By now I suppose you have read my last letter. Maxim often tells me I have put my foot in it, and perhaps I did at that. In my defense it is hard to keep up a one-sided correspondence, especially when I know so little about the daily lives of the people on the other side of it. I hope the two of you are out and about and going to museums and that Maxim is not moping too much.
Do please write and tell me something. After all that has happened it is hard to have so little word from either of you. Is one of you ill? Is Maxim still very unhappy? Know that I am ever
There are two drawers in your little writing desk. One is for unanswered letters, and it is often empty. The other is full to bursting and contains your unfinished replies.
Neither drawer is labeled. Your correpondents are limited in number, and the one person who might see and compliment your organization is Maxim. You suspect he would not care for it.
Thank you for your letters. You did not, as you fear, “put your foot in it”—Max and I both laughed quite happily at your jokes. It is a relief to know that life at home goes on…
I wrote that we “laughed quite happily” because it is very easy to embroider the truth in a letter. I don’t suppose you have ever done any such thing but when I am alone my mind runs away from me, and in my fancy I hear and see all sorts of events from long ago, and I am witness to conversations about which I really know nothing. Sometimes they are conversations that were held between
I must be honest: Maxim did not quite laugh, but your account of Roger’s Oxford adventures did make him smile.
I must thank you especially for writing only about ordinary, cheerful events. Maxim would not read your first letter until I assured him it did not contain questions or news of any sort about Manderley. We avoid that topic so thoroughly that it feels queer to so much as write the name. Maxim does not keep secrets from me, not any longer, but neither does he speak about the past. We are never unhappy, but we are one another’s whole world. Thus we have very little news. We go driving in the mornings and I have a tennis lesson in the afternoon. We read a great deal, but we write little. What little correspondence we receive (except for the letters from you) is entirely Maxim’s affair and is taken care of by him (although he lets me lick the stamps).
How nice it is to have someone to whom I must and can write!
You don’t know how I used to sit in the morning room at Manderley, and long
There is a little table in our rooms, near the window, where I have written this. Do you write letters often, and to many people? When you were a young girl, what was it like at Manderley?
Maxim told me once it was very changed when Rebec Was Maxim very different to how he is now, when he was a boy?
You lean back into the little upright chair, absently tapping the pen against your teeth. How silly Beatrice will think you. You will have to re-write the whole letter from the beginning, so she will not see how many times you have scratched it through.
How young you must seem to her, even now. How can it be otherwise, when she does not know what you know? If only it were possible to finish a letter to your husband’s sister, without thinking of…
Beatrice’s letters are cosy, blunt, sweet. She could not possibly answer the questions you want to ask, but after all there is no one else. Maxim does not write to his friends, and you have none. Only Beatrice has persevered, sending letters even when she receives no reply.
PLEASE TELL MAXIM CONFIRM ADDRESS BEFORE CHRISTMAS. YOURS FONDLY B.
That was the telegram she had sent, the greeting that awaited you and Max when you arrived, friendless and tired, at the new hotel. You smile with pleasure, remembering how comforting it had been to see how Beatrice had addressed it to Mrs de Winter—to you, the responsible wife. How nice it had been to put pen to paper, to bring her news of her brother, to act as messenger between them. How nice it will be, if you only can find the right words, to make a friend of her.
You imagine her as she might have looked, composing her first letter to you and Maxim. She would not have done it at a writing table, not Beatrice. You see her at home, in the grey morning, dragging on boots and mittens, her dog Lion scratching eagerly at the door. You see the flat white sky, threatening snow, and you think that if Giles is awake he will surely tell her not to go out. But he is asleep, and anyhow mere weather would not stop Beatrice. Who will exercise the dogs today, if she does not?
You see her shake her head as the snow begins to fall, glimpsed through the window. She winds an extra scarf around her neck and stomps out into the storm.
“What will I write to Maxim’s little wife?” she wonders. “What can I possibly say?” She watches Lion go into the bushes after some animal, and she thinks she might get away with some justifiable boasting about the dogs. News of the dogs, yes, and she will ask about Mrs. de Winter’s sketching. How funny that girl is—oh, she says she sketches, but never has anything to show for it! Perhaps this time Beatrice had better not ask. She is not utterly tactless. (You resolve to send her something—a picture of Maxim? Better still, a picture of her—from imagination and memory. Perhaps you will draw her in snow.)
“Just the dogs, then,” thinks the imaginary Beatrice—and she will be sure to mine Roger for stories. And she will round it all off with a risqué anecdote about Dickie Marsh, partly because neither age nor distance has yet driven away the childhood urge to shock Maxim, but also because Beatrice has never been entirely sure of herself when writing letters (you feel confident, guessing this), and she feels she should at least end with a bang.
You envy her.
I have shared your letters thus far with Maxim, for they seemed as though they had been written for him at least as much as for me, and I think they cheer him. I would not ask you to change them for the world.
But I am writing to you now in confidence, because I cannot bear the thought of hurting him, so I must mislead him slightly. I do not want him to know that I still…. I believe he thinks that now my jealousy is gone, I no longer think of Rebecca. I must not think of her, I must not speak her name. My reasons now are different (far better) than they were, but Maxim’s silence is almost the same. There are things I wish I knew that he will never tell me.
I must keep all pain from him: that is the price of our happiness. The cruelest part of what she did to him was to never deceive him.
What do you know of her? Is it true you did not like her? Her charm, her beauty—was it deception alone, or…?
You imagine Beatrice stomping back home, breathing hard and covered in snow, peeling off scarf and mittens and coat in the hall. You see her at breakfast with Giles, spreading thick marmalade on hot buttery toast, reading the paper and fending off the dog.
She is not really reading the paper. She is thinking about Maxim and his wife. She is feeling sorry for them. They cannot run about in English snow.
“Do you know, B,” says Giles, “I had the queerest dream last night.”
“What’s that?” says Beatrice. Perhaps she ought to compose something rather more sober and respectable than what she has planned. Poor Maxim. Perhaps instead of a chatty letter she ought to just write “condolences, to both of you.” But she thinks she ought to put it less baldly, and does not know how.
“I mean, not exactly queer,” says Giles, muttering into his teacup. Without looking at her, he says, “It was about Rebecca.”
You watch as a fleck of marmalade splashes onto a dull article about the English Derby. “Ah,” says Beatrice.
“You know I never think of her, darling, not left to my own devices.” Giles has sense enough to look apologetic. Perhaps he really is. “But it’s this recent business, with the fire, and your brother and his wife, so suddenly gone—it’s all got mixed up in my dreams.”
He has buried his face in the teacup again. Does Beatrice love his polite bashfulness, the way he is so timid even with her, after all these years, or does it try her patience? Is he really so timid, when they are alone?
You wonder if Giles would really tell Beatrice, if he dreamed of Rebecca. Or would he hide it, spare her feelings?
You think he would tell. They have been married too long to keep secrets. One day even you and Maxim will have no secrets.
How ridiculous you are, to imagine all of this!
I am glad to hear about your tennis lesson and I hope one day soon Maxim will sulk less and join you. (You don’t say he does, but I know.)
What lovely pictures arrived from you the other day! The one of Giles is particularly good—how funny he looks, I expected him to blush himself off the page! But who is the lovely woman at the bottom of the pile? You were quite right not to label anyone, I knew instantly who everybody was—but only the expression in her eyes is familiar, not her face. You’ve drawn her with so much affection, I don’t think my first guess can possibly be right. Is she an old school chum? Or have you and Maxim finally made friends with the other holiday-makers?
Giles and Roger send love, and for that matter so do I. Kiss Maxim for me,