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Chapter 18

FOR THE FIRST TIME since the war began, Atlanta could hear the sound of battle. In the earlymorning hours before the noises of the town awoke, the cannon at Kennesaw Mountain could be heard faintly, far away, low dim booming that might have passed for summer thunder. Occasionallyitwaslouden(a) ough to be heard even above the rattle of traffic at noon. People triednot to listen to it, tried to talk, to laugh, to carry on their business, just as though the Yankees werenot there, twenty-two miles away, but always ears were strained for the sound. The town wore apreoccupied look, for no matter what occupied their hands, all were listening, listening, their heartsleaping suddenly a hundred times a day. Was the booming louder? Or did they only think it waslouder? Would General Johnston hold them this time? Would he?

  Panic lay just beneath the surface. Nerves which had been stretched tighter and tighter each dayof the retreat began to reach the breaking point. No one spoke of fears. That subject was taboo, butstrained nerves found expression in loud criticism of the General. Public feeling was at fever heat.

  Sherman was at the very doors of Atlanta. Another retreat might bring the Confederates into thetown.

  Give us a general who won’t retreat! Give us a man who will stand and fight!

  With the far-off rumbling of cannon in their ears, the state militia, “Joe Brown’s Pets,” and theHome Guard marched out of Atlanta, to defend the bridges and ferries of the Chattahoochee Riverat Johnston’s back. It was a gray, overcast day and, as they marched through Five Points and outthe Marietta road, a fine rain began to fall. The whole town had turned out to see them off and theystood, close packed, under the wooden awnings of the stores on Peachtree Street and tried to cheer.

  Scarlett and Maybelle Merriwether Picard had been given permission to leave the hospital andwatch the men go out, because Uncle Henry Hamilton and Grandpa Merriwether were in the HomeGuard, and they stood with Mrs. Meade, pressed in the crowd, tiptoeing to get a better view.

  Scarlett, though filled with the universal Southern desire to believe only the pleasantest and mostreassuring things about the progress of the fighting, felt cold as she watched the motley ranks goby. Surely, things must be in a desperate pass if this rabble of bombproofers, old men and littleboys were being called out! To be sure there were young and able-bodied men in the passing lines,tricked out in the bright uniforms of socially select militia units, plumes waving, sashes dancing.

  But there were so many old men and young boys, and the sight of them made her heart contractwith pity and with fear. There were graybeards older than her father trying to step jauntily along inthe needle-fine rain to the rhythm of the fife and dram corps. Grandpa Merriwether, with Mrs.

  Merriwether’s best plaid shawl laid across his shoulders to keep out the rain, was in the first rankand he saluted the girls with a grin. They waved their handkerchiefs and cried gay good-bys tohim; but Maybelle, gripping Scarlett’s arm, whispered: “Oh, the poor old darling! A real good rainstormwill just about finish him! His lumbago—”

  Uncle Henry Hamilton marched in the rank behind Grandpa Merriwether, the collar of his longblack coat turned up about his ears, two Mexican War pistols in his belt and a small carpetbag inhis hand. Beside him marched his black valet who was nearly as old as Uncle Henry, with an openumbrella held over them both. Shoulder to shoulder with their elders came the young boys, none ofthem looking over sixteen. Many of them had run away from school to join the army, and here andthere were clumps of them in the cadet uniforms of military academies, the black cock feathers ontheir tight gray caps wet with rain, the clean white canvas straps crossing their chests sodden. PhilMeade was among them, proudly wearing his dead brother’s saber and horse pistols, his hatbravely pinned up on one side. Mrs. Meade managed to smile and wave until he had passed and then she leaned her head on the back of Scarlett’s shoulder for a moment as though her strengthhad suddenly left her.

  Many of the men were totally unarmed, for the Confederacy had neither rifles nor ammunitionto issue to them. These men hoped to equip themselves from killed and captured Yankees. Manycarried bowie knives in their boots and bore in their hands long thick poles with iron-pointed tipsknown as “Joe Brown pikes.” The lucky ones had old flintlock muskets slung over their shouldersand powder-horns at their belts.

  Johnston had lost around ten thousand men in his retreat. He needed ten thousand more freshtroops. And this, thought Scarlett frightened, is what he is getting!

  As the artillery rumbled by, splashing mud into the watching crowds, a negro on a mule, ridingclose to a cannon caught her eye. He was a young, saddle-colored negro with a serious face, andwhen Scarlett saw him she cried: “It’s Mose! Ashley’s Mose! Whatever is he doing here?” Shefought her way through the crowd to the curb and called: “Mose! Stop!”

  The boy seeing her, drew rein, smiled delightedly and started to dismount. A soaking sergeant,riding behind him, called: “Stay on that mule, boy, or I’ll light a fire under you! We got to git to themountain some time.”

  Uncertainly, Mose looked from the sergeant to Scarlett and she, splashing through the mud,close to the passing wheels, caught at Moses’ stirrup strap.

  “Oh, just a minute, Sergeant! Don’t get down, Mose. What on earth are you doing here?”

  “Ah’s off ter de war, agin, Miss Scarlett. Dis time wid Ole Mist’ John ‘stead ob Mist’ Ashley.”

  “Mr. Wilkes!” Scarlett was stunned; Mr. Wilkes was nearly seventy. “Where is he?”

  “Back wid de las’ cannon, Miss Scarlett. Back dar!”

  “Sorry, lady. Move on, boy!”

  Scarlett stood for a moment, ankle deep in mud as the guns lurched by. Oh, no! She thought. Itcan’t be. He’s too old. And he doesn’t like war any more than Ashley did! She retreated back a fewpaces toward the curb and scanned each face that passed. Then, as the last cannon and limber chestcame groaning and splashing up, she saw him, slender, erect, his long silver hair wet upon hisneck, riding easily upon a little strawberry mare that picked her way as daintily through the mudholes as a lady in a satin dress. Why—that mare was Nellie! Mrs. Tarleton’s Nellie! BeatriceTarleton’s treasured darling!

  When he saw her standing in the mud, Mr. Wilkes drew rein with a smile of pleasure and,dismounting, came toward her.

  “I had hoped to see you, Scarlett. I was charged with so many messages from your people. Butthere was no time. We just got in this morning and they are rushing us out immediately, as yousee.”

  “Oh, Mr. Wilkes,” she cried desperately, holding his hand. “Don’t go! Why must you go?”

  “Ah, so you think I’m too old!” he smiled, and it was Ashley’s smile in an older face. “Perhaps Iam too old to march but not to ride and shoot. And Mrs. Tarleton so kindly lent me Nellie, so I am well mounted. I hope nothing happens to Nellie, for if something should happen to her, I couldnever go home and face Mrs. Tarleton. Nellie was the last horse she had left.” He was laughingnow, turning away her fears. “Your mother and father and the girls are well and they sent you theirlove. Your father nearly came up with us today!”

  “Oh, not Pa!” cried Scarlett in terror. “Not Pa! He isn’t going to the war, is he?”

