Daphne du Maurier 9 страница

Then the birds began. First a blackbird, his note clear and cool above the running stream, and after a moment he had answer from his fellow hidden in the woods behind us, and soon the still air about us was made turbulent with song, pursuing us as we wandered down into the valley, and the fragrance of the white petals followed us too. It was disturbing, like an enchanted place. I had not thought it could be as beautiful as this.

The sky, now overcast and sullen, so changed from the early afternoon, and the steady insistent rain could not Daphne du Maurier 9 страница disturb the soft quietude of the valley; the rain and the rivulet mingled with one another, and the liquid note of the blackbird fell upon the damp air in harmony with them both. I brushed the dripping heads of azaleas as I passed, so close they grew together, bordering the path. Little drops of water fell on to my hands from the soaked petals. There were petals at my feet too, brown and sodden, bearing their scent upon them still, and a richer, older scent as well, the smell of deep moss and bitter earth, the stems of Daphne du Maurier 9 страница bracken, and the twisted buried roots of trees. I held Maxim's hand and I had not spoken. The spell of the Happy Valley was upon me. This at last was the core of Manderley, the Manderley I would know and learn to love. The first drive was forgotten, the black, herded woods, the glaring rhododendrons, luscious and overproud. And the vast house too, the silence of that echoing hall, the uneasy stillness of the west wing, wrapped in dust-sheets. There I was an interloper, wandering in rooms that did not know me, sitting at a desk and in a chair Daphne du Maurier 9 страница that were not mine. Here it was different. The Happy Valley knew no trespassers. We came to the end of the path, and the flowers formed an archway above our heads. We bent down, passing underneath, and when I stood straight again, brushing the raindrops from my hair, I saw that the valley was behind us, and the azaleas, and the trees, and, as Maxim had described to me that afternoon many weeks ago in Monte Carlo, we were standing in a little narrow cove, the shingle hard and white under our feet, and the sea was breaking on Daphne du Maurier 9 страница the shore beyond us.

Maxim smiled down at me, watching the bewilderment on my face.

'It's a shock, isn't it?' he said; 'no one ever expects it. The contrast is too sudden; it almost hurts.' He picked up a stone and flung it across the beach for Jasper. 'Fetch it, good man,' and Jasper streaked away in search of the stone, his long black ears flapping in the wind.

The enchantment was no more, the spell was broken. We were mortal again, two people playing on a beach. We threw more stones, went to Daphne du Maurier 9 страница the water's edge, flung ducks and drakes, and fished for driftwood. The tide had turned, and came lapping in the bay. The small rocks were covered, the seaweed washed on the stones. We rescued a big floating plank and carried it up the beach above high-water mark. Maxim turned to me, laughing, wiping the hair out of his eyes, and I unrolled the sleeves of my mackintosh caught by the sea spray. And then we looked round, and saw that Jasper had disappeared. We called and whistled, and he did not come. I looked anxiously towards the Daphne du Maurier 9 страница mouth of the cove where the waves were breaking upon the rocks.

'No,' said Maxim, 'we should have seen him, he can't have fallen. Jasper, you idiot, where are you? Jasper, Jasper?'

'Perhaps he's gone back to the Happy Valley?' I said.

'He was by that rock a minute ago, sniffing a dead sea-gull,' said Maxim.

We walked up the beach towards the valley once again. 'Jasper, Jasper?' called Maxim.

In the distance, beyond the rocks to the right of the beach, I heard a short, sharp bark. 'Hear that?' I said. 'He's climbed over this way.' I Daphne du Maurier 9 страница began to scramble up the slippery rocks in the direction of the bark.

'Come back,' said Maxim sharply; 'we don't want to go that way. The fool of a dog must look after himself.'

I hesitated, looking down from my rock. 'Perhaps he's fallen,' I said, 'poor little chap. Let me fetch him.' Jasper barked again, further away this time. 'Oh, listen,' I said, 'I must get him. It's quite safe, isn't it? The tide won't have cut him off?'

