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Chapter 24

THE BRIGHT GLARE of morning sunlight streaming through the trees overhead awakenedScarlett. For a moment, stiffened by the cramped position in which she had slept, she could notremember where she was. The sun blinded her, the hard boards of the wagon under her were harshagainst her body, and a heavy weight lay across her legs. She tried to sit up and discovered that theweight was Wade who lay sleeping with his head pillowed on her knees. Melanie’s bare feet werealmost in her face and, under the wagon seat, Prissy was curled up like a black cat with the smallbaby wedged in between her and Wade.

  Then she remembered everything. She popped up to a sitting position and looked hastily allaround. Thank God, no Yankees in sight! Their hiding place had not been discovered in the night.

  It all came back to her now, the nightmare journey after Rhett’s footsteps died away, the endlessnight, the black road full of ruts and boulders along which they jolted, the deep gullies on eitherside into which the wagon slipped, the fear-crazed strength with which she and Prissy had pushedthe wheels out of the gullies. She recalled with a shudder how often she had driven the unwillinghorse into fields and woods when she heard soldiers approaching, not knowing if they were friendsor foes—recalled, too, her anguish lest a cough, a sneeze or Wade’s hiccoughing might betray themto the marching men.

  Oh, that dark road where men went by like ghosts, voices stilled, only the muffled tramping offeet on soft dirt, the faint clicking of bridles and the straining creak of leather! And, oh, thatdreadful moment when the sick horse balked and cavalry and light cannon rumbled past in thedarkness, past where they sat breathless, so close she could almost reach out and touch them, soclose she could smell the stale sweat on the soldiers’ bodies!

  When, at last, they had neared Rough and Ready, a few camp fires were gleaming where the lastof Steve Lee’s rear guard was awaiting orders to fall back. She had circled through a plowed fieldfor a mile until the light of the fires died out behind her. And then she had lost her way in thedarkness and sobbed when she could not find the little wagon path she knew so well. Then finallyhaving found it, the horse sank in the traces and refused to move, refused to rise even when sheand Prissy tugged at the bridle.

  So she had unharnessed him and crawled, sodden with fatigue, into the back of the wagon and stretched her aching legs. She had a faint memory of Melanie’s voice before sleep clamped downher eyelids, a weak voice that apologized even as it begged: “Scarlett, can I have some water,please?”

  She had said: “There isn’t any,” and gone to sleep before the words were out of her mouth.

  Now it was morning and the world was still and serene and green and gold with dappledsunshine. And no soldiers in sight anywhere. She was hungry and dry with thirst, aching andcramped and filled with wonder that she, Scarlett O’Hara, who could never rest well exceptbetween linen sheets and on the softest of feather beds, had slept like a field hand on hard planks.

  Blinking in the sunlight, her eyes fell on Melanie and she gasped, horrified. Melanie lay so stilland white Scarlett thought she must be dead. She looked dead. She looked like a dead, old womanwith her ravaged face and her dark hair snarled and tangled across it. Then Scarlett saw with reliefthe faint rise and fall of her shallow breathing and knew that Melanie had survived the night.

  Scarlett shaded her eyes with her hand and looked about her. They had evidently spent the nightunder the trees in someone’s front yard, for a sand and gravel driveway stretched out before her,winding away under an avenue of cedars.

  “Why, it’s the Mallory place!” she thought, her heart leaping with gladness at the thought offriends and help.

  But a stillness as of death hung over the plantation. The shrubs and grass of the lawn were cut topieces where hooves and wheels and feet had torn frantically back and forth until the soil waschurned up. She looked toward the house and instead of the old white clapboard place she knew sowell, she saw there only a long rectangle of blackened granite foundation stones and two tallchimneys rearing smoke-stained bricks into the charred leaves of still trees.

  She drew a deep shuddering breath. Would she find Tara like this, level with the ground, silentas the dead?

  “I mustn’t think about that now,” she told herself hurriedly. “I mustn’t let myself think about it.

  I’ll get scared again if I think about it.” But, in spite of herself, her heart quickened and each beatseemed to thunder: “Home! Hurry! Home! Hurry!”

  They must be starting on toward home again. But first they must find some food and water,especially water. She prodded Prissy awake. Prissy rolled her eyes as she looked about her.

  “Fo’ Gawd, Miss Scarlett, Ah din’ spec ter wake up agin ‘cept in de Promise Lan’.”

  “You’re a long way from there,” said Scarlett, trying to smooth back her untidy hair. Her facewas damp and her body was already wet with sweat. She felt dirty and messy and sticky, almost asif she smelled bad. Her clothes were crushed and wrinkled from sleeping in them and she hadnever felt more acutely tired and sore in all her life. Muscles she did not know she possessed achedfrom her unaccustomed exertions of the night before and every movement brought sharp pain.

  She looked down at Melanie and saw that her dark eyes were opened. They were sick eyes,fever bright, and dark baggy circles were beneath them. She opened cracking lips and whisperedappealingly: “Water.”

  “Get up, Prissy,” ordered Scarlett. “We’ll go to the well and get some water.”

  “But, Miss Scarlett! Dey mout be hants up dar. Sposin’ somebody daid up dar?”

  “I’ll make a hant out of you if you don’t get out of this wagon,” said Scarlett, who was in nomood for argument, as she climbed lamely down to the ground.

  And then she thought of the horse. Name of God! Suppose the horse had died in the night! Hehad seemed ready to die when she unharnessed him. She ran around the wagon and saw him lyingon his side. If he were dead, she would curse God and die too. Somebody in the Bible had donejust that thing. Cursed God and died. She knew just how that person felt. But the horse was alive—breathing heavily, sick eyes half closed, but alive. Well, some water would help him too.

  Prissy climbed reluctantly from the wagon with many groans and timorously followed Scarlettup the avenue. Behind the ruins the row of whitewashed slave quarters stood silent and desertedunder the overhanging trees. Between the quarters and the smoked stone foundations, they foundthe well, and the roof of it still stood with the bucket far down the well. Between them, they woundup the rope, and when the bucket of cool sparkling water appeared out of the dark depths, Scarletttilted it to her lips and drank with loud sucking noises, spilling the water all over herself.

  She drank until Prissy’s petulant: “Well, Ah’s thusty, too, Miss Scarlett,” made her recall theneeds of the others.

  “Untie the knot and take the bucket to the wagon and give them some. And give the rest to thehorse. Don’t you think Miss Melanie ought to nurse the baby? He’ll starve.”

  “Law, Miss Scarlett, Miss Melly ain’ got no milk—ain’ gwine have none.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Ah’s seed too many lak her.”

  “Don’t go putting on any airs with me. A precious little you knew about babies yesterday. Hurrynow. I’m going to try to find something to eat.”

