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Title: Gone With The Wind Author: Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) PART ONE CHAPTER I Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father. But it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw. Her eyes were pale green without a touch of hazel, starred with bristly black lashes and slightly tilted at the ends.
Above them, her thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line in her magnolia-white skin--that skin so prized by Southern women and so carefully guarded with bonnets, veils and mittens against hot Georgia suns.
Seated with Stuart and Brent Tarleton in the cool shade of the porch of Tara, her father's plantation, that bright April afternoon of 1861, she made a pretty picture. Her new green flowered-muslin dress spread its twelve yards of billowing material over her hoops and exactly matched the flat-heeled green morocco slippers her father had recently brought her from Atlanta.
The dress set off to perfection the seventeen-inch waist, the smallest in three counties, and the tightly fitting basque showed breasts well matured for her sixteen years. But for all the modesty of her spreading skirts, the demureness of hair netted smoothly into a chignon and the quietness of small white hands folded in her lap, her true self was poorly concealed. The green eyes in the carefully sweet face were turbulent, willful, lusty with life, distinctly at variance with her decorous demeanor.
Her manners had been imposed upon her by her mother's gentle admonitions and the sterner discipline of her mammy; her eyes were her own.
On either side of her, the twins lounged easily in their chairs, squinting at the sunlight through tall mint-garnished glasses as they laughed and talked, their long legs, booted to the knee and thick with saddle muscles, crossed negligently. Nineteen years old, six feet two inches tall, long of bone and hard of muscle, with sunburned faces and deep auburn hair, their eyes merry and arrogant, their bodies clothed in identical blue coats and mustard-colored breeches, they were as much alike as two bolls of cotton.
Outside, the late afternoon sun slanted down in the yard, throwing into gleaming brightness the dogwood trees that were solid masses of white blossoms against the background of new green. The twins' horses were hitched in the driveway, big animals, red as their masters' hair; and around the horses' legs quarreled the pack of lean, nervous possum hounds that accompanied Stuart and Brent wherever they went. A little aloof, as became an aristocrat, lay a black-spotted carriage dog, muzzle on paws, patiently waiting for the boys to go home to supper.
Between the hounds and the horses and the twins there was a kinship deeper than that of their constant companionship. They were all healthy, thoughtless young animals, sleek, graceful, high-spirited, the boys as mettlesome as the horses they rode, mettlesome and dangerous but, withal, sweet-tempered to those who knew how to handle them.
Although born to the ease of plantation life, waited on hand and foot since infancy, the faces of the three on the porch were neither slack nor soft. They had the vigor and alertness of country people who have spent all their lives in the open and troubled their heads very little with dull things in books. Life in the north Georgia county of Clayton was still new and, according to the standards of Augusta, Savannah and Charleston, a little crude. The more sedate and older sections of the South looked down their noses at the up-country Georgians, but here in north Georgia, a lack of the niceties of classical education carried no shame, provided a man was smart in the things that mattered. And raising good cotton, riding well, shooting straight, dancing lightly, squiring the ladies with elegance and carrying one's liquor like a gentleman were the things that mattered.
In these accomplishments the twins excelled, and they were equally outstanding in their notorious inability to learn anything contained between the covers of books. Their family had more money, more horses, more slaves than any one else in the County, but the boys had less grammar than most of their poor Cracker neighbors.
It was for this precise reason that Stuart and Brent were idling on the porch of Tara this April afternoon. They had just been expelled from the University of Georgia, the fourth university that had thrown them out in two years; and their older brothers, Tom and Boyd, had come home with them, because they refused to remain at an institution where the twins were not welcome. Stuart and Brent considered their latest expulsion a fine joke, and Scarlett, who had not willingly opened a book since leaving the Fayetteville Female Academy the year before, thought it just as amusing as they did.
"I know you two don't care about being expelled, or Tom either," she said. "But what about Boyd? He's kind of set on getting an education, and you two have pulled him out of the University of Virginia and Alabama and South Carolina and now Georgia. He'll never get finished at this rate." "Oh, he can read law in Judge Parmalee's office over in Fayetteville," answered Brent carelessly. "Besides, it don't matter much. We'd have had to come home before the term was out anyway." "Why?" "The war, goose! The war's going to start any day, and you don't suppose any of us would stay in college with a war going on, do you?" "You know there isn't going to be any war," said Scarlett, bored.
"It's all just talk. Why, Ashley Wilkes and his father told Pa just last week that our commissioners in Washington would come to--to--an--amicable agreement with Mr. Lincoln about the Confederacy. And anyway, the Yankees are too scared of us to fight. There won't be any war, and I'm tired of hearing about it." "Not going to be any war!" cried the twins indignantly, as though they had been defrauded.
"Why, honey, of course there's going to be a war," said Stuart.
"The Yankees may be scared of us, but after the way General Beauregard shelled them out of Fort Sumter day before yesterday, they'll have to fight or stand branded as cowards before the whole world. Why, the Confederacy--" Scarlett made a mouth of bored impatience.
"If you say 'war' just once more, I'll go in the house and shut the door. I've never gotten so tired of any one word in my life as 'war,' unless it's 'secession.' Pa talks war morning, noon and night, and all the gentlemen who come to see him shout about Fort Sumter and States' Rights and Abe Lincoln till I get so bored I could scream! And that's all the boys talk about, too, that and their old Troop. There hasn't been any fun at any party this spring because the boys can't talk about anything else. I'm mighty glad Georgia waited till after Christmas before it seceded or it would have ruined the Christmas parties, too. If you say 'war' again, I'll go in the house." She meant what she said, for she could never long endure any conversation of which she was not the chief subject. But she smiled when she spoke, consciously deepening her dimple and fluttering her bristly black lashes as swiftly as butterflies' wings. The boys were enchanted, as she had intended them to be, and they hastened to apologize for boring her. They thought none the less of her for her lack of interest. Indeed, they thought more. War was men's business, not ladies', and they took her attitude as evidence of her femininity.
Having maneuvered them away from the boring subject of war, she went back with interest to their immediate situation.
"What did your mother say about you two being expelled again?" The boys looked uncomfortable, recalling their mother's conduct three months ago when they had come home, by request, from the University of Virginia.
"Well," said Stuart, "she hasn't had a chance to say anything yet.
Tom and us left home early this morning before she got up, and Tom's laying out over at the Fontaines' while we came over here." "Didn't she say anything when you got home last night?" "We were in luck last night. Just before we got home that new stallion Ma got in Kentucky last month was brought in, and the place was in a stew. The big brute--he's a grand horse, Scarlett; you must tell your pa to come over and see him right away--he'd already bitten a hunk out of his groom on the way down here and he'd trampled two of Ma's darkies who met the train at Jonesboro.
And just before we got home, he'd about kicked the stable down and half-killed Strawberry, Ma's old stallion. When we got home, Ma was out in the stable with a sackful of sugar smoothing him down and doing it mighty well, too. The darkies were hanging from the rafters, popeyed, they were so scared, but Ma was talking to the horse like he was folks and he was eating out of her hand. There ain't nobody like Ma with a horse. And when she saw us she said:
'In Heaven's name, what are you four doing home again? You're worse than the plagues of Egypt!' And then the horse began snorting and rearing and she said: 'Get out of here! Can't you see he's nervous, the big darling? I'll tend to you four in the morning!' So we went to bed, and this morning we got away before she could catch us and left Boyd to handle her." "Do you suppose she'll hit Boyd?" Scarlett, like the rest of the County, could never get used to the way small Mrs. Tarleton bullied her grown sons and laid her riding crop on their backs if the occasion seemed to warrant it.
Beatrice Tarleton was a busy woman, having on her hands not only a large cotton plantation, a hundred negroes and eight children, but the largest horse-breeding farm in the state as well. She was hot-tempered and easily plagued by the frequent scrapes of her four sons, and while no one was permitted to whip a horse or a slave, she felt that a lick now and then didn't do the boys any harm.
"Of course she won't hit Boyd. She never did beat Boyd much because he's the oldest and besides he's the runt of the litter," said Stuart, proud of his six feet two. "That's why we left him at home to explain things to her. God'lmighty, Ma ought to stop licking us! We're nineteen and Tom's twenty-one, and she acts like we're six years old." "Will your mother ride the new horse to the Wilkes barbecue tomorrow?" "She wants to, but Pa says he's too dangerous. And, anyway, the girls won't let her. They said they were going to have her go to one party at least like a lady, riding in the carriage." "I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow," said Scarlett. "It's rained nearly every day for a week. There's nothing worse than a barbecue turned into an indoor picnic." "Oh, it'll be clear tomorrow and hot as June," said Stuart.
"Look at that sunset. I never saw one redder. You can always tell weather by sunsets." They looked out across the endless acres of Gerald O'Hara's newly plowed cotton fields toward the red horizon. Now that the sun was setting in a welter of crimson behind the hills across the Flint River, the warmth of the April day was ebbing into a faint but balmy chill.
Spring had come early that year, with warm quick rains and sudden frothing of pink peach blossoms and dogwood dappling with white stars the dark river swamp and far-off hills. Already the plowing was nearly finished, and the bloody glory of the sunset colored the fresh-cut furrows of red Georgia clay to even redder hues.
The moist hungry earth, waiting upturned for the cotton seeds, showed pinkish on the sandy tops of furrows, vermilion and scarlet and maroon where shadows lay along the sides of the trenches. The whitewashed brick plantation house seemed an island set in a wild red sea, a sea of spiraling, curving, crescent billows petrified suddenly at the moment when the pink-tipped waves were breaking into surf. For here were no long, straight furrows, such as could be seen in the yellow clay fields of the flat middle Georgia country or in the lush black earth of the coastal plantations.
The rolling foothill country of north Georgia was plowed in a million curves to keep the rich earth from washing down into the river bottoms.
It was a savagely red land, blood-colored after rains, brick dust in droughts, the best cotton land in the world. It was a pleasant land of white houses, peaceful plowed fields and sluggish yellow rivers, but a land of contrasts, of brightest sun glare and densest shade. The plantation clearings and miles of cotton fields smiled up to a warm sun, placid, complacent. At their edges rose the virgin forests, dark and cool even in the hottest noons, mysterious, a little sinister, the soughing pines seeming to wait with an age-old patience, to threaten with soft sighs:
"Be careful! Be careful! We had you once. We can take you back again." To the ears of the three on the porch came the sounds of hooves, the jingling of harness chains and the shrill careless laughter of negro voices, as the field hands and mules came in from the fields. From within the house floated the soft voice of Scarlett's mother, Ellen O'Hara, as she called to the little black girl who carried her basket of keys. The high-pitched, childish voice answered "Yas'm," and there were sounds of footsteps going out the back way toward the smokehouse where Ellen would ration out the food to the home-coming hands. There was the click of china and the rattle of silver as Pork, the valet-butler of Tara, laid the table for supper.
At these last sounds, the twins realized it was time they were starting home. But they were loath to face their mother and they lingered on the porch of Tara, momentarily expecting Scarlett to give them an invitation to supper.
"Look, Scarlett. About tomorrow," said Brent. "Just because we've been away and didn't know about the barbecue and the ball, that's no reason why we shouldn't get plenty of dances tomorrow night. You haven't promised them all, have you?" "Well, I have! How did I know you all would be home? I couldn't risk being a wallflower just waiting on you two." "You a wallflower!" The boys laughed uproariously.
"Look, honey. You've got to give me the first waltz and Stu the last one and you've got to eat supper with us. We'll sit on the stair landing like we did at the last ball and get Mammy Jincy to come tell our fortunes again." "I don't like Mammy Jincy's fortunes. You know she said I was going to marry a gentleman with jet-black hair and a long black mustache, and I don't like black-haired gentlemen." "You like 'em red-headed, don't you, honey?" grinned Brent. "Now, come on, promise us all the waltzes and the supper." "If you'll promise, we'll tell you a secret," said Stuart.
"What?" cried Scarlett, alert as a child at the word.
"Is it what we heard yesterday in Atlanta, Stu? If it is, you know we promised not to tell." "Well, Miss Pitty told us." "Miss Who?" "You know, Ashley Wilkes' cousin who lives in Atlanta, Miss Pittypat Hamilton--Charles and Melanie Hamilton's aunt." "I do, and a sillier old lady I never met in all my life." "Well, when we were in Atlanta yesterday, waiting for the home train, her carriage went by the depot and she stopped and talked to us, and she told us there was going to be an engagement announced tomorrow night at the Wilkes ball." "Oh. I know about that," said Scarlett in disappointment. "That silly nephew of hers, Charlie Hamilton, and Honey Wilkes.
Everybody's known for years that they'd get married some time, even if he did seem kind of lukewarm about it." "Do you think he's silly?" questioned Brent. "Last Christmas you sure let him buzz round you plenty." "I couldn't help him buzzing," Scarlett shrugged negligently. "I think he's an awful sissy." "Besides, it isn't his engagement that's going to be announced," said Stuart triumphantly. "It's Ashley's to Charlie's sister, Miss Melanie!" Scarlett's face did not change but her lips went white--like a person who has received a stunning blow without warning and who, in the first moments of shock, does not realize what has happened.
So still was her face as she stared at Stuart that he, never analytic, took it for granted that she was merely surprised and very interested.
"Miss Pitty told us they hadn't intended announcing it till next year, because Miss Melly hasn't been very well; but with all the war talk going around, everybody in both families thought it would be better to get married soon. So it's to be announced tomorrow night at the supper intermission. Now, Scarlett, we've told you the secret, so you've got to promise to eat supper with us." "Of course I will," Scarlett said automatically.
"And all the waltzes?" "All." "You're sweet! I'll bet the other boys will be hopping mad." "Let 'em be mad," said Brent. "We two can handle 'em. Look, Scarlett. Sit with us at the barbecue in the morning." "What?" Stuart repeated his request.
"Of course." The twins looked at each other jubilantly but with some surprise.
Although they considered themselves Scarlett's favored suitors, they had never before gained tokens of this favor so easily.
Usually she made them beg and plead, while she put them off, refusing to give a Yes or No answer, laughing if they sulked, growing cool if they became angry. And here she had practically promised them the whole of tomorrow--seats by her at the barbecue, all the waltzes (and they'd see to it that the dances were all waltzes!) and the supper intermission. This was worth getting expelled from the university.
Filled with new enthusiasm by their success, they lingered on, talking about the barbecue and the ball and Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton, interrupting each other, making jokes and laughing at them, hinting broadly for invitations to supper. Some time had passed before they realized that Scarlett was having very little to say. The atmosphere had somehow changed. Just how, the twins did not know, but the fine glow had gone out of the afternoon. Scarlett seemed to be paying little attention to what they said, although she made the correct answers. Sensing something they could not understand, baffled and annoyed by it, the twins struggled along for a while, and then rose reluctantly, looking at their watches.
The sun was low across the new-plowed fields and the tall woods across the river were looming blackly in silhouette. Chimney swallows were darting swiftly across the yard, and chickens, ducks and turkeys were waddling and strutting and straggling in from the fields.
Stuart bellowed: "Jeems!" And after an interval a tall black boy of their own age ran breathlessly around the house and out toward the tethered horses. Jeems was their body servant and, like the dogs, accompanied them everywhere. He had been their childhood playmate and had been given to the twins for their own on their tenth birthday. At the sight of him, the Tarleton hounds rose up out of the red dust and stood waiting expectantly for their masters. The boys bowed, shook hands and told Scarlett they'd be over at the Wilkeses' early in the morning, waiting for her. Then they were off down the walk at a rush, mounted their horses and, followed by Jeems, went down the avenue of cedars at a gallop, waving their hats and yelling back to her.
When they had rounded the curve of the dusty road that hid them from Tara, Brent drew his horse to a stop under a clump of dogwood. Stuart halted, too, and the darky boy pulled up a few paces behind them. The horses, feeling slack reins, stretched down their necks to crop the tender spring grass, and the patient hounds lay down again in the soft red dust and looked up longingly at the chimney swallows circling in the gathering dusk. Brent's wide ingenuous face was puzzled and mildly indignant.
"Look," he said. "Don't it look to you like she would of asked us to stay for supper?" "I thought she would," said Stuart. "I kept waiting for her to do it, but she didn't. What do you make of it?" "I don't make anything of it. But it just looks to me like she might of. After all, it's our first day home and she hasn't seen us in quite a spell. And we had lots more things to tell her." "It looked to me like she was mighty glad to see us when we came." "I thought so, too." "And then, about a half-hour ago, she got kind of quiet, like she had a headache." "I noticed that but I didn't pay it any mind then. What do you suppose ailed her?" "I dunno. Do you suppose we said something that made her mad?" They both thought for a minute.
"I can't think of anything. Besides, when Scarlett gets mad, everybody knows it. She don't hold herself in like some girls do." "Yes, that's what I like about her. She don't go around being cold and hateful when she's mad--she tells you about it. But it was something we did or said that made her shut up talking and look sort of sick. I could swear she was glad to see us when we came and was aiming to ask us to supper." "You don't suppose it's because we got expelled?" "Hell, no! Don't be a fool. She laughed like everything when we told her about it. And besides Scarlett don't set any more store by book learning than we do." Brent turned in the saddle and called to the negro groom.
"Jeems!" "Suh?" "You heard what we were talking to Miss Scarlett about?" "Nawsuh, Mist' Brent! Huccome you think Ah be spyin' on w'ite folks?" "Spying, my God! You darkies know everything that goes on. Why, you liar, I saw you with my own eyes sidle round the corner of the porch and squat in the cape jessamine bush by the wall. Now, did you hear us say anything that might have made Miss Scarlett mad-- or hurt her feelings?" Thus appealed to, Jeems gave up further pretense of not having overheard the conversation and furrowed his black brow.
"Nawsuh, Ah din' notice y'all say anything ter mek her mad. Look ter me lak she sho glad ter see you an' sho had missed you, an' she cheep along happy as a bird, tell 'bout de time y'all got ter talkin' 'bout Mist' Ashley an' Miss Melly Hamilton gittin' mah'ied. Den she quiet down lak a bird w'en de hawk fly ober." The twins looked at each other and nodded, but without comprehension.
"Jeems is right. But I don't see why," said Stuart. "My Lord!
Ashley don't mean anything to her, 'cept a friend. She's not crazy about him. It's us she's crazy about." Brent nodded an agreement.
"But do you suppose," he said, "that maybe Ashley hadn't told her he was going to announce it tomorrow night and she was mad at him for not telling her, an old friend, before he told everybody else?
Girls set a big store on knowing such things first." "Well, maybe. But what if he hadn't told her it was tomorrow? It was supposed to be a secret and a surprise, and a man's got a right to keep his own engagement quiet, hasn't he? We wouldn't have known it if Miss Melly's aunt hadn't let it out. But Scarlett must have known he was going to marry Miss Melly sometime. Why, we've known it for years. The Wilkes and Hamiltons always marry their own cousins. Everybody knew he'd probably marry her some day, just like Honey Wilkes is going to marry Miss Melly's brother, Charles." "Well, I give it up. But I'm sorry she didn't ask us to supper.
