Rebecca Chapter 12

I did not see much of Mrs. Danvers. She kept very much to herself. She still rang the house telephone to the morning room every day and submitted the menu to me as a matter of form, but that was the limit of our intercourse. She had engaged a maid for me, Clarice, the daughter of somebody on the estate, a nice quiet well-mannered girl, who, thank heaven, had never been in service before and had no alarming standards. I think she was the only person in the house who stood in awe of me. To her I was the mistress: I was Mrs. de Winter. The possible gossip of the others could not affect her. She had been away for sometime, brought up by an aunt fifteen miles away, and in a sense she was as new to Manderley as I was. I felt at ease with her. I did not mind saying “Oh, Clarice, would you mend my stocking?”

The housemaid Alice had been so superior. I used to sneak my chemise and nightgowns out of my drawer and mend them myself rather than ask her to do them. I had seen her once, with one of my chemises over her arm, examining the plain material with its small edging of lace. I shall never forget her expression. She looked almost shocked, as though her own personal pride had received a blow. I had never thought about my underclothes before. As long as they were clean and neat I had not thought the material or the existence of lace mattered. Brides one read about had trousseaux, dozens of sets at a time, and I had never bothered. Alice’s face taught me a lesson. I wrote quickly to a shop in London and asked for a catalogue of under-linen. By the time I had made my choice Alice was looking after me no longer and Clarice was installed instead. It seemed such a waste buying new underclothes for Clarice that I put the catalogue away in a drawer and never wrote to the shop after all.

I often wondered whether Alice told the others, and if my underclothes became a topic of conversation in the servants’ hall, something rather dreadful, to be discussed in low tones when the men were nowhere about. She was too superior for it to be made a joking question. Phrases like “Chemise to you” would never be bandied between her and Frith, for instance.

No, my underclothes were more serious than that. More like a divorce case heard in camera… At any rate I was glad when Alice surrendered me to Clarice. Clarice would never know real lace from false. It was considerate of Mrs. Danvers to have engaged her. She must have thought we would be fit company, one for the other. Now that I knew the reason for Mrs. Danvers’ dislike and resentment it made things a little easier. I knew it was not just me personally she hated, but what I represented. She would have felt the same towards anyone who had taken Rebecca’s place. At least that was what I understood from Beatrice the day she came to lunch.

“Did not you know?” she had said; “she simply adored Rebecca.”

The words had shocked me at the time. Somehow I had not expected them. But when I thought it over I began to lose my first fear of Mrs. Danvers. I began to be sorry for her. I could imagine what she must feel. It must hurt her every time she heard me called “Mrs. de Winter.” Every morning when she took up the house telephone and spoke to me, and I answered “Yes, Mrs. Danvers,” she must be thinking of another voice. When she passed through the rooms and saw traces of me about the place, a beret on a window seat, a bag of knitting on a chair, she must think of another one, who had done these things before. Even as I did. I, who had never known Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers knew how she walked and how she spoke. Mrs. Danvers knew the color of her eyes, her smile, the texture of her hair. I knew none of these things, I had never asked about them, but sometimes I felt Rebecca was as real to me as she was to Mrs. Danvers.

Frank had told me to forget the past, and I wanted to forget it. But Frank did not have to sit in the morning room as I did, every day, and touch the pen she had held between her fingers. He did not have to rest his hands on the blotter, and stare in front of him at her writing on the pigeonholes. He did not have to look at the candlesticks on the mantelpiece, the clock, the vase in which the flowers stood, the pictures on the walls and remember, every day, that they belonged to her, she had chosen them, they were not mine at all. Frank did not have to sit at her place in the dining room, hold the knife and fork that she had held, drink from her glass. He did not throw a coat over his shoulders which had been hers, nor find her handkerchief in the pocket. He did not notice, every day, as I did, the blind gaze of the old dog in its basket in the library, who lifted its head when it heard my footstep, the footstep of a woman, and sniffing the air drooped its head again, because I was not the one she sought.

Little things, meaningless and stupid in themselves, but they were there for me to see, for me to hear, for me to feel. Dear God, I did not want to think about Rebecca. I wanted to be happy, to make Maxim happy, and I wanted us to be together. There was no other wish in my heart but that. I could not help it if she came to me in thoughts, in dreams. I could not help it if I felt like a guest in Manderley, my home, walking where she had trodden, resting where she had lain. I was like a guest, biding my time, waiting for the return of the hostess. Little sentences, little reproofs reminding me every hour, every day.

