فصل 05

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فصل 05

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Chapter five

The Sawmill Business

Frank gave Scarlett the three hundred dollars, although it ended his hopes of buying the sawmill. But she let him see how happy this made her, and then he was happy, too.

Will wrote to say the taxes were now paid and that Jonas Wilkerson was angry not to get Tara. Scarlett knew that Will understood why she had married Frank, but wondered what Ashley thought of her. She also had a letter from Suellen. A violent, insulting letter. And though many of the things Suellen said were true, Scarlett never forgave her for saying them.

She knew people in Atlanta were talking about her, but she did not care. Tara was safe. Now she had to make Frank realize that his shop must bring in more money. There were next year’s taxes to pay - and there was still the sawmill. Scarlett knew that there was money to be made from the sawmill.

Nobody knew just when Frank realized that Scarlett had tricked him into marrying her. Suellen certainly never wrote to tell him. Perhaps it was when Tony Fontaine came to Atlanta on business, obviously not married. But Frank could not believe Scarlett had married him coldly and without any love.

Two weeks after the wedding he became ill, and Dr Meade sent him to bed. As each day passed, Frank worried more and more about the shop, and the boy who was looking after it for him.

‘I’ll go and see how things are,’ Scarlett told him.

When she arrived, she sent the boy out for his dinner then looked at the books to see just how much money people owed Frank. She was shocked to find it was more than five hundred dollars! And owed by people she knew - the Elsings and the Merriwethers, among others.

‘Frank may be willing to stay poor just to be friendly with these people,’ she thought, ‘but I’m not!’

She was making a list of the names when the door opened and someone came in. It was Rhett Butler.

‘My dear Mrs Kennedy,’ he said. ‘My very dear Mrs Kennedy!’ She stared at him. ‘What are you doing here?’ she said.

‘I heard you were married, so I came to congratulate you.’

‘Oh, you are the most-! What a pity they didn’t hang you!’

‘There are others who share your opinion,’ he said, smiling.

‘How did you get out of prison?’ she asked.

‘I persuaded a government friend of mine in Washington to speak for me,’ he said. ‘I knew things about him that he didn’t want others to know.’

‘But you were guilty,’ she said.

‘Yes, I did kill the negro,’ agreed Rhett. ‘He insulted a lady.’ He spoke softly. ‘And don’t tell Miss Pittypat but, yes, I do have the money, safe in a bank in England.’

‘The money?’ said Scarlett. ‘You have the Confederate gold?’

‘Not all of it!’ he said, laughing. ‘There must be fifty or more blockaders who have some. But I’ve got nearly half a million! If only you had waited and not rushed to marry again!’

Scarlett felt sick. Half a million dollars. It was hard to believe there was so much money in this cruel world.

‘Tell me,’ he said, trying not to look too interested, but failing, ‘did you get the money for the taxes?’

And suddenly, she knew that this was why he was here. It was not to laugh at her, but to make sure she had got the money to pay the taxes. Oh, how nice he could be sometimes! Did he really care about her, more than he was willing to say?

‘Yes, I got the money,’ she said.

‘Did you wait until you had the wedding ring on your finger?’ he said, smiling ‘And did Frank have as much money as he told you, or did he trick you? You needn’t have secrets from me, Scarlett. I know the worst about you.’

‘Oh, Rhett, you’re the worst - well, I don’t know what! No, Frank didn’t trick me but-‘ Suddenly it was good to tell someone her troubles. ‘Rhett, if Frank would just ask people for the money they owe him, I wouldn’t be worried.’

‘Don’t you have enough to live on?’ he said.

‘Yes, but - well, I could use a little money.’

‘I’ll lend you some money, but I want to know what it’s for,’ said Rhett. He smiled again. ‘And I won’t ask you to repeat that charming offer you made me once.’

‘You’re a-!’ she began.

‘I know you’re worrying about that,’ he went on, smoothly. ‘Not worrying a lot, but worrying a little. Now, why do you want money? Not for Ashley Wilkes, I hope.’

She became hot with anger. ‘Ashley Wilkes has never taken a dollar from me! Ashley is-‘

‘Oh, yes!’ he said. ‘Ashley is wonderful! So why doesn’t he take his family and get out of Tara, and find work?’

