فصل 02

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فصل 02

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Chapter two

A Day Out Together

The following day, Mrs Van Hopper woke up with a sore throat and a high temperature. I rang up her doctor and he came round at once.

‘You have flu, Madame,’ the doctor told her. ‘You won’t get better unless you stay quietly in bed. Your heart isn’t strong. You’ll need a nurse to look after you. You must stay in bed for a week or two.’

‘I’m sure I could look after Mrs Van Hopper,’ I said. But the doctor said no. To my surprise, Mrs Van Hopper agreed with him. Monte Carlo had begun to bore her. She would enjoy staying in bed. She would enjoy giving orders to the nurse as well as to me.

The nurse soon arrived and I was no longer wanted. I went down to the restaurant by myself. I was glad to be alone. It was half an hour before our usual lunch-time. The restaurant was almost empty. I went to our usual table. Then I saw that de Winter was already at his table. It was too late for me to go back. I sat down awkwardly trying not to look at him. As I picked up the menu, I knocked over the flowers on the table. The water went all over the cloth and ran down on to my skirt. The waiter was at the other end of the restaurant and saw nothing. In a moment, de Winter was standing by my chair.

‘You can’t sit here now,’ he said. He called to the waiter who came up at once. ‘Lay another place at my table,’ de Winter said. ‘This lady is lunching with me.’

‘Oh no,’ I said. ‘I couldn’t…’

‘Why not?’ he said. ‘I want you to have lunch with me. I was going to ask you anyway. Come and sit down. You needn’t talk if you don’t want to.’

We ordered our food and sat for a time in a pleasant, easy silence.

‘What’s happened to your friend?’ de Winter asked me. I told him about Mrs Van Hopper’s illness.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said politely. ‘You got my note, I suppose. It’s very kind of you to lunch with me after my rudeness.’

‘You were not rude,’ I said. ‘At least, she did not think you were. She is always so curious about anyone important.’

‘Important? Why does she think that I’m important?’ de Winter asked.

‘I think it’s because of Manderley,’ I said. He did not answer. I felt that he did not want to talk about his home.

‘Your friend is very different from you,’ he said at last. ‘And she’s much older than you too. Is she a relation?’

‘Mrs Van Hopper is not my friend,’ I said. ‘I work for her. I have to, I need the money. I have no family and there is nothing else I can do.’

De Winter asked me more questions about myself. I forgot my shyness. I told him about my father, who had been a painter. I talked about my mother and her great love for my father. When my father had died very suddenly, my mother had lived only a few weeks after him.

I suddenly realized that we had been sitting at the table for more than an hour. I began to apologize.

‘But I’ve enjoyed this hour so much,’ de Winter said. ‘We are alike in some ways. We are both alone in the world. I have a sister, but that’s all.’

‘You forget,’ I told him, ‘that you have a home and I have none.’

‘An empty house, even a very beautiful one, can be lonely,’ de Winter said.

I thought for a moment that he was going to tell me about Manderley. But instead he said, ‘Well, I suppose you have a holiday this afternoon. What are you going to do?’

I told him that I was going to do some sketching. I wanted to draw some of the old houses in a nearby town. The bus left at half past two.

‘I’ll drive you there in my car,’ de Winter said. ‘Go upstairs and get your coat.’

I got my things very quietly. I did not want Mrs Van Hopper to hear me. I ran down the stairs, holding my gloves in one hand. I felt excited and grown-up. I did not feel shy with de Winter. He enjoyed my company. He had asked me to go out with him in his car.

We soon reached the place where I wanted to sketch. But the wind was too strong - it blew the paper away. We got into the car again and drove on, up the steep mountain road. Then suddenly the road came to an end. De Winter stopped the car at the very edge. Far below us lay the sea. I felt cold and a little afraid.

‘Do you know this place?’ I said. ‘Have you been here before?’

De Winter looked at me as though I were a stranger. He was lost in the past. There was a strange, faraway look on his face. He looked like a man walking in his sleep.

‘It’s getting late, shall we go home?’ I said. Then he looked at me and smiled.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I should not have brought you up here. Yes, I have been here before, many years ago.’

Those years seemed to stretch between us. For the first time, I wished that I had not come.

De Winter turned the car carefully, and we drove down the twisting road again. The sun was setting now and the air was cold and clear.

Then, at last, he began to talk about Manderley. He did not talk about his life there, but about the house itself. He told me about the gardens and the flowers in the woods. He told me about the sea. It was so near that the sound of its waters could always be heard from the house. He told me about a little, secret valley close to the sea. This little valley, hidden away from the world, was full of the scent of flowers.

Then we were back in Monte Carlo. We drove slowly through the brightly lit streets towards the hotel. I took my gloves from the shelf of the car. There was a book there. I looked at it, trying to read the title.

‘You can take the book and look at it, if you like,’ de Winter said. I was glad and I held the book tightly in my hand. I wanted to have something of his now that our day was over.

‘Out you get,’ he said, ‘I must put the car away. I won’t see you tonight. I shall be out. But thank you for today.’

I walked slowly up the hotel steps. I felt like a child going home after a party. I thought of the long hours to bedtime. I could not meet Mrs Van Hopper and answer the endless questions. I went into the lounge and ordered tea.

The waiter brought me tea that was nearly cold. The sandwiches were dry, but I ate them without thinking. In my mind I was with Max de Winter at Manderley. If he loved his home so much, why had he left it?

I picked up the book he had given me. It was a book of poems. On the front page there was some writing - hard, clear writing in black ink: “Max - from Rebecca, 17th May.”

The name Rebecca stood out black and strong. The “R” was tall, much bigger than the other letters. I shut the book quickly. I remembered what Mrs Van Hopper had told me about de Winter’s wife.

‘It was dreadful,’ she had said. ‘Her death was in all the newspapers. They say he never talks about it, never says her name. Rebecca was drowned, you know, in the sea near Manderley.’

I stood up slowly, the book in my hand. I walked unhappily to the lift and back to Mrs Van Hopper.

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