Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Rebecca Notebook, Page 2

Daphne Du Maurier

  The Hitchcock film of Rebecca became an even greater success than the book, and was made—I think I am correct in this—around 1940, in the States. Then, some years later, a suit for plagiarism was brought against Selznick International Pictures by the family of a Mrs MacDonald—I trust I have the name right—who said the story was a copy of a novel she had written called Blind Windows. I had never heard of Mrs MacDonald or her Blind Windows. The novel was sent to me, and I glanced through it. It was nothing like my Rebecca, save for the fact that the man in the book had been married twice. Nevertheless the suit was brought, and I was called as a witness for the defence.

  So in 1947 I went to America with Nanny and my two younger children—I had a boy of six and a half by then, and Tessa, the eldest daughter, was at boarding school—and once in New York I stayed with my American publishers, Nelson and Ellen Doubleday. They became the dearest of friends. My only memory of the plagiarism suit was that the notebook was produced in court, and after cross-questioning the judge dismissed the case. I gave the notebook to dear Ellen Doubleday as a memento, and all I can recollect, after that first visit to the States, was being seasick all the way home in the Queen Mary.

  When, after many more visits to the Doubledays, dearest Ellen died, she left the notebook to her daughter Puckie. Puckie returned it to me. And I reread it, for the first time in thirty years, when I received it.

  And so I bring my Rebecca saga to an end. Perhaps the reader may care to compare it, and the original epilogue, with the published novel. If not, never mind!

  The opening pages of the notebook

  The Rebecca Notebook

  Epilogue. Written.

  Chapter I. A companion, sketch of early life. Father a doctor in Eastbourne, mother dead. Left with little money. Detail of companion’s existence. Hotel dining room. Henry for the first time. The courtesy of H compared to other men.

  Chapter II. Progress in friendship: drive perhaps somewhere, Manderley, descriptions. More of Henry. Asks her to marry him. And Mrs Van Hopper, ‘My dear, you’re a very lucky girl.’ (Mrs V.H. had given her notice anyway, going back to America.) That’s when she tells him all this before. ‘Don’t flatter yourself he’s in love with you, my dear. Poor fellow, he’s incorrigibly lonely, like all widowers who can’t forget their first wife. He practically told me as much.’

  Chapter III. Married, and so to Manderley. The house, the rooms, determined to do well. Mrs Danvers, such opposition. ‘It is a little difficult, madam, for us. You see we were all very fond of Mrs de Winter.’

  Chapter IV. Henry’s sister, Barbara. Rather brusque, not unfriendly. Looks her up and down a bit. ‘You don’t mind my saying so, but you ought to do something to your hair’—and then when she goes, ‘You’re very different from Rebecca.’

  Chapter V. Atmosphere rather getting her down. And then the drive over to see the old grandmother. Deaf and rather senile. ‘Well, old lady, how are you?’ Self anxious to please, and ill at ease. ‘Who are you, I don’t know you, I haven’t seen you before. Henry, who is this girl? I want Rebecca: where is my Rebecca? What have you done with Rebecca?’ The nurse comes in, everyone stands up, awful embarrassment, ‘I think perhaps you had better go, rather too much excitement for her.’ Henry in the car very white and silent. ‘I’m so terribly sorry. I had no idea she would do that.’ ‘Don’t be absurd, it’s absolutely all right.’

  Chapter VI. Riding efforts, no good at all, Henry over-kind. The serving-woman, and the dress in the cupboard, Rebecca’s. ‘How tall she must have been?’ ‘Yes, m’m, she was, what you would call statuesque.’ The meet, the flashy loose-lipped cousin. Glance of derision. ‘I thought I’d pay my respects to your wife.’ Henry’s anger. ‘Keep away from Manderley in future, do you hear? You dirty swine.’ They stared at one another. Self frightened and bewildered. Never seen Henry angry before. Looked upon something that she was not meant to see.

  Chapter VII. The woodman, and the summerhouse. A bit senile too. ‘You’re kind, and you’ve got gentle eyes. You’re not like the other one.’ ‘The other one? Who do you mean?’ He looked very sly, he laid his finger against his nose. ‘She used to come up here,’ he whispered, ‘I seen her with me own eyes. Be night she’d come, she’d not be alone. And then I run against her face to face. “You’ve never seen me before, have you?” she said. “No,” I said. “And you’ll not know me if you see me again, will you?” says she. “No, ma’am,” says I. “I’m not going to give you any money,” she says, “but if you tell anyone you have seen me here I shall have you put to the asylum. You don’t want to go there, do you?” she says. “No, ma’am,” I says, “I don’t want no harm to come to a living soul.” She’s dead now, ain’t she? Tall she was, and dark, she’d give you the feeling of a snake. Have you come to put me to the asylum too?’ He was crazy, of course, poor old fellow, and yet—how puzzling his description. It was not one’s idea of Rebecca.

