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- Yankee Girl at Fort Sumter - 5/25 -
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
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