Rebecca Chapter 20

It was very quiet in the library. The only sound was that of Jasper licking his foot. He must have caught a thorn in his pads, for he kept biting and sucking at the skin. Then I heard the watch on Maxim’s wrist ticking close to my ear. The little normal sounds of every day. And for no reason the stupid proverb of my schooldays ran through my mind, “Time and Tide wait for no man.” The words repeated themselves over and over again. “Time and Tide wait for no man.” These were the only sounds then, the ticking of Maxim’s watch and Jasper licking his foot on the floor beside me.

When people suffer a great shock, like death, or the loss of a limb, I believe they don’t feel it just at first. If your hand is taken from you you don’t know, for a few minutes, that your hand is gone. You go on feeling the fingers. You stretch and beat them on the air, one by one, and all the time there is nothing there, no hand, no fingers. I knelt there by Maxim’s side, my body against his body, my hands upon his shoulders, and I was aware of no feeling at all, no pain and no fear, there was no horror in my heart. I thought how I must take the thorn out of Jasper’s foot and I wondered if Robert would come in and clear the tea things. It seemed strange to me that I should think of these things, Jasper’s foot, Maxim’s watch, Robert and the tea things. I was shocked at my lack of emotion and this queer cold absence of distress. Little by little the feeling will come back to me, I said to myself, little by little I shall understand. What he has told me and all that has happened will tumble into place like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They will fit themselves into a pattern. At the moment I am nothing, I have no heart, and no mind, and no senses, I am just a wooden thing in Maxim’s arms. Then he began to kiss me. He had not kissed me like this before. I put my hands behind his head and shut my eyes.

“I love you so much,” he whispered. “So much.”

This is what I have wanted him to say every day and every night, I thought, and now he is saying it at last. This is what I imagined in Monte Carlo, in Italy, here in Manderley. He is saying it now. I opened my eyes and looked at a little patch of curtain above his head. He went on kissing me, hungry, desperate, murmuring my name. I kept on looking at the patch of curtain, and saw where the sun had faded it, making it lighter than the piece above. “How calm I am,” I thought. “How cool. Here I am looking at the piece of curtain, and Maxim is kissing me. For the first time he is telling me he loves me.”

Then he stopped suddenly, he pushed me away from him, and got up from the window seat. “You see, I was right,” he said. “It’s too late. You don’t love me now. Why should you?” He went and stood over by the mantelpiece. “We’ll forget that,” he said, “it won’t happen again.”

Realization flooded me at once, and my heart jumped in quick and sudden panic. “It’s not too late,” I said swiftly, getting up from the floor and going to him, putting my arms about him; “you’re not to say that, you don’t understand. I love you more than anything in the world. But when you kissed me just now I felt stunned and shaken. I could not feel anything. I could not grasp anything. It was just as though I had no more feeling left in me at all.”

“You don’t love me,” he said, “that’s why you did not feel anything. I know. I understand. It’s come too late for you, hasn’t it?”

“No,” I said.

“This ought to have happened four months ago,” he said. “I should have known. Women are not like men.”

“I want you to kiss me again,” I said; “please, Maxim.”

“No,” he said, “it’s no use now.”

“We can’t lose each other now,” I said. “We’ve got to be together always, with no secrets, no shadows. Please, darling, please.”

“There’s no time,” he said. “We may only have a few hours, a few days. How can we be together now that this has happened? I’ve told you they’ve found the boat. They’ve found Rebecca.”

I stared at him stupidly, not understanding. “What will they do?” I said.

“They’ll identify her body,” he said, “there’s everything to tell them, there in the cabin. The clothes she had, the shoes, the rings on her fingers. They’ll identify her body; and then they will remember the other one, the woman buried up there, in the crypt.”

