The Past Tides
the untold story of Mrs. Danvers' past
Chapter One – Memories
Last night I dreamt of Kinsley Manor. I saw the big house with its gardens and I walked along the stony path up to the great door.
The moon shone upon the roof and was reflected in the windows.
My view was clouded with tears for it all felt as if I really were back on the old estate.
Then, like all dreamers, I was able to stand beside myself to simply observe rather than to actually act.
I recognized myself in that younger woman there on the path, standing upright with her hands clutching her dark blue dress, her long, black hair tightly held together in a bun and her still youthful face hardly showing the troubles it had to bear before.
Suddenly I heard a young girl's laugh and I saw her running along behind the woman.
"Catch me, Danny!" said the girl and with that she jumped into the air and was engulfed in blackness.
I woke, startled because of my dream, and sighed heavily.
These dreams continuously disturbed my sleep ever since they had found the body of my poor Rebecca about half a year ago.
I was not the woman anymore, who had walked along that path, especially not since that fateful day my lady had gone missing. My face was not youthful anymore, it was lined, drawn and full of dark shadows, my shining black hair had become gray and mat and I only wore black clothes nowadays.
I closed my eyes again, knowing that I would not be able to continue my sleep.
The other servants probably thought that I had no feelings, yet I was awaken by these strong emotions every night. By the memories of days gone by and a past nobody knew about.
Nobody but her, of course.
I stood up and walked over to my window.
You could not hear the waves from the servant's wing, but I always fancied that I could, just as I had often listened to them in her room. I felt closer to my lady, when the murmur of the tide reached my ears. To me it sounded as if the surf was calling her name.
The sky was dark above my head; the storm waiting in the clouds would probably break even before the dawn would.
I breathed in and felt the heavy and damp air fill my lungs.
Years ago my Rebecca would have run over the lawns of Kinsley Manor and she would have laughed, saying that she would never fear such a weak storm. Maybe the ghost of my young lady was out there this very night, waiting in that small house in the back corner of the old estate, like she used to when she was younger.
The thought of my poor girl felt as though I was stabbed right through my heart. I let my eyes run over the lawns and the trees, finally, after so many months, allowing my memories back in.
I pulled my coat closer around my shoulders. I had lost everything.
My mother, practically the only person who had been left of my closer relations, had died recently. We had never been rich and in the end she died of a really bad fever.
Heaven only knew why I myself was still alive, but I had figured that there might be something more left for me here.
I had been looking for employment almost everywhere during the last weeks until someone had told me about a wealthy man, who looked for a sort of governess for his daughter.
I was on my way there through the cold cobblestone streets on the edge of London.
My shoes were soaked already after I had directly stepped into a puddle upon leaving my coach.
Through the rain I saw a man walking towards me.
"Excuse me, sir, but I am looking for Kinsley Manor. Do you know where it is?" I asked.
He tipped his hat and with a thick accent answered: "´Course, Ma'am. That wall right here is Kinsley's, Ma'am. You'll find the gate few more yards ´round that corner o´there, Ma'am."
A bit confused still, I thanked him and continued on walking, hoping to soon be able to dry my clothes.
It felt as though I continued to walk for quite some time along that wall still until I eventually stood in front of the large gate.
I looked upon a big estate with a huge garden, which probably looked even more beautiful when the sun shone on it.
I found a smaller door at the side of the entrance and then followed a path leading up to the house.
The closer I got to it the more unrealistic it seemed. I had never before seen such an enchanting symmetry and such strange ornaments.
When I had reached the door, I even hesitated to knock, for it all felt so unreal that I feared I should wake up from some strange kind of dream should I even dare to touch anything.
Suddenly the door was opened before me and someone, who I figured to be the butler, looked at me with a queer sort of amusement in his eyes.
He must have seen me walking up the drive, I thought. I had managed to make a fool out of myself on my way here.
"I am Miss Danvers, the new governess." Was all I managed to say after a moment of unpleasant silence.
The man simply nodded and urged me to follow him into a room, which appeared to be some kind of drawing room, where he told me to sit down and wait for the master.
In the center of the room was a huge wooden table, surrounded by chairs with the same strange wood carvings, and the walls were lined with beautiful, smaller marble statues of what I believed to be gods. There was a large, antique hall clock standing on the other end of the room, too.
I approached it, wanting to take a closer look, when I suddenly heard a voice behind me.
"You must be the new governess. Miss..." "Danvers, sir." I answered after turning around to face my future employer. He looked fairly young and his eyes were kind.
"Miss Danvers, all right." He answered directly, "I think I shall have to warn you, Miss Danvers, that my young daughter is... Difficult to handle. I've had a most difficult time trying to keep governesses here, so that, for now, I'm only looking for a sort of companion for her, so it would be your duty to take care of her for as long as she needs someone. You see..."
He seemed to struggle with words and I could indeed see that his following words were not easy for him to say in such a formal way. "You see... Her mother died about a year ago and my poor Rebecca... Her mother always stood up for her and now it's a very harsh time for her still."
