Stories by American Authors, Volume 7

by: Various

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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The Bishop was walking down the wide Aiken street. He was the only bishop in Aiken, and they made much of him, accordingly, though his diocese was in the West, which of course was a drawback.

He was a tall man, with a handsome, kind face under his shovel hat; portly, as a bishop should be, and having a twinkle of humor in his eye. He dressed well and soberly, in the decorous habiliments of his office. “So English,” the young ladies of the Highland Park Hotel used to whisper to each other, admiring him. Perhaps this is the time to mention that the Bishop was a widower.

To-day he walked at a gentle pace, repeatedly lifting his hat in answer to a multitude of salutations; for it was a bright April day, and the street was thronged. There was the half-humorous incongruity between the people and the place always visible in a place where two thirds of the population are a mere pleasant-weather growth, dependent on the climate. Groups of Northerners stood in the red and blue and green doorways of the gay little shops, or sauntered past them; easily distinguished by their clothing and their air of unaccustomed and dissatisfied languor. One could pick out at a glance the new-comers just up from Florida; they were so decorated with alligator-tooth jewelry, and gazed so contemptuously at the oranges and bananas in the windows. The native Southerners were equally conspicuous, in the case of the men, from their careless dress and placid demeanor. A plentiful sprinkling of black and yellow skins added to the picturesque character of the scene. Over it all hung a certain holiday air, the reason for which one presently detected to be an almost universal wearing of flowers,—bunches of roses, clusters of violets or trailing arbutus, or twigs of yellow jasmine; while bare-footed boys, with dusky faces and gleaming teeth, proffered nosegays at every corner. The Aiken nosegay has this peculiarity,—the flowers are wedged together with unexampled tightness. Truly enough may the little venders boast, “Dey’s orful lots o’ roses in dem, mister; you’ll fin’ w’en you onties ’em.” No one of the pedestrians appeared to be in a hurry; and under all the holiday air of flowers there was a pathetic disproportion of pale and weary faces.

But if they did not hurry on the sidewalk, there was plenty of motion in the street; horses in Aiken being always urged to their full speed,—which, to be sure, is not alarming. Now, carriages were whirling by and riders galloping in both directions. The riders were of every age, sex, and condition: pretty girls in jaunty riding habits, young men with polo mallets, old men and children, and grinning negroes lashing their sorry hacks with twigs. Of the carriages, it would be hard to tell which was the more noticeable, the smartness of the vehicles or the jaded depression of the thin beasts that pulled them. Where Park and Ashland avenues meet at right angles the crowd was most dense. There, on one side, one sees the neat little post-office and the photographer’s gallery, and off in the distance the white pine towers of the hotel, rising out of its green hills; on the other, the long street slowly climbs the hill, through shops and square white houses with green blinds, set back in luxuriant gardens....