Rebecca Chapter 7

We came to Manderley in early May, arriving, so Maxim said, with the first swallows and the bluebells. It would be the best moment, before the full flush of summer, and in the valley the azaleas would be prodigal of scent, and the bloodred rhododendrons in bloom. We motored, I remember, leaving London in the morning in a heavy shower of rain, coming to Manderley about five o’clock, in time for tea. I can see myself now, unsuitably dressed as usual, although a bride of seven weeks, in a tan-colored stockinette frock, a small fur known as a stone marten round my neck, and over all a shapeless mackintosh, far too big for me and dragging to my ankles. It was, I thought, a gesture to the weather, and the length added inches to my height. I clutched a pair of gauntlet gloves in my hands, and carried a large leather handbag.

“This is London rain,” said Maxim when we left, “you wait, the sun will be shining for you when we come to Manderley”; and he was right, for the clouds left us at Exeter, they rolled away behind us, leaving a great blue sky above our heads and a white road in front of us.

I was glad to see the sun, for in superstitious fashion I looked upon rain as an omen of ill-will, and the leaden skies of London had made me silent.

“Feeling better?” said Maxim, and I smiled at him, taking his hand, thinking how easy it was for him, going to his own home, wandering into the hall, picking up letters, ringing a bell for tea, and I wondered how much he guessed of my nervousness, and whether his question “Feeling better?” meant that he understood. “Never mind, we’ll soon be there. I expect you want your tea,” he said, and he let go my hand because we had reached a bend in the road, and must slow down.

I knew then that he had mistaken my silence for fatigue, and it had not occurred to him I dreaded this arrival at Manderley as much as I had longed for it in theory. Now the moment was upon me I wished it delayed. I wanted to draw up at some wayside inn and stay there, in a coffee room, by an impersonal fire. I wanted to be a traveler on the road, a bride in love with her husband. Not myself coming to Manderley for the first time, the wife of Maxim de Winter. We passed many friendly villages where the cottage windows had a kindly air. A woman, holding a baby in her arms, smiled at me from a doorway, while a man clanked across a road to a well, carrying a pail.

I wished we could have been one with them, perhaps their neighbors, and that Maxim could lean over a cottage gate in the evenings, smoking a pipe, proud of a very tall hollyhock he had grown himself, while I bustled in my kitchen, clean as a pin, laying the table for supper. There would be an alarm clock on the dresser ticking loudly, and a row of shining plates, while after supper Maxim would read his paper, boots on the fender, and I reach for a great pile of mending in the dresser drawer. Surely it would be peaceful and steady, that way of living, and easier, too, demanding no set standard?

“Only two miles further,” said Maxim; “you see that great belt of trees on the brow of the hill there, sloping to the valley, with a scrap of sea beyond? That’s Manderley, in there. Those are the woods.”

I forced a smile, and did not answer him, aware now of a stab of panic, an uneasy sickness that could not be controlled. Gone was my glad excitement, vanished my happy pride. I was like a child brought to her first school, or a little untrained maid who has never left home before, seeking a situation. Any measure of self-possession I had gained hitherto during the brief seven weeks of marriage, was like a rag now, fluttering before the wind; it seemed to me that even the most elementary knowledge of behavior was unknown to me now, I should not know my right hand from my left, whether to stand or sit, what spoons and forks to use at dinner.

“I should shed that mackintosh,” he said, glancing down at me, “it has not rained down here at all, and put your funny little fur straight. Poor lamb, I’ve bustled you down here like this, and you probably ought to have bought a lot of clothes in London.”

“It doesn’t matter to me, as long as you don’t mind,” I said.

“Most women think of nothing but clothes,” he said absently, and turning a corner we came to a crossroad, and the beginning of a high wall.

“Here we are,” he said, a new note of excitement in his voice, and I gripped the leather seat of the car with my two hands.

The road curved, and before us, on the left, were two high iron gates beside a lodge, open wide to the long drive beyond. As we drove through I saw faces peering through the dark window of the lodge, and a child ran round from the back, staring curiously. I shrank back against the seat, my heart beating quickly, knowing why the faces were at the window, and why the child stared.

