The gardens of Manderley

The gardens of Manderley were written up in several guide-books, a tourist guide, and two or three eldritch tomes of almost-unspeakble evil.  I'd read the reviews in the guide books, refused to endorse the tourist guide, and had all three of the eldritch tomes in the library but had refused to open them.  Despite the fact that the spelling in these books was rumoured to be so poor as to render the words therein unpronounceable I worried a little that that wasn't what was meant by unspeakable.  And I was cautious about finding out.

I strolled out as casually as I could in case either Rebecca or Mrs. Danvers were watching me, spying out my movements and plotting to outplot me.  The lawns were smooth and manicured, trimmed by nail scissors by the under-gardener and his boy.  I remembered watching them at their back-breaking labour, knelt on the ground, eyes merely inches above the blade of grass they were measuring and cutting, then turning my eyes away to the wages book and wondering how much less I could afford to pay them.  The lawns stretched out, finally edged by the cypress trees that rustled their branches when there was no wind and in which no bird dared nest.  Beyond the cypresses, a narrow paved path divided in two, one fork leading to the statuary and the other to the apiary.

Max de Winter loved bees, and the apiary was his.  I avoided it, bees being gossips and probably siding with Rebecca who would have known them longer than I, and I wended my way instead to the statuary.  There, amidst grotesqueries and gargoyles, I found the gardener sitting at the foot of a forty-foot high statue of Medusa, smoking a pipe with the enthusiasm of a crash-dieter who's just found the cream-cakes.

"Diarmid," I said, observing to myself that steam trains puffed slower than he pulled on his pipe, "dear Diarmid.  Did you know that Rebecca has returned?"

His face turned white and his pipe fell from his lips, bouncing on his lap and tumbling onto its side on the grass between his thighs.  It continued to smoulder.

"That's impossible, Missus," he said at length.  "I remember checking that her back was broken."

"I thought she was washed out to sea after she was thrown from her horse?"

"...that would be true," he said, his hand patting the ground and searching for his pipe while his eyes stayed locked on mine.  "I was checking to see that her back... how badly injured she was, when the water seized her body and dragged it away from me."

"I see.  Well, she has returned, and she will be having a barbecue in the gardens later."

"We don't have anywhere for a barbecue, Missus!"

"She proposes to burn my belongings as a way of creating the coals, I believe."

To my pleasure, and secret relief, Diarmid looked more furious than shocked now, and he came to his feet like an elderly Jack exploding from its box and nodding around on its spring.  "I won't allow it, Missus!" he said, and hurried from the statuary in the direction of the tied cottages.  There, he and the under gardener, and the under gardener's boy, and a family of semi-blind hedgehogs lived together in buildings I wouldn't house a dog in.  I allowed myself a small smile as it seemed that Rebecca still lacked friends among the household staff.

The End

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