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解密目标语言:英语                                解密辅助语言:汉语
              Language to be decoded:  English             Auxiliary Language :  Chinese  

  
          
解密文本:     《飘》/《乱世佳人》   (美)玛格丽特米切尔  著      
 

 

Gone With The Wind
by   Margaret Mitchell 

第一部 第1-5章、 第6-8章         第二部 第8-12 章、 第13-16章          第三部 第17-23章、 第24-30章          第四部 第31-35章、 第36-41章



          只看英语(English Only)                                        英汉对照(English & Chinese)                                     只看汉语(Chinese Only)


  

  

PART ONE

 CHAPTER I

  Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.  In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father.  But it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw.  Her eyes were pale green without a touch of hazel, starred with bristly black lashes and slightly tilted at the ends. Above them, her thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line in her magnolia-white skin--that skin so prized by Southern women and so carefully guarded with bonnets, veils and mittens against hot Georgia suns.

 Seated with Stuart and Brent Tarleton in the cool shade of the porch of Tara, her father's plantation, that bright April afternoon of 1861, she made a pretty picture.  Her new green flowered-muslin dress spread its twelve yards of billowing material over her hoops and exactly matched the flat-heeled green morocco slippers her father had recently brought her from Atlanta. The dress set off to perfection the seventeen-inch waist, the smallest in three counties, and the tightly fitting basque showed breasts well matured for her sixteen years.  But for all the modesty of her spreading skirts, the demureness of hair netted smoothly into a chignon and the quietness of small white hands folded in her lap, her true self was poorly concealed.  The green eyes in the carefully sweet face were turbulent, willful, lusty with life, distinctly at variance with her decorous demeanor. Her manners had been imposed upon her by her mother's gentle admonitions and the sterner discipline of her mammy; her eyes were her own.

 On either side of her, the twins lounged easily in their chairs, squinting at the sunlight through tall mint-garnished glasses as they laughed and talked, their long legs, booted to the knee and thick with saddle muscles, crossed negligently.  Nineteen years old, six feet two inches tall, long of bone and hard of muscle, with sunburned faces and deep auburn hair, their eyes merry and arrogant, their bodies clothed in identical blue coats and mustard-colored breeches, they were as much alike as two bolls of cotton.

 Outside, the late afternoon sun slanted down in the yard, throwing into gleaming brightness the dogwood trees that were solid masses of white blossoms against the background of new green.  The twins' horses were hitched in the driveway, big animals, red as their masters' hair; and around the horses' legs quarreled the pack of lean, nervous possum hounds that accompanied Stuart and Brent wherever they went.  A little aloof, as became an aristocrat, lay a black-spotted carriage dog, muzzle on paws, patiently waiting for the boys to go home to supper.

 Between the hounds and the horses and the twins there was a kinship deeper than that of their constant companionship.  They were all healthy, thoughtless young animals, sleek, graceful, high-spirited, the boys as mettlesome as the horses they rode, mettlesome and dangerous but, withal, sweet-tempered to those who knew how to handle them.

 Although born to the ease of plantation life, waited on hand and foot since infancy, the faces of the three on the porch were neither slack nor soft.  They had the vigor and alertness of country people who have spent all their lives in the open and troubled their heads very little with dull things in books.  Life in the north Georgia county of Clayton was still new and, according to the standards of Augusta, Savannah and Charleston, a little crude.  The more sedate and older sections of the South looked down their noses at the up-country Georgians, but here in north Georgia, a lack of the niceties of classical education carried no shame, provided a man was smart in the things that mattered.  And raising good cotton, riding well, shooting straight, dancing lightly, squiring the ladies with elegance and carrying one's liquor like a gentleman were the things that mattered.

 In these accomplishments the twins excelled, and they were equally outstanding in their notorious inability to learn anything contained between the covers of books.  Their family had more money, more horses, more slaves than any one else in the County, but the boys had less grammar than most of their poor Cracker neighbors.

 It was for this precise reason that Stuart and Brent were idling on the porch of Tara this April afternoon.  They had just been expelled from the University of Georgia, the fourth university that had thrown them out in two years; and their older brothers, Tom and Boyd, had come home with them, because they refused to remain at an institution where the twins were not welcome.  Stuart and Brent considered their latest expulsion a fine joke, and Scarlett, who had not willingly opened a book since leaving the Fayetteville Female Academy the year before, thought it just as amusing as they did.

 "I know you two don't care about being expelled, or Tom either," she said.  "But what about Boyd?  He's kind of set on getting an education, and you two have pulled him out of the University of Virginia and Alabama and South Carolina and now Georgia.  He'll never get finished at this rate."

 "Oh, he can read law in Judge Parmalee's office over in Fayetteville," answered Brent carelessly.  "Besides, it don't matter much.  We'd have had to come home before the term was out anyway."

 "Why?"

 "The war, goose!  The war's going to start any day, and you don't suppose any of us would stay in college with a war going on, do you?"

 "You know there isn't going to be any war," said Scarlett, bored. "It's all just talk.  Why, Ashley Wilkes and his father told Pa just last week that our commissioners in Washington would come to--to--an--amicable agreement with Mr. Lincoln about the Confederacy.  And anyway, the Yankees are too scared of us to fight.  There won't be any war, and I'm tired of hearing about it."

 "Not going to be any war!" cried the twins indignantly, as though they had been defrauded.

 "Why, honey, of course there's going to be a war," said Stuart. "The Yankees may be scared of us, but after the way General Beauregard shelled them out of Fort Sumter day before yesterday, they'll have to fight or stand branded as cowards before the whole world.  Why, the Confederacy--"

 Scarlett made a mouth of bored impatience.

 "If you say 'war' just once more, I'll go in the house and shut the door.  I've never gotten so tired of any one word in my life as 'war,' unless it's 'secession.'  Pa talks war morning, noon and night, and all the gentlemen who come to see him shout about Fort Sumter and States' Rights and Abe Lincoln till I get so bored I could scream!  And that's all the boys talk about, too, that and their old Troop.  There hasn't been any fun at any party this spring because the boys can't talk about anything else.  I'm mighty glad Georgia waited till after Christmas before it seceded or it would have ruined the Christmas parties, too.  If you say 'war' again, I'll go in the house."

 She meant what she said, for she could never long endure any conversation of which she was not the chief subject.  But she smiled when she spoke, consciously deepening her dimple and fluttering her bristly black lashes as swiftly as butterflies' wings.  The boys were enchanted, as she had intended them to be, and they hastened to apologize for boring her.  They thought none the less of her for her lack of interest.  Indeed, they thought more.  War was men's business, not ladies', and they took her attitude as evidence of her femininity.

 Having maneuvered them away from the boring subject of war, she went back with interest to their immediate situation.

 "What did your mother say about you two being expelled again?"

 The boys looked uncomfortable, recalling their mother's conduct three months ago when they had come home, by request, from the University of Virginia.

 "Well," said Stuart, "she hasn't had a chance to say anything yet. Tom and us left home early this morning before she got up, and Tom's laying out over at the Fontaines' while we came over here."

 "Didn't she say anything when you got home last night?"

 "We were in luck last night.  Just before we got home that new stallion Ma got in Kentucky last month was brought in, and the place was in a stew.  The big brute--he's a grand horse, Scarlett; you must tell your pa to come over and see him right away--he'd already bitten a hunk out of his groom on the way down here and he'd trampled two of Ma's darkies who met the train at Jonesboro. And just before we got home, he'd about kicked the stable down and half-killed Strawberry, Ma's old stallion.  When we got home, Ma was out in the stable with a sackful of sugar smoothing him down and doing it mighty well, too.  The darkies were hanging from the rafters, popeyed, they were so scared, but Ma was talking to the horse like he was folks and he was eating out of her hand.  There ain't nobody like Ma with a horse.  And when she saw us she said: 'In Heaven's name, what are you four doing home again?  You're worse than the plagues of Egypt!'  And then the horse began snorting and rearing and she said:  'Get out of here!  Can't you see he's nervous, the big darling?  I'll tend to you four in the morning!'  So we went to bed, and this morning we got away before she could catch us and left Boyd to handle her."

 "Do you suppose she'll hit Boyd?"  Scarlett, like the rest of the County, could never get used to the way small Mrs. Tarleton bullied her grown sons and laid her riding crop on their backs if the occasion seemed to warrant it.

 Beatrice Tarleton was a busy woman, having on her hands not only a large cotton plantation, a hundred negroes and eight children, but the largest horse-breeding farm in the state as well.  She was hot-tempered and easily plagued by the frequent scrapes of her four sons, and while no one was permitted to whip a horse or a slave, she felt that a lick now and then didn't do the boys any harm.

 "Of course she won't hit Boyd.  She never did beat Boyd much because he's the oldest and besides he's the runt of the litter," said Stuart, proud of his six feet two.  "That's why we left him at home to explain things to her.  God'lmighty, Ma ought to stop licking us!  We're nineteen and Tom's twenty-one, and she acts like we're six years old."

 "Will your mother ride the new horse to the Wilkes barbecue tomorrow?"

 "She wants to, but Pa says he's too dangerous.  And, anyway, the girls won't let her.  They said they were going to have her go to one party at least like a lady, riding in the carriage."

 "I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow," said Scarlett.  "It's rained nearly every day for a week.  There's nothing worse than a barbecue turned into an indoor picnic."

 "Oh, it'll be clear tomorrow and hot as June," said Stuart. "Look at that sunset.  I never saw one redder.  You can always tell weather by sunsets."

 They looked out across the endless acres of Gerald O'Hara's newly plowed cotton fields toward the red horizon.  Now that the sun was setting in a welter of crimson behind the hills across the Flint River, the warmth of the April day was ebbing into a faint but balmy chill.

 Spring had come early that year, with warm quick rains and sudden frothing of pink peach blossoms and dogwood dappling with white stars the dark river swamp and far-off hills.  Already the plowing was nearly finished, and the bloody glory of the sunset colored the fresh-cut furrows of red Georgia clay to even redder hues. The moist hungry earth, waiting upturned for the cotton seeds, showed pinkish on the sandy tops of furrows, vermilion and scarlet and maroon where shadows lay along the sides of the trenches.  The whitewashed brick plantation house seemed an island set in a wild red sea, a sea of spiraling, curving, crescent billows petrified suddenly at the moment when the pink-tipped waves were breaking into surf.  For here were no long, straight furrows, such as could be seen in the yellow clay fields of the flat middle Georgia country or in the lush black earth of the coastal plantations. The rolling foothill country of north Georgia was plowed in a million curves to keep the rich earth from washing down into the river bottoms.

 It was a savagely red land, blood-colored after rains, brick dust in droughts, the best cotton land in the world.  It was a pleasant land of white houses, peaceful plowed fields and sluggish yellow rivers, but a land of contrasts, of brightest sun glare and densest shade.  The plantation clearings and miles of cotton fields smiled up to a warm sun, placid, complacent.  At their edges rose the virgin forests, dark and cool even in the hottest noons, mysterious, a little sinister, the soughing pines seeming to wait with an age-old patience, to threaten with soft sighs: "Be careful!  Be careful!  We had you once.  We can take you back again."

 To the ears of the three on the porch came the sounds of hooves, the jingling of harness chains and the shrill careless laughter of negro voices, as the field hands and mules came in from the fields.  From within the house floated the soft voice of Scarlett's mother, Ellen O'Hara, as she called to the little black girl who carried her basket of keys.  The high-pitched, childish voice answered "Yas'm," and there were sounds of footsteps going out the back way toward the smokehouse where Ellen would ration out the food to the home-coming hands.  There was the click of china and the rattle of silver as Pork, the valet-butler of Tara, laid the table for supper.

 At these last sounds, the twins realized it was time they were starting home.  But they were loath to face their mother and they lingered on the porch of Tara, momentarily expecting Scarlett to give them an invitation to supper.

 "Look, Scarlett.  About tomorrow," said Brent.  "Just because we've been away and didn't know about the barbecue and the ball, that's no reason why we shouldn't get plenty of dances tomorrow night.  You haven't promised them all, have you?"

 "Well, I have!  How did I know you all would be home?  I couldn't risk being a wallflower just waiting on you two."

 "You a wallflower!"  The boys laughed uproariously.

 "Look, honey.  You've got to give me the first waltz and Stu the last one and you've got to eat supper with us.  We'll sit on the stair landing like we did at the last ball and get Mammy Jincy to come tell our fortunes again."

 "I don't like Mammy Jincy's fortunes.  You know she said I was going to marry a gentleman with jet-black hair and a long black mustache, and I don't like black-haired gentlemen."

 "You like 'em red-headed, don't you, honey?" grinned Brent.  "Now, come on, promise us all the waltzes and the supper."

 "If you'll promise, we'll tell you a secret," said Stuart.

 "What?" cried Scarlett, alert as a child at the word.

 "Is it what we heard yesterday in Atlanta, Stu?  If it is, you know we promised not to tell."

 "Well, Miss Pitty told us."

 "Miss Who?"

 "You know, Ashley Wilkes' cousin who lives in Atlanta, Miss Pittypat Hamilton--Charles and Melanie Hamilton's aunt."

 "I do, and a sillier old lady I never met in all my life."

 "Well, when we were in Atlanta yesterday, waiting for the home train, her carriage went by the depot and she stopped and talked to us, and she told us there was going to be an engagement announced tomorrow night at the Wilkes ball."

 "Oh.  I know about that," said Scarlett in disappointment.  "That silly nephew of hers, Charlie Hamilton, and Honey Wilkes. Everybody's known for years that they'd get married some time, even if he did seem kind of lukewarm about it."

 "Do you think he's silly?" questioned Brent.  "Last Christmas you sure let him buzz round you plenty."

 "I couldn't help him buzzing," Scarlett shrugged negligently.  "I think he's an awful sissy."

 "Besides, it isn't his engagement that's going to be announced," said Stuart triumphantly.  "It's Ashley's to Charlie's sister, Miss Melanie!"

 Scarlett's face did not change but her lips went white--like a person who has received a stunning blow without warning and who, in the first moments of shock, does not realize what has happened. So still was her face as she stared at Stuart that he, never analytic, took it for granted that she was merely surprised and very interested.

 "Miss Pitty told us they hadn't intended announcing it till next year, because Miss Melly hasn't been very well; but with all the war talk going around, everybody in both families thought it would be better to get married soon.  So it's to be announced tomorrow night at the supper intermission.  Now, Scarlett, we've told you the secret, so you've got to promise to eat supper with us."

 "Of course I will," Scarlett said automatically.

 "And all the waltzes?"

 "All."

 "You're sweet!  I'll bet the other boys will be hopping mad."

 "Let 'em be mad," said Brent.  "We two can handle 'em.  Look, Scarlett.  Sit with us at the barbecue in the morning."

 "What?"

 Stuart repeated his request.

 "Of course."

 The twins looked at each other jubilantly but with some surprise. Although they considered themselves Scarlett's favored suitors, they had never before gained tokens of this favor so easily. Usually she made them beg and plead, while she put them off, refusing to give a Yes or No answer, laughing if they sulked, growing cool if they became angry.  And here she had practically promised them the whole of tomorrow--seats by her at the barbecue, all the waltzes (and they'd see to it that the dances were all waltzes!) and the supper intermission.  This was worth getting expelled from the university.

 Filled with new enthusiasm by their success, they lingered on, talking about the barbecue and the ball and Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton, interrupting each other, making jokes and laughing at them, hinting broadly for invitations to supper.  Some time had passed before they realized that Scarlett was having very little to say.  The atmosphere had somehow changed.  Just how, the twins did not know, but the fine glow had gone out of the afternoon.  Scarlett seemed to be paying little attention to what they said, although she made the correct answers.  Sensing something they could not understand, baffled and annoyed by it, the twins struggled along for a while, and then rose reluctantly, looking at their watches.

 The sun was low across the new-plowed fields and the tall woods across the river were looming blackly in silhouette.  Chimney swallows were darting swiftly across the yard, and chickens, ducks and turkeys were waddling and strutting and straggling in from the fields.

 Stuart bellowed:  "Jeems!"  And after an interval a tall black boy of their own age ran breathlessly around the house and out toward the tethered horses.  Jeems was their body servant and, like the dogs, accompanied them everywhere.  He had been their childhood playmate and had been given to the twins for their own on their tenth birthday.  At the sight of him, the Tarleton hounds rose up out of the red dust and stood waiting expectantly for their masters.  The boys bowed, shook hands and told Scarlett they'd be over at the Wilkeses' early in the morning, waiting for her.  Then they were off down the walk at a rush, mounted their horses and, followed by Jeems, went down the avenue of cedars at a gallop, waving their hats and yelling back to her.

 When they had rounded the curve of the dusty road that hid them from Tara, Brent drew his horse to a stop under a clump of dogwood.  Stuart halted, too, and the darky boy pulled up a few paces behind them.  The horses, feeling slack reins, stretched down their necks to crop the tender spring grass, and the patient hounds lay down again in the soft red dust and looked up longingly at the chimney swallows circling in the gathering dusk.  Brent's wide ingenuous face was puzzled and mildly indignant.

 "Look," he said.  "Don't it look to you like she would of asked us to stay for supper?"

 "I thought she would," said Stuart.  "I kept waiting for her to do it, but she didn't.  What do you make of it?"

 "I don't make anything of it.  But it just looks to me like she might of.  After all, it's our first day home and she hasn't seen us in quite a spell.  And we had lots more things to tell her."

 "It looked to me like she was mighty glad to see us when we came."

 "I thought so, too."

 "And then, about a half-hour ago, she got kind of quiet, like she had a headache."

 "I noticed that but I didn't pay it any mind then.  What do you suppose ailed her?"

 "I dunno.  Do you suppose we said something that made her mad?"

 They both thought for a minute.

 "I can't think of anything.  Besides, when Scarlett gets mad, everybody knows it.  She don't hold herself in like some girls do."

 "Yes, that's what I like about her.  She don't go around being cold and hateful when she's mad--she tells you about it.  But it was something we did or said that made her shut up talking and look sort of sick.  I could swear she was glad to see us when we came and was aiming to ask us to supper."

 "You don't suppose it's because we got expelled?"

 "Hell, no!  Don't be a fool.  She laughed like everything when we told her about it.  And besides Scarlett don't set any more store by book learning than we do."

 Brent turned in the saddle and called to the negro groom.

 "Jeems!"

 "Suh?"

 "You heard what we were talking to Miss Scarlett about?"

 "Nawsuh, Mist' Brent!  Huccome you think Ah be spyin' on w'ite folks?"

 "Spying, my God!  You darkies know everything that goes on.  Why, you liar, I saw you with my own eyes sidle round the corner of the porch and squat in the cape jessamine bush by the wall.  Now, did you hear us say anything that might have made Miss Scarlett mad-- or hurt her feelings?"

 Thus appealed to, Jeems gave up further pretense of not having overheard the conversation and furrowed his black brow.

 "Nawsuh, Ah din' notice y'all say anything ter mek her mad.  Look ter me lak she sho glad ter see you an' sho had missed you, an' she cheep along happy as a bird, tell 'bout de time y'all got ter talkin' 'bout Mist' Ashley an' Miss Melly Hamilton gittin' mah'ied.  Den she quiet down lak a bird w'en de hawk fly ober."

 The twins looked at each other and nodded, but without comprehension.

 "Jeems is right.  But I don't see why," said Stuart.  "My Lord! Ashley don't mean anything to her, 'cept a friend.  She's not crazy about him.  It's us she's crazy about."

 Brent nodded an agreement.

 "But do you suppose," he said, "that maybe Ashley hadn't told her he was going to announce it tomorrow night and she was mad at him for not telling her, an old friend, before he told everybody else? Girls set a big store on knowing such things first."

 "Well, maybe.  But what if he hadn't told her it was tomorrow?  It was supposed to be a secret and a surprise, and a man's got a right to keep his own engagement quiet, hasn't he?  We wouldn't have known it if Miss Melly's aunt hadn't let it out.  But Scarlett must have known he was going to marry Miss Melly sometime.  Why, we've known it for years.  The Wilkes and Hamiltons always marry their own cousins.  Everybody knew he'd probably marry her some day, just like Honey Wilkes is going to marry Miss Melly's brother, Charles."

 "Well, I give it up.  But I'm sorry she didn't ask us to supper. I swear I don't want to go home and listen to Ma take on about us being expelled.  It isn't as if this was the first time."

 "Maybe Boyd will have smoothed her down by now.  You know what a slick talker that little varmint is.  You know he always can smooth her down."

 "Yes, he can do it, but it takes Boyd time.  He has to talk around in circles till Ma gets so confused that she gives up and tells him to save his voice for his law practice.  But he ain't had time to get good started yet.  Why, I'll bet you Ma is still so excited about the new horse that she'll never even realize we're home again till she sits down to supper tonight and sees Boyd.  And before supper is over she'll be going strong and breathing fire. And it'll be ten o'clock before Boyd gets a chance to tell her that it wouldn't have been honorable for any of us to stay in college after the way the Chancellor talked to you and me.  And it'll be midnight before he gets her turned around to where she's so mad at the Chancellor she'll be asking Boyd why he didn't shoot him.  No, we can't go home till after midnight."

 The twins looked at each other glumly.  They were completely fearless of wild horses, shooting affrays and the indignation of their neighbors, but they had a wholesome fear of their red-haired mother's outspoken remarks and the riding crop that she did not scruple to lay across their breeches.

 "Well, look," said Brent.  "Let's go over to the Wilkes.  Ashley and the girls'll be glad to have us for supper."

 Stuart looked a little discomforted.

 "No, don't let's go there.  They'll be in a stew getting ready for the barbecue tomorrow and besides--"

 "Oh, I forgot about that," said Brent hastily.  "No, don't let's go there."

 They clucked to their horses and rode along in silence for a while, a flush of embarrassment on Stuart's brown cheeks.  Until the previous summer, Stuart had courted India Wilkes with the approbation of both families and the entire County.  The County felt that perhaps the cool and contained India Wilkes would have a quieting effect on him.  They fervently hoped so, at any rate. And Stuart might have made the match, but Brent had not been satisfied.  Brent liked India but he thought her mighty plain and tame, and he simply could not fall in love with her himself to keep Stuart company.  That was the first time the twins' interest had ever diverged, and Brent was resentful of his brother's attentions to a girl who seemed to him not at all remarkable.

 Then, last summer at a political speaking in a grove of oak trees at Jonesboro, they both suddenly became aware of Scarlett O'Hara. They had known her for years, and, since their childhood, she had been a favorite playmate, for she could ride horses and climb trees almost as well as they.  But now to their amazement she had become a grown-up young lady and quite the most charming one in all the world.

 They noticed for the first time how her green eyes danced, how deep her dimples were when she laughed, how tiny her hands and feet and what a small waist she had.  Their clever remarks sent her into merry peals of laughter and, inspired by the thought that she considered them a remarkable pair, they fairly outdid themselves.

 It was a memorable day in the life of the twins.  Thereafter, when they talked it over, they always wondered just why they had failed to notice Scarlett's charms before.  They never arrived at the correct answer, which was that Scarlett on that day had decided to make them notice.  She was constitutionally unable to endure any man being in love with any woman not herself, and the sight of India Wilkes and Stuart at the speaking had been too much for her predatory nature.  Not content with Stuart alone, she had set her cap for Brent as well, and with a thoroughness that overwhelmed the two of them.

 Now they were both in love with her, and India Wilkes and Letty Munroe, from Lovejoy, whom Brent had been half-heartedly courting, were far in the back of their minds.  Just what the loser would do, should Scarlett accept either one of them, the twins did not ask.  They would cross that bridge when they came to it.  For the present they were quite satisfied to be in accord again about one girl, for they had no jealousies between them.  It was a situation which interested the neighbors and annoyed their mother, who had no liking for Scarlett.

 "It will serve you right if that sly piece does accept one of you," she said.  "Or maybe she'll accept both of you, and then you'll have to move to Utah, if the Mormons'll have you--which I doubt. . . .  All that bothers me is that some one of these days you're both going to get lickered up and jealous of each other about that two-faced, little, green-eyed baggage, and you'll shoot each other.  But that might not be a bad idea either."

 Since the day of the speaking, Stuart had been uncomfortable in India's presence.  Not that India ever reproached him or even indicated by look or gesture that she was aware of his abruptly changed allegiance.  She was too much of a lady.  But Stuart felt guilty and ill at ease with her.  He knew he had made India love him and he knew that she still loved him and, deep in his heart, he had the feeling that he had not played the gentleman.  He still liked her tremendously and respected her for her cool good breeding, her book learning and all the sterling qualities she possessed.  But, damn it, she was just so pallid and uninteresting and always the same, beside Scarlett's bright and changeable charm.  You always knew where you stood with India and you never had the slightest notion with Scarlett.  That was enough to drive a man to distraction, but it had its charm.

 "Well, let's go over to Cade Calvert's and have supper.  Scarlett said Cathleen was home from Charleston.  Maybe she'll have some news about Fort Sumter that we haven't heard."

 "Not Cathleen.  I'll lay you two to one she didn't even know the fort was out there in the harbor, much less that it was full of Yankees until we shelled them out.  All she'll know about is the balls she went to and the beaux she collected."

 "Well, it's fun to hear her gabble.  And it'll be somewhere to hide out till Ma has gone to bed."

 "Well, hell!  I like Cathleen and she is fun and I'd like to hear about Caro Rhett and the rest of the Charleston folks; but I'm damned if I can stand sitting through another meal with that Yankee stepmother of hers."

 "Don't be too hard on her, Stuart.  She means well."

 "I'm not being hard on her.  I feel sorry for her, but I don't like people I've got to feel sorry for.  And she fusses around so much, trying to do the right thing and make you feel at home, that she always manages to say and do just exactly the wrong thing. She gives me the fidgets!  And she thinks Southerners are wild barbarians.  She even told Ma so.  She's afraid of Southerners. Whenever we're there she always looks scared to death.  She reminds me of a skinny hen perched on a chair, her eyes kind of bright and blank and scared, all ready to flap and squawk at the slightest move anybody makes."

 "Well, you can't blame her.  You did shoot Cade in the leg."

 "Well, I was lickered up or I wouldn't have done it," said Stuart. "And Cade never had any hard feelings.  Neither did Cathleen or Raiford or Mr. Calvert.  It was just that Yankee stepmother who squalled and said I was a wild barbarian and decent people weren't safe around uncivilized Southerners."

 "Well, you can't blame her.  She's a Yankee and ain't got very good manners; and, after all, you did shoot him and he is her stepson."

 "Well, hell!  That's no excuse for insulting me!  You are Ma's own blood son, but did she take on that time Tony Fontaine shot you in the leg?  No, she just sent for old Doc Fontaine to dress it and asked the doctor what ailed Tony's aim.  Said she guessed licker was spoiling his marksmanship.  Remember how mad that made Tony?"

 Both boys yelled with laughter.

 "Ma's a card!" said Brent with loving approval.  "You can always count on her to do the right thing and not embarrass you in front of folks."

 "Yes, but she's mighty liable to talk embarrassing in front of Father and the girls when we get home tonight," said Stuart gloomily.  "Look, Brent.  I guess this means we don't go to Europe.  You know Mother said if we got expelled from another college we couldn't have our Grand Tour."

 "Well, hell!  We don't care, do we?  What is there to see in Europe?  I'll bet those foreigners can't show us a thing we haven't got right here in Georgia.  I'll bet their horses aren't as fast or their girls as pretty, and I know damn well they haven't got any rye whisky that can touch Father's."

 "Ashley Wilkes said they had an awful lot of scenery and music. Ashley liked Europe.  He's always talking about it."

 "Well--you know how the Wilkes are.  They are kind of queer about music and books and scenery.  Mother says it's because their grandfather came from Virginia.  She says Virginians set quite a store by such things."

 "They can have 'em.  Give me a good horse to ride and some good licker to drink and a good girl to court and a bad girl to have fun with and anybody can have their Europe. . . .  What do we care about missing the Tour?  Suppose we were in Europe now, with the war coming on?  We couldn't get home soon enough.  I'd heap rather go to a war than go to Europe."

 "So would I, any day. . . .  Look, Brent!  I know where we can go for supper.  Let's ride across the swamp to Abel Wynder's place and tell him we're all four home again and ready for drill."

 "That's an idea!" cried Brent with enthusiasm.  "And we can hear all the news of the Troop and find out what color they finally decided on for the uniforms."

 "If it's Zouave, I'm damned if I'll go in the troop.  I'd feel like a sissy in those baggy red pants.  They look like ladies' red flannel drawers to me."

 "Is y'all aimin' ter go ter Mist' Wynder's?  'Cause ef you is, you ain' gwine git much supper," said Jeems.  "Dey cook done died, an' dey ain' bought a new one.  Dey got a fe'el han' cookin', an' de niggers tells me she is de wustest cook in de state."

 "Good God!  Why don't they buy another cook?"

 "Huccome po' w'ite trash buy any niggers?  Dey ain' never owned mo'n fo' at de mostes'."

 There was frank contempt in Jeems' voice.  His own social status was assured because the Tarletons owned a hundred negroes and, like all slaves of large planters, he looked down on small farmers whose slaves were few.

 "I'm going to beat your hide off for that," cried Stuart fiercely. Don't you call Abel Wynder 'po' white.'  Sure he's poor, but he ain't trash; and I'm damned if I'll have any man, darky or white, throwing off on him.  There ain't a better man in this County, or why else did the Troop elect him lieutenant?"

 "Ah ain' never figgered dat out, mahseff," replied Jeems, undisturbed by his master's scowl.  "Look ter me lak dey'd 'lect all de awficers frum rich gempmum, 'stead of swamp trash."

 "He ain't trash!  Do you mean to compare him with real white trash like the Slatterys?  Able just ain't rich.  He's a small farmer, not a big planter, and if the boys thought enough of him to elect him lieutenant, then it's not for any darky to talk impudent about him.  The Troop knows what it's doing."

 The troop of cavalry had been organized three months before, the very day that Georgia seceded from the Union, and since then the recruits had been whistling for war.  The outfit was as yet unnamed, though not for want of suggestions.  Everyone had his own idea on that subject and was loath to relinquish it, just as everyone had ideas about the color and cut of the uniforms. "Clayton Wild Cats," "Fire Eaters," "North Georgia Hussars," "Zouaves," "The Inland Rifles" (although the Troop was to be armed with pistols, sabers and bowie knives, and not with rifles), "The Clayton Grays," "The Blood and Thunderers," "The Rough and Readys," all had their adherents.  Until matters were settled, everyone referred to the organization as the Troop and, despite the high-sounding name finally adopted, they were known to the end of their usefulness simply as "The Troop."

 The officers were elected by the members, for no one in the County had had any military experience except a few veterans of the Mexican and Seminole wars and, besides, the Troop would have scorned a veteran as a leader if they had not personally liked him and trusted him.  Everyone liked the four Tarleton boys and the three Fontaines, but regretfully refused to elect them, because the Tarletons got lickered up too quickly and liked to skylark, and the Fontaines had such quick, murderous tempers.  Ashley Wilkes was elected captain, because he was the best rider in the County and because his cool head was counted on to keep some semblance of order.  Raiford Calvert was made first lieutenant, because everybody liked Raif, and Able Wynder, son of a swamp trapper, himself a small farmer, was elected second lieutenant.

 Abel was a shrewd, grave giant, illiterate, kind of heart, older than the other boys and with as good or better manners in the presence of ladies.  There was little snobbery in the Troop.  Too many of their fathers and grandfathers had come up to wealth from the small farmer class for that.  Moreover, Able was the best shot in the Troop, a real sharpshooter who could pick out the eye of a squirrel at seventy-five yards, and, too, he knew all about living outdoors, building fires in the rain, tracking animals and finding water.  The Troop bowed to real worth and moreover, because they liked him, they made him an officer.  He bore the honor gravely and with no untoward conceit, as though it were only his due.  But the planters' ladies and the planters' slaves could not overlook the fact that he was not born a gentleman, even if their men folks could.

 In the beginning, the Troop had been recruited exclusively from the sons of planters, a gentleman's outfit, each man supplying his own horse, arms, equipment, uniform and body servant.  But rich planters were few in the young county of Clayton, and, in order to muster a full-strength troop, it had been necessary to raise more recruits among the sons of small farmers, hunters in the backwoods, swamp trappers, Crackers and, in a very few cases, even poor whites, if they were above the average of their class.

 These latter young men were as anxious to fight the Yankees, should war come, as were their richer neighbors; but the delicate question of money arose.  Few small farmers owned horses.  They carried on their farm operations with mules and they had no surplus of these, seldom more than four.  The mules could not be spared to go off to war, even if they had been acceptable for the Troop, which they emphatically were not.  As for the poor whites, they considered themselves well off if they owned one mule.  The backwoods folks and the swamp dwellers owned neither horses nor mules.  They lived entirely off the produce of their lands and the game in the swamp, conducting their business generally by the barter system and seldom seeing five dollars in cash a year, and horses and uniforms were out of their reach.  But they were as fiercely proud in their poverty as the planters were in their wealth, and they would accept nothing that smacked of charity from their rich neighbors.  So, to save the feelings of all and to bring the Troop up to full strength, Scarlett's father, John Wilkes, Buck Munroe, Jim Tarleton, Hugh Calvert, in fact every large planter in the County with the one exception of Angus MacIntosh, had contributed money to completely outfit the Troop, horse and man.  The upshot of the matter was that every planter agreed to pay for equipping his own sons and a certain number of the others, but the manner of handling the arrangements was such that the less wealthy members of the outfit could accept horses and uniforms without offense to their honor.

 The Troop met twice a week in Jonesboro to drill and to pray for the war to begin.  Arrangements had not yet been completed for obtaining the full quota of horses, but those who had horses performed what they imagined to be cavalry maneuvers in the field behind the courthouse, kicked up a great deal of dust, yelled themselves hoarse and waved the Revolutionary-war swords that had been taken down from parlor walls.  Those who, as yet, had no horses sat on the curb in front of Bullard's store and watched their mounted comrades, chewed tobacco and told yarns.  Or else engaged in shooting matches.  There was no need to teach any of the men to shoot.  Most Southerners were born with guns in their hands, and lives spent in hunting had made marksmen of them all.

 From planters' homes and swamp cabins, a varied array of firearms came to each muster.  There were long squirrel guns that had been new when first the Alleghenies were crossed, old muzzle-loaders that had claimed many an Indian when Georgia was new, horse pistols that had seen service in 1812, in the Seminole wars and in Mexico, silver-mounted dueling pistols, pocket derringers, double- barreled hunting pieces and handsome new rifles of English make with shining stocks of fine wood.

 Drill always ended in the saloons of Jonesboro, and by nightfall so many fights had broken out that the officers were hard put to ward off casualties until the Yankees could inflict them.  It was during one of these brawls that Stuart Tarleton had shot Cade Calvert and Tony Fontaine had shot Brent.  The twins had been at home, freshly expelled from the University of Virginia, at the time the Troop was organized and they had joined enthusiastically; but after the shooting episode, two months ago, their mother had packed them off to the state university, with orders to stay there.  They had sorely missed the excitement of the drills while away, and they counted education well lost if only they could ride and yell and shoot off rifles in the company of their friends.

 "Well, let's cut across country to Abel's," suggested Brent.  "We can go through Mr. O'Hara's river bottom and the Fontaine's pasture and get there in no time."

 "We ain' gwine git nothin' ter eat 'cept possum an' greens," argued Jeems.

 "You ain't going to get anything," grinned Stuart.  "Because you are going home and tell Ma that we won't be home for supper."

 "No, Ah ain'!" cried Jeems in alarm.  "No, Ah ain'!  Ah doan git no mo' fun outer havin' Miss Beetriss lay me out dan y'all does. Fust place she'll ast me huccome Ah let y'all git expelled agin. An' nex' thing, huccome Ah din' bring y'all home ternight so she could lay you out.  An' den she'll light on me lak a duck on a June bug, an' fust thing Ah know Ah'll be ter blame fer it all. Ef y'all doan tek me ter Mist' Wynder's, Ah'll lay out in de woods all night an' maybe de patterollers git me, 'cause Ah heap ruther de patterollers git me dan Miss Beetriss when she in a state."

 The twins looked at the determined black boy in perplexity and indignation.

 "He'd be just fool enough to let the patterollers get him and that would give Ma something else to talk about for weeks.  I swear, darkies are more trouble.  Sometimes I think the Abolitionists have got the right idea."

 "Well, it wouldn't be right to make Jeems face what we don't want to face.  We'll have to take him.  But, look, you impudent black fool, if you put on any airs in front of the Wynder darkies and hint that we all the time have fried chicken and ham, while they don't have nothing but rabbit and possum, I'll--I'll tell Ma.  And we won't let you go to the war with us, either."

 "Airs?  Me put on airs fo' dem cheap niggers?  Nawsuh, Ah got better manners.  Ain' Miss Beetriss taught me manners same as she taught y'all?"

 "She didn't do a very good job on any of the three of us," said Stuart.  "Come on, let's get going."

 He backed his big red horse and then, putting spurs to his side, lifted him easily over the split rail fence into the soft field of Gerald O'Hara's plantation.  Brent's horse followed and then Jeems', with Jeems clinging to pommel and mane.  Jeems did not like to jump fences, but he had jumped higher ones than this in order to keep up with his masters.

 As they picked their way across the red furrows and down the hill to the river bottom in the deepening dusk, Brent yelled to his brother:

 "Look, Stu!  Don't it seem like to you that Scarlett WOULD have asked us to supper?"

 "I kept thinking she would," yelled Stuart.  "Why do you suppose . . ."

 

 CHAPTER II

  When the twins left Scarlett standing on the porch of Tara and the last sound of flying hooves had died away, she went back to her chair like a sleepwalker.  Her face felt stiff as from pain and her mouth actually hurt from having stretched it, unwillingly, in smiles to prevent the twins from learning her secret.  She sat down wearily, tucking one foot under her, and her heart swelled up with misery, until it felt too large for her bosom.  It beat with odd little jerks; her hands were cold, and a feeling of disaster oppressed her.  There were pain and bewilderment in her face, the bewilderment of a pampered child who has always had her own way for the asking and who now, for the first time, was in contact with the unpleasantness of life.

 Ashley to marry Melanie Hamilton!

 Oh, it couldn't be true!  The twins were mistaken.  They were playing one of their jokes on her.  Ashley couldn't, couldn't be in love with her.  Nobody could, not with a mousy little person like Melanie.  Scarlett recalled with contempt Melanie's thin childish figure, her serious heart-shaped face that was plain almost to homeliness.  And Ashley couldn't have seen her in months.  He hadn't been in Atlanta more than twice since the house party he gave last year at Twelve Oaks.  No, Ashley couldn't be in love with Melanie, because--oh, she couldn't be mistaken!--because he was in love with her!  She, Scarlett, was the one he loved--she knew it!

 Scarlett heard Mammy's lumbering tread shaking the floor of the hall and she hastily untucked her foot and tried to rearrange her face in more placid lines.  It would never do for Mammy to suspect that anything was wrong.  Mammy felt that she owned the O'Haras, body and soul, that their secrets were her secrets; and even a hint of a mystery was enough to set her upon the trail as relentlessly as a bloodhound.  Scarlett knew from experience that, if Mammy's curiosity were not immediately satisfied, she would take up the matter with Ellen, and then Scarlett would be forced to reveal everything to her mother, or think up some plausible lie.

 Mammy emerged from the hall, a huge old woman with the small, shrewd eyes of an elephant.  She was shining black, pure African, devoted to her last drop of blood to the O'Haras, Ellen's mainstay, the despair of her three daughters, the terror of the other house servants.  Mammy was black, but her code of conduct and her sense of pride were as high as or higher than those of her owners.  She had been raised in the bedroom of Solange Robillard, Ellen O'Hara's mother, a dainty, cold, high-nosed French-woman, who spared neither her children nor her servants their just punishment for any infringement of decorum.  She had been Ellen's mammy and had come with her from Savannah to the up-country when she married.  Whom Mammy loved, she chastened.  And, as her love for Scarlett and her pride in her were enormous, the chastening process was practically continuous.

 "Is de gempmum gone?  Huccome you din' ast dem ter stay fer supper, Miss Scarlett?  Ah done tole Poke ter lay two extry plates fer dem.  Whar's yo' manners?"

 "Oh, I was so tired of hearing them talk about the war that I couldn't have endured it through supper, especially with Pa joining in and shouting about Mr. Lincoln."

