Rebecca Chapter 15

Maxim rang up the next morning to say he would be back about seven. Frith took the message. Maxim did not ask to speak to me himself. I heard the telephone ring while I was at breakfast and I thought perhaps Frith would come into the dining room and say “Mr. de Winter on the telephone, Madam.” I had put down my napkin and had risen to my feet. And then Frith came back into the dining room and gave me the message.

He saw me push back my chair and go to the door. “Mr. de Winter has rung off, Madam,” he said, “there was no message. Just that he would be back about seven.”

I sat down in my chair again and picked up my napkin. Frith must have thought me eager and stupid rushing across the dining room.

“All right, Frith. Thank you,” I said.

I went on eating my eggs and bacon, Jasper at my feet, the old dog in her basket in the corner. I wondered what I should do with my day. I had slept badly; perhaps because I was alone in the room. I had been restless, waking up often, and when I glanced at my clock I saw the hands had scarcely moved. When I did fall asleep I had varied, wandering dreams. We were walking through woods, Maxim and I, and he was always just a little ahead of me. I could not keep up with him. Nor could I see his face. Just his figure, striding away in front of me all the time. I must have cried while I slept, for when I woke in the morning the pillow was damp. My eyes were heavy too, when I looked in the glass. I looked plain, unattractive. I rubbed a little rouge on my cheeks in a wretched attempt to give myself color. But it made me worse. It gave me a false clown look. Perhaps I did not know the best way to put it on. I noticed Robert staring at me as I crossed the hall and went in to breakfast.

About ten o’clock as I was crumbling some pieces for the birds on the terrace the telephone rang again. This time it was for me. Frith came and said Mrs. Lacy wanted to speak to me.

“Good morning, Beatrice,” I said.

“Well, my dear, how are you?” she said, her telephone voice typical of herself, brisk, rather masculine, standing no nonsense, and then not waiting for my answer. “I thought of motoring over this afternoon and looking up Gran. I’m lunching with people about twenty miles from you. Shall I come and pick you up and we’ll go together? It’s time you met the old lady, you know.”

“I’d like to very much, Beatrice,” I said.

“Splendid. Very well, then. I’ll come along for you about half past three. Giles saw Maxim at the dinner. Poor food, he said, but excellent wine. All right, my dear, see you later.”

The click of the receiver, and she was gone. I wandered back into the garden. I was glad she had rung up and suggested the plan of going over to see the grandmother. It made something to look forward to, and broke the monotony of the day. The hours had seemed so long until seven o’clock. I did not feel in my holiday mood today, and I had no wish to go off with Jasper to the Happy Valley and come to the cove and throw stones in the water. The sense of freedom had departed, and the childish desire to run across the lawns in sandshoes. I went and sat down with a book and The Times and my knitting in the rose garden, domestic as a matron, yawning in the warm sun while the bees hummed among the flowers.

I tried to concentrate on the bald newspaper columns, and later to lose myself in the racy plot of the novel in my hands. I did not want to think of yesterday afternoon and Mrs. Danvers. I tried to forget that she was in the house at this moment, perhaps looking down on me from one of the windows. And now and again, when I looked up from my book or glanced across the garden, I had the feeling I was not alone.

There were so many windows in Manderley, so many rooms that were never used by Maxim and myself that were empty now; dust-sheeted, silent, rooms that had been occupied in the old days when his father and his grandfather had been alive, when there had been much entertaining, many servants. It would be easy for Mrs. Danvers to open those doors softly and close them again, and then steal quietly across the shrouded room and look down upon me from behind the drawn curtains.

