Weekly classic film-related e-books from Meredy.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

Weekly Meredy.com E-book - Gone with the Wind - Part Four

Read Part Three of Gone with the Wind.

Read Part Four of Gone with the Wind below.


The  march  afternoon  was  windy and cold, and Scarlett pulled the lap robe high under her arms as she drove out the Decatur road toward Johnnie
Gallegher's  mill.  Driving  alone was hazardous these days and she knew it, more hazardous than ever before, for now the negroes were completely
out  of  hand.  As Ashley had prophesied, there had been hell to pay since the legislature refused to ratify the amendment. The stout refusal had
been like a slap in the face of the furious North and retaliation had come swiftly. The North was determined to force the negro vote on the state
and,  to  this  end, Georgia had been declared in rebellion and put under the strictest martial law. Georgia's very existence as a state had been
wiped out and it had become, with Florida and Alabama, "Military District Number Three," under the command of a Federal general.

If  life  had  been  insecure  and frightening before this, it was doubly so now. The military regulations which had seemed so stringent the year
before  were  now mild by comparison with the ones issued by General Pope. Confronted with the prospect of negro rule, the future seemed dark and
hopeless,  and  the embittered state smarted and writhed helplessly. As for the negroes, their new importance went to their heads, and, realizing
that they had the Yankee Army behind them, their outrages increased. No one was safe from them.

In  this  wild  and  fearful  time,  Scarlett was frightened--frightened but determined, and she still made her rounds alone, with Frank's pistol
tucked in the upholstery of the buggy. She silently cursed the legislature for bringing this worse disaster upon them all. What good had it done,
this fine brave stand, this gesture which everyone called gallant? It had just made matters so much worse.

As  she  drew  near  the  path that led down through the bare trees into the creek bottom where the Shantytown settlement was, she clucked to the
horse  to  quicken his speed. She always felt uneasy driving past this dirty, sordid cluster of discarded army tents and slave cabins. It had the
worst  reputation  of  any spot in or near Atlanta, for here lived in filth outcast negroes, black prostitutes and a scattering of poor whites of
the  lowest  order.  It  was rumored to be the refuge of negro and white criminals and was the first place the Yankee soldiers searched when they
wanted a man. Shootings and cuttings went on here with such regularity that the authorities seldom troubled to investigate and generally left the
Shantytowners  to  settle  their  own  dark affairs. Back in the woods there was a still that manufactured a cheap quality of corn whisky and, by
night, the cabins in the creek bottoms resounded with drunken yells and curses.

Even the Yankees admitted that it was a plague spot and should be wiped out, but they took no steps in this direction. Indignation was loud among
the  inhabitants  of  Atlanta  and  Decatur  who  were forced to use the road for travel between the two towns. Men went by Shantytown with their
pistols  loosened  in  their  holsters  and  nice women never willingly passed it, even under the protection of their men, for usually there were
drunken negro slatterns sitting along the road, hurling insults and shouting coarse words.

As  long as she had Archie beside her, Scarlett had not given Shantytown a thought, because not even the most impudent negro woman dared laugh in
her presence. But since she had been forced to drive alone, there had been any number of annoying, maddening incidents. The negro sluts seemed to
try  themselves  whenever  she drove by. There was nothing she could do except ignore them and boil with rage. She could not even take comfort in
airing  her  troubles  to  her neighbors or family because the neighbors would say triumphantly: "Well, what else did you expect?" And her family
would take on dreadfully again and try to stop her. And she had no intention of stopping her trips.

Thank  Heaven,  there  were  no  ragged  women  along  the roadside today! As she passed the trail leading down to the settlement she looked with
distaste  at  the  group  of  shacks squatting in the hollow in the dreary slant of the afternoon sun. There was a chill wind blowing, and as she
passed  there  came  to  her  nose  the  mingled smells of wood smoke, frying pork and untended privies. Averting her nose, she flapped the reins
smartly across the horse's back and hurried him past and around the bend of the road.

Just  as  she  was  beginning to draw a breath of relief, her heart rose in her throat with sudden fright, for a huge negro slipped silently from
behind  a  large  oak  tree.  She  was frightened but not enough to lose her wits and, in an instant, the horse was pulled up and she had Frank's
pistol in her hand.

"What  do you want?" she cried with all the sternness she could muster. The big negro ducked back behind the oak, and the voice that answered was

"Lawd, Miss Scarlett, doan shoot Big Sam!"

Big  Sam!  For  a  moment  she could not take in his words. Big Sam, the foreman of Tara whom she had seen last in the days of the siege. What on
earth . . .

"Come out of there and let me see if you are really Sam!"

Reluctantly  he slid out of his hiding place, a giant ragged figure, bare-footed, clad in denim breeches and a blue Union uniform jacket that was
far  too  short  and  tight for his big frame. When she saw it was really Big Sam, she shoved the pistol down into the upholstery and smiled with

"Oh, Sam! How nice to see you!"

Sam  galloped  over to the buggy, his eyes rolling with joy and his white teeth flashing, and clutched her outstretched hand with two black hands
as big as hams. His watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a

"Mah  Lawd, it sho is good ter see some of de fambly agin!" he cried, scrunching her hand until she felt that the bones would crack. "Hucoome you
got so mean lak, totin' a gun, Miss Scarlett?"

"So  many  mean  folks  these days, Sam, that I have to tote it. What on earth are you doing in a nasty place like Shantytown, you, a respectable
darky? And why haven't you been into town to see me?"

"Law'm, Miss Scarlett, ah doan lib in Shantytown. Ah jes' bidin' hyah fer a spell. Ah wouldn' lib in dat place for nuthin'. Ah nebber in mah life
seed  sech trashy niggers. An' Ah din' know you wuz in 'Lanta. Ah thought you wuz at Tara. Ah wuz aimin' ter come home ter Tara soon as Ah got de

"Have you been living in Atlanta ever since the siege?"

"No, Ma'm! Ah been trabelin'!" He released her hand and she painfully flexed it to see if the bones were intact. "'Member w'en you seed me las'?"

Scarlett  remembered  the hot day before the siege began when she and Rhett had sat in the carriage and the gang of negroes with Big Sam at their
head had marched down the dusty street toward the entrenchments singing "Go Down, Moses." She nodded.

"Wel, Ah wuked lak a dawg diggin' bresswuks an' fillin' San' bags, tell de Confedruts lef' 'Lanta. De cap'n gempmum whut had me in charge, he wuz
kilt  an'  dar warn't nobody ter tell Big Sam whut ter do, so Ah jes' lay low in de bushes. Ah thought Ah'd try ter git home ter Tara, but den Ah
hear  dat all de country roun' Tara done buhnt up. 'Sides, Ah din' hab no way ter git back an' Ah wuz sceered de patterollers pick me up, kase Ah
din'  hab  no  pass. Den de Yankees come in an' a Yankee gempmum, he wuz a cunnel, he tek a shine ter me an' he keep me te ten' ter his hawse an'
his boots.

"Yas,  Ma'm! Ah sho did feel bigitty, bein' a body serbant lak Poke, w'en Ah ain' nuthin' but a fe'el han'. Ah ain' tell de Cunnel Ah wuz a fe'el
han'  an'  he--  Well,  Miss Scarlett, Yankees is iggerunt folks! He din' know de diffunce! So Ah stayed wid him an' Ah went ter Sabannah wid him
w'en  Gin'ul Sherman went dar, an' fo' Gawd, Miss Scarlett, Ah nebber seed sech awful goin'-ons as Ah seed on de way ter Sabannah! A-stealin' an'
a-buhnin'--did dey buhn Tara, Miss Scarlett?"

"They set fire to it, but we put it out."

"Well'm,  Ah  sho glad ter hear dat. Tara mah home an' Ah is aimin' ter go back dar. An' w'en de wah ober, de Cunnel he say ter me: 'You Sam! You
come on back Nawth wid me. Ah pay you good wages.' Well'm, lak all de niggers, Ah wuz honin' ter try disyere freedom fo' Ah went home, so Ah goes
Nawth  wid de Cunnel. Yas'm, us went ter Washington an' Noo Yawk an' den ter Bawston whar de Cunnel lib. Yas, Ma'am, Ah's a trabeled nigger! Miss
Scarlett,  dar's  mo'  hawses and cah'iges on dem Yankee streets dan you kin shake a stick at! Ah wuz sceered all de time Ah wuz gwine git runned

"Did you like it up North, Sam?"

Sam scratched his woolly head.

"Ah  did--an' Ah din't. De Cunnel, he a mighty fine man an' he unnerstan' niggers. But his wife, she sumpin' else. His wife, she call me 'Mister'
fust  time  she seed me. Yas'm, she do dat an' Ah lak ter drap in mah tracks w'en she do it. De Cunnel, he tell her ter call me 'Sam' an' den she
do  it. But all dem Yankee folks, fust time dey meet me, dey call me 'Mist' O'Hara.' An' dey ast me ter set down wid dem, lak Ah wuz jes' as good
as  dey  wuz.  Well,  Ah  ain'  nebber  set  down  wid w'ite folks an' Ah is too ole ter learn. Dey treat me lak Ah jes' as good as dey wuz, Miss
Scarlett,  but in dere hearts, dey din' lak me--dey din' lak no niggers. An' dey wuz sceered of me, kase Ah's so big. An' dey wuz allus astin' me
'bout  de  blood houn's dat chase me an' de beatin's Ah got. An', Lawd, Miss Scarlett, Ah ain' nebber got no beatin's! You know Mist' Gerald ain'
gwine let nobody beat a 'spensive nigger lak me!

"W'en  Ah  tell dem dat an' tell dem how good Miss Ellen ter de niggers, an' how she set up a whole week wid me w'en Ah had de pneumony, dey doan
b'lieve  me. An', Miss Scarlett, Ah got ter honin' fer Miss Ellen an' Tara, tell it look lak Ah kain stan' it no longer, an' one night Ah lit out
fer home, an' Ah rid de freight cabs all de way down ter 'Lanta. Ef you buy me a ticket ter Tara, Ah sho be glad ter git home. Ah sho be glad ter
see  Miss  Ellen and Mist' Gerald agin. An done had nuff freedom. Ah wants somebody ter feed me good vittles reg'lar, and tell me whut ter do an'
whut  not  ter  do,  an' look affer me w'en Ah gits sick. S'pose Ah gits de pneumony agin? Is dat Yankee lady gwine tek keer of me? No, Ma'm! She
gwine call me 'Mist' O'Hara' but she ain' gwine nuss me. But Miss Ellen, she gwine nuss me, do Ah git sick an'--whut's de mattuh, Miss Scarlett?"

"Pa and Mother are both dead, Sam."

"Daid? Is you funnin' wid me, Miss Scarlett? Dat ain' no way ter treat me!"

"I'm  not  funning. It's true. Mother died when Sherman men came through Tara and Pa--he went last June. Oh, Sam, don't cry. Please don't! If you
do,  I'll  cry  too.  Sam,  don't!  I  just can't stand it. Let's don't talk about it now. I'll tell you all about it some other time. . . . Miss
Suellen  is  at  Tara  and she's married to a mighty fine man, Mr. Will Benteen. And Miss Carreen, she's in a--" Scarlett paused. She could never
make plain to the weeping giant what a convent was. "She's living in Charleston now. But Pork and Prissy are at Tara. . . . There, Sam, wipe your
nose. Do you really want to go home?"

"Yas'm but it ain' gwine be lak Ah thought wid Miss Ellen an'--"

"Sam, how'd you like to stay here in Atlanta and work for me? I need a driver and I need one bad with so many mean folks around these days."

"Yas'm. You sho do. Ah been aimin' ter say you ain' got no bizness drivin' 'round by yo'seff, Miss Scarlett. You ain' got no notion how mean some
niggers  is dese days, specially dem whut live hyah in Shantytown. It ain' safe fer you. Ah ain' been in Shantytown but two days, but Ah hear dem
talk  'bout  you.  An' yesterday w'en you druv by an' dem trashy black wenches holler at you, Ah recernize you but you went by so fas' Ah couldn'
ketch you. But Ah sho tan de hides of dem niggers! Ah sho did. Ain' you notice dar ain' none of dem roun' hyah terday?"

"I did notice and I certainly thank you, Sam. Well, how would you like to be my carriage man?"

"Miss Scarlett, thankee, Ma'm, but Ah specs Ah better go ter Tara."

Big Sam looked down and his bare toe traced aimless marks in the road. There was a furtive uneasiness about him.

"Now, why? I'll pay you good wages. You must stay with me."

The  big black face, stupid and as easily read as a child's, looked up at her and there was fear in it. He came closer and, leaning over the side
of the buggy, whispered:

"Miss Scarlett, Ah got ter git outer 'Lanta. Ah got ter git ter Tara whar dey woan fine me. Ah--Ah done kilt a man."

"A darky?"

"No'm. A w'ite man. A Yankee sojer and dey's lookin' fer me. Dat de reason Ah'm hyah at Shantytown."

"How did it happen?"

"He  wuz  drunk an' he said sumpin' Ah couldn' tek noways an' Ah got mah han's on his neck--an' Ah din' mean ter kill him, Miss Scarlett, but mah
han's is pow'ful strong, an' fo' Ah knowed it, he wuz kilt. An' Ah wuz so sceered Ah din' know whut ter do! So Ah come out hyah ter hide an' w'en
Ah  seed  you  go by yestiddy, Ah says 'Bress Gawd! Dar Miss Scarlett! She tek keer of me. She ain' gwine let de Yankees git me. She sen' me back
ter Tara."

"You say they're after you? They know you did it?"

"Yas'm,  Ah's so big dar ain' no mistakin' me. Ah spec Ah's de bigges' nigger in 'Lanta. Dey done been out hyah already affer me las' night but a
nigger gal, she hid me in a cabe ober in de woods, tell dey wuz gone."

Scarlett  sat  frowning for a moment. She was not in the least alarmed or distressed that Sam had committed murder, but she was disappointed that
she could not have him as a driver. A big negro like Sam would be as good a bodyguard as Archie. Well, she must get him safe to Tara somehow, for
of  course the authorities must not get him. He was too valuable a darky to be hanged. Why, he was the best foreman Tara had ever had! It did not
enter  Scarlett's  mind that he was free. He still belonged to her, like Pork and Mammy and Peter and Cookie and Prissy. He was still "one of our
family" and, as such, must be protected.

"I'll  send you to Tara tonight," she said finally. "Now Sam, I've got to drive out the road a piece, but I ought to be back here before sundown.
You be waiting here for me when I come back. Don't tell anyone where you are going and if you've got a hat, bring it along to hide your face."

"Ah ain' got no hat."

"Well, here's a quarter. You buy a hat from one of those shanty darkies and meet me here."

"Yas'm." His face glowed with relief at once more having someone to tell him what to do.

Scarlett  drove  on  thoughtfully.  Will  would certainly welcome a good field hand at Tara. Pork had never been any good in the fields and never
would be any good. With Sam on the place, Pork could come to Atlanta and join Dilcey as she had promised him when Gerald died.

When  she  reached  the  mill the sun was setting and it was later than she cared to be out. Johnnie Gallegher was standing in the doorway of the
miserable  shack  that  served as cook room for the little lumber camp. Sitting on a log in front of the slab-sided shack that was their sleeping
quarters  were  four  of  the  five  convicts  Scarlett had apportioned to Johnnie's mill. Their convict uniforms were dirty and foul with sweat,
shackles  clanked  between  their  ankles  when  they  moved  tiredly,  and  there was an air of apathy and despair about them. They were a thin,
unwholesome  lot,  Scarlett thought, peering sharply at them, and when she had leased them, so short a time before, they were an upstanding crew.
They  did  not  even raise their eyes as she dismounted from the buggy but Johnnie turned toward her, carelessly dragging off his hat. His little
brown face was as hard as a nut as he greeted her.

"I don't like the look of the men," she said abruptly. "They don't look well. Where's the other one?"

"Says he's sick," said Johnnie laconically. "He's in the bunk house."

"What ails him?"

"Laziness, mostly."

"I'll go see him."

"Don't do that. He's probably nekkid. I'll tend to him. He'll be back at work tomorrow."

Scarlett  hesitated  and  saw  one  of  the convicts raise a weary head and give Johnnie a stare of intense hatred before he looked at the ground

"Have you been whipping these men?"

"Now,  Mrs. Kennedy, begging your pardon, who's running this mill? You put me in charge and told me to run it. You said I'd have a free hand. You
ain't got no complaints to make of me, have you? Ain't I making twice as much for you as Mr. Elsing did?"

"Yes, you are," said Scarlett, but a shiver went over her, like a goose walking across her grave.

There  was  something  sinister  about  this  camp  with  its ugly shacks, something which had not been here when Hugh Elsing had it. There was a
loneliness,  an  isolation,  about  it  that  chilled her. These convicts were so far away from everything, so completely at the mercy of Johnnie
Gallegher,  and  if  he  chose  to  whip them or otherwise mistreat them, she would probably never know about it. The convicts would be afraid to
complain to her for fear of worse punishment after she was gone.

"The men look thin. Are you giving them enough to eat? God knows, I spend enough money on their food to make them fat as hogs. The flour and pork
alone cost thirty dollars last month. What are you giving them for supper?"

She  stepped  over to the cook shack and looked in. A fat mulatto woman, who was leaning over a rusty old stove, dropped a half curtsy as she saw
Scarlett  and went on stirring a pot in which black-eyed peas were cooking. Scarlett knew Johnnie Gallegher lived with her but thought it best to
ignore the fact. She saw that except for the peas and a pan of corn pone there was no other food being prepared.

"Haven't you got anything else for these men?"


"Haven't you got any side meat in these peas?"


"No boiling bacon in the peas? But black-eyed peas are no good without bacon. There's no strength to them. Why isn't there any bacon?"

"Mist' Johnnie, he say dar ain' no use puttin' in no side meat."

"You'll put bacon in. Where do you keep your supplies?"

The negro woman rolled frightened eyes toward the small closet that served as a pantry and Scarlett threw the door open. There was an open barrel
of cornmeal on the floor, a small sack of flour, a pound of coffee, a little sugar, a gallon jug of sorghum and two hams. One of the hams sitting
on the shelf had been recently cooked and only one or two slices had been cut from it. Scarlett turned in a fury on Johnnie Gallegher and met his
coldly angry gaze.

"Where are the five sacks of white flour I sent out last week? And the sugar sack and the coffee? And I had five hams sent and ten pounds of side
meat  and  God knows how many bushels of yams and Irish potatoes. Well, where are they? You can't have used them all in a week if you fed the men
five  meals a day. You've sold them! That's what you've done, you thief! Sold my good supplies and put the money in your pocket and fed these men
on dried peas and corn pone. No wonder they look so thin. Get out of the way."

She stormed past him to the doorway.

"You, man, there on the end--yes, you! Come here!"

The  man  rose  and walked awkwardly toward her, his shackles clanking, and she saw that his bare ankles were red and raw from the chafing of the

"When did you last have ham?"

The man looked down at the ground.

"Speak up."

Still the man stood silent and abject. Finally he raised his eyes, looked Scarlett in the face imploringly and dropped his gaze again.

"Scared  to talk, eh? Well, go in the pantry and get that ham off the shelf. Rebecca, give him your knife. Take it out to those men and divide it
up. Rebecca, make some biscuits and coffee for the men. And serve plenty of sorghum. Start now, so I can see you do it."

"Dat's Mist' Johnnie's privut flour an' coffee," Rebecca muttered frightenedly.

"Mr. Johnnie's, my foot! I suppose it's his private ham too. You do what I say. Get busy. Johnnie Gallegher, come out to the buggy with me."

She  stalked  across  the  littered  yard  and  climbed  into the buggy, noticing with grim satisfaction that the men were tearing at the ham and
cramming bits into their mouths voraciously. They looked as if they feared it would be taken from them at any minute.

"You  are  a  rare  scoundrel!" she cried furiously to Johnnie as he stood at the wheel, his hat pushed back from his lowering brow. "And you can
just hand over to me the price of my supplies. In the future, I'll bring you provisions every day instead of ordering them by the month. Then you
can't cheat me."

"In the future I won't be here," said Johnnie Gallegher.

"You mean you are quitting!"

For  a  moment  it was on Scarlett's hot tongue to cry: "Go and good riddance!" but the cool hand of caution stopped her. If Johnnie should quit,
what  would she do? He had been doubling the amount of lumber Hugh turned out. And just now she had a big order, the biggest she had ever had and
a rush order at that. She had to get that lumber into Atlanta. If Johnnie quit, whom would she get to take over the mill?

"Yes,  I'm  quitting.  You  put me in complete charge here and you told me that all you expected of me was as much lumber as I could possibly get
out. You didn't tell me how to run my business then and I'm not aiming to have you start now. How I get the lumber out is no affair of yours. You
can't complain that I've fallen down on my bargain. I've made money for you and I've earned my salary--and what I could pick up on the side, too.
And here you come out here, interfering, asking questions and breaking my authority in front of the men. How can you expect me to keep discipline
after  this?  What  if the men do get an occasional lick? The lazy scum deserve worse. What if they ain't fed up and pampered? They don't deserve
nothing better. Either you tend to your business and let me tend to mine or I quit tonight."

His  hard little face looked flintier than ever and Scarlett was in a quandary. If he quit tonight, what would she do? She couldn't stay here all
night guarding the convicts!

Something  of  her dilemma showed in her eyes for Johnnie's expression changed subtly and some of the hardness went out of his face. There was an
easy agreeable note in his voice when he spoke.

"It's  getting  late, Mrs. Kennedy, and you'd better be getting on home. We ain't going to fall out over a little thing like this, are we? S'pose
you take ten dollars out of my next month's wages and let's call it square."

Scarlett's eyes went unwillingly to the miserable group gnawing on the ham and she thought of the sick man lying in the windy shack. She ought to
get  rid  of  Johnnie Gallegher. He was a thief and a brutal man. There was no telling what he did to the convicts when she wasn't there. But, on
the  other  hand,  he  was smart and, God knows, she needed a smart man. Well, she couldn't part with him now. He was making money for her. She'd
just have to see to it that the convicts got their proper rations in the future.

"I'll take twenty dollars out of your wages," she said shortly, "and I'll be back and discuss the matter further in the morning."

She  picked  up  the reins. But she knew there would be no further discussion. She knew that the matter had ended there and she knew Johnnie knew

As  she drove off down the path to the Decatur road her conscience battled with her desire for money. She knew she had no business exposing human
lives  to  the  hard  little man's mercies. If he should cause the death of one of them she would be as guilty as he was, for she had kept him in
charge  after  learning  of his brutalities. But, on the other hand--well, on the other hand, men had no business getting to be convicts. If they
broke laws and got caught, then they deserved what they got. This partly salved her conscience but as she drove down the road the dull thin faces
of the convicts would keep coming back into her mind.

"Oh, I'll think of them later," she decided, and pushed the thought into the lumber room of her mind and shut the door upon it.

The  sun  had completely gone when she reached the bend in the road above Shantytown and the woods about her were dark. With the disappearance of
the  sun,  a bitter chill had fallen on the twilight world and a cold wind blew through the dark woods, making the bare boughs crack and the dead
leaves rustle. She had never been out this late by herself and she was uneasy and wished herself home.

Big  Sam  was  nowhere  to  be  seen and, as she drew rein to wait for him, she worried about his absence, fearing the Yankees might have already
picked  him up. Then she heard footsteps coming up the path from the settlement and a sigh of relief went through her lips. She'd certainly dress
Sam down for keeping her waiting.

But it wasn't Sam who came round the bend.

It  was a big ragged white man and a squat black negro with shoulders and chest like a gorilla. Swiftly she flapped the reins on the horse's back
and clutched the pistol. The horse started to trot and suddenly shied as the white man threw up his hand.

"Lady," he said, "can you give me a quarter? I'm sure hungry."

"Get out of the way," she answered, keeping her voice as steady as she could. "I haven't got any money. Giddap."

With a sudden swift movement the man's hand was on the horse's bridle.

"Grab her!" he shouted to the negro. "She's probably got her money in her bosom!"

What happened next was like a nightmare to Scarlett, and it all happened so quickly. She brought up her pistol swiftly and some instinct told her
not  to  fire  at the white man for fear of shooting the horse. As the negro came running to the buggy, his black face twisted in a leering grin,
she  fired  point-blank  at him. Whether or not she hit him, she never knew, but the next minute the pistol was wrenched from her hand by a grasp
that  almost broke her wrist. The negro was beside her, so close that she could smell the rank odor of him as he tried to drag her over the buggy
side.  With  her one free hand she fought madly, clawing at his face, and then she felt his big hand at her throat and, with a ripping noise, her
basque  was  torn  open from neck to waist. Then the black hand fumbled between her breasts, and terror and revulsion such as she had never known
came over her and she screamed like an insane woman.

"Shut  her  up!  Drag  her  out!" cried the white man, and the black hand fumbled across Scarlett's face to her mouth. She bit as savagely as she
could  and then screamed again, and through her screaming she heard the white man swear and realized that there was a third man in the dark road.
The black hand dropped from her mouth and the negro leaped away as Big Sam charged at him.

"Run,  Miss  Scarlett!"  yelled  Sam, grappling with the negro; and Scarlett, shaking and screaming, clutched up the reins and whip and laid them
both over the horse. It went off at a jump and she felt the wheels pass over something soft, something resistant. It was the white man who lay in
the road where Sam had knocked him down.

Maddened  by  terror,  she  lashed  the  horse again and again and it struck a gait that made the buggy rock and sway. Through her terror she was
conscious  of  the  sound  of  feet running behind her and she screamed at the horse to go faster. If that black ape got her again, she would die
before he even got his hands upon her.

A voice yelled behind her: "Miss Scarlett! Stop!"

Without  slacking, she looked trembling over her shoulder and saw Big Sam racing down the road behind her, his long legs working like hard-driven
pistons.  She  drew rein as he came up and he flung himself into the buggy, his big body crowding her to one side. Sweat and blood were streaming
down his face as he panted:

"Is you hu't? Did dey hu't you?"

She  could  not  speak, but seeing the direction of his eyes and their quick averting, she realized that her basque was open to the waist and her
bare  bosom  and corset cover were showing. With a shaking hand she clutched the two edges together and bowing her head began to cry in terrified

"Gimme dem lines," said Sam, snatching the reins from her. "Hawse, mek tracks!"

The whip cracked and the startled horse went off at a wild gallop that threatened to throw the buggy into the ditch.

"Ah  hope  Ah  done kill dat black baboon. But Ah din' wait ter fine out," he panted. "But ef he hahmed you, Miss Scarlett, Ah'll go back an' mek
sho of it."

"No--no--drive on quickly," she sobbed.


That  night  when  Frank deposited her and Aunt Pitty and the children at Melanie's and rode off down the street with Ashley, Scarlett could have
burst  with  rage  and  hurt. How could he go off to a political meeting on this of all nights in the world? A political meeting! And on the same
night when she had been attacked, when anything might have happened to her! It was unfeeling and selfish of him. But then, he had taken the whole
affair  with  maddening  calm,  ever since Sam had carried her sobbing into the house, her basque gaping to the waist. He hadn't clawed his beard
even once when she cried out her story. He had just questioned gently: "Sugar, are you hurt--or just scared?"

Wrath mingling with her tears she had been unable to answer and Sam had volunteered that she was just scared.

"Ah got dar fo' dey done mo'n t'ar her dress."

"You're a good boy, Sam, and I won't forget what you've done. If there's anything I can do for you--"

"Yassah, you kin sen' me ter Tara, quick as you kin. De Yankees is affer me."

Frank  had  listened  to  this statement calmly too, and had asked no questions. He had looked very much as he did the night Tony came beating on
their door, as though this was an exclusively masculine affair and one to be handled with a minimum of words and emotions.

"You  go  get in the buggy. I'll have Peter drive you as far as Rough and Ready tonight and you can hide in the woods till morning and then catch
the  train  to  Jonesboro.  It'll be safer. . . . Now, Sugar, stop crying. It's all over now and you aren't really hurt. Miss Pitty, could I have
your smelling salts? And Mammy, fetch Miss Scarlett a glass of wine."

Scarlett  had  burst  into  renewed tears, this time tears of rage. She wanted comforting, indignation, threats of vengeance. She would even have
preferred  him  storming  at  her,  saying  that  this was just what he had warned her would happen--anything rather than have him take it all so
casually  and  treat  her  danger as a matter of small moment. He was nice and gentle, of course, but in an absent way as if he had something far
more important on his mind.

And that important thing had turned out to be a small political meeting!

She  could hardly believe her ears when he told her to change her dress and get ready for him to escort her over to Melanie's for the evening. He
must  know  how  harrowing  her  experience had been, must know she did not want to spend an evening at Melanie's when her tired body and jangled
nerves cried out for the warm relaxation of bed and blankets--with a hot brick to make her toes tingle and a hot toddy to soothe her fears. If he
really  loved  her,  nothing  could have forced him from her side on this of all nights. He would have stayed home and held her hand and told her
over  and  over that he would have died if anything had happened to her. And when he came home tonight and she had him alone, she would certainly
tell him so.

Melanie's  small  parlor looked as serene as it usually did on nights when Frank and Ashley were away and the women gathered together to sew. The
room  was  warm  and cheerful in the firelight. The lamp on the table shed a quiet yellow glow on the four smooth heads bent to their needlework.
Four skirts billowed modestly, eight small feet were daintily placed on low hassocks. The quiet breathing of Wade, Ella and Beau came through the
open  door  of  the  nursery.  Archie  sat  on a stool by the hearth, his back against the fireplace, his cheek distended with tobacco, whittling
industriously on a bit of wood. The contrast between the dirty, hairy old man and the four neat, fastidious ladies was as great as though he were
a grizzled, vicious old watchdog and they four small kittens.

Melanie's soft voice, tinged with indignation, went on and on as she told of the recent outburst of temperament on the part of the Lady Harpists.
Unable  to  agree  with  the  Gentlemen's Glee Club as to the program for their next recital, the ladies had waited on Melanie that afternoon and
announced  their  intention  of withdrawing completely from the Musical Circle. It had taken all of Melanie's diplomacy to persuade them to defer
their decision.

Scarlett,  overwrought,  could have screamed: "Oh, damn the Lady Harpists!" She wanted to talk about her dreadful experience. She was bursting to
relate  it  in  detail,  so  she  could  ease her own fright by frightening the others. She wanted to tell how brave she had been, just to assure
herself  by  the  sound  of her own words that she had, indeed, been brave. But every time she brought up the subject, Melanie deftly steered the
conversation into other and innocuous channels. This irritated Scarlett almost beyond endurance. They were as mean as Frank.

How  could  they  be so calm and placid when she had just escaped so terrible a fate? They weren't even displaying common courtesy in denying her
the relief of talking about it.

The  events  of  the  afternoon had shaken her more than she cared to admit, even to herself. Every time she thought of that malignant black face
peering  at  her  from  the  shadows of the twilight forest road, she fell to trembling. When she thought of the black hand at her bosom and what
would  have  happened  if  Big Sam had not appeared, she bent her head lower and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. The longer she sat silent in the
peaceful room, trying to sew, listening to Melanie's voice, the tighter her nerves stretched. She felt that at any moment she would actually hear
them break with the same pinging sound a banjo string makes when it snaps.

Archie's  whittling  annoyed her and she frowned at him. Suddenly it seemed odd that he should be sitting there occupying himself with a piece of
wood.  Usually  he  lay  flat on the sofa, during the evenings when he was on guard, and slept and snored so violently that his long beard leaped
into  the  air  with  each  rumbling breath. It was odder still that neither Melanie nor India hinted to him that he should spread a paper on the
floor to catch his litter of shavings. He had already made a perfect mess on the hearth rug but they did not seem to have noticed it.

While  she  watched  him, Archie turned suddenly toward the fire and spat a stream of tobacco juice on it with such vehemence that India, Melanie
and Pitty leaped as though a bomb had exploded.

"NEED  you  expectorate  so loudly?" cried India in a voice that cracked with nervous annoyance. Scarlett looked at her in surprise for India was
always so self-contained.

Archie gave her look for look.

"I reckon I do," he answered coldly and spat again. Melanie gave a little frowning glance at India.

"I  was  always  so  glad  dear Papa didn't chew," began Pitty, and Melanie, her frown creasing deeper, swung on her and spoke sharper words than
Scarlett had ever heard her speak.

"Oh, do hush, Auntie! You're so tactless."

"Oh,  dear!"  Pitty  dropped  her sewing in her lap and her mouth pressed up in hurt. "I declare, I don't know what ails you all tonight. You and
India are just as jumpy and cross as two old sticks."

No one answered her. Melanie did not even apologize for her crossness but went back to her sewing with small violence.

"You're  taking stitches an inch long," declared Pitty with some satisfaction. "You'll have to take every one of them out. What's the matter with

But Melanie still did not answer.

Was  there  anything  the  matter  with  them,  Scarlett wondered? Had she been too absorbed with her own fears to notice? Yes, despite Melanie's
attempts  to  make  the  evening appear like any one of fifty they had all spent together, there was a difference due to their alarm and shock at
what  had happened that afternoon. Scarlett stole glances at her companions and intercepted a look from India. It discomforted her because it was
a long, measuring glance that carried in its cold depths something stronger than hate, something more insulting than contempt.

"As though she thought I was to blame for what happened," Scarlett thought indignantly.

India  turned from her to Archie and, all annoyance at him gone from her face, gave him a look of veiled anxious inquiry. But he did not meet her
eyes. He did however look at Scarlett, staring at her in the same cold hard way India had done.

Silence  fell dully in the room as Melanie did not take up the conversation again and, in the silence, Scarlett heard the rising wind outside. It
suddenly  began  to be a most unpleasant evening. Now she began to feel the tension in the air and she wondered if it had been present all during
the evening--and she too upset to notice it. About Archie's face there was an alert waiting look and his tufted, hairy old ears seemed pricked up
like a lynx's. There was a severely repressed uneasiness about Melanie and India that made them raise their heads from their sewing at each sound
of hooves in the road, at each groan of bare branches under the wailing wind, at each scuffing sound of dry leaves tumbling across the lawn. They
started at each soft snap of burning logs on the hearth as if they were stealthy footsteps.

Something  was  wrong  and  Scarlett  wondered  what  it  was.  Something was afoot and she did not know about it. A glance at Aunt Pitty's plump
guileless  face,  screwed  up in a pout, told her that the old lady was as ignorant as she. But Archie and Melanie and India knew. In the silence
she  could  almost  feel  the  thoughts  of  India  and  Melanie  whirling as madly as squirrels in a cage. They knew something, were waiting for
something,  despite their efforts to make things appear as usual. And their inner unease communicated itself to Scarlett, making her more nervous
than  before. Handling her needle awkwardly, she jabbed it into her thumb and with a little scream of pain and annoyance that made them all jump,
she squeezed it until a bright red drop appeared.

"I'm  just  too nervous to sew," she declared, throwing her mending to the floor. "I'm nervous enough to scream. I want to go home and go to bed.
And  Frank knew it and he oughtn't to have gone out. He talks, talks, talks about protecting women against darkies and Carpetbaggers and when the
time  comes  for him to do some protecting, where is he? At home, taking care of me? No, indeed, he's gallivanting around with a lot of other men
who don't do anything but talk and--"

Her  snapping  eyes  came to rest on India's face and she paused. India was breathing fast and her pale lashless eyes were fastened on Scarlett's
face with a deadly coldness.

"If  it  won't  pain  you  too much, India," she broke off sarcastically, "I'd be much obliged if you'd tell me why you've been staring at me all
evening. Has my face turned green or something?"

"It  won't  pain  me  to tell you. I'll do it with pleasure," said India and her eyes glittered. "I hate to see you underrate a fine man like Mr.
Kennedy when, if you knew--"

"India!" said Melanie warningly, her hands clenching on her sewing.

"I  think  I  know  my husband better than you do," said Scarlett, the prospect of a quarrel, the first open quarrel she had ever had with India,
making her spirits rise and her nervousness depart. Melanie's eyes caught India's and reluctantly India closed her lips. But almost instantly she
spoke again and her voice was cold with hate.

"You  make  me  sick,  Scarlett  O'Hara, talking about being protected! You don't care about being protected! If you did you'd never have exposed
yourself  as  you  have done all these months, prissing yourself about this town, showing yourself off to strange men, hoping they'll admire you!
What happened to you this afternoon was just what you deserved and if there was any justice you'd have gotten worse."

"Oh, India, hush!" cried Melanie.

"Let  her  talk,"  cried  Scarlett.  "I'm enjoying it. I always knew she hated me and she was too much of a hypocrite to admit it. If she thought
anyone would admire her, she'd be walking the streets naked from dawn till dark."

India was on her feet, her lean body quivering with insult.

"I  do  hate  you,"  she  said  in  a  clear  but  trembling  voice. "But it hasn't been hypocrisy that's kept me quiet. It's something you can't
understand,  not  possessing  any--any  common  courtesy,  common  good  breeding. It's the realization that if all of us don't hang together and
submerge  our  own  small  hates,  we  can't  expect to beat the Yankees. But you--you--you've done all you could to lower the prestige of decent
people--working  and  bringing shame on a good husband, giving Yankees and riffraff the right to laugh at us and make insulting remarks about our
lack  of  gentility.  Yankees don't know that you aren't one of us and have never been. Yankees haven't sense enough to know that you haven't any
gentility.  And  when  you've  ridden  about  the woods exposing yourself to attack, you've exposed every well-behaved woman in town to attack by
putting temptation in the ways of darkies and mean white trash. And you've put our men folks' lives in danger because they've got to--"

"My  God,  India!"  cried  Melanie  and even in her wrath, Scarlett was stunned to hear Melanie take the Lord's name in vain. "You must hush! She
doesn't know and she--you must hush! You promised--"

"Oh, girls!" pleaded Miss Pittypat, her lips trembling.

"What don't I know?" Scarlett was on her feet, furious, facing the coldly blazing India and the imploring Melanie.

"Guinea hens," said Archie suddenly and his voice was contemptuous. Before anyone could rebuke him, his grizzled head went up sharply and he rose
swiftly. "Somebody comin' up the walk. 'Tain't Mr. Wilkes neither. Cease your cackle."

There was male authority in his voice and the women stood suddenly silent, anger fading swiftly from their faces as he stumped across the room to
the door.

"Who's thar?" he questioned before the caller even knocked.

"Captain Butler. Let me in."

Melanie was across the floor so swiftly that her hoops swayed up violently, revealing her pantalets to the knees, and before Archie could put his
hand  on  the knob she flung the door open. Rhett Butler stood in the doorway, his black slouch hat low over his eyes, the wild wind whipping his
cape about him in snapping folds. For once his good manners had deserted him. He neither took off his hat nor spoke to the others in the room. He
had eyes for no one but Melanie and he spoke abruptly without greeting.

"Where have they gone? Tell me quickly. It's life or death."

Scarlett  and  Pitty,  startled  and  bewildered,  looked at each other in wonderment and, like a lean old cat, India streaked across the room to
Melanie's side.

"Don't tell him anything," she cried swiftly. "He's a spy, a Scallawag!"

Rhett did not even favor her with a glance.

"Quickly, Mrs. Wilkes! There may still be time."

Melanie seemed in a paralysis of terror and only stared into his face.

"What on earth--" began Scarlett.

"Shet yore mouth," directed Archie briefly. "You too, Miss Melly. Git the hell out of here, you damned Scallawag."

"No,  Archie, no!" cried Melanie and she put a shaking hand on Rhett's arm as though to protect him from Archie. "What has happened? How did--how
did you know?"

On Rhett's dark face impatience fought with courtesy.

"Good  God,  Mrs. Wilkes, they've all been under suspicion since the beginning--only they've been too clever--until tonight! How do I know? I was
playing  poker tonight with two drunken Yankee captains and they let it out. The Yankees knew there'd be trouble tonight and they've prepared for
it. The fools have walked into a trap."

For a moment it was as though Melanie swayed under the impact of a heavy blow and Rhett's arm went around her waist to steady her.

"Don't tell him! He's trying to trap you!" cried India, glaring at Rhett. "Didn't you hear him say he'd been with Yankee officers tonight?"

Still Rhett did not look at her. His eyes were bent insistently on Melanie's white face.

"Tell me. Where did they go? Have they a meeting place?"

Despite  her fear and incomprehension, Scarlett thought she had never seen a blanker, more expressionless face than Rhett's but evidently Melanie
saw something else, something that made her give her trust. She straightened her small body away from the steadying arm and said quietly but with
a voice that shook:

"Out the Decatur road near Shantytown. They meet in the cellar of the old Sullivan plantation--the one that's half-burned."

"Thank you. I'll ride fast. When the Yankees come here, none of you know anything."

He  was  gone  so  swiftly,  his  black cape melting into the night, that they could hardly realize he had been there at all until they heard the
spattering of gravel and the mad pounding of a horse going off at full gallop.

"The Yankees coming here?" cried Pitty and, her small feet turning under her, she collapsed on the sofa, too frightened for tears.

"What's  it  all  about?  What  did he mean? If you don't tell me I'll go crazy!" Scarlett laid hands on Melanie and shook her violently as if by
force she could shake an answer from her.

"Mean? It means you've probably been the cause of Ashley's and Mr. Kennedy's death!" In spite of the agony of fear there was a note of triumph in
India's voice. "Stop shaking Melly. She's going to faint."

"No, I'm not," whispered Melanie, clutching the back of a chair.

"My God, my God! I don't understand! Kill Ashley? Please, somebody tell me--"

Archie's voice, like a rusty hinge, cut through Scarlett's words.

"Set  down," he ordered briefly. "Pick up yore sewin'. Sew like nothin' had happened. For all we know, the Yankees might have been spyin' on this
house since sundown. Set down, I say, and sew."

Trembling  they  obeyed,  even Pitty picking up a sock and holding it in shaking fingers while her eyes, wide as a frightened child's went around
the circle for an explanation.

"Where is Ashley? What has happened to him, Melly?" cried Scarlett.

"Where's your husband? Aren't you interested in him?" India's pale eyes blazed with insane malice as she crumpled and straightened the torn towel
she had been mending.

"India,  please!"  Melanie  had  mastered  her voice but her white, shaken face and tortured eyes showed the strain under which she was laboring.
"Scarlett,  perhaps  we should have told you but--but--you had been through so much this afternoon that we--that Frank didn't think--and you were
always so outspoken against the Klan--"

"The Klan--"

At first, Scarlett spoke the word as if she had never heard it before and had no comprehension of its meaning and then:

"The Klan!" she almost screamed it. "Ashley isn't in the Klan! Frank can't be! Oh, he promised me!"

"Of  course,  Mr.  Kennedy  is  in the Klan and Ashley, too, and all the men we know," cried India. "They are men, aren't they? And white men and
Southerners. You should have been proud of him instead of making him sneak out as though it were something shameful and--"

"You all have known all along and I didn't--"

"We were afraid it would upset you," said Melanie sorrowfully.

"Then  that's  where  they  go  when they're supposed to be at the political meetings? Oh, he promised me! Now, the Yankees will come and take my
mills and the store and put him in jail--oh, what did Rhett Butler mean?"

India's eyes met Melanie's in wild fear. Scarlett rose, flinging her sewing down.

"If you don't tell me, I'm going downtown and find out. I'll ask everybody I see until I find--"

"Set,"  said  Archie, fixing her with his eye. "I'll tell you. Because you went gallivantin' this afternoon and got yoreself into trouble through
yore  own fault, Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Kennedy and the other men are out tonight to kill that thar nigger and that thar white man, if they can catch
them,  and  wipe out that whole Shantytown settlement. And if what that Scallawag said is true, the Yankees suspected sumpin' or got wind somehow
and  they've sont out troops to lay for them. And our men have walked into a trap. And if what Butler said warn't true, then he's a spy and he is
goin'  to  turn them up to the Yankees and they'll git kilt just the same. And if he does turn them up, then I'll kill him, if it's the last deed
of  m'  life.  And  if they ain't kilt, then they'll all have to light out of here for Texas and lay low and maybe never come back. It's all yore
fault and thar's blood on yore hands."

Anger wiped out the fear from Melanie's face as she saw comprehension come slowly across Scarlett's face and then horror follow swiftly. She rose
and put her hand on Scarlett's shoulder.

"Another  such  word and you go out of this house, Archie," she said sternly. "It's not her fault. She only did--did what she felt she had to do.
And  our  men  did  what  they felt they had to do. People must do what they must do. We don't all think alike or act alike and it's wrong to--to
judge others by ourselves. How can you and India say such cruel things when her husband as well as mine may be--may be--"

"Hark!" interrupted Archie softly. "Set, Ma'm. Thar's horses."

Melanie  sank  into  a  chair,  picked  up one of Ashley's shirts and, bowing her head over it, unconsciously began to tear the frills into small

The  sound  of  hooves  grew  louder as horses trotted up to the house. There was the jangling of bits and the strain of leather and the sound of
voices.  As the hooves stopped in front of the house, one voice rose above the others in a command and the listeners heard feet going through the
side  yard  toward  the  back porch. They felt that a thousand inimical eyes looked at them through the unshaded front window and the four women,
with  fear  in  their hearts, bent their heads and plied their needles. Scarlett's heart screamed in her breast: "I've killed Ashley! I've killed
him!"  And in that wild moment she did not even think that she might have killed Frank too. She had no room in her mind for any picture save that
of Ashley, lying at the feet of Yankee cavalrymen, his fair hair dappled with blood.

As the harsh rapid knocking sounded at the door, she looked at Melanie and saw come over the small, strained face a new expression, an expression
as blank as she had just seen on Rhett Butler's face, the bland blank look of a poker player bluffing a game with only two deuces.

"Archie, open the door," she said quietly.

Slipping  his knife into his boot top and loosening the pistol in his trouser band, Archie stumped over to the door and flung it open. Pitty gave
a  little squeak, like a mouse who feels the trap snap down, as she saw massed in the doorway, a Yankee captain and a squad of bluecoats. But the
others  said  nothing.  Scarlett  saw  with the faintest feeling of relief that she knew this officer. He was Captain Tom Jaffery, one of Rhett's
friends.  She  had sold him lumber to build his house. She knew him to be a gentleman. Perhaps, as he was a gentleman, he wouldn't drag them away
to prison. He recognized her instantly and, taking off his hat, bowed, somewhat embarrassed.

"Good evening, Mrs. Kennedy. And which of you ladies is Mrs. Wilkes?"

"I am Mrs. Wilkes," answered Melanie, rising and for all her smallness, dignity flowed from her. "And to what do I owe this intrusion?"

The  eyes of the captain flickered quickly about the room, resting for an instant on each face, passing quickly from their faces to the table and
the hat rack as though looking for signs of male occupancy.

"I should like to speak to Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Kennedy, if you please."

"They are not here," said Melanie, a chill in her soft voice.

"Are you sure?"

"Don't you question Miz Wilkes' word," said Archie, his beard bristling.

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Wilkes. I meant no disrespect. If you give me your word, I will not search the house."

"You have my word. But search if you like. They are at a meeting downtown at Mr. Kennedy's store."

"They are not at the store. There was no meeting tonight," answered the captain grimly. "We will wait outside until they return."

He  bowed  briefly and went out, closing the door behind him. Those in the house heard a sharp order, muffled by the wind: "Surround the house. A
man  at  each  window  and  door." There was a tramping of feet. Scarlett checked a start of terror as she dimly saw bearded faces peering in the
windows  at  them. Melanie sat down and with a hand that did not tremble reached for a book on the table. It was a ragged copy of Les Miserables,
that  book  which  caught  the  fancy  of the Confederate soldiers. They had read it by camp-fire light and took some grim pleasure in calling it
"Lee's Miserables." She opened it at the middle and began to read in a clear monotonous voice.

"Sew," commanded Archie in a hoarse whisper and the three women, nerved by Melanie's cool voice, picked up their sewing and bowed their heads.

How  long  Melanie  read beneath that circle of watching eyes, Scarlett never knew but it seemed hours. She did not even hear a word that Melanie
read.  Now  she was beginning to think of Frank as well as Ashley. So this was the explanation of his apparent calm this evening! He had promised
her  he  would  have nothing to do with the Klan. Oh, this was just the kind of trouble she had feared would come upon them! All the work of this
last  year  would  go  for  nothing.  All  her  struggles  and fears and labors in rain and cold had been wasted. And who would have thought that
spiritless  old  Frank  would  get himself mixed up in the hot-headed doings of the Klan? Even at this minute, he might be dead. And if he wasn't
dead and the Yankees caught him, he'd be hanged. And Ashley, too!

Her  nails  dug  into  her  palms until four bright-red crescents showed. How could Melanie read on and on so calmly when Ashley was in danger of
being hanged? When he might be dead? But something in the cool soft voice reading the sorrows of Jean Valjean steadied her, kept her from leaping
to her feet and screaming.

Her  mind fled back to the night Tony Fontaine had come to them, hunted, exhausted, without money. If he had not reached their house and received
money  and  a  fresh  horse,  he  would  have  been hanged long since. If Frank and Ashley were not dead at this very minute, they were in Tony's
position,  only  worse.  With  the  house  surrounded  by  soldiers they couldn't come home and get money and clothes without being captured. And
probably  every  house  up and down the street had a similar guard of Yankees, so they could not apply to friends for aid. Even now they might be
riding wildly through the night, bound for Texas.

But  Rhett--perhaps  Rhett had reached them in time. Rhett always had plenty of cash in his pocket. Perhaps he would lend them enough to see them
through.  But that was queer. Why should Rhett bother himself about Ashley's safety? Certainly he disliked him, certainly he professed a contempt
for him. Then why-- But this riddle was swallowed up in a renewed fear for the safety of Ashley and Frank.

"Oh,  it's  all  my  fault!"  she wailed to herself. "India and Archie spoke the truth. It's all my fault. But I never thought either of them was
foolish  enough  to  join  the  Klan! And I never thought anything would really happen to me! But I couldn't have done otherwise. Melly spoke the
truth.  People  have  to  do  what they have to do. And I had to keep the mills going! I had to have money! And now I'll probably lose it all and
somehow it's all my fault!"

After  a  long  time  Melanie's  voice faltered, trailed off and was silent. She turned her head toward the window and stared as though no Yankee
soldier stared back from behind the glass. The others raised their heads, caught by her listening pose, and they too listened.

There was a sound of horses' feet and of singing, deadened by the closed windows and doors, borne away by the wind but still recognizable. It was
the most hated and hateful of all songs, the song about Sherman's men "Marching through Georgia" and Rhett Butler was singing it.

Hardly  had  he finished the first lines when two other voices, drunken voices, assailed him, enraged foolish voices that stumbled over words and
blurred  them  together.  There  was  a  quick command from Captain Jaffery on the front porch and the rapid tramp of feet. But even before these
sounds arose, the ladies looked at one another stunned. For the drunken voices expostulating with Rhett were those of Ashley and Hugh Elsing.

Voices  rose louder on the front walk, Captain Jaffery's curt and questioning, Hugh's shrill with foolish laughter, Rhett's deep and reckless and
Ashley's queer, unreal, shouting: "What the hell! What the hell!"

"That can't be Ashley!" thought Scarlett wildly. "He never gets drunk! And Rhett--why, when Rhett's drunk he gets quieter and quieter--never loud
like that!"

Melanie  rose  and,  with her, Archie rose. They heard the captain's sharp voice: "These two men are under arrest." And Archie's hand closed over
his pistol butt.

"No,"  whispered  Melanie  firmly.  "No. Leave it to me." There was in her face the same look Scarlett had seen that day at Tara when Melanie had
stood  at the top of the steps looking down at the dead Yankee, her weak wrist weighed down by the heavy saber--a gentle and timid soul nerved by
circumstances to the caution and fury of a tigress. She threw the front door open.

"Bring him in, Captain Butler," she called in a clear tone that bit with venom. "I suppose you've gotten him intoxicated again. Bring him in."

From the dark windy walk, the Yankee captain spoke: "I'm sorry, Mrs. Wilkes, but your husband and Mr. Elsing are under arrest."

"Arrest?  For what? For drunkenness? If everyone in Atlanta was arrested for drunkenness, the whole Yankee garrison would be in jail continually.
Well, bring him in, Captain Butler--that is, if you can walk yourself."

Scarlett's  mind  was  not  working  quickly  and for a brief moment nothing made sense. She knew neither Rhett nor Ashley was drunk and she knew
Melanie  knew  they were not drunk. Yet here was Melanie, usually so gentle and refined, screaming like a shrew and in front of Yankees too, that
both of them were too drunk to walk.

There  was a short mumbled argument, punctuated with curses, and uncertain feet ascended the stairs. In the doorway appeared Ashley, white faced,
his head lolling, his bright hair tousled, his long body wrapped from neck to knees in Rhett's black cape. Hugh Elsing and Rhett, none too steady
on  their  feet, supported him on either side and it was obvious he would have fallen to the floor but for their aid. Behind them came the Yankee
captain,  his face a study of mingled suspicion and amusement. He stood in the open doorway with his men peering curiously over his shoulders and
the cold wind swept the house.

Scarlett, frightened, puzzled, glanced at Melanie and back to the sagging Ashley and then half-comprehension came to her. She started to cry out:
"But he can't be drunk!" and bit back the words. She realized she was witnessing a play, a desperate play on which lives hinged. She knew she was
not  part  of  it  nor  was  Aunt  Pitty but the others were and they were tossing cues to one another like actors in an oft-rehearsed drama. She
understood only half but she understood enough to keep silent.

"Put him in the chair," cried Melanie indignantly. "And you, Captain Butler, leave this house immediately! How dare you show your face here after
getting him in this condition again!"

The  two men eased Ashley into a rocker and Rhett, swaying, caught hold of the back of the chair to steady himself and addressed the captain with
pain in his voice.

"That's fine thanks I get, isn't it? For keeping the police from getting him and bringing him home and him yelling and trying to claw me!"

"And  you,  Hugh Elsing, I'm ashamed of you! What will your poor mother say? Drunk and out with a--a Yankee-loving Scallawag like Captain Butler!
And, oh, Mr. Wilkes, how could you do such a thing?"

"Melly, I ain't so very drunk," mumbled Ashley, and with the words fell forward and lay face down on the table, his head buried in his arms.

"Archie,  take  him  to his room and put him to bed--as usual," ordered Melanie. "Aunt Pitty, please run and fix the bed and oo-oh," she suddenly
burst into tears. "Oh, how could he? After he promised!"

Archie already had his arm under Ashley's shoulder and Pitty, frightened and uncertain, was on her feet when the captain interposed.

"Don't touch him. He's under arrest. Sergeant!"

As  the  sergeant stepped into the room, his rifle at trail, Rhett, evidently trying to steady himself, put a hand on the captain's arm and, with
difficulty, focused his eyes.

"Tom, what you arresting him for? He ain't so very drunk. I've seen him drunker."

"Drunk  be  damned,"  cried  the  captain.  "He  can  lie  in the gutter for all I care. I'm no policeman. He and Mr. Elsing are under arrest for
complicity in a Klan raid at Shantytown tonight. A nigger and a white man were killed. Mr. Wilkes was the ringleader in it."

"Tonight?"  Rhett began to laugh. He laughed so hard that he sat down on the sofa and put his head in his hands. "Not tonight, Tom," he said when
he could speak. "These two have been with me tonight--ever since eight o'clock when they were supposed to be at the meeting."

"With  you,  Rhett?  But--" A frown came over the captain's forehead and he looked uncertainly at the snoring Ashley and his weeping wife. "But--
where were you?"

"I don't like to say," and Rhett shot a look of drunken cunning at Melanie.

"You'd better say!"

"Le's go out on the porch and I'll tell you where we were."

"You'll tell me now."

"Hate to say it in front of ladies. If you ladies'll step out of the room--"

"I won't go," cried Melanie, dabbing angrily at her eyes with her handkerchief. "I have a right to know. Where was my husband?"

"At  Belle Watling's sporting house," said Rhett, looking abashed. "He was there and Hugh and Frank Kennedy and Dr. Meade and--and a whole lot of
them. Had a party. Big party. Champagne. Girls--"

"At--at Belle Watling's?"

Melanie's  voice  rose until it cracked with such pain that all eyes turned frightenedly to her. Her hand went clutching at her bosom and, before
Archie  could catch her, she had fainted. Then a hubbub ensued, Archie picking her up, India running to the kitchen for water, Pitty and Scarlett
fanning her and slapping her wrists, while Hugh Elsing shouted over and over: "Now you've done it! Now you've done it!"

"Now  it'll  be  all over town," said Rhett savagely. "I hope you're satisfied, Tom. There won't be a wife in Atlanta who'll speak to her husband

"Rhett, I had no idea--" Though the chill wind was blowing through the open door on his back, the captain was perspiring. "Look here! You take an
oath they were at--er--at Belle's?"

"Hell,  yes,"  growled  Rhett.  "Go ask Belle herself if you don't believe me. Now, let me carry Mrs. Wilkes to her room. Give her to me, Archie.
Yes, I can carry her. Miss Pitty, go ahead with a lamp."

He took Melanie's limp body from Archie's arms with ease.

"You get Mr. Wilkes to bed, Archie. I don't want to ever lay eyes or hands on him again after this night."

Pitty's hand trembled so that the lamp was a menace to the safety of the house but she held it and trotted ahead toward the dark bedroom. Archie,
with a grunt, got an arm under Ashley and raised him.

"But--I've got to arrest these men!"

Rhett turned in the dim hallway.

"Arrest  them  in the morning then. They can't run away in this condition--and I never knew before that it was illegal to get drunk in a sporting
house. Good God, Tom, there are fifty witnesses to prove they were at Belle's."

"There  are always fifty witnesses to prove a Southerner was somewhere he wasn't," said the captain morosely. "You come with me, Mr. Elsing. I'll
parole Mr. Wilkes on the word of--"

"I  am  Mr.  Wilkes' sister. I will answer for his appearance," said India coldly. "Now, will you please go? You've caused enough trouble for one

"I  regret  it exceedingly." The captain bowed awkwardly. "I only hope they can prove their presence at the--er--Miss--Mrs. Watling's house. Will
you tell your brother that he must appear before the provost marshal tomorrow morning for questioning?"

India  bowed coldly and, putting her hand upon the door knob, intimated silently that his speedy retirement would be welcome. The captain and the
sergeant  backed  out,  Hugh  Elsing  with them, and she slammed the door behind them. Without even looking at Scarlett, she went swiftly to each
window and drew down the shade. Scarlett, her knees shaking, caught hold of the chair in which Ashley had been sitting to steady herself. Looking
down  at it, she saw that there was a dark moist spot, larger than her hand, on the cushion in the back of the chair. Puzzled, her hand went over
it and, to her horror, a sticky red wetness appeared on her palm.

"India," she whispered, "India, Ashley's--he's hurt."

"You fool! Did you think he was really drunk?"

India  snapped  down  the last shade and started on flying feet for the bedroom, with Scarlett close behind her, her heart in her throat. Rhett's
big  body  barred  the  doorway but, past his shoulder, Scarlett saw Ashley lying white and still on the bed. Melanie, strangely quick for one so
recently in a faint, was rapidly cutting off his blood-soaked shirt with embroidery scissors. Archie held the lamp low over the bed to give light
and one of his gnarled fingers was on Ashley's wrist.

"Is he dead?" cried both girls together.

"No, just fainted from loss of blood. It's through his shoulder," said Rhett.

"Why did you bring him here, you fool?" cried India. "Let me get to him! Let me pass! Why did you bring him here to be arrested?"

"He  was too weak to travel. There was nowhere else to bring him, Miss Wilkes. Besides--do you want him to be an exile like Tony Fontaine? Do you
want a dozen of your neighbors to live in Texas under assumed names for the rest of their lives? There's a chance that we may get them all off if

"Let me pass!"

"No,  Miss  Wilkes.  There's  work  for  you.  You must go for a doctor--Not Dr. Meade. He's implicated in this and is probably explaining to the
Yankees at this very minute. Get some other doctor. Are you afraid to go out alone at night?"

"No,"  said India, her pale eyes glittering. "I'm not afraid." She caught up Melanie's hooded cape which was hanging on a hook in the hall. "I'll
go  for  old Dr. Dean." The excitement went out of her voice as, with an effort, she forced calmness. "I'm sorry I called you a spy and a fool. I
did not understand. I'm deeply grateful for what you've done for Ashley--but I despise you just the same."

"I  appreciate  frankness--and I thank you for it." Rhett bowed and his lip curled down in an amused smile. "Now, go quickly and by back ways and
when you return do not come in this house if you see signs of soldiers about."

India  shot one more quick anguished look at Ashley, and, wrapping her cape about her, ran lightly down the hall to the back door and let herself
out quietly into the night.

Scarlett,  straining  her  eyes  past  Rhett,  felt  her heart beat again as she saw Ashley's eyes open. Melanie snatched a folded towel from the
washstand  rack  and  pressed  it  against his streaming shoulder and he smiled up weakly, reassuringly into her face. Scarlett felt Rhett's hard
penetrating  eyes  upon  her,  knew  that her heart was plain upon her face, but she did not care. Ashley was bleeding, perhaps dying and she who
loved  him had torn that hole through his shoulder. She wanted to run to the bed, sink down beside it and clasp him to her but her knees trembled
so  that she could not enter the room. Hand at her mouth, she stared while Melanie packed a fresh towel against his shoulder, pressing it hard as
though she could force back the blood into his body. But the towel reddened as though by magic.

How could a man bleed so much and still live? But, thank God, there was no bubble of blood at his lips--oh, those frothy red bubbles, forerunners
of  death that she knew so well from the dreadful day of the battle at Peachtree Creek when the wounded had died on Aunt Pitty's lawn with bloody

"Brace  up,"  said  Rhett,  and  there  was  a hard, faintly jeering note in his voice. "He won't die. Now, go take the lamp and hold it for Mrs.
Wilkes. I need Archie to run errands."

