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Chapter 21

AFTER SENDING UP Melanie’s breakfast tray, Scarlett dispatched Prissy for Mrs. Meade andsat down with Wade to eat her own breakfast. But for once she had no appetite. Between hernervous apprehension over the thought that Melanie’s time was approaching and her unconsciousstraining to hear the sound of the cannon, she could hardly eat. Her heart acted very queerly,beating regularly for several minutes and then thumping so loudly and swiftly it almost made hersick at her stomach. The heavy hominy stuck in her throat like glue and never before had themixture of parched corn and ground-up yams that passed for coffee been so repulsive. Withoutsugar or cream it was bitter as gall, for the sorghum used for “long sweetening” did little toimprove the taste. After one swallow she pushed her cup away. If for no other reason she hated theYankees because they kept her from having real coffee with sugar and thick cream in it.

  Wade was quieter than usual and did not set up his every morning complaint against the hominythat he so disliked. He ate silently the spoonfuls she pushed into his mouth and washed them downwith noisily gulped water. His soft brown eyes followed her every movement, large, round asdollars, childish bewilderment in them though her own scarce-hidden fears had been communic(a) atedto him.When he hadfinished sh(as) e sent him off to the back yard to play and watchedhim toddle across the straggling grass to his playhouse with great relief.

  She arose and stood irresolutely at the foot of the stairs. She should go up and sit with Melanieand distract her mind from her coming ordeal but she did not feel equal to it. Of all days in theworld, Melanie had to pick this day to have the baby! And of all days to talk about dying!

  She sat down on the bottom step of the stairs and tried to compose herself, wondering again howyesterday’s battle had gone, wondering how today’s fighting was going. How strange to have a bigbattle going on just a few miles away and to know nothing of it! How strange the quiet of thisdeserted end of town in contrast with the day of the fighting at Peachtree Creek! Aunt Pitty’s housewas one of the last on the north side of Atlanta and with the fighting somewhere to the far south,there were no reinforcements going by at double-quick, no ambulances and staggering lines ofwalking wounded coming back. She wondered if such scenes were being enacted on the south sideof town and thanked God she was not there. If only everyone except the Meades and the Merriwethers had not refugeed from this north end of Peachtree! It made her feel forsaken andalone. She wished fervently that Uncle Peter were with her so he could go down to headquartersand learn the news. If it wasn’t for Melanie she’d go to town this very minute and learn for herself,but she couldn’t leave until Mrs. Meade arrived. Mrs. Meade. Why didn’t she come on? And wherewas Prissy?

  She rose and went out onto the front porch and looked for them impatiently, but the Meadehouse was around a shady bend in the street and she could see no one. After a long while Prissycame into view, alone, switching her skirts from side to side and looking over her shoulder toobserve the effect.

  “You’re as slow as molasses in January,” snapped Scarlett as Prissy opened the gate. “What didMrs. Meade say? How soon will she be over here?”

  “She warn’t dar,” said Prissy.

  “Where is she? When will she be home?”

  “Wel’m,” answered Prissy, dragging out her words pleasurably to give more weight to hermessage. “Dey Cookie say Miss Meade done got wud early dis mawnin’ dat young Mist’ Phil donebeen shot an’ Miss Meade she tuck de cah’ige an’ Ole Talbot an’ Betsy an’ dey done gone ter fotchhim home. Cookie say he bad hurt an’ Miss Meade ain’ gwine ter be studyin’ ‘bout comin’ uphyah.”

  Scarlett stared at her and had an impulse to shake her. Negroes were always so proud of beingthe bearers of evil tidings.

  “Well, don’t stand there like a ninny. Go down to Mrs. Merriwether’s and ask her to come up orsend her mammy. Now, hurry.”

  “Dey ain’ dar, Miss Scarlett. Ah drapped in ter pass time of de day wid Mammy on mah wayhome. Dey’s done gone. House all locked up. Spec dey’s at de horsepittle.”

  “So that’s where you were so long! Whenever I send you somewhere you go where I tell youand don’t stop to “pass any time’ with anybody. Go—”

  She stopped and racked her brain. Who was left in town among their friends who would behelpful? There was Mrs. Elsing. Of course, Mrs. Elsing didn’t like her at all these days but she hadalways been fond of Melanie.

  “Go to Mrs. Elsing’s, and explain everything very carefully and ten her to please come up here.

  And, Prissy, listen to me. Miss Melly’s baby is due and she may need you any minute now. Nowyou hurry right straight back.”

  “Yas’m,” said Prissy and, turning, sauntered down the walk at snail’s gait.

  “Hurry, you slow poke!”

  “Yas’m.”

  Prissy quickened her gait infinitesimally and Scarlett went back into the house. She hesitatedagain before going upstairs to Melanie. She would have to explain to her just why Mrs. Meadecouldn’t come and the knowledge that Phil Meade was badly wounded might upset her. Well, she’d tell a lie about it.

  She entered Melanie’s room and saw that the breakfast tray was untouched. Melanie lay on herside, her face white.

  “Mrs. Meade’s over at the hospital,” said Scarlett “But Mrs. Rising is coming. Do you feelbad?”

  “Not very,” lied Melanie. “Scarlett, how long did it take Wade to get born?”

  “Less than no time,” answered Scarlett with a cheerfulness she was far from feeling. “I was outin the yard and I didn’t hardly have time to get into the house. Mammy said it was scandalous—just like one of the darkies.”

  “I hope I’ll be like one of the darkies too,” said Melanie, mustering a smile which suddenlydisappeared as pain contorted her face.

  Scarlett looked down at Melanie’s tiny hips with none too sanguine hopes but said reassuringly:

  “Oh, it’s not really so bad.”

  “Oh, I know it isn’t. I’m afraid I’m a little coward. Is—is Mrs. Elsing coming right away?”

  “Yes, right away,” said Scarlett. “I’ll go down and get some fresh water and sponge you off. It’sso hot today.”

  She took as long a time as possible in getting the water, running to the front door every twominutes to see if Prissy were coming. There was no sign of Prissy so she went back upstairs,sponged Melanie’s perspiring body and combed out her long dark hair.

  When an hour had passed she heard scuffing negro feet coming down the street, and looking outof the window, saw Prissy returning slowly, switching herself as before and tossing her head withas many airy affectations as if she had a large and interested audience.

  “Some day, I’m going to take a strap to that little wench,” thought Scarlett savagely, hurryingdown the stairs to meet her.

  “Miss Elsing ober at de horsepittle. Dey Cookie ‘lows a whole lot of wounded sojers come in onde early train. Cookie fixin’ soup ter tek over dar. She say—”

  “Never mind what she said,” interrupted Scarlett, her heart sinking. “Put on a clean apronbecause I want you to go over to the hospital. I’m going to give you a note to Dr. Meade, and if heisn’t there, give it to Dr. Jones or any of the other doctors. And if you don’t hurry back this time,I’ll skin you alive.”

  “Yas’m.”

  “And ask any of the gentlemen for news of the fighting. If they don’t know, go by the depot andask the engineers who brought the wounded in. Ask if they are fighting at Jonesboro or near there.”

  “Gawdlmighty, Miss Scarlett!” and sudden fright was in Prissy’s black face. “De Yankees ain’ atTara, is dey?”

  “I don’t know. I’m telling you to ask for news.”

  “Gawdlmighty, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll dey do ter Maw?”

  Prissy began to bawl suddenly, loudly, the sound adding to Scarlett’s own uneasiness.

  “Stop bawling! Miss Melanie will hear you. Now go change your apron, quick.”

  Spurred to speed, Prissy hurried toward the back of the house while Scarlett scratched a hastynote on the margin of Gerald’s last letter to her—the only bit of paper in the house. As she foldedit, so that her note was uppermost, she caught Gerald’s words, “Your mother—typhoid—under nocondition—to come home—” She almost sobbed. If it wasn’t for Melanie, she’d start home, rightthis minute, if she had to walk every step of the way.

  Prissy went off at a trot, the letter gripped in her hand, and Scarlett went back upstairs, trying tothink of some plausible lie to explain Mrs. Elsing’s failure to appear. But Melanie asked noquestions. She lay upon her back, her face tranquil and sweet, and the sight of her quieted Scarlettfor a while.

  She sat down and tried to talk of inconsequential things, but the thoughts of Tara and a possibledefeat by the Yankees, prodded cruelly. She thought of Ellen dying and of the Yankees coming intoAtlanta, burning everything, killing everybody. Through it all, the dull far-off thundering persisted,rolling into her ears in waves of fear. Finally, she could not talk at all and only stared out of thewindow at the hot still street and the dusty leaves hanging motionless on the trees. Melanie wassilent too, but at intervals her quiet face was wrenched with pain.

  She said, after each pain: “It wasn’t very bad, really,” and Scarlett knew she was lying. Shewould have preferred a loud scream to silent endurance. She knew she should feel sorry forMelanie, but somehow she could not muster a spark of sympathy. Her mind was too torn with herown anguish. Once she looked sharply at the pain-twisted face and wondered why it should be thatshe, of all people in the world, should be here with Melanie at this particular time—she who hadnothing in common with her, who hated her, who would gladly have seen her dead. Well, maybeshe’d have her wish, and before the day was over too. A cold superstitious fear swept her at thisthought. It was bad luck to wish that someone were dead, almost as bad luck as to curse someone.

  Curses came home to roost, Mammy said. She hastily prayed that Melanie wouldn’t die and brokeinto feverish small talk, hardly aware of what she said. At last, Melanie put a hot hand on her wrist.

  “Don’t bother about talking, dear. I know how worried you are. I’m so sorry I’m so muchtrouble.”

  Scarlett relapsed into silence but she could not sit still. What would she do if neither the doctornor Prissy got there in time? She walked to the window and looked down the street and came backand sat down again. Then she rose and looked out of the window on the other side of the room.

  An hour went by and then another. Noon came and the sun was high and hot and not a breath ofair stirred the dusty leaves. Melanie’s pains were harder now. Her long hair was drenched in sweatand her gown stuck in wet spots to her body. Scarlett sponged her face in silence but fear wasgnawing at her. God in Heaven, suppose the baby came before the doctor arrived! What would shedo? She knew less than nothing of midwifery. This was exactly the emergency she had beendreading for weeks. She had been counting on Prissy to handle the situation if no doctor should beavailable. Prissy knew all about midwifery. She’d said so time and again. But where was Prissy?

  Why didn’t she come? Why didn’t the doctor come? She went to the window and looked again.

  She listened hard and suddenly she wondered if it were only her imagination or if the sound ofcannon in the distance had died away. If it were farther away it would mean that the fighting wasnearer Jonesboro and that would mean—At last she saw Prissy coming down the street at a quick trot and she leaned out of the window.

  Prissy, looking up, saw her and her mouth opened to yell. Seeing the panic written on the littleblack face and fearing she might alarm Melanie by crying out evil tidings, Scarlett hastily put herfinger to her lips and left the window.

  “I’ll get some cooler water,” she said, looking down into Melanie’s dark, deep-circled eyes andtrying to smile. Then she hastily left the room, closing the door carefully behind her.

  Prissy was sitting on the bottom step in the hall, panting.

  “Dey’s fightin’ at Jonesboro, Miss Scarlett! Dey say our gempmums is gittin’ beat. Oh, Gawd,Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen ter Maw an’ Poke? Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen ter useffen de Yankees gits hyah? Oh, Gawd—”

  Scarlett clapped a hand over the blubbery mouth.

  “For God’s sake, hush!”

  Yes, what would happen to them if the Yankees came—what would happen to Tara? She pushedthe thought firmly back into her mind and grappled with the more pressing emergency. If shethought of these things, she’d begin to scream and bawl like Prissy.

  “Where’s Dr. Meade? When’s he coming?”

  “Ah ain’ nebber seed him, Miss Scarlett.”

  “What!”

  “No’m, he ain’ at de horsepittle. Miss Merriwether an’ Miss Elsing ain’ dar needer. A man hetole me de doctah down by de car shed wid the wounded sojers jes’ come in frum Jonesboro, butMiss Scarlett, Ah wuz sceered ter go down dar ter de shed—dey’s folkses dyin’ down dar. Ah’ssceered of daid folkses—”

  “What about the other doctors?”

  “Miss Scarlett, fo’ Gawd, Ah couldn’ sceercely git one of dem ter read yo’ note. Dey wukin’ inde horsepittle lak dey all done gone crazy. One doctah he say ter me, ‘Damn yo’ hide! Doan youcome roun’ hyah bodderin’ me ‘bout babies w’en we got a mess of men dyin’ hyah. Git somewoman ter he’p you.’ An’ den Ah went aroun’ an’ about an’ ask fer news lak you done tole me an’

  dey all say ‘fightin’ at Jonesboro’ an’ Ah—”

  “You say Dr. Meade’s at the depot?”

  “Yas’m. He—”

  “Now, listen sharp to me. I’m going to get Dr. Meade and I want you to sit by Miss Melanie anddo anything she says. And if you so much as breathe to her where the fighting is, I’ll sell you Southas sure as gun’s iron. And don’t you tell her that the other doctors wouldn’t come either. Do youhear?”

  “Yas’m.”

  “Wipe your eyes and get a fresh pitcher of water and go on up. Sponge her off. Tell her I’vegone for Dr. Meade.”

  “Is her time nigh, Miss Scarlett?”

  “I don’t know. I’m afraid it is but I don’t know. You should know. Go on up.”

  Scarlett caught up her wide straw bonnet from the console table and jammed it on her head. Shelooked in the mirror and automatically pushed up loose strands of hair but she did not see her ownreflection. Cold little ripples of fear that started in the pit of her stomach were radiating outwarduntil the fingers that touched her cheeks were cold, though the rest of her body streamed perspiration.

  She hurried out of the house and into the heat of the sun. It was blindingly, glaring hot and asshe hurried down Peachtree Street her temples began to throb from the heat. From far down thestreet she could hear the rise and fall and roar of many voices. By the time she caught sight of theLeyden house, she was beginning to pant, for her stays were tightly laced, but she did not slow hergait. The roar of noise grew louder.