I swear I don't want to go home and listen to Ma take on about us being expelled. It isn't as if this was the first time." "Maybe Boyd will have smoothed her down by now. You know what a slick talker that little varmint is. You know he always can smooth her down." "Yes, he can do it, but it takes Boyd time. He has to talk around in circles till Ma gets so confused that she gives up and tells him to save his voice for his law practice. But he ain't had time to get good started yet. Why, I'll bet you Ma is still so excited about the new horse that she'll never even realize we're home again till she sits down to supper tonight and sees Boyd. And before supper is over she'll be going strong and breathing fire.
And it'll be ten o'clock before Boyd gets a chance to tell her that it wouldn't have been honorable for any of us to stay in college after the way the Chancellor talked to you and me. And it'll be midnight before he gets her turned around to where she's so mad at the Chancellor she'll be asking Boyd why he didn't shoot him. No, we can't go home till after midnight." The twins looked at each other glumly. They were completely fearless of wild horses, shooting affrays and the indignation of their neighbors, but they had a wholesome fear of their red-haired mother's outspoken remarks and the riding crop that she did not scruple to lay across their breeches.
"Well, look," said Brent. "Let's go over to the Wilkes. Ashley and the girls'll be glad to have us for supper." Stuart looked a little discomforted.
"No, don't let's go there. They'll be in a stew getting ready for the barbecue tomorrow and besides--" "Oh, I forgot about that," said Brent hastily. "No, don't let's go there." They clucked to their horses and rode along in silence for a while, a flush of embarrassment on Stuart's brown cheeks. Until the previous summer, Stuart had courted India Wilkes with the approbation of both families and the entire County. The County felt that perhaps the cool and contained India Wilkes would have a quieting effect on him. They fervently hoped so, at any rate.
And Stuart might have made the match, but Brent had not been satisfied. Brent liked India but he thought her mighty plain and tame, and he simply could not fall in love with her himself to keep Stuart company. That was the first time the twins' interest had ever diverged, and Brent was resentful of his brother's attentions to a girl who seemed to him not at all remarkable.
Then, last summer at a political speaking in a grove of oak trees at Jonesboro, they both suddenly became aware of Scarlett O'Hara.
They had known her for years, and, since their childhood, she had been a favorite playmate, for she could ride horses and climb trees almost as well as they. But now to their amazement she had become a grown-up young lady and quite the most charming one in all the world.
They noticed for the first time how her green eyes danced, how deep her dimples were when she laughed, how tiny her hands and feet and what a small waist she had. Their clever remarks sent her into merry peals of laughter and, inspired by the thought that she considered them a remarkable pair, they fairly outdid themselves.
It was a memorable day in the life of the twins. Thereafter, when they talked it over, they always wondered just why they had failed to notice Scarlett's charms before. They never arrived at the correct answer, which was that Scarlett on that day had decided to make them notice. She was constitutionally unable to endure any man being in love with any woman not herself, and the sight of India Wilkes and Stuart at the speaking had been too much for her predatory nature. Not content with Stuart alone, she had set her cap for Brent as well, and with a thoroughness that overwhelmed the two of them.
Now they were both in love with her, and India Wilkes and Letty Munroe, from Lovejoy, whom Brent had been half-heartedly courting, were far in the back of their minds. Just what the loser would do, should Scarlett accept either one of them, the twins did not ask. They would cross that bridge when they came to it. For the present they were quite satisfied to be in accord again about one girl, for they had no jealousies between them. It was a situation which interested the neighbors and annoyed their mother, who had no liking for Scarlett.
"It will serve you right if that sly piece does accept one of you," she said. "Or maybe she'll accept both of you, and then you'll have to move to Utah, if the Mormons'll have you--which I doubt. . . . All that bothers me is that some one of these days you're both going to get lickered up and jealous of each other about that two-faced, little, green-eyed baggage, and you'll shoot each other. But that might not be a bad idea either." Since the day of the speaking, Stuart had been uncomfortable in India's presence. Not that India ever reproached him or even indicated by look or gesture that she was aware of his abruptly changed allegiance. She was too much of a lady. But Stuart felt guilty and ill at ease with her. He knew he had made India love him and he knew that she still loved him and, deep in his heart, he had the feeling that he had not played the gentleman. He still liked her tremendously and respected her for her cool good breeding, her book learning and all the sterling qualities she possessed. But, damn it, she was just so pallid and uninteresting and always the same, beside Scarlett's bright and changeable charm. You always knew where you stood with India and you never had the slightest notion with Scarlett. That was enough to drive a man to distraction, but it had its charm.
"Well, let's go over to Cade Calvert's and have supper. Scarlett said Cathleen was home from Charleston. Maybe she'll have some news about Fort Sumter that we haven't heard." "Not Cathleen. I'll lay you two to one she didn't even know the fort was out there in the harbor, much less that it was full of Yankees until we shelled them out. All she'll know about is the balls she went to and the beaux she collected." "Well, it's fun to hear her gabble. And it'll be somewhere to hide out till Ma has gone to bed." "Well, hell! I like Cathleen and she is fun and I'd like to hear about Caro Rhett and the rest of the Charleston folks; but I'm damned if I can stand sitting through another meal with that Yankee stepmother of hers." "Don't be too hard on her, Stuart. She means well." "I'm not being hard on her. I feel sorry for her, but I don't like people I've got to feel sorry for. And she fusses around so much, trying to do the right thing and make you feel at home, that she always manages to say and do just exactly the wrong thing.
She gives me the fidgets! And she thinks Southerners are wild barbarians. She even told Ma so. She's afraid of Southerners.
Whenever we're there she always looks scared to death. She reminds me of a skinny hen perched on a chair, her eyes kind of bright and blank and scared, all ready to flap and squawk at the slightest move anybody makes." "Well, you can't blame her. You did shoot Cade in the leg." "Well, I was lickered up or I wouldn't have done it," said Stuart.
"And Cade never had any hard feelings. Neither did Cathleen or Raiford or Mr. Calvert. It was just that Yankee stepmother who squalled and said I was a wild barbarian and decent people weren't safe around uncivilized Southerners." "Well, you can't blame her. She's a Yankee and ain't got very good manners; and, after all, you did shoot him and he is her stepson." "Well, hell! That's no excuse for insulting me! You are Ma's own blood son, but did she take on that time Tony Fontaine shot you in the leg? No, she just sent for old Doc Fontaine to dress it and asked the doctor what ailed Tony's aim. Said she guessed licker was spoiling his marksmanship. Remember how mad that made Tony?" Both boys yelled with laughter.
"Ma's a card!" said Brent with loving approval. "You can always count on her to do the right thing and not embarrass you in front of folks." "Yes, but she's mighty liable to talk embarrassing in front of Father and the girls when we get home tonight," said Stuart gloomily. "Look, Brent. I guess this means we don't go to Europe. You know Mother said if we got expelled from another college we couldn't have our Grand Tour." "Well, hell! We don't care, do we? What is there to see in Europe? I'll bet those foreigners can't show us a thing we haven't got right here in Georgia. I'll bet their horses aren't as fast or their girls as pretty, and I know damn well they haven't got any rye whisky that can touch Father's." "Ashley Wilkes said they had an awful lot of scenery and music.
Ashley liked Europe. He's always talking about it." "Well--you know how the Wilkes are. They are kind of queer about music and books and scenery. Mother says it's because their grandfather came from Virginia. She says Virginians set quite a store by such things." "They can have 'em. Give me a good horse to ride and some good licker to drink and a good girl to court and a bad girl to have fun with and anybody can have their Europe. . . . What do we care about missing the Tour? Suppose we were in Europe now, with the war coming on? We couldn't get home soon enough. I'd heap rather go to a war than go to Europe." "So would I, any day. . . . Look, Brent! I know where we can go for supper. Let's ride across the swamp to Abel Wynder's place and tell him we're all four home again and ready for drill." "That's an idea!" cried Brent with enthusiasm. "And we can hear all the news of the Troop and find out what color they finally decided on for the uniforms." "If it's Zouave, I'm damned if I'll go in the troop. I'd feel like a sissy in those baggy red pants. They look like ladies' red flannel drawers to me." "Is y'all aimin' ter go ter Mist' Wynder's? 'Cause ef you is, you ain' gwine git much supper," said Jeems. "Dey cook done died, an' dey ain' bought a new one. Dey got a fe'el han' cookin', an' de niggers tells me she is de wustest cook in de state." "Good God! Why don't they buy another cook?" "Huccome po' w'ite trash buy any niggers? Dey ain' never owned mo'n fo' at de mostes'." There was frank contempt in Jeems' voice. His own social status was assured because the Tarletons owned a hundred negroes and, like all slaves of large planters, he looked down on small farmers whose slaves were few.
"I'm going to beat your hide off for that," cried Stuart fiercely.
Don't you call Abel Wynder 'po' white.' Sure he's poor, but he ain't trash; and I'm damned if I'll have any man, darky or white, throwing off on him. There ain't a better man in this County, or why else did the Troop elect him lieutenant?" "Ah ain' never figgered dat out, mahseff," replied Jeems, undisturbed by his master's scowl. "Look ter me lak dey'd 'lect all de awficers frum rich gempmum, 'stead of swamp trash." "He ain't trash! Do you mean to compare him with real white trash like the Slatterys? Able just ain't rich. He's a small farmer, not a big planter, and if the boys thought enough of him to elect him lieutenant, then it's not for any darky to talk impudent about him. The Troop knows what it's doing." The troop of cavalry had been organized three months before, the very day that Georgia seceded from the Union, and since then the recruits had been whistling for war. The outfit was as yet unnamed, though not for want of suggestions. Everyone had his own idea on that subject and was loath to relinquish it, just as everyone had ideas about the color and cut of the uniforms.
"Clayton Wild Cats," "Fire Eaters," "North Georgia Hussars," "Zouaves," "The Inland Rifles" (although the Troop was to be armed with pistols, sabers and bowie knives, and not with rifles), "The Clayton Grays," "The Blood and Thunderers," "The Rough and Readys," all had their adherents. Until matters were settled, everyone referred to the organization as the Troop and, despite the high-sounding name finally adopted, they were known to the end of their usefulness simply as "The Troop." The officers were elected by the members, for no one in the County had had any military experience except a few veterans of the Mexican and Seminole wars and, besides, the Troop would have scorned a veteran as a leader if they had not personally liked him and trusted him. Everyone liked the four Tarleton boys and the three Fontaines, but regretfully refused to elect them, because the Tarletons got lickered up too quickly and liked to skylark, and the Fontaines had such quick, murderous tempers. Ashley Wilkes was elected captain, because he was the best rider in the County and because his cool head was counted on to keep some semblance of order. Raiford Calvert was made first lieutenant, because everybody liked Raif, and Able Wynder, son of a swamp trapper, himself a small farmer, was elected second lieutenant.
Abel was a shrewd, grave giant, illiterate, kind of heart, older than the other boys and with as good or better manners in the presence of ladies. There was little snobbery in the Troop. Too many of their fathers and grandfathers had come up to wealth from the small farmer class for that. Moreover, Able was the best shot in the Troop, a real sharpshooter who could pick out the eye of a squirrel at seventy-five yards, and, too, he knew all about living outdoors, building fires in the rain, tracking animals and finding water. The Troop bowed to real worth and moreover, because they liked him, they made him an officer. He bore the honor gravely and with no untoward conceit, as though it were only his due. But the planters' ladies and the planters' slaves could not overlook the fact that he was not born a gentleman, even if their men folks could.
In the beginning, the Troop had been recruited exclusively from the sons of planters, a gentleman's outfit, each man supplying his own horse, arms, equipment, uniform and body servant. But rich planters were few in the young county of Clayton, and, in order to muster a full-strength troop, it had been necessary to raise more recruits among the sons of small farmers, hunters in the backwoods, swamp trappers, Crackers and, in a very few cases, even poor whites, if they were above the average of their class.
These latter young men were as anxious to fight the Yankees, should war come, as were their richer neighbors; but the delicate question of money arose. Few small farmers owned horses. They carried on their farm operations with mules and they had no surplus of these, seldom more than four. The mules could not be spared to go off to war, even if they had been acceptable for the Troop, which they emphatically were not. As for the poor whites, they considered themselves well off if they owned one mule. The backwoods folks and the swamp dwellers owned neither horses nor mules. They lived entirely off the produce of their lands and the game in the swamp, conducting their business generally by the barter system and seldom seeing five dollars in cash a year, and horses and uniforms were out of their reach. But they were as fiercely proud in their poverty as the planters were in their wealth, and they would accept nothing that smacked of charity from their rich neighbors. So, to save the feelings of all and to bring the Troop up to full strength, Scarlett's father, John Wilkes, Buck Munroe, Jim Tarleton, Hugh Calvert, in fact every large planter in the County with the one exception of Angus MacIntosh, had contributed money to completely outfit the Troop, horse and man. The upshot of the matter was that every planter agreed to pay for equipping his own sons and a certain number of the others, but the manner of handling the arrangements was such that the less wealthy members of the outfit could accept horses and uniforms without offense to their honor.
The Troop met twice a week in Jonesboro to drill and to pray for the war to begin. Arrangements had not yet been completed for obtaining the full quota of horses, but those who had horses performed what they imagined to be cavalry maneuvers in the field behind the courthouse, kicked up a great deal of dust, yelled themselves hoarse and waved the Revolutionary-war swords that had been taken down from parlor walls. Those who, as yet, had no horses sat on the curb in front of Bullard's store and watched their mounted comrades, chewed tobacco and told yarns. Or else engaged in shooting matches. There was no need to teach any of the men to shoot. Most Southerners were born with guns in their hands, and lives spent in hunting had made marksmen of them all.
From planters' homes and swamp cabins, a varied array of firearms came to each muster. There were long squirrel guns that had been new when first the Alleghenies were crossed, old muzzle-loaders that had claimed many an Indian when Georgia was new, horse pistols that had seen service in 1812, in the Seminole wars and in Mexico, silver-mounted dueling pistols, pocket derringers, double- barreled hunting pieces and handsome new rifles of English make with shining stocks of fine wood.
Drill always ended in the saloons of Jonesboro, and by nightfall so many fights had broken out that the officers were hard put to ward off casualties until the Yankees could inflict them. It was during one of these brawls that Stuart Tarleton had shot Cade Calvert and Tony Fontaine had shot Brent. The twins had been at home, freshly expelled from the University of Virginia, at the time the Troop was organized and they had joined enthusiastically; but after the shooting episode, two months ago, their mother had packed them off to the state university, with orders to stay there. They had sorely missed the excitement of the drills while away, and they counted education well lost if only they could ride and yell and shoot off rifles in the company of their friends.
"Well, let's cut across country to Abel's," suggested Brent. "We can go through Mr. O'Hara's river bottom and the Fontaine's pasture and get there in no time." "We ain' gwine git nothin' ter eat 'cept possum an' greens," argued Jeems.
"You ain't going to get anything," grinned Stuart. "Because you are going home and tell Ma that we won't be home for supper." "No, Ah ain'!" cried Jeems in alarm. "No, Ah ain'! Ah doan git no mo' fun outer havin' Miss Beetriss lay me out dan y'all does.
Fust place she'll ast me huccome Ah let y'all git expelled agin.
An' nex' thing, huccome Ah din' bring y'all home ternight so she could lay you out. An' den she'll light on me lak a duck on a June bug, an' fust thing Ah know Ah'll be ter blame fer it all.
Ef y'all doan tek me ter Mist' Wynder's, Ah'll lay out in de woods all night an' maybe de patterollers git me, 'cause Ah heap ruther de patterollers git me dan Miss Beetriss when she in a state." The twins looked at the determined black boy in perplexity and indignation.
"He'd be just fool enough to let the patterollers get him and that would give Ma something else to talk about for weeks. I swear, darkies are more trouble. Sometimes I think the Abolitionists have got the right idea." "Well, it wouldn't be right to make Jeems face what we don't want to face. We'll have to take him. But, look, you impudent black fool, if you put on any airs in front of the Wynder darkies and hint that we all the time have fried chicken and ham, while they don't have nothing but rabbit and possum, I'll--I'll tell Ma. And we won't let you go to the war with us, either." "Airs? Me put on airs fo' dem cheap niggers? Nawsuh, Ah got better manners. Ain' Miss Beetriss taught me manners same as she taught y'all?" "She didn't do a very good job on any of the three of us," said Stuart. "Come on, let's get going." He backed his big red horse and then, putting spurs to his side, lifted him easily over the split rail fence into the soft field of Gerald O'Hara's plantation. Brent's horse followed and then Jeems', with Jeems clinging to pommel and mane. Jeems did not like to jump fences, but he had jumped higher ones than this in order to keep up with his masters.
As they picked their way across the red furrows and down the hill to the river bottom in the deepening dusk, Brent yelled to his brother:
"Look, Stu! Don't it seem like to you that Scarlett WOULD have asked us to supper?" "I kept thinking she would," yelled Stuart. "Why do you suppose . . ." CHAPTER II When the twins left Scarlett standing on the porch of Tara and the last sound of flying hooves had died away, she went back to her chair like a sleepwalker. Her face felt stiff as from pain and her mouth actually hurt from having stretched it, unwillingly, in smiles to prevent the twins from learning her secret. She sat down wearily, tucking one foot under her, and her heart swelled up with misery, until it felt too large for her bosom. It beat with odd little jerks; her hands were cold, and a feeling of disaster oppressed her. There were pain and bewilderment in her face, the bewilderment of a pampered child who has always had her own way for the asking and who now, for the first time, was in contact with the unpleasantness of life.
Ashley to marry Melanie Hamilton!
Oh, it couldn't be true! The twins were mistaken. They were playing one of their jokes on her. Ashley couldn't, couldn't be in love with her. Nobody could, not with a mousy little person like Melanie. Scarlett recalled with contempt Melanie's thin childish figure, her serious heart-shaped face that was plain almost to homeliness. And Ashley couldn't have seen her in months. He hadn't been in Atlanta more than twice since the house party he gave last year at Twelve Oaks. No, Ashley couldn't be in love with Melanie, because--oh, she couldn't be mistaken!--because he was in love with her! She, Scarlett, was the one he loved--she knew it!
Scarlett heard Mammy's lumbering tread shaking the floor of the hall and she hastily untucked her foot and tried to rearrange her face in more placid lines. It would never do for Mammy to suspect that anything was wrong. Mammy felt that she owned the O'Haras, body and soul, that their secrets were her secrets; and even a hint of a mystery was enough to set her upon the trail as relentlessly as a bloodhound. Scarlett knew from experience that, if Mammy's curiosity were not immediately satisfied, she would take up the matter with Ellen, and then Scarlett would be forced to reveal everything to her mother, or think up some plausible lie.
Mammy emerged from the hall, a huge old woman with the small, shrewd eyes of an elephant. She was shining black, pure African, devoted to her last drop of blood to the O'Haras, Ellen's mainstay, the despair of her three daughters, the terror of the other house servants. Mammy was black, but her code of conduct and her sense of pride were as high as or higher than those of her owners. She had been raised in the bedroom of Solange Robillard, Ellen O'Hara's mother, a dainty, cold, high-nosed French-woman, who spared neither her children nor her servants their just punishment for any infringement of decorum. She had been Ellen's mammy and had come with her from Savannah to the up-country when she married. Whom Mammy loved, she chastened. And, as her love for Scarlett and her pride in her were enormous, the chastening process was practically continuous.
