Sylvia told of their adventures as quickly as possible, and the officer listened in amazement.
“Upon my word!” he said as she finished. “It’s a wonder you are alive to tell the story. And so you are a little Yankee girl? Well! Come along to my quarters and my wife will put you both to bed, or you’ll be too ill to go home to-morrow.”
“Can’t we go to Fort Moultrie right away?” pleaded Sylvia. “My father must be worried about me.”
“No one from this fort can go to Fort Moultrie,” he responded gravely. “Those flash-lights are from a guard-boat which the South Carolina people have sent down the harbor so that Major Anderson won’t send us reinforcements without their knowledge. I wish Anderson would send some message to the President,” he added, as if thinking aloud.
Sylvia wondered to herself if the letter she had carried to Mr. Doane might not be a message to the President? She wished she could tell this big officer about it. But she remembered her promise to Mrs. Carleton not to speak of it to anyone.
“Here’s a half-drowned little Yankee girl and her little darky,” said the officer, as he led the two girls into a warm pleasant room where a pretty elderly lady with white hair sat with her needlework.
“For pity sake, Gerald!” she exclaimed. “They are shivering with cold,” and without asking a single question she began to take off Sylvia’s wet dress.
“Gerald, send Sally right in with hot milk,” she directed, and the officer vanished.
It was not long before Sylvia was sitting up in bed wrapped in a gay-colored blanket and drinking milk so hot and sweet and spicy that it seemed as if she could never have enough of it. Estralla was curled up in a big scarlet wrapper on a rug near the fire with a big mug of the spiced and sweetened milk. And when they had finished this a plate of hot buttered biscuit, and thin slices of ham, was brought in. Then there was more warm milk.
“Now you must both go straight to sleep,” commanded Mrs. Gerald, “and to-morrow morning my husband will take you safely home,” and kissing Sylvia, and with a kindly smile for Estralla, the friendly woman bade them good-night.
There was no light now in the room save the dancing firelight, Sylvia lay watching the shadows on the wall. Estralla was fast asleep, but her little mistress lay awake thinking over the adventures of the day. She was at Fort Sumter, the long dark fort which she had so often seen with the Stars and Stripes waving above it from her home, from Miss Patten’s schoolroom, and in her sails about the harbor. Sylvia snuggled down in her comfortable bed with a sense of safety and comfort. “I wish my father and mother could know I am at Fort Sumter,” was her last waking thought.
A CHRISTMAS PRESENT