By evening, there are headlines in every local paper about the discovery of Rebecca’s boat. Frith asks the narrator about the inevitable inquest—he wants to know if the servants will be asked to give evidence. The narrator tells Frith that this is unlikely. Frith adds that the news of Rebecca’s boat has been very shocking to Mrs. Danvers—she’s been ill lately.
At the same time that Frith reminds the narrator that Danvers has been shocked by Rebecca’s boat, Frith is also reminding us that Mrs. Danvers is still heavily invested in the results of the inquest—she is far more loyal to Rebecca than to Maxim. This foreshadows some of the climactic events of the novel.
The narrator reads the newspaper stories about Maxim. They describe Rebecca as beautiful, brilliant, and talented, and suggest that Maxim was a vile, unlikable man who married a “young girl” as soon as he could after Rebecca’s death. Frank visits the house and instructs Maxim and the narrator about the inquest to come. The coroner, Horridge, will want to talk to Maxim, but Frank warns Maxim not to let Horridge “rattle” him.
We can see the importance of appearances in the newspaper articles about Rebecca and Maxim. Rebecca was always careful to seem saintly in public, and here, we see that her efforts at public relations have paid off beautifully. Maxim has been fighting a battle with Rebecca for public perception, and he’s lost.
On the day of the inquest, Maxim and the narrator have lunch at one. The narrator is extremely nervous, and eats nothing. Maxim, by contrast, seems quite calm. Maxim tells the narrator that she mustn’t come to the inquest, but the narrator insists that she wants to come along. They drive to the local police station with Frank. When they arrive at the station, the narrator says that she’s changed her mind—she’d prefer to sit in the car.
Maxim continues to treat the narrator like an innocent child. While the narrator seems to be growing up, and to at least be as mature as Maxim, she “regresses” in this section, eventually deciding that the inquest really is too painful for her to listen to.
After pacing outside the car for some time, the narrator changes her mind for a third time and heads into the station. When she enters, she finds James Tabb, a boat builder, standing with Jack Favell. Tabb is testifying that the boat he built for Rebecca had never been known to capsize in rough weather—it was very sturdy. Tabb then goes on to give some important evidence: this morning, he says, he examined Rebecca’s boat, curious if there was any evidence of damage to his handiwork. To his surprise, he found that there was no problem with the boat at all—there were no scrapes or gashes in the wood. There were, however, holes that someone had made deliberately with a spike or other device. Tabb concludes that the boat never capsized, as it had first seemed—it was deliberately sunk.
In this section, we get some important expository information about the boat, compelling the conclusion that Rebecca’s death wasn’t accidental at all. Second, we’re reintroduced to Jack Favell, who, we recall, knew all about Rebecca’s true nature and the nature of her relationship with Maxim. It seems highly likely that he now suspects Maxim of the murder, and will try to sabotage his defense.
After Tabb stands down, it’s time for Maxim to speak about the boat. Horridge, the coroner, asks him if he knew about the holes drilled in the boat. Maxim replies that he has no idea who could have made them. Horridge points out that the boat was kept on Manderley property, meaning that no outsider could have tampered with it. As Maxim listens, he becomes angry and uncomfortable. Horridge asks Maxim if his relationship with Rebecca was happy. Before Maxim can answer, the narrator, who’s been listening to the conversation with great anxiety, falls to the ground—she’s about to faint.
The narrator is intimately tied to Maxim’s fate throughout this inquest—it’s as if she’s externalizing the emotions that Maxim is adept as suppressing. Thus, when Maxim is on trial, it is the narrator who feels nervous and loses consciousness. The narrator never seems to stop to consider whether or not she still trusts Maxim—if anything, the revelation that he’s a liar and killer makes her love him more, since it means he loves her and not Rebecca. All this is disturbing on several levels.