would have been very pleased

G, I don’t want any explanation from you and I won’t listen to one,” said Melaniefirmly as she gently laid a small hand across Scarlett’s tortured lips and stilled her words. “Youinsult yourself and Ashley and me by even thinking there could be need of explanations betweenus. Why, we three have been—have been like soldiers fighting the world together for so manyyears that I’m ashamed of you for thinking idle gossip could come between us. Do you think I’dbelieve that you and my Ashley— Why, the idea! Don’t you realize I know you better than anyonein the world knows you? Do you think I’ve forgotten all the wonderful, unselfish things you’vedone for Ashley and Beau and me—everything from saving my life to keeping us from starving!
Do you think I could remember you walking in a furrow behind that Yankee’s horse almostbarefooted and with your hands blistered—just so the baby and I could have something to eat—and then believe such dreadful things about you? I don’t want to hear a word out of you, ScarlettO’Hara. Not a word.”
“But—” Scarlett fumbled and stopped.
Rhett had left town the hour before with Bonnie and Prissy, and desolation was added toScarlett’s shame and anger. The additional burden of her guilt with Ashley and Melanie’s defensewas more than she could bear. Had Melanie believed India and Archie, cut her at the reception oreven greeted her frigidly, then she could have held her head high and fought back with everyweapon in her armory. But now, with the memory of Melanie standing between her and social ruin,standing like a thin, shining blade, with trust and a fighting light in her eyes, there seemed nothinghonest to do but confess. Yes, blurt out everything from that far-off beginning on the sunny porchat Tara.
She was driven by a conscience which, though long suppressed, could still rise up, an activeCatholic conscience. “Confess your sins and do penance for them in sorrow and contrition,” Ellenhad told her a hundred times and, in this crisis, Ellen’s religious training came back and grippedher. She would confess—yes, everything, every look and word, those few caresses—and then Godwould ease her pain and give her peace. And, for her penance, there would be the dreadful sight ofMelanie’s face changing from fond love and trust to incredulous horror and repulsion. Oh, that wastoo hard a penance, she thought in anguish, to have to live out her life remembering Melanie’sface, knowing that Melanie knew all the pettiness, the meanness, the two-faced disloyalty and thehypocrisy that were in her.
Once, the thought of flinging the truth tauntingly in Melanie’s face and seeing the collapse ofher fool’s paradise had been an intoxicating one, a gesture worth everything she might lose thereby. But now, all that had changed overnight and there was nothing she desired less. Why thisshould be she did not know. There was too great a tumult of conflicting ideas in her mind for her tosort them out. She only knew that as she had once desired to keep her mother thinking her modest,kind, pure of heart, so she now passionately desired to keep Melanie’s high opinion. She onlyknew that she did not care what the world thought of her or what Ashley or Rhett thought of her,but Melanie must not think her other than she had always thought her.
She dreaded to tell Melanie the truth but one of her rare honest instincts arose, an instinct thatwould not let her masquerade in false colors before the woman who had fought her battles for her.
So she had hurried to Melanie that morning, as soon as Rhett and Bonnie had left the house.
But at her first tumbled-out words: “Melly, I must explain about the other day—” Melanie hadimperiously stopped her. Scarlett looking shamefaced into the dark eyes that were flashing withlove and anger, knew with a sinking heart that the peace and calm following confession couldnever be hers. Melanie had forever cut off that line of action by her first words. With one of thefew adult emotions Scarlett had ever had, she realized that to unburden her own tortured heartwould be the purest selfishness. She would be ridding herself of her burden and laying it on theheart of an innocent and trusting person. She owed Melanie a debt for her championship and thatdebt could only be paid with silence. What cruel payment it would be to wreck Melanie’s life withthe unwelcome knowledge that her husband was unfaithful to her, and her beloved friend a party toit!
“I can’t tell her,” she thought miserably. “Never, not even if my conscience kills me.” Sheremembered irrelevantly Rhett’s drunken remark: “She can’t conceive of dishonor in anyone sheloves … let that be your cross.”
Yes, it would be her cross, until she died, to keep this torment silent within her, to wear the hairshirt of shame, to feel it chafing her at every tender look and gesture Melanie would makethroughout the years, to subdue forever the impulse to cry: “Don’t be so kind! Don’t fight for me!