“What are you going to do?” I whispered.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”

The feeling was coming back to me, little by little, as I knew it would. My hands were cold no longer. They were clammy, warm. I felt a wave of color come into my face, my throat. My cheeks were burning hot. I thought of Captain Searle, the diver, the Lloyd’s agent, all those men on the stranded ship leaning against the side, staring down into the water. I thought of the shopkeepers in Kerrith, of errand boys whistling in the street, of the vicar walking out of church, of Lady Crowan cutting roses in her garden, of the woman in the pink dress and her little boy on the cliffs. Soon they would know. In a few hours. By breakfast time tomorrow. “They’ve found Mrs. de Winter’s boat, and they say there is a body in the cabin.” A body in the cabin. Rebecca was lying there on the cabin floor. She was not in the crypt at all. Some other woman was lying in the crypt. Maxim had killed Rebecca. Rebecca had not been drowned at all. Maxim had killed her. He had shot her in the cottage in the woods. He had carried her body to the boat, and sunk the boat there in the bay. That gray, silent cottage, with the rain pattering on the roof. The jigsaw pieces came tumbling thick and fast upon me. Disjointed pictures flashed one by one through my bewildered mind. Maxim sitting in the car beside me in the south of France. “Something happened nearly a year ago that altered my whole life. I had to begin living all over again…” Maxim’s silence, Maxim’s moods. The way he never talked about Rebecca. The way he never mentioned her name. Maxim’s dislike of the cove, the stone cottage. “If you had my memories you would not go there either.” The way he climbed the path through the woods not looking behind him. Maxim pacing up and down the library after Rebecca died. Up and down. Up and down. “I came away in rather a hurry,” he said to Mrs. Van Hopper, a line, thin as gossamer, between his brows. “They say he can’t get over his wife’s death.” The fancy dress dance last night, and I coming down to the head of the stairs, in Rebecca’s dress. “I killed Rebecca,” Maxim had said. “I shot Rebecca in the cottage in the woods.” and the diver had found her lying there, on the cabin floor…

“What are we going to do?” I said. “What are we going to say?”

Maxim did not answer. He stood there by the mantelpiece, his eyes wide and staring, looking in front of him, not seeing anything.

“Does anyone know?” I said, “anyone at all?”

He shook his head. “No,” he said.

“No one but you and me?” I asked.

“No one but you and me,” he said.

“Frank,” I said suddenly, “are you sure Frank does not know?”

“How could he?” said Maxim. “There was nobody there but myself. It was dark…” He stopped. He sat down on a chair, he put his hand up to his forehead. I went and knelt beside him. He sat very still a moment. I took his hands away from his face and looked into his eyes. “I love you,” I whispered, “I love you. Will you believe me now?” He kissed my face and my hands. He held my hands very tightly like a child who would gain confidence.

“I thought I should go mad,” he said, “sitting here, day after day, waiting for something to happen. Sitting down at the desk there, answering those terrible letters of sympathy. The notices in the papers, the interviews, all the little aftermath of death. Eating and drinking, trying to be normal, trying to be sane. Frith, the servants, Mrs. Danvers. Mrs. Danvers, who I had not the courage to turn away, because with her knowledge of Rebecca she might have suspected, she might have guessed… Frank, always by my side, discreet, sympathetic. ‘Why don’t you get away?’ he used to say, ‘I can manage here. You ought to get away.’ And Giles, and Bee, poor dear tactless Bee. ‘You’re looking frightfully ill, can’t you go and see a doctor?’ I had to face them all, these people, knowing every word I uttered was a lie.”

I went on holding his hands very tight. I leaned close to him, quite close. “I nearly told you, once,” he said, “that day Jasper ran to the cove, and you went to the cottage for some string. We were sitting here, like this, and then Frith and Robert came in with the tea.”

“Yes,” I said. “I remember. Why didn’t you tell me? The time we’ve wasted when we might have been together. All these weeks and days.”

“You were so aloof,” he said, “always wandering into the garden with Jasper, going off on your own. You never came to me like this.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I whispered. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought you were unhappy, bored,” he said. “I’m so much older than you. You seemed to have more to say to Frank than you ever had to me. You were funny with me, awkward, shy.”

“How could I come to you when I knew you were thinking about Rebecca?” I said. “How could I ask you to love me when I knew you loved Rebecca still?”

He pulled me close to him and searched my eyes.

“What are you talking about? What do you mean?” he said.

