It was a beautiful spring day in June when Rhett found himself in Atlanta again. As was customary, he paid a visit to Belle, but after about a week of poker, pretty but mindless girls and good drink he found his thoughts turn to the green-eyed girl better known as Scarlett O’Hara. Belle was obviously miffed when he stated he would be gone for the entire day. She had grown accustomed to his spending most of his time in Atlanta with her over the years, especially since his popularity in Atlanta was virtually nonexistent as of late. His negative comments about the Confederacy and their civil war efforts were unwelcome to be certain. Rhett knew this, of course, before he spouted them. It was part of the fun.
He returned to his hotel room where he changed into more suitable clothing to call on a lady such as Scarlett. He grabbed a small, gift-wrapped box and was soon on his way to Clayton County and Tara. Rhett had made a mental note on his last visit to do some research on Mr. O’Hara’s beloved Tara and County Meade, however, it had slipped his mind. He would do it the next time he was in London. Dressed in a navy jacket, tan trousers and a navy cravat he boarded his carriage and made his way to Tara.
The ride was a pleasant one, Rhett able to enjoy the spring day. It had yet to get hot enough to where one was uncomfortable, which Rhett was glad for. At least it didn’t get quite as hot up north, which was where he spent the majority of his time these days. The north was going to be key to his making money off the war, and he knew it. He had several allies in his pocket that he had spent a good amount of time establishing over the years that would help him when the time was right. They knew he was going to take their goods and turn around and sell them to the South, but they didn’t really care so long as they made money out of the deal.
While it hadn’t rained in Atlanta, it was obvious from the roads as he neared Tara that they had gotten a good amount of rain recently. Even the air smelled cleaner, as if the rain had cleansed it, too.
He arrived at Tara, securing the horse after he exited his carriage. He dusted off his jacket as he glanced at the carriage thankful that Scarlett lived away from Atlanta. He was not certain how often she got into Atlanta, but the chances of her seeing Belle utilizing his horse and carriage in his absence was unlikely. He placed the box in his pocket as he ascended the steps and rang the bell once he had gotten to the front door. He was glad to see the rotund black woman from his last visit did not have guest greeting duties on this date. Instead, a tall, slender, graying black man opened the door.
Rhett removed his hat and said, “Mr. Rhett Butler here to see Miss Scarlett O’Hara if she is available.”
The man looked over Rhett with a slight hint of interest and said that he would inquire as to whether or not Scarlett was available. Unlike the woman from his previous visit, the man shut the door leaving Rhett standing on the porch. Rhett wondered if this was a foreshadowing of things to come, perhaps Scarlett had left word if he should call again that she didn’t want to see him. What a pity that would be, he thought. He enjoyed a challenge, and somehow he felt that this girl with the unusual name of Scarlett was going to prove one of the most challenging things he’d embarked upon yet. He laughed at himself, feeling he was worthy of such a challenge.
After a few minutes of waiting, Rhett took a seat on the porch swing near the front door placing his hat on his left knee hoping he had not been forgotten about. Shortly after he had been seated, the front door opened; Rhett was somewhat surprised to see it was Scarlett herself. Rhett stood, “Good afternoon, Miss O’Hara.” He smiled widely with an exaggerated, gallant bow. “I hope I have not come at a bad time, and that you are doing well today.”
Scarlett had been shocked when Pork told her who was at the door asking for her. She had quickly brushed out her hair and had Carreen help her into a different dress. Scarlett knew green was her color, so she had decided upon a green muslin dress with matching bows in her hair. She had pinched her cheeks to add some color before descending the stairs, wondering why women bothered doing that if they weren’t supposed to wear rouge to begin with. She shrugged the thought away as she descended the stairs somewhat anxiously. Anxious about what, she couldn’t imagine. She attributed her feeling to there being so few gentleman callers coming to call on her since most of the county boys were fighting the war.
“Why, Mr. Butler. What a surprise it is to see you again. I rather expected you wouldn’t return after the horrible way you acted the last time you were here.”
Scarlett playfully batted her eyes, lowering them flirtatiously. Scarlett couldn’t help but notice that though this was only the third time she had seen him, he was once again nicely dressed. She was curious how he came by all of his clothes, but that thought left her mind as quickly as it entered it. She was interested to know why Rhett never complimented her on her appearance. Surely he had noticed how nice she looked, but the thing with Rhett was she could never tell when he was being genuine or sarcastic. She imagined he would be genuine in his compliments to her. Why wouldn’t he be? She knew she looked attractive.