I’m not worth it!”
“If you only weren’t such a fool, such a sweet, trusting, simple-minded fool, it wouldn’t be sohard,” she thought desperately. “I’ve toted lots of weary loads but this is going to be the heaviestand most galling load I’ve ever toted.”
Melanie sat facing her, in a low chair, her feet firmly planted on an ottoman so high that herknees stuck up like a child’s, a posture she would never now assumed had not rage possessed herto the point of forgetting proprieties. She held a line of tatting in her hands and she was driving theshining needle back and forth as furiously as though handling a rapier in a duel.
Had Scarlett been possessed of such an anger, she would have been stamping both feet androaring like Gerald in his finest days, calling on God to witness the accursed duplicity andknavishness of mankind and uttering blood-curdling threats of retaliation. But only by the flashingneedle and the delicate brows drawn down toward her nose did Melanie indicate that she wasinwardly seething. Her voice was cool and her words were more close clipped than usual. But theforceful words she uttered were foreign to Melanie who seldom voiced an opinion at all and neveran unkind word. Scarlett realized suddenly that the Wilkeses and the Hamiltons were capable offuries equal to and surpassing those of the O’Haras.
“I’ve gotten mighty tired of hearing people criticize you, darling,” Melanie said, “and this is thelast straw and I’m going to do something about it. All this has happened because people are jealousof you, because you are so smart and successful. You’ve succeeded where lots of men, even, havefailed. Now, don’t be vexed with me, dear, for saying that. I don’t mean you’ve ever beenunwomanly or un-sexed yourself, as lots of folks have said. Because you haven’t. People just don’tunderstand you and people can’t bear for women to be smart. But your smartness and your successdon’t give people the right to say that you and Ashley— Stars above!”
The soft vehemence of this last ejaculation would have been, upon a man’s lips, profanity of nouncertain meaning. Scarlett stared at her, alarmed by so unprecedented an outburst.
“And for them to come to me with the filthy lies they’d concocted—Archie, India, Mrs. Elsing!
How did they dare? Of course, Mrs. Elsing didn’t come here. No, indeed, she didn’t have thecou cheap ghd straighteners £50 rage. But she’s always hated you, darling, because you were more popular than Fanny. And shewas so incensed at your demoting Hugh from the management of the mill. But you were quite rightin demoting him. He’s just a piddling, do-less, good-for-nothing!” Swiftly Melanie dismissed theplaymate of her childhood and the beau of her teen years. “I blame myself about Archie. Ishouldn’t have given the old scoundrel shelter. Everyone told me so but I wouldn’t listen. Hedidn’t like you, dear, because of the convicts, but who is he to criticize you? A murderer, and themurderer of a woman, too! And after all I’ve done for him, he comes to me and tells me— Ishouldn’t have been a bit sorry if Ashley had shot him. Well, I packed him off with a large flea inhis ear, I can tell you! And he’s left town.
“And as for India, the vile thing! Darling, I couldn’t help noticing from the first time I saw youtwo together that she was jealous of heap ghd hair straighteners uk you and hated you, because you were so much prettier and hadso many beaux. And she hated you especially about Stuart Tarleton. And she’s brooded aboutStuart so much that—well, I hate to say it about Ashley’s sister but I think her mind has brokenwith thinking so much! There’s no other explanation for her action. … I told her never to put foot inthis house again and that if I heard her breathe so vile an insinuation I would—I would call her aliar in public!”
Melanie stopped speaking and abruptly the anger left her face and sorrow swamped it. Melaniehad all that passionate clan loyalty peculiar to Georgians and the thought of a family quarrel toreher heart. She faltered for a moment. But Scarlett was dearest, Scarlett came first in her heart, andshe went on loyally:
“She’s always been jealous because I loved you best, dear. She’ll never come in this house againand I’ll never put foot under any roof that receives her. Ashley agrees with me, but it’s just aboutbroken his heart that his own sister should tell such cheap ghds a—”
At the mention of Ashley’s name, Scarlett’s overwrought nerves gave way and she burst intotears. Would she never stop stabbing him to the heart? Her only thought had been to make himhappy and safe but at every turn she seemed to hurt him. She had wrecked his life, broken his prideand self-respect, shattered that inner peace, that calm based on integrity. And now she hadalienated hi ghd straighteners m from the sister he loved so dearly. To save her own reputation and his wife’shappiness, India had to be sacrificed, forced into the light of a lying, half-crazed, jealous old maid—India who was absolutely justified in every suspicion she had ever harbored and every accusing word she had uttered. Whenever Ashley looked into India’s eyes, he would see the truth shiningthere, truth and reproach and the cold contempt of which the Wilkeses were masters.