“Frith,” I said, coming into the library on a summer morning, my arms full of lilac, “Frith, where can I find a tall vase for these? They are all too small in the flower room.”

“The white alabaster vase in the drawing room was always used for the lilac, Madam.”

“Oh, wouldn’t it be spoiled? It might get broken.”

“Mrs. de Winter always used the alabaster vase, Madam.”

“Oh, oh, I see.”

Then the alabaster vase was brought for me, already filled with water, and as I put the sweet lilac in the vase and arranged the sprigs, one by one, the mauve warm scent filling the room, mingling with the smell of the new-mown lawn outside coming from the open window, I thought: “Rebecca did this. She took the lilac, as I am doing, and put the sprigs one by one in the white vase. I’m not the first to do it. This is Rebecca’s vase, this is Rebecca’s lilac.” She must have wandered out into the garden as I did, in that floppy garden hat that I had seen once at the back of the cupboard in the flower room, hidden under some old cushions, and crossed the lawn to the lilac bushes, whistling perhaps, humming a tune, calling to the dogs to follow her, carrying in her hands the scissors that I carried now.

“Frith, could you move that book-stand from the table in the window, and I will put the lilac there?”

“Mrs. de Winter always had the alabaster vase on the table behind the sofa, Madam.”

“Oh, well…” I hesitated, the vase in my hands, Frith’s face impassive. He would obey me of course if I said I preferred to put the vase on the smaller table by the window. He would move the book-stand at once.

“All right,” I said, “perhaps it would look better on the larger table.” And the alabaster vase stood, as it had always done, on the table behind the sofa…

Beatrice remembered her promise of a wedding present. A large parcel arrived one morning, almost too large for Robert to carry. I was sitting in the morning room, having just read the menu for the day. I have always had a childish love of parcels. I snipped the string excitedly, and tore off the dark brown paper. It looked like books. I was right. It was books. Four big volumes. A History of Painting. And a sheet of notepaper in the first volume saying “I hope this is the sort of thing you like,” and signed “Love from Beatrice.” I could see her going into the shop in Wigmore Street and buying them. Looking about her in her abrupt, rather masculine way. “I want a set of books for someone who is keen on Art,” she would say, and the attendant would answer, “Yes, Madam, will you come this way.” She would finger the volumes a little suspiciously. “Yes, that’s about the price. It’s for a wedding present. I want them to look good. Are these all about Art?” “Yes, this is the standard work on the subject,” the assistant would say. And then Beatrice must have written her note, and paid her check, and given the address “Mrs. de Winter, Manderley.”

It was nice of Beatrice. There was something rather sincere and pathetic about her going off to a shop in London and buying me these books because she knew I was fond of painting. She imagined me, I expect, sitting down on a wet day and looking solemnly at the illustrations, and perhaps getting a sheet of drawing-paper and a paint-box and copying one of the pictures. Dear Beatrice. I had a sudden, stupid desire to cry. I gathered up the heavy volumes and looked round the morning room for somewhere to put them. They were out of place in that fragile delicate room. Never mind, it was my room now, after all. I arranged them in a row on the top of the desk. They swayed dangerously, leaning one against the other. I stood back a bit, to watch the effect. Perhaps I moved too quickly, and it disturbed them. At any rate the foremost one fell, and the others slid after him. They upset a little china cupid who had hitherto stood alone on the desk except for the candlesticks. He fell to the ground, hitting the wastepaper basket as he did so, and broke into fragments. I glanced hurriedly at the door, like a guilty child. I knelt on the floor and swept up the pieces into my hand. I found an envelope to put them in. I hid the envelope at the back of one of the drawers in the desk. Then I took the books off to the library and found room for them on the shelves.

Maxim laughed when I showed them to him with pride.

“Dear old Bee,” he said, “you must have had a success with her. She never opens a book if she can help it.”

“Did she say anything about—well—what she thought of me?” I asked.

“The day she came to lunch? No, I don’t think so.”

“I thought she might have written or something.”

“Beatrice and I don’t correspond unless there’s a major event in the family. Writing letters is a waste of time,” said Maxim.

I supposed I was not a major event. Yet if I had been Beatrice, and had a brother, and the brother married, surely one would have said something, expressed an opinion, written two words? Unless of course one had taken a dislike to the wife, or thought her unsuitable. Then of course it would be different. Still, Beatrice had taken the trouble to go up to London and to buy the books for me. She would not have done that if she disliked me.

