Gone With The Wind 바람과 함께사라지다 Chapter XLVIII - Chapter XLIII
She did have fun, more fun than she had had since the spring before
the war. New Orleans was such a strange, glamorous place and
Scarlett enjoyed it with the headlong pleasure of a pardoned life
prisoner. The Carpetbaggers were looting the town, many honest
folk were driven from their homes and did not know where to look
for their next meal, and a negro sat in the lieutenant governor's
chair. But the New Orleans Rhett showed her was the gayest place
she had ever seen. The people she met seemed to have all the money
they wanted and no cares at all. Rhett introduced her to dozens of
women, pretty women in bright gowns, women who had soft hands that
showed no signs of hard work, women who laughed at everything and
never talked of stupid serious things or hard times. And the men
she met--how thrilling they were! And how different from Atlanta
men--and how they fought to dance with her, and paid her the most
extravagant compliments as though she were a young belle.
These men had the same hard reckless look Rhett wore. Their eyes
were always alert, like men who have lived too long with danger to
be ever quite careless. They seemed to have no pasts or futures,
and they politely discouraged Scarlett when, to make conversation,
she asked what or where they were before they came to New Orleans.
That, in itself, was strange, for in Atlanta every respectable
newcomer hastened to present his credentials, to tell proudly of
his home and family, to trace the tortuous mazes of relationship
that stretched over the entire South.
But these men were a taciturn lot, picking their words carefully.
Sometimes when Rhett was alone with them and Scarlett in the next
room, she heard laughter and caught fragments of conversation that
meant nothing to her, scraps of words, puzzling names--Cuba and
Nassau in the blockade days, the gold rush and claim jumping, gun
running and filibustering, Nicaragua and William Walker and how he
died against a wall at Truxillo. once her sudden entrance abruptly
terminated a conversation about what had happened to the members of
Quantrill's band of guerillas, and she caught the names of Frank
and Jesse James.
But they were all well mannered, beautifully tailored, and they
evidently admired her, so it mattered little to Scarlett that they
chose to live utterly in the present. What really mattered was
that they were Rhett's friends and had large houses and fine
carriages, and they took her and Rhett driving, invited them to
suppers, gave parties in their honor. And Scarlett like them very
well. Rhett was amused when she told him so.
"I thought you would," he said and laughed.
"Why not?" her suspicions aroused as always by his laughter.
"They're all second-raters, black sheep, rascals. They're all
adventurers or Carpetbag aristocrats. They all made their money
speculating in food like your loving husband or out of dubious
government contracts or in shady ways that won't bear
"I don't believe it. You're teasing. They're the nicest
people . . ."
"The nicest people in town are starving," said Rhett. "And living
politely in hovels, and I doubt if I'd be received in those hovels.
You see, my dear, I was engaged in some of my nefarious schemes
here during the war and these people have devilish long memories!
Scarlett, you are a constant joy to me. You unerringly manage to
pick the wrong people and the wrong things."
"But they are your friends!"
"Oh, but I like rascals. My early youth was spent as a gambler on
a river boat and I can understand people like that. But I'm not
blind to what they are. Whereas you"--he laughed again--"you have
no instinct about people, no discrimination between the cheap and
the great. Sometimes, I think that the only great ladies you've
ever associated with were your mother and Miss Melly and neither
seems to have made any impression on you."
"Melly! Why she's as plain as an old shoe and her clothes always
look tacky and she never has two words to say for herself!"
"Spare me your jealousy, Madam. Beauty doesn't make a lady, nor
clothes a great lady!"
"Oh, don't they! Just you wait, Rhett Butler, and I'll show you.
Now that I've--we've got money, I'm going to be the greatest lady
you ever saw!"
"I shall wait with interest," he said.
More exciting than the people she met were the frocks Rhett bought
her, superintending the choice of colors, materials and designs
himself. Hoops were out now, and the new styles were charming with
the skirts pulled back from the front and draped over bustles, and
on the bustles were wreaths of flowers and bows and cascades of
lace. She thought of the modest hoops of the war years and she
felt a little embarrassed at these new skirts which undeniably
outlined her abdomen. And the darling little bonnets that were not
really bonnets at all, but flat little affairs worn over one eye
and laden with fruits and flowers, dancing plumes and fluttering
ribbons! (If only Rhett had not been so silly and burned the false
curls she bought to augment her knot of Indian-straight hair that
peeked from the rear of these little hats!) And the delicate
convent-made underwear! How lovely it was and how many sets she
had! Chemises and nightgowns and petticoats of the finest linen
trimmed with dainty embroidery and infinitesimal tucks. And the
satin slippers Rhett bought her! They had heels three inches high
and huge glittering paste buckles on them. And silk stockings, a
dozen pairs and not a one had cotton tops! What riches!
She recklessly bought gifts for the family. A furry St. Bernard
puppy for Wade, who had always longed for one, a Persian kitten for
Beau, a coral bracelet for little Ella, a heavy necklace with
moonstone pendants for Aunt Pitty, a complete set of Shakespeare
for Melanie and Ashley, an elaborate livery for Uncle Peter,
including a high silk coachman's hat with a brush upon it, dress
lengths for Dilcey and Cookie, expensive gifts for everyone at
"But what have you bought for Mammy?" questioned Rhett, looking
over the pile of gifts spread out on the bed in their hotel room,
and removing the puppy and kitten to the dressing room.
"Not a thing. She was hateful. Why should I bring her a present
when she called us mules?"
"Why should you so resent hearing the truth, my pet? You must
bring Mammy a present. It would break her heart if you didn't--and
hearts like hers are too valuable to be broken."
"I won't take her a thing. She doesn't deserve it."
"Then I'll buy her one. I remember my mammy always said that when
she went to Heaven she wanted a taffeta petticoat so stiff that it
would stand by itself and so rustly that the Lord God would think
it was made of angels' wings. I'll buy Mammy some red taffeta and
have an elegant petticoat made."
"She won't take it from you. She'd die rather than wear it."
"I don't doubt it. But I'll make the gesture just the same."
The shops of New Orleans were so rich and exciting and shopping
with Rhett was an adventure. Dining with him was an adventure too,
and one more thrilling than shopping, for he knew what to order and
how it should be cooked. The wines and liqueurs and champagnes of
New Orleans were new and exhilarating to her, acquainted with only
homemade blackberry and scuppernong vintages and Aunt Pitty's
"swoon" brandy; but oh, the food Rhett ordered! Best of all things
in New Orleans was the food. Remembering the bitter hungry days at
Tara and her more recent penury, Scarlett felt that she could never
eat enough of these rich dishes. Gumboes and shrimp Creole, doves
in wine and oysters in crumbly patties full of creamy sauce,
mushrooms and sweetbreads and turkey livers, fish baked cunningly
in oiled paper and limes. Her appetite never dulled, for whenever
she remembered the everlasting goobers and dried peas and sweet
potatoes at Tara, she felt an urge to gorge herself anew of Creole
"You eat as though each meal were your last," said Rhett. "Don't
scrape the plate, Scarlett. I'm sure there's more in the kitchen.
You have only to ask the waiter. If you don't stop being such a
glutton, you'll be as fat as the Cuban ladies and then I shall
But she only put out her tongue at him and ordered another pastry,
thick with chocolate and stuffed with meringue.
What fun it was to be able to spend as much money as you liked and
not count pennies and feel that you should save them to pay taxes
or buy mules. What fun to be with people who were gay and rich and
not genteelly poor like Atlanta people. What fun to wear rustling
brocade dresses that showed your waist and all your neck and arms
and more than a little of your breast and know that men were
admiring you. And what fun to eat all you wanted without having
censorious people say you weren't ladylike. And what fun to drink
all the champagne you pleased. The first time she drank too much,
she was embarrassed when she awoke the next morning with a
splitting headache and an awful memory of singing "Bonnie Blue
Flag" all the way back to the hotel, through the streets of New
Orleans, in an open carriage. She had never seen a lady even
tipsy, and the only drunken woman she had ever seen had been that
Watling creature on the day when Atlanta fell. She hardly knew how
to face Rhett, so great was her humiliation, but the affair seemed
only to amuse him. Everything she did seemed to amuse him, as
though she were a gamboling kitten.
It was exciting to go out with him for he was so handsome. Somehow
she had never given his looks a thought before, and in Atlanta
everyone had been too preoccupied with his shortcomings ever to
talk about his appearance. But here in New Orleans she could see
how the eyes of other women followed him and how they fluttered
when he bent over their hands. The realization that other women
were attracted by her husband, and perhaps envied her, made her
suddenly proud to be seen by his side.
"Why, we're a handsome people," thought Scarlett with pleasure.
Yes, as Rhett had prophesied, marriage could be a lot of fun. Not
only was it fun but she was learning many things. That was odd in
itself, because Scarlett had thought life could teach her no more.
Now she felt like a child, every day on the brink of a new
First, she learned that marriage with Rhett was a far different
matter from marriage with either Charles or Frank. They had
respected her and been afraid of her temper. They had begged for
favors and if it pleased her, she had bestowed them. Rhett did not
fear her and, she often thought, did not respect her very much
either. What he wanted to do, he did, and if she did not like it,
he laughed at her. She did not love him but he was undoubtedly an
exciting person to live with. The most exciting thing about him
was that even in his outbursts of passion which were flavored
sometimes with cruelty, sometimes with irritating amusement, he
seemed always to be holding himself under restraint, always riding
his emotions with a curb bit.
"I guess that's because he isn't really in love with me," she
thought and was content enough with the state of affairs. "I
should hate for him to ever turn completely loose in any way." But
still the thought of the possibility teased her curiosity in an
Living with Rhett, she learned many new things about him, and she
had thought she knew him so well. She learned that his voice could
be as silky as a cat's fur one moment and crisp and crackling with
oaths the next. He could tell, with apparent sincerity and
approval, stories of courage and honor and virtue and love in the
odd places he had been, and follow them with ribald stories of
coldest cynicism. She knew no man should tell such stories to his
wife but they were entertaining and they appealed to something
coarse and earthy in her. He could be an ardent, almost a tender,
lover for a brief while, and almost immediately a mocking devil who
ripped the lid from her gunpowder temper, fired it and enjoyed the
explosion. She learned that his compliments were always two edged
and his tenderest ｅxpressions open to suspicion. In fact, in those
two weeks in New Orleans, she learned everything about him except
what he really was.
Some mornings he dismissed the maid and brought her the breakfast
tray himself and fed her as though she were a child, took the
hairbrush from her hand and brushed her long dark hair until it
snapped and crackled. Yet other mornings she was torn rudely out
of deep slumber when he snatched all the bed covers from her and
tickled her bare feet. Sometimes he listened with dignified
interest to details of her businesses, nodding approval at her
sagacity, and at other times he called her somewhat dubious
tradings scavenging, highway robbery and extortion. He took her to
plays and annoyed her by whispering that God probably didn't
approve of such amusements, and to churches and, sotto voce,
retailed funny obscenities and then reproved her for laughing. He
encouraged her to speak her mind, to be flippant and daring. She
picked up from him the gift of stinging words and sardonic phrases
and learned to relish using them for the power they gave her over
other people. But she did not possess his sense of humor which
tempered his malice, nor his smile that jeered at himself even
while he was jeering others.
He made her play and she had almost forgotten how. Life had been
so serious and so bitter. He knew how to play and swept her along
with him. But he never played like a boy; he was a man and no
matter what he did, she could never forget it. She could not look
down on him from the heights of womanly superiority, smiling as
women have always smiled at the antics of men who are boys at
This annoyed her a little, whenever she thought of it. It would be
pleasant to feel superior to Rhett. All the other men she had
known she could dismiss with a half-contemptuous "What a child!"
Her father, the Tarleton twins with their love of teasing and their
elaborate practical jokes, the hairy little Fontaines with their
childish rages, Charles, Frank, all the men who had paid court to
her during the war--everyone, in fact, except Ashley. only Ashley
and Rhett eluded her understanding and her control for they were
both adults, and the elements of boyishness were lacking in them.
She did not understand Rhett, nor did she trouble to understand
him, though there were things about him which occasionally puzzled
her. There was the way he looked at her sometimes, when he thought
she was unaware. Turning quickly she frequently caught him
watching her, an alert, eager, waiting look in his eyes.
"Why do you look at me like that?" she once asked irritably. "Like
a cat at a mouse hole!"
But his face had changed swiftly and he only laughed. Soon she
forgot it and did not puzzle her head about it any more, or about
anything concerning Rhett. He was too unpredictable to bother
about and life was very pleasant--except when she thought of
Rhett kept her too busy to think of Ashley often. Ashley was
hardly ever in her thoughts during the day but at night when she
was tired from dancing or her head was spinning from too much
champagne--then she thought of Ashley. Frequently when she lay
drowsily in Rhett's arms with the moonlight streaming over the bed,
she thought how perfect life would be if it were only Ashley's arms
which held her so closely, if it were only Ashley who drew her
black hair across his face and wrapped it about his throat.
Once when she was thinking this, she sighed and turned her head
toward the window, and after a moment she felt the heavy arm
beneath her neck become like iron, and Rhett's voice spoke in the
stillness: "May God damn your cheating little soul to hell for all
And, getting up, he put on his clothes and left the room despite
her startled protests and questions. He reappeared the next
morning as she was breakfasting in her room, disheveled, quite
drunk and in his worst sarcastic mood, and neither made excuses nor
gave an account of his absence.
Scarlett asked no questions and was quite cool to him, as became an
injured wife, and when she had finished the meal, she dressed under
his bloodshot gaze and went shopping. He was gone when she
returned and did not appear again until time for supper.
It was a silent meal and Scarlett's temper was straining because it
was her last supper in New Orleans and she wanted to do justice to
the crawfish. And she could not enjoy it under his gaze.
Nevertheless she ate a large one, and drank a quantity of
champagne. Perhaps it was this combination that brought back her
old nightmare that evening, for she awoke, cold with sweat, sobbing
brokenly. She was back at Tara again and Tara was desolate.
Mother was dead and with her all the strength and wisdom of the
world. Nowhere in the world was there anyone to turn to, anyone to
rely upon. And something terrifying was pursuing her and she was
running, running till her heart was bursting, running in a thick
swimming fog, crying out, blindly seeking that nameless, unknown
haven of safety that was somewhere in the mist about her.
Rhett was leaning over her when she woke, and without a word he
picked her up in his arms like a child and held her close, his hard
muscles comforting, his wordless murmuring soothing, until her
"Oh, Rhett. I was so cold and so hungry and so tired and I
couldn't find it. I ran through the mist and I ran but I couldn't
"Find what, honey?"
"I don't know. I wish I did know."
"Is it your old dream?"
He gently placed her on the bed, fumbled in the darkness and lit a
candle. In the light his face with bloodshot eyes and harsh lines
was as unreadable as stone. His shirt, opened to the waist, showed
a brown chest covered with thick black hair. Scarlett, still
shaking with fright, thought how strong and unyielding that chest
was, and she whispered: "Hold me, Rhett."
"Darling!" he said swiftly, and picking her up he sat down in a
large chair, cradling her body against him.
"Oh, Rhett, it's awful to be hungry."
"It must be awful to dream of starvation after a seven-course
dinner including that enormous crawfish." He smiled but his eyes
"Oh, Rhett, I just run and run and hunt and I can't ever find what
it is I'm hunting for. It's always hidden in the mist. I know if
I could find it, I'd be safe forever and ever and never be cold or
"Is it a person or a thing you're hunting?"
"I don't know. I never thought about it. Rhett, do you think I'll
ever dream that I get there to safety?"
"No," he said, smoothing her tumbled hair, "I don't. Dreams aren't
like that. But I do think that if you get used to being safe and
warm and well fed in your everyday life, you'll stop dreaming that
dream. And, Scarlett, I'm going to see that you are safe."
"Rhett, you are so nice."
"Thanks for the crumbs from your table, Mrs. Dives. Scarlett, I
want you to say to yourself every morning when you wake up: 'I
can't ever be hungry again and nothing can ever touch me so long as
Rhett is here and the United States government holds out.'"
"The United States government?" she questioned, sitting up,
startled, tears still on her cheeks.
"The ex-Confederate money has now become an honest woman. I
invested most of it in government bonds."
"God's nightgown!" cried Scarlett, sitting up in his lap, forgetful
of her recent terror. "Do you mean to tell me you've loaned your
money to the Yankees?"
"At a fair per cent."
"I don't care if it's a hundred percent! You must sell them
immediately. The idea of letting the Yankees have the use of your
"And what must I do with it?" he questioned with a smile, noting
that her eyes were no longer wide with fright.
"Why--why buy property at Five Points. I'll bet you could buy all
of Five Points with the money you have."
"Thank you, but I wouldn't have Five Points. Now that the
Carpetbagger government has really gotten control of Georgia,
there's no telling what may happen. I wouldn't put anything beyond
the swarm of buzzards that's swooping down on Georgia now from
north, east, south and west. I'm playing along with them, you
understand, as a good Scallawag should do, but I don't trust them.
And I'm not putting my money in real estate. I prefer bonds. You
can hide them. You can't hide real estate very easily."
"Do you think--" she began, paling as she thought of the mills and
"I don't know. But don't look so frightened, Scarlett. Our
charming new governor is a good friend of mine. It's just that
times are too uncertain now and I don't want much of my money tied
up in real estate."
He shifted her to one knee and, leaning back, reached for a cigar
and lit it. She sat with her bare feet dangling, watching the play
of muscles on his brown chest, her terrors forgotten.
"And while we are on the subject of real estate, Scarlett," he
said, "I am going to build a house. You might have bullied Frank
into living in Miss Pitty's house, but not me. I don't believe I
could bear her vaporings three times a day and, moreover, I believe
Uncle Peter would assassinate me before he would let me live under
the sacred Hamilton roof. Miss Pitty can get Miss India Wilkes to
stay with her and keep the bogyman away. When we get back to
Atlanta we are going to stay in the bridal suite of the National
Hotel until our house is finished. Before we left Atlanta I was
dickering for that big lot on Peachtree, the one near the Leyden
house. You know the one I mean?"
"Oh, Rhett, how lovely! I do so want a house of my own. A great
"Then at last we are agreed on something. What about a white
stucco with wrought-iron work like these Creole houses here?"
"Oh, no, Rhett. Not anything old fashioned like these New Orleans
houses. I know just what I want. It's the newest thing because I
saw a picture of it in--let me see--it was in that Harper's Weekly
I was looking at. It was modeled after a Swiss chalet."
"A Swiss what?"
"Oh," he said and stroked his mustache.
"It was lovely. It had a high mansard roof with a picket fence on
top and a tower made of fancy shingles at each end. And the towers
had windows with red and blue glass in them. It was so stylish
"I suppose it had jigsaw work on the porch banisters?"
"And a fringe of wooden scrollwork hanging from the roof of the
"Yes. You must have seen one like it."
"I have--but not in Switzerland. The Swiss are a very intelligent
race and keenly alive to architectural beauty. Do you really want
a house like that?"
"I had hoped that association with me might improve your taste.
Why not a Creole house or a Colonial with six white columns?"
"I tell you I don't want anything tacky and old-fashioned looking.
And inside let's have red wall paper and red velvet portieres over
all the folding doors and oh, lots of expensive walnut furniture
and grand thick carpets and--oh, Rhett, everybody will be pea green
when they see our house!"
"It is very necessary that everyone shall be envious? Well, if you
like they shall be green. But, Scarlett, has it occurred to you
that it's hardly in good taste to furnish the house on so lavish a
scale when everyone is so poor?"
"I want it that way," she said obstinately. "I want to make
everybody who's been mean to me feel bad. And we'll give big
receptions that'll make the whole town wish they hadn't said such
"But who will come to our receptions?"
"Why, everybody, of course."
"I doubt it. The Old Guard dies but it never surrenders."
"Oh, Rhett, how you run on! If you've got money, people always
"Not Southerners. It's harder for speculators' money to get into
the best parlors than for the camel to go through the needle's eye.
And as for Scallawags--that's you and me, my pet--we'll be lucky if
we aren't spit upon. But if you'd like to try, I'll back you, my
dear, and I'm sure I shall enjoy your campaign intensely. And
while we are on the subject of money, let me make this clear to
you. You can have all the cash you want for the house and all you
want for your fal-lals. And if you like jewelry, you can have it
but I'm going to pick it out. You have such execrable taste, my
pet. And anything you want for Wade or Ella. And if Will Benteen
can't make a go of the cotton, I'm willing to chip in and help out
on that white elephant in Clayton County that you love so much.
That's fair enough, isn't it?"
"Of course. You're very generous."
"But listen closely. Not one cent for the store and not one cent
for that kindling factory of yours."
"Oh," said Scarlett, her face falling. All during the honeymoon
she had been thinking how she could bring up the subject of the
thousand dollars she needed to buy fifty feet more of land to
enlarge her lumber yard.
"I thought you always bragged about being broad minded and not
caring what people said about my running a business, and you're
just like every other man--so afraid people will say I wear the
pants in the family."
"There's never going to be any doubt in anybody's mind about who
wears the pants in the Butler family," drawled Rhett. "I don't
care what fools say. In fact, I'm ill bred enough to be proud of
having a smart wife. I want you to keep on running the store and
the mills. They are your children's. When Wade grows up he won't
feel right about being supported by his stepfather, and then he can
take over the management. But not one cent of mine goes into
"Because I don't care to contribute to the support of Ashley
"Are you going to begin that again?"
"No. But you asked my reasons and I have given them. And another
thing. Don't think you can juggle books on me and lie about how
much your clothes cost and how much it takes to run the house, so
that you can use the money to buy more mules or another mill for
Ashley. I intend to look over and carefully check your expenditures
and I know what things cost. Oh, don't get insulted. You'd do it.
I wouldn't put it beyond you. In fact, I wouldn't put anything
beyond you where either Tara or Ashley is concerned. I don't mind
Tara. But I must draw the line at Ashley. I'm riding you with a
slack rein, my pet, but don't forget that I'm riding with curb and
spurs just the same."
Mrs. Elsing cocked her ear toward the hall. Hearing Melanie's
steps die away into the kitchen where rattling dishes and clinking
silverware gave promise of refreshments, she turned and spoke
softly to the ladies who sat in a circle in the parlor, their
sewing baskets in their laps.
"Personally, I do not intend to call on Scarlett now or ever," she
said, the chill elegance of her face colder than usual.
The other members of the Ladies' Sewing Circle for the Widows and
Orphans of the Confederacy eagerly laid down their needles and
edged their rocking chairs closer. All the ladies had been
bursting to discuss Scarlett and Rhett but Melanie's presence
prevented it. Just the day before, the couple had returned from
New Orleans and they were occupying the bridal suite at the
"Hugh says that I must call out of courtesy for the way Captain
Butler saved his life," Mrs. Elsing continued. "And poor Fanny
sides with him and says she will call too. I said to her 'Fanny,'
I said, 'if it wasn't for Scarlett, Tommy would be alive this
minute. It is an insult to his memory to call.' And Fanny had no
better sense than to say, 'Mother, I'm not calling on Scarlett.
I'm calling on Captain Butler. He tried his best to save Tommy and
it wasn't his fault if he failed.'"
"How silly young people are!" said Mrs. Merriwether. "Call,
indeed!" Her stout bosom swelled indignantly as she remembered
Scarlett's rude reception of her advice on marrying Rhett. "My
Maybelle is just as silly as your Fanny. She says she and Rene
will call, because Captain Butler kept Rene from getting hanged.
And I said if it hadn't been for Scarlett exposing herself, Rene
would never have been in any danger. And Father Merriwether
intends to call and he talks like he was in his dotage and says
he's grateful to that scoundrel, even if I'm not. I vow, since
Father Merriwether was in that Watling creature's house he has
acted in a disgraceful way. Call, indeed! I certainly shan't
call. Scarlett has outlawed herself by marrying such a man. He
was bad enough when he was a speculator during the war and making
money out of our hunger but now that he is hand in glove with the
Carpetbaggers and Scallawags and a friend--actually a friend of
that odious wretch, Governor Bullock-- Call, indeed!"
Mrs. Bonnell sighed. She was a plump brown wren of a woman with a
"They'll only call once, for courtesy, Dolly. I don't know that I
blame them. I've heard that all the men who were out that night
intend to call, and I think they should. Somehow, it's hard for me
to think that Scarlett is her mother's child. I went to school
with Ellen Robillard in Savannah and there was never a lovelier
girl than she was and she was very dear to me. If only her father
had not opposed her match with her cousin, Philippe Robillard!
There was nothing really wrong with the boy--boys must sow their
wild oats. But Ellen must run off and marry old man O'Hara and
have a daughter like Scarlett. But really, I feel that I must call
once out of memory to Ellen."
"Sentimental nonsense!" snorted Mrs. Merriwether with vigor.
"Kitty Bonnell, are you going to call on a woman who married a bare
year after her husband's death? A woman--"
"And she really killed Mr. Kennedy," interrupted India. Her voice
was cool but acid. Whenever she thought of Scarlett it was hard
for her even to be polite, remembering, always remembering Stuart
Tarleton. "And I have always thought there was more between her
and that Butler man before Mr. Kennedy was killed than most people
Before the ladies could recover from their shocked astonishment at
her statement and at a spinster mentioning such a matter, Melanie
was standing in the doorway. So engrossed had they been in their
gossip that they had not heard her light tread and now, confronted
by their hostess, they looked like whispering schoolgirls caught by
a teacher. Alarm was added to consternation at the change in
Melanie's face. She was pink with righteous anger, her gentle eyes
snapping fire, her nostrils quivering. No one had ever seen
Melanie angry before. Not a lady present thought her capable of
wrath. They all loved her but they thought her the sweetest, most
pliable of young women, deferential to her elders and without any
opinions of her own.
"How dare you, India?" she questioned in a low voice that shook.
"Where will your jealousy lead you? For shame!"
India's face went white but her head was high.
"I retract nothing," she said briefly. But her mind was seething.
"Jealous, am I?" she thought. With the memory of Stuart Tarleton
and of Honey and Charles, didn't she have good reason to be jealous
of Scarlett? Didn't she have good reason to hate her, especially
now that she had a suspicion that Scarlett had somehow entangled
Ashley in her web? She thought: "There's plenty I could tell you
about Ashley and your precious Scarlett." India was torn between
the desire to shield Ashley by her silence and to extricate him by
telling all her suspicions to Melanie and the whole world. That
would force Scarlett to release whatever hold she had on Ashley.
But this was not the time. She had nothing definite, only
"I retract nothing," she repeated.
"Then it is fortunate that you are no longer living under my roof,"
said Melanie and her words were cold.
India leaped to her feet, red flooding her sallow face.
"Melanie, you--my sister-in-law--you aren't going to quarrel with
me over that fast piece--"
"Scarlett is my sister-in-law, too," said Melanie, meeting India's
eyes squarely as though they were strangers. "And dearer to me
than any blood sister could ever be. If you are so forgetful of my
favors at her hands, I am not. She stayed with me through the
whole siege when she could have gone home, when even Aunt Pitty had
run away to Macon. She brought my baby for me when the Yankees
were almost in Atlanta and she burdened herself with me and Beau
all that dreadful trip to Tara when she could have left me here in
a hospital for the Yankees to get me. And she nursed and fed me,
even if she was tired and even if she went hungry. Because I was
sick and weak, I had the best mattress at Tara. When I could walk,
I had the only whole pair of shoes. You can forget those things
she did for me, India, but I cannot. And when Ashley came home,
sick, discouraged, without a home, without a cent in his pockets,
she took him in like a sister. And when we thought we would have
to go North and it was breaking our hearts to leave Georgia,
Scarlett stepped in and gave him the mill to run. And Captain
Butler saved Ashley's life out of the kindness of his heart.
Certainly Ashley had no claim on him! And I am grateful, grateful
to Scarlett and to Captain Butler. But you, India! How can you
forget the favors Scarlett has done me and Ashley? How can you
hold your brother's life so cheap as to cast slurs on the man who
saved him? If you went down on your knees to Captain Butler and
Scarlett, it would not be enough."
"Now, Melly," began Mrs. Merriwether briskly, for she had recovered
her composure, "that's no way to talk to India."
"I heard what you said about Scarlett too," cried Melanie, swinging
on the stout old lady with the air of a duelist who, having
withdrawn a blade from one prostrate opponent, turns hungrily
toward another. "And you too, Mrs. Elsing. What you think of her
in your own petty minds, I do not care, for that is your business.
But what you say about her in my own house or in my own hearing,
ever, is my business. But how can you even think such dreadful
things, much less say them? Are your men so cheap to you that you
would rather see them dead than alive? Have you no gratitude to
the man who saved them and saved them at risk of his own life? The
Yankees might easily have thought him a member of the Klan if the
whole truth had come out! They might have hanged him. But he
risked himself for your men. For your father-in-law, Mrs.
Merriwether, and your son-in-law and your two nephews, too. And
your brother, Mrs. Bonnell, and your son and son-in-law, Mrs.
Elsing. Ingrates, that's what you are! I ask an apology from all
Mrs. Elsing was on her feet cramming her sewing into her box, her
"If anyone had ever told me that you could be so ill bred, Melly--
No, I will not apologize. India is right. Scarlett is a flighty,
fast bit of baggage. I can't forget how she acted during the war.
And I can't forget how poor white trashy she's acted since she got
a little money--"
"What you can't forget," cut in Melanie, clenching her small fists
against her sides, "is that she demoted Hugh because he wasn't
smart enough to run her mill."
"Melly!" moaned a chorus of voices.
Mrs. Elsing's head jerked up and she started toward the door. With
her hand on the knob of the front door, she stopped and turned.
"Melly," she said and her voice softened, "honey, this breaks my
heart. I was your mother's best friend and I helped Dr. Meade
bring you into this world and I've loved you like you were mine.
If it were something that mattered it wouldn't be so hard to hear
you talk like this. But about a woman like Scarlett O'Hara who'd
just as soon do you a dirty turn as the next of us--"
Tears had started in Melanie's eyes at the first words Mrs. Elsing
spoke, but her face hardened when the old lady had finished.
"I want it understood," she said, "that any of you who do not call
on Scarlett need never, never call on me."
There was a loud murmur of voices, confusion as the ladies got to
their feet. Mrs. Elsing dropped her sewing box on the floor and
came back into the room, her false fringe jerking awry.
"I won't have it!" she cried. "I won't have it! You are beside
yourself, Melly, and I don't hold you responsible. You shall be my
friend and I shall be yours. I refuse to let this come between
She was crying and somehow, Melanie was in her arms, crying too,
but declaring between sobs that she meant every word she said.
Several of the other ladies burst into tears and Mrs. Merriwether,
trumpeting loudly into her handkerchief, embraced both Mrs. Elsing
and Melanie. Aunt Pitty, who had been a petrified witness to the
whole scene, suddenly slid to the floor in what was one of the few
real fainting spells she had ever had. Amid the tears and
confusion and kissing and scurrying for smelling salts and brandy,
there was only one calm face, one dry pair of eyes. India Wilkes
took her departure unnoticed by anyone.
Grandpa Merriwether, meeting Uncle Henry Hamilton in the Girl of
the Period Saloon several hours later, related the happenings of
the morning which he had heard from Mrs. Merriweather. He told it
was relish for he was delighted that someone had the courage to
face down his redoubtable daughter-in-law. Certainly, he had never
had such courage.
"Well, what did the pack of silly fools finally decide to do?"
asked Uncle Henry irritably.
"I dunno for sure," said Grandpa, "but it looks to me like Melly
won hands down on this go-round. I'll bet they'll all call, at
least once. Folks set a store by that niece of yours, Henry."
"Melly's a fool and the ladies are right. Scarlett is a slick
piece of baggage and I don't see why Charlie ever married her,"
said Uncle Henry gloomily. "But Melly was right too, in a way.
It's only decent that the families of the men Captain Butler saved
should call. When you come right down to it, I haven't got so much
against Butler. He showed himself a fine man that night he saved
our hides. It's Scarlett who sticks under my tail like a
cocklebur. She's a sight too smart for her own good. Well, I've
got to call. Scallawag or not, Scarlett is my niece by marriage,
after all. I was aiming to call this afternoon."
"I'll go with you, Henry. Dolly will be fit to be tied when she
hears I've gone. Wait till I get one more drink."
"No, we'll get a drink off Captain Butler. I'll say this for him,
he always has good licker."
Rhett had said that the Old Guard would never surrender and he was
right. He knew how little significance there was to the few calls
made upon them, and he knew why the calls were made. The families
of the men who had been in the ill-starred Klan foray did call
first, but called with obvious infrequency thereafter. And they
did not invite the Rhett Butlers to their homes.
Rhett said they would not have come at all, except for fear of
violence at the hands of Melanie. Where he got this idea, Scarlett
did not know but she dismissed it with the contempt it deserved.
For what possible influence could Melanie have on people like Mrs.
Elsing and Mrs. Merriwether? That they did not call again worried
her very little; in fact, their absence was hardly noticed, for her
suite was crowded with guests of another type. "New people,"
established Atlantians called them, when they were not calling them
something less polite.
There were many "new people" staying at the National Hotel who,
like Rhett and Scarlett, were waiting for their houses to be
completed. They were gay, wealthy people, very much like Rhett's
New Orleans friends, elegant of dress, free with their money, vague
as to their antecedents. All the men were Republicans and were "in
Atlanta on business connected with the state government." Just
what the business was, Scarlett did not know and did not trouble to
Rhett could have told her exactly what it was--the same business
that buzzards have with dying animals. They smelled death from
afar and were drawn unerringly to it, to gorge themselves.
Government of Georgia by its own citizens was dead, the state was
helpless and the adventurers were swarming in.
The wives of Rhett's Scallawag and Carpetbagger friends called in
droves and so did the "new people" she had met when she sold lumber
for their homes. Rhett said that, having done business with them,
she should receive them and, having received them, she found them
pleasant company. They wore lovely clothes and never talked about
the war or hard times, but confined the conversation to fashions,
scandals and whist. Scarlett had never played cards before and she
took to whist with joy, becoming a good player in a short time.
Whenever she was at the hotel there was a crowd of whist players in
her suite. But she was not often in her suite these days, for she
was too busy with the building of her new house to be bothered with
callers. These days she did not much care whether she had callers
or not. She wanted to delay her social activities until the day
when the house was finished and she could emerge as the mistress of
Atlanta's largest mansion, the hostess of the town's most elaborate
Through the long warm days she watched her red stone and gray
shingle house rise grandly, to tower above any other house on
Peachtree Street. Forgetful of the store and the mills, she spent
her time on the lot, arguing with carpenters, bickering with
masons, harrying the contractor. As the walls went swiftly up she
thought with satisfaction that, when finished, it would be larger
and finer looking than any other house in town. It would be even
more imposing than the near-by James residence which had just been
purchased for the official mansion of Governor Bullock.
The governor's mansion was brave with jigsaw work on banisters and
eaves, but the intricate scrollwork on Scarlett's house put the
mansion to shame. The mansion had a ballroom, but it looked like a
billiard table compared with the enormous room that covered the
entire third floor of Scarlett's house. In fact, her house had
more of everything than the mansion, or any other house in town for
that matter, more cupolas and turrets and towers and balconies and
lightning rods and far more windows with colored panes.
A veranda encircled the entire house, and four flights of steps on
the four sides of the building led up to it. The yard was wide and
green and scattered about it were rustic iron benches, an iron
summerhouse, fashionably called a "gazebo" which, Scarlett had been
assured, was of pure Gothic design, and two large iron statues, one
a stag and the other a mastiff as large as a Shetland pony. To
Wade and Ella, a little dazzled by the size, splendor and fashionable
dark gloom of their new home, these two metal animals were the only
Within, the house was furnished as Scarlett had desired, with thick
red carpeting which ran from wall to wall, red velvet portieres and
the newest of highly varnished black-walnut furniture, carved
wherever there was an inch for carving and upholstered in such
slick horsehair that ladies had to deposit themselves thereon with
great care for fear of sliding off. Everywhere on the walls were
gilt-framed mirrors and long pier glasses--as many, Rhett said
idly, as there were in Belle Watling's establishment. Interspread
were steel engravings in heavy frames, some of them eight feet
long, which Scarlett had ordered especially from New York. The
walls were covered with rich dark paper, the ceilings were high and
the house was always dim, for the windows were overdraped with
plum-colored plush hangings that shut out most of the sunlight.
All in all it was an establishment to take one's breath away and
Scarlett, stepping on the soft carpets and sinking into the embrace
of the deep feather beds, remembered the cold floors and the straw-
stuffed bedticks of Tara and was satisfied. She thought it the
most beautiful and most elegantly furnished house she had ever
seen, but Rhett said it was a nightmare. However, if it made her
happy, she was welcome to it.
"A stranger without being told a word about us would know this
house was built with ill-gotten gains," he said. "You know,
Scarlett, money ill come by never comes to good and this house is
proof of the axiom. It's just the kind of house a profiteer would
But Scarlett, abrim with pride and happiness and full of plans for
the entertainments she would give when they were thoroughly settled
in the house, only pinched his ear playfully and said: "Fiddle-
dee-dee! How you do run on!"
She knew, by now, that Rhett loved to take her down a peg, and
would spoil her fun whenever he could, if she lent an attentive ear
to his jibes. Should she take him seriously, she would be forced
to quarrel with him and she did not care to match swords, for she
always came off second best. So she hardly ever listened to
anything he said, and what she was forced to hear she tried to turn
off as a joke. At least, she tried for a while.
During their honeymoon and for the greater part of their stay at
the National Hotel, they had lived together with amiability. But
scarcely had they moved into the new house and Scarlett gathered
her new friends about her, when sudden sharp quarrels sprang up
between them. They were brief quarrels, short lived because it was
impossible to keep a quarrel going with Rhett, who remained coolly
indifferent to her hot words and waited his chance to pink her in
an unguarded spot. She quarreled; Rhett did not. He only stated
his unequivocal opinion of herself, her actions, her house and her
new friends. And some of his opinions were of such a nature that
she could no longer ignore them and treat them as jokes.
For instance when she decided to change the name of "Kennedy's
General Store" to something more edifying, she asked him to think
of a title that would include the word "emporium." Rhett suggested
"Caveat Emptorium," assuring her that it would be a title most in
keeping with the type of goods sold in the store. She thought it
had an imposing sound and even went so far as to have the sign
painted, when Ashley Wilkes, embarrassed, translated the real
meaning. And Rhett had roared at her rage.
And there was the way he treated Mammy. Mammy had never yielded an
inch from her stand that Rhett was a mule in horse harness. She
was polite but cold to Rhett. She always called him "Cap'n
Butler," never "Mist' Rhett." She never even dropped a curtsy when
Rhett presented her with the red petticoat and she never wore it
either. She kept Ella and Wade out of Rhett's way whenever she
could, despite the fact that Wade adored Uncle Rhett and Rhett was
obviously fond of the boy. But instead of discharging Mammy or
being short and stern with her, Rhett treated her with the utmost
deference, with far more courtesy than he treated any of the ladies
of Scarlett's recent acquaintance. In fact, with more courtesy
than he treated Scarlett herself. He always asked Mammy's
permission to take Wade riding and consulted with her before he
bought Ella dolls. And Mammy was hardly polite to him.
Scarlett felt that Rhett should be firm with Mammy, as became the
head of the house, but Rhett only laughed and said that Mammy was
the real head of the house.
He infuriated Scarlett by saying coolly that he was preparing to be
very sorry for her some years hence, when the Republican rule was
gone from Georgia and the Democrats back in power.
"When the Democrats get a governor and a legislature of their own,
all your new vulgar Republican friends will be wiped off the chess
board and sent back to minding bars and emptying slops where they
belong. And you'll be left out on the end of a limb, with never a
Democratic friend or a Republican either. Well, take no thought of
Scarlett laughed, and with some justice, for at that time, Bullock
was safe in the governor's chair, twenty-seven negroes were in the
legislature and thousands of the Democratic voters of Georgia were
"The Democrats will never get back. All they do is make Yankees
madder and put off the day when they could get back. All they do
is talk big and run around at night Ku Kluxing."
"They will get back. I know Southerners. I know Georgians. They
are a tough and bullheaded lot. If they've got to fight another
war to get back, they'll fight another war. If they've got to buy
black votes like the Yankees have done, then they will buy black
votes. If they've got to vote ten thousand dead men like the
Yankees did, every corpse in every cemetery in Georgia will be at
the polls. Things are going to get so bad under the benign rule of
our good friend Rufus Bullock that Georgia is going to vomit him
"Rhett, don't use such vulgar words!" cried Scarlett. "You talk
like I wouldn't be glad to see the Democrats come back! And you
know that isn't so! I'd be very glad to see them back. Do you
think I like to see these soldiers hanging around, reminding me of--
do you think I like--why, I'm a Georgian, too! I'd like to see
the Democrats get back. But they won't. Not ever. And even if
they did, how would that affect my friends? They'd still have
their money, wouldn't they?"
"If they kept their money. But I doubt the ability of any of them
to keep money more than five years at the rate they're spending.
Easy come, easy go. Their money won't do them any good. Any more
than my money has done you any good. It certainly hasn't made a
horse out of you yet, has it, my pretty mule?"
The quarrel which sprang from this last remark lasted for days.
After the fourth day of Scarlett's sulks and obvious silent demands
for an apology, Rhett went to New Orleans, taking Wade with him,
over Mammy's protests, and he stayed away until Scarlett's tantrum
had passed. But the sting of not humbling him remained with her.
When he came back from New Orleans, cool and bland, she swallowed
her anger as best she could, pushing it into the back of her mind
to be thought of at some later date. She did not want to bother
with anything unpleasant now. She wanted to be happy for her mind
was full of the first party she would give in the new house. It
would be an enormous night reception with palms and an orchestra
and all the porches shrouded in canvas, and a collation that made
her mouth water in anticipation. To it she intended to invite
everyone she had ever known in Atlanta, all the old friends and all
the new and charming ones she had met since returning from her
honeymoon. The excitement of the party banished, for the most
part, the memory of Rhett's barbs and she was happy, happier than
she had been in years as she planned her reception.
Oh, what fun it was to be rich! To give parties and never count
the cost! To buy the most expensive furniture and dresses and food
and never think about the bills! How marvelous to be able to send
tidy checks to Aunt Pauline and Aunt Eulalie in Charleston, and to
Will at Tara! Oh, the jealous fools who said money wasn't
everything! How perverse of Rhett to say that it had done nothing
Scarlett issued cards of invitation to all her friends and
acquaintances, old and new, even those she did not like. She did
not except even Mrs. Merriwether who had been almost rude when she
called on her at the National Hotel or Mrs. Elsing who had been
cool to frigidness. She invited Mrs. Meade and Mrs. Whiting who
she knew disliked her and who she knew would be embarrassed because
they did not have the proper clothes to wear to so elegant a
function. For Scarlett's housewarming, or "crush," as it was
fashionable to call such evening parties, half-reception, half-
ball, was by far the most elaborate affair Atlanta had ever seen.
That night the house and canvas-covered veranda were filled with
guests who drank her champagne punch and ate her patties and
creamed oysters and danced to the music of the orchestra that was
carefully screened by a wall of palms and rubber plants. But none
of those whom Rhett had termed the "Old Guard" were present except
Melanie and Ashley, Aunt Pitty and Uncle Henry, Dr. and Mrs. Meade
and Grandpa Merriwether.
Many of the Old Guard had reluctantly decided to attend the
"crush." Some had accepted because of Melanie's attitude, others
because they felt they owed Rhett a debt for saving their lives and
those of their relatives. But, two days before the function, a
rumor went about Atlanta that Governor Bullock had been invited.
The Old Guard signified their disapproval by a sheaf of cards,
regretting their inability to accept Scarlett's kind invitation.
And the small group of old friends who did attend took their
departure, embarrassed but firm, as soon as the governor entered
Scarlett was so bewildered and infuriated at these slights that the
party was utterly ruined for her. Her elegant "crush"! She had
planned it so lovingly and so few old friends and no old enemies
had been there to see how wonderful it was! After the last guest
had gone home at dawn, she would have cried and stormed had she not
been afraid that Rhett would roar with laughter, afraid that she
would read "I told you so" in his dancing black eyes, even if he
did not speak the words. So she swallowed her wrath with poor
grace and pretended indifference.