  Scarlett’s search was futile until in the orchard she found a few apples. Soldiers had been therebefore her and there was none on the trees. Those she found on the ground were mostly rotten. Shefilled her skirt with the best of them and came back across the soft earth, collecting small pebblesin her slippers. Why hadn’t she thought of putting on stouter shoes last night? Why hadn’t shebrought her sun hat? Why hadn’t she brought something to eat? She’d acted like a fool. But, ofcourse, she’d thought Rhett would take care of them.

  Rhett! She spat on the ground, for the very name tasted bad. How she hated him! Howcontemptible he had been! And she had stood there in the road and let him kiss her—and almostliked it. She had been crazy last night. How despicable he was!

  When she came back, she divided up the apples and threw the rest into the back of the wagon.

  The horse was on his feet now but the water did not seem to have refreshed him much. He lookedfar worse in the daylight than he had the night before. His hip bones stood out like an old cow’s,his ribs showed like a washboard and his back was a mass of sores. She shrank from touching himas she harnessed him. When she slipped the bit into his mouth, she saw that he was practicallytoothless. As old as the hills! While Rhett was stealing a horse, why couldn’t he have stolen a goodone?

  She mounted the seat and brought down the hickory limb on his back. He wheezed and started,but he walked so slowly as she turned him into the road she knew she could walk faster herselfwith no effort whatever. Oh, if only she didn’t have Melanie and Wade and the baby and Prissy tobother with! How swiftly she could walk home! Why, she would run home, run every step of theway that would bring her closer to Tara and to Mother.

  They couldn’t be more than fifteen miles from home, but at the rate this old nag traveled itwould take all day, for she would have to stop frequently to rest him. All day! She looked down theglaring red road, cut in deep ruts where cannon wheels and ambulances had gone over it. It wouldbe hours before she knew if Tara still stood and if Ellen were there. It would be hours before shefinished her journey under the broiling September sun.

  She looked back at Melanie who lay with sick eyes closed against the sun and jerked loose thestrings of her bonnet and tossed it to Prissy.

  “Put that over her face. It’ll keep the sun out of her eyes.” Then as the heat beat down upon herunprotected head, she thought: “I’ll be as freckled as a guinea egg before this day is over.”

  She had never in her life been out in the sunshine without a hat or veils, never handled reinswithout gloves to protect the white skin of her dimpled hands. Yet here she was exposed to the sunin a broken-down wagon with a broken-down horse, dirty, sweaty, hungry, helpless to do anythingbut plod along at a snail’s pace through a deserted land. What a few short weeks it had been sinceshe was safe and secure! What a little while since she and everyone else had thought that Atlantacould never fall, that Georgia could never be invaded. But the small cloud which appeared in thenorthwest four months ago had blown up into a mighty storm and men into a screaming tornado,sweeping away her world, whirling her out of her sheltered life, and dropping her down in themidst of this still, haunted desolation.

  Was Tara still standing? Or was Tara also gone with the wind which had swept through Georgia?

  She laid the whip on the tired horse’s back and tried to urge him on while the waggling wheelsrocked them drunkenly from side to side.

  .

  There was death in the air. In the rays of the late afternoon sun, every well-remembered fieldand forest grove was green and still, with an unearthly quiet that struck terror to Scarlett’s heart.

  Every empty, shell-pitted house they had passed that day, every gaunt chimney standing sentinelover smoke-blackened ruins, had frightened her more. They had not seen a living human being oranimal since the night before. Dead men and dead horses, yes, and dead mules, lying by the road,swollen, covered with flies, but nothing alive. No far-off cattle lowed, no birds sang, no windwaved the trees. Only the tired plop-plop of the horse’s feet and the weak wailing of Melanie’sbaby broke the stillness.

  The countryside lay as under some dread enchantment Or worse still, thought Scarlett with achill, like the familiar and dear face of a mother, beautiful and quiet at last, after death agonies. Shefelt that the once-familiar woods were full of ghosts. Thousands had died in the fighting nearJonesboro. They were here in these haunted woods where the slanting afternoon sun gleamedeerily through unmoving leaves, friends and foes, peering at her in her rickety wagon, through eyes blinded with blood and red dust—glazed, horrible eyes.

  “Mother! Mother!” she whispered. If she could only win to Ellen! If only, by a miracle of God,Tara were still standing and she could drive up the long avenue of trees and go into the house andsee her mother’s kind, tender face, could feel once more the soft capable hands that drove out fear,could clutch Ellen’s skirts and bury her face in them. Mother would know what to do. Shewouldn’t let Melanie and her baby die. She would drive away all ghosts and fears with her quiet“Hush, hush.” But Mother was ill, perhaps dying.

  Scarlett laid the whip across the weary rump of the horse. They must go faster! They had creptalong this never-ending road all the long hot day. Soon it would be night and they would be alonein this desolation that was death. She gripped the reins tighter with hands that were blistered andslapped them fiercely on the horse’s back, her aching arms burning at the movement.

  If she could only reach the kind arms of Tara and Ellen and lay down her burdens, far too heavyfor her young shoulders—the dying woman, the fading baby, her own hungry little boy, thefrightened negro, all looking to her for strength, for guidance, all reading in her straight backcourage she did not possess and strength which had long since failed.

  The exhausted horse did not respond to the whip or reins but shambled on, dragging his feet,stumbling on small rocks and swaying as if ready to fall to his knees. But, as twilight came, they atlast entered the final lap of the long journey. They rounded the bend of the wagon path and turnedinto the main road. Tara was only a mile away!

  Here loomed up the dark bulk of the mock-orange hedge that marked the beginning of theMacintosh property. A little farther on, Scarlett drew rein in front of the avenue of oaks that ledfrom the road to old Angus Macintosh’s house. She peered through the gathering dusk down thetwo lines of ancient trees. All was dark. Not a single light showed in the house or in the quarters.

  Straining her eyes in the darkness she dimly discerned a sight which had grown familiar throughthat terrible day—two tall chimneys, like gigantic tombstones towering above the ruined secondfloor, and broken unlit windows blotching the walls like still, blind eyes.

  “Hello!” she shouted, summoning all her strength. “Hello!”

  Prissy clawed at her in a frenzy of fright and Scarlett, turning, saw that her eyes were rolling inher head.

  “Doan holler, Miss Scarlett! Please, doan holler agin!” she whispered, her voice shaking. “Deyain’ no tellin’ whut mout answer!”

  “Dear God!” thought Scarlett, a shiver running through her. “Dear God! She’s right Anythingmight come out of there!”