Knowing how Ashley valued honor above his life, Scarlett knew he must be writhing. He, likeScarlett, was forced to shelter behind Melanie’s skirts. While Scarlett realized the necessity for thisand knew that the blame for his false position lay mostly at her own door, still—still— Womanlikeshe would have respected Ashley mor cheap ghd wide plate straighteners e, had he shot Archie and admitted everything to Melanieand the world. She knew she was being unfair but she was too miserable to care for such finepoints. Some of Rhett’s taunting words of contempt came back to her and she wondered if indeedAshley had played the manly part in this mess. And, for the first time, some of the bright glowwhich had enveloped him since the first day she fell in love with him began to fade imperceptibly.
The tarnish of shame and guilt that enveloped her spread to him as well. Resolutely she tried tofight off this thought but it only made her cry harder.
“Don’t! Don’t!” cried Melanie, dropping her tatting and flinging herself onto the sofa anddrawing Scarlett’s head down onto her shoulder. ghd outlet “I shouldn’t have talked about it all and distressedyou so. I know how dreadfully you must feel and we’ll never mention it again. No, not to eachother or to anybody. It’ll be as though it never happened. But,” she added with quiet venom, “I’mgoing to show India and Mrs. Elsing what’s what. They needn’t think they can spread lies aboutmy husband and my sister-in-law. I’m going to fix it so neither of them can hold up their heads inAtlanta. And anybody who believes them or receives them is my enemy.”
Scarlett, looking sorrowfully down the long vista of years to come, knew that she was the causeof a feud that would split the town and the family for generations.
Melanie cheap ghd straighteners was as good as her word. She never again mentioned the subject to Scarlett or toAshley. Nor, for that matter, would she discuss it with anyone. She maintained an air of coolindifference that could speedily change to icy formality if anyone even dared hint about the matter.
During the weeks that followed her surprise party, while Rhett was mysteriously absent and thetown in a frenzied state of gossip, excitement and partisanship, she gave no quarter to Scarlett’sdetractors, whether they were her old friends or her blood kin. She did not speak, she acted.
She stuck by Scarlett’s side like a cocklebur. She made Scarlett go to the store and the lumberyard, as usual, every morning and she went with her. She insisted that Scarlett go driving in theafternoons, little though Scarlett wished to expose herself to the eager carious gaze of her fellowtownspeople. And Melanie sat in the carriage beside her. Melanie took her calling with her onformal afternoons, gently forcing her into parlors in which Scarlett had not sat for more than twoyears. And Melanie, with a fierce “love-me-love-my-dog” look on her face, made converse withastounded hostesses.
She made Scarlett arrive early on these afternoons and remain until the last callers had gone,thereby depriving the ladies of the opportunity for enjoyable group discussion and speculation, amatter which caused some mild indignation. These calls w cheap ghd flat iron ere an especial torment to Scarlett butshe dared not refuse to go with Melanie. She hated to sit amid crowds of women who were secretlywondering if she had been actually taken in adultery. She hated the knowledge that these womenwould not have spoken to her, had it not been that they loved Melanie and did not want to lose her friendship. But Scarlett knew that, having once received her, they could not cut her thereafter.
It was characteristic of the regard in which Scarlett was held that few people based their defenseor their criticism of her on her personal integrity. “I wouldn’t put much beyond her,” was theuniversal attitude. Scarlett had made too many enemies to have many champions now. Her wordsand her actions rankled in too many hearts for many people to care whether this scandal hurt her ornot. But everyone cared violently about hurting Melanie or India and the storm revolved aroundthem, rather than Scarlett, centering upon the one question—“Did India lie?”
