She slipped off her worn shoe and, barefooted, she pattered swiftly to the bureau, not even feeling her festered toe. She opened the top drawer soundlessly and caught up the heavy pistol she had brought from Atlanta, the weapon Charles had worn but never fired. She fumbled in the leather box that hung on the wall below his saber and brought out a cap. She slipped it into place with a hand that did not shake. Quickly and noiselessly , she ran into the upper hall and down the stairs, steadying herself on the banisters with one hand and holding the pistol close to her thigh in the folds of her skirt.
“Who’s there?” cried a nasal voice and she stopped on the middle of the stairs, the blood thudding in her ears so loudly she could hardly hear him. “Halt or I’ll shoot!” came the voice.
He stood in the door of the dining room, crouched tensely, his pistol in one hand and, in the other, the small rosewood sewing box fitted with gold thimble, gold-handled scissors and tiny gold-topped acorn of emery. Scarlett’s legs felt cold to the knees but rage scorched her face Mask House
. Ellen’s sewing box in his hands. She wanted to cry: “Put it down! Put it down, you dirty―” but words would not come. She could only stare over the banisters at him and watch his face change from harsh tenseness to a half-contemptuous, half-ingratiating smile.
“So there is somebody at home,” he said, slipping his pistol back into its holster and moving into the hall until he stood directly below her. “All alone, little lady?”
Like lightning, she shoved her weapon over the banisters and into the startled bearded face. Before he could even fumble at his belt, she pulled the trigger. The back kick of the pistol made her reel, as the roar of the explosion filled her ears and the acrid smoke stung her nostrils Mask House
. The man crashed backwards to the floor, sprawling into the dining room with a violence that shook the furniture. The box clattered from his hand, the contents spilling about him. Hardly aware that she was moving, Scarlett ran down the stairs and stood over him, gazing down into what was left of the face above the beard, a bloody pit where the nose had been, glazing eyes burned with powder. As she looked, two streams of blood crept across the shining floor, one from his face and one from the back of his head.
Yes, he was dead. Undoubtedly. She had killed a man.
The smoke curled slowly to the ceiling and the red streams widened about her feet. For a timeless moment she stood there and in the still hot hush of the summer morning every irrelevant sound and scent seemed magnified, the quick thudding of her heart, like, a drumbeat, the slight rough rustling of the magnolia leaves, the far-off plaintive sound of a swamp bird and the sweet smell of the flowers outside the window.
She had killed a man, she who took care never to be in at the kill on a hunt, she who could not bear the squealing of a hog at slaughter or the squeak of a rabbit in a snare. Murder! she thought dully. I’ve done murder. Oh, this can’t be happening to me! Her eyes went to the stubby hairy hand on the floor so close to the sewing box and suddenly she was vitally alive again, vitally glad with a cool tigerish joy. She could have ground her heel into the gaping wound which had been his nose and taken sweet pleasure in the feel of his warm blood on her bare feet. She had struck a blow of revenge for Tara―and for Ellen.