  She flapped the reins and urged the horse forward. The sight of the Macintosh house had prickedthe last bubble of hope remaining to her. It was burned, in rums, deserted, as were all theplantations she had passed that day. Tara lay only half a mite away, on the same road, right in thepath of the army. Tara was leveled, too! She would find only the blackened bricks, starlight shiningthrough the roofless walls, Ellen and Gerald gone, the girls gone, Mammy gone, the negroes gone,God knows where, and this hideous stillness over everything.

  Why had she come on this fool’s errand, against all common sense, dragging Melanie and herchild? Better that they had died in Atlanta than, tortured by this day of burning sun and joltingwagon, to die in the silent ruins of Tara.

  But Ashley had left Melanie in her care. Take care of her.” Oh, that beautiful, heartbreaking daywhen he had kissed her good-by before he went away forever! “You’ll take care of her, won’t you?

  Promise!” And she had promised. Why had she ever bound herself with such a promise, doublybinding now that Ashley was gone? Even in her exhaustion she hated Melanie, hated the tiny mewingvoice of her child which, fainter and fainter, pierced the stillness. But she had promised andnow they belonged to her, even as Wade and Prissy belonged to her, and she must struggle andfight for them as long as she had strength or breath. She could have left them in Atlanta, dumpedMelanie into the hospital and deserted her. But had she done that, she could never face Ashley,either on this earth or in the hereafter and tell him she had left his wife and child to die amongstrangers.

  Oh, Ashley! Where was he tonight while she toiled down this haunted road with his wife andbaby? Was he alive and did he think of her as he lay behind the bars at Rock Island? Or was hedead of smallpox months ago, rotting in some long ditch with hundreds of other Confederates?

  Scarlett’s taut nerves almost cracked as a sudden noise sounded in the underbrush near them.

  Prissy screamed loudly, throwing herself to the floor of the wagon, the baby beneath her. Melaniestirred feebly, her hands seeking the baby, and Wade covered his eyes and cowered, too frightenedto cry. Then the bushes beside them crashed apart under heavy hooves and a low moaning bawlassaulted their ears.

  “It’s only a cow,” said Scarlett, her voice rough with fright. “Don’t be a fool, Prissy. You’vemashed the baby and frightened Miss Melly and Wade.”

  “It’s a ghos’,” moaned Prissy, writhing face down on the wagon boards.

  Turning deliberately, Scarlett raised the tree limb she had been using as a whip and brought itdown across Prissy’s back. She was too exhausted and weak from fright to tolerate weakness inanyone else.

  “Sit up, you fool,” she said, “before I wear this out on you.”

  Yelping, Prissy raised her head and peering over the side of the wagon saw it was, indeed, acow, a red and white animal which stood looking at them appealingly with large frightened eyes.

  Opening its mouth, it lowed again as if in pain.

  “Is it hurt? That doesn’t sound like an ordinary moo.”

  “Soun’ ter me lak her bag full an’ she need milkin’ bad,” said Prissy, regaining some measure ofcontrol. “Spec it one of Mist’ Macintosh’s dat de niggers driv in de woods an’ de Yankees din’ git.”

  “Well take it with us,” Scarlett decided swiftly. “Then we can have some milk for the baby.”

  “How all we gwine tek a cow wid us, Miss Scarlett? We kain tek no cow wid us. Cow ain’ nogood nohow effen she ain’ been milked lately. Dey bags swells up and busts. Dat’s why shehollerin’.”

  “Since you know so much about it, take off your petticoat and tear it up and tie her to the back of the wagon.”

  “Miss Scarlett, you knows Ah ain’ had no petticoat fer a month an’ did Ah have one, Ah wouldn’

  put it on her fer nuthin’. Ah nebber had no truck wid cows. Ah’s sceered of cows.”

  Scarlett laid down the reins and pulled up her skirt. The lace-trimmed petticoat beneath was thelast garment she possessed that was pretty—and whole. She untied the waist tape and slipped itdown over her feet, crushing the soft linen folds between her hands. Rhett had brought her thatlinen and lace from Nassau on the last boat he slipped through the blockade and she had worked aweek to make the garment. Resolutely she took it by the hem and jerked, put it in her mouth andgnawed, until finally the material gave with a rip and tore the length. She gnawed furiously, torewith both hands and the petticoat lay in strips in her hands. She knotted the ends with fingers thatbled from blisters and shook from fatigue.

  “Slip this over her horns,” she directed. But Prissy balked.

  “Ah’s sceered of cows, Miss Scarlett. Ah ain’ nebber had nuthin’ ter do wid cows. Ah ain’ noyard nigger. Ah’s a house nigger.”

  “You’re a fool nigger, and the worst day’s work Pa ever did was to buy you,” said Scarlettslowly, too tired for anger. “And if I ever get the use of my arm again, I’ll wear this whip out onyou.”

  There, she thought, I’ve said “nigger” and Mother wouldn’t like that at all.

  Prissy rolled her eyes wildly, peeping first at the set face of her mistress and then at the cowwhich bawled plaintively. Scarlett seemed the less dangerous of the two, so Prissy clutched at thesides of the wagon and remained where she was.

  Stiffly, Scarlett climbed down from the seat, each movement of agony of aching muscles. Prissywas not the only one who was “sceered” of cows. Scarlett had always feared them, even themildest cow seemed sinister to her, but this was no time to truckle to small fears when great onescrowded so thick upon her. Fortunately the cow was gentle. In its pain it had sought humancompanionship and help and it made no threatening gesture as she looped one end of the tornpetticoat about its horns. She tied the other end to the back of the wagon, as securely as herawkward fingers would permit. Then, as she started back toward the driver’s seat, a vast wearinessassailed her and she swayed dizzily. She clutched the side of the wagon to keep from falling.

  Melanie opened her eyes and, seeing Scarlett standing beside her, whispered: “Dear—are wehome?”

  Home! Hot tears came to Scarlett’s eyes at the word. Home. Melanie did not know there was nohome and that they were alone in a mad and desolate world.

  “Not yet,” she said, as gently as the constriction of her throat would permit, “but we will be,soon. I’ve just found a cow and soon well have some milk for you and the baby.”

  “Poor baby,” whispered Melanie, her hand creeping feebly toward the child and falling short.

  Climbing back into the wagon required all the strength Scarlett could muster, but at last it wasdone and she picked up the lines. The horse stood with head drooping dejectedly and refused tostart. Scarlett laid on the whip mercilessly. She hoped God would forgive her for hurting a tired animal. If He didn’t she was sorry. After all, Tara lay just ahead, and after the next quarter of amile, the horse could drop in the shafts if he liked.

  Finally he started slowly, the wagon creaking and the cow lowing mournfully at every step. Thepained animal’s voice rasped on Scarlett’s nerves until she was tempted to stop and untie the beast.

