A YANKEE GIRL AT FORT SUMTER
ALICE TURNER CURTIS
AUTHOR OF The Little Maid's Historical Series, etc.
Illustrated by ISABEL W. CALEY
Sylvia Fulton, a little Boston girl, was staying with her father and mother in the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina, just before the opening of the Civil War. She had become deeply attached to her new friends, and their chivalrous kindness toward the little northern girl, as well as Sylvia's perilous adventure in Charleston Harbor, and the amusing efforts of the faithful negro girl to become like her young mistress, all tend to make this story one that every little girl will enjoy reading, and from which she will learn of far-off days and of the high ideals of southern honor and northern courage.
II. A NEW FRIEND
III. SYLVIA IN TROUBLE
IV. AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
V. ESTRALLA AND ELINOR
VI. SYLVIA AT THE PLANTATION
VII. SYLVIA SEES A GHOST
VIII. A TWILIGHT TEA-PARTY
IX. TROUBLESOME WORDS
X. THE PALMETTO FLAG
XI. SYLVIA CARRIES A MESSAGE
XII. ESTRALLA HELPS
XIII. A HAPPY AFTERNOON
XIV. MR. ROBERT WAITE
XV. "WHERE IS SYLVIA?"
XVI. IN DANGER
XVII. A CHRISTMAS PRESENT
XVIII. GREAT NEWS
XIX. SYLVIA MAKES A PROMISE
XX. "TWO LITTLE DARKY GIRLS"
XXI. FORT SUMTER IS FIRED UPON
"Your name is in a song, isn't it?" said Grace Waite, as she and her new playmate, Sylvia Fulton, walked down the pleasant street on their way to school.
"Is it? Can you sing the song?" questioned Sylvia eagerly, her blue eyes shining at what promised to be such a delightful discovery.
Grace nodded smilingly. She was a year older than Sylvia, nearly eleven years old, and felt that it was quite proper that she should be able to explain to Sylvia more about her name than Sylvia knew herself.
"It is something about 'spelling,'" she explained, and then sang, very softly:
"'Then to Sylvia let us sing, That Sylvia is spelling. She excels each mortal thing, Upon the dull earth dwelling.'
"I suppose it means she was the best speller," Grace said soberly.
"I think it is a lovely song," said Sylvia. "I'll tell my mother about it. I am so glad you told me, Grace."
Sylvia Fulton was ten years old, and had lived in Charleston, South Carolina, for the past year. Before that the Fultons had lived in Boston. Grace Waite lived in the house next to the one which Mr. Fulton had hired in the beautiful southern city, and the two little girls had become fast friends. They both attended Miss Patten's school. Usually Grace's black mammy, Esther, escorted them to and from Miss Patten's, but on this morning in early October they were allowed to go by themselves.
As they walked along they could look out across the blue harbor, and see sailing vessels and rowboats coming and going. In the distance were the three forts whose historic names were known to every child in Charleston. Grace never failed to point them out to the little northern girl, and to repeat their names:
"Castle Pinckney," she would say, pointing to the one nearest the city, and then to the long dark forts at the mouth of the harbor, "Fort Sumter, and Fort Moultrie."
"Don't stop to tell me the names of those old forts this morning," said Sylvia. "I know just as much about them now as you do. We shall be late if we don't hurry."
Miss Patten's house stood in a big garden which ran nearly to the water's edge. The schoolroom opened on each side to broad piazzas, and there was always the pleasant fragrance of flowers in the big airy room. Sylvia was sure that no one could be more beautiful than Miss Patten. "She looks just like one of the ladies in your 'Godey's Magazine,' "she had told her mother, on returning home from her first day at school.
And with her pretty soft black curls, her rosy cheeks and pleasant voice, no one could imagine a more desirable teacher than Miss Rosalie Pattten. There were just twelve little girls in her school. There were never ten, or fourteen. Miss Patten would never engage to take more than twelve pupils; and the twelve always came. Mrs. Waite, Grace's mother, had told Mrs. Fulton that Sylvia was very fortunate to attend the school.
School had opened the previous week, and Sylvia had begun to feel quite at home with her new schoolmates. The winter before, Mrs. Fulton had taught her little daughter at home; so this was her first term at Miss Patten's.
Miss Patten always stood near the schoolroom door until all her pupils had arrived. As each girl entered the room she made a curtsey to the pretty teacher, and then said "good-morning" to the pupils who had already arrived, and took her seat. When the clock struck nine Miss Rosalie would take her place behind the desk on the platform at the further end of the room, and say a little prayer. Then the pupils were ready for their lessons.
"Isn't Miss Rosalie lovely," Sylvia whispered as she and Grace moved to their seats, "and doesn't she wear pretty clothes?"
Grace nodded. She had been to Miss Rosalie's school for three years, and she wondered a little at Sylvia's admiration for their teacher, although she too thought Miss Patten looked exactly like a fashion plate.
Grace was eager to get to her desk. From where she sat she could see the grim lines of the distant forts; and this morning they had a new value and interest for her; for at breakfast she had heard her father say that, although the forts were occupied by the soldiers of the United States Government, it was only justice that South Carolina should control them, and if the State seceded from the Union Charleston must take possession of the forts. With the consent of the United States Government if possible, but, if this was refused, by force.
Grace had been thinking about this all the morning, wondering if Charleston men would really send off the soldiers in the forts. She had not spoken of this to Sylvia as they came along the street facing the harbor, and now as she looked at the distant forts on guard at the entrance of the harbor, she resolved to ask Miss Rosalie why the United States should interfere with the "Sovereign State of South Carolina," which her father had said would defend its rights. "Question time" was just before the morning session ended. Then each pupil could ask a question. But as a rule only one or two of the girls had any inquiry to make. To-day, however, there were several who had questions to ask and Grace waited with what patience she could until it was her turn. When Miss Rosalie smiled at her and called her name, Grace rose and said:
"Please, Miss Rosalie, if Charleston owns the forts, could anyone take them away?"
The teacher's dark eyes seemed to grow larger and brighter, and she straightened her slender shoulders as if preparing to defend the rights of her State.
"My dear girl, who would question the right of South Carolina to control all forts on her territory? We all realize that this is a time of uncertainty for our beloved State; we may be treated with harshness, with injustice, but every loyal Carolinian will protect his State."
The little girls looked at each other with startled eyes. What was Miss Rosalie talking about, they wondered, and what did Grace Waite mean about anybody "taking" Fort Sumter or Fort Moultrie? Of course nobody could do such a thing.
School was dismissed with less ceremony than usual that morning, and the little girls started off in groups, talking and questioning each other about what Miss Rosalie had said.
Two or three ran after Grace and Sylvia to ask Grace what she meant by her question.
"Of course we know that northern people want to take our slaves away from us," declared Elinor Mayhew, the oldest girl in school, whose dark eyes and curling hair were greatly admired by auburn-haired, blue-eyed Sylvia, "but of course they can't do that. But how could they take our forts?"
"I don't know," responded Grace. "That's why I asked Miss Rosalie. I guess I'll have to ask my father."
"We'll all ask our fathers," said Elinor, "and to-morrow we will tell each other what they say. I don't suppose YOUR father would care if the forts were taken," and she turned suddenly toward Sylvia. "I suppose all the Yankees would like to tell us what we ought to do."
Sylvia looked at her in surprise. The tall girl had never taken any notice of the little Boston girl before, and Sylvia could not understand why Elinor should look at her so scornfully or speak so unkindly. The other girls had stopped talking, and now looked at Sylvia as if wondering what she would say.
"I don't know what you mean," she answered bravely, "but I know one thing: my father would want what was right."
"That's real Yankee talk," said Elinor. "They say slavery isn't right."
There was a little murmur of laughter among the other girls. For in 1860 the people of South Carolina believed they were quite right in buying negroes for slaves, and in selling them when they desired; so these little girls, some of whom already "owned" a colored girl who waited upon them, had no idea but what slavery was a right and natural condition, and were amused at Elinor's words.
"Why do you want to be so hateful, Elinor?" demanded Grace, before Sylvia could reply. "Sylvia has not said or done anything to make you talk to her this way," and Grace linked her arm in Sylvia's, and stood facing the other girls.
"Well, Grace Waite, you can associate with Yankees if you wish to. But my mother says that Miss Patten ought not to have Sylvia Fulton in her school. Come on, girls; Grace Waite can do as she pleases," and Elinor, followed by two or three of the older girls, went scornfully down the street.
"Sylvia! Wait!" and a little girl about Sylvia's age came running down the path. It was Flora Hayes; and, next to Grace Waite, Sylvia liked her the best of any of her new companions.
"Don't mind what Elinor Mayhew says. She's always horrid when she dares to be," said Flora.
Flora's father was a wealthy cotton planter, and their Charleston home was in one of the historic mansions of that city. Beside that there was the big old house on the Ashley River ten miles from the city, where the family stayed a part of the time.
Flora's eyes were as blue as Sylvia's, and her hair was very much the same color. She was always smiling and friendly, and was better liked than Elinor Mayhew, who, as Flora said, was always ready to tease the younger girls.
"I don't know what she meant," said Sylvia as, with Grace on one side and Flora on the other, they started toward home.
"She is just hateful," declared Grace. "I wish I had not asked Miss Rosalie about the forts. But I did want to know. It would be dreadful not to see them where they have always been."
"Oh, Grace! You didn't think they were going to move the forts to Washington, did you?" laughed Flora. "I know better than that. Taking the forts means that the Government of the United States would own them instead of South Carolina."
Grace laughed good-naturedly. She was always as ready to laugh at her own mistakes as at those of others; and in the year that Sylvia had known her she had never seen Grace vexed or angry.
Both Grace and Flora advised Sylvia not to tell her mother of Elinor's unkindness, or of her taunting words. But it was rather difficult for Sylvia to keep a secret from her mother.
"You see, it will make your mother sorry, and she will fret about it," Flora had said; and at this Sylvia had decided that no matter what happened at school she would not tell her mother about it. She almost dreaded seeing Elinor again, and wondered why Elinor's mother had not wanted Miss Patten to take her as a pupil.
Mr. and Mrs. Fulton were surprised when at supper time Sylvia demanded to know what a "Yankee" was. She thought her mother looked a little troubled. But her father smiled. "Yankee is what Britishers call all Americans," he answered.
