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,
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
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
Between the hounds and the
horses and the twins there was a kinship deeper than that of their
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
"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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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.
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.
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."
"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
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
"And all the waltzes?"
I'll bet the other boys will be hopping mad."
"Let 'em be mad," said Brent.
"We two can handle 'em.
Sit with us at the barbecue in the morning."
Stuart repeated his request.
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
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
"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?"
Do you suppose we said something that made her mad?"
They both thought for a
"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?"
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.
"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
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."
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
"No, don't let's go there.
They'll be in a stew getting ready for the barbecue tomorrow
"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
"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
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
"Well, it's fun to hear her
gabble. And it'll be
somewhere to hide out till Ma has gone to bed."
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
"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
"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."
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
"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."
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."
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
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
"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."
Me put on airs fo' dem cheap niggers?
Nawsuh, Ah got better manners.
Ain' Miss Beetriss taught me manners same as she taught
"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:
Don't it seem like to you that Scarlett WOULD have asked us
"I kept thinking she would,"
yelled Stuart. "Why do
you suppose . . ."
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
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.
"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
"You fetch me my shawl."
Mammy waddled back into the
hall and Scarlett heard her call softly up the stairwell to the
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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?"
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
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
"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
"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
"Oh, 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
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?
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!"
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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
"And me in me prime!" cried
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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 . . .
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."
I didn't buy any new woman," declared Gerald, pretending to
"Yassah, you did, Mist'
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
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
"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
"A sharp little wench," she
thought, and said aloud:
"Thank you, Dilcey, we'll see about it when Mother comes home."
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
"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
"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'."
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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!
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
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
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
"Mr. O'Hara, you must dismiss
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
Mammy shook her head
"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.
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
"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
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
"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'--"
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
"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
"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
"No, you ain'," said Mammy
grimly. "Not while Ah
got breaf. You eat dem
cakes. Sop dem in de
"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."
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
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
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 daughter had eloped with another girl's fiance, but
she knew Ellen would forgive her when she saw her happiness.
And Gerald would scold and bawl but, for all his remarks of
yesterday about not wanting her to marry Ashley, he would be pleased
beyond words at an alliance between his family and the Wilkes.
"But that'll be something to
worry about after I'm married," she thought, tossing the worry from
It was impossible to feel
anything but palpitating joy in this warm sun, in this spring, with
the chimneys of Twelve Oaks just beginning to show on the hill
across the river.
"I'll live there all my life
and I'll see fifty springs like this and maybe more, and I'll tell
my children and my grandchildren how beautiful this spring was,
lovelier than any they'll ever see." She was so happy at this
thought that she joined in the last chorus of "The Wearin' o' the
Green" and won Gerald's shouted approval.
"I don't know why you're so
happy this morning," said Suellen crossly, for the thought still
rankled in her mind that she would look far better in Scarlett's
green silk dancing frock than its rightful owner would.
And why was Scarlett always so selfish about lending her
clothes and bonnets? And
why did Mother always back her up, declaring green was not Suellen's
color? "You know as well
as I do that Ashley's engagement is going to be announced tonight.
Pa said so this morning.
And I know you've been sweet on him for months."
"That's all you know," said
Scarlett, putting out her tongue and refusing to lose her good
humor. How surprised
Miss Sue would be by this time tomorrow morning!
"Susie, you know that's not
so," protested Carreen, shocked. "It's Brent that Scarlett cares
Scarlett turned smiling green
eyes upon her younger sister, wondering how anyone could be so
sweet. The whole family
knew that Carreen's thirteen-year-old heart was set upon Brent
Tarleton, who never gave her a thought except as Scarlett's baby
sister. When Ellen was
not present, the O'Haras teased her to tears about him.
"Darling, I don't care a
thing about Brent," declared Scarlett, happy enough to be generous.
"And he doesn't care a thing about me.
Why, he's waiting for you to grow up!"
Carreen's round little face
became pink, as pleasure struggled with incredulity.
"Oh, Scarlett, really?"
"Scarlett, you know Mother
said Carreen was too young to think about beaux yet, and there you
go putting ideas in her head."
"Well, go and tattle and see
if I care," replied Scarlett.
"You want to hold Sissy back, because you know she's going to
be prettier than you in a year or so."
"You'll be keeping civil
tongues in your heads this day, or I'll be taking me crop to you,"
warned Gerald. "Now
whist! Is it wheels I'm
hearing? That'll be the
Tarletons or the Fontaines."