It was the following day I remember, when Frith, who had brought in the coffee after lunch to the library, waited a moment, hovering behind Maxim, and said, “Could I speak to you, sir?” Maxim glanced up from his paper.

“Yes, Frith, what is it?” he said, rather surprised. Frith wore a stiff solemn expression, his lips pursed. I thought at once his wife had died.

“It’s about Robert, sir. There has been a slight unpleasantness between him and Mrs. Danvers. Robert is very upset.”

“Oh, Lord,” said Maxim, making a face at me. I bent down to fondle Jasper, my unfailing habit in moments of embarrassment.

“Yes, sir. It appears Mrs. Danvers has accused Robert of secreting a valuable ornament from the morning room. It is Robert’s business to bring in the fresh flowers to the morning room and place the vases. Mrs. Danvers went in this morning after the flowers had been done, and noticed one of the ornaments was missing. It was there yesterday, she said. She accused Robert of either taking the ornament or breaking it and concealing the breakage. Robert denied both accusations most emphatically, and came to me nearly in tears, sir. You may have noticed he was not himself at lunch.”

“I wondered why he handed me the cutlets without giving me a plate,” murmured Maxim. “I did not know Robert was so sensitive. Well, I suppose someone else did it. One of the maids.”

“No, sir. Mrs. Danvers went into the room before the girl had done the room. Nobody had been there since Madam yesterday, and Robert first thing with the flowers. It makes it very unpleasant for Robert and myself, sir.”

“Yes, of course it does. Well you had better ask Mrs. Danvers to come here and we’ll get to the bottom of it. What ornament was it, anyway?”

“The china cupid, sir, that stands on the writing-table.”

“Oh! Oh, Lord. That’s one of our treasures, isn’t it? It will have to be found. Get hold of Mrs. Danvers at once.”

“Very good, sir.”

Frith left the room and we were alone again. “What a confounded nuisance,” said Maxim; “that cupid is worth a hell of a lot. How I loathe servants’ rows too. I wonder why they come to me about it. That’s your job, sweetheart.”

I looked up from Jasper, my face red as fire. “Darling,” I said, “I meant to tell you before, but—but I forgot. The fact is I broke that cupid when I was in the morning room yesterday.”

“You broke it? Well, why the devil didn’t you say so when Frith was here?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t like to. I was afraid he would think me a fool.”

“He’ll think you much more of a fool now. You’ll have to explain to him and Mrs. Danvers.”

“Oh, no, please, Maxim, you tell them. Let me go upstairs.”

“Don’t be a little idiot. Anyone would think you were afraid of them.”

“I am afraid of them. At least, not afraid, but…”

The door opened, and Frith ushered Mrs. Danvers into the room. I looked nervously at Maxim. He shrugged his shoulders, half amused, half angry.

“It’s all a mistake, Mrs. Danvers. Apparently Mrs. de Winter broke the cupid herself and forgot to say anything,” said Maxim.

They all looked at me. It was like being a child again. I was still aware of my guilty flush. “I’m so sorry,” I said, watching Mrs. Danvers, “I never thought Robert would get into trouble.”

“Is it possible to repair the ornament, Madam?” said Mrs. Danvers. She did not seem to be surprised that I was the culprit. She looked at me with her white skull’s face and her dark eyes. I felt she had known it was me all along and had accused Robert to see if I would have the courage to confess.

“I’m afraid not,” I said, “it’s smashed in little pieces.”

“What did you do with the pieces?” said Maxim.

It was like being a prisoner, giving evidence. How paltry and mean my actions sounded, even to myself. “I put them all into an envelope,” I said.

“Well, what did you do with the envelope?” said Maxim, lighting a cigarette, his tone a mixture of amusement and exasperation.

“I put it at the back of one of the drawers in the writing desk,” I said.

“It looks as though Mrs. de Winter thought you would put her in prison, doesn’t it, Mrs. Danvers?” said Maxim. “Perhaps you would find the envelope and send the pieces up to London. If they are too far gone to mend it can’t be helped. All right, Frith. Tell Robert to dry his tears.”

