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Chapter 6

THEY CROSSED the river and the carriage mounted the hill. Even before Twelve Oaks cameinto view Scarlett saw a haze of smoke hanging lazily in the tops of the tall trees and smelled themingled savory odors of burning hickory logs and roasting pork and mutton.

  The barbecue pits, which had been slowly burning since last night, would now be long troughsof rose-red embers, with the meats turning on spits above them and the juices trickling down andhissing into the coals. Scarlett knew that the fragrance carried on the faint breeze came from thegrove of great oaks in the rear of the big house. John Wilkes always held his barbecues there, onthe gentle slope leading down to the rose garden, a pleasant shady place and a far pleasanter place,for instance, than that used by the Calverts. Mrs. Calvert did not like barbecue food and declaredthat the smells remained in the house for days, so her guests always sweltered on a flat unshadedspot a quarter of a mile from the house. But John Wilkes, famed throughout the state for hishospitality, really knew how to give a barbecue.

  The long trestled picnic tables, covered with the finest of the Wilkeses’ linen, always stoodunder the thickest shade, with backless benches on either side; and chairs, hassocks and cushionsfrom the house were scattered about the glade for those who did not fancy the benches. At adistance great enough to keep the smoke away from the guests were the long pits where the meats cooked and the huge iron wash-pots from which the succulent odors of barbecue sauce andBrunswick stew floated. Mr. Wilkes always had at least a dozen darkies busy running back andforth with trays to serve the guests. Over behind the barns there was always another barbecue pit,where the house servants and the coachmen and maids of the guests had their own feast ofhoecakes and yams and chitterlings, that dish of hog entrails so dear to negro hearts, and, inseason, watermelons enough to satiate.

  As the smell of crisp fresh pork came to her, Scarlett wrinkled her nose appreciatively, hopingthat by the time it was cooked she would feel some appetite. As it was, she was so full of food andso tightly laced that she feared every moment she was going to belch. That would be fatal, as onlyold men and very old ladies could belch without fear of social disapproval.

  They topped the rise and the white house reared its perfect symmetry before her, tall of columns,wide of verandas, flat of roof, beautiful as a woman is beautiful who is so sure of her charm thatshe can be generous and gracious to all. Scarlett loved Twelve Oaks even more than Tara, for it hada stately beauty, a mellowed dignity that Gerald’s house did not possess.

  The wide curving driveway was full of saddle horses and carriages and guests alighting andcalling greetings to friends. Grinning negroes, excited as always at a party, were leading theanimals to the barnyard to be unharnessed and unsaddled for the day. Swarms of children, blackand white, ran yelling about the newly green lawn, playing hopscotch and tag and boasting howmuch they were going to eat. The wide hall which ran from front to back of the house wasswarming with people, and as the O’Hara carriage drew up at the front steps, Scarlett saw girls incrinolines, bright as butterflies, going up and coming down the stairs from the second floor, armsabout each other’s waists, stopping to lean over the delicate handrail of the banisters, laughing andcalling to young men in the hall below them.

  Through the open French windows, she caught glimpses of the older women seated in thedrawing room, sedate in dark silks as they sat fanning themselves and talking of babies andsicknesses and who had married whom and why. The Wilkes butler, Tom, was hurrying through thehalls, a silver tray in his hands, bowing and grinning, as he offered tall glasses to young men infawn and gray trousers and fine ruffled linen shirts.

  The sunny front veranda was thronged with guests. Yes, the whole County was here, thoughtScarlett. The four Tarleton boys and their father leaned against the tall columns, the twins, Stuartand Brent, side by side inseparable as usual, Boyd and Tom with their father, James Tarleton. Mr.

  Calvert was standing close by the side of his Yankee wife, who even after fifteen years in Georgianever seemed to quite belong anywhere. Everyone was very polite and kind to her because he feltsorry for her, but no one could forget that she had compounded her initial error of birth by beingthe governess of Mr. Calvert’s children. The two Calvert boys, Raiford and Cade, were there withtheir dashing blonde sister, Cathleen, teasing the dark-faced Joe Fontaine and Sally Munroe, hispretty bride-to-be. Alex and Tony Fontaine were whispering in the ears of Dimity Munroe andsending her into gales of giggles. There were families from as far as Lovejoy, ten miles away, andfrom Fayetteville and Jonesboro, a few even from Atlanta and Macon. The house seemed burstingwith the crowd, and a ceaseless babble of talking and laughter and giggles and shrill femininesqueaks and screams rose and fell.

  On the porch steps stood John Wilkes, silver-haired, erect, radiating the quiet charm andhospitality that was as warm and never failing as the sun of Georgia summer. Beside him HoneyWilkes, so called because she indiscriminately addressed everyone from her father to the fieldhands by that endearment, fidgeted and giggled as she called greetings to the arriving guests.

  Honey’s nervously obvious desire to be attractive to every man in sight contrasted sharply withher father’s poise, and Scarlett had the thought that perhaps there was something in what Mrs.

  Tarleton said, after all. Certainly the Wilkes men got the family looks. The thick deep-gold lashesthat set off the gray eyes of John Wilkes and Ashley were sparse and colorless in the faces ofHoney and her sister India. Honey had the odd lashless look of a rabbit, and India could bedescribed by no other word than plain.

  India was nowhere to be seen, but Scarlett knew she probably was in the kitchen giving finalinstructions to the servants. Poor India, thought Scarlett, she’s had so much trouble keeping housesince her mother died that she’s never had the chance to catch any beau except Stuart Tarleton, andit certainly wasn’t my fault if he thought I was prettier than she.

  John Wilkes came down the steps to offer his arm to Scarlett. As she descended from thecarriage, she saw Suellen smirk and knew that she must have picked out Frank Kennedy in thecrowd.

  If I couldn’t catch a better beau than that old maid in britches! she thought contemptuously, asshe stepped to the ground and smiled her thanks to John Wilkes.

  Frank Kennedy was hurrying to the carriage to assist Suellen, and Suellen was bridling in a waythat made Scarlett want to slap her. Frank Kennedy might own more land than anyone in theCounty and he might have a very kind heart, but these things counted for nothing against the factthat he was forty, slight and nervous and had a thin ginger-colored beard and an old-maidish, fussyway about him. However, remembering her plan, Scarlett smothered her contempt and cast such aflashing smile of greeting at him that he stopped short, his arm outheld to Suellen and goggled atScarlett in pleased bewilderment.