  What good would the cow do them anyway if there should be no one at Tara? She couldn’t milkher and, even if she could, the animal would probably kick anyone who touched her sore udder.

  But she had the cow and she might as well keep her. There was little else she had in this worldnow.

  Scarlett’s eyes grew misty when, at last, they reached the bottom of a gentle incline, for just overthe rise lay Tara! Then her heart sank. The decrepit animal would never pull the hill. The slope hadalways seemed so slight, so gradual, in days when she galloped up it on her fleet-footed mare. Itdid not seem possible it could have grown so steep since she saw it last. The horse would nevermake it with the heavy load.

  Wearily she dismounted and took the animal by the bridle.

  “Get out, Prissy,” she commanded, “and take Wade. Either carry him or make him walk. Lay thebaby by Miss Melanie.”

  Wade broke into sobs and whimperings from which Scarlett could only distinguish: “Dark—dark— Wade fwightened!”

  “Miss Scarlett, Ah kain walk. Mah feets done blistered an’ dey’s thoo mah shoes, an’ Wade an’

  me doan weigh so much an’—”

  “Get out! Get out before I pull you out! And if I do, I’m going to leave you right here, in thedark by yourself. Quick, now!”

  Prissy moaned, peering at the dark trees that closed about them on both sides of the road—treeswhich might reach out and clutch her if she left the shelter of the wagon. But she laid the babybeside Melanie, scrambled to the ground and, reaching up, lifted Wade out. The little boy sobbed,shrinking close to his nurse.

  “Make him hush. I can’t stand it,” said Scarlett, taking the horse by the bridle and pulling him toa reluctant start. “Be a little man, Wade, and stop crying or I will come over there and slap you.”

  Why had God invented children, she thought savagely as she turned her ankle cruelly on thedark road—useless, crying nuisances they were, always demanding care, always in the way. In herexhaustion, there was no room for compassion for the frightened child, trotting by Prissy’s side,dragging at her hand and sniffling—only a weariness that she had borne him, only a tired wonderthat she had ever married Charles Hamilton.

  “Miss Scarlett” whispered Prissy, clutching her mistress’ arm, “doan le’s go ter Tara. Dey’s notdar. Dey’s all done gone. Maybe dey daid—Maw an’ all’m.”

  The echo of her own thoughts infuriated her and Scarlett shook off the pinching fingers.

  “Then give me Wade’s hand. You can sit right down here and stay.”

  “No’m! No’m!”

  Then hush!”

  How slowly the horse moved! The moisture from his slobbering mouth dripped down upon herhand. Through her mind ran a few words of the song she had once sung with Rhett—she could notrecall the rest:

  “Justafew moredaysforto totethewearyload—”

  “Just a few more steps,” hummed her brain, over and over, “just a few more steps for to tote theweary load.”

  Then they topped the rise and before them lay the oaks of Tara, a towering dark mass against thedarkening sky. Scarlett looked hastily to see if there was a light anywhere. There was none.

  “They are gone!” said her heart, like cold lead in her breast. “Gone!”

  She turned the horse’s head into the driveway, and the cedars, meeting over their heads, castthem into midnight blackness. Peering up the long tunnel of darkness, straining her eyes, she sawahead—or did she see? Were her tired eyes playing her tricks?—the white bricks of Tara blurredand indistinct Home! Home! The dear white walls, the windows with the fluttering curtains, thewide verandas—were they all there ahead of her, in the gloom? Or did the darkness mercifullyconceal such a horror as the Macintosh house?

  The avenue seemed miles long and the horse, pulling stubbornly at her hand, plopped slowerand slower. Eagerly her eyes searched the darkness. The roof seemed to be intact Could it be—could it be—? No, it wasn’t possible. War stopped for nothing, not even Tara, built to last fivehundred years. It could not have passed over Tara.

  Then the shadowy outline did take form. She pulled the horse forward faster. The white wallsdid show there through the darkness. And untarnished by smoke. Tara had escaped! Home! Shedropped the bridle and ran the last few steps, leaped forward with an urge to clutch the wallsthemselves in her arms. Then she saw a form, shadowy in the dimness, emerging from theblackness of the front veranda and standing at the top of the steps. Tara was not deserted. Someonewas home!

  A cry of joy rose to her throat and died there. The house was so dark and still and the figure didnot move or call to her. What was wrong? What was wrong? Tara stood intact, yet shrouded withthe same eerie quiet that hung over the whole stricken countryside. Then the figure moved. Stifflyand slowly, it came down the steps.

  “Pa?” she whispered huskily, doubting almost that it was he. “It’s me—Katie Scarlett. I’ve comehome.”

  Gerald moved toward her, silent as a sleepwalker, his stiff leg dragging. He came close to her,looking at her in a dazed way as if he believed she was part of a dream. Putting out his hand, helaid it on her shoulder. Scarlett felt it tremble, tremble as if he had been awakened from anightmare into a half-sense of reality.

  “Daughter,” he said with an effort “Daughter.”

  Then he was silentWhy—he’s an old man! thought ScarlettGerald’s shoulders sagged. In the face which she could only see dimly, there was none of thevirility, the restless vitality of Gerald, and the eyes that looked into hers had almost the same fear-stunned look that lay in little Wade’s eyes. He was only a little old man and broken.

  And now, fear of unknown things seized her, leaped swiftly out of the darkness at her and shecould only stand and stare at him, all the flood of questioning dammed up at her lips.

  From the wagon the faint wailing sounded again and Gerald seemed to rouse himself with aneffort“It’s Melanie and her baby,” whispered Scarlett rapidly. “She’s very ill—I brought her home.”

  Gerald dropped his hand from her arm and straightened his shoulders. As he moved slowly tothe side of the wagon, there was a ghostly semblance of the old host of Tara welcoming guests, asif Gerald spoke words from out of shadowy memory.

  “Cousin Melanie!”

  Melanie’s voice murmured indistinctly.

  “Cousin Melanie, this is your home. Twelve Oaks is burned. You must stay with us.”

  Thoughts of Melanie’s prolonged suffering spurred Scarlett to action. The present was with heragain, the necessity of laying Melanie and her child on a soft bed and doing those small things forher that could be done.

  “She must be carried. She can’t walk.”

  There was a scuffle of feet and a dark figure emerged from the cave of the front hall. Pork randown the steps.

  “Miss Scarlett! Miss Scarlett!” he cried.

  Scarlett caught him by the arms. Pork, part and parcel of Tara, as dear as the bricks and the coolcorridors! She felt his tears stream down on her hands as he patted her clumsily, crying: “Sho isglad you back! Sho is—”

  Prissy burst into tears and incoherent mumblings: “Poke! Poke, honey!” And little Wade,encouraged by the weakness of his elders, began sniffling: “Wade thirsty!”

