Chapter 16 Summary
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...
(The entire section is 782 words.)