My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

After breakfast, Philip and Wellington locate a sidesaddle for Rachel, who has no riding experience. Philip is surprised to hear Wellington call Rachel "the mistress" and thinks he and the other servants are foolish and overexcited about having a woman in the house.

At noon, Philip finds Rachel instructing Tamlyn about placement of the plants and shrubs she and Ambrose had collected. More are set to arrive, and she may be gone by that time. She promises to send a remedy for Mrs. Tamlyn's sore throat, and Tamlyn praises Rachel's gardening knowledge.

Philip sits down to lunch while Rachel changes clothes for riding. Philip is grateful she does not require waiting on or special treatment, but he is somewhat irritated because his attempts at sarcasm amuse rather than offend her.

As they tour the estate, Philip quizzes Rachel on the names of the fields and the tenant families—she knows them perfectly to Philip's amazement. She reflects on designing her first garden at the villa when she was unhappily married to her first husband. She wonders what Philip would think of it, and he realizes she doesn't know he was there. He kicks himself for being a coward and not telling her last night or even now, but as the opportunity passes, he vows to tell her after dinner. When Rachel asks what is bothering him, he asks what Nick's letter said, and her reply does not include Philip's visit to Italy. Finally, he says he learned of Ambrose's death in Florence from her servants. Her response is a long searching look filled with "both compassion and reproach."

Analysis

Aside from the unintended consequence of annoying Philip, the servants calling Rachel "the mistress," signifies a title meant for the owner of the property. They would have used the title if she and Ambrose had come to live on the estate or if she had inherited the estate from him, which the servants know she did not. This slip of the tongue foreshadows Rachel's becoming owner of the estate or Philip's hope she will become his wife. This possibility might not yet be on any character's mind, but readers may recall the opening chapter and react to the phrase as a hint of the future.

When Tamlyn mentions Rachel's extensive gardening knowledge and specifically the herbal remedies she makes herself, the author is laying the groundwork for Rachel's ability to poison someone. The author has not yet mentioned poison directly, but readers may share the suspicion long before Chapter 18 in which Ambrose's lost letter appears and reveals his suspicions: "Are they trying to poison me?"

Philip's expectation of his own behavior is vastly different from the reality of it. His attempts at cutting remarks are construed as witty banter. He notices himself relaxing because Rachel does not require special treatment, no turning the household upside down as he feared. When he realizes Rachel does not know he has already been to her home in Florence when she was not there, Philip, in a major turnaround, feels awkward about telling her. This emotion is a major change of heart from his initial intention to snub her and treat her poorly. In fact, he finds he does not want to upset Rachel, who would "wonder why I had said nothing of it sooner." He is not ready to initiate the long-awaited conversation about how Ambrose died—or is Philip beginning to doubt his convictions? Either way, instead of rushing to confront, Philip actively seeks to avoid discord.

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