Archie looked across the lamp at Rhett.

"I ain't takin' no orders from you," he said briefly, shifting his wad of tobacco to the other cheek.

"You do what he says," said Melanie sternly, "and do it quickly. Do everything Captain Butler says. Scarlett, take the lamp."

Scarlett went forward and took the lamp, holding it in both hands to keep from dropping it. Ashley's eyes had closed again. His bare chest heaved
up  slowly  and sank quickly and the red stream seeped from between Melanie's small frantic fingers. Dimly she heard Archie stump across the room
to  Rhett  and  heard Rhett's low rapid words. Her mind was so fixed upon Ashley that of the first half-whispered words of Rhett, she only heard:
"Take my horse . . . tied outside . . . ride like hell."

Archie  mumbled  some question and Scarlett heard Rhett reply: "The old Sullivan plantation. You'll find the robes pushed up the biggest chimney.
Burn them."

"Um," grunted Archie.

"And  there's  two--men  in the cellar. Pack them over the horse as best you can and take them to that vacant lot behind Belle's--the one between
her  house  and  the railroad tracks. Be careful. If anyone sees you, you'll hang as well as the rest of us. Put them in that lot and put pistols
near them--in their hands. Here--take mine."

Scarlett,  looking  across  the  room, saw Rhett reach under his coat tails and produce two revolvers which Archie took and shoved into his waist

"Fire one shot from each. It's got to appear like a plain case of shooting. You understand?"

Archie nodded as if he understood perfectly and an unwilling gleam of respect shone in his cold eye. But understanding was far from Scarlett. The
last half-hour had been so nightmarish that she felt nothing would ever be plain and clear again. However, Rhett seemed in perfect command of the
bewildering situation and that was a small comfort.

Archie turned to go and then swung about and his one eye went questioningly to Rhett's face.



Archie grunted and spat on the floor.

"Hell to pay," he said as he stumped down the hall to the back door.

Something in the last low interchange of words made a new fear and suspicion rise up in Scarlett's breast like a chill ever-swelling bubble. When
that bubble broke--

"Where's Frank?" she cried.

Rhett came swiftly across the room to the bed, his big body swinging as lightly and noiselessly as a cat's.

"All in good time," he said and smiled briefly. "Steady that lamp, Scarlett. You don't want to burn Mr. Wilkes up. Miss Melly--"

Melanie  looked  up  like a good little soldier awaiting a command and so tense was the situation it did not occur to her that for the first time
Rhett was calling her familiarly by the name which only family and old friends used.

"I beg your pardon, I mean, Mrs. Wilkes. . . ."

"Oh,  Captain  Butler,  do  not  ask my pardon! I should feel honored if you called me 'Melly' without the Miss! I feel as though you were my--my
brother or--or my cousin. How kind you are and how clever! How can I ever thank you enough?"

"Thank  you,"  said  Rhett  and  for  a  moment  he looked almost embarrassed. "I should never presume so far, but Miss Melly," and his voice was
apologetic,  "I'm  sorry  I had to say that Mr. Wilkes was in Belle Watling's house. I'm sorry to have involved him and the others in such a--a--
But  I  had  to  think fast when I rode away from here and that was the only plan that occurred to me. I knew my word would be accepted because I
have  so  many  friends  among the Yankee officers. They do me the dubious honor of thinking me almost one of them because they know my--shall we
call  it  my 'unpopularity'?--among my townsmen. And you see, I was playing poker in Belle's bar earlier in the evening. There are a dozen Yankee
soldiers  who  can testify to that. And Belle and her girls will gladly lie themselves black in the face and say Mr. Wilkes and the others were--
upstairs  all  evening. And the Yankees will believe them. Yankees are queer that way. It won't occur to them that women of--their profession are
capable  of  intense loyalty or patriotism. The Yankees wouldn't take the word of a single nice Atlanta lady as to the whereabouts of the men who
were  supposed  to  be  at  the  meeting  tonight  but  they will take the word of--fancy ladies. And I think that between the word of honor of a
Scallawag and a dozen fancy ladies, we may have a chance of getting the men off."

There was a sardonic grin on his face at the last words but it faded as Melanie turned up to him a face that blazed with gratitude.

"Captain  Butler,  you are so smart! I wouldn't have cared if you'd said they were in hell itself tonight, if it saves them! For I know and every
one else who matters knows that my husband was never in a dreadful place like that!"

"Well--" began Rhett awkwardly, "as a matter of fact, he was at Belle's tonight."

Melanie drew herself up coldly.

"You can never make me believe such a lie!"

"Please,  Miss  Melly! Let me explain! When I got out to the old Sullivan place tonight, I found Mr. Wilkes wounded and with him were Hugh Elsing
and Dr. Meade and old man Merriwether--"

"Not the old gentleman!" cried Scarlett.

"Men are never too old to be fools. And your Uncle Henry--"

"Oh, mercy!" cried Aunt Pitty.

"The others had scattered after the brush with the troops and the crowd that stuck together had come to the Sullivan place to hide their robes in
the chimney and to see how badly Mr. Wilkes was hurt. But for his wound, they'd be headed for Texas by now--all of them--but he couldn't ride far
and  they  wouldn't  leave him. It was necessary to prove that they had been somewhere instead of where they had been, and so I took them by back
ways to Belle Watling's."

"Oh--I  see. I do beg your pardon for my rudeness, Captain Butler. I see now it was necessary to take them there but-- Oh, Captain Butler, people
must have seen you going in!"

"No one saw us. We went in through a private back entrance that opens on the railroad tracks. It's always dark and locked."

"Then how--?"

"I have a key," said Rhett laconically, and his eyes met Melanie's evenly.

As  the  full  impact  of  the  meaning  smote  her,  Melanie became so embarrassed that she fumbled with the bandage until it slid off the wound

"I did not mean to pry--" she said in a muffled voice, her white face reddening, as she hastily pressed the towel back into place.

"I regret having to tell a lady such a thing."

"Then it's true!" thought Scarlett with an odd pang. "Then he does live with that dreadful Watling creature! He does own her house!"

"I  saw  Belle  and explained to her. We gave her a list of the men who were out tonight and she and her girls will testify that they were all in
her  house  tonight.  Then  to  make  our  exit  more  conspicuous, she called the two desperadoes who keep order at her place and had us dragged
downstairs, fighting, and through the barroom and thrown out into the street as brawling drunks who were disturbing the place."

He  grinned  reminiscently. "Dr. Meade did not make a very convincing drunk. It hurt his dignity to even be in such a place. But your Uncle Henry
and old man Merriwether were excellent. The stage lost two great actors when they did not take up the drama. They seemed to enjoy the affair. I'm
afraid your Uncle Henry has a black eye due to Mr. Merriwether's zeal for his part. He--"

The  back  door swung open and India entered, followed by old Dr. Dean, his long white hair tumbled, his worn leather bag bulging under his cape.
He nodded briefly but without words to those present and quickly lifted the bandage from Ashley's shoulder.

"Too  high  for  the lung," he said. "If it hasn't splintered his collar bone it's not so serious. Get me plenty of towels, ladies, and cotton if
you have it, and some brandy."

Rhett took the lamp from Scarlett and set it on the table as Melanie and India sped about, obeying the doctor's orders.

"You  can't  do anything here. Come into the parlor by the fire." He took her arm and propelled her from the room. There was a gentleness foreign
to him in both hand and voice. "You've had a rotten day, haven't you?"

She  allowed herself to be led into the front room and though she stood on the hearth rug in front of the fire she began to shiver. The bubble of
suspicion  in her breast was swelling larger now. It was more than a suspicion. It was almost a certainty and a terrible certainty. She looked up
into Rhett's immobile face and for a moment she could not speak. Then:

"Was Frank at--Belle Watling's?"


Rhett's voice was blunt.

"Archie's carrying him to the vacant lot near Belle's. He's dead. Shot through the head."


Few  families  in the north end of town slept that night for the news of the disaster to the Klan, and Rhett's stratagem spread swiftly on silent
feet  as  the  shadowy  form of India Wilkes slipped through back yards, whispered urgently through kitchen doors and slipped away into the windy
darkness. And in her path, she left fear and desperate hope.

From without, houses looked black and silent and wrapped in sleep but, within, voices whispered vehemently into the dawn. Not only those involved
in  the night's raid but every member of the Klan was ready for flight and in almost every stable along Peachtree Street, horses stood saddled in
the  darkness,  pistols  in holsters and food in saddlebags. All that prevented a wholesale exodus was India's whispered message: "Captain Butler
says  not  to  run. The roads will be watched. He has arranged with that Watling creature--" In dark rooms men whispered: "But why should I trust
that  damned  Scallawag Butler? It may be a trap!" And women's voices implored: "Don't go! If he saved Ashley and Hugh, he may save everybody. If
India and Melanie trust him--" And they half trusted and stayed because there was no other course open to them.

Earlier  in  the  night,  the soldiers had knocked at a dozen doors and those who could not or would not tell where they had been that night were
marched  off under arrest. Rene Picard and one of Mrs. Merriwether's nephews and the Simmons boys and Andy Bonnell were among those who spent the
night  in  jail.  They  had  been  in  the ill-starred foray but had separated from the others after the shooting. Riding hard for home they were
arrested  before  they  learned  of  Rhett's  plan. Fortunately they all replied, to questions, that where they had been that night was their own
business  and not that of any damned Yankees. They had been locked up for further questioning in the morning. Old man Merriwether and Uncle Henry
Hamilton  declared shamelessly that they had spent the evening at Belle Watling's sporting house and when Captain Jaffery remarked irritably that
they were too old for such goings on, they wanted to fight him.

Belle  Watling  herself  answered Captain Jaffery's summons, and before he could make known his mission she shouted that the house was closed for
the  night.  A passel of quarrelsome drunks had called in the early part of the evening and had fought one another, torn the place up, broken her
finest mirrors and so alarmed the young ladies that all business had been suspended for the night. But if Captain Jaffery wanted a drink; the bar
was still open--

Captain  Jaffery,  acutely  conscious of the grins of his men and feeling helplessly that he was fighting a mist, declared angrily that he wanted
neither  the  young ladies nor a drink and demanded if Belle knew the names of her destructive customers. Oh, yes, Belle knew them. They were her
regulars.  They  came  every  Wednesday  night  and called themselves the Wednesday Democrats, though what they meant by that she neither knew or
cared.  And  if  they  didn't  pay for the damage to the mirrors in the upper hall, she was going to have the law on them. She kept a respectable
house and-- Oh, their names? Belle unhesitatingly reeled off the names of twelve under suspicion, Captain Jaffery smiled sourly.

"These  damned  Rebels  are  as efficiently organized as our Secret Service," he said. "You and your girls will have to appear before the provost
marshal tomorrow."

"Will the provost make them pay for my mirrors?"

"To hell with your mirrors! Make Rhett Butler pay for them. He owns the place, doesn't he?"

Before  dawn,  every  ex-Confederate  family  in town knew everything. And their negroes, who had been told nothing, knew everything too, by that
black  grapevine  telegraph  system  which  defies  white  understanding. Everyone knew the details of the raid, the killing of Frank Kennedy and
crippled Tommy Wellburn and how Ashley was wounded in carrying Frank's body away.

Some  of  the  feeling  of bitter hatred the women bore Scarlett for her share in the tragedy was mitigated by the knowledge that her husband was
dead  and  she  knew  it  and could not admit it and have the poor comfort of claiming his body. Until morning light disclosed the bodies and the
authorities notified her, she must know nothing. Frank and Tommy, pistols in cold hands, lay stiffening among the dead weeds in a vacant lot. And
the  Yankees  would say they killed each other in a common drunken brawl over a girl in Belle's house. Sympathy ran high for Fanny, Tommy's wife,
who  had  just had a baby, but no one could slip through the darkness to see her and comfort her because a squad of Yankees surrounded the house,
waiting for Tommy to return. And there was another squad about Aunt Pitty's house, waiting for Frank.

Before  dawn  the news had trickled about that the military inquiry would take place that day. The townspeople, heavy eyed from sleeplessness and
anxious  waiting,  knew that the safety of some of their most prominent citizens rested on three things--the ability of Ashley Wilkes to stand on
his  feet  and  appear  before  the  military  board, as though he suffered nothing more serious than a morning-after headache, the word of Belle
Watling that these men had been in her house all evening and the word of Rhett Butler that he had been with them.

The  town writhed at these last two! Belle Watling! To owe their men's lives to her! It was intolerable! Women who had ostentatiously crossed the
street  when they saw Belle coming, wondered if she remembered and trembled for fear she did. The men felt less humiliation at taking their lives
from  Belle  than  the  women  did,  for  many of them thought her a good sort. But they were stung that they must owe lives and freedom to Rhett
Butler,  a  speculator  and a Scallawag. Belle and Rhett, the town's best-known fancy woman and the town's most hated man. And they must be under
obligation to them.

Another  thought  that  stung  them to impotent wrath was the knowledge that the Yankees and Carpetbaggers would laugh. Oh, how they would laugh!
Twelve  of  the  town's most prominent citizens revealed as habitual frequenters of Belle Watling's sporting house! Two of them killed in a fight
over  a cheap little girl, others ejected from the place as too drunk to be tolerated even by Belle and some under arrest, refusing to admit they
were there when everyone knew they were there!

Atlanta  was  right  in  fearing  that  the  Yankees  would laugh. They had squirmed too long beneath Southern coldness and contempt and now they
exploded  with  hilarity.  Officers woke comrades and retailed the news. Husbands roused wives at dawn and told them as much as could be decently
told  to  women.  And the women, dressing hastily, knocked on their neighbors' doors and spread the story. The Yankee ladies were charmed with it
all  and laughed until tears ran down their faces. This was Southern chivalry and gallantry for you! Maybe those women who carried their heads so
high  and snubbed all attempts at friendliness wouldn't be so uppity, now that everyone knew where their husbands spent their time when they were
supposed to be at political meetings. Political meetings! Well, that was funny!

But even as they laughed, they expressed regret for Scarlett and her tragedy. After all, Scarlett was a lady and one of the few ladies in Atlanta
who  were  nice  to Yankees. She had already won their sympathy by the fact that she had to work because her husband couldn't or wouldn't support
her  properly. Even though her husband was a sorry one, it was dreadful that the poor thing should discover he had been untrue to her. And it was
doubly  dreadful  that  his  death should occur simultaneously with the discovery of his infidelity. After all, a poor husband was better than no
husband  at all, and the Yankee ladies decided they'd be extra nice to Scarlett. But the others, Mrs. Meade, Mrs. Merriwether, Mrs. Elsing, Tommy
Wellburn's  widow  and  most  of  all,  Mrs.  Ashley Wilkes, they'd laugh in their faces every time they saw them. That would teach them a little

Much  of  the  whispering that went on in the dark rooms on the north side of town that night was on this same subject. Atlanta ladies vehemently
told  their  husbands  that  they  did  not  care  a rap what the Yankees thought. But inwardly they felt that running an Indian gantlet would be
infinitely preferable to suffering the ordeal of Yankee grins and not being able to tell the truth about their husbands.

Dr.  Meade,  beside himself with outraged dignity at the position into which Rhett had jockeyed him and the others, told Mrs. Meade that, but for
the fact that it would implicate the others, he would rather confess and be hanged than say he had been at Belle's house.

"It is an insult to you, Mrs. Meade," he fumed.

"But everyone will know you weren't there for--for--"

"The  Yankees  won't  know.  They'll have to believe it if we save our necks. And they'll laugh. The very thought that anyone will believe it and
laugh infuriates me. And it insults you because--my dear, I have always been faithful to you."

"I know that," and in the darkness Mrs. Meade smiled and slipped a thin hand into the doctor's. "But I'd rather it were really true than have one
hair of your head in danger."

"Mrs. Meade, do you know what you are saying?" cried the doctor, aghast at the unsuspected realism of his wife.

"Yes,  I  know. I've lost Darcy and I've lost Phil and you are all I have and, rather than lose you, I'd have you take up your permanent abode at
that place."

"You are distrait! You cannot know what you are saying."

"You old fool," said Mrs. Meade tenderly and laid her head against his sleeve.

Dr. Meade fumed into silence and stroked her cheek and then exploded again. "And to be under obligation to that Butler man! Hanging would be easy
compared  to  that.  No,  not  even  if  I  owe  him my life, can I be polite to him. His insolence is monumental and his shamelessness about his
profiteering makes me boil. To owe my life to a man who never went in the army--"

"Melly said he enlisted after Atlanta fell."

"It's a lie. Miss Melly will believe any plausible scoundrel. And what I can't understand is why he is doing all this--going to all this trouble.
I hate to say it but--well, there's always been talk about him and Mrs. Kennedy. I've seen them coming in from rides together too often this last
year. He must have done it because of her."

"If it was because of Scarlett, he wouldn't have lifted his hand. He'd have been glad to see Frank Kennedy hanged. I think it's because of Melly-

"Mrs. Meade, you can't be insinuating that there's ever been anything between those two!"

"Oh,  don't  be silly! But she's always been unaccountably fond of him ever since he tried to get Ashley exchanged during the war. And I must say
this  for him, he never smiles in that nasty-nice way when he's with her. He's just as pleasant and thoughtful as can be--really a different man.
You  can  tell  by  the way he acts with Melly that he could be decent if he wanted to. Now, my idea of why he's doing all this is--" She paused.
"Doctor, you won't like my idea."

"I don't like anything about this whole affair!"

"Well,  I  think  he  did it partly for Melly's sake but mostly because he thought it would be a huge joke on us all. We've hated him so much and
showed  it so plainly and now he's got us in a fix where all of you have your choice of saying you were at that Watling woman's house and shaming
yourself  and  wives  before  the  Yankees--or  telling the truth and getting hanged. And he knows we'll all be under obligation to him and his--
mistress and that we'd almost rather be hanged than be obliged to them. Oh, I'll wager he's enjoying it."

The doctor groaned. "He did look amused when he took us upstairs in that place."

"Doctor," Mrs. Meade hesitated, "what did it look like?"

"What are you saying, Mrs. Meade?"

"Her  house.  What did it look like? Are there cut-glass chandeliers? And red plush curtains and dozens of full-length gilt mirrors? And were the
girls--were they unclothed?"

"Good  God!"  cried  the  doctor,  thunderstruck,  for  it had never occurred to him that the curiosity of a chaste woman concerning her unchaste
sisters was so devouring. "How can you ask such immodest questions? You are not yourself. I will mix you a sedative."

"I don't want a sedative. I want to know. Oh, dear, this is my only chance to know what a bad house looks like and now you are mean enough not to
tell me!"

"I  noticed  nothing.  I  assure  you  I  was too embarrassed at finding myself in such a place to take note of my surroundings," said the doctor
formally,  more  upset at this unsuspected revelation of his wife's character than he had been by all the previous events of the evening. "If you
will excuse me now, I will try to get some sleep."

"Well, go to sleep then," she answered, disappointment in her tones. Then as the doctor leaned over to remove his boots, her voice spoke from the
darkness with renewed cheerfulness. "I imagine Dolly has gotten it all out of old man Merriwether and she can tell me about it."

"Good Heavens, Mrs. Meade! Do you mean to tell me that nice women talk about such things among them--"

"Oh, go to bed," said Mrs. Meade.

It sleeted the next day, but as the wintry twilight drew on the icy particles stopped falling and a cold wind blew. Wrapped in her cloak, Melanie
went  bewilderedly down her front walk behind a strange negro coachman who had summoned her mysteriously to a closed carriage waiting in front of
the house. As she came up to the carriage the door was opened and she saw a woman in the dim interior.

Leaning closer, peering inside, Melanie questioned: "Who is it? Won't you come in the house? It's so cold--"

"Please come in here and set with me a minute, Miz Wilkes," came a faintly familiar voice, an embarrassed voice from the depths of the carriage.

"Oh, you're Miss--Mrs.--Watling!" cried Melanie. "I did so want to see you! You must come in the house."

"I can't do that, Miz Wilkes." Belle Watling's voice sounded scandalized. "You come in here and set a minute with me."

Melanie entered the carriage and the coachman closed the door behind her. She sat down beside Belle and reached for her hand.

"How can I ever thank you enough for what you did today! How can any of us thank you enough!"

"Miz Wilkes, you hadn't ought of sent me that note this mornin'. Not that I wasn't proud to have a note from you but the Yankees might of got it.
And  as for sayin' you was goin' to call on me to thank me--why, Miz Wilkes, you must of lost your mind! The very idea! I come up here as soon as
'twas dark to tell you you mustn't think of any sech thing. Why, I--why, you--it wouldn't be fittin' at all."

"It wouldn't be fitting for me to call and thank a kind woman who saved my husband's life?"

"Oh, shucks, Miz Wilkes! You know what I mean!"

Melanie  was  silent  for  a moment, embarrassed by the implication. Somehow this handsome, sedately dressed woman sitting in the darkness of the
carriage  didn't  look  and talk as she imagined a bad woman, the Madam of a House, should look and talk. She sounded like--well, a little common
and countrified but nice and warm hearted.

"You were wonderful before the provost marshal today, Mrs. Watling! You and the other--your--the young ladies certainly saved our men's lives."

"Mr.  Wilkes was the wonderful one. I don't know how he even stood up and told his story, much less look as cool as he done. He was sure bleedin'
like a pig when I seen him last night. Is he goin' to be all right, Miz Wilkes?"

"Yes,  thank you. The doctor says it's just a flesh wound, though he did lose a tremendous lot of blood. This morning he was--well, he was pretty
well  laced with brandy or he'd never have had the strength to go through with it all so well. But it was you, Mrs. Watling, who saved them. When
you got mad and talked about the broken mirrors you sounded so--so convincing."

"Thank you, Ma'm. But I--I thought Captain Butler done mighty fine too," said Belle, shy pride in her voice.

"Oh, he was wonderful!" cried Melanie warmly. "The Yankees couldn't help but believe his testimony. He was so smart about the whole affair. I can
never thank him enough--or you either! How good and kind you are!"

"Thank  you  kindly, Miz Wilkes. It was a pleasure to do it. I--I hope it ain't goin' to embarrass you none, me sayin' Mr. Wilkes come regular to
my place. He never, you know--"

"Yes, I know. No, it doesn't embarrass me at all. I'm just so grateful to you."

"I'll bet the other ladies ain't grateful to me," said Belle with sudden venom. "And I'll bet they ain't grateful to Captain Butler neither. I'll
bet  they'll  hate  him just this much more. I'll bet you'll be the only lady who even says thanks to me. I'll bet they won't even look me in the
eye  when  they see me on the street. But I don't care. I wouldn't of minded if all their husbands got hung. But I did mind about Mr. Wilkes. You
see I ain't forgot how nice you was to me durin' the war, about the money for the hospital. There ain't never been a lady in this town nice to me
like you was and I don't forget a kindness. And I thought about you bein' left a widder with a little boy if Mr. Wilkes got hung and--he's a nice
little boy, your boy is, Miz Wilkes. I got a boy myself and so I--"

"Oh, you have? Does he live--er--"

"Oh,  no'm!  He  ain't here in Atlanta. He ain't never been here. He's off at school. I ain't seen him since he was little. I--well, anyway, when
Captain  Butler  wanted me to lie for those men I wanted to know who the men was and when I heard Mr. Wilkes was one I never hesitated. I said to
my  girls,  I  said,  'I'll  whale  the  livin'  daylights out of you all if you don't make a special point of sayin' you was with Mr. Wilkes all

"Oh!" said Melanie, still more embarrassed by Belle's offhand reference to her "girls." "Oh, that was--er--kind of you and--of them, too."

"No  more'n  you deserve," said Belle warmly. "But I wouldn't of did it for just anybody. If it had been that Miz Kennedy's husband by hisself, I
wouldn't of lifted a finger, no matter what Captain Butler said."


"Well, Miz Wilkes, people in my business knows a heap of things. It'd surprise and shock a heap of fine ladies if they had any notion how much we
knows  about  them.  And  she ain't no good, Miz Wilkes. She kilt her husband and that nice Wellburn boy, same as if she shot them. She caused it
all, prancin' about Atlanta by herself, enticin' niggers and trash. Why, not one of my girls--"

"You must not say unkind things about my sister-in-law." Melanie stiffened coldly.

Belle put an eager placating hand on Melanie's arm and then hastily withdrew it.

"Don't  freeze  me,  please, Miz Wilkes. I couldn't stand it after you been so kind and sweet to me. I forgot how you liked her and I'm sorry for
what  I  said.  I'm  sorry about poor Mr. Kennedy bein' dead too. He was a nice man. I used to buy some of the stuff for my house from him and he
always  treated  me pleasant. But Miz Kennedy--well, she just ain't in the same class with you, Miz Wilkes. She's a mighty cold woman and I can't
help it if I think so. . . . When are they goin' to bury Mr. Kennedy?"

"Tomorrow morning. And you are wrong about Mrs. Kennedy. Why, this very minute she's prostrated with grief."

"Maybe  so,"  said  Belle  with  evident  disbelief. "Well, I got to be goin'. I'm afraid somebody might recognize this carriage if I stayed here
longer and that wouldn't do you no good. And, Miz Wilkes, if you ever see me on the street, you--you don't have to speak to me. I'll understand."

"I shall be proud to speak to you. Proud to be under obligation to you. I hope--I hope we meet again."

"No," said Belle. "That wouldn't be fittin'. Good night."


Scarlett  sat  in her bedroom, picking at the supper tray Mammy had brought her, listening to the wind hurling itself out of the night. The house
was  frighteningly  still,  quieter  even  than when Frank had lain in the parlor just a few hours before. Then there had been tiptoeing feet and
hushed voices, muffled knocks on the door, neighbors rustling in to whisper sympathy and occasional sobs from Frank's sister who had come up from
Jonesboro for the funeral.

But  now  the  house was cloaked in silence. Although her door was open she could hear no sounds from below stairs. Wade and the baby had been at
Melanie's  since  Frank's  body was brought home and she missed the sound of the boy's feet and Ella's gurgling. There was a truce in the kitchen
and  no  sound  of  quarreling  from  Peter,  Mammy and Cookie floated up to her. Even Aunt Pitty, downstairs in the library, was not rocking her
creaking chair in deference to Scarlett's sorrow.

No  one  intruded  upon her, believing that she wished to be left alone with her grief, but to be left alone was the last thing Scarlett desired.
Had  it  only  been grief that companioned her, she could have borne it as she had borne other griefs. But, added to her stunned sense of loss at
Frank's  death, were fear and remorse and the torment of a suddenly awakened conscience. For the first time in her life she was regretting things
she  had  done,  regretting  them  with a sweeping superstitious fear that made her cast sidelong glances at the bed upon which she had lain with

She  had  killed Frank. She had killed him just as surely as if it had been her finger that pulled the trigger. He had begged her not to go about
alone  but  she  had  not  listened  to  him. And now he was dead because of her obstinacy. God would punish her for that. But there lay upon her
conscience  another  matter  that  was  heavier and more frightening even than causing his death--a matter which had never troubled her until she
looked  upon his coffined face. There had been something helpless and pathetic in that still face which had accused her. God would punish her for
marrying  him when he really loved Suellen. She would have to cower at the seat of judgment and answer for that lie she told him coming back from
the Yankee camp in his buggy.

Useless  for  her  to argue now that the end justified the means, that she was driven into trapping him, that the fate of too many people hung on
her  for  her  to consider either his or Suellen's rights and happiness. The truth stood out boldly and she cowered away from it. She had married
him coldly and used him coldly. And she had made him unhappy during the last six months when she could have made him very happy. God would punish
her  for  not  being  nicer  to  him--punish her for all her bullyings and proddings and storms of temper and cutting remarks, for alienating his
friends and shaming him by operating the mills and building the saloon and leasing convicts.

She  had made him very unhappy and she knew it, but he had borne it all like a gentleman. The only thing she had ever done that gave him any real
happiness was to present him with Ella. And she knew if she could have kept from having Ella, Ella would never have been born.

She  shivered,  frightened, wishing Frank were alive, so she could be nice to him, so very nice to him to make up for it all. Oh, if only God did
not seem so furious and vengeful! Oh, if only the minutes did not go by so slowly and the house were not so still! If only she were not so alone!

If  only Melanie were with her, Melanie could calm her fears. But Melanie was at home, nursing Ashley. For a moment Scarlett thought of summoning
Pittypat  to  stand between her and her conscience but she hesitated. Pitty would probably make matters worse, for she honestly mourned Frank. He
had  been  more  her  contemporary  than  Scarlett's  and she had been devoted to him. He had filled to perfection Pitty's need for "a man in the
house," for he brought her little presents and harmless gossip, jokes and stories, read the paper to her at night and explained topics of the day
to  her  while she mended his socks. She had fussed over him and planned special dishes for him and coddled him during his innumerable colds. Now
she missed him acutely and repeated over and over as she dabbed at her red swollen eyes: "If only he hadn't gone out with the Klan!"

If  there  were only someone who could comfort her, quiet her fears, explain to her just what were these confused fears which made her heart sink
with  such  cold  sickness!  If  only Ashley--but she shrank from the thought. She had almost killed Ashley, just as she had killed Frank. And if
Ashley  ever  knew  the real truth about how she lied to Frank to get him, knew how mean she had been to Frank, he could never love her any more.
Ashley  was so honorable, so truthful, so kind and he saw so straightly, so clearly. If he knew the whole truth, he would understand. Oh, yes, he
would  understand  only  too  well! But he would never love her any more. So he must never know the truth because he must keep on loving her. How
could  she  live  if  that  secret  source  of  her strength, his love, were taken from her? But what a relief it would be to put her head on his
shoulder and cry and unburden her guilty heart!

The  still  house with the sense of death heavy upon it pressed about her loneliness until she felt she could not bear it unaided any longer. She
arose  cautiously,  pushed  her  door half-closed and then dug about in the bottom bureau drawer beneath her underwear. She produced Aunt Pitty's
"swoon bottle" of brandy which she had hidden there and held it up to the lamp. It was nearly half-empty. Surely she hadn't drunk that much since
last  night!  She  poured a generous amount into her water glass and gulped it down. She would have to put the bottle back in the cellaret before
morning,  filled to the top with water. Mammy had hunted for it, just before the funeral when the pallbearers wanted a drink, and already the air
in the kitchen was electric with suspicion between Mammy, Cookie and Peter.

The brandy burned with fiery pleasantness. There was nothing like it when you needed it. In fact, brandy was good almost any time, so much better
than  insipid  wine.  Why on earth should it be proper for a woman to drink wine and not spirits? Mrs. Merriwether and Mrs. Meade had sniffed her
breath most obviously at the funeral and she had seen the triumphant look they had exchanged. The old cats!

She  poured  another  drink.  It wouldn't matter if she did get a little tipsy tonight for she was going to bed soon and she could gargle cologne
before  Mammy  came  up  to  unlace  her. She wished she could get as completely and thoughtlessly drunk as Gerald used to get on Court Day. Then
perhaps she could forget Frank's sunken face accusing her of ruining his life and then killing him.

She  wondered  if  everyone in town thought she had killed him. Certainly the people at the funeral had been cold to her. The only people who had
put  any  warmth  into their expressions of sympathy were the wives of the Yankee officers with whom she did business. Well, she didn't care what
the town said about her. How unimportant that seemed beside what she would have to answer for to God!

She  took  another drink at the thought, shuddering as the hot brandy went down her throat. She felt very warm now but still she couldn't get the
thought  of  Frank  out  of  her mind. What fools men were when they said liquor made people forget! Unless she drank herself into insensibility,
she'd still see Frank's face as it had looked the last time he begged her not to drive alone, timid, reproachful, apologetic.

The  knocker  on  the front door hammered with a dull sound that made the still house echo and she heard Aunt Pitty's waddling steps crossing the
hall  and  the  door opening. There was the sound of greeting and an indistinguishable murmur. Some neighbor calling to discuss the funeral or to
bring a blanc mange. Pitty would like that. She had taken an important and melancholy pleasure in talking to the condolence callers.

She  wondered  incuriously  who it was and, when a man's voice, resonant and drawling, rose above Pitty's funereal whispering, she knew. Gladness
and  relief flooded her. It was Rhett. She had not seen him since he broke the news of Frank's death to her, and now she knew, deep in her heart,
that he was the one person who could help her tonight.

"I think she'll see me," Rhett's voice floated up to her.

"But she is lying down now, Captain Butler, and won't see anyone. Poor child, she is quite prostrated. She--"

"I think she will see me. Please tell her I am going away tomorrow and may be gone some time. It's very important."

"But--" fluttered Aunt Pittypat.

Scarlett ran out into the hall, observing with some astonishment that her knees were a little unsteady, and leaned over the banisters.

"I'll be down terrectly, Rhett," she called.

She  had  a  glimpse  of  Aunt  Pittypat's  plump upturned face, her eyes owlish with surprise and disapproval. Now it'll be all over town that I
conducted  myself  most  improperly on the day of my husband's funeral, thought Scarlett, as she hurried back to her room and began smoothing her
hair.  She  buttoned  her  black  basque  up to the chin and pinned down the collar with Pittypat's mourning brooch. I don't look very pretty she
thought,  leaning toward the mirror, too white and scared. For a moment her hand went toward the lock box where she kept her rouge hidden but she
decided against it. Poor Pittypat would be upset in earnest if she came downstairs pink and blooming. She picked up the cologne bottle and took a
large mouthful, carefully rinsed her mouth and then spit into the slop jar.

She  rustled down the stairs toward the two who still stood in the hall, for Pittypat had been too upset by Scarlett's action to ask Rhett to sit
down.  He  was  decorously  clad in black, his linen frilly and starched, and his manner was all that custom demanded from an old friend paying a
call  of  sympathy  on  one bereaved. In fact, it was so perfect that it verged on the burlesque, though Pittypat did not see it. He was properly
apologetic  for disturbing Scarlett and regretted that in his rush of closing up business before leaving town he had been unable to be present at
the funeral.

"Whatever possessed him to come?" wondered Scarlett. "He doesn't mean a word he's saying."

"I  hate  to  intrude  on  you  at this time but I have a matter of business to discuss that will not wait. Something that Mr. Kennedy and I were

"I  didn't  know you and Mr. Kennedy had business dealings," said Aunt Pittypat, almost indignant that some of Frank's activities were unknown to

"Mr. Kennedy was a man of wide interests," said Rhett respectfully. "Shall we go into the parlor?"

"No!"  cried  Scarlett.  glancing  at  the closed folding doors. She could still see the coffin in that room. She hoped she never had to enter it
again. Pitty, for once, took a hint, although with none too good grace.

"Do use the library. I must--I must go upstairs and get out the mending. Dear me, I've neglected it so this last week. I declare--"

She  went  up  the stairs with a backward look of reproach which was noticed by neither Scarlett nor Rhett. He stood aside to let her pass before
him into the library.

"What business did you and Frank have?" she questioned abruptly.

He  came  closer  and  whispered.  "None at all. I just wanted to get Miss Pitty out of the way." He paused as he leaned over her. "It's no good,


"The cologne."

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

"I'm sure you do. You've been drinking pretty heavily."

"Well, what if I have? Is it any of your business?"

"The  soul  of  courtesy,  even  in the depths of sorrow. Don't drink alone, Scarlett. People always find it out and it ruins the reputation. And
besides, it's a bad business, this drinking alone. What's the matter, honey?"

He led her to the rosewood sofa and she sat down in silence.

"May I close the doors?"

She  knew  if Mammy saw the closed doors she would be scandalized and would lecture and grumble about it for days, but it would be still worse if
Mammy  should overhear this discussion of drinking, especially in light of the missing brandy bottle. She nodded and Rhett drew the sliding doors
together.  When  he came back and sat down beside her, his dark eyes alertly searching her face, the pall of death receded before the vitality he
radiated and the room seemed pleasant and homelike again, the lamps rosy and warm.

"What's the matter, honey?"

No one in the world could say that foolish word of endearment as caressingly as Rhett, even when he was joking, but he did not look as if he were
joking  now. She raised tormented eyes to his face and somehow found comfort in the blank inscrutability she saw there. She did not know why this
should  be,  for  he  was such an unpredictable, callous person. Perhaps it was because, as he often said, they were so much alike. Sometimes she
thought that all the people she had ever known were strangers except Rhett.

"Can't you tell me?" he took her hand, oddly gentle. "It's more than old Frank leaving you? Do you need money?"

"Money? God, no! Oh, Rhett, I'm so afraid."

"Don't be a goose, Scarlett, you've never been afraid in your life."

"Oh, Rhett, I am afraid!"

The  words  bubbled  up  faster  than  she  could speak them. She could tell him. She could tell Rhett anything. He'd been so bad himself that he
wouldn't sit in judgment on her. How wonderful to know someone who was bad and dishonorable and a cheat and a liar, when all the world was filled
with people who would not lie to save their souls and who would rather starve than do a dishonorable deed!

"I'm afraid I'll die and go to hell."

If he laughed at her she would die, right then. But he did not laugh.

"You are pretty healthy--and maybe there isn't any hell after all."

"Oh, but there is, Rhett! You know there is!"

"I know there is but it's right here on earth. Not after we die. There's nothing after we die, Scarlett. You are having your hell now."

"Oh, Rhett, that's blasphemous!"

"But singularly comforting. Tell me, why are you going to hell?"

He was teasing now, she could see the glint in his eyes but she did not mind. His hands felt so warm and strong, so comforting to cling to.

"Rhett,  I  oughtn't  to have married Frank. It was wrong. He was Suellen's beau and he loved her, not me. But I lied to him and told him she was
going to marry Tony Fontaine. Oh, how could I have done it?"

"Ah, so that was how it came about! I always wondered."

"And  then  I  made him so miserable. I made him do all sorts of things he didn't want to do, like making people pay their bills when they really
couldn't  afford  to pay them. And it hurt him so when I ran the mills and built the saloon and leased convicts. He could hardly hold up his head
for  shame. And Rhett, I killed him. Yes, I did! I didn't know he was in the Klan. I never dreamed he had that much gumption. But I ought to have
known. And I killed him."

"'Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?'"


"No matter. Go on."

"Go on? That's all. Isn't it enough? I married him, I made him unhappy and I killed him. Oh, my God! I don't see how I could have done it! I lied
to  him and I married him. It all seemed so right when I did it but now I see how wrong it was. Rhett, it doesn't seem like it was me who did all
these  things.  I  was  so  mean  to  him but I'm not really mean. I wasn't raised that way. Mother--" She stopped and swallowed. She had avoided
thinking of Ellen all day but she could no longer blot out her image.

"I often wondered what she was like. You seemed to me so like your father."

"Mother  was--  Oh,  Rhett,  for  the  first  time  I'm  glad she's dead, so she can't see me. She didn't raise me to be mean. She was so kind to
everybody,  so good. She'd rather I'd have starved than done this. And I so wanted to be just like her in every way and I'm not like her one bit.
I  hadn't thought of that--there's been so much else to think about--but I wanted to be like her. I didn't want to be like Pa. I loved him but he
was--so--so  thoughtless.  Rhett,  sometimes I did try so hard to be nice to people and kind to Frank, but then the nightmare would come back and
scare me so bad I'd want to rush out and just grab money away from people, whether it was mine or not."

Tears were streaming unheeded down her face and she clutched his hand so hard that her nails dug into his flesh.

"What nightmare?" His voice was calm and soothing.

"Oh--I  forgot  you  didn't know. Well, just when I would try to be nice to folks and tell myself that money wasn't everything, I'd go to bed and
dream  that  I  was back at Tara right after Mother died, right after the Yankees went through. Rhett, you can't imagine--I get cold when I think
about it. I can see how everything is burned and so still and there's nothing to eat. Oh, Rhett, in my dream I'm hungry again."

"Go on."

"I'm  hungry and everybody, Pa and the girls and the darkies, are starving and they keep saying over and over: 'We're hungry' and I'm so empty it
hurts, and so frightened. My mind keeps saying: 'If I ever get out of this, I'll never, never be hungry again' and then the dream goes off into a
gray  mist and I'm running, running in the mist, running so hard my heart's about to burst and something is chasing me, and I can't breathe but I
keep  thinking that if I can just get there, I'll be safe. But I don't know where I'm trying to get to. And then I'd wake up and I'd be cold with
fright  and  so  afraid  that I'd be hungry again. When I wake up from that dream, it seems like there's not enough money in the world to keep me
from being afraid of being hungry again. And then Frank would be so mealy mouthed and slow poky that he would make me mad and I'd lose my temper.
He  didn't  understand,  I guess, and I couldn't make him understand. I kept thinking that I'd make it up to him some day when we had money and I
wasn't  so afraid of being hungry. And now he's dead and it's too late. Oh, it seemed so right when I did it but it was all so wrong. If I had it
to do over again, I'd do it so differently."

"Hush,"  he  said,  disentangling  her  frantic grip and pulling a clean handkerchief from his pocket. "Wipe your face. There is no sense in your
tearing yourself to pieces this way."

She  took  the  handkerchief  and  wiped her damp cheeks, a little relief stealing over her as if she had shifted some of her burden to his broad
shoulders.  He  looked  so  capable  and  calm  and even the slight twist of his mouth was comforting as though it proved her agony and confusion

"Feel  better  now?  Then let's get to the bottom of this. You say if you had it to do over again, you'd do it differently. But would you? Think,
now. Would you?"


"No, you'd do the same things again. Did you have any other choice?"


"Then what are you sorry about?"

"I was so mean and now he's dead."

"And  if  he wasn't dead, you'd still be mean. As I understand it, you are not really sorry for marrying Frank and bullying him and inadvertently
causing his death. You are only sorry because you are afraid of going to hell. Is that right?"

"Well--that sounds so mixed up."

"Your ethics are considerably mixed up too. You are in the exact position of a thief who's been caught red handed and isn't sorry he stole but is
terribly, terribly sorry he's going to jail."

"A thief--"

"Oh,  don't be so literal! In other words if you didn't have this silly idea that you were damned to hell fire eternal, you'd think you were well
rid of Frank."

"Oh, Rhett!"

"Oh,  come!  You  are  confessing  and  you  might as well confess the truth as a decorous lie. Did your--er--conscience bother you much when you
offered to--shall we say--part with that jewel which is dearer than life for three hundred dollars?"

The  brandy was spinning in her head now and she felt giddy and a little reckless. What was the use in lying to him? He always seemed to read her

"I really didn't think about God much then--or hell. And when I did think--well, I just reckoned God would understand."

"But you don't credit God with understanding why you married Frank?"

"Rhett, how can you talk so about God when you know you don't believe there is one?"

"But  you  believe  in a God of Wrath and that's what's important at present. Why shouldn't the Lord understand? Are you sorry you still own Tara
and there aren't Carpetbaggers living there? Are you sorry you aren't hungry and ragged?"

"Oh, no!"

"Well, did you have any alternative except marrying Frank?"


"He didn't have to marry you, did he? Men are free agents. And he didn't have to let you bully him into doing things he didn't want to, did he?"


"Scarlett,  why  worry  about  it? If you had it to do over again you would be driven to the lie and he to marrying you. You would still have run
yourself  into  danger  and he would have had to avenge you. If he had married Sister Sue, she might not have caused his death but she'd probably
have made him twice as unhappy as you did. It couldn't have happened differently."

"But I could have been nicer to him."

"You  could have been--if you'd been somebody else. But you were born to bully anyone who'll let you do it. The strong were made to bully and the
weak  to  knuckle  under.  It's  all  Frank's  fault for not beating you with a buggy whip. . . . I'm surprised at you, Scarlett, for sprouting a
conscience this late in life. Opportunists like you shouldn't have them."

"What is an oppor--what did you call it?"

"A person who takes advantage of opportunities."

"Is that wrong?"

"It has always been held in disrepute--especially by those who had the same opportunities and didn't take them."

"Oh, Rhett, you are joking and I thought you were going to be nice!"

"I am being nice--for me. Scarlett, darling, you are tipsy. That's what's the matter with you."

"You dare--"

"Yes,  I  dare.  You are on the verge of what is vulgarly called a 'crying jag' and so I shall change the subject and cheer you up by telling you
some news that will amuse you. In fact, that's why I came here this evening, to tell you my news before I went away."

"Where are you going?"

"To  England  and  I may be gone for months. Forget your conscience, Scarlett. I have no intention of discussing your soul's welfare any further.
Don't you want to hear my news?"

"But--"  she began feebly and paused. Between the brandy which was smoothing out the harsh contours of remorse and Rhett's mocking but comforting
words, the pale specter of Frank was receding into shadows. Perhaps Rhett was right. Perhaps God did understand. She recovered enough to push the
idea from the top of her mind and decide: "I'll think about it all tomorrow."

"What's your news?" she said with an effort, blowing her nose on his handkerchief and pushing back the hair that had begun to straggle.

"My  news  is this," he answered, grinning down at her. "I still want you more than any woman I've ever seen and now that Frank's gone, I thought
you'd be interested to know it."

Scarlett jerked her hands away from his grasp and sprang to her feet.

"I--you  are  the most ill-bred man in the world, coming here at this time of all times with your filthy--I should have known you'd never change.
And Frank hardly cold! If you had any decency-- Will you leave this--"

"Do  be quiet or you'll have Miss Pittypat down here in a minute," he said, not rising but reaching up and taking both her fists. "I'm afraid you
miss my point."

"Miss your point? I don't miss anything." She pulled against his grip. "Turn me loose and get out of here. I never heard of such bad taste. I--"

"Hush," he said. "I am asking you to marry me. Would you be convinced if I knelt down?"

She said "Oh" breathlessly and sat down hard on the sofa.

She stared at him, her mouth open, wondering if the brandy were playing tricks on her mind, remembering senselessly his jibing: "My dear, I'm not
a  marrying  man."  She was drunk or he was crazy. But he did not look crazy. He looked as calm as though he were discussing the weather, and his
smooth drawl fell on her ears with no particular emphasis.

"I  always  intended  having  you, Scarlett, since that first day I saw you at Twelve Oaks when you threw that vase and swore and proved that you
weren't a lady. I always intended having you, one way or another. But as you and Frank have made a little money, I know you'll never be driven to
me again with any interesting propositions of loans and collaterals. So I see I'll have to marry you."

"Rhett Butler, is this one of your vile jokes?"

"I  bare  my  soul  and  you are suspicious! No, Scarlett, this is a bona fide honorable declaration. I admit that it's not in the best of taste,
coming  at  this  time,  but I have a very good excuse for my lack of breeding. I'm going away tomorrow for a long time and I fear that if I wait
till  I  return you'll have married some one else with a little money. So I thought, why not me and my money? Really, Scarlett, I can't go all my
life, waiting to catch you between husbands."

He  meant it. There was no doubt about it. Her mouth was dry as she assimilated this knowledge and she swallowed and looked into his eyes, trying
to  find  some  clue. They were full of laughter but there was something else, deep in them, which she had never seen before, a gleam that defied
analysis.  He sat easily, carelessly but she felt that he was watching her as alertly as a cat watches a mouse hole. There was a sense of leashed
power straining beneath his calm that made her draw back, a little frightened.

He was actually asking her to marry him; he was committing the incredible. Once she had planned how she would torment him should he ever propose.
Once  she  had  thought that if he ever spoke those words she would humble him and make him feel her power and take a malicious pleasure in doing
it.  Now, he had spoken and the plans did not even occur to her, for he was no more in her power than he had ever been. In fact, he held the whip
hand of the situation so completely that she was as flustered as a girl at her first proposal and she could only blush and stammer.

"I--I shall never marry again."

"Oh, yes, you will. You were born to be married. Why not me?"

"But Rhett, I--I don't love you."

"That should be no drawback. I don't recall that love was prominent in your other two ventures."

"Oh, how can you? You know I was fond of Frank!"

He said nothing.

"I was! I was!"

"Well, we won't argue that. Will you think over my proposition while I'm gone?"

"Rhett, I don't like for things to drag on. I'd rather tell you now. I'm going home to Tara soon and India Wilkes will stay with Aunt Pittypat. I
want to go home for a long spell and--I--I don't ever want to get married again."

"Nonsense. Why?"

"Oh, well--never mind why. I just don't like being married."

"But,  my  poor child, you've never really been married. How can you know? I'll admit you've had bad luck--once for spite and once for money. Did
you ever think of marrying--just for the fun of it?"

"Fun! Don't talk like a fool. There's no fun being married."

"No? Why not?"

A measure of calm had returned and with it all the natural bluntness which brandy brought to the surface.

"It's  fun  for  men--though God knows why. I never could understand it. But all a woman gets out of it is something to eat and a lot of work and
having to put up with a man's foolishness--and a baby every year."

He laughed so loudly that the sound echoed in the stillness and Scarlett heard the kitchen door open.

"Hush! Mammy has ears like a lynx and it isn't decent to laugh so soon after--hush laughing. You know it's true. Fun! Fiddle-dee-dee!"

"I  said  you'd  had  bad luck and what you've just said proves it. You've been married to a boy and to an old man. And into the bargain I'll bet
your  mother  told  you  that  women must bear 'these things' because of the compensating joys of motherhood. Well, that's all wrong. Why not try
marrying a fine young man who has a bad reputation and a way with women? It'll be fun."

"You are coarse and conceited and I think this conversation has gone far enough. It's--it's quite vulgar."

"And quite enjoyable, too, isn't it? I'll wager you never discussed the marital relation with a man before, even Charles or Frank."

She scowled at him. Rhett knew too much. She wondered where he had learned all he knew about women. It wasn't decent.

"Don't  frown.  Name  the day, Scarlett. I'm not urging instant matrimony because of your reputation. We'll wait the decent interval. By the way,
just how long is a 'decent interval'?"

"I haven't said I'd marry you. It isn't decent to even talk of such things at such a time."

"I've  told  you  why I'm talking of them. I'm going away tomorrow and I'm too ardent a lover to restrain my passion any longer. But perhaps I've
been too precipitate in my wooing."

With a suddenness that startled her, he slid off the sofa onto his knees and with one hand placed delicately over his heart, he recited rapidly:

"Forgive  me for startling you with the impetuosity of my sentiments, my dear Scarlett--I mean, my dear Mrs. Kennedy. It cannot have escaped your
notice  that  for  some time past the friendship I have had in my heart for you has ripened into a deeper feeling, a feeling more beautiful, more
pure, more sacred. Dare I name it you? Ah! It is love which makes me so bold!"

"Do get up," she entreated. "You look such a fool and suppose Mammy should come in and see you?"

"She  would  be  stunned  and incredulous at the first signs of my gentility," said Rhett, arising lightly. "Come, Scarlett, you are no child, no
schoolgirl  to  put me off with foolish excuses about decency and so forth. Say you'll marry me when I come back or, before God, I won't go. I'll
stay  around  here and play a guitar under your window every night and sing at the top of my voice and compromise you, so you'll have to marry me
to save your reputation."

"Rhett, do be sensible. I don't want to marry anybody."

"No? You aren't telling me the real reason. It can't be girlish timidity. What is it?"

Suddenly  she  thought  of  Ashley,  saw  him  as  vividly  as though he stood beside her, sunny haired, drowsy eyed, full of dignity, so utterly
different  from Rhett. He was the real reason she did not want to marry again, although she had no objections to Rhett and at times was genuinely
fond of him. She belonged to Ashley, forever and ever. She had never belonged to Charles or Frank, could never really belong to Rhett. Every part
of  her,  almost everything she had ever done, striven after, attained, belonged to Ashley, were done because she loved him. Ashley and Tara, she
belonged  to  them.  The  smiles,  the laughter, the kisses she had given Charles and Frank were Ashley's, even though he had never claimed them,
would never claim them. Somewhere deep in her was the desire to keep herself for him, although she knew he would never take her.

She  did  not know that her face had changed, that reverie had brought a softness to her face which Rhett had never seen before. He looked at the
slanting  green eyes, wide and misty, and the tender curve of her lips and for a moment his breath stopped. Then his mouth went down violently at
one corner and he swore with passionate impatience.

"Scarlett O'Hara, you're a fool!"

Before  she could withdraw her mind from its far places, his arms were around her, as sure and hard as on the dark road to Tara, so long ago. She
felt again the rush of helplessness, the sinking yielding, the surging tide of warmth that left her limp. And the quiet face of Ashley Wilkes was
blurred  and  drowned  to  nothingness.  He bent back her head across his arm and kissed her, softly at first, and then with a swift gradation of
intensity  that made her cling to him as the only solid thing in a dizzy swaying world. His insistent mouth was parting her shaking lips, sending
wild  tremors  along her nerves, evoking from her sensations she had never known she was capable of feeling. And before a swimming giddiness spun
her round and round, she knew that she was kissing him back.

"Stop--please, I'm faint!" she whispered, trying to turn her head weakly from him. He pressed her head back hard against his shoulder and she had
a dizzy glimpse of his face. His eyes were wide and blazing queerly and the tremor in his arms frightened her.

"I  want  to  make you faint. I will make you faint. You've had this coming to you for years. None of the fools you've known have kissed you like
this--have they? Your precious Charles or Frank or your stupid Ashley--"


"I said your stupid Ashley. Gentlemen all--what do they know about women? What did they know about you? I know you."

His mouth was on hers again and she surrendered without a struggle, too weak even to turn her head, without even the desire to turn it, her heart
shaking  her with its poundings, fear of his strength and her nerveless weakness sweeping her. What was he going to do? She would faint if he did
not stop. If he would only stop--if he would never stop.

"Say Yes!" His mouth was poised above hers and his eyes were so close that they seemed enormous, filling the world. "Say Yes, damn you, or--"

She  whispered "Yes" before she even thought. It was almost as if he had willed the word and she had spoken it without her own volition. But even
as  she  spoke  it,  a sudden calm fell on her spirit, her head began to stop spinning and even the giddiness of the brandy was lessened. She had
promised  to marry him when she had had no intention of promising. She hardly knew how it had all come about but she was not sorry. It now seemed
very  natural  that she had said Yes--almost as if by divine intervention, a hand stronger than hers was about her affairs, settling her problems
for her.

He  drew  a  quick  breath as she spoke and bent as if to kiss her again and her eyes closed and her head fell back. But he drew back and she was
faintly disappointed. It made her feel so strange to be kissed like this and yet there was something exciting about it.

He  sat  very  still for a while holding her head against his shoulder and, as if by effort, the trembling of his arms ceased. He moved away from
her a little and looked down at her. She opened her eyes and saw that the frightening glow had gone from his face. But somehow she could not meet
his gaze and she dropped her eyes in a rush of tingling confusion.

When he spoke his voice was very calm.

"You meant it? You don't want to take it back?"


"It's not just because I've--what is the phrase?--'swept you off your feet' by my--er--ardor?"

She could not answer for she did not know what to say, nor could she meet his eyes. He put a hand under her chin and lifted her face.

"I told you once that I could stand anything from you except a lie. And now I want the truth. Just why did you say Yes?"

Still  the  words  would  not come, but, a measure of poise returning, she kept her eyes demurely down and tucked the corners of her mouth into a
little smile.

"Look at me. Is it my money?"

"Why, Rhett! What a question!"

"Look  up  and  don't  try  to sweet talk me. I'm not Charles or Frank or any of the County boys to be taken in by your fluttering lids. Is it my

"Well--yes, a part."

"A part?"

He  did  not  seem annoyed. He drew a swift breath and with an effort wiped from his eyes the eagerness her words had brought, an eagerness which
she was too confused to see.

"Well," she floundered helplessly, "money does help, you know, Rhett, and God knows Frank didn't leave any too much. But then--well, Rhett, we do
get  on,  you  know. And you are the only man I ever saw who could stand the truth from a woman, and it would be nice having a husband who didn't
think me a silly fool and expect me to tell lies--and--well, I am fond of you."

"Fond of me?"

"Well," she said fretfully, "if I said I was madly in love with you, I'd be lying and what's more, you'd know it."

"Sometimes  I  think you carry your truth telling too far, my pet. Don't you think, even if it was a lie, that it would be appropriate for you to
say 'I love you, Rhett,' even if you didn't mean it?"

What  was  he  driving  at, she wondered, becoming more confused. He looked so queer, eager, hurt, mocking. He took his hands from her and shoved
them deep in his trousers pockets and she saw him ball his fists.

"If it costs me a husband, I'll tell the truth," she thought grimly, her blood up as always when he baited her.

"Rhett,  it would be a lie, and why should we go through all that foolishness? I'm fond of you, like I said. You know how it is. You told me once
that you didn't love me but that we had a lot in common. Both rascals, was the way you--"

"Oh, God!" he whispered rapidly, turning his head away. "To be taken in my own trap!"

"What did you say?"

"Nothing,"  and  he looked at her and laughed, but it was not a pleasant laugh. "Name the day, my dear," and he laughed again and bent and kissed
her hands. She was relieved to see his mood pass and good humor apparently return, so she smiled too.

He played with her hand for a moment and grinned up at her.

"Did you ever in your novel reading come across the old situation of the disinterested wife falling in love with her own husband?"

"You  know  I  don't read novels," she said and, trying to equal his jesting mood, went on: "Besides, you once said it was the height of bad form
for husbands and wives to love each other."

"I once said too God damn many things," he retorted abruptly and rose to his feet.

"Don't swear."

"You'll  have to get used to it and learn to swear too. You'll have to get used to all my bad habits. That'll be part of the price of being--fond
of me and getting your pretty paws on my money."

"Well,  don't  fly  off  the handle so, because I didn't lie and make you feel conceited. You aren't in love with me, are you? Why should I be in
love with you?"

"No, my dear, I'm not in love with you, no more than you are with me, and if I were, you would be the last person I'd ever tell. God help the man
who  ever  really  loves  you. You'd break his heart, my darling, cruel, destructive little cat who is so careless and confident she doesn't even
trouble to sheathe her claws."

He jerked her to her feet and kissed her again, but this time his lips were different for he seemed not to care if he hurt her--seemed to want to
hurt  her,  to  insult her. His lips slid down to her throat and finally he pressed them against the taffeta over her breast, so hard and so long
that his breath burnt to her skin. Her hands struggled up, pushing him away in outraged modesty.

"You mustn't! How dare you!"

"Your  heart's going like a rabbit's," he said mockingly. "All too fast for mere fondness I would think, if I were conceited. Smooth your ruffled
feathers. You are just putting on these virginal airs. Tell me what I shall bring you from England. A ring? What kind would you like?"

She wavered momentarily between interest in his last words and a feminine desire to prolong the scene with anger and indignation.

"Oh--a diamond ring--and Rhett, do buy a great big one."

"So you can flaunt it before your poverty-stricken friends and say 'See what I caught!' Very well, you shall have a big one, one so big that your
less-fortunate friends can comfort themselves by whispering that it's really vulgar to wear such large stones."

He abruptly started off across the room and she followed him, bewildered, to the closed doors.

"What is the matter? Where are you going?"

"To my rooms to finish packing."

"Oh, but--"

"But, what?"

"Nothing. I hope you have a nice trip."

"Thank you."

He  opened  the  door  and  walked  into  the  hall.  Scarlett  trailed  after him, somewhat at a loss, a trifle disappointed as at an unexpected
anticlimax. He slipped on his coat and picked up his gloves and hat.

"I'll write you. Let me know if you change your mind."

"Aren't you--"

"Well?" He seemed impatient to be off.

"Aren't you going to kiss me good-by?" she whispered, mindful of the ears of the house.

"Don't  you  think  you've had enough kissing for one evening?" he retorted and grinned down at her. "To think of a modest, well-brought-up young
woman-- Well, I told you it would be fun, didn't I?"

"Oh, you are impossible!" she cried in wrath, not caring if Mammy did hear. "And I don't care if you never come back."

She turned and flounced toward the stairs, expecting to feel his warm hand on her arm, stopping her. But he only pulled open the front door and a
cold draft swept in.

"But I will come back," he said and went out, leaving her on the bottom step looking at the closed door.

The ring Rhett brought back from England was large indeed, so large it embarrassed Scarlett to wear it. She loved gaudy and expensive jewelry but
she  had  an  uneasy  feeling that everyone was saying, with perfect truth, that this ring was vulgar. The central stone was a four-carat diamond
and,  surrounding it, were a number of emeralds. It reached to the knuckle of her finger and gave her hand the appearance of being weighted down.
Scarlett  had a suspicion that Rhett had gone to great pains to have the ring made up and, for pure meanness, had ordered it made as ostentatious
as possible.

Until Rhett was back in Atlanta and the ring on her finger she told no one, not even her family, of her intentions, and when she did announce her
engagement  a  storm  of  bitter  gossip  broke  out.  Since  the  Klan affair Rhett and Scarlett had been, with the exception of the Yankees and
Carpetbaggers,  the town's most unpopular citizens. Everyone had disapproved of Scarlett since the far-away day when she abandoned the weeds worn
for  Charlie Hamilton. Their disapproval had grown stronger because of her unwomanly conduct in the matter of the mills, her immodesty in showing
herself  when  she  was pregnant and so many other things. But when she brought about the death of Frank and Tommy and jeopardized the lives of a
dozen other men, their dislike flamed into public condemnation.

As  for  Rhett,  he  had  enjoyed  the  town's hatred since his speculations during the war and he had not further endeared himself to his fellow
citizens  by  his  alliances  with  the Republicans since then. But, oddly enough, the fact that he had saved the lives of some of Atlanta's most
prominent men was what aroused the hottest hate of Atlanta's ladies.

