REBECCA DAPHNE DU MAURIER PDF
DAPHNE DU MAURIER. Rebecca. Retold by Margaret Tarner and I. We would never live there free of Rebecca, free from thoughts of. Rebecca Daphne du Maurier First published in Great Britain Chapter one Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley aga. Page 1. MACMILLAN READERS. UPPER LEVEL. DAPHNE DU MAURIER. Rebecca. Retold by Margaret Tarner. Page 2. Contents. The People in This Story.
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Read "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first purchase. "Rebecca is a work of immense. Rebecca - Teacher's notes 1 of 5. Teacher's notes level 5. Teacher Support Programme. About the author. Daphne du Maurier was born in London in into. Rebecca: Daphne du Maurier. Chapter 1. Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley* again. It seemed to me that I was passing through the iron gates that led to.
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Even my faithful Jasper has gone to the happy hunting grounds, and Manderley is no more. It lies like an empty shell amidst the tangle of the deep woods, even as I saw it in my dream. A multitude of weeds, a colony of birds. Sometimes perhaps a tramp will wander there, seeking shelter from a sudden shower of rain and, if he is stout-hearted, he may walk there with impunity.
But your timid fellow, your nervous poacher - the woods of Manderley are not for him. He might stumble upon the little cottage in the cove and he would not be happy beneath its tumbled roof, the thin rain beating a tattoo. There might linger there still a certain atmosphere of stress That corner in the drive, too, where the trees encroach upon the gravel, is not a place in which to pause, not after the sun has set.
When the leaves rustle, they sound very much like the stealthy movement of a woman in evening dress, and when they shiver suddenly, and fall, and scatter away along the ground, they might be the patter, patter, of a woman's hurrying footstep, and the mark in the gravel the imprint of a high-heeled satin shoe. It is when I remember these things that I return with relief to the prospect from our balcony. No shadows steal upon this hard glare, the stony vineyards shimmer in the sun and the bougainvillaea is white with dust.
I may one day look upon it with affection. At the moment it inspires me, if not with love, at least with confidence. And confidence is a quality I prize, although it has come to me a little late in the day. I suppose it is his dependence upon me that has made me bold at last. At any rate I have lost my diffidence, my timidity, my shyness with strangers.
I am very different from that self who drove to Manderley for the first time, hopeful and eager, handicapped by a rather desperate gaucherie and filled with an intense desire to please.
It was my lack of poise of course that made such a bad impression on people like Mrs Danvers. What must I have seemed like after Rebecca? I can see myself now, memory spanning the years like a bridge, with straight, bobbed hair and youthful, unpowdered face, dressed in an ill-fitting coat and skirt and a jumper of my own creation, trailing in the wake of Mrs Van Hopper like a shy, uneasy colt. She would precede me in to lunch, her short body ill-balanced upon tottering, high heels, her fussy, frilly blouse a compliment to her large bosom and swinging hips, her new hat pierced with a monster quill aslant upon her head, exposing a wide expanse of forehead bare as a schoolboy's knee.
One hand carried a gigantic bag, the kind that holds passports, engagement diaries, and bridge scores, while the other hand toyed with that inevitable lorgnette, the enemy to other people's privacy. She would make for her usual table in the corner of the restaurant, close to the window, and lifting her lorgnette to her small pig's eyes survey the scene to right and left of her, then she would let the lorgnette fall at length upon its black ribbon and utter a little exclamation of disgust: What do they think I come here for?
To look at the page boys? How different the little restaurant where we are today to that vast dining-room, ornate and ostentatious, the Hotel Cote d'Azur at Monte Carlo; and how different my present.
She need not have disturbed herself, for the waiter, with the uncanny swiftness of his kind, had long sensed my position as inferior and subservient to hers, and had placed before me a plate of ham and tongue that somebody had sent back to the cold buffet half an hour before as badly carved. Odd, that resentment of servants, and their obvious impatience. I remember staying once with Mrs Van Hopper in a country house, and the maid never answered my timid bell, or brought up my shoes, and early morning tea, stone cold, was dumped outside my bedroom door.
It was the same at the Cote d'Azur, though to a lesser degree, and sometimes the studied indifference turned to familiarity, smirking and offensive, which made buying stamps from the reception clerk an ordeal I would avoid. How young and inexperienced I must have seemed, and how I felt it, too. One was too sensitive, too raw, there were thorns and pinpricks in so many words that in reality fell lightly on the air. I remember well that plate of ham and tongue.
It was dry, unappetizing, cut in a wedge from the outside, but I had not the courage to refuse it. We ate in silence, for Mrs Van Hopper liked to concentrate on food, and I could tell by the way the sauce ran down her chin that her dish of ravioli pleased her. It was not a sight that engendered into me great appetite for my own cold choice, and looking away from her I saw that the table next to ours, left vacant for three days, was to be occupied once more. The maitre d'hotel, with the particular bow reserved for his more special patrons, was ushering the new arrival to his place.
Mrs Van Hopper put down her fork, and reached for her lorgnette. I blushed for her while she stared, and the newcomer, unconscious of her interest, cast a wandering eye over the menu. Then Mrs Van Hopper folded her lorgnette with a snap, and leant across the table to me, her small eyes bright with excitement, her voice a shade too loud.
You've heard of it, of course. He looks ill, doesn't he? They say he can't get over his wife's death Funny to think that the course of my existence hung like a thread upon that quality of hers. Her curiosity was a disease, almost a mania. At first I had been shocked, wretchedly embarrassed; I would feel like a whipping boy who must bear his master's pains when I watched people laugh behind her back, leave a room hurriedly upon her entrance, or even vanish behind a Service door on the corridor upstairs.