Those who espoused Melanie’s side pointed triumphantly to the cheap ghd air fact that Melanie was constantlywith Scarlett these days. Would a woman of Melanie’s high principles champion the cause of aguilty woman, especially a woman guilty with her own husband? No, indeed! India was just acracked old maid who hated Scarlett and lied about her and induced Archie and Mrs. Elsing to believeher lies.
But, questioned India’s adherents, if Scarlett isn’t guilty, where is Captain Butler? Why cheap ghd straighteners next day delivery isn’t hehere at his wife’s side, lending her the strength of his countenance? That was an unanswerablequestion and, as the weeks went by and the rumor spread that Scarlett was pregnant, the pro-Indiagroup nodded with satisfaction. It couldn’t be Captain Butler’s baby, they said. For too long thefact of their estrangement had been public property. For too long the town had been scandalized bythe separate bedrooms.
So the gossip ran, tearing the town apart, tearing apart, too, the close-knit clan of Hamiltons,Wilkeses, Burrs, Whitemans and Winfields. Everyone in the family connection was forced to takesides. There was no neutral ground. Melanie with cool dignity and India with acid bitterness saw tothat. But no matter which side the relatives took, they all were resentful that Scarlett should havebeen the cause of the famil y breach. None of them thought her worth it. And no matter which sidethey took, the relatives heartily deplored the fact that India had taken it upon herself to wash thefamily dirty linen so publicly and involve Ashley in so degrading a scandal. But now that she hadspoken, many rushed to her defense and took her side against Scarlett, even as others, loving Melanie,stood by her and Scarlett.
Half of Atlanta was kin to or claimed kin with Melanie and India. The ramifications of cousins,double cousins, cousins-in-law and kissing cousins were so intricate and involved that no one but aborn Georgian could ever unravel them. They had always been a clannish tribe, presenting anunbroken phalanx of overlapping shields to the world in time of stress, no matter what their privateopinions of the conduct of individual kinsmen might b cheap ghd hair straighteners under £50 from usa sale e. With the exception of the guerrillawarfare carried on by Aunt Pitty against Uncle Henry, which had been a matter for hilariouslaughter within the family for years, there had never been an open breach in the pleasant relations.
They were gentle, quiet spoken, reserved people and not given to even the amiable bickering thatcharacterized most Atlanta families.
But now they were split in twain and the town was privileged to witness cousins of the fifth andsixth degree taking sides in the most shattering scandal Atlanta had ever seen. This worked greathardship and strained the tact and forbearance of the unrelated half of the town, for the India-Melanie feud made a rupture in practically every social organization. The Thalians, the SewingCircle for the Widows and Orphans of the Confederacy, the Association for the Beautif cheap ghd hair straighteners ication of the Graves of Our Glorious Dead, the Saturday Night Musical Circle, the Ladies Evening CotillionSociety, the Young Men’s Library were all involved. So were four churches with their Ladies’ Aidand Missionary societies. Great care had to be taken to avoid putting members of warring factionson the same committees.
On their regular afternoons at home, Atlanta matrons were in anguish from four to six o’clockfor fear Melanie and Scarlett would call at the same time India and her loyal kin were in theirparlors.
Of all the family, poor Aunt Pitty suffered the most. Pitty, who desired nothing except to livecomfortably amid the love of her relatives, would have been very pleased, in this matter, to runwith the hares and hunt with the hounds. But neither the hares nor the hounds would permit this.
India lived with Aunt Pitty and, if Pitty sided with Melanie, as she wished to do, India wouldleave. And if India left her, what would poor Pitty do then? She could not live alone. She wouldhave to get a stranger to live with her or she would have to close up her house and go and live withScarlett Aunt Pitty felt vaguely that Captain Butler would not care for this. Or she would have togo and live with Melanie and sleep in the little cubbyhole that was Beau’s nursery.
Pitty was not overly fond of India, for India intimidated her with her dry, stiff-necked ways andher passionate convictions. But she made it possible for Pitty to keep her own comfortableestablishment and Pitty was always swayed more by considerations of personal comfort than bymoral issues. And so India remained.

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