Only to Melanie, the next morning, did she permit herself the
luxury of exploding.
"You insulted me, Melly Wilkes, and you made Ashley and the others
insult me! You know they'd have never gone home so soon if you
hadn't dragged them. Oh, I saw you! Just when I started to bring
Governor Bullock over to present him to you, you ran like a
"I did not believe--I could not believe that he would really be
present," answered Melanie unhappily. "Even though everybody said--"
"Everybody? So everybody's been clacking and blabbing about me,
have they?" cried Scarlett furiously. "Do you mean to tell me if
you'd known the governor was going to be present, you wouldn't have
"No," said Melanie in a low voice, her eyes on the floor. "Darling,
I just wouldn't have come."
"Great balls of fire! So you'd have insulted me like everybody
"Oh, mercy!" cried Melly, in real distress. "I didn't mean to hurt
you. You're my own sister, darling, my own Charlie's widow and I--"
She put a timid hand on Scarlett's arm. But Scarlett flung it off,
wishing fervently that she could roar as loudly as Gerald used to
roar when in a temper. But Melanie faced her wrath. And as she
looked into Scarlett's stormy green eyes, her slight shoulders
straightened and a mantle of dignity, strangely at variance with
her childish face and figure, fell upon her.
"I'm sorry you're hurt, my dear, but I cannot meet Governor Bullock
or any Republican or any Scallawag. I will not meet them, in your
house or any other house. No, not even if I have to--if I have to--"
Melanie cast about her for the worst thing she could think of--
"Not even if I have to be rude."
"Are you criticizing my friends?"
"No, dear. But they are your friends and not mine."
"Are you criticizing me for having the governor at my house?"
Cornered, Melanie still met Scarlett's eyes unwaveringly.
"Darling, what you do, you always do for a good reason and I love
you and trust you and it is not for me to criticize. And I will
not permit anyone to criticize you in my hearing. But, oh,
Scarlett!" Suddenly words began to bubble out, swift hot words and
there was inflexible hate in the low voice. "Can you forget what
these people did to us? Can you forget darling Charlie dead and
Ashley's health ruined and Twelve Oaks burned? Oh, Scarlett, you
can't forget that terrible man you shot with your mother's sewing
box in his hands! You can't forget Sherman's men at Tara and how
they even stole our underwear! And tried to burn the place down
and actually handled my father's sword! Oh, Scarlett, it was these
same people who robbed us and tortured us and left us to starve
that you invited to your party! The same people who have set the
darkies up to lord it over us, who are robbing us and keeping our
men from voting! I can't forget. I won't forget. I won't let my
Beau forget and I'll teach my grandchildren to hate these people--
and my grandchildren's grandchildren if God lets me live that long!
Scarlett, how can you forget?"
Melanie paused for breath and Scarlett stared at her, startled out
of her own anger by the quivering note of violence in Melanie's
"Do you think I'm a fool?" she questioned impatiently. "Of course,
I remember! But all that's past, Melly. It's up to us to make the
best of things and I'm trying to do it. Governor Bullock and some
of the nicer Republicans can help us a lot if we handle them
"There are no nice Republicans," said Melanie flatly. "And I don't
want their help. And I don't intend to make the best of things--if
they are Yankee things."
"Good Heaven, Melly, why get in such a pet?"
"Oh!" cried Melanie, looking conscience stricken. "How I have run
on! Scarlett, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings or to criticize.
Everybody thinks differently and everybody's got a right to their
own opinion. Now, dear, I love you and you know I love you and
nothing you could ever do would make me change. And you still love
me, don't you? I haven't made you hate me, have I? Scarlett, I
couldn't stand it if anything ever came between us--after all we've
been through together! Say it's all right."
"Fiddle-dee-dee, Melly, what a tempest you make in a teapot," said
Scarlett grudgingly, but she did not throw off the hand that stole
around her waist.
"Now, we're all right again," said Melanie pleasedly but she added
softly, "I want us to visit each other just like we always did,
darling. Just you let me know what days Republicans and Scallawags
are coming to see you and I'll stay at home on those days."
"It's a matter of supreme indifference to me whether you come or
not," said Scarlett, putting on her bonnet and going home in a
huff. There was some satisfaction to her wounded vanity in the
hurt look on Melanie's face.
In the weeks that followed her first party, Scarlett was hard put
to keep up her pretense of supreme indifference to public opinion.
When she did not receive calls from old friends, except Melanie and
Pitty and Uncle Henry and Ashley, and did not get cards to their
modest entertainments, she was genuinely puzzled and hurt. Had she
not gone out of her way to bury old hatchets and show these people
that she bore them no ill will for their gossiping and backbiting?
Surely they must know that she didn't like Governor Bullock any
more than they did but that it was expedient to be nice to him.
The idiots! If everybody would be nice to the Republicans, Georgia
would get out of the fix she was in very quickly.
She did not realize then that with one stroke she had cut forever
any fragile tie that still bound her to the old days, to old
friends. Not even Melanie's influence could repair the break of
that gossamer thread. And Melanie, bewildered, broken hearted but
still loyal, did not try to repair it. Even had Scarlett wanted to
turn back to old ways, old friends, there was no turning back
possible now. The face of the town was set against her as stonily
as granite. The hate that enveloped the Bullock regime enveloped
her too, a hate that had little fire and fury in it but much cold
implacability. Scarlett had cast her lot with the enemy and,
whatever her birth and family connections, she was now in the
category of a turncoat, a nigger lover, a traitor, a Republican--
and a Scallawag.
After a miserable while, Scarlett's pretended indifference gave way
to the real thing. She had never been one to worry long over the
vagaries of human conduct or to be cast down for long if one line
of action failed. Soon she did not care what the Merriwethers, the
Elsings, the Whitings, the Bonnells, the Meades and others thought
of her. At least, Melanie called, bringing Ashley, and Ashley was
the one who mattered the most. And there were other people in
Atlanta who would come to her parties, other people far more
congenial than those hide-bound old hens. Any time she wanted to
fill her house with guests, she could do so and these guests would
be far more entertaining, far more handsomely dressed than those
prissy, strait-laced old fools who disapproved of her.
These people were newcomers to Atlanta. Some of them were
acquaintances of Rhett, some associated with him in those
mysterious affairs which he referred to as "mere business, my pet."
Some were couples Scarlett had met when she was living at the
National Hotel and some were Governor Bullock's appointees.
The set with which she was now moving was a motley crew. Among
them were the Gelerts who had lived in a dozen different states and
who apparently had left each one hastily upon detection of their
swindling schemes; the Conningtons whose connection with the
Freedmen's Bureau in a distant state had been highly lucrative at
the expense of the ignorant blacks they were supposed to protect;
the Deals who had sold "cardboard" shoes to the Confederate
government until it became necessary for them to spend the last
year of the war in Europe; the Hundons who had police records in
many cities but nevertheless were often successful bidders on state
contracts; the Carahans who had gotten their start in a gambling
house and now were gambling for bigger stakes in the building of
nonexistent railroads with the state's money; the Flahertys who had
bought salt at one cent a pound in 1861 and made a fortune when
salt went to fifty cents in 1863, and the Barts who had owned the
largest brothel in a Northern metropolis during the war and now
were moving in the best circles of Carpetbagger society.
Such people were Scarlett's intimates now, but those who attended
her larger receptions included others of some culture and
refinement, many of excellent families. In addition to the
Carpetbag gentry, substantial people from the North were moving
into Atlanta, attracted by the never ceasing business activity of
the town in this period of rebuilding and expansion. Yankee
families of wealth sent young sons to the South to pioneer on the
new frontier, and Yankee officers after their discharge took up
permanent residence in the town they had fought so hard to capture.
At first, strangers in a strange town, they were glad to accept
invitations to the lavish entertainments of the wealthy and
hospitable Mrs. Butler, but they soon drifted out of her set. They
were good people and they needed only a short acquaintance with
Carpetbaggers and Carpetbag rule to become as resentful of them as
the native Georgians were. Many became Democrats and more Southern
than the Southerners.
Other misfits in Scarlett's circle remained there only because they
were not welcome elsewhere. They would have much preferred the
quiet parlors of the Old Guard, but the Old Guard would have none
of them. Among these were the Yankee schoolmarms who had come
South imbued with the desire to uplift the Negro and the Scallawags
who had been born good Democrats but had turned Republican after
It was hard to say which class was more cordially hated by the
settled citizenry, the impractical Yankee schoolmarms or the
Scallawags, but the balance probably fell with the latter. The
schoolmarms could be dismissed with, "Well, what can you expect of
nigger-loving Yankees? Of course they think the nigger is just as
good as they are!" But for those Georgians who had turned
Republican for personal gain, there was no excuse.
"Starving is good enough for us. It ought to be good enough for
you," was the way the Old Guard felt. Many ex-Confederate
soldiers, knowing the frantic fear of men who saw their families in
want, were more tolerant of former comrades who had changed
political colors in order that their families might eat. But not
the women of the Old Guard, and the women were the implacable and
inflexible power behind the social throne. The Lost Cause was
stronger, dearer now in their hearts than it had ever been at the
height of its glory. It was a fetish now. Everything about it was
sacred, the graves of the men who had died for it, the battle
fields, the torn flags, the crossed sabres in their halls, the
fading letters from the front, the veterans. These women gave no
aid, comfort or quarter to the late enemy, and now Scarlett was
numbered among the enemy.
In this mongrel society thrown together by the exigencies of the
political situation, there was but one thing in common. That was
money. As most of them had never had twenty-five dollars at one
time in their whole lives, previous to the war, they were now
embarked on an orgy of spending such as Atlanta had never seen
With the Republicans in the political saddle the town entered into
an era of waste and ostentation, with the trappings of refinement
thinly veneering the vice and vulgarity beneath. Never before had
the cleavage of the very rich and the very poor been so marked.
Those on top took no thought for those less fortunate. Except for
the negroes, of course. They must have the very best. The best of
schools and lodgings and clothes and amusements, for they were the
power in politics and every negro vote counted. But as for the
recently impoverished Atlanta people, they could starve and drop in
the streets for all the newly rich Republicans cared.
On the crest of this wave of vulgarity, Scarlett rode triumphantly,
newly a bride, dashingly pretty in her fine clothes, with Rhett's
money solidly behind her. It was an era that suited her, crude,
garish, showy, full of over-dressed women, over-furnished houses,
too many jewels, too many horses, too much food, too much whisky.
When Scarlett infrequently stopped to think about the matter she
knew that none of her new associates could be called ladies by
Ellen's strict standards. But she had broken with Ellen's
standards too many times since that far-away day when she stood in
the parlor at Tara and decided to be Rhett's mistress, and she did
not often feel the bite of conscience now.
Perhaps these new friends were not, strictly speaking, ladies and
gentlemen but like Rhett's New Orleans friends, they were so much
fun! So very much more fun than the subdued, churchgoing,
Shakespeare-reading friends of her earlier Atlanta days. And,
except for her brief honeymoon interlude, she had not had fun in so
long. Nor had she had any sense of security. Now secure, she
wanted to dance, to play, to riot, to gorge on foods and fine wine,
to deck herself in silks and satins, to wallow on soft feather beds
and fine upholstery. And she did all these things. Encouraged by
Rhett's amused tolerance, freed now from the restraints of her
childhood, freed even from that last fear of poverty, she was
permitting herself the luxury she had often dreamed--of doing
exactly what she pleased and telling people who didn't like it to
go to hell.
To her had come that pleasant intoxication peculiar to those whose
lives are a deliberate slap in the face of organized society--the
gambler, the confidence man, the polite adventuress, all those who
succeed by their wits. She said and did exactly what she pleased
and, in practically no time, her insolence knew no bounds.
She did not hesitate to display arrogance to her new Republican and
Scallawag friends but to no class was she ruder or more insolent
than the Yankee officers of the garrison and their families. Of
all the heterogeneous mass of people who had poured into Atlanta,
the army people alone she refused to receive or tolerate. She even
went out of her way to be bad mannered to them. Melanie was not
alone in being unable to forget what a blue uniform meant. To
Scarlett, that uniform and those gold buttons would always mean the
fears of the siege, the terror of flight, the looting and burning,
the desperate poverty and the grinding work at Tara. Now that she
was rich and secure in the friendship of the governor and many
prominent Republicans, she could be insulting to every blue uniform
she saw. And she was insulting.
Rhett once lazily pointed out to her that most of the male guests
who assembled under their roof had worn that same blue uniform not
so long ago, but she retorted that a Yankee didn't seem like a
Yankee unless he had on a blue uniform. To which Rhett replied:
"Consistency, thou art a jewel," and shrugged.
Scarlett, hating the bright hard blue they wore, enjoyed snubbing
them all the more because it so bewildered them. The garrison
families had a right to be bewildered for most of them were quiet,
well-bred folk, lonely in a hostile land, anxious to go home to the
North, a little ashamed of the riffraff whose rule they were forced
to uphold--an infinitely better class than that of Scarlett's
associates. Naturally, the officers' wives were puzzled that the
dashing Mrs. Butler took to her bosom such women as the common red-
haired Bridget Flaherty and went out of her way to slight them.
But even the ladies whom Scarlett took to her bosom had to endure
much from her. However, they did it gladly. To them, she not only
represented wealth and elegance but the old regime, with its old
names, old families, old traditions with which they wished ardently
to identify themselves. The old families they yearned after might
have cast Scarlett out but the ladies of the new aristocracy did
not know it. They only knew that Scarlett's father had been a
great slave owner, her mother a Robillard of Savannah and her
husband was Rhett Butler of Charleston. And this was enough for
them. She was their opening wedge into the old society they wished
to enter, the society which scorned them, would not return calls
and bowed frigidly in churches. In fact, she was more than their
wedge into society. To them, fresh from obscure beginnings, she
WAS society. Pinchbeck ladies themselves, they no more saw through
Scarlett's pinchbeck pretensions than she herself did. They took
her at her own valuation and endured much at her hands, her airs,
her graces, her tempers, her arrogance, her downright rudeness and
her frankness about their shortcomings.
They were so lately come from nothing and so uncertain of themselves
they were doubly anxious to appear refined and feared to show their
temper or make retorts in kind, lest they be considered unladylike.
At all costs they must be ladies. They pretended to great delicacy,
modesty and innocence. To hear them talk one would have thought
they had no legs, natural functions or knowledge of the wicked
world. No one would have thought that red-haired Bridget Flaherty,
who had a sun-defying white skin and a brogue that could be cut with
a butter knife, had stolen her father's hidden hoard to come to
America to be chambermaid in a New York hotel. And to observe the
delicate vapors of Sylvia (formerly Sadie Belle) Connington and
Mamie Bart, no one would have suspected that the first grew up above
her father's saloon in the Bowery and waited on the bar at rush
times, and that the latter, so it was said, had come out of one of
her husband's own brothels. No, they were delicate sheltered
The men, though they had made money, learned new ways less easily
or were, perhaps, less patient with the demands of the new
gentility. They drank heavily at Scarlett's parties, far too
heavily, and usually after a reception there were one or more
unexpected guests who stayed the night. They did not drink like
the men of Scarlett's girlhood. They became sodden, stupid, ugly
or obscene. Moreover, no matter how many spittoons she might put
out in view, the rugs always showed signs of tobacco juice on the
She had a contempt for these people but she enjoyed them. Because
she enjoyed them, she filled the house with them. And because of
her contempt, she told them to go to hell as often as they annoyed
her. But they stood it.
They even stood Rhett, a more difficult matter, for Rhett saw
through them and they knew it. He had no hesitation about
stripping them verbally, even under his own roof, always in a
manner that left them no reply. Unashamed of how he came by his
fortune, he pretended that they, too, were unashamed of their
beginnings and he seldom missed an opportunity to remark upon
matters which, by common consent, everyone felt were better left in
There was never any knowing when he would remark affably, over a
punch cup: "Ralph, if I'd had any sense I'd have made my money
selling gold-mine stocks to widows and orphans, like you, instead
of blockading. It's so much safer." "Well, Bill, I see you have a
new span of horses. Been selling a few thousand more bonds for
nonexistent railroads? Good work, boy!" "Congratulations, Amos,
on landing that state contract. Too bad you had to grease so many
palms to get it."
The ladies felt that he was odiously, unendurably vulgar. The men
said, behind his back, that he was a swine and a bastard. New
Atlanta liked Rhett no better than old Atlanta had done and he made
as little attempt to conciliate the one as he had the other. He
went his way, amused, contemptuous, impervious to the opinions of
those about him, so courteous that his courtesy was an affront in
itself. To Scarlett, he was still an enigma but an enigma about
which she no longer bothered her head. She was convinced that
nothing ever pleased him or ever would please him, that he either
wanted something badly and didn't have it, or never had wanted
anything and so didn't care about anything. He laughed at
everything she did, encouraged her extravagances and insolences,
jeered at her pretenses--and paid the bills.
Rhett never deviated from his smooth, imperturbable manners, even
in their most intimate moments. But Scarlett never lost the old
feeling that he was watching her covertly, knew that if she turned
her head suddenly she would surprise in his eyes that speculative,
waiting look, that look of almost terrible patience that she did
Sometimes, he was a very comfortable person to live with, for all
his unfortunate habit of not permitting anyone in his presence to
act a lie, palm off a pretense or indulge in bombast. He listened
to her talk of the store and the mills and the saloon, the convicts
and the cost of feeding them, and gave shrewd hard-headed advice.
He had untiring energy for the dancing and parties she loved and an
unending supply of coarse stories with which he regaled her on
their infrequent evenings alone when the table was cleared and
brandy and coffee before them. She found that he would give her
anything she desired, answer any question she asked as long as she
was forthright, and refuse her anything she attempted to gain by
indirection, hints and feminine angling. He had a disconcerting
habit of seeing through her and laughing rudely.
Contemplating the suave indifference with which he generally
treated her, Scarlett frequently wondered, but with no real
curiosity, why he had married her. Men married for love or a home
and children or money but she knew he had married her for none of
these things. He certainly did not love her. He referred to her
lovely house as an architectural horror and said he would rather
live in a well-regulated hotel than a home. And he never once
hinted about children as Charles and Frank had done. once when
trying to coquet with him she asked why he married her and was
infuriated when he replied with an amused gleam in his eyes: "I
married you to keep you for a pet, my dear."
No, he hadn't married her for any of the usual reasons men marry
women. He had married her solely because he wanted her and
couldn't get her any other way. He had admitted as much the night
he proposed to her. He had wanted her, just as he had wanted Belle
Watling. This was not a pleasant thought. In fact, it was a
barefaced insult. But she shrugged it off as she had learned to
shrug off all unpleasant facts. They had made a bargain and she
was quite pleased with her side of the bargain. She hoped he was
equally pleased but she did not care very much whether he was or
But one afternoon when she was consulting Dr. Meade about a
digestive upset, she learned an unpleasant fact which she could not
shrug off. It was with real hate in her eyes that she stormed into
her bedroom at twilight and told Rhett that she was going to have a
He was lounging in a silk dressing gown in a cloud of smoke and his
eyes went sharply to her face as she spoke. But he said nothing.
He watched her in silence but there was a tenseness about his pose,
as he waited for her next words, that was lost on her. Indignation
and despair had claimed her to the exclusion of all other thoughts.
"You know I don't want any more children! I never wanted any at
all. Every time things are going right with me I have to have a
baby. Oh, don't sit there and laugh! You don't want it either.
Oh, Mother of God!"
If he was waiting for words from her, these were not the words he
wanted. His face hardened slightly and his eyes became blank.
"Well, why not give it to Miss Melly? Didn't you tell me she was
so misguided as to want another baby?"
"Oh, I could kill you! I won't have it, I tell you, I won't!"
"No? Pray continue."
"Oh, there are things to do. I'm not the stupid country fool I
used to be. Now, I know that a woman doesn't have to have children
if she doesn't want them! There are things--"
He was on his feet and had her by the wrist and there was a hard,
driving fear in his face.
"Scarlett, you fool, tell me the truth! You haven't done anything?"
"No, I haven't, but I'm going to. Do you think I'm going to have
my figure ruined all over again, just when I've gotten my waist
line down and am having a good time."
"Where did you get this idea? Who's been telling you things?"
"The madam of a whore house would know such tricks. That woman
never puts foot in this house again, do you understand? After all,
it is my house and I'm the master of it. I do not even want you to
speak to her again."
"I'll do as I please. Turn me loose. Why should you care?"
"I don't care whether you have one child or twenty, but I do care
if you die."
"Yes, die. I don't suppose Mamie Bart told you the chances a woman
takes when she does a thing like that?"
"No," said Scarlett reluctantly. "She just said it would fix
things up fine."
"By God, I will kill her!" cried Rhett and his face was black with
rage. He looked down into Scarlett's tear-stained face and some of
the wrath faded but it was still hard and set. Suddenly he picked
her up in his arms and sat down in the chair, holding her close to
him, tightly, as if he feared she would get away from him.
"Listen, my baby, I won't have you take your life in your hands.
Do you hear? Good God, I don't want children any more than you do,
but I can support them. I don't want to hear any more foolishness
out of you, and if you dare try to--Scarlett, I saw a girl die that
way once. She was only a--well, but she was a pretty sort at that.
It's not an easy way to die. I--"
"Why, Rhett!" she cried, startled out of her misery at the emotion
in his voice. She had never seen him so moved. "Where--who--"
"In New Orleans--oh, years ago. I was young and impressionable."
He bent his head suddenly and buried his lips in her hair. "You'll
have your baby, Scarlett, if I have to handcuff you to my wrist for
the next nine months."
She sat up in his lap and stared into his face with frank curiosity.
Under her gaze it was suddenly smooth and bland as though wiped
clear by magic. His eyebrows were up and the corner of his mouth
"Do I mean so much to you?" she questioned, dropping her eyelids.
He gave her a level look as though estimating how much coquetry was
behind the question. Reading the true meaning of her demeanor, he
made casual answer.
"Well, yes. You see, I've invested a good deal of money in you,
and I'd hate to lose it."
* * * * *
Melanie came out of Scarlett's room, weary from the strain but
happy to tears at the birth of Scarlett's daughter. Rhett stood
tensely in the hall, surrounded by cigar butts which had burned
holes in the fine carpet.
"You can go in now, Captain Butler," she said shyly.
Rhett went swiftly past her into the room and Melanie had a brief
glimpse of him bending over the small naked baby in Mammy's lap
before Dr. Meade shut the door. Melanie sank into a chair, her
face pinkening with embarrassment that she had unintentionally
witnessed so intimate a scene.
"Ah!" she thought. "How sweet! How worried poor Captain Butler
has been! And he did not take a single drink all this time! How
nice of him. So many gentlemen are so intoxicated by the time
their babies are born. I fear he needs a drink badly. Dare I
suggest it? No, that would be very forward of me."
She sank gratefully into a chair, her back, which always ached
these days, feeling as though it would break in two at the waist
line. Oh, how fortunate Scarlett was to have Captain Butler just
outside her door while the baby was being born! If only she had
had Ashley with her that dreadful day Beau came she would not have
suffered half so much. If only that small girl behind those closed
doors were hers and not Scarlett's! Oh, how wicked I am, she
thought guiltily. I am coveting her baby and Scarlett has been so
good to me. Forgive me, Lord. I wouldn't really want Scarlett's
baby but--but I would so like a baby of my own!
She pushed a small cushion behind her aching back and thought
hungrily of a daughter of her own. But Dr. Meade had never changed
his opinion on that subject. And though she was quite willing to
risk her life for another child, Ashley would not hear of it. A
daughter. How Ashley would love a daughter!
A daughter! Mercy! She sat up in alarm. I never told Captain
Butler it was a girl! And of course he was expecting a boy. Oh,
Melanie knew that to a woman a child of either sex was equally
welcome but to a man, and especially such a self-willed man as
Captain Butler, a girl would be a blow, a reflection upon his
manhood. Oh, how thankful she was that God had permitted her only
child to be a boy! She knew that, had she been the wife of the
fearsome Captain Butler, she would have thankfully died in
childbirth rather than present him with a daughter as his first-
But Mammy, waddling grinning from the room, set her mind at ease--
and at the same time made her wonder just what kind of man Captain
Butler really was.
"W'en Ah wuz bathin' dat chile jes' now," said Mammy, "Ah kinder
'pologized ter Mist' Rhett 'bout it not bein' a boy. But, Lawd,
Miss Melly, you know whut he say? He say, 'Hesh yo' mouf, Mammy!
Who want a boy? Boys ain' no fun. Dey's jes' a passel of trouble.
Gals is whut is fun. Ah wouldn' swap disyere gal fer a baker's
dozen of boys.' Den he try ter snatch de chile frum me, buck
nekked as she wuz an' Ah slap his wrist an' say 'B'have yo'seff,
Mist' Rhett! Ah'll jes' bide mah time tell you gits a boy, an' den
Ah'll laff out loud to hear you holler fer joy.' He grin an' shake
his haid an' say, 'Mammy, you is a fool. Boys ain' no use ter
nobody. Ain' Ah a proof of dat?' Yas'm, Miss Melly, he ack lak a
gempmum 'bout it," finished Mammy graciously. It was not lost on
Melanie that Rhett's conduct had gone far toward redeeming him in
Mammy's eyes. "Maybe Ah done been a mite wrong 'bout Mist' Rhett.
Dis sho is a happy day ter me, Miss Melly. Ah done diapered three
ginrations of Robillard gals, an' it sho is a happy day."
"Oh, yes, it is a happy day, Mammy. The happiest days are the days
when babies come!"
To one person in the house it was not a happy day. Scolded and for
the most part ignored, Wade Hampton idled miserably about the
dining room. Early that morning, Mammy had waked him abruptly,
dressed him hurriedly and sent him with Ella to Aunt Pitty's house
for breakfast. The only explanation he received was that his
mother was sick and the noise of his playing might upset her. Aunt
Pitty's house was in an uproar, for the news of Scarlett's sickness
had sent the old lady to bed in a state with Cookie in attendance,
and breakfast was a scant meal that Peter concocted for the
children. As the morning wore on fear began to possess Wade's
soul. Suppose Mother died? Other boys' mothers had died. He had
seen the hearses move away from the house and heard his small
friends sobbing. Suppose Mother should die? Wade loved his mother
very much, almost as much as he feared her, and the thought of her
being carried away in a black hearse behind black horses with
plumes on their bridles made his small chest ache so that he could
When noon came and Peter was busy in the kitchen, Wade slipped out
the front door and hurried home as fast as his short legs could
carry him, fear speeding him. Uncle Rhett or Aunt Melly or Mammy
surely would tell him the truth. But Uncle Rhett and Aunt Melly
were not to be seen and Mammy and Dilcey sped up and down the back
stairs with towels and basins of hot water and did not once notice
him in the front hall. From upstairs he could hear occasionally
the curt tones of Dr. Meade whenever a door opened. once he heard
his mother groan and he burst into sobbing hiccoughs. He knew she
was going to die. For comfort, he made overtures to the honey-
colored cat which lay on the sunny window sill in the front hall.
But Tom, full of years and irritable at disturbances, switched his
tail and spat softly.
Finally, Mammy, coming down the front stairs, her apron rumpled and
spotted, her head rag awry, saw him and scowled. Mammy had always
been Wade's mainstay and her frown made him tremble.
"You is de wustes' boy Ah ever seed," she said. "Ain' Ah done sont
you ter Miss Pitty's? Gwan back dar!"
"Is Mother going to--will she die?"
"You is de troublesomes' chile Ah ever seed! Die? Gawdlmighty,
no! Lawd, boys is a tawment. Ah doan see why de Lawd sen's boys
ter folks. Now, gwan way from here."
But Wade did not go. He retreated behind the portieres in the
hall, only half convinced by her words. The remark about the
troublesomeness of boys stung, for he had always tried his best to
be good. Aunt Melly hurried down the stairs half an hour later,
pale and tired but smiling to herself. She looked thunderstruck
when she saw his woebegone face in the shadows of the drapery.
Usually Aunt Melly had all the time in the world to give him. She
never said, as Mother so often did: "Don't bother me now. I'm in
a hurry" or "Run away, Wade. I am busy."
But this morning she said: "Wade, you've been very naughty. Why
didn't you stay at Aunt Pitty's?"
"Is Mother going to die?"
"Gracious, no, Wade! Don't be a silly child," and then, relenting:
"Dr. Meade has just brought her a nice little baby, a sweet little
sister for you to play with, and if you are real good you can see
her tonight. Now, run out and play and don't make any noise."
Wade slipped into the quiet dining room, his small and insecure
world tottering. Was there no place for a worried little seven-
year-old boy on this sunshiny day when the grown-ups acted so
curiously? He sat down on the window still in the alcove and
nibbled a bit of the elephant's ear which grew in a box in the sun.
It was so peppery that it stung his eyes to tears and he began to
cry. Mother was probably dying, nobody paid him any heed and one
and all, they rushed about because of a new baby--a girl baby.
Wade had little interest in babies, still less in girls. The only
little girl he knew intimately was Ella and, so far, she had done
nothing to command his respect or liking.
After a long interval Dr. Meade and Uncle Rhett came down the
stairs and stood talking in the hall in low voices. After the door
shut behind the doctor, Uncle Rhett came swiftly into the dining
room and poured himself a large drink from the decanter before he
saw Wade. Wade shrank back, expecting to be told again that he was
naughty and must return to Aunt Pitty's, but instead, Uncle Rhett
smiled. Wade had never seen him smile like that or look so happy
and, encouraged, he leaped from the sill and ran to him.
"You've got a sister," said Rhett, squeezing him. "By God, the
most beautiful baby you ever saw! Now, why are you crying?"
"Your mother's eating a great big dinner, chicken and rice and
gravy and coffee, and we're going to make her some ice cream in a
little while and you can have two plates if you want them. And
I'll show you your sister too."
Weak with relief, Wade tried to be polite about his new sister but
failed. Everyone was interested in this girl. No one cared
anything about him any more, not even Aunt Melly or Uncle Rhett.
"Uncle Rhett," he began, "do people like girls better than boys?"
Rhett set down his glass and looked sharply into the small face and
instant comprehension came into his eyes.
"No, I can't say they do," he answered seriously, as though giving
the matter due thought. "It's just that girls are more trouble
than boys and people are apt to worry more about troublesome people
than those who aren't."
"Mammy just said boys were troublesome."
"Well, Mammy was upset. She didn't mean it."
"Uncle Rhett, wouldn't you rather have had a little boy than a
little girl?" questioned Wade hopefully.
"No," answered Rhett swiftly and, seeing the boy's face fall, he
continued: "Now, why should I want a boy when I've already got
"You have?" cried Wade, his mouth falling open at this information.
"Where is he?"
"Right here," answered Rhett and, picking the child up, drew him to
his knee. "You are boy enough for me, son."
For a moment, the security and happiness of being wanted was so
great that Wade almost cried again. His throat worked and he
ducked his head against Rhett's waistcoat.
"You are my boy, aren't you?"
"Can you be--well, two men's boy?" questioned Wade, loyalty to the
father he had never known struggling with love for the man who held
him so understandingly.
"Yes," said Rhett firmly. "Just like you can be your mother's boy
and Aunt Melly's, too."
Wade digested this statement. It made sense to him and he smiled
and wriggled against Rhett's arm shyly.
"You understand little boys, don't you, Uncle Rhett?"
Rhett's dark face fell into its old harsh lines and his lip
"Yes," he said bitterly, "I understand little boys."
For a moment, fear came back to Wade, fear and a sudden sense of
jealousy. Uncle Rhett was not thinking of him but of some one
"You haven't got any other little boys have you?"
Rhett set him on his feet.
"I'm going to have a drink and so are you, Wade, your first drink,
a toast to your new sister."
"You haven't got any other--" began Wade and then seeing Rhett
reach for the decanter of claret, the excitement at being included
in this grown-up ceremony diverted him.
"Oh, I can't, Uncle Rhett! I promised Aunt Melly I wouldn't drink
till I graduated from the university and she's going to give me a
watch, if I don't."
"And I'll give you a chain for it--this one I'm wearing now, if you
want it," said Rhett and he was smiling again. "Aunt Melly's quite
right. But she was talking about spirits, not wine. You must
learn to drink wine like a gentleman, son, and there's no time like
the present to learn."
Skillfully, he diluted the claret with water from the carafe until
the liquid was barely pink and handed the glass to Wade. At that
moment, Mammy entered the dining room. She had changed to her best
Sunday black and her apron and head rag were fresh and crisp. As
she waddled, she switched herself and from her skirts came the
whisper and rustle of silk. The worried look had gone from her
face and her almost toothless gums showed in a wide smile.
"Burfday gif', Mist' Rhett!" she said.
Wade stopped with his glass at his lips. He knew Mammy had never
liked his stepfather. He had never heard her call him anything
except "Cap'n Butler," and her conduct toward him had been
dignified but cold. And here she was beaming and sidling and
calling him "Mist' Rhett!" What a topsy-turvy day!
"You'd rather have rum than claret, I suppose," said Rhett, reaching
into the cellaret and producing a squat bottle. "She is a beautiful
baby, isn't she, Mammy?"
"She sho is," answered Mammy, smacking her lips as she took the
"Did you ever see a prettier one?"
"Well, suh, Miss Scarlett wuz mout nigh as pretty w'en she come but
"Have another glass, Mammy. And Mammy," his tone was stern but his
eyes twinkled, "what's that rustling noise I hear?"
"Lawd, Mist' Rhett, dat ain' nuthin' but mah red silk petticoat!"
Mammy giggled and switched till her huge bulk shook.
"Nothing but your petticoat! I don't believe it. You sound like a
peck of dried leaves rubbing together. Let me see. Pull up your
"Mist' Rhett, you is bad! Yeah-O, Lawd!"
Mammy gave a little shriek and retreated and from a distance of a
yard, modestly elevated her dress a few inches and showed the
ruffle of a red taffeta petticoat.
"You took long enough about wearing it," grumbled Rhett but his
black eyes laughed and danced.
"Yassuh, too long."
Then Rhett said something that Wade did not understand.
"No more mule in horse harness?"
"Mist' Rhett, Miss Scarlett wuz bad ter tell you dat! You ain'
holin' dat again' dis ole nigger?"
"No. I'm not holding it. I just wanted to know. Have another
drink, Mammy. Have the whole bottle. Drink up, Wade! Give us a
"To Sissy," cried Wade and gulped the liquid down. Choking he
began to cough and hiccough and the other two laughed and beat him
on the back.
From the moment his daughter was born, Rhett's conduct was puzzling
to all observers and he upset many settled notions about himself,
notions which both the town and Scarlett were loath to surrender.
Whoever would have thought that he of all people would be so
shamelessly, so openly proud of fatherhood? Especially in view of
the embarrassing circumstance that his first-born was a girl and
not a boy.
The novelty of fatherhood did not wear off. This caused some
secret envy among women whose husbands took offspring for granted,
long before the children were christened. He buttonholed people on
the street and related details of his child's miraculous progress
without even prefacing his remarks with the hypocritical but
polite: "I know everyone thinks their own child is smart but--"
He thought his daughter marvelous, not to be compared with lesser
brats, and he did not care who knew it. When the new nurse
permitted the baby to suck a bit of fat pork, thereby bringing on
the first attack of colic, Rhett's conduct sent seasoned fathers
and mothers into gales of laughter. He hurriedly summoned Dr.
Meade and two other doctors, and with difficulty he was restrained
from beating the unfortunate nurse with his crop. The nurse was
discharged and thereafter followed a series of nurses who remained,
at the most, a week. None of them was good enough to satisfy the
exacting requirements Rhett laid down.
Mammy likewise viewed with displeasure the nurses that came and
went, for she was jealous of any strange negro and saw no reason
why she could not care for the baby and Wade and Ella, too. But
Mammy was showing her age and rheumatism was slowing her lumbering
tread. Rhett lacked the courage to cite these reasons for
employing another nurse. He told her instead that a man of his
position could not afford to have only one nurse. It did not look
well. He would hire two others to do the drudgery and leave her as
Mammy-in-chief. This Mammy understood very well. More servants
were a credit to her position as well as Rhett's. But she would
not, she told him firmly, have any trashy free issue niggers in
her nursery. So Rhett sent to Tara for Prissy. He knew her
shortcomings but, after all, she was a family darky. And Uncle
Peter produced a great-niece named Lou who had belonged to one of
Miss Pitty's Burr cousins.
Even before Scarlett was able to be about again, she noticed
Rhett's pre-occupation with the baby and was somewhat nettled and
embarrassed at his pride in her in front of callers. It was all
very well for a man to love his child but she felt there was
something unmanly in the display of such love. He should be
offhand and careless, as other men were.
"You are making a fool of yourself," she said irritably, "and I
don't see why."
"No? Well, you wouldn't. The reason is that she's the first
person who's ever belonged utterly to me."
"She belongs to me, too!"
"No, you have two other children. She's mine."
"Great balls of fire!" said Scarlett. "I had the baby, didn't I?
Besides, honey, I belong to you."
Rhett looked at her over the black head of the child and smiled
"Do you, my dear?"
Only the entrance of Melanie stopped one of those swift hot
quarrels which seemed to spring up so easily between them these
days. Scarlett swallowed her wrath and watched Melanie take the
baby. The name agreed upon for the child was Eugenie Victoria, but
that afternoon Melanie unwittingly bestowed a name that clung, even
as "Pittypat" had blotted out all memory of Sarah Jane.
Rhett leaning over the child had said: "Her eyes are going to be
"Indeed they are not," cried Melanie indignantly, forgetting that
Scarlett's eyes were almost that shade. "They are going to be
blue, like Mr. O'Hara's eyes, as blue as--as blue as the bonnie
"Bonnie Blue Butler," laughed Rhett, taking the child from her and
peering more closely into the small eyes. And Bonnie she became
until even her parents did not recall that she had been named for
When she was finally able to go out again, Scarlett had Lou lace
her into stays as tightly as the strings would pull. Then she
passed the tape measure about her waist. Twenty inches! She
groaned aloud. That was what having babies did to your figure!
Her waist was a large as Aunt Pitty's, as large as Mammy's.
"Pull them tighter, Lou. See if you can't make it eighteen and a
half inches or I can't get into any of my dresses."
"It'll bust de strings," said Lou. "Yo' wais' jes' done got
bigger, Miss Scarlett, an' dar ain' nuthin' ter do 'bout it."
"There is something to do about it," thought Scarlett as she ripped
savagely at the seams of her dress to let out the necessary inches.
"I just won't have any more babies."
Of course, Bonnie was pretty and a credit to her and Rhett adored
the child, but she would not have another baby. Just how she would
manage this she did not know, for she couldn't handle Rhett as she
had Frank. Rhett wasn't afraid of her. It would probably be
difficult with Rhett acting so foolishly about Bonnie and probably
wanting a son next year, for all that he said he'd drown any boy
she gave him. Well, she wouldn't give him a boy or girl either.
Three children were enough for any woman to have.
When Lou had stitched up the ripped seams, pressed them smooth and
buttoned Scarlett into the dress, she called the carriage and
Scarlett set out for the lumber yard. Her spirits rose as she went
and she forgot about her waist line, for she was going to meet
Ashley at the yard to go over the books with him. And, if she was
lucky, she might see him alone. She hadn't seen him since long
before Bonnie was born. She hadn't wanted to see him at all when
she was so obviously pregnant. And she had missed the daily
contact with him, even if there was always someone around. She had
missed the importance and activity of her lumber business while she
was immured. Of course, she did not have to work now. She could
easily sell the mills and invest the money for Wade and Ella. But
that would mean she would hardly ever see Ashley, except in a
formal social way with crowds of people around. And working by
Ashley's side was her greatest pleasure.
When she drove up to the yard she saw with interest how high the
piles of lumber were and how many customers were standing among
them, talking to Hugh Elsing. And there were six mule teams and
wagons being loaded by the negro drivers. Six teams, she thought,
with pride. And I did all this by myself!
Ashley came to the door of the little office, his eyes joyful with
the pleasure of seeing her again and he handed her out of her
carriage and into the office as if she were a queen.
But some of her pleasure was dimmed when she went over the books of
his mill and compared them with Johnnie Gallegher's books. Ashley
had barely made expenses and Johnnie had a remarkable sum to his
credit. She forbore to say anything as she looked at the two
sheets but Ashley read her face.
"Scarlett, I'm sorry. All I can say is that I wish you'd let me
hire free darkies instead of using convicts. I believe I could do
"Darkies! Why, their pay would break us. Convicts are dirt cheap.
If Johnnie can make this much with them--"
Ashley's eyes went over her shoulder, looking at something she
could not see, and the glad light went out of his eyes.
"I can't work convicts like Johnnie Gallegher. I can't drive men."
"God's nightgown! Johnnie's a wonder at it. Ashley, you are just
too soft hearted. You ought to get more work out of them. Johnnie
told me that any time a malingerer wanted to get out of work he
told you he was sick and you gave him a day off. Good Lord,
Ashley! That's no way to make money. A couple of licks will cure
most any sickness short of a broken leg--"
"Scarlett! Scarlett! Stop! I can't bear to hear you talk that
way," cried Ashley, his eyes coming back to her with a fierceness
that stopped her short. "Don't you realize that they are men--some
of them sick, underfed, miserable and-- Oh, my dear, I can't bear
to see the way he has brutalized you, you who were always so sweet--"
"Who has whatted me?"
"I've got to say it and I haven't any right. But I've got to say
it. Your--Rhett Butler. Everything he touches he poisons. And he
has taken you who were so sweet and generous and gentle, for all
your spirited ways, and he has done this to you--hardened you,
brutalized you by his contact."
"Oh," breathed Scarlett, guilt struggling with joy that Ashley
should feel so deeply about her, should still think her sweet.
Thank God, he thought Rhett to blame for her penny-pinching ways.
Of course, Rhett had nothing to do with it and the guilt was hers
but, after all, another black mark on Rhett could do him no harm.
"If it were any other man in the world, I wouldn't care so much--
but Rhett Butler! I've seen what he's done to you. Without your
realizing it, he's twisted your thoughts into the same hard path
his own run in. Oh, yes, I know I shouldn't say this-- He saved
my life and I am grateful but I wish to God it had been any other
man but him! And I haven't the right to talk to you like--"
"Oh, Ashley, you have the right--no, one else has!"
"I tell you I can't bear it, seeing your fineness coarsened by him,
knowing that your beauty and your charm are in the keeping of a man
who-- When I think of him touching you, I--"
"He's going to kiss me!" thought Scarlett ecstatically. "And it
won't be my fault!" She swayed toward him. But he drew back
suddenly, as if realizing he had said too much--said things he
never intended to say.
"I apologize most humbly, Scarlett. I--I've been insinuating that
your husband is not a gentleman and my own words have proved that
I'm not one. No one has a right to criticize a husband to a wife.
I haven't any excuse except--except--" He faltered and his face
twisted. She waited breathless.
"I haven't any excuse at all."
All the way home in the carriage Scarlett's mind raced. No excuse
at all except--except that he loved her! And the thought of her
lying in Rhett's arms roused a fury in him that she did not think
possible. Well, she could understand that. If it wasn't for the
knowledge that his relations with Melanie were, necessarily, those
of brother and sister, her own life would be a torment. And
Rhett's embraces coarsened her, brutalized her! Well, if Ashley
thought that, she could do very well without those embraces. She
thought how sweet and romantic it would be for them both to be
physically true to each other, even though married to other people.
The idea possessed her imagination and she took pleasure in it.
And then, too, there was the practical side of it. It would mean
that she would not have to have any more children.
When she reached home and dismissed the carriage, some of the
exaltation which had filled her at Ashley's words began to fade as
she faced the prospect of telling Rhett that she wanted separate
bedrooms and all which that implied. It would be difficult.
Moreover, how could she tell Ashley that she had denied herself to
Rhett, because of his wishes? What earthly good was a sacrifice if
no one knew about it? What a burden modesty and delicacy were! If
she could only talk to Ashley as frankly as she could to Rhett!
Well, no matter. She'd insinuate the truth to Ashley somehow.
She went up the stairs and, opening the nursery door, found Rhett
sitting beside Bonnie's crib with Ella upon his lap and Wade
displaying the contents of his pocket to him. What a blessing
Rhett liked children and made much of them! Some stepfathers were
so bitter about children of former marriages.
"I want to talk to you," she said and passed on into their bedroom.
