Sylphide,' like other sylphs, is at her best when only half opened," said John, selecting with careful deliberation a perfect rose just quivering between bud and blossom, and offering it to Sara.

"No ; I prefer this one," she answered, turning aside to pluck a passe flower that fell to petals in her hand. An hour later I saw the perfect rose in Iris Carew's hair.

"Niece Martha," said Aunt Diana energetically, appearing in my room immediately after breakfast, "I do not approve of this division of our party ; it is not what we planned."

"What can I do, aunt? Sara ought not to pay hotel prices—"

"I am not speaking of Miss St. John ; she can stay here if she pleases, of course, but you must come to us."

"Sara might not like to be left alone, aunt. To be sure," I continued, not without a grain of malice, "Mr. Hoffman is here, so she need not be too lonely, but—"

"John Hoffman here?"

"Yes; we came here at his recommendation."

Aunt Di bit her lips in high vexation ; next to Mokes she prized John, who, although a person of most refractory and fatiguing ways, was yet possessed of undoubted Knickerbocker antecedents. She meditated a moment.

"On the whole you are right, Niece Martha," she said, coming to surface again ; "but we shall, of course, keep together as much as possible. For this morning I have planned a visit to the old Spanish fort ; Captain Carlyle will accompany us."

The Wall & Fort

"And who is Captain Carlyle?"

"A young officer stationed here ; he introduced himself to the Professor last evening, and afterward mistook me for Mrs. Van Auden, of Thirty-fourth Street. It seems he knows her very well," continued Aunt Di, with a swallow of satisfaction. (Ah, wise young Captain ! Mrs. Van Anden's handsome face was at least ten years younger than Aunt Diana's.)

"I saw Iris glancing after a uniform last night as we came around the Plaza," I said, smiling.

But Aunt Di was true to her colors, and never saw or heard any thing detrimental to her cause.

It was a lovely February morning ; the telegraph reported zero weather in New York, but here the thermometer stood at seventy, with a fresh sea-breeze. We stepped up on to the sea-wall at the Basin, where the sail-boats were starting out with pleasure parties for the North Beach. Iris had her Captain; Aunt Diana followed closely arm in arm with Mokes ; Miss Sharp, jubilant, had captured the Professor ; Sara and I were together as usual, leaving John Hoffman to bring up the rear with his morning cigar.

"The material of this wall," began the Professor, rapping it with his cane, "is that singular conglomerate called coquina, which is quarried yonder on Anastasia Island ; but the coping is, as you will perceive, granite."

"How delightful to meet the dear old New England stone down hire!" exclaimed Miss Sharp, tapping the granite with an enthusiastic gaiter.

"The wall was completed in 1842 at a cost of one hundred thousand dollars, having been built by the United States government," continued the Professor.

"And why, nobody knows," added John, from behind.

"To keep the town from washing away, I suppose," said Sara.

"Of course ; but why should the United States government concern itself over the washing away of this ancient little village with its eighteen hundred inhabitants, when it leaves cities with their thousands unaided l The one dock has, as you see, fallen down ; a coasting schooner once a month or so is all the commerce, and yet here is a wall nearly a mile in length, stretching across the whole eastern front of the town, as though vast wealth lay behind."

"The town may grow," I said.

"It will never be any thing more than a winter resort, Miss Martha."

"At any rate, the wall is charming to walk upon," said Iris, dancing along on her high-heeled boots ; "it must be lovely here by moonlight."

"It is," replied the Captain, with a glance of his blue eyes. He was a marvel of beauty, this young soldier, with his tall, well-knit, graceful form, his wavy golden hair, and blonde mustache sweeping over a mouth of child-like sweetness. He had a cleft in his chin like the young Antinous that he was, while a bold profile and commanding air relieved the otherwise almost too great loveliness of a face which invariably attracted all eyes. Spoiled Of course he was ; what else could you expect ? But he was kind-hearted by nature, and endowed with a vast fund of gallantry that carried him along gayly on the topmost wave. "There is a new moon this very night, I think," observed Aunt Diana, suggestively, to Mokes.

But Mokes "never could walk here after dark ; dizzy, you know—might fall in."

"Oh, massive old ruin !" cried Iris, as we drew near the fort ; "how grand and gray and dignified you look ! Have you a name, venerable friend?"

"This interesting relic of Spanish domination was called San Juan de Pinos—" began the governess, hastily finding the place in her guide-book.

"Oh no, Miss Sharp," interrupted Aunt Diana, who had noticed with disapprobation the clinging of the lisle-thread glove to the Professor's lank but learned arm. "You are mistaken again; it is called Fort Marion."

"It used to be San Marco," said John.

"I vote for San Marco ; Marion is commonplace," decided Iris, sweeping away the other names with a wave of her dainty little glove.

"A magnificent specimen of the defensive art of two centuries ago," began the Professor, taking up a position on the water-battery, and beginning to point out with his cane. "It is built, you will observe, in a square or trapezium—"

"Let us go up and have a dance on the top," said Iris.

"This is very instructive," murmured Aunt Diana, moving nearer to her niece. "Miss Sharp, pray call your pupil's attention to this remarkable relic." For Mokes had seated himself sulkily on one of the veteran cannon which frowned over the harbor like toothless old watch-dogs. There was no objection to an army Antinous as a picturesque adjunct, Aunt Diana thought; but it was well known that there was very little gold in the service outside of the buttons, while here at hand was a Croesus, a genuine live Croesus, sitting sulky and neglected on his cannon!

"Oh, certainly," said Miss Sharp, coming to the rescue. " Iris, my child, you observe that it is in the form of a trapezoid—"

The Castillo de San Marcos

 
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