Rewrite Rhett capter one...thanks Madina! 07, 2005
In the pre-dawn darkness, unseasonably cold and vicious air crept in from the north and west. A Heavy dew and dampness of the night turned into hoarfrost covering the fields of cotton. The brown grass of the yard and all the roofs of little houses, barns and out buildings on the plantation glistened. A warm and bright sun was rising in a vividly blue and clear sky. The frost was beginning to melt, and diamond dewdrops were sparkling in sunlight, shimmering on a multitude of spider webs in the cotton fields.
It was the proverbial,
“Frosty Dixie Morn”.
Rhett Butler stood alone on the veranda of the big house at Tara -- staring across the cotton fields. He was in a foul mood. He took the butt of a hand-rolled Cuban cigar out of his mouth, contemplated the rancid damp end he was unconsciously chewing, and threw the offensive thing into the grass.
“Damned bitter cigar!”
As he continued to gaze across the cotton fields, he continued to curse.
“Dammed cotton! Damn this farm! Damn that Scar…”
Rhett’s damming was interrupted by a familiar voice. A voice heavy with accent and gentle sarcasm,
“Why Captain Butler, how you do carry on! Is everything and everybody in Georgia, to be damned this fine October morning?”
The voice sounded so real, and close, that he was somewhat startled. However, he did not look around because the person of that voice was dead, and he did not believe in ghosts or spirits of any kind. Rhett Butler did not, and would not, believe in anything that he could not see, touch, taste or smell. Nevertheless, ironically, the sound of that voice had a soothing effect on his spirit. He leaned against a marbled column as bittersweet memories began to vie for his conscience attention. He quickly suppressed those thoughts,
“Damned the past.”
However, his sarcastic pirate’s grin wrinkled the corner of his mouth and his dark eyes sparkled. At fifty years of age, most women agreed, he was still a handsome and viral man. Those scars and lines that showed gave him a rugged, substantial look. Those scars unseen gave his eyes that worldly look of confidence most women find comforting -- even if they do not want to admit it.
He responded to that ghostly voice from the past with his own gentle sarcasm, saying aloud,
“Well, my dear Miss Melanie, some things just need to be dammed.”
He reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a fresh Cuban. He ceremoniously cut and lit the aromatic tobacco. Taking a long drag, he enjoyed the warm smoke, before exhaling a large vaporous cloud into the cold morning air. Once again, he contemplated the cotton, trying to forget the most persistent ghosts of his past.
“What is over and done, is over and done, period, end of story.”
That was Rhett’s motto. Many times mottos, easy to say, are difficult to keep.
A stranger standing there could not see the things a native easily sees in the cotton -- blood, sweat, and tears. No stranger could see the love and hate, hope and despair of countless generations of people, The ghosts of men and women, black and white and creamy (all shades of color) high born, lowborn, and out born, Men and women, cads and harlots, bimbos and bastards, strong and weak, ignorant and proud – at times, blessedly stupid, Rich and poor masters and slaves, demigods and dirt-me -- and very human soul who ever made a living off king cotton.
No stranger can even imagine or begin to understand what a native knows in his guts and keeps in the very cracks of his bones, cotton is a little less than God is -- but higher than angels.
There is nothing in this world like cotton -- never will be. Cotton builds empires, and destroys them. Cotton is warmth, love, and the soft easy laughter of well-fed and educated people. Cotton is cold bitter disparity, embedded hatred, mournful groans of hunger and the wailings of unrighteousness and cruel ignorance. Cotton is wealth and prestigious life, poverty and deplorable death.
Cotton built the south, destroyed the south, and built it again. Generations of people (all kinds of people) live, love, hate and die, they come and they go but the cotton remains. Wool is rough, flax is trashy, and cotton is king.
“Cotton and arrogance.”
“All we ever had - all we still have. If it was up to me, I would burn the fields. Better than selling at a loss.
