My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

Rachel works in the garden with an eye toward pleasing Philip and future heirs, although Philip is "quite resolved to remain a bachelor." To Rachel's amusement, he remarks, "If it's warmth and comfort that a man wants, and something beautiful to look upon, he can get all that from his own house if he loves it well." She laughs, saying "poor Louise," but Philip does not see the humor.

It is October, and they begin visiting the tenants. Rachel puts them at ease and offers remedies for their ailments, her interest in gardening encompassing herbal cures and tisanas, like herbal tea without the actual tea. When people in the county repay her visits and Rachel relays gossip to Philip, he now tells her "I like to hear you talk." She teases him repeatedly about marriageable young women and getting all the warmth from his house. She then teasingly says she will marry Nick if she must marry anyone. Although he laughs, Philip wonders "about it with mistrust" and sulks when Nick next comes to dinner and sits next to Rachel.

It rains for days, so they unpack Ambrose's trunk. When Rachel cries while sorting the clothes, Philip holds her and calls her Rachel instead of cousin, saying "Let me do it, Rachel, go downstairs." Philip finds a fragment of a note from Ambrose saying Rachel inherited a disease like kleptomania: "This much I do know, dear boy, that I cannot any longer—nay, I dare not—let her have command over my purse, or I shall be ruined, and the estate will suffer." Ambrose tells him to warn Nick, but Philip burns the note. Rachel recognizes the handwriting as it burns, but Philip says it is just an old scrap.

Analysis

Philip's comment about finding all the warmth one needs from one's house comes from du Maurier's deep and abiding attachment to Menabilly, her house in Cornwall and the inspiration for Philip's house. Rachel teases him about this sentiment and his lack of interest in marriage, implying he will be missing something by remaining a bachelor. Rachel also needles Philip about Louise, aligning the two young, single people and jokes about the eligible widowers in the area, aligning herself with the older generation. Pretending they should invite creepy drunkard "old St. Ives" to dinner, Rachel suggests, "We could have a party. The prettiest young women for you and the best-favoured widowers for me." Lord St. Ives's age (50) highlights another potential obstacle to a romance growing between Philip and Rachel: the difference in their ages. Philip is taken aback by Rachel's mischievous suggestion she had already decided if she must choose a widower it would be Nick, saying, "Why, damn it, Cousin Rachel, he's nearing sixty; and he's never without a chill or some complaint."

Rachel's motive in mentioning their age difference may be to make herself seem less attainable and thus more desirable in his inexperienced eyes, whereas Louise and other young women are eager for his attentions. If Rachel is indeed perceptive and does understand Philip's behavior, she knows he will react negatively toward being pushed into a romantic relationship with Louise, whom he has not considered in such terms. However, by whatever means available, Rachel must plant the seeds of marriage into Philip's head, transforming him just as she plants and transforms the garden with her plants from Italy; all are part of the grand scheme.

Philip's ardor is revealed when he calls Rachel by name instead of "cousin," and his new compassion and emotional availability are shown when he comforts and embraces her, instead of running away, when she cries. He is aware of this change: "I had barely noticed it myself—that for the first time I had not called her cousin, but Rachel ... I think it must have been because, standing there, with my arms about her, she had been so much smaller than myself." His experience of tenderness and protectiveness over her because of her small size contrasts with Rachel's maternal treatment of him as "a good boy."

Ambrose's note appears as a warning Philip ignores and burns instead. When Rachel notices it anyway, Philip makes a conscious choice to lie about it—"It was just some note he had made ... on an old scrap of paper"—hypocritical of someone so recently suspicious of Rachel's honesty and integrity. He is avoiding confrontation, but the result is the same: "the silence had come between" them.

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