She did have fun, more fun than she had had since the spring before
The war. New Orleans was such a strange, glamorous place and
Scarlett enjoyed it with the headlong pleasure of a pardoned life
Prisoner. The Carpetbaggers were looting the town, many honest
Folk were driven from their homes and did not know where to look
For their next meal, and a negro sat in the lieutenant governor’s
Chair. But the New Orleans Rhett showed her was the gayest place
She had ever seen. The people she met seemed to have all the money
They wanted and no cares at all. Rhett introduced her to dozens of
Women, pretty women in bright gowns, women who had soft hands that
Showed no signs of hard work, women who laughed at everything and
Never talked of stupid serious things or hard times. And the men
She met – how thrilling they were! And how different from Atlanta
Men – and how
they fought to dance with her, and paid her the most
Extravagant compliments as though she were a young belle.
These men had the same hard reckless look Rhett wore. Their eyes
Were always alert, like men who have lived too long with danger to
Be ever quite careless. They seemed to have no pasts or futures,
And they politely discouraged Scarlett when, to make conversation,
She asked what or where they were before they came to New Orleans.
That, in itself, was strange, for in Atlanta every respectable
Newcomer hastened to present his credentials, to tell proudly of
His home and family, to trace the tortuous mazes of relationship
That stretched over the entire South.
But these men were a taciturn lot, picking their words carefully.
Sometimes when Rhett was alone with them and Scarlett in the next
Room, she heard laughter and caught fragments of conversation that
Meant nothing to her, scraps of words, puzzling names – Cuba and
Nassau in the blockade days, the gold rush and claim jumping, gun
Running and filibustering, Nicaragua and William Walker and how he
Died against a wall at Truxillo. Once her sudden entrance abruptly
Terminated a conversation about what had happened to the members of
Quantrill’s band of guerillas, and she caught the names of Frank
And Jesse James.
But they were all well mannered, beautifully tailored, and they
Evidently admired her, so it mattered little to Scarlett that they
Chose to live utterly in the present. What really mattered was
That they were Rhett’s friends and had large houses and fine
Carriages, and they took her and Rhett driving, invited them to
Suppers, gave parties in their honor. And Scarlett like them very
Well. Rhett was amused when she told him so.
“I thought you would,” he said and laughed.
“Why not?” her suspicions aroused as always by his laughter.
“They’re all second-raters, black sheep, rascals. They’re all
Adventurers or Carpetbag aristocrats. They all made their money
Speculating in food like your loving husband or out of dubious
Government contracts or in shady ways that won’t bear
“I don’t believe it. You’re teasing. They’re the nicest
People. . .”
“The nicest people in town are starving,” said Rhett. “And living
Politely in hovels, and I doubt if I’d be received in those hovels.
You see, my dear, I was engaged in some of my nefarious schemes
Here during the war and these people have devilish long memories!
Scarlett, you are a constant joy to me. You unerringly manage to
Pick the wrong people and the wrong things.”
“But they are your friends!”
“Oh, but I like rascals.