F. Hopkinson Smith
“Kennedy Square, in the late fifties, was a place of birds and trees and flowers; of rude stone benches, sagging arbors smothered in vines, and cool dirt paths bordered by sweet-smelling box. Giant magnolias filled the air with their fragrance, and climbing roses played hide-and-seek among the railings of the rotting fence. Along the shaded walks laughing boys and girls romped all day, with hoop and ball, attended by old black mammies in white aprons and gayly colored bandannas; while in the more secluded corners, sheltered by protecting shrubs, happy lovers sat and talked, tired wayfarers rested with hats off, and staid old gentlemen read by the hour, their noses in their books.
“Outside of all this color, perfume, and old-time charm; outside the grass-line and the rickety wooden fence that framed them in, ran an uneven pavement splashed with cool shadows and stained with green mould. Here, in summer, the watermelon man stopped his cart; and there, in winter, upon its broken bricks, old Moses unhooked his bucket of oysters and ceased for a moment his droning call.
“On the shady side of the square, and half hidden in ivy, was a Noah’s Ark church, topped by a quaint belfry holding a bell that had not rung for years, and faced by a clock-dial all weather-stains and cracks, around which travelled a single rusty hand. In its shadow to the right lay the home of the archdeacon, a stately mansion with Corinthian columns reaching to the roof and surrounded by a spacious garden filled with damask roses and bushes of sweet syringa. To the left crouched a row of dingy houses built of brick, their iron balconies hung in flowering vines, the windows glistening with panes of wavy glass purpled by age.
“On the sunny side of the square, opposite the church, were more houses, high and low: one all garden, filled with broken-nosed statues hiding behind still more magnolias; and another all veranda and honeysuckle, big rocking-chairs and swinging hammocks; and still others with porticos curtained by white jasmine or Virginia creeper.”
—From “The Fortunes of Oliver Horn.”
On the precise day on which this story opens—some sixty or more years ago, to be exact—a bullet-headed, merry-eyed, mahogany-colored young darky stood on the top step of an old-fashioned, high-stoop house, craning his head up and down and across Kennedy Square in the effort to get the first glimpse of his master, St. George Wilmot Temple, attorney and counsellor-at-law, who was expected home from a ducking trip down the bay.