"Then Elinor Mayhew is just as much a Yankee as I am," thought Sylvia, and she smiled so radiantly at the thought that Mrs. Fulton was reassured, and did not question her.
The next day was Saturday, and Mr. Fulton had planned to take his wife and Sylvia to Fort Moultrie. The military band of the fort played every afternoon, and the parapet of the fort was a daily promenade for many Charleston people. During the summer workmen had been making necessary repairs on the fortifications; but visitors were always welcomed by the officers in charge, one of whom, Captain Carleton, was a college friend of Sylvia's father.
Sylvia could row a small boat very well, and her father had purchased a pretty sailboat which he was teaching her to steer. She often went with her father on trips about the harbor, and the little girl always thought that these excursions were the most delightful of pleasures.
There was a favorable breeze this Saturday afternoon, and the little boat, with its shining white paint and snowy sail, skimmed swiftly across the harbor. Sylvia watched the little waves which seemed to dance forward to meet them, looked at the many boats and vessels, and quite forgot Elinor Mayhew's unkindness. Her mother and father were talking of the black servants, whom they had hired with the house of Mr. Robert Waite, Grace's uncle. Sylvia heard them speak of Aunt Connie, the good- natured black cook, who lived in a cabin behind the Fultons' kitchen.
"Aunt Connie wants to bring her little girl to live with her. Their master is willing, if we have no objections," Sylvia heard her mother say.
"Oh, let the child come," Mr. Fulton responded; "how old is she?"
"Just Sylvia's age. Her name is Estralla," replied Mrs. Fulton.
"You'll have a little darky for a playmate, Sylvia. How will you like that?" her father asked. But before Sylvia could answer, the boat swung alongside the landing-place at the fort and she saw her father's friend, Captain Carleton, waiting to welcome them.
The band was playing, and a few people were on the parapet.
"Not many visitors to-day," said the Captain, as they all walked on together. "I am afraid the Charleston people resent the fact that the United States is protecting its property."
As they walked along the Captain pointed to the sand which the wind had blown into heaps about the sea-front of the old fort. "A child of ten could easily come into the fort over those sand-banks," he said.
"Whose fort is this?" asked Sylvia, so earnestly that both the Captain and her father smiled.
"It belongs to the United States, of which South Carolina is one," replied the Captain.
Sylvia gave a little sigh of satisfaction. Even Elinor Mayhew could not find any fault with that, she thought, and she was eager to get home and tell Grace what the Captain had said.
On the way back Sylvia asked her mother if she knew that there was a song with her name in it.
"Why, of course, dear child. You were named for that very Sylvia," replied her mother.
"'Then to Sylvia let us sing, That Sylvia is excelling; She excels each mortal thing Upon the dull earth dwelling; To her let us garlands bring'"—
sang Mrs. Fulton; "and you can thank your father for choosing your name," she added gaily.
"Oh! But Grace said it was about spelling," explained Sylvia; "but I like your way best," she added quickly.
There were a good many pleasant things for Sylvia to think of that night. Not every girl could be named out of a song, she reflected. Then there was the little colored girl Estralla, who was to arrive the next day, and besides these interesting facts, she had discovered who really owned the forts, and could tell her schoolmates on Monday. All these pleasant happenings made Sylvia forgetful of Elinor Mayhew's unkindness. Before bedtime she had learned the words of the song from which she was named. She knew Grace would think that "excelling" was much better than "spelling."
A NEW FRIEND
The next morning Sylvia was awakened by a tapping on her chamber door. Usually Jennie, the colored girl who helped Aunt Connie in the work of the house, would come into the room before Sylvia was awake with a big pitcher of hot water, and Sylvia would open her eyes to see Jennie unfastening the shutters and spreading out the fresh clothes. So this morning she wondered what the tapping meant, and called out: "Come in."
The door opened very slowly and a little negro girl, with a round woolly head and big startled eyes, stood peering in. She was barefooted, and wore a straight garment of faded blue cotton.
For a moment the two children stared at each other. Then Sylvia remembered that Aunt Connie's little girl was coming to live with her mother.
"Are you Estralla?" she asked eagerly, sitting up in bed.
"Yas, Missy," replied the little darky, lifting the big pitcher of water and bringing it into the room, where she stood holding it as if not knowing what to do next.
"Set the pitcher down," said Sylvia.
"Yas, Missy," said Estralla, her big eyes fixed on the little white girl in the pretty bed who was smiling at her in so friendly a fashion. She took a step or two forward, her eyes still fixed on Sylvia, and not noticing the little footstool directly in front of her, over which she stumbled with a loud crash, breaking the pitcher and sending the hot water over her bare feet.
"Oh, Mammy! Mammy! Mammy!" she screamed, lying face downward on the floor with the overturned footstool and broken pitcher, while the steaming water soaked through the cotton dress.
In a moment Sylvia was out of bed.
"Get up, Estralla," she commanded, "and stop screaming."
The little darky's wails ceased, and she looked up at the slender white figure standing in front of her.
"I kyan't git up; I'se all scalded and cut," she sobbed, "an' if I does get up I'se gwine to get whipped for breaking the pitcher," and at the thought of new trouble in store for her, she began to scream again.
"Get up this minute," said Sylvia. "I don't believe the water was hot enough to scald you; it never is really hot. Here, help me sop it up," and grabbing her bath towel Sylvia began to mop up the little stream of water which was trickling across the floor.
Estralla managed to get to her feet. She was still holding fast to the handle of the broken pitcher. The front of her cotton dress was soaked, but she was not hurt.
"I'll get whipped, yas'm, I will, fer breaking the pitcher."
"You won't!" declared Sylvia, half angrily. "It's my mother's pitcher, and I'll tell her you didn't mean to break it. Now you go and put on another dress, and tell Jennie to come up here and wipe up this floor."
"I ain't got no other dress; an' if I goes an' tells I'll get whipped," persisted the child.
Sylvia began to wonder what she could do. She thought Estralla was stupid and clumsy to fall down and break the pitcher, and now she thought her silly to be so frightened.
"I tells you, Missy, I su'ly will be whipped," she repeated so earnestly that Sylvia began to believe it. "An' when my mammy sees my dress all wet—" and Estralla began to sob, but so quietly that Sylvia realized the little darky was really frightened and unhappy.
"Don't cry, Estralla," she said more gently, patting her on the shoulder. "I'll tell you what to do. You are just about my size, and I'll give you one of my dresses. It's pink, and it's faded a little, but it's pretty. And you take this towel and wipe up the floor as well as you can. Then you slip off your dress and put on mine." While Sylvia talked Estralla stopped crying and began to look a little more cheerful.
Sylvia ran to the closet and was back in a moment with a pink checked gingham. It had a number of tiny ruffles on the skirt, and a little frill of lace around the neck.
"Landy! You don't mean I kin KEEP that, Missy?" exclaimed Estralla, her face radiant at the very thought.
"Yes, quick. Somebody may come. Slip off your dress."
In a moment the old blue frock lay in a little heap on the floor, and Sylvia had slipped the pink dress over Estralla's head, and was fastening it. The little darky chuckled and laughed now as if she had not a trouble in the world.
"Listen, Estralla! Here, pick up every bit of the pitcher and put the pieces on the chair. Nobody shall know that you broke it. And now you take this wet towel and your dress and spread them somewhere outdoors to dry. You can tell your mammy I gave you the dress. Now, run quick. My mother may come."
Estralla stood quite still looking at Sylvia. She had stopped laughing.
"Will you' mammy scold you 'bout dat pitcher?" she asked.
"I don't know. Anyway, nobody shall know that you broke it. You won't be whipped. Run along," urged Sylvia.
But Estralla did not move. "I don't keer if I is whipped," she announced. "I guess, mebbe, my mammy won't whip hard."
"Sylvia, Sylvia," sounded her mother's voice, and both the little girls looked at each other with startled eyes.
"Run," said Sylvia, giving Estralla a little push. "Run out on the balcony." Estralla did not question the command, and in a moment, carrying dress and towel, she had vanished through the open window.
"Why, child! What has happened?" exclaimed Mrs. Fulton, coming into the room and looking at the overturned footstool, the pieces of the broken pitcher, and at Sylvia standing in the middle of the floor with an anxious, half-frightened expression.
"Don't look so frightened, dear child. A broken pitcher isn't worth it," said Mrs. Fulton smilingly. "It's only hot water, and won't hurt anything. Only Father is waiting for breakfast, so use cold water this morning. Here is your blue muslin—I'll tie your sash when you come down," and giving Sylvia a kiss her mother hurried away.
"My landy!" whispered Estralla, peering in from the balcony window. "Your mammy's a angel. An' so is you, Missy. I was gwine tell her the trufe if she'd scolded, I su'ly was. Landy! I'd a sight ruther be whipped than have you scolded, Missy."
Sylvia looked at her in astonishment. Estralla, with round serious eyes, stood gazing at her as if she was ready to do anything that Sylvia could possibly ask.
"Run. It's all right," said Sylvia with a little smile, and Estralla, with a backward look over her shoulder, went slowly out of the room.
"I'm gwine to recollect this jes' as long as I live," Estralla whispered as she made her way back to the kitchen. "Nobuddy ever cared if I was whipped before, or if I wasn't whipped. An' I'll do somethin' fer Missy sometime, I will. An' she give me dis fine dress too." She bent over and smoothed out one of the little ruffles, and chuckled happily.
Her mammy was busy preparing breakfast when Estralla slid quietly into the kitchen. When she did look around and saw the child wearing the pink dress she nearly dropped the dish of hot bacon which Jennie was waiting to take to the dining-room.
"Wha' on earth did you get you' pink dress? Did Missy give it to you? Well, you step out to the cabin and take it off. This minute! Put you' blue frock right on. Like as not her mammy won't let you keep it," and Aunt Connie hurried Jennie off to the dining-room with the breakfast tray.
Estralla did not know what to do. Her blue dress was hung over a syringa bush behind the cabin. And at the dreadful thought that Mrs. Fulton might take away the pink dress she began to cry.
"Missy Sylvia said 'twas faded. She said to put it on," whimpered Estralla.
Aunt Connie began to be more hopeful. If the dress was faded—and she turned and looked at it more closely.