Better have this over now while her determination not to have any
more children was hot within her and while Ashley's love was giving
"Rhett," she said abruptly when he had closed the bedroom door
behind him, "I've decided that I don't want any more children."
If he was startled at her unexpected statement he did not show it.
He lounged to a chair and sitting down, tilted it back.
"My pet, as I told you before Bonnie was born, it is immaterial to
me whether you have one child or twenty."
How perverse of him to evade the issue so neatly, as if not caring
whether children came had anything to do with their actual arrival.
"I think three are enough. I don't intend to have one every year."
"Three seems an adequate number."
"You know very well--" she began, embarrassment making her cheeks
red. "You know what I mean?"
"I do. Do you realize that I can divorce you for refusing me my
"You are just low enough to think of something like that," she
cried, annoyed that nothing was going as she planned it. "If you
had any chivalry you'd--you'd be nice like-- Well, look at Ashley
Wilkes. Melanie can't have any children and he--"
"Quite the little gentleman, Ashley," said Rhett and his eyes began
to gleam oddly. "Pray go on with your discourse."
Scarlett choked, for her discourse was at its end and she had
nothing more to say. Now she saw how foolish had been her hope of
amicably settling so important a matter, especially with a selfish
swine like Rhett.
"You've been to the lumber office this afternoon, haven't you?"
"What has that to do with it?"
"You like dogs, don't you, Scarlett? Do you prefer them in kennels
The allusion was lost on her as the tide of her anger and
He got lightly to his feet and coming to her put his hand under her
chin and jerked her face up to his.
"What a child you are! You have lived with three men and still
know nothing of men's natures. You seem to think they are like old
ladies past the change of life."
He pinched her chin playfully and his hand dropped away from her.
One black eyebrow went up as he bent a cool long look on her.
"Scarlett, understand this. If you and your bed still held any
charms for me, no looks and no entreaties could keep me away. And
I would have no sense of shame for anything I did, for I made a
bargain with you--a bargain which I have kept and you are now
breaking. Keep your chaste bed, my dear."
"Do you mean to tell me," cried Scarlett indignantly, "that you
"You have tired of me, haven't you? Well, men tire more easily
than women. Keep your sanctity, Scarlett. It will work no
hardship on me. It doesn't matter," he shrugged and grinned.
"Fortunately the world is full of beds--and most of the beds are
full of women."
"You mean you'd actually be so--"
"My dear innocent! But, of course. It's a wonder I haven't
strayed long ere this. I never held fidelity to be a Virtue."
"I shall lock my door every night!"
"Why bother? If I wanted you, no lock would keep me out."
He turned, as though the subject were closed, and left the room.
Scarlett heard him going back to the nursery where he was welcomed
by the children. She sat down abruptly. She had had her way.
This was what she wanted and Ashley wanted. But it was not making
her happy. Her vanity was sore and she was mortified at the
thought that Rhett had taken it all so lightly, that he didn't want
her, that he put her on the level of other women in other beds.
She wished she could think of some delicate way to tell Ashley that
she and Rhett were no longer actually man and wife. But she knew
now she could not. It all seemed a terrible mess now and she half
heartedly wished she had said nothing about it. She would miss the
long amusing conversations in bed with Rhett when the ember of his
cigar glowed in the dark. She would miss the comfort of his arms
when she woke terrified from the dreams that she was running
through cold mist.
Suddenly she felt very unhappy and leaning her head on the arm of
the chair, she cried.
One rainy afternoon when Bonnie was barely past her first birthday,
Wade moped about the sitting room, occasionally going to the window
and flattening his nose on the dripping pane. He was a slender,
weedy boy, small for his eight years, quiet almost to shyness,
never speaking unless spoken to. He was bored and obviously at
loss for entertainment, for Ella was busy in the corner with her
dolls, Scarlett was at her secretary muttering to herself as she
added a long column of figures, and Rhett was lying on the floor,
swinging his watch by its chain, just out of Bonnie's reach.
After Wade had picked up several books and let them drop with bangs
and sighed deeply, Scarlett turned to him in irritation.
"Heavens, Wade! Run out and play."
"I can't. It's raining."
"Is it? I hadn't noticed. Well, do something. You make me
nervous, fidgeting about. Go tell Pork to hitch up the carriage
and take you over to play with Beau."
"He isn't home," sighed Wade. "He's at Raoul Picard's birthday
Raoul was the small son of Maybelle and Rene Picard--a detestable
little brat, Scarlett thought, more like an ape than a child.
"Well, you can go to see anyone you want to. Run tell Pork."
"Nobody's at home," answered Wade. "Everybody's at the party."
The unspoken words "everybody--but me" hung in the air; but
Scarlett, her mind on her account books, paid no heed.
Rhett raised himself to a sitting posture and said: "Why aren't
you at the party too, son?"
Wade edged closer to him, scuffing one foot and looking unhappy.
"I wasn't invited, sir."
Rhett handed his watch into Bonnie's destructive grasp and rose
lightly to his feet.
"Leave those damned figures alone, Scarlett. Why wasn't Wade
invited to this party?"
"For Heaven's sake, Rhett! Don't bother me now. Ashley has gotten
these accounts in an awful snarl-- Oh, that party? Well, I think
it's nothing unusual that Wade wasn't invited and I wouldn't let
him go if he had been. Don't forget that Raoul is Mrs. Merriwether's
grandchild and Mrs. Merriwether would as soon have a free issue
nigger in her sacred parlor as one of us."
Rhett, watching Wade's face with meditative eyes, saw the boy
"Come here, son," he said, drawing the boy to him. "Would you like
to be at that party?"
"No, sir," said Wade bravely but his eyes fell.
"Hum. Tell me, Wade, do you go to little Joe Whiting's parties or
Frank Bonnell's or--well, any of your playmates?"
"No, sir. I don't get invited to many parties."
"Wade, you are lying!" cried Scarlett, turning. "You went to three
last week, the Bart children's party and the Gelerts' and the
"As choice a collection of mules in horse harness as you could
group together," said Rhett, his voice going into a soft drawl.
"Did you have a good time at those parties? Speak up."
"I--I dunno, sir. Mammy--Mammy says they're white trash."
"I'll skin Mammy this minute!" cried Scarlett, leaping to her feet.
"And as for you, Wade, talking so about Mother's friends--"
"The boy's telling the truth and so is Mammy," said Rhett. "But,
of course, you've never been able to know the truth if you met it
in the road. . . . Don't bother, son. You don't have to go to any
more parties you don't want to go to. Here," he pulled a bill from
his pocket, "tell Pork to harness the carriage and take you
downtown. Buy yourself some candy--a lot, enough to give you a
wonderful stomach ache."
Wade, beaming, pocketed the bill and looked anxiously toward his
mother for confirmation. But she, with a pucker in her brows, was
watching Rhett. He had picked Bonnie from the floor and was
cradling her to him, her small face against his cheek. She could
not read his face but there was something in his eyes almost like
fear--fear and self-accusation.
Wade, encouraged by his stepfather's generosity, came shyly toward
"Uncle Rhett, can I ask you sumpin'?"
"Of course." Rhett's look was anxious, absent, as he held Bonnie's
head closer. "What is it, Wade?"
"Uncle Rhett, were you--did you fight in the war?"
Rhett's eyes came alertly back and they were sharp, but his voice
"Why do you ask, son?"
"Well, Joe Whiting said you didn't and so did Frankie Bonnell."
"Ah," said Rhett, "and what did you tell them?"
Wade looked unhappy.
"I--I said--I told them I didn't know." And with a rush, "But I
didn't care and I hit them. Were you in the war, Uncle Rhett?"
"Yes," said Rhett, suddenly violent. "I was in the war. I was in
the army for eight months. I fought all the way from Lovejoy up to
Franklin, Tennessee. And I was with Johnston when he surrendered."
Wade wriggled with pride but Scarlett laughed.
"I thought you were ashamed of your war record," she said. "Didn't
you tell me to keep it quiet?"
"Hush," he said briefly. "Does that satisfy you, Wade?"
"Oh, yes, sir! I knew you were in the war. I knew you weren't
scared like they said. But--why weren't you with the other little
"Because the other little boys' fathers were such fools they had to
put them in the infantry. I was a West Pointer and so I was in the
artillery. In the regular artillery, Wade, not the Home Guard. It
takes a pile of sense to be in the artillery, Wade."
"I bet," said Wade, his face shining. "Did you get wounded, Uncle
"Tell him about your dysentery," jeered Scarlett.
Rhett carefully set the baby on the floor and pulled his shirt and
undershirt out of his trouser band.
"Come here, Wade, and I'll show you where I was wounded."
Wade advanced, excited, and gazed where Rhett's finger pointed. A
long raised scar ran across his brown chest and down into his
heavily muscled abdomen. It was the souvenir of a knife fight in
the California gold fields but Wade did not know it. He breathed
heavily and happily.
"I guess you're 'bout as brave as my father, Uncle Rhett."
"Almost but not quite," said Rhett, stuffing his shirt into his
trousers. "Now, go on and spend your dollar and whale hell out of
any boy who says I wasn't in the army."
Wade went dancing out happily, calling to Pork, and Rhett picked up
the baby again.
"Now why all these lies, my gallant soldier laddie?" asked
"A boy has to be proud of his father--or stepfather. I can't let
him be ashamed before the other little brutes. Cruel creatures,
"I never thought about what it meant to Wade," said Rhett slowly.
"I never thought how he's suffered. And it's not going to be that
way for Bonnie."
"Do you think I'm going to have my Bonnie ashamed of her father?
Have her left out of parties when she's nine or ten? Do you think
I'm going to have her humiliated like Wade for things that aren't
her fault but yours and mine?"
"Oh, children's parties!"
"Out of children's parties grow young girls' debut parties. Do you
think I'm going to let my daughter grow up outside of everything
decent in Atlanta? I'm not going to send her North to school and
to visit because she won't be accepted here or in Charleston or
Savannah or New Orleans. And I'm not going to see her forced to
marry a Yankee or a foreigner because no decent Southern family
will have her--because her mother was a fool and her father a
Wade, who had come back to the door, was an interested but puzzled
"Bonnie can marry Beau, Uncle Rhett."
The anger went from Rhett's face as he turned to the little boy,
and he considered his words with apparent seriousness as he always
did when dealing with the children.
"That's true, Wade. Bonnie can marry Beau Wilkes, but who will you
"Oh, I shan't marry anyone," said Wade confidently, luxuriating in
a man-to-man talk with the one person, except Aunt Melly, who never
reproved and always encouraged him. "I'm going to go to Harvard
and be a lawyer, like my father, and then I'm going to be a brave
soldier just like him."
"I wish Melly would keep her mouth shut," cried Scarlett. "Wade,
you are not going to Harvard. It's a Yankee school and I won't
have you going to a Yankee school. You are going to the University
of Georgia and after you graduate you are going to manage the store
for me. And as for your father being a brave soldier--"
"Hush," said Rhett curtly, not missing the shining light in Wade's
eyes when he spoke of the father he had never known. "You grow up
and be a brave man like your father, Wade. Try to be just like
him, for he was a hero and don't let anyone tell you differently.
He married your mother, didn't he? Well, that's proof enough of
heroism. And I'll see that you go to Harvard and become a lawyer.
Now, run along and tell Pork to take you to town."
"I'll thank you to let me manage my children," cried Scarlett as
Wade obediently trotted from the room.
"You're a damned poor manager. You've wrecked whatever chances
Ella and Wade had, but I won't permit you to do Bonnie that way.
Bonnie's going to be a little princess and everyone in the world is
going to want her. There's not going to be any place she can't go.
Good God, do you think I'm going to let her grow up and associate
with the riffraff that fills this house?"
"They are good enough for you--"
"And a damned sight too good for you, my pet. But not for Bonnie.
Do you think I'd let her marry any of this runagate gang you spend
your time with? Irishmen on the make, Yankees, white trash,
Carpetbag parvenus-- My Bonnie with her Butler blood and her
"The O'Haras might have been kings of Ireland once but your father
was nothing but a smart Mick on the make. And you are no better--
But then, I'm at fault too. I've gone through life like a bat out
of hell, never caring what I did, because nothing ever mattered to
me. But Bonnie matters. God, what a fool I've been! Bonnie
wouldn't be received in Charleston, no matter what my mother or
your Aunt Eulalie or Aunt Pauline did--and it's obvious that she
won't be received here unless we do something quickly--"
"Oh, Rhett, you take it so seriously you're funny. With our money--"
"Damn our money! All our money can't buy what I want for her. I'd
rather Bonnie was invited to eat dry bread in the Picards'
miserable house or Mrs. Elsing's rickety barn than to be the belle
of a Republican inaugural ball. Scarlett, you've been a fool. You
should have insured a place for your children in the social scheme
years ago--but you didn't. You didn't even bother to keep what
position you had. And it's too much to hope that you'll mend your
ways at this late date. You're too anxious to make money and too
fond of bullying people."
"I consider this whole affair a tempest in a teapot," said Scarlett
coldly, rattling her papers to indicate that as far as she was
concerned the discussion was finished.
"We have only Mrs. Wilkes to help us and you do your best to
alienate and insult her. Oh, spare me your remarks about her
poverty and her tacky clothes. She's the soul and the center of
everything in Atlanta that's sterling. Thank God for her. She'll
help me do something about it."
"And what are you going to do?"
"Do? I'm going to cultivate every female dragon of the Old Guard
in this town, especially Mrs. Merriwether, Mrs. Elsing, Mrs.
Whiting and Mrs. Meade. If I have to crawl on my belly to every
fat old cat who hates me, I'll do it. I'll be meek under their
coldness and repentant of my evil ways. I'll contribute to their
damned charities and I'll go to their damned churches. I'll admit
and brag about my services to the Confederacy and, if worst comes
to worst, I'll join their damned Klan--though a merciful God could
hardly lay so heavy a penance on my shoulders as that. And I shall
not hesitate to remind the fools whose necks I saved that they owe
me a debt. And you, Madam, will kindly refrain from undoing my
work behind my back and foreclosing mortgages on any of the people
I'm courting or selling them rotten lumber or in other ways
insulting them. And Governor Bullock never sets foot in this house
again. Do you hear? And none of this gang of elegant thieves
you've been associating with, either. If you do invite them, over
my request, you will find yourself in the embarrassing position of
having no host in your home. If they come in this house, I will
spend the time in Belle Watling's bar telling anyone who cares to
hear that I won't stay under the same roof with them."
Scarlett, who had been smarting under his words, laughed shortly.
"So the river-boat gambler and the speculator is going to be
respectable! Well, your first move toward respectability had
better be the sale of Belle Watling's house."
That was a shot in the dark. She had never been absolutely certain
that Rhett owned the house. He laughed suddenly, as though he read
"Thanks for the suggestion."
Had he tried, Rhett could not have chosen a more difficult time to
beat his way back to respectability. Never before or after did the
names Republican and Scallawag carry such odium, for now the
corruption of the Carpet bag regime was at its height. And, since
the surrender, Rhett's name had been inextricably linked with
Yankees, Republicans and Scallawags.
Atlanta people had thought, with helpless fury, in 1866, that
nothing could be worse than the harsh military rule they had then,
but now, under Bullock, they were learning the worst. Thanks to
the negro vote, the Republicans and their allies were firmly
entrenched and they were riding rough-shod over the powerless but
still protesting minority.
Word had been spread among the negroes that there were only two
political parties mentioned in the Bible, the Publicans and the
Sinners. No negro wanted to join a party made up entirely of
sinners, so they hastened to join the Republicans. Their new
masters voted them over and over again, electing poor whites and
Scallawags to high places, electing even some negroes. These
negroes sat in the legislature where they spent most of their time
eating goobers and easing their unaccustomed feet into and out of
new shoes. Few of them could read or write. They were fresh from
cotton patch and canebrake, but it was within their power to vote
taxes and bonds as well as enormous expense accounts to themselves
and their Republican friends. And they voted them. The state
staggered under taxes which were paid in fury, for the taxpayers
knew that much of the money voted for public purposes was finding
its way into private pockets.
Completely surrounding the state capitol was a host of promoters,
speculators, seekers after contracts and others hoping to profit
from the orgy of spending, and many were growing shamelessly rich.
They had no difficulty at all in obtaining the state's money for
building railroads that were never built, for buying cars and
engines that were never bought, for erecting public buildings that
never existed except in the minds of their promoters.
Bonds were issued running into the millions. Most of them were
illegal and fraudulent but they were issued just the same. The
state treasurer, a Republican but an honest man, protested against
the illegal issues and refused to sign them, but he and others who
sought to check the abuses could do nothing against the tide that
The state-owned railroad had once been an asset to the state but
now it was a liability and its debts had piled up to the million
mark. It was no longer a railroad. It was an enormous bottomless
trough in which the hogs could swill and wallow. Many of its
officials were appointed for political reasons, regardless of their
knowledge of the operation of railroads, there were three times as
many people employed as were necessary, Republicans rode free on
passes, carloads of negroes rode free on their happy jaunts about
the state to vote and revote in the same elections.
The mismanagement of the state road especially infuriated the
taxpayers for, out of the earnings of the road, was to come the
money for free schools. But there were no earnings, there were
only debts, and so there were no free schools and there was a
generation of children growing up in ignorance who would spread the
seeds of illiteracy down the years.
But far and above their anger at the waste and mismanagement and
graft was the resentment of the people at the bad light in which
the governor represented them in the North. When Georgia howled
against corruption, the governor hastily went North, appeared
before Congress and told of white outrages against negroes, of
Georgia's preparation for another rebellion and the need for a
stern military rule in the state. No Georgian wanted trouble with
the negroes and they tried to avoid trouble. No one wanted another
war, no one wanted or needed bayonet rule. All Georgia wanted was
to be let alone so the state could recuperate. But with the
operation of what came to be known as the governor's "slander
mill," the North saw only a rebellious state that needed a heavy
hand, and a heavy hand was laid upon it.
It was a glorious spree for the gang which had Georgia by the
throat. There was an orgy of grabbing and over all there was a
cold cynicism about open theft in high places that was chilling to
contemplate. Protests and efforts to resist accomplished nothing,
for the state government was being upheld and supported by the
power of the United States Army.
Atlanta cursed the name of Bullock and his Scallawags and
Republicans and they cursed the name of anyone connected with them.
And Rhett was connected with them. He had been in with them, so
everyone said, in all their schemes. But now, he turned against
the stream in which he had drifted so short a while before, and
began swimming arduously back against the current.
He went about his campaign slowly, subtly, not arousing the
suspicions of Atlanta by the spectacle of a leopard trying to
change his spots overnight. He avoided his dubious cronies and was
seen no more in the company of Yankee officers, Scallawags and
Republicans. He attended Democratic rallies and he ostentatiously
voted the Democratic ticket. He gave up high-stake card games and
stayed comparatively sober. If he went to Belle Watling's house at
all, he went by night and by stealth as did more respectable
townsmen, instead of leaving his horse hitched in front of her door
in the afternoons as an advertisement of his presence within.
And the congregation of the Episcopal Church almost fell out of
their pews when he tiptoed in, late for services, with Wade's hand
held in his. The congregation was as much stunned by Wade's
appearance as by Rhett's, for the little boy was supposed to be a
Catholic. At least, Scarlett was one. Or she was supposed to be
one. But she had not put foot in the church in years, for religion
had gone from her as many of Ellen's other teachings had gone.
Everyone thought she had neglected her boy's religious education
and thought more of Rhett for trying to rectify the matter, even if
he did take the boy to the Episcopal Church instead of the
Rhett could be grave of manner and charming when he chose to
restrain his tongue and keep his black eyes from dancing maliciously.
It had been years since he had chosen to do this but he did it now,
putting on gravity and charm, even as he put on waistcoats of more
sober hues. It was not difficult to gain a foothold of friendliness
with the men who owed their necks to him. They would have showed
their appreciation long ago, had Rhett not acted as if their
appreciation were a matter of small moment. Now, Hugh Elsing, Rene,
the Simmons boys, Andy Bonnell and the others found him pleasant,
diffident about putting himself forward and embarrassed when they
spoke of the obligation they owed him.
"It was nothing," he would protest. "In my place you'd have all
done the same thing."
He subscribed handsomely to the fund for the repairs of the
Episcopal Church and he gave a large, but not vulgarly large,
contribution to the Association for the Beautification of the
Graves of Our Glorious Dead. He sought out Mrs. Elsing to make
this donation and embarrassedly begged that she keep his gift a
secret, knowing very well that this would spur her to spreading the
news. Mrs. Elsing hated to take his money--"speculator money"--but
the Association needed money badly.
"I don't see why you of all people should be subscribing," she said
When Rhett told her with the proper sober mien that he was moved to
contribute by the memories of former comrades in arms, braver than
he but less fortunate, who now lay in unmarked graves, Mrs.
Elsing's aristocratic jaw dropped. Dolly Merriwether had told her
Scarlett had said Captain Butler was in the army but, of course,
she hadn't believed it. Nobody had believed it.
"You in the army? What was your company--your regiment?"
Rhett gave them.
"Oh, the artillery! Everyone I knew was either in the cavalry or
the infantry. Then, that explains--" She broke off, disconcerted,
expecting to see his eyes snap with malice. But he only looked
down and toyed with his watch chain.
"I would have liked the infantry," he said, passing completely over
her insinuation, "but when they found that I was a West Pointer--
though I did not graduate, Mrs. Elsing, due to a boyish prank--they
put me in the artillery, the regular artillery, not the militia.
They needed men with specialized knowledge in that last campaign.
You know how heavy the losses had been, so many artillerymen
killed. It was pretty lonely in the artillery. I didn't see a
soul I knew. I don't believe I saw a single man from Atlanta
during my whole service."
"Well!" said Mrs. Elsing, confused. If he had been in the army
then she was wrong. She had made many sharp remarks about his
cowardice and the memory of them made her feel guilty. "Well! And
why haven't you ever told anybody about your service? You act as
though you were ashamed of it."
Rhett looked her squarely in the eyes, his face blank.
"Mrs. Elsing," he said earnestly, "believe me when I say that I am
prouder of my services to the Confederacy than of anything I have
ever done or will do. I feel--I feel--"
"Well, why did you keep it hidden?"
"I was ashamed to speak of it, in the light of--of some of my
Mrs. Elsing reported the contribution and the conversation in
detail to Mrs. Merriwether.
"And, Dolly, I give you my word that when he said that about being
ashamed, tears came into his eyes! Yes, tears! I nearly cried
"Stuff and nonsense!" cried Mrs. Merriwether in disbelief. "I don't
believe tears came into his eyes any more than I believe he was in
the army. And I can find out mighty quick. If he was in that
artillery outfit, I can get at the truth, for Colonel Carleton who
commanded it married the daughter of one of my grandfather's
sisters and I'll write him."
She wrote Colonel Carlton and to her consternation received a reply
praising Rhett's services in no uncertain terms. A born
artilleryman, a brave soldier and an uncomplaining gentleman, a
modest man who wouldn't even take a commission when it was offered
"Well!" said Mrs. Merriwether showing the letter to Mrs. Elsing.
"You can knock me down with a feather! Maybe we did misjudge the
scamp about not being a soldier. Maybe we should have believed
what Scarlett and Melanie said about him enlisting the day the town
fell. But, just the same, he's a Scallawag and a rascal and I
don't like him!"
"Somehow," said Mrs. Elsing uncertainly, "somehow, I don't think
he's so bad. A man who fought for the Confederacy can't be all
bad. It's Scarlett who is the bad one. Do you know, Dolly, I
really believe that he--well, he's ashamed of Scarlett but is too
much of a gentleman to let on."
"Ashamed! Pooh! They're both cut out of the same piece of cloth.
Where did you ever get such a silly notion?"
"It isn't silly," said Mrs. Elsing indignantly. "Yesterday, in the
pouring rain, he had those three children, even the baby, mind you,
out in his carriage riding them up and down Peachtree Street and he
gave me a lift home. And when I said: 'Captain Butler, have you
lost your mind keeping these children out in the damp? Why don't
you take them home?' And he didn't say a word but just looked
embarrassed. But Mammy spoke up and said: 'De house full of w'ite
trash an' it healthier fer de chillun in de rain dan at home!'"
"What did he say?"
"What could he say? He just scowled at Mammy and passed it over.
You know Scarlett was giving a big whist party yesterday afternoon
with all those common ordinary women there. I guess he didn't want
them kissing his baby."
"Well!" said Mrs. Merriwether, wavering but still obstinate. But
the next week she, too, capitulated.
Rhett now had a desk in the bank. What he did at this desk the
bewildered officials of the bank did not know, but he owned too
large a block of the stock for them to protest his presence there.
After a while they forgot that they had objected to him for he was
quiet and well mannered and actually knew something about banking
and investments. At any rate he sat at his desk all day, giving
every appearance of industry, for he wished to be on equal terms
with his respectable fellow townsmen who worked and worked hard.
Mrs. Merriwether, wishing to expand her growing bakery, had tried
to borrow two thousand dollars from the bank with her house as
security. She had been refused because there were already two
mortgages on the house. The stout old lady was storming out of the
bank when Rhett stopped her, learned the trouble and said,
worriedly: "But there must be some mistake, Mrs. Merriwether.
Some dreadful mistake. You of all people shouldn't have to bother
about collateral. Why, I'd lend you money just on your word! Any
lady who could build up the business you've built up is the best
risk in the world. The bank wants to lend money to people like
you. Now, do sit down right here in my chair and I will attend to
it for you."
When he came back he was smiling blandly, saying that there had
been a mistake, just as he had thought. The two thousand dollars
was right there waiting for her whenever she cared to draw against
it. Now, about her house--would she just sign right here?
Mrs. Merriwether, torn with indignation and insult, furious that
she had to take this favor from a man she disliked and distrusted,
was hardly gracious in her thanks.
But he failed to notice it. As he escorted her to the door, he
said: "Mrs. Merriwether, I have always had a great regard for your
knowledge and I wonder if you could tell me something?"
The plumes on her bonnet barely moved as she nodded.
"What did you do when your Maybelle was little and she sucked her
"My Bonnie sucks her thumb. I can't make her stop it."
"You should make her stop it," said Mrs. Merriwether vigorously.
"It will ruin the shape of her mouth."
"I know! I know! And she has a beautiful mouth. But I don't know
what to do."
"Well, Scarlett ought to know," said Mrs. Merriwether shortly.
"She's had two other children."
Rhett looked down at his shoes and sighed.
"I've tried putting soap under her finger nails," he said, passing
over her remark about Scarlett.
"Soap! Bah! Soap is no good at all. I put quinine on Maybelle's
thumb and let me tell you, Captain Butler, she stopped sucking that
thumb mighty quick."
"Quinine! I would never have thought of it! I can't thank you
enough, Mrs. Merriwether. It was worrying me."
He gave her a smile, so pleasant, so grateful that Mrs. Merriwether
stood uncertainly for a moment. But as she told him good-by she
was smiling too. She hated to admit to Mrs. Elsing that she had
misjudged the man but she was an honest person and she said there
had to be something good about a man who loved his child. What a
pity Scarlett took no interest in so pretty a creature as Bonnie!
There was something pathetic about a man trying to raise a little
girl all by himself! Rhett knew very well the pathos of the
spectacle, and if it blackened Scarlett's reputation he did not
From the time the child could walk he took her about with him
constantly, in the carriage or in front of his saddle. When he
came home from the bank in the afternoon, he took her walking down
Peachtree Street, holding her hand, slowing his long strides to her
toddling steps, patiently answering her thousand questions. People
were always in their front yards or on their porches at sunset and,
as Bonnie was such a friendly, pretty child, with her tangle of
black curls and her bright blue eyes, few could resist talking to
her. Rhett never presumed on these conversations but stood by,
exuding fatherly pride and gratification at the notice taken of his
Atlanta had a long memory and was suspicious and slow to change.
Times were hard and feeling was bitter against anyone who had had
anything to do with Bullock and his crowd. But Bonnie had the
combined charm of Scarlett and Rhett at their best and she was the
small opening wedge Rhett drove into the wall of Atlanta's
Bonnie grew rapidly and every day it became more evident that
Gerald O'Hara had been her grandfather. She had short sturdy legs
and wide eyes of Irish blue and a small square jaw that went with a
determination to have her own way. She had Gerald's sudden temper
to which she gave vent in screaming tantrums that were forgotten as
soon as her wishes were gratified. And as long as her father was
near her, they were always gratified hastily. He spoiled her
despite all the efforts of Mammy and Scarlett, for in all things
she pleased him, except one. And that was her fear of the dark.
Until she was two years old she went to sleep readily in the
nursery she shared with Wade and Ella. Then, for no apparent
reason, she began to sob whenever Mammy waddled out of the room,
carrying the lamp. From this she progressed to wakening in the
late night hours, screaming with terror, frightening the other two
children and alarming the house. once Dr. Meade had to be called
and Rhett was short with him when he diagnosed only bad dreams.
All anyone could get from her was one word, "Dark."
Scarlett was inclined to be irritated with the child and favored a
spanking. She would not humor her by leaving a lamp burning in the
nursery, for then Wade and Ella would be unable to sleep. Rhett,
worried but gentle, attempting to extract further information from
his daughter, said coldly that if any spanking were done, he would
do it personally and to Scarlett.
The upshot of the situation was that Bonnie was removed from the
nursery to the room Rhett now occupied alone. Her small bed was
placed beside his large one and a shaded lamp burned on the table
all night long. The town buzzed when this story got about.
Somehow, there was something indelicate about a girl child sleeping
in her father's room, even though the girl was only two years old.
Scarlett suffered from this gossip in two ways. First, it proved
indubitably that she and her husband occupied separate rooms, in
itself a shocking enough state of affairs. Second, everyone
thought that if the child was afraid to sleep alone, her place was
with her mother. And Scarlett did not feel equal to explaining
that she could not sleep in a lighted room nor would Rhett permit
the child to sleep with her.
"You'd never wake up unless she screamed and then you'd probably
slap her," he said shortly.
Scarlett was annoyed at the weight he attached to Bonnie's night
terrors but she thought she could eventually remedy the state of
affairs and transfer the child back to the nursery. All children
were afraid of the dark and the only cure was firmness. Rhett was
just being perverse in the matter, making her appear a poor mother,
just to pay her back for banishing him from her room.
He had never put foot in her room or even rattled the door knob
since the night she told him she did not want any more children.
Thereafter and until he began staying at home on account of
Bonnie's fears, he had been absent from the supper table more often
than he had been present. Sometimes he had stayed out all night
and Scarlett, lying awake behind her locked door, hearing the clock
count off the early morning hours, wondered where he was. She
remembered: "There are other beds, my dear!" Though the thought
made her writhe, there was nothing she could do about it. There
was nothing she could say that would not precipitate a scene in
which he would be sure to remark upon her locked door and the
probable connection Ashley had with it. Yes, his foolishness about
Bonnie sleeping in a lighted room--in his lighted room--was just a
mean way of paying her back.
She did not realize the importance he attached to Bonnie's
foolishness nor the completeness of his devotion to the child until
one dreadful night. The family never forgot that night.
That day Rhett had met an ex-blockade runner and they had had much
to say to each other. Where they had gone to talk and drink,
Scarlett did not know but she suspected, of course, Belle Watling's
house. He did not come home in the afternoon to take Bonnie
walking nor did he come home to supper. Bonnie, who had watched
from the window impatiently all afternoon, anxious to display a
mangled collection of beetles and roaches to her father, had
finally been put to bed by Lou, amid wails and protests.
Either Lou had forgotten to light the lamp or it had burned out.
No one ever knew exactly what happened but when Rhett finally came
home, somewhat the worse for drink, the house was in an uproar and
Bonnie's screams reached him even in the stables. She had waked in
darkness and called for him and he had not been there. All the
nameless horrors that peopled her small imagination clutched her.
All the soothing and bright lights brought by Scarlett and the
servants could not quiet her and Rhett, coming up the stairs three
at a jump, looked like a man who has seen Death.
When he finally had her in his arms and from her sobbing gasps had
recognized only one word, "Dark," he turned on Scarlett and the
negroes in fury.
"Who put out the light? Who left her alone in the dark? Prissy,
I'll skin you for this, you--"
"Gawdlmighty, Mist' Rhett! 'Twarn't me! 'Twuz Lou!"
"Fo' Gawd, Mist' Rhett, Ah--"
"Shut up. You know my orders. By God, I'll--get out. Don't come
back. Scarlett, give her some money and see that she's gone before
I come down stairs. Now, everybody get out, everybody!"
The negroes fled, the luckless Lou wailing into her apron. But
Scarlett remained. It was hard to see her favorite child quieting
in Rhett's arms when she had screamed so pitifully in her own. It
was hard to see the small arms going around his neck and hear the
choking voice relate what had frightened her, when she, Scarlett,
had gotten nothing coherent out of her.
"So it sat on your chest," said Rhett softly. "Was it a big one?"
"Oh, yes! Dretfull big. And claws."
"Ah, claws, too. Well, now. I shall certainly sit up all night
and shoot him if he comes back." Rhett's voice was interested and
soothing and Bonnie's sobs died away. Her voice became less choked
as she went into detailed description of her monster guest in a
language which only he could understand. Irritation stirred in
Scarlett as Rhett discussed the matter as if it had been something
"For Heaven's sake, Rhett--"
But he made a sign for silence. When Bonnie was at last asleep, he
laid her in her bed and pulled up the sheet.
"I'm going to skin that nigger alive," he said quietly. "It's your
fault too. Why didn't you come up here to see if the light was
"Don't be a fool, Rhett," she whispered. "She gets this way
because you humor her. Lots of children are afraid of the dark but
they get over it. Wade was afraid but I didn't pamper him. If
you'd just let her scream for a night or two--"
"Let her scream!" For a moment Scarlett thought he would hit her.
"Either you are a fool or the most inhuman woman I've ever seen."
"I don't want her to grow up nervous and cowardly."
"Cowardly? Hell's afire! There isn't a cowardly bone in her body!
But you haven't any imagination and, of course, you can't
appreciate the tortures of people who have one--especially a child.
If something with claws and horns came and sat on your chest, you'd
tell it to get the hell off you, wouldn't you? Like hell you
would. Kindly remember, Madam, that I've seen you wake up
squalling like a scalded cat simply because you dreamed of running
in a fog. And that's not been so long ago either!"
Scarlett was taken aback, for she never liked to think of that
dream. Moreover, it embarrassed her to remember that Rhett had
comforted her in much the same manner he comforted Bonnie. So she
swung rapidly to a different attack.
"You are just humoring her and--"
"And I intend to keep on humoring her. If I do, she'll outgrow it
and forget about it."
"Then," said Scarlett acidly, "if you intend to play nursemaid, you
might try coming home nights and sober too, for a change."
"I shall come home early but drunk as a fiddler's bitch if I
He did come home early thereafter, arriving long before time for
Bonnie to be put to bed. He sat beside her, holding her hand until
sleep loosened her grasp. only then did he tiptoe downstairs,
leaving the lamp burning brightly and the door ajar so he might
hear her should she awake and become frightened. Never again did
he intend her to have a recurrence of fear of the dark. The whole
household was acutely conscious of the burning light, Scarlett,
Mammy, Prissy and Pork, frequently tiptoeing upstairs to make sure
that it still burned.
He came home sober too, but that was none of Scarlett's doing. For
months he had been drinking heavily, though he was never actually
drunk, and one evening the smell of whisky was especially strong
upon his breath. He picked up Bonnie, swung her to his shoulder
and asked her: "Have you a kiss for your sweetheart?"
She wrinkled her small upturned nose and wriggled to get down from
"No," she said frankly. "Nasty."
"Smell nasty. Uncle Ashley don't smell nasty."
"Well, I'll be damned," he said ruefully, putting her on the floor.
"I never expected to find a temperance advocate in my own home, of
But, thereafter, he limited his drinking to a glass of wine after
supper. Bonnie, who was always permitted to have the last drops in
the glass, did not think the smell of wine nasty at all. As the
result, the puffiness which had begun to obscure the hard lines of
his cheeks slowly disappeared and the circles beneath his black
eyes were not so dark or so harshly cut. Because Bonnie liked to
ride on the front of his saddle, he stayed out of doors more and
the sunburn began to creep across his dark face, making him
swarthier than ever. He looked healthier and laughed more and was
again like the dashing young blockader who had excited Atlanta
early in the war.
People who had never liked him came to smile as he went by with the
small figure perched before him on his saddle. Women who had
heretofore believed that no woman was safe with him, began to stop
and talk with him on the streets, to admire Bonnie. Even the
strictest old ladies felt that a man who could discuss the ailments
and problems of childhood as well as he did could not be altogether
It was Ashley's birthday and Melanie was giving him a surprise
reception that night. Everyone knew about the reception, except
Ashley. Even Wade and little Beau knew and were sworn to secrecy
that puffed them up with pride. Everyone in Atlanta who was nice
had been invited and was coming. General Gordon and his family had
graciously accepted, Alexander Stephens would be present if his
ever-uncertain health permitted and even Bob Toombs, the stormy
petrel of the Confederacy, was expected.
All that morning, Scarlett, with Melanie, India and Aunt Pitty flew
about the little house, directing the negroes as they hung freshly
laundered curtains, polished silver, waxed the floor and cooked,
stirred and tasted the refreshments. Scarlett had never seen
Melanie so excited or so happy.
"You see, dear, Ashley hasn't had a birthday party since--since,
you remember the barbecue at Twelve Oaks? The day we heard about
Mr. Lincoln's call for volunteers? Well, he hasn't had a birthday
party since then. And he works so hard and he's so tired when he
gets home at night that he really hasn't thought about today being
his birthday. And won't he be surprised after supper when
everybody troops in!"
"How you goin' to manage them lanterns on the lawn without Mr.
Wilkes seein' them when he comes home to supper?" demanded Archie
He had sat all morning watching the preparations, interested but
unwilling to admit it. He had never been behind the scenes at a
large town folks' party and it was a new experience. He made frank
remarks about women running around like the house was afire, just
because they were having company, but wild horses could not have
dragged him from the scene. The colored-paper lanterns which Mrs.
Elsing and Fanny had made and painted for the occasion held a
special interest for him, as he had never seen "sech contraptions"
before. They had been hidden in his room in the cellar and he had
examined them minutely.
"Mercy! I hadn't thought of that!" cried Melanie. "Archie, how
fortunate that you mentioned it. Dear, dear! What shall I do?
They've got to be strung on the bushes and trees and little candles
put in them and lighted just at the proper time when the guests are
arriving. Scarlett, can you send Pork down to do it while we're
"Miz Wilkes, you got more sense than most women but you gits
flurried right easy," said Archie. "And as for that fool nigger,
Pork, he ain't got no bizness with them thar contraptions. He'd
set them afire in no time. They are--right pretty," he conceded.
"I'll hang them for you, whilst you and Mr. Wilkes are eatin'."
"Oh, Archie, how kind of you!" Melanie turned childlike eyes of
gratitude and dependence upon him. "I don't know what I should do
without you. Do you suppose you could go put the candles in them
now, so we'd have that much out of the way?"
"Well, I could, p'raps," said Archie ungraciously and stumped off
toward the cellar stairs.
"There's more ways of killing a cat than choking him to death with
butter," giggled Melanie when the whiskered old man had thumped
down the stairs. "I had intended all along for Archie to put up
those lanterns but you know how he is. He won't do a thing if you
ask him to. And now we've got him out from underfoot for a while.
The darkies are so scared of him they just won't do any work when
he's around, breathing down their necks."
"Melly, I wouldn't have that old desperado in my house," said
Scarlett crossly. She hated Archie as much as he hated her and
they barely spoke. Melanie's was the only house in which he would
remain if she were present. And even in Melanie's house, he stared
at her with suspicion and cold contempt. "He'll cause you trouble,
mark my words."
"Oh, he's harmless if you flatter him and act like you depend on
him," said Melanie. "And he's so devoted to Ashley and Beau that I
always feel safe having him around."
"You mean he's so devoted to you, Melly," said India, her cold face
relaxing into a faintly warm smile as her gaze rested fondly on her
sister-in-law. "I believe you're the first person that old ruffian
has loved since his wife--er--since his wife. I think he'd really
like for somebody to insult you, so he could kill them to show his
respect for you."
"Mercy! How you run on, India!" said Melanie blushing. "He thinks
I'm a terrible goose and you know it."
"Well, I don't see that what that smelly old hill-billy thinks is
of any importance," said Scarlett abruptly. The very thought of
how Archie had sat in judgment upon her about the convicts always
enraged her. "I have to go now. I've got to go get dinner and
then go by the store and pay off the clerks and go by the lumber
yard and pay the drivers and Hugh Elsing."
"Oh, are you going to the lumber yard?" asked Melanie. "Ashley is
coming in to the yard in the late afternoon to see Hugh. Can you
possibly hold him there till five o'clock? If he comes home
earlier he'll be sure to catch us finishing up a cake or something
and then he won't be surprised at all."
Scarlett smiled inwardly, good temper restored.
"Yes, I'll hold him," she said.
As she spoke, India's pale lashless eyes met hers piercingly. She
always looks at me so oddly when I speak of Ashley, thought
"Well, hold him there as long as you can after five o'clock," said
Melanie. "And then India will drive down and pick him up. . . .
Scarlett, do come early tonight. I don't want you to miss a minute
of the reception."
As Scarlett rode home she thought sullenly: "She doesn't want me
to miss a minute of the reception, eh? Well then, why didn't she
invite me to receive with her and India and Aunt Pitty?"
Generally, Scarlett would not have cared whether she received at
Melly's piddling parties or not. But this was the largest party
Melanie had ever given and Ashley's birthday party too, and
Scarlett longed to stand by Ashley's side and receive with him.
But she knew why she had not been invited to receive. Even had she
not known it, Rhett's comment on the subject had been frank enough.
"A Scallawag receive when all the prominent ex-Confederates and
Democrats are going to be there? Your notions are as enchanting as
they are muddle headed. It's only because of Miss Melly's loyalty
that you are invited at all."
Scarlett dressed with more than usual care that afternoon for her
trip to the store and the lumber yard, wearing the new dull-green
changeable taffeta frock that looked lilac in some lights and the
new pale-green bonnet, circled about with dark-green plumes. If
only Rhett would let her cut bangs and frizzle them on her
forehead, how much better this bonnet would look! But he had
declared that he would shave her whole head if she banged her
forelocks. And these days he acted so atrociously he really might
It was a lovely afternoon, sunny but not too hot, bright but not
glaring, and the warm breeze that rustled the trees along Peachtree
Street made the plumes on Scarlett's bonnet dance. Her heart
danced too, as always when she was going to see Ashley. Perhaps,
if she paid off the team drivers and Hugh early, they would go home
and leave her and Ashley alone in the square little office in the
middle of the lumber yard. Chances to see Ashley alone were all
too infrequent these days. And to think that Melanie had asked her
to hold him! That was funny!
Her heart was merry when she reached the store, and she paid off
Willie and the other counter boys without even asking what the
day's business had been. It was Saturday, the biggest day of the
week for the store, for all the farmers came to town to shop that
day, but she asked no questions.
Along the way to the lumber yard she stopped a dozen times to speak
with Carpetbagger ladies in splendid equipages--not so splendid as
her own, she thought with pleasure--and with many men who came
through the red dust of the street to stand hat in hand and
compliment her. It was a beautiful afternoon, she was happy, she
looked pretty and her progress was a royal one. Because of these
delays she arrived at the lumber yard later than she intended and
found Hugh and the team drivers sitting on a low pile of lumber
waiting for her.
"Is Ashley here?"
"Yes, he's in the office," said Hugh, the habitually worried
ｅxpression leaving his face at the sight of her happy, dancing
eyes. "He's trying to--I mean, he's going over the books."
"Oh, he needn't bother about that today," she said and then
lowering her voice: "Melly sent me down to keep him here till they
get the house straight for the reception tonight."
Hugh smiled for he was going to the reception. He liked parties
and he guessed Scarlett did too from the way she looked this
afternoon. She paid off the teamsters and Hugh and, abruptly
leaving them, walked toward the office, showing plainly by her
manner that she did not care to be accompanied. Ashley met her at
the door and stood in the afternoon sunshine, his hair bright and
on his lips a little smile that was almost a grin.
"Why, Scarlett, what are you doing downtown this time of the day?