 "You ain' got no mo' manners dan a fe'el han', an' after Miss Ellen an' me done labored wid you.  An' hyah you is widout yo' shawl!  An' de night air fixin' ter set in!  Ah done tole you an' tole you 'bout gittin' fever frum settin' in de night air wid nuthin' on yo' shoulders.  Come on in de house, Miss Scarlett."

 Scarlett turned away from Mammy with studied nonchalance, thankful that her face had been unnoticed in Mammy's preoccupation with the matter of the shawl.

 "No, I want to sit here and watch the sunset.  It's so pretty. You run get my shawl.  Please, Mammy, and I'll sit here till Pa comes home."

 "Yo' voice soun' lak you catchin' a cole," said Mammy suspiciously.

 "Well, I'm not," said Scarlett impatiently.  "You fetch me my shawl."

 Mammy waddled back into the hall and Scarlett heard her call softly up the stairwell to the upstairs maid.

 "You, Rosa!  Drap me Miss Scarlett's shawl."  Then, more loudly: "Wuthless nigger!  She ain' never whar she does nobody no good. Now, Ah got ter climb up an' git it mahseff."

 Scarlett heard the stairs groan and she got softly to her feet. When Mammy returned she would resume her lecture on Scarlett's breach of hospitality, and Scarlett felt that she could not endure prating about such a trivial matter when her heart was breaking. As she stood, hesitant, wondering where she could hide until the ache in her breast subsided a little, a thought came to her, bringing a small ray of hope.  Her father had ridden over to Twelve Oaks, the Wilkes plantation, that afternoon to offer to buy Dilcey, the broad wife of his valet, Pork.  Dilcey was head woman and midwife at Twelve Oaks, and, since the marriage six months ago, Pork had deviled his master night and day to buy Dilcey, so the two could live on the same plantation.  That afternoon, Gerald, his resistance worn thin, had set out to make an offer for Dilcey.

 Surely, thought Scarlett, Pa will know whether this awful story is true.  Even if he hasn't actually heard anything this afternoon, perhaps he's noticed something, sensed some excitement in the Wilkes family.  If I can just see him privately before supper, perhaps I'll find out the truth--that it's just one of the twins' nasty practical jokes.

 It was time for Gerald's return and, if she expected to see him alone, there was nothing for her to do except meet him where the driveway entered the road.  She went quietly down the front steps, looking carefully over her shoulder to make sure Mammy was not observing her from the upstairs windows.  Seeing no broad black face, turbaned in snowy white, peering disapprovingly from between fluttering curtains, she boldly snatched up her green flowered skirts and sped down the path toward the driveway as fast as her small ribbon-laced slippers would carry her.

 The dark cedars on either side of the graveled drive met in an arch overhead, turning the long avenue into a dim tunnel.  As soon as she was beneath the gnarled arms of the cedars, she knew she was safe from observation from the house and she slowed her swift pace.  She was panting, for her stays were laced too tightly to permit much running, but she walked on as rapidly as she could. Soon she was at the end of the driveway and out on the main road, but she did not stop until she had rounded a curve that put a large clump of trees between her and the house.

 Flushed and breathing hard, she sat down on a stump to wait for her father.  It was past time for him to come home, but she was glad that he was late.  The delay would give her time to quiet her breathing and calm her face so that his suspicions would not be aroused.  Every moment she expected to hear the pounding of his horse's hooves and see him come charging up the hill at his usual breakneck speed.  But the minutes slipped by and Gerald did not come.  She looked down the road for him, the pain in her heart swelling up again.

 "Oh, it can't be true!" she thought.  "Why doesn't he come?"

 Her eyes followed the winding road, blood-red now after the morning rain.  In her thought she traced its course as it ran down the hill to the sluggish Flint River, through the tangled swampy bottoms and up the next hill to Twelve Oaks where Ashley lived. That was all the road meant now--a road to Ashley and the beautiful white-columned house that crowned the hill like a Greek Temple.

 "Oh, Ashley!  Ashley!" she thought, and her heart beat faster.

 Some of the cold sense of bewilderment and disaster that had weighted her down since the Tarleton boys told her their gossip was pushed into the background of her mind, and in its place crept the fever that had possessed her for two years.

 It seemed strange now that when she was growing up Ashley had never seemed so very attractive to her.  In childhood days, she had seen him come and go and never given him a thought.  But since that day two years ago when Ashley, newly home from his three years' Grand Tour in Europe, had called to pay his respects, she had loved him.  It was as simple as that.

 She had been on the front porch and he had ridden up the long avenue, dressed in gray broadcloth with a wide black cravat setting off his frilled shirt to perfection.  Even now, she could recall each detail of his dress, how brightly his boots shone, the head of a Medusa in cameo on his cravat pin, the wide Panama hat that was instantly in his hand when he saw her.  He had alighted and tossed his bridle reins to a pickaninny and stood looking up at her, his drowsy gray eyes wide with a smile and the sun so bright on his blond hair that it seemed like a cap of shining silver.  And he said, "So you've grown up, Scarlett."  And, coming lightly up the steps, he had kissed her hand.  And his voice!  She would never forget the leap of her heart as she heard it, as if for the first time, drawling, resonant, musical.

 She had wanted him, in that first instant, wanted him as simply and unreasoningly as she wanted food to eat, horses to ride and a soft bed on which to lay herself.

 For two years he had squired her about the County, to balls, fish fries, picnics and court days, never so often as the Tarleton twins or Cade Calvert, never so importunate as the younger Fontaine boys, but, still, never the week went by that Ashley did not come calling at Tara.

 True, he never made love to her, nor did the clear gray eyes ever glow with that hot light Scarlett knew so well in other men.  And yet--and yet--she knew he loved her.  She could not be mistaken about it.  Instinct stronger than reason and knowledge born of experience told her that he loved her.  Too often she had surprised him when his eyes were neither drowsy nor remote, when he looked at her with a yearning and a sadness which puzzled her. She KNEW he loved her.  Why did he not tell her so?  That she could not understand.  But there were so many things about him that she did not understand.

 He was courteous always, but aloof, remote.  No one could ever tell what he was thinking about, Scarlett least of all.  In a neighborhood where everyone said exactly what he thought as soon as he thought it, Ashley's quality of reserve was exasperating. He was as proficient as any of the other young men in the usual County diversions, hunting, gambling, dancing and politics, and was the best rider of them all; but he differed from all the rest in that these pleasant activities were not the end and aim of life to him.  And he stood alone in his interest in books and music and his fondness for writing poetry.

 Oh, why was he so handsomely blond, so courteously aloof, so maddeningly boring with his talk about Europe and books and music and poetry and things that interested her not at all--and yet so desirable?  Night after night, when Scarlett went to bed after sitting on the front porch in the semi-darkness with him, she tossed restlessly for hours and comforted herself only with the thought that the very next time he saw her he certainly would propose.  But the next time came and went, and the result was nothing--nothing except that the fever possessing her rose higher and hotter.

 She loved him and she wanted him and she did not understand him. She was as forthright and simple as the winds that blew over Tara and the yellow river that wound about it, and to the end of her days she would never be able to understand a complexity.  And now, for the first time in her life, she was facing a complex nature.

 For Ashley was born of a line of men who used their leisure for thinking, not doing, for spinning brightly colored dreams that had in them no touch of reality.  He moved in an inner world that was more beautiful than Georgia and came back to reality with reluctance.  He looked on people, and he neither liked nor disliked them.  He looked on life and was neither heartened nor saddened.  He accepted the universe and his place in it for what they were and, shrugging, turned to his music and books and his better world.

 Why he should have captivated Scarlett when his mind was a stranger to hers she did not know.  The very mystery of him excited her curiosity like a door that had neither lock nor key. The things about him which she could not understand only made her love him more, and his odd, restrained courtship only served to increase her determination to have him for her own.  That he would propose some day she had never doubted, for she was too young and too spoiled ever to have known defeat.  And now, like a thunderclap, had come this horrible news.  Ashley to marry Melanie!  It couldn't be true!

 Why, only last week, when they were riding home at twilight from Fairhill, he had said:  "Scarlett, I have something so important to tell you that I hardly know how to say it."

 She had cast down her eyes demurely, her heart beating with wild pleasure, thinking the happy moment had come.  Then he had said: "Not now!  We're nearly home and there isn't time.  Oh, Scarlett, what a coward I am!"  And putting spurs to his horse, he had raced her up the hill to Tara.

 Scarlett, sitting on the stump, thought of those words which had made her so happy, and suddenly they took on another meaning, a hideous meaning.  Suppose it was the news of his engagement he had intended to tell her!

 Oh, if Pa would only come home!  She could not endure the suspense another moment.  She looked impatiently down the road again, and again she was disappointed.

 The sun was now below the horizon and the red glow at the rim of the world faded into pink.  The sky above turned slowly from azure to the delicate blue-green of a robin's egg, and the unearthly stillness of rural twilight came stealthily down about her. Shadowy dimness crept over the countryside.  The red furrows and the gashed red road lost their magical blood color and became plain brown earth.  Across the road, in the pasture, the horses, mules and cows stood quietly with heads over the split-rail fence, waiting to be driven to the stables and supper.  They did not like the dark shade of the thickets hedging the pasture creek, and they twitched their ears at Scarlett as if appreciative of human companionship.

 In the strange half-light, the tall pines of the river swamp, so warmly green in the sunshine, were black against the pastel sky, an impenetrable row of black giants hiding the slow yellow water at their feet.  On the hill across the river, the tall white chimneys of the Wilkes' home faded gradually into the darkness of the thick oaks surrounding them, and only far-off pin points of supper lamps showed that a house was here.  The warm damp balminess of spring encompassed her sweetly with the moist smells of new-plowed earth and all the fresh green things pushing up to the air.

 Sunset and spring and new-fledged greenery were no miracle to Scarlett.  Their beauty she accepted as casually as the air she breathed and the water she drank, for she had never consciously seen beauty in anything but women's faces, horses, silk dresses and like tangible things.  Yet the serene half-light over Tara's well-kept acres brought a measure of quiet to her disturbed mind. She loved this land so much, without even knowing she loved it, loved it as she loved her mother's face under the lamp at prayer time.

 Still there was no sign of Gerald on the quiet winding road.  If she had to wait much longer, Mammy would certainly come in search of her and bully her into the house.  But even as she strained her eyes down the darkening road, she heard a pounding of hooves at the bottom of the pasture hill and saw the horses and cows scatter in fright.  Gerald O'Hara was coming home across country and at top speed.

 He came up the hill at a gallop on his thick-barreled, long-legged hunter, appearing in the distance like a boy on a too large horse. His long white hair standing out behind him, he urged the horse forward with crop and loud cries.

 Filled with her own anxieties, she nevertheless watched him with affectionate pride, for Gerald was an excellent horseman.

 "I wonder why he always wants to jump fences when he's had a few drinks," she thought.  "And after that fall he had right here last year when he broke his knee.  You'd think he'd learn.  Especially when he promised Mother on oath he'd never jump again."

 Scarlett had no awe of her father and felt him more her contemporary than her sisters, for jumping fences and keeping it a secret from his wife gave him a boyish pride and guilty glee that matched her own pleasure in outwitting Mammy.  She rose from her seat to watch him.

 The big horse reached the fence, gathered himself and soared over as effortlessly as a bird, his rider yelling enthusiastically, his crop beating the air, his white curls jerking out behind him. Gerald did not see his daughter in the shadow of the trees, and he drew rein in the road, patting his horse's neck with approbation.

 "There's none in the County can touch you, nor in the state," he informed his mount, with pride, the brogue of County Meath still heavy on his tongue in spite of thirty-nine years in America. Then he hastily set about smoothing his hair and settling his ruffled shirt and his cravat which had slipped awry behind one ear.  Scarlett knew these hurried preenings were being made with an eye toward meeting his wife with the appearance of a gentleman who had ridden sedately home from a call on a neighbor.  She knew also that he was presenting her with just the opportunity she wanted for opening the conversation without revealing her true purpose.

 She laughed aloud.  As she had intended, Gerald was startled by the sound; then he recognized her, and a look both sheepish and defiant came over his florid face.  He dismounted with difficulty, because his knee was stiff, and, slipping the reins over his arm, stumped toward her.

 "Well, Missy," he said, pinching her cheek, "so, you've been spying on me and, like your sister Suellen last week, you'll be telling your mother on me?"

 There was indignation in his hoarse bass voice but also a wheedling note, and Scarlett teasingly clicked her tongue against her teeth as she reached out to pull his cravat into place.  His breath in her face was strong with Bourbon whisky mingled with a faint fragrance of mint.  Accompanying him also were the smells of chewing tobacco, well-oiled leather and horses--a combination of odors that she always associated with her father and instinctively liked in other men.

 "No, Pa, I'm no tattletale like Suellen," she assured him, standing off to view his rearranged attire with a judicious air.

 Gerald was a small man, little more than five feet tall, but so heavy of barrel and thick of neck that his appearance, when seated, led strangers to think him a larger man.  His thickset torso was supported by short sturdy legs, always incased in the finest leather boots procurable and always planted wide apart like a swaggering small boy's.  Most small people who take themselves seriously are a little ridiculous; but the bantam cock is respected in the barnyard, and so it was with Gerald.  No one would ever have the temerity to think of Gerald O'Hara as a ridiculous little figure.

 He was sixty years old and his crisp curly hair was silver-white, but his shrewd face was unlined and his hard little blue eyes were young with the unworried youthfulness of one who has never taxed his brain with problems more abstract than how many cards to draw in a poker game.  His was as Irish a face as could be found in the length and breadth of the homeland he had left so long ago--round, high colored, short nosed, wide mouthed and belligerent.

 Beneath his choleric exterior Gerald O'Hara had the tenderest of hearts.  He could not bear to see a slave pouting under a reprimand, no matter how well deserved, or hear a kitten mewing or a child crying; but he had a horror of having this weakness discovered.  That everyone who met him did discover his kindly heart within five minutes was unknown to him; and his vanity would have suffered tremendously if he had found it out, for he liked to think that when he bawled orders at the top of his voice everyone trembled and obeyed.  It had never occurred to him that only one voice was obeyed on the plantation--the soft voice of his wife Ellen.  It was a secret he would never learn, for everyone from Ellen down to the stupidest field hand was in a tacit and kindly conspiracy to keep him believing that his word was law.

 Scarlett was impressed less than anyone else by his tempers and his roarings.  She was his oldest child and, now that Gerald knew there would be no more sons to follow the three who lay in the family burying ground, he had drifted into a habit of treating her in a man-to-man manner which she found most pleasant.  She was more like her father than her younger sisters, for Carreen, who had been born Caroline Irene, was delicate and dreamy, and Suellen, christened Susan Elinor, prided herself on her elegance and ladylike deportment.

 Moreover, Scarlett and her father were bound together by a mutual suppression agreement.  If Gerald caught her climbing a fence instead of walking half a mile to a gate, or sitting too late on the front steps with a beau, he castigated her personally and with vehemence, but he did not mention the fact to Ellen or to Mammy. And when Scarlett discovered him jumping fences after his solemn promise to his wife, or learned the exact amount of his losses at poker, as she always did from County gossip, she refrained from mentioning the fact at the supper table in the artfully artless manner Suellen had.  Scarlett and her father each assured the other solemnly that to bring such matters to the ears of Ellen would only hurt her, and nothing would induce them to wound her gentleness.

 Scarlett looked at her father in the fading light, and, without knowing why, she found it comforting to be in his presence.  There was something vital and earthy and coarse about him that appealed to her.  Being the least analytic of people, she did not realize that this was because she possessed in some degree these same qualities, despite sixteen years of effort on the part of Ellen and Mammy to obliterate them.

 "You look very presentable now," she said, "and I don't think anyone will suspect you've been up to your tricks unless you brag about them.  But it does seem to me that after you broke your knee last year, jumping that same fence--"

 "Well, may I be damned if I'll have me own daughter telling me what I shall jump and not jump," he shouted, giving her cheek another pinch.  "It's me own neck, so it is.  And besides, Missy, what are you doing out here without your shawl?"

 Seeing that he was employing familiar maneuvers to extricate himself from unpleasant conversation, she slipped her arm through his and said:  "I was waiting for you.  I didn't know you would be so late.  I just wondered if you had bought Dilcey."

 "Bought her I did, and the price has ruined me.  Bought her and her little wench, Prissy.  John Wilkes was for almost giving them away, but never will I have it said that Gerald O'Hara used friendship in a trade.  I made him take three thousand for the two of them."

 "In the name of Heaven, Pa, three thousand!  And you didn't need to buy Prissy!"

 "Has the time come when me own daughters sit in judgment on me?" shouted Gerald rhetorically.  "Prissy is a likely little wench and so--"

 "I know her.  She's a sly, stupid creature," Scarlett rejoined calmly, unimpressed by his uproar.  "And the only reason you bought her was because Dilcey asked you to buy her."

 Gerald looked crestfallen and embarrassed, as always when caught in a kind deed, and Scarlett laughed outright at his transparency.

 "Well, what if I did?  Was there any use buying Dilcey if she was going to mope about the child?  Well, never again will I let a darky on this place marry off it.  It's too expensive.  Well, come on, Puss, let's go in to supper."

 The shadows were falling thicker now, the last greenish tinge had left the sky and a slight chill was displacing the balminess of spring.  But Scarlett loitered, wondering how to bring up the subject of Ashley without permitting Gerald to suspect her motive. This was difficult, for Scarlett had not a subtle bone in her body; and Gerald was so much like her he never failed to penetrate her weak subterfuges, even as she penetrated his.  And he was seldom tactful in doing it.

 "How are they all over at Twelve Oaks?"

 "About as usual.  Cade Calvert was there and, after I settled about Dilcey, we all set on the gallery and had several toddies. Cade has just come from Atlanta, and it's all upset they are there and talking war and--"

 Scarlett sighed.  If Gerald once got on the subject of war and secession, it would be hours before he relinquished it.  She broke in with another line.

 "Did they say anything about the barbecue tomorrow?"

 "Now that I think of it they did.  Miss--what's-her-name--the sweet little thing who was here last year, you know, Ashley's cousin--oh, yes, Miss Melanie Hamilton, that's the name--she and her brother Charles have already come from Atlanta and--"

 "Oh, so she did come?"

 "She did, and a sweet quiet thing she is, with never a word to say for herself, like a woman should be.  Come now, daughter, don't lag.  Your mother will be hunting for us."

 Scarlett's heart sank at the news.  She had hoped against hope that something would keep Melanie Hamilton in Atlanta where she belonged, and the knowledge that even her father approved of her sweet quiet nature, so different from her own, forced her into the open.

 "Was Ashley there, too?"

 "He was."  Gerald let go of his daughter's arm and turned, peering sharply into her face.  "And if that's why you came out here to wait for me, why didn't you say so without beating around the bush?"

 Scarlett could think of nothing to say, and she felt her face growing red with annoyance.

 "Well, speak up."

 Still she said nothing, wishing that it was permissible to shake one's father and tell him to hush his mouth.

 "He was there and he asked most kindly after you, as did his sisters, and said they hoped nothing would keep you from the barbecue tomorrow.  I'll warrant nothing will," he said shrewdly. "And now, daughter, what's all this about you and Ashley?"

 "There is nothing," she said shortly, tugging at his arm.  "Let's go in, Pa."

 "So now 'tis you wanting to go in," he observed.  "But here I'm going to stand till I'm understanding you.  Now that I think of it, 'tis strange you've been recently.  Has he been trifling with you?  Has he asked to marry you?"

 "No," she said shortly.

 "Nor will he," said Gerald.

 Fury flamed in her, but Gerald waved her quiet with a hand.

 "Hold your tongue, Miss!  I had it from John Wilkes this afternoon in the strictest confidence that Ashley's to marry Miss Melanie. It's to be announced tomorrow."

 Scarlett's hand fell from his arm.  So it was true!

 A pain slashed at her heart as savagely as a wild animal's fangs. Through it all, she felt her father's eyes on her, a little pitying, a little annoyed at being faced with a problem for which he knew no answer.  He loved Scarlett, but it made him uncomfortable to have her forcing her childish problems on him for a solution. Ellen knew all the answers.  Scarlett should have taken her troubles to her.

 "Is it a spectacle you've been making of yourself--of all of us?" he bawled, his voice rising as always in moments of excitement. "Have you been running after a man who's not in love with you, when you could have any of the bucks in the County?"

 Anger and hurt pride drove out some of the pain.

 "I haven't been running after him.  It--it just surprised me."

 "It's lying you are!" said Gerald, and then, peering at her stricken face, he added in a burst of kindliness:  "I'm sorry, daughter.  But after all, you are nothing but a child and there's lots of other beaux."

 "Mother was only fifteen when she married you, and I'm sixteen," said Scarlett, her voice muffled.

 "Your mother was different," said Gerald.  "She was never flighty like you.  Now come, daughter, cheer up, and I'll take you to Charleston next week to visit your Aunt Eulalie and, what with all the hullabaloo they are having over there about Fort Sumter, you'll be forgetting about Ashley in a week."

 "He thinks I'm a child," thought Scarlett, grief and anger choking utterance, "and he's only got to dangle a new toy and I'll forget my bumps."

 "Now, don't be jerking your chin at me," warned Gerald.  "If you had any sense you'd have married Stuart or Brent Tarleton long ago.  Think it over, daughter.  Marry one of the twins and then the plantations will run together and Jim Tarleton and I will build you a fine house, right where they join, in that big pine grove and--"

 "Will you stop treating me like a child!" cried Scarlett.  "I don't want to go to Charleston or have a house or marry the twins. I only want--"  She caught herself but not in time.

 Gerald's voice was strangely quiet and he spoke slowly as if drawing his words from a store of thought seldom used.

 "It's only Ashley you're wanting, and you'll not be having him. And if he wanted to marry you, 'twould be with misgivings that I'd say Yes, for all the fine friendship that's between me and John Wilkes."  And, seeing her startled look, he continued:  "I want my girl to be happy and you wouldn't be happy with him."

 "Oh, I would!  I would!"

 "That you would not, daughter.  Only when like marries like can there be any happiness."

 Scarlett had a sudden treacherous desire to cry out, "But you've been happy, and you and Mother aren't alike," but she repressed it, fearing that he would box her ears for her impertinence.

 "Our people and the Wilkes are different," he went on slowly, fumbling for words.  "The Wilkes are different from any of our neighbors--different from any family I ever knew.  They are queer folk, and it's best that they marry their cousins and keep their queerness to themselves."

 "Why, Pa, Ashley is not--"

 "Hold your whist, Puss!  I said nothing against the lad, for I like him.  And when I say queer, it's not crazy I'm meaning.  He's not queer like the Calverts who'd gamble everything they have on a horse, or the Tarletons who turn out a drunkard or two in every litter, or the Fontaines who are hot-headed little brutes and after murdering a man for a fancied slight.  That kind of queerness is easy to understand, for sure, and but for the grace of God Gerald O'Hara would be having all those faults!  And I don't mean that Ashley would run off with another woman, if you were his wife, or beat you.  You'd be happier if he did, for at least you'd be understanding that.  But he's queer in other ways, and there's no understanding him at all.  I like him, but it's neither heads nor tails I can make of most he says.  Now, Puss, tell me true, do you understand his folderol about books and poetry and music and oil paintings and such foolishness?"

 "Oh, Pa," cried Scarlett impatiently, "if I married him, I'd change all that!"

 "Oh, you would, would you now?" said Gerald testily, shooting a sharp look at her.  "Then it's little enough you are knowing of any man living, let alone Ashley.  No wife has ever changed a husband one whit, and don't you be forgetting that.  And as for changing a Wilkes--God's nightgown, daughter!  The whole family is that way, and they've always been that way.  And probably always will.  I tell you they're born queer.  Look at the way they go tearing up to New York and Boston to hear operas and see oil paintings.  And ordering French and German books by the crate from the Yankees!  And there they sit reading and dreaming the dear God knows what, when they'd be better spending their time hunting and playing poker as proper men should."

 "There's nobody in the County sits a horse better than Ashley," said Scarlett, furious at the slur of effeminacy flung on Ashley, "nobody except maybe his father.  And as for poker, didn't Ashley take two hundred dollars away from you just last week in Jonesboro?"

 "The Calvert boys have been blabbing again," Gerald said resignedly, "else you'd not be knowing the amount.  Ashley can ride with the best and play poker with the best--that's me, Puss! And I'm not denying that when he sets out to drink he can put even the Tarletons under the table.  He can do all those things, but his heart's not in it.  That's why I say he's queer."

 Scarlett was silent and her heart sank.  She could think of no defense for this last, for she knew Gerald was right.  Ashley's heart was in none of the pleasant things he did so well.  He was never more than politely interested in any of the things that vitally interested every one else.

 Rightly interpreting her silence, Gerald patted her arm and said triumphantly:  "There now, Scarlett!  You admit 'tis true.  What would you be doing with a husband like Ashley?  'Tis moonstruck they all are, all the Wilkes."  And then, in a wheedling tone: "When I was mentioning the Tarletons the while ago, I wasn't pushing them.  They're fine lads, but if it's Cade Calvert you're setting your cap after, why, 'tis the same with me.  The Calverts are good folk, all of them, for all the old man marrying a Yankee. And when I'm gone--Whist, darlin', listen to me!  I'll leave Tara to you and Cade--"

 "I wouldn't have Cade on a silver tray," cried Scarlett in fury. "And I wish you'd quit pushing him at me!  I don't want Tara or any old plantation.  Plantations don't amount to anything when--"

 She was going to say "when you haven't the man you want," but Gerald, incensed by the cavalier way in which she treated his proffered gift, the thing which, next to Ellen, he loved best in the whole world uttered a roar.

 "Do you stand there, Scarlett O'Hara, and tell me that Tara--that land--doesn't amount to anything?"

 Scarlett nodded obstinately.  Her heart was too sore to care whether or not she put her father in a temper.

 "Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything," he shouted, his thick, short arms making wide gestures of indignation, "for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts, and don't you be forgetting it!  'Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for--worth dying for."

 "Oh, Pa," she said disgustedly, "you talk like an Irishman!"

 "Have I ever been ashamed of it?  No, 'tis proud I am.  And don't be forgetting that you are half Irish, Miss!  And to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them the land they live on is like their mother.  'Tis ashamed of you I am this minute.  I offer you the most beautiful land in the world--saving County Meath in the Old Country--and what do you do?  You sniff!"

 Gerald had begun to work himself up into a pleasurable shouting rage when something in Scarlett's woebegone face stopped him.

 "But there, you're young.  'Twill come to you, this love of land. There's no getting away from it, if you're Irish.  You're just a child and bothered about your beaux.  When you're older, you'll be seeing how 'tis. . . .  Now, do you be making up your mind about Cade or the twins or one of Evan Munroe's young bucks, and see how fine I turn you out!"

 "Oh, Pa!"

 By this time, Gerald was thoroughly tired of the conversation and thoroughly annoyed that the problem should be upon his shoulders. He felt aggrieved, moreover, that Scarlett should still look desolate after being offered the best of the County boys and Tara, too.  Gerald liked his gifts to be received with clapping of hands and kisses.

 "Now, none of your pouts, Miss.  It doesn't matter who you marry, as long as he thinks like you and is a gentleman and a Southerner and prideful.  For a woman, love comes after marriage."

 "Oh, Pa, that's such an Old Country notion!"

 "And a good notion it is!  All this American business of running around marrying for love, like servants, like Yankees!  The best marriages are when the parents choose for the girl.  For how can a silly piece like yourself tell a good man from a scoundrel?  Now, look at the Wilkes.  What's kept them prideful and strong all these generations?  Why, marrying the likes of themselves, marrying the cousins their family always expects them to marry."

 "Oh," cried Scarlett, fresh pain striking her as Gerald's words brought home the terrible inevitability of the truth.

 Gerald looked at her bowed head and shuffled his feet uneasily.

 "It's not crying you are?" he questioned, fumbling clumsily at her chin, trying to turn her face upward, his own face furrowed with pity.

 "No," she cried vehemently, jerking away.

 "It's lying you are, and I'm proud of it.  I'm glad there's pride in you, Puss.  And I want to see pride in you tomorrow at the barbecue.  I'll not be having the County gossiping and laughing at you for mooning your heart out about a man who never gave you a thought beyond friendship."

 "He did give me a thought," thought Scarlett, sorrowfully in her heart.  "Oh, a lot of thoughts!  I know he did.  I could tell.  If I'd just had a little longer, I know I could have made him say-- Oh, if it only wasn't that the Wilkes always feel that they have to marry their cousins!"

 Gerald took her arm and passed it through his.

 "We'll be going in to supper now, and all this is between us. I'll not be worrying your mother with this--nor do you do it either.  Blow your nose, daughter."

 Scarlett blew her nose on her torn handkerchief, and they started up the dark drive arm in arm, the horse following slowly.  Near the house, Scarlett was at the point of speaking again when she saw her mother in the dim shadows of the porch.  She had on her bonnet, shawl and mittens, and behind her was Mammy, her face like a thundercloud, holding in her hand the black leather bag in which Ellen O'Hara always carried the bandages and medicines she used in doctoring the slaves.  Mammy's lips were large and pendulous and, when indignant, she could push out her lower one to twice its normal length.  It was pushed out now, and Scarlett knew that Mammy was seething over something of which she did not approve.

 "Mr. O'Hara," called Ellen as she saw the two coming up the driveway--Ellen belonged to a generation that was formal even after seventeen years of wedlock and the bearing of six children-- "Mr. O'Hara, there is illness at the Slattery house.  Emmie's baby has been born and is dying and must be baptized.  I am going there with Mammy to see what I can do."

 Her voice was raised questioningly, as though she hung on Gerald's assent to her plan, a mere formality but one dear to the heart of Gerald.

 "In the name of God!" blustered Gerald.  "Why should those white trash take you away just at your supper hour and just when I'm wanting to tell you about the war talk that's going on in Atlanta! Go, Mrs. O'Hara.  You'd not rest easy on your pillow the night if there was trouble abroad and you not there to help."

 "She doan never git no res' on her piller fer hoppin' up at night time nursin' niggers an po' w'ite trash dat could ten' to deyseff," grumbled Mammy in a monotone as she went down the stairs toward the carriage which was waiting in the side drive.

 "Take my place at the table, dear," said Ellen, patting Scarlett's cheek softly with a mittened hand.

 In spite of her choked-back tears, Scarlett thrilled to the never- failing magic of her mother's touch, to the faint fragrance of lemon verbena sachet that came from her rustling silk dress.  To Scarlett, there was something breath-taking about Ellen O'Hara, a miracle that lived in the house with her and awed her and charmed and soothed her.

 Gerald helped his wife into the carriage and gave orders to the coachman to drive carefully.  Toby, who had handled Gerald's horses for twenty years, pushed out his lips in mute indignation at being told how to conduct his own business.  Driving off, with Mammy beside him, each was a perfect picture of pouting African disapproval.

 "If I didn't do so much for those trashy Slatterys that they'd have to pay money for elsewhere," fumed Gerald, "they'd be willing to sell me their miserable few acres of swamp bottom, and the County would be well rid of them."  Then, brightening, in anticipation of one of his practical jokes:  "Come daughter, let's go tell Pork that instead of buying Dilcey, I've sold him to John Wilkes."

 He tossed the reins of his horse to a small pickaninny standing near and started up the steps.  He had already forgotten Scarlett's heartbreak and his mind was only on plaguing his valet. Scarlett slowly climbed the steps after him, her feet leaden.  She thought that, after all, a mating between herself and Ashley could be no queerer than that of her father and Ellen Robillard O'Hara. As always, she wondered how her loud, insensitive father had managed to marry a woman like her mother, for never were two people further apart in birth, breeding and habits of mind.

 

 CHAPTER III

  Ellen O'Hara was thirty-two years old, and, according to the standards of her day, she was a middle-aged woman, one who had borne six children and buried three.  She was a tall woman, standing a head higher than her fiery little husband, but she moved with such quiet grace in her swaying hoops that the height attracted no attention to itself.  Her neck, rising from the black taffeta sheath of her basque, was creamy-skinned, rounded and slender, and it seemed always tilted slightly backward by the weight of her luxuriant hair in its net at the back of her head. From her French mother, whose parents had fled Haiti in the Revolution of 1791, had come her slanting dark eyes, shadowed by inky lashes, and her black hair; and from her father, a soldier of Napoleon, she had her long straight nose and her square-cut jaw that was softened by the gentle curving of her cheeks.  But only from life could Ellen's face have acquired its look of pride that had no haughtiness, its graciousness, its melancholy and its utter lack of humor.

 She would have been a strikingly beautiful woman had there been any glow in her eyes, any responsive warmth in her smile or any spontaneity in her voice that fell with gentle melody on the ears of her family and her servants.  She spoke in the soft slurring voice of the coastal Georgian, liquid of vowels, kind to consonants and with the barest trace of French accent.  It was a voice never raised in command to a servant or reproof to a child but a voice that was obeyed instantly at Tara, where her husband's blustering and roaring were quietly disregarded.

 As far back as Scarlett could remember, her mother had always been the same, her voice soft and sweet whether in praising or in reproving, her manner efficient and unruffled despite the daily emergencies of Gerald's turbulent household, her spirit always calm and her back unbowed, even in the deaths of her three baby sons.  Scarlett had never seen her mother's back touch the back of any chair on which she sat.  Nor had she ever seen her sit down without a bit of needlework in her hands, except at mealtime, while attending the sick or while working at the bookkeeping of the plantation.  It was delicate embroidery if company were present, but at other times her hands were occupied with Gerald's ruffled shirts, the girls' dresses or garments for the slaves. Scarlett could not imagine her mother's hands without her gold thimble or her rustling figure unaccompanied by the small negro girl whose sole function in life was to remove basting threads and carry the rosewood sewing box from room to room, as Ellen moved about the house superintending the cooking, the cleaning and the wholesale clothes-making for the plantation.

 She had never seen her mother stirred from her austere placidity, nor her personal appointments anything but perfect, no matter what the hour of day or night.  When Ellen was dressing for a ball or for guests or even to go to Jonesboro for Court Day, it frequently required two hours, two maids and Mammy to turn her out to her own satisfaction; but her swift toilets in times of emergency were amazing.

 Scarlett, whose room lay across the hall from her mother's, knew from babyhood the soft sound of scurrying bare black feet on the hardwood floor in the hours of dawn, the urgent tappings on her mother's door, and the muffled, frightened negro voices that whispered of sickness and birth and death in the long row of whitewashed cabins in the quarters.  As a child, she often had crept to the door and, peeping through the tiniest crack, had seen Ellen emerge from the dark room, where Gerald's snores were rhythmic and untroubled, into the flickering light of an upheld candle, her medicine case under her arm, her hair smoothed neatly place, and no button on her basque unlooped.

 It had always been so soothing to Scarlett to hear her mother whisper, firmly but compassionately, as she tiptoed down the hall: "Hush, not so loudly.  You will wake Mr. O'Hara.  They are not sick enough to die."

 Yes, it was good to creep back into bed and know that Ellen was abroad in the night and everything was right.

 In the mornings, after all-night sessions at births and deaths, when old Dr. Fontaine and young Dr. Fontaine were both out on calls and could not be found to help her, Ellen presided at the breakfast table as usual, her dark eyes circled with weariness but her voice and manner revealing none of the strain.  There was a steely quality under her stately gentleness that awed the whole household, Gerald as well as the girls, though he would have died rather than admit it.

 Sometimes when Scarlett tiptoed at night to kiss her tall mother's cheek, she looked up at the mouth with its too short, too tender upper lip, a mouth too easily hurt by the world, and wondered if it had ever curved in silly girlish giggling or whispered secrets through long nights to intimate girl friends.  But no, that wasn't possible.  Mother had always been just as she was, a pillar of strength, a fount of wisdom, the one person who knew the answers to everything.

 But Scarlett was wrong, for, years before, Ellen Robillard of Savannah had giggled as inexplicably as any fifteen-year-old in that charming coastal city and whispered the long nights through with friends, exchanging confidences, telling all secrets but one. That was the year when Gerald O'Hara, twenty-eight years older than she, came into her life--the year, too, when youth and her black-eyed cousin, Philippe Robillard, went out of it.  For when Philippe, with his snapping eyes and his wild ways, left Savannah forever, he took with him the glow that was in Ellen's heart and left for the bandy-legged little Irishman who married her only a gentle shell.

 But that was enough for Gerald, overwhelmed at his unbelievable luck in actually marrying her.  And if anything was gone from her, he never missed it.  Shrewd man that he was, he knew that it was no less than a miracle that he, an Irishman with nothing of family and wealth to recommend him, should win the daughter of one of the wealthiest and proudest families on the Coast.  For Gerald was a self-made man.

 

 Gerald had come to America from Ireland when he was twenty-one. He had come hastily, as many a better and worse Irishman before and since, with the clothes he had on his back, two shillings above his passage money and a price on his head that he felt was larger than his misdeed warranted.  There was no Orangeman this side of hell worth a hundred pounds to the British government or to the devil himself; but if the government felt so strongly about the death of an English absentee landlord's rent agent, it was time for Gerald O'Hara to be leaving and leaving suddenly.  True, he had called the rent agent "a bastard of an Orangeman," but that, according to Gerald's way of looking at it, did not give the man any right to insult him by whistling the opening bars of "The Boyne Water."

 The Battle of the Boyne had been fought more than a hundred years before, but, to the O'Haras and their neighbors, it might have been yesterday when their hopes and their dreams, as well as their lands and wealth, went off in the same cloud of dust that enveloped a frightened and fleeing Stuart prince, leaving William of Orange and his hated troops with their orange cockades to cut down the Irish adherents of the Stuarts.

 For this and other reasons, Gerald's family was not inclined to view the fatal outcome of this quarrel as anything very serious, except for the fact that it was charged with serious consequences. For years, the O'Haras had been in bad odor with the English constabulary on account of suspected activities against the government, and Gerald was not the first O'Hara to take his foot in his hand and quit Ireland between dawn and morning.  His two oldest brothers, James and Andrew, he hardly remembered, save as close-lipped youths who came and went at odd hours of the night on mysterious errands or disappeared for weeks at a time, to their mother's gnawing anxiety.  They had come to America years before, after the discovery of a small arsenal of rifles buried under the O'Hara pigsty.  Now they were successful merchants in Savannah, "though the dear God alone knows where that may be," as their mother always interpolated when mentioning the two oldest of her male brood, and it was to them that young Gerald was sent.

 He left home with his mother's hasty kiss on his cheek and her fervent Catholic blessing in his ears, and his father's parting admonition, "Remember who ye are and don't be taking nothing off no man."  His five tall brothers gave him good-by with admiring but slightly patronizing smiles, for Gerald was the baby and the little one of a brawny family.

 His five brothers and their father stood six feet and over and broad in proportion, but little Gerald, at twenty-one, knew that five feet four and a half inches was as much as the Lord in His wisdom was going to allow him.  It was like Gerald that he never wasted regrets on his lack of height and never found it an obstacle to his acquisition of anything he wanted.  Rather, it was Gerald's compact smallness that made him what he was, for he had learned early that little people must be hardy to survive among large ones.  And Gerald was hardy.

 His tall brothers were a grim, quiet lot, in whom the family tradition of past glories, lost forever, rankled in unspoken hate and crackled out in bitter humor.  Had Gerald been brawny, he would have gone the way of the other O'Haras and moved quietly and darkly among the rebels against the government.  But Gerald was "loud-mouthed and bullheaded," as his mother fondly phrased it, hair trigger of temper, quick with his fists and possessed of a chip on his shoulder so large as to be almost visible to the naked eye.  He swaggered among the tall O'Haras like a strutting bantam in a barnyard of giant Cochin roosters, and they loved him, baited him affectionately to hear him roar and hammered on him with their large fists no more than was necessary to keep a baby brother in his proper place.

 If the educational equipment which Gerald brought to America was scant, he did not even know it.  Nor would he have cared if he had been told.  His mother had taught him to read and to write a clear hand.  He was adept at ciphering.  And there his book knowledge stopped.  The only Latin he knew was the responses of the Mass and the only history the manifold wrongs of Ireland.  He knew no poetry save that of Moore and no music except the songs of Ireland that had come down through the years.  While he entertained the liveliest respect for those who had more book learning than he, he never felt his own lack.  And what need had he of these things in a new country where the most ignorant of bogtrotters had made great fortunes? in this country which asked only that a man be strong and unafraid of work?

