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Chapter 28

COLD WEATHER set in abruptly with a killing frost Chilling winds swept beneath the doorsills and rattled the loose windowpanes with a monotonous tinkling sound. The last of the leaves fellfrom the bare trees and only the pines stood clothed, black and cold against pale skies. The ruttedred roads were frozen to flintiness and hunger rode the winds through Georgia.

  Scarlett recalled bitterly her conversation with Grandma Fontaine. On that afternoon two monthsago, which now seemed years in the past, she had told the old lady she had already known theworst which could possibly happen to her, and she had spoken from the bottom of her heart. Nowthat remark sounded like schoolgirl hyperbole. Before Sherman’s men came through Tara thesecond time, she had her small riches of food and money, she had neighbors more fortunate thanshe and she had the cotton which would tide her over until spring. Now the cotton was gone, thefood was gone, the money was of no use to her, for there was no food to buy with it, and the neighborswere in worse plight than she. At least, she had the cow and the calf, a few shoats and thehorse, and the neighbors had nothing but the little they had been able to hide in the woods and buryin the ground.

  Fairhill, the Tarleton home, was burned to the foundations, and Mrs. Tarleton and the four girlswere existing in the overseer’s house. The Munroe house near Lovejoy was leveled too. Thewooden wing of Mimosa had burned and only the thick resistant stucco of the main house and thefrenzied work of the Fontaine women and their slaves with wet blankets and quilts had saved itThe Calverts’ house had again been spared, due to the intercession of Hilton, the Yankee overseer,but there was not a head of livestock, not a fowl, not an ear of corn left on the place.

  At Tara and throughout the County, the problem was food. Most of the families had nothing atall but the remains of their yam crops and their peanuts and such game as they could catch in thewoods. What they had, each shared with less fortunate friends, as they had done in moreprosperous days. But the time soon came when there was nothing to share.

  At Tara, they ate rabbit and possum and catfish, if Pork was lucky. On other days a smallamount of milk, hickory nuts, roasted acorns and yams. They were always hungry. To Scarlett itseemed that at every turn she met outstretched hands, pleading eyes. The sight of them drove heralmost to madness, for she was as hungry as they.

  She ordered the calf killed, because he drank so much of the precious milk, and that nighteveryone ate so much fresh veal all of them were ill. She knew that she should kill one of theshoats but she put it off from day to day, hoping to raise them to maturity. They were so small.

  There would be so little of them to eat if they were killed now and so much more if they could besaved a little longer. Nightly she debated with Melanie the advisability of sending Pork abroad onthe horse with some greenbacks to try to buy food. But the fear that the horse might be capturedand the money taken from Pork deterred them. They did not know where the Yankees were. Theymight be a thousand miles away or only across the river. Once, Scarlett, in desperation, started toride out herself to search for food, but the hysterical outbursts of the whole family fearful of theYankees made her abandon the plan.

  Pork foraged far, at times not coming home all night, and Scarlett did not ask him where hewent. Sometimes he returned with game, sometimes with a few ears of corn, a bag of dried peas.

  Once he brought home a rooster which he said he found in the woods. The family ate it with relishbut a sense of guilt, knowing very well Pork had stolen it, as he had stolen the peas and corn. One night soon after this, he tapped on Scarlett’s door long after the house was asleep and sheepishlyexhibited a leg peppered with small shot. As she bandaged it for him, he explained awkwardly thatwhen attempting to get into a hen coop at Fayetteville, he had been discovered. Scarlett did not askwhose hen coop but patted Pork’s shoulder gently, tears in her eyes. Negroes were provokingsometimes and stupid and lazy, but there was loyalty in them that money couldn’t buy, a feeling ofoneness with their white folks which made them risk their lives to keep food on the table.

  In other days Pork’s pilferings would have been serious matter, probably calling for a whipping.Inotherdaysshewouldhavebeenforcedatl(a) east to reprimand him severely. “Alwaysremember, dear,” Ellen had said, “you are responsible for the moral as well as the physical welfareof the darkies God has entrusted to your care. You must realize that they are like children and mustbe guarded from themselves like children, and you must always set them a good example.”

  But now, Scarlett pushed that admonition into the back of her mind. That she was encouragingtheft, and perhaps theft from people worse off than she, was no longer a matter for conscience. Infact the morals of the affair weighed lightly upon her. Instead of punishment or reproof, she onlyregretted he had been shot.

  “You must be more careful, Pork. We don’t want to lose you. What would we do without you?

  You’ve been mighty good and faithful and when we get some money again, I’m going to buy you abig gold watch and engrave on it something out of the Bible. ‘Well done, good and faithfulservant.’ ”

  Pork beamed under the praise and gingerly rubbed his bandaged leg.

  “Dat soun’ mighty fine, Miss Scarlett. W’en you speckin’ ter git dat money?”

  “I don’t know, Pork, but I’m going to get it some time, somehow.” She bent on him an unseeingglance that was so passionately bitter he stirred uneasily, “Some day, when this war is over, I’mgoing to have lots of money, and when I do I’ll never be hungry or cold again. None of us will everbe hungry or cold. We’ll all wear fine clothes and have fried chicken every day and—”

  Then she stopped. The strictest rule at Tara, one which she herself had made and which sherigidly enforced, was that no one should ever talk of the fine meals they had eaten in the past orwhat they would eat now, if they had the opportunity.

  Pork slipped from the room as she remained staring moodily into the distance. In the old days,now dead and gone, life had been so complex, so full of intricate and complicated problems. Therehad been the problem of trying to win Ashley’s love and trying to keep a dozen other beauxdangling and unhappy. There had been small breaches of conduct to be concealed from her elders,jealous girls to be flouted or placated, styles of dresses and materials to be chosen, differentcoiffures to be tried and, oh, so many, many other matters to be decided! Now life was soamazingly simple. Now all that mattered was food enough to keep off starvation, clothing enoughto prevent freezing and a roof overhead which did not leak too much.

  It was during these days that Scarlett dreamed and dreamed again the nightmare which was tohaunt her for years. It was always the same dream, the details never varied, but the terror of itmounted each time it came to her and the fear of experiencing it again troubled even her wakinghours. She remembered so well the incidents of the day when she had first dreamed it.

  Cold rain had fallen for days and the house was chill with drafts and dampness. The logs in thefireplace were wet and smoky and gave little heat. There had been nothing to eat except milk sincebreakfast, for the yams were exhausted and Pork’s snares and fishlines had yielded nothing. One ofthe shoats would have to be killed the next day if they were to eat at all. Strained and hungry faces,black and white, were staring at her, mutely asking her to provide food. She would have to risklosing the horse and send Pork out to buy something. And to make matters worse, Wade was illwith a sore throat and a raging fever and there was neither doctor nor medicine for him.

  Hungry, weary with watching her child, Scarlett left him to Melanie’s care for a while and laydown on her bed to nap. Her feet icy, she twisted and turned, unable to sleep, weighed down withfear and despair. Again and again, she thought: “What shall I do? Where shall I turn? Isn’t thereanybody in the world who can help me?” Where had all the security of the world gone? Whywasn’t there someone, some strong wise person to take the burdens from her? She wasn’t made tocarry them. She did not know how to carry them. And then she fell into an uneasy doze.