  Scarlett’s eyes searched the crowd for Ashley, even while she made pleasant small talk withJohn Wilkes, but he was not on the porch. There were cries of greeting from a dozen voices andStuart and Brent Tarleton moved toward her. The Munroe girls rushed up to exclaim over herdress, and she was speedily the center of a circle of voices that rose higher and higher in efforts tobe heard above the din. But where was Ashley? And Melanie and Charles? She tried not to beobvious as she looked about and peered down the hall into the laughing group inside.

  As she chattered and laughed and cast quick glances into the house and the yard, her eyes fell ona stranger, standing alone in the hall, staring at her in a cool impertinent way that brought her upsharply with mingled feeling of feminine pleasure that she had attracted and embarrassed sen(a) sationthatherdresswastoolowinthebosom.Helookedquiteold,(a) atlea(man) st thirty-(an) five. He was a tall man and powerfully built. Scarlett thought she had never seen a man with suchwide shoulders, so heavy with muscles, almost too heavy for gentility. When her eye caught his, hesmiled, showing animal-white teeth below a close-clipped black mustache. He was dark of face,swarthy as a pirate, and his eyes were as bold and black as any pirate’s appraising a galleon to bescuttled or a maiden to be ravished. There was a cool recklessness in his face and a cynical humor in his mouth as he smiled at her, and Scarlett caught her breath. She felt that she should be insultedby such a look and was annoyed with herself because she did not feel insulted. She did not knowwho he could be, but there was undeniably a look of good blood in his dark face. It showed in thethin hawk nose over the full red lips, the high forehead and the wide-set eyes.

  She dragged her eyes away from his without smiling back, and he turned as someone called:

  “Rhett! Rhett Butler! Come here! I want you to meet the most hard-hearted girl in Georgia.”

  Rhett Butler? The name had a familiar sound, somehow connected with something pleasantlyscandalous, but her mind was on Ashley and she dismissed the thought.

  “I must run upstairs and smooth my hair,” she told Stuart and Brent, who were trying to get hercornered from the crowd. “You boys wait for me and don’t run off with any other girl or I’ll befurious.”

  She could see that Stuart was going to be difficult to handle today if she flirted with anyone else.

  He had been drinking and wore the arrogant looking-for-a-fight expression that she knew fromexperience meant trouble. She paused in the hall to speak to friends and to greet India who wasemerging from the back of the house, her hair untidy and tiny beads of perspiration on herforehead. Poor India! It would be bad enough to have pale hair and eyelashes and a hitting chinthat meant a stubborn disposition, without being twenty years old and an old maid in the bargain.

  She wondered if India resented very much her taking Stuart away from her. Lots of people said shewas still in love with him, but then you could never tell what a Wilkes was thinking about. If shedid resent it, she never gave any sign of it, treating Scarlett with the same slightly aloof, kindlycourtesy she had always shown her.

  Scarlett spoke pleasantly to her and started up the wide stairs. As she did, a shy voice behind hercalled her name and, turning, she saw Charles Hamilton. He was a nice-looking boy with a riot ofsoft brown curls on his white forehead and eyes as deep brown, as clean and as gentle as a colliedog’s. He was well turned out in mustard-colored trousers and black coat and his pleated shirt wastopped by the widest and most fashionable of black cravats. A faint blush was creeping over hisface as she turned, for he was timid with girls. Like most shy men he greatly admired airy,vivacious, always-at-ease girls like Scarlett. She had never given him more than perfunctorycourtesy before, and so the beaming smile of pleasure with which she greeted him and the twohands outstretched to his almost took his breath away.

  “Why Charles Hamilton, you handsome old thing, you! I’ll bet you came all the way down herefrom Atlanta just to break my poor heart!”

  Charles almost stuttered with excitement, holding her warm little hands in his and looking intothe dancing green eyes. This was the way girls talked to other boys but never to him. He neverknew why but girls always treated him like a younger brother and were very kind, but neverbothered to tease him. He had always wanted girls to flirt end frolic with him as they did with boysmuch less handsome and less endowed with this world’s goods than he. But on the few occasionswhen this had happened he could never think of anything to say and he suffered agonies ofembarrassment at his dumbness. Then he lay awake at night thinking of all the charminggallantries he might have employed; but he rarely got a second chance, for the girls left him aloneafter a trial or two.

  Even with Honey, with whom he had an unspoken understanding of marriage when he came intohis property next fall, he was diffident and silent. At times, he had an ungallant feeling thatHoney’s coquetries and proprietary airs were no credit to him, for she was so boy-crazy heimagined she would use them on any man who gave her the opportunity. Charles was not excitedover the prospect of marrying her, for she stirred in him none of the emotions of wild romance thathis beloved books had assured him were proper for a lover. He had always yearned to be loved bysome beautiful, dashing creature full of fire and mischief.

  And here was Scarlett O’Hara teasing him about breaking her heart!

  He tried to think of something to say and couldn’t, and silently he blessed her because she keptup a steady chatter which relieved him of any necessity for conversation. It was too good to betrue.

  “Now, you wait right here till I come back, for I want to eat barbecue with you. And don’t yougo off philandering with those other girls, because I’m mighty jealous,” came the incredible wordsfrom red lips with a dimple on each side; and briskly black lashes swept demurely over green eyes.

  “I won’t,” he finally managed to breathe, never dreaming that she was thinking he looked like acalf waiting for the butcher.

  Tapping him lightly on the arm with her folded fan, she turned to start up the stairs and her eyesagain fell on the man called Rhett Butler who stood alone a few feet away from Charles. Evidentlyhe had overheard the whole conversation, for he grinned up at her as maliciously as a tomcat, andagain his eyes went over her, in a gaze totally devoid of the deference she was accustomed to.

  “God’s nightgown!” said Scarlett to herself in indignation, using Gerald’s favorite oath. “Helooks as if—as if he knew what I looked like without my shimmy,” and, tossing her head, she wentup the steps.

  In the bedroom where the wraps were laid, she found Cathleen Calvert preening before themirror and biting her lips to make them look redder. There were fresh roses in her sash thatmatched her cheeks, and her cornflower-blue eyes were dancing with excitement.

  “Cathleen,” said Scarlett, trying to pull the corsage of her dress higher, “who is that nasty mandownstairs named Butler?”

  “My dear, don’t you know?” whispered Cathleen excitedly, a weather eye on the next roomwhere Dilcey and the Wilkes girls’ mammy were gossiping. “I can’t imagine how Mr. Wilkes mustfeel having him here, but he was visiting Mr. Kennedy in Jonesboro—something about buyingcotton—and, of course, Mr. Kennedy had to bring him along with him. He couldn’t just go off andleave him.”

