فصل 14

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فصل 14

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Chapter fourteen

Preparations for the Ball

It was on a Sunday afternoon when someone spoke about the Fancy Dress Ball again. Frank Crawley had come to lunch and the three of us were hoping to have a quiet afternoon. But as we were walking out to the big tree on the lawn, we heard a car in the drive. We had to go back into the house to welcome the visitors. Very soon, more people arrived and then some more.

They all stayed to tea, of course. As we sat in the drawing-room eating cake and sandwiches, one of our visitors suddenly said to Maxim, ‘Oh, Mr de Winter. There is something I must ask you. Are you having a Fancy Dress Ball at Manderley this year?’

Maxim answered quietly.

‘I haven’t thought about it,’ he said. ‘And I don’t think anyone else has, either.’

‘Oh, but you are wrong,’ said another woman. ‘We have all been thinking about it. We used to enjoy the Manderley Ball so much.’

‘Well, I don’t know,’ said Maxim. ‘There would be a great deal to do. You had better ask Frank Crawley. He would do most of the work.’

‘I don’t mind the work,’ said Frank, looking at me. ‘It’s for Maxim and Mrs de Winter to decide.’

Everyone looked at me and started to talk at once.

‘Now, Mrs de Winter, you must help us. Your husband will listen to you. After all, you are a new bride. The Ball will be for you.’

‘Yes, of course,’ said a man, ‘we all missed your wedding. There ought to be some kind of party here at Manderley.’

Everyone laughed and clapped their hands.

Maxim looked at me.

‘What about you? Would you like it?’ he said.

I did not know what Maxim was thinking. Perhaps he thought I was too shy to want the Ball.

‘I think I rather like the idea,’ I said with a smile.

Maxim turned away.

‘All right, then, Frank. We’ll have the dance. Mrs Danvers can help you. She will know what to do. Now, if we’ve all finished tea, we’ll go into the garden.’

We all went outside. Our visitors were talking happily now about their costumes for the Ball. I felt excited too.

‘What will you wear?’ I said to Maxim.

‘I never wear fancy dress,’ Maxim replied. ‘I’m the host, so I can do as I like.’

‘What shall I wear?’ I said. ‘I’ve no idea at all.’

Maxim smiled at me.

‘If you look pretty, I don’t mind what you put on,’ he told me.

‘All right,’ I said. ‘My costume will be a secret. I shall keep it as a surprise.’

Maxim laughed and patted me on the shoulder. As usual, he was treating me like a child. I did not want to be a child. I wanted to be a grown-up woman.

I shall wear a beautiful dress at the Ball, I told myself. Everyone will say how charming I am. They will think of me as the real Mrs de Winter at last. Maxim will love me as his wife and forget about Rebecca.

Soon everyone at Manderley was talking about the Fancy Dress Ball. My little maid, Clarice, spoke of nothing else.

‘Oh, Madam, it’s so exciting,’ she said. ‘I’m looking forward to it so much.’

The preparations went on. Frank was very busy and so was Mrs Danvers. I saw very little of her, and I was glad.

I began to get worried about my costume. I did not know what to wear. I looked through the books that Beatrice had given me. I made sketches of some of the costumes, but I did not like any of them. I wanted something that was pretty and simple too.

That evening, as I was getting ready for dinner, there was a knock at my bedroom door. To my surprise, it was Mrs Danvers. She was holding a piece of paper in her hand. It was a drawing of a costume which I had sketched and then thrown away.

‘I found this, Madam,’ Mrs Danvers said. ‘I thought you had thrown it away by mistake.’

‘No, Mrs Danvers, I don’t want it, thank you,’ I said quickly.

I hoped she would go, but she stood at the door.

‘So you haven’t decided what to wear, Madam,’ Mrs Danvers said in a friendly voice.

‘No, I haven’t decided yet,’ I replied.

‘Perhaps you could copy one of the pictures in the gallery,’ Mrs Danvers suggested. ‘Many of them would make beautiful costumes. What does Mr de Winter think?’

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘I wanted to surprise him. I was going to keep my costume a secret.’

Mrs Danvers looked pleased at my words.

‘Then I suggest that you have your costume made in London, Madam. There is a shop in Bond Street that would do it really well. I have always liked the picture of the girl in white,’ Mrs Danvers went on in the same friendly way.

‘The picture is about two hundred years old. The girl’s wearing a very simple dress. It would be easy to copy.’

I did not know what to say. I knew the picture well. I wished I had thought of the idea myself.

‘Thank you, Mrs Danvers,’ I said.

Mrs Danvers went out quietly. I wondered why she was so friendly. Perhaps Maxim’s anger had frightened her a little.

As I went down to dinner, I stopped in front of the picture of the young girl. Her name was Caroline de Winter and she had been famous for her beauty. The dress was very simple, with short sleeves and a long, full skirt. Her hair was in curls. I would have to wear a wig over my own straight hair. I felt very excited. I was glad that I had chosen my costume at last. I said nothing to Maxim. The next day I made a sketch of the picture. Then I sent the drawing to the shop in London with careful instructions about the dress and the wig.

The preparations for the great day went on. No one expected me to do anything. Slowly, the great house began to change. Furniture was moved as the great hall was prepared for dancing. Coloured lights were hung in the trees outside. There were flowers everywhere. Hundreds of them were brought in from the garden and Mrs Danvers knew exactly how to arrange them. Manderley took on a new beauty. I had never seen the old house looking so lovely.

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