This may be Daphne du Maurier's really significant novel out of the many she has written since 1931.
ONE DAY IN THE June of 1984 Madame Sophie Duval, nee Buson, eighty years of age and mother of the mayor of Vibraye, a small commune in the department of Sarthe, rose from her chair in the salon of the property at le Gue de hall, and calling to her dog made her way, as was her custom at this hour of the afternoon every Tuesday, down the short approach drive to the entrance gate.
She walked briskly, with the quick step of one who did not suffer, or perhaps refused to suffer, any of the inconveniences of old age; and her bright blue-eyes -the noticeable feature of her otherwise unremarkable face-looked keenly to right and left, pin-pointing signs of neglience on the part of the gardener: the gravel under her feet not raked this morning as it should have been, the careless staking of a lily, the grass verges of the formal flower bed raggedly clipped.
These matters would be corrected at the proper time, either by her son the mayor or by her self; for although Pierre Francois had been mayor of Vibraye for some forty years, and was approaching his forty-seventh birthday, he knew very well that the house and grounds at le Gue de Launay were his mother's property, that in all matters referring to their upkeep and maintenance she must be the final judge and arbitrator. This small estate which Madame Duval and her husband had settled upon for their retirement at the turn of the century was no great domain, a few acres of ground only, and the house was of medium size; but it was their own, bought and paid for by themselves, so giving them both the status of landowners and making them the proud equal of any outdated seigneur who still boasted that he held a property by right of birth.
Madame Duval adjusted the widow's cap upon her crown of white hair, set in pin-curls high on her forehead. As she arrived the end of the approach drive she heard the sound she was expecting, the click of the fastened iron gate and the rasp if the hinge as it swung open, while the gardener -later to be reprimanded -who also served as odd-man, groom and messenger, came towards her with the mail he had fetched from Vibraye.