  “No, but he was. Of course, he can’t walk far with his stiff knee, but he was all for riding awaywith us. Your mother agreed, providing he was able to jump the pasture fence, for, she said, therewould be a lot of rough riding to be done in the army. Your father thought that easy, but—wouldyou believe it? When his horse came to the fence, he stopped dead and over his head went yourfather! It’s a wonder it didn’t break his neck! You know how obstinate he is. He got right up andtried it again. Well, Scarlett, he came off three times before Mrs. O’Hara and Pork assisted him tobed. He was in a taking about it, swearing that your mother had ‘spoken a wee word in the beast’sear.’ He just isn’t up to active service, Scarlett. You need have no shame about it. After all,someone must stay home and raise crops for the army.”

  Scarlett had no shame at all, only an active feeling of relief.

  “I’ve sent India and Honey to Macon to stay with the Burrs and Mr. O’Hara is looking afterTwelve Oaks as well as Tara. … I must go, my dear. Let me kiss your pretty face.”

  Scarlett turned up her lips and there was a choking pain in her throat. She was so fond of Mr.

  Wilkes. Once, long ago, she had hoped to be his daughter-in-law.

  “And you must deliver this kiss to Pittypat and this to Melanie,” he said, kissing her lightly twomore times. “And how is Melanie?”

  “She is well.”

  “Ah!” His eyes looked at her but through her, past her as Ashley’s had done, remote gray eyeslooking on another world. “I should have liked to see my first grandchild. Good-by, my dear.”

  He swung onto Nellie and cantered off, his hat in his hand, his silver hair bare to the rain.

  Scarlett had rejoined Maybelle and Mrs. Meade before the import of his last words broke upon her.

  Then in superstitious terror she crossed herself and tried to say a prayer. He had spoken of death,just as Ashley had done, and now Ashley— No one should ever speak of death! It was temptingProvidence to mention death. As the three women started silently back to the hospital in the rain,Scarlett was praying: “Not him, too, God. Not him and Ashley, too!”

  The retreat from Dalton to Kennesaw Mountain had taken from early May to mid-June and asthe hot rainy days of June passed and Sherman failed to dislodge the Confederates from the steepslippery slopes, hope again raised its head. Everyone grew more cheerful and spoke more kindly ofGeneral Johnston. As wet June days passed into a wetter July and the Confederates, fightingdesperately around the entrenched heights, still held Sherman at bay, a wild gaiety took hold ofAtlanta. Hope went to their heads like champagne. Hurrah! Hurrah! We’re holding them! Anepidemic of parties and dances broke out. Whenever groups of men from the fighting were in townfor the night, dinners were given for them and afterwards there was dancing and the girls,outnumbering the men ten to one, made much of them and fought to dance with them.

  Atlanta was crowded with visitors, refugees, families of wounded men in the hospitals, wivesand mothers of soldiers fighting at the mountain who wished to be near them in case of wounds. Inaddition, bevies of belles from the country districts, where all remaining men were under sixteen orover sixty, descended upon the town. Aunt Pitty disapproved highly of these last, for she felt theyhad come to Atlanta for no reason at all except to catch husbands, and the shamelessness of it madeher wonder what the world was coming to. Scarlett disapproved, too. She did not care for the eagercompetition furnished by the sixteen-year-olds whose fresh cheeks and bright smiles made oneforget their twice-turned frocks and patched shoes. Her own clothes were prettier and newer thanmost, thanks to the material Rhett Butler had brought her on the last boat he ran in, but, after all,she was nineteen and getting along and men had a way of chasing silly young things.

  A widow with a child was at a disadvantage with these pretty minxes, she thought But in theseexciting days her widowhood and her motherhood weighed less heavily upon her than ever before.

  Between hospital duties in the day time and parties at night, she hardly ever saw Wade. Sometimesshe actually forgot, for long stretches, that she had a child.

  In the wet summer nights, Atlanta’s homes stood open to the soldiers, the town’sdefenders.The(warm) big houses from Washington Street to Peachtree Street blazed with lights, as themuddy fighters in from the rifle pits were entertained, and the sound of banjo and fiddle and thescrape of dancing feet and light laughter carried far on the night air. Groups hung over pianos andvoices sang lustily the sad words of “Your Letter Came but Came Too Late” while ragged gallantslooked meaningly at girls who laughed from behind turkey-tail fans, begging them not to wait untilit was too late. None of the girls waited, if they could help it. With the tide of hysterical gaiety andexcitement flooding the city, they rushed into matrimony. There were so many marriages thatmonth while Johnston was holding the enemy at Kennesaw Mountain, marriages with the brideturned out in blushing happiness and the hastily borrowed finery of a dozen friends and the groomwith saber banging at patched knees. So much excitement, so many parties, so many thrills!

  Hurrah! Johnston is holding the Yanks twenty-two miles away!

  Yes, the lines around Kennesaw Mountain were impregnable. After twenty-five days of fighting,even General Sherman was convinced of this, for his losses were enormous. Instead of continuingthe direct assault, he swung his army in a wide circle again and tried to come between theConfederates and Atlanta. Again, the strategy worked. Johnston was forced to abandon the heightshe had held so well, in order to protect his rear. He had lost a third of his men in that fight and theremainder slogged tiredly through the rain across the country toward the Chattahoochee River. TheConfederates could expect no more reinforcements, whereas the railroad, which the Yankees nowheld from Tennessee south to the battle line, brought Sherman fresh troops and supplies daily. Sothe gray lines went back through the muddy fields, back toward Atlanta.

  With the loss of the supposedly unconquerable position, a fresh wave of terror swept the town.

  For twenty-five wild, happy days, everyone had assured everyone else that this could not possiblyhappen. And now it had happened! But surely the General would hold the Yankees on the oppositebank of the river. Though God knows the river was close enough, only seven miles away!

  But Sherman flanked them again, crossing the stream above them, and the weary gray files were forced to hurry across the yellow water and throw themselves again between the invaders andAtlanta. They dug in hastily in shallow pits to the north of the town in the valley of PeachtreeCreek. Atlanta was in agony and panic.

  Fight and fall back! Fight and fall back! And every retreat was bringing the Yankees closer tothe town. Peachtree Creek was only five miles away! What was the General thinking about?

  The cries of “Give us a man who will stand and fight!” penetrated even to Richmond. Richmondknew that if Atlanta was lost, the war was lost, and after the army had crossed the Chattahoochee,General Johnston was removed from command. General Hood, one of his corps commanders, tookthe army, and the town breathed a little easier. Hood wouldn’t retreat. Not that tallKent(over) uckian, with his flowing beard and flashing eye! He had the reputation of a bulldog. He’ddrive the Yankees back from the creek, yes, back across the river and on up the road every step ofthe way back to Dalton. But the army cried: “Give us back Old Joe!” for they had been with OldJoe all the weary miles from Dalton and they knew, as the civilians could not know, the odds thathad opposed them.

  Sherman did not wait for Hood to get himself in readiness to attack. On the day after the changein command, the Yankee general struck swiftly at the little town of Decatur, six miles beyondAtlanta, captured it and cut the railroad there. This was the railroad connecting Atlanta withAugusta, with Charleston, and Wilmington and with Virginia. Sherman had dealt the Confederacya crippling blow. The time had come for action! Atlanta screamed for action!

  Then, on a July afternoon of steaming heat, Atlanta had its wish. General Hood did more thanstand and fight. He assaulted the Yankees fiercely at Peachtree Creek, hurling his men from theirrifle pits against the blue lines where Sherman’s men outnumbered him more than two to one.