"Well, honey, 'tis faded. An' I guess Missy Sylvia's mammy won' take it back. An' it's the Sabbath day, so you jes' wear it," she said, patting the little woolly head. "Mammy's glad to have you dressed up; but you be mighty keerful."
"Yas, Mammy. I jes' love Missy Sylvia," replied the little girl, now all smiles, and forgetting how nearly she had come to serious trouble.
Nothing more was said to Sylvia about the broken pitcher; but when Jennie put the room in order, and brought down the broken pieces, Aunt Connie exclaimed: "Good massy! It's a good thing my Estralla didn't do that! I'd 'a' cuffed her well, I su'ly would."
Sylvia did not think to tell her mother about the gift of the pink dress to Estralla. She did not feel quite happy that she had not explained the broken pitcher to her mother; but she had promised Estralla that she would not tell, and Sylvia knew that a promise was a very serious thing, something not to be easily forgotten.
She did not see Estralla again that day, and Jennie brought the hot water as usual the next morning.
Grace and Mammy Esther called for Sylvia on Monday morning, and Sylvia at once told her friend that she had been named from the song. This seemed very wonderful to Grace, and she listened to Sylvia's explanation of "excelling" instead of "spelling," and said she didn't think it was of any consequence.
But when Sylvia told her what Captain Carleton had said about the forts, Grace shook her head and looked very serious.
"Don't tell Elinor Mayhew, Sylvia. Because really South Carolina does own the forts. My father said so. He said that South Carolina was a Sovereign State," she concluded.
"What's that? What's a 'sovereign'?" questioned Sylvia.
Grace shook her head. It had sounded like a very fine thing when her father had spoken it, so she had repeated it with great pride.
"We can ask Miss Rosalie," she suggested.
Mammy Esther left the girls at the gate of Miss Patten's garden. As they went up the path Flora Hayes came to meet them.
"I was waiting for you," she said. "I want to ask you both to come out to our plantation next Saturday and spend Sunday. My mother is going to write and ask your mothers if they will give me the pleasure of your company."
"I am sure I can come," declared Grace, "and I think it's lovely of you to ask me."
"You'll come, won't you, Sylvia?" said Flora, putting her arm over the little girl's shoulders as they went up the steps.
"Yes, indeed; thank you very much for asking me," replied Sylvia. She had visited the Hayes plantation early in the summer, and thought it a more wonderful place even than the big mansion on Tradd Street where the Hayes family lived in the winter months. Mr. Hayes owned hundreds of negroes, and raised a great quantity of cotton. The house at the plantation was large, with many balconies, and cool, pleasant rooms. Flora had a pair of white ponies, and there were pigeons, and a number of dogs. Sylvia was sure that it would be a beautiful visit, especially as Grace would be there.
As she went smilingly toward her seat in the schoolroom she passed Elinor Mayhew, who was already seated.
"Yankee!" whispered Elinor sharply, looking at her with scornful eyes.
But Sylvia, remembering that her father had said that all Americans were Yankees, nodded to the older girl and responded: "Yankee your-self!"
SYLVIA IN TROUBLE
The Hayes plantation was about ten miles distant from Charleston, on the opposite side of the Ashley River. Flora told Sylvia and Grace that the Hayes coachman would drive them out, and that they would start early on Saturday morning. Sylvia, remembering her former visit, knew well how delightful the drive would be, and thinking of the pleasure in store quite forgot to be troubled by Elinor Mayhew's hostility.
At recess the girls usually walked about in the garden, or tossed a ball back and forth. Miss Rosalie would sit on the broad piazza overlooking the garden, her fingers busy with some piece of delicate embroidery.
To-day, as they filed out and down the steps, Elinor whispered to several of her companions. And suddenly Sylvia realized that she was standing alone. Grace Waite had lingered to speak to Miss Rosalie; Flora had been excused just before recess, as her black mammy had arrived with a note from Mrs. Hayes. The other girls were gathered in a little group about Elinor, who was evidently telling them something of great interest. Sylvia walked slowly along toward a little summer-house where Miss Patten sometimes had little tea-parties. She hoped Grace would not stay long with Miss Patten. The other girls were between Sylvia and the arbor, and none of them moved to let her pass; nor did any of them speak to her, as she paused with a word of greeting.
"Now, girls," she heard Elinor say; and the others, half under their breath, but only too distinctly for Sylvia, called out: "Yankee, Yankee!" Then like a flock of bright-colored birds they ran swiftly into the summer-house.
For a moment Sylvia stood quite still. She realized that Elinor meant to be hateful; but she remembered that her father had said that all Americans were called "Yankees," and she was not a coward. She went straight on to the arbor. Elinor Mayhew stood on the steps.
"You are just as much a Yankee as I am. And you ought to be proud of it," declared Sylvia, facing the older girl.
"Hear that, girls!" called Elinor to the group about her. There was a little angry murmur from the others.
"Don't you dare say that again, Miss Boston," called May Bailey, who stood next to Elinor.
Sylvia was now thoroughly angry. She knew of no reason why these girls should treat her in so unkind a fashion. She felt very desolate and unhappy, but she faced them bravely.
"Yankees! Yankees! It's what all Americans are," she declared defiantly.
In an instant the little girls were all about her. Elinor Mayhew was holding her hands, and the others were pushing her along the path to the shore. The thick growing shrubs hid them from the house. Sylvia did not cry out or speak. She was not at all afraid, nor did she resist.
"We ought to make her take it back," said May Bailey, as Elinor stopped, and they all stood in a close group about Sylvia.
"Of course she's got to take it back, and apologize on her knees," declared Elinor. "She might as well learn that South Carolinians will not be insulted," and Elinor lifted her head proudly.
"I won't take it back!" retorted Sylvia, "and you are the ones who will have to apologize. Yes, every one of you, before I will ever speak to you again."
"Hear that, girls! Wouldn't it be dreadful if she never spoke to us again!" sneered Elinor.
"She means she will tell Miss Rosalie," said one of the girls.
"I don't, either. I can look after my own afffairs," retorted Sylvia bravely. "I'm not a tell-tale. Although I suppose girls who act the way you do would tell."
"Get down on your knees," commanded Elinor, trying to push the little girl.
"There's the bell," and they all turned and scampered back to the house, leaving Sylvia on the path; for Elinor had let go of her so suddenly that she had fallen forward.
Her knees were hurt, and one of her hands was bruised by the fall. For a moment she lay sobbing quietly. She was angry and miserable. She had been brave enough when the girls had seemed to threaten her, but now her courage was gone. She could not go back to the schoolroom and face all those enemies. If Miss Rosalie came in search of her she might not be able to resist telling her what had happened; and, miserable and unhappy as she was, Sylvia resolved that she would never tell.
"But Elinor Mayhew and all the rest of them shall be sorry for this. Yes, they shall," she sobbed as she got to her feet and turned toward the shore. She knew she must either go straight back to the schoolroom or else find a hiding-place until they had ceased to search for her. There was a wall at the foot of the garden, covered with fragrant jessamine and myrtle. If she could only get over that wall, thought Sylvia, she would be safe. She ran swiftly forward and began to scramble up, grasping the sturdy vines, and finding a foothold on some bit of rough brick. She reached the top just as she heard Miss Rosalie's servant calling her name.
Sylvia looked down to the further side. The vines drooped over and below the wall a high bank of sand sloped to the shore. Holding tight to the vines she slid down, hitting her bruised knees against the rough surface. The vines cut her hands, and when she tumbled into the sand her dress was torn and soiled, her pretty hair-ribbon was gone, and her once white stockings were grimy. Beside these misfortunes her hands were bleeding. Never in all her life had Sylvia been so wretched. She sat quite still in the warm sand, and wondered what she could do. If she went home her mother would insist upon an explanation of her untidy condition. Beside that Sylvia was not sure if she could find her way home unless she climbed back into the garden. She looked along the shore at the landing-place not far distant where several boats were bobbing up and down in the wash of the incoming tide. She could see boats coming and going between the forts and the city. She could see grim Fort Sumter, with its guns that seemed to look straight at her. She watched a schooner coming across the bay, and realized that it was coming to that very wharf. A number of men landed, and several carts came down and boxes were unloaded, and negroes carried them to the schooner.
Sylvia got up and walked along the shore until she was near the wharf, and stood watching the negroes as they lifted the heavy boxes. She wished she could ask one of them to tell her the way home. Then she noticed a tall figure in uniform coming up the wharf.
"It's Captain Carleton!" she exclaimed joyfully, quite forgetting for the moment her torn dress and scratched hands as she ran toward him.
"Why! Is it Sylvia Fulton?" exclaimed the surprised Captain, looking down at the untidy little figure. "Why, what has happened?"
"Oh, dear," sobbed Sylvia, "I guess I'm lost."
"Well, well! It's lucky you came down to this wharf. Come on board the schooner, and we'll see to these little hands first thing," and the good-natured Captain rested a kindly hand on the little girl's shoulder and walked down the wharf. Sylvia heard the men talking of the Charleston Arsenal, and of the boxes of arms which were to be taken on the schooner to Fort Sumter.
The Captain bathed the little hurt hands and flushed face, talking pleasantly to the little girl about the schooner, and asking her if she did not think it a much finer craft than her father's small boat; so in a little while she was comforted and quite at home.
"Now, sit here by the cabin window, and I will come back and take you home as soon as I settle this trouble about my supplies," and the Captain hurried back to the wharf.
Sylvia sat quite still and looked out of the round port-hole. She felt very tired, and leaned her head against the cushioned wall. She could hear the monotonous chant of the negroes, and feel the swaying motion of the vessel, and soon was fast asleep. She did not know when the schooner was towed out into the channel, nor when the sails were hoisted and they went sailing down the bay.
For Captain Carleton had entirely forgotten his little guest. When he hurried back to the wharf he discovered a little group of Charleston citizens, one of whom was Elinor Mayhew's father, disputing the right of the United States officers to take guns from the Charleston Arsenal to Fort Sumter; and when the matter was settled he had hurried the departure of the vessel. Not until they were ready to land at the fort did he remember his little friend. He went down to the cabin, and found Sylvia fast asleep.
