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Chapter 7

WITHIN TWO WEEKS Scarlett had become a wife, and within two months more she was awidow. She was soon released from the bonds she had assumed with so much haste and so littlethought, but she was never again to know the careless freedom of her unmarried days. Widowhoodhad crowded closely on the heels of marriage but, to her dismay, motherhood soon followed.

  In after years when she thought of those last days of April, 1861, Scarlett could never quiteremember details. Time and events were telescoped, jumbled together like a nightmare that had noreality or reason. Till the day she died there would be blank spots in her memories of those days.

  Especially vague were her recollections of the time between her acceptance of Charles and herwedding. Two weeks! So short an engagement would have been impossible in times of peace.

  Then there would have been a decorous interval of a year or at least six months. But the South wasaflame with war, events roared along as swiftly as if carried by a mighty wind and the slow tempoof the old days was gone. Ellen had wrung her hands and counseled delay, in order that Scarlettmight think the matter over at greater length. But to her pleadings, Scarlett turned a sullen face and a deaf ear. Marry she would! and quickly too. Within two weeks.

  Learning that Ashley’s wedding had been moved up from the autumn to the first of May, so hecould leave with the Troop as soon as it was called into service, Scarlett set the date of herwedding for the day before his. Ellen protested but Charles pleaded with new-found eloquence, forhe was impatient to be off to South Carolina to join Wade Hampton’s Legion, and Gerald sidedwith the two young people. He was excited by the war fever and pleased that Scarlett had made sogood a match, and who was he to stand in the way of young love when there was a war? Ellen,distracted, finally gave in as other mothers throughout the South were doing. Their leisured worldhad been turned topsy-turvy, and their pleadings, prayers and advice availed nothing against thepowerful forces sweeping them along.

  The South was intoxicated with enthusiasm and excitement. Everyone knew that one battlewould end the war and every young man hastened to enlist before the war should end—hastened tomarry his sweetheart before he rushed off to Virginia to strike a blow at the Yankees. There weredozens of war weddings in the County and there was little time for the sorrow of parting, foreveryone was too busy and excited for either solemn thoughts or tears. The ladies were makinguniforms, knitting socks and rolling bandages, and the men were drilling and shooting. Train loadsof troops passed through Jonesboro daily on their way north to Atlanta and Virginia, Some detachmentswere gaily uniformed in the scarlets and light blues and greens of select social-militiacompanies; some small groups were in homespun and coonskin caps; others, ununiformed, were inbroadcloth and fine linen; all were half-drilled, half-armed, wild with excitement and shouting asthough en route to a picnic. The sight of these men threw the County boys into a panic for fear thewar would be over before they could reach Virginia, and preparations for the Troop’s departurewere speeded.

  In the midst of this turmoil, preparations went forward for Scarlett’s wedding and, almost beforeshe knew it, she was clad in Ellen’s wedding dress and veil, coming down the wide stairs of Taraon her father’s arm, to face a house packed full with guests. Afterward she remembered, as from adream, the hundreds of candles flaring on the walls, her mother’s face, loving, a little bewildered,her lips moving in a silent prayer for her daughter’s happiness, Gerald flushed with brandy andpride that his daughter was marrying both money, a fine name and an old one—and Ashley,standing at the bottom of the steps with Melanie’s arm through his.

  When she saw the look on his face, she thought: “This can’t be real. It can’t be. It’s a nightmare.

  I’ll wake up and find it’s all been a nightmare. I mustn’t think of it now, or I’ll begin screaming infront of all these people. I can’t think now. I’ll think later, when I can stand it—when I can’t seehis eyes.”

  It was all very dreamlike, the passage through the aisle of smiling people, Charles’ scarlet faceand stammering voice and her own replies, so startlingly clear, so cold, And the congratulationsafterward and the kissing and the toasts and the dancing—all, all like a dream. Even the feel ofAshley’s kiss upon her cheek, even Melanie’s soft whisper, “Now, we’re really and truly sisters,”

  were unreal. Even the excitement caused by the swooning spell that overtook Charles’ plumpemotional aunt, Miss Pittypat Hamilton, had the quality of a nightmare.

  But when the dancing and toasting were finally ended and the dawn was coming, when all the Atlanta guests who could be crowded into Tara and the overseer’s house had gone to sleep on beds,sofas and pallets on the floor and all the neighbors had gone home to rest in preparation for thewedding at Twelve Oaks the next day, then the dreamlike trance shattered like crystal beforereality. The reality was the blushing Charles, emerging from her dressing room in his nightshirt,avoiding the startled look she gave him over the high-pulled sheet.