  Frightened, praying that Hood’s attack would drive the Yankees back, everyone listened to thesound of booming cannon and the crackling of thousands of rifles which, though five miles awayfrom the center of town, were so loud as to seem almost in the next block. They could hear therumblings of the batteries, see the smoke which rolled like low-hanging clouds above the trees, butfor hours no one knew how the battle was going.

  By late afternoon the first news came, but it was uncertain, contradictory, frightening, brought asit was by men wounded in the early hours of the battle. These men began straggling in, singly andin groups, the less seriously wounded supporting those who limped and staggered. Soon a steadystream of them was established, making their painful way into town toward the hospitals, theirfaces black as negroes’ from powder stains, dust and sweat, their wounds unbandaged, blooddrying, flies swarming about them.

  Aunt Pitty’s was one of the first houses which the wounded reached as they struggled in fromthe north of the town, and one after another, they tottered to the gate, sank down on the green lawnand croaked:

  “Water!”

  All that burning afternoon, Aunt Pitty and her family, black and white, stood in the sun withbuckets of water and bandages, ladling drinks, binding wounds until the bandages gave out andeven the torn sheets and towels were exhausted. Aunt Pitty completely forgot that the sight of blood always made her faint and she worked until her little feet in their too small shoes swelledand would no longer support her. Even Melanie, now great with child, forgot her modesty andworked feverishly side by side with Prissy, Cookie and Scarlett, her face as tense as any of thewounded. When at last she fainted, there was no place to lay her except on the kitchen table, asevery bed, chair and sofa in the house was filled with wounded.

  Forgotten in the tumult, little Wade crouched behind the banisters on the front porch, peering outonto the lawn like a caged, frightened rabbit, his eyes wide with terror, sucking his thumb andhiccoughing. Once Scarlett saw him and cried sharply: “Go play in the back yard, WadeHampton!” but he was too terrified, too fascinated by the mad scene before him to obey.

  The lawn was covered with prostrate men, too tired to walk farther, too weak from wounds tomove. These Uncle Peter loaded into the carriage and drove to the hospital, making trip after tripuntil the old horse was lathered. Mrs. Meade and Mrs. Merriwether sent their carriages and they,too, drove off, springs sagging beneath the weight of the wounded.

  Later, in the long, hot summer twilight, the ambulances came rumbling down the road from thebattle field and commissary wagons, covered with muddy canvas. Then farm wagons, ox carts andeven private carriages commandeered by the medical corps. They passed Aunt Pitty’s house,jolting over the bumpy road, packed with wounded and dying men, dripping blood into the reddust. At the sight of the women with buckets and dippers, the conveyances halted and the choruswent up in cries, in whispers:

  “Water!”

  Scarlett held wobbling heads that parched lips might drink, poured buckets of water over dusty,feverish bodies and into open wounds that the men might enjoy a brief moment’s relief. Shetiptoed to hand dippers to ambulance drivers and of each she questioned, her heart in her throat:

  “What news? What news?”

  From all came back the answer: “Don’t know fer sartin, lady. It’s too soon to tell.”

  Night came and it was sultry. No air moved and the flaring pine knots the negroes held made theair hotter. Dust clogged Scarlett’s nostrils and dried her lips. Her lavender calico dress, so freshlyclean and starched that morning, was streaked with blood, dirt and sweat. This, then, was whatAshley had meant when he wrote that war was not glory but dirt and misery.

  Fatigue gave an unreal, nightmarish cast to the whole scene. It couldn’t be real—or it was real,then the world had gone mad. If not, why should she be standing here in Aunt Pitty’s peaceful frontyard, amid wavering lights, pouring water over dying beaux? For so many of them were her beauxand they tried to smile when they saw her. There were so many men jolting down this dark, dustyroad whom she knew so well, so many men dying here before her eyes, mosquitoes and gnatsswarming their bloody faces, men with whom she had danced and laughed, for whom she hadplayed music and sung songs, teased, comforted and loved—a little.

  She found Carey Ashburn on the bottom layer of wounded in an ox cart; barely alive from abullet wound in his head. But she could not extricate him without disturbing six other woundedmen, so she let him go on to the hospital. Later she heard he had died before a doctor ever saw himand was buried somewhere, no one knew exactly. So many men had been buried that month, in shallow, hastily dug graves at Oakland Cemetery. Melanie felt it keenly that they had not been ableto get a lock of Carey’s hair to send to his mother in Alabama.

  As the hot night wore on and their backs were aching and their knees buckling from weariness,Scarlett and Pitty cried to man after man: “What news? What news?”

  And as the long hours dragged past, they had their answer, an answer that made them lookwhitely into each other’s eyes.

  “We’re falling back.” “We’ve got to fall back.” “They outnumber us by thousands.” “TheYankees have got Wheeler’s cavalry cut off near Decatur. We got to reinforce them.” “Our boyswill all be in town soon.”

  Scarlett and Pitty clutched each other’s arms for support.

  “Are—are the Yankees coming?”

  “Yes’m, they’re comin’ all right but they ain’t goin’ ter git fer, lady.” “Don’t fret, Miss, theycan’t take Atlanta.” “No, Ma’m, we got a million miles of breastworks ‘round this town.” “I heardOld Joe say it myself: ‘I can hold Atlanta forever.’ ” “But we ain’t got Old Joe. We got—” “Shutup, you fool! Do you want to scare the ladies?” “The Yankees will never take this place, Ma’m.”

  “Whyn’t you ladies go ter Macon or somewheres that’s safer? Ain’t you got no kinfolks there?”

  “The Yankees ain’t goin’ ter take Atlanta but still it ain’t goin’ ter be so healthy for ladies whilstthey’re tryin’ it.” “There’s goin’ ter be a powerful lot of shellin’.”

  In a warm steaming rain the next day, the defeated army poured through Atlanta by thousands,exhausted by hunger and weariness, depleted by seventy-six days of bat-tie and retreat, their horsesstarved scarecrows, their cannon and caissons harnessed with odds and ends of rope and strips ofrawhide. But they did not come in as disorderly rabble, in full rout. They marched in good order,jaunty for all their rags, their torn red battle flags flying in the rain. They had learned retreatingunder Old Joe, who had made it as great a feat of strategy as advancing. The bearded, shabby filesswung down Peachtree Street to the tune of “Maryland! My Maryland!” and all the town turnedout to cheer them. In victory or defeat, they were their boys.

  The state militia who had gone out so short a time before, resplendent in new uniforms, couldhardly be distinguished from the seasoned troops, so dirty and unkempt were they. There was anew look in their eyes. Three years of apologizing, of explaining why they were not at the frontwas behind them now. They had traded security behind the lines for the hardships of battle. Manyof their number had traded easy living for hard death. They were veterans now, veterans of briefservice, but veterans just the same, and they had acquitted themselves well. They searched out thefaces of friends in the crowd and stared at them proudly, defiantly. They could hold up their headsnow.

  The old men and boys of the Home Guard marched by, the graybeards almost too weary to lifttheir feet, the boys wearing the faces of tired children, confronted too early with adult problems.

  Scarlett caught sight of Phil Meade and hardly recognized him, so black was his face with powderand grime, so taut with strain and weariness. Uncle Henry went limping by, hatless in the rain, hishead stuck through a hole in a piece of old oilcloth. Grandpa Merriwether rode in on a guncarriage, his bare feet tied in quilt scraps. But search though she might, she saw no sign of John Wilkes.