They wanted to see what I was like. I could imagine them now, talking excitedly, laughing in the little kitchen. “Only caught sight of the top of her hat,” they would say, “she wouldn’t show her face. Oh, well, we’ll know by tomorrow. Word will come from the house.” Perhaps he guessed something of my shyness at last, for he took my hand, and kissed it, and laughed a little, even as he spoke.

“You mustn’t mind if there’s a certain amount of curiosity,” he said; “everyone will want to know what you are like. They have probably talked of nothing else for weeks. You’ve only got to be yourself and they will all adore you. And you don’t have to worry about the house, Mrs. Danvers does everything. Just leave it all to her. She’ll be stiff with you at first, I dare say, she’s an extraordinary character, but you mustn’t let it worry you. It’s just her manner. See those shrubs? It’s like a blue wall along here when the hydrangeas are in bloom.”

I did not answer him, for I was thinking of that self who long ago bought a picture postcard in a village shop, and came out into the bright sunlight twisting it in her hands, pleased with her purchase, thinking “This will do for my album. ‘Manderley,’ what a lovely name.” And now I belonged here, this was my home. I would write letters to people saying, “We shall be down at Manderley all the summer, you must come and see us,” and I would walk along this drive, strange and unfamiliar to me now, with perfect knowledge, conscious of every twist and turn, marking and approving where the gardeners had worked, here a cutting back of the shrubs, there a lopping of a branch, calling at the lodge by the iron gates on some friendly errand, saying, “Well, how’s the leg today?” while the old woman, curious no longer, bade me welcome to her kitchen. I envied Maxim, careless and at ease, and the little smile on his lips which meant he was happy to be coming home.

It seemed remote to me, and far too distant, the time when I too should smile and be at ease, and I wished it could come quickly; that I could be old even, with gray hair and slow of step, having lived here many years—anything but the timid, foolish creature I felt myself to be.

The gates had shut to with a crash behind us, the dusty highroad was out of sight, and I became aware that this was not the drive I had imagined would be Manderley’s, this was not a broad and spacious thing of gravel, flanked with neat turf at either side, kept smooth with rake and brush.

This drive twisted and turned as a serpent, scarce wider in places than a path, and above our heads was a great colonnade of trees, whose branches nodded and intermingled with one another, making an archway for us, like the roof of a church. Even the midday sun would not penetrate the interlacing of those green leaves, they were too thickly entwined, one with another, and only little flickering patches of warm light would come in intermittent waves to dapple the drive with gold. It was very silent, very still. On the high road there had been a gay west wind blowing in my face, making the grass on the hedges dance in unison, but here there was no wind. Even the engine of the car had taken a new note, throbbing low, quieter than before. As the drive descended to the valley so the trees came in upon us, great beeches with lovely smooth white stems, lifting their myriad branches to one another, and other trees, trees I could not name, coming close, so close that I could touch them with my hands. On we went, over a little bridge that spanned a narrow stream, and still this drive that was no drive twisted and turned like an enchanted ribbon through the dark and silent woods, penetrating even deeper to the very heart surely of the forest itself, and still there was no clearing, no space to hold a house.

The length of it began to nag at my nerves; it must be this turn, I thought, or round that further bend; but as I leaned forward in my seat I was forever disappointed, there was no house, no field, no broad and friendly garden, nothing but the silence and deep woods. The lodge gates were a memory, and the high road something belonging to another time, another world.

Suddenly I saw a clearing in the dark drive ahead, and a patch of sky, and in a moment the dark trees had thinned, the nameless shrubs had disappeared, and on either side of us was a wall of color, bloodred, reaching far above our heads. We were among the rhododendrons. There was something bewildering, even shocking, about the suddenness of their discovery. The woods had not prepared me for them. They startled me with their crimson faces, massed one upon the other in incredible profusion, showing no leaf, no twig, nothing but the slaughterous red, luscious and fantastic, unlike any rhododendron plant I had seen before.

I glanced at Maxim. He was smiling. “Like them?” he said.

