After a short honeymoon in France and Italy, the narrator and Maxim arrive at Manderley. The narrator feels increasingly anxious about her future role as the mistress of Manderley, but Maxim assumes that she is simply tired. At the house, Maxim and the narrator are welcomed by the entire household staff, assembled by the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. The narrator is intimidated by the number of servants but especially by Mrs. Danvers, who greets her with a stern formality and reminds her of a skeleton.
After the initial greeting, Maxim and the narrator have tea in the library, where the narrator meets Jasper, Maxim’s pet cocker spaniel. While Maxim reads his mail, Mrs. Danvers takes the narrator to see her room in the east wing. Mrs. Danvers is formal and polite, but the narrator has a sense that Mrs. Danvers is resentful of her. She also learns that Mrs. Danvers was Rebecca’s personal maid and first came to Manderley after Rebecca’s marriage to Maxim. In a final effort to improve their relationship, the narrator assures Mrs. Danvers that she will not interfere in the way that Manderley is run. Maxim comes to take the narrator down to dinner, and she begins to think about how she has taken Rebecca’s place as the mistress of Manderley.
The next morning, the narrator is still in awe of her new surroundings. She is uncertain how to behave with the servants and feels that she is overstepping her bounds by requesting any change from the normal order of things. Frith recommends that she spend the morning in the morning room, where the first Mrs. De Winter would write her letters. The narrator immediately notices Rebecca’s taste in the selection of the furniture and decorations. When examining the notes on the writing desk, she recognizes the same slanted handwriting from the inscription in the book of poetry.
Later, Maxim’s sister, Beatrice, and her husband come to Manderley for a short visit. The narrator dreads greeting them and decides to avoid them in the house until Maxim returns. She quickly becomes lost among the passages and finds herself in the west wing of the house. Mrs. Danvers runs into her, and the narrator immediately has the sense that she is trespassing on Mrs. Danvers’ domain. Mrs. Danvers escorts her back to the morning room to meet Beatrice and her husband, as well as Frank Crawley, the overseer of the estate.
The narrator feels awkward at this first meeting but soon enters into conversation with Beatrice, a large, athletic woman with a great love of horses. Beatrice encourages her to find some activities to do while at Manderley and recommends that she try to be a figure of authority to the servants. She admits that Mrs. Danvers adored Rebecca, so the narrator might have a difficult time establishing a good rapport with her. As she is about to leave, Beatrice apologizes for all of her questions and tactless statements, justifying her behavior by asserting that the narrator is “just so different from Rebecca.”
As soon as Beatrice and Giles leave, Maxim gives the narrator a mackintosh to wear and takes her on a long walk around the grounds with Jasper. He shows the narrator the Happy Valley, a beautiful valley filled with azaleas, and the narrator is suddenly overwhelmed with love for Manderley. Beyond the Happy Valley, Maxim and the narrator come upon a small cove and begin playing fetch with Jasper. After a short time, Jasper disappears beyond the rocks, and the narrator follows him, although Maxim urges her to leave him. Over the rocks, the narrator discovers a small harbor and a deserted boathouse. Jasper is barking at a mentally disabled man on the beach, and the narrator goes into the boathouse to find a piece of string to tie up Jasper.
When the narrator returns to the cove with Jasper, Maxim is unexplainably angry. He denounces her decision to go after Jasper and suddenly has the same tormented expression that he had on the cliff in Monte Carlo. The narrator apologizes for arguing with him, and they return to the library for afternoon tea. The narrator notices something in the pocket of her borrowed mackintosh: a lipstick-stained handkerchief with the initials “R de W” that has the same azalea scent as the Happy Valley.
With the introduction of Mrs. Danvers in Chapter 7, Du Maurier creates a physical representation of Rebecca’s “ghost” at Manderley. Although the decorations of the house already suggest Rebecca’s presence because she was the one who selected them, Mrs. Danvers serves as a more palpable reminder. In this way, Du Maurier makes it possible for the narrator to come in conflict with the ghost of Rebecca through an earthly representative.
At this initial meeting, the narrator does not know the extent of Mrs. Danvers’ relationship with Maxim’s first wife, but she does recognize malevolence in the character. In particular, she notes a feeling of “unrest” when Mrs. Danvers looks at her, a fact that foreshadows the narrator’s future interactions with the housekeeper and suggests the unrest that the narrator will feel throughout her time at Manderley.
In this way, Mrs. Danvers’ characterization also becomes one of the first examples of the Gothic literary genre in the text. Gaunt and skeletal, Mrs. Danvers’ presence is a clear change in tone from the description of the whirlwind love affair in Monte Carlo. The way that she is presented—hostile and distinct from the other servants—suggests that she is meant to add a sense of suspense and unease to both the narrator and the reader. Moreover, because of the way that she was described in the introduction of the novel, the readers know that whatever happened to the narrator had something to do with Mrs. Danvers.
Significantly, even while describing Mrs. Danvers in a negative way, the narrator also expresses a certain envy of her dignity and composure. During her time with Maxim in Monte Carlo, the narrator had begun to feel comfortable with her identity. Yet, with this first introduction to Manderley, the narrator is overcome with insecurity and seems to feel that even the dignified housekeeper is more suited as mistress of the house than she is. The narrator’s insecurities will continue to grow from this point on, especially after Beatrice makes a direct comparison of her and Rebecca.
In Chapter 10, the narrator encounters another personal item of Rebecca’s: an embossed handkerchief. With the inscribed page from the book of poetry, the narrator was faced only with a signature. Moreover, she and Maxim were in Monte Carlo, far from Rebecca’s influence. In this case, however, the narrator is faced with initials, a lipstick stain, and a scent, all of which create a very real sense of Rebecca as a living person, rather than just a name. The recurring appearance of Rebecca’s initials is particularly noteworthy because it reminds the still nameless narrator of Rebecca’s established identity as “Mrs. De Winter.”