  Of course, she knew that married people occupied the same bed but she had never given thematter a thought before. It seemed very natural in the case of her mother and father, but she hadnever applied it to herself. Now for the first time since the barbecue she realized just what she hadbrought on herself. The thought of this strange boy whom she hadn’t really wanted to marrygetting into bed with her, when her heart was breaking with an agony of regret at her hasty actionand the anguish of losing Ashley forever, was too much to be borne. As he hesitatingly approachedthe bed she spoke in a hoarse whisper.

  “I’ll scream out loud if you come near me. I will! I will—at the top of my voice! Get away fromme! Don’t you dare touch me!”

  So Charles Hamilton spent his wedding night in an armchair in the corner, not too unhappily, forhe understood, or thought he understood, the modesty and delicacy of his bride. He was willing towait until her fears subsided, only—only— He sighed as he twisted about seeking a comfortableposition, for he was going away to the war so very soon.

  Nightmarish as her own wedding had been, Ashley’s wedding was even worse. Scarlett stood inher apple-green “second-day” dress in the parlor of Twelve Oaks amid the blaze of hundreds ofcandles, jostled by the same throng as the night before, and saw the plain little face of MelanieHamilton glow into beauty as she became Melanie Wilkes. Now, Ashley was gone forever. HerAshley. No, not her Ashley now. Had he ever been hers? It was all so mixed up in her mind and hermind was so tired, so bewildered. He had said he loved her, but what was it that had separatedthem? If she could only remember. She had stilled the County’s gossiping tongue by marryingCharles, but what did that matter now? It had seemed so important once, but now it didn’t seemimportant at all. All that mattered was Ashley. Now he was gone and she was married to a man shenot only did not love but for whom she had an active contempt.

  Oh, how she regretted it all. She had often heard of people cutting off their noses to spite theirfaces but heretofore it had been only a figure of speech. Now she knew just what it meant Andmingled with her frenzied desire to be free of Charles and safely back at Tara, an unmarried girlagain, ran the knowledge that she had only herself to blame. Ellen had tried to stop her and shewould not listen.

  So she danced through the night of Ashley’s wedding in a daze and said things mechanically andsmiled and irrelevantly wondered at the stupidity of people who thought her a happy bride andcould not see that her heart was broken. Well, thank God, they couldn’t see!

  That night after Mammy had helped her undress and had departed and Charles had emergedshyly from the dressing room, wondering if he was to spend a second night in the horsehair chair,she burst into tears. She cried until Charles climbed into bed beside her and tried to comfort her,cried without words until no more tears would come and at last she lay sobbing quietly on his  If there had not been a war, there would have been a week of visiting about the County, withballs and barbecues in honor of the two newly married couples before they set off to Saratoga orWhite Sulphur for wedding trips. If there had not been a war, Scarlett would have had third-dayand fourth-day and fifth-day dresses to wear to the Fontaine and Calvert and Tarleton parties in herhonor. But there were no parties now and no wedding trips. A week after the wedding Charles leftto join Colonel Wade Hampton, and two weeks later Ashley and the Troop departed, leaving thewhole County bereft.

  In those two weeks, Scarlett never saw Ashley alone, never had a private word with him. Noteven at the terrible moment of parting, when he stopped by Tara on his way to the train, did shehave a private talk. Melanie, bonneted and shawled, sedate in newly acquired matronly dignity,hung on his arm and the entire personnel of Tara, black and white, turned out to see Ashley off tothe war.

  Melanie said: “You must kiss Scarlett, Ashley. She’s my sister now,” and Ashley bent andtouched her cheek with cold lips, his face drawn and taut. Scarlett could hardly take any joy fromthat kiss, so sullen was her heart at Melly’s prompting it. Melanie smothered her with an embraceat parting.

  “You will come to Atlanta and visit me and Aunt Pittypat, won’t you? Oh, darling, we want tohave you so much! We want to know Charlie’s wife better.”

  Five weeks passed during which letters, shy, ecstatic, loving, came from Charles in SouthCarolina telling of his love, his plans for the future when the war was over, his desire to become ahero for her sake and his worship of his commander, Wade Hampton. In the seventh week, therecame a telegram from Colonel Hampton himself, and then a letter, a kind, dignified letter ofcondolence. Charles was dead. The colonel would have wired earlier, but Charles, thinking hisillness a trifling one, did not wish to have his family worried. The unfortunate boy had not onlybeen cheated of the love he thought he had won but also of his high hopes of honor and glory onthe field of battle. He had died ignominiously and swiftly of pneumonia, following measles,without ever having gotten any closer to the Yankees than the camp in South Carolina.

  In due time, Charles’ son was born and, because it was fashionable to name boys after theirfathers’ commanding officers, he was called Wade Hampton Hamilton. Scarlett had wept withdespair at the knowledge that she was pregnant and wished that she were dead. But she carried thechild through its time with a minimum of discomfort, bore him with little distress and recovered soquickly that Mammy told her privately it was downright common—ladies should suffer more. Shefelt little affection for the child, hide the fact though she might. She had not wanted him and sheresented his coming and, now that he was here, it did not seem possible that he was hers, a part ofher.

