فصل 18

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فصل 18

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Chapter eighteen

The Truth About Rebecca

It was very quiet in the library. When people have a great shock, they feel nothing at first. I stood beside Maxim and I had no feelings at all. Then Maxim took me in his arms and began to kiss me. I shut my eyes. He had never kissed me like this before.

‘I love you so much,’ he whispered.

This is what I had wanted him to say, every day and every night. But I could feel nothing now.

Maxim stopped suddenly and pushed me away from him.

‘You see, I was right,’ he said. ‘It’s too late. You don’t love me now.’

‘It’s not too late,’ I said, putting my arms round him. ‘I love you more than anything in the world.’

‘It’s no use now,’ said Maxim. ‘We have no time. They’ve found the boat. They’ve found Rebecca.’

I stared at him, not understanding.

‘What will they do?’ I said.

‘They will make sure that the body in the cabin is Rebecca. Then they will remember that other body in the church. The other woman - the one I said was Rebecca.’

‘What are we going to do?’ I said.

Maxim did not answer.

‘Does anyone know? Anyone at all?’ I said.

Maxim shook his head.

‘Are you sure Frank doesn’t know?’ I asked quickly.

‘How could he?’ said Maxim. ‘There was nobody there but me. It was dark…’ He stopped. He sat down on a chair and I went and knelt beside him.

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I whispered.

‘I nearly did, once,’ Maxim said. ‘But you always seemed so unhappy and so shy.’

I answered very quietly.

‘I knew you were thinking about Rebecca all the time. How could I ask you to love me when I knew you loved Rebecca?’

‘You thought I loved Rebecca?’ he said. ‘I hated her. We never loved each other. Rebecca never loved anyone except herself.’

I sat on the floor, staring at him.

‘She was clever of course,’ Maxim went on. ‘Everyone thought she was the kindest, the most charming person. When I married her, people told me I was the luckiest man in the world.’

‘I found out the truth five days after we were married. We were in the hills near Monte Carlo. It was the same place I went to with you. Do you remember? She sat there in the car and told me terrible, evil things about herself. Things that I could not tell anyone.’

Maxim stared out of the window.

‘I did not kill her then,’ he said. ‘I let her laugh. She knew that I would take her to Manderley. She knew I would never divorce her. I would never tell people all the terrible things she had told me.’

Maxim came up to me and held out his hands.

‘You hate me, don’t you?’ he said. ‘You can’t understand me, can you?’

I did not say anything. I held his hands against my heart. Only one thing mattered. Maxim did not love Rebecca. He had never loved her, never, never.

Maxim was talking again.

‘I thought about Manderley too much,’ he said. ‘I put Manderley first, before anything else. I can’t tell you about those terrible years with Rebecca. But she made Manderley the place of beauty it is today. And I accepted everything, because of Manderley.

‘Rebecca was careful at first,’ Maxim went on. ‘She had a flat in London. She met her friends there. Then she began to grow careless. She invited friends down here, to Manderley. I warned her. I told her that Manderley was mine. Rebecca did not say anything. She only smiled.

‘Then Frank came to me and told me he wanted to leave. He wouldn’t say why at first. But I got the truth from him in the end. Rebecca never left him alone. She was always going to his house and asking him to her cottage.

‘Rebecca went up to London for a time. When she came back, she took Giles out sailing with her. I knew what had happened as soon as they came back. Beatrice and Giles never stayed at Manderley again. After that, I knew I could never trust Rebecca with anyone.

‘She had a cousin, an awful man, called Jack Favell. He started to come here when I was away.’

‘I’ve met him,’ I said. ‘He came here the day you went to London. I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want to remind you of Rebecca.’

‘Remind me?’ said Maxim. ‘Oh God, I never needed to be reminded.

‘Favell often stayed with Rebecca down at the cottage. He is a bad man. He’s been in trouble with the police many times. I told Rebecca that I would shoot Favell if he came to Manderley again.

‘Then, one night, I could stand our life here no longer. Rebecca came back from London very late. She went to the cottage. I thought Favell was with her. I went after them. I took a gun to frighten him.’

Maxim was talking in quick, short sentences. I held his hand tightly.

‘I saw a light in the cottage and went in. To my surprise, Rebecca was alone. She looked ill and strange.

“This is the end,” I told her. “I can’t stand any more.” Rebecca looked at me and smiled.

“It won’t be easy to divorce me,” she said. “Everyone believes our marriage is perfect.”

‘Then she stood up and walked towards me.

“If I had a child, Max,” she said, “Everyone would think it was yours. You would like a son, wouldn’t you? A boy to grow up at Manderley. And you would never know who his father was.”

‘And she smiled at me again. She was smiling when I killed her. The bullet went through her heart.’

Maxim’s voice was very low. He spoke slowly.

‘There was blood all over the floor. I had to get water from the sea to clean the place.

‘There was no moon and it was very dark,’ Maxim went on. ‘I carried Rebecca’s body to the boat. I laid the body on the floor of the cabin. Then I took the boat out into the bay. I wanted to take the boat a good way out, but the wind was too strong for me.

‘I made some holes in the wooden planks with a metal spike. I opened the sea cocks and the sea water flowed in. In a few minutes it had covered my feet. I shut the cabin door behind me, climbed into the dinghy and rowed back. Rebecca’s boat was already sinking. I sat and watched it go down.’

Maxim looked at me.

‘That’s all,’ he said. ‘There’s no more to tell.’

The library was very quiet. We sat there together for some minutes without saying anything. Then Maxim began to speak again.

‘I knew the boat would be found one day,’ he said. ‘Rebecca knew she would win in the end. I saw her smile when she died.’

‘But Rebecca is dead,’ I told him. ‘That’s what we must remember.’

‘The diver has seen the body. They’re going to get the boat up tomorrow morning. They’ll find out that it’s Rebecca’s body in the cabin.’

‘Then you must say you made a mistake about the other body. Nobody saw you that night. We are the only two people who know what happened that night, Maxim.’

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Yes, I suppose so.’

‘They will think the boat sank when Rebecca went down into the cabin. They’ll think she was trapped there. They’ll think that, won’t they, Maxim?’ I said.

‘I don’t know,’ Maxim replied slowly. ‘I don’t know.’

At that moment, the telephone in the next room began to ring.

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