I knelt up straight beside him. “Whenever you touched me I thought you were comparing me to Rebecca,” I said. “Whenever you spoke to me or looked at me, walked with me in the garden, sat down to dinner, I felt you were saying to yourself, ‘This I did with Rebecca, and this, and this.’ ” He stared at me bewildered as though he did not understand.

“It was true, wasn’t it?” I said.

“Oh, my God,” he said. He pushed me away, he got up and began walking up and down the room, clasping his hands.

“What is it? What’s the matter?” I said.

He whipped round and looked at me as I sat there huddled on the floor. “You thought I loved Rebecca?” he said. “You thought I killed her, loving her? I hated her, I tell you. Our marriage was a farce from the very first. She was vicious, damnable, rotten through and through. We never loved each other, never had one moment of happiness together. Rebecca was incapable of love, of tenderness, of decency. She was not even normal.”

I sat on the floor, clasping my knees, staring at him.

“She was clever of course,” he said. “Damnably clever. No one would guess meeting her that she was not the kindest, most generous, most gifted person in the world. She knew exactly what to say to different people, how to match her mood to theirs. Had she met you, she would have walked off into the garden with you, arm-in-arm, calling to Jasper, chatting about flowers, music, painting, whatever she knew to be your particular hobby; and you would have been taken in, like the rest. You would have sat at her feet and worshipped her.”

Up and down he walked, up and down across the library floor.

“When I married her I was told I was the luckiest man in the world,” he said. “She was so lovely, so accomplished, so amusing. Even Gran, the most difficult person to please in those days, adored her from the first. ‘She’s got the three things that matter in a wife,’ she told me: ‘breeding, brains, and beauty.’ And I believed her, or forced myself to believe her. But all the time I had a seed of doubt at the back of my mind. There was something about her eyes…”

The jigsaw pieces came together piece by piece, the real Rebecca took shape and form before me, stepping from her shadow world like a living figure from a picture frame. Rebecca slashing at her horse; Rebecca seizing life with her two hands; Rebecca, triumphant, leaning down from the minstrel’s gallery with a smile on her lips.

Once more I saw myself standing on the beach beside poor startled Ben. “You’re kind,” he said, “not like the other one. You won’t put me to the asylum, will you?” There was someone who walked through the woods by night, someone tall and slim. She gave you the feeling of a snake…

Maxim was talking though. Maxim was walking up and down the library floor. “I found her out at once,” he was saying, “five days after we were married. You remember that time I drove you in the car, to the hills above Monte Carlo? I wanted to stand there again, to remember. She sat there, laughing, her black hair blowing in the wind; she told me about herself, told me things I shall never repeat to a living soul. I knew then what I had done, what I had married. Beauty, brains, and breeding. Oh, my God!”

He broke off abruptly. He went and stood by the window, looking out upon the lawns. He began to laugh. He stood there laughing. I could not bear it, it made me frightened, ill. I could not stand it.

“Maxim!” I cried. “Maxim!”

He lit a cigarette, and stood there smoking, not saying anything. Then he turned away again, and paced up and down the room once more. “I nearly killed her then,” he said. “It would have been so easy. One false step, one slip. You remember the precipice. I frightened you, didn’t I? You thought I was mad. Perhaps I was. Perhaps I am. It doesn’t make for sanity, does it, living with the devil.”

I sat there watching him, up and down, up and down.

“She made a bargain with me up there, on the side of the precipice,” he said. “ ‘I’ll run your house for you,’ she told me, ‘I’ll look after your precious Manderley for you, make it the most famous show-place in all the country, if you like. And people will visit us, and envy us, and talk about us; they’ll say we are the luckiest, happiest, handsomest couple in all England. What a leg-pull, Max!’ she said, ‘what a God-damn triumph!’ She sat there on the hillside, laughing, tearing a flower to bits in her hands.”

Maxim threw his cigarette away, a quarter smoked, into the empty grate.

