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- Yankee Girl at Fort Sumter - 10/25 -
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.
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