  Though she recovered physically from Wade’s birth in a disgracefully short time, mentally shewas dazed and sick. Her spirits drooped, despite the efforts of the whole plantation to revive them.

  Ellen went about with a puckered, worried forehead and Gerald swore more frequently than usualand brought her useless gifts from Jonesboro. Even old Dr. Fontaine admitted that he was puzzled,after his tonic of sulphur, molasses and herbs failed to perk her up. He told Ellen privately that itwas a broken heart that made Scarlett so irritable and listless by turns. But Scarlett, had she wished to speak, could have told them that it was a far different and more complex trouble. She did not tellthem that it was utter boredom, bewilderment at actually being a mother and, most of all, theabsence of Ashley that made her look so woebegone.

  Her boredom was acute and ever present. The County had been devoid of any entertainment orsocial life ever since the Troop had gone away to war. All of the interesting young men were gone—the four Tarletons, the two Calverts, the Fontaines, the Munroes and everyone from Jonesboro,Fayetteville and Lovejoy who was young and attractive. Only the older men, the cripples and thewomen were left, and they spent their time knitting and sewing, growing more cotton and corn,raising more hogs and sheep and cows for the army. There was never a sight of a real man exceptwhen the commissary troop under Suellen’s middle-aged beau, Frank Kennedy, rode by everymonth to collect supplies. The men in the commissary were not very exciting, and the sight ofFrank’s timid courting annoyed her until she found it difficult to be polite to him. If he and Suellenwould only get it over with!

  Even if the commissary troop had been more interesting, it would not have helped her situationany. She was a widow and her heart was in the grave. At least, everyone thought it was in the graveand expected her to act accordingly. This irritated her for, try as she would, she could recallnothing about Charles except the dying-calf look on his face when she told him she would marryhim. And even that picture was fading. But she was a widow and she had to watch her behavior.

  Not for her the pleasures of unmarried girls. She had to be grave and aloof. Ellen had stressed thisat great length after catching Frank’s lieutenant swinging Scarlett in the garden swing and makingher squeal with laughter. Deeply distressed, Ellen had told her how easily a widow might getherself talked about. The conduct of a widow must be twice as circumspect as that of a matron.

  “And God only knows,” thought Scarlett, listening obediently to her mother’s soft voice,“matrons never have any fun at all. So widows might as well be dead.”

  A widow had to wear hideous black dresses without even a touch of braid to enliven them, noflower or ribbon or lace or even jewelry, except onyx mourning brooches or necklaces made fromthe deceased’s hair. And the black crêpe veil on her bonnet had to reach to her knees, and only afterthree years of widowhood could it be shortened to shoulder length. Widows could never chattervivaciously or laugh aloud. Even when they smiled, it must be a sad, tragic smile. And, mostdreadful of all, they could in no way indicate an interest in the company of gentlemen. And shoulda gentleman be so ill bred as to indicate an interest in her, she must freeze him with a dignified butwell-chosen reference to her dead husband. Oh, yes, thought Scarlett, drearily, some widows doremarry eventually, when they are old and stringy. Though Heaven knows how they manage it,with their neighbors watching. And then it’s generally to some desperate old widower with a largeplantation and a dozen children.

  Marriage was bad enough, but to be widowed—oh, then life was over forever! How stupidpeople were when they talked about what a comfort little Wade Hampton must be to her, now thatCharles was gone. How stupid of them to say that now she had something to live for! Everyonetalked about how sweet it was that she had this posthumous token of her love and she naturally didnot disabuse their minds. But that thought was farthest from her mind. She had very little interestin Wade and sometimes it was difficult to remember that he was actually hers.

  Every morning she woke up and for a drowsy moment she was Scarlett O’Hara again and thesun was bright in the magnolia outside her window and the mockers were singing and the sweetsmell of frying bacon was stealing to her nostrils. She was carefree and young again. Then sheheard the fretful hungry wail and always—always there was a startled moment when she thought:

  “Why, there’s a baby in the house!” Then she remembered that it was her baby. It was all verybewildering.

  And Ashley! Oh, most of all Ashley! For the first time in her life, she hated Tara, hated the longred road that led down the hill to the river, hated the red fields with springing green cotton. Everyfoot of ground, every tree and brook, every lane and bridle path reminded her of him. He belongedto another woman and he had gone to the war, but his ghost still haunted the roads in the twilight,still smiled at her from drowsy gray eyes in the shadows of the porch. She never heard the soundof hooves coming up the river road from Twelve Oaks that for a sweet moment she did not think—Ashley!

