Rebecca Chapter 22

That evening, when Frith brought in the local paper, there were great headlines right across the top of the page. He brought the paper and laid it down on the table. Maxim was not there; he had gone up early to change for dinner. Frith stood a moment, waiting for me to say something, and it seemed to me stupid and insulting to ignore a matter that must mean so much to everyone in the house.

“This is a very dreadful thing, Frith,” I said.

“Yes, Madam; we are all most distressed outside,” he said.

“It’s so sad for Mr. de Winter,” I said, “having to go through it all again.”

“Yes, Madam. Very sad. Such a shocking experience, Madam, having to identify the second body having seen the first. I suppose there is no doubt then, that the remains in the boat are genuinely those of the late Mrs. de Winter?”

“I’m afraid not, Frith. No doubt at all.”

“It seems so odd to us, Madam, that she should have let herself be trapped like that in the cabin. She was so experienced in a boat.”

“Yes, Frith. That’s what we all feel. But accidents will happen. And how it happened I don’t suppose any of us will ever know.”

“I suppose not, Madam. But it’s a great shock, all the same. We are most distressed about it outside. And coming suddenly just after the party. It doesn’t seem right somehow, does it?”

“No, Frith.”

“It seems there is to be an inquest, Madam?”

“Yes. A formality, you know.”

“Of course, Madam. I wonder if any of us will be required to give evidence?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I shall be only too pleased to do anything that might help the family; Mr. de Winter knows that.”

“Yes, Frith. I’m sure he does.”

“I’ve told them outside not to discuss the matter, but it’s very difficult to keep an eye on them, especially the girls. I can deal with Robert, of course. I’m afraid the news has been a great shock to Mrs. Danvers.”

“Yes, Frith. I rather expected it would.”

“She went up to her room straight after lunch, and has not come down again. Alice took her a cup of tea and the paper a few minutes ago. She said Mrs. Danvers looked very ill indeed.”

“It would be better really if she stayed where she is,” I said. “It’s no use her getting up and seeing to things if she is ill. Perhaps Alice would tell her that. I can very well manage the ordering. The cook and I between us.”

“Yes, Madam. I don’t think she is physically ill, Madam; it’s just the shock of Mrs. de Winter being found. She was very devoted to Mrs. de Winter.”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I know.”

Frith went out of the room after that, and I glanced quickly at the paper before Maxim came down. There was a great column, all down the front page, and an awful blurred photograph of Maxim that must have been taken at least fifteen years ago. It was dreadful, seeing it there on the front page staring at me. And the little line about myself at the bottom, saying whom Maxim had married as his second wife, and how we had just given the fancy dress ball at Manderley. It sounded so crude and callous, in the dark print of the newspaper. Rebecca, whom they described as beautiful, talented, and loved by all who knew her, having been drowned a year ago, and then Maxim marrying again the following spring, bringing his bride straight to Manderley (so it said) and giving the big fancy dress ball in her honor. And then the following morning the body of his first wife being found, trapped in the cabin of her sailing boat, at the bottom of the bay.

It was true of course, though sprinkled with the little inaccuracies that added to the story, making it strong meat for the hundreds of readers who wanted value for their pennies. Maxim sounded vile in it, a sort of satyr. Bringing back his “young bride,” as it described me, to Manderley, and giving the dance, as though we wanted to display ourselves before the world.

I hid the paper under the cushion of the chair so that Maxim should not see it. But I could not keep the morning editions from him. The story was in our London papers too. There was a picture of Manderley, and the story underneath. Manderley was news, and so was Maxim. They talked about him as Max de Winter. It sounded racy, horrible. Each paper made great play of the fact that Rebecca’s body had been found the day after the fancy dress ball, as though there was something deliberate about it. Both papers used the same word, “ironic.” Yes, I suppose it was ironic. It made a good story. I watched Maxim at the breakfast table getting whiter and whiter as he read the papers, one after the other, and then the local one as well. He did not say anything. He just looked across at me, and I stretched out my hand to him. “Damn them,” he whispered, “damn them, damn them.”

I thought of all the things they could say, if they knew the truth. Not one column, but five or six. Placards in London. Newsboys shouting in the streets, outside the underground stations. That frightful word of six letters, in the middle of the placard, large and black.

