Rebecca Chapter 16

It was one Sunday, I remember, when we had an invasion of visitors during the afternoon, that the subject of the fancy dress ball was first brought up. Frank Crawley had come over to lunch, and we were all three of us looking forward to a peaceful afternoon under the chestnut tree when we heard the fatal sound of a car rounding the sweep in the drive. It was too late to warn Frith, the car itself came upon us standing on the terrace with cushions and papers under our arms.

We had to come forward and welcome the unexpected guests. As often happens in such cases, these were not to be the only visitors. Another car arrived about half an hour afterwards, followed by three local people who had walked from Kerrith, and we found ourselves, with the peace stripped from our day, entertaining group after group of dreary acquaintances, doing the regulation walk in the grounds, the tour of the rose garden, the stroll across the lawns, and the formal inspection of the Happy Valley.

They stayed for tea of course, and instead of a lazy nibbling of cucumber sandwiches under the chestnut tree, we had the paraphernalia of a stiff tea in the drawing room, which I always loathed. Frith in his element of course, directing Robert with a lift of his eyebrows, and myself rather hot and flustered with a monstrous silver teapot and kettle that I never knew how to manage. I found it very difficult to gauge the exact moment when it became imperative to dilute the tea with the boiling water, and more difficult still to concentrate on the small talk that was going on at my side.

Frank Crawley was invaluable at a moment like this. He took the cups from me and handed them to people, and when my answers seemed more than usually vague owing to my concentration on the silver teapot he quietly and unobtrusively put in his small wedge to the conversation, relieving me of responsibility. Maxim was always at the other end of the room, showing a book to a bore, or pointing out a picture, playing the perfect host in his own inimitable way, and the business of tea was a side-issue that did not matter to him. His own cup of tea grew cold, left on a side table behind some flowers, and I, steaming behind my kettle, and Frank gallantly juggling with scones and angel cake, were left to minister to the common wants of the herd. It was Lady Crowan, a tiresome gushing woman who lived in Kerrith, who introduced the matter. There was one of those pauses in conversation that happen in every teaparty, and I saw Frank’s lips about to form the inevitable and idiotic remark about an angel passing overhead, when Lady Crowan, balancing a piece of cake on the edge of her saucer, looked up at Maxim, who happened to be beside her.

“Oh, Mr. de Winter,” she said, “there is something I’ve been wanting to ask you for ages. Now tell me, is there any chance of you reviving the Manderley fancy dress ball?” She put her head on one side as she spoke, flashing her too prominent teeth in what she supposed was a smile. I lowered my head instantly, and became very busy with the emptying of my own teacup, screening myself behind the cozy.

It was a moment or two before Maxim replied, and when he did his voice was quite calm and matter-of-fact. “I haven’t thought about it,” he said, “and I don’t think anyone else has.”

“Oh, but I assure you we have all thought of it so much,” continued Lady Crowan. “It used to make the summer for all of us in this part of the world. You have no idea of the pleasure it used to give. Can’t I persuade you to think about it again?”

“Well, I don’t know,” said Maxim drily. “It was all rather a business to organize. You had better ask Frank Crawley, he’d have to do it.”

“Oh, Mr. Crawley, do be on my side,” she persisted, and one or two of the others joined in. “It would be a most popular move, you know, we all miss the Manderley gaiety.”

I heard Frank’s quiet voice beside me. “I don’t mind organizing the ball if Maxim has no objection to giving it. It’s up to him and Mrs. de Winter. It’s nothing to do with me.”

Of course I was bombarded at once. Lady Crowan moved her chair so that the cozy no longer hid me from view. “Now, Mrs. de Winter, you get round your husband. You are the person he will listen to. He should give the ball in your honor as the bride.”

“Yes, of course,” said somebody else, a man. “We missed the fun of the wedding, you know; it’s a shame to deprive us of all excitement. Hands up for the Manderley fancy dress ball. There you see, de Winter? Carried unanimously.” There was much laughter and clapping of hands.

Maxim lit a cigarette and his eyes met mine over the teapot.

“What do you think about it?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said uncertainly. “I don’t mind.”

“Of course she longs to have a ball in her honor,” gushed Lady Crowan. “What girl wouldn’t? You’d look sweet, Mrs. de Winter, dressed as a little Dresden shepherdess, your hair tucked under a big three-cornered hat.”

I thought of my clumsy hands and feet and the slope of my shoulders. A fine Dresden shepherdess I should make! What an idiot the woman was. I was not surprised when nobody agreed with her, and once more I was grateful to Frank for turning the conversation away from me.

“As a matter of fact, Maxim, someone was talking about it the other day. ‘I suppose we shall be having some sort of celebration for the bride, shan’t we, Mr. Crawley?’ he said. ‘I wish Mr. de Winter would give a ball again. It was rare fun for all of us.’ It was Tucker at the Home farm,” he added, to Lady Crowan. “Of course they do adore a show of any kind. I don’t know, I told him. Mr. de Winter hasn’t said anything to me.”

“There you are,” said Lady Crowan triumphantly to the drawing room in general. “What did I say? Your own people are asking for a ball. If you don’t care for us, surely you care about them.”

Maxim still watched me doubtfully over the teapot. It occurred to me that perhaps he thought I could not face it, that being shy, as he knew only too well, I should find myself unable to cope. I did not want him to think that. I did not want him to feel I should let him down.

“I think it would be rather fun,” I said.

Maxim turned away, shrugging his shoulders. “That settles it of course,” he said. “All right, Frank, you will have to go ahead with the arrangements. Better get Mrs. Danvers to help you. She will remember the form.”

“That amazing Mrs. Danvers is still with you then?” said Lady Crowan.

“Yes,” said Maxim shortly, “have some more cake, will you? Or have you finished? Then let’s all go into the garden.”

We wandered out onto the terrace, everyone discussing the prospect of the ball and suitable dates, and then, greatly to my relief, the car parties decided it was time to take their departure, and the walkers went too, on being offered a lift. I went back into the drawing room and had another cup of tea which I thoroughly enjoyed now that the burden of entertaining had been taken from me, and Frank came too, and we crumbled up the remains of the scones and ate them, feeling like conspirators.

Maxim was throwing sticks for Jasper on the lawn. I wondered if it was the same in every home, this feeling of exuberance when visitors had gone. We did not say anything about the ball for a little while, and then, when I had finished my cup of tea and wiped my sticky fingers on a handkerchief, I said to Frank: “What do you truthfully think about this fancy dress business?”

Frank hesitated, half glancing out of the window at Maxim on the lawn. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maxim did not seem to object, did he? I thought he took the suggestion very well.”

“It was difficult for him to do anything else,” I said. “What a tiresome person Lady Crowan is. Do you really believe all the people round here are talking and dreaming of nothing but a fancy dress ball at Manderley?”

“I think they would all enjoy a show of some sort,” said Frank. “We’re very conventional down here, you know, about these things. I don’t honestly think Lady Crowan was exaggerating when she said something should be done in your honor. After all, Mrs. de Winter, you are a bride.”

How pompous and stupid it sounded. I wished Frank would not always be so terribly correct.

“I’m not a bride,” I said. “I did not even have a proper wedding. No white dress or orange blossom or trailing bridesmaids. I don’t want any silly dance given in my honor.”

“It’s a very fine sight, Manderley en fĂȘte,” said Frank. “You’ll enjoy it, you see. You won’t have to do anything alarming. You just receive the guests and there’s nothing in that. Perhaps you’ll give me a dance?”

Dear Frank. I loved his little solemn air of gallantry.

“You shall have as many dances as you like,” I said. “I shan’t dance with anyone except you and Maxim.”

“Oh, but that would not look right at all,” said Frank seriously. “People would be very offended. You must dance with the people who ask you.”

I turned away to hide my smile. It was a joy to me the way he never knew when his leg had been pulled.

“Do you think Lady Crowan’s suggestion about the Dresden shepherdess was a good one?” I said slyly.

He considered me solemnly without the trace of a smile. “Yes, I do,” he said. “I think you’d look very well indeed.”

I burst into laughter. “Oh, Frank, dear, I do love you,” I said, and he turned rather pink, a little shocked I think at my impulsive words, and a little hurt too that I was laughing at him.

“I don’t see that I’ve said anything funny,” he said stiffly.

Maxim came in at the window, Jasper dancing at his heels. “What’s all the excitement about?” he said.

“Frank is being so gallant,” I said. “He thinks Lady Crowan’s idea of my dressing up as a Dresden shepherdess is nothing to laugh at.”

“Lady Crowan is a damned nuisance,” said Maxim. “If she had to write out all the invitations and organize the affair she would not be so enthusiastic. It’s always been the same though. The locals look upon Manderley as if it was a pavilion on the end of a pier, and expect us to put up a turn for their benefit. I suppose we shall have to ask the whole county.”

“I’ve got the records in the office,” said Frank. “It won’t really entail much work. Licking the stamps is the longest job.”

“We’ll give that to you to do,” said Maxim, smiling at me.

“Oh, we’ll do that in the office,” said Frank. “Mrs. de Winter need not bother her head about anything at all.” I wondered what they would say if I suddenly announced my intention of running the whole affair. Laugh, I supposed, and then begin talking of something else. I was glad, of course, to be relieved of responsibility, but it rather added to my sense of humility to feel that I was not even capable of licking stamps. I thought of the writing desk in the morning room, the docketed pigeonholes all marked in ink by that slanting pointed hand.

“What will you wear?” I said to Maxim.

“I never dress up,” said Maxim. “It’s the one perquisite allowed to the host, isn’t it, Frank?”

“I can’t really go as a Dresden shepherdess,” I said, “what on earth shall I do? I’m not much good at dressing-up.”

“Put a ribbon round your hair and be Alice-in-Wonderland,” said Maxim lightly; “you look like it now, with your finger in your mouth.”

“Don’t be so rude,” I said. “I know my hair is straight, but it isn’t as straight as that. I tell you what, I’ll give you and Frank the surprise of your lives, and you won’t know me.”

“As long as you don’t black your face and pretend to be a monkey I don’t mind what you do,” said Maxim.

“All right, that’s a bargain,” I said. “I’ll keep my costume a secret to the last minute, and you won’t know anything about it. Come on, Jasper, we don’t care what they say, do we?” I heard Maxim laughing as I went out into the garden, and he said something to Frank which I did not catch.

I wished he would not always treat me as a child, rather spoiled, rather irresponsible, someone to be petted from time to time when the mood came upon him but more often forgotten, more often patted on the shoulder and told to run away and play. I wished something would happen to make me look wiser, more mature. Was it always going to be like this? He away ahead of me, with his own moods that I did not share, his secret troubles that I did not know? Would we never be together, he a man and I a woman, standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, with no gulf between us? I did not want to be a child. I wanted to be his wife, his mother. I wanted to be old.

I stood on the terrace, biting my nails, looking down towards the sea, and as I stood there I wondered for the twentieth time that day whether it was by Maxim’s orders that those rooms in the west wing were kept furnished and untouched. I wondered if he went, as Mrs. Danvers did, and touched the brushes on the dressing table, opened the wardrobe doors, and put his hands among the clothes.

“Come on, Jasper,” I shouted, “run, run with me, come on, can’t you?” and I tore across the grass, savagely, angrily, the bitter tears behind my eyes, with Jasper leaping at my heels and barking hysterically.