Mrs. Danvers lingered when Frith had gone. “I will apologize to Robert of course,” she said, “but the evidence pointed so strongly to him. It did not occur to me that Mrs. de Winter had broken the ornament herself. Perhaps, if such a thing should happen again, Mrs. de Winter will tell me personally, and I will have the matter attended to? It would save everybody a lot of unpleasantness.”

“Naturally,” said Maxim impatiently, “I can’t think why she didn’t do so yesterday. I was just going to tell her when you came into the room.”

“Perhaps Mrs. de Winter was not aware of the value of the ornament?” said Mrs. Danvers, turning her eyes upon me.

“Yes,” I said wretchedly. “Yes, I was afraid it was valuable. That’s why I swept the pieces up so carefully.”

“And hid them at the back of a drawer where no one would find them, eh?” said Maxim, with a laugh, and a shrug of the shoulders. “Is not that the sort of thing the between-maid is supposed to do, Mrs. Danvers?”

“The between-maid at Manderley would never be allowed to touch the valuable things in the morning room, sir,” said Mrs. Danvers.

“No, I can’t see you letting her,” said Maxim.

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Mrs. Danvers, “I don’t think we have ever had any breakages in the morning room before. We were always so particular. I’ve done the dusting in there myself since—last year. There was no one I could trust. When Mrs. de Winter was alive we used to do the valuables together.”

“Yes, well—it can’t be helped,” said Maxim. “All right, Mrs. Danvers.”

She went out of the room, and I sat on the window seat, looking out of the window. Maxim picked up his paper again. Neither of us spoke.

“I’m awfully sorry, darling,” I said, after a moment, “it was very careless of me. I can’t think how it happened. I was just arranging those books on the desk, to see if they would stand, and the cupid slipped.”

“My sweet child, forget it. What does it matter?”

“It does matter. I ought to have been more careful. Mrs. Danvers must be furious with me.”

“What the devil has she got to be furious about? It’s not her bit of china.”

“No, but she takes such a pride in it all. It’s so awful to think nothing in there has ever been broken before. It had to be me.”

“Better you than the luckless Robert.”

“I wish it had been Robert. Mrs. Danvers will never forgive me.”

“Damn Mrs. Danvers,” said Maxim, “she’s not God Almighty, is she? I can’t understand you. What do you mean by saying you are afraid of her?”

“I did not mean afraid exactly. I don’t see much of her. It’s not that. I can’t really explain.”

“You do such extraordinary things,” said Maxim; “fancy not getting hold of her when you broke the thing and saying, ‘Here, Mrs. Danvers, get this mended.’ She’d understand that. Instead of which you scrape up the remains in an envelope and hide ’em at the back of a drawer. Just like a between-maid, as I said, and not the mistress of a house.”

“I am like a between-maid,” I said slowly, “I know I am, in lots of ways. That’s why I have so much in common with Clarice. We are on the same sort of footing. And that’s why she likes me. I went and saw her mother the other day. And do you know what she said? I asked her if she thought Clarice was happy with us, and she said, ‘Oh, yes, Mrs. de Winter. Clarice seems quite happy. She says, “It’s not like being with a lady, Mum, it’s like being with one of ourselves.” ’ Do you suppose she meant it as a compliment or not?”

“God knows,” said Maxim; “remembering Clarice’s mother, I should take it as a direct insult. Her cottage is generally a shambles and smells of boiled cabbage. At one time she had nine children under eleven, and she herself used to patter about in that patch of garden with no shoes and a stocking round her head. We nearly gave her notice to quit. Why Clarice looks as neat and clean as she does I can’t imagine.”

“She’s been living with an aunt,” I said, feeling rather subdued. “I know my flannel skirt has a dirty mark down the front, but I’ve never walked barefoot with a stocking round my head.” I knew now why Clarice did not disdain my underclothes as Alice had done. “Perhaps that’s why I prefer calling on Clarice’s mother to calling on people like the bishop’s wife?” I went on. “The bishop’s wife never said I was like one of themselves.”

“If you wear that grubby skirt when you call on her I don’t suppose she does,” said Maxim.

“Of course I didn’t call on her in my old skirt, I wore a frock,” I said, “and anyway I don’t think much of people who just judge one by one’s clothes.”

“I hardly think the bishop’s wife cares twopence about clothes,” said Maxim, “but she may have been rather surprised if you sat on the extreme edge of the chair and answered ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ like someone after a new job, which you did the only time we returned a call together.”

“I can’t help being shy.”

“I know you can’t, sweetheart. But you don’t make an effort to conquer it.”

