Day Three: Chapters 6 and 7

The sights and smells and sounds of a barbecue…

“They crossed the river and the carriage mounted the hill. Even before Twelve Oaks came into view Scarlett saw a haze of smoke hanging lazily in the tops of the tall trees and smelled the mingled savory odors of burning hickory logs and roasting pork and mutton. The barbecue pits, which had been slowly burning since last night, would now be long troughs of rose-red embers, with the meats turning on spits above them and the juices trickling down and hissing into the coals. Scarlett knew that the fragrance carried on the faint breeze came from the grove of great oaks in the rear of the big house.”

“The house seemed bursting with the crowd, and a ceaseless babble of talking and laughter and giggles and shrill feminine squeaks and screams rose and fell.”

“As the smell of crisp fresh pork came to her, Scarlett wrinkled her nose appreciatively, hoping that by the time it was cooked she would feel some appetite. As it was she was so full of food and so tightly laced that she feared every moment she was going to belch. That would be fatal, as only old men and very old ladies could belch without fear of social disapproval.”

The descriptions of this scene can with some imagination make your mouth water. I love barbecue. I love it. It think sometimes it even smells better than it tastes. I am crazy about the smell of barbecue. When I go to my favorite restaurant, it’s the smell that entices me. Arriving in the parking lot, opening up the car door, and boom…the scent of heaven itself. My family laughs at me–and you can laugh at me too–but I have often said that I wish they’d bottle the smell of barbecue. I’m not into scents–lotions and perfumes and whatnot–but if I was, I’d want to barbecue flavored. Mom always laughs and says that dogs would follow me wherever I went. Anyway, I would encourage you to pick up on some of the cues of this chapter and see which of the senses Mitchell employs in her writing.

The description of Twelve Oaks…

I think Hollywood mistook Mitchell’s vision of Twelve Oaks and placed it on Tara as well…

“They topped the rise and the white house reared its perfect symmetry before her, tall of columns, wide of verandas, flat of roof, beautiful as a woman is beautiful who is so sure of her charm that she can be generous and gracious to all. Scarlett loved Twelve Oaks even more than Tara, for it had a stately beauty, a mellowed dignity that Gerald’s house did not possess.”

Our FIRST glimpse of Rhett Butler…

As she chattered and laughed and cast quick glances into the house and the yard, her eyes fell on a stranger, standing alone in the hall, staring at her in a cool impertinent way that brought her up sharply with a mingled feeling of feminine pleasure that she had attracted a man and an embarrassed sensation that her dress was too low in the bosom. He looked quite old, at least thirty-five. He was a tall man and powerfully built. Scarlett thought she had never seen a man with such wide shoulders, so heavy with muscles, almost too heavy for gentility. When her eye caught his, he smiled, showing animal-white teeth below a close-clipped black mustache. He was dark of face, swarthy as a pirate, and his eyes were as bold and black as any pirate’s appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished. There was a cool recklessness in his face and a cynical humor in his mouth as he smiled at her, and Scarlett caught her breath. She felt that she should be insulted by such a look and was annoyed with herself because she did not feel insulted. She did not know who he could be, but there was undeniably a look of good blood in his dark face. It showed in the thin hawk nose over the full red lips, the high forehead and the wide-set eyes.

Isn’t that a delicious description? The stuff that makes women read romance novels to begin with?

Compare Rhett’s introduction with that of Charles Hamilton and Frank Kennedy. (In that order.)

Scarlett spoke pleasantly to her and started up the wide stairs. As she did, a shy voice behind her called her name and, turning, she saw Charles Hamilton. He was a nice-looking boy with a riot of soft brown curls on his white forehead and eyes as deep brown, as clean and as gentle as a collie dog’s. He was well turned out in mustard-colored trousers and black coat and his pleated shirt was topped by the widest and most fashionable of black cravats. A faint blush was creeping over his face as she turned for he was timid with girls. Like most shy men he greatly admired airy, vivacious, always-at-ease girls like Scarlett. She had never given him more than perfunctory courtesy before, and so the beaming smile of pleasure with which she greeted him and the two hands outstretched to his almost took his breath away.