The news soon spread about the fancy dress ball. My little maid Clarice, her eyes shining with excitement, talked of nothing else. I gathered from her that the servants in general were delighted. “Mr. Frith says it will be like old times,” said Clarice eagerly. “I heard him saying so to Alice in the passage this morning. What will you wear, Madam?”

“I don’t know, Clarice, I can’t think,” I said.

“Mother said I was to be sure and tell her,” said Clarice. “She remembers the last ball they gave at Manderley, and she has never forgotten it. Will you be hiring a costume from London, do you think?”

“I haven’t made up my mind, Clarice,” I said. “But I tell you what. When I do decide, I shall tell you and nobody else. It will be a dead secret between us both.”

“Oh, Madam, how exciting,” breathed Clarice. “I don’t know how I am going to wait for the day.”

I was curious to know Mrs. Danvers’ reaction to the news. Since that afternoon I dreaded even the sound of her voice down the house telephone, and by using Robert as mediator between us I was spared this last ordeal. I could not forget the expression of her face when she left the library after that interview with Maxim. I thanked God she had not seen me crouching in the gallery. And I wondered too, if she thought that it was I who had told Maxim about Favell’s visit to the house. If so, she would hate me more than ever. I shuddered now when I remembered the touch of her hand on my arm, and that dreadful soft, intimate pitch of her voice close to my ear. I did not want to remember anything about that afternoon. That was why I did not speak to her, not even on the house telephone.

The preparations went on for the ball. Everything seemed to be done down at the estate office. Maxim and Frank were down there every morning. As Frank had said, I did not have to bother my head about anything. I don’t think I licked one stamp. I began to get in a panic about my costume. It seemed so feeble not to be able to think of anything, and I kept remembering all the people who would come, from Kerrith and round about, the bishop’s wife who had enjoyed herself so much, the last time, Beatrice and Giles, that tiresome Lady Crowan, and many more people I did not know and who had never seen me, they would every one of them have some criticism to offer, some curiosity to know what sort of effort I should make. At last, in desperation, I remembered the books that Beatrice had given me for a wedding-present, and I sat down in the library one morning turning over the pages as a last hope, passing from illustration to illustration in a sort of frenzy. Nothing seemed suitable, they were all so elaborate and pretentious, those gorgeous costumes of velvet and silk in the reproductions given of Rubens, Rembrandt and others. I got hold of a piece of paper and a pencil and copied one or two of them, but they did not please me, and I threw the sketches into the wastepaper basket in disgust, thinking no more about them.

In the evening, when I was changing for dinner, there was a knock at my bedroom door. I called “Come in,” thinking it was Clarice. The door opened and it was not Clarice. It was Mrs. Danvers. She held a piece of paper in her hand. “I hope you will forgive me disturbing you,” she said, “but I was not sure whether you meant to throw these drawings away. All the wastepaper baskets are always brought to me to check, at the end of the day, in case of mislaying anything of value. Robert told me this was thrown into the library basket.”

I had turned quite cold all over at the sight of her, and at first I could not find my voice. She held out the paper for me to see. It was the rough drawing I had done during the morning.

“No, Mrs. Danvers,” I said, after a moment, “it doesn’t matter throwing that away. It was only a rough sketch. I don’t want it.”

“Very good,” she said, “I thought it better to inquire from you personally to save any misunderstanding.”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, of course.” I thought she would turn and go, but she went on standing there by the door.

“So you have not decided yet what you will wear?” she said. There was a hint of derision in her voice, a trace of odd satisfaction. I supposed she had heard of my efforts through Clarice in some way.

“No,” I said. “No, I haven’t decided.”

She continued watching me, her hand on the handle of the door.

“I wonder you don’t copy one of the pictures in the gallery,” she said.

I pretended to file my nails. They were too short and too brittle, but the action gave me something to do and I did not have to look at her.

“Yes, I might think about that,” I said. I wondered privately why such an idea had never come to me before. It was an obvious and very good solution to my difficulty. I did not want her to know this though. I went on filing my nails.

“All the pictures in the gallery would make good costumes,” said Mrs. Danvers, “especially that one of the young lady in white, with her hat in her hand. I wonder Mr. de Winter does not make it a period ball, everyone dressed more or less the same, to be in keeping. I never think it looks right to see a clown dancing with a lady in powder and patches.”

“Some people enjoy the variety,” I said. “They think it makes it all the more amusing.”

“I don’t like it myself,” said Mrs. Danvers. Her voice was surprisingly normal and friendly, and I wondered why it was she had taken the trouble to come up with my discarded sketch herself. Did she want to be friends with me at last? Or did she realize that it had not been me at all who had told Maxim about Favell, and this was her way of thanking me for my silence?

“Has not Mr. de Winter suggested a costume for you?” she said.

“No,” I said, after a moment’s hesitation. “No, I want to surprise him and Mr. Crawley. I don’t want them to know anything about it.”

“It’s not for me to make a suggestion, I know,” she said, “but when you do decide, I should advise you to have your dress made in London. There is no one down here can do that sort of thing well. Voce, in Bond Street, is a good place I know.”

“I must remember that,” I said.

“Yes,” she said, and then, as she opened the door, “I should study the pictures in the gallery, Madam, if I were you, especially the one I mentioned. And you need not think I will give you away. I won’t say a word to anyone.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Danvers,” I said. She shut the door very gently behind her. I went on with my dressing, puzzled at her attitude, so different from our last encounter, and wondering whether I had the unpleasant Favell to thank for it.

