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Chapter 2

WHEN THE TWINS left Scarlett standing on the porch of Tara and the last sound of flyinghooves had died away, she went back to her chair like a sleepwalker. Her face felt stiff as frompain and her mouth actually hurt from having stretched it, unwillingly, in smiles to prevent thetwins from learning her secret. She sat down wearily, tucking one foot under her, and her heartswelled up with misery, until it felt too large for her bosom. It beat with odd little jerks; her handswere 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 whonow, 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 likeMelanie. Scarlett recalled with contempt Melanie’s thin childish figure, her serious heart-shapedface that was plain almost to homeliness. And Ashley couldn’t have seen her in months. He hadn’tbeen 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 hewas 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 untuckedher foot and tried to rearrange her face in more placid lines. It would never do for Mammy tosuspect that anything was wrong. Mammy felt that she owned the O’Haras, body and soul, thattheir secrets were her secrets; and even a hint of a mystery was enough to set her upon the trail asrelentlessly as a bloodhound. Scarlett knew from experience that, if Mammy’s curiosity were notimmediately satisfied, she would take up the matter with Ellen, and then Scarlett would be forcedto 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’smainstay, the despair of her three daughters, the terror of the other house servants. Mammy wasblack, but her code of conduct and her sense of pride were as high as or higher than those of herowners. She had been raised in the bedroom of Solange Robillard, Ellen O’Hara’s mother, a dainty, cold, high-nosed Frenchwoman, who spared neither her children nor her servants their justpunishment for any infringement of decorum. She had been Ellen’s mammy and had come withher 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 waspractically continuous.

  “Is de gempmum gone? Huccome you din’ ast dem ter stay fer supper, Miss Scarlett? Ah donetole 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 throughsupper, especially with Pa joining in and shouting about Mr. Lincoln.”

  “You ain” got no mo’ manners dan a fe’el han’, an’ affer Miss Ellen an’ me done labored widyou. An’ hyah you is widout yo’ shawl! An’ de night air fixin’ ter set in! Ah done tole you an’ toleyou ‘bout gittin’ fever frum settin’ in de night air wid nuthin’ on yo’ shoulders. Come on in dehouse, Miss Scarlett.”

  Scarlett turned away from Mammy with studied nonchalance, thankful that her face had beenunnoticed 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 theupstairs 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 wouldresume her lecture on Scarlett’s breach of hospitality, and Scarlett felt that she could not endureprating about such a trivial matter when her heart was breaking. As she stood, hesitant, wonderingwhere she could hide until the ache in her breast subsided a little, a thought came to her, bringing asmall ray of hope. Her father had ridden over to Twelve Oaks, the Wilkes plantation, that afternoonto offer to buy Dilcey, the broad wife of his valet, Pork. Dilcey was head woman and midwife atTwelve Oaks, and, since the marriage six months ago, Pork had deviled his master night and day tobuy Dilcey, so the two could live on the same plantation. That afternoon, Gerald, his resistanceworn 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 actuallyheard anything this afternoon, perhaps he’s noticed something, sensed some excitement in theWilkes family. If I can just see him privately before supper, perhaps I’ll find out the truth—that it’sjust 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 todo 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 betweenfluttering curtains, she boldly snatched up her green flowered skirts and sped down the pathtoward 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 longavenue into a dim tunnel. As soon as she was beneath the gnarled arms of the cedars, she knew shewas safe from observation from the house and she slowed her swift pace. She was panting, for herstays 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 shehad 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 forhim to come home, but she was glad that he was late. The delay would give her time to quiet herbreathing and calm her face so that his suspicions would not be aroused. Every moment sheexpected to hear the pounding of his horse’s hooves and see him come charging up the hill at hisusual breakneck speed. But the minutes slipped by and Gerald did not come. She looked down theroad 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 shetraced its course as it ran down the hill to the sluggish Flint River, through the tangled swampybottoms 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 GreekTemple.

  “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 theTarleton boys told her their gossip was pushed into the background of her mind, and in its placecrept the fever that had possessed her for two years.

  It seemed strange now that when she was growing up Ashley had never seemed so veryattractive 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 inEurope, 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 graybroadcloth with a wide black cravat setting off his frilled shirt to perfection. Even now, she couldrecall each detail of his dress, how brightly his boots shone, the head of a Medusa in cameo on hiscravat phi, the wide Panama hat that was instantly in his hand when he saw her. He had alightedand tossed his bridle reins to a pickaninny and stood looking up at her, his drowsy gray eyes widewith a smile and the sun so bright on his blond hair that it seemed like a cap of shining silver. Andhe 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 wantedfood 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 Fontaineboys, 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 Scarlettknew so well in other men. And yet—and yet—she knew he loved her. She could not be mistakenabout 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 ather with a yearning and a sadness which puzzled her. She knew he loved her. Why did he not tellher so? That she could not understand. But there were so many things about him that she did notunderstand.

  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 hethought it, Ashley’s quality of reserve was exasperating. He was as proficient as any of the otheryoung men in the usual County diversions, hunting, gambling, dancing and politics, and was thebest rider of them all; but he differed from all the rest in that these pleasant activities were not theend and aim of life to him. And he stood alone in his interest in books and music and his fondnessfor writing poetry.

  Oh, why was he so handsomely blond, so courteously aloof, so maddeningly boring with his talkabout Europe and books and music and poetry and things that interested her not at all—and yet sodesirable? Night after night, when Scarlett went to bed after sitting on the front porch in the semidarknesswith him, she tossed restlessly for hours and comforted herself only with the thought thatthe very next time he saw her he certainly would propose. But the next time came and went, andthe 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 andsimple as the winds that blew over Tara and the yellow river that wound about it, and to the end ofher days she would never be able to understand a complexity. And now, for the first time in herlife, she was facing a complex nature.

  For Ashley was born of a line of men who used their leisure for thinking, not doing, for spinningbrightly colored dreams that had in them no touch of reality. He moved in an inner world that wasmore beautiful than Georgia and came back to reality with reluctance. He looked on people, and heneither liked nor disliked them. He looked on life and was neither heartened nor saddened. Heaccepted the universe and his place in it for what they were and, shrugging, turned to his music andbooks 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 thingsabout him which she could not understand only made her love him more, and his odd, restrainedcourtship only served to increase her determination to have him for her own. That he wouldpropose some day she had never doubted, for she was too young and too spoiled ever to haveknown 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 happymoment 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, andsuddenly they took on another meaning, a hideous meaning. Suppose it was the news of hisengagement he had intended to tell her!

  Oh, if Pa would only come home! She could not endure the suspense another moment Shelooked impatiently down the road again, and again she was disappointed. The sun was now belowthe horizon and the red glow at the rim of the world faded into pink. The sky above turned slowlyfrom azure to the delicate blue-green of a robin’s egg, and the unearthly stillness of rural twilightcame stealthily down about her. Shadowy dimness crept over the countryside. The red furrows andthe 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 thicketshedging the pasture creek, and they twitched their ears at Scarlett as if appreciative of humancompanionship.

  In the strange half-light, the tall pines of the river swamp, so warmly green in the sunshine, wereblack against the pastel sky, an impenetrable row of black giants hiding the slow yellow water attheir feet. On the hill across the river, the tall white chimneys of the Wilkes, home faded graduallyinto the darkness of the thick oaks surrounding them, and only far-off pin points of supper lampsshowed that a house was here. The warm damp balminess of spring encompassed her sweetly withthe 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 sheaccepted as casually as the air she breathed and the water she drank, for she had never consciouslyseen beauty in anything bat women’s faces, horses, silk dresses and like tangible things. Yet theserene half-light over Tara’s well-kept acres brought a measure of quiet to her disturbed mind. Sheloved this land so much, without even knowing she loved it, loved it as she loved her mother’s faceunder 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 shestrained her eyes down the darkening road, she heard a pounding of hooves at the bottom of thepasture hill and saw the horses and cows scatter in fright. Gerald O’Hara was coming home acrosscountry and at top speed.

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

  Filled with her own anxieties, she nevertheless watched him with affectionate pride, for Geraldwas 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. Especiallywhen 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, forjumping fences and keeping it a secret from his wife gave him a boyish pride and guilty glee thatmatched 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, hisrider 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 hishorse’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. Thenhe hastily set about smoothing his hair and settling his ruffled shirt and his cravat which hadslipped awry behind one ear. Scarlett knew these hurried preenings were being made with an eyetoward meeting his wife with the appearance of a gentleman who had ridden sedately home from acall on a neighbor. She knew also that he was presenting her with just the opportunity she wantedfor opening the conversation without revealing her true purpose.

  She laughed aloud. As she had intended, Gerald was startled by the sound; then he recognizedher, 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 sisterSuellen 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 teasinglyclicked her tongue against her teeth as she reached out to pull his cravat into place. His breath inher face was strong with Bourbon whisky mingled with a faint fragrance of mint. Accompanyinghim also were the smells of chewing tobacco, well-oiled leather and horses—a combination ofodors 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 rearrangedattire with a judicious air.

  Gerald was a small man, little more than five feet tall, but so heavy of barrel and thick of neckthat his appearance, when seated, led strangers to think him a larger man. His thickset torso wassupported by short sturdy legs, always incased in the finest leather boots procurable and alwaysplanted wide apart like a swaggering small boy’s. Most small people who take themselvesseriously are a little ridiculous; but the bantam cock is respected in the barnyard, and so it was withGerald. 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 unlinedand his hard little blue eyes were young with the unworried youthfulness of one who has nevertaxed his brain with problems more abstract than how many cards to draw in a poker game. Hiswas as Irish a face as could be found in the length and breadth of the homeland he had left so longago—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, ho matter how well deserved, or hear a kitten mewing or achild crying; but he had a horror of having this weakness discovered. That everyone who met himdid discover his kindly heart within five minutes was unknown to him; and his vanity would havesuffered tremendously if he had found it out, for he liked to think that when he bawled orders atthe top of his voice everyone trembled and obeyed. It had never occurred to him that only onevoice was obeyed on the plantation—the soft voice of his wife Ellen. It was a secret he wouldnever learn, for everyone from Ellen down to the stupidest field hand was in a tacit and kindlyconspiracy 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 oldestchild and, now that Gerald knew there would be no more sons to follow the three who lay in thefamily burying ground, he had drifted into a habit of treating her in a man-to-man manner whichshe found most pleasant. She was more like her father than her younger sisters, for Carreen, whohad 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. IfGerald caught her climbing a fence instead of walking half a mile to a gate, or sitting too late onthe front steps with a beau, he castigated her personally and with vehemence, but he did notmention the fact to Ellen or to Mammy. And when Scarlett discovered him jumping fences after hissolemn promise to his wife, or learned the exact amount of his losses at poker, as she always didfrom County gossip, she refrained from mentioning the fact at the supper table in the artfullyartless manner Suellen had. Scarlett and her father each assured the other solemnly that to bringsuch matters to the ears of Ellen would only hurt her, and nothing would induce them to wound hergentleness.

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

  “You look very presentable now,” she said, “and I don’t think anyone will suspect you’ve beenup to your tricks unless you brag about them. But it does seem to me that after you broke yourknee 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 notjump,” 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 employing familiar maneuvers to extricate himself from unpleasant conversation,sheslippe(was) d her arm through his and said: “I was waiting for you. I didn’t know youwould 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. JohnWilkes was for almost giving them away, but never will I have it said that Gerald O’Hara usedfriendship 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 when own daughters sit in judgment on me?” shouted Gerald rhetorically. “Prissy is a l(come) ikely little w(me) ench 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 Scarlettlaughed 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 chillwas displacing the balminess of spring. But Scarlett loitered, wondering how to bring up thesubject of Ashley without permitting Gerald to suspect her motive. This was difficult, for Scarletthad not a subtle bone in her body; and Gerald was so much like her he never failed to penetrate herweak 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 thegallery and had several toddies. Cade has just come from Atlanta, and it’s all upset they are thereand talking war and—”

  Scarlett sighed. If Gerald once got on the subject of war and secession, it would be hours beforehe 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 herelast year, you know, Ashley’s cousin—oh, yes, Miss Melanie Hamilton, that’s the name—she andher 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 womanshould 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 keepMelanie Hamilton in Atlanta where she belonged, and the knowledge that even her father approvedof 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 ifthat’s why you came out here to wait for me, why didn’t you say so without beating around thebush?”

  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 hushhis mouth.

  “He was there and he asked most kindly after you, as did his sisters, and said they hoped nothingwould keep you from the barbecue tomorrow. I’ll warrant nothing will,” he said shrewdly. “Andnow, 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’munderstanding you. Now that I think of it ‘tis strange you’ve been recently. Has he been triflingwith 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 thatAshley’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 herfather’s eyes on her, a little pitying, a little annoyed at being faced with a problem for which heknew no answer. He loved Scarlett, but it made him uncomfortable to have her forcing her childishproblems on him for a solution. Ellen knew all the answers. Scarlett should have taken her troublesto her.

  “Is it a spectacle you’ve been making of yourself—of all of us?” he bawled, his voice rising asalways 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 ofkindliness: “I’m sorry, daughter. But after all, you are nothing but a child and there’s lots of otherbeaux.”

  “Mother was only fifteen when she married you, and I’m sixteen,” said Scarlett, her voicemuffled.

  “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 thehullabaloo they are having over there about Fort Sumter, you’ll be forgetting about Ashley in aweek.”