It was not that they regretted their men were still alive. It was that they bitterly resented owing the men's lives to such a man as Rhett and to
such  an  embarrassing  trick. For months they had writhed under Yankee laughter and scorn, and the ladies felt and said that if Rhett really had
the  good  of the Klan at heart he would have managed the affair in a more seemly fashion. They said he had deliberately dragged in Belle Watling
to put the nice people of the town in a disgraceful position. And so he deserved neither thanks for rescuing the men nor forgiveness for his past

These  women,  so swift to kindness, so tender to the sorrowing, so untiring in times of stress, could be as implacable as furies to any renegade
who  broke  one  small  law  of  their unwritten code. This code was simple. Reverence for the Confederacy, honor to the veterans, loyalty to old
forms,  pride  in poverty, open hands to friends and undying hatred to Yankees. Between them, Scarlett and Rhett had outraged every tenet of this

The  men  whose lives Rhett had saved attempted, out of decency and a sense of gratitude, to keep their women silent but they had little success.
Before the announcement of their coming marriage, the two had been unpopular enough but people could still be polite to them in a formal way. Now
even that cold courtesy was no longer possible. The news of their engagement came like an explosion, unexpected and shattering, rocking the town,
and  even  the mildest-mannered women spoke their minds heatedly. Marrying barely a year after Frank's death and she had killed him! And marrying
that  Butler  man  who  owned a brothel and who was in with the Yankees and Carpetbaggers in all kinds of thieving schemes! Separately the two of
them could be endured, but the brazen combination of Scarlett and Rhett was too much to be borne. Common and vile, both of them! They ought to be
run out of town!

Atlanta might perhaps have been more tolerant toward the two if the news of their engagement had not come at a time when Rhett's Carpetbagger and
Scallawag  cronies  were  more odious in the sight of respectable citizens than they had ever been before. Public feeling against the Yankees and
all  their  allies  was  at  fever heat at the very time when the town learned of the engagement, for the last citadel of Georgia's resistance to
Yankee  rule  had  just  fallen. The long campaign which had begun when Sherman moved southward from above Dalton, four years before, had finally
reached its climax, and the state's humiliation was complete.

Three  years of Reconstruction had passed and they had been three years of terrorism. Everyone had thought that conditions were already as bad as
they could ever be. But now Georgia was discovering that Reconstruction at its worst had just begun.

For  three  years  the  Federal  government had been trying to impose alien ideas and an alien rule upon Georgia and, with an army to enforce its
commands,  it had largely succeeded. But only the power of the military upheld the new regime. The state was under the Yankee rule but not by the
state's  consent.  Georgia's  leaders  had kept on battling for the state's right to govern itself according to its own ideas. They had continued
resisting all efforts to force them to bow down and accept the dictates of Washington as their own state law.

Officially,  Georgia's  government  had never capitulated but it had been a futile fight, an ever-losing fight. It was a fight that could not win
but  it had, at least, postponed the inevitable. Already many other Southern states had illiterate negroes in high public office and legislatures
dominated  by negroes and Carpetbaggers. But Georgia, by its stubborn resistance, had so far escaped this final degradation. For the greater part
of  three years, the state's capitol had remained in the control of white men and Democrats. With Yankee soldiers everywhere, the state officials
could  do  little  but  protest  and resist. Their power was nominal but they had at least been able to keep the state government in the hands of
native Georgians. Now even that last stronghold had fallen.

Just  as  Johnston  and  his  men  had been driven back step by step from Dalton to Atlanta, four years before, so had the Georgia Democrats been
driven  back  little by little, from 1865 on. The power of the Federal government over the state's affairs and the lives of its citizens had been
steadily  made  greater  and  greater.  Force  had  been  piled  on top of force and military edicts in increasing numbers had rendered the civil
authority  more  and  more  impotent.  Finally,  with Georgia in the status of a military province, the polls had been ordered thrown open to the
negroes, whether the state's laws permitted it or not.

A  week  before Scarlett and Rhett announced their engagement, an election for governor had been held. The Southern Democrats had General John B.
Gordon,  one of Georgia's best loved and most honored citizens, as their candidate. Opposing him was a Republican named Bullock. The election had
lasted  three  days  instead  of one. Trainloads of negroes had been rushed from town to town, voting at every precinct along the way. Of course,
Bullock had won.

If  the  capture  of Georgia by Sherman had caused bitterness, the final capture of the state's capitol by the Carpetbaggers, Yankees and negroes
caused an intensity of bitterness such as the state had never known before. Atlanta and Georgia seethed and raged.

And Rhett Butler was a friend of the hated Bullock!

Scarlett,  with her usual disregard of all matters not directly under her nose, had scarcely known an election was being held. Rhett had taken no
part  in the election and his relations with the Yankees were no different from what they had always been. But the fact remained that Rhett was a
Scallawag  and  a  friend  of  Bullock. And, if the marriage went through, Scarlett also would be turning Scallawag. Atlanta was in no mood to be
tolerant  or  charitable  toward anyone in the enemy camp and, the news of the engagement coming when it did, the town remembered all of the evil
things about the pair and none of the good.

Scarlett  knew  the  town was rocking but she did not realize the extent of public feeling until Mrs. Merriwether, urged on by her church circle,
took it upon herself to speak to her for her own good.

"Because  your  own  dear mother is dead and Miss Pitty, not being a matron, is not qualified to--er, well, to talk to you upon such a subject, I
feel that I must warn you, Scarlett, Captain Butler is not the kind of a man for any woman of good family to marry. He is a--"

"He managed to save Grandpa Merriwether's neck and your nephew's, too."

Mrs. Merriwether swelled. Hardly an hour before she had had an irritating talk with Grandpa. The old man had remarked that she must not value his
hide very much if she did not feel some gratitude to Rhett Butler, even if the man was a Scallawag and a scoundrel.

"He  only  did that as a dirty trick on us all, Scarlett, to embarrass us in front of the Yankees," Mrs. Merriwether continued. "You know as well
as I do that the man is a rogue. He always has been and now he's unspeakable. He is simply not the kind of man decent people receive."

"No?  That's  strange,  Mrs.  Merriwether. He was in your parlor often enough during the war. And he gave Maybelle her white satin wedding dress,
didn't he? Or is my memory wrong?"

"Things  are  so different during the war and nice people associated with many men who were not quite-- It was all for the Cause and very proper,
too. Surely you can't be thinking of marrying a man who wasn't in the army, who jeered at men who did enlist?"

"He was, too, in the army. He was in the army eight months. He was in the last campaign and fought at Franklin and was with General Johnston when
he surrendered."

"I  had  not  heard  that,"  said  Mrs.  Merriwether  and  she  looked  as  if she did not believe it either. "But he wasn't wounded," she added,

"Lots of men weren't."

"Everybody who was anybody got wounded. _I_ know no one who wasn't wounded."

Scarlett was goaded.

"Then  I guess all the men you knew were such fools they didn't know when to come in out of a shower of rain--or of minie balls. Now, let me tell
you  this,  Mrs.  Merriwether,  and  you can take it back to your busybody friends. I'm going to marry Captain Butler and I wouldn't care if he'd
fought on the Yankee side."

When  that  worthy  matron  went  out  of  the  house  with  her  bonnet  jerking with rage, Scarlett knew she had an open enemy now instead of a
disapproving  friend.  But  she  did not care. Nothing Mrs. Merriwether could say or do could hurt her. She did not care what anyone said--anyone
except Mammy.

Scarlett  had borne with Pitty's swooning at the news and had steeled herself to see Ashley look suddenly old and avoid her eyes as he wished her
happiness.  She  had  been  amused  and  irritated  at  the  letters from Aunt Pauline and Aunt Eulalie in Charleston, horror struck at the news,
forbidding  the  marriage,  telling  her it would not only ruin her social position but endanger theirs. She had even laughed when Melanie with a
worried  pucker  in  her brows said loyally: "Of course, Captain Butler is much nicer than most people realize and he was so kind and clever, the
way he saved Ashley. And after all, he did fight for the Confederacy. But, Scarlett, don't you think you'd better not decide so hastily?"

No, she didn't mind what anybody said, except Mammy. Mammy's words were the ones that made her most angry and brought the greatest hurt.

"Ah  has  seed you do a heap of things dat would hu't Miss Ellen, did she know. An' it has done sorrered me a plen'y. But disyere is de wust yit.
Mahyin'  trash!  Yas'm,  Ah  said trash! Doan go tellin' me he come frum fine folkses. Dat doan mek no diffunce. Trash come outer de high places,
same  as  de  low, and he trash! Yas'm, Miss Scarlett, Ah's seed you tek Mist' Charles 'way frum Miss Honey w'en you din' keer nuthin' 'bout him.
An' Ah's seed you rob yo own sister of Mist' Frank. An' Ah's heshed mah mouf 'bout a heap of things you is done, lak sellin' po' lumber fer good,
an'  lyin' 'bout de other lumber gempmums, an' ridin' roun' by yo'seff, exposin' yo'seff ter free issue niggers an' gettin' Mist' Frank shot, an'
not  feedin'  dem po' convicts nuff ter keep dey souls in dey bodies. Ah's done heshed mah mouf, even ef Miss Ellen in de Promise Lan' wuz sayin'
'Mammy,  Mammy! You ain' look affer mah chile right!' Yas'm. Ah's stood fer all dat but Ah ain' gwine stand fer dis, Miss Scarlett. You kain mahy
wid trash. Not w'ile Ah got breaf in mah body."

"I shall marry whom I please," said Scarlett coldly. "I think you are forgetting your place, Mammy."

"An' high time, too! Ef Ah doan say dese wuds ter you, who gwine ter do it?"

"I've  been  thinking  the matter over, Mammy, and I've decided that the best thing for you to do is to go back to Tara. I'll give you some money

Mammy drew herself up with all her dignity.

"Ah  is  free,  Miss  Scarlett. You kain sen' me nowhar Ah doan wanter go. An' w'en Ah goes back ter Tara, it's gwine be w'en you goes wid me. Ah
ain'  gwine  leave  Miss  Ellen's  chile, an' dar ain' no way in de worl' ter mek me go. An' Ah ain' gwine leave Miss Ellen's gran'chillun fer no
trashy step-pa ter bring up, needer. Hyah Ah is and hyah Ah stays!"

"I will not have you staying in my house and being rude to Captain Butler. I am going to marry him and there's no more to be said."

"Dar is plen'y mo' ter be said," retorted Mammy slowly and into her blurred old eyes there came the light of battle.

"But  Ah  ain'  never  thought ter say it ter none of Miss Ellen's blood. But, Miss Scarlett, lissen ter me. You ain' nuthin' but a mule in hawse
harness.  You kin polish a mule's feet an' shine his hide an' put brass all over his harness an' hitch him ter a fine cah'ige. But he a mule jes'
de  same. He doan fool nobody. An' you is jes' de same. You got silk dresses an' de mills an' de sto' an' de money, an' you give yo'seff airs lak
a  fine  hawse, but you a mule jes' de same. An' you ain' foolin' nobody, needer. An' dat Butler man, he come of good stock and he all slicked up
lak a race hawse, but he a mule in hawse harness, jes' lak you."

Mammy bent a piercing look on her mistress. Scarlett was speechless and quivering with insult.

"Ef  you  say  you  gwine mahy him, you gwine do it, 'cause you is bullhaided lak yo' pa. But 'member dis, Miss Scarlett, Ah ain' leavin' you. Ah
gwine stay right hyah an' see dis ting thoo."

Without  waiting  for a reply, Mammy turned and left Scarlett and if she had said: "Thou shalt see me at Philippi!" her tones would not have been
more ominous.

While they were honeymooning in New Orleans Scarlett told Rhett of Mammy's words. To her surprise and indignation he laughed at Mammy's statement
about mules in horse harness.

"I  have never heard a profound truth expressed so succinctly," he said. "Mammy's a smart old soul and one of the few people I know whose respect
and  good will I'd like to have. But, being a mule, I suppose I'll never get either from her. She even refused the ten-dollar gold piece which I,
in my groomlike fervor, wished to present her after the wedding. I've seen so few people who did not melt at the sight of cash. But she looked me
in the eye and thanked me and said she wasn't a free issue nigger and didn't need my money."

"Why  should  she  take  on so? Why should everybody gabble about me like a bunch of guinea hens? It's my own affair whom I marry and how often I
marry. I've always minded my own business. Why don't other people mind theirs?"

"My  pet,  the  world  can  forgive practically anything except people who mind their own business. But why should you squall like a scalded cat?
You've  said  often  enough that you didn't mind what people said about you. Why not prove it? You know you've laid yourself open to criticism so
often  in  small matters, you can't expect to escape gossip in this large matter. You knew there'd be talk if you married a villain like me. If I
were a low-bred poverty-stricken villain, people wouldn't be so mad. But a rich, flourishing villain--of course, that's unforgivable."

"I wish you'd be serious sometimes!"

"I  am  serious. It's always annoying to the godly when the ungodly flourish like the green bay tree. Cheer up, Scarlett, didn't you tell me once
that the main reason you wanted a lot of money was so you could tell everybody to go to hell? Now's your chance."

"But you were the main one I wanted to tell to go to hell," said Scarlett, and laughed.

"Do you still want to tell me to go to hell?"

"Well, not as often as I used to."

"Do it whenever you like, if it makes you happy."

"It  doesn't  make  me  especially  happy," said Scarlett and, bending, she kissed him carelessly. His dark eyes flickered quickly over her face,
hunting for something in her eyes which he did not find, and he laughed shortly.

"Forget about Atlanta. Forget about the old cats. I brought you to New Orleans to have fun and I intend that you shall have it."

Part Five


She did have fun, more fun than she had had since the spring before the war. New Orleans was such a strange, glamorous place and Scarlett enjoyed
it with the headlong pleasure of a pardoned life prisoner. The Carpetbaggers were looting the town, many honest folk were driven from their homes
and  did not know where to look for their next meal, and a negro sat in the lieutenant governor's chair. But the New Orleans Rhett showed her was
the  gayest  place  she  had  ever seen. The people she met seemed to have all the money they wanted and no cares at all. Rhett introduced her to
dozens  of  women,  pretty women in bright gowns, women who had soft hands that showed no signs of hard work, women who laughed at everything and
never  talked  of  stupid serious things or hard times. And the men she met--how thrilling they were! And how different from Atlanta men--and how
they fought to dance with her, and paid her the most extravagant compliments as though she were a young belle.

These men had the same hard reckless look Rhett wore. Their eyes were always alert, like men who have lived too long with danger to be ever quite
careless.  They  seemed  to  have no pasts or futures, and they politely discouraged Scarlett when, to make conversation, she asked what or where
they  were  before  they  came  to  New  Orleans. That, in itself, was strange, for in Atlanta every respectable newcomer hastened to present his
credentials, to tell proudly of his home and family, to trace the tortuous mazes of relationship that stretched over the entire South.

But  these  men  were  a taciturn lot, picking their words carefully. Sometimes when Rhett was alone with them and Scarlett in the next room, she
heard  laughter  and caught fragments of conversation that meant nothing to her, scraps of words, puzzling names--Cuba and Nassau in the blockade
days,  the  gold  rush and claim jumping, gun running and filibustering, Nicaragua and William Walker and how he died against a wall at Truxillo.
Once  her  sudden  entrance  abruptly  terminated a conversation about what had happened to the members of Quantrill's band of guerillas, and she
caught the names of Frank and Jesse James.

But  they were all well mannered, beautifully tailored, and they evidently admired her, so it mattered little to Scarlett that they chose to live
utterly  in  the  present. What really mattered was that they were Rhett's friends and had large houses and fine carriages, and they took her and
Rhett driving, invited them to suppers, gave parties in their honor. And Scarlett like them very well. Rhett was amused when she told him so.

"I thought you would," he said and laughed.

"Why not?" her suspicions aroused as always by his laughter.

"They're all second-raters, black sheep, rascals. They're all adventurers or Carpetbag aristocrats. They all made their money speculating in food
like your loving husband or out of dubious government contracts or in shady ways that won't bear investigation."

"I don't believe it. You're teasing. They're the nicest people . . ."

"The nicest people in town are starving," said Rhett. "And living politely in hovels, and I doubt if I'd be received in those hovels. You see, my
dear,  I  was  engaged  in  some  of  my  nefarious schemes here during the war and these people have devilish long memories! Scarlett, you are a
constant joy to me. You unerringly manage to pick the wrong people and the wrong things."

"But they are your friends!"

"Oh,  but  I like rascals. My early youth was spent as a gambler on a river boat and I can understand people like that. But I'm not blind to what
they  are.  Whereas  you"--he  laughed again--"you have no instinct about people, no discrimination between the cheap and the great. Sometimes, I
think  that  the  only  great ladies you've ever associated with were your mother and Miss Melly and neither seems to have made any impression on

"Melly! Why she's as plain as an old shoe and her clothes always look tacky and she never has two words to say for herself!"

"Spare me your jealousy, Madam. Beauty doesn't make a lady, nor clothes a great lady!"

"Oh, don't they! Just you wait, Rhett Butler, and I'll show you. Now that I've--we've got money, I'm going to be the greatest lady you ever saw!"

"I shall wait with interest," he said.

More exciting than the people she met were the frocks Rhett bought her, superintending the choice of colors, materials and designs himself. Hoops
were  out  now,  and  the  new  styles  were charming with the skirts pulled back from the front and draped over bustles, and on the bustles were
wreaths of flowers and bows and cascades of lace. She thought of the modest hoops of the war years and she felt a little embarrassed at these new
skirts  which  undeniably  outlined her abdomen. And the darling little bonnets that were not really bonnets at all, but flat little affairs worn
over  one eye and laden with fruits and flowers, dancing plumes and fluttering ribbons! (If only Rhett had not been so silly and burned the false
curls  she  bought  to  augment  her  knot of Indian-straight hair that peeked from the rear of these little hats!) And the delicate convent-made
underwear! How lovely it was and how many sets she had! Chemises and nightgowns and petticoats of the finest linen trimmed with dainty embroidery
and infinitesimal tucks. And the satin slippers Rhett bought her! They had heels three inches high and huge glittering paste buckles on them. And
silk stockings, a dozen pairs and not a one had cotton tops! What riches!

She recklessly bought gifts for the family. A furry St. Bernard puppy for Wade, who had always longed for one, a Persian kitten for Beau, a coral
bracelet  for  little  Ella,  a  heavy  necklace with moonstone pendants for Aunt Pitty, a complete set of Shakespeare for Melanie and Ashley, an
elaborate livery for Uncle Peter, including a high silk coachman's hat with a brush upon it, dress lengths for Dilcey and Cookie, expensive gifts
for everyone at Tara.

"But  what  have  you bought for Mammy?" questioned Rhett, looking over the pile of gifts spread out on the bed in their hotel room, and removing
the puppy and kitten to the dressing room.

"Not a thing. She was hateful. Why should I bring her a present when she called us mules?"

"Why should you so resent hearing the truth, my pet? You must bring Mammy a present. It would break her heart if you didn't--and hearts like hers
are too valuable to be broken."

"I won't take her a thing. She doesn't deserve it."

"Then  I'll buy her one. I remember my mammy always said that when she went to Heaven she wanted a taffeta petticoat so stiff that it would stand
by itself and so rustly that the Lord God would think it was made of angels' wings. I'll buy Mammy some red taffeta and have an elegant petticoat

"She won't take it from you. She'd die rather than wear it."

"I don't doubt it. But I'll make the gesture just the same."

The  shops  of New Orleans were so rich and exciting and shopping with Rhett was an adventure. Dining with him was an adventure too, and one more
thrilling than shopping, for he knew what to order and how it should be cooked. The wines and liqueurs and champagnes of New Orleans were new and
exhilarating  to  her,  acquainted with only homemade blackberry and scuppernong vintages and Aunt Pitty's "swoon" brandy; but oh, the food Rhett
ordered!  Best  of  all  things in New Orleans was the food. Remembering the bitter hungry days at Tara and her more recent penury, Scarlett felt
that  she  could  never  eat  enough of these rich dishes. Gumboes and shrimp Creole, doves in wine and oysters in crumbly patties full of creamy
sauce,  mushrooms  and  sweetbreads and turkey livers, fish baked cunningly in oiled paper and limes. Her appetite never dulled, for whenever she
remembered the everlasting goobers and dried peas and sweet potatoes at Tara, she felt an urge to gorge herself anew of Creole dishes.

"You  eat as though each meal were your last," said Rhett. "Don't scrape the plate, Scarlett. I'm sure there's more in the kitchen. You have only
to ask the waiter. If you don't stop being such a glutton, you'll be as fat as the Cuban ladies and then I shall divorce you."

But she only put out her tongue at him and ordered another pastry, thick with chocolate and stuffed with meringue.

What  fun  it  was  to  be  able to spend as much money as you liked and not count pennies and feel that you should save them to pay taxes or buy
mules.  What  fun  to  be with people who were gay and rich and not genteelly poor like Atlanta people. What fun to wear rustling brocade dresses
that  showed your waist and all your neck and arms and more than a little of your breast and know that men were admiring you. And what fun to eat
all you wanted without having censorious people say you weren't ladylike. And what fun to drink all the champagne you pleased. The first time she
drank  too  much, she was embarrassed when she awoke the next morning with a splitting headache and an awful memory of singing "Bonnie Blue Flag"
all  the  way  back  to  the  hotel,  through the streets of New Orleans, in an open carriage. She had never seen a lady even tipsy, and the only
drunken  woman she had ever seen had been that Watling creature on the day when Atlanta fell. She hardly knew how to face Rhett, so great was her
humiliation, but the affair seemed only to amuse him. Everything she did seemed to amuse him, as though she were a gamboling kitten.

It  was  exciting  to go out with him for he was so handsome. Somehow she had never given his looks a thought before, and in Atlanta everyone had
been  too  preoccupied with his shortcomings ever to talk about his appearance. But here in New Orleans she could see how the eyes of other women
followed  him  and  how they fluttered when he bent over their hands. The realization that other women were attracted by her husband, and perhaps
envied her, made her suddenly proud to be seen by his side.

"Why, we're a handsome people," thought Scarlett with pleasure.

Yes,  as  Rhett  had  prophesied,  marriage  could be a lot of fun. Not only was it fun but she was learning many things. That was odd in itself,
because Scarlett had thought life could teach her no more. Now she felt like a child, every day on the brink of a new discovery.

First,  she  learned  that  marriage with Rhett was a far different matter from marriage with either Charles or Frank. They had respected her and
been  afraid  of  her  temper.  They  had  begged  for favors and if it pleased her, she had bestowed them. Rhett did not fear her and, she often
thought,  did not respect her very much either. What he wanted to do, he did, and if she did not like it, he laughed at her. She did not love him
but  he  was  undoubtedly an exciting person to live with. The most exciting thing about him was that even in his outbursts of passion which were
flavored  sometimes  with cruelty, sometimes with irritating amusement, he seemed always to be holding himself under restraint, always riding his
emotions with a curb bit.

"I guess that's because he isn't really in love with me," she thought and was content enough with the state of affairs. "I should hate for him to
ever turn completely loose in any way." But still the thought of the possibility teased her curiosity in an exciting way.

Living  with Rhett, she learned many new things about him, and she had thought she knew him so well. She learned that his voice could be as silky
as  a  cat's  fur one moment and crisp and crackling with oaths the next. He could tell, with apparent sincerity and approval, stories of courage
and honor and virtue and love in the odd places he had been, and follow them with ribald stories of coldest cynicism. She knew no man should tell
such  stories  to  his  wife  but they were entertaining and they appealed to something coarse and earthy in her. He could be an ardent, almost a
tender,  lover  for  a brief while, and almost immediately a mocking devil who ripped the lid from her gunpowder temper, fired it and enjoyed the
explosion. She learned that his compliments were always two edged and his tenderest expressions open to suspicion. In fact, in those two weeks in
New Orleans, she learned everything about him except what he really was.

Some  mornings  he  dismissed the maid and brought her the breakfast tray himself and fed her as though she were a child, took the hairbrush from
her  hand  and  brushed  her  long  dark  hair  until it snapped and crackled. Yet other mornings she was torn rudely out of deep slumber when he
snatched  all  the  bed  covers  from  her and tickled her bare feet. Sometimes he listened with dignified interest to details of her businesses,
nodding  approval  at her sagacity, and at other times he called her somewhat dubious tradings scavenging, highway robbery and extortion. He took
her  to  plays and annoyed her by whispering that God probably didn't approve of such amusements, and to churches and, sotto voce, retailed funny
obscenities  and  then reproved her for laughing. He encouraged her to speak her mind, to be flippant and daring. She picked up from him the gift
of  stinging  words  and sardonic phrases and learned to relish using them for the power they gave her over other people. But she did not possess
his sense of humor which tempered his malice, nor his smile that jeered at himself even while he was jeering others.

He  made her play and she had almost forgotten how. Life had been so serious and so bitter. He knew how to play and swept her along with him. But
he never played like a boy; he was a man and no matter what he did, she could never forget it. She could not look down on him from the heights of
womanly superiority, smiling as women have always smiled at the antics of men who are boys at heart.

This  annoyed her a little, whenever she thought of it. It would be pleasant to feel superior to Rhett. All the other men she had known she could
dismiss  with  a half-contemptuous "What a child!" Her father, the Tarleton twins with their love of teasing and their elaborate practical jokes,
the  hairy  little  Fontaines with their childish rages, Charles, Frank, all the men who had paid court to her during the war--everyone, in fact,
except  Ashley.  Only  Ashley  and  Rhett eluded her understanding and her control for they were both adults, and the elements of boyishness were
lacking in them.

She did not understand Rhett, nor did she trouble to understand him, though there were things about him which occasionally puzzled her. There was
the  way  he  looked  at her sometimes, when he thought she was unaware. Turning quickly she frequently caught him watching her, an alert, eager,
waiting look in his eyes.

"Why do you look at me like that?" she once asked irritably. "Like a cat at a mouse hole!"

But  his  face  had  changed  swiftly  and  he  only laughed. Soon she forgot it and did not puzzle her head about it any more, or about anything
concerning Rhett. He was too unpredictable to bother about and life was very pleasant--except when she thought of Ashley.

Rhett  kept  her  too  busy  to think of Ashley often. Ashley was hardly ever in her thoughts during the day but at night when she was tired from
dancing  or  her head was spinning from too much champagne--then she thought of Ashley. Frequently when she lay drowsily in Rhett's arms with the
moonlight  streaming over the bed, she thought how perfect life would be if it were only Ashley's arms which held her so closely, if it were only
Ashley who drew her black hair across his face and wrapped it about his throat.

Once  when  she  was  thinking this, she sighed and turned her head toward the window, and after a moment she felt the heavy arm beneath her neck
become like iron, and Rhett's voice spoke in the stillness: "May God damn your cheating little soul to hell for all eternity!"

And,  getting  up, he put on his clothes and left the room despite her startled protests and questions. He reappeared the next morning as she was
breakfasting in her room, disheveled, quite drunk and in his worst sarcastic mood, and neither made excuses nor gave an account of his absence.

Scarlett  asked  no  questions  and  was  quite cool to him, as became an injured wife, and when she had finished the meal, she dressed under his
bloodshot gaze and went shopping. He was gone when she returned and did not appear again until time for supper.

It  was  a  silent  meal  and  Scarlett's  temper was straining because it was her last supper in New Orleans and she wanted to do justice to the
crawfish.  And  she  could  not enjoy it under his gaze. Nevertheless she ate a large one, and drank a quantity of champagne. Perhaps it was this
combination  that  brought  back her old nightmare that evening, for she awoke, cold with sweat, sobbing brokenly. She was back at Tara again and
Tara  was  desolate.  Mother  was  dead  and with her all the strength and wisdom of the world. Nowhere in the world was there anyone to turn to,
anyone  to  rely  upon.  And  something  terrifying was pursuing her and she was running, running till her heart was bursting, running in a thick
swimming fog, crying out, blindly seeking that nameless, unknown haven of safety that was somewhere in the mist about her.

Rhett  was  leaning  over  her  when  she woke, and without a word he picked her up in his arms like a child and held her close, his hard muscles
comforting, his wordless murmuring soothing, until her sobbing ceased.

"Oh, Rhett. I was so cold and so hungry and so tired and I couldn't find it. I ran through the mist and I ran but I couldn't find it."

"Find what, honey?"

"I don't know. I wish I did know."

"Is it your old dream?"

"Oh, yes!"

He  gently  placed  her  on  the  bed, fumbled in the darkness and lit a candle. In the light his face with bloodshot eyes and harsh lines was as
unreadable  as  stone.  His  shirt, opened to the waist, showed a brown chest covered with thick black hair. Scarlett, still shaking with fright,
thought how strong and unyielding that chest was, and she whispered: "Hold me, Rhett."

"Darling!" he said swiftly, and picking her up he sat down in a large chair, cradling her body against him.

"Oh, Rhett, it's awful to be hungry."

"It must be awful to dream of starvation after a seven-course dinner including that enormous crawfish." He smiled but his eyes were kind.

"Oh,  Rhett, I just run and run and hunt and I can't ever find what it is I'm hunting for. It's always hidden in the mist. I know if I could find
it, I'd be safe forever and ever and never be cold or hungry again."

"Is it a person or a thing you're hunting?"

"I don't know. I never thought about it. Rhett, do you think I'll ever dream that I get there to safety?"

"No," he said, smoothing her tumbled hair, "I don't. Dreams aren't like that. But I do think that if you get used to being safe and warm and well
fed in your everyday life, you'll stop dreaming that dream. And, Scarlett, I'm going to see that you are safe."

"Rhett, you are so nice."

"Thanks  for  the  crumbs  from  your table, Mrs. Dives. Scarlett, I want you to say to yourself every morning when you wake up: 'I can't ever be
hungry again and nothing can ever touch me so long as Rhett is here and the United States government holds out.'"

"The United States government?" she questioned, sitting up, startled, tears still on her cheeks.

"The ex-Confederate money has now become an honest woman. I invested most of it in government bonds."

"God's nightgown!" cried Scarlett, sitting up in his lap, forgetful of her recent terror. "Do you mean to tell me you've loaned your money to the

"At a fair per cent."

"I don't care if it's a hundred percent! You must sell them immediately. The idea of letting the Yankees have the use of your money!"

"And what must I do with it?" he questioned with a smile, noting that her eyes were no longer wide with fright.

"Why--why buy property at Five Points. I'll bet you could buy all of Five Points with the money you have."

"Thank  you,  but I wouldn't have Five Points. Now that the Carpetbagger government has really gotten control of Georgia, there's no telling what
may  happen.  I  wouldn't  put  anything  beyond  the swarm of buzzards that's swooping down on Georgia now from north, east, south and west. I'm
playing  along  with  them, you understand, as a good Scallawag should do, but I don't trust them. And I'm not putting my money in real estate. I
prefer bonds. You can hide them. You can't hide real estate very easily."

"Do you think--" she began, paling as she thought of the mills and store.

"I don't know. But don't look so frightened, Scarlett. Our charming new governor is a good friend of mine. It's just that times are too uncertain
now and I don't want much of my money tied up in real estate."

He  shifted  her to one knee and, leaning back, reached for a cigar and lit it. She sat with her bare feet dangling, watching the play of muscles
on his brown chest, her terrors forgotten.

"And  while  we  are on the subject of real estate, Scarlett," he said, "I am going to build a house. You might have bullied Frank into living in
Miss  Pitty's  house,  but  not  me.  I  don't  believe  I  could bear her vaporings three times a day and, moreover, I believe Uncle Peter would
assassinate  me  before  he  would let me live under the sacred Hamilton roof. Miss Pitty can get Miss India Wilkes to stay with her and keep the
bogyman  away.  When we get back to Atlanta we are going to stay in the bridal suite of the National Hotel until our house is finished. Before we
left Atlanta I was dickering for that big lot on Peachtree, the one near the Leyden house. You know the one I mean?"

"Oh, Rhett, how lovely! I do so want a house of my own. A great big one!"

"Then at last we are agreed on something. What about a white stucco with wrought-iron work like these Creole houses here?"

"Oh,  no, Rhett. Not anything old fashioned like these New Orleans houses. I know just what I want. It's the newest thing because I saw a picture
of it in--let me see--it was in that Harper's Weekly I was looking at. It was modeled after a Swiss chalet."

"A Swiss what?"

"A chalet."

"Spell it."

She complied.

"Oh," he said and stroked his mustache.

"It  was lovely. It had a high mansard roof with a picket fence on top and a tower made of fancy shingles at each end. And the towers had windows
with red and blue glass in them. It was so stylish looking."

"I suppose it had jigsaw work on the porch banisters?"


"And a fringe of wooden scrollwork hanging from the roof of the porch?"

"Yes. You must have seen one like it."

"I  have--but not in Switzerland. The Swiss are a very intelligent race and keenly alive to architectural beauty. Do you really want a house like

"Oh, yes!"

"I had hoped that association with me might improve your taste. Why not a Creole house or a Colonial with six white columns?"

"I  tell  you  I  don't want anything tacky and old-fashioned looking. And inside let's have red wall paper and red velvet portieres over all the
folding  doors  and  oh, lots of expensive walnut furniture and grand thick carpets and--oh, Rhett, everybody will be pea green when they see our

"It  is  very  necessary  that  everyone shall be envious? Well, if you like they shall be green. But, Scarlett, has it occurred to you that it's
hardly in good taste to furnish the house on so lavish a scale when everyone is so poor?"

"I  want it that way," she said obstinately. "I want to make everybody who's been mean to me feel bad. And we'll give big receptions that'll make
the whole town wish they hadn't said such nasty things."

"But who will come to our receptions?"

"Why, everybody, of course."

"I doubt it. The Old Guard dies but it never surrenders."

"Oh, Rhett, how you run on! If you've got money, people always like you."

"Not  Southerners.  It's harder for speculators' money to get into the best parlors than for the camel to go through the needle's eye. And as for
Scallawags--that's  you  and  me, my pet--we'll be lucky if we aren't spit upon. But if you'd like to try, I'll back you, my dear, and I'm sure I
shall  enjoy your campaign intensely. And while we are on the subject of money, let me make this clear to you. You can have all the cash you want
for  the house and all you want for your fal-lals. And if you like jewelry, you can have it but I'm going to pick it out. You have such execrable
taste,  my pet. And anything you want for Wade or Ella. And if Will Benteen can't make a go of the cotton, I'm willing to chip in and help out on
that white elephant in Clayton County that you love so much. That's fair enough, isn't it?"

"Of course. You're very generous."

"But listen closely. Not one cent for the store and not one cent for that kindling factory of yours."

"Oh,"  said Scarlett, her face falling. All during the honeymoon she had been thinking how she could bring up the subject of the thousand dollars
she needed to buy fifty feet more of land to enlarge her lumber yard.

"I  thought  you  always bragged about being broad minded and not caring what people said about my running a business, and you're just like every
other man--so afraid people will say I wear the pants in the family."

"There's  never  going to be any doubt in anybody's mind about who wears the pants in the Butler family," drawled Rhett. "I don't care what fools
say.  In  fact,  I'm  ill  bred  enough  to be proud of having a smart wife. I want you to keep on running the store and the mills. They are your
children's. When Wade grows up he won't feel right about being supported by his stepfather, and then he can take over the management. But not one
cent of mine goes into either business."


"Because I don't care to contribute to the support of Ashley Wilkes."

"Are you going to begin that again?"

"No.  But  you  asked  my  reasons  and  I have given them. And another thing. Don't think you can juggle books on me and lie about how much your
clothes cost and how much it takes to run the house, so that you can use the money to buy more mules or another mill for Ashley. I intend to look
over  and  carefully  check  your expenditures and I know what things cost. Oh, don't get insulted. You'd do it. I wouldn't put it beyond you. In
fact,  I  wouldn't  put  anything beyond you where either Tara or Ashley is concerned. I don't mind Tara. But I must draw the line at Ashley. I'm
riding you with a slack rein, my pet, but don't forget that I'm riding with curb and spurs just the same."


Mrs.  Elsing cocked her ear toward the hall. Hearing Melanie's steps die away into the kitchen where rattling dishes and clinking silverware gave
promise of refreshments, she turned and spoke softly to the ladies who sat in a circle in the parlor, their sewing baskets in their laps.

"Personally, I do not intend to call on Scarlett now or ever," she said, the chill elegance of her face colder than usual.

The  other  members  of  the  Ladies' Sewing Circle for the Widows and Orphans of the Confederacy eagerly laid down their needles and edged their
rocking  chairs  closer. All the ladies had been bursting to discuss Scarlett and Rhett but Melanie's presence prevented it. Just the day before,
the couple had returned from New Orleans and they were occupying the bridal suite at the National Hotel.

"Hugh says that I must call out of courtesy for the way Captain Butler saved his life," Mrs. Elsing continued. "And poor Fanny sides with him and
says  she  will  call  too.  I  said to her 'Fanny,' I said, 'if it wasn't for Scarlett, Tommy would be alive this minute. It is an insult to his
memory  to  call.'  And  Fanny had no better sense than to say, 'Mother, I'm not calling on Scarlett. I'm calling on Captain Butler. He tried his
best to save Tommy and it wasn't his fault if he failed.'"

"How  silly  young  people  are!"  said  Mrs.  Merriwether. "Call, indeed!" Her stout bosom swelled indignantly as she remembered Scarlett's rude
reception  of  her advice on marrying Rhett. "My Maybelle is just as silly as your Fanny. She says she and Rene will call, because Captain Butler
kept  Rene  from getting hanged. And I said if it hadn't been for Scarlett exposing herself, Rene would never have been in any danger. And Father
Merriwether intends to call and he talks like he was in his dotage and says he's grateful to that scoundrel, even if I'm not. I vow, since Father
Merriwether  was in that Watling creature's house he has acted in a disgraceful way. Call, indeed! I certainly shan't call. Scarlett has outlawed
herself  by  marrying such a man. He was bad enough when he was a speculator during the war and making money out of our hunger but now that he is
hand in glove with the Carpetbaggers and Scallawags and a friend--actually a friend of that odious wretch, Governor Bullock-- Call, indeed!"

Mrs. Bonnell sighed. She was a plump brown wren of a woman with a cheerful face.

"They'll only call once, for courtesy, Dolly. I don't know that I blame them. I've heard that all the men who were out that night intend to call,
and  I  think  they  should.  Somehow,  it's  hard  for me to think that Scarlett is her mother's child. I went to school with Ellen Robillard in
Savannah  and  there  was  never  a lovelier girl than she was and she was very dear to me. If only her father had not opposed her match with her
cousin,  Philippe Robillard! There was nothing really wrong with the boy--boys must sow their wild oats. But Ellen must run off and marry old man
O'Hara and have a daughter like Scarlett. But really, I feel that I must call once out of memory to Ellen."

"Sentimental  nonsense!"  snorted Mrs. Merriwether with vigor. "Kitty Bonnell, are you going to call on a woman who married a bare year after her
husband's death? A woman--"

"And she really killed Mr. Kennedy," interrupted India. Her voice was cool but acid. Whenever she thought of Scarlett it was hard for her even to
be  polite, remembering, always remembering Stuart Tarleton. "And I have always thought there was more between her and that Butler man before Mr.
Kennedy was killed than most people suspected."

Before the ladies could recover from their shocked astonishment at her statement and at a spinster mentioning such a matter, Melanie was standing
in  the  doorway.  So  engrossed had they been in their gossip that they had not heard her light tread and now, confronted by their hostess, they
looked  like  whispering  schoolgirls  caught  by  a teacher. Alarm was added to consternation at the change in Melanie's face. She was pink with
righteous anger, her gentle eyes snapping fire, her nostrils quivering. No one had ever seen Melanie angry before. Not a lady present thought her
capable  of  wrath.  They all loved her but they thought her the sweetest, most pliable of young women, deferential to her elders and without any
opinions of her own.

"How dare you, India?" she questioned in a low voice that shook. "Where will your jealousy lead you? For shame!"

India's face went white but her head was high.

"I retract nothing," she said briefly. But her mind was seething.

"Jealous, am I?" she thought. With the memory of Stuart Tarleton and of Honey and Charles, didn't she have good reason to be jealous of Scarlett?
Didn't  she  have  good  reason  to  hate her, especially now that she had a suspicion that Scarlett had somehow entangled Ashley in her web? She
thought:  "There's  plenty  I  could tell you about Ashley and your precious Scarlett." India was torn between the desire to shield Ashley by her
silence and to extricate him by telling all her suspicions to Melanie and the whole world. That would force Scarlett to release whatever hold she
had on Ashley. But this was not the time. She had nothing definite, only suspicions.

"I retract nothing," she repeated.

"Then it is fortunate that you are no longer living under my roof," said Melanie and her words were cold.

India leaped to her feet, red flooding her sallow face.

"Melanie, you--my sister-in-law--you aren't going to quarrel with me over that fast piece--"

"Scarlett  is my sister-in-law, too," said Melanie, meeting India's eyes squarely as though they were strangers. "And dearer to me than any blood
sister could ever be. If you are so forgetful of my favors at her hands, I am not. She stayed with me through the whole siege when she could have
gone  home,  when  even  Aunt  Pitty  had  run away to Macon. She brought my baby for me when the Yankees were almost in Atlanta and she burdened
herself  with me and Beau all that dreadful trip to Tara when she could have left me here in a hospital for the Yankees to get me. And she nursed
and fed me, even if she was tired and even if she went hungry. Because I was sick and weak, I had the best mattress at Tara. When I could walk, I
had  the only whole pair of shoes. You can forget those things she did for me, India, but I cannot. And when Ashley came home, sick, discouraged,
without  a  home, without a cent in his pockets, she took him in like a sister. And when we thought we would have to go North and it was breaking
our  hearts to leave Georgia, Scarlett stepped in and gave him the mill to run. And Captain Butler saved Ashley's life out of the kindness of his
heart.  Certainly  Ashley  had no claim on him! And I am grateful, grateful to Scarlett and to Captain Butler. But you, India! How can you forget
the  favors Scarlett has done me and Ashley? How can you hold your brother's life so cheap as to cast slurs on the man who saved him? If you went
down on your knees to Captain Butler and Scarlett, it would not be enough."

"Now, Melly," began Mrs. Merriwether briskly, for she had recovered her composure, "that's no way to talk to India."

"I heard what you said about Scarlett too," cried Melanie, swinging on the stout old lady with the air of a duelist who, having withdrawn a blade
from  one  prostrate  opponent, turns hungrily toward another. "And you too, Mrs. Elsing. What you think of her in your own petty minds, I do not
care,  for  that  is  your  business. But what you say about her in my own house or in my own hearing, ever, is my business. But how can you even
think  such  dreadful  things,  much  less  say  them?  Are  your men so cheap to you that you would rather see them dead than alive? Have you no
gratitude to the man who saved them and saved them at risk of his own life? The Yankees might easily have thought him a member of the Klan if the
whole truth had come out! They might have hanged him. But he risked himself for your men. For your father-in-law, Mrs. Merriwether, and your son-
in-law  and your two nephews, too. And your brother, Mrs. Bonnell, and your son and son-in-law, Mrs. Elsing. Ingrates, that's what you are! I ask
an apology from all of you."

Mrs. Elsing was on her feet cramming her sewing into her box, her mouth set.

"If  anyone  had  ever told me that you could be so ill bred, Melly--No, I will not apologize. India is right. Scarlett is a flighty, fast bit of
baggage. I can't forget how she acted during the war. And I can't forget how poor white trashy she's acted since she got a little money--"

"What you can't forget," cut in Melanie, clenching her small fists against her sides, "is that she demoted Hugh because he wasn't smart enough to
run her mill."

"Melly!" moaned a chorus of voices.

Mrs. Elsing's head jerked up and she started toward the door. With her hand on the knob of the front door, she stopped and turned.

"Melly,"  she  said  and  her voice softened, "honey, this breaks my heart. I was your mother's best friend and I helped Dr. Meade bring you into
this world and I've loved you like you were mine. If it were something that mattered it wouldn't be so hard to hear you talk like this. But about
a woman like Scarlett O'Hara who'd just as soon do you a dirty turn as the next of us--"

Tears had started in Melanie's eyes at the first words Mrs. Elsing spoke, but her face hardened when the old lady had finished.

"I want it understood," she said, "that any of you who do not call on Scarlett need never, never call on me."

There  was a loud murmur of voices, confusion as the ladies got to their feet. Mrs. Elsing dropped her sewing box on the floor and came back into
the room, her false fringe jerking awry.

"I  won't  have  it!" she cried. "I won't have it! You are beside yourself, Melly, and I don't hold you responsible. You shall be my friend and I
shall be yours. I refuse to let this come between us."

She  was  crying  and somehow, Melanie was in her arms, crying too, but declaring between sobs that she meant every word she said. Several of the
other  ladies  burst into tears and Mrs. Merriwether, trumpeting loudly into her handkerchief, embraced both Mrs. Elsing and Melanie. Aunt Pitty,
who had been a petrified witness to the whole scene, suddenly slid to the floor in what was one of the few real fainting spells she had ever had.
Amid  the  tears and confusion and kissing and scurrying for smelling salts and brandy, there was only one calm face, one dry pair of eyes. India
Wilkes took her departure unnoticed by anyone.

Grandpa  Merriwether,  meeting  Uncle  Henry Hamilton in the Girl of the Period Saloon several hours later, related the happenings of the morning
which  he  had heard from Mrs. Merriweather. He told it was relish for he was delighted that someone had the courage to face down his redoubtable
daughter-in-law. Certainly, he had never had such courage.

"Well, what did the pack of silly fools finally decide to do?" asked Uncle Henry irritably.

"I dunno for sure," said Grandpa, "but it looks to me like Melly won hands down on this go-round. I'll bet they'll all call, at least once. Folks
set a store by that niece of yours, Henry."

"Melly's  a  fool  and the ladies are right. Scarlett is a slick piece of baggage and I don't see why Charlie ever married her," said Uncle Henry
gloomily. "But Melly was right too, in a way. It's only decent that the families of the men Captain Butler saved should call. When you come right
down  to  it, I haven't got so much against Butler. He showed himself a fine man that night he saved our hides. It's Scarlett who sticks under my
tail  like  a  cocklebur.  She's  a sight too smart for her own good. Well, I've got to call. Scallawag or not, Scarlett is my niece by marriage,
after all. I was aiming to call this afternoon."

"I'll go with you, Henry. Dolly will be fit to be tied when she hears I've gone. Wait till I get one more drink."

"No, we'll get a drink off Captain Butler. I'll say this for him, he always has good licker."

Rhett  had  said  that the Old Guard would never surrender and he was right. He knew how little significance there was to the few calls made upon
them,  and  he  knew  why the calls were made. The families of the men who had been in the ill-starred Klan foray did call first, but called with
obvious infrequency thereafter. And they did not invite the Rhett Butlers to their homes.

Rhett  said  they  would not have come at all, except for fear of violence at the hands of Melanie. Where he got this idea, Scarlett did not know
but  she  dismissed  it  with  the  contempt  it  deserved.  For  what  possible influence could Melanie have on people like Mrs. Elsing and Mrs.
Merriwether?  That  they  did  not  call again worried her very little; in fact, their absence was hardly noticed, for her suite was crowded with
guests of another type. "New people," established Atlantians called them, when they were not calling them something less polite.

There were many "new people" staying at the National Hotel who, like Rhett and Scarlett, were waiting for their houses to be completed. They were
gay,  wealthy people, very much like Rhett's New Orleans friends, elegant of dress, free with their money, vague as to their antecedents. All the
men were Republicans and were "in Atlanta on business connected with the state government." Just what the business was, Scarlett did not know and
did not trouble to learn.

Rhett  could  have  told  her exactly what it was--the same business that buzzards have with dying animals. They smelled death from afar and were
drawn  unerringly to it, to gorge themselves. Government of Georgia by its own citizens was dead, the state was helpless and the adventurers were
swarming in.

The  wives  of Rhett's Scallawag and Carpetbagger friends called in droves and so did the "new people" she had met when she sold lumber for their
homes.  Rhett said that, having done business with them, she should receive them and, having received them, she found them pleasant company. They
wore  lovely  clothes  and  never talked about the war or hard times, but confined the conversation to fashions, scandals and whist. Scarlett had
never played cards before and she took to whist with joy, becoming a good player in a short time.

Whenever  she  was  at  the hotel there was a crowd of whist players in her suite. But she was not often in her suite these days, for she was too
busy  with the building of her new house to be bothered with callers. These days she did not much care whether she had callers or not. She wanted
to  delay  her social activities until the day when the house was finished and she could emerge as the mistress of Atlanta's largest mansion, the
hostess of the town's most elaborate entertainments.

Through  the  long  warm  days she watched her red stone and gray shingle house rise grandly, to tower above any other house on Peachtree Street.
Forgetful  of the store and the mills, she spent her time on the lot, arguing with carpenters, bickering with masons, harrying the contractor. As
the  walls  went swiftly up she thought with satisfaction that, when finished, it would be larger and finer looking than any other house in town.
It would be even more imposing than the near-by James residence which had just been purchased for the official mansion of Governor Bullock.

The  governor's  mansion  was  brave with jigsaw work on banisters and eaves, but the intricate scrollwork on Scarlett's house put the mansion to
shame.  The  mansion  had  a ballroom, but it looked like a billiard table compared with the enormous room that covered the entire third floor of
Scarlett's  house.  In  fact,  her  house  had  more of everything than the mansion, or any other house in town for that matter, more cupolas and
turrets and towers and balconies and lightning rods and far more windows with colored panes.

A  veranda  encircled the entire house, and four flights of steps on the four sides of the building led up to it. The yard was wide and green and
scattered  about  it  were  rustic iron benches, an iron summerhouse, fashionably called a "gazebo" which, Scarlett had been assured, was of pure
Gothic  design, and two large iron statues, one a stag and the other a mastiff as large as a Shetland pony. To Wade and Ella, a little dazzled by
the size, splendor and fashionable dark gloom of their new home, these two metal animals were the only cheerful notes.

Within,  the  house  was  furnished  as  Scarlett had desired, with thick red carpeting which ran from wall to wall, red velvet portieres and the
newest  of  highly  varnished  black-walnut furniture, carved wherever there was an inch for carving and upholstered in such slick horsehair that
ladies  had to deposit themselves thereon with great care for fear of sliding off. Everywhere on the walls were gilt-framed mirrors and long pier
glasses--as  many,  Rhett  said  idly, as there were in Belle Watling's establishment. Interspread were steel engravings in heavy frames, some of
them  eight  feet  long, which Scarlett had ordered especially from New York. The walls were covered with rich dark paper, the ceilings were high
and the house was always dim, for the windows were overdraped with plum-colored plush hangings that shut out most of the sunlight.

All  in all it was an establishment to take one's breath away and Scarlett, stepping on the soft carpets and sinking into the embrace of the deep
feather  beds,  remembered  the  cold floors and the straw-stuffed bedticks of Tara and was satisfied. She thought it the most beautiful and most
elegantly furnished house she had ever seen, but Rhett said it was a nightmare. However, if it made her happy, she was welcome to it.

"A  stranger  without  being told a word about us would know this house was built with ill-gotten gains," he said. "You know, Scarlett, money ill
come by never comes to good and this house is proof of the axiom. It's just the kind of house a profiteer would build."

But  Scarlett,  abrim  with  pride and happiness and full of plans for the entertainments she would give when they were thoroughly settled in the
house, only pinched his ear playfully and said: "Fiddle-dee-dee! How you do run on!"

She  knew, by now, that Rhett loved to take her down a peg, and would spoil her fun whenever he could, if she lent an attentive ear to his jibes.
Should she take him seriously, she would be forced to quarrel with him and she did not care to match swords, for she always came off second best.
So  she  hardly  ever  listened  to  anything he said, and what she was forced to hear she tried to turn off as a joke. At least, she tried for a

During  their  honeymoon  and for the greater part of their stay at the National Hotel, they had lived together with amiability. But scarcely had
they moved into the new house and Scarlett gathered her new friends about her, when sudden sharp quarrels sprang up between them. They were brief
quarrels,  short  lived because it was impossible to keep a quarrel going with Rhett, who remained coolly indifferent to her hot words and waited
his  chance  to  pink her in an unguarded spot. She quarreled; Rhett did not. He only stated his unequivocal opinion of herself, her actions, her
house and her new friends. And some of his opinions were of such a nature that she could no longer ignore them and treat them as jokes.

For  instance when she decided to change the name of "Kennedy's General Store" to something more edifying, she asked him to think of a title that
would  include  the  word  "emporium." Rhett suggested "Caveat Emptorium," assuring her that it would be a title most in keeping with the type of
goods  sold in the store. She thought it had an imposing sound and even went so far as to have the sign painted, when Ashley Wilkes, embarrassed,
translated the real meaning. And Rhett had roared at her rage.

And there was the way he treated Mammy. Mammy had never yielded an inch from her stand that Rhett was a mule in horse harness. She was polite but
cold  to  Rhett. She always called him "Cap'n Butler," never "Mist' Rhett." She never even dropped a curtsy when Rhett presented her with the red
petticoat  and  she  never  wore it either. She kept Ella and Wade out of Rhett's way whenever she could, despite the fact that Wade adored Uncle
Rhett  and  Rhett  was  obviously fond of the boy. But instead of discharging Mammy or being short and stern with her, Rhett treated her with the
utmost deference, with far more courtesy than he treated any of the ladies of Scarlett's recent acquaintance. In fact, with more courtesy than he
treated  Scarlett  herself.  He always asked Mammy's permission to take Wade riding and consulted with her before he bought Ella dolls. And Mammy
was hardly polite to him.

Scarlett felt that Rhett should be firm with Mammy, as became the head of the house, but Rhett only laughed and said that Mammy was the real head
of the house.

He  infuriated  Scarlett by saying coolly that he was preparing to be very sorry for her some years hence, when the Republican rule was gone from
Georgia and the Democrats back in power.

"When  the  Democrats get a governor and a legislature of their own, all your new vulgar Republican friends will be wiped off the chess board and
sent  back to minding bars and emptying slops where they belong. And you'll be left out on the end of a limb, with never a Democratic friend or a
Republican either. Well, take no thought of the morrow."

Scarlett laughed, and with some justice, for at that time, Bullock was safe in the governor's chair, twenty-seven negroes were in the legislature
and thousands of the Democratic voters of Georgia were disfranchised.

"The  Democrats will never get back. All they do is make Yankees madder and put off the day when they could get back. All they do is talk big and
run around at night Ku Kluxing."

"They  will get back. I know Southerners. I know Georgians. They are a tough and bullheaded lot. If they've got to fight another war to get back,
they'll  fight  another war. If they've got to buy black votes like the Yankees have done, then they will buy black votes. If they've got to vote
ten  thousand dead men like the Yankees did, every corpse in every cemetery in Georgia will be at the polls. Things are going to get so bad under
the benign rule of our good friend Rufus Bullock that Georgia is going to vomit him up.

"Rhett,  don't  use such vulgar words!" cried Scarlett. "You talk like I wouldn't be glad to see the Democrats come back! And you know that isn't
so! I'd be very glad to see them back. Do you think I like to see these soldiers hanging around, reminding me of--do you think I like--why, I'm a
Georgian,  too!  I'd like to see the Democrats get back. But they won't. Not ever. And even if they did, how would that affect my friends? They'd
still have their money, wouldn't they?"

"If  they  kept  their  money. But I doubt the ability of any of them to keep money more than five years at the rate they're spending. Easy come,
easy  go.  Their money won't do them any good. Any more than my money has done you any good. It certainly hasn't made a horse out of you yet, has
it, my pretty mule?"

The  quarrel  which  sprang  from  this  last  remark lasted for days. After the fourth day of Scarlett's sulks and obvious silent demands for an
apology,  Rhett went to New Orleans, taking Wade with him, over Mammy's protests, and he stayed away until Scarlett's tantrum had passed. But the
sting of not humbling him remained with her.

When he came back from New Orleans, cool and bland, she swallowed her anger as best she could, pushing it into the back of her mind to be thought
of  at  some later date. She did not want to bother with anything unpleasant now. She wanted to be happy for her mind was full of the first party
she  would give in the new house. It would be an enormous night reception with palms and an orchestra and all the porches shrouded in canvas, and
a  collation  that made her mouth water in anticipation. To it she intended to invite everyone she had ever known in Atlanta, all the old friends
and  all  the  new and charming ones she had met since returning from her honeymoon. The excitement of the party banished, for the most part, the
memory of Rhett's barbs and she was happy, happier than she had been in years as she planned her reception.

Oh,  what  fun  it  was  to be rich! To give parties and never count the cost! To buy the most expensive furniture and dresses and food and never
think  about the bills! How marvelous to be able to send tidy checks to Aunt Pauline and Aunt Eulalie in Charleston, and to Will at Tara! Oh, the
jealous fools who said money wasn't everything! How perverse of Rhett to say that it had done nothing for her!

Scarlett  issued cards of invitation to all her friends and acquaintances, old and new, even those she did not like. She did not except even Mrs.
Merriwether  who  had  been  almost rude when she called on her at the National Hotel or Mrs. Elsing who had been cool to frigidness. She invited
Mrs.  Meade and Mrs. Whiting who she knew disliked her and who she knew would be embarrassed because they did not have the proper clothes to wear
to so elegant a function. For Scarlett's housewarming, or "crush," as it was fashionable to call such evening parties, half-reception, half-ball,
was by far the most elaborate affair Atlanta had ever seen.

That night the house and canvas-covered veranda were filled with guests who drank her champagne punch and ate her patties and creamed oysters and
danced  to  the  music of the orchestra that was carefully screened by a wall of palms and rubber plants. But none of those whom Rhett had termed
the "Old Guard" were present except Melanie and Ashley, Aunt Pitty and Uncle Henry, Dr. and Mrs. Meade and Grandpa Merriwether.

Many  of  the  Old Guard had reluctantly decided to attend the "crush." Some had accepted because of Melanie's attitude, others because they felt
they  owed  Rhett  a debt for saving their lives and those of their relatives. But, two days before the function, a rumor went about Atlanta that
Governor Bullock had been invited. The Old Guard signified their disapproval by a sheaf of cards, regretting their inability to accept Scarlett's
kind  invitation.  And  the small group of old friends who did attend took their departure, embarrassed but firm, as soon as the governor entered
Scarlett's house.

Scarlett  was so bewildered and infuriated at these slights that the party was utterly ruined for her. Her elegant "crush"! She had planned it so
lovingly  and  so  few old friends and no old enemies had been there to see how wonderful it was! After the last guest had gone home at dawn, she
would  have  cried  and  stormed  had  she not been afraid that Rhett would roar with laughter, afraid that she would read "I told you so" in his
dancing black eyes, even if he did not speak the words. So she swallowed her wrath with poor grace and pretended indifference.

Only to Melanie, the next morning, did she permit herself the luxury of exploding.

"You  insulted me, Melly Wilkes, and you made Ashley and the others insult me! You know they'd have never gone home so soon if you hadn't dragged
them. Oh, I saw you! Just when I started to bring Governor Bullock over to present him to you, you ran like a rabbit!"

"I did not believe--I could not believe that he would really be present," answered Melanie unhappily. "Even though everybody said--"

"Everybody?  So everybody's been clacking and blabbing about me, have they?" cried Scarlett furiously. "Do you mean to tell me if you'd known the
governor was going to be present, you wouldn't have come either?"

"No," said Melanie in a low voice, her eyes on the floor. "Darling, I just wouldn't have come."

"Great balls of fire! So you'd have insulted me like everybody else did!"

"Oh, mercy!" cried Melly, in real distress. "I didn't mean to hurt you. You're my own sister, darling, my own Charlie's widow and I--"

She put a timid hand on Scarlett's arm. But Scarlett flung it off, wishing fervently that she could roar as loudly as Gerald used to roar when in
a  temper.  But  Melanie  faced her wrath. And as she looked into Scarlett's stormy green eyes, her slight shoulders straightened and a mantle of
dignity, strangely at variance with her childish face and figure, fell upon her.

"I'm  sorry  you're  hurt, my dear, but I cannot meet Governor Bullock or any Republican or any Scallawag. I will not meet them, in your house or
any other house. No, not even if I have to--if I have to--" Melanie cast about her for the worst thing she could think of--"Not even if I have to
be rude."

"Are you criticizing my friends?"

"No, dear. But they are your friends and not mine."

"Are you criticizing me for having the governor at my house?"

Cornered, Melanie still met Scarlett's eyes unwaveringly.

"Darling,  what  you  do,  you  always do for a good reason and I love you and trust you and it is not for me to criticize. And I will not permit
anyone  to  criticize you in my hearing. But, oh, Scarlett!" Suddenly words began to bubble out, swift hot words and there was inflexible hate in
the  low  voice.  "Can  you  forget  what  these people did to us? Can you forget darling Charlie dead and Ashley's health ruined and Twelve Oaks
burned?  Oh,  Scarlett, you can't forget that terrible man you shot with your mother's sewing box in his hands! You can't forget Sherman's men at
Tara  and  how they even stole our underwear! And tried to burn the place down and actually handled my father's sword! Oh, Scarlett, it was these
same  people  who  robbed us and tortured us and left us to starve that you invited to your party! The same people who have set the darkies up to
lord it over us, who are robbing us and keeping our men from voting! I can't forget. I won't forget. I won't let my Beau forget and I'll teach my
grandchildren to hate these people--and my grandchildren's grandchildren if God lets me live that long! Scarlett, how can you forget?"

Melanie paused for breath and Scarlett stared at her, startled out of her own anger by the quivering note of violence in Melanie's voice.

"Do  you  think  I'm  a  fool?" she questioned impatiently. "Of course, I remember! But all that's past, Melly. It's up to us to make the best of
things and I'm trying to do it. Governor Bullock and some of the nicer Republicans can help us a lot if we handle them right."

"There  are  no  nice Republicans," said Melanie flatly. "And I don't want their help. And I don't intend to make the best of things--if they are
Yankee things."

"Good Heaven, Melly, why get in such a pet?"

"Oh!"  cried  Melanie,  looking conscience stricken. "How I have run on! Scarlett, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings or to criticize. Everybody
thinks  differently and everybody's got a right to their own opinion. Now, dear, I love you and you know I love you and nothing you could ever do
would  make  me change. And you still love me, don't you? I haven't made you hate me, have I? Scarlett, I couldn't stand it if anything ever came
between us--after all we've been through together! Say it's all right."

