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The Dolphin carried to Florida the same party that she had brought from Annapolis, with the addition of Chester Dinsmore and Dr. Harold Travilla; while some others of the connection were intending to travel thither by land. The voyage was but a short one, the weather pleasant—though cool enough to make the cabin a more comfortable place for family gatherings than the deck—the vessel in fine condition, well manned, well officered, and provided with everything necessary for convenience, comfort, and enjoyment. Amusements—such as music, books, and games—were always to be had in abundance aboard the yacht, but on this occasion the collection of information in regard to the history and geography of Florida took precedence of everything else. As soon as the vessel was well under way they gathered about a table in the saloon on which were maps and books bearing upon the subject, and while examining them chatted freely and gayly in regard to which points they should visit, and how long remain in each place.
"That last is a question which would better be decided upon the spot," Captain Raymond said when it had been asked once or twice. "There is little or nothing to hurry us, so that we may move forward, or tarry in one place or another, as suits our convenience or inclination."
"We will call at Jacksonville, I suppose, father?" Lucilla said inquiringly. "I see it is spoken of as the travel-centre and metropolis of the State."
"Yes; and if my passengers desire to go there we will do so."
"Can we go all the way in the Dolphin, papa?" asked little Elsie.
"Yes; I think, however, we will call at Fernandina first, as it is nearer."
"It is on an island, is it not?" asked Evelyn.
"Yes; Amelia Island, at the mouth of St. Mary's River."
"There are a very great many islands on Florida's coast, I think," said Elsie. "I was looking at the map to-day and it seemed to me there were thousands."
"So there are," said her father; "islands of various sizes, from a mere dot in some cases to from thirty to fifty miles of length in others."
"Then we won't stop at all of them, I suppose," remarked Ned sagely; "only at the big ones, won't we, papa?"
"Yes; and not at every one of them either," answered his father, with a look of amusement. "Ten thousand or more stoppages would use up rather too much of our time."
"Yes, indeed!" laughed Ned. "Most of them I'd rather just look at as we pass by."
"We will want to see St. Augustine and other places mentioned in the history we have been reading," said Grace.
"Certainly," replied her father, "we will not neglect them. The mouth of St. John's River is about the first we will come to. Do you remember, Elsie, what they called it, and what they did there?"
"Oh, yes, papa," she answered eagerly. "They named the river May, and set up a monument of stone on a little sand bank in the river and engraved the arms of France upon it."
"Quite correct, daughter," the captain said in a tone of pleased commendation; "I see you have paid good attention to our reading and talks on the subject, and I hope soon to reward you with a sight of the scenes of the occurrences mentioned; though of course they are greatly changed from what they were nearly four hundred years ago."
"Wasn't Jacksonville formerly known by another name, captain?" asked
"Yes," he replied, "the Indian name was Waccapilatka—meaning Cowford or Oxford—but in 1816 it became a white man's town and in 1822 its name was changed to Jackson, in honor of General Andrew Jackson. I think we should go up the St. Johns to that city before going farther down the coast."
"Yes," said Mrs. Travilla, "and then on up the river and through the lakes to De Leon Springs. We all want to see that place."
All in the company seemed to approve of that plan and it was presently decided to carry it out. They did not stop at Fernandina, only gazed upon it in passing, made but a short stay at Jacksonville, then passed on up the river and through the lakes to De Leon Springs.
Here they found much to interest them;—the great mineral spring, one hundred feet in diameter and thirty feet deep, its water so clear that the bottom could be distinctly seen and so impregnated with soda and sulphur as to make it most healthful, giving ground for the legend that it is the veritable Fountain of Perpetual Youth sought out by Ponce de Leon.
The ruins of an old Spanish mill close at hand interested them also. These consisted of an immense brick smokestack and furnace covered with vines; two large iron wheels, thrown down when the mill was destroyed, in a way to cause one to overlap the other, and now a gum tree grows up through them so that the arms of the wheels are deeply imbedded in its trunk.
Our friends found this so charming a spot that they spent some days there. Then returning down the river, to the ocean, they continued their voyage in a southerly direction.
Their next pause was at St. Augustine, which they found a most interesting old city—the oldest in the United States—noted for its picturesque beauty, its odd streets ten to twenty feet wide, without sidewalks, its crumbling old city gates, its governor's palace, its coquina-built houses with overhanging balconies, its sea walls and old fort, its Moorish cathedral, and the finest and most striking hotel in the world.
But what interested our party more than anything else was the old fort—called San Marco by the Spaniard, but now bearing the American name of Fort Marion. They went together to visit it and were all greatly interested in its ancient and foreign appearance; in the dried-up moat, the drawbridges, the massive arched entrance, dark under-ways and dungeons.
"Papa," said Elsie, "it's a dreadful place, and very, very old, isn't it?"
"Yes," he answered; "it was probably begun in 1565. About how long ago was that?"
"More than three hundred years," she returned after a moment's thought. "Oh, that is a long, long while!"
"Yes," he said, "a very long while, and we may be very thankful that our lives were given us in this time rather than in that; for it was a time of ignorance and persecution."
