Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. These dreams are now
recurring with a puzzling frequency, and I've come to dread them.
All of the Manderley dreams are bloodcurdling and this one was the
worst -- no question at all.
I cried out Rebecca's name in my sleep, so loudly that it woke me.
I sat bolt upright, staring at darkness, afraid to reach for the
light switch in case that little hand again grasped mine. I heard
the sound of bare feet running along the corridor; I was still
inside the dream, still reliving that appalling moment when the
tiny coffin began to move. Where had I been taking it? Why was it
The door opened, a thin beam of light fingered the walls, and a
pale shape began to move quietly toward me. I made a cowardly
moaning sound. Then I saw this phantom was wrapped up in a dressing
gown and its hair was disheveled. I began to think it might
be my daughter -- but was she really there, or was I dreaming her,
too? Once I was sure it was Ellie, the palpitations
diminished and the dream slackened its hold. Ellie hid her fears by
being practical. She fetched warm milk and aspirin; she lit the gas
fire, plumped up my pillows, and attacked my wayward eiderdown.
Half an hour later, when we were both calmer, my nightmare was
blamed on willfulness -- and my weakness for late-night snacks of
bread and cheese.
This fictitious indigestion was meant to reassure me -- and it
provided a good excuse for all Ellie's anxious questions concerning
pain. Did I have an ache in the heart region? (Yes, I did.) Any
breathing difficulties? "No, I damn well don't," I growled. "It was
just a nightmare, that's all. Stop fussing, Ellie, for heaven's
sake, and stop flapping around...."
"Mousetrap!" said my lovely, agitated, unmarried daughter.
"Why don't you listen, Daddy? If I've warned you once, I've warned
you a thousand times..."
Well, indeed. I've never been good at heeding anyone's warnings,
including my own.
I finally agreed that my feeling peckish at eleven P.M. had been to
blame; I admitted that eating my whole week's ration of cheddar (an
entire ounce!) in one go had been rash, and ill-advised. A silence
ensued. My fears had by then receded; a familiar desolation was
taking hold. Ellie was standing at the end of my bed, her hands
gripping its brass foot rail. Her candid eyes rested on my face. It
was past midnight. My daughter is blessed with innocence, but she
is nobody's fool. She glanced at her watch. "It's Rebecca, isn't
it?" she said, her tone gentle. "It's the anniversary of her death
today -- and that always affects you, Daddy. Why do we
Because it's safer that way, I could have replied. It's twenty
years since Rebecca died, so I've had two decades to learn the
advantages of such pretences. That wasn't the answer I gave,
however; in fact, I made no answer at all. Something -- perhaps the
expression in Ellie's eyes, perhaps the absence of reproach or
accusation in her tone, perhaps simply the fact that my
thirty-one-year-old daughter still calls me "Daddy" -- something at
that point pierced my heart. I looked away, and the room
I listened to the sound of the sea, which, on calm nights when the
noise of the wind doesn't drown it out, can be heard clearly in my
bedroom. It was washing against the rocks in the inhospitable cove
below my garden: high tide. "Open the window a little, Ellie," I
Ellie, who is subtle, did so without further comment or questions.
She looked out across the moonlit bay toward the headland opposite,
where Manderley lies. The great de Winter house, now in a state of
ruination, is little more than a mile away as the crow flies. It
seems remote when approached by land, for our country roads here
are narrow and twisting, making many detours around the creeks and
coves that cut into our coastline; but it is swiftly reached by
boat. In my youth, I often sailed across there with Maxim de Winter
in my dinghy. We used to moor in the bay below Manderley -- the bay
where, decades later, under mysterious circumstances, his young
wife Rebecca would die.
I made a small sound in my throat, which Ellie pretended not to
hear. She continued to look out across the water toward the
Manderley headland, to the rocks that mark the point, to the woods
that protect and shield the house from view. I thought she might
speak then, but she didn't; she gave a small sigh, left the
casement open a little as I'd requested, then turned away with a
resigned air. She left the curtains half-drawn, settled me for
sleep, and then with one last anxious and regretful glance left me
alone with the past.
A thin bright band of moonlight bent into the room; on the air came
a breath of salt and sea freshness: Rebecca rose up in my mind. I
saw her again as I first saw her, when I was ignorant of the power
she would come to exert on my life and my imagination (that I
possess any imagination at all is something most people would
deny). I watched her enter, then re-enter, then re-enter again that
great mausoleum of a drawing room at Manderley -- a room, indeed an
entire house, that she would shortly transform. She entered at a
run, bursting out of the bright sunlight, unaware anyone was
waiting for her: a bride of three months; a young woman in a white
dress, with a tiny blue enamelled butterfly brooch pinned just
above her heart.
Excerpted from REBECCA'S TALE © Copyright 2011 by Sally
Beauman. Reprinted with permission by HarperTorch, an imprint of
HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
- Genres: Fiction
- Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: HarperTorch
- ISBN-10: 0061032042
- ISBN-13: 9780061032042