“I did not kill her,” he said. “I watched her, I said nothing, I let her laugh. We got into the car together and drove away. And she knew I would do as she suggested: come here to Manderley, throw the place open, entertain, have our marriage spoken of as the success of the century. She knew I would sacrifice pride, honor, personal feelings, every damned quality on earth, rather than stand before our little world after a week of marriage and have them know the things about her that she had told me then. She knew I would never stand in a divorce court and give her away, have fingers pointing at us, mud flung at us in the newspapers, all the people who belong down here whispering when my name was mentioned, all the trippers from Kerrith trooping to the lodge gates, peering into the grounds and saying, ‘That’s where he lives, in there. That’s Manderley. That’s the place that belongs to the chap who had that divorce case we read about. Do you remember what the judge said about his wife…?’ ”

He came and stood before me. He held out his hands. “You despise me, don’t you?” he said. “You can’t understand my shame, and loathing and disgust?”

I did not say anything. I held his hands against my heart. I did not care about his shame. None of the things that he had told me mattered to me at all. I clung to one thing only, and repeated it to myself, over and over again. Maxim did not love Rebecca. He had never loved her, never, never. They had never known one moment’s happiness together. Maxim was talking and I listened to him, but his words meant nothing to me. I did not really care. “I thought about Manderley too much,” he said. “I put Manderley first, before anything else. And it does not prosper, that sort of love. They don’t preach about it in the churches. Christ said nothing about stones, and bricks, and walls, the love that a man can bear for his plot of earth, his soil, his little kingdom. It does not come into the Christian creed.”

“My darling,” I said, “my Maxim, my love.” I laid his hands against my face, I put my lips against them.

“Do you understand?” he said, “do you, do you?”

“Yes,” I said, “my sweet, my love.” But I looked away from him so he should not see my face. What did it matter whether I understood him or not? My heart was light like a feather floating in the air. He had never loved Rebecca.

“I don’t want to look back on those years,” he said slowly. “I don’t want even to tell you about them. The shame and the degradation. The lie we lived, she and I. The shabby, sordid farce we played together. Before friends, before relations, even before the servants, before faithful, trusting creatures like old Frith. They all believed in her down here, they all admired her, they never knew how she laughed at them behind their backs, jeered at them, mimicked them. I can remember days when the place was full for some show or other, a garden-party, a pageant, and she walked about with a smile like an angel on her face, her arm through mine, giving prizes afterwards to a little troop of children; and then the day afterwards she would be up at dawn driving to London, streaking to that flat of hers by the river like an animal to its hole in the ditch, coming back here at the end of the week, after five unspeakable days. Oh, I kept to my side of the bargain all right. I never gave her away. Her blasted taste made Manderley the thing it is today. The gardens, the shrubs, even the azaleas in the Happy Valley; do you think they existed when my father was alive? God, the place was a wilderness; lovely, yes, wild and lonely with a beauty of its own, yes, but crying out for skill and care and the money that he would never give to it, that I would not have thought of giving to it—but for Rebecca. Half the stuff you see here in the rooms was never here originally. The drawing room as it is today, the morning room—that’s all Rebecca. Those chairs that Frith points out so proudly to the visitors on the public day, and that panel of tapestry—Rebecca again. Oh, some of the things were here admittedly, stored away in back rooms—my father knew nothing about furniture or pictures—but the majority was bought by Rebecca. The beauty of Manderley that you see today, the Manderley that people talk about and photograph and paint, it’s all due to her, to Rebecca.”

I did not say anything. I held him close. I wanted him to go on talking like this, that his bitterness might loosen and come away, carrying with it all the pent-up hatred and disgust and muck of the lost years.

“And so we lived,” he said, “month after month, year after year. I accepted everything—because of Manderley. What she did in London did not touch me—because it did not hurt Manderley. And she was careful those first years; there was never a murmur about her, never a whisper. Then little by little she began to grow careless. You know how a man starts drinking? He goes easy at first, just a little at a time, a bad bout perhaps every five months or so. And then the period between grows less and less. Soon it’s every month, every fortnight, every few days. There’s no margin of safety left and all his secret cunning goes. It was like that with Rebecca. She began to ask her friends down here. She would have one or two of them and mix them up at a weekend party so that at first I was not quite sure, not quite certain. She would have picnics down at her cottage in the cove. I came back once, having been away shooting in Scotland, and found her there, with half a dozen of them; people I had never seen before. I warned her, and she shrugged her shoulders. ‘What the hell’s it got to do with you?’ she said. I told her she could see her friends in London, but Manderley was mine. She must stick to that part of the bargain. She smiled, she did not say anything. Then she started on Frank, poor shy faithful Frank. He came to me one day and said he wanted to leave Manderley and take another job. We argued for two hours, here in the library, and then I understood. He broke down and told me. She never left him alone, he said, she was always going down to his house, trying to get him to the cottage. Dear, wretched Frank, who had not understood, who had always thought we were the normal happy married couple we pretended to be.