As they neared the
intersecting road that came down the thickly wooded hill from Mimosa
and Fairhill, the sound of hooves and carriage wheels became plainer
and clamorous feminine voices raised in pleasant dispute sounded
from behind the screen of trees.
Gerald, riding ahead, pulled up his horse and signed to Toby
to stop the carriage where the two roads met.
"'Tis the Tarleton ladies,"
he announced to his daughters, his florid face abeam, for excepting
Ellen there was no lady in the County he liked more than the
red-haired Mrs. Tarleton.
"And 'tis herself at the reins.
Ah, there's a woman with fine hands for a horse!
Feather light and strong as rawhide, and pretty enough to
kiss for all that.
More's the pity none of you have such hands," he added, casting fond
but reproving glances at his girls.
"With Carreen afraid of the poor beasts and Sue with hands
like sadirons when it comes to reins and you, Puss--"
"Well, at any rate I've never
been thrown," cried Scarlett indignantly.
"And Mrs. Tarleton takes a toss at every hunt."
"And breaks a collar bone
like a man," said Gerald.
"No fainting, no fussing.
Now, no more of it, for here she comes."
He stood up in his stirrups
and took off his hat with a sweep, as the Tarleton carriage,
overflowing with girls in bright dresses and parasols and fluttering
veils, came into view, with Mrs. Tarleton on the box as Gerald had
said. With her four
daughters, their mammy and their ball dresses in long cardboard
boxes crowding the carriage, there was no room for the coachman.
And, besides, Beatrice Tarleton never willingly permitted
anyone, black or white, to hold reins when her arms were out of
fine-boned, so white of skin that her flaming hair seemed to have
drawn all the color from her face into its vital burnished mass, she
was nevertheless possessed of exuberant health and untiring energy.
She had borne eight children, as red of hair and as full of
life as she, and had raised them most successfully, so the County
said, because she gave them all the loving neglect and the stern
discipline she gave the colts she bred.
"Curb them but don't break their spirits," was Mrs.
She loved horses and talked
horses constantly. She
understood them and handled them better than any man in the County.
Colts overflowed the paddock onto the front lawn, even as her
eight children overflowed the rambling house on the hill, and colts
and sons and daughters and hunting dogs tagged after her as she went
about the plantation.
She credited her horses, especially her red mare, Nellie, with human
intelligence; and if the cares of the house kept her busy beyond the
time when she expected to take her daily ride, she put the sugar
bowl in the hands of some small pickaninny and said:
"Give Nellie a handful and tell her I'll be out terrectly."
Except on rare occasions she
always wore her riding habit, for whether she rode or not she always
expected to ride and in that expectation put on her habit upon
arising. Each morning, rain
or shine, Nellie was saddled and walked up and down in front of the
house, waiting for the time when Mrs. Tarleton could spare an hour
away from her duties.
But Fairhill was a difficult plantation to manage and spare time
hard to get, and more often than not Nellie walked up and down
riderless hour after hour, while Beatrice Tarleton went through the
day with the skirt of her habit absently looped over her arm and six
inches of shining boot showing below it.
Today, dressed in dull black
silk over unfashionably narrow hoops, she still looked as though in
her habit, for the dress was as severely tailored as her riding
costume and the small black hat with its long black plume perched
over one warm, twinkling, brown eye was a replica of the battered
old hat she used for hunting.
She waved her whip when she
saw Gerald and drew her dancing pair of red horses to a halt, and
the four girls in the back of the carriage leaned out and gave such
vociferous cries of greeting that the team pranced in alarm.
To a casual observer it would seem that years had passed
since the Tarletons had seen the O'Haras, instead of only two days.
But they were a sociable family and liked their neighbors,
especially the O'Hara girls. That is, they liked Suellen and
Carreen. No girl in the
County, with the possible exception of the empty-headed Cathleen
Calvert, really liked Scarlett.
In summers, the County
averaged a barbecue and ball nearly every week, but to the
red-haired Tarletons with their enormous capacity for enjoying
themselves, each barbecue and each ball was as exciting as if it
were the first they had ever attended.
They were a pretty, buxom quartette, so crammed into the
carriage that their hoops and flounces overlapped and their parasols
nudged and bumped together above their wide leghorn sun hats,
crowned with roses and dangling with black velvet chin ribbons.
All shades of red hair were represented beneath these hats,
Hetty's plain red hair, Camilla's strawberry blonde, Randa's coppery
auburn and small Betsy's carrot top.