"Fiddle-dee-dee,  Melly, what a tempest you make in a teapot," said Scarlett grudgingly, but she did not throw off the hand that stole around her

"Now,  we're all right again," said Melanie pleasedly but she added softly, "I want us to visit each other just like we always did, darling. Just
you let me know what days Republicans and Scallawags are coming to see you and I'll stay at home on those days."

"It's  a  matter of supreme indifference to me whether you come or not," said Scarlett, putting on her bonnet and going home in a huff. There was
some satisfaction to her wounded vanity in the hurt look on Melanie's face.

In the weeks that followed her first party, Scarlett was hard put to keep up her pretense of supreme indifference to public opinion. When she did
not  receive  calls  from old friends, except Melanie and Pitty and Uncle Henry and Ashley, and did not get cards to their modest entertainments,
she was genuinely puzzled and hurt. Had she not gone out of her way to bury old hatchets and show these people that she bore them no ill will for
their  gossiping  and backbiting? Surely they must know that she didn't like Governor Bullock any more than they did but that it was expedient to
be nice to him. The idiots! If everybody would be nice to the Republicans, Georgia would get out of the fix she was in very quickly.

She  did not realize then that with one stroke she had cut forever any fragile tie that still bound her to the old days, to old friends. Not even
Melanie's  influence  could  repair  the  break  of that gossamer thread. And Melanie, bewildered, broken hearted but still loyal, did not try to
repair  it.  Even had Scarlett wanted to turn back to old ways, old friends, there was no turning back possible now. The face of the town was set
against  her  as stonily as granite. The hate that enveloped the Bullock regime enveloped her too, a hate that had little fire and fury in it but
much  cold implacability. Scarlett had cast her lot with the enemy and, whatever her birth and family connections, she was now in the category of
a turncoat, a nigger lover, a traitor, a Republican--and a Scallawag.

After  a miserable while, Scarlett's pretended indifference gave way to the real thing. She had never been one to worry long over the vagaries of
human  conduct  or to be cast down for long if one line of action failed. Soon she did not care what the Merriwethers, the Elsings, the Whitings,
the  Bonnells, the Meades and others thought of her. At least, Melanie called, bringing Ashley, and Ashley was the one who mattered the most. And
there  were  other  people in Atlanta who would come to her parties, other people far more congenial than those hide-bound old hens. Any time she
wanted  to  fill  her  house with guests, she could do so and these guests would be far more entertaining, far more handsomely dressed than those
prissy, strait-laced old fools who disapproved of her.

These  people  were newcomers to Atlanta. Some of them were acquaintances of Rhett, some associated with him in those mysterious affairs which he
referred  to  as  "mere  business,  my  pet." Some were couples Scarlett had met when she was living at the National Hotel and some were Governor
Bullock's appointees.

The set with which she was now moving was a motley crew. Among them were the Gelerts who had lived in a dozen different states and who apparently
had  left  each  one  hastily upon detection of their swindling schemes; the Conningtons whose connection with the Freedmen's Bureau in a distant
state  had been highly lucrative at the expense of the ignorant blacks they were supposed to protect; the Deals who had sold "cardboard" shoes to
the  Confederate government until it became necessary for them to spend the last year of the war in Europe; the Hundons who had police records in
many  cities  but  nevertheless were often successful bidders on state contracts; the Carahans who had gotten their start in a gambling house and
now  were  gambling  for  bigger stakes in the building of nonexistent railroads with the state's money; the Flahertys who had bought salt at one
cent  a  pound  in  1861  and made a fortune when salt went to fifty cents in 1863, and the Barts who had owned the largest brothel in a Northern
metropolis during the war and now were moving in the best circles of Carpetbagger society.

Such  people  were Scarlett's intimates now, but those who attended her larger receptions included others of some culture and refinement, many of
excellent  families.  In  addition  to  the  Carpetbag gentry, substantial people from the North were moving into Atlanta, attracted by the never
ceasing  business  activity  of  the  town  in this period of rebuilding and expansion. Yankee families of wealth sent young sons to the South to
pioneer  on  the  new  frontier,  and  Yankee  officers  after their discharge took up permanent residence in the town they had fought so hard to
capture.  At  first, strangers in a strange town, they were glad to accept invitations to the lavish entertainments of the wealthy and hospitable
Mrs.  Butler,  but  they  soon  drifted  out  of  her set. They were good people and they needed only a short acquaintance with Carpetbaggers and
Carpetbag rule to become as resentful of them as the native Georgians were. Many became Democrats and more Southern than the Southerners.

Other  misfits in Scarlett's circle remained there only because they were not welcome elsewhere. They would have much preferred the quiet parlors
of the Old Guard, but the Old Guard would have none of them. Among these were the Yankee schoolmarms who had come South imbued with the desire to
uplift the Negro and the Scallawags who had been born good Democrats but had turned Republican after the surrender.

It  was  hard to say which class was more cordially hated by the settled citizenry, the impractical Yankee schoolmarms or the Scallawags, but the
balance  probably  fell  with the latter. The schoolmarms could be dismissed with, "Well, what can you expect of nigger-loving Yankees? Of course
they think the nigger is just as good as they are!" But for those Georgians who had turned Republican for personal gain, there was no excuse.

"Starving  is  good enough for us. It ought to be good enough for you," was the way the Old Guard felt. Many ex-Confederate soldiers, knowing the
frantic  fear  of  men who saw their families in want, were more tolerant of former comrades who had changed political colors in order that their
families might eat. But not the women of the Old Guard, and the women were the implacable and inflexible power behind the social throne. The Lost
Cause  was  stronger,  dearer  now in their hearts than it had ever been at the height of its glory. It was a fetish now. Everything about it was
sacred,  the graves of the men who had died for it, the battle fields, the torn flags, the crossed sabres in their halls, the fading letters from
the front, the veterans. These women gave no aid, comfort or quarter to the late enemy, and now Scarlett was numbered among the enemy.

In  this mongrel society thrown together by the exigencies of the political situation, there was but one thing in common. That was money. As most
of  them  had  never had twenty-five dollars at one time in their whole lives, previous to the war, they were now embarked on an orgy of spending
such as Atlanta had never seen before.

With  the  Republicans  in  the  political  saddle the town entered into an era of waste and ostentation, with the trappings of refinement thinly
veneering  the  vice and vulgarity beneath. Never before had the cleavage of the very rich and the very poor been so marked. Those on top took no
thought  for  those less fortunate. Except for the negroes, of course. They must have the very best. The best of schools and lodgings and clothes
and amusements, for they were the power in politics and every negro vote counted. But as for the recently impoverished Atlanta people, they could
starve and drop in the streets for all the newly rich Republicans cared.

On  the  crest  of  this  wave  of vulgarity, Scarlett rode triumphantly, newly a bride, dashingly pretty in her fine clothes, with Rhett's money
solidly  behind her. It was an era that suited her, crude, garish, showy, full of over-dressed women, over-furnished houses, too many jewels, too
many  horses,  too  much  food,  too  much  whisky.  When  Scarlett  infrequently stopped to think about the matter she knew that none of her new
associates  could  be called ladies by Ellen's strict standards. But she had broken with Ellen's standards too many times since that far-away day
when she stood in the parlor at Tara and decided to be Rhett's mistress, and she did not often feel the bite of conscience now.

Perhaps  these new friends were not, strictly speaking, ladies and gentlemen but like Rhett's New Orleans friends, they were so much fun! So very
much  more  fun  than  the  subdued,  churchgoing,  Shakespeare-reading  friends of her earlier Atlanta days. And, except for her brief honeymoon
interlude,  she had not had fun in so long. Nor had she had any sense of security. Now secure, she wanted to dance, to play, to riot, to gorge on
foods  and  fine  wine,  to  deck  herself in silks and satins, to wallow on soft feather beds and fine upholstery. And she did all these things.
Encouraged  by  Rhett's  amused  tolerance,  freed  now  from the restraints of her childhood, freed even from that last fear of poverty, she was
permitting herself the luxury she had often dreamed--of doing exactly what she pleased and telling people who didn't like it to go to hell.

To her had come that pleasant intoxication peculiar to those whose lives are a deliberate slap in the face of organized society--the gambler, the
confidence  man,  the  polite  adventuress, all those who succeed by their wits. She said and did exactly what she pleased and, in practically no
time, her insolence knew no bounds.

She  did  not  hesitate  to display arrogance to her new Republican and Scallawag friends but to no class was she ruder or more insolent than the
Yankee  officers  of  the garrison and their families. Of all the heterogeneous mass of people who had poured into Atlanta, the army people alone
she refused to receive or tolerate. She even went out of her way to be bad mannered to them. Melanie was not alone in being unable to forget what
a  blue  uniform  meant.  To  Scarlett,  that  uniform and those gold buttons would always mean the fears of the siege, the terror of flight, the
looting  and burning, the desperate poverty and the grinding work at Tara. Now that she was rich and secure in the friendship of the governor and
many prominent Republicans, she could be insulting to every blue uniform she saw. And she was insulting.

Rhett once lazily pointed out to her that most of the male guests who assembled under their roof had worn that same blue uniform not so long ago,
but  she  retorted  that  a  Yankee  didn't  seem like a Yankee unless he had on a blue uniform. To which Rhett replied: "Consistency, thou art a
jewel," and shrugged.

Scarlett,  hating  the  bright hard blue they wore, enjoyed snubbing them all the more because it so bewildered them. The garrison families had a
right  to  be bewildered for most of them were quiet, well-bred folk, lonely in a hostile land, anxious to go home to the North, a little ashamed
of  the  riffraff  whose rule they were forced to uphold--an infinitely better class than that of Scarlett's associates. Naturally, the officers'
wives were puzzled that the dashing Mrs. Butler took to her bosom such women as the common red-haired Bridget Flaherty and went out of her way to
slight them.

But  even  the ladies whom Scarlett took to her bosom had to endure much from her. However, they did it gladly. To them, she not only represented
wealth  and elegance but the old regime, with its old names, old families, old traditions with which they wished ardently to identify themselves.
The  old  families  they  yearned  after  might have cast Scarlett out but the ladies of the new aristocracy did not know it. They only knew that
Scarlett's  father  had been a great slave owner, her mother a Robillard of Savannah and her husband was Rhett Butler of Charleston. And this was
enough  for  them.  She was their opening wedge into the old society they wished to enter, the society which scorned them, would not return calls
and  bowed  frigidly  in  churches. In fact, she was more than their wedge into society. To them, fresh from obscure beginnings, she WAS society.
Pinchbeck  ladies  themselves, they no more saw through Scarlett's pinchbeck pretensions than she herself did. They took her at her own valuation
and  endured  much  at  her  hands,  her  airs,  her  graces,  her  tempers,  her arrogance, her downright rudeness and her frankness about their

They  were  so lately come from nothing and so uncertain of themselves they were doubly anxious to appear refined and feared to show their temper
or  make  retorts  in  kind,  lest they be considered unladylike. At all costs they must be ladies. They pretended to great delicacy, modesty and
innocence.  To  hear  them  talk  one  would have thought they had no legs, natural functions or knowledge of the wicked world. No one would have
thought  that  red-haired  Bridget  Flaherty, who had a sun-defying white skin and a brogue that could be cut with a butter knife, had stolen her
father's  hidden  hoard  to  come  to America to be chambermaid in a New York hotel. And to observe the delicate vapors of Sylvia (formerly Sadie
Belle)  Connington  and  Mamie Bart, no one would have suspected that the first grew up above her father's saloon in the Bowery and waited on the
bar  at  rush  times,  and  that  the latter, so it was said, had come out of one of her husband's own brothels. No, they were delicate sheltered
creatures now.

The  men,  though  they  had  made money, learned new ways less easily or were, perhaps, less patient with the demands of the new gentility. They
drank  heavily  at  Scarlett's  parties,  far  too heavily, and usually after a reception there were one or more unexpected guests who stayed the
night.  They  did  not  drink  like  the  men  of  Scarlett's girlhood. They became sodden, stupid, ugly or obscene. Moreover, no matter how many
spittoons she might put out in view, the rugs always showed signs of tobacco juice on the mornings after.

She  had a contempt for these people but she enjoyed them. Because she enjoyed them, she filled the house with them. And because of her contempt,
she told them to go to hell as often as they annoyed her. But they stood it.

They  even stood Rhett, a more difficult matter, for Rhett saw through them and they knew it. He had no hesitation about stripping them verbally,
even  under  his own roof, always in a manner that left them no reply. Unashamed of how he came by his fortune, he pretended that they, too, were
unashamed of their beginnings and he seldom missed an opportunity to remark upon matters which, by common consent, everyone felt were better left
in polite obscurity.

There was never any knowing when he would remark affably, over a punch cup: "Ralph, if I'd had any sense I'd have made my money selling gold-mine
stocks  to  widows  and  orphans,  like  you,  instead of blockading. It's so much safer." "Well, Bill, I see you have a new span of horses. Been
selling a few thousand more bonds for nonexistent railroads? Good work, boy!" "Congratulations, Amos, on landing that state contract. Too bad you
had to grease so many palms to get it."

The  ladies  felt  that  he was odiously, unendurably vulgar. The men said, behind his back, that he was a swine and a bastard. New Atlanta liked
Rhett  no  better  than  old  Atlanta  had done and he made as little attempt to conciliate the one as he had the other. He went his way, amused,
contemptuous,  impervious  to the opinions of those about him, so courteous that his courtesy was an affront in itself. To Scarlett, he was still
an  enigma  but  an enigma about which she no longer bothered her head. She was convinced that nothing ever pleased him or ever would please him,
that  he  either  wanted  something  badly  and  didn't  have  it,  or never had wanted anything and so didn't care about anything. He laughed at
everything she did, encouraged her extravagances and insolences, jeered at her pretenses--and paid the bills.


Rhett never deviated from his smooth, imperturbable manners, even in their most intimate moments. But Scarlett never lost the old feeling that he
was  watching her covertly, knew that if she turned her head suddenly she would surprise in his eyes that speculative, waiting look, that look of
almost terrible patience that she did not understand.

Sometimes,  he  was  a very comfortable person to live with, for all his unfortunate habit of not permitting anyone in his presence to act a lie,
palm  off  a  pretense  or  indulge  in  bombast. He listened to her talk of the store and the mills and the saloon, the convicts and the cost of
feeding  them,  and gave shrewd hard-headed advice. He had untiring energy for the dancing and parties she loved and an unending supply of coarse
stories with which he regaled her on their infrequent evenings alone when the table was cleared and brandy and coffee before them. She found that
he  would  give  her  anything she desired, answer any question she asked as long as she was forthright, and refuse her anything she attempted to
gain by indirection, hints and feminine angling. He had a disconcerting habit of seeing through her and laughing rudely.

Contemplating  the  suave  indifference with which he generally treated her, Scarlett frequently wondered, but with no real curiosity, why he had
married  her. Men married for love or a home and children or money but she knew he had married her for none of these things. He certainly did not
love  her. He referred to her lovely house as an architectural horror and said he would rather live in a well-regulated hotel than a home. And he
never  once  hinted  about  children  as  Charles  and  Frank  had done. Once when trying to coquet with him she asked why he married her and was
infuriated when he replied with an amused gleam in his eyes: "I married you to keep you for a pet, my dear."

No,  he hadn't married her for any of the usual reasons men marry women. He had married her solely because he wanted her and couldn't get her any
other  way. He had admitted as much the night he proposed to her. He had wanted her, just as he had wanted Belle Watling. This was not a pleasant
thought.  In  fact,  it  was  a  barefaced  insult. But she shrugged it off as she had learned to shrug off all unpleasant facts. They had made a
bargain and she was quite pleased with her side of the bargain. She hoped he was equally pleased but she did not care very much whether he was or

But one afternoon when she was consulting Dr. Meade about a digestive upset, she learned an unpleasant fact which she could not shrug off. It was
with real hate in her eyes that she stormed into her bedroom at twilight and told Rhett that she was going to have a baby.

He  was  lounging in a silk dressing gown in a cloud of smoke and his eyes went sharply to her face as she spoke. But he said nothing. He watched
her  in  silence  but  there  was  a tenseness about his pose, as he waited for her next words, that was lost on her. Indignation and despair had
claimed her to the exclusion of all other thoughts.

"You  know  I don't want any more children! I never wanted any at all. Every time things are going right with me I have to have a baby. Oh, don't
sit there and laugh! You don't want it either. Oh, Mother of God!"

If he was waiting for words from her, these were not the words he wanted. His face hardened slightly and his eyes became blank.

"Well, why not give it to Miss Melly? Didn't you tell me she was so misguided as to want another baby?"

"Oh, I could kill you! I won't have it, I tell you, I won't!"

"No? Pray continue."

"Oh,  there are things to do. I'm not the stupid country fool I used to be. Now, I know that a woman doesn't have to have children if she doesn't
want them! There are things--"

He was on his feet and had her by the wrist and there was a hard, driving fear in his face.

"Scarlett, you fool, tell me the truth! You haven't done anything?"

"No, I haven't, but I'm going to. Do you think I'm going to have my figure ruined all over again, just when I've gotten my waist line down and am
having a good time."

"Where did you get this idea? Who's been telling you things?"

"Mamie Bart--she--"

"The  madam of a whore house would know such tricks. That woman never puts foot in this house again, do you understand? After all, it is my house
and I'm the master of it. I do not even want you to speak to her again."

"I'll do as I please. Turn me loose. Why should you care?"

"I don't care whether you have one child or twenty, but I do care if you die."

"Die? Me?"

"Yes, die. I don't suppose Mamie Bart told you the chances a woman takes when she does a thing like that?"

"No," said Scarlett reluctantly. "She just said it would fix things up fine."

"By  God,  I will kill her!" cried Rhett and his face was black with rage. He looked down into Scarlett's tear-stained face and some of the wrath
faded but it was still hard and set. Suddenly he picked her up in his arms and sat down in the chair, holding her close to him, tightly, as if he
feared she would get away from him.

"Listen,  my  baby,  I  won't have you take your life in your hands. Do you hear? Good God, I don't want children any more than you do, but I can
support  them.  I  don't  want to hear any more foolishness out of you, and if you dare try to--Scarlett, I saw a girl die that way once. She was
only a--well, but she was a pretty sort at that. It's not an easy way to die. I--"

"Why, Rhett!" she cried, startled out of her misery at the emotion in his voice. She had never seen him so moved. "Where--who--"

"In  New  Orleans--oh,  years  ago. I was young and impressionable." He bent his head suddenly and buried his lips in her hair. "You'll have your
baby, Scarlett, if I have to handcuff you to my wrist for the next nine months."

She  sat  up  in  his lap and stared into his face with frank curiosity. Under her gaze it was suddenly smooth and bland as though wiped clear by
magic. His eyebrows were up and the corner of his mouth was down.

"Do I mean so much to you?" she questioned, dropping her eyelids.

He gave her a level look as though estimating how much coquetry was behind the question. Reading the true meaning of her demeanor, he made casual

"Well, yes. You see, I've invested a good deal of money in you, and I'd hate to lose it."

* * * * *

Melanie  came  out  of  Scarlett's room, weary from the strain but happy to tears at the birth of Scarlett's daughter. Rhett stood tensely in the
hall, surrounded by cigar butts which had burned holes in the fine carpet.

"You can go in now, Captain Butler," she said shyly.

Rhett  went  swiftly  past  her  into the room and Melanie had a brief glimpse of him bending over the small naked baby in Mammy's lap before Dr.
Meade shut the door. Melanie sank into a chair, her face pinkening with embarrassment that she had unintentionally witnessed so intimate a scene.

"Ah!"  she  thought.  "How sweet! How worried poor Captain Butler has been! And he did not take a single drink all this time! How nice of him. So
many  gentlemen  are  so  intoxicated by the time their babies are born. I fear he needs a drink badly. Dare I suggest it? No, that would be very
forward of me."

She  sank  gratefully  into  a chair, her back, which always ached these days, feeling as though it would break in two at the waist line. Oh, how
fortunate  Scarlett  was  to  have  Captain  Butler just outside her door while the baby was being born! If only she had had Ashley with her that
dreadful  day Beau came she would not have suffered half so much. If only that small girl behind those closed doors were hers and not Scarlett's!
Oh,  how  wicked I am, she thought guiltily. I am coveting her baby and Scarlett has been so good to me. Forgive me, Lord. I wouldn't really want
Scarlett's baby but--but I would so like a baby of my own!

She  pushed  a small cushion behind her aching back and thought hungrily of a daughter of her own. But Dr. Meade had never changed his opinion on
that subject. And though she was quite willing to risk her life for another child, Ashley would not hear of it. A daughter. How Ashley would love
a daughter!

A daughter! Mercy! She sat up in alarm. I never told Captain Butler it was a girl! And of course he was expecting a boy. Oh, how dreadful!

Melanie  knew  that to a woman a child of either sex was equally welcome but to a man, and especially such a self-willed man as Captain Butler, a
girl  would  be a blow, a reflection upon his manhood. Oh, how thankful she was that God had permitted her only child to be a boy! She knew that,
had she been the wife of the fearsome Captain Butler, she would have thankfully died in childbirth rather than present him with a daughter as his

But  Mammy,  waddling  grinning  from  the  room, set her mind at ease--and at the same time made her wonder just what kind of man Captain Butler
really was.

"W'en  Ah wuz bathin' dat chile jes' now," said Mammy, "Ah kinder 'pologized ter Mist' Rhett 'bout it not bein' a boy. But, Lawd, Miss Melly, you
know  whut  he  say?  He  say,  'Hesh  yo' mouf, Mammy! Who want a boy? Boys ain' no fun. Dey's jes' a passel of trouble. Gals is whut is fun. Ah
wouldn'  swap  disyere gal fer a baker's dozen of boys.' Den he try ter snatch de chile frum me, buck nekked as she wuz an' Ah slap his wrist an'
say  'B'have yo'seff, Mist' Rhett! Ah'll jes' bide mah time tell you gits a boy, an' den Ah'll laff out loud to hear you holler fer joy.' He grin
an'  shake his haid an' say, 'Mammy, you is a fool. Boys ain' no use ter nobody. Ain' Ah a proof of dat?' Yas'm, Miss Melly, he ack lak a gempmum
'bout  it,"  finished Mammy graciously. It was not lost on Melanie that Rhett's conduct had gone far toward redeeming him in Mammy's eyes. "Maybe
Ah  done been a mite wrong 'bout Mist' Rhett. Dis sho is a happy day ter me, Miss Melly. Ah done diapered three ginrations of Robillard gals, an'
it sho is a happy day."

"Oh, yes, it is a happy day, Mammy. The happiest days are the days when babies come!"

To  one  person  in  the house it was not a happy day. Scolded and for the most part ignored, Wade Hampton idled miserably about the dining room.
Early  that  morning,  Mammy  had  waked him abruptly, dressed him hurriedly and sent him with Ella to Aunt Pitty's house for breakfast. The only
explanation  he  received was that his mother was sick and the noise of his playing might upset her. Aunt Pitty's house was in an uproar, for the
news  of  Scarlett's  sickness  had  sent  the  old  lady  to bed in a state with Cookie in attendance, and breakfast was a scant meal that Peter
concocted  for  the children. As the morning wore on fear began to possess Wade's soul. Suppose Mother died? Other boys' mothers had died. He had
seen the hearses move away from the house and heard his small friends sobbing. Suppose Mother should die? Wade loved his mother very much, almost
as  much  as he feared her, and the thought of her being carried away in a black hearse behind black horses with plumes on their bridles made his
small chest ache so that he could hardly breathe.

When  noon  came  and  Peter was busy in the kitchen, Wade slipped out the front door and hurried home as fast as his short legs could carry him,
fear  speeding  him.  Uncle  Rhett or Aunt Melly or Mammy surely would tell him the truth. But Uncle Rhett and Aunt Melly were not to be seen and
Mammy  and  Dilcey  sped  up  and  down  the  back stairs with towels and basins of hot water and did not once notice him in the front hall. From
upstairs  he could hear occasionally the curt tones of Dr. Meade whenever a door opened. Once he heard his mother groan and he burst into sobbing
hiccoughs.  He knew she was going to die. For comfort, he made overtures to the honey-colored cat which lay on the sunny window sill in the front
hall. But Tom, full of years and irritable at disturbances, switched his tail and spat softly.

Finally, Mammy, coming down the front stairs, her apron rumpled and spotted, her head rag awry, saw him and scowled. Mammy had always been Wade's
mainstay and her frown made him tremble.

"You is de wustes' boy Ah ever seed," she said. "Ain' Ah done sont you ter Miss Pitty's? Gwan back dar!"

"Is Mother going to--will she die?"

"You  is  de  troublesomes' chile Ah ever seed! Die? Gawdlmighty, no! Lawd, boys is a tawment. Ah doan see why de Lawd sen's boys ter folks. Now,
gwan way from here."

But  Wade  did  not  go. He retreated behind the portieres in the hall, only half convinced by her words. The remark about the troublesomeness of
boys  stung,  for  he  had always tried his best to be good. Aunt Melly hurried down the stairs half an hour later, pale and tired but smiling to
herself. She looked thunderstruck when she saw his woebegone face in the shadows of the drapery. Usually Aunt Melly had all the time in the world
to give him. She never said, as Mother so often did: "Don't bother me now. I'm in a hurry" or "Run away, Wade. I am busy."

But this morning she said: "Wade, you've been very naughty. Why didn't you stay at Aunt Pitty's?"

"Is Mother going to die?"

"Gracious,  no, Wade! Don't be a silly child," and then, relenting: "Dr. Meade has just brought her a nice little baby, a sweet little sister for
you to play with, and if you are real good you can see her tonight. Now, run out and play and don't make any noise."

Wade  slipped  into  the quiet dining room, his small and insecure world tottering. Was there no place for a worried little seven-year-old boy on
this  sunshiny  day  when the grown-ups acted so curiously? He sat down on the window still in the alcove and nibbled a bit of the elephant's ear
which grew in a box in the sun. It was so peppery that it stung his eyes to tears and he began to cry. Mother was probably dying, nobody paid him
any heed and one and all, they rushed about because of a new baby--a girl baby. Wade had little interest in babies, still less in girls. The only
little girl he knew intimately was Ella and, so far, she had done nothing to command his respect or liking.

After  a long interval Dr. Meade and Uncle Rhett came down the stairs and stood talking in the hall in low voices. After the door shut behind the
doctor,  Uncle  Rhett  came swiftly into the dining room and poured himself a large drink from the decanter before he saw Wade. Wade shrank back,
expecting  to  be  told again that he was naughty and must return to Aunt Pitty's, but instead, Uncle Rhett smiled. Wade had never seen him smile
like that or look so happy and, encouraged, he leaped from the sill and ran to him.

"You've got a sister," said Rhett, squeezing him. "By God, the most beautiful baby you ever saw! Now, why are you crying?"


"Your mother's eating a great big dinner, chicken and rice and gravy and coffee, and we're going to make her some ice cream in a little while and
you can have two plates if you want them. And I'll show you your sister too."

Weak  with relief, Wade tried to be polite about his new sister but failed. Everyone was interested in this girl. No one cared anything about him
any more, not even Aunt Melly or Uncle Rhett.

"Uncle Rhett," he began, "do people like girls better than boys?"

Rhett set down his glass and looked sharply into the small face and instant comprehension came into his eyes.

"No,  I  can't say they do," he answered seriously, as though giving the matter due thought. "It's just that girls are more trouble than boys and
people are apt to worry more about troublesome people than those who aren't."

"Mammy just said boys were troublesome."

"Well, Mammy was upset. She didn't mean it."

"Uncle Rhett, wouldn't you rather have had a little boy than a little girl?" questioned Wade hopefully.

"No," answered Rhett swiftly and, seeing the boy's face fall, he continued: "Now, why should I want a boy when I've already got one?"

"You have?" cried Wade, his mouth falling open at this information. "Where is he?"

"Right here," answered Rhett and, picking the child up, drew him to his knee. "You are boy enough for me, son."

For  a  moment,  the  security  and happiness of being wanted was so great that Wade almost cried again. His throat worked and he ducked his head
against Rhett's waistcoat.

"You are my boy, aren't you?"

"Can  you  be--well,  two  men's boy?" questioned Wade, loyalty to the father he had never known struggling with love for the man who held him so

"Yes," said Rhett firmly. "Just like you can be your mother's boy and Aunt Melly's, too."

Wade digested this statement. It made sense to him and he smiled and wriggled against Rhett's arm shyly.

"You understand little boys, don't you, Uncle Rhett?"

Rhett's dark face fell into its old harsh lines and his lip twisted.

"Yes," he said bitterly, "I understand little boys."

For a moment, fear came back to Wade, fear and a sudden sense of jealousy. Uncle Rhett was not thinking of him but of some one else.

"You haven't got any other little boys have you?"

Rhett set him on his feet.

"I'm going to have a drink and so are you, Wade, your first drink, a toast to your new sister."

"You  haven't got any other--" began Wade and then seeing Rhett reach for the decanter of claret, the excitement at being included in this grown-
up ceremony diverted him.

"Oh,  I  can't, Uncle Rhett! I promised Aunt Melly I wouldn't drink till I graduated from the university and she's going to give me a watch, if I

"And I'll give you a chain for it--this one I'm wearing now, if you want it," said Rhett and he was smiling again. "Aunt Melly's quite right. But
she was talking about spirits, not wine. You must learn to drink wine like a gentleman, son, and there's no time like the present to learn."

Skillfully, he diluted the claret with water from the carafe until the liquid was barely pink and handed the glass to Wade. At that moment, Mammy
entered  the  dining room. She had changed to her best Sunday black and her apron and head rag were fresh and crisp. As she waddled, she switched
herself  and from her skirts came the whisper and rustle of silk. The worried look had gone from her face and her almost toothless gums showed in
a wide smile.

"Burfday gif', Mist' Rhett!" she said.

Wade  stopped  with  his  glass at his lips. He knew Mammy had never liked his stepfather. He had never heard her call him anything except "Cap'n
Butler,"  and  her  conduct  toward  him  had been dignified but cold. And here she was beaming and sidling and calling him "Mist' Rhett!" What a
topsy-turvy day!

"You'd  rather  have  rum than claret, I suppose," said Rhett, reaching into the cellaret and producing a squat bottle. "She is a beautiful baby,
isn't she, Mammy?"

"She sho is," answered Mammy, smacking her lips as she took the glass.

"Did you ever see a prettier one?"

"Well, suh, Miss Scarlett wuz mout nigh as pretty w'en she come but not quite."

"Have another glass, Mammy. And Mammy," his tone was stern but his eyes twinkled, "what's that rustling noise I hear?"

"Lawd, Mist' Rhett, dat ain' nuthin' but mah red silk petticoat!" Mammy giggled and switched till her huge bulk shook.

"Nothing but your petticoat! I don't believe it. You sound like a peck of dried leaves rubbing together. Let me see. Pull up your skirt."

"Mist' Rhett, you is bad! Yeah-O, Lawd!"

Mammy  gave  a little shriek and retreated and from a distance of a yard, modestly elevated her dress a few inches and showed the ruffle of a red
taffeta petticoat.

"You took long enough about wearing it," grumbled Rhett but his black eyes laughed and danced.

"Yassuh, too long."

Then Rhett said something that Wade did not understand.

"No more mule in horse harness?"

"Mist' Rhett, Miss Scarlett wuz bad ter tell you dat! You ain' holin' dat again' dis ole nigger?"

"No. I'm not holding it. I just wanted to know. Have another drink, Mammy. Have the whole bottle. Drink up, Wade! Give us a toast."

"To Sissy," cried Wade and gulped the liquid down. Choking he began to cough and hiccough and the other two laughed and beat him on the back.

From  the  moment  his  daughter was born, Rhett's conduct was puzzling to all observers and he upset many settled notions about himself, notions
which  both  the  town  and Scarlett were loath to surrender. Whoever would have thought that he of all people would be so shamelessly, so openly
proud of fatherhood? Especially in view of the embarrassing circumstance that his first-born was a girl and not a boy.

The  novelty  of fatherhood did not wear off. This caused some secret envy among women whose husbands took offspring for granted, long before the
children  were  christened. He buttonholed people on the street and related details of his child's miraculous progress without even prefacing his
remarks  with  the  hypocritical but polite: "I know everyone thinks their own child is smart but--" He thought his daughter marvelous, not to be
compared with lesser brats, and he did not care who knew it. When the new nurse permitted the baby to suck a bit of fat pork, thereby bringing on
the  first  attack  of  colic,  Rhett's conduct sent seasoned fathers and mothers into gales of laughter. He hurriedly summoned Dr. Meade and two
other  doctors,  and  with difficulty he was restrained from beating the unfortunate nurse with his crop. The nurse was discharged and thereafter
followed a series of nurses who remained, at the most, a week. None of them was good enough to satisfy the exacting requirements Rhett laid down.

Mammy  likewise  viewed  with displeasure the nurses that came and went, for she was jealous of any strange negro and saw no reason why she could
not  care  for  the  baby  and Wade and Ella, too. But Mammy was showing her age and rheumatism was slowing her lumbering tread. Rhett lacked the
courage  to  cite  these  reasons  for  employing another nurse. He told her instead that a man of his position could not afford to have only one
nurse.  It  did not look well. He would hire two others to do the drudgery and leave her as Mammy-in-chief. This Mammy understood very well. More
servants  were  a  credit  to  her position as well as Rhett's. But she would not, she told him firmly, have any trashy free issue niggers in her
nursery.  So  Rhett  sent  to Tara for Prissy. He knew her shortcomings but, after all, she was a family darky. And Uncle Peter produced a great-
niece named Lou who had belonged to one of Miss Pitty's Burr cousins.

Even before Scarlett was able to be about again, she noticed Rhett's pre-occupation with the baby and was somewhat nettled and embarrassed at his
pride  in  her  in  front of callers. It was all very well for a man to love his child but she felt there was something unmanly in the display of
such love. He should be offhand and careless, as other men were.

"You are making a fool of yourself," she said irritably, "and I don't see why."

"No? Well, you wouldn't. The reason is that she's the first person who's ever belonged utterly to me."

"She belongs to me, too!"

"No, you have two other children. She's mine."

"Great balls of fire!" said Scarlett. "I had the baby, didn't I? Besides, honey, I belong to you."

Rhett looked at her over the black head of the child and smiled oddly.

"Do you, my dear?"

Only  the  entrance  of  Melanie  stopped  one  of those swift hot quarrels which seemed to spring up so easily between them these days. Scarlett
swallowed  her  wrath  and  watched  Melanie  take  the baby. The name agreed upon for the child was Eugenie Victoria, but that afternoon Melanie
unwittingly bestowed a name that clung, even as "Pittypat" had blotted out all memory of Sarah Jane.

Rhett leaning over the child had said: "Her eyes are going to be pea green."

"Indeed  they  are  not," cried Melanie indignantly, forgetting that Scarlett's eyes were almost that shade. "They are going to be blue, like Mr.
O'Hara's eyes, as blue as--as blue as the bonnie blue flag."

"Bonnie Blue Butler," laughed Rhett, taking the child from her and peering more closely into the small eyes. And Bonnie she became until even her
parents did not recall that she had been named for two queens.


When  she  was  finally able to go out again, Scarlett had Lou lace her into stays as tightly as the strings would pull. Then she passed the tape
measure about her waist. Twenty inches! She groaned aloud. That was what having babies did to your figure! Her waist was a large as Aunt Pitty's,
as large as Mammy's.

"Pull them tighter, Lou. See if you can't make it eighteen and a half inches or I can't get into any of my dresses."

"It'll bust de strings," said Lou. "Yo' wais' jes' done got bigger, Miss Scarlett, an' dar ain' nuthin' ter do 'bout it."

"There  is  something to do about it," thought Scarlett as she ripped savagely at the seams of her dress to let out the necessary inches. "I just
won't have any more babies."

Of  course, Bonnie was pretty and a credit to her and Rhett adored the child, but she would not have another baby. Just how she would manage this
she did not know, for she couldn't handle Rhett as she had Frank. Rhett wasn't afraid of her. It would probably be difficult with Rhett acting so
foolishly  about Bonnie and probably wanting a son next year, for all that he said he'd drown any boy she gave him. Well, she wouldn't give him a
boy or girl either. Three children were enough for any woman to have.

When Lou had stitched up the ripped seams, pressed them smooth and buttoned Scarlett into the dress, she called the carriage and Scarlett set out
for  the  lumber  yard. Her spirits rose as she went and she forgot about her waist line, for she was going to meet Ashley at the yard to go over
the  books  with him. And, if she was lucky, she might see him alone. She hadn't seen him since long before Bonnie was born. She hadn't wanted to
see  him  at  all when she was so obviously pregnant. And she had missed the daily contact with him, even if there was always someone around. She
had  missed  the  importance and activity of her lumber business while she was immured. Of course, she did not have to work now. She could easily
sell  the  mills and invest the money for Wade and Ella. But that would mean she would hardly ever see Ashley, except in a formal social way with
crowds of people around. And working by Ashley's side was her greatest pleasure.

When she drove up to the yard she saw with interest how high the piles of lumber were and how many customers were standing among them, talking to
Hugh  Elsing.  And there were six mule teams and wagons being loaded by the negro drivers. Six teams, she thought, with pride. And I did all this
by myself!

Ashley  came  to  the  door of the little office, his eyes joyful with the pleasure of seeing her again and he handed her out of her carriage and
into the office as if she were a queen.

But  some of her pleasure was dimmed when she went over the books of his mill and compared them with Johnnie Gallegher's books. Ashley had barely
made  expenses  and  Johnnie  had a remarkable sum to his credit. She forbore to say anything as she looked at the two sheets but Ashley read her

"Scarlett, I'm sorry. All I can say is that I wish you'd let me hire free darkies instead of using convicts. I believe I could do better."

"Darkies! Why, their pay would break us. Convicts are dirt cheap. If Johnnie can make this much with them--"

Ashley's eyes went over her shoulder, looking at something she could not see, and the glad light went out of his eyes.

"I can't work convicts like Johnnie Gallegher. I can't drive men."

"God's  nightgown!  Johnnie's a wonder at it. Ashley, you are just too soft hearted. You ought to get more work out of them. Johnnie told me that
any  time  a  malingerer  wanted  to get out of work he told you he was sick and you gave him a day off. Good Lord, Ashley! That's no way to make
money. A couple of licks will cure most any sickness short of a broken leg--"

"Scarlett!  Scarlett! Stop! I can't bear to hear you talk that way," cried Ashley, his eyes coming back to her with a fierceness that stopped her
short.  "Don't  you  realize  that  they  are  men--some  of them sick, underfed, miserable and-- Oh, my dear, I can't bear to see the way he has
brutalized you, you who were always so sweet--"

"Who has whatted me?"

"I've  got  to say it and I haven't any right. But I've got to say it. Your--Rhett Butler. Everything he touches he poisons. And he has taken you
who were so sweet and generous and gentle, for all your spirited ways, and he has done this to you--hardened you, brutalized you by his contact."

"Oh,"  breathed  Scarlett,  guilt  struggling  with  joy that Ashley should feel so deeply about her, should still think her sweet. Thank God, he
thought  Rhett  to  blame  for her penny-pinching ways. Of course, Rhett had nothing to do with it and the guilt was hers but, after all, another
black mark on Rhett could do him no harm.

"If  it  were  any other man in the world, I wouldn't care so much--but Rhett Butler! I've seen what he's done to you. Without your realizing it,
he's  twisted your thoughts into the same hard path his own run in. Oh, yes, I know I shouldn't say this-- He saved my life and I am grateful but
I wish to God it had been any other man but him! And I haven't the right to talk to you like--"

"Oh, Ashley, you have the right--no, one else has!"

"I  tell  you  I  can't bear it, seeing your fineness coarsened by him, knowing that your beauty and your charm are in the keeping of a man who--
When I think of him touching you, I--"

"He's  going  to  kiss  me!"  thought  Scarlett ecstatically. "And it won't be my fault!" She swayed toward him. But he drew back suddenly, as if
realizing he had said too much--said things he never intended to say.

"I  apologize most humbly, Scarlett. I--I've been insinuating that your husband is not a gentleman and my own words have proved that I'm not one.
No  one  has  a  right  to  criticize  a  husband  to a wife. I haven't any excuse except--except--" He faltered and his face twisted. She waited

"I haven't any excuse at all."

All  the  way  home  in  the  carriage  Scarlett's mind raced. No excuse at all except--except that he loved her! And the thought of her lying in
Rhett's  arms  roused  a  fury  in  him that she did not think possible. Well, she could understand that. If it wasn't for the knowledge that his
relations  with  Melanie  were,  necessarily,  those  of brother and sister, her own life would be a torment. And Rhett's embraces coarsened her,
brutalized  her!  Well, if Ashley thought that, she could do very well without those embraces. She thought how sweet and romantic it would be for
them  both  to be physically true to each other, even though married to other people. The idea possessed her imagination and she took pleasure in
it. And then, too, there was the practical side of it. It would mean that she would not have to have any more children.

When  she  reached  home and dismissed the carriage, some of the exaltation which had filled her at Ashley's words began to fade as she faced the
prospect  of  telling  Rhett  that  she  wanted separate bedrooms and all which that implied. It would be difficult. Moreover, how could she tell
Ashley  that  she  had  denied  herself to Rhett, because of his wishes? What earthly good was a sacrifice if no one knew about it? What a burden
modesty  and  delicacy  were!  If  she  could only talk to Ashley as frankly as she could to Rhett! Well, no matter. She'd insinuate the truth to
Ashley somehow.

She  went  up  the  stairs and, opening the nursery door, found Rhett sitting beside Bonnie's crib with Ella upon his lap and Wade displaying the
contents  of  his  pocket  to  him. What a blessing Rhett liked children and made much of them! Some stepfathers were so bitter about children of
former marriages.

"I  want  to  talk  to  you,"  she  said and passed on into their bedroom. Better have this over now while her determination not to have any more
children was hot within her and while Ashley's love was giving her strength.

"Rhett," she said abruptly when he had closed the bedroom door behind him, "I've decided that I don't want any more children."

If he was startled at her unexpected statement he did not show it. He lounged to a chair and sitting down, tilted it back.

"My pet, as I told you before Bonnie was born, it is immaterial to me whether you have one child or twenty."

How perverse of him to evade the issue so neatly, as if not caring whether children came had anything to do with their actual arrival.

"I think three are enough. I don't intend to have one every year."

"Three seems an adequate number."

"You know very well--" she began, embarrassment making her cheeks red. "You know what I mean?"

"I do. Do you realize that I can divorce you for refusing me my marital rights?"

"You  are just low enough to think of something like that," she cried, annoyed that nothing was going as she planned it. "If you had any chivalry
you'd--you'd be nice like-- Well, look at Ashley Wilkes. Melanie can't have any children and he--"

"Quite the little gentleman, Ashley," said Rhett and his eyes began to gleam oddly. "Pray go on with your discourse."

Scarlett choked, for her discourse was at its end and she had nothing more to say. Now she saw how foolish had been her hope of amicably settling
so important a matter, especially with a selfish swine like Rhett.

"You've been to the lumber office this afternoon, haven't you?"

"What has that to do with it?"

"You like dogs, don't you, Scarlett? Do you prefer them in kennels or mangers?"

The allusion was lost on her as the tide of her anger and disappointment rose.

He got lightly to his feet and coming to her put his hand under her chin and jerked her face up to his.

"What a child you are! You have lived with three men and still know nothing of men's natures. You seem to think they are like old ladies past the
change of life."

He pinched her chin playfully and his hand dropped away from her. One black eyebrow went up as he bent a cool long look on her.

"Scarlett,  understand this. If you and your bed still held any charms for me, no looks and no entreaties could keep me away. And I would have no
sense  of shame for anything I did, for I made a bargain with you--a bargain which I have kept and you are now breaking. Keep your chaste bed, my

"Do you mean to tell me," cried Scarlett indignantly, "that you don't care--"

"You  have  tired  of  me,  haven't  you? Well, men tire more easily than women. Keep your sanctity, Scarlett. It will work no hardship on me. It
doesn't matter," he shrugged and grinned. "Fortunately the world is full of beds--and most of the beds are full of women."

"You mean you'd actually be so--"

"My dear innocent! But, of course. It's a wonder I haven't strayed long ere this. I never held fidelity to be a Virtue."

"I shall lock my door every night!"

"Why bother? If I wanted you, no lock would keep me out."

He  turned,  as  though  the  subject  were  closed, and left the room. Scarlett heard him going back to the nursery where he was welcomed by the
children. She sat down abruptly. She had had her way. This was what she wanted and Ashley wanted. But it was not making her happy. Her vanity was
sore  and she was mortified at the thought that Rhett had taken it all so lightly, that he didn't want her, that he put her on the level of other
women in other beds.

She  wished  she  could  think  of some delicate way to tell Ashley that she and Rhett were no longer actually man and wife. But she knew now she
could  not.  It  all  seemed  a  terrible  mess  now and she half heartedly wished she had said nothing about it. She would miss the long amusing
conversations  in  bed  with Rhett when the ember of his cigar glowed in the dark. She would miss the comfort of his arms when she woke terrified
from the dreams that she was running through cold mist.

Suddenly she felt very unhappy and leaning her head on the arm of the chair, she cried.


One  rainy  afternoon  when  Bonnie  was  barely past her first birthday, Wade moped about the sitting room, occasionally going to the window and
flattening  his nose on the dripping pane. He was a slender, weedy boy, small for his eight years, quiet almost to shyness, never speaking unless
spoken  to.  He  was bored and obviously at loss for entertainment, for Ella was busy in the corner with her dolls, Scarlett was at her secretary
muttering  to  herself  as  she  added  a  long column of figures, and Rhett was lying on the floor, swinging his watch by its chain, just out of
Bonnie's reach.

After Wade had picked up several books and let them drop with bangs and sighed deeply, Scarlett turned to him in irritation.

"Heavens, Wade! Run out and play."

"I can't. It's raining."

"Is  it?  I  hadn't noticed. Well, do something. You make me nervous, fidgeting about. Go tell Pork to hitch up the carriage and take you over to
play with Beau."

"He isn't home," sighed Wade. "He's at Raoul Picard's birthday party."

Raoul was the small son of Maybelle and Rene Picard--a detestable little brat, Scarlett thought, more like an ape than a child.

"Well, you can go to see anyone you want to. Run tell Pork."

"Nobody's at home," answered Wade. "Everybody's at the party."

The unspoken words "everybody--but me" hung in the air; but Scarlett, her mind on her account books, paid no heed.

Rhett raised himself to a sitting posture and said: "Why aren't you at the party too, son?"

Wade edged closer to him, scuffing one foot and looking unhappy.

"I wasn't invited, sir."

Rhett handed his watch into Bonnie's destructive grasp and rose lightly to his feet.

"Leave those damned figures alone, Scarlett. Why wasn't Wade invited to this party?"

"For  Heaven's  sake, Rhett! Don't bother me now. Ashley has gotten these accounts in an awful snarl-- Oh, that party? Well, I think it's nothing
unusual  that  Wade  wasn't  invited  and I wouldn't let him go if he had been. Don't forget that Raoul is Mrs. Merriwether's grandchild and Mrs.
Merriwether would as soon have a free issue nigger in her sacred parlor as one of us."

Rhett, watching Wade's face with meditative eyes, saw the boy flinch.

"Come here, son," he said, drawing the boy to him. "Would you like to be at that party?"

"No, sir," said Wade bravely but his eyes fell.

"Hum. Tell me, Wade, do you go to little Joe Whiting's parties or Frank Bonnell's or--well, any of your playmates?"

"No, sir. I don't get invited to many parties."

"Wade, you are lying!" cried Scarlett, turning. "You went to three last week, the Bart children's party and the Gelerts' and the Hundons'."

"As  choice  a  collection of mules in horse harness as you could group together," said Rhett, his voice going into a soft drawl. "Did you have a
good time at those parties? Speak up."

"No, sir."

"Why not?"

"I--I dunno, sir. Mammy--Mammy says they're white trash."

"I'll skin Mammy this minute!" cried Scarlett, leaping to her feet. "And as for you, Wade, talking so about Mother's friends--"

"The boy's telling the truth and so is Mammy," said Rhett. "But, of course, you've never been able to know the truth if you met it in the road. .
.  .  Don't bother, son. You don't have to go to any more parties you don't want to go to. Here," he pulled a bill from his pocket, "tell Pork to
harness the carriage and take you downtown. Buy yourself some candy--a lot, enough to give you a wonderful stomach ache."

Wade,  beaming,  pocketed  the  bill  and  looked anxiously toward his mother for confirmation. But she, with a pucker in her brows, was watching
Rhett.  He  had picked Bonnie from the floor and was cradling her to him, her small face against his cheek. She could not read his face but there
was something in his eyes almost like fear--fear and self-accusation.

Wade, encouraged by his stepfather's generosity, came shyly toward him.

"Uncle Rhett, can I ask you sumpin'?"

"Of course." Rhett's look was anxious, absent, as he held Bonnie's head closer. "What is it, Wade?"

"Uncle Rhett, were you--did you fight in the war?"

Rhett's eyes came alertly back and they were sharp, but his voice was casual.

"Why do you ask, son?"

"Well, Joe Whiting said you didn't and so did Frankie Bonnell."

"Ah," said Rhett, "and what did you tell them?"

Wade looked unhappy.

"I--I said--I told them I didn't know." And with a rush, "But I didn't care and I hit them. Were you in the war, Uncle Rhett?"

"Yes,"  said  Rhett,  suddenly  violent. "I was in the war. I was in the army for eight months. I fought all the way from Lovejoy up to Franklin,
Tennessee. And I was with Johnston when he surrendered."

Wade wriggled with pride but Scarlett laughed.

"I thought you were ashamed of your war record," she said. "Didn't you tell me to keep it quiet?"

"Hush," he said briefly. "Does that satisfy you, Wade?"

"Oh, yes, sir! I knew you were in the war. I knew you weren't scared like they said. But--why weren't you with the other little boys' fathers?"

"Because the other little boys' fathers were such fools they had to put them in the infantry. I was a West Pointer and so I was in the artillery.
In the regular artillery, Wade, not the Home Guard. It takes a pile of sense to be in the artillery, Wade."

"I bet," said Wade, his face shining. "Did you get wounded, Uncle Rhett?"

Rhett hesitated.

"Tell him about your dysentery," jeered Scarlett.

Rhett carefully set the baby on the floor and pulled his shirt and undershirt out of his trouser band.

"Come here, Wade, and I'll show you where I was wounded."

Wade  advanced,  excited, and gazed where Rhett's finger pointed. A long raised scar ran across his brown chest and down into his heavily muscled
abdomen. It was the souvenir of a knife fight in the California gold fields but Wade did not know it. He breathed heavily and happily.

"I guess you're 'bout as brave as my father, Uncle Rhett."

"Almost  but  not  quite,"  said Rhett, stuffing his shirt into his trousers. "Now, go on and spend your dollar and whale hell out of any boy who
says I wasn't in the army."

Wade went dancing out happily, calling to Pork, and Rhett picked up the baby again.

"Now why all these lies, my gallant soldier laddie?" asked Scarlett.

"A boy has to be proud of his father--or stepfather. I can't let him be ashamed before the other little brutes. Cruel creatures, children."

"Oh, fiddle-dee-dee!"

"I  never  thought  about  what  it  meant to Wade," said Rhett slowly. "I never thought how he's suffered. And it's not going to be that way for

"What way?"

"Do  you  think I'm going to have my Bonnie ashamed of her father? Have her left out of parties when she's nine or ten? Do you think I'm going to
have her humiliated like Wade for things that aren't her fault but yours and mine?"

"Oh, children's parties!"

"Out  of  children's  parties  grow young girls' debut parties. Do you think I'm going to let my daughter grow up outside of everything decent in
Atlanta?  I'm  not going to send her North to school and to visit because she won't be accepted here or in Charleston or Savannah or New Orleans.
And  I'm  not  going to see her forced to marry a Yankee or a foreigner because no decent Southern family will have her--because her mother was a
fool and her father a blackguard."

Wade, who had come back to the door, was an interested but puzzled listener.

"Bonnie can marry Beau, Uncle Rhett."

The  anger  went  from  Rhett's  face as he turned to the little boy, and he considered his words with apparent seriousness as he always did when
dealing with the children.

"That's true, Wade. Bonnie can marry Beau Wilkes, but who will you marry?"

"Oh,  I  shan't marry anyone," said Wade confidently, luxuriating in a man-to-man talk with the one person, except Aunt Melly, who never reproved
and always encouraged him. "I'm going to go to Harvard and be a lawyer, like my father, and then I'm going to be a brave soldier just like him."

"I wish Melly would keep her mouth shut," cried Scarlett. "Wade, you are not going to Harvard. It's a Yankee school and I won't have you going to
a  Yankee  school.  You  are  going to the University of Georgia and after you graduate you are going to manage the store for me. And as for your
father being a brave soldier--"

"Hush,"  said  Rhett  curtly,  not missing the shining light in Wade's eyes when he spoke of the father he had never known. "You grow up and be a
brave  man  like your father, Wade. Try to be just like him, for he was a hero and don't let anyone tell you differently. He married your mother,
didn't  he?  Well,  that's proof enough of heroism. And I'll see that you go to Harvard and become a lawyer. Now, run along and tell Pork to take
you to town."

"I'll thank you to let me manage my children," cried Scarlett as Wade obediently trotted from the room.

"You're a damned poor manager. You've wrecked whatever chances Ella and Wade had, but I won't permit you to do Bonnie that way. Bonnie's going to
be  a  little princess and everyone in the world is going to want her. There's not going to be any place she can't go. Good God, do you think I'm
going to let her grow up and associate with the riffraff that fills this house?"

"They are good enough for you--"

"And  a  damned  sight too good for you, my pet. But not for Bonnie. Do you think I'd let her marry any of this runagate gang you spend your time
with? Irishmen on the make, Yankees, white trash, Carpetbag parvenus-- My Bonnie with her Butler blood and her Robillard strain--"

"The O'Haras--"

"The O'Haras might have been kings of Ireland once but your father was nothing but a smart Mick on the make. And you are no better--But then, I'm
at  fault  too.  I've gone through life like a bat out of hell, never caring what I did, because nothing ever mattered to me. But Bonnie matters.
God,  what  a  fool  I've been! Bonnie wouldn't be received in Charleston, no matter what my mother or your Aunt Eulalie or Aunt Pauline did--and
it's obvious that she won't be received here unless we do something quickly--"

"Oh, Rhett, you take it so seriously you're funny. With our money--"

"Damn  our  money! All our money can't buy what I want for her. I'd rather Bonnie was invited to eat dry bread in the Picards' miserable house or
Mrs. Elsing's rickety barn than to be the belle of a Republican inaugural ball. Scarlett, you've been a fool. You should have insured a place for
your  children  in  the  social scheme years ago--but you didn't. You didn't even bother to keep what position you had. And it's too much to hope
that you'll mend your ways at this late date. You're too anxious to make money and too fond of bullying people."

"I  consider this whole affair a tempest in a teapot," said Scarlett coldly, rattling her papers to indicate that as far as she was concerned the
discussion was finished.

"We  have  only Mrs. Wilkes to help us and you do your best to alienate and insult her. Oh, spare me your remarks about her poverty and her tacky
clothes. She's the soul and the center of everything in Atlanta that's sterling. Thank God for her. She'll help me do something about it."

"And what are you going to do?"

"Do?  I'm  going  to cultivate every female dragon of the Old Guard in this town, especially Mrs. Merriwether, Mrs. Elsing, Mrs. Whiting and Mrs.
Meade.  If  I have to crawl on my belly to every fat old cat who hates me, I'll do it. I'll be meek under their coldness and repentant of my evil
ways.  I'll  contribute  to their damned charities and I'll go to their damned churches. I'll admit and brag about my services to the Confederacy
and, if worst comes to worst, I'll join their damned Klan--though a merciful God could hardly lay so heavy a penance on my shoulders as that. And
I  shall  not  hesitate to remind the fools whose necks I saved that they owe me a debt. And you, Madam, will kindly refrain from undoing my work
behind  my  back  and  foreclosing mortgages on any of the people I'm courting or selling them rotten lumber or in other ways insulting them. And
Governor Bullock never sets foot in this house again. Do you hear? And none of this gang of elegant thieves you've been associating with, either.
If  you do invite them, over my request, you will find yourself in the embarrassing position of having no host in your home. If they come in this
house, I will spend the time in Belle Watling's bar telling anyone who cares to hear that I won't stay under the same roof with them."

Scarlett, who had been smarting under his words, laughed shortly.

"So  the  river-boat gambler and the speculator is going to be respectable! Well, your first move toward respectability had better be the sale of
Belle Watling's house."

That was a shot in the dark. She had never been absolutely certain that Rhett owned the house. He laughed suddenly, as though he read her mind.

"Thanks for the suggestion."

Had  he  tried,  Rhett  could  not  have chosen a more difficult time to beat his way back to respectability. Never before or after did the names
Republican  and  Scallawag carry such odium, for now the corruption of the Carpet bag regime was at its height. And, since the surrender, Rhett's
name had been inextricably linked with Yankees, Republicans and Scallawags.

Atlanta  people  had thought, with helpless fury, in 1866, that nothing could be worse than the harsh military rule they had then, but now, under
Bullock,  they  were  learning  the worst. Thanks to the negro vote, the Republicans and their allies were firmly entrenched and they were riding
rough-shod over the powerless but still protesting minority.

Word had been spread among the negroes that there were only two political parties mentioned in the Bible, the Publicans and the Sinners. No negro
wanted  to  join a party made up entirely of sinners, so they hastened to join the Republicans. Their new masters voted them over and over again,
electing  poor  whites  and  Scallawags to high places, electing even some negroes. These negroes sat in the legislature where they spent most of
their  time  eating  goobers  and easing their unaccustomed feet into and out of new shoes. Few of them could read or write. They were fresh from
cotton  patch  and  canebrake, but it was within their power to vote taxes and bonds as well as enormous expense accounts to themselves and their
Republican  friends.  And they voted them. The state staggered under taxes which were paid in fury, for the taxpayers knew that much of the money
voted for public purposes was finding its way into private pockets.

Completely  surrounding the state capitol was a host of promoters, speculators, seekers after contracts and others hoping to profit from the orgy
of  spending,  and  many  were growing shamelessly rich. They had no difficulty at all in obtaining the state's money for building railroads that
were  never  built,  for  buying cars and engines that were never bought, for erecting public buildings that never existed except in the minds of
their promoters.

Bonds  were issued running into the millions. Most of them were illegal and fraudulent but they were issued just the same. The state treasurer, a
Republican  but  an  honest  man, protested against the illegal issues and refused to sign them, but he and others who sought to check the abuses
could do nothing against the tide that was running.

The state-owned railroad had once been an asset to the state but now it was a liability and its debts had piled up to the million mark. It was no
longer  a  railroad.  It  was  an  enormous  bottomless trough in which the hogs could swill and wallow. Many of its officials were appointed for
political reasons, regardless of their knowledge of the operation of railroads, there were three times as many people employed as were necessary,
Republicans rode free on passes, carloads of negroes rode free on their happy jaunts about the state to vote and revote in the same elections.

The  mismanagement  of  the  state  road especially infuriated the taxpayers for, out of the earnings of the road, was to come the money for free
schools.  But  there were no earnings, there were only debts, and so there were no free schools and there was a generation of children growing up
in ignorance who would spread the seeds of illiteracy down the years.

But  far  and  above their anger at the waste and mismanagement and graft was the resentment of the people at the bad light in which the governor
represented  them  in  the  North.  When Georgia howled against corruption, the governor hastily went North, appeared before Congress and told of
white  outrages  against negroes, of Georgia's preparation for another rebellion and the need for a stern military rule in the state. No Georgian
wanted  trouble  with  the  negroes and they tried to avoid trouble. No one wanted another war, no one wanted or needed bayonet rule. All Georgia
wanted  was  to be let alone so the state could recuperate. But with the operation of what came to be known as the governor's "slander mill," the
North saw only a rebellious state that needed a heavy hand, and a heavy hand was laid upon it.

It  was a glorious spree for the gang which had Georgia by the throat. There was an orgy of grabbing and over all there was a cold cynicism about
open  theft  in  high  places that was chilling to contemplate. Protests and efforts to resist accomplished nothing, for the state government was
being upheld and supported by the power of the United States Army.

Atlanta  cursed  the  name  of  Bullock  and his Scallawags and Republicans and they cursed the name of anyone connected with them. And Rhett was
connected  with  them.  He  had  been in with them, so everyone said, in all their schemes. But now, he turned against the stream in which he had
drifted so short a while before, and began swimming arduously back against the current.

He  went  about  his  campaign  slowly,  subtly,  not arousing the suspicions of Atlanta by the spectacle of a leopard trying to change his spots
overnight.  He  avoided  his  dubious  cronies  and  was  seen no more in the company of Yankee officers, Scallawags and Republicans. He attended
Democratic rallies and he ostentatiously voted the Democratic ticket. He gave up high-stake card games and stayed comparatively sober. If he went
to  Belle Watling's house at all, he went by night and by stealth as did more respectable townsmen, instead of leaving his horse hitched in front
of her door in the afternoons as an advertisement of his presence within.

And  the  congregation of the Episcopal Church almost fell out of their pews when he tiptoed in, late for services, with Wade's hand held in his.
The congregation was as much stunned by Wade's appearance as by Rhett's, for the little boy was supposed to be a Catholic. At least, Scarlett was
one.  Or  she  was  supposed  to be one. But she had not put foot in the church in years, for religion had gone from her as many of Ellen's other
teachings  had gone. Everyone thought she had neglected her boy's religious education and thought more of Rhett for trying to rectify the matter,
even if he did take the boy to the Episcopal Church instead of the Catholic.

