Rebecca Chapter 25

It was then that Maxim looked at me. He looked at me for the first time that evening. And in his eyes I read a message of farewell. It was as though he leaned against the side of a ship, and I stood below him on the quay. There would be other people touching his shoulder, and touching mine, but we would not see them. Nor would we speak or call to one another, for the wind and the distance would carry away the sound of our voices. But I should see his eyes and he would see mine before the ship drew away from the side of the quay. Favell, Mrs. Danvers, Colonel Julyan, Frank with the slip of paper in his hands, they were all forgotten at this moment. It was ours, inviolate, a fraction of time suspended between two seconds. And then he turned away and held out his hand to Frank.

“Well done,” he said. “What’s the address?”

“Somewhere near Barnet, north of London,” said Frank, giving him the paper. “But it’s not on the telephone. We can’t ring him up.”

“Satisfactory work, Crawley,” said Colonel Julyan, “and from you too, Mrs. Danvers. Can you throw any light on the matter now?”

Mrs. Danvers shook her head. “Mrs. de Winter never needed a doctor. Like all strong people she despised them. We only had Doctor Phillips from Kerrith here once, that time she sprained her wrist. I’ve never heard her speak of this Doctor Baker, she never mentioned his name to me.”

“I tell you the fellow was a face cream mixer,” said Favell. “What the hell does it matter who he was? If there was anything to it Danny would know. I tell you it’s some fool fellow who had discovered a new way of bleaching the hair or whitening the skin, and Rebecca had probably got the address from her hairdresser that morning and went along after lunch out of curiosity.”

“No,” said Frank. “I think you’re wrong there. Baker wasn’t a quack. The night porter at Museum 0488 told me he was a very well-known woman’s specialist.”

“H’m,” said Colonel Julyan, pulling at his mustache, “there must have been something wrong with her after all. It seems very curious that she did not say a word to anybody, not even to you, Mrs. Danvers.”

“She was too thin,” said Favell. “I told her about it, but she only laughed. Said it suited her. Banting I suppose, like all these women. Perhaps she went to this chap Baker for a diet sheet.”

“Do you think that’s possible, Mrs. Danvers?” asked Colonel Julyan.

Mrs. Danvers shook her head slowly. She seemed dazed, bewildered by this sudden news about Baker. “I can’t understand it,” she said. “I don’t know what it means. Baker. A Doctor Baker. Why didn’t she tell me? Why did she keep it from me? She told me everything.”

“Perhaps she didn’t want to worry you,” said Colonel Julyan. “No doubt she made an appointment with him, and saw him, and then when she came down that night she was going to have told you all about it.”

“And the note to Mr. Jack,” said Mrs. Danvers suddenly. “That note to Mr. Jack, ‘I have something to tell you. I must see you’; she was going to tell him too?”

“That’s true,” said Favell slowly. “We were forgetting the note.” Once more he pulled it out of his pocket and read it to us aloud. “ ‘I’ve got something to tell you, and I want to see you as soon as possible. Rebecca.’ ”

“Of course, there’s no doubt about it,” said Colonel Julyan, turning to Maxim. “I wouldn’t mind betting a thousand pounds on it. She was going to tell Favell the result of that interview with this Doctor Baker.”

“I believe you’re right after all,” said Favell. “The note and that appointment seem to hang together. But what the hell was it all about, that’s what I want to know? What was the matter with her?”

The truth screamed in their faces and they did not see. They all stood there, staring at one another, and they did not understand. I dared not look at them. I dared not move lest I betray my knowledge. Maxim said nothing. He had gone back to the window and was looking out into the garden that was hushed and dark and still. The rain had ceased at last, but the spots fell from the dripping leaves and from the gutter above the window.

“It ought to be quite easy to verify,” said Frank. “Here is the doctor’s present address. I can write him a letter and ask him if he remembers an appointment last year with Mrs. de Winter.”

“I don’t know if he would take any notice of it,” said Colonel Julyan, “there is so much of this etiquette in the medical profession. Every case is confidential, you know. The only way to get anything out of him would be to get de Winter to see him privately and explain the circumstances. What do you say, de Winter?”