"Poor little Yankee! I wonder what will happen to her if South Carolina really leaves the Union," he thought, and then his face grew troubled as he remembered that Mr. and Mrs. Fulton must be in great trouble and anxiety over the disappearance of their little daughter. But first of all he must see the schooner's cargo safely unloaded at Fort Sumter, and send his men back to Fort Moultrie; then he would take Sylvia home, or find some way to notify her parents that she was safe and well cared for.
AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
When Sylvia did not come in with the other girls Miss Patten sent a maid in search of her. But she did not search very carefully. She called Sylvia's name a few times, sauntered about the garden, and then reported: "Can't find Missy Sylvia."
She was then told to go straight to Mrs. Fulton's house on the East Battery and see if Miss Sylvia had reached home. Miss Patten did not feel anxious. She thought it probable that the little northern girl did not realize the rules of the school, had become tired, and so started for home.
"Did Miss Sylvia say anything to any of you young ladies about leaving the grounds?" she questioned the pupils. But they all declared that they knew nothing of her whereabouts.
"She was on the path behind us when the bell rang," volunteered May Bailey.
Elinor's face was unusually flushed, and she kept her eyes on her book. Probably the "little Yankee," as she called Sylvia even in her thoughts, had run home to tell her mother of the trouble.
By the time Miss Patten's messenger had reached the Fulton house Sylvia was in the cabin of the little schooner. The girl gave her message to Mrs. Fulton in so indefinite a manner that at first Sylvia's mother hardly understood whether Sylvia was in the garden of the school, or had started for home. Estralla was standing near the steps and began whimpering: "Oh, Missy Sylvia los'! That w'at she say. She lost!"
"Nonsense, Estralla! Sylvia could not be lost in Miss Patten's garden," said Mrs. Fulton; but she decided to return to the school with the maid.
As they went down the street Estralla followed close behind. Her bare feet made no noise, but now and then she choked back a despairing little wail. For the little colored girl was sure that some harm had befallen her new friend.
When Mrs. Fulton appeared at the school-room door Miss Patten was greatly alarmed. Elinor Mayhew and May Bailey exchanged a look of surprised apprehension. They felt sure that Sylvia had hurried home and told her mother just what had happened. If she had, and Mrs. Fulton had come to inform Miss Patten, they knew there would be unpleasant things in store for them.
In a short time a thorough search for the lost girl was in progress. Servants were sent along the streets, and Mrs. Fulton hastened home thinking it possible that Sylvia might be in her own room.
No one paid any attention to the little colored girl in the faded blue cotton gown who wandered about the paths and around the summer-house. Estralla noticed two of the older girls talking together, and heard the taller one say: "Well, wherever she is, she needn't think we will ever take back one word. She IS a Yankee!"
"They'se done somethin' to my missy," decided Estralla. "They'se scairt her." She ran down the path toward the wall at the end of the garden, and stopped suddenly; for right in front of her, caught on the jessamine vine which grew over the wall, she saw a fluttering blue ribbon. "Dat's off'n Missy Sylvia's hair, dat ribbon is," she whispered, reaching up for it. Holding it fast in her hands she looked closely at the mass of heavy vines, and nodded her little woolly head. "Dat's w'at she done. She dumb right up here, to git away frum those imps o' Satan w'at was a plaguein' her," decided Estralla, and in an instant she was going up the wall in a much easier manner than had been possible for Sylvia. She dropped on the further side, just as Sylvia had done, and traced Sylvia's steps to near the landing-place. Then she stopped short. Men were loading boxes on a schooner at the end of the pier, and she could see a tall officer in uniform standing on the deck of the vessel.
"Hullo, here's another small girl. Black one this time," said one of the white sailors.
"Yas, Massa! Please whar' is my missy?" replied the little darky eagerly.
"Safe in the cabin," nodded the good-natured man.
Estralla slipped behind a pile of boxes, and watched for a chance to get on board the vessel without being seen. She had heard many tales, told by the older colored people, of little children, yes, and grown people, too, who had been enticed on board vessels in far-off African ports, and carried off to be sold into slavery. Estralla remembered that all those people in the stories were black; but who could tell but what there was some place in the world where white people were sold? Anyway, she resolved that wherever Missy Sylvia went she would go with her.
In a few moments she saw a chance to run over the gangplank. She went straight toward the cabin door and peered in. Yes, there was Missy Sylvia on the broad cushioned seat under the window. Very softly Estralla tiptoed across the cabin. Just as she was about to speak Sylvia's name the sound of approaching footsteps startled her, and, sure that she would be sent on shore by whoever might discover her, she looked about for a hiding-place, and the next instant she was curled up under the very seat on which Sylvia was asleep.
It was not long before Estralla followed her missy's example. But she was wide awake when Captain Carleton came into the cabin.
As soon as he returned to the deck Estralla crawled out from her hiding- place and looked about her.
"Wake up, Missy," she whispered leaning over Sylvia; and Sylvia sat up quickly, with a little cry of astonishment.
"Don't you be skeered," said Estralla softly, "'cause I ain' gwine to let you be carried off. I knows jes' how slaves are ketched. Yas'm, I does. My mammy tole me. They gits folks in ships and carries 'em off an' sells 'em to folks. An' I ain' gwine to let 'em have you, Missy." There were tears in Estralla's eyes. She knew that her own brother had been sold the previous year and taken to a plantation in Florida. She had heard her mother say that she, Estralla, might be sold any time. She knew that slavery was a dreadful thing.
"Where are they taking us?" questioned Sylvia, for she realized that the vessel was moving swiftly through the water. She wondered why Captain Carleton had gone away. Seeing Estralla there gave her a dreadful certainty that what the little darky said might be true. Perhaps the vessel might have others on board who were being taken off to be sold, as Estralla declared.
"Yas, Missy. My mammy's tole me jes' how white folks gets black folks fer slaves. Takes 'em away from their mammies, an' never lets 'em go back. Yas!" And Estralla's big eyes grew round with terror.
"But I am a white girl, Estralla," said Sylvia.
Estralla shook her head dolefully.
"Yas, Missy. But I'se gwine to git you safe home. You do jes' as I tell you an' you'll be safe back with your mammy by ter-morrow!" she declared.
"You lay down and keep your eyes tight shut till I comes back," she added, and Sylvia, tired and frightened, obeyed.
The schooner was now coming to her landing at Fort Sumter. Estralla managed to get on deck without being noticed. She did not know where they were, but wherever it was she resolved to get Sylvia out of the vessel, and ran back to the cabin.
"Now, don' you speak to nobuddy. Jes' keep right close to me," she whispered. And Sylvia obeyed. The two little girls crept up the cabin stairs, and crouching close to the side of the cabin made their way toward the stern of the vessel.
The crew and the soldiers and Captain Carleton were now all toward the bow. A small boat swung at the stern of the schooner.
"Now, Missy, we's got to git ourselves into that boat and row back home," whispered Estralla, grasping the rope.
At that moment Sylvia turned to look back. She could see a tall officer on the forward deck, and without an instant's hesitation she ran toward him calling:
"Captain Carleton! Captain Carleton!" He turned smilingly toward her, and Sylvia clasped his hand.
"I didn't know where I was," she said.
"You are at Fort Sumter. And it's all my fault," he answered. "I forgot all about you until we were nearly here. But one of my men is going to sail you safely home. What's this?" he added, as Estralla appeared by Sylvia's side.
"It's Estralla. Her mammy is our cook," said Sylvia.
The Captain looked a little puzzled. He wondered how the little darky had got on board the vessel without being seen.
"Well, she will be company for you. And you must ask your father and mother to forgive my carelessness in taking you so far from home," said the Captain.
It was sunset when Sylvia and Estralla, escorted by one of the soldiers from Fort Sumter, came walking up East Battery. Mrs. Fulton was on the piazza, and Mrs. Waite and Grace were with her. Grace was the first to see and recognize Sylvia, and with a cry of delight ran to welcome her.
The soldier had a note for Mrs. Fulton explaining that Sylvia, apparently on her way from school, had wandered down to the landing, and of Captain Carleton's forgetting her presence in the cabin, so that Sylvia was not questioned that night in regard to her disappearance from Miss Patten's. Grace knew nothing of Sylvia's encounter with Elinor Mayhew, so no one could imagine why she had started for home without a word to Miss Patten.
Mrs. Fulton was too rejoiced to have her little girl safely at home to question or blame her.
Sylvia was not hungry. The officer in charge of Fort Sumter had given the two children an excellent supper. But she was tired and very glad to have a warm bath and go straight to bed.
"Oh, Mother! This has been the most horrid day in all my life," she said, as her mother brushed out the tangled yellow hair, and helped her prepare for bed.
"It has been rather hard for your father and me," Mrs. Fulton reminded her; "we began to fear some dreadful thing had happened to our little girl. Promise me, Sylvia, never to run away from school again."
Sylvia promised. She wished she could tell her mother that it was not school she ran away from; that she was trying to escape the taunts and unfriendliness of her schoolmates. But she remembered her promise. She had declared proudly that she should not tell, and hard as it was she resolved that she would keep that promise. But she wished with all her heart that she need not go to school another day.
"Do I have to go to Miss Patten's school, Mother?" she asked in so unhappy a voice that Mrs. Fulton realized something unpleasant had happened.
"We will talk it over to-morrow, dear," she said; "go to sleep now," and Sylvia crept into the white bed quite ready to sleep, but wondering how she could talk about going to school, and still keep her promise, when to-morrow came.
ESTRALLA AND ELINOR
In the morning Sylvia did not refer to what had happened the day before, so her mother decided not to question her. Grace and Flora both arrived at an early hour to accompany Sylvia to school. They were eager to hear how she had happened to be on the schooner which had carried arms to Fort Sumter from the Charleston Arsenal. But Sylvia did not seem to want to talk of her adventure, and both the little southern girls were too polite to question her.
"Father says those guns don't belong to the United States, they belong to South Carolina."
Sylvia did not reply. She recalled one of her lessons, however, where she had learned that the United States meant each and every State in the Union and she remembered what Captain Carleton had said.
"Mother says I may go with you on Saturday, Flora," interrupted Grace; "I wish it was Friday this minute."
"So do I," agreed Flora laughingly; "and we must teach Sylvia to ride on one of the ponies this time."
For on the previous visit Sylvia had said that she wished she could ride as Flora did.
"Oh! Truly? Flora, do you really mean it?" Sylvia asked.