Edison invented the light bulb a year ago, illuminated the country, and the world, while the south is still the economic bastard of civilization.
Damn Yankees are always inventing something.” He chuckled and grinned cynically,
“Then they convince us all that we can not live without their new and wondrous contrivance. They sure know how to make money – and punish the South.”
Rhett was not worried about money. He was just as rich as the richest Hampton ever was. However, Tara’s acres of cotton were a glorious white waste, and it sickened him.
“If Scarlett was in her right mind, I could convince her to grow some good tobacco. That would be smart.”
Unfortunately, Scarlett was not, had not been for months - in her right mind.
Will Benteen was doing his best to run the plantation. A one-horse farmer, a cracker from Florida before the war, Will confided in Rhett,
“Forty acres an a mule - mor’ nuff for any cracker.”
Rhett grinned knowingly,
“That’s right. But, you married up in the world, my good man, and that means more responsibility.”
Will did not resent the truth. He smiled easily and looked him straight in the eye,
“Ya no I’d just a soon be poor.”
Rhett studied his weather worn, honest face. There was not a hint of hypocrisy in those washed out grey eyes. He sighed and chuckled,
“I know -- but -- Scarlett O’Hara will not allow anyone, kin to her, to be poor. You did marry her favorite sister.”
His sarcastic grin broadened at that comment -- they both laughed. Suellen and Scarlett fought like cats.
In both appearance and personality, Rhett and Will were as different as night and day. However, their brutal honesty was the same. Many resented that trait in Rhett but easily accepted it in Will – actually seeking his advice. Very few people had the courage to ask Rhett for anything. He had a way of nicely cutting the crap and exposing the truth – unpleasant for the average person.
No stranger standing there could see any of what Rhett saw in the cotton fields, no indeed. He did not really think about it. Did not have to think about it, all of that (and things unexplainable) were in his blood, his guts, and in the very marrow of his bones. In very fiber of his being, Rhett Butler was a true southerner.
Every true Southerner knows Cotton and the South are spiritually, physically (and in the Southern mind) mentally joined forever. God brought cotton and the South together - and no man can ever put them asunder. From springtime to harvest, from season to season, until the end of time, cotton and the good earth, and the people upon it – will remain.
Rhett heard a soft step behind him on the veranda and he smelled Scarlett’s favorite perfume. He turned around with his most charming smile - A smile that melted the hearts of weaker women. He found himself looking into cold, determined, emerald green eyes. Beautiful eyes -- starring him down over the barrel of a 45-caliber Colt pistol -- his very own pistol. He continued to smile, as his guts were churning and his mind was racing. He was in very real danger. The pistol was loaded, he knew because he had just cleaned and checked it earlier that morning, and he had locked it away, or he thought he had. He slipped his had into his pocket. His keys were gone.
When he placed his hand in his pocket, she responded by cocking the pistol and speaking in a calm icy voice,
“What ever you do sir, do not take your hand out of your pocket, unless you are ready to die.”
She as not three short steps away, just out of his reach. However, even out to twenty paces, she was a dammed good shot with a pistol. He knew that very well. Inwardly, Rhett was cursing himself for being a careless fool, but he kept smiling and spoke to her in his most reassuring and charming way,
“My dear Mrs. Butler, you would not want to shoot an innocent man.”
A she held her aim dead on his heart, she replied,
“I have never in my life met an innocent man. I know men, most all are the same, needing, demanding, groping. But you Yankees have a smell about you. A smell I don’t care for, like hate, and fear, and death.”
Her nostrils flared as she spoke, as if she could smell him as well as she could see him. Her eyes never blinked, and her hand remained steady as she held the pistol aimed at his chest,
“I love the smell of a man, one who comes up out of the field with the honest dirt and sweat of life and work upon him. I love the smell of a man, tobacco, leather and perhaps a little bourbon mingled with the lusty essence of a man. (She paused, remembering - then continued with venom) I love the smell of a man, but I cannot stand the stench of a chicken stealing Yankee. You Yankees have been here before. There is nothing left to steal, so just keep your hand in your pocket, turn around and march down those steps and off this place – NOW!