Maxim turned round from the window. “I’m ready to do whatever you care to suggest,” he said quietly.

“Anything for time, eh?” said Favell; “a lot can be done in twenty-four hours, can’t it? Trains can be caught, ships can sail, aeroplanes can fly.”

I saw Mrs. Danvers look sharply from Favell to Maxim, and I realized then, for the first time, that Mrs. Danvers had not known about Favell’s accusation. At last she was beginning to understand. I could tell from the expression on her face. There was doubt written on it, then wonder and hatred mixed, and then conviction. Once again those lean long hands of hers clutched convulsively at her dress, and she passed her tongue over her lips. She went on staring at Maxim. She never took her eyes away from Maxim. It’s too late, I thought, she can’t do anything to us now, the harm is done. It does not matter what she says to us now, or what she does. The harm is done. She can’t hurt us anymore. Maxim did not notice her, or if he did he gave no sign. He was talking to Colonel Julyan.

“What do you suggest?” he said. “Shall I go up in the morning, drive to this address at Barnet? I can wire Baker to expect me.”

“He’s not going alone,” said Favell, with a short laugh. “I have a right to insist on that, haven’t I? Send him up with Inspector Welch and I won’t object.”

If only Mrs. Danvers would take her eyes away from Maxim. Frank had seen her now. He was watching her, puzzled, anxious. I saw him glance once more at the slip of paper in his hands, on which he had written Doctor Baker’s address. Then he too glanced at Maxim. I believe then that some faint idea of the truth began to force itself to his conscience, for he went very white and put the paper down on the table.

“I don’t think there is any necessity to bring Inspector Welch into the affair—yet,” said Colonel Julyan. His voice was different, harder. I did not like the way he used the word “yet.” Why must he use it at all? I did not like it. “If I go with de Winter, and stay with him the whole time, and bring him back, will that satisfy you?” he said.

Favell looked at Maxim, and then at Colonel Julyan. The expression on his face was ugly, calculating, and there was something of triumph too in his light blue eyes. “Yes,” he said slowly, “yes, I suppose so. But for safety’s sake do you mind if I come with you too?”

“No,” said Colonel Julyan, “unfortunately I think you have the right to ask that. But if you do come, I have the right to insist on your being sober.”

“You needn’t worry about that,” said Favell, beginning to smile; “I’ll be sober all right. Sober as the judge will be when he sentences Max in three months’ time. I rather think this Doctor Baker is going to prove my case, after all.”

He looked around at each one of us and began to laugh. I think he too had understood at last the significance of that visit to the doctor.

“Well,” he said, “what time are we going to start in the morning?”

Colonel Julyan looked at Maxim. “How early can you be ready?”

“Anytime you say,” said Maxim.

“Nine o’clock?”

“Nine o’clock,” said Maxim.

“How do we know he won’t do a bolt in the night?” said Favell. “He’s only to cut round to the garage and get his car.”

“Is my word enough for you?” said Maxim, turning to Colonel Julyan. And for the first time Colonel Julyan hesitated. I saw him glance at Frank. And a flush came over Maxim’s face. I saw the little pulse beating on his forehead. “Mrs. Danvers,” he said slowly, “when Mrs. de Winter and I go to bed tonight will you come up yourself and lock the door on the outside? And call us yourself, at seven in the morning?”

“Yes, sir,” said Mrs. Danvers. Still she kept her eyes on him, still her hands clutched at her dress.

“Very well, then,” said Colonel Julyan brusquely. “I don’t think there is anything else we need discuss, tonight. I shall be here sharp at nine in the morning. You will have room for me in your car, de Winter?”

“Yes,” said Maxim.

“And Favell will follow us in his?”

“Right on your tail, my dear fellow, right on your tail,” said Favell.

Colonel Julyan came up to me and took my hand. “Good night,” he said. “You know how I feel for you in all this, there’s no need for me to tell you. Get your husband to bed early, if you can. It’s going to be a long day.” He held my hand a minute and then he turned away. It was curious how he avoided my eye. He looked at my chin. Frank held the door for him as he went out. Favell leaned forward and filled his case with cigarettes from the box on the table.