For many years now she had come to the Hotel Cote d'Azur, and, apart from bridge, her one pastime which was notorious by now in Monte Carlo, was to claim visitors of distinction as her friends had she but seen them once at the other end of the post-office. Somehow she would manage to introduce herself, and before her victim had scented danger she had proffered an invitation to her suite.
Her method of attack was so downright and sudden that there was seldom opportunity to escape. At the Cote d'Azur she staked a claim upon a certain sofa in the lounge, midway between the reception hall and the passage to the restaurant, and she would have her coffee there after luncheon and dinner, and all who came and went must pass her by.
Sometimes she would employ me as a bait to draw her prey, and, hating my errand, I would be sent across the lounge with a verbal message, the loan of a book or paper, the address of some shop or other, the sudden discovery of a mutual friend. It seemed as though notables must be fed to her, much as invalids are spooned their jelly; and though titles were preferred by her, any face once seen in a social paper served as well.
Names scattered in a gossip column, authors, artists, actors, and their kind, even the mediocre ones, as long as she had learnt of them in print. I can see her as though it were but yesterday, on that unforgettable afternoon - never mind how many years ago -when she sat at her favourite sofa in the lounge, debating her method of attack. I could tell by her abrupt manner, and the way she tapped her lorgnette against her teeth, that she was questing possibilities.
I knew, too, when she had missed the sweet and rushed through dessert, that she had wished to finish luncheon before the new arrival and so install herself where he must pass.
Suddenly she turned to me, her small eyes alight. You remember, the one written on his honeymoon, with the snapshot. Bring it down to me right away. Not for the first time I resented the part that I must play in her schemes. Like a juggler's assistant I produced the props, then silent and attentive I waited on my cue.
This newcomer would not welcome intrusion, I felt certain of that. In the little I had learnt of him at luncheon, a smattering of hearsay garnered by her ten months ago from the daily papers and stored in her memory for future use, I could imagine, in spite of my youth and inexperience of the world, that he would resent this sudden bursting in upon his solitude.
Why he should have chosen to come to the Cote d'Azur at Monte Carlo was not our concern, his problems were his own, and anyone but Mrs Van Hopper would have understood.
Tact was a quality unknown to her, discretion too, and because gossip was the breath of life to her this stranger must be served for her dissection. I found the letter in a pigeon-hole in her desk, and hesitated a moment before going down again to the lounge. It seemed to me, rather senselessly, that I was allowing him a few more moments of seclusion. I wished I had the courage to go by the Service staircase and so by roundabout way to the restaurant, and there warn him of the ambush.
Convention was too strong for me though, nor did I know how I should frame my sentence. There was nothing for it but to sit in my usual place beside Mrs Van Hopper while she, like a large, complacent spider, spun her wide net of tedium about the stranger's person. I had been longer than I thought, for when I returned to the lounge I saw he had already left the dining-room, and she, fearful of losing him, had not waited for the letter, but had risked a bare-faced introduction on her own. He was even now sitting beside her on the sofa.
I walked across to them, and gave her the letter without a word. He rose to his feet at once, while Mrs Van Hopper, flushed with her success, waved a vague hand in my direction and mumbled my name. It meant I was a youthful thing and unimportant, and that there was no need to include me in the conversation. She always spoke in that tone when she wished to be impressive, and her method of introduction was a form of self-protection, for once I had been taken for her daughter, an acute embarrassment for us both.
This abruptness showed that I could safely be ignored, and women would give me a brief nod which served as a greeting and a dismissal in one, while men, with large relief, would realize they could sink back into a comfortable chair without offending courtesy.
It was a surprise, therefore, to find that this newcomer remained standing on his feet, and it was he who made a signal to the waiter. For a moment she looked annoyed - this was not what she had intended but she soon composed her face, and thrusting her large self between me and the table she leant forward to his chair, talking eagerly and loudly, fluttering the letter in her hand. There's Dora. Isn't she just adorable? That little, slim waist, those great big eyes. Here they are sun-bathing at Palm Beach.
Billy is crazy about her, you can imagine. He had not met her of course when he gave that party at Claridge's, and where I saw you first. But I dare say you don't remember an old woman like me? He belonged to a walled city of the fifteenth century, a city of narrow, cobbled streets, and thin spires, where the inhabitants wore pointed shoes and worsted hose. His face was arresting, sensitive, medieval in some strange inexplicable way, and I was reminded of a portrait seen in a gallery, I had forgotten where, of a certain Gentleman Unknown.
Could one but rob him of his English tweeds, and put him in black, with lace at his throat and wrists, he would stare down at us in our new world from a long-distant past - a past where men walked cloaked at night, and stood in the shadow of old doorways, a past of narrow stairways and dim dungeons, a past of whispers in the dark, of shimmering rapier blades, of silent, exquisite courtesy.
I wished I could remember the Old Master who had painted that portrait. It stood in a corner of the gallery, and the eyes followed one from the dusky frame They were talking though, and I had lost the thread of conversation.
I remember Billy telling me it had all those big places beat for beauty. I wonder you can ever bear to leave it. Isn't there a minstrels' gallery at Manderley, and some very valuable portraits? They say that minstrels' gallery is a gem. I suppose your ancestors often entertained royalty at Manderley, Mr de Winter? In fact, it was while staying with my family that the name was given him. He was invariably late for dinner. My history is very shaky and the kings of England always muddled me.
