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- Yankee Girl at Fort Sumter - 6/25 -
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.
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