“I suppose I’m not going to be asked to stop to dinner?” he said.

Nobody answered. He lit one of the cigarettes, and blew a cloud of smoke into the air. “It means a quiet evening at the pub on the highroad then,” he said, “and the barmaid has a squint. What a hell of a night I’m going to spend! Never mind, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Good night, Danny old lady, don’t forget to turn the key on Mr. de Winter, will you?”

He came over to me and held out his hand.

Like a foolish child I put my hands behind my back. He laughed, and bowed.

“It’s just too bad, isn’t it?” he said. “A nasty man like me coming and spoiling all your fun. Don’t worry, it will be a great thrill for you when the yellow Press gets going with your life story, and you see the headlines ‘From Monte Carlo to Manderley. Experiences of murderer’s girl-bride,’ written across the top. Better luck next time.”

He strolled across the room to the door, waving his hand to Maxim by the window. “So long, old man,” he said, “pleasant dreams. Make the most of your night behind that locked door.” He turned and laughed at me, and then he went out of the room. Mrs. Danvers followed him. Maxim and I were alone. He went on standing by the window. He did not come to me. Jasper came trotting in from the hall. He had been shut outside all the evening. He came fussing up to me, biting the edge of my skirt.

“I’m coming with you in the morning,” I said to Maxim. “I’m coming up to London with you in the car.”

He did not answer for a moment. He went on looking out of the window. Then “Yes,” he said, his voice without expression. “Yes, we must go on being together.”

Frank came back into the room. He stood in the entrance, his hand on the door. “They’ve gone,” he said, “Favell and Colonel Julyan, I watched them go.”

“All right, Frank,” said Maxim.

“Is there anything I can do?” said Frank, “anything at all? Wire to anyone, arrange anything? I’ll stay up all night if only there’s anything I can do. I’ll get that wire off to Baker of course.”

“Don’t worry,” said Maxim, “there’s nothing for you to do—yet. There may be plenty—after tomorrow. We can go into all that when the time comes. Tonight we want to be together. You understand, don’t you?”

“Yes,” said Frank. “Yes, of course.”

He waited a moment, his hand on the door. “Good night,” he said.

“Good night,” said Maxim.

When he had gone, and shut the door behind him, Maxim came over to me where I was standing by the fireplace. I held out my arms to him and he came to me like a child. I put my arms round him and held him. We did not say anything for a long time. I held him and comforted him as though he were Jasper. As though Jasper had hurt himself in some way and he had come to me to take his pain away.

“We can sit together,” he said, “driving up in the car.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Julyan won’t mind,” he said.

“No,” I said.

“We shall have tomorrow night too,” he said. “They won’t do anything at once, not for twenty-four hours perhaps.”

“No,” I said.

“They aren’t so strict now,” he said. “They let one see people. And it all takes such a long time. If I can I shall try and get hold of Hastings. He’s the best. Hastings or Birkett. Hastings used to know my father.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I shall have to tell him the truth,” he said. “It makes it easier for them. They know where they are.”

“Yes,” I said.

The door opened and Frith came into the room. I pushed Maxim away, I stood up straight and conventional, patting my hair into place.

“Will you be changing, Madam, or shall I serve dinner at once?”

“No, Frith, we won’t be changing, not tonight,” I said.

“Very good, Madam,” he said.

He left the door open. Robert came in and began drawing the curtains. He arranged the cushions, straightened the sofa, tidied the books and papers on the table. He took away the whiskey and soda and the dirty ashtrays. I had seen him do these things as a ritual every evening I had spent at Manderley, but tonight they seemed to take on a special significance, as though the memory of them would last forever and I would say, long after, in some other time, “I remember this moment.”

Then Frith came in and told us that dinner was served.

I remember every detail of that evening. I remember the ice-cold consommé in the cups, and the fillets of sole, and the hot shoulder of lamb.