  “He thinks I’m a child,” thought Scarlett, grief and anger choking utterance, “and he’s only gotto 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 thenthe plantations will run together and Jim Tarleton and I will build you a fine house, right wherethey 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 havea 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 ofthought 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 an the fine friendship that’s between me and JohnWilkes.” And, seeing her startled look, he continued: “I want my girl to be happy and you wouldn’tbe 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 andMother 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 Wilkesare different from any of our neighbors—different from any family I ever knew. They are queerfolk, 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’snot crazy I’m meaning. He’s not queer like the Calverts who’d gamble everything they have on ahorse, or the Tarletons who turn out a drunkard or two in every litter, or the Fontaines who are hotheadedlittle brutes and after murdering a man for a fancied slight. That kind of queerness is easyto understand, for sure, and but for the grace of God Gerald O’Hara would be having all thosefaults! And I don’t mean that Ashley would run off with another woman, if you were his wife, orbeat you. You’d be happier if he did, for at least you’d be understanding that. But he’s queer inother ways, and there’s no understanding him at all. I like him, but it’s neither heads nor tails I canmake of most he says. Now, Puss, tell me true, do you understand his folderol about books andpoetry 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’slittle enough you are knowing of any man living, let alone Ashley. No wife has ever changed ahusband whit, and don’t you be forgetting that. And as for changing a Wilkes—God’snightgown,d(one) aughter! The whole family is that way, and they’ve always been that way. Andprobably always will. I tell you they’re born queer. Look at the way they go tearing up to NewYork and Boston to hear operas and see oil paintings. And ordering French and German books bythe 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 Ashleytake 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 beknowing 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 knewGerald was right. Ashley’s heart was in none of the pleasant things he did so well. He was nevermore 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? ‘Tismoonstruck they all are, all the Wilkes.” And then, in a wheedling tone: “When I was mentioningthe Tarletons the while ago, I wasn’t pushing them. They’re fine lads, but if it’s Cade Calvertyou’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 leaveTara to you and Cade—”

  “I wouldn’t have Cade on a silver tray,” cried Scarlett in fury. “And I wish you’d quit pushinghim 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 thecavalier way in which she treated his proffered gift, the thing which, next to Ellen, he loved best inthe whole world uttered a roar.

  “Do you stand there, Scarlett O’Hara, and tell me that Tara—that land—doesn’t amount toanything?”

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

  “Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything,” he shouted, his thick, short armsmaking wide gestures of indignation, “for ‘tis the only thing in this world that lasts, and don’t yoube 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 halfIrish, Miss! And to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them the land they live on is like theirmother. ‘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 inScarlett’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 beseeing how ‘tis. ... Now, do you be making up your mind about Cade or the twins or one of EvanMunroe’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 theproblem should be upon his shoulders. He felt aggrieved, moreover, that Scarlett should still lookdesolate after being offered the best of the County boys and Tara, too. Gerald liked his gifts to bereceived 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 youand 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, likeservants, like Yankees! The best marriages are when the parents choose for the girl. For how can asilly piece like yourself tell a good man from a scoundrel? Now, look at the Wilkes. What’s keptthem prideful and strong all these generations? Why, marrying the likes of themselves, marryingthe cousins their family always expects them to marry.”

  “Oh,” cried Scarlett, fresh pain striking her as Gerald’s words brought home the terribleinevitability 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 faceupward, 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 seepride in you tomorrow at the barbecue. I’ll not be having the County gossiping and laughing at youfor 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! Iknow he did. I could tell. If I’d just had a little longer, I know I could have made him say—Oh, if itonly 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 motherwith 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 shesaw her mother in the dim shadows of the porch. She had on her bonnet, shawl and mittens, andbehind her was Mammy, her face like a thundercloud, holding in her hand the black leather bag inwhich 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 totwice its normal length. It was pushed out now, and Scarlett knew that Mammy was seething oversomething of which she did not approve.

  “Mr. O’Hara,” called Ellen as she saw the two coming up the driveway—Ellen belonged to ageneration 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 andmust 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 mereformality but one dear to the heart of Gerald.

  “In the name of God!” blustered Gerald. “Why should those white trash take you away just atyour supper hour and just when I’m wanting to tell you about the war talk that’s going on inAtlanta! Go, Mrs. O’Hara. You’d not rest easy on your pillow the night if there was trouble abroadand 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’itetrash dat could ten’ to deyseff,” grumbled Mammy in a monotone as she went down the stairstoward 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 mittenedhand.

  In spite of her choked-back tears, Scarlett thrilled to the never-failing magic of her mother’stouch, to the faint fragrance of lemon verbena sachet that came from her rustling silk dress. ToScarlett, there was something breath-taking about Ellen O’Hara, a miracle that lived in the housewith 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 atbeing told how to conduct his own business. Driving off, with Mammy beside him, each was aperfect 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 theCounty 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. Hehad already forgotten Scarlett’s heartbreak and his mind was only on plaguing his valet. Scarlettslowly climbed the steps after him, her feet leaden. She thought that, after all, a mating betweenherself and Ashley could be no queerer than that of her father and Ellen Robillard O’Hara. Asalways, she wondered how her loud, insensitive father had managed to marry a woman like hermother, for never were two people further apart in birth, breeding and habits of mind.

  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



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