  Scarlett caught them all in hand.

  “Miss Melanie is in the wagon and her baby too. Pork, you must carry her upstairs verycarefully and put her in the back company room. Prissy, take the baby and Wade inside and giveWade a drink of water. Is Mammy here, Pork? Tell her I want her.”

  Galvanized by the authority in her voice, Pork approached the wagon and fumbled at thebackboard. A moan was wrenched from Melanie as he half-lifted, half-dragged her from thefeather tick on which she had lain so many hours. And then she was in Pork’s strong arms, herhead drooping like a child’s across his shoulder. Prissy, holding the baby and dragging Wade by thehand, followed them up the wide steps and disappeared into the blackness of the hall.

  Scarlett’s bleeding fingers sought her father’s hand urgently.

  “Did they get well, Pa?”

  “The girls are recovering.”

  Silence fell and in the silence an idea too monstrous for words took form. She could not, couldnot force it to her lips. She swallowed and swallowed but a sudden dryness seemed to have stuckthe sides of her throat together. Was this the answer to the frightening riddle of Tara’s silence? As ifanswering the question in her mind Gerald spoke.

  “Your mother—” he said and stopped.

  “And—Mother?”

  “Your mother died yesterday.”

  Her father’s arm held tightly in her own, Scarlett felt her way down the wide dark hall which,even in its blackness, was as familiar as her own mind. She avoided the high-backed chairs, theempty gun rack, the old sideboard with its protruding claw feet, and she felt herself drawn byinstinct to the tiny office at the back of the house where Ellen always sat, keeping her endlessaccounts. Surely, when she entered that room, Mother would again be sitting there before thesecretary and would look up, quill poised, and rise with sweet fragrance and rustling hoops to meether tired daughter. Ellen could not be dead, not even though Pa had said it, said it over and overlike a parrot that knows only one phrase: “She died yesterday—she died yesterday—she diedyesterday.”

  Queer that she should feel nothing now, nothing except a weariness that shackled her limbs withheavy iron chains and a hunger that made her knees tremble. She would think of Mother later. Shemust put her mother out of her mind now, else she would stumble stupidly like Gerald or sobmonotonously like Wade.

  Pork came down the wide dark steps toward them, hurrying to press close to Scarlett like a coldanimal toward a fire.

  “Lights?” she questioned. “Why is the house so dark, Pork? Bring candles.”

  “Dey tuck all de candles, Miss Scarlett, all ‘cept one we been usin’ ter fine things in de dahkwid, an’ it’s ‘bout gone. Mammy been usin’ a rag in a dish of hawg fat fer a light fer nussin’ MissCareen an’ Miss Suellen.”

  “Bring what’s left of the candle,” she ordered. “Bring it into Mother’s—into the office.”

  Pork pattered into the dining room and Scarlett groped her way into the inky small room andsank down on the sofa. Her father’s arm still lay in the crook of hers, helpless, appealing, trusting,as only the hands of the very young and the very old can be.

  “He’s an old man, an old tired man,” she thought again and vaguely wondered why she couldnot care.

  Light wavered into the room as Pork entered carrying high a half-burned candle stuck in a saucer. The dark cave came to life, the sagging old sofa on which they sat, the tall secretaryreaching toward the ceiling with Mother’s fragile carved chair before it, the racks of pigeonholes,still stuffed with papers written in her fine hand, the worn carpet—all, all were the same, exceptthat Ellen was not there, Ellen with the faint scent of lemon verbena sachet and the sweet look inher tip-tilted eyes. Scarlett felt a small pain in her heart as of nerves numbed by a deep wound,struggling to make themselves felt again. She must not let them come to life now; there was all therest of her life ahead of her in which they could ache. But, not now! Please, God, not now!

  She looked into Gerald’s putty-colored face and, for the first time in her life, she saw himunshaven, his once florid face covered with silvery bristles. Pork placed the candle on the candlestand and came to her side. Scarlett felt that if he had been a dog he would have laid his muzzle inher lap and whined for a kind hand upon his head.

  “Pork, how many darkies are here?”

  “Miss Scarlett, dem trashy niggers done runned away an’ some of dem went off wid de Yankeesan’—”

  “How many are left?”

  “Dey’s me, Miss Scarlett, an’ Mammy. She been nussin’ de young Misses all day. An’ Dilcey,she settin’ up wid de young Misses now. Us three, Miss Scarlett.”

  “Us three” where there had been a hundred. Scarlett with an effort lifted her head on her achingneck. She knew she must keep her voice steady. To her surprise, words came out as coolly andnaturally as if there had never been a war and she could, by waving her hand, call ten houseservants to her.

  “Pork, I’m starving. Is there anything to eat?”

  “No’m. Dey tuck it all.”

  “But the garden?”

  “Dey tuhned dey hawses loose in it.”

  “Even the sweet potato hills?”

  Something almost like a pleased smile broke his thick lips.

  “Miss Scarlett, Ah done fergit de yams. Ah specs dey’s right dar. Dem Yankee folks ain’ neverseed no yams an’ dey thinks dey’s jes’ roots an’—”

  “The moon will be up soon. You go out and dig us some and roast them. There’s no corn meal?

  No dried peas? No chickens?”

  “No’m. No’m. Whut chickens dey din’ eat right hyah dey cah’ied off ‘cross dey saddles.”

  They— They— They— Was there no end to what “They” had done? Was it not enough to burnand kill? Must they also leave women and children and helpless negroes to starve in a countrywhich they had desolated?

  “Miss Scarlett, Ah got some apples Mammy buhied unner de house. We been eatin’ on demtoday.”

  “Bring them before you dig the potatoes. And, Pork—I—I feel so faint. Is there any wine in thecellar, even blackberry?”

  “Oh, Miss Scarlett, de cellar wuz de fust place dey went.”

  A swimming nausea compounded of hunger, sleeplessness, exhaustion and stunning blows cameon suddenly and she gripped the carved roses under her hand.

  “No wine,” she said dully, remembering the endless rows of bottles in the cellar. A memorystirred.

  “Pork, what of the corn whisky Pa buried in the oak barrel under the scuppernong arbor?”

  Another ghost of a smile lit the black face, a smile of pleasure and respect.

  “Miss Scarlett, you sho is de beatenes’ chile! Ah done plum fergit dat bahn.” But, Miss Scarlett,dat whisky ain’ no good. Ain’ been dar but ‘bout a year an’ whisky ain’ no good fer ladies nohow.”

  How stupid negroes were! They never thought of anything unless they were told. And theYankees wanted to free them.

  “It’ll be good enough for this lady and for Pa. Hurry, Pork, and dig it up and bring us twoglasses and some mint and sugar and I’ll mix a julep.”