How interesting, though. I must write and tell my daughter; she's a great scholar. I was too young, that was the trouble. Had I been older I would have caught his eye and smiled, her unbelievable behaviour making a bond between us; but as it was I was stricken into shame, and endured one of the frequent agonies of youth.
I think he realized my distress, for he leant forward in his chair and spoke to me, his voice gentle, asking if I would have more coffee, and when I refused and shook my head I felt his eyes were still on me, puzzled, reflective. He was pondering my exact relationship to her, and wondering whether he must bracket us together in futility. This including of me in the conversation found me at my worst, the raw ex-schoolgirl, red-elbowed and lanky-haired, and I said something obvious and idiotic about the place being artificial, but before I could finish my halting sentence Mrs Van Hopper interrupted.
Most girls would give their eyes for the chance of seeing Monte. She shrugged her shoulders, blowing a great cloud of cigarette smoke into the air. I don't think she understood him for a moment. What brings you here? You're not one of the regulars. Are you going to play "Chemy", or have you brought your golf clubs? She babbled on, impervious. Mrs Van Hopper's voice pierced my dream like an electric bell. One sees so few well-known faces. The Duke of Middlesex is here in his yacht, but I haven't been aboard yet.
They always say that second child isn't his, but I don't believe it. People will say anything, won't they, when a woman is attractive? And she is so very lovely. Tell me, is it true the Caxton-Hyslop marriage is not a success?
Never for a moment did he interrupt or glance at his watch; it was as though he had set himself a standard of behaviour, since the original lapse when he had made a fool of her in front of me, and clung to it grimly rather than offend again. It was a page-boy in the end who released him, with the news that a dressmaker awaited Mrs Van Hopper in the suite. He got up at once, pushing back his chair. You must come and have a drink some time in the suite. I may have one or two people coming in tomorrow evening.
Why not join us? Your valet has unpacked for you, I suppose? You're a capable child in many ways. He looked down at us, mocking, faintly sardonic, a ghost of a smile on his lips. He travels the fastest who travels alone. Perhaps you have not heard of it. Men do such extraordinary things. I remember a well-known writer once who used to dart down the Service staircase whenever he saw me coming. I suppose he had a penchant for me and wasn't sure of himself. However, I was younger then. We arrived at our floor.
The page-boy flung open the gates. Your efforts to monopolize the conversation quite embarrassed me, and I'm sure it did him.
Men loathe that sort of thing. There seemed no possible reply. Eh bien, Blaize. I knelt on the window-seat and looked out upon the afternoon. The sun shone very brightly still, and there was a gay high wind. In half an hour we should be sitting to our bridge, the windows tightly closed, the central heating turned to the full.
I thought of the ashtrays I would have to clear, and how the squashed stubs, stained with lipstick, would sprawl in company with discarded chocolate creams. Bridge does not come easily to a mind brought up on Snap and Happy Families; besides, it bored her friends to play with me. I felt my youthful presence put a curb upon their conversation, much as a parlour-maid does until the arrival of dessert, and they could not fling themselves so easily into the melting-pot of scandal and insinuation.
Her men-friends would assume a sort of forced heartiness and ask me jocular questions about history or painting, guessing I had not long left school and that this would be my only form of conversation. I sighed, and turned away from the window. The sun was so full of promise, and the sea was whipped white with a merry wind. I thought of that corner of Monaco which I had passed a day or two ago, and where a crooked house leant to a cobbled square. High up in the tumbled roof there was a window, narrow as a slit.
It might have held a presence medieval; and, reaching to the desk for pencil and paper, I sketched in fancy with an absent mind a profile, pale and aquiline. A sombre eye, a high-bridged nose, a scornful upper lip. And I added a pointed beard and lace at the throat, as the painter had done, long ago in a different time.
Someone knocked at the door, and the lift-boy came in with a note in his hand. I opened it, and found a single sheet of note-paper inside, with a few words written in an unfamiliar hand. I was very rude this afternoon. No signature, and no beginning. But my name was on the envelope, and spelt correctly, an unusual thing.
I looked up from the scrawled words. I rang up her doctor, who came round at once and diagnosed the usual influenza. I should prefer', he went on, turning to me, 'that Mrs Van Hopper had a trained nurse. You can't possibly lift her. It will only be for a fortnight or so. I think she enjoyed the fuss it would create, the sympathy of people, the visits and messages from friends, and the arrival of flowers.
Monte Carlo had begun to bore her, and this little illness would make a distraction. The nurse would give her injections, and a light massage, and she would have a diet. I left her quite happy after the arrival of the nurse, propped up on pillows with a falling temperature, her best bed-jacket round her shoulders and be-ribboned boudoir cap upon her head. Rather ashamed of my light heart, I telephoned her friends, putting off the small party she had arranged for the evening, and went down to the restaurant for lunch, a good half hour before our usual time.
I expected the room to be empty - nobody lunched generally before one o'clock. It was empty, except for the table next to ours. This was a contingency for which I was unprepared. I thought he had gone to Sospel. No doubt he was lunching early because he hoped to avoid us at one o'clock. I was already half-way across the room and could not go back. I had not seen him since we disappeared in the lift the day before, for wisely he had avoided dinner in the restaurant, possibly for the same reason that he lunched early now.
It was a situation for which I was ill-trained. I wished I was older, different. I went to our table, looking straight before me, and immediately paid the penalty of gaucherie by knocking over the vase of stiff anemones as I unfolded my napkin. The water soaked the cloth, and ran down on to my lap. The waiter was at the other end of the room, nor had he seen.