“I accused Rebecca of this, and she flared up at once, cursing me, using every filthy word in her particular vocabulary. We had a sickening, loathsome scene. She went up to London after that and stayed there for a month. When she came back again she was quiet at first; I thought she had learned her lesson. Bee and Giles came for a weekend, and I realized then what I had sometimes suspected before, that Bee did not like Rebecca. I believe, in her funny abrupt, downright way she saw through her, guessed something was wrong. It was a tricky, nervy sort of weekend. Giles went out sailing with Rebecca, Bee and I lazed on the lawn. And when they came back I could tell by Giles’s rather hearty jovial manner and by a look in Rebecca’s eye that she had started on him, as she had done on Frank. I saw Bee watching Giles at dinner, who laughed louder than usual, talked a little too much. And all the while Rebecca sitting there at the head of the table, looking like an angel.”

They were all fitting into place, the jigsaw pieces. The odd strained shapes that I had tried to piece together with my fumbling fingers and they had never fitted. Frank’s odd manner when I spoke about Rebecca. Beatrice, and her rather diffident negative attitude. The silence that I had always taken for sympathy and regret was a silence born of shame and embarrassment. It seemed incredible to me now that I had never understood. I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth. This was what I had done. I had built up false pictures in my mind and sat before them. I had never had the courage to demand the truth. Had I made one step forward out of my own shyness, Maxim would have told me these things four months, five months ago.

“That was the last weekend Bee and Giles ever spent at Manderley,” said Maxim. “I never asked them alone again. They came officially, to garden-parties, and dances. Bee never said a word to me or I to her. But I think she guessed my life, I think she knew. Even as Frank did. Rebecca grew cunning again. Her behavior was faultless, outwardly. But if I happened to be away when she was here at Manderley I could never be certain what might happen. There had been Frank, and Giles. She might get hold of one of the workmen on the estate, someone from Kerrith, anyone… And then the bomb would have to fall. The gossip, the publicity I dreaded.”

It seemed to me I stood again by the cottage in the woods, and I heard the drip-drip of the rain upon the roof. I saw the dust on the model ships, the rat holes on the divan. I saw Ben with his poor staring idiot’s eyes. “You’ll not put me to the asylum, will you?” And I thought of the dark steep path through the woods, and how, if a woman stood there behind the trees, her evening dress would rustle in the thin night breeze.

“She had a cousin,” said Maxim slowly, “a fellow who had been abroad, and was living in England again. He took to coming here, if ever I was away. Frank used to see him. A fellow called Jack Favell.”

“I know him,” I said; “he came here the day you went to London.”

“You saw him too?” said Maxim. “Why didn’t you tell me? I heard it from Frank, who saw his car turn in at the lodge gates.”

“I did not like to,” I said, “I thought it would remind you of Rebecca.”

“Remind me?” whispered Maxim. “Oh, God, as if I needed reminding.”

He stared in front of him, breaking off from his story, and I wondered if he was thinking, as I was, of that flooded cabin beneath the waters in the bay.

“She used to have this fellow Favell down to the cottage,” said Maxim, “she would tell the servants she was going to sail, and would not be back before the morning. Then she would spend the night down there with him. Once again I warned her. I said if I found him here, anywhere on the estate, I’d shoot him. He had a black, filthy record… The very thought of him walking about the woods in Manderley, in places like the Happy Valley, made me mad. I told her I would not stand for it. She shrugged her shoulders. She forgot to blaspheme. And I noticed she was looking paler than usual, nervy, rather haggard. I wondered then what the hell would happen to her when she began to look old, feel old. Things drifted on. Nothing very much happened. Then one day she went up to London, and came back again the same day, which she did not do as a rule. I did not expect her. I dined that night with Frank at his house, we had a lot of work on at the time.” He was speaking now in short, jerky sentences. I had his hands very tightly between my two hands.