I should not know. Even if I turned in my chair and looked up at the windows I would not see her. I remembered a game I had played as a child that my friends next door had called “Grandmother’s Steps” and myself “Old Witch.” You had to stand at the end of the garden with your back turned to the rest, and one by one they crept nearer to you, advancing in short furtive fashion. Every few minutes you turned to look at them, and if you saw one of them moving the offender had to retire to the back line and begin again. But there was always one a little bolder than the rest, who came up very close, whose movement was impossible to detect, and as you waited there, your back turned, counting the regulation Ten, you knew, with a fatal terrifying certainty, that before long, before even the Ten was counted, this bold player would pounce upon you from behind, unheralded, unseen, with a scream of triumph. I felt as tense and expectant as I did then. I was playing “Old Witch” with Mrs. Danvers.

Lunch was a welcome break to the long morning. The calm efficiency of Frith, and Robert’s rather foolish face, helped me more than my book and my newspaper had done. And at half past three, punctual to the moment, I heard the sound of Beatrice’s car round the sweep of the drive and pull up at the steps before the house. I ran out to meet her, ready dressed, my gloves in my hand. “Well, my dear, here I am, what a splendid day, isn’t it?” She slammed the door of the car and came up the steps to meet me. She gave me a hard swift kiss, brushing me somewhere near the ear.

“You don’t look well,” she said immediately, looking me up and down, “much too thin in the face and no color. What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing,” I said humbly, knowing the fault of my face too well. “I’m not a person who ever has much color.”

“Oh, bosh,” she replied, “you looked quite different when I saw you before.”

“I expect the brown of Italy has worn off,” I said, getting into the car.

“H’mph,” she said shortly, “you’re as bad as Maxim. Can’t stand any criticism about your health. Slam the door hard or it doesn’t shut.” We started off down the drive, swerving at the corner, going rather too fast. “You’re not by any chance starting an infant, are you?” she said, turning her hawk-brown eyes upon me.

“No,” I said awkwardly. “No, I don’t think so.”

“No morning sickness or anything like that?”


“Oh, well—of course it doesn’t always follow. I never turned a hair when Roger was born. Felt as fit as a fiddle the whole nine months. I played golf the day before he arrived. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about in the facts of nature, you know. If you have any suspicions you had better tell me.”

“No, really, Beatrice,” I said, “there’s nothing to tell.”

“I must say I do hope you will produce a son and heir before long. It would be so terribly good for Maxim. I hope you are doing nothing to prevent it.”

“Of course not,” I said. What an extraordinary conversation.

“Oh, don’t be shocked,” she said, “you must never mind what I say. After all, brides of today are up to everything. It’s a damn nuisance if you want to hunt and you land yourself with an infant your first season. Quite enough to break a marriage up if you are both keen. Wouldn’t matter in your case. Babies needn’t interfere with sketching. How is the sketching, by the way?”

“I’m afraid I don’t seem to do much,” I said.

“Oh, really? Nice weather, too, for sitting out of doors. You only need a camp-stool and a box of pencils, don’t you? Tell me, were you interested in those books I sent you?”

“Yes, of course,” I said. “It was a lovely present, Beatrice.”

She looked pleased. “Glad you liked them,” she said.

The car sped along. She kept her foot permanently on the accelerator, and took every corner at an acute angle. Two motorists we passed looked out of their windows outraged as she swept by, and one pedestrian in a lane waved his stick at her. I felt rather hot for her. She did not seem to notice though. I crouched lower in my seat.

“Roger goes up to Oxford next term,” she said, “heaven knows what he’ll do with himself. Awful waste of time I think, and so does Giles, but we couldn’t think what else to do with him. Of course he’s just like Giles and myself. Thinks of nothing but horses. What on earth does this car in front think it’s doing? Why don’t you put out your hand, my good man? Really, some of these people on the road today ought to be shot.”

We swerved into a main road, narrowly avoiding the car ahead of us. “Had any people down to stay?” she asked.

“No, we’ve been very quiet,” I said.

“Much better, too,” she said, “awful bore, I always think, those big parties. You won’t find it alarming if you come to stay with us. Very nice lot of people all round, and we all know one another frightfully well. We dine in one another’s houses, and have our bridge, and don’t bother with outsiders. You do play bridge, don’t you?”

