shirt and his cravat which had slipped awry behind one ear. Scarlett knew these hurried
preenings were being made with an eye toward meeting his wife with the appearance of a
gentleman who had ridden sedately home from a call on a neighbor. She knew also that he
was presenting her with just the opportunity she wanted for opening the conversation
without revealing her true purpose.
She laughed aloud. As she had intended, Gerald was startled by the sound; then he
recognized her, and a look both sheepish and defiant came over his florid face. He
dismounted with difficulty, because his knee was stiff, and, slipping the reins over his
arm, stumped toward her.
"Well, Missy," he said, pinching her cheek, "so, you've been spying on me and, like
your sister Suellen last week, you'll be telling your mother on me?"
There was indignation in his hoarse bass voice but also a wheedling note, and Scarlett
teasingly clicked her tongue against her teeth as she reached out to pull his cravat into
place. His breath in her face was strong with Bourbon whisky mingled with a faint
fragrance of mint. Accompanying him also were the smells of chewing tobacco, well-oiled
leather and horses-a combination of odors that she always associated with her father and
instinctively liked in other men.
"No, Pa, I'm no tattletale like Suellen," she assured him, standing off to view his
rearranged attire with a judicious air.
Gerald was a small man, little more than five feet tall, but so heavy of barrel and
thick of neck that his appearance, when seated, led strangers to think him a larger man.
His thickset torso was supported by short sturdy legs, always incased in the finest
leather boots procurable and always planted wide apart like a swaggering small boy's.
Most small people who take themselves seriously are a little ridiculous; but the bantam
cock is respected in the barnyard, and so it was with Gerald. No one would ever have the
temerity to think of Gerald O'Hara as a ridiculous little figure.
He was sixty years old and his crisp curly hair was silver-white, but his shrewd face
was unlined and his hard little blue eyes were young with the unworried youthfulness of
one who has never taxed his brain with problems more abstract than how many cards to draw
in a poker game. His was as Irish a face as could be found in the length and breadth of
the homeland he had left so long ago-round, high colored, short nosed, wide mouthed and
Beneath his choleric exterior Gerald O'Hara had the tenderest of hearts." He could not
bear to see a slave pouting under a reprimand, ho matter how well deserved, or hear a
kitten mewing or a child crying; but he had a horror of having this weakness discovered.
That everyone who met him did discover his kindly heart within five minutes was unknown
to him; and his vanity would have suffered tremendously if he had found it out, for he
liked to think that when he bawled orders at the top of his voice everyone trembled and
obeyed. It had never occurred to him that only one voice was obeyed on the plantation-the
soft voice of his wife Ellen. It was a secret he would never learn, for everyone from
Ellen down to the stupidest field hand was in a tacit and kindly conspiracy to keep him
believing that his word was law.
Scarlett was impressed less than anyone else by his tempers and his roarings. She was
his oldest child and, now that Gerald knew there would be no more sons to follow the
three who lay in the family burying ground, he had drifted into a habit of treating her
in a man-to-man manner which she found most pleasant. She was more like her father than
her younger sisters, for Carreen, who had been born Caroline Irene, was delicate and
dreamy, and Suellen, christened Susan Elinor, prided herself on her elegance and ladylike
Moreover, Scarlett and her father were bound together by a mutual suppression
agreement. If Gerald caught her climbing a fence instead of walking half a mile to a
gate, or sitting too late on the front steps with a beau, he castigated her personally
and with vehemence, but he did not mention the fact to Ellen or to Mammy. And when
Scarlett discovered him jumping fences after his solemn promise to his wife, or learned
the exact amount of his losses at poker, as she always did from County gossip, she
refrained from mentioning the fact at the supper table in the artfully artless manner
Suellen had. Scarlett and her father each assured the other solemnly that to bring such
matters to the ears of Ellen would only hurt her, and nothing would induce them to wound
Scarlett looked at her father in the fading light, and, without knowing why, she found
it comforting to be in his presence. There was something vital and earthy and coarse
about him that appealed to her. Being the least analytic of people, she did not realize
that this was because she possessed in some degree these same qualities, despite sixteen
years of effort on the part of Ellen and Mammy to obliterate them.
"You look very presentable now," she said, "and I don't think anyone will suspect
you've been up to your tricks unless you brag about them. But it does seem to me that
after you broke your knee last year, jumping that same fence-"
"Well, may I be damned if I'll have me own daughter telling me what I shall jump and
not jump," he shouted, giving her cheek another pinch. "It's me own neck, so it is. And
besides, Missy, what are you doing out here without your shawl?"
Seeing that he was employing familiar maneuvers to extricate himself from unpleasant
conversation, she slipped her arm through his and said: "I was waiting for you. I didn't
know you would be so late. I just wondered if you had bought Dilcey."
"Bought her I did, and the price has ruined me. Bought her and her little wench,
Prissy. John Wilkes was for almost giving them away, but never will I have it said that
Gerald O'Hara used friendship in a trade. I made him take three thousand for the two of
"In the name of Heaven, Pa, three thousand! And you didn't need to buy Prissy!"
"Has the time come when me own daughters sit in judgment on me?" shouted Gerald
rhetorically. "Prissy is a likely little wench and so-"
"I know her. She's a sly, stupid creature," Scarlett rejoined calmly, unimpressed by
his uproar. "And the only reason you bought her was because Dilcey asked you to buy her."
Gerald looked crestfallen and embarrassed, as always when caught in a kind deed, and
Scarlett laughed outright at his transparency.
"Well, what if I did? Was there any use buying Dilcey if she was going to mope about
the child? Well, never again will I let a darky on this place marry off it. It's too
expensive. Well, come on, Puss, let's go in to supper."
The shadows were falling thicker now, the last greenish tinge had left the sky and a
slight chill was displacing the balminess of spring. But Scarlett loitered, wondering how
to bring up the subject of Ashley without permitting Gerald to suspect her motive. This
was difficult, for Scarlett had not a subtle bone in her body; and Gerald was so much
like her he never failed to penetrate her weak subterfuges, even as she penetrated his.
And he was seldom tactful in doing it.
"How are they all over at Twelve Oaks?"
"About as usual. Cade Calvert was there and, after I settled about Dilcey, we all set
on the gallery and had several toddies. Cade has just come from Atlanta, and it's all
upset they are there and talking war and-"
Scarlett sighed. If Gerald once got on the subject of war and secession, it would be
hours before he relinquished it She broke in with another line.
"Did they say anything about the barbecue tomorrow?"