"Is de gempmum gone? Huccome you din' ast dem ter stay fer supper, Miss Scarlett? Ah done tole Poke ter lay two extry plates fer dem. Whar's yo' manners?" "Oh, I was so tired of hearing them talk about the war that I couldn't have endured it through supper, especially with Pa joining in and shouting about Mr. Lincoln." "You ain' got no mo' manners dan a fe'el han', an' after Miss Ellen an' me done labored wid you. An' hyah you is widout yo' shawl! An' de night air fixin' ter set in! Ah done tole you an' tole you 'bout gittin' fever frum settin' in de night air wid nuthin' on yo' shoulders. Come on in de house, Miss Scarlett." Scarlett turned away from Mammy with studied nonchalance, thankful that her face had been unnoticed in Mammy's preoccupation with the matter of the shawl.
"No, I want to sit here and watch the sunset. It's so pretty.
You run get my shawl. Please, Mammy, and I'll sit here till Pa comes home." "Yo' voice soun' lak you catchin' a cole," said Mammy suspiciously.
"Well, I'm not," said Scarlett impatiently. "You fetch me my shawl." Mammy waddled back into the hall and Scarlett heard her call softly up the stairwell to the upstairs maid.
"You, Rosa! Drap me Miss Scarlett's shawl." Then, more loudly:
"Wuthless nigger! She ain' never whar she does nobody no good.
Now, Ah got ter climb up an' git it mahseff." Scarlett heard the stairs groan and she got softly to her feet.
When Mammy returned she would resume her lecture on Scarlett's breach of hospitality, and Scarlett felt that she could not endure prating about such a trivial matter when her heart was breaking.
As she stood, hesitant, wondering where she could hide until the ache in her breast subsided a little, a thought came to her, bringing a small ray of hope. Her father had ridden over to Twelve Oaks, the Wilkes plantation, that afternoon to offer to buy Dilcey, the broad wife of his valet, Pork. Dilcey was head woman and midwife at Twelve Oaks, and, since the marriage six months ago, Pork had deviled his master night and day to buy Dilcey, so the two could live on the same plantation. That afternoon, Gerald, his resistance worn thin, had set out to make an offer for Dilcey.
Surely, thought Scarlett, Pa will know whether this awful story is true. Even if he hasn't actually heard anything this afternoon, perhaps he's noticed something, sensed some excitement in the Wilkes family. If I can just see him privately before supper, perhaps I'll find out the truth--that it's just one of the twins' nasty practical jokes.
It was time for Gerald's return and, if she expected to see him alone, there was nothing for her to do except meet him where the driveway entered the road. She went quietly down the front steps, looking carefully over her shoulder to make sure Mammy was not observing her from the upstairs windows. Seeing no broad black face, turbaned in snowy white, peering disapprovingly from between fluttering curtains, she boldly snatched up her green flowered skirts and sped down the path toward the driveway as fast as her small ribbon-laced slippers would carry her.
The dark cedars on either side of the graveled drive met in an arch overhead, turning the long avenue into a dim tunnel. As soon as she was beneath the gnarled arms of the cedars, she knew she was safe from observation from the house and she slowed her swift pace. She was panting, for her stays were laced too tightly to permit much running, but she walked on as rapidly as she could.
Soon she was at the end of the driveway and out on the main road, but she did not stop until she had rounded a curve that put a large clump of trees between her and the house.
Flushed and breathing hard, she sat down on a stump to wait for her father. It was past time for him to come home, but she was glad that he was late. The delay would give her time to quiet her breathing and calm her face so that his suspicions would not be aroused. Every moment she expected to hear the pounding of his horse's hooves and see him come charging up the hill at his usual breakneck speed. But the minutes slipped by and Gerald did not come. She looked down the road for him, the pain in her heart swelling up again.
"Oh, it can't be true!" she thought. "Why doesn't he come?" Her eyes followed the winding road, blood-red now after the morning rain. In her thought she traced its course as it ran down the hill to the sluggish Flint River, through the tangled swampy bottoms and up the next hill to Twelve Oaks where Ashley lived.
That was all the road meant now--a road to Ashley and the beautiful white-columned house that crowned the hill like a Greek Temple.
"Oh, Ashley! Ashley!" she thought, and her heart beat faster.
Some of the cold sense of bewilderment and disaster that had weighted her down since the Tarleton boys told her their gossip was pushed into the background of her mind, and in its place crept the fever that had possessed her for two years.
It seemed strange now that when she was growing up Ashley had never seemed so very attractive to her. In childhood days, she had seen him come and go and never given him a thought. But since that day two years ago when Ashley, newly home from his three years' Grand Tour in Europe, had called to pay his respects, she had loved him. It was as simple as that.
She had been on the front porch and he had ridden up the long avenue, dressed in gray broadcloth with a wide black cravat setting off his frilled shirt to perfection. Even now, she could recall each detail of his dress, how brightly his boots shone, the head of a Medusa in cameo on his cravat pin, the wide Panama hat that was instantly in his hand when he saw her. He had alighted and tossed his bridle reins to a pickaninny and stood looking up at her, his drowsy gray eyes wide with a smile and the sun so bright on his blond hair that it seemed like a cap of shining silver. And he said, "So you've grown up, Scarlett." And, coming lightly up the steps, he had kissed her hand. And his voice! She would never forget the leap of her heart as she heard it, as if for the first time, drawling, resonant, musical.
She had wanted him, in that first instant, wanted him as simply and unreasoningly as she wanted food to eat, horses to ride and a soft bed on which to lay herself.
For two years he had squired her about the County, to balls, fish fries, picnics and court days, never so often as the Tarleton twins or Cade Calvert, never so importunate as the younger Fontaine boys, but, still, never the week went by that Ashley did not come calling at Tara.
True, he never made love to her, nor did the clear gray eyes ever glow with that hot light Scarlett knew so well in other men. And yet--and yet--she knew he loved her. She could not be mistaken about it. Instinct stronger than reason and knowledge born of experience told her that he loved her. Too often she had surprised him when his eyes were neither drowsy nor remote, when he looked at her with a yearning and a sadness which puzzled her.
She KNEW he loved her. Why did he not tell her so? That she could not understand. But there were so many things about him that she did not understand.
He was courteous always, but aloof, remote. No one could ever tell what he was thinking about, Scarlett least of all. In a neighborhood where everyone said exactly what he thought as soon as he thought it, Ashley's quality of reserve was exasperating.
He was as proficient as any of the other young men in the usual County diversions, hunting, gambling, dancing and politics, and was the best rider of them all; but he differed from all the rest in that these pleasant activities were not the end and aim of life to him. And he stood alone in his interest in books and music and his fondness for writing poetry.
Oh, why was he so handsomely blond, so courteously aloof, so maddeningly boring with his talk about Europe and books and music and poetry and things that interested her not at all--and yet so desirable? Night after night, when Scarlett went to bed after sitting on the front porch in the semi-darkness with him, she tossed restlessly for hours and comforted herself only with the thought that the very next time he saw her he certainly would propose. But the next time came and went, and the result was nothing--nothing except that the fever possessing her rose higher and hotter.
She loved him and she wanted him and she did not understand him.
She was as forthright and simple as the winds that blew over Tara and the yellow river that wound about it, and to the end of her days she would never be able to understand a complexity. And now, for the first time in her life, she was facing a complex nature.
For Ashley was born of a line of men who used their leisure for thinking, not doing, for spinning brightly colored dreams that had in them no touch of reality. He moved in an inner world that was more beautiful than Georgia and came back to reality with reluctance. He looked on people, and he neither liked nor disliked them. He looked on life and was neither heartened nor saddened. He accepted the universe and his place in it for what they were and, shrugging, turned to his music and books and his better world.
Why he should have captivated Scarlett when his mind was a stranger to hers she did not know. The very mystery of him excited her curiosity like a door that had neither lock nor key.
The things about him which she could not understand only made her love him more, and his odd, restrained courtship only served to increase her determination to have him for her own. That he would propose some day she had never doubted, for she was too young and too spoiled ever to have known defeat. And now, like a thunderclap, had come this horrible news. Ashley to marry Melanie! It couldn't be true!
Why, only last week, when they were riding home at twilight from Fairhill, he had said: "Scarlett, I have something so important to tell you that I hardly know how to say it." She had cast down her eyes demurely, her heart beating with wild pleasure, thinking the happy moment had come. Then he had said:
"Not now! We're nearly home and there isn't time. Oh, Scarlett, what a coward I am!" And putting spurs to his horse, he had raced her up the hill to Tara.
Scarlett, sitting on the stump, thought of those words which had made her so happy, and suddenly they took on another meaning, a hideous meaning. Suppose it was the news of his engagement he had intended to tell her!
Oh, if Pa would only come home! She could not endure the suspense another moment. She looked impatiently down the road again, and again she was disappointed.
The sun was now below the horizon and the red glow at the rim of the world faded into pink. The sky above turned slowly from azure to the delicate blue-green of a robin's egg, and the unearthly stillness of rural twilight came stealthily down about her.
Shadowy dimness crept over the countryside. The red furrows and the gashed red road lost their magical blood color and became plain brown earth. Across the road, in the pasture, the horses, mules and cows stood quietly with heads over the split-rail fence, waiting to be driven to the stables and supper. They did not like the dark shade of the thickets hedging the pasture creek, and they twitched their ears at Scarlett as if appreciative of human companionship.
In the strange half-light, the tall pines of the river swamp, so warmly green in the sunshine, were black against the pastel sky, an impenetrable row of black giants hiding the slow yellow water at their feet. On the hill across the river, the tall white chimneys of the Wilkes' home faded gradually into the darkness of the thick oaks surrounding them, and only far-off pin points of supper lamps showed that a house was here. The warm damp balminess of spring encompassed her sweetly with the moist smells of new-plowed earth and all the fresh green things pushing up to the air.
Sunset and spring and new-fledged greenery were no miracle to Scarlett. Their beauty she accepted as casually as the air she breathed and the water she drank, for she had never consciously seen beauty in anything but women's faces, horses, silk dresses and like tangible things. Yet the serene half-light over Tara's well-kept acres brought a measure of quiet to her disturbed mind.
She loved this land so much, without even knowing she loved it, loved it as she loved her mother's face under the lamp at prayer time.
Still there was no sign of Gerald on the quiet winding road. If she had to wait much longer, Mammy would certainly come in search of her and bully her into the house. But even as she strained her eyes down the darkening road, she heard a pounding of hooves at the bottom of the pasture hill and saw the horses and cows scatter in fright. Gerald O'Hara was coming home across country and at top speed.
He came up the hill at a gallop on his thick-barreled, long-legged hunter, appearing in the distance like a boy on a too large horse.
His long white hair standing out behind him, he urged the horse forward with crop and loud cries.
Filled with her own anxieties, she nevertheless watched him with affectionate pride, for Gerald was an excellent horseman.
"I wonder why he always wants to jump fences when he's had a few drinks," she thought. "And after that fall he had right here last year when he broke his knee. You'd think he'd learn. Especially when he promised Mother on oath he'd never jump again." Scarlett had no awe of her father and felt him more her contemporary than her sisters, for jumping fences and keeping it a secret from his wife gave him a boyish pride and guilty glee that matched her own pleasure in outwitting Mammy. She rose from her seat to watch him.
The big horse reached the fence, gathered himself and soared over as effortlessly as a bird, his rider yelling enthusiastically, his crop beating the air, his white curls jerking out behind him.
Gerald did not see his daughter in the shadow of the trees, and he drew rein in the road, patting his horse's neck with approbation.
"There's none in the County can touch you, nor in the state," he informed his mount, with pride, the brogue of County Meath still heavy on his tongue in spite of thirty-nine years in America.
Then he hastily set about smoothing his hair and settling his ruffled shirt and his cravat which had slipped awry behind one ear. Scarlett knew these hurried preenings were being made with an eye toward meeting his wife with the appearance of a gentleman who had ridden sedately home from a call on a neighbor. She knew also that he was presenting her with just the opportunity she wanted for opening the conversation without revealing her true purpose.
She laughed aloud. As she had intended, Gerald was startled by the sound; then he recognized her, and a look both sheepish and defiant came over his florid face. He dismounted with difficulty, because his knee was stiff, and, slipping the reins over his arm, stumped toward her.
"Well, Missy," he said, pinching her cheek, "so, you've been spying on me and, like your sister Suellen last week, you'll be telling your mother on me?" There was indignation in his hoarse bass voice but also a wheedling note, and Scarlett teasingly clicked her tongue against her teeth as she reached out to pull his cravat into place. His breath in her face was strong with Bourbon whisky mingled with a faint fragrance of mint. Accompanying him also were the smells of chewing tobacco, well-oiled leather and horses--a combination of odors that she always associated with her father and instinctively liked in other men.
"No, Pa, I'm no tattletale like Suellen," she assured him, standing off to view his rearranged attire with a judicious air.
Gerald was a small man, little more than five feet tall, but so heavy of barrel and thick of neck that his appearance, when seated, led strangers to think him a larger man. His thickset torso was supported by short sturdy legs, always incased in the finest leather boots procurable and always planted wide apart like a swaggering small boy's. Most small people who take themselves seriously are a little ridiculous; but the bantam cock is respected in the barnyard, and so it was with Gerald. No one would ever have the temerity to think of Gerald O'Hara as a ridiculous little figure.
He was sixty years old and his crisp curly hair was silver-white, but his shrewd face was unlined and his hard little blue eyes were young with the unworried youthfulness of one who has never taxed his brain with problems more abstract than how many cards to draw in a poker game. His was as Irish a face as could be found in the length and breadth of the homeland he had left so long ago--round, high colored, short nosed, wide mouthed and belligerent.
Beneath his choleric exterior Gerald O'Hara had the tenderest of hearts. He could not bear to see a slave pouting under a reprimand, no matter how well deserved, or hear a kitten mewing or a child crying; but he had a horror of having this weakness discovered. That everyone who met him did discover his kindly heart within five minutes was unknown to him; and his vanity would have suffered tremendously if he had found it out, for he liked to think that when he bawled orders at the top of his voice everyone trembled and obeyed. It had never occurred to him that only one voice was obeyed on the plantation--the soft voice of his wife Ellen. It was a secret he would never learn, for everyone from Ellen down to the stupidest field hand was in a tacit and kindly conspiracy to keep him believing that his word was law.
Scarlett was impressed less than anyone else by his tempers and his roarings. She was his oldest child and, now that Gerald knew there would be no more sons to follow the three who lay in the family burying ground, he had drifted into a habit of treating her in a man-to-man manner which she found most pleasant. She was more like her father than her younger sisters, for Carreen, who had been born Caroline Irene, was delicate and dreamy, and Suellen, christened Susan Elinor, prided herself on her elegance and ladylike deportment.
Moreover, Scarlett and her father were bound together by a mutual suppression agreement. If Gerald caught her climbing a fence instead of walking half a mile to a gate, or sitting too late on the front steps with a beau, he castigated her personally and with vehemence, but he did not mention the fact to Ellen or to Mammy.
And when Scarlett discovered him jumping fences after his solemn promise to his wife, or learned the exact amount of his losses at poker, as she always did from County gossip, she refrained from mentioning the fact at the supper table in the artfully artless manner Suellen had. Scarlett and her father each assured the other solemnly that to bring such matters to the ears of Ellen would only hurt her, and nothing would induce them to wound her gentleness.
Scarlett looked at her father in the fading light, and, without knowing why, she found it comforting to be in his presence. There was something vital and earthy and coarse about him that appealed to her. Being the least analytic of people, she did not realize that this was because she possessed in some degree these same qualities, despite sixteen years of effort on the part of Ellen and Mammy to obliterate them.
"You look very presentable now," she said, "and I don't think anyone will suspect you've been up to your tricks unless you brag about them. But it does seem to me that after you broke your knee last year, jumping that same fence--" "Well, may I be damned if I'll have me own daughter telling me what I shall jump and not jump," he shouted, giving her cheek another pinch. "It's me own neck, so it is. And besides, Missy, what are you doing out here without your shawl?" Seeing that he was employing familiar maneuvers to extricate himself from unpleasant conversation, she slipped her arm through his and said: "I was waiting for you. I didn't know you would be so late. I just wondered if you had bought Dilcey." "Bought her I did, and the price has ruined me. Bought her and her little wench, Prissy. John Wilkes was for almost giving them away, but never will I have it said that Gerald O'Hara used friendship in a trade. I made him take three thousand for the two of them." "In the name of Heaven, Pa, three thousand! And you didn't need to buy Prissy!" "Has the time come when me own daughters sit in judgment on me?" shouted Gerald rhetorically. "Prissy is a likely little wench and so--" "I know her. She's a sly, stupid creature," Scarlett rejoined calmly, unimpressed by his uproar. "And the only reason you bought her was because Dilcey asked you to buy her." Gerald looked crestfallen and embarrassed, as always when caught in a kind deed, and Scarlett laughed outright at his transparency.
"Well, what if I did? Was there any use buying Dilcey if she was going to mope about the child? Well, never again will I let a darky on this place marry off it. It's too expensive. Well, come on, Puss, let's go in to supper." The shadows were falling thicker now, the last greenish tinge had left the sky and a slight chill was displacing the balminess of spring. But Scarlett loitered, wondering how to bring up the subject of Ashley without permitting Gerald to suspect her motive.
This was difficult, for Scarlett had not a subtle bone in her body; and Gerald was so much like her he never failed to penetrate her weak subterfuges, even as she penetrated his. And he was seldom tactful in doing it.
"How are they all over at Twelve Oaks?" "About as usual. Cade Calvert was there and, after I settled about Dilcey, we all set on the gallery and had several toddies.
Cade has just come from Atlanta, and it's all upset they are there and talking war and--" Scarlett sighed. If Gerald once got on the subject of war and secession, it would be hours before he relinquished it. She broke in with another line.
"Did they say anything about the barbecue tomorrow?" "Now that I think of it they did. Miss--what's-her-name--the sweet little thing who was here last year, you know, Ashley's cousin--oh, yes, Miss Melanie Hamilton, that's the name--she and her brother Charles have already come from Atlanta and--" "Oh, so she did come?" "She did, and a sweet quiet thing she is, with never a word to say for herself, like a woman should be. Come now, daughter, don't lag. Your mother will be hunting for us." Scarlett's heart sank at the news. She had hoped against hope that something would keep Melanie Hamilton in Atlanta where she belonged, and the knowledge that even her father approved of her sweet quiet nature, so different from her own, forced her into the open.
"Was Ashley there, too?" "He was." Gerald let go of his daughter's arm and turned, peering sharply into her face. "And if that's why you came out here to wait for me, why didn't you say so without beating around the bush?" Scarlett could think of nothing to say, and she felt her face growing red with annoyance.
"Well, speak up." Still she said nothing, wishing that it was permissible to shake one's father and tell him to hush his mouth.
"He was there and he asked most kindly after you, as did his sisters, and said they hoped nothing would keep you from the barbecue tomorrow. I'll warrant nothing will," he said shrewdly.
"And now, daughter, what's all this about you and Ashley?" "There is nothing," she said shortly, tugging at his arm. "Let's go in, Pa." "So now 'tis you wanting to go in," he observed. "But here I'm going to stand till I'm understanding you. Now that I think of it, 'tis strange you've been recently. Has he been trifling with you? Has he asked to marry you?" "No," she said shortly.
