My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 8 | Summary



A low voice tells him to enter, and Philip finds Rachel sitting in the window seat looking out over the garden. As she approaches, he notices how small she is. Her large eyes widen in recognition. They sit by the fire, and she relates the story Ambrose told her of 10-year-old Philip discovering the puppy Don in his piecrust on his birthday.

Rachel apologizes for not coming down for dinner, and Philip thinks of the time wasted in keeping her waiting. They have a conversation about her trip, her rooms—they are the ones Ambrose and she intended to share—and family history. She knows more about Aunt Phoebe than Philip does. The story makes him smile in spite of himself. He vows not to let himself smile again, even though Rachel seems to be laughing on the inside. They have tea, and Philip is surprised Rachel does not mind his smoking a pipe in the boudoir, all so different from his expectations. He nods off, and Rachel tells him to go to bed. They plan to visit the grounds tomorrow, Philip leading Rachel on a calm horse if a sidesaddle can be found. Rachel gives Ambrose's walking stick to Philip and asks him to leave quickly. In Ambrose's room Philip recalls the beggar woman in Italy, thinking "it must be because the eyes are the same colour and they belong to the same race. Otherwise they could have nothing in common, the beggar woman beside the Arno and my cousin Rachel."


Philip finds his expectations of Rachel completely incorrect; the reality of Rachel is altogether different. Instead of a large, looming monster he finds a small, quiet, and unremarkable woman. Instead of a probing busybody who wants to change everything, he finds Rachel tolerates his smoking and nodding off, accepting him as he is—a callow youth. He even finds himself smiling and laughing. In fact his attitude toward Rachel is changing very quickly, especially because he finds her unlike not only his expectation of her but also of his limited expectations and knowledge of women. In a short space of time he finds "this is not at all the way I had intended to spend the evening. I had planned a few words of icy courtesy and an abrupt farewell, leaving the interloper snubbed, dismissed." Instead he is beginning to be charmed; Rachel's company is not at all unpleasant.

Rachel is knowledgeable about the Ashley family stories and the property to Philip's surprise. Her knowledge reveals her connection to Ambrose and the detailed conversations they had in their time together before his illness. Of all the pictures Philip had painted in his mind of Rachel, this was not one of them. From the start of her interaction with him and Nick after Ambrose's death, she has been nothing but proper and polite, making no demands or upsetting routine, other than having the servants do some significant cleaning and polishing—and those not on Rachel's orders.

The additional significance of Rachel's knowing family stories, such as the puppy in the piecrust and Aunt Phoebe's love life, establishes an instant familiarity between Philip and her. Furthermore he has just lost the one member of his family, the only person to reminisce with and to pass down family history. Rachel is older than Philip by at least 10 ten years, and orphaned Philip does not remember his mother—he could look up to Rachel as a mother figure, especially when she sends him off to bed and, later in the novel, pats his shoulder and calls him a "good boy." Indeed it is Rachel's maternal attitude that wins Philip to her—either Rachel's true nature or her understanding of Philip's emotional needs and acting on them for her purposes.

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