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- Yankee Girl at Fort Sumter - 2/25 -
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
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