 Nor did James and Andrew, who took him into their store in Savannah, regret his lack of education.  His clear hand, his accurate figures and his shrewd ability in bargaining won their respect, where a knowledge of literature and a fine appreciation of music, had young Gerald possessed them, would have moved them to snorts of contempt.  America, in the early years of the century, had been kind to the Irish.  James and Andrew, who had begun by hauling goods in covered wagons from Savannah to Georgia's inland towns, had prospered into a store of their own, and Gerald prospered with them.

 He liked the South, and he soon became, in his own opinion, a Southerner.  There was much about the South--and Southerners--that he would never comprehend: but, with the wholeheartedness that was his nature, he adopted its ideas and customs, as he understood them, for his own--poker and horse racing, red-hot politics and the code duello, States' Rights and damnation to all Yankees, slavery and King Cotton, contempt for white trash and exaggerated courtesy to women.  He even learned to chew tobacco.  There was no need for him to acquire a good head for whisky, he had been born with one.

 But Gerald remained Gerald.  His habits of living and his ideas changed, but his manners he would not change, even had he been able to change them.  He admired the drawling elegance of the wealthy rice and cotton planters, who rode into Savannah from their moss-hung kingdoms, mounted on thoroughbred horses and followed by the carriages of their equally elegant ladies and the wagons of their slaves.  But Gerald could never attain elegance. Their lazy, blurred voices fell pleasantly on his ears, but his own brisk brogue clung to his tongue.  He liked the casual grace with which they conducted affairs of importance, risking a fortune, a plantation or a slave on the turn of a card and writing off their losses with careless good humor and no more ado than when they scattered pennies to pickaninnies.  But Gerald had known poverty, and he could never learn to lose money with good humor or good grace.  They were a pleasant race, these coastal Georgians, with their soft-voiced, quick rages and their charming inconsistencies, and Gerald liked them.  But there was a brisk and restless vitality about the young Irishman, fresh from a country where winds blew wet and chill, where misty swamps held no fevers, that set him apart from these indolent gentlefolk of semi-tropical weather and malarial marshes.

 From them he learned what he found useful, and the rest he dismissed.  He found poker the most useful of all Southern customs, poker and a steady head for whisky; and it was his natural aptitude for cards and amber liquor that brought to Gerald two of his three most prized possessions, his valet and his plantation.  The other was his wife, and he could only attribute her to the mysterious kindness of God.

 The valet, Pork by name, shining black, dignified and trained in all the arts of sartorial elegance, was the result of an all-night poker game with a planter from St. Simons Island, whose courage in a bluff equaled Gerald's but whose head for New Orleans rum did not.  Though Pork's former owner later offered to buy him back at twice his value, Gerald obstinately refused, for the possession of his first slave, and that slave the "best damn valet on the Coast," was the first step upward toward his heart's desire, Gerald wanted to be a slave owner and a landed gentleman.

 His mind was made up that he was not going to spend all of his days, like James and Andrew, in bargaining, or all his nights, by candlelight, over long columns of figures.  He felt keenly, as his brothers did not, the social stigma attached to those "in trade." Gerald wanted to be a planter.  With the deep hunger of an Irishman who has been a tenant on the lands his people once had owned and hunted, he wanted to see his own acres stretching green before his eyes.  With a ruthless singleness of purpose, he desired his own house, his own plantation, his own horse, his own slaves.  And here in this new country, safe from the twin perils of the land he had left--taxation that ate up crops and barns and the ever-present threat of sudden confiscation--he intended to have them.  But having that ambition and bringing it to realization were two different matters, he discovered as time went by.  Coastal Georgia was too firmly held by an entrenched aristocracy for him ever to hope to win the place he intended to have.

 Then the hand of Fate and a hand of poker combined to give him the plantation which he afterwards called Tara, and at the same time moved him out of the Coast into the upland country of north Georgia.

 It was in a saloon in Savannah, on a hot night in spring, when the chance conversation of a stranger sitting near by made Gerald prick up his ears.  The stranger, a native of Savannah, had just returned after twelve years in the inland country.  He had been one of the winners in the land lottery conducted by the State to divide up the vast area in middle Georgia, ceded by the Indians the year before Gerald came to America.  He had gone up there and established a plantation; but, now the house had burned down, he was tired of the "accursed place" and would be most happy to get it off his hands.

 Gerald, his mind never free of the thought of owning a plantation of his own, arranged an introduction, and his interest grew as the stranger told how the northern section of the state was filling up with newcomers from the Carolinas and Virginia.  Gerald had lived in Savannah long enough to acquire a viewpoint of the Coast--that all of the rest of the state was backwoods, with an Indian lurking in every thicket.  In transacting business for O'Hara Brothers, he had visited Augusta, a hundred miles up the Savannah River, and he had traveled inland far enough to visit the old towns westward from that city.  He knew that section to be as well settled as the Coast, but from the stranger's description, his plantation was more than two hundred and fifty miles inland from Savannah to the north and west, and not many miles south of the Chattahoochee River.  Gerald knew that northward beyond that stream the land was still held by the Cherokees, so it was with amazement that he heard the stranger jeer at suggestions of trouble with the Indians and narrate how thriving towns were growing up and plantations prospering in the new country.

 An hour later when the conversation began to lag, Gerald, with a guile that belied the wide innocence of his bright blue eyes, proposed a game.  As the night wore on and the drinks went round, there came a time when all the others in the game laid down their hands and Gerald and the stranger were battling alone.  The stranger shoved in all his chips and followed with the deed to his plantation.  Gerald shoved in all his chips and laid on top of them his wallet.  If the money it contained happened to belong to the firm of O'Hara Brothers, Gerald's conscience was not sufficiently troubled to confess it before Mass the following morning.  He knew what he wanted, and when Gerald wanted something he gained it by taking the most direct route.  Moreover, such was his faith in his destiny and four dueces that he never for a moment wondered just how the money would be paid back should a higher hand be laid down across the table.

 "It's no bargain you're getting and I am glad not to have to pay more taxes on the place," sighed the possessor of an "ace full," as he called for pen and ink.  "The big house burned a year ago and the fields are growing up in brush and seedling pine.  But it's yours."

 "Never mix cards and whisky unless you were weaned on Irish poteen," Gerald told Pork gravely the same evening, as Pork assisted him to bed.  And the valet, who had begun to attempt a brogue out of admiration for his new master, made requisite answer in a combination of Geechee and County Meath that would have puzzled anyone except those two alone.

 The muddy Flint River, running silently between walls of pine and water oak covered with tangled vines, wrapped about Gerald's new land like a curving arm and embraced it on two sides.  To Gerald, standing on the small knoll where the house had been, this tall barrier of green was as visible and pleasing an evidence of ownership as though it were a fence that he himself had built to mark his own.  He stood on the blackened foundation stones of the burned building, looked down the long avenue of trees leading toward the road and swore lustily, with a joy too deep for thankful prayer.  These twin lines of somber trees were his, his the abandoned lawn, waist high in weeds under white-starred young magnolia trees.  The uncultivated fields, studded with tiny pines and underbrush, that stretched their rolling red-clay surface away into the distance on four sides belonged to Gerald O'Hara--were all his because he had an unbefuddled Irish head and the courage to stake everything on a hand of cards.

 Gerald closed his eyes and, in the stillness of the unworked acres, he felt that he had come home.  Here under his feet would rise a house of whitewashed brick.  Across the road would be new rail fences, inclosing fat cattle and blooded horses, and the red earth that rolled down the hillside to the rich river bottom land would gleam white as eiderdown in the sun--cotton, acres and acres of cotton!  The fortunes of the O'Haras would rise again.

 With his own small stake, what he could borrow from his unenthusiastic brothers and a neat sum from mortgaging the land, Gerald bought his first field hands and came to Tara to live in bachelor solitude in the four-room overseer's house, till such a time as the white walls of Tara should rise.

 He cleared the fields and planted cotton and borrowed more money from James and Andrew to buy more slaves.  The O'Haras were a clannish tribe, clinging to one another in prosperity as well as in adversity, not for any overweening family affection but because they had learned through grim years that to survive a family must present an unbroken front to the world.  They lent Gerald the money and, in the years that followed, the money came back to them with interest.  Gradually the plantation widened out, as Gerald bought more acres lying near him, and in time the white house became a reality instead of a dream.

 It was built by slave labor, a clumsy sprawling building that crowned the rise of ground overlooking the green incline of pasture land running down to the river; and it pleased Gerald greatly, for, even when new, it wore a look of mellowed years. The old oaks, which had seen Indians pass under their limbs, hugged the house closely with their great trunks and towered their branches over the roof in dense shade.  The lawn, reclaimed from weeds, grew thick with clover and Bermuda grass, and Gerald saw to it that it was well kept.  From the avenue of cedars to the row of white cabins in the slave quarters, there was an air of solidness, of stability and permanence about Tara, and whenever Gerald galloped around the bend in the road and saw his own roof rising through green branches, his heart swelled with pride as though each sight of it were the first sight.

 He had done it all, little, hard-headed, blustering Gerald.

 Gerald was on excellent terms with all his neighbors in the County, except the MacIntoshes whose land adjoined his on the left and the Slatterys whose meager three acres stretched on his right along the swamp bottoms between the river and John Wilkes' plantation.

 The MacIntoshes were Scotch-Irish and Orangemen and, had they possessed all the saintly qualities of the Catholic calendar, this ancestry would have damned them forever in Gerald's eyes.  True, they had lived in Georgia for seventy years and, before that, had spent a generation in the Carolinas; but the first of the family who set foot on American shores had come from Ulster, and that was enough for Gerald.

 They were a close-mouthed and stiff-necked family, who kept strictly to themselves and intermarried with their Carolina relatives, and Gerald was not alone in disliking them, for the County people were neighborly and sociable and none too tolerant of anyone lacking in those same qualities.  Rumors of Abolitionist sympathies did not enhance the popularity of the MacIntoshes.  Old Angus had never manumitted a single slave and had committed the unpardonable social breach of selling some of his negroes to passing slave traders en route to the cane fields of Louisiana, but the rumors persisted.

 "He's an Abolitionist, no doubt," observed Gerald to John Wilkes. "But, in an Orangeman, when a principle comes up against Scotch tightness, the principle fares ill."

 The Slatterys were another affair.  Being poor white, they were not even accorded the grudging respect that Angus MacIntosh's dour independence wrung from neighboring families.  Old Slattery, who clung persistently to his few acres, in spite of repeated offers from Gerald and John Wilkes, was shiftless and whining.  His wife was a snarly-haired woman, sickly and washed-out of appearance, the mother of a brood of sullen and rabbity-looking children-- a brood which was increased regularly every year.  Tom Slattery owned no slaves, and he and his two oldest boys spasmodically worked their few acres of cotton, while the wife and younger children tended what was supposed to be a vegetable garden.  But, somehow, the cotton always failed, and the garden, due to Mrs. Slattery's constant childbearing, seldom furnished enough to feed her flock.

 The sight of Tom Slattery dawdling on his neighbors' porches, begging cotton seed for planting or a side of bacon to "tide him over," was a familiar one.  Slattery hated his neighbors with what little energy he possessed, sensing their contempt beneath their courtesy, and especially did he hate "rich folks' uppity niggers." The house negroes of the County considered themselves superior to white trash, and their unconcealed scorn stung him, while their more secure position in life stirred his envy.  By contrast with his own miserable existence, they were well-fed, well-clothed and looked after in sickness and old age.  They were proud of the good names of their owners and, for the most part, proud to belong to people who were quality, while he was despised by all.

 Tom Slattery could have sold his farm for three times its value to any of the planters in the County.  They would have considered it money well spent to rid the community of an eyesore, but he was well satisfied to remain and to subsist miserably on the proceeds of a bale of cotton a year and the charity of his neighbors.

 With all the rest of the County, Gerald was on terms of amity and some intimacy.  The Wilkeses, the Calverts, the Tarletons, the Fontaines, all smiled when the small figure on the big white horse galloped up their driveways, smiled and signaled for tall glasses in which a pony of Bourbon had been poured over a teaspoon of sugar and a sprig of crushed mint.  Gerald was likable, and the neighbors learned in time what the children, negroes and dogs discovered at first sight, that a kind heart, a ready and sympathetic ear and an open pocketbook lurked just behind his bawling voice and his truculent manner.

 His arrival was always amid a bedlam of hounds barking and small black children shouting as they raced to meet him, quarreling for the privilege of holding his horse and squirming and grinning under his good-natured insults.  The white children clamored to sit on his knee and be trotted, while he denounced to their elders the infamy of Yankee politicians; the daughters of his friends took him into their confidence about their love affairs, and the youths of the neighborhood, fearful of confessing debts of honor upon the carpets of their fathers, found him a friend in need.

 "So, you've been owning this for a month, you young rascal!" he would shout.  "And, in God's name, why haven't you been asking me for the money before this?"

 His rough manner of speech was too well known to give offense, and it only made the young men grin sheepishly and reply:  "Well, sir, I hated to trouble you, and my father--"

 "Your father's a good man, and no denying it, but strict, and so take this and let's be hearing no more of it."

 The planters' ladies were the last to capitulate.  But, when Mrs. Wilkes, "a great lady and with a rare gift for silence," as Gerald characterized her, told her husband one evening, after Gerald's horse had pounded down the driveway.  "He has a rough tongue, but he is a gentleman," Gerald had definitely arrived.

 He did not know that he had taken nearly ten years to arrive, for it never occurred to him that his neighbors had eyed him askance at first.  In his own mind, there had never been any doubt that he belonged, from the moment he first set foot on Tara.

 When Gerald was forty-three, so thickset of body and florid of face that he looked like a hunting squire out of a sporting print, it came to him that Tara, dear though it was, and the County folk, with their open hearts and open houses, were not enough.  He wanted a wife.

 Tara cried out for a mistress.  The fat cook, a yard negro elevated by necessity to the kitchen, never had the meals on time, and the chambermaid, formerly a field hand, let dust accumulate on the furniture and never seemed to have clean linen on hand, so that the arrival of guests was always the occasion of much stirring and to-do.  Pork, the only trained house negro on the place, had general supervision over the other servants, but even he had grown slack and careless after several years of exposure to Gerald's happy-go-lucky mode of living.  As valet, he kept Gerald's bedroom in order, and, as butler, he served the meals with dignity and style, but otherwise he pretty well let matters follow their own course.

 With unerring African instinct, the negroes had all discovered that Gerald had a loud bark and no bite at all, and they took shameless advantage of him.  The air was always thick with threats of selling slaves south and of direful whippings, but there never had been a slave sold from Tara and only one whipping, and that administered for not grooming down Gerald's pet horse after a long day's hunting.

 Gerald's sharp blue eyes noticed how efficiently his neighbors' houses were run and with what ease the smooth-haired wives in rustling skirts managed their servants.  He had no knowledge of the dawn-till-midnight activities of these women, chained to supervision of cooking, nursing, sewing and laundering.  He only saw the outward results, and those results impressed him.

 The urgent need of a wife became clear to him one morning when he was dressing to ride to town for Court Day.  Pork brought forth his favorite ruffled shirt, so inexpertly mended by the chambermaid as to be unwearable by anyone except his valet.

 "Mist' Gerald," said Pork, gratefully rolling up the shirt as Gerald fumed, "whut you needs is a wife, and a wife whut has got plen'y of house niggers."

 Gerald upbraided Pork for his impertinence, but he knew that he was right.  He wanted a wife and he wanted children and, if he did not acquire them soon, it would be too late.  But he was not going to marry just anyone, as Mr. Calvert had done, taking to wife the Yankee governess of his motherless children.  His wife must be a lady and a lady of blood, with as many airs and graces as Mrs. Wilkes and the ability to manage Tara as well as Mrs. Wilkes ordered her own domain.

 But there were two difficulties in the way of marriage into the County families.  The first was the scarcity of girls of marriageable age.  The second, and more serious one, was that Gerald was a "new man," despite his nearly ten years' residence, and a foreigner.  No one knew anything about his family.  While the society of up-country Georgia was not so impregnable as that of the Coast aristocrats, no family wanted a daughter to wed a man about whose grandfather nothing was known.

 Gerald knew that despite the genuine liking of the County men with whom he hunted, drank and talked politics there was hardly one whose daughter he could marry.  And he did not intend to have it gossiped about over supper tables that this, that or the other father had regretfully refused to let Gerald O'Hara pay court to his daughter.  This knowledge did not make Gerald feel inferior to his neighbors.  Nothing could ever make Gerald feel that he was inferior in any way to anyone.  It was merely a quaint custom of the County that daughters only married into families who had lived in the South much longer than twenty-two years, had owned land and slaves and been addicted only to the fashionable vices during that time.

 "Pack up.  We're going to Savannah," he told Pork.  "And if I hear you say 'Whist!' or 'Faith!' but once, it's selling you I'll be doing, for they are words I seldom say meself."

 James and Andrew might have some advice to offer on this subject of marriage, and there might be daughters among their old friends who would both meet his requirements and find him acceptable as a husband.  James and Andrew listened to his story patiently but they gave him little encouragement.  They had no Savannah relatives to whom they might look for assistance, for they had been married when they came to America.  And the daughters of their old friends had long since married and were raising small children of their own.

 "You're not a rich man and you haven't a great family," said James.

 "I've made me money and I can make a great family.  And I won't be marrying just anyone."

 "You fly high," observed Andrew, dryly.

 But they did their best for Gerald.  James and Andrew were old men and they stood well in Savannah.  They had many friends, and for a month they carried Gerald from home to home, to suppers, dances and picnics.

 "There's only one who takes me eye," Gerald said finally.  "And she not even born when I landed here."

 "And who is it takes your eye?"

 "Miss Ellen Robillard," said Gerald, trying to speak casually, for the slightly tilting dark eyes of Ellen Robillard had taken more than his eye.  Despite a mystifying listlessness of manner, so strange in a girl of fifteen, she charmed him.  Moreover, there was a haunting look of despair about her that went to his heart and made him more gentle with her than he had ever been with any person in all the world.

 "And you old enough to be her father!"

 "And me in me prime!" cried Gerald stung.

 James spoke gently.

 "Jerry, there's no girl in Savannah you'd have less chance of marrying.  Her father is a Robillard, and those French are proud as Lucifer.  And her mother--God rest her soul--was a very great lady."

 "I care not," said Gerald heatedly.  "Besides, her mother is dead, and old man Robillard likes me."

 "As a man, yes, but as a son-in-law, no."

 "The girl wouldn't have you anyway," interposed Andrew.  "She's been in love with that wild buck of a cousin of hers, Philippe Robillard, for a year now, despite her family being at her morning and night to give him up."

 "He's been gone to Louisiana this month now," said Gerald.

 "And how do you know?"

 "I know," answered Gerald, who did not care to disclose that Pork had supplied this valuable bit of information, or that Philippe had departed for the West at the express desire of his family. "And I do not think she's been so much in love with him that she won't forget him.  Fifteen is too young to know much about love."

 "They'd rather have that breakneck cousin for her than you."

 So, James and Andrew were as startled as anyone when the news came out that the daughter of Pierre Robillard was to marry the little Irishman from up the country.  Savannah buzzed behind its doors and speculated about Philippe Robillard, who had gone West, but the gossiping brought no answer.  Why the loveliest of the Robillard daughters should marry a loud-voiced, red-faced little man who came hardly up to her ears remained a mystery to all.

 Gerald himself never quite knew how it all came about.  He only knew that a miracle had happened.  And, for once in his life, he was utterly humble when Ellen, very white but very calm, put a light hand on his arm and said:  "I will marry you, Mr. O'Hara."

 The thunderstruck Robillards knew the answer in part, but only Ellen and her mammy ever knew the whole story of the night when the girl sobbed till the dawn like a broken-hearted child and rose up in the morning a woman with her mind made up.

 With foreboding, Mammy had brought her young mistress a small package, addressed in a strange hand from New Orleans, a package containing a miniature of Ellen, which she flung to the floor with a cry, four letters in her own handwriting to Philippe Robillard, and a brief letter from a New Orleans priest, announcing the death of her cousin in a barroom brawl.

 "They drove him away, Father and Pauline and Eulalie.  They drove him away.  I hate them.  I hate them all.  I never want to see them again.  I want to get away.  I will go away where I'll never see them again, or this town, or anyone who reminds me of--of-- him."

 And when the night was nearly spent, Mammy, who had cried herself out over her mistress' dark head, protested, "But, honey, you kain do dat!"

 "I will do it.  He is a kind man.  I will do it or go into the convent at Charleston."

 It was the threat of the convent that finally won the assent of bewildered and heartstricken Pierre Robillard.  He was staunchly Presbyterian, even though his family were Catholic, and the thought of his daughter becoming a nun was even worse than that of her marrying Gerald O'Hara.  After all, the man had nothing against him but a lack of family.

 So, Ellen, no longer Robillard, turned her back on Savannah, never to see it again, and with a middle-aged husband, Mammy, and twenty "house niggers" journeyed toward Tara.

 The next year, their first child was born and they named her Katie Scarlett, after Gerald's mother.  Gerald was disappointed, for he had wanted a son, but he nevertheless was pleased enough over his small black-haired daughter to serve rum to every slave at Tara and to get roaringly, happily drunk himself.

 If Ellen had ever regretted her sudden decision to marry him, no one ever knew it, certainly not Gerald, who almost burst with pride whenever he looked at her.  She had put Savannah and its memories behind her when she left that gently mannered city by the sea, and, from the moment of her arrival in the County, north Georgia was her home.

 When she departed from her father's house forever, she had left a home whose lines were as beautiful and flowing as a woman's body, as a ship in full sail; a pale pink stucco house built in the French colonial style, set high from the ground in a dainty manner, approached by swirling stairs, banistered with wrought iron as delicate as lace; a dim, rich house, gracious but aloof.

 She had left not only that graceful dwelling but also the entire civilization that was behind the building of it, and she found herself in a world that was as strange and different as if she had crossed a continent.

 Here in north Georgia was a rugged section held by a hardy people. High up on the plateau at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she saw rolling red hills wherever she looked, with huge outcroppings of the underlying granite and gaunt pines towering somberly everywhere.  It all seemed wild and untamed to her coast- bred eyes accustomed to the quiet jungle beauty of the sea islands draped in their gray moss and tangled green, the white stretches of beach hot beneath a semitropic sun, the long flat vistas of sandy land studded with palmetto and palm.

 This was a section that knew the chill of winter, as well as the heat of summer, and there was a vigor and energy in the people that was strange to her.  They were a kindly people, courteous, generous, filled with abounding good nature, but sturdy, virile, easy to anger.  The people of the Coast which she had left might pride themselves on taking all their affairs, even their duels and their feuds, with a careless air but these north Georgia people had a streak of violence in them.  On the coast, life had mellowed--here it was young and lusty and new.

 All the people Ellen had known in Savannah might have been cast from the same mold, so similar were their view points and traditions, but here was a variety of people.  North Georgia's settlers were coming in from many different places, from other parts of Georgia, from the Carolinas and Virginia, from Europe and the North.  Some of them, like Gerald, were new people seeking their fortunes.  Some, like Ellen, were members of old families who had found life intolerable in their former homes and sought haven in a distant land.  Many had moved for no reason at all, except that the restless blood of pioneering fathers still quickened in their veins.

 These people, drawn from many different places and with many different backgrounds, gave the whole life of the County an informality that was new to Ellen, an informality to which she never quite accustomed herself.  She instinctively knew how Coast people would act in any circumstance.  There was never any telling what north Georgians would do.

 And, quickening all of the affairs of the section, was the high tide of prosperity then rolling over the South.  All of the world was crying out for cotton, and the new land of the County, unworn and fertile, produced it abundantly.  Cotton was the heartbeat of the section, the planting and the picking were the diastole and systole of the red earth.  Wealth came out of the curving furrows, and arrogance came too--arrogance built on green bushes and the acres of fleecy white.  If cotton could make them rich in one generation, how much richer they would be in the next!

 This certainty of the morrow gave zest and enthusiasm to life, and the County people enjoyed life with a heartiness that Ellen could never understand.  They had money enough and slaves enough to give them time to play, and they liked to play.  They seemed never too busy to drop work for a fish fry, a hunt or a horse race, and scarcely a week went by without its barbecue or ball.

 Ellen never would, or could, quite become one of them--she had left too much of herself in Savannah--but she respected them and, in time, learned to admire the frankness and forthrightness of these people, who had few reticences and who valued a man for what he was.

 She became the best-loved neighbor in the County.  She was a thrifty and kind mistress, a good mother and a devoted wife.  The heartbreak and selflessness that she would have dedicated to the Church were devoted instead to the service of her child, her household and the man who had taken her out of Savannah and its memories and had never asked any questions.

 When Scarlett was a year old, and more healthy and vigorous than a girl baby had any right to be, in Mammy's opinion, Ellen's second child, named Susan Elinor, but always called Suellen, was born, and in due time came Carreen, listed in the family Bible as Caroline Irene.  Then followed three little boys, each of whom died before he had learned to walk--three little boys who now lay under the twisted cedars in the burying ground a hundred yards from the house, beneath three stones, each bearing the name of "Gerald O'Hara, Jr."

 From the day when Ellen first came to Tara, the place had been transformed.  If she was only fifteen years old, she was nevertheless ready for the responsibilities of the mistress of a plantation.  Before marriage, young girls must be, above all other things, sweet, gentle, beautiful and ornamental, but, after marriage, they were expected to manage households that numbered a hundred people or more, white and black, and they were trained with that in view.

 Ellen had been given this preparation for marriage which any well- brought-up young lady received, and she also had Mammy, who could galvanize the most shiftless negro into energy.  She quickly brought order, dignity and grace into Gerald's household, and she gave Tara a beauty it had never had before.

 The house had been built according to no architectural plan whatever, with extra rooms added where and when it seemed convenient, but, with Ellen's care and attention, it gained a charm that made up for its lack of design.  The avenue of cedars leading from the main road to the house--that avenue of cedars without which no Georgia planter's home could be complete--had a cool dark shadiness that gave a brighter tinge, by contrast, to the green of the other trees.  The wistaria tumbling over the verandas showed bright against the whitewashed brick, and it joined with the pink crepe myrtle bushes by the door and the white-blossomed magnolias in the yard to disguise some of the awkward lines of the house.

 In spring time and summer, the Bermuda grass and clover on the lawn became emerald, so enticing an emerald that it presented an irresistible temptation to the flocks of turkeys and white geese that were supposed to roam only the regions in the rear of the house.  The elders of the flocks continually led stealthy advances into the front yard, lured on by the green of the grass and the luscious promise of the cape jessamine buds and the zinnia beds. Against their depredations, a small black sentinel was stationed on the front porch.  Armed with a ragged towel, the little negro boy sitting on the steps was part of the picture of Tara--and an unhappy one, for he was forbidden to chunk the fowls and could only flap the towel at them and shoo them.

 Ellen set dozens of little black boys to this task, the first position of responsibility a male slave had at Tara.  After they had passed their tenth year, they were sent to old Daddy the plantation cobbler to learn his trade, or to Amos the wheelwright and carpenter, or Philip the cow man, or Cuffee the mule boy.  If they showed no aptitude for any of these trades, they became field hands and, in the opinion of the negroes, they had lost their claim to any social standing at all.

 Ellen's life was not easy, nor was it happy, but she did not expect life to be easy, and, if it was not happy, that was woman's lot.  It was a man's world, and she accepted it as such.  The man owned the property, and the woman managed it.  The man took the credit for the management, and the woman praised his cleverness. The man roared like a bull when a splinter was in his finger, and the woman muffled the moans of childbirth, lest she disturb him. Men were rough of speech and often drunk.  Women ignored the lapses of speech and put the drunkards to bed without bitter words.  Men were rude and outspoken, women were always kind, gracious and forgiving.

 She had been reared in the tradition of great ladies, which had taught her how to carry her burden and still retain her charm, and she intended that her three daughters should be great ladies also. With her younger daughters, she had success, for Suellen was so anxious to be attractive she lent an attentive and obedient ear to her mother's teachings, and Carreen was shy and easily led.  But Scarlett, child of Gerald, found the road to ladyhood hard.

 To Mammy's indignation, her preferred playmates were not her demure sisters or the well-brought-up Wilkes girls but the negro children on the plantation and the boys of the neighborhood, and she could climb a tree or throw a rock as well as any of them. Mammy was greatly perturbed that Ellen's daughter should display such traits and frequently adjured her to "ack lak a lil lady." But Ellen took a more tolerant and long-sighted view of the matter.  She knew that from childhood playmates grew beaux in later years, and the first duty of a girl was to get married.  She told herself that the child was merely full of life and there was still time in which to teach her the arts and graces of being attractive to men.

 To this end, Ellen and Mammy bent their efforts, and as Scarlett grew older she became an apt pupil in this subject, even though she learned little else.  Despite a succession of governesses and two years at the near-by Fayetteville Female Academy, her education was sketchy, but no girl in the County danced more gracefully than she.  She knew how to smile so that her dimples leaped, how to walk pigeon-toed so that her wide hoop skirts swayed entrancingly, how to look up into a man's face and then drop her eyes and bat the lids rapidly so that she seemed a- tremble with gentle emotion.  Most of all she learned how to conceal from men a sharp intelligence beneath a face as sweet and bland as a baby's.

 Ellen, by soft-voiced admonition, and Mammy, by constant carping, labored to inculcate in her the qualities that would make her truly desirable as a wife.

 "You must be more gentle, dear, more sedate," Ellen told her daughter.  "You must not interrupt gentlemen when they are speaking, even if you do think you know more about matters than they do.  Gentlemen do not like forward girls."

 "Young misses whut frowns an pushes out dey chins an' says 'Ah will' and 'Ah woan' mos' gener'ly doan ketch husbands," prophesied Mammy gloomily.  "Young misses should cas' down dey eyes an' say, 'Well, suh, Ah mout' an' 'Jes' as you say, suh.'"

 Between them, they taught her all that a gentlewoman should know, but she learned only the outward signs of gentility.  The inner grace from which these signs should spring, she never learned nor did she see any reason for learning it.  Appearances were enough, for the appearances of ladyhood won her popularity and that was all she wanted.  Gerald bragged that she was the belle of five counties, and with some truth, for she had received proposals from nearly all the young men in the neighborhood and many from places as far away as Atlanta and Savannah.

 At sixteen, thanks to Mammy and Ellen, she looked sweet, charming and giddy, but she was, in reality, self-willed, vain and obstinate.  She had the easily stirred passions of her Irish father and nothing except the thinnest veneer of her mother's unselfish and forbearing nature.  Ellen never fully realized that it was only a veneer, for Scarlett always showed her best face to her mother, concealing her escapades, curbing her temper and appearing as sweet-natured as she could in Ellen's presence, for her mother could shame her to tears with a reproachful glance.

 But Mammy was under no illusions about her and was constantly alert for breaks in the veneer.  Mammy's eyes were sharper than Ellen's, and Scarlett could never recall in all her life having fooled Mammy for long.

 It was not that these two loving mentors deplored Scarlett's high spirits, vivacity and charm.  These were traits of which Southern women were proud.  It was Gerald's headstrong and impetuous nature in her that gave them concern, and they sometimes feared they would not be able to conceal her damaging qualities until she had made a good match.  But Scarlett intended to marry--and marry Ashley--and she was willing to appear demure, pliable and scatterbrained, if those were the qualities that attracted men. Just why men should be this way, she did not know.  She only knew that such methods worked.  It never interested her enough to try to think out the reason for it, for she knew nothing of the inner workings of any human being's mind, not even her own.  She knew only that if she did or said thus-and-so, men would unerringly respond with the complementary thus-and-so.  It was like a mathematical formula and no more difficult, for mathematics was the one subject that had come easy to Scarlett in her schooldays.

 If she knew little about men's minds, she knew even less about the minds of women, for they interested her less.  She had never had a girl friend, and she never felt any lack on that account.  To her, all women, including her two sisters, were natural enemies in pursuit of the same prey--man.

 All women with the one exception of her mother.

 Ellen O'Hara was different, and Scarlett regarded her as something holy and apart from all the rest of humankind.  When Scarlett was a child, she had confused her mother with the Virgin Mary, and now that she was older she saw no reason for changing her opinion.  To her, Ellen represented the utter security that only Heaven or a mother can give.  She knew that her mother was the embodiment of justice, truth, loving tenderness and profound wisdom--a great lady.

 Scarlett wanted very much to be like her mother.  The only difficulty was that by being just and truthful and tender and unselfish, one missed most of the joys of life, and certainly many beaux.  And life was too short to miss such pleasant things.  Some day when she was married to Ashley and old, some day when she had time for it, she intended to be like Ellen.  But, until then . . .

 

 CHAPTER IV

  That night at supper, Scarlett went through the motions of presiding over the table in her mother's absence, but her mind was in a ferment over the dreadful news she had heard about Ashley and Melanie.  Desperately she longed for her mother's return from the Slatterys', for, without her, she felt lost and alone.  What right had the Slatterys and their everlasting sickness to take Ellen away from home just at this time when she, Scarlett, needed her so much?

 Throughout the dismal meal, Gerald's booming voice battered against her ears until she thought she could endure it no longer. He had forgotten completely about his conversation with her that afternoon and was carrying on a monologue about the latest news from Fort Sumter, which he punctuated by hammering his fist on the table and waving his arms in the air.  Gerald made a habit of dominating the conversation at mealtimes, and usually Scarlett, occupied with her own thoughts, scarcely heard him; but tonight she could not shut out his voice, no matter how much she strained to listen for the sound of carriage wheels that would herald Ellen's return.

 Of course, she did not intend to tell her mother what was so heavy on her heart, for Ellen would be shocked and grieved to know that a daughter of hers wanted a man who was engaged to another girl. But, in the depths of the first tragedy she had ever known, she wanted the very comfort of her mother's presence.  She always felt secure when Ellen was by her, for there was nothing so bad that Ellen could not better it, simply by being there.

 She rose suddenly from her chair at the sound of creaking wheels in the driveway and then sank down again as they went on around the house to the back yard.  It could not be Ellen, for she would alight at the front steps.  Then there was an excited babble of negro voices in the darkness of the yard and high-pitched negro laughter.  Looking out the window, Scarlett saw Pork, who had left the room a moment before, holding high a flaring pine knot, while indistinguishable figures descended from a wagon.  The laughter and talking rose and fell in the dark night air, pleasant, homely, carefree sounds, gutturally soft, musically shrill.  Then feet shuffled up the back-porch stairs and into the passageway leading to the main house, stopping in the hall just outside the dining room.  There was a brief interval of whispering, and Pork entered, his usual dignity gone, his eyes rolling and his teeth a-gleam.

 "Mist' Gerald," he announced, breathing hard, the pride of a bridegroom all over his shining face, "you' new 'oman done come."

 "New woman?  I didn't buy any new woman," declared Gerald, pretending to glare.

 "Yassah, you did, Mist' Gerald!  Yassah!  An' she out hyah now wanting ter speak wid you," answered Pork, giggling and twisting his hands in excitement.

 "Well, bring in the bride," said Gerald, and Pork, turning, beckoned into the hall to his wife, newly arrived from the Wilkes plantation to become part of the household of Tara.  She entered, and behind her, almost hidden by her voluminous calico skirts, came her twelve-year-old daughter, squirming against her mother's legs.

 Dilcey was tall and bore herself erectly.  She might have been any age from thirty to sixty, so unlined was her immobile bronze face. Indian blood was plain in her features, overbalancing the negroid characteristics.  The red color of her skin, narrow high forehead, prominent cheek bones and the hawk-bridged nose which flattened at the end above thick negro lips, all showed the mixture of two races.  She was self-possessed and walked with a dignity that surpassed even Mammy's, for Mammy had acquired her dignity and Dilcey's was in her blood.

 When she spoke, her voice was not so slurred as most negroes' and she chose her words more carefully.

 "Good evenin', young Misses.  Mist' Gerald, I is sorry to 'sturb you, but I wanted to come here and thank you agin fo' buyin' me and my chile.  Lots of gentlemens might a' bought me but they wouldn't a' bought my Prissy, too, jes' to keep me frum grievin' and I thanks you.  I'm gwine do my bes' fo' you and show you I ain't forgettin'."

 "Hum--hurrump," said Gerald, clearing his throat in embarrassment at being caught openly in an act of kindness.

 Dilcey turned to Scarlett and something like a smile wrinkled the corners of her eyes.  "Miss Scarlett, Poke done tole me how you ast Mist Gerald to buy me.  And so I'm gwine give you my Prissy fo' yo' own maid."

 She reached behind her and jerked the little girl forward.  She was a brown little creature, with skinny legs like a bird and a myriad of pigtails carefully wrapped with twine sticking stiffly out from her head.  She had sharp, knowing eyes that missed nothing and a studiedly stupid look on her face.

 "Thank you, Dilcey," Scarlett replied, "but I'm afraid Mammy will have something to say about that.  She's been my maid ever since I was born."

 "Mammy getting ole," said Dilcey, with a calmness that would have enraged Mammy.  "She a good mammy, but you a young lady now and needs a good maid, and my Prissy been maidin' fo' Miss India fo' a year now.  She kin sew and fix hair good as a grown pusson."

 Prodded by her mother, Prissy bobbed a sudden curtsy and grinned at Scarlett, who could not help grinning back.

 "A sharp little wench," she thought, and said aloud:  "Thank you, Dilcey, we'll see about it when Mother comes home."

 "Thankee, Ma'm.  I gives you a good night," said Dilcey and, turning, left the room with her child, Pork dancing attendance. The supper things cleared away, Gerald resumed his oration, but with little satisfaction to himself and none at all to his audience.  His thunderous predictions of immediate war and his rhetorical questions as to whether the South would stand for further insults from the Yankees only produced faintly bored, "Yes, Papas" and "No, Pas."  Carreen, sitting on a hassock under the big lamp, was deep in the romance of a girl who had taken the veil after her lover's death and, with silent tears of enjoyment oozing from her eyes, was pleasurably picturing herself in a white coif.  Suellen, embroidering on what she gigglingly called her "hope chest," was wondering if she could possibly detach Stuart Tarleton from her sister's side at the barbecue tomorrow and fascinate him with the sweet womanly qualities which she possessed and Scarlett did not.  And Scarlett was in a tumult about Ashley.

 How could Pa talk on and on about Fort Sumter and the Yankees when he knew her heart was breaking?  As usual in the very young, she marveled that people could be so selfishly oblivious to her pain and the world rock along just the same, in spite of her heartbreak.

 Her mind was as if a cyclone had gone through it, and it seemed strange that the dining room where they sat should be so placid, so unchanged from what it had always been.  The heavy mahogany table and sideboards, the massive silver, the bright rag rugs on the shining floor were all in their accustomed places, just as if nothing had happened.  It was a friendly and comfortable room and, ordinarily, Scarlett loved the quiet hours which the family spent there after supper; but tonight she hated the sight of it and, if she had not feared her father's loudly bawled questions, she would have slipped away, down the dark hall to Ellen's little office and cried out her sorrow on the old sofa.

 That was the room that Scarlett liked the best in all the house. There, Ellen sat before her tall secretary each morning, keeping the accounts of the plantation and listening to the reports of Jonas Wilkerson, the overseer.  There also the family idled while Ellen's quill scratched across her ledgers.  Gerald in the old rocker, the girls on the sagging cushions of the sofa that was too battered and worn for the front of the house.  Scarlett longed to be there now, alone with Ellen, so she could put her head in her mother's lap and cry in peace.  Wouldn't Mother ever come home?

 Then, wheels ground sharply on the graveled driveway, and the soft murmur of Ellen's voice dismissing the coachman floated into the room.  The whole group looked up eagerly as she entered rapidly, her hoops swaying, her face tired and sad.  There entered with her the faint fragrance of lemon verbena sachet, which seemed always to creep from the folds of her dresses, a fragrance that was always linked in Scarlett's mind with her mother.  Mammy followed at a few paces, the leather bag in her hand, her underlip pushed out and her brow lowering.  Mammy muttered darkly to herself as she waddled, taking care that her remarks were pitched too low to be understood but loud enough to register her unqualified disapproval.

 "I am sorry I am so late," said Ellen, slipping her plaid shawl from drooping shoulders and handing it to Scarlett, whose cheek she patted in passing.

 Gerald's face had brightened as if by magic at her entrance.

