Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


He fell silent a moment, gazing at his empty glass. He picked it up and put it down again.

"No," he said, "I've said enough.

I'll have no more tonight.

Go up to bed, Mary, before I wring your neck.

Here's your candle.

You'll find your room over the porch."

Mary took the candlestick without speaking and was about to pass him when he seized hold of her shoulder and twisted her round.

"There'll be nights sometimes when you'll hear wheels on the road," he said, "and those wheels will not pass on, but they'll stop outside Jamaica Inn.

And you'll hear footsteps in the yard, and voices beneath your window. When that happens, you'll stay in your bed, Mary Yellan, and cover your head with the blankets.

Do you understand?"

"Yes, Uncle."

"Very well. Now get out, and if you ever ask me a question again I'll break every bone in your body."

She went out of the room and into the dark passage, bumping against the settle in the hall, and so upstairs, feeling her way with her hands, judging her whereabouts by turning round and facing the stairs again.

Her uncle had told her the room over the porch, and she crept across the dark landing, which was unlit, pass two doors on either side — guest rooms, she imagined, waiting for those travellers who never came nowadays nor sought shelter beneath the roof of Jamaica Inn — and then stumbled against another door and turned the handle, and saw by the flickering flame of her candle that this was her room, for her trunk lay on the floor.

The walls were rough and unpapered, and the floor boards bare.

A box turned upside down served as a dressing table, with a cracked looking-glass on top.

There was no jug or basin; she supposed she would wash in the kitchen.

The bed creaked when she leant upon it, and the two thin blankets felt damp to her hand.

She decided she would not undress, but would lie down upon it in her travelling clothes, dusty as they were, with her cloak wrapped round her.

She went to the window and looked out.

The wind had dropped, but it was still raining — a thin wretched drizzle that trickled down the side of the house and smeared the dirt on the windowpane.

A noise came from the far end of the yard, a curious groaning sound like that of an animal in pain.

It was too dark to see clearly, but she could make out a dark shape swinging gently to and fro.

For one nightmare of a moment, her imagination on fire with the tales Joss Merlyn had told her, she thought it was a gibbet, and a dead man hanging.

And then she realised it was the signboard of the inn, that somehow or other, through neglect, had become insecure upon its nails and now swung backwards, forwards, with the slightest breeze.

Nothing but a poor battered board, that had once known prouder days in its first erection, but whose white lettering was now blurred and grey, and whose message was at the mercy of the four winds — Jamaica Inn — Jamaica Inn.

Mary pulled down the blind and crept to her bed.

Her teeth were chattering, and her feet and hands were numb.

For a long while she sat huddled on the bed, a prey to despair.

She wondered whether it was possible to break from the house and find her way back the twelve long miles to Bodmin.

She wondered whether her weariness would prove too much for her, and if with an agony of fatigue she would drop by the roadside and fall asleep where she lay, only to be awakened by the morning light and to see the great form of Joss Merlyn towering above her.

She closed her eyes, and at once she saw his face smiling at her, and then the smile changing to a frown, and the frown breaking into a thousand creases as he shook with rage, and she saw his great mat of black hair, his hooked nose, and the long powerful fingers that held such deadly grace.

She felt caught here now, like a bird in a net, and however much she struggled she would never escape.

If she wished to be free she must go now, climb from her window and run like a mad thing along the white road that stretched like a snake across the moors.

Tomorrow it would be too late.

She waited until she heard his footsteps on the stairs.

She heard him mutter to himself, and to her relief he turned aside and went along the other passage to the left of the staircase.

In the distance a door closed, and there was silence.

She decided that she would wait no longer.

If she stayed even one night beneath this roof her nerve would go from her, and she would be lost. Lost, and mad, and broken, like Aunt Patience.

She opened the door and stole into the passage.

She tiptoed to the head of the stairs.

She paused and listened.

Her hand was on the bannister and her foot on the top stair when she heard a sound from the other passage.

It was somebody crying.

It was someone whose breath came in little gasps and spasms, and who tried to muffle the sound in a pillow.

It was Aunt Patience.

Mary waited a moment, and then she turned back and went to her own room again and threw herself on her bed and closed her eyes.

Whatever she would have to face in the future, and however frightened she would be, she would not leave Jamaica Inn now.

She must stay with Aunt Patience. She was needed here.