  From the Leyden house down to Five Points, the street seethed with activity, the activity of ananthill just destroyed. Negroes were running up and down the street, panic in their faces; and onporches, white children sat crying untended. The street was crowded with army wagons andambulances filled with wounded and carriages piled high with valises and pieces of furniture. Menon horseback dashed out of side streets pell-mell down Peachtree toward Hood’s headquarters. Infront of the Bonnell house, old Amos stood holding the head of the carriage horse and he greetedScarlett with rolling eyes.

  “Ain’t you gone yit, Miss Scarlett? We is goin’ now. Ole Miss packin’ her bag.”

  “Going? Where?”

  “Gawd knows, Miss. Somewheres. De Yankees is comin’!”

  She hurried on, not even saying good-by. The Yankees were coming! At Wesley Chapel, shepaused to catch her breath and wait for her hammering heart to subside. If she did not quiet herselfshe would certainly faint As she stood clutching a lamp post for support, she saw an officer onhorseback come charging up the street from Five Points and, on an impulse, she ran out into thestreet and waved at him.

  “Oh, stop! Please, stop!”

  He reined in so suddenly the horse went back on its haunches, pawing the air. There were harshlines of fatigue and urgency in his face but his tattered gray hat was off with a sweep.

  “Madam?”

  “Tell me, is it true? Are the Yankees coming?”

  “I’m afraid so.”

  “Do you know so?”

  “Yes, Ma’m. I know so. A dispatch came in to headquarters half an hour ago from the fighting at Jonesboro.”

  “At Jonesboro? Are you sure?”

  “I’m sure. There’s no use telling pretty lies, Madam. The message was from General Hardee andit said: ‘I have lost the battle and am in full retreat.’ ”

  “Oh, my God!”

  The dark face of the tired man looked down without emotion. He gathered the reins again andput on his hat.

  “Oh, sir, please, just a minute. What shall we do?”

  “Madam, I can’t say. The army is evacuating Atlanta soon.”

  “Going off and leaving us to the Yankees?”

  “I’m afraid so.”

  The spurred horse went off as though on springs and Scarlett was left standing in the middle ofthe street with the red dust thick upon her ankles.

  The Yankees were coming. The army was leaving. The Yankees were coming. What should shedo? Where should she run? No, she couldn’t run. There was Melanie back there in the bedexpecting that baby. Oh, why did women have babies? If it wasn’t for Melanie she could takeWade and Prissy and hide in the woods where the Yankees could never find them. But she couldn’ttake Melanie to the woods. No, not now. Oh, if she’d only had the baby sooner, yesterday even,perhaps they could get an ambulance and take her away and hide her somewhere. But now—shemust find Dr. Meade and make him come home with her. Perhaps he could hurry the baby.

  She gathered up her skirts and ran down the street, and the rhythm of her feet was “The Yankeesare coming! The Yankees are coming!” Five Points was crowded with people who rushed here andthere with unseeing eyes, jammed with wagons, ambulances, ox carts, carriages loaded withwounded. A roaring sound like the breaking of surf rose from the crowd.

  Then a strangely incongruous sight struck her eyes. Throngs of women were coming up fromthe direction of the railroad tracks carrying hams across their shoulders. Little children hurried bytheir sides, staggering under buckets of steaming molasses. Young boys dragged sacks of corn andpotatoes. One old man struggled along with a small barrel of flour on a wheelbarrow. Men, womenand children, black and white, hurried, hurried with straining faces, lugging packages and sacksand boxes of food—more food than she had seen in a year. The crowd suddenly gave a lane for acareening carriage and through the lane came the frail and elegant Mrs. Elsing, standing up in thefront of her victoria, reins in one hand, whip in the other. She was hatless and white faced and herlong gray hair streamed down her back as she lashed the horse like a Fury. Jouncing on the backseat of the carriage was her black mammy, Melissy, clutching a greasy side of bacon to her withone hand, while with the other and both feet she attempted to hold the boxes and bags piled allabout her. One bag of dried peas had burst and the peas strewed themselves into the street Scarlettscreamed to her, but the tumult of the crowd drowned her voice and the carriage rocked madly by.

  For a moment she could not understand what it all meant and then, remembering that thecommissary warehouses were down by the railroad tracks, she realized that the army had thrown them open to the people to salvage what they could before the Yankees came.

  She pushed her way swiftly through the crowds, past the packed, hysterical mob surging in theopen space of Five Points, and hurried as fast as she could down the short block toward the depot.

  Through the tangle of ambulances and the clouds of dust, she could see doctors and stretcherbearers bending, lifting, hurrying. Thank God, she’d find Dr. Meade soon. As she rounded thecorner of the Atlanta Hotel and came in full view of the depot and the tracks, she halted appalled.

  Lying in the pitiless sun, shoulder to shoulder, head to feet, were hundreds of wounded men,lining the tracks, the sidewalks, stretched out in endless rows under the car shed. Some lay stiffand still but many writhed under the hot sun, moaning. Everywhere, swarms of flies hovered overthe men, crawling and buzzing in their faces, everywhere was blood, dirty bandages, groans,screamed curses of pain as stretcher bearers lifted men. The smell of sweat, of blood, of unwashedbodies, of excrement rose up in waves of blistering heat until the fetid stench almost nauseated her.

  The ambulance men hurrying here and there among the prostrate forms frequently stepped onwounded men, so thickly packed were the rows, and those trodden upon stared stolidly up, waitingtheir turn.

  She shrank back, clapping her hand to her mouth feeling that she was going to vomit. Shecouldn’t go on. She had seen wounded men in the hospitals, wounded men on Aunt Pitty’s lawnafter the fighting at the creek, but never anything like this. Never anything like these stinking,bleeding bodies broiling under the glaring sun. This was an inferno of pain and smell and noiseand hurry—hurry—hurry! The Yankees are coming! The Yankees are coming! She braced hershoulders and went down among them, straining her eyes among the upright figures to distinguishDr. Meade. But she discovered she could not look for him, for if she did not step carefully shewould tread on some poor soldier. She raised her skirts and tried to pick her way among themtoward a knot of men who were directing the stretcher bearers.

  As she walked, feverish hands plucked at her skirt and voices croaked: “Lady—water! Please,lady, water! For Christ’s sake, water!”

  Perspiration came down her face in streams as she pulled her skirts from clutching hands. If shestepped on one of these men, she’d scream and faint. She stepped over dead men, over men wholay dull eyed with hands clutched to bellies where dried blood had glued torn uniforms to wounds,over men whose beards were stiff with blood and from whose broken jaws came sounds whichmust mean:

  “Water! Water!”

  If she did not find Dr. Meade soon, she would begin screaming with hysteria. She looked towardthe group of men under the car shed and cried as loudly as she could: “Dr. Meade! Is Dr. Meadethere?”

  From the group one man detached himself and looked toward her. It was the doctor. He wascoatless and his sleeves were rolled up to his shoulders. His shirt and trousers were as red as abutcher’s and even the end of his iron-gray beard was matted with blood. His face was the face of aman drunk with fatigue and impotent rage and burning pity. It was gray and dusty, and sweat hadstreaked long rivulets across his cheeks. But his voice was calm and decisive as he called to her.

  “Thank God, you are here. I can use every pair of hands.”

