My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 17 | Summary



The dinner is a success: plentiful and delicious food, laughter, and little presents left near everyone's plate by Rachel. Philip is happy, Rachel says she is happy, but Nick is not. He tells Philip Rachel has overdrawn her account by triple her allowance even though she has no expenses living in Philip's house. Nick wonders if she is sending money out of the country and disapproves when Philip tells him to cover the overdraft and increase Rachel's allowance.

Nick reprimands Philip for removing the pearl collar—"The property is not yet yours ... for a further three months." He reminds Philip the collar is for brides and reports new information from friends who say Rachel is known for extravagance. The friends predicted she would run through the Ashley money in months. Further, he wants the pearl collar returned to the bank for three months until Philip is the legal heir. Nick says the pearls will cause gossip among the tenants who expect to see them only on a bride. Philip feels reluctant to ask for the return of a gift, but Rachel overhears and gives the collar to Nick.

Later, Philip asks Rachel if she knows why he wanted her to have the collar. She says because Ambrose would have given it to her for their wedding if they had married in England. He wonders if she is lacking perception.


The symbol of the pearl collar plays a major role in the chapter. Nick's disapproval shows Philip is going against good judgment and common sense. Nick's friends' warnings add further fuel. Nick worries about others' perceiving a romantic connection between Rachel and Philip because of the bridal connotations of the collar, not knowing the connection is already underway. Philip is moving toward open acknowledgement of the romance, so he is not opposed to people seeing them as together.

He wants to hear Rachel is thinking the same thing, so he asks her why she thinks he gave her the pearls. Whether Rachel is guilty or innocent, it is impossible she would be obtuse, as Philip suspects, but her reply, "Ambrose would have given them to me on our wedding day," pulls back the forward momentum of the kiss. Does Rachel know Philip wants to marry her, and she is being coy? Toward what end? Innocent Rachel might not want to push young, inexperienced Philip into a life-changing decision. Or guilty Rachel might be holding out for much more than a pearl collar, for example, any kind of full-blown commitment that would put her in line for the estate.

When the pearls are around her neck, Rachel is kissing Philip; when they go back to storage, she says they are from Ambrose. Symbolically, the pearl collar starts Philip and Rachel down the aisle toward marriage, but its forced return to the bank halts the progression of their relationship.

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