I told him “Yes,” a little breathlessly, uncertain whether I was speaking the truth or not, for to me a rhododendron was a homely, domestic thing, strictly conventional, mauve or pink in color, standing one beside the other in a neat round bed. And these were monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a battalion, too beautiful I thought, too powerful; they were not plants at all.

We were not far from the house now, I saw the drive broaden to the sweep I had expected, and with the bloodred wall still flanking us on either side, we turned the last corner, and so came to Manderley. Yes, there it was, the Manderley I had expected, the Manderley of my picture postcard long ago. A thing of grace and beauty, exquisite and faultless, lovelier even than I had ever dreamed, built in its hollow of smooth grassland and mossy lawns, the terraces sloping to the gardens, and the gardens to the sea. As we drove up to the wide stone steps and stopped before the open door, I saw through one of the mullioned windows that the hall was full of people, and I heard Maxim swear under his breath. “Damn that woman,” he said; “she knows perfectly well I did not want this sort of thing,” and he put on the brakes with a jerk.

“What’s the matter?” I said. “Who are all those people?”

“I’m afraid you will have to face it now,” he said, in irritation. “Mrs. Danvers has collected the whole damned staff in the house and on the estate to welcome us. It’s all right, you won’t have to say anything, I’ll do it all.”

I fumbled for the handle of the door, feeling slightly sick, and cold now too from the long drive, and as I fumbled with the catch the butler came down the steps, followed by a footman, and he opened the door for me.

He was old, he had a kind face, and I smiled up at him, holding out my hand, but I don’t think he could have seen, for he took the rug instead, and my small dressing-case, and turned to Maxim, helping me from the car at the same time.

“Well, here we are, Frith,” said Maxim, taking off his gloves. “It was raining when we left London. You don’t seem to have had it here. Everyone well?”

“Yes, sir, thank you, sir. No, we have had a dry month on the whole. Glad to see you home, and hope you have been keeping well. And Madam too.”

“Yes, we are both well, thank you, Frith. Rather tired from the drive, and wanting our tea. I didn’t expect this business.” He jerked his head to the hall.

“Mrs. Danvers’ orders, sir,” said the man, his face expressionless.

“I might have guessed it,” said Maxim abruptly. “Come on”—he turned to me—“it won’t take long, and then you shall have your tea.”

We went together up the flight of steps, Frith and the footman following with the rug and my mackintosh, and I was aware of a little pain at the pit of my stomach, and a nervous contraction in my throat.

I can close my eyes now, and look back on it, and see myself as I must have been, standing on the threshold of the house, a slim, awkward figure in my stockinette dress, clutching in my sticky hands a pair of gauntlet gloves. I can see the great stone hall, the wide doors open to the library, the Peter Lelys and the Vandykes on the walls, the exquisite staircase leading to the minstrels’ gallery, and there, ranged one behind the other in the hall, overflowing to the stone passages beyond, and to the dining room, a sea of faces, open-mouthed and curious, gazing at me as though they were the watching crowd about the block, and I the victim with my hands behind my back. Someone advanced from the sea of faces, someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black, whose prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes gave her a skull’s face, parchment-white, set on a skeleton’s frame.

She came towards me, and I held out my hand, envying her for her dignity and her composure; but when she took my hand hers was limp and heavy, deathly cold, and it lay in mine like a lifeless thing.

“This is Mrs. Danvers,” said Maxim, and she began to speak, still leaving that dead hand in mine, her hollow eyes never leaving my eyes, so that my own wavered and would not meet hers, and as they did so her hand moved in mine, the life returned to it, and I was aware of a sensation of discomfort and of shame.

I cannot remember her words now, but I know that she bade me welcome to Manderley, in the name of herself and the staff, a stiff, conventional speech rehearsed for the occasion, spoken in a voice as cold and lifeless as her hands had been. When she had finished she waited, as though for a reply, and I remember blushing scarlet, stammering some sort of thanks in return, and dropping both my gloves in my confusion. She stooped to pick them up, and as she handed them to me I saw a little smile of scorn upon her lips, and I guessed at once she considered me ill-bred. Something, in the expression of her face, gave me a feeling of unrest, and even when she had stepped back, and taken her place among the rest, I could see that black figure standing out alone, individual and apart, and for all her silence I knew her eye to be upon me. Maxim took my arm and made a little speech of thanks, perfectly easy and free from embarrassment, as though the making of it was no effort to him at all, and then he bore me off to the library to tea, closing the doors behind us, and we were alone again.

Two cocker spaniels came from the fireside to greet us. They pawed at Maxim, their long, silken ears strained back with affection, their noses questing his hands, and then they left him and came to me, sniffing at my heels, rather uncertain, rather suspicious. One was the mother, blind in one eye, and soon she had enough of me, and took herself with a grunt to the fire again, but Jasper, the younger, put his nose into my hand, and laid a chin upon my knee, his eyes deep with meaning, his tail a-thump when I stroked his silken ears.

I felt better when I had taken my hat off, and my wretched little fur, and thrown them both beside my gloves and my bag onto the window seat. It was a deep, comfortable room, with books lining the walls to the ceiling, the sort of room a man would move from never, did he live alone, solid chairs beside a great open fireplace, baskets for the two dogs in which I felt they never sat, for the hollows in the chairs had telltale marks. The long windows looked out upon the lawns, and beyond the lawns to the distant shimmer of the sea.

There was an old quiet smell about the room, as though the air in it was little changed, for all the sweet lilac scent and the roses brought to it throughout the early summer. Whatever air came to this room, whether from the garden or from the sea, would lose its first freshness, becoming part of the unchanging room itself, one with the books, musty and never read, one with the scrolled ceiling, the dark paneling, the heavy curtains.

It was an ancient mossy smell, the smell of a silent church where services are seldom held, where rusty lichen grows upon the stones and ivy tendrils creep to the very windows. A room for peace, a room for meditation.

Soon tea was brought to us, a stately little performance enacted by Frith and the young footman, in which I played no part until they had gone, and while Maxim glanced through his great pile of letters I played with two dripping crumpets, crumbled cake with my hands, and swallowed my scalding tea.

Now and again he looked up at me and smiled, and then returned to his letters, the accumulation of the last months I supposed, and I thought how little I knew of his life here at Manderley, of how it went day by day, of the people he knew, of his friends, men and women, of what bills he paid, what orders he gave about his household. The last weeks had gone so swiftly, and I—driving by his side through France and Italy—thought only of how I loved him, seeing Venice with his eyes, echoing his words, asking no questions of the past and future, content with the little glory of the living present.

For he was gayer than I had thought, more tender than I had dreamed, youthful and ardent in a hundred happy ways, not the Maxim I had first met, not the stranger who sat alone at the table in the restaurant, staring before him, wrapped in his secret self. My Maxim laughed and sang, threw stones into the water, took my hand, wore no frown between his eyes, carried no burden on his shoulder. I knew him as a lover, as a friend, and during those weeks I had forgotten that he had a life, orderly, methodical, a life which must be taken up again, continued as before, making vanished weeks a brief discarded holiday.

I watched him read his letters, saw him frown at one, smile at another, dismiss the next with no expression, and but for the grace of God I thought, my letter would be lying there, written from New York, and he would read it in the same indifferent fashion, puzzled at first perhaps by the signature, and then tossing it with a yawn to the pile of others in the basket, reaching for his cup of tea. The knowledge of this chilled me; how narrow a chance had stood between me and what might-have-been, for he would have sat here to his tea, as he sat now, continuing his home life as he would in any case, and perhaps he would not have thought of me much, not with regret anyway, while I, in New York, playing bridge with Mrs. Van Hopper, would wait day after day for a letter that never came.

I leaned back in my chair, glancing about the room, trying to instill into myself some measure of confidence, some genuine realization that I was here, at Manderley, the house of the picture postcard, the Manderley that was famous. I had to teach myself that all this was mine now, mine as much as his, the deep chair I was sitting in, that mass of books stretching to the ceiling, the pictures on the walls, the gardens, the woods, the Manderley I had read about, all of this was mine now because I was married to Maxim.

We should grow old here together, we should sit like this to our tea as old people, Maxim and I, with other dogs, the successors of these, and the library would wear the same ancient musty smell that it did now. It would know a period of glorious shabbiness and wear when the boys were young—our boys—for I saw them sprawling on the sofa with muddy boots, bringing with them always a litter of rods, and cricket bats, great clasp-knives, bows-and-arrows.

On the table there, polished now and plain, an ugly case would stand containing butterflies and moths, and another one with birds’ eggs, wrapped in cotton wool. “Not all this junk in here,” I would say, “take them to the schoolroom, darlings,” and they would run off, shouting, calling to one another, but the little one staying behind, pottering on his own, quieter than the others.

My vision was disturbed by the opening of the door, and Frith came in with the footman to clear the tea. “Mrs. Danvers wondered, Madam, whether you would like to see your room,” he said to me, when the tea had been taken away.

Maxim glanced up from his letters. “What sort of job have they made of the east wing?” he said.

“Very nice indeed, sir, it seems to me; the men made a mess when they were working, of course, and for a time Mrs. Danvers was rather afraid it would not be finished by your return. But they cleared out last Monday. I should imagine you would be very comfortable there, sir; it’s a lot lighter of course on that side of the house.”

“Have you been making alterations?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing much,” said Maxim briefly, “only redecorating and painting the suite in the east wing, which I thought we would use for ours. As Frith says, it’s much more cheerful on that side of the house, and it has a lovely view of the rose garden. It was the visitors’ wing when my mother was alive. I’ll just finish these letters and then I’ll come up and join you. Run along and make friends with Mrs. Danvers; it’s a good opportunity.”

I got up slowly, my old nervousness returning, and went out into the hall. I wished I could have waited for him, and then, taking his arm, seen the rooms together. I did not want to go alone, with Mrs. Danvers. How vast the great hall looked now that it was empty. My feet rang on the flagged stones, echoing to the ceiling, and I felt guilty at the sound, as one does in church, self-conscious, aware of the same constraint. My feet made a stupid pitter-patter as I walked, and I thought that Frith, with his felt soles, must have thought me foolish.

“It’s very big, isn’t it?” I said, too brightly, too forced, a schoolgirl still, but he answered me in all solemnity.

“Yes, Madam, Manderley is a big place. Not so big as some, of course, but big enough. This was the old banqueting hall, in old days. It is used still on great occasions, such as a big dinner, or a ball. And the public are admitted here, you know, once a week.”

“Yes,” I said, still aware of my loud footsteps, feeling, as I followed him, that he considered me as he would one of the public visitors, and I behaved like a visitor too, glancing politely to right and left, taking in the weapons on the wall, and the pictures, touching the carved staircase with my hands.

A black figure stood waiting for me at the head of the stairs, the hollow eyes watching me intently from the white skull’s face. I looked round for the solid Frith, but he had passed along the hall and into the further corridor.

I was alone now with Mrs. Danvers. I went up the great stairs towards her, and she waited motionless, her hands folded before her, her eyes never leaving my face. I summoned a smile, which was not returned, nor did I blame her, for there was no purpose to the smile, it was a silly thing, bright and artificial. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting,” I said.

“It’s for you to make your own time, Madam,” she answered, “I’m here to carry out your orders,” and then she turned, through the archway of the gallery, to the corridor beyond. We went along a broad, carpeted passage, and then turned left, through an oak door, and down a narrow flight of stairs and up a corresponding flight, and so to another door. This she flung open, standing aside to let me pass, and I came to a little anteroom, or boudoir, furnished with a sofa, chairs, and writing desk, which opened out to a large double bedroom with wide windows and a bathroom beyond. I went at once to the window, and looked out. The rose garden lay below, and the eastern part of the terrace, while beyond the rose garden rose a smooth grass bank, stretching to the near woods.

“You can’t see the sea from here, then,” I said, turning to Mrs. Danvers.

“No, not from this wing,” she answered; “you can’t even hear it, either. You would not know the sea was anywhere near, from this wing.”

She spoke in a peculiar way, as though something lay behind her words, and she laid an emphasis on the words “this wing,” as if suggesting that the suite where we stood now held some inferiority.