Rhett made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. He reached out with his free hand and spoke to her kindly and calmly with what he hoped sounded like reassuring authority,
“Scarlett, darling -- let’s just have that gu…”
The loud crack of the pistol firing interrupted him. The bullet chipped a piece of marbled facade from the column that he was standing near and the sharp edge of the fragmented stone whacked Rhett on the side of the neck just behind and bellow his right ear leaving a nasty gash that begin to bleed immediately. He grabbed the wound with his free hand and cursed aloud. The spent shell ricocheted off the column and whined across the front yard toward the cotton field, and the jagged, bloody chunk of facade fell at Rhett’s feet. He did not take his other hand out of his pocket and he remained silent as he eyed his crazy wife,
“She is worse than her Father ever was. His insanity made him passive, rather harmless. This woman is completely unpredictable and obviously dangerous. But what a woman she is.”
He new very well, that she could have killed or maimed him for life. She hit exactly where she aimed. Even in her state of insane hatred, she had chosen to fire a warning. Close enough to do damage; much more damage than he knew at the time as a sharp one-inch sliver of the stone had pierced the right side of his throat just blow his jawbone. The point of that projectile was lodged in an arterial vein. He was very much in danger of bleeding to death.
Scarlett repeated her demand.
“Perhaps you did not hear me. I told you to leave. I suggest you do so quickly.”
Rhett backed slowly across the porch, keeping his eyes on her grim face, that look he had seen before – murderous.
She never wavered but held the pistol dead on his heart, inching forward as he moved backwards. When he reached the top of the steps, he reached down slowly, griped the wrought iron railing with his bloody hand, and began to back down. Removing his hand from the side of his neck released the pressure he was unconsciously applying to that sliver of stone stuck in his flesh, pricking that vein, and he began to bleed profusely. He was beginning to be lightheaded, he was loosing a lot of blood and he could feel the hot stickiness down the side of his neck. He was fighting to stay up.
When he reached the bottom, she was at the top, staring him down with those cool green eyes, the pistol still on target.
Her hair was dark and flowing with only the slightest hint of gray around her temples.
She wore a dark green velvet housecoat with ermine collar; he had bought for her in New York - because she had liked it so much. He remembered how she had looked then, when she wrapped it around herself laughing like a schoolgirl, telling him how much she loved him, that he spent too much money on her -- but she did need it to keep her warm in those cold Yankee hotels that he insisted on staying in.
He could not recall her ever looking more beautiful than she did now, standing there with his own pistol pointed at him. He saw her bare feet and he wondered if she was naked under the housecoat. The cold morning air did not make her shake at all.
A commotion of hurrying people poured out of the house, but Scarlett did not seem to notice. She was focused, and very determined.
Will Benteen was the first to arrive, limping rather quickly on his peg leg through the open
front door. He crossed the porch thumping and exclaiming in his south-cracker twang,
“What’en tar-nation ya’ll shoot’en at Miss Scarlett?”
When he got to the edge of the porch and saw the bleeding Rhett Butler, he froze and stared - speechless.
Suellen arrived next. When she saw the blood she drew a gasping breath, and true to her nature, she let out a scream that surely would wake everyone within a mile, who had not heard the pistol shot.
The scream brought Scarlett around to the real world. She looked with disdain at Suellen, who was white faced with horror - staring stupidly at the revolver in Scarlett’s hand. Scarlett looked at the pistol -- trying to remember. Why did she have it in her hand? She looked at Will who was looking at her with a mixture of pity, disbelief and concern in his washed out gray eyes. Pity would have normally angered Scarlett. She seemed confused -- then a look of remembrance came upon her face as she
looked unflinchingly into Will’s eyes and said, rather calmly,
“I’ve done committed murder…”