  She was in a wild strange country so thick with swirling mist she could not see her hand beforeher face. The earth beneath her feet was uneasy. It was a haunted land, still with a terrible stillness,and she was lost in it, lost and terrified as a child in the night. She was bitterly cold and hungry andso fearful of what lurked in the mists about her that she tried to scream and could not. There werethings in the fog reaching out fingers to pluck at her skirt, to drag her down into the uneasyquaking earth on which she stood, silent, relentless, spectral hands. Then, she knew thatsomewhere in the opaque gloom about her there was shelter, help, a heaven of refuge and warmth.

  But where was it? Could she reach it before the hands clutched her and dragged her down into thequicksands?

  Suddenly she was running, running through the mist like a mad thing, crying and screaming,throwing out her arms to clutch only empty air and wet mist Where was the haven? It eluded herbut it was there, hidden, somewhere. If she could only reach it! If she could only reach it shewould be safe! But terror was weakening her legs, hunger making her faint. She gave onedespairing cry and awoke to find Melanie’s worried face above her and Melanie’s hand shaking herto wakefulness.

  The dream returned again and again, whenever she went to sleep with an empty stomach. Andthat was frequently enough. It so frightened her that she feared to sleep, although she feverishlytold herself there was nothing in such a dream to be afraid of. There was nothing in a dream aboutfog to scare her so. Nothing at all—yet the thought of dropping off into that mist-filled country soterrified her she began sleeping with Melanie, who would wake her up when her moaning andtwitching revealed that she was again in the clutch of the dream.

  Under the strain she grew white and thin. The pretty roundness left her face, throwing her cheekbones into prominence, emphasizing her slanting green eyes and giving her the look of a prowling,hungry cat.

  “Daytime is enough like a nightmare without my dreaming things,” she thought desperately andbegan hoarding her daily ration to eat it just before she went to sleep.

  At Christmas time Frank Kennedy and a small troop from the commissary department jogged upto Tara on a futile hunt for grain and animals for the army. They were a ragged and ruffianlyappearing crew, mounted on lame and heaving horses which obviously were in too bad conditionto be used for more active service. Like their animals the men had been invalided out of the frontlineforces and, except for Frank, all of them had an arm missing or an eye gone or stiffened joints.

  Most of them wore blue overcoats of captured Yankees and, for a brief instant of horror, those atTara thought Sherman’s men had returned.

  They stayed the night on the plantation, sleeping on the floor in the parlor, luxuriating as theystretched themselves on the velvet rug, for it had been weeks since they had slept under a roof oron anything softer than pine needles and hard earth. For all their dirty beards and tatters they werea well-bred crowd, full of pleasant small talk, jokes and compliments and very glad to be spendingChristmas Eve in a big house, surrounded by pretty women as they had been accustomed to do indays long past. They refused to be serious about the war, told outrageous lies to make the girlslaugh and brought to the bare and looted house the first lightness, the first hint of festivity it hadknown in many a day.

  “It’s almost like the old days when we had house parties, isn’t it?” whispered Suellen happily toScarlett. Suellen was raised to the skies by having a beau of her own in the house again and shecould hardly take her eyes off Frank Kennedy. Scarlett was surprised to see that Suellen could bealmost pretty, despite the thinness which had persisted since her illness. Her cheeks were flushedand there was a soft luminous look in her eyes.

  “She really must care about him,” thought Scarlett in contempt. “And I guess she’d be almosthuman if she ever had a husband of her own, even if her husband was old fuss-budget Frank.”

  Carreen had brightened a little too, and some of the sleep-walking look left her eyes that night.

  She had found that one of the men had known Brent Tarleton and had been with him the day hewas killed, and she promised herself a long private talk with him after supper.

  At supper Melanie surprised them all by forcing herself out of her timidity and being almostvivacious. She laughed and joked and almost but not quite coquetted with a one-eyed soldier whogladly repaid her efforts with extravagant gallantries. Scarlett knew the effort this involved bothmentally and physically, for Melanie suffered torments of shyness in the presence of anythingmale. Moreover she was far from well. She insisted she was strong and did more work even thanDilcey but Scarlett knew she was sick. When she lifted things her face went white and she had away of sitting down suddenly after exertions, as if her legs would no longer support her. Buttonight she, like Suellen and Carreen, was doing everything possible to make the soldiers enjoytheir Christmas Eve. Scarlett alone took no pleasure in the guests.

  The troop had added their ration of parched corn and side meat to the supper of dried peas,stewed dried apples and peanuts which Mammy set before them and they declared it was the bestmeal they had had in months. Scarlett watched them eat and she was uneasy. She not onlybegrudged them every mouthful they ate but she was on tenterhooks lest they discover somehowthat Pork had slaughtered one of the shoats the day before. It now hung in the pantry and she hadgrimly promised her household that she would scratch out the eyes of anyone who mentioned theshoat to their guests or the presence of the dead pig’s sisters and brothers, safe in their pen in the swamp. These hungry men could devour the whole shoat at one meal and, if they knew of the livehogs, they could commandeer them for the army. She was alarmed, too, for the cow and the horseand wished they were hidden in the swamp, instead of tied in the woods at the bottom of thepasture. If the commissary took her stock, Tara could not possibly live through the winter. Therewould be no way of replacing them. As to what this army would eat, she did not care. Let the armyfeed the army—if it could. It was hard enough for her to feed her own.

  The men added as dessert some “ramrod rolls” from their knapsacks, and this was the first timeScarlett had ever seen this Confederate article of diet about which there were almost as many jokesas about lice. They were charred spirals of what appeared to be wood. The men dared her to take abite and, when she did, she discovered that beneath the smoke-blackened surface was unsaltedcorn bread. The soldiers mixed their ration of corn meal with water, and salt too when they couldget it, wrapped the thick paste about their ramrods and roasted the mess over camp fires. It was ashard as rock candy and as tasteless as sawdust and after one bite Scarlett hastily handed it backamid roars of laughter. She met Melanie’s eyes and the same thought was plain in both faces. ...

  “How can they go on fighting if they have only this stuff to eat?”

  The meal was gay enough and even Gerald, presiding absently at the head of the table, managedto evoke from the back of his dim mind some of the manner of a host and an uncertain smile. Themen talked, the women smiled and flattered—but Scarlett turning suddenly to Frank Kennedy toask him news of Miss Pittypat, caught an expression on his face which made her forget what sheintended to say.

  His eyes had left Suellen’s and were wandering about the room, to Gerald’s childlike puzzledeyes, to the floor, bare of rugs, to the mantelpiece denuded of its ornaments, the sagging springsand torn upholstery into which Yankee bayonets had ripped, the cracked mirror above the sideboard,the unfaded squares on the wall where pictures had hung before the looters came, the scanttable service, the decently mended but old dresses of the girls, the flour sack which had been madeinto a kilt for Wade.

