Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 718
The weather is bad for the next week. Being unable to see or hear the sea from her rooms in the east wing allows the young girl’s thoughts to be peaceful, though she thinks often about the cottage on the beach and these thoughts disturb her. Though the couple spends their time together doing ordinary things, that place has somehow created a barrier between them. She is now nervous and fearful that any casual mention of the sea will trigger another episode of melancholy in her husband.
This nervousness intensifies her “shyness and gaucherie,” making her “stolid and dumb” in front of visitors who come to call on the newlyweds. The guests coming to pay their respects always look doubtfully at the new Mrs. de Winter, rather bewildered by de Winter’s choice. She comes to dread these visitors who look at her knowingly, only coming to see her in order to assuage their curiosity about her; to her it is prying and she wishes she did not have to see any of them again. All they want to do is compare her to Rebecca. Despite that, each visit always adds a new bit of knowledge to the girl’s meager store of information about Rebecca, including the existence of a Manderley tradition—a fancy dress ball.
After doing some necessary visiting of her own one day, the girl walks back to the house and meets Crawley along the way. He is shy, like her, and she feels comfortable with him. She talks with him about the Manderley ball; he tells her that everyone in the county, and even some people from London, used to attend the galas. The girl thinks Crawley speaks of Rebecca as if he might have loved her. She asks Crawley to speak to de Winter about reviving the Manderley fancy dress ball.
Being able to speak Rebecca’s name freely gives the young girl a curious sense of satisfaction, and she tells Crawley about discovering the cottage on the beach. He explains that Rebecca converted the boat-house into a cottage and furnished it with all her favorite things. She used the building often, for moonlight picnics and such. Her boat used to be moored in the bay. The girl feels badly about Crawley’s obvious discomfort as he talks about these things, but she cannot remain silent. She has to know.
She asks if Rebecca was sailing her own boat when she drowned. She was. The boat must have capsized and sunk and her body washed overboard. No one could have helped her because no one knew she had left. The girl had always thought that Rebecca’s sailing accident was a public affair; she had not known Rebecca was alone when she died. Her body was not found for two months, forty miles up the channel.
The questions continue, and Crawley hesitates before answering each one. When he explains that de Winter had to identify her body, the girl is finally ashamed of her curiosity and fears Crawley’s silence indicates his disgust with her. She hopes she has not destroyed the one comfortable, steady friendship she has.
As they continue walking, she is compelled to explain her self-doubts and how inadequate she feels compared to Rebecca. Crawley tells her he is delighted that she has married de Winter and that it will “make all the difference” in his friend and employer’s life. Crawley is confident the young girl will make this marriage work; he thinks she is “refreshing and charming” and has heard no criticisms of her. If he had, he would have stopped any critical talk. For Crawley, kindness, sincerity, and modesty are qualities far superior to “all the wit and beauty in the world.” Crawley assures the girl he will mention none of their conversation to de Winter.
As Beatrice mentioned, de Winter was close to a total collapse last year, and his young wife has been a good antidote for him. Crawley says it is up to her to lead them all forward, as none of them wants to bring back the past. She asks one last question: was Rebecca beautiful? Crawley looks away and is silent before he finally answers, saying “he supposes she was the most beautiful creature he ever saw in his life.”