The book picks up right where Gone with the Wind left off, with Scarlett attending the funeral of her former sister-in-law and rival for Ashley Wilkes' affection, Melanie Wilkes, at which her estranged husband, Rhett Butler, is not present. Scarlett, heartbroken and aggravated that Rhett has... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The book picks up right where Gone with the Wind left off, with Scarlett attending the funeral of her former sister-in-law and rival for Ashley Wilkes' affection, Melanie Wilkes, at which her estranged husband, Rhett Butler, is not present. Scarlett, heartbroken and aggravated that Rhett has left her completely, sets out for Tara and is saddened when she learns that Mammy, her mainstay since birth, is dying. When she arrives at Tara, she sends a telegram to notify Rhett about Mammy under the name of Will Benteen (her sister Suellen's husband), because she knows that Rhett won't come if he suspects Scarlett is there. Before Mammy passes away she makes Rhett swear to look after "her lamb" Miss Scarlett. Rhett agrees, although he has no intention of honoring the request. After Mammy passes away, Rhett and Scarlett have another snipe-filled encounter, which culminates in Rhett leaving and Scarlett returning to the Atlanta house, determined to win Rhett back.
Scarlett, in her haste to win Rhett back, travels to Charleston to visit Rhett's family and tries to corner him by winning his mother's affection. He instead secludes himself in the family's old plantation on the river. Scarlett convinces Rhett to take her for a sail on the harbour, where their boat capsizes during a terrible storm. When they become shipwrecked, Rhett tries to keep Scarlett awake until they reach land. Scarlett and Rhett swim until they reach an island, and take refuge in a hollow of sand dunes. Rhett says, "Oh my darling, I thought I'd killed you! My love, my life...". Scarlett thinks he means it, and the two make love in the cave. Rhett later tells her that "when a man survived something he thought he wouldn't, he does and says crazy things," and that he didn't mean it. Scarlett, knowing that he meant it tells him to look her in the eyes, and tell her honestly that he does not love her. He then confesses, but runs out because he does not want to "lose himself" over her again. He compares her to an addiction to opium. Once safely back in Charleston, Rhett leaves Scarlett near death at his mother's house, telling her, in a letter, that while he admires her bravery in the face of danger, it has changed nothing; he will never see her again.
After Scarlett has regained her strength, she leaves Charleston with her two aunts, Pauline and Eulalie, to attend her maternal grandfather's birthday celebration in Savannah. She leaves a hastily written note to Rhett's mother, whom she has grown to love and admire, with Rhett's sister, Rosemary. Rosemary, hearing from her beloved brother the struggle he has with staying away from Scarlett, burns the note. (Rosemary overheard a nasty exchange between Rhett and Scarlett and was upset with this "dark side" of her brother. Rhett told Rosemary the whole story of loving Scarlett till there was not one drop of love left and how he would fall in love with her again if he didn't keep away from her.)
Scarlett's grandfather, a cranky old man, treats her aunts horribly and offers Scarlett his entire inheritance if she will remain with him in Savannah until his death. Scarlett refuses the old man and storms out of the house, furious at his heartlessness for cutting out his own daughters. She happens to meet her paternal cousin, Colum, a priest from Ireland and later agrees to travel to Ireland with him, tired of her grandfather's hospitality. By this time Scarlett has realized that she is pregnant with Rhett's child, but because she wants him to take her back for herself and not for the child, she keeps her pregnancy hidden.
In Ireland, Scarlett is heartily welcomed by her Irish kin, including her grandmother, Old Katie Scarlett, Gerald's mother. Exploring one day with her cousin Colum, they pass by an old house which the latter explained was called 'Ballyhara' along with the land surrounding it; it was O'Hara land long ago before the English seized it, along with other land from the Irish. Scarlett is mildly interested until she receives a notification of divorce from Rhett. Scarlett makes plans to leave for America at once but is stunned by more news; Rhett is married to another woman, a Charlestonian named Anne Hampton, who is a ringer for Melanie Hamilton. Heartbroken and full of remorse over her past deeds, Scarlett decides to remain in Ireland to raise her unborn child. She works with lawyers and leaves her two-third share of her father's plantation, Tara, to her son Wade Hamilton (fathered by her first husband, Charles Hamilton, brother of Melanie Wilkes), buys Ballyhara and settles down in Ireland, to her Irish family's delight. She and her cousin, Colum, tell everyone that her husband had taken ill and then died, leaving her a widow, rather than tell the truth that she was divorced.