Why aren't you out at my house helping Melly get ready for the
"Why, Ashley Wilkes!" she cried indignantly. "You weren't supposed
to know a thing about it. Melly will be so disappointed if you
"Oh, I won't let on. I'll be the most surprised man in Atlanta,"
said Ashley, his eyes laughing.
"Now, who was mean enough to tell you?"
"Practically every man Melly invited. General Gordon was the
first. He said it had been his experience that when women gave
surprise parties they usually gave them on the very nights men had
decided to polish and clean all the guns in the house. And then
Grandpa Merriwether warned me. He said Mrs. Merriwether gave him a
surprise party once and she was the most surprised person there,
because Grandpa had been treating his rheumatism, on the sly, with
a bottle of whisky and he was too drunk to get out of bed and--oh,
every man who's ever had a surprise party given him told me."
"The mean things!" cried Scarlett but she had to smile.
He looked like the old Ashley she knew at twelve Oaks when he
smiled like this. And he smiled so seldom these days. The air was
so soft, the sun so gentle, Ashley's face so gay, his talk so
unconstrained that her heart leaped with happiness. It swelled in
her bosom until it positively ached with pleasure, ached as with a
burden of joyful, hot, unshed tears. Suddenly she felt sixteen
again and happy, a little breathless and excited. She had a mad
impulse to snatch off her bonnet and toss it into the air and cry
"Hurray!" Then she thought how startled Ashley would be if she did
this, and she suddenly laughed, laughed until tears came to her
eyes. He laughed, too, throwing back his head as though he enjoyed
laughter, thinking her mirth came from the friendly treachery of
the men who had given Melly's secret away.
"Come in, Scarlett. I'm going over the books."
She passed into the small room, blazing with the afternoon sun, and
sat down in the chair before the roll-topped desk. Ashley,
following her, seated himself on the corner of the rough table, his
long legs dangling easily.
"Oh, don't let's fool with any books this afternoon, Ashley! I
just can't be bothered. When I'm wearing a new bonnet, it seems
like all the figures I know leave my head."
"Figures are well lost when the bonnet's as pretty as that one," he
said. "Scarlett, you get prettier all the time!"
He slipped from the table and, laughing, took her hands, spreading
them wide so he could see her dress. "You are so pretty! I don't
believe you'll ever get old!"
At his touch she realized that, without being conscious of it, she
had hoped that just this thing would happen. All this happy
afternoon, she had hoped for the warmth of his hands, the
tenderness of his eyes, a word that would show he cared. This was
the first time they had been utterly alone since the cold day in
the orchard at Tara, the first time their hands had met in any but
formal gestures, and through the long months she had hungered for
closer contact. But now--
How odd that the touch of his hands did not excite her! once his
very nearness would have set her a-tremble. Now she felt a curious
warm friendliness and content. No fever leaped from his hands to
hers and in his hands her heart hushed to happy quietness. This
puzzled her, made her a little disconcerted. He was still her
Ashley, still her bright, shining darling and she loved him better
than life. Then why--
But she pushed the thought from her mind. It was enough that she
was with him and he was holding her hands and smiling, completely
friendly, without strain or fever. It seemed miraculous that this
could be when she thought of all the unsaid things that lay between
them. His eyes looked into hers, clear and shining, smiling in the
old way she loved, smiling as though there had never been anything
between them but happiness. There was no barrier between his eyes
and hers now, no baffling remoteness. She laughed.
"Oh, Ashley, I'm getting old and decrepit."
"Ah, that's very apparent! No, Scarlett, when you are sixty,
you'll look the same to me. I'll always remember you as you were
that day of our last barbecue, sitting under an oak with a dozen
boys around you. I can even tell you just how you were dressed, in
a white dress covered with tiny green flowers and a white lace
shawl about your shoulders. You had on little green slippers with
black lacings and an enormous leghorn hat with long green
streamers. I know that dress by heart because when I was in prison
and things got too bad, I'd take out my memories and thumb them
over like pictures, recalling every little detail--"
He stopped abruptly and the eager light faded from his face. He
dropped her hands gently and she sat waiting, waiting for his next
"We've come a long way, both of us, since that day, haven't we,
Scarlett? We've traveled roads we never expected to travel.
You've come swiftly, directly, and I, slowly and reluctantly."
He sat down on the table again and looked at her and a small smile
crept back into his face. But it was not the smile that had made
her so happy so short a while before. It was a bleak smile.
"Yes, you came swiftly, dragging me at your chariot wheels.
Scarlett, sometimes I have an impersonal curiosity as to what would
have happened to me without you."
Scarlett went quickly to defend him from himself, more quickly
because treacherously there rose to her mind Rhett's words on this
"But I've never done anything for you, Ashley. Without me, you'd
have been just the same. Some day, you'd have been a rich man, a
great man like you are going to be."
"No, Scarlett, the seeds of greatness were never in me. I think
that if it hadn't been for you, I'd have gone down into oblivion--
like poor Cathleen Calvert and so many other people who once had
great names, old names."
"Oh, Ashley, don't talk like that. You sound so sad."
"No, I'm not sad. Not any longer. once--once I was sad. Now, I'm
He stopped and suddenly she knew what he was thinking. It was the
first time she had ever known what Ashley was thinking when his
eyes went past her, crystal clear, absent. When the fury of love
had beaten in her heart, his mind had been closed to her. Now, in
the quiet friendliness that lay between them, she could walk a
little way into his mind, understand a little. He was not sad any
longer. He had been sad after the surrender, sad when she begged
him to come to Atlanta. Now, he was only resigned.
"I hate to hear you talk like that, Ashley," she said vehemently.
"You sound just like Rhett. He's always harping on things like
that and something he calls the survival of the fitting till I'm so
bored I could scream."
"Did you ever stop to think, Scarlett, that Rhett and I are
"Oh, no! You are so fine, so honorable and he--" She broke off,
"But we are. We came of the same kind of people, we were raised in
the same pattern, brought up to think the same things. And
somewhere along the road we took different turnings. We still
think alike but we react differently. As, for instance, neither of
us believed in the war but I enlisted and fought and he stayed out
till nearly the end. We both knew the war was all wrong. We both
knew it was a losing fight. I was willing to fight a losing fight.
He wasn't. Sometimes I think he was right and then, again--"
"Oh, Ashley, when will you stop seeing both sides of questions?"
she asked. But she did not speak impatiently as she once would
have done. "No one ever gets anywhere seeing both sides."
"That's true but--Scarlett, just where do you want to get? I've
often wondered. You see, I never wanted to get anywhere at all.
I've only wanted to be myself."
Where did she want to get? That was a silly question. Money and
security, of course. And yet-- Her mind fumbled. She had money
and as much security as one could hope for in an insecure world.
But, now that she thought about it, they weren't quite enough. Now
that she thought about it, they hadn't made her particularly happy,
though they made her less harried, less fearful of the morrow. If
I'd had money and security and you, that would have been where I
wanted to get, she thought, looking at him yearningly. But she did
not speak the words, fearful of breaking the spell that lay between
them, fearful that his mind would close against her.
"You only want to be yourself?" she laughed, a little ruefully.
"Not being myself has always been my hardest trouble! As to where
I want to get, well, I guess I've gotten there. I wanted to be
rich and safe and--"
"But, Scarlett, did it ever occur to you that I don't care whether
I'm rich or not?"
No, it had never occurred to her that anyone would not want to be
"Then, what do you want?"
"I don't know, now. I knew once but I've half forgotten. Mostly
to be left alone, not to be harried by people I don't like, driven
to do things I don't want to do. Perhaps--I want the old days back
again and they'll never come back, and I am haunted by the memory
of them and of the world falling about my ears."
Scarlett set her mouth obstinately. It was not that she did not
know what he meant. The very tones of his voice called up other
days as nothing else could, made her heart hurt suddenly, as she
too remembered. But since the day she had lain sick and desolate
in the garden at Twelve Oaks and said: "I won't look back," she
had set her face against the past.
"I like these days better," she said. But she did not meet his
eyes as she spoke. "There's always something exciting happening
now, parties and so on. Everything's got a glitter to it. The old
days were so dull." (Oh, lazy days and warm still country
twilights! The high soft laughter from the quarters! The golden
warmth life had then and the comforting knowledge of what all
tomorrows would bring! How can I deny you?)
"I like these days better," she said but her voice was tremulous.
He slipped from the table, laughing softly in unbelief. Putting
his hand under her chin, he turned her face up to his.
"Ah, Scarlett, what a poor liar you are! Yes, life has a glitter
now--of a sort. That's what's wrong with it. The old days had no
glitter but they had a charm, a beauty, a slow-paced glamour."
Her mind pulled two ways, she dropped her eyes. The sound of his
voice, the touch of his hand were softly unlocking doors that she
had locked forever. Behind those doors lay the beauty of the old
days, and a sad hunger for them welled up within her. But she knew
that no matter what beauty lay behind, it must remain there. No
one could go forward with a load of aching memories.
His hand dropped from her chin and he took one of her hands between
his two and held it gently.
"Do you remember," he said--and a warning bell in her mind rang:
Don't look back! Don't look back!
But she swiftly disregarded it, swept forward on a tide of
happiness. At last she was understanding him, at last their minds
had met. This moment was too precious to be lost, no matter what
pain came after.
"Do you remember," he said and under the spell of his voice the
bare walls of the little office faded and the years rolled aside
and they were riding country bridle paths together in a long-gone
spring. As he spoke, his light grip tightened on her hand and in
his voice was the sad magic of old half-forgotten songs. She could
hear the gay jingle of bridle bits as they rode under the dogwood
trees to the Tarletons' picnic, hear her own careless laughter, see
the sun glinting on his silver-gilt hair and note the proud easy
grace with which he sat his horse. There was music in his voice,
the music of fiddles and banjos to which they had danced in the
white house that was no more. There was the far-off yelping of
possum dogs in the dark swamp under cool autumn moons and the smell
of eggnog bowls, wreathed with holly at Christmas time and smiles
on black and white faces. And old friends came trooping back,
laughing as though they had not been dead these many years: Stuart
and Brent with their long legs and their red hair and their
practical jokes, Tom and Boyd as wild as young horses, Joe Fontaine
with his hot black eyes, and Cade and Raiford Calvert who moved
with such languid grace. There was John Wilkes, too; and Gerald,
red with brandy; and a whisper and a fragrance that was Ellen.
Over it all rested a sense of security, a knowledge that tomorrow
could only bring the same happiness today had brought.
His voice stopped and they looked for a long quiet moment into each
other's eyes and between them lay the sunny lost youth that they
had so unthinkingly shared.
"Now I know why you can't be happy," she thought sadly. "I never
understood before. I never understood before why I wasn't
altogether happy either. But--why, we are talking like old people
talk!" she thought with dreary surprise. "Old people looking back
fifty years. And we're not old! It's just that so much has
happened in between. Everything's changed so much that it seems
like fifty years ago. But we're not old!"
But when she looked at Ashley he was no longer young and shining.
His head was bowed as he looked down absently at her hand which he
still held and she saw that his once bright hair was very gray,
silver gray as moonlight on still water. Somehow the bright beauty
had gone from the April afternoon and from her heart as well and
the sad sweetness of remembering was as bitter as gall.
"I shouldn't have let him make me look back," she thought
despairingly. "I was right when I said I'd never look back. It
hurts too much, it drags at your heart till you can't ever do
anything else except look back. That's what's wrong with Ashley.
He can't look forward any more. He can't see the present, he fears
the future, and so he looks back. I never understood it before. I
never understood Ashley before. Oh, Ashley, my darling, you
shouldn't look back! What good will it do? I shouldn't have let
you tempt me into talking of the old days. This is what happens
when you look back to happiness, this pain, this heartbreak, this
She rose to her feet, her hand still in his. She must go. She
could not stay and think of the old days and see his face, tired
and sad and bleak as it now was.
"We've come a long way since those days, Ashley," she said, trying
to steady her voice, trying to fight the constriction in her
throat. "We had fine notions then, didn't we?" And then, with a
rush, "Oh, Ashley, nothing has turned out as we expected!"
"It never does," he said. "Life's under no obligation to give us
what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it's no worse
than it is."
Her heart was suddenly dull with pain, with weariness, as she
thought of the long road she had come since those days. There rose
up in her mind the memory of Scarlett O'Hara who loved beaux and
pretty dresses and who intended, some day, when she had the time,
to be a great lady like Ellen.
Without warning, tears started in her eyes and rolled slowly down
her cheeks and she stood looking at him dumbly, like a hurt
bewildered child. He said no word but took her gently in his arms,
pressed her head against his shoulder and, leaning down, laid his
cheek against hers. She relaxed against him and her arms went
round his body. The comfort of his arms helped dry her sudden
tears. Ah, it was good to be in his arms, without passion, without
tenseness, to be there as a loved friend. only Ashley who shared
her memories and her youth, who knew her beginnings and her present
She heard the sound of feet outside but paid little heed, thinking
it was the teamsters going home. She stood for a moment, listening
to the slow beat of Ashley's heart. Then suddenly he wrenched
himself from her, confusing her by his violence. She looked up
into his face in surprise but he was not looking at her. He was
looking over her shoulder at the door.
She turned and there stood India, white faced, her pale eyes
blazing, and Archie, malevolent as a one-eyed parrot. Behind them
stood Mrs. Elsing.
How she got out of the office she never remembered. But she went
instantly, swiftly, by Ashley's order, leaving Ashley and Archie in
grim converse in the little room and India and Mrs. Elsing outside
with their backs to her. Shame and fear sped her homeward and, in
her mind, Archie with his patriarch's beard assumed the proportions
of an avenging angel straight from the pages of the Old Testament.
The house was empty and still in the April sunset. All the
servants had gone to a funeral and the children were playing in
Melanie's back yard. Melanie--
Melanie! Scarlett went cold at the thought of her as she climbed
the stairs to her room. Melanie would hear of this. India had
said she would tell her. Oh, India would glory in telling her, not
caring if she blackened Ashley's name, not caring if she hurt
Melanie, if by so doing she could injure Scarlett! And Mrs. Elsing
would talk too, even though she had really seen nothing, because
she was behind India and Archie in the door of the lumber office.
But she would talk, just the same. The news would be all over town
by supper time. Everyone, even the negroes, would know by
tomorrow's breakfast. At the party tonight, women would gather in
corners and whisper discreetly and with malicious pleasure.
Scarlett Butler tumbled from her high and mighty place! And the
story would grow and grow. There was no way of stopping it. It
wouldn't stop at the bare facts, that Ashley was holding her in his
arms while she cried. Before nightfall people would be saying she
had been taken in adultery. And it had been so innocent, so sweet!
Scarlett thought wildly: If we had been caught that Christmas of
his furlough when I kissed him good-by--if we had been caught in
the orchard at Tara when I begged him to run away with me--oh, if
we'd been caught any of the times when we were really guilty, it
wouldn't be so bad! But now! Now! When I went to his arms as a
But no one would believe that. She wouldn't have a single friend
to take her part, not a single voice would be raised to say: "I
don't believe she was doing anything wrong." She had outraged old
friends too long to find a champion among them now. Her new
friends, suffering in silence under her insolences, would welcome a
chance to blackguard her. No, everybody would believe anything
about her, though they might regret that so fine a man as Ashley
Wilkes was mixed up in so dirty an affair. As usual they would
cast the blame upon the woman and shrug at the man's guilt. And in
this case they would be right. She had gone into his arms.
Oh, she could stand the cuts, the slights, the covert smiles,
anything the town might say, if she had to stand them--but not
Melanie! Oh, not Melanie! She did not know why she should mind
Melanie knowing, more than anyone else. She was too frightened and
weighed down by a sense of past guilt to try to understand it. But
she burst into tears at the thought of what would be in Melanie's
eyes when India told her that she had caught Ashley fondling
Scarlett. And what would Melanie do when she knew? Leave Ashley?
What else could she do, with any dignity? And what will Ashley and
I do then? she thought frenziedly, the tears streaming down her
face. Oh, Ashley will die of shame and hate me for bringing this
on him. Suddenly her tears stopped short as a deadly fear went
through her heart. What of Rhett? What would he do?
Perhaps he'd never know. What was that old saying, that cynical
saying? "The husband is always the last to find out." Perhaps no
one would tell him. It would take a brave man to break such news
to Rhett, for Rhett had the reputation for shooting first and
asking questions afterwards. Please, God, don't let anybody be
brave enough to tell him! But she remembered the face of Archie in
the lumber office, the cold, pale eye, remorseless, full of hate
for her and all women. Archie feared neither God nor man and he
hated loose women. He had hated them enough to kill one. And he
had said he would tell Rhett. And he'd tell him in spite of all
Ashley could do to dissuade him. Unless Ashley killed him, Archie
would tell Rhett, feeling it his Christian duty.
She pulled off her clothes and lay down on the bed, her mind
whirling round and round. If she could only lock her door and stay
in this safe place forever and ever and never see anyone again.
Perhaps Rhett wouldn't find out tonight. She'd say she had a
headache and didn't feel like going to the reception. By morning
she would have thought up some excuse to offer, some defense that
might hold water.
"I won't think of it now," she said desperately, burying her face
in the pillow. "I won't think of it now. I'll think of it later
when I can stand it."
She heard the servants come back as night fell and it seemed to her
that they were very silent as they moved about preparing supper.
Or was it her guilty conscience? Mammy came to the door and
knocked but Scarlett sent her away, saying she did not want any
supper. Time passed and finally she heard Rhett coming up the
steps. She held herself tensely as he reached the upper hall,
gathered all her strength for a meeting but he passed into his
room. She breathed easier. He hadn't heard. Thank God, he still
respected her icy request that he never put foot in her bedroom
again, for if he saw her now, her face would give her away. She
must gather herself together enough to tell him that she felt too
ill to go to the reception. Well, there was time enough for her to
calm herself. Or was there time? Since the awful moment that
afternoon, life had seemed timeless. She heard Rhett moving about
in his room for a long time, speaking occasionally to Pork. Still
she could not find courage to call to him. She lay still on the
bed in the darkness, shaking.
After a long time, he knocked on her door and she said, trying to
control her voice: "Come in."
"Am I actually being invited into the sanctuary?" he questioned,
opening the door. It was dark and she could not see his face. Nor
could she make anything of his voice. He entered and closed the
"Are you ready for the reception?"
"I'm so sorry but I have a headache." How odd that her voice
sounded natural! Thank God for the dark! "I don't believe I'll
go. You go, Rhett, and give Melanie my regrets."
There was a long pause and he spoke drawlingly, bitingly in the
"What a white livered, cowardly little bitch you are."
He knew! She lay shaking, unable to speak. She heard him fumble
in the dark, strike a match and the room sprang into light. He
walked over to the bed and looked down at her. She saw that he was
in evening clothes.
"Get up," he said and there was nothing in his voice. "We are
going to the reception. You will have to hurry."
"Oh, Rhett, I can't. You see--"
"I can see. Get up."
"Rhett, did Archie dare--"
"Archie dared. A very brave man, Archie."
"You should have killed him for telling lies--"
"I have a strange way of not killing people who tell the truth.
There's no time to argue now. Get up."
She sat up, hugging her wrapper close to her, her eyes searching
his face. It was dark and impassive.
"I won't go, Rhett. I can't until this--misunderstanding is
"If you don't show your face tonight, you'll never be able to show
it in this town as long as you live. And while I may endure a
trollop for a wife, I won't endure a coward. You are going
tonight, even if everyone, from Alex Stephens down, cuts you and
Mrs. Wilkes asks us to leave the house."
"Rhett, let me explain."
"I don't want to hear. There isn't time. Get on your clothes."
"They misunderstood--India and Mrs. Elsing and Archie. And they
hate me so. India hates me so much that she'd even tell lies about
her own brother to make me appear in a bad light. If you'll only
let me explain--"
Oh, Mother of God, she thought in agony, suppose he says: "Pray do
explain!" What can I say? How can I explain?
"They'll have told everybody lies. I can't go tonight."
"You will go," he said, "if I have to drag you by the neck and
plant my boot on your ever so charming bottom every step of the
There was a cold glitter in his eyes as he jerked her to her feet.
He picked up her stays and threw them at her.
"Put them on. I'll lace you. Oh yes, I know all about lacing.
No, I won't call Mammy to help you and have you lock the door and
skulk here like the coward you are."
"I'm not a coward," she cried, stung out of her fear. "I--"
"Oh, spare me your saga about shooting Yankees and facing Sherman's
army. You're a coward--among other things. If not for your own
sake, you are going tonight for Bonnie's sake. How could you
further ruin her chances? Put on your stays, quick."
Hastily she slipped off her wrapper and stood clad only in her
chemise. If only he would look at her and see how nice she looked
in her chemise, perhaps that frightening look would leave his face.
After all, he hadn't seen her in her chemise for ever and ever so
long. But he did not look. He was in her closet, going through
her dresses swiftly. He fumbled and drew out her new jade-green
watered-silk dress. It was cut low over the bosom and the skirt
was draped back over an enormous bustle and on the bustle was a
huge bunch of pink velvet roses.
"Wear that," he said, tossing it on the bed and coming toward her.
"No modest, matronly dove grays and lilacs tonight. Your flag must
be nailed to the mast, for obviously you'd run it down if it
wasn't. And plenty of rouge. I'm sure the woman the Pharisees
took in adultery didn't look half so pale. Turn around."
He took the strings of the stays in his hands and jerked them so
hard that she cried out, frightened, humiliated, embarrassed at
such an untoward performance.
"Hurts, does it?" He laughed shortly and she could not see his
face. "Pity it isn't around your neck."
Melanie's house blazed lights from every room and they could hear
the music far up the street. As they drew up in front, the
pleasant exciting sounds of many people enjoying themselves floated
out. The house was packed with guests. They overflowed on
verandas and many were sitting on benches in the dim lantern-hung
I can't go in--I can't, thought Scarlett, sitting in the carriage,
gripping her balled-up handkerchief. I can't. I won't. I will
jump out and run away, somewhere, back home to Tara. Why did Rhett
force me to come here? What will people do? What will Melanie do?
What will she look like? Oh, I can't face her. I will run away.
As though he read her mind, Rhett's hand closed upon her arm in a
grip that would leave a bruise, the rough grip of a careless
"I've never known an Irishman to be a coward. Where's your much-
"Rhett, do please, let me go home and explain."
"You have eternity in which to explain and only one night to be a
martyr in the amphitheater. Get out, darling, and let me see the
lions eat you. Get out."
She went up the walk somehow, the arm she was holding as hard and
steady as granite, communicating to her some courage. By God, she
could face them and she would. What were they but a bunch of
howling, clawing cats who were jealous of her? She'd show them.
She didn't care what they thought. only Melanie--only Melanie.
They were on the porch and Rhett was bowing right and left, his hat
in his hand, his voice cool and soft. The music stopped as they
entered and the crowd of people seemed to her confused mind to
surge up to her like the roar of the sea and then ebb away, with
lessening, ever-lessening sound. Was everyone going to cut her?
Well, God's nightgown, let them do it! Her chin went up and she
smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling.
Before she could turn to speak to those nearest the door, someone
came through the press of people. There was an odd hush that
caught Scarlett's heart. Then through the lane came Melanie on
small feet that hurried, hurried to meet Scarlett at the door, to
speak to her before anyone else could speak. Her narrow shoulders
were squared and her small jaw set indignantly and, for all her
notice, she might have had no other guest but Scarlett. She went
to her side and slipped an arm about her waist.
"What a lovely dress, darling," she said in her small, clear voice.
"Will you be an angel? India was unable to come tonight and assist
me. Will you receive with me?"
Safe in her room again, Scarlett fell on the bed, careless of her
moire dress, bustle and roses. For a time she could only lie still
and think of standing between Melanie and Ashley, greeting guests.
What a horror! She would face Sherman's army again rather than
repeat that performance! After a time, she rose from the bed and
nervously paced the floor, shedding garments as she walked.
Reaction from strain set in and she began to shake. Hairpins
slipped out of her fingers and tinkled to the floor and when she
tried to give her hair its customary hundred strokes, she banged
the back of the brush hurtingly against her temple. A dozen times
she tiptoed to the door to listen for noises downstairs but the
hall below lay like a black silent pit.
Rhett had sent her home alone in the carriage when the party was
over and she had thanked God for the reprieve. He had not come in
yet. Thank God, he had not come in. She could not face him
tonight, shamed, frightened, shaking. But where was he? Probably
at that creature's place. For the first time, Scarlett was glad
there was such a person as Belle Watling. Glad there was some
other place than this house to shelter Rhett until his glittering,
murderous mood had passed. That was wrong, being glad a husband
was at the house of a prostitute, but she could not help it. She
would be almost glad if he were dead, if it meant she would not
have to see him tonight.
Tomorrow--well, tomorrow was another day. Tomorrow she would think
of some excuse, some counter accusations, some way of putting Rhett
in the wrong. Tomorrow the memory of this hideous night would not
be driving her so fiercely that she shook. Tomorrow she would not
be so haunted by the memory of Ashley's face, his broken pride and
his shame--shame that she had caused, shame in which he had so
little part. Would he hate her now, her darling honorable Ashley,
because she had shamed him? Of course he would hate her now--now
that they had both been saved by the indignant squaring of
Melanie's thin shoulders and the love and outspoken trust which had
been in her voice as she crossed the glassy floor to slip her arm
through Scarlett's and face the curious, malicious, covertly
hostile crowd. How neatly Melanie had scotched the scandal,
keeping Scarlett at her side all through the dreadful evening!
People had been a bit cool, somewhat bewildered, but they had been
Oh, the ignominy of it all, to be sheltered behind Melanie's skirts
from those who hated her, who would have torn her to bits with
their whispers! To be sheltered by Melanie's blind trust, Melanie
of all people!
Scarlett shook as with a chill at the thought. She must have a
drink, a number of drinks before she could lie down and hope to
sleep. She threw a wrapper about her gown and went hastily out
into the dark hall, her backless slippers making a great clatter in
the stillness. She was halfway down the stairs before she looked
toward the closed door of the dining room and saw a narrow line of
light streaming from under it. Her heart stopped for a moment.
Had that light been burning when she came home and had she been too
upset to notice it? Or was Rhett home after all? He could have
come in quietly through the kitchen door. If Rhett were home, she
would tiptoe back to bed without her brandy, much as she needed it.
Then she wouldn't have to face him. once in her room she would be
safe, for she could lock the door.
She was leaning over to pluck off her slippers, so she might hurry
back in silence, when the dining-room door swung open abruptly and
Rhett stood silhouetted against the dim candlelight behind him. He
looked huge, larger than she had ever seen him, a terrifying
faceless black bulk that swayed slightly on its feet.
"Pray join me, Mrs. Butler," he said and his voice was a little
He was drunk and showing it and she had never before seen him show
his liquor, no matter how much he drank. She paused irresolutely,
saying nothing and his arm went up in gesture of command.
"Come here, damn you!" he said roughly.
He must be very drunk, she thought with a fluttering heart.
Usually, the more he drank, the more polished became his manners.
He sneered more, his words were apt to be more biting, but the
manner that accompanied them was always punctilious--too
"I must never let him know I'm afraid to face him," she thought,
and, clutching the wrapper closer to her throat, she went down the
stairs with her head up and her heels clacking noisily.
He stood aside and bowed her through the door with a mockery that
made her wince. She saw that he was coatless and his cravat hung
down on either side of his open collar. His shirt was open down to
the thick mat of black hair on his chest. His hair was rumpled and
his eyes bloodshot and narrow. one candle burned on the table, a
tiny spark of light that threw monstrous shadows about the high-
ceilinged room and made the massive sideboards and buffet look like
still, crouching beasts. on the table on the silver tray stood the
decanter with cut-glass stopper out, surrounded by glasses.
"Sit down," he said curtly, following her into the room.
Now a new kind of fear crept into her, a fear that made her alarm
at facing him seem very small. He looked and talked and acted like
a stranger. This was an ill-mannered Rhett she had never seen
before. Never at any time, even in most intimate moments, had he
been other than nonchalant. Even in anger, he was suave and
satirical, and whisky usually served to intensify these qualities.
At first it had annoyed her and she had tried to break down that
nonchalance but soon she had come to accept it as a very convenient
thing. For years she had thought that nothing mattered very much
to him, that he thought everything in life, including her, an
ironic joke. But as she faced him across the table, she knew with
a sinking feeling in her stomach that at last something was
mattering to him, mattering very much.
"There is no reason why you should not have your nightcap, even if
I am ill bred enough to be at home," he said. "Shall I pour it for
"I did not want a drink," she said stiffly. "I heard a noise and
"You heard nothing. You wouldn't have come down if you'd thought I
was home. I've sat here and listened to you racing up and down the
floor upstairs. You must need a drink badly. Take it."
"I do not--"
He picked up the decanter and sloshed a glassful, untidily.
"Take it," he said, shoving it into her hand. "You are shaking all
over. Oh, don't give yourself airs. I know you drink on the quiet
and I know how much you drink. For some time I've been intending
to tell you to stop your elaborate pretenses and drink openly if
you want to. Do you think I give a damn if you like your brandy?"
She took the wet glass, silently cursing him. He read her like a
book. He had always read her and he was the one man in the world
from whom she would like to hide her real thoughts.
"Drink it, I say."
She raised the glass and bolted the contents with one abrupt motion
of her arm, wrist stiff, just as Gerald had always taken his neat
whisky, bolted it before she thought how practiced and unbecoming
it looked. He did not miss the gesture and his mouth went down at
"Sit down and we will have a pleasant domestic discussion of the
elegant reception we have just attended."
"You are drunk," she said coldly, "and I am going to bed."
"I am very drunk and I intend to get still drunker before the
evening's over. But you aren't going to bed--not yet. Sit down."
His voice still held a remnant of its wonted cool drawl but beneath
the words she could feel violence fighting its way to the surface,
violence as cruel as the crack of a whip. She wavered irresolutely
and he was at her side, his hand on her arm in a grip that hurt.
He gave it a slight wrench and she hastily sat down with a little
cry of pain. Now, she was afraid, more afraid than she had ever
been in her life. As he leaned over her, she saw that his face was
dark and flushed and his eyes still held their frightening glitter.
There was something in their depths she did not recognize, could
not understand, something deeper than anger, stronger than pain,
something driving him until his eyes glowed redly like twin coals.
He looked down at her for a long time, so long that her defiant
gaze wavered and fell, and then he slumped into a chair opposite
her and poured himself another drink. She thought rapidly, trying
to lay a line of defenses. But until he spoke, she would not know
what to say for she did not know exactly what accusation he
intended to make.
He drank slowly, watching her over the glass and she tightened her
nerves, trying to keep from trembling. For a time his face did not
change its ｅxpression but finally he laughed, still keeping his
eyes on her, and at the sound she could not still her shaking.
"It was an amusing comedy, this evening, wasn't it?"
She said nothing, curling her toes in the loose slippers in an
effort at controlling her quivering.
"A pleasant comedy with no character missing. The village assembled
to stone the erring woman, the wronged husband supporting his wife
as a gentleman should, the wronged wife stepping in with Christian
spirit and casting the garments of her spotless reputation over it
all. And the lover--"
"I don't please. Not tonight. It's too amusing. And the lover
looking like a damned fool and wishing he were dead. How does it
feel, my dear, to have the woman you hate stand by you and cloak
your sins for you? Sit down."
She sat down.
"You don't like her any better for it, I imagine. You are
wondering if she knows all about you and Ashley--wondering why she
did this if she does know--if she just did it to save her own face.
And you are thinking she's a fool for doing it, even if it did save
your hide but--"
"I will not listen--"
"Yes, you will listen. And I'll tell you this to ease your worry.
Miss Melly is a fool but not the kind you think. It was obvious
that someone had told her but she didn't believe it. Even if she
saw, she wouldn't believe. There's too much honor in her to
conceive of dishonor in anyone she loves. I don't know what lie
Ashley Wilkes told her--but any clumsy one would do, for she loves
Ashley and she loves you. I'm sure I can't see why she loves you
but she does. Let that be one of your crosses."
"If you were not so drunk and insulting, I would explain
everything," said Scarlett, recovering some dignity. "But now--"
"I am not interested in your explanations. I know the truth better
than you do. By God, if you get up out of that chair just once
"And what I find more amusing than even tonight's comedy is the
fact that while you have been so virtuously denying me the
pleasures of your bed because of my many sins, you have been
lusting in your heart after Ashley Wilkes. 'Lusting in your
heart.' That's a good phrase, isn't it? There are a number of
good phrases in that Book, aren't there?"
"What book? What book?" her mind ran on, foolishly, irrelevantly
as she cast frantic eyes about the room, noting how dully the
massive silver gleamed in the dim light, how frighteningly dark the
"And I was cast out because my coarse ardors were too much for your
refinement--because you didn't want any more children. How bad
that made me feel, dear heart! How it cut me! So I went out and
found pleasant consolation and left you to your refinements. And
you spent that time tracking the long-suffering Mr. Wilkes. God
damn him, what ails him? He can't be faithful to his wife with his
mind or unfaithful with his body. Why doesn't he make up his mind?
You wouldn't object to having his children, would you--and passing
them off as mine?"
She sprang to her feet with a cry and he lunged from his seat,
laughing that soft laugh that made her blood cold. He pressed her
back into her chair with large brown hands and leaned over her.
"Observe my hands, my dear," he said, flexing them before her eyes.
"I could tear you to pieces with them with no trouble whatsoever
and I would do it if it would take Ashley out of your mind. But it
wouldn't. So I think I'll remove him from your mind forever, this
way. I'll put my hands, so, on each side of your head and I'll
smash your skull between them like a walnut and that will blot him
His hands were on her head, under her flowing hair, caressing,
hard, turning her face up to his. She was looking into the face of
a stranger, a drunken drawling-voiced stranger. She had never
lacked animal courage and in the face of danger it flooded back
hotly into her veins, stiffening her spine, narrowing her eyes.
"You drunken fool," she said. "Take your hands off me."
To her surprise, he did so and seating himself on the edge of the
table he poured himself another drink.
"I have always admired your spirit, my dear. Never more than now
when you are cornered."
She drew her wrapper close about her body. Oh, if she could only
reach her room and turn the key in the stout door and be alone.
Somehow, she must stand him off, bully him into submission, this
Rhett she had never seen before. She rose without haste, though
her knees shook, tightened the wrapper across her hips and threw
back her hair from her face.
"I'm not cornered," she said cuttingly. "You'll never corner me,
Rhett Butler, or frighten me. You are nothing but a drunken beast
who's been with bad women so long that you can't understand
anything else but badness. You can't understand Ashley or me.
You've lived in dirt too long to know anything else. You are
jealous of something you can't understand. Good night."
She turned casually and started toward the door and a burst of
laughter stopped her. She turned and he swayed across the room
toward her. Name of God, if he would only stop that terrible
laugh! What was there to laugh about in all of this? As he came
toward her, she backed toward the door and found herself against
the wall. He put his hands heavily upon her and pinned her
shoulders to the wall.
"I am laughing because I am so sorry for you."
"Sorry--for me? Be sorry for yourself."
"Yes, by God, I'm sorry for you, my dear, my pretty little fool.
That hurts, doesn't it? You can't stand either laughter or pity,
He stopped laughing, leaning so heavily against her shoulders that
they ached. His face changed and he leaned so close to her that
the heavy whisky smell of his breath made her turn her head.
"Jealous, am I?" he said. "And why not? Oh, yes, I'm jealous of
Ashley Wilkes. Why not? Oh, don't try to talk and explain. I
know you've been physically faithful to me. Was that what you were
trying to say? Oh, I've known that all along. All these years.
How do I know? Oh, well, I know Ashley Wilkes and his breed. I
know he is honorable and a gentleman. And that, my dear, is more
than I can say for you--or for me, for that matter. We are not
gentlemen and we have no honor, have we? That's why we flourish
like green bay trees."
"Let me go. I won't stand here and be insulted."
"I'm not insulting you. I'm praising your physical virtue. And it
hasn't fooled me one bit. You think men are such fools, Scarlett.
It never pays to underestimate your opponent's strength and
intelligence. And I'm not a fool. Don't you suppose I know that
you've lain in my arms and pretended I was Ashley Wilkes?"
Her jaw dropped and fear and astonishment were written plainly in
"Pleasant thing, that. Rather ghostly, in fact. Like having three
in a bed where there ought to be just two." He shook her
shoulders, ever so slightly, hiccoughed and smiled mockingly.
"Oh, yes, you've been faithful to me because Ashley wouldn't have
you. But, hell, I wouldn't have grudged him your body. I know how
little bodies mean--especially women's bodies. But I do grudge him
your heart and your dear, hard, unscrupulous, stubborn mind. He
doesn't want your mind, the fool, and I don't want your body. I
can buy women cheap. But I do want your mind and your heart, and
I'll never have them, any more than you'll ever have Ashley's mind.
And that's why I'm sorry for you."
Even through her fear and bewilderment, his sneer stung.
"Yes, sorry because you're such a child, Scarlett. A child crying
for the moon. What would a child do with the moon if it got it?
And what would you do with Ashley? Yes, I'm sorry for you--sorry
to see you throwing away happiness with both hands and reaching out
for something that would never make you happy. I'm sorry because
you are such a fool you don't know there can't ever be happiness
except when like mates like. If I were dead, if Miss Melly were
dead and you had your precious honorable lover, do you think you'd
be happy with him? Hell, no! You would never know him, never know
what he was thinking about, never understand him any more than you
understand music and poetry and books or anything that isn't
dollars and cents. Whereas, we, dear wife of my bosom, could have
been perfectly happy if you had ever given us half a chance, for we
are so much alike. We are both scoundrels, Scarlett, and nothing
is beyond us when we want something. We could have been happy, for
I loved you and I know you, Scarlett, down to your bones, in a way
that Ashley could never know you. And he would despise you if he
did know. . . . But no, you must go mooning all your life after a
man you cannot understand. And I, my darling, will continue to
moon after whores. And, I dare say we'll do better than most
He released her abruptly and made a weaving way back toward the
decanter. For a moment, Scarlett stood rooted, thoughts tearing in
and out of her mind so swiftly that she could seize none of them
long enough to examine them. Rhett had said he loved her. Did he
mean it? Or was he merely drunk? Or was this one of his horrible
jokes? And Ashley--the moon--crying for the moon. She ran swiftly
into the dark hall, fleeing as though demons were upon her. Oh, if
she could only reach her room! She turned her ankle and the slipper
fell half off. As she stopped to kick it loose frantically, Rhett,
running lightly as an Indian, was beside her in the dark. His
breath was not on her face and his hands went round her roughly,
under the wrapper, against her bare skin.
"You turned me out on the town while you chased him. By God, this
is one night when there are only going to be two in my bed."
He swung her off her feet into his arms and started up the stairs.
Her head was crushed against his chest and she heard the hard
hammering of his heart beneath her ears. He hurt her and she cried
out, muffled, frightened. Up the stairs he went in the utter
darkness, up, up, and she was wild with fear. He was a mad
stranger and this was a black darkness she did not know, darker
than death. He was like death, carrying her away in arms that
hurt. She screamed, stifled against him and he stopped suddenly on
the landing and, turning her swiftly in his arms, bent over and
kissed her with a savagery and a completeness that wiped out
everything from her mind but the dark into which she was sinking
and the lips on hers. He was shaking, as though he stood in a
strong wind, and his lips, traveling from her mouth downward to
where the wrapper had fallen from her body, fell on her soft flesh.
He was muttering things she did not hear, his lips were evoking
feelings never felt before. She was darkness and he was darkness
and there had never been anything before this time, only darkness
and his lips upon her. She tried to speak and his mouth was over
hers again. Suddenly she had a wild thrill such as she had never
known; joy, fear, madness, excitement, surrender to arms that were
too strong, lips too bruising, fate that moved too fast. For the
first time in her life she had met someone, something stronger than
she, someone she could neither bully nor break, someone who was
bullying and breaking her. Somehow, her arms were around his neck
and her lips trembling beneath his and they were going up, up into
the darkness again, a darkness that was soft and swirling and all
When she awoke the next morning, he was gone and had it not been
for the rumpled pillow beside her, she would have thought the
happenings of the night before a wild preposterous dream. She went
crimson at the memory and, pulling the bed covers up about her
neck, lay bathed in sunlight, trying to sort out the jumbled
impressions in her mind.
Two things stood to the fore. She had lived for years with Rhett,
slept with him, eaten with him, quarreled with him and borne his
child--and yet, she did not know him. The man who had carried her
up the dark stairs was a stranger of whose existence she had not
dreamed. And now, though she tried to make herself hate him, tried
to be indignant, she could not. He had humbled her, hurt her, used
her brutally through a wild mad night and she had gloried in it.
Oh, she should be ashamed, should shrink from the very memory of
the hot swirling darkness! A lady, a real lady, could never hold
up her head after such a night. But, stronger than shame, was the
memory of rapture, of the ecstasy of surrender. For the first time
in her life she had felt alive, felt passion as sweeping and
primitive as the fear she had known the night she fled Atlanta, as
dizzy sweet as the cold hate when she had shot the Yankee.
Rhett loved her! At least, he said he loved her and how could she
doubt it now? How odd and bewildering and how incredible that he
loved her, this savage stranger with whom she had lived in such
coolness. She was not altogether certain how she felt about this
revelation but as an idea came to her she suddenly laughed aloud.
He loved her and so she had him at last. She had almost forgotten
her early desire to entrap him into loving her, so she could hold
the whip over his insolent black head. Now, it came back and it
gave her great satisfaction. For one night, he had had her at his
mercy but now she knew the weakness of his armor. From now on she
had him where she wanted him. She had smarted under his jeers for
a long time, but now she had him where she could make him jump
through any hoops she cared to hold.
When she thought of meeting him again, face to face in the sober
light of day, a nervous tingling embarrassment that carried with it
an exciting pleasure enveloped her.
"I'm nervous as a bride," she thought. "And about Rhett!" And, at
the idea she fell to giggling foolishly.
But Rhett did not appear for dinner, nor was he at his place at the
supper table. The night passed, a long night during which she lay
awake until dawn, her ears strained to hear his key in the latch.
But he did not come. When the second day passed with no word from
him, she was frantic with disappointment and fear. She went by the
bank but he was not there. She went to the store and was very
sharp with everyone, for every time the door opened to admit a
customer she looked up with a flutter, hoping it was Rhett. She
went to the lumber yard and bullied Hugh until he hid himself
behind a pile of lumber. But Rhett did not seek her there.
She could not humble herself to ask friends if they had seen him.
She could not make inquiries among the servants for news of him.
But she felt they knew something she did not know. Negroes always
knew everything. Mammy was unusually silent those two days. She
watched Scarlett out of the corner of her eye and said nothing.
When the second night had passed Scarlett made up her mind to go to
the police. Perhaps he had had an accident, perhaps his horse had
thrown him and he was lying helpless in some ditch. Perhaps--oh,
horrible thought--perhaps he was dead.
The next morning when she had finished her breakfast and was in her
room putting on her bonnet, she heard swift feet on the stairs. As
she sank to the bed in weak thankfulness, Rhett entered the room.
He was freshly barbered, shaved and massaged and he was sober, but
his eyes were bloodshot and his face puffy from drink. He waved an
airy hand at her and said: "Oh, hello."
How could a man say "Oh, hello," after being gone without
explanation for two days? How could he be so nonchalant with the
memory of such a night as they had spent? He couldn't unless--
unless--the terrible thought leaped into her mind. Unless such
nights were the usual thing to him. For a moment she could not
speak and all the pretty gestures and smiles she had thought to use
upon him were forgotten. He did not even come to her to give her
his usual offhand kiss but stood looking at her, with a grin, a
smoking cigar in his hand.
"Where--where have you been?"
"Don't tell me you don't know! I thought surely the whole town
knew by now. Perhaps they all do, except you. You know the old
adage: 'The wife is always the last one to find out.'"
"What do you mean?"
"I thought that after the police called at Belle's night before
"Belle's--that--that woman! You have been with--"
"Of course. Where else would I be? I hope you haven't worried
"You went from me to--oh!"
"Come, come, Scarlett! Don't play the deceived wife. You must
have known about Belle long ago."
"You went to her from me, after--after--"
"Oh, that." He made a careless gesture. "I will forget my
manners. My apologies for my conduct at our last meeting. I was
very drunk, as you doubtless know, and quite swept off my feet by
your charms--need I enumerate them?"