  Frank was remembering the Tara he had known before the war and on his face was a hurt look, alook of tired impotent anger. He loved Suellen, liked her sisters, respected Gerald and had agenuine fondness for the plantation. Since Sherman had swept through Georgia, Frank had seenmany appalling sights as he rode about the state trying to collect supplies, but nothing had gone tohis heart as Tara did now. He wanted to do something for the O’Haras, especially Suellen, andthere was nothing he could do. He was unconsciously wagging his whiskered head in pity andclicking his tongue against his teeth when Scarlett caught his eye. He saw the flame of indignantpride in them and he dropped his gaze quickly to his plate in embarrassment.

  The girls were hungry for news. There had been no mail service since Atlanta fell, now fourmonths past, and they were in complete ignorance as to where the Yankees were, how theConfederate Army was faring, what had happened to Atlanta and to old friends. Frank, whose worktook him all over the section, was as good as a newspaper, better even, for he was kin to or knewalmost everyone from Macon north to Atlanta, and he could supply bits of interesting personalgossip which the papers always omitted. To cover his embarrassment at being caught by Scarlett,he plunged hastily into a recital of news. The Confederates, he told them, had retaken Atlanta afterSherman marched out, but it was a valueless prize as Sherman had burned it completely.

  “But I thought Atlanta burned the night I left,” cried Scarlett, bewildered. “I thought our boysburned it!”

  “Oh, no, Miss Scarlett!” cried Frank, shocked. “We’d never burn one of our own towns with ourown folks in it! What you saw burning was the warehouses and the supplies we didn’t want theYankees to capture and the foundries and the ammunition. But that was all. When Sherman tookthe town the houses and stores were standing there as pretty as you please. And he quartered hismen in them.”

  “But what happened to the people? Did he—did he kill them?”

  “He killed some—but not with bullets,” said the one-eyed soldier grimly. “Soon’s he marchedinto Atlanta he told the mayor that all the people in town would have to move out, every livingsoul. And there were plenty of old folks that couldn’t stand the trip and sick folks that ought not tohave been moved and ladies who were—well, ladies who hadn’t ought to be moved either. And hemoved them out in the biggest rainstorm you ever saw, hundreds and hundreds of them, anddumped them in the woods near Rough and Ready and sent word to General Hood to come and getthem. And a plenty of the folks died of pneumonia and not being able to stand that sort of treatment.”

  “Oh, but why did he do that? They couldn’t have done him any harm,” cried Melanie.

  “He said he wanted the town to rest his men and horses in,” said Frank. “And he rested themthere till the middle of November and then he lit out. And he set fire to the whole town when heleft and burned everything.”

  “Oh, surely not everything!” cried the girls in dismay.

  It was inconceivable that the bustling town they knew, so full of people, so crowded withsoldiers, was gone. All the lovely homes beneath shady trees, all the big stores and the fine hotels—surely they couldn’t be gone! Melanie seemed ready to burst into tears, for she had been bornthere and knew no other home. Scarlett’s heart sank because she had come to love the place secondonly to Tara.

  “Well, almost everything,” Frank amended hastily, disturbed by the expressions on their faces.

  He tried to look cheerful, for he did not believe in upsetting ladies. Upset ladies always upset himand made him feel helpless. He could not bring himself to tell them the worst. Let them find outfrom some one else.

  He could not tell them what the army saw when it marched back into Atlanta, the acres and acresof chimneys standing blackly above ashes, piles of half-burned rubbish and tumbled heaps of brickclogging the streets, old trees dying from fire, their charred limbs tumbling to the ground in thecold wind. He remembered how the sight had turned him sick, remembered the bitter curses of theConfederates when they saw the remains of the town. He hoped the ladies would never hear of thehorrors of the looted cemetery, for they’d never get over that. Charlie Hamilton and Melanie’smother and father were buried there. The sight of that cemetery still gave Frank nightmares.

  Hoping to find jewelry buried with the dead, the Yankee soldiers had broken open vaults, dug upgraves. They had robbed the bodies, stripped from the coffins gold and silver name plates, silvertrimmings and silver handles. The skeletons and corpses, flung helter-skelter among their splintered caskets, lay exposed and so pitiful.

  And Frank couldn’t tell them about the dogs and the cats. Ladies set such a store by pets. But thethousands of starving animals, left homeless when their masters had been so rudely evacuated, hadshocked him almost as much as the cemetery, for Frank loved cats and dogs. The animals had beenfrightened, cold, ravenous, wild as forest creatures, the strong attacking the weak, the weak waitingfor the weaker to die so they could eat them. And, above the ruined town, the buzzards splotchedthe wintry sky with graceful, sinister bodies.

  Frank cast about in his mind for some mitigating information that would make the ladies feelbetter.

  “There’s some houses still standing,” he said, “houses that set on big lots away from otherhouses and didn’t catch fire. And the churches and the Masonic hall are left And a few stores too.

  But the business section and all along the railroad tracks and at Five Points—well, ladies, that partof town is flat on the ground.”

  “Then,” cried Scarlett-bitterly, “that warehouse Charlie left me, down on the tracks, it’s gonetoo?”

  “If it was near the tracks, it’s gone, but—” Suddenly he smiled. Why hadn’t he thought of itbefore? “Cheer up, ladies! Your Aunt Pitty’s house is still standing. It’s kind of damaged but thereit is.”

  “Oh, how did it escape?”

  “Well, it’s made of brick and it’s got about the only slate roof in Atlanta and that kept the sparksfrom setting it afire, I guess. And then it’s about the last house on the north end of town and the firewasn’t so bad over that way. Of course, the Yankees quartered there tore it up aplenty. They evenburned the baseboard and the mahogany stair rail for firewood, but shucks! It’s in good shape.

  When I saw Miss Pitty last week in Macon—”

  “You saw her? How is she?”

  “Just fine. Just fine. When I told her her house was still standing, she made up her mind to comehome right away. That is—if that old darky, Peter, will let her come. Lots of the Atlanta peoplehave already come back, because they got nervous about Macon. Sherman didn’t take Macon buteverybody is afraid Wilson’s raiders will get there soon and he’s worse than Sherman.”

  “But how silly of them to come back if there aren’t any houses! Where do they live?”

  “Miss Scarlett, they’re living in tents and shacks and log cabins and doubling up six and sevenfamilies in the few houses still standing. And they’re trying to rebuild. Now, Miss Scarlett, don’tsay they are silly. You know Atlanta folks as well as I do. They are plumb set on that town, most asbad as Charlestonians are about Charleston, and it’ll take more than Yankees and a burning to keepthem away. Atlanta folks are—begging your pardon, Miss Melly—as stubborn as mules aboutAtlanta. I don’t know why, for I always thought that town a mighty pushy, impudent sort of place.

  But then, I’m a countryman born and I don’t like any town. And let me tell you, the ones who aregetting back first are the smart ones. The ones who come back last won’t find a stick or stone orbrick of their houses, because everybody’s out salvaging things all over town to rebuild their houses. Just day before yesterday, I saw Mrs. Merriwether and Miss Maybelle and their old darkywoman out collecting brick in a wheelbarrow. And Mrs. Meade told me she was thinking aboutbuilding a log cabin when the doctor comes back to help her. She said she lived in a log cabinwhen she first came to Atlanta, when it was Marthasville, and it wouldn’t bother her none to do itagain. ‘Course, she was only joking but that shows you how they feel about it.”

