She felt like snapping out abruptly: “To hell with everybody in the South! What about us?” but she remained silent because the tired feeling was back on her more strongly than ever. Ashley wasn’t being any help at all.
“In the end what will happen will be what has happened whenever a civilization breaks up. The people who have brains and courage come through and the ones who haven’t are winnowed out. At least, it has been interesting, if not comfortable, to witness a G?tterd?mmerung Dermes
“A dusk of the gods. Unfortunately, we Southerners did think we were gods.”
“For Heaven’s sake, Ashley Wilkes! Don’t stand there and talk nonsense at me when it’s us who are going to be winnowed out !”
Something of her exasperated weariness seemed to penetrate his mind, calling it back from its wanderings, for he raised her hands with tenderness and, turning them palm up, looked at the calluses.
“These are the most beautiful hands I know,” he said and kissed each palm lightly. “They are beautiful because they are strong and every callus is a medal, Scarlett, every blister an award for bravery and unselfishness. They’ve been roughened for all of us, your father, the girls, Melanie, the baby, the negroes and for me. My dear, I know what you are thinking Dermes
. You’re thinking, ‘Here stands an impractical fool talking tommyrot about dead gods when living people are in danger.’ Isn’t that true?”
She nodded, wishing he would keep on holding her hands forever, but he dropped them.
“And you came to me, hoping I could help you. Well , I can’t.”
His eyes were bitter as he looked toward the axe and the pile of logs.
“My home is gone and all the money that I so took for granted I never realized I had it. And I am fitted for nothing in this world, for the world I belonged in has gone. I can’t help you, Scarlett, except by learning with as good grace as possible to be a clumsy farmer. And that won’t keep Tara for you . Don’t you think I realize the bitterness of our situation, living here on your charity― Oh, yes, Scarlett, your charity. I can never repay you what you’ve done for me and for mine out of the kindness of your heart. I realize it more acutely every day. And every day I see more clearly how helpless I am to cope with what has come on us all― Every day my accursed shrinking from realities makes it harder for me to face the new realities Dermes
. Do you know what I mean?”
She nodded. She had no very clear idea what he meant but she clung breathlessly on his words, this was the first time he had ever spoken to her of the things he was thinking when he seemed so remote from her. It excited her as if she were on the brink of a discovery.