  “What is the matter with him?”

  “My dear, he isn’t received!”

  “Not really!”

  “No.”

  Scarlett digested this in silence, for she had never before been under the same roof with anyone who was not received. It was very exciting.

  “What did he do?”

  “Oh, Scarlett, he has the most terrible reputation. His name is Rhett Butler and he’s fromCharleston and his folks are some of the nicest people there, but they won’t even speak to him.

  Caro Rhett told me about him last summer. He isn’t any kin to her family, but she knows all abouthim, everybody does. He was expelled from West Point. Imagine! And for things too bad for Caroto know. And then there was that business about the girl he didn’t marry.”

  “Do tell me!”

  “Darling, don’t you know anything? Caro told me all about it last summer and her mama woulddie if she thought Caro even knew about it. Well, this Mr. Butler took a Charleston girl out buggyriding. I never did know who she was, but I’ve got my suspicions. She couldn’t have been verynice or she wouldn’t have gone out with him in the late afternoon without a chaperon. And, mydear, they stayed out nearly all night and walked home finally, saying the horse had run away andsmashed the buggy and they had gotten lost in the woods. And guess what—”

  “I can’t guess. Tell me,” said Scarlett enthusiastically, hoping for the worst.

  “He refused to marry her the next day!”

  “Oh,” said Scarlett, her hopes dashed.

  “He said he hadn’t—er—done anything to her and he didn’t see why he should marry her. And,of course, her brother called him out, and Mr. Butler said he’d rather be shot than marry a stupidfool. And so they fought a duel and Mr. Butler shot the girl’s brother and he died, and Mr. Butlerhad to leave Charleston and now nobody receives him,” finished Cathleen triumphantly, and just intime, for Dilcey came back into the room to oversee the toilet of her charge.

  “Did she have a baby?” whispered Scarlett in Cathleen’s ear.

  Cathleen shook her head violently. “But she was ruined just the same,” she hissed back.

  I wish I had gotten Ashley to compromise me, thought Scarlett suddenly. He’d be too much of agentleman not to marry me. But somehow, unbidden, she had a feeling of respect for Rhett Butlerfor refusing to marry a girl who was a fool.

  Scarlett sat on a high rosewood ottoman, under the shade of a huge oak in the rear of the house,her flounces and ruffles billowing about her and two inches of green morocco slippers—all that alady could show and still remain a lady—peeping from beneath them. She had scarcely touchedplate in her hands and seven cavaliers about her. The barbecue had reached its peak and the warmair was full of laughter and talk, the click of silver on porcelain and the rich heavy smells ofroasting meats and redolent gravies. Occasionally when the slight breeze veered, puffs of smokefrom the long barbecue pits floated over the crowd and were greeted with squeals of mock dismayfrom the ladies and violent flappings of palmetto fans.

  Most of the young ladies were seated with partners on the long benches that faced the tables, butScarlett, realizing that a girl has only two sides and only one man can sit on each of these sides,had elected to sit apart so she could gather about her as many men as possible.

  Under the arbor sat the married women, their dark dresses decorous notes in the surroundingcolor and gaiety. Matrons, regardless of their ages, always grouped together apart from the bright-eyed girls, beaux and laughter, for there were no married belles in the South. From GrandmaFontaine, who was belching frankly with the privilege of her age, to seventeen-year-old AliceMunroe, struggling against the nausea of a first pregnancy, they had their heads together in theendless genealogical and obstetrical discussions that made such gatherings very pleasant andinstructive affairs.

  Casting contemptuous glances at them, Scarlett thought that they looked like a clump of fatcrows. Married women never had any fun. It did not occur to her that if she married Ashley shewould automatically be relegated to arbors and front parlors with staid matrons in dull silks, asstaid and dull as they and not a part of the fun and frolicking. Like most girls, her imaginationcarried her just as far as the altar and no further. Besides, she was too unhappy now to pursue anabstraction.

  She dropped her eyes to her plate and nibbled daintily on a beaten biscuit with an elegance andan utter lack of appetite that would have won Mammy’s approval. For all that she had a superfluityof beaux, she had been miserable in her life. In some way that she could not understand,herplansofl(never) astnightha(more) d failed utterly so far as Ashley was concerned. She hadattracted other beaux by the dozens, but not Ashley, and all the fears of yesterday afternoon weresweeping back upon her, making her heart beat fast and then slow, and color flame and whiten inher cheeks.

  Ashley had made no attempt to join the circle about her, in fact she had not had a word alonewith him since arriving, or even spoken to him since their first greeting. He had come forward towelcome her when she came into the back garden, but Melanie had been on his arm then, Melaniewho hardly came up to his shoulder.

  She was a tiny, frailly built girl, who gave the appearance of a child masquerading in hermother’s enormous hoop skirts—an illusion that was heightened by the shy, almost frightened lookin her too large brown eyes. She had a cloud of curly dark hair which was so sternly repressedbeneath its net that no vagrant tendrils escaped, and this dark mass, with its long widow’s peak,accentuated the heart shape of her face. Too wide across the cheek bones, too pointed at the chin, itwas a sweet, timid face but a plain face, and she had no feminine tricks of allure to make observersforget its plainness. She looked—and was—as simple as earth, as good as bread, as transparent asspring water. But for all her plainness of feature and smallness of stature, there was a sedate dignityabout her movements that was oddly touching and far older than her seventeen years.

  Her gray organdie dress, with its cherry-colored satin sash, disguised with its billows and ruffleshow childishly undeveloped her body was, and the yellow hat with long cherry streamers made hercreamy skin glow. Her heavy earbobs with their long gold fringe hung down from loops of tidilynetted hair, swinging close to her brown eyes, eyes that had the still gleam of a forest pool inwinter when brown leaves shine up through quiet water.

  She had smiled with timid liking when she greeted Scarlett and told her how pretty her greendress was, and Scarlett had been hard put to be even civil in reply, so violently did she want to speak alone with Ashley. Since then, Ashley had sat on a stool at Melanie’s feet, apart from theother guests, and talked quietly with her, smiling the slow drowsy smile that Scarlett loved. Whatmade matters worse was that under his smile a little sparkle had come into Melanie’s eyes, so thateven Scarlett had to admit that she looked almost pretty. As Melanie looked at Ashley, her plainface lit up as with an inner fire, for if ever a loving heart showed itself upon a face, it was showingnow on Melanie Hamilton’s.

