Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 782
One Sunday afternoon, while a crowd of people are gathered for tea at Manderley, the topic of the fancy dress ball is broached. In front of their guests, de Winter makes no objection as long as his wife and Crawley (who would have to do most of the work) agree. Once the three of them are alone, de Winter is disgruntled because everyone expects Manderley to provide the grand entertainments for the county.
His wife is a bit humiliated that neither man thinks she is capable of doing anything to prepare for the ball. As host, de Winter never dresses up, but his wife says she will surprise the men with her choice of costume for the ball. She feels as if she is being treated a bit like a child by her husband and wishes something would happen to make her seem wiser and more mature. She hopes this inequality will not always be part of her marriage.
The girl wonders if the rooms in the west wing are being kept “furnished and untouched” because her husband ordered it and if he, like Danvers, reveres Rebecca’s belongings.
The news of Manderley’s fancy dress ball spreads quickly, and the young girl’s maid, Clarice, is among the most excited. The girl is curious to learn what Danvers’ reaction to the upcoming gala will be; she still remembers the look on the housekeeper’s face after being reprimanded by de Winter in the library. The girl shudders at the thought of Danvers’ grip on her arm and dreads any repeat of that day in Rebecca’s room.
As preparations for the dance are made, the young Mrs. de Winter has nothing to do but decide on her own costume. She spends a morning with her art books for inspiration, sketching ideas for the perfect dress. That evening before dinner, Danvers knocks on the girl’s door and has the discarded drawings from the library. Danvers is afraid the sketches should not have been discarded, but the girl assures her the drawings are trash.
Danvers derisively asks the girl if she has decided on her costume; the girl feigns indifference as she tells her no. Danvers acts surprised that the girl has not decided to emulate one of the dresses from the portraits in Manderley’s picture gallery, particularly the one of the young lady in a white dress holding a hat in her hands. Danvers casually makes the case for that particular outfit and even suggests a dressmaker in London who would reproduce the dress for the girl. Danvers also promises not to tell, and the girl is pleasantly surprised at the housekeeper’s helpfulness and affability.
At dinner with her husband, the girl is not pleased at his treating her like a child and says he will receive the grandest surprise when he sees her ball dress. After dinner, she goes to examine and sketch the dress Danvers suggested and knows this will be the perfect outfit to make the impression she wants on her husband. In the morning she sends a letter and a sketch to the dressmaker Danvers recommended, and the company responds favorably to her request.
Soon Manderley is alive with expectation and preparations. Though Danvers never interferes, the girl feels the woman’s constant presence. Despite her desire to help, the girl has nothing to do. Her outfit arrives and it is perfect.
The day of the ball arrives and the afternoon drags by for the girl. She reminds everyone that she will provide a wonderful surprise with her costume tonight at the dance held in her honor. Clarice helps the girl get dressed and she looks triumphantly at her image in the mirror, refusing to allow her husband to see her. Finally she makes a grand entrance, sending Clarice down the stairs to ensure that de Winter, the Lacys, and Crawley are all gathered for her grand revelation. She even orders the drummer to announce her to the group, which he does.
When they see her, not one of them moves. Finally de Winter approaches his wife, his gaze never leaving her face. His eyes are blazing with anger and he demands to know what she is doing. His wife tries to explain; but in a cold, quiet, unfamiliar voice, he orders her upstairs to change into anything—anything but that dress—before anyone else sees her.
The girl stands incredulous and unmoving as tears fill her eyes. She finally brushes blindly past him. When she passes the door to the west wing, she sees Danvers smiling with the “face of an exulting devil” before she runs to her own room, tripping over her dress.