  “I think they’ve got a lot of spirit,” said Melanie proudly. “Don’t you, Scarlett?”

  Scarlett nodded, a grim pleasure and pride in her adopted town filling her. As Frank said, it wasa pushy, impudent place and that was why she liked it. It wasn’t hidebound and stick-in-themuddishlike the older towns and it had a brash exuberance that matched her own. “I’m likeAtlanta,” she thought. “It takes more than Yankees or a burning to keep me down.”

  “If Aunt Pitty is going back to Atlanta, we’d better go back and stay with her, Scarlett,” saidMelanie, interrupting her train of thought. “She’ll die of fright alone.”

  “Now, how can I leave here, Melly?” Scarlett asked crossly. “If you are so anxious to go, go. Iwon’t stop you.”

  “Oh, I didn’t mean it that way, darling,” cried Melanie, flushing with distress. “How thoughtlessof me! Of course, you can’t leave Tara and—and I guess Uncle Peter and Cookie can take care ofAuntie.”

  “There’s nothing to keep you from going,” Scarlett pointed out, shortly.

  “You know I wouldn’t leave you,” answered Melanie. “And I—I would be just frightened todeath without you.”

  “Suit yourself. Besides, you wouldn’t catch me going back to Atlanta. Just as soon as they get afew houses up, Sherman will come back and burn it again.”

  “He won’t be back,” said Frank and, despite his efforts, his face drooped. “He’s gone on throughthe state to the coast. Savannah was captured this week and they say the Yankees are going on upinto South Carolina.”

  “Savannah taken!”

  “Yes. Why, ladies, Savannah couldn’t help but fall. They didn’t have enough men to hold it,though they used every man they could get—every man who could drag one foot after another. Doyou know that when the Yankees were marching on Milledgeville, they called out all the cadetsfrom the military academies, matter how young they were, and even opened the state penitentiarytogetfreshtroops?Ye(no) s, sir, they turned loose every convict who was willing to fightand promised him a pardon if he lived through the war. It kind of gave me the creeps to see thoselittle cadets in the ranks with thieves and cutthroats.”

  “They turned loose the convicts on us!”

  “Now, Miss Scarlett, don’t you get upset. They’re a long way off from here, and furthermorethey’re making good soldiers. I guess being a thief don’t keep a man from being a good soldier,does it?”

  “I think it’s wonderful,” said Melanie softly.

  “Well, I don’t,” said Scarlett flatly. “There’s thieves enough running around the country anyway,what with the Yankees and—” She caught herself in time but the men laughed.

  “What with Yankees and our commissary department,” they finished and she flushed.

  “But where’s General Hood’s army?” interposed Melanie hastily. “Surely he could have heldSavannah.”

  “Why, Miss Melanie,” Frank was startled and reproachful, “General Hood hasn’t been down inthat section at all. He’s been fighting up in Tennessee, trying to draw the Yankees out of Georgia.”

  “And didn’t his little scheme work well!” cried Scarlett sarcastically. “He left the damn Yankeesto go through us with nothing but schoolboys and convicts and Home Guards to protect us.”

  “Daughter,” said Gerald rousing himself, “you are profane. Your mother will be grieved.”

  “They are damn Yankees!” cried Scarlett passionately. “And I never expect to call themanything else.”

  At the mention of Ellen everyone felt queer and conversation suddenly ceased. Melanie againinterposed.

  “When you were in Macon did you see India and Honey Wilkes? Did they—had they heardanything of Ashley?”

  “Now, Miss Melly, you know if I’d had news of Ashley, I’d have ridden up here from Maconright away to tell you,” said Frank reproachfully. “No, they didn’t have any news but—now, don’tyou fret about Ashley, Miss Melly. I know it’s been a long time since you heard from him, but youcan’t expect to hear from a fellow when he’s in prison, can you? And things aren’t as bad inYankee prisons as they are in ours. After all, the Yankees have plenty to eat and enough medicinesand blankets. They aren’t like we are—not having enough to feed ourselves, much less ourprisoners.”

  “Oh, the Yankees have got plenty,” cried Melanie, passionately bitter. “But they don’t givethings to the prisoners. You know they don’t, Mr. Kennedy. You are just saying that to make mefeel better. You know that our boys freeze to death up there and starve too and die without doctorsand medicine, simply because the Yankees hate us so much! Oh, if we could just wipe everyYankee off the face of the earth! Oh, I know that Ashley is—”

  “Don’t say it!” cried Scarlett, her heart in her throat. As long as no one said Ashley was dead,there persisted in her heart a faint hope that he lived, but she felt that if she heard the wordspronounced, in that moment he would die.

  “Now, Mrs. Wilkes, don’t you bother about your husband,” said the one-eyed man soothingly. “Iwas captured after first Manassas and exchanged later and when I was in prison, they fed me offthe fat of the land, fried chicken and hot biscuits—”

  “I think you are a liar,” said Melanie with a faint smile and the first sign of spirit Scarlett hadever seen her display with a man. “What do you think?”

  “I think so too,” said the one-eyed man and slapped his leg with a laugh.

  “If you’ll all come into the parlor, I’ll sing you some Christmas carols,” said Melanie, glad to change the subject. “The piano was one thing the Yankees couldn’t carry away. Is it terribly out oftune, Suellen?”

  “Dreadfully,” answered Suellen, happily beckoning with a smile to Frank.

  But as they all passed from the room, Frank hung back, tugging at Scarlett’s sleeve.

  “May I speak to you alone?”

  For an awful moment she feared he was going to ask about her livestock and she braced herselffor a good lie.

  When the room was cleared and they stood by the fire, all the false cheerfulness which hadcolored Frank’s face in front of the others passed and she saw that he looked like an old man. Hisface was as dried and brown as the leaves that were blowing about the lawn of Tara and his ginger-colored whiskers were thin and scraggly and streaked with gray. He clawed at them absently andcleared his throat in an annoying way before he spoke.

  “I’m mighty sorry about your ma, Miss Scarlett.”

  “Please don’t talk about it.”

  “And your pa— Has he been this way since—?”

  “Yes—he’s—he’s not himself, as you can see.”

  “He sure set a store by her.”

  “Oh, Mr. Kennedy, please don’t let’s talk—”

  “I’m sorry, Miss Scarlett,” and he shuffled his feet nervously. “The truth is I wanted to take upsomething with your pa and now I see it won’t do any good.”

  “Perhaps I can help you, Mr. Kennedy. You see—I’m the head of the house now.”

  “Well, I,” began Frank and again clawed nervously at his beard. “The truth is— Well, MissScarlett, I was aiming to ask him for Miss Suellen.”

  “Do you mean to tell me,” cried Scarlett in amused amazement, “that you haven’t yet asked Pafor Suellen? And you’ve been courting her for years!”