  For a moment she stared at him bewildered, dropping her skirts in dismay. They fell over thedirty face of a wounded man who feebly tried to turn his head to escape from their smotheringfolds. What did the doctor mean? The dust from the ambulances came into her face with chokingdryness, and the rotten smells were like a foul liquid in her nostrils.

  “Hurry, child! Come here.”

  She picked up her skirts and went to him as fast as she could go across the rows of bodies. Sheput her hand on his arm and felt that it was trembling with weariness but there was no weakness inhis face.

  “Oh, Doctor!” she cried. “You must come. Melanie is having her baby.”

  He looked at her as if her words did not register on his mind. A man who lay upon the ground ather feet, his head pillowed on his canteen, grinned up companionably at her words.

  “They will do it,” he said cheerfully.

  She did not even look down but shook the doctor’s arm.

  “It’s Melanie. The baby. Doctor, you must come. She— the—” This was no time for delicacybut it was hard to bring out the words with the ears of hundreds of strange men listening.

  “The pains are getting hard. Please, Doctor!”

  “A baby? Great God!” thundered the doctor and his face was suddenly contorted with hate andrage, a rage not directed at her or at anyone except a world wherein such things could happen.

  “Are you crazy? I can’t leave these men. They are dying, hundreds of them. I can’t leave them fora damned baby. Get some woman to help you. Get my wife.”

  She opened her mouth to ten him why Mrs. Meade could not come and then shut it abruptly. Hedid not know his own son was wounded! She wondered if he would still be here if he did know,and something told her that even if Phil were dying he would still be standing on this spot, givingaid to the many instead of the one.

  “No, you must come, Doctor. You know you said she’d have a hard time—” Was it really she,Scarlett, standing here saying these dreadful indelicate things at the top of her voice in this hell ofheat and groans? “She’ll die if you don’t come!”

  He shook off her hand roughly and spoke as though he hardly heard her, hardly knew what shesaid.

  “Die? Yes, they’ll all die—all these men. No bandages, no salves, no quinine, no chloroform.

  Oh, God, for some morphia! Just a little morphia for the worst ones. Just a little chloroform. Goddamn the Yankees! God damn the Yankees!”

  “Give um hell, Doctor!” said the man on the ground, his teeth showing in his beard.

  Scarlett began to shake and her eyes burned with tears of fright. The doctor wasn’t coming withher. Melanie would die and she had wished that she would die. The doctor wasn’t coming.

  “Name of God, Doctor! Please!”

  Dr. Meade bit his lip and his jaw hardened as his face went cool again.

  “Child, I’ll try. I can’t promise you. But I’ll try. When we get these men tended to. The Yankeesare coming and the troops are moving out of town. I don’t know what they’ll do with the wounded.

  There aren’t any trains. The Macon line has been captured. ... But I’ll try. Run along now. Don’tbother me. There’s nothing much to bringing a baby. Just tie up the cord. …”

  He turned as an orderly touched his arm and began firing directions and pointing to this and thatwounded man. The man at her feet looked up at Scarlett compassionately. She turned away, for thedoctor had forgotten her.

  She picked her way rapidly through the wounded and back to Peachtree Street. The doctorwasn’t coming. She would have to see it through herself. Thank God, Prissy knew all aboutmidwifery. Her head ached from the heat and she could feel her basque, soaking wet fromperspiration, sticking to her. Her mind felt numb and so did her legs, numb as in a nightmare whenshe tried to run and could not move them. She thought of the long walk back to the house and itseemed interminable.

  Then, “The Yankees are coming!” began to beat its refrain in her mind again. Her heart began topound and new life came into her limbs. She hurried into the crowd at Five Points, now so thickthere was no room on the narrow sidewalks and she was forced to walk in the street. Long lines ofsoldiers were passing, dust covered, sodden with weariness. There seemed thousands of them,bearded, dirty, their guns slung over their shoulders, swiftly passing at route step. Cannon rolledpast, the drivers flaying the thin mules with lengths of rawhide. Commissary wagons with torncanvas covers rocked through the ruts. Cavalry raising clouds of choking dust went past endlessly.

  She had never seen so many soldiers together before. Retreat! Retreat! The army was moving out.

  The hurrying lines pushed her back onto the packed sidewalk and she smelled the reek of cheapcorn whisky. There were women in the mob near Decatur Street, garishly dressed women whosebright finery and painted faces gave a discordant note of holiday. Most of them were drunk and thesoldiers on whose arms they hung were drunker. She caught a fleeting glimpse of a head of redcurls and saw that creature, Belle Watling, heard her shrill drunken laughter as she clung forsupport to a one-armed soldier who reeled and staggered.

  When she had shoved and pushed her way through the mob for a block beyond Five Points thecrowd thinned a little and, gathering up her skirts, she began to run again. When she reachedWesley Chapel, she was breathless and dizzy and sick at her stomach. Her stays were cutting herribs in two. She sank down on the steps of the church and buried her head in her hands until shecould breathe more easily. If she could only get one deep breath, way down in her abdomen. If herheart would only stop bumping and drumming and cavorting. If there were only someone in thismad place to whom she could turn.

  Why, she had never had to do a thing for herself in all her life. There had always been someoneto do things for her, to look after her, shelter and protect her and spoil her. It was incredible thatshe could be in such a fix. Not a friend, not a neighbor to help her. There had always been friends,neighbors, the competent hands of willing slaves. And now in this hour of greatest need, there wasno one. It was incredible that she could be so completely alone, and frightened, and far from home.

  Home! If she were only home, Yankees or no Yankees. Home, even if Ellen was sick. Shelonged for the sight of Ellen’s sweet face, for Mammy’s strong arms around her.

  She rose dizzily to her feet and started walking again. When she came in sight of the house, shesaw Wade swinging on the front gate. When he saw her, his face puckered and he began to cry,holding up a grubby bruised finger.

  “Hurt!” he sobbed. “Hurt!”

  “Hush! Hush! Hush! Or I’ll spank you. Go out in the back yard and make mud pies and don’tmove from there.”

  “Wade hungwy,” he sobbed and put tin hurt finger in his mouth.

  “I don’t care. Go in the back yard and—” She looked up and saw Prissy leaning out of theupstairs window, fright and worry written on her face; but in an instant they were wiped away inrelief as she saw her mistress. Scarlett beckoned to her to come down and went into the house.

  How cool it was in the hall. She untied her bonnet and flung it on the table, drawing her forearmsacross her wet forehead. She heard the upstairs door open and a low wailing moan, wrenched fromthe depths of agony, came to her ears. Prissy came down the stairs three at a time.

  “Is de doctah come?”

  “No. He can’t come.”

  “Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Miss Melly bad off!”

  “The doctor can’t come. Nobody can come. You’ve got to bring the baby and I’ll help you.”

  Prissy’s mouth fell open and her tongue wagged wordlessly. She looked at Scarlett sideways andscuffed her feet and twisted her thin body.

  “Don’t look so simple minded!” cried Scarlett, infuriated at her silly expression. “What’s thematter?”

  Prissy edged back up the stairs.

  “Fo’ Gawd, Miss Scarlett—” Fright and shame were in her rolling eyes.

  “Well?”