“Yes, I must ask your forgiveness for my behavior that afternoon. I was so overtaken with your charm and dimples that I lost my wits about me.” He gestured for her to sit with him on the patio swing, helping her and then took a seat himself. “So, I take it the pickings are slim for gentleman callers, which is the reason you’re giving me the time of day at all today.” He smirked, his black eyes taking in everything about her.
“Yes, it’s just awful! Nobody’s having parties, there are no balls to go to since that silly old war started. I don’t understand why we have to fight anyway.” Scarlett realized she was leaving the door open for Rhett to talk about the war, and quickly added, “But, let’s not talk about wars. That’s all everyone else ever talks about, and one thing I know about you, Mr. Butler, you’re not at all like everyone else.” She batted her lashes again, as she lowered her eyes to gaze at her shoes.
Rhett laughed and said, “I don’t think you’ll have to wait too much longer for there to be balls and parties for you to attend, Miss O’Hara. As far as my being unlike anyone else that’s the most accurate thing I’ve heard you say yet. What perception you have. Fear not, I’ll not bore that pretty little head of yours with details of wars and our beloved soldiers in battle. What would you like to talk about then? The pretty ribbons in your hair? The new silk petticoat your mother had made for you? Or perhaps you have a new frock you’d like to show me.” He laughed at Scarlett’s face; the smile she had worn moments before drifted away. She would, of course, never admit she wanted to talk about herself, but Rhett knew if she had her choice that she would love for the bulk of their conversations to entail just that.
Scarlett tried to stand from the swing, but stood too quickly, catching her dress on it. Rhett looked up at her with an amused look in his eyes as he freed the material that had caught with a laugh. She narrowed her eyes as she glared at him, her green eyes getting fiery.
“That’s not at all what I meant, Mr. Butler. It’s just so boring to hear about it all the time, and surely you must have more exciting things you can tell me about. After all, some of the things I’ve heard about you must be true.”
She brought her hand to her mouth in shock. Had she actually spoken those words allowed? She hadn’t meant to. Surely he would be insulted now and leave, but she didn’t want him to leave. Things were so boring around here and it was nice to have someone so handsome visiting her.
Rhett laughed heartily, his black eyebrows arching upward in amusement his eyes taking liberties once again looking at her covered breasts and waist. “I’m afraid my reputation proceeds me. It’s all right, Miss O’Hara, really. You needn’t worry about insulting me. I’ve heard far worse comments from people who were actually trying to be rude and insulting. You on the other hand, I know were just making a comment.”
He reached into his jacket pocket as he continued, “I’m afraid, my dear, most of the things I’d care to talk about would be of little interest to you. I did, however, bring something with me today that may be of interest to you more than my conversation.”
He noticed Scarlett eye him suspiciously, but she was unable to hide the excitement that showed in her eyes when he retrieved the box from his jacket pocket. “I saw this in a small shop in New York when I was there, and thought you might like it.” He presented the box to her, expecting the worst but hoping she would accept it.
Scarlett sat again as she took the box from Rhett not even thinking of the fact that he obviously knew her well enough to know what would get her attention. She opened it to expose a lace handkerchief with her name embroidered in emerald green in one of the corners. Scarlett gazed at it, he obviously had gone to some effort to purchase the gift; he had even had her name sewn on it.
She placed it down as quickly as she had picked it up; what would mother say? She would tell you not to accept the gift she thought to herself. You don’t accept gifts from a man. Scarlett knew this, but she was discovering Mr. Butler wasn’t like any other man. Most men wouldn’t have shown their face a second time after their behavior had been so ill mannered the first time. For that matter, most men wouldn’t have dared seek her out after witnessing the scene she had made at Twelve Oaks that day.
The thought of that day brought color to her cheeks, thinking of what a fool she’d made of herself. Her mind was racing. Yet Mr. Butler had seen it, and he was still calling on her. Not able to comprehend that he was perhaps a man who liked a woman who could think, act and speak for herself her thoughts took another route.
He probably thinks I’m loose, which is why he’s after me. If I accept his gift that will just lead him to believe he’s correct in that assumption. She placed the top on the box.
