فصل 12

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فصل 12

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Chapter twelve

A Secret Plan

Scarlett lost the baby and almost died. Every time Melanie came out of Scarlett’s room, she saw Rhett sitting on his bed, his door wide open, watching his wife’s room. And when at last she was able to tell him that Scarlett was better, he put his head in his hands and began to cry.

Melanie had never seen a man cry before and it frightened her, but she closed the door softly and went to him. And when she put her hand on his shoulder, his arms went round her, and before she knew it, she was sitting on the bed and he was sitting on the floor with his head on her knees.

He began to talk wildly, telling Melanie things that made her cheeks go hot with embarrassment. ‘Captain Butler, you must not tell me these things!’ she said.

‘You don’t understand,’ he cried. ‘She didn’t want a baby. We hadn’t slept together-‘

‘Captain Butler! You mustn’t say-!’

‘I was drunk, and I wanted to hurt her-‘

Melanie looked at him. ‘Is it possible that he heard and believed the terrible lie about Ashley and Scarlett, and was jealous?’ she thought, suddenly. ‘No, he’s too sensible. He’s drunk, and his mind is running wild.’

‘You can’t understand!’ he said. ‘You’re too good to under-stand. I was crazy with jealousy! She doesn’t love me, she never has. She loves-‘ He stopped as his drunken eyes met hers and he realized who he was talking to.

‘If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me, would you?’

‘No,’ said Melanie, softly. She began gently to smooth his hair. ‘Don’t cry, Captain Butler. She’s going to get well.’

A month later, Rhett put Scarlett on the train to Jonesboro with Wade, Ella and Prissy. Then he rode to Melanie’s house where she was sitting outside.

‘Scarlett has gone to Tara?’ she said.

‘Yes,’ he said, smiling. ‘Tara will do her more good than all of Dr Meade’s medicines. But I’m worried about her health because she tries to do too much.’

‘Yes, she does,’ agreed Melanie.

‘That’s why I want Mr Wilkes to buy her half in the sawmills,’ said Rhett. ‘I know she’ll sell to him.’

‘Oh!’ said Melanie. ‘That would be nice, but-‘

‘Miss Melanie, I want to lend you the money,’ said Rhett.

‘That’s kind of you, but we may never be able to pay-‘

‘I don’t want you to pay it back,’ he said. ‘I’ll just be glad to know that Scarlett isn’t making herself ill. The shop will be enough to keep her busy and happy. Do you understand?’

‘Well - yes, but-‘ said Melanie, uncertainly.

‘You want to buy your son a horse, don’t you? And you want him to go to a good university, and to Europe?’ he said.

‘Oh, of course,’ cried Melanie. ‘But everyone is so poor.’

‘Mr Wilkes could make a lot of money out of the sawmills one day,’ said Rhett. ‘Will you do it, to help Scarlett?’

‘You know I’ll do anything in the world for her,’ said Melanie. ‘She’s done so much for me. But my husband-‘

‘If I send the money to Mr Wilkes, without telling him who has sent it, will you see that he uses it to buy the sawmills?’ said Rhett. ‘It must be our secret.’

Melanie was silent for a moment. Then she said, ‘Yes. And Scarlett’s lucky to have a husband who is so nice to her!’


Scarlett came back from Tara looking much healthier and full of news. She asked, ‘Has anything happened here?’

‘Ashley wanted to know if I thought you’d sell him your sawmill, and the half-part you have in his,’ said Rhett.

Scarlett looked surprised. ‘Where did Ashley get the money?’

‘It seems that it came from someone he nursed with typhoid at Rock Island,’ said Rhett. ‘It came with an unsigned letter from Washington. Of course, I told him you wouldn’t sell. I told him that you enjoyed telling other people what to do.’

‘Let me look after my own business!’ she said, angrily. ‘And - and I will sell them to him!’

Until that moment, Scarlett had never intended to sell her sawmills, but Rhett made her angry by speaking about her that way, and to Ashley of all people! So that same night, she sold the sawmills. And then wished that she hadn’t.

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