  “Miss Scarlett, you knows dey ain’ been no sugar at Tara fer de longes’. An’ dey hawses done etup all de mint an’ dey done broke all de glasses.”

  If he says “They” once more, I’ll scream. I can’t help it, she thought, and then, aloud: “Well,hurry and get the whisky, quickly. We’ll take it neat.” And, as he turned: “Wait, Pork. There’s somany things to do that I can’t seem to think. … Oh, yes. I brought home a horse and a cow and thecow needs milking, badly, and unharness the horse and water him. Go tell Mammy to look afterthe cow. Tell her she’s got to fix the cow up somehow. Miss Melanie’s baby will die if he doesn’tget something to eat and—”

  “Miss Melly ain’—kain—?” Pork paused delicately.

  “Miss Melanie has no milk.” Dear God, but Mother would faint at that!

  “Well, Miss Scarlett, mah Dilcey ten’ ter Miss Melly’s chile. Mah Dilcey got a new chile herselfan’ she got mo’n nuff fer both.”

  “You’ve got a new baby, Pork?”

  Babies, babies, babies. Why did God make so many babies? But no, God didn’t make them.

  Stupid people made them.

  “Yas’m, big fat black boy. He—”

  “Go tell Dilcey to leave the girls. I’ll look after them. Tell her to nurse Miss Melanie’s baby anddo what she can for Miss Melanie. Tell Mammy to look after the cow and put that poor horse in thestable.”

  “Dey ain’ no stable, Miss Scarlett. Dey use it fer fiah wood.”

  “Don’t tell me any more what ‘They’ did. Tell Dilcey to look after them. And you, Pork, go dig up that whisky and then some potatoes.”

  “But, Miss Scarlett, Ah ain’ got no light ter dig by.”

  “You can use a stick of firewood, can’t you?”

  “Dey ain’ no fiah wood—Dey—”

  “Do something. ... I don’t care what. But dig those things and dig them fast. Now, hurry.”

  Pork scurried from the room as her voice roughened and Scarlett was left alone with Gerald. Shepatted his leg gently. She noted how shrunken were the thighs that once bulged with saddlemuscles. She must do something to drag him from his apathy—but she could not ask aboutMother. That must come later, when she could stand it.

  “Why didn’t they burn Tara?”

  Gerald stared at her for a moment as if not hearing her and she repeated her question.

  “Why—” he fumbled, “they used the house as a headquarters.”

  “Yankees—in this house?”

  A feeling that the beloved walls had been defiled rose in her. This house, sacred because Ellenhad lived in it, and those—those—in it.

  “So they were, Daughter. We saw the smoke from Twelve Oaks, across the river, before theycame. But Miss Honey and Miss India and some of their darkies had refugeed to Macon, so we didnot worry about them. But we couldn’t be going to Macon. The girls were so sick—your mother—we couldn’t be going. Our darkies ran—I’m not knowing where. They stole the wagons and themules. Mammy and Dilcey and Pork—they didn’t run. The girls—your mother—we couldn’t bemoving them.

  “Yes, yes.” He mustn’t talk about Mother. Anything else. Even that General Sherman himselfhad used this room, Mother’s office, for his headquarters. Anything else.

  “The Yankees were moving on Jonesboro, to cut the railroad. And they came up the road fromthe river—thousands and thousands—and cannon and horses—thousands. I met them on the frontporch.”

  “Oh, gallant little Gerald!” thought Scarlett, her heart swelling, Gerald meeting the enemy onthe stairs of Tara as if an army stood behind him instead of in front of him.

  “They said for me to leave, that they would be burning the place. And I said that they would beburning it over my head. We could not leave—the girls—your mother were—”

  “And then?” Must he revert to Ellen always?

  “I told them there was sickness in the house, the typhoid, and it was death to move them. Theycould burn the roof over us. I did not want to leave anyway—leave Tara—”

  His voice trailed off into silence as he looked absently about the walls and Scarlet! understood.

  There were too many Irish ancestors crowding behind Gerald’s shoulders, men who had died onscant acres, fighting to the end rather than leave the homes where they had lived, plowed, loved,begotten sons.

  “I said that they would be burning the house over the heads of three dying women. But wewould not leave. The young officer was—was a gentleman.”

  “A Yankee a gentleman? Why, Pa!”

  “A gentleman. He galloped away and soon he was back with a captain, a surgeon, and he lookedat the girls—and your mother.”

  “You let a damned Yankee into their room?”

  “He had opium. We had none. He saved your sisters. Suellen was hemorrhaging. He was as kindas he knew how. And when he reported that they were—ill—they did not burn the house. Theymoved in, some general, his staff, crowding in. They filled all the rooms except the sick room. Andthe soldiers—”

  He paused again, as if too tired to go on. His stubbly chin sank heavily in loose folds of flesh onhis chest With an effort he spoke again.

  They camped all round the house, everywhere, in the cotton, in the corn. The pasture was bluewith them. That night there were a thousand campfires. They tore down the fences and burnedthem to cook with and the barns and the stables and the smokehouse. They killed the cows and thehogs and the chickens—even my turkeys.” Gerald’s precious turkeys. So they were gone. Theytook things, even the pictures—some of the furniture, the china—”

  “The silver?”

  “Pork and Mammy did something with the silver—put it in the well—but I’m not rememberingnow,” Gerald’s voice was fretful. “Then they fought the battle from here—from Tara—there wasso much noise, people galloping up and stamping about. And later the cannon at Jonesboro—itsounded like thunder—even the girls could hear it, sick as they were, and they kept saying overand over: ‘Papa, make it stop thundering.’ ”

  “And—and Mother? Did she know Yankees were in the house?”

  “She—never knew anything.”

  “Thank God,” said Scarlett. Mother was spared that. Mother never knew, never heard the enemyin the rooms below, never heard the guns at Jonesboro, never learned that the land which was partof her heart was under Yankee feet.

  “I saw few of them for I stayed upstairs with the girls and your mother. I saw the young surgeonmostly. He was kind, so kind, Scarlett. After he’d worked all day with the wounded, he came andsat with them. He even left some medicine. He told me when they moved on that the girls wouldrecover but your mother— She was so frail, he said—too frail to stand it all. He said she hadundermined her strength. …”

  In the silence that fell. Scarlett saw her mother as she must have been in those last days, a thinpower of strength in Tara, nursing, working, doing without sleep and food that the others mightrest and eat.

  “And then, they moved on. Then, they moved on.”

  He was silent for a long time and then fumbled at her hand.

  “It’s glad I am you are home,” he said simply.