“I’m sorry about that; I like the sea,” I said.

She did not answer; she just went on staring at me, her hands folded before her.

“However, it’s a very charming room,” I said, “and I’m sure I shall be comfortable. I understand that it’s been done up for our return.”

“Yes,” she said.

“What was it like before?” I asked.

“It had a mauve paper, and different hangings; Mr. de Winter did not think it very cheerful. It was never much used, except for occasional visitors. But Mr. de Winter gave special orders in his letters that you would have this room.”

“Then this was not his bedroom originally?” I said.

“No, Madam, he’s never used the room in this wing before.”

“Oh,” I said, “he didn’t tell me that,” and I wandered to the dressing table and began combing my hair. My things were already unpacked, my brushes and comb upon the tray. I was glad Maxim had given me a set of brushes, and that they were laid out there, upon the dressing table, for Mrs. Danvers to see. They were new, they had cost money, I need not be ashamed of them.

“Alice has unpacked for you and will look after you until your maid arrives,” said Mrs. Danvers. I smiled at her again. I put down the brush upon the dressing table.

“I don’t have a maid,” I said awkwardly; “I’m sure Alice, if she is the housemaid, will look after me all right.”

She wore the same expression that she had done on our first meeting, when I dropped my gloves so gauchely on the floor.

“I’m afraid that would not do for very long,” she said; “it’s usual, you know, for ladies in your position to have a personal maid.”

I flushed, and reached for my brush again. There was a sting in her words I understood too well. “If you think it necessary perhaps you would see about it for me,” I said, avoiding her eyes; “some young girl perhaps, wanting to train.”

“If you wish,” she said. “It’s for you to say.”

There was silence between us. I wished she would go away. I wondered why she must go on standing there, watching me, her hands folded on her black dress.

“I suppose you have been at Manderley for many years,” I said, making a fresh effort, “longer than anyone else?”

“Not so long as Frith,” she said, and I thought how lifeless her voice was, and cold, like her hand when it had lain in mine; “Frith was here when the old gentleman was living, when Mr. de Winter was a boy.”

“I see,” I said; “so you did not come till after that?”

“No,” she said, “not till after that.”

Once more, I glanced up at her and once more I met her eyes, dark and somber, in that white face of hers, instilling into me, I knew not why, a strange feeling of disquiet, of foreboding. I tried to smile, and could not; I found myself held by those eyes, that had no light, no flicker of sympathy towards me.

“I came here when the first Mrs. de Winter was a bride,” she said, and her voice, which had hitherto, as I said, been dull and toneless, was harsh now with unexpected animation, with life and meaning, and there was a spot of color on the gaunt cheekbones.

The change was so sudden that I was shocked, and a little scared. I did not know what to do, or what to say. It was as though she had spoken words that were forbidden, words that she had hidden within herself for a long time and now would be repressed no longer. Still her eyes never left my face; they looked upon me with a curious mixture of pity and of scorn, until I felt myself to be even younger and more untutored to the ways of life than I had believed.

I could see she despised me, marking with all the snobbery of her class that I was no great lady, that I was humble, shy, and diffident. Yet there was something beside scorn in those eyes of hers, something surely of positive dislike, or actual malice?

I had to say something, I could not go on sitting there, playing with my hair-brush, letting her see how much I feared and mistrusted her.

“Mrs. Danvers,” I heard myself saying, “I hope we shall be friends and come to understand one another. You must have patience with me, you know, because this sort of life is new to me, I’ve lived rather differently. And I do want to make a success of it, and above all to make Mr. de Winter happy. I know I can leave all household arrangements to you, Mr. de Winter said so, and you must just run things as they have always been run; I shan’t want to make any changes.”

I stopped, a little breathless, still uncertain of myself and whether I was saying the right thing, and when I looked up again I saw that she had moved, and was standing with her hand on the handle of the door.

“Very good,” she said; “I hope I shall do everything to your satisfaction. The house has been in my charge now for more than a year, and Mr. de Winter has never complained. It was very different of course when the late Mrs. de Winter was alive; there was a lot of entertaining then, a lot of parties, and though I managed for her, she liked to supervise things herself.”

