Listen, dear! Somebody’s coming

May 31 [Thu], 2012, 12:41

ON A NOONDAY in mid-November, they all sat grouped about the dinner table, eating the last of the dessert concocted by Mammy from corn meal and dried huckleberries, sweetened with sorghum. There was a chill in the air, the first chill of the year, and Pork, standing behind Scarlett’s chair, rubbed his hands together in glee and questioned: “Ain’ it ‘bout time fer de hawg killin’, Miss Scarlett?”
 “You can taste those chitlins already, can’t you?” said Scarlett with a grin. “Well, I can taste fresh pork myself and if the weather holds for a few days more, we’ll―”
 Melanie interrupted, her spoon at her lips,
 “Listen, dear! Somebody’s coming!”
 “Somebody hollerin’,” said Pork uneasily.
 On the crisp autumn air came clear the sound of horse’s hooves, thudding as swiftly as a frightened heart, and a woman’s voice, high pitched, screaming: “Scarlett! Scarlett!”
 Eye met eye for a dreadful second around the table before chairs were pushed back and everyone leaped up. Despite the fear that made it shrill, they recognized the voice of Sally Fontaine who, only an hour before, had stopped at Tara for a brief chat on her way to Jonesboro. Now, as they all rushed pell-mell to crowd the front door, they saw her red bottom heels coming up the drive like the wind on a lathered horse, her hair streaming behind her, her bonnet dangling by its ribbons. She did not draw rein but as she galloped madly toward them, she waved her arm back in the direction from which she had come.
 “The Yankees are coming! I saw them! Down the road! The Yankees―”
 She sawed savagely at the horse’s mouth just in time to swerve him from leaping up the front steps. He swung around sharply, covered the side lawn in three leaps and she put him across the four-foot hedge as if she were on the hunting field. They heard the heavy pounding of his hooves as he went through the back yard and down the narrow lane between the cabins of the quarters and knew she was cutting across the fields to Mimosa.
 For a moment they stood paralyzed and red bottoms then Suellen and Carreen began to sob and clutch each other’s fingers. Little Wade stood rooted, trembling, unable to cry. What he had feared since the night he left Atlanta had happened. The Yankees were coming to get him.
 “Yankees?” said Gerald vaguely. “But the Yankees have already been here.”
 “Mother of God!” cried Scarlett, her eyes meeting Melanie’s frightened eyes. For a swift instant there went through her memory again the horrors of her last night in Atlanta, the ruined homes that dotted the countryside, all the stories of rape and torture and murder. She saw again the Yankee soldier standing in the hall with Ellen’s sewing box in his hand. She thought: “I shall die. I shall die right here. I thought we were through with all that. I shall die. I can’t stand any more.”
 Then her eyes fell on the horse saddled and hitched and waiting for Pork to ride him to the Tarleton place on an errand. Her horse! Her only horse! The Yankees would take him and the cow and the calf. And the sow and her litter― Oh, how many tiring hours it had taken to catch that sow and her agile young! And they’d take the rooster and the setting hens and the ducks the Fontaines had given her. And the apples and the yams in the pantry bins. And red bottom shoes the flour and rice and dried peas. And the money in the Yankee soldier’s wallet. They’d take everything and leave them to starve.
 “They shan’t have them!” she cried aloud and they all turned startled faces to her, fearful her mind had cracked under the tidings. “I won’t go hungry! They shan’t have them!”
 “What is it, Scarlett? What is it?”
 “The horse! The cow! The pigs! They shan’t have them! I won’t let them have them!”
 She turned swiftly to the four negroes who huddled in the doorway, their black cheap ghd hair straighteners faces a peculiarly ashen shade.
 “The swamp,” she said rapidly.
 “Whut swamp?”
 “The river swamp, you fools! Take the pigs to the swamp. All of you. Quickly. Pork, you and Prissy crawl under the house and get the pigs out. Suellen, you and Carreen fill the baskets with as much food as you can carry and get to the woods. Mammy, put the silver in the well again. And Pork! Pork, listen to me, don’t stand there like that! Take Pa with you. Don’t ask me where! Anywhere! Go with Pork, Pa. That’s a sweet pa.”
 Even in her frenzy she thought what the sight of bluecoats might do to Gerald’s wavering mind. She stopped and wrung her hands and the frightened sobbing of little Wade who was clutching Melanie’s skirt added to her panic.
 “What shall I do, Scarlett?” Melanie’s cheap ghd straighteners voice was calm amid the wailing and tears and scurrying feet. Though her face was paper white and her whole body trembled, the very quietness of her voice steadied Scarlett, revealing to her that they all looked to her for commands, for guidance.
 “The cow and the calf,” she said quickly. “They’re in the old pasture. Take the horse and drive them into the swamp and―”
 Before she could finish her sentence, Melanie shook off Wade’s clutches and was down the front steps and running toward the horse, pulling up her wide skirts as cheap ghd flat irons she ran. Scarlett caught a flashing glimpse of thin legs, a flurry of skirts and underclothing and Melanie was in the saddle, her feet dangling far above the stirrups. She gathered up the reins and clapped her heels against the animal’s sides and then abruptly pulled him in, her face twisting with horror.
 “My baby!” she cried. “Oh, my baby! The Yankees will kill him! Give him to me!”
 Her hand was on the pommel and she was preparing to slide off but Scarlett screamed at her.
 “Go on! Go on! Get the cow! I’ll look after the baby! Go on, I tell you! Do you think I’d let them get Ashley’s baby? Go on!”
 Melly looked despairingly backward but hammered her heels into the horse and, with a scattering of gravel, was off down the drive toward the pasture.
 Scarlett thought: cheap ghd flat iron “I never expected to see Melly Hamilton straddling a horse!” and then she ran into the house. Wade was at her heels, sobbing, trying to catch her flying skirts. As she went up the steps, three at a bound, she saw Suellen and Carreen with split-oak baskets on their arms, running toward the pantry, and Pork tugging none too gently at Gerald’s arm, dragging him toward the back porch. Gerald was mumbling querulously and pulling away like a child.
 From the back yard she heard Mammy’s strident voice: “You, Priss! You git unner dat house an’ han’ me dem shoats! You knows mighty well Ah’s too big ter crawl thoo dem lattices. Dilcey, comyere an’ mek dis wuthless chile―”
 “And I thought it was such a good idea to keep the pigs under the house, so nobody could steal them,” thought Scarlett, running into her room. “Why, oh, why didn’t I build a pen for them down in the swamp?”