Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Hope you all have a good one. Thank you so much for your review Melody-Rose-20 ~:O)

Chapter 47

After eating breakfast at the hotel, Rhett and Scarlett went back to the mansion to say their goodbyes. Mammy insisted they didn't dare leave until Rhett lived up to his promise to let her burn the divorce papers. After obliging Mammy, he followed Scarlett upstairs and sat up on her bed while she and Mammy packed for the trip. He told them both to do light packing because he was going to be taking Scarlett shopping for clothes in Paris.

He watched with amusement as she and Mammy argued with one another about what she should be taking. Finally, he stared at his pocket watch and warned them both that he and Scarlett needed to be on the train within less than two hours if they were going to make it to New York in time to catch the ship to Europe. Scarlett panicked at his announcement and hurriedly grabbed a few more items before she slammed the lid shut on her traveling trunk.

The train trip from Atlanta seemed like an interminable ride for Scarlett, who was eagerly waiting to see the sights of Paris. At last they reached the Pennsylvania Railroad Station in Jersey City. Scarlett was amazed at the colossal size of the depot as well as the multitude of passengers frantically rushing through the station past her like a herd of gazelles running from a lion in an inexplicable hurry to get to who knew where. Being sharp herself, she respected their brisk energy, but she noticed they seemed to lack the old world gentility that was found in abundance in Atlanta and throughout the South. She was glad she'd succeeded in talking Ashley out of bringing Melanie to the City. She was sure a gentle soul like her would have never fit into this area of the country very well and would have been absolutely miserable in these surroundings. They made their way out of the station and boarded a steam ferry to take them over to Manhattan. Rhett hailed a hansom cab in front of the ferry landing at Cortlandt Street and asked the driver to take them to the South Street Sea Port. After purchasing their ocean liner tickets and getting their baggage checked, Rhett told Scarlett that it would be a few more hours before the ship departed and suggested they go to a nearby restaurant called Delmonico's.

As they entered the restaurant, Scarlett breathed in the affluent atmosphere that was complimented by numerous well-to-do patrons gathered together for their steak and cocktail lunches. The opulence of the restaurant's interior was but a backdrop for her as she scanned the clientele, who Rhett explained were mostly stockbrokers from Wall Street. She didn't think it possible, but they were dressed in suits that looked even more fashionable than Rhett's. There were only a few women eating at the restaurant, but they were also dressed very stylishly. Scarlett noticed immediately they were all wearing classy dresses made of deeply colored, rich looking fabrics that clung smoothly to their physiques and flattered their shapely figures. She gazed down at the pale peach taffeta dress she had on with a billowy skirt trimmed in intricate ruffled layers. It was a very expensive garment and she knew it would be the envy of women in Atlanta, but she could tell it was not the type of style that would not impress these sophisticated women very much. She had always prided herself on her taste in clothes and almost felt disappointed that she hadn't arrived in Manhattan wearing something more suitable, but her mood was elevated when she recollected Rhett would be taking her shopping when they arrived in Paris. She loved knowing she would soon possess attire that even these elite Yankee women would desire.

After they finished lunch, they left to go back to the port. As they scurried along the winding ribbons of narrow streets in lower Manhattan, darkened by the shadows of tall financial offices that rose above them, Rhett was tempted to point out famous landmarks to Scarlett along the way, but their luxury of extra time was quickly dwindling down. With barely moments to spare, they quickly boarded the ship. Rhett had booked a suite with an ocean view and once they got settled in with their luggage, he suggested to Scarlett they join the other passengers on the deck so they could catch a scenic view of Manhattan and the other surrounding islands as the ship exited the harbor.

As the ship started traveling north up the East River, Rhett pointed out the Brooklyn Bridge to Scarlett. It was still under construction, but was already an impressive sight. As Scarlett scanned the eastern side of Manhattan, she decided this city was a mixture of elegance and coarseness. Along the shoreline, she would intermittently spot neighborhoods lined with rows of enchanting brownstones and picturesque landscaping and then the scenery would change again a few blocks later to bleak, brick tenement dwellings that she found absolutely dismal.

Rhett had been so excited about bringing Scarlett to Manhattan. He absolutely loved its culture and wanted to broaden her horizons by sharing it with her. To him, it was a gateway to a modern era he was certain was just around the corner. He'd hoped Scarlett would be mesmerized on their brief stop here, but he sensed that while she was intrigued, it didn't completely excite her. He wondered if it was due to a deeply ingrained Southern provincialism or if it was because she, unlike most, was going to take her time to decide for herself whether it suited her and not be instantly awe struck like a typical out-of-town rube. He suspected it was the latter and admired this quality about her. She was definitely a maverick who never let others make up her mind for her about what she should or shouldn't like. Even so, he himself had fallen in love the first time he'd ever stepped on this island.

It was during the time while he was enrolled in West Point. At that time he was sixteen and doing very were at the academy. His favorite instructor had often told him he had the makings of becoming a very fine military officer when he graduated. Unfortunately, his "friend" Garrett Robinson, who was on the verge of being expelled, harbored a deep jealously towards Rhett and wanted to take him down with him. He intentionally invited Rhett to sneak out with him one night to a tavern on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and made sure Rhett would be caught by the time they returned early the next morning. Rhett wasn't ready to go home after he was expelled so he drifted back into the City and stayed at a boarding house in Greenwich Village until he'd consumed what was left of his spending allowance. When he returned home, he couldn't bring himself to confess to his parents that he'd thrown away the opportunity of a lifetime on one night of drunken carousing and women chasing so he just let his parents assume he was expelled because of poor performance. While he was staying in the City, he made the best of it and squeezed as much out of the experience as he could. He frequented ethnic neighborhoods and relished sampling their buffets of Jewish, Irish, German, and Chinese cuisines. He would often go to matinee performances at the Bowery Theater in the afternoon or take leisurely strolls through the City's many museums or parks. In the evenings he would hang out at a pub called The Pewter Mug and break bread with the Irish immigrants and local politicians from the neighboring Tammany Hall. He had many fond memories of his time spent in New York City, but wasn't sure Scarlett was all that enthused about being there. Realizing her encounter with Manhattan had only barely scratched the surface, he planned for them to stay at a lavish hotel he'd heard about from a patron at Delmonico's called the Fifth Avenue Hotel when they returned from Europe.

Rhett cleared his thoughts and refocused on his surroundings. He noticed the ship was starting to change course as it swerved towards the Long Island coastline. The scenery of a bustling metropolis faded from view and was replaced with pastoral farmlands and quaint little fishing villages. Finally, they broached the vast open space of ocean and the island faded into a tiny dot and vanished into the horizon. Scarlett took in the atmosphere of being completely surrounded by water and felt a sense of calmness envelope her. She savored the blissful escape from the mayhem she'd encountered since disembarking from the train in Jersey City. As her eyes scanned the sea, it felt like she was staring at an endless, rolling indigo blanket and the fleecy blue skies around her were like gentle walls in an enormous room, shielding her from any stress the outside world had to offer. She breathed in the refreshing fragrance of the salty breeze and nestled her face into Rhett's shoulder contentedly. She closed her eyes briefly and the rippling sounds of the ship gliding through the Atlantic had a lullabying effect on her like she was listening to a cascading waterfall. She opened her eyes when Rhett planted a gentle kiss on her lips. As he took her by the hands to lead her back to their suite, she knew deep down she would not be the same person by the time she returned to America.