فصل 12

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فصل 12

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Chapter twelve

Peace, At Last

By May, 1865, the war was over and the Confederacy had lost. The dream they had loved and hoped for, the Cause which took the lives of their friends, was finished. But Scarlett cried no tears. She simply thought: ‘Thank God! Now the cow won’t be stolen. Now the horse is safe. Now I won’t be afraid to drive round the country looking for something to eat. And if Ashley is alive, he’ll be coming home.’

In that warm summer after peace came, a stream of Confederate soldiers came through Tara, on their way home. Most were walking, although a few lucky ones had a horse. They asked each soldier for news of Ashley, and Suellen asked about Mr Kennedy, but none of them knew anything.

Then, one afternoon, Uncle Peter surprised them all by arriving from Atlanta. He came on an old horse and brought news of Aunt Pitty, who wanted Melanie and Scarlett to come back to live with her again.

He also brought a letter - from Ashley.

‘He’s coming home!’ Uncle Peter told them. ‘He’s alive!’

Melanie fainted, but Scarlett took the letter and opened it quickly. She recognized Ashley’s writing:

My love, I am coming home to you.

Tears filled her eyes so that she could not read any more. Holding the letter, she ran to her mother’s room while the others tried to help Melanie. She shut the door, then crying and laughing and kissing the letter, she whispered, ‘My love, I am coming home to you!’


When weeks went by and Ashley did not come, Scarlett began to worry that something had happened to him along the way.

The never-ending line of soldiers went through, and Scarlett’s heart began to grow hard. They were eating the food which was meant for the mouths of Tara. Food was hard to get, and the money in the Yankee’s wallet would not last forever.

Will Benteen was a soldier who was very ill when he arrived. One of his legs finished at the knee, and a roughly cut wooden leg was fitted to it. He looked like a poor farmer, not a plantation owner, but this did not stop the girls working to save his life. Then, one day, he opened his light blue eyes and saw Careen sitting beside him.

‘Then you weren’t a dream, after all,’ he said.

Will had owned a small farm in Georgia, and two negroes. He knew that his slaves were free now, and that his farm was burned, but these things did not seem to worry him.

‘You’ve been good to me, Miss Scarlett,’ he said. ‘And, if you’ll let me, I’m goin’ to stay here and help you with all the work until I’ve paid you back. I can’t ever pay it all, because there’s no price a man can pay for his life.’

So he stayed and, slowly and quietly, a large part of the work and worry of Tara, passed from Scarlett to him.


It was a warm September afternoon, and Will was sitting on the front steps of Tara, talking to Scarlett. Melanie came out to join them. Although she did her share of the work at Tara, she was thin and never completely well.

Will was talking about his trip to Fayetteville that morning when he looked along the road leading to Tara.

‘Another soldier,’ he said.

Scarlett looked and saw a man with a beard, wearing the usual grey and blue uniform which was dusty and torn.

‘I hope he isn’t very hungry,’ she said.

‘He’ll be hungry,’ said Will.

Melanie stood up. ‘I’ll tell Dilcey to-‘

She stopped so suddenly that Scarlett turned to look at her. Melanie’s hand was at her throat and her face was white. ‘She’s going to faint,’ thought Scarlett, jumping to her feet.

But Melanie was running down the steps, her arms stretching out towards the soldier. And then Scarlett knew the truth.

The man lifted his face and looked towards the house, as if he was too tired to take another step. Melanie, crying out, threw herself into his arms.

Scarlett took two steps forward, but Will stopped her.

‘Don’t spoil it,’ he said quietly.

‘Let me go, you fool! Let me go! It’s Ashley!’

Will held her. ‘He’s her husband, ain’t he?’ he said calmly.

Scarlett looked at him angrily - and in the quiet kindness of his eyes she saw understanding and pity.

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