"Of course I do. We will have a ride Saturday afternoon and again Sunday," replied Flora.
With the pleasure of the plantation visit in store Sylvia for the moment forgot all about her dread of facing the girls at school. Miss Patten detained her at the door of the schoolroom with a warmer greeting than usual, but said: "My dear, I want to talk with you at recess;" but her smile was so friendly and her words so kind that Sylvia was not troubled. As she passed Elinor's seat she did not look up, but the whisper, "Yankee," made her flush, and brought back all her dislike of the tall, handsome Elinor.
At recess, after the other girls had left the schoolroom, Miss Patten came to Sylvia's desk and sat down beside her.
"Sylvia, dear," she said gently, "I want you to tell me why you started off alone yesterday. Had anything happened here at school to make you so unhappy that you did not want to stay?"
Sylvia looked up in surprise. Why, Miss Patten seemed to know all about it, she thought. How easy it would be to tell her the whole story. But suddenly she resolved that no matter what Miss Patten knew, she, Sylvia, must not break her word. So she looked down at her desk, and made no reply.
"I am sure none of the other pupils would mean to hurt your feelings, Sylvia. But if any of them have carelessly said something that sounded unkind, I know they will apologize," continued the friendly voice; and again Sylvia looked up. If she told what Elinor and May had said she was now sure that Miss Rosalie would make them both say they were sorry; and Sylvia remembered that she had declared to them that they should do exactly that.
"Would they really, Miss Patten?" she asked in so serious a voice that the teacher believed for the moment that she would soon know the exact reason why Sylvia had fled from the school; and she was right, she was about to hear it, but not from Sylvia. There was a little silence in the quiet pleasant room where the scent of jessamine and honey-suckle came through the open windows, and no sound disturbed the two at Sylvia's desk. Sylvia was assuring herself that she really ought to tell Miss Patten; but somehow she could not speak. If she broke a promise, even to an enemy, as she felt Elinor Mayhew to be, she would despise herself. But Elinor would have to apologize for the way she had treated Sylvia. Just at this moment of hesitation a round woolly head appeared at one of the open windows. Two small black hands rested on the window-sill, and a moment later Estralla, in her faded blue dress, was standing directly in front of Miss Patten and Sylvia.
"I begs pardon, Missy Teacher. But I knows my missy ain't done nuffin' to be kept shut up for. An' I knows why she runned off yesterd'y. Yas'm. I heered dat tall dark girl an' nuther girl sayin' as how Missy Sylvia was a Yankee. Yas'm; and as how they was glad they called her names. Yas'm, I sho' heered 'em say those very words," and Estralla bobbed her head, and stood trembling in every limb before "Missy Teacher," not knowing what would happen to her, but determined that the little white girl, who had protected her, and given her the fine pink dress, should not he punished.
"Oh, Estralla!" whispered Sylvia, her face brightening.
Miss Rosalie stood up, and rested her hand on Sylvia's shoulder.
"And so you would not tell, or complain about your schoolmates?" Then without waiting for a reply, she leaned over and kissed Sylvia. "That is right, dear child. I am proud to have you as a pupil. Now," and she turned to Estralla, "you run home as fast as you can go. Your young mistress is not being punished, and will not be. But you did just right in coming to tell me. But the next time you come remember to come in at the door!" and Miss Rosalie smiled pleasantly at the little darky, whose face now was radiant with delight.
"Yas'm. I sho' will 'member," and with a smile at Sylvia, Estralla tiptoed toward the open door and disappeared.
It was a very grave teacher who watched her pupils return to their seats that morning. It was a time when all the people in the southern city were anxious and troubled. There had always been slaves in South Carolina, and now the Government of the United States was realizing that the black people must not be kept in servitude; that they had the same rights as white people; and it was difficult for the Charleston people to acknowledge that this was right.
Miss Rosalie was a South Carolinian, and she was sure that Charleston people did right to insist on keeping their slaves, even if it meant war. And it now seemed likely that the North and South might come to warfare. The word "Yankee" was as hateful to Miss Rosalie as it was to Elinor Mayhew, and for that very reason she determined that Elinor should make a public apology for calling one of her schoolmates a "Yankee." To the Carolinians the name meant the name of their enemies, and it seemed to Miss Rosalie a very dreadful thing to accuse this little northern girl of being an enemy.
After the girls were all seated she said in a very quiet tone:
"Elinor, please come to the platform."
For a moment Elinor hesitated. Then she walked slowly down the aisle and stood beside Miss Patten.
"Now, young ladies, I do not need to explain to you the meaning of the word 'courtesy.' You all know that it means kindness and consideration of the rights and feelings of others. You know as well the meaning of the word 'hospitality'; that it means that any person who is received beneath your roof is entitled to courtesy and to more than that, to protection. Even savages will protect any traveler who comes into their home, and give the best they have to make him comfortable." Miss Rosalie stopped a moment, and then said: "If there is anyone of you who has not known the meaning of the two words to which I refer, will she please to rise."
The girls all remained seated.
"Elinor, you will now apologize for having failed in courtesy and in hospitality to one of my pupils."
Elinor stood looking out across the schoolroom. Her mouth was tightly closed, and apparently she had no intention of obeying.
"Do I have to apologize for speaking the truth?" she demanded.
The girls held their breath. Was it possible that Elinor dared defy Miss Patten? Grace and Flora were sadly puzzled. They were the only pupils who did not understand the exact reason, Elinor's treatment of Sylvia, for Miss Patten's demand.
The teacher did not respond, and Elinor did not speak. Then after a moment Miss Patten said, "Take your seat, Elinor. I shall make this request of you again at the beginning of the afternoon session. If you do not comply with it you will no longer be received as a pupil in this school."
SYLVIA AT THE PLANTATION
When the afternoon session opened Elinor Mayhew was not in her usual place. Grace and Flora had been told by the other girls what had happened on the day of Sylvia's disappearance from school. May Bailey had declared that Sylvia must have "run straight to the teacher," and that she was a telltale as well as a "Yankee." Grace had defended her friend warmly.
"I don't know how Miss Rosalie found out, but I'm sure Sylvia did not tell," she declared.
Flora was unusually quiet. There were many scornful looks sent in Sylvia's direction that afternoon, which Miss Patten noticed and easily understood. Before school was dismissed she said that she had a brief announcement to make.
"I want to say to you that the pupil whom Elinor treated with such a lack of courtesy did not inform me of the fact. Nor would she say one word against any of her schoolmates when I questioned her. Someone who overheard Elinor's unfriendly remarks came and told me."
Flora Hayes smiled and drew a long breath. She did not blame Sylvia for being a "Yankee," but it had troubled her to think of her new friend as a "telltale," whatever her provocation might have been. The other girls began to look at Sylvia with more friendly eyes, and as they ran down the steps several found a chance to nod and smile at her, or to exchange some word. So Sylvia began to feel that her troubles were over, if Elinor Mayhew did not return to school.
"Father, are you sure 'Yankee' doesn't mean anything beside 'American'?" she asked in a very serious tone, as she sat beside Mr. Fulton on the piazza that evening. They were quite alone, as Mrs. Fulton had stepped to the kitchen to speak to Aunt Connie.
"The girls at school all think it means something dreadful," she added.
"Let me see, Sylvia. You study history, don't you?" responded her father slowly. "Of course you do; and you know that George Washington and General Putnam and General Warren, and many more brave men, defended this country and its liberty?"
"Why, yes," replied Sylvia, greatly puzzled.
"The men of South Carolina were among the bravest and most loyal of the defenders of our liberties. And when America's enemies called American men 'Yankees' they meant General Washington and every other American who was ready to defend the United States of America. So if any of your friends use the word 'Yankee' scornfully they agree with the enemies of the Union. No one need be ashamed of being called a 'Yankee.' It means someone who is ready to fight for what is right."
But Sylvia still wondered. "The girls don't think so," she said.
"Well, that is because they don't understand. They will know when they are older," said Mr. Fulton. He did not imagine that any of the companions of his little daughter had treated her in an unfriendly fashion, and thought it a good opportunity to make her understand the real meaning of the word.
"You are a Yankee girl. And that means you must always try to protect other people who need protection," said her father.
Sylvia's face brightened. She could easily understand that. It meant that she must not let Estralla get a whipping when she had not deserved it; and she was glad she had not told the real story of the broken pitcher. She resolved always to remember what her father had said.
The remainder of the week passed pleasantly. Elinor Mayhew did not return to school, and the other girls profited by her example and no longer teased or taunted the little northern girl.
Saturday morning proved to be perfect weather for the drive to the Hayes plantation. The sun shone, the clear October air was full of autumnal fragrance, and when the Hayes carry-all, drawn by two pretty brown horses, and driven by black Chris, the Hayes coachman, and Flora's black mammy on the seat beside him, stopped in front of Sylvia's house and Flora came running up the path, Sylvia and Grace were on the steps all ready to start.
There was plenty of room for all three girls on the back seat, and Flora declared that Sylvia should sit between Grace and herself. Mrs. Fulton and Estralla stood at the gate and watched the happy little party drive off. Estralla looked very sober. Ever since the adventure at Fort Sumter the little colored girl had felt that she must look after Missy Sylvia carefully. And she was not well pleased to see her young mistress disappear from her watchful eyes.
"What a funny name 'Estralla' is," laughed Flora, as Sylvia called back a good-bye.
"Oh, that isn't her name, really," explained Grace. "You know my Uncle Robert owns her, and Auntie Connie named her after Aunt Esther and Cousin Alice. Her name is really Esther Alice. But the colored people never speak as we do."
"How can anybody 'own' anybody else, even if their skin is black?" asked Sylvia.
Both her companions looked at her in such evident surprise that Sylvia was sure she ought not to have asked such a question. Suddenly she remembered that Flora's "Mammy" and "Uncle Chris," as Flora called him, were negroes, and of course must have heard. She resolved not to ask another question during her visit.
Their way took them through pleasant streets shaded by spice trees and an occasional oak. From behind high walls came the fragrance of orange blossoms, ripening pomegranates and grapes. Very soon they had crossed the Ashley River, and now the road ran between broad fields of cotton where negroes were already at work gathering the white fluffy crop which would be packed in bags and bales and shipped to many far distant ports.