 "Is the brat baptized?" he questioned.

 "Yes, and dead, poor thing," said Ellen.  "I feared Emmie would die too, but I think she will live."

 The girls' faces turned to her, startled and questioning, and Gerald wagged his head philosophically.

 "Well, 'tis better so that the brat is dead, no doubt, poor fatherle--"

 "It is late.  We had better have prayers now," interrupted Ellen so smoothly that, if Scarlett had not known her mother well, the interruption would have passed unnoticed.

 It would be interesting to know who was the father of Emmie Slattery's baby, but Scarlett knew she would never learn the truth of the matter if she waited to hear it from her mother.  Scarlett suspected Jonas Wilkerson, for she had frequently seen him walking down the road with Emmie at nightfall.  Jonas was a Yankee and a bachelor, and the fact that he was an overseer forever barred him from any contact with the County social life.  There was no family of any standing into which he could marry, no people with whom he could associate except the Slatterys and riffraff like them.  As he was several cuts above the Slatterys in education, it was only natural that he should not want to marry Emmie, no matter how often he might walk with her in the twilight.

 Scarlett sighed, for her curiosity was sharp.  Things were always happening under her mother's eyes which she noticed no more than if they had not happened at all.  Ellen ignored all things contrary to her ideas of propriety and tried to teach Scarlett to do the same, but with poor success.

 Ellen had stepped to the mantel to take her rosary beads from the small inlaid casket in which they always reposed when Mammy spoke up with firmness.

 "Miss Ellen, you gwine eat some supper befo' you does any prayin'."

 "Thank you.  Mammy, but I am not hungry."

 "Ah gwine fix yo' supper mahseff an' you eats it," said Mammy, her brow furrowed with indignation as she started down the hall for the kitchen.  "Poke!" she called, "tell Cookie stir up de fiah. Miss Ellen home."

 As the boards shuddered under her weight, the soliloquy she had been muttering in the front hall grew louder and louder, coming clearly to the ears of the family in the dining room.

 "Ah has said time an' again, it doan do no good doin' nuthin' fer w'ite trash.  Dey is de shiflesses, mos' ungrateful passel of no- counts livin'.  An' Miss Ellen got no bizness weahin' herseff out waitin' on folks dat did dey be wuth shootin' dey'd have niggers ter wait on dem.  An' Ah has said--"

 Her voice trailed off as she went down the long open passageway, covered only by a roof, that led into the kitchen.  Mammy had her own method of letting her owners know exactly where she stood on all matters.  She knew it was beneath the dignity of quality white folks to pay the slightest attention to what a darky said when she was just grumbling to herself.  She knew that to uphold this dignity, they must ignore what she said, even if she stood in the next room and almost shouted.  It protected her from reproof, and it left no doubt in anyone's mind as to her exact views on any subject.

 Pork entered the room, bearing a plate, silver and a napkin.  He was followed closely by Jack, a black little boy of ten, hastily buttoning a white linen jacket with one hand and bearing in the other a fly-swisher, made of thin strips of newspaper tied to a reed longer than he was.  Ellen had a beautiful peacock-feather fly-brusher, but it was used only on very special occasions and then only after domestic struggle, due to the obstinate conviction of Pork, Cookie and Mammy that peacock feathers were bad luck.

 Ellen sat down in the chair which Gerald pulled out for her and four voices attacked her.

 "Mother, the lace is loose on my new ball dress and I want to wear it tomorrow night at Twelve Oaks.  Won't you please fix it?"

 "Mother, Scarlett's new dress is prettier than mine and I look like a fright in pink.  Why can't she wear my pink and let me wear her green?  She looks all right in pink."

 "Mother, can I stay up for the ball tomorrow night?  I'm thirteen now--"

 "Mrs. O'Hara, would you believe it--  Hush, you girls, before I take me crop to you!  Cade Calvert was in Atlanta this morning and he says--will you be quiet and let me be hearing me own voice?-- and he says it's all upset they are there and talking nothing but war, militia drilling, troops forming.  And he says the news from Charleston is that they will be putting up with no more Yankee insults."

 Ellen's tired mouth smiled into the tumult as she addressed herself first to her husband, as a wife should.

 "If the nice people of Charleston feel that way, I'm sure we will all feel the same way soon," she said, for she had a deeply rooted belief that, excepting only Savannah, most of the gentle blood of the whole continent could be found in that small seaport city, a belief shared largely by Charlestonians.

 "No, Carreen, next year, dear.  Then you can stay up for balls and wear grown-up dresses, and what a good time my little pink cheeks will have!  Don't pout, dear.  You can go to the barbecue, remember that, and stay up through supper, but no balls until you are fourteen.

 "Give me your gown, Scarlett, I will whip the lace for you after prayers.

 "Suellen, I do not like your tone, dear.  Your pink gown is lovely and suitable to your complexion, Scarlett's is to hers.  But you may wear my garnet necklace tomorrow night."

 Suellen, behind her mother's hack, wrinkled her nose triumphantly at Scarlett, who had been planning to beg the necklace for herself.  Scarlett put out her tongue at her.  Suellen was an annoying sister with her whining and selfishness, and had it not been for Ellen's restraining hand, Scarlett would frequently have boxed her ears.

 "Now, Mr. O'Hara, tell me more about what Mr. Calvert said about Charleston," said Ellen.

 Scarlett knew her mother cared nothing at all about war and politics and thought them masculine matters about which no lady could intelligently concern herself.  But it gave Gerald pleasure to air his views, and Ellen was unfailingly thoughtful of her husband's pleasure.

 While Gerald launched forth on his news, Mammy set the plates before her mistress, golden-topped biscuits, breast of fried chicken and a yellow yam open and steaming, with melted butter dripping from it.  Mammy pinched small Jack, and he hastened to his business of slowly swishing the paper ribbons back and forth behind Ellen.  Mammy stood beside the table, watching every forkful that traveled from plate to mouth, as though she intended to force the food down Ellen's throat should she see signs of flagging.  Ellen ate diligently, but Scarlett could see that she was too tired to know what she was eating.  Only Mammy's implacable face forced her to it.

 When the dish was empty and Gerald only midway in his remarks on the thievishness of Yankees who wanted to free darkies and yet offered no penny to pay for their freedom, Ellen rose.

 "We'll be having prayers?" he questioned, reluctantly.

 "Yes.  It is so late--why, it is actually ten o'clock," as the clock with coughing and tinny thumps marked the hour.  "Carreen should have been asleep long ago.  The lamp, please, Pork, and my prayer book, Mammy."

 Prompted by Mammy's hoarse whisper, Jack set his fly-brush in the corner and removed the dishes, while Mammy fumbled in the sideboard drawer for Ellen's worn prayer book.  Pork, tiptoeing, reached the ring in the chain and drew the lamp slowly down until the table top was brightly bathed in light and the ceiling receded into shadows.  Ellen arranged her skirts and sank to the floor on her knees, laying the open prayer book on the table before her and clasping her hands upon it.  Gerald knelt beside her, and Scarlett and Suellen took their accustomed places on the opposite side of the table, folding their voluminous petticoats in pads under their knees, so they would ache less from contact with the hard floor. Carreen, who was small for her age, could not kneel comfortably at the table and so knelt facing a chair, her elbows on the seat. She liked this position, for she seldom failed to go to sleep during prayers and, in this postures it escaped her mother's notice.

 The house servants shuffled and rustled in the hall to kneel by the doorway, Mammy groaning aloud as she sank down, Pork straight as a ramrod, Rosa and Teena, the maids, graceful in their spreading bright calicoes, Cookie gaunt and yellow beneath her snowy head rag, and Jack, stupid with sleep, as far away from Mammy's pinching fingers as possible.  Their dark eyes gleamed expectantly, for praying with their white folks was one of the events of the day.  The old and colorful phrases of the litany with its Oriental imagery meant little to them but it satisfied something in their hearts, and they always swayed when they chanted the responses:  "Lord, have mercy on us," "Christ, have mercy on us."

 Ellen closed her eyes and began praying, her voice rising and falling, lulling and soothing.  Heads bowed in the circle of yellow light as Ellen thanked God for the health and happiness of her home, her family and her negroes.

 When she had finished her prayers for those beneath the roof of Tara, her father, mother, sisters, three dead babies and "all the poor souls in Purgatory," she clasped her white beads between long fingers and began the Rosary.  Like the rushing of a soft wind, the responses from black throats and white throats rolled back:

 "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death."

 Despite her heartache and the pain of unshed tears, a deep sense of quiet and peace fell upon Scarlett as it always did at this hour.  Some of the disappointment of the day and the dread of the morrow departed from her, leaving a feeling of hope.  It was not the lifting up of her heart to God that brought this balm, for religion went no more than lip deep with her.  It was the sight of her mother's serene face upturned to the throne of God and His saints and angels, praying for blessings on those whom she loved. When Ellen intervened with Heaven, Scarlett felt certain that Heaven heard.

 Ellen finished and Gerald, who could never find his beads at prayer time, began furtively counting his decade on his fingers. As his voice droned on, Scarlett's thoughts strayed, in spite of herself.  She knew she should be examining her conscience.  Ellen had taught her that at the end of each day it was her duty to examine her conscience thoroughly, to admit her numerous faults and pray to God for forgiveness and strength never to repeat them. But Scarlett was examining her heart.

 She dropped her head upon her folded hands so that her mother could not see her face, and her thoughts went sadly back to Ashley.  How could he be planning to marry Melanie when he really loved her, Scarlett?  And when he knew how much she loved him? How could he deliberately break her heart?

 Then, suddenly, an idea, shining and new, flashed like a comet through her brain.

 "Why, Ashley hasn't an idea that I'm in love with him!"

 She almost gasped aloud in the shock of its unexpectedness.  Her mind stood still as if paralyzed for a long, breathless instant, and then raced forward.

 "How could he know?  I've always acted so prissy and ladylike and touch-me-not around him he probably thinks I don't care a thing about him except as a friend.  Yes, that's why he's never spoken! He thinks his love is hopeless.  And that's why he's looked so--"

 Her mind went swiftly back to those times when she had caught him looking at her in that strange manner, when the gray eyes that were such perfect curtains for his thoughts had been wide and naked and had in them a look of torment and despair.

 "He's been broken hearted because he thinks I'm in love with Brent or Stuart or Cade.  And probably he thinks that if he can't have me, he might as well please his family and marry Melanie.  But if he knew I did love him--"

 Her volatile spirits shot up from deepest depression to excited happiness.  This was the answer to Ashley's reticence, to his strange conduct.  He didn't know!  Her vanity leaped to the aid of her desire to believe, making belief a certainty.  If he knew she loved him, he would hasten to her side.  She had only to--

 "Oh!" she thought rapturously, digging her fingers into her lowered brow.  "What a fool I've been not to think of this till now!  I must think of some way to let him know.  He wouldn't marry her if he knew I loved him!  How could he?"

 With a start, she realized that Gerald had finished and her mother's eyes were on her.  Hastily she began her decade, telling off the beads automatically but with a depth of emotion in her voice that caused Mammy to open her eyes and shoot a searching glance at her.  As she finished her prayers and Suellen, then Carreen, began their decades, her mind was still speeding onward with her entrancing new thought.

 Even now, it wasn't too late!  Too often the County had been scandalized by elopements when one or the other of the participating parties was practically at the altar with a third. And Ashley's engagement had not even been announced yet!  Yes, there was plenty of time!

 If no love lay between Ashley and Melanie but only a promise given long ago, then why wasn't it possible for him to break that promise and marry her?  Surely he would do it, if he knew that she, Scarlett, loved him.  She must find some way to let him know. She would find some way!  And then--

 Scarlett came abruptly out of her dream of delight, for she had neglected to make the responses and her mother was looking at her reprovingly.  As she resumed the ritual, she opened her eyes briefly and cast a quick glance around the room.  The kneeling figures, the soft glow of the lamp, the dim shadows where the negroes swayed, even the familiar objects that had been so hateful to her sight an hour ago, in an instant took on the color of her own emotions, and the room seemed once more a lovely place.  She would never forget this moment or this scene!

 "Virgin most faithful," her mother intoned.  The Litany of the Virgin was beginning, and obediently Scarlett responded:  "Pray for us," as Ellen praised in soft contralto the attributes of the Mother of God.

 As always since childhood, this was, for Scarlett, a moment for adoration of Ellen, rather than the Virgin.  Sacrilegious though it might be, Scarlett always saw, through her closed eyes, the upturned face of Ellen and not the Blessed Virgin, as the ancient phrases were repeated.  "Health of the Sick," "Seat of Wisdom," "Refuge of Sinners," "Mystical Rose"--they were beautiful because they were the attributes of Ellen.  But tonight, because of the exaltation of her own spirit, Scarlett found in the whole ceremonial, the softly spoken words, the murmur of the responses, a surpassing beauty beyond any that she had ever experienced before.  And her heart went up to God in sincere thankfulness that a pathway for her feet had been opened--out of her misery and straight to the arms of Ashley.

 When the last "Amen" sounded, they all rose, somewhat stiffly, Mammy being hauled to her feet by the combined efforts of Teena and Rosa.  Pork took a long spiller from the mantelpiece, lit it from the lamp flame and went into the hall.  Opposite the winding stair stood a walnut sideboard, too large for use in the dining room, bearing on its wide top several lamps and a long row of candles in candlesticks.  Pork lit one lamp and three candles and, with the pompous dignity of a first chamberlain of the royal bedchamber lighting a king and queen to their rooms, he led the procession up the stairs, holding the light high above his head. Ellen, on Gerald's arm, followed him, and the girls, each taking her own candlestick, mounted after them.

 Scarlett entered her room, set the candle on the tall chest of drawers and fumbled in the dark closet for the dancing dress that needed stitching.  Throwing it across her arm, she crossed the hall quietly.  The door of her parents' bedroom was slightly ajar and, before she could knock, Ellen's voice, low but stern, came to her ears.

 "Mr. O'Hara, you must dismiss Jonas Wilkerson."

 Gerald exploded.  "And where will I be getting another overseer who wouldn't be cheating me out of my eyeteeth?"

 "He must be dismissed, immediately, tomorrow morning.  Big Sam is a good foreman and he can take over the duties until you can hire another overseer."

 "Ah, ha!" came Gerald's voice.  "So, I understand!  Then the worthy Jonas sired the--"

 "He must be dismissed."

 "So, he is the father of Emmie Slattery's baby," thought Scarlett. "Oh, well, what else can you expect from a Yankee man and a white- trash girl?"

 Then, after a discreet pause which gave Gerald's splutterings time to die away, she knocked on the door and handed the dress to her mother.

 By the time Scarlett had undressed and blown out the candle, her plan for tomorrow had worked itself out in every detail.  It was a simple plan, for, with Gerald's single-mindedness of purpose, her eyes were centered on the goal and she thought only of the most direct steps by which to reach it.

 First, she would be "prideful," as Gerald had commanded.  From the moment she arrived at Twelve Oaks, she would be her gayest, most spirited self.  No one would suspect that she had ever been downhearted because of Ashley and Melanie.  And she would flirt with every man there.  That would be cruel to Ashley, but it would make him yearn for her all the more.  She wouldn't overlook a man of marriageable age, from ginger-whiskered old Frank Kennedy, who was Suellen's beau, on down to shy, quiet, blushing Charles Hamilton, Melanie's brother.  They would swarm around her like bees around a hive, and certainly Ashley would be drawn from Melanie to join the circle of her admirers.  Then somehow she would maneuver to get a few minutes alone with him, away from the crowd.  She hoped everything would work out that way, because it would be more difficult otherwise.  But if Ashley didn't make the first move, she would simply have to do it herself.

 When they were finally alone, he would have fresh in his mind the picture of the other men thronging about her, he would be newly impressed with the fact that every one of them wanted her, and that look of sadness and despair would be in his eyes.  Then she would make him happy again by letting him discover that, popular though she was, she preferred him above any other man in all the world.  And when she admitted it, modestly and sweetly, she would look a thousand things more.  Of course, she would do it all in a ladylike way.  She wouldn't even dream of saying to him boldly that she loved him--that would never do.  But the manner of telling him was a detail that troubled her not at all.  She had managed such situations before and she could do it again.

 Lying in the bed with the moonlight streaming dimly over her, she pictured the whole scene in her mind.  She saw the look of surprise and happiness that would come over his face when he realized that she really loved him, and she heard the words he would say asking her to be his wife.

 Naturally, she would have to say then that she simply couldn't think of marrying a man when he was engaged to another girl, but he would insist and finally she would let herself be persuaded. Then they would decide to run off to Jonesboro that very afternoon and--

 Why, by this time tomorrow night, she might be Mrs. Ashley Wilkes!

 She sat up in bed, hugging her knees, and for a long happy moment she WAS Mrs. Ashley Wilkes--Ashley's bride!  Then a slight chill entered her heart.  Suppose it didn't work out this way?  Suppose Ashley didn't beg her to run away with him?  Resolutely she pushed the thought from her mind.

 "I won't think of that now," she said firmly.  "If I think of it now, it will upset me.  There's no reason why things won't come out the way I want them--if he loves me.  And I know he does!"

 She raised her chin and her pale, black-fringed eyes sparkled in the moonlight.  Ellen had never told her that desire and attainment were two different matters; life had not taught her that the race was not to the swift.  She lay in the silvery shadows with courage rising and made the plans that a sixteen- year-old makes when life has been so pleasant that defeat is an impossibility and a pretty dress and a clear complexion are weapons to vanquish fate.

 

 CHAPTER V

  It was ten o'clock in the morning.  The day was warm for April and the golden sunlight streamed brilliantly into Scarlett's room through the blue curtains of the wide windows.  The cream-colored walls glowed with light and the depths of the mahogany furniture gleamed deep red like wine, while the floor glistened as if it were glass, except where the rag rugs covered it and they were spots of gay color.

 Already summer was in the air, the first hint of Georgia summer when the high tide of spring gives way reluctantly before a fiercer heat.  A balmy, soft warmth poured into the room, heavy with velvety smells, redolent of many blossoms, of newly fledged trees and of the moist, freshly turned red earth.  Through the window Scarlett could see the bright riot of the twin lanes of daffodils bordering the graveled driveway and the golden masses of yellow jessamine spreading flowery sprangles modestly to the earth like crinolines.  The mockingbirds and the jays, engaged in their old feud for possession of the magnolia tree beneath her window, were bickering, the jays strident, acrimonious, the mockers sweet voiced and plaintive.

 Such a glowing morning usually called Scarlett to the window, to lean arms on the broad sill and drink in the scents and sounds of Tara.  But, today she had no eye for sun or azure sky beyond a hasty thought, "Thank God, it isn't raining."  On the bed lay the apple-green, watered-silk ball dress with its festoons of ecru lace, neatly packed in a large cardboard box.  It was ready to be carried to Twelve Oaks to be donned before the dancing began, but Scarlett shrugged at the sight of it.  If her plans were successful, she would not wear that dress tonight.  Long before the ball began, she and Ashley would be on their way to Jonesboro to be married.  The troublesome question was--what dress should she wear to the barbecue?

 What dress would best set off her charms and make her most irresistible to Ashley?  Since eight o'clock she had been trying on and rejecting dresses, and now she stood dejected and irritable in lace pantalets, linen corset cover and three billowing lace and linen petticoats.  Discarded garments lay about her on the floor, the bed, the chairs, in bright heaps of color and straying ribbons.

 The rose organdie with long pink sash was becoming, but she had worn it last summer when Melanie visited Twelve Oaks and she'd be sure to remember it.  And might be catty enough to mention it. The black bombazine, with its puffed sleeves and princess lace collar, set off her white skin superbly, but it did make her look a trifle elderly.  Scarlett peered anxiously in the mirror at her sixteen-year-old face as if expecting to see wrinkles and sagging chin muscles.  It would never do to appear sedate and elderly before Melanie's sweet youthfulness.  The lavender barred muslin was beautiful with those wide insets of lace and net about the hem, but it had never suited her type.  It would suit Carreen's delicate profile and wishy-washy expression perfectly, but Scarlett felt that it made her look like a schoolgirl.  It would never do to appear schoolgirlish beside Melanie's poised self. The green plaid taffeta, frothing with flounces and each flounce edged in green velvet ribbon, was most becoming, in fact her favorite dress, for it darkened her eyes to emerald.  But there was unmistakably a grease spot on the front of the basque.  Of course, her brooch could be pinned over the spot, but perhaps Melanie had sharp eyes.  There remained varicolored cotton dresses which Scarlett felt were not festive enough for the occasion, ball dresses and the green sprigged muslin she had worn yesterday.  But it was an afternoon dress.  It was not suitable for a barbecue, for it had only tiny puffed sleeves and the neck was low enough for a dancing dress.  But there was nothing else to do but wear it.  After all she was not ashamed of her neck and arms and bosom, even if it was not correct to show them in the morning.

 As she stood before the mirror and twisted herself about to get a side view, she thought that there was absolutely nothing about her figure to cause her shame.  Her neck was short but rounded and her arms plump and enticing.  Her breasts, pushed high by her stays, were very nice breasts.  She had never had to sew tiny rows of silk ruffles in the lining of her basques, as most sixteen-year- old girls did, to give their figures the desired curves and fullness.  She was glad she had inherited Ellen's slender white hands and tiny feet, and she wished she had Ellen's height, too, but her own height pleased her very well.  What a pity legs could not be shown, she thought, pulling up her petticoats and regretfully viewing them, plump and neat under pantalets.  She had such nice legs.  Even the girls at the Fayetteville Academy had admitted as much.  And as for her waist--there was no one in Fayetteville, Jonesboro or in three counties, for that matter, who had so small a waist.

 The thought of her waist brought her back to practical matters. The green muslin measured seventeen inches about the waist, and Mammy had laced her for the eighteen-inch bombazine.  Mammy would have to lace her tighter.  She pushed open the door, listened and heard Mammy's heavy tread in the downstairs hall.  She shouted for her impatiently, knowing she could raise her voice with impunity, as Ellen was in the smokehouse, measuring out the day's food to Cookie.

 "Some folks thinks as how Ah kin fly," grumbled Mammy, shuffling up the stairs.  She entered puffing, with the expression of one who expects battle and welcomes it.  In her large black hands was a tray upon which food smoked, two large yams covered with butter, a pile of buckwheat cakes dripping syrup, and a large slice of ham swimming in gravy.  Catching sight of Mammy's burden, Scarlett's expression changed from one of minor irritation to obstinate belligerency.  In the excitement of trying on dresses she had forgotten Mammy's ironclad rule that, before going to any party, the O'Hara girls must be crammed so full of food at home they would be unable to eat any refreshments at the party.

 "It's no use.  I won't eat it.  You can just take it back to the kitchen."

 Mammy set the tray on the table and squared herself, hands on hips.

 "Yas'm, you is!  Ah ain' figgerin' on havin' happen whut happen at dat las' barbecue w'en Ah wuz too sick frum dem chittlins Ah et ter fetch you no tray befo' you went.  You is gwine eat eve'y bite of dis."

 "I am not!  Now, come here and lace me tighter because we are late already.  I heard the carriage come round to the front of the house."

 Mammy's tone became wheedling.

 "Now, Miss Scarlett, you be good an' come eat jes'a lil.  Miss Carreen an' Miss Suellen done eat all dey'n."

 "They would," said Scarlett contemptuously.  "They haven't any more spirit than a rabbit.  But I won't!  I'm through with trays. I'm not forgetting the time I ate a whole tray and went to the Calverts' and they had ice cream out of ice they'd brought all the way from Savannah, and I couldn't eat but a spoonful.  I'm going to have a good time today and eat as much as I please."

 At this defiant heresy, Mammy's brow lowered with indignation. What a young miss could do and what she could not do were as different as black and white in Mammy's mind; there was no middle ground of deportment between.  Suellen and Carreen were clay in her powerful hands and harkened respectfully to her warning.  But it had always been a struggle to teach Scarlett that most of her natural impulses were unladylike.  Mammy's victories over Scarlett were hard-won and represented guile unknown to the white mind.

 "Ef you doan care 'bout how folks talks 'bout dis fainbly, Ah does," she rumbled.  "Ah ain' gwine stand by an' have eve'ybody at de pahty sayin' how you ain' fotched up right.  Ah has tole you an' tole you dat you kin allus tell a lady by dat she eat lak a bird.  An' Ah ain' aimin' ter have you go ter Mist' Wilkes' an' eat lak a fe'el han' an' gobble lak a hawg."

 "Mother is a lady and she eats," countered Scarlett.

 "W'en you is mahied, you kin eat, too," retorted Mammy.  "W'en Miss Ellen yo' age, she never et nuthin' w'en she went out, an' needer yo' Aunt Pauline nor yo' Aunt Eulalie.  An' dey all done mahied.  Young misses whut eats heavy mos' gener'ly doan never ketch husbands."

 "I don't believe it.  At that barbecue when you were sick and I didn't eat beforehand, Ashley Wilkes told me he LIKED to see a girl with a healthy appetite."

 Mammy shook her head ominously.

 "Whut gempmums says an' whut dey thinks is two diffunt things. An' Ah ain' noticed Mist' Ashley axing fer ter mahy you."

 Scarlett scowled, started to speak sharply and then caught herself.  Mammy had her there and there was no argument.  Seeing the obdurate look on Scarlett's face, Mammy picked up the tray and, with the bland guile of her race, changed her tactics.  As she started for the door, she sighed.

 "Well'm, awright.  Ah wuz tellin' Cookie w'ile she wuz a-fixin' dis tray.  'You kin sho tell a lady by whut she DOAN eat,' an' Ah say ter Cookie.  'Ah ain' seed no w'ite lady who et less'n Miss Melly Hamilton did las' time she wuz visitin' Mist' Ashley'--Ah means, visitin' Miss India."

 Scarlett shot a look of sharp suspicion at her, but Mammy's broad face carried only a look of innocence and of regret that Scarlett was not the lady Melanie Hamilton was.

 "Put down that tray and come lace me tighter," said Scarlett irritably.  "And I'll try to eat a little afterwards.  If I ate now I couldn't lace tight enough."

 Cloaking her triumph, Mammy set down the tray.

 "Whut mah lamb gwine wear?"

 "That," answered Scarlett, pointing at the fluffy mass of green flowered muslin.  Instantly Mammy was in arms.

 "No, you ain'.  It ain' fittin' fer mawnin'.  You kain show yo' buzzum befo' three o'clock an' dat dress ain' got no neck an' no sleeves.  An' you'll git freckled sho as you born, an' Ah ain' figgerin' on you gittin' freckled affer all de buttermilk Ah been puttin' on you all dis winter, bleachin' dem freckles you got at Savannah settin' on de beach.  Ah sho gwine speak ter yo' Ma 'bout you."

 "If you say one word to her before I'm dressed I won't eat a bite," said Scarlett coolly.  "Mother won't have time to send me back to change once I'm dressed."

 Mammy sighed resignedly, beholding herself outguessed.  Between the two evils, it was better to have Scarlett wear an afternoon dress at a morning barbecue than to have her gobble like a hog.

 "Hole onter sumpin' an' suck in yo' breaf," she commanded.

 Scarlett obeyed, bracing herself and catching firm hold of one of the bedposts.  Mammy pulled and jerked vigorously and, as the tiny circumference of whalebone-girdled waist grew smaller, a proud, fond look came into her eyes.

 "Ain' nobody got a wais' lak mah lamb," she said approvingly. "Eve'y time Ah pulls Miss Suellen littler dan twenty inches, she up an' faint."

 "Pooh!" gasped Scarlctt, speaking with difficulty.  "I never fainted in my life."

 "Well, 'twouldn' do no hahm ef you wuz ter faint now an' den," advised Mammy.  "You is so brash sometimes, Miss Scarlett.  Ah been aimin' ter tell you, it jes' doan look good de way you doan faint 'bout snakes an' mouses an' sech.  Ah doan mean round home but w'en you is out in comp'ny.  An' Ah has tole you an'--"

 "Oh, hurry!  Don't talk so much.  I'll catch a husband.  See if I don't, even if I don't scream and faint.  Goodness, but my stays are tight!  Put on the dress."

 Mammy carefully dropped the twelve yards of green sprigged muslin over the mountainous petticoats and hooked up the back of the tight, low-cut basque.

 "You keep yo' shawl on yo' shoulders w'en you is in de sun, an' doan you go takin' off yo' hat w'en you is wahm," she commanded. "Elsewise you be comin' home lookin' brown lak Ole Miz Slattery. Now, you come eat, honey, but doan eat too fas'.  No use havin' it come right back up agin."

 Scarlett obediently sat down before the tray, wondering if she would be able to get any food into her stomach and still have room to breathe.  Mammy plucked a large towel from the washstand and carefully tied it around Scarlett's neck, spreading the white folds over her lap.  Scarlett began on the ham, because she liked ham, and forced it down.

 "I wish to Heaven I was married," she said resentfully as she attacked the yams with loathing.  "I'm tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do.  I'm tired of acting like I don't eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired.  I'm tired of saying, 'How wonderful you are!' to fool men who haven't got one-half the sense I've got, and I'm tired of pretending I don't know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they're doing it. . . .  I can't eat another bite."

 "Try a hot cake," said Mammy inexorably.

 "Why is it a girl has to be so silly to catch a husband?"

 "Ah specs it's kase gempmums doan know whut dey wants.  Dey jes' knows whut dey thinks dey wants.  An' givin' dem whut dey thinks dey wants saves a pile of mizry an' bein' a ole maid.  An' dey thinks dey wants mousy lil gals wid bird's tastes an' no sense at all.  It doan make a gempmum feel lak mahyin' a lady ef he suspicions she got mo' sense dan he has."

 "Don't you suppose men get surprised after they're married to find that their wives do have sense?"

 "Well, it's too late den.  Dey's already mahied.  'Sides, gempmums specs dey wives ter have sense."

 "Some day I'm going to do and say everything I want to do and say, and if people don't like it I don't care."

 "No, you ain'," said Mammy grimly.  "Not while Ah got breaf.  You eat dem cakes.  Sop dem in de gravy, honey."

 "I don't think Yankee girls have to act like such fools.  When we were at Saratoga last year, I noticed plenty of them acting like they had right good sense and in front of men, too."

 Mammy snorted.

 "Yankee gals!  Yas'm, Ah guess dey speaks dey minds awright, but Ah ain' noticed many of dem gittin' proposed ter at Saratoga."

 "But Yankees must get married," argued Scarlett.  "They don't just grow.  They must get married and have children.  There's too many of them."

 "Men mahys dem fer dey money," said Mammy firmly.

 Scarlett sopped the wheat cake in the gravy and put it in her mouth.  Perhaps there was something to what Mammy said.  There must be something in it, for Ellen said the same things, in different and more delicate words.  In fact, the mothers of all her girl friends impressed on their daughters the necessity of being helpless, clinging, doe-eyed creatures.  Really, it took a lot of sense to cultivate and hold such a pose.  Perhaps she had been too brash.  Occasionally she had argued with Ashley and frankly aired her opinions.  Perhaps this and her healthy enjoyment of walking and riding had turned him from her to the frail Melanie.  Perhaps if she changed her tactics--  But she felt that if Ashley succumbed to premeditated feminine tricks, she could never respect him as she now did.  Any man who was fool enough to fall for a simper, a faint and an "Oh, how wonderful you are!" wasn't worth having.  But they all seemed to like it.

 If she had used the wrong tactics with Ashley in the past--well, that was the past and done with.  Today she would use different ones, the right ones.  She wanted him and she had only a few hours in which to get him.  If fainting, or pretending to faint, would do the trick, then she would faint.  If simpering, coquetry or empty-headedness would attract him, she would gladly play the flirt and be more empty-headed than even Cathleen Calvert.  And if bolder measures were necessary, she would take them.  Today was the day!

 There was no one to tell Scarlett that her own personality, frighteningly vital though it was, was more attractive than any masquerade she might adopt.  Had she been told, she would have been pleased but unbelieving.  And the civilization of which she was a part would have been unbelieving too, for at no time, before or since, had so low a premium been placed on feminine naturalness.

 

 As the carriage bore her down the red road toward the Wilkes plantation, Scarlett had a feeling of guilty pleasure that neither her mother nor Mammy was with the party.  There would be no one at the barbecue who, by delicately lifted brows or out-thrust underlip, could interfere with her plan of action.  Of course, Suellen would be certain to tell tales tomorrow, but if all went as Scarlett hoped, the excitement of the family over her engagement to Ashley or her elopement would more than overbalance their displeasure.  Yes, she was very glad Ellen had been forced to stay at home.

 Gerald, primed with brandy, had given Jonas Wilkerson his dismissal that morning, and Ellen had remained at Tara to go over the accounts of the plantation before he took his departure. Scarlett had kissed her mother good-by in the little office where she sat before the tall secretary with its paper-stuffed pigeonholes.  Jonas Wilkerson, hat in hand, stood beside her, his sallow tight-skinned face hardly concealing the fury of hate that possessed him at being so unceremoniously turned out of the best overseer's job in the County.  And all because of a bit of minor philandering.  He had told Gerald over and over that Emmie Slattery's baby might have been fathered by any one of a dozen men as easily as himself--an idea in which Gerald concurred--but that had not altered his case so far as Ellen was concerned.  Jonas hated all Southerners.  He hated their cool courtesy to him and their contempt for his social status, so inadequately covered by their courtesy.  He hated Ellen O'Hara above anyone else, for she was the epitome of all that he hated in Southerners.

 Mammy, as head woman of the plantation, had remained to help Ellen, and it was Dilcey who rode on the driver's seat beside Toby, the girls' dancing dresses in a long box across her lap. Gerald rode beside the carriage on his big hunter, warm with brandy and pleased with himself for having gotten through with the unpleasant business of Wilkerson so speedily.  He had shoved the responsibility onto Ellen, and her disappointment at missing the barbecue and the gathering of her friends did not enter his mind; for it was a fine spring day and his fields were beautiful and the birds were singing and he felt too young and frolicsome to think of anyone else.  Occasionally he burst out with "Peg in a Low- backed Car" and other Irish ditties or the more lugubrious lament for Robert Emmet, "She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps."

 He was happy, pleasantly excited over the prospect of spending the day shouting about the Yankees and the war, and proud of his three pretty daughters in their bright spreading hoop skirts beneath foolish little lace parasols.  He gave no thought to his conversation of the day before with Scarlett, for it had completely slipped his mind.  He only thought that she was pretty and a great credit to him and that, today, her eyes were as green as the hills of Ireland.  The last thought made him think better of himself, for it had a certain poetic ring to it, and so he favored the girls with a loud and slightly off-key rendition of "The Wearin' o' the Green."

 Scarlett, looking at him with the affectionate contempt that mothers feel for small swaggering sons, knew that he would be very drunk by sundown.  Coming home in the dark, he would try, as usual, to jump every fence between Twelve Oaks and Tara and, she hoped, by the mercy of Providence and the good sense of his horse, would escape breaking his neck.  He would disdain the bridge and swim his horse through the river and come home roaring, to be put to bed on the sofa in the office by Pork who always waited up with a lamp in the front hall on such occasions.

 He would ruin his new gray broadcloth suit, which would cause him to swear horribly in the morning and tell Ellen at great length how his horse fell off the bridge in the darkness--a palpable lie which would fool no one but which would be accepted by all and make him feel very clever.

 Pa is a sweet, selfish, irresponsible darling, Scarlett thought, with a surge of affection for him.  She felt so excited and happy this morning that she included the whole world, as well as Gerald, in her affection.  She was pretty and she knew it; she would have Ashley for her own before the day was over; the sun was warm and tender and the glory of the Georgia spring was spread before her eyes.  Along the roadside the blackberry brambles were concealing with softest green the savage red gulches cut by the winter's rains, and the bare granite boulders pushing up through the red earth were being draped with sprangles of Cherokee roses and compassed about by wild violets of palest purple hue.  Upon the wooded hills above the river, the dogwood blossoms lay glistening and white, as if snow still lingered among the greenery.  The flowering crab trees were bursting their buds and rioting from delicate white to deepest pink and, beneath the trees where the sunshine dappled the pine straw, the wild honeysuckle made a varicolored carpet of scarlet and orange and rose.  There was a faint wild fragrance of sweet shrub on the breeze and the world smelled good enough to eat.

 "I'll remember how beautiful this day is till I die," thought Scarlett.  "Perhaps it will be my wedding day!"

 And she thought with a tingling in her heart how she and Ashley might ride swiftly through this beauty of blossom and greenery this very afternoon, or tonight by moonlight, toward Jonesboro and a preacher.  Of course, she would have to be remarried by a priest from Atlanta, but that would be something for Ellen and Gerald to worry about.  She quailed a little as she thought how white with mortification Ellen would be at hearing that her 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 her.

 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 about."

 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 slings.  Frail, 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. Tarleton's motto.

 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 you around!"

 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 morning."

 "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 name?  Melanie?  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?  Because if--"

 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.  You--"

 "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.  Dry-weather stock.  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 humans.

 "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 fine beasts."

 "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 conversation.

 

 

 

第一部   

第一章   

思嘉奥哈拉长得并不漂亮,但是男人们像塔尔顿家那对孪生兄弟为她的魅力所迷住时,就不会这样想了。她脸上有着两种特征,一种是她母亲的娇柔,来自法兰西血统的海滨贵族;一种是她父亲的粗犷,来自浮华俗气的爱尔兰人,这两种特征混在一起显得不太协调,但这张脸上尖尖的下巴和四方的牙床骨,是很引人注意的,她那双淡绿色的眼睛纯净得没有一丝褐色,配上乌黑的睫毛和翘起的眼角,显得韵味十足,上面是两条墨黑的浓眉斜在那里,给她木兰花般白皙的肌肤划上十分分明的斜线,这样白皙的皮肤对南方妇女是极其珍贵的。她们常常用帽子、面纱和手套把皮肤保护起来,以防受到佐治亚炎热太阳的暴晒。

1861年四月一个晴朗的下午,思嘉同塔尔顿家的孪生兄弟斯图尔特和布伦特坐在她父亲的塔拉农场阴凉的走廊里,她的美貌显得更明媚如画了。她穿一件新绿花布衣裳,长长的裙子在裙箍上舒展着,配上她父亲从亚特兰大给她带来的新绿羊皮便鞋,显得很相称。她的腰围不过17英寸,是附近三个县里最细小的了,而这身衣裳更把腰肢衬托得更完整,加上里面那件绷得紧紧的小马甲,使她的只有16岁但已发育得很好的乳房便跃然显露了。不过,无论她散开的长裙显得多么老实,发髻梳在后面显得多么端庄,那双交叠在膝头上的小手显得多么文静,她的本来面目终归是藏不住的。那双绿色的眼睛生在一张甜美的脸上,却仍然是任性的,充满活力的,与她的装束仪表很不相同。她的举止是由她母亲和嬷嬷的严厉管教强加给她的,但她的眼睛属于她自己。

她的两旁,孪生兄弟懒懒地斜靠在椅子上,斜望着从新装的玻璃窗透过来的阳光谈笑着,四条穿着高统靴和因经常骑马而鼓胀的长腿交叠在那里。他们现有19岁,身高六英尺二英寸,长长骨骼,肌肉坚实,晒得黑黑的脸膛,深褐色的头发,眼睛里闪着快乐的神色。他们穿着同样的蓝上衣和深黄色裤子,长相也像两个棉桃似的。

外面,阳光斜照到场地上,映照着一簇簇的白色花朵在绿色的背景中显得分外鲜艳。孪生兄弟起来的马就拴在车道上,那是两匹高头大马,毛色红得象主人的头发;马腿旁边有一群吵吵嚷嚷一直跟随着主人的猎犬。稍稍远一点的地方躺着一条白色带有黑花斑的随车大狗,它把鼻子贴在前爪上,耐心等待着两个小伙子回家去吃晚饭。

在这些猎犬、马匹和两个孪生兄弟之间,有着一种比通常更亲密的关系。他们都是年轻、健康而毫无思想的动物,也同样圆滑、优雅,两个小伙子和他们所骑的马一样精神,但都带有危险性,可同时对于那些知道怎样驾驭他们的人又是可爱的。

虽然坐在走廊里的人,都同生在优裕的庄园主家庭,从小由仆人细心服侍着,但他们的脸显得并不懒散。他们像一辈子生活在野外、很少在书本上的乡巴佬一样,显得强壮而畗有活力。生活在北佐治亚的克莱顿县,与奥古斯塔、萨凡纳和查尔斯顿比较起来还有一点粗犷风味。南部开化得较早的文静居民不逊内地佐治亚人,可在北佐亚这儿,人们并不以缺乏高雅的传统文化教育为耻,只要在那些在他们认为重要的事情上学得精明就行了。他们心目中所关注的事,就是种好棉花,骑马匹得好,打枪打得准,跳舞跳得轻快,善于体面地追逐女人,像个温文尔雅的绅士喝酒。

这对孪生兄弟在这些方面都很精通,但他们学习书本知识的无能也是出众的。他们家拥有比全县其他人家更多的钱、更多的马和更多的奴隶,可是两兄弟同他们的大多数穷邻居比起来,胸中的文墨更少得多。

正是这个缘故,斯图尔特和布伦特在塔拉农场走廊里聊天,消磨这四月傍晚的大好时光。他们刚被佐治亚大学开除,而这是过去两年中把他们撵走的第四所大学了。于是他们的两个哥哥,汤姆和博伊德,也同他们一起回到了家里,因为在这所学校既然不欢迎那些孪生兄弟,两位做哥哥的也就不高兴在那里待下去了。斯图尔特和布伦特把他们最近一次的除名当做一个有趣的玩笑;而思嘉呢,她自从去年离开费耶特维尔女子学校以后就一直懒得去摸书本,所以也像他们那样觉得这是令人高兴的事。

“我认为你们俩一点也不在乎被学校除名,汤姆也是这样,”她说。"可是博伊德怎么办?他一心想受教育,而你们俩接连把他从弗吉尼亚大学、亚拉巴马大学、南卡罗来纳大学拖了出来,如今又从佐治亚大学回来了。这样下去,他永远也将完不成他的学业!”“唔,他可以到费耶特维尔那边的帕马利法官事务所去学法律嘛,”布伦特漫不经心地答道。"并且,这没有什么关系。

反正在学习结束之前我们不得不回家的。”“为什么?”“战争嘛!傻瓜!战争随时可能开始,战争打响之后难道你认为我们还会留在学校里吗?”“你明明知道不会有什么战争的,”思嘉生气地说。"那只是嘴上谈谈罢了。就在上个星期,艾希礼威尔克斯和他父亲还对我爸说,咱们派驻华盛顿的专员将要同林肯先生达成--达成一个关于南部联盟的协议呢。况且不管怎样,北方佬从小害怕我们,根本不会有什么战争,谈它干什么,我讨厌听到关于战争的事情。”“不会有什么战争!"孪生兄弟如同他们被欺负了似的地喊起来。

“亲爱的,战争当然会打起来的啊!"斯图尔特说。"北方佬可能害怕咱们,可是自从前天波尔格将军把他们赶出萨姆特要塞以后,他们只好打起来了,要不就会作为胆小鬼在全世界面前丢脸。什么,南部联盟--"听到这里,思嘉很不耐烦地嘟起嘴来。

“只要你再说一声‘战争’,我就进屋去,把门关上,我这辈子还从来没有像对‘战争’这个词感到讨厌,除非那个词意味着'脱离联邦'。爸爸总是从早到晚谈论战争,战争,所有来看他的绅士们也叫嚷着什么萨姆特要塞、州权、亚伯林肯,简直烦得我要大喊大叫!而且所有的男孩子也都在谈这些,还有他们的军队。今年春天,任何晚会上也没有听到这什么快乐的事情,因为男孩子再不谈别的了。我最高兴的是佐治亚要等到过了圣诞节以后才宣布脱离联邦,要不然会把圣诞晚会也糟蹋了。要是你再谈‘战争’我就马上进屋去了。”她说到做到,因为她从来就忍受不了不以她为主题的谈话。不过她说话时总是面带微笑,刻意加深脸的酒窝,同时把像蝴蝶翅膀似的两圈又硬又黑的睫毛迅速地扇动起来。小伙子们给迷住了,这正中她的心意,于是他们向她道歉,他们并不因为她对战争不感兴趣而丝毫轻视她。相反,他们更敬重她了。战争原来是男人的事,与女人无关,因此他们便把她的态度当成是女人味十足的特征。

把他们从讨厌战争的话题支使开以后,她便饶有兴趣地回到他们当前的环境上来。

“对于你俩再一次开除的事你母亲说了些什么呀?"小伙子显得有点不自在,想起三个月前他们从弗吉尼亚大学被请回家时母亲的那番表现。

“唔,她还没有机会说呢,”斯图尔特答道。"今天一清早她还没起床,汤姆和我俩便出门了。汤姆半路上去方丹家了,我们便径直到这儿来了。”“昨天晚上你们到家时难道她什么话也没说吗?”“昨晚我们可有运气了。在我们快要到家的时候,上个月我妈在肯塔基买下的那匹公马给送来了,家里正热闹着呢。原来那畜生--它长得可真威武,思嘉,你一定得告诉你爸,叫他赶快去看看,那畜生一路上已经把马夫咬了两大口,而且踏坏了我妈的两个黑小子,他们是在琼斯博罗遇上的。而且,就在我们刚要到家的时候,它差点儿把我们的马棚给踢倒了,还捎带把我妈的那匹老公马草莓也踢了个半死。我们到家时,妈正在妈棚里拿着一口袋糖哄它,让它慢慢平静下来,还真起作用了。黑奴们躲得远远的,瞪着眼睛简直给吓坏了,可妈还在跟那畜生亲切说话,仿佛跟它是一家人似的,它正在吃她手里的东西呢。世界上谁也比不上我妈那样会跟马打交道,那时她看见了我们,便说:‘天哪,你们四个又回来干什么呀?你们简直比埃及的瘟疫还让人讨厌!'这时那匹公马开始喷鼻子直立起来,她赶紧说:‘从这里滚开罢,难道你们没看见这个大宝贝在生气了吗?等明天早晨我再来服侍你们四个!'于是,我们便上床睡觉了。今天一早,趁她还来不及抓住我们,我们便溜了出来,只留下博伊德一个人去对付她。”“你们认为她会打博伊德吗?”思嘉知道,瘦小的塔尔顿太太对她那几个已长大成人的儿子还是很粗暴的,她认为必要的时候还会用鞭子抽他们的脊背,对于这种情形,思嘉和县里的其他人都有点不大习惯。

比阿特里斯塔尔顿是个忙人,她经营一大片棉花地,一百个黑奴和八个孩子,而且还有个养马常她生性暴躁,非常容易就四个儿子经常吵架而大发雷霆。她一方面不许任何人打她的一骑马或一个黑奴,另一方面却认为偶尔打打她的孩子们,对他们并没有什么坏处。

“她从来没有打过博伊德。这不仅因为他年龄最大,还是因为他是个矮子,”斯图尔特这样说,对自己那六英尺的个头儿自豪。"这是我们为什么把他留在家里去向妈交代一切的原因。老天爷明白,我们都19了,汤姆21了,可她还把我们当六岁孩子看待。妈应当不再打我们!”“你母亲明天会骑那匹新买来的马去参加威尔克斯家的野宴?”“她想骑的,但是爷说骑那匹太危险了。而且,无论如何,姑娘不会同意她骑。她们说,要让她至少像个贵妇人那样乘坐马车去参加宴会。”“希望明天别下雨,”思嘉说。"一星期几乎天天下雨。要是把野宴改成家餐,那才是扫兴不过的事呢。”“唔,明天准晴,还会像六月天那样炎热,”斯图尔特说。

“你看那落日,我还从没过比这更红的太阳呢。用落日来判断天气,往往是不会错的。”他们都朝远方望去,越过奥哈拉家无边无际的新翻耕的棉花地,直到红红的地平线上。如今太阳在弗林特河对岸的群山后面一起汹涌的红霞中缓缓降落,四月白天的温暖也渐渐消退,隐隐透出丝丝的凉意。

春天来得很早,伴随来的是几场温暖的春雨,这时粉红的桃花突然纷纷绽放,山茱萸雪白也似的繁花将河边湿地和山冈装点起来。春耕已快要结束,湿润的土地饥饿似的等待着人们把它翻开并撒上棉籽,它在犁沟的顶上显出是淡红色,在沟道两旁的地方则呈现出猩红和栗色来。农场那座粉刷白了的砖房如同落在茫茫红海中的一个岛屿,那是一起由新月形巨浪组成的大海,但是当那些带粉红红尖顶的水波分裂为浪花时,它立即僵化了。因为这里没有像佐治亚中部的黄土地或海滨种植场滋润的黑土地那样的长长的笔直的犁沟。北佐治亚连绵起伏的山麓地带被犁成了无数弯弯曲曲地垅沟,这样说,对自己那使肥沃的土壤不致被冲洗到河床里去。

这一片土地红得耀眼,雨后更红得像鲜血一般,干旱时便成了满地的红砖粉,这是世界上最好的产棉地。这里有洁白的房屋,翻耕过的田地,缓缓流过的黄泥河水,但同时也是一个由阳光灿烂和阴翳深浓形成对比的地方。尚待种植的空地和绵延数英里的棉花田微笑着袒露在阳光之中。在这些田地的边缘上有着一片处女林,即使在最炎热的中午它们也是幽暗而清凉的,而且显得有点神秘,有点不那么和善,其中那些飕飕作响的松树好像怀着老年人的耐心在等待着,好像轻轻的叹息:“当心呀!你们原先是我们的。我们能够把你们要回来。”坐在走廊里的三个年轻人听到得得的马蹄声,马具链环的丁当声和黑奴们的欢笑声;那些干农活的人和骡马从地里回来了。这时从屋子里传来思嘉的母亲爱伦奥哈拉温和的声音,她在呼唤提着钥匙、篮子的黑女孩,后者用尖脆的声调答道:“太太,来啦,”于是便传来从后面过道里走向薰腊室的脚步声,爱伦要到那里去给回家的田间劳动者分配食物。接着便听到瓷器当当和银餐具丁丁的响声,这时管衣着和膳事的男仆波克已经在摆桌子开晚饭了。

听到这些声响,这对孪生兄弟知道他们该动身回家了。但是他们不想回去见母亲的面,便在塔拉农场的走廊里徘徊,盼望着思嘉邀请他们留下来吃晚饭。

“思嘉,我们谈谈明天的事吧,”布伦特说。"不能因为我们不在,不了解野宴和舞会的事,就凭这理由不让咱们明儿晚上多多地跳舞。你没有答应他们大家吧,是不是?”“唔,我答应了!我怎么知道你们都会回来呢?我哪能冒险在一边等着,等着专门伺候你们两位呀?”“你在一边等着?"两个小伙子放声大笑。

“亲爱的,你得跟我跳第一个华尔兹,末了跟斯图跳最后一个,然后我们一起吃晚饭。像上次舞会那样坐在楼梯平台上,让金西嬷嬷再来给咱们算命。”“我不可喜欢听金西嬷嬷算命。你知道她说过我会嫁给一个头发鸟亮、黑胡子很长的男人,但我是不喜欢黑头发男人的。”“亲爱的,你喜欢红头发的吗?”布伦特傻笑着说。"现在,快说吧,答应跟我们跳所有的华尔兹,跟我们一道吃晚饭。”“你要是肯答应,我们便告诉你一个秘密。"斯图尔特说。

“什么?”思嘉叫着,一听到"秘密"这个词便像个孩子似地活跃起来。

“斯图,是不是我们昨天在亚特兰大听到的那个消息?如果是,那你知道,我们答应过不告诉别人的。”“嗯,那是皮蒂小姐告诉我们的。”“什么小姐?”“就是艾希礼威尔克斯的表姐。你知道,皮蒂帕特波密尔顿的小姐,查尔斯和媚兰的姑妈,她住在亚特兰大。”“这我知道,一个傻老太婆,我一辈子也没见过比她更傻的了。”“对,我们昨天在亚特兰大等着搭火车回家时,她的马车正好从车站经过,她停下来跟我们说话,告诉我们明天晚上的威尔克斯家的舞会上要宣布一门亲事。”“唔,我也听说过,”思嘉失望说,"她的那位傻侄儿查理汉密尔顿和霍妮威尔克斯。这几年谁都在说他们快要结婚了,虽然他本人对这件事似乎有点不冷不热似的。”“你认为他傻吗?”布伦特问。"去年圣诞节你可让他在你身边转了个够呢。”“我没法不让他转呀,”思嘉毫不在意地耸了耸肩膀。"我觉得他这个人太娘娘腔了。”“但是,明晚要宣布的并不是他的亲事,”斯图尔特得意地说。“那是艾希礼和查理的妹妹媚兰小姐订婚的事哩!"虽然她脸色没有变,可是嘴唇发白了。就像冷不防受到当头一击。思嘉在震动的最初几秒钟还不明白那是怎么回事。

注视斯图尔特时思嘉的脸色还那么平静,以致这位毫无分析头脑的人还以为她仅仅感到惊讶和很有兴趣。

“皮蒂小姐告诉我们,他们原准备明年才宣布订婚,因为媚兰小姐近来身体不怎么好;可周围都在谈论战争,两家人都觉腹不如赶快成婚的好。所以决定明天晚上在宴会上宣布。

我们把秘密告诉你了,你看,思嘉,你也得答应跟我们一起吃晚饭呀。”“当然,我会的。"思嘉下意识地说。

“并且跳所有的华尔兹吗?”

“所有的。”

“你真好!我敢打赌,别的小伙子们准要疯了。”“让他们去发疯好了,”布伦特说。“我们俩能对付他们的。

瞧瞧吧,思嘉。明天上午的野宴也跟我们坐在一起好吗?”“什么?”斯图尔特将请求重复了一遍。

“当然。”

哥儿俩心里美滋滋的但也有些惊异。尽管他们把自己看做思喜所嘉许的追求者,但以前他们从没这么轻易得到过这一嘉许的表示。她经常只让他们倾诉、乞求,敷衍他们,不明确表示可否,他们烦恼时便报以笑颜,他们发怒时则略显冷淡。但现在她实际上已经把明天全部的活动都许给了他们--答应野宴时跟他们坐在一起,跟他们跳所有的华尔兹(而且他们决意要使每一个舞都是华尔兹!),并且一道吃晚饭。就为这些,被大学开除也是值得的。

成功给他们带来了满腔热情。使他们愈加留连忘返,谈论着明天的野宴,舞会和艾希礼威克斯与汉媚兰,抢着说话,开着玩笑,然后大笑不已,看来是在多方暗示要人家挽留他们吃晚饭。他们闹了好一会儿,才发现思嘉已没有什么要说的,这时气氛有点变了。哥儿俩并不知道是怎么变的,只觉得那番高兴的光景已经在眼前消失。思嘉好像并不注意他们在说些什么,尽管她的一些回答也还得体。他们意识到某种难以理解的事,为此感到沮丧和不安,末了又赖着待了一会儿才看看手表,勉强站起身来。

在新翻耕过的田地那边,太阳已经西下,河对岸高高的树林已经在幽暗的暮色中渐渐模糊。家燕轻快地在院场上空飞来飞去,小鸡、鸭子和火鸡都纷纷从田地里回家来了。

斯图尔特大喊一声:“吉姆斯!"不一会一个和他们年龄相仿的高个儿黑孩子气喘吁吁地从房子附近跑出来,向两匹拴着的马走去,吉姆斯是贴身佣人,像那些狗一样到哪里都伴随着主人。他曾是他们儿时的玩伴,到他们十岁生日那一天便归他们自己所有了。塔尔顿家的猎犬一见他便从红灰土中跳起来,站在那里恭敬主子们驾到。两个小伙子同思嘉握手告别,告诉她明早他们将赶到威尔克斯家去等候她。然后他们走下人行道,骑上马,由吉姆斯跟随着一口气跑上柏树夹道,一面回过头来,挥着帽子向思嘉高声叫喊。

他们在尘土飞扬的大道上拐过那个看不见塔拉农场的弯以后,布伦特勒住马,在一丛山茱萸下站住了。斯图尔特跟着停下来,黑小子也紧跑几步跟上了他们。两骑马觉得缰绳松了,便伸长脖子去啃柔嫩的春草,猎犬们重新在灰土中躺下,贪馋地仰望着在愈来愈浓的暮色中回旋飞舞的燕子。布伦特那张老实巴交的宽脸上呈现迷惑神情。

“听我说,”他说,"你不觉得她好像要请我们留下吃饭吗?”“我本来以为她会的,”斯图尔特答道。"我一直等着她说出来,但是她没有说。你想这是为什么?”“我一点也不明白。不过据我看,她应当留我们的。毕竟这是我们回家后的第一天,她跟我们又好久没见面。何况我们还有许许多多的事情没跟她说呢。”“据我看,我们刚来时她好像很高兴见到我们。”“本来我也这样想。”“可后来,大约半个钟头以前吧,她就不怎么说话了,好像有点头痛。”“我看到这一点了,可我当时并不在意。你想她是哪儿不舒服了呢?”“我不知道。你认为我们说了什么让她生气的话吗?”他们两人思量了一会儿。

“我什么也想不起来。况且,思嘉一生气,谁都看得出来。

她可从不像那样一声不响的女孩子。”

“对,这就是我喜欢她的地方。她生气时那么冷冷的抑制着性子走来走去,她会痛痛快快告诉你。不过,一定是我们说了或做了什么事,使得她默不作声,并装出不舒服的样子。我敢担保,我们刚来时她是很高兴并且有意要留我们吃晚饭的。”“你不认那是因为我们被开除了吗?”“决不会的!见鬼,别那么傻。我们告诉她这消息时,她还若无其事地笑呢。再说,思嘉对读书的事也不比我们重视呀。"布伦特在马鞍上转过身头唤那个黑人马夫:“吉姆斯!”“唔。”“你听见我们和思嘉小姐的话了吗?”“没有呀,布伦特先生!您怎么怀疑俺偷听白人老爷的话呢?”“我的上帝!偷听,你们这些小黑鬼什么事都知道。怎么,你这不是撒谎吗?我亲眼看见你偷偷走过走廊的拐角,蹲在墙边茉莉花底下呢。好,你听见我们说什么惹思嘉小姐生气----或者叫她伤心的话了吗?”他这一说,吉姆斯打消了假装不曾偷听的主意,皱着眉头回想起来。

“没什么,俺没听见您讲啥惹她生气的话。俺看她挺高兴见到你们,还嘁嘁喳喳像只小鸟儿乐个不停呢。后来你们谈论艾希礼先生和媚兰小姐的结亲的事,她才不作声了,像只雀儿看见老鹰打头上飞过一般。"哥儿俩面面相觑,同时点了点头,可是并不了解其中的奥妙。

“吉姆说得对,但我不明白那究竟是为什么,”斯图尔特说。"我的上帝!艾希礼对她有什么意义?只不过是个朋友罢了。她感兴趣的只是我们,她对他不怎么感兴趣。"布伦特点点头表示同意。

“可是,你想过没有,”他说,"也许艾希礼没告诉她明天晚上要宣布那件事,而她觉得不先告诉老朋友便对别的人都说了,因此生气了呢?姑娘们总是非常看重首先听到这种事情的。”“唔,可能,就算没有告诉她又怎样呢?本来是要保密,叫人大吃一惊的嘛,一个男人就没有权利对自己订婚的计划秘而不宣吗?要不是媚兰小姐的姑妈泄漏出来,我们也不会知道呀。而且思嘉一定早已知道他总是要娶媚兰的。你想,我们知道也有好几年了。威尔克斯家和汉密尔顿家向来是姑表联姻。他总有一天要娶她的,这谁都知道,就像霍妮威尔克斯要同媚兰小姐的兄弟查尔斯结婚一样。”“好了,我不想谈下去了。不过,我对于她不留我们吃晚饭这一点,总是感到遗憾。老实说,我不想回家听妈妈对我们被学校开除的事大发雷霆,不能当做第一次那样看待了。”“说不定博伊德已经把她的火气平息下来了。你明白那个讨厌的矮鬼是多么伶牙俐齿。他每次都能把她说得心平气和的。”“是呀,他办得到,不过那要花博伊德许多时间。他要拐弯抹角走来走去去,直到妈妈给弄得实在糊涂了,情愿让步,才肯放他省下点嗓子去干律师的事。可是眼下,他恐怕还没来得及准备好开场白呢。我敢跟你打赌,你看,妈妈一定还在为那匹新来的马感到兴奋呢,说不定要到坐下来吃晚饭和看博伊德的时候才会想起我们又回家了。只要不吃完晚饭,她的怒火就会愈来愈旺。因此要到十点钟左右博伊德才有机会去告诉她,既然咱们校长采取了那样态度斥责你我两人,我们中间谁要是还留在学校也就太不光彩了。而要他把她扭过来转而对校长大发雷霆,责问博伊德干吗不开枪把他打死,那就非到半夜不行。因为,我们要半夜过后才能回家。"哥儿俩你瞧着我,我瞧着你,不知说什么是好。他们对于烈性的野马,对于行凶斗殴,以及邻里的公愤,都毫不畏惧,惟独那们红头发母亲的痛责和有时不惜抽打在他们屁股上的马鞭,才让他们感到不寒而栗。

“那么,就这样吧,”布伦特说。"我们到威尔克斯家去。

艾希礼和姑娘们会乐意让我们在那里吃饭的。"斯图尔特显得有些不舒服的样子。

“不,别到那里去。他们一定在忙着准备明天的野宴呢,而且。……”“唔,我忘记了,”布伦特连忙解释说。"不,我们别到那里去。"他们对自己的马吆喝了两声,然后默无言语地骑着向前跑了一阵,这时斯图尔特褐色的脸膛上泛起了一抹红晕。到去年夏天为止,斯图尔特曾经在双方家庭和全县的赞许下追求过英迪亚威尔克斯。县里的人觉得也许那位冷静含蓄的英迪亚会对他起一种镇定作用。无论如何,他们热切地希望这样。斯图尔特本来是可以匹配的,但布伦特不满意。布伦特也喜欢英迪亚,可是觉得她太平淡也太过分柔顺,他看书简直无法对她产生爱情,因此在这一点上就无法与斯图尔特作伴了。这是哥儿俩头一次在兴趣上发生分歧,而且布伦特对于他兄弟居然会看上一个他认为毫不出色的姑娘,觉得很恼火。

后来,在去年夏天琼斯博罗橡树林里一个政治讲演会上,他们两人突然发现了思嘉。他们认识她已多年了,并且从童年时代起,她就是一个讨人喜欢的游伴,她会骑马,会爬树,几乎比男孩子毫不逊色。可现在他们惊奇地发现她已经是个成年姑娘,而且可以称得上是全世界最迷人的一个呢。

他们第一次注意到她那双绿眼睛在怎样跳舞,她笑起来两个酒窝有多么深,她的手和脚是寻么娇小,而那腰肢又是那么纤细呀!他们对她的巧妙赞扬使她乐得放声大笑,同时,一想到她已把他们当做一对出众的小伙子,他们自己也不禁有点飘飘然了。

那是哥儿俩一生中值得纪念的一天。自那以后,每当他们谈起这件事来都觉得奇怪,为什么从前意没有注意到思嘉的美。他们至今没有找到确切的答案,来解释为什么思嘉决定要在那一天引其他们的注意。原来思嘉不能容忍任何男人同别的女人恋爱,因此她一见到英迪亚和斯图尔特在一起说话便觉得受不了,便会产生掠夺之心。她并不满足于单单占有斯图尔特,还要把布伦特也夺过来,并且用一种十分巧妙的手腕把他们两个控制祝现在他们两人双双坠入情网,而英迪亚威尔斯和布伦特曾经半心半意追求过的那样来自洛夫乔伊的莱蒂芒罗,都被他们远远地抛在脑后了。至于如果思嘉选择他们中的一个时,落选的那个该怎么办,这个问题哥儿俩并不考虑。到了河边再过桥吧。眼下他们对一位姑娘取得了一致的看法,这就相当满意了,因为他们中间并没有什么嫉妒之心。这种情形引起了左邻右舍的注意,并叫他们的母亲苦恼不堪----她是不怎么喜欢思嘉的。

“如果那个小精灵挑上了你们中间的哪一个,那就够他受的了,”她说。"可一她把你俩都挑上呢,那时你们就得到犹他州去做摩门教徒----我怀疑人家会不会要你们。……我唯一担心的是过不了几天,你们俩就会被这个虚情假意的绿眼小妖精给弄得迷迷糊糊,互相嫉妒甚至用枪自相残杀起来。

然而,要真是弄到那步田地倒也不是坏事。"从演讲会那天开始,斯图尔特每次见到英迪亚便觉得不是滋味。这不是因为英迪亚责怪了他,或者在脸色姿态之间暗示过她已经发觉他突然改变了原来的忠诚,她这个地道的正派姑娘决不会这样做。可是跟她在一起时斯图特总感到内心有愧,很不自在。他明白是自己设法让英迪亚爱上了他,也知道她现在仍然爱他,所以内心深处隐隐觉得自己的行为不是实行一夫多妻制,但这里是讲的一妻多夫。大像个有教养的人。他仍然十分爱她,对她的那种文静贤淑的仪态,她的学识和她所肯的种种高尚品质,他都十分尊敬。

但是,糟糕的是,一跟思嘉的光彩照人和娇媚比起来。她就显得那么暗淡无味和平庸呆板了。你跟英迪亚在一起时永远头脑清醒,而跟思嘉在一起就迥然不同了。光凭这一点就足以叫一个男人心烦意乱了,可这种烦乱还真有魅力呢。

“那么,咱们到凯德卡尔佛特家去吃晚饭。思嘉说过凯瑟已经从查尔斯顿回来了。也许她那儿有什么我们还没听到的关于萨姆特要塞的消息呢。”“凯瑟琳不会有的。我敢和你打赌,她甚至连要塞在海港里都不清楚,哪里还知道那儿本来挤满了北方佬,后来被咱们全部轰走了。她唯一知道的就是舞会和她招来的那些情人。”“那么,去听听她的那套胡扯也挺有趣呀。况且那也是个藏身之地,可以让我们等妈妈上床睡了再回家去。”“唔,好极了!我喜欢凯瑟琳,她很好玩,我也想打听打听卡罗莱特和其他查尔斯顿的人消息;可是要再去跟她的北方佬继母坐在一起吃顿饭,那才真要我的命呢!”“别对她太苛求了,斯图。她还是怀有好意的。”“我并不是苛求她。倒是为她难过,可是我不喜欢那种让我为她难过的人。她在你周围转来转去,总想叫你感到舒适自在,可是她所做的和说的使你反感。简直让我坐立不安!她还把南方人当做蛮子。她甚至跟妈妈这样说过。她害怕南方人。每次我们在她家,她都像吓得要死似的。她让我想起一只蹲在椅子上的瘦母鸡,瞪着两只又亮又呆板的怯生生的眼睛,仿佛一听到有什么动静就要扇着翅膀咯咯地叫起来。”“这个你也不能怪她。你曾经开枪打伤过凯德的腿哩。”“对,但那次是我喝醉了,否则也不会干出那样的事来,”斯图尔特为自己辩护,”而且凯德自己从不怀恨。凯瑟琳和雷福德或者卡尔费特先生也没有什么恶感。就是那个北方佬继母,她却大声嚷嚷,说我是个蛮子,说文明人跟粗野的南方人在一起很不安全。”“不过,你不能怪她。她是个北方佬,不很懂礼貌,而且你毕竟打伤了她的继子呀。”“可是,呸!那也不能作为侮辱我的理由啊!你是妈妈的亲生儿子,但那次托尼方丹打伤了你的腿,她发过火吗?没有,她只请老方丹大夫来给你包扎了一下,还问他托尼的枪怎么会找不准哪。你还记得那句话使托尼多么难过的吧?"哥儿俩都大笑起来。

“妈妈可真有办法!"布伦特衷心赞赏地说。"你可以永远指望她处事得当,不让你在众人面感到难堪。”“对,但是今晚我们回家时,她很可能要当着父亲和姑娘们的面让我们丢脸呢,”斯图尔特闷闷不乐地说。"听我说,布伦特。我看这意味着咱们不能到欧洲去了。你记得妈妈说过,要是咱们再被学校开除,便休想参加大旅游了。”“这个嘛,咱们不管它,见鬼去嘛!是不是?欧洲有什么好玩的?我敢打赌,那些外国人拿不出一样在咱们佐治亚还没有的东西来。我敢打赌,他们的马不如咱们的跑得快,他们的姑娘不如咱们的漂亮,并且我十分清楚,他们的哪一种威士忌都不能跟咱爸的酒相比。”“但艾希礼威尔克斯说过,他们那里有非常丰富的自然风景和音乐。艾希礼喜欢欧洲。他经常谈起欧洲。”“唔,你该知道威尔克家的是些什么样的人。他们对音乐、书籍和风景都喜爱得出奇。妈妈说那是因为他们的祖母是弗吉尼亚人。她说弗吉尼亚人是十分重视这类东西的。”“让他们重视去吧。我只要有好马匹,有好酒喝,有好的姑娘追求,还有个坏姑娘开玩笑,就任凭别人赏玩他们的欧洲好了。……咱们干吗要惋惜什么大旅游呢?就算我们如今是在欧洲,可战争发生了怎么办?要回家也来不及呀。我宁愿去打仗也不想到欧洲去。”“我也是这样,随时都可以。……喏,布伦特,我想起可以到哪儿去吃晚饭了。咱们骑马越过沼泽地,到艾布尔温德那里去,告诉他我们四人又都回到了家里,准备去参加操练。”“这个主意好!"布伦特兴奋得叫起来。"而且咱们能听听军营里所有的消息,弄清楚他们最后决定采用哪种颜色做制服。”“要是采用法国步兵服呢,那我再去参军就活该了。穿上那种口袋似的红裤子,我会觉得自己像个娘儿们了。我看那跟女人穿的红法兰绒衬裤一模一样。”“您少爷们想到温德先生家去吗?”吉姆斯问。"要是您想去,您就吃不上好晚饭了。他们的厨子死啦,还没找到新的呢。他们随便找了个女人在做吃的,那些黑小子告诉我她做得再糟不过了。”“他们干吗不买个新厨子呀!我的上帝!”“这帮下流坯穷白人,还买得起黑人?他们家历来最多也只有四个。"吉姆斯的口气中充满色然的蔑视。他自己的社会地位是坚牢的,因为塔尔顿家拥有上百个黑奴,而且像所有大农场的奴隶那样,他瞧不起那些只有少数几个奴隶的小农场主。

“你说这话,看我剥你的皮!"斯图尔特厉声喊道:“你怎么能叫艾布尔温德'穷白人'呢。他虽然穷,可并不是什么下流坯。任何人,无论黑人白人,谁要是瞧不其他,我可决不答应。全县没有比他更好的人了,要不军营里怎么会推举他当尉官呢?

“俺可弄不懂这个道理,”吉姆不顾主人的斥责硬是顶嘴回答说。"俺看他们的军官全是从有钱人里边挑的,谁也不会挑肮脏的下流货。”“他不是下流货呀!你是要拿他跟真正的白人下流坯像斯莱特里那种人相比吗?艾布尔只不过没有钱罢了。他不是大农场主,但毕竟是个小农场主。既然那些新入伍的小伙子认为可以选举他当尉官,那么哪个黑小子也不能肆意讲他的坏话。营里自有公论嘛。"骑兵营是三个月前佐治亚州脱离联邦那天成立起来的,从那以后那些入伍的新兵便一直在盼望打仗。至今这个组织还没有命名,尽管已经有了种种方案。对于这个问题,正像对于军服的颜色和式样什么的,每个人都有自己的主张,并且都不愿意放弃。什么"克莱顿野猫"啦,"暴躁人"啦,"北佐治亚轻骑兵"啦,"义勇军""内地步枪兵"啦(尽管这个营将是用手枪、军刀和单刃猎刀而不是用步枪来装备"克莱顿灰衣人"啦,"血与怒吼者"啦,"莽汉和应声出击者"啦,所有这些名称都不乏附和者。在问题没有解决之前,大家都称呼这个组织为"",而且,不管最终采用的名称多么响亮,他们始终用的是简简单单的一个""字。

军官由大家选举,因为全县除了参加过墨西哥战争和塞米诺尔战争的少数几个老兵外,谁也没有军事经验;而且,如果大家并不喜欢和不信任他,要让一个老兵当头领也只会引起全营的蔑视。大家全都喜欢塔尔顿家四个小伙子和方丹家三兄弟,不过令人遗憾的是都不愿意选举他们,因为塔尔顿家的人太容易喝醉酒和喜欢玩乐,钽方丹兄弟又非常性急和暴躁。结果艾希礼威尔克斯被选做队长了,因为是他是县里最出色的骑手,而且头脑冷静,大伙相信他还能维持某种表面的秩序。雷弗德卡尔弗特是人人都喜爱的,被任命为上尉,而艾布尔温德,那个沼泽地捕猎手的儿子(他本人是小农),则被选做中尉了。

艾布尔是个精明沉着的大个儿,不识字,心地和善,比别的小伙子年龄大些,在妇女面前也表现得较有礼貌。""里很少有骄下媚上的现象。他们的父亲和祖父大多是以小农致富的,不会有那种势利眼。而且艾布尔是""里最好的射击手,一杆真正的"神枪",他能够在75码外瞄准一只松鼠的眼睛,也熟悉野外生活,会在雨地里生火,会捕捉野兽,会寻找水源。""里很尊重有本事的人,而且由于大伙喜欢他,所以让他当了军官。他严肃对待这种荣誉,不骄傲自大,好像这不过是他的本份。可是那些农场主太太们和他们的农奴们却不能宽恕他并非生来就是上等人这一事实,尽管她们都做到了。

开始,这个""只从农场主的子弟中招募营丁,因而可以说是个上层的组织;他们每人自备马匹、武器、装备、制服和随身仆人。但是有钱的农场主在克莱顿这个新辟的县毕竟很少,同时为了建立一支充实的武装力量,便必须从小农户和森林地带的猎户、沼泽地捕兽者、山地居民,有时甚至穷白人(只要他们在本阶级的一般水平之上)的子弟中招募更多的新兵。

后一部分青年人也和他们的富裕邻居一样,渴望着战争一爆发便去找北方佬,但金钱这个微妙的问题却随之产生了。

小农中很少有人是有马的。他们是使用骡子耕作,也没有富余的,最多不过四头骡子。这些骡子即使营里同意接受,也不能从田里拉到战场呀,何况营里还口口声声说不要呢。至于那些穷白人,他们只要有一头骡子便自以为满不错了。边远林区的人和沼泽地带的居民既无马也没有骡子。他们完全靠林地里的出产和沼泽中的猎物过活,做生意也是以物换物,一年看不见五元现金,要自备马匹、制服是办不到的。可是这些人身处贫困仍非常骄傲,就像那些拥有财富的农场主一样;他们决不接受来自富裕邻居的任何带施舍意味的东西。在这种局面下,为了保持大家的感情和把军营建成一个充实的组织,思嘉的父亲,约翰威尔克斯,巴克芒罗,吉姆塔尔顿,休卡尔弗特,实际除宁格斯麦金托什以外,全县每个大农场主,都捐钱把军营全面装面起来,马匹和人员也一样。这件事是由每个农场主同意出钱装备自己的儿子和别的若干人开始的,但经过适当的安排以后,营里那些不怎么富裕的成员也就能够坦然接受他们的马匹和制服而不觉得有失体面了。

营队每周在琼斯博罗集合两次,进行操练和祈祷战争早日发生。马匹还没有备齐,但那些有马的人已经在县府背后的田野里搞起了他们想象中的骑兵演习,搅起满天灰尘土,扯着嘶的嗓子叫喊着,挥舞着从客厅墙上取下来的革命战争时代的军刀。那些还没有马匹的人只好坐布拉德仓库前面的镶边石上一面观看,一面嚼着烟草闲聊。要不他们就比赛打靶。谁也用不着你去教他打枪。因为大多数南方人生来就是玩枪的,他们终日消磨在打猎中的时间把他们全都练成了好射手。

从农场主家里和沼泽地的棚屋里,一队一队的年轻人携带着武器奔向每个集合点。其中有初次越过阿勒格尼山脉时还很新的用来打松鼠的长杆枪,有佐治亚新开辟时打死过许多印地安人的老式毛瑟枪,有在1812年以及墨西哥和塞米诺尔战争中服过役的马上用的手枪,还有决斗用的镶银手枪、短筒袖珍手枪、双筒猎枪,漂亮的带有硬木枪托的英制新式来福枪,等等。

结束操练时,常常要在琼斯博罗一些酒馆里演出最后的一幕。到了傍晚,争斗纷纷发生,使得军官们十分棘手,不得不在北方佬打来之前便忙着处理伤亡事件了。就是在这样一场斗殴中,斯图尔特塔尔顿开枪伤了凯德卡尔弗特,托尼方丹打伤了布伦特。那时这对孪生兄弟刚刚被弗吉尼亚大学开除回到家里,同时营队成立的时候,他们热情地参加了。可是枪伤事件发生以后,也就是说两个月前,他们的母亲打发他们去进了州立大学,命令他们留在那里不要回来。他们痛苦地怀念着操练时那股兴奋劲儿,觉得只要能够和伙伴们一起骑着马,嘶喊,射击,哪怕牺牲上学的机会也值得。

“这样,咱们就直接过去找艾布尔吧,"布伦特提议说。

“咱们可以穿过奥哈拉先生家的河床和方丹家的草地,很快就能赶到那里。”“到那里俺什么好的也吃不着,只有吃负鼠和青菜了,"吉姆斯不服气地说。

“你什么也别想吃,"斯图尔特奸笑道。"因为你得回家去,告诉妈妈我们不回去吃晚饭了。”“不,俺不回去!"吉姆斯惊慌地嚷道。"不,俺不回去!

回去给比阿特里斯小姐打个半死可不是好玩的。首先她会问俺你们怎么又给开除了?然后又问,俺怎么今晚没带你们回家,好让她好好揍你们一顿?末了,她还会突然向我扑过来,像鸭子扑一只无花果一般。俺很清楚,她会把这件事通通怪在俺头上。要是你们带俺到到温德先生家去,俺就整夜蹲在外边林子里,没准儿巡逻队会逮住俺的,因为俺宁愿给巡逻队带走,也不要在太太生气时落到她的手中。"哥儿俩瞧着这个倔犟的黑孩子,感到又困惑又烦恼。

“这傻小子可是做得出来,会叫巡逻队给带走。果真这样,便又妈妈添了个话柄,好唠叨几个星期了。我说这些黑小子们是最麻烦的。有时我甚至想,那帮废奴主义者的主意倒不错呢。”“不过嘛,总不能让吉姆斯去应付咱们自己不敢应付的场面吧。看来咱们只好带着他。可是,当心,不要脸的黑傻瓜,要是敢在温德家的黑人面前摆架子,敢夸口说咱们常常吃烤鸡和火腿,而他们除了兔子和老鼠什么也吃不上,那我--我就要告诉妈妈去。而且,也不让你跟我们一起去打仗喽。”“摆架子?俺在那些不值钱的黑小子跟前摆架子?不,先生们,俺还讲点礼貌呢。比阿特里斯小姐不是像教育你们那样也教育俺要有礼貌吗?”“可她在咱们三人身上都没有做得很好呀,"斯图尔特说。

“来吧,咱们继续赶路。”

他使自己的大红马向后退几步,然后用马刺在它腰上狠狠踢下,叫它跳起来轻易越过篱栏,跨人杰拉尔德奥哈拉农场那片松软的田地。随后布伦特的马跟着跳过,接着是吉姆斯的,他跳时紧紧抓住鞍头和马鬃。吉姆斯不喜欢跳篱栏,然而他为了赶上自己的两位主人,还跳过比这更高的地方。

他们在越来越浓的暮色中横过那些红土垅沟,跑下山麓向河床走去。这时布伦特向他兄弟喊道:“我说,斯图!你觉得思嘉本来想留咱们吃晚饭吗?”“我始终认为她会的,"斯图尔特高声答道。"你说呢……”

 

第二章

思嘉站在塔拉农场的走廊上目送那对孪生兄弟离开,直到飞跑的马蹄声已隐隐消失,她才如梦游人似地回到椅子上去。她觉得得脸颊发僵仿佛有什么痛处,但嘴巴却真的酸痛了,因为是刚才很长一段时间她在咧着嘴假装微笑,为了不让那对孪生子发觉她内心的秘密。她疲惫地坐下,将一条腿盘起来,这时心脏难受得发胀,好像快要从胸膛里爆出来一般似的。它古怪地轻轻跳着;她的两手冰凉,一种大祸临头的感觉沉重地压迫着她。她脸上流露出痛苦和惶惑的神情,这种惶惑说明,她这个娇宠惯了、经常有求必应的孩子如今可碰到生活中不愉快的事了。

艾希礼将同媚兰汉密尔顿结婚了!