“Mr. Butler,” she stammered. “While I appreciate the gesture, I cannot accept your gift.”
She was unwilling to release the box just yet. The handkerchief was exquisite; she needn’t have look at it for very long to discover that. One thing she was learning about Rhett, he didn’t take the easy or cheap way in anything.
Rhett nodded his head in acknowledgement. “Of course I knew you were going to say that, Miss O’Hara. Mimicking your mother, as all proper southern belles are taught to do really doesn’t suit you. Tell me. What does your heart tell you to do regarding my gift? Would you like to keep it? The handkerchief does appeal to you, doesn’t it?”
He smiled as he saw Scarlett look to him in confusion. He could tell she wanted to accept it, he knew when he purchased it that she would like it. She wasn’t going to cave in and go against her teachings easily, but Rhett also knew that beneath that southern belle exterior lurked a woman with, as Mr. Wilkes had said, a passion for living.
How he wished he could be the one to bring that passion within her to the forefront. If only she’d budge, even if only a little bit, he knew he could bring it out of her. But he knew she had to show some desire to act that way or he would never bring it out of her.
“I’m not sure if I like what you’re implying, Mr. Butler. But I will answer you. Of course, it’s lovely. Any fool could see that it is beautifully made. As far as whether or not I want to keep it, I’m afraid what I want just doesn’t matter. I simply cannot accept it, what would my mother say after all?”
She looked to Rhett, her eyes revealing she somehow expected him to provide her with the answer. Rhett laughed at her.
“So, what you’re trying to tell me is that if your mother were to approve of your acceptance of the gift, you would, in fact, accept it. Well, I am not your mother, nor am I one to prompt you on the proprieties of being a lady; in my opinion, if you like the gift then you should accept it. Assuming, of course, you’re fairly certain I’m not asking for any improper favors in exchange for the gift. I’m reasonably sure I have not done anything of the sort, though, the idea has crossed my mind. I’ll save it for a far better gift another day.”
Rhett laughed as Scarlett’s mouth turned from a smile into one of disbelief at his statement.
“How dare you make such a suggestion. I wouldn’t accept the handkerchief, or any gift from you, no matter what the circumstance, Mr. Butler. Now, if you’re finished, I am going to go back inside.”
Scarlett narrowed her eyes as she gazed at him. Oddly, she found herself thinking it wasn’t his suggestion that had upset her. It was the fact that she knew that it should have upset her, but it hadn’t. What kind of a girl was she, being taken in by this man who sat before her trying to win her affections by presenting her with gifts.
It was a nice gift; she would have liked to be able to accept it. Suellen would be pea green with envy knowing that she had a suitor who had the means to bring her gifts. She looked at him, her green eyes gazing at him hopeful for a moment, wondering if that was indeed what he was trying to do. He was so unlike the other boys who called on her, she didn’t rightly know. But, he was a man, and they were all the same. She knew how to handle the likes of Mr. Butler, and she would beat him at his own game.
Rhett stood with a sigh, holding his hat with his left hand.
“Very well, Miss O’Hara. I really wish you’d reconsider accepting the handkerchief. I went through the trouble of having your name put on it, and try as I may, I can’t think of any other girl I know with the name of Scarlett. Very appropriate, I’d say, there should only be one girl in my life with the name Scarlett after all.” He bowed slightly as he pocketed the box. “It seems our visits keep ending in your getting upset with me. One day I will have to try and rectify that situation. I think you’d enjoy my company if you gave me a chance. After all, what else have you to do anyway,” Rhett smiled, as he turned away from her and made his way to his carriage. He tipped his hat as a good bye, making his way along the road taking him away from Tara and Scarlett O’Hara.
Scarlett watched as he left, wondering if he was going to return this time. Surely he wouldn’t, not after both of their visits ended so horribly. She found herself feeling rather melancholy at the thought of not seeing him again. Suddenly, a smile came to her lips as a thought came to her.
If he returned, it would be because he loved her. What other reason would he have to return after she had been so mean to him? And she would use that against him to finally win. Imagine someone his age and with his reputation and financial means falling in love with her so easily. She turned on her heels and made her way into the house unaware of the slight smile still worn on her lips or the gleam that had brought her eyes to life.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com