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by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca Chapter 21 Summary

  • Maxim goes into the room off the library to answer the phone. He shuts the door behind him.
  • Mrs. de Winter stays sitting on the carpet in the library. She was so wrapped up in Maxim's story that she feels like she was there, like she participated in killing Rebecca.
  • Now that she knows that Maxim loves her (and not Rebecca), her heart feels "light and free" (21.2). Maxim is all hers.
  • Her life will be different now: she can use Rebecca's things in the morning-room and not worry about her a bit. A weight has been lifted off her shoulders. (Kind of funny, given that she just found out her husband is guilty of murder…)
  • Regardless, she will stand with Maxim through all these troubles. She will "fight for Maxim," and will "lie and perjure and swear" (21.2) for him. (For the record, this is not a good idea. Nor is it legal.)
  • Rebecca has lost the battle.
  • She knows the police are involved now: Colonel Julyan will be there when they try to raise the boat and bring out the body for inspection.
  • As she's thinking about this, the phone rings again, and Maxim picks it up. It's a reporter who heard that Rebecca's boat was found. Maxim confirms the news, but basically tells him to shove off.
  • Mrs. de Winter warns him: he should be nice to the reporters so they'll stand in his corner. She's thinking about how to work the masses, but he says he plans on fighting alone.
  • After dinner, the couple goes back to the library. Maxim is touching and kissing his wife in a way he never did before.
  • Fast forward to the morning. Maxim is already gone from his bed when Mrs. de Winter wakes up. She's sure he's out with Colonel Julyan and Captain Searle watching Rebecca's boat being raised out of the water.
  • She imagines how Rebecca's body will look. (That's pretty morbid.)
  • After showering and eating breakfast, our narrator goes into the morning-room, which hasn't been cleaned. (Gasp!) She calls for a maid and tells her to clean the room and take out the dead flowers.
  • The maid apologizes and Mrs. de Winter scold her: "Don't let it happen again" (21.62). Yikes! Our narrator is actually a little surprised at how easy it is to be all tough with people.
  • Next, she looks at the menu left by Mrs. Danvers, which is the same food that was prepared for the ball. This will not do! She crosses out all the food on the list and sends it to Mrs. Danvers, via Robert, with the message that she wants a menu of hot food. You go girl.
  • Mrs. de Winter begins to cut some roses, and she's putting them in water when Mrs. Danvers comes into her room. The old housekeeper has huge dark circles around her eyes.
  • She wants to know why Mrs. de Winter didn't tell her personally about the food, the way the other Mrs. de Winter always did.
  • Our narrator won't have any of that: she's Mrs. de Winter now, and if she wants to send messages through Robert, that's her business. She tells Mrs. Danvers to come up with a hot menu and to get out. Wow, this is a new woman we're dealing with.
  • Mrs. Danvers clearly doesn't leave. She has too many questions: why a reporter called earlier, if Rebecca's boat has been found, why Captain Searle was here yesterday, and why Maxim was up early this morning.
  • Mrs. de Winter refuses to answer. She tells Mrs. Danvers that she should direct any questions she has to Maxim, and that it's Maxim's concern if he gets up early.
  • The housekeeper is clearly not getting the hint (or she's just ignoring it): now she asks if it's true that there's a body in the boat. (She knows Rebecca was sailing alone the night she died.) Mrs. de Winter says she doesn't know anything about anything.
  • Turns out she's a good liar, too.
  • Finally, Mrs. Danvers leaves.
  • After a while, Maxim calls Mrs. de Winter on the phone to tell her that Frank and Colonel Julyan are coming for lunch. They've raised the boat.
  • Mrs. de Winter remembers Colonel Julyan from the ball, and while Frank and Maxim wash up for lunch, the two of them chat.
  • Colonel Julyan tells Mrs. de Winter that they recovered a body from the boat, and that the body is obviously Rebecca. He's sorry that she and Mr. de Winter will have to go through this now. It wouldn't even be an issue if Maxim hadn't identified the other body earlier. Now it'll be messy.
  • Once Frank and Maxim are back, there's a whole lot of small talk.
  • Eventually, Colonel Julyan tells Maxim what he told Mrs. de Winter: the biggest problem is that Maxim already identified another body. So where does that leave them?
  • Maxim agrees. They all talk about the circumstances surrounding the original identification: maybe Mr. de Winter was ill; maybe he was influenced by other people.
  • Colonel Julyan says there's nothing to be done about it now; Maxim will just say he made a mistake.
  • The Colonel wishes they wouldn't have to have an inquest. He hates that the de Winters will have to deal with the publicity, but it can't be helped. It should be a fast process, though.
  • (An "inquest" is a hearing where evidence is given, in this case so the coroner can make a ruling on the cause of death.)
  • He says it's too bad the boat crashed on the reef today, because if it hadn't, this whole issue would have stayed closed. Yeah, hide the truth: that's the ticket.
  • More speculation ensues: the Colonel says it's odd that Rebecca would leave the boat unattended and get stuck in the cabin. That's the kind of mistake a new sailor would make, and Rebecca was very skilled and experienced.
  • Mrs. de Winter is now watching Frank watch Maxim; she realizes that Frank knows the truth, but Maxim doesn't know that Frank knows. Got it?
  • Frank argues that even experienced people make mistakes all the time, especially when it's stormy like it was that night.
  • In any case, the inquest will be held on Tuesday, and it should be very short. That said, the colonel won't be able to stop the reporters from finding out.
  • At a lull in the conversation, Mrs. de Winter suggests they go to the garden.
  • After Colonel Julyan and Frank offer their sympathies and leave, Maxim tells Mrs. de Winter that it seems like there shouldn't be any trouble at the inquest.
  • Here's why: the bullet never touched Rebecca's bone, and there's no sign of the bullet or the bullet hole left on her body. Everybody thinks Rebecca got stuck in the cabin and, as a result, the boat turned over and sank.
  • The only thing Maxim is worried about is his wife. He's happy he killed Rebecca and isn't sorry for that – not at all. But he says: "I can't forget what it has done to you. […] It's gone for ever, that funny, young, lost look that I loved. It won't come back again. I killed that too, when I told you about Rebecca..." (21.219).

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