Rhett  could  be  grave of manner and charming when he chose to restrain his tongue and keep his black eyes from dancing maliciously. It had been
years since he had chosen to do this but he did it now, putting on gravity and charm, even as he put on waistcoats of more sober hues. It was not
difficult  to  gain  a foothold of friendliness with the men who owed their necks to him. They would have showed their appreciation long ago, had
Rhett  not  acted  as  if their appreciation were a matter of small moment. Now, Hugh Elsing, Rene, the Simmons boys, Andy Bonnell and the others
found him pleasant, diffident about putting himself forward and embarrassed when they spoke of the obligation they owed him.

"It was nothing," he would protest. "In my place you'd have all done the same thing."

He  subscribed  handsomely  to  the fund for the repairs of the Episcopal Church and he gave a large, but not vulgarly large, contribution to the
Association  for  the Beautification of the Graves of Our Glorious Dead. He sought out Mrs. Elsing to make this donation and embarrassedly begged
that  she  keep  his  gift  a  secret,  knowing  very  well that this would spur her to spreading the news. Mrs. Elsing hated to take his money--
"speculator money"--but the Association needed money badly.

"I don't see why you of all people should be subscribing," she said acidly.

When  Rhett  told  her  with the proper sober mien that he was moved to contribute by the memories of former comrades in arms, braver than he but
less  fortunate, who now lay in unmarked graves, Mrs. Elsing's aristocratic jaw dropped. Dolly Merriwether had told her Scarlett had said Captain
Butler was in the army but, of course, she hadn't believed it. Nobody had believed it.

"You in the army? What was your company--your regiment?"

Rhett gave them.

"Oh,  the  artillery! Everyone I knew was either in the cavalry or the infantry. Then, that explains--" She broke off, disconcerted, expecting to
see his eyes snap with malice. But he only looked down and toyed with his watch chain.

"I would have liked the infantry," he said, passing completely over her insinuation, "but when they found that I was a West Pointer--though I did
not  graduate,  Mrs.  Elsing,  due  to a boyish prank--they put me in the artillery, the regular artillery, not the militia. They needed men with
specialized  knowledge  in  that  last campaign. You know how heavy the losses had been, so many artillerymen killed. It was pretty lonely in the
artillery. I didn't see a soul I knew. I don't believe I saw a single man from Atlanta during my whole service."

"Well!"  said  Mrs.  Elsing, confused. If he had been in the army then she was wrong. She had made many sharp remarks about his cowardice and the
memory of them made her feel guilty. "Well! And why haven't you ever told anybody about your service? You act as though you were ashamed of it."

Rhett looked her squarely in the eyes, his face blank.

"Mrs. Elsing," he said earnestly, "believe me when I say that I am prouder of my services to the Confederacy than of anything I have ever done or
will do. I feel--I feel--"

"Well, why did you keep it hidden?"

"I was ashamed to speak of it, in the light of--of some of my former actions."

Mrs. Elsing reported the contribution and the conversation in detail to Mrs. Merriwether.

"And, Dolly, I give you my word that when he said that about being ashamed, tears came into his eyes! Yes, tears! I nearly cried myself."

"Stuff  and nonsense!" cried Mrs. Merriwether in disbelief. "I don't believe tears came into his eyes any more than I believe he was in the army.
And  I  can  find out mighty quick. If he was in that artillery outfit, I can get at the truth, for Colonel Carleton who commanded it married the
daughter of one of my grandfather's sisters and I'll write him."

She wrote Colonel Carlton and to her consternation received a reply praising Rhett's services in no uncertain terms. A born artilleryman, a brave
soldier and an uncomplaining gentleman, a modest man who wouldn't even take a commission when it was offered him.

"Well!" said Mrs. Merriwether showing the letter to Mrs. Elsing. "You can knock me down with a feather! Maybe we did misjudge the scamp about not
being a soldier. Maybe we should have believed what Scarlett and Melanie said about him enlisting the day the town fell. But, just the same, he's
a Scallawag and a rascal and I don't like him!"

"Somehow,"  said  Mrs.  Elsing  uncertainly,  "somehow,  I  don't  think he's so bad. A man who fought for the Confederacy can't be all bad. It's
Scarlett  who  is the bad one. Do you know, Dolly, I really believe that he--well, he's ashamed of Scarlett but is too much of a gentleman to let

"Ashamed! Pooh! They're both cut out of the same piece of cloth. Where did you ever get such a silly notion?"

"It isn't silly," said Mrs. Elsing indignantly. "Yesterday, in the pouring rain, he had those three children, even the baby, mind you, out in his
carriage  riding  them up and down Peachtree Street and he gave me a lift home. And when I said: 'Captain Butler, have you lost your mind keeping
these children out in the damp? Why don't you take them home?' And he didn't say a word but just looked embarrassed. But Mammy spoke up and said:
'De house full of w'ite trash an' it healthier fer de chillun in de rain dan at home!'"

"What did he say?"

"What  could  he  say?  He  just scowled at Mammy and passed it over. You know Scarlett was giving a big whist party yesterday afternoon with all
those common ordinary women there. I guess he didn't want them kissing his baby."

"Well!" said Mrs. Merriwether, wavering but still obstinate. But the next week she, too, capitulated.

Rhett  now  had a desk in the bank. What he did at this desk the bewildered officials of the bank did not know, but he owned too large a block of
the  stock for them to protest his presence there. After a while they forgot that they had objected to him for he was quiet and well mannered and
actually knew something about banking and investments. At any rate he sat at his desk all day, giving every appearance of industry, for he wished
to be on equal terms with his respectable fellow townsmen who worked and worked hard.

Mrs.  Merriwether,  wishing  to expand her growing bakery, had tried to borrow two thousand dollars from the bank with her house as security. She
had  been  refused because there were already two mortgages on the house. The stout old lady was storming out of the bank when Rhett stopped her,
learned  the  trouble  and said, worriedly: "But there must be some mistake, Mrs. Merriwether. Some dreadful mistake. You of all people shouldn't
have  to bother about collateral. Why, I'd lend you money just on your word! Any lady who could build up the business you've built up is the best
risk in the world. The bank wants to lend money to people like you. Now, do sit down right here in my chair and I will attend to it for you."

When  he came back he was smiling blandly, saying that there had been a mistake, just as he had thought. The two thousand dollars was right there
waiting for her whenever she cared to draw against it. Now, about her house--would she just sign right here?

Mrs.  Merriwether,  torn  with indignation and insult, furious that she had to take this favor from a man she disliked and distrusted, was hardly
gracious in her thanks.

But he failed to notice it. As he escorted her to the door, he said: "Mrs. Merriwether, I have always had a great regard for your knowledge and I
wonder if you could tell me something?"

The plumes on her bonnet barely moved as she nodded.

"What did you do when your Maybelle was little and she sucked her thumb?"


"My Bonnie sucks her thumb. I can't make her stop it."

"You should make her stop it," said Mrs. Merriwether vigorously. "It will ruin the shape of her mouth."

"I know! I know! And she has a beautiful mouth. But I don't know what to do."

"Well, Scarlett ought to know," said Mrs. Merriwether shortly. "She's had two other children."

Rhett looked down at his shoes and sighed.

"I've tried putting soap under her finger nails," he said, passing over her remark about Scarlett.

"Soap!  Bah! Soap is no good at all. I put quinine on Maybelle's thumb and let me tell you, Captain Butler, she stopped sucking that thumb mighty

"Quinine! I would never have thought of it! I can't thank you enough, Mrs. Merriwether. It was worrying me."

He  gave  her a smile, so pleasant, so grateful that Mrs. Merriwether stood uncertainly for a moment. But as she told him good-by she was smiling
too.  She  hated  to admit to Mrs. Elsing that she had misjudged the man but she was an honest person and she said there had to be something good
about  a  man  who loved his child. What a pity Scarlett took no interest in so pretty a creature as Bonnie! There was something pathetic about a
man  trying to raise a little girl all by himself! Rhett knew very well the pathos of the spectacle, and if it blackened Scarlett's reputation he
did not care.

From  the  time the child could walk he took her about with him constantly, in the carriage or in front of his saddle. When he came home from the
bank  in  the  afternoon,  he took her walking down Peachtree Street, holding her hand, slowing his long strides to her toddling steps, patiently
answering  her  thousand  questions.  People  were  always in their front yards or on their porches at sunset and, as Bonnie was such a friendly,
pretty  child,  with  her  tangle  of  black  curls  and  her  bright  blue  eyes, few could resist talking to her. Rhett never presumed on these
conversations but stood by, exuding fatherly pride and gratification at the notice taken of his daughter.

Atlanta had a long memory and was suspicious and slow to change. Times were hard and feeling was bitter against anyone who had had anything to do
with Bullock and his crowd. But Bonnie had the combined charm of Scarlett and Rhett at their best and she was the small opening wedge Rhett drove
into the wall of Atlanta's coldness.

Bonnie  grew rapidly and every day it became more evident that Gerald O'Hara had been her grandfather. She had short sturdy legs and wide eyes of
Irish  blue  and  a small square jaw that went with a determination to have her own way. She had Gerald's sudden temper to which she gave vent in
screaming  tantrums  that were forgotten as soon as her wishes were gratified. And as long as her father was near her, they were always gratified
hastily.  He  spoiled  her despite all the efforts of Mammy and Scarlett, for in all things she pleased him, except one. And that was her fear of
the dark.

Until  she  was  two years old she went to sleep readily in the nursery she shared with Wade and Ella. Then, for no apparent reason, she began to
sob  whenever  Mammy  waddled  out  of  the room, carrying the lamp. From this she progressed to wakening in the late night hours, screaming with
terror, frightening the other two children and alarming the house. Once Dr. Meade had to be called and Rhett was short with him when he diagnosed
only bad dreams. All anyone could get from her was one word, "Dark."

Scarlett  was  inclined  to be irritated with the child and favored a spanking. She would not humor her by leaving a lamp burning in the nursery,
for  then  Wade  and  Ella would be unable to sleep. Rhett, worried but gentle, attempting to extract further information from his daughter, said
coldly that if any spanking were done, he would do it personally and to Scarlett.

The  upshot  of  the situation was that Bonnie was removed from the nursery to the room Rhett now occupied alone. Her small bed was placed beside
his  large  one  and  a  shaded  lamp burned on the table all night long. The town buzzed when this story got about. Somehow, there was something
indelicate  about  a girl child sleeping in her father's room, even though the girl was only two years old. Scarlett suffered from this gossip in
two  ways.  First,  it proved indubitably that she and her husband occupied separate rooms, in itself a shocking enough state of affairs. Second,
everyone  thought  that if the child was afraid to sleep alone, her place was with her mother. And Scarlett did not feel equal to explaining that
she could not sleep in a lighted room nor would Rhett permit the child to sleep with her.

"You'd never wake up unless she screamed and then you'd probably slap her," he said shortly.

Scarlett  was  annoyed  at  the weight he attached to Bonnie's night terrors but she thought she could eventually remedy the state of affairs and
transfer the child back to the nursery. All children were afraid of the dark and the only cure was firmness. Rhett was just being perverse in the
matter, making her appear a poor mother, just to pay her back for banishing him from her room.

He  had  never put foot in her room or even rattled the door knob since the night she told him she did not want any more children. Thereafter and
until  he  began  staying  at  home  on  account of Bonnie's fears, he had been absent from the supper table more often than he had been present.
Sometimes  he  had  stayed  out  all night and Scarlett, lying awake behind her locked door, hearing the clock count off the early morning hours,
wondered  where he was. She remembered: "There are other beds, my dear!" Though the thought made her writhe, there was nothing she could do about
it.  There was nothing she could say that would not precipitate a scene in which he would be sure to remark upon her locked door and the probable
connection  Ashley  had with it. Yes, his foolishness about Bonnie sleeping in a lighted room--in his lighted room--was just a mean way of paying
her back.

She  did  not  realize  the  importance  he attached to Bonnie's foolishness nor the completeness of his devotion to the child until one dreadful
night. The family never forgot that night.

That  day Rhett had met an ex-blockade runner and they had had much to say to each other. Where they had gone to talk and drink, Scarlett did not
know  but  she  suspected, of course, Belle Watling's house. He did not come home in the afternoon to take Bonnie walking nor did he come home to
supper.  Bonnie, who had watched from the window impatiently all afternoon, anxious to display a mangled collection of beetles and roaches to her
father, had finally been put to bed by Lou, amid wails and protests.

Either  Lou  had  forgotten  to  light  the  lamp  or it had burned out. No one ever knew exactly what happened but when Rhett finally came home,
somewhat  the  worse  for  drink,  the house was in an uproar and Bonnie's screams reached him even in the stables. She had waked in darkness and
called  for  him and he had not been there. All the nameless horrors that peopled her small imagination clutched her. All the soothing and bright
lights  brought  by Scarlett and the servants could not quiet her and Rhett, coming up the stairs three at a jump, looked like a man who has seen

When  he  finally  had  her in his arms and from her sobbing gasps had recognized only one word, "Dark," he turned on Scarlett and the negroes in

"Who put out the light? Who left her alone in the dark? Prissy, I'll skin you for this, you--"

"Gawdlmighty, Mist' Rhett! 'Twarn't me! 'Twuz Lou!"

"Fo' Gawd, Mist' Rhett, Ah--"

"Shut  up.  You  know my orders. By God, I'll--get out. Don't come back. Scarlett, give her some money and see that she's gone before I come down
stairs. Now, everybody get out, everybody!"

The  negroes fled, the luckless Lou wailing into her apron. But Scarlett remained. It was hard to see her favorite child quieting in Rhett's arms
when she had screamed so pitifully in her own. It was hard to see the small arms going around his neck and hear the choking voice relate what had
frightened her, when she, Scarlett, had gotten nothing coherent out of her.

"So it sat on your chest," said Rhett softly. "Was it a big one?"

"Oh, yes! Dretfull big. And claws."

"Ah,  claws,  too.  Well,  now. I shall certainly sit up all night and shoot him if he comes back." Rhett's voice was interested and soothing and
Bonnie's  sobs  died  away.  Her  voice became less choked as she went into detailed description of her monster guest in a language which only he
could understand. Irritation stirred in Scarlett as Rhett discussed the matter as if it had been something real.

"For Heaven's sake, Rhett--"

But he made a sign for silence. When Bonnie was at last asleep, he laid her in her bed and pulled up the sheet.

"I'm going to skin that nigger alive," he said quietly. "It's your fault too. Why didn't you come up here to see if the light was burning?"

"Don't  be a fool, Rhett," she whispered. "She gets this way because you humor her. Lots of children are afraid of the dark but they get over it.
Wade was afraid but I didn't pamper him. If you'd just let her scream for a night or two--"

"Let her scream!" For a moment Scarlett thought he would hit her. "Either you are a fool or the most inhuman woman I've ever seen."

"I don't want her to grow up nervous and cowardly."

"Cowardly?  Hell's  afire!  There  isn't  a  cowardly  bone in her body! But you haven't any imagination and, of course, you can't appreciate the
tortures  of people who have one--especially a child. If something with claws and horns came and sat on your chest, you'd tell it to get the hell
off  you,  wouldn't  you? Like hell you would. Kindly remember, Madam, that I've seen you wake up squalling like a scalded cat simply because you
dreamed of running in a fog. And that's not been so long ago either!"

Scarlett  was  taken  aback, for she never liked to think of that dream. Moreover, it embarrassed her to remember that Rhett had comforted her in
much the same manner he comforted Bonnie. So she swung rapidly to a different attack.

"You are just humoring her and--"

"And I intend to keep on humoring her. If I do, she'll outgrow it and forget about it."

"Then," said Scarlett acidly, "if you intend to play nursemaid, you might try coming home nights and sober too, for a change."

"I shall come home early but drunk as a fiddler's bitch if I please."

He  did  come  home  early  thereafter,  arriving  long  before time for Bonnie to be put to bed. He sat beside her, holding her hand until sleep
loosened her grasp. Only then did he tiptoe downstairs, leaving the lamp burning brightly and the door ajar so he might hear her should she awake
and  become  frightened. Never again did he intend her to have a recurrence of fear of the dark. The whole household was acutely conscious of the
burning light, Scarlett, Mammy, Prissy and Pork, frequently tiptoeing upstairs to make sure that it still burned.

He  came  home sober too, but that was none of Scarlett's doing. For months he had been drinking heavily, though he was never actually drunk, and
one  evening the smell of whisky was especially strong upon his breath. He picked up Bonnie, swung her to his shoulder and asked her: "Have you a
kiss for your sweetheart?"

She wrinkled her small upturned nose and wriggled to get down from his arms.

"No," she said frankly. "Nasty."

"I'm what?"

"Smell nasty. Uncle Ashley don't smell nasty."

"Well,  I'll  be  damned,"  he  said  ruefully,  putting her on the floor. "I never expected to find a temperance advocate in my own home, of all

But,  thereafter,  he limited his drinking to a glass of wine after supper. Bonnie, who was always permitted to have the last drops in the glass,
did  not  think  the  smell  of  wine  nasty  at all. As the result, the puffiness which had begun to obscure the hard lines of his cheeks slowly
disappeared  and  the circles beneath his black eyes were not so dark or so harshly cut. Because Bonnie liked to ride on the front of his saddle,
he  stayed out of doors more and the sunburn began to creep across his dark face, making him swarthier than ever. He looked healthier and laughed
more and was again like the dashing young blockader who had excited Atlanta early in the war.

People  who  had  never  liked  him  came to smile as he went by with the small figure perched before him on his saddle. Women who had heretofore
believed  that  no  woman was safe with him, began to stop and talk with him on the streets, to admire Bonnie. Even the strictest old ladies felt
that a man who could discuss the ailments and problems of childhood as well as he did could not be altogether bad.


It  was Ashley's birthday and Melanie was giving him a surprise reception that night. Everyone knew about the reception, except Ashley. Even Wade
and  little Beau knew and were sworn to secrecy that puffed them up with pride. Everyone in Atlanta who was nice had been invited and was coming.
General  Gordon  and  his family had graciously accepted, Alexander Stephens would be present if his ever-uncertain health permitted and even Bob
Toombs, the stormy petrel of the Confederacy, was expected.

All  that morning, Scarlett, with Melanie, India and Aunt Pitty flew about the little house, directing the negroes as they hung freshly laundered
curtains,  polished  silver,  waxed  the  floor and cooked, stirred and tasted the refreshments. Scarlett had never seen Melanie so excited or so

"You  see,  dear, Ashley hasn't had a birthday party since--since, you remember the barbecue at Twelve Oaks? The day we heard about Mr. Lincoln's
call  for  volunteers? Well, he hasn't had a birthday party since then. And he works so hard and he's so tired when he gets home at night that he
really hasn't thought about today being his birthday. And won't he be surprised after supper when everybody troops in!"

"How you goin' to manage them lanterns on the lawn without Mr. Wilkes seein' them when he comes home to supper?" demanded Archie grumpily.

He  had  sat  all  morning  watching  the preparations, interested but unwilling to admit it. He had never been behind the scenes at a large town
folks'  party  and  it  was  a  new experience. He made frank remarks about women running around like the house was afire, just because they were
having  company,  but  wild horses could not have dragged him from the scene. The colored-paper lanterns which Mrs. Elsing and Fanny had made and
painted  for  the  occasion held a special interest for him, as he had never seen "sech contraptions" before. They had been hidden in his room in
the cellar and he had examined them minutely.

"Mercy!  I  hadn't  thought of that!" cried Melanie. "Archie, how fortunate that you mentioned it. Dear, dear! What shall I do? They've got to be
strung on the bushes and trees and little candles put in them and lighted just at the proper time when the guests are arriving. Scarlett, can you
send Pork down to do it while we're eating supper?"

"Miz  Wilkes, you got more sense than most women but you gits flurried right easy," said Archie. "And as for that fool nigger, Pork, he ain't got
no bizness with them thar contraptions. He'd set them afire in no time. They are--right pretty," he conceded. "I'll hang them for you, whilst you
and Mr. Wilkes are eatin'."

"Oh, Archie, how kind of you!" Melanie turned childlike eyes of gratitude and dependence upon him. "I don't know what I should do without you. Do
you suppose you could go put the candles in them now, so we'd have that much out of the way?"

"Well, I could, p'raps," said Archie ungraciously and stumped off toward the cellar stairs.

"There's  more  ways  of  killing  a  cat than choking him to death with butter," giggled Melanie when the whiskered old man had thumped down the
stairs.  "I  had  intended  all  along for Archie to put up those lanterns but you know how he is. He won't do a thing if you ask him to. And now
we've got him out from underfoot for a while. The darkies are so scared of him they just won't do any work when he's around, breathing down their

"Melly,  I  wouldn't have that old desperado in my house," said Scarlett crossly. She hated Archie as much as he hated her and they barely spoke.
Melanie's  was the only house in which he would remain if she were present. And even in Melanie's house, he stared at her with suspicion and cold
contempt. "He'll cause you trouble, mark my words."

"Oh,  he's  harmless if you flatter him and act like you depend on him," said Melanie. "And he's so devoted to Ashley and Beau that I always feel
safe having him around."

"You  mean  he's so devoted to you, Melly," said India, her cold face relaxing into a faintly warm smile as her gaze rested fondly on her sister-
in-law.  "I  believe you're the first person that old ruffian has loved since his wife--er--since his wife. I think he'd really like for somebody
to insult you, so he could kill them to show his respect for you."

"Mercy! How you run on, India!" said Melanie blushing. "He thinks I'm a terrible goose and you know it."

"Well,  I don't see that what that smelly old hill-billy thinks is of any importance," said Scarlett abruptly. The very thought of how Archie had
sat in judgment upon her about the convicts always enraged her. "I have to go now. I've got to go get dinner and then go by the store and pay off
the clerks and go by the lumber yard and pay the drivers and Hugh Elsing."

"Oh,  are you going to the lumber yard?" asked Melanie. "Ashley is coming in to the yard in the late afternoon to see Hugh. Can you possibly hold
him  there  till five o'clock? If he comes home earlier he'll be sure to catch us finishing up a cake or something and then he won't be surprised
at all."

Scarlett smiled inwardly, good temper restored.

"Yes, I'll hold him," she said.

As she spoke, India's pale lashless eyes met hers piercingly. She always looks at me so oddly when I speak of Ashley, thought Scarlett.

"Well,  hold  him there as long as you can after five o'clock," said Melanie. "And then India will drive down and pick him up. . . . Scarlett, do
come early tonight. I don't want you to miss a minute of the reception."

As  Scarlett  rode  home she thought sullenly: "She doesn't want me to miss a minute of the reception, eh? Well then, why didn't she invite me to
receive with her and India and Aunt Pitty?"

Generally, Scarlett would not have cared whether she received at Melly's piddling parties or not. But this was the largest party Melanie had ever
given  and  Ashley's  birthday  party  too, and Scarlett longed to stand by Ashley's side and receive with him. But she knew why she had not been
invited to receive. Even had she not known it, Rhett's comment on the subject had been frank enough.

"A  Scallawag  receive  when  all  the  prominent ex-Confederates and Democrats are going to be there? Your notions are as enchanting as they are
muddle headed. It's only because of Miss Melly's loyalty that you are invited at all."

Scarlett  dressed  with  more than usual care that afternoon for her trip to the store and the lumber yard, wearing the new dull-green changeable
taffeta  frock  that looked lilac in some lights and the new pale-green bonnet, circled about with dark-green plumes. If only Rhett would let her
cut bangs and frizzle them on her forehead, how much better this bonnet would look! But he had declared that he would shave her whole head if she
banged her forelocks. And these days he acted so atrociously he really might do it.

It  was a lovely afternoon, sunny but not too hot, bright but not glaring, and the warm breeze that rustled the trees along Peachtree Street made
the  plumes  on  Scarlett's  bonnet  dance.  Her  heart danced too, as always when she was going to see Ashley. Perhaps, if she paid off the team
drivers  and  Hugh early, they would go home and leave her and Ashley alone in the square little office in the middle of the lumber yard. Chances
to see Ashley alone were all too infrequent these days. And to think that Melanie had asked her to hold him! That was funny!

Her  heart  was  merry when she reached the store, and she paid off Willie and the other counter boys without even asking what the day's business
had  been.  It  was  Saturday,  the  biggest  day  of the week for the store, for all the farmers came to town to shop that day, but she asked no

Along  the  way to the lumber yard she stopped a dozen times to speak with Carpetbagger ladies in splendid equipages--not so splendid as her own,
she  thought  with  pleasure--and  with  many  men  who came through the red dust of the street to stand hat in hand and compliment her. It was a
beautiful  afternoon,  she  was happy, she looked pretty and her progress was a royal one. Because of these delays she arrived at the lumber yard
later than she intended and found Hugh and the team drivers sitting on a low pile of lumber waiting for her.

"Is Ashley here?"

"Yes,  he's  in  the office," said Hugh, the habitually worried expression leaving his face at the sight of her happy, dancing eyes. "He's trying
to--I mean, he's going over the books."

"Oh,  he  needn't  bother  about  that today," she said and then lowering her voice: "Melly sent me down to keep him here till they get the house
straight for the reception tonight."

Hugh  smiled for he was going to the reception. He liked parties and he guessed Scarlett did too from the way she looked this afternoon. She paid
off  the  teamsters  and  Hugh  and,  abruptly  leaving them, walked toward the office, showing plainly by her manner that she did not care to be
accompanied.  Ashley  met  her  at the door and stood in the afternoon sunshine, his hair bright and on his lips a little smile that was almost a

"Why, Scarlett, what are you doing downtown this time of the day? Why aren't you out at my house helping Melly get ready for the surprise party?"

"Why,  Ashley  Wilkes!"  she  cried  indignantly.  "You  weren't  supposed  to know a thing about it. Melly will be so disappointed if you aren't

"Oh, I won't let on. I'll be the most surprised man in Atlanta," said Ashley, his eyes laughing.

"Now, who was mean enough to tell you?"

"Practically every man Melly invited. General Gordon was the first. He said it had been his experience that when women gave surprise parties they
usually  gave  them  on the very nights men had decided to polish and clean all the guns in the house. And then Grandpa Merriwether warned me. He
said  Mrs.  Merriwether  gave  him  a  surprise  party  once  and  she was the most surprised person there, because Grandpa had been treating his
rheumatism,  on  the sly, with a bottle of whisky and he was too drunk to get out of bed and--oh, every man who's ever had a surprise party given
him told me."

"The mean things!" cried Scarlett but she had to smile.

He  looked like the old Ashley she knew at twelve Oaks when he smiled like this. And he smiled so seldom these days. The air was so soft, the sun
so  gentle,  Ashley's  face  so  gay, his talk so unconstrained that her heart leaped with happiness. It swelled in her bosom until it positively
ached  with  pleasure,  ached  as  with a burden of joyful, hot, unshed tears. Suddenly she felt sixteen again and happy, a little breathless and
excited.  She had a mad impulse to snatch off her bonnet and toss it into the air and cry "Hurray!" Then she thought how startled Ashley would be
if  she  did  this,  and she suddenly laughed, laughed until tears came to her eyes. He laughed, too, throwing back his head as though he enjoyed
laughter, thinking her mirth came from the friendly treachery of the men who had given Melly's secret away.

"Come in, Scarlett. I'm going over the books."

She  passed  into  the  small room, blazing with the afternoon sun, and sat down in the chair before the roll-topped desk. Ashley, following her,
seated himself on the corner of the rough table, his long legs dangling easily.

"Oh,  don't  let's  fool  with  any  books this afternoon, Ashley! I just can't be bothered. When I'm wearing a new bonnet, it seems like all the
figures I know leave my head."

"Figures are well lost when the bonnet's as pretty as that one," he said. "Scarlett, you get prettier all the time!"

He  slipped  from  the  table  and,  laughing, took her hands, spreading them wide so he could see her dress. "You are so pretty! I don't believe
you'll ever get old!"

At his touch she realized that, without being conscious of it, she had hoped that just this thing would happen. All this happy afternoon, she had
hoped  for  the  warmth  of his hands, the tenderness of his eyes, a word that would show he cared. This was the first time they had been utterly
alone  since  the cold day in the orchard at Tara, the first time their hands had met in any but formal gestures, and through the long months she
had hungered for closer contact. But now--

How  odd  that  the  touch  of  his  hands  did  not excite her! Once his very nearness would have set her a-tremble. Now she felt a curious warm
friendliness and content. No fever leaped from his hands to hers and in his hands her heart hushed to happy quietness. This puzzled her, made her
a little disconcerted. He was still her Ashley, still her bright, shining darling and she loved him better than life. Then why--

But  she  pushed  the  thought  from her mind. It was enough that she was with him and he was holding her hands and smiling, completely friendly,
without strain or fever. It seemed miraculous that this could be when she thought of all the unsaid things that lay between them. His eyes looked
into hers, clear and shining, smiling in the old way she loved, smiling as though there had never been anything between them but happiness. There
was no barrier between his eyes and hers now, no baffling remoteness. She laughed.

"Oh, Ashley, I'm getting old and decrepit."

"Ah,  that's  very  apparent!  No, Scarlett, when you are sixty, you'll look the same to me. I'll always remember you as you were that day of our
last  barbecue,  sitting  under an oak with a dozen boys around you. I can even tell you just how you were dressed, in a white dress covered with
tiny  green  flowers and a white lace shawl about your shoulders. You had on little green slippers with black lacings and an enormous leghorn hat
with  long  green  streamers.  I know that dress by heart because when I was in prison and things got too bad, I'd take out my memories and thumb
them over like pictures, recalling every little detail--"

He stopped abruptly and the eager light faded from his face. He dropped her hands gently and she sat waiting, waiting for his next words.

"We've  come a long way, both of us, since that day, haven't we, Scarlett? We've traveled roads we never expected to travel. You've come swiftly,
directly, and I, slowly and reluctantly."

He  sat down on the table again and looked at her and a small smile crept back into his face. But it was not the smile that had made her so happy
so short a while before. It was a bleak smile.

"Yes,  you came swiftly, dragging me at your chariot wheels. Scarlett, sometimes I have an impersonal curiosity as to what would have happened to
me without you."

Scarlett went quickly to defend him from himself, more quickly because treacherously there rose to her mind Rhett's words on this same subject.

"But  I've never done anything for you, Ashley. Without me, you'd have been just the same. Some day, you'd have been a rich man, a great man like
you are going to be."

"No,  Scarlett,  the  seeds  of  greatness  were never in me. I think that if it hadn't been for you, I'd have gone down into oblivion--like poor
Cathleen Calvert and so many other people who once had great names, old names."

"Oh, Ashley, don't talk like that. You sound so sad."

"No, I'm not sad. Not any longer. Once--once I was sad. Now, I'm only--"

He  stopped and suddenly she knew what he was thinking. It was the first time she had ever known what Ashley was thinking when his eyes went past
her,  crystal  clear, absent. When the fury of love had beaten in her heart, his mind had been closed to her. Now, in the quiet friendliness that
lay between them, she could walk a little way into his mind, understand a little. He was not sad any longer. He had been sad after the surrender,
sad when she begged him to come to Atlanta. Now, he was only resigned.

"I  hate  to  hear  you  talk  like  that,  Ashley," she said vehemently. "You sound just like Rhett. He's always harping on things like that and
something he calls the survival of the fitting till I'm so bored I could scream."

Ashley smiled.

"Did you ever stop to think, Scarlett, that Rhett and I are fundamentally alike?"

"Oh, no! You are so fine, so honorable and he--" She broke off, confused.

"But we are. We came of the same kind of people, we were raised in the same pattern, brought up to think the same things. And somewhere along the
road  we  took  different  turnings.  We  still  think  alike but we react differently. As, for instance, neither of us believed in the war but I
enlisted  and fought and he stayed out till nearly the end. We both knew the war was all wrong. We both knew it was a losing fight. I was willing
to fight a losing fight. He wasn't. Sometimes I think he was right and then, again--"

"Oh,  Ashley,  when  will you stop seeing both sides of questions?" she asked. But she did not speak impatiently as she once would have done. "No
one ever gets anywhere seeing both sides."

"That's  true but--Scarlett, just where do you want to get? I've often wondered. You see, I never wanted to get anywhere at all. I've only wanted
to be myself."

Where  did  she  want  to  get?  That  was a silly question. Money and security, of course. And yet-- Her mind fumbled. She had money and as much
security  as  one  could hope for in an insecure world. But, now that she thought about it, they weren't quite enough. Now that she thought about
it,  they  hadn't  made  her particularly happy, though they made her less harried, less fearful of the morrow. If I'd had money and security and
you, that would have been where I wanted to get, she thought, looking at him yearningly. But she did not speak the words, fearful of breaking the
spell that lay between them, fearful that his mind would close against her.

"You  only want to be yourself?" she laughed, a little ruefully. "Not being myself has always been my hardest trouble! As to where I want to get,
well, I guess I've gotten there. I wanted to be rich and safe and--"

"But, Scarlett, did it ever occur to you that I don't care whether I'm rich or not?"

No, it had never occurred to her that anyone would not want to be rich.

"Then, what do you want?"

"I don't know, now. I knew once but I've half forgotten. Mostly to be left alone, not to be harried by people I don't like, driven to do things I
don't  want  to  do. Perhaps--I want the old days back again and they'll never come back, and I am haunted by the memory of them and of the world
falling about my ears."

Scarlett  set  her mouth obstinately. It was not that she did not know what he meant. The very tones of his voice called up other days as nothing
else  could,  made  her heart hurt suddenly, as she too remembered. But since the day she had lain sick and desolate in the garden at Twelve Oaks
and said: "I won't look back," she had set her face against the past.

"I  like  these days better," she said. But she did not meet his eyes as she spoke. "There's always something exciting happening now, parties and
so on. Everything's got a glitter to it. The old days were so dull." (Oh, lazy days and warm still country twilights! The high soft laughter from
the quarters! The golden warmth life had then and the comforting knowledge of what all tomorrows would bring! How can I deny you?)

"I like these days better," she said but her voice was tremulous.

He slipped from the table, laughing softly in unbelief. Putting his hand under her chin, he turned her face up to his.

"Ah,  Scarlett,  what  a  poor liar you are! Yes, life has a glitter now--of a sort. That's what's wrong with it. The old days had no glitter but
they had a charm, a beauty, a slow-paced glamour."

Her  mind  pulled  two  ways, she dropped her eyes. The sound of his voice, the touch of his hand were softly unlocking doors that she had locked
forever.  Behind  those  doors  lay  the beauty of the old days, and a sad hunger for them welled up within her. But she knew that no matter what
beauty lay behind, it must remain there. No one could go forward with a load of aching memories.

His hand dropped from her chin and he took one of her hands between his two and held it gently.

"Do you remember," he said--and a warning bell in her mind rang: Don't look back! Don't look back!

But she swiftly disregarded it, swept forward on a tide of happiness. At last she was understanding him, at last their minds had met. This moment
was too precious to be lost, no matter what pain came after.

"Do  you  remember,"  he said and under the spell of his voice the bare walls of the little office faded and the years rolled aside and they were
riding  country bridle paths together in a long-gone spring. As he spoke, his light grip tightened on her hand and in his voice was the sad magic
of old half-forgotten songs. She could hear the gay jingle of bridle bits as they rode under the dogwood trees to the Tarletons' picnic, hear her
own careless laughter, see the sun glinting on his silver-gilt hair and note the proud easy grace with which he sat his horse. There was music in
his  voice, the music of fiddles and banjos to which they had danced in the white house that was no more. There was the far-off yelping of possum
dogs in the dark swamp under cool autumn moons and the smell of eggnog bowls, wreathed with holly at Christmas time and smiles on black and white
faces.  And old friends came trooping back, laughing as though they had not been dead these many years: Stuart and Brent with their long legs and
their  red  hair  and  their  practical  jokes,  Tom and Boyd as wild as young horses, Joe Fontaine with his hot black eyes, and Cade and Raiford
Calvert who moved with such languid grace. There was John Wilkes, too; and Gerald, red with brandy; and a whisper and a fragrance that was Ellen.
Over it all rested a sense of security, a knowledge that tomorrow could only bring the same happiness today had brought.

His  voice  stopped  and  they  looked  for a long quiet moment into each other's eyes and between them lay the sunny lost youth that they had so
unthinkingly shared.

"Now  I  know  why  you  can't  be happy," she thought sadly. "I never understood before. I never understood before why I wasn't altogether happy
either.  But--why,  we  are  talking like old people talk!" she thought with dreary surprise. "Old people looking back fifty years. And we're not
old! It's just that so much has happened in between. Everything's changed so much that it seems like fifty years ago. But we're not old!"

But  when  she looked at Ashley he was no longer young and shining. His head was bowed as he looked down absently at her hand which he still held
and  she  saw that his once bright hair was very gray, silver gray as moonlight on still water. Somehow the bright beauty had gone from the April
afternoon and from her heart as well and the sad sweetness of remembering was as bitter as gall.

"I shouldn't have let him make me look back," she thought despairingly. "I was right when I said I'd never look back. It hurts too much, it drags
at  your  heart  till you can't ever do anything else except look back. That's what's wrong with Ashley. He can't look forward any more. He can't
see  the  present,  he  fears  the  future,  and so he looks back. I never understood it before. I never understood Ashley before. Oh, Ashley, my
darling, you shouldn't look back! What good will it do? I shouldn't have let you tempt me into talking of the old days. This is what happens when
you look back to happiness, this pain, this heartbreak, this discontent."

She  rose to her feet, her hand still in his. She must go. She could not stay and think of the old days and see his face, tired and sad and bleak
as it now was.

"We've  come  a long way since those days, Ashley," she said, trying to steady her voice, trying to fight the constriction in her throat. "We had
fine notions then, didn't we?" And then, with a rush, "Oh, Ashley, nothing has turned out as we expected!"

"It never does," he said. "Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it's no worse than it is."

Her  heart  was suddenly dull with pain, with weariness, as she thought of the long road she had come since those days. There rose up in her mind
the  memory  of  Scarlett  O'Hara  who  loved beaux and pretty dresses and who intended, some day, when she had the time, to be a great lady like

Without  warning,  tears started in her eyes and rolled slowly down her cheeks and she stood looking at him dumbly, like a hurt bewildered child.
He  said  no  word  but  took  her  gently in his arms, pressed her head against his shoulder and, leaning down, laid his cheek against hers. She
relaxed  against  him  and  her arms went round his body. The comfort of his arms helped dry her sudden tears. Ah, it was good to be in his arms,
without passion, without tenseness, to be there as a loved friend. Only Ashley who shared her memories and her youth, who knew her beginnings and
her present could understand.

She heard the sound of feet outside but paid little heed, thinking it was the teamsters going home. She stood for a moment, listening to the slow
beat of Ashley's heart. Then suddenly he wrenched himself from her, confusing her by his violence. She looked up into his face in surprise but he
was not looking at her. He was looking over her shoulder at the door.

She turned and there stood India, white faced, her pale eyes blazing, and Archie, malevolent as a one-eyed parrot. Behind them stood Mrs. Elsing.

How  she  got  out  of  the  office  she  never remembered. But she went instantly, swiftly, by Ashley's order, leaving Ashley and Archie in grim
converse  in the little room and India and Mrs. Elsing outside with their backs to her. Shame and fear sped her homeward and, in her mind, Archie
with his patriarch's beard assumed the proportions of an avenging angel straight from the pages of the Old Testament.

The  house  was empty and still in the April sunset. All the servants had gone to a funeral and the children were playing in Melanie's back yard.

Melanie!  Scarlett  went  cold  at the thought of her as she climbed the stairs to her room. Melanie would hear of this. India had said she would
tell  her.  Oh,  India  would glory in telling her, not caring if she blackened Ashley's name, not caring if she hurt Melanie, if by so doing she
could  injure  Scarlett!  And Mrs. Elsing would talk too, even though she had really seen nothing, because she was behind India and Archie in the
door  of  the lumber office. But she would talk, just the same. The news would be all over town by supper time. Everyone, even the negroes, would
know  by  tomorrow's  breakfast. At the party tonight, women would gather in corners and whisper discreetly and with malicious pleasure. Scarlett
Butler  tumbled  from her high and mighty place! And the story would grow and grow. There was no way of stopping it. It wouldn't stop at the bare
facts,  that  Ashley  was holding her in his arms while she cried. Before nightfall people would be saying she had been taken in adultery. And it
had  been  so  innocent, so sweet! Scarlett thought wildly: If we had been caught that Christmas of his furlough when I kissed him good-by--if we
had  been  caught  in  the  orchard  at  Tara when I begged him to run away with me--oh, if we'd been caught any of the times when we were really
guilty, it wouldn't be so bad! But now! Now! When I went to his arms as a friend--

But  no  one  would believe that. She wouldn't have a single friend to take her part, not a single voice would be raised to say: "I don't believe
she  was  doing  anything  wrong." She had outraged old friends too long to find a champion among them now. Her new friends, suffering in silence
under  her insolences, would welcome a chance to blackguard her. No, everybody would believe anything about her, though they might regret that so
fine  a  man as Ashley Wilkes was mixed up in so dirty an affair. As usual they would cast the blame upon the woman and shrug at the man's guilt.
And in this case they would be right. She had gone into his arms.

Oh,  she  could  stand  the cuts, the slights, the covert smiles, anything the town might say, if she had to stand them--but not Melanie! Oh, not
Melanie!  She did not know why she should mind Melanie knowing, more than anyone else. She was too frightened and weighed down by a sense of past
guilt to try to understand it. But she burst into tears at the thought of what would be in Melanie's eyes when India told her that she had caught
Ashley  fondling  Scarlett. And what would Melanie do when she knew? Leave Ashley? What else could she do, with any dignity? And what will Ashley
and  I  do  then?  she  thought frenziedly, the tears streaming down her face. Oh, Ashley will die of shame and hate me for bringing this on him.
Suddenly her tears stopped short as a deadly fear went through her heart. What of Rhett? What would he do?

Perhaps  he'd  never know. What was that old saying, that cynical saying? "The husband is always the last to find out." Perhaps no one would tell
him.  It  would  take  a  brave man to break such news to Rhett, for Rhett had the reputation for shooting first and asking questions afterwards.
Please,  God,  don't  let  anybody  be  brave enough to tell him! But she remembered the face of Archie in the lumber office, the cold, pale eye,
remorseless,  full  of  hate  for her and all women. Archie feared neither God nor man and he hated loose women. He had hated them enough to kill
one.  And  he  had  said he would tell Rhett. And he'd tell him in spite of all Ashley could do to dissuade him. Unless Ashley killed him, Archie
would tell Rhett, feeling it his Christian duty.

She  pulled  off  her  clothes  and lay down on the bed, her mind whirling round and round. If she could only lock her door and stay in this safe
place  forever  and  ever  and never see anyone again. Perhaps Rhett wouldn't find out tonight. She'd say she had a headache and didn't feel like
going to the reception. By morning she would have thought up some excuse to offer, some defense that might hold water.

"I  won't  think  of  it  now," she said desperately, burying her face in the pillow. "I won't think of it now. I'll think of it later when I can
stand it."

She  heard  the  servants come back as night fell and it seemed to her that they were very silent as they moved about preparing supper. Or was it
her guilty conscience? Mammy came to the door and knocked but Scarlett sent her away, saying she did not want any supper. Time passed and finally
she heard Rhett coming up the steps. She held herself tensely as he reached the upper hall, gathered all her strength for a meeting but he passed
into  his  room. She breathed easier. He hadn't heard. Thank God, he still respected her icy request that he never put foot in her bedroom again,
for  if  he  saw  her  now,  her face would give her away. She must gather herself together enough to tell him that she felt too ill to go to the
reception.  Well,  there  was  time  enough  for  her  to calm herself. Or was there time? Since the awful moment that afternoon, life had seemed
timeless.  She  heard  Rhett moving about in his room for a long time, speaking occasionally to Pork. Still she could not find courage to call to
him. She lay still on the bed in the darkness, shaking.

After a long time, he knocked on her door and she said, trying to control her voice: "Come in."

"Am I actually being invited into the sanctuary?" he questioned, opening the door. It was dark and she could not see his face. Nor could she make
anything of his voice. He entered and closed the door.

"Are you ready for the reception?"

"I'm  so  sorry  but I have a headache." How odd that her voice sounded natural! Thank God for the dark! "I don't believe I'll go. You go, Rhett,
and give Melanie my regrets."

There was a long pause and he spoke drawlingly, bitingly in the dark.

"What a white livered, cowardly little bitch you are."

He knew! She lay shaking, unable to speak. She heard him fumble in the dark, strike a match and the room sprang into light. He walked over to the
bed and looked down at her. She saw that he was in evening clothes.

"Get up," he said and there was nothing in his voice. "We are going to the reception. You will have to hurry."

"Oh, Rhett, I can't. You see--"

"I can see. Get up."

"Rhett, did Archie dare--"

"Archie dared. A very brave man, Archie."

"You should have killed him for telling lies--"

"I have a strange way of not killing people who tell the truth. There's no time to argue now. Get up."

She sat up, hugging her wrapper close to her, her eyes searching his face. It was dark and impassive.

"I won't go, Rhett. I can't until this--misunderstanding is cleared up."

"If  you  don't  show your face tonight, you'll never be able to show it in this town as long as you live. And while I may endure a trollop for a
wife,  I  won't  endure a coward. You are going tonight, even if everyone, from Alex Stephens down, cuts you and Mrs. Wilkes asks us to leave the

"Rhett, let me explain."

"I don't want to hear. There isn't time. Get on your clothes."

"They  misunderstood--India  and  Mrs.  Elsing  and  Archie.  And they hate me so. India hates me so much that she'd even tell lies about her own
brother to make me appear in a bad light. If you'll only let me explain--"

Oh, Mother of God, she thought in agony, suppose he says: "Pray do explain!" What can I say? How can I explain?

"They'll have told everybody lies. I can't go tonight."

"You will go," he said, "if I have to drag you by the neck and plant my boot on your ever so charming bottom every step of the way."

There was a cold glitter in his eyes as he jerked her to her feet. He picked up her stays and threw them at her.

"Put  them  on. I'll lace you. Oh yes, I know all about lacing. No, I won't call Mammy to help you and have you lock the door and skulk here like
the coward you are."

"I'm not a coward," she cried, stung out of her fear. "I--"

"Oh,  spare me your saga about shooting Yankees and facing Sherman's army. You're a coward--among other things. If not for your own sake, you are
going tonight for Bonnie's sake. How could you further ruin her chances? Put on your stays, quick."

Hastily  she slipped off her wrapper and stood clad only in her chemise. If only he would look at her and see how nice she looked in her chemise,
perhaps  that frightening look would leave his face. After all, he hadn't seen her in her chemise for ever and ever so long. But he did not look.
He  was  in her closet, going through her dresses swiftly. He fumbled and drew out her new jade-green watered-silk dress. It was cut low over the
bosom and the skirt was draped back over an enormous bustle and on the bustle was a huge bunch of pink velvet roses.

"Wear  that,"  he said, tossing it on the bed and coming toward her. "No modest, matronly dove grays and lilacs tonight. Your flag must be nailed
to  the  mast,  for  obviously you'd run it down if it wasn't. And plenty of rouge. I'm sure the woman the Pharisees took in adultery didn't look
half so pale. Turn around."

He took the strings of the stays in his hands and jerked them so hard that she cried out, frightened, humiliated, embarrassed at such an untoward

"Hurts, does it?" He laughed shortly and she could not see his face. "Pity it isn't around your neck."

Melanie's  house  blazed  lights from every room and they could hear the music far up the street. As they drew up in front, the pleasant exciting
sounds  of  many  people  enjoying themselves floated out. The house was packed with guests. They overflowed on verandas and many were sitting on
benches in the dim lantern-hung yard.

I can't go in--I can't, thought Scarlett, sitting in the carriage, gripping her balled-up handkerchief. I can't. I won't. I will jump out and run
away,  somewhere, back home to Tara. Why did Rhett force me to come here? What will people do? What will Melanie do? What will she look like? Oh,
I can't face her. I will run away.

As though he read her mind, Rhett's hand closed upon her arm in a grip that would leave a bruise, the rough grip of a careless stranger.

"I've never known an Irishman to be a coward. Where's your much-vaunted courage?"

"Rhett, do please, let me go home and explain."

"You have eternity in which to explain and only one night to be a martyr in the amphitheater. Get out, darling, and let me see the lions eat you.
Get out."

She  went  up  the walk somehow, the arm she was holding as hard and steady as granite, communicating to her some courage. By God, she could face
them  and  she  would.  What  were  they but a bunch of howling, clawing cats who were jealous of her? She'd show them. She didn't care what they
thought. Only Melanie--only Melanie.

They  were  on the porch and Rhett was bowing right and left, his hat in his hand, his voice cool and soft. The music stopped as they entered and
the  crowd  of  people  seemed to her confused mind to surge up to her like the roar of the sea and then ebb away, with lessening, ever-lessening
sound. Was everyone going to cut her? Well, God's nightgown, let them do it! Her chin went up and she smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling.

Before  she could turn to speak to those nearest the door, someone came through the press of people. There was an odd hush that caught Scarlett's
heart.  Then  through  the lane came Melanie on small feet that hurried, hurried to meet Scarlett at the door, to speak to her before anyone else
could  speak.  Her narrow shoulders were squared and her small jaw set indignantly and, for all her notice, she might have had no other guest but
Scarlett. She went to her side and slipped an arm about her waist.

"What  a  lovely dress, darling," she said in her small, clear voice. "Will you be an angel? India was unable to come tonight and assist me. Will
you receive with me?"


Safe in her room again, Scarlett fell on the bed, careless of her moire dress, bustle and roses. For a time she could only lie still and think of
standing  between  Melanie  and  Ashley, greeting guests. What a horror! She would face Sherman's army again rather than repeat that performance!
After a time, she rose from the bed and nervously paced the floor, shedding garments as she walked.

Reaction  from  strain set in and she began to shake. Hairpins slipped out of her fingers and tinkled to the floor and when she tried to give her
hair  its  customary  hundred  strokes,  she  banged the back of the brush hurtingly against her temple. A dozen times she tiptoed to the door to
listen for noises downstairs but the hall below lay like a black silent pit.

Rhett  had  sent  her  home alone in the carriage when the party was over and she had thanked God for the reprieve. He had not come in yet. Thank
God,  he  had  not come in. She could not face him tonight, shamed, frightened, shaking. But where was he? Probably at that creature's place. For
the  first  time,  Scarlett  was  glad there was such a person as Belle Watling. Glad there was some other place than this house to shelter Rhett
until  his  glittering,  murderous mood had passed. That was wrong, being glad a husband was at the house of a prostitute, but she could not help
it. She would be almost glad if he were dead, if it meant she would not have to see him tonight.

Tomorrow--well,  tomorrow  was  another  day. Tomorrow she would think of some excuse, some counter accusations, some way of putting Rhett in the
wrong. Tomorrow the memory of this hideous night would not be driving her so fiercely that she shook. Tomorrow she would not be so haunted by the
memory  of Ashley's face, his broken pride and his shame--shame that she had caused, shame in which he had so little part. Would he hate her now,
her  darling  honorable  Ashley,  because she had shamed him? Of course he would hate her now--now that they had both been saved by the indignant
squaring of Melanie's thin shoulders and the love and outspoken trust which had been in her voice as she crossed the glassy floor to slip her arm
through  Scarlett's and face the curious, malicious, covertly hostile crowd. How neatly Melanie had scotched the scandal, keeping Scarlett at her
side all through the dreadful evening! People had been a bit cool, somewhat bewildered, but they had been polite.

Oh,  the  ignominy  of  it  all,  to  be  sheltered  behind Melanie's skirts from those who hated her, who would have torn her to bits with their
whispers! To be sheltered by Melanie's blind trust, Melanie of all people!

Scarlett shook as with a chill at the thought. She must have a drink, a number of drinks before she could lie down and hope to sleep. She threw a
wrapper  about  her  gown and went hastily out into the dark hall, her backless slippers making a great clatter in the stillness. She was halfway
down  the  stairs  before  she looked toward the closed door of the dining room and saw a narrow line of light streaming from under it. Her heart
stopped  for  a  moment.  Had that light been burning when she came home and had she been too upset to notice it? Or was Rhett home after all? He
could  have come in quietly through the kitchen door. If Rhett were home, she would tiptoe back to bed without her brandy, much as she needed it.
Then she wouldn't have to face him. Once in her room she would be safe, for she could lock the door.

She was leaning over to pluck off her slippers, so she might hurry back in silence, when the dining-room door swung open abruptly and Rhett stood
silhouetted  against  the  dim  candlelight  behind him. He looked huge, larger than she had ever seen him, a terrifying faceless black bulk that
swayed slightly on its feet.

"Pray join me, Mrs. Butler," he said and his voice was a little thick.

He  was  drunk  and  showing  it  and she had never before seen him show his liquor, no matter how much he drank. She paused irresolutely, saying
nothing and his arm went up in gesture of command.

"Come here, damn you!" he said roughly.

He  must  be  very drunk, she thought with a fluttering heart. Usually, the more he drank, the more polished became his manners. He sneered more,
his words were apt to be more biting, but the manner that accompanied them was always punctilious--too punctilious.

"I  must  never let him know I'm afraid to face him," she thought, and, clutching the wrapper closer to her throat, she went down the stairs with
her head up and her heels clacking noisily.

He stood aside and bowed her through the door with a mockery that made her wince. She saw that he was coatless and his cravat hung down on either
side  of  his  open  collar. His shirt was open down to the thick mat of black hair on his chest. His hair was rumpled and his eyes bloodshot and
narrow.  One  candle  burned  on the table, a tiny spark of light that threw monstrous shadows about the high-ceilinged room and made the massive
sideboards  and  buffet  look  like  still,  crouching  beasts.  On  the  table on the silver tray stood the decanter with cut-glass stopper out,
surrounded by glasses.

"Sit down," he said curtly, following her into the room.

Now  a new kind of fear crept into her, a fear that made her alarm at facing him seem very small. He looked and talked and acted like a stranger.
This  was  an  ill-mannered Rhett she had never seen before. Never at any time, even in most intimate moments, had he been other than nonchalant.
Even  in anger, he was suave and satirical, and whisky usually served to intensify these qualities. At first it had annoyed her and she had tried
to  break  down  that  nonchalance but soon she had come to accept it as a very convenient thing. For years she had thought that nothing mattered
very  much  to  him,  that  he  thought everything in life, including her, an ironic joke. But as she faced him across the table, she knew with a
sinking feeling in her stomach that at last something was mattering to him, mattering very much.

"There is no reason why you should not have your nightcap, even if I am ill bred enough to be at home," he said. "Shall I pour it for you?"

"I did not want a drink," she said stiffly. "I heard a noise and came--"

"You  heard  nothing.  You  wouldn't  have  come down if you'd thought I was home. I've sat here and listened to you racing up and down the floor
upstairs. You must need a drink badly. Take it."

"I do not--"

He picked up the decanter and sloshed a glassful, untidily.

"Take  it,"  he said, shoving it into her hand. "You are shaking all over. Oh, don't give yourself airs. I know you drink on the quiet and I know
how  much you drink. For some time I've been intending to tell you to stop your elaborate pretenses and drink openly if you want to. Do you think
I give a damn if you like your brandy?"

She  took  the wet glass, silently cursing him. He read her like a book. He had always read her and he was the one man in the world from whom she
would like to hide her real thoughts.

"Drink it, I say."

She  raised  the  glass  and bolted the contents with one abrupt motion of her arm, wrist stiff, just as Gerald had always taken his neat whisky,
bolted it before she thought how practiced and unbecoming it looked. He did not miss the gesture and his mouth went down at the corner.

"Sit down and we will have a pleasant domestic discussion of the elegant reception we have just attended."

"You are drunk," she said coldly, "and I am going to bed."

"I am very drunk and I intend to get still drunker before the evening's over. But you aren't going to bed--not yet. Sit down."

His  voice  still held a remnant of its wonted cool drawl but beneath the words she could feel violence fighting its way to the surface, violence
as  cruel  as  the crack of a whip. She wavered irresolutely and he was at her side, his hand on her arm in a grip that hurt. He gave it a slight
wrench and she hastily sat down with a little cry of pain. Now, she was afraid, more afraid than she had ever been in her life. As he leaned over
her,  she  saw  that his face was dark and flushed and his eyes still held their frightening glitter. There was something in their depths she did
not recognize, could not understand, something deeper than anger, stronger than pain, something driving him until his eyes glowed redly like twin
coals.  He  looked down at her for a long time, so long that her defiant gaze wavered and fell, and then he slumped into a chair opposite her and
poured  himself  another drink. She thought rapidly, trying to lay a line of defenses. But until he spoke, she would not know what to say for she
did not know exactly what accusation he intended to make.

He  drank slowly, watching her over the glass and she tightened her nerves, trying to keep from trembling. For a time his face did not change its
expression but finally he laughed, still keeping his eyes on her, and at the sound she could not still her shaking.

"It was an amusing comedy, this evening, wasn't it?"

She said nothing, curling her toes in the loose slippers in an effort at controlling her quivering.

"A  pleasant  comedy  with  no  character  missing. The village assembled to stone the erring woman, the wronged husband supporting his wife as a
gentleman  should,  the  wronged  wife stepping in with Christian spirit and casting the garments of her spotless reputation over it all. And the


"I  don't please. Not tonight. It's too amusing. And the lover looking like a damned fool and wishing he were dead. How does it feel, my dear, to
have the woman you hate stand by you and cloak your sins for you? Sit down."

She sat down.

"You don't like her any better for it, I imagine. You are wondering if she knows all about you and Ashley--wondering why she did this if she does
know--if she just did it to save her own face. And you are thinking she's a fool for doing it, even if it did save your hide but--"

"I will not listen--"

"Yes,  you  will  listen. And I'll tell you this to ease your worry. Miss Melly is a fool but not the kind you think. It was obvious that someone
had  told  her  but she didn't believe it. Even if she saw, she wouldn't believe. There's too much honor in her to conceive of dishonor in anyone
she  loves.  I  don't know what lie Ashley Wilkes told her--but any clumsy one would do, for she loves Ashley and she loves you. I'm sure I can't
see why she loves you but she does. Let that be one of your crosses."

"If you were not so drunk and insulting, I would explain everything," said Scarlett, recovering some dignity. "But now--"

"I am not interested in your explanations. I know the truth better than you do. By God, if you get up out of that chair just once more--

"And  what I find more amusing than even tonight's comedy is the fact that while you have been so virtuously denying me the pleasures of your bed
because  of my many sins, you have been lusting in your heart after Ashley Wilkes. 'Lusting in your heart.' That's a good phrase, isn't it? There
are a number of good phrases in that Book, aren't there?"

"What  book?  What  book?"  her mind ran on, foolishly, irrelevantly as she cast frantic eyes about the room, noting how dully the massive silver
gleamed in the dim light, how frighteningly dark the corners were.

"And  I  was cast out because my coarse ardors were too much for your refinement--because you didn't want any more children. How bad that made me
feel,  dear heart! How it cut me! So I went out and found pleasant consolation and left you to your refinements. And you spent that time tracking
the  long-suffering  Mr.  Wilkes.  God  damn  him, what ails him? He can't be faithful to his wife with his mind or unfaithful with his body. Why
doesn't he make up his mind? You wouldn't object to having his children, would you--and passing them off as mine?"

She  sprang  to  her feet with a cry and he lunged from his seat, laughing that soft laugh that made her blood cold. He pressed her back into her
chair with large brown hands and leaned over her.

"Observe  my hands, my dear," he said, flexing them before her eyes. "I could tear you to pieces with them with no trouble whatsoever and I would
do  it if it would take Ashley out of your mind. But it wouldn't. So I think I'll remove him from your mind forever, this way. I'll put my hands,
so, on each side of your head and I'll smash your skull between them like a walnut and that will blot him out."

His  hands  were on her head, under her flowing hair, caressing, hard, turning her face up to his. She was looking into the face of a stranger, a
drunken  drawling-voiced stranger. She had never lacked animal courage and in the face of danger it flooded back hotly into her veins, stiffening
her spine, narrowing her eyes.

"You drunken fool," she said. "Take your hands off me."

To her surprise, he did so and seating himself on the edge of the table he poured himself another drink.

"I have always admired your spirit, my dear. Never more than now when you are cornered."

She  drew  her  wrapper  close about her body. Oh, if she could only reach her room and turn the key in the stout door and be alone. Somehow, she
must  stand  him  off, bully him into submission, this Rhett she had never seen before. She rose without haste, though her knees shook, tightened
the wrapper across her hips and threw back her hair from her face.

"I'm  not  cornered,"  she  said cuttingly. "You'll never corner me, Rhett Butler, or frighten me. You are nothing but a drunken beast who's been
with  bad  women so long that you can't understand anything else but badness. You can't understand Ashley or me. You've lived in dirt too long to
know anything else. You are jealous of something you can't understand. Good night."

She turned casually and started toward the door and a burst of laughter stopped her. She turned and he swayed across the room toward her. Name of
God,  if  he would only stop that terrible laugh! What was there to laugh about in all of this? As he came toward her, she backed toward the door
and found herself against the wall. He put his hands heavily upon her and pinned her shoulders to the wall.

"Stop laughing."

"I am laughing because I am so sorry for you."

"Sorry--for me? Be sorry for yourself."

"Yes, by God, I'm sorry for you, my dear, my pretty little fool. That hurts, doesn't it? You can't stand either laughter or pity, can you?"

He  stopped  laughing,  leaning  so  heavily against her shoulders that they ached. His face changed and he leaned so close to her that the heavy
whisky smell of his breath made her turn her head.

"Jealous,  am  I?"  he  said. "And why not? Oh, yes, I'm jealous of Ashley Wilkes. Why not? Oh, don't try to talk and explain. I know you've been
physically  faithful to me. Was that what you were trying to say? Oh, I've known that all along. All these years. How do I know? Oh, well, I know
Ashley  Wilkes  and  his  breed.  I  know he is honorable and a gentleman. And that, my dear, is more than I can say for you--or for me, for that
matter. We are not gentlemen and we have no honor, have we? That's why we flourish like green bay trees."