“I’m not very good, Beatrice.”

“Oh, we shan’t mind that. As long as you can play. I’ve no patience with people who won’t learn. What on earth can one do with them between tea and dinner in the winter, and after dinner? One can’t just sit and talk.”

I wondered why. However, it was simpler not to say anything.

“It’s quite amusing now Roger is a reasonable age,” she went on, “because he brings his friends to stay, and we have really good fun. You ought to have been with us last Christmas. We had charades. My dear, it was the greatest fun. Giles was in his element. He adores dressing-up, you know, and after a glass or two of champagne he’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. We often say he’s missed his vocation and ought to have been on the stage.” I thought of Giles, and his large moon face, his horn spectacles. I felt the sight of him being funny after champagne would embarrass me. “He and another man, a great friend of ours, Dickie Marsh, dressed up as women and sang a duet. What exactly it had to do with the word in the charade nobody knew, but it did not matter. We all roared.”

I smiled politely. “Fancy, how funny,” I said.

I saw them all rocking from side to side in Beatrice’s drawing room. All these friends who knew one another so well. Roger would look like Giles. Beatrice was laughing again at the memory. “Poor Giles,” she said. “I shall never forget his face when Dick squirted the soda syphon down his back. We were all in fits.”

I had an uneasy feeling we might be asked to spend the approaching Christmas with Beatrice. Perhaps I could have influenza.

“Of course our acting was never very ambitious,” she said. “It was just a lot of fun among ourselves. At Manderley now, there is scope for a really fine show. I remember a pageant they had there, some years ago. People from London came down to do it. Of course that type of thing needs terrific organization.”

“Yes,” I said.

She was silent for a while, and drove without speaking.

“How is Maxim?” she said, after a moment.

“Very well, thanks,” I said.

“Quite cheerful and happy?”

“Oh, yes. Yes, rather.”

A narrow village street engaged her attention. I wondered whether I should tell her about Mrs. Danvers. About the man Favell. I did not want her to make a blunder though, and perhaps tell Maxim.

“Beatrice,” I said, deciding upon it, “have you ever heard of someone called Favell? Jack Favell?”

“Jack Favell,” she repeated. “Yes, I do know the name. Wait a minute. Jack Favell. Of course. An awful bounder. I met him once, ages ago.”

“He came to Manderley yesterday to see Mrs. Danvers,” I said.

“Really? Oh, well, perhaps he would…”

“Why?” I said.

“I rather think he was Rebecca’s cousin,” she said.

I was very surprised. That man her relation? It was not my idea of the sort of cousin Rebecca would have. Jack Favell her cousin. “Oh,” I said. “Oh, I hadn’t realized that.”

“He probably used to go to Manderley a lot,” said Beatrice. “I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you. I was very seldom there.” Her manner was abrupt. It gave me the impression she did not want to pursue the subject.

“I did not take to him much,” I said.

“No,” said Beatrice. “I don’t blame you.”

I waited, but she did not say any more. I thought it wiser not to tell her how Favell had asked me to keep the visit a secret. It might lead to some complication. Besides, we were just coming to our destination. A pair of white gates and a smooth gravel drive.

“Don’t forget the old lady is nearly blind,” said Beatrice, “and she’s not very bright these days. I telephoned to the nurse that we were coming, so everything will be all right.”

The house was large, redbricked, and gabled. Late Victorian I supposed. Not an attractive house. I could tell in a glance it was the sort of house that was aggressively well-kept by a big staff. And all for one old lady who was nearly blind.

A trim parlor-maid opened the door.

“Good afternoon, Norah, how are you?” said Beatrice.

“Very well, thank you, Madam. I hope you are keeping well?”

“Oh, yes, we are all flourishing. How has the old lady been, Norah?”

“Rather mixed, Madam. She has one good day, and then a bad. She’s not too bad in herself, you know. She will be pleased to see you I’m sure.” She glanced curiously at me.

