فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter eight

The Yankees Are Coming

Scarlett sent Prissy for Mrs Meade and, after a long time, the little black girl returned alone.

‘She wasn’t there,’ said Prissy. ‘She got news that Mr Phil was shot and she went with a carriage to fetch him home.’

Scarlett stared, wanting to shake her. ‘Well, don’t just stand there, go and fetch Mrs Merriwether!’

‘She ain’t there,’ said Prissy. ‘I stopped on my way home, but the house was shut up. She’s probably at the hospital.’

Scarlett thought for a moment. ‘Go to Mrs Elsing and explain everything,’ she said. ‘Ask her to come. And hurry!’

She went back to Melanie’s room where Melanie was lying on her side, her face white. ‘Mrs Meade is at the hospital,’ lied Scarlett. She didn’t want to worry Melanie by telling her about Phil getting shot. ‘But Mrs Elsing is coming.’

It was an hour before Prissy came back, walking slowly along the road. Scarlett hurried out to meet her.

‘Mrs Elsing is over at the hospital,’ said Prissy. ‘A lot of soldiers came in on the early train, most of them hurt bad-‘

‘You must go to the hospital,’ said Scarlett. ‘I’ll give you a letter for Dr Meade, but if he isn’t there, give it to one of the other doctors. And hurry back this time!’

Minutes later, Prissy went off with a letter and Scarlett went back upstairs. Melanie asked no questions, but her face was full of pain. An hour passed and then another. Afternoon came, and Melanie’s pains were worse. Where was Prissy? Why didn’t she come? Scarlett went to the window. Had the sound of the guns died away, or was it her imagination? Then she saw Prissy running down the street, fear written all over her little black face. Scarlett quickly moved from the window.

‘I’ll get some cooler water,’ she told Melanie.

She got downstairs as Prissy came in. ‘They’re fighting at Jonesboro, Miss Scarlett! They say we’re losing the war!’

‘Where’s Dr Meade? When is he conning?’ said Scarlett.

‘He ain’t at the hospital. Mrs Merriwether and Mrs Elsin’s ain’t there either. A man told me the doctor was down at the railway station with the soldiers from Jonesboro. But, Miss Scarlett, I was too frightened to go down there. People are dying down there, and I’m frightened of dead people.’

‘What about the other doctors?’ asked Scarlett.

‘Miss Scarlett, I couldn’t get them to read your letter,’ said Prissy. ‘They’re working in the hospital like they’re all crazy! “Don’t worry me about babies when we’ve got men dying here!” one of them shouted at me.’

‘Listen,’ said Scarlett. ‘I’ll get Dr Meade and you sit with Miss Melanie. Don’t tell her where the fighting is, and don’t tell her that the other doctors won’t come, do you hear?’

Scarlett hurried out of the house and into the hot sun. A soldier came riding past and she stopped him.

‘Are the Yankees coming?’ she asked him.

‘Yes, Miss,’ he said. ‘The army are leaving Atlanta soon.’ Scarlett began to run. People rushed past her as she pushed her way through the crowd and on towards the station. But as she went round the side of the Atlanta Hotel, she stopped.

There, lying on the ground under the heat of the sun, were hundreds and hundreds of men. Some were screaming with pain. There was blood everywhere, and the smell of unwashed bodies came to meet her. She put a hand across her mouth and nose.

Then she lifted her skirts and stepped over dead men, and men with blood on their uniforms, and men making sounds which had to mean: ‘Water! Water!’

‘Dr Meade!’ cried Scarlett. ‘Is Dr Meade here?’

A man looked up. It was the doctor. His shirt and trousers were red with blood, and his face was grey with tiredness.

‘Thank God you’re here,’ he said to Scarlett. ‘I can use every pair of hands. Quickly, come here!’

She went to him as fast as she could across the rows of bodies. ‘Doctor, you must come! Melanie is having her baby!’

‘Baby?’ thundered the doctor. ‘Are you crazy? I can’t leave these men. Get some woman to help you. Get my wife.’

She started to tell him why Mrs Meade could not come - then stopped. She could not tell him his son was hurt.

‘Doctor, please!’ she cried. ‘Please come!’

He looked at her. ‘The Yankees are coming and the army is moving out of town. I don’t know what they’ll do with these men. There aren’t any trains. The Macon line is under Yankee control. Listen, I can’t promise, Scarlett, but I’ll try.’

Scarlett went back through the rows of men. On the streets beyond the Atlanta Hotel, soldiers were moving out of the city. There seemed to be thousands of them. Wagons went past, throwing up clouds of dust. There were drunken women with painted faces among the crowd. Scarlett saw Belle Wading, and heard her drunken laugh as she held on to a one-armed soldier.

Scarlett began to run again. When she got back to the house, Wade was waiting outside.

‘Wade hungry,’ he cried.

‘Be quiet!’ said Scarlett. ‘Go and play in the back garden.’ She looked up and saw Prissy at the bedroom window. Scarlett waved at her to come down, then went into the house. Prissy came down the stairs three at a time.

‘The doctors can’t come,’ said Scarlett. ‘You’ve got to deliver the baby, and I’ll help you.’

Prissy’s mouth fell open.

‘What’s the matter?’ said Scarlett.

‘I - Miss Scarlett - I don’t know nothin’ about deliverin’ babies,’ said Prissy, looking at the floor.

Scarlett took Prissy’s arm and squeezed it. ‘You black liar! What do you mean? You said you knew everything about-‘

‘I was lyin’, Miss Scarlett!’ cried Prissy.

Scarlett had never hit a slave in all her life, but she hit Prissy’s black cheek as hard as she could. Prissy screamed loudly and tried to pull away.

‘Scarlett, is it you?’ Melanie’s weak voice came from upstairs. ‘Please come! Please!’

Scarlett tried to remember what Mammy and Ellen did when Wade was born. ‘Build a fire and make sure there’s plenty of water,’ she told Prissy. ‘Bring all the towels you can find, and some string and a pair of scissors. Quickly!’

She pushed Prissy towards the kitchen, then took a deep breath before going upstairs.


There was never an afternoon as long as this one. Or as hot. Scarlett pulled the bedroom curtains across to keep out the sun. Melanie tried to be brave, but when evening came, she began calling for Ashley - over and over - until Scarlett wanted to cover her face with a pillow. ‘Perhaps the doctor will come after all,’ thought Scarlett, and she told Prissy to go to the Meades’ house and see if he or Mrs Meade were there.

Prissy went, but came back soon after, alone.

‘The doctor ain’t been home all day,’ she reported. ‘An’, Miss Scarlett, Mr Phil is dead. He was shot. I didn’t see Mrs Meade because she was gettin’ his body ready for-‘

‘All right,’ said Scarlett quickly.

Melanie opened her eyes and whispered, ‘Are the Yankees coming?’

‘No,’ said Scarlett. ‘Prissy’s a liar.’

‘Yes, Miss, I am,’ agreed Prissy.

‘The Yankees are coming,’ whispered Melanie, guessing correctly. ‘My poor baby. Scarlett, you mustn’t stay here.’

‘You know I won’t leave you,’ said Scarlett.

‘Why not?’ said Melanie. ‘I’m going to die anyway.’

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