Frank came up after breakfast. He looked pale and tired, as though he had not slept. “I’ve told the exchange to put all calls for Manderley through to the office,” he said to Maxim. “It doesn’t matter who it is. If reporters ring up I can deal with them. And anyone else too. I don’t want either of you to be worried at all. We’ve had several calls already from locals. I gave the same answer to each. Mr. and Mrs. de Winter were grateful for all sympathetic inquiries, and they hoped their friends would understand that they were not receiving calls during the next few days. Mrs. Lacy rang up about eight-thirty. Wanted to come over at once.”

“Oh, my God…” began Maxim.

“It’s all right, I prevented her. I told her quite truthfully that I did not think she would do any good coming over. That you did not want to see anyone but Mrs. de Winter. She wanted to know when they were holding the inquest, but I told her it had not been settled. I don’t know that we can stop her from coming to that, if she finds it in the papers.”

“Those blasted reporters,” said Maxim.

“I know,” said Frank; “we all want to wring their necks, but you’ve got to see their point of view. It’s their bread-and-butter; they’ve got to do the job for their paper. If they don’t get a story the editor probably sacks them. If the editor does not produce a saleable edition the proprietor sacks him. And if the paper doesn’t sell, the proprietor loses all his money. You won’t have to see them or speak to them, Maxim. I’m going to do all that for you. All you have to concentrate on is your statement at the inquest.”

“I know what to say,” said Maxim.

“Of course you do, but don’t forget old Horridge is the Coroner. He’s a sticky sort of chap, goes into details that are quite irrelevant, just to show the jury how thorough he is at his job. You must not let him rattle you.”

“Why the devil should I be rattled? I have nothing to be rattled about.”

“Of course not. But I’ve attended these coroner’s inquests before, and it’s so easy to get nervy and irritable. You don’t want to put the fellow’s back up.”

“Frank’s right,” I said. “I know just what he means. The swifter and smoother the whole thing goes the easier it will be for everyone. Then once the wretched thing is over we shall forget all about it, and so will everyone else, won’t they, Frank?”

“Yes, of course,” said Frank.

I still avoided his eye, but I was more convinced than ever that he knew the truth. He had always known it. From the very first. I remembered the first time I met him, that first day of mine at Manderley, when he, and Beatrice, and Giles had all been at lunch, and Beatrice had been tactless about Maxim’s health. I remembered Frank, his quiet turning of the subject, the way he had come to Maxim’s aid in his quiet unobtrusive manner if there was ever any question of difficulty. That strange reluctance of his to talk about Rebecca, his stiff, funny, pompous way of making conversation whenever we had approached anything like intimacy. I understood it all. Frank knew, but Maxim did not know that he knew. And Frank did not want Maxim to know that he knew. And we all stood there, looking at one another, keeping up these little barriers between us.

We were not bothered with the telephone again. All the calls were put through to the office. It was just a question of waiting now. Waiting until the Tuesday.

I saw nothing of Mrs. Danvers. The menu was sent through as usual, and I did not change it. I asked little Clarice about her. She said she was going about her work as usual but she was not speaking to anybody. She had all her meals alone in her sitting room.

Clarice was wide-eyed, evidently curious, but she did not ask me any questions, and I was not going to discuss it with her. No doubt they talked of nothing else, out in the kitchen, and on the estate too, in the lodge, on the farms. I supposed all Kerrith was full of it. We stayed in Manderley, in the gardens close to the house. We did not even walk in the woods. The weather had not broken yet. It was still hot, oppressive. The air was full of thunder, and there was rain behind the white dull sky, but it did not fall. I could feel it, and smell it, pent up there, behind the clouds. The inquest was to be on the Tuesday afternoon at two o’clock.

We had lunch at a quarter to one. Frank came. Thank heaven Beatrice had telephoned that she could not get over. The boy Roger had arrived home with measles; they were all in quarantine. I could not help blessing the measles. I don’t think Maxim could have borne it, with Beatrice sitting here, staying in the house, sincere, anxious, and affectionate, but asking questions all the time. Forever asking questions.

Lunch was a hurried, nervous meal. We none of us talked very much. I had that nagging pain again. I did not want anything to eat. I could not swallow. It was a relief when the farce of the meal was over, and I heard Maxim go out onto the drive and start up the car. The sound of the engine steadied me. It meant we had to go, we had to be doing something. Not just sitting at Manderley. Frank followed us in his own car. I had my hand on Maxim’s knee all the way as he drove. He seemed quite calm. Not nervous in any way. It was like going with someone to a nursing home, someone who was to have an operation. And not knowing what would happen. Whether the operation would be successful. My hands were very cold. My heart was beating in a funny, jerky way. And all the time that little nagging pain beneath my heart. The inquest was to be held at Lanyon, the market town six miles the other side of Kerrith. We had to park the cars in the big cobbled square by the marketplace. Doctor Phillips’ car was there already, and also Colonel Julyan’s. Other cars too. I saw a passerby stare curiously at Maxim, and then nudge her companion’s arm.

