My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Over the ensuing weeks as May turns to June, Philip and Rachel attempt to remain “light-hearted,” not speaking of Rachel’s impending departure. Philip suffers lingering head pain, but does not mention it to Rachel. He begins to feel that those around him are repulsed by his weakened state, and he wishes he could “erect a fence about the property, as in the old enchanted tales of childhood, to keep away all callers, and disaster too.”
Though Philip is a year older than he was at the beginning of the novel, he does not appear to be much more mature, as evidenced by the desire he expresses to shut out the outside world rather than confront the reality of losing Rachel. The foreboding tone in this passage makes it seems as though the Philip senses that fate will not be writing him a happy ending.
Themes
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
Philip looks for signs that Rachel will soon be leaving. He does not see any trunks, but he notices that Rachel has been tidying her possessions and sorting through papers. She has also begun to go out driving in the mornings, and evades Philip’s questions about what business she is attending to on her trips. One morning, Rachel goes out in the carriage with Wellington the coachman, leaving the groom, a boy named Jimmy, at home with an earache. Jimmy tells Philip that he caught cold waiting on the quay, while Rachel was inside at the Rose and Crown, as she is every day.
Despite the fact that he is still recovering from his illness, Philip is still trying to exert control over Rachel by tracking her movements. This suggests that Philip has been unable to shake his possessiveness of Rachel, even though he knows she will not be staying at the Ashley estate. This obsessiveness on Philip’s part is rather ominous, especially given that Rachel has made it clear by this point that she is quite resolved to leave.
Themes
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
Philip is perplexed; why has Rachel been going to the town inn every day? He ventures to the quay and questions a local boy, whom he recognizes as a servant at the Rose and Crown. The boy explains he is catching fish for the Italian gentleman who has been sitting at the parlor in the Rose and Crown. Alarmed, Philip takes a small boat of Ambrose’s out into the harbor and spies on the entrance to the inn. Before long, he spots Rainaldi.
Philip is more than just curious about why Rachel has been visiting the inn—he seems to feel that he is entitled to know her reasons. Philip is neither Rachel’s father nor her husband—even the rigid societal code of the novel does not give Philip the “right” to control Rachel’s movements. Yet, because he still “loves” her, Philip feels he deserves an explanation of Rachel’s actions. This passage thus suggests how powerfully society engrains in male characters the notion that they have a right to answers from their “inferiors,” including women.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
At home, Philip finds Rachel in the library. He accuses her of having a secret, but before he can say more, Seecombe summons the pair to dinner. After dinner, Rachel flees upstairs but Philip enters her bedroom before she can lock the door against him. Philip badgers Rachel until she reveals that Rainaldi has been staying at the inn for two weeks, and that she has been meeting with him for “advice.” Philip claims that Rainaldi is in love with Rachel, but she insists that he is just a friend—her “only friend.”
It is interesting to note that Philip claims Rainaldi is in love with Rachel, rather than the other way around. Perhaps it is too painful for Philip to think that Rachel could possibly be in love with anyone if not himself. But it also seems plausible that Philip is determined to absolve Rachel of guilt, even as he simultaneously refuses to accept her explanation that Rainaldi is only a friend.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon
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Philip orders Rachel to send Rainaldi away, but she stands her ground, saying that she will even ask Rainaldi to the estate as her “protector” if Philip threatens her again. “You would not dare,” Philip says, and Rachel replies: “Dare? Why not? The house is mine.” Philip takes a step toward Rachel, and she moves away toward the bell-rope, saying she will call Seecombe if Philip tries to touch her. Defeated, Philip asks that Rachel meet Rainaldi at the house in future, rather than meeting him at the inn. He then leaves the room.
Rachel is incredibly brave to threaten to expose Philip’s violence, and it is difficult not to admire this courage, whether Rachel is guilty of past crimes or not. Meanwhile, Philip still so desperately wants to feel that he is “in control” of Rachel that he asks her to meet with Rainaldi at the house, where he can observe her, rather than at the inn.