‘He’s been working like a field negro! He’s-‘

‘Yes, he does the best he can, but you’ll never make a farm worker out of a Wilkes. Now, cool down and tell me how much money you want, and what you want it for.’

Scarlett tried to control her anger. She wanted to throw his offer back in his face, but she told herself to be sensible.

‘I want to buy a sawmill,’ she said at last, ‘and I think I can get it cheap. And I want two wagons and horses, and a horse and carriage for myself.’

‘A sawmill?’ said Rhett.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Are you busy this afternoon?’

‘Why?’ he asked.

‘I want you to drive to the sawmill with me,’ she said. ‘I want to buy it before you change your mind!’

‘The sawmill?’ cried Frank. ‘You sold your jewellery to Captain Butler and bought the sawmill?’

It was the shock of Frank’s life when Scarlett told him. At first he thought she was joking, but he soon discovered that it was no joke.

Early each morning she drove out to the sawmill with Uncle Peter, Aunt Pitty’s old slave, and did not come back until it was dark. A man called Johnson was made manager and he brought in free negroes to do the work. And Scarlett was soon earning enough money to talk about buying another sawmill.

Frank couldn’t understand it. This wasn’t the soft, sweet, help-less person he had married. This Scarlett knew what she wanted, and went after it - like a man! And she became angry so easily. He only had to say, ‘Scarlett, I wish you wouldn’t-‘ and it was like a thunder-storm breaking!

‘A baby,’ he thought. ‘She needs a baby.’

Then, on a wild wet night in April, Tony Fontaine rode in from Jonesboro and knocked on their door, waking up Frank and Scarlett. Frank hurried down to let him in. Scarlett followed moments later, and came downstairs as Tony blew out the lighted candle Frank was holding.

‘They’ll hang me if they catch me!’ Tony was saying. ‘I’m going to Texas to hide, but I need another horse, Frank.’

‘You can have mine,’ said Frank.

‘What happened?’ Scarlett asked.

‘You remember Eustis, who was one of our slaves?’ said Tony. ‘He came to the kitchen today, while Sally was making dinner. I don’t know what he said but I heard her scream and try to get away. I ran into the kitchen, and there he was - drunk.’

‘Go on,’ said Scarlett.

‘I shot him, and when Mother ran in to look after Sally, I began riding into Jonesboro to find Jonas Wilkerson. He was to blame. He had talked to those black fools and told them that negroes could have anything - could have white women!’

‘Oh, Tony, no!’ cried Scarlett.

‘Yes!’ said Tony. ‘On my way past Tara I met Ashley and he went with me. We found Wilkerson in a bar, and I took my knife to him while Ashley held the others back. It was finished before I knew it. Wilkerson was dead and Ashley was putting me on my horse and telling me to come to you. He’s a good man, Ashley.’

‘But surely if you went back and explained-‘

Tony laughed. ‘Scarlett, how do you think the Yankees will reward a man for keeping negroes off his women? By hanging him, that’s how! Now, I must go.’

Scarlett was afraid. Someone could rape or kill her, and the Yankees would hang anyone who tried to punish the criminal. She didn’t want her children to grow up with all this hate and fear. She wanted them to know only warm homes, good clothes and fine food.

‘Only money can buy these things,’ she thought. ‘Lots of money. That’s what I’ll have, and I don’t care how I get it!’

When Tony had gone, Scarlett told her husband a secret she had kept for several weeks.

‘Frank,’ she said, ‘I’m going to have a baby.’

The spring months went by, and each day Scarlett went to the sawmill, certain that Johnson the manager was cheating her but unable to catch him. And she went to see builders and people who were planning new homes. She often lied about the quality of her wood, and sold bad wood for the same price as good wood.

One man who owned another sawmill openly called her a liar and a cheat, but it hurt his business because people would not believe that someone like Scarlett - a lady - would behave the way this man was saying she did. In the end, the man had to sell his business - and Scarlett bought it cheap.

She had to find someone to manage the second sawmill and she gave the job to Hugh Elsing. He was not a good businessman, but he was honest.

People were shocked to see Scarlett doing business with Yankees. But Scarlett did not care. ‘When I’m rich,’ she thought, ‘I’ll say what I think of them, but until then I’ll smile sweetly and take their money.’

Then in early June, a message came from Will at Tara. Gerald, Scarlett’s father, was dead.

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