“This is Mrs. Maxim,” said Beatrice.

“Yes, Madam. How do you do,” said Norah.

We went through a narrow hall and a drawing room crowded with furniture to a veranda facing a square clipped lawn. There were many bright geraniums in stone vases on the steps of the veranda. In the corner was a bath chair. Beatrice’s grandmother was sitting there, propped up with pillows and surrounded by shawls. When we came close to her I saw that she had a strong, rather uncanny, resemblance to Maxim. That was what Maxim would look like, if he was very old, if he was blind. The nurse by her side got up from her chair and put a mark in the book she was reading aloud. She smiled at Beatrice.

“How are you, Mrs. Lacy?” she said.

Beatrice shook hands with her and introduced me. “The old lady looks all right,” she said. “I don’t know how she does it, at eighty-six. Here we are, Gran,” she said, raising her voice, “arrived safe and sound.”

The grandmother looked in our direction. “Dear Bee,” she said, “how sweet of you to come and visit me. We’re so dull here, nothing for you to do.”

Beatrice leaned over her and kissed her. “I’ve brought Maxim’s wife over to see you,” she said, “she wanted to come and see you before, but she and Maxim have been so busy.”

Beatrice prodded me in the back. “Kiss her,” she murmured. I too bent down and kissed her on the cheek.

The grandmother touched my face with her fingers. “You nice thing,” she said, “so good of you to come. I’m very pleased to see you, dear. You ought to have brought Maxim with you.”

“Maxim is in London,” I said, “he’s coming back tonight.”

“You might bring him next time,” she said. “Sit down, dear, in this chair, where I can see you. And Bee, come the other side. How is dear Roger? He’s a naughty boy, he doesn’t come and see me.”

“He shall come during August,” shouted Beatrice; “he’s leaving Eton, you know, he’s going up to Oxford.”

“Oh, dear, he’ll be quite a young man, I shan’t know him.”

“He’s taller than Giles now,” said Beatrice.

She went on, telling her about Giles, and Roger, and the horses, and the dogs. The nurse brought out some knitting, and clicked her needles sharply. She turned to me, very bright, very cheerful.

“How are you liking Manderley, Mrs. de Winter?”

“Very much, thank you,” I said.

“It’s a beautiful spot, isn’t it?” she said, the needles jabbing one another. “Of course we don’t get over there now, she’s not up to it. I am sorry, I used to love our days at Manderley.”

“You must come over yourself sometime,” I said.

“Thank you, I should love to. Mr. de Winter is well, I suppose?”

“Yes, very well.”

“You spent your honeymoon in Italy, didn’t you? We were so pleased with the picture-postcard Mr. de Winter sent.”

I wondered whether she used “we” in the royal sense, or if she meant that Maxim’s grandmother and herself were one.

“Did he send one? I can’t remember.”

“Oh, yes, it was quite an excitement. We love anything like that. We keep a scrapbook you know, and paste anything to do with the family inside it. Anything pleasant, that is.”

“How nice,” I said.

I caught snatches of Beatrice’s conversation on the other side. “We had to put old Marksman down,” she was saying. “You remember old Marksman? The best hunter I ever had.”

“Oh, dear, not old Marksman?” said her grandmother.

“Yes, poor old man. Got blind in both eyes, you know.”

“Poor Marksman,” echoed the old lady.

I thought perhaps it was not very tactful to talk about blindness, and I glanced at the nurse. She was still busy clicking her needles.

“Do you hunt, Mrs. de Winter?” she said.

“No, I’m afraid I don’t,” I said.

“Perhaps you will come to it. We are all very fond of hunting in this part of the world.”


“Mrs. de Winter is very keen on art,” said Beatrice to the nurse. “I tell her there are heaps of spots in Manderley that would make very jolly pictures.”

“Oh rather,” agreed the nurse, pausing a moment from the fury of knitting. “What a nice hobby. I had a friend who was a wonder with her pencil. We went to Provence together one Easter and she did such pretty sketches.”