Frank Kennedy might own more land than anyone in the County and he might have a very kind heart, but these things counted for nothing against the fact that he was forty, slight and nervous and had a thin ginger-colored beard and an old-maidish, fussy way about him. However, remembering her plan, Scarlett smothered her contempt and cast such a flashing smile of greeting at him that he stopped short, his arm outheld to Suellen and goggled at Scarlett in pleased bewilderment.

Yes, chapter six is an important chapter of firsts. Our first glimpses of Charles Hamilton, Frank Kennedy, Rhett Butler, and, of course, Melanie Hamilton and Ashley Wilkes. We’ve heard descriptions of Melanie and Ashley, but this is our first “in the flesh” introduction.

Her flirtation with Charles is just too much…

“Why Charles Hamilton, you handsome old thing, you! I’ll bet you came all the way down here from Atlanta just to break my poor heart!”
Charles almost stuttered with excitement, holding her warm little hands in his and looking into the dancing green eyes. This was the way girls talked to other boys but never to him. He never knew why but girls always treated him like a younger brother and were very kind, but never bothered to tease him. He had always wanted girls to flirt and frolic with him as they did with boys much less handsome and less endowed with this world’s goods than he. But on the few occasions when this had happened he could never think of anything to say and he suffered agonies of embarrassment at his dumbness. Then he lay awake at night thinking of all the charming gallantries he might have employed; but he rarely got a second chance, for the girls left him alone after a trial or two. Even with Honey, with whom he had an unspoken understanding of marriage when he came into his property next fall, he was diffident and silent. At times, he had an ungallant feeling that Honey’s coquetries and proprietary airs were no credit to him, for she was so boy-crazy he imagined she would use them on any man who gave her the opportunity. Charles was not excited over the prospect of marrying her, for she stirred in him none of the emotions of wild romance that his beloved books had assured him were proper for a lover. He had always yearned to be loved by some beautiful, dashing creature full of fire and mischief. And here was Scarlett O’Hara teasing him about breaking her heart! He tried to think of something to say and couldn’t, and silently he blessed her because she kept up a steady chatter which relieved him of any necessity for conversation. It was too good to be true.
“Now, you wait right here till I come back, for I want to eat barbecue with you. And don’t you go off philandering with those other girls, because I’m mighty jealous,” came the incredible words from red lips with a dimple on each side; and briskly black lashes swept demurely over green eyes.
“I won’t,” he finally managed to breathe, never dreaming that she was thinking he looked like a calf waiting for the butcher.
Tapping him lightly on the arm with her folded fan, she turned to start up the stairs and her eyes again fell on the man called Rhett Butler who stood alone a few feet away from Charles. Evidently he had overheard the whole conversation, for he grinned up at her as maliciously as a tomcat, and again his eyes went over her, in a gaze totally devoid of the deference she was accustomed to.

Scarlett has definitely noticed Rhett. Just like he’s definitely noticed her! She goes upstairs and gossips about that black-haired gentleman with one of her girl pals.

“Oh, Scarlett, he has the most terrible reputation. His name is Rhett Butler and he’s from Charleston and his folks are some of the nicest people there, but they won’t even speak to him. Caro Rhett told me about him last summer. He isn’t any kin to her family, but she knows all about him, everybody does. He was expelled from West Point. Imagine! And for things too bad for Caro to know. And then there was that business about the girl he didn’t marry.”
“Do tell me!”
“Darling, don’t you know anything? Caro told me all about it last summer and her mama would die if she thought Caro even knew about it. Well, this Mr. Butler took a Charleston girl out buggy riding. I never did know who she was, but I’ve got my suspicions. She couldn’t have been very nice or she wouldn’t have gone out with him in the late afternoon without a chaperon. And, my dear, they stayed out nearly all night and walked home finally, saying the horse had run away and smashed the buggy and they had gotten lost in the woods. And guess what–”
“I can’t guess. Tell me,” said Scarlett enthusiastically, hoping for the worst.
“He refused to marry her the next day!”
“Oh,” said Scarlett, her hopes dashed.
“He said he hadn’t–er–done anything to her and he didn’t see why he should marry her. And, of course, her brother called him out, and Mr. Butler said he’d rather be shot than marry a stupid fool. And so they fought a duel and Mr. Butler shot the girl’s brother and he died, and Mr. Butler had to leave Charleston and now nobody receives him,” finished Cathleen triumphantly…”

After that brief conversation, we flash ahead to the barbecue itself. We next see Scarlett surrounded by young men all hoping for her attention and affection.

The young women, the belles, are in sharp contrasts to the matrons.

“Matrons, regardless of their ages, always grouped together apart from the bright-eyed girls, beaux and laughter, for there were no married belles in the South. From Grandma Fontaine, who was belching frankly with the privilege of her age, to seventeen year- old Alice Munroe, struggling against the nausea of a first pregnancy, they had their heads together in the endless genealogical and obstetrical discussions that made such gatherings very pleasant and instructive affairs. Casting contemptuous glances at them, Scarlett thought that they looked like a clump of fat crows. Married women never had any fun. It did not occur to her that if she married Ashley she would automatically be relegated to arbors and front parlors with staid matrons in dull silks, as staid and dull as they and not a part of the fun and frolicking. Like most girls, her imagination carried her just as far as the altar and no further.”

We see Scarlett gay and happy on the outside but miserable on the inside.

Here is our first glimpse of Melanie:

“She looked–and was–as simple as earth, as good as bread, as transparent as spring water. But for all her plainness of feature and smallness of stature, there was a sedate dignity about her movements that was oddly touching and far older than her seventeen years.”

So Scarlett, the life of the party, is miserable and no one knows of it except Rhett Butler…

“He had been watching her and when she looked at him he laughed outright. Scarlett had an uneasy feeling that this man who was not received was the only one present who knew what lay behind her wild gaiety and that it was affording him sardonic amusement. She could have clawed him with pleasure too.”

And just like in the movie, Scarlett notices the two love birds, Ashley and Melanie, and seeks revenge by flirting with Charles. Poor clueless Charles.

“It was a wonderful day for Charles, a dream day, and he had fallen in love with Scarlett with no effort at all.”

Then there is talking of war amongst the men, as the women wait to go take their afternoon naps. Charles DOES NOT join in the talk, but rather stays around Scarlett and attempts a romantic, charming proposal. It’s not his fault that Scarlett is so hard-hearted and cruel.

While the rest of the ladies are actually you know being ladies, Scarlett remains downstairs and waits for her opportunity to pounce Ashley.

And then she has her big chance in the library.

“You must not say these things, Scarlett! You mustn’t. You don’t mean them. You’ll hate yourself for saying them, and you’ll hate me for hearing them!”

She jerked her head away. A hot swift current was running through her.

“I couldn’t ever hate you. I tell you I love you and I know you must care about me because–” She stopped. Never before had she seen so much misery in anyone’s face. “Ashley, do you care–you do, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he said dully. “I care.”
If he had said he loathed her, she could not have been more frightened. She plucked at his sleeve, speechless.
“Scarlett,” he said, “can’t we go away and forget that we have ever said these things?”
“No,” she whispered. “I can’t. What do you mean? Don’t you want to–to marry me?”

The scene continues with her pleading, and his firm refusal and pitying looks.

“Love isn’t enough to make a successful marriage when two people are as different as we are. You would want all of a man, Scarlett, his body, his heart, his soul, his thoughts. And if you did not have them, you would be miserable. And I couldn’t give you all of me. I couldn’t give all of me to anyone. And I would not want all of your mind and your soul. And you would be hurt, and then you would come to hate me–how bitterly! You would hate the books I read and the music I loved, because they took me away from you even for a moment. And I–perhaps I–”
“Do you love her?”
“She is like me, part of my blood, and we understand each other. Scarlett! Scarlett! Can’t I make you see that a marriage can’t go on in any sort of peace unless the two people are alike?”

Not to break up the scene, but did you notice what HE left out. It speaks volumes! He doesn’t want her mind and soul. But oh how he wants her body.

Scarlett is still not getting the big picture. And Ashley changes tactics several more times finally concluding that,

“How could I help caring for you– you who have all the passion for life that I have not? You who can love and hate with a violence impossible to me? Why you are as elemental as fire and wind and wild things and I–”

But eventually Scarlett snaps and lets her anger be known with a slap across the face.

The first conversation between Scarlett and Rhett:

“This,” said a voice from the depths of the sofa, “is too much.”
Nothing had ever startled or frightened her so much, and her mouth went too dry for her to utter a sound. She caught hold of the back of the chair, her knees going weak under her, as Rhett Butler rose from the sofa where he had been lying and made her a bow of exaggerated politeness.
“It is bad enough to have an afternoon nap disturbed by such a passage as I’ve been forced to hear, but why should my life be endangered?”
He was real. He wasn’t a ghost. But, saints preserve us, he had heard everything! She rallied her forces into a semblance of dignity.
“Sir, you should have made known your presence.”
“Indeed?” His white teeth gleamed and his bold dark eyes laughed at her. “But you were the intruder. I was forced to wait for Mr. Kennedy, and feeling that I was perhaps persona non grata in the back yard, I was thoughtful enough to remove my unwelcome presence here where I thought I would be undisturbed. But, alas!” he shrugged and laughed softly.
Her temper was beginning to rise again at the thought that this rude and impertinent man had heard everything–heard things she now wished she had died before she ever uttered.
“Eavesdroppers–” she began furiously.
“Eavesdroppers often hear highly entertaining and instructive things,” he grinned. “From a long experience in eavesdropping, I–”
“Sir,” she said, “you are no gentleman!”
“An apt observation,” he answered airily. “And, you, Miss, are no lady.” He seemed to find her very amusing, for he laughed softly again. “No one can remain a lady after saying and doing what I have just overheard. However, ladies have seldom held any charms for me. I know what they are thinking, but they never have the courage or lack of breeding to say what they think. And that, in time, becomes a bore. But you, my dear Miss O’Hara, are a girl of rare spirit, very admirable spirit, and I take off my hat to you. I fail to understand what charms the elegant Mr. Wilkes can hold for a girl of your tempestuous nature. He should thank God on bended knee for a girl with your–how did he put it?–’passion for living,’ but being a poor-spirited wretch–”
“You aren’t fit to wipe his boots!” she shouted in rage.
“And you were going to hate him all your life!” He sank down on the sofa and she heard him laughing.
If she could have killed him, she would have done it. Instead, she walked out of the room with such dignity as she could summon and banged the heavy door behind her.

Scarlett’s day keeps getting worse as she overhears other girls talking about her earlier flirtations. One of the first things that pops into Scarlett’s head was that if she could just be magically transported back to Tara everything would be fine. All could be well again. Even at this early point, Tara and Ellen are seen as magical cures for whatever ails her. But at the same time, she knows she has to be strong and proud and put on a show still.

The decision that changes everything…

Charles catches Scarlett and tells her excitedly that the war has started. He then guides her to a bench and once again attempts a romantic proposal. While he’s stammering through it, she’s thinking to herself…

“He has a lot of money,” she was thinking swiftly, as a thought and a plan went through her brain. “And he hasn’t any parents to bother me and he lives in Atlanta. And if I married him right away, it would show Ashley that I didn’t care a rap–that I was only flirting with him. And it would just kill Honey. She’d never, never catch another beau and everybody’d laugh fit to die at her. And it would hurt Melanie, because she loves Charles so much. And it would hurt Stu and Brent–” She didn’t quite know why she wanted to hurt them, except that they had catty sisters. “And they’d all be sorry when I came back here to visit in a fine carriage and with lots of pretty clothes and a house of my own. And they would never, never laugh at me.”

Having made up her mind…she flutters her eye lashes…

“Will you wait for me, Miss Scarlett? It–it would be Heaven just knowing that you were waiting for me until after we licked them!” He hung breathless on her words, watching the way her lips curled up at the corners, noting for the first time the shadows about these corners and thinking what it would mean to kiss them. Her hand, with palm clammy with perspiration, slid into his.
“I wouldn’t want to wait,” she said and her eyes were veiled.
He sat clutching her hand, his mouth wide open. Watching him from under her lashes, Scarlett thought detachedly that he looked like a gigged frog. He stuttered several times, closed his mouth and opened it again, and again became geranium colored.
“Can you possibly love me?”
She said nothing but looked down into her lap, and Charles was thrown into new states of ecstasy and embarrassment. Perhaps a man should not ask a girl such a question. Perhaps it would be unmaidenly for her to answer it. Having never possessed the courage to get himself into such a situation before, Charles was at a loss as to how to act. He wanted to shout and to sing and to kiss her and to caper about the lawn and then run tell everyone, black and white, that she loved him. But he only squeezed her hand until he drove her rings into the flesh.
“You will marry me soon, Miss Scarlett?”
“Um,” she said, fingering a fold of her dress.

Her “yes” such as it is makes him wild with happiness. “He looked down at her radiantly, his whole clean simple heart in his eyes. She had never had anyone look at her thus before and would never have it from any other man,
but in her queer detachment she only thought that he looked like a calf.”

Chapter 7

The first sentence of chapter seven says it all: “Within two weeks Scarlett had become a wife, and within two months more she was a widow. She was soon released from the bonds she had assumed with so much haste and so little thought, but she was never again to know the careless freedom of her unmarried days. Widowhood had crowded closely on the heels of marriage but, to her dismay, motherhood soon followed.”

Her engagement. Her wedding. Her wedding night. Her honeymoon. Everything a blurry nightmare for Scarlett.

The reality was the blushing Charles, emerging from her dressing room in his nightshirt, avoiding the startled look she gave him over the high-pulled sheet. Of course, she knew that married people occupied the same bed but she had never given the matter a thought before. It seemed very natural in the case of her mother and father, but she had never applied it to herself. Now for the first time since the barbecue she realized just what she had brought on herself. The thought of this strange boy whom she hadn’t really wanted to marry getting into bed with her, when her heart was breaking with an agony of regret at her hasty action and the anguish of losing Ashley forever, was too much to be borne. As he hesitatingly approached the bed she spoke in a hoarse whisper.
“I’ll scream out loud if you come near me. I will! I will–at the top of my voice! Get away from me! Don’t you dare touch me!”

So Charles Hamilton spent his wedding night in an armchair in the corner, not too unhappily, for he understood, or thought he understood, the modesty and delicacy of his bride. He was willing to wait until her fears subsided, only–only– He sighed as he twisted about seeking a comfortable position, for he was going away to the war so very soon.

The next night, after the wedding of Melanie and Ashley,

That night after Mammy had helped her undress and had departed and Charles had emerged shyly from the dressing room, wondering if he was to spend a second night in the horsehair chair, she burst into tears. She cried until Charles climbed into bed beside her and tried to comfort her, cried without words until no more tears would come and at last she lay sobbing quietly on his shoulder.

A few months later, her husband was dead. She found even worse than being married to a man she had an “active contempt” for was having to bear the child of that man.

“Scarlett had wept with despair at the knowledge that she was pregnant and wished that she were dead. But she carried the child through its time with a minimum of discomfort, bore him with little distress and recovered so quickly that Mammy told her privately it was downright common–ladies should suffer more. She felt little affection for the child, hide the fact though she might. She had not wanted him and she resented his coming and, now that he was here, it did not seem possible that he was hers, a part of her.”

The birth of her son, Wade, left her depressed and miserable. And to “cheer” her up, her parents packed her up and sent her visiting all the relatives in Savannah and Charleston.

The chapter concludes with her decision to go to Atlanta to visit Melanie and Aunt Pitty.

This is the end of the first part.

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