Suddenly she wanted to cry, to lie down on the bed and sob
endlessly. He hadn't changed, nothing had changed, and she had
been a fool, a stupid, conceited, silly fool, thinking he loved
her. It had all been one of his repulsive drunken jests. He had
taken her and used her when he was drunk, just as he would use any
woman in Belle's house. And now he was back, insulting, sardonic,
out of reach. She swallowed her tears and rallied. He must never,
never know what she had thought. How he would laugh if he knew!
Well, he'd never know. She looked up quickly at him and caught
that old, puzzling, watchful glint in his eyes--keen, eager as
though he hung on her next words, hoping they would be--what was he
hoping? That she'd make a fool out of herself and bawl and give
him something to laugh about? Not she! Her slanting brows rushed
together in a cold frown.
"I had naturally suspected what your relations with that creature
only suspected? Why didn't you ask me and satisfy your curiosity?
I'd have told you. I've been living with her ever since the day
you and Ashley Wilkes decided that we should have separate
"You have the gall to stand there and boast to me, your wife, that--"
"Oh, spare me your moral indignation. You never gave a damn what I
did as long as I paid the bills. And you know I've been no angel
recently. And as for you being my wife--you haven't been much of a
wife since Bonnie came, have you? You've been a poor investment,
Scarlett. Belle's been a better one."
"Investment? You mean you gave her--?"
"'Set her up in business' is the correct term, I believe. Belle's
a smart woman. I wanted to see her get ahead and all she needed
was money to start a house of her own. You ought to know what
miracles a woman can perform when she has a bit of cash. Look at
"You compare me--"
"Well, you are both hard-headed business women and both successful.
Belle's got the edge on you, of course, because she's a kind-
hearted, good-natured soul--"
"Will you get out of this room?"
He lounged toward the door, one eyebrow raised quizzically. How
could he insult her so, she thought in rage and pain. He was going
out of his way to hurt and humiliate her and she writhed as she
thought how she had longed for his homecoming, while all the time
he was drunk and brawling with police in a bawdy house.
"Get out of this room and don't ever come back in it. I told you
that once before and you weren't enough of a gentleman to
understand. Hereafter I will lock my door."
"I will lock it. After the way you acted the other night--so
drunk, so disgusting--"
"Come now, darling! Not disgusting, surely!"
"Don't worry. I'm going. And I promise I'll never bother you
again. That's final. And I just thought I'd tell you that if my
infamous conduct was too much for you to bear, I'll let you have a
divorce. Just give me Bonnie and I won't contest it."
"I would not think of disgracing the family with a divorce."
"You'd disgrace it quick enough if Miss Melly was dead, wouldn't
you? It makes my head spin to think how quickly you'd divorce me."
"Will you go?"
"Yes, I'm going. That's what I came home to tell you. I'm going
to Charleston and New Orleans and--oh, well, a very extended trip.
I'm leaving today."
"And I'm taking Bonnie with me. Get that foolish Prissy to pack
her little duds. I'll take Prissy too."
"You'll never take my child out of this house."
"My child too, Mrs. Butler. Surely you do not mind me taking her
to Charleston to see her grandmother?"
"Her grandmother, my foot! Do you think I'll let you take that
baby out of here when you'll be drunk every night and most likely
taking her to houses like that Belle's--"
He threw down the cigar violently and it smoked acridly on the
carpet, the smell of scorching wool rising to their nostrils. In
an instant he was across the floor and by her side, his face black
"If you were a man, I would break your neck for that. As it is,
all I can say is for you to shut your God-damn mouth. Do you think
I do not love Bonnie, that I would take her where--my daughter!
Good God, you fool! And as for you, giving yourself pious airs
about your motherhood, why, a cat's a better mother than you! What
have you ever done for the children? Wade and Ella are frightened
to death of you and if it wasn't for Melanie Wilkes, they'd never
know what love and affection are. But Bonnie, my Bonnie! Do you
think I can't take better care of her than you? Do you think I'll
ever let you bully her and break her spirit, as you've broken
Wade's and Ella's? Hell, no! Have her packed up and ready for me
in an hour or I warn you what happened the other night will be mild
beside what will happen. I've always thought a good lashing with a
buggy whip would benefit you immensely."
He turned on his heel before she could speak and went out of the
room on swift feet. She heard him cross the floor of the hall to
the children's play room and open the door. There was a glad,
quick treble of childish voices and she heard Bonnie's tones rise
"Daddy, where you been?"
"Hunting for a rabbit's skin to wrap my little Bonnie in. Give
your best sweetheart a kiss, Bonnie--and you too, Ella."
"Darling, I don't want any explanation from you and I won't listen
to one," said Melanie firmly as she gently laid a small hand across
Scarlett's tortured lips and stilled her words. "You insult
yourself and Ashley and me by even thinking there could be need of
explanations between us. Why, we three have been--have been like
soldiers fighting the world together for so many years that I'm
ashamed of you for thinking idle gossip could come between us. Do
you think I'd believe that you and my Ashley-- Why, the idea!
Don't you realize I know you better than anyone in the world knows
you? Do you think I've forgotten all the wonderful, unselfish
things you've done for Ashley and Beau and me--everything from
saving my life to keeping us from starving! Do you think I could
remember you walking in a furrow behind that Yankee's horse almost
barefooted and with your hands blistered--just so the baby and I
could have something to eat--and then believe such dreadful things
about you? I don't want to hear a word out of you, Scarlett
O'Hara. Not a word."
"But--" Scarlett fumbled and stopped.
Rhett had left town the hour before with Bonnie and Prissy, and
desolation was added to Scarlett's shame and anger. The additional
burden of her guilt with Ashley and Melanie's defense was more than
she could bear. Had Melanie believed India and Archie, cut her at
the reception or even greeted her frigidly, then she could have
held her head high and fought back with every weapon in her armory.
But now, with the memory of Melanie standing between her and social
ruin, standing like a thin, shining blade, with trust and a
fighting light in her eyes, there seemed nothing honest to do but
confess. Yes, blurt out everything from that far-off beginning on
the sunny porch at Tara.
She was driven by a conscience which, though long suppressed, could
still rise up, an active Catholic conscience. "Confess your sins
and do penance for them in sorrow and contrition," Ellen had told
her a hundred times and, in this crisis, Ellen's religious training
came back and gripped her. She would confess--yes, everything,
every look and word, those few caresses--and then God would ease
her pain and give her peace. And, for her penance, there would be
the dreadful sight of Melanie's face changing from fond love and
trust to incredulous horror and repulsion. Oh, that was too hard a
penance, she thought in anguish, to have to live out her life
remembering Melanie's face, knowing that Melanie knew all the
pettiness, the meanness, the two-faced disloyalty and the hypocrisy
that were in her.
Once, the thought of flinging the truth tauntingly in Melanie's
face and seeing the collapse of her fool's paradise had been an
intoxicating one, a gesture worth everything she might lose
thereby. But now, all that had changed overnight and there was
nothing she desired less. Why this should be she did not know.
There was too great a tumult of conflicting ideas in her mind for
her to sort them out. She only knew that as she had once desired
to keep her mother thinking her modest, kind, pure of heart, so she
now passionately desired to keep Melanie's high opinion. She only
knew that she did not care what the world thought of her or what
Ashley or Rhett thought of her, but Melanie must not think her
other than she had always thought her.
She dreaded to tell Melanie the truth but one of her rare honest
instincts arose, an instinct that would not let her masquerade in
false colors before the woman who had fought her battles for her.
So she had hurried to Melanie that morning, as soon as Rhett and
Bonnie had left the house.
But at her first tumbled-out words: "Melly, I must explain about
the other day--" Melanie had imperiously stopped her. Scarlett
looking shamefaced into the dark eyes that were flashing with love
and anger, knew with a sinking heart that the peace and calm
following confession could never be hers. Melanie had forever cut
off that line of action by her first words. With one of the few
adult emotions Scarlett had ever had, she realized that to unburden
her own tortured heart would be the purest selfishness. She would
be ridding herself of her burden and laying it on the heart of an
innocent and trusting person. She owed Melanie a debt for her
championship and that debt could only be paid with silence. What
cruel payment it would be to wreck Melanie's life with the
unwelcome knowledge that her husband was unfaithful to her, and her
beloved friend a party to it!
"I can't tell her," she thought miserably. "Never, not even if my
conscience kills me." She remembered irrelevantly Rhett's drunken
remark: "She can't conceive of dishonor in anyone she loves . . .
let that be your cross."
Yes, it would be her cross, until she died, to keep this torment
silent within her, to wear the hair shirt of shame, to feel it
chafing her at every tender look and gesture Melanie would make
throughout the years, to subdue forever the impulse to cry: "Don't
be so kind! Don't fight for me! I'm not worth it!"
"If you only weren't such a fool, such a sweet, trusting, simple-
minded fool, it wouldn't be so hard," she thought desperately.
"I've toted lots of weary loads but this is going to be the
heaviest and most galling load I've ever toted."
Melanie sat facing her, in a low chair, her feet firmly planted on
an ottoman so high that her knees stuck up like a child's, a
posture she would never have assumed had not rage possessed her to
the point of forgetting proprieties. She held a line of tatting in
her hands and she was driving the shining needle back and forth as
furiously as though handling a rapier in a duel.
Had Scarlett been possessed of such an anger, she would have been
stamping both feet and roaring like Gerald in his finest days,
calling on God to witness the accursed duplicity and knavishness of
mankind and uttering blood-curdling threats of retaliation. But
only by the flashing needle and the delicate brows drawn down
toward her nose did Melanie indicate that she was inwardly
seething. Her voice was cool and her words were more close clipped
than usual. But the forceful words she uttered were foreign to
Melanie who seldom voiced an opinion at all and never an unkind
word. Scarlett realized suddenly that the Wilkeses and the
Hamiltons were capable of furies equal to and surpassing those of
"I've gotten mighty tired of hearing people criticize you,
darling," Melanie said, "and this is the last straw and I'm going
to do something about it. All this has happened because people are
jealous of you, because you are so smart and successful. You've
succeeded where lots of men, even, have failed. Now, don't be
vexed with me, dear, for saying that. I don't mean you've ever
been unwomanly or unsexed yourself, as lots of folks have said.
Because you haven't. People just don't understand you and people
can't bear for women to be smart. But your smartness and your
success don't give people the right to say that you and Ashley--
The soft vehemence of this last ejaculation would have been, upon a
man's lips, profanity of no uncertain meaning. Scarlett stared at
her, alarmed by so unprecedented an outburst.
"And for them to come to me with the filthy lies they'd concocted--
Archie, India, Mrs. Elsing! How did they dare? Of course, Mrs.
Elsing didn't come here. No, indeed, she didn't have the courage.
But she's always hated you, darling, because you were more popular
than Fanny. And she was so incensed at your demoting Hugh from the
management of the mill. But you were quite right in demoting him.
He's just a piddling, do-less, good-for-nothing!" Swiftly Melanie
dismissed the playmate of her childhood and the beau of her teen
years. "I blame myself about Archie. I shouldn't have given the
old scoundrel shelter. Everyone told me so but I wouldn't listen.
He didn't like you, dear, because of the convicts, but who is he to
criticize you? A murderer, and the murderer of a woman, too! And
after all I've done for him, he comes to me and tells me-- I
shouldn't have been a bit sorry if Ashley had shot him. Well, I
packed him off with a large flea in his ear, I can tell you! And
he's left town.
"And as for India, the vile thing! Darling, I couldn't help
noticing from the first time I saw you two together that she was
jealous of you and hated you, because you were so much prettier and
had so many beaux. And she hated you especially about Stuart
Tarleton. And she's brooded about Stuart so much that--well, I
hate to say it about Ashley's sister but I think her mind has
broken with thinking so much! There's no other explanation for her
action. . . . I told her never to put foot in this house again and
that if I heard her breathe so vile an insinuation I would--I would
call her a liar in public!"
Melanie stopped speaking and abruptly the anger left her face and
sorrow swamped it. Melanie had all that passionate clan loyalty
peculiar to Georgians and the thought of a family quarrel tore her
heart. She faltered for a moment. But Scarlett was dearest,
Scarlett came first in her heart, and she went on loyally:
"She's always been jealous because I loved you best, dear. She'll
never come in this house again and I'll never put foot under any
roof that receives her. Ashley agrees with me, but it's just about
broken his heart that his own sister should tell such a--"
At the mention of Ashley's name, Scarlett's overwrought nerves gave
way and she burst into tears. Would she never stop stabbing him to
the heart? Her only thought had been to make him happy and safe
but at every turn she seemed to hurt him. She had wrecked his
life, broken his pride and self-respect, shattered that inner
peace, that calm based on integrity. And now she had alienated him
from the sister he loved so dearly. To save her own reputation and
his wife's happiness, India had to be sacrificed, forced into the
light of a lying, half-crazed, jealous old maid--India who was
absolutely justified in every suspicion she had ever harbored and
every accusing word she had uttered. Whenever Ashley looked into
India's eyes, he would see the truth shining there, truth and
reproach and the cold contempt of which the Wilkeses were masters.
Knowing how Ashley valued honor above his life, Scarlett knew he
must be writhing. He, like Scarlett, was forced to shelter behind
Melanie's skirts. While Scarlett realized the necessity for this
and knew that the blame for his false position lay mostly at her
own door, still--still-- Womanlike she would have respected Ashley
more, had he shot Archie and admitted everything to Melanie and the
world. She knew she was being unfair but she was too miserable to
care for such fine points. Some of Rhett's taunting words of
contempt came back to her and she wondered if indeed Ashley had
played the manly part in this mess. And, for the first time, some
of the bright glow which had enveloped him since the first day she
fell in love with him began to fade imperceptibly. The tarnish of
shame and guilt that enveloped her spread to him as well.
Resolutely she tried to fight off this thought but it only made her
"Don't! Don't!" cried Melanie, dropping her tatting and flinging
herself onto the sofa and drawing Scarlett's head down onto her
shoulder. "I shouldn't have talked about it all and distressed you
so. I know how dreadfully you must feel and we'll never mention it
again. No, not to each other or to anybody. It'll be as though it
never happened. But," she added with quiet venom, "I'm going to
show India and Mrs. Elsing what's what. They needn't think they
can spread lies about my husband and my sister-in-law. I'm going
to fix it so neither of them can hold up their heads in Atlanta.
And anybody who believes them or receives them is my enemy."
Scarlett, looking sorrowfully down the long vista of years to come,
knew that she was the cause of a feud that would split the town and
the family for generations.
Melanie was as good as her word. She never again mentioned the
subject to Scarlett or to Ashley. Nor, for that matter, would she
discuss it with anyone. She maintained an air of cool indifference
that could speedily change to icy formality if anyone even dared
hint about the matter. During the weeks that followed her surprise
party, while Rhett was mysteriously absent and the town in a
frenzied state of gossip, excitement and partisanship, she gave no
quarter to Scarlett's detractors, whether they were her old friends
or her blood kin. She did not speak, she acted.
She stuck by Scarlett's side like a cocklebur. She made Scarlett
go to the store and the lumber yard, as usual, every morning and
she went with her. She insisted that Scarlett go driving in the
afternoons, little though Scarlett wished to expose herself to the
eager curious gaze of her fellow townspeople. And Melanie sat in
the carriage beside her. Melanie took her calling with her on
formal afternoons, gently forcing her into parlors in which
Scarlett had not sat for more than two years. And Melanie, with a
fierce "love-me-love-my-dog" look on her face, made converse with
She made Scarlett arrive early on these afternoons and remain until
the last callers had gone, thereby depriving the ladies of the
opportunity for enjoyable group discussion and speculation, a
matter which caused some mild indignation. These calls were an
especial torment to Scarlett but she dared not refuse to go with
Melanie. She hated to sit amid crowds of women who were secretly
wondering if she had been actually taken in adultery. She hated
the knowledge that these women would not have spoken to her, had it
not been that they loved Melanie and did not want to lose her
friendship. But Scarlett knew that, having once received her, they
could not cut her thereafter.
It was characteristic of the regard in which Scarlett was held that
few people based their defense or their criticism of her on her
personal integrity. "I wouldn't put much beyond her," was the
universal attitude. Scarlett had made too many enemies to have
many champions now. Her words and her actions rankled in too many
hearts for many people to care whether this scandal hurt her or
not. But everyone cared violently about hurting Melanie or India
and the storm revolved around them, rather than Scarlett, centering
upon the one question--"Did India lie?"
Those who espoused Melanie's side pointed triumphantly to the fact
that Melanie was constantly with Scarlett these days. Would a
woman of Melanie's high principles champion the cause of a guilty
woman, especially a woman guilty with her own husband? No, indeed!
India was just a cracked old maid who hated Scarlett and lied about
her and induced Archie and Mrs. Elsing to believe her lies.
But, questioned India's adherents, if Scarlett isn't guilty, where
is Captain Butler? Why isn't he here at his wife's side, lending
her the strength of his countenance? That was an unanswerable
question and, as the weeks went by and the rumor spread that
Scarlett was pregnant, the pro-India group nodded with satisfaction.
It couldn't be Captain Butler's baby, they said. For too long the
fact of their estrangement had been public property. For too long
the town had been scandalized by the separate bedrooms.
So the gossip ran, tearing the town apart, tearing apart, too, the
close-knit clan of Hamiltons, Wilkeses, Burrs, Whitemans and
Winfields. Everyone in the family connection was forced to take
sides. There was no neutral ground. Melanie with cool dignity and
India with acid bitterness saw to that. But no matter which side
the relatives took, they all were resentful that Scarlett should
have been the cause of the family breach. None of them thought her
worth it. And no matter which side they took, the relatives
heartily deplored the fact that India had taken it upon herself to
wash the family dirty linen so publicly and involve Ashley in so
degrading a scandal. But now that she had spoken, many rushed to
her defense and took her side against Scarlett, even as others,
loving Melanie, stood by her and Scarlett.
Half of Atlanta was kin to or claimed kin with Melanie and India.
The ramifications of cousins, double cousins, cousins-in-law and
kissing cousins were so intricate and involved that no one but a
born Georgian could ever unravel them. They had always been a
clannish tribe, presenting an unbroken phalanx of overlapping
shields to the world in time of stress, no matter what their
private opinions of the conduct of individual kinsmen might be.
With the exception of the guerrilla warfare carried on by Aunt
Pitty against Uncle Henry, which had been a matter for hilarious
laughter within the family for years, there had never been an open
breach in the pleasant relations. They were gentle, quiet spoken,
reserved people and not given to even the amiable bickering that
characterized most Atlanta families.
But now they were split in twain and the town was privileged to
witness cousins of the fifth and sixth degree taking sides in the
most shattering scandal Atlanta had ever seen. This worked great
hardship and strained the tact and forbearance of the unrelated
half of the town, for the India-Melanie feud made a rupture in
practically every social organization. The Thalians, the Sewing
Circle for the Widows and Orphans of the Confederacy, the
Association for the Beautification of the Graves of Our Glorious
Dead, the Saturday Night Musical Circle, the Ladies' Evening
Cotillion Society, the Young Men's Library were all involved. So
were four churches with their Ladies' Aid and Missionary societies.
Great care had to be taken to avoid putting members of warring
factions on the same committees.
On their regular afternoons at home, Atlanta matrons were in
anguish from four to six o'clock for fear Melanie and Scarlett
would call at the same time India and her loyal kin were in their
Of all the family, poor Aunt Pitty suffered the most. Pitty, who
desired nothing except to live comfortably amid the love of her
relatives, would have been very pleased, in this matter, to run
with the hares and hunt with the hounds. But neither the hares nor
the hounds would permit this.
India lived with Aunt Pitty and, if Pitty sided with Melanie, as
she wished to do, India would leave. And if India left her, what
would poor Pitty do then? She could not live alone. She would
have to get a stranger to live with her or she would have to close
up her house and go and live with Scarlett. Aunt Pitty felt
vaguely that Captain Butler would not care for this, or she would
have to go and live with Melanie and sleep in the little cubbyhole
that was Beau's nursery.
Pitty was not overly fond of India, for India intimidated her with
her dry, stiff-necked ways and her passionate convictions. But she
made it possible for Pitty to keep her own comfortable establishment
and Pitty was always swayed more by considerations of personal
comfort than by moral issues. And so India remained.
But her presence in the house made Aunt Pitty a storm center, for
both Scarlett and Melanie took that to mean that she sided with
India. Scarlett curtly refused to contribute more money to Pitty's
establishment as long as India was under the same roof. Ashley
sent India money every week and every week India proudly and
silently returned it, much to the old lady's alarm and regret.
Finances at the red-brick house would have been in a deplorable
state, but for Uncle Henry's intervention, and it humiliated Pitty
to take money from him.
Pitty loved Melanie better than anyone in the world, except
herself, and now Melly acted like a cool, polite stranger. Though
she practically lived in Pitty's back yard, she never once came
through the hedge and she used to run in and out a dozen times a
day. Pitty called on her and wept and protested her love and
devotion, but Melanie always refused to discuss matters and never
returned the calls.
Pitty knew very well what she owed Scarlett--almost her very
existence. Certainly in those black days after the war when Pitty
was faced with the alternative of Brother Henry or starvation,
Scarlett had kept her home for her, fed her, clothed her and
enabled her to hold up her head in Atlanta society. And since
Scarlett had married and moved into her own home, she had been
generosity itself. And that frightening fascinating Captain
Butler--frequently after he called with Scarlett, Pitty found
brand-new purses stuffed with bills on her console table or lace
handkerchiefs knotted about gold pieces which had been slyly
slipped into her sewing box. Rhett always vowed he knew nothing
about them and accused her, in a very unrefined way, of having a
secret admirer, usually the be-whiskered Grandpa Merriwether.
Yes, Pitty owed love to Melanie, security to Scarlett, and what did
she owe India? Nothing, except that India's presence kept her from
having to break up her pleasant life and make decisions for
herself. It was all most distressing and too, too vulgar and
Pitty, who had never made a decision for herself in her whole life,
simply let matters go on as they were and as a result spent much
time in uncomforted tears.
In the end, some people believed whole-heartedly in Scarlett's
innocence, not because of her own personal virtue but because
Melanie believed in it. Some had mental reservations but they were
courteous to Scarlett and called on her because they loved Melanie
and wished to keep her love. India's adherents bowed coldly and
some few cut her openly. These last were embarrassing, infuriating,
but Scarlett realized that, except for Melanie's championship and
her quick action, the face of the whole town would have been set
against her and she would have been an outcast.
Rhett was gone for three months and during that time Scarlett had
no word from him. She did not know where he was or how long he
would be gone. Indeed, she had no idea if he would ever return.
During this time, she went about her business with her head high
and her heart sick. She did not feel well physically but, forced
by Melanie, she went to the store every day and tried to keep up a
superficial interest in the mills. But the store palled on her for
the first time and, although the business was treble what it had
been the year before and the money rolling in, she could take no
interest in it and was sharp and cross with the clerks. Johnnie
Gallegher's mill was thriving and the lumber yard selling all his
supply easily, but nothing Johnnie did or said pleased her.
Johnnie, as Irish as she, finally erupted into rage at her naggings
and threatened to quit, after a long tirade which ended with "and
the back of both me hands to you, Ma'm, and the curse of Cromwell
on you." She had to appease him with the most abject of apologies.
She never went to Ashley's mill. Nor did she go to the lumber-yard
office when she thought he would be there. She knew he was
avoiding her, knew that her constant presence in his house, at
Melanie's inescapable invitations, was a torment to him. They
never spoke alone and she was desperate to question him. She
wanted to know whether he now hated her and exactly what he had
told Melanie, but he held her at arm's length and silently pleaded
with her not to speak. The sight of his face, old, haggard with
remorse, added to her load, and the fact that his mill lost money
every week was an extra irritant which she could not voice.
His helplessness in the face of the present situation irked her.
She did not know what he could do to better matters but she felt
that he should do something. Rhett would have done something.
Rhett always did something, even if it was the wrong thing, and she
unwillingly respected him for it.
Now that her first rage at Rhett and his insults had passed, she
began to miss him and she missed him more and more as days went by
without news of him. Out of the welter of rapture and anger and
heartbreak and hurt pride that he had left, depression emerged to
sit upon her shoulder like a carrion crow. She missed him, missed
his light flippant touch in anecdotes that made her shout with
laughter, his sardonic grin that reduced troubles to their proper
proportions, missed even his jeers that stung her to angry retort.
Most of all she missed having him to tell things to. Rhett was so
satisfactory in that respect. She could recount shamelessly and
with pride how she had skinned people out of their eyeteeth and he
would applaud. And if she even mentioned such things to other
people they were shocked.
She was lonely without him and Bonnie. She missed the child more
than she had thought possible. Remembering the last harsh words
Rhett had hurled at her about Wade and Ella, she tried to fill in
some of her empty hours with them. But it was no use. Rhett's
words and the children's reactions opened her eyes to a startling,
a galling truth. During the babyhood of each child she had been
too busy, too worried with money matters, too sharp and easily
vexed, to win their confidence or affection. And now, it was
either too late or she did not have the patience or the wisdom to
penetrate their small secretive hearts.
Ella! It annoyed Scarlett to realize that Ella was a silly child
but she undoubtedly was. She couldn't keep her little mind on one
subject any longer than a bird could stay on one twig and even when
Scarlett tried to tell her stories, Ella went off at childish
tangents, interrupting with questions about matters that had
nothing to do with the story and forgetting what she had asked long
before Scarlett could get the explanation out of her mouth. And as
for Wade--perhaps Rhett was right. Perhaps he was afraid of her.
That was odd and it hurt her. Why should her own boy, her only
boy, be afraid of her? When she tried to draw him out in talk, he
looked at her with Charles' soft brown eyes and squirmed and
twisted his feet in embarrassment. But with Melanie, he bubbled
over with talk and brought from his pocket everything from fishing
worms to old strings to show her.
Melanie had a way with brats. There was no getting around it. Her
own little Beau was the best behaved and most lovable child in
Atlanta. Scarlett got on better with him than she did with her own
son because little Beau had no self-consciousness where grown
people were concerned and climbed on her knee, uninvited, whenever
he saw her. What a beautiful blond boy he was, just like Ashley!
Now if only Wade were like Beau-- Of course, the reason Melanie
could do so much with him was that she had only one child and she
hadn't had to worry and work as Scarlett had. At least, Scarlett
tried to excuse herself that way but honesty forced her to admit
that Melanie loved children and would have welcomed a dozen. And
the over-brimming affection she had was poured out on Wade and the
Scarlett would never forget the shock of the day she drove by
Melanie's house to pick up Wade and heard, as she came up the front
walk, the sound of her son's voice raised in a very fair imitation
of the Rebel Yell--Wade who was always as still as a mouse at home.
And manfully seconding Wade's yell was the shrill piping of Beau.
When she had walked into the sitting room she had found the two
charging at the sofa with wooden swords. They had hushed abashed
as she entered and Melanie had arisen, laughing and clutching at
hairpins and flying curls from where she was crouching behind the
"It's Gettysburg," she explained. "And I'm the Yankees and I've
gotten the worst of it. This is General Lee," pointing to Beau,
"and this is General Pickett," putting an arm about Wade's
Yes, Melanie had a way with children that Scarlett could never
"At least," she thought, "Bonnie loves me and likes to play with
me." But honesty forced her to admit that Bonnie infinitely
preferred Rhett to her. And perhaps she would never see Bonnie
again. For all she knew, Rhett might be in Perisa or Egypt and
intending to stay there forever.
When Dr. Meade told her she was pregnant, she was astounded, for
she had been expecting a diagnosis of biliousness and over-wrought
nerves. Then her mind fled back to that wild night and her face
went crimson at the memory. So a child was coming from those
moments of high rapture--even if the memory of the rapture was
dimmed by what followed. And for the first time she was glad that
she was going to have a child. If it were only a boy! A fine boy,
not a spiritless little creature like Wade. How she would care for
him! Now that she had the leisure to devote to a baby and the
money to smooth his path, how happy she would be! She had an
impulse to write to Rhett in care of his mother in Charleston and
tell him. Good Heavens, he must come home now! Suppose he stayed
away till after the baby was born! She could never explain that!
But if she wrote him he'd think she wanted him to come home and he
would be amused. And he mustn't ever think she wanted him or
She was very glad she had stifled this impulse when her first news
of Rhett came in a letter from Aunt Pauline in Charleston where, it
seemed, Rhett was visiting his mother. What a relief to know he
was still in the United States, even if Aunt Pauline's letter was
infuriating. Rhett had brought Bonnie to see her and Aunt Eulalie
and the letter was full of praise.
"Such a little beauty! When she grows up she will certainly be a
belle. But I suppose you know that any man who courts her will
have a tussle with Captain Butler, for I never saw such a devoted
father. Now, my dear, I wish to confess something. Until I met
Captain Butler, I felt that your marriage with him had been a
dreadful mesalliance for, of course, no one in Charleston hears
anything good about him and everyone is so sorry for his family.
In fact, Eulalie and I were uncertain as to whether or not we
should receive him--but, after all, the dear child is our great-
niece. When he came, we were pleasantly surprised, most
pleasantly, and realized how un-Christian it is to credit idle
gossip. For he is most charming. Quite handsome, too, we thought,
and so very grave and courteous. And so devoted to you and the
"And now, my dear, I must write you of something that has come to
our ears--something Eulalie and I were loath to believe at first.
We had heard, of course, that you sometimes did help out at the
store that Mr. Kennedy had left you. We had heard rumors but, of
course, we denied them. We realized that in those first dreadful
days after the war, it was perhaps necessary, conditions being what
they were. But there is no necessity now for such conduct on your
part, as I know Captain Butler is in quite comfortable circumstances
and is, moreover, fully capable of managing for you any business and
property you may own. We had to know the truth of these rumors and
were forced to ask Captain Butler point-blank questions which was
most distressing to all of us.
"With reluctance he told us that you spent your mornings at the
store and would permit no one else to do the bookkeeping. He also
admitted that you had some interest in a mill or mills (we did not
press him on this, being most upset at this information which was
news to us) that necessitated your riding about alone, or attended
by a ruffian who, Captain Butler assures us, is a murderer. We
could see how this wrung his heart and think he must be a most
indulgent--in fact, a far too indulgent husband. Scarlett, this
must stop. Your mother is not here to command you and I must do it
in her place. Think how your little children will feel when they
grow older and realize that you were in trade! How mortified they
will be to know that you exposed yourself to the insults of rude
men and the dangers of careless gossip in attending to mills. Such
Scarlett flung down the letter unfinished, with an oath. She could
just see Aunt Pauline and Aunt Eulalie sitting in judgment on her
in the crumbling house on the Battery with little between them and
starvation except what she, Scarlett, sent them every month.
Unwomanly? By God, if she hadn't been unwomanly Aunt Pauline and
Aunt Eulalie probably wouldn't have a roof over their heads this
very moment. And damn Rhett for telling them about the store and
the bookkeeping and the mills! Reluctant, was he? She knew very
well the joy he took in palming himself off on the old ladies as
grave, courteous and charming, the devoted husband and father.
How he must have loved harrowing them with descriptions of her
activities with the store, the mills, the saloon. What a devil he
was. Why did such perverse things give him such pleasure?
But soon, even this rage passed into apathy. So much of the keen
zest had gone out of life recently. If only she could recapture
the thrill and the glow of Ashley--if only Rhett would come home
and make her laugh.
They were home again, without warning. The first intimation of
their return was the sound of luggage being thumped on the front-
hall floor and Bonnie's voice crying, "Mother!"
Scarlett hurried from her room to the top of the stairs and saw her
daughter stretching her short plump legs in an effort to climb the
steps. A resigned striped kitten was clutched to her breast.
"Gran'ma gave him to me," she cried excitedly, holding the kitten
out by the scruff.
Scarlett swept her up into her arms and kissed her, thankful that
the child's presence spared her her first meeting alone with Rhett.
Looking over Bonnie's head, she saw him in the hall below, paying
the cab driver. He looked up, saw her and swept off his hat in a
wide gesture, bowing as he did. When she met his dark eyes, her
heart leaped. No matter what he was, no matter what he had done,
he was home and she was glad.
"Where's Mammy?" asked Bonnie, wriggling in Scarlett's grasp and
she reluctantly set the child on her feet.
It was going to be more difficult than she anticipated, greeting
Rhett with just the proper degree of casualness and, as for telling
him about the new baby! She looked at his face as he came up the
steps, that dark nonchalant face, so impervious, so blank. No,
she'd wait to tell him. She couldn't tell him right away. And
yet, such tidings as these belonged first to a husband, for a
husband was always happy to hear them. But she did not think he
would be happy about it.
She stood on the landing, leaning against the banisters and
wondered if he would kiss her. But he did not. He said only:
"You are looking pale, Mrs. Butler. Is there a rouge shortage?"
No word of missing her, even if he didn't mean it. And he might
have at least kissed her in front of Mammy who, after bobbing a
curtsy, was leading Bonnie away down the hall to the nursery. He
stood beside her on the landing, his eyes appraising her carelessly.
"Can this wanness mean that you've been missing me?" he questioned
and though his lips smiled, his eyes did not.
So that was going to be his attitude. He was going to be as
hateful as ever. Suddenly the child she was carrying became a
nauseating burden instead of something she had gladly carried, and
this man before her, standing carelessly with his wide Panama hat
upon his hip, her bitterest foe, the cause of all her troubles.
There was venom in her eyes as she answered, venom that was too
unmistakable to be missed, and the smile went from his face.
"If I'm pale it's your fault and not because I've missed you, you
conceited thing. It's because--" Oh, she hadn't intended to tell
him like this but the hot words rushed to her lips and she flung
them at him, careless of the servants who might hear. "It's
because I'm going to have a baby!"
He sucked in his breath suddenly and his eyes went rapidly over
her. He took a quick step toward her as though to put a hand on
her arm but she twisted away from him, and before the hate in her
eyes his face hardened.
"Indeed!" he said coolly. "Well, who's the happy father? Ashley?"
She clutched the newel post until the ears of the carved lion dug
with sudden pain into her palm. Even she who knew him so well had
not anticipated this insult. Of course, he was joking but there
were some jokes too monstrous to be borne. She wanted to rake her
sharp nails across his eyes and blot out that queer light in them.
"Damn you!" she began, her voice shaking with sick rage. "You--you
know it's yours. And I don't want it any more than you do. No--no
woman would want the children of a cad like you. I wish-- Oh,
God, I wish it was anybody's baby but yours!"
She saw his swarthy face change suddenly, anger and something she
could not analyze making it twitch as though stung.
"There!" she thought in a hot rage of pleasure. "There! I've hurt
But the old impassive mask was back across his face and he stroked
one side of his mustache.
"Cheer up," he said, turning from her and starting up the stairs,
"maybe you'll have a miscarriage."
For a dizzy moment she thought what childbearing meant, the nausea
that tore her, the tedious waiting, the thickening of her figure,
the hours of pain. Things no man could ever realize. And he dared
to joke. She would claw him. Nothing but the sight of blood upon
his dark face would ease this pain in her heart. She lunged for
him, swift as a cat, but with a light startled movement, he
sidestepped, throwing up his arm to ward her off. She was standing
on the edge of the freshly waxed top step, and as her arm with the
whole weight of her body behind it, struck his out-thrust arm, she
lost her balance. She made a wild clutch for the newel post and
missed it. She went down the stairs backwards, feeling a sickening
dart of pain in her ribs as she landed. And, too dazed to catch
herself, she rolled over and over to the bottom of the flight.
It was the first time Scarlett had ever been ill, except when she
had her babies, and somehow those times did not count. She had not
been forlorn and frightened then, as she was now, weak and pain
racked and bewildered. She knew she was sicker than they dared
tell her, feebly realized that she might die. The broken rib
stabbed when she breathed, her bruised face and head ached and her
whole body was given over to demons who plucked at her with hot
pinchers and sawed on her with dull knives and left her, for short
intervals, so drained of strength that she could not regain grip on
herself before they returned. No, childbirth had not been like
this. She had been able to eat hearty meals two hours after Wade
and Ella and Bonnie had been born, but now the thought of anything
but cool water brought on feeble nausea.
How easy it was to have a child and how painful not to have one!
Strange, what a pang it had been even in her pain, to know that she
would not have this child. Stranger still that it should have been
the first child she really wanted. She tried to think why she
wanted it but her mind was too tired. Her mind was too tired to
think of anything except fear of death. Death was in the room and
she had no strength to confront it, to fight it back and she was
frightened. She wanted someone strong to stand by her and hold her
hand and fight off death until enough strength came back for her to
do her own fighting.
Rage had been swallowed up in pain and she wanted Rhett. But he
was not there and she could not bring herself to ask for him.
Her last memory of him was how he looked as he picked her up in the
dark hall at the bottom of the steps, his face white and wiped
clean of all save hideous fear, his voice hoarsely calling for
Mammy. And then there was a faint memory of being carried
upstairs, before darkness came over her mind. And then pain and
more pain and the room full of buzzing voices and Aunt Pittypat's
sobs and Dr. Meade's brusque orders and feet that hurried on the
stairs and tiptoes in the upper hall. And then like a blinding ray
of lightning, the knowledge of death and fear that suddenly made
her try to scream a name and the scream was only a whisper.
But that forlorn whisper brought instant response from somewhere in
the darkness beside the bed and the soft voice of the one she
called made answer in lullaby tones: "I'm here, dear. I've been
right here all the time."
Death and fear receded gently as Melanie took her hand and laid it
quietly against her cool cheek. Scarlett tried to turn to see her
face and could not. Melly was having a baby and the Yankees were
coming. The town was afire and she must hurry, hurry. But Melly
was having a baby and she couldn't hurry. She must stay with her
till the baby came and be strong because Melly needed her strength.
Melly was hurting so bad--there were hot pinchers at her and dull
knives and recurrent waves of pain. She must hold Melly's hand.
But Dr. Meade was there after all, he had come, even if the soldiers
at the depot did need him for she heard him say: "Delirious.
Where's Captain Butler?"
The night was dark and then light and sometimes she was having a
baby and sometimes it was Melanie who cried out, but through it all
Melly was there and her hands were cool and she did not make futile
anxious gestures or sob like Aunt Pitty. Whenever Scarlett opened
her eyes, she said "Melly?" and the voice answered. And usually
she started to whisper: "Rhett--I want Rhett" and remembered, as
from a dream, that Rhett didn't want her, that Rhett's face was
dark as an Indian's and his teeth were white in a jeer. She wanted
him and he didn't want her.
Once she said "Melly?" and Mammy's voice said: "S'me, chile," and
put a cold rag on her forehead and she cried fretfully: "Melly--
Melanie" over and over but for a long time Melanie did not come.
For Melanie was sitting on the edge of Rhett's bed and Rhett, drunk
and sobbing, was sprawled on the floor, crying, his head in her
Every time she had come out of Scarlett's room she had seen him,
sitting on his bed, his door wide, watching the door across the
hall. The room was untidy, littered with cigar butts and dishes of
untouched food. The bed was tumbled and unmade and he sat on it,
unshaven and suddenly gaunt, endlessly smoking. He never asked
questions when he saw her. She always stood in the doorway for a
minute, giving the news: "I'm sorry, she's worse," or "No, she
hasn't asked for you yet. You see, she's delirious" or "You
mustn't give up hope, Captain Butler. Let me fix you some hot
coffee and something to eat. You'll make yourself ill."
Her heart always ached with pity for him, although she was almost
too tired and sleepy to feel anything. How could people say such
mean things about him--say he was heartless and wicked and
unfaithful to Scarlett, when she could see him getting thin before
her eyes, see the torment in his face? Tired as she was, she
always tried to be kinder than usual when she gave bulletins from
the sick room. He looked so like a damned soul waiting judgment--
so like a child in a suddenly hostile world. But everyone was like
a child to Melanie.
But when, at last, she went joyfully to his door to tell him that
Scarlett was better, she was unprepared for what she found. There
was a half-empty bottle of whisky on the table by the bed and the
room reeked with the odor. He looked at her with bright glazed
eyes and his jaw muscles trembled despite his efforts to set his
"Oh, no. She's much better."
He said: "Oh, my God," and put his head in his hands. She saw his
wide shoulders shake as with a nervous chill and, as she watched
him pityingly, her pity changed to honor for she saw that he was
crying. Melanie had never seen a man cry and of all men, Rhett, so
suave, so mocking, so eternally sure of himself.
It frightened her, the desperate choking sound he made. She had a
terrified thought that he was drunk and Melanie was afraid of
drunkenness. But when he raised his head and she caught one
glimpse of his eyes, she stepped swiftly into the room, closed the
door softly behind her and went to him. She had never seen a man
cry but she had comforted the tears of many children. When she put
a soft hand on his shoulder, his arms went suddenly around her
skirts. Before she knew how it happened she was sitting on the bed
and he was on the floor, his head in her lap and his arms and hands
clutching her in a frantic clasp that hurt her.
She stroked the black head gently and said: "There! There!"
soothingly. "There! She's going to get well."
At her words, his grip tightened and he began speaking rapidly,
hoarsely, babbling as though to a grave which would never give up
its secrets, babbling the truth for the first time in his life,
baring himself mercilessly to Melanie who was at first, utterly
uncomprehending, utterly maternal. He talked brokenly, burrowing
his head in her lap, tugging at the folds of her skirt. Sometimes
his words were blurred, muffled, sometimes they came far too
clearly to her ears, harsh, bitter words of confession and
abasement, speaking of things she had never heard even a woman
mention, secret things that brought the hot blood of modesty to her
cheeks and made her grateful for his bowed head.
She patted his head as she did little Beau's and said: "Hush!
Captain Butler! You must not tell me these things! You are not
yourself. Hush!" But his voice went on in a wild torrent of
outpouring and he held to her dress as though it were his hope of
He accused himself of deeds she did not understand; he mumbled the
name of Belle Watling and then he shook her with his violence as he
cried: "I've killed Scarlett, I've killed her. You don't
understand. She didn't want this baby and--"
"You must hush! You are beside yourself! Not want a baby? Why
every woman wants--"
"No! No! You want babies. But she doesn't. Not my babies--"
"You must stop!"
"You don't understand. She didn't want a baby and I made her.
This--this baby--it's all my damned fault. We hadn't been sleeping
"Hush, Captain Butler! It is not fit--"
"And I was drunk and insane and I wanted to hurt her--because she
had hurt me. I wanted to--and I did--but she didn't want me.
She's never wanted me. She never has and I tried--I tried so hard
"And I didn't know about this baby till the other day--when she
fell. She didn't know where I was to write to me and tell me--but
she wouldn't have written me if she had known. I tell you--I tell
you I'd have come straight home--if I'd only known--whether she
wanted me home or not. . . ."
"Oh, yes, I know you would!"
"God, I've been crazy these weeks, crazy and drunk! And when she
told me, there on the steps--what did I do? What did I say? I
laughed and said: 'Cheer up. Maybe you'll have a miscarriage.'
Melanie suddenly went white and her eyes widened with horror as she
looked down at the black tormented head writhing in her lap. The
afternoon sun streamed in through the open window and suddenly she
saw, as for the first time, how large and brown and strong his
hands were and how thickly the black hairs grew along the backs of
them. Involuntarily, she recoiled from them. They seemed so
predatory, so ruthless and yet, twined in her skirt, so broken, so
Could it be possible that he had heard and believed the preposterous
lie about Scarlett and Ashley and become jealous? True, he had left
town immediately after the scandal broke but-- No, it couldn't be
that. Captain Butler was always going off abruptly on journeys. He
couldn't have believed the gossip. He was too sensible. If that
had been the cause of the trouble, wouldn't he have tried to shoot
Ashley? Or at least demanded an explanation?
No, it couldn't be that. It was only that he was drunk and sick
from strain and his mind was running wild, like a man delirious,
babbling wild fantasies. Men couldn't stand strains as well as
women. Something had upset him, perhaps he had had a small quarrel
with Scarlett and magnified it. Perhaps some of the awful things
he said were true. But all of them could not be true. Oh, not
that last, certainly! No man could say such a thing to a woman he
loved as passionately as this man loved Scarlett. Melanie had never
seen evil, never seen cruelty, and now that she looked on them for
the first time she found them too inconceivable to believe. He was
drunk and sick. And sick children must be humored.