In a second though my neighbour was by my side, dry napkin in hand. Get out of the way. I'm all alone. Mademoiselle will have luncheon with me.
I tried to think of an excuse. I knew he did not want to lunch with me. It was his form of courtesy. I should ruin his meal. I determined to be bold and speak the truth. It's very kind of you but I shall be quite all right if the waiter just wipes the cloth. Even if you had not knocked over that vase so clumsily I should have asked you.
We needn't talk to each other unless we feel like it. His quality of detachment was peculiar to himself, and I knew that we might continue thus, without speaking, throughout the meal and it would not matter.
There would be no sense of strain.
He would not ask me questions on history. I told him about the influenza. I felt very much ashamed of myself. My manners were atrocious.
The only excuse I can make is that I've become boorish through living alone. That's why it's so kind of you to lunch with me today. That curiosity of hers - she does not mean to be offensive, but she does it to everyone. That is, everyone of importance. He did not answer, and I was aware again of that feeling of discomfort, as though I had trespassed on forbidden ground. I wondered why it was that this home of his, known to so many people by hearsay, even to me, should so inevitably silence him, making as it were a barrier between him and others.
We ate for a while without talking, and I thought of a picture postcard I had bought once at a village shop, when on holiday as a child in the west country. It was the painting of a house, crudely done of course and highly coloured, but even those faults could not destroy the symmetry of the building, the wide stone steps before the terrace, the green lawns stretching to the sea.
I paid twopence for the painting - half my weekly pocket money - and then asked the wrinkled shop woman what it was meant to be. She looked astonished at my ignorance. Perhaps it was the memory of this postcard, lost long ago in some forgotten book, that made me sympathize with his defensive attitude.
He resented Mrs Van Hopper and her like with their intruding questions. Maybe there was something inviolate about Manderley that made it a place apart; it would not bear discussion. I could imagine her tramping through the rooms, perhaps paying sixpence for admission, ripping the quietude with her sharp, staccato laugh. Our minds must have run in the same channel, for he began to talk about her.
Is she a relation? Have you known her long? She's training me to be a thing called a companion, and she pays me ninety pounds a year. Rather like the Eastern slave market. He laughed, looking quite different, younger somehow and less detached. I looked at him over my glass of citronade. It was not easy to explain my father and usually I never talked about him. He was my secret property. Preserved for me alone, much as Manderley was preserved for my neighbour.
I had no wish to introduce him casually over a table in a Monte Carlo restaurant. There was a strange air of unreality about that luncheon, and looking back upon it now it is invested for me with a curious glamour. There was I, so much of a schoolgirl still, who only the day before had sat with Mrs Van Hopper, prim, silent, and subdued, and twenty-four hours afterwards my family history was mine no longer, I shared it with a man I did not know.
For some reason I felt impelled to speak, because his eyes followed me in sympathy like the Gentleman Unknown.
My shyness fell away from me, loosening as it did so my reluctant tongue, and out they all came, the little secrets of childhood, the pleasures and the pains.
It seemed to me as though he understood, from my poor description, something of the vibrant personality that had been my father's, and something too of the love my mother had for him, making it a vital, living force, with a spark of divinity about it, so much that when he died that desperate winter, struck down by pneumonia, she lingered behind him for five short weeks and stayed no more.
I remember pausing, a little breathless, a little dazed. The restaurant was filled now with people who chatted and laughed to an orchestral background and a clatter of plates, and glancing at the clock above the door I saw that it was two o'clock. We had been sitting there an hour and a half, and the conversation had been mine alone. I tumbled down into reality, hot-handed and self-conscious, with my face aflame, and began to stammer my apologies.
He would not listen to me. I've enjoyed this hour with you more than I have enjoyed anything for a very long time. You've taken me out of myself, out of despondency and introspection, both of which have been my devils for a year. We are both alone in the world. Oh, I've got a sister, though we don't see much of each other, and an ancient grandmother whom I pay duty visits to three times a year, but neither of them make for companionship.
I shall have to congratulate Mrs Van Hopper. You're cheap at ninety pounds a year. He bent his head to light a cigarette, and did not reply immediately. I could be off there by three o'clock with my sketchbook and pencil, and I told him as much, a little shyly perhaps, like all untalented persons with a pet hobby. I remembered Mrs Van Hopper's warning of the night before about putting myself forward and was embarrassed that he might think my talk of Monaco was a subterfuge to win a lift.
It was so blatantly the type of thing that she would do herself, and I did not want him to bracket us together.
I had already risen in importance from my lunch with him, for as we got up from the table the little mattre d'hotel rushed forward to pull away my chair. He bowed and smiled - a total change from his usual attitude of indifference - picked up my handkerchief that had fallen on the floor, and hoped 'mademoiselle had enjoyed her lunch'. Even the page-boy by the swing doors glanced at me with respect.
My companion accepted it as natural, of course; he knew nothing of the ill-carved ham of yesterday. I found the change depressing, it made me despise myself.
I remembered my father and his scorn of superficial snobbery. The attentions of the maitre d'hotel had opened up a train of thought, and as we drank coffee I told him about Blaize, the dressmaker. She had been so pleased when Mrs Van Hopper had bought three frocks, and I, taking her to the lift afterwards, had pictured her working upon them in her own small salon, behind the stuffy little shop, with a consumptive son wasting upon her sofa.
I could see her, with tired eyes, threading needles, and the floor covered with snippets of material. Perhaps you would rather have a frock.
