MR. ROBERT WAITE
It was a very sober little darky who came up to Sylvia’s room the next morning. She set down the pitcher of water and moved silently toward the door.
“What’s the matter, Estralla?” Sylvia called; for usually Estralla was all smiles, and had a good deal to say.
Estralla shook her head. “Nuffin’, Missy. I knowed you couldn’t do nuffin’ ’bout it. My mammy says how nobody can.”
“Wait, Estralla! What do you mean?” exclaimed Sylvia, sitting up in bed.
“I’se gwine to be sold! Jes’ like I tells you. My mammy was over to Massa Waite’s house las’ night, and she hears ober dar dat Massa Robert’s gwine to sell off every nigger what ain’t workin’—this week!” Estralla’s voice had drifted into her old-time wail.
“Oh, Estralla! What can I do?” and Sylvia was out of bed in a second, standing close beside the little colored girl.
“I dunno, Missy Sylvia. I ‘spec’ dar ain’t nuffin’ you kin do. But you has been mighty good to me,” Estralla replied. “It’s mighty hard to go off and leave my mammy an’ never see you-all no more, Missy Sylvia. I dunno whar I’ll be sent.”
“Estralla, if you were earning wages for Mr. Robert Waite would he let you stay here?” Sylvia asked eagerly.
“I reckon he would, Missy. But who’s a-gwine to pay wages for a pickaninny like me? Nobuddy! Missy, I’se a-gwine to run off an’ hide myself ’til the Yankee soldiers comes and sets us free,” said Estralla.
“You can’t do that. But don’t be frightened, Estralla. I have thought of something. I will hire you! Yes, I will; and pay wages for you to Mr. Waite. I’ll go tell him so this very day,” declared Sylvia, her face brightening, as she remembered the twenty dollars in gold which her Grandmother Fulton had given her when she had left Boston. “You can do whatever you please with it,” was what Grandmother Fulton had said.
Sylvia had thought that she would ask her mother to buy her a watch with the money, but she did not remember that now. She knew that, more than anything, she would rather keep Estralla safe. Twenty dollars was a good deal of money, she reflected. If the northern soldiers would only come quickly and set the slaves free! But even if they did not come for a long time the money would surely pay Mr. Waite wages for Estralla, so that he would not insist on selling her.
Estralla’s face had brightened instantly at Sylvia’s promise. And when Sylvia explained that she had money of her very own, and even opened her writing desk and showed Estralla the shining gold pieces, the little darky’s fears vanished. She was as sure that all would be well now, as she had been frightened and despondent when she entered the room.
“Shall I tell my mammy?” she asked eagerly.
“Yes,” Sylvia responded. “I know my mother will let me. Because Grandma said I could do as I pleased with the money. And I please to pay it to Mr. Waite.”