唔,这不可能是真的!那对孪生子准搞错了。他们又在找她开玩笑呢。艾希礼不会爱上她。谁也不会的。同媚兰这样一个耗子似的小个儿。思嘉怀着轻蔑的情绪想起媚兰瘦小得像孩子的身材,她那张严肃而平淡得几乎有点丑的鸡心形的脸,而且可能艾希礼是好几个月没见到她了。自从去年“十二橡树”村举行家中大宴会以来,她顶多只到过亚特兰大两次。不,艾希礼不可能同媚兰恋爱,因为----唔,她决不会错的----因为他在爱她呀!她思嘉才是他所爱的那个人呢—-她知道!

思嘉听见嬷嬷的脚步笨重地在堂屋里把地板踩得嘎嘎响,便迅速将盘着的那条腿伸下来,并设法放松脸部的表情,尽量显得平静一些。万万不能让嬷嬷怀疑到出了什么事呀!

嬷嬷总觉得奥哈拉家的人连身子带灵魂都是她的,他们的秘密就是她的秘密。只要有一丝神秘的味道,她就会像条警犬似的无情地追踪嗅迹。根据已往的经验,思嘉知道如果嬷嬷的好奇心不能立即满足,她就会去跟妈妈一起嘀咕,那时便只好向母亲交代一切,要不就得编出一个像样的谎话来。

嬷嬷从堂屋里走出来,她是个大块头老婆子,但眼睛细小而精明,活像一头大象。她长得黑不溜秋,是纯粹的非洲人,把整个身心毫无保留地献给了奥哈拉一家,成了爱伦的左右手、三个女孩子的煞星和其他家人的阎罗王。虽然嬷嬷是个黑人,但她的行为规范和自豪感却与她主人一样高或者还要高些。她是在爱伦奥哈拉的母亲索兰吉罗毕拉德的卧室里养育大的,那位老太太是个文雅的高鼻子法兰西人,无论对自己的儿女或者仆人只要触犯法规便不惜给以应得的惩罚。她曾经做过爱伦的嬷嬷,后来爱伦结婚时跟着她从萨凡纳来到了内地。嬷嬷要是宠爱谁,就会严加管教。正由于她是那样宠爱思嘉和因思嘉而感到骄傲,她对思嘉的管教也就没完没了。

“那两位少爷走了吗?你怎么没留他们吃晚饭呀,思嘉小姐?俺告诉了波克叫他添两份饭啦。你的礼貌到哪里去了呢?”“唔,他们尽谈论战争,我都听得烦了,再也忍受不了同他们一起吃晚饭,尤其怕爸爸也参加进来大叫大嚷,议论林肯先生。”“你可像个女孩一般不知礼了,亏你妈妈和俺还辛辛苦苦教你呢。还有,你怎么没披上你的披肩呀?夜风快吹起来了!

俺一次又一次告诉你,光着肩膀坐在夜风里要感冒发烧的。思嘉小姐快进屋里来。"思嘉故意装出一副冷淡的样子掉过头去,幸喜嬷嬷正一个劲儿唠叨披肩的事,不曾看见她的脸。

“不,我想坐在这里看落日。它多美呀。你去给我把披肩拿来。劳驾了,嬷嬷,让我坐在这里,等爸爸回家来我再进屋去。”“俺听你这声音像是着凉了,"嬷嬷怀疑地说。

“唔,没有,"思嘉不耐烦地说。"你去把我的披肩拿来吧。"嬷嬷蹒跚地走回堂屋,这时思嘉听到她轻声呼唤着上楼去找楼上的那个女佣人。

“罗莎!听着,把思嘉小姐的披肩给我扔下来。"接着,她的声音更响了,"不中用的黑鬼!她总是什么忙也带不上的。

又得俺亲自爬上楼去取了。”

听到楼梯格格作响,思嘉便轻轻站起身来。嬷嬷一回来又要重复那番责备她不懂礼貌的话了,可思嘉觉得正当自己心酸的时候,实在无法忍受叨叨这种鸡毛蒜皮的小事。她就犹豫不定地站着,不知该躲到哪里去让痛苦的心情略略平息,这时她忽然起了一个念头,这给她带来了一线微弱的希望。原来那天下午她父亲骑马到威尔克斯家的农场“十二橡树”村去了,是为了商量购买他那位管家波克的迪尔茜。迪尔茜是“十二橡树”村的女领班,自从六个月前结婚以来,波克就没日没夜地缠着要主人把她买过来,好让他们两口子住在一起。那天下午杰拉尔德实在已抵挡不住,只得动身到那边去商量购买迪尔茜的事。

当然,思嘉想,爸爸会知道这个可怕的传闻不是真的。就算今天下午他的确没有听到什么消息,他也可能注意到了某些迹象,感觉到威尔克斯家有什么叫人兴奋的事情吧。要是我能在吃晚饭前一个人看见他,说不定就能弄个明白----原来不过是那哥儿俩的一个缺德的玩笑罢了。

杰拉尔德该回来了。如果她想单独见他,她也无须麻烦,只要在车道进入大路的口子上迎接他就行了。她悄悄地走下屋前的台阶,又回过头来仔细看看,要弄清楚嬷嬷的确没有在楼上窗口观望。她没有看见那张围着雪白头巾的黑色阔脸在晃动的窗帘间不满地窥探,便大胆地撩起那件绿花布裙,沿着石径向车道快快地跑去,只要那又镶有锻带的小便鞋允许,她是能跑多快就跑多快的。

沿着碎石的车道两边,茂密的柏树枝叶交错,形成天然的拱顶,使那长长的林荫路变成了一条阴暗的甬道。一跑进这甬道里,她便觉得自己已经安全了,家里的人望不见了,这才放慢脚步,她气喘吁吁,因为她的胸衣箍得太紧,不容许她这样飞跑,不过她还是尽可能迅速走去。她很快便到了车道尽头,走上了大路,可是她并不停步,直到拐了个弯,那里有一大丛树遮掩着她,使家里人再也不能看见了。

她两颊发红,呼吸急促,坐在一个树桩上等待父亲。往常这时候,他已经回来了,不过她高兴今天他晚一些,这样她才有时间喘过气来,使脸色恢复平静,不致引起父亲的猜疑。她分分秒秒地期待着听到得得的马蹄声,看到父亲用他那吓死人的速度驰上山冈。可是一分钟又一分钟过去了,杰拉尔德还是不见回来。顺着大路望去,想找到他的影子,这时心里的痛楚又膨胀起来了。

“唔,那不可能是真的!"她心想。"他为什么不来呢?"她的眼光沿着那条因早晨下过雨而变得血红的大路沉思着,在心里跟踪着这段路程奔下山冈,到那懒洋洋的弗林特河畔,越过荆榛杂乱的沼泽谷底,再爬上下一个山冈到达“十二橡树”村。艾希礼就住在那里。此时,这条路的全部意义就在这里----它是通向艾希礼和那幢美丽的像希腊神殿般高踞于山冈上的白圆柱房子。

“啊,艾希礼!艾希礼!"她心里喊着,心脏跳得更快了。

自从塔尔顿家那对孪生子把他们的闲话告诉她以后,一种惶惑和灾祸的冷酷感一直沉重地压抑着她,可如今这种意识已被推到她心灵的后壁去,代之而的是两年以来始终支配着她的那股狂热之情。

现在看来很有些奇怪,当她还没有长大成人的时候,为什么从不觉得艾希礼有什么动人之处呢?童年时,她看见他走来走去,可一次也不曾想过他。直到两年前那一天,当时艾希礼为期三年的欧洲大陆旅游刚回来,到她家来拜望,她才爱上了他。事情就这么简单。

她那时正在屋前走廊上,他沿着马从林荫道上远远而来,身穿灰色细棉布上衣,领口打着个宽大的黑蝴蝶结,与那件皱领衬衫很相配,直到今天,她还记得他那穿着上的每一个细节,那双马靴多亮啊,还有蝴蝶结别针上那个浮雕宝石的蛇发女妖的头,那顶宽边巴拿马帽子----他一看见她就立即把帽子拿在手里了。他跳下马,把缰绳扔给一个黑孩子,站在那里朝她望着,那双朦胧的灰色眼睛瞪得大大的,流露着微笑;他的金黄色头发在阳光下闪烁,像一顶灿烂的王冠。那时他温和地说:“思嘉,你都长大了。"然后轻轻地走上台阶,吻了吻她的手。还有他的声音啊!她永远也忘不了她听到时那怦然心动的感觉,仿佛她是第一次听到这样慢吞吞的、响亮的、音乐般的声音!

就在这最初一刹那,她觉得她需要他,像要东西吃,买马匹,要温软的床睡觉那样简单,那样说不出原因地需要他。

两年以来,都是他陪着她在县里各处走动,参加舞会、炸鱼宴、野餐,甚至法庭开庭日的听审,等等,虽然从来不像塔尔顿兄弟那样纷繁,也不像方丹家的年轻小伙儿那样纠缠不休,可每星期都要到塔拉农场来拜访,从未间断过。

确实,他从来没有向她求过爱,他那清澈的眼睛也从来没有流露过像思嘉在其他男人身上熟悉的那种炽热的光芒。

可是仍然----仍然----思嘉知道他在爱她。在这点上她是不会错的。直觉比理智更可信赖,而从经验中产生的认识也告诉她他爱她。她几乎常常中他吃惊,那时他的眼睛显得既不朦胧也不疏远,带着热切而凄楚的神情望着她,使她不知所措。她知道他在爱她。他为什么不对她说明呢?这一点她无法理解。但是她无法理解他的地方还多着呢。

他常常很客气,但又那么冷淡、疏远。谁也不明白他在想些什么,而思嘉是最不明白的。在那一带,人人都是一想到什么就说什么,因此艾希礼的谨慎性格便更加使人看不惯了。他对县里的种种娱乐,如打猎、赌博、跳舞和议论政治等方面,都跟任何别的青年人一样精通;可是他跟大家有不同之处,那就是这些愉快的活动对于他来说,都不是人生的目的。他仅仅对书本和音乐感兴趣,而且很爱写诗。

啊,为什么他要长得这么漂亮,可又这么客气而不好亲近,而且一谈起欧洲,书本、音乐、诗歌以及那些她根本不感兴趣的东西来,他就那么兴奋得令人生厌----可是又那么令人爱慕呢?一个晚上又一个晚上,当思嘉同他坐在前门半明半暗的走廊上闲谈过以后,每次上床睡觉时,总要翻来覆去好几个钟头,最后只得自我安慰地设想下次他再来看她时一定会向她求婚,这才慢慢地睡着。可是,下次来了又走了,结果还是一场空----只是那股令她着迷的狂热劲却升得更高更热了。

她爱他,她需要他,但是她不了解他。她是那么直率、简单,就像吃过塔拉上空的风和从塔拉身边流过的河流一样,而且即使活到老她也不可能理解一件错综复杂的事。如今,她生气第一次碰上了一个性格复杂的人。

因为艾希礼天生属于那种类型,一有闲暇不是用来做事,而是用来思想,用来编织色彩斑斓而毫无现实内容的幻梦。他生活在一个比佐治亚美好得多的内心世界里留连忘返。他对人冷眼旁观,既不喜欢也不厌恶。他对生活漠然视之,无所动心,也无所忧虑。他对宇謅e以及他在其中的地位,无论适合与否都坦然接受,有时耸耸肩,回到他的音乐、书本和那个更好的世界里去。

思嘉弄不明白,既然他的心对她的心是那样陌生,那么为什么他竟会迷住她呢?就是他的这个秘密像一扇既没有锁也没有钥匙的门引起了她的好奇心。他身上那些她所无法理解的东西只有使她更加爱他,他那种克制的求爱态度只能鼓励她下更大的决心去把他占为己有。她从未怀疑他有一天会向她求婚,因为她实太年轻太娇惯了,从来不懂得失内是怎么回事。现在,好比晴天霹雳,这个可怕的消息突然降临。这不可能是真的呀!艾希礼要娶媚兰了!

为什么,就在上周一个傍晚他们骑马从费尔黑尔回家时,他还对她说过:“思嘉,我有件十分重要的事要告诉你,但是不知怎么说好。"她那时假装正经地低下头来,可高兴得心怦怦直跳,觉得那个愉快的时刻来了。接着他又说:“可现在不行啊!没有时间了。咱们快到家了,唔,思嘉,你看我多么胆怯呀!"他随即用靴刺在马肋上踢了几下,赶快送思嘉越过山冈回塔拉来了。

思嘉坐在树桩上,回想着那几句曾叫她十分高兴的话,可这时它们突然有另一种意思,一种可怕的意思。也许他找算告诉她的就是他要订婚的消息呢!

啊,只要爸爸回来就好了!这个疑团她实在再也忍受不了啦。她又一次焦急地沿着大路向前望去,又一次大失所望。

这时太阳已经沉到地平线以下,大地边沿那片红霞已褪成了淡粉郄的暮霭。天空渐渐由浅蓝变为知更鸟蛋般淡淡的青绿,田园薄暮中那超尘绝俗的宁静也悄悄在她周围降落。朦胧夜色把村庄笼罩起来了。那些红土垅沟和那条仿佛刚被节开的红色大路,也失掉了神奇的血色而变成平凡的褐色土地了。大路对观的牧场上,牛、马和骡子静静地站在那里,把头颈从篱栏上伸出去,等待着被赶回棚里去享受晚餐。它们不喜欢那些灌木丛的黑影把牧地小溪遮蔽,同时抽动双耳望着思嘉,仿佛很欣赏人类的陪伴似的。

河边湿地上那些在阳光下郁郁葱葱的高大松树,在奇异的朦胧暮色中,如今已变得黑糊糊的,与暗淡的天色两相映衬,好像一排黑色巨人站在那里,把脚下缓缓流过的黄泥河水给遮住了。河对面的山冈上,威尔克斯家的白色烟囱在周围的茂密的橡树林中渐渐隐去,只有远处点点的晚餐灯火还能照见那所房子依稀犹在。暖和且柔润的春天气息,带着新翻的泥土和蓬勃生长的草木的潮温香味温馨地包围着她。

对于思嘉来说,落日、春天和新生的草木花卉,都没有什么奇异之处。她接受它们的美都毫不在意。犹如呼吸空和饮用泉水一样,因为除了女人的相貌、马、丝绸衣服和诸如此类的具体东西以外,她从来也不曾有意识地在任何事物身上看到过美。不过,塔拉农场照料得很好的田地上空这一静穆的暮景却给她那纷乱的心情带来了一定程度的安宁。她是如此热爱这片土地,以致好像并没发觉自己在爱它,就像爱她母亲在灯光下祈祷时的面容一般。

蜿蜒的大路上仍然没有杰拉尔德的影子。如果她还要等候很久,嬷嬷就一定会来寻找她,并把她赶回家去。可是就在她眯着眼睛向那愈来愈黑暗的大路前头细看时,她听到了草地脚下得得的马蹄声,同时看见牛马正慌张地散开。杰拉尔德奥哈拉向家飞奔而来。

他骑着那匹腰壮腿长的猎马驰上山冈,远远看去就像个孩子骑在一匹过于高大的马上。长长的头发在他脑后飞扬着,他举着鞭子,吆喝着加速前进。

尽管思嘉心中充满了焦急不安的情绪,但她仍然怀着无比的自豪感观望父亲,因为杰拉尔德是个真正出色的猎手。

“我不明白他为什么一旦喝了点酒便要跳篱笆,"思嘉心想。"而且去年他就是在这里把膝头摔坏的呀。你以为他会记住这教训吧,尤其是他还对母亲发过誓,答应再不跳了。"思嘉不怕父亲,并且觉得他比他的姐妹们更像是一个同辈,因为跳篱笆和向他妻子保密这件事使他感到一种孩子气的骄傲和略带内疚的愉悦,而这是可以和思嘉干了坏事瞒过嬷嬷时的高兴心情相比的。现在她从树桩上站起身来看他。

那匹大马跑到篱笆边,弯着前腿纵身一跃,便像只鸟儿般毫不费力地飞了过去,它的骑手也高兴地叫喊着,将鞭子在空中抽得噼啪响,长长的白发在脑后飞扬。杰拉尔德并没有看见在树木黑影中的女儿,他在大路上勒住缰绳,赞赏地轻拍着马的颈项。

“在咱们县里没有谁比得上你,就是州里也没有,"他得意洋洋地对自己的马说。他那爱尔兰米思地方的口音依然很重,尽管到美国了39年了。接着他赶快理了理头发,把揉皱的衬衫和扭到耳背后的领结也整理好。思嘉知道这些修整工夫是为了让自己像个讲究的上等人模样去见母亲,假装是拜访邻居以后安安稳稳骑马回来的。她知道自己的机会到了,她可以开始同他谈话而不必担心泄露真实的用意了。

她这时大声笑起来。不出所料,杰拉尔德听见笑声大吃一惊,但随即便认出了她,红润的脸上堆满了边讨好边挑战的神情。他艰难地跳下马来,因为双膝已经麻木了;然后把缰绳搭在胳臂上、蹒跚地向她走来。

“小姐,好啊,"他说着,拧了一下她的面颊,"那么,你是在偷看我了,而且像你的苏伦妹妹上星期干过的那样,准备到你母亲面前去告我的状了吧?"他那沙破低沉的声音里含有怒意,同时也带有讨好的意味,这时思嘉便挑剔而又嗲声嗲气地伸出手来将他领结拉正了。他扑面而来的的呼吸让她嗅到了一股强烈的混和薄荷香味的波旁威士忌酒味。他身上还散发着咀嚼烟草和擦过油的皮革以及马汗的气味----这是一股各种味道的混杂,她经常把它同父亲联系起来,以致在别人身上闻到时也本能地喜欢。

“爸,不会的,我不是苏伦那种搬弄是非的人,"她请他放心,一面略略向后退了一下,带着嬷嬷的神气端详他的服饰。

杰拉尔德身高只有五英尺多,是个矮个儿,但腰身很壮,脖子很粗,坐着时那模样叫陌生人看了还以为他是个比较高大的人。他那十分笨重的躯干由经常裹在头等皮靴里的短粗的双腿支撑着,而且经常大大分开站着,像个摇摇摆摆的孩子。凡是自己以为了不起的矮人,那模样大都是有点可笑的;可是一只矮脚的公鸡在场地上却备受尊敬,杰拉尔德也就是这样。谁也没有胆量把杰拉尔德当作可笑的矮个儿看待。

他60岁了,一头波浪式的鬈发已经白如银丝,但是他那精明的脸上还没有一丝皱纹,两只蓝眼睛也焕发着青年人无忧无虑的神采,这说明他从来不为什么抽象的问题伤脑筋,只想些简单实际的事,如打扑克时要抓几张牌,等等。他那张纯粹爱尔兰型的脸,同他已离别多年的故乡的那些脸一模一样,是圆圆的、深色的、短鼻子,宽嘴巴,满脸好战的神情。

虽然杰拉尔德奥哈拉外表粗暴,但心地却十分善良。他不忍心看到奴隶们受惩罚时的可怜相,即使是应该的也罢;也不喜欢听到猫叫或小孩蹄哭。不过他很害怕别人发现他的这个弱点。他还不知道人家遇到他不过五分钟就明白他是好心肠的人了。可是如果他觉察到这一点,他的虚荣心就要大受伤害,因为他喜欢设想,只要自己大喊大叫地发号施令,谁都会战战兢兢地服从呢。他从来不曾想到过,在这个农场里人人都服从的只有一个声音,那就是太太爱伦的柔和的声音。

他永远也不会知道这个秘密,因为自爱伦以下直到最粗笨的大田劳工,都在暗中串通一起,让他始终相信自己的话便是圣旨。

思嘉比谁都更不在乎他的嬷嬷和吼叫。她是他的头生孩子,而且杰拉尔德也清楚,在三个儿子相继向进了家庭墓地之后,他不会再有儿子了,因此他已逐渐养成习惯,以男人对男人的态度来对待她,而这是她最乐意接受的。她比几个妹妹更像父亲,因为卡琳生来体格纤弱,多愁善感,而苏伦又自命不凡,总觉得自己文雅,有贵妇人派头。

另个,还有一个相互制约的协议把思嘉和父亲彼此联系在一起。要是杰拉尔德看见女儿爬篱笆而不愿走道到大门口去,他便当面责备她,但事后并不向爱伦或嬷嬷提出。而思嘉要是发现他在向太太郑重保证之后还照样骑着马跳篱笆,或者从县里人的闲谈中听说他打扑克时输了多少钱,她也不在吃晚饭时像苏伦那样直统统地说起这件事。思嘉和她父亲认真地彼此交代过:谁要是把这种搬到母亲耳边,那只会使她伤心,而无论如何他们也是犯不着这样做的。

如今在擦黑的微光中思嘉望着父亲,也不知为什么她觉得一到他面前心里就舒服了。他身上有一种生气勃勃的粗俗味儿吸引着她。她作为一个最没有分析头脑的人,并不明白这是由于她自己身上也或多或少有着同样禀性的缘故,尽管爱伦和嬷嬷花了16年的心血想它抹掉,也终归徒然。

“好了,现在你完全可以出台了,"她说,"我想除非你自己吹牛,谁也不会怀疑你玩过这种花招的。不过我觉得,你去年已经摔坏了膝盖,现在又跳这同一道篱笆----”“唔,如果我还得靠自己的女儿来告诉我什么地方该跳或不该跳,那可太糟糕了,"他叫嚷着,又在她脸颊上拧了一把。

“颈脖了是我自己的,就是这样。另外,姑娘,你光着肩膀在这儿干什么?”她看到父亲在玩弄他惯用的手法来回避眼前一次不愉快的谈话,便轻轻挽住他的胳臂,一边说:“我在等你呢!没想到你会这么晚才回来。我还以为你把迪尔茜买下来了。”“买是买下来了,可价钱真要了我的命。买了她和她的小女儿百里茜。约翰威尔克斯几乎想把她们送掉,可我决不让人家说杰拉尔德奥哈拉在买卖中凭友情占了便宜。我叫他把两人共卖了三千。”“爸爸,我的天,三千哪!再说,你也用不着买百里茜呀!”“难道该让我自己的女儿公然来评判我?"杰拉尔德用幽默的口吻喊道:“百里茜是个蛮可爱的小女儿,所以----”“我知道。她是个又鬼又笨的小家伙,"思嘉不顾父亲的吼叫,只平静地接下去说。"而且,你买下她的主要理由是,迪尔茜央求你买她。"杰拉尔德似乎倒了威风,显得很尴尬,就像他平常做好事时给抓住了那样,这时思嘉便乐呵呵地笑话其他那伪装的坦率来了。

“不过,就算我这样做了又怎么样?只买来迪尔茜,要是她整天惦记孩子,又有什么用呢?好了,从此我再也不让这里的黑小子跟别处的女人结婚了。那太费钱。来吧,淘气包,咱们进屋去吃晚饭。"周围的黑影越来越浓,最后一丝绿意也从天空中消失了,春天的温馨已被微微的寒意所取代。可是思嘉还在踌躇,不知怎样才能把话题转到艾希礼身上而又不让杰拉尔德怀疑她的用意。这是困难的,因为从思嘉身上找不出一根随机应变的筋来;同时杰拉尔德也与她十分相似,没有哪一次不识奇她的诡计,犹如猜透了他的一样。何况他这样做时是很少拐弯抹角的。

'十二橡树'村那边的人都怎样了?”

“大体和往常一样。凯德卡尔弗特也在那里。我办完迪尔茜的事以后,大家在走廊上喝了几盅棕榈酒。凯德刚刚从亚特兰大来,他们正兴致勃勃,在那里谈论战争,以及----"思嘉叹了一口气。只要杰拉尔德一谈起战争和脱离联邦这个话题,他不扯上几个小时是不会停下的。她连忙拿另一个话题来岔开。

“他们有没有谈起?明天的全牛野宴?”

“我记得是谈起过的。那位小姐----她叫什么名字来着?----就是去年到这里来过的那个小妮子,你知道,艾希礼的表妹----啊,对了,媚兰汉密尔顿小姐,就叫这个名字----她和她哥哥查尔斯已经从亚特兰大来了,并且----”“唔,她果真来了?”“真是个可爱的文静人儿,她来了,总是不声不响,女人家就该这样嘛。走吧,女儿,别磨蹭了,你妈会到处找咱们的。"思嘉一听到这消息心就沉了。她曾经不顾事实地一味希望会有什么事情把媚兰汉密尔顿留在亚特兰大,因为她就是那里的人呀;而且听到连父亲也完全跟她的看法相反,满口赞赏媚兰那文静的禀性,这就促使她不得不摊开来谈了。

“艾希礼也在那里吗?”

“他在那里。"杰拉尔德松开女儿的胳膊,转过身来,用犀利的眼光凝视着她的脸。"如果你就是为了这个才出来等我的,那你为什么不直截了当说,却要兜这么大个圈子呢?"思嘉不知说什么好,只觉得心中一起纷乱,脸都涨得通红了。

“好,说下去。”

她仍是什么也不说,真希望在这种局面下能使劲摇晃自己的父亲叫他闭嘴算了。

“他在,并且像他的几个妹妹那样十分亲切地问候了你,还说希望不会有什么事拖住你不去参加明天的大野宴呢。我当然向他们保证绝不会的,"他机灵地说。”现在你说,女儿,关于你和艾希礼,这到底是怎么回事呀?”“没什么,"她简地答道,一面拉着他的胳臂。"爸,我们进去吧。”“现在你倒是要进去了,"他说。”可是我还是要站在这里,直到我明白你是怎么回事。唔,我想起来了,你最近显得有点奇怪,难道他跟你胡闹来着?他向你求婚了吗?”“没有,"她简单地回答。

“他是不会的,"杰拉尔德说。

她心中顿时火气,可是杰拉尔德摆了摆手,叫她平静些。

“姑娘!别说了,今天下午我从约翰威尔克斯那里听说,艾希礼千真万确要跟媚兰小姐结婚。明天晚上就要宣布。"思嘉的手从他的胳臂上滑下来。果然是真的呀!

她的心头一阵剧痛,仿佛一只野兽用尖牙在咬着她。就在这当儿,她父亲的眼睛死死盯住她,由于面对一个他不知该怎样回答的问题而觉得有点可怜,又颇为烦恼。他爱思嘉,可是现在她竟把她那些孩子般的问题向他提出来,强求他解决,这就使他很不舒服。爱伦懂得怎样回答这些问题。思嘉本来应当到她那里去诉苦的。

“你这不是在出自己的洋相----出咱们大家的洋相吗?”他厉声说,声音高得像昨日发嬷嬷时一样了。"你是在追求一个不爱你的男人了?可这县里有那么多哥儿公子,你是谁都可以挑选的呀!"愤怒和受伤的自尊感反而把思嘉心中的痛苦驱走了一部分。

“我并没有追他。只不过感到吃惊而已。”“你这是在撒谎!"杰拉尔德大声说,接着,他凝视着她的脸,又突然显得十分慈祥地补充道:“我很难过,女儿。但毕竟你还是个孩子,而且别的小伙子还多着呢。”“妈妈嫁给你时才15岁呀,现在我都16了,"思嘉嘟嘟囔囔地说。

“你妈妈可不一样,"杰拉尔德说。"她从来不像你这样胡思乱想。好了,女儿,高兴一点,下星期我带你到查尔斯顿去看尤拉莉姨。看看他们那里怎样闹腾萨姆特要塞的事,包你不到一星期就艾希礼忘了。”“他还把我当孩子看,"思嘉心里想,悲伤和愤怒憋得她说不出话来,"以为只要拿着新玩具在我面前晃两下,我就会把伤痛全忘了呢。”“好,别跟我作对了,"杰拉尔德警告说。"你要是懂点事,早就该同斯图尔特或者布伦特结婚了。考虑考虑吧,女儿,同这对双胞胎中无论哪一个结婚,两家的农场便可以连成一起,吉姆塔尔顿和我便会给你们盖一幢漂亮房子,就在两家农场连接的地方,那一大片松林里,而且----”“别把我当小孩看待了,好吗?”思嘉嚷道。"我不去查尔斯顿,也不要什么房子,或同双胞胎结婚。我只要----"说到这里,她停顿了,但已经为时过晚。

杰拉尔德的声音出奇地平静,他慢吞吞地说着,仿佛是从一个很少使用的思想匣子里把话一字一句地抽出来似的。

“你唯一要的是艾希礼,可是却得不到他。而且即使他要和你结婚,我也未必就乐意应许,无论我同约翰威尔克斯有多好的交情。"这时他看到她惊惶的神色,便接着说:“我要让我的女儿幸福,可你同他在一起是不会幸福的。”“啊,我会的,我会的!”“女儿,你不会的。只有同一类型的人两相匹配,才有幸福可言。”思嘉忽然心里起了种恶意,想大声喊出来:“可你不是一直很幸福呀,尽管你和妈并不是同类的人,"不过她把这念头压下去了,生怕他容忍不了这种卤莽行为,给她妈一耳光。

“咱们家的人跟威尔克斯家的人不一样,"他字斟句酌地慢慢说。"威尔克斯家跟咱们所有的邻居----跟我所认识的每家邻居都不一样。他们是些古古怪怪的人,最好是和他们的表姐妹去结婚,让他们一起保持自己的古怪去吧。”“怎么,爸爸,艾希礼可不是----”“姑娘!别急呀,我并没说这个年轻人的坏话嘛,因为我喜欢他。我说的古怪,并不就是疯狂的意思。他的古怪并不像卡尔弗特家的人那样,把所有的一切都押在一骑马身上,也不像塔尔顿家的孩子那样每次都喝得烂醉如泥,而且跟方丹家那些狂热的小畜牲也不一样,他们动不动就行凶杀人。那种古怪是容易理解的,而且,老实说吧,要不是上帝保佑,杰拉尔德奥哈拉很可能样样俱全呢。我也不是说,你如果做了他的位子,艾希礼会跟别的女人私奔,或者揍你。要是那样,你反而会幸福些,因为你至少懂得那是怎么回事。但他的古怪归于另一种方式,它使你对艾希礼根本无理解可言。我喜欢他,可是对于他所说的那些东西,我几乎全都摸不着头脑。好了,姑娘,老实告诉我,你理解他关于书本、诗歌、音乐、油画以及诸如此类的傻事所说的那些废话吗?”“啊,爸爸,”思嘉不耐烦地说,"如果我跟他结了婚,我会把这一切都改变过来的!”“唔,你会,你现在就会?"杰拉尔德暴躁地说,狠狠地瞪了她一眼。"这说明你对世界上任何一个男人都知道得还很少,更何况对艾希礼呢。你可千万别忘了哪个妻子也不曾把丈夫改变一丁点儿埃至于说改变威尔克斯家的某个人,那简直是笑话,女儿。他们全家都那样,且历来如此。并且大概会永远这样下去了。我告诉你,他们生来就这么古怪。瞧他们今天跑纽约,明天跑波士顿,去听什么歌剧,看什么油画,那个忙乎戏儿!还要从北方佬那儿一大箱一大箱地订购法文和德文书呢!然后他们就坐下来读,坐下来梦想天知道什么玩意儿,这样的大好时光要是像正常人那样用来打猎和玩扑克,该多好呀!”“可是县里没有骑马得比艾希礼更好的呢,"思嘉对这些尽是诬蔑艾希礼的话十分恼火,便开始辩护起来。“也许他父亲不算,此外一个人也没有。至于打扑克,艾希礼不是上星期在琼博罗还赢走了你二百美元吗?”“卡尔佛特家的小子们又在胡扯了,"杰拉尔德不加辩解地说,"要不然你怎会知道这个数目。艾希礼能够跟最出色的骑手骑马,也能跟最出色的牌友玩扑克----我就是最出色的,姑娘!而且我不否认,他喝起酒来能使甚至塔尔顿家的人也醉倒了桌子底下。所有这些他都行,可是他的心不在这上面。

这就是我说他为人古怪的原因。”

思嘉默不作声,她的心在往下沉。对于这最后一点,她想不出辩护的话来了,因为她知道杰拉尔德是对的。艾希礼的心不在所有这些他玩得最好的娱乐上。对于大家所最感兴趣的任何事物,他最多只不过出于礼貌,表示爱好而已。

杰拉尔德明白她这的沉默的意思,便拍拍她的臂膀得意地说:“思嘉!好啦!你承认我这话说对了。你要艾希礼这样一个丈夫干什么呢?他们全都是疯疯癫癫的,所有威尔克斯家的人。"接着,他又用讨好的口气说:“刚才我提到塔尔顿家的小伙子们,那可不是挤对他们呀。他们是些好小子,不过,如果你在设法猎取的是,凯德卡尔弗特,那么,这对我也完全一样。卡尔费特家的人是好样的,他们都是这样,尽管那老头娶了北方佬。等到我过世的时候----别响呀,亲爱的,听我说嘛!我要把塔拉农场留给你和凯德----”“把凯德用银盘托着送给我,我也不会要,"思嘉气愤地喊道。"我求求你不要硬把他推给我吧!我不要塔拉或别的什么农常农场一钱不值,要是----"她正要说"要是你得不到你所想要的人,"可这时杰拉尔德被她那种傲慢的态度激怒了----她居然那样对待他送给他的礼品,那是除爱伦以外他在世界上最宠爱的东西呢,于是他大吼了一声。

“思嘉,你真敢公然对我说,塔拉----这块土地----一钱不值吗?”思嘉固执地点点头。已经顾不上考虑这是否会惹她父亲大发雷霆。因为她内心太痛苦了。

“土地是世界上唯一最值钱的东西啊!"他一面嚷,一面伸开两只又粗又短的胳臂做了非常气愤的姿势,"因为它是世界上唯一持久的东西,而且你千万别忘了,它是唯一值得你付出劳动,进行战斗----牺牲性命的东西啊!”“啊,爸,"她厌恶地说,"你说这话真像个爱尔兰人哪!”“我难道为这感到羞耻过吗?不。我感到自豪呢。姑娘可别忘了你是半个爱尔兰人,对于每一个上有一滴爱尔兰血液的人来说,他们居住在土地就像他们的母亲一样。此刻我是在为你感到羞耻埃我把世界上----咱们祖国的米思除外----最美好的土地给你,可你怎么样呢?你嗤之以鼻嘛!"杰拉尔德正准备痛痛快快发泄一下心中的怒气。这时他看见思嘉满脸悲伤的神色,便止住了。

“不过,你还年轻。将来你会懂得爱这块土地的。只要你做了爱尔兰人,你是没法摆脱它的。现在你还是个孩子,还只为自己的意中人操心哪。等到你年纪大一些,你就会懂得----现在你要下定决心,究竟是挑选凯德还是那对双胞胎,或者伊凡芒罗家的一个小伙子,无论谁,到时候看我让你们过得舒舒服服的。”“啊,爸!"杰拉尔德这时觉得这番谈话实在厌烦透了,而且一想到这个问题还得由他来解决,便十分恼火。另外,由于思嘉对他所提供的最佳对象和塔拉农场居然无动于衷,还是那么郁郁不乐,也感到委屈得很。他多么希望这些礼物被女儿用鼓誂E,亲吻来接受啊!