  (Must separate these two chapters by a more intimate depressing reaction. The coat under the stairs, the handkerchief in the pocket. Then the snapshot, Henry laughing, bending over her—I couldn’t see her face. It was my favourite corner of the garden, where we had sat yesterday for tea, spoiling my memory. Mrs Van Hopper had been right. ‘I can’t see you mistress of a place like Manderley, somehow I feel you’ll regret it.’ I felt now I had no right to be there. What had happened to those weeks, and days—nothing died, nothing was wasted. That moment, when Henry and Rebecca stood there, side by side, where had it gone? He was my husband and I knew nothing of him. Sitting in the library, staring in front of him. No sound but the clicking of my needles. Probably an irritation.)

  Chapter VIII. The dance. Chooses a dress of one of the pictures. Doesn’t tell Henry. It’s to be a surprise. Great preparations. Looks very well. Goes to the head of the staircase and stands there. The sea of faces looking up. A hum. Then Henry, white-faced, his eyes blazing with anger. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ Pause, a hand on the banister. ‘It’s the picture, the one in the drawing room.’ A deathly silence. ‘Go and change, at once. Put on an ordinary evening frock—anything, it doesn’t matter what. We won’t wait for you.’

  Back to the bedroom, the little maid crying, trembling fingers. Sat on the bed, twisting and turning her fingers. Knock on the door. Barbara comes in, swift and firm. ‘It’s all right, my dear—put on anything, that charming white. I knew at once it was just a terrible mistake. You could not possibly have known.’

  ‘Known what?’

  ‘Why, you poor silly child, that dress, the picture you copied, it was identical with the one Rebecca wore, the last fancy-dress dance at Manderley.’

  I sat stunned. ‘I ought to have known,’ stupidly over and over again. ‘I ought to have known.’

  ‘Of course Henry thought it was deliberate on your part—I said at once it was not, how could you have known? It was sheer bad luck you chose that particular picture.’

  ‘I can’t go down now. I can’t face them all.’

  ‘You must; if you don’t they will all think you meant to do it. I’ll explain everything. Just slip down in your white frock.’

  ‘No—Barbara, I can’t. After dinner, I’ll try.’

  Goes down and stands by his side in the hall. The interminable evening winds on. Henry, with set white face, does not speak to her at all. To bed, and he goes to his dressing-room.

  Chapter IX. The next morning. Aftermath of the ball. I could not face the guests. Sent a note down. And they all go away. Verbal message from Henry, ‘Gone up to London.’ The silence of the house. Potters through the woods, utterly lost and miserable. It should have been so different. Henry made a terrible mistake in marrying me, that’s evident. He wanted to be alone with his memories, and I had intruded upon him and Rebecca. Mrs Van Hopper had been right. I was making a mistake, she had said, ‘I don’t think you’ll be happy.’ Rebecca still dwelt in Manderley, and she resented me. Overwrought and hysterical. I went and unlocked the secret drawer in my desk. I took
out the snapshot of Rebecca. I was very calm. I knew what she wanted me to do. It was as though she was sitting by my side. ‘We don’t want you here, we don’t want you. Henry wants to be alone with me.’

  I sat down at the desk and wrote to Henry. The letter. Then I went upstairs and took the bottle of Lysol from the bathroom cupboard.

  Chapter X. The delirium, and here I can use the early bits if I like (unless already used), Eastbourne and the rest in disjointed form. That can be worked up. The beat of the metronome—un deux, un deux, un deux, and the burning of my throat. Yes, of course, it was the tar, the liquid tar that the men were pouring down my throat. ‘My darling, my darling, why in the name of God didn’t you tell me? My beloved, my sweet.’ His hands and his voice, his hands pulling me back, his cheek against mine. ‘Of course she stood between us, of course I could not love you with her diabolical shadow haunting me, standing forever like a living threat. Don’t you understand, darling, that I killed Rebecca, she was never drowned, that body that was washed up, that I identified, was not hers at all. I shot her that night in the cottage in the woods, I carried her vicious damnable body down to the boat—and laid it in the cabin. It was I who set sail, I who slipped the moorings, and when we were three miles out I opened the sea cocks, bored holes in the planking to make my work more swift—then, casting the life buoy over the side and the fenders and her oilskins to act as evidence, I jumped into the dinghy and pulled away. The boat sank in ten minutes. And Rebecca lies there now, ten fathoms deep, in the cabin of that little boat—and no one will ever know, my darling, no one will ever know.’