The three little friends talked gaily of the pleasant visit which had just begun. Sylvia was hoping that Flora would again speak of the promised ride on one of the white ponies, but not until Uncle Chris guided the swift horses into the driveway, shaded by fine live-oaks, which led to the big house, was her wish gratified.
"We'll have a ride this afternoon, girls, if you are not too tired," she said.
Grace and Sylvia promptly declared that they were not at all tired, and that a ride was just what they would like best.
The plantation's "big house," as the negroes called the owner's home, was the largest house Sylvia had ever entered. Its high piazza with the tall pillars was covered by a tangle of jessamine vines and climbing roses. The front hall led straight through the house to another piazza, which looked out over beautiful gardens and a tiny lake. Behind a thick hedge of privet were the cabins of the house servants. The negroes who did the work on the plantation, caring for the horses and cows, and working in the cotton fields, lived at some distance from the "big" house.
Mrs. Hayes came out on the piazza to welcome the party. She had come down from Charleston on the previous day. It seemed to Sylvia she had never seen so many negroes before in all her life. Neat colored maids were flitting about the house, colored men were at work in the garden, and colored children peered smilingly around the corner of the house.
A colored maid was told to look after Grace and Sylvia, and she led the way up the beautiful spiral staircase to a pleasant chamber overlooking the garden. There were two small white beds, with a little mahogany light-stand between them. On this stand stood a tall brass candlestick. There were two dressing-tables, and two small bureaus, and a number of comfortable chintz-covered chairs. The floor was of dark, shining wood, and beside each bed was a long, soft white rug.
Sylvia and Grace knew that this room had been arranged especially for any of Flora's young friends whom she might entertain, and they both thought it was one of the nicest rooms that anyone could imagine. The smiling colored maid brushed their hair, helped them into the fresh muslin dresses they had each brought, and when they were ready opened the door and followed them down the stairs where they found Flora awaiting them.
"Luncheon is all ready," she said, and led the way into the dining-room, where Mrs. Hayes and Flora's two older brothers, Ralph and Philip, were waiting for them. The boys were tall, good-looking lads, and as they were in the uniform of the Military School of Charleston, of which they were pupils, Sylvia thought they must be quite grown up, although Ralph was only sixteen and his brother two years younger. They had ridden out on horseback from Charleston, and had just arrived.
Flora introduced them to Sylvia, and Grace greeted them as old acquaintances.
"I suppose you girls are looking forward to the corn-shucking to-night?" Ralph asked, with his pleasant smile, as he held Sylvia's chair for her to take her seat at the table, while Philip performed the same service for Grace.
"Oh, my dear boy! You have betrayed Flora's surprise," said Mrs. Hayes. "She had planned not to let the girls know about it until nightfall."
"What is a 'corn-shucking'?" questioned Sylvia; for she had always lived in a city and did not know much about farm or plantation affairs.
"Shall I tell her, Flora?" questioned Ralph, laughingly.
"No! No, indeed! Wait, Sylvia, then it will be a surprise after all," responded Flora.
Sylvia smiled happily. She was sure that this visit was going to be even more delightful than when she had been Flora's guest in the early spring. There seemed to be so many things to do on a plantation, she thought.
The young people were all hungry, and enjoyed the roasted duck, with the sweet-potatoes and the grape jelly. Beside these there were hot biscuit and delicious custards. Sylvia had finished her custard when two maids brought a large tray into the room, and in a moment the little girls exclaimed in admiring delight; for the tray contained two doves, made of blanc-mange, resting in a nest of fine, gold-colored shreds of candied orange-peel, and an iced cake in the shape of a fort, with the palmetto flag on a tiny staff.
At the sight of their State flag both the boys arose from their seats and saluted.
"That's the flag to fly over Charleston's forts!" declared Ralph as he sat down.
After luncheon was over Mrs. Hayes advised the girls to lie down for a little rest before starting for their ride. But they all declared they were not tired, and there were so many things to see and enjoy at the plantation that Sylvia and Grace were delighted when Flora suggested that first of all they should go out through the garden to the negro quarters, stopping at the stables on their way for a look at the ponies.
Sylvia was ready before the other girls and stood on the piazza waiting. She was leaning against one of the vine-covered pillars that supported the piazza, and Ralph and Philip, who were sitting just around the corner, did not know she was there and could not see her. Sylvia could hear their voices, but did not at first notice what they were saying until the word "Yankee" caught her ear.
"The first thing you know those northern Yankees will take our forts," she heard Philip say, and heard Ralph laugh scornfully as he responed: "They can't do it, or free our slaves, either. Say, did you know Father was going to sell Dinkie; she's making such a fuss that I reckon she'll get a lashing; says she don't want to leave her children."
There was a little silence, and then the younger boy spoke.
"I wish they wouldn't sell Dinkie. I hate to have her go. It isn't fair. Of course she feels bad to leave those little darkies of hers. Jove!" and the boy's voice had an angry tone, "Dinkie shan't be whipped! I won't have it. She used to be my mammy."
Suddenly Sylvia realized that she was listening, and ran down the steps toward the little lake which lay glimmering in the sun beneath the shade of the overhanging pepper trees. She ran on past the lake down a little path which led toward the pine woods. She no longer felt happy, and full of anticipations of the surprise in store at the corn-shucking. All she could think of was "Dinkie," a woman who was to be sold away from her children, and who was to be whipped because she rebelled against the cruelty of her master.
"It's because she's a slave," Sylvia whispered to herself. "I hate slavery. My father said Yankees always fought for what was right. Why don't they fight against slavery?" She quite forgot that Flora and Grace would wonder where she had gone, and be alarmed at her absence.
"I do wish I could see Dinkie," she thought. "I wish I could do something to help set every slave free." Then she remembered that Philip had declared that Dinkie should neither be sold nor whipped.
"I like Philip," she declared aloud, and was surprised to hear a little chuckling laugh from somewhere behind her, and turned quickly to find a smiling negro woman close behind her.
"I likes Massa Philip myse'f," declared the woman, "an' I wishes I could see him jus' a minute," and her smile disappeared. "I'se shuah Massa Philip won' let 'em sell Dinkie, or lash her either," and putting her apron over her face the woman began to cry.
"He won't! I heard him say he wouldn't have it," Sylvia assured her eagerly. "Don't cry, Dinkie," and she patted the woman's arm.
Dinkie let her apron fall and looked eagerly at Sylvia.
"You'se the little Yankee missy, ain't you?" she questioned. "I hear say that Yankees don't believe in selling black folks."
"They don't; I'm sure they don't. I'll run right back and tell Philip you want to see him," replied Sylvia. "You stay right here by this tree," she added, pointing to a big live-oak.
"Yas, Missy, I thanks you," replied the woman.
Sylvia ran back toward the house as fast as she could go. She could see the ponies standing before the house, a small negro boy holding their bridle-reins. The girls were on the steps waiting for her.
"I mustn't let them know that Dinkie wants to see Philip," she thought, as the girls called out that they had been looking everywhere for her. At that moment the two boys came along the piazza.
"Philip is going to teach you how to mount, and how to hold your reins, Sylvia," said Flora.
Grace and Sylvia were to ride the white ponies, and Flora was to ride a small brown horse which her mother usually rode.
Philip came slowly down the steps. He looked very sober, and Sylvia was sure that he was thinking about Dinkie. "I don't believe he thinks slavery is right," she thought, as Philip raised his cap, and asked if she was ready to mount "Snap," the pony which she was to ride.
Flora and Grace were already mounted, and trotted slowly off. Sylvia and Philip were alone on the driveway.
"Dinkie wants to see you. She's waiting down by the oak, beyond the lake," said Sylvia. "And don't let her be whipped," she added.
The boy looked up at her quickly.
"Don't tell the girls that she sent for me," he replied. "Dinkie shan't be whipped, or sold either." He did not thank Sylvia for her message, and she was glad that he did not. With a brief word of direction as to the proper manner of holding the reins, he turned toward the lake, and Sylvia's pony trotted slowly down the drive to where Flora and Grace were waiting.
Flora led the way past the stables, and down a broad path which led to the negro quarters. The ponies went at a slow pace, as Flora wanted to be sure that Sylvia was not afraid, and that she was enjoying her first ride.
"The corn-shucking will be here," she said, pointing with her pretty gold-mounted whip to a number of corn-cribs. "They will bring the corn in from the fields, and we will come down in good season."
"And the moon will be full to-night," said Grace, beginning to sing:
"'De jay-bird hunt de sparrer-nes', All by de light of de moon. De bee-martin sail all 'roun', All by de light of de moon. De squirrel he holler from de top of de tree; Mr. Mole he stay in de groun', Oh, yes! Mr. Mole he stay in de groun'—'"
Sylvia listened and smiled as she looked at the happy faces of her friends. But she could not forget Dinkie, and wondered if Philip could really protect the unhappy woman from a whipping, and prevent her being sold away from her children.
As they passed the cabins of the negroes the children ran out bobbing and smiling to their young mistress, and Flora called out a friendly greeting.
"Father's going to sell a lot of those niggers," she said carelessly. "They eat more than they're worth."
"But won't their mothers feel dreadfully to let them go?" ventured Sylvia. "Of course they will," declared Grace, before Flora could respond. "And I do think it's a shame. Did you know Uncle Robert is going to sell Estralla?" she asked turning to Sylvia.
Sylvia's grasp on the reins loosened, and she nearly lost her seat on the broad back of the fat pony.
"What for?" she questioned, thinking to herself that Estralla should not be sold away from her home and mother if she, Sylvia, could prevent it.
"Oh, Uncle's agent says she isn't of any use, and he can get a good price for her. He would have sold her last month if your mother had not taken her in. I expect Aunt Connie will be half crazy, for all her other children are gone," said Grace.
"We mustn't ride too far this time," Flora interrupted, "because it's Sylvia's first ride. Hasn't she done well? Do you suppose you can turn the pony?"
"Yes, indeed," answered Sylvia, drawing the left rein so tightly that the little pony swung round before Flora had time to give a word of direction. As they were now headed toward home "Snap" went off at a good pace, well in advance of the others. It was all Sylvia could do to keep her seat, but she was not frightened, and when the pony raced up the driveway and came to a standstill directly in front of the piazza steps she was laughing with delight. For the moment she had quite forgotten Dinkie and Estralla.