  “Fo’ Gawd, Miss Scarlett! We’s got ter have a doctah. Ah—Ah—Miss Scarlett, Ah doan knownuthin’ ‘bout bringin’ babies. Maw wouldn’ nebber lemme be ‘round folkses whut wuz havin’

  dem.”

  All the breath went out of Scarlett’s lungs in one gasp of horror before rage swept her. Prissymade a lunge past her, bent on flight, but Scarlett grabbed her.

  “You black liar—what do you mean? You’ve been saying you knew everything about birthingbabies. What is the truth? Tell me!” She shook her until the kinky head rocked drunkenly.

  “Ah’s lyin’, Miss Scarlett! Ah doan know huccome Ah tell sech a lie. Ah jes’ see one babybirthed, an’ Maw she lak ter wo’ me out fer watchin’.”

  Scarlett glared at her and Prissy shrank back, trying to pull loose. For a moment her mind refused to accept the truth, but when realization finally came to her that Prissy knew no more aboutmidwifery than she did, anger went over her like a flame. She had never struck a slave in all herlife, but now she slapped the black cheek with all the force in her tired arm. Prissy screamed at thetop of her voice, more from fright than pain, and began to dance up and down, writhing to breakScarlett’s grip.

  As she screamed, the moaning from the second floor ceased and a moment later Melanie’svoice, weak and trembling, called: “Scarlett? Is it you? Please come! Please!”

  Scarlett dropped Prissy’s arm and the wench sank whimpering to the steps. For a momentScarlett stood still, looking up, listening to the low moaning which had begun again. As she stoodthere, it seemed as though a yoke descended heavily upon her neck, felt as though a heavy loadwere harnessed to it, a load she would feel as soon as she took a step.

  She tried to think of all the things Mammy and Ellen had done for her when Wade was born butthe merciful blurring of the childbirth pains obscured almost everything in mist. She did recall afew things and she spoke to Prissy rapidly, authority in her voice.

  “Build a fire in the stove and keep hot water boiling in the kettle. And bring up all the towelsyou can find and that ball of twine. And get me the scissors. Don’t come telling me you can’t findthem. Get them and get them quick. Now hurry.”

  She jerked Prissy to her feet and sent her kitchenwards with a shove. Then she squared hershoulders and started up the stairs. It was going to be difficult, telling Melanie that she and Prissywere to deliver her baby.