"That's a fine bevy, Ma'm,"
said Gerald gallantly, reining his horse alongside the carriage.
"But it's far they'll go to beat their mother."
Mrs. Tarleton rolled her
red-brown eyes and sucked in her lower lip in burlesqued
appreciation, and the girls cried, "Ma, stop making eyes or we'll
tell Pa!" "I vow, Mr.
O'Hara, she never gives us a chance when there's a handsome man like
Scarlett laughed with the
rest at these sallies but, as always, the freedom with which the
Tarletons treated their mother came as a shock.
They acted as if she were one of themselves and not a day
over sixteen. To
Scarlett, the very idea of saying such things to her own mother was
almost sacrilegious. And
yet--and yet--there was something very pleasant about the Tarleton
girls' relations with their mother, and they adored her for all that
they criticized and scolded and teased her.
Not, Scarlett loyally hastened to tell herself, that she
would prefer a mother like Mrs. Tarleton to Ellen, but still it
would be fun to romp with a mother.
She knew that even that thought was disrespectful to Ellen
and felt ashamed of it.
She knew no such troublesome thoughts ever disturbed the brains
under the four flaming thatches in the carriage and, as always when
she felt herself different from her neighbors, an irritated
confusion fell upon her.
Quick though her brain was,
it was not made for analysis, but she half-consciously realized
that, for all the Tarleton girls were as unruly as colts and wild as
March hares, there was an unworried single-mindedness about them
that was part of their inheritance. On both their mother's and their
father's side they were Georgians, north Georgians, only a
generation away from pioneers. They were sure of themselves and of
their environment. They
knew instinctively what they were about, as did the Wilkeses, though
in widely divergent ways, and in them there was no such conflict as
frequently raged in Scarlett's bosom where the blood of a soft-
voiced, overbred Coast aristocrat mingled with the shrewd, earthy
blood of an Irish peasant.
Scarlett wanted to respect and adore her mother like an idol
and to rumple her hair and tease her too. And she knew she should be
altogether one way or the other.
It was the same conflicting emotion that made her desire to
appear a delicate and high-bred lady with boys and to be, as well, a
hoyden who was not above a few kisses.
"Where's Ellen this morning?"
asked Mrs. Tarleton.
"She's after discharging our
overseer and stayed home to go over the accounts with him.
Where's himself and the lads?"
"Oh, they rode over to Twelve
Oaks hours ago--to sample the punch and see if it was strong enough,
I dare say, as if they wouldn't have from now till tomorrow morning
to do it! I'm going to
ask John Wilkes to keep them overnight, even if he has to bed them
down in the stable. Five
men in their cups are just too much for me.
Up to three, I do very well but--"
Gerald hastily interrupted to
change the subject. He
could feel his own daughters snickering behind his back as they
remembered in what condition he had come home from the Wilkeses'
last barbecue the autumn before.
"And why aren't you riding
today, Mrs. Tarleton?
Sure, you don't look yourself at all without Nellie.
It's a stentor, you are."
"A stentor, me ignorant broth
of a boy!" cried Mrs. Tarleton, aping his brogue.
"You mean a centaur.
Stentor was a man with a voice like a brass gong."
"Stentor or centaur, 'tis no
matter," answered Gerald, unruffled by his error.
"And 'tis a voice like brass you have, Ma'm, when you're
urging on the hounds, so it is."
"That's one on you, Ma," said
Betty. "I told you you
yelled like a Comanche whenever you saw a fox."
"But not as loud as you yell
when Mammy washes your ears," returned Mrs. Tarleton.
"And you sixteen!
Well, as to why I'm not riding today, Nellie foaled early this
"Did she now!" cried Gerald
with real interest, his Irishman's passion for horses shining in his
eyes, and Scarlett again felt the sense of shock in comparing her
mother with Mrs. Tarleton.
To Ellen, mares never foaled nor cows calved.
In fact, hens almost didn't lay eggs.
Ellen ignored these matters completely.
But Mrs. Tarleton had no such reticences.
"A little filly, was it?"
"No, a fine little stallion
with legs two yards long.
You must ride over and see him, Mr. O'Hara.
He's a real Tarleton horse. He's as red as Hetty's curls."
"And looks a lot like Betty,
too," said Camilla, and then disappeared shrieking amid a welter of
skirts and pantalets and bobbing hats, as Betty, who did have a long
face, began pinching her.