"Nor will he," said Gerald.
Fury flamed in her, but Gerald waved her quiet with a hand.
"Hold your tongue, Miss! I had it from John Wilkes this afternoon in the strictest confidence that Ashley's to marry Miss Melanie.
It's to be announced tomorrow." Scarlett's hand fell from his arm. So it was true!
A pain slashed at her heart as savagely as a wild animal's fangs.
Through it all, she felt her father's eyes on her, a little pitying, a little annoyed at being faced with a problem for which he knew no answer. He loved Scarlett, but it made him uncomfortable to have her forcing her childish problems on him for a solution.
Ellen knew all the answers. Scarlett should have taken her troubles to her.
"Is it a spectacle you've been making of yourself--of all of us?" he bawled, his voice rising as always in moments of excitement.
"Have you been running after a man who's not in love with you, when you could have any of the bucks in the County?" Anger and hurt pride drove out some of the pain.
"I haven't been running after him. It--it just surprised me." "It's lying you are!" said Gerald, and then, peering at her stricken face, he added in a burst of kindliness: "I'm sorry, daughter. But after all, you are nothing but a child and there's lots of other beaux." "Mother was only fifteen when she married you, and I'm sixteen," said Scarlett, her voice muffled.
"Your mother was different," said Gerald. "She was never flighty like you. Now come, daughter, cheer up, and I'll take you to Charleston next week to visit your Aunt Eulalie and, what with all the hullabaloo they are having over there about Fort Sumter, you'll be forgetting about Ashley in a week." "He thinks I'm a child," thought Scarlett, grief and anger choking utterance, "and he's only got to dangle a new toy and I'll forget my bumps." "Now, don't be jerking your chin at me," warned Gerald. "If you had any sense you'd have married Stuart or Brent Tarleton long ago. Think it over, daughter. Marry one of the twins and then the plantations will run together and Jim Tarleton and I will build you a fine house, right where they join, in that big pine grove and--" "Will you stop treating me like a child!" cried Scarlett. "I don't want to go to Charleston or have a house or marry the twins.
I only want--" She caught herself but not in time.
Gerald's voice was strangely quiet and he spoke slowly as if drawing his words from a store of thought seldom used.
"It's only Ashley you're wanting, and you'll not be having him.
And if he wanted to marry you, 'twould be with misgivings that I'd say Yes, for all the fine friendship that's between me and John Wilkes." And, seeing her startled look, he continued: "I want my girl to be happy and you wouldn't be happy with him." "Oh, I would! I would!" "That you would not, daughter. Only when like marries like can there be any happiness." Scarlett had a sudden treacherous desire to cry out, "But you've been happy, and you and Mother aren't alike," but she repressed it, fearing that he would box her ears for her impertinence.
"Our people and the Wilkes are different," he went on slowly, fumbling for words. "The Wilkes are different from any of our neighbors--different from any family I ever knew. They are queer folk, and it's best that they marry their cousins and keep their queerness to themselves." "Why, Pa, Ashley is not--" "Hold your whist, Puss! I said nothing against the lad, for I like him. And when I say queer, it's not crazy I'm meaning. He's not queer like the Calverts who'd gamble everything they have on a horse, or the Tarletons who turn out a drunkard or two in every litter, or the Fontaines who are hot-headed little brutes and after murdering a man for a fancied slight. That kind of queerness is easy to understand, for sure, and but for the grace of God Gerald O'Hara would be having all those faults! And I don't mean that Ashley would run off with another woman, if you were his wife, or beat you. You'd be happier if he did, for at least you'd be understanding that. But he's queer in other ways, and there's no understanding him at all. I like him, but it's neither heads nor tails I can make of most he says. Now, Puss, tell me true, do you understand his folderol about books and poetry and music and oil paintings and such foolishness?" "Oh, Pa," cried Scarlett impatiently, "if I married him, I'd change all that!" "Oh, you would, would you now?" said Gerald testily, shooting a sharp look at her. "Then it's little enough you are knowing of any man living, let alone Ashley. No wife has ever changed a husband one whit, and don't you be forgetting that. And as for changing a Wilkes--God's nightgown, daughter! The whole family is that way, and they've always been that way. And probably always will. I tell you they're born queer. Look at the way they go tearing up to New York and Boston to hear operas and see oil paintings. And ordering French and German books by the crate from the Yankees! And there they sit reading and dreaming the dear God knows what, when they'd be better spending their time hunting and playing poker as proper men should." "There's nobody in the County sits a horse better than Ashley," said Scarlett, furious at the slur of effeminacy flung on Ashley, "nobody except maybe his father. And as for poker, didn't Ashley take two hundred dollars away from you just last week in Jonesboro?" "The Calvert boys have been blabbing again," Gerald said resignedly, "else you'd not be knowing the amount. Ashley can ride with the best and play poker with the best--that's me, Puss!
And I'm not denying that when he sets out to drink he can put even the Tarletons under the table. He can do all those things, but his heart's not in it. That's why I say he's queer." Scarlett was silent and her heart sank. She could think of no defense for this last, for she knew Gerald was right. Ashley's heart was in none of the pleasant things he did so well. He was never more than politely interested in any of the things that vitally interested every one else.
Rightly interpreting her silence, Gerald patted her arm and said triumphantly: "There now, Scarlett! You admit 'tis true. What would you be doing with a husband like Ashley? 'Tis moonstruck they all are, all the Wilkes." And then, in a wheedling tone:
"When I was mentioning the Tarletons the while ago, I wasn't pushing them. They're fine lads, but if it's Cade Calvert you're setting your cap after, why, 'tis the same with me. The Calverts are good folk, all of them, for all the old man marrying a Yankee.
And when I'm gone--Whist, darlin', listen to me! I'll leave Tara to you and Cade--" "I wouldn't have Cade on a silver tray," cried Scarlett in fury.
"And I wish you'd quit pushing him at me! I don't want Tara or any old plantation. Plantations don't amount to anything when--" She was going to say "when you haven't the man you want," but Gerald, incensed by the cavalier way in which she treated his proffered gift, the thing which, next to Ellen, he loved best in the whole world uttered a roar.
"Do you stand there, Scarlett O'Hara, and tell me that Tara--that land--doesn't amount to anything?" Scarlett nodded obstinately. Her heart was too sore to care whether or not she put her father in a temper.
"Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything," he shouted, his thick, short arms making wide gestures of indignation, "for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts, and don't you be forgetting it! 'Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for--worth dying for." "Oh, Pa," she said disgustedly, "you talk like an Irishman!" "Have I ever been ashamed of it? No, 'tis proud I am. And don't be forgetting that you are half Irish, Miss! And to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them the land they live on is like their mother. 'Tis ashamed of you I am this minute. I offer you the most beautiful land in the world--saving County Meath in the Old Country--and what do you do? You sniff!" Gerald had begun to work himself up into a pleasurable shouting rage when something in Scarlett's woebegone face stopped him.
"But there, you're young. 'Twill come to you, this love of land.
There's no getting away from it, if you're Irish. You're just a child and bothered about your beaux. When you're older, you'll be seeing how 'tis. . . . Now, do you be making up your mind about Cade or the twins or one of Evan Munroe's young bucks, and see how fine I turn you out!" "Oh, Pa!" By this time, Gerald was thoroughly tired of the conversation and thoroughly annoyed that the problem should be upon his shoulders.
He felt aggrieved, moreover, that Scarlett should still look desolate after being offered the best of the County boys and Tara, too. Gerald liked his gifts to be received with clapping of hands and kisses.
"Now, none of your pouts, Miss. It doesn't matter who you marry, as long as he thinks like you and is a gentleman and a Southerner and prideful. For a woman, love comes after marriage." "Oh, Pa, that's such an Old Country notion!" "And a good notion it is! All this American business of running around marrying for love, like servants, like Yankees! The best marriages are when the parents choose for the girl. For how can a silly piece like yourself tell a good man from a scoundrel? Now, look at the Wilkes. What's kept them prideful and strong all these generations? Why, marrying the likes of themselves, marrying the cousins their family always expects them to marry." "Oh," cried Scarlett, fresh pain striking her as Gerald's words brought home the terrible inevitability of the truth.
Gerald looked at her bowed head and shuffled his feet uneasily.
"It's not crying you are?" he questioned, fumbling clumsily at her chin, trying to turn her face upward, his own face furrowed with pity.
"No," she cried vehemently, jerking away.
"It's lying you are, and I'm proud of it. I'm glad there's pride in you, Puss. And I want to see pride in you tomorrow at the barbecue. I'll not be having the County gossiping and laughing at you for mooning your heart out about a man who never gave you a thought beyond friendship." "He did give me a thought," thought Scarlett, sorrowfully in her heart. "Oh, a lot of thoughts! I know he did. I could tell. If I'd just had a little longer, I know I could have made him say-- Oh, if it only wasn't that the Wilkes always feel that they have to marry their cousins!" Gerald took her arm and passed it through his.
"We'll be going in to supper now, and all this is between us.
I'll not be worrying your mother with this--nor do you do it either. Blow your nose, daughter." Scarlett blew her nose on her torn handkerchief, and they started up the dark drive arm in arm, the horse following slowly. Near the house, Scarlett was at the point of speaking again when she saw her mother in the dim shadows of the porch. She had on her bonnet, shawl and mittens, and behind her was Mammy, her face like a thundercloud, holding in her hand the black leather bag in which Ellen O'Hara always carried the bandages and medicines she used in doctoring the slaves. Mammy's lips were large and pendulous and, when indignant, she could push out her lower one to twice its normal length. It was pushed out now, and Scarlett knew that Mammy was seething over something of which she did not approve.
"Mr. O'Hara," called Ellen as she saw the two coming up the driveway--Ellen belonged to a generation that was formal even after seventeen years of wedlock and the bearing of six children-- "Mr. O'Hara, there is illness at the Slattery house. Emmie's baby has been born and is dying and must be baptized. I am going there with Mammy to see what I can do." Her voice was raised questioningly, as though she hung on Gerald's assent to her plan, a mere formality but one dear to the heart of Gerald.
"In the name of God!" blustered Gerald. "Why should those white trash take you away just at your supper hour and just when I'm wanting to tell you about the war talk that's going on in Atlanta!
Go, Mrs. O'Hara. You'd not rest easy on your pillow the night if there was trouble abroad and you not there to help." "She doan never git no res' on her piller fer hoppin' up at night time nursin' niggers an po' w'ite trash dat could ten' to deyseff," grumbled Mammy in a monotone as she went down the stairs toward the carriage which was waiting in the side drive.
"Take my place at the table, dear," said Ellen, patting Scarlett's cheek softly with a mittened hand.
In spite of her choked-back tears, Scarlett thrilled to the never- failing magic of her mother's touch, to the faint fragrance of lemon verbena sachet that came from her rustling silk dress. To Scarlett, there was something breath-taking about Ellen O'Hara, a miracle that lived in the house with her and awed her and charmed and soothed her.
Gerald helped his wife into the carriage and gave orders to the coachman to drive carefully. Toby, who had handled Gerald's horses for twenty years, pushed out his lips in mute indignation at being told how to conduct his own business. Driving off, with Mammy beside him, each was a perfect picture of pouting African disapproval.
"If I didn't do so much for those trashy Slatterys that they'd have to pay money for elsewhere," fumed Gerald, "they'd be willing to sell me their miserable few acres of swamp bottom, and the County would be well rid of them." Then, brightening, in anticipation of one of his practical jokes: "Come daughter, let's go tell Pork that instead of buying Dilcey, I've sold him to John Wilkes." He tossed the reins of his horse to a small pickaninny standing near and started up the steps. He had already forgotten Scarlett's heartbreak and his mind was only on plaguing his valet.
Scarlett slowly climbed the steps after him, her feet leaden. She thought that, after all, a mating between herself and Ashley could be no queerer than that of her father and Ellen Robillard O'Hara.
As always, she wondered how her loud, insensitive father had managed to marry a woman like her mother, for never were two people further apart in birth, breeding and habits of mind.
CHAPTER III Ellen O'Hara was thirty-two years old, and, according to the standards of her day, she was a middle-aged woman, one who had borne six children and buried three. She was a tall woman, standing a head higher than her fiery little husband, but she moved with such quiet grace in her swaying hoops that the height attracted no attention to itself. Her neck, rising from the black taffeta sheath of her basque, was creamy-skinned, rounded and slender, and it seemed always tilted slightly backward by the weight of her luxuriant hair in its net at the back of her head.
From her French mother, whose parents had fled Haiti in the Revolution of 1791, had come her slanting dark eyes, shadowed by inky lashes, and her black hair; and from her father, a soldier of Napoleon, she had her long straight nose and her square-cut jaw that was softened by the gentle curving of her cheeks. But only from life could Ellen's face have acquired its look of pride that had no haughtiness, its graciousness, its melancholy and its utter lack of humor.
She would have been a strikingly beautiful woman had there been any glow in her eyes, any responsive warmth in her smile or any spontaneity in her voice that fell with gentle melody on the ears of her family and her servants. She spoke in the soft slurring voice of the coastal Georgian, liquid of vowels, kind to consonants and with the barest trace of French accent. It was a voice never raised in command to a servant or reproof to a child but a voice that was obeyed instantly at Tara, where her husband's blustering and roaring were quietly disregarded.
As far back as Scarlett could remember, her mother had always been the same, her voice soft and sweet whether in praising or in reproving, her manner efficient and unruffled despite the daily emergencies of Gerald's turbulent household, her spirit always calm and her back unbowed, even in the deaths of her three baby sons. Scarlett had never seen her mother's back touch the back of any chair on which she sat. Nor had she ever seen her sit down without a bit of needlework in her hands, except at mealtime, while attending the sick or while working at the bookkeeping of the plantation. It was delicate embroidery if company were present, but at other times her hands were occupied with Gerald's ruffled shirts, the girls' dresses or garments for the slaves.
Scarlett could not imagine her mother's hands without her gold thimble or her rustling figure unaccompanied by the small negro girl whose sole function in life was to remove basting threads and carry the rosewood sewing box from room to room, as Ellen moved about the house superintending the cooking, the cleaning and the wholesale clothes-making for the plantation.
She had never seen her mother stirred from her austere placidity, nor her personal appointments anything but perfect, no matter what the hour of day or night. When Ellen was dressing for a ball or for guests or even to go to Jonesboro for Court Day, it frequently required two hours, two maids and Mammy to turn her out to her own satisfaction; but her swift toilets in times of emergency were amazing.
Scarlett, whose room lay across the hall from her mother's, knew from babyhood the soft sound of scurrying bare black feet on the hardwood floor in the hours of dawn, the urgent tappings on her mother's door, and the muffled, frightened negro voices that whispered of sickness and birth and death in the long row of whitewashed cabins in the quarters. As a child, she often had crept to the door and, peeping through the tiniest crack, had seen Ellen emerge from the dark room, where Gerald's snores were rhythmic and untroubled, into the flickering light of an upheld candle, her medicine case under her arm, her hair smoothed neatly place, and no button on her basque unlooped.
It had always been so soothing to Scarlett to hear her mother whisper, firmly but compassionately, as she tiptoed down the hall:
"Hush, not so loudly. You will wake Mr. O'Hara. They are not sick enough to die." Yes, it was good to creep back into bed and know that Ellen was abroad in the night and everything was right.
In the mornings, after all-night sessions at births and deaths, when old Dr. Fontaine and young Dr. Fontaine were both out on calls and could not be found to help her, Ellen presided at the breakfast table as usual, her dark eyes circled with weariness but her voice and manner revealing none of the strain. There was a steely quality under her stately gentleness that awed the whole household, Gerald as well as the girls, though he would have died rather than admit it.
Sometimes when Scarlett tiptoed at night to kiss her tall mother's cheek, she looked up at the mouth with its too short, too tender upper lip, a mouth too easily hurt by the world, and wondered if it had ever curved in silly girlish giggling or whispered secrets through long nights to intimate girl friends. But no, that wasn't possible. Mother had always been just as she was, a pillar of strength, a fount of wisdom, the one person who knew the answers to everything.
But Scarlett was wrong, for, years before, Ellen Robillard of Savannah had giggled as inexplicably as any fifteen-year-old in that charming coastal city and whispered the long nights through with friends, exchanging confidences, telling all secrets but one.
That was the year when Gerald O'Hara, twenty-eight years older than she, came into her life--the year, too, when youth and her black-eyed cousin, Philippe Robillard, went out of it. For when Philippe, with his snapping eyes and his wild ways, left Savannah forever, he took with him the glow that was in Ellen's heart and left for the bandy-legged little Irishman who married her only a gentle shell.
But that was enough for Gerald, overwhelmed at his unbelievable luck in actually marrying her. And if anything was gone from her, he never missed it. Shrewd man that he was, he knew that it was no less than a miracle that he, an Irishman with nothing of family and wealth to recommend him, should win the daughter of one of the wealthiest and proudest families on the Coast. For Gerald was a self-made man.
Gerald had come to America from Ireland when he was twenty-one.
He had come hastily, as many a better and worse Irishman before and since, with the clothes he had on his back, two shillings above his passage money and a price on his head that he felt was larger than his misdeed warranted. There was no Orangeman this side of hell worth a hundred pounds to the British government or to the devil himself; but if the government felt so strongly about the death of an English absentee landlord's rent agent, it was time for Gerald O'Hara to be leaving and leaving suddenly. True, he had called the rent agent "a bastard of an Orangeman," but that, according to Gerald's way of looking at it, did not give the man any right to insult him by whistling the opening bars of "The Boyne Water." The Battle of the Boyne had been fought more than a hundred years before, but, to the O'Haras and their neighbors, it might have been yesterday when their hopes and their dreams, as well as their lands and wealth, went off in the same cloud of dust that enveloped a frightened and fleeing Stuart prince, leaving William of Orange and his hated troops with their orange cockades to cut down the Irish adherents of the Stuarts.
For this and other reasons, Gerald's family was not inclined to view the fatal outcome of this quarrel as anything very serious, except for the fact that it was charged with serious consequences.
For years, the O'Haras had been in bad odor with the English constabulary on account of suspected activities against the government, and Gerald was not the first O'Hara to take his foot in his hand and quit Ireland between dawn and morning. His two oldest brothers, James and Andrew, he hardly remembered, save as close-lipped youths who came and went at odd hours of the night on mysterious errands or disappeared for weeks at a time, to their mother's gnawing anxiety. They had come to America years before, after the discovery of a small arsenal of rifles buried under the O'Hara pigsty. Now they were successful merchants in Savannah, "though the dear God alone knows where that may be," as their mother always interpolated when mentioning the two oldest of her male brood, and it was to them that young Gerald was sent.
He left home with his mother's hasty kiss on his cheek and her fervent Catholic blessing in his ears, and his father's parting admonition, "Remember who ye are and don't be taking nothing off no man." His five tall brothers gave him good-by with admiring but slightly patronizing smiles, for Gerald was the baby and the little one of a brawny family.
His five brothers and their father stood six feet and over and broad in proportion, but little Gerald, at twenty-one, knew that five feet four and a half inches was as much as the Lord in His wisdom was going to allow him. It was like Gerald that he never wasted regrets on his lack of height and never found it an obstacle to his acquisition of anything he wanted. Rather, it was Gerald's compact smallness that made him what he was, for he had learned early that little people must be hardy to survive among large ones. And Gerald was hardy.
