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Chapter XXXVIII

Summary

By the spring of 1866, Scarlett is working feverishly to make her mill pay. Her pregnancy is already beginning to show, so Pittypat and Frank have been begging her to seclude herself until after the child is born. She has promised them that she will retire in June. Since she has nagged Frank, he has been collecting some of the debts owed him and the store is doing better, but her hopes are pinned on her sawmill. She becomes a familiar figure in Atlanta as she rides through town, bargaining for new customers and resorting to lies and underhanded tricks if it will get someone to buy her lumber. Soon she buys a second mill, but then has a problem finding someone to run it for her. All the men she knows turn down her offer of a management position even if their own employment is something that would at one time have been beneath them. Eventually she hires Hugh Elsing who has been trying to earn a living by peddling kindling wood. She doesn’t believe he is capable of running a business, but at least he is honest.

Atlanta gets an opportunity for a new round of gossip about Scarlett when she begins hobnobbing with Yankee officers and their wives. Scarlett herself does not care what they say. She hates the Yankees as fiercely as ever, but her goal is to amass as much money as possible, and she knows that the best source of money is from the Yankees. Because of her facade of warmth and gentility, in spite of having to engage in the unladylike business of making money, she is able to sell her lumber to the officers more easily than the other lumber mill owners. One day, however, she gets a rude awakening regarding the tremendous gap between herself and the Yankee women. Three of them approach her in the street to ask advice on where to find a nurse for a child. Scarlett recommends that they look for a black woman to which the women react with horror. They claim they wouldn’t have such untrustworthy cannibalistic persons in their houses. Scarlett reminds them that they are the ones who freed the blacks. They reject that idea and then make fun of Peter who is driving her carriage. They call him a "nigger" and say the whites spoil them to death and make pets of them. Scarlett is tongue-tied; fearful of saying something that will antagonize them against her and yet hating them. She tells them that Peter is one of the family, a comment that they take literally.


As they drive away, Peter complains about the verbal abuse and accuses Scarlett of neglecting to defend him. He doesn’t understand why she wants anything to do with such people. Later he complains of back problems and refuses to drive her on any further exploits. After Peter stops driving Scarlett around town, Rhett begins staying in Atlanta for longer intervals. He meets her frequently-ostensibly by accident and sometimes ties his horse to her carriage, then climbs in and takes the reins. He surprises her with kindness, but she is too grateful for his companionship to ask questions.

Scarlett asks Rhett why everyone dislikes her for simply trying to make the money necessary to keep her home. He tries to explain that she not only makes money but does so successfully and obviously enjoys doing it. Such behavior makes her different from the genteel females she was brought up with and also creates an affront to every man who has not been successful. They engage in a discussion of renegade grandparents, and Scarlett accidentally makes a remark about "our" grandchildren, and then takes offense when Rhett takes advantage of the slip. She tries to get him to leave the carriage but suddenly becomes nauseous. Once she recovers, Rhett chides her for being embarrassed about her pregnancy. He sees it as a natural state that women should be proud of rather than trying to hide behind closed doors as if no one knew where babies came from.

Rhett lets Scarlett know that his awareness of her condition is the reason he has been meeting her and driving her around. He warns her that it is not safe for her to drive alone. If she were to be accosted by the free issue blacks who camp along the way, the Ku Klux Klan would spring to avenge her. The offending blacks would be killed and the Yankee government might follow through on some of the rumors and arrest anyone they believe to be even remotely connected with the Klan.

Notes

None needed for this chapter.

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