As Ballyhara is slowly restored, Scarlett eagerly awaits the birth of her child, praying for it to be a girl and vowing to be a good mother. She is well respected by the townspeople and her family, earning her a reputation as a hard worker, with fierce Irish pride. She becomes known as The O'Hara, a title reserved for the undisputed leader of a family clan.
One stormy Halloween night, her water breaks. Her housekeeper, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and the midwife whom Colum summons are unable to handle the situation, and it appears that Scarlett will die. Instead, she is saved by the wise old woman who lives near the haunted tower and who appears suddenly. The Caesarian birth is successful, but internal damage is done to Scarlett; as a result, Scarlett can no longer have children. The baby, a girl, is born with dark skin like Rhett's, but with blue eyes that slowly turn as green as Scarlett's. Full of love and thanksgiving, Scarlett names her Katie Colum O'Hara, and calls her "Cat" because of her green eyes. Rumors in the town abound about the birth of the child since one of the townspeople summoned to help with the birth claimed that the wise woman (witch) birthed a healthy boy from Scarlett but replaced the boy-child with a girl-child changeling. These rumors and fears are accented by the fact that Cat is born on Halloween, the time when bad spirits roam and play tricks on the living.
After Scarlett has settled down in Ballyhara, she runs into Rhett a number of times -- in America when she sees him while she is on the boat to Boston, at a fair where she admits she still loves him and at a hunt a week later. All the while, he still does not know he has a child. He then seeks her out at a society ball and, in this gesture, Scarlett realizes he still loves her, and that she in turn loves him in a way only she and he will ever know.
Lord Fenton, one of the wealthiest men in Europe, pursues Scarlett relentlessly, wanting to marry her but not with good intentions. He wants Scarlett to bear his children after seeing Cat's fiery spirit and fearlessness. He also plans to unite their estates; he owns Adamstown, the land adjacent to Scarlett's. The combined estate will go to their son upon their deaths but Cat will bear his name and have the best of everything. Angered by his arrogance, Scarlett refuses and orders him out of her house. He laughs at her and asks her to call him when she reconsiders. Scarlett leaves for Dublin for her yearly visit for parties and hunts. She later decides to accept Lord Fenton when she hears that Anne is pregnant with Rhett’s second child (the first child was lost to a miscarriage). The news leaks out about her engagement and Rhett, in a drunken state, insults her when she runs into him at a horse race. A mutual friend tells her that Anne died of a fever and the baby died four days after its birth and she rushes back to Ballyhara hopeful that Rhett would come looking for her. She finds English there with a warrant to arrest Colum, who is the head of the Fenian Brotherhood, a group of Irish people planning to revolt against the English. Colum is murdered and Rosaleen Fitzpatrick sets fire to the entire English arsenal to avenge Colum. The villagers, thinking Scarlett is in league with the English, burn her house down. Rhett comes to her rescue and he tries to convince her to escape with him. Scarlett doesn't go, but runs around her house yelling, "Cat! Cat! Where are you?" Rhett, confusedly says, "There's no time for the cat! We have to go!" Scarlett looks at him, dumbfounded. "Oh you fool! Not a cat," she barks. "Katie Colum O'Hara, called Cat. She's your daughter." Stunned, Rhett demands that Scarlett tell him how that's possible. Scarlett, still anxious about finding Cat, gives him a hurried explanation of when Cat was conceived. Rhett frantically goes in search of his newfound daughter with Scarlett at his heels. They find Cat in the kitchen after Scarlett remembers that Cat loves the kitchen. The three climb into the high tower on Ballyhara where Cat has made a playhouse and they stay there for the night. Scarlett explains why she didn’t tell him about Cat and he understands. Rhett and Scarlett both say "I love you". They wake up the next morning ready to start their new lives together and leave Ireland. The book ends with "Grainne told me to keep it," said by Cat, speaking of the old rope ladder which they will use to climb down from the tower.
“...For she realized- too late- that the habit of loving him had long since replaced love itself.”
“The Tartletons could laugh about anything. Maybe it was connected in some way with having red hair.”
“She wanted him so much that she felt physical pain. She wanted to double over to ease it, hold it inside her so it couldn't get any worse.”
“They have a saying, the French, that no woman can be truly beautiful who is not also sometimes truly ugly.”
“Yes, by Christ! I do want you, and sicken for you. You're a poison in my blood, Scarlett, a sickness of my soul. I've known men with a hunger for opium that was like my hunger for you. I know what happens to an addict. He becomes enslaved, then destroyed. It almost happened to me, but I escaped. I won't risk it again. I won't destroy myself for you.”Rhett to Scarlett
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