|Gone With The Wind Fansite||
CHAPTER 5 IS UP!!! I know, its about time. Rhett will (hopefully) make an appearance in chapter 6. So here's the default message:
I've decided to start writing my own fanfiction, and this is the first one that I thought of.
All throughout the book, I never liked Ashley. (Okay, maybe a little bit at the beginning, but after the BBQ, I didn't like him AT ALL) So what if he died in the Klan raid instead of Frank? Would Rhett rejoice? What would Melanie do? Would Scarlett realize that she didn't really love him? Well, this is what I think would happen. PLEASE comment and tell me what you think!!!! :)
By the way, I know the beginning is similar to the scene in the book, but nothing is exactly copied.... I changed it a bit and put it in my own words.
*****Starts off when Rhett, Hugh, and Frank get to Melly's house and are acting drunk. Rhett is about to tell them where they were*****
Chapter 1-Where's Ashley?
"I think that I have a right to know where these men were, for..." Melanie began to stutter, but regained some of her confidence, "my husband was with them also."
"Well..." Rhett started, with a gleam of embarrassment shimmering from his eyes, "they were at Belle Watling's sporting house. Nearly all the men in the neighborhood were there. Hell, we had a good time! Me and Hugh and Ashley and Frank and Dr.Meade and the rest of us kept ourselves occupied with the champagne, cards, girls, and--"
"At..... at Belle Watling's?" Melanie spoke as if her whole body was being pricked with needles; needles so cold that they turned her blood to ice. Before anyone could react, she fainted. Immediately, Archie was trying to pick her up, India was slapping her wrists, and Aunt Pittypat was calling for the smelling salts.
Scarlett, through all this chaos and confusion, was seated motionless on her chair. "Were they really at Belle's?" She thought. "Or is this just a way for Rhett to embarrass decent people? And, oh God, where's Ashley? He must be-"
Scarlett's thoughts were interrupted by the shouts of Hugh Elsing. "Dammit, Rhett! Now you've done it! You could have told them we were at the Girl of The Period Saloon or.... Or anywhere else. But you have to tell them the truth that we were actually at Belle's? Now you've done it!"
Rhett's savage laugh broke it. "I hope you're happy, Tom. No wife in Atlanta will even look at her husband tomorrow."
"Alright," Tom stated, "So you take an oath that they were at er-- Belle's?"
"Yes, I do. You have my word.... as a gentleman." Rhett said with a mocking tone. "Go ask Belle if you don't believe me."
"You bet I will. I want all of these men to appear for questioning in the morning, despite their hangovers. Good night."
The Yankee police swiftly made their way out the door. Until the faint sound of the trots of their horses indicated that they had left, nobody dared to breathe. Everyone was looking at each other with hopeful, worried stares. But Rhett, as always, was as unreadable as a rock.
Questions were still stirring through Scarlett's head. "Why did Frank barely say a word? Did they really go to Belle's? Where were all the other men? And most importantly, where was Ashley?"
Scarlett did not know what to think. He wasn't dead, he couldn't be. There was no reason for him to die. Was he at Belle's? The thought of Ashley associating with that Watling creature made Scarlett want to belch. No, he wasn't there; he was too honorable for that. Was he still in Shantytown because Rhett couldn't give him the message in time? Or what if- if Ashley did this Scarlett would faint. What if he had to flee to Texas like Tony? "Oh no! Not seeing my darling Ashley ever again?!" The thought was too pitiful to be true. But then, where was her loving Ashley? If he died trying to protect Scarlett and her honor, that would be one thing that she would not be able to bare.
As soon as everyone was sure that the Yankees were gone, the mayhem resumed. Rhett looked at Melanie with a distressed look, then at Scarlett with mockery. He then rushed over to Frank and pulled his jacket off. Frank's normally white shirt was drenched in blood as red as the dirt on Tara.
"Frank!" Scarlett exclaimed. "What happened? Did a darkie in Shantytown shoot you?"
"Not now, Scarlett." Rhett broke in. "We haven't got much time. Hugh, carry Frank upstairs and set him down on the bed. India, go fetch a doctor. But not Doctor Meade, the Yankees are probably questioning him right now. Try Doctor Dean. Ms. Pittypat, is Mrs. Wilkes awake yet? There's something I need to... tell her...."
As Hugh carried Frank upstairs, Scarlett was torn. Should she go see how Frank was? Or should she ask about Ashley? Out of the corner of her eye, Scarlett saw Rhett whispering to Archie about something. "As fast as--- so they look like they fought--- don't let the Yankees--- Belle's---" That's all Scarlett heard before she saw Archie riding away as fast as a bullet. Oh, who was she kidding? If she didn't ask about Ashley, the curiosity would kill her.
"Shouldn't you be comforting your husband before you ask about another?"
"Oh, hush up. Frank's probably fine and--"
"No, I will not hush up my dear Mrs .Kennedy. Why? Because your husband may be bleeding to death this very moment, yet you want to ask about the whereabouts of the honorable Mr. Wilkes--"
Scarlett stared at him with an impatient glare. Why did he always know what she was thinking? "Oh, stop talking all that nonsense! Where is Ashley?"
"He's lying out on Decatur Road, next to Tommy Welburn. Shot through the head. Both of 'em."
Scarlett couldn't move. Rhett was lying. He just wanted to see her sulk when we said that.. Well, he wasn't going to get the satisfaction of it.
"Rhett, do be serious, really. Where is he?"
"I told you, Scarlett, he's dead. I'm as serious as I can be," Rhett remarked. "Now, if you'd excuse me, Mrs. Kennedy, I need to go see if Mrs. Wilkes is up so I can tell her the devastating news. You know, she's the only reason that I'm sorry he's dead. Miss Melly is a fine lady and doesn't deseve a heartbreak."
"Only reason?" Scarlett thought. There were many more people that would be affected by Ashley, including her.
"But--" she started.
"Oh, I don't want to hear all that stupid business about how he was a fine gentleman and how he ran your mills. He belonged in the old days, and died when Lee surrendered. You and I both know he's of that type. He's happier now." And with that, Rhett briskly walked out of the room.
Ashley-dead. No, it couldn't be true! But it was. Scarlett had to face the reality. Rhett had meant every word that he said. "He couldn't joke about such things, or could he?" Scarlett thought. "He never did like Ashley very much, and-- Oh, I can't think about it! I'll... I'll think about it tomorrow. I can stand it then."
Scarlett needed something to do to get her mind off Ashley. "Umm... I'll go see how Frank is. Yes, that should do it." She made her way up the stairs to the room that Frank was in. She hesitated while reaching for the doorknob. "Should I go in? Or is Frank hurt bad? I'll just ask." Scarlett gently knocked on the door. "May I come in?" She asked. "Its Scarlett."
"Yes, Mrs. Kennedy you can come in," answered Dr. Dean. Scarlett pushed the door open, and saw Frank lying on the bed with a bandaged shoulder. He looked as weak as a newborn kitten.
"What happened? Is he going to be alright?" Scarlett inquired.
"Yes, he should be fine. He's not badly injured, but Mr. Kennedy has lost a lot of blood. Oh, don't you worry Mrs. Kennedy," Dr. Dean said as he saw the distressed look on Scarlett's face. "He'll be fine. He should recover in a matter of days- one week at most."
But the uneasy look on Scarlett's face was not because of Frank's injuries. It was because of Ashley. "Oh, why couldn't Ashley be here instead of Frank?" She thought. "Oh, no. I mustn't think that. Mother would-" Scarlett quickly eluded the though from her mind.
Just as Scarlett was thinking of something to say, she heard a large thump coming from downstairs. "I'll go see what that sound was," she stated. She would give any excuse to get out of that room; It reminded her too much of Ashley. And how she killed him.
"What was that noise?" She wondered as she headed down the stairs. "Melly must have fainted because of Rhett's news about Ashley." Rhett... Why, Ashley dying wasn't all of her fault. "Its Rhett's fault too! He didn't get there in time to save Ashley and Tommy Welburn! Its not all my fault! Its not..." She sighed.
Oh, who was she kidding; it was her fault, and only her fault. She had to tell the truth to herself. Frank had told her not to go riding alone so many times. And what had she done? She ignored him. Every time, she ignored him. Of course, she had never though that she would get attacked, and she never thought that she would be the cause of Ashley's death.
As Scarlett neared the bottom of the stairs, she peered over to the parlor to see what was going on. Melanie was lying down, unconscious, on the sofa, India's face was buried in her hands, and Aunt Pitty was seated on the ground, with tears slowly rolling down her cheeks. "Should I go in?" Scarlett thought. But before she could make a choice, Rhett's eyes locked with hers'.
"Please come in, Mrs. Kennedy," Rhett drawled. Scarlett hesitantly walked in, but she didn't let any fright or sorrow show on her face, or in her eyes.
"At least with all these people around, Rhett can't mock me like he usually does. Especially at a time like this," she thought. Mockery was the last thing Scarlett wanted when her darling Ashley was taken from her so suddenly. Ellen, Gerald, her first husband, the Tarletons, the Calverts, along with the rest of her old beaux were gone. And now Ashley, too? Now her love? Who else was there that mattered? Melanie? Ashley was the only reason she pretended to like Melly. Wade and Ella? Although she hated to admit it, Scarlett knew she wasn't a good mother, she never had been. She didn't even want children in the first place! Melly was more of a mother to them than Scarlett ever had been. What about her own husband? What about Frank? Why, Scarlett had married Frank for money, out of desperation. Although she was fond of him, she wasn't Suellen! She didn't love him! It was Ashley whom she loved. Oh, her wonderful, beautiful Ashley...
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything, Scarlett," said Rhett. Why did he always interrupt her at the most inconvenient times?
"Oh, if we were alone," Scarlett thought, "I would give him a piece of my mind."
"As I once said, the one thing that gives me more amusement in the world is the sight of you during one of your mental struggles," Rhett chuckled.
"Fiddle-dee-dee. The only reason I came down is because I heard a loud noise and was wondering what it was," said Scarlett, with dignity.
"Oh, that was probably Miss Melly. She fainted after I wold her the news about... Mr. Ashley Wilkes."
With that statement, Aunt Pitty and India broke into what seemed like an uncontrollable river of tears. Scarlett, for once, didn't blame them about being weak. She wanted to cry as well. In fact, she felt that at any minute she would break into unstoppable bawling. But she stopped herself. If she started to cry, there was not stopping it. And not one tear was going to leave her eyes. Not one. Especially in front of Rhett. God knew that he would die laughing if he saw her cry.
"Well, it seems I must be going. I hope your husband feels better," Rhett remarked. "Good night, ladies," he said to a semi-conscious Melanie, and two crying women.
"Goodbye, Captain Butler," Aunt Pitty stuttered through muffled sobs.
"Well, aren't you going to be a good host and walk me out?" Rhett asked Scarlett.
"Fine," she retorted.
As Scarlett was about to close the front door, Rhett turned around. "Scarlett, you're probably cursing me in your head right now, but just know that I saved most of the men you know from being hanged, and prevented you mills from making far less profit than you are used to. You would have far less buyers for your lumber, and now you can get a man with a taste for business to manage your mills," he smirked. "Good night."
Scarlett slammed the door and turned around. She wanted to scream. She wanted to go in her room and never come out. She wanted to cry herself dry. But, she summoned up her gumption and said to herself, "No, I'll think about it tomorrow, when I can stand it. After all, tomorrow is another day. I'm not going to let this one loss get the best of me. I will live through this, unbroken."
Chapter 3- Conflicting Emotions:
Scarlett slept little that night. In fact, half the city was lying awake, terrified that the Yankees would burst in at any minute.
The news had spread rapidly all over Atlanta. It didn’t take long, for most of the men had gone on the raid, and they were all saved by Rhett. Irony, they called it. One of the town’s most hated men had saved the lives of some of the town’s most honorable men. Rhett Butler, of all people.
Nobody wanted to owe their lives to a renegade. But, whether they liked it or not, Rhett Butler saved their men. Captain Butler lied to the Yankees, and even risked his own life in the process. Why, they asked? He wasn’t accepted by the Old Guard and he knew it. He wasn’t, or at least didn’t act like he was fond of any of the men he saved. So why save them? What did Rhett owe them? Why would he put his own life on the line to save people who couldn’t care less if he was hanged? The citizens of Atlanta could only think of one answer. Scarlett.
Everyone had known about their “coincidental” meetings when Scarlett was visiting her mills while she was pregnant. Why, Rhett didn’t leave town until she was forced to stay in the house by Frank and Aunt Pitty! There was always something going on between those two. Ever since Rhett bid for the widow Hamilton at the bazaar, the moment she boldly accepted, they had been one of the town’s most scandalous sources of gossip. Neither of them seemed to care, though. In fact, Scarlett getting attacked just gave the Old Guard another thing to talk about! Then, Rhett saving all the men, with the exception of Tommy Welburn and Ashley Wilkes didn’t seem like the result of Rhett not getting to Shantytown in time…
Some people thought that Rhett purposely let Ashley die. Others thought that Rhett personally shot Ashley in the head. One way or another, there were a few people who thought that Rhett had a part in Ashley’s death. Everyone knew that Scarlett was a little too fond of Ashley, and that Rhett was a little too fond of Scarlett. Rhett needed to satisfy his ‘lust’ for Scarlett, and the citizens of Atlanta thought that made sure that Ashley was out of the way. But if Rhett wanted Scarlett all to himself, why didn’t he get rid of Frank also? He was her husband, after all. Rumor had it that Rhett though Frank’s wound would kill him. Although the people knew that Frank hadn’t died in the raid, they had no idea what his current condition was. Not even Scarlett knew.
Scarlett lay awake in bed, unable to sleep for two reasons. The first reason was that her mind was unable to comprehend the many thoughts that she had been thinking. The second reason was that she was scared that if she fell asleep, she would have the nightmare where she was running through the mist.
She refused to sleep in the same room as Frank for the night. She didn’t want to constantly be reminded of what she had done. The only things that her mind was able to get a grasp upon were the memories of Ashley that were locked away inside her heart.
All of those wonderful days that Ashley had been in her life. The day she told him she loved him; when she kissed him goodbye; that day out in the orchard… and even the little memories were coming back. Like when they were taking a walk one evening and Scarlett tripped and sprained her ankle. Ashley carried her all the way home! Or those days when they would daze off into the lazy, yet beautiful, Georgia sky, while he read from one of his poetry books. But she was so young then. Why didn’t she tell him that she loved him before?
Well, she didn’t know that she loved him until he came back from Europe, when she saw his handsome face again after two long years. His golden hair was gleaming in the afternoon sunlight, his gray eyes were twinkling, and everything about him was just perfect! The amount of love that she held for him that one moment was indescribable.
“Why was I such a fool then?” Scarlett thought to herself. “If I confessed my love for him before, he would have never married Melanie and everything would be different! And if everything were different… he wouldn’t be dead right now because of me.”
The acceptance of guilt began to fall upon Scarlett. She knew that she had to acknowledge that Ashley was gone. Her sweet, charming Ashley was gone and there was nothing she could do about it.
“But there must be something to do about it!” Scarlett thought. “If Ashley is dead, then his love has died with him.” Ashley’s love; the only thing, other than Tara, that helped her to endure life. How could she tolerate the rest of her life without the knowledge that he secretly loved her?