“I came back after dinner, about half past ten, and I saw her scarf and gloves lying on a chair in the hall. I wondered what the devil she had come back for. I went into the morning room, but she was not there. I guessed she had gone off there then, down to the cove. And I knew then I could not stand this life of lies and filth and deceit any longer. The thing had got to be settled, one way or the other. I thought I’d take a gun and frighten the fellow, frighten them both. I went down right away to the cottage. The servants never knew I had come back to the house at all. I slipped out into the garden and through the woods. I saw the light in the cottage window, and I went straight in. To my surprise Rebecca was alone. She was lying on the divan with an ashtray full of cigarette stubs beside her. She looked ill, queer.

“I began at once about Favell and she listened to me without a word. ‘We’ve lived this life of degradation long enough, you and I,’ I said. ‘This is the end, do you understand? What you do in London does not concern me. You can live with Favell there, or with anyone you like. But not here. Not at Manderley.’

“She said nothing for a moment. She stared at me, and then she smiled. ‘Suppose it suits me better to live here, what then?’ she said.

“ ‘You know the conditions,’ I said. ‘I’ve kept my part of our dirty, damnable bargain, haven’t I? But you’ve cheated. You think you can treat my house and my home like your own sink in London. I’ve stood enough, but my God, Rebecca, this is your last chance.’

“I remember she squashed out her cigarette in the tub by the divan, and then she got up, and stretched herself, her arms above her head.

“ ‘You’re right, Max,’ she said. ‘It’s time I turned over a new leaf.’

“She looked very pale, very thin. She began walking up and down the room, her hands in the pockets of her trousers. She looked like a boy in her sailing kit, a boy with a face like a Botticelli angel.

“ ‘Have you ever thought,’ she said, ‘how damned hard it would be for you to make a case against me? In a court of law, I mean. If you wanted to divorce me. Do you realize that you’ve never had one shred of proof against me, from the very first? All your friends, even the servants, believe our marriage to be a success.’

“ ‘What about Frank?’ I said. ‘What about Beatrice?’

“She threw back her head and laughed. ‘What sort of a story could Frank tell against mine?’ she said. ‘Don’t you know me well enough for that? As for Beatrice, wouldn’t it be the easiest thing in the world for her to stand in a witness-box as the ordinary jealous woman whose husband once lost his head and made a fool of himself? Oh, no, Max, you’d have a hell of a time trying to prove anything against me.’

“She stood watching me, rocking on her heels, her hands in her pockets and a smile on her face. ‘Do you realize that I could get Danny, as my personal maid, to swear anything I asked her to swear, in a court of law? And that the rest of the servants, in blind ignorance, would follow her example and swear too? They think we live together at Manderley as husband and wife, don’t they? And so does everyone, your friends, all our little world. Well, how are you going to prove that we don’t?’

“She sat down on the edge of the table, swinging her legs, watching me.

“ ‘Haven’t we acted the parts of a loving husband and wife rather too well?’ she said. I remember watching that foot of hers in its striped sandal swinging backwards and forwards, and my eyes and brain began to burn in a strange quick way.

“ ‘We could make you look very foolish, Danny and I,’ she said softly. ‘We could make you look so foolish that no one would believe you, Max, nobody at all.’ Still that foot of hers, swinging to and fro, that damned foot in its blue and white striped sandal.

“Suddenly she slipped off the table and stood in front of me, smiling still, her hands in her pockets.

“ ‘If I had a child, Max,’ she said, ‘neither you, nor anyone in the world, would ever prove that it was not yours. It would grow up here in Manderley, bearing your name. There would be nothing you could do. And when you died Manderley would be his. You could not prevent it. The property’s entailed. You would like an heir, wouldn’t you, for your beloved Manderley? You would enjoy it, wouldn’t you, seeing my son lying in his pram under the chestnut tree, playing leap-frog on the lawn, catching butterflies in the Happy Valley? It would give you the biggest thrill of your life, wouldn’t it, Max, to watch my son grow bigger day by day, and to know that when you died, all this would be his?’