Rebecca’s cousin. Why should Maxim dislike Rebecca’s cousin? Why had he forbidden him to come to Manderley? Beatrice had called him a bounder. She had not said much about him. And the more I considered him the more I agreed with her. Those hot blue eyes, that loose mouth, and the careless familiar laugh. Some people would consider him attractive. Girls in sweet shops giggling behind the counter, and girls who gave one programs in a cinema. I knew how he would look at them, smiling, and half whistling a tune under his breath. The sort of look and the type of whistle that would make one feel uncomfortable. I wondered how well he knew Manderley. He seemed quite at home, and Jasper certainly recognized him, but these two facts did not fit in with Maxim’s words to Mrs. Danvers. And I could not connect him with my idea of Rebecca. Rebecca, with her beauty, her charm, her breeding, why did she have a cousin like Jack Favell? It was wrong, out of all proportion. I decided he must be the skeleton in the family cupboard, and Rebecca with her generosity had taken pity on him from time to time and invited him to Manderley, perhaps when Maxim was from home, knowing his dislike. There had been some argument about it probably, Rebecca defending him, and ever after this perhaps a slight awkwardness whenever his name was mentioned.

As I sat down to dinner in the dining room in my accustomed place, with Maxim at the head of the table, I pictured Rebecca sitting in where I sat now, picking up her fork for the fish, and then the telephone ringing and Frith coming into the room and saying “Mr. Favell on the phone, Madam, wishing to speak to you,” and Rebecca would get up from her chair with a quick glance at Maxim, who would not say anything, who would go on eating his fish. And when she came back, having finished her conversation, and sat down in her place again, Rebecca would begin talking about something different, in a gay, careless way, to cover up the little cloud between them. At first Maxim would be glum, answering in monosyllables, but little by little she would win his humor back again, telling him some story of her day, about someone she had seen in Kerrith, and when they had finished the next course he would be laughing again, looking at her and smiling, putting out his hand to her across the table.

“What the devil are you thinking about?” said Maxim.

I started, the color flooding my face, for in that brief moment, sixty seconds in time perhaps, I had so identified myself with Rebecca that my own dull self did not exist, had never come to Manderley. I had gone back in thought and in person to the days that were gone.

“Do you know you were going through the most extraordinary antics instead of eating your fish?” said Maxim. “First you listened, as though you heard the telephone, and then your lips moved, and you threw half a glance at me. And you shook your head, and smiled, and shrugged your shoulders. All in about a second. Are you practicing your appearance for the fancy dress ball?” He looked across at me, laughing, and I wondered what he would say if he really knew my thoughts, my heart, and my mind, and that for one second he had been the Maxim of another year, and I had been Rebecca. “You look like a little criminal,” he said, “what is it?”

“Nothing,” I said quickly, “I wasn’t doing anything.”

“Tell me what you were thinking?”

“Why should I? You never tell me what you are thinking about.”

“I don’t think you’ve ever asked me, have you?”

“Yes, I did once.”

“I don’t remember.”

“We were in the library.”

“Very probably. What did I say?”

“You told me you were wondering who had been chosen to play for Surrey against Middlesex.”

Maxim laughed again. “What a disappointment to you. What did you hope I was thinking?”

“Something very different.”

“What sort of thing?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“No, I don’t suppose you do. If I told you I was thinking about Surrey and Middlesex I was thinking about Surrey and Middlesex. Men are simpler than you imagine, my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone. Do you know, you did not look a bit like yourself just now? You had quite a different expression on your face.”

“I did? What sort of expression?”

“I don’t know that I can explain. You looked older suddenly, deceitful. It was rather unpleasant.”

“I did not mean to.”

“No, I don’t suppose you did.”

I drank some water, watching him over the rim of my glass.

“Don’t you want me to look older?” I said.


“Why not?”

“Because it would not suit you.”

“One day I shall. It can’t be helped. I shall have gray hair, and lines and things.”

“I don’t mind that.”

“What do you mind then?”

“I don’t want you to look like you did just now. You had a twist to your mouth and a flash of knowledge in your eyes. Not the right sort of knowledge.”

I felt very curious, rather excited. “What do you mean, Maxim? What isn’t the right sort of knowledge?”

He did not answer for a moment. Frith had come back into the room and was changing the plates. Maxim waited until Frith had gone behind the screen and through the service door before speaking again.

“When I met you first you had a certain expression on your face,” he said slowly, “and you have it still. I’m not going to define it, I don’t know how to. But it was one of the reasons why I married you. A moment ago, when you were going through that curious little performance, the expression had gone. Something else had taken its place.”

“What sort of thing? Explain to me, Maxim,” I said eagerly.

He considered me a moment, his eyebrows raised, whistling softly. “Listen, my sweet. When you were a little girl, were you ever forbidden to read certain books, and did your father put those books under lock and key?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, then. A husband is not so very different from a father after all. There is a certain type of knowledge I prefer you not to have. It’s better kept under lock and key. So that’s that. And now eat up your peaches, and don’t ask me any more questions, or I shall put you in the corner.”

“I wish you would not treat me as if I was six,” I said.

“How do you want to be treated?”

“Like other men treat their wives.”

“Knock you about, you mean?”

“Don’t be absurd. Why must you make a joke of everything?”

“I’m not joking. I’m very serious.”

“No, you’re not. I can tell by your eyes. You’re playing with me all the time, just as if I was a silly little girl.”

“Alice-in-Wonderland. That was a good idea of mine. Have you bought your sash and your hair-ribbon yet?”

“I warn you. You’ll get the surprise of your life when you do see me in my fancy dress.”

“I’m sure I shall. Get on with your peach and don’t talk with your mouth full. I’ve got a lot of letters to write after dinner.” He did not wait for me to finish. He got up and strolled about the room, and asked Frith to bring the coffee in the library. I sat still, sullenly, being as slow as I could, hoping to keep things back and irritate him, but Frith took no notice of me and my peach, he brought the coffee at once and Maxim went off to the library by himself.

