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- Yankee Girl at Fort Sumter - 20/25 -
"I know Sylvia will be found. Estralla will surely find her and bring her home."
"Estralla! Why, I had entirely forgotten her," responded Mr. Fulton.
"She ran off as soon as Sylvia was missed," Grace continued earnestly, "and she will find her. Probably she has found her before this."
"I believe you are right. Estralla is a clever little darky, and if she started in search of Sylvia perhaps she has been able to find her. I had not thought of it," and Mr. Fulton's voice had a new note of hope.
"Thank you, Grace. I will start back to the fort as soon as I have talked with Sylvia's mother."
But on Mr. Fulton's return to the wharf he found a sentry on guard who refused him permission to go to the fort. It was in vain that Mr. Fulton explained that his little daughter was lost, that he must be permitted to return to the fort.
The sentry wasted no words. "Orders, sir. Sorry," was the only response he could get, and at midnight Mr. Fulton was in his own house looking out over the harbor. Mingled with his anxious fear for the safety of his little daughter was the thought of the sentries now guarding Charleston's water-front, of the assembling of soldiers in the city, and the evident plan of the southerners to seize the forts in the harbor and force the Government into war.
He realized that in that case it would not be possible for his family to remain in Charleston.
Early the next morning Sylvia was awakened and made ready for her return, and when the sun shone brightly over the waters of the harbor she and Estralla, with Captain Gerald and a strong negro servant, were on board a boat sailing rapidly toward home.
They landed at the wharf where the Butterfly was fastened, and before Captain Gerald had stepped on shore Sylvia called out: "Father! Father! There he is! And Mother, too!" and in another moment her mother's arms were about her, and she was telling as rapidly as possible the story of her adventures, and of Estralla coming to her rescue.
Grace came running to meet Sylvia as they came near their home.
"Oh, Sylvia, I wish I had been with you," she exclaimed. "That is twice you have been to Fort Sumter without meaning to go, isn't it?"
"We will hope that her next visit will not be as dangerous as this one," said Mr, Fulton soberly.
For several days Sylvia could think and talk only of her wanderings among the sand-hills, and of her first sight of the guard-boat. She began teaching Estralla on the very day of her return, and the little darky made rapid progress.
"Father, when may we go to Fort Moultrie again?" she asked one morning a few days later, for she wanted very much to see Mrs. Carleton, and was quite sure that her father would be ready to sail down the harbor on any pleasant day, and his reply made her look up in surprise.
"I do not know that we shall ever go to the forts again," her father had replied. "Did you not hear the bells ringing and the military music yesterday? South Carolina has seceded from the Union. No one is allowed to go to the forts. And unless Major Anderson takes possession of Fort Sumter the Confederates will."
"And we are to start for Boston next week, dear child," Sylvia's mother added.
It seemed to Sylvia that her mother was very glad at the thought of returning to her former home. But Sylvia was not glad. What would become of Estralla?
Mr. Waite had said that as long as Sylvia lived in his house the little colored girl could be her maid. But if they went to Boston and left Estralla behind Sylvia was sure that there would be nothing but trouble for the faithful little darky.
"Why, Sylvia! What is the matter?" questioned her mother anxiously; for Sylvia was leaning her head on the table.
"I can't go to Boston and leave Estralla!" she sobbed. "She has done lots of brave things for me. She wouldn't leave me to be a slave."
Mr. and Mrs. Fulton looked at each other with puzzled eyes.
"But Estralla would not want to leave her mammy," suggested Mr. Fulton.
"Oh, Father! Can't Aunt Connie and Estralla go with us?" and Sylvia lifted her head and looked hopefully at her father. "Couldn't I buy Estralla and then make her free? I've got that gold money Grandma gave me."
"I am afraid it wouldn't be much use for me to even try to buy a slave's freedom now," Mr. Fulton said a little sadly. "Don't suggest such a thing to Aunt Connie, Sylvia."
"When shall we go to Boston?" Sylvia asked.
"Right away after Christmas, unless Fort Sumter is attacked before that time. Washington ought to send troops and provisions for the forts at once!" replied Mr. Fulton.
