Jack Favell tells Colonel Julyan that he and Rebecca were lovers, and Maxim was so jealous of their illicit relationship that he killed Rebecca. He insists that Rebecca planned to marry him after leaving Maxim and that she would never have committed suicide. Because of his drunkenness, Colonel Julyan is disinclined to believe Jack Favell and asks him to provide evidence that he and Rebecca were truly lovers. Jack Favell summons Ben, who, he claims, had witnessed him and Rebecca together at the boathouse. The narrator suddenly remembers Ben’s comments about the woman who reminded him of a snake and went into the sea; she realizes that Ben did witness Jack Favell with Rebecca and Rebecca threatened to send him to an asylum if he told anyone.
While they are waiting for Robert to fetch Ben, Jack Favell continues to harass Maxim and the narrator, even making an insinuation about Frank Crawley having a sexual relationship with the narrator after Maxim is executed. Maxim punches Jack Favell in the face, and the narrator wonders if Colonel Julyan is beginning to suspect something. When Ben arrives, he denies ever having seen Favell at the boathouse with Rebecca. Jack Favell tries to press him on the subject, but Ben begins to cry, muttering about being sent to an asylum.
Jack Favell then sends for Mrs. Danvers to serve as a witness to his affair with Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers tells Colonel Julyan that Rebecca and Jack Favell were lovers but declares that Rebecca never truly cared about him and never intended to leave Maxim to marry Favell. Colonel Julyan asks Mrs. Danvers if she knows of any motive that Rebecca might have had for committing suicide. She rejects the possibility but brings out Rebecca’s date book so that Colonel Julyan can determine her schedule on the day she died. The date book reveals that Rebecca had an appointment with a women’s specialist in London named Dr. Baker. Colonel Julyan decides that they will interview the doctor the next morning and finally conclude the matter.
The narrator and Maxim both conclude that Dr. Baker will confirm that Rebecca was pregnant with Jack Favell’s child. This knowledge will give Colonel Julyan the necessary evidence and motive that he needs to arrest Maxim for murder. When they visit Dr. Baker, however, they learn that Rebecca visited him under the name of “Mrs. Danvers” and was not pregnant. In fact, the physician confirms that she had a malformed uterus and was unable to have children. Instead, Rebecca was suffering from a rare form of incurable cancer and only had a few months left to live when he examined her.
Dr. Baker’s testimony gives Colonel Julyan the motive that he needs to confirm that Rebecca committed suicide. Although the case is officially closed, he recommends that Maxim and the narrator leave the area until the gossip dies down. Shocked at the revelation of Rebecca’s cancer, Jack Favell goes off on his own, but not before warning Maxim that he will get Maxim “in a different way.”
Maxim and the narrator begin the long drive back to Manderley. On the way, Maxim calls Frith and learns that Mrs. Danvers has disappeared. He suspects that something might be wrong and decides to drive through the night to reach Manderley. The narrator falls asleep in the car and dreams that she sees Maxim tie a rope of hair around Rebecca’s neck. When she wakes up, she sees an orange glow on the horizon but realizes that it is in the wrong direction to be the sunrise. As they reach the crest of the hill the estate, they see Manderley engulfed in flames.
The scene in Dr. Baker’s office resolves the final pieces of the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s death. Both Maxim and the narrator believe that Dr. Baker will confirm that Rebecca was pregnant with Jack Favell’s child when she died and thus, give Colonel Julyan a reason to arrest Maxim. Dr. Baker’s revelation about Rebecca’s cancer completely changes the course of the investigation. Not only was Rebecca dying of cancer—a diagnosis that suggests that her immoral behavior had consumed her from the inside—but Dr. Baker confirms that Rebecca was incapable of having children.
This unexpected information about Rebecca’s health serves as a resolution of Maxim’s guilt over killing Rebecca. Faced with a painful and slow death from cancer after a few months, Rebecca chose instead a quick and violent death and manipulated Maxim into shooting her. In essence, Rebecca did commit suicide, just as the coroner concluded at the inquest. Maxim views Rebecca’s actions as further evidence of her spiteful personality: by manipulating him into killing her, Rebecca was assured that Maxim would be tormented by her memory longer after she died.
Another possibility is that Rebecca simply wanted to die with the same passion that she had demonstrated throughout her life. Considering her courage and spirit Rebecca would certainly have abhorred the thought of slowly fading away to cancer. A traditional suicide would have been a signal of cowardly defeat and thus similarly unacceptable. In the end, the only logical option for Rebecca was to be killed by Maxim and at least die quickly and with honor. There is no evidence that Rebecca planned to commit suicide in such a way after she received her diagnosis from Dr. Baker; the note that she wrote to Jack Favell does suggest that she intended to tell him about her cancer that night. Yet, when Maxim confronted her in the boathouse, she recognized the opportunity to take immediate action.
The knowledge of Rebecca’s sterility is yet another coup for the narrator as the new Mrs. de Winter. After months of being convinced that Rebecca was the perfect wife, the narrator is now assured that Rebecca was inferior to her in everything but superficial qualities. Although she was “Mrs. de Winter” in name, Rebecca lacked the ability to fulfill her most important duty as Maxim’s wife and mistress of Manderley: bringing forth a new life and ensuring future generations of de Winters at Manderley.
Although all of the novel’s primary issues seem to be resolved by this visit to Dr. Baker, the reader is still aware from the first few chapters of the book that Maxim and the narrator cannot escape entirely unscathed. Despite any ulterior motives on Rebecca’s part, Maxim still murdered his wife and concealed the truth of his actions from those around him. Justice requires that Maxim and the narrator make a painful sacrifice to atone for their behavior, and in the end, the sacrifice is Manderley itself.
Manderley’s destruction is particularly painful for Maxim who had already sacrificed his first marriage and sense of morality in order to maintain Manderley’s beauty. Yet, at the same time, Manderley’s destruction is necessary to ensure that Maxim and the narrator can move forward with their marriage. The Manderley that they know and love is inseparable from Rebecca; her presence is felt in every household decoration, every order to the servants, even in the scent of azaleas in the Happy Valley. In her dream about Rebecca at the end of the novel, the narrator expresses her understanding that Rebecca’s spirit is still strong and will never give them any peace while they live at the house. The cleansing purity of fire destroys all remnants of the house and, while difficult to bear, promises that Maxim and the narrator will finally be free from the past.