Scarlett sometimes liked to think of her and Ashley’s relationship as ‘forbidden love.’ Although they belonged together, both were married to others. Even though they both kept their love a secret from everyone, the love that they shared was pure.
“Our love was so true! And now I have to go on without his heart? How can I do it?” Scarlett thought as she cried quietly to herself.
“Well,” she started, “It won’t be that different. The closest to alone I’ve had him since the orchard was when I went to go visit him at the mills! And there’s nothing private or romantic about the mills at all.”
“The mills!” Scarlett’s business-woman-like-mind thought. “Who will run the mills now without Ashley? All the men in town have jobs and… oh, I can’t think about that now, I’ll think about it tomorrow,” She said to herself, summoning up her old charm that she always used in times of confusion and defeat. But the one thing that she couldn’t stop thinking about was Ashley. He was stuck to her mind like glue to paper. “How can I stop thinking about him? I loved him with all my heart and now he’s gone! Oh I… but I cannot become melancholy and sulk around waiting for him like an old maid for the rest of my life! No matter how much I loved him, I won’t let the fact that he is gone lick me. I’ve gotten this far in life, and I can’t let all of my suffering and hard work go to waste. Despite Ashley’s death, my life will go about as unchanged as possible,” Scarlett promised herself.
But, if she loved him so much, how could he get over his death that quickly? When you are in love, aren’t you supposed to love that person with every fiber of your being? You are not supposed to feel complete without them! Then why did Scarlett’s heart feel unharmed? Why wasn’t there a gaping hole, someone missing in her life? “Is this really how it is supposed to feel when your true love is dead?” Scarlett wondered. “If I do not miss Ashley dreadfully, does that mean that I didn’t really love him?” She threw the thought away from her mind as fast as she could, but it refused to move or go away. “Great balls of fire, of course I loved him! I loved everything about him… because everything about him was absolutely perfect. But he is gone now.”
Scarlett didn’t miss him nearly half as much as she thought she could. But why was that? She did love him, didn’t she?
Chapter 4-Different Perspectives:
The next morning, Scarlett awoke to the soft tapping of knocks on her door. “Miz Scarlett, is you up?” Asked Mammy.
“Yes Mammy, I’m up; come in,” answered Scarlett, drowsily. Mammy burst into the room, her eyes swollen from crying, her face wet with tears.
“Miz Scarlett, I dun no wut we is gun’ do wit Miss Melly. She been here since da crack uf dawn, jus sobbin bout Mist’ Ashley like there ain’t no tomorruh. Her heart’s dun broke untuh million pieces.”
Ashley. Of course, Melanie did not have the strength to get over Ashley’s death as Scarlett had. Although Scarlett had her heart pledged to Ashley and she knew that life would never be the same without him, she at least accepted the fact that he was gone. Melanie did not have that quality.
“She bin askin fer ya evuh since she git here. Miz Scarlett, you has got to do sumtin.”
Did Scarlett really have to go comfort Melanie? Ashley was the last thing she wanted to talk about, and conversing with his widow would not lift her spirits. “But,” she thought, “I did promise Ashley that I would look after her. I haven’t broken that promise yet and I’m not going to do it now.”
“Alright Mammy,” she said aloud. “Tell her I’ll be right down.”
After she was done dressing, Scarlett glanced at herself in the mirror. She was in black from head to toe. Mourning again- Scarlett had never understood this tradition. The first time she had went into mourning, she was young, too young to be a widow in her opinion, and didn’t feel anything except pity for herself. Then there was Ellen and Gerald and everyone else in between, and now Ashley? Even if she wore black for the rest of her life, that could not nearly show the amount of agony that was going through her heart. (Well, the agony that should have been in her heart)
“I won’t fret over Ashley now. I can’t!” Scarlett thought. “I’m going to go down and talk to Melly, and I have to help her get through this. If I don’t, she’ll never get over him.”
As Scarlett was stepping through the parlor, she saw Wade talking to Melanie, who from the look on her face, was trying very hard not to crumble from the sadness of losing Ashley.
“When Uncle Ashley fought Sherman, was he brave?”
“Why, yes darling. He was very brave,” Melanie replied, with pride in her eyes.
“Good morning Melly, Wade.”
“Wade, go and play with Beau,” Scarlett commanded.
“But Beau doesn’t wanna play. He’s too sad!”
“Oh, the poor thing,” Scarlett said, trying to act sympathetic around Melanie. “Have you had breakfast? Go tell Mammy to make you something to eat.”
“Mammy’s busy with Ella.”
“Well, run upstairs or do something. I need to talk to Aunt Melly alone.”
“Yes, Momma,” Wade answered, and he left the room.
Once Scarlett and Melanie were alone, neither of them knew what to say. But Melanie’s heartbreak soon took over. “Oh, Scarlett!” She said in between muffled sobs. Melanie was slouched in the chair, her face buried in her hands.
“What’s wrong, Melly?”
“Oh, everything. Ashley is gone and now I… my heart and my life feel so empty without him.”
What a ninny. Melanie didn’t know what she was saying. Scarlett loved Ashley with all of her heart, yet she wasn't moping about. But, Scarlett had to help Melanie. She didn’t know whether it was her promise to Ashley or her inability to endure senseless people, but she knew had to help Melanie get over her husband. “Its okay, Melly,” Scarlett began, “You just have to be strong. Isn’t that what Ashley would want you to do?” Melanie nodded. “Right. You have to do what’s best to yourself and Beau and… and everyone else.” There. That speech, to Scarlett, seemed motivational enough. If that didn’t cheer Melly up, what would? Scarlett wasn't exactly good at playing the character with the loving heart.
