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Chapter 13

UNDER MRS. MERRIWETHER’S GOADING, Dr. Meade took action, in the form of a letter tothe newspaper wherein be did not mention Rhett by name, though his meaning was obvious. Theeditor, sensing the social drama of the letter, put it on the second page of the paper, in itself astartling innovation, as the first two pages of the paper were always devoted to advertisements ofslaves, mules, plows, coffins, houses for sale or rent, cures for private diseases, abortifacients andrestoratives for lost manhood.

  The doctor’s letter was the first of a chorus of indignation that was beginning to be heard allover the South against speculators, profiteers and holders of government contracts. Conditions inWilmington, the chief blockade port, now that Charleston’s port was practically sealed by theYankee gunboats, had reached the proportions of an open scandal. Speculators swarmedWilmington and, having the ready cash, bought up boatloads of goods and held them for a rise inprices. The rise always came, for with the increasing scarcity of necessities, prices leaped higherby the month. The civilian population had either to do without or buy at the speculators’ prices,and the poor and those in moderate circumstances were suffering increasing hardships. With therise in prices, Confederate money sank, and with its rapid fall there rose a wild passion forluxuries. Blockaders were commissioned to bring in necessities but now it was the higher-pricedluxuries that filled their boats to the exclusion of the things the Confederacy vitally needed. Peoplefrenziedly bought these luxuries with the money they had today, fearing that tomorrow’s priceswould be higher and the money worthless.

  To make matters worse, there was only one railroad line from Wilmington to Richmond and,while thousands of barrels of flour and boxes of bacon spoiled and rotted in wayside stations forwant of transportation, speculators with wines, taffetas and coffee to sell seemed always able to gettheir goods to Richmond two days after they were landed at Wilmington.

  The rumor which had been creeping about underground was now being openly discussed, thatRhett Butler not only ran his own four boats and sold the cargoes at unheard-of prices but boughtup the cargoes of other boats and held them for rises in prices. It was said that he was at the headof a combine worth more than a million dollars, with Wilmington as its headquarters for the purposeof buying blockade goods on the docks. They had dozens of warehouses in that city and inRichmond, so the story ran, and the warehouses were crammed with food and clothing that werebeing held for higher prices. Already soldiers and civilians alike were feeling the pinch, and themuttering against him and his fellow speculators was bitter.

  “There are many brave and patriotic men in the blockade arm of the Confederacy’s navalservice,” ran the last of the doctor’s letter, “unselfish men who are risking their lives and all theirwealth that the Confederacy may survive. They are enshrined in the hearts of all loyal Southerners,and no one begrudges them the scant monetary returns they make for their risks. They are unselfishgentlemen, and we honor them. Of these men, I do not speak.

  “But there are other scoundrels who masquerade under the cloak of the blockader for their ownselfish gains, and I call down the just wrath and vengeance of an embattled people, fighting in thejustest of Causes, on these human vultures who bring in satins and laces when our men are dyingfor want of quinine, who load their boats with tea and wines when our heroes are writhing for lack of morphia. I execrate these vampires who are sucking the lifeblood of the men who follow RobertLee—these men who are making the very name of blockader a stench in the nostrils of all patrioticmen. How can we endure these scavengers in our midst with their varnished boots when our boysare tramping barefoot into battle? How can we tolerate them with their champagnes and their patesof Strasbourg when our soldiers are shivering about their camp fires and gnawing moldy bacon? Icall upon every loyal Confederate to cast them out.”

  Atlanta read, knew the oracle had spoken, and, as loyal Confederates, they hastened to castRhett out.

  Of all the homes which had received him in the fall of 1862, Miss Pittypat’s was almost the onlyone into which he could enter in 1863. And, except for Melanie, he probably would not have beenreceived there. Aunt Pitty was in a state whenever he was in town. She knew very well what herfriends were saying when she permitted him to call but she still lacked the courage to tell him hewas unwelcome. Each time he arrived in Atlanta, she set her fat mouth and told the girls that shewould meet him at the door and forbid him to enter. And each time he came, a little package in hishand and a compliment for her charm and beauty on his lips, she wilted.

  “I just don’t know what to do,” she would moan. “He just looks at me and I—I’m scared todeath of what he would do if I told him. He’s got such a bad reputation. Do you suppose he wouldstrike me—or—or— Oh, dear, if Charlie were only alive! Scarlett, you must tell him not to callagain—tell him in a nice way. Oh, me! I do believe you encourage him, and the whole town istalking and, if your mother ever finds out, what will she say to me? Melly, you must not be so niceto him. Be cool and distant and he will understand. Oh, Melly, do you think I’d better write Henrya note and ask him to speak to Captain Butler?”

  “No, I don’t,” said Melanie. “And I won’t be rude to him, either. I think people are acting likechickens with their heads off about Captain Butler. I’m sure he can’t be all the bad things Dr.

  Meade and Mrs. Merriwether say he is. He wouldn’t hold food from starving people. Why, he evengave me a hundred dollars for the orphans. I’m sure he’s just as loyal and patriotic as any of us andhe’s just too proud to defend himself. You know how obstinate men are when they get their backsup.”

  Aunt Pitty knew nothing about men, either with their backs up or otherwise, and she could onlywave her fat little hands helplessly. As for Scarlett, she had long ago become resigned to Melanie’shabit of seeing good in everyone. Melanie was a fool, but there was nothing anybody could doabout it.

  Scarlett knew that Rhett was not being patriotic and, though she would have died rather thanconfess it, she did not care. The little presents he brought her from Nassau, little oddments that alady could accept with propriety, were what mattered most to her. With prices as high as they were,where on earth could she get needles and bonbons and hairpins, if she forbade the house to him?

  No, it was easier to shift the responsibility to Aunt Pitty, who after all was the head of the house,the chaperon and the arbiter of morals. Scarlett knew the town gossiped about Rhett’s calls, andabout her too; but she also knew that in the eyes of Atlanta Melanie Wilkes could do no wrong, andif Melanie defended Rhett his calls were still tinged with respectability.

  However, life would be pleasanter if Rhett would recant his heresies. She wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of seeing him cut openly when she walked down Peachtree Street withhim.

  “Even if you think such things, why do you say them?” she scolded. “If you’d just think whatyou please but keep your mouth shut, everything would be so much nicer.”

  “That’s your system, isn’t it, my green-eyed hypocrite? Scarlett, Scarlett! I hoped for morecourageous conduct from you. I thought the Irish said what they thought and the Divvil take thehindermost. Tell me truthfully, don’t you sometimes almost burst from keeping your mouth shut?”

  “Well—yes,” Scarlett confessed reluctantly. “I do get awfully bored when they talk about theCause, morning, noon and night. But goodness, Rhett Butler, if I admitted it nobody would speakto me and none of the boys would dance with me!”

