Scarlett sat under the cool shade of a large oak tree, her green eyes gazing at the winding red furrows of Tara. Tara! The dearest of places, her refuge, her comfort. How she had slaved and toiled to keep it safe from the Yankees!
Scarlett bit back some tears.
It seemed that she could no longer think about the Yankees or recall any memory from the past for that matter without thinking about Rhett!.
It had been months now and Rhett hadn't come, not even once to see her or the children. There had been balls and parties and she had written so many letters. But it came to no avail. Rhett seemed to have vanished. And the more Scarlett stayed at Tara, the more she felt buried and alone.
Frankness. That was what Rhett said he admired in a woman, In anyone. And Scarlett was finally forced to look at herself in an honest light. Everything she ever strode for, fought for, lived for- before, during and after the war was for hopes of securing Ashley's love. And now that Ashley was free and might finally love her in return, she did not want him. Scarlett finally realized that Ashley never really loved her for who she really was and merely lusted after her.
Love, pure, tender love- what a wonderful thing love was! How filling, how satisfying!
Rhett had loved her all along! But it had been his contempt that had put Scarlett off right from the start!
The way he grinned at her in a wolfish manner, correctly judging that she was coarse, earthy and passionate as himself. That contemptuous glance when she tried to sound and act ladylike and failed miserably. And finally that pitying glance when he said that she was still a child and didn't understand much about people.
Scarlett was now forced to admit the truth.
On one end, she saw her mother, earnestly beckoning her to be kind, gentle, generous and good. To become "Lady Bountiful". Mother was Tara.
And on the other end, she saw Rhett, leering at her pointedly. Rhett, reminding her that she was a rascal, a selfish, little rouge, brash, lively and new as New Orleans.
And Scarlett was somewhere in the middle. She belonged neither here nor there. She felt torn, confused and depressed.
But Scarlett could finally understand why Rhett had been contemptuous. He had been contemptuous of her hypocrisy. Her absolute denial of her own personality which was so similar to his. She had stayed proud and haughty for too long, neglecting Rhett in her pursuit of Ashley.
As Scarlett stood lost in contemplation, Beatrice Tarleton alighted from her horse and walked up to her side.
"Cheer up, Scarlett" she said, giving Scarlett's waist a little squeeze. "I saw you walking across your Father's land with that sad, brooding look on your face that it tears me apart. I should know, I've lost four children-"
Scarlett realized that Mrs. Tarleton was referring to Bonnie and bent down her face, quietly.
"There! There. But count your blessings. Two fine children to care for, a large estate in town and Tara, as fine as ever!"
"Tara is only a farm now" replied Scarlett, glumly.
"You might have lost it, child. Think of the hard work you did to keep it from falling into the hands of the Yankees. Bending down in the sun to pick cotton, running the house, buying seed and planting more crops-"
"Yes" replied Scarlett, dazedly.
"It was a man's work, but you did it all, Scarlett. Tara is something to be proud of!"
"Can't think why I did it" blurted Scarlett. Her lips trembled. "Oh I don't mean I hate Tara. I mean, why did I ever work so hard, support everyone when I was so afraid. What was I thinking when I decided to support the Wilkeses- Rhett was the only one who understood that I was taking on more than I could handle-"
"But you've always been that way, haven't you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the daughter of an Irishman, toiling for her land isn't at all surprising. If you ask me, it was your Mother who was too gentle and ladylike to belong to Tara-"
"Yes" agreed Scarlett, eagerly. "Don't you see, Mother was too kind and gentle. That's why I had to be strong. I had to watch Father- I even carried drinks to the field-hands as a child-"
A dim, hazy look stole over Scarlett's green eyes and Mrs. Tarleton decided not to disturb her anymore. Scarlett was lost in her thoughts. She wanted to tenderly place Rhett's head on her lap and run her fingers through his hair and tell him how much she loved him. She wanted to be kind and warm - engage him in romantic conversation, take genuine interest in his life, his goals and fears and dreams. She wanted to squeeze his hand as they walked down the streets, lay her head on his shoulder-
But it was impossible. A furious red blush swept over her face. She felt ashamed. She simply didn't know how to be so very tender and affectionate. She had never been that way at all! And she never realized that this would be such a problem until now.