“Scarlett, you’ve always been so brave. Like when dear Charlie died, and when we got to Tara in shreds, and when the Yankees wanted more tax money, and on numerous other occasions. I wish I was more like you.”
Scarlett wanted to roll her eyes. “Melly, you mustn’t say those things,” was all she managed to spit out.
“I feel that I must. You have been so dear to me; we’re sisters! And you’ve done so much for Beau and I and… Ashley… and dozens of other people. I don’t know where I would be without you.”
“Thank you,” Scarlett replied, although it sounded more like a question than a statement.
“How is poor Frank, Scarlett?”
Frank. Scarlett had almost forgotten about him! The last time she saw him was the night before. She hadn’t gone back to visit him after Melanie fainted. “Um… last night the doctor said…” What did the doctor say? While he was blabbering on, Scarlett’s mind was set on none other than Ashley. “The doctor said that he… he lost a lot of blood. He’ll be up and about in a week or so.”
“Thank Goodness he isn’t majorly injured,” Melanie said.
“Yes,” went Scarlett. Her conscience was finally dawning upon her. Frank was the one against her operating the mills from the start. Frank told her not to drive alone. Frank told her that area of town was dangerous. And what did she do? She ignored him. If only Scarlett had listened to him, then she wouldn’t be the cause of this enormous mess. Two men dead; quite a few wounded. Scarlett did that. It was almost as if she pulled the trigger herself. Why hadn’t she taken Frank’s word into consideration in the first place? She knew why. It was because Scarlett loathed it when people told her what to do. Something that Rhett had said long ago was coming back to her. “You like men who you can bully,” he said that the same night he asked her to be his mistress. But why was she thinking of Rhett now? Frank, and more importantly Ashley, was what she needed in her head right now. Why couldn’t Frank die instead of Ashley? Scarlett stopped herself; that thought was sinful. But deep down, she knew that she wished it was true.
“Melanie, I think I should go check on Fr-“a knock on the door interrupted their conversation. “I’ll go see who in Heaven’s name that is, calling on us so early in the morning,” Scarlett said irritably. She had other things to do! There was Frank and the store and the mills and new workers needed and so much more!
She opened the door to the person whom she never wanted to lay eyes on again. At least, she did not want to see them for the time being. “Rhett, what are you doing here?”
“Good morning to you too, Mrs. Kennedy.”
“Really, Rhett. I have things to do and-“
“Why do you presume I came to see you? There are other people in this establishment as well.”
“Then what are you here for?”
“I’m here to give my condolences to Mrs. Wilkes, if you wish to know so badly. Her home was unoccupied, so I guessed that she would be here.”
Rage filled all of Scarlett’s body. Why wouldn’t he ever tell the truth? “Oh, will you just stop trying to act like you’re sorry he’s dead? Everyone knows that you hate him and-”
“I thought we established that the only emotions I feel towards him are pity and a little contempt,” Rhett said, again with that mask on his face, blocking any emotion whatsoever.
“You just… never mind,” said Scarlett. Why was he so infuriating? He could be charming when he chose to be, but mostly, he was just rude.
“Scarlett, who- Why, Captain Butler, how nice to see you again,” Melanie stated as she walked towards the door.
“The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Wilkes,” Rhett tipped his hat to Melanie. Why was he always so nice to her?
“Do come in, Mr. Butler.”
As they sat down, Scarlett could see Melanie mentally preparing herself to not burst into tears again. “Captain Butler, I would just like to thank you for what you did for all of the men last night. Scarlett and Mrs. Meade and everyone else in town is extremely grateful for your brave and courageous actions.”
Rhett glanced at Scarlett with a knowing glint in his eyes. “Thank you, Mrs. Wilkes. I just wish I could have gotten there sooner.”
“Don’t we all?” Scarlett questioned.
“Yes, I guess we do,” Rhett replied.
“But what you did is still heroic,” Melanie said. Why was she so grateful if Rhett didn’t even save Ashley?
“I greatly appreciate your feelings, Mrs. Wilkes,” Rhett said with true sincerity. “I came to give my condolences for Mr. Wilkes. He was a very… honorable gentleman.”
“Thank you, Captain Butler.” Scarlett could tell that Melanie was going to tear up any minute now. “I miss him a great deal already.”
“That is understandable. I am sure many, many people,” he smiled sardonically at Scarlett, “will miss him so.”
“How can Melanie not see that he is a rascal?” Scarlett thought. “Everything he says has two sides to it. And am I the only one whom he mocks so? He drives me insane sometimes… most of the time… all of the time.” In that moment, Scarlett had forgotten about all of those times where he had been caring and kind.
Mammy swung the room door open, interrupting the silence. “Miz Melly, Miz Pittypat iz askin fer ya.”
“Alright, I’m coming. Please excuse me, Captain Butler.”
Melanie exited the room, leaving Scarlett and Rhett alone. “So, Scarlett, how are you coping with the death of the esteemed Ashley Wilkes?
“I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.”
“Yes! What did you expect; for me to break down in tears and have a broken heart for the rest of my life?”
“No, I didn’t,” he said without any hints of sarcasm or mockery.
“Well, what did you expect?"
“Scarlett, you say you loved Ashley. Did you?”
“Of course I did!”
“Then after his death, which you directly had a part in, why are you ‘fine’?”
“No. Listen to me,” he demanded. “When your lover dies, aren’t you supposed to be miserable? There should be a gaping hole in your life. But knowing you as well as I do, I’m sure as hell that there’s no ‘hole’ or any of that nonsense. Here you are, acting as if nothing is wrong. Scarlett, you aren’t pretending. So what, Ashley is gone. You’ll go on with life like you always have. Ashley dying won’t stop you from leasing convicts or making money. You’ve never let anything stop you. Mr. Wilkes is no exception. Admit it. Ashley did not have as big as a part in your life as you thought he did.”
Scarlett was shocked. Rhett had always said that she had an easy face to read, but he couldn’t have possibly known everything he had just said. That was all she had been thinking about since Rhett had given her the news that Ashley died. Did he think that she didn’t love him? But if Scarlett was to be honest with herself, she wasn’t too sure about that either. “Rhett, I… I’ve always gotten over things. I just have to. You were right when you said I will get over Ashley. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him.
Rhett sighed in exhaustion. Why couldn’t she see what he had known for years? He had tried telling her, but her pride had gotten in the way. Rhett was determined – he would make her realize who Ashley really was and how Scarlett felt towards Ashley and vice versa. “Scarlett, please think about it. You say you loved Ashley. Shouldn’t something in your life be missing? Shouldn’t you miss talking to him and seeing his face?”
Scarlett did not reply.
“I’ll take that as a no. That is exactly what I thought. You didn’t love Ashley, Scarlett. It was just a childish infatuation that you believed to be love.”
It was on the tip of Scarlett’s tongue to reply tartly, and she was going to but they were interrupted by Wade. “Momma, I, oh hello Uncle Rhett!” said Wade, smiling. He was very fond of Rhett.
“Hello, Wade,” Rhett replied. “You seem to have grown since the last time I saw you.”
Wade giggled, “Thanks, Uncle Rhett.”
“You are welcome, Wade. Scarlett, it seems that I must be on my way.”
“Don’t worry, I am. Also, don’t be surprised if you don’t see me for a while. I am going on an extended trip to England. But while I’m gone, I suggest that you think about what I just said. Ashley… just think about it.” Rhett then escorted himself out.
“What was he trying to get at by saying I did not love Ashley? Why was he so serious? How did he know what I was thinking?”
An infinite number of questions flew their way through Scarlett’s head. But above all, she wanted to be able to read Rhett like he did to her. She wanted to know was happening behind those dark, mysterious eyes. What did he know? How did he know her so well? And most importantly, what was with his interest of her and Ashley’s relationship? Did he not want her to love him, and did he not want Ashley to love her? Ashley loved her; of that Scarlett had no doubt. Scarlett had to love him, otherwise why would her heart race at the sight of his face? Why had she gotten jealous enough to marry another man just to hurt him? Scarlett had so many questions, and almost no answers.
Chapter 5-Final Goodbye
Scarlett and Melanie were burdened with Ashley’s funeral preparations. Scarlett wanted to leave the job to Melanie, but it was impossible to come up with a reasonable excuse. Naturally, Scarlett wanted to finish the work as soon as possible. After all, it did not sit well with her to arrange a funeral for a man she had killed.
She planned the whole thing possessed in a trance. It turned out that her body was able to function perfectly well without her mind controlling it. On the outside, Scarlett was giving commands, planning times, and answering questions. But inside, she was being consumed by the guilt over the fact that she killed Ashley. Her precious Ashley was dead and it was all because of her. Scarlett didn’t pull the trigger, but he was dead because of her mistake. He died because she was carless. She was responsible for all this.
It wasn’t the loss of Ashley that was prodding at Scarlett, not really. It was the guilt of killing a man. One who had grown up with her and had nothing but the best intentions towards her. This time was very different than the time she killed the Yankee soldier. The Yankee could have, and probably would have, hurt her, raped her, or worse. Killing him was an act of self defense. But there was no reason to kill Ashley, no reason whatsoever. The worst thing he had done to her was marry Melanie, but he still loved Scarlett, didn’t he?
Scarlett had been doubting Ashley’s love a lot since he had passed. Usually, she pushed it to the back of her mind, vowing to think about it tomorrow. But it kept invading her thoughts. She blamed Rhett for making her think like this, but deep down, she knew that she had the same thoughts. She was just unwilling to admit them.
She did miss Ashley, to an extent. But Scarlett felt like she missed him because he was a reminder of the days before the war, he was one of the last remains of that life. The feeling of missing someone because you loved them never came to Scarlett’s heart, but that feeling was so obviously present in Melanie. She had a faraway look in her eyes, yet carried on as if nothing was wrong. But when the visitors left, Melly let out all of her grief to Scarlett.
“Oh, Scarlett, darling, it hurts so much! I try to be strong for Beau, but I could never be nearly as strong as… as strong as you are. How could I be when Ashley isn’t with us?”
On these occasions, Scarlett always spit out something small and comforting. Phrases of: “You’ll be alright, it just takes time,” or “Ashley wouldn’t want to see you like this, would he?” were often used as Melanie sobbed miserably into her small hands.
Soothing Melanie just made her feel even guiltier about what she did to Ashley. Everything and everyone reminded her of how she killed him. The guilt followed her everywhere.
Honey Wilkes, Ashley’s youngest sister, came from Macon to Atlanta the day before the funeral. Honey was still unmarried and likely to stay that way. Scarlett had stolen both of the Wilkes sisters’ beaux. She took Stuart from India and Charles from Honey. Honey didn’t know much about Ashley’s passing, besides the fact that he was gone. All she had received was a telegram from India that said,
“Ashley dead stop
funeral on Tuesday stop
Long story will tell when you come stop
Before Honey knew the story of how Ashley died, she could somewhat tolerate Scarlett. But once India told Honey, she wouldn’t even look at her. When she was forced to, it was always a cold, menacing, glare.
“India probably told her I pushed him off of a bridge,” thought Scarlett. But she didn’t care what anyone thought of her. Not Honey, not the old cats, no one. But Frank kept on pestering her about it.
“Sugar, I’ve heard what people are saying about you and it isn’t very nice. I think it would be best if you let them know it’s all a misunderstanding…”
“Frank, I know what they’re saying about me. Everyone makes it quite obvious, actually. But I don’t care about what they say, about what anyone says. And even if I do try to explain, people will always think what they want to, and they’ll still think poorly of me. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
“Yes, I do,” Frank responded, and backed off. Scarlett was trying to be nicer to Frank, but her nightmares were coming back and they were more vivid than ever. In fact, Scarlett was considerably short with everyone these days.
Alas, came the day of Ashley’s funeral. Scarlett had thought this day would never come. At least, if it did, she wanted to be Ashley’s widow, not Melanie.
As people began to arrive, Melanie was greeted with understanding words and kind eyes. But Scarlett, who was standing right next to her, received only cold ‘hello’s’ and harsh, unforgiving stares. “Well it is my fault everybody is here today,” she thought, still heavily laced with guilt. There had been nothing and nobody to take her mind off of Ashley. There was no one to talk to about anything. The only person she could talk to truthfully was Rhett, but he was off in England or wherever he said he was going. Besides, he would most likely taunt her to death about Ashley anyways.
Everybody was talking about Scarlett; she was not oblivious of that fact. She simply didn’t care. But, when people thought she was out of earshot, sometimes Scarlett heard gossip about someone other than herself. “I think its Rhett Butler’s fault. He did more harm than good. That scalawag probably killed Ashley to get to Scarlett, and he tried to get rid of Frank too,” Scarlett heard Mrs. Elsing whisper.
“Rhett wouldn’t kill Ashley,” she thought. “Why would he? There’s no reason to.” But a small part of her believed the gossip. She knew Rhett had killed men before, like the brother of the girl he took on a buggy ride, or the darkie who was uppity to a lady, which got him arrested. Why couldn’t he do something like that again?
Lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t realize that the funeral was about to begin. “Scarlett, come now, its starting,” said Frank. They made their way towards the front of the crowd, along with Ashley’s other family and close friends. She passed by Mrs. Burr, Ashley’s aunt, who seemingly heard and believed the same story India told Honey, for Mrs. Burr hated Scarlett considerably.
As the priest began to speak, Scarlett felt Melanie hold her hand in a deathly grip.
Scarlett didn’t hear anything that anyone was saying. It was all a blur; everything was a blur. Nothing was comprehensible at that moment… other than the inconceivable truth that she killed him. She put her beloved Ashley into his grave. Surely, she would go to hell for this. “God is going to send me to hell because I killed a man. A man whom I loved, who was so honorable, was everything a gentleman should be.” This was just like the night Rhett told her of Ashley’s death. She was feeling those same emotions, wanting the same things. She wanted to scream. She wanted Ashley to wake up. She wanted… anything! Anything but this! His funeral was just torture that reminded her of what she had done. But, then again, what didn’t remind her of it?
Melanie was crying now, softly sobbing into her handkerchief. She wasn’t the only one. Aunt Pitty, Mrs. Burr, Honey Wilkes, and many more were all in tears. Although Scarlett did feel some sadness, she mainly felt guilt and regret. She felt guilty about killing him, so guilty she thought that she might never get over it. But she had to. She wouldn’t fall under. And she regretted so many things. She regretted going alone through Shantytown, and making Ashley move to Atlanta. “He wanted to be his own man!” She thought. “He was never happy here… he felt as if he were living off of charity.
Through the blur of sounds, Scarlett heard a voice go, “Is there anyone who would like to say a word?”
Melanie stepped up, taking Scarlett’s hand. Melanie whispered, “Will you please come up with me? I don’t think I can do it alone.” Scarlett, reluctantly, went with Melanie.
“Ashley was… he was so many things. “Melanie started. “He was the best husband a lady could ever have, and a wonderful father for Beau. He loved us so much. He loved all of you so much. He was a brave soldier in our beloved Confederate army. He believed in the Cause, and risked his life for it. Ashley…” Melanie started to tear up once again. “Ashley was-” She let out a huge sob. “I’m sorry… This is so hard, its-“
Scarlett started to listen to her own advice of ‘what would Ashley think?’ She made a promise to him to always look after Melanie. She had to keep it. With that, she stepped up beside Melanie.
“He had so much honor; he lived by his honor. He never did anything that he thought was dishonorable. And, he was such a perfect gentleman. So many times, he thought of others before himself,” said Scarlett. “He… like Melly said, he loved you all so much. You were like family to him. Umm.. .Ashley-” Why couldn’t she think of anything to say? He was her knight in shining armor, her love since childhood; she had practically lived on the fact that he loved her. So why couldn’t she think of anything to say about him?
“He loved all of the fine things in life,” Melanie took over. “He loved books, music, poetry, art, history; he was so much like his father. You could always rely on him. I know we will all miss him greatly, and I know my life will never be the same without him in it. But he lived a good life, everything he did, he took pride in. Thank you.”
Melanie and Scarlett stepped back, and there was a soft applause, then silence again.
“Does anyone else have anything to say?”
No one moved. “They probably think their speech is disrespectful compared to Melly’s,” Scarlett thought.
She recalled something that Grandma Fontaine once told her, when Will told them to go inside during Gerald’s funeral. “He didn’t want Scarlett to hear the clods dropping in the coffin. And he’s right. Just remember, Scarlett, as long as you don’t hear that sound, folks aren’t actually dead to you. But once you hear it, well, it’s the most dreadfully final sound in the world.”
But out here, on the grounds of Oakland Cemetery, there was nowhere to run. There was no way to avoid that sound. The sound which represented silence and passing. But she didn’t want Ashley to be gone to her. She didn’t ever want him to leave. He was the only man that she had ever loved, other than Gerald. But she had to let go. Scarlett hated looking back. If she didn’t let go, she would look back.
Then, she heard it. The clods dropping on the coffin. That was it. The sound of loss, of pain, of sorrow. The sound of death.
Ashley was gone. Forever.
Why was this happening? Something was wrong with the world, dreadfully wrong. She thought she would go crazy. The loss of Ashley’s love was one of the few things that Scarlett of scared of-one of the few things that she was afraid she couldn’t stand. How was she standing it? She was barely staying on her feet. Scarlett’s guilt and sorrow fell so deep that she felt a tear roll down her check. Then two, and then three. They wouldn’t stop. But she wouldn’t break. At least Scarlett was silently crying, while Melanie, India, and many others were audibly bawling. Aunt Pitty had fainted, and Uncle Peter was having trouble with the smelling salts.
“Dearest, its okay. Don’t cry,” said Frank, attempting to provide comfort to Scarlett.
“Great balls of fire, I’m not crying,” she snapped.
“Right. I’m sorry.”
Scarlett sighed. Frank had recovered from his wound successfully, but he was more timid than ever. That was just another thing to get over.
As people started to depart, Scarlett once again received cold stares and unforgiving whispers. “It’s all that Scarlett Kennedy’s fault,” she heard an old matron say. “Anyone who has an ounce of sense knows that no woman should go buggy riding alone, especially through places like shantytown.”
“I have more sense than any of you old cats will ever have!” thought Scarlett.
“Do you think that Butler man killed him?” someone else muttered to the matron.
“I don’t know. Why would he save everyone else, but kill Mr. Wilkes, who was such an honorable gentleman?”
“I don’t suppose I have a clue. But many people think that. That scalawag has killed before, so he could do it again. I wouldn’t be surprised if Captain Butler was hung.”
Scarlett glared at the two women “Why don’t they just announce it to the world, Scarlett O’Hara killed Ashley Wilkes?! At least they wouldn’t have to whisper about me and pretend they don’t know anything. And what’s all this business with Rhett? Why, he wouldn’t kill Ashley, would he?” Even though she thought him a nasty varmint, she didn’t think he would kill Ashley. “He doesn’t have a reason. Rhett’s not in love with me, that I know. Even if he was, why kill Ashley? If he did do it, and I found out, he would know that I would never speak to him again.”
She was so buried in her thoughts, she barely felt Melanie leaning on her shoulder, stifling sobs. “Scarlett, I can’t believe he’s gone.”
“I know Melly, I know. No need to cry. Ashley wouldn’t want you to cry.”
Melanie lifted her head. “I know he wouldn’t. But I can’t help it! He’s gone, gone forever.
“Yes, he is. At least you can acknowledge it. But, what’s done is done. We can’t redo or change the past, so there’s no point in dwelling on it. You have to move on,” Scarlett said, talking more to herself than to Melanie.
“Scarlett, you’re such a good sister! Said Melly, with admiration, but there were still tears in her eyes. “You always know what to say.”
“I-” Scarlett started, but she cut her off.
“And thank you for helping me out today. If it weren’t for you, I don’t think I could have continued, much less said a single word.” Melanie hugged her, and then excused herself to bid a farewell to the other mourners.
Scarlett stared at the tombstone that stood before her.
Here lies George Ashley Wilkes
Beloved husband, father, brother, and friend
April 15, 1839-March 21, 1867
Rest in Peace
That was it. Ashley Wilkes was out of Scarlett’s life, out of everyone’s life.
He was gone.
LAST UPDATED: 7/25/12
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