“How nice,” I said.

“We’re talking about sketching,” shouted Beatrice to her grandmother, “you did not know we had an artist in the family, did you?”

“Who’s an artist?” said the old lady. “I don’t know any.”

“Your new granddaughter,” said Beatrice: “you ask her what I gave her for a wedding-present.”

I smiled, waiting to be asked. The old lady turned her head in my direction. “What’s Bee talking about?” she said. “I did not know you were an artist. We’ve never had any artists in the family.”

“Beatrice was joking,” I said: “of course I’m not an artist really. I like drawing as a hobby. I’ve never had any lessons. Beatrice gave me some lovely books as a present.”

“Oh,” she said, rather bewildered. “Beatrice gave you some books, did she? Rather like taking coals to Newcastle, wasn’t it? There are so many books in the library at Manderley.” She laughed heartily. We all joined in her joke. I hoped the subject would be left at that, but Beatrice had to harp on it. “You don’t understand, Gran,” she said. “They weren’t ordinary books. They were volumes on art. Four of ’em.”

The nurse leaned forward to add her tribute. “Mrs. Lacy is trying to explain that Mrs. de Winter is very fond of sketching as a hobby. So she gave her four fine volumes all about painting as a wedding-present.”

“What a funny thing to do,” said the grandmother. “I don’t think much of books for a wedding-present. Nobody ever gave me any books when I was married. I should never have read them if they had.”

She laughed again. Beatrice looked rather offended. I smiled at her to show my sympathy. I don’t think she saw. The nurse resumed her knitting.

“I want my tea,” said the old lady querulously, “isn’t it half past four yet? Why doesn’t Norah bring the tea?”

“What? Hungry again after our big lunch?” said the nurse, rising to her feet and smiling brightly at her charge.

I felt rather exhausted, and wondered, rather shocked at my callous thought, why old people were sometimes such a strain. Worse than young children or puppies because one had to be polite. I sat with my hands in my lap ready to agree with what anybody said. The nurse was thumping the pillows and arranging the shawls.

Maxim’s grandmother suffered her in patience. She closed her eyes as though she too were tired. She looked more like Maxim than ever. I knew how she must have looked when she was young, tall, and handsome, going round to the stables at Manderley with sugar in her pockets, holding her trailing skirt out of the mud. I pictured the nipped-in waist, the high collar, I heard her ordering the carriage for two o’clock. That was all finished now for her, all gone. Her husband had been dead for forty years, her son for fifteen. She had to live in this bright, red-gabled house with the nurse until it was time for her to die. I thought how little we know about the feelings of old people. Children we understand, their fears and hopes and make-believe. I was a child yesterday. I had not forgotten. But Maxim’s grandmother, sitting there in her shawl with her poor blind eyes, what did she feel, what was she thinking? Did she know that Beatrice was yawning and glancing at her watch? Did she guess that we had come to visit her because we felt it right, it was a duty, so that when she got home afterwards Beatrice would be able to say, “Well, that clears my conscience for three months”?

Did she ever think about Manderley? Did she remember sitting at the dining room table, where I sat? Did she too have tea under the chestnut tree? Or was it all forgotten and laid aside, and was there nothing left behind that calm, pale face of hers but little aches and little strange discomforts, a blurred thankfulness when the sun shone, a tremor when the wind blew cold?

I wished that I could lay my hands upon her face and take the years away. I wished I could see her young, as she was once, with color in her cheeks and chestnut hair, alert and active as Beatrice by her side, talking as she did about hunting, hounds, and horses. Not sitting there with her eyes closed while the nurse thumped the pillows behind her head.

“We’ve got a treat today, you know,” said the nurse, “watercress sandwiches for tea. We love watercress, don’t we?”

“Is it watercress day?” said Maxim’s grandmother, raising her head from the pillows, and looking towards the door. “You did not tell me that. Why does not Norah bring in the tea?”