His tall brothers were a grim, quiet lot, in whom the family tradition of past glories, lost forever, rankled in unspoken hate and crackled out in bitter humor. Had Gerald been brawny, he would have gone the way of the other O'Haras and moved quietly and darkly among the rebels against the government. But Gerald was "loud-mouthed and bullheaded," as his mother fondly phrased it, hair trigger of temper, quick with his fists and possessed of a chip on his shoulder so large as to be almost visible to the naked eye. He swaggered among the tall O'Haras like a strutting bantam in a barnyard of giant Cochin roosters, and they loved him, baited him affectionately to hear him roar and hammered on him with their large fists no more than was necessary to keep a baby brother in his proper place.
If the educational equipment which Gerald brought to America was scant, he did not even know it. Nor would he have cared if he had been told. His mother had taught him to read and to write a clear hand. He was adept at ciphering. And there his book knowledge stopped. The only Latin he knew was the responses of the Mass and the only history the manifold wrongs of Ireland. He knew no poetry save that of Moore and no music except the songs of Ireland that had come down through the years. While he entertained the liveliest respect for those who had more book learning than he, he never felt his own lack. And what need had he of these things in a new country where the most ignorant of bogtrotters had made great fortunes? in this country which asked only that a man be strong and unafraid of work?
Nor did James and Andrew, who took him into their store in Savannah, regret his lack of education. His clear hand, his accurate figures and his shrewd ability in bargaining won their respect, where a knowledge of literature and a fine appreciation of music, had young Gerald possessed them, would have moved them to snorts of contempt. America, in the early years of the century, had been kind to the Irish. James and Andrew, who had begun by hauling goods in covered wagons from Savannah to Georgia's inland towns, had prospered into a store of their own, and Gerald prospered with them.
He liked the South, and he soon became, in his own opinion, a Southerner. There was much about the South--and Southerners--that he would never comprehend: but, with the wholeheartedness that was his nature, he adopted its ideas and customs, as he understood them, for his own--poker and horse racing, red-hot politics and the code duello, States' Rights and damnation to all Yankees, slavery and King Cotton, contempt for white trash and exaggerated courtesy to women. He even learned to chew tobacco. There was no need for him to acquire a good head for whisky, he had been born with one.
But Gerald remained Gerald. His habits of living and his ideas changed, but his manners he would not change, even had he been able to change them. He admired the drawling elegance of the wealthy rice and cotton planters, who rode into Savannah from their moss-hung kingdoms, mounted on thoroughbred horses and followed by the carriages of their equally elegant ladies and the wagons of their slaves. But Gerald could never attain elegance.
Their lazy, blurred voices fell pleasantly on his ears, but his own brisk brogue clung to his tongue. He liked the casual grace with which they conducted affairs of importance, risking a fortune, a plantation or a slave on the turn of a card and writing off their losses with careless good humor and no more ado than when they scattered pennies to pickaninnies. But Gerald had known poverty, and he could never learn to lose money with good humor or good grace. They were a pleasant race, these coastal Georgians, with their soft-voiced, quick rages and their charming inconsistencies, and Gerald liked them. But there was a brisk and restless vitality about the young Irishman, fresh from a country where winds blew wet and chill, where misty swamps held no fevers, that set him apart from these indolent gentlefolk of semi-tropical weather and malarial marshes.
From them he learned what he found useful, and the rest he dismissed. He found poker the most useful of all Southern customs, poker and a steady head for whisky; and it was his natural aptitude for cards and amber liquor that brought to Gerald two of his three most prized possessions, his valet and his plantation. The other was his wife, and he could only attribute her to the mysterious kindness of God.
The valet, Pork by name, shining black, dignified and trained in all the arts of sartorial elegance, was the result of an all-night poker game with a planter from St. Simons Island, whose courage in a bluff equaled Gerald's but whose head for New Orleans rum did not. Though Pork's former owner later offered to buy him back at twice his value, Gerald obstinately refused, for the possession of his first slave, and that slave the "best damn valet on the Coast," was the first step upward toward his heart's desire, Gerald wanted to be a slave owner and a landed gentleman.
His mind was made up that he was not going to spend all of his days, like James and Andrew, in bargaining, or all his nights, by candlelight, over long columns of figures. He felt keenly, as his brothers did not, the social stigma attached to those "in trade." Gerald wanted to be a planter. With the deep hunger of an Irishman who has been a tenant on the lands his people once had owned and hunted, he wanted to see his own acres stretching green before his eyes. With a ruthless singleness of purpose, he desired his own house, his own plantation, his own horse, his own slaves. And here in this new country, safe from the twin perils of the land he had left--taxation that ate up crops and barns and the ever-present threat of sudden confiscation--he intended to have them. But having that ambition and bringing it to realization were two different matters, he discovered as time went by. Coastal Georgia was too firmly held by an entrenched aristocracy for him ever to hope to win the place he intended to have.
Then the hand of Fate and a hand of poker combined to give him the plantation which he afterwards called Tara, and at the same time moved him out of the Coast into the upland country of north Georgia.
It was in a saloon in Savannah, on a hot night in spring, when the chance conversation of a stranger sitting near by made Gerald prick up his ears. The stranger, a native of Savannah, had just returned after twelve years in the inland country. He had been one of the winners in the land lottery conducted by the State to divide up the vast area in middle Georgia, ceded by the Indians the year before Gerald came to America. He had gone up there and established a plantation; but, now the house had burned down, he was tired of the "accursed place" and would be most happy to get it off his hands.
Gerald, his mind never free of the thought of owning a plantation of his own, arranged an introduction, and his interest grew as the stranger told how the northern section of the state was filling up with newcomers from the Carolinas and Virginia. Gerald had lived in Savannah long enough to acquire a viewpoint of the Coast--that all of the rest of the state was backwoods, with an Indian lurking in every thicket. In transacting business for O'Hara Brothers, he had visited Augusta, a hundred miles up the Savannah River, and he had traveled inland far enough to visit the old towns westward from that city. He knew that section to be as well settled as the Coast, but from the stranger's description, his plantation was more than two hundred and fifty miles inland from Savannah to the north and west, and not many miles south of the Chattahoochee River. Gerald knew that northward beyond that stream the land was still held by the Cherokees, so it was with amazement that he heard the stranger jeer at suggestions of trouble with the Indians and narrate how thriving towns were growing up and plantations prospering in the new country.
An hour later when the conversation began to lag, Gerald, with a guile that belied the wide innocence of his bright blue eyes, proposed a game. As the night wore on and the drinks went round, there came a time when all the others in the game laid down their hands and Gerald and the stranger were battling alone. The stranger shoved in all his chips and followed with the deed to his plantation. Gerald shoved in all his chips and laid on top of them his wallet. If the money it contained happened to belong to the firm of O'Hara Brothers, Gerald's conscience was not sufficiently troubled to confess it before Mass the following morning. He knew what he wanted, and when Gerald wanted something he gained it by taking the most direct route. Moreover, such was his faith in his destiny and four dueces that he never for a moment wondered just how the money would be paid back should a higher hand be laid down across the table.
"It's no bargain you're getting and I am glad not to have to pay more taxes on the place," sighed the possessor of an "ace full," as he called for pen and ink. "The big house burned a year ago and the fields are growing up in brush and seedling pine. But it's yours." "Never mix cards and whisky unless you were weaned on Irish poteen," Gerald told Pork gravely the same evening, as Pork assisted him to bed. And the valet, who had begun to attempt a brogue out of admiration for his new master, made requisite answer in a combination of Geechee and County Meath that would have puzzled anyone except those two alone.
The muddy Flint River, running silently between walls of pine and water oak covered with tangled vines, wrapped about Gerald's new land like a curving arm and embraced it on two sides. To Gerald, standing on the small knoll where the house had been, this tall barrier of green was as visible and pleasing an evidence of ownership as though it were a fence that he himself had built to mark his own. He stood on the blackened foundation stones of the burned building, looked down the long avenue of trees leading toward the road and swore lustily, with a joy too deep for thankful prayer. These twin lines of somber trees were his, his the abandoned lawn, waist high in weeds under white-starred young magnolia trees. The uncultivated fields, studded with tiny pines and underbrush, that stretched their rolling red-clay surface away into the distance on four sides belonged to Gerald O'Hara--were all his because he had an unbefuddled Irish head and the courage to stake everything on a hand of cards.
Gerald closed his eyes and, in the stillness of the unworked acres, he felt that he had come home. Here under his feet would rise a house of whitewashed brick. Across the road would be new rail fences, inclosing fat cattle and blooded horses, and the red earth that rolled down the hillside to the rich river bottom land would gleam white as eiderdown in the sun--cotton, acres and acres of cotton! The fortunes of the O'Haras would rise again.
With his own small stake, what he could borrow from his unenthusiastic brothers and a neat sum from mortgaging the land, Gerald bought his first field hands and came to Tara to live in bachelor solitude in the four-room overseer's house, till such a time as the white walls of Tara should rise.
He cleared the fields and planted cotton and borrowed more money from James and Andrew to buy more slaves. The O'Haras were a clannish tribe, clinging to one another in prosperity as well as in adversity, not for any overweening family affection but because they had learned through grim years that to survive a family must present an unbroken front to the world. They lent Gerald the money and, in the years that followed, the money came back to them with interest. Gradually the plantation widened out, as Gerald bought more acres lying near him, and in time the white house became a reality instead of a dream.
It was built by slave labor, a clumsy sprawling building that crowned the rise of ground overlooking the green incline of pasture land running down to the river; and it pleased Gerald greatly, for, even when new, it wore a look of mellowed years.
The old oaks, which had seen Indians pass under their limbs, hugged the house closely with their great trunks and towered their branches over the roof in dense shade. The lawn, reclaimed from weeds, grew thick with clover and Bermuda grass, and Gerald saw to it that it was well kept. From the avenue of cedars to the row of white cabins in the slave quarters, there was an air of solidness, of stability and permanence about Tara, and whenever Gerald galloped around the bend in the road and saw his own roof rising through green branches, his heart swelled with pride as though each sight of it were the first sight.
He had done it all, little, hard-headed, blustering Gerald.
Gerald was on excellent terms with all his neighbors in the County, except the MacIntoshes whose land adjoined his on the left and the Slatterys whose meager three acres stretched on his right along the swamp bottoms between the river and John Wilkes' plantation.
The MacIntoshes were Scotch-Irish and Orangemen and, had they possessed all the saintly qualities of the Catholic calendar, this ancestry would have damned them forever in Gerald's eyes. True, they had lived in Georgia for seventy years and, before that, had spent a generation in the Carolinas; but the first of the family who set foot on American shores had come from Ulster, and that was enough for Gerald.
They were a close-mouthed and stiff-necked family, who kept strictly to themselves and intermarried with their Carolina relatives, and Gerald was not alone in disliking them, for the County people were neighborly and sociable and none too tolerant of anyone lacking in those same qualities. Rumors of Abolitionist sympathies did not enhance the popularity of the MacIntoshes. Old Angus had never manumitted a single slave and had committed the unpardonable social breach of selling some of his negroes to passing slave traders en route to the cane fields of Louisiana, but the rumors persisted.
"He's an Abolitionist, no doubt," observed Gerald to John Wilkes.
"But, in an Orangeman, when a principle comes up against Scotch tightness, the principle fares ill." The Slatterys were another affair. Being poor white, they were not even accorded the grudging respect that Angus MacIntosh's dour independence wrung from neighboring families. Old Slattery, who clung persistently to his few acres, in spite of repeated offers from Gerald and John Wilkes, was shiftless and whining. His wife was a snarly-haired woman, sickly and washed-out of appearance, the mother of a brood of sullen and rabbity-looking children-- a brood which was increased regularly every year. Tom Slattery owned no slaves, and he and his two oldest boys spasmodically worked their few acres of cotton, while the wife and younger children tended what was supposed to be a vegetable garden. But, somehow, the cotton always failed, and the garden, due to Mrs.
Slattery's constant childbearing, seldom furnished enough to feed her flock.
The sight of Tom Slattery dawdling on his neighbors' porches, begging cotton seed for planting or a side of bacon to "tide him over," was a familiar one. Slattery hated his neighbors with what little energy he possessed, sensing their contempt beneath their courtesy, and especially did he hate "rich folks' uppity niggers." The house negroes of the County considered themselves superior to white trash, and their unconcealed scorn stung him, while their more secure position in life stirred his envy. By contrast with his own miserable existence, they were well-fed, well-clothed and looked after in sickness and old age. They were proud of the good names of their owners and, for the most part, proud to belong to people who were quality, while he was despised by all.
Tom Slattery could have sold his farm for three times its value to any of the planters in the County. They would have considered it money well spent to rid the community of an eyesore, but he was well satisfied to remain and to subsist miserably on the proceeds of a bale of cotton a year and the charity of his neighbors.
With all the rest of the County, Gerald was on terms of amity and some intimacy. The Wilkeses, the Calverts, the Tarletons, the Fontaines, all smiled when the small figure on the big white horse galloped up their driveways, smiled and signaled for tall glasses in which a pony of Bourbon had been poured over a teaspoon of sugar and a sprig of crushed mint. Gerald was likable, and the neighbors learned in time what the children, negroes and dogs discovered at first sight, that a kind heart, a ready and sympathetic ear and an open pocketbook lurked just behind his bawling voice and his truculent manner.
His arrival was always amid a bedlam of hounds barking and small black children shouting as they raced to meet him, quarreling for the privilege of holding his horse and squirming and grinning under his good-natured insults. The white children clamored to sit on his knee and be trotted, while he denounced to their elders the infamy of Yankee politicians; the daughters of his friends took him into their confidence about their love affairs, and the youths of the neighborhood, fearful of confessing debts of honor upon the carpets of their fathers, found him a friend in need.
"So, you've been owning this for a month, you young rascal!" he would shout. "And, in God's name, why haven't you been asking me for the money before this?" His rough manner of speech was too well known to give offense, and it only made the young men grin sheepishly and reply: "Well, sir, I hated to trouble you, and my father--" "Your father's a good man, and no denying it, but strict, and so take this and let's be hearing no more of it." The planters' ladies were the last to capitulate. But, when Mrs.
Wilkes, "a great lady and with a rare gift for silence," as Gerald characterized her, told her husband one evening, after Gerald's horse had pounded down the driveway. "He has a rough tongue, but he is a gentleman," Gerald had definitely arrived.
He did not know that he had taken nearly ten years to arrive, for it never occurred to him that his neighbors had eyed him askance at first. In his own mind, there had never been any doubt that he belonged, from the moment he first set foot on Tara.
When Gerald was forty-three, so thickset of body and florid of face that he looked like a hunting squire out of a sporting print, it came to him that Tara, dear though it was, and the County folk, with their open hearts and open houses, were not enough. He wanted a wife.
Tara cried out for a mistress. The fat cook, a yard negro elevated by necessity to the kitchen, never had the meals on time, and the chambermaid, formerly a field hand, let dust accumulate on the furniture and never seemed to have clean linen on hand, so that the arrival of guests was always the occasion of much stirring and to-do. Pork, the only trained house negro on the place, had general supervision over the other servants, but even he had grown slack and careless after several years of exposure to Gerald's happy-go-lucky mode of living. As valet, he kept Gerald's bedroom in order, and, as butler, he served the meals with dignity and style, but otherwise he pretty well let matters follow their own course.
With unerring African instinct, the negroes had all discovered that Gerald had a loud bark and no bite at all, and they took shameless advantage of him. The air was always thick with threats of selling slaves south and of direful whippings, but there never had been a slave sold from Tara and only one whipping, and that administered for not grooming down Gerald's pet horse after a long day's hunting.
Gerald's sharp blue eyes noticed how efficiently his neighbors' houses were run and with what ease the smooth-haired wives in rustling skirts managed their servants. He had no knowledge of the dawn-till-midnight activities of these women, chained to supervision of cooking, nursing, sewing and laundering. He only saw the outward results, and those results impressed him.
The urgent need of a wife became clear to him one morning when he was dressing to ride to town for Court Day. Pork brought forth his favorite ruffled shirt, so inexpertly mended by the chambermaid as to be unwearable by anyone except his valet.
"Mist' Gerald," said Pork, gratefully rolling up the shirt as Gerald fumed, "whut you needs is a wife, and a wife whut has got plen'y of house niggers." Gerald upbraided Pork for his impertinence, but he knew that he was right. He wanted a wife and he wanted children and, if he did not acquire them soon, it would be too late. But he was not going to marry just anyone, as Mr. Calvert had done, taking to wife the Yankee governess of his motherless children. His wife must be a lady and a lady of blood, with as many airs and graces as Mrs.
Wilkes and the ability to manage Tara as well as Mrs. Wilkes ordered her own domain.
But there were two difficulties in the way of marriage into the County families. The first was the scarcity of girls of marriageable age. The second, and more serious one, was that Gerald was a "new man," despite his nearly ten years' residence, and a foreigner. No one knew anything about his family. While the society of up-country Georgia was not so impregnable as that of the Coast aristocrats, no family wanted a daughter to wed a man about whose grandfather nothing was known.
Gerald knew that despite the genuine liking of the County men with whom he hunted, drank and talked politics there was hardly one whose daughter he could marry. And he did not intend to have it gossiped about over supper tables that this, that or the other father had regretfully refused to let Gerald O'Hara pay court to his daughter. This knowledge did not make Gerald feel inferior to his neighbors. Nothing could ever make Gerald feel that he was inferior in any way to anyone. It was merely a quaint custom of the County that daughters only married into families who had lived in the South much longer than twenty-two years, had owned land and slaves and been addicted only to the fashionable vices during that time.
"Pack up. We're going to Savannah," he told Pork. "And if I hear you say 'Whist!' or 'Faith!' but once, it's selling you I'll be doing, for they are words I seldom say meself." James and Andrew might have some advice to offer on this subject of marriage, and there might be daughters among their old friends who would both meet his requirements and find him acceptable as a husband. James and Andrew listened to his story patiently but they gave him little encouragement. They had no Savannah relatives to whom they might look for assistance, for they had been married when they came to America. And the daughters of their old friends had long since married and were raising small children of their own.
"You're not a rich man and you haven't a great family," said James.
"I've made me money and I can make a great family. And I won't be marrying just anyone." "You fly high," observed Andrew, dryly.
But they did their best for Gerald. James and Andrew were old men and they stood well in Savannah. They had many friends, and for a month they carried Gerald from home to home, to suppers, dances and picnics.
"There's only one who takes me eye," Gerald said finally. "And she not even born when I landed here." "And who is it takes your eye?" "Miss Ellen Robillard," said Gerald, trying to speak casually, for the slightly tilting dark eyes of Ellen Robillard had taken more than his eye. Despite a mystifying listlessness of manner, so strange in a girl of fifteen, she charmed him. Moreover, there was a haunting look of despair about her that went to his heart and made him more gentle with her than he had ever been with any person in all the world.
"And you old enough to be her father!" "And me in me prime!" cried Gerald stung.
James spoke gently.