When I had finished I went upstairs to the minstrel’s gallery to have a look at the pictures. I knew them well of course by now, but had never studied them with a view to reproducing one of them as a fancy dress. Mrs. Danvers was right of course. What an idiot I had been not to think of it before. I always loved the girl in white, with a hat in her hand. It was a Raeburn, and the portrait was of Caroline de Winter, a sister of Maxim’s great-great grandfather. She married a great Whig politician, and was a famous London beauty for many years, but this portrait was painted before that, when she was still unmarried. The white dress should be easy to copy. Those puffed sleeves, the flounce, and the little bodice. The hat might be rather difficult, and I should have to wear a wig. My straight hair would never curl in that way. Perhaps that Voce place in London that Mrs. Danvers had told me about would do the whole thing. I would send them a sketch of the portrait and tell them to copy it faithfully, sending my measurements.

What a relief it was to have decided at last! Quite a weight off my mind. I began almost to look forward to the ball. Perhaps I should enjoy it after all, almost as much as little Clarice.

I wrote to the shop in the morning, enclosing a sketch of the portrait, and I had a very favorable reply, full of honor at my esteemed order, and saying the work would be put in hand right away, and they would manage the wig as well.

Clarice could hardly contain herself for excitement, and I, too, began to get party fever as the great day approached. Giles and Beatrice were coming for the night, but nobody else, thank heaven, although a lot of people were expected to dinner first. I had imagined we should have to hold a large house-party for the occasion, but Maxim decided against it. “Having the dance alone is quite enough effort,” he said; and I wondered whether he did it for my sake alone, or whether a large crowd of people really bored him as he said. I had heard so much of the Manderley parties in the old days, with people sleeping in bathrooms and on sofas because of the squash. And here we were alone in the vast house, with only Beatrice and Giles to count as guests.

The house began to wear a new, expectant air. Men came to lay the floor for dancing in the great hall, and in the drawing room some of the furniture was moved so that the long buffet tables could be placed against the wall. Lights were put up on the terrace, and in the rose garden too, wherever one walked there would be some sign of preparation for the ball. Workmen from the estate were everywhere, and Frank came to lunch nearly every day. The servants talked of nothing else, and Frith stalked about as though the whole of the evening would depend on him alone. Robert rather lost his head, and kept forgetting things, napkins at lunch, and handing vegetables. He wore a harassed expression, like someone who has got to catch a train. The dogs were miserable. Jasper trailed about the hall with his tail between his legs, and nipped every workman on sight. He used to stand on the terrace, barking idiotically, and then dash madly to one corner of the lawn and eat grass in a sort of frenzy. Mrs. Danvers never obtruded herself, but I was aware of her continually. It was her voice I heard in the drawing room when they came to put the tables, it was she who gave directions for the laying of the floor in the hall. Whenever I came upon the scene she had always just disappeared; I would catch a glimpse of her skirt brushing the door, or hear the sound of her footsteps on the stairs. I was a lay figure, no use to man or beast. I used to stand about doing nothing except get in the way. “Excuse me, Madam,” I would hear a man say, just behind me, and he would pass, with a smile of apology, carrying two chairs on his back, his face dripping with perspiration.

“I’m awfully sorry,” I would say, getting quickly to one side, and then as a cover to my idleness, “Can I help you? What about putting those chairs in the library?” The man would look bewildered. “Mrs. Danvers’ orders, Madam, was that we were to take the chairs round to the back, to be out of the way.”

“Oh,” I said, “yes, of course. How silly of me. Take them round to the back, as she said.” And I would walk quickly away murmuring something about finding a piece of paper and a pencil, in a vain attempt to delude the man into thinking I was busy, while he went on across the hall, looking rather astonished, and I would feel I had not deceived him for a moment.

The great day dawned misty and overcast, but the glass was high and we had no fears. The mist was a good sign. It cleared about eleven, as Maxim had foretold, and we had a glorious still summer’s day without a cloud in the blue sky. All the morning the gardeners were bringing flowers into the house, the last of the white lilac, and great lupins and delphiniums, five foot high, roses in hundreds, and every sort of lily.

Mrs. Danvers showed herself at last; quietly, calmly, she told the gardeners where to put the flowers, and she herself arranged them, stacking the vases with quick, deft fingers. I watched her in fascination, the way she did vase after vase, carrying them herself through the flower room to the drawing room and the various corners of the house, massing them in just the right numbers and profusion, putting color where color was needed, leaving the walls bare where severity paid.

Maxim and I had lunch with Frank at his bachelor establishment next door to the office to be out of the way. We were all three in the rather hearty, cheerful humor of people after a funeral. We made pointless jokes about nothing at all, our minds eternally on the thought of the next few hours. I felt very much the same as I did the morning I was married. The same stifled feeling that I had gone too far now to turn back.

The evening had got to be endured. Thank heaven Messrs Voce had sent my dress in time. It looked perfect, in its folds of tissue paper. And the wig was a triumph. I had tried it on after breakfast, and was amazed at the transformation. I looked quite attractive, quite different altogether. Not me at all. Someone much more interesting, more vivid and alive. Maxim and Frank kept asking me about my costume.

“You won’t know me,” I told them, “you will both get the shock of your lives.”

“You are not going to dress up as a clown, are you?” said Maxim gloomily. “No frightful attempt to be funny?”

“No, nothing like that,” I said, full of importance.

“I wish you had kept to Alice-in-Wonderland,” he said.

“Or Joan of Arc with your hair,” said Frank shyly.

“I never thought of that,” I said blankly, and Frank went rather pink. “I’m sure we shall like whatever you wear,” he said in his most pompous Frank-ish voice.

