Flora led the way past the stables, and down a broad path which led to the negro quarters. The ponies went at a slow pace, as Flora wanted to be sure that Sylvia was not afraid, and that she was enjoying her first ride.
“The corn-shucking will be here,” she said, pointing with her pretty gold-mounted whip to a number of corn-cribs. “They will bring the corn in from the fields, and we will come down in good season.”
“And the moon will be full to-night,” said Grace, beginning to sing:
“‘De jay-bird hunt de sparrer-nes’,
All by de light of de moon.
De bee-martin sail all ‘roun’,
All by de light of de moon.
De squirrel he holler from de top of de tree;
Mr. Mole he stay in de groun’,
Oh, yes! Mr. Mole he stay in de groun’—’”
Sylvia listened and smiled as she looked at the happy faces of her friends. But she could not forget Dinkie, and wondered if Philip could really protect the unhappy woman from a whipping, and prevent her being sold away from her children.
As they passed the cabins of the negroes the children ran out bobbing and smiling to their young mistress, and Flora called out a friendly greeting.
“Father’s going to sell a lot of those niggers,” she said carelessly. “They eat more than they’re worth.”
“But won’t their mothers feel dreadfully to let them go?” ventured Sylvia. “Of course they will,” declared Grace, before Flora could respond. “And I do think it’s a shame. Did you know Uncle Robert is going to sell Estralla?” she asked turning to Sylvia.
Sylvia’s grasp on the reins loosened, and she nearly lost her seat on the broad back of the fat pony.
“What for?” she questioned, thinking to herself that Estralla should not be sold away from her home and mother if she, Sylvia, could prevent it.
“Oh, Uncle’s agent says she isn’t of any use, and he can get a good price for her. He would have sold her last month if your mother had not taken her in. I expect Aunt Connie will be half crazy, for all her other children are gone,” said Grace.
“We mustn’t ride too far this time,” Flora interrupted, “because it’s Sylvia’s first ride. Hasn’t she done well? Do you suppose you can turn the pony?”
“Yes, indeed,” answered Sylvia, drawing the left rein so tightly that the little pony swung round before Flora had time to give a word of direction. As they were now headed toward home “Snap” went off at a good pace, well in advance of the others. It was all Sylvia could do to keep her seat, but she was not frightened, and when the pony raced up the driveway and came to a standstill directly in front of the piazza steps she was laughing with delight. For the moment she had quite forgotten Dinkie and Estralla.
SYLVIA SEES A GHOST
“It was splendid,” declared Sylvia as Grace and Flora dismounted and the three little friends entered the house. Flora’s black “Mammy” was waiting for them on the piazza.