"Yes, yes, ignorance and persecution;" the words came in sepulchral tones from the depths of the nearest dungeon, "here have I lain for three hundred years with none to pity or help. Oh, 'tis a weary while! Shall I never, never escape?"
"Oh, papa," cried Elsie in tones of affright, and clinging to his hand, "how dreadful! Can't we help him out?"
"I don't think there is anyone in there, daughter," the captain said in reassuring tones, her Uncle Harold adding, with a slight laugh, "And if there is he must surely be pretty well used to it by this time."
All their little company had been startled at first and felt a thrill of horror at thought of such misery, but now they all laughed and turned to Cousin Ronald, as if saying surely it was his doing.
"Yes," he said, "the voice was mine; and thankful we may be that those poor victims of such hellish cruelty have long, long since been released from their pain."
"Oh, I am glad to know that," exclaimed Elsie with a sigh of relief; "but please let's go away from here, for I think it's a dreadful place."
"Yes," said her father, "we have seen it all now and will try to find something pleasanter to look at." And with that they turned and left the old fort.
Captain Raymond and his little company, feeling in no haste to continue their journey, lingered for some time in St. Augustine and its neighborhood. One day they visited an island where some friends were boarding. It was a very pretty place. There were several cottages standing near together amid the orange groves, one of them occupied by the proprietor—a finely educated Austrian physician—and his wife, the others by the boarders. The party from the Dolphin were much interested in the story of these people told them by their friend.
"The doctor," he said, "had come over to America before our Civil War, and was on the island when Union troops came into the neighborhood. He was one day walking in the woods when suddenly a party of Union soldiers appeared and, seeing him, took him for a spy, seized him and declared their intention to shoot him. They tied his hands behind his back, led him to what they deemed a suitable spot on the edge of a thick part of the wood, then turned and walked away to station themselves at the proper distance for firing. But the instant their eyes were off him the prisoner started into the wood and was out of sight before they were aware that he was making an attempt to escape.
"They pursued, but favored by the thick growth of trees and shrubs, he kept out of sight until he reached a palmetto, which he climbed—having contrived to get his hands free as he ran—and there concealed himself among the leaves. He had hardly ensconced himself there before he could see and hear his foes running past beneath his place of shelter, beating about the bushes and calling to each other to make sure of catching the rascally spy. But he was safely hidden and at length they gave up the search for the time.
"But they had encamped in the neighborhood and for several days and nights the Austrian remained in the tree, afraid to descend lest he should be caught and shot. He did not starve, as he could eat of the cabbage which grows at the top of that tree, but he suffered from thirst and lack of sleep, as he could rest but insecurely in the treetop. When two or three days and nights had passed he felt that he could stand it no longer; he must get water and food though at the risk of his life. Waiting only for darkness and a silence that led him to hope his foes were not near at hand, he descended and cautiously made his way through the wood. He presently reached a house occupied by a woman only, told her his story and asked for food and drink. Her heart was touched with pity for his hard case, she supplied his wants and told him she would put food in a certain spot where he could get it the next night.
"He thanked her and told her he wanted to get away from that neighborhood, as there was no safety for him there. She said she thought she might be able to secure a skiff in which he could go up or down the coast and so perhaps escape the soldiers. He was, you know, a physician—not a sailor—and knew but little about managing a boat; but anything seemed better than his present situation, so he thanked her and said he would be glad to try it.
"Shortly afterward she informed him that the boat was ready. He entered it, took up the oars, and started down the coast. But a storm came on, he was unable to manage his small craft, it was upset by the waves, he was thrown into the water and presently lost consciousness. When he recovered it he was lying in a berth on board a much larger vessel than the canoe, a kindly-looking man leaning over him using restoratives. 'Ah, doctor,' he said with a pleased smile, 'I am glad, very glad to have succeeded in restoring you to consciousness; glad to have been able to rescue you from a watery grave.'
"The doctor expressed his thanks, but acknowledged that he did not know this new friend, who seemed to know him; then the other asked if he did not remember having prescribed for a sick man in such a time and at such a place. 'It was I,' he added; 'you then saved my life, and I am most happy to have been enabled to save yours from being lost in the ocean.'
"The talk went on; the doctor told of his danger, his escape, and his anxiety to keep out of the way of the soldiers until the war should be over.
"The captain told him he was bound for Philadelphia, and that if he chose he could go there and live in safety to the end of the war and longer. So that was what he did; he stayed there till peace came, and in the meantime met and married a countrywoman of his own, a lovely and amiable lady, whom he brought back with him to Florida."
"I noticed her as we passed," said Grandma Elsie; "she is a lovely-looking woman. But have they no children?"
"None now; they had two—a son and a daughter—who lived to grow up, were children to be proud of, highly educated by their father, and very fond of each other and of their parents. The son used to act as guide to visitors boarding here in the cottages, going with them on fishing expeditions and so forth. On one of those occasions he was caught in a storm and took cold; that led to consumption and he finally died. They buried him under the orange trees. His sister was so overwhelmed with grief that she fretted herself to death, and now lies by his side."
"Ah, the poor mother!" sighed Grandma Elsie. "And the father too," added Captain Raymond in a moved tone.
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