“Peaceably? They won’t let goinpeace—”“No,l(a) ook how Mr. Lincoln insulted our Commissioners!”“Yes,keptthe(us) m hanging around for weeks—swearing he’d have Sumterevacuated!” They want war; we’ll make them sick of war—” And above all the voices, Gerald’sboomed. All Scarlett could hear was “States’ rights, by God!” shouted over and over. Gerald washaving an excellent time, but not his daughter.
Secession, war—these words long since had become acutely boring to Scarlett from muchrepetition, but now she hated the sound of them, for they meant that the men would stand there forhours haranguing one another and she would have no chance to corner Ashley. Of course therewould 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 withScarlett, 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 andjoin a troop there. It’s said that Mr. Wade Hampton is organizing a cavalry troop, and of course Iwould 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’ expressionshowed that he was baring his heart’s secrets to her. She could think of nothing to say and somerely looked at him, wondering why men were such fools as to think women interested in suchmatters. 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 ,” said Scarlett, meaning to be flippant, but he took thestatement at face value and went red with pleasure. Her hand was concealed in the folds of herdress and he cautiously wormed his hand to it and squeezed it, overwhelmed at his own boldnessand at her acquiescence.
“Would you pray for me?”
“What a fool!” thought Scarlett bitterly, casting a surreptitious glance about her in the hope of being rescued from the conversation.
“Oh—yes, indeed, Mr. Hamilton. Three Rosaries a night, at least!”
Charles gave a swift look about him, drew in his breath, stiffened the muscles of his stomach.
They were practically alone and he might never get another such opportunity. And, even givenanother such Godsent occasion, his courage might fail him.
“Miss O’Hara—I must tell you something. I—I love you!”
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