SYLVIA SEES A GHOST
"It was splendid," declared Sylvia as Grace and Flora dismounted and the three little friends entered the house. Flora's black "Mammy" was waiting for them on the piazza.
"Thar's some 'freshments fur yo' in de dinin'-room," she said; and the girls were glad for the cool milk and the tiny frosted cakes which a negro girl served them. Sylvia wondered if Flora ever did anything for herself; for there seemed to be so many negro servants who were on the alert to wait upon all the white people at the "big house."
"Come up to my room, girls, and rest until it's time to dress for supper," said Flora.
Flora's room was just across the hall from the one where Grace and Sylvia were to sleep. Instead of a small white bed like theirs there was a big bed of dark mahogany with four tall, high posts. The bed was so high that there was a cushioned step beside it. The portrait of a lady hung over a beautiful inlaid desk, and Flora pointed to it with evident pride.
"That's my great-grandmother; and her father built this house. My mother says that she was Lady Caroline, and that she was so beautiful that whenever she went to Charleston people would run after her coach just to look at her," and Flora looked at her companions expectantly, quite forgetting that she had told them the story before.
"Oh, Flora! Every time I come out here you tell me about your wonderful great-grand-mother," said Grace, "and you used to tell me that her ghost haunted this house."
"Well, it does," declared Flora.
Sylvia had never heard of Lady Caroline's ghost. "Do tell me about it, Flora," she urged.
There was a wide cushioned seat with many pillows beneath the windows, and here the girls established themselves very comfortably.
"Yes, tell Sylvia the story," said Grace, piling up several cushions behind her back. "Of course it isn't true, but it's thrilling."
"It is true," persisted Flora. "My mother says that her own governess saw Lady Caroline's ghost. And that she had on the very hat she has on in the portrait, and the same blue dress and lace collar. You know there's a secret stairway in this house. It leads from one of the closets in your room down to a closet in my father's library and out-of- doors, and Lady Caroline's ghost always comes in that way."
Sylvia looked up at the beautiful pictured face with a little shiver. "I guess that the governess dreamed it," she said.
"Of course she did," declared Grace. "I think you look like that picture, Flora," she added.
"Well, whether you believe it or not, everybody knows that this is a haunted house," persisted Flora. "Why, there is an account of it in a book."
But Grace shook her head laughingly. "Flora, show Sylvia your lovely lace-work," she said.
Flora nodded, but Sylvia was sure that she was not pleased at Grace's refusal to believe in the ghost.
"Mammy! Mam-m-e-e," called Flora, and in a moment the black woman stood bobbing and smiling in the doorway.
"Bring my lace-work," said Flora.
"Yas, Missy," and Mammy trotted across the room to a little table in the further corner and brought Flora a covered basket. She opened it and set it down in front of her little mistress.
"Do's yo' want anyt'ing else, Missy Flora?" she asked.
"If I do I'll call," replied the little girl, and Mammy again disappeared.
The basket was lined with rose-colored silk, and there were little pockets all around it. In the centre lay a cushion on which was a lace pattern defined by delicate threads and tiny circles of pins. A little strip of finished lace was rolled up in a bit of tissue paper. Flora took off the paper. "See, it is the jessamine pattern," she explained. "My mother's governess was a Belgian lady, and she taught my mother how to make lace and my mother taught me."
"I wish I could make lace," said Sylvia. "It would be lovely to make some for a present for my mother."
"Of course it would. I'll teach you this winter," promised the good- natured Flora; "let me see your hands. You know a lace-maker's hands must be as smooth as silk, because any roughness would catch the delicate threads."
Sylvia's hands were still scratched and roughed from her fall in Miss Rosalie's garden and her scramble over the wall, and Flora shook her head. "You'll have to wait awhile. And you must wear gloves every time you go out, and wash your hands in milk every night," she said very seriously. "Now I'll show you my embroidery. Mam-m-e-e! Mam-m-e-e," and another basket was brought and opened. This basket was also lined with rose-colored silk, but the silk had delicate green vines running over it. On the inside of the cover, held in place by tiny straps, were two pairs of shining scissors with gold handles, a gold-mounted emery bag, shaped like a strawberry, an embroidery stiletto of ivory, and a gold thimble.
Flora lifted out the embroidery frame, and putting on her thimble took a few exact, dainty stitches in the collar.
"What lovely work you can do, Flora!" exclaimed Sylvia. "Don't you ever play dolls?" remembering her own cherished dolls in their small chairs in the corner of her room at home.
"Oh, I used to," replied Flora, "but since I began school at Miss Patten's I don't seem to care about dolls."
"Flora can play on the harp," announced Grace.
"Oh, only just a little," responded Flora quickly.
"I think Flora can do more things than any girl I ever knew," declared Sylvia admiringly; "and I was just thinking that the servants did everything in the world."
Flora laughed. "You never lived on a plantation, or you couldn't think that. Why, my mother works more than Mammy ever did. She has to tell all the house darkies what to do, and see that all the hands have clothes, and that the fruits are preserved. Why, she's always busy," replied Flora. "And of course ladies have to know how to do things," she concluded.
When Grace and Sylvia went to their own room Flora went with them. "I'll show you where that secret staircase is," she said, and opening the closet door pressed on a broad panel which moved slowly.
"There," and Flora drew Sylvia near so she could look down a dark narrow stairway.
"But that isn't seeing a ghost," Grace said laughingly.
It was rather late when Mrs. Hayes led the way back to the house, and Grace declared that she was almost too sleepy to walk up-stairs. But Sylvia was not at all sleepy. After the colored girl had helped them prepare for bed, blown out the candle, and left the room, she lay watching the shadows of the moving vines on the wall. She wished she was at home, for who knew but that Estralla's master might sell her before she returned. Sylvia wondered what she could do to protect the little girl. "I might hide her," she thought; but what place would be secure? Suddenly she remembered something that she had heard Captain Carleton say when she was eating luncheon on that unlucky trip to Fort Sumter. "This fort could make South Carolina give up slavery," he had said. Why, then, of course Estralla would be perfectly safe if she was only at Fort Sumter, concluded the little girl, with a long sigh of relief. "I must get her there just as soon as I get home," she decided.
Then suddenly Sylvia sat straight up in bed. The closet door had swung softly open, and a figure with a big hat and trailing dress stepped out. Sylvia was not frightened. "It's the ghost," she whispered; and leaning across poked Grace, exclaiming: "Grace! Look quick! here is Lady Caroline!"
In an instant Grace was wide awake.
"Where?" she demanded, in a frightened voice, clutching Sylvia's hand.
"Right there! By the closet door," said Sylvia. "Oh! she's gone!"
For as she looked toward the closet the figure had disappeared.
"There, you waked me up for nothing. You dreamed it," declared Grace.
"Oh, I didn't! Truly, I didn't. I haven't been asleep," Sylvia insisted. "It is just as Flora said. There is a ghost." Just then both the girls heard a startled cry, and a sound as if something had fallen in the room under them.
"What's that?" whispered Grace. "Oh, Sylvia, do you suppose there really is a ghost?"
"Yes, I saw it," declared Sylvia, with such evident satisfaction in her tone that Grace forgot to be frightened. "Well, I guess it fell downstairs," she chuckled; but in spite of their lack of fear both the little girls were excited over the unusual noise, and Sylvia was sure now that Flora had been right in saying the house was haunted. She wished it was already morning that she might tell Flora all that had happened.
A TWILIGHT TEA-PARTY
It was late when Grace and Sylvia awoke the following morning, but they were down-stairs before the boys appeared. Mrs. Hayes greeted them smilingly, but she said that Flora was not well and that Mammy would take her breakfast to her up-stairs.
"After breakfast you must go up and stay with her a little while," said Mrs. Hayes.
"Why, Flora was never ill in her life," declared Ralph; "what's the matter?"
"She is not really ill, but she fell over something last night and bruised her arm and shoulder, so that she feels lame and tired, and I thought a few hours in bed would be the best thing for her," explained Mrs. Hayes. "Mammy doesn't seem to know just how it happened," she concluded.
Sylvia and Grace had talked over the "ghost" before coming down-stairs. Grace had tried best to convince Sylvia that she had really dreamed "Lady Caroline," but Sylvia insisted that a figure in a wide plumed hat and a trailing gown had really stepped out of the closet.
"The moon was shining right where she stood. I saw her just as plainly as I could see you when you sat up in bed," Sylvia declared. But both the girls agreed that it would be best not to say anything about "Lady Caroline" until they had told Flora.
After breakfast Mammy came to tell the visitors that Flora was ready to see them.
"But jus' for a little while," she added, as she opened the door of Flora's chamber.
Flora was bolstered up in bed, and had on a dainty dressing-gown of pink muslin tied with white ribbons. But there was a bandage about her right wrist, and a soft strip of cotton was bound about her head.
"Oh, girls! It's too bad that I can't help you to have a good time to- day," she said, "and all because I was so clumsy."
Both the girls assured her that it was a good time just to be at the Hayes plantation.
"Flora! There is a ghost! Just as you said! I saw it. Just about midnight," said Sylvia.
"Truly!" exclaimed Flora, in rather a faint voice.
"Yes. And it was Lady Caroline. For it wore a big hat, like the one in the picture, and its dress trailed all about it," replied Sylvia.
"Then I guess Grace will believe this is a haunted house," said Flora, a little triumphantly.
"I didn't see it," said Grace. "And, truly, I believe Sylvia just dreamed it."
Flora sat up in bed suddenly.
"Sylvia did not dream it. I know she saw it," she declared.
"Well, perhaps so. But I didn't," and Grace laughed good-naturedly; but Flora turned her face from them and began to cry.
"After my being hurt, and—" she sobbed, but stopped quickly.
Sylvia and Grace looked at each other in amazement.
"It's because she is ill. And she's disappointed because you didn't see Lady Caroline," Sylvia whispered. In a moment Flora looked up with a little smile.
"I am so silly," she said. "You must forgive me. But I'm sure Sylvia did see—"
"I begin to think she did," Grace owned laughingly. She had happened to look toward the open closet and had seen certain things which made her quite ready to own that Flora might be right. But she was rather serious and silent for the rest of the visit. Before they left Flora's room Flora asked Sylvia not to tell anyone that she had seen a "ghost." "You see, the boys would laugh, and no one but me really believes the house is haunted," she explained.
