Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


It might be that Aunt Patience would take comfort from her, and they would come to an understanding, and, in some way which she was now too tired to plan, Mary would act as a protector to Aunt Patience, and stand between her and Joss Merlyn.

For seventeen years her mother had lived and worked alone and known greater hardships than Mary would ever know.

She would not have run away because of a half-crazy man. She would not have feared a house that reeked of evil, however lonely it stood on its wind-blown hill, a solitary landmark defying man and storm.

Mary's mother would have the courage to fight her enemies.

Yes, and conquer them in the end. There would be no giving way for her.

And so Mary lay upon her hard bed, her mind teeming while she prayed for sleep, every sound a fresh stab to her nerves, from the scratching of a house in the wall behind her to the creaking of the sign in the yard.

She counted the minutes and the hours of an eternal night, and when the first cock crew in a field behind the house she counted no more, but sighed, and slept like a dead thing.

Chapter 3

Mary woke to a high wind from the west, and a thin watery sun. It was the rattling of the window that roused her from her sleep, and she judged from the broad daylight and the colour of the sky that she had slept late and that it must be past eight o'clock.

Looking out at the window and across the yard, she saw that the stable door was open, and there were fresh hoofmarks in the mud outside.

With a great sense of relief she realised that the landlord must have gone from home, and she would have Aunt Patience to herself, if only for a little time.

Hurriedly she unpacked her trunk, pulling out her thick skirt and coloured apron and the heavy shoes she had worn at the farm, and in ten minutes she was down in the kitchen and washing in the scullery at the back.

Aunt Patience came in from the chicken run behind the house with some new-laid eggs in her apron, which she produced with a little smile of mystery.

"I thought you'd like one for your breakfast," she said.

"I saw you were too tired to eat much last night.

And I've saved you a spot of cream for your bread."

Her manner was normal enough this morning, and in spite of the red rims round her eyes, which bespoke an anxious night, she was obviously making an effort to be cheerful.

Mary decided it was only in the presence of her husband that she went to pieces like a frightened child, and when he was away she had that same child's aptitude for forgetting, and could seize pleasure from little situations such as this of making breakfast for Mary and boiling her an egg.

They both avoided any reference to the night before, and Joss's name was not mentioned.

Where he had gone, and on what business, Mary neither asked nor cared; she was only too relieved to be rid of him.

Mary could see that her aunt was eager to speak of things unconnected with her present life; she seemed afraid of any questions, so Mary spared her and plunged into a description of the last years at Helford, the strain of the bad times, and her mother's illness and death.

Whether Aunt Patience took it in or not she could not tell; certainly she nodded from time to time, and pursed her lips, and shook her head, and uttered little ejaculations; but it seemed to Mary that years of fear and anxiety had taken away her powers of concentration, and that some underlying terror prevented her from giving her whole interest to any conversation.

During the morning there was the usual work of the house, and Mary was thus able to explore the inn more thoroughly.

It was a dark, rambling place, with long passages and unexpected rooms.

There was a separate entrance to the bar, at the side of the house, and, though the room was empty now, there was something heavy in the atmosphere reminiscent of the last time it was full: a lingering taste of old tobacco, the sour smell of drink, and an impression of warm, unclean humanity packed one against the other on the dark-stained benches.

For all the unpleasant suggestion that it conjured, it was the one room in the inn that had vitality, and was not morne and drear.

The other rooms appeared neglected or unused; even the parlour by the entrance porch had a solitary air, as though it were many months since an honest traveller had stepped upon the threshold and warmed his back before a glowing fire.

The guest rooms upstairs were in an even worse state of repair.

One was used for lumber, with boxes piled against the wall, and old horse blankets chewed and torn by families of rats or mice.

In the room opposite, potatoes and turnips had been stored upon a broken-down bed.

Mary guessed that her own small room had been in much the same condition, and that she owed it to her aunt that it was now furnished at all.

Into their room, along the further passage, she did not venture.

Beneath it, down a passage that ran parallel to the one above, long and in the opposite direction from the kitchen, was another room, the door of which was locked.

Mary went out into the yard to look at it through the window, but there was a board nailed up against the frame, and she could not see inside.

The house and outbuildings formed three sides of the little square that was the yard, in the centre of which was a grass bank and a drinking trough.

Beyond this lay the road, a thin white ribbon that stretched on either hand to the horizon, surrounded on each side by moorland, brown and sodden from the heavy rains.

Mary went out onto the road and looked about her, and as far as her eyes could see there was nothing but the black hills and the moors.

The grey slate inn, with its tall chimneys, forbidding and uninhabited though it seemed, was the only dwelling place on the landscape.

To the west of Jamaica high tors reared their heads; some were smooth like downland, and the grass shone yellow under the fitful winter sun; but others were sinister and austere, their peaks crowned with granite and great slabs of stone.

Now and again the sun was obscured by cloud, and long shadows fled over the moors like fingers.

Colour came in patches; sometimes the hills were purple, inkstained, and mottled, and then a feeble ray of sun would come from a wisp of cloud, and one hill would be golden brown while his neighbour still languished in the dark.

The scene was never once the same, for it would be the glory of high noon to the east, with the moor as motionless as desert sand; and away to the westwards arctic winter fell upon the hills, brought by a jagged cloud shaped like a highwayman's cloak, that scattered hail and snow and a sharp spittle rain onto the granite tors.

The air was strong and sweet smelling, cold as mountain air, and strangely pure.

It was a revelation to Mary, accustomed as she was to the warm and soft climate of Helford, with its high hedges and tall protecting trees.

Even the east wind had been no hardship there, for the arm of the headland acted as a defence to those on land, and it was only the river that ran turbulent and green, the wave crests whipped with foam.

However grim and hateful was this new country, however barren and untilled, with Jamaica Inn standing alone upon the hill as a buffer to the four winds, there was a challenge in the air that spurred Mary Yellan to adventure.

It stung her, bringing colour to her cheeks and a sparkle to her eyes; it played with her hair, blowing it about her face; and as she breathed deep she drew it through her nostrils and into her lungs, more quenching and sweeter than a draught of cider.

She went to the water trough and put her hands under the spring.

The water ran clear and icy cold.

She drank some, and it was unlike any water she had drunk before, bitter, queer, with a lingering peat taste like the smoke from the turf fire in the kitchen.