“I think I shall stay here,” I said. “I don’t think I’ll come in with you after all.”

“I did not want you to come,” said Maxim. “I was against it from the first. You’d much better have stayed at Manderley.”

“No,” I said. “No, I’ll be all right here, sitting in the car.”

Frank came and looked in at the window. “Isn’t Mrs. de Winter coming?” he said.

“No,” said Maxim. “She wants to stay in the car.”

“I think she’s right,” said Frank; “there’s no earthly reason why she should be present at all. We shan’t be long.”

“It’s all right,” I said.

“I’ll keep a seat for you,” said Frank, “in case you should change your mind.”

They went off together and left me sitting there. It was early-closing day. The shops looked drab and dull. There were not many people about. Lanyon was not much of a holiday center anyway; it was too far inland. I sat looking at the silent shops. The minutes went by. I wondered what they were doing, the Coroner, Frank, Maxim, Colonel Julyan. I got out of the car and began walking up and down the market square. I went and looked in a shop window. Then I walked up and down again. I saw a policeman watching me curiously. I turned up a side street to avoid him.

Somehow, in spite of myself, I found I was coming to the building where the inquest was being held. There had been little publicity about the actual time, and because of this there was no crowd waiting, as I had feared and expected. The place seemed deserted. I went up the steps and stood just inside the door.

A policeman appeared from nowhere. “Do you want anything?” he said.

“No,” I said. “No.”

“You can’t wait here,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” I said. I went back towards the steps into the street.

“Excuse me, Madam,” he said, “aren’t you Mrs. de Winter?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Of course that’s different,” he said; “you can wait here if you like. Would you like to take a seat just inside this room?”

“Thank you,” I said.

He showed me into a little bare room with a desk in it. It was like a waiting room at a station. I sat there, with my hands on my lap. Five minutes passed. Nothing happened. It was worse than being outside, than sitting in the car. I got up and went into the passage. The policeman was still standing there.

“How long will they be?” I said.

“I’ll go and inquire if you like,” he said.

He disappeared along the passage. In a moment he came back again. “I don’t think they will be very much longer,” he said. “Mr. de Winter has just given his evidence. Captain Searle, and the diver, and Doctor Phillips have already given theirs. There’s only one more to speak. Mr. Tabb, the boatbuilder from Kerrith.”

“Then it’s nearly over,” I said.

“I expect so, Madam,” he said. Then he said, on a sudden thought, “Would you like to hear the remaining evidence? There is a seat there, just inside the door. If you slip in now nobody will notice you.”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I think I will.”

It was nearly over. Maxim had finished giving his evidence. I did not mind hearing the rest. It was Maxim I had not wanted to hear. I had been nervous of listening to his evidence. That was why I had not gone with him and Frank in the first place. Now it did not matter. His part of it was over.

I followed the policeman, and he opened a door at the end of the passage. I slipped in, I sat down just by the door. I kept my head low so that I did not have to look at anybody. The room was smaller than I had imagined. Rather hot and stuffy. I had pictured a great bare room with benches, like a church. Maxim and Frank were sitting down at the other end. The Coroner was a thin, elderly man in pince-nez. There were people there I did not know. I glanced at them out of the tail of my eye. My heart gave a jump suddenly as I recognized Mrs. Danvers. She was sitting right at the back. And Favell was beside her. Jack Favell, Rebecca’s cousin. He was leaning forward, his chin in his hands, his eyes fixed on the Coroner, Mr. Horridge. I had not expected him to be there. I wondered if Maxim had seen him. James Tabb, the boatbuilder, was standing up now and the Coroner was asking him a question.

“Yes, sir,” answered Tabb, “I converted Mrs. de Winter’s little boat. She was a French fishing boat originally, and Mrs. de Winter bought her for next to nothing over in Brittany, and had her shipped over. She gave me the job of converting her and doing her up like a little yacht.”

“Was the boat in a fit state to put to sea?” said the Coroner.