“Don’t encourage her, Frank,” said Maxim. “She’s so full of her precious disguise already there’s no holding her. Bee will put you in your place, that’s one comfort. She’ll soon tell you if she doesn’t like your dress. Dear old Bee always looks just wrong on these occasions, bless her. I remember her once as Madame Pompadour and she tripped up going in to supper and her wig came adrift. ‘I can’t stand this damned thing,’ she said, in that blunt voice of hers, and chucked it on a chair and went through the rest of the evening with her own cropped hair. You can imagine what it looked like, against a pale blue satin crinoline, or whatever the dress was. Poor Giles did not cope that year. He came as a cook, and sat about in the bar all night looking perfectly miserable. I think he felt Bee had let him down.”

“No, it wasn’t that,” said Frank, “he’d lost his front teeth trying out a new mare, don’t you remember, and he was so shy about it he wouldn’t open his mouth.”

“Oh, was that it? Poor Giles. He generally enjoys dressing-up.”

“Beatrice says he loves playing charades,” I said. “She told me they always have charades at Christmas.”

“I know,” said Maxim, “that’s why I’ve never spent Christmas with her.”

“Have some more asparagus, Mrs. de Winter, and another potato?”

“No, really, Frank, I’m not hungry, thank you.”

“Nerves,” said Maxim, shaking his head. “Never mind, this time tomorrow it will all be over.”

“I sincerely hope so,” said Frank seriously. “I was going to give orders that all cars should stand by for five a.m.”

I began to laugh weakly, the tears coming into my eyes. “Oh dear,” I said, “let’s send wires to everybody not to come.”

“Come on, be brave and face it,” said Maxim. “We need not give another one for years. Frank, I have an uneasy feeling we ought to be going up to the house. What do you think?”

Frank agreed, and I followed them unwillingly, reluctant to leave the cramped, rather uncomfortable little dining room that was so typical of Frank’s bachelor establishment, and which seemed to me today the embodiment of peace and quietude. When we came to the house we found that the band had arrived, and were standing about in the hall rather pink in the face and self-conscious, while Frith, more important than ever, offered refreshments. The band were to be our guests for the night, and after we had welcomed them and exchanged a few slightly obvious jokes proper to the occasion, the band were borne off to their quarters to be followed by a tour of the grounds.

The afternoon dragged, like the last hour before a journey when one is packed up and keyed to departure, and I wandered from room to room almost as lost as Jasper, who trailed reproachfully at my heels.

There was nothing I could do to help, and it would have been wiser on my part to have kept clear of the house altogether and taken the dog and myself for a long walk. By the time I decided upon this it was too late, Maxim and Frank were demanding tea, and when tea was over Beatrice and Giles arrived. The evening had come upon us all too soon.

“This is like old times,” said Beatrice, kissing Maxim, and looking about her. “Congratulations to you for remembering every detail. The flowers are exquisite,” she added, turning to me. “Did you do them?”

“No,” I said, rather ashamed, “Mrs. Danvers is responsible for everything.”

“Oh. Well, after all…” Beatrice did not finish her sentence, she accepted a light for her cigarette from Frank, and once it was lit she appeared to have forgotten what she was going to say.

“Have you got Mitchell’s to do the catering as usual?” asked Giles.

“Yes,” said Maxim. “I don’t think anything has been altered, has it, Frank? We had all the records down at the office. Nothing has been forgotten, and I don’t think we have left anyone out.”

“What a relief to find only ourselves,” said Beatrice. “I remember once arriving about this time, and there were about twenty-five people in the place already. All going to stop the night.”

“What’s everyone going to wear? I suppose Maxim, as always, refuses to play?”

“As always,” said Maxim.

“Such a mistake I think. The whole thing would go with much more swing if you did.”

“Have you ever known a ball at Manderley not to go with a swing?”

“No, my dear boy, the organization is too good. But I do think the host ought to give the lead himself.”

“I think it’s quite enough if the hostess makes the effort,” said Maxim. “Why should I make myself hot and uncomfortable and a damn fool into the bargain?”

“Oh, but that’s absurd. There’s no need to look a fool. With your appearance, my dear Maxim, you could get away with any costume. You don’t have to worry about your figure like poor Giles.”

“What is Giles going to wear tonight?” I asked, “or is it a dead secret?”

“No, rather not,” beamed Giles; “as a matter-of-fact it’s a pretty good effort. I got our local tailor to rig it up. I’m coming as an Arabian sheik.”

“Good God,” said Maxim.

“It’s not at all bad,” said Beatrice warmly. “He stains his face of course, and leaves off his glasses. The head-dress is authentic. We borrowed it off a friend who used to live in the East, and the rest the tailor copied from some paper. Giles looks very well in it.”

“What are you going to be, Mrs. Lacy?” said Frank.

“Oh, I’m afraid I haven’t coped much,” said Beatrice, “I’ve got some sort of Eastern getup to go with Giles, but I don’t pretend it’s genuine. Strings of beads, you know, and a veil over my face.”

“It sounds very nice,” I said politely.

“Oh, it’s not bad. Comfortable to wear, that’s one blessing. I shall take off the veil if I get too hot. What are you wearing?”

“Don’t ask her,” said Maxim. “She won’t tell any of us. There has never been such a secret. I believe she even wrote to London for it.”

“My dear,” said Beatrice, rather impressed, “don’t say you have gone a bust and will put us all to shame? Mine is only homemade, you know.”

“Don’t worry,” I said, laughing, “it’s quite simple really. But Maxim would tease me, and I’ve promised to give him the surprise of his life.”

“Quite right too,” said Giles. “Maxim is too superior altogether. The fact is he’s jealous. Wishes he was dressing up like the rest of us, and doesn’t like to say so.”

“Heaven forbid,” said Maxim.

“What are you doing, Crawley?” asked Giles.

Frank looked rather apologetic. “I’ve been so busy I’m afraid I’ve left things to the last moment. I hunted up an old pair of trousers last night, and a striped football jersey, and thought of putting a patch over one eye and coming as a pirate.”

“Why on earth didn’t you write to us and borrow a costume?” said Beatrice. “There’s one of a Dutchman that Roger had last winter in Switzerland. It would have suited you excellently.”

“I refuse to allow my agent to walk about as a Dutchman,” said Maxim. “He’d never get rents out of anybody again. Let him stick to his pirate. It might frighten some of them.”

“Anything less like a pirate,” murmured Beatrice in my ear.

I pretended not to hear. Poor Frank, she was always rather down on him.

“How long will it take me to paint my face?” asked Giles.

“Two hours at least,” said Beatrice. “I should begin thinking about it if I were you. How many shall we be at dinner?”

“Sixteen,” said Maxim, “counting ourselves. No strangers. You know them all.”

“I’m beginning to get dress fever already,” said Beatrice. “What fun it all is. I’m so glad you decided to do this again, Maxim.”

“You’ve got her to thank for it,” said Maxim, nodding at me.

“Oh, it’s not true,” I said. “It was all the fault of Lady Crowan.”

“Nonsense,” said Maxim, smiling at me, “you know you’re as excited as a child at its first party.”

“I’m not.”

“I’m longing to see your dress,” said Beatrice.

“It’s nothing out of the way. Really it’s not,” I insisted.

“Mrs. de Winter says we shan’t know her,” said Frank.

Everybody looked at me and smiled. I felt pleased and flushed and rather happy. People were being nice. They were all so friendly. It was suddenly fun, the thought of the dance, and that I was to be the hostess.

The dance was being given for me, in my honor, because I was the bride. I sat on the table in the library, swinging my legs, while the rest of them stood round, and I had a longing to go upstairs and put on my dress, try the wig in front of the looking glass, turn this way and that before the long mirror on the wall. It was new this sudden unexpected sensation of being important, of having Giles, and Beatrice, and Frank and Maxim all looking at me and talking about my dress. All wondering what I was going to wear. I thought of the soft white dress in its folds of tissue paper, and how it would hide my flat dull figure, my rather sloping shoulders. I thought of my own lank hair covered by the sleek and gleaming curls.

“What’s the time?” I said carelessly, yawning a little, pretending I did not care. “I wonder if we ought to think about going upstairs…?”

As we crossed the great hall on the way to our rooms I realized for the first time how the house lent itself to the occasion, and how beautiful the rooms were looking. Even the drawing room, formal and cold to my consideration when we were alone, was a blaze of color now, flowers in every corner, red roses in silver bowls on the white cloth of the supper table, the long windows open to the terrace, where, as soon as it was dusk, the fairy lights would shine. The band had stacked their instruments ready in the minstrel’s gallery above the hall, and the hall itself wore a strange, waiting air; there was a warmth about it I had never known before, due to the night itself, so still and clear, to the flowers beneath the pictures, to our own laughter as we hovered on the wide stone stairs.

The old austerity had gone. Manderley had come alive in a fashion I would not have believed possible. It was not the still quiet Manderley I knew. There was a certain significance about it now that had not been before. A reckless air, rather triumphant, rather pleasing. It was as if the house remembered other days, long, long ago, when the hall was a banqueting hall indeed, with weapons and tapestry hanging upon the walls, and men sat at a long narrow table in the center laughing louder than we laughed now, calling for wine, for song, throwing great pieces of meat upon the flags to the slumbering dogs. Later, in other years, it would still be gay, but with a certain grace and dignity, and Caroline de Winter, whom I should present tonight, would walk down the wide stone stairs in her white dress to dance the minuet. I wished we could sweep away the years and see her. I wished we did not have to degrade the house with our modern jig-tunes, so out of place and unromantic. They would not suit Manderley. I found myself in sudden agreement with Mrs. Danvers. We should have made it a period ball, not the hotchpotch of humanity it was bound to be, with Giles, poor fellow, well-meaning and hearty in his guise of Arabian sheik. I found Clarice waiting for me in my bedroom, her round face scarlet with excitement. We giggled at one another like schoolgirls, and I bade her lock my door. There was much sound of tissue paper, rustling and mysterious. We spoke to one another softly like conspirators, we walked on tiptoe. I felt like a child again on the eve of Christmas. This padding to and fro in my room with bare feet, the little furtive bursts of laughter, the stifled exclamations, reminded me of hanging up my stocking long ago. Maxim was safe in his dressing-room, and the way through was barred against him. Clarice alone was my ally and favored friend. The dress fitted perfectly. I stood still, hardly able to restrain my impatience while Clarice hooked me up with fumbling fingers.

“It’s handsome, Madam,” she kept saying, leaning back on her heels to look at me. “It’s a dress fit for the Queen of England.”

“What about under the left shoulder there,” I said, anxiously. “That strap of mine, is it going to show?”

“No, Madam, nothing shows.”

“How is it? How do I look?” I did not wait for her answer, I twisted and turned in front of the mirror, I frowned, I smiled. I felt different already, no longer hampered by my appearance. My own dull personality was submerged at last. “Give me the wig,” I said excitedly, “careful, don’t crush it, the curls mustn’t be flat. They are supposed to stand out from the face.” Clarice stood behind my shoulder, I saw her round face beyond mine in the reflection of the looking glass, her eyes shining, her mouth a little open. I brushed my own hair sleek behind my ears. I took hold of the soft gleaming curls with trembling fingers, laughing under my breath, looking up at Clarice.

“Oh, Clarice,” I said, “what will Mr. de Winter say?”

I covered my own mousy hair with the curled wig, trying to hide my triumph, trying to hide my smile. Somebody came and hammered on the door.

“Who’s there?” I called in panic. “You can’t come in.”

“It’s me, my dear, don’t alarm yourself,” said Beatrice, “how far have you got? I want to look at you.”

