Part One


НазваниеPart One
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“I can’t guess. Tell me,” said Scarlett enthusiastically, hoping for the worst.

“He refused to marry her the next day!”

“Oh,” said Scarlett, her hopes dashed.

“He said he hadn’t—er—done anything to her and he didn’t see why he should marry her. And, of course, her brother called him out, and Mr. Butler said he’d rather be shot than marry a stupid fool. And so they fought a duel and Mr. Butler shot the girl’s brother and he died, and Mr. Butler had to leave Charleston and now nobody receives him,” finished Cathleen triumphantly, and just in time, for Dilcey came back into the room to oversee the toilet of her charge.

“Did she have a baby?” whispered Scarlett in Cathleen’s ear.

Cathleen shook her head violently. “But she was ruined just the same,” she hissed back.

I wish I had gotten Ashley to compromise me, thought Scarlett suddenly. He’d be too much of a gentleman not to marry me. But somehow, unbidden, she had a feeling of respect for Rhett Butler for refusing to marry a girl who was a fool.
Scarlett sat on a high rosewood ottoman, under the shade of a huge oak in the rear of the house, her flounces and ruffles billowing about her and two inches of green morocco slippers—all that a lady could show and still remain a lady—peeping from beneath them. She had scarcely touched plate in her hands and seven cavaliers about her. The barbecue had reached its peak and the warm air was full of laughter and talk, the click of silver on porcelain and the rich heavy smells of roasting meats and redolent gravies. Occasionally when the slight breeze veered, puffs of smoke from the long barbecue pits floated over the crowd and were greeted with squeals of mock dismay from the ladies and violent flappings of palmetto fans.

Most of the young ladies were seated with partners on the long benches that faced the tables, but Scarlett, realizing that a girl has only two sides and only one man can sit on each of these sides, had elected to sit apart so she could gather about her as many men as possible.

Under the arbor sat the married women, their dark dresses decorous notes in the surrounding color and gaiety. Matrons, regardless of their ages, always grouped together apart from the bright-eyed girls, beaux and laughter, for there were no married belles in the South. From Grandma Fontaine, who was belching frankly with the privilege of her age, to seventeen-year-old Alice Munroe, struggling against the nausea of a first pregnancy, they had their heads together in the endless genealogical and obstetrical discussions that made such gatherings very pleasant and instructive affairs.

Casting contemptuous glances at them, Scarlett thought that they looked like a clump of fat crows. Married women never had any fun. It did not occur to her that if she married Ashley she would automatically be relegated to arbors and front parlors with staid matrons in dull silks, as staid and dull as they and not a part of the fun and frolicking. Like most girls, her imagination carried her just as far as the altar and no further. Besides, she was too unhappy now to pursue an abstraction.

She dropped her eyes to her plate and nibbled daintily on a beaten biscuit with an elegance and an utter lack of appetite that would have won Mammy’s approval. For all that she had a superfluity of beaux, she had never been more miserable in her life. In some way that she could not understand, her plans of last night had failed utterly so far as Ashley was concerned. She had attracted other beaux by the dozens, but not Ashley, and all the fears of yesterday afternoon were sweeping back upon her, making her heart beat fast and then slow, and color flame and whiten in her cheeks.

Ashley had made no attempt to join the circle about her, in fact she had not had a word alone with him since arriving, or even spoken to him since their first greeting. He had come forward to welcome her when she came into the back garden, but Melanie had been on his arm then, Melanie who hardly came up to his shoulder.

She was a tiny, frailly built girl, who gave the appearance of a child masquerading in her mother’s enormous hoop skirts—an illusion that was heightened by the shy, almost frightened look in her too large brown eyes. She had a cloud of curly dark hair which was so sternly repressed beneath its net that no vagrant tendrils escaped, and this dark mass, with its long widow’s peak, accentuated the heart shape of her face. Too wide across the cheek bones, too pointed at the chin, it was a sweet, timid face but a plain face, and she had no feminine tricks of allure to make observers forget its plainness. She looked—and was—as simple as earth, as good as bread, as transparent as spring water. But for all her plainness of feature and smallness of stature, there was a sedate dignity about her movements that was oddly touching and far older than her seventeen years.

Her gray organdie dress, with its cherry-colored satin sash, disguised with its billows and ruffles how childishly undeveloped her body was, and the yellow hat with long cherry streamers made her creamy skin glow. Her heavy earbobs with their long gold fringe hung down from loops of tidily netted hair, swinging close to her brown eyes, eyes that had the still gleam of a forest pool in winter when brown leaves shine up through quiet water.