  He flushed and grinned embarrassedly and in general looked like a shy and sheepish boy.

  “Well, I—I didn’t know if she’d have me. I’m so much older than she is and—there were somany good-looking young bucks hanging around Tara—”

  “Hump!” thought Scarlett, “they were hanging around me, not her!”

  “And I don’t know yet if she’ll have me. I’ve never asked her but she must know how I feel. I—I thought I’d ask Mr. O’Hara’s permission and tell him the truth. Miss Scarlett, I haven’t got a centnow. I used to have a lot of money, if you’ll forgive me mentioning it, but right now all I own ismy horse and the clothes I’ve got on. You see, when I enlisted I sold most of my land and I put allmy money in Confederate bonds and you know what they’re worth now. Less than the paperthey’re printed on. And anyway, I haven’t got them now, because they burned up when the Yankeesburned my sister’s house. I know I’ve got gall asking for Miss Suellen now when I haven’t a cent but—well, it’s this way. I got to thinking that we don’t know how things are going to turn outabout this war. It sure looks like the end of the world for me. There’s nothing we can be sure of and—and I thought it would be a heap of comfort to me and maybe to her if we were engaged. Thatwould be something sure. I wouldn’t ask to marry her till I could take care of her, Miss Scarlett,and I don’t know when that will be. But if true love carries any weight with you, you can becertain Miss Suellen will be rich in that if nothing else.”

  He spoke the last words with a simple dignity that touched Scarlett, even in her amusement. Itwas beyond her comprehension that anyone could love Suellen. Her sister seemed to her a monsterof selfishness, of complaints and of what she could only describe as pure cussedness.

  “Why, Mr. Kennedy,” she said kindly, “it’s quite all right. I’m sure I can speak for Pa. He alwaysset a store by you and he always expected Suellen to marry you.”

  “Did he now?” cried Frank, happiness in his face.

  “Indeed yes,” answered Scarlett, concealing a grin as she remembered how frequently Geraldhad rudely bellowed across the supper table to Suellen: “How now, Missy! Hasn’t your ardent beaupopped the question yet? Shall I be asking him his intentions?”

  “I shall ask her tonight,” he said, his face quivering, and he clutched her hand and shook it.

  “You’re so kind, Miss Scarlett.”

  “I’ll send her to’ you,” smiled Scarlett, starting for the parlor. Melanie was beginning to play.

  The piano was sadly out of tune but some of the chords were musical and Melanie was raising hervoice to lead the others in “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!”

  Scarlett paused. It did not seem possible that war had swept over them twice, that they wereliving in a ravaged country, close to the border of starvation, when this old sweet Christmas hymnwas being sung. Abruptly she turned to Frank.

  “What did you mean when you said it looked like the end of the world to you?”

  “I’ll talk frankly,” he said slowly, “but I wouldn’t want you to be alarming the other ladies withwhat I say. The war can’t go on much longer. There arent any fresh men to fill the ranks and thedesertions are running high—higher than the army likes to admit You see, the men can’t stand tobe away from their families when they know they’re starving, so they go home to try to provide forthem. I can’t blame them but it weakens the army. And the army can’t fight without food and thereisn’t any food. I know because, you see, getting food is my business. I’ve been all up and downthis section since we retook Atlanta and there isn’t enough to feed a jaybird. It’s the same way forthree hundred miles south to Savannah. The folks are starving and the railroads are torn up andthere aren’t any new rifles and the ammunition is giving out and there’s no leather at all forshoes. ... So, you see, the end is almost here.”

  But the fading hopes of the Confederacy weighed less heavily on Scarlett than his remark aboutthe scarcity of food. It had been her intention to send Pork out with the horse and wagon, the goldpieces and the United States money to scour the countryside for provisions and material forclothes. But if what Frank said was true—But Macon hadn’t fallen. There must be food in Macon. Just as soon as the commissary department was safely on its way, she’d start Pork for Macon and take the chance of having theprecious horse picked up by the army. She’d have to risk it.

  “Well, let’s don’t talk about unpleasant things tonight, Mr. Kennedy,” she said. “You go and sitin Mother’s little office and I’ll send Suellen to you so you can—well, so you’ll have a littleprivacy.”

  Blushing, smiling, Frank slipped out of the room and Scarlett watched him go.

  “What a pity he can’t marry her now,” she thought. “That would be one less mouth to feed.”