"There! There!" she said crooningly. "Hush, now. I understand."
He raised his head violently and looked up at her with bloodshot
eyes, fiercely throwing off her hands.
"No, by God, you don't understand! You can't understand! You're--
you're too good to understand. You don't believe me but it's all
true and I'm a dog. Do you know why I did it? I was mad, crazy
with jealousy. She never cared for me and I thought I could make
her care. But she never cared. She doesn't love me. She never
has. She loves--"
His passionate, drunken gaze met hers and he stopped, mouth open,
as though for the first time he realized to whom he was speaking.
Her face was white and strained but her eyes were steady and sweet
and full of pity and unbelief. There was a luminous serenity in
them and the innocence in the soft brown depths struck him like a
blow in the face, clearing some of the alcohol out of his brain,
halting his mad, careering words in mid-flight. He trailed off
into a mumble, his eyes dropping away from hers, his lids batting
rapidly as he fought back to sanity.
"I'm a cad," he muttered, dropping his head tiredly back into her
lap. "But not that big a cad. And if I did tell you, you wouldn't
believe me, would you? You're too good to believe me. I never
before knew anybody who was really good. You wouldn't believe me,
"No, I wouldn't believe you," said Melanie soothingly, beginning to
stroke his hair again. "She's going to get well. There, Captain
Butler! Don't cry! She's going to get well."
It was a pale, thin woman that Rhett put on the Jonesboro train a
month later. Wade and Ella, who were to make the trip with her,
were silent and uneasy at their mother's still, white face. They
clung close to Prissy, for even to their childish minds there was
something frightening in the cold, impersonal atmosphere between
their mother and their stepfather.
Weak as she was, Scarlett was going home to Tara. She felt that
she would stifle if she stayed in Atlanta another day, with her
tired mind forcing itself round and round the deeply worn circle of
futile thoughts about the mess she was in. She was sick in body
and weary in mind and she was standing like a lost child in a
nightmare country in which there was no familiar landmark to guide
As she had once fled Atlanta before an invading army, so she was
fleeing it again, pressing her worries into the back of her mind
with her old defense against the world: "I won't think of it now.
I can't stand it if I do. I'll think of it tomorrow at Tara.
Tomorrow's another day." It seemed that if she could only get back
to the stillness and the green cotton fields of home, all her
troubles would fall away and she would somehow be able to mold her
shattered thoughts into something she could live by.
Rhett watched the train until it was out of sight and on his face
there was a look of speculative bitterness that was not pleasant.
He sighed, dismissed the carriage and mounting his horse, rode down
Ivy Street toward Melanie's house.
It was a warm morning and Melanie sat on the vine-shaded porch, her
mending basket piled high with socks. Confusion and dismay filled
her when she saw Rhett alight from his horse and toss the reins
over the arm of the cast-iron negro boy who stood at the sidewalk.
She had not seen him alone since that too dreadful day when
Scarlett had been so ill and he had been so--well--so drunk.
Melanie hated even to think the word. She had spoken to him only
casually during Scarlett's convalescence and, on those occasions,
she had found it difficult to meet his eyes. However, he had been
his usual bland self at those times, and never by look or word
showed that such a scene had taken place between them. Ashley had
told her once that men frequently did not remember things said and
done in drink and Melanie prayed heartily that Captain Butler's
memory had failed him on that occasion. She felt she would rather
die than learn that he remembered his outpourings. Timidity and
embarrassment swept over her and waves of color mounted her cheeks
as he came up the walk. But perhaps he had only come to ask if
Beau could spend the day with Bonnie. Surely he wouldn't have the
bad taste to come and thank her for what she had done that day!
She rose to meet him, noting with surprise, as always, how lightly
he walked for a big man.
"Scarlett has gone?"
"Yes. Tara will do her good," he said smiling. "Sometimes I think
she's like the giant Antaeus who became stronger each time he
touched Mother Earth. It doesn't do for Scarlett to stay away too
long from the patch of red mud she loves. The sight of cotton
growing will do her more good than all Dr. Meade's tonics."
"Won't you sit down?" said Melanie, her hands fluttering. He was
so very large and male, and excessively male creatures always
discomposed her. They seem to radiate a force and vitality that
made her feel smaller and weaker even than she was. He looked so
swarthy and formidable and the heavy muscles in his shoulders
swelled against his white linen coat in a way that frightened her.
It seemed impossible that she had seen all this strength and
insolence brought low. And she had held that black head in her
"Oh, dear!" she thought in distress and blushed again.
"Miss Melly," he said gently, "does my presence annoy you? Would
you rather I went away? Pray be frank."
"Oh!" she thought. "He does remember! And he knows how upset I
She looked up at him, imploringly, and suddenly her embarrassment
and confusion faded. His eyes were so quiet, so kind, so
understanding that she wondered how she could ever have been silly
enough to be flurried. His face looked tired and, she thought with
surprise, more than a little sad. How could she have even thought
he'd be ill bred enough to bring up subjects both would rather
"Poor thing, he's been so worried about Scarlett," she thought, and
managing a smile, she said: "Do sit down, Captain Butler."
He sat down heavily and watched her as she picked up her darning.
"Miss Melly, I've come to ask a very great favor of you and," he
smiled and his mouth twisted down, "to enlist your aid in a
deception from which I know you will shrink."
"Yes. Really, I've come to talk business to you."
"Oh, dear. Then it's Mr. Wilkes you'd better see. I'm such a
goose about business. I'm not smart like Scarlett."
"I'm afraid Scarlett is too smart for her own good," he said, "and
that is exactly what I want to talk to you about. You know how--
ill she's been. When she gets back from Tara she will start again
hammer and tongs with the store and those mills which I wish
devoutly would explode some night. I fear for her health, Miss
"Yes, she does far too much. You must make her stop and take care
"You know how headstrong she is. I never even try to argue with
her. She's just like a willful child. She won't let me help her--
she won't let anyone help her. I've tried to get her to sell her
share in the mills but she won't. And now, Miss Melly, I come to
the business matter. I know Scarlett would sell the remainder of
her interest in the mills to Mr. Wilkes but to no one else, and I
want Mr. Wilkes to buy her out."
"Oh, dear me! That would be nice but--" Melanie stopped and bit
her lip. She could not mention money matters to an outsider.
Somehow, despite what he made from the mill, she and Ashley never
seemed to have enough money. It worried her that they saved so
little. She did not know where the money went. Ashley gave her
enough to run the house on, but when it came to extra expenses they
were often pinched. Of course, her doctors bills were so much, and
then the books and furniture Ashley ordered from New York did run
into money. And they had fed and clothed any number of waifs who
slept in their cellar. And Ashley never felt like refusing a loan
to any man who'd been in the Confederate Army. And--
"Miss Melly, I want to lend you the money," said Rhett.
"That's so kind of you, but we might never repay it."
"I don't want it repaid. Don't be angry with me, Miss Melly! Please
hear me through. It will repay me enough to know that Scarlett will
not be exhausting herself driving miles to the mills every day. The
store will be enough to keep her busy and happy. . . . Don't you
"Well--yes--" said Melanie uncertainly.
"You want your boy to have a pony don't you? And want him to go to
the university and to Harvard and to Europe on a Grand Tour?"
"Oh, of course," cried Melanie, her face lighting up, as always, at
the mention of Beau. "I want him to have everything but--well,
everyone is so poor these days that--"
"Mr. Wilkes could make a pile of money out of the mills some day,"
said Rhett. "And I'd like to see Beau have all the advantages he
"Oh, Captain Butler, what a crafty wretch you are!" she cried,
smiling. "Appealing to a mother's pride! I can read you like a
"I hope not," said Rhett, and for the first time there was a gleam
in his eye. "Now will you let me lend you the money?"
"But where does the deception come in?"
"We must be conspirators and deceive both Scarlett and Mr. Wilkes."
"Oh, dear! I couldn't!"
"If Scarlett knew I had plotted behind her back, even for her own
good--well, you know her temper! And I'm afraid Mr. Wilkes would
refuse any loan I offered him. So neither of them must know where
the money comes from."
"Oh, but I'm sure Mr. Wilkes wouldn't refuse, if he understood the
matter. He is so fond of Scarlett."
"Yes, I'm sure he is," said Rhett smoothly. "But just the same he
would refuse. You know how proud all the Wilkes are."
"Oh, dear!" cried Melanie miserably, "I wish-- Really, Captain
Butler, I couldn't deceive my husband."
"Not even to help Scarlett?" Rhett looked very hurt. "And she is
so fond of you!"
Tears trembled on Melanie's eyelids.
"You know I'd do anything in the world for her. I can never, never
half repay her for what she's done for me. You know."
"Yes," he said shortly, "I know what she's done for you. Couldn't
you tell Mr. Wilkes that the money was left you in the will of some
"Oh, Captain Butler, I haven't a relative with a penny to bless
"Then, if I sent the money through the mail to Mr. Wilkes without
his knowing who sent it, would you see that it was used to buy the
mills and not--well, given away to destitute ex-Confederates?"
At first she looked hurt at his last words, as though they implied
criticism of Ashley, but he smiled so understandingly she smiled
"Of course I will."
"So it's settled? It's to be our secret?"
"But I have never kept anything secret from my husband!"
"I'm sure of that, Miss Melly."
As she looked at him she thought how right she had always been
about him and how wrong so many other people were. People had said
he was brutal and sneering and bad mannered and even dishonest.
Though many of the nicest people were now admitting they had been
wrong. Well! She had known from the very beginning that he was a
fine man. She had never received from him anything but the kindest
treatment, thoughtfulness, utter respect and what understanding!
And then, how he loved Scarlett! How sweet of him to take this
roundabout way of sparing Scarlett one of the loads she carried!
In an impulsive rush of feeling, she said: "Scarlett's lucky to
have a husband who's so nice to her!"
"You think so? I'm afraid she wouldn't agree with you, if she
could hear you. Besides, I want to be nice to you too, Miss Melly.
I'm giving you more than I'm giving Scarlett."
"Me!" she questioned, puzzled. "Oh, you mean for Beau."
He picked up his hat and rose. He stood for a moment looking down
at the plain, heart-shaped face with its long widow's peak and
serious dark eyes. Such an unworldly face, a face with no defenses
"No, not Beau. I'm trying to give you something more than Beau, if
you can imagine that."
"No, I can't," she said, bewildered again. "There's nothing in the
world more precious to me than Beau except Ash--except Mr. Wilkes."
Rhett said nothing and looked down at her, his dark face still.
"You're mighty nice to want to do things for me, Captain Butler,
but really, I'm so lucky. I have everything in the world any woman
"That's fine," said Rhett, suddenly grim. "And I intend to see
that you keep them."
When Scarlett came back from Tara, the unhealthy pallor had gone
from her face and her cheeks were rounded and faintly pink. Her
green eyes were alert and sparkling again, and she laughed aloud
for the first time in weeks when Rhett and Bonnie met her and Wade
and Ella at the depot--laughed in annoyance and amusement. Rhett
had two straggling turkey feathers in the brim of his hat and
Bonnie, dressed in a sadly torn dress that was her Sunday frock,
had diagonal lines of indigo blue on her cheeks and a peacock
feather half as long as she was in her curls. Evidently a game of
Indian had been in progress when the time came to meet the train
and it was obvious from the look of quizzical helplessness on
Rhett's face and the lowering indignation of Mammy that Bonnie had
refused to have her toilet remedied, even to meet her mother.
Scarlett said: "What a ragamuffin!" as she kissed the child and
turned a cheek for Rhett's lips. There were crowds of people in
the depot or she would never have invited this caress. She could
not help noticing, for all her embarrassment at Bonnie's
appearance, that everyone in the crowd was smiling at the figure
father and daughter cut, smiling not in derision but in genuine
amusement and kindness. Everyone knew that Scarlett's youngest had
her father under her thumb and Atlanta was amused and approving.
Rhett's great love for his child had gone far toward reinstating
him in public opinion.
On the way home, Scarlett was full of County news. The hot, dry
weather was making the cotton grow so fast you could almost hear it
but Will said cotton prices were going to be low this fall.
Suellen was going to have another baby--she spelled this out so the
children would not comprehend--and Ella had shown unwonted spirit
in biting Suellen's oldest girl. Though, observed Scarlett, it was
no more than little Susie deserved, she being her mother all over
again. But Suellen had become infuriated and they had had an
invigorating quarrel that was just like old times. Wade had killed
a water moccasin, all by himself. 'Randa and Camilla Tarleton were
teaching school and wasn't that a joke? Not a one of the Tarletons
had ever been able to spell cat! Betsy Tarleton had married a fat
one-armed man from Lovejoy and they and Hetty and Jim Tarleton were
raising a good cotton crop at Fairhill. Mrs. Tarleton had a brood
mare and a colt and was as happy as though she had a million
dollars. And there were negroes living in the old Calvert house!
Swarms of them and they actually owned it! They'd bought it in at
the sheriff's sale. The place was dilapidated and it made you cry
to look at it. No one knew where Cathleen and her no-good husband
had gone. And Alex was to marry Sally, his brother's widow!
Imagine that, after them living in the same house for so many
years! Everybody said it was a marriage of convenience because
people were beginning to gossip about them living there alone,
since both Old Miss and Young Miss had died. And it had about
broken Dimity Munroe's heart. But it served her right. If she'd
had any gumption she'd have caught her another man long ago,
instead of waiting for Alex to get money enough to marry her.
Scarlett chattered on cheerfully but there were many things about
the County which she suppressed, things that hurt to think about.
She had driven over the County with Will, trying not to remember
when these thousands of fertile acres had stood green with cotton.
Now, plantation after plantation was going back to the forest, and
dismal fields of broomsedge, scrub oak and runty pines had grown
stealthily about silent ruins and over old cotton fields. only one
acre was being farmed now where once a hundred had been under the
plow. It was like moving through a dead land.
"This section won't come back for fifty years--if it ever comes
back," Will had said. "Tara's the best farm in the County, thanks
to you and me, Scarlett, but it's a farm, a two-mule farm, not a
plantation. And the Fontaine place, it comes next to Tara and then
the Tarletons. They ain't makin' much money but they're gettin'
along and they got gumption. But most of the rest of the folks,
the rest of the farms--"
No, Scarlett did not like to remember the way the deserted County
looked. It seemed even sadder, in retrospect, beside the bustle
and prosperity of Atlanta.
"Has anything happened here?" she asked when they were finally home
and were seated on the front porch. She had talked rapidly and
continuously all the way home, fearing that a silence would fall.
She had not had a word alone with Rhett since that day when she
fell down the steps and she was none too anxious to be alone with
him now. She did not know how he felt toward her. He had been
kindness itself during her miserable convalescence, but it was the
kindness of an impersonal stranger. He had anticipated her wants,
kept the children from bothering her and supervised the store and
the mills. But he had never said: "I'm sorry." Well, perhaps he
wasn't sorry. Perhaps he still thought that child that was never
born was not his child. How could she tell what went on in the
mind behind the bland dark face? But he had showed a disposition
to be courteous, for the first time in their married life, and a
desire to let life go on as though there had never been anything
unpleasant between them--as though, thought Scarlett, cheerlessly,
as though there had never been anything at all between them. Well,
if that was what he wanted, she could act her part too.
"Is everything all right?" she repeated. "Did you get the new
shingles for the store? Did you swap the mules? For Heaven's
sake, Rhett, take those feathers out of your hat. You look a fool
and you'll be likely to wear them downtown without remembering to
take them out."
"No," said Bonnie, picking up her father's hat, defensively.
"Everything has gone very well here," replied Rhett. "Bonnie and I
have had a nice time and I don't believe her hair has been combed
since you left. Don't suck the feathers, darling, they may be
nasty. Yes, the shingles are fixed and I got a good trade on the
mules. No, there's really no news. Everything has been quite
Then, as an afterthought, he added: "The honorable Ashley was over
here last night. He wanted to know if I thought you would sell him
your mill and the part interest you have in his."
Scarlett, who had been rocking and fanning herself with a turkey
tail fan, stopped abruptly.
"Sell? Where on earth did Ashley get the money? You know they
never have a cent. Melanie spends it as fast as he makes it."
Rhett shrugged. "I always thought her a frugal little person, but
then I'm not as well informed about the intimate details of the
Wilkes family as you seem to be."
That jab seemed in something of Rhett's old style and Scarlett grew
"Run away, dear," she said to Bonnie. "Mother wants to talk to
"No," said Bonnie positively and climbed upon Rhett's lap.
Scarlett frowned at her child and Bonnie scowled back in so
complete a resemblance to Gerald O'Hara that Scarlett almost
"Let her stay," said Rhett comfortably. "As to where he got the
money, it seems it was sent him by someone he nursed through a case
of smallpox at Rock Island. It renews my faith in human nature to
know that gratitude still exists."
"Who was it? Anyone we know?"
"The letter was unsigned and came from Washington. Ashley was at a
loss to know who could have sent it. But then, one of Ashley's
unselfish temperament goes about the world doing so many good deeds
that you can't expect him to remember all of them."
Had she not been so surprised at Ashley's windfall, Scarlett would
have taken up this gauntlet, although while at Tara she had decided
that never again would she permit herself to be involved in any
quarrel with Rhett about Ashley. The ground on which she stood in
this matter was entirely too uncertain and, until she knew exactly
where she stood with both men, she did not care to be drawn out.
"He wants to buy me out?"
"Yes. But of course, I told him you wouldn't sell."
"I wish you'd let me mind my own business."
"Well, you know you wouldn't part with the mills. I told him that
he knew as well as I did that you couldn't bear not to have your
finger in everybody's pie, and if you sold out to him, then you
wouldn't be able to tell him how to mind his own business."
"You dared say that to him about me?"
"Why not? It's true, isn't it? I believe he heartily agreed with
me but, of course, he was too much of a gentleman to come right out
and say so."
"It's a lie! I will sell them to him!" cried Scarlett angrily.
Until that moment, she had had no idea of parting with the mills.
She had several reasons for wanting to keep them and their monetary
value was the least reason. She could have sold them for large
sums any time in the last few years, but she had refused all
offers. The mills were the tangible evidence of what she had done,
unaided and against great odds, and she was proud of them and of
herself. Most of all, she did not want to sell them because they
were the only path that lay open to Ashley. If the mills went from
her control it would mean that she would seldom see Ashley and
probably never see him alone. And she had to see him alone. She
could not go on this way any longer, wondering what his feelings
toward her were now, wondering if all his love had died in shame
since the dreadful night of Melanie's party. In the course of
business she could find many opportune times for conversations
without it appearing to anyone that she was seeking him out. And,
given time, she knew she could gain back whatever ground she had
lost in his heart. But if she sold the mills--
No, she did not want to sell but, goaded by the thought that Rhett
had exposed her to Ashley in so truthful and so unflattering a
light, she had made up her mind instantly. Ashley should have the
mills and at a price so low he could not help realizing how
generous she was.
"I will sell!" she cried furiously. "Now, what do you think of
There was the faintest gleam of triumph in Rhett's eyes as he bent
to tie Bonnie's shoe string.
"I think you'll regret it," he said.
Already she was regretting the hasty words. Had they been spoken
to anyone save Rhett she would have shamelessly retracted them.
Why had she burst out like that? She looked at Rhett with an angry
frown and saw that he was watching her with his old keen, cat-at-a-
mouse-hole look. When he saw her frown, he laughed suddenly, his
white teeth flashing. Scarlett had an uncertain feeling that he
had jockeyed her into this position.
"Did you have anything to do with this?" she snapped.
"I?" His brows went up in mock surprise. "You should know me
better. I never go about the world doing good deeds if I can avoid
That night she sold the mills and all her interest in them to
Ashley. She did not lose thereby for Ashley refused to take
advantage of her first low offer and met the highest bid that she
had ever had for them. When she had signed the papers and the
mills were irrevocably gone and Melanie was passing small glasses
of wine to Ashley and Rhett to celebrate the transaction, Scarlett
felt bereft, as though she had sold one of her children.
The mills had been her darlings, her pride, the fruit of her small
grasping hands. She had started with one little mill in those
black days when Atlanta was barely struggling up from ruin and
ashes and want was staring her in the face. She had fought and
schemed and nursed them through the dark times when Yankee
confiscation loomed, when money was tight and smart men going to
the wall. And now when Atlanta was covering its scars and
buildings were going up everywhere and newcomers flocking to the
town every day, she had two fine mills, two lumber yards, a dozen
mule teams and convict labor to operate the business at low cost.
Bidding farewell to them was like closing a door forever on a part
of her life, a bitter, harsh part but one which she recalled with a
She had built up this business and now she had sold it and she was
oppressed with the certainty that, without her at the helm, Ashley
would lose it all--everything that she had worked to build. Ashley
trusted everyone and still hardly knew a two-by-four from a six-by-
eight. And now she would never be able to give him the benefit of
her advice--all because Rhett had told him that she liked to boss
"Oh, damn Rhett!" she thought and as she watched him the conviction
grew that he was at the bottom of all this. Just how and why she
did not know. He was talking to Ashley and his words brought her
"I suppose you'll turn the convicts back right away," he said.
Turn the convicts back? Why should there be any idea of turning
them back? Rhett knew perfectly well that the large profits from
the mills grew out of the cheap convict labor. And why did Rhett
speak with such certainty about what Ashley's future actions would
be? What did he know of him?
"Yes, they'll go back immediately," replied Ashley and he avoided
Scarlett's dumbfounded gaze.
"Have you lost your mind?" she cried. "You'll lose all the money
on the lease and what kind of labor can you get, anyway?"
"I'll use free darkies," said Ashley.
"Free darkies! Fiddle-dee-dee! You know what their wages will
cost and besides you'll have the Yankees on your neck every minute
to see if you're giving them chicken three times a day and tucking
them to sleep under eiderdown quilts. And if you give a lazy darky
a couple of licks to speed him up, you'll hear the Yankees scream
from here to Dalton and you'll end up in jail. Why, convicts are
Melanie looked down into her lap at her twisted hands. Ashley
looked unhappy but obdurate. For a moment he was silent. Then his
gaze crossed Rhett's and it was as if he found understanding and
encouragement in Rhett's eyes--a glance that was not lost on
"I won't work convicts, Scarlett," he said quietly.
"Well, sir!" her breath was taken away. "And why not? Are you
afraid people will talk about you like they do about me?"
Ashley raised his head.
"I'm not afraid of what people say as long as I'm right. And I
have never felt that convict labor was right."
"I can't make money from the enforced labor and misery of others."
"But you owned slaves!"
"They weren't miserable. And besides, I'd have freed them all when
Father died if the war hadn't already freed them. But this is
different, Scarlett. The system is open to too many abuses.
Perhaps you don't know it but I do. I know very well that Johnnie
Gallegher has killed at least one man at his camp. Maybe more--who
cares about one convict, more or less? He said the man was killed
trying to escape, but that's not what I've heard elsewhere. And I
know he works men who are too sick to work. Call it superstition,
but I do not believe that happiness can come from money made from
the sufferings of others."
"God's nightgown! You mean--goodness, Ashley, you didn't swallow
all the Reverend Wallace's bellowings about tainted money?"
"I didn't have to swallow it. I believed it long before he
preached on it."
"Then, you must think all my money is tainted," cried Scarlett
beginning to be angry. "Because I worked convicts and own saloon
property and--" She stopped short. Both the Wilkes looked
embarrassed and Rhett was grinning broadly. Damn him, thought
Scarlett, vehemently. He's thinking that I'm sticking my finger in
other people's pies again and so is Ashley. I'd like to crack
their heads together! She swallowed her wrath and tried to assume
an aloof air of dignity but with little success.
"Of course, it's immaterial to me," she said.
"Scarlett, don't think I'm criticizing you! I'm not. It's just
that we look at things in different ways and what is good for you
might not be good for me."
She suddenly wished that they were alone, wished ardently that
Rhett and Melanie were at the end of the earth, so she could cry
out: "But I want to look at things the way you look at them! Tell
me just what you mean, so I can understand and be like you!"
But with Melanie present, trembling with the distress of the scene,
and Rhett lounging, grinning at her, she could only say with as
much coolness and offended virtue as she could muster: "I'm sure
it's your own business, Ashley, and far be it from me to tell you
how to run it. But, I must say, I do not understand your attitude
or your remarks."
Oh, if they were only alone, so she would not be forced to say
these cool things to him, these words that were making him unhappy!
"I've offended you, Scarlett, and I did not mean to. You must
believe me and forgive me. There is nothing enigmatic in what I
said. It is only that I believe that money which comes in certain
ways seldom brings happiness."
"But you're wrong!" she cried, unable to restrain herself any
longer. "Look at me! You know how my money came. You know how
things were before I made my money! You remember that winter at
Tara when it was so cold and we were cutting up the carpets for
shoes and there wasn't enough to eat and we used to wonder how we
were going to give Beau and Wade an education. You remem--"
"I remember," said Ashley tiredly, "but I'd rather forget."
"Well, you can't say any of us were happy then, can you? And look
at us now! You've a nice home and a good future. And has anyone a
prettier house than mine or nicer clothes or finer horses? Nobody
sets as fine a table as me or gives nicer receptions and my
children have everything they want. Well, how did I get the money
to make it possible? Off trees? No, sir! Convicts and saloon
"And don't forget murdering that Yankee," said Rhett softly. "He
really gave you your start."
Scarlett swung on him, furious words on her lips.
"And the money has made you very, very happy, hasn't it, darling?"
he asked, poisonously sweet.
Scarlett stopped short, her mouth open, and her eyes went swiftly
to the eyes of the other three. Melanie was almost crying with
embarrassment, Ashley was suddenly bleak and withdrawn and Rhett
was watching her over his cigar with impersonal amusement. She
started to cry out: "But of course, it's made me happy!"
But somehow, she could not speak.
In the time that followed her illness Scarlett noticed a change in
Rhett and she was not altogether certain that she liked it. He was
sober and quiet and preoccupied. He was at home more often for
supper now and he was kinder to the servants and more affectionate
to Wade and Ella. He never referred to anything in their past,
pleasant or otherwise, and silently seemed to dare her to bring up
such subjects. Scarlett held her peace, for it was easier to let
well enough alone, and life went on smoothly enough, on the
surface. His impersonal courtesy toward her that had begun during
her convalescence continued and he did not fling softly drawled
barbs at her or sting her with sarcasm. She realized now that
though he had infuriated her with his malicious comments and roused
her to heated rejoinders, he had done it because he cared what she
did and said. Now she wondered if he cared about anything she did.
He was polite and disinterested and she missed his interest,
perverse though it had been, missed the old days of bickering and
He was pleasant to her now, almost as though she were a stranger;
but, as his eyes had once followed her, they now followed Bonnie.
It was as though the swift flood of his life had been diverted into
one narrow channel. Sometimes Scarlett thought that if Rhett had
given her one-half the attention and tenderness he lavished on
Bonnie, life would have been different. Sometimes it was hard to
smile when people said: "How Captain Butler idolizes that child!"
But, if she did not smile, people would think it strange and
Scarlett hated to acknowledge, even to herself, that she was
jealous of a little girl, especially when that little girl was her
favorite child. Scarlett always wanted to be first in the hearts
of those around her and it was obvious now that Rhett and Bonnie
would always be first with each other.
Rhett was out late many nights but he came home sober on these
nights. Often she heard him whistling softly to himself as he went
down the hall past her closed door. Sometimes men came home with
him in the late hours and sat talking in the dining room around the
brandy decanter. They were not the same men with whom he had drunk
the first year they were married. No rich Carpetbaggers, no
Scallawags, no Republicans came to the house now at his invitation.
Scarlett, creeping on tiptoe to the banister of the upstairs hall,
listened and, to her amazement, frequently heard the voices of Rene
Picard, Hugh Elsing, the Simmons boys and Andy Bonnell. And always
Grandpa Merriwether and Uncle Henry were there. once, to her
astonishment, she heard the tones of Dr. Meade. And these men had
once thought hanging too good for Rhett!
This group was always linked in her mind with Frank's death, and
the late hours Rhett kept these days reminded her still more of the
times preceding the Klan foray when Frank lost his life. She
remembered with dread Rhett's remark that he would even join their
damned Klan to be respectable, though he hoped God would not lay so
heavy a penance on his shoulders. Suppose Rhett, like Frank--
One night when he was out later than usual she could stand the
strain no longer. When she heard the rasp of his key in the lock,
she threw on a wrapper and, going into the gas lit upper hall, met
him at the top of the stairs. His ｅxpression, absent, thoughtful,
changed to surprise when he saw her standing there.
"Rhett, I've got to know! I've got to know if you--if it's the
Klan--is that why you stay out so late? Do you belong--"
In the flaring gas light he looked at her incuriously and then he
"You are way behind the times," he said. "There is no Klan in
Atlanta now. Probably not in Georgia. You've been listening to
the Klan outrage stories of your Scallawag and Carpetbagger
"No Klan? Are you lying to try to soothe me?"
"My dear, when did I ever try to soothe you? No, there is no Klan
now. We decided that it did more harm than good because it just
kept the Yankees stirred up and furnished more grist for the
slander mill of his excellency, Governor Bullock. He knows he can
stay in power just so long as he can convince the Federal
government and the Yankee newspapers that Georgia is seething with
rebellion and there's a Klansman hiding behind every bush. To keep
in power he's been desperately manufacturing Klan outrage stories
where none exist, telling of loyal Republicans being hung up by the
thumbs and honest darkies lynched for rape. But he's shooting at a
nonexistent target and he knows it. Thank you for your
apprehensions, but there hasn't been an active Klan since shortly
after I stopped being a Scallawag and became an humble Democrat."
Most of what he said about Governor Bullock went in one ear and out
the other for her mind was mainly occupied with relief that there
was no Klan any longer. Rhett would not be killed as Frank was
killed; she wouldn't lose her store or his money. But one word of
his conversation swam to the top of her mind. He had said "we,"
linking himself naturally with those he had once called the "Old
"Rhett," she asked suddenly, "did you have anything to do with the
breaking up of the Klan?"
He gave her a long look and his eyes began to dance.
"My love, I did. Ashley Wilkes and I are mainly responsible."
"Yes, platitudinously but truly, politics make strange bedfellows.
Neither Ashley nor I cared much for each other as bedfellows but--
Ashley never believed in the Klan because he's against violence of
any sort. And I never believed in it because it's damned
foolishness and not the way to get what we want. It's the one way
to keep the Yankees on our necks till Kingdom Come. And between
Ashley and me, we convinced the hot heads that watching, waiting
and working would get us further than nightshirts and fiery
"You don't mean the boys actually took your advice when you--"
"When I was a speculator? A Scallawag? A consorter with Yankees?
You forget, Mrs. Butler, that I am now a Democrat in good standing,
devoted to my last drop of blood to recovering our beloved state
from the hands of her ravishers! My advice was good advice and
they took it. My advice in other political matters is equally
good. We have a Democratic majority in the legislature now,
haven't we? And soon, my love, we will have some of our good
Republican friends behind the bars. They are a bit too rapacious
these days, a bit too open."
"You'd help put them in jail? Why, they were your friends! They
let you in on that railroad-bond business that you made thousands
Rhett grinned suddenly, his old mocking grin.
"Oh, I bear them no ill will. But I'm on the other side now and if
I can assist in any way in putting them where they belong, I'll do
it. And how that will redound to my credit! I know just enough
about the inside of some of these deals to be very valuable when
the legislature starts digging into them--and that won't be far
off, from the way things look now. They're going to investigate
the governor, too, and they'll put him in jail if they can. Better
tell your good friends the Gelerts and the Hundons to be ready to
leave town on a minute's notice, because if they can nab the
governor, they'll nab them too."
For too many years Scarlett had seen the Republicans, backed up by
the force of the Yankee Army, in power in Georgia to believe
Rhett's light words. The governor was too strongly entrenched for
any legislature to do anything to him, much less put him in jail.
"How you do run on," she observed.
"If he isn't put in jail, at least he won't be reelected. We're
going to have a Democratic governor next time, for a change."
"And I suppose you'll have something to do with it?" she questioned
"My pet, I will. I am having something to do with it now. That's
why I stay out so late at nights. I'm working harder than I ever
worked with a shovel in the gold rush, trying to help get the
election organized. And--I know this will hurt you, Mrs. Butler,
but I am contributing plenty of money to the organization, too. Do
you remember telling me, years ago, in Frank's store, that it was
dishonest for me to keep the Confederate gold? At last I've come
to agree with you and the Confederate gold is being spent to get
the Confederates back into power."
"You're pouring money down a rat hole!"
"What! You call the Democratic party a rat hole?" His eyes mocked
her and then were quiet, ｅxpressionless. "It doesn't matter a damn
to me who wins this election. What does matter is that everyone
knows I've worked for it and that I've spent money on it. And
that'll be remembered in Bonnie's favor in years to come."
"I was almost afraid from your pious talk that you'd had a change
of heart, but I see you've got no more sincerity about the
Democrats than about anything else."
"Not a change of heart at all. Merely a change of hide. You might
possibly sponge the spots off a leopard but he'd remain a leopard,
just the same."
Bonnie, awakened by the sound of voices in the hall, called sleepily
but imperiously: "Daddy!" and Rhett started past Scarlett.
"Rhett, wait a minute. There's something else I want to tell you.
You must stop taking Bonnie around with you in the afternoons to
political meetings. It just doesn't look well. The idea of a
little girl at such places! And it makes you look so silly. I
never dreamed that you took her until Uncle Henry mentioned it, as
though he thought I knew and--"
He swung round on her and his face was hard.
"How can you read wrong in a little girl sitting on her father's
lap while he talks to friends? You may think it looks silly but it
isn't silly. People will remember for years that Bonnie sat on my
lap while I helped run the Republicans out of this state. People
will remember for years--" The hardness went out of his face and a
malicious light danced in his eyes. "Did you know that when people
ask her who she loves best, she says 'Daddy and the Demiquats,' and
who she hates most, she says: 'The Scallywags.' People, thank
God, remember things like that."
Scarlett's voice rose furiously. "And I suppose you tell her I'm a
"Daddy!" said the small voice, indignant now, and Rhett, still
laughing, went down the hall to his daughter.
That October Governor Bullock resigned his office and fled from
Georgia. Misuse of public funds, waste and corruption had reached
such proportions during his administration that the edifice was
toppling of its own weight. Even his own party was split, so great
had public indignation become. The Democrats had a majority in the
legislature now, and that meant just one thing. Knowing that he
was going to be investigated and fearing impeachment, Bullock did
not wait. He hastily and secretly decamped, arranging that his
resignation would not become public until he was safely in the
When it was announced, a week after his flight, Atlanta was wild
with excitement and joy. People thronged the streets, men laughing
and shaking hands in congratulation, ladies kissing each other and
crying. Everybody gave parties in celebration and the fire
department was kept busy fighting the flames that spread from the
bonfires of jubilant small boys.
Almost out of the woods! Reconstruction's almost over! to be sure,
the acting governor was a Republican too, but the election was
coming up in December and there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to
what the result would be. And when the election came, despite the
frantic efforts of the Republicans, Georgia once more had a
There was joy then, excitement too, but of a different sort from
that which seized the town when Bullock took to his heels. This was
a more sober heartfelt joy, a deep-souled feeling of thanksgiving,
and the churches were filled as ministers reverently thanked God for
the deliverance of the state. There was pride too, mingled with the
elation and joy, pride that Georgia was back in the hands of her own
people again, in spite of all the administration in Washington could
do, in spite of the army, the Carpetbaggers, the Scallawags and the
Seven times Congress had passed crushing acts against the state to
keep it a conquered province, three times the army had set aside
civil law. The negroes had frolicked through the legislature,
grasping aliens had mismanaged the government, private individuals
had enriched themselves from public funds. Georgia had been
helpless, tormented, abused, hammered down. But now, in spite of
them all, Georgia belonged to herself again and through the efforts
of her own people.
The sudden overturn of the Republicans did not bring joy to
everyone. There was consternation in the ranks of the Scallawags,
the Carpetbaggers and the Republicans. The Gelerts and Hundons,
evidently apprised of Bullock's departure before his resignation
became public, left town abruptly, disappearing into that oblivion
from which they had come. The other Carpetbaggers and Scallawags
who remained were uncertain, frightened, and they hovered together
for comfort, wondering what the legislative investigation would
bring to light concerning their own private affairs. They were not
insolent now. They were stunned, bewildered, afraid. And the
ladies who called on Scarlett said over and over:
"But who would have thought it would turn out this way? We thought
the governor was too powerful. We thought he was here to stay. We
Scarlett was equally bewildered by the turn of events, despite
Rhett's warning as to the direction it would take. It was not that
she was sorry Bullock had gone and the Democrats were back again.
Though no one would have believed it she, too, felt a grim
happiness that the Yankee rule was at last thrown off. She
remembered all too vividly her struggles during those first days of
Reconstruction, her fears that the soldiers and the Carpetbaggers
would confiscate her money and her property. She remembered her
helplessness and her panic at her helplessness and her hatred of
the Yankees who had imposed this galling system upon the South.
And she had never stopped hating them. But, in trying to make the
best of things, in trying to obtain complete security, she had gone
with the conquerors. No matter how much she disliked them, she had
surrounded herself with them, cut herself off from her old friends
and her old ways of living. And now the power of the conquerors
was at an end. She had gambled on the continuance of the Bullock
regime and she had lost.
As she looked about her, that Christmas of 1871, the happiest
Christmas the state had known in over ten years, she was disquieted.
She could not help seeing that Rhett, once the most execrated man in
Atlanta, was now one of the most popular, for he had humbly recanted
his Republican heresies and given his time and money and labor and
thought to helping Georgia fight her way back. When he rode down
the streets, smiling, tipping his hat, the small blue bundle that
was Bonnie perched before him on his saddle, everyone smiled back,
spoke with enthusiasm and looked with affection on the little girl.
Whereas, she, Scarlett--
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Bonnie Butler was running
wild and needed a firm hand but she was so general a favorite that
no one had the heart to attempt the necessary firmness. She had
first gotten out of control the months when she traveled with her
father. When she had been with Rhett in New Orleans and Charleston
she had been permitted to sit up as late as she pleased and had
gone to sleep in his arms in theaters, restaurants and at card
tables. Thereafter, nothing short of force would make her go to
bed at the same time as the obedient Ella. While she had been away
with him, Rhett had let her wear any dress she chose and, since
that time, she had gone into tantrums when Mammy tried to dress her
in dimity frocks and pinafores instead of blue taffeta and lace
There seemed no way to regain the ground which had been lost when
the child was away from home and later when Scarlett had been ill
and at Tara. As Bonnie grew older Scarlett tried to discipline
her, tried to keep her from becoming too headstrong and spoiled,
but with little success. Rhett always sided with the child, no
matter how foolish her desires or how outrageous her behavior. He
encouraged her to talk and treated her as an adult, listening to
her opinions with apparent seriousness and pretending to be guided
by them. As a result, Bonnie interrupted her elders whenever she
pleased and contradicted her father and put him in his place. He
only laughed and would not permit Scarlett even to slap the little
girl's hand by way of reprimand.
"If she wasn't such a sweet, darling thing, she'd be impossible,"
thought Scarlett ruefully, realizing that she had a child with a
will equal to her own. "She adores Rhett and he could make her
behave better if he wanted to."
But Rhett showed no inclination to make Bonnie behave. Whatever
she did was right and if she wanted the moon she could have it, if
he could reach it for her. His pride in her beauty, her curls, her
dimples, her graceful little gestures was boundless. He loved her
pertness, her high spirits and the quaint sweet manner she had of
showing her love for him. For all her spoiled and willful ways she
was such a lovable child that he lacked the heart to try to curb
her. He was her god, the center of her small world, and that was
too precious for him to risk losing by reprimands.
She clung to him like a shadow. She woke him earlier than he cared
to wake, sat beside him at the table, eating alternately from his
plate and her own, rode in front of him on his horse and permitted
no one but Rhett to undress her and put her to sleep in the small
bed beside his.
It amused and touched Scarlett to see the iron hand with which her
small child ruled her father. Who would have thought that Rhett,
of all people, would take fatherhood so seriously? But sometimes a
dart of jealousy went through Scarlett because Bonnie, at the age
of four, understood Rhett better than she had ever understood him
and could manage him better than she had ever managed him.
When Bonnie was four years old, Mammy began to grumble about the
impropriety of a girl child riding "a-straddle in front of her pa
wid her dress flyin' up." Rhett lent an attentive ear to this
remark, as he did to all Mammy's remarks about the proper raising
of little girls. The result was a small brown and white Shetland
pony with a long silky mane and tail and a tiny sidesaddle with
silver trimmings. Ostensibly the pony was for all three children
and Rhett bought a saddle for Wade too. But Wade infinitely
preferred his St. Bernard dog and Ella was afraid of all animals.
So the pony became Bonnie's own and was named "Mr. Butler." The
only flaw in Bonnie's possessive joy was that she could not still
ride astride like her father, but after he had explained how much
more difficult it was to ride on the sidesaddle, she was content
and learned rapidly. Rhett's pride in her good seat and her good
hands was enormous.
"Wait till she's old enough to hunt," he boasted. "There'll be no
one like her on any field. I'll take her to Virginia then. That's
where the real hunting is. And Kentucky where they appreciate good
When it came to making her riding habit, as usual she had her
choice of colors and as usual chose blue.
"But, my darling! Not that blue velvet! The blue velvet is for a
party dress for me," laughed Scarlett. "A nice black broadcloth is
what little girls wear." Seeing the small black brows coming
together: "For Heaven's sake, Rhett, tell her how unsuitable it
would be and how dirty it will get."
"Oh, let her have the blue velvet. If it gets dirty, we'll make
her another one," said Rhett easily.
So Bonnie had her blue velvet habit with a skirt that trailed down
the pony's side and a black hat with a red plume in it, because
Aunt Melly's stories of Jeb Stuart's plume had appealed to her
imagination. on days that were bright and clear the two could be
seen riding down Peachtree Street, Rhett reining in his big black
horse to keep pace with the fat pony's gait. Sometimes they went
tearing down the quiet roads about the town, scattering chickens
and dogs and children, Bonnie beating Mr. Butler with her crop, her
tangled curls flying, Rhett holding in his horse with a firm hand
that she might think Mr. Butler was winning the race.
When he had assured himself of her seat, her hands, her utter
fearlessness, Rhett decided that the time had come for her to learn
to make the low jumps that were within the reach of Mr. Butler's
short legs. To this end, he built a hurdle in the back yard and
paid Wash, one of Uncle Peter's small nephews, twenty-five cents a
day to teach Mr. Butler to jump. He began with a bar two inches
from the ground and gradually worked up the height to a foot.
This arrangement met with the disapproval of the three parties
concerned, Wash, Mr. Butler and Bonnie. Wash was afraid of horses
and only the princely sum offered induced him to take the stubborn
pony over the bar dozens of times a day; Mr. Butler, who bore with
equanimity having his tail pulled by his small mistress and his
hooves examined constantly, felt that the Creator of ponies had not
intended him to put his fat body over the bar; Bonnie, who could
not bear to see anyone else upon her pony, danced with impatience
while Mr. Butler was learning his lessons.
When Rhett finally decided that the pony knew his business well
enough to trust Bonnie upon him, the child's excitement was
boundless. She made her first jump with flying colors and,
thereafter, riding abroad with her father held no charms for her.
Scarlett could not help laughing at the pride and enthusiasm of
father and daughter. She thought, however, that once the novelty
had passed, Bonnie would turn to other things and the neighborhood
would have some peace. But this sport did not pall. There was a
bare track worn from the arbor at the far end of the yard to the
hurdle, and all morning long the yard resounded with excited yells.
Grandpa Merriwether, who had made the overland trip in 1849, said
that the yells sounded just like an Apache after a successful
After the first week, Bonnie begged for a higher bar, a bar that
was a foot and a half from the ground.
"When you are six years old," said Rhett. "Then you'll be big
enough for a higher jump and I'll buy you a bigger horse. Mr.
Butler's legs aren't long enough."
"They are, too, I jumped Aunt Melly's rose bushes and they are
"No, you must wait," said Rhett, firm for once. But the firmness
gradually faded away before her incessant importunings and
"Oh, all right," he said with a laugh one morning and moved the
narrow white cross bar higher. "If you fall off, don't cry and
"Mother!" screamed Bonnie, turning her head up toward Scarlett's
bedroom. "Mother! Watch me! Daddy says I can!"