Of course Sylvia promised, but she was puzzled by Flora's request.
It was decided that Ralph and Philip should ride back to Charleston that afternoon when Uncle Chris drove the little visitors home, and that Flora should stay at the plantation with her mother for a day or two.
Sylvia had enjoyed her visit. She had even enjoyed seeing the "ghost," but she was sorry that she could not tell her mother and father of the great adventure. Nevertheless she was glad when the carriage stopped in front of her own home, and she saw Estralla, smiling and happy in the pink gingham dress, waiting to welcome her.
"Sylvia, I'm coming over to-night. I've got something to tell you," Grace said, as the two friends stood for a moment at Sylvia's gate, after they had thanked Uncle Chris, and said good-bye to Sylvia's brothers.
Grace was so serious that Sylvia wondered what it could be. "It isn't that Estralla is going to be sold right away, is it?" she asked anxiously.
"No. I'll tell you after supper," Grace responded and ran on to her own home.
Sylvia's mother and father were interested to hear all that she had to tell them about the corn-shucking, and of the wonderful cake with its palmetto flag. She told them about poor Dinkie, and what Philip had said: that Dinkie should not be sold away from her children, or whipped.
Mr. Fulton seemed greatly pleased with Sylvia's account of her visit. He said Philip was a fine boy, and that there were many like him in South Carolina.
They had just finished supper when Grace appeared, and the two little girls went up to Sylvia's room.
"What is it, Grace?" Sylvia asked eagerly. "I can't think what you want to tell me that makes you look so sober."
Grace looked all about the room and then closed the door, not seeing a little figure crouching in a shadowy corner.
"I wouldn't want anybody else to hear. It's about the ghost," she whispered. "I know all about it. It was Flora herself! Yes, it was!" she continued quickly. "When we were in her room this morning I saw a big hat with a long feather on it, hanging on her closet door, and a long blue skirt, one of her mother's. They weren't there yesterday, for the door was open, just as it was to-day."
"Well, what of that?" asked Sylvia.
"Oh, Sylvia! Can't you see?" Grace asked impatiently. "Flora dressed up in her mother's things, and then came up the stairs to our room. She was determined to make us think she had a truly ghost in her house. Then when you called out, she got frightened and stumbled on the stairs. You know we heard someone fall and cry out. Of course it was Flora. Nobody seems to know how she got hurt. The minute I saw that plumed hat I knew just the trick she had played. I knew there wasn't a ghost," Grace concluded triumphantly.
Sylvia felt almost disappointed that it had not really been "Lady Caroline." She wondered why Flora had wanted to deceive them.
"I don't think it was fair," she said slowly.
"Of course it wasn't fair. I wouldn't have believed that a Charleston girl would do such a mean trick," declared Grace. "Of course, as we were her company, we can't let her know that we have found her out."
"Perhaps she meant to tell us, anyway," suggested Sylvia hopefully. "I'm sure she did. She thought it would make us laugh."
"Well, then why didn't she?" asked Grace.
Sylvia's face clouded; she could not answer this question, but she was sure that Flora had not meant to frighten or really deceive them, and she wanted to defend her absent friend.
"Well, Grace, we know Flora wouldn't do anything mean. And, you see, she got hurt, and so she's just waiting to get well before she tells us of the joke. You wait and see. Flora will tell us just as soon as we see her again."
There was a little note of entreaty in Sylvia's voice, as if she were pleading with Grace not to blame Flora.
"I know one thing, Sylvia. You wouldn't do anything mean, if you are a Yankee," Grace declared warmly. "What's that noise?" she added quickly.
The room was shadowy in the gathering twilight, and the two little girls had been sitting near the window. As Grace spoke they both turned quickly, for there was a sudden noise of an overturned chair in the further corner of the room, and they could see a dark figure sprawling on the floor.
Before Sylvia could speak she heard the little wailing cry which Estralla always gave when in trouble, and then: "Don't be skeered, Missy! It's nobuddy. I jes' fell over your doll-ladies."
"Oh, Estralla! You haven't broken my dolls! What were you up here for, anyway?" and Sylvia quite forgot all her plans to rescue Estralla as she ran toward her.
The "doll-ladies," as the little darky girl had always called Sylvia's two china dolls which sat in two small chairs in front of a doll's table in one corner of the room, were both sprawling on the floor, their chairs upset, and the little table with its tiny tea-set overturned. Grace lit the candles on Sylvia's bureau, while Sylvia picked up her treasured dolls, "Molly" and "Polly," which her Grandmother Fulton had sent her on her last birthday.
"I wuz up here, jest a-sittin' an' a-lookin' at 'em, Missy," wailed Estralla. "I never layed hand on 'em. An' when you an' Missy Grace comes in I da'sent move. An' then when I does move I tumbles over. I 'spec' now I'll get whipped."
"Keep still, Estralla. You know you won't get whipped," replied Sylvia, finding that Molly and Polly had not been hurt by their fall, and that none of the little dishes were broken.
"You ought to tell her mother to whip her. She's no business up here," said Grace.
"Don't, Grace!" Sylvia exclaimed. "We don't get whipped every time we make a mistake. And Estralla hasn't anything of her own. Just think, your Uncle Robert can sell her away from her own mother. You said yourself that you didn't think that was fair."
Estralla had scrambled to her feet and now stood looking at the little white girls with a half-frightened look in her big eyes.
"Oh, Missy! I ain't gwine to be sold, be I?" she whispered.
Sylvia put her arm around Estralla's shoulders. "No!" she said, "you shall not be sold. Now, don't look so frightened. We will have a tea- party for Molly and Polly, and you shall wait on them. Run down and ask your mother to give us some little cakes."
Estralla was off in an instant, and while she was away Sylvia and Grace spread the little table, brought cushions from the window-seats and advised Molly and Polly to forgive the disturbance.
When Mrs. Fulton came up-stairs a little later to tell Grace that her black Mammy had come to take her home she found three very happy little girls. Sylvia and Grace were being entertained at tea by Misses Molly and Polly, while Estralla with shining eyes and a wide smile carried tiny cups and little cakes to the guests, and chuckled delightedly over the clever things which Sylvia and Grace declared Molly and Polly had said.
"A candle-light tea-party," exclaimed Mrs. Fulton, as she came into the room and smiled down on the happy group.
"Perhaps Flora will own up," Grace said, as the two girls followed Mrs. Fulton down the stairs. "Anyway, you are mighty fair about it, and you're good to that stupid little darky."
"Oh, Estralla isn't stupid. Not a bit," replied Sylvia laughingly.
Estralla, who was carefully putting the little table in order, heard Sylvia's defense of her, and for a moment she stood very straight, holding one of the tiny cups in each hand.
"I jes' loves Missy Sylvia, I do, I jes' wish ez how I could do somethin' so she'd know how I loves her," and two big tears rolled down the black cheeks of the little slave girl who had known so little of kindness or of joy.
It was a week after Sylvia's visit to the Hayes plantation before Flora returned to school. A heavy rain had made the roads nearly impassable, and a little scar on Flora's forehead reminded Sylvia and Grace of her unlucky tumble. On Flora's first appearance at school Sylvia was confident that she would at once confess her part in "Lady Caroline's" appearance, and at recess she and Grace were eager to walk with Flora. It was now the first of November, but the air was warm and the garden had many blossoming plants and shrubs.
Flora said that she was glad to be back at school. She told the girls that her father had returned from a northern trip and that he had given Dinkie and her children to Philip.
"Phil teased him so that Father was tired of hearing him. He said Phil was a regular abolitionist," Flora explained with her pretty smile.
"What's an abbylitionzist?" asked Grace.
"Ask Sylvia. I heard my father say that Sylvia's father was one," answered Flora.
"I don't know. But my father is a Congregationalist," replied Sylvia. "Perhaps that's what your father meant."
"No, it's something about not believing in having slaves, I know that much," said Flora.
"Who would do our work then?" questioned Grace.
Flora could not answer this question. Sylvia resolved to ask Miss Rosalie at question time the meaning of this new word. If her father and Philip Hayes were "abolitionists," she was quite sure the word meant something very brave and fine.
"What about Miss Flora and her ghost now?" Grace found a chance to whisper, as they entered the schoolroom. "She doesn't mean to own up."
"Wait, she will," was Sylvia's response as she took her seat.
When question time came Sylvia was ready. She stood up smiling and eager, and Miss Rosalie smiled back. She had grown fond of her little pupil from Boston, and thought to herself that Sylvia was really becoming almost like a little southern girl in her graceful ways and pleasant smile.
"What is your question, Sylvia?" she asked.
"If you please, Miss Rosalie, what does 'abolitionist' mean?"
Some of the older girls exchanged startled looks, and May Bailey barely restrained a laugh. Probably Grace and Sylvia were the only girls in school who had not heard the word used as a term of reproach against the people of the northern states who wished to do away with slavery.
Miss Rosalie's smile faded, but she responded without a moment's hesitation:
"Why, an 'abolitionist' is a person who wishes to destroy some law or custom."
There was a little murmur among the other pupils, but Grace and Sylvia looked at each other with puzzled eyes. Philip did not wish to "destroy" anything, thought Sylvia; he only wanted to protect Dinkie. And she was sure that her father would not destroy anything, unless it was something which would harm people. So it was a puzzled Sylvia who came home from school that day. She decided that her father could answer a question much better than Miss Rosalie, and resolved to ask him the meaning of the word.
"Come up-stairs, Estralla," she said, finding the little negro girl at the gate as usual waiting for her. "I have some things my mother said I could give you."
Estralla followed happily. She didn't care very much what it might be that Missy Sylvia would give her, it was delight enough for Estralla to follow after her. But when the little girl saw the things spread out on Sylvia's bed she exclaimed aloud:
"Does you mean, Missy, dat I'se to pick out somethin'? Well, then I chooses the shoes. I never had no shoes."
"They are all for you," said Sylvia, lifting up a pretty blue cape and holding it toward Estralla.
"My lan'!" whispered Estralla.
There was a dress of blue delaine with tiny white dots, two pretty white aprons, the blue cape, and shoes and stockings, beside some of Sylvia's part-worn underwear. She had begged her mother to let her give the little darky these things, and Mrs. Fulton had been glad that her little daughter wished to do so.