“She was when I fitted her out in April of last year,” said Tabb. “Mrs. de Winter laid her up as usual at my yard in the October, and then in March I had word from her to fit her up as usual, which I did. That would be Mrs. de Winter’s fourth season with the boat since I did the conversion job for her.”

“Had the boat ever been known to capsize before?” asked the Coroner.

“No, sir. I should soon have heard of it from Mrs. de Winter had there been any question of it. She was delighted with the boat in every way, according to what she said to me.”

“I suppose great care was needed to handle the boat?” said the Coroner.

“Well, sir, everyone has to have their wits about them, when they go sailing boats, I won’t deny it. But Mrs. de Winter’s boat wasn’t one of those cranky little craft that you can’t leave for a moment, like some of the boats you see in Kerrith. She was a stout seaworthy boat, and could stand a lot of wind. Mrs. de Winter had sailed her in worse weather than she ever found that night. Why, it was only blowing in fits and starts at the time. That’s what I’ve said all along. I couldn’t understand Mrs. de Winter’s boat being lost on a night like that.”

“But surely, if Mrs. de Winter went below for a coat, as is supposed, and a sudden puff of wind was to come down from that headland, it would be enough to capsize the boat?” asked the Coroner.

James Tabb shook his head. “No,” he said stubbornly, “I don’t see that it would.”

“Well, I’m afraid that is what must have happened,” said the Coroner. “I don’t think Mr. de Winter or any of us suggest that your workmanship was to blame for the accident at all. You fitted the boat out at the beginning of the season, you reported her sound and seaworthy, and that’s all I want to know. Unfortunately the late Mrs. de Winter relaxed her watchfulness for a moment and she lost her life, the boat sinking with her aboard. Such accidents have happened before. I repeat again we are not blaming you.”

“Excuse me, sir,” said the boatbuilder, “but there is a little bit more to it than that. And if you would allow me I should like to make a further statement.”

“Very well, go on,” said the Coroner.

“It’s like this, sir. After the accident last year a lot of people in Kerrith made unpleasantness about my work. Some said I had let Mrs. de Winter start the season in a leaky, rotten boat. I lost two or three orders because of it. It was very unfair, but the boat had sunk, and there was nothing I could say to clear myself. Then that steamer went ashore, as we all know, and Mrs. de Winter’s little boat was found, and brought to the surface. Captain Searle himself gave me permission yesterday to go and look at her, and I did. I wanted to satisfy myself that the work I had put in to her was sound, in spite of the fact that she had been waterlogged for twelve months or more.”

“Well, that was very natural,” said the Coroner, “and I hope you were satisfied.”

“Yes, sir, I was. There was nothing wrong with that boat as regards the work I did to her. I examined every corner of her there on the lighter up the pill where Captain Searle had put her. She had sunk on sandy bottom. I asked the diver about that, and he told me so. She had not touched the ridge at all. The ridge was a clear five feet away. She was lying on sand, and there wasn’t the mark of a rock on her.”

He paused. The Coroner looked at him expectantly.

“Well?” he said, “is that all you want to say?”

“No, sir,” said Tabb emphatically, “it’s not. What I want to know is this. Who drove the holes in her planking? Rocks didn’t do it. The nearest rock was five feet away. Besides, they weren’t the sort of marks made by a rock. They were holes. Done with a spike.”

I did not look at him. I was looking at the floor. There was oilcloth laid on the boards. Green oilcloth. I looked at it.

I wondered why the Coroner did not say something. Why did the pause last so long? When he spoke at last his voice sounded rather far away.

“What do you mean?” he said, “what sort of holes?”

“There were three of them altogether,” said the boatbuilder, “one right for’ard, by her chain locker, on her starboard planking, below the water-line. The other two close together amidships, underneath her floor boards in the bottom. The ballast had been shifted too. It was lying loose. And that’s not all. The sea-cocks had been turned on.”

“The sea-cocks? What are they?” asked the Coroner.

“The fitting that plugs the pipes leading from a washbasin or lavatory, sir. Mrs. de Winter had a little place fitted up right aft. And there was a sink for’ard, where the washing-up was done. There was a sea-cock there, and another in the lavatory. These are always kept tight closed when you’re under way, otherwise the water would flow in. When I examined the boat yesterday both sea-cocks were turned full on.”

It was hot, much too hot. Why didn’t they open a window? We should be suffocated if we sat here with the air like this, and there were so many people, all breathing the same air, so many people.