  “Ah, yes, and one must be danced with, at all costs. Well, I admire your self-control but I do notfind myself equal to it. Nor can I masquerade in a cloak of romance and patriotism, no matter howconvenient it might be. There are enough stupid patriots who are risking every cent they have inthe blockade and who are going to come out of this war paupers. They don’t need me among theirnumber, either to brighten the record of patriotism or to increase the roll of paupers, Let them havethe haloes. They deserve them—for once I am being sincere—and, besides, haloes will be about allthey will have in a year or so.”

  “I think you are very nasty to even hint such things when you know very well that England andFrance are coming in on our side in no time and—”

  “Why, Scarlett! You must have been reading a newspaper! I’m surprised at you. Don’t do itagain. It addles women’s brains. For your information, I was in England, not a month ago, and I’lltell you this. England will never help the Confederacy. England never bets on the underdog. That’swhy she’s England. Besides, the fat Dutch woman who is sitting on the throne is a God-fearingsoul and she doesn’t approve of slavery. Let the English mill workers starve because they can’t getour cotton but never, never strike a blow for slavery. And as for France, that weak imitation ofNapoleon is far too busy establishing the French in Mexico to be bothered with us. In fact hewelcomes this war, because it keeps us too busy to run his troops out of Mexico. ... No, Scarlett,the idea of assistance from abroad is just a newspaper invention to keep up the morale of theSouth. The Confederacy is doomed. It’s living on its hump now, like the camel, and even thelargest of humps aren’t inexhaustible. I give myself about six months more of blockading and thenI’m through. After that, it will be too risky. And I’ll sell my boats to some foolish Englishman whothinks he can slip them through. But one way or the other, it’s not bothering me. I’ve made moneyenough, and it’s in English banks and in gold. None of this worthless paper for me.”

  As always when he spoke, he sounded so plausible. Other people might call his utterancestreachery but, to Scarlett, they always rang with common sense and truth. And she knew that thiswas utterly wrong, knew she should be shocked and infuriated. Actually she was neither, but shecould pretend to be. It made her feel more respectable and ladylike.

  “I think what Dr. Meade wrote about was right, Captain Butler. The only way to redeem yourselfis to enlist after you sell your boats. You’re a West Pointer and—”

  “You talk like a Baptist preacher making a recruiting speech. Suppose I don’t want to redeem myself? Why should I fight to uphold the system that cast me out? I shall take pleasure in seeing itsmashed.”

  “I never heard of any system,” she said crossly.

  “No? And yet you are a part of it, like I was, and I’ll wager you don’t like it any more than I did.

  Well, why am I the black sheep of the Butler family? For this reason and no other—I didn’tconform to Charleston and I couldn’t. And Charleston is the South, only intensified. I wonder ifyou realize yet what a bore it is? So many things that one must do because they’ve always beendone. So many things, quite harmless, that one must not do for the same reason. So many thingsthat annoyed me by their senselessness. Not marrying the young lady, of whom you have probablyheard, was merely the last straw. Why should I marry a boring fool, simply because an accidentprevented me from getting her home before dark? And why permit her wild-eyed brother to shootand kill me, when I could shoot straighter? If I had been a gentleman, of course, I would have lethim kill me and that would have wiped the blot from the Butler escutcheon. But—I like to live.

  And so I’ve lived and I’ve had a good time. ... When I think of my brother, living among the sacredcows of Charleston, and most reverent toward them, and remember his stodgy wife and his SaintCecilia Balls and his everlasting rice fields—then I know the compensation for breaking with thesystem. Scarlett, our Southern way of living is as antiquated as the feudal system of the MiddleAges. The wonder is that it’s lasted as long as it has. It had to go and it’s going now. And yet youexpect me to listen to orators like Dr. Meade who tell me our Cause is just and holy? And get soexcited by the roll of drums that I’ll grab a musket and rush off to Virginia to shed my blood forMarse Robert? What kind of a fool do you think I am? Kissing the rod that chastised me is not inmy line. The South and I are even now. The South threw me out to starve once. I haven’t starved,and I am making enough money out of the South’s death throes to compensate me for my lostbirthright.”

  “I think you are vile and mercenary,” said Scarlett, but her remark was automatic. Most of whathe was saying went over her head, as did any conversation that was not personal. But part of itmade sense. There were such a lot of foolish things about life among nice people. Having topretend that her heart was in the grave when it wasn’t. And how shocked everybody had beenwhen she danced at the bazaar. And the infuriating way people lifted their eyebrows every time shedid or said anything the least bit different from what every other young woman did and said. Butstill, she was jarred at hearing him attack the very traditions that irked her most. She had lived toolong among people who dissembled politely not to feel disturbed at hearing her own thoughts putinto words.

  “Mercenary? No, I’m only farsighted. Though perhaps that is merely a synonym for mercenary.

  At least, people who were not as farsighted as I will call it that. Any loyal Confederate who had athousand dollars in cash in 1861 could have done what I did, but how few were mercenary enoughto take advantage of their opportunities! As for instance, right after Fort Sumter fell and before theblockade was established, I bought up several thousand bales of cotton at dirt-cheap prices and ranthem to England. They are still there in warehouses in Liverpool. I’ve never sold them. I’mholding them until the English mills have to have cotton and will give me any price I ask. Iwouldn’t be surprised if I got a dollar a pound.”

  “You’ll get a dollar a pound when elephants roost in trees!”

  “I’ll believe I’ll get it. Cotton is at seventy-two cents a pound already. I’m going to be a richman when this war is over, Scarlett, because I was farsighted—pardon me, mercenary. I told youonce before that there were two times for making big money, one in the upbuilding of a countryand the other in its destruction. Slow money on the upbuilding, fast money in the crack-up.

  Remember my words. Perhaps they may be of use to you some day.”

  “I do appreciate good advice so much,” said Scarlett, with all the sarcasm she could muster.

  “But I don’t need your advice. Do you think Pa is a pauper? He’s got all the money I’ll ever needand then I have Charles’ property besides.”

  “I imagine the French aristocrats thought practically the same thing until the very moment whenthey climbed into the tumbrils.”

  Frequently Rhett pointed out to Scarlett the inconsistency of her wearing black mourning clotheswhen she was participating in all social activities. He liked bright colors and Scarlett’s funeraldresses and the crêpe veil that hung from her bonnet to her heels both amused him and offendedhim. But she clung to her dull black dresses and her veil, knowing that if she changed them forcolors without waiting several more years, the town would buzz even more than it was alreadybuzzing. And besides, how would she ever explain to her mother?

  Rhett said frankly that the crêpe veil made her look like a crow and the black dresses added tenyears to her age. This ungallant statement sent her flying to the mirror to see if she really did looktwenty-eight instead of eighteen.

  “I should think you’d have more pride than to try to look like Mrs. Merriwether,” he taunted.

  “And better taste than to wear that veil to advertise a grief I’m sure you never felt. I’ll lay a wagerwith you. I’ll have that bonnet and veil off your head and a Paris creation on it within twomonths.”

  “Indeed, no, and don’t let’s discuss it any further,” said Scarlett, annoyed by his reference toCharles. Rhett, who was preparing to leave for Wilmington for another trip abroad, departed with agrin on his face.

  One bright summer morning some weeks later, he reappeared with a brightly trimmed hatbox inhis hand and, after finding that Scarlett was alone in the house, he opened it. Wrapped in layers oftissue was a bonnet, a creation that made her cry: “Oh, the darling thing!” as she reached for it.

  Starved for the sight, much less the touch, of new clothes, it seemed the loveliest bonnet she hadever seen. It was of dark-green taffeta, lined with water silk of a pale-jade color. The ribbons thattied under the chin were as wide as her hand and they, too, were pale green. And, curled about thebrim of this confection was the perkiest of green ostrich plumes.

  “Put it on,” said Rhett, smiling.

  She flew across the room to the mirror and plopped it on her head, pushing back her hair toshow her earrings and tying the ribbon under her chin.

  “How do I look?” she cried, pirouetting for his benefit and tossing her head so that the plumedanced. But she knew she looked pretty even before she saw confirmation in his eyes. She looked attractively saucy and the green of the lining made her eyes dark emerald and sparkling.

  “Oh, Rhett, whose bonnet is it? I’ll buy it. I’ll give you every cent I’ve got for it.”

  “It’s your bonnet,” he said. “Who else could wear that shade of green? Don’t you think I carriedthe color of your eyes well in my mind?”

  “Did you really have it trimmed just for me?”

  “Yes, and there’s ‘Rue de la Paix’ on the box, if that means anything to you.”

  It meant nothing to her, smiling at her reflection in the mirror. Just at this moment, nothingmattered to her except that she looked utterly charming in the first pretty hat she had put on herhead in two years. What she couldn’t do with this hat! And then her smile faded.

  “Don’t you like it?”

  “Oh, it’s a dream but— Oh, I do hate to have to cover this lovely green with crêpe and dye thefeather black.”

  He was beside her quickly and his deft fingers untied the wide bow under her chin. In a momentthe hat was back in its box.

  “What are you doing? You said it was mine.”

  “But not to change to a mourning bonnet. I shall find some other charming lady with green eyeswho appreciates my taste.”

  “Oh, you shan’t! I’ll die if I don’t have it! Oh, please, Rhett, don’t be mean! Let me have it.”

  “And turn it into a fright like your other hats? No.”

  She clutched at the box. That sweet thing that made her look so young and enchanting to begiven to some other girl? Oh, never! For a moment she thought of the horror of Pitty and Melanie.

  She thought of Ellen and what she would say, and she shivered. But vanity was stronger.

  “I won’t change it. I promise. Now, do let me have it.”

  He gave her the box with a slightly sardonic smile and watched her while she put it on again andpreened herself.

  “How much is it?” she asked suddenly, her face falling. “I have only fifty dollars but next month—”

  “It would cost about two thousand dollars, Confederate money,” he said with a grin at herwoebegone expression.

  “Oh, dear— Well, suppose I give you the fifty now and then when I get—”

  “I don’t want any money for it,” he said, “It’s a gift.” Scarlett’s mouth dropped open. The linewas so closely, so carefully drawn where gifts from men were concerned.

  “Candy and flowers, dear,” Ellen had said time and again, “and perhaps a book of poetry or analbum or a small bottle of Florida water are the only things a lady may accept from a gentleman.

  Never, never any expensive gift, even from your fiancé. And never any gift of jewelry or wearingapparel, not even gloves or handkerchiefs. Should you accept such gifts, men would know you were no lady and would try to take liberties.”

  “Oh, dear,” thought Scarlett, looking first at herself in the mirror and then at Rhett’s unreadableface. “I simply can’t tell him I won’t accept it. It’s too darling. I’d—I’d almost rather he took aliberty, if it was a very small one.” Then she was horrified at herself for having such a thought andshe turned pink.

  “I’ll—I’ll give you the fifty dollars—”

  “If you do I will throw it in the gutter. Or, better still buy masses for your soul. I’m sure yoursoul could do with a few masses.”

  She laughed unwillingly, and the laughing reflection under the green brim decided her instantly.

  “Whatever are you trying to do to me?”

  I’m tempting you with fine gifts until your girlish ideals are quite worn away and you are at mymercy,” he said. “ ‘Accept only candy and flowers from gentlemen, dearie,’ ” he mimicked, andshe burst into a giggle.

  “You are a clever, black-hearted wretch, Rhett Butler, and you know very well this bonnet’s toopretty to be refused.”

  His eyes mocked her, even while they complimented her beauty.

  “Of course, you can tell Miss Pitty that you gave me a sample of taffeta and green silk and drewa picture of the bonnet and I extorted fifty dollars from you for it.”

  “No. I shall say one hundred dollars and she’ll tell everybody in town and everybody will begreen with envy and talk about my extravagance. But Rhett, you mustn’t bring me anything else soexpensive. It’s awfully kind of you, but I really couldn’t accept anything else.”

  “Indeed? Well, I shall bring you presents so long as it pleases me and so long as I see things thatwill enhance your charms. I shall bring you dark-green watered silk for a frock to match thebonnet. And I warn you that I am not kind. I am tempting you with bonnets and bangles andleading you into a pit. Always remember I never do anything without reason and I never giveanything without expecting something in return. I always get paid.”

  His black eyes sought her face and traveled to her lips. Scarlett cast down her eyes, excitementfilling her. Now, he was going to try to take liberties, just as Ellen predicted. He was going to kissher, or try to kiss her, and she couldn’t quite make up her flurried mind which it should be. If sherefused, he might jerk the bonnet right off her head and give it to some other girl. On the otherhand, if she permitted one chaste peck, he might bring her other lovely presents in the hope ofgetting another kiss. Men set such a store by kisses, though Heaven alone knew why. And lots oftimes, after one kiss they fell completely in love with a girl and made most entertaining spectaclesof themselves, provided the girl was clever and withheld her kisses after the first one. It would beexciting to have Rhett Butler in love with her and admitting it and begging for a kiss or a smile.

  Yes, she would let him kiss her.

  But he made no move to kiss her. She gave him a sidelong glance from under her lashes andmurmured encouragingly.

  “So you always get paid, do you? And what do you expect to get from me?”

  “That remains to be seen.”

  “Well, if you think I’ll marry you to pay for the bonnet, I won’t,” she said daringly and gave herhead a saucy flirt that set the plume to bobbing.

  His white teeth gleamed under his little mustache.

  “Madam, you flatter yourself, I do not want to marry you or anyone else. I am not a marryingman.”

  “Indeed!” she cried, taken aback and now determined that he should take some liberty. “I don’teven intend to kiss you, either.”

  “Then why is your mouth all pursed up in that ridiculous way?”

  “Oh!” she cried as she caught a glimpse of herself and saw that her red lips were indeed in theproper pose for a kiss. “Oh!” she cried again, losing her temper and stamping her foot. “You arethe horridest man I have ever seen and I don’t care if I never lay eyes on you again!”

  “If you really felt that way, you’d stamp on the bonnet. My, what a passion you are in and it’squite becoming, as you probably know. Come, Scarlett, stamp on the bonnet to show me what youthink of me and my presents.”

  “Don’t you dare touch this bonnet,” she said, clutching it by the bow and retreating. He cameafter her, laughing softly and took her hands in his.

  “Oh, Scarlett, you are so young you wring my heart,” he said. “And I shall kiss you, as youseem to expect it,” and leaning down carelessly, his mustache just grazed her cheek. “Now, do youfeel that you must slap me to preserve the proprieties?”

  Her lips mutinous, she looked up into his eyes and saw so much amusement in their dark depthsthat she burst into laughter. What a tease he was and how exasperating! If he didn’t want to marryher and didn’t even want to kiss her, what did he want? If he wasn’t in love with her, why did hecall so often and bring her presents?

  “That’s better, he said. “Scarlett, I’m a bad influence on you and if you have any sense you willsend me packing—if you can. I’m very hard to get rid of. But I’m bad for you.”

  “Are you?”

  “Can’t you see it? Ever since I met you at the bazaar, your career has been most shocking andI’m to blame for most of it. Who encouraged you to dance? Who forced you to admit that youthought our glorious Cause was neither glorious nor sacred? Who goaded you into admitting thatyou thought men were fools to die for high-sounding principles? Who has aided you in giving theold ladies plenty to gossip about? Who is getting you out of mourning several years too soon? Andwho, to end all this, has lured you into accepting a gift which no lady can accept and still remain alady?”

  “You flatter yourself, Captain Butler. I haven’t done anything so scandalous and I’d have doneeverything you mentioned without your aid anyway.”

  “I doubt that,” he said and his face went suddenly quiet and somber. “You’d still be the brokenheartedwidow of Charles Hamilton and famed for your good deeds among the wounded.

  Eventually, however—”

  But she was not listening, for she was regarding herself pleasedly in the mirror again, thinkingshe would wear the bonnet to the hospital this very afternoon and take flowers to the convalescentofficers.

  That there was truth in his last words did not occur to her. She did not see that Rhett had priedopen the prison of her widowhood and set her free to queen it over unmarried girls when her daysas a belle should have been long past. Nor did she see that under his influence she had come a longway from Ellen’s teachings. The change had been so gradual, the flouting of one small conventionseeming to have no connection with the flouting of another, and none of them any connection withRhett. She did not realize that, with his encouragement, she had disregarded many of the sternestinjunctions of her mother concerning the proprieties, forgotten the difficult lessons in being a lady.

  She only saw that the bonnet was the most becoming one she ever had, that it had not cost her apenny and that Rhett must be in love with her, whether he admitted it or not. And she certainlyintended to find a way to make him admit it.

  The next day, Scarlett was standing in front of the mirror with a comb in her hand and her mouthfull of hairpins, attempting a new coiffure which Maybelle, fresh from a visit to her husband inRichmond, had said was the rage at the Capital. It was called “Cats, Rats and Mice” and presentedmany difficulties. The hair was parted in the middle and arranged in three rolls of graduating sizeon each side of the head, the largest, nearest the part, being the “cat.” The “cat” and the “rat” wereeasy to fix but the “mice” kept slipping out of her hairpins in an exasperating manner. However,she was determined to accomplish it, for Rhett was coming to supper and he always noticed andcommented upon any innovation of dress or hair.

  As she struggled with her bushy, obstinate locks, perspiration beading her forehead, she heardlight running feet in the downstairs hall and knew that Melanie was home from the hospital. As sheheard her fly up the stairs, two at a time, she paused, hairpin in mid-air, realizing that somethingmust be wrong, for Melanie always moved as decorously as a dowager. She went to the door andthrew it open, and Melanie ran in, her face flushed and frightened, looking like a guilty child.

  There were tears on her cheeks, her bonnet was hanging on her neck by the ribbons and herhoops swaying violently. She was clutching something in her hand, and the reek of heavy cheapperfume came into the room with her.

  “Oh, Scarlett!” she cried, shutting the door and sinking on the bed. “Is Auntie home yet? Sheisn’t? Oh, thank the Lord! Scarlett, I’m so mortified I could die! I nearly swooned and, Scarlett,Uncle Peter is threatening to tell Aunt Pitty!”

  “Tell what?”

  “That I was talking to that—to Miss—Mrs.—” Melanie fanned her hot face with herhandkerchief. “That woman with red hair, named Belle Watling!”

  “Why, Melly!” cried Scarlett, so shocked she could only stare.

  Belle Watling was the red-haired woman she had seen on the street the first day she came toAtlanta and by now, she was easily the most notorious woman in town. Many prostitutes hadflocked into Atlanta, following the soldiers, but Belle stood out above the rest, due to her flaminghair and the gaudy, overly fashionable dresses she wore. She was seldom seen on Peachtree Streetor in any nice neighborhood, but when she did appear respectable women made haste to cross thestreet to remove themselves from her vicinity. And Melanie had been talking with her. No wonderUncle Peter was outraged.

  “I shall die if Aunt Pitty finds out! You know she’ll cry and tell everybody in town and I’ll bedisgraced,” sobbed Melanie. “And it wasn’t my fault. I—I couldn’t run away from her. It wouldhave been so rude. Scarlett, I—I felt sorry for her. Do you think I’m bad for feeling that way?”

  But Scarlett was not concerned with the ethics of the matter. Like most innocent and well-bredyoung women, she had a devouring curiosity about prostitutes.

  “What did she want? What does she talk like?”

  “Oh, she used awful grammar but I could see she was trying so hard to be elegant, poor thing. Icame out of the hospital and Uncle Peter and the carriage weren’t waiting, so I thought I’d walkhome. And when I went by the Emersons’ yard, there she was hiding behind the hedge! Oh, thankHeaven, the Emersons are in Macon! And she said, ‘Please, Mrs. Wilkes, do speak a minute withme.’ I don’t know how she knew my name. I knew I ought to run as hard as I could but—well,Scarlett, she looked so sad and—well, sort of pleading. And she had on a black dress and blackbonnet and no paint and really looked decent but for that red hair. And before I could answer shesaid, ‘I know I shouldn’t speak to you but I tried to talk to that old peahen, Mrs. Elsing, and she ranme away from the hospital.’ ”

  “Did she really call her a peahen?” said Scarlett pleasedly and laughed.

  “Oh, don’t laugh. It isn’t funny. It seems that Miss—this woman, wanted to do something for thehospital—can you imagine it? She offered to nurse every morning and, of course, Mrs. Elsing musthave nearly died at the idea and ordered her out of the hospital. And then she said, ‘I want to dosomething, too. Ain’t I a Confedrut, good as you?’And, Scarlett, I was right touched at her wantingto help. You know, she can’t be all bad if she wants to help the Cause. Do you think I’m bad to feelthat way?”

  “For Heaven’s sake, Melly, who cares if you’re bad? What else did she say?”

  “She said she’d been watching the ladies go by to the hospital and thought I had—a—a kindface and so she stopped me. She had some money and she wanted me to take it and use it for thehospital -and not tell a soul where it came from. She said Mrs. Elsing wouldn’t let it be used if sheknew what kind of money it was. What kind of money! That’s when I thought I’d swoon! And Iwas so upset and anxious to get away, I just said: ‘Oh, yes, indeed, how sweet of you’ or somethingidiotic, and she smiled and said: That’s right Christian of you’ and shoved this duty handkerchiefinto my hand. Ugh, can you smell the perfume?”

  Melanie held out a man’s handkerchief, soiled and highly perfumed, in which some coins wereknotted.

  “She was saying thank you and something about bringing me some money every week and justthen Uncle Peter drove up and saw me!” Melly collapsed into tears and laid her head on the pillow.

  “And when he saw who was with me, he—Scarlett, he hollered at me! Nobody has ever hollered atme before in my whole life. And he said. ‘You git in dis ayah cah’ige dis minute!’ Of course, I did,and all the way home he blessed me out and wouldn’t let me explain and said he was going to tellAunt Pitty. Scarlett, do go down and beg him not to tell her. Perhaps he will listen to you. It willkill Auntie if she knows I ever even looked that woman in the face. Will you?”

  “Yes, I will. But let’s see how much money is in here. It feels heavy.”

  She untied the knot and a handful of gold coins rolled out on the bed.

  “Scarlett, there’s fifty dollars here! And in gold!” cried Melanie, awed, as she counted the brightpieces. “Tell me, do you think it’s all right to use this kind—well, money made—er—this way forthe boys? Don’t you think that maybe God will understand that she wanted to help and won’t careif it is tainted? When I think of how many things the hospital needs—”

  But Scarlett was not listening. She was looking at the dirty handkerchief, and humiliation andfury were filling her. There was a monogram in the corner in which were the initials “R. K. B.” Inher top drawer was a handkerchief just like this, one that Rhett Butler had lent her only yesterdayto wrap about the stems of wild flowers they had picked. She had planned to return it to him whenhe came to supper tonight.

  So Rhett consorted with that vile Watling creature and gave her money. That was where thecontribution to the hospital came from. Blockade gold. And to think that Rhett would have the gallto look a decent woman in the face after being with that creature! And to think that she could havebelieved he was in love with her! This proved he couldn’t be.

  Bad women and all they involved were mysterious and revolting matters to her. She knew thatmen patronized these women for purposes which no lady should mention—or, if she did mentionthem, in whispers and by indirection and euphemism. She had always thought that only commonvulgar men visited such women. Before this moment, it had never occurred to her that nice men—that is, men she met at nice homes and with whom she danced—could possibly do such things. Itopened up an entirely new field of thought and one that was horrifying. Perhaps all men did this! Itwas bad enough that they forced their wives to go through such indecent performances but toactually seek out low women and pay them for such accommodation! Oh, men were so vile, andRhett Butler was the worst of them all!

  She would take this handkerchief and fling it in his face and show him the door and never, neverspeak to him again. But no, of course she couldn’t do that. She could never, never let him knowshe even realized that bad women existed, much less that he visited them. A lady could never dothat.

  “Oh,” she thought in fury. “If I just wasn’t a lady, what wouldn’t I tell that varmint!”

  And, crumbling the handkerchief in her hand, she went down the stairs to the kitchen in searchof Uncle Peter. As she passed the stove, she shoved the handkerchief into the flames and withimpotent anger watched it burn.

  在梅里韦瑟太太的怂勇下,米德大夫果断行动起来了。他给报社写了封信,其中虽然没有点瑞德的名,但意思是很明显的。编辑感觉了这封信的社会戏剧性,便把它发表在报纸的第二版,这本身就是一个惊人之举,因为报纸头两版经常专登广告,而这些广告又不外是出售奴隶、骡子、犁头、棺材、房屋、性病药、堕胎药和春药之类。
  米德大夫的信是后来在南方普遍展开的一个声讨投机家、牟取暴利者和政府合同商的高潮的先声。在查尔斯顿港被北方炮艇严密封锁以后,威尔明顿成了封锁线贸易的主要港口,而那里的情况早已臭名昭著了。投机家们云集在威尔明顿,他们用手里的现款买下一船船货物囤积起来,待价而沽,高价是随时会来的,因为生活必需品愈来愈紧缺,物价月月上涨。老百姓要么不买,要买就得按投机商的价格付钱,这使得一般穷人和境况不佳的居民日子一天天不好过了。物价上涨的同时,南部联盟政府和纸币不断贬值,纸币越贬值人们就越发渴望看到奢侈品。跑封锁线的商人原来是受命进口必需品,同时被允许以经营奢侈品为副业,可现在的情况是船上塞满了高价的奢侈品,而南部联盟地区迫切需要的东西倒给挤掉了。人们用今天手中的货币疯狂抢购奢侈品,因为生怕明天的价格更高而货币更不值钱。
  更糟糕的是,从威尔明顿到里士满只有一条铁路,成千上万桶的面粉和成千上万箱的咸肉由于运不出去堆在车站路旁,眼看着发霉、腐烂,而投机商的酒类、丝绸、咖啡,等等,却往往在威尔明顿上岸以后两天,就能运往里士满销售去了。
  有桩一直在暗中流传的谣言如今已公开谈论起来,说是瑞德·巴特勒不仅经营自己的四艘船只,以前所未闻的高价卖出一船船货物,而且买下别人船上的东西囤积居奇。据说他还是某个组织的头领,这个组织拥有百万美元的资金,总部设在威尔明顿,专门在码头上收购那些通过封锁线去进的物资。据说他们在那个城市和里士满有好几十家货栈,里面堆满了食品、布匹,等着高价出售。如今军人和老百姓都同样感到生活紧张了,因此反对他及其同伙的怨声也一天天强烈起来。
  “南部联盟海军服务公司的封锁科中有许多勇敢爱国的人,"米德大夫的信中最后写道,"他们公正无私,冒着牺牲性命和所有财产的危险在保护南部联盟。他们受到全体忠诚的南方人民的衷心爱戴,人民无不乐意捐献自己的一点点金钱来报答他们所作出的牺牲,他们是些无私的上等人,我们尊敬他们。关于这些人我没有什么好说的。
  “不过另外有些败类,他们披着封锁线商人的伪装牟一己之私利,他们在人民因没有奎宁而濒于死亡时却运进绸缎和花边,在我们的英雄由于缺乏吗啡而忍痛挣扎时却用船只去装载茶叶和酒。因此,我要呼吁这个奋勇抵抗和为一种最公正的主义而战斗的民族,对这些人类中的兀鹰大张公愤,同声讨伐。我咀咒这些吸血鬼,他们吸吮着那些跟随罗伯特·李将军的勇士们的鲜血,他们使封锁线商人这个名字在爱国人士面前早已臭不可闻了。当我们的小伙子光着脚走上战场时,他们怎能容忍那些嗜尸鬼穿着铮亮的皮靴在我们当中大摇大摆呢?当我们的士兵在浑身哆嗦地围着营火啃霉烂的咸肉时,我们怎能容忍他们捧着珍馐美酒在后方作乐呢?我呼吁每个忠诚的南部联盟拥护者起来把他们撵走!"亚特兰大人读着这封信,知道檄文已经发布,于是他们这些忠诚的南部联盟拥护者赶快起来撵走巴特勒。
  所有在一八六二年秋天接待过巴特勒的人家中,几乎惟独皮蒂姑妈家到一八六三年还容许他进入。而且,如果没有媚兰,他很可能在那里也无人接待。只要他在城里,皮蒂姑妈就有晕倒的危险,如果她允许他来拜访,她很清楚,她的那些朋友会说出些什么话来。可是她没有勇气声明他在这里不受欢迎,每次他一到亚特兰大,她便下决心并对两位姑娘说,她在门外迎着他并禁止他进屋里来。可是每次他来时,手里总拿着小包,嘴里是一起称赞她又美丽又迷人的恭维话,她也就畏缩了。
  “我就是不知道怎么办好,"她诉苦说。"只消他看着我,我就----我就吓得没命了,不知我一说了他会干出什么事来。
  他的名声已坏到了这个地步。你看,他会不会打我----或者----或者----啊,要是查理还活着就好了。思嘉,好声好气地告诉他,但一定得告诉他不要再来了。啊,我看你是在鼓励他,所以全城都在议论呢,而且要是你母亲发现了,她对我会怎么说呀?媚兰,你不要对他那么好了。要冷淡疏远一些,那样他就会明白的。哦,媚兰,你是不是觉得我最好给亨利写个条子去,让他跟巴特勒船长谈谈?”“不,我不觉得,"媚兰说。"而且我也决不会对他无礼。
  我想人们对于巴特勒船长都像一群失了魂的小鸡似的瞎嚷嚷。他不会囤积粮食让人们挨饿,噢,我相信他不象米德大夫和梅里韦瑟太太说的那么坏。他还给了我一百美元的孤儿救济金呢。我相信他跟我们每个人一样是忠诚和爱国的,只不过他过于骄傲不屑出来为自己辩护罢了。你知道男人们一旦激怒了会变得多么固执的。"皮蒂姑妈对于男人啥也不懂,无论他们是发怒了还是怎么的,她只能摇着那双小小的胖手表示奈何不得。至于思嘉,她很久以来就对媚兰那种专门从好的方面看人的习惯不存希望了。媚兰是个傻瓜,在这一点上谁都对她没有办法。
  思嘉知道瑞德并不爱国,而且,尽管她宁死也不承认,她对此毫不在乎。倒是他从纳索给她带来的那些小礼品,一个女人可以正正当当接受的小玩意,她却十分重视。在物价如此昂贵的情况下,如果还禁止他进门,她到哪里弄到针线、糖果和发夹呀?不,还是把责任推到皮蒂姑妈身上更顺当些,她毕竟是一家之主,是监护人和道德仲裁人嘛。愚蠢知道全城都在议论巴特勒的来访,也在议论她;可是她还知道,在亚特兰大人眼中媚兰·威尔克断断是不会干错事的,那么既然媚兰还在护着巴特勒,他的来访也就不至于太不体面了。
  不过,如果瑞德放其他的那套异端邪说,生活就会惬意得多。那样,她同他在桃树街散步时就用不着因人们公然不理睬他而觉得尴尬了。
  “即使你有这些想法也罢,又何必说出来呢?"她这样责备他。"要是你但凭自己的高兴爱想什么就想什么,可就是闭着嘴毫不声张,那一切都会好得多了。”“我的绿眼睛伪君子,那是你的办法,是不是?思嘉,思嘉!我希望你拿出更多的勇起来。我认为爱尔兰人是想什么说什么的,只有魔鬼才躲躲闪闪,请老实告诉我,难道你闭着嘴不说话时不觉得心里憋得要爆炸吗?”“唔,是的,"思嘉不大情愿地承认。"当人们从早晨到中午直到晚上尽谈什么主义时,我就觉得厌烦死了。可是我的天,瑞德·巴特勒,如果我承认了这一点,就谁都不跟我说话,哪个男孩子也不会跟我跳舞了!”“噢,对了,哪怕要付出最大的代价,总得有人伴着跳舞。
  那么,我要佩服你这种自我克制的精神,不过我觉得我自己办不到。我不能披上罗曼蒂克的爱国的伪装,无论那样会多么方便。那种愚蠢的爱国者已经够多的了,他们把手里的每分钱都押在封锁线上,到头来,等到这场战争一结束,只落得一个穷光蛋。他们不需要我去加入他们的队伍,无论是为爱国主义史册添一分光彩还是给穷光蛋名单加上一个名字。
  让他们去戴这些荣耀的光环吧。他们有资格戴的----这一次我总算诚恳了----此外,再过一年左右,那些要戴光环的人也全都会戴上的。”“我觉得你这人真是太卑鄙了,居然说出这样的话来,你明明知道英国和法国很快就会来帮助我们,而且----”“怎么,思嘉!你准是看过报纸了!我真替你吃惊。可再不要这样了,那会把女人的脑子弄坏的。不到一个月以前,我还在英国。关于你的消息,我要告诉你,英国决不会帮助南部联盟。英国决不会把赌注押在一条落水狗身上,这便是英国之所以成为英国。此外,目前坐在宝座上的那位荷兰胖女人是敬畏上帝的,她不赞成奴隶制。即使英国棉纺厂的工人由于得不到我们的棉花而饿肚子,它也决不会为奴隶制而斗争的。至于法国,正在墨西哥忙于建设法国区,;这个拿破仑的孱弱模仿者,根本不可能为我们操心了。事实上,因为这会牵制我们而不能去赶走在墨西哥的法国军队,他们欢迎这场战争,……不,思嘉,国外援助这个概念只不过是报纸发明出来用以维持南方士气的一个法宝而已。南部联盟的命运已经注定了。它现在像一匹骆驼,靠它的驼峰维持生命,可是连最大的驼峰也有消耗干净的一天呢。我给自己打了个在封锁线再跑六个月的算盘,以后就完了。再下去就太冒风险了。那时我要把船只卖给一个自以为还能干下去的英国人。但是不管怎样,这不会叫我为难的。我已经赚了够多的钱,都存在英国的银行里,而且全是金币。这不值钱的纸币已与我毫不相干了。"他还是像往常那样,话说得似乎很有道理。别人可能说他的话是叛国言论,但思嘉听来却是真实的,合乎情理的。她知道这可能完全错了,她应当感到震惊和愤怒才是。实际上她既不震惊也不愤怒,不过她可以装成那样,那会使她显得可敬一些,更像个上等人家的闺秀。
  “我认为米德大夫写的有关你的那些话都是对的,巴特勒船长。惟一挽救的办法是你把船卖掉之后立即去参军。你是西点军校出身的,而且----”“你这话很象是个牧师在发表招兵演说了。要是我不想挽救自己又怎么样?我要眼看着它被彻底粉碎才高兴呢。我干吗要去拼命维护那个把我抛弃了的制度呀?”“我可从来没听说过什么制度。"她很不以为然地说。
  “没听说过?可你自己就是属于它的一分子,跟我一样,而且我敢肯定你也像我这样,并不喜欢它。再说,我为什么成了巴特勒家族中的不肖子呢?原因不是别的,就在这里----我跟查尔斯顿不一致,也没法跟它一致。而查尔斯顿可以代表南方,只不过更加厉害而已。我想你大概还不明白那是个多么讨厌的地方吧?有许多事情仅仅因为人们一直在做,你也就不得不做。另有许多事情是完全没有坏处的,可是为了同样的原因你就决不能去做。还有许多事情是由于毫无意思而使我腻烦透了。就说我没有娶那位你大约听说过的年轻女人吧,那仅仅是问题爆发的最后一个方面罢了。我为什么要娶一个讨厌的傻瓜,仅仅因为受到某种意外事故的干扰未能把她在天黑之前送到家里吗?又为什么要让她那个凶暴的兄弟在我能够打得更准的情况下来开枪打死我呢?当然,假如我是个上等人,我就会让他把我打死,这样就可以洗刷巴特勒家教上的污点了。可是----我要活呀!我就是这样活了下来,并且活得很舒服呢。……每当我想起我的兄弟,他生活在查尔斯顿的神圣牛群里,对他们很尊敬;我记其他那个粗笨的老婆和他的圣塞西利亚舞会,以及他那些令人厌倦的稻田----想到这些,我就认识了与那个制度决裂所得到的报偿。
  思嘉,我们南方的生活方式是跟中世纪封建制度一样陈旧的。
  令人惊奇的是它居然持续了这么久。它早就该消失,并且正在消失。不过,你还希望我去听像米德大夫这样的演说家告诉我,说我们的主义是公正而神圣的吗?要我在隆隆的鼓声中变得那样激动,以致会抓起枪杆子冲到弗吉尼亚去为罗伯特老板流血吗?你认为我是一个什么样的傻瓜呢?给人家鞭打了一顿还去吻他的鞭子,这可不是属于我干的那个行业。如今南方和我是两清了,谁也不欠谁的了。南方曾经把我抛弃,让我饿死。我没有饿死,倒是从南方的濒死挣扎中捞到了足够的金钱来赔偿我所丧失的与生俱来的权力了。”“我看你这个人很卑鄙,惟利是图,"思嘉说,不过口气是机械的。他所说的话大多从她耳边滑过去了,就像每次与已无关的谈话一样。不过其中的一部分她能理解,她也觉得上等人的生活中的确有许多愚蠢的事情。比如说,不得不假装自己的心已进入坟墓,而实际上并没有。而且,她在那次义卖会上跳舞时人人都大为震惊呢。又比方,她每次做了或说了些什么稍稍与别的年轻女人所说所做不同的事,人家就会气得把眉毛都竖起来了。不过,她听到他攻击那个她自己也最厌恶的传统时,还是觉得刺耳的。因为一般人在听到别人说出他们自己的心思时,总是委婉地掩饰着并不惊慌的感觉,而她在这些人中生活是太久了,怎能不受影响呢?
  “惟利是图?不,我只是有远见罢了。尽管这也许不过是惟利是图的一个同义词。至少,那些和我一样有远见的人会这样说。只要他1861年手头有一百美元的现金,任何一个忠于南部联盟的人,都会像我这样干的,可是,真正惟利是图能够利用他们的机会的人又多么少啊!举例说,在萨姆特要塞刚刚陷落而封锁线还没有建成的时候,我以滥贱的价格买进了几千包棉花,并把它们运往英国。它们至今还存放在利物浦货栈里,一直没有出售。我要保持到英国棉纺厂极需棉花并愿意按我的要价购买时才放手。到时候,即使卖一美元一磅,也是不足为奇的。”“等到大象在树林里做窝时,你就可以卖一美元一磅了!”“现在棉花已涨到72美分一磅。我相信会卖到这个价的。
  思嘉,这场战争结束时我会成为一个富翁,因为我有远见----唔,对不起,是惟利是图。我曾经告诉过你,有两个时期是可以赚大钱的,一是在建设一个国家的时候,一是在一个国家被毁坏的时候。建设时赚钱慢,崩溃时赚钱快,记住我的话吧。也许有一天你是用得上的。”“我非常欣赏好的忠告,"思嘉用尽可能强烈的讽刺口吻说。"不过我不需要你的忠告,你认为我爸是个穷光蛋吗?他可有足够的钱供我花呢,而且我还有查尔斯的财产。”“我能想象到,法国贵族直到爬进囚车那一刻,也一直是这样想的。"思嘉每次参加社会活动,瑞德总是指出这同她身穿黑色丧服是不协调的。他喜欢鲜艳的颜色,因此思嘉身上的丧服和那条从帽子一直拖到脚跟的绉纱头巾使他感到既好玩又不舒服,可是她坚持穿戴这些服丧的深色衣物,因为知道如果不再等几年就改穿漂亮的颜色,全城的人就会比现在更加窃窃私语地议论起来。何况,她又怎样向母亲解释呢?
  那条绉纱头巾使她活像只乌鸦,瑞德坦率地说,而那身黑衣服则使她显得老了十岁。这种不雅的说法逼得她赶快跑到镜子前去照照,究竟自己是不是像个二十八岁的人了。
  “我觉得你应当把自己看重些,不要去学梅里韦瑟太太那样,"他挪揄地说。”趣味要高尚一点,不要用那条纱巾来表现自己实际上从来没有过的悲哀。我敢跟你打赌,这是假的。