Come along to the shop some time without Madame and I will fix you up without charging you a sou. The vision of the consumptive son faded, and in its stead arose the picture of myself had I been different, pocketing that greasy note with an understanding smile, and perhaps slipping round to Blaize's shop on this my free afternoon and coming away with a frock I had not paid for.
I expected him to laugh, it was a stupid story, I don't know why I told him, but he looked at me thoughtfully as he stirred his coffee. I think you've made a mistake in coming here, in joining forces with Mrs Van Hopper. You are not made for that sort of job. You're too young, for one thing, and too soft.
Blaize and her commission, that's nothing. The first of many similar incidents from other Blaizes. You will either have to give in, and become a sort of Blaize yourself, or stay as you are and be broken. Who suggested you took on this thing in the first place? It was as though we had known one another for a long time, and had met again after a lapse of years. Supposing Mrs Van Hopper gets tired of her "friend of the bosom", what then?
There would be other Mrs Van Hoppers, and I was young, and confident, and strong. But even as he spoke I remembered those advertisements seen often in good class magazines where a friendly society demands succour for young women in reduced circumstances; I thought of the type of boarding-house that answers the advertisement and gives temporary shelter, and then I saw myself, useless sketch-book in hand, without qualifications of any kind, stammering replies to stern employment agents.
Perhaps I should have accepted Blaize's ten per cent. A pity we can't change over. Go upstairs and put your hat on, and I'll have the car brought round. I had ill-judged him, he was neither hard nor sardonic, he was already my friend of many years, the brother I had never possessed.
Mine was a happy mood that afternoon, and I remember it well. I can see the rippled sky, fluffy with cloud, and the white whipped sea. I can feel again the wind on my face, and hear my laugh, and his that echoed it. It was not the Monte Carlo I had known, or perhaps the truth was that it pleased me better. There was a glamour about it that had not been before.
I must have looked upon it before with dull eyes. The harbour was a dancing thing, with fluttering paper boats, and the sailors on the quay were jovial, smiling fellows, merry as the wind. We passed the yacht, beloved of Mrs Van Hopper because of its ducal owner, and snapped our fingers at the glistening brass, and looked at one another and laughed again. I can remember as though I wore it still my comfortable, ill-fitting flannel suit, and how the skirt was lighter than the coat through harder wear.
My shabby hat, too broad about the brim, and my low-heeled shoes, fastened with a single strap. A pair of gauntlet gloves clutched in a grubby hand. I had never looked more youthful, I had never felt so old. Mrs Van Hopper and her influenza did not exist for me. The bridge and the cocktail parties were forgotten, and with them my own humble status.
I was a person of importance, I was grown up at last. That girl who, tortured by shyness, would stand outside the sitting-room door twisting a handkerchief in her hands, while from within came that babble of confused chatter so unnerving to the intruder - she had gone with the wind that afternoon.
She was a poor creature, and I thought of her with scorn if I considered her at all. The wind was too high for sketching, it tore in cheerful gusts around the corner of my cobbled square, and back to the car we went and drove I know not where.
The long road climbed the hills, and the car climbed with it, and we circled in the heights like a bird in the air. How different his car to Mrs Van Hopper's hireling for the season, a square old-fashioned Daimler that took us to Mentone on placid afternoons, when I, sitting on the little seat with my back to the driver, must crane my neck to see the view.
This car had the wings of Mercury, I thought, for higher yet we climbed, and dangerously fast, and the danger pleased me because it was new to me, because I was young. I remember laughing aloud, and the laugh being carried by the wind away from me; and looking at him, I realized he laughed no longer, he was once more silent and detached, the man of yesterday wrapped in his secret self. I realized, too, that the car could climb no more, we had reached the summit, and below us stretched the way that we had come, precipitous and hollow.
He stopped the car, and I could see that the edge of the road bordered a vertical slope that crumbled into vacancy, a fall of perhaps two thousand feet. We got out of the car and looked beneath us. This sobered me at last. I knew that but half the car's length had lain between us and the fall.
The sea, like a crinkled chart, spread to the horizon, and lapped the sharp outline of the coast, while the houses were white shells in a rounded grotto, pricked here and there by a great orange sun. We knew another sunlight on our hill, and the silence made it harder, more austere. A change had come upon our afternoon; it was not the thing of gossamer it had been.
The wind dropped, and it suddenly grew cold. When I spoke my voice was far too casual, the silly, nervous voice of someone ill at ease. He had the face of one who walks in his sleep, and for a wild moment the idea came to me that perhaps he was not normal, not altogether sane. There were people who had trances, I had surely heard of them, and they followed strange laws of which we could know nothing, they obeyed the tangled orders of their own subconscious minds.
Perhaps he was one of them, and here we were within six feet of death. I had misjudged him, of course, there was nothing wrong after all, for as soon as I spoke this second time he came clear of his dream and began to apologize.
I had gone white, I suppose, and he had noticed it. I wanted to see if it had changed. What gulf of years stretched between him and that other time, what deed of thought and action, what difference in temperament? I did not want to know. I wished I had not come. Down the twisting road we went without a check, without a word, a great ridge of cloud stretched above the setting sun, and the air was cold and clean. Suddenly he began to talk about Manderley.
He said nothing of his life there, no word about himself, but he told me how the sun set there, on a spring afternoon, leaving a glow upon the headland. The sea would look like slate, cold still from the long winter, and from the terrace you could hear the ripple of the coming tide washing in the little bay.
