SYLVIA AT THE PLANTATION
When the afternoon session opened Elinor Mayhew was not in her usual place. Grace and Flora had been told by the other girls what had happened on the day of Sylvia’s disappearance from school. May Bailey had declared that Sylvia must have “run straight to the teacher,” and that she was a telltale as well as a “Yankee.” Grace had defended her friend warmly.
“I don’t know how Miss Rosalie found out, but I’m sure Sylvia did not tell,” she declared.
Flora was unusually quiet. There were many scornful looks sent in Sylvia’s direction that afternoon, which Miss Patten noticed and easily understood. Before school was dismissed she said that she had a brief announcement to make.
“I want to say to you that the pupil whom Elinor treated with such a lack of courtesy did not inform me of the fact. Nor would she say one word against any of her schoolmates when I questioned her. Someone who overheard Elinor’s unfriendly remarks came and told me.”
Flora Hayes smiled and drew a long breath. She did not blame Sylvia for being a “Yankee,” but it had troubled her to think of her new friend as a “telltale,” whatever her provocation might have been. The other girls began to look at Sylvia with more friendly eyes, and as they ran down the steps several found a chance to nod and smile at her, or to exchange some word. So Sylvia began to feel that her troubles were over, if Elinor Mayhew did not return to school.
“Father, are you sure ‘Yankee’ doesn’t mean anything beside ’American’?” she asked in a very serious tone, as she sat beside Mr. Fulton on the piazza that evening. They were quite alone, as Mrs. Fulton had stepped to the kitchen to speak to Aunt Connie.
“The girls at school all think it means something dreadful,” she added.
“Let me see, Sylvia. You study history, don’t you?” responded her father slowly. “Of course you do; and you know that George Washington and General Putnam and General Warren, and many more brave men, defended this country and its liberty?”
“Why, yes,” replied Sylvia, greatly puzzled.
“The men of South Carolina were among the bravest and most loyal of the defenders of our liberties. And when America’s enemies called American men ‘Yankees’ they meant General Washington and every other American who was ready to defend the United States of America. So if any of your friends use the word ‘Yankee’ scornfully they agree with the enemies of the Union. No one need be ashamed of being called a ‘Yankee.’ It means someone who is ready to fight for what is right.”
But Sylvia still wondered. “The girls don’t think so,” she said.
“Well, that is because they don’t understand. They will know when they are older,” said Mr. Fulton. He did not imagine that any of the companions of his little daughter had treated her in an unfriendly fashion, and thought it a good opportunity to make her understand the real meaning of the word.