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Tony Fontaine arrives on a rainy night in April and asks for a horse, some food and a little money. He is fleeing to Texas because he has killed Jonas Wilkerson. He explains to Scarlett that Jonas had been putting strange ideas in the minds of the "darkies," even to the point of telling them they had rights to white women. Tony has killed his former overseer who had apparently threatened his sister Sally. Then he went into town to seek out Wilkerson whom he blames for the problems with the blacks. He kills Wilkerson while Ashley holds the crowd back; before he knew what had happened, Ashley had him on a horse and bound for Atlanta. He plans to lay low in Texas for whatever time is necessary, as the Yankees will hang him if he stays in the Georgia.
As Tony leaves, Scarlett has a sudden awakening about the meaning of reconstruction. She realizes that the blacks are on top and are supported by the Yankees. She suddenly understands the concerned objections the men had voiced about her solitary travels back and forth to her mill, realizing that she could be raped or even killed by one of the freedmen (former slaves now free) and, most likely, no one would even be arrested or questioned for it. She sees for the first time that her own interests are not the only things that matter, but that thousands of women like her are frightened and helpless and are being protected by the men who are willing to die for them.
On this night, Scarlett also sees something in her husband that she had not seen before. In the presence of Tony, he exhibits a casual fierceness, a bitterness and determination that she canít analyze, nor does he explain it to her. His only explanation is that the trouble will end when the southern men can vote again. Scarlett does not understand what voting has to do with it all. She is concerned about her son Wade, and, now, about another child she will soon be having.
In the weeks after Tonyís escape, Yankee soldiers who think he is hiding there somewhere visit the house frequently. Scarlett hates the blue coats but at the same time is able to see Atlanta in a different light. The former field hand slaves, the lowest caste among even the blacks, have been elevated to positions of authority and enticed with promises of wealth and power.
Atlanta on the surface is a boomtown. People from all over the south are coming to Atlanta to take advantage of the new opportunities; many fine houses have been built, and ornate carriages crowd the streets. However, beneath the surface, poverty and misery abound. The old families have been forced into the dingiest of dwellings and many are dying of starvation that is camouflaged with more euphemistic names.
This chapter provides some additional foreshadowing about Frank. He is involved in something that Scarlett does not understand and is much more of a man than she gives him credit for. However, she is suddenly forced to see that the reconstruction of the south is a process that threatens all of her friends; it isn't just about her and her attempts to save Tara, but about an entire culture's desperate attempt to survive. The problem with elevating the least intelligent of the blacks is that they understand promises of fine things and lives without work, but they are incapable of filling the roles into which they are thrust. Their only means of using their authority is as a threat to the people they once served. She doesn't take seriously the threat to herself, a decision that starts another pattern of foreshadowing and fulfillment.