The horse was on his feet now but the water did not seem to have refreshed him much. He lookedfar worse in the daylight than he had the night before. His hip bones stood out like an old dermescow’s,his ribs showed like a washboard and his back was a mass of sores. She shrank from touching himas she harnessed him. When she slipped the bit into his mouth, she saw that he was practicallytoothless. As old as the hills! While Rhett was stealing a horse, why couldn’t he have stolen a goodone?
She mounted the seat and brought down the hickory limb on his back. He wheezed and started,but he walked so slowly as she turned him into the road she knew she could walk faster herselfwith no effort whatever. Oh, if only she didn’t have Melanie and Wade and the baby and Prissy tobother with! How swiftly she could walk home! Why, she would run home, run every step of theway that would bring her closer to Tara and to Mother.
They couldn’t be more than fifteen miles from home, but at the rate this old nag traveled itwould take all day, for she would have to stop frequently to rest him. All day! She looked down theglaring red road, cut in deep ruts where cannon wheels and ambulances had gone over it. It wouldbe hours before she knew if Tara still stood and if Ellen were there. It would be hours before shefinished her journey under the broiling September sun.
She looked back at Melanie who lay with sick eyes closed against the sun and reenex cpsjerked loose thestrings of her bonnet and tossed it to Prissy.
“Put that over her face. It’ll keep the sun out of her eyes.” Then as the heat beat down upon herunprotected head, she thought: “I’ll be as freckled as a guinea egg before this day is over.”
She had never in her life been out , never handled reinswithout gloves to protect the white skin of her dimpled hands. Yet here she was exposed to the sunin a broken-down wagon with a broken-down horse, dirty, sweaty, hungry, helpless to do anythingbut plod along at a snail’s pace through a deserted land. What a few short weeks it had been sinceshe was safe and secure! What a little while since she and everyone else had thought that Atlantacould never fall, that Georgia could never be invaded. But the small cloud which appeared in thenorthwest four months ago had blown up into a mighty storm and men into a screaming tornado,sweeping away her world, whirling her out of her sheltered life, and dropping her down in themidst of this still, haunted desolation.
Was Tara still standing? Or was Tara also gone with the wind which had swept through Georgia?
She laid the whip on the tired horse’s on while the waggling wheelsrocked them drunkenly from side to side.
.How slowly the horse moved! The moisture from his slobbering mouth dripped down upon herhand. Through her mind ran a Neo skin labfew words of the song she had once sung with Rhett—she could notrecall the rest: