Saturday, March 13, 2010

3. DID RHETT DESERT SCARLETT ON THE HIGHWAY?

GONE WITH THE WIND’s tawdriest insult to Rhett was that he deserted her and left her in harm’s way during the war.  Before they were married, Scarlett needed to flee Atlanta because it was under siege. All of north Georgia was infested with Yankees.  Years later, Scarlett accused him of deserting her.  After he heard her accusation for the first time, he said, “You lived to tell the tale, didn’t you, Scarlett my dear?  In fact, you never needed that pistol you carried, since you were on the shortcut road that no Northerner knew of.   You hardly missed a meal, since you were safe at home the next day.  Surviving the siege of Atlanta with all limbs intact, was your hope and prayer at the time, and your prayer was answered.  Shall I remind you of the names of the innocent civilians who died that night?”
Scarlett turned away from him, still shaking her head.  “It’s low down to ditch a woman, no matter when –“
“The Yankees spared you and you passed right through their lines.  Traveling unescorted was your only hope.  With a man packing iron by your side, you’d have been a target for Yankee snipers.”
“You saved yourself.”
“I was doomed already, there was no saving myself.  I starved and suffered exposure for the next six months, as a barefoot prisoner.  You, on the other hand, arrived at Tara without a scratch, ate home cookin’, and lived happily ever after.” 
“You survived too, Rhett, as you often remind me.”
“Alright.  But I was kind to help you flee Atlanta.  You were a sitting duck at Pittypat’s, and when the bombardment started, you were stunned.  I took you out of harm’s way, as far as the
Jonesboro Road
, where you knew your own way home without getting lost.”
She granted him that.
“That night on the road to Tara, when I departed from you, I was disgusted with your plan to rendezvous with Ashley Wilkes at Tara, under pretense of escorting Melly - - his own wife!  She was your lure, so Wilkes would return to Tara.  You hoped he’d become beholden to you, which has been your chief goal in life.
“Chief goal?  No, I’ve always placed my family above my personal concerns, high above romance.”
“Wilkes is family, in your mind,” Rhett said. 
“You’re silly.  You even call him by his family name.” 
“The name you wanted for yourself.”
“I didn’t want it enough to ask him to marry me.  If I wanted something, I wasn’t timid.  You know that.”
Rhett tugged at his mustache and said, “Timidity is like a chameleon.  It’s always peculiar, no matter how it changes.”
“I had my own scheme for helping you flee Atlanta. I had wanted some leverage on you and make you obliged to me in return.  I procured a horse and carriage for you and escorted you way down that road, despite the fact that, without a doubt it was Wilkes whom you adored, not me.  After I had you where I wanted you, however, I refrained from taking advantage of you.  Rather than forcing you to agree to be my mistress, or heaven forbid, to submit to my advances, I took pity upon you.  I didn’t bid adieu to you until you were in your own backyard - - Jonesboro, where you knew every horse trail blindfolded.  When I saw my scheme was hopeless, I quit.  No leverage could be had while you were longing for Wilkes.”  
 “You were jealous even when he was far away at war?  He was dead, as far as we knew!”
“Yep.  Why shouldn’t I be jealous?  You were in love with him when I was the one holding your hand.  You lived every moment for him, whether he was dead or alive.  You still do.” 
“Stop it,” she said.
“Even now, at this very minute, he’s the one you’re reminiscing about,” he said.  “You thought he was so noble, you couldn’t do enough to please him.  You’ll never stop reliving those days.”
“I’ve told you, I never really loved him.”
“You said that after he was gone.  If he appeared before you right now, you’d kiss his feet.”
As if she didn’t hear him, she said, “It took me a lifetime to realize it.”
 “Do you mean you wouldn’t play second fiddle to Ashley, so you gave up and quit loving me?” Scarlett said.
 “Yep, for the moment.  Not like I quit my father - - I quit him and his kin forever.  I could never please him, so I quit trying.  I quit them and the rest of Charleston, too, until he died.  I was an outsider - - a black sheep, a scoundrel.”
 “A loser?”
“That’s the modern word for it, but it’s not a word my father would’ve used.”
She nodded.
“I was a scoundrel when you met me, and I haven’t changed much since then.”
“It’s nothing to brag about.”
“You liked me well enough,” he grinned, “Scoundrel, loser or what-have-you.  You’re pleased with me and all of my circumstances,” he said, and spread his palms widely.
“Bragging - - that’s the difference between you and Ashley.  He doesn’t know how to brag, and he wouldn’t if his life depended on it.  You are an expert braggart, or should I say a professional –“
He shrugged.  “There’s an art to bragging, and I believe I’ve got the knack.”  
 “Yes, your formula’s at least two parts charm to one part gall.”
 She said, “Instead of deserting me on the Jonesboro Road, why didn’t you just tell me you were jealous, and give me a chance to reassure you, to pledge my devotion to you -“
“It was futile, since Tara was your only refuge.  And I protected you from the Yankees as long as I was able.  Any longer, and I’d have only drawn their attention.  With me, ya’ll were sitting ducks.  Without me, ya’ll could hope for mercy.  Besides, I wasn’t ready to die.  My only chance was to go it alone.”
“You had no cause to be jealous of Ashley.  He was true blue to Melanie while she was still alive.”
 “I had cause!  Listen to you now, adoring him.  You’ve always talked that way of him, and you always meant to have him for yourself.  With him at Tara, I’d never have your attention.  I bowed out and I got out of harm’s way.”
“Out of harm’s way?  You got straight into it, by joining the Georgia Militia.”
“I never joined.  Did you ever see me in a uniform?  Never.  I was dressed in civvies when you found me in the Yankee brig.”
 Scarlett said, “I don’t remember, it’s been years.”
“You’re the one who always calls me Captain, as if we live in a tug boat, not a mansion.”
         They both paused.  “I’ve been by your side for years, Scarlett.  You’re my wife - - my one and only.  You were my true love, even while married to other men.  But if I haven’t been devoted enough, I’ll probably keep trying.  It’s my nature to try to please you.”

3 comments:

  1. Andi O'Lena BlumeApril 2, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    Scarlett was quite a "vamp"--it was always me, me, me with her. Rhett was a scoundrel though so perhaps its all for the best.

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  2. You're not mean to Scarlett. She probably deserved it. However I love Gone With The Wind, Scarlett, Rhett and the entire crew.

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