  Johnston’s veterans, however, went by with the tireless, careless step which had carried them forthree years, and they still had the energy to grin and wave at pretty girls and to call rude gibes tomen not in uniform. They were on their way to the entrenchments that ringed the town—noshallow, hastily dug trenches, these, but earthworks, breast high, reinforced with sandbags andtipped with sharpened staves of wood. For mile after mile the trenches encircled the town, redgashes surmounted by red mounds, waiting for the men who would fill them.

  The crowd cheered the troops as they would have cheered them in victory. There was fear inevery heart but, now that they knew the truth, now that the worst had happened, now that the warwas in their front yard, a change came over the town. There was no panic now, no hysteria.

  Whatever lay in hearts did not show on faces. Everyone looked cheerful even if the cheer wasstrained. Everyone tried to show brave, confident faces to the troops. Everyone repeated what OldJoe had said, just before he was relieved of command: “I can hold Atlanta forever.”

  Now that Hood had had to retreat, quite a number wished, with the soldiers, that they had OldJoe back, but they forbore saying it and took courage from Old Joe’s remark:

  “I can hold Atlanta forever!”

  Not for Hood the cautious tactics of General Johnston. He assaulted the Yankees on the east, heassaulted them on the west. Sherman was circling the town like a wrestler seeking a fresh hold onan opponent’s body, and Hood did not remain behind his rifle pits waiting for the Yankees toattack. He went out boldly to meet them and savagely fell upon them. Within the space of a fewdays the battles of Atlanta and of Ezra Church were fought, and both of them were majorengagements which made Peachtree Creek seem like a skirmish.

  But the Yankees kept coming back for more. They had suffered heavy losses but they couldafford to lose. And all the while their batteries poured shells into Atlanta, killing people in theirhomes, ripping roofs off buildings, tearing huge craters in the streets. The townsfolk sheltered asbest they could in cellars, in holes in the ground and in shallow tunnels dug in railroad cuts.

  Atlanta was under siege.

  Within eleven days after he had taken command, General Hood had lost almost as many men asJohnston had lost in seventy-four days of battle and retreat, and Atlanta was hemmed in on threesides.

  The railroad from Atlanta to Tennessee was now in Sherman’s hands for its full length. His armywas across the railroad to the east and he had cut the railroad running southwest to Alabama. Onlythe one railroad to the south, to Macon and Savannah, was still open. The town was crowded withsoldiers, swamped with wounded, jammed with refugees, and this one line was inadequate for thecrying needs of the stricken city. But as long as this railroad could be held, Atlanta could stillstand.

  Scarlett was terrified when she realized how important this line had become, how fiercelySherman would fight to take it, how desperately Hood would fight to defend it. For this was therailroad which ran through the County, through Jonesboro. And Tara was only five miles from Jonesboro! Tara seemed like a haven of refuge by comparison with the screaming hell of Atlanta,but Tara was only five miles from Jonesboro!

  Scarlett and many other ladies sat on the flat roofs of stores, shaded by their tiny parasols, andwatched the fighting on the day of the battle of Atlanta. But when shells began falling in the streetsfor the first time, they fled to the cellars, and that night the exodus of women, children and oldpeople from the city began. Macon was their destination and many of those who took the train thatnight had already refugeed five and six times before, as Johnston fell back from Dalton. They weretraveling lighter now than when they arrived in Atlanta. Most of them carried only a carpetbag anda scanty lunch done up in a bandana handkerchief. Here and there, frightened servants carriedsilver pitchers, knives and forks and a family portrait or two which had been salvaged in the firstfight.

  Mrs. Merriwether and Mrs. Elsing refused to leave. They were needed at the hospital andfurthermore, they said proudly, they weren’t afraid and no Yankees were going to run them out oftheir homes. But Maybelle and her baby and Fanny Elsing went to Macon. Mrs. Meade wasdisobedient for the first time in her married life and flatly refused to yield to the doctor’s commandthat she take the train to safety. The doctor needed her, she said. Moreover, Phil was somewhere inthe trenches and she wanted to be near by in case ...

  But Mrs. Whiting went and many other ladies of Scarlett’s circle. Aunt Pitty, who had been thefirst to denounce Old Joe for his policy of retreat, was among the first to pack her trunks. Hernerves, she said, were delicate and she could not endure noises. She feared she might faint at anexplosion and not be able to reach the cellar. No, she was not afraid. Her baby mouth tried to set inmartial lines but failed. She’d go to Macon and stay with her cousin, old Mrs. Burr, and the girlsshould come with her.

  Scarlett did not want to go to Macon. Frightened as she was of the shells, she’d rather stay inAtlanta than go to Macon, for she hated old Mrs. Burr cordially. Years ago, Mrs. Burr had said shewas “fast” after catching her kissing her son Willie at one of the Wilkes’ house parties. No, she toldAunt Pitty, I’ll go home to Tara and Melly can go to Macon with you.

  At this Melanie began to cry in a frightened, heartbroken way. When Aunt Pitty fled to get Dr.

  Meade, Melanie caught Scarlett’s hand in hers, pleading:

  “Dear, don’t go to Tara and leave me! I’ll be so lonely without you. Oh, Scarlett, I’d just die ifyou weren’t with me when the baby came! Yes— Yes, I know I’ve got Aunt Pitty and she is sweetBut after all, she’s never had a baby, and sometimes she makes me so nervous I could scream.

  Don’t desert me, darling. You’ve been just like a sister to me, and besides,” she smiled wanly, “youpromised Ashley you’d take care of me. He told me he was going to ask you.”

  Scarlett stared down at her in wonderment. With her own dislike of this woman so strong shecould barely conceal it, how could Melly love her so? How could Melly be so stupid as not toguess the secret of her love of Ashley? She had given herself away a hundred times during thesemonths of torment, waiting for news of him. But Melanie saw nothing, Melanie who could seenothing but good in anyone she loved. ... Yes, she had promised Ashley she would look out for Melanie. Oh, Ashley! Ashley! you must be dead, dead these many months! And now your promisereaches out and clutches me!

  “Well,” she said shortly, “I did promise him that and I don’t go back on my promises. But Iwon’t go to Macon and stay with that old Burr cat. I’d claw her eyes out in five minutes. I’m goinghome to Tara and you can come with me. Mother would love to have you.”

  “Oh, I’d like that! Your mother is so sweet. But you know Auntie would just die if she wasn’twith me when the baby came, and I know she won’t go to Tara. It’s too close to the fighting, andAuntie wants to be safe.”

  Dr. Meade, who had arrived out of breath, expecting to find Melanie in premature labor at least,judging by Aunt Pitty’s alarmed summoning, was indignant and said as much. And upon learningthe cause of the upset, he settled the matter with words that left no room for argument.

  “It’s out of the question for you to go to Macon, Miss Melly. I won’t answer for you if youmove. The trains are crowded and uncertain and the passengers are liable to be put off in thewoods at any time, if the trains are needed for the wounded or troops and supplies. In your condition—”

  “But if I went to Tara with Scarlett—”

  “I tell you I won’t have you moved. The train to Tara is the train to Macon and the sameconditions prevail. Moreover, no one knows just where the Yankees are now, but they are all overeverywhere. Your train might even be captured. And even if you reached Jonesboro safely, there’dbe a five-mile ride over a rough road before you ever reached Tara. It’s no trip for a woman in adelicate condition. Besides, there’s not a doctor in the County since old Dr. Fontaine joined thearmy.”

