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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Philip returns home during the first week of September. The neighborhood is in mourning, but Philip is grateful to be back. The servants are now more formal and deferential, calling him "Mr. Philip" as master of the house. Philip lets his imaginings of Ambrose's suffering and Rachel as a monster disperse as he realizes, with elation, the house, the estate—everything he loves—is his alone. "I need never share it with anyone living," he thinks.

Nick reads the will to Philip. Ambrose has provided for Nick to be Philip's guardian until he officially inherits the estate at age 25, seven months away. The will has no provision for Rachel, and Nick says she has not made a claim for a settlement through Rainaldi. Philip thinks she should not make a claim because "she drove him to his death." Nick scolds him for talking that way. Philip shows him the last letter, but Nick attributes it to Ambrose's personality change caused by illness and warns Philip against slander.

After dinner Philip and Louise talk; Louise agrees with Philip's perceptions about Rachel. Louise says she would have questioned the Italian servants about Rachel's looks, activities, and first husband—she speculates Rachel had numerous lovers. Some of their exchanges make Louise blush, as Philip, with his lack of experience around women, unintentionally flirts. A week later Nick summons Philip to tell him Rachel has arrived in Plymouth.

Analysis

Back home, Philip is thrilled he will not be forced to share the house with a woman, or worse, children. He begins to realize he is a landowner now—the servants work for him and behave as such—everything belongs to him. However, it is naïve of him to think this way before knowing the contents of his cousin's will. His inexperience also has caused him not to consider the idea of a husband leaving everything to his wife. Philip is not surprised to learn he is the heir to all the property, but in his inexperience he is not the least curious about why his cousin's wife is not provided for. His elation seems more like relief at being able to continue living as he has before rather than elation about owning the property and the financial advantages it brings.

When Nick points out to him Rachel has received nothing, the men think Ambrose's illness and being abroad caused an oversight. Philip's sense of justice suggests Rachel should not ask for a settlement because in his eyes she is the reason Ambrose died. The tension escalates again—Philip is not dropping his vendetta against Rachel. He shows Nick the last letter with the words "Rachel my torment," but Nick does not take up the fight and once again insists Ambrose suffered from a brain tumor. Nick, although loyal to the Ashley men, never invests in the idea of Rachel's guilt (except as a spendthrift).

Louise, on the other hand, considers it at times. Closer to Philip's age and perhaps of a more imaginative or romantic nature, she generally agrees with his take on the situation. She also wonders if Sangalletti's duel was over Rachel and if she had many lovers. Putting herself in opposition to Rachel initially is a way of aligning herself with Philip as a future wife might do, and later in the novel, is a kind of jealous self-defense as Rachel encroaches on her territory. All is lost on Philip, of course, who sees Louise only as a childhood friend and thinks "how odd girls were." It seems almost impossible to believe he is so obtuse, but du Maurier demonstrates this trait with Louise first so it is well established by the time Rachel comes along and no insight is expected of him. If readers have doubts, Nick actually states, "You have grown up ignorant of women."

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