The Ancient City
The Ancient City
"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, he 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."
"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 Auden'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 here!" 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? 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, wh