  “But there are midwives—”

  “I said a doctor,” he answered brusquely and his eyes unconsciously went over her tiny frame. “Iwon’t have you moved. It might be dangerous. You don’t want to have the baby on the train or in abuggy, do you?”

  This medical frankness reduced the ladies to embarrassed blushes and silence.

  “You’ve got to stay right here where I can watch you, and you must stay in bed. No running upand down stairs to cellars. No, not even if shells come right in the window. After all, there’s not somuch danger here. We’ll have the Yankees beaten back in no time. ... Now, Miss Pitty, you go righton to Macon and leave the young ladies here.”

  “Unchaperoned?” she cried, aghast.

  “They are matrons,” said the doctor testily. “And Mrs. Meade is just two houses away. Theywon’t be receiving any male company anyway with Miss Melly in her condition. Good Heavens,Miss Pitty! This is war time. We can’t think of the proprieties now. We must think of Miss Melly.”

  He stamped out of the room and waited on the front porch until Scarlett joined him.

  “I shall talk frankly to you, Miss Scarlett,” he began, jerking at his gray beard. “You seem to bea young woman of common sense, so spare me your blushes. I do not want to hear any further talk about Miss Melly being moved. I doubt if she could stand the trip. She is going to have a difficulttime, even in the best of circumstances—very narrow in the hips, as you know, and probably willneed forceps for her delivery, so I don’t want any ignorant darky midwife meddling with her.

  Women like her should never have children, but— Anyway, you pack Miss Pitty’s trunk and sendher to Macon. She’s so scared she’ll upset Miss Melly and that won’t do any good. And now,Miss,” he fixed her with a piercing glance, “I don’t want to hear about you going home, either. Youstay with Miss Melly till the baby comes. Not afraid, are you?”

  “Oh, no!” lied Scarlett, stoutly.

  “That’s a brave girl. Mrs. Meade will give you whatever chaperonage you need and I’ll sendover old Betsy to cook for you, if Miss Pitty wants to take her servants with her. It won’t be forlong. The baby ought to be here in another five weeks, but you never can tell with first babies andall this shelling going on. It may come any day.”

  So Aunt Pittypat went to Macon, in floods of tears, taking Uncle Peter and Cookie with her. Thecarriage and horse she donated to the hospital in a burst of patriotism which she immediatelyregretted and that brought on more tears. And Scarlett and Melanie were left alone with Wade andPrissy in a house that was much quieter, even though the cannonading continued.