“I think that’s very unfair,” I said. “I try every day, every time I go out or meet anyone new. I’m always making efforts. You don’t understand. It’s all very well for you, you’re used to that sort of thing. I’ve not been brought up to it.”

“Rot,” said Maxim; “it’s not a question of bringing up, as you put it. It’s a matter of application. You don’t think I like calling on people, do you? It bores me stiff. But it has to be done, in this part of the world.”

“We’re not talking about boredom,” I said; “there’s nothing to be afraid of in being bored. If I was just bored it would be different. I hate people looking me up and down as though I were a prize cow.”

“Who looks you up and down?”

“All the people down here. Everybody.”

“What does it matter if they do? It gives them some interest in life.”

“Why must I be the one to supply the interest, and have all the criticism?”

“Because life at Manderley is the only thing that ever interests anybody down here.”

“What a slap in the eye I must be to them then.”

Maxim did not answer. He went on looking at his paper.

“What a slap in the eye I must be to them,” I repeated. And then, “I suppose that’s why you married me,” I said; “you knew I was dull and quiet and inexperienced, so that there would never be any gossip about me.”

Maxim threw his paper on the ground and got up from his chair. “What do you mean?” he said.

His face was dark and queer, and his voice was rough, not his voice at all.

“I—I don’t know,” I said, leaning back against the window, “I don’t mean anything. Why do you look like that?”

“What do you know about any gossip down here?” he said.

“I don’t,” I said, scared by the way he looked at me. “I only said it because—because of something to say. Don’t look at me like that. Maxim, what have I said? what’s the matter?”

“Who’s been talking to you,” he said slowly.

“No one. No one at all.”

“Why did you say what you did?”

“I tell you, I don’t know. It just came to my head. I was angry, cross. I do hate calling on these people. I can’t help it. And you criticized me for being shy. I didn’t mean it. Really, Maxim, I didn’t. Please believe me.”

“It was not a particularly attractive thing to say, was it?” he said.

“No,” I said. “No, it was rude, hateful.”

He stared at me moodily, his hands in his pockets, rocking backwards and forwards on his heels. “I wonder if I did a very selfish thing in marrying you,” he said. He spoke slowly, thoughtfully.

I felt very cold, rather sick. “How do you mean?” I said.

“I’m not much of a companion to you, am I?” he said. “There are too many years between us. You ought to have waited, and then married a boy of your own age. Not someone like myself, with half his life behind him.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said hurriedly, “you know age doesn’t mean anything in marriage. Of course we are companions.”

“Are we? I don’t know,” he said.

I knelt up on the window seat and put my arms round his shoulders. “Why do you say these things to me?” I said; “you know I love you more than anything in the world. There has never been anyone but you. You are my father and my brother and my son. All those things.”

“It was my fault,” he said, not listening. “I rushed you into it. I never gave you a chance to think it over.”

“I did not want to think it over,” I said, “there was no other choice. You don’t understand, Maxim. When one loves a person…”

“Are you happy here?” he said, looking away from me, out of the window, “I wonder sometimes. You’ve got thinner. Lost your color.”

“Of course I’m happy,” I said, “I love Manderley. I love the garden, I love everything. I don’t mind calling on people. I just said that to be tiresome. I’ll call on people every day, if you want me to. I don’t mind what I do. I’ve never for one moment regretted marrying you, surely you must know that?”

He patted my cheek in his terrible absent way, and bent down, and kissed the top of my head. “Poor lamb, you don’t have much fun, do you? I’m afraid I’m very difficult to live with.”

“You’re not difficult,” I said eagerly, “you are easy, very easy. Much easier than I thought you would be. I used to think it would be dreadful to be married, that one’s husband would drink, or use awful language, or grumble if the toast was soft at breakfast, and be rather unattractive altogether, smell possibly. You don’t do any of those things.”

“Good God, I hope not,” said Maxim, and he smiled.

I seized advantage of his smile, I smiled too, and took his hands and kissed them. “How absurd to say we are not companions,” I said; “why look how we sit here every evening, you with a book or a paper, and me with my knitting. Just like cups of tea. Just like old people, married for years and years. Of course we are companions. Of course we are happy. You talk as though you thought we had made a mistake? You don’t mean it like that, do you, Maxim? You know our marriage is a success, a wonderful success?”

“If you say so, then it’s all right,” he said.