She had smiled with timid liking when she greeted Scarlett and told her how pretty her green dress was, and Scarlett had been hard put to be even civil in reply, so violently did she want to speak alone with Ashley. Since then, Ashley had sat on a stool at Melanie’s feet, apart from the other guests, and talked quietly with her, smiling the slow drowsy smile that Scarlett loved. What made matters worse was that under his smile a little sparkle had come into Melanie’s eyes, so that even Scarlett had to admit that she looked almost pretty. As Melanie looked at Ashley, her plain face lit up as with an inner fire, for if ever a loving heart showed itself upon a face, it was showing now on Melanie Hamilton’s.

Scarlett tried to keep her eyes from these two but could not, and after each glance she redoubled her gaiety with her cavaliers, laughing, saying daring things, teasing, tossing her head at their compliments until her earrings danced. She said “fiddle-dee-dee” many times, declared that the truth wasn’t in any of them, and vowed that she’d never believe anything any man told her. But Ashley did not seem to notice her at all. He only looked up at Melanie and talked on, and Melanie looked down at him with an expression that radiated the fact that she belonged to him.

So, Scarlett was miserable.

To the outward eye, never had a girl less cause to he miserable. She was undoubtedly the belle of the barbecue, the center of attention. The furore she was causing among the men, coupled with the heart burnings of the other girls, would have pleased her enormously at any other time.

Charles Hamilton, emboldened by her notice, was firmly planted on her right, refusing to be dislodged by the combined efforts of the Tarteton twins. He held her fan in one hand and his untouched plate of barbecue in the other and stubbornly refused to meet the eyes of Honey, who seemed on the verge of an outburst of tears. Cade lounged gracefully on her left, plucking at her skirt to attract her attention and staring up with smoldering eyes at Stuart Already the air was electric between him and the twins and rude words had passed. Frank Kennedy fussed about like a hen with one chick, running back and forth from the shade of the oak to the tables to fetch dainties to tempt Scarlett, as if there were not a dozen servants there for that purpose. As a result, Suellen’s sullen resentment had passed beyond the point of ladylike concealment and she glowered at Scarlett Small Carreen could have cried because, for all Scarlett’s encouraging words that morning, Brent had done no more than say “Hello, Sis” and jerk her hair ribbon before turning his full attention to Scarlett. Usually he was so kind and treated her with a careless deference that made her feel grown up, and Carreen secretly dreamed of the day when she would put her hair up and her skirts down and receive him as a real beau. And now it seemed that Scarlett had him. The Munroe girls were concealing their chagrin at the defection of the swarthy Fontaine boys, but they were annoyed at the way Tony and Alex stood about the circle, jockeying for a position near Scarlett should any of the others arise from their places.

They telegraphed their disapproval of Scarlett’s conduct to Hetty Tarleton by delicately raised eyebrows. “Fast” was the only word for Scarlett. Simultaneously, the three young ladies raised lacy parasols, said they had had quite enough to eat thank you, and, laying light fingers on the arms of the men nearest them, clamored sweetly to see the rose garden, the spring and the summerhouse. This strategic retreat in good order was not lost on a woman present or observed by a man.

Scarlett giggled as she saw three men dragged out of the line of her charms to investigate landmarks familiar to the girls from childhood, and cut her eye sharply to see if Ashley had taken note. But he was playing with the ends of Melanie’s sash and smiling up at her. Pain twisted Scarlett’s heart. She felt that she could claw Melanie’s ivory skin till the blood ran and take pleasure in doing it.

As her eyes wandered from Melanie, she caught the gaze of Rhett Butler, who was not mixing with the crowd but standing apart talking to John Wilkes. He had been watching her and when she looked at him he laughed outright. Scarlett had an uneasy feeling that this man who was not received was the only one present who knew what lay behind her wild gaiety and that it was affording him sardonic amusement. She could have clawed him with pleasure too.

“If I can just live through this barbecue till this afternoon,” she thought, “all the girls will go upstairs to take naps to be fresh for tonight and I’ll stay downstairs and get to talk to Ashley. Surely he must have noticed how popular I am.” She soothed her heart with another hope: “Of course, he has to be attentive to Melanie because, after all, she is his cousin and she isn’t popular at all, and if he didn’t look out for her she’d just be a wallflower.”

