فصل 10

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فصل 10

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER TEN

A Christmas Present

In the past, I had always disliked the winter. But with my cousin Rachel in the house, things were very different. When I was with my cousin Rachel, I was happy. When she was away from the house, I was bored. Life was dull and uninteresting until she returned.

Like everyone else, I now thought that my cousin Rachel was beautiful. Whenever she came into a room, she made it a happier, more interesting place.

In the evenings, we sat together in her small sitting-room. We drank tisana as she and Ambrose had done in Florence. The evenings were the best times. But when I went to my room, I could not sleep. Any day, perhaps, my cousin Rachel would decide to go to London. If she left me, I would feel terribly alone.

When Ambrose had been at home, he had always given dinner to the tenants on Christmas Eve. This year, I decided to do the same.

My cousin Rachel was very pleased. At once, she began to make preparations. Packages arrived from London - presents perhaps - she began to plan the Christmas meal.

One thing worried me. What could I give my cousin Rachel for a present? I thought about it for a long time and at last I had an idea. I remembered the jewels that belonged to my family. They were kept in the bank for safety. In three months’ time, on my birthday, they would be mine. But I did not want to wait that long. And I remembered that Nick Kendall had gone to London.

I went to the bank that day and asked the manager to show me the Ashley jewels.

They were very beautiful - blue, green and red. But my cousin Rachel always wore black. She could not wear coloured jewels with mourning clothes.

Then I saw the collar of pearls. How beautiful the white pearls would look on my cousin Rachel’s neck!

‘Your mother was the last woman to wear this collar,’ the manager said. ‘All the brides of the Ashley family wear it on their wedding-day.’

I put out my hand and took the collar. ‘I will take this with me,’ I said.

The manager looked worried. ‘The pearls are not yours until the 1st of April,’ he said. ‘I don’t think Mr Kendall would like you to take them away.’

‘I’ll speak to Mr Kendall,’ I said. I put the collar in its box and stood up. I knew the pearls were the right present for my cousin Rachel. I felt very excited.

Then at last, it was Christmas Eve. Seecombe had brought a tree into the house and had decorated it as usual. Dinner was to start at five. After dinner, everybody would have a present. This year, my cousin Rachel was going to give out the presents with me.

Before I dressed for dinner, I sent the collar of pearls to her room. With it, was a note: My mother was the last woman to wear this. Now it belongs to you. I want you to wear it tonight and always. Philip.

When I was ready, I went downstairs and waited for my cousin Rachel. She came in slowly. Her dress was black, but it was one I had not seen before. The collar of pearls was round her neck. I had never seen her look so happy or so beautiful.

She put her arms around me and then she kissed me. She kissed me not as a cousin, but as a lover. This is what Ambrose died for, I thought. And for this I would happily die too. She gave me her hand and we walked in to dinner.

At first, I thought this was going to be the happiest evening of my life. I remember the food, the noise and the excitement. My cousin Rachel had bought everyone a small present, carefully chosen. Mine was a gold chain for my keys with our initials, RA.R.A. hanging from it.

Our plates and glasses were filled, emptied and filled again. Then we gave everyone a present from the tree.

When dinner was over, I spoke to my godfather, Nick Kendall, for the first time that evening.

‘Good evening, sir, and happy Christmas,’ I said. Nick

Kendall looked angry and he said nothing. He was staring at the collar of pearls around my cousin’s neck.

Then at last, the tenants had all left. Louise and my cousin Rachel went upstairs. And I found myself alone with my godfather.

‘I have some bad news from the bank,’ he said. ‘The manager tells me that Mrs Ashley is already several hundred pounds overdrawn. I don’t understand it. She must be sending money back to Italy.’

‘She is very generous,’ I said. ‘And there were debts in Florence, I think. You must give Mrs Ashley more money.’

Nick Kendall looked unhappy. ‘There is something else, Philip,’ he said. ‘You should not have taken that collar of pearls. It is not yours.’

‘It will be mine in three months’ time,’ I said quickly. ‘My cousin Rachel will take good care of it.’

‘I am not so sure,’ Nick Kendall said. ‘I have been hearing stories about Mrs Ashley and her first husband. They were both well-known for their bad lives. They spent money carelessly.’

‘That can’t be true!’ I cried.

‘True or not,’ my godfather replied. ‘I’m afraid that collar must go back to the bank.’

‘But I gave it to my cousin Rachel as a present. She has a right to wear the collar.’

‘Only if Ambrose had lived,’ Nick Kendall said. ‘That collar of pearls is worn by the Ashley brides, no one else. If you do not ask Mrs Ashley to give it back, I will.’

Then suddenly, my cousin Rachel and Louise were in the room.

‘You are quite right, Mr Kendall,’ my cousin Rachel said. ‘I was very proud to wear the collar and now I shall give it back.’ And she took off the collar and gave it to my godfather.

‘Thank you, Mrs Ashley,’ he said. ‘And now Louise and I must go. We wish you both a happy Christmas.’

When they had gone, my cousin Rachel held out her arms. I went up to her.

‘I’m so sorry,’ I said. ‘Everything has gone wrong. My mother wore those pearls on her wedding-day, that is why I wanted you to have them. Don’t you understand?’

‘Of course I do, Philip dear,’ she said. ‘If Ambrose and I had been married here, he would have given them to me on my wedding-day.’

I said nothing. My cousin Rachel had not understood. I was thinking of another wedding-day, a wedding-day in the future…

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