  一旦霜冻来临,严寒天气便突然出现了。冷风从门槛下侵进屋里,把松劲的窗玻璃刮得格格地响个不停。树枝上光秃秃的连最后一片叶子也掉落了,只有松树照常苍翠,挺立在那里,衬印着灰沉沉的天空。满是车辙的红土大道冻得像火石一样坚硬,饥饿乘着寒风在肆虐着整个佐治亚州。
  思嘉心酸地记及方丹老太太跟她的那次谈话。两个月前的那天下午,现在仿佛已时隔多年,那时她告诉老太太,她已经经历了她可能碰的最坏处境,这是打心底里说出来的话。
  可现在回想起来,那简直是个女学生的夸大之辞,幼稚得很。
  在谢尔曼的部队第二次经过塔拉之前,她本已有了小小的一笔财富,包括食品和现金在内,同时还有几家比她幸运的邻居,有一些可以让她度过冬天的棉花。现在棉花烧光了,食品抢走了,金钱也因为买不到吃的而没有用武之地,而且几家邻居的处境比她更坏。至少她还有那头母牛和那只牛犊子,有几只小猪,以及那骑马,而邻居家除了藏在树林里和埋在地底下的那点东西,就什么也没了。
  塔尔顿家所在的费尔希尔农场被烧个精光,现在塔尔顿太太和四个姑娘只得住在监工的屋里。芒罗家在洛夫乔伊附近,现在也成了一片废墟。米莫萨农场的木板厢房也烧掉了,正屋全靠它厚厚的一层坚实灰泥,幸亏方丹家的妇女和奴隶们用湿毛毯和棉被拼命扑打,才被救下来。卡尔弗特家的房子由于那个北方佬监工希乐顿从中调停,总算又一次幸免于难,不过那里已没有一头牲口、一只家禽和一粒玉米了。
  在塔拉,甚至全县,目前的主要问题是食物。大多数家庭除了剩下未收的一点山芋花生,以及能在树林里抓到的一些猎物外,别无所有。他们剩下的这点东西也得跟那些更不幸的朋友们分享,就像在平时比较富裕的日子里那样。不过眼看就要没有东西可分享的了。
  如波克运气好捉得到的话,在塔拉他们能吃到野兔、负鼠和鲶鱼。别的时候就只有少量的牛奶、山胡桃、炒橡子和山芋了。他们经常挨饿。思嘉觉得她动不动就遇到向她伸出的手和祈求的眼光。他们的这副模样逼得她快要发疯了,因为跟他们一样她自己也在饿肚子!
  她命令把牛犊宰掉,因为它每天要吃掉那么多宝贵的牛奶。那天晚上人人都吃了过多的新鲜牛肉,结果都生病了。还得宰一只小猪,她知道,可是她一天天往后推,希望把猪崽养大了再说。猪崽还很小呢。要是现在就把它们宰了,那不会有什么好吃的,可是如果再过些时候,就会多得多了。每天晚上她都跟媚兰辩论,要不要打发波克骑马出去用联邦政府的钞票买些粮食回来。不过,由于害怕有人会把马掳去,把钱从波克手里他走。她们才没有下决心。她们不知道北方佬军队现在打到哪里了。他们可能远在千里之外,也可能近在河对岸。一回,思嘉实在急了,便准备自己骑马出门找吃的,可是全家人都生怕她碰上北方佬,这才迫使她放弃了自己的计划。
  波克搜寻食物的范围很广,好几次整夜没有回家,思嘉也不问他到哪里去了。有时他带些猎物回来,有时带几个玉米棒子或一袋豌豆。有一次他带回来一只公鸡,说是在林子里捉到的。全家人吃得津津有味,但是觉得有些内疚,因为正像他偷豌豆和玉米一样,明明知道这是偷来的。就在第二天晚上,夜深人静时他来敲思嘉的门,露出一条受了严重枪伤的腿给她看。思嘉替他包扎时他很难为情地解释说,他在弗耶特维尔试图钻进一个鸡窝,结果被人家发现了。思嘉也没有追问那是谁家的鸡窝,只含泪轻轻拍了拍波克的肩膀。
  黑人有时让人生气,而且又蠢又懒,不过他有一颗用金钱也买不到的忠心,一种与白人主子一条心的感情,这驱使他们不惜冒生命危险去给一家人找吃的呢!
  要是在原来,波克这种小偷小摸的行为就是一件严重的事了,说不定要吃一顿鞭子。要是在从前,思嘉就肯定会至少狠狠地责骂他一通。"你必须记住,亲爱的,"爱伦曾经说过,“对于那些由上帝托付给你照管的黑人,你在物质生活和道德两方面都是要负责的。你必须明白,他们就像小孩子一样管不住自己,你得防备他们误入歧途,而且你要随时随地给他们树立一个好的榜样。"可现在思嘉把这番训诫完全抛到了脑后。现在她鼓励偷窃,哪怕是偷那些比她境况更坏的人家,并且毫不觉得这是违背良心的事了。事实上,那种为人处世的道德准则在思嘉心目中无足轻重。她决定不惩罚或者责备波克,反而为他的受伤感到遗憾。
  “波克,你要更加小心。我们可是少不得你埃假如没有你,叫我们怎么办呀?你一直是一个很好,很完美、善良而忠实的人。"听了这句赞扬的话波克不禁眉飞色舞,小心地抚摩着那条包扎好了的腿。
  “思嘉小姐,这话可说得太好了。你看什么时候会有那笔钱呢?"“波克,我不知道,不过我总归会有的。"她俯身茫然地看了他一眼,那眼神热情而痛苦,波克被感动得很不自在了。
  “总有一天,这场战争一结束,我就会得到许多钱,那时我就该不会再挨饿受冻了。我们谁也不会挨饿受冻。我们人人都要穿得漂漂亮亮,每天都吃烤鸡,而且----"她没有继续说下去。因为塔拉农场有一条由思嘉自己制订和强迫执行的规矩,十分严格的规矩,那就是谁也不许谈他们以前吃得多么好,或者说如果有条件的话,今天想吃什么。
  波克看见思嘉愣在那里瞪着眼睛出神,悄悄地便从房间里溜出来。在那早已消逝了的往年,生活曾是那么复杂,那么充满了彼此纠缠不清的问题。那时她一方面极力想赢得艾希礼的爱情,一方面又要维持那十来个围着她转,可又并不讨人喜欢的男朋友。还有些小错小过要设法瞒着大人,有些爱吃醋的姑娘要你去故意嘲弄或安慰;还要挑选不同式样的衣服和不同花色的料子,要试梳各式发型,等等。此外,还有许许多多的事要考虑决定。可现在,生活倒是简单极了。如今唯一重要的是得到足够的食物以免挨饿,有足够的衣裳以免受冻,还需要一个没有过多漏洞的屋顶来遮风蔽雨。
  就是在这些日子里,思嘉开始接连做同一个恶梦,那是以后多年都要常常做的。这个梦的内容始终一成不变,但梦中的恐怖气氛却一次比一次更强,以致思嘉连醒着时也因为生怕再梦到它而十分苦恼。她很清楚地记得初次做这种梦那天所经历的意外遭遇。
  那时几天连续阴雨,屋里多处透风,又冷又潮湿。生炉子的木柴也是湿的,烟特别多,可是一点不暖和。吃过早餐后,除了牛奶就什么也没了,因为山芋已经吃完,波克打猎钓鱼也毫无所获。看来如果第二天他们还得吃东西,就只能宰一只小猪了。一张张板着的饥饿的面孔,无论黑的白的,都在瞪眼睛看她,默默地请她拿出食物来。她差一点冒丢掉那骑马的危险打发波克去买吃的了。更糟糕的是韦德嗓子痛,正发高烧,可是既没大夫,又买不到药来为他治玻思嘉久久地守着孩子,现在累了,肚子又饿,只得让媚兰照料一会,让自己倒在床上打个盹儿。她冻得双脚冰冷,害怕和绝望的心情又分外沉重,因此在床上翻来覆去睡不着。她反复思量:“我怎么办?我向哪里求援去?世界上还有人能帮助我吗?"世界的安全都到哪里去了呢?为什么就没有一个人,一个强大而聪明的人,能够替她挑起这副担子来呢?她不是生来就挑这副担子的呀。她不知怎么去挑它。想着想着,她进入了一种不安的微睡状态。