  Scarlett tried to keep her eyes from these two but could not, and after each glance she redoubledher gaiety with her cavaliers, laughing, saying daring things, teasing, tossing her head at theircompliments until her earrings danced. She said “fiddle-dee-dee” many times, declared that thetruth wasn’t in any of them, and vowed that she’d never believe anything any man told her. ButAshley did not seem to notice her at all. He only looked up at Melanie and talked on, and Melanielooked down at him with an expression that radiated the fact that she belonged to him.

  So, Scarlett was miserable.

  To the outward eye, never had a girl less cause to he miserable. She was undoubtedly the belleof the barbecue, the center of attention. The furore she was causing among the men, coupled withthe heart burnings of the other girls, would have pleased her enormously at any other time.

  Charles Hamilton, emboldened by her notice, was firmly planted on her right, refusing to bedislodged by the combined efforts of the Tarteton twins. He held her fan in one hand and hisuntouched plate of barbecue in the other and stubbornly refused to meet the eyes of Honey, whoseemed on the verge of an outburst of tears. Cade lounged gracefully on her left, plucking at herskirt to attract her attention and staring up with smoldering eyes at Stuart Already the air waselectric between him and the twins and rude words had passed. Frank Kennedy fussed about like ahen with one chick, running back and forth from the shade of the oak to the tables to fetch daintiesto tempt Scarlett, as if there were not a dozen servants there for that purpose. As a result, Suellen’ssullen resentment had passed beyond the point of ladylike concealment and she glowered atScarlett Small Carreen could have cried because, for all Scarlett’s encouraging words that morning,Brent had done no more than say “Hello, Sis” and jerk her hair ribbon before turning his fullattention to Scarlett. Usually he was so kind and treated her with a careless deference that madeher feel grown up, and Carreen secretly dreamed of the day when she would put her hair up andher skirts down and receive him as a real beau. And now it seemed that Scarlett had him. TheMunroe girls were concealing their chagrin at the defection of the swarthy Fontaine boys, but theywere annoyed at the way Tony and Alex stood about the circle, jockeying for a position nearScarlett should any of the others arise from their places.

  They telegraphed their disapproval of Scarlett’s conduct to Hetty Tarleton by delicately raisedeyebrows. “Fast” was the only word for Scarlett. Simultaneously, the three young ladies raised lacyparasols, said they had had quite enough to eat thank you, and, laying light fingers on the arms ofthe men nearest them, clamored sweetly to see the rose garden, the spring and the summerhouse.

  This strategic retreat in good order was not lost on a woman present or observed by a man.

  Scarlett giggled as she saw three men dragged out of the line of her charms to investigatelandmarks familiar to the girls from childhood, and cut her eye sharply to see if Ashley had takennote. But he was playing with the ends of Melanie’s sash and smiling up at her. Pain twisted Scarlett’s heart. She felt that she could claw Melanie’s ivory skin till the blood ran and takepleasure in doing it.

  As her eyes wandered from Melanie, she caught the gaze of Rhett Butler, who was not mixingwith the crowd but standing apart talking to John Wilkes. He had been watching her and when shelooked at him he laughed outright. Scarlett had an uneasy feeling that this man who was notreceived was the only one present who knew what lay behind her wild gaiety and that it wasaffording him sardonic amusement. She could have clawed him with pleasure too.

  “If I can just live through this barbecue till this afternoon,” she thought, “all the girls will goupstairs to take naps to be fresh for tonight and I’ll stay downstairs and get to talk to Ashley.

  Surely he must have noticed how popular I am.” She soothed her heart with another hope: “Ofcourse, he has to be attentive to Melanie because, after all, she is his cousin and she isn’t popular atall, and if he didn’t look out for her she’d just be a wallflower.”

  She took new courage at this thought and redoubled her efforts in the direction of Charles,whose brown eyes glowed down eagerly at her. It was a wonderful day for Charles, a dream day,and he had fallen in love with Scarlett with no effort at all. Before this new emotion, Honeyreceded into a dim haze. Honey was a shrill-voiced sparrow and Scarlett a gleaming hummingbird.

  She teased him and favored him and asked him questions and answered them herself, so that heappeared very clever without having to say a word. The other boys were puzzled and annoyed byher obvious interest in him, for they knew Charles was too shy to hitch two consecutive words together,and politeness was being severely strained to conceal their growing rage. Everyone wassmoldering, and it would have been a positive triumph for Scarlett, except for Ashley.

  When the last forkful of pork and chicken and mutton had been eaten, Scarlett hoped the timehad come when India would rise and suggest that the ladies retire to the house. It was two o’clockand the sun was warm overhead, but India, wearied with the three-day preparations for thebarbecue, was only too glad to remain sitting beneath the arbor, shouting remarks to a deaf oldgentleman from Fayetteville.

  A lazy somnolence descended on the crowd. The negroes idled about, clearing the long tables onwhich the food had been laid. The laughter and talking became less animated and groups here andthere fell silent. All were waiting for their hostess to signal the end of the morning’s festivities.

  Palmetto fans were wagging more slowly, and several gentlemen were nodding from the heat andoverloaded stomachs. The barbecue was over and all were content to take their ease while sun wasat its height.

  In this interval between the morning party and the evening’s ball, they seemed a placid, peacefullot. Only the young men retained the restless energy which had filled the whole throng a shortwhile before. Moving from group to group, drawling in their soft voices, they were as handsome asblooded stallions and as dangerous. The languor of midday had taken hold of the gathering, but underneathlurked tempers that could rise to killing heights in a second and flare out as quickly. Menand women, they were beautiful and wild, all a little violent under their pleasant ways and only alittle tamed.

  Some time dragged by while the sun grew hotter, and Scarlett and others looked again towardIndia. Conversation was dying out when, in the lull, everyone in the grove heard Gerald’s voice raised in furious accents. Standing some little distance away from the barbecue tables, he was atthe peak of an argument with John Wilkes.

  “God’s nightgown, man! Pray for a peaceable settlement with the Yankees. After we’ve fired onthe rascals at Fort Sumter? Peaceable? The South should show by arms that she cannot be insultedand that she is not leaving the Union by the Union’s kindness but by her own strength!”

  “Oh, my God!” thought Scarlett. “He’s done it! Now, we’ll all sit here till midnight.”

  In an instant, the somnolence had fled from the lounging throng and something electric wentsnapping through the air. The men sprang from benches and chain, arms in wide gestures, voicesclashing for the right to be heard above other voices. There had been no talk of politics orimpending war all during the morning, because of Mr. Wilkes’ request that the ladies should not bebored. But now Gerald had bawled the words “Fort Sumter,” and every man present forgot hishost’s admonition.

  “Of course we’ll fight—” “Yankee thieves—” “We could lick them in a month—” “Why, oneSoutherner can lick twenty Yankees—” “Teach them lesson they won’t soon forget—”

  “Peaceably? They won’t let goinpeace—”“No,l(a) ook how Mr. Lincoln insulted our Commissioners!”“Yes,keptthe(us) m hanging around for weeks—swearing he’d have Sumterevacuated!” They want war; we’ll make them sick of war—” And above all the voices, Gerald’sboomed. All Scarlett could hear was “States’ rights, by God!” shouted over and over. Gerald washaving an excellent time, but not his daughter.

  Secession, war—these words long since had become acutely boring to Scarlett from muchrepetition, but now she hated the sound of them, for they meant that the men would stand there forhours haranguing one another and she would have no chance to corner Ashley. Of course therewould be no war and the men all knew it. They just loved to talk and hear themselves talk.

  Charles Hamilton had not risen with the others and, finding himself comparatively alone withScarlett, he leaned closer and, with the daring born of new love, whispered a confession.

  “Miss O’Hara—I—I had already decided that if we did fight, I’d go over to South Carolina andjoin a troop there. It’s said that Mr. Wade Hampton is organizing a cavalry troop, and of course Iwould want to go with him. He’s a splendid person and was my father’s best friend.”

  Scarlett thought, “What am I supposed to do—give three cheers?” for Charles’ expressionshowed that he was baring his heart’s secrets to her. She could think of nothing to say and somerely looked at him, wondering why men were such fools as to think women interested in suchmatters. He took her expression to mean stunned approbation and went on rapidly, daringly—“If I went—would—would you be sorry, Miss O’Hara?”

  “I should cry into my pillow every night,” said Scarlett, meaning to be flippant, but he took thestatement at face value and went red with pleasure. Her hand was concealed in the folds of herdress and he cautiously wormed his hand to it and squeezed it, overwhelmed at his own boldnessand at her acquiescence.

  “Would you pray for me?”

  “What a fool!” thought Scarlett bitterly, casting a surreptitious glance about her in the hope of being rescued from the conversation.

  “Would you?”

  “Oh—yes, indeed, Mr. Hamilton. Three Rosaries a night, at least!”

  Charles gave a swift look about him, drew in his breath, stiffened the muscles of his stomach.

  They were practically alone and he might never get another such opportunity. And, even givenanother such Godsent occasion, his courage might fail him.

  “Miss O’Hara—I must tell you something. I—I love you!”

  “Um?” said Scarlett absently, trying to peer through the crowd of arguing men to where Ashleystill sat talking at Melanie’s feet.

  “Yes!” whispered Charles, in a rapture that she had neither laughed, screamed nor fainted, as hehad always imagined young girls did under such circumstances. “I love you! You are the most—the most—” and he found his tongue for the first time in his life. “The most beautiful girl I’ve everknown and the sweetest and the kindest, and you have the dearest ways and I love you with all myheart. I cannot hope that you could love anyone like me but, my dear Miss O’Hara, if you can giveme any encouragement, I will do anything in the world to make you love me. I will—”

  Charles stopped, for he couldn’t think of anything difficult enough of accomplishment to reallyprove to Scarlett the depth of his feeling, so he said simply: “I want to marry you.”

  Scarlett came back to earth with a jerk, at the sound of the word “marry.” She had been thinkingof marriage and of Ashley, and she looked at Charles with poorly concealed irritation. Why mustthis calf-like fool intrude his feelings on this particular day when she was so worried she was aboutto lose her mind? She looked into the pleading brown eyes and she saw none of the beauty of a shyboy’s first love, of the adoration of an ideal come true or the wild happiness and tenderness thatwere sweeping through him like a flame. Scarlett was used to men asking her to marry them, menmuch more attractive than Charles Hamilton, and men who had more finesse than to propose at abarbecue when she had more important matters on her mind. She only saw a boy of twenty, red asa beet and looking very silly. She wished that she could tell him how silly he looked. Butautomatically, the words Ellen had taught her to say in such emergencies rose to her lips andcasting down her eyes, from force of long habit, she murmured: “Mr. Hamilton, I am not unawareof the honor you have bestowed on me in wanting me to become your wife, but this is all sosudden that I do not know what to say.”

  That was a neat way of smoothing a man’s vanity and yet keeping him on the string, and Charlesrose to it as though such bait were new and he the first to swallow it.

  “I would wait forever! I wouldn’t want you unless you were quite sure. Please, Miss O’Hara, tellme that I may hope!”

  “Um,” said Scarlett, her sharp eyes noting that Ashley, who had not risen to take part in the wartalk, was smiling up at Melanie. If this fool who was grappling for her hand would only keep quietfor a moment, perhaps she could hear what they were saying. She must hear what they said. Whatdid Melanie say to him that brought that look of interest to his eyes?

  Charles’ words blurred the voices she strained to hear.

  “Oh, hush!” she hissed at him, pinching his hand and not even looking at him.

  Startled, at first abashed, Charles blushed at the rebuff and then, seeing how her eyes werefastened on his sister, he smiled. Scarlett was afraid someone might hear his words. She wasnaturally embarrassed and shy, and in agony lest they be overheard. Charles felt a surge of masculinitysuch as he had never experienced, for this was the first time in his life that he had everembarrassed any girl. The thrill was intoxicating. He arranged his face in what he fancied was anexpression of careless unconcern and cautiously returned Scarlett’s pinch to show that he was manof the world enough to understand and accept her reproof.

  She did not even feel his pinch, for she could hear clearly the sweet voice that was Melanie’schief charm: “I fear I cannot agree with you about Mr. Thackeray’s works. He is a cynic. I fear beis not the gentleman Mr. Dickens is.”

  What a silly thing to say to a man, thought Scarlett, ready to giggle with relief. Why, she’s nomore than a bluestocking and everyone knows what men think of bluestockings. ... The way to geta man interested and to hold his interest was to talk about him, and then gradually lead theconversation around to yourself—and keep it there. Scarlett would have felt some cause for alarmif Melanie had been saying: “How wonderful you are!” or “How do you ever think of such things?

  My little ole brain would bust if I even tried to think about them!” But here she was, with a man ather feet, talking as seriously as if she were in church. The prospect looked brighter to Scarlett, sobright in fact that she turned beaming eyes on Charles and smiled from pure joy. Enraptured at thisevidence of her affection, he grabbed up her fan and plied it so enthusiastically her hair began toblow about untidily.

  “Ashley, you have not favored us with your opinion,” said Jim Tarleton, turning from the groupof shouting men, and with an apology Ashley excused himself and rose. There was no one there sohandsome, thought Scarlett, as she marked how graceful was his negligent pose and how the sungleamed on his gold hair and mustache. Even the older men stopped to listen to his words.

  “Why, gentlemen, if Georgia fights. I’ll go with her. Why else would I have joined the Troop?”

  he said. His gray eyes opened wide and their drowsiness disappeared in an intensity that Scarletthad never seen before. “But, like Father, I hope the Yankees will let us go in peace and that therewill be no fighting—” He held up his hand with a smile, as a babel of voices from the Fontaine andTarleton boys began, “Yes, yes, I know we’ve been insulted and lied to—but if we’d been in theYankees’ shoes and they were trying to leave the Union, how would we have acted? Pretty muchthe same. We wouldn’t have liked it.”

  “There he goes again,” thought Scarlett. “Always putting himself in the other fellow’s shoes.”

  To her, there was never but one fair side to an argument. Sometimes, there was no understandingAshley.

  “Let’s don’t be too hot headed and let’s don’t have any war. Most of the misery of the world hasbeen caused by wars. And when the wars were over, no one ever knew what they were all about.”

  Scarlett sniffed. Lucky for Ashley that he had an unassailable reputation for courage, or elsethere’d be trouble. As she thought this, the clamor of dissenting voices rose up about Ashley,indignant, fiery.

  Under the arbor, the deaf old gentleman from Fayetteville punched India.

  “What’s it all about? What are they saying?”

  “War!” shouted India, cupping her hand to his ear. “They want to fight the Yankees!”

  “War, is it?” he cried, fumbling about him for his cane and heaving himself out of his chair withmore energy than he had shown in years. “I’ll tell ‘um about war. I’ve been there.” It was not oftenthat Mr. McRae had the opportunity to talk about war, the way his women folks shushed him.

  He stumped rapidly to the group, waving his cane and shouting and, because he could not hearthe voices about him, he soon had undisputed possession of the field.

  “You fire-eating young bucks, listen to me. You don’t want to fight. I fought and I know. Wentout in the Seminole War and was a big enough fool to go to the Mexican War, too. You all don’tknow what war is. You think it’s riding a pretty horse and having the girls throw flowers at you andcoming home a hero. Well, it ain’t. No, sir! It’s going hungry, and getting the measles andpneumonia from sleeping in the wet. And if it ain’t measles and pneumonia, if s your bowels. Yessir, what war does to a man’s bowels—dysentery and things like that—”

  The ladies were pink with blushes. Mr. McRae was a reminder of a cruder era, like GrandmaFontaine and her embarrassingly loud belches, an era everyone would like to forget.

  “Run get your grandpa,” hissed one of the old gentleman’s daughters to a young girl standingnear by. “I declare,” she whispered to the fluttering matrons about her, “he gets worse every day.

  Would you believe it, this very morning he said to Mary—and she’s only sixteen: ‘Now, Missy ...’

  ” And the voice went off into a whisper as the granddaughter slipped out to try to induce Mr.

  McRae to return to his seat in the shade.

  Of all the group that milled about under the trees, girls smiling excitedly, men talkingimpassionedly, there was only one who seemed calm. Scarlett’s eyes turned to Rhett Butler, wholeaned against a tree, his hands shoved deep in his trouser pockets. He stood alone, since Mr.

  Wilkes had left his side, and had uttered no word as the conversation grew hotter. The red lipsunder the close-clipped black mustache curled down and there was a glint of amused contempt inhis black eyes—contempt, as if he listened to the braggings of children. A very disagreeable smile,Scarlett thought. He listened quietly until Stuart Tarleton, his red hair tousled and his eyesgleaming, repeated: “Why, we could lick them in a month! Gentlemen always fight better thanrabble. A month—why, one battle—”

  “Gentlemen,” said Rhett Butler, in a flat drawl that bespoke his Charleston birth, not movingfrom his position against the tree or taking his hands from his pockets, “may I say a word?”

  There was contempt in his manner as in his eyes, contempt overlaid with an air of courtesy thatsomehow burlesqued their own manners.

  The group turned toward him and accorded him the politeness always due an outsider.

  “Has any one of you gentlemen ever thought that there’s not a cannon factory south of theMason-Dixon Line? Or how few iron foundries there are in the South? Or woolen mills or cottonfactories or tanneries? Have you thought that we would not have a single warship and that theYankee fleet could bottle up our harbors in a week, so that we could not sell our cotton abroad?

  But—of course—you gentlemen have thought of these things.”

  “Why, he means the boys are a passel of fools!” thought Scarlett indignantly, the hot bloodcoming to her cheeks.

  Evidently, she was not the only one to whom this idea occurred, for several of the boys werebeginning to stick out their chins. John Wilkes casually but swiftly came back to his place besidethe speaker, as if to impress on all present that this man was his guest and that, moreover, therewere ladies present.

  “The trouble with most of us Southerners,” continued Rhett Butler, “is that we either don’t travelenough or we don’t profit enough by our travels. Now, of course, all you gentlemen are welltraveled. But what have you seen? Europe and New York and Philadelphia and, of course, theladies have been to Saratoga” (he bowed slightly to the group under the arbor). “You’ve seen thehotels and the museums and the balls and the gambling houses. And you’ve come home believingthat there’s no place like the South. As for me, I was Charleston born, but I have spent the last fewyears in the North.” His white teeth showed in a grin, as though he realized that everyone presentknew just why he no longer lived in Charleston, and cared not at all if they did know. “I have seenmany things that you all have not seen. The thousands of immigrants who’d be glad to fight for theYankees for food and a few dollars, the factories, the foundries, the shipyards, the iron and coalmines—all the things we haven’t got. Why, all we have is cotton and slaves and arrogance. They’dlick us in a month.”

  For a tense moment, there was silence. Rhett Butler removed a fine linen handkerchief from hiscoat pocket and idly flicked dust from his sleeve. Then an ominous murmuring arose in the crowdand from under the arbor came a humming as unmistakable as that of a hive of newly disturbedbees. Even while she felt the hot blood of wrath still in her cheeks, something in Scarlett’s practicalmind prompted the thought that what this man said was right, and it sounded like common sense.

  Why, she’d never even seen a factory, or known anyone who had seen a factory. But, even if itwere true, he was no gentleman to make such a statement—and at a party, too, where everyonewas having a good time.

  Stuart Tarleton, brows lowering, came forward with Brent close at his heels. Of course, theTarleton twins had nice manners and they wouldn’t make a scene at a barbecue, even thoughtremendously provoked. Just the same, all the ladies felt pleasantly excited, for it was so seldomthat they actually saw a scene or a quarrel. Usually they had to hear of it third-hand.

  “Sir,” said Stuart heavily, “what do you mean?”

  Rhett looked at him with polite but mocking eyes.

  “I mean,” he answered, “what Napoleon—perhaps you’ve heard of him?—remarked once, ‘Godis on the side of the strongest battalion!’ ” and, turning to John Wilkes, he said with courtesy thatwas unfeigned: “You promised to show me your library, sir. Would it be too great a favor to ask tosee it now? I fear I must go back to Jonesboro early this afternoon where a bit of business callsme.”

  He swung about, facing the crowd, clicked his heels together and bowed like a dancing master, abow that was graceful for so powerful a man, and as full of impertinence as a slap in the face. Then he walked across the lawn with John Wilkes, his black head in the air, and the sound of hisdiscomforting laughter floated back to the group about the tables.

  There was a startled silence and then the buzzing broke out again. India rose tiredly from herseat beneath the arbor and went toward the angry Stuart Tarleton. Scarlett could not hear what shesaid, but the look in her eyes as she gazed up into his lowering face gave Scarlett something like atwinge of conscience. It was the same look of belonging that Melanie wore when she looked atAshley, only Stuart did not see it. So India did love him. Scarlett thought for an instant that if shehad not flirted so blatantly with Stuart at that political speaking a year ago, he might have marriedIndia long ere this. But then the twinge passed with the comforting thought that it wasn’t her faultif other girls couldn’t keep their men.

  Finally Stuart smiled down at India, an unwilling smile, and nodded his head. Probably Indiahad been pleading with him not to follow Mr. Butler and make trouble. A polite tumult broke outunder the trees as the guests arose, shaking crumbs from laps. The married women called to nursesand small children and gathered their broods together to take their departure, and groups of girlsstarted off, laughing and talking, toward the house to exchange gossip in the upstairs bedrooms andto take their naps.

  All the ladies except Mrs. Tarleton moved out of the back yard, leaving the shade of oaks andarbor to the men. She was detained by Gerald, Mr. Calvert and the others who wanted an answerfrom her about the horses for the Troop.

  Ashley strolled over to where Scarlett and Charles sat, a thoughtful and amused smile on hisface.

  “Arrogant devil, isn’t he?” he observed, looking after Butler. “He looks like one of the Borgias.”

  Scarlett thought quickly but could remember no family in the County or Atlanta or Savannah bythat name.

  “I don’t know them. Is he kin to them? Who are they?”

  An odd look over Charles’ face, incredulity and shame struggling with love. Love triumphedasherealize(came) d that it was enough for a girl to be sweet and gentle and beautiful, withouthaving an education to hamper her charms, and he made swift answer: “The Borgias wereItalians.”

  “Oh,” said Scarlett, losing interest, “foreigners.”

  She turned her prettiest smile on Ashley, but for some reason he was not looking at her. He waslooking at Charles, and there was understanding in his face and a little pity.

  Scarlett stood on the landing and peered cautiously over the banisters into the hall below. It wasempty. From the bedrooms on the floor above came an unending hum of low voices, rising andfalling, punctuated with squeaks of laughter and, “Now, you didn’t, really!” and “What did he saythen?” On the beds and couches of the six great bedrooms, the girls were resting, their dresses off,their stays loosed, their hair flowing down their backs. Afternoon naps were a custom of thecountry and never were they so necessary as on the all-day parties, beginning early in the morning and culminating in a ball. For half an hour, the girls would chatter and laugh, and then servantswould pull the shutters and in the warm half-gloom the talk would die to whispers and finallyexpire in silence broken only by soft regular breathing.

  Scarlett had made certain that Melanie was lying down on the bed with Honey and HettyTarleton before she slipped into the hall and started down the stairs. From the window on thelanding, she could see the group of men sitting under the arbor, drinking from tall glasses, and sheknew they would remain there until late afternoon. Her eyes searched the group but Ashley was notamong them. Then she listened and she heard his voice. As she had hoped, he was still in the frontdriveway bidding good-by to departing matrons and children.

  Her heart in her throat, she went swiftly down the stairs. What if she should meet Mr. Wilkes?

  What excuse could she give for prowling about the house when all the other girls were getting theirbeauty naps? Well, that had to be risked.

  As she reached the bottom step, she heard the servants moving about in the dining room underthe butler’s orders, lifting out the table and chairs in preparation for the dancing. Across the widehall was the open door of the library and she sped into it noiselessly. She could wait there untilAshley finished his adieux and then call to him when he came into the house.

  The library was in semidarkness, for the blinds had been drawn against the sun. The dim roomwith towering walls completely filled with dark books depressed her. It was not the place whichshe would have chosen for a tryst such as she hoped this one would be. Large numbers of booksalways depressed her, as did people who liked to read large numbers of books. That is—all peopleexcept Ashley. The heavy furniture rose up at her in the half-light, high-backed chairs with deepseats and wide arms, made for the tall Wilkes men, squatty soft chairs of velvet with velvethassocks before them for the girls. Far across the long room before the hearth, the seven-foot sofa,Ashley’s favorite seat, reared its high back, like some huge sleeping animal.

  She closed the door except for a crack and tried to make her heart beat more slowly. She tried toremember just exactly what she had planned last night to say to Ashley, but she couldn’t recallanything. Had she thought up something and forgotten it—or had she only planned that Ashleyshould say something to her? She couldn’t remember, and a sudden cold fright fell upon her. If herheart would only stop pounding in her ears, perhaps she could think of what to say. But the quickthudding only increased as she heard him call a final farewell and walk into the front hall.

  All she could think of was that she loved him—everything about him, from the proud lift of hisgold head to his slender dark boots, loved his laughter even when it mystified her, loved hisbewildering silences. Oh, if only he would walk in on her now and take her in his arms, so shewould be spared the need of saying anything. He must love her—”Perhaps if I prayed—” Shesqueezed her eyes tightly and began gabbling to herself “Hail Mary, full of grace—”

  “Why, Scarlett!” said Ashley’s voice, breaking in through the roaring in her ears and throwingher into utter confusion. He stood in the hall peering at her through the partly opened door, aquizzical smile on his face.

  “Who are you hiding from—Charles or the Tarletons?”

  She gulped. So he had noticed how the men had swarmed about her! How unutterably dear he was standing there with his eyes twinkling, all unaware of her excitement. She could not speak, butshe put out a hand and drew him into the room. He entered, puzzled but interested. There was atenseness about her, a glow in her eyes that he had never seen before, and even in the dim light hecould see the rosy flush on her cheeks. Automatically be closed the door behind him and took herhand.

  “What is it?” he said, almost in a whisper.

  At the touch of his hand, she began to tremble. It was going to happen now, just as she haddreamed it. A thousand incoherent thoughts shot through her mind, and she could not catch a singleone to mold into a word. She could only shake and look up into his face. Why didn’t he speak?

  “What is it?” he repeated. “A secret to tell me?”

  Suddenly she found her tongue and just as suddenly all the years of Ellen’s teachings fell away,and the forthright Irish blood of Gerald spoke from his daughter’s lips.

  “Yes—a secret I love you.”

  For an instance there was a silence so acute it seemed that neither of them even breathed. Thenthe trembling fell away from her, as happiness and pride surged through her. Why hadn’t she donethis before? How much simpler than all the ladylike maneuverings she had been taught. And thenher eyes sought his.

  There was a look of consternation in them, of incredulity and something more—what was it?

  Yes, Gerald had looked that way the day his pet hunter had broken his leg and he had had to shoothim. Why did she have to think of that now? Such a silly thought. And why did Ashley look sooddly and say nothing? Then something like a well-trained mask came down over his face and hesmiled gallantly.

  “Isn’t it enough that you’ve collected every other man’s heart here today?” he said, with the old,teasing, caressing note in his voice. “Do you want to make it unanimous? Well, you’ve always hadmy heart, you know. You cut your teeth on it.”

  Something was wrong—all wrong! This was not the way she had planned it. Through the madtearing of ideas round and round in her brain, one was beginning to take form. Somehow—forsome reason—Ashley was acting as if he thought she was just flirting with him. But he knewdifferently. She knew he did.

  “Ashley—Ashley—tell me—you must—oh, don’t tease me now! Have I your heart? Oh, mydear, I lo—”

  His hand went across her lips, swiftly. The mask was gone.

  “You must not say these things, Scarlett! You mustn’t. You don’t mean them. You’ll hateyourself for saying them, and you’ll hate me for hearing them!”

  She jerked her head away. A hot swift current was running through her.

  “I couldn’t ever hate you. I tell you I love you and I know you must care about me because—”

  She stopped. Never before had she seen so much misery in anyone’s face. “Ashley, do you care—you do, don’t you?”

  “Yes,” he said dully. “I care.”

  If he had said he loathed her, she could not have been more frightened. She plucked at hissleeve, speechless.

  “Scarlett,” he said, “can’t we go away and forget that we have ever said these things?”

  “No,” she whispered. “I can’t. What do you mean? Don’t you want to—to marry me?”

  He replied, I’m going to marry Melanie.”

  Somehow she found that she was sitting on the low velvet chair and Ashley, on the hassock ather feet, was holding both her hands in his, in a hard grip. He was saying things—things that madeno sense. Her mind was quite blank, quite empty of all the thoughts that had surged through it onlya moment before, and his words made no more impression than rain on glass. They fell onunhearing ears, words that were swift and tender and full of pity, like a father speaking to a hurtchild.

  The sound of Melanie’s name caught in her consciousness and she looked into his crystal-grayeyes. She saw in them the old remoteness that had always baffled her—and a look of self-hatred.

  “Father is to announce the engagement tonight. We are to be married soon. I should have toldyou, but I thought you knew. I thought everyone knew—had known for years. I never dreamed thatyou— You’ve so many beaux. I thought Stuart—”

  Life and feeling and comprehension were beginning to flow back into her.

  “But you just said you cared for me.”

  His warm hands hurt hers.

  “My dear, must you make me say things that will hurt you?”

  Her silence pressed him on.

  “How can I make you see these things, my dear. You who are so young and unthinking that youdo not know what marriage means.”

  “I know I love you.”

  “Love isn’t enough to make a successful marriage when two people are as different as we are.

  You would want all of a man, Scarlett, his body, his heart, his soul, his thoughts. And if you did nothave them, you would be miserable. And I couldn’t give you all of me. I couldn’t give all of me toanyone. And I would not want an of your mind and your soul. And you would be hurt, and thenyou would come to hate me—how bitterly! You would hate the books I read and the music I loved,because they took me away from you even for a moment And I—perhaps I—”

  “Do you love her?”

  “She is like me, part of my blood, and we understand each other. Scarlett! Scarlett! Can’t I makeyou see that a marriage can’t go on in any sort of peace unless the two people are alike?”

  Some one else had said that: “Like must marry like or there’ll be no happiness.” Who was it? Itseemed a million years since she had heard that, but it still did not make sense.

  “But you said you cared.”

  “I shouldn’t have said it.”

  Somewhere in her brain, a slow fire rose and rage began to blot out everything else.

  “Well, having been cad enough to say it—”

  His face went white.

  “I was a cad to say it, as I’m going to marry Melanie. I did you a wrong and Melanie a greaterone. I should not have said it, for I knew you wouldn’t understand. How could I help caring foryou—you who have all the passion for life that I have not? You who can love and hate with aviolence impossible to me? Why you are as elemental as fire and wind and wild things and I—”

  She thought of Melanie and saw suddenly her quiet brown eyes with their far-off look, herplacid little hands in their black lace mitts, her gentle silences. And then her rage broke, the samerage that drove Gerald to murder and other Irish ancestors to misdeeds that cost them their necks.

  There was nothing in her now of the well-bred Robillards who could bear with white silenceanything the world might cast.

  “Why don’t you say it, you coward! You’re afraid to marry me! You’d rather live with thatstupid little fool who can’t open her mouth except to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and raise a passel of mealy-mouthed brats just like her! Why—”

  “You must not say these things about Melanie!”

  “ ‘I mustn’t’ be damned to you! Who are you to tell me I mustn’t? You coward, you cad, you—You made me believe you were going to marry me—”

  “Be fair,” his voice pleaded. “Did I ever—”

  She did not want to be fair, although she knew what he said was true. He had never once crossedthe borders of friendliness with her and, when she thought of this fresh anger rose, the anger ofhurt pride and feminine vanity. She had run after him and he would have none of her. He preferreda whey-faced little fool like Melanie to her. Oh, far better that she had followed Ellen andMammy’s precepts and never, never revealed that she even liked him&



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