“I wouldn’t have your job, Sister, for a thousand a day,” said Beatrice sotto voce to the nurse.

“Oh, I’m used to it, Mrs. Lacy,” smiled the nurse; “it’s very comfortable here, you know. Of course we have our bad days but they might be a great deal worse. She’s very easy, not like some patients. The staff are obliging too, that’s really the main thing. Here comes Norah.”

The parlor-maid brought out a little gate-legged table and a snowy cloth.

“What a time you’ve been, Norah,” grumbled the old lady.

“It’s only just turned the half hour, Madam,” said Norah in a special voice, bright and cheerful like the nurse. I wondered if Maxim’s grandmother realized that people spoke to her in this way. I wondered when they had done so for the first time, and if she had noticed then. Perhaps she had said to herself, “They think I’m getting old, how very ridiculous,” and then little by little she had become accustomed to it, and now it was as though they had always done so, it was part of her background. But the young woman with the chestnut hair and the narrow waist who gave sugar to the horses, where was she?

We drew our chairs to the gate-legged table and began to eat the watercress sandwiches. The nurse prepared special ones for the old lady.

“There, now, isn’t that a treat?” she said.

I saw a slow smile pass over the calm, placid face. “I like watercress day,” she said.

The tea was scalding, much too hot to drink. The nurse drank hers in tiny sips.

“Boiling water today,” she said, nodding at Beatrice. “I have such trouble about it. They will let the tea stew. I’ve told them time and time again about it. They will not listen.”

“Oh, they’re all the same,” said Beatrice. “I’ve given it up as a bad job.” The old lady stirred hers with a spoon, her eyes very far and distant. I wished I knew what she was thinking about.

“Did you have fine weather in Italy?” said the nurse.

“Yes, it was very warm,” I said.

Beatrice turned to her grandmother. “They had lovely weather in Italy for their honeymoon, she says. Maxim got quite sunburnt.”

“Why isn’t Maxim here today?” said the old lady.

“We told you, darling, Maxim had to go to London,” said Beatrice impatiently. “Some dinner, you know. Giles went too.”

“Oh, I see. Why did you say Maxim was in Italy?”

“He was in Italy, Gran. In April. They’re back at Manderley now.” She glanced at the nurse, shrugging her shoulders.

“Mr. and Mrs. de Winter are in Manderley now,” repeated the nurse.

“It’s been lovely there this month,” I said, drawing nearer to Maxim’s grandmother. “The roses are in bloom now. I wish I had brought you some.”

“Yes, I like roses,” she said vaguely, and then peering closer at me with her dim blue eyes. “Are you staying at Manderley too?”

I swallowed. There was a slight pause. Then Beatrice broke in with her loud, impatient voice, “Gran, darling, you know perfectly well she lives there now. She and Maxim are married.”

I noticed the nurse put down her cup of tea and glance swiftly at the old lady. She had relaxed against the pillows, plucking at her shawl, and her mouth began to tremble. “You talk too much, all of you. I don’t understand.” Then she looked across at me, a frown on her face, and began shaking her head. “Who are you, my dear, I haven’t seen you before? I don’t know your face. I don’t remember you at Manderley. Bee, who is this child? Why did not Maxim bring Rebecca? I’m so fond of Rebecca. Where is dear Rebecca?”

There was a long pause, a moment of agony. I felt my cheeks grow scarlet. The nurse got to her feet very quickly and went to the bath chair.

“I want Rebecca,” repeated the old lady, “what have you done with Rebecca?” Beatrice rose clumsily from the table, shaking the cups and saucers. She too had turned very red, and her mouth twitched.

“I think you’d better go, Mrs. Lacy,” said the nurse, rather pink and flustered. “She’s looking a little tired, and when she wanders like this it sometimes lasts a few hours. She does get excited like this from time to time. It’s very unfortunate it should happen today. I’m sure you will understand, Mrs. de Winter?” She turned apologetically to me.

“Of course,” I said quickly, “it’s much better we should go.”

Beatrice and I groped for our bags and gloves. The nurse had turned to her patient again. “Now, what’s all this about? Do you want your nice watercress sandwich that I’ve cut for you?”

“Where is Rebecca? Why did not Maxim come and bring Rebecca?” replied the thin, querulous voice.

We went through the drawing room to the hall and let ourselves out of the front door. Beatrice started up the car without a word. We drove down the smooth gravel drive and out of the white gates.

I stared straight in front of me down the road. I did not mind for myself. I should not have cared if I had been alone. I minded for Beatrice.

The whole thing had been so wretched and awkward for Beatrice.

She spoke to me when we turned out of the village. “My dear,” she began, “I’m so dreadfully sorry. I don’t know what to say.”

“Don’t be absurd, Beatrice,” I said hurriedly, “it doesn’t matter a bit. It’s absolutely all right.”

“I had no idea she would do that,” said Beatrice. “I would never have dreamed of taking you to see her. I’m so frightfully sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about. Please don’t say any more.”

“I can’t make it out. She knew all about you. I wrote and told her, and so did Maxim. She was so interested in the wedding abroad.”

“You forget how old she is,” I said. “Why should she remember that? She doesn’t connect me with Maxim. She only connects him with Rebecca.” We went on driving in silence. It was a relief to be in the car again. I did not mind the jerky motion and the swaying corners.

“I’d forgotten she was so fond of Rebecca,” said Beatrice slowly, “I was a fool not to expect something like this. I don’t believe she ever took it in properly about the accident. Oh, Lord, what a ghastly afternoon. What on earth will you think of me?”

“Please, Beatrice, don’t. I tell you I don’t mind.”

“Rebecca made a great fuss of her always. And she used to have the old lady over to Manderley. Poor darling Gran was much more alert then. She used to rock with laughter at whatever Rebecca said. Of course she was always very amusing, and the old lady loved that. She had an amazing gift, Rebecca I mean, of being attractive to people; men, women, children, dogs. I suppose the old lady has never forgotten her. My dear, you won’t thank me for this afternoon.”

“I don’t mind, I don’t mind,” I repeated mechanically. If only Beatrice could leave the subject alone. It did not interest me. What did it matter after all? What did anything matter?

“Giles will be very upset,” said Beatrice. “He will blame me for taking you over. ‘What an idiotic thing to do, Bee.’ I can hear him saying it. I shall get into a fine row.”

“Don’t say anything about it,” I said. “I would much rather it was forgotten. The story will only get repeated and exaggerated.”

“Giles will know something is wrong from my face. I never have been able to hide anything from him.”

I was silent. I knew how the story would be tossed about in their immediate circle of friends. I could imagine the little crowd at Sunday lunch. The round eyes, the eager ears, and the gasps and exclamations—

“My Lord, how awful, what on earth did you do?” and then, “How did she take it? How terribly embarrassing for everyone!”

The only thing that mattered to me was that Maxim should never come to hear of it. One day I might tell Frank Crawley, but not yet, not for quite a while.

It was not long before we came to the high road at the top of the hill. In the distance I could see the first gray roofs of Kerrith, while to the right, in a hollow, lay the deep woods of Manderley and the sea beyond.

“Are you in a frightful hurry to get home?” said Beatrice.

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so. Why?”

“Would you think me a perfect pig if I dropped you at the lodge gates? If I drive like hell now I shall just be in time to meet Giles by the London train, and it will save him taking the station taxi.”

“Of course,” I said. “I can walk down the drive.”

“Thanks awfully,” she said gratefully.

I felt the afternoon had been too much for her. She wanted to be alone again, and did not want to face another belated tea at Manderley.

I got out of the car at the lodge gates and we kissed goodbye.

“Put on some weight next time I see you,” she said; “it doesn’t suit you to be so thin. Give Maxim my love, and forgive me for today.” She vanished in a cloud of dust and I turned in down the drive.