"Let me go. I won't stand here and be insulted."

"I'm not insulting you. I'm praising your physical virtue. And it hasn't fooled me one bit. You think men are such fools, Scarlett. It never pays
to  underestimate  your  opponent's  strength  and  intelligence.  And  I'm  not a fool. Don't you suppose I know that you've lain in my arms and
pretended I was Ashley Wilkes?"

Her jaw dropped and fear and astonishment were written plainly in her face.

"Pleasant  thing,  that.  Rather  ghostly, in fact. Like having three in a bed where there ought to be just two." He shook her shoulders, ever so
slightly, hiccoughed and smiled mockingly.

"Oh, yes, you've been faithful to me because Ashley wouldn't have you. But, hell, I wouldn't have grudged him your body. I know how little bodies
mean--especially  women's bodies. But I do grudge him your heart and your dear, hard, unscrupulous, stubborn mind. He doesn't want your mind, the
fool,  and  I don't want your body. I can buy women cheap. But I do want your mind and your heart, and I'll never have them, any more than you'll
ever have Ashley's mind. And that's why I'm sorry for you."

Even through her fear and bewilderment, his sneer stung.

"Sorry--for me?"

"Yes,  sorry because you're such a child, Scarlett. A child crying for the moon. What would a child do with the moon if it got it? And what would
you  do  with  Ashley? Yes, I'm sorry for you--sorry to see you throwing away happiness with both hands and reaching out for something that would
never  make  you happy. I'm sorry because you are such a fool you don't know there can't ever be happiness except when like mates like. If I were
dead,  if  Miss  Melly  were dead and you had your precious honorable lover, do you think you'd be happy with him? Hell, no! You would never know
him,  never  know what he was thinking about, never understand him any more than you understand music and poetry and books or anything that isn't
dollars and cents. Whereas, we, dear wife of my bosom, could have been perfectly happy if you had ever given us half a chance, for we are so much
alike.  We  are  both scoundrels, Scarlett, and nothing is beyond us when we want something. We could have been happy, for I loved you and I know
you,  Scarlett, down to your bones, in a way that Ashley could never know you. And he would despise you if he did know. . . . But no, you must go
mooning  all  your life after a man you cannot understand. And I, my darling, will continue to moon after whores. And, I dare say we'll do better
than most couples."

He released her abruptly and made a weaving way back toward the decanter. For a moment, Scarlett stood rooted, thoughts tearing in and out of her
mind  so  swiftly  that  she  could seize none of them long enough to examine them. Rhett had said he loved her. Did he mean it? Or was he merely
drunk?  Or  was  this one of his horrible jokes? And Ashley--the moon--crying for the moon. She ran swiftly into the dark hall, fleeing as though
demons  were  upon her. Oh, if she could only reach her room! She turned her ankle and the slipper fell half off. As she stopped to kick it loose
frantically,  Rhett,  running  lightly  as  an  Indian,  was  beside her in the dark. His breath was not on her face and his hands went round her
roughly, under the wrapper, against her bare skin.

"You turned me out on the town while you chased him. By God, this is one night when there are only going to be two in my bed."

He swung her off her feet into his arms and started up the stairs. Her head was crushed against his chest and she heard the hard hammering of his
heart beneath her ears. He hurt her and she cried out, muffled, frightened. Up the stairs he went in the utter darkness, up, up, and she was wild
with  fear. He was a mad stranger and this was a black darkness she did not know, darker than death. He was like death, carrying her away in arms
that  hurt.  She  screamed, stifled against him and he stopped suddenly on the landing and, turning her swiftly in his arms, bent over and kissed
her  with  a savagery and a completeness that wiped out everything from her mind but the dark into which she was sinking and the lips on hers. He
was  shaking, as though he stood in a strong wind, and his lips, traveling from her mouth downward to where the wrapper had fallen from her body,
fell  on  her soft flesh. He was muttering things she did not hear, his lips were evoking feelings never felt before. She was darkness and he was
darkness  and there had never been anything before this time, only darkness and his lips upon her. She tried to speak and his mouth was over hers
again.  Suddenly  she had a wild thrill such as she had never known; joy, fear, madness, excitement, surrender to arms that were too strong, lips
too  bruising,  fate  that  moved  too  fast.  For the first time in her life she had met someone, something stronger than she, someone she could
neither bully nor break, someone who was bullying and breaking her. Somehow, her arms were around his neck and her lips trembling beneath his and
they were going up, up into the darkness again, a darkness that was soft and swirling and all enveloping.

When  she awoke the next morning, he was gone and had it not been for the rumpled pillow beside her, she would have thought the happenings of the
night  before  a  wild  preposterous dream. She went crimson at the memory and, pulling the bed covers up about her neck, lay bathed in sunlight,
trying to sort out the jumbled impressions in her mind.

Two  things  stood  to  the fore. She had lived for years with Rhett, slept with him, eaten with him, quarreled with him and borne his child--and
yet,  she did not know him. The man who had carried her up the dark stairs was a stranger of whose existence she had not dreamed. And now, though
she  tried  to  make  herself  hate him, tried to be indignant, she could not. He had humbled her, hurt her, used her brutally through a wild mad
night and she had gloried in it.

Oh,  she  should  be  ashamed, should shrink from the very memory of the hot swirling darkness! A lady, a real lady, could never hold up her head
after such a night. But, stronger than shame, was the memory of rapture, of the ecstasy of surrender. For the first time in her life she had felt
alive,  felt passion as sweeping and primitive as the fear she had known the night she fled Atlanta, as dizzy sweet as the cold hate when she had
shot the Yankee.

Rhett  loved  her!  At  least, he said he loved her and how could she doubt it now? How odd and bewildering and how incredible that he loved her,
this  savage  stranger with whom she had lived in such coolness. She was not altogether certain how she felt about this revelation but as an idea
came  to  her  she  suddenly laughed aloud. He loved her and so she had him at last. She had almost forgotten her early desire to entrap him into
loving  her, so she could hold the whip over his insolent black head. Now, it came back and it gave her great satisfaction. For one night, he had
had  her  at  his mercy but now she knew the weakness of his armor. From now on she had him where she wanted him. She had smarted under his jeers
for a long time, but now she had him where she could make him jump through any hoops she cared to hold.

When  she thought of meeting him again, face to face in the sober light of day, a nervous tingling embarrassment that carried with it an exciting
pleasure enveloped her.

"I'm nervous as a bride," she thought. "And about Rhett!" And, at the idea she fell to giggling foolishly.

But Rhett did not appear for dinner, nor was he at his place at the supper table. The night passed, a long night during which she lay awake until
dawn, her ears strained to hear his key in the latch. But he did not come. When the second day passed with no word from him, she was frantic with
disappointment  and  fear.  She went by the bank but he was not there. She went to the store and was very sharp with everyone, for every time the
door  opened  to  admit  a  customer she looked up with a flutter, hoping it was Rhett. She went to the lumber yard and bullied Hugh until he hid
himself behind a pile of lumber. But Rhett did not seek her there.

She  could  not humble herself to ask friends if they had seen him. She could not make inquiries among the servants for news of him. But she felt
they  knew something she did not know. Negroes always knew everything. Mammy was unusually silent those two days. She watched Scarlett out of the
corner  of  her  eye  and  said  nothing.  When  the second night had passed Scarlett made up her mind to go to the police. Perhaps he had had an
accident, perhaps his horse had thrown him and he was lying helpless in some ditch. Perhaps--oh, horrible thought--perhaps he was dead.

The  next  morning when she had finished her breakfast and was in her room putting on her bonnet, she heard swift feet on the stairs. As she sank
to  the  bed  in  weak  thankfulness,  Rhett  entered  the room. He was freshly barbered, shaved and massaged and he was sober, but his eyes were
bloodshot and his face puffy from drink. He waved an airy hand at her and said: "Oh, hello."

How could a man say "Oh, hello," after being gone without explanation for two days? How could he be so nonchalant with the memory of such a night
as  they  had spent? He couldn't unless--unless--the terrible thought leaped into her mind. Unless such nights were the usual thing to him. For a
moment  she could not speak and all the pretty gestures and smiles she had thought to use upon him were forgotten. He did not even come to her to
give her his usual offhand kiss but stood looking at her, with a grin, a smoking cigar in his hand.

"Where--where have you been?"

"Don't tell me you don't know! I thought surely the whole town knew by now. Perhaps they all do, except you. You know the old adage: 'The wife is
always the last one to find out.'"

"What do you mean?"

"I thought that after the police called at Belle's night before last--"

"Belle's--that--that woman! You have been with--"

"Of course. Where else would I be? I hope you haven't worried about me."

"You went from me to--oh!"

"Come, come, Scarlett! Don't play the deceived wife. You must have known about Belle long ago."

"You went to her from me, after--after--"

"Oh,  that."  He  made  a  careless gesture. "I will forget my manners. My apologies for my conduct at our last meeting. I was very drunk, as you
doubtless know, and quite swept off my feet by your charms--need I enumerate them?"

Suddenly  she wanted to cry, to lie down on the bed and sob endlessly. He hadn't changed, nothing had changed, and she had been a fool, a stupid,
conceited,  silly  fool,  thinking  he  loved  her. It had all been one of his repulsive drunken jests. He had taken her and used her when he was
drunk,  just  as  he  would  use  any woman in Belle's house. And now he was back, insulting, sardonic, out of reach. She swallowed her tears and
rallied.  He  must never, never know what she had thought. How he would laugh if he knew! Well, he'd never know. She looked up quickly at him and
caught that old, puzzling, watchful glint in his eyes--keen, eager as though he hung on her next words, hoping they would be--what was he hoping?
That  she'd  make  a  fool  out  of herself and bawl and give him something to laugh about? Not she! Her slanting brows rushed together in a cold

"I had naturally suspected what your relations with that creature were."

"Only suspected? Why didn't you ask me and satisfy your curiosity? I'd have told you. I've been living with her ever since the day you and Ashley
Wilkes decided that we should have separate bedrooms."

"You have the gall to stand there and boast to me, your wife, that--"

"Oh, spare me your moral indignation. You never gave a damn what I did as long as I paid the bills. And you know I've been no angel recently. And
as  for  you  being my wife--you haven't been much of a wife since Bonnie came, have you? You've been a poor investment, Scarlett. Belle's been a
better one."

"Investment? You mean you gave her--?"

"'Set  her  up  in business' is the correct term, I believe. Belle's a smart woman. I wanted to see her get ahead and all she needed was money to
start a house of her own. You ought to know what miracles a woman can perform when she has a bit of cash. Look at yourself."

"You compare me--"

"Well,  you  are both hard-headed business women and both successful. Belle's got the edge on you, of course, because she's a kind-hearted, good-
natured soul--"

"Will you get out of this room?"

He lounged toward the door, one eyebrow raised quizzically. How could he insult her so, she thought in rage and pain. He was going out of his way
to hurt and humiliate her and she writhed as she thought how she had longed for his homecoming, while all the time he was drunk and brawling with
police in a bawdy house.

"Get  out of this room and don't ever come back in it. I told you that once before and you weren't enough of a gentleman to understand. Hereafter
I will lock my door."

"Don't bother."

"I will lock it. After the way you acted the other night--so drunk, so disgusting--"

"Come now, darling! Not disgusting, surely!"

"Get out."

"Don't worry. I'm going. And I promise I'll never bother you again. That's final. And I just thought I'd tell you that if my infamous conduct was
too much for you to bear, I'll let you have a divorce. Just give me Bonnie and I won't contest it."

"I would not think of disgracing the family with a divorce."

"You'd disgrace it quick enough if Miss Melly was dead, wouldn't you? It makes my head spin to think how quickly you'd divorce me."

"Will you go?"

"Yes,  I'm  going.  That's what I came home to tell you. I'm going to Charleston and New Orleans and--oh, well, a very extended trip. I'm leaving


"And I'm taking Bonnie with me. Get that foolish Prissy to pack her little duds. I'll take Prissy too."

"You'll never take my child out of this house."

"My child too, Mrs. Butler. Surely you do not mind me taking her to Charleston to see her grandmother?"

"Her  grandmother,  my  foot! Do you think I'll let you take that baby out of here when you'll be drunk every night and most likely taking her to
houses like that Belle's--"

He threw down the cigar violently and it smoked acridly on the carpet, the smell of scorching wool rising to their nostrils. In an instant he was
across the floor and by her side, his face black with fury.

"If  you were a man, I would break your neck for that. As it is, all I can say is for you to shut your God-damn mouth. Do you think I do not love
Bonnie,  that  I  would take her where--my daughter! Good God, you fool! And as for you, giving yourself pious airs about your motherhood, why, a
cat's  a  better  mother  than  you!  What have you ever done for the children? Wade and Ella are frightened to death of you and if it wasn't for
Melanie  Wilkes,  they'd never know what love and affection are. But Bonnie, my Bonnie! Do you think I can't take better care of her than you? Do
you  think I'll ever let you bully her and break her spirit, as you've broken Wade's and Ella's? Hell, no! Have her packed up and ready for me in
an  hour  or  I warn you what happened the other night will be mild beside what will happen. I've always thought a good lashing with a buggy whip
would benefit you immensely."

He  turned on his heel before she could speak and went out of the room on swift feet. She heard him cross the floor of the hall to the children's
play room and open the door. There was a glad, quick treble of childish voices and she heard Bonnie's tones rise over Ella's.

"Daddy, where you been?"

"Hunting for a rabbit's skin to wrap my little Bonnie in. Give your best sweetheart a kiss, Bonnie--and you too, Ella."


"Darling, I don't want any explanation from you and I won't listen to one," said Melanie firmly as she gently laid a small hand across Scarlett's
tortured lips and stilled her words. "You insult yourself and Ashley and me by even thinking there could be need of explanations between us. Why,
we  three have been--have been like soldiers fighting the world together for so many years that I'm ashamed of you for thinking idle gossip could
come  between  us.  Do you think I'd believe that you and my Ashley-- Why, the idea! Don't you realize I know you better than anyone in the world
knows you? Do you think I've forgotten all the wonderful, unselfish things you've done 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 almost barefooted 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, Scarlett O'Hara. Not a word."

"But--" Scarlett fumbled and stopped.

Rhett  had left town the hour before with Bonnie and Prissy, and desolation was added to Scarlett's shame and anger. The additional burden of her
guilt  with  Ashley  and  Melanie's defense was more than she could bear. Had Melanie believed India and Archie, cut her at the reception or even
greeted her frigidly, then she could have held her head high and fought back with every weapon 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 nothing
honest to do but confess. Yes, blurt out everything from that far-off beginning on the sunny porch at Tara.

She  was  driven  by  a  conscience  which, though long suppressed, could still rise up, an active Catholic conscience. "Confess your sins and do
penance  for  them  in  sorrow  and contrition," Ellen had told her a hundred times and, in this crisis, Ellen's religious training came back and
gripped  her.  She  would confess--yes, everything, every look and word, those few caresses--and then God would ease her pain and give her peace.
And,  for her penance, there would be the dreadful sight of Melanie's face changing from fond love and trust to incredulous horror and repulsion.
Oh,  that  was too hard a penance, she thought in anguish, to have to live out her life remembering Melanie's face, knowing that Melanie knew all
the pettiness, the meanness, the two-faced disloyalty and the hypocrisy that were in her.

Once, the thought of flinging the truth tauntingly in Melanie's face and seeing the collapse of her 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 this
should be she did not know. There was too great a tumult of conflicting ideas in her mind for her to sort 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
only  knew  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 that would 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 had imperiously stopped her. Scarlett looking
shamefaced  into  the  dark  eyes  that were flashing with love and anger, knew with a sinking heart that the peace and calm following confession
could  never  be  hers.  Melanie had forever cut off that line of action by her first words. With one of the few adult emotions Scarlett had ever
had,  she realized that to unburden her own tortured heart would be the purest selfishness. She would be ridding herself of her burden and laying
it  on  the heart of an innocent and trusting person. She owed Melanie a debt for her championship and that debt could only be paid with silence.
What  cruel  payment  it  would  be  to wreck Melanie's life with the unwelcome knowledge that her husband was unfaithful to her, and her beloved
friend a party to it!

"I  can't tell her," she thought miserably. "Never, not even if my conscience kills me." She remembered irrelevantly Rhett's drunken remark: "She
can't conceive of dishonor in anyone she loves . . . let that be your cross."

Yes,  it  would  be her cross, until she died, to keep this torment silent within her, to wear the hair shirt of shame, to feel it chafing her at
every  tender  look and gesture Melanie would make throughout 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 so hard," she thought desperately. "I've toted lots
of weary loads but this is going to be the heaviest and 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 her knees stuck up like a child's, a posture she would
never have assumed had not rage possessed her to the point of forgetting proprieties. She held a line of tatting in her hands and she was driving
the shining 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 and roaring like Gerald in his finest days, calling on God
to  witness the accursed duplicity and knavishness of mankind and uttering blood-curdling threats of retaliation. But only by the flashing needle
and the delicate brows drawn down toward her nose did Melanie indicate that she was inwardly seething. Her voice was cool and her words were more
close  clipped  than  usual.  But  the forceful words she uttered were foreign to Melanie who seldom voiced an opinion at all and never an unkind
word. Scarlett realized suddenly that the Wilkeses and the Hamiltons were capable of furies 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 the last straw and I'm going to do something
about  it.  All this has happened because people are jealous of you, because you are so smart and successful. You've succeeded where lots of men,
even,  have  failed.  Now, don't be vexed with me, dear, for saying that. I don't mean you've ever been unwomanly or unsexed yourself, as lots of
folks  have  said. Because you haven't. People just don't understand you and people can't bear for women to be smart. But your smartness and your
success don'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 no uncertain 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 the courage. But she's always hated you, darling, because you were more popular than Fanny. And she was so
incensed  at  your  demoting Hugh from the management of the mill. But you were quite right in demoting him. He's just a piddling, do-less, good-
for-nothing!"  Swiftly  Melanie dismissed the playmate of her childhood and the beau of her teen years. "I blame myself about Archie. I shouldn't
have given the old scoundrel shelter. Everyone told me so but I wouldn't listen. He didn't like you, dear, because of the convicts, but who is he
to  criticize  you? A murderer, and the murderer of a woman, too! And after all I've done for him, he comes to me and tells me-- I shouldn't have
been a bit sorry if Ashley had shot him. Well, I packed him off with a large flea in his 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 you two together that she was jealous of you and
hated  you,  because you were so much prettier and had so many beaux. And she hated you especially about Stuart Tarleton. And she's brooded about
Stuart  so  much  that--well,  I  hate  to  say  it about Ashley's sister but I think her mind has broken with thinking so much! There's no other
explanation  for  her  action.  .  .  . I told her never to put foot in this house again and that if I heard her breathe so vile an insinuation I
would--I would call her a liar in public!"

Melanie  stopped  speaking  and  abruptly the anger left her face and sorrow swamped it. Melanie had all that passionate clan loyalty peculiar to
Georgians  and  the  thought  of a family quarrel tore her heart. She faltered for a moment. But Scarlett was dearest, Scarlett came first in her
heart, and she went on loyally:

"She's  always  been  jealous  because  I loved you best, dear. She'll never come in this house again and I'll never put foot under any roof that
receives her. Ashley agrees with me, but it's just about broken his heart that his own sister should tell such a--"

At the mention of Ashley's name, Scarlett's overwrought nerves gave way and she burst into tears. Would she never stop stabbing him to the heart?
Her  only  thought  had  been to make him happy and safe but at every turn she seemed to hurt him. She had wrecked his life, broken his pride and
self-respect, shattered that inner peace, that calm based on integrity. And now she had alienated him from the sister he loved so dearly. To save
her  own  reputation and his wife's happiness, 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 shining there, 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, like Scarlett, was forced to shelter behind Melanie's
skirts.  While Scarlett realized the necessity for this and knew that the blame for his false position lay mostly at her own door, still--still--
Womanlike  she  would  have  respected  Ashley  more, had he shot Archie and admitted everything to Melanie and the world. She knew she was being
unfair  but  she  was too miserable to care for such fine points. Some of Rhett's taunting words of contempt came back to her and she wondered if
indeed  Ashley  had  played the manly part in this mess. And, for the first time, some of the bright glow which 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 to fight 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 and drawing Scarlett's head down onto her shoulder. "I
shouldn't  have  talked about it all and distressed you so. I know how dreadfully you must feel and we'll never mention it again. No, not to each
other  or  to  anybody.  It'll  be as though it never happened. But," she added with quiet venom, "I'm going to show India and Mrs. Elsing what's
what.  They  needn't  think  they can spread lies about my husband and my sister-in-law. I'm going to fix it so neither of them can hold up their
heads in Atlanta. 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 cause of a feud that would split the town and the
family for generations.

Melanie  was as good as her word. She never again mentioned the subject to Scarlett or to Ashley. Nor, for that matter, would she discuss it with
anyone. She maintained an air of cool indifference 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 the town in a frenzied state of gossip, excitement and
partisanship, she gave no quarter to Scarlett's detractors, 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 lumber yard, as usual, every morning and she went with
her.  She  insisted  that Scarlett go driving in the afternoons, little though Scarlett wished to expose herself to the eager curious gaze of her
fellow  townspeople.  And Melanie sat in the carriage beside her. Melanie took her calling with her on formal afternoons, gently forcing her into
parlors  in  which Scarlett had not sat for more than two years. And Melanie, with a fierce "love-me-love-my-dog" look on her face, made converse
with astounded 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, a matter which caused some mild indignation. These calls were an especial torment to Scarlett but
she  dared  not  refuse  to  go with Melanie. She hated to sit amid crowds of women who were secretly wondering if she had been actually taken in
adultery. She hated the knowledge that these women would 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 defense or their criticism of her on her personal
integrity. "I wouldn't put much beyond her," was the universal attitude. Scarlett had made too many enemies to have many champions now. Her words
and  her  actions  rankled  in  too  many hearts for many people to care whether this scandal hurt her or not. But everyone cared violently about
hurting Melanie or India and the storm revolved around them, rather than Scarlett, centering upon the one question--"Did India lie?"

Those  who  espoused  Melanie's  side  pointed  triumphantly  to  the fact that Melanie was constantly with Scarlett these days. Would a woman of
Melanie's  high  principles  champion  the  cause of a guilty woman, especially a woman guilty with her own husband? No, indeed! India was just a
cracked old maid who hated Scarlett and lied about her and induced Archie and Mrs. Elsing to believe her lies.

But,  questioned  India's  adherents,  if  Scarlett  isn't guilty, where is Captain Butler? Why isn't he here at his wife's side, lending her the
strength  of  his  countenance?  That was an unanswerable question and, as the weeks went by and the rumor spread that Scarlett was pregnant, the
pro-India  group  nodded with satisfaction. It couldn't be Captain Butler's baby, they said. For too long the fact of their estrangement had been
public property. For too long the town had been scandalized by the 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 take sides. There was no neutral ground. Melanie with cool dignity and India with acid bitterness
saw  to that. But no matter which side the relatives took, they all were resentful that Scarlett should have been the cause of the family breach.
None  of  them  thought  her  worth it. And no matter which side they took, the relatives heartily deplored the fact that India had taken it upon
herself  to wash the family dirty linen so publicly and involve Ashley in so degrading a scandal. But now that she had spoken, 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 a born Georgian could ever unravel them. They had always been a clannish tribe, presenting
an  unbroken  phalanx  of  overlapping shields to the world in time of stress, no matter what their private opinions of the conduct of individual
kinsmen might be. With the exception of the guerrilla warfare carried on by Aunt Pitty against Uncle Henry, which had been a matter for hilarious
laughter  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 that characterized most Atlanta families.

But now they were split in twain and the town was privileged to witness cousins of the fifth and sixth degree taking sides in the most shattering
scandal Atlanta had ever seen. This worked great hardship 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 Sewing Circle for the Widows and Orphans of the
Confederacy,  the  Association  for the Beautification of the Graves of Our Glorious Dead, the Saturday Night Musical Circle, the Ladies' Evening
Cotillion  Society,  the Young Men's Library were all involved. So were four churches with their Ladies' Aid and Missionary societies. Great care
had to be taken to avoid putting members of warring factions on the same committees.

On  their  regular  afternoons  at home, Atlanta matrons were in anguish from four to six o'clock for fear Melanie and Scarlett would call at the
same time India and her loyal kin were in their parlors.

Of all the family, poor Aunt Pitty suffered the most. Pitty, who desired nothing except to live comfortably amid the love of her relatives, would
have been very pleased, in this matter, to run with 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 would leave. And if India left her, what would poor
Pitty  do  then?  She  could not live alone. She would have to get a stranger to live with her or she would have to close up her house and go and
live  with Scarlett. Aunt Pitty felt vaguely that Captain Butler would not care for this, or she would have to go 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 and her passionate convictions. But she made it
possible for Pitty to keep her own comfortable establishment and Pitty was always swayed more by considerations of personal comfort than by moral
issues. And so India remained.

But her presence in the house made Aunt Pitty a storm center, for both Scarlett and Melanie took that to mean that she sided with India. Scarlett
curtly refused to contribute more money to Pitty's establishment as long as India was under the same roof. Ashley sent India money every week and
every  week India proudly and silently returned it, much to the old lady's alarm and regret. Finances at the red-brick house would have been in a
deplorable state, but for Uncle Henry's intervention, and it humiliated Pitty to take money from him.

Pitty  loved  Melanie  better  than anyone in the world, except herself, and now Melly acted like a cool, polite stranger. Though she practically
lived  in  Pitty's  back  yard, she never once came through the hedge and she used to run in and out a dozen times a day. Pitty called on her and
wept and protested her love and devotion, but Melanie always refused to discuss matters and never returned the calls.

Pitty knew very well what she owed Scarlett--almost her very existence. Certainly in those black days after the war when Pitty was faced with the
alternative  of  Brother  Henry  or  starvation,  Scarlett had kept her home for her, fed her, clothed her and enabled her to hold up her head in
Atlanta  society.  And  since  Scarlett had married and moved into her own home, she had been generosity itself. And that frightening fascinating
Captain  Butler--frequently  after  he  called  with  Scarlett,  Pitty  found  brand-new  purses  stuffed with bills on her console table or lace
handkerchiefs  knotted  about  gold  pieces  which  had been slyly slipped into her sewing box. Rhett always vowed he knew nothing about them and
accused her, in a very unrefined way, of having a secret admirer, usually the be-whiskered Grandpa Merriwether.

Yes,  Pitty owed love to Melanie, security to Scarlett, and what did she owe India? Nothing, except that India's presence kept her from having to
break  up  her  pleasant  life  and  make  decisions for herself. It was all most distressing and too, too vulgar and Pitty, who had never made a
decision for herself in her whole life, simply let matters go on as they were and as a result spent much time in uncomforted tears.

In  the end, some people believed whole-heartedly in Scarlett's innocence, not because of her own personal virtue but because Melanie believed in
it.  Some  had  mental reservations but they were courteous to Scarlett and called on her because they loved Melanie and wished to keep her love.
India's  adherents  bowed  coldly  and some few cut her openly. These last were embarrassing, infuriating, but Scarlett realized that, except for
Melanie's championship and her quick action, the face of the whole town would have been set against her and she would have been an outcast.


Rhett  was  gone for three months and during that time Scarlett had no word from him. She did not know where he was or how long he would be gone.
Indeed, she had no idea if he would ever return. During this time, she went about her business with her head high and her heart sick. She did not
feel  well  physically  but, forced by Melanie, she went to the store every day and tried to keep up a superficial interest in the mills. But the
store palled on her for the first time and, although the business was treble what it had been the year before and the money rolling in, she could
take  no interest in it and was sharp and cross with the clerks. Johnnie Gallegher's mill was thriving and the lumber yard selling all his supply
easily,  but nothing Johnnie did or said pleased her. Johnnie, as Irish as she, finally erupted into rage at her naggings and threatened to quit,
after  a long tirade which ended with "and the back of both me hands to you, Ma'm, and the curse of Cromwell on you." She had to appease him with
the most abject of apologies.

She  never went to Ashley's mill. Nor did she go to the lumber-yard office when she thought he would be there. She knew he was avoiding her, knew
that her constant presence in his house, at Melanie's inescapable invitations, was a torment to him. They never spoke alone and she was desperate
to  question  him. She wanted to know whether he now hated her and exactly what he had told Melanie, but he held her at arm's length and silently
pleaded  with  her not to speak. The sight of his face, old, haggard with remorse, added to her load, and the fact that his mill lost money every
week was an extra irritant which she could not voice.

His  helplessness in the face of the present situation irked her. She did not know what he could do to better matters but she felt that he should
do  something. Rhett would have done something. Rhett always did something, even if it was the wrong thing, and she unwillingly respected him for

Now  that her first rage at Rhett and his insults had passed, she began to miss him and she missed him more and more as days went by without news
of him. Out of the welter of rapture and anger and heartbreak and hurt pride that he had left, depression emerged to sit upon her shoulder like a
carrion  crow.  She  missed  him,  missed his light flippant touch in anecdotes that made her shout with laughter, his sardonic grin that reduced
troubles  to their proper proportions, missed even his jeers that stung her to angry retort. Most of all she missed having him to tell things to.
Rhett  was  so satisfactory in that respect. She could recount shamelessly and with pride how she had skinned people out of their eyeteeth and he
would applaud. And if she even mentioned such things to other people they were shocked.

She was lonely without him and Bonnie. She missed the child more than she had thought possible. Remembering the last harsh words Rhett had hurled
at her about Wade and Ella, she tried to fill in some of her empty hours with them. But it was no use. Rhett's words and the children's reactions
opened  her  eyes  to  a startling, a galling truth. During the babyhood of each child she had been too busy, too worried with money matters, too
sharp  and  easily vexed, to win their confidence or affection. And now, it was either too late or she did not have the patience or the wisdom to
penetrate their small secretive hearts.

Ella!  It  annoyed  Scarlett to realize that Ella was a silly child but she undoubtedly was. She couldn't keep her little mind on one subject any
longer than a bird could stay on one twig and even when Scarlett tried to tell her stories, Ella went off at childish tangents, interrupting with
questions  about  matters  that had nothing to do with the story and forgetting what she had asked long before Scarlett could get the explanation
out  of  her mouth. And as for Wade--perhaps Rhett was right. Perhaps he was afraid of her. That was odd and it hurt her. Why should her own boy,
her  only  boy, be afraid of her? When she tried to draw him out in talk, he looked at her with Charles' soft brown eyes and squirmed and twisted
his  feet  in embarrassment. But with Melanie, he bubbled over with talk and brought from his pocket everything from fishing worms to old strings
to show her.

Melanie  had  a  way  with  brats.  There  was  no getting around it. Her own little Beau was the best behaved and most lovable child in Atlanta.
Scarlett got on better with him than she did with her own son because little Beau had no self-consciousness where grown people were concerned and
climbed  on  her  knee, uninvited, whenever he saw her. What a beautiful blond boy he was, just like Ashley! Now if only Wade were like Beau-- Of
course,  the  reason  Melanie  could do so much with him was that she had only one child and she hadn't had to worry and work as Scarlett had. At
least, Scarlett tried to excuse herself that way but honesty forced her to admit that Melanie loved children and would have welcomed a dozen. And
the over-brimming affection she had was poured out on Wade and the neighbors' broods.

Scarlett would never forget the shock of the day she drove by Melanie's house to pick up Wade and heard, as she came up the front walk, the sound
of  her  son's  voice  raised in a very fair imitation of the Rebel Yell--Wade who was always as still as a mouse at home. And manfully seconding
Wade's  yell  was  the  shrill  piping  of Beau. When she had walked into the sitting room she had found the two charging at the sofa with wooden
swords.  They  had  hushed  abashed as she entered and Melanie had arisen, laughing and clutching at hairpins and flying curls from where she was
crouching behind the sofa.

"It's  Gettysburg,"  she  explained.  "And  I'm the Yankees and I've gotten the worst of it. This is General Lee," pointing to Beau, "and this is
General Pickett," putting an arm about Wade's shoulder.

Yes, Melanie had a way with children that Scarlett could never fathom.

"At  least,"  she thought, "Bonnie loves me and likes to play with me." But honesty forced her to admit that Bonnie infinitely preferred Rhett to
her. And perhaps she would never see Bonnie again. For all she knew, Rhett might be in Perisa or Egypt and intending to stay there forever.

When  Dr. Meade told her she was pregnant, she was astounded, for she had been expecting a diagnosis of biliousness and over-wrought nerves. Then
her  mind fled back to that wild night and her face went crimson at the memory. So a child was coming from those moments of high rapture--even if
the  memory of the rapture was dimmed by what followed. And for the first time she was glad that she was going to have a child. If it were only a
boy! A fine boy, not a spiritless little creature like Wade. How she would care for him! Now that she had the leisure to devote to a baby and the
money  to  smooth  his  path, how happy she would be! She had an impulse to write to Rhett in care of his mother in Charleston and tell him. Good
Heavens,  he  must  come  home  now! Suppose he stayed away till after the baby was born! She could never explain that! But if she wrote him he'd
think she wanted him to come home and he would be amused. And he mustn't ever think she wanted him or needed him.

She  was  very  glad she had stifled this impulse when her first news of Rhett came in a letter from Aunt Pauline in Charleston where, it seemed,
Rhett  was visiting his mother. What a relief to know he was still in the United States, even if Aunt Pauline's letter was infuriating. Rhett had
brought Bonnie to see her and Aunt Eulalie and the letter was full of praise.

"Such  a  little  beauty!  When she grows up she will certainly be a belle. But I suppose you know that any man who courts her will have a tussle
with  Captain  Butler,  for I never saw such a devoted father. Now, my dear, I wish to confess something. Until I met Captain Butler, I felt that
your  marriage  with  him  had  been a dreadful mesalliance for, of course, no one in Charleston hears anything good about him and everyone is so
sorry  for  his  family.  In fact, Eulalie and I were uncertain as to whether or not we should receive him--but, after all, the dear child is our
great-niece.  When  he  came, we were pleasantly surprised, most pleasantly, and realized how un-Christian it is to credit idle gossip. For he is
most charming. Quite handsome, too, we thought, and so very grave and courteous. And so devoted to you and the child.

"And now, my dear, I must write you of something that has come to our ears--something Eulalie and I were loath to believe at first. We had heard,
of  course,  that  you  sometimes did help out at the store that Mr. Kennedy had left you. We had heard rumors but, of course, we denied them. We
realized  that  in  those first dreadful days after the war, it was perhaps necessary, conditions being what they were. But there is no necessity
now for such conduct on your part, as I know Captain Butler is in quite comfortable circumstances and is, moreover, fully capable of managing for
you  any  business and property you may own. We had to know the truth of these rumors and were forced to ask Captain Butler point-blank questions
which was most distressing to all of us.

"With  reluctance  he told us that you spent your mornings at the store and would permit no one else to do the bookkeeping. He also admitted that
you  had  some  interest  in  a  mill  or  mills  (we  did not press him on this, being most upset at this information which was news to us) that
necessitated  your  riding  about  alone, or attended by a ruffian who, Captain Butler assures us, is a murderer. We could see how this wrung his
heart  and  think he must be a most indulgent--in fact, a far too indulgent husband. Scarlett, this must stop. Your mother is not here to command
you  and  I  must  do  it  in  her  place.  Think how your little children will feel when they grow older and realize that you were in trade! How
mortified  they  will  be  to know that you exposed yourself to the insults of rude men and the dangers of careless gossip in attending to mills.
Such unwomanly--"

Scarlett  flung  down  the  letter  unfinished,  with an oath. She could just see Aunt Pauline and Aunt Eulalie sitting in judgment on her in the
crumbling  house  on  the Battery with little between them and starvation except what she, Scarlett, sent them every month. Unwomanly? By God, if
she  hadn't  been  unwomanly  Aunt  Pauline  and Aunt Eulalie probably wouldn't have a roof over their heads this very moment. And damn Rhett for
telling  them  about the store and the bookkeeping and the mills! Reluctant, was he? She knew very well the joy he took in palming himself off on
the  old  ladies as grave, courteous and charming, the devoted husband and father. How he must have loved harrowing them with descriptions of her
activities with the store, the mills, the saloon. What a devil he was. Why did such perverse things give him such pleasure?

But  soon,  even this rage passed into apathy. So much of the keen zest had gone out of life recently. If only she could recapture the thrill and
the glow of Ashley--if only Rhett would come home and make her laugh.

They  were  home  again, without warning. The first intimation of their return was the sound of luggage being thumped on the front-hall floor and
Bonnie's voice crying, "Mother!"

Scarlett  hurried  from her room to the top of the stairs and saw her daughter stretching her short plump legs in an effort to climb the steps. A
resigned striped kitten was clutched to her breast.

"Gran'ma gave him to me," she cried excitedly, holding the kitten out by the scruff.

Scarlett  swept  her  up  into her arms and kissed her, thankful that the child's presence spared her her first meeting alone with Rhett. Looking
over  Bonnie's  head, she saw him in the hall below, paying the cab driver. He looked up, saw her and swept off his hat in a wide gesture, bowing
as he did. When she met his dark eyes, her heart leaped. No matter what he was, no matter what he had done, he was home and she was glad.

"Where's Mammy?" asked Bonnie, wriggling in Scarlett's grasp and she reluctantly set the child on her feet.

It  was  going  to be more difficult than she anticipated, greeting Rhett with just the proper degree of casualness and, as for telling him about
the new baby! She looked at his face as he came up the steps, that dark nonchalant face, so impervious, so blank. No, she'd wait to tell him. She
couldn't  tell  him  right away. And yet, such tidings as these belonged first to a husband, for a husband was always happy to hear them. But she
did not think he would be happy about it.

She  stood  on the landing, leaning against the banisters and wondered if he would kiss her. But he did not. He said only: "You are looking pale,
Mrs. Butler. Is there a rouge shortage?"

No  word  of  missing  her,  even  if he didn't mean it. And he might have at least kissed her in front of Mammy who, after bobbing a curtsy, was
leading Bonnie away down the hall to the nursery. He stood beside her on the landing, his eyes appraising her carelessly.

"Can this wanness mean that you've been missing me?" he questioned and though his lips smiled, his eyes did not.

So  that  was  going  to  be  his attitude. He was going to be as hateful as ever. Suddenly the child she was carrying became a nauseating burden
instead  of  something  she had gladly carried, and this man before her, standing carelessly with his wide Panama hat upon his hip, her bitterest
foe, the cause of all her troubles. There was venom in her eyes as she answered, venom that was too unmistakable to be missed, and the smile went
from his face.

"If  I'm pale it's your fault and not because I've missed you, you conceited thing. It's because--" Oh, she hadn't intended to tell him like this
but the hot words rushed to her lips and she flung them at him, careless of the servants who might hear. "It's because I'm going to have a baby!"

He  sucked  in his breath suddenly and his eyes went rapidly over her. He took a quick step toward her as though to put a hand on her arm but she
twisted away from him, and before the hate in her eyes his face hardened.

"Indeed!" he said coolly. "Well, who's the happy father? Ashley?"

She  clutched  the  newel  post  until  the  ears  of  the  carved lion dug with sudden pain into her palm. Even she who knew him so well had not
anticipated  this insult. Of course, he was joking but there were some jokes too monstrous to be borne. She wanted to rake her sharp nails across
his eyes and blot out that queer light in them.

"Damn  you!" she began, her voice shaking with sick rage. "You--you know it's yours. And I don't want it any more than you do. No--no woman would
want the children of a cad like you. I wish-- Oh, God, I wish it was anybody's baby but yours!"

She saw his swarthy face change suddenly, anger and something she could not analyze making it twitch as though stung.

"There!" she thought in a hot rage of pleasure. "There! I've hurt him now!"

But the old impassive mask was back across his face and he stroked one side of his mustache.

"Cheer up," he said, turning from her and starting up the stairs, "maybe you'll have a miscarriage."

For a dizzy moment she thought what childbearing meant, the nausea that tore her, the tedious waiting, the thickening of her figure, the hours of
pain.  Things  no  man could ever realize. And he dared to joke. She would claw him. Nothing but the sight of blood upon his dark face would ease
this  pain  in her heart. She lunged for him, swift as a cat, but with a light startled movement, he sidestepped, throwing up his arm to ward her
off.  She  was  standing  on  the edge of the freshly waxed top step, and as her arm with the whole weight of her body behind it, struck his out-
thrust  arm,  she  lost  her  balance.  She  made  a  wild clutch for the newel post and missed it. She went down the stairs backwards, feeling a
sickening dart of pain in her ribs as she landed. And, too dazed to catch herself, she rolled over and over to the bottom of the flight.

It was the first time Scarlett had ever been ill, except when she had her babies, and somehow those times did not count. She had not been forlorn
and  frightened then, as she was now, weak and pain racked and bewildered. She knew she was sicker than they dared tell her, feebly realized that
she  might die. The broken rib stabbed when she breathed, her bruised face and head ached and her whole body was given over to demons who plucked
at  her  with  hot pinchers and sawed on her with dull knives and left her, for short intervals, so drained of strength that she could not regain
grip  on herself before they returned. No, childbirth had not been like this. She had been able to eat hearty meals two hours after Wade and Ella
and Bonnie had been born, but now the thought of anything but cool water brought on feeble nausea.

How  easy  it  was to have a child and how painful not to have one! Strange, what a pang it had been even in her pain, to know that she would not
have this child. Stranger still that it should have been the first child she really wanted. She tried to think why she wanted it but her mind was
too  tired.  Her  mind  was too tired to think of anything except fear of death. Death was in the room and she had no strength to confront it, to
fight  it back and she was frightened. She wanted someone strong to stand by her and hold her hand and fight off death until enough strength came
back for her to do her own fighting.

Rage had been swallowed up in pain and she wanted Rhett. But he was not there and she could not bring herself to ask for him.

Her  last  memory of him was how he looked as he picked her up in the dark hall at the bottom of the steps, his face white and wiped clean of all
save  hideous  fear, his voice hoarsely calling for Mammy. And then there was a faint memory of being carried upstairs, before darkness came over
her  mind.  And then pain and more pain and the room full of buzzing voices and Aunt Pittypat's sobs and Dr. Meade's brusque orders and feet that
hurried  on  the  stairs  and tiptoes in the upper hall. And then like a blinding ray of lightning, the knowledge of death and fear that suddenly
made her try to scream a name and the scream was only a whisper.

But  that  forlorn  whisper  brought instant response from somewhere in the darkness beside the bed and the soft voice of the one she called made
answer in lullaby tones: "I'm here, dear. I've been right here all the time."

Death  and  fear  receded  gently as Melanie took her hand and laid it quietly against her cool cheek. Scarlett tried to turn to see her face and
could not. Melly was having a baby and the Yankees were coming. The town was afire and she must hurry, hurry. But Melly was having a baby and she
couldn't  hurry.  She must stay with her till the baby came and be strong because Melly needed her strength. Melly was hurting so bad--there were
hot pinchers at her and dull knives and recurrent waves of pain. She must hold Melly's hand.

But Dr. Meade was there after all, he had come, even if the soldiers at the depot did need him for she heard him say: "Delirious. Where's Captain

The  night  was  dark and then light and sometimes she was having a baby and sometimes it was Melanie who cried out, but through it all Melly was
there  and  her  hands were cool and she did not make futile anxious gestures or sob like Aunt Pitty. Whenever Scarlett opened her eyes, she said
"Melly?"  and  the  voice  answered. And usually she started to whisper: "Rhett--I want Rhett" and remembered, as from a dream, that Rhett didn't
want her, that Rhett's face was dark as an Indian's and his teeth were white in a jeer. She wanted him and he didn't want her.

Once  she  said "Melly?" and Mammy's voice said: "S'me, chile," and put a cold rag on her forehead and she cried fretfully: "Melly--Melanie" over
and  over but for a long time Melanie did not come. For Melanie was sitting on the edge of Rhett's bed and Rhett, drunk and sobbing, was sprawled
on the floor, crying, his head in her lap.

Every  time  she had come out of Scarlett's room she had seen him, sitting on his bed, his door wide, watching the door across the hall. The room
was untidy, littered with cigar butts and dishes of untouched food. The bed was tumbled and unmade and he sat on it, unshaven and suddenly gaunt,
endlessly  smoking.  He  never  asked questions when he saw her. She always stood in the doorway for a minute, giving the news: "I'm sorry, she's
worse,"  or  "No,  she  hasn't asked for you yet. You see, she's delirious" or "You mustn't give up hope, Captain Butler. Let me fix you some hot
coffee and something to eat. You'll make yourself ill."

Her  heart  always  ached with pity for him, although she was almost too tired and sleepy to feel anything. How could people say such mean things
about  him--say  he  was heartless and wicked and unfaithful to Scarlett, when she could see him getting thin before her eyes, see the torment in
his  face? Tired as she was, she always tried to be kinder than usual when she gave bulletins from the sick room. He looked so like a damned soul
waiting judgment--so like a child in a suddenly hostile world. But everyone was like a child to Melanie.

But  when,  at last, she went joyfully to his door to tell him that Scarlett was better, she was unprepared for what she found. There was a half-
empty  bottle  of  whisky on the table by the bed and the room reeked with the odor. He looked at her with bright glazed eyes and his jaw muscles
trembled despite his efforts to set his teeth.

"She's dead?"

"Oh, no. She's much better."

He said: "Oh, my God," and put his head in his hands. She saw his wide shoulders shake as with a nervous chill and, as she watched him pityingly,
her  pity  changed  to  honor  for  she  saw that he was crying. Melanie had never seen a man cry and of all men, Rhett, so suave, so mocking, so
eternally sure of himself.

It  frightened her, the desperate choking sound he made. She had a terrified thought that he was drunk and Melanie was afraid of drunkenness. But
when  he raised his head and she caught one glimpse of his eyes, she stepped swiftly into the room, closed the door softly behind her and went to
him.  She  had  never  seen  a  man cry but she had comforted the tears of many children. When she put a soft hand on his shoulder, his arms went
suddenly  around her skirts. Before she knew how it happened she was sitting on the bed and he was on the floor, his head in her lap and his arms
and hands clutching her in a frantic clasp that hurt her.

She stroked the black head gently and said: "There! There!" soothingly. "There! She's going to get well."

At  her  words,  his grip tightened and he began speaking rapidly, hoarsely, babbling as though to a grave which would never give up its secrets,
babbling  the  truth  for  the  first  time in his life, baring himself mercilessly to Melanie who was at first, utterly uncomprehending, utterly
maternal.  He  talked  brokenly,  burrowing  his  head  in her lap, tugging at the folds of her skirt. Sometimes his words were blurred, muffled,
sometimes  they  came far too clearly to her ears, harsh, bitter words of confession and abasement, speaking of things she had never heard even a
woman mention, secret things that brought the hot blood of modesty to her cheeks and made her grateful for his bowed head.

She patted his head as she did little Beau's and said: "Hush! Captain Butler! You must not tell me these things! You are not yourself. Hush!" But
his voice went on in a wild torrent of outpouring and he held to her dress as though it were his hope of life.

He  accused  himself  of  deeds she did not understand; he mumbled the name of Belle Watling and then he shook her with his violence as he cried:
"I've killed Scarlett, I've killed her. You don't understand. She didn't want this baby and--"

"You must hush! You are beside yourself! Not want a baby? Why every woman wants--"

"No! No! You want babies. But she doesn't. Not my babies--"

"You must stop!"

"You don't understand. She didn't want a baby and I made her. This--this baby--it's all my damned fault. We hadn't been sleeping together--"

"Hush, Captain Butler! It is not fit--"

"And I was drunk and insane and I wanted to hurt her--because she had hurt me. I wanted to--and I did--but she didn't want me. She's never wanted
me. She never has and I tried--I tried so hard and--"

"Oh, please!"

"And  I  didn't  know about this baby till the other day--when she fell. She didn't know where I was to write to me and tell me--but she wouldn't
have  written  me if she had known. I tell you--I tell you I'd have come straight home--if I'd only known--whether she wanted me home or not. . .

"Oh, yes, I know you would!"

"God,  I've been crazy these weeks, crazy and drunk! And when she told me, there on the steps--what did I do? What did I say? I laughed and said:
'Cheer up. Maybe you'll have a miscarriage.' And she--"

Melanie  suddenly  went  white and her eyes widened with horror as she looked down at the black tormented head writhing in her lap. The afternoon
sun  streamed  in  through  the  open  window  and suddenly she saw, as for the first time, how large and brown and strong his hands were and how
thickly  the  black  hairs  grew  along  the backs of them. Involuntarily, she recoiled from them. They seemed so predatory, so ruthless and yet,
twined in her skirt, so broken, so helpless.

Could  it  be  possible  that he had heard and believed the preposterous lie about Scarlett and Ashley and become jealous? True, he had left town
immediately  after  the  scandal  broke but-- No, it couldn't be that. Captain Butler was always going off abruptly on journeys. He couldn't have
believed the gossip. He was too sensible. If that had been the cause of the trouble, wouldn't he have tried to shoot Ashley? Or at least demanded
an explanation?

No,  it  couldn't  be that. It was only that he was drunk and sick from strain and his mind was running wild, like a man delirious, babbling wild
fantasies.  Men  couldn't stand strains as well as women. Something had upset him, perhaps he had had a small quarrel with Scarlett and magnified
it.  Perhaps some of the awful things he said were true. But all of them could not be true. Oh, not that last, certainly! No man could say such a
thing to a woman he loved as passionately as this man loved Scarlett. Melanie had never seen evil, never seen cruelty, and now that she looked on
them for the first time she found them too inconceivable to believe. He was drunk and sick. And sick children must be humored.

"There! There!" she said crooningly. "Hush, now. I understand."

He raised his head violently and looked up at her with bloodshot eyes, fiercely throwing off her hands.

"No,  by God, you don't understand! You can't understand! You're--you're too good to understand. You don't believe me but it's all true and I'm a
dog.  Do  you know why I did it? I was mad, crazy with jealousy. She never cared for me and I thought I could make her care. But she never cared.
She doesn't love me. She never has. She loves--"

His  passionate, drunken gaze met hers and he stopped, mouth open, as though for the first time he realized to whom he was speaking. Her face was
white  and  strained but her eyes were steady and sweet and full of pity and unbelief. There was a luminous serenity in them and the innocence in
the soft brown depths struck him like a blow in the face, clearing some of the alcohol out of his brain, halting his mad, careering words in mid-
flight. He trailed off into a mumble, his eyes dropping away from hers, his lids batting rapidly as he fought back to sanity.

"I'm  a  cad," he muttered, dropping his head tiredly back into her lap. "But not that big a cad. And if I did tell you, you wouldn't believe me,
would you? You're too good to believe me. I never before knew anybody who was really good. You wouldn't believe me, would you?"

"No, I wouldn't believe you," said Melanie soothingly, beginning to stroke his hair again. "She's going to get well. There, Captain Butler! Don't
cry! She's going to get well."


It was a pale, thin woman that Rhett put on the Jonesboro train a month later. Wade and Ella, who were to make the trip with her, were silent and
uneasy  at  their mother's still, white face. They clung close to Prissy, for even to their childish minds there was something frightening in the
cold, impersonal atmosphere between their mother and their stepfather.

Weak  as  she  was,  Scarlett  was  going  home to Tara. She felt that she would stifle if she stayed in Atlanta another day, with her tired mind
forcing  itself  round  and round the deeply worn circle of futile thoughts about the mess she was in. She was sick in body and weary in mind and
she was standing like a lost child in a nightmare country in which there was no familiar landmark to guide her.

As  she  had  once fled Atlanta before an invading army, so she was fleeing it again, pressing her worries into the back of her mind with her old
defense  against  the  world:  "I won't think of it now. I can't stand it if I do. I'll think of it tomorrow at Tara. Tomorrow's another day." It
seemed  that  if  she  could  only  get back to the stillness and the green cotton fields of home, all her troubles would fall away and she would
somehow be able to mold her shattered thoughts into something she could live by.

Rhett  watched  the  train until it was out of sight and on his face there was a look of speculative bitterness that was not pleasant. He sighed,
dismissed the carriage and mounting his horse, rode down Ivy Street toward Melanie's house.

It  was  a  warm morning and Melanie sat on the vine-shaded porch, her mending basket piled high with socks. Confusion and dismay filled her when
she  saw  Rhett  alight from his horse and toss the reins over the arm of the cast-iron negro boy who stood at the sidewalk. She had not seen him
alone since that too dreadful day when Scarlett had been so ill and he had been so--well--so drunk. Melanie hated even to think the word. She had
spoken to him only casually during Scarlett's convalescence and, on those occasions, she had found it difficult to meet his eyes. However, he had
been  his  usual  bland self at those times, and never by look or word showed that such a scene had taken place between them. Ashley had told her
once  that  men frequently did not remember things said and done in drink and Melanie prayed heartily that Captain Butler's memory had failed him
on  that  occasion.  She  felt  she would rather die than learn that he remembered his outpourings. Timidity and embarrassment swept over her and
waves  of color mounted her cheeks as he came up the walk. But perhaps he had only come to ask if Beau could spend the day with Bonnie. Surely he
wouldn't have the bad taste to come and thank her for what she had done that day!

She rose to meet him, noting with surprise, as always, how lightly he walked for a big man.

"Scarlett has gone?"

"Yes.  Tara  will  do her good," he said smiling. "Sometimes I think she's like the giant Antaeus who became stronger each time he touched Mother
Earth.  It  doesn't  do for Scarlett to stay away too long from the patch of red mud she loves. The sight of cotton growing will do her more good
than all Dr. Meade's tonics."

"Won't  you  sit down?" said Melanie, her hands fluttering. He was so very large and male, and excessively male creatures always discomposed her.
They  seem  to  radiate a force and vitality that made her feel smaller and weaker even than she was. He looked so swarthy and formidable and the
heavy muscles in his shoulders swelled against his white linen coat in a way that frightened her. It seemed impossible that she had seen all this
strength and insolence brought low. And she had held that black head in her lap!

"Oh, dear!" she thought in distress and blushed again.

"Miss Melly," he said gently, "does my presence annoy you? Would you rather I went away? Pray be frank."

"Oh!" she thought. "He does remember! And he knows how upset I am!"

She looked up at him, imploringly, and suddenly her embarrassment and confusion faded. His eyes were so quiet, so kind, so understanding that she
wondered  how she could ever have been silly enough to be flurried. His face looked tired and, she thought with surprise, more than a little sad.
How could she have even thought he'd be ill bred enough to bring up subjects both would rather forget?

"Poor thing, he's been so worried about Scarlett," she thought, and managing a smile, she said: "Do sit down, Captain Butler."

He sat down heavily and watched her as she picked up her darning.

"Miss Melly, I've come to ask a very great favor of you and," he smiled and his mouth twisted down, "to enlist your aid in a deception from which
I know you will shrink."


"Yes. Really, I've come to talk business to you."

"Oh, dear. Then it's Mr. Wilkes you'd better see. I'm such a goose about business. I'm not smart like Scarlett."

"I'm  afraid  Scarlett  is  too  smart for her own good," he said, "and that is exactly what I want to talk to you about. You know how--ill she's
been.  When she gets back from Tara she will start again hammer and tongs with the store and those mills which I wish devoutly would explode some
night. I fear for her health, Miss Melly."

"Yes, she does far too much. You must make her stop and take care of herself."

He laughed.

"You  know  how  headstrong she is. I never even try to argue with her. She's just like a willful child. She won't let me help her--she won't let
anyone  help  her. I've tried to get her to sell her share in the mills but she won't. And now, Miss Melly, I come to the business matter. I know
Scarlett would sell the remainder of her interest in the mills to Mr. Wilkes but to no one else, and I want Mr. Wilkes to buy her out."

"Oh,  dear  me!  That  would be nice but--" Melanie stopped and bit her lip. She could not mention money matters to an outsider. Somehow, despite
what  he  made  from the mill, she and Ashley never seemed to have enough money. It worried her that they saved so little. She did not know where
the  money  went.  Ashley gave her enough to run the house on, but when it came to extra expenses they were often pinched. Of course, her doctors
bills  were so much, and then the books and furniture Ashley ordered from New York did run into money. And they had fed and clothed any number of
waifs who slept in their cellar. And Ashley never felt like refusing a loan to any man who'd been in the Confederate Army. And--

"Miss Melly, I want to lend you the money," said Rhett.

"That's so kind of you, but we might never repay it."

"I  don't  want  it repaid. Don't be angry with me, Miss Melly! Please hear me through. It will repay me enough to know that Scarlett will not be
exhausting herself driving miles to the mills every day. The store will be enough to keep her busy and happy. . . . Don't you see?"

"Well--yes--" said Melanie uncertainly.

"You want your boy to have a pony don't you? And want him to go to the university and to Harvard and to Europe on a Grand Tour?"

"Oh, of course," cried Melanie, her face lighting up, as always, at the mention of Beau. "I want him to have everything but--well, everyone is so
poor these days that--"

"Mr. Wilkes could make a pile of money out of the mills some day," said Rhett. "And I'd like to see Beau have all the advantages he deserves."

"Oh, Captain Butler, what a crafty wretch you are!" she cried, smiling. "Appealing to a mother's pride! I can read you like a book."

"I hope not," said Rhett, and for the first time there was a gleam in his eye. "Now will you let me lend you the money?"

"But where does the deception come in?"

"We must be conspirators and deceive both Scarlett and Mr. Wilkes."

"Oh, dear! I couldn't!"

"If  Scarlett  knew  I  had plotted behind her back, even for her own good--well, you know her temper! And I'm afraid Mr. Wilkes would refuse any
loan I offered him. So neither of them must know where the money comes from."

"Oh, but I'm sure Mr. Wilkes wouldn't refuse, if he understood the matter. He is so fond of Scarlett."

"Yes, I'm sure he is," said Rhett smoothly. "But just the same he would refuse. You know how proud all the Wilkes are."

"Oh, dear!" cried Melanie miserably, "I wish-- Really, Captain Butler, I couldn't deceive my husband."

"Not even to help Scarlett?" Rhett looked very hurt. "And she is so fond of you!"

Tears trembled on Melanie's eyelids.

"You know I'd do anything in the world for her. I can never, never half repay her for what she's done for me. You know."

"Yes," he said shortly, "I know what she's done for you. Couldn't you tell Mr. Wilkes that the money was left you in the will of some relative?"

"Oh, Captain Butler, I haven't a relative with a penny to bless him!"

"Then,  if  I  sent the money through the mail to Mr. Wilkes without his knowing who sent it, would you see that it was used to buy the mills and
not--well, given away to destitute ex-Confederates?"

At first she looked hurt at his last words, as though they implied criticism of Ashley, but he smiled so understandingly she smiled back.

"Of course I will."

"So it's settled? It's to be our secret?"

"But I have never kept anything secret from my husband!"

"I'm sure of that, Miss Melly."

As  she  looked at him she thought how right she had always been about him and how wrong so many other people were. People had said he was brutal
and  sneering  and  bad mannered and even dishonest. Though many of the nicest people were now admitting they had been wrong. Well! She had known
from the very beginning that he was a fine man. She had never received from him anything but the kindest treatment, thoughtfulness, utter respect
and  what  understanding!  And then, how he loved Scarlett! How sweet of him to take this roundabout way of sparing Scarlett one of the loads she

In an impulsive rush of feeling, she said: "Scarlett's lucky to have a husband who's so nice to her!"

"You  think  so? I'm afraid she wouldn't agree with you, if she could hear you. Besides, I want to be nice to you too, Miss Melly. I'm giving you
more than I'm giving Scarlett."

"Me!" she questioned, puzzled. "Oh, you mean for Beau."

He  picked  up  his  hat and rose. He stood for a moment looking down at the plain, heart-shaped face with its long widow's peak and serious dark
eyes. Such an unworldly face, a face with no defenses against life.

"No, not Beau. I'm trying to give you something more than Beau, if you can imagine that."

"No, I can't," she said, bewildered again. "There's nothing in the world more precious to me than Beau except Ash--except Mr. Wilkes."

Rhett said nothing and looked down at her, his dark face still.

"You're mighty nice to want to do things for me, Captain Butler, but really, I'm so lucky. I have everything in the world any woman could want."

"That's fine," said Rhett, suddenly grim. "And I intend to see that you keep them."

When  Scarlett came back from Tara, the unhealthy pallor had gone from her face and her cheeks were rounded and faintly pink. Her green eyes were
alert  and  sparkling  again,  and  she  laughed aloud for the first time in weeks when Rhett and Bonnie met her and Wade and Ella at the depot--
laughed  in  annoyance  and  amusement. Rhett had two straggling turkey feathers in the brim of his hat and Bonnie, dressed in a sadly torn dress
that  was her Sunday frock, had diagonal lines of indigo blue on her cheeks and a peacock feather half as long as she was in her curls. Evidently
a  game of Indian had been in progress when the time came to meet the train and it was obvious from the look of quizzical helplessness on Rhett's
face and the lowering indignation of Mammy that Bonnie had refused to have her toilet remedied, even to meet her mother.

Scarlett  said: "What a ragamuffin!" as she kissed the child and turned a cheek for Rhett's lips. There were crowds of people in the depot or she
would  never  have invited this caress. She could not help noticing, for all her embarrassment at Bonnie's appearance, that everyone in the crowd
was  smiling  at the figure father and daughter cut, smiling not in derision but in genuine amusement and kindness. Everyone knew that Scarlett's
youngest  had  her  father under her thumb and Atlanta was amused and approving. Rhett's great love for his child had gone far toward reinstating
him in public opinion.