"My fillies are feeling their
oats this morning," said Mrs. Tarleton.
"They've been kicking up their heels ever since we heard the
news this morning about Ashley and that little cousin of his from
Atlanta. What's her
Bless the child, she's a sweet little thing, but I can never
remember either her name or her face.
Our cook is the broad wife of the Wilkes butler, and he was
over last night with the news that the engagement would be announced
tonight and Cookie told us this morning.
The girls are all excited about it, though I can't see why.
Everybody's known for years that Ashley would marry her, that
is, if he didn't marry one of his Burr cousins from Macon. Just like
Honey Wilkes is going to marry Melanie's brother, Charles.
Now, tell me, Mr. O'Hara, is it illegal for the Wilkes to
marry outside of their family?
Scarlett did not hear the
rest of the laughing words.
For one short instant, it was as though the sun had ducked
behind a cool cloud, leaving the world in shadow, taking the color
out of things. The
freshly green foliage looked sickly, the dogwood pallid, and the
flowering crab, so beautifully pink a moment ago, faded and dreary.
Scarlett dug her fingers into the upholstery of the carriage
and for a moment her parasol wavered.
It was one thing to know that Ashley was engaged but it was
another to hear people talk about it so casually.
Then her courage flowed strongly back and the sun came out
again and the landscape glowed anew.
She knew Ashley loved her.
That was certain.
And she smiled as she thought how surprised Mrs. Tarleton would be
when no engagement was announced that night--how surprised if there
were an elopement. And
she'd tell neighbors what a sly boots Scarlett was to sit there and
listen to her talk about Melanie when all the time she and Ashley--
She dimpled at her own thoughts and Betty, who had been
watching sharply the effect of her mother's words, sank back with a
small puzzled frown.
"I don't care what you say,
Mr. O'Hara," Mrs. Tarleton was saying emphatically.
"It's all wrong, this marrying of cousins.
It's bad enough for Ashley to be marrying the Hamilton child,
but for Honey to be marrying that pale-looking Charles Hamilton--"
"Honey'll never catch anybody
else if she doesn't marry Charlie," said Randa, cruel and secure in
her own popularity.
"She's never had another beau except him.
And he's never acted very sweet on her, for all that they're
engaged. Scarlett, you
remember how he ran after you last Christmas--"
"Don't be a cat, Miss," said
her mother. "Cousins
shouldn't marry, even second cousins.
It weakens the strain.
It isn't like horses.
You can breed a mare to a brother or a sire to a daughter and
get good results if you know your blood strains, but in people it
just doesn't work. You
get good lines, perhaps, but no stamina.
"Now, Ma'm, I'm taking issue
with you on that! Can
you name me better people than the Wilkes?
And they've been intermarrying since Brian Boru was a boy."
"And high time they stopped
it, for it's beginning to show.
Oh, not Ashley so much, for he's a good-looking devil, though
even he-- But look at those two washed-out-looking Wilkes girls,
poor things! Nice girls,
of course, but washed out.
And look at little Miss Melanie.
Thin as a rail and delicate enough for the wind to blow away
and no spirit at all.
Not a notion of her own. 'No, Ma'm!' 'Yes, Ma'm!'
That's all she has to say.
You see what I mean?
That family needs new blood, fine vigorous blood like my red
heads or your Scarlett.
Now, don't misunderstand me.
The Wilkes are fine folks in their way, and you know I'm fond
of them all, but be frank!
They are overbred and inbred too, aren't they? They'll do
fine on a dry track, a fast track, but mark my words, I don't
believe the Wilkes can run on a mud track.
I believe the stamina has been bred out of them, and when the
emergency arises I don't believe they can run against odds.
Give me a big horse who can run in any weather!
And their intermarrying has made them different from other
folks around here.
Always fiddling with the piano or sticking their heads in a book.
I do believe Ashley would rather read than hunt!
Yes, I honestly believe that, Mr. O'Hara!
And just look at the bones on them.
Too slender. They need dams and sires with strength--"
"Ah-ah-hum," said Gerald,
suddenly and guiltily aware that the conversation, a most
interesting and entirely proper one to him, would seem quite
otherwise to Ellen. In
fact, he knew she would never recover should she learn that her
daughters had been exposed to so frank a conversation.
But Mrs. Tarleton was, as usual, deaf to all other ideas when
pursuing her favorite topic, breeding, whether it be horses or
"I know what I'm talking
about because I had some cousins who married each other and I give
you my word their children all turned out as popeyed as bullfrogs,
poor things. And when my
family wanted me to marry a second cousin, I bucked like a colt. I
said, 'No, Ma. Not for
me. My children will all
have spavins and heaves.'