  自从战争开始以来,亚特兰大第一次听得见炮声了,每天清早城市的喧嚣还没有响起,人们就能隐隐听到肯尼萨山上的大炮在隆隆震响,那声音遥远而低沉,你还以为是夏天的雷鸣呢。有时还相当清晰,甚至从正午轰轰的铁轨声中也听得出来。人们想不去听它,想用谈话、欢笑和不断的工作来掩盖它,仿佛北方佬不在22英里外的地方,可是耳朵却要竖起来去听那个声音。城市是一副全神贯注的状态,因为尽管市民们手中都有工作,可大家仍然在谛听着,谛听着;每天总有百十来次,他们的心会突然惊跳起来。是不是炮声更响了?难道这只是他们的想象吗?这次约翰斯顿将军会不会把北方佬挡住呢,他会吗?
  人们的恐慌只不过被暂时掩盖着,没有公开显露而已。随着军队后撤而一天天越发紧张起来的神经,如今已接近爆裂点了。没有人谈到恐惧,这个话题早已成了禁忌,人们只好用大声指责将军来表现自己的紧张心理。公众情绪已达到狂热的程度。谢尔曼已经到了亚特兰大的门口。如果再后退,南部联盟的军队就要进城了。
  给我们一位不肯退却的将军吧!给我们一个愿意死守阵地进行战斗的人吧!
  到远处隆隆的炮声已充塞耳朵时,号称布朗州长的"宝贝儿郎"的民兵,以及本州的乡团,才开出亚特兰大,去保卫约翰斯顿将军背后查塔霍奇河的桥梁和渡口。那天阴云密布,一片灰沉沉的。他们穿过五点镇走马里塔大道时,便下起朦朦细雨来了。市民倾城而出,密集着站在桃树两旁商店的板篷下给他们送行,而且很想欢呼一番。
  思嘉和梅贝尔·梅里韦瑟·尔卡德向医院请了假,来到这里看这些队伍出发,因为亨利叔叔和梅里韦瑟爷爷都参加了乡团呢。她们和米德太太一起挤在人群里,踮着脚尖仔细观看。思嘉虽然也满怀着一般南方人的希望,只相信战局发展中那些最令人高兴和放心的消息,可如今看着这些混杂不堪的队伍走过时却不由得感到凄凉,毫无疑问,既然这些由老头和孩子组成的不谙征战的乌合之众都要出去打仗,局势的严峻就可想而知了!的确,眼前的队伍中也不乏年轻力壮的人,他们穿着在社会上很吃得开的民兵队的漂亮制服,帽子插着羽毛,腰间系着饰带,打扮得整整齐齐。但是也有许多老头和孩子,他们的模样叫思嘉看了又怜悯又担心,很不好受。有些白发苍苍的人比她父亲还老,他们在朦朦细雨中努力跟着军乐队的节拍步履踉跄地往前走着,梅里韦瑟爷爷肩上披着梅里韦瑟太太那条最好的方格呢围巾当雨衣,他走在最前列,装出笑脸向姑娘们表示敬意。她们也挥着手帕向他大声喊"再见!"只有梅贝尔紧紧抓住思嘉的臂膀,低声说,"啊,要是真下起大雨来,可怜的老头儿,他就完了!他的腰疼----"亨利·汉密尔顿叔叔在梅里韦瑟爷爷后面一排里走着,他那件长外套的领子向上翻起,遮住了耳朵,皮带上挂着两支墨西哥战争时代的手枪,手里提着一个小小的旅行包,他旁边是一个年纪与他差不多的黑人跟班,替他打伞遮雨,青年小伙子们同这些老头肩并肩地走着,看来没有一个是满了十六岁的。他们中间有许多是从学校逃出来参军的,现在一群群穿着军官学校学员的制服,被雨水淋湿的灰军帽上插着黑羽毛,交叉着系在胸脯上的白帆布带子也湿透了,这里面有费尔·米德,他骄傲地佩带着已故哥哥的马刀和马上用的短枪,故意把帽子歪戴着,显得十分神气。米德太太勉强微笑着向他挥手,仿佛突然要瘫倒似的,直到他走过去以后才把头搁在思嘉的肩背上歇了好一会。
  还有许多人是完全没有武装的,因为南部联盟政府既无枪支又无弹药可拿来分发给他们。这些人希望能从被俘和阵亡的北方兵身上开到衣服和武起来装备自己。他们的靴统里插着猎刀,手里拿着又粗又长、装有铁尖头名叫"布朗枪"的杆子,运气较好的则开到了老式的燧发枪,斜背在肩上,腰间还挂着装火药的牛角。
  他需要一万名新军来补充自己的队伍,约翰斯顿将军在后撤中损失了大约一万人,而这些人,思嘉想起来都害怕,就是他所得到的补充了!
  炮车隆隆地驶过,把泥水溅到围观的人群中,这时思嘉忽然注意到一个骑着骡子紧靠着一门大炮走着的黑人。他年轻,表情严肃,思嘉一见便惊叫着:“那是莫斯!艾希礼的莫斯!他在这里干什么呀?"她拼命从人群中挤到马路边去,一面呼喊着:“莫斯!停一停!"那小伙子看见了她,便勒住缰绳,高兴地微笑着,准备跳下马来。这时他背后一个骑着马的浑身湿透的中士喝道:“不许下马,否则我就毙了你!我们要准时赶到山区去呢。"莫斯看看中士,又看看思嘉,不知如何是好。于是思嘉趟着泥水走到正辚辚驶过的车辆旁边,一把抓住莫斯的马镫皮带。
  “啊,一分钟就行了,中士先生!莫斯,你用不着下马。
  你到底在这里干什么?”
  “思嘉小姐,俺动身再上前线去。这次是跟老约翰先生,不是跟艾希礼先生了。”“跟威尔克斯先生!"思嘉吓呆了。威尔克斯先生都快七十了!"他在哪儿?”“在后面最后一门大炮旁边,思嘉小姐,在后面那儿呢!”“对不起,太太。小伙子,快走吧。"思嘉在齐脚踝深的泥里站了一会,看着炮车摇摇晃晃地过去。啊,不!她心里想,他太老了,那不可能。而且他也和艾希礼一样,很不喜欢打仗呢!她向后退了几步,到了马路边上,站在那里看着每一张经过的脸。后来,最末一门大炮连同弹药箱轰响着一路溅着泥水来了,她看见了他,那个瘦高而笔挺的身躯,银白的头发湿漉漉地垂挂在头颈上,轻松地跨着一匹草莓色小母马,后者像个身穿绸缎的太太似的,从大大小小的泥水坑中精明的拣着自己的落脚点一路跑来。
  怎么,这匹母马就是乃利!塔尔顿太太的乃利!比阿特里斯·塔尔顿的心肝宝贝啊!
  威尔克斯先生看见她站在泥泞里,便高兴地微笑着把马紧靠着一门大炮走勒住,随即跳下马向她走来。
  “我本来就希望见到你,思嘉。我替你们家的人带来许多信息呢。不过现在来不及了。你一看就明白了,我们今天早晨才奉令集合,可他们赶着我们立即出发了。”“啊,威尔克斯先生,"她拉着他的手绝望地喊道:“你别去了!你干吗要去呀?”“啊,你是觉得我太老了吧!"他微笑着,这笑容跟艾希礼的一模一样,只不过面色苍老些罢了,"也许叫我走路是老了些,可骑马打枪却一点不老。而且塔尔顿太太那么慷慨,把乃利借给了我,我骑着非常舒服呢。我希望乃利不要出事才好,因此如果它有个三长两短,我就再也回不来,也没脸去见塔尔顿太太了。乃利是她留下的最后一骑马了。"他这时乐呵呵地笑起来,思嘉的恐惧心理也一扫而光。"你父母和几个姐妹都很好,他们叫我给你带了问候。你父亲今天差点跟我们一起来了。”“啊,我爸不会的!"思嘉惊恐地喊道。"你不会去打仗的,我爸不会!是吗?”“不,可是他本来想去。当然,他走不了远路他那膝盖有毛病,不过他真的很想跟我们一起骑马呢。你母亲同意了,可是要他先试试能不能跳过草场上那道篱笆,因为她说军队会遇到许多艰难险阻要骑马越过的。你父亲觉得那很容易,可是----你信不信?他的马一跑到篱笆跟前就死死地站住,而你父亲从马头上翻过去了,那可真是奇迹,居然没有摔断他的脖子!你知道他为人多么固执。他立刻爬起又跳。就这样,思嘉,他接连摔了三次,奥哈拉太太和波克才搀着他躺到床上去了。那时他仍然很不服气,赌咒发誓一定是你母亲'向马耳朵里念了什么咒语'。思嘉。他已经没法儿干什么艰苦的差事了,你也用不着为这感到丢脸。毕竟,总得有人留下来给军队种庄稼呀。"思嘉反而感到很放心了,一点也不觉得羞耻。