Scarlett, who was combing her hair, came to the window and smiled
down at the tiny excited figure, so absurd in the soiled blue
"I really must get her another habit," she thought. "Though Heaven
only knows how I'll make her give up that dirty one."
"I'm watching dear," said Scarlett smiling.
As Rhett lifted the child and set her on the pony, Scarlett called
with a swift rush of pride at the straight back and the proud set
of the head,
"You're mighty pretty, precious!"
"So are you," said Bonnie generously and, hammering a heel into Mr.
Butler's ribs, she galloped down the yard toward the arbor.
"Mother, watch me take this one!" she cried, laying on the crop.
WATCH ME TAKE THIS onE!
Memory rang a bell far back in Scarlett's mind. There was
something ominous about those words. What was it? Why couldn't
she remember? She looked down at her small daughter, so lightly
poised on the galloping pony and her brow wrinkled as a chill swept
swiftly through her breast. Bonnie came on with a rush, her crisp
black curls jerking, her blue eyes blazing.
"They are like Pa's eyes," thought Scarlett, "Irish blue eyes and
she's just like him in every way."
And, as she thought of Gerald, the memory for which she had been
fumbling came to her swiftly, came with the heart stopping clarity
of summer lightning, throwing, for an instant, a whole countryside
into unnatural brightness. She could hear an Irish voice singing,
hear the hard rapid pounding of hooves coming up the pasture hill
at Tara, hear a reckless voice, so like the voice of her child:
"Ellen! Watch me take this one!"
"No!" she cried. "No! Oh, Bonnie, stop!"
Even as she leaned from the window there was a fearful sound of
splintering wood, a hoarse cry from Rhett, a melee of blue velvet
and flying hooves on the ground. Then Mr. Butler scrambled to his
feet and trotted off with an empty saddle.
On the third night after Bonnie's death, Mammy waddled slowly up
the kitchen steps of Melanie's house. She was dressed in black
from her huge men's shoes, slashed to permit freedom for her toes,
to her black head rag. Her blurred old eyes were bloodshot and red
rimmed, and misery cried out in every line of her mountainous
figure. Her face was puckered in the sad bewilderment of an old
ape but there was determination in her jaw.
She spoke a few soft words to Dilcey who nodded kindly, as though
an unspoken armistice existed in their old feud. Dilcey put down
the supper dishes she was holding and went quietly through the
pantry toward the dining room. In a minute Melanie was in the
kitchen, her table napkin in her hand, anxiety in her face.
"Miss Scarlet isn't--"
"Miss Scarlett bearin' up, same as allus," said Mammy heavily. "Ah
din' ten ter 'sturb yo' supper, Miss Melly. Ah kin wait tell you
thoo ter tell you whut Ah got on mah mine."
"Supper can wait," said Melanie. "Dilcey, serve the rest of the
supper. Mammy, come with me."
Mammy waddled after her, down the hall past the dining room where
Ashley sat at the head of the table, his own little Beau beside him
and Scarlett's two children opposite, making a great clatter with
their soup spoons. The happy voices of Wade and Ella filled the
room. It was like a picnic for them to spend so long a visit with
Aunt Melly. Aunt Melly was always so kind and she was especially
so now. The death of their younger sister had affected them very
little. Bonnie had fallen off her pony and Mother had cried a long
time and Aunt Melly had taken them home with her to play in the
back yard with Beau and have tea cakes whenever they wanted them.
Melanie led the way to the small book-lined sitting room, shut the
door and motioned Mammy to the sofa.
"I was going over right after supper," she said. "Now that Captain
Butler's mother has come, I suppose the funeral will be tomorrow
"De fune'l. Dat's jes' it," said Mammy. "Miss Melly, we's all in
deep trouble an' Ah's come ter you fer he'p. Ain' nuthin' but
weery load, honey, nuthin' but weery load."
"Has Miss Scarlett collapsed?" questioned Melanie worriedly. "I've
hardly seen her since Bonnie-- She has been in her room and
Captain Butler has been out of the house and--"
Suddenly tears began to flow down Mammy's black face. Melanie sat
down beside her and patted her arm and, after a moment, Mammy
lifted the hem of her black skirt and dried her eyes.
"You got ter come he'p us, Miss Melly. Ah done de bes' Ah kin but
it doan do no good."
"Miss Melly, you knows Miss Scarlett well's Ah does. Whut dat
chile got ter stan', de good Lawd give her strent ter stan'.
Disyere done broke her heart but she kin stan' it. It's Mist'
Rhett Ah come 'bout."
"I have so wanted to see him but whenever I've been there, he has
either been downtown or locked in his room with-- And Scarlett has
looked like a ghost and wouldn't speak-- Tell me quickly, Mammy.
You know I'll help if I can."
Mammy wiped her nose on the back of her hand.
"Ah say Miss Scarlett kin stan' whut de Lawd sen', kase she done
had ter stan' a-plen'y, but Mist' Rhett--Miss Melly, he ain' never
had ter stan' nuthin' he din' wanter stan', not nuthin'. It's him
Ah come ter see you 'bout."
"Miss Melly, you got ter come home wid me, dis evenin'." There was
urgency in Mammy's voice. "Maybe Mist' Rhett lissen ter you. He
allus did think a heap of yo' 'pinion."
"Oh, Mammy, what is it? What do you mean?"
Mammy squared her shoulders.
"Miss Melly, Mist' Rhett done--done los' his mine. He woan let us
put Lil Miss away."
"Lost his mind? Oh, Mammy, no!"
"Ah ain' lyin'. It's de Gawd's truff. He ain' gwine let us buhy
dat chile. He done tole me so hisseff, not mo'n an hour ago."
"But he can't--he isn't--"
"Dat's huccome Ah say he los' his mine."
"Miss Melly, Ah tell you eve'ything. Ah oughtn' tell nobody, but
you is our fambly an' you is de onlies' one Ah kin tell. Ah tell
you eve'ything. You knows whut a sto' he set by dat chile. Ah
ain' never seed no man, black or w'ite, set sech a sto' by any
chile. Look lak he go plumb crazy w'en Doctah Meade say her neck
broke. He grab his gun an' he run right out an' shoot dat po' pony
an', fo' Gawd, Ah think he gwine shoot hisseff. Ah wuz plumb
'stracted whut wid Miss Scarlett in a swoon an' all de neighbors in
an' outer de house an' Mist' Rhett cahyin' on an' jes' holin' dat
chile an' not even lettin' me wash her lil face whar de grabble cut
it. An' w'en Miss Scarlett come to, Ah think, bress Gawd! Now dey
kin comfo't each other."
Again the tears began to fall but this time Mammy did not even wipe
"But w'en she come to, she go inter de room whar he settin', holin'
Miss Bonnie, an' she say: 'Gimme mah baby whut you kilt.'"
"Oh, no! She couldn't!"
"Yas'm. Dat whut she say. She say: 'You kilt her.' An' Ah felt
so sorry fer Mist' Rhett Ah bust out cryin', kase he look lak a
whup houn'. An' Ah say: 'Give dat chile ter its mammy. Ah ain'
gwine have no sech goin's on over mah Lil Miss.' An' Ah tek de
chile away frum him an' tek her inter her room an' wash her face.
An' Ah hear dem talkin' an' it lak ter tuhn mah blood cole, whut
dey say. Miss Scarlett wuz callin' him a mudderer fer lettin' her
try ter jump dat high, an' him sayin' Miss Scarlett hadn' never
keered nuthin' 'bout Miss Bonnie nor none of her chillun. . . ."
"Stop, Mammy! Don't tell me any more. It isn't right for you to
tell me this!" cried Melanie, her mind shrinking away from the
picture Mammy's words evoked.
"Ah knows Ah got no bizness tellin' you, but mah heart too full ter
know jes' whut not ter say. Den he tuck her ter de unnertaker's
hisseff an' he bring her back an' he put her in her baid in his
room. An' w'en Miss Scarlett say she b'long in de pahlor in de
coffin, Ah thought Mist' Rhett gwine hit her. An' he say, right
cole lak: 'She b'long in mah room.' An' he tuhn ter me an' he
say: 'Mammy, you see dat she stay right hyah tell Ah gits back.'
Den he light outer de house on de hawse an' he wuz gone tell 'bout
sundown. W'en he come t'arin' home, Ah seed dat he'd been drinkin'
an' drinkin' heavy, but he wuz cahyin' it well's usual. He fling
inter de house an' not even speak ter Miss Scarlett or Miss Pitty
or any of de ladies as wuz callin', but he fly up de steps an'
th'ow open de do' of his room an' den he yell for me. W'en Ah
comes runnin' as fas' as Ah kin, he wuz stan'in' by de baid an' it
wuz so dahk in de room Ah couldn' sceercely see him, kase de
shutters wuz done drawed.
"An' he say ter me, right fierce lak: 'Open dem shutters. It's
dahk in hyah.' An' Ah fling dem open an' he look at me an', fo'
Gawd, Miss Melly, mah knees 'bout give way, kase he look so
strange. Den he say: 'Bring lights. Bring lots of lights. An'
keep dem buhnin'. An' doan draw no shades an' no shutters. Doan
you know Miss Bonnie's 'fraid of de dahk?'"
Melanie's horror struck eyes met Mammy's and Mammy nodded ominously.
"Dat's whut he say. 'Miss Bonnie's 'fraid of de dahk.'"
"W'en Ah gits him a dozen candles, he say 'Git!' An' den he lock
de do' an' dar he set wid Lil Miss, an' he din' open de do' fer
Miss Scarlett even w'en she beat an' hollered ter him. An' dat's
de way it been fer two days. He woan say nuthin' 'bout de fune'l,
an' in de mawnin' he lock de do' an' git on his hawse an' go off
ter town. An' he come back at sundown drunk an' lock hisseff in
agin, an' he ain' et nuthin' or slept none. An' now his ma, Ole
Miss Butler, she come frum Cha'ston fer de fune'l an' Miss Suellen
an' Mist' Will, dey come frum Tara, but Mist' Rhett woan talk ter
none of dem. Oh, Miss Melly, it been awful! An' it's gwine be
wuss, an' folks gwine talk sumpin' scan'lous.
"An' den, dis evenin'," Mammy paused and again wiped her nose on
her hand. "Dis evenin' Miss Scarleft ketch him in de upstairs hall
w'en he come in, an' she go in de room wid him an' she say: 'De
fune'l set fer termorrer mawnin'.' An' he say: 'Do dat an' Ah
kills you termorrer.'"
"Oh, he must have lost his mind!"
"Yas'm. An' den dey talks kinder low an' Ah doan hear all whut dey
say, 'cept he say agin 'bout Miss Bonnie bein' sceered of de dahk
an' de grabe pow'ful dahk. An' affer aw'ile, Miss Scarlett say:
'You is a fine one ter tek on so, affer killin' her ter please yo'
pride.' An' he say: 'Ain' you got no mercy?' An' she say: 'No.
An' Ah ain' got no chile, needer. An' Ah'm wo'out wid de way you
been ackin' sence Bonnie wuz kilt. You is a scan'al ter de town.
You been drunk all de time an' ef you doan think Ah knows whar you
been spendin' yo' days, you is a fool. Ah knows you been down ter
dat creeter's house, dat Belle Watling.'"
"Oh, Mammy, no!"
"Yas'm. Dat whut she said. An', Miss Melly, it's de truff.
Niggers knows a heap of things quicker dan w'ite folks, an' Ah
knowed dat's whar he been but Ah ain' said nuthin' 'bout it. An'
he doan deny it. He say: 'Yas'm, dat's whar Ah been an' you neen
tek on, kase you doan give a damn. A bawdy house is a haben of
refuge affer dis house of hell. An' Belle is got one of de worl's
kines' hearts. She doan th'ow it up ter me dat Ah done kilt mah
"Oh," cried Melanie, stricken to the heart.
Her own life was so pleasant, so sheltered, so wrapped about with
people who loved her, so full of kindness that what Mammy told her
was almost beyond comprehension or belief. Yet there crawled into
her mind a memory, a picture which she hastily put from her, as she
would put from her the thought of another's nudity. Rhett had
spoken of Belle Watling the day he cried with his head on her
knees. But he loved Scarlett. She could not have been mistaken
that day. And of course, Scarlett loved him. What had come
between them? How could a husband and a wife cut each other to
pieces with such sharp knives?
Mammy took up her story heavily.
"Affer a w'ile, Miss Scarlett come outer de room, w'ite as a sheet
but her jaw set, an' she see me stan'in' dar an' she say: 'De
fune'l be termorrer, Mammy.' An' she pass me by lak a ghos'. Den
mah heart tuhn over, kase whut Miss Scarlett say, she mean. An'
whut Mist' Rhett say, he mean too. An' he say he kill her ef she
do dat. Ah wuz plumb 'stracted, Miss Melly, kase Ah done had
sumpin' on mah conscience all de time an' it weighin' me down.
Miss Melly, it wuz me as sceered Lil Miss of de dahk."
"Oh, but Mammy, it doesn't matter--not now."
"Yas'm, it do. Dat whut de whole trouble. An' it come ter me Ah
better tell Mist' Rhett even ef he kill me, kase it on mah
conscience. So Ah slip in de do' real quick, fo' he kin lock it,
an' Ah say: 'Mist' Rhett, Ah's come ter confess.' An' he swung
roun' on me lak a crazy man an' say: 'Git!' An', fo' Gawd, Ah
ain' never been so sceered! But Ah say: 'Please, suh, Mist'
Rhett, let me tell you. It's 'bout ter kill me. It wuz me as
sceered Lil Miss of de dahk.' An' den, Miss Melly, Ah put mah haid
down an' waited fer him ter hit me. But he din' say nuthin'. An'
An say: 'Ah din' mean no hahm. But, Mist' Rhett, dat chile din'
have no caution an' she wuzn' sceered of nuthin'. An' she wuz
allus gittin' outer baid affer eve'ybody sleep an runnin' roun' de
house barefoot. An' it worrit me, kase Ah 'fraid she hu't herseff.
So Ah tells her dar's ghos'es an' buggerboos in de dahk.'
"An' den--Miss Melly, you know whut he done? His face got right
gentle lak an' he come ter me an' put his han' on mah arm. Dat's
de fust time he ever done dat. An' he say: 'She wuz so brave,
wuzn' she? 'Cept fer de dahk, she wuzn' sceered of nuthin'.' An'
wen Ah bust out cryin' he say: 'Now, Mammy,' an' he pat me. 'Now,
Mammy, doan you cahy on so. Ah's glad you tole me. Ah knows you
love Miss Bonnie an' kase you love her, it doan matter. It's whut
de heart is dat matter.' Well'm dat kinder cheered me up, so Ah
ventu' ter say: 'Mist Rhett, suh, what 'bout de fune'l?' Den he
tuhn on me lak a wile man an' his eyes glitter an' he say: 'Good
Gawd, Ah thought you'd unnerstan' even ef nobody else din'! Does
you think Ah'm gwine ter put mah chile away in de dahk w'en she so
sceered of it? Right now Ah kin hear de way she uster scream w'en
she wake up in de dahk. Ah ain' gwine have her sceered.' Miss
Melly, den Ah know he los' his mine. He drunk an' he need sleep
an' sumpin' ter eat but dat ain' all. He plumb crazy. He jes'
push me outer de do' an' say: 'Git de hell outer hyah!'
"Ah goes downstairs an' Ah gits ter thinkin' dat he say dar ain'
gwine be no fune'l an' Miss Scarlett say it be termorrer mawnin'
an' he say dar be shootin'. An' all de kin-folks in de house an'
all de neighbors already gabblin' 'bout it lak a flock of guinea
hens, an' Ah thought of you, Miss Melly. You got ter come he'p
"Oh, Mammy, I couldn't intrude!"
"Ef you kain, who kin?"
"But what could I do, Mammy?"
"Miss Melly, Ah doan know. But you kin do sumpin'. You kin talk
ter Mist' Rhett an' maybe he lissen ter you. He set a gret sto' by
you, Miss Melly. Maybe you doan know it, but he do. Ah done hear
him say time an' agin, you is de onlies' gret lady he knows."
Melanie rose to her feet, confused, her heart quailing at the
thought of confronting Rhett. The thought of arguing with a man as
grief crazed as the one Mammy depicted made her go cold. The
thought of entering that brightly lighted room where lay the little
girl she loved so much wrung her heart. What could she do? What
could she say to Rhett that would ease his grief and bring him back
to reason? For a moment she stood irresolute and through the
closed door came the sound of her boy's treble laughter. Like a
cold knife in her heart came the thought of him dead. Suppose her
Beau were lying upstairs, his little body cold and still, his merry
"Oh," she cried aloud, in fright, and in her mind she clutched him
close to her heart. She knew how Rhett felt. If Beau were dead,
how could she put him away, alone with the wind and the rain and
"Oh! Poor, poor Captain Butler!" she cried. "I'll go to him now,
She sped back to the dining room, said a few soft words to Ashley
and surprised her little boy by hugging him close to her and
kissing his blond curls passionately.
She left the house without a hat, her dinner napkin still clutched
in her hand, and the pace she set was hard for Mammy's old legs.
Once in Scarlett's front hall, she bowed briefly to the gathering
in the library, to the frightened Miss Pittypat, the stately old
Mrs. Butler, Will and Suellen. She went up the stairs swiftly,
with Mammy panting behind her. For a moment, she paused before
Scarlett's closed door but Mammy hissed, "No'm, doan do dat."
Down the hall Melly went, more slowly now, and stopped in front of
Rhett's room. She stood irresolutely for a moment as though she
longed to take flight. Then, bracing herself, like a small soldier
going into battle, she knocked on the door and called softly:
"Please let me in, Captain Butler. It's Mrs. Wilkes. I want to
The door opened quickly and Mammy, shrinking back into the shadows
of the hall, saw Rhett huge and dark against the blazing background
of candles. He was swaying on his feet and Mammy could smell the
whisky on his breath. He looked down at Melly for a moment and
then, taking her by the arm, he pulled her into the room and shut
Mammy edged herself stealthily to a chair beside the door and sank
into it wearily, her shapeless body overflowing it. She sat still,
weeping silently and praying. Now and then she lifted the hem of
her dress and wiped her eyes. Strain her ears as hard as she
might, she could hear no words from the room, only a low broken
Alter an interminable period, the door cracked open and Melly's
face white and strained, appeared.
"Bring me a pot of coffee, quickly, and some sandwiches."
When the devil drove, Mammy could be as swift as a lithe black
sixteen-year-old and her curiosity to get into Rhett's room made
her work faster. But her hope turned to disappointment when Melly
merely opened the door a crack and took the tray. For a long time
Mammy strained her sharp ears but she could distinguish nothing
except the clatter of silver on china, and the muffled soft tones
of Melanie's voice. Then she heard the creaking of the bed as a
heavy body fell upon it and, soon after, the sound of boots
dropping to the floor. After an interval, Melanie appeared in the
doorway but, strive though she might, Mammy could not see past her
into the room. Melanie looked tired and there were tears
glistening on her lashes but her face was serene again.
"Go tell Miss Scarlett that Captain Butler is quite willing for the
funeral to take place tomorrow morning," she whispered.
"Bress Gawd!" ejaculated Mammy. "How on uth--"
"Don't talk so loud. He's going to sleep. And, Mammy, tell Miss
Scarlett, too, that I'll be here all night and you bring me some
coffee. Bring it here."
"Ter disyere room?"
"Yes, I promised Captain Butler that if he would go to sleep I
would sit up by her all night. Now go tell Miss Scarlett, so she
won't worry any more."
Mammy started off down the hall, her weight shaking the floor, her
relieved heart singing "Halleluja! Hallelujah!" She paused
thoughtfully outside of Scarlett's door, her mind in a ferment of
thankfulness and curiosity.
"How Miss Melley done it beyon' me. De angels fight on her side,
Ah specs. Ah'll tell Miss Scarlett de fune'l termorrer but Ah
specs Ah better keep hid dat Miss Melly settin' up wid Lil Miss.
Miss Scarlett ain' gwine lak dat a-tall."
Something was wrong with the world, a somber, frightening wrongness
that pervaded everything like a dark impenetrable mist, stealthily
closing around Scarlett. This wrongness went even deeper than
Bonnie's death, for now the first unbearable anguish was fading
into resigned acceptance of her loss. Yet this eerie sense of
disaster to come persisted, as though something black and hooded
stood just at her shoulder, as though the ground beneath her feet
might turn to quicksand as she trod upon it.
She had never before known this type of fear. All her life her
feet had been firmly planted in common sense and the only things
she had ever feared had been the things she could see, injury,
hunger, poverty, loss of Ashley's love. Unanalytical she was
trying to analyze now and with no success. She had lost her
dearest child but she could stand that, somehow, as she had stood
other crushing losses. She had her health, she had as much money
as she could wish and she still had Ashley, though she saw less and
less of him these days. Even the constraint which had been between
them since the day of Melanie's ill-starred surprise party did not
worry her, for she knew it would pass. No, her fear was not of
pain or hunger or loss of love. Those fears had never weighed her
down as this feeling of wrongness was doing--this blighting fear
that was oddly like that which she knew in her old nightmare, a
thick, swimming mist through which she ran with bursting heart, a
lost child seeking a haven that was hidden from her.
She remembered how Rhett had always been able to laugh her out of
her fears. She remembered the comfort of his broad brown chest and
his strong arms. And so she turned to him with eyes that really
saw him for the first time in weeks. And the change she saw
shocked her. This man was not going to laugh, nor was he going to
For some time after Bonnie's death she had been too angry with him,
too preoccupied with her own grief to do more than speak politely
in front of the servants. She had been too busy remembering the
swift running patter of Bonnie's feet and her bubbling laugh to
think that he, too, might be remembering and with pain even greater
than her own. Throughout these weeks they had met and spoken as
courteously as strangers meeting in the impersonal walls of a
hotel, sharing the same roof, the same table, but never sharing the
thoughts of each other.
Now that she was frightened and lonely, she would have broken
through this barrier if she could, but she found that he was
holding her at arm's length, as though he wished to have no words
with her that went beneath the surface. Now that her anger was
fading she wanted to tell him that she held him guiltless of
Bonnie's death. She wanted to cry in his arms and say that she,
too, had been overly proud of the child's horsemanship, overly
indulgent to her wheedlings. Now she would willingly have humbled
herself and admitted that she had only hurled that accusation at
him out of her misery, hoping by hurting him to alleviate her own
hurt. But there never seemed an opportune moment. He looked at
her out of black blank eyes that made no opportunity for her to
speak. And apologies, once postponed, became harder and harder to
make, and finally impossible.
She wondered why this should be. Rhett was her husband and between
them there was the unbreakable bond of two people who have shared
the same bed, begotten and borne a loved child and seen that child,
too soon, laid away in the dark. only in the arms of the father of
that child could she find comfort, in the exchange of memories and
grief that might hurt at first but would help to heal. But, now,
as matters stood between them, she would as soon go to the arms of
a complete stranger.
He was seldom at home. When they did sit down to supper together,
he was usually drunk. He was not drinking as he had formerly,
becoming increasingly more polished and biting as the liquor took
hold of him, saying amusing, malicious things that made her laugh
in spite of herself. Now he was silently, morosely drunk and, as
the evenings progressed, soddenly drunk. Sometimes, in the early
hours of the dawn, she heard him ride into the back yard and beat
on the door of the servants' house so that Pork might help him up
the back stairs and put him to bed. Put him to bed! Rhett who had
always drunk others under the table without turning a hair and then
put them to bed.
He was untidy now, where once he had been well groomed, and it took
all Pork's scandalized arguing even to make him change his linen
before supper. Whisky was showing in his face and the hard line of
his long jaw was being obscured under an unhealthy bloat and puffs
rising under his bloodshot eyes. His big body with its hard
swelling muscles looked soft and slack and his waist line began to
Often he did not come home at all or even send word that he would
be away overnight. Of course, he might be snoring drunkenly in
some room above a saloon, but Scarlett always believed that he was
at Belle Watling's house on these occasions. once she had seen
Belle in a store, a coarse overblown woman now, with most of her
good looks gone. But, for all her paint and flashy clothes, she
was buxom and almost motherly looking. Instead of dropping her
eyes or glaring defiantly, as did other light women when confronted
by ladies, Belle gave her stare for stare, searching her face with
an intent, almost pitying look that brought a flush to Scarlett's
But she could not accuse him now, could not rage at him, demand
fidelity or try to shame him, any more than she could bring herself
to apologize for accusing him of Bonnie's death. She was clutched
by a bewildered apathy, an unhappiness that she could not
understand, an unhappiness that went deeper than anything she had
ever known. She was lonely and she could never remember being so
lonely before. Perhaps she had never had the time to be very
lonely until now. She was lonely and afraid and there was no one
to whom she could turn, no one except Melanie. For now, even
Mammy, her mainstay, had gone back to Tara. Gone permanently.
Mammy gave no explanation for her departure. Her tired old eyes
looked sadly at Scarlett when she asked for the train fare home.
To Scarlett's tears and pleading that she stay, Mammy only
answered: "Look ter me lak Miss Ellen say ter me: 'Mammy, come
home. Yo' wuk done finish.' So Ah's gwine home."
Rhett, who had listened to the talk, gave Mammy the money and
patted her arm.
"You're right, Mammy. Miss Ellen is right. Your work here is
done. Go home. Let me know if you ever need anything." And as
Scarlett broke into renewed indignant commands: "Hush, you fool!
Let her go! Why should anyone want to stay in this house--now?"
There was such a savage bright glitter in his eyes when he spoke
that Scarlett shrank from him, frightened.
"Dr. Meade, do you think he can--can have lost his mind?" she
questioned afterwards, driven to the doctor by her own sense of
"No," said the doctor, "but he's drinking like a fish and will kill
himself if he keeps it up. He loved the child, Scarlett, and I
guess he drinks to forget about her. Now, my advice to you, Miss,
is to give him another baby just as quickly as you can."
"Hah!" thought Scarlett bitterly, as she left his office. That was
easier said than done. She would gladly have another child,
several children, if they would take that look out of Rhett's eyes
and fill up the aching spaces in her own heart. A boy who had
Rhett's dark handsomeness and another little girl. Oh, for another
girl, pretty and gay and willful and full of laughter, not like the
giddy-brained Ella. Why, oh, why couldn't God have taken Ella if
He had to take one of her children? Ella was no comfort to her,
now that Bonnie was gone. But Rhett did not seem to want any other
children. At least he never came to her bedroom though now the
door was never locked and usually invitingly ajar. He did not seem
to care. He did not seem to care for anything now except whisky
and that blowzy red-haired woman.
He was bitter now, where he had been pleasantly jeering, brutal
where his thrusts had once been tempered with humor. After Bonnie
died, many of the good ladies of the neighborhood who had been won
over to him by his charming manners with his daughter were anxious
to show him kindness. They stopped him on the street to give him
their sympathy and spoke to him from over their hedges, saying that
they understood. But now that Bonnie, the reason for his good
manners, was gone the manners went to. He cut the ladies and their
well-meant condolences off shortly, rudely.
But, oddly enough, the ladies were not offended. They understood,
or thought they understood. When he rode home in the twilight
almost too drunk to stay in the saddle, scowling at those who spoke
to him, the ladies said "Poor thing!" and redoubled their efforts
to be kind and gentle. They felt very sorry for him, broken
hearted and riding home to no better comfort than Scarlett.
Everybody knew how cold and heartless she was. Everybody was
appalled at the seeming ease with which she had recovered from
Bonnie's death, never realizing or caring to realize the effort
that lay behind that seeming recovery. Rhett had the town's
tenderest sympathy and he neither knew nor cared. Scarlett had the
town's dislike and, for once, she would have welcomed the sympathy
of old friends.
Now, none of her old friends came to the house, except Aunt Pitty,
Melanie and Ashley. only the new friends came calling in their
shining carriages, anxious to tell her of their sympathy, eager to
divert her with gossip about other new friends in whom she was not
at all interested. All these "new people," strangers, every one!
They didn't know her. They would never know her. They had no
realization of what her life had been before she reached her
present safe eminence in her mansion on Peachtree Street. They
didn't care to talk about what their lives had been before they
attained stiff brocades and victorias with fine teams of horses.
They didn't know of her struggles, her privations, all the things
that made this great house and pretty clothes and silver and
receptions worth having. They didn't know. They didn't care,
these people from God-knows-where who seemed to live always on the
surface of things, who had no common memories of war and hunger and
fighting, who had no common roots going down into the same red
Now in her loneliness, she would have liked to while away the
afternoons with Maybelle or Fanny or Mrs. Elsing or Mrs. Whiting or
even that redoubtable old warrior, Mrs. Merriwether. Or Mrs.
Bonnell or--or any of her old friends and neighbors. For they
knew. They had known war and terror and fire, had seen dear ones
dead before their time; they had hungered and been ragged, had
lived with the wolf at the door. And they had rebuilt fortune from
It would be a comfort to sit with Maybelle, remembering that
Maybelle had buried a baby, dead in the mad flight before Sherman.
There would be solace in Fanny's presence, knowing that she and
Fanny both had lost husbands in the black days of martial law. It
would be grim fun to laugh with Mrs. Elsing, recalling the old
lady's face as she flogged her horse through Five Points the day
Atlanta fell, her loot from the commissary jouncing from her
carriage. It would be pleasant to match stories with Mrs.
Merriwether, now secure on the proceeds of her bakery, pleasant to
say: "Do you remember how bad things were right after the
surrender? Do you remember when we didn't know where our next pair
of shoes was coming from? And look at us now!"
Yes, it would be pleasant. Now she understood why when two ex-
Confederates met, they talked of the war with so much relish, with
pride, with nostalgia. Those had been days that tried their hearts
but they had come through them. They were veterans. She was a
veteran too, but she had no cronies with whom she could refight old
battles. Oh, to be with her own kind of people again, those people
who had been through the same things and knew how they hurt--and
yet how great a part of you they were!
But, somehow, these people had slipped away. She realized that it
was her own fault. She had never cared until now--now that Bonnie
was dead and she was lonely and afraid and she saw across her
shining dinner table a swarthy sodden stranger disintegrating under
Scarlett was in Marietta when Rhett's urgent telegram came. There
was a train leaving for Atlanta in ten minutes and she caught it,
carrying no baggage except her reticule and leaving Wade and Ella
at the hotel with Prissy.
Atlanta was only twenty miles away but the train crawled
interminably through the wet early autumn afternoon, stopping at
every bypath for passengers. Panic stricken at Rhett's message,
mad for speed, Scarlett almost screamed at every halt. Down the
road lumbered the train through forests faintly, tiredly gold, past
red hillsides still scarred with serpentine breastworks, past old
battery emplacements and weed-grown craters, down the road over
which Johnston's men had retreated so bitterly, fighting every step
of the way. Each station, each crossroad the conductor called was
the name of a battle, the site of a skirmish. once they would have
stirred Scarlett to memories of terror but now she had no thought
Rhett's message had been:
"Mrs. Wilkes ill. Come home immediately."
Twilight had fallen when the train pulled into Atlanta and a light
misting rain obscured the town. The gas street lamps glowed dully,
blobs of yellow in the fog. Rhett was waiting for her at the depot
with the carriage. The very sight of his face frightened her more
than his telegram. She had never seen it so ｅxpressionless before.
"She isn't--" she cried.
"No. She's still alive." Rhett assisted her into the carriage.
"To Mrs. Wilkes' house and as fast as you can go," he ordered the
"What's the matter with her? I didn't know she was ill. She
looked all right last week. Did she have an accident? Oh, Rhett,
it isn't really as serious as you--"
"She's dying," said Rhett and his voice had no more ｅxpression than
his face. "She wants to see you."
"Not Melly! Oh, not Melly! What's happened to her?"
"She's had a miscarriage."
"A--a-mis--but, Rhett, she--" Scarlett floundered. This
information on top of the horror of his announcement took her
"You did not know she was going to have a baby?"
She could not even shake her head.
"Ah, well. I suppose not. I don't think she told anyone. She
wanted it to be a surprise. But I knew."
"You knew? But surely she didn't tell you!"
"She didn't have to tell me. I knew. She's been so--happy these
last two months I knew it couldn't mean anything else."
"But Rhett, the doctor said it would kill her to have another
"It has killed her," said Rhett. And to the coachman: "For God's
sake, can't you drive faster?"
"But, Rhett, she can't be dying! I--I didn't and I--"
"She hasn't your strength. She's never had any strength. She's
never had anything but heart."
The carriage rocked to a standstill in front of the flat little
house and Rhett handed her out. Trembling, frightened, a sudden
feeling of loneliness upon her, she clasped his arm.
"You're coming in, Rhett?"
"No," he said and got back into the carriage.
She flew up the front steps, across the porch and threw open the
door. There, in the yellow lamplight were Ashley, Aunt Pitty and
India. Scarlett thought: "What's India doing here? Melanie told
her never to set foot in this house again." The three rose at the
sight of her, Aunt Pitty biting her trembling lips to still them,
India staring at her, grief stricken and without hate. Ashley
looked dull as a sleepwalker and, as he came to her and put his
hand upon her arm, he spoke like a sleepwalker.
"She asked for you," he said. "She asked for you."
"Can I see her now?" She turned toward the closed door of
"No. Dr. Meade is in there now. I'm glad you've come, Scarlett."
"I came as quickly as I could." Scarlett shed her bonnet and her
cloak. "The train-- She isn't really-- Tell me, she's better,
isn't she, Ashley? Speak to me! Don't look like that! She isn't
"She kept asking for you," said Ashley and looked her in the eyes.
And, in his eyes she saw the answer to her question. For a moment,
her heart stood still and then a queer fear, stronger than anxiety,
stronger than grief, began to beat in her breast. It can't be
true, she thought vehemently, trying to push back the fear.
Doctors make mistakes. I won't think it's true. I can't let
myself think it's true. I'll scream if I do. I must think of
"I don't believe it!" she cried stormily, looking into the three
drawn faces as though defying them to contradict her. "And why
didn't Melanie tell me? I'd never have gone to Marietta if I'd
Ashley's eyes awoke and were tormented.
"She didn't tell anyone, Scarlett, especially not you. She was
afraid you'd scold her if you knew. She wanted to wait three--till
she thought it safe and sure and then surprise you all and laugh
and say how wrong the doctors had been. And she was so happy. You
know how she was about babies--how much she's wanted a little girl.
And everything went so well until--and then for no reason at all--"
The door of Melanie's room opened quietly and Dr. Meade came out
into the hall, shutting the door behind him. He stood for a
moment, his gray beard sunk on his chest, and looked at the
suddenly frozen four. His gaze fell last on Scarlett. As he came
toward her, she saw that there was grief in his eyes and also
dislike and contempt that flooded her frightened heart with guilt.
"So you finally got here," he said.
Before she could answer, Ashley started toward the closed door.
"Not you, yet," said the doctor. "She wants to speak to Scarlett."
"Doctor," said India, putting a hand on his sleeve. Though her
voice was toneless, it plead more loudly than words. "Let me see
her for a moment. I've been here since this morning, waiting, but
she-- Let me see her for a moment. I want to tell her--must tell
her--that I was wrong about--something."
She did not look at Ashley or Scarlett as she spoke, but Dr. Meade
allowed his cold glance to fall on Scarlett.
"I'll see, Miss India," he said briefly. "But only if you'll give
me your word not to use up her strength telling her you were wrong.
She knows you were wrong and it will only worry her to hear you
Pitty began, timidly: "Please, Dr. Meade--"
"Miss Pitty, you know you'd scream and faint."
Pitty drew up her stout little body and gave the doctor glance for
glance. Her eyes were dry and there was dignity in every curve.
"Well, all right, honey, a little later," said the doctor, more
kindly. "Come, Scarlett."
They tiptoed down the hall to the closed door and the doctor put
his hand on Scarlett's shoulder in a hard grip.
"Now, Miss," he whispered briefly, "no hysterics and no deathbed
confessions from you or, before God, I will wring your neck! Don't
give me any of your innocent stares. You know what I mean. Miss
Melly is going to die easily and you aren't going to ease your own
conscience by telling her anything about Ashley. I've never harmed
a woman yet, but if you say anything now--you'll answer to me."
He opened the door before she could answer, pushed her into the
room and closed the door behind her. The little room, cheaply
furnished in black walnut, was in semidarkness, the lamp shaded
with a newspaper. It was as small and prim a room as a
schoolgirl's, the narrow little low-backed bed, the plain net
curtains looped back, the clean faded rag rugs on the floor, were
so different from the lavishness of Scarlett's own bedroom with its
towering carved furniture, pink brocade draperies and rose-strewn
Melanie lay in the bed, her figure under the counterpane shrunken
and flat like a little girl's. Two black braids fell on either
side of her face and her closed eyes were sunken in twin purple
circles. At the sight of her Scarlett stood transfixed, leaning
against the door. Despite the gloom of the room, she could see
that Melanie's face was of a waxy yellow color. It was drained of
life's blood and there was a pinched look about the nose. Until
that moment, Scarlett had hoped Dr. Meade was mistaken. But now
she knew. In the hospitals during the war she had seen too many
faces wearing this pinched look not to know what it inevitably
Melanie was dying, but for a moment Scarlett's mind refused to take
it in. Melanie could not die. It was impossible for her to die.
God wouldn't let her die when she, Scarlett, needed her so much.
Never before had it occurred to her that she needed Melanie. But
now, the truth surged in, down to the deepest recesses of her soul.
She had relied on Melanie, even as she had relied upon herself, and
she had never known it. Now, Melanie was dying and Scarlett knew
she could not get along without her. Now, as she tiptoed across
the room toward the quiet figure, panic clutching at her heart, she
knew that Melanie had been her sword and her shield, her comfort
and her strength.
"I must hold her! I can't let her get away!" she thought and sank
beside the bed with a rustle of skirts. Hastily she grasped the
limp hand lying on the coverlet and was frightened anew by its
"It's me, Melly," she said.
Melanie's eyes opened a slit and then, as if having satisfied
herself that it was really Scarlett, she closed them again. After
a pause she drew a breath and whispered:
"Beau--look after him."
Scarlett could only nod, a strangled feeling in her throat, and she
gently pressed the hand she held by way of assent.
"I give him to you." There was the faintest trace of a smile. "I
gave him to you, once before--'member?--before he was born."
Did she remember? Could she ever forget that time? Almost as
clearly as if that dreadful day had returned, she could feel the
stifling heat of the September noon, remembering her terror of the
Yankees, hear the tramp of the retreating troops, recall Melanie's
voice begging her to take the baby should she die--remember, too,
how she had hated Melanie that day and hoped that she would die.
"I've killed her," she thought, in superstitious agony. "I wished
so often she would die and God heard me and is punishing me."
"Oh, Melly, don't talk like that! You know you'll pull through
"You know I promise. I'll treat him like he was my own boy."
"College?" asked Melanie's faint flat voice.
"Oh, yes! The university and Harvard and Europe and anything he
wants--and--and--a pony--and music lessons-- Oh, please, Melly, do
try! Do make an effort!"
The silence fell again and on Melanie's face there were signs of a
struggle to gather strength to speak.
"Ashley," she said. "Ashley and you--" Her voice faltered into
At the mention of Ashley's name, Scarlett's heart stood still, cold
as granite within her. Melanie had known all the time. Scarlett
dropped her head on the coverlet and a sob that would not rise
caught her throat with a cruel hand. Melanie knew. Scarlett was
beyond shame now, beyond any feeling save a wild remorse that she
had hurt this gentle creature throughout the long years. Melanie
had known--and yet, she had remained her loyal friend. Oh, if she
could only live those years over again! She would never even let
her eyes meet those of Ashley.
"O God," she prayed rapidly, "do, please, let her live! I'll make
it up to her. I'll be so good to her. I'll never even speak to
Ashley again as long as I live, if You'll only let her get well!"
"Ashley," said Melanie feebly and her fingers reached out to touch
Scarlett's bowed head. Her thumb and forefinger tugged with no
more strength than that of a baby at Scarlett's hair. Scarlett
knew what that meant, knew Melanie wanted her to look up. But she
could not, could not meet Melanie's eyes and read that knowledge in
"Ashley," Melanie whispered again and Scarlett gripped herself.
When she looked God in the face on the Day of Judgment and read her
sentence in His eyes, it would not be as bad as this. Her soul
cringed but she raised her head.
She saw only the same dark loving eyes, sunken and drowsy with
death, the same tender mouth tiredly fighting pain for breath. No
reproach was there, no accusation and no fear--only an anxiety that
she might not find strength for words.
For a moment Scarlett was too stunned to even feel relief. Then,
as she held Melanie's hand more closely, a flood of warm gratitude
to God swept over her and, for the first time since her childhood,
she said a humble, unselfish prayer.
"Thank You, God. I know I'm not worth it but thank You for not
letting her know."
"What about Ashley, Melly?"
"You'll--look after him?"
"He catches cold--so easily."
There was a pause.
"Look after--his business--you understand?"
"Yes, I understand. I will."
She made a great effort.
Only death could have forced that disloyalty from Melanie.
"Look after him, Scarlett--but--don't ever let him know."
"I'll look after him and the business too, and I'll never let him
know. I'll just kind of suggest things to him."
Melanie managed a small smile but it was a triumphant one as her
eyes met Scarlett's again. Their glance sealed the bargain that
the protection of Ashley Wilkes from a too harsh world was passing
from one woman to another and that Ashley's masculine pride should
never be humbled by this knowledge.
Now the struggle went out of the tired face as though with
Scarlett's promise, ease had come to her.
"You're so smart--so brave--always been so good to me--"
At these words, the sob came freely to Scarlett's throat and she
clapped her hand over her mouth. Now, she was going to bawl like a
child and cry out: "I've been a devil! I've wronged you so! I
never did anything for you! It was all for Ashley."
She rose to her feet abruptly, sinking her teeth into her thumb to
regain her control. Rhett's words came back to her again, "She
loves you. Let that be your cross." Well, the cross was heavier
now. It was bad enough that she had tried by every art to take
Ashley from her. But now it was worse that Melanie, who had
trusted her blindly through life, was laying the same love and
trust on her in death. No, she could not speak. She could not
even say again: "Make an effort to live." She must let her go
easily, without a struggle, without tears, without sorrow.
The door opened slightly and Dr. Meade stood on the threshold,
beckoning imperiously. Scarlett bent over the bed, choking back
her tears and taking Melanie's hand, laid it against her cheek.
"Good night," she said, and her voice was steadier than she thought
it possibly could be.
"Promise me--" came the whisper, very softly now.
"Captain Butler--be kind to him. He--loves you so."
"Rhett?" thought Scarlett, bewildered, and the words meant nothing
"Yes, indeed," she said automatically and, pressing a light kiss on
the hand, laid it back on the bed.
"Tell the ladies to come in immediately," whispered the doctor as
she passed through the door.
Through blurred eyes she saw India and Pitty follow the doctor into
the room, holding their skirts close to their sides to keep them
from rustling. The door closed behind them and the house was
still. Ashley was nowhere to be seen. Scarlett leaned her head
against the wall, like a naughty child in a corner, and rubbed her
Behind that door, Melanie was going and, with her, the strength
upon which she had relied unknowingly for so many years. Why, oh,
why, had she not realized before this how much she loved and needed
Melanie? But who would have thought of small plain Melanie as a
tower of strength? Melanie who was shy to tears before strangers,
timid about raising her voice in an opinion of her own, fearful of
the disapproval of old ladies, Melanie who lacked the courage to
say Boo to a goose? And yet--
Scarlett's mind went back through the years to the still, hot noon
at Tara when gray smoke curled above a blue-clad body and Melanie
stood at the top of the stairs with Charles' saber in her hand.
Scarlett remembered that she had thought at the time: "How silly!
Melly couldn't even heft that sword!" But now she knew that had
the necessity arisen, Melanie would have charged down those stairs
and killed the Yankee--or been killed herself.
Yes, Melanie had been there that day with a sword in her small
hand, ready to do battle for her. And now, as Scarlett looked
sadly back, she realized that Melanie had always been there beside
her with a sword in her hand, unobtrusive as her own shadow, loving
her, fighting for her with blind passionate loyalty, fighting
Yankees, fire, hunger, poverty, public opinion and even her beloved
Scarlett felt her courage and self-confidence ooze from her as she
realized that the sword which had flashed between her and the world
was sheathed forever.