On the way home, Scarlett was full of County news. The hot, dry weather was making the cotton grow so fast you could almost hear it but Will said
cotton prices were going to be low this fall. Suellen was going to have another baby--she spelled this out so the children would not comprehend--
and  Ella  had  shown  unwonted spirit in biting Suellen's oldest girl. Though, observed Scarlett, it was no more than little Susie deserved, she
being  her  mother  all over again. But Suellen had become infuriated and they had had an invigorating quarrel that was just like old times. Wade
had  killed a water moccasin, all by himself. 'Randa and Camilla Tarleton were teaching school and wasn't that a joke? Not a one of the Tarletons
had  ever  been able to spell cat! Betsy Tarleton had married a fat one-armed man from Lovejoy and they and Hetty and Jim Tarleton were raising a
good  cotton  crop  at  Fairhill.  Mrs. Tarleton had a brood mare and a colt and was as happy as though she had a million dollars. And there were
negroes  living  in  the  old  Calvert house! Swarms of them and they actually owned it! They'd bought it in at the sheriff's sale. The place was
dilapidated  and  it  made  you  cry to look at it. No one knew where Cathleen and her no-good husband had gone. And Alex was to marry Sally, his
brother's  widow!  Imagine  that,  after them living in the same house for so many years! Everybody said it was a marriage of convenience because
people  were  beginning  to  gossip  about  them  living there alone, since both Old Miss and Young Miss had died. And it had about broken Dimity
Munroe's heart. But it served her right. If she'd had any gumption she'd have caught her another man long ago, instead of waiting for Alex to get
money enough to marry her.

Scarlett  chattered  on  cheerfully  but  there  were many things about the County which she suppressed, things that hurt to think about. She had
driven over the County with Will, trying not to remember when these thousands of fertile acres had stood green with cotton. Now, plantation after
plantation  was  going back to the forest, and dismal fields of broomsedge, scrub oak and runty pines had grown stealthily about silent ruins and
over old cotton fields. Only one acre was being farmed now where once a hundred had been under the plow. It was like moving through a dead land.

"This  section won't come back for fifty years--if it ever comes back," Will had said. "Tara's the best farm in the County, thanks to you and me,
Scarlett,  but  it's  a farm, a two-mule farm, not a plantation. And the Fontaine place, it comes next to Tara and then the Tarletons. They ain't
makin' much money but they're gettin' along and they got gumption. But most of the rest of the folks, the rest of the farms--"

No,  Scarlett did not like to remember the way the deserted County looked. It seemed even sadder, in retrospect, beside the bustle and prosperity
of Atlanta.

"Has  anything  happened here?" she asked when they were finally home and were seated on the front porch. She had talked rapidly and continuously
all  the way home, fearing that a silence would fall. She had not had a word alone with Rhett since that day when she fell down the steps and she
was  none  too  anxious  to  be  alone  with  him  now. She did not know how he felt toward her. He had been kindness itself during her miserable
convalescence,  but  it  was  the  kindness  of  an  impersonal  stranger. He had anticipated her wants, kept the children from bothering her and
supervised  the  store and the mills. But he had never said: "I'm sorry." Well, perhaps he wasn't sorry. Perhaps he still thought that child that
was  never  born was not his child. How could she tell what went on in the mind behind the bland dark face? But he had showed a disposition to be
courteous,  for  the  first time in their married life, and a desire to let life go on as though there had never been anything unpleasant between
them--as  though,  thought  Scarlett, cheerlessly, as though there had never been anything at all between them. Well, if that was what he wanted,
she could act her part too.

"Is  everything  all  right?"  she  repeated. "Did you get the new shingles for the store? Did you swap the mules? For Heaven's sake, Rhett, take
those feathers out of your hat. You look a fool and you'll be likely to wear them downtown without remembering to take them out."

"No," said Bonnie, picking up her father's hat, defensively.

"Everything  has  gone  very well here," replied Rhett. "Bonnie and I have had a nice time and I don't believe her hair has been combed since you
left. Don't suck the feathers, darling, they may be nasty. Yes, the shingles are fixed and I got a good trade on the mules. No, there's really no
news. Everything has been quite dull."

Then,  as  an afterthought, he added: "The honorable Ashley was over here last night. He wanted to know if I thought you would sell him your mill
and the part interest you have in his."

Scarlett, who had been rocking and fanning herself with a turkey tail fan, stopped abruptly.

"Sell? Where on earth did Ashley get the money? You know they never have a cent. Melanie spends it as fast as he makes it."

Rhett  shrugged.  "I always thought her a frugal little person, but then I'm not as well informed about the intimate details of the Wilkes family
as you seem to be."

That jab seemed in something of Rhett's old style and Scarlett grew annoyed.

"Run away, dear," she said to Bonnie. "Mother wants to talk to Father."

"No," said Bonnie positively and climbed upon Rhett's lap.

Scarlett frowned at her child and Bonnie scowled back in so complete a resemblance to Gerald O'Hara that Scarlett almost laughed.

"Let  her  stay," said Rhett comfortably. "As to where he got the money, it seems it was sent him by someone he nursed through a case of smallpox
at Rock Island. It renews my faith in human nature to know that gratitude still exists."

"Who was it? Anyone we know?"

"The  letter  was  unsigned  and  came  from Washington. Ashley was at a loss to know who could have sent it. But then, one of Ashley's unselfish
temperament goes about the world doing so many good deeds that you can't expect him to remember all of them."

Had she not been so surprised at Ashley's windfall, Scarlett would have taken up this gauntlet, although while at Tara she had decided that never
again  would  she permit herself to be involved in any quarrel with Rhett about Ashley. The ground on which she stood in this matter was entirely
too uncertain and, until she knew exactly where she stood with both men, she did not care to be drawn out.

"He wants to buy me out?"

"Yes. But of course, I told him you wouldn't sell."

"I wish you'd let me mind my own business."

"Well,  you  know  you  wouldn't  part with the mills. I told him that he knew as well as I did that you couldn't bear not to have your finger in
everybody's pie, and if you sold out to him, then you wouldn't be able to tell him how to mind his own business."

"You dared say that to him about me?"

"Why not? It's true, isn't it? I believe he heartily agreed with me but, of course, he was too much of a gentleman to come right out and say so."

"It's a lie! I will sell them to him!" cried Scarlett angrily.

Until  that  moment, she had had no idea of parting with the mills. She had several reasons for wanting to keep them and their monetary value was
the  least  reason.  She  could  have sold them for large sums any time in the last few years, but she had refused all offers. The mills were the
tangible  evidence  of what she had done, unaided and against great odds, and she was proud of them and of herself. Most of all, she did not want
to  sell them because they were the only path that lay open to Ashley. If the mills went from her control it would mean that she would seldom see
Ashley  and  probably  never  see  him  alone. And she had to see him alone. She could not go on this way any longer, wondering what his feelings
toward her were now, wondering if all his love had died in shame since the dreadful night of Melanie's party. In the course of business she could
find many opportune times for conversations without it appearing to anyone that she was seeking him out. And, given time, she knew she could gain
back whatever ground she had lost in his heart. But if she sold the mills--

No,  she did not want to sell but, goaded by the thought that Rhett had exposed her to Ashley in so truthful and so unflattering a light, she had
made up her mind instantly. Ashley should have the mills and at a price so low he could not help realizing how generous she was.

"I will sell!" she cried furiously. "Now, what do you think of that?"

There was the faintest gleam of triumph in Rhett's eyes as he bent to tie Bonnie's shoe string.

"I think you'll regret it," he said.

Already  she  was  regretting  the  hasty words. Had they been spoken to anyone save Rhett she would have shamelessly retracted them. Why had she
burst  out  like that? She looked at Rhett with an angry frown and saw that he was watching her with his old keen, cat-at-a-mouse-hole look. When
he saw her frown, he laughed suddenly, his white teeth flashing. Scarlett had an uncertain feeling that he had jockeyed her into this position.

"Did you have anything to do with this?" she snapped.

"I?" His brows went up in mock surprise. "You should know me better. I never go about the world doing good deeds if I can avoid it."

That  night she sold the mills and all her interest in them to Ashley. She did not lose thereby for Ashley refused to take advantage of her first
low  offer and met the highest bid that she had ever had for them. When she had signed the papers and the mills were irrevocably gone and Melanie
was  passing  small  glasses  of  wine  to Ashley and Rhett to celebrate the transaction, Scarlett felt bereft, as though she had sold one of her

The  mills had been her darlings, her pride, the fruit of her small grasping hands. She had started with one little mill in those black days when
Atlanta was barely struggling up from ruin and ashes and want was staring her in the face. She had fought and schemed and nursed them through the
dark times when Yankee confiscation loomed, when money was tight and smart men going to the wall. And now when Atlanta was covering its scars and
buildings were going up everywhere and newcomers flocking to the town every day, she had two fine mills, two lumber yards, a dozen mule teams and
convict  labor  to  operate  the  business at low cost. Bidding farewell to them was like closing a door forever on a part of her life, a bitter,
harsh part but one which she recalled with a nostalgic satisfaction.

She  had built up this business and now she had sold it and she was oppressed with the certainty that, without her at the helm, Ashley would lose
it  all--everything  that  she  had worked to build. Ashley trusted everyone and still hardly knew a two-by-four from a six-by-eight. And now she
would never be able to give him the benefit of her advice--all because Rhett had told him that she liked to boss everything.

"Oh,  damn  Rhett!"  she  thought  and as she watched him the conviction grew that he was at the bottom of all this. Just how and why she did not
know. He was talking to Ashley and his words brought her up sharply.

"I suppose you'll turn the convicts back right away," he said.

Turn  the  convicts back? Why should there be any idea of turning them back? Rhett knew perfectly well that the large profits from the mills grew
out of the cheap convict labor. And why did Rhett speak with such certainty about what Ashley's future actions would be? What did he know of him?

"Yes, they'll go back immediately," replied Ashley and he avoided Scarlett's dumbfounded gaze.

"Have you lost your mind?" she cried. "You'll lose all the money on the lease and what kind of labor can you get, anyway?"

"I'll use free darkies," said Ashley.

"Free darkies! Fiddle-dee-dee! You know what their wages will cost and besides you'll have the Yankees on your neck every minute to see if you're
giving  them  chicken three times a day and tucking them to sleep under eiderdown quilts. And if you give a lazy darky a couple of licks to speed
him up, you'll hear the Yankees scream from here to Dalton and you'll end up in jail. Why, convicts are the only--"

Melanie  looked  down  into  her  lap at her twisted hands. Ashley looked unhappy but obdurate. For a moment he was silent. Then his gaze crossed
Rhett's and it was as if he found understanding and encouragement in Rhett's eyes--a glance that was not lost on Scarlett.

"I won't work convicts, Scarlett," he said quietly.

"Well, sir!" her breath was taken away. "And why not? Are you afraid people will talk about you like they do about me?"

Ashley raised his head.

"I'm not afraid of what people say as long as I'm right. And I have never felt that convict labor was right."

"But why--"

"I can't make money from the enforced labor and misery of others."

"But you owned slaves!"

"They  weren't  miserable.  And  besides,  I'd  have freed them all when Father died if the war hadn't already freed them. But this is different,
Scarlett.  The system is open to too many abuses. Perhaps you don't know it but I do. I know very well that Johnnie Gallegher has killed at least
one man at his camp. Maybe more--who cares about one convict, more or less? He said the man was killed trying to escape, but that's not what I've
heard  elsewhere. And I know he works men who are too sick to work. Call it superstition, but I do not believe that happiness can come from money
made from the sufferings of others."

"God's nightgown! You mean--goodness, Ashley, you didn't swallow all the Reverend Wallace's bellowings about tainted money?"

"I didn't have to swallow it. I believed it long before he preached on it."

"Then,  you  must think all my money is tainted," cried Scarlett beginning to be angry. "Because I worked convicts and own saloon property and--"
She  stopped short. Both the Wilkes looked embarrassed and Rhett was grinning broadly. Damn him, thought Scarlett, vehemently. He's thinking that
I'm  sticking  my finger in other people's pies again and so is Ashley. I'd like to crack their heads together! She swallowed her wrath and tried
to assume an aloof air of dignity but with little success.

"Of course, it's immaterial to me," she said.

"Scarlett,  don't  think  I'm  criticizing you! I'm not. It's just that we look at things in different ways and what is good for you might not be
good for me."

She  suddenly wished that they were alone, wished ardently that Rhett and Melanie were at the end of the earth, so she could cry out: "But I want
to look at things the way you look at them! Tell me just what you mean, so I can understand and be like you!"

But with Melanie present, trembling with the distress of the scene, and Rhett lounging, grinning at her, she could only say with as much coolness
and  offended  virtue as she could muster: "I'm sure it's your own business, Ashley, and far be it from me to tell you how to run it. But, I must
say, I do not understand your attitude or your remarks."

Oh, if they were only alone, so she would not be forced to say these cool things to him, these words that were making him unhappy!

"I've  offended  you,  Scarlett, and I did not mean to. You must believe me and forgive me. There is nothing enigmatic in what I said. It is only
that I believe that money which comes in certain ways seldom brings happiness."

"But  you're wrong!" she cried, unable to restrain herself any longer. "Look at me! You know how my money came. You know how things were before I
made  my  money! You remember that winter at Tara when it was so cold and we were cutting up the carpets for shoes and there wasn't enough to eat
and we used to wonder how we were going to give Beau and Wade an education. You remem--"

"I remember," said Ashley tiredly, "but I'd rather forget."

"Well,  you  can't  say  any  of us were happy then, can you? And look at us now! You've a nice home and a good future. And has anyone a prettier
house  than  mine  or  nicer clothes or finer horses? Nobody sets as fine a table as me or gives nicer receptions and my children have everything
they want. Well, how did I get the money to make it possible? Off trees? No, sir! Convicts and saloon rentals and--"

"And don't forget murdering that Yankee," said Rhett softly. "He really gave you your start."

Scarlett swung on him, furious words on her lips.

"And the money has made you very, very happy, hasn't it, darling?" he asked, poisonously sweet.

Scarlett  stopped  short, her mouth open, and her eyes went swiftly to the eyes of the other three. Melanie was almost crying with embarrassment,
Ashley  was  suddenly  bleak  and  withdrawn and Rhett was watching her over his cigar with impersonal amusement. She started to cry out: "But of
course, it's made me happy!"

But somehow, she could not speak.


In  the  time that followed her illness Scarlett noticed a change in Rhett and she was not altogether certain that she liked it. He was sober and
quiet  and  preoccupied.  He  was  at home more often for supper now and he was kinder to the servants and more affectionate to Wade and Ella. He
never  referred  to  anything  in their past, pleasant or otherwise, and silently seemed to dare her to bring up such subjects. Scarlett held her
peace,  for it was easier to let well enough alone, and life went on smoothly enough, on the surface. His impersonal courtesy toward her that had
begun during her convalescence continued and he did not fling softly drawled barbs at her or sting her with sarcasm. She realized now that though
he had infuriated her with his malicious comments and roused her to heated rejoinders, he had done it because he cared what she did and said. Now
she wondered if he cared about anything she did. He was polite and disinterested and she missed his interest, perverse though it had been, missed
the old days of bickering and retort.

He  was  pleasant  to  her now, almost as though she were a stranger; but, as his eyes had once followed her, they now followed Bonnie. It was as
though the swift flood of his life had been diverted into one narrow channel. Sometimes Scarlett thought that if Rhett had given her one-half the
attention  and  tenderness  he  lavished on Bonnie, life would have been different. Sometimes it was hard to smile when people said: "How Captain
Butler  idolizes  that  child!" But, if she did not smile, people would think it strange and Scarlett hated to acknowledge, even to herself, that
she  was  jealous  of a little girl, especially when that little girl was her favorite child. Scarlett always wanted to be first in the hearts of
those around her and it was obvious now that Rhett and Bonnie would always be first with each other.

Rhett  was  out late many nights but he came home sober on these nights. Often she heard him whistling softly to himself as he went down the hall
past her closed door. Sometimes men came home with him in the late hours and sat talking in the dining room around the brandy decanter. They were
not  the same men with whom he had drunk the first year they were married. No rich Carpetbaggers, no Scallawags, no Republicans came to the house
now  at  his  invitation. Scarlett, creeping on tiptoe to the banister of the upstairs hall, listened and, to her amazement, frequently heard the
voices  of  Rene  Picard, Hugh Elsing, the Simmons boys and Andy Bonnell. And always Grandpa Merriwether and Uncle Henry were there. Once, to her
astonishment, she heard the tones of Dr. Meade. And these men had once thought hanging too good for Rhett!

This  group  was  always  linked  in  her  mind with Frank's death, and the late hours Rhett kept these days reminded her still more of the times
preceding  the  Klan  foray  when  Frank  lost his life. She remembered with dread Rhett's remark that he would even join their damned Klan to be
respectable, though he hoped God would not lay so heavy a penance on his shoulders. Suppose Rhett, like Frank--

One  night  when he was out later than usual she could stand the strain no longer. When she heard the rasp of his key in the lock, she threw on a
wrapper and, going into the gas lit upper hall, met him at the top of the stairs. His expression, absent, thoughtful, changed to surprise when he
saw her standing there.

"Rhett, I've got to know! I've got to know if you--if it's the Klan--is that why you stay out so late? Do you belong--"

In the flaring gas light he looked at her incuriously and then he smiled.

"You  are  way  behind  the times," he said. "There is no Klan in Atlanta now. Probably not in Georgia. You've been listening to the Klan outrage
stories of your Scallawag and Carpetbagger friends."

"No Klan? Are you lying to try to soothe me?"

"My  dear,  when  did  I  ever  try  to soothe you? No, there is no Klan now. We decided that it did more harm than good because it just kept the
Yankees  stirred up and furnished more grist for the slander mill of his excellency, Governor Bullock. He knows he can stay in power just so long
as  he can convince the Federal government and the Yankee newspapers that Georgia is seething with rebellion and there's a Klansman hiding behind
every  bush.  To keep in power he's been desperately manufacturing Klan outrage stories where none exist, telling of loyal Republicans being hung
up  by  the  thumbs  and  honest  darkies  lynched  for  rape.  But  he's  shooting  at  a nonexistent target and he knows it. Thank you for your
apprehensions, but there hasn't been an active Klan since shortly after I stopped being a Scallawag and became an humble Democrat."

Most of what he said about Governor Bullock went in one ear and out the other for her mind was mainly occupied with relief that there was no Klan
any longer. Rhett would not be killed as Frank was killed; she wouldn't lose her store or his money. But one word of his conversation swam to the
top of her mind. He had said "we," linking himself naturally with those he had once called the "Old Guard."

"Rhett," she asked suddenly, "did you have anything to do with the breaking up of the Klan?"

He gave her a long look and his eyes began to dance.

"My love, I did. Ashley Wilkes and I are mainly responsible."

"Ashley--and you?"

"Yes, platitudinously but truly, politics make strange bedfellows. Neither Ashley nor I cared much for each other as bedfellows but--Ashley never
believed in the Klan because he's against violence of any sort. And I never believed in it because it's damned foolishness and not the way to get
what  we  want.  It's  the one way to keep the Yankees on our necks till Kingdom Come. And between Ashley and me, we convinced the hot heads that
watching, waiting and working would get us further than nightshirts and fiery crosses."

"You don't mean the boys actually took your advice when you--"

"When  I  was a speculator? A Scallawag? A consorter with Yankees? You forget, Mrs. Butler, that I am now a Democrat in good standing, devoted to
my  last  drop of blood to recovering our beloved state from the hands of her ravishers! My advice was good advice and they took it. My advice in
other  political  matters is equally good. We have a Democratic majority in the legislature now, haven't we? And soon, my love, we will have some
of our good Republican friends behind the bars. They are a bit too rapacious these days, a bit too open."

"You'd help put them in jail? Why, they were your friends! They let you in on that railroad-bond business that you made thousands out of!"

Rhett grinned suddenly, his old mocking grin.

"Oh, I bear them no ill will. But I'm on the other side now and if I can assist in any way in putting them where they belong, I'll do it. And how
that  will  redound  to  my  credit!  I  know just enough about the inside of some of these deals to be very valuable when the legislature starts
digging  into  them--and that won't be far off, from the way things look now. They're going to investigate the governor, too, and they'll put him
in  jail  if  they can. Better tell your good friends the Gelerts and the Hundons to be ready to leave town on a minute's notice, because if they
can nab the governor, they'll nab them too."

For  too  many  years  Scarlett had seen the Republicans, backed up by the force of the Yankee Army, in power in Georgia to believe Rhett's light
words. The governor was too strongly entrenched for any legislature to do anything to him, much less put him in jail.

"How you do run on," she observed.

"If he isn't put in jail, at least he won't be reelected. We're going to have a Democratic governor next time, for a change."

"And I suppose you'll have something to do with it?" she questioned sarcastically.

"My  pet,  I will. I am having something to do with it now. That's why I stay out so late at nights. I'm working harder than I ever worked with a
shovel  in the gold rush, trying to help get the election organized. And--I know this will hurt you, Mrs. Butler, but I am contributing plenty of
money  to  the  organization,  too. Do you remember telling me, years ago, in Frank's store, that it was dishonest for me to keep the Confederate
gold? At last I've come to agree with you and the Confederate gold is being spent to get the Confederates back into power."

"You're pouring money down a rat hole!"

"What!  You  call  the Democratic party a rat hole?" His eyes mocked her and then were quiet, expressionless. "It doesn't matter a damn to me who
wins  this  election.  What  does  matter is that everyone knows I've worked for it and that I've spent money on it. And that'll be remembered in
Bonnie's favor in years to come."

"I was almost afraid from your pious talk that you'd had a change of heart, but I see you've got no more sincerity about the Democrats than about
anything else."

"Not  a  change  of  heart at all. Merely a change of hide. You might possibly sponge the spots off a leopard but he'd remain a leopard, just the

Bonnie, awakened by the sound of voices in the hall, called sleepily but imperiously: "Daddy!" and Rhett started past Scarlett.

"Rhett,  wait  a  minute.  There's  something else I want to tell you. You must stop taking Bonnie around with you in the afternoons to political
meetings.  It just doesn't look well. The idea of a little girl at such places! And it makes you look so silly. I never dreamed that you took her
until Uncle Henry mentioned it, as though he thought I knew and--"

He swung round on her and his face was hard.

"How  can you read wrong in a little girl sitting on her father's lap while he talks to friends? You may think it looks silly but it isn't silly.
People  will remember for years that Bonnie sat on my lap while I helped run the Republicans out of this state. People will remember for years--"
The  hardness  went out of his face and a malicious light danced in his eyes. "Did you know that when people ask her who she loves best, she says
'Daddy and the Demiquats,' and who she hates most, she says: 'The Scallywags.' People, thank God, remember things like that."

Scarlett's voice rose furiously. "And I suppose you tell her I'm a Scallawag!"

"Daddy!" said the small voice, indignant now, and Rhett, still laughing, went down the hall to his daughter.

That  October  Governor  Bullock  resigned  his  office  and  fled  from  Georgia.  Misuse of public funds, waste and corruption had reached such
proportions  during  his  administration  that  the  edifice  was  toppling  of its own weight. Even his own party was split, so great had public
indignation  become.  The  Democrats  had  a  majority  in  the  legislature  now, and that meant just one thing. Knowing that he was going to be
investigated  and  fearing  impeachment,  Bullock did not wait. He hastily and secretly decamped, arranging that his resignation would not become
public until he was safely in the North.

When  it  was announced, a week after his flight, Atlanta was wild with excitement and joy. People thronged the streets, men laughing and shaking
hands  in  congratulation,  ladies  kissing  each  other  and crying. Everybody gave parties in celebration and the fire department was kept busy
fighting the flames that spread from the bonfires of jubilant small boys.

Almost  out  of  the woods! Reconstruction's almost over! to be sure, the acting governor was a Republican too, but the election was coming up in
December  and  there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to what the result would be. And when the election came, despite the frantic efforts of the
Republicans, Georgia once more had a Democratic governor.

There was joy then, excitement too, but of a different sort from that which seized the town when Bullock took to his heels. This was a more sober
heartfelt joy, a deep-souled feeling of thanksgiving, and the churches were filled as ministers reverently thanked God for the deliverance of the
state.  There  was pride too, mingled with the elation and joy, pride that Georgia was back in the hands of her own people again, in spite of all
the administration in Washington could do, in spite of the army, the Carpetbaggers, the Scallawags and the native Republicans.

Seven  times  Congress  had passed crushing acts against the state to keep it a conquered province, three times the army had set aside civil law.
The  negroes  had  frolicked  through the legislature, grasping aliens had mismanaged the government, private individuals had enriched themselves
from  public funds. Georgia had been helpless, tormented, abused, hammered down. But now, in spite of them all, Georgia belonged to herself again
and through the efforts of her own people.

The  sudden  overturn of the Republicans did not bring joy to everyone. There was consternation in the ranks of the Scallawags, the Carpetbaggers
and the Republicans. The Gelerts and Hundons, evidently apprised of Bullock's departure before his resignation became public, left town abruptly,
disappearing  into  that  oblivion  from which they had come. The other Carpetbaggers and Scallawags who remained were uncertain, frightened, and
they  hovered  together for comfort, wondering what the legislative investigation would bring to light concerning their own private affairs. They
were not insolent now. They were stunned, bewildered, afraid. And the ladies who called on Scarlett said over and over:

"But who would have thought it would turn out this way? We thought the governor was too powerful. We thought he was here to stay. We thought--"

Scarlett  was  equally bewildered by the turn of events, despite Rhett's warning as to the direction it would take. It was not that she was sorry
Bullock had gone and the Democrats were back again. Though no one would have believed it she, too, felt a grim happiness that the Yankee rule was
at  last  thrown off. She remembered all too vividly her struggles during those first days of Reconstruction, her fears that the soldiers and the
Carpetbaggers  would  confiscate  her money and her property. She remembered her helplessness and her panic at her helplessness and her hatred of
the Yankees who had imposed this galling system upon the South. And she had never stopped hating them. But, in trying to make the best of things,
in  trying  to  obtain complete security, she had gone with the conquerors. No matter how much she disliked them, she had surrounded herself with
them,  cut herself off from her old friends and her old ways of living. And now the power of the conquerors was at an end. She had gambled on the
continuance of the Bullock regime and she had lost.

As  she looked about her, that Christmas of 1871, the happiest Christmas the state had known in over ten years, she was disquieted. She could not
help  seeing  that  Rhett,  once  the  most  execrated man in Atlanta, was now one of the most popular, for he had humbly recanted his Republican
heresies  and  given  his  time  and  money  and labor and thought to helping Georgia fight her way back. When he rode down the streets, smiling,
tipping  his  hat, the small blue bundle that was Bonnie perched before him on his saddle, everyone smiled back, spoke with enthusiasm and looked
with affection on the little girl. Whereas, she, Scarlett--


There  was no doubt in anyone's mind that Bonnie Butler was running wild and needed a firm hand but she was so general a favorite that no one had
the  heart to attempt the necessary firmness. She had first gotten out of control the months when she traveled with her father. When she had been
with  Rhett  in New Orleans and Charleston she had been permitted to sit up as late as she pleased and had gone to sleep in his arms in theaters,
restaurants  and at card tables. Thereafter, nothing short of force would make her go to bed at the same time as the obedient Ella. While she had
been  away with him, Rhett had let her wear any dress she chose and, since that time, she had gone into tantrums when Mammy tried to dress her in
dimity frocks and pinafores instead of blue taffeta and lace collars.

There  seemed no way to regain the ground which had been lost when the child was away from home and later when Scarlett had been ill and at Tara.
As Bonnie grew older Scarlett tried to discipline her, tried to keep her from becoming too headstrong and spoiled, but with little success. Rhett
always  sided  with  the child, no matter how foolish her desires or how outrageous her behavior. He encouraged her to talk and treated her as an
adult,  listening  to  her  opinions  with  apparent  seriousness and pretending to be guided by them. As a result, Bonnie interrupted her elders
whenever  she pleased and contradicted her father and put him in his place. He only laughed and would not permit Scarlett even to slap the little
girl's hand by way of reprimand.

"If  she wasn't such a sweet, darling thing, she'd be impossible," thought Scarlett ruefully, realizing that she had a child with a will equal to
her own. "She adores Rhett and he could make her behave better if he wanted to."

But Rhett showed no inclination to make Bonnie behave. Whatever she did was right and if she wanted the moon she could have it, if he could reach
it  for her. His pride in her beauty, her curls, her dimples, her graceful little gestures was boundless. He loved her pertness, her high spirits
and the quaint sweet manner she had of showing her love for him. For all her spoiled and willful ways she was such a lovable child that he lacked
the heart to try to curb her. He was her god, the center of her small world, and that was too precious for him to risk losing by reprimands.

She  clung  to  him like a shadow. She woke him earlier than he cared to wake, sat beside him at the table, eating alternately from his plate and
her own, rode in front of him on his horse and permitted no one but Rhett to undress her and put her to sleep in the small bed beside his.

It  amused  and  touched  Scarlett  to  see  the iron hand with which her small child ruled her father. Who would have thought that Rhett, of all
people, would take fatherhood so seriously? But sometimes a dart of jealousy went through Scarlett because Bonnie, at the age of four, understood
Rhett better than she had ever understood him and could manage him better than she had ever managed him.

When  Bonnie was four years old, Mammy began to grumble about the impropriety of a girl child riding "a-straddle in front of her pa wid her dress
flyin' up." Rhett lent an attentive ear to this remark, as he did to all Mammy's remarks about the proper raising of little girls. The result was
a  small  brown  and white Shetland pony with a long silky mane and tail and a tiny sidesaddle with silver trimmings. Ostensibly the pony was for
all  three children and Rhett bought a saddle for Wade too. But Wade infinitely preferred his St. Bernard dog and Ella was afraid of all animals.
So  the  pony  became Bonnie's own and was named "Mr. Butler." The only flaw in Bonnie's possessive joy was that she could not still ride astride
like  her  father,  but  after  he  had  explained how much more difficult it was to ride on the sidesaddle, she was content and learned rapidly.
Rhett's pride in her good seat and her good hands was enormous.

"Wait  till  she's  old  enough to hunt," he boasted. "There'll be no one like her on any field. I'll take her to Virginia then. That's where the
real hunting is. And Kentucky where they appreciate good riders."

When it came to making her riding habit, as usual she had her choice of colors and as usual chose blue.

"But,  my  darling! Not that blue velvet! The blue velvet is for a party dress for me," laughed Scarlett. "A nice black broadcloth is what little
girls  wear."  Seeing the small black brows coming together: "For Heaven's sake, Rhett, tell her how unsuitable it would be and how dirty it will

"Oh, let her have the blue velvet. If it gets dirty, we'll make her another one," said Rhett easily.

So  Bonnie  had her blue velvet habit with a skirt that trailed down the pony's side and a black hat with a red plume in it, because Aunt Melly's
stories  of  Jeb  Stuart's  plume had appealed to her imagination. On days that were bright and clear the two could be seen riding down Peachtree
Street,  Rhett  reining  in his big black horse to keep pace with the fat pony's gait. Sometimes they went tearing down the quiet roads about the
town,  scattering  chickens  and dogs and children, Bonnie beating Mr. Butler with her crop, her tangled curls flying, Rhett holding in his horse
with a firm hand that she might think Mr. Butler was winning the race.

When he had assured himself of her seat, her hands, her utter fearlessness, Rhett decided that the time had come for her to learn to make the low
jumps  that were within the reach of Mr. Butler's short legs. To this end, he built a hurdle in the back yard and paid Wash, one of Uncle Peter's
small  nephews,  twenty-five  cents a day to teach Mr. Butler to jump. He began with a bar two inches from the ground and gradually worked up the
height to a foot.

This  arrangement  met  with  the disapproval of the three parties concerned, Wash, Mr. Butler and Bonnie. Wash was afraid of horses and only the
princely  sum  offered  induced him to take the stubborn pony over the bar dozens of times a day; Mr. Butler, who bore with equanimity having his
tail  pulled  by  his small mistress and his hooves examined constantly, felt that the Creator of ponies had not intended him to put his fat body
over the bar; Bonnie, who could not bear to see anyone else upon her pony, danced with impatience while Mr. Butler was learning his lessons.

When  Rhett  finally decided that the pony knew his business well enough to trust Bonnie upon him, the child's excitement was boundless. She made
her  first jump with flying colors and, thereafter, riding abroad with her father held no charms for her. Scarlett could not help laughing at the
pride  and  enthusiasm  of father and daughter. She thought, however, that once the novelty had passed, Bonnie would turn to other things and the
neighborhood  would  have  some  peace. But this sport did not pall. There was a bare track worn from the arbor at the far end of the yard to the
hurdle,  and  all  morning long the yard resounded with excited yells. Grandpa Merriwether, who had made the overland trip in 1849, said that the
yells sounded just like an Apache after a successful scalping.

After the first week, Bonnie begged for a higher bar, a bar that was a foot and a half from the ground.

"When  you are six years old," said Rhett. "Then you'll be big enough for a higher jump and I'll buy you a bigger horse. Mr. Butler's legs aren't
long enough."

"They are, too, I jumped Aunt Melly's rose bushes and they are 'normously high!"

"No, you must wait," said Rhett, firm for once. But the firmness gradually faded away before her incessant importunings and tantrums.

"Oh, all right," he said with a laugh one morning and moved the narrow white cross bar higher. "If you fall off, don't cry and blame me!"

"Mother!" screamed Bonnie, turning her head up toward Scarlett's bedroom. "Mother! Watch me! Daddy says I can!"

Scarlett, who was combing her hair, came to the window and smiled down at the tiny excited figure, so absurd in the soiled blue habit.

"I really must get her another habit," she thought. "Though Heaven only knows how I'll make her give up that dirty one."

"Mother, watch!"

"I'm watching dear," said Scarlett smiling.

As Rhett lifted the child and set her on the pony, Scarlett called with a swift rush of pride at the straight back and the proud set of the head,

"You're mighty pretty, precious!"

"So are you," said Bonnie generously and, hammering a heel into Mr. Butler's ribs, she galloped down the yard toward the arbor.

"Mother, watch me take this one!" she cried, laying on the crop.


Memory rang a bell far back in Scarlett's mind. There was something ominous about those words. What was it? Why couldn't she remember? She looked
down  at  her  small  daughter, so lightly poised on the galloping pony and her brow wrinkled as a chill swept swiftly through her breast. Bonnie
came on with a rush, her crisp black curls jerking, her blue eyes blazing.

"They are like Pa's eyes," thought Scarlett, "Irish blue eyes and she's just like him in every way."

And,  as  she  thought  of Gerald, the memory for which she had been fumbling came to her swiftly, came with the heart stopping clarity of summer
lightning,  throwing,  for  an instant, a whole countryside into unnatural brightness. She could hear an Irish voice singing, hear the hard rapid
pounding of hooves coming up the pasture hill at Tara, hear a reckless voice, so like the voice of her child: "Ellen! Watch me take this one!"

"No!" she cried. "No! Oh, Bonnie, stop!"

Even  as  she  leaned  from  the window there was a fearful sound of splintering wood, a hoarse cry from Rhett, a melee of blue velvet and flying
hooves on the ground. Then Mr. Butler scrambled to his feet and trotted off with an empty saddle.

On  the  third  night  after Bonnie's death, Mammy waddled slowly up the kitchen steps of Melanie's house. She was dressed in black from her huge
men's  shoes, slashed to permit freedom for her toes, to her black head rag. Her blurred old eyes were bloodshot and red rimmed, and misery cried
out in every line of her mountainous figure. Her face was puckered in the sad bewilderment of an old ape but there was determination in her jaw.

She  spoke  a  few  soft words to Dilcey who nodded kindly, as though an unspoken armistice existed in their old feud. Dilcey put down the supper
dishes  she  was  holding and went quietly through the pantry toward the dining room. In a minute Melanie was in the kitchen, her table napkin in
her hand, anxiety in her face.

"Miss Scarlet isn't--"

"Miss Scarlett bearin' up, same as allus," said Mammy heavily. "Ah din' ten ter 'sturb yo' supper, Miss Melly. Ah kin wait tell you thoo ter tell
you whut Ah got on mah mine."

"Supper can wait," said Melanie. "Dilcey, serve the rest of the supper. Mammy, come with me."

Mammy  waddled  after  her,  down  the  hall  past  the dining room where Ashley sat at the head of the table, his own little Beau beside him and
Scarlett's two children opposite, making a great clatter with their soup spoons. The happy voices of Wade and Ella filled the room. It was like a
picnic for them to spend so long a visit with Aunt Melly. Aunt Melly was always so kind and she was especially so now. The death of their younger
sister had affected them very little. Bonnie had fallen off her pony and Mother had cried a long time and Aunt Melly had taken them home with her
to play in the back yard with Beau and have tea cakes whenever they wanted them.

Melanie led the way to the small book-lined sitting room, shut the door and motioned Mammy to the sofa.

"I was going over right after supper," she said. "Now that Captain Butler's mother has come, I suppose the funeral will be tomorrow morning."

"De fune'l. Dat's jes' it," said Mammy. "Miss Melly, we's all in deep trouble an' Ah's come ter you fer he'p. Ain' nuthin' but weery load, honey,
nuthin' but weery load."

"Has Miss Scarlett collapsed?" questioned Melanie worriedly. "I've hardly seen her since Bonnie-- She has been in her room and Captain Butler has
been out of the house and--"

Suddenly tears began to flow down Mammy's black face. Melanie sat down beside her and patted her arm and, after a moment, Mammy lifted the hem of
her black skirt and dried her eyes.

"You got ter come he'p us, Miss Melly. Ah done de bes' Ah kin but it doan do no good."

"Miss Scarlett--"

Mammy straightened.

"Miss Melly, you knows Miss Scarlett well's Ah does. Whut dat chile got ter stan', de good Lawd give her strent ter stan'. Disyere done broke her
heart but she kin stan' it. It's Mist' Rhett Ah come 'bout."

"I  have so wanted to see him but whenever I've been there, he has either been downtown or locked in his room with-- And Scarlett has looked like
a ghost and wouldn't speak-- Tell me quickly, Mammy. You know I'll help if I can."

Mammy wiped her nose on the back of her hand.

"Ah say Miss Scarlett kin stan' whut de Lawd sen', kase she done had ter stan' a-plen'y, but Mist' Rhett--Miss Melly, he ain' never had ter stan'
nuthin' he din' wanter stan', not nuthin'. It's him Ah come ter see you 'bout."


"Miss  Melly,  you  got  ter  come home wid me, dis evenin'." There was urgency in Mammy's voice. "Maybe Mist' Rhett lissen ter you. He allus did
think a heap of yo' 'pinion."

"Oh, Mammy, what is it? What do you mean?"

Mammy squared her shoulders.

"Miss Melly, Mist' Rhett done--done los' his mine. He woan let us put Lil Miss away."

"Lost his mind? Oh, Mammy, no!"

"Ah ain' lyin'. It's de Gawd's truff. He ain' gwine let us buhy dat chile. He done tole me so hisseff, not mo'n an hour ago."

"But he can't--he isn't--"

"Dat's huccome Ah say he los' his mine."

"But why--"

"Miss Melly, Ah tell you eve'ything. Ah oughtn' tell nobody, but you is our fambly an' you is de onlies' one Ah kin tell. Ah tell you eve'ything.
You  knows  whut  a sto' he set by dat chile. Ah ain' never seed no man, black or w'ite, set sech a sto' by any chile. Look lak he go plumb crazy
w'en Doctah Meade say her neck broke. He grab his gun an' he run right out an' shoot dat po' pony an', fo' Gawd, Ah think he gwine shoot hisseff.
Ah  wuz  plumb  'stracted whut wid Miss Scarlett in a swoon an' all de neighbors in an' outer de house an' Mist' Rhett cahyin' on an' jes' holin'
dat  chile  an'  not  even lettin' me wash her lil face whar de grabble cut it. An' w'en Miss Scarlett come to, Ah think, bress Gawd! Now dey kin
comfo't each other."

Again the tears began to fall but this time Mammy did not even wipe them away.

"But w'en she come to, she go inter de room whar he settin', holin' Miss Bonnie, an' she say: 'Gimme mah baby whut you kilt.'"

"Oh, no! She couldn't!"

"Yas'm. Dat whut she say. She say: 'You kilt her.' An' Ah felt so sorry fer Mist' Rhett Ah bust out cryin', kase he look lak a whup houn'. An' Ah
say:  'Give dat chile ter its mammy. Ah ain' gwine have no sech goin's on over mah Lil Miss.' An' Ah tek de chile away frum him an' tek her inter
her  room  an'  wash her face. An' Ah hear dem talkin' an' it lak ter tuhn mah blood cole, whut dey say. Miss Scarlett wuz callin' him a mudderer
fer lettin' her try ter jump dat high, an' him sayin' Miss Scarlett hadn' never keered nuthin' 'bout Miss Bonnie nor none of her chillun. . . ."

"Stop,  Mammy!  Don't  tell me any more. It isn't right for you to tell me this!" cried Melanie, her mind shrinking away from the picture Mammy's
words evoked.

"Ah  knows  Ah got no bizness tellin' you, but mah heart too full ter know jes' whut not ter say. Den he tuck her ter de unnertaker's hisseff an'
he bring her back an' he put her in her baid in his room. An' w'en Miss Scarlett say she b'long in de pahlor in de coffin, Ah thought Mist' Rhett
gwine  hit her. An' he say, right cole lak: 'She b'long in mah room.' An' he tuhn ter me an' he say: 'Mammy, you see dat she stay right hyah tell
Ah  gits  back.'  Den  he  light  outer de house on de hawse an' he wuz gone tell 'bout sundown. W'en he come t'arin' home, Ah seed dat he'd been
drinkin'  an'  drinkin'  heavy, but he wuz cahyin' it well's usual. He fling inter de house an' not even speak ter Miss Scarlett or Miss Pitty or
any  of  de ladies as wuz callin', but he fly up de steps an' th'ow open de do' of his room an' den he yell for me. W'en Ah comes runnin' as fas'
as Ah kin, he wuz stan'in' by de baid an' it wuz so dahk in de room Ah couldn' sceercely see him, kase de shutters wuz done drawed.

"An'  he say ter me, right fierce lak: 'Open dem shutters. It's dahk in hyah.' An' Ah fling dem open an' he look at me an', fo' Gawd, Miss Melly,
mah knees 'bout give way, kase he look so strange. Den he say: 'Bring lights. Bring lots of lights. An' keep dem buhnin'. An' doan draw no shades
an' no shutters. Doan you know Miss Bonnie's 'fraid of de dahk?'"

Melanie's horror struck eyes met Mammy's and Mammy nodded ominously.

"Dat's whut he say. 'Miss Bonnie's 'fraid of de dahk.'"

Mammy shivvered.

"W'en  Ah  gits  him a dozen candles, he say 'Git!' An' den he lock de do' an' dar he set wid Lil Miss, an' he din' open de do' fer Miss Scarlett
even w'en she beat an' hollered ter him. An' dat's de way it been fer two days. He woan say nuthin' 'bout de fune'l, an' in de mawnin' he lock de
do'  an'  git on his hawse an' go off ter town. An' he come back at sundown drunk an' lock hisseff in agin, an' he ain' et nuthin' or slept none.
An'  now  his ma, Ole Miss Butler, she come frum Cha'ston fer de fune'l an' Miss Suellen an' Mist' Will, dey come frum Tara, but Mist' Rhett woan
talk ter none of dem. Oh, Miss Melly, it been awful! An' it's gwine be wuss, an' folks gwine talk sumpin' scan'lous.

"An'  den, dis evenin'," Mammy paused and again wiped her nose on her hand. "Dis evenin' Miss Scarleft ketch him in de upstairs hall w'en he come
in, an' she go in de room wid him an' she say: 'De fune'l set fer termorrer mawnin'.' An' he say: 'Do dat an' Ah kills you termorrer.'"

"Oh, he must have lost his mind!"

"Yas'm. An' den dey talks kinder low an' Ah doan hear all whut dey say, 'cept he say agin 'bout Miss Bonnie bein' sceered of de dahk an' de grabe
pow'ful  dahk.  An' affer aw'ile, Miss Scarlett say: 'You is a fine one ter tek on so, affer killin' her ter please yo' pride.' An' he say: 'Ain'
you got no mercy?' An' she say: 'No. An' Ah ain' got no chile, needer. An' Ah'm wo'out wid de way you been ackin' sence Bonnie wuz kilt. You is a
scan'al  ter de town. You been drunk all de time an' ef you doan think Ah knows whar you been spendin' yo' days, you is a fool. Ah knows you been
down ter dat creeter's house, dat Belle Watling.'"

"Oh, Mammy, no!"

"Yas'm.  Dat  whut  she said. An', Miss Melly, it's de truff. Niggers knows a heap of things quicker dan w'ite folks, an' Ah knowed dat's whar he
been but Ah ain' said nuthin' 'bout it. An' he doan deny it. He say: 'Yas'm, dat's whar Ah been an' you neen tek on, kase you doan give a damn. A
bawdy  house  is  a  haben of refuge affer dis house of hell. An' Belle is got one of de worl's kines' hearts. She doan th'ow it up ter me dat Ah
done kilt mah chile.'"

"Oh," cried Melanie, stricken to the heart.

Her  own  life was so pleasant, so sheltered, so wrapped about with people who loved her, so full of kindness that what Mammy told her was almost
beyond comprehension or belief. Yet there crawled into her mind a memory, a picture which she hastily put from her, as she would put from her the
thought  of another's nudity. Rhett had spoken of Belle Watling the day he cried with his head on her knees. But he loved Scarlett. She could not
have  been  mistaken  that  day.  And of course, Scarlett loved him. What had come between them? How could a husband and a wife cut each other to
pieces with such sharp knives?

Mammy took up her story heavily.

"Affer  a  w'ile,  Miss  Scarlett  come  outer  de room, w'ite as a sheet but her jaw set, an' she see me stan'in' dar an' she say: 'De fune'l be
termorrer,  Mammy.'  An' she pass me by lak a ghos'. Den mah heart tuhn over, kase whut Miss Scarlett say, she mean. An' whut Mist' Rhett say, he
mean too. An' he say he kill her ef she do dat. Ah wuz plumb 'stracted, Miss Melly, kase Ah done had sumpin' on mah conscience all de time an' it
weighin' me down. Miss Melly, it wuz me as sceered Lil Miss of de dahk."

"Oh, but Mammy, it doesn't matter--not now."

"Yas'm, it do. Dat whut de whole trouble. An' it come ter me Ah better tell Mist' Rhett even ef he kill me, kase it on mah conscience. So Ah slip
in  de  do'  real  quick, fo' he kin lock it, an' Ah say: 'Mist' Rhett, Ah's come ter confess.' An' he swung roun' on me lak a crazy man an' say:
'Git!' An', fo' Gawd, Ah ain' never been so sceered! But Ah say: 'Please, suh, Mist' Rhett, let me tell you. It's 'bout ter kill me. It wuz me as
sceered  Lil  Miss of de dahk.' An' den, Miss Melly, Ah put mah haid down an' waited fer him ter hit me. But he din' say nuthin'. An' An say: 'Ah
din'  mean no hahm. But, Mist' Rhett, dat chile din' have no caution an' she wuzn' sceered of nuthin'. An' she wuz allus gittin' outer baid affer
eve'ybody  sleep  an  runnin'  roun'  de  house  barefoot.  An'  it worrit me, kase Ah 'fraid she hu't herseff. So Ah tells her dar's ghos'es an'
buggerboos in de dahk.'

"An'  den--Miss Melly, you know whut he done? His face got right gentle lak an' he come ter me an' put his han' on mah arm. Dat's de fust time he
ever  done  dat.  An'  he say: 'She wuz so brave, wuzn' she? 'Cept fer de dahk, she wuzn' sceered of nuthin'.' An' wen Ah bust out cryin' he say:
'Now,  Mammy,'  an'  he  pat me. 'Now, Mammy, doan you cahy on so. Ah's glad you tole me. Ah knows you love Miss Bonnie an' kase you love her, it
doan  matter.  It's whut de heart is dat matter.' Well'm dat kinder cheered me up, so Ah ventu' ter say: 'Mist Rhett, suh, what 'bout de fune'l?'
Den  he  tuhn  on  me  lak a wile man an' his eyes glitter an' he say: 'Good Gawd, Ah thought you'd unnerstan' even ef nobody else din'! Does you
think  Ah'm  gwine ter put mah chile away in de dahk w'en she so sceered of it? Right now Ah kin hear de way she uster scream w'en she wake up in
de  dahk.  Ah ain' gwine have her sceered.' Miss Melly, den Ah know he los' his mine. He drunk an' he need sleep an' sumpin' ter eat but dat ain'
all. He plumb crazy. He jes' push me outer de do' an' say: 'Git de hell outer hyah!'

"Ah  goes downstairs an' Ah gits ter thinkin' dat he say dar ain' gwine be no fune'l an' Miss Scarlett say it be termorrer mawnin' an' he say dar
be  shootin'.  An' all de kin-folks in de house an' all de neighbors already gabblin' 'bout it lak a flock of guinea hens, an' Ah thought of you,
Miss Melly. You got ter come he'p us."

"Oh, Mammy, I couldn't intrude!"

"Ef you kain, who kin?"

"But what could I do, Mammy?"

"Miss  Melly,  Ah  doan  know.  But you kin do sumpin'. You kin talk ter Mist' Rhett an' maybe he lissen ter you. He set a gret sto' by you, Miss
Melly. Maybe you doan know it, but he do. Ah done hear him say time an' agin, you is de onlies' gret lady he knows."


Melanie  rose to her feet, confused, her heart quailing at the thought of confronting Rhett. The thought of arguing with a man as grief crazed as
the one Mammy depicted made her go cold. The thought of entering that brightly lighted room where lay the little girl she loved so much wrung her
heart.  What  could she do? What could she say to Rhett that would ease his grief and bring him back to reason? For a moment she stood irresolute
and through the closed door came the sound of her boy's treble laughter. Like a cold knife in her heart came the thought of him dead. Suppose her
Beau were lying upstairs, his little body cold and still, his merry laughter hushed.

"Oh,"  she cried aloud, in fright, and in her mind she clutched him close to her heart. She knew how Rhett felt. If Beau were dead, how could she
put him away, alone with the wind and the rain and the darkness?

"Oh! Poor, poor Captain Butler!" she cried. "I'll go to him now, right away."

She  sped back to the dining room, said a few soft words to Ashley and surprised her little boy by hugging him close to her and kissing his blond
curls passionately.

She  left  the  house  without  a  hat, her dinner napkin still clutched in her hand, and the pace she set was hard for Mammy's old legs. Once in
Scarlett's  front hall, she bowed briefly to the gathering in the library, to the frightened Miss Pittypat, the stately old Mrs. Butler, Will and
Suellen.  She went up the stairs swiftly, with Mammy panting behind her. For a moment, she paused before Scarlett's closed door but Mammy hissed,
"No'm, doan do dat."

Down the hall Melly went, more slowly now, and stopped in front of Rhett's room. She stood irresolutely for a moment as though she longed to take
flight.  Then,  bracing  herself,  like  a small soldier going into battle, she knocked on the door and called softly: "Please let me in, Captain
Butler. It's Mrs. Wilkes. I want to see Bonnie."

The  door  opened  quickly  and  Mammy,  shrinking  back  into the shadows of the hall, saw Rhett huge and dark against the blazing background of
candles.  He was swaying on his feet and Mammy could smell the whisky on his breath. He looked down at Melly for a moment and then, taking her by
the arm, he pulled her into the room and shut the door.

Mammy  edged  herself  stealthily  to a chair beside the door and sank into it wearily, her shapeless body overflowing it. She sat still, weeping
silently  and  praying.  Now and then she lifted the hem of her dress and wiped her eyes. Strain her ears as hard as she might, she could hear no
words from the room, only a low broken humming sound.

Alter an interminable period, the door cracked open and Melly's face white and strained, appeared.

"Bring me a pot of coffee, quickly, and some sandwiches."

When  the devil drove, Mammy could be as swift as a lithe black sixteen-year-old and her curiosity to get into Rhett's room made her work faster.
But  her hope turned to disappointment when Melly merely opened the door a crack and took the tray. For a long time Mammy strained her sharp ears
but  she  could  distinguish  nothing  except  the  clatter of silver on china, and the muffled soft tones of Melanie's voice. Then she heard the
creaking  of  the bed as a heavy body fell upon it and, soon after, the sound of boots dropping to the floor. After an interval, Melanie appeared
in  the doorway but, strive though she might, Mammy could not see past her into the room. Melanie looked tired and there were tears glistening on
her lashes but her face was serene again.

"Go tell Miss Scarlett that Captain Butler is quite willing for the funeral to take place tomorrow morning," she whispered.

"Bress Gawd!" ejaculated Mammy. "How on uth--"

"Don't talk so loud. He's going to sleep. And, Mammy, tell Miss Scarlett, too, that I'll be here all night and you bring me some coffee. Bring it

"Ter disyere room?"

"Yes,  I  promised Captain Butler that if he would go to sleep I would sit up by her all night. Now go tell Miss Scarlett, so she won't worry any

Mammy  started  off  down  the  hall,  her  weight shaking the floor, her relieved heart singing "Halleluja! Hallelujah!" She paused thoughtfully
outside of Scarlett's door, her mind in a ferment of thankfulness and curiosity.

"How  Miss  Melley  done it beyon' me. De angels fight on her side, Ah specs. Ah'll tell Miss Scarlett de fune'l termorrer but Ah specs Ah better
keep hid dat Miss Melly settin' up wid Lil Miss. Miss Scarlett ain' gwine lak dat a-tall."


Something  was  wrong  with the world, a somber, frightening wrongness that pervaded everything like a dark impenetrable mist, stealthily closing
around Scarlett. This wrongness went even deeper than Bonnie's death, for now the first unbearable anguish was fading into resigned acceptance of
her  loss.  Yet  this  eerie  sense of disaster to come persisted, as though something black and hooded stood just at her shoulder, as though the
ground beneath her feet might turn to quicksand as she trod upon it.

She  had  never  before  known  this type of fear. All her life her feet had been firmly planted in common sense and the only things she had ever
feared  had been the things she could see, injury, hunger, poverty, loss of Ashley's love. Unanalytical she was trying to analyze now and with no
success. She had lost her dearest child but she could stand that, somehow, as she had stood other crushing losses. She had her health, she had as
much money as she could wish and she still had Ashley, though she saw less and less of him these days. Even the constraint which had been between
them  since the day of Melanie's ill-starred surprise party did not worry her, for she knew it would pass. No, her fear was not of pain or hunger
or  loss  of  love.  Those  fears had never weighed her down as this feeling of wrongness was doing--this blighting fear that was oddly like that
which  she  knew  in  her  old nightmare, a thick, swimming mist through which she ran with bursting heart, a lost child seeking a haven that was
hidden from her.

She  remembered  how Rhett had always been able to laugh her out of her fears. She remembered the comfort of his broad brown chest and his strong
arms.  And  so  she turned to him with eyes that really saw him for the first time in weeks. And the change she saw shocked her. This man was not
going to laugh, nor was he going to comfort her.

For some time after Bonnie's death she had been too angry with him, too preoccupied with her own grief to do more than speak politely in front of
the  servants. She had been too busy remembering the swift running patter of Bonnie's feet and her bubbling laugh to think that he, too, might be
remembering  and  with  pain even greater than her own. Throughout these weeks they had met and spoken as courteously as strangers meeting in the
impersonal walls of a hotel, sharing the same roof, the same table, but never sharing the thoughts of each other.

Now  that  she was frightened and lonely, she would have broken through this barrier if she could, but she found that he was holding her at arm's
length,  as  though  he wished to have no words with her that went beneath the surface. Now that her anger was fading she wanted to tell him that
she held him guiltless of Bonnie's death. She wanted to cry in his arms and say that she, too, had been overly proud of the child's horsemanship,
overly indulgent to her wheedlings. Now she would willingly have humbled herself and admitted that she had only hurled that accusation at him out
of  her  misery, hoping by hurting him to alleviate her own hurt. But there never seemed an opportune moment. He looked at her out of black blank
eyes that made no opportunity for her to speak. And apologies, once postponed, became harder and harder to make, and finally impossible.

She  wondered  why  this  should be. Rhett was her husband and between them there was the unbreakable bond of two people who have shared the same
bed,  begotten  and  borne a loved child and seen that child, too soon, laid away in the dark. Only in the arms of the father of that child could
she find comfort, in the exchange of memories and grief that might hurt at first but would help to heal. But, now, as matters stood between them,
she would as soon go to the arms of a complete stranger.

He  was  seldom  at  home.  When  they  did  sit  down to supper together, he was usually drunk. He was not drinking as he had formerly, becoming
increasingly  more  polished and biting as the liquor took hold of him, saying amusing, malicious things that made her laugh in spite of herself.
Now  he  was  silently,  morosely drunk and, as the evenings progressed, soddenly drunk. Sometimes, in the early hours of the dawn, she heard him
ride into the back yard and beat on the door of the servants' house so that Pork might help him up the back stairs and put him to bed. Put him to
bed! Rhett who had always drunk others under the table without turning a hair and then put them to bed.

He  was  untidy  now,  where  once  he had been well groomed, and it took all Pork's scandalized arguing even to make him change his linen before
supper.  Whisky  was showing in his face and the hard line of his long jaw was being obscured under an unhealthy bloat and puffs rising under his
bloodshot eyes. His big body with its hard swelling muscles looked soft and slack and his waist line began to thicken.

Often  he did not come home at all or even send word that he would be away overnight. Of course, he might be snoring drunkenly in some room above
a  saloon,  but  Scarlett  always  believed that he was at Belle Watling's house on these occasions. Once she had seen Belle in a store, a coarse
overblown  woman  now,  with  most  of her good looks gone. But, for all her paint and flashy clothes, she was buxom and almost motherly looking.
Instead  of dropping her eyes or glaring defiantly, as did other light women when confronted by ladies, Belle gave her stare for stare, searching
her face with an intent, almost pitying look that brought a flush to Scarlett's cheek.

But  she could not accuse him now, could not rage at him, demand fidelity or try to shame him, any more than she could bring herself to apologize
for  accusing  him  of Bonnie's death. She was clutched by a bewildered apathy, an unhappiness that she could not understand, an unhappiness that
went  deeper  than anything she had ever known. She was lonely and she could never remember being so lonely before. Perhaps she had never had the
time  to  be  very  lonely until now. She was lonely and afraid and there was no one to whom she could turn, no one except Melanie. For now, even
Mammy, her mainstay, had gone back to Tara. Gone permanently.

Mammy  gave  no  explanation for her departure. Her tired old eyes looked sadly at Scarlett when she asked for the train fare home. To Scarlett's
tears  and  pleading that she stay, Mammy only answered: "Look ter me lak Miss Ellen say ter me: 'Mammy, come home. Yo' wuk done finish.' So Ah's
gwine home."

Rhett, who had listened to the talk, gave Mammy the money and patted her arm.

"You're  right,  Mammy.  Miss Ellen is right. Your work here is done. Go home. Let me know if you ever need anything." And as Scarlett broke into
renewed indignant commands: "Hush, you fool! Let her go! Why should anyone want to stay in this house--now?"

There was such a savage bright glitter in his eyes when he spoke that Scarlett shrank from him, frightened.

"Dr. Meade, do you think he can--can have lost his mind?" she questioned afterwards, driven to the doctor by her own sense of helplessness.

"No,"  said  the  doctor,  "but  he's  drinking like a fish and will kill himself if he keeps it up. He loved the child, Scarlett, and I guess he
drinks to forget about her. Now, my advice to you, Miss, is to give him another baby just as quickly as you can."

"Hah!"  thought Scarlett bitterly, as she left his office. That was easier said than done. She would gladly have another child, several children,
if  they  would  take  that  look out of Rhett's eyes and fill up the aching spaces in her own heart. A boy who had Rhett's dark handsomeness and
another  little  girl.  Oh,  for  another  girl,  pretty  and gay and willful and full of laughter, not like the giddy-brained Ella. Why, oh, why
couldn't  God have taken Ella if He had to take one of her children? Ella was no comfort to her, now that Bonnie was gone. But Rhett did not seem
to  want  any  other children. At least he never came to her bedroom though now the door was never locked and usually invitingly ajar. He did not
seem to care. He did not seem to care for anything now except whisky and that blowzy red-haired woman.

He  was  bitter now, where he had been pleasantly jeering, brutal where his thrusts had once been tempered with humor. After Bonnie died, many of
the  good  ladies  of  the neighborhood who had been won over to him by his charming manners with his daughter were anxious to show him kindness.
They  stopped  him  on  the  street to give him their sympathy and spoke to him from over their hedges, saying that they understood. But now that
Bonnie, the reason for his good manners, was gone the manners went to. He cut the ladies and their well-meant condolences off shortly, rudely.

But,  oddly enough, the ladies were not offended. They understood, or thought they understood. When he rode home in the twilight almost too drunk
to  stay in the saddle, scowling at those who spoke to him, the ladies said "Poor thing!" and redoubled their efforts to be kind and gentle. They
felt very sorry for him, broken hearted and riding home to no better comfort than Scarlett.

Everybody knew how cold and heartless she was. Everybody was appalled at the seeming ease with which she had recovered from Bonnie's death, never
realizing  or caring to realize the effort that lay behind that seeming recovery. Rhett had the town's tenderest sympathy and he neither knew nor
cared. Scarlett had the town's dislike and, for once, she would have welcomed the sympathy of old friends.

Now,  none  of  her  old  friends  came  to  the house, except Aunt Pitty, Melanie and Ashley. Only the new friends came calling in their shining
carriages,  anxious to tell her of their sympathy, eager to divert her with gossip about other new friends in whom she was not at all interested.
All  these "new people," strangers, every one! They didn't know her. They would never know her. They had no realization of what her life had been
before  she reached her present safe eminence in her mansion on Peachtree Street. They didn't care to talk about what their lives had been before
they attained stiff brocades and victorias with fine teams of horses. They didn't know of her struggles, her privations, all the things that made
this great house and pretty clothes and silver and receptions worth having. They didn't know. They didn't care, these people from God-knows-where
who seemed to live always on the surface of things, who had no common memories of war and hunger and fighting, who had no common roots going down
into the same red earth.