“She waited a minute, rocking on her heels, and then she lit a cigarette and went and stood by the window. She began to laugh. She went on laughing. I thought she would never stop. ‘God, how funny,’ she said, ‘how supremely, wonderfully funny! Well, you heard me say I was going to turn over a new leaf, didn’t you? Now you know the reason. They’ll be happy, won’t they, all these smug locals, all your blasted tenants? “It’s what we’ve always hoped for, Mrs. de Winter,” they will say. I’ll be the perfect mother, Max, like I’ve been the perfect wife. And none of them will ever guess, none of them will ever know.’

“She turned round and faced me, smiling, one hand in her pocket, the other holding her cigarette. When I killed her she was smiling still. I fired at her heart. The bullet passed right through. She did not fall at once. She stood there, looking at me, that slow smile on her face, her eyes wide open…”

Maxim’s voice had sunk low, so low that it was like a whisper. The hand that I held between my own was cold. I did not look at him. I watched Jasper’s sleeping body on the carpet beside me, the little thump of his tail, now and then, upon the floor.

“I’d forgotten,” said Maxim, and his voice was slow now, tired, without expression, “that when you shot a person there was so much blood.”

There was a hole there on the carpet beneath Jasper’s tail. The burned hole from a cigarette. I wondered how long it had been there. Some people said ash was good for the carpets.

“I had to get water from the cove,” said Maxim. “I had to keep going backwards and forwards to the cove for water. Even by the fireplace, where she had not been, there was a stain. It was all round where she lay on the floor. It began to blow too. There was no catch on the window. The window kept banging backwards and forwards, while I knelt there on the floor with that dishcloth, and the bucket beside me.”

And the rain on the roof, I thought, he does not remember the rain on the roof. It pattered thin and light and very fast.

“I carried her out to the boat,” he said; “it must have been half past eleven by then, nearly twelve. It was quite dark. There was no moon. The wind was squally, from the west. I carried her down to the cabin and left her there. Then I had to get under way, with the dinghy astern, and beat out of the little harbor against the tide. The wind was with me, but it came in puffs, and I was in the lee there, under cover of the headland. I remember I got the mainsail jammed halfway up the mast. I had not done it, you see, for a long time. I never went out with Rebecca.

“And I thought of the tide, how swift it ran and strong into the little cove. The wind blew down from the headland like a funnel. I got the boat out into the bay. I got her out there, beyond the beacon, and I tried to go about, to clear the ridge of rocks. The little jib fluttered. I could not sheet it in. A puff of wind came and the sheet tore out of my hands, went twisting round the mast. The sail thundered and shook. It cracked like a whip above my head. I could not remember what one had to do. I could not remember. I tried to reach that sheet and it blew above me in the air. Another blast of wind came straight ahead. We began to drift sideways, closer to the ridge. It was dark, so damned dark I couldn’t see anything on the black, slippery deck. Somehow I blundered down into the cabin. I had a spike with me. If I didn’t do it now it would be too late. We were getting so near to the ridge, and in six or seven minutes, drifting like this, we should be out of deep water. I opened the sea-cocks. The water began to come in. I drove the spike into the bottom boards. One of the planks split right across. I took the spike out and began to drive in another plank. The water came up over my feet. I left Rebecca lying on the floor. I fastened both the scuttles. I bolted the door. When I came up on deck I saw we were within twenty yards of the ridge. I threw some of the loose stuff on the deck into the water. There was a lifebuoy, a pair of sweeps, a coil of rope. I climbed into the dinghy. I pulled away, and lay back on the paddles, and watched. The boat was drifting still. She was sinking too. Sinking by the head. The jib was still shaking and cracking like a whip. I thought someone must hear it, someone walking the cliffs late at night, some fisherman from Kerrith away beyond me in the bay, whose boat I could not see. The boat was smaller, like a black shadow on the water. The mast began to shiver, began to crack. Suddenly she heeled right over and as she went the mast broke in two, split right down the center. The lifebuoy and the sweeps floated away from me on the water. The boat was not there anymore. I remember staring at the place where she had been. Then I pulled back to the cove. It started raining.”

