As much as Scarlett was determined not to close down her hall to political meetings, not one day passed when she would not hear of some news or other pertaining to the Brooks-Baxter war which was growing a hotter and hotter topic of debate amongst the Atlanta circles. People were divided over their opinions on big words such as disenfranchisement and the consequences of citizenship for black people. Soon these words became catch phrases that began to dominate conversations in every house party and bazaar. But Scarlett, by great effort, remained deaf and dumb to these curious excitements not because she wasn't interested but because she was still waiting for Rhett to reveal in some way that he cared about her safety.
In a way, she saw that he was still curious about her. She realized it must be because she herself was evolving. The Scarlett O Hara who stood at the top of the stairs just now, wearing travel clothes and preparing to mount her carriage and meet people was not the headstrong, stubborn Scarlett of long ago. She had changed once again. But she did not understand how or why. All she knew was Rhett had never expected to see her change and it puzzled him. It puzzled him enough to force him to come to Atlanta. The younger Scarlett would have been delighted to see Rhett helplessly hooked to herself whether in infatuation or love. But she could not think so vainly now. Instead, she wished she could talk to him as before. She remembered how many delightful conversations they had had and she missed those days. She wanted to talk to him, to embrace him, to feel his lips upon hers. But as quickly as these dreams came to the fore, she dismissed them. There was no use getting dreamy-eyed over a man who had treated her so badly just days ago. No, she couldn't depend on Rhett. It would be like ramming against a brick wall. Unwillingly she diverted her affection to her children, family and friends.
But as the weeks rolled into a whole month, Scarlett began to lose hope. Had she been wrong to tell the truth? To burst Rhett's pride?
She remembered his words of long ago "Sometimes I think you carry your truth-telling too far, my pet. Don't you think, even if it was a lie, that it would be appropriate to say "I love you Rhett" even if you didn't mean it?"
A fat envelope arrived by mail. It was addressed to her in Rhett's handwriting and preparing her mind for the possibility of receiving divorce papers, she cut open the seal and saw rectangular pieces of paper spill out on her desk. She picked up one article and saw it was a newspaper clipping. It was a speech made by Mr. Brooks in late 1873. Rhett had circled a few lines in red and then followed another news clipping and a small excerpt which he had written by hand. These were clipped together in a small bunch. Similar bunches lay scattered on her desk. Scarlett skimmed through all of them and heaved a sigh of relief.
Once her initial fears were dissipated, she read clipping after clipping and with some wonder, she realized Rhett was actually explaining what was happening in the political front of the failed Reconstruction of the Confederate States. When Gerald spoke of politics, he always cited events and people in broad terms and Scarlett had always dismissed her father's emotional ravings as childish and boring. But here Rhett picked out selective statements of speech in political meetings and certain particular actions that followed those speeches and he emphasised and underscored only those statements in a sort of summary that lead up to a very thorough, very logical understanding of what could actually be accomplished in the present political atmosphere. There was no room for sentiments or dreams or inspirational words. While Scarlett could not become interested in Gerald's outbursts which were more dramatic and wishful by nature, Rhett's lines of logic were much more mathematical and rational in nature. By reading Rhett's short, exact excerpts, Scarlett began to understand the importance of voting rights for Southerners and the interesting implications in granting citizenship for the blacks. Rhett pursued the point from different perspectives. He brought up arguments from the commercial angle, the moral implications, the rational outcomes.. even some very creative thinking. He did not leave a stone unturned.
Till then, Scarlet had always assumed that Rhett "got his information from somewhere or from someone". She never realized that he himself listened keenly and worked out ideas in his mind. She never suspected he had a capacity to absorb ideas and concepts which were not easily understood by others. Now that she thought about it, she remembered how Rhett had stirred anger at the Wilkes's barbeque – the very first time she'd seen him and he had spoken of travelling to the Northern States and seeing the mills and factories and mines – She had always taken that at face value- Rhett had seen and he therefore knew several things. She was just now beginning to realize that if any other Southern gentleman had visited up North, he never would have thought of looking up those exact places. In fact, the sight of such places would have created unease in his pretty ideas of States Rights and the Glorious Cause. But Rhett had done those things- he dived right into unpleasantness ...into uneasiness because that was reality-
"He is as practical as me...but he's brilliant whereas I can never even begin to understand as much as him!" thought Scarlett in wonder, her eyes running hungrily over the facts and logical fallacies and postulations so vividly highlighted and underlined for her ease of understanding. She had been good with mathematics during her early years at Fayetteville and then when she came home, that part of her – the intelligent school girl was never given much role or responsibility. Instead, her mother wanted her to learn to dance and make polite conversation to her beaus. Mathematics and logical thinking were attributed as purely masculine qualities. But now, after so many years, someone was taking the trouble of explaining things to her-
When she finished she felt the hairs on her skin stand up from excitement and wonder. She was aghast at how she had underestimated Rhett's intelligence. What a fool she was! Why, he was working on his ideas..He was as clever as...as..
She couldn't think of any great people but she was sure Ashley would know. Ashley would know those things. But how very kind of Rhett to take the trouble to explain to her. How very, very kind.
But Rhett was not a kind man.
"He must still love me or want something from me" thought Scarlett, clutching the envelope to her chest. She felt warm and happy. The letter in her hand wasn't romantic at all but she felt herself going silly over it. She felt like Melanie relishing Ashley's words during the war. There had never been anything romantic in those letters either.
She read all the clippings and Rhett's excerpts once again. To think, Rhett had taken her admonishments seriously and come down to her level. How very, very kind! How very, very thoughtful! He was a gentleman! And a genius... Scarlett immediately felt protective of him. She wanted to protect him all of a sudden – to put an iron case around him if she must and protect him from getting hurt from others. Then she laughed and blushed at her own ideas.
That evening, she spoke to Dr. Meade and Hugh Elsing and she locked up her hall from any more political meetings. Then purely out of interest she joined the circle of ladies who spoke about the suffragette and began to form her own opinions and views of the governance of the Southern States. But it was really that night when she read those letters again in the quiet of her own room that something new began to happen. Usually she would have been satisfied as to how events turned out and would have folded up the letter and put it in her desk. But something had changed. She wanted to read everything again, this time carefully considering what she could do with the information before her. A feeling of uneasiness nagged the back of her mind when she realized she was stepping out stronger because of Rhett's intellectual aid. She felt afraid and instantly wondered if she should be thinking in the solitude of her room at all. Then she gathered strength from her lessons learnt during these harsh months of separation from Rhett and decided to evaluate her own possibilities.
She put aside the whole Brooks-Baxter war because she felt she could do nothing about that except perhaps air her opinions in her own sewing circle. But in one of those excerpts there was a General mentioned - P.G.T Beauregard. Hadn't Melanie named her boy after that General? Rhett had referred to him in his writings and Scarlett was struck by that name. Wasn't that man pioneering a cable car company? Scarlett had never travelled by a cable car before and it sounded exciting. She rummaged through some newspapers and found a date mentioned when the General would be holding another public rally. It was in two days time. Scarlett was determined to be there. Rhett had said that the General's efforts for unification of white and black people would be a failure but Scarlett decided she wanted to hear the General's speech for herself. She wanted to hear the issues and she was sure she could work them into her activities. It might make her more competent and might open up several new avenues for her to learn new skills and solve new problems.