Themes
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The next night, Rainaldi comes to dinner at the Ashley house. Seecombe accidentally shows Rainaldi into the library, where Philip is alone. The two have a tense conversation. Philip is disgusted by Rainaldi, and particularly irritated Rainaldi’s use of the word “we” when referring to him and Rachel. Rachel soon arrives, and the three have dinner. Philip feels nauseated; even the tisana “ha[s] a bitter unaccustomed tang.” After eating, Philip leaves and goes upstairs to his room.
Philip continues to exhibit a brand of rabid jealousy. It is as though he is determined that no man will have Rachel, if he cannot. Taken on its own, the detail of Philip’s herbal tea tasting bitter might seem to indicate Philip’s foul mood, and his bitter feelings toward the world in general. However, in retrospect, this detail could be interpreted as evidence that Rachel is trying to poison Philip.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
After Rainaldi leaves, Rachel knocks on Philip’s door, where she finds him sitting by the window. She bids him put on a blanket, and then says goodnight. That night, Philip’s fever returns. In the morning, the doctor visits and leaves some medicine. Philip notices a “weariness” in Rachel, and imagines her to be thinking, “Is it going to start again? Am I doomed to sit here as a nurse to all eternity?”
This passage is a rare moment in which Philip exhibits both awareness of and empathy toward how confined Rachel’s life is. Philip seems to feel badly that Rachel has to care for him, even though she wants to return to Italy. This passage shows that, despite his selfishness and other flaws, Philip is not wholly an unlikeable character.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Philip tells Rachel she should spend time with Rainaldi if she prefers. Rachel replies that Rainaldi left England the previous day. Philip is relieved, but asks when Rachel will follow Rainaldi. She says it depends on Philip, adding, “If […] you would only be less bitter and less cruel, these last days could be happy.”
Rachel might be prolonging her stay in England to make sure Philip is back in good health before she leaves. Alternatively, she might be staying long enough to poison him for good. Either way, it seems profoundly unlikely that Rachel and Philip will ever again experience shared happiness.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon
That night, Philip has a dream about returning to the granite stone in the woods and re-reading the buried letter. The next day, when Rachel is in her room resting, Philip sneaks out to the woods and digs up the letter. He re-reads it in full, and then tears it to pieces and smashes the shreds into the ground with his foot. When he returns home, he finds Seecombe with the post-bag and sees a letter to Rachel from Rainaldi. Philip regrets that Seecombe is present; otherwise he would have stolen the letter.
Philip’s behavior in this passage is more erratic than ever before. Instead of focusing on whether or not Rachel is guilty of past crimes or indiscretions, Philip seems now to be fixated on determining whether or not Rainaldi is in love with Rachel. This suggests that Philip is as infatuated with Rachel as ever, and that he wants to assure himself that she will not be with anyone else, if she will not be with him.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
In the evening, Philip sits in Rachel’s bedroom as she brews his tisana. He cannot take his eyes off Rainaldi’s letter, which sits on Rachel’s bureau. He wonders: “Would an Italian, writing to the woman he loved, keep to formality?” When Rachel asks what the matter is, Philip lies and tries to distract her by “pretending an urgency of longing and of love, so that her questions might be stilled, and that she would forget the letter lying on the desk and leave it there.”
Philip’s behavior in this passage is peculiar. He claims that he feigns “longing and love” in order to distract Rachel, which suggests that he no longer genuinely harbors these feelings for her and must fake them now. However, he is nevertheless obsessed with determining whether or not Rainaldi is his romantic rival. It would seem that du Maurier is illustrating that even though Philip no longer loves Rachel, he still feels he has a kind of claim to her, thus demonstrating the power and toxicity of male jealousy.
Themes
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
In the early hours of the morning, Philip sneaks into Rachel’s room and looks for the letter. He cannot find it, though he searches all of Rachel’s drawers. One drawer alone is locked, so Philip fetches the keys and returns to Rachel’s room to open it. He pulls out an envelope but it is not Rainaldi’s letter—it is an envelope filled with laburnum pods and seeds, “poisonous to cattle, and to men.”
The dramatic ending of this chapter suggests that Rachel has been poisoning Philip’s herbal tea with laburnum, and that she did the same thing to Ambrose at the Villa Sangalletti, where laburnum seeds also grew. For the first time, it appears that proof of Rachel’s guilt actually exists.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon