Rebecca Chapter 18

I think I fell asleep a little after seven. It was broad daylight, I remember, there was no longer any pretence that the drawn curtains hid the sun. The light streamed in at the open window and made patterns on the wall. I heard the men below in the rose garden clearing away the tables and the chairs, and taking down the chain of fairy lights. Maxim’s bed was still bare and empty. I lay across my bed, my arms over my eyes, a strange, mad position and the least likely to bring sleep, but I drifted to the border-line of the unconscious and slipped over it at last. When I awoke it was past eleven, and Clarice must have come in and brought me my tea without my hearing her, for there was a tray by my side, and a stone-cold teapot, and my clothes had been tidied, my blue frock put away in the wardrobe.

I drank my cold tea, still blurred and stupid from my short heavy sleep, and stared at the blank wall in front of me. Maxim’s empty bed brought me to realization with a queer shock to my heart, and the full anguish of the night before was upon me once again. He had not come to bed at all. His pajamas lay folded on the turned-down sheet untouched. I wondered what Clarice had thought when she came into the room with my tea. Had she noticed? Would she have gone out and told the other servants, and would they all discuss it over their breakfast? I wondered why I minded that, and why the thought of the servants talking about it in the kitchen should cause me such distress. It must be that I had a small mean mind, a conventional, petty hatred of gossip.

That was why I had come down last night in my blue dress and had not stayed hidden in my room. There was nothing brave or fine about it, it was a wretched tribute to convention. I had not come down for Maxim’s sake, for Beatrice’s, for the sake of Manderley. I had come down because I did not want the people at the ball to think I had quarreled with Maxim. I didn’t want them to go home and say, “Of course you know they don’t get on. I hear he’s not at all happy.” I had come for my own sake, my own poor personal pride. As I sipped my cold tea I thought with a tired bitter feeling of despair that I would be content to live in one corner of Manderley and Maxim in the other so long as the outside world should never know. If he had no more tenderness for me, never kissed me again, did not speak to me except on matters of necessity, I believed I could bear it if I were certain that nobody knew of this but our two selves. If we could bribe servants not to tell, play our part before relations, before Beatrice, and then when we were alone sit apart in our separate rooms, leading our separate lives.

It seemed to me, as I sat there in bed, staring at the wall, at the sunlight coming in at the window, at Maxim’s empty bed, that there was nothing quite so shaming, so degrading as a marriage that had failed. Failed after three months, as mine had done. For I had no illusions left now, I no longer made any effort to pretend. Last night had shown me too well. My marriage was a failure. All the things that people would say about it if they knew, were true. We did not get on. We were not companions. We were not suited to one another. I was too young for Maxim, too inexperienced, and, more important still, I was not of his world. The fact that I loved him in a sick, hurt, desperate way, like a child or a dog, did not matter. It was not the sort of love he needed. He wanted something else that I could not give him, something he had had before. I thought of the youthful almost hysterical excitement and conceit with which I had gone into this marriage, imagining I would bring happiness to Maxim, who had known much greater happiness before. Even Mrs. Van Hopper, with her cheap views and common outlook, had known I was making a mistake. “I’m afraid you will regret it,” she said. “I believe you are making a big mistake.”

I would not listen to her, I thought her hard and cruel. But she was right. She was right in everything. That last mean thrust thrown at me before she said good-bye, “You don’t flatter yourself he’s in love with you, do you? He’s lonely, he can’t bear that great empty house,” was the sanest, most truthful statement she had ever made in her life. Maxim was not in love with me, he had never loved me. Our honeymoon in Italy had meant nothing at all to him, nor our living here together. What I had thought was love for me, for myself as a person, was not love. It was just that he was a man, and I was his wife and was young, and he was lonely. He did not belong to me at all, he belonged to Rebecca. He still thought about Rebecca. He would never love me because of Rebecca. She was in the house still, as Mrs. Danvers had said; she was in that room in the west wing, she was in the library, in the morning room, in the gallery above the hall. Even in the little flower room, where her mackintosh still hung. And in the garden, and in the woods, and down in the stone cottage on the beach. Her footsteps sounded in the corridors, her scent lingered on the stairs. The servants obeyed her orders still, the food we ate was the food she liked. Her favorite flowers filled the rooms. Her clothes were in the wardrobes in her room, her brushes were on the table, her shoes beneath the chair, her nightdress on her bed. Rebecca was still mistress of Manderley. Rebecca was still Mrs. de Winter. I had no business here at all. I had come blundering like a poor fool on ground that was preserved. “Where is Rebecca?” Maxim’s grandmother had cried. “I want Rebecca. What have you done with Rebecca?” She did not know me, she did not care about me. Why should she? I was a stranger to her. I did not belong to Maxim or to Manderley. And Beatrice at our first meeting, looking me up and down, frank, direct, “You’re so very different from Rebecca.” Frank, reserved, embarrassed when I spoke of her, hating those questions I had poured upon him, even as I had hated them myself, and then answering that final one as we came towards the house, his voice grave and quiet. “Yes, she was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.”

Rebecca, always Rebecca. Wherever I walked in Manderley, wherever I sat, even in my thoughts and in my dreams, I met Rebecca. I knew her figure now, the long slim legs, the small and narrow feet. Her shoulders, broader than mine, the capable clever hands. Hands that could steer a boat, could hold a horse. Hands that arranged flowers, made the models of ships, and wrote “Max from Rebecca” on the flyleaf of a book. I knew her face too, small and oval, the clear white skin, the cloud of dark hair. I knew the scent she wore, I could guess her laughter and her smile. If I heard it, even among a thousand others, I should recognize her voice. Rebecca, always Rebecca. I should never be rid of Rebecca.

Perhaps I haunted her as she haunted me; she looked down on me from the gallery as Mrs. Danvers had said, she sat beside me when I wrote my letters at her desk. That mackintosh I wore, that handkerchief I used. They were hers. Perhaps she knew and had seen me take them. Jasper had been her dog, and he ran at my heels now. The roses were hers and I cut them. Did she resent me and fear me as I resented her? Did she want Maxim alone in the house again? I could fight the living but I could not fight the dead. If there was some woman in London that Maxim loved, someone he wrote to, visited, dined with, slept with, I could fight with her. We would stand on common ground. I should not be afraid. Anger and jealousy were things that could be conquered. One day the woman would grow old or tired or different, and Maxim would not love her anymore. But Rebecca would never grow old. Rebecca would always be the same. And her I could not fight. She was too strong for me.

I got out of bed and pulled the curtains. The sun streamed into the room. The men had cleared the mess away from the rose garden. I wondered if people were talking about the ball in the way they do the day after a party.

“Did you think it quite up to their usual standard?”

“Oh, I think so.”

“The band dragged a bit, I thought.”

“The supper was damn good.”

“Fireworks weren’t bad.”

“Bee Lacy is beginning to look old.”

“Who wouldn’t in that get-up?”

“I thought he looked rather ill.”

“He always does.”

“What did you think of the bride?”

“Not much. Rather dull.”

“I wonder if it’s a success.”

“Yes, I wonder…”

Then I noticed for the first time there was a note under my door. I went and picked it up. I recognized the square hand of Beatrice. She had scribbled it in pencil after breakfast.

I knocked at your door but had no answer so gather you’ve taken my advice and are sleeping off last night. Giles is anxious to get back early as they have rung up from home to say he’s wanted to take somebody’s place in a cricket match, and it starts at two. How he is going to see the ball after all the champagne he put away last night heaven only knows! I’m feeling a bit weak in the legs, but slept like a top. Frith says Maxim was down to an early breakfast, and there’s now no sign of him! So please give him our love, and many thanks to you both for our evening, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Don’t think anymore about the dress. [This last was heavily underlined] Yours affectionately, Bee. [And a postscript] You must both come over and see us soon.

She had scribbled nine-thirty a.m. at the top of the paper, and it was now nearly half past eleven. They had been gone about two hours. They would be home by now, Beatrice with her suitcase unpacked, going out into her garden and taking up her ordinary routine, and Giles preparing for his match, renewing the whipping on his bat.

In the afternoon Beatrice would change into a cool frock and a shady hat and watch Giles play cricket. They would have tea afterwards in a tent, Giles very hot and red in the face, Beatrice laughing and talking to her friends. “Yes, we went over for the dance at Manderley; it was great fun. I wonder Giles was able to run a yard.” Smiling at Giles, patting him on the back. They were both middle-aged and unromantic. They had been married for twenty years and had a grown-up son who was going to Oxford. They were very happy. Their marriage was a success. It had not failed after three months as mine had done.

I could not go on sitting in my bedroom any longer. The maids would want to come and do the room. Perhaps Clarice would not have noticed about Maxim’s bed after all. I rumpled it, to make it look as though he had slept there. I did not want the housemaids to know, if Clarice had not told them.

I had a bath and dressed, and went downstairs. The men had taken up the floor already in the hall and the flowers had been carried away. The music stands were gone from the gallery. The band must have caught an early train. The gardeners were sweeping the lawns and the drive clear of the spent fireworks. Soon there would be no trace left of the fancy dress ball at Manderley. How long the preparations had seemed, and how short and swift the clearance now.

I remembered the salmon lady standing by the drawing room door with her plate of chicken, and it seemed to me a thing I must have fancied, or something that had happened very long ago. Robert was polishing the table in the dining room. He was normal again, stolid, dull, not the fey excited creature of the past few weeks.

“Good morning, Robert,” I said.

“Good morning, Madam.”

“Have you seen Mr. de Winter anywhere?”

“He went out soon after breakfast, Madam, before Major and Mrs. Lacy were down. He has not been in since.”

“You don’t know where he went?”

“No, Madam, I could not say.”

I wandered back again into the hall. I went through the drawing room to the morning room. Jasper rushed at me and licked my hands in a frenzy of delight as if I had been away for a long time. He had spent the evening on Clarice’s bed and I had not seen him since tea-time yesterday. Perhaps the hours had been as long for him as they had for me.

I picked up the telephone and asked for the number of the estate office. Perhaps Maxim was with Frank. I felt I must speak to him, even if it was only for two minutes. I must explain to him that I had not meant to do what I had done last night. Even if I never spoke to him again, I must tell him that. The clerk answered the telephone, and told me that Maxim was not there.

“Mr. Crawley is here, Mrs. de Winter,” said the clerk; “would you speak to him?” I would have refused, but he gave me no chance, and before I could put down the receiver I heard Frank’s voice.

“Is anything the matter?” It was a funny way to begin a conversation. The thought flashed through my mind. He did not say good morning, or did you sleep well? Why did he ask if something was the matter?

“Frank, it’s me,” I said; “where’s Maxim?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t seen him. He’s not been in this morning.”

“Not been to the office?”


“Oh! Oh, well, it doesn’t matter.”

“Did you see him at breakfast?” Frank said.

“No, I did not get up.”

“How did he sleep?”

I hesitated, Frank was the only person I did not mind knowing. “He did not come to bed last night.”

There was silence at the other end of the line, as though Frank was thinking hard for an answer.

“Oh,” he said at last, very slowly. “Oh, I see,” and then, after a minute, “I was afraid something like that would happen.”

“Frank,” I said desperately, “what did he say last night when everyone had gone? What did you all do?”

“I had a sandwich with Giles and Mrs. Lacy,” said Frank. “Maxim did not come. He made some excuse and went into the library. I came back home almost at once. Perhaps Mrs. Lacy can tell you.”

“She’s gone,” I said, “they went after breakfast. She sent up a note. She had not seen Maxim, she said.”

“Oh,” said Frank. I did not like it. I did not like the way he said it. It was sharp, ominous.

“Where do you think he’s gone?” I said.

“I don’t know,” said Frank; “perhaps he’s gone for a walk.” It was the sort of voice doctors used to relatives at a nursing home when they came to inquire.

“Frank, I must see him,” I said. “I’ve got to explain about last night.”

Frank did not answer. I could picture his anxious face, the lines on his forehead.

“Maxim thinks I did it on purpose,” I said, my voice breaking in spite of myself, and the tears that had blinded me last night and I had not shed came coursing down my cheeks sixteen hours too late. “Maxim thinks I did it as a joke, a beastly damnable joke!”

“No,” said Frank. “No.”

“He does, I tell you. You didn’t see his eyes, as I did. You didn’t stand beside him all the evening, watching him, as I did. He didn’t speak to me, Frank. He never looked at me again. We stood there together the whole evening and we never spoke to one another.”

“There was no chance,” said Frank. “All those people. Of course I saw, don’t you think I know Maxim well enough for that? Look here…”

“I don’t blame him,” I interrupted. “If he believes I played that vile hideous joke he has a right to think what he likes of me, and never talk to me again, never see me again.”

“You mustn’t talk like that,” said Frank. “You don’t know what you’re saying. Let me come up and see you. I think I can explain.”

What was the use of Frank coming to see me, and us sitting in the morning room together, Frank smoothing me down, Frank being tactful, Frank being kind? I did not want kindness from anybody now. It was too late.

“No,” I said. “No, I don’t want to go over it and over it again. It’s happened, it can’t be altered now. Perhaps it’s a good thing; it’s made me realize something I ought to have known before, that I ought to have suspected when I married Maxim.”

“What do you mean?” said Frank.

His voice was sharp, queer. I wondered why it should matter to him about Maxim not loving me. Why did he not want me to know?

“About him and Rebecca,” I said, and as I said her name it sounded strange and sour like a forbidden word, a relief to me no longer, not a pleasure, but hot and shaming as a sin confessed.

Frank did not answer for a moment. I heard him draw in his breath at the other end of the wire.

“What do you mean?” he said again, shorter and sharper than before. “What do you mean?”

“He doesn’t love me, he loves Rebecca,” I said. “He’s never forgotten her, he thinks about her still, night and day. He’s never loved me, Frank. It’s always Rebecca, Rebecca, Rebecca.”

I heard Frank give a startled cry but I did not care how much I shocked him now. “Now you know how I feel,” I said, “now you understand.”

“Look here,” he said; “I’ve got to come and see you, I’ve got to, do you hear? It’s vitally important; I can’t talk to you down the telephone. Mrs. de Winter? Mrs. de Winter?”

I slammed down the receiver, and got up from the writing desk. I did not want to see Frank. He could not help me over this. No one could help me but myself. My face was red and blotchy from crying. I walked about the room biting the corner of my handkerchief, tearing at the edge.

The feeling was strong within me that I should never see Maxim again. It was certainty, born of some strange instinct. He had gone away and would not come back. I knew in my heart that Frank believed this too and would not admit it to me on the telephone. He did not want to frighten me. If I rang him up again at the office now I should find that he had gone. The clerk would say, “Mr. Crawley has just gone out, Mrs. de Winter,” and I could see Frank, hatless, climbing into his small, shabby Morris, driving off in search of Maxim.

I went and stared out of the window at the little clearing where the satyr played his pipes. The rhododendrons were all over now. They would not bloom again for another year. The tall shrubs looked dark and drab now that the color had gone. A fog was rolling up from the sea, and I could not see the woods beyond the bank. It was very hot, very oppressive. I could imagine our guests of last night saying to one another, “What a good thing this fog kept off for yesterday, we should never have seen the fireworks.” I went out of the morning room and through the drawing room to the terrace. The sun had gone in now behind a wall of mist. It was as though a blight had fallen upon Manderley taking the sky away and the light of the day. One of the gardeners passed me with a barrow full of bits of paper, and litter, and the skins of fruit left on the lawns by the people last night.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Good morning, Madam.”

“I’m afraid the ball last night has made a lot of work for you,” I said.

“That’s all right, Madam,” he said. “I think everyone enjoyed themselves good and hearty, and that’s the main thing, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose so,” I said.

He looked across the lawns to the clearing in the woods where the valley sloped to the sea. The dark trees loomed thin and indistinct.

“It’s coming up very thick,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“A good thing it wasn’t like this last night,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

He waited a moment, and then he touched his cap and went off trundling his barrow. I went across the lawns to the edge of the woods. The mist in the trees had turned to moisture and dripped upon my bare head like a thin rain. Jasper stood by my feet dejected, his tail downcast, his pink tongue hanging from his mouth. The clammy oppression of the day made him listless and heavy. I could hear the sea from where I stood, sullen and slow, as it broke in the coves below the woods. The white fog rolled on past me towards the house smelling of damp salt and seaweed. I put my hand on Jasper’s coat. It was wringing wet. When I looked back at the house I could not see the chimneys or the contour of the walls, I could only see the vague substance of the house, the windows in the west wing, and the flower tubs on the terrace. The shutter had been pulled aside from the window of the large bedroom in the west wing, and someone was standing there, looking down upon the lawns. The figure was shadowy and indistinct and for one moment of shock and fear I believed it to be Maxim. Then the figure moved, I saw the arm reach up to fold the shutter, and I knew it was Mrs. Danvers. She had been watching me as I stood at the edge of the woods bathed in that white wall of fog. She had seen me walk slowly from the terrace to the lawns. She may have listened to my conversation with Frank on the telephone from the connecting line in her own room. She would know that Maxim had not been with me last night. She would have heard my voice, known about my tears. She knew the part I had played through the long hours, standing by Maxim’s side in my blue dress at the bottom of the stairs, and that he had not looked at me nor spoken to me. She knew because she had meant it to happen. This was her triumph, hers and Rebecca’s.

I thought of her as I had seen her last night, watching me through the open door to the west wing, and that diabolical smile on her white skull’s face, and I remembered that she was a living breathing woman like myself, she was made of flesh and blood. She was not dead, like Rebecca. I could speak to her, but I could not speak to Rebecca.

I walked back across the lawns on sudden impulse to the house. I went through the hall and up the great stairs, I turned in under the archway by the gallery, I passed through the door to the west wing, and so along the dark silent corridor to Rebecca’s room. I turned the handle of the door and went inside.

Mrs. Danvers was still standing by the window, and the shutter was folded back.

“Mrs. Danvers,” I said. “Mrs. Danvers.” She turned to look at me, and I saw her eyes were red and swollen with crying, even as mine were, and there were dark shadows in her white face.

“What is it?” she said, and her voice was thick and muffled from the tears she had shed, even as mine had been.

I had not expected to find her so. I had pictured her smiling as she had smiled last night, cruel and evil. Now she was none of these things, she was an old woman who was ill and tired.

I hesitated, my hand still on the knob of the open door, and I did not know what to say to her now or what to do.

She went on staring at me with those red, swollen eyes and I could not answer her. “I left the menu on the desk as usual,” she said. “Do you want something changed?” Her words gave me courage, and I left the door and came to the middle of the room.

“Mrs. Danvers,” I said. “I have not come to talk about the menu. You know that, don’t you?”

She did not answer me. Her left hand opened and shut.

“You’ve done what you wanted, haven’t you?” I said, “you meant this to happen, didn’t you? Are you pleased now? Are you happy?”

She turned her head away, and looked out of the window as she had done when I first came into the room. “Why did you ever come here?” she said. “Nobody wanted you at Manderley. We were all right until you came. Why did you not stay where you were out in France?”

“You seem to forget I love Mr. de Winter,” I said.

“If you loved him you would never have married him,” she said.

I did not know what to say. The situation was mad, unreal. She kept talking in that choked muffled way with her head turned from me.

“I thought I hated you but I don’t now,” she said; “it seems to have spent itself, all the feeling I had.”

“Why should you hate me?” I asked; “what have I ever done to you that you should hate me?”

“You tried to take Mrs. de Winter’s place,” she said.

Still she would not look at me. She stood there sullen, her head turned from me. “I had nothing changed,” I said. “Manderley went on as it had always been. I gave no orders, I left everything to you. I would have been friends with you, if you had let me, but you set yourself against me from the first. I saw it in your face, the moment I shook hands with you.”

She did not answer, and her hand kept opening and shutting against her dress. “Many people marry twice, men and women,” I said. “There are thousands of second marriages taking place every day. You talk as though my marrying Mr. de Winter was a crime, a sacrilege against the dead. Haven’t we as much right to be happy as anyone else?”

“Mr. de Winter is not happy,” she said, turning to look at me at last; “any fool can see that. You have only to look at his eyes. He’s still in hell, and he’s looked like that ever since she died.”

“It’s not true,” I said. “It’s not true. He was happy when we were in France together; he was younger, much younger, and laughing and gay.”

“Well, he’s a man, isn’t he?” she said. “No man denies himself on a honeymoon, does he? Mr. de Winter’s not forty-six yet.”

She laughed contemptuously, and shrugged her shoulders.

“How dare you speak to me like that? How dare you?” I said.

I was not afraid of her anymore. I went up to her, shook her by the arm. “You made me wear that dress last night,” I said, “I should never have thought of it but for you. You did it because you wanted to hurt Mr. de Winter, you wanted to make him suffer. Hasn’t he suffered enough without your playing that vile hideous joke upon him? Do you think his agony and pain will bring Mrs. de Winter back again?”

She shook herself clear of me, the angry color flooded her dead white face. “What do I care for his suffering?” she said, “he’s never cared about mine. How do you think I’ve liked it, watching you sit in her place, walk in her footsteps, touch the things that were hers? What do you think it’s meant to me all these months knowing that you wrote at her desk in the morning room, using the very pen that she used, speaking down the house telephone, where she used to speak every morning of her life to me, ever since she first came to Manderley? What do you think it meant to me to hear Frith and Robert and the rest of the servants talking about you as ‘Mrs. de Winter’? ‘Mrs. de Winter has gone out for a walk.’ ‘Mrs. de Winter wants the car this afternoon at three o’clock.’ ‘Mrs. de Winter won’t be in to tea till five o’clock.’ And all the while my Mrs. de Winter, my lady with her smile and her lovely face and brave ways, the real Mrs. de Winter, lying dead and cold and forgotten in the church crypt. If he suffers then he deserves to suffer, marrying a young girl like you not ten months afterwards. Well, he’s paying for it now, isn’t he? I’ve seen his face, I’ve seen his eyes. He’s made his own hell and there’s no one but himself to thank for it. He knows she sees him, he knows she comes by night and watches him. And she doesn’t come kindly, not she, not my lady. She was never one to stand mute and still and be wronged. ‘I’ll see them in hell, Danny,’ she’d say, ‘I’ll see them in hell first.’ ‘That’s right, my dear,’ I’d tell her, ‘no one will put upon you. You were born into this world to take what you could out of it,’ and she did, she didn’t care, she wasn’t afraid. She had all the courage and spirit of a boy, had my Mrs. de Winter. She ought to have been a boy, I often told her that. I had the care of her as a child. You knew that, didn’t you?”

“No!” I said, “no. Mrs. Danvers, what’s the use of all this? I don’t want to hear any more, I don’t want to know. Haven’t I got feelings as well as you? Can’t you understand what it means to me, to hear her mentioned, to stand here and listen while you tell me about her?”

She did not hear me, she went on raving like a mad woman, a fanatic, her long fingers twisting and tearing the black stuff of her dress.

“She was lovely then,” she said. “Lovely as a picture; men turning to stare at her when she passed, and she not twelve years old. She knew then, she used to wink at me like the little devil she was. ‘I’m going to be a beauty, aren’t I, Danny?’ she said, and ‘We’ll see about that, my love, we’ll see about that,’ I told her. She had all the knowledge then of a grown person; she’d enter into conversation with men and women as clever and full of tricks as someone of eighteen. She twisted her father round her little finger, and she’d have done the same with her mother, had she lived. Spirit, you couldn’t beat my lady for spirit. She drove a four-in-hand on her fourteenth birthday, and her cousin, Mr. Jack, got up on the box beside her and tried to take the reins from her hands. They fought it out there together, for three minutes, like a couple of wild cats, and the horses galloping to glory. She won though, my lady won. She cracked her whip over his head and down he came, head-over-heels, cursing and laughing. They were a pair, I tell you, she and Mr. Jack. They sent him in the Navy, but he wouldn’t stand the discipline, and I don’t blame him. He had too much spirit to obey orders, like my lady.”

I watched her, fascinated, horrified; a queer ecstatic smile was on her lips, making her older than ever, making her skull’s face vivid and real. “No one got the better of her, never, never,” she said. “She did what she liked, she lived as she liked. She had the strength of a little lion too. I remember her at sixteen getting up on one of her father’s horses, a big brute of an animal too, that the groom said was too hot for her to ride. She stuck to him, all right. I can see her now, with her hair flying out behind her, slashing at him, drawing blood, digging the spurs into his side, and when she got off his back he was trembling all over, full of froth and blood. ‘That will teach him, won’t it, Danny?’ she said, and walked off to wash her hands as cool as you please. And that’s how she went at life, when she grew up. I saw her, I was with her. She cared for nothing and for no one. And then she was beaten in the end. But it wasn’t a man, it wasn’t a woman. The sea got her. The sea was too strong for her. The sea got her in the end.”

She broke off, her mouth working strangely, and dragging at the corners. She began to cry noisily, harshly, her mouth open and her eyes dry.

“Mrs. Danvers,” I said. “Mrs. Danvers.” I stood before her helplessly, not knowing what to do. I mistrusted her no longer, I was afraid of her no more, but the sight of her sobbing there, dry-eyed, made me shudder, made me ill. “Mrs. Danvers,” I said, “you’re not well, you ought to be in bed. Why don’t you go to your room and rest? Why don’t you go to bed?”

She turned on me fiercely. “Leave me alone, can’t you?” she said. “What’s it to do with you if I show my grief? I’m not ashamed of it, I don’t shut myself up in my room to cry. I don’t walk up and down, up and down, in my room like Mr. de Winter, with the door locked on me.”

“What do you mean?” I said. “Mr. de Winter does not do that.”

“He did,” she said, “after she died. Up and down, up and down in the library. I heard him. I watched him too, through the keyhole, more than once. Backwards and forwards, like an animal in a cage.”

“I don’t want to hear,” I said. “I don’t want to know.”

“And then you say you made him happy on his honeymoon,” she said; “made him happy—you, a young ignorant girl, young enough to be his daughter. What do you know about life? What do you know about men? You come here and think you can take Mrs. de Winter’s place. You. You take my lady’s place. Why, even the servants laughed at you when you came to Manderley. Even the little scullery-maid you met in the back passage there on your first morning. I wonder what Mr. de Winter thought when he got you back here at Manderley, after his precious honeymoon was over. I wonder what he thought when he saw you sitting at the dining room table for the first time.”

“You’d better stop this, Mrs. Danvers,” I said; “you’d better go to your room.”

“Go to my room,” she mimicked, “go to my room. The mistress of the house thinks I had better go to my room. And after that, what then? You’ll go running to Mr. de Winter and saying, ‘Mrs. Danvers had been unkind to me, Mrs. Danvers has been rude.’ You’ll go running to him like you did before when Mr. Jack came to see me.”

“I never told him,” I said.

“That’s a lie,” she said. “Who else told him, if you didn’t? No one else was here. Frith and Robert were out, and none of the other servants knew. I made up my mind then I’d teach you a lesson, and him too. Let him suffer, I say. What do I care? What’s his suffering to me? Why shouldn’t I see Mr. Jack here at Manderley? He’s the only link I have left now with Mrs. de Winter. ‘I’ll not have him here,’ he said. ‘I’m warning you, it’s the last time.’ He’s not forgotten to be jealous, has he?”