  Chapter XI. Recovered, on the lawn, tea, and raspberries. Wood pigeons, the atmosphere entirely changed. Henry ten years younger. Rather a Menabilly-ish description. Perhaps people to cricket. At any rate strike the peaceful note.

  Chapter XII. Overcast summer day. Here perhaps the leaves blowing off the table. Sense of foreboding. They go indoors to escape a tropical shower. Leaves scatter fast. Feel there won’t be tea on the lawn again. The last time. Later on rockets—go to the end of the lawn to see. Mist too thick.

  Chapter XIII. Henry goes to London. Lonely without him. News of the wreck over breakfast. I go out to see her. She was about three miles offshore, a desolate-looking sight. Chat with an old fellow on the cliff. ‘They are going to send divers down, the cargo was valuable.’ They were rowing out in a boat even as I watched. The diver in his red-stockinged cap. Rather monotonous. Rather chilly. When I got back I found there was a telephone message from Henry, saying he would be back by the evening train.

  Chapter XIV. Sitting quietly together in the library. Entrance of maid—the inspector. Twists his hat. I always liked Inspector Booth. ‘The divers came upon another wreck this afternoon, the wreck of a small sailing boat. Lying in fifteen fathom of water, sir. Do believe me, sir, I simply hate to come here and distress you, but from what they say the boat is unquestionably the late Mrs de Winter’s little Gypsy.’

  Chapter XV. Reactions of Henry—the pause—the tense atmosphere. He swallowed.’ It was kind of you, Inspector, to come and tell me personally. I appreciate it very much.’ Discuss what is to happen. Leave it in peace perhaps. The inspector goes. So it was all to happen again, that shadow of Rebecca coming between us. And Henry, standing by the window, ‘It’s warm in here, isn’t it?’ His voice strained and unnatural. ‘My darling, I’m sorry, so desperately sorry.’ He did not answer. I went up to him and took his hand. ‘Just as we were forgetting her, just as we were beginning to be so happy.’ Still he did not move. It was unnatural. ‘What’s the matter?’ And then he broke down, like a child, I held out my arms to him and rocked him. ‘It’s come at last, what I’ve dreamt about, what I have foreseen. This is the end of our brief happiness. You see—I killed Rebecca, and her dead body is lying in that cabin now.’

  Chapter XVI. The confession, she consoles him, they cling to each other. ‘We can’t do anything until the morning.’

  Chapter XVII. Breakfast untasted. The glorious day. ‘Is it true Mrs de Winter’s boat has been found?’ Mrs Danvers, hungry, a ghoul scenting disaster. I was cold. ‘They are not sure.’ The telephone. We looked at each other. He went into the study and I followed him. The one-sided conversation. ‘Yes—yes, it’s me speaking, Booth. Yes. Ah.’ I went out on to the terrace. Too good a morning. Unfair, and shameless. He came out. He took my hands. ‘They’ve found the body in the cabin of Gypsy. I’m going down right away.’

  Chapter XVIII. Waiting for him to return, it seemed hours. At last the sound of the car. I was sick with apprehension. He was not alone. Major Gray, the chief constable, was with him. Impossible to catch Henry alone. Goes to wash his hands. ‘This is a most distressing thing, Mrs de Winter, I do feel for you and your husband very acutely. It makes it all the more difficult, you see, your husband having identified that original body, over a year ago.’ ‘Then—then something was found in the cabin.’

  ‘Oh, yes,’ he lowered his voice, ‘it was her, without a doubt. Of course—the actual body was completely decomposed, you know—but the remains were sufficient for your husband to attest—’ He stopped, Henry had come into the room. ‘Lunch is ready,’ he said briefly. ‘Shall we go in?’ ‘I wish I could spare you the formality of an inquest,’ he said, ‘but I’m afraid it’s impossible.’ Discuss it from every angle. He goes at last. Henry seemed calm now. ‘Everything will be all right. No one has any suspicion. It’s simply a case of mistaken identity. That’s all. I’m not afraid. How can I regret having killed Rebecca? I don’t, I never have. There’s never been one pang of remorse at that part of it. But it’s you—marrying you under false pretences, dragging you through this.’ But she is with him.