He paused and looked up at me as if he had actually forgotten who he had been talking to. "What I wanted to say is that she is not easy to handle and all previous governesses left the house in such a fury after a short time..."
"But, sir," I interrupted, "I am pretty sure that I will get along with your little Rebecca - That's her name, isn't it? - We'll get along sooner or later. How old is she?" "Six years. Can I assume that you will take this job?"
I could read in his face that he doubted the fact that I'd still wish to stay, he did not know of my vital need to find a new situation for myself, and I figured that many would have left after what he had told me about the nature of his young girl. I answered a plain Yes.
"Well then. As you now fill in the position of my daughter's governess you should get used to the name Mrs. Danvers, rather than Miss. That's just formal routine." He added after seeing the puzzled look on my face, "I think you would like to see the child in question now?"
He signaled me to follow him and showed me through the big hall to the great staircase.
There he pointed to a small door. "This, by the way, is the entrance to the servant's wing. You're room will not be here, as you will live in the room next to Rebecca's, but you will find the kitchen here, where you will eat with the other servants every day at nine in the morning and evening."
This was one of the things I dreaded most. Having to eat with the other servants seemed like a death sentence to me for they'd probably soon find out that I, who was still so very inexperienced, lived way better than all of them and I feared that somehow they might resent me for it.
After we had reached the top of the stairs, my employer, Sir Kinsley, showed me through a large gallery to a smaller room.
A young girl in a pale, pink dress sat there on the window ledge.
"This, Madame, is my daughter. I ask you to take care of my little angel." With that he gently stroked her beautiful black hair.
She looked up at him and then she turned to me. She eyed me with such cold assessment, which a six year old girl should not be capable of.
"But daddy, I'd rather have my mum back. Why can't she return?"
There was something really odd about this girl, who seemed far too grown up the one moment and the next so very childish. She was a natural beauty, anyone could see that, but I was not sure whether she was actually as young as her age suggested, for she seemed to be a lot smarter.
Her father turned to her with sadness in his voice and said in a low and broken tone:
"She just can't, Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers will be there for you from now on."
One could easily see how much it hurt him to disappoint his little angel. But it was also clear, that his daughter knew how to use this advantage.
Her eyes showed me that she did not want to have me here.
It was the same evening when I first sat in my small room next to Rebecca's. The fire was quite warm and I felt comfortable.
I had unpacked my little bag and put on my nightgown.
The bed was really soft and I thought I should be able to fall asleep soon, yet, no matter how content I felt, I could not sleep at all. I kept wondering how long I would be able to live here.
The girl next door had confused me and now she dominated my thoughts.
Her soft angel's face, framed by her long, black hair, with her clear and dark eyes staring at me with such an unpleasant undertone.
I wondered what had caused her to dislike me right from the start. After many waking hours I finally drifted over into sleep.
I was to be awaken the next morning by the sound of a starting car.
I remembered that Sir Kinsley had told me that he would go on a business trip today and would return in about a fortnight.
I stood up and went to my window.
The clouds were gone and the morning sun rose above the gardens. Indeed they were very beautiful in the light of day.
There were large fields of rhododendron surrounding the house. There also was an alley of trees which on either side was bordered with various kinds of wonderfully kept flowers. On second look I even saw a small lake in a far corner of the estate.
I leaned out of the window to take a closer look at it and suddenly saw another person looking out of the window next to mine.
Instantly I hid behind my curtain again.
I heard Rebecca laugh for the first time. She sounded happy.
When I peeked out of the window again, she had vanished.
It did not take long until her footsteps echoed in the gallery and I saw her running over the fields.
After a while I, too, went out into the garden, trying to find Rebecca, so I could get to know her, but I did not see her again for the whole afternoon.
I was starting to worry that she had left the estate on my first day in charge of her.
With the nearing dusk I reentered the building, only to find her at the dinner table, waiting for her supper.
I must have either just missed her or she wants to make a fool out of me, I thought.
I looked at the clock in the great hall. It was nine o'clock.
I had hardly eaten ever since I came to Kinsley Manor, but I could still not find the courage to eat with the other servants.
I put my hands on my aching stomach and climbed up the stairs to my room.
I was beginning to realize that I was terribly out of place here. I was not used to such a big household and I had no idea of how to handle young, wild girls, like Rebecca.
Time went by too slowly that evening and again I could find no sleep.
Then, suddenly, I heard something coming out of the inner room.
I heard her sing.
It was a song that my mother had often sung to me when I was younger, about a young bird wanting to spread his wings and fly out into the world.
Had I been younger I would have started to cry now, but I did not. Still I felt the tears well up behind my eyes and without noticing I started to hum the melody too.
Abruptly the singing stopped.
"I know you're there behind the door. Come in." She whispered, loud enough for me to hear.
I turned to door knob and entered her room.
She sat there on the bed with visible tears in her eyes.
"It was my mother's song." She continued, "She always sang it to me when I was sad."
Then, as if she had just recalled that she had asked me in, she turned to me.
"Why did you come here? What good do you think you can do? You cannot bring my mother back and that is all I'd need. I do not need you!"
I sighed and decided that I should tell her.