  “我把英迪亚和霍妮送到梅肯跟伯尔家的姑娘们住在一起了,奥哈拉先生则来回照料着塔拉和'十二橡树'村……我必须走呀,亲爱的。让我吻吻你的漂亮脸蛋儿吧。"思嘉把小嘴翘起来,同时感到喉咙里堵得忍不住了。她很喜欢威尔克斯先生。曾经有过一个时候,很久以前,她还希望当他的儿媳妇呢。
  “你一定要把这个吻带给皮蒂帕特,这一个给媚兰,"他说着,又轻轻吻了两下。"媚兰怎么样了?”“她很好。”“啊!”他的眼睛盯着她,但是通过她,而且像艾希礼那样越过她,那双漠然若失的灰眼睛在凝望着另一个世界。"我要是能看到我的大孙子就好了,再见,亲爱的。"他跃上马背,让乃利缓缓地跑起来,他的帽子仍拿在手里,满头银发任雨水淋着。思嘉还没来得及领会他最后那句话的含义便回到了梅贝尔和米德太太的身边。接着,她出于迷信的恐惧心理在自己胸前画了个十字,并想作一次祷告。他说起过死亡,就像艾希礼那样,可现在艾希礼----不,谁也不应该谈死!谈死是冒犯天意的事。三位妇女默默地动身冒雨回医院去,这时思嘉正在祈祷:“上帝,请不要怪他。他,还有艾希礼,都不要怪啊!”就这样从多尔顿向肯尼萨山的步步撤退是五月上旬到六月中采取的;接着是六月暑天的雨季,谢尔曼未能把南军从陡峭而泥滑的山坡上撵走,于是大家都高兴起来,人们又看到了希望,谈到约翰斯将军时也温和多了。从六月到七月雨水愈来愈多,南部联盟军在设防坚固的高地周围死守苦战,叫谢尔曼进退两难。这时亚特兰大更是欣喜若狂,被希望冲昏了头脑。好啊!好啊!我们把他们抓住了!这种欢欣鼓舞之情像瘟疫般普遍流传,到处是庆祝晚会的跳舞会,每当有人从前线回到城里过夜,人们都要宴请他们,接着就是舞会,参加的女孩子比男人多十倍,她们崇拜他们,抢着同他们跳舞。
  亚特兰大拥挤着游客、难民、住院伤兵的家属,以及前线士兵的妻子和母亲(她们希望自己的亲人受伤时能在身边护理他们)。此外,还有一群群年轻貌美的姑娘从乡下涌进城来,因为乡村只剩下16岁以下和60岁以上的男人了。皮蒂姑妈极力反对,她觉得她们到亚特兰大来的唯一目的只是找丈夫而已,而这种不顾廉耻的作法使她纳闷,不知这世界究竟要堕落到什么地步。思嘉也不赞成。她倒并不担心那些十六七岁姑娘所发起的竞争,尽管她们那娇嫩的面容和妩媚的微笑往往使人忘记她们身上的衣裳翻改过不止一次。脚上的鞋也修补过了。她自己的衣着比她们的漂亮得多,因为瑞德·巴特勒用他最后一艘走私船给她带来了一些很好的衣物,不过,她毕竟19岁了,并且一天天长大,而男人总是要追逐年轻傻女儿的呀!
  她想,一个拖着孩子的寡妇终究敌不过这些漂亮而轻浮的小妖精。可是在这些激动人心的日子里,她的寡妇身份和母亲身份也不再像以前那样使她感到累赘。在白天的医院工作和晚上的舞会之间,她也很少看见自己的儿子韦德。间或,在相当长的时间,她压根忘记自己有孩子了。
  在炎热潮湿的夏夜,亚特兰大的各个家庭都敞开大门欢迎保卫城市的士兵。从华盛顿大街到桃树街。所有的大厦巨宅都灯火通明,在执行那些从前线壕沟里出来的满身泥土的战士。悠扬的管弦乐声、嚓嚓嚓的舞步声和轻柔的笑声在夜雾中飘荡到很远的地方。人们围着钢琴放声歌唱《你的信来了,可是来得太晚了》,衣衫褴褛的勇士深情地注视着那些躲在羽毛扇后面讪笑的姑娘,好像恳求她们不要再等待,免得后悔莫及。其实那些姑娘只要办得到便谁也不会等待。当全城一起欢腾时,她们争先恐后涌入结婚的浪潮。在约翰斯顿将军把敌人堵截在肯尼萨山的那一个月内,便有无数对青年男女结成了眷属,这时做新娘的从朋友们那里匆匆借来华丽的服饰,把自己打扮得娇滴滴地出来了,新郎也全副武装,军刀磕碰着补好了的裤腿,威武得很。有那么多的兴奋场面,那么多的晚会,那么多令人激动、令人欢呼的情景!约翰斯顿将军把北方佬堵截在22英里之外啊!
  是的,肯尼萨山周围的防线是坚不可摧的。经过25天的激战之后,连谢尔曼将军也承认这一点了,因为他遭到了惨痛的损失。他停止正面进攻,又一次采取包抄战术,来一个大迂回,企图插入南部联盟军和亚特兰大之间。他的这一招又一次得逞了。约翰斯顿被迫放弃那些牢牢守住的高地来保卫自己的后方。他在这个战役中丧失了三分之一的兵力,剩下的人冒着大雨挣扎着疲惫不堪地向查塔霍奇河边撤退。南部联盟军已没有希望得到支援了,而北方佬控制的从田纳西往南直这阵地的铁路却源源不断地给谢尔曼运来援兵和给养。因此南军只好后撤,经过泥泞的田野向亚特兰大撤退。
  丧失了这个原以为牢不可破的阵地,亚特兰大又是一片惊慌。本来人人都相互保证过这种事决不会发生。并且度守了接连25天喜庆般的狂欢日子,可是如今这种事终于发生了!当然喽,将军会把北方佬阻挡在河对岸的。尽管上帝知道那条河就在眼前,离城只有七英里呢!
  没想到谢尔曼从北边渡河向他们包抄过来,于是疲劳的联盟军部队也被迫急忙趟着浑浊的河水,挡住敌军不让它逼近亚特兰大。他们急急忙忙在城市北面桃树沟岸边掘了浅浅的散兵壕,据以自守,可这时亚特兰大已经陷入惊恐万状之中了。
  每次后退都使敌军逼近亚特兰大一步,打一阵,退一程!
  打一阵,退一程!桃树沟离城不过五英里!将军心里究竟打的什么主意呢?
  “给我们一个愿意死守阵地进行战斗的人吧!"这呼声甚至深入到里士满去了。里士满方面知道,如果亚特兰大陷落,整个战争也就完了,因此当部队渡过查塔霍奇河以后,便把约翰斯顿将军从总指挥岗位上撤下来,让他的一个兵团司令胡德取代了他。这才使亚特兰大的感到可以松口气了。胡德不会后退。他可不像那个满脸胳腮胡、目光闪闪的肯塔基人呢!他享有"牛头犬"的美名。他会把北方佬从桃树沟赶回去的。是的,要迫使他们回到查塔霍奇河对岸,然后一步一步后退,直到返回多尔顿为止。可这时部队在大声喊叫:“把老约还给我们!"因为从多尔顿开始,他们跟约翰斯顿一起走过了漫长的苦难历程,他们懂得其中的艰难险阻,而外人却是无法理解的。
  谢尔曼也没有给胡德以准备停当来进行反攻的机会,就在联盟军撤换指挥的第二天,他的部队立即攻打了并占领距亚特兰大六英里的小镇迪凯特,截断了那里的铁路,这条铁路是亚特兰大与奥古斯塔、查尔斯顿、威尔明顿和弗吉尼亚联络的交通线,所以谢尔曼的这步棋是给了联盟军的一个致命性打击。亚特兰大人高喊要立即行动起来!行动的时刻到了!
  于是,在一个酷热的七月下午,亚特兰大人的愿望实现了。胡德将军不仅仅死守奋战而已。他在桃树沟对北方佬发起了猛烈的攻击,命令自己的部队从战壕里冲出,向人数超过自己两倍北军冲去。
  人人胆战心惊地祈祷胡德的突击能把北方佬打回去,谛听着隆隆的大炮声和噼噼啪啪的步枪声,它们尽管距市中心还有五英里,但已经响亮得几乎像在邻街一样了。人们在听到排炮轰击声的同时,还能看见烟雾像一团团低垂的白云似地在树林上空腾起,不过好几个小时里大家并不了解战斗进行实际情况。
  直到傍晚才传来第一个消息,但这消息自相矛盾,很不明确,而且令人害怕,因为它是由最初几小时内受伤的士兵带回来的,这些伤兵有的成群、有的孤零零地陆续流散回来,轻伤的搀扶着重伤的,一瘸一拐地走着,很快他们便形成了一股滔滔不绝的人流痛苦地涌进城来,向各个医院涌去,他们的面孔被硝烟、尘土和汗渍污染得像黑人似的,他们的创伤没有包扎,鲜血开始凝结,苍蝇已在周围成群飞舞。