  There was a scraping noise on the back porch. Poor Pork, trained for forty years to clean hisshoes before entering the house, did not forget, even in a time like this. He came in, carefullycarrying two gourds, and the strong smell of dripping spirits entered before him.

  “Ah spilt a plen’y, Miss Scarlett. It’s pow’ful hard ter po’ outer a bung hole inter a go’de.”

  “That’s quite all right, Pork, and thank you.” She took the wet gourd dipper from him, hernostrils wrinkling in distaste at the reek.

  “Drink this, Father,” she said, pushing the whisky in its strange receptacle into his hand andtaking the second gourd of water from Pork. Gerald raised it, obedient as a child, and gulpednoisily. She handed the water to him but he shook his head.

  As she took the whisky from him and held it to her mouth, she saw his eyes follow her, a vaguestirring of disapproval in them.

  “I know no lady drinks spirits,” she said briefly. “But today I’m no lady, Pa, and there is work todo tonight.”

  She tilted the dipper, drew a deep breath and drank swiftly. The hot liquid burned down herthroat to her stomach, choking her and bringing tears to her eyes. She drew another breath andraised it again.

  “Katie Scarlett,” said Gerald, the first note of authority she had heard in his voice since herreturn, “that is enough. You’re not knowing spirits and they will be making you tipsy.”

  “Tipsy?” She laughed an ugly laugh. “Tipsy? I hope it makes me drunk. I would like to be drunkand forget all of this.”

  She drank again, a slow train of warmth lighting in her veins and stealing through her body untileven her finger tips tingled. What a blessed feeling, this kindly fire. It seemed to penetrate even herice-locked heart and strength came coursing back into her body.’ Seeing Gerald’s puzzled hurtface, she patted his knee again and managed an imitation of the pert smile he used to love.

  “How could it make me tipsy, Pa? I’m your daughter. Haven’t I inherited the steadiest head inClayton County?”

  He almost smiled into her tired face. The whisky was bracing him too. She handed it back tohim.

  “Now you’re going to take another drink and then I am going to take you upstairs and put you tobed.”

  She caught herself. Why, this was the way she talked to Wade—she should not address herfather like this. It was disrespectful. But he hung on her words.

  “Yes, put you to bed,” she added lightly, “and give you another drink—maybe all the dipper andmake you go to sleep. You need sleep and Katie Scarlett is here, so you need not worry aboutanything. Drink.”

  He drank again obediently and, slipping her arm through his, she pulled him to his feet “Pork. …”

  Pork took the gourd in one hand and Gerald’s arm in the other. Scarlett picked up the flaringcandle and the three walked slowly into the dark hall and up the winding steps toward Gerald’sroom.

  The room where Suellen and Carreen lay mumbling and tossing on the same bed stank vilelywith the smell of the twisted rag burning in a saucer of bacon fat, which provided the only light.

  When Scarlett first opened the door the thick atmosphere of the room, with all windows closed andthe air reeking with sick-room odors, medicine smells and stinking grease, almost made her faint.

  Doctors might say that fresh air was fatal in a sick room but if she were to sit here, she must haveair or die. She opened the three windows, bringing in the smell of oak leaves and earth, but thefresh air could do little toward dispelling the sickening odors which had accumulated for weeks inthis close room.

  Carreen and Suellen, emaciated and white, slept brokenly and awoke to mumble with wide,staring eyes in the tall four-poster bed where they had whispered together in better, happier days.

  In the corner of the room was an empty bed, a narrow French Empire bed with curling head andfoot, a bed which Ellen had brought from Savannah. This was where Ellen had lain.

  Scarlett sat beside the two girls, staring at them stupidly. The whisky taken on a stomach longempty was playing tricks on her. Sometimes her sisters seemed far away and tiny and theirincoherent voices came to her like the buzz of insects. And again, they loomed large, rushing at herwith lightning speed. She was tired, tired to the bone. She could lie down and sleep for days.

  If she could only lie down and sleep and wake to feel Ellen gentry shaking her arm and saying:

  “It is late, Scarlett. You must not be so lazy.” But she could not ever do that again. If there wereonly Ellen, someone older than she, wiser and unweary, to whom she could go! Someone in whoselap she could lay her head, someone on whose shoulders she could rest her burdens!

  The door opened softly and Dilcey entered, Melanie’s baby held to her breast, the gourd ofwhisky in her hand. In the smoky, uncertain light, she seemed thinner than when Scarlett last sawher and the Indian blood evident in her face. The high cheek bones more prominent,thehawk-bridgedno(was) sewas(more) sharperandhercopperskingleamedwithabrighte(were) r hue.

  Her faded calico dress was open to the waist and her large bronze breast exposed. Held closeagainst her, Melanie’s baby pressed his pale rosebud mouth greedily to the dark nipple, sucking,gripping tiny fists against the soft flesh like a kitten in the warm fur of its mother’s belly.

  Scarlett rose unsteadily and put a hand on Dilcey’s arm.

  “It was good of you to stay, Dilcey.”

  “How could I go off wid them trashy niggers, Miss Scarlett, after yo’ pa been so good to buy meand my little Prissy and yo’ ma been so kine?”

  “Sit down, Dilcey. The baby can eat all right, then? And how is Miss Melanie?”

  “Nuthin’ wrong wid this chile ‘cept he hongry, and what it take to feed a hongry chile I got.

  No’m, Miss Melanie is all right. She ain’ gwine die, Miss Scarlett. Doan you fret yo’seff. I seen toomany, white and black, lak her. She mighty tired and nervous like and scared fo’ this baby. But I hesh her and give her some of whut was lef in that go’de and she sleepin’.”

  So the corn whisky had been used by the whole family! Scarlett thought hysterically thatperhaps she had better give a drink to little Wade and see if it would stop his hiccoughs— AndMelanie would not die. And when Ashley came home—if he did come home ... No, she wouldthink of that later too. So much to think of—later! So many things to unravel—to decide. If onlyshe could put off the hour of reckoning forever! She started suddenly as a creaking noise and arhythmic “Ker-bunk—ker-bunk—” broke the stillness of the air outside.

  “That’s Mammy gettin’ the water to sponge off the young Misses. They takes a heap of bathin’,”

  explained Dilcey, propping the gourd on the table between medicine bottles and a glass.

  Scarlett laughed suddenly. Her nerves must be shredded if the noise of the well windlass, boundup in her earliest memories, could frighten her. Dilcey looked at her steadily as she laughed, herface immobile in its dignity, but Scarlett felt that Dilcey understood. She sank back in her chair. Ifshe could only be rid of her tight stays, the collar that choked her and the slippers still full of sandand gravel that blistered her feet.