The daffodils were in bloom, stirring in the evening breeze, golden heads cupped upon lean stalks, and however many you might pick there would be no thinning of the ranks, they were massed like an army, shoulder to shoulder. On a bank below the lawns, crocuses were planted, golden, pink, and mauve, but by this time they would be past their best, dropping and fading, like pallid snowdrops. The primrose was more vulgar, a homely pleasant creature who appeared in every cranny like a weed.
Too early yet for bluebells, their heads were still hidden beneath last year's leaves, but when they came, dwarfing the more humble violet, they choked the very bracken in the woods, and with their colour made a challenge to the sky. He never would have them in the house, he said. Thrust into vases they became dank and listless, and to see them at their best you must walk in the woods in the morning, about twelve o'clock, when the sun was overhead.
They had a smoky, rather bitter smell, as though a wild sap ran in their stalks, pungent and juicy. People who plucked bluebells from the woods were vandals; he had forbidden it at Manderley. Sometimes, driving in the country, he had seen bicyclists with huge bunches strapped before them on the handles, the bloom already fading from the dying heads, the ravaged stalks straggling naked and unclean.
The primrose did not mind it quite so much; although a creature of the wilds it had a leaning towards civilization, and preened and smiled in a jam-jar in some cottage window without resentment, living quite a week if given water.
No wild flowers came in the house at Manderley. He had special cultivated flowers, grown for the house alone, in the walled garden. A rose was one of the few flowers, he said, that looked better picked than growing.
There was something rather blousy about roses in full bloom, something shallow and raucous, like women with untidy hair.
In the house they became mysterious and subtle. He had roses in the house at Manderley for eight months in the year. Did I like syringa, he asked me? There was a tree on the edge of the lawn he could smell from his bedroom window.
His sister, who was a hard, rather practical person, used to complain that there were too many scents at Manderley, they made her drunk. Perhaps she was right.
He did not care. It was the only form of intoxication that appealed to him. His earliest recollection was of great branches of lilac, standing in white jars, and they filled the house with a wistful, poignant smell.
The little pathway down the valley to the bay had clumps of azalea and rhododendron planted to the left of it, and if you wandered down it on a May evening after dinner it was just as though the shrubs had sweated in the air. You could stoop down and pick a fallen petal, crush it between your fingers, and you had there, in the hollow of your hand, the essence of a thousand scents, unbearable and sweet.
All from a curled and crumpled petal. And you came out of the valley, heady and rather dazed, to the hard white shingle of the beach and the still water. A curious, perhaps too sudden contrast As he spoke the car became one of many once again, dusk had fallen without my noticing it, and we were in the midst of light and sound in the streets of Monte Carlo. The clatter jagged on my nerves, and the lights were far too brilliant, far too yellow.
It was a swift, unwelcome anticlimax. Soon we would come to the hotel, and I felt for my gloves in the pocket of the car. I found them, and my fingers closed upon a book as well, whose slim covers told of poetry. I peered to read the title as the car slowed down before the door of the hotel. I was glad, and held it tightly with my gloves. I felt I wanted some possession of his, now that the day was finished.
I shan't see you in the restaurant this evening as I'm dining out. But thank you for today. My afternoon had spoilt me for the hours that still remained, and I thought how long they would seem until my bed-time, how empty too my supper all alone.
Somehow I could not face the bright inquiries of the nurse upstairs, or the possibilities of Mrs Van Hopper's husky interrogation, so I sat down in the corner of the lounge behind a pillar and ordered tea. The waiter appeared bored; seeing me alone there was no need for him to press, and anyway it was that dragging time of day, a few minutes after half past five, when the nonnal tea is finished and the hour for drinks remote.
Rather forlorn, more than a little dissatisfied, I leant back in my chair and took up the book of poems. The volume was well worn, well thumbed, falling open automatically at what must be a much-frequented page.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed slopes I sped And shot, precipited Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, From those strong feet that followed, followed after.
I felt rather like someone peering through the keyhole of a locked door, and a little furtively I laid the book aside. What hound of heaven had driven him to the high hills this afternoon? I thought of his car, with half a length between it and that drop of two thousand feet, and the blank expression on his face. What footsteps echoed in his mind, what whispers, and what memories, and why, of all poems, must he keep this one in the pocket of his car?
I wished he were less remote; and I anything but the creature that I was in my shabby coat and skirt, my broad-brimmed schoolgirl hat. The sulky waiter brought my tea, and while I ate bread-and-butter dull as sawdust I thought of the pathway through the valley he had described to me this afternoon, the smell of the azaleas, and the white shingle of the bay.
If he loved it all so much why did he seek the superficial froth of Monte Carlo? He had told Mrs Van Hopper he had made no plans, he came away in rather a hurry. And I pictured him running down that pathway in the valley with his own hound of heaven at his heels.
I picked up the book again, and this time it opened at the title-page, and I read the dedication. A little blob of ink marred the white page opposite, as though the writer, in impatience, had shaken her pen to make the ink flow freely. And then as it bubbled through the nib, it came a little thick, so that the name Rebecca stood out black and strong, the tall and sloping R dwarfing the other letters. I shut the book with a snap, and put it away under my gloves; and stretching to a nearby chair, I took up an old copy of VIllustration and turned the pages.
There were some fine photographs of the chateaux of the Loire, and an article as well. I read it carefully, referring to the photographs, but when I finished I knew I had not understood a word. It was not Blois with its thin turrets and its spires that stared up at me from the printed page. It was the face of Mrs Van Hopper in the restaurant the day before, her small pig's eyes darting to the neighbouring table, her fork, heaped high with ravioli, pausing in mid-air.
