A NEW FRIEND
The next morning Sylvia was awakened by a tapping on her chamber door. Usually Jennie, the colored girl who helped Aunt Connie in the work of the house, would come into the room before Sylvia was awake with a big pitcher of hot water, and Sylvia would open her eyes to see Jennie unfastening the shutters and spreading out the fresh clothes. So this morning she wondered what the tapping meant, and called out: “Come in.”
The door opened very slowly and a little negro girl, with a round woolly head and big startled eyes, stood peering in. She was barefooted, and wore a straight garment of faded blue cotton.
For a moment the two children stared at each other. Then Sylvia remembered that Aunt Connie’s little girl was coming to live with her mother.
“Are you Estralla?” she asked eagerly, sitting up in bed.
“Yas, Missy,” replied the little darky, lifting the big pitcher of water and bringing it into the room, where she stood holding it as if not knowing what to do next.
“Set the pitcher down,” said Sylvia.
“Yas, Missy,” said Estralla, her big eyes fixed on the little white girl in the pretty bed who was smiling at her in so friendly a fashion. She took a step or two forward, her eyes still fixed on Sylvia, and not noticing the little footstool directly in front of her, over which she stumbled with a loud crash, breaking the pitcher and sending the hot water over her bare feet.
“Oh, Mammy! Mammy! Mammy!” she screamed, lying face downward on the floor with the overturned footstool and broken pitcher, while the steaming water soaked through the cotton dress.
In a moment Sylvia was out of bed.
“Get up, Estralla,” she commanded, “and stop screaming.”
The little darky’s wails ceased, and she looked up at the slender white figure standing in front of her.
“I kyan’t git up; I’se all scalded and cut,” she sobbed, “an’ if I does get up I’se gwine to get whipped for breaking the pitcher,” and at the thought of new trouble in store for her, she began to scream again.
“Get up this minute,” said Sylvia. “I don’t believe the water was hot enough to scald you; it never is really hot. Here, help me sop it up,” and grabbing her bath towel Sylvia began to mop up the little stream of water which was trickling across the floor.
Estralla managed to get to her feet. She was still holding fast to the handle of the broken pitcher. The front of her cotton dress was soaked, but she was not hurt.
“I’ll get whipped, yas’m, I will, fer breaking the pitcher.”
“You won’t!” declared Sylvia, half angrily. “It’s my mother’s pitcher, and I’ll tell her you didn’t mean to break it. Now you go and put on another dress, and tell Jennie to come up here and wipe up this floor.”
“I ain’t got no other dress; an’ if I goes an’ tells I’ll get whipped,” persisted the child.