Philip returns home from Pelyn by way of town, where he has deposited Kendall’s letter at the bank. He finds a bowl of flowers in his room, which he assumes are from Rachel, and which “[add] to [his] mood of high good humour.” After bathing, Philip knocks on Rachel’s door; she has just finished her own bath and is putting up her hair. She invites Philip in. Philip is shocked by how different Rachel looks when not in mourning clothes. He thinks: “I had never seen anything less like Aunt Phoebe, or aunt anyone.”
This passage provides a strong example of Rachel using her sexuality to empower her in a social situation. By inviting Philip into the intimate space of her bedroom after her bath, Rachel fosters the mental link between her still-wet hair and the place her hair became wet—while she was bathing naked. Rachel is almost certainly aware that inviting Philip into her room like this is not entirely proper, so it’s fair to interpret her decision as a means of flaunting her sexuality and manipulating Philip’s arousal. And he certainly seems aroused—the fact that he thinks of Rachel not looking like “aunt anyone” suggests that he finds the ten year age gap between him and Rachel to be an addition to Rachel’s attractiveness.
After she finishes with her hair, Rachel drops a hairpin in Philip’s lap and tells him, “Put it under your pillow, and watch Seecombe’s face at breakfast in the morning.” She then goes into another chamber of her room to dress for dinner. From across the rooms, the two talk about the garden until Seecombe arrives with a letter from Nick Kendall. Philip is annoyed because he will now be “caught for the business of [Rachel] reading it.”
Rachel continues to be suggestive in her comments to Philip. She tries to embarrass him by joking about the pin—a joke that is based on the ludicrous idea that Rachel and Philip might be sleeping together. This is clearly an exercise in power: by raising the possibility of an affair and then immediately denoting it as laughable, Rachel seems to be planting sexual desire even more firmly in Philip’s mind.
After Rachel reads the letter, she and Philip have an argument. She maintains that he has humiliated her by bestowing the money on her. Philip accuses Rachel of being proud; he thinks, “I was damned if any creature, small and frail, should stand there and accuse me of humiliating her; and I was damned furthermore if she should refuse the money that belonged to her by right.” Rachel looks as though she might hit Philip, but then her eyes fill with tears and she retreats into the bedroom and slams the door.
Depending on whether Rachel is actually after Philip’s money, it is possible to read her claim of humiliation as genuine or facetious (she might be feigning shame only so Philip will insist more earnestly that she accept the money). More importantly, this scene yet again highlights how Philip responds to female “defiance” with violence, either emotional or physical. Philip is determined to force the money upon Rachel if need be; in fact, he seems to take as much pleasure in the idea of forcing her to accept it as he did in the idea of gifting her the money in the first place. Clearly Philip prefers being in a position of dominance over women, even the woman for whom he has begun to fall.
Philip dines alone, still furious at Rachel and surer than ever that he will never marry. After dining, he dozes awhile in the library and then goes upstairs to bed, where he finds a note from Rachel asking him to forgive her, and saying that she has written to Nick Kendall to accept the allowance. Philip finds himself resenting Ambrose for not providing for Rachel; he “hate[s] the fact” that she has had to experience such a “swing from pride to humility.”
Philip’s resentment of Ambrose represents a departure from Philip’s line of thinking up to this point. Furthermore, this moment also suggests that Philip is beginning to see himself as Ambrose’s successor—because Ambrose failed at providing for Rachel, Philip will now take over the role.
Philip goes to Rachel’s room and apologizes to her, saying that he “had no idea of patronising her.” From behind the drawn curtains of her bed, Rachel also apologizes, and her voice sounds to Philip as if she were near tears. It makes him feel “[weak] in the belly.”
As when she refused to raise her veil, Rachel is plausibly keeping her curtains drawn as a deliberate means of arousing Philip’s curiosity and sexual desire. Of course, it is also possible that Rachel genuinely does not want to be see in her nightgown by her dead husband’s adoptive son. Regardless, Rachel’s vulnerability both excites and intimidates Philip.
Rachel says that she intends to leave for London on Monday, as she has already stayed longer at the Ashley estate than she had planned. Philip insists that “if Ambrose had not been such a lunatic this would have been [Rachel’s] home,” which further upsets Rachel. Feeling “tactless” and “helpless,” Philip draws open Rachel’s bed curtains and finds that Rachel looks incredibly young in her nightgown. He says: “I don’t know anything about you, or about any woman. All I now is that I like it now you are here. And I don’t want you to go. Is that complicated?” “Yes,” Rachel says. “Very.”
The fact that Philip throws open the bed curtains without asking Rachel’s permission further underscores the sense of entitlement he feels when conversing with Rachel—he wants to see her, and he wants for her to agree to stay in Cornwall, so he invades her privacy without a second thought. This moment also highlights how simplistic and simple-minded Philip is in his thinking. Rachel recognizes the complexities and delicacies of her staying on the estate, while Philip merely wants Rachel to stay because “he likes it.”
Philip convinces Rachel to stay by asking her to tend the gardens, as Ambrose would have wanted. Rachel bids Philip come closer, and she kisses him, then pushes him away and closes her bed curtains. Philip is stunned. He thinks: “The advantage I had thought to have over her, as I stood above her and she lay on her pillows, was now completely lost. The last word, and the last gesture too, had been with her.”
Based on Philip’s reaction—he feels “lightheaded and somehow dazed”—it is evident that Rachel’s kiss was nothing like the earlier moment when she kissed him on the cheek. For the first time, Philip seems to realize that, despite appearances, Rachel is in control when it comes to interactions between the two of them. He will lose sight of this truth as he becomes desperately obsessed with Rachel.
Instead of going directly to bed, Philip stays up to write a letter to Nick Kendall to “reassure him that all had gone off well.” When Philip goes to deposit his letter in the post-bag in the hall, he finds two letters written by Rachel inside. The first is the letter Rachel claimed to have written to Kendall, accepting the allowance. The second is addressed to Rainaldi. As Philip ascends the stairs to his room, he reminds himself that “the man was her friend, why should she not write a letter to him?” However, he cannot shake the feeling that it is “exactly as if [Rachel] had hit [him] after all.”
Philip’s negative reaction to finding Rachel’s letter to Rainaldi shows how possessive he already feels of her. While Ambrose may have been justified in feeling jealous of the time his wife spent with Rainaldi, Philip certainly has no legitimate claim to Rachel’s time, or reason to feel jealous that she should be writing to a friend. Philip is conscious that he has no right to feel jealous, yet he can’t seem to suppress the feeling.