They say he never talks about it, never mentions her name. She was drowned you know, in the bay near Manderley For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word.
Today, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day brush one lightly and are soon forgotten, but then - how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal.
A denial heralded the thrice crowing of a cock, and an insincerity was like the kiss of Judas. The adult mind can lie with untroubled conscience and a gay composure, but in those days even a small deception scoured the tongue, lashing one against the stake itself.
All I can say is that I hope your tennis will improve; it will be useful to you later on. A poor player is a great bore. Do you still serve underhand? It described me well. I was underhand. I had not played tennis with the professional at all. I had not once played since she had lain in bed, and that was a little over a fortnight now. I wondered why it was I clung to this reserve, and why it was I did not tell her that every morning I drove with de Winter in his car, and lunched with him, too, at his table in the restaurant.
I have forgotten much of Monte Carlo, of those morning drives, of where we went, even our conversation; but I have not forgotten how my fingers trembled, cramming on my hat, and how I ran along the corridor and down the stairs, too impatient to wait for the slow whining of the lift, and so outside, brushing the swing doors before the commissionaire could help me. He would be there, in the driver's seat, reading a paper while he waited, and when he saw me he would smile, and toss it behind him in the back seat, and open the door, saying, 'Well, how is the friend-of-the-bosom this morning, and where does she want to go?
I was like a little scrubby schoolboy with a passion for a sixth-form prefect, and he kinder, and far more inaccessible. Not for me the languor and the subtlety I had read about in books. The challenge and the chase. The sword-play, the swift glance, the stimulating smile. The art of provocation was unknown to me, and I would sit with his map upon my lap, the wind blowing my dull, lanky hair, happy in his silence yet eager for his words.
Whether he talked or not made little difference to my mood. My only enemy was the clock on the dashboard, whose hands would move relentlessly to one o'clock. We drove east, we drove west, amidst the myriad villages that cling like limpets to the Mediterranean shore, and today I remember none of them. All I remember is the feel of the leather seats, the texture of the map upon my knee, its frayed edges, its worn seams, and how one day, looking at the clock, I thought to myself, 'This moment now, at twenty past eleven, this must never be lost,' and I shut my eyes to make the experience more lasting.
When I opened my eyes we were by a bend in the road, and a peasant girl in a black shawl waved to us; I can see her now, her dusty skirt, her gleaming, friendly smile, and in a second we had passed the bend and could see her no more. Already she belonged to the past, she was only a memory. I wanted to go back again, to recapture the moment that had gone, and then it came to me that if we did it would not be the same, even the sun would be changed in the sky, casting another shadow, and the peasant girl would trudge past us along the road in a different way, not waving this time, perhaps not even seeing us.
There was something chilling in the thought, something a little melancholy, and looking at the clock I saw that five more minutes had gone by. Soon we would have reached our time limit, and must return to the hotel. And it never faded, and it never got stale.
And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again. He did not turn to me, he went on watching the road ahead. I could not tell from his voice whether he was teasing me or not. I knew then that I would never tell Mrs Van Hopper about these morning expeditions, for her smile would hurt me as his laugh had done.
She would not be angry, nor would she be shocked; she would raise her eyebrows very faintly as though she did not altogether believe my story, and then with a tolerant shrug of the shoulder she would say, 'My dear child, it's extremely sweet and kind of him to take you driving; the only thing is - are you sure it does not bore him dreadfully? What degradation lay in being young, I thought, and fell to tearing my nails.
You are being kind, that's obvious, but why do you choose me for your charity? There's not much, I admit, because I have not been alive for very long, and nothing much has happened to me, except people dying, but you -I know nothing more about you than I did the first day we met.
Your wife. It came out with ease, without reluctance, as though the mere mention of her must be the most casual thing in all the world. The word lingered in the air once I had uttered it, dancing before me, and because he received it silently, making no comment, the word magnified itself into something heinous and appalling, a forbidden word, unnatural to the tongue.
And I could not call it back, it could never be unsaid. Once again I saw the inscription on the fly-leaf of that book of poems, and the curious slanting R. I felt sick at heart and cold.
He would never forgive me, and this would be the end of our friendship. I remember staring straight in front of me at the windscreen, seeing nothing of the flying road, my ears still tingling with that spoken word. The silence became minutes, and the minutes became miles, and everything is over now, I thought, I shall never drive with him again. Tomorrow he will go away.
And Mrs Van Hopper will be up again. She and I will walk along the terrace as we did before. The porter will bring down his trunks, I shall catch a glimpse of them in the luggage lift, with new-plastered labels. The bustle and finality of departure. The sound of the car changing gear as it turned the corner, and then even that sound merging into the common traffic, and being lost, and so absorbed for ever.
I was so deep in my picture, I even saw the porter pocketing his tip and going back through the swing-door of the hotel, saying something over his shoulder to the commissionaire, that I did not notice the slowing-down of the car, and it was only when we stopped, drawing up by the side of the road, that I brought myself back to the present once again.
He sat motionless, looking without his hat and with his white scarf round his neck, more than ever like someone medieval who lived within a frame. He did not belong to the bright landscape, he should be standing on the steps of a gaunt cathedral, his cloak flung back, while a beggar at his feet scrambled for gold coins.
The friend had gone, with his kindliness and his easy camaraderie, and the brother too, who had mocked me for nibbling at my nails. This man was a stranger. I wondered why I was sitting beside him in the car. Then he turned to me and spoke. You would like, you told me, at a chosen moment to live the past again. I'm afraid I think rather differently from you. All memories are bitter, and I prefer to ignore them.
