Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 802
Every year, Mrs. Van Hopper vacations at the Cote d’Azur and pursues her two passions: playing bridge and claiming all distinguished visitors as her friends. Even if she only saw them once from a distance at the post office, she manages to introduce herself to them and invite them to her suite. It is all done so quickly that her victims rarely have an opportunity to escape.
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Every day she claims a sofa in the hotel lounge, where she has coffee after lunch and dinner, and everyone in the hotel must pass by her. Sometimes she sends the girl as “bait to draw her prey.” The girl hates her task but does what she is told, asking the unsuspecting target for the address of a shop or some other ruse to get the notable person to pay attention to Van Hopper. The woman prefers people with titles, but anyone whose face was in the paper or whose name was in the gossip columns will do.
The young girl comes to resent being used in such a way, knowing the person will resent the intrusion into his life; even in her inexperience, she knows this is especially true of de Winter. Van Hopper sends the girl to the room to retrieve a letter. Once she finds it, the girl hesitates for a moment; it seems to her that she is giving de Winter another moment of peace. When she returns to the dining room, she sees that he has already left the dining room. Van Hopper has not waited for the letter and forced an introduction on her own.
De Winter stands when she arrives and Van Hopper mumbles her name and waves her away, a signal to de Winter the relationship between them. It is always helpful for everyone to see her as a servant right away so no one has to treat her with courtesy. This time, though, de Winter remains standing and insists she join them for coffee. For a moment, the older woman looks annoyed, as this was not her intention, but she thrusts her imposing self between them and reminds de Winter of their first casual meeting. He has not forgotten.
He looks to the girl like a medieval portrait, though he is wearing English tweed. Van Hopper is talking about Manderley, comparing it to an enchanting fairyland belonging to the family since the Conquest. As she continues talking, de Winter smokes and remains silent. When he does finally speak, he is harsh, but Van Hopper does not even feel the sting of his retort. The woman’s outrageous behavior somehow creates a bond between the girl and de Winter; she is ashamed but he is clearly wondering about the exact relationship between the two women.
When he tries to engage her in the conversation, she is awkward and inept, and Van Hopper berates her before continuing her inane chatter. When Van Hopper talks about Manderley, the girl sees a look on de Winter's face that reveals some kind of personal pain. Van Hopper does not even notice that de Winter is not listening to her and knows nothing of the names she is dropping. Finally his torture is over when a page announces that Van Hopper’s dressmaker is waiting for her. De Winter quickly rises and says he does not want to keep her from her appointment. She boldly invites him to join her for drinks tomorrow night; when he claims another engagement, she grows even bolder and goes too far. He offers another stinging retort, but this time she understands it and turns red in her embarrassment.
As the two women go to meet the dressmaker, Van Hopper scolds the girl for being a bit too forward with de Winter, trying to monopolize the conversation. Such behavior embarrassed the older woman and she warns her that men loathe such forwardness. The girl says nothing, for there is nothing to say.
This afternoon is Van Hopper’s bridge game, and nothing about that is appealing to the girl; the others do not like her being there, and she feels more like a servant than at any other time. As the girl is thinking about and sketching a man with a medieval profile, a messenger comes to the door with a message for her. It is a handwritten note with a simple message: “Forgive me. I was very rude this afternoon.” There is no signature, but her name is on the envelope and it is spelled correctly, something that does not usually happen. The messenger waits for an answer, but she has none. When he is gone, she puts the note in her pocket and returns to her pencil drawing. Suddenly it does not please her any more, as the expression is too stiff and lifeless.