"Jerry, there's no girl in Savannah you'd have less chance of marrying. Her father is a Robillard, and those French are proud as Lucifer. And her mother--God rest her soul--was a very great lady." "I care not," said Gerald heatedly. "Besides, her mother is dead, and old man Robillard likes me." "As a man, yes, but as a son-in-law, no." "The girl wouldn't have you anyway," interposed Andrew. "She's been in love with that wild buck of a cousin of hers, Philippe Robillard, for a year now, despite her family being at her morning and night to give him up." "He's been gone to Louisiana this month now," said Gerald.
"And how do you know?" "I know," answered Gerald, who did not care to disclose that Pork had supplied this valuable bit of information, or that Philippe had departed for the West at the express desire of his family.
"And I do not think she's been so much in love with him that she won't forget him. Fifteen is too young to know much about love." "They'd rather have that breakneck cousin for her than you." So, James and Andrew were as startled as anyone when the news came out that the daughter of Pierre Robillard was to marry the little Irishman from up the country. Savannah buzzed behind its doors and speculated about Philippe Robillard, who had gone West, but the gossiping brought no answer. Why the loveliest of the Robillard daughters should marry a loud-voiced, red-faced little man who came hardly up to her ears remained a mystery to all.
Gerald himself never quite knew how it all came about. He only knew that a miracle had happened. And, for once in his life, he was utterly humble when Ellen, very white but very calm, put a light hand on his arm and said: "I will marry you, Mr. O'Hara." The thunderstruck Robillards knew the answer in part, but only Ellen and her mammy ever knew the whole story of the night when the girl sobbed till the dawn like a broken-hearted child and rose up in the morning a woman with her mind made up.
With foreboding, Mammy had brought her young mistress a small package, addressed in a strange hand from New Orleans, a package containing a miniature of Ellen, which she flung to the floor with a cry, four letters in her own handwriting to Philippe Robillard, and a brief letter from a New Orleans priest, announcing the death of her cousin in a barroom brawl.
"They drove him away, Father and Pauline and Eulalie. They drove him away. I hate them. I hate them all. I never want to see them again. I want to get away. I will go away where I'll never see them again, or this town, or anyone who reminds me of--of-- him." And when the night was nearly spent, Mammy, who had cried herself out over her mistress' dark head, protested, "But, honey, you kain do dat!" "I will do it. He is a kind man. I will do it or go into the convent at Charleston." It was the threat of the convent that finally won the assent of bewildered and heartstricken Pierre Robillard. He was staunchly Presbyterian, even though his family were Catholic, and the thought of his daughter becoming a nun was even worse than that of her marrying Gerald O'Hara. After all, the man had nothing against him but a lack of family.
So, Ellen, no longer Robillard, turned her back on Savannah, never to see it again, and with a middle-aged husband, Mammy, and twenty "house niggers" journeyed toward Tara.
The next year, their first child was born and they named her Katie Scarlett, after Gerald's mother. Gerald was disappointed, for he had wanted a son, but he nevertheless was pleased enough over his small black-haired daughter to serve rum to every slave at Tara and to get roaringly, happily drunk himself.
If Ellen had ever regretted her sudden decision to marry him, no one ever knew it, certainly not Gerald, who almost burst with pride whenever he looked at her. She had put Savannah and its memories behind her when she left that gently mannered city by the sea, and, from the moment of her arrival in the County, north Georgia was her home.
When she departed from her father's house forever, she had left a home whose lines were as beautiful and flowing as a woman's body, as a ship in full sail; a pale pink stucco house built in the French colonial style, set high from the ground in a dainty manner, approached by swirling stairs, banistered with wrought iron as delicate as lace; a dim, rich house, gracious but aloof.
She had left not only that graceful dwelling but also the entire civilization that was behind the building of it, and she found herself in a world that was as strange and different as if she had crossed a continent.
Here in north Georgia was a rugged section held by a hardy people.
High up on the plateau at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she saw rolling red hills wherever she looked, with huge outcroppings of the underlying granite and gaunt pines towering somberly everywhere. It all seemed wild and untamed to her coast- bred eyes accustomed to the quiet jungle beauty of the sea islands draped in their gray moss and tangled green, the white stretches of beach hot beneath a semitropic sun, the long flat vistas of sandy land studded with palmetto and palm.
This was a section that knew the chill of winter, as well as the heat of summer, and there was a vigor and energy in the people that was strange to her. They were a kindly people, courteous, generous, filled with abounding good nature, but sturdy, virile, easy to anger. The people of the Coast which she had left might pride themselves on taking all their affairs, even their duels and their feuds, with a careless air but these north Georgia people had a streak of violence in them. On the coast, life had mellowed--here it was young and lusty and new.
All the people Ellen had known in Savannah might have been cast from the same mold, so similar were their view points and traditions, but here was a variety of people. North Georgia's settlers were coming in from many different places, from other parts of Georgia, from the Carolinas and Virginia, from Europe and the North. Some of them, like Gerald, were new people seeking their fortunes. Some, like Ellen, were members of old families who had found life intolerable in their former homes and sought haven in a distant land. Many had moved for no reason at all, except that the restless blood of pioneering fathers still quickened in their veins.
These people, drawn from many different places and with many different backgrounds, gave the whole life of the County an informality that was new to Ellen, an informality to which she never quite accustomed herself. She instinctively knew how Coast people would act in any circumstance. There was never any telling what north Georgians would do.
And, quickening all of the affairs of the section, was the high tide of prosperity then rolling over the South. All of the world was crying out for cotton, and the new land of the County, unworn and fertile, produced it abundantly. Cotton was the heartbeat of the section, the planting and the picking were the diastole and systole of the red earth. Wealth came out of the curving furrows, and arrogance came too--arrogance built on green bushes and the acres of fleecy white. If cotton could make them rich in one generation, how much richer they would be in the next!
This certainty of the morrow gave zest and enthusiasm to life, and the County people enjoyed life with a heartiness that Ellen could never understand. They had money enough and slaves enough to give them time to play, and they liked to play. They seemed never too busy to drop work for a fish fry, a hunt or a horse race, and scarcely a week went by without its barbecue or ball.
Ellen never would, or could, quite become one of them--she had left too much of herself in Savannah--but she respected them and, in time, learned to admire the frankness and forthrightness of these people, who had few reticences and who valued a man for what he was.
She became the best-loved neighbor in the County. She was a thrifty and kind mistress, a good mother and a devoted wife. The heartbreak and selflessness that she would have dedicated to the Church were devoted instead to the service of her child, her household and the man who had taken her out of Savannah and its memories and had never asked any questions.
When Scarlett was a year old, and more healthy and vigorous than a girl baby had any right to be, in Mammy's opinion, Ellen's second child, named Susan Elinor, but always called Suellen, was born, and in due time came Carreen, listed in the family Bible as Caroline Irene. Then followed three little boys, each of whom died before he had learned to walk--three little boys who now lay under the twisted cedars in the burying ground a hundred yards from the house, beneath three stones, each bearing the name of "Gerald O'Hara, Jr." From the day when Ellen first came to Tara, the place had been transformed. If she was only fifteen years old, she was nevertheless ready for the responsibilities of the mistress of a plantation. Before marriage, young girls must be, above all other things, sweet, gentle, beautiful and ornamental, but, after marriage, they were expected to manage households that numbered a hundred people or more, white and black, and they were trained with that in view.
Ellen had been given this preparation for marriage which any well- brought-up young lady received, and she also had Mammy, who could galvanize the most shiftless negro into energy. She quickly brought order, dignity and grace into Gerald's household, and she gave Tara a beauty it had never had before.
The house had been built according to no architectural plan whatever, with extra rooms added where and when it seemed convenient, but, with Ellen's care and attention, it gained a charm that made up for its lack of design. The avenue of cedars leading from the main road to the house--that avenue of cedars without which no Georgia planter's home could be complete--had a cool dark shadiness that gave a brighter tinge, by contrast, to the green of the other trees. The wistaria tumbling over the verandas showed bright against the whitewashed brick, and it joined with the pink crepe myrtle bushes by the door and the white-blossomed magnolias in the yard to disguise some of the awkward lines of the house.
In spring time and summer, the Bermuda grass and clover on the lawn became emerald, so enticing an emerald that it presented an irresistible temptation to the flocks of turkeys and white geese that were supposed to roam only the regions in the rear of the house. The elders of the flocks continually led stealthy advances into the front yard, lured on by the green of the grass and the luscious promise of the cape jessamine buds and the zinnia beds.
Against their depredations, a small black sentinel was stationed on the front porch. Armed with a ragged towel, the little negro boy sitting on the steps was part of the picture of Tara--and an unhappy one, for he was forbidden to chunk the fowls and could only flap the towel at them and shoo them.
Ellen set dozens of little black boys to this task, the first position of responsibility a male slave had at Tara. After they had passed their tenth year, they were sent to old Daddy the plantation cobbler to learn his trade, or to Amos the wheelwright and carpenter, or Philip the cow man, or Cuffee the mule boy. If they showed no aptitude for any of these trades, they became field hands and, in the opinion of the negroes, they had lost their claim to any social standing at all.
Ellen's life was not easy, nor was it happy, but she did not expect life to be easy, and, if it was not happy, that was woman's lot. It was a man's world, and she accepted it as such. The man owned the property, and the woman managed it. The man took the credit for the management, and the woman praised his cleverness.
The man roared like a bull when a splinter was in his finger, and the woman muffled the moans of childbirth, lest she disturb him.
Men were rough of speech and often drunk. Women ignored the lapses of speech and put the drunkards to bed without bitter words. Men were rude and outspoken, women were always kind, gracious and forgiving.
She had been reared in the tradition of great ladies, which had taught her how to carry her burden and still retain her charm, and she intended that her three daughters should be great ladies also.
With her younger daughters, she had success, for Suellen was so anxious to be attractive she lent an attentive and obedient ear to her mother's teachings, and Carreen was shy and easily led. But Scarlett, child of Gerald, found the road to ladyhood hard.
To Mammy's indignation, her preferred playmates were not her demure sisters or the well-brought-up Wilkes girls but the negro children on the plantation and the boys of the neighborhood, and she could climb a tree or throw a rock as well as any of them.
Mammy was greatly perturbed that Ellen's daughter should display such traits and frequently adjured her to "ack lak a lil lady." But Ellen took a more tolerant and long-sighted view of the matter. She knew that from childhood playmates grew beaux in later years, and the first duty of a girl was to get married. She told herself that the child was merely full of life and there was still time in which to teach her the arts and graces of being attractive to men.
To this end, Ellen and Mammy bent their efforts, and as Scarlett grew older she became an apt pupil in this subject, even though she learned little else. Despite a succession of governesses and two years at the near-by Fayetteville Female Academy, her education was sketchy, but no girl in the County danced more gracefully than she. She knew how to smile so that her dimples leaped, how to walk pigeon-toed so that her wide hoop skirts swayed entrancingly, how to look up into a man's face and then drop her eyes and bat the lids rapidly so that she seemed a- tremble with gentle emotion. Most of all she learned how to conceal from men a sharp intelligence beneath a face as sweet and bland as a baby's.
Ellen, by soft-voiced admonition, and Mammy, by constant carping, labored to inculcate in her the qualities that would make her truly desirable as a wife.
"You must be more gentle, dear, more sedate," Ellen told her daughter. "You must not interrupt gentlemen when they are speaking, even if you do think you know more about matters than they do. Gentlemen do not like forward girls." "Young misses whut frowns an pushes out dey chins an' says 'Ah will' and 'Ah woan' mos' gener'ly doan ketch husbands," prophesied Mammy gloomily. "Young misses should cas' down dey eyes an' say, 'Well, suh, Ah mout' an' 'Jes' as you say, suh.'" Between them, they taught her all that a gentlewoman should know, but she learned only the outward signs of gentility. The inner grace from which these signs should spring, she never learned nor did she see any reason for learning it. Appearances were enough, for the appearances of ladyhood won her popularity and that was all she wanted. Gerald bragged that she was the belle of five counties, and with some truth, for she had received proposals from nearly all the young men in the neighborhood and many from places as far away as Atlanta and Savannah.
At sixteen, thanks to Mammy and Ellen, she looked sweet, charming and giddy, but she was, in reality, self-willed, vain and obstinate. She had the easily stirred passions of her Irish father and nothing except the thinnest veneer of her mother's unselfish and forbearing nature. Ellen never fully realized that it was only a veneer, for Scarlett always showed her best face to her mother, concealing her escapades, curbing her temper and appearing as sweet-natured as she could in Ellen's presence, for her mother could shame her to tears with a reproachful glance.
But Mammy was under no illusions about her and was constantly alert for breaks in the veneer. Mammy's eyes were sharper than Ellen's, and Scarlett could never recall in all her life having fooled Mammy for long.
It was not that these two loving mentors deplored Scarlett's high spirits, vivacity and charm. These were traits of which Southern women were proud. It was Gerald's headstrong and impetuous nature in her that gave them concern, and they sometimes feared they would not be able to conceal her damaging qualities until she had made a good match. But Scarlett intended to marry--and marry Ashley--and she was willing to appear demure, pliable and scatterbrained, if those were the qualities that attracted men.
Just why men should be this way, she did not know. She only knew that such methods worked. It never interested her enough to try to think out the reason for it, for she knew nothing of the inner workings of any human being's mind, not even her own. She knew only that if she did or said thus-and-so, men would unerringly respond with the complementary thus-and-so. It was like a mathematical formula and no more difficult, for mathematics was the one subject that had come easy to Scarlett in her schooldays.
If she knew little about men's minds, she knew even less about the minds of women, for they interested her less. She had never had a girl friend, and she never felt any lack on that account. To her, all women, including her two sisters, were natural enemies in pursuit of the same prey--man.
All women with the one exception of her mother.
Ellen O'Hara was different, and Scarlett regarded her as something holy and apart from all the rest of humankind. When Scarlett was a child, she had confused her mother with the Virgin Mary, and now that she was older she saw no reason for changing her opinion. To her, Ellen represented the utter security that only Heaven or a mother can give. She knew that her mother was the embodiment of justice, truth, loving tenderness and profound wisdom--a great lady.
Scarlett wanted very much to be like her mother. The only difficulty was that by being just and truthful and tender and unselfish, one missed most of the joys of life, and certainly many beaux. And life was too short to miss such pleasant things. Some day when she was married to Ashley and old, some day when she had time for it, she intended to be like Ellen. But, until then . . .
CHAPTER IV That night at supper, Scarlett went through the motions of presiding over the table in her mother's absence, but her mind was in a ferment over the dreadful news she had heard about Ashley and Melanie. Desperately she longed for her mother's return from the Slatterys', for, without her, she felt lost and alone. What right had the Slatterys and their everlasting sickness to take Ellen away from home just at this time when she, Scarlett, needed her so much?
Throughout the dismal meal, Gerald's booming voice battered against her ears until she thought she could endure it no longer.
He had forgotten completely about his conversation with her that afternoon and was carrying on a monologue about the latest news from Fort Sumter, which he punctuated by hammering his fist on the table and waving his arms in the air. Gerald made a habit of dominating the conversation at mealtimes, and usually Scarlett, occupied with her own thoughts, scarcely heard him; but tonight she could not shut out his voice, no matter how much she strained to listen for the sound of carriage wheels that would herald Ellen's return.
Of course, she did not intend to tell her mother what was so heavy on her heart, for Ellen would be shocked and grieved to know that a daughter of hers wanted a man who was engaged to another girl.
But, in the depths of the first tragedy she had ever known, she wanted the very comfort of her mother's presence. She always felt secure when Ellen was by her, for there was nothing so bad that Ellen could not better it, simply by being there.
She rose suddenly from her chair at the sound of creaking wheels in the driveway and then sank down again as they went on around the house to the back yard. It could not be Ellen, for she would alight at the front steps. Then there was an excited babble of negro voices in the darkness of the yard and high-pitched negro laughter. Looking out the window, Scarlett saw Pork, who had left the room a moment before, holding high a flaring pine knot, while indistinguishable figures descended from a wagon. The laughter and talking rose and fell in the dark night air, pleasant, homely, carefree sounds, gutturally soft, musically shrill. Then feet shuffled up the back-porch stairs and into the passageway leading to the main house, stopping in the hall just outside the dining room. There was a brief interval of whispering, and Pork entered, his usual dignity gone, his eyes rolling and his teeth a-gleam.
"Mist' Gerald," he announced, breathing hard, the pride of a bridegroom all over his shining face, "you' new 'oman done come." "New woman? I didn't buy any new woman," declared Gerald, pretending to glare.
"Yassah, you did, Mist' Gerald! Yassah! An' she out hyah now wanting ter speak wid you," answered Pork, giggling and twisting his hands in excitement.
"Well, bring in the bride," said Gerald, and Pork, turning, beckoned into the hall to his wife, newly arrived from the Wilkes plantation to become part of the household of Tara. She entered, and behind her, almost hidden by her voluminous calico skirts, came her twelve-year-old daughter, squirming against her mother's legs.
Dilcey was tall and bore herself erectly. She might have been any age from thirty to sixty, so unlined was her immobile bronze face.
Indian blood was plain in her features, overbalancing the negroid characteristics. The red color of her skin, narrow high forehead, prominent cheek bones and the hawk-bridged nose which flattened at the end above thick negro lips, all showed the mixture of two races. She was self-possessed and walked with a dignity that surpassed even Mammy's, for Mammy had acquired her dignity and Dilcey's was in her blood.
When she spoke, her voice was not so slurred as most negroes' and she chose her words more carefully.
"Good evenin', young Misses. Mist' Gerald, I is sorry to 'sturb you, but I wanted to come here and thank you agin fo' buyin' me and my chile. Lots of gentlemens might a' bought me but they wouldn't a' bought my Prissy, too, jes' to keep me frum grievin' and I thanks you. I'm gwine do my bes' fo' you and show you I ain't forgettin'." "Hum--hurrump," said Gerald, clearing his throat in embarrassment at being caught openly in an act of kindness.
Dilcey turned to Scarlett and something like a smile wrinkled the corners of her eyes. "Miss Scarlett, Poke done tole me how you ast Mist Gerald to buy me. And so I'm gwine give you my Prissy fo' yo' own maid." She reached behind her and jerked the little girl forward. She was a brown little creature, with skinny legs like a bird and a myriad of pigtails carefully wrapped with twine sticking stiffly out from her head. She had sharp, knowing eyes that missed nothing and a studiedly stupid look on her face.
"Thank you, Dilcey," Scarlett replied, "but I'm afraid Mammy will have something to say about that. She's been my maid ever since I was born." "Mammy getting ole," said Dilcey, with a calmness that would have enraged Mammy. "She a good mammy, but you a young lady now and needs a good maid, and my Prissy been maidin' fo' Miss India fo' a year now. She kin sew and fix hair good as a grown pusson." Prodded by her mother, Prissy bobbed a sudden curtsy and grinned at Scarlett, who could not help grinning back.
"A sharp little wench," she thought, and said aloud: "Thank you, Dilcey, we'll see about it when Mother comes home." "Thankee, Ma'm. I gives you a good night," said Dilcey and, turning, left the room with her child, Pork dancing attendance.