  她来到一个荒凉古怪的地方,大雾弥漫,伸手不见五指。
  她脚下的地面摇晃不定,鬼怪时常出没,而且寂静得可怕;她迷了路,像黑夜里迷路和吓坏了的孩子似的。她又冷又饿,又很害怕浓烟中在她周围潜伏着的东西,因此很想大喊大叫,可是喊不出声来。迷雾中有什么怪物悄悄地伸出无情的双手,张开十指抓她的衣裙,要把她拖到她脚下正在震动的地底下去。
  后来,她知道周围一片模糊中有个什么地方,那里可以躲避,可以得到帮助,是个安全而温暖的天堂。但是它在哪里呢?在那双手抓住她拖到脚下的流沙中去之前她能够赶到达那里吗?
  她突然飞跑起来,发狂似地穿过密雾,呼喊着,尖叫着,伸出两只胳臂在空中乱抓,但那潮湿的雾中什么也抓不着。天堂在哪里啊?它躲避她,但的确在什么地方,只是看不见罢了。她要是能找到它就好了!要是找到了它,她就安全了!可是恐惧使她两腿发软,饥饿使她头脑发晕。她绝望地大叫一声醒过来,只见媚兰正焦急地俯身瞧着她,一边还在用手摇她,叫她完全清醒过来。
  这个梦一再重复,每当她空着肚子睡觉就必然会梦见。它来得太频繁了。它使她害怕极了,以致常常不敢去睡觉,即使她真心实意地告诉自己,这样的梦实际上什么可怕的东西也没有。梦见雾,的确没有什么好叫她这样惊恐的。根本什么也没有----或许她一想起要陷到大雾弥漫的地方就害怕极了,结果只得和媚兰睡在一起了,因为只要她一开始在梦中哼哼挣扎,说明她又在受折磨了,媚兰就会把她摇醒。
  在这种紧张心理的压迫下,她变得苍白和消瘦了。她脸上已失去圆乎乎的娇美轮廓,颧骨突了出来,使那双翘着眼角的绿眼睛显得更加触目,她也越发像只急于要抓到猎物的饿猫了。
  “就是没有我梦见的那些东西,白天已冗长得像个恶梦了",她怀着这样绝望的心情,开始每天把食物留到临睡前才去吃,看能不能减轻梦中可怖的程度。
  弗兰克·肯尼迪在圣诞节期间,带着一支小小的队伍从征购部慢慢来到塔拉,他一路给军队搜集粮食和牲畜,但收获甚少,他们衣衫破烂,性情残暴,骑着又跛又乏,显然又派不上更大用场的马匹。就像这些牲口一样,他们自己也是从前线被淘汰下来的,而且除了弗兰克本人,都是些残废人,不是缺一条胳臂就是瞎了一只眼睛,或者关节僵直了,一瘸一拐的。他们大多穿着北军俘虏的蓝色上衣,所以一时间使塔拉的人大为惊慌,以为是谢尔曼的人又回来了。
  他们那天晚上在农场过夜,躺在客厅地板上,垫着暖和的地毯美美地睡了一觉,因为他们已很久不在屋里过夜了,长期睡在松针堆里和硬邦邦的土地上。尽管他们满脸脏的胡子,一身的破衣烂衫,但却是些有教养的人,经常在愉快地闲谈,开玩笑,恭维别人,很高兴能在这大宅子里围着漂亮的女人过圣诞节,就像很久以前惯常过的那样。对战争他们不怎么认真,喜欢说些可怕的谎言来逗引姑娘们欢笑,给这所被洗劫一空的房子头一次带来轻松愉快的气氛,使它头一次接连好几天气有节日的气氛。
  “这几乎像我们从前开家庭晚会的那些日子了,你说是吗?"苏伦高兴地小声对思嘉说。苏伦已经想入非非,觉得屋子里又有一个她的情人,那双眼睛始终盯着弗兰克·肯尼迪不离开。思嘉惊奇地发现居然漂亮起来了,尽管她那病后消瘦的容貌并没有完全改变。她的两颊上有了红晕,眼睛也在发光呢。
  “她准是看上他了,"思嘉不屑地想。"我猜她要是有了丈夫,即使是弗兰克这样一个苛刻的人,她也很可能变得富于人情味的。"卡琳也显得活泼了些,那天晚上连她眼神中的梦游症也完全消失了。她发现他们中间有个人认识布伦特·塔尔顿,并在布伦特牺牲的那天跟他在一起,因此她答应晚饭后同这个人单独进行一次长谈。
  吃晚饭时,媚兰强迫自己一反羞怯的常态,忽然变得活泼了,这叫大家十分惊讶。她又笑又乐,几乎在向一个独眼大兵卖弄风情,以致后者乐得用过分的殷勤回报她。思嘉很清楚,媚兰精神和生理两方面都勉强自己,因为她在任何男性的事情面前都是十分羞涩的。另外,她的身体还没有完全恢复。她坚持说自己很健康,甚至比迪尔茜还要做更多的事情,可是思嘉知道她实际上还着呢。每当她倒拿起什么东西时,脸色就要发白,而且用力过多就会突然坐下来,仿佛两腿支持不住似的。但是今天晚上她也像苏伦和卡琳那样,在尽可能使那些士兵过一个愉快的圣诞节。只有思嘉对这些客人不感兴趣。
  嬷嬷做的晚餐有干豌豆、炖苹果干和花生,这些军人又加上他们自己怕炒玉米和腌猪肉,满满摆了一桌子,所以军人们说这是他们好几个月以来吃得最好的一顿饭了。思嘉瞧着他们吃,但心里很不舒服。她不但对于他们每吃一口都感到妒忌和吝啬,而且有点提心吊胆,生怕他们发现波克头天杀了一只小猪。小猪肉如今还挂在食品间,她已经警告过全家的人,谁要是对客人说了这件事或谈到关在沼泽地里的其他几只小猪,她就要把他的眼睛挖掉了。这些饿痨鬼会把整只小猪一顿就吃光的,而且如果知道还有几只活的,他们就会把它们征调走了。同时她也替那头母牛和那骑马担心,但愿当初把它们藏到了沼泽地里而不是拴在牧场那头的树林中。如果是征购队把她的牲口弄走了,塔拉农场就很可能过不了这个冬天。它们是没法取代的啊!她可管不着军队吃什么,要是军队有办法,就让他们自己供养自己好了。她要供养自己的一家已经够困难的了。
  那些军人又从自己的背包里取出一种叫做"通条卷子"的点心来,思嘉第一次看到这种联盟军的食品,它曾经像虱子一样引起过许多笑话呢。这是一种像木头似的烤焦了的螺旋形食品。他们鼓励她咬一口尝尝,她真的咬了一点,发现熏黑的表层下面原来是没放盐的玉米面包。士兵们把玉米面加水和好,有盐加点盐,然后把面团在通条上放到营火上烤,这就成了“通条卷子"。卷了像冰糖一样坚硬,像锯木屑屑似的毫无味道,所以思嘉咬了一口就在士兵们的哄笑声中还给了他们。她和媚兰相对而视,两人脸上的表情说明了同一个想法……“如果他们尽吃这种东西,怎么去打仗呀?"这顿饭吃得非常愉快,连心不在焉地坐着首席的杰拉尔德,也居然设法从模糊的意识中搬来了一点当主人应有的礼貌和不可捉摸的笑容。那些军人兴高采烈地谈论着,妇女们也满脸微笑,百般讨好----这时思嘉突然扭过头去想询问弗兰克·肯尼迪关于皮蒂帕特小姐的消息,但她立即发现他脸上有种异的表情,这几乎使她把想要说的话都忘掉了。
