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Bonnie, at the age of four, is killed by a fall from her pony. Rhett has bought the pony for her, and under Mammy’s urging, has taught her to ride side-saddle. She has been riding beside her father through Atlanta nearly every day, and the people have regularly stopped to chat with them and admire the little girl. Rhett has also taught the pony to jump. One day Bonnie wants the bar moved higher off the ground. At first Rhett refuses to do it, but Bonnie’s teasing eventually wins him over. The pony trips and falls over the jump. He lands on top of Bonnie who is killed instantly.
Rhett locks himself in the room with Bonnie’s body where he remains drunk, refusing to let her be buried because "Bonnie is afraid of the dark." Finally mammy goes to Melanie for help. Melanie promises to sit up with Bonnie if Rhett will get some sleep. He submits and also agrees to let them bury her on the following day.
Rhett makes a serious, if well meaning, mistake in raising Bonnie. Scarlett noted that the child would be impossible if she weren't so sweet. The child is spoiled and willful; accustomed to getting everything she wants. Rhett has turned all his affection to the child and has spoiled and pampered her in the same way that he had wanted to pamper Scarlett.
Everyone had a part in the child's death, although Scarlett at first blames Rhett. The coachman taught the pony to jump, per Rhett's instruction, although the pony didn't like jumping and had not practiced with the bar at a higher level. Rhett gives in to the child too easily. Scarlett is a little too proud of her daughter's horsemanship; and Mammy was the one who insisted that the four year old should be taught to ride sidesaddle rather than astride in front of her father.
Rhett drinks to drown his own grief, and in his drunken state focuses on Bonnie's fear of the dark. They have always had to leave a lamp burning in her room at night because she was afraid in the dark. Rhett can't bring himself to put Bonnie in the grave because there will be no light there. Melanie is able to reach him when no one else can; they have an intimacy born of previous grief when Scarlett was ill and Rhett reached out to Melanie. Rather than argue with him over the issue of darkness, she quietly agrees to sit with Bonnie and keep the lights on for her. We are never told, however, what ruse she uses to get him to allow the burial.