  我真希望在两个月内就叫你把这帽子和纱巾摘掉,戴上一顶巴黎式的。”“真的?不,请你不要再谈这件事了,"思嘉说,她不高兴瑞德老是叫她想起查尔斯。这时瑞德正准备动身到威尔明顿去,从那里再到国外去跑一趟,所以他没有多说,咧嘴一笑便离开了。
  几星期后,一个晴朗的夏日早晨,他拿着一只装满漂亮的帽匣子来了,这时他发现思嘉一个人在屋里,便把匣子打开。里面用一层薄绢包着一顶非常精致的帽子,思嘉一见便惊叫起来:“阿,这宝贝儿!"很久很久没看见新衣裳了,更不用说亲手去摸了。何况这样一顶她从没见过的最可爱的帽子呢!这是用暗绿色塔夫绸做成的,里面衬着淡绿色水纹绸。
  而且,这件绝妙精制品的帽檐周围还装饰着洋洋得意似的驼鸟毛呢。
  “把它戴上,"瑞德微笑着说。
  她飞也似的跑到镜子跟前,把帽子噗的一下戴到头上,把头发往后推推,露出那对耳坠子来,然后系好带子。
  “好看吗?”她边嚷边旋转着让他看最美的姿势,同时晃着脑袋叫那些羽毛跳个不停。不过,她用不着看他那赞赏的眼光就知道自己显得有多美了。她的确显得又妩媚又俏皮,而那淡绿色衬里更把她的眼睛辉映成深悲翠一般闪闪发亮了。
  “唔,瑞德,这帽子是谁的?我想买。我愿意把手头所有的钱都拿出来。”“就是你的呀,"他说。"还有谁配戴这种绿色呀?你不觉得我把你这眼睛的颜色记得十分精确吗?”“你真的是替我选配的吗?”“真的。你看盒子上还有'和平路'几个法文字呢。如果你觉得这多么能说明问题的话。"她并不觉得这有什么意思,只一味朝镜子里的影像微笑。
  在这个时刻,除了她两年以来头一次戴上了这么漂亮的帽了并显得分外地迷人之外,任何事情都无所谓了。有了这顶帽子,她还有什么事办不到呀!可是随即她的笑容渐渐消失了。
  “你喜欢它吗?”
  “唔,这简直是像个梦,不过----唔,我恨自己不得不用黑纱罩住这可爱的绿色并把羽毛染成黑色的。"他即刻站到了她身边,用熟练的手指把她下巴底下的结带解开。不一会儿帽子就放回到盒子里了。
  “你说过这是我的呀!你这是干什么?”
  “可它并不是给你改做丧帽的。我会找到另一位绿眼睛的漂亮太太,她会欣赏我的选择的。”“啊,你不能这样!我宁死也得要它!啊,求求你,瑞德,别这样小气!给了我吧!”“把它改成跟你旁的帽子一样的丑八怪?不行。"她抓住盒子不放。要把这个使她变得如此年轻而妩媚的宝贝给别的女孩子?啊,休想!她也曾暂时想起皮蒂和媚兰的惊慌模样,她想起母亲和她可能要说的话。不由得打了一个寒噤。可是,虚荣心毕竟更有力量。
  “我答应你,我不会改它。就给了我吧。"他把盒子给她,脸上流露着微带嘲讽的笑容,望着她把帽子再一次戴上并端详自己的容貌。
  “这要多少钱?"她突然沉下脸来问。"我手头只有50美元,不过下个月----”“按南部联盟的钱算,这大约值两千美元左右。”“啊,我的天----好吧,就算我现在给你50,以后,等我有了----”“我不要钱,"他说。"这是礼物。"思嘉的一张嘴张开不响了。在接受男人的礼物方面,界线可画得又严密又谨慎呢。
  “糖果和鲜花,亲爱的,"爱伦曾经屡次说,"也许一本诗集,或者一个像册本,一小瓶香水,只有这些,男人送给你时可以接受。凡是贵重礼物,哪怕是你的未婚夫送的,都千万不能接受。千万不要接受首饰和穿戴的东西,连手套和手绢也不能要。你如果收了这样的礼物,男人们就会认为你不是个上等女人,就会对你放肆了。”“啊,乖乖!"思嘉心想,先看了看镜子里自己的形相,然后看着瑞德那张神秘莫测的脸。"这太可爱了。我简直没法告诉他我不能接受。我宁愿----我几乎宁愿让他放肆一下,如果只有个小动作的话。"这时她不禁对自己也觉得惊恐,怎么会有这样的想法呢,于是脸红了。
  “我要----我要给你那50美元----”
  “如果你这样,我就把它扔了。或者,还不如花钱为你的灵魂作作弥撒。我相信,你的灵魂是需要作几次弥撒的。"她勉强笑笑,可是一起见镜子里那绿帽檐底下的笑影便立即下决心了。
  “你究竟要对我怎么样呢?”
  “我是在用好东西引诱你,把你那些女孩子的空想磨掉,然后服从我的支配,”他说。“'从男人那里只能接受糖果和鲜花呀,亲爱的!'"他取笑似的模仿着,她也格格地笑了。
  “瑞德·巴特勒,你这个又狡诈又黑心的坏蛋,而且你明明知道这帽子太漂亮了,谁还会拒绝呢。"他的两只眼睛在嘲笑她,即使同时在称赞她的美貌。
  “当然喽,你可以对皮蒂小姐说,你给了我一个塔夫绸和绿水绸的样品,并画了张图,而后我向你勒索了五十美元。”“不,我要说是一百美元,她听了会告诉城里的每一个人,然后人人都会对我眼红,议论我多么奢侈。不过,瑞德,你以后不要再给我带这样贵重的东西好吗?你这已经是太慷慨了,我实在不能接受别的了。”“真的?可是,只要我认为能增加你的魅力,只要我觉得喜欢,我还要继续带些礼物来。我要给你带些暗绿色水纹绸来做一件长袍。好跟这顶帽子相配。不过我要警告你,我这人并不慷慨。我是在用帽子和镯子引诱你,引你上钩。请经常记住,我每做一件事都有自己的动机,从来不做那种没有报酬的傻事。我总是要得到报偿的。"他的黑眼睛在她脸上搜索,移到了她的嘴唇上,思嘉垂下眼来,浑身激动。现在,就像爱伦说的那样。他准备要放肆了,他要吻她,或者试图吻她,可是她心慌意乱打不定主意,不知怎么办才好。要是她拒绝呢,他就可能一把将帽子从她头上摘下来,拿去给别的女人。反之,要是允许他规规矩矩亲一下呢,他就可能再给她带些可爱的礼物来,希望再一次吻她。男人总是非常重视亲吻的,其中的缘故只有天知道。往往有这样的情况,吻过一次就不再给吻了的话,他就会大出洋相,显得十分有趣。要是瑞德·巴特勒爱上了她,并且自己承认了,求她接一个吻或笑一笑,那才带劲呢。是的,她愿意让他吻。
  但是他没有来吻她,她从眼睫毛底下瞟了他一眼,并用挑逗的口气低声说:“你总是要得到报偿的,是这样吗?那么你想从我这里得到什么呢?”“那得等着瞧了。”“唔,要是你觉得我为了偿付那顶帽子便会嫁给你,那是不会的,"她大胆地说,同时俏皮地把头晃了晃,让帽子上的羽毛抖动起来。
  他那雪亮的牙齿在一小撮髭须下微微一露,仿佛要笑似的。
  “你这是在恭维自己了,太太,我是不准备结婚的。我并不想娶你或任何别的女人。”“真的!"她吃惊地叫了一声,同时断定他就要放肆了。
  “我连吻也不想吻你呢。”
  “那你为什么把嘴撮成那么个可笑的模样呀?”“啊!"她向镜子里瞧了一眼,发现自己的红嘴唇的确是个准备接吻的姿势,气得连连顿脚。不禁又嚷了一声,”你是我所见过的最可怕的人了,我真的再也不想见到你了!”“要是你真的这么想,你就会把帽子丢在地上踩起来。哎哟哟,看



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