  思嘉给媚兰端来早点之后,即刻打发百里茜去请米德太太,接着便和韦德一起坐下来吃早餐,但是,她似乎生气第一次没有什么食欲。她既要担心媚兰已濒临分娩,因此神经质地感到恐慌,又要常常不由自主浑身紧张地倾听远处的炮声,结果就什么也吃不下了。她的心脏也显得有点古怪,在有规律地搏动几分钟之后,总要急速地怦怦乱蹦一阵,蹦得胃都要翻出来似的。稠稠的玉米粥像胶粘在喉咙里咽不下去,连作为咖啡代用品的烤玉米粉和山芋粉的混合饮斜也从来没有像今天这样难吃过。既没有糖,又没有奶酪,这种饮料苦得像胆汁,尽管放了所谓"长效糖剂"的高粱饴糖也还是苦。
  她硬着头咽了一口,便把杯子推开了。即使没有其他原因,单凭她吃不到放糖和奶酪真正咖啡,她就恨死了北方佬。
  韦德倒是比平时安静了些,也不像每天早晨那样叫嚷不要吃他所厌恶的玉米粥了。她一勺勺地送到他嘴边,他也乖乖地吃着,和着开水一声不响地大口大口咽下去。他那温柔的褐色的眼睛瞪得像银币一样,追踪着她的一举一动,眼睛里流露出童稚和惶惑,仿佛思嘉内心的恐惧也传给他了。他吃完以后,思嘉把他支到后院去玩,望着他蹒跚地横过凌乱的草地向他的游戏室走去。心里轻松多了,这才如释重负。
  她起身来到楼梯脚下,犹豫不定地站在那里。她理应上楼去陪伴媚兰,设法缓和她的紧张情绪,让她不要害怕面临的这场考验,可是她觉得自己没有这个本领。媚兰为什么不迟不早偏偏要在这个时候生孩子呢!而且偏偏要在这个时候谈起死呀活呀这样的话来!
  她在最底下的一步楼梯上坐下来,试着让自己镇静一些,可是随即又想起的战事,不知结果如何,今天又打得怎样了。
  一场大战就在几英里之外进行,可是你一点也不知道,这显得多么奇怪啊!这个被遗孀的城郊今天竟如此寂静,这跟桃树沟大战的日子对比起来,显得多么奇怪!皮蒂姑妈的住宅是亚特兰大北部最末的一幢房子,而目前的战斗是在南边远处某个地方进行,因此这里既没有加速前进的支援部队经过,也没有救护车和松松垮垮的伤兵队伍从前线回来。她很想知道城市南端的情况会不会也是这样,并且庆幸自己没有住在那里。要是除米德家和梅里韦瑟家以外的所有人家并没有从桃树街北端逃难出去,那多好啊!他们一走,她就觉得寂寞孤单了。她真希望彼得大叔还留在身边,那样他便可以到司令部去打探消息。要不是为了媚兰,她这时也可以亲自去打听,现在她只好等米德太太来了以后再出去了。米德太太,她为什么还没来呢?百里茜哪儿去了呢?
  她站起来往外走,到前面走廊,焦急地盼望她们,可米德家的住宅在街上一个隐蔽的拐弯处,她什么也没有瞧见。过了好一会,百里茜才来了,她独个儿慢悠悠地走着,好像准备走一整天似的,还故意将裙子左右摇摆,并不时回过头去看看后面有没有人注意。
  “你可是冬天的糖浆,好,糊啊!"百里茜一进大门,思嘉便厉声批评她。”她能不能马上就过来?米德太太怎么说的?”“她不在,"百里茜说。
  “她上哪儿去了?什么时候能回来?”
  “唔,太太,"百里茜回答,故意拖长声音强调她这消息的重要,"他们家的厨娘说,米德太太今天清早得到消息说,小费尔先生给打伤了,米德太太就坐上马车,带着老塔博特和贝特茜一起去了,他们要把他接回来。厨娘说他伤得重,米德太太大概不打算到咱们这边来了。"思嘉瞪眼看着她,真想搡她几下。这些黑人总是很得意自己能带回这种坏消息。
  “好了,别站在这里发呆了。赶快到梅里韦瑟太太家去一趟,请她过来,快去。”“她们也不在,思嘉小姐。刚才俺回家碰到她家的嬷嬷,还在一起聊来着。她们也出去了。俺猜她们是在医院里。门都锁了。”“所以你才去了那么久呀!每回我打发你出去,叫你到哪里就到哪里,不许中途跟人'聊',知道了吗?现在,你到----"思嘉停下来苦苦思索。她的朋友中还有谁留在这里能够帮忙呢?有埃尔辛太太。当然,埃尔辛太太近来一直不喜欢她,可是对媚兰始终很好。
  “到埃尔辛太太家去,向她把事情仔细说清楚,请她到这里来一下。还有,百里茜,听我说,媚兰小姐的孩子快生了,她随时都可能要你帮忙。好,你快去快回。”“是的,太太,"百里茜说着就转身慢腾腾地像蜗牛似地朝车道上走去。
  “你这懒骨头快一点!”
  “是的,太太。”
  百里茜这才稍稍加快了脚步,思嘉也回到屋里来。她又迟疑着没有立即上楼去看媚兰。她得向媚兰解释清楚,为什么米德太太不能来,可是费尔受重伤的事她听了会难过的。好吧,这一点就瞒过她算了。
  她走进媚兰房里,发现那盘早点还没动过。媚兰侧身躺在床上,脸色像白纸一样。
  “米德太太上医院去了,"思嘉说。"不过埃尔辛太太马上就来。你痛得厉害吗?”“不怎么厉害。"媚兰撒谎说。"思嘉,你生韦德时花了多久的时间?”“不到一会儿工夫,"思嘉不自觉地用愉快的口气回答。
  “当时我正在外面院子里,几乎来不及进屋。嬷嬷说那样很不体面----简直就像个黑人。”“我倒是巴不得也像个黑人呢,"媚兰说,一面勉强装出一丝微笑,可是这笑容随即消失,一阵剧痛把她的脸歪得不成样子了。
  思嘉怀着没有一丝乐观的心情低头看看媚兰那窄小的臀部,但还是用安慰的口气说:“唔,看来也并不怎么样嘛。”“唔,不怎么样我知道。我只怕自己有点胆校是不是----埃尔辛太太马上就会来吧?”“是的,马上,"思嘉说,"我下楼去打盆清水来,用海绵给你擦擦。今天好热埃"她借口打水在楼下尽可能多待些时候,每隔两分钟就跑到前门去看看百里茜是不是回来了。可是百里茜连影子也没有,于是她只好回到楼上,用海绵给媚兰擦洗汗淋淋的身子,然后又替她梳理好那一头长长的黑发。
  一小时后,她听见有个黑人拖沓脚步声从街上传过来了,便急忙向窗外望去,只见百里茜仍像刚才那样扭着腰,晃着脑袋慢慢腾腾地走回家来,仿佛周围有一大群热心的围观者似的。她一路上装模作样。
  “总有一天我要给你这小娼妇拴上一根皮带。"思嘉在心里恶狠狠地说,一面急急忙忙跑下楼去接她。
  “埃尔辛太太到医院去了。他们家的厨娘说,今天早上火车运来了大批伤兵。厨娘正在做汤给那边送去呢。她说----”“别管她说什么了,"思嘉插嘴说,她的心正往下沉。"快去系上一条干净的围裙,我要你上医院去一趟。我写个字条,你给米德大夫送去。如果他不在那里,就交给琼斯大夫,或者别的无论哪位大夫。你这次要不赶快回来,我就要活活剥你的皮。”“是的,太太。”“顺便向那里的先生们打听一下战争的消息。要是他们不知道,就走到车站去问问那些运伤兵来的火车司机。问问他们,是不是在琼斯博罗或者靠近那里的地方打仗?”“我的老天爷!"百里茜黝黑的脸上突然一片惊慌。"思嘉小姐,北方佬还没到塔拉吧,是吗?”“我不知道。我是叫你去打听呀。”“我的老天爷!思嘉小姐他们会怎样对待俺妈呢?"百里茜突然大声嚎叫起来,那声音使思嘉越发不安了。
  “媚兰小姐会听见的,你别嚎了。现在快去换下你的围裙,快去。"百里茜被迫加快了速度,她急忙跑到后屋去,于是思嘉在杰拉尔德上次来信----这是家里唯一的一张纸了----的边沿上匆匆写了几句话。她把信纸叠起来,把她的短简叠在顶上边,这时她偶尔瞧见杰拉尔德写的几个字:“你母亲----伤寒病----无论如何----回家----"她差点哭了。要不是为了媚兰,她会即刻动身回去的,哪怕只能一路上步行到家也行!
