“Where is Sylvia?” echoed Mrs. Carleton, who came in at that moment. “Has she gone to the boat?”
“Why, I don’t know. Perhaps she has. Mr. Fulton said for us to come right to the landing,” said Grace, her thoughts still full of the faithful Sancho Panza of whom she had been reading.
“I will go to the wharf with you. It was too bad to leave you. I must see Sylvia before she goes. Perhaps I may not be permitted to have visitors much longer,” said Mrs. Carleton, and she and Grace left the pleasant room and, followed closely by Estralla, made their way over the bridge to the landing-place.
“Where is Sylvia?” asked Mr. Fulton, looking at his watch. “We really ought to have started an hour ago.” For a moment the little group looked at each other in silence. Then with a sudden cry Estralla darted off.
Mrs. Carleton hurriedly explained Sylvia’s starting off to find Estralla, and her own departure. She blamed herself that she had permitted Sylvia to go out alone.
“She must be somewhere about the fort,” declared Captain Carleton.
“Oh, yes,” agreed Mr. Fulton, “but we had best lose no time in finding her.”
While Captain Carleton questioned the soldiers, Mr. Fulton and Mrs. Carleton and Grace hastened back to the officers’ quarters, and a thorough search for the little girl was begun at once. No one gave a thought to Estralla, who had traced her little mistress along the street, and was now running along a sandy slope beyond the barracks calling: “Missy Sylvia! Missy Sylvia!” But no answer came to her calls.
Estralla did not know why she was so sure that Missy Sylvia had wandered out beyond the barracks; but, since her little mistress was not at Mrs. Carleton’s, and had not come to the landing-place, the little colored girl was sure that she must be among the sand-hills, and she ran along calling Sylvia’s name as she ran.
Now and then she stopped to listen for some response, or to look about for some sign that might tell her that Sylvia had passed that way, and near the top of one of the little slopes she found a bunch of the green vines and yellow blossoms which Sylvia had dropped.
“She shuah am somewhar near,” thought Estralla, and just then she heard a far-off call.
“Dat was my name!” she exclaimed aloud, and listened more intently than ever.
“Maybe ‘twas jes’ one o’ them gull-birds a-callin’,” she decided as no further sound came to her ears.
Now she went on more carefully, but she, too, came to the shore; but it was on the inner curve of the land, a little cove where an old shanty stood near the water, and a boat was drawn up near by.
Estralla looked into the rough cabin, half hoping to find Sylvia there. Then she went back a little way and shouted Sylvia’s name again and again, and this time there was a response. “Estralla! Estralla!” came clearly to her ears.