  Chapter XIX. The coroner’s court. The witness of the diving and then Henry. Quite straightforward, though rather tricky about why the body was in the cabin. Henry skates well over thin ice. Then the member of the jury. The boat builder. A nasty little man. (Not really, I suppose.) ‘What I don’t understand, sir, is this. I’ve been and looked at the little boat, I ought to know, it was my young nipper that built her. She was well built, strongly built, and where she was lying ten fathoms deep is just off the rocky ground. Now, what is the meaning of these holes drilled in the bows—that’s never rocks that done that, nor natural corrosion of sea water. Them holes have been drilled with a vice and bit.’

  Chapter XX. The coroner suggests adjourning until the afternoon, for further evidence to be obtained. (Again Major Gray and the coroner to lunch.) Another wretched meal. Then the afternoon. The planks are produced. The boat builder’s son has had time to make a full investigation. He goes in the box. ‘Yes, sir, these planks have been drilled right through. And there’s one other thing, sir, that I don’t think was noticed. The sea cocks was turned full on.’ ‘I’m afraid I do not quite follow.’ ‘Why, sir, the plug that brought water to the sink. They are closed when an owner puts to sea. This one was full on, and what with the holes drilled and this as well it wouldn’t take long for a small craft to sink. Not much above fifteen to twenty minutes, sir. I built her, sir, and I was proud of my work, and so was Mrs de Winter. She was soundly built. It’s my opinion that the little craft was deliberately scuttled.’ Sensation. ‘I see no alternative but to call Mr de Winter again.’ Apologises. ‘Can you suggest any reason for this?’ ‘It was shock enough to learn that I identified the wrong body a year ago. Now it is thrust upon me that my late wife was drowned in the cabin of her boat, and furthermore that the cabin was bored to let in the water. Are you suggesting that this was done deliberately, by my wife, before sailing, and that she calmly sat in the cabin and watched the water pour through the floorboards?’ The coroner was nonplussed. ‘I realise this is very distressing for you, and for Mrs de Winter.’ I felt all eyes in my direction. ‘But the evidence seems overwhelming. Mr de Winter, have you any reason to suspect that your late wife wished to put an end to herself?’ ‘None at all.’ ‘I think we had better go into the facts of last year in rather more detail.’ (W
ork this up when the time comes.) Getting more and more exhausted. The atmosphere stifling. A note handed to the coroner. He looked up like a stuffed owl, over his spectacles. ‘There is someone here who wishes to give evidence. Mr Paul Astley, please.’

  Chapter XXI. It was the loose-lipped cousin. Henry looked very tired. He is questioned. The cousin. ‘Quite impossible for Mrs de Winter to have committed suicide. She was not the type, and certainly would never have chosen the manner. If her husband suggests so I say he is being deliberately misleading. Mrs de Winter wrote me a letter the evening she died. Here it is. I should like the letter to be read aloud. “H going to London tomorrow night. Come to the cottage and discuss plans. Have a far better alternative to Paris—Rebecca.” ’ ‘What do you wish the jury to infer from this?’ ‘It’s quite simple, isn’t it? Mrs de Winter and I were in love with each other. She was going to leave her husband. We had thought of flying to Paris. But in that note she asks me to meet her in the old woodman’s cottage at Manderley, to discuss plans. You see the note was written at nine-fifteen. Would she have written that and gone straight off and committed suicide?’

  ‘Mr Astley, was Mr de Winter aware of the relations between you and his wife?’

  ‘Of course he was, ask him, he can’t deny it.’

  ‘Do you imply that he shut his eyes to the fact?’

  ‘No, he was madly jealous. She often told me so.’

  ‘Did you understand he was ignorant of this Paris plan?’

  ‘As far as I knew he was ignorant. But it is quite within the bounds of possibility that she told him that evening, that they had a row, and that he, in one of his stinking rages, plugged holes in that boat knowing that it would sink. Go on, ask him, ask him to prove that he’s innocent, can’t you—ask him to prove it!’—the terrible white look on Henry’s face—that terrible white lost look.