“With those holes in her planking, sir, and the sea-cocks not closed, it wouldn’t take long for a small boat like her to sink. Not much more than ten minutes, I should say. Those holes weren’t there when the boat left my yard. I was proud of my work and so was Mrs. de Winter. It’s my opinion, sir, that the boat never capsized at all. She was deliberately scuttled.”

I must try and get out of the door. I must try and go back to the waiting room again. There was no air left in this place, and the person next to me was pressing close, close… Someone in front of me was standing up, and they were talking, too, they were all talking. I did not know what was happening. I could not see anything. It was hot, so very hot. The Coroner was asking everybody to be silent. And he said something about “Mr. de Winter.” I could not see. That woman’s hat was in front of me. Maxim was standing up now. I could not look at him. I must not look at him. I felt like this once before. When was it? I don’t know. I don’t remember. Oh, yes, with Mrs. Danvers. The time Mrs. Danvers stood with me by the window. Mrs. Danvers was in this place now, listening to the Coroner. Maxim was standing up over there. The heat was coming up at me from the floor, rising in slow waves. It reached my hands, wet and slippery, it touched my neck, my chin, my face.

“Mr. de Winter, you heard the statement from James Tabb, who had the care of Mrs. de Winter’s boat? Do you know anything of these holes driven in the planking?”

“Nothing whatever.”

“Can you think of any reason why they should be there?”

“No, of course not.”

“It’s the first time you have heard them mentioned?”


“It’s a shock to you, of course?”

“It was shock enough to learn that I made a mistake in identification over twelve months ago, and now I learn that my late wife was not only drowned in the cabin of her boat, but that holes were bored in the boat with the deliberate intent of letting in the water so that the boat should sink. Does it surprise you that I should be shocked?”

No, Maxim. No. You will put his back up. You heard what Frank said. You must not put his back up. Not that voice. Not that angry voice, Maxim. He won’t understand. Please, darling, please. Oh, God, don’t let Maxim lose his temper. Don’t let him lose his temper.

“Mr. de Winter, I want you to believe that we all feel very deeply for you in this matter. No doubt you have suffered a shock, a very severe shock, in learning that your late wife was drowned in her own cabin, and not at sea as you supposed. And I am inquiring into the matter for you. I want, for your sake, to find out exactly how and why she died. I don’t conduct this inquiry for my own amusement.”

“That’s rather obvious, isn’t it?”

“I hope that it is. James Tabb has just told us that the boat which contained the remains of the late Mrs. de Winter had three holes hammered through her bottom. And that the sea-cocks were open. Do you doubt his statement?”

“Of course not. He’s a boatbuilder, he knows what he is talking about.”

“Who looked after Mrs. de Winter’s boat?”

“She looked after it herself.”

“She employed no hand?”

“No, nobody at all.”

“The boat was moored in the private harbor belonging to Manderley?”


“Any stranger who tried to tamper with the boat would be seen? There is no access to the harbor by public footpath?”

“No, none at all.”

“The harbor is quiet, is it not, and surrounded by trees?”


“A trespasser might not be noticed?”

“Possibly not.”

“Yet James Tabb has told us, and we have no reason to disbelieve him, that a boat with those holes drilled in her bottom and the sea-cocks open could not float for more than ten or fifteen minutes.”


“Therefore we can put aside the idea that the boat was tampered with maliciously before Mrs. de Winter went for her evening sail. Had that been the case the boat would have sunk at her moorings.”

“No doubt.”

“Therefore we must assume that whoever took the boat out that night drove in the planking and opened the sea-cocks.”

“I suppose so.”

“You have told us already that the door of the cabin was shut, the port-holes closed, and your wife’s remains were on the floor. This was in your statement, and in Doctor Phillips’, and in Captain Searle’s?”


“And now added to this is the information that a spike was driven through the bottom, and the sea-cocks were open. Does not this strike you, Mr. de Winter, as being very strange?”


“You have no suggestion to make?”

“No, none at all.”

“Mr. de Winter, painful as it may be, it is my duty to ask you a very personal question.”


“Were relations between you and the late Mrs. de Winter perfectly happy?”

They had to come of course, those black spots in front of my eyes, dancing, flickering, stabbing the hazy air, and it was hot, so hot, with all these people, all these faces, and no open window; the door, from being near to me, was farther away than I had thought, and all the time the ground coming up to meet me.

And then, out of the queer mist around me, Maxim’s voice, clear and strong. “Will someone take my wife outside? She is going to faint.”