I remembered crouching in the gallery when the library door was open. I remembered Maxim’s voice raised in anger, using the words that Mrs. Danvers had just repeated. Jealous, Maxim jealous…

“He was jealous while she lived, and now he’s jealous when she’s dead,” said Mrs. Danvers. “He forbids Mr. Jack the house now like he did then. That shows you he’s not forgotten her, doesn’t it? Of course he was jealous. So was I. So was everyone who knew her. She didn’t care. She only laughed. ‘I shall live as I please, Danny,’ she told me, ‘and the whole world won’t stop me.’ A man had only to look at her once and be mad about her. I’ve seen them here, staying in the house, men she’d meet up in London and bring for weekends. She would take them bathing from the boat, she would have a picnic supper at her cottage in the cove. They made love to her of course; who would not? She laughed, she would come back and tell me what they had said, and what they’d done. She did not mind, it was like a game to her. Like a game. Who wouldn’t be jealous? They were all jealous, all mad for her. Mr. de Winter, Mr. Jack, Mr. Crawley, everyone who knew her, everyone who came to Manderley.”

“I don’t want to know,” I said. “I don’t want to know.”

Mrs. Danvers came close to me, she put her face near to mine. “It’s no use, is it?” she said. “You’ll never get the better of her. She’s still mistress here, even if she is dead. She’s the real Mrs. de Winter, not you. It’s you that’s the shadow and the ghost. It’s you that’s forgotten and not wanted and pushed aside. Well, why don’t you leave Manderley to her? Why don’t you go?”

I backed away from her towards the window, my old fear and horror rising up in me again. She took my arm and held it like a vice.

“Why don’t you go?” she said. “We none of us want you. He doesn’t want you, he never did. He can’t forget her. He wants to be alone in the house again, with her. It’s you that ought to be lying there in the church crypt, not her. It’s you who ought to be dead, not Mrs. de Winter.”

She pushed me towards the open window. I could see the terrace below me gray and indistinct in the white wall of fog. “Look down there,” she said. “It’s easy, isn’t it? Why don’t you jump? It wouldn’t hurt, not to break your neck. It’s a quick, kind way. It’s not like drowning. Why don’t you try it? Why don’t you go?”

The fog filled the open window, damp and clammy, it stung my eyes, it clung to my nostrils. I held onto the windowsill with my hands.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Mrs. Danvers. “I won’t push you. I won’t stand by you. You can jump of your own accord. What’s the use of your staying here at Manderley? You’re not happy. Mr. de Winter doesn’t love you. There’s not much for you to live for, is there? Why don’t you jump now and have done with it? Then you won’t be unhappy anymore.”

I could see the flower tubs on the terrace and the blue of the hydrangeas clumped and solid. The paved stones were smooth and gray. They were not jagged and uneven. It was the fog that made them look so far away. They were not far really, the window was not so very high.

“Why don’t you jump?” whispered Mrs. Danvers. “Why don’t you try?”

The fog came thicker than before and the terrace was hidden from me. I could not see the flower tubs anymore, nor the smooth paved stones. There was nothing but the white mist about me, smelling of sea-weed dank and chill. The only reality was the windowsill beneath my hands and the grip of Mrs. Danvers on my left arm. If I jumped I should not see the stones rise up to meet me, the fog would hide them from me. The pain would be sharp and sudden as she said. The fall would break my neck. It would not be slow, like drowning. It would soon be over. And Maxim did not love me. Maxim wanted to be alone again, with Rebecca.

“Go on,” whispered Mrs. Danvers. “Go on, don’t be afraid.”

I shut my eyes. I was giddy from staring down at the terrace, and my fingers ached from holding to the ledge. The mist entered my nostrils and lay upon my lips rank and sour. It was stifling, like a blanket, like an anesthetic. I was beginning to forget about being unhappy, and about loving Maxim. I was beginning to forget Rebecca. Soon I would not have to think about Rebecca anymore…

As I relaxed my hands and sighed, the white mist and the silence that was part of it was shattered suddenly, was rent in two by an explosion that shook the window where we stood. The glass shivered in its frame. I opened my eyes. I stared at Mrs. Danvers. The burst was followed by another, and yet a third and fourth. The sound of the explosions stung the air and the birds rose unseen from the woods around the house and made an echo with their clamor.

“What is it?” I said stupidly. “What has happened?”

Mrs. Danvers relaxed her grip upon my arm. She stared out of the window into the fog. “It’s the rockets,” she said; “there must be a ship gone ashore there in the bay.”

We listened, staring into the white fog together. And then we heard the sound of footsteps running on the terrace beneath us.