Day Seven: Chapters 17-19

Chapter 17

The war is getting closer and closer to home. There is much talk of war, of course, and of the scarcity both on and off the front lines. The South is running out of food, out of supplies, and out of men. But such talk isn’t to be heard and approved of in polite company. Miss Pittypat does have a small dinner party. Rhett is still the outcast. But as he shows up–uninvited–just as the party is beginning, they all make the best of it. But the war, war, war talk is a bit much.

Scarlett is tired of the war, tired of the shortages, but above all tired of the nursing. She hates the sights and smells that accompany the soldiers and the hospitals. Who can blame her, really? The dead, the dying, the wounded sufferers moaning in agony with no comfort, no relief.

Scarlett does go on a ride with Rhett. There is some talk of kissing, and some talk of Ashley, and more talk about the war and the coming defeat of the South.

“I’ll bet you they will be here within the month. I’ll bet you a box of bonbons against–” His dark eyes wandered to her lips. “Against a kiss.”
For a last brief moment, fear of a Yankee invasion clutched her heart but at the word “kiss,” she forgot about it. This was familiar ground and far more interesting than military operations. With difficulty she restrained a smile of glee. Since the day when he gave her the green bonnet, Rhett had made no advances which could in any way be construed as those of a lover. He could never be inveigled into personal conversations, try though she might, but now with no angling on her part, he was talking about kissing.
“I don’t care for such personal conversation,” she said coolly and managed a frown.
“Besides, I’d just as soon kiss a pig.”
“There’s no accounting for tastes and I’ve always heard the Irish were partial to pigs–kept them under their beds, in fact. But, Scarlett, you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. All your beaux have respected you too much, though God knows why, or they have been too afraid of you to really do right by you. The result is that you are unendurably uppity. You should be kissed and by someone who knows how.” The conversation was not going the way she wanted it. It never did when she was with him. Always, it was a duel in which she was worsted. “And I suppose you think you are the proper person?” she asked with sarcasm, holding her temper in check with difficulty.
“Oh, yes, if I cared to take the trouble,” he said carelessly. “They say I kiss very well.”
“Oh,” she began, indignant at the slight to her charms. “Why, you . . .” But her eyes fell in sudden confusion. He was smiling, but in the dark depths of his eyes a tiny light flickered for a brief moment, like a small raw flame. “Of course, you’ve probably wondered why I never tried to follow up that chaste peck I gave you, the day I brought you that bonnet–”
“I have never–”
“Then you aren’t a nice girl, Scarlett, and I’m sorry to hear it. All really nice girls wonder when men don’t try to kiss them. They know they shouldn’t want them to and they know they must act insulted if they do, but just the same, they wish the men would try. . . . Well, my dear, take heart. Some day, I will kiss you and you will like it. But not now, so I beg you not to be too impatient.”
She knew he was teasing but, as always, his teasing maddened her. There was always too much truth in the things he said. Well, this finished him. If ever, ever he should be so ill bred as to try to take any liberties with her, she would show him.

Chapter 18

Atlanta’s under siege. They not only hear the battles these days, the fleeing, wounded soldiers are on their doorsteps, their yards. It’s REALLY not looking good. Thrown in these passages are a few phrases that remind you that war is frightening very frightening for those on the home front. The women–old and young–and the children. Poor Wade. Being told to go play outside and to not be a sissy when he’s afraid of the cannons and the noises of battles. He’s just a young boy, a boy unloved by his mother.

The chapter concludes with Miss Pittypat moving on to Macon to escape the war, and with Melanie and Scarlett staying on alone in Atlanta. Melanie is too far along in her pregnancy, much too frail to be moved. There are definitely complications and fears there that one or both could die if extreme care and precaution is not taken.

Chapter 19

Fear. Scarlett is afraid and scared. The fear is real and constant. Poor Wade is still being traumatized. He’s so very young and so afraid. “Wade was terrified to speechlessness by the shelling, and even when lulls came he clung to Scarlett’s skirts, too terrified to cry. He was afraid to go to bed at night, afraid of the dark, afraid to sleep lest the Yankees should come and get him, and the sound of his soft nervous whimpering in the night grated unendurably on her nerves. Secretly she was just as frightened as he was, but it angered her to be reminded of it every minute by his tense, drawn face.”

Uncle Henry who joined the soldiers in the last chapter or so brings back word that Ashley’s father–John Wilkes–is dead. The old men joined the war in the last chapter. And it was a terrible thing to see. The news is upsetting to Scarlett to say the least.

She also receives a letter from her father. She hears that her youngest sister is sick. Typhoid. She’s told not to come home because it isn’t safe.

Rhett. Her late night visit with Rhett. A shame this couldn’t have made it into the movie!

“It’s quite ungallant of you not to think that I might get hurt too,” she said tartly.
His eyes flickered with amusement.
“I’d back you against the Yankees any day.”
“I’m not sure that that’s a compliment,” she said uncertainly.
“It isn’t,” he answered. “When will you stop looking for compliments in men’s lightest utterances?”
“When I’m on my deathbed,” she replied and smiled, thinking that there would always be men to compliment her, even if Rhett never did.
“Vanity, vanity,” he said. “At least, you are frank about it.”

He’s not there to declare his undying love. (Though Scarlett wishes that were the case.) He’s there for quite another reason. “You hoped! Alas, to blight your hopes! I should love you, for you are charming and talented at many useless accomplishments. But many ladies have charm and accomplishments and are just as useless as you are. No, I don’t love you. But I do like you tremendously– for the elasticity of your conscience, for the selfishness which you seldom trouble to hide, and for the shrewd practicality in you which, I fear, you get from some not too remote Irish-peasant ancestor.” He goes on, “But there must be room in your heart for me too. Scarlett, do stop wriggling! I am making you a declaration. I have wanted you since the first time I laid eyes on you, in the hall of Twelve Oaks, when you were bewitching poor Charlie Hamilton. I want you more than I have ever wanted any woman–and I’ve waited longer for you than I’ve ever waited for any woman.”

He rose to his feet and, hand on heart, made her a burlesque bow.
“Dear,” he said quietly, “I am complimenting your intelligence by asking you to be my mistress without having first seduced you.”
Mistress!
Her mind shouted the word, shouted that she had been vilely insulted. But in that first startled moment she did not feel insulted. She only felt a furious surge of indignation that he should think her such a fool. He must think her a fool if he offered her a proposition like that, instead of the proposal of matrimony she had been expecting.

“Mistress! What would I get out of that except a passel of brats?”
And then her jaw dropped in horror as she realized what she had said. He laughed until he choked, peering at her in the shadows as she sat, stricken dumb, pressing her handkerchief to her mouth.
“That’s why I like you! You are the only frank woman I know, the only woman who looks on the practical side of matters without beclouding the issue with mouthings about sin and morality. Any other woman would have swooned first and then shown me the door.”

She’s angry, of course, and Rhett leaves.

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