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Chapter XLV

Summary

Frank’s response to the attack on Scarlett is quiet and controlled. Once he ascertains that she is scared but unhurt, he goes off to another "political" meeting. Scarlett is infuriated by the apparent lack of sympathy. Frank forces her to spend the evening at Melanie’s house. The women gather there to sew each evening while the men are at the meetings. Scarlett longs to relate her harrowing experience in graphic detail, but Melanie keeps steering the conversation into other channels.

Eventually Scarlett begins to notice an unusual tension in the room-especially when Melanie snaps at Pittypat. Finally, Scarlett accidentally stabs her finger with a needle and lashes out against Frank for doing nothing but running off to meetings when he should be home comforting her. Scarlett and India get into a brief shouting match. During which India accuses Scarlett of bringing the attack on herself and putting the men in danger. Melanie stops India, reminding her that Scarlett doesn’t know what’s really going on.

Just then Rhett bursts in and demands to know the location of the meeting place; apparently the men have walked into a trap. When he has left, Archie explains the details to Scarlett. The men are all part of the KKK, and Scarlett’s insistence on riding alone has resulted in the attack that the men will now avenge. They have gone to Shantytown to kill those who attacked Scarlett and to wipe out Shantytown if they can. Somehow, the Yankees have received news of the plans and have prepared a trap.

A group of Yankee soldiers arrive asking for Frank and Ashley. When told that the men are not home, the blue-coats surround the house and wait. Soon Rhett returns with Ashley and Hugh Elsing-all feigning drunkenness. The soldiers try to arrest Ashley and Hugh. They take Hugh, but Rhett convinces them that all the men were with him at Belle Watling’s house. Once the soldiers are gone, the men stop play-acting, as Ashley is not drunk but suffering from a gunshot wound.


Rhett explains that several of the men who stayed together had shoved their robes up a chimney. They would have taken off for Texas, but they would not leave Ashley. Rhett took them by a back way to the Watling house where they staged a drama of rowdy behavior. Belle had them "thrown out" by Yankee soldiers who were drinking at the bar. Frank Kennedy, however, was not with them. He has been shot through the head and is being carried to a vacant lot with another dead man. They will be placed in such a way as to indicate a common dual.

Notes

Frank is actually protecting Scarlett in sending her to Melanie's house; also, his silence is ominous and suggests volumes to the reader even if Scarlett is unable to interpret it correctly. Rhett's connections are extremely useful; one wonders if he has allowed himself to be considered a turncoat and a rogue purposely so the Yankees will trust him and provide him with inside information that no one else would know. At any rate, his knowledge provides a clever device for getting the Ku Klux Klan men out of trouble. Furthermore, his strength and nobility of character is portrayed ever more clearly as he immediately springs to the defense of the very people who despise him.

Archie's presence creates some protection for the women and provides a character who can explain the truth of the KKK to Scarlett. The Klan and its members had been kept secret from Scarlett, probably because they couldn't be sure she could be trusted not to reveal the information to the wrong people. Also, Scarlett has been selling her lumber to Yankees, making the deals and the contracts herself, thus identifying herself with the enemy. Her craving for money is never fully satisfied, and her rational for such intense involvement with the Yankees is not accepted by any of the Old Guard. As time goes on, she is more and more alienated from her own people, but they avoid her rather than telling her about the repercussions her behavior is having on them.

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