“No, but you think it too, don’t you, darling? It’s not just me? We are happy, aren’t we? Terribly happy?”

He did not answer. He went on staring out of the window while I held his hands. My throat felt dry and tight, and my eyes were burning. Oh, God, I thought, this is like two people in a play, in a moment the curtain will come down, we shall bow to the audience, and go off to our dressing-rooms. This can’t be a real moment in the lives of Maxim and myself. I sat down on the window seat, and let go of his hands. I heard myself speaking in a hard cool voice. “If you don’t think we are happy it would be much better if you would admit it. I don’t want you to pretend anything. I’d much rather go away. Not live with you anymore.” It was not really happening of course. It was the girl in the play talking, not me to Maxim. I pictured the type of girl who would play the part. Tall and slim, rather nervy.

“Well, why don’t you answer me?” I said.

He took my face in his hands and looked at me, just as he had before, when Frith had come into the room with tea, the day we went to the beach.

“How can I answer you?” he said. “I don’t know the answer myself. If you say we are happy, let’s leave it at that. It’s something I know nothing about. I take your word for it. We are happy. All right then, that’s agreed!” He kissed me again, and then walked away across the room. I went on sitting by the window, stiff and straight, my hands in my lap.

“You say all this because you are disappointed in me,” I said. “I’m gauche and awkward, I dress badly, I’m shy with people. I warned you in Monte Carlo how it would be. You think I’m not right for Manderley.”

“Don’t talk nonsense,” he said. “I’ve never said you dressed badly or were gauche. It’s your imagination. As for being shy, you’ll get over that. I’ve told you so before.”

“We’ve argued in a circle,” I said, “we’ve come right back to where we started. This all began because I broke the cupid in the morning room. If I hadn’t broken the cupid none of this would have happened. We’d have drunk our coffee, and gone out into the garden.”

“Oh, damn that infernal cupid,” said Maxim wearily. “Do you really think I care whether it’s in ten thousand pieces or not?”

“Was it very valuable?”

“Heaven knows. I suppose so. I’ve really forgotten.”

“Are all those things in the morning room valuable?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“Why were all the most valuable things put in the morning room?”

“I don’t know. I suppose because they looked well there.”

“Were they always there? When your mother was alive?”

“No. No, I don’t think they were. They were scattered about the house. The chairs were in a lumber room I believe.”

“When was the morning room furnished as it is now?”

“When I was married.”

“I suppose the cupid was put there then?”

“I suppose so.”

“Was that found in a lumber room?”

“No. No, I don’t think it was. As a matter of fact I believe it was a wedding-present. Rebecca knew a lot about china.”

I did not look at him. I began to polish my nails. He had said the word quite naturally, quite calmly. It had been no effort to him. After a minute I glanced at him swiftly. He was standing by the mantelpiece, his hands in his pockets. He was staring straight in front of him. He is thinking about Rebecca, I said to myself. He is thinking how strange it was that a wedding present to me should have been the cause of destroying a wedding present to Rebecca. He is thinking about the cupid. He is remembering who gave it to Rebecca. He is going over in his mind how the parcel came and how pleased she was. Rebecca knew a lot about china. Perhaps he came into the room, and she was kneeling on the floor, wrenching open the little crate in which the cupid was packed. She must have glanced up at him, and smiled. “Look, Max,” she would have said, “look what we’ve been sent.” And she then would have plunged her hand down into the shavings and brought out the cupid who stood on one foot, his bow in his hand. “We’ll have it in the morning room,” she must have said, and he must have knelt down beside her, and they must have looked at the cupid together.

I went on polishing my nails. They were scrubby, like a schoolboy’s nails. The cuticles grew up over the half moons. The thumb was bitten nearly to the quick. I looked at Maxim again. He was still standing in front of the fireplace.

“What are you thinking about?” I said.

My voice was steady and cool. Not like my heart, thumping inside me. Not like my mind, bitter and resentful. He lit a cigarette, surely the twenty-fifth that day, and we had only just finished lunch; he threw the match into the empty grate, he picked up the paper.

“Nothing very much, why?” he said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said, “you looked so serious, so far away.”

He whistled a tune absently, the cigarette twisting in his fingers. “As a matter of fact I was wondering if they had chosen the Surrey side to play Middlesex at the Oval,” he said.

He sat down in the chair again and folded the paper. I looked out of the window. Presently Jasper came to me and climbed on my lap.