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by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca Chapter 16 Summary

  • One Sunday, Mrs. de Winter, Maxim, and Frank are planning to have a relaxing lunch, but a bunch of visitors surprise them.
  • Since these are fancy shmancy types, they get the works in terms of tea. They sit in the drawing room, and Frank, who is a total tea master, helps the clumsy Mrs. de Winter with the hosting.
  • An irritating woman named Lady Crowan brings up the famous Manderley costume ball that Mrs. de Winter keeps hearing about.
  • Maxim says that it's up to Frank, since Frank would do the organizing. Frank says he doesn't mind the work, but that it's of course up to Mr. and Mrs. de Winter. Then Maxim puts it on his wife to decide and – finally – Mrs. de Winter says it's okay with her.
  • Lady Crowan says that Mrs. de Winter should dress as a "Dresden shepherdess" (16.16).
  • After some more banter about the ball, Maxim leads everybody out to the terrace. Eventually the guests leave, and Maxim and Mrs. de Winter are relieved.
  • Maxim plays with Jasper on the lawn while Mrs. de Winter and Frank go back to the drawing room and have their tea.
  • Frank says it's good that Manderley is having a ball for Mrs. de Winter. She deserves it; she is the bride, after all. Mrs. de Winter responds that she didn't even have a real wedding and doesn't care about dances.
  • But Frank tells her that Manderley is beautiful when it's in party mode.
  • He says that all she has to do is greet the guests. He also asks if she'll give him a dance.
  • She tells him she'll dance with him as many times as he wants, but that she'll only dance with him and Maxim. Frank doesn't realize she's kidding. He tells her that people will be hurt if she turns them down; she has to dance with anyone who asks her.
  • Still teasing him, Mrs. de Winter asks if she should go as a Dresden shepherdess like Lady Crowan suggested.
  • Very seriously, Frank says she'd look great as a Dresden shepherdess. She laughs and says, "Oh, Frank, dear, I do love you" (15.39). Frank doesn't get what's so funny. He's a serious dude.
  • When Maxim comes back in, his wife tells him that Frank doesn't think the idea of her as a Dresden shepherdess is funny.
  • Maxim begins to complains about the trouble of putting on a ball. But Frank says it's no problem; he has all the files from the previous balls on record, and they'll just have to "lick the stamps" (16.44). Maxim volunteers Mrs. de Winter for stamp licking, but Frank says it's not necessary. (P.S. This was back in the day when stamps weren't self-adhesive. Look how far we've come.)
  • Mrs. de Winter wants to know what Maxim's costume will be, but he says that he never dresses up. He does suggest, though, that Mrs. de Winter be "Alice-in-Wonderland" (16.50).
  • She tells him not to "be rude" (apparently Alice wasn't a cute costume idea) and that Maxim and Frank will get "the surprise of [their] lives" (16.51) when they see her costume.
  • Angry, she runs out to the garden with Jasper. She wishes Maxim wouldn't treat her like such a baby.
  • She watches the ocean from the terrace and wonders, as she's been wondering all day, if Mrs. Danvers keeps up Rebecca's room because Maxim told her to. She wonders if Maxim goes in there and touches all her stuff like Mrs. Danvers does.
  • Clarice, Mrs. de Winter's young maid, is super excited about the ball. Mrs. de Winter wants to know what Mrs. Danvers thinks about the ball, but the two women aren't really talking anymore.
  • The hatred on Mrs. Danvers' face after Maxim told her not to bring Favell around is burned into our narrator's memory. Thank goodness Mrs. Danvers didn't see Mrs. de Winter watching!
  • She wonders if Mrs. Danvers thinks she's the one who ratted her out. If so, Mrs. Danvers must totally despise her now.
  • Days go by. The ball is coming up, and Mrs. de Winter still can't think of a costume. She finds some beautiful costumes in the art books from Beatrice, but none of her sketches are right, and she throws them away.
  • That night, Mrs. Danvers shows up in her room. The housekeeper has taken the sketches from the trash; she's not sure they were supposed to be thrown out.
  • Mrs. de Winter is chilled to the bone and scared. She tells Mrs. Danvers that yes, they were in the garbage because, um, she put them there,
  • The housekeeper asks her if she's decided on a costume yet.
  • When she admits she hasn't, Mrs. Danvers suggests that she use one of the paintings in the minstrels' gallery for a model.
  • (A minstrels' gallery is a place in a castle where the band of minstrels plays music to entertain the lords and ladies.)
  • She says that the white gown worn by the lady in the portrait in the middle of the gallery could be particularly excellent. Hmmm. Mrs. Danvers' voice sounds almost friendly.
  • Our narrator asks Mrs. de Winter again if he has had any costume suggestions. Nope.
  • Mrs. Danvers says that whatever costume she picks, she should have this certain tailor in London make it for her. And, of course, she promises not to tell anyone if she decides to be the lady in white. (She's really pushing for the lady in white, eh?)
  • Mrs. de Winter is really confused. Does the housekeeper's attitude change have something to do with Rebecca's cousin Favell? Why doesn't Maxim like him?
  • And while we're at it, how could a high class lady like Rebecca have a cousin like Favell? Favell is crude and flirtatious, and he makes her super uncomfortable.
  • Maybe Favell is "the skeleton in the family cupboard" (16.84). It could be that Rebecca felt sorry for him and had him over even though Maxim didn't like it.
  • Mrs. de Winter sits down at the dinner table with her husband. She imagines Rebecca getting a phone call from Favell at dinner, casually taking it, and then returning to the table and making casual conversation. Pretty elaborate imagination our narrator has.
  • Suddenly, Maxim asks Mrs. de Winter, "What the devil are you thinking about?" (16.86).
  • Apparently, Mrs. de Winter had been making strange movements. She looked like she heard a phone ring, and she acted like she was talking on it, laughing and smiling.
  • Whoa.
  • Maxim asks if she's preparing for the ball and tells her that she looks like she's been having guilty thoughts.
  • She says she doesn't have to tell him what she's thinking, because he never tells her. Good point, we think. But he protests, saying that she never asks.
  • But don't think she forgot: sure enough, she reminds him of the time she asked and he said he was thinking about sports. (See the end of Chapter 12.) Touché!
  • Mr. de Winter says that he was probably telling the truth. He says that men, unlike women, usually say exactly what's on their minds. (Some conversations are timeless, no?)
  • He adds that when she was answering the phone, she looked almost like a different person; somebody older, somebody practiced at telling lies. She looked like she knows things a husband would prefer his wife not to know about. Yikes.
  • He wants her to keep the look she had when they first met, the look she still has now.
  • She complains that he treats her like a baby, but he insists that he's being very serious with her.
  • Again, he tells her she should dress as Alice-in-Wonderland for the ball. He also tells her to eat her peach. Natch.
  • Just you wait, she says; she's going to give him "the surprise of [his] life" (16.130).
  • Maxim doubts it. He tells her, "Get on with your peach and don't talk with your mouth full" (16.131). (!) Then he has his coffee taken to the library, and goes in there alone.
  • Mrs. de Winter goes to the minstrels' gallery and makes a sketch of the white dress in the painting that Mrs. Danvers mentioned.
  • The person wearing the dress in the painting is Maxim's great-great aunt, Caroline de Winter, as a young woman before she got married. Quite lovely, actually.
  • Mrs. de Winter will have to wear a wig to get those curls right, but the poofy white gown is perfect.
  • The next day, Mrs. de Winter sends her sketch to the London shop and places her order for the dress.
  • Things are getting exciting at Manderley as preparations for the ball get underway. Workers keep busy, and Mrs. Danvers stays out of sight. Our narrator wants to help with the preparations but no one will let her.
  • Finally, the big day arrives. It starts out cloudy, but the clouds soon burn off.
  • Loads of flowers are delivered to Manderley. Mrs. Danvers comes out of hiding and efficiently directs the preparations for the ball.
  • Mrs. de Winter just wants it to be over.
  • Maxim, Frank, and Mrs. de Winter have lunch together. The topic of conversation: Mrs. de Winter's dress. The dress and wig have arrived, and they are perfect.
  • Maxim and Frank continually ask Mrs. de Winter about her costume, but she won't say a word. Maxim still wishes she'd be Alice-in-Wonderland, and Frank suggests Joan of Arc.
  • After lunch, the trio heads back to the main house. The band is there, and since they'll spend the night, they are shown to their rooms.
  • The afternoon passes slowly for Mrs. de Winter since there's nothing for her to do.
  • After tea (now that's a phrase that should be used more often), Beatrice and Giles show up. Beatrice harasses Maxim about not wearing a costume, and Mrs. de Winter asks what Giles is wearing. He's coming as "an Arabian Sheik" (16.177). Beatrice is also going the Arabian route: some accessories and a veil, nothing elaborate.
  • Frank tells Beatrice that Mrs. de Winter's costume is a surprise. Frank himself is now thinking of going as a pirate.
  • Once again, Beatrice turns the topic back to Mrs. de Winter's dress. Our narrator is actually pretty happy; everyone's being so sweet to her.
  • As the day goes on, the idea of being a hostess at a ball grows on her, and she thinks she might even have a good time.
  • And after all, the ball is in her honor. It makes her feel important, and she likes the fact that everybody is talking about her dress. (It's almost like the wedding she never had, right?)
  • She heads toward her rooms and realizes that Manderley is at its best when in party mode. The house seems "alive" (16.210) and beautiful in a new way. She wishes she could go back to the time of Caroline de Winter. Then the ball would have "grace and dignity" (16.210). She thinks the "modern" music is "unromantic" (16.210) and doesn't match with Manderley.
  • When she gets to her room, Clarice is excited and they "giggle […] like schoolgirls" (16.21) getting Mrs. de Winter into the fancy white dress and the curly wig, both of which fit her just right.
  • Our narrator can't wait to see Maxim's reaction.
  • Beatrice comes to the door, but Mrs. de Winter won't let her in: no peeking!
  • Mrs. de Winter barely recognizes the new, attractive woman she sees in the mirror. Holy crap, she's so excited.
  • She peeks and sees that Frank, Maxim, Beatrice and Giles are down in the hall. The band is playing in the gallery, and Clarice tells them to go ahead and announce Mrs. Caroline de Winter.
  • Mrs. de Winter goes down the stairs as the band makes the announcement. She expects to hear applause and laughter, but it's dead silent below. Everyone is staring at her.
  • All the color drains out of Maxim's face, but Mrs. de Winter keeps going; she has no idea what's wrong.
  • When she gets to Maxim, he says, "What the hell do you think you are doing?" (16.240). It's clear he's really mad. This can't be good.
  • She tries to explain that she copied the painting in the gallery: "What have I done?" (16.254).
  • Nobody will tell her. Finally, in a weird voice she's never heard from him before, Maxim tells her to go change into something else and then come back down.
  • She hesitates, stunned, and Maxim snaps at her to go and do what he said.
  • With tears in her eyes, she runs. She doesn't understand what she did wrong. When she passes the west wing, she sees that a door is open. Mrs. Danvers is gloating at her from inside, with a more-than-evil smile on her face.
  • Mrs. de Winter runs to her room, her feet tangling in her long dress.

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