I wondered if it had altered much since Maxim’s grandmother had driven down it in her carriage. She had ridden here as a young woman, she had smiled at the woman at the lodge as I did now. And in her day the lodge keeper’s wife had curtseyed, sweeping the path with her full wide skirt. This woman nodded to me briefly, and then called to her little boy, who was grubbing with some kittens at the back. Maxim’s grandmother had bowed her head to avoid the sweeping branches of the trees, and the horse had trotted down the twisting drive where I now walked. The drive had been wider then, and smoother too, better kept. The woods did not encroach upon it.

I did not think of her as she was now, lying against those pillows, with that shawl around her. I saw her when she was young, and when Manderley was her home. I saw her wandering in the gardens with a small boy, Maxim’s father, clattering behind her on his hobby horse. He would wear a stiff Norfolk jacket and a round white collar. Picnics to the cove would be an expedition, a treat that was not indulged in very often. There would be a photograph somewhere, in an old album—all the family sitting very straight and rigid round a tablecloth set upon the beach, the servants in the background beside a huge lunch-basket. And I saw Maxim’s grandmother when she was older too, a few years ago. Walking on the terrace at Manderley, leaning on a stick. And someone walked beside her, laughing, holding her arm. Someone tall and slim and very beautiful, who had a gift, Beatrice said, of being attractive to people. Easy to like, I supposed, easy to love.

When I came to the end of the long drive at last I saw that Maxim’s car was standing in front of the house. My heart lifted, I ran quickly into the hall. His hat and gloves were lying on the table. I went towards the library, and as I came near I heard the sound of voices, one raised louder than the other, Maxim’s voice. The door was shut. I hesitated a moment before going in.

“You can write and tell him from me to keep away from Manderley in future, do you hear? Never mind who told me, that’s of no importance. I happen to know his car was seen here yesterday afternoon. If you want to meet him you can meet him outside Manderley. I won’t have him inside the gates, do you understand? Remember, I’m warning you for the last time.”

I slipped away from the door to the stairs. I heard the door of the library open. I ran swiftly up the stairs and hid in the gallery. Mrs. Danvers came out of the library, shutting the door behind her. I crouched against the wall of the gallery so that I should not be seen. I had caught one glimpse of her face. It was gray with anger, distorted, horrible.

She passed up the stairs swiftly and silently and disappeared through the door leading to the west wing.

I waited a moment. Then I went slowly downstairs to the library. I opened the door and went in. Maxim was standing by the window, some letters in his hand. His back was turned to me. For a moment I thought of creeping out again, and going upstairs to my room and sitting there. He must have heard me though, for he swung round impatiently.

“Who is it now?” he said.

I smiled, holding out my hands. “Hullo!” I said.

“Oh, it’s you…”

I could tell in a glance that something had made him very angry. His mouth was hard, his nostrils white and pinched. “What have you been doing with yourself?” he said. He kissed the top of my head and put his arm round my shoulder. I felt as if a very long time had passed since he had left me yesterday.

“I’ve been to see your grandmother,” I said. “Beatrice drove me over this afternoon.”

“How was the old lady?”

“All right.”

“What’s happened to Bee?”

“She had to get back to meet Giles.”

We sat down together on the window seat. I took his hand in mine. “I hated you being away, I’ve missed you terribly,” I said.

“Have you?” he said.

We did not say anything for a bit. I just held his hand.

“Was it hot up in London?” I said.

“Yes, pretty awful. I always hate the place.”

I wondered if he would tell me what had happened just now in the library with Mrs. Danvers. I wondered who had told him about Favell.

“Are you worried about something?” I said.

“I’ve had a long day,” he said, “that drive twice in twenty-four hours is too much for anyone.”

He got up and wandered away, lighting a cigarette. I knew then that he was not going to tell me about Mrs. Danvers.

“I’m tired too,” I said slowly, “it’s been a funny sort of day.”