  原来弗兰克的目光已经离开苏伦的面孔,正在向房子里四顾张望,他有时看看杰拉尔德那双孩子般煌惑的眼睛,有时望着没铺地毯的地板,或者装饰品全部被拿走的壁炉,或者那些弹簧松了、垫子被北方佬用刺刀割开了的沙发,餐具柜上头被打碎的镜子,墙壁上原来挂相框的地方留下的方块,餐桌上的简陋餐具,姑娘的身上仔细补缀过的旧衣裳,以及已经给韦德入成苏格兰式短裙的那个面粉袋,等等。
  弗兰克在回忆他战前熟悉的那个塔拉农场,脸上的表情是忧伤的、厌倦和无可奈何的愤怒交织在一块的。他爱苏伦,喜欢她的姐姐妹妹,敬重杰拉尔德,对农场也有真诚的好感。
  自从谢尔曼的部队扫荡了佐治亚州以后,他在这个州征集军需平时到处看到许多可怕的景象,可是从没有像现在塔拉农场这样使她深有感触。他要给奥哈拉一家尤其是苏伦做点事情,可是又毫无办法。他正无意识地摇头慨叹,啧啧不已时,忽然发现思嘉在盯着他。他看见思嘉眼睛里闪烁着愤愤不平和傲慢的神色,便感到十分尴尬,默默地垂下眼帘吃饭了。
  因为亚特兰大陷落以来,邮路断绝已经四个月了。姑娘们渴望得到一点新闻。现在究竟北方佬到了哪里,联盟军部队打得怎么样,亚特兰大和老朋友们的情况如何,所有这些,她们都一无所知。弗兰克由于工作关系经常在这个地区到处跑动,无疑是个很好的信使,甚至比信使还要好,因为从梅肯以北直到亚特兰大,几乎每个人都跟他亲属关系或者认识他,他还能够提供一些有趣的私下传闻,而这些却常常被报纸删掉了。为了掩盖他遇到思嘉的眼光时那种尴尬局面,他乘机赶快谈起新闻来。他告诉她们,联盟军队已在谢尔曼撤出之后改变了亚特兰大,但是由于谢尔曼已经把它们彻底烧毁,这次收复也就没有什么意思了。
  “但是我想亚特兰大是我离开那天晚上烧掉的,"思嘉有点迷惑不解地说。"我还以为那是我们的小伙子们烧的呢!"“啊,不,思嘉小姐!"弗兰克吃惊地回答。“我们可没烧过我们自己人住的任何一个城镇!你看见烧的是我们不让落到北方佬手中的那些仓库和军需品,以及兵工厂和弹药。仅此而已。谢尔曼占领城市时,那些住宅和店铺都还是好好儿的,他的军队就驻扎在里面呢。"“可人们怎么样了?他----他杀过人吗?"“他杀了一些,但不是用枪打死的。"那个独眼大兵冷冷地说。他一开进亚特兰大就告诉市长,城里所有的人都得搬走,一个活人也不让留下。那时有许多老人经不起奔波,有许多病人不应当移动,还有小姐太太们,她们----她们也是不该移动的。结果他在罕见的狂风暴雨中把他们成百上千地赶出城外,将他们扔在拉甫雷迪附近的树林里,然后捎信给胡德将军,叫他来把他们领走。有许多人经不起那种虐待,都患肺炎死了。
  “唔,他们对他不会有什么害处嘛,他干吗要这样呢?"媚兰大声嚷道。
  “他说他要让他的人马在城里休整,"弗兰克说,"他让他们在城里一直休息到11月中,然后才撤走。临走时他在全城纵火,把一切都烧光了。"“唔,不见得都烧光了吧?"姑娘们沮丧地说。
  很难想像她们所熟悉的那个扰扰攘攘的城市,那个人口众多,驻满了军队的城市,就这样完了。那些荫蔽在大树底下的可爱的住宅,所有那些宏大的店铺和豪华的旅馆----决不会全都化为乌有的!媚兰好像要哭出声来了,因为她是出生在那里,从来不知道还有别的家乡。思嘉的心情也很沉重,因为除了塔拉,那是她最爱的一个地方。
  “唔,差不多全烧光了,"弗兰克显然对她们脸上的表情感到有点为难,才连忙纠正说。他想要显得愉快一些,因为他不主张叫小姐太太们烦恼。女人一烦恼,他自己也就烦恼起来,不知怎么办好。他不能只顾讲那些最惨的事。让她们向另一个人去打听好了。
  他不能告诉她们军队开回亚特兰大,进城时所看见的情景,如,那许许多多耸立在废墟上的烧黑的烟囱,那一堆堆没有烧完的垃圾和堆积在街道的残砖碎瓦,那些已经被烧死但焦黑的枝柯还迎着寒风撑持在地上的古树,等等。他还记得曾如何使他难受的那一片凄凉的光景,面对城市遗迹时联盟军弟兄们曾怎样深恶痛绝地诅咒。他希望妇女们永远也不会听说北军挖掘墓地的惨状,因为那将会使她们一辈子也摆脱不掉。查尔斯·汉密尔顿和媚兰的父母都埋在那里。墓地上的情景至今还常常给弗兰克带来恶梦呢。北方佬士兵希望拿到给死者殉葬的珠宝,便挖掘墓穴,劈开棺木。他们抢劫尸体上的东西,撬掉棺材上的金银名牌,也不放过上面的银饰品的银把手。尸体和骨凌乱地抛散在劈碎的棺木中间,暴露在风吹日晒之下,景象极为凄惨。
  弗兰克也不能告诉她们城里猫狗的遭遇。小姐太太们是很爱喂养小动物的。可是成千上万挨饿的动物由于主人被强行撤走而变得无家可归四处流浪了,它们的悲惨境遇也像墓地上那样,使珍爱猫狗的弗兰克大为痛苦。那些受惊的动物忍冻挨饿,变得像林子里的牲畜一样粗野了。它们弱肉强食,彼此等待着对方成为牺牲品供自己饱餐一顿。同时那片废墟上头的凛冽天空中,有不少兀鹰嘴里叼着动物的腐尸残骸在盘旋飞舞。
  弗兰克搜索枯肠,想找些缓和的话题,让小姐们感到好过些。
  “那里有些房子还没有毁掉,"他说,"如离其他建筑物很远没有着上火的那些房子。教堂和共济会会堂也还在,还有少数的店铺。可是商业区和五点镇铁路两旁的建筑物----是的,女士们,城市的那个部分全都夷为平地了。"“那么,"思嘉痛苦地喊道:“铁路那头查理留给我的那个仓库也一起完了吗?”
  “要是靠近铁路,那就没有了,不过----"他突然微微一笑,他怎么事先没有想到这一点呢?"你们应当高兴起来,女士们!你们皮蒂姑妈的房子还在呢。它尽管损坏了一些,但毕竟还在嘛。"“啊,它是怎么幸免的呀?"“我想是这样,那房子是砖造的,还有亚特兰大唯一的一个石板屋顶,因此尽管落上了一些火星也没有烧起来,加上它又是城市最北端的一幢房子,而那一带的火势并不怎么猛,这不就幸免了?当然,也被驻扎在那里的北方佬军队毁坏了不少。他们甚至把护墙板和楼梯上的红木栏杆也拆下来当柴烧了,不过这都算不了什么!反正从外表那房子还是完好的。
  上星期我在梅肯碰到皮蒂小姐时----”
  “你看见她了?她怎么样?”
  “不错,不错。我告诉她她的房子还在,她就决定立即回家去。那就是说----如果那个老黑人彼得让她回来。大批大批的亚特兰大市民都已经回来了,因为他们在梅肯实在待腻了。谢尔曼没有占领梅肯,可是人人都担心威尔逊的突击大队很快会打到那里,他比谢尔曼更坏。"“不过,要是房子都没有了,



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