I remember the burned sugar sweet, the sharp savory that followed.

We had new candles in the silver candlesticks, they looked white and slim and very tall. The curtains had been drawn here too against the dull gray evening. It seemed strange to be sitting in the dining room and not look out onto the lawns. It was like the beginning of autumn.

It was while we were drinking our coffee in the library that the telephone rang. This time it was I who answered it. I heard Beatrice speaking at the other end. “Is that you?” she said, “I’ve been trying to get through all the evening. Twice it was engaged.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, “so very sorry.”

“We had the evening papers about two hours ago,” she said, “and the verdict was a frightful shock to both Giles and myself. What does Maxim say about it?”

“I think it was a shock to everybody,” I said.

“But, my dear, the thing is preposterous. Why on earth should Rebecca have committed suicide? The most unlikely person in the world. There must have been a blunder somewhere.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“What does Maxim say? Where is he?” she said.

“People have been here,” I said—“Colonel Julyan, and others. Maxim is very tired. We’re going up to London tomorrow.”

“What on earth for?”

“Something to do with the verdict. I can’t very well explain.”

“You ought to get it quashed,” she said. “It’s ridiculous, quite ridiculous. And so bad for Maxim, all this frightful publicity. It’s going to reflect on him.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Surely Colonel Julyan can do something?” she said. “He’s a magistrate. What are magistrates for? Old Horridge from Lanyon must have been off his head. What was her motive supposed to be? It’s the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Someone ought to get hold of Tabb. How can he tell whether those holes in the boat were made deliberately or not? Giles said of course it must have been the rocks.”

“They seemed to think not,” I said.

“If only I could have been there,” she said. “I should have insisted on speaking. No one seems to have made any effort. Is Maxim very upset?”

“He’s tired,” I said, “more tired than anything else.”

“I wish I could come up to London and join you,” she said, “but I don’t see how I can. Roger has a temperature of 103, poor old boy, and the nurse we’ve got in is a perfect idiot, he loathes her. I can’t possibly leave him.”

“Of course not,” I said. “You mustn’t attempt it.”

“Whereabouts in London will you be?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s all rather vague.”

“Tell Maxim he must try and do something to get that verdict altered. It’s so bad for the family. I’m telling everybody here it’s absolutely wicked. Rebecca would never have killed herself, she wasn’t the type. I’ve got a good mind to write to the Coroner myself.”

“It’s too late,” I said. “Much better leave it. It won’t do any good.”

“The stupidity of it gets my goat,” she said. “Giles and I think it much more likely that if those holes weren’t done by the rocks they were done deliberately, by some tramp or other. A Communist perhaps. There are heaps of them about. Just the sort of thing a Communist would do.”

Maxim called to me from the library. “Can’t you get rid of her? What on earth is she talking about?”

“Beatrice,” I said desperately, “I’ll try and ring you up from London.”

“Is it any good my tackling Dick Godolphin?” she said. “He’s your M.P. I know him very well, much better than Maxim does. He was at Oxford with Giles. Ask Maxim whether he would like me to telephone Dick and see if he can do anything to quash the verdict? Ask Maxim what he thinks of this Communist idea.”

“It’s no use,” I said. “It can’t do any good. Please, Beatrice, don’t try and do anything. It will make it worse, much worse. Rebecca may have had some motive we don’t know anything about. And I don’t think Communists go ramming holes in boats, what would be the use? Please, Beatrice, leave it alone.”

Oh, thank God she had not been with us today. Thank God for that at least. Something was buzzing in the telephone. I heard Beatrice shouting, “Hullo, hullo, don’t cut us off, exchange,” and then there was a click, and silence.

I went back into the library, limp and exhausted. In a few minutes the telephone began ringing again. I did not do anything. I let it ring. I went and sat down at Maxim’s feet. It went on ringing. I did not move. Presently it stopped, as though cut suddenly in exasperation. The clock on the mantelpiece struck ten o’clock. Maxim put his arms round me and lifted me against him. We began to kiss one another, feverishly, desperately, like guilty lovers who have not kissed before.