"Melly is the only woman friend I ever had," she thought forlornly,
"the only woman except Mother who really loved me. She's like
Mother, too. Everyone who knew her has clung to her skirts."
Suddenly it was as if Ellen were lying behind that closed door,
leaving the world for a second time. Suddenly she was standing at
Tara again with the world about her ears, desolate with the
knowledge that she could not face life without the terrible
strength of the weak, the gentle, the tender hearted.
She stood in the hall, irresolute, frightened, and the glaring
light of the fire in the sitting room threw tall dim shadows on the
walls about her. The house was utterly still and the stillness
soaked into her like a fine chill rain. Ashley! Where was Ashley?
She went toward the sitting room seeking him like a cold animal
seeking the fire but he was not there. She must find him. She had
discovered Melanie's strength and her dependence on it only to lose
it in the moment of discovery but there was still Ashley left.
There was Ashley who was strong and wise and comforting. In Ashley
and his love lay strength upon which to lay her weakness, courage
to bolster her fear, ease for her sorrow.
He must be in his room, she thought, and tiptoeing down the hall,
she knocked softly. There was no answer, so she pushed the door
open. Ashley was standing in front of the dresser, looking at a
pair of Melanie's mended gloves. First he picked up one and looked
at it, as though he had never seen it before. Then he laid it down
gently, as though it were made of glass, and picked up the other
She said: "Ashley!" in a trembling voice and he turned slowly and
looked at her. The drowsy aloofness had gone from his gray eyes
and they were wide and unmasked. In them she saw fear that matched
her own fear, helplessness weaker than her own, bewilderment more
profound than she would ever know. The feeling of dread which had
possessed her in the hall deepened as she saw his face. She went
"I'm frightened," she said. "Oh, Ashley, hold me. I'm so
He made no move to her but stared, gripping the glove tightly in
both hands. She put a hand on his arm and whispered: "What is
His eyes searched her intently, hunting, hunting desperately for
something he did not find. Finally he spoke and his voice was not
"I was wanting you," he said. "I was going to run and find you--
run like a child wanting comfort--and I find a child, more
frightened, running to me."
"Not you--you can't be frightened," she cried. "Nothing has ever
frightened you. But I-- You've always been so strong--"
"If I've ever been strong, it was because she was behind me," he
said, his voice breaking, and he looked down at the glove and
smoothed the fingers. "And--and--all the strength I ever had is
going with her."
There was such a note of wild despair in his low voice that she
dropped her hand from his arm and stepped back. And in the heavy
silence that fell between them, she felt that she really understood
him for the first time in her life.
"Why--" she said slowly, "why, Ashley, you love her, don't you?"
He spoke as with an effort.
"She is the only dream I ever had that lived and breathed and did
not die in the face of reality."
"Dreams!" she thought, an old irritation stirring. "Always dreams
with him! Never common sense!"
With a heart that was heavy and a little bitter, she said: "You've
been such a fool, Ashley. Why couldn't you see that she was worth
a million of me?"
"Scarlett, please! If you only knew what I've gone through since
"What you've gone through! Don't you think that I-- Oh, Ashley,
you should have known, years ago, that you loved her and not me!
Why didn't you! Everything would have been so different, so-- Oh,
you should have realized and not kept me dangling with all your
talk about honor and sacrifice! If you'd told me, years ago, I'd
have-- It would have killed me but I could have stood it somehow.
But you wait till now, till Melly's dying, to find it out and now
it's too late to do anything. Oh, Ashley, men are supposed to know
such things--not women! You should have seen so clearly that you
loved her all the time and only wanted me like--like Rhett wants
that Watling woman!"
He winced at her words but his eyes still met hers, imploring
silence, comfort. Every line of his face admitted the truth of her
words. The very droop of his shoulders showed that his own self-
castigation was more cruel than any she could give. He stood
silent before her, clutching the glove as though it were an
understanding hand and, in the stillness that followed her words,
her indignation fell away and pity, tinged with contempt, took its
place. Her conscience smote her. She was kicking a beaten and
defenseless man--and she had promised Melanie that she would look
"And just as soon as I promised her, I said mean, hurting things to
him and there's no need for me to say them or for anyone to say
them. He knows the truth and it's killing him," she thought
desolately. "He's not grown up. He's a child, like me, and he's
sick with fear at losing her. Melly knew how it would be--Melly
knew him far better than I do. That's why she said look after him
and Beau, in the same breath. How can Ashley ever stand this? I
can stand it. I can stand anything. I've had to stand so much.
But he can't--he can't stand anything without her."
"Forgive me, darling," she said gently, putting out her arms. "I
know what you must be suffering. But remember, she doesn't know
anything--she never even suspected-- God was that good to us."
He came to her quickly and his arms went round her blindly. She
tiptoed to bring her warm cheek comfortingly against his and with
one hand she smoothed the back of his hair.
"Don't cry, sweet. She'd want you to be brave. She'll want to see
you in a moment and you must be brave. She mustn't see that you've
been crying. It would worry her."
He held her in a grip that made breathing difficult and his choking
voice was in her ear.
"What will I do? I can't--I can't live without her!"
"I can't either," she thought, shuddering away from the picture of
the long years to come, without Melanie. But she caught herself in
a strong grasp. Ashley was depending on her, Melanie was depending
on her. As once before, in the moonlight at Tara, drunk, exhausted,
she had thought: "Burdens are for shoulders strong enough to carry
them." Well, her shoulders were strong and Ashley's were not. She
squared her shoulders for the load and with a calmness she was far
from feeling, kissed his wet cheek without fever or longing or
passion, only with cool gentleness.
"We shall manage--somehow," she said.
A door opened with sudden violence into the hall and Dr. Meade
called with sharp urgency:
"My God! She's gone!" thought Scarlett. "And Ashley didn't get to
tell her good-by! But maybe--"
"Hurry!" she cried aloud, giving him a push, for he stood staring
like one stunned. "Hurry!"
She pulled open the door and motioned him through. Galvanized by
her words, he ran into the hall, the glove still clasped closely in
his hand. She heard his rapid steps for a moment and then the
closing of a door.
She said, "My God!" again and walking slowly to the bed, sat down
upon it and dropped her head in her hands. She was suddenly tired,
more tired than she had ever been in all her life. With the sound
of the closing door, the strain under which she had been laboring,
the strain which had given her strength, suddenly snapped. She
felt exhausted in body and drained of emotions. Now she felt no
sorrow or remorse, no fear or amazement. She was tired and her
mind ticked away dully, mechanically, as the clock on the mantel.
Out of the dullness, one thought arose. Ashley did not love her
and had never really loved her and the knowledge did not hurt. It
should hurt. She should be desolate, broken hearted, ready to
scream at fate. She had relied upon his love for so long. It had
upheld her through so many dark places. Yet, there the truth was.
He did not love her and she did not care. She did not care because
she did not love him. She did not love him and so nothing he could
do or say could hurt her.
She lay down on the bed and put her head on the pillow tiredly.
Useless to try to combat the idea, useless to say to herself: "But
I do love him. I've loved him for years. Love can't change to
apathy in a minute."
But it could change and it had changed.
"He never really existed at all, except in my imagination," she
thought wearily. "I loved something I made up, something that's
just as dead as Melly is. I made a pretty suit of clothes and fell
in love with it. And when Ashley came riding along, so handsome,
so different, I put that suit on him and made him wear it whether
it fitted him or not. And I wouldn't see what he really was. I
kept on loving the pretty clothes--and not him at all."
Now she could look back down the long years and see herself in
green flowered dimity, standing in the sunshine at Tara, thrilled
by the young horseman with his blond hair shining like a silver
helmet. She could see so clearly now that he was only a childish
fancy, no more important really than her spoiled desire for the
aquamarine earbobs she had coaxed out of Gerald. For, once she
owned the earbobs, they had lost their value, as everything except
money lost its value once it was hers. And so he, too, would have
become cheap if, in those first far-away days, she had ever had the
satisfaction of refusing to marry him. If she had ever had him at
her mercy, seen him grown passionate, importunate, jealous, sulky,
pleading, like the other boys, the wild infatuation which had
possessed her would have passed, blowing away as lightly as mist
before sunshine and light wind when she met a new man.
"What a fool I've been," she thought bitterly. "And now I've got
to pay for it. What I've wished for so often has happened. I've
wished Melly was dead so I could have him. And now she's dead and
I've got him and I don't want him. His damned honor will make him
ask me if I want to divorce Rhett and marry him. Marry him? I
wouldn't have him on a silver platter! But, just the same I've got
him round my neck for the rest of my life. As long as I live I'll
have to look after him and see that he doesn't starve and that
people don't hurt his feelings. He'll be just another child,
clinging to my skirts. I've lost my lover and I've got another
child. And if I hadn't promised Melly, I'd--I wouldn't care if I
never saw him again."
She heard whispering voices outside, and going to the door she saw
the frightened negroes standing in the back hall, Dilcey with her
arms sagging under the heavy weight of the sleeping Beau, Uncle
Peter crying, and Cookie wiping her wide wet face on her apron.
All three looked at her, dumbly asking what they were to do now.
She looked up the hall toward the sitting room and saw India and
Aunt Pitty standing speechless, holding each other's hands and, for
once, India had lost her stiff-necked look. Like the negroes, they
looked imploringly at her, expecting her to give instructions. She
walked into the sitting room and the two women closed about her.
"Oh, Scarlett, what--" began Aunt Pitty, her fat, child's mouth
"Don't speak to me or I'll scream," said Scarlett. Overwrought
nerves brought sharpness to her voice and her hands clenched at her
sides. The thought of speaking of Melanie now, of making the
inevitable arrangements that follow a death made her throat
tighten. "I don't want a word out of either of you."
At the authoritative note in her voice, they fell back, helpless
hurt looks on their faces. "I mustn't cry in front of them," she
thought. "I mustn't break now or they'll begin crying too, and
then the darkies will begin screaming and we'll all go mad. I must
pull myself together. There's so much I'll have to do. See the
undertaker and arrange the funeral and see that the house is clean
and be here to talk to people who'll cry on my neck. Ashley can't
do them. I've got to do them. Oh, what a weary load! It's always
been a weary load and always some one else's load!"
She looked at the dazed hurt faces of India and Pitty and
contrition swept her. Melanie would not like her to be so sharp
with those who loved her.
"I'm sorry I was cross," she said, speaking with difficulty. "It's
just that I--I'm sorry I was cross, Auntie. I'm going out on the
porch for a minute. I've got to be alone. Then I'll come back and
She patted Aunt Pitty and went swiftly by her to the front door,
knowing if she stayed in this room another minute her control would
crack. She had to be alone. And she had to cry or her heart would
She stepped onto the dark porch and closed the door behind her and
the moist night air was cool upon her face. The rain had ceased
and there was no sound except for the occasional drip of water from
the eaves. The world was wrapped in a thick mist, a faintly chill
mist that bore on its breath the smell of the dying year. All the
houses across the street were dark except one, and the light from a
lamp in the window, falling into the street, struggled feebly with
the fog, golden particles floating in its rays. It was as if the
whole world were enveloped in an unmoving blanket of gray smoke.
And the whole world was still.
She leaned her head against one of the uprights of the porch and
prepared to cry but no tears came. This was a calamity too deep
for tears. Her body shook. There still reverberated in her mind
the crashes of the two impregnable citadels of her life, thundering
to dust about her ears. She stood for a while, trying to summon up
her old charm: "I'll think of all this tomorrow when I can stand
it better." But the charm had lost its potency. She had to think
of two things, now--Melanie and how much she loved and needed her;
Ashley and the obstinate blindness that had made her refuse to see
him as he really was. And she knew that thoughts of them would
hurt just as much tomorrow and all the tomorrows of her life.
"I can't go back in there and talk to them now," she thought. "I
can't face Ashley tonight and comfort him. Not tonight! Tomorrow
morning I'll come early and do the things I must do, say the
comforting things I must say. But not tonight. I can't. I'm
Home was only five blocks away. She would not wait for the sobbing
Peter to harness the buggy, would not wait for Dr. Meade to drive
her home. She could not endure the tears of the one, the silent
condemnation of the other. She went swiftly down the dark front
steps without her coat or bonnet and into the misty night. She
rounded the corner and started up the long hill toward Peachree
Street, walking in a still wet world, and even her footsteps were
as noiseless as a dream.
As she went up the hill, her chest tight with tears that would not
come, there crept over her an unreal feeling, a feeling that she
had been in this same dim chill place before, under a like set of
circumstances--not once but many times before. How silly, she
thought uneasily, quickening her steps. Her nerves were playing
her tricks. But the feeling persisted, stealthily pervading her
mind. She peered about her uncertainly and the feeling grew, eerie
but familiar, and her head went up sharply like an animal scenting
danger. It's just that I'm worn out, she tried to soothe herself.
And the night's so queer, so misty. I never saw such thick mist
And then she knew and fear squeezed her heart. She knew now. In a
hundred nightmares, she had fled through fog like this, through a
haunted country without landmarks, thick with cold cloaking mist,
peopled with clutching ghosts and shadows. Was she dreaming again
or was this her dream come true?
For an instant, reality went out of her and she was lost. The old
nightmare feeling was sweeping her, stronger than ever, and her
heart began to race. She was standing again amid death and
stillness, even as she had once stood at Tara. All that mattered
in the world had gone out of it, life was in ruins and panic howled
through her heart like a cold wind. The horror that was in the
mist and was the mist laid hands upon her. And she began to run.
As she had run a hundred times in dreams, she ran now, flying
blindly she knew not where, driven by a nameless dread, seeking in
the gray mist for the safety that lay somewhere.
Up the dim street she fled, her head down, her heart hammering, the
night air wet on her lips, the trees overhead menacing. Somewhere,
somewhere in this wild land of moist stillness, there was a refuge!
She sped gasping up the long hill, her wet skirts wrapping coldly
about her ankles, her lungs bursting, the tight-laced stays
pressing her ribs into her heart.
Then before her eyes there loomed a light, a row of lights, dim and
flickering but none the less real. In her nightmare, there had
never been any lights, only gray fog. Her mind seized on those
lights. Lights meant safety, people, reality. Suddenly she
stopped running, her hands clenching, struggling to pull herself
out of her panic, staring intently at the row of gas lamps which
had signaled to her brain that this was Peachtree Street, Atlanta,
and not the gray world of sleep and ghosts.
She sank down panting on a carriage block, clutching at her nerves
as though they were ropes slipping swiftly through her hands.
"I was running--running like a crazy person!" she thought, her body
shaking with lessening fear, her thudding heart making her sick.
"But where was I running?"
Her breath came more easily now and she sat with her hand pressed
to her side and looked up Peachtree Street. There, at the top of
the hill, was her own house. It looked as though every window bore
lights, lights defying the mist to dim their brilliance. Home! It
was real! She looked at the dim far-off bulk of the house
thankfully, longingly, and something like calm fell on her spirit.
Home! That was where she wanted to go. That was where she was
running. Home to Rhett!
At this realization it was as though chains fell away from her and
with them the fear which had haunted her dreams since the night she
stumbled to Tara to find the world ended. At the end of the road
to Tara she had found security gone, all strength, all wisdom, all
loving tenderness, all understanding gone--all those things which,
embodied in Ellen, had been the bulwark of her girlhood. And,
though she had won material safety since that night, in her dreams
she was still a frightened child, searching for the lost security
of that lost world.
Now she knew the haven she had sought in dreams, the place of warm
safety which had always been hidden from her in the mist. It was
not Ashley--oh, never Ashley! There was no more warmth in him than
in a marsh light, no more security than in quicksand. It was
Rhett--Rhett who had strong arms to hold her, a broad chest to
pillow her tired head, jeering laughter to pull her affairs into
proper perspective. And complete understanding, because he, like
her, saw truth as truth, unobstructed by impractical notions of
honor, sacrifice, or high belief in human nature. He loved her!
Why hadn't she realized that he loved her, for all his taunting
remarks to the contrary? Melanie had seen it and with her last
breath had said, "Be kind to him."
"Oh," she thought, "Ashley's not the only stupidly blind person. I
should have seen."
For years she had had her back against the stone wall of Rhett's
love and had taken it as much for granted as she had taken
Melanie's love, flattering herself that she drew her strength from
herself alone. And even as she had realized earlier in the evening
that Melanie bad been beside her in her bitter campaigns against
life, now she knew that silent in the background, Rhett had stood,
loving her, understanding her, ready to help. Rhett at the bazaar,
reading her impatience in her eyes and leading her out in the reel,
Rhett helping her out of the bondage of mourning, Rhett convoying
her through the fire and explosions the night Atlanta fell, Rhett
lending her the money that gave her her start, Rhett who comforted
her when she woke in the nights crying with fright from her dreams--
why, no man did such things without loving a woman to distraction!
The trees dripped dampness upon her but she did not feel it. The
mist swirled about her and she paid it no heed. For when she
thought of Rhett, with his swarthy face, flashing teeth and dark
alert eyes, a trembling came over her.
"I love him," she thought and, as always, she accepted the truth
with little wonder, as a child accepting a gift. "I don't know how
long I've loved him but it's true. And if it hadn't been for
Ashley, I'd have realized it long ago. I've never been able to see
the world at all, because Ashley stood in the way."
She loved him, scamp, blackguard, without scruple or honor--at
least, honor as Ashley saw it. "Damn Ashley's honor!" she thought.
"Ashley's honor has always let me down. Yes, from the very
beginning when he kept on coming to see me, even though he knew his
family expected him to marry Melanie. Rhett has never let me down,
even that dreadful night of Melly's reception when he ought to have
wrung my neck. Even when he left me on the road the night Atlanta
fell, he knew I'd be safe. He knew I'd get through somehow. Even
when he acted like he was going to make me pay to get that money
from him at the Yankee camp. He wouldn't have taken me. He was
just testing me. He's loved me all along and I've been so mean to
him. Time and again, I've hurt him and he was too proud to show
it. And when Bonnie died-- Oh, how could I?"
She stood up straight and looked at the house on the hill. She had
thought, half an hour ago, that she had lost everything in the
world, except money, everything that made life desirable, Ellen,
Gerald, Bonnie, Mammy, Melanie and Ashley. She had to lose them
all to realize that she loved Rhett--loved him because he was
strong and unscrupulous, passionate and earthy, like herself.
"I'll tell him everything," she thought. "He'll understand. He's
always understood. I'll tell him what a fool I've been and how
much I love him and I'll make it up to him."
Suddenly she felt strong and happy. She was not afraid of the
darkness or the fog and she knew with a singing in her heart that
she would never fear them again. No matter what mists might curl
around her in the future, she knew her refuge. She started briskly
up the street toward home and the blocks seemed very long. Far,
far too long. She caught up her skirts to her knees and began to
run lightly. But this time she was not running from fear. She was
running because Rhett's arms were at the end of the street.
The front door was slightly ajar and she trotted, breathless, into
the hall and paused for a moment under the rainbow prisms of the
chandelier. For all its brightness the house was very still, not
with the serene stillness of sleep but with a watchful, tired
silence that was faintly ominous. She saw at a glance that Rhett
was not in the parlor or the library and her heart sank. Suppose
he should be out--out with Belle or wherever it was he spent the
many evenings when he did not appear at the supper table? She had
not bargained on this.
She had started up the steps in search of him when she saw that the
door of the dining room was closed. Her heart contracted a little
with shame at the sight of that closed door, remembering the many
nights of this last summer when Rhett had sat there alone, drinking
until he was sodden and Pork came to urge him to bed. That had
been her fault but she'd change it all. Everything was to be
different from now on--but, please God, don't let him be too drunk
tonight. If he's too drunk he won't believe me and he'll laugh at
me and that will break my heart.
She quietly opened the dining-room door a crack and peered in. He
was seated before the table, slumped in his chair, and a full
decanter stood before him with the stopper in place, the glass
unused. Thank God, he was sober! She pulled open the door,
holding herself back from running to him. But when he looked up at
her, something in his gaze stopped her dead on the threshold,
stilled the words on her lips.
He looked at her steadily with dark eyes that were heavy with
fatigue and there was no leaping light in them. Though her hair
was tumbling about her shoulders, her bosom heaving breathlessly
and her skirts mud splattered to the knees, his face did not change
with surprise or question or his lips twist with mockery. He was
sunken in his chair, his suit wrinkling untidily against his
thickening waist, every line of him proclaiming the ruin of a fine
body and the coarsening of a strong face. Drink and dissipation
had done their work on the coin-clean profile and now it was no
longer the head of a young pagan prince on new-minted gold but a
decadent, tired Caesar on copper debased by long usage. He looked
up at her as she stood there, hand on heart, looked quietly, almost
in a kindly way, that frightened her.
"Come and sit down," he said. "She is dead?"
She nodded and advanced hesitantly toward him, uncertainty taking
form in her mind at this new ｅxpression on his face. Without
rising, he pushed back a chair with his foot and she sank into it.
She wished he had not spoken of Melanie so soon. She did not want
to talk of her now, to re-live the agony of the last hour. There
was all the rest of her life in which to speak of Melanie. But it
seemed to her now, driven by a fierce desire to cry: "I love you,"
that there was only this night, this hour, in which to tell Rhett
what was in her mind. But there was something in his face that
stopped her and she was suddenly ashamed to speak of love when
Melanie was hardly cold.
"Well, God rest her," he said heavily. "She was the only completely
kind person I ever knew."
"Oh, Rhett!" she cried miserably, for his words brought up too
vividly all the kind things Melanie had ever done for her. "Why
didn't you come in with me? It was dreadful--and I needed you so!"
"I couldn't have borne it," he said simply and for a moment he was
silent. Then he spoke with an effort and said, softly: "A very
His somber gaze went past her and in his eyes was the same look she
had seen in the light of the flames the night Atlanta fell, when he
told her he was going off with the retreating army--the surprise of
a man who knows himself utterly, yet discovers in himself
unexpected loyalties and emotions and feels a faint self-ridicule
at the discovery.
His moody eyes went over her shoulder as though he saw Melanie
silently passing through the room to the door. In the look of
farewell on his face there was no sorrow, no pain, only a
speculative wonder at himself, only a poignant stirring of emotions
dead since boyhood, as he said again: "A very great lady."
Scarlett shivered and the glow went from her heart, the fine
warmth, the splendor which had sent her home on winged feet. She
half-grasped what was in Rhett's mind as he said farewell to the
only person in the world he respected and she was desolate again
with a terrible sense of loss that was no longer personal. She
could not wholly understand or analyze what he was feeling, but it
seemed almost as if she too had been brushed by whispering skirts,
touching her softly in a last caress. She was seeing through
Rhett's eyes the passing, not of a woman but of a legend--the
gentle, self-effacing but steel-spined women on whom the South had
builded its house in war and to whose proud and loving arms it had
returned in defeat.
His eyes came back to her and his voice changed. Now it was light
"So she's dead. That makes it nice for you, doesn't it?"
"Oh, how can you say such things," she cried, stung, the quick
tears coming to her eyes. "You know how I loved her!"
"No, I can't say I did. Most unexpected and it's to your credit,
considering your passion for white trash, that you could appreciate
her at last."
"How can you talk so? Of course I appreciated her! You didn't.
You didn't know her like I did! It isn't in you to understand her--
how good she was--"
"Indeed? Perhaps not."
"She thought of everybody except herself--why, her last words were
There was a flash of genuine feeling in his eyes as he turned to
"What did she say?"
"Oh, not now, Rhett."
His voice was cool but the hand he put on her wrist hurt. She did
not want to tell, this was not the way she had intended to lead up
to the subject of her love but his hand was urgent.
"She said--she said-- 'Be kind to Captain Butler. He loves you so
He stared at her and dropped her wrist. His eyelids went down,
leaving his face dark and blank. Suddenly he rose and going to the
window, he drew the curtains and looked out intently as if there
were something to see outside except blinding mist.
"Did she say anything else?" he questioned, not turning his head.
"She asked me to take care of little Beau and I said I would, like
he was my own boy."
"She said--Ashley--she asked me to look after Ashley, too."
He was silent for a moment and then he laughed softly. "It's
convenient to have the first wife's permission, isn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
He turned and even in her confusion she was surprised that there
was no mockery in his face. Nor was there any more interest in it
than in the face of a man watching the last act of a none-too-
"I think my meaning's plain enough. Miss Melly is dead. You
certainly have all the evidence you want to divorce me and you
haven't enough reputation left for a divorce to hurt you. And you
haven't any religion left, so the Church won't matter. Then--
Ashley and dreams come true with the blessings of Miss Melly."
"Divorce?" she cried. "No! No!" Incoherent for a moment she
leaped to her feet and running to him caught his arm. "Oh, you're
all wrong! Terribly wrong. I don't want a divorce--I--" She
stopped for she could find no other words.
He put his hand under her chin, quietly turned her face up to the
light and looked for an intent moment into her eyes. She looked up
at him, her heart in her eyes, her lips quivering as she tried to
speak. But she could marshal no words because she was trying to
find in his face some answering emotions, some leaping light of
hope, of joy. Surely he must know, now! But the smooth dark
blankness which had baffled her so often was all that her frantic,
searching eyes could find. He dropped her chin and, turning,
walked back to his chair and sprawled tiredly again, his chin on
his breast, his eyes looking up at her from under black brows in an
impersonal speculative way.
She followed him back to his chair, her hands twisting, and stood
"You are wrong," she began again, finding words. "Rhett, tonight,
when I knew, I ran every step of the way home to tell you. Oh,
"You are tired," he said, still watching her. "You'd better go to
"But I must tell you!"
"Scarlett," he said heavily, "I don't want to hear--anything."
"But you don't know what I'm going to say!"
"My pet, it's written plainly on your face. Something, someone has
made you realize that the unfortunate Mr. Wilkes is too large a
mouthful of Dead Sea fruit for even you to chew. And that same
something has suddenly set my charms before you in a new and
attractive light," he sighed slightly. "And it's no use to talk
She drew a sharp surprised breath. Of course, he had always read
her easily. Heretofore she had resented it but now, after the
first shock at her own transparency, her heart rose with gladness
and relief. He knew, he understood and her task was miraculously
made easy. No use to talk about it! Of course he was bitter at
her long neglect, of course he was mistrustful of her sudden
turnabout. She would have to woo him with kindness, convince him
with a rich outpouring of love, and what a pleasure it would be to
"Darling, I'm going to tell you everything," she said, putting her
hands on the arm of his chair and leaning down to him. "I've been
so wrong, such a stupid fool--"
"Scarlett, don't go on with this. Don't be humble before me. I
can't bear it. Leave us some dignity, some reticence to remember
out of our marriage. Spare us this last."
She straightened up abruptly. Spare us this last? What did he
mean by "this last"? Last? This was their first, their beginning.
"But I will tell you," she began rapidly, as if fearing his hand
upon her mouth, silencing her. "Oh, Rhett, I love you so, darling!
I must have loved you for years and I was such a fool I didn't know
it. Rhett, you must believe me!"
He looked at her, standing before him, for a moment, a long look
that went to the back of her mind. She saw there was belief in his
eyes but little interest. Oh, was he going to be mean, at this of
all times? To torment her, pay her back in her own coin?
"Oh, I believe you," he said at last. "But what of Ashley Wilkes?"
"Ashley!" she said, and made an impatient gesture. "I--I don't
believe I've cared anything about him for ages. It was--well, a
sort of habit I hung onto from when I was a little girl. Rhett,
I'd never even thought I cared about him if I'd ever known what he
was really like. He's such a helpless, poor-spirited creature, for
all his prattle about truth and honor and--"
"No," said Rhett. "If you must see him as he really is, see him
straight. He's only a gentleman caught in a world he doesn't
belong in, trying to make a poor best of it by the rules of the
world that's gone."
"Oh, Rhett, don't let's talk of him! What does he matter now?
Aren't you glad to know-- I mean, now that I--"
As his tired eyes met hers, she broke off in embarrassment, shy as
a girl with her first beau. If he'd only make it easier for her!
If only he would hold out his arms, so she could crawl thankfully
into his lap and lay her head on his chest. Her lips on his could
tell him better than all her stumbling words. But as she looked at
him, she realized that he was not holding her off just to be mean.
He looked drained and as though nothing she had said was of any
"Glad?" he said. once I would have thanked God, fasting, to hear
you say all this. But, now, it doesn't matter."
"Doesn't matter? What are you talking about? Of course, it
matters! Rhett, you do care, don't you? You must care. Melly
said you did."
"Well, she was right, as far as she knew. But, Scarlett, did it
ever occur to you that even the most deathless love could wear
She looked at him speechless, her mouth a round O.
"Mine wore out," he went on, "against Ashley Wilkes and your insane
obstinacy that makes you hold on like a bulldog to anything you
think you want. . . . Mine wore out."
"But love can't wear out!"
"Yours for Ashley did."
"But I never really loved Ashley!"
"Then, you certainly gave a good imitation of it--up till tonight.
Scarlett, I'm not upbraiding you, accusing you, reproaching you.
That time has passed. So spare me your defenses and your
explanations. If you can manage to listen to me for a few minutes
without interrupting, I can explain what I mean. Though God knows,
I see no need for explanations. The truth's so plain."
She sat down, the harsh gas light falling on her white bewildered
face. She looked into the eyes she knew so well--and knew so
little--listened to his quiet voice saying words which at first
meant nothing. This was the first time he had ever talked to her
in this manner, as one human being to another, talked as other
people talked, without flippancy, mockery or riddles.
"Did it ever occur to you that I loved you as much as a man can
love a woman? Loved you for years before I finally got you?
During the war I'd go away and try to forget you, but I couldn't
and I always had to come back. After the war I risked arrest, just
to come back and find you. I cared so much I believe I would have
killed Frank Kennedy if he hadn't died when he did. I loved you
but I couldn't let you know it. You're so brutal to those who love
you, Scarlett. You take their love and hold it over their heads
like a whip."
Out of it all only the fact that he loved her meant anything. At
the faint echo of passion in his voice, pleasure and excitement
crept back into her. She sat, hardly breathing, listening,
"I knew you didn't love me when I married you. I knew about
Ashley, you see. But, fool that I was, I thought I could make you
care. Laugh, if you like, but I wanted to take care of you, to pet
you, to give you everything you wanted. I wanted to marry you and
protect you and give you a free rein in anything that would make
you happy--just as I did Bonnie. You'd had such a struggle,
Scarlett. No one knew better than I what you'd gone through and I
wanted you to stop fighting and let me fight for you. I wanted you
to play, like a child--for you were a child, a brave, frightened,
bullheaded child. I think you are still a child. No one but a
child could be so headstrong and so insensitive."
His voice was calm and tired but there was something in the quality
of it that raised a ghost of memory in Scarlett. She had heard a
voice like this once before and at some other crisis of her life.
Where had it been? The voice of a man facing himself and his world
without feeling, without flinching, without hope.
Why--why--it had been Ashley in the wintry, windswept orchard at
Tara, talking of life and shadow shows with a tired calmness that
had more finality in its timbre than any desperate bitterness could
have revealed. Even as Ashley's voice then had turned her cold
with dread of things she could not understand, so now Rhett's voice
made her heart sink. His voice, his manner, more than the content
of his words, disturbed her, made her realize that her pleasurable
excitement of a few moments ago had been untimely. Something was
wrong, badly wrong. What it was she did not know but she listened
desperately, her eyes on his brown face, hoping to hear words that
would dissipate her fears.
"It was so obvious that we were meant for each other. So obvious
that I was the only man of your acquaintance who could love you
after knowing you as you really are--hard and greedy and
unscrupulous, like me. I loved you and I took the chance. I
thought Ashley would fade out of your mind. But," he shrugged, "I
tried everything I knew and nothing worked. And I loved you so,
Scarlett. If you had only let me, I could have loved you as gently
and as tenderly as ever a man loved a woman. But I couldn't let
you know, for I knew you'd think me weak and try to use my love
against me. And always--always there was Ashley. It drove me
crazy. I couldn't sit across the table from you every night,
knowing you wished Ashley was sitting there in my place. And I
couldn't hold you in my arms at night and know that--well, it
doesn't matter now. I wonder, now, why it hurt. That's what drove
me to Belle. There is a certain swinish comfort in being with a
woman who loves you utterly and respects you for being a fine
gentleman--even if she is an illiterate whore. It soothed my
vanity. You've never been very soothing, my dear."
"Oh, Rhett . . ." she began, miserable at the very mention of
Belle's name, but he waved her to silence and went on.
"And then, that night when I carried you upstairs--I thought--I
hoped--I hoped so much I was afraid to face you the next morning,
for fear I'd been mistaken and you didn't love me. I was so afraid
you'd laugh at me I went off and got drunk. And when I came back,
I was shaking in my boots and if you had come even halfway to meet
me, had given me some sign, I think I'd have kissed your feet. But
"Oh, but Rhett, I did want you then but you were so nasty! I did
want you! I think--yes, that must have been when I first knew I
cared about you. Ashley--I never was happy about Ashley after
that, but you were so nasty that I--"
"Oh, well," he said. "It seems we've been at cross purposes,
doesn't it? But it doesn't matter now. I'm only telling you, so
you won't ever wonder about it all. When you were sick and it was
all my fault, I stood outside your door, hoping you'd call for me,
but you didn't, and then I knew what a fool I'd been and that it
was all over."
He stopped and looked through her and beyond her, even as Ashley
had often done, seeing something she could not see. And she could
only stare speechless at his brooding face.
"But then, there was Bonnie and I saw that everything wasn't over,
after all. I liked to think that Bonnie was you, a little girl
again, before the war and poverty had done things to you. She was
so like you, so willful, so brave and gay and full of high spirits,
and I could pet her and spoil her--just as I wanted to pet you.
But she wasn't like you--she loved me. It was a blessing that I
could take the love you didn't want and give it to her. . . . When
she went, she took everything."
Suddenly she was sorry for him, sorry with a completeness that
wiped out her own grief and her fear of what his words might mean.
It was the first time in her life she had been sorry for anyone
without feeling contemptuous as well, because it was the first time
she had ever approached understanding any other human being. And
she could understand his shrewd caginess, so like her own, his
obstinate pride that kept him from admitting his love for fear of a
"Ah, darling," she said coming forward, hoping he would put out his
arms and draw her to his knees. "Darling, I'm so sorry but I'll
make it all up to you! We can be so happy, now that we know the
truth and--Rhett--look at me, Rhett! There--there can be other
babies--not like Bonnie but--"
"Thank you, no," said Rhett, as if he were refusing a piece of
bread. "I'll not risk my heart a third time."
"Rhett, don't say such things! Oh, what can I say to make you
understand? I've told you how sorry I am--"
"My darling, you're such a child. You think that by saying,
'I'm sorry,' all the errors and hurts of years past can be
remedied, obliterated from the mind, all the poison drawn from
old wounds. . . . Take my handkerchief, Scarlett. Never, at any
crisis of your life, have I known you to have a handkerchief."
She took the handkerchief, blew her nose and sat down. It was
obvious that he was not going to take her in his arms. It was
beginning to be obvious that all his talk about loving her meant
nothing. It was a tale of a time long past, and he was looking at
it as though it had never happened to him. And that was
frightening. He looked at her in an almost kindly way, speculation
in his eyes.
"How old are you, my dear? You never would tell me."
"Twenty-eight," she answered dully, muffled in the handkerchief.
"That's not a vast age. It's a young age to have gained the whole
world and lost your own soul, isn't it? Don't look frightened.
I'm not referring to hell fire to come for your affair with Ashley.
I'm merely speaking metaphorically. Ever since I've known you,
you've wanted two things. Ashley and to be rich enough to tell the
world to go to hell. Well, you are rich enough and you've spoken
sharply to the world and you've got Ashley, if you want him. But
all that doesn't seem to be enough now."
She was frightened but not at the thought of hell fire. She was
thinking: "But Rhett is my soul and I'm losing him. And if I lose
him, nothing else matters! No, not friends or money or--or
anything. If only I had him I wouldn't even mind being poor again.
No, I wouldn't mind being cold again or even hungry. But he can't
mean-- Oh, he can't!"
She wiped her eyes and said desperately:
"Rhett, if you once loved me so much, there must be something left
"Out of it all I find only two things that remain and they are the
two things you hate the most--pity and an odd feeling of kindness."
Pity! Kindness! "Oh, my God," she thought despairingly. Anything
but pity and kindness. Whenever she felt these two emotions for
anyone, they went hand in hand with contempt. Was he contemptuous
of her too? Anything would be preferable to that. Even the
cynical coolness of the war days, the drunken madness that drove
him the night he carried her up the stairs, his hard fingers
bruising her body, or the barbed drawling words that she now
realized had covered a bitter love. Anything except this
impersonal kindness that was written so plainly in his face.
"Then--then you mean I've ruined it all--that you don't love me any
"But," she said stubbornly, like a child who still feels that to
state a desire is to gain that desire, "but I love you!"
"That's your misfortune."
She looked up quickly to see if there was a jeer behind those words
but there was none. He was simply stating a fact. But it was a
fact she still would not believe--could not believe. She looked at
him with slanting eyes that burned with a desperate obstinacy and
the sudden hard line of jaw that sprang out through her soft cheek
was Gerald's jaw.
"Don't be a fool, Rhett! I can make--"
He flung up a hand in mock horror and his black brows went up in
the old sardonic crescents.
"Don't look so determined, Scarlett! You frighten me. I see you
are contemplating the transfer of your tempestuous affections from
Ashley to me and I fear for my liberty and my peace of mind. No,
Scarlett, I will not be pursued as the luckless Ashley was pursued.
Besides, I am going away."
Her jaw trembled before she clenched her teeth to steady it. Go
away? No, anything but that! How could life go on without him?
Everyone had gone from her, everyone who mattered except Rhett. He
couldn't go. But how could she stop him? She was powerless
against his cool mind, his disinterested words.
"I am going away. I intended to tell you when you came home from
"You are deserting me?"
"Don't be the neglected, dramatic wife, Scarlett. The role isn't
becoming. I take it, then, you do not want a divorce or even a
separation? Well, then, I'll come back often enough to keep gossip
"Damn gossip!" she said fiercely. "It's you I want. Take me with
"No," he said, and there was finality in his voice. For a moment
she was on the verge of an outburst of childish wild tears. She
could have thrown herself on the floor, cursed and screamed and
drummed her heels. But some remnant of pride, of common sense
stiffened her. She thought, if I did, he'd only laugh, or just
look at me. I mustn't bawl; I mustn't beg. I mustn't do anything
to risk his contempt. He must respect me even--even if he doesn't
She lifted her chin and managed to ask quietly:
"Where will you go?"
There was a faint gleam of admiration in his eyes as he answered.
"Perhaps to England--or to Paris. Perhaps to Charleston to try to
make peace with my people."
"But you hate them! I've heard you laugh at them so often and--"
"I still laugh--but I've reached the end of roaming, Scarlett. I'm
forty-five--the age when a man begins to value some of the things
he's thrown away so lightly in youth, the clannishness of families,
honor and security, roots that go deep-- Oh, no! I'm not recanting,
I'm not regretting anything I've ever done. I've had a hell of a
good time--such a hell of a good time that it's begun to pall and
now I want something different. No, I never intend to change more
than my spots. But I want the outer semblance of the things I used
to know, the utter boredom of respectability--other people's
respectability, my pet, not my own--the calm dignity life can have
when it's lived by gentle folks, the genial grace of days that are
gone. When I lived those days I didn't realize the slow charm of
Again Scarlett was back in the windy orchard of Tara and there was
the same look in Rhett's eyes that had been in Ashley's eyes that
day. Ashley's words were as clear in her ears as though he and not
Rhett were speaking. Fragments of words came back to her and she
quoted parrot-like: "A glamor to it--a perfection, a symmetry like
Rhett said sharply: "Why did you say that? That's what I meant."
"It was something that--that Ashley said once, about the old days."
He shrugged and the light went out of his eyes.
"Always Ashley," he said and was silent for a moment.
"Scarlett, when you are forty-five, perhaps you will know what I'm
talking about and then perhaps you, too, will be tired of imitation
gentry and shoddy manners and cheap emotions. But I doubt it. I
think you'll always be more attracted by glister than by gold.
Anyway, I can't wait that long to see. And I have no desire to
wait. It just doesn't interest me. I'm going to hunt in old towns
and old countries where some of the old times must still linger.
I'm that sentimental. Atlanta's too raw for me, too new."
"Stop," she said suddenly. She had hardly heard anything he had
said. Certainly her mind had not taken it in. But she knew she
could no longer endure with any fortitude the sound of his voice
when there was no love in it.
He paused and looked at her quizzically.
"Well, you get my meaning, don't you?" he questioned, rising to his
She threw out her hands to him, palms up, in the age-old gesture of
appeal and her heart, again, was in her face.
"No," she cried. "All I know is that you do not love me and you
are going away! Oh, my darling, if you go, what shall I do?"
For a moment he hesitated as if debating whether a kind lie were
kinder in the long run than the truth. Then he shrugged.
"Scarlett, I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments
and glue them together and tell myself that the mended whole was as
good as new. What is broken is broken--and I'd rather remember it
as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as
long as I lived. Perhaps, if I were younger--" he sighed. "But
I'm too old to believe in such sentimentalities as clean slates and
starting all over. I'm too old to shoulder the burden of constant
lies that go with living in polite disillusionment. I couldn't
live with you and lie to you and I certainly couldn't lie to
myself. I can't even lie to you now. I wish I could care what you
do or where you go, but I can't."
He drew a short breath and said lightly but softly:
"My dear, I don't give a damn."
* * * * *
She silently watched him go up the stairs, feeling that she would
strangle at the pain in her throat. With the sound of his feet
dying away in the upper hall was dying the last thing in the world
that mattered. She knew now that there was no appeal of emotion or
reason which would turn that cool brain from its verdict. She knew
now that he had meant every word he said, lightly though some of
them had been spoken. She knew because she sensed in him something
strong, unyielding, implacable--all the qualities she had looked
for in Ashley and never found.
She had never understood either of the men she had loved and so she
had lost them both. Now, she had a fumbling knowledge that, had
she ever understood Ashley, she would never have loved him; had she
ever understood Rhett, she would never have lost him. She wondered
forlornly if she had ever really understood anyone in the world.
There was a merciful dullness in her mind now, a dullness that she
knew from long experience would soon give way to sharp pain, even
as severed tissues, shocked by the surgeon's knife, have a brief
instant of insensibility before their agony begins.
"I won't think of it now," she thought grimly, summoning up her old
charm. "I'll go crazy if I think about losing him now. I'll think
of it tomorrow."
"But," cried her heart, casting aside the charm and beginning to
ache, "I can't let him go! There must be some way!"
"I won't think of it now," she said again, aloud, trying to push
her misery to the back of her mind, trying to find some bulwark
against the rising tide of pain. "I'll--why, I'll go home to Tara
tomorrow," and her spirits lifted faintly.
She had gone back to Tara once in fear and defeat and she had
emerged from its sheltering walls strong and armed for victory.
What she had done once, somehow--please God, she could do again!
How, she did not know. She did not want to think of that now. All
she wanted was a breathing space in which to hurt, a quiet place to
lick her wounds, a haven in which to plan her campaign. She
thought of Tara and it was as if a gentle cool hand were stealing
over her heart. She could see the white house gleaming welcome to
her through the reddening autumn leaves, feel the quiet hush of the
country twilight coming down over her like a benediction, feel the
dews falling on the acres of green bushes starred with fleecy
white, see the raw color of the red earth and the dismal dark
beauty of the pines on the rolling hills.
She felt vaguely comforted, strengthened by the picture, and some
of her hurt and frantic regret was pushed from the top of her mind.
She stood for a moment remembering small things, the avenue of dark
cedars leading to Tara, the banks of cape jessamine bushes, vivid
green against the white walls, the fluttering white curtains. And
Mammy would be there. Suddenly she wanted Mammy desperately, as
she had wanted her when she was a little girl, wanted the broad
bosom on which to lay her head, the gnarled black hand on her hair.
Mammy, the last link with the old days.
With the spirit of her people who would not know defeat, even when
it stared them in the face, she raised her chin. She could get
Rhett back. She knew she could. There had never been a man she
couldn't get, once she set her mind upon him.
"I'll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then.
Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get him back. After all,
tomorrow is another day."