My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 21 | Summary



On March 31, Philip returns to the bank, this time for the jewels. He visits Nick to show him Ambrose's unsigned will and the new document turning over the Ashley fortune to Rachel. Nick wishes Philip had discussed it with him, maybe even with Rainaldi. Philip denounces Rainaldi. Nick asks if Philip is infatuated with Rachel. He admits only to "respect and honour." Nick says local gossip focuses on nothing else besides Rachel staying so long in Philip's house. Would he consider asking her to marry him, thereby ending the chatter and the transfer of property. Philip says she would not have him. Nick tells him then to sign and accept the consequences and is compelled to say to him, "There are some women, good women very possibly, who through no fault of their own impel disaster. Whatever they touch somehow turns to tragedy."

After the signing, Philip goes home but he is too excited to sit still. He wants to walk, run, and swim in the moonlight. Rachel warns against it saying he will be sick in bed for his birthday. But he is in such high spirits, she sends him outside to tire himself with a run. He does indeed take a swim in icy waters. When he returns before midnight, he calls up to Rachel's window. He throws a string to her with a basket to haul. She fears it holds crabs or lobsters for a practical joke. He follows the basket by climbing up the creeper wire. Rachel cautions him, "Be careful ... you will fall and break your neck." Philip wraps Rachel in a blanket and places her on the bed. He opens all the wrappers and covers her in the jewels. He says he knows what his life lacks now, and the comfort of his house is no longer enough. Rachel puts out the candle. When Philip leaves at sunrise, he wonders "if any man before me had been accepted in marriage in quite so straight a fashion."


The long-awaited time is here: Philip's birthday. Now he is able to set in motion his plan to give Rachel everything he has. He starts with the jewels, the symbol of his love and his fortune, including the pearls, symbol of marriage.

Next, he attempts to give her his love and commitment by asking her to marry him, oddly contradicting his earlier refusal to do so saying "she would not have me." He refers to his comment about getting all the love and warmth he needs from his house by saying he knows what he is missing now. Rachel appears to be on the same wavelength and they spend the night together, but his words seem too cryptic in retrospect when in Chapter 22 she does not consider herself engaged. Perhaps she thought he meant his life was missing a physical relationship.

Finally, Philip gives Rachel his house, his land, and all his property. The house is a symbol of his family name and legacy, land ownership, class, and status, and it brings power, money, and security to its owner. It is what Philip loves most, as part of the world he and Ambrose created and occupied, at least until Rachel. The house represents the happy untroubled years before she came into it. By giving it away he brings an end to the life he has led until now and begins a new phase with situations that may prove to be beyond his control.

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