  皮蒂姑妈家是最先接纳伤兵的几户人家之一,这些伤兵是从城北来的,他们一个又一个蹒跚着来到大门口,随即躺倒在青草地上,大声呼唤起来:“水!"皮蒂姑妈和她的一家,在那整个炎热的下午,包括白人黑人,都站在太阳底下忙着提来一桶桶的水,弄来一卷卷的绷带,分送一勺勺喝的,包扎一个个创口,直到绷带全部用完,连撕碎的床单和毛巾都用光了。皮蒂姑妈已完全忘记自己一见鲜血便要晕倒的毛病,竟一直工作到她的小脚在那双更小的鞋里肿胀起来再也站不住了为止。甚至大腹便便的媚兰也忘记自己一样,后来,她终于晕倒了,可是除了厨房里那张桌子,没有地方可以让她躺下,因为全家所有的床铺、椅子和沙发都被伤兵占了。
  在忙乱中大家把小韦德忘了,他一个人蹲在前面走廊的栏杆后边,像只关在笼里受惊的野兔,伸出脑袋窥看着草地,两只恐惧的眼睛睁得圆圆的,嘴里呤着大拇指,正在打嗝儿,思嘉一看见便大声喝道:“到后面院子里玩去!韦德·汉普顿,"可是他被眼前这混乱的情景所困惑,感到可怕了,一时还不敢到后院去。
  草地上横七竖八地躺着人,他们已浑身疲乏得不能再走,伤势重得无法挪动了,彼得大叔只好把这些人一个个搬上马车,送到医院里去,这样一趟一又一趟地赶车,弄得那匹老马也大汗淋漓,于是米德太太和梅里韦瑟太太才把她们的马车送了来,帮着一起运送,马车由于满载伤兵,压得下边的弹簧歪歪扭扭,嘎嘎作响。
  接着,在盛夏漫长的黄昏里,连绵不断的救护车从战场上一路开来了,同时还有供应部门的运货车,上面盖着溅满污泥的帆布。再后面是农场上的大车、牛车乃至被医疗团征用的私人马车。它们从皮蒂姑妈家的门前经过,满载着受伤和垂死的人在坑坑洼洼的大路上颠簸着行驶,鲜血一路流个不停,滴落在干燥的尘土里。那些开车的人一看见妇女们提着水桶拿着勺子在张望就停下来,随即发出了或高或低的一片呼喊声:“水啊!"思嘉捧着伤兵颤拌的头,让他们焦裂的嘴唇喝个痛快,接着又把一桶桶的水浇在那些肮脏发烧的躯体上,也流入裂开的伤口中,让他们享受到暂时的舒适。她还踮起脚尖把水勺送给车上的车夫,一面胆战心惊地询问他们:“有什么消息?
  什么消息?”
  所有的回答是:“太太,还不怎么清楚,一时还说上来。"天黑了,还是那么闷热,没有一丝风,加上黑人手里擎着松枝火把,就越发觉得热了。灰尘堵塞了思嘉的鼻孔,使她的嘴唇也干得难受,她那件淡紫色印花布衣裳是刚刚浆洗过的,现在已沾满了鲜血、污秽和汗渍,那么,这就是艾希礼在信上说的,战争不是光荣而肮脏的苦难了。
  由于浑身疲乏,使整个场面蒙上了一层梦魇般的迷幻色彩。这不可能是真实的----或者说,如果真实,就意味着全世界都发疯了。否则为什么她会站在皮蒂姑妈家安静的前院里,在摇曳不定的粉光下往这些垂死的年轻男人身上浇水呢?
  他们中有那么多人可以做她的情人,他们看见她时总设法要向她露出一丝微笑。那些还在这条黑暗的尘土飞扬的大路上颠簸着被源源运来的人中,也有许多是她十分熟悉的;那些在面前奄奄一息即将死去而成群的蚊子还在他们血污的脸上叮个不休的人中,有多少是她曾经一起跳舞和欢笑过,曾给他们弹过琴、唱过歌、开过玩笑,抚慰过和稍稍爱过的啊!
  她在一辆堆满伤兵牛车底层发现了凯里·阿什伯恩,他头部中了颗子弹,差一点没有死掉。可是不去碰旁边六个重伤号,要把他拉出来是不可能的,她只得让他就这样躺着去医院了。后来她听说,他没来得及见到医生就死去了,也不知埋在什么地方。那个月被埋葬的人多得数不胜数,都是在奥克兰公墓匆匆挖个浅坑,盖上红土了事。媚兰因为没有弄到凯里的一绺头发送给她母亲留作纪念而深感遗憾。
  炎热的夜渐渐深了,她们已累得腰酸腿疼,这时思嘉和皮蒂挨个儿大声询问从门口经过的人:“有什么消息?什么消息?"她们这样又挨过了几小时,才得到一个答复,可这个答复顿时使她们脸色苍白,彼此注视着默默无言了。
  “我们正在败退。”“我们只得后退了。”“他们的人数比我们多好几千呢。”“北方佬在迪卡特附近把惠勒的骑兵队拦腰截断了。我们得去支援他们。”“我们的小伙子们马上就会全部进城。"思嘉和皮蒂彼此紧紧抓住对方的胳臂,以防跌倒。
  “难道----难道北方佬就要来了吗?”
  “是的,太太,他们就要来了,不过他们是不会深入的,太太。”“别着急,小姐,他们没法占领亚特兰大。”“不,太太,我们在这个城市周围修筑了百万英里的围墙呢。”“我亲耳听老约说过:‘我能永远守住亚特兰大。'”“可是我们现在没有老约了,我们有的是----”“闭嘴,你这傻瓜!你是想吓唬太太们?”“北方佬永远也休想占领这个地方,太太。”“你们太太们怎么不到梅肯或别的安全的地方去呀?你们在那里没有亲戚吗?”“北方佬不会占领亚特兰大,不过只要他们还有这个企图,太太们留在这里就不怎么合适了。”“看来会受到猛烈的炮轰呢。"第二天下着闷热的大雨,败军成千上万地拥入亚特兰大,被为时76天的战斗和撤退拖得精疲力竭,他们又饿又累,连他们的马也得像稻草人似的。大炮和弹药箱只能用零零碎碎的麻绳和平带来捆扎搬运了。不过他们并不像一群乌合之众纷纷扰扰地拥进城来。他们迈着整齐的步伐,尽管穿着褴褛,仍显得意气洋洋,那么久经战火业已破碎的红色军旗在雨中猎猎飘扬。他们在老约的指挥下已学会了怎样有秩序地撤退,知道这种撤退与前进一样也是伟大的战略部署。那么满脸胡须,服装褴褛的队列合着《马里兰!我的马里兰》的乐曲,沿着桃树街汹涌而来。全城居民都蜂拥到大街两旁来向他们欢呼。无论胜也好,败也好,这毕竟是他们的子弟啊!
  那些不久前穿着鲜艳制服出发的本州民兵,如今已很难从久经沙场的正规军中辩认出来,因为他们已同样是浑身污泥、邋遢不整的大兵了。不过他们的目光中有一种新的神色。
  过去三年他们为自己没有上前线去而作的种种辩解,如今已通通忘记了,他们已经用后方的安逸换来了战场上的艰苦,其中有许多已抛弃舒适的生活而选择了无情的死亡。尽管入伍不久,他们现在已成了老兵,而且还很自重呢。他们从人群中找出自己的朋友,然后骄傲而又挑衅地注视着他们,他们现在能够昂起头来了。
  乡团中的老头和孩子在大队旁边行进着,那些灰白胡须的人已劳累得几乎挪不动腿了,孩子们则满脸倦容,因为他们被迫过早地肩负了成人的任务。思嘉一眼皮见费尔·米德,可是几乎认不得了,他的脸被硝烟和污泥弄得黑糊糊的,辛劳和疲乏更使他显得神色紧张,苦不堪言,亨利叔叔跛着脚走过去了,他没戴帽子,头从一块旧油布的洞里伸出来,就算披上了雨衣,梅里韦瑟爷爷坐在炮车上,光脚上扎着两块棉絮。但是无论怎样寻找,思嘉也没有找出约翰·威尔克斯来。
  不管怎样,约翰斯顿部下的老兵仍然以过去三年来那种不知疲倦和轻快自如的步伐在行进,他们还有精力向漂亮姑娘们咧嘴嬉笑,挥手致意,向那些不穿军服的男人抛出粗野的嘲弄。他们是开到环城战壕中去----这些战壕不是仓促挖成的浅沟,而是用沙袋和尖头木桩防护着的齐胸高的泥土工程。它们绵延不断地环走着城市,每隔一段距离有个切口,上面耸立着红土墩,



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