The supper things cleared away, Gerald resumed his oration, but with little satisfaction to himself and none at all to his audience. His thunderous predictions of immediate war and his rhetorical questions as to whether the South would stand for further insults from the Yankees only produced faintly bored, "Yes, Papas" and "No, Pas." Carreen, sitting on a hassock under the big lamp, was deep in the romance of a girl who had taken the veil after her lover's death and, with silent tears of enjoyment oozing from her eyes, was pleasurably picturing herself in a white coif. Suellen, embroidering on what she gigglingly called her "hope chest," was wondering if she could possibly detach Stuart Tarleton from her sister's side at the barbecue tomorrow and fascinate him with the sweet womanly qualities which she possessed and Scarlett did not. And Scarlett was in a tumult about Ashley.
How could Pa talk on and on about Fort Sumter and the Yankees when he knew her heart was breaking? As usual in the very young, she marveled that people could be so selfishly oblivious to her pain and the world rock along just the same, in spite of her heartbreak.
Her mind was as if a cyclone had gone through it, and it seemed strange that the dining room where they sat should be so placid, so unchanged from what it had always been. The heavy mahogany table and sideboards, the massive silver, the bright rag rugs on the shining floor were all in their accustomed places, just as if nothing had happened. It was a friendly and comfortable room and, ordinarily, Scarlett loved the quiet hours which the family spent there after supper; but tonight she hated the sight of it and, if she had not feared her father's loudly bawled questions, she would have slipped away, down the dark hall to Ellen's little office and cried out her sorrow on the old sofa.
That was the room that Scarlett liked the best in all the house.
There, Ellen sat before her tall secretary each morning, keeping the accounts of the plantation and listening to the reports of Jonas Wilkerson, the overseer. There also the family idled while Ellen's quill scratched across her ledgers. Gerald in the old rocker, the girls on the sagging cushions of the sofa that was too battered and worn for the front of the house. Scarlett longed to be there now, alone with Ellen, so she could put her head in her mother's lap and cry in peace. Wouldn't Mother ever come home?
Then, wheels ground sharply on the graveled driveway, and the soft murmur of Ellen's voice dismissing the coachman floated into the room. The whole group looked up eagerly as she entered rapidly, her hoops swaying, her face tired and sad. There entered with her the faint fragrance of lemon verbena sachet, which seemed always to creep from the folds of her dresses, a fragrance that was always linked in Scarlett's mind with her mother. Mammy followed at a few paces, the leather bag in her hand, her underlip pushed out and her brow lowering. Mammy muttered darkly to herself as she waddled, taking care that her remarks were pitched too low to be understood but loud enough to register her unqualified disapproval.
"I am sorry I am so late," said Ellen, slipping her plaid shawl from drooping shoulders and handing it to Scarlett, whose cheek she patted in passing.
Gerald's face had brightened as if by magic at her entrance.
"Is the brat baptized?" he questioned.
"Yes, and dead, poor thing," said Ellen. "I feared Emmie would die too, but I think she will live." The girls' faces turned to her, startled and questioning, and Gerald wagged his head philosophically.
"Well, 'tis better so that the brat is dead, no doubt, poor fatherle--" "It is late. We had better have prayers now," interrupted Ellen so smoothly that, if Scarlett had not known her mother well, the interruption would have passed unnoticed.
It would be interesting to know who was the father of Emmie Slattery's baby, but Scarlett knew she would never learn the truth of the matter if she waited to hear it from her mother. Scarlett suspected Jonas Wilkerson, for she had frequently seen him walking down the road with Emmie at nightfall. Jonas was a Yankee and a bachelor, and the fact that he was an overseer forever barred him from any contact with the County social life. There was no family of any standing into which he could marry, no people with whom he could associate except the Slatterys and riffraff like them. As he was several cuts above the Slatterys in education, it was only natural that he should not want to marry Emmie, no matter how often he might walk with her in the twilight.
Scarlett sighed, for her curiosity was sharp. Things were always happening under her mother's eyes which she noticed no more than if they had not happened at all. Ellen ignored all things contrary to her ideas of propriety and tried to teach Scarlett to do the same, but with poor success.
Ellen had stepped to the mantel to take her rosary beads from the small inlaid casket in which they always reposed when Mammy spoke up with firmness.
"Miss Ellen, you gwine eat some supper befo' you does any prayin'." "Thank you. Mammy, but I am not hungry." "Ah gwine fix yo' supper mahseff an' you eats it," said Mammy, her brow furrowed with indignation as she started down the hall for the kitchen. "Poke!" she called, "tell Cookie stir up de fiah.
Miss Ellen home." As the boards shuddered under her weight, the soliloquy she had been muttering in the front hall grew louder and louder, coming clearly to the ears of the family in the dining room.
"Ah has said time an' again, it doan do no good doin' nuthin' fer w'ite trash. Dey is de shiflesses, mos' ungrateful passel of no- counts livin'. An' Miss Ellen got no bizness weahin' herseff out waitin' on folks dat did dey be wuth shootin' dey'd have niggers ter wait on dem. An' Ah has said--" Her voice trailed off as she went down the long open passageway, covered only by a roof, that led into the kitchen. Mammy had her own method of letting her owners know exactly where she stood on all matters. She knew it was beneath the dignity of quality white folks to pay the slightest attention to what a darky said when she was just grumbling to herself. She knew that to uphold this dignity, they must ignore what she said, even if she stood in the next room and almost shouted. It protected her from reproof, and it left no doubt in anyone's mind as to her exact views on any subject.
Pork entered the room, bearing a plate, silver and a napkin. He was followed closely by Jack, a black little boy of ten, hastily buttoning a white linen jacket with one hand and bearing in the other a fly-swisher, made of thin strips of newspaper tied to a reed longer than he was. Ellen had a beautiful peacock-feather fly-brusher, but it was used only on very special occasions and then only after domestic struggle, due to the obstinate conviction of Pork, Cookie and Mammy that peacock feathers were bad luck.
Ellen sat down in the chair which Gerald pulled out for her and four voices attacked her.
"Mother, the lace is loose on my new ball dress and I want to wear it tomorrow night at Twelve Oaks. Won't you please fix it?" "Mother, Scarlett's new dress is prettier than mine and I look like a fright in pink. Why can't she wear my pink and let me wear her green? She looks all right in pink." "Mother, can I stay up for the ball tomorrow night? I'm thirteen now--" "Mrs. O'Hara, would you believe it-- Hush, you girls, before I take me crop to you! Cade Calvert was in Atlanta this morning and he says--will you be quiet and let me be hearing me own voice?-- and he says it's all upset they are there and talking nothing but war, militia drilling, troops forming. And he says the news from Charleston is that they will be putting up with no more Yankee insults." Ellen's tired mouth smiled into the tumult as she addressed herself first to her husband, as a wife should.
"If the nice people of Charleston feel that way, I'm sure we will all feel the same way soon," she said, for she had a deeply rooted belief that, excepting only Savannah, most of the gentle blood of the whole continent could be found in that small seaport city, a belief shared largely by Charlestonians.
"No, Carreen, next year, dear. Then you can stay up for balls and wear grown-up dresses, and what a good time my little pink cheeks will have! Don't pout, dear. You can go to the barbecue, remember that, and stay up through supper, but no balls until you are fourteen.
"Give me your gown, Scarlett, I will whip the lace for you after prayers.
"Suellen, I do not like your tone, dear. Your pink gown is lovely and suitable to your complexion, Scarlett's is to hers. But you may wear my garnet necklace tomorrow night." Suellen, behind her mother's hack, wrinkled her nose triumphantly at Scarlett, who had been planning to beg the necklace for herself. Scarlett put out her tongue at her. Suellen was an annoying sister with her whining and selfishness, and had it not been for Ellen's restraining hand, Scarlett would frequently have boxed her ears.
"Now, Mr. O'Hara, tell me more about what Mr. Calvert said about Charleston," said Ellen.
Scarlett knew her mother cared nothing at all about war and politics and thought them masculine matters about which no lady could intelligently concern herself. But it gave Gerald pleasure to air his views, and Ellen was unfailingly thoughtful of her husband's pleasure.
While Gerald launched forth on his news, Mammy set the plates before her mistress, golden-topped biscuits, breast of fried chicken and a yellow yam open and steaming, with melted butter dripping from it. Mammy pinched small Jack, and he hastened to his business of slowly swishing the paper ribbons back and forth behind Ellen. Mammy stood beside the table, watching every forkful that traveled from plate to mouth, as though she intended to force the food down Ellen's throat should she see signs of flagging. Ellen ate diligently, but Scarlett could see that she was too tired to know what she was eating. Only Mammy's implacable face forced her to it.
When the dish was empty and Gerald only midway in his remarks on the thievishness of Yankees who wanted to free darkies and yet offered no penny to pay for their freedom, Ellen rose.
"We'll be having prayers?" he questioned, reluctantly.
"Yes. It is so late--why, it is actually ten o'clock," as the clock with coughing and tinny thumps marked the hour. "Carreen should have been asleep long ago. The lamp, please, Pork, and my prayer book, Mammy." Prompted by Mammy's hoarse whisper, Jack set his fly-brush in the corner and removed the dishes, while Mammy fumbled in the sideboard drawer for Ellen's worn prayer book. Pork, tiptoeing, reached the ring in the chain and drew the lamp slowly down until the table top was brightly bathed in light and the ceiling receded into shadows. Ellen arranged her skirts and sank to the floor on her knees, laying the open prayer book on the table before her and clasping her hands upon it. Gerald knelt beside her, and Scarlett and Suellen took their accustomed places on the opposite side of the table, folding their voluminous petticoats in pads under their knees, so they would ache less from contact with the hard floor.
Carreen, who was small for her age, could not kneel comfortably at the table and so knelt facing a chair, her elbows on the seat.
She liked this position, for she seldom failed to go to sleep during prayers and, in this postures it escaped her mother's notice.
The house servants shuffled and rustled in the hall to kneel by the doorway, Mammy groaning aloud as she sank down, Pork straight as a ramrod, Rosa and Teena, the maids, graceful in their spreading bright calicoes, Cookie gaunt and yellow beneath her snowy head rag, and Jack, stupid with sleep, as far away from Mammy's pinching fingers as possible. Their dark eyes gleamed expectantly, for praying with their white folks was one of the events of the day. The old and colorful phrases of the litany with its Oriental imagery meant little to them but it satisfied something in their hearts, and they always swayed when they chanted the responses: "Lord, have mercy on us," "Christ, have mercy on us." Ellen closed her eyes and began praying, her voice rising and falling, lulling and soothing. Heads bowed in the circle of yellow light as Ellen thanked God for the health and happiness of her home, her family and her negroes.
When she had finished her prayers for those beneath the roof of Tara, her father, mother, sisters, three dead babies and "all the poor souls in Purgatory," she clasped her white beads between long fingers and began the Rosary. Like the rushing of a soft wind, the responses from black throats and white throats rolled back:
"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death." Despite her heartache and the pain of unshed tears, a deep sense of quiet and peace fell upon Scarlett as it always did at this hour. Some of the disappointment of the day and the dread of the morrow departed from her, leaving a feeling of hope. It was not the lifting up of her heart to God that brought this balm, for religion went no more than lip deep with her. It was the sight of her mother's serene face upturned to the throne of God and His saints and angels, praying for blessings on those whom she loved.
When Ellen intervened with Heaven, Scarlett felt certain that Heaven heard.
Ellen finished and Gerald, who could never find his beads at prayer time, began furtively counting his decade on his fingers.
As his voice droned on, Scarlett's thoughts strayed, in spite of herself. She knew she should be examining her conscience. Ellen had taught her that at the end of each day it was her duty to examine her conscience thoroughly, to admit her numerous faults and pray to God for forgiveness and strength never to repeat them.
But Scarlett was examining her heart.
She dropped her head upon her folded hands so that her mother could not see her face, and her thoughts went sadly back to Ashley. How could he be planning to marry Melanie when he really loved her, Scarlett? And when he knew how much she loved him?
How could he deliberately break her heart?
Then, suddenly, an idea, shining and new, flashed like a comet through her brain.
"Why, Ashley hasn't an idea that I'm in love with him!" She almost gasped aloud in the shock of its unexpectedness. Her mind stood still as if paralyzed for a long, breathless instant, and then raced forward.
"How could he know? I've always acted so prissy and ladylike and touch-me-not around him he probably thinks I don't care a thing about him except as a friend. Yes, that's why he's never spoken!
He thinks his love is hopeless. And that's why he's looked so--" Her mind went swiftly back to those times when she had caught him looking at her in that strange manner, when the gray eyes that were such perfect curtains for his thoughts had been wide and naked and had in them a look of torment and despair.
"He's been broken hearted because he thinks I'm in love with Brent or Stuart or Cade. And probably he thinks that if he can't have me, he might as well please his family and marry Melanie. But if he knew I did love him--" Her volatile spirits shot up from deepest depression to excited happiness. This was the answer to Ashley's reticence, to his strange conduct. He didn't know! Her vanity leaped to the aid of her desire to believe, making belief a certainty. If he knew she loved him, he would hasten to her side. She had only to-- "Oh!" she thought rapturously, digging her fingers into her lowered brow. "What a fool I've been not to think of this till now! I must think of some way to let him know. He wouldn't marry her if he knew I loved him! How could he?" With a start, she realized that Gerald had finished and her mother's eyes were on her. Hastily she began her decade, telling off the beads automatically but with a depth of emotion in her voice that caused Mammy to open her eyes and shoot a searching glance at her. As she finished her prayers and Suellen, then Carreen, began their decades, her mind was still speeding onward with her entrancing new thought.
Even now, it wasn't too late! Too often the County had been scandalized by elopements when one or the other of the participating parties was practically at the altar with a third.
And Ashley's engagement had not even been announced yet! Yes, there was plenty of time!
If no love lay between Ashley and Melanie but only a promise given long ago, then why wasn't it possible for him to break that promise and marry her? Surely he would do it, if he knew that she, Scarlett, loved him. She must find some way to let him know.
She would find some way! And then-- Scarlett came abruptly out of her dream of delight, for she had neglected to make the responses and her mother was looking at her reprovingly. As she resumed the ritual, she opened her eyes briefly and cast a quick glance around the room. The kneeling figures, the soft glow of the lamp, the dim shadows where the negroes swayed, even the familiar objects that had been so hateful to her sight an hour ago, in an instant took on the color of her own emotions, and the room seemed once more a lovely place. She would never forget this moment or this scene!
"Virgin most faithful," her mother intoned. The Litany of the Virgin was beginning, and obediently Scarlett responded: "Pray for us," as Ellen praised in soft contralto the attributes of the Mother of God.
As always since childhood, this was, for Scarlett, a moment for adoration of Ellen, rather than the Virgin. Sacrilegious though it might be, Scarlett always saw, through her closed eyes, the upturned face of Ellen and not the Blessed Virgin, as the ancient phrases were repeated. "Health of the Sick," "Seat of Wisdom," "Refuge of Sinners," "Mystical Rose"--they were beautiful because they were the attributes of Ellen. But tonight, because of the exaltation of her own spirit, Scarlett found in the whole ceremonial, the softly spoken words, the murmur of the responses, a surpassing beauty beyond any that she had ever experienced before. And her heart went up to God in sincere thankfulness that a pathway for her feet had been opened--out of her misery and straight to the arms of Ashley.
When the last "Amen" sounded, they all rose, somewhat stiffly, Mammy being hauled to her feet by the combined efforts of Teena and Rosa. Pork took a long spiller from the mantelpiece, lit it from the lamp flame and went into the hall. Opposite the winding stair stood a walnut sideboard, too large for use in the dining room, bearing on its wide top several lamps and a long row of candles in candlesticks. Pork lit one lamp and three candles and, with the pompous dignity of a first chamberlain of the royal bedchamber lighting a king and queen to their rooms, he led the procession up the stairs, holding the light high above his head.
Ellen, on Gerald's arm, followed him, and the girls, each taking her own candlestick, mounted after them.
Scarlett entered her room, set the candle on the tall chest of drawers and fumbled in the dark closet for the dancing dress that needed stitching. Throwing it across her arm, she crossed the hall quietly. The door of her parents' bedroom was slightly ajar and, before she could knock, Ellen's voice, low but stern, came to her ears.
"Mr. O'Hara, you must dismiss Jonas Wilkerson." Gerald exploded. "And where will I be getting another overseer who wouldn't be cheating me out of my eyeteeth?" "He must be dismissed, immediately, tomorrow morning. Big Sam is a good foreman and he can take over the duties until you can hire another overseer." "Ah, ha!" came Gerald's voice. "So, I understand! Then the worthy Jonas sired the--" "He must be dismissed." "So, he is the father of Emmie Slattery's baby," thought Scarlett.
"Oh, well, what else can you expect from a Yankee man and a white- trash girl?" Then, after a discreet pause which gave Gerald's splutterings time to die away, she knocked on the door and handed the dress to her mother.
By the time Scarlett had undressed and blown out the candle, her plan for tomorrow had worked itself out in every detail. It was a simple plan, for, with Gerald's single-mindedness of purpose, her eyes were centered on the goal and she thought only of the most direct steps by which to reach it.
First, she would be "prideful," as Gerald had commanded. From the moment she arrived at Twelve Oaks, she would be her gayest, most spirited self. No one would suspect that she had ever been downhearted because of Ashley and Melanie. And she would flirt with every man there. That would be cruel to Ashley, but it would make him yearn for her all the more. She wouldn't overlook a man of marriageable age, from ginger-whiskered old Frank Kennedy, who was Suellen's beau, on down to shy, quiet, blushing Charles Hamilton, Melanie's brother. They would swarm around her like bees around a hive, and certainly Ashley would be drawn from Melanie to join the circle of her admirers. Then somehow she would maneuver to get a few minutes alone with him, away from the crowd. She hoped everything would work out that way, because it would be more difficult otherwise. But if Ashley didn't make the first move, she would simply have to do it herself.
When they were finally alone, he would have fresh in his mind the picture of the other men thronging about her, he would be newly impressed with the fact that every one of them wanted her, and that look of sadness and despair would be in his eyes. Then she would make him happy again by letting him discover that, popular though she was, she preferred him above any other man in all the world. And when she admitted it, modestly and sweetly, she would look a thousand things more. Of course, she would do it all in a ladylike way. She wouldn't even dream of saying to him boldly that she loved him--that would never do. But the manner of telling him was a detail that troubled her not at all. She had managed such situations before and she could do it again.
Lying in the bed with the moonlight streaming dimly over her, she pictured the whole scene in her mind. She saw the look of surprise and happiness that would come over his face when he realized that she really loved him, and she heard the words he would say asking her to be his wife.
Naturally, she would have to say then that she simply couldn't think of marrying a man when he was engaged to another girl, but he would insist and finally she would let herself be persuaded.
Then they would decide to run off to Jonesboro that very afternoon and-- Why, by this time tomorrow night, she might be Mrs. Ashley Wilkes!
She sat up in bed, hugging her knees, and for a long happy moment she WAS Mrs. Ashley Wilkes--Ashley's bride! Then a slight chill entered her heart. Suppose it didn't work out this way? Suppose Ashley didn't beg her to run away with him? Resolutely she pushed the thought from her mind.
