Love in the time of sequels


September 27, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

THUS FAR, our story reads like this: spoiled, ruthless, unspeakably cruel and bitchy Scarlett O'Hara has broken her promise.

Originally vowing not to think about recapturing Rhett Butler's love until tomorrow, she has nevertheless spent the evening brokering her soul to the devil and scheming to win back her man.

We continue now with "Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind -- Part IV: A Woman Scorned."


In the cool, gray light of dawn, Scarlett found Rhett down at the stable, where he was involved in a heated poker game, seven-card no-peek.

"Oh, Brett," she began, feeling her heart flutter at the sound of his name.

"Uh, it's Rhett . . ."

"Well, of course it is, silly! You're my husband! Do you think I'd forget your name?!"

"Beats me. All I know is, you called me Brett. Full house, boys. Jacks over eights."

"I did? I called you Brett? With a B?"

Fearing she was losing her mind, Scarlett broke down in tears and rushed back to Tara. There she remained in seclusion for several months, beating the sharecroppers and ordering Mammy give her piggy-back rides around the mansion until summoning the courage to face Rhett again.

In the cool, gray light of evening, she found him playing cards in a nearby general store. The game was seven-card stud, deuces wild. Judging by the two floozies on his lap and the $100 bills in their cleavage, Rhett appeared to be winning.

"Rhett," she said, "I . . . I feel so foolish."

"We all make mistakes, Charlotte."

"Uh, that's Scarlett, darling . . ."

"Look, whatever your name is, I'm trying to concentrate. There's 250 bucks in that pot. Now beat it."

This wasn't working out at all, thought Scarlett as she rushed back to Tara, whipping the carriage horses unmercifully. Rhett seemed so cold, so distant. What had she ever done to deserve this?

Aside from her lying, her cold-hearted nature, her ruthless ambition, the way she held her love over his head like an ax, she had been the perfect wife.

Ashley was never like this. Oh, Ashley had his faults, not the least of which was the annoying habit of ending every sentence with the word "'kay?" ("We were walking through this orchard, 'kay? All of a sudden, I see these horses, 'kay? So we stop, 'kay? So then I . . . ")

God, it drove her crazy! But aside from that and the way he slurped his tea -- oh, and the way he spread butter on his bread, leaving huge chunks willy-nilly instead of a soft, delicate layer -- Ashley had been everything she wanted in a man.

Still, it was Rhett who consumed her thoughts now. Even the memory of her abrupt dismissal at the general store filled her with pleasure and a flushed feeling, not unlike influenza or a mild case of smallpox.

"Why, that Rhett Butler!" she cried as first the lead horse and then the other dropped from exhaustion. "If he's playing hard to get, he's got another think coming!"

That evening, after ordering Mammy to carry the grand piano from the ballroom to an upstairs bedroom, Scarlett carefully oiled the deer rifle her daddy had left her.

It was a magnificent weapon -- you could shoot the tail off a squirrel at 75 yards, something Scarlett had done many, many times. During winter, when squirrels were hard to find, she would aim at the elderly couple who often walked near Tara, taking pains to merely wing them in the leg or shoulder lest they complain to the marshal.

In any event, if she had to fill a few passers-by with lead and hold the rifle to Rhett's throat to maker her point, well, he was leaving her no choice.

In the cool, gray light of mid-morning, she found Rhett in the clearing down by the river. He was playing five-card draw, aces wild, with an unemployed blacksmith and two tinkers.

But he saw her scrambling out of the buckboard with the big deer rifle, her face grim and uncompromising, and promptly high-tailed it into the woods, ignoring her cries of "C'mon back here, you big sissy!"

Once again, she began the long ride back to Tara, furiously whipping the two sharecroppers who had generously taken the place of her two dead horses.

"Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get Rhett back," she sobbed. "After all, tomorrow is another day."

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