Day Eight: Chapters 20-23

Chapter 20

Tense chapter. Very tense. Waiting, waiting, and more waiting. Scarlett has heard again from her father. Now both her sisters and her mother are sick with typhoid. And the fighting. Either in Atlanta or in Jonesboro. Or in another settlement between her and Tara, there’s always fighting.

The chapter ends with Melanie telling Scarlett that ‘the time has come’ in other words, the baby is on his/her way. (Of course we know from the movie that it’s a boy, but still.) She wants Scarlett to raise him if she should die.

Chapter 21

This chapter makes the previous one seem tame. The baby is coming. Melanie is in agony. But worse still is the fact that the Confederate army is retreating, abandoning Atlanta. The Yankees are coming, and coming fast. Panic. Fear. Desperation.

The search for a doctor is on, but it’s not successful. And soon Prissy is confessing that she doesn’t know how to deliver a baby. Scarlett is on her own. This is where Scarlett gives Prissy a slap. And some might think this is harsh. But I don’t care if the person is white or black, Prissy has been might annoying and frustrating and deceitful. And Scarlett is so scared, so fearful of what’s coming, of the Yankees, of the coming baby, who wouldn’t be at least be tempted to take it out in one good slap across the face?

Chapter 22

The longest day of Scarlett’s life continues on into the night. Melanie has had a son. It was long and torturous, but it’s done with now. But as much as she’d like a chance to relax, she can’t forget that the Yankees are coming. That their lives–all their lives–are still in danger. It is here and now when she thinks of Rhett again since that last anger-filled (yet desire-filled) evening in July. (It’s August now).

She sends Prissy to go get Rhett.

Chapter 23

While Prissy is gone, Scarlett takes a few minutes to eat. It is her first chance to eat all day. The smell of smoke, the sight of flames–even in the distance–is enough to send her into full-out panic mode. Prissy returns with the news that Rhett is on his way. “She drew a long breath of relief. If there was any way of getting a horse, Rhett Butler would get one. A smart man, Rhett. She would forgive him anything if he got them out of this mess. Escape! And with Rhett she would have no fear. Rhett would protect them. Thank
God for Rhett! With safety in view she turned practical.”

Rhett arrives. But he doesn’t know quite what she wants or expects of him. After all, the Yankees do have Atlanta surrounded. He tries to discourage her from trying to go to Tara.

“I will go home!” she cried and her voice broke and rose to a scream. “I will go home! You can’t stop me! I will go home! I want my mother! I’ll kill you if you try to stop me! I will go home!”
Tears of fright and hysteria streamed down her face as she finally gave way under the long strain. She beat on his chest with her fists and screamed again: “I will! I will! If I have to walk every step of the way!”
Suddenly she was in his arms, her wet cheek against the starched ruffle of his shirt, her beating hands stilled against him. His hands caressed her tumbled hair gently, soothingly, and his voice was gentle too. So gentle, so quiet, so devoid of mockery, it did not seem Rhett Butler’s voice at all but the voice of some kind strong stranger who smelled of brandy and tobacco and horses, comforting smells because they reminded her of Gerald.
“There, there, darling,” he said softly. “Don’t cry. You shall go home, my brave little girl. You shall go home. Don’t cry.”
She felt something brush her hair and wondered vaguely through her tumult if it were his lips. He was so tender, so infinitely soothing, she longed to stay in his arms forever. With such strong arms about her, surely nothing could harm her.

Soon Rhett, Scarlett, Prissy, Melanie, Wade, and new baby are on their way, making their escape. They have the fire to worry about and both armies.

But as soon as they’ve made it out of town. Rhett has the audacity to leave her. He tells her, “Dear Scarlett! You aren’t helpless. Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you.”

Here is where we finally finally get his declaration:

“I’m not asking you to understand or forgive. I don’t give a damn whether you do either, for I shall never understand or forgive myself for this idiocy. I am annoyed at myself to find that so much quixoticism still lingers in me. But our fair Southland needs every man. Didn’t our brave Governor Brown say just that? Not matter. I’m off to the wars.” He laughed suddenly, a ringing, free laugh that startled the echoes in the dark woods.

“’I could not love thee, Dear, so much, loved I not Honour more.’ That’s a pat speech, isn’t it? Certainly better than anything I can think up myself, at the present moment. For I do love you, Scarlett, in spite of what I said that night on the porch last month.”

His drawl was caressing and his hands slid up her bare arms, warm strong hands. “I love you, Scarlett, because we are so much alike, renegades, both of us, dear, and selfish rascals. Neither of us cares a rap if the whole world goes to pot, so long as we are safe and comfortable.”

Then his arms went around her waist and shoulders and she felt the hard muscles of his thighs against her body and the buttons of his coat pressing into her breast. A warm tide of feeling, bewildering, frightening, swept over her, carrying out of her mind the time and place and circumstances. She felt as limp as a rag doll, warm, weak and helpless, and his supporting arms were so pleasant.
You don’t want to change your mind about what I said last month? There’s nothing like danger and death to give an added fillip. Be patriotic, Scarlett. Think how you would be sending a soldier to his death with beautiful memories.”

He was kissing her now and his mustache tickled her mouth, kissing her with slow, hot lips that were so leisurely as though he had the whole night before him. Charles had never kissed her like this. Never had the kisses of the Tarleton and Calvert boys made her go hot and cold and shaky like this. He bent her body backward and his lips traveled down her throat to where the cameo fastened her basque.
“Sweet,” he whispered. “Sweet.”

For those that are curious, “fillip” means ‘an embellishment that excites or stimulates.’ I certainly didn’t catch that when I was younger. 🙂

But the sound of Wade calling for her snaps her out of it. Anger. Indignation. Fury.

The chapter ends with his departure. She’s crying out her anger, desperation, and frustration.


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