  百里茜一手象着那封信,快步走出门去,思嘉也回到楼上,一面思忖着怎样能骗过媚兰,说明埃尔辛太太为什么没来。不过媚兰并没有问起这件事。她仰身躺着,面容平静而温柔,这情景使思嘉也暂时安心了。
  她坐下来,试着说些无关紧要的事情,但是心里对塔拉的悬念,以及对于北方佬可能得逞的忧虑,仍在无情地折磨着她。她心想爱伦已奄奄一息,而北方佬即将闯入亚特兰大,逢人便杀,见东西便烧。就在这样胡思乱想时,远处隐约的隆隆炮声仍不断地轰着她耳鼓,激起一阵阵恐惧的气氛。最后,她实在谈不下去了,只好凝望着窗外炎热寂静的街道和静静地挂在枝头的积满灰尘的树叶。媚兰默默无言,可是她那张平静的脸在一阵阵扭曲,这说明她的阵痛更加频繁了。
  她每次阵痛过后总是说:“不怎么样的,真的,"可思嘉知道这是撒谎。她宁愿听到一声尖叫而看不惯这样默默地忍受。她知道自己应当为媚兰感到难过,但是无论如何也挤不出来一丝温暖的同情来。她的心被她自己的痛楚折磨得太惨了。有一回,她狠狠地盯着那张痛得扭曲的脸,心想为什么在这个世界上千千万万人中,偏偏是她要在这个时候守在这里陪着媚兰,而她跟这个人毫无共同之处,她恨这个人,甚至还巴不得她快点死呢。好吧,也许她这愿望会实现,今天就会实现了。想到这里,她不觉打了个不祥的冷战。据说希望某个人快死,就像诅咒人一样,是不会有好结果的。如嬷嬷说的,诅咒别人的人必定自作自受。于是她赶快祈祷,求上帝保佑媚兰不死,并且又热切地胡扯起来,连自己也不知在说些什么。末了,媚兰伸出一只滚烫的手放在她的手腕上。
  “我明白你心里多么着急。别费苦心来找话说了,亲爱的。
  我很抱歉给你添了这许多麻烦。”
  思嘉这才沉默下来,可是没法静静地坐着。如果大夫和百里茜谁都不能按时赶到,那她怎么办呢?她走到窗口,看看下面的大街,然后又回来坐下。接着又站起身来,向屋里另一边的窗外看去。
  一小时又一小时过去。到了中午太阳当头时就越发炎热起来,静静的树叶中不见一丝风影。这时媚兰的阵痛更厉害了。思嘉悄悄用海绵给她揩脸,但心里十分害怕。老天爷,看来在大夫到达之前孩子就要降生了!这叫她怎么办呢?对于接生的事她可一窃不通。这正是几星期以来她一直在担心的紧急关头啊!她一直在指望着百里茜来应付这个场面,如果到时找不到大夫的话。百里茜在接生方面是个行家呢。她说过不只一次了。可如今百里茜在哪里呢?她怎的还没回来呀?
  怎么大夫也没来呀?她又一次跑到窗口去看。她仔细一听,突然觉得好像远处的大炮声停息了,或者,这只不过是她的想象?如果炮声已经更远,那就意味着战争已更加靠近琼斯博罗,意味着----终于她看见百里茜沿大街匆匆走过来,于是把半个身子探出窗外。这时百里茜也抬头看见了她,她正要张嘴叫她。思嘉看见那张小黑脸上一片惊慌,生怕她喊出可怕的消息来吓坏了媚兰,便赶快将手指放在嘴唇上示意她不要作声,然后离开窗口。
  “我想去打点凉一些的水来,"她俯视着媚兰那双深陷的黑眼睛,勉强微笑着说。接着她急忙出来,小心地把门关上。
  百里茜气喘吁吁地坐在过厅的楼梯脚下。
  “他们在琼斯博罗打起来了,思嘉小姐!他们说咱们的军队快打败了。啊,上帝,思嘉小姐!要是北方佬到这儿来了,咱们会怎么样呢?啊,上帝----"思嘉一手把那张哭嚷的嘴捂住了。
  “你别嚷了,看在上帝面上!”
  是呀,如果北方佬来了,他们会怎么样呢----塔拉会怎么样呢?她极力把这个念头推到脑后,尽可能抓住当前这个更为迫切的问题。要是她还一心去想那些事情,她就会像百里茜那样嚎叫起来了。
  “米德大夫呢,他什么时候来?”
  “俺压根儿没看见他,思嘉小姐。”
  “什么?”
  “他不在医院。梅里韦瑟太太和埃尔辛太太也不在。有个人跟俺说,大夫在车棚子里,跟那些刚刚从琼斯博罗来的伤兵在一起,思嘉小姐,可是,俺不敢到那车棚子里去----那里尽是些快死的人,俺可怕见死人----”“别的大夫怎么样呢?”“天知道,思嘉小姐,俺几乎找不到一个人来看你的字条。
  像发了疯似的,他们全都在医院里忙着,有个大夫对俺说,'滚开,别到这里来打扰我们,谈什么孩子的事,这里有许多人快死啦。去请个女人给你帮忙吧。'后来俺就到处打听消息,照你的吩咐,他们说是在琼斯博罗打仗,俺就----”“你说米德大夫在火车站?”“是的,太太。他----”“好,仔细听着。我要去找米德大夫,要你坐在媚兰小姐身边,她叫你干什么就干什么。你要是向她透露了哪怕一点点关于在什么地方打仗消息,我就要毫无不含糊地把你卖到南部去。你也不要告诉她别的大夫都不能来。听清楚了没有?”“是的,太太。”“赶快打桶清水送上楼去。擦干你的眼睛,用海绵给她擦擦身。告诉她我去找米德大夫去了。”“她是不是快了呢,思嘉小姐?”“我不知道。我怕就是快了,不过我说不准。你应当知道的。快上去吧。"思嘉从搁板上一把抓起她的宽边草帽随手扣在头上。她对着镜子机械地理了理几绺松散的头发,但好像并没有看见自己的影像。她心中那微微起伏和发冷的惊恐情绪在向外渗出,直至她抚摩面颊时也猛然发觉自己的手指凉了,尽管这时她身体的其余部分还在冒汗。她匆匆走出家门,来到炎热的阳光下。这是个热得令人眼花的炎炎的酷暑天,她在桃树街上走了不远就觉得太阳穴在轰轰地跳了。她听得见远处街头有许多声音在大叫大喊,时高时低。等到她看见莱顿家的房子,因为她的胸衣箍得太紧了,就已经开始气喘,不过她并没有放慢脚步。这时前面那片喊叫声也愈来愈响了。
  从莱顿家的房子到五点镇那段大街上全是一片纷纷攘攘,像个崩塌了蚁丘似的。黑人们惊惶失措地在街上跑来跑去,无人照管的白人孩子坐在走廊上嚎叫。街上拥护着满载伤兵的军车和救护车,以及堆满行李和家具的马车。骑马的男人们乱糟糟地从两旁小巷里奔上桃树街,向胡德将军的司令部驰去。邦内尔家房前,年老的阿莫斯拉着一匹驾辕的马站在那里,他瞪着一双骨碌碌的眼睛招呼思嘉。
  “思嘉小姐?你还没走呀,我们要动身了。老姑娘在里面收拾行李呢。”“走,上哪儿?”“天知道呢,小姐。总该有个地方吧。北方佬马上就要来了!"她急往前走,连一声再会也来不及说。北方佬就要到了!
  她在韦德利教堂门前停下来喘口气,让心跳稍稍缓和一些。如果再不平静一点,就一定要晕倒了。她抓住一根灯柱,倚着它站在那里,这时她瞧见一位骑马的军官从五点镇飞跑而来,于是灵机一动,赶快跑到街心向他挥手。
  “啊,站住!请站住!”
  那位军官突然勒住马头,因用力过猛,那骑马竖起前腿往后退了好几步。从表情来看,军官已十分疲劳可又有极为紧迫的任务在身,不过他还是迅速地摘下了那顶破旧的军帽。
  “太太!”
  “是不是北方佬真的就要来了?告诉我,”“我想是这样。”“你真的知道吗?”“是的,太太,我知道。半小时以前指挥部收到了快报,是从琼斯博罗前线来的。”“琼斯博罗?你确信是这样?”“说谎也没有用,我确信是这样。太太。消息是哈迪将军发来的,他说:‘我已失败,正在全线退却。'”“啊,我的上帝!"那位军官的疲乏而黝黑的脸平静地俯视着。他重新抓起缰绳,戴上帽子。
  “唔,先生,请稍等一会。我们怎么办呢?”“我不好说,太太。军队马上就要撤离亚特兰大了。”“撤走了,把我们留给北方佬吗?”“恐怕就是这样。"那骑马经主人一刺就像弹簧般向前蹦去了,剩下思嘉站在街心,双脚埋在红红的尘土里一动不动。