Once again I had the impression that she chose her words with care, that she was feeling her way, as it were, into my mind, and watching for the effect upon my face.

“I would rather leave it to you,” I repeated, “much rather,” and into her face came the same expression I had noticed before, when first I had shaken hands with her in the hall, a look surely of derision, of definite contempt. She knew that I would never withstand her, and that I feared her too.

“Can I do anything more for you?” she said, and pretended to glance round the room. “No,” I said. “No, I think I have everything. I shall be very comfortable here. You have made the room so charming”—this last a final crawling sop to win her approval. She shrugged her shoulders, and still she did not smile. “I only followed out Mr. de Winter’s instructions,” she said.

She hesitated by the doorway, her hand on the handle of the open door. It was as though she still had something to say to me, and could not decide upon the words, yet waited there, for me to give her opportunity.

I wished she would go; she was like a shadow standing there, watching me, appraising me with her hollow eyes, set in that dead skull’s face.

“If you find anything not to your liking you will tell me at once?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, of course, Mrs. Danvers,” but I knew this was not what she had meant to say, and silence fell between us once again.

“If Mr. de Winter asks for his big wardrobe,” she said suddenly, “you must tell him it was impossible to move. We tried, but we could not get it through these narrow doorways. These are smaller rooms than those in the west wing. If he doesn’t like the arrangement of this suite he must tell me. It was difficult to know how to furnish these rooms.”

“Please don’t worry, Mrs. Danvers,” I said. “I’m sure he will be pleased with everything. But I’m sorry it’s given you so much trouble. I had no idea he was having rooms redecorated and furnished. He shouldn’t have bothered. I’m sure I should have been just as happy and comfortable in the west wing.”

She looked at me curiously, and began twisting the handle of the door. “Mr. de Winter said you would prefer to be on this side,” she said, “the rooms in the west wing are very old. The bedroom in the big suite is twice as large as this; a very beautiful room too, with a scrolled ceiling. The tapestry chairs are very valuable, and so is the carved mantelpiece. It’s the most beautiful room in the house. And the windows look down across the lawns to the sea.”

I felt uncomfortable, a little shy. I did not know why she must speak with such an undercurrent of resentment, implying as she did at the same time that this room, where I found myself to be installed, was something inferior, not up to Manderley standard, a second-rate room, as it were, for a second-rate person.

“I suppose Mr. de Winter keeps the most beautiful room to show to the public,” I said. She went on twisting the handle of the door, and then looked up at me again, watching my eyes, hesitating before replying, and when she spoke her voice was quieter even, and more toneless, than it had been before.

“The bedrooms are never shown to the public,” she said, “only the hall and the gallery, and the room below.” She paused an instant, feeling me with her eyes. “They used to live in the west wing and use those rooms when Mrs. de Winter was alive. That big room, I was telling you about, that looked down to the sea, was Mrs. de Winter’s bedroom.”

Then I saw a shadow flit across her face, and she drew back against the wall, effacing herself, as a step sounded outside and Maxim came into the room.

“How is it?” he said to me. “All right? Do you think you’ll like it?”

He looked round with enthusiasm, pleased as a schoolboy. “I always thought this a most attractive room,” he said. “It was wasted all those years as a guest-room, but I always thought it had possibilities. You’ve made a great success of it, Mrs. Danvers: I give you full marks.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said, her face expressionless, and then she turned, and went out of the room, closing the door softly behind her.

Maxim went and leaned out of the window. “I love the rose garden,” he said; “one of the first things I remember is walking after my mother, on very small, unsteady legs, while she picked off the dead heads of the roses. There’s something peaceful and happy about this room, and it’s quiet too. You could never tell you were within five minutes of the sea, from this room.”

“That’s what Mrs. Danvers said,” I told him.

He came away from the window, he prowled about the room, touching things, looking at the pictures, opening wardrobes, fingering my clothes, already unpacked.

“How did you get on with old Danvers?” he said abruptly.