Maxim waited. He stared in front of him still. Then he looked at me, sitting beside him on the floor.

“That’s all,” he said, “there’s no more to tell. I left the dinghy on the buoy, as she would have done. I went back and looked at the cottage. The floor was wet with the salt water. She might have done it herself. I walked up the path through the woods. I went into the house. Up the stairs to the dressing-room. I remember undressing. It began to blow and rain very hard. I was sitting there, on the bed, when Mrs. Danvers knocked on the door. I went and opened it, in my dressing gown, and spoke to her. She was worried about Rebecca. I told her to go back to bed. I shut the door again. I went back and sat by the window in my dressing gown, watching the rain, listening to the sea as it broke there, in the cove.”

We sat there together without saying anything. I went on holding his cold hands. I wondered why Robert did not come to clear the tea.

“She sank too close in,” said Maxim. “I meant to take her right out in the bay. They would never have found her there. She was too close in.”

“It was the ship,” I said; “it would not have happened but for the ship. No one would have known.”

“She was too close in,” said Maxim.

We were silent again. I began to feel very tired.

“I knew it would happen one day,” said Maxim, “even when I went up to Edgecoombe and identified that body as hers. I knew it meant nothing, nothing at all. It was only a question of waiting, of marking time. Rebecca would win in the end. Finding you has not made any difference has it? Loving you does not alter things at all. Rebecca knew she would win in the end. I saw her smile, when she died.”

“Rebecca is dead,” I said. “That’s what we’ve got to remember. Rebecca is dead. She can’t speak, she can’t bear witness. She can’t harm you anymore.”

“There’s her body,” he said, “the diver has seen it. It’s lying there, on the cabin floor.”

“We’ve got to explain it,” I said. “We’ve got to think out a way to explain it. It’s got to be the body of someone you don’t know. Someone you’ve never seen before.”

“Her things will be there still,” he said. “The rings on her fingers. Even if her clothes have rotted in the water there will be something there to tell them. It’s not like a body lost at sea, battered against rocks. The cabin is untouched. She must be lying there on the floor as I left her. The boat has been there, all these months. No one has moved anything. There is the boat, lying on the sea-bed where she sank.”

“A body rots in water, doesn’t it?” I whispered; “even if it’s lying there, undisturbed, the water rots it, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”

“How will you find out? how will you know?” I said.

“The diver is going down again at five-thirty tomorrow morning,” said Maxim. “Searle has made all the arrangements. They are going to try to raise the boat. No one will be about. I’m going with them. He’s sending his boat to pick me up in the cove. Five-thirty tomorrow morning.”

“And then?” I said, “if they get it up, what then?”

“Searle’s going to have his big lighter anchored there, just out in the deep water. If the boat’s wood has not rotted, if it still holds together, his crane will be able to lift it onto the lighter. They’ll go back to Kerrith then. Searle says he will moor the lighter at the head of that disused creek halfway up Kerrith harbor. It drives out very easily. It’s mud there at low water and the trippers can’t row up there. We shall have the place to ourselves. He says we’ll have to let the water drain out of the boat, leaving the cabin bare. He’s going to get hold of a doctor.”

“What will he do?” I said. “What will the doctor do?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“If they find out it’s Rebecca you must say the other body was a mistake,” I said. “You must say that the body in the crypt was a mistake, a ghastly mistake. You must say that when you went to Edgecoombe you were ill, you did not know what you were doing. You were not sure, even then. You could not tell. It was a mistake, just a mistake. You will say that, won’t you?”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes.”

“They can’t prove anything against you,” I said. “Nobody saw you that night. You had gone to bed. They can’t prove anything. No one knows but you and I. No one at all. Not even Frank. We are the only two people in the world to know, Maxim. You and I.”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes.”

“They will think the boat capsized and sank when she was in the cabin,” I said; “they will think she went below for a rope, for something, and while she was there the wind came from the headland, and the boat heeled over, and Rebecca was trapped. They’ll think that, won’t they?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Suddenly the telephone began ringing in the little room behind the library.