فصل 06

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فصل 06

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Chapter six

In the Morning-Room

Life at Manderley was very carefully planned. The same things happened at the same time every day. I remember our first morning there very clearly. I had slept well and came downstairs a little after nine o’clock. To my surprise, I found that Maxim had nearly finished his breakfast.

Maxim looked up at me and smiled.

‘I always get up early here,’ he said. ‘Looking after Manderley takes a lot of my time. I work very hard. But you don’t have to. Help yourself to anything you want.’

I remember the size of that breakfast. It was the normal Manderley breakfast, but far too much for two people. As I took an egg and some coffee, I wondered what happened to the food that was left. Would it be eaten or thrown away? I would never know of course. I would certainly be too afraid to ask.

‘My sister, Beatrice, is coming over to lunch with her husband,’ Maxim told me. ‘She invited herself, of course. I suppose she wants to have a look at you.’

They’re coming today?’ I said, feeling less happy than before.

‘Yes, but she won’t stay long. I think you’ll like Beatrice. She believes in telling the truth. If she doesn’t like you, she’ll tell you so.’

Maxim stood up and lit a cigarette.

‘I’ve so many things to do this morning. Why don’t you go into the garden. You don’t mind being alone, do you?’

‘Of course not,’ I said. ‘I shall be perfectly happy.’

But I did not feel very happy as Maxim walked out of the room. I had thought we would spend our first morning at Manderley together.

I had thought that perhaps we would walk down to the sea, or sit under the great tree on the lawn.

I finished my breakfast alone. I left the dining-room and went into the library. The room was cold. The fire was laid, but not lit. I looked round for a box of matches, but I could not find one. I went across the hall and into the dining-room once more. Yes, there was a box of matches on the table. I picked it up. At that moment, Frith came into the room.

‘Oh, Frith,’ I said awkwardly, ‘I could not find any matches. I thought I would light the fire in the library. It’s rather cold in there.’

‘The fire in the library is not usually lit until the afternoon, Madam,’ he said. ‘Mrs de Winter always used the morning-room before lunch. There is a good fire in there. Of course, I can give orders for the fire in the library to be lit.’

‘Oh no,’ I said. ‘I’ll go into the morning-room. Thank you, Frith.’

‘Mrs de Winter always wrote her letters in the morning-room after breakfast. The house telephone is there too, if you want to talk to Mrs Danvers.’

‘Thank you, Frith,’ I said. I went into the hall again, I did not know which way to go. I could not tell Frith that I had never seen the morning-room. Maxim had not shown it to me the night before.

‘You go through the drawing-room to the morning-room, Madam,’ Frith said, watching me. ‘Then turn to your left.’

‘Thank you, Frith,’ I said. I felt very stupid.

I found my way into the little morning-room. I was glad to see the dog, Jasper, there, sitting in front of the fire.

The morning-room was quite small and very different from the library. It was a woman’s room, graceful and charming. Someone had chosen everything in this room with the greatest care. Each chair, each rug, each small ornament had been put there to make the room perfect.

Flowers filled the room, glowing blood-red flowers. They were the same flowers we had seen in the drive. A beautiful old writing-desk stood near the window. I went over and opened the desk carefully. Every drawer was labelled and everything was in order. Inside one of the drawers was a flat leather book: ‘Guests at Manderley’. I opened the book. The writing inside the book and the writing on the labels was the same. I had seen that tall sloping writing before. It was Rebecca’s writing. This was Rebecca’s desk. I sat down and opened the Guest Book. Every page was covered with the same writing.

I felt that Rebecca would come back into the room at any moment. The mistress of the house would come in and find me, a stranger, sitting at her desk.

Suddenly the telephone on the desk began to ring. My heart jumped. I picked up the phone. ‘Who is it?’ I said. ‘Who do you want?’

‘Mrs de Winter?’ said a hard, deep voice, ‘Mrs de Winter?’

My hand was shaking. ‘I’m afraid you have made a mistake,’ I said. ‘Mrs de Winter has been dead for over a year.’

I suddenly realized what I had said.

‘It’s Mrs Danvers, Madam,’ said the voice. ‘I’m speaking to you on the house telephone.’

‘I’m so sorry, Mrs Danvers,’ I said. ‘I didn’t know what I was saying. I did not expect the telephone to ring.’

‘I wondered if you had seen the menus for the day. You will find the list on the desk beside you.’

I found the piece of paper and looked at it quickly.

‘Yes, Mrs Danvers. Yes, very nice indeed.’

‘I’m very sorry to have disturbed you, Madam.’

‘You didn’t disturb me at all. Thank you, Mrs Danvers,’ I said.

I put down the phone and looked at the desk. I felt very stupid. Rebecca would not have answered like that. I thought of Rebecca sitting at that desk. Here she had chosen her guests and written letters to her friends. Who could I write to? I knew nobody. Then I thought of Mrs Van Hopper, far away in New York. I took a piece of paper and a pen.

‘Dear Mrs Van Hopper,’ I began. As I wrote I noticed my own handwriting for the first time. How weak and childish it was! It was like the writing of a schoolgirl.

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