Now  in  her  loneliness,  she  would  have liked to while away the afternoons with Maybelle or Fanny or Mrs. Elsing or Mrs. Whiting or even that
redoubtable  old  warrior,  Mrs.  Merriwether. Or Mrs. Bonnell or--or any of her old friends and neighbors. For they knew. They had known war and
terror  and fire, had seen dear ones dead before their time; they had hungered and been ragged, had lived with the wolf at the door. And they had
rebuilt fortune from ruin.

It  would  be  a comfort to sit with Maybelle, remembering that Maybelle had buried a baby, dead in the mad flight before Sherman. There would be
solace  in  Fanny's  presence,  knowing that she and Fanny both had lost husbands in the black days of martial law. It would be grim fun to laugh
with  Mrs.  Elsing, recalling the old lady's face as she flogged her horse through Five Points the day Atlanta fell, her loot from the commissary
jouncing  from  her  carriage. It would be pleasant to match stories with Mrs. Merriwether, now secure on the proceeds of her bakery, pleasant to
say:  "Do you remember how bad things were right after the surrender? Do you remember when we didn't know where our next pair of shoes was coming
from? And look at us now!"

Yes,  it  would  be  pleasant.  Now she understood why when two ex-Confederates met, they talked of the war with so much relish, with pride, with
nostalgia.  Those had been days that tried their hearts but they had come through them. They were veterans. She was a veteran too, but she had no
cronies  with  whom she could refight old battles. Oh, to be with her own kind of people again, those people who had been through the same things
and knew how they hurt--and yet how great a part of you they were!

But,  somehow, these people had slipped away. She realized that it was her own fault. She had never cared until now--now that Bonnie was dead and
she was lonely and afraid and she saw across her shining dinner table a swarthy sodden stranger disintegrating under her eyes.


Scarlett  was  in Marietta when Rhett's urgent telegram came. There was a train leaving for Atlanta in ten minutes and she caught it, carrying no
baggage except her reticule and leaving Wade and Ella at the hotel with Prissy.

Atlanta  was  only  twenty  miles  away  but  the train crawled interminably through the wet early autumn afternoon, stopping at every bypath for
passengers.  Panic  stricken  at Rhett's message, mad for speed, Scarlett almost screamed at every halt. Down the road lumbered the train through
forests  faintly,  tiredly  gold,  past  red  hillsides  still  scarred with serpentine breastworks, past old battery emplacements and weed-grown
craters,  down  the  road  over  which Johnston's men had retreated so bitterly, fighting every step of the way. Each station, each crossroad the
conductor called was the name of a battle, the site of a skirmish. Once they would have stirred Scarlett to memories of terror but now she had no
thought for them.

Rhett's message had been:

"Mrs. Wilkes ill. Come home immediately."

Twilight  had  fallen  when the train pulled into Atlanta and a light misting rain obscured the town. The gas street lamps glowed dully, blobs of
yellow  in  the  fog. Rhett was waiting for her at the depot with the carriage. The very sight of his face frightened her more than his telegram.
She had never seen it so expressionless before.

"She isn't--" she cried.

"No. She's still alive." Rhett assisted her into the carriage. "To Mrs. Wilkes' house and as fast as you can go," he ordered the coachman.

"What's  the  matter with her? I didn't know she was ill. She looked all right last week. Did she have an accident? Oh, Rhett, it isn't really as
serious as you--"

"She's dying," said Rhett and his voice had no more expression than his face. "She wants to see you."

"Not Melly! Oh, not Melly! What's happened to her?"

"She's had a miscarriage."

"A--a-mis--but, Rhett, she--" Scarlett floundered. This information on top of the horror of his announcement took her breath away.

"You did not know she was going to have a baby?"

She could not even shake her head.

"Ah, well. I suppose not. I don't think she told anyone. She wanted it to be a surprise. But I knew."

"You knew? But surely she didn't tell you!"

"She didn't have to tell me. I knew. She's been so--happy these last two months I knew it couldn't mean anything else."

"But Rhett, the doctor said it would kill her to have another baby!"

"It has killed her," said Rhett. And to the coachman: "For God's sake, can't you drive faster?"

"But, Rhett, she can't be dying! I--I didn't and I--"

"She hasn't your strength. She's never had any strength. She's never had anything but heart."

The  carriage  rocked  to  a  standstill  in  front of the flat little house and Rhett handed her out. Trembling, frightened, a sudden feeling of
loneliness upon her, she clasped his arm.

"You're coming in, Rhett?"

"No," he said and got back into the carriage.

She flew up the front steps, across the porch and threw open the door. There, in the yellow lamplight were Ashley, Aunt Pitty and India. Scarlett
thought: "What's India doing here? Melanie told her never to set foot in this house again." The three rose at the sight of her, Aunt Pitty biting
her  trembling  lips to still them, India staring at her, grief stricken and without hate. Ashley looked dull as a sleepwalker and, as he came to
her and put his hand upon her arm, he spoke like a sleepwalker.

"She asked for you," he said. "She asked for you."

"Can I see her now?" She turned toward the closed door of Melanie's room.

"No. Dr. Meade is in there now. I'm glad you've come, Scarlett."

"I came as quickly as I could." Scarlett shed her bonnet and her cloak. "The train-- She isn't really-- Tell me, she's better, isn't she, Ashley?
Speak to me! Don't look like that! She isn't really--"

"She  kept  asking for you," said Ashley and looked her in the eyes. And, in his eyes she saw the answer to her question. For a moment, her heart
stood  still  and  then  a  queer  fear,  stronger  than anxiety, stronger than grief, began to beat in her breast. It can't be true, she thought
vehemently,  trying  to  push back the fear. Doctors make mistakes. I won't think it's true. I can't let myself think it's true. I'll scream if I
do. I must think of something else.

"I  don't  believe  it!" she cried stormily, looking into the three drawn faces as though defying them to contradict her. "And why didn't Melanie
tell me? I'd never have gone to Marietta if I'd known!"

Ashley's eyes awoke and were tormented.

"She  didn't tell anyone, Scarlett, especially not you. She was afraid you'd scold her if you knew. She wanted to wait three--till she thought it
safe  and  sure  and  then  surprise  you  all and laugh and say how wrong the doctors had been. And she was so happy. You know how she was about
babies--how much she's wanted a little girl. And everything went so well until--and then for no reason at all--"

The  door  of  Melanie's  room opened quietly and Dr. Meade came out into the hall, shutting the door behind him. He stood for a moment, his gray
beard  sunk  on  his chest, and looked at the suddenly frozen four. His gaze fell last on Scarlett. As he came toward her, she saw that there was
grief in his eyes and also dislike and contempt that flooded her frightened heart with guilt.

"So you finally got here," he said.

Before she could answer, Ashley started toward the closed door.

"Not you, yet," said the doctor. "She wants to speak to Scarlett."

"Doctor," said India, putting a hand on his sleeve. Though her voice was toneless, it plead more loudly than words. "Let me see her for a moment.
I've  been  here  since this morning, waiting, but she-- Let me see her for a moment. I want to tell her--must tell her--that I was wrong about--

She did not look at Ashley or Scarlett as she spoke, but Dr. Meade allowed his cold glance to fall on Scarlett.

"I'll  see,  Miss India," he said briefly. "But only if you'll give me your word not to use up her strength telling her you were wrong. She knows
you were wrong and it will only worry her to hear you apologize."

Pitty began, timidly: "Please, Dr. Meade--"

"Miss Pitty, you know you'd scream and faint."

Pitty drew up her stout little body and gave the doctor glance for glance. Her eyes were dry and there was dignity in every curve.

"Well, all right, honey, a little later," said the doctor, more kindly. "Come, Scarlett."

They tiptoed down the hall to the closed door and the doctor put his hand on Scarlett's shoulder in a hard grip.

"Now,  Miss,"  he whispered briefly, "no hysterics and no deathbed confessions from you or, before God, I will wring your neck! Don't give me any
of  your innocent stares. You know what I mean. Miss Melly is going to die easily and you aren't going to ease your own conscience by telling her
anything about Ashley. I've never harmed a woman yet, but if you say anything now--you'll answer to me."

He  opened the door before she could answer, pushed her into the room and closed the door behind her. The little room, cheaply furnished in black
walnut,  was  in  semidarkness, the lamp shaded with a newspaper. It was as small and prim a room as a schoolgirl's, the narrow little low-backed
bed,  the  plain net curtains looped back, the clean faded rag rugs on the floor, were so different from the lavishness of Scarlett's own bedroom
with its towering carved furniture, pink brocade draperies and rose-strewn carpet.

Melanie lay in the bed, her figure under the counterpane shrunken and flat like a little girl's. Two black braids fell on either side of her face
and  her  closed  eyes  were  sunken in twin purple circles. At the sight of her Scarlett stood transfixed, leaning against the door. Despite the
gloom  of  the  room,  she  could see that Melanie's face was of a waxy yellow color. It was drained of life's blood and there was a pinched look
about  the nose. Until that moment, Scarlett had hoped Dr. Meade was mistaken. But now she knew. In the hospitals during the war she had seen too
many faces wearing this pinched look not to know what it inevitably presaged.

Melanie  was dying, but for a moment Scarlett's mind refused to take it in. Melanie could not die. It was impossible for her to die. God wouldn't
let  her  die  when she, Scarlett, needed her so much. Never before had it occurred to her that she needed Melanie. But now, the truth surged in,
down  to  the  deepest  recesses  of  her  soul. She had relied on Melanie, even as she had relied upon herself, and she had never known it. Now,
Melanie  was  dying  and  Scarlett  knew  she could not get along without her. Now, as she tiptoed across the room toward the quiet figure, panic
clutching at her heart, she knew that Melanie had been her sword and her shield, her comfort and her strength.

"I must hold her! I can't let her get away!" she thought and sank beside the bed with a rustle of skirts. Hastily she grasped the limp hand lying
on the coverlet and was frightened anew by its chill.

"It's me, Melly," she said.

Melanie's  eyes opened a slit and then, as if having satisfied herself that it was really Scarlett, she closed them again. After a pause she drew
a breath and whispered:

"Promise me?"

"Oh, anything!"

"Beau--look after him."

Scarlett could only nod, a strangled feeling in her throat, and she gently pressed the hand she held by way of assent.

"I give him to you." There was the faintest trace of a smile. "I gave him to you, once before--'member?--before he was born."

Did  she  remember?  Could she ever forget that time? Almost as clearly as if that dreadful day had returned, she could feel the stifling heat of
the  September  noon,  remembering her terror of the Yankees, hear the tramp of the retreating troops, recall Melanie's voice begging her to take
the baby should she die--remember, too, how she had hated Melanie that day and hoped that she would die.

"I've killed her," she thought, in superstitious agony. "I wished so often she would die and God heard me and is punishing me."

"Oh, Melly, don't talk like that! You know you'll pull through this--"

"No. Promise."

Scarlett gulped.

"You know I promise. I'll treat him like he was my own boy."

"College?" asked Melanie's faint flat voice.

"Oh,  yes!  The university and Harvard and Europe and anything he wants--and--and--a pony--and music lessons-- Oh, please, Melly, do try! Do make
an effort!"

The silence fell again and on Melanie's face there were signs of a struggle to gather strength to speak.

"Ashley," she said. "Ashley and you--" Her voice faltered into stillness.

At  the  mention of Ashley's name, Scarlett's heart stood still, cold as granite within her. Melanie had known all the time. Scarlett dropped her
head  on  the coverlet and a sob that would not rise caught her throat with a cruel hand. Melanie knew. Scarlett was beyond shame now, beyond any
feeling  save  a  wild remorse that she had hurt this gentle creature throughout the long years. Melanie had known--and yet, she had remained her
loyal friend. Oh, if she could only live those years over again! She would never even let her eyes meet those of Ashley.

"O  God," she prayed rapidly, "do, please, let her live! I'll make it up to her. I'll be so good to her. I'll never even speak to Ashley again as
long as I live, if You'll only let her get well!"

"Ashley,"  said  Melanie feebly and her fingers reached out to touch Scarlett's bowed head. Her thumb and forefinger tugged with no more strength
than  that  of  a  baby  at Scarlett's hair. Scarlett knew what that meant, knew Melanie wanted her to look up. But she could not, could not meet
Melanie's eyes and read that knowledge in them.

"Ashley,"  Melanie  whispered again and Scarlett gripped herself. When she looked God in the face on the Day of Judgment and read her sentence in
His eyes, it would not be as bad as this. Her soul cringed but she raised her head.

She  saw  only  the  same dark loving eyes, sunken and drowsy with death, the same tender mouth tiredly fighting pain for breath. No reproach was
there, no accusation and no fear--only an anxiety that she might not find strength for words.

For  a moment Scarlett was too stunned to even feel relief. Then, as she held Melanie's hand more closely, a flood of warm gratitude to God swept
over her and, for the first time since her childhood, she said a humble, unselfish prayer.

"Thank You, God. I know I'm not worth it but thank You for not letting her know."

"What about Ashley, Melly?"

"You'll--look after him?"

"Oh, yes."

"He catches cold--so easily."

There was a pause.

"Look after--his business--you understand?"

"Yes, I understand. I will."

She made a great effort.

"Ashley isn't--practical."

Only death could have forced that disloyalty from Melanie.

"Look after him, Scarlett--but--don't ever let him know."

"I'll look after him and the business too, and I'll never let him know. I'll just kind of suggest things to him."

Melanie  managed  a small smile but it was a triumphant one as her eyes met Scarlett's again. Their glance sealed the bargain that the protection
of  Ashley  Wilkes from a too harsh world was passing from one woman to another and that Ashley's masculine pride should never be humbled by this

Now the struggle went out of the tired face as though with Scarlett's promise, ease had come to her.

"You're so smart--so brave--always been so good to me--"

At these words, the sob came freely to Scarlett's throat and she clapped her hand over her mouth. Now, she was going to bawl like a child and cry
out: "I've been a devil! I've wronged you so! I never did anything for you! It was all for Ashley."

She  rose to her feet abruptly, sinking her teeth into her thumb to regain her control. Rhett's words came back to her again, "She loves you. Let
that  be  your cross." Well, the cross was heavier now. It was bad enough that she had tried by every art to take Ashley from her. But now it was
worse  that  Melanie,  who had trusted her blindly through life, was laying the same love and trust on her in death. No, she could not speak. She
could not even say again: "Make an effort to live." She must let her go easily, without a struggle, without tears, without sorrow.

The  door  opened  slightly  and  Dr. Meade stood on the threshold, beckoning imperiously. Scarlett bent over the bed, choking back her tears and
taking Melanie's hand, laid it against her cheek.

"Good night," she said, and her voice was steadier than she thought it possibly could be.

"Promise me--" came the whisper, very softly now.

"Anything, darling."

"Captain Butler--be kind to him. He--loves you so."

"Rhett?" thought Scarlett, bewildered, and the words meant nothing to her.

"Yes, indeed," she said automatically and, pressing a light kiss on the hand, laid it back on the bed.

"Tell the ladies to come in immediately," whispered the doctor as she passed through the door.

Through  blurred  eyes  she  saw  India  and  Pitty  follow the doctor into the room, holding their skirts close to their sides to keep them from
rustling.  The  door closed behind them and the house was still. Ashley was nowhere to be seen. Scarlett leaned her head against the wall, like a
naughty child in a corner, and rubbed her aching throat.

Behind  that  door,  Melanie was going and, with her, the strength upon which she had relied unknowingly for so many years. Why, oh, why, had she
not realized before this how much she loved and needed Melanie? But who would have thought of small plain Melanie as a tower of strength? Melanie
who  was shy to tears before strangers, timid about raising her voice in an opinion of her own, fearful of the disapproval of old ladies, Melanie
who lacked the courage to say Boo to a goose? And yet--

Scarlett's mind went back through the years to the still, hot noon at Tara when gray smoke curled above a blue-clad body and Melanie stood at the
top  of  the  stairs  with Charles' saber in her hand. Scarlett remembered that she had thought at the time: "How silly! Melly couldn't even heft
that  sword!"  But now she knew that had the necessity arisen, Melanie would have charged down those stairs and killed the Yankee--or been killed

Yes,  Melanie  had  been  there  that day with a sword in her small hand, ready to do battle for her. And now, as Scarlett looked sadly back, she
realized that Melanie had always been there beside her with a sword in her hand, unobtrusive as her own shadow, loving her, fighting for her with
blind passionate loyalty, fighting Yankees, fire, hunger, poverty, public opinion and even her beloved blood kin.

Scarlett  felt  her  courage  and  self-confidence  ooze  from her as she realized that the sword which had flashed between her and the world was
sheathed forever.

"Melly  is  the  only woman friend I ever had," she thought forlornly, "the only woman except Mother who really loved me. She's like Mother, too.
Everyone who knew her has clung to her skirts."

Suddenly it was as if Ellen were lying behind that closed door, leaving the world for a second time. Suddenly she was standing at Tara again with
the  world  about  her  ears, desolate with the knowledge that she could not face life without the terrible strength of the weak, the gentle, the
tender hearted.

She  stood  in  the hall, irresolute, frightened, and the glaring light of the fire in the sitting room threw tall dim shadows on the walls about
her. The house was utterly still and the stillness soaked into her like a fine chill rain. Ashley! Where was Ashley?

She  went  toward  the  sitting  room seeking him like a cold animal seeking the fire but he was not there. She must find him. She had discovered
Melanie's  strength and her dependence on it only to lose it in the moment of discovery but there was still Ashley left. There was Ashley who was
strong  and  wise  and  comforting. In Ashley and his love lay strength upon which to lay her weakness, courage to bolster her fear, ease for her

He  must  be  in his room, she thought, and tiptoeing down the hall, she knocked softly. There was no answer, so she pushed the door open. Ashley
was  standing  in  front  of the dresser, looking at a pair of Melanie's mended gloves. First he picked up one and looked at it, as though he had
never seen it before. Then he laid it down gently, as though it were made of glass, and picked up the other one.

She  said:  "Ashley!" in a trembling voice and he turned slowly and looked at her. The drowsy aloofness had gone from his gray eyes and they were
wide  and  unmasked.  In them she saw fear that matched her own fear, helplessness weaker than her own, bewilderment more profound than she would
ever know. The feeling of dread which had possessed her in the hall deepened as she saw his face. She went toward him.

"I'm frightened," she said. "Oh, Ashley, hold me. I'm so frightened!"

He made no move to her but stared, gripping the glove tightly in both hands. She put a hand on his arm and whispered: "What is it?"

His eyes searched her intently, hunting, hunting desperately for something he did not find. Finally he spoke and his voice was not his own.

"I was wanting you," he said. "I was going to run and find you--run like a child wanting comfort--and I find a child, more frightened, running to

"Not you--you can't be frightened," she cried. "Nothing has ever frightened you. But I-- You've always been so strong--"

"If  I've  ever  been  strong,  it  was because she was behind me," he said, his voice breaking, and he looked down at the glove and smoothed the
fingers. "And--and--all the strength I ever had is going with her."

There  was  such  a  note of wild despair in his low voice that she dropped her hand from his arm and stepped back. And in the heavy silence that
fell between them, she felt that she really understood him for the first time in her life.

"Why--" she said slowly, "why, Ashley, you love her, don't you?"

He spoke as with an effort.

"She is the only dream I ever had that lived and breathed and did not die in the face of reality."

"Dreams!" she thought, an old irritation stirring. "Always dreams with him! Never common sense!"

With a heart that was heavy and a little bitter, she said: "You've been such a fool, Ashley. Why couldn't you see that she was worth a million of

"Scarlett, please! If you only knew what I've gone through since the doctor--"

"What  you've gone through! Don't you think that I-- Oh, Ashley, you should have known, years ago, that you loved her and not me! Why didn't you!
Everything would have been so different, so-- Oh, you should have realized and not kept me dangling with all your talk about honor and sacrifice!
If  you'd told me, years ago, I'd have-- It would have killed me but I could have stood it somehow. But you wait till now, till Melly's dying, to
find  it  out  and now it's too late to do anything. Oh, Ashley, men are supposed to know such things--not women! You should have seen so clearly
that you loved her all the time and only wanted me like--like Rhett wants that Watling woman!"

He  winced at her words but his eyes still met hers, imploring silence, comfort. Every line of his face admitted the truth of her words. The very
droop  of  his  shoulders  showed that his own self-castigation was more cruel than any she could give. He stood silent before her, clutching the
glove  as  though  it  were  an understanding hand and, in the stillness that followed her words, her indignation fell away and pity, tinged with
contempt,  took  its  place.  Her conscience smote her. She was kicking a beaten and defenseless man--and she had promised Melanie that she would
look after him.

"And  just  as  soon  as  I promised her, I said mean, hurting things to him and there's no need for me to say them or for anyone to say them. He
knows  the truth and it's killing him," she thought desolately. "He's not grown up. He's a child, like me, and he's sick with fear at losing her.
Melly  knew how it would be--Melly knew him far better than I do. That's why she said look after him and Beau, in the same breath. How can Ashley
ever stand this? I can stand it. I can stand anything. I've had to stand so much. But he can't--he can't stand anything without her."

"Forgive  me,  darling,"  she said gently, putting out her arms. "I know what you must be suffering. But remember, she doesn't know anything--she
never even suspected-- God was that good to us."

He  came  to  her quickly and his arms went round her blindly. She tiptoed to bring her warm cheek comfortingly against his and with one hand she
smoothed the back of his hair.

"Don't cry, sweet. She'd want you to be brave. She'll want to see you in a moment and you must be brave. She mustn't see that you've been crying.
It would worry her."

He held her in a grip that made breathing difficult and his choking voice was in her ear.

"What will I do? I can't--I can't live without her!"

"I  can't  either,"  she thought, shuddering away from the picture of the long years to come, without Melanie. But she caught herself in a strong
grasp.  Ashley  was  depending on her, Melanie was depending on her. As once before, in the moonlight at Tara, drunk, exhausted, she had thought:
"Burdens are for shoulders strong enough to carry them." Well, her shoulders were strong and Ashley's were not. She squared her shoulders for the
load and with a calmness she was far from feeling, kissed his wet cheek without fever or longing or passion, only with cool gentleness.

"We shall manage--somehow," she said.

A door opened with sudden violence into the hall and Dr. Meade called with sharp urgency:

"Ashley! Quick!"

"My God! She's gone!" thought Scarlett. "And Ashley didn't get to tell her good-by! But maybe--"

"Hurry!" she cried aloud, giving him a push, for he stood staring like one stunned. "Hurry!"

She  pulled  open  the door and motioned him through. Galvanized by her words, he ran into the hall, the glove still clasped closely in his hand.
She heard his rapid steps for a moment and then the closing of a door.

She  said,  "My God!" again and walking slowly to the bed, sat down upon it and dropped her head in her hands. She was suddenly tired, more tired
than  she  had  ever been in all her life. With the sound of the closing door, the strain under which she had been laboring, the strain which had
given  her  strength,  suddenly  snapped.  She  felt  exhausted  in  body  and drained of emotions. Now she felt no sorrow or remorse, no fear or
amazement. She was tired and her mind ticked away dully, mechanically, as the clock on the mantel.

Out  of  the  dullness, one thought arose. Ashley did not love her and had never really loved her and the knowledge did not hurt. It should hurt.
She should be desolate, broken hearted, ready to scream at fate. She had relied upon his love for so long. It had upheld her through so many dark
places.  Yet,  there the truth was. He did not love her and she did not care. She did not care because she did not love him. She did not love him
and so nothing he could do or say could hurt her.

She lay down on the bed and put her head on the pillow tiredly. Useless to try to combat the idea, useless to say to herself: "But I do love him.
I've loved him for years. Love can't change to apathy in a minute."

But it could change and it had changed.

"He  never  really existed at all, except in my imagination," she thought wearily. "I loved something I made up, something that's just as dead as
Melly is. I made a pretty suit of clothes and fell in love with it. And when Ashley came riding along, so handsome, so different, I put that suit
on him and made him wear it whether it fitted him or not. And I wouldn't see what he really was. I kept on loving the pretty clothes--and not him
at all."

Now  she  could  look  back down the long years and see herself in green flowered dimity, standing in the sunshine at Tara, thrilled by the young
horseman  with  his  blond  hair  shining like a silver helmet. She could see so clearly now that he was only a childish fancy, no more important
really  than  her  spoiled  desire  for the aquamarine earbobs she had coaxed out of Gerald. For, once she owned the earbobs, they had lost their
value,  as everything except money lost its value once it was hers. And so he, too, would have become cheap if, in those first far-away days, she
had  ever  had  the satisfaction of refusing to marry him. If she had ever had him at her mercy, seen him grown passionate, importunate, jealous,
sulky,  pleading,  like  the  other  boys, the wild infatuation which had possessed her would have passed, blowing away as lightly as mist before
sunshine and light wind when she met a new man.

"What a fool I've been," she thought bitterly. "And now I've got to pay for it. What I've wished for so often has happened. I've wished Melly was
dead  so  I  could have him. And now she's dead and I've got him and I don't want him. His damned honor will make him ask me if I want to divorce
Rhett  and  marry him. Marry him? I wouldn't have him on a silver platter! But, just the same I've got him round my neck for the rest of my life.
As  long  as  I  live  I'll  have to look after him and see that he doesn't starve and that people don't hurt his feelings. He'll be just another
child,  clinging to my skirts. I've lost my lover and I've got another child. And if I hadn't promised Melly, I'd--I wouldn't care if I never saw
him again."


She heard whispering voices outside, and going to the door she saw the frightened negroes standing in the back hall, Dilcey with her arms sagging
under  the  heavy  weight  of  the  sleeping Beau, Uncle Peter crying, and Cookie wiping her wide wet face on her apron. All three looked at her,
dumbly  asking what they were to do now. She looked up the hall toward the sitting room and saw India and Aunt Pitty standing speechless, holding
each  other's  hands and, for once, India had lost her stiff-necked look. Like the negroes, they looked imploringly at her, expecting her to give
instructions. She walked into the sitting room and the two women closed about her.

"Oh, Scarlett, what--" began Aunt Pitty, her fat, child's mouth shaking.

"Don't  speak  to  me  or I'll scream," said Scarlett. Overwrought nerves brought sharpness to her voice and her hands clenched at her sides. The
thought  of  speaking of Melanie now, of making the inevitable arrangements that follow a death made her throat tighten. "I don't want a word out
of either of you."

At  the  authoritative  note  in her voice, they fell back, helpless hurt looks on their faces. "I mustn't cry in front of them," she thought. "I
mustn't  break  now  or  they'll  begin  crying too, and then the darkies will begin screaming and we'll all go mad. I must pull myself together.
There's  so much I'll have to do. See the undertaker and arrange the funeral and see that the house is clean and be here to talk to people who'll
cry on my neck. Ashley can't do them. I've got to do them. Oh, what a weary load! It's always been a weary load and always some one else's load!"

She  looked  at  the dazed hurt faces of India and Pitty and contrition swept her. Melanie would not like her to be so sharp with those who loved

"I'm  sorry  I was cross," she said, speaking with difficulty. "It's just that I--I'm sorry I was cross, Auntie. I'm going out on the porch for a
minute. I've got to be alone. Then I'll come back and we'll--"

She  patted  Aunt Pitty and went swiftly by her to the front door, knowing if she stayed in this room another minute her control would crack. She
had to be alone. And she had to cry or her heart would break.

She  stepped onto the dark porch and closed the door behind her and the moist night air was cool upon her face. The rain had ceased and there was
no  sound  except  for  the occasional drip of water from the eaves. The world was wrapped in a thick mist, a faintly chill mist that bore on its
breath  the smell of the dying year. All the houses across the street were dark except one, and the light from a lamp in the window, falling into
the  street,  struggled  feebly  with  the fog, golden particles floating in its rays. It was as if the whole world were enveloped in an unmoving
blanket of gray smoke. And the whole world was still.

She  leaned  her head against one of the uprights of the porch and prepared to cry but no tears came. This was a calamity too deep for tears. Her
body  shook. There still reverberated in her mind the crashes of the two impregnable citadels of her life, thundering to dust about her ears. She
stood  for  a  while, trying to summon up her old charm: "I'll think of all this tomorrow when I can stand it better." But the charm had lost its
potency. She had to think of two things, now--Melanie and how much she loved and needed her; Ashley and the obstinate blindness that had made her
refuse to see him as he really was. And she knew that thoughts of them would hurt just as much tomorrow and all the tomorrows of her life.

"I  can't  go  back in there and talk to them now," she thought. "I can't face Ashley tonight and comfort him. Not tonight! Tomorrow morning I'll
come early and do the things I must do, say the comforting things I must say. But not tonight. I can't. I'm going home."

Home  was  only  five blocks away. She would not wait for the sobbing Peter to harness the buggy, would not wait for Dr. Meade to drive her home.
She  could  not endure the tears of the one, the silent condemnation of the other. She went swiftly down the dark front steps without her coat or
bonnet  and  into  the misty night. She rounded the corner and started up the long hill toward Peachree Street, walking in a still wet world, and
even her footsteps were as noiseless as a dream.

As  she  went up the hill, her chest tight with tears that would not come, there crept over her an unreal feeling, a feeling that she had been in
this  same dim chill place before, under a like set of circumstances--not once but many times before. How silly, she thought uneasily, quickening
her steps. Her nerves were playing her tricks. But the feeling persisted, stealthily pervading her mind. She peered about her uncertainly and the
feeling  grew,  eerie but familiar, and her head went up sharply like an animal scenting danger. It's just that I'm worn out, she tried to soothe
herself. And the night's so queer, so misty. I never saw such thick mist before except--except!

And  then  she  knew  and  fear  squeezed her heart. She knew now. In a hundred nightmares, she had fled through fog like this, through a haunted
country without landmarks, thick with cold cloaking mist, peopled with clutching ghosts and shadows. Was she dreaming again or was this her dream
come true?

For  an instant, reality went out of her and she was lost. The old nightmare feeling was sweeping her, stronger than ever, and her heart began to
race.  She  was  standing  again amid death and stillness, even as she had once stood at Tara. All that mattered in the world had gone out of it,
life  was in ruins and panic howled through her heart like a cold wind. The horror that was in the mist and was the mist laid hands upon her. And
she  began  to run. As she had run a hundred times in dreams, she ran now, flying blindly she knew not where, driven by a nameless dread, seeking
in the gray mist for the safety that lay somewhere.

Up  the dim street she fled, her head down, her heart hammering, the night air wet on her lips, the trees overhead menacing. Somewhere, somewhere
in this wild land of moist stillness, there was a refuge! She sped gasping up the long hill, her wet skirts wrapping coldly about her ankles, her
lungs bursting, the tight-laced stays pressing her ribs into her heart.

Then before her eyes there loomed a light, a row of lights, dim and flickering but none the less real. In her nightmare, there had never been any
lights,  only gray fog. Her mind seized on those lights. Lights meant safety, people, reality. Suddenly she stopped running, her hands clenching,
struggling  to  pull  herself  out of her panic, staring intently at the row of gas lamps which had signaled to her brain that this was Peachtree
Street, Atlanta, and not the gray world of sleep and ghosts.

She sank down panting on a carriage block, clutching at her nerves as though they were ropes slipping swiftly through her hands.

"I  was  running--running like a crazy person!" she thought, her body shaking with lessening fear, her thudding heart making her sick. "But where
was I running?"

Her  breath came more easily now and she sat with her hand pressed to her side and looked up Peachtree Street. There, at the top of the hill, was
her  own  house.  It looked as though every window bore lights, lights defying the mist to dim their brilliance. Home! It was real! She looked at
the dim far-off bulk of the house thankfully, longingly, and something like calm fell on her spirit.

Home! That was where she wanted to go. That was where she was running. Home to Rhett!

At  this  realization it was as though chains fell away from her and with them the fear which had haunted her dreams since the night she stumbled
to Tara to find the world ended. At the end of the road to Tara she had found security gone, all strength, all wisdom, all loving tenderness, all
understanding  gone--all  those  things  which,  embodied in Ellen, had been the bulwark of her girlhood. And, though she had won material safety
since that night, in her dreams she was still a frightened child, searching for the lost security of that lost world.

Now  she knew the haven she had sought in dreams, the place of warm safety which had always been hidden from her in the mist. It was not Ashley--
oh,  never  Ashley! There was no more warmth in him than in a marsh light, no more security than in quicksand. It was Rhett--Rhett who had strong
arms  to  hold  her,  a  broad  chest  to  pillow  her  tired  head,  jeering  laughter to pull her affairs into proper perspective. And complete
understanding, because he, like her, saw truth as truth, unobstructed by impractical notions of honor, sacrifice, or high belief in human nature.
He  loved  her!  Why  hadn't  she realized that he loved her, for all his taunting remarks to the contrary? Melanie had seen it and with her last
breath had said, "Be kind to him."

"Oh," she thought, "Ashley's not the only stupidly blind person. I should have seen."

For  years  she  had  had  her  back against the stone wall of Rhett's love and had taken it as much for granted as she had taken Melanie's love,
flattering  herself  that  she  drew  her  strength from herself alone. And even as she had realized earlier in the evening that Melanie bad been
beside  her  in  her  bitter  campaigns against life, now she knew that silent in the background, Rhett had stood, loving her, understanding her,
ready  to  help. Rhett at the bazaar, reading her impatience in her eyes and leading her out in the reel, Rhett helping her out of the bondage of
mourning,  Rhett convoying her through the fire and explosions the night Atlanta fell, Rhett lending her the money that gave her her start, Rhett
who  comforted  her  when  she  woke  in  the  nights  crying  with fright from her dreams--why, no man did such things without loving a woman to

The  trees  dripped dampness upon her but she did not feel it. The mist swirled about her and she paid it no heed. For when she thought of Rhett,
with his swarthy face, flashing teeth and dark alert eyes, a trembling came over her.

"I  love  him,"  she  thought and, as always, she accepted the truth with little wonder, as a child accepting a gift. "I don't know how long I've
loved  him  but it's true. And if it hadn't been for Ashley, I'd have realized it long ago. I've never been able to see the world at all, because
Ashley stood in the way."

She loved him, scamp, blackguard, without scruple or honor--at least, honor as Ashley saw it. "Damn Ashley's honor!" she thought. "Ashley's honor
has  always  let  me  down.  Yes,  from the very beginning when he kept on coming to see me, even though he knew his family expected him to marry
Melanie.  Rhett has never let me down, even that dreadful night of Melly's reception when he ought to have wrung my neck. Even when he left me on
the road the night Atlanta fell, he knew I'd be safe. He knew I'd get through somehow. Even when he acted like he was going to make me pay to get
that  money from him at the Yankee camp. He wouldn't have taken me. He was just testing me. He's loved me all along and I've been so mean to him.
Time and again, I've hurt him and he was too proud to show it. And when Bonnie died-- Oh, how could I?"

She  stood  up straight and looked at the house on the hill. She had thought, half an hour ago, that she had lost everything in the world, except
money,  everything that made life desirable, Ellen, Gerald, Bonnie, Mammy, Melanie and Ashley. She had to lose them all to realize that she loved
Rhett--loved him because he was strong and unscrupulous, passionate and earthy, like herself.

"I'll  tell  him everything," she thought. "He'll understand. He's always understood. I'll tell him what a fool I've been and how much I love him
and I'll make it up to him."

Suddenly  she  felt strong and happy. She was not afraid of the darkness or the fog and she knew with a singing in her heart that she would never
fear them again. No matter what mists might curl around her in the future, she knew her refuge. She started briskly up the street toward home and
the blocks seemed very long. Far, far too long. She caught up her skirts to her knees and began to run lightly. But this time she was not running
from fear. She was running because Rhett's arms were at the end of the street.


The  front  door was slightly ajar and she trotted, breathless, into the hall and paused for a moment under the rainbow prisms of the chandelier.
For  all  its  brightness  the  house  was very still, not with the serene stillness of sleep but with a watchful, tired silence that was faintly
ominous.  She  saw  at  a  glance that Rhett was not in the parlor or the library and her heart sank. Suppose he should be out--out with Belle or
wherever it was he spent the many evenings when he did not appear at the supper table? She had not bargained on this.

She  had started up the steps in search of him when she saw that the door of the dining room was closed. Her heart contracted a little with shame
at  the  sight  of that closed door, remembering the many nights of this last summer when Rhett had sat there alone, drinking until he was sodden
and  Pork  came to urge him to bed. That had been her fault but she'd change it all. Everything was to be different from now on--but, please God,
don't let him be too drunk tonight. If he's too drunk he won't believe me and he'll laugh at me and that will break my heart.

She  quietly  opened  the dining-room door a crack and peered in. He was seated before the table, slumped in his chair, and a full decanter stood
before  him  with the stopper in place, the glass unused. Thank God, he was sober! She pulled open the door, holding herself back from running to
him. But when he looked up at her, something in his gaze stopped her dead on the threshold, stilled the words on her lips.

He  looked at her steadily with dark eyes that were heavy with fatigue and there was no leaping light in them. Though her hair was tumbling about
her  shoulders,  her  bosom heaving breathlessly and her skirts mud splattered to the knees, his face did not change with surprise or question or
his  lips twist with mockery. He was sunken in his chair, his suit wrinkling untidily against his thickening waist, every line of him proclaiming
the  ruin  of a fine body and the coarsening of a strong face. Drink and dissipation had done their work on the coin-clean profile and now it was
no  longer  the head of a young pagan prince on new-minted gold but a decadent, tired Caesar on copper debased by long usage. He looked up at her
as she stood there, hand on heart, looked quietly, almost in a kindly way, that frightened her.

"Come and sit down," he said. "She is dead?"

She  nodded and advanced hesitantly toward him, uncertainty taking form in her mind at this new expression on his face. Without rising, he pushed
back a chair with his foot and she sank into it. She wished he had not spoken of Melanie so soon. She did not want to talk of her now, to re-live
the  agony of the last hour. There was all the rest of her life in which to speak of Melanie. But it seemed to her now, driven by a fierce desire
to cry: "I love you," that there was only this night, this hour, in which to tell Rhett what was in her mind. But there was something in his face
that stopped her and she was suddenly ashamed to speak of love when Melanie was hardly cold.

"Well, God rest her," he said heavily. "She was the only completely kind person I ever knew."

"Oh, Rhett!" she cried miserably, for his words brought up too vividly all the kind things Melanie had ever done for her. "Why didn't you come in
with me? It was dreadful--and I needed you so!"

"I couldn't have borne it," he said simply and for a moment he was silent. Then he spoke with an effort and said, softly: "A very great lady."

His  somber gaze went past her and in his eyes was the same look she had seen in the light of the flames the night Atlanta fell, when he told her
he  was  going  off  with the retreating army--the surprise of a man who knows himself utterly, yet discovers in himself unexpected loyalties and
emotions and feels a faint self-ridicule at the discovery.

His moody eyes went over her shoulder as though he saw Melanie silently passing through the room to the door. In the look of farewell on his face
there was no sorrow, no pain, only a speculative wonder at himself, only a poignant stirring of emotions dead since boyhood, as he said again: "A
very great lady."

Scarlett  shivered  and the glow went from her heart, the fine warmth, the splendor which had sent her home on winged feet. She half-grasped what
was  in  Rhett's  mind  as he said farewell to the only person in the world he respected and she was desolate again with a terrible sense of loss
that  was no longer personal. She could not wholly understand or analyze what he was feeling, but it seemed almost as if she too had been brushed
by  whispering skirts, touching her softly in a last caress. She was seeing through Rhett's eyes the passing, not of a woman but of a legend--the
gentle, self-effacing but steel-spined women on whom the South had builded its house in war and to whose proud and loving arms it had returned in

His eyes came back to her and his voice changed. Now it was light and cool.

"So she's dead. That makes it nice for you, doesn't it?"

"Oh, how can you say such things," she cried, stung, the quick tears coming to her eyes. "You know how I loved her!"

"No,  I  can't  say  I  did.  Most unexpected and it's to your credit, considering your passion for white trash, that you could appreciate her at

"How  can  you  talk so? Of course I appreciated her! You didn't. You didn't know her like I did! It isn't in you to understand her--how good she

"Indeed? Perhaps not."

"She thought of everybody except herself--why, her last words were about you."

There was a flash of genuine feeling in his eyes as he turned to her.

"What did she say?"

"Oh, not now, Rhett."

"Tell me."

His  voice  was  cool  but  the  hand he put on her wrist hurt. She did not want to tell, this was not the way she had intended to lead up to the
subject of her love but his hand was urgent.

"She said--she said-- 'Be kind to Captain Butler. He loves you so much.'"

He stared at her and dropped her wrist. His eyelids went down, leaving his face dark and blank. Suddenly he rose and going to the window, he drew
the curtains and looked out intently as if there were something to see outside except blinding mist.

"Did she say anything else?" he questioned, not turning his head.

"She asked me to take care of little Beau and I said I would, like he was my own boy."

"What else?"

"She said--Ashley--she asked me to look after Ashley, too."

He was silent for a moment and then he laughed softly. "It's convenient to have the first wife's permission, isn't it?"

"What do you mean?"

He  turned  and  even in her confusion she was surprised that there was no mockery in his face. Nor was there any more interest in it than in the
face of a man watching the last act of a none-too-amusing comedy.

"I  think  my  meaning's  plain  enough.  Miss  Melly  is dead. You certainly have all the evidence you want to divorce me and you haven't enough
reputation  left for a divorce to hurt you. And you haven't any religion left, so the Church won't matter. Then--Ashley and dreams come true with
the blessings of Miss Melly."

"Divorce?" she cried. "No! No!" Incoherent for a moment she leaped to her feet and running to him caught his arm. "Oh, you're all wrong! Terribly
wrong. I don't want a divorce--I--" She stopped for she could find no other words.

He  put his hand under her chin, quietly turned her face up to the light and looked for an intent moment into her eyes. She looked up at him, her
heart  in  her  eyes,  her  lips  quivering as she tried to speak. But she could marshal no words because she was trying to find in his face some
answering  emotions,  some  leaping light of hope, of joy. Surely he must know, now! But the smooth dark blankness which had baffled her so often
was  all  that her frantic, searching eyes could find. He dropped her chin and, turning, walked back to his chair and sprawled tiredly again, his
chin on his breast, his eyes looking up at her from under black brows in an impersonal speculative way.

She followed him back to his chair, her hands twisting, and stood before him.

"You are wrong," she began again, finding words. "Rhett, tonight, when I knew, I ran every step of the way home to tell you. Oh, darling, I--"

"You are tired," he said, still watching her. "You'd better go to bed."

"But I must tell you!"

"Scarlett," he said heavily, "I don't want to hear--anything."

"But you don't know what I'm going to say!"

"My  pet,  it's  written plainly on your face. Something, someone has made you realize that the unfortunate Mr. Wilkes is too large a mouthful of
Dead  Sea  fruit  for  even  you to chew. And that same something has suddenly set my charms before you in a new and attractive light," he sighed
slightly. "And it's no use to talk about it."

She drew a sharp surprised breath. Of course, he had always read her easily. Heretofore she had resented it but now, after the first shock at her
own  transparency,  her heart rose with gladness and relief. He knew, he understood and her task was miraculously made easy. No use to talk about
it!  Of  course he was bitter at her long neglect, of course he was mistrustful of her sudden turnabout. She would have to woo him with kindness,
convince him with a rich outpouring of love, and what a pleasure it would be to do it!

"Darling,  I'm  going  to tell you everything," she said, putting her hands on the arm of his chair and leaning down to him. "I've been so wrong,
such a stupid fool--"

"Scarlett,  don't  go  on  with  this.  Don't  be humble before me. I can't bear it. Leave us some dignity, some reticence to remember out of our
marriage. Spare us this last."

She straightened up abruptly. Spare us this last? What did he mean by "this last"? Last? This was their first, their beginning.

"But  I  will tell you," she began rapidly, as if fearing his hand upon her mouth, silencing her. "Oh, Rhett, I love you so, darling! I must have
loved you for years and I was such a fool I didn't know it. Rhett, you must believe me!"

He  looked  at  her,  standing  before him, for a moment, a long look that went to the back of her mind. She saw there was belief in his eyes but
little interest. Oh, was he going to be mean, at this of all times? To torment her, pay her back in her own coin?

"Oh, I believe you," he said at last. "But what of Ashley Wilkes?"

"Ashley!"  she  said,  and made an impatient gesture. "I--I don't believe I've cared anything about him for ages. It was--well, a sort of habit I
hung  onto  from when I was a little girl. Rhett, I'd never even thought I cared about him if I'd ever known what he was really like. He's such a
helpless, poor-spirited creature, for all his prattle about truth and honor and--"

"No," said Rhett. "If you must see him as he really is, see him straight. He's only a gentleman caught in a world he doesn't belong in, trying to
make a poor best of it by the rules of the world that's gone."

"Oh, Rhett, don't let's talk of him! What does he matter now? Aren't you glad to know-- I mean, now that I--"

As  his  tired  eyes met hers, she broke off in embarrassment, shy as a girl with her first beau. If he'd only make it easier for her! If only he
would hold out his arms, so she could crawl thankfully into his lap and lay her head on his chest. Her lips on his could tell him better than all
her  stumbling  words.  But  as  she looked at him, she realized that he was not holding her off just to be mean. He looked drained and as though
nothing she had said was of any moment.

"Glad?" he said. "Once I would have thanked God, fasting, to hear you say all this. But, now, it doesn't matter."

"Doesn't matter? What are you talking about? Of course, it matters! Rhett, you do care, don't you? You must care. Melly said you did."

"Well, she was right, as far as she knew. But, Scarlett, did it ever occur to you that even the most deathless love could wear out?"

She looked at him speechless, her mouth a round O.

"Mine  wore  out,"  he  went on, "against Ashley Wilkes and your insane obstinacy that makes you hold on like a bulldog to anything you think you
want. . . . Mine wore out."

"But love can't wear out!"

"Yours for Ashley did."

"But I never really loved Ashley!"

"Then, you certainly gave a good imitation of it--up till tonight. Scarlett, I'm not upbraiding you, accusing you, reproaching you. That time has
passed.  So spare me your defenses and your explanations. If you can manage to listen to me for a few minutes without interrupting, I can explain
what I mean. Though God knows, I see no need for explanations. The truth's so plain."

She  sat  down, the harsh gas light falling on her white bewildered face. She looked into the eyes she knew so well--and knew so little--listened
to  his  quiet  voice  saying  words which at first meant nothing. This was the first time he had ever talked to her in this manner, as one human
being to another, talked as other people talked, without flippancy, mockery or riddles.

"Did it ever occur to you that I loved you as much as a man can love a woman? Loved you for years before I finally got you? During the war I'd go
away  and try to forget you, but I couldn't and I always had to come back. After the war I risked arrest, just to come back and find you. I cared
so  much  I believe I would have killed Frank Kennedy if he hadn't died when he did. I loved you but I couldn't let you know it. You're so brutal
to those who love you, Scarlett. You take their love and hold it over their heads like a whip."

Out  of it all only the fact that he loved her meant anything. At the faint echo of passion in his voice, pleasure and excitement crept back into
her. She sat, hardly breathing, listening, waiting.

"I knew you didn't love me when I married you. I knew about Ashley, you see. But, fool that I was, I thought I could make you care. Laugh, if you
like,  but I wanted to take care of you, to pet you, to give you everything you wanted. I wanted to marry you and protect you and give you a free
rein  in anything that would make you happy--just as I did Bonnie. You'd had such a struggle, Scarlett. No one knew better than I what you'd gone
through  and  I  wanted  you  to  stop  fighting  and  let  me  fight for you. I wanted you to play, like a child--for you were a child, a brave,
frightened, bullheaded child. I think you are still a child. No one but a child could be so headstrong and so insensitive."

His  voice  was calm and tired but there was something in the quality of it that raised a ghost of memory in Scarlett. She had heard a voice like
this  once  before  and  at  some  other  crisis of her life. Where had it been? The voice of a man facing himself and his world without feeling,
without flinching, without hope.

Why--why--it  had  been  Ashley  in  the  wintry, windswept orchard at Tara, talking of life and shadow shows with a tired calmness that had more
finality  in  its  timbre than any desperate bitterness could have revealed. Even as Ashley's voice then had turned her cold with dread of things
she  could  not  understand,  so now Rhett's voice made her heart sink. His voice, his manner, more than the content of his words, disturbed her,
made  her  realize  that her pleasurable excitement of a few moments ago had been untimely. Something was wrong, badly wrong. What it was she did
not know but she listened desperately, her eyes on his brown face, hoping to hear words that would dissipate her fears.

"It  was  so  obvious that we were meant for each other. So obvious that I was the only man of your acquaintance who could love you after knowing
you  as  you  really  are--hard  and greedy and unscrupulous, like me. I loved you and I took the chance. I thought Ashley would fade out of your
mind.  But," he shrugged, "I tried everything I knew and nothing worked. And I loved you so, Scarlett. If you had only let me, I could have loved
you  as  gently  and  as tenderly as ever a man loved a woman. But I couldn't let you know, for I knew you'd think me weak and try to use my love
against  me.  And  always--always  there  was Ashley. It drove me crazy. I couldn't sit across the table from you every night, knowing you wished
Ashley  was sitting there in my place. And I couldn't hold you in my arms at night and know that--well, it doesn't matter now. I wonder, now, why
it hurt. That's what drove me to Belle. There is a certain swinish comfort in being with a woman who loves you utterly and respects you for being
a fine gentleman--even if she is an illiterate whore. It soothed my vanity. You've never been very soothing, my dear."

"Oh, Rhett . . ." she began, miserable at the very mention of Belle's name, but he waved her to silence and went on.

"And  then,  that  night when I carried you upstairs--I thought--I hoped--I hoped so much I was afraid to face you the next morning, for fear I'd
been mistaken and you didn't love me. I was so afraid you'd laugh at me I went off and got drunk. And when I came back, I was shaking in my boots
and if you had come even halfway to meet me, had given me some sign, I think I'd have kissed your feet. But you didn't."

"Oh, but Rhett, I did want you then but you were so nasty! I did want you! I think--yes, that must have been when I first knew I cared about you.
Ashley--I never was happy about Ashley after that, but you were so nasty that I--"

"Oh,  well,"  he  said.  "It  seems  we've been at cross purposes, doesn't it? But it doesn't matter now. I'm only telling you, so you won't ever
wonder  about it all. When you were sick and it was all my fault, I stood outside your door, hoping you'd call for me, but you didn't, and then I
knew what a fool I'd been and that it was all over."

He  stopped  and  looked  through her and beyond her, even as Ashley had often done, seeing something she could not see. And she could only stare
speechless at his brooding face.

"But  then,  there was Bonnie and I saw that everything wasn't over, after all. I liked to think that Bonnie was you, a little girl again, before
the  war  and poverty had done things to you. She was so like you, so willful, so brave and gay and full of high spirits, and I could pet her and
spoil  her--just  as I wanted to pet you. But she wasn't like you--she loved me. It was a blessing that I could take the love you didn't want and
give it to her. . . . When she went, she took everything."

Suddenly  she  was  sorry  for  him, sorry with a completeness that wiped out her own grief and her fear of what his words might mean. It was the
first  time in her life she had been sorry for anyone without feeling contemptuous as well, because it was the first time she had ever approached
understanding  any  other  human  being.  And  she  could understand his shrewd caginess, so like her own, his obstinate pride that kept him from
admitting his love for fear of a rebuff.

"Ah,  darling,"  she said coming forward, hoping he would put out his arms and draw her to his knees. "Darling, I'm so sorry but I'll make it all
up to you! We can be so happy, now that we know the truth and--Rhett--look at me, Rhett! There--there can be other babies--not like Bonnie but--"

"Thank you, no," said Rhett, as if he were refusing a piece of bread. "I'll not risk my heart a third time."

"Rhett, don't say such things! Oh, what can I say to make you understand? I've told you how sorry I am--"

"My darling, you're such a child. You think that by saying, 'I'm sorry,' all the errors and hurts of years past can be remedied, obliterated from
the mind, all the poison drawn from old wounds. . . . Take my handkerchief, Scarlett. Never, at any crisis of your life, have I known you to have
a handkerchief."

She  took  the  handkerchief,  blew  her  nose and sat down. It was obvious that he was not going to take her in his arms. It was beginning to be
obvious  that  all  his  talk  about loving her meant nothing. It was a tale of a time long past, and he was looking at it as though it had never
happened to him. And that was frightening. He looked at her in an almost kindly way, speculation in his eyes.

"How old are you, my dear? You never would tell me."

"Twenty-eight," she answered dully, muffled in the handkerchief.

"That's  not  a  vast  age.  It's  a  young  age  to have gained the whole world and lost your own soul, isn't it? Don't look frightened. I'm not
referring  to  hell  fire  to  come for your affair with Ashley. I'm merely speaking metaphorically. Ever since I've known you, you've wanted two
things. Ashley and to be rich enough to tell the world to go to hell. Well, you are rich enough and you've spoken sharply to the world and you've
got Ashley, if you want him. But all that doesn't seem to be enough now."

She  was  frightened  but not at the thought of hell fire. She was thinking: "But Rhett is my soul and I'm losing him. And if I lose him, nothing
else  matters!  No, not friends or money or--or anything. If only I had him I wouldn't even mind being poor again. No, I wouldn't mind being cold
again or even hungry. But he can't mean-- Oh, he can't!"

She wiped her eyes and said desperately:

"Rhett, if you once loved me so much, there must be something left for me."

"Out of it all I find only two things that remain and they are the two things you hate the most--pity and an odd feeling of kindness."

Pity!  Kindness!  "Oh,  my  God," she thought despairingly. Anything but pity and kindness. Whenever she felt these two emotions for anyone, they
went hand in hand with contempt. Was he contemptuous of her too? Anything would be preferable to that. Even the cynical coolness of the war days,
the  drunken madness that drove him the night he carried her up the stairs, his hard fingers bruising her body, or the barbed drawling words that
she now realized had covered a bitter love. Anything except this impersonal kindness that was written so plainly in his face.

"Then--then you mean I've ruined it all--that you don't love me any more?"

"That's right."

"But," she said stubbornly, like a child who still feels that to state a desire is to gain that desire, "but I love you!"

"That's your misfortune."

She looked up quickly to see if there was a jeer behind those words but there was none. He was simply stating a fact. But it was a fact she still
would not believe--could not believe. She looked at him with slanting eyes that burned with a desperate obstinacy and the sudden hard line of jaw
that sprang out through her soft cheek was Gerald's jaw.

"Don't be a fool, Rhett! I can make--"

He flung up a hand in mock horror and his black brows went up in the old sardonic crescents.

"Don't  look  so determined, Scarlett! You frighten me. I see you are contemplating the transfer of your tempestuous affections from Ashley to me
and  I  fear  for  my  liberty  and my peace of mind. No, Scarlett, I will not be pursued as the luckless Ashley was pursued. Besides, I am going

Her  jaw trembled before she clenched her teeth to steady it. Go away? No, anything but that! How could life go on without him? Everyone had gone
from  her,  everyone  who  mattered  except  Rhett.  He  couldn't  go.  But  how could she stop him? She was powerless against his cool mind, his
disinterested words.

"I am going away. I intended to tell you when you came home from Marietta."

"You are deserting me?"

"Don't be the neglected, dramatic wife, Scarlett. The role isn't becoming. I take it, then, you do not want a divorce or even a separation? Well,
then, I'll come back often enough to keep gossip down."

"Damn gossip!" she said fiercely. "It's you I want. Take me with you!"

"No,"  he  said,  and  there  was  finality in his voice. For a moment she was on the verge of an outburst of childish wild tears. She could have
thrown herself on the floor, cursed and screamed and drummed her heels. But some remnant of pride, of common sense stiffened her. She thought, if
I  did, he'd only laugh, or just look at me. I mustn't bawl; I mustn't beg. I mustn't do anything to risk his contempt. He must respect me even--
even if he doesn't love me.

She lifted her chin and managed to ask quietly:

"Where will you go?"

There was a faint gleam of admiration in his eyes as he answered.

"Perhaps to England--or to Paris. Perhaps to Charleston to try to make peace with my people."

"But you hate them! I've heard you laugh at them so often and--"

He shrugged.

"I  still laugh--but I've reached the end of roaming, Scarlett. I'm forty-five--the age when a man begins to value some of the things he's thrown
away  so  lightly  in youth, the clannishness of families, honor and security, roots that go deep-- Oh, no! I'm not recanting, I'm not regretting
anything  I've  ever done. I've had a hell of a good time--such a hell of a good time that it's begun to pall and now I want something different.
No,  I  never  intend  to  change  more  than  my  spots.  But  I  want  the  outer  semblance of the things I used to know, the utter boredom of
respectability--other  people's  respectability,  my  pet, not my own--the calm dignity life can have when it's lived by gentle folks, the genial
grace of days that are gone. When I lived those days I didn't realize the slow charm of them--"

Again  Scarlett  was  back  in  the  windy  orchard  of Tara and there was the same look in Rhett's eyes that had been in Ashley's eyes that day.
Ashley's  words  were  as  clear in her ears as though he and not Rhett were speaking. Fragments of words came back to her and she quoted parrot-
like: "A glamor to it--a perfection, a symmetry like Grecian art."

Rhett said sharply: "Why did you say that? That's what I meant."

"It was something that--that Ashley said once, about the old days."

He shrugged and the light went out of his eyes.

"Always Ashley," he said and was silent for a moment.

"Scarlett, when you are forty-five, perhaps you will know what I'm talking about and then perhaps you, too, will be tired of imitation gentry and
shoddy  manners  and  cheap  emotions. But I doubt it. I think you'll always be more attracted by glister than by gold. Anyway, I can't wait that
long  to  see.  And I have no desire to wait. It just doesn't interest me. I'm going to hunt in old towns and old countries where some of the old
times must still linger. I'm that sentimental. Atlanta's too raw for me, too new."

"Stop,"  she  said  suddenly. She had hardly heard anything he had said. Certainly her mind had not taken it in. But she knew she could no longer
endure with any fortitude the sound of his voice when there was no love in it.

He paused and looked at her quizzically.

"Well, you get my meaning, don't you?" he questioned, rising to his feet.

She threw out her hands to him, palms up, in the age-old gesture of appeal and her heart, again, was in her face.

"No," she cried. "All I know is that you do not love me and you are going away! Oh, my darling, if you go, what shall I do?"

For a moment he hesitated as if debating whether a kind lie were kinder in the long run than the truth. Then he shrugged.

"Scarlett, I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new.
What is broken is broken--and I'd rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived. Perhaps, if
I  were younger--" he sighed. "But I'm too old to believe in such sentimentalities as clean slates and starting all over. I'm too old to shoulder
the  burden  of constant lies that go with living in polite disillusionment. I couldn't live with you and lie to you and I certainly couldn't lie
to myself. I can't even lie to you now. I wish I could care what you do or where you go, but I can't."

He drew a short breath and said lightly but softly:

"My dear, I don't give a damn."

* * * * *

She  silently  watched  him go up the stairs, feeling that she would strangle at the pain in her throat. With the sound of his feet dying away in
the  upper  hall was dying the last thing in the world that mattered. She knew now that there was no appeal of emotion or reason which would turn
that  cool  brain  from  its  verdict.  She  knew now that he had meant every word he said, lightly though some of them had been spoken. She knew
because she sensed in him something strong, unyielding, implacable--all the qualities she had looked for in Ashley and never found.

She  had  never  understood  either  of the men she had loved and so she had lost them both. Now, she had a fumbling knowledge that, had she ever
understood  Ashley,  she  would never have loved him; had she ever understood Rhett, she would never have lost him. She wondered forlornly if she
had ever really understood anyone in the world.

There  was  a merciful dullness in her mind now, a dullness that she knew from long experience would soon give way to sharp pain, even as severed
tissues, shocked by the surgeon's knife, have a brief instant of insensibility before their agony begins.

"I  won't  think  of  it  now,"  she thought grimly, summoning up her old charm. "I'll go crazy if I think about losing him now. I'll think of it

"But," cried her heart, casting aside the charm and beginning to ache, "I can't let him go! There must be some way!"

"I  won't  think  of  it  now," she said again, aloud, trying to push her misery to the back of her mind, trying to find some bulwark against the
rising tide of pain. "I'll--why, I'll go home to Tara tomorrow," and her spirits lifted faintly.

She  had  gone back to Tara once in fear and defeat and she had emerged from its sheltering walls strong and armed for victory. What she had done
once, somehow--please God, she could do again! How, she did not know. She did not want to think of that now. All she wanted was a breathing space
in  which  to  hurt,  a quiet place to lick her wounds, a haven in which to plan her campaign. She thought of Tara and it was as if a gentle cool
hand were stealing over her heart. She could see the white house gleaming welcome to her through the reddening autumn leaves, feel the quiet hush
of  the  country  twilight coming down over her like a benediction, feel the dews falling on the acres of green bushes starred with fleecy white,
see the raw color of the red earth and the dismal dark beauty of the pines on the rolling hills.

She  felt  vaguely comforted, strengthened by the picture, and some of her hurt and frantic regret was pushed from the top of her mind. She stood
for  a  moment  remembering  small things, the avenue of dark cedars leading to Tara, the banks of cape jessamine bushes, vivid green against the
white walls, the fluttering white curtains. And Mammy would be there. Suddenly she wanted Mammy desperately, as she had wanted her when she was a
little girl, wanted the broad bosom on which to lay her head, the gnarled black hand on her hair. Mammy, the last link with the old days.

With the spirit of her people who would not know defeat, even when it stared them in the face, she raised her chin. She could get Rhett back. She
knew she could. There had never been a man she couldn't get, once she set her mind upon him.

"I'll  think  of  it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another



End of this Meredy.com E-book Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell