My cousin Rachel / Daphne du Maurier ; with an introduction by Sally Beauman.
Contributor(s): Beauman, Sally.Material type: BookSeries: Virago modern classics: ; Virago modern classics: Publisher: London : Virago, 2003Description: x, 335 pages ; 20 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 1844080404.Subject(s): APA psychotherapy videotape series IV -- Fiction | Man-woman relationships -- Fiction | Orphans -- Fiction | General fiction | Cornwall (England : County) -- FictionGenre/Form: Domestic fiction.DDC classification: 823.912
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in making Philip his heir, knowing he will treasure his beautiful Cornish estate. But Philip's world is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries - and then dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances.
Before long, the new widow - Philip's cousin Rachel - arrives in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, mysterious woman. But could she have masterminded Ambrose's death?
Originally published: London: Gollancz, 1951.
7 11 18 37 96 119 135 151
Excerpt provided by Syndetics
Excerpt from Chapter One
They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days.
Not any more, though. Now, when a murderer pays the penalty for his crime, he does so up at Bodmin, after fair trial at the Assizes. That is, if the law convicts him, before his own conscience kills him. It is better so. Like a surgical operation. And the body has decent burial, though a nameless grave. When I was a child it was otherwise. I can remember as a little lad seeing a fellow hang in chains where the four roads meet. His face and body were blackened with tar for preservation. He hung there for five weeks before they cut him down, and it was the fourth week that I saw him.
He swung between earth and sky upon his gibbet, or, as my cousin Ambrose told me, betwixt heaven and hell. Heaven he would never achieve, and the hell that he had known was lost to him. Ambrose prodded at the body with his stick. I can see it now, moving with the wind like a weather-vane on a rusty pivot, a poor scarecrow of what had been a man. The rain had rotted his breeches, if not his body, and strips of worsted drooped from his swollen limbs like pulpy paper.
It was winter, and some passing joker had placed a sprig of holly in the torn vest for celebration. Somehow, at seven years old, that seemed to me the final outrage, but I said nothing. Ambrose must have taken me there for a purpose, perhaps to test my nerve, to see if I would run away, or laugh, or cry. As my guardian, father, brother, counsellor, as in fact my whole world, he was forever testing me. We walked around the gibbet, I remember, with Ambrose prodding and poking with his stick; and then he paused and lit his pipe, and laid his hand upon my shoulder.
'There you are, Philip,' he said, 'it's what we all come to in the end. Some upon a battlefield, some in bed, others according to their destiny. There's no escape. You can't learn the lesson too young. But this is how a felon dies. A warning to you and me to lead the sober life.' We stood there side by side, watching the body swing, as though we were on a jaunt to Bodmin fair, and the corpse was old Sally to be hit for coconuts. 'See what a moment of passion can bring upon a fellow,' said Ambrose. 'Here is Tom Jenkyn, honest and dull, except when he drank too much. It's true his wife was a scold, but that was no excuse to kill her. If we killed women for their tongues all men would be murderers.'
I wished he had not named the man. Up to that moment the body had been a dead thing, without identity. It would come into my dreams, lifeless and horrible, I knew that very well from the first instant I had set my eyes upon the gibbet. Now it would have connection with reality, and with the man with watery eyes who sold lobsters on the town quay. He used to stand by the steps in the summer months, his basket beside him, and he would set his live lobsters to crawl along the quay in a fantastic race, to make the children laugh. It was not so long ago that I had seen him.
'Well,' said Ambrose, watching my face, 'what do you make of him?'
I shrugged my shoulders, and kicked the base of the gibbet with my foot. Ambrose must never know I cared, that I felt sick at heart, and terrified. He would despise me. Ambrose at twenty-seven was god of all creation, certainly god of my own narrow world, and the whole object of my life was to resemble him.
'Tom had a brighter face when I saw him last,' I answered. 'Now he isn't fresh enough to become bait for his own lobsters.'
Ambrose laughed, and pulled my ears. 'That's my boy,' he said. 'Spoken like a true philosopher.' And then he added, with a sudden flash of perception, 'If you feel squeamish, go and be sick behind the hedge there, and remember I have not seen you.'
He turned his back upon the gibbet and the four roads, and went striding away down the new avenue he was planting at the time, which cut through the woods and was to serve
as a second carriage-way to the house. I was glad to see him go because I did not reach the hedge in time. I felt better afterwards, though my teeth chattered and I was very cold. Tom Jenkyn lost identity again, and became a lifeless thing, like an old sack. He was even a target for the stone I threw. Greatly daring, I watched to see the body move. But nothing happened. The stone hit the sodden clothing with a plonk, then shied away. Ashamed of my action I sped off down the new avenue in search of Ambrose.
Well, that was all of eighteen years ago, and to the best of my recollection I have not thought much of it since. Until these last few days. It is strange how in moments of great crisis the mind whips back to childhood. Somehow I keep thinking of poor Tom, and how he hung there in his chains. I never heard his story, and few people would remember it now. He killed his wife, so Ambrose said. And that was all. She was a scold, but that was no excuse for murder. Possibly, being over-fond of drink, he killed her in his cups. But how? And with what weapon? With a knife, or with his bare hands? Perhaps Tom
staggered forth from the inn upon the quay, that winter's night, all lit with love and fever. And the tide was high, splashing upon the steps, and the moon was also full, shining on the water. Who knows what dreams of conquest filled his unquiet mind, what sudden burst of fantasy?
He may have groped his way home to his cottage behind the church, a pale rheumy-eyed fellow stinking of lobster, and his wife lashed out at him for bringing his damp feet inside the door, which broke his dream, and so he killed her. That well might be his story. If there is survival after death, as we are taught to believe, I shall seek out poor Tom and question him. We will dream in purgatory together. But he was a middle-aged man of some sixty years or more, and I am five-and-twenty. Our dreams would not be the same. So go back into your shadows, Tom, and leave me some measure of peace. That gibbet has long since gone, and you with it. I threw a stone at you in ignorance. Forgive me.
The point is, life has to be endured, and lived. But how to live it is the problem. The work of day by day presents no difficulties. I shall become a Justice of the Peace, as Ambrose was, and also be returned, one day, to Parliament. I shall continue to be honoured and respected, like all my family before me. Farm the land well, look after the people. No one will ever guess the burden of blame I carry on my shoulders; nor will they know that every day, haunted still by doubt, I ask myself a question which I cannot answer. Was Rachel innocent or guilty? Maybe I shall learn that too, in purgatory.
How soft and gentle her name sounds when I whisper it. It lingers on the tongue, insidious and slow, almost like poison, which is apt indeed. It passes from the tongue to the parched lips, and from the lips back to the heart. And the heart controls the body, and the mind also. Shall I be free of it one day? In forty, in fifty years? Or will some lingering trace of matter in the brain stay pallid and diseased? Some minuscule cell in the blood stream fail to race with its fellows to the fountain heart? Perhaps, when all is said and done, I shall have no wish to be free. As yet, I cannot tell.
I still have the house to cherish, which Ambrose would have me do. I can reface the walls where the damp enters, and keep all sound and well and in repair. Continue to plant trees and shrubs, cover the bare hills where the wind comes roaring from the east. Leave some legacy of beauty when I go, if nothing else. But a lonely man is an unnatural man, and soon comes to perplexity. From perplexity to fantasy. From fantasy to madness. And so I swing back again to Tom Jenkyn, hanging in his chains. Perhaps he suffered too.Excerpted from My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.