I turned away, and began combing my hair again before the looking glass. “She seems just a little bit stiff,” I said, after a moment or two; “perhaps she thought I was going to interfere with the running of the house.”

“I don’t think she would mind your doing that,” he said. I looked up and saw him watching my reflection in the looking glass, and then he turned away and went over to the window again, whistling quietly, under his breath, rocking backwards and forwards on his heels.

“Don’t mind her,” he said; “she’s an extraordinary character in many ways, and possibly not very easy for another woman to get on with. You mustn’t worry about it. If she really makes herself a nuisance we’ll get rid of her. But she’s efficient, you know, and will take all housekeeping worries off your hands. I dare say she’s a bit of a bully to the staff. She doesn’t dare bully me though. I’d have given her the sack long ago if she had tried.”

“I expect we shall get on very well when she knows me better,” I said quickly; “after all, it’s natural enough that she should resent me a bit at first.”

“Resent you? Why resent you? What the devil do you mean?” he said.

He turned from the window, frowning, an odd, half angry expression on his face. I wondered why he should mind, and wished I had said something else.

“I mean, it must be much easier for a housekeeper to look after a man alone,” I said. “I dare say she had got into the way of doing it, and perhaps she was afraid I should be very overbearing.”

“Overbearing, my God…” he began, “if you think…” and then he stopped, and came across to me, and kissed me on the top of my head.

“Let’s forget about Mrs. Danvers,” he said; “she doesn’t interest me very much, I’m afraid. Come along, and let me show you something of Manderley.”

I did not see Mrs. Danvers again that evening, and we did not talk about her anymore. I felt happier when I had dismissed her from my thoughts, less of an interloper, and as we wandered about the rooms downstairs, and looked at the pictures, and Maxim put his arm around my shoulder, I began to feel more like the self I wanted to become, the self I had pictured in my dreams, who made Manderley her home.

My footsteps no longer sounded foolish on the stone flags of the hall, for Maxim’s nailed shoes made far more noise than mine, and the pattering feet of the two dogs was a comfortable, pleasing note.

I was glad, too, because it was the first evening and we had only been back a little while and the showing of the pictures had taken time, when Maxim, looking at the clock, said it was too late to change for dinner, so that I was spared the embarrassment of Alice, the maid, asking what I should wear, and of her helping me to dress, and myself walking down that long flight of stairs to the hall, cold, with bare shoulders, in a dress that Mrs. Van Hopper had given me because it did not suit her daughter. I had dreaded the formality of dinner in that austere dining room, and now, because of the little fact that we had not changed, it was quite all right, quite easy, just the same as when we had dined together in restaurants. I was comfortable in my stockinette dress, I laughed and talked about things we had seen in Italy and France, we even had the snapshots on the table, and Frith and the footman were impersonal people, as the waiters had been; they did not stare at me as Mrs. Danvers had done.

We sat in the library after dinner, and presently the curtains were drawn, and more logs thrown on the fire; it was cool for May, I was thankful for the warmth that came from the steady burning logs.

It was new for us to sit together like this, after dinner, for in Italy we had wandered about, walked or driven, gone into little caf├ęs, leaned over bridges. Maxim made instinctively now for the chair on the left of the open fireplace, and stretched out his hand for the papers. He settled one of the broad cushions behind his head, and lit a cigarette. “This is his routine,” I thought, “this is what he always does: this has been his custom now for years.”

He did not look at me, he went on reading his paper, contented, comfortable, having assumed his way of living, the master of his house. And as I sat there, brooding, my chin in my hands, fondling the soft ears of one of the spaniels, it came to me that I was not the first one to lounge there in possession of the chair; someone had been before me, and surely left an imprint of her person on the cushions, and on the arm where her hand had rested. Another one had poured the coffee from that same silver coffee pot, had placed the cup to her lips, had bent down to the dog, even as I was doing.

Unconsciously, I shivered as though someone had opened the door behind me and let a draft into the room. I was sitting in Rebecca’s chair, I was leaning against Rebecca’s cushion, and the dog had come to me and laid his head upon my knee because that had been his custom, and he remembered, in the past, she had given sugar to him there.