Something happened a year ago that altered my whole life, and I want to forget every phase in my existence up to that time. Those days are finished. They are blotted out. I must begin living all over again. It put a stopper on those memories you would like to resurrect. It does not always work, of course; sometimes the scent is too strong for the bottle, and too strong for me. And then the devil in one, like a furtive peeping Tom, tries to draw the cork. I did that in the first drive we took together.
When we climbed the hills and looked down over the precipice. I was there some years ago, with my wife. You asked me if it was still the same, if it had changed at all. It was just the same, but - I was thankful to realize - oddly impersonal. There was no suggestion of the other time.
She and I had left no record. It may have been because you were with me. You have blotted out the past for me, you know, far more effectively than all the bright lights of Monte Carlo. But for you I should have left long ago, gone on to Italy, and Greece, and further still perhaps.
You have spared me all those wanderings. Damn your puritanical little tight-lipped speech to me. Damn your idea of my kindness and my charity. I ask you to come with me because I want you and your company, and if you don't believe me you can leave the car now and find your own way home.
Go on, open the door, and get out. Children's tears are very near the surface, and come at the first crisis. As it was I felt them prick behind my eyes, felt the ready colour flood my face, and catching a sudden glimpse of myself in the glass above the windscreen saw in full the sorry spectacle that I made, with troubled eyes and scarlet cheeks, lank hair flopping under broad felt hat. Swiftly we covered the ground, far too swiftly, I thought, far too easily, and the callous countryside watched us with indifference.
We came to the bend in the road that I had wished to imprison as a memory, and the peasant girl was gone, and the colour was fiat, and it was no more after all than any bend in any road passed by a hundred motorists. The glamour of it had gone with my happy mood, and at the thought of it my frozen face quivered into feeling, my adult pride was lost, and those despicable tears rejoicing at their conquest welled into my eyes and strayed upon my cheeks.
I could not check them, for they came unbidden, and had I reached in my pocket for a handkerchief he would have seen I must let them fall untouched, and suffer the bitter salt upon my lips, plumbing the depths of humiliation. Whether he had turned his head to look at me I do not know, for I watched the road ahead with blurred and steady stare, but suddenly he put out his hand and took hold of mine, and kissed it, still saying nothing, and then he threw his handkerchief on my lap, which I was too ashamed to touch.
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I thought of all those heroines of fiction who looked pretty when they cried, and what a contrast I must make with blotched and swollen face, and red rims to my eyes. It was a dismal finish to my morning, and the day that stretched ahead of me was long. I had to lunch with Mrs Van Hopper in her room because the nurse was going out, and afterwards she would make me play bezique with all the tireless energy of the convalescent.
I knew I should stifle in that room. There was something sordid about the tumbled sheets, the sprawling blankets, and the thumped pillows, and that bedside table dusty with powder, spilt scent, and melting liquid rouge. Her bed would be littered with the separated sheets of the daily papers folded anyhow, while French novels with curling edges and the covers torn kept company with American magazines.
The mashed stubs of cigarettes lay everywhere - in cleansing cream, in a dish of grapes, and on the floor beneath the bed. Visitors were lavish with their flowers, and the vases stood cheek-by-jowl in any fashion, hot-house exotics crammed beside mimosa, while a great beribboned casket crowned them all, with tier upon tier of crystallized fruit.
Later her friends would come in for a drink, which I must mix for them, hating my task, shy and ill-at-ease in my corner hemmed in by their parrot chatter, and I would be a whipping-boy again, blushing for her when, excited by her little crowd, she must sit up in bed and talk too loudly, laugh too long, reach to the portable gramophone and start a record, shrugging her large shoulders to the tune.
I preferred her irritable and snappy, her hair done up in pins, scolding me for forgetting her Taxol. All this awaited me in the suite, while he, once he had left me at the hotel, would go away somewhere alone, towards the sea perhaps, feel the wind on his cheek, follow the sun; and it might happen that he would lose himself in those memories that I knew nothing of, that I could not share, he would wander down the years that were gone. The gulf that lay between us was wider now than it had ever been, and he stood away from me, with his back turned, on the further shore.
I felt young and small and very much alone, and now, in spite of my pride, I found his handkerchief and blew my nose, throwing my drab appearance to the winds. It could never matter. He drove, I remember, even faster than before. The road narrowed then to a corner, and he had to swerve to avoid a dog. I thought he would release me, but he went on holding me beside him, and when the corner was passed, and the road came straight again he did not let me go.
Don't let's ever think of it again.I felt rather like someone peering through the keyhole of a locked door, and a little furtively I laid the book aside. We drove east, we drove west, amidst the myriad villages that cling like limpets to the Mediterranean shore, and today I remember none of them. And there were other trees as well, trees that I did not recognize, squat oaks and tortured elms that straggled cheek by jowl with the beeches, and had thrust themselves out of the quiet earth, along with monster shrubs and plants, none of which I remembered.
I wondered why it was that this home of his, known to so many people by hearsay, even to me, should so inevitably silence him, making as it were a barrier between him and others. My manners were atrocious. They say he never talks about it, never mentions her name. I thought he would release me, but he went on holding me beside him, and when the corner was passed, and the road came straight again he did not let me go.
Overall rating 4. She had been so pleased when Mrs Van Hopper had bought three frocks, and I, taking her to the lift afterwards, had pictured her working upon them in her own small salon, behind the stuffy little shop, with a consumptive son wasting upon her sofa.