  北方佬就要来了。军队正在撤离。北方佬就要来了。她怎么办呢?她往哪里跑呢?不,她不能跑。背后还有媚兰躺在床上等着生孩子呀!唔,女人为什么要孩子?要不是为了媚兰,她还可以带着韦德和百里茜到树林里去,那里北方佬是怎么也找不到他们的。但是她不能带着媚兰去埃不,现在不行。唔,要是她早一点,哪怕昨天就把孩子生了,那他们或许可以弄到一辆救护车把她带走,把她藏在什么地方。可现在----她只能找到米德大夫,叫他跟着她回家去。也许他能让孩子早些生下来。
  她提起裙子沿大街直往前跑。她一路念叨着,"北方佬来了!北方佬来了!”仿佛在给脚步打节拍似的。五点镇挤满了人,他们盲目地到处乱跑,同时满载伤兵的军车、救护车、牛车、马车也挤在一起。人群中一片震天的喧嚷像怒涛般滚滚而来。
  接着,她看见一场极不协调的奇怪情景。大群大群的妇女身旁急匆匆地跑着。年轻小伙子们拖着一包包的玉米和马铃薯。一个老头用手推车推着一袋面粉在一路挣扎着前进。男人、女人和小孩,黑人和白人,无不神情紧张地匆匆跑着,跑着,拖着一包包、一袋装、一箱箱的食物----这么多的食物她已经整整一年没见过了。这时,人群突然给一辆歪歪倒倒的马车让出一条通道,文弱而高雅的埃尔辛太太过来了,她站在她那辆四轮马车的车前,一手握着缰绳,一手举着鞭子。
  她头上没戴帽子,脸色苍白,一头灰色长发垂在背上,像是复仇女神般抽打着马一路奔跑。她家的黑人嬷嬷梅利茜坐在后座上一蹦一跳的,一只手里紧紧抓着一块肥腊肉,另一只手和双脚用力挡住堆在周围的那些箱子和口袋不让倒下来。有个干豆口袋裂开了,豆子撒到街上。思嘉向埃尔辛太太尖声喊叫着,可是周围一片嘈杂把她的声音给淹没了,马车摇摇晃晃地驶了过去。
  不知这究竟是怎么回事。她一时摸不着头脑,后来,记起了供销部的仓库就在前边的铁路旁,她才明白原来是军队把仓库打开了,让人们在北方佬来到之前尽可能去抢救一些粮食。
  她从人群中挤出去,走过五点镇空地上那些狂热汹涌的人群,又尽快跑过一条短街,向车站赶去。她穿过那些挤在一起的救护车和一团团的尘雾,看见大夫们和担架工人在忙着搬运伤兵。感谢上帝,她很快找到了米德大夫。她走过亚特兰大饭店,已经看得见整个车站和前面的铁路,她这时猛地站住,完全给吓坏了。
  成百上千的伤员,肩并肩,头接脚,一排排一行行地躺着酷热的太阳下,沿着铁路和人行道,大车篷底下,连绵不绝地一直延伸开去。有的静静地僵直地躺着,也有许多蜷伏在太阳下呻吟。到处是成群的苍蝇在他们头上飞舞,在他们脸上爬来爬去,嗡嗡地叫。到处是血、肮脏的绷带、哀叹和担架工搬动时因痛苦而发出的尖声咒骂。
  血腥,汗渍,没有洗过的身体和粪便的臭味在一阵阵人的热雾中升起,思嘉忍不住要作呕了。救护车的医院人员在躺着的伤员中间急急忙忙地跑来跑去,常常踩在排列得太紧密的伤员身上,那些被踩着的人也只得迟钝地翻着眼睛望望,等着有人来搬运他们。
  思嘉觉得快要呕出来了。用手捂住嘴向后退了两步,她实在不敢再往前走。她曾在医院里接触过许多伤兵,桃树沟战役又在皮蒂姑妈家的草地上看见过一些,可是还没见过这样的情景。像这些在毒热的太阳下烤着的浑身血污和恶臭的身体,她从来没有见过。这是一个充满了痛苦、臭味、喧嚣和忙乱的地狱—-忙乱,多么忙乱啊!北方佬眼看就要到了!
  北方佬就要到了啊!
  她耸耸肩膀振作起来,向这忙乱而凄惨的场面中走去,同时睁大眼睛从那些走动的人中辩认米德大夫。但是她发现没法寻找他,因为一不小心就会踩在一个可怜的伤兵身上。她只得提起裙子,在这些人中间一步步挪动,向一群正在指挥担架工的人走去。
  她一面走,一面有一只又一只滚烫的手拉着她的裙裾,一个个嘶破的声音在叫喊:“太太----水!求求你给点水!看在上帝面上,给点水啊!"她要用力把裙子从那一只只手里拽出来,已经弄得汗流满面了。如果踩着了地上的某个人,她就会吓得尖叫一声,甚至要晕倒的。她抬着前脚来跨过死尸,跨过那些眼睛已经失掉光泽但双手仍抓着肚子上同伤口粘在一起的军服的人,那些蘸着鲜血的胡子已经干硬但击碎了下巴仍在颤动着的人----他们似乎在叫喊:“水啊!水啊!"她要是不能尽快找到米德大夫,就会疯狂地嚷起来了。她向车篷底下那群人望去,竭尽全力大声喊道:“米德大夫!米德大夫在那里吗?”那群人里走出来了一个人,朝她望着。那是大夫,他身上没穿外衣,袖子高高卷起。他的衬衫和裤子都像屠宰衣似的红透了,甚至那铁灰色的胡子尖儿也沾满了血。从他脸上的表情看,他是深深沉溺在既浑身疲乏又满腔愤怒和热烈同情的感受中了。那张脸是灰糊糊的,满是尘土,汗水在两颊上划着一条条长沟。然而他呼唤她时,那声音是镇静而坚决的。
  “你来了,感谢上帝。我正需要人手呢。"她一时惶惑地凝视着他,连忙把手里提着的裙子放了下来。这裙子浇在一个伤兵的脏脸上,他虚弱地转着头,想躲避裙的拂扰。大夫这话是什么意思呢?救护车扬起的干燥而闷人灰尘向她迎面起来,同时那腐烂气味也像两股臭水似的冲着她的鼻孔直灌。
  “赶快,孩子,到这儿来。”
  她提起裙子跨过那一排排伤亡人员,尽快向他走去。她握住他的胳臂,发觉它在疲乏地颤抖,可他脸上没有一点虚弱的神色。
  “啊,大夫,"她喊道,"你一定得去呀,媚兰要生孩子了。"她的话他似乎并没有听进去。他望着她,这时有个枕着水壶躺在她脚边的人列开嘴对她友好地笑了笑。
  “他们会对付过去的,"他高兴地说。
  她对脚边的人连看也没看一眼,只一个劲儿地摇着大夫的胳臂。
  “是媚兰呀,要生孩子了。大夫,你一定得去。她那----"这不是讲究文雅的时候,可是要在这成百上千的陌生人面前说那种话还是不好开口埃"求求你了,大夫!阵痛愈来愈紧了。”“生孩子,我的天!"这像一个轰雷似的震醒了大夫,他的脸色突然因为恼恨而变得难看了。这怒火不是对思嘉来的,也不是对任何其他人,而是对居然会发生这种事的世界。“你疯了吗?我不能丢下这些人呀。他们都快死了,成百上千的。
  我可不能为他妈的一个孩子而丢下他们。找个女人给你帮忙吧。找我的太太去。"她张开嘴,想告诉他米德太太不能来的原故,可突然又闭口不言了。他还不知道自己的儿子受伤了呢!她还明白如果他知道了会不会仍留在这里,可是从某些迹象看,即使费尔快死了,他也会坚持在这个岗位上救助这许多伤员,而不会只顾那一个人的。
  “不,你一定得去,大夫。你知道你自己也说过,她可能难产----"啊,难道这真是思嘉自己站在这个火热的充满呻吟的鬼地方,扯着嗓子说这些粗俗得可怕的话吗?”要是你不去,她就会死啦!"仿佛没听见她的话或不知她说了些什么似的,他粗暴地甩脱了她的手,自顾自说着。
  “死?是的,他们都会死----所有这些人。没有绷带,没有药膏,没有奎宁,没有麻醉剂。啊,上帝,弄点吗啡来吧!
  就一点点,给那些最重的伤号也好。就要一点点麻醉剂呀。该死的北方佬!天杀的北方佬!”“让他们下地狱吧,大夫!"躺在地上的一个人咬牙切齿说。
  思嘉开始发抖了,眼睛里闪着恐惧的泪花。看来大夫



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