  The windlass creaked slowly as the rope wound up, each creak bringing the bucket nearer thetop. Soon Mammy would be with her—Ellen’s Mammy, her Mammy. She sat silent, intent onnothing, while the baby, already glutted with milk, whimpered because he had lost the friendlynipple. Dilcey, silent too, guided the child’s mouth back, quieting him in her arms as Scarlettlistened to the slow scuffing of Mammy’s feet across the back yard. How still the night air was!

  The slightest sounds roared in her ears.

  The upstairs hall seemed to shake as Mammy’s ponderous weight came toward the door. ThenMammy was in the room, Mammy with shoulders dragged down by two heavy wooden buckets,her kind black face sad with the uncomprehending sadness of a monkey’s face.

  Her eyes lighted up at the sight of Scarlett, her white teeth gleamed as she set down the buckets,and Scarlett ran to her, laying her head on the broad, sagging breasts which had held so manyheads, black and white. Here was something of stability, thought Scarlett, something of the old lifethat was unchanging. But Mammy’s first words dispelled this illusion.

  “Mammy’s chile is home! Oh, Miss Scarlett, now dat Miss Ellen’s in de grabe, whut is wegwine ter do? Oh, Miss Scarlett, effen Ah wuz jes’ daid longside Miss Ellen! Ah kain make outwidout Miss Ellen. Ain’ nuthin’ lef now but mizry an’ trouble. Jes’ weery loads, honey, jes’ weeryloads.”

  As Scarlett lay with her head hugged close to Mammy’s breast, two words caught her attention,“weery loads.” Those the words which had hummed in her brain that afternoon so monotonously they hadsicken(were) ed her. Now, she remembered the rest of the song, remembered witha sinking heart:

  “Justafew moredaysforto totethewearyload!

  No matter,‘twilllneverbelight!

  Justafewmoredaystilllwetotterintheroad—”

  “No matter, ‘twill never be light”—she took the words to her tired mind. Would her load neverbe light? Was coming home to Tara to mean, not blessed surcease, but only more loads to carry?

  She slipped from Mammy’s arms and, reaching up, patted the wrinkled black face.

  “Honey, yo’ han’s!” Mammy took the small hands with their blisters and blood clots in hers andlooked at them with horrified disapproval. “Miss Scarlett, Ah done tole you an’ tole you dat youkin allus tell a lady by her han’s an’—yo’ face sunbuhnt too!”

  Poor Mammy, still the martinet about such unimportant things even though war and death hadjust passed over her head! In another moment she would be saying that young Misses withblistered hands and freckles most generally didn’t never catch husbands and Scarlett forestalled theremark.

  “Mammy, I want you to tell me about Mother. I couldn’t bear to hear Pa talk about her.”

  Tears started from Mammy’s eyes as she leaned down to pick up the buckets. In silence shecarried them to the bedside and, turning down the sheet, began pulling up the night clothes ofSuellen and Carreen. Scarlett, peering at her sisters in the dim flaring light, saw that Carreen worea nightgown, clean but in tatters, and Suellen lay wrapped in an old negligee, a brown linengarment heavy with tagging ends of Irish lace. Mammy cried silently as she sponged the gauntbodies, using the remnant of an old apron as a cloth.

  “Miss Scarlett, it wuz dem Slatterys, dem trashy, no-good, low-down po’-w’ite Slatterys dat kiltMiss Ellen. Ah done tole her an’ tole her it doan do no good doin’ things fer trashy folks, but MissEllen wuz so sot in her ways an’ her heart so sof’ she couldn’ never say no ter nobody whut neededher.”

  “Slatterys?” questioned Scarlett, bewildered. “How do they come in?”

  “Dey wuz sick wid disyere thing,” Mammy gestured with her rag to the two naked girls,dripping with water on their damp sheet. “Ole Miss Slattery’s gal, Emmie, come down wid it an’

  Miss Slattery come hotfootin’ it up hyah affer Miss Ellen, lak she allus done w’en anything wrong.

  Why din’ she nuss her own? Miss Ellen had mo’n she could tote anyways. But Miss Ellen she wentdown dar an’ she nuss Emmie. An’ Miss Ellen wuzn’ well a-tall her-seff, Miss Scarlett. Yo’ mahadn’ been well fer de longes’. Dey ain’ been too much ter eat roun’ hyah, wid de commissarystealin’ eve’y thing us growed. An’ Miss Ellen eat lak a bird anyways. An’ Ah tole her an’ tole herter let dem w’ite trash alone, but she din’ pay me no mine. Well’m, “bout de time Emmie look lakshe gittin’ better, Miss Carreen come down wid it. Yas’m, de typhoy fly right up de road an’ ketchMiss Carreen, an’ den down come Miss Suellen. So Miss Ellen, she tuck an’ nuss dem too.

  “Wid all de fightin’ up de road an’ de Yankees ‘cross de river an’ us not knowin’ whut wuzgwine ter happen ter us an’ de fe’el han’s runnin” off eve’y night, Ah’s ‘bout crazy. But Miss Ellenjes’ as cool as a cucumber. ‘Cept she wuz worried ter a ghos’ ‘bout de young Misses kase wecouldn’ git no medicines nor nuthin’. An’ one night she say ter me affer we done sponge off deyoung Misses ‘bout ten times, she say, ‘Mammy, effen Ah could sell mah soul, Ah’d sell it fersome ice ter put on mah gals’ haids.’

  “She wouldn’t let Mist’ Gerald come in hyah, nor Rosa nor Teena, nobody but me, kase Ah donehad de typhoy.An’ den it tuck her, Miss Scarlett, an’Ah seed right off dat twarnt no use.”

  Mammy straightened up and, raising her apron, dried her streaming eyes.

  “She went fas’, Miss Scarlett, an’ even dat nice Yankee doctah couldn’ do nuthin’ fer her. Shedin’ know nuthin’ a-tall. Ah call ter her an’ talk ter her but she din’ even know her own Mammy.”

  “Did she—did she ever mention me—call for me?”

  “No, honey. She think she is lil gal back in Savannah, She din’ call nobody by name.”

  Dilcey stirred and laid the sleeping baby across her knees.

  “Yes’m, she did. She did call somebody.”

  “You hesh yo’ mouf, you Injun-nigger!” Mammy turned with threatening violence on Dilcey.

  “Hush, Mammy! Who did she call, Dilcey? Pa?”

  “No’m. Not yo’ pa. It wuz the night the cotton buhnt—”

  “Has the cotton gone—tell me quickly!”

  “Yes’m, it buhnt up. The sojers rolls it out of the shed into the back yard and hollers, ‘Here thebigges’ bonfiah in Georgia,’ and tech it off.”

  Three years of stored cotton—one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, all in one blaze!

  “And the fiah light up the place lak it wuz day—we wuz scared th



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