"I won't think of that now," she said firmly. "If I think of it now, it will upset me. There's no reason why things won't come out the way I want them--if he loves me. And I know he does!" She raised her chin and her pale, black-fringed eyes sparkled in the moonlight. Ellen had never told her that desire and attainment were two different matters; life had not taught her that the race was not to the swift. She lay in the silvery shadows with courage rising and made the plans that a sixteen- year-old makes when life has been so pleasant that defeat is an impossibility and a pretty dress and a clear complexion are weapons to vanquish fate.
CHAPTER V It was ten o'clock in the morning. The day was warm for April and the golden sunlight streamed brilliantly into Scarlett's room through the blue curtains of the wide windows. The cream-colored walls glowed with light and the depths of the mahogany furniture gleamed deep red like wine, while the floor glistened as if it were glass, except where the rag rugs covered it and they were spots of gay color.
Already summer was in the air, the first hint of Georgia summer when the high tide of spring gives way reluctantly before a fiercer heat. A balmy, soft warmth poured into the room, heavy with velvety smells, redolent of many blossoms, of newly fledged trees and of the moist, freshly turned red earth. Through the window Scarlett could see the bright riot of the twin lanes of daffodils bordering the graveled driveway and the golden masses of yellow jessamine spreading flowery sprangles modestly to the earth like crinolines. The mockingbirds and the jays, engaged in their old feud for possession of the magnolia tree beneath her window, were bickering, the jays strident, acrimonious, the mockers sweet voiced and plaintive.
Such a glowing morning usually called Scarlett to the window, to lean arms on the broad sill and drink in the scents and sounds of Tara. But, today she had no eye for sun or azure sky beyond a hasty thought, "Thank God, it isn't raining." On the bed lay the apple-green, watered-silk ball dress with its festoons of ecru lace, neatly packed in a large cardboard box. It was ready to be carried to Twelve Oaks to be donned before the dancing began, but Scarlett shrugged at the sight of it. If her plans were successful, she would not wear that dress tonight. Long before the ball began, she and Ashley would be on their way to Jonesboro to be married. The troublesome question was--what dress should she wear to the barbecue?
What dress would best set off her charms and make her most irresistible to Ashley? Since eight o'clock she had been trying on and rejecting dresses, and now she stood dejected and irritable in lace pantalets, linen corset cover and three billowing lace and linen petticoats. Discarded garments lay about her on the floor, the bed, the chairs, in bright heaps of color and straying ribbons.
The rose organdie with long pink sash was becoming, but she had worn it last summer when Melanie visited Twelve Oaks and she'd be sure to remember it. And might be catty enough to mention it.
The black bombazine, with its puffed sleeves and princess lace collar, set off her white skin superbly, but it did make her look a trifle elderly. Scarlett peered anxiously in the mirror at her sixteen-year-old face as if expecting to see wrinkles and sagging chin muscles. It would never do to appear sedate and elderly before Melanie's sweet youthfulness. The lavender barred muslin was beautiful with those wide insets of lace and net about the hem, but it had never suited her type. It would suit Carreen's delicate profile and wishy-washy expression perfectly, but Scarlett felt that it made her look like a schoolgirl. It would never do to appear schoolgirlish beside Melanie's poised self.
The green plaid taffeta, frothing with flounces and each flounce edged in green velvet ribbon, was most becoming, in fact her favorite dress, for it darkened her eyes to emerald. But there was unmistakably a grease spot on the front of the basque. Of course, her brooch could be pinned over the spot, but perhaps Melanie had sharp eyes. There remained varicolored cotton dresses which Scarlett felt were not festive enough for the occasion, ball dresses and the green sprigged muslin she had worn yesterday. But it was an afternoon dress. It was not suitable for a barbecue, for it had only tiny puffed sleeves and the neck was low enough for a dancing dress. But there was nothing else to do but wear it. After all she was not ashamed of her neck and arms and bosom, even if it was not correct to show them in the morning.
As she stood before the mirror and twisted herself about to get a side view, she thought that there was absolutely nothing about her figure to cause her shame. Her neck was short but rounded and her arms plump and enticing. Her breasts, pushed high by her stays, were very nice breasts. She had never had to sew tiny rows of silk ruffles in the lining of her basques, as most sixteen-year- old girls did, to give their figures the desired curves and fullness. She was glad she had inherited Ellen's slender white hands and tiny feet, and she wished she had Ellen's height, too, but her own height pleased her very well. What a pity legs could not be shown, she thought, pulling up her petticoats and regretfully viewing them, plump and neat under pantalets. She had such nice legs. Even the girls at the Fayetteville Academy had admitted as much. And as for her waist--there was no one in Fayetteville, Jonesboro or in three counties, for that matter, who had so small a waist.
The thought of her waist brought her back to practical matters.
The green muslin measured seventeen inches about the waist, and Mammy had laced her for the eighteen-inch bombazine. Mammy would have to lace her tighter. She pushed open the door, listened and heard Mammy's heavy tread in the downstairs hall. She shouted for her impatiently, knowing she could raise her voice with impunity, as Ellen was in the smokehouse, measuring out the day's food to Cookie.
"Some folks thinks as how Ah kin fly," grumbled Mammy, shuffling up the stairs. She entered puffing, with the expression of one who expects battle and welcomes it. In her large black hands was a tray upon which food smoked, two large yams covered with butter, a pile of buckwheat cakes dripping syrup, and a large slice of ham swimming in gravy. Catching sight of Mammy's burden, Scarlett's expression changed from one of minor irritation to obstinate belligerency. In the excitement of trying on dresses she had forgotten Mammy's ironclad rule that, before going to any party, the O'Hara girls must be crammed so full of food at home they would be unable to eat any refreshments at the party.
"It's no use. I won't eat it. You can just take it back to the kitchen." Mammy set the tray on the table and squared herself, hands on hips.
"Yas'm, you is! Ah ain' figgerin' on havin' happen whut happen at dat las' barbecue w'en Ah wuz too sick frum dem chittlins Ah et ter fetch you no tray befo' you went. You is gwine eat eve'y bite of dis." "I am not! Now, come here and lace me tighter because we are late already. I heard the carriage come round to the front of the house." Mammy's tone became wheedling.
"Now, Miss Scarlett, you be good an' come eat jes'a lil. Miss Carreen an' Miss Suellen done eat all dey'n." "They would," said Scarlett contemptuously. "They haven't any more spirit than a rabbit. But I won't! I'm through with trays.
I'm not forgetting the time I ate a whole tray and went to the Calverts' and they had ice cream out of ice they'd brought all the way from Savannah, and I couldn't eat but a spoonful. I'm going to have a good time today and eat as much as I please." At this defiant heresy, Mammy's brow lowered with indignation.
What a young miss could do and what she could not do were as different as black and white in Mammy's mind; there was no middle ground of deportment between. Suellen and Carreen were clay in her powerful hands and harkened respectfully to her warning. But it had always been a struggle to teach Scarlett that most of her natural impulses were unladylike. Mammy's victories over Scarlett were hard-won and represented guile unknown to the white mind.
"Ef you doan care 'bout how folks talks 'bout dis fainbly, Ah does," she rumbled. "Ah ain' gwine stand by an' have eve'ybody at de pahty sayin' how you ain' fotched up right. Ah has tole you an' tole you dat you kin allus tell a lady by dat she eat lak a bird. An' Ah ain' aimin' ter have you go ter Mist' Wilkes' an' eat lak a fe'el han' an' gobble lak a hawg." "Mother is a lady and she eats," countered Scarlett.
"W'en you is mahied, you kin eat, too," retorted Mammy. "W'en Miss Ellen yo' age, she never et nuthin' w'en she went out, an' needer yo' Aunt Pauline nor yo' Aunt Eulalie. An' dey all done mahied. Young misses whut eats heavy mos' gener'ly doan never ketch husbands." "I don't believe it. At that barbecue when you were sick and I didn't eat beforehand, Ashley Wilkes told me he LIKED to see a girl with a healthy appetite." Mammy shook her head ominously.
"Whut gempmums says an' whut dey thinks is two diffunt things.
An' Ah ain' noticed Mist' Ashley axing fer ter mahy you." Scarlett scowled, started to speak sharply and then caught herself. Mammy had her there and there was no argument. Seeing the obdurate look on Scarlett's face, Mammy picked up the tray and, with the bland guile of her race, changed her tactics. As she started for the door, she sighed.
"Well'm, awright. Ah wuz tellin' Cookie w'ile she wuz a-fixin' dis tray. 'You kin sho tell a lady by whut she DOAN eat,' an' Ah say ter Cookie. 'Ah ain' seed no w'ite lady who et less'n Miss Melly Hamilton did las' time she wuz visitin' Mist' Ashley'--Ah means, visitin' Miss India." Scarlett shot a look of sharp suspicion at her, but Mammy's broad face carried only a look of innocence and of regret that Scarlett was not the lady Melanie Hamilton was.
"Put down that tray and come lace me tighter," said Scarlett irritably. "And I'll try to eat a little afterwards. If I ate now I couldn't lace tight enough." Cloaking her triumph, Mammy set down the tray.
"Whut mah lamb gwine wear?" "That," answered Scarlett, pointing at the fluffy mass of green flowered muslin. Instantly Mammy was in arms.
"No, you ain'. It ain' fittin' fer mawnin'. You kain show yo' buzzum befo' three o'clock an' dat dress ain' got no neck an' no sleeves. An' you'll git freckled sho as you born, an' Ah ain' figgerin' on you gittin' freckled affer all de buttermilk Ah been puttin' on you all dis winter, bleachin' dem freckles you got at Savannah settin' on de beach. Ah sho gwine speak ter yo' Ma 'bout you." "If you say one word to her before I'm dressed I won't eat a bite," said Scarlett coolly. "Mother won't have time to send me back to change once I'm dressed." Mammy sighed resignedly, beholding herself outguessed. Between the two evils, it was better to have Scarlett wear an afternoon dress at a morning barbecue than to have her gobble like a hog.
"Hole onter sumpin' an' suck in yo' breaf," she commanded.
Scarlett obeyed, bracing herself and catching firm hold of one of the bedposts. Mammy pulled and jerked vigorously and, as the tiny circumference of whalebone-girdled waist grew smaller, a proud, fond look came into her eyes.
"Ain' nobody got a wais' lak mah lamb," she said approvingly.
"Eve'y time Ah pulls Miss Suellen littler dan twenty inches, she up an' faint." "Pooh!" gasped Scarlctt, speaking with difficulty. "I never fainted in my life." "Well, 'twouldn' do no hahm ef you wuz ter faint now an' den," advised Mammy. "You is so brash sometimes, Miss Scarlett. Ah been aimin' ter tell you, it jes' doan look good de way you doan faint 'bout snakes an' mouses an' sech. Ah doan mean round home but w'en you is out in comp'ny. An' Ah has tole you an'--" "Oh, hurry! Don't talk so much. I'll catch a husband. See if I don't, even if I don't scream and faint. Goodness, but my stays are tight! Put on the dress." Mammy carefully dropped the twelve yards of green sprigged muslin over the mountainous petticoats and hooked up the back of the tight, low-cut basque.
"You keep yo' shawl on yo' shoulders w'en you is in de sun, an' doan you go takin' off yo' hat w'en you is wahm," she commanded.
"Elsewise you be comin' home lookin' brown lak Ole Miz Slattery.
Now, you come eat, honey, but doan eat too fas'. No use havin' it come right back up agin." Scarlett obediently sat down before the tray, wondering if she would be able to get any food into her stomach and still have room to breathe. Mammy plucked a large towel from the washstand and carefully tied it around Scarlett's neck, spreading the white folds over her lap. Scarlett began on the ham, because she liked ham, and forced it down.
"I wish to Heaven I was married," she said resentfully as she attacked the yams with loathing. "I'm tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I'm tired of acting like I don't eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I'm tired of saying, 'How wonderful you are!' to fool men who haven't got one-half the sense I've got, and I'm tired of pretending I don't know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they're doing it. . . . I can't eat another bite." "Try a hot cake," said Mammy inexorably.
"Why is it a girl has to be so silly to catch a husband?" "Ah specs it's kase gempmums doan know whut dey wants. Dey jes' knows whut dey thinks dey wants. An' givin' dem whut dey thinks dey wants saves a pile of mizry an' bein' a ole maid. An' dey thinks dey wants mousy lil gals wid bird's tastes an' no sense at all. It doan make a gempmum feel lak mahyin' a lady ef he suspicions she got mo' sense dan he has." "Don't you suppose men get surprised after they're married to find that their wives do have sense?" "Well, it's too late den. Dey's already mahied. 'Sides, gempmums specs dey wives ter have sense." "Some day I'm going to do and say everything I want to do and say, and if people don't like it I don't care." "No, you ain'," said Mammy grimly. "Not while Ah got breaf. You eat dem cakes. Sop dem in de gravy, honey." "I don't think Yankee girls have to act like such fools. When we were at Saratoga last year, I noticed plenty of them acting like they had right good sense and in front of men, too." Mammy snorted.
"Yankee gals! Yas'm, Ah guess dey speaks dey minds awright, but Ah ain' noticed many of dem gittin' proposed ter at Saratoga." "But Yankees must get married," argued Scarlett. "They don't just grow. They must get married and have children. There's too many of them." "Men mahys dem fer dey money," said Mammy firmly.
Scarlett sopped the wheat cake in the gravy and put it in her mouth. Perhaps there was something to what Mammy said. There must be something in it, for Ellen said the same things, in different and more delicate words. In fact, the mothers of all her girl friends impressed on their daughters the necessity of being helpless, clinging, doe-eyed creatures. Really, it took a lot of sense to cultivate and hold such a pose. Perhaps she had been too brash. Occasionally she had argued with Ashley and frankly aired her opinions. Perhaps this and her healthy enjoyment of walking and riding had turned him from her to the frail Melanie. Perhaps if she changed her tactics-- But she felt that if Ashley succumbed to premeditated feminine tricks, she could never respect him as she now did. Any man who was fool enough to fall for a simper, a faint and an "Oh, how wonderful you are!" wasn't worth having. But they all seemed to like it.
If she had used the wrong tactics with Ashley in the past--well, that was the past and done with. Today she would use different ones, the right ones. She wanted him and she had only a few hours in which to get him. If fainting, or pretending to faint, would do the trick, then she would faint. If simpering, coquetry or empty-headedness would attract him, she would gladly play the flirt and be more empty-headed than even Cathleen Calvert. And if bolder measures were necessary, she would take them. Today was the day!
There was no one to tell Scarlett that her own personality, frighteningly vital though it was, was more attractive than any masquerade she might adopt. Had she been told, she would have been pleased but unbelieving. And the civilization of which she was a part would have been unbelieving too, for at no time, before or since, had so low a premium been placed on feminine naturalness.
As the carriage bore her down the red road toward the Wilkes plantation, Scarlett had a feeling of guilty pleasure that neither her mother nor Mammy was with the party. There would be no one at the barbecue who, by delicately lifted brows or out-thrust underlip, could interfere with her plan of action. Of course, Suellen would be certain to tell tales tomorrow, but if all went as Scarlett hoped, the excitement of the family over her engagement to Ashley or her elopement would more than overbalance their displeasure. Yes, she was very glad Ellen had been forced to stay at home.
Gerald, primed with brandy, had given Jonas Wilkerson his dismissal that morning, and Ellen had remained at Tara to go over the accounts of the plantation before he took his departure.
Scarlett had kissed her mother good-by in the little office where she sat before the tall secretary with its paper-stuffed pigeonholes. Jonas Wilkerson, hat in hand, stood beside her, his sallow tight-skinned face hardly concealing the fury of hate that possessed him at being so unceremoniously turned out of the best overseer's job in the County. And all because of a bit of minor philandering. He had told Gerald over and over that Emmie Slattery's baby might have been fathered by any one of a dozen men as easily as himself--an idea in which Gerald concurred--but that had not altered his case so far as Ellen was concerned. Jonas hated all Southerners. He hated their cool courtesy to him and their contempt for his social status, so inadequately covered by their courtesy. He hated Ellen O'Hara above anyone else, for she was the epitome of all that he hated in Southerners.
Mammy, as head woman of the plantation, had remained to help Ellen, and it was Dilcey who rode on the driver's seat beside Toby, the girls' dancing dresses in a long box across her lap.
Gerald rode beside the carriage on his big hunter, warm with brandy and pleased with himself for having gotten through with the unpleasant business of Wilkerson so speedily. He had shoved the responsibility onto Ellen, and her disappointment at missing the barbecue and the gathering of her friends did not enter his mind; for it was a fine spring day and his fields were beautiful and the birds were singing and he felt too young and frolicsome to think of anyone else. Occasionally he burst out with "Peg in a Low- backed Car" and other Irish ditties or the more lugubrious lament for Robert Emmet, "She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps." He was happy, pleasantly excited over the prospect of spending the day shouting about the Yankees and the war, and proud of his three pretty daughters in their bright spreading hoop skirts beneath foolish little lace parasols. He gave no thought to his conversation of the day before with Scarlett, for it had completely slipped his mind. He only thought that she was pretty and a great credit to him and that, today, her eyes were as green as the hills of Ireland. The last thought made him think better of himself, for it had a certain poetic ring to it, and so he favored the girls with a loud and slightly off-key rendition of "The Wearin' o' the Green." Scarlett, looking at him with the affectionate contempt that mothers feel for small swaggering sons, knew that he would be very drunk by sundown. Coming home in the dark, he would try, as usual, to jump every fence between Twelve Oaks and Tara and, she hoped, by the mercy of Providence and the good sense of his horse, would escape breaking his neck. He would disdain the bridge and swim his horse through the river and come home roaring, to be put to bed on the sofa in the office by Pork who always waited up with a lamp in the front hall on such occasions.
He would ruin his new gray broadcloth suit, which would cause him to swear horribly in the morning and tell Ellen at great length how his horse fell off the bridge in the darkness--a palpable lie which would fool no one but which would be accepted by all and make him feel very clever.
Pa is a sweet, selfish, irresponsible darling, Scarlett thought, with a surge of affection for him. She felt so excited and happy this morning that she included the whole world, as well as Gerald, in her affection. She was pretty and she knew it; she would have Ashley for her own before the day was over; the sun was warm and tender and the glory of the Georgia spring was spread before her eyes. Along the roadside the blackberry brambles were concealing with softest green the savage red gulches cut by the winter's rains, and the bare granite boulders pushing up through the red earth were being draped with sprangles of Cherokee roses and compassed about by wild violets of palest purple hue. Upon the wooded hills above the river, the dogwood blossoms lay glistening and white, as if snow still lingered among the greenery. The flowering crab trees were bursting their buds and rioting from delicate white to deepest pink and, beneath the trees where the sunshine dappled the pine straw, the wild honeysuckle made a varicolored carpet of scarlet and orange and rose. There was a faint wild fragrance of sweet shrub on the breeze and the world smelled good enough to eat.
"I'll remember how beautiful this day is till I die," thought Scarlett. "Perhaps it will be my wedding day!" And she thought with a tingling in her heart how she and Ashley might ride swiftly through this beauty of blossom and greenery this very afternoon, or tonight by moonlight, toward Jonesboro and a preacher. Of course, she would have to be remarried by a priest from Atlanta, but that would be something for Ellen and Gerald to worry about. She quailed a little as she thought how white with mortification Ellen would be at hearing that her daug