"Now that I think of it they did. Miss-what's-her-name-the sweet little thing who was
here last year, you know, Ashley's cousin-oh, yes, Miss Melanie Hamilton, that's the
name-she and her brother Charles have already come from Atlanta and-"
"Oh, so she did come?"
"She did, and a sweet quiet thing she is, with never a word to say for herself, like a
woman should be. Come now, daughter, don't lag. Your mother will be hunting for us."
Scarlett's heart sank at the news. She had hoped against hope that something would keep
Melanie Hamilton in Atlanta where she belonged, and the knowledge that even her father
approved of her sweet quiet nature, so different from her own, forced her into the open.
"Was Ashley there, too?"
"He was." Gerald let go of his daughter's arm and turned, peering sharply into her
face. "And if that's why you came out here to wait for me, why didn't you say so without
beating around the bush?"
Scarlett could think of nothing to say, and she felt her face growing red with
"Well, speak up."
Still she said nothing, wishing that it was permissible to shake one's father and tell
him to hush his mouth.
"He was there and he asked most kindly after you, as did his sisters, and said they
hoped nothing would keep you from the barbecue tomorrow. I'll warrant nothing will," he
said shrewdly. "And now, daughter, what's all this about you and Ashley?"
"There is nothing," she said shortly, tugging at his arm. "Let's go in, Pa."
"So now 'tis you wanting to go in," he observed. "But here I'm going to stand till I'm
understanding you. Now that I think of it 'tis strange you've been recently. Has he been
trifling with you? Has he asked to marry you?"
"No," she said shortly.
"Nor will he," said Gerald.
Fury flamed in her, but Gerald waved her quiet with a hand.
"Hold your tongue, Miss! I had it from John Wilkes this afternoon in the strictest
confidence that Ashley's to marry Miss Melanie. It's to be announced tomorrow."
Scarlett's hand fell from his arm. So it was true!
A pain slashed at her heart as savagely as a wild animal's fangs. Through it all, she
felt her father's eyes on her, a little pitying, a little annoyed at being faced with a
problem for which he knew no answer. He loved Scarlett, but it made him uncomfortable to
have her forcing her childish problems on him for a solution. Ellen knew all the answers.
Scarlett should have taken her troubles to her.
"Is it a spectacle you've been making of yourself-of all of us?" he bawled, his voice
rising as always in moments of excitement. "Have you been running after a man who's not
in love with you, when you could have any of the bucks in the County?"
Anger and hurt pride drove out some of the pain.
"I haven't been running after him. It-it just surprised me."
"It's lying you are!" said Gerald, and then, peering at her stricken face, he added in
a burst of kindliness: "I'm sorry, daughter. But after all, you are nothing but a child
and there's lots of other beaux."
"Mother was only fifteen when she married you, and I'm sixteen," said Scarlett, her
"Your mother was different," said Gerald. "She was never flighty like you. Now come,
daughter, cheer up, and I'll take you to Charleston next week to visit your Aunt Eulalie
and, what with all the hullabaloo they are having over there about Fort Sumter, you'll be
forgetting about Ashley in a week."
"He thinks I'm a child," thought Scarlett, grief and anger choking utterance, "and he's
only got to dangle a new toy and I'll forget my bumps."
"Now, don't be jerking your chin at me," warned Gerald. "If you had any sense you'd
have married Stuart or Brent Tarleton long ago. Think it over, daughter. Marry one of the
twins and then the plantations will run together and Jim Tarleton and I will build you a
fine house, right where they join, in that big pine grove and-"
"Will you stop treating me like a child!" cried Scarlett. "I don't want to go to
Charleston or have a house or marry the twins. I only want-" She caught herself but not
Gerald's voice was strangely quiet and he spoke slowly as if drawing his words from a
store of thought seldom used.
"It's only Ashley you're wanting, and you'll not be having him. And if he wanted to
marry you, 'twould be with misgivings that I'd say Yes, for an the fine friendship that's
between me and John Wilkes." And, seeing her startled look, he continued: "I want my girl
to be happy and you wouldn't be happy with him."
"Oh, I would! I would!"
"That you would not, daughter. Only when like marries like can there be any happiness."
Scarlett had a sudden treacherous desire to cry out, "But you've been happy, and you
and Mother aren't alike," but she repressed it, fearing that he would box her ears for
"Our people and the Wilkes are different," he went on slowly, fumbling for words. "The
Wilkes are different from any of our neighbors-different from any family I ever knew.
They are queer folk, and it's best that they marry their cousins and keep their queerness
"Why, Pa, Ashley is not-"
"Hold your whist, Puss! I said nothing against the lad, for I like him. And when I say
queer, it's not crazy I'm meaning. He's not queer like the Calverts who'd gamble
everything they have on a horse, or the Tarletons who turn out a drunkard or two in every
litter, or the Fontaines who are hot-headed little brutes and after murdering a man for a
fancied slight. That kind of queerness is easy to understand, for sure, and but for the
grace of God Gerald O'Hara would be having all those faults! And I don't mean that Ashley
would run off with another woman, if you were his wife, or beat you. You'd be happier if
he did, for at least you'd be understanding that. But he's queer in other ways, and
there's no understanding him at all. I like him, but it's neither heads nor tails I can
make of most he says. Now, Puss, tell me true, do you understand his folderol about books
and poetry and music and oil paintings and such foolishness?"
"Oh, Pa," cried Scarlett impatiently, "if I married him, I'd change all that!"
"Oh, you would, would you now?" Said Gerald testily, shooting a sharp look at her.
"Then it's little enough you are knowing of any man living, let alone Ashley. No wife has
ever changed a husband one whit, and don't you be forgetting that. And as for changing a
Wilkes-God's nightgown, daughter! The whole family is that way, and they've always been
that way. And probably always will. I tell you they're born queer. Look at the way they
go tearing up to New York and Boston to hear operas and see oil paintings. And ordering
French and German books by the crate from the Yankees! And there they sit reading and
dreaming the dear God knows what, when they'd be better spending their time hunting and
playing poker as proper men should."
"There's nobody in the County sits a horse better than Ashley," said Scarlett, furious
at the slur of effeminacy flung on Ashley, "nobody except maybe his father. And as for
poker, didn't Ashley take two hundred dollars away from you just last week in Jonesboro?"
"The Calvert boys have been blabbing again," Gerald said resignedly, "else you'd not be