When the twins left Scarlett standing on the porch of Tara and the last sound of flying hooves had died away, she went back to her chair like a sleepwalker.
Her face felt stiff as from pain and her mouth actually hurt from having stretched it, unwillingly, in smiles to prevent the twins from learning her secret.
She sat down wearily, tucking one foot under her, and her heart swelled up with misery, until it felt too large for her bosom.
It beat with odd little jerks; her hands were cold, and a feeling of disaster oppressed her.
There was pain and bewilderment in her face, the bewilderment of a pampered child who has always had her own way for the asking and who now, for the first time, was in contact with the unpleasantness of life.
Ashley to marry Melanie Hamilton!
Oh, it couldn't be true! The twins were mistaken. They were playing one of their cruel jokes on her. Ashley couldn't be in love with her. Nobody could, not with a mousy little person like Melanie.
Scarlett recalled with contempt Melanie's thin childish figure, her serious heart-shaped face that was plain almost to homeliness. And Ashley couldn't have seen her in months.
He hadn't been in Atlanta more than twice since the house party he gave last year at Twelve Oaks.
No, Ashley couldn't be in love with Melanie, because--oh, she couldn't be mistaken!--because he was in love with her! She, Scarlett, was the one he loved--she knew it!
Scarlett heard Mammy's lumbering tread shaking the floor of the hall and she hastily untucked her foot and tried to rearrange her face in more placid lines. It would not do for Mammy to suspect that anything was wrong.
Mammy felt that she owned the O'Hara's, body and soul, that their secrets were her secrets; and even a hint of a mystery was enough to set her upon the trail as relentlessly as a bloodhound.
Scarlett knew from experience that, if Mammy's curiosity were not immediately satisfied, she would take up the matter with Ellen, and then Scarlett would be forced to reveal everything to her mother, or think up some plausible lie.
Mammy emerged from the hall, a huge old woman with the small, shrewd eyes of an elephant. She was shining black, pure African, devoted to her last drop of blood to the O'Hara's, Ellen's mainstay, the despair of her three daughters, the terror of the other house servants.
Mammy was black, but her code of conduct and her sense of pride were was high as or higher than those of her owners. She had been raised in the bedroom of Solange Robillard, Ellen O'Hara's mother, a dainty, cold, high-nosed Frenchwoman, who spared neither her children nor her servants their just punishment for any infringement of decorum.
She had been Ellen's mammy and had come with her from Savannah to the up-country when she married.