“好,别撅着嘴生气了。姑娘,无论你嫁给谁,这都没有关系,只要他跟你情投意合,是上等人,又是个有自尊心的南方人就行。女人嘛,结了婚便会产生爱情的。”“啊,爸!你看你这观念有多旧多土啊!”“这才是个好观念啊!那种美国式的做法,到处跑呀找呀,要为爱情结婚呀,像些佣人似的,像北方佬似的,有什么意思呢。最好的婚姻是靠父母给女儿选择对象。不然,像你这样的傻丫头,怎能分清楚好人和坏蛋呢。好吧,你看看威尔克斯家。他们凭什么世世代代保持了自己的尊严和兴旺呢?那不就凭的是跟自己的同类人结婚,跟他们家庭所希望的那些表亲结婚埃”“啊!"思嘉叫起来,由于杰拉尔德的话把事实的不可避免性说到家了,她心中产生了新的痛苦。杰拉尔德看看她低下的头,很不自在地把两只脚反复挪动着。

“你不是在哭吧?"他问她,笨拙地摸摸她的下巴,想叫她仰起脸来,这时他自己的脸由于怜悯而露出深深的皱纹来了。

“没有!"她猛寺把头扭开,激怒地大叫了。

“你是在撒谎,但我很喜欢这样。我巴不得你为人骄傲一些,姑娘。但愿在明天的大野宴上也看到你的骄傲。我不要全县的人都谈论你和笑话你,说你成天痴心想着一个男人,而那个人却根本无意于你,只维持一般的友谊罢了。”“他对我是有意的呀,"思嘉想,心里十分难过。"啊,情意深着呢!我知道他真的是这样。我敢断定,只要再有一点点时间,我相信便能叫他亲自说出来----啊,要不是威尔克斯家的人总觉得他们只能同表亲结婚,那就好了!"杰拉尔德把她的臂膀挽起来。

“咱们要进去吃晚饭了,这件事就不声张,只咱们知道行了。我不会拿它去打扰你妈妈----你也不着跟他说。擤擤鼻涕吧,女儿。"思嘉用她的奇手绢擤了擤鼻涕,然后他们彼此挽着胳臂走上黑暗的车道,那骑马在后面缓缓地跟着。走近屋子时,思嘉正要开口说什么,忽然看见走廊暗影中的母亲。她戴着帽子、披肩和手套,嬷嬷跟在后面,脸色像满天乌云阴沉,手里拿着一个黑皮袋,那是爱伦出去给农奴们看病时经常带着装药品和绷带用的。嬷嬷那片又宽又厚的嘴唇向下耷拉着,她生起气来会把下嘴唇拉得有平时两倍那么大。这张嘴现在正撅着,所以思嘉明白嬷嬷正在为什么不称心的事生气呢。

“奥哈拉先生,"爱伦一见父女俩在车道上走来便叫了一声----爱伦是地道的老一辈人,她尽管结结婚17年了,生育了六个孩子,可仍然讲究礼节----她说:“奥哈拉先生,斯莱特里那边有人病了。埃米的新生婴儿快要死了,可是还得他施洗礼。我和嬷嬷去看看还有没有什么办法。"她的声音带有明显的询问口气,仿佛在征求杰拉尔德的同意,这无非是一种礼节上的表示,但从杰拉尔德看来却是非常珍贵的。

“真的天知道!"杰拉尔德一听便嚷嚷开了,"为什么这些下流白人嬷嬷在吃晚饭的时候把你叫走呢?而且我正要告诉你亚特兰大那边人们在怎样谈论战争呀!去吧,奥拉太太。我知道,只要外边出了点什么事,你不去帮忙是整夜也睡不好觉的。”“她总是一点也不休息,深更半夜为黑人和穷白人下流坯子看病,好像他们就照顾不了自己。"嬷嬷自言自语咕囔着下了台阶,向等在道旁的马车走去。

“你就替我照管晚饭吧,亲爱的,"爱伦说,一面用戴手套的手轻轻摸了摸思嘉的脸颊。

不管思嘉怎样强忍着眼中的泪水,她一接触母亲的爱抚,从她绸衣上隐隐闻到那个柠檬色草编香囊中的芳馨,便被那永不失效的魅力感动得震颤起来。对于思嘉来说,爱伦奥哈拉周围有一种令人吃惊的东西,房子里有一种不可思议的东西同她在一起,使她敬畏、着迷,也使她平静。

杰拉尔德扶他的太太上了马车,吩咐车夫一路小心。车夫托比驾驭杰拉尔德的马已经20年了,他撅着嘴对这种吩咐表示抗议----还用得着你来提醒我这个老把式哪!他赶着车动身子,嬷嬷坐在他身旁,刚好构成一副非洲人撅嘴使气的绝妙图画。

“要是我不给斯莱特里那些下流坯帮那么大的忙----换了别人本来是要报酬的。”杰拉尔德气愤地说,"他们就会愿意把沼泽边上那几英亩赖地卖给我,县里也就会把他们摆脱了。"随后,他面露喜色,想起一个有益的玩笑来:“女儿,来吧,咱们去告诉波克,说我没有买下迪尔茜,而是把他卖给约翰威尔克斯了。"他把缰绳扔给站在旁边的一个黑小子,然后大步走上台阶,他已经忘记了思嘉的伤心事,一心想去捉弄他的管家。思嘉跟在他后面,慢腾腾地爬上台阶,两只脚沉重得像铅一般。

她想,无论如何,要是她自己和艾希礼结为夫妻,至少不会比她父亲这一对显得更不相称的。如往常那样,她觉得奇怪,怎么这位大喊大叫,没心计的父亲会设法娶上了像她母亲那样的一个女人呢?因为从出身、教养和性格来说,世界上再没有比他们彼此距离更远的两个人了。

 

 

第三章

爱伦奥哈拉现年32岁,依当时的标准已是个中年妇人,她生有六个孩子,但其中三个已经夭折。她高高的,比那位火爆性子的矮个儿丈夫高出一头,不过她的举止是那么文静,走起路来只见那条长裙子轻盈地摇摆,这样也就不显得怎么高了。她那奶酪色的脖颈圆圆的,细细的,从紧身上衣的黑绸圆领中端端正正地伸出来,但由于脑后那把戴着网套的丰盈秀发颇为浓重,便常常显得略后向仰。她母亲是法国人,是一对从1791年革命中逃亡到海地来的夫妇所生,她给爱伦遗传了这双在墨黑睫毛下略略倾斜的黑眼睛和这一头黑发。她父亲是拿破仑军队中的一名士兵,传给她一个长长的、笔直的鼻子和一个有棱有角的方颚,只不过后者在她两颊的柔美曲线的调和下显得不那么惹眼了。同时爱伦的脸也仅仅通过生活才养马了现在这副庄严而并不觉得傲慢的模样,这种优雅,这种忧郁而毫无幽默感的神态。

如果她的眼神中有一点焕发的光采,她的笑容中带有一点殷勤的温煦,她那使儿女和仆人听来感到轻柔的声音中有一点自然的韵味,那她便是一个非常漂亮的女人了。她说话用的是海滨佐治亚人那种柔和而有点含糊的口音,元音是流音,子音咬得不怎么准,略略带法语腔调。这是一种即使命令仆人或斥责儿女时也从不提高的声音,但也是在塔拉农场人人都随时服从的声音,而她的丈夫的大喊大叫在那里却经常被悄悄地忽略了。

从思嘉记得的最早时候起,她母亲便一直是这个样子,她的声音,无论在称赞或者责备别人时,总是那么柔和而甜蜜;她的态度,尽管杰拉尔德在纷纷扰扰的家事中经常要出点乱子,却始终是那么沉着,应付自如;她的精神总是平静的,脊背总是挺直的,甚至在她的三个幼儿夭折时也是这样。思嘉从没见过母亲坐着时将背靠在椅子背上,也从没见过她手里不拿点针线活儿便坐下来(除了吃饭),即使是陪伴病人或审核农场账目的时候。在有客人在场时,她手里是精巧的刺绣,别的时候则是缝制杰拉尔德的衬衫、女孩子的衣裳或农奴们的衣服。思嘉很难想象母亲手上不戴那个金顶针,或者她那一路啊啊啊啊的身影后面没有那个黑女孩,后者一生中唯一的任务是给她拆绷线,以及当爱伦为了检查烹饪、洗涤和大批的缝纫活儿而在满屋子四处乱跑动时,捧着那个红木针线拿儿从一个房间走到另一个房间。

思嘉从未见过母亲庄重安谦的神态被打扰的时候,她个人的衣着也总是那么整整嬷嬷,无论白天黑夜都毫无二致。每当爱伦为了参加舞会,接待客人或者到琼斯博罗去旁听法庭审判而梳妆时,那就得花上两个钟头的时间,让两位女仆和嬷嬷帮着打扮,直到自己满意为止;不过到了紧急时刻,她的梳妆功夫便惊人地加快了。

思嘉的房间在她母亲房间的对面,中间隔着个穿堂。她从小就熟悉了:在天亮前什么时候一个光着脚的黑人急促脚步在硬木地板上轻轻走过,接着是母亲房门上匆忙的叩击声,然后是黑人那低沉而带惊慌的耳语,报告本地区那长排白棚屋里有人生病了,死了,或者养了孩子。那时她还很小,常常爬到门口去,从狭窄的门缝里窥望,看到爱伦从黑暗的房间里出来,同时听到里面杰拉尔德平静而有节奏的鼾声;母亲让黑人手中的蜡烛照着,臂下挟着药品箱,头发已梳得熨熨贴贴,紧身上衣的钮扣也会扣好了。

思嘉听到母亲踮着脚尖轻轻走过厅堂,并坚定而怜悯地低声说:“嘘,别这么大声说话。会吵醒奥哈拉先生的。他们还不至于病得要死吧。"此时,她总有一种安慰的感觉。

是的,她知道爱伦已经摸黑外出,一切正常,便爬回去重新躺到床上睡了。

早晨,经过抢救产妇和婴儿的通宵忙乱----那时老方丹大夫和年轻的方丹大夫都已外出应诊,没法来帮她的忙----然后,爱伦又像通常那样作为主妇在餐桌旁出现了,她那黝黑的眼圆略有倦色,可是声音和神态都没有流露丝毫的紧张感。她那庄重的温柔下面有一种钢铁般的品性,它使包托杰拉尔德和姑娘们在内的全家无不感到敬畏,虽然杰拉尔德宁死也不愿承认这一点。

思嘉有时夜里轻轻走去亲吻高个子母亲的面颊,她仰望着那张上唇显得太短太柔嫩的嘴,那张太容易为世人所伤害的嘴,她不禁暗想它是否也曾像娇憨的姑娘那样格格地笑过,或者同知心的女友通宵达旦喁喁私语。可是,不,这是不可能的。母亲从来就是现在这个模样,是一根力量的支柱,一个智慧的源泉,一位对任何问题都能够解答的人。

但是思嘉错了,因为多年以前,萨凡纳州的爱伦罗毕拉德也曾像那个迷个的海滨城市里的每一位15岁的姑娘那样格格地笑过,也曾同朋友们通宵达旦喁喁私语,互谈理想,倾诉衷肠,只有一个秘密除外。就是在那一年,比她大28岁的杰拉尔德奥哈拉闯进了她的生活----也是那一年,青春和她那黑眼睛表兄菲利普罗毕拉德从她的生活中消退了。

因为,当菲利普连同他那双闪闪发光的眼睛和那种放荡不羁的习性永远离开萨凡纳时,他把爱伦心中的光辉也带走了,只给后来娶她的这位罗圈腿矮个儿爱尔兰人留下了一个温驯的躯壳。

不过对杰拉尔德这也就够了,他还因为真正娶上了她这一难以相信的幸运而吓坏了呢。而且,如果她身上失掉了什么,他也从不觉得可惜。他是个精明人,懂得像他这样一个既无门第又无财产但好吹嘘的爱尔兰人,居然娶到海滨各洲中最富有最荣耀人家的女儿,也算得上是一个奇迹了。要知道,杰拉尔德是个白手起家的人。

21岁那年杰拉尔德来到美国。他是匆匆而来像以前或以后许多好好坏坏的爱尔兰人那样,因为他只带着身上穿的衣服和买船票剩下的两个先令,以及悬赏捉拿他的那个身价,而且他觉得这个身价比他的罪行所应得的还高了一些。世界上还没有一个奥兰治派分子值得英国政府或魔鬼本身出一百镑的;但是如果政府对于一个英国的不在地主地租代理人的死会那么认真,那么杰拉尔德奥哈拉的突然出走便是适时的了。的确,他曾经称呼过地租代理人为"奥兰治派野崽子"不过,按照杰拉尔德对此事的看法,这并不使那个人就有权哼着《博因河之歌》那开头几句来侮辱他。

博因河战役是一百多年以前的事了,但是在奥哈拉家族和他们的邻里看来,就像昨天发生的事,那时他们的希望和梦想,他们的土地和钱财,都在那团卷着一位惊惶逃路的斯图尔特王子的魔雾中消失了,只留下奥兰治王室的威廉和他那带着奥兰治帽徽的军队来屠杀斯图尔特王朝的爱尔兰依附者了。

由于这个以及别的原因,杰拉尔德的家庭并不想把这场争吵的毁灭结果看得十分严重,只把它看作是一桩有严重影响的事而已。多年来,奥哈拉家与英国警察部门的关系很不好,原因是被怀疑参与了反政府活动,而杰拉尔德并不是奥哈拉家族中头一个暗中离开爱尔兰的人。他几乎想不其他的两个哥哥詹姆斯和安德鲁,只记得两个闷声不响的年轻人,他们时常在深夜来来去去,干一些神秘的钩当,或者一走就是好几个星期,使母亲焦急万分。他们是许多年前人们在奥哈拉家猪圈里发现在一批理藏的来福枪之到美国的。现在他们已在萨凡纳作生意发了家,"虽然只有上帝才知道那地方究竟在哪里"----他们母亲提起这两个大儿子时老是这样说,年轻的杰拉尔德就是给送到两位哥哥这里来的。

离家出走时,母亲在他脸上匆匆吻了一下,并贴着耳朵说了一声天主教的祝福,父亲则给了临别赠言,"要记住自己是谁,不要学别人的样。"他的五位高个子兄弟羡慕而略带关注地微笑着向他道了声再见,因为杰拉尔德在强壮的一家人中是最小和最矮的一个。

他父亲和五个哥哥都身六英尺以上,其粗壮的程度也很相称,可是21岁的小个子杰拉尔德懂得,五英尺四英寸半便是上帝所能赐给他的最大高度了。对杰拉尔德来说,他从不以自己身材矮小而自怨自艾,也从不认为这会阻碍他去获得自己所需要的一切。更确切些不如说,正是杰拉尔德的矮小精干使他成为现在这样,因为他早就明白矮小的人必须在高大者中间顽强地活下去。而杰拉尔德是顽强的。

他那些高个儿哥哥是些冷酷寡言的人,在他们身上,历史光荣的传统已经永远消失,沦落为默默的仇恨,爆裂出痛苦的幽默来了。要是杰拉尔德也生来强壮,他就会走上向奥哈拉家族中其他人的道路,在反政府的行列中悄悄地、神秘地干起来。可杰拉尔德像他母亲钟爱地形容的那样,是个"高嗓门,笨脑袋",嬷嬷暴躁,动辄使拳头,并且盛气凌人,叫人见人怕。他在那些高大的奥哈拉家族的人中间,就像一只神气十足的矮脚鸡在满院子大个儿雄鸡中间那样,故意昂首阔步,而他们都爱护他,亲切地怂恿地高声喊叫,必要时也只伸出他们的大拳头敲他几下,让这位小弟弟不要太得意忘形了。

到美国来之前,杰拉尔德没有受过多少教育,可是他对此并不怎么有自知之明。其实,即使别人给他指出,他也不会在意。他母亲教过他读书写字。他很善于作算术题。他的书本知识就只这些。他唯一懂得的拉丁文是作弥撒时应答牧师的用语,唯一的历史知识则是爱尔兰的种种冤屈。他在诗歌方面,只知道穆尔的作品,音乐则限于历代流传下来的爱尔兰歌曲。他尽管对那些比他较有学问的人怀有敬意,可是从来也不感觉到自己的缺陷。而且,在一个新的国家,在一个连那些最愚昧的爱尔兰人也在此发了大财的国家,在一个只要求你强壮不怕干活的国家,他需要这些东西干什么呢?

詹姆斯和安德鲁并不认为自己很少受教育是一桩憾事。

他们收留杰拉尔德进了他们的萨凡纳的商店。他的字迹清楚,算数算得准确,与顾客谈起生意来也很精明,因此赢得了两位哥哥的期重;至于文学知识和欣赏音乐的修养,年轻的杰拉尔德即使具有,也只会引其他们的嗤笑。在本世纪初,美国对爱尔兰人还很和气,詹姆斯和安德鲁开始时用帆布篷车从萨凡纳往佐治亚的内地城镇运送货物,后来赚了钱便自己开店,杰拉尔德也就跟着他们发迹了。

他喜欢南方,并且自己以为很快就成了南方人。的确,关于南方和南方人,有许多东西是他永远也不会理解的,不过,南方人的有些思想习惯,如玩扑克,赛马,争论政治和举行决斗,争取州权和咒骂北方佬,维护奴隶制和棉花至上主义,轻视下流白人和过分讨好妇女,等等,他一旦理解便全心全意地接受,并成为他自己的了。他甚至学会了咀嚼烟叶。至于喝威士忌的本领,他生来就已经具备,那是不用学的。

然而,杰拉尔德还是杰拉尔德。他的生活习惯和思想变了,但他不愿改变自己的态度,即使他能够改变。他羡慕那种稻米棉花的富裕地主,羡慕他们慢条斯理,温文尔雅地骑着纯种马,后面是载着他们文质彬彬的太太们马车和奴隶们的大车,从他们的古旧王国向萨凡纳迤逦而来。可是杰拉尔德永远也学不会文雅。他们那种懒洋洋的含糊不清的声音,他沉得特别悦耳,但他们自己那轻快的土腔却总是吊在舌头上摆脱不了。他们处理重大事务时,在一张牌上赌押一笔财产、一个农场或一个奴隶时,以及像向黑人孩子撒钱币仅的将他们的损失惬意地轻轻勾销时,那种满不在乎地神气是他十分喜爱的。然而杰拉尔德已经懂得什么叫贫穷,因此永远学不会惬意而体面地输钱。他们是个快乐的民族,这些海滨佐治亚人,声音柔和,容易生气,有时前后矛盾得十分可爱,所以杰拉尔德喜欢他们。不过,这位年轻的爱尔兰人身上充满了活泼好动的生机,他是刚刚从一个风冷雾温但多雾的沼泽不产生热病的因家出来的,这便把他同这些出生亚热带气候和瘴气温地中的懒惰绅士们截然分开了。

从他们那里他学到了他发现有用的东西,其余的便拒绝了。他发现玩扑克牌是所有的南方习俗中最有用的,只要会打扑克,加上一个喝威士忌的海量,就行了。玩牌和喝酒是杰拉尔德的天生癖性,给他带来了平生三样最受赞赏的财富中的两位,即他的管家和他的农常另一样便是他的妻子,他只能把她看作是上帝的神奇赐予了。

他的管家叫波克,举止庄严,黑得又光又亮,且有全副出色的裁缝手艺,是他打了个通宵的扑克牌从一位圣西蒙斯岛的地主手中赢来的。那个地主在敢于虚张声势方面与杰拉尔德不相上下,可是喝起新奥尔良朗姆酒来就不行了。尽管波克原先的主人后来要求以双倍的价钱把他买回去,杰拉尔德却断然地拒绝了,因为这是他占有的第一个奴隶,而且绝对是"海滨最好的管家",称得上是他实现平生渴望的好开端,怎么能放弃呀?杰拉尔德一心一意要当奴隶主和拥有地主的上等人呢。

他已下定决心,不要像詹姆斯和安德鲁那样把所有的白天都花费在讨价还价上,或者把所有的夜晚都用来对着灯光检查账目。跟两个哥哥不同,他已深深感到社会上最被人瞧不起的是那些"生意人"。杰拉尔德要当一个地主。他像一个曾经在别人所拥有和猎取的土地上干活的爱尔兰佃农那样,满怀希望看到自己的田地绿油油地从眼前舒展开去。他无情地、一心一意地追求一个目标,就是要拥有自己的住宅,自己的农场,自己的马匹,自己的奴隶。而在这个新国家里,既然已不像在他所离开的那个国家要冒双重危险,即全部的收获都租税吞掉和随时有可能被突然没收,他就很想得到这些东西了。但是,一个时期以来,他已渐渐发现,怀抱这个雄心和实现这个雄心毕竟是两回事。滨海的佐治亚州是那样牢牢地掌握在一顽强的贵族阶级手中,在这里,他就休想有一天会赢得他所刻意追求的地位。

过了一些时候,命运之手和一手扑克牌两相结合,给了他一个他后来取名为塔拉的农场,同时让他从海滨适移到北佐治亚的丘陵地区来了。

那是一个很暖的春天夜晚,在萨凡纳的一家酒店,邻座的一位生客的偶尔谈话引起灰拉尔德的侧耳细听。那位生客是萨凡纳本地人,在内地居住了十二年之后刚刚回来。他是从一位圣在州里举办的抽彩分配土地时的一个获奖者。原来杰拉尔德来到美洲前一年,印第安人放弃了佐治亚中部广大的一起土地,佐治亚州当局便以这种方式进行分配。他迁徙到了那里,并建立了一个农场,但是现在他的房子因失火被烧掉了,他对那个可诅咒的"地方",已感到厌烦,因此很乐意将它脱手。

杰拉尔德心里一直没有放弃那个念头,想拥有一个自己的农场,于是经过介绍,他同那个陌生人谈起来,而当对方告诉他,那个州的北部已经从卡罗来纳的弗吉尼亚涌进了大批大批的新人时,他的兴趣就更大了。杰拉尔德在萨凡纳已住了很久,了解了海滨人的观点,即认为这个州的其余部分都是嬷嬷的森林地带,每个灌木丛中都潜伏着印第安人。他在处理"奥哈拉兄弟公司"业务时访问过在萨凡纳河上游一百英里的奥古斯塔,而且旅行到了离萨凡纳的内地,看到了那个城市西面的古老城镇。他知道,那个地区也像海滨那样拥有不少居民,但是从陌生人的描绘来看,他的农场是在萨凡纳西比250英里以外的内地,在查塔忽奇河以南不远的地方。他知道,河那边往北一带仍控制在柴罗基人手里,所以他听到陌生人嘲笑他提起与印第安人的纠纷,并叙述那个新地区有多少新兴的城镇正在成长起来、多少农场经营得很好时,便不由得大吃一惊了。

谈话一小时之后,开始放慢,于是杰拉尔德想出一个诡计,那双碧蓝的眼睛也不由得流露出真情来----他提议玩牌。

夜渐渐深了,酒斟了一巡又一巡,这时其他几个牌友都歇手了,只剩下杰拉尔德和陌生人在继续对赌。陌生人把所有的筹码全部押上,外加那个农场的文契。杰拉尔德也推出他的那堆筹码,并把钱装放在上面。如果钱袋里装的恰好是"奥哈拉兄弟公司"的款子,杰拉尔德第二天早晨作弥撒时也不会觉得良心不安而表示忏悔了。他懂得自己所要的是什么,而当他需要时便断然采取最直截了当的手段来攫取它。况且,他是那样相信自己的命运和手中的那几张牌,所以从来就不考虑:要是桌子对面放在是一手更高的牌呢,那他将怎样偿还这笔钱呀?

“你这不是靠买卖赚来的,而我呢,也乐得不用再给那地方纳税了,"陌生人叹了口气说,一面叫拿笔墨来。"那所大房子是一年前烧掉的,田地呢,已长满了灌木林和小松树。然而,这些都是你的了。”“千万不要把玩牌和威士忌混为一谈,除非你早就戒酒了,"当天晚上波克服侍杰拉尔德上床睡觉时,杰拉尔德严肃地对他这样说,这位管家由于崇拜主人正开始在学习一种土腔,便用一种基希和米思郡的混合腔调作了必要的回答,当然这种腔调只有他们两个人理解,别人听来是莫名其妙的。

浑浊的弗林特河在一排排松树和爬满藤萝的水橡树中间悄悄地流着,像一条弯屈的胳臂走过杰拉尔德的那片新地,从两侧环抱着它。杰拉尔德站在那个原来有的房子的小小圆丘上,对他来说,这道高高的绿色屏障既是他的所有权的一个看得见的可喜的证明,又好像是他亲手建造用来作为私有标志的一道篱笆。站在那座已烧掉了房子的焦黑基石上,他俯视着那条伸向大路的林荫小道,一面快活地咒骂着,因为这种喜悦之情是那么深厚,已无法用感谢上天的祈祷来表达了。这两排阴森的树木,那片荒芜的草地,连同草地上那些缀满白花的木兰树底下齐腰深的野草,是他的。那些尚未开垦的、长满了小松树和矮树丛的田地,那些连绵不断向周围远远伸展开去的红土地面也属于杰拉尔德奥哈拉所有了----这一切都成了他的,因为他有一个从不糊涂的爱尔兰人的头脑和将全部家当都押在一手牌上的胆量。

面对这片寂静的荒地杰拉尔德闭上了眼睛,他觉得自己仿佛回到了家里。在这儿,在他脚下,一幢刷白的砖房将拔地而起。大路对面将有一道新的栅栏把肥壮的牲口和纯种马圈起来,而那片从山腰伸到肥沃的河床的红土地,将像凫绒被似的在阳光下闪耀银光----棉花,大片大片的棉花啊!奥哈拉家的产业从此便要复兴了。

用自己一小笔赌本,杰拉尔德从两位不很热心的哥哥那里借到的一点钱,以及典地得到的一笔现金,买了头一批种大田的黑奴,然后来到塔拉,在那四间房间的监工屋里,像单身汉似地孤独地住下来,直到有一天塔拉农场的白色墙壁拔地而起为止。

他平整田地,种植棉花,并从詹姆斯和安德鲁里又借了些钱买来一批奴隶。奥哈拉一家是家族观念很强的人,无论在兴旺或不走好运的时候他们都同样抱在一起,但这并不是出于过分的手足之情,而是因为从严峻的岁月里懂得了,一个家族要生存下去就必须形成一条一致对外的坚固战线。他们把钱借给杰拉尔德,有朝一日钱还会连本带利回到他们手中。这样杰拉尔德不断买进毗连的地亩,农场也逐渐扩大,终于那幢白房子已是现实而不再是梦想。

那是用奴未劳动建筑的,一所房子显得有点笨拙的、好像趴在地上似的,它坐落在一块平地上,俯瞰着那片向河边伸延下去的碧绿的牧场;它使杰拉尔德非常得意,因为它尽管是新建的却已经有点古色古香的模样了。那些曾经见过印第安人在树桠下往来的老橡树,现在用它们的巨大躯干紧紧围住这所房子,同时用枝叶在屋顶上空撑起一起浓荫。那片从乱草中复原过来的草地,现在已长满了苜蓿和百慕大牧草,杰拉尔德决计要把它管理得好好的。从林荫道的柏树到奴隶区那排白色木屋,到处都能使人看到塔拉农场的坚实、稳固、耐久的风采。每当杰拉尔德骑马驰过大路上那个拐弯并看见自己的房子从绿树丛中耸出的屋顶时,他就要兴奋得连同心都膨胀起来,仿佛每一个景观都是头一次看到似的。

这位矮小的、精明的、盛气凌人的杰拉尔德已经完成这一切。

杰拉尔德同县里所有的邻居都相处得很好,但有两家除外,一是麦金托什家,他们的土地和他的在左侧毗连;二是斯莱特里家,他们那三英亩瘠地,沿着河流和约翰威尔克斯家农场之间的湿地低处,伸展到了他的田地的右边。

麦金托什家是苏格兰和爱尔兰的混血,也是奥兰治派分子,况且,如果他们具有天主教历史中的全部圣洁品质,在杰拉尔德眼中,他们的祖先便会永远诅咒他们了。的确,他们已经在佐治亚生活了七年,而且那以前有一代人是在卡罗来纳度过的,但这个家族中第一个踏上美洲大陆的人是从阿尔斯特来的,这对于杰拉尔德来说就足够了。他们是一个缄默寡言、性格倔强的家族,与外人绝少往来,也只同卡罗来纳的亲戚通婚。杰拉尔德并不是唯一不喜欢他们的人,因为县里各家都相处融洽,乐于交往,谁也忍受不了像他们这种性格的人家。还有谣传说他们同情废奴主义者,但这并没有提高麦金托什家的声誉。老安格斯从来没有解放过一个奴隶,而且由于出卖了一些黑人给一个到路易斯安那蔗田去的过路的奴隶贩子而不可饶恕地违背了社会公德,但谣言照样流传。

“他是个废奴主义者,毫无疑问,"杰拉尔德对约翰威尔克斯说。"不过,在一个奥兰治党人身上,当一种主义跟苏格兰人的悭吝相抵触时,那个主义也就完了。

至于斯莱特里家,那又是另一回事了。他们是穷白人,甚至还不如安格斯麦金托什,因为后者总算还能以倔强的独立性争取到邻居们勉强的尊敬。老斯莱特里死死抱住他那几英亩土地,任凭杰拉尔德和约翰威尔克斯一再出价购买也不放手,他就是这么个刻板而又爱发牢骚的人。他的老婆是个蓬头散发的女人,体弱多病,形容憔悴,却养了一个窝家兔般的儿女----他们很有规律地逐年增大。汤姆斯莱特里没有奴隶。他和两个大儿子断断续续地种着那几英亩棉花,老子和几个儿子则照管那块号称菜园的土地。可是,不知怎的,棉花总是长不好;菜园呢,也由于斯莱特里太太不断生孩子,种出的蔬菜很少够那一家子吃的。

汤姆斯莱特里在邻居家的走廊上赖着不走,向人家讨棉花籽儿下种,或者要一块腌肉去"对付一顿",他使出自己的一点点力起来憎恨邻居们,感到他们在客气底下暗藏着轻蔑;他尤其憎恨"阔人家的势利眼黑鬼"。县里那些干家务活的黑人总以为自己比下流坯白人还高一等,他们的公然蔑视刺痛了他,而他们比较稳定的生活更引其他嫉恨。以他自己的穷困生涯作对比,他们确实是吃得好,穿得好,并且病了有人照看,老了有人供养。他们为自己主人的好名声感到骄傲,并且大多以自己归上等人所有而觉得光荣,而他,却是人人都瞧不起的。

斯莱特里很可以把自己的农场以高出三倍的价钱买给县里任何一个大地主。他们会觉得,为了不跟一个碍眼的人居住在同一地方,花这笔钱还是值得的,可是他却很乐意留着不走,靠那每年一包棉花的收入和邻居们的施舍艰难地生活下去。

杰拉尔德同县里所有其他人都相处得很好,愉快且亲近。

威尔克斯家,卡尔弗特家,塔尔顿家,方丹家,他们一看见这位沿着大白马的矮个儿驰上他们的车道便含笑相迎,微笑着招呼仆人拿高脚杯来,杯子里放一茶匙糖和少许薄荷叶,然后斟上威士忌酒。杰拉尔德是可爱的,邻居们很快便知道,连他们的孩子,黑奴和狗都一眼就看出这个尽管大喊大叫,举止粗野,但实际上是个好心肠的人,慷慨大方,乐意倾听别人的话。

每次来时,总要引起一群乱吠乱跳的猎狗和叫喊着的黑孩子跑去迎接他,吵吵嚷嚷抢着牵他的马,当他和蔼地训斥他们时显得有点尴尬的傻笑起来。那些白人孩子也吵着坐到他的膝头上,可他正忙于向他们的长辈指责北方佬政客的丑行呢。他那些朋友的女儿都把他当作知心人,向他吐露自己的恋爱故事。至于邻居的小伙子们,他们是怕在父亲面前承认自己的不体面行为的,可是却把他当作患难知交。

“这么说,你这小鬼头!你这钱欠了一个月啦,"他会大声嚷嚷。"那么,我的上帝,你干吗不早点来跟我要呢?"他那粗鲁的口气是大家都熟悉的,谁也不会反感,所以这只会使那些年轻人腼腆地傻笑两声然后答道:“是呀,大叔,可我害怕麻烦您呢,而且我父亲----”“得承认,你父亲是个好人,不过严格了一点。那么,把这个拿去,以后谁也别提起就是了。"最后才表示降服的是地主太太们。不过,当威尔克斯太太----像杰拉尔德形容的"一位了不起的具有沉默天才的女士"----有天晚上杰拉尔德的马已经跑上车道之后对他的丈夫说,"这人尽讲粗话,可毕竟是个上等人,"这时杰拉尔德已肯定是成功了。

他不甚明白他花了差不多十年的功夫才达到这个境地,因为他从来没有意识到他初来时邻居是用怀疑的眼光看他的。按他自己的想法,他一踏上塔拉这块土地便毫无疑问很适合呆在这里了。

他43岁那年,杰拉尔德的腰身已那么粗壮,脸色那么红润,活像一个从体育画报上剪下来的打猎的乡坤,那时他想起塔拉虽然很可贵,可只有它和县里那些心地坦荡、殷勤好客的人,还是不够的。他缺少一位妻子。

塔拉农场迫切需要一位女主人。现在的这位胖厨子本来是管庭院的黑人杂工,因为迫切需要才提升到厨房工作的,可他从来没有按时开过一顿饭;而那位内室女仆原先也是在田里干活的,她任凭屋子里到处都是尘土、好像手头永远也不会有一块干净的桌布或餐布似的,因此一有客人到来,便要手忙脚乱一番。波克是唯一受过训练和胜任的黑人管家,他现在负责管理所有的奴仆,但是几年来,在杰拉尔德遇事乐呵呵的生活作风影响下,也变得怠惰和漫不经心了。作为贴身佣人,他负责整理杰拉尔德的卧室,作为膳事总管,他要让饭菜安排得像个样子,不过在别的方面他就有点听之任之了。

那些具有非洲人精确本能的黑奴,都发现杰拉尔德尽管大喊大叫,但并不怎么厉害,所以他们便肆无忌惮地利用这一点,表面上经常存在这样的威胁,说是要把奴隶卖到南方去,或者要狠狠地鞭打他们,但实际上塔拉农场从来没有卖过一个奴隶,鞭打的事也只发生过一次,那是因为没有把杰拉尔德的狩猎了一整天的爱马认真地刷洗一下。

杰拉尔德那双锐利的天蓝色眼睛意识到左邻右舍的房子收拾得那么整洁,那些头发梳得溜光、裙子啊啊啊啊响的主妇们那么从容地管理着他们的仆人。他不熟悉这些女人从天亮到深夜忙个不停地监督仆人烧菜做饭、哺育婴儿、缝纫洗浆的劳碌情形,他只看到表面的成绩,而这些成绩给他留下了深刻的印象。

一天早晨他准备进城去听法院开审,波克把他心爱的皱领衬衫取来,可他一看便发觉它已被那个内室女仆弄得不成样子,只能给他的管家穿了。这时他感到多么迫切需要一个老婆啊!

“杰拉尔德先生,"波克眼看杰拉尔德生气了,便讨好地对他说,一面将那件衬衫卷起来,"你现在缺少的是一位太太,一位能带来许多家仆的太太。"杰拉尔德责骂波克的无礼,但他知道他是对的。他需要一个妻子,他也需要儿女,并且,如果不很快得到他们,那将为时太晚了。但是他不想随便娶个女人,像卡尔弗特那样,把那个照管他的没娘孩子的北方佬女家庭教师讨来当老婆。

他的妻子必须是一位夫人,一位出身名门的夫人,像威尔克斯太太那样端庄贤淑,能够像威尔克斯太太在整顿她自己的田地那样把塔拉农场管理好。

但是要同这个县的大户人家结亲却有两个难处。第一是这里结婚年龄的姑娘很少,另外,也是更不好办的一点,杰拉尔德是个"新人"(尽管他在这里已居住了将近十年),又是外国人,谁也不了解他的家庭情况。尽管佐治亚内地社会并不像海滨贵族社会那样难以接近,可是也没有哪个家庭愿意让自己的女儿媳给一个来历不明的男人。

杰拉尔德知道,虽然那些同他一起找猎、喝酒和谈政治的本县男人多么喜欢他,他还是很难找到一个情愿把女儿许给他的人家。而且他不想让人们闲谈时说起某位某位做父亲的已经深表遗憾地拒绝杰拉尔德向他的女儿求婚了。但是,他的这种自知之明并没有使他觉得自己在领居们面前低人一等。事实上无论如何他也不会感到自己在哪方面不如别人。那仅仅是县里的一种奇怪的习俗,认为姑娘们只能嫁到那些至少在南部已居住20年以上、已经拥有自己的田地和奴隶,并且已沾染了当时引为时髦的那些不良癖好的人家去。

“咱们要到萨凡纳去,收拾行李吧。"他告诉波克。"只要让我听到你说一声''或者'保证'!我就立即把你卖掉,因这种种字眼我自己是很少说。"对于他的婚姻詹姆斯和安德鲁可能会提出某种主意,而且他们的老朋友中可能有适合他的要求并愿意嫁给他的女儿吧。他们两个耐心地听完他的想法,可是谁也不表示赞成。他们在萨凡纳没有可以求助的亲戚,因为他们来美国时已经结婚。而他们的老朋友们的女儿也早已出嫁并都在生儿育女人。

“你不是什么有我人,也不是什么望族。"詹姆斯说。

“我已经挣了不少钱,我也能成为一个大户人家。我当然不能马马虎虎讨个老婆了事。”“你太好高鹜远了,"安德鲁干脆这样指出。

不过他们还是替杰拉尔德尽了最大的努力。詹姆斯和安德鲁是个上了年纪的人,在萨凡纳已颇有名望。他的朋友可真不少,在一个月里带着他从这家跑到那家,吃饭啦,跳舞啦,参加野餐会啦,忙个不停。  

最后杰拉尔德表示:“只有一我看得上眼的,但是在我来到这里时她恐怕还没有出世呢。”“你看得上眼的究竟是谁呀?”“是爱伦罗毕拉德小姐,"杰拉尔德答道,他故意装出漫不经心的样子,因为爱伦罗毕拉德那双稍稍有些耷拉的黑眼睛实际上已远不只叫他看上眼了。她尽管外表上显得有点没精打采,令人捉摸不透,这在一个15岁的姑娘家身上尤其罕见,可是毕竟把他迷住了。另外,她身上还有一种令人倾倒的绝望的神态在深深摇撼他的心灵,叫他在她面前变得格外温柔,而这是他和世界上任何其他人在一起时从来没有过的。

“可是你的年龄完全可以当她的父亲了!”“可我正壮年呀!"杰拉尔德被刺得大叫起来。

詹姆斯冷静地谈了自己的意见。

“杰里,在萨凡纳你再也找不到一个比她更难以娶到的女人了。她父亲是罗毕拉德家族的人,而这些法国人非常骄傲。

至于她母亲----愿她安息----那是非常了不起的太太。”“这些我不管,"杰拉尔德愤愤地说。"何况她母亲已经死了,而罗毕拉德那老头又喜欢我。”“作为一个普通人是这样,可作为女婿就未必了。”“无论如何那姑娘也不会要你的,”安德鲁插嘴说。"她爱上她的一个表兄,那个放荡的叫菲利普的花花公子,已经一年了,尽管她家里还在没完没了地幼她不要这样。”“他这个月到路易斯安那去了。"杰拉尔德说。

“你怎么知道?”

“我知道,"杰拉尔德回答,他不想说出是波克向他提供了这一宝贵的信息,也不告诉他们菲利普接到家里的快信赶回西部去了。"而且我并不认为她爱他已经到了摆脱不开的地步。15岁毕竟还太年轻,是不怎么懂得爱情的。”“她们宁愿要那个危险的表兄也不会挑上你的。"因此,当从内地传来消息说起埃尔罗毕拉德的女儿要嫁给这个矮小的爱尔兰人时,詹姆斯和安德鲁也和其他人一样不禁大吃一惊。整个萨凡纳都在暗中纷纷议论,并猜测如今到西部去了的菲利普罗毕拉德是怎么回事,可是闲谈归闲谈,谁也没有找到答案。为什么罗毕拉德家族中最可爱的一个女儿会跟一个大喊大叫、面孔通红、身高不及她耳朵的矮小鬼结婚呢?这对所有的人都始终是个谜。

连杰拉尔德本人至今也不明白事情究竟是怎样弄成的。

他只知道出现了一个奇迹。而且,一辈子也就这么一次,当脸色苍白而又十分镇静的爱伦将一只轻柔的手放在他臂膀上并且说:“奥哈拉先生,我愿意嫁给你"时,他简直谦卑到五体投地了。

对于这个神秘莫测的问题,连罗毕拉德家族中那惊惶失措的人也只能找到某些答案。只有爱伦和她的嬷嬷知道那天晚上发生的整个故事,那时这位姑娘像个伤心的孩子似地哭了个通宵,而第二天早晨起床时她已经是个下定决心的女人了。

嬷嬷有所预感地给她的小主妇拿来一个从新奥尔良寄来的小包裹,上面的通讯地址是个陌生人写的,里面装着爱伦的一张小照(爱伦一见便惊叫一声把它丢在地上),四封爱伦写给菲利普罗毕拉德的亲笔信以及一位新奥尔良牧师附上的短简,它宣布她的这位表哥已经在一次酒吧的斗殴中死了。

“他们把他赶走了,父亲、波琳和尤拉莉把他赶走了。我恨他们。我恨他们大家。我再也不要看见他们了。我要离开这里。

我要到永远看不见他们的地方去,也永远不再见这个城市,或者任何一个使我想起----想起的人。"直到快天亮的时候,本来伏在床头陪着她一起啜泣的嬷嬷这才警告她:“可是不行,小宝贝,你不能那样做呀!”“我非这样不可,他是个好心人。我要这样办,或者到查尔斯顿的修道院里去当修女。"正是这个修道院的念头给皮埃尔罗毕拉德带来了威胁,使他终于在怕惑而悲痛的心情下同意了。他是个坚贞不渝的长老教友,尽管他的家族信奉天主教,因此心想与其让女儿当修女还不如把她嫁给杰拉尔德奥哈拉好。最后,他对杰拉尔德这个人,除了门第欠缺之外,就不再抱什么反感了。

就这样,爱伦(已不再姓罗毕拉德)离开萨凡纳,她随同一位中年丈夫,带着嬷嬷和二十个黑人家奴,动身到塔拉去了。

次年,他们生了第一个孩子,取名凯蒂思嘉,是随杰拉尔德的母亲命名的。杰拉尔德感到有点失望,因为他想要一个儿子,不过他还是很喜欢这个黑头发的女儿,高高兴兴地请塔拉农场的每个农奴都喝了酒,自己也乐得喝了个酩酊大醉。

如果说爱伦对于自己那么仓促决定同杰拉尔德结婚曾经有所懊悔的话,那是谁也不知道的,杰拉尔德如此,他每次瞧着她都要骄傲得不得了呢。她一离开萨凡纳那个文雅的海滨城市,便把它和它所留下的记忆都抛到了脑后;同样,她一到达北佐治亚,这里便成为她的家了。

她父亲那所粉刷成浅红色的住宅,她的老家,原是那么幽雅舒适,有着美女般丰盈的体态和帆船乘风破浪的英姿;是法国殖民地式的建筑,以一种雅致的风格拔地而起,里面用的是螺旋形楼梯,旁边的铁制栏杆精美得像花边似的。那是一所富丽、优雅而平静的房子,是她温暖的家,但如今她永远离开了。

她不仅离开了那个优美的住处,而且离开了那建筑背后的一整套文明,如今发现自己置身于一个完全不同的陌生世界,仿佛到了一个新大陆似的。

北佐治亚是个草莽未改、民情粗犷的地区。她高高地站在蓝岭上麓的高原上,看见一望无际逶迤起伏的红色丘陵和底部突露花岗岩,以及到处耸立的嶙峋苍松。这一切在她眼里都显得粗陋和野性未驯,因为她看惯了满缀着青苔苔蔓的海岛上那种幽静的林薮之美,亚热带阳光下远远延伸的白色海滩,以及长满了各种棕榈的沙地上平坦辽阔的远景。

在这个区,人们习惯了冬季的严寒和夏天的酷热,并且这些人身上有的是她从未见过的旺盛的生机和力量。他们为人诚恳,勇敢,大方,蕴藏着善良的天性,可是强壮、刚健,容易发火。她已离开的那些海滨人常常引为骄傲的是,他们对人对事,甚至对待决斗和争执,都采取一种满不在乎的态度;可是这些北佐治亚人身上却有一股子强暴劲儿。在海滨,生活已经熟透了----可在这里,生活还是稚嫩的,新的,生气勃勃的。

在爱伦看来她在萨凡纳认识的所有人好像都是从同一个模子出来的,他们的观点和传统都那样地相似,可在这里人们就多种多样了。这些到北佐治亚定居的人来自许多不同的地方,诸如佐治亚其他地区,卡罗来纳,弗吉尼亚,欧洲,以及北美等等。有些人如杰拉尔德那样是到这里来碰运气的新人。还有些人像爱伦则是旧家族的成员,他们觉得原来的老家待不下去了,便到这遥远的地方来寻找避难所。也有不少人在无故迁徙,这就只能说是前辈拓荒者的好动的血液仍在他们的血脉中加速流动着。

这些来自四面八方和有着各种不同背景的人给这个县的全部生活带来了一种不拘礼俗的风习,而这是爱伦所不曾见过,也是她自己永远无法充分适应的。她本能地知道海滨人民在什么样的环境下应当如何行动。可是,谁也没有说过北佐治亚人该怎样做呀!

另外,还有一种势力推动着这个地区的一切,那就是席卷整个南部的发达高潮。全世界都迫切需要棉花,而这个县的新垦地还很肥沃,在大量生产这种东西。棉花便是本地区的脉搏,植棉和摘棉便是这红土心脏的舒张和收缩。从那些弧形的垄沟中财富源源涌来,同样源源而来的还有骄矜之气----建立在葱绿棉林和广袤的白絮田野上的骄矜。如果棉花能够使他们这一代人富裕起来,那么到下一代该更加富裕多少啊!

对于未来的这种绝对把握使生活充满了激情和热望,而县里的人都在以一种爱伦所不了解的全心全意的态度享受着这种生活。他们有了足够的钱财和足够的奴隶,现在有时间玩乐一番了,何况他们本来就是爱玩的。他们永远也不会忙到不能放下工作来搞一次炸鱼野餐、一次狩猎或赛马,而且很少有一个星期不举行全牲大宴或舞会。

爱伦永远不想也不能完全成为他们中间的一员----她在萨凡纳时凡事都自作主张惯了----不过她尊重他们,而且渐渐学会了羡慕这些人的坦诚和直率,他们胸无城府,对一个人价也总是从实际出发。

她成了全县最受尊敬的一位邻居。她是个节俭而温厚的主妇,一个贤妻良母。她本来会奉献给教堂的那分悲痛和无私,如今都全部用来服务于自己的儿女和家庭以及那位带她离开萨凡纳的男人了----这个男人让她离开了萨凡纳和那里所有留下记忆的事物,可是从来也没有提过什么问题呢。

到思嘉年满周岁并且据嬷嬷看来比一般女婴长得更加健康活泼的时候,爱伦生了第二个孩子,取名苏珊埃莉诺,人们常叫她苏伦;后来又生了卡琳,在家用《圣经》中登记为卡罗琳艾琳。接下去是一连三个男孩子,但他们都在学会走路之前便夭折了----如今三个男孩躲在离住宅一百来码的坟地里,在那些蜷曲的松树底下,坟头都有一块刻着"小杰拉尔德奥哈拉"字样的石碑。

爱伦来到塔拉农场的当天,这个地方就变了。她可是已经准备好担负起一个农场女主人的职责了。虽然刚刚15岁,年轻姑娘们在结婚之前首先必须温柔可爱,美丽得像个装饰品,可是结婚以后就理该料理家务,管好全家那上百个的白人黑人,而且她们从小就着眼于这一点而受到了训练。

爱伦早就接受过了每个有教养的年轻太太都必须接受的这种结婚前准备,而且她身边还有嬷嬷,能够叫一个最不中用的黑人也使出劲来。她很快就使杰拉尔德的家务中呈现出秩序、尊严和文雅,给塔拉农场带来了前所未有的美丽风貌。

农场住宅不是按照什么设计图样建筑的,有许多房子是根据需要和方便在不同地方、不同时间陆续增添的。不过,由于爱伦的关注和照官,它形成了自己的迷人之处,从而弥补了设计上的欠缺。一条两旁载着杉树的林荫道从大路一直延伸到住宅门前----这样一条杉树林荫道是一所农场主住宅所必不可少的----它不仅提供阴荫,而且通过对比使其他苍翠树木显得更加明朗。走廊顶上交错的紫藤给粉白砖墙衬映得分外鲜艳,它同门口那几丛粉红的紫薇和庭院中开着的白花木兰连成一起,便把这所房子的笨拙外貌掩饰了不少。

在春夏两季,草地中的鸭茅和苜蓿长得翡翠般绿油油的,逗引着一群群本来只在屋后闲逛的吐绶鸡和白鹅前来观赏。

这些家禽中的长辈们时常领着它们的后代偷偷进入前院,来探访这片绿茵,并在甘美茂盛的茉莉花蕾和百日草苗圃的诱惑下留连忘返。为了防备它们的掠夺,前院走廊上安置了一个小小的黑人哨兵。那是个黑人男孩坐在台阶上,手里拿着一条破毛巾当武器,构成了塔拉农场的一个风景----当然是不怎么愉快的部分,因为不准他用石子投掷这些家禽,只能挥舞毛巾吓唬吓唬罢了。

爱伦给好几十个黑人男孩分派了这个差事,这是一个男性奴隶在塔拉农场得到的第一个职位。他们满十岁以后,就给打发到农场修鞋匠老爷爷那里,或者到制车匠兼木工阿莫斯那里,或者到牧牛人菲利普那里,或者到养骡娃库菲那里专门学手艺。如果他们表现得不适合任何一行手艺,就得去当大田劳工,这么一来他们便觉得自己完全丧失取得一个社会地位的资格了。

爱伦的生活既不舒适也不愉快,然而她并不期待过舒服的日子,而且如果不愉快,那也是女人的命运。她承认这个世界是男人的这一事实。男人占有财产,然后由女人来管理。

管理得好时,男人享受名誉,女人还得称赞他能干。男人只要手上扎了根刺便会像公牛般大声吼叫,而女人连生孩子时的阵痛也得忍气吞声,生怕打搅了他。男人们出言粗鲁,经常酗酒,女人们却装做没有听见这种失言,并一声不响地服侍醉鬼上床睡觉。男人们粗暴而直率,可女人们总是那么和善、文雅,善于体谅别人。

她是在上等妇女的传统教养下长大的,这使她学会怎样承担自己的职责而不丧失其温柔可爱。她有意要把自己的三个女儿也教育成高尚的女性,然而只在那两个小的身上成功了,因为苏伦渴望当一名出色的闺秀,很用心听母亲的教诲,卡琳也是个腼腆听话的女孩。可是思嘉,杰拉尔德的货真价实的孩子,却觉得那条当上等妇女的路实在太艰难了。

思嘉使嬷嬷生气的一个毛病是不爱跟那两个谨慎的妹妹或威尔克斯家很有教养的几位姑娘在一起玩耍,却乐意同农场上的黑孩子或领居家的男孩子们厮混,跟他们一起爬树,一样掷石子。嬷嬷感到十分难过,怎么爱伦的女儿会有这样的怪癖,并且经常劝诫她"要学得像个小姐那样"。但是爱伦对问题看得更宽容,更远。她懂得从青梅竹马中能产生未来的终身伴侣的道理,而一个姑娘的头等大事无非结婚成家。她暗自念叨着:这孩子只不过精力旺盛些罢了,至于教育她学会那些德貌兼备的优点,成为一个使男人倾心的可爱的姑娘,那还有的是时间呢。

抱着这个目的,爱伦和嬷嬷同心协力,所以到思嘉年龄大些时便在这方面学习得相当不错了。她甚至还学会了一些旁的东西。尽管接连请了几位家庭女教师,又在附近的费耶特维尔女子学校念了两年书,她受的教育仍是不怎么完全的,不过在跳舞这一门上却是全县最出色的一位姑娘,真是舞姿鬭ee,美妙无比。她懂得怎样微笑才能使那两个酒窝轻轻抖动,怎样扭着走路才能让宽大的裙子迷人的摇摆,怎样首先仰视一个男人的面孔,然后垂下眼来,迅速地螦E动眼帘,显出自己是在略带激情地颤抖似的。她最擅长的一手是在男人面前装出一副婴儿般天真烂漫的表情,藉以掩饰自己心中一个精明的心计。

爱伦用细声细气地训诫,嬷嬷则用滔滔不绝的唠叨,都在尽力将那些作为淑女贤妻不可少的品质栽培到她身上去。

“你必须学会温柔一些,亲切一些,文静一些,"爱伦对女儿说。"男人们说话时千万别去插嘴,哪怕你真的认为自己比人家知道得多。男人总不喜欢快嘴快舌的姑娘。”“小姑娘家要是皱着眉头、嘟着嘴,说什么俺要这样不要那样,她们就别想找到丈夫,"嬷嬷忧郁地告诫说。"小姑娘家应当低着头回答说:‘先生,好吧。俺知道了,'或者说:‘听您的吩咐,先生。'"虽然她们两人把凡是大家闺秀应该知道和东西都教给了她,但是她仅仅学到了表面的礼貌。至于这些皮毛所应当体现的内在文雅她却既不曾学到也不知道为什么要学。有了外表就行了,因为上等妇女身份的仪表会给她赢来好名声,而她所需要的也不过如此而已。杰拉尔德吹嘘说她是周围五个县的美女,这话有几分真实,因为邻近一带几乎所有的青年,以远到亚特兰大和萨凡纳某些地方的许多人,都向她求过婚。

她到了16岁,就显得娇媚动人了,这应当归功于嬷嬷和爱伦的培养,不过她同时也变得任性、虚荣而固执起来。她有着和她的爱尔兰父亲一样容易感情冲动的品质,可是像她母亲那样无私坚忍的天性却压根儿没有,只不过学到了一点点表面的虚饰。爱伦从来不曾充分认识到这只是一点虚制,因为思嘉经常在她跟前显示自己最好的一面,而将她的大胆妄为掩藏起来,并且克制着自己的嬷嬷,表现得如她母亲所要求的那样性情温婉,否则,母亲那责备的一起管叫她羞愧得会掉泪呢。

但是嬷嬷对她并不存幻想,倒是经常警觉地观察着这种虚饰上的破绽。嬷嬷的眼睛比爱伦的锐利得多,思嘉实在想不起来这一辈子有哪件事是长期瞒过了她的。

这两位钟爱的良师并不替思嘉的快乐、活泼和娇媚担忧。

这些特征正是南方妇女引以自豪的地方。她们担心的是杰拉尔德的倔强而暴躁的天性在她身上的表现,有时还生怕她们无法将她身上这些破坏性的东西掩盖起来,直到她选中一个如意郎君为止。可是思嘉想要结婚----要同艾希礼结婚----并且乐意装出一副貌似庄重、温顺而没有主见的模样,如果这些品性真正能够吸引男人的话。至于男人们为什么喜欢这样,思嘉并不清楚。她只知道这样的方法能行得通。她从来没有多大兴趣去思考这件事的道理,因为她对人的内心活动,甚至她自己的内心活动,一无所知。她只明白,只要她如此这般地做了说了,男人们便会准确无误地用如此这般的恭维来回报她。这像一个数学公式似的一点也不困难,因为思嘉在学校念书时数学这门功课学得相当轻松。

如果说她不怎么懂得男人的心理,那么她对女人的心就知道得更少了,因为她对她们更加不感兴趣。她从来不曾有过一个女朋友,也从来不因此感到遗憾。对于她来说,所有的女人,包括她的两个妹妹在内,在追共同的猎物----男人时,都是天然的仇敌。

除她母亲以外,所有的女人都是如此。

爱伦奥哈拉却不一样,思嘉把她看做一种有别于人类中其他人的神圣人物。她还是个小孩时,思嘉就把母亲和圣母马利亚混淆在一起了,如今她已长大成人,也看不出有什么理由要改变这种看法。对她来说,爱伦代表着只有上帝或一位母亲才能给予的那种安全可靠的保证。她认为她的母亲是正义、真理、慈爱和睿智的化身,是个伟大的女性。

思嘉非常希望做一个像母亲那样的人。唯一的困难是,要做一个公正、真诚、慈爱、无乱的人,你就得牺牲许多人生乐趣,而且一定会换掉许多英俊的男人。可是人生太短促,要丧失这样可爱的事物就未免太可惜。等到有一天她嫁给了艾希礼,并且年纪老了,有了这样的机会时,她便着意去模仿爱伦。可是,在那之前……

 

 

第四章

那天吃晚饭时,思嘉因母亲不在代为主持了全部的用餐程序,但是她心中一起纷扰,说什么也放不下她所听到的关于艾希礼和媚兰的那个可怕的消息。她焦急地盼望母亲从斯莱特里家回来,因为母亲一不在场,她便感到孤单和迷惘了。

斯莱特里家和他们闹个不停的病痛,有什么权利就在她思嘉正那么迫切需要母亲的时候把爱伦从家中拉走呢?

这顿不愉快的晚餐自始自终只听见杰拉尔德那低沉的声音在耳边回响,直到她发觉自己已实在无法忍受了为止。他已经完全忘记了那天下午同思嘉的谈话,一个劲儿地在唱独脚戏,讲那个来自萨姆特要塞的最新消息,一面配合声调用拳头在餐桌上敲击,同时不停地挥舞臂膀。杰拉尔德已养成了餐桌上垄断谈话的习惯,但往往思嘉不去听他,只默默地琢磨自己的心事。可是今晚她再也挡不住他的声音了,不管她仍多么紧张地在倾听是否有马车辚辚声说明爱伦回来了。

当然,她并不想将自己心头的沉重负担向母亲倾诉,因为爱伦如果知道了她的女儿想嫁给一个已经同别人订婚的男人,一定会大为震惊和十分痛苦的。不过,她此刻正沉浸在一个前所未有的悲剧中,很需要母亲在一在场便能给予她的那点安慰,每当母亲在身边时,思嘉总觉得安全可靠,因为只要爱伦在,什么糟糕的事都可以弄得好好的。

一听到车道上吱吱的车轮声她便忽地站起身来,接着又坐下,因为马车显然已走到屋后院子里去了。那不可能是爱伦,她是会在前面台阶旁下车的。这时,从黑暗的院子里传来了黑人位兴奋的谈话声和尖利的笑声,思嘉朝窗外望去,看见刚才从屋里出去的波克高擎着一个火光熊熊的松枝火把,照着几个模糊的人影从大车上下来了。笑声和谈话声在黑沉沉的夜雾中时高时低,显得愉快、亲切、随便,这些声音有的沙破而缓和,有的如音乐般嘹亮。接着是后面走廊阶梯上嘈杂的脚步声,渐渐进入通向主楼的过道,直到餐厅外面的穿堂里才停止了。然后,经过片刻的耳语,波克进来了,他那严肃的神气已经消失,眼睛滴溜溜直转,一口雪白的牙齿闪闪发光。

“杰拉尔德先生,"他气喘吁吁地喊道,满脸焕发着新郎的喜气,"您新买的那个女人到了。”“新买的女人?我可不曾买过女人呀!"杰拉尔德声明,装出一副瞠目结舌的模样。

“是有,杰拉尔德先生!您买的,是的!她就在外面,要跟您说话呢。"波克回答说,激动得搓着两只手,吃吃地笑着。

“好,把新娘引进来,"杰拉尔德说。于是波克转过身去,招呼他老婆走进饭厅,这就是刚刚从威尔克斯农场赶来,要在塔拉农场当一名家属的那个女人。她进来了,后面跟随着她那个12岁的女儿----她怯生生地紧挨着母亲的腿,几乎被那件肥大的印花布裙子给遮住了。

身材高大迪尔茜的腰背挺直。她的年纪从外表看不清楚,少到30,多到60,怎么都行。她那张呆板的紫铜色脸上还没有皱纹呢。她的面貌显然带有印第安人血统,这比非洲黑人的特征更为突出。她那红红的皮肤,窄而高的额头,高耸的颧骨,以及下端扁平的鹰钩鼻子(再下面是肥厚的黑人嘴唇),所以这些都说明她是两个种族的混种。她显得神态安祥,走路时的庄重气派甚至超过了嬷嬷,因为嬷嬷的气派是学来的,而迪尔茜却是生成的。

她说话的声音不像大多数黑人那样含糊不清,而且更注意选择字眼。

“小姐,您好。杰拉尔德先生,很抱歉打扰您了,不过俺要来再次谢谢您把俺和俺的孩子一起给买过来。有许多先生要买俺来着,可就不想把俺的百里茜也买下,这会叫俺伤心的。所以俺要谢谢您。俺要尽力给您干活儿,好让您知道俺没有忘记你的大德。”“嗯----嗯,"杰拉尔德应着,不好意思地清了清嗓子,因为他做的这番好事被当众揭开了。

迪尔茜转向思嘉,眼角皱了皱,仿佛露出了一丝微笑。

“思嘉小姐,波克告诉了俺,您要求杰拉尔德先生把俺买过来。

今儿个俺要把俺的百里茜送给您,做您的贴身丫头。"她伸手往后把那个小女孩拉了出来。那是个棕褐色的小家伙,两条腿细得像鸡脚,头上矗立着无数条用细绳精心缠住的小辫儿。她有一双尖利而懂事的、不会漏掉任何东西的眼睛,脸上却故意装出一副傻相。  

“迪尔茜,谢谢你!"思嘉答道,“不过我怕嬷嬷要说话的。

我一生来就由她一直在服侍着呢。”

“嬷嬷也老啦,"迪尔茜说,她那平静的语调要是嬷嬷听见了准会生气的。”她是个好嬷嬷,不过像您这样一位大小姐,如今应当有个使唤的丫头才是。俺的百里茜倒是在英迪亚小姐跟前干过一年了。她会缝衣裳,会梳头,能干得像个大人呢。"在母亲的怂恿下百里茜突然向思嘉行了个屈膝礼,然后咧着嘴朝她笑了笑;思嘉也只她回报她一丝笑容。

“好一个机灵的小娼妇,"她想,于是便大声说:“迪尔茜,谢谢你了,等嬷嬷回来之后咱们再谈这事吧。”“小姐,谢谢您。这就请您晚安了,"迪尔茜说完便转过身去,带着她的孩子走了,波克蹦蹦跳跳地跟在后面。

晚餐桌上的东西已收拾完毕,杰拉尔德又开始他的讲演,但好像连自己也并不怎么满意,就更不用说听的人。他令人吃惊地预告战争既将爆发,同时巧妙地询问听众:南方是否还要忍受北方佬的侮辱呢?他所引起的只是些颇不耐烦的回答----"是的,爸爸",或者"不,爸爸,"如此而已。这时卡琳坐在灯底下的矮登上,深深沉浸于一个姑娘在情人死后当尼姑的爱情故事里,同时,眼中噙着欣赏的泪花在惬意地设想自己戴上护士帽的姿容。苏伦一面在她自己笑嘻嘻地称之为"嫁妆箱"的东西上剌绣,一面思忖着在明天的全牲大宴上她可不可能把斯图尔特塔尔顿从她姐姐身边拉过来,并以她所特有而思嘉恰恰缺少的那种妩媚的女性美把他迷祝思嘉呢,她则早已被艾希礼的问题搅得六神无主了。

爸爸既然知道了她的伤心事,他怎么还能这样喋喋不休地尽谈萨姆特要塞和北方佬呢?像小时候惯常有过的那样,她奇怪人们居然会那样自私,毫不理睬她的痛苦,而且不管她多么伤心,地球仍照样安安稳稳地转动。

仿佛她心里刚刮过了一阵旋风,奇怪的是他们坐着的这个饭厅意显得那么平静,这么与平常一样毫无变化。那张笨重的红木餐桌和那些餐具柜,那块铺在光滑地板上的鲜艳的旧地毯,全都照常摆在原来的地方,就好像什么事也不曾发生似的。这是一间亲切而舒适的餐厅,平日思嘉很爱一家人晚餐后坐在这里时那番宁静的光景;可是今晚她恨它的这副模样,而且,要不是害怕父亲的厉声责问,她早就溜走,溜过黑暗的穿堂到爱伦的小小办事房去了,她在那里可以倒在旧沙发上痛哭一场啊!

整个住宅里那是思嘉最喜爱的一个房间。在那儿,爱伦每天早晨坐在高高的写字台前写着农场的账目,听着监工乔纳斯威尔克森的报告。那儿也是全家休憩的地方,当爱伦忙着在账簿上刷刷写着时,杰拉尔德躺在那把旧摇椅里养神,姑娘们则坐下陷的沙发势子上----这些沙发已破旧得不好摆在前屋里了。此刻思嘉渴望到那里去,单独同爱伦在一起,好让她把头搁在母亲膝盖上,安安静静地哭一阵子,难道母亲就不回来了吗?

不久,传来车轮轧着石子道的嘎嘎响声,接着是爱伦打发车夫走的声音,她随即就进屋里来了。大家一起抬头望着她迅速走近的身影,她的裙箍左可摇摆,脸色显得疲倦而悲伤。她还带进来一股淡淡的柠檬香味,她的衣服上好像经常散发出这种香味,因此在思嘉心目中它便同母亲连在一起了。

嬷嬷相隔几步也进了饭厅,手里拿着皮包,有意把声音放低到不让人听懂,同时又保持一定的高度,好叫人家知道她反正是不满意。

“这么晚才回来,很抱歉。"爱伦说,一面将披巾从肩头取下来,递给思嘉,同时顺手在她面颊上摸了摸。

杰拉尔德一见她进来便容光焕发了,仿佛施了魔术似的。

“那娃娃给施了洗礼了?”

“可怜的小东西,施了,也死了。"爱伦回答说。"我本来担心埃米也会死,不过现在我想她会活下去的。"姑娘们都朝她望着,满脸流露出惊疑的神色,杰拉尔德却表示达观地摇了摇头。

“唔,对,还是孩子死了好,可怜的没爹娃----”“不早了,现在咱们做祈祷吧,"爱伦那么机灵地打断的杰拉尔德的话,要不是思嘉很了解母亲,谁也不会注意她这一招的用意呢。

究竟谁是埃米斯莱特里的婴儿的父亲呢?这无颖是个很有趣的问题。但思嘉心里明白,要是等待母亲来说明,那是永远也不会弄清事实真相的。思嘉怀疑是乔纳斯威尔克森,因为她常常在天快黑时看见他同埃米一起在大路上走。乔纳斯是北方佬,没有老婆,而他既当了监工,便一辈子也参加不了县里的社交活动。正经人家都不会招他做女婿,除了像斯莱特里的那一类的下等人之外,也没有什么人,会愿意同他交往的。由于他在文化程度上比斯莱特里家的人高出一头,他自然不想娶埃米,尽管他也不妨常常在暮色苍茫中同她一起走走。

思嘉叹了口气,因为她的好奇心实太大了。事情常常在她母亲的眼皮底下发生,可是她从不注意,仿佛根本没有发生过似的。对于那些自认为不正当的事情爱伦总是不屑一顾,并且想教导思嘉也这样做,可是没有多大效果。

爱伦向壁炉走去,想从那个小小的嵌花匣子里把念珠取来,这时嬷嬷大声而坚决地说:“爱伦小姐,你还是先吃点东西再去做你的祷告吧!”“嬷嬷,谢谢你,可是我不饿。”“你准备吃吧,俺这就给你弄晚饭,"嬷嬷说,她烦恼地皱着眉头,走出饭厅要到厨房去,一路上喊道:“波克,叫厨娘把火捅一捅。爱伦小姐回来了。”地板在她脚下一路震动,她在前厅唠叨的声音也越来越高以致饭厅里全家人都清清楚楚听见了。

“给那些下流白人做事没啥意思。俺说过多回了,他们全是懒虫,不识好歹。爱伦小姐犯不着辛辛苦苦去伺候这些人。

他们果真值得人伺候,怎么没买几个黑人来使唤呢。俺还说过----"她的声音随着她一路穿过那条长长的、只有顶篷滑栏杆的村道,那是通向厨房的必经之路。嬷嬷总有她自己的办法来让主子们知道她对种种事情究竟抱什么态度。就在她独自嘟囔时她也清楚,要叫上等白人来注意一个黑人的话是有失身份的,她知道,为了保持这种尊严,他们必须不理睬她所说的那些话,即使是站在隔壁房间里大声嚷嚷。如此既可以保证她不受责备,同时又能使任何人都心中明白她在每个问题上都有哪些想法。

波克手里拿着一个盘子、一副刀叉和一条餐巾进来了。他后面紧跟着杰克,一个十岁的黑人男孩,他一只手忙着扣白色的短衫上的钮扣,另一手拿了个拂尘,那是用细细的报纸条儿绑在一根比他还高的苇秆上做成的。爱伦有个只在特殊场合使用的精美的孔雀毛驱蝇帚,而且由于波克、厨娘和嬷嬷都坚信孔雀毛不吉利,给之派上用场是经过一番家庭斗争的。

爱伦在杰拉尔德递过来的哪把椅子上坐下,这时四个声音一起向他发起了攻势。

“妈,我那件新跳舞衣的花边掉了,明天晚上上'十二橡树'村我得穿呀。请给我钉钉好吗?”“妈,思嘉的新舞衣比我的漂亮。我穿那件粉红的太难看了。怎么她就不能穿我那件粉的,让我穿那件绿的呢?她穿粉的很好看嘛。”“妈,明天晚上我也等到散了舞会才走行吗,现在我都13了----”“你相不个信,噢哈拉太太----姑娘们,别响,我要去拿鞭子了!凯德卡尔弗特今天上午在亚特兰大对我说----你们安静一点好吗?我连自己的声音都听不见了----他说他们那边简直闹翻了天,大家都在谈战争、民兵训练和组织军队一类的事。还说从查尔斯顿传来了消息,他们再也不会容忍北方佬的欺凌了。"爱伦对这场七嘴八舌的喧哗只微微一笑,不过作为妻子,她得首先跟丈夫说几句。

“要是查尔斯顿那边的先生们都这样想,那么我相信咱们大家也很快就会这样看的,"她说,因为她有个根深蒂固的信念,即除了萨凡纳以外,整个大陆的大多数上等人都能在那个小小的海港城市找到,而这个信念查尔斯顿人也大都有的。

“卡琳,不行,亲爱的,明年再说吧。明年你就可以留下来参加舞会,并且穿成人服装,那时我的小美人该多么光彩呀!别撅嘴了,亲爱的。你可以去参加全牲野宴,请记住这一点,并且一直待到晚餐结束;至于舞会满14岁才行。”“把你的衣服给我吧。思嘉,做完祷告我就替你把花边缝上。”“苏伦,我不喜欢你这种腔调,亲爱的。你那件粉红舞衣挺好看,同你的肤色也很相配,就像思嘉配她的那件一样。不过,明晚你可以戴上我的那条石榴红的项链。"苏伦在她母亲背后向思嘉得意地耸了耸鼻子,因为做姐姐的正打算恳求戴那条项链呢。思嘉也无可奈何地对她吐吐舌头,苏伦是个喜欢抱怨而自私得叫人厌烦的妹妹,要不是爱伦管得严,思嘉不知会打她多少次耳光了。

“奥哈拉先生,好了,现在再给我讲讲卡尔费特先生关于查尔斯顿都谈了些什么吧,"爱伦说。

思嘉知道母亲根本不关心战争和政治,并且认为这是男人的事,哪个妇女都不乐意伤这个脑筋。不过杰拉尔德倒是乐得亮亮自己的观点。而爱伦对于丈夫的乐趣总是很认真的。

杰拉尔德正发布他的新闻时,嬷嬷把几个盘子推到女主人面前,里面有焦皮饼干、油炸鸡脯和切开了的热气腾腾的黄甘薯,上面还淌着融化了的黄油呢。嬷嬷拧了小杰克一下,他才赶紧走到爱伦背后,将那个纸条帚儿缓缓地前后摇拂着。

嬷嬷站在餐桌旁,观望着一叉叉食品从盘子里送到爱伦口中,仿佛只要她发现有点迟疑的迹象,便要强迫将这些吃的塞进爱伦的喉咙里。爱伦努力地吃着,但思嘉看得出她,根本不知道自己在吃什么,她实在太疲乏了,只不过嬷嬷那毫不通融的脸色上迫她这样做罢了。

盘子空了,可杰拉尔德才讲了一半呢,他在批评那些要解放黑奴可又不支付出任何代价的北方佬做起事来那么偷偷摸摸时,爱伦站起身来了。

“咱们要做祷告了?"他很不情愿地问。

“是的。这么晚了----已经十点了,你看,"时钟恰好咳嗽似的闷声闷气地敲着钟点。"卡琳早就该睡了。请把灯放下来;波克,还有我的《祈祷书》,嬷嬷。”嬷嬷用沙破的嗓音低声吩咐了一句,杰克便将驱蝇帚放在屋角里,动手收拾桌上的杯盘,嬷嬷也到碗柜抽屉里去摸爱伦那本破旧的《祈祷书》。波克踮着脚尖去开灯,他抓住链条上的铜环把灯慢慢放下,直到桌面上一起雪亮而天花板变得阴暗了为止。爱伦散开裙裾,在地板上屈膝跪下,然后把打开的《祈祷书》放在面前的桌上,再合着双手搁在上面。杰拉尔德跪在她旁边,思嘉和苏伦也在桌子对面各就各位地跪着,把宽大的衬裙折起来盘在膝头下面,免得与地板硬碰硬时更难受。卡琳年纪小,跪在桌旁不方便,因此就面对一把椅子跪下,两只臂肘搁在椅上。她喜欢这个位置,因为每缝作祈祷时她很少不打瞌睡的,而这样的姿势却不容易让母亲发现。

家仆们挨挨挤挤地拥进穿堂,跪在门道里。嬷嬷大声哼哼着倒伏在地上,波克的腰背挺直得像很通条,罗莎和丁娜这两个女仆摆开漂亮的印花裙子,有很好看的跪姿。厨娘戴着雪白的头巾,更加显得面黄肌瘦了。杰克正瞌睡得发傻,可是为了躲避嬷嬷那几只经常拧他的手指,他没有忘记尽可能离她远些。他们的黑眼睛都发出期待的光芒,因为同白人主子们一起做祈祷是一天中的一桩大事呢。至于带有东方意象的祷文中那些古老而生动的语句,对他们并没有多大意义,但能够给予他们内心以各种满足。因此当他们念到"主啊,怜悯我们",“基督啊,怜悯我们"时,也总浑身摇摆,仿佛极为感动。

爱伦闭上眼睛开始祷告,声音时高时低,像催眠又像抚慰。当她为自己的家庭成员和黑人们的健康与幸福而感谢上帝时,那昏黄灯光下的每一个人都把头低了下来。

接着她又为她的父母、姐妹,三个夭折的婴儿以及"涤罪所里所有的灵魂"祈祷,然后用细长的手指握着念珠开始念《玫瑰经》。宛如清风流水,所有黑人和白人的喉咙里都唱出了应答的圣歌声:“圣母马利亚,上帝之母,为我们罪人祈祷吧,现在,以及我们死去的时候。"尽管这个时候思嘉正在伤心和噙着眼泪,她还是深深领略到了往常这个时刻所有的那种宁静的和平。白天经历的部分失望和对明天的恐惧立刻消失了,留下来的一种希望的感觉。但这种安慰不是她那颗升腾到上帝身边的心带来的,因为对于她来说,宗教只不过停留在嘴皮子上而已。给她带来安慰的是母亲仰望上帝圣座和他的圣徒天使们、祈求赐福于她所爱的人时那张宁静的脸。当爱伦同上帝对话时,思嘉坚信上帝一定听见了。

爱伦祷告完,便轮到杰拉尔德。他经常在这种时候找不到念珠,只好偷偷沿着指头计算自己祷告的遍数。他正在嗡嗡地念着时,思嘉的思想便开了小差,自己怎么也控制不住了。她明白应当检查自己的良心。爱伦教育过她,每一天结束时都必须把自己的良心彻底检查一遍,承认自己所有的过失,祈求上帝宽恕并给以力量,做到永不重犯。但是思嘉只检查她的心事。

她把头搁在叠合着的双手上,使母亲无法看见她的脸,于是她的思想便伤心地跑回到艾希礼那儿去了。当他真正爱她的思嘉的时候,他又怎么打算娶媚兰呢?何况他也知道她多么爱他?他怎么能故意伤她的心啊?

接着,一个崭新的念头像颗彗星似的突然在她脑子里掠过。

“怎么,艾希礼并不知道我在爱他呀!”

这个突如起来的念头几乎把她震动得要大声喘息起来。

她的思想木然不动,默无声息,仿佛瘫痪了似的。好一会才继续向前奔跑。

“他怎么能知道呢?我在他面前经常装得那么拘谨,那么庄重,一副'别碰我'的神气,所以他也许认为我一点不把他放在心上,只当作品通朋友而已。对,这就是他从不开口的原因了!他觉得他爱而无望,所以才会显得那样----"她的思路迅速回到了从前的好几次情景,那时她发现他在用一种奇怪的态度瞧着她,那双最善于掩藏思想的灰色眼睛睁得大大的,毫无掩饰,里面饱含着一种痛苦绝望的神情。

“他的心已经伤透了,因为他觉得我在跟布伦特或斯图尔特或凯德恋爱呢。也许他以为如果得不到我,便同媚兰结婚也一样可以叫他家里高兴的。可是,如果他也知道我在爱他----"她轻易多变的心情从沮丧的深渊飞升到快乐的云霄中去了。这就是对于艾希礼的沉默和古怪行为的解释。只因为他不明白呀!她的虚荣心赶来给她所渴望的信念帮忙了,使这一信念变成了千真万确的故事。如果他知道她爱他,他就会赶忙到她身边来。她只消----“啊!”她乐不可支地想,用手指拧着低垂的额头。"瞧我多傻,竟一直没有想到这一层!我得想个办法让他知道。他要是知道我爱他,便不会去娶媚兰了呀!他怎么会呢?"这时,她猛地发觉杰拉尔德的祷告完了,母亲的眼睛正盯着她呢。她赶快开始她那十遍的诵祷,机械地沿着手里的念珠,不过声音中带有深厚的激情,引得嬷嬷瞪着眼睛仔细地打量她。她念完祷告后,苏伦和卡琳相继照章办事,这时她的心仍在那条诱惑人的新思路上向前飞跑。

即使现在,也还不太晚哩!在这个县,那种所谓丢人的私奔事件太常见了,那时当事人的一方或另一方实际上已和一个第三者站到了婚礼台上。何况艾希礼的事连订婚还没有宣布呢?是的,还有的是时间!

假设艾希礼和媚兰之间没有爱情而只有很久以前许下的一个承诺,那他为什么不可能废除那个诺言来同她结婚呢?他准会这么办的,要是他知道她思嘉爱他的话。她必须想法让知道。她一定要想出个办法来!然后----思嘉忽然从欢乐梦中惊醒过来,她疏忽了没有接腔,她母亲正用责备的眼光瞧着她呢。她一面重新跟上仪式,一面睁开眼睛迅速环顾周围,那些跪着的身影,那柔和的灯光,黑人摇摆时那些阴暗的影子,甚至那些在一个钟头之前她看来还很讨厌的熟悉家具,一时之间都涂上了她自己的情绪的色彩,整个房间又显得很可爱了!她永远也不会忘记这个时刻和这番景象!

“最最忠贞的圣母,"母亲吟诵着。现在开始念圣母连祷文了,爱伦用轻柔的低音赞颂圣母的美德,思嘉便随声应答:“为我们祈祷吧。"对思嘉而言,从小以来,这个时刻与其说是崇敬圣母还不如说是崇敬爱伦。尽管这有点亵渎神圣的味道,思嘉阖着眼睛经常看见的还是爱伦那张仰着的脸,而不是古老颂词所反复提到的圣母面容。"病人的健康""智慧的中心""罪人的庇护""神奇的玫瑰"----这些词语之所以美好,就因为它们是爱伦的品性。然而今晚,由于她自己意气昂扬,思嘉发现整个仪式中这些低声说出的词语和含糊不清的答应声有一种她从未经历过的崇高的美。所以她的心升腾到了上帝的身边,并且真诚地感谢为她脚下开辟了一条道路----一条摆脱痛苦和径直走向艾希礼怀抱的道路。

说过最后一声"阿门",大家有点僵痛地站起身来,嬷嬷还是由丁娜和罗莎合力拉起来的。波克从炉台上拿来一根长长的纸捻儿,在灯上点燃了,然后走入穿堂。那螺旋形楼梯的对面摆着个胡桃木碗柜,在饭厅里显得有点大而无当,宽阔的柜顶上放着几只灯盏和插在烛台上的长长一排蜡烛。波克点燃一盏灯和三支蜡烛,然后以一个皇帝寝宫中头等待从照着皇帝和皇后进卧室的庄严神情,高高举起灯盏领着这一群人上楼去。爱伦挎着杰拉尔德的臂膀跟在他后面,姑娘们也各自端着烛台陆续上楼了。

思嘉走进自己房里,把烛台放在高高的五斗柜上,然后在漆黑的壁橱里摸索那件需要修改的舞衣。她把衣服搭在胳臂上,悄悄走过穿堂。她父母卧室的门半开着,她正要去敲门,忽然听到爱伦很低,也很严肃的声音。

“杰拉尔德先生,你得把乔纳斯威尔克森开除。"杰拉尔德一听便发作起来,”那叫我再到哪里去找个不在我跟着搞鬼的监工呢?”“必须立即开除他,明天早晨就开除。大个儿萨姆是个不错的工头,在找到新的监工以前,可以让他暂时顶替一下。”“啊哈!"杰拉尔德大声说,"我这才明白,原来是这位宝贝乔纳斯生下了----”“必须开除他。”“如此说来,他就是埃米斯莱特里那个婴儿的父亲喽,”思嘉心想。"唔,好呀。一个北方佬跟一个下流白人的女孩,他们还能干出什么好事来呢?"稍稍停顿了一会,让杰拉尔德的唾沫星子消失之后,思嘉才敲门进去,把衣裳交给母亲。

到思嘉脱掉衣服、吹熄了蜡烛时,她明天准备实行的那个计划已经被安排得十分周密了。这个计划很简单,因为她怀有杰拉尔德那种刻意追求的精神,把注意力集中在那个目标上,只考虑达到这个目标所能采取的最直接的步骤。

第一,她要像杰拉尔德所吩咐的那样,装出一副"傲慢"的神气,从到达“十二橡树”村那一刻起,她就要摆出自己最快乐最豪爽的本性来。谁也不会想到她曾经由于艾希礼和媚兰的事而沮丧过。她还要跟那个县里的每一个男人调情。这会使得艾希礼无法忍受,但却越发爱慕她。她不会放过一个处于结婚年龄的男人,从苏伦的意中人黄胡子的老弗兰克肯尼迪,一直到羞怯寡言、容易脸红的查尔斯汉密尔顿,即媚兰的哥哥。他们会聚在她周围,像蜜蜂围着蜂房一样,而且艾希礼也一定会被吸引从媚兰那边跑过来,加入这个崇拜她的圈子。然后,她当然要耍点手腕,按排他离开那一伙,单独同她待几分钟。她希望一切都会进行得那样顺利,要不然就困难了。可是,如果艾希礼不首先行动起来呢,那她就只好干脆自己动手了。

待到他们终于单独在一起时,他对于别的男人挤在她周围那番情景当然记忆犹新,当然会深深感到他们每个人确实很想要她,于是他便会流露出那种悲伤绝望的神色。那时她要叫他发现,尽管受到那么多人爱慕,她在世界上却只喜欢他一个人,这样他便会重新愉快起来。她只要又娇媚又含蓄地承认了这一点,她便会显得身价百倍,更叫人看重了。当然,她要以一种很高尚的姿态来做这些。她连做梦也不会公然对他说她爱他----这是绝对不行的啊!不过,究竟用什么样的态度告诉他,这只是枝节问题,根本用不着太操心。她以前不知道处理过多少这样的场面,现在再来一次就是了。

躺在床上,她全身沐浴着朦胧的月光,心里揣摩着通盘的情景。她仿佛看见他明白真正爱他时脸上流露的那种又惊又喜的表情,还仿佛听见他身她求婚时要说的那番话。

自然,那时她就得说,既然一个男人已经跟别的姑娘订婚,她便根本谈不上同他结婚了,不过他会坚持不放,最后她只得让自己说服了。于是他们决定当天下午逃到琼斯博罗去,并且----瞧,明天晚上这时候她也许已经是艾希礼威尔克斯夫人了!

她这时索性翻身坐起来,双手紧抱着膝盖,一味神往地想象着,有好一会俨然做起艾希礼威尔克斯夫人----艾希礼的新娘来了!接着,一丝凉意掠过她的心头。假如事情不照这个样子发展呢?假如艾希礼并不恳求她一起逃走呢?她断然把这个想法从心里推出去了。

“现在我不去想它,"她坚定地说&