After her father had left the house Sylvia and her mother went up to Mrs. Fulton's pleasant sitting-room.
"We must begin to pack at once," declared Sylvia's mother, "and do not go outside the gate alone, Sylvia. I wish we could leave Charleston immediately."
"Won't I see Mrs. Carleton again?" Sylvia asked anxiously.
"I do not know, dear child, but run away and give Estralla her lesson, as usual. It will not be a very gay Christmas for any of us this year," responded Mrs. Fulton, and Sylvia went slowly to her own room where Estralla was waiting for her.
The little colored girl had put the room in order; there was a bright fire in the grate, the morning sunshine filled the room, and Miss Molly and Polly, smiling as usual, were in the tiny chairs behind the little round table.
"Dar's gwine to be war, Missy!" Estralla declared solemnly. "Yas'm. Dar's soldiers comin' in from ebery place. Won't de Yankees come and set us free, Missy?"
Sylvia shook her head. "I don't know, Estralla! Let's not talk about it," she replied.
"Wal, Missy, lots of darkies are runnin' off! My mammy say we'll stay right here 'til Massa Fulton goes, an' den"--Estralla stopped, leaned a little nearer to Sylvia and whispered, "an' den my mammy an' I we'se gwine to go with Massa Fulton."
Mrs. Fulton was not in her room, so Sylvia went down the stairs to look for her. She heard voices in the sitting-room, and turned in that direction.
"Oh!" she whispered, as she stood in the open door. For her mother was sitting on the big sofa near the open fire, and beside her sat Mr. Robert Waite, while her father was standing in front of them. They were all talking so earnestly that they did not notice the surprised little girl standing in the doorway, and Sylvia heard Mr. Waite say:
"I shall be glad to protect your interests here, Mr. Fulton, as far as it is possible to do so. And you had better leave Charleston immediately. The city is no longer a safe place for northern people. The conflict may begin at any moment."
"'Conflict,'" Sylvia repeated the word to herself. Probably it meant something dreadful, she thought, recalling the "question period" at Miss Rosalie's school.
Just then Mr. Waite glanced toward the door and saw Sylvia. In a second he was on his feet, bowing as politely as on their last meeting.
"Miss Sylvia, I am glad to see you again," and he stepped forward to meet her.
Sylvia, feeling quite grown-up, made her pretty curtsey, and smiled with delight at Mr. Waite's greeting, as he led her toward her mother and, with another polite bow, gave her the seat on the sofa.
"I was hoping to see Miss Sylvia," he said. "I had meant to make her a little Christmas gift, with your permission," and he bowed again to Mrs. Fulton. "She was kind enough to interest herself in behalf of one of my people, the little darky, Estralla. And so I thought this would please you," and he smiled at Sylvia, who began to be sure that Mr. Waite and Santa Claus must be exactly alike. As he spoke he handed Sylvia a long envelope.
"Do not open it until to-morrow, if you please," he added.
Sylvia promised and thanked him. She wondered if the envelope might not contain a picture of this kind friend. She knew that she must not ask a question; questions were never polite, she remembered, especially about a gift. But whatever it was she was very happy to think Mr. Robert Waite had remembered her.
They all went to the door with their friendly visitor, and stood there until he had reached the gate. Then Sylvia said, speaking very slowly:
"I think Mr. Robert Waite is just like the Knights in that book, 'The Age of Chivalry.' They always did exactly what was right, and so does he; and they were polite and so is he."
"Then, my dear, perhaps you will always remember that to do brave and gentle deeds with kindness is what 'chivalry' means," responded Mrs. Fulton.
Grace came in that afternoon greatly excited that it was a holiday. The whole city was rejoicing over the fact that South Carolina had been the first of the southern states to secede from the Union. Palmetto flags floated everywhere; the streets were filled with marching men. Major Anderson in Fort Moultrie watched Fort Sumter with anxious eyes, hoping for a word from Washington which would give him authority to occupy it before the Charleston men could turn its guns against him. Already Mr. Doane had reached Washington; the message Sylvia had carried through the night had been delivered, and its answer, by a trusted messenger, was on its way south.
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