'He's all right,' said Maxim irritably; 'why not leave him Daphne du Maurier 9 страница? He knows his own way back.'

I pretended not to hear, and began scrambling over the rocks towards Jasper. Great jagged boulders screened the view, and I slipped and stumbled on the wet rocks, making my way as best I could in Jasper's direction. It was heartless of Maxim to leave Jasper, I thought, and I could not understand it. Besides, the tide was coming in. I came up beside the big boulder that had hidden the view, and looked beyond it. And I saw, to my surprise, that I was looking down into another cove, similar to the one Daphne du Maurier 9 страница I had left, but wider and more rounded. A small stone breakwater had been thrown out across the cove for shelter, and behind it the bay formed a tiny natural harbour. There was a buoy anchored there, but no boat. The beach in the cove was white shingle, like the one behind me, but steeper, shelving suddenly to the sea. The woods came right down to the tangle of seaweed marking high water, encroaching almost to the rocks themselves, and at the fringe of the woods was a long low building, half cottage, half boat-house, built of Daphne du Maurier 9 страница the same stone as the breakwater.

There was a man on the beach, a fisherman perhaps, in long boots and a sou'wester, and Jasper was barking at him, running round him in circles, darting at his boots. The man took no notice; he was bending down, and scraping in the shingle. 'Jasper,' I shouted, 'Jasper, come here.'

The dog looked up, wagging his tail, but he did not obey me. He went on baiting the solitary figure on the beach.

I looked over my shoulder. There was still no sign of Maxim. I climbed down over the rocks to Daphne du Maurier 9 страница the beach below. My feet made a crunching noise across the shingle, and the man looked up at the sound. I saw then that he had the small slit eyes of an idiot, and the red, wet mouth. He smiled at me, showing toothless gums.

'G'day,' he said. 'Dirty, ain't it?'

'Good afternoon,' I said. 'No, I'm afraid it's not very nice weather.'

He watched me with interest, smiling all the while. 'Diggin' for shell,' he said. 'No shell here. Been diggin' since forenoon."

'Oh,' I said, 'I'm sorry you can't find Daphne du Maurier 9 страница any.'

'That's right,' he said, 'no shell here.'

'Come on, Jasper,' I said, 'it's getting late. Come on, old boy.'

But Jasper was in an infuriating mood. Perhaps the wind and the sea had gone to his head, for he backed away from me, barking stupidly, and began racing round the beach after nothing at all. I saw he would never follow me, and I had no lead. I turned to the man, who had bent down again to his futile digging.

'Have you got any string?' I said.

'Eh?' he said.

'Have you got any string Daphne du Maurier 9 страница?' I repeated.

'No shell here,' he said, shaking his head. 'Been diggin' since forenoon.' He nodded his head at me, and wiped his pale blue watery eyes.

'I want something to tie the dog,' I said. 'He won't follow me.'

'Eh?' he said. And he smiled his poor idiot's smile.

'All right,' I said; 'it doesn't matter.'

He looked at me uncertainly, and then leant forward, and poked me in the chest.

'I know that dog,' he said; 'he comes fro' the house.'

'Yes,' I said. 'I want him to come back with me now Daphne du Maurier 9 страница.'

'He's not yourn,' he said.

'He's Mr de Winter's dog,' I said gently. 'I want to take him back to the house.'

'Eh?' he said.

