Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


There I have the advantage of the landlord's brother."

He smiled again, the thin line breaking in his face, and she turned away so that she could not see the eyes that degraded her.

They rode on in silence, and after a while it seemed to Mary that the darkness of the night became intensified and the air closer, nor could she see the hills around her as she had before.

The horses picked their way delicately, and now and again stopped in their tracks and snorted, as though in fear, uncertain of their steps.

The ground was soggy now and treacherous, and, though Mary could no longer see the land on either side, she knew by the feel of the soft, yielding grass that they were encompassed by marshes.

This accounted for the horses' fear, and she glanced at her companion to discover his mood.

He leant forward in his saddle, straining his eyes to the darkness that every moment became thicker and harder to penetrate, and she saw by his tense profile and his thin mouth tight closed like a trap that he was concentrating every nerve upon their passage, fraught suddenly with a new danger.

The nervousness of her horse communicated itself to the rider, and Mary thought of these same marshes as she had seen them in the broad light of day, the brown tufted grass swaying to the wind, and, beyond, the tall, thin reeds quivering and rustling at the merest breath, crowded together and moving as one force, while beneath them the black water waited in silence.

She knew how the people of the moors themselves could go astray and falter in their step, so that he who walked with confidence one moment could stumble the next, and sink without warning.

Francis Davey knew the moors, but even he was not infallible and might lose his way.

A brook burbled and made song; a brook could be heard running over stones for a mile or more; but the water of the marshes made no sound.

The first slip could be the last.

Her nerves were strung to expectation, and half-consciously she made preparations to fling herself from the saddle should her horse stagger suddenly and with a sickening plunge grope like a blind thing in the strangling weeds.

She heard her companion swallow, and the little trick put an edge upon her fear.

He peered to right and left, his hat in his hand to better his sight, and already the moisture glistened in his hair and clung to his garments. Mary watched the damp mist rise from the low ground.

She smelt the sour and rotting tang of reeds.

And then, in front of them, barring their further progress, rolled a great bank of fog out of the night, a white wall that stifled every scent and sound.

Francis Davey drew rein, and the two horses obeyed him instantly, trembling and snorting, the steam from their flanks merging with the mist.

They waited awhile, for a moorland fog can roll away as suddenly as it comes, but this time there was no thin clearing of the air and no dissolving threads.

It hung about them like a spider's web.

Then Francis Davey turned to Mary; like a ghost he looked beside her, with the fog on his lashes and his hair, and his white mask face inscrutable as ever.

"The gods have gone against me after all," he said. "I know these fogs of old, and this one will not lift for several hours.

To continue now amongst the marshes would be worse madness than to return.

We must wait for the dawn."

She said nothing, her first hopes returning to her again; but even as the thought came to her she remembered that fog baffled pursuit and was an enemy to the hunter as well as the hunted.

"Where are we?" she asked, and as she spoke he took her rein once more and urged the horses to the left, away from the low ground, until the yielding grass gave place to firmer heather and loose stones, while the white fog moved with them step by step.

"There will be rest for you after all, Mary Yellan," he said, "and a cave for your shelter and granite for your bed.

Tomorrow may bring the world to you again, but tonight you shall sleep on Rough Tor."

The horses bent to the strain, and they climbed slowly and ponderously out of the mist to the black hills beyond.

Later Mary sat shrouded in her cloak like a phantom figure, with her back against a hollow stone.

Her knees were drawn to her chin, with her arms clasped tight around them, but, even so, the raw air found its way between the folds of her cloak and lapped her skin.

The great jagged summit of the tor lifted its face to the sky like a crown above the mist, and below them the clouds hung solid and unchanged, a massive wall defying penetration.

The air was pure here, and crystal clear, disdaining knowledge of the world below, where living things must grope and stumble in the mist.

There was a wind here that whispered in the stones and stirred the heather; there was a breath, keen as a knife and cold, that blew upon the surface of the altar slabs and echoed in the caves.

These sounds mingled with one another and became like a little clamour in the air.

Then they would droop again, and fall away, and an old dead silence come upon the place.

The horses stood against a boulder for shelter, their heads together for company, but even they were restless and uneasy, turning now and again towards their master.

He sat apart, a few yards distant from his companion, and sometimes she felt his eyes upon her in consideration, weighing the chances of success.

She was ever watchful, ever ready for attack; and when he moved suddenly, or turned upon his slab of stone, her hands unclasped themselves from her knees and waited, her fists clenched.

He had bade her sleep, but sleep would never come to her tonight.

Should it creep to her insidiously, she would fight against it, beat it away with her hands and strive to overcome it, even as she must overcome her enemy.

She knew that sleep might take her suddenly, before she was aware; and later she would wake with the touch of his cold hands upon her throat and his pale face above her. She would see the short white hair frame his face like a halo, and the still, expressionless eyes glow with a light that she had known before.

This was his kingdom here, alone in the silence, with the great twisted peaks of granite to shield him and the white mist below to shroud him.

Once she heard him clear his throat as though to speak; and she thought how far removed they were from any sphere of life, two beings flung together in eternity, and that this was a nightmare, with no day to follow it, so that soon she must lose herself and merge into his shadow.

He said nothing; and out of the silence came the whisper of the wind again. It rose and fell, making a moan upon the stones.

This was a new wind, with a sob and cry behind it, a wind that came from nowhere, bound from no shore.

It rose from the stones themselves, and from the earth beneath the stones; it sang in the hollow caves and in the crevices of rock, at first a sigh and then a lamentation.

It played upon the air like a chorus from the dead.

Mary drew her cloak around her and pulled the hood about her ears to muffle the sound, but even as she did so the wind increased, tugging at her hair, and a little ripple of draught ran screaming to the cave behind her. There was no source to the disturbance; for below the tor the heavy fog clung to the ground, obstinate as ever, with never a breath of air to roll away the clouds.

Here on the summit the wind fretted and wept, whispering of fear, sobbing old memories of bloodshed and despair, and there was a wild, lost note that echoed in the granite high above Mary's head, on the very peak of Rough Tor, as though the gods themselves stood there with their great heads lifted to the sky.