فصل 10

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فصل 10

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Chapter ten

A Surprise Party

It was Ashley’s birthday and Melanie was giving him a surprise party. Everyone knew except Ashley. That morning, Scarlett, Melanie, India and Aunt Pitty were getting things ready.

‘If you’re going to the sawmill,’ Melanie asked Scarlett, ‘can you keep Ashley busy until five o’clock? If he comes home earlier, he’ll catch us finishing cakes or something.’

Scarlett was always happy to be alone with Ashley. ‘Yes,’ she said. But she saw India look quickly at her. ‘She always looks strangely at me if I speak of Ashley,’ thought Scarlett.

‘Keep him there for as long as you can after five o’clock,’ said Melanie, ‘then India will drive down in the carriage and pick him up. And, Scarlett, come early tonight.’

As Scarlett rode home, she thought: ‘She wants me to come early, but she doesn’t want me to welcome guests with her and India and Aunt Pitty. And I wanted to stand next to Ashley and welcome guests with him. Why wasn’t I asked?’

Rhett knew the answer, and told her. ‘A Yankee-lover welcoming people, when all those important Confederate-lovers are going to be there? Don’t be silly, my dear. It’s only because of loyal Melanie that you’re invited at all.’

Scarlett dressed with more care than usual for her trip to the shop and the sawmill that afternoon, and Ashley was surprised to see her at the office. There was almost a smile on his face when he welcomed her.

‘Scarlett!’ he said. ‘Why aren’t you at my house helping Melanie to get ready for the surprise party?’

‘Ashley!’ cried Scarlett. ‘You aren’t supposed to know!’

‘Oh, I’ll be the most surprised man in Atlanta,’ said Ashley, with laughter in his eyes.

‘Who told you?’ she asked.

‘Almost every man who is invited, and who has ever had a surprise party given to him,’ said Ashley, and Scarlett had to smile. He took her hands, spreading them wide so that he could look at her dress. ‘Scarlett, you get prettier all the time.’

But as he touched her, she realized for the first time ever that it did not excite her. ‘How strange!’ she thought.

‘I’ll always remember you as you were on that day at Twelve Oaks,’ he said. ‘You were wearing a white dress covered with little green flowers, sitting under a tree with a dozen boys round you.’ He dropped her hands, and the light went out of his eyes. ‘We’ve come a long way since then, Scarlett. You’ve come straight and quick, but I’ve come slowly. And without you, and all you’ve done for me, I’d be nothing now.’

‘Oh, Ashley, you sound so sad!’ cried Scarlett.

‘No, I’m not sad any more,’ he said.’I-‘

He stopped, but suddenly Scarlett knew what he was thinking. ‘You’re not sad,’ she thought. ‘You’ve just lost hope.’

‘Ashley, what do you want?’ she asked him.

‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘Perhaps I want the old days back again. The memory of them never seems to go away.’

His voice and the way he spoke brought those memories back to her, and it hurt to think of them. ‘I like these days better,’ she said, but did not look at him when she spoke.

He laughed softly, put his hand under her chin and lifted her face up to his. ‘Oh, Scarlett, what a poor liar you are!’

He made her remember things she wanted to forget - the beauty, the charm of the old days. ‘I mustn’t let him make me look back,’ she thought. ‘It hurts too much. That’s what’s wrong with Ashley. He’s afraid of the future, so he looks back. Oh, Ashley, my love, you mustn’t look back!’

She remembered the Scarlett O’Hara who loved pretty dresses and charming young men. Without warning, tears came into her eyes and began to fall down her cheeks, and she looked up at Ashley like a small, lost child. He took her gently in his arms, pressed her head against his shoulder, and put his cheek next to hers. Like a loved friend but not a lover.

She heard the sound of someone outside, and suddenly he pushed himself away from her. She looked up at him, but he was not looking at her. He was looking over her shoulder.

She turned. And there stood India - her face white and her eyes filled with anger. Archie was with her, and with them stood Mrs Elsing.


Scarlett never remembered how she got out of the office. Shame and fear hurried her home to her empty house. It was silent in the April sunshine. The negroes were at a funeral and the children were playing in Melanie’s garden.

Melanie!

Melanie would hear of this. Scarlett went cold at the thought as she went up to her room. The news would be all over town by supper-time, and people would believe that she and Ashley were lovers. And it had been so innocent, so sweet!

Scarlett burst into tears when she thought of the hurt in Melanies eyes when India told her. ‘What will Melanie do?’ she thought. ‘Will she leave Ashley? And what will Rhett do?’ Scarlett pulled off her clothes and lay down on the bed.

‘I won’t think of it now, I’ll think of it later.’

She heard the negroes come back later. Mammy knocked on her door but Scarlett sent her away, saying that she didn’t want any supper. Then, after a long time, Rhett knocked on her door and she said, ‘Come in.’

‘Are you ready for the party?’ he said. It was dark and she could not see his face.

‘I - I have a bad head,’ she said. ‘I don’t think I’ll go.’

There was a long pause before he replied. ‘What a cowardly little cat you are!’ And his voice was hard and cruel.

He knew! She lay shaking, unable to speak.

He lit the candle next to her bed and looked down at her, and she saw that he was dressed in evening clothes.

‘Get up,’ he said. ‘We’re going to the party.’

‘Oh, Rhett, I can’t - I won’t go until-‘

‘If you don’t show your face tonight, you’ll never be able to show it in this town as long as you live,’ he told her. ‘And I won’t have a coward for a wife. Get your clothes on!’


Lights were on in every room of Melanie’s house and Scarlett could hear the music far up the street. Rhett held her arm roughly and walked with her to the door.

‘I’ll face them!’ she thought. ‘I don’t care what they say, or what they think. Only Melanie - only Melanie!’

The music stopped as they entered, and the room slowly became silent. Scarlett lifted her chin and made herself smile. Then someone came hurrying through the crowd.

Melanie went immediately to Scarlett’s side and put an arm round her waist. ‘What a lovely dress, my dear,’ she said in her small, clear voice. ‘India couldn’t come tonight. Will you welcome our guests with me?’

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