  She hated Twelve Oaks now and once she had loved it. She hated it but she was drawn there, soshe could hear John Wilkes and the girls talk about him—hear them read his letters from Virginia.

  They hurt her but she had to hear them. She disliked the stiff-necked India and the foolish prattlingHoney and knew they disliked her equally, but she could not stay away from them. And every timeshe came home from Twelve Oaks, she lay down on her bed morosely and refused to get up forsupper.

  It was this refusal of food that worried Ellen and Mammy more than anything else. Mammybrought up tempting trays, insinuating that now she was a widow she might eat as much as shepleased, but Scarlett had no appetite.

  When Dr. Fontaine told Ellen gravely that heartbreak frequently led to a decline and womenpined away into the grave, Ellen went white, for that fear was what she had carried in her heart.

  “Isn’t there anything to be done, Doctor?”

  “A change of scene will be the best thing in the world for her,” said the doctor, only too anxiousto be rid of an unsatisfactory patient.

  So Scarlett, unenthusiastic, went off with her child, first to visit her O’Hara and Robillardrelatives in Savannah and then to Ellen’s sisters, Pauline and Eulalie, in Charleston. But she wasback at Tara a month before Ellen expected her, with no explanation of her return. They had beenkind in Savannah, but James and Andrew and their wives were old and content to sit quietly andtalk of a past in which Scarlett had no interest. It was the same with the Robillards, and Charlestonwas terrible, Scarlett thought.

  Aunt Pauline and her husband, a little old man, with a formal, brittle courtesy and the absent airof one living in an older age, lived on a plantation on the river, far more isolated than Tara. Theirnearest neighbor was twenty miles away by dark roads through still jungles of cypress swamp andoak. The live oaks with their waving curtains of gray moss gave Scarlett the creeps and alwaysbrought to her mind Gerald’s stories of Irish ghosts roaming in shimmering gray mists. There wasnothing to do but knit all day and at night listen to Uncle Carey read aloud from the improvingworks of Mr. Bulwer-Lytton.

  Eulalie, hidden behind a high-walled garden in a great house on the Battery in Charleston, wasno more entertaining. Scarlett, accustomed to wide vistas of rolling red hills, felt that she was inprison. There was more social life here than at Aunt Pauline’s, but Scarlett did not like the peoplewho called, with their airs and their traditions and their emphasis on family. She knew very wellthey all thought she was a child of a mésalliance and wondered how a Robillard ever married anewly come Irishman. Scarlett felt that Aunt Eulalie apologized for her behind her back. Thisaroused her temper, for she cared no more about family than her father. She was proud of Geraldand what he had accomplished unaided except by his shrewd Irish brain.

  And the Charlestonians took so much upon themselves about Fort Sumter! Good Heavens,didn’t they realize that if they hadn’t been silly enough to fire the shot that started the war someother fools would have done it? Accustomed to the brisk voices of upland Georgia, the drawlingflat voices of the low country seemed affected to her. She thought if she ever again heard voicesthat said “paams” for “palms” and “hoose” for “house” and “woon’t” for “won’t” and “Maa andPaa” for “Ma and Pa,” she would scream. It irritated her so much that during one formal call sheaped Gerald’s brogue to her aunt’s distress. Then she went back to Tara. Better to be tormentedwith memories of Ashley than Charleston accents.

  Ellen, busy night and day, doubling the productiveness of Tara to aid the Confederacy, wasterrified when her eldest daughter came home from Charleston thin, white and sharp tongued. Shehad known heartbreak herself, and night after night she lay beside the snoring Gerald, trying tothink of some way to lessen Scarlett’s distress. Charles’ aunt, Miss Pittypat Hamilton, had writtenher several times, urging her to permit Scarlett to come to Atlanta for a long visit, and now for thefirst time Ellen considered it seriously.

  She and Melanie were alone in a big house “and without male protection,” wrote Miss Pittypat,“now that dear Charlie has gone. Of course, there is my brother Henry but he does not make hishome with us. But perhaps Scarlett has told you of Henry. Delicacy forbids my putting moreconcerning him on paper. Melly and I would feel so much easier and safer if Scarlett were with us.

  Three lonely women are better than two. And perhaps dear Scarlett could find some ease for hersorrow, as Melly is doing, by nursing our brave boys in the hospitals here—and, of course, Mellyand I are longing to see the dear baby. …”

  So Scarlett’s trunk was packed again with her mourning clothes and off she went to Atlanta withWade Hampton and his nurse Prissy, a headful of admonitions as to her conduct from Ellen andMammy and a hundred dollars in Confederate bills from Gerald. She did not especially want to goto Atlanta. She thought Aunt Pitty the silliest of old ladies and the very idea of living under thesame roof with Ashley’s wife was abhorrent. But the County with its memories was impossiblenow, and any change was welcome.



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