Well, Ma fainted when I said that about spavins, but I stood
firm and Grandma backed me up.
She knew a lot about horse breeding too, you see, and said I
was right. And she
helped me run away with Mr. Tarleton.
And look at my children!
Big and healthy and not a sickly one or a runt among them,
though Boyd is only five feet ten.
Now, the Wilkes--"
"Not meaning to change the
subject, Ma'm," broke in Gerald hurriedly, for he had noticed
Carreen's bewildered look and the avid curiosity on Suellen's face
and feared lest they might ask Ellen embarrassing questions which
would reveal how inadequate a chaperon he was.
Puss, he was glad to notice, appeared to be thinking of other
matters as a lady should.
Betty Tarleton rescued him
from his predicament.
"Good Heavens, Ma, do let's
get on!" she cried impatiently.
"This sun is broiling me and I can just hear freckles popping
out on my neck."
"Just a minute, Ma'm, before
you go," said Gerald.
"But what have you decided to do about selling us the horses for the
Troop? War may break any
day now and the boys want the matter settled.
It's a Clayton County troop and it's Clayton County horses we
want for them. But you,
obstinate creature that you are, are still refusing to sell us your
"Maybe there won't be any
war," Mrs. Tarleton temporized, her mind diverted completely from
the Wilkeses' odd marriage habits.
"Why, Ma'm, you can't--"
"Ma," Betty interrupted
again, "can't you and Mr. O'Hara talk about the horses at Twelve
Oaks as well as here?"
"That's just it, Miss Betty,"
said Gerald. "And I
won't be keeping you but one minute by the clock.
We'll be getting to Twelve Oaks in a little bit, and every
man there, old and young, wanting to know about the horses.
Ah, but it's breaking me heart to see such a fine pretty lady
as your mother so stingy with her beasts!
Now, where's your patriotism, Mrs. Tarleton?
Does the Confederacy mean nothing to you at all?"
"Ma," cried small Betsy,
"Randa's sitting on my dress and I'm getting all wrinkled."
"Well, push Randa off you,
Betsy, and hush. Now,
listen to me, Gerald O'Hara," she retorted, her eyes beginning to
snap. "Don't you go
throwing the Confederacy in my face!
I reckon the Confederacy means as much to me as it does to
you, me with four boys in the Troop and you with none.
But my boys can take care of themselves and my horses can't.
I'd gladly give the horses free of charge if I knew they were
going to be ridden by boys I know, gentlemen used to thoroughbreds.
No, I wouldn't hesitate a minute.
But let my beauties be at the mercy of back-woodsmen and
Crackers who are used to riding mules!
No, sir! I'd have
nightmares thinking they were being ridden with saddle galls and not
groomed properly. Do you
think I'd let ignorant fools ride my tender-mouthed darlings and saw
their mouths to pieces and beat them till their spirits were broken?
Why, I've got goose flesh this minute, just thinking about
it! No, Mr. O'Hara,
you're mighty nice to want my horses, but you'd better go to Atlanta
and buy some old plugs for your clodhoppers.
They'll never know the difference."
"Ma, can't we please go on?"
asked Camilla, joining the impatient chorus.
"You know mighty well you're going to end up giving them your
darlings anyhow. When Pa
and the boys get through talking about the Confederacy needing them
and so on, you'll cry and let them go."
Mrs. Tarleton grinned and
shook the lines.
"I'll do no such thing," she
said, touching the horses lightly with the whip.
The carriage went off swiftly.
"That's a fine woman," said
Gerald, putting on his hat and taking his place beside his own
carriage. "Drive on,
Toby. We'll wear her
down and get the horses yet.
Of course, she's right.
She's right. If a
man's not a gentleman, he's no business on a horse. The infantry is
the place for him. But
more's the pity, there's not enough planters' sons in this County to
make up a full troop. What did you say, Puss?"
"Pa, please ride behind us or
in front of us. You kick
up such a heap of dust that we're choking," said Scarlett, who felt
that she could endure conversation no longer.
It distracted her from her thoughts and she was very anxious
to arrange both her thoughts and her face in attractive lines before
reaching Twelve Oaks.
Gerald obediently put spurs to his horse and was off in a red cloud
after the Tarleton carriage where he could continue his horsy