She took new courage at this thought and redoubled her efforts in the direction of Charles, whose brown eyes glowed down eagerly at her. It was a wonderful day for Charles, a dream day, and he had fallen in love with Scarlett with no effort at all. Before this new emotion, Honey receded into a dim haze. Honey was a shrill-voiced sparrow and Scarlett a gleaming hummingbird. She teased him and favored him and asked him questions and answered them herself, so that he appeared very clever without having to say a word. The other boys were puzzled and annoyed by her obvious interest in him, for they knew Charles was too shy to hitch two consecutive words together, and politeness was being severely strained to conceal their growing rage. Everyone was smoldering, and it would have been a positive triumph for Scarlett, except for Ashley.

When the last forkful of pork and chicken and mutton had been eaten, Scarlett hoped the time had come when India would rise and suggest that the ladies retire to the house. It was two o’clock and the sun was warm overhead, but India, wearied with the three-day preparations for the barbecue, was only too glad to remain sitting beneath the arbor, shouting remarks to a deaf old gentleman from Fayetteville.

A lazy somnolence descended on the crowd. The negroes idled about, clearing the long tables on which the food had been laid. The laughter and talking became less animated and groups here and there fell silent. All were waiting for their hostess to signal the end of the morning’s festivities. Palmetto fans were wagging more slowly, and several gentlemen were nodding from the heat and overloaded stomachs. The barbecue was over and all were content to take their ease while sun was at its height.

In this interval between the morning party and the evening’s ball, they seemed a placid, peaceful lot. Only the young men retained the restless energy which had filled the whole throng a short while before. Moving from group to group, drawling in their soft voices, they were as handsome as blooded stallions and as dangerous. The languor of midday had taken hold of the gathering, but underneath lurked tempers that could rise to killing heights in a second and flare out as quickly. Men and women, they were beautiful and wild, all a little violent under their pleasant ways and only a little tamed.

Some time dragged by while the sun grew hotter, and Scarlett and others looked again toward India. Conversation was dying out when, in the lull, everyone in the grove heard Gerald’s voice raised in furious accents. Standing some little distance away from the barbecue tables, he was at the peak of an argument with John Wilkes.

“God’s nightgown, man! Pray for a peaceable settlement with the Yankees. After we’ve fired on the rascals at Fort Sumter? Peaceable? The South should show by arms that she cannot be insulted and that she is not leaving the Union by the Union’s kindness but by her own strength!”

“Oh, my God!” thought Scarlett. “He’s done it! Now, we’ll all sit here till midnight.”

In an instant, the somnolence had fled from the lounging throng and something electric went snapping through the air. The men sprang from benches and chain, arms in wide gestures, voices clashing for the right to be heard above other voices. There had been no talk of politics or impending war all during the morning, because of Mr. Wilkes’ request that the ladies should not be bored. But now Gerald had bawled the words “Fort Sumter,” and every man present forgot his host’s admonition.

“Of course we’ll fight—” “Yankee thieves—” “We could lick them in a month—” “Why, one Southerner can lick twenty Yankees—” “Teach them a lesson they won’t soon forget—” “Peaceably? They won’t let us go in peace—” “No, look how Mr. Lincoln insulted our Commissioners!” “Yes, kept them hanging around for weeks—swearing he’d have Sumter evacuated!” They want war; we’ll make them sick of war—” And above all the voices, Gerald’s boomed. All Scarlett could hear was “States’ rights, by God!” shouted over and over. Gerald was having an excellent time, but not his daughter.

Secession, war—these words long since had become acutely boring to Scarlett from much repetition, but now she hated the sound of them, for they meant that the men would stand there for hours haranguing one another and she would have no chance to corner Ashley. Of course there would be no war and the men all knew it. They just loved to talk and hear themselves talk.

Charles Hamilton had not risen with the others and, finding himself comparatively alone with Scarlett, he leaned closer and, with the daring born of new love, whispered a confession.

“Miss O’Hara—I—I had already decided that if we did fight, I’d go over to South Carolina and join a troop there. It’s said that Mr. Wade Hampton is organizing a cavalry troop, and of course I would want to go with him. He’s a splendid person and was my father’s best friend.”

Scarlett thought, “What am I supposed to do—give three cheers?” for Charles’ expression showed that he was baring his heart’s secrets to her. She could think of nothing to say and so merely looked at him, wondering why men were such fools as to think women interested in such matters. He took her expression to mean stunned approbation and went on rapidly, daringly—

“If I went—would—would you be sorry, Miss O’Hara?”

“I should cry into my pillow every night,” said Scarlett, meaning to be flippant, but he took the statement at face value and went red with pleasure. Her hand was concealed in the folds of her dress and he cautiously wormed his hand to it and squeezed it, overwhelmed at his own boldness and at her acquiescence.
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