“No, no,” I said, “you can’t come in, I’m not ready.”

The flustered Clarice stood beside me, her hand full of hairpins, while I took them from her one by one, controlling the curls that had become fluffed in the box.

“I’ll come down when I am ready,” I called. “Go on down, all of you. Don’t wait for me. Tell Maxim he can’t come in.”

“Maxim’s down,” she said. “He came along to us. He said he hammered on your bathroom door and you never answered. Don’t be too long, my dear, we are all so intrigued. Are you sure you don’t want any help?”

“No,” I shouted impatiently, losing my head, “go away, go on down.”

Why did she have to come and bother just at this moment? It fussed me, I did not know what I was doing. I jabbed with a hairpin, flattening it against a curl. I heard no more from Beatrice, she must have gone along the passage. I wondered if she was happy in her Eastern robes and if Giles had succeeded in painting his face. How absurd it was, the whole thing. Why did we do it, I wonder, why were we such children?

I did not recognize the face that stared at me in the glass. The eyes were larger surely, the mouth narrower, the skin white and clear? The curls stood away from the head in a little cloud. I watched this self that was not me at all and then smiled; a new, slow smile.

“Oh, Clarice!” I said. “Oh, Clarice!” I took the skirt of my dress in my hands and curtseyed to her, the flounces sweeping the ground. She giggled excitedly, rather embarrassed, flushed though, very pleased. I paraded up and down in front of my glass watching my reflection.

“Unlock the door,” I said. “I’m going down. Run ahead and see if they are there.” She obeyed me, still giggling, and I lifted my skirts off the ground and followed her along the corridor.

She looked back at me and beckoned. “They’ve gone down,” she whispered, “Mr. de Winter, and Major and Mrs. Lacy. Mr. Crawley has just come. They are all standing in the hall.” I peered through the archway at the head of the big staircase, and looked down on the hall below.

Yes, there they were. Giles, in his white Arab dress, laughing loudly, showing the knife at his side; Beatrice swathed in an extraordinary green garment and hung about the neck with trailing beads; poor Frank self-conscious and slightly foolish in his striped jersey and sea-boots; Maxim, the only normal one of the party, in his evening clothes.

“I don’t know what she’s doing,” he said, “she’s been up in her bedroom for hours. What’s the time, Frank? The dinner crowd will be upon us before we know where we are.”

The band were changed, and in the gallery already. One of the men was tuning his fiddle. He played a scale softly, and then plucked at a string. The light shone on the picture of Caroline de Winter.

Yes, the dress had been copied exactly from my sketch of the portrait. The puffed sleeve, the sash and the ribbon, the wide floppy hat I held in my hand. And my curls were her curls, they stood out from my face as hers did in the picture. I don’t think I have ever felt so excited before, so happy and so proud. I waved my hand at the man with the fiddle, and then put my finger to my lips for silence. He smiled and bowed. He came across the gallery to the archway where I stood.

“Make the drummer announce me,” I whispered, “make him beat the drum, you know how they do, and then call out Miss Caroline de Winter. I want to surprise them below.” He nodded his head, he understood. My heart fluttered absurdly, and my cheeks were burning. What fun it was, what mad ridiculous childish fun! I smiled at Clarice still crouching on the corridor. I picked up my skirt in my hands. Then the sound of the drum echoed in the great hall, startling me for a moment, who had waited for it, who knew that it would come. I saw them look up surprised and bewildered from the hall below.

“Miss Caroline de Winter,” shouted the drummer.

I came forward to the head of the stairs and stood there, smiling, my hat in my hand, like the girl in the picture. I waited for the clapping and laughter that would follow as I walked slowly down the stairs. Nobody clapped, nobody moved.

They all stared at me like dumb things. Beatrice uttered a little cry and put her hand to her mouth. I went on smiling, I put one hand on the banister.

“How do you do, Mr. de Winter,” I said.

Maxim had not moved. He stared up at me, his glass in his hand. There was no color in his face. It was ashen white. I saw Frank go to him as though he would speak, but Maxim shook him off. I hesitated, one foot already on the stairs. Something was wrong, they had not understood. Why was Maxim looking like that? Why did they all stand like dummies, like people in a trance?

Then Maxim moved forward to the stairs, his eyes never leaving my face.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” he asked. His eyes blazed in anger. His face was still ashen white.

I could not move, I went on standing there, my hand on the banister.

“It’s the picture,” I said, terrified at his eyes, at his voice. “It’s the picture, the one in the gallery.”

There was a long silence. We went on staring at each other. Nobody moved in the hall. I swallowed, my hand moved to my throat. “What is it?” I said. “What have I done?”

If only they would not stare at me like that with dull blank faces. If only somebody would say something. When Maxim spoke again I did not recognize his voice. It was still and quiet, icy cold, not a voice I knew.

“Go and change,” he said, “it does not matter what you put on. Find an ordinary evening frock, anything will do. Go now, before anybody comes.”

I could not speak, I went on staring at him. His eyes were the only living things in the white mask of his face.

“What are you standing there for?” he said, his voice harsh and queer. “Didn’t you hear what I said?”

I turned and ran blindly through the archway to the corridors beyond. I caught a glimpse of the astonished face of the drummer who had announced me. I brushed past him, stumbling, not looking where I went. Tears blinded my eyes. I did not know what was happening. Clarice had gone. The corridor was deserted. I looked about me stunned and stupid like a haunted thing. Then I saw that the door leading to the west wing was open wide, and that someone was standing there.

It was Mrs. Danvers. I shall never forget the expression on her face, loathsome, triumphant. The face of an exulting devil. She stood there, smiling at me.

And then I ran from her, down the long narrow passage to my own room, tripping, stumbling over the flounces of my dress.