"My mother died, too. About one month ago. I have nobody left to care about me, no home and no family. I was alone and broke. That is why I needed a job so badly. I have no qualifications and I'm just out of place here. If you want you can tell your father. He'll probably sack me then, but I won't be the last governess, you know?"
I looked directly into her eyes. This had not been what she expected.
She wanted to say something more, but I could not bear it.
I left the room and looked the door behind me.
I was ripped out of my sleep the following morning by the sound of some servants shouting out in the garden.
Still sleepy, I rubbed my eyes and went to my window.
Several people were scurrying around the chestnut tree near the small lake. Only upon second sight I could see that someone was actually sitting on one of the lower branches.
The blood in my veins froze.
I did not take the time to open up the door in my room, but entered through the one in the hallway.
I found Rebecca's room empty and my worries confirmed.
I looked out of her window again.
All of a sudden I realized that this was the moment to show her that I was different.
Quickly I put on my clothes, hurried down the stairs and out into the sunlight. I ran into the direction of the lake and, once I had reached it, broke through the wall of protesting servants.
"Get away from here and pursue your own tasks. The young Miss Kinsley is under my care now and I can fully take care of her myself." I shouted determined.
An old woman, dressed in a gray frock with white ruffles, took a step forward and looked directly into my eyes.
"You, young lady, are too very inexperienced to take care of such a little scamp as that one up there. We've known her longer than you do. Just look at her! She's not even wearing a dress, but those old trousers. No woman of rank should dress like that. Especially not ones in her age, in which the character is shaped."
I looked up at Rebecca and chuckled. She was indeed wearing old and partly ripped trousers. I turned to face my opponent again.
"It is my business. And I ask you to stay out of it as this is my duty and not yours." And, with a sweeping gesture, I added. "If any of you has got any problem with that, I assume you should go and complain to the master of the house instead of discussing the topic with me."
Something in my eyes must have convinced them, for they all spun around, shaking their heads, and left without another word.
I sighed. Hopefully I had done the right thing.
Then I turned around and climbed up to Rebecca, which I could for when I had been her age I often liked to climb trees, too.
Upon trying to reach her I ripped my dress, but I did not care for it right now. I just silently sat down next to the young girl.
For a few minutes we sat in complete silence, she pretended not to take any notice of me, while I just wanted to get used to this new situation.
After a while I looked at her. "Well? Do you like it up here or did you just want to make a mess?" I said with a teasing undertone.
For the first time she really looked at me without all that hatred.
"I think there are way too many rules since my mother… left. Back then I could almost do whatever I had wanted and she had been there to back me up, but now… All the same, I do like it up here."
She looked up to where a little bird had build its nest. I smiled.
"You know, that you're father is just worried, do you? He misses your mother just as much as you do, I suppose, and he's afraid of losing you too."
I turned my head over to Rebecca.
Anyone who had really seen her would be afraid of losing her. She was very different and very beautiful. She wore an old sailing suit. Her even and soft face seemed to shine in the light of this yet young day, while her dark, brown hair was falling loosely over her shoulders. Her black, shining eyes were upon me.
"Afraid of losing me?"
I put my arm around her shoulder carefully, not sure whether she'd approve of it, and told her in a soft voice, that she was his daughter and that he'd love her and fear to lose her no matter what.
"And now come down." I added. "Before that lot will come back and try to get us both down."
Rebecca started to laugh.
I climbed down again and she followed my lead.
When she stood next me she observed my dress. "It's ripped." She commented.
I chuckled. "It doesn't matter. I can sew it together later."
"Can you?" She looked surprised. "Could you maybe sew my new Sunday dress? I ripped it the first day, when I tried to row my little boat on the lake. It's getting a little hard to keep it a secret."
"Of course I can." I smiled at her.
She somehow seemed younger than she did the day before. She was gay and showed me around the big estate, finally welcoming me to her home.
At the end of the day she showed me into a small house on the other end of the lake.
It was quite nice, there was a small table with her belongings standing in the corner and there also was a small couch.
She pulled me to a door and said that she kept her boat there. She opened it and indeed there was a small rowing boat.
Rebecca climbed inside and took out a little box.
She explained to me that I would find her Sunday dress in there and told me to come here sometime and repair it.
Afterwards we eventually reentered the house, where she was already expected for dinner.
Out of a sudden urge I told Rebecca to sleep well and not to break too many rules the next day, for there was something I had to do and that I would return the next evening.
I told the butler to order a coach for me so that I could spend the following day abroad.
He looked puzzled at first, probably thinking that I would leave for good, but after I had explained myself to him and asked him to keep it secret, he approved and ordered the carriage for six o'clock the next morning.
When that day came I took my little bag and, as the sun rose over Kinsley Manor, I was already on my way to the other end of London.
This will be a longer version of my One-Shot called "My Lady...".
I always wanted to get a closer look at the past of Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca, so here it is.
The chapters might be quite short most of the time, but I'll try to put in what I think is necessary.
Many of the characters used belong to the original novel, "Rebecca", so they belong to Daphne Du Maurier.
Please review this story, as I am only starting and want to improve right from the start.