فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter eight

The Happy Valley

As we stood in the hall, Maxim put his arm round my shoulders.

‘Thank God that’s over,’ he said. ‘Get a coat quickly and let’s go out. Never mind the rain, I want a walk.’

Maxim looked white and ill. Had Beatrice said something to make him angry? I could not remember.

‘Just a moment,’ I said. ‘I’ll get my coat from upstairs.’

‘There are plenty of raincoats downstairs,’ Maxim said. ‘Robert, will you fetch a coat for Mrs de Winter?’

Maxim was standing in the drive now, calling to Jasper. ‘Come on, you lazy little fellow. You’re too fat.’

Jasper ran round in circles, barking loudly. The young servant, Robert, ran out of the hall, carrying a raincoat. I put it on quickly. It was too big, of course, and too long. But Maxim was waiting impatiently and there was no time to change the coat. We set off together across the lawns to the woods. Jasper ran on in front.

‘I soon get tired of my family,’ Maxim said. ‘Beatrice is very kind-hearted, but she always says the wrong thing.’

I was not sure what Beatrice had said and I thought it better not to ask.

‘What did you think of Beatrice?’ Maxim asked me. ‘What did she talk to you about after lunch?’

‘I think I did most of the talking,’ I said. ‘I was telling her about how we met. She said I was quite different from what she expected.’

‘What on earth did she expect?’

‘Someone much smarter, I think. A modern young woman.’

Maxim did not answer. He bent down and threw a stick for Jasper to run after.

We climbed the grass bank above the lawns and walked down into the woods. The trees grew very close together over our heads and it was very dark. We walked on last year’s leaves. The green shoots of flowers were beginning to show through. Jasper was silent now, with his nose to the ground.

We came to a clearing in the woods. There were two paths, going in opposite directions. Jasper ran on ahead and took the right-hand path without waiting for us.

‘Not that way,’ called Maxim. ‘Come on, old boy.’

The dog looked back at us. He stood there, wagging his tail.

‘Why does he want to go that way?’ I asked.

‘I suppose he’s used to it,’ Maxim said quickly. ‘It leads to a small bay where we used to keep a boat. Come on, Jasper, old boy, this way.’

We turned on to the left-hand path, not saying anything. I looked over my shoulder and saw that Jasper was following us.

‘This path brings us to the valley I told you about,’ Maxim told me. ‘You can smell the flowers already. Never mind the rain, it will bring out the scent.’

Maxim seemed all right again now, happy and cheerful. He began talking about Frank Crawley. He told me what a good agent he was and how he loved Manderley.

I held Maxim’s arm and looked up into his face. Talking about Manderley always made Maxim happy again.

We had reached the top of a small hill. The path ran down into a little valley, by the side of a stream.

‘There,’ said Maxim, ‘look at that.’

There were no dark trees in this valley, no thick bushes. On either side of the narrow path stood high graceful bushes covered with flowers. The flowers were pink, white and gold. They were things of beauty and grace. The soft summer rain fell and the air was full of a sweet scent. There was no sound except for the noise of a little stream and the quiet rain on the leaves. When Maxim spoke, his voice was gentle and low.

‘We call it the Happy Valley,’ he said.

We stood still, not speaking. I looked down at the clear white flowers. Maxim picked up a fallen flower and gave it to me. As I rubbed it between my hands, the scent was sweet and strong.

A bird began to sing, a high, clear sound. Other birds began to sing too. I had never been in so beautiful a place. As we walked along the path, drops of rain fell on my hands and face. I held Maxim’s hand. The Happy Valley was the heart of Manderley, the Manderley I would soon know and love.

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