I called Jasper once more, but he was chasing a feather blown by the wind. I wondered if there was any string in the boat-house, and I walked up the beach towards it. There must have been a garden once, but now the grass was long and overgrown, crowded with nettles. The windows were boarded up. No doubt the door was locked, and I lifted the latch without much hope. To my Daphne du Maurier 9 страница surprise it opened after the first stiffness, and I went inside, bending my head because of the low door. I expected to find the usual boat store, dirty and dusty with disuse, ropes and blocks and oars upon the floor. The dust was there, and the dirt too in places, but there were no ropes or blocks. The room was furnished, and ran the whole length of the cottage. There was a desk in the corner, a table, and chairs, and a bed-sofa pushed against the wall. There was a dresser too, with cups and plates. Bookshelves, the books Daphne du Maurier 9 страница inside them, and models of ships standing on the top of the shelves. For a moment I thought it must be inhabited – perhaps the poor man on the beach lived here – but I looked around me again and saw no sign of recent occupation. That rusted grate knew no fire, this dusty floor no footsteps, and the china there on the dresser was blue-spotted with the damp. There was a queer musty smell about the place. Cobwebs spun threads upon the ships' models, making their own ghostly rigging. No one lived here. No one came here. The door Daphne du Maurier 9 страница had creaked on its hinges when I opened it. The rain pattered on the roof with a hollow sound, and tapped upon the boarded windows. The fabric of the sofa-bed had been nibbled by mice or rats. I could see the jagged holes, and the frayed edges. It was damp in the cottage, damp and chill. Dark, and oppressive. I did not like it. I had no wish to stay there. I hated the hollow sound of the rain pattering on the roof. It seemed to echo in the room itself, and I heard the water Daphne du Maurier 9 страница dripping too into the rusted grate.

I looked about me for some string. There was nothing that would serve my purpose, nothing at all. There was another door at the end of the room, and I went to it, and opened it, a little fearful now, a little afraid, for I had the odd, uneasy feeling that I might come upon something unawares, that I had no wish to see. Something that might harm me, that might be horrible.

It was nonsense of course, and I opened the door. It was only a boat store after all. Here were the Daphne du Maurier 9 страница ropes and blocks I had expected, two or three sails, fenders, a small punt, pots of paints, all the litter and junk that goes with the using of boats. A ball of twine lay on a shelf, a rusted clasp knife beside it. This would be all I needed for Jasper. I opened the knife, and cut a length of twine, and came back into the room again. The rain still fell upon the roof, and into the grate. I came out of the cottage hurriedly, not looking behind me, trying not to see the torn sofa and Daphne du Maurier 9 страница the mildewed china, the spun cobwebs on the model ships, and so through the creaking gate and on to the white beach.

The man was not digging any more; he was watching me, Jasper at his side.

'Come along, Jasper,' I said; 'come on, good dog.' I bent down and this time he allowed me to touch him and pull hold of his collar. 'I found some string in the cottage,' I said to the man.

He did not answer, and I tied the string loosely round Jasper's collar.

'Good afternoon,' I said, tugging at Jasper.

The man Daphne du Maurier 9 страница nodded, staring at me with his narrow idiot's eyes. 'I saw'ee go in yonder,' he said.

'Yes,' I said; 'it's all right, Mr de Winter won't mind.'

'She don't go in there now,' he said.

'No,' I said, 'not now.'

'She's gone in the sea, ain't she?' he said; 'she won't come back no more?'

'No,' I said, 'she'll not come back.'

'I never said nothing, did I?' he said.

' No, of course not; don't worry,' I said.

He bent down again to his digging, muttering to himself Daphne du Maurier 9 страница. I went across the shingle and I saw Maxim waiting for me by the rocks, his hands in his pockets.

'I'm sorry,' I said. 'Jasper would not come. I had to get some string.'

He turned abruptly on his heel, and made towards the woods.

'Aren't we going back over the rocks?' I said.

'What's the point? we're here now,' he said briefly.

We went up past the cottage and struck into a path through the woods. 'I'm sorry I was such a time; it was Jasper's fault,' I said, 'he kept barking at the man Daphne du Maurier 9 страница. Who was he?'

'Only Ben,' said Maxim; 'he's quite harmless, poor devil. His old father used to be one of the keepers; they live near the home farm. Where did you get that piece of twine?'

'I found it in the cottage on the beach,' I said.

'Was the door open?' he asked.

'Yes, I pushed it open. I found the string in the other room, where the sails were, and a small boat.'

'Oh,' he said shortly. 'Oh, I see,' and then he added, after a moment or two: 'That cottage is supposed to be Daphne du Maurier 9 страница locked, the door has no business to be open.'

I said nothing; it was not my affair.

'Did Ben tell you the door was open?'

'No,' I said, 'he did not seem to understand anything I asked him.'

'He makes out he's worse than he is,' said Maxim. 'He can talk quite intelligibly if he wants to. He's probably been in and out of the cottage dozens of times, and did not want you to know.'

'I don't think so,' I answered; 'the place looked deserted, quite untouched. There was dust everywhere, and no footmarks. It was Daphne du Maurier 9 страница terribly damp. I'm afraid those books will be quite spoilt, and the chairs, and that sofa. There are rats there, too; they have eaten away some of the covers.'

Maxim did not reply. He walked at a tremendous pace, and the climb up from the beach was steep. It was very different from the Happy Valley. The trees were dark here and close together, there were no azaleas brushing the path. The rain dripped heavily from the thick branches. It splashed on my collar and trickled down my neck. I shivered; it was unpleasant, like a cold finger Daphne du Maurier 9 страница. My legs ached, after the unaccustomed scramble over the rocks. And Jasper lagged behind, weary from his wild scamper, his tongue hanging from his mouth.

'Come on, Jasper, for God's sake,' said Maxim. 'Make him walk up, pull at the twine or something, can't you? Beatrice was right. The dog is much too fat.'

'It's your fault,' I said, 'you walk so fast. We can't keep up with you.'

'If you had listened to me instead of rushing wildly over those rocks we would have been home by now,' said Maxim. 'Jasper knew his way back Daphne du Maurier 9 страница perfectly. I can't think what you wanted to go after him for.'

'I thought he might have fallen, and I was afraid of the tide,' I said.

'Is it likely I should have left the dog had there been any question of the tide?' said Maxim. 'I told you not to go on those rocks, and now you are grumbling because you are tired.'

'I'm not grumbling,' I said. 'Anyone, even if they had legs of iron, would be tired walking at this pace. I thought you would come with me when I went Daphne du Maurier 9 страница after Jasper anyway, instead of staying behind.'

'Why should I exhaust myself careering after the damn dog?' he said.

'It was no more exhausting careering after Jasper on the rocks than it was careering after the driftwood on the beach,' I answered. 'You just say that because you have not any other excuse.'

'My good child, what am I suppose to excuse myself about?'

'Oh, I don't know,' I said wearily; 'let's stop this.'

'Not at all, you began it. What do you mean by saying I was trying to find an excuse? Excuse for what?'

'Excuse Daphne du Maurier 9 страница for not having come with me over the rocks, I suppose,' I said.

'Well, and why do you think I did not want to cross to the other beach?'

'Oh, Maxim, how should I know? I'm not a thought-reader. I know you did not want to, that's all. I could see it in your face.'

'See what in my face?'

'I've already told you. I could see you did not want to go. Oh, do let's have an end to it. I'm sick to death of the subject.'

'All women say that when they Daphne du Maurier 9 страница've lost an argument. All right, I did not want to go to the other beach. Will that please you? I never go near the bloody place, or that God-damned cottage. And if you had my memories you would not want to go there either, or talk about it, or even think about it. There. You can digest that if you like, and I hope it satisfies you.'

His face was white, and his eyes strained and wretched with that dark lost look they had had when I first met him. I put out my hand to him Daphne du Maurier 9 страница, I took hold of his, holding it tight.

'Please, Maxim, please,' I said.

'What's the matter?' he said roughly.

'I don't want you to look like that,' I said. 'It hurts too much. Please, Maxim. Let's forget all we said. A futile silly argument. I'm sorry, darling. I'm sorry. Please let everything be all right.'

'We ought to have stayed in Italy,' he said. 'We ought never to have come back to Manderley. Oh, God, what a fool I was to come back.'

He brushed through the trees impatiently, striding even faster than Daphne du Maurier 9 страница before, and I had to run to keep pace with him, catching at my breath, tears very near the surface, dragging poor Jasper after me on the end of his string.

At last we came to the top of the path, and I saw its fellow branching left to the Happy Valley. We had climbed the path then that Jasper had wished to take at the beginning of the afternoon. I knew now why Jasper had turned to it. It led to the beach he knew best, and the cottage. It was his old routine.

We came out on to Daphne du Maurier 9 страница the lawns, and went across them to the house without a word. Maxim's face was hard, with no expression. He went straight into the hall and on to the library without looking at me. Frith was in the hall.

'We want tea at once,' said Maxim, and he shut the library door.

I fought to keep back my tears. Frith must not see them. He would think we had been quarrelling, and he would go to the servants' hall and say to them all,' Mrs de Winter was crying in the hall just now. It looks as though things are Daphne du Maurier 9 страница not going very well.' I turned away, so that Frith should not see my face. He came towards me though, he began to help me off with my mackintosh.

'I'll put your raincoat away for you in the flower-room, Madam,' he said.

'Thank you, Frith,' I replied, my face still away from him.

'Not a very pleasant afternoon for a walk, I fear, Madam.'

'No,' I said. 'No, it was not very nice.'

'Your handkerchief, Madam?' he said, picking up something that had fallen on the floor. 'Thank you,' I said, putting it in my Daphne du Maurier 9 страница pocket.

I was wondering whether to go upstairs or whether to follow Maxim to the library. Frith took the coat to the flower-room. I stood there, hesitating, biting my nails. Frith came back again. He looked surprised to see me still there.

'There is a good fire in the library now, Madam.'

'Thank you, Frith,' I said.

I walked slowly across the hall to the library. I opened the door and went in. Maxim was sitting in his chair, Jasper at his feet, the old dog in her basket. Maxim was not reading the paper, though it lay Daphne du Maurier 9 страница on the arm of the chair beside him. I went and knelt down by his side and put my face close to his. 'Don't be angry with me any more,' I whispered. He took my face in his hands, and looked down at me with his tired, strained eyes. 'I'm not angry with you,' he said.

'Yes,' I said. 'I've made you unhappy. It's the same as making you angry. You're all wounded and hurt and torn inside. I can't bear to see you like this. I love you so much.'

'Do you Daphne du Maurier 9 страница?' he said. 'Do you?' He held me very tight, and his eyes questioned me, dark and uncertain, the eyes of a child in pain, a child in fear.

'What is it, darling?' I said. 'Why do you look like that?' I heard the door open before he could answer, and I sank back on my heels, pretending to reach for a log to throw on the fire, while Frith came into the room followed by Robert, and the ritual of our tea began.

The performance of the day before was repeated, the placing of the table, the laying Daphne du Maurier 9 страница of the snow-white cloth, the putting down of cakes and crumpets, the silver kettle of hot water placed on its little flame, while Jasper, wagging his tail, his ears stretched back in anticipation, watched my face. Five minutes must have passed before we were alone again, and when I looked at Maxim I saw the colour had come back into his face, the tired, lost look was gone, and he was reaching for a sandwich. 'Having all the crowd to lunch was the trouble,' he said. 'Poor old Beatrice always does rub me up the wrong way. We used to scrap Daphne du Maurier 9 страница like dogs as children. I'm so fond of her too, bless her. Such a relief though that they don't live too near. Which reminds me, we'll have to go over and see Granny some time. Pour out my tea, sweetheart, and forgive me for being a bear to you.'

It was over then. The episode was finished. We must not speak of it again. He smiled at me over his cup of tea, and then reached for the newspaper on the arm of his chair. The smile was my reward. Like a pat on the Daphne du Maurier 9 страница head to Jasper. Good dog then, lie down, don't worry me any more. I was Jasper again. I was back where I had been before. I took a piece of crumpet and divided it between the two dogs. I did not want it myself, I was not hungry. I felt very weary now, very tired in a dull, spent way. I looked at Maxim but he was reading his paper, he had folded it over to another page. My fingers were messy with the butter from the crumpet, and I felt in my pocket for a Daphne du Maurier 9 страница handkerchief. I drew it out, a tiny scrap of a thing, lace-edged. I stared at it, frowning, for it was not mine. I remembered then that Frith had picked it up from the stone floor of the hall. It must have fallen out of the pocket in the mackintosh. I turned it over in my hand. It was grubby; little bits of fluff from the pocket clung to it. It must have been in the mackintosh pocket for a long time. There was a monogram in the corner. A tall sloping R, with the letters de W interlaced Daphne du Maurier 9 страница. The R dwarfed the other letters, the tail of it ran down into the cambric, away from the laced edge. It was only a small handkerchief, quite a scrap of a thing. It had been rolled in a ball and put away in the pocket and forgotten.

I must have been the first person to put on that mackintosh since the handkerchief was used. She who had worn the coat then was tall, slim, broader than me about the shoulders, for I had found it big and overlong, and the sleeves had come below my wrist. Some of the buttons Daphne du Maurier 9 страница were missing. She had not bothered then to do it up. She had thrown it over her shoulders like a cape, or worn it loose, hanging open, her hands deep in the pockets.

There was a pink mark upon the handkerchief. The mark of lip-stick. She had rubbed her lips with the handkerchief, and then rolled it in a ball, and left it in the pocket. I wiped my fingers with the handkerchief, and as I did so I noticed that a dull scent clung about it still. A scent I recognized, a scent I knew. I shut my Daphne du Maurier 9 страница eyes and tried to remember. It was something elusive, something faint and fragrant that I could not name. I had breathed it before, touched it surely, that very afternoon.

And then I know that the vanished scent upon the handkerchief was the same as the crashed white petals of the azaleas in the Happy Valley.

Chapter 11

THE weather was wet and cold for quite a week, as it often can be in the west country in the early summer, and we did not go down to the beach again. I could see the sea from the terrace Daphne du Maurier 9 страница, and the lawns. It looked grey and uninviting, great rollers sweeping in to the bay past the beacon on the headland. I pictured them surging into the little cove and breaking with a roar upon the rocks, then running swift and strong to the shelving beach. If I stood on the terrace and listened I could hear the murmur of the sea below me, low and sullen. A dull, persistent sound that never ceased. And the gulls flew inland too, driven by the weather. They hovered above the house in circles, wheeling and crying, flapping their spread wings. I began to understand Daphne du Maurier 9 страница why some people could not bear the clamour of the sea. It has a mournful harping note sometimes, and the very persistence of it, that eternal roll and thunder and hiss, plays a jagged tune upon the nerves. I was glad our rooms were in the east wing and I could lean out of my window and look down upon the rose-garden. For sometimes I could not sleep, and getting softly out of bed in the quiet night I would wander to the window, and lean there, my arms upon the sill, and the air would be Daphne du Maurier 9 страница very peaceful, very still.

I could not hear the restless sea, and because I could not hear it my thoughts would be peaceful too. They would not carry me down that steep path through the woods to the grey cove and the deserted cottage. I did not want to think about the cottage. I remembered it too often in the day. The memory of it nagged at me whenever I saw the sea from the terrace. For I would see once more the blue spots on the china, the spun webs on the little masts of those model ships Daphne du Maurier 9 страница, and the rat holes on the sofa bed. I would remember the pattering of the rain on the roof. And I thought of Ben, too, with his narrow watery blue eyes, his sly idiot's smile. These things disturbed me, I was not happy about them. I wanted to forget them but at the same time I wanted to know why they disturbed me, why they made me uneasy and unhappy. Somewhere, at the back of my mind, there was a frightened furtive seed of curiosity that grew slowly and stealthily, for all my denial of it, and I knew Daphne du Maurier 9 страница all the doubt and anxiety of the child who has been told, 'these things are not discussed, they are forbidden'.

I could not forget the white, lost look in Maxim's eyes when we came up the path through the woods, and I could not forget his words. 'Oh, God, what a fool I was to come back'. It was all my fault, because I had gone down into the bay. I had opened up a road into the past again. And although Maxim had recovered, and was himself again, and we lived our lives together, sleeping, eating Daphne du Maurier 9 страница, walking, writing letters, driving to the village, working hour by hour through our day, I knew there was a barrier between us because of it.

He walked alone, on the other side, and I must not come to him. And I became nervous and fearful that some heedless word, some turn in a careless conversation should bring that expression back to his eyes again. I began to dread any mention of the sea, for the sea might lead to boats, to accidents, to drowning.... Even Frank Crawley, who came to lunch one day, put me in a little fever Daphne du Maurier 9 страница of fear when he said something about the sailing races in Kerrith harbour, three miles away. I looked steadily at my plate, a stab of sickness in my heart at once, but Maxim went on talking quite naturally, he did not seem to mind, while I sat in a sweat of uncertainty wondering what would happen and where the conversation would lead us. It was during cheese, Frith had left the room, and I remember getting up and going to the sideboard, and taking some more cheese, not wanting it, so as not to be at the table Daphne du Maurier 9 страница with them, listening; humming a little tune to myself so I could not hear. I was wrong of course, morbid, stupid; this was the hypersensitive behaviour of a neurotic, not the normal happy self I knew myself to be. But I could not help it. I did not know what to do. My shyness and gaucherie became worse, too, making me stolid and dumb when people came to the house. For we were called upon, I remember, during those first weeks, by people who lived near us in the county, and the receiving of them, and the shaking Daphne du Maurier 9 страница hands, and the spinning out of the formal half-hour became a worse ordeal than I first anticipated, because of this new fear of mine that they would talk about something that must not be discussed. The agony of those wheels on the drive, of that pealing bell, of my own first wild rush for flight to my own room. The scrambled dab of powder on my nose, the hasty comb through my hair, and then the inevitable knock on the door and the entrance of the cards on a silver salver.

'All right. I'll be down immediately.' The clap of Daphne du Maurier 9 страница my heels on the stairs and across the hall, the opening of the library door or, worse still, that long, cold, lifeless drawing-room, and the strange woman waiting there, or two of them perhaps, or a husband and a wife.

'How do you do? I'm so sorry; Maxim is in the garden somewhere, Frith has gone to find him.'

'We felt we must come and pay our respects to the bride.' A little laughter, a little flurry of chat, a pause, a glance round the room.

'Manderley is looking as charming as ever. Don't you love Daphne du Maurier 9 страница it?'

'Oh, yes, rather...' And in my shyness and anxiety to please, those schoolgirls' phrases would escape from me again, those words I never used except in moments like these, 'Oh, ripping'; and 'Oh, topping'; and 'absolutely'; and 'priceless'; even, I think, to one dowager who had carried a lorgnette 'cheerio'. My relief at Maxim's arrival would be tempered by the fear they might say something indiscreet, and I became dumb at once, a set smile on my lips, my hands in my lap. They would turn to Maxim then, talking of people and places Daphne du Maurier 9 страница I had not met or did not know, and now and again I would find their eyes upon me, doubtful, rather bewildered.

I could picture them saying to one another as they drove away, 'My dear, what a dull girl. She scarcely opened her mouth', and then the sentence I had first heard upon Beatrice's lips, haunting me ever since, a sentence I read in every eye, on every tongue – 'She's so different from Rebecca.'

Sometimes I would glean little snatches of information to add to my secret store. A word dropped here at random, a question Daphne du Maurier 9 страница, a passing phrase. And, if Maxim was not with me, the hearing of them would be a furtive, rather painful pleasure, guilty knowledge learnt in the dark.

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