Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


It was deep and satisfying, for her thirst went from her.

She felt strong in her body and emboldened in spirit, and she went back into the house to find Aunt Patience, her appetite sharp for the dinner that she hoped awaited her.

She fell to with a will upon stewed mutton and turnips, and, her hunger appeased now for the first time for four-and-twenty hours she felt her courage return to her, and she was ready to question her aunt and risk the consequences.

"Aunt Patience," she began, "why is my uncle the landlord of Jamaica Inn?"

The sudden direct attack took the woman by surprise, and for a moment she stared at Mary without reply.

Then she flushed scarlet and began to work her mouth.

"Why," she faltered, "it's — it's a very prominent place here, on the road.

You can see that. This is the main road from the south.

The coaches pass here twice a week. They come from Truro, and Bodmin, and so on, to Launceston.

You came yourself yesterday.

There's always company on the road. Travellers, and private gentlemen, and sometimes sailors from Falmouth."

"Yes, Aunt Patience. But why don't they stop at Jamaica?"

"They do.

They often ask for a drink in the bar.

We've a good custom here."

"How can you say that when the parlour is never used, and the guest rooms are stored with lumber, fit only for rats and mice?

I've seen them for myself.

I've been to inns before, smaller ones than this by far.

There was an inn at home, in the village.

The landlord was a friend of ours.

Many a time Mother and I had tea in the parlour; and upstairs, though there were only two rooms, they were furnished and fitted up in style for travellers."

Her aunt was silent for a moment, working her mouth and twisting her fingers in her lap.

"Your uncle Joss doesn't encourage folks to stay," she said at length.

"He says you never know who you are going to get.

Why, in a lonely spot like this we might be murdered in our beds. There's all sorts on a road like this.

It wouldn't be safe."

"Aunt Patience, you're talking nonsense.

What is the use of an inn that cannot give an honest traveller a bed for the night? For what other purpose was it built?

And how do you live, if you have no custom?"

"We have custom," returned the woman sullenly. "I've told you that. There's men come in from the farms and outlying places.

There are farms and cottages scattered over these moors for miles around, and folk come from there.

There are evenings when the bar is full of them."

"The driver on the coach yesterday told me respectable people did not come to Jamaica any more.

He said they were afraid."

Aunt Patience changed colour. She was pale now, and her eyes roved from side to side.

She swallowed, and ran her tongue over her lips.

"Your uncle Joss has a strong temper," she said; "you have seen that for yourself. He is easily roused; he will not have folk interfering with him."

"Aunt Patience, why should anyone interfere with a landlord of an inn who goes about his rightful business?

However hot tempered a man may be, his temper doesn't scare people away. That's no excuse."

Her aunt was silent. She had come to the end of her resources and sat stubborn, as a mule. She would not be drawn.

Mary tried another question.

"Why did you come here in the first place?

My mother knew nothing of this; we believed you to be in Bodmin; you wrote from there when you married."

"I met your uncle in Bodmin, but we never lived there," replied Aunt Patience slowly.

"We lived near Padstow for a while, and then we came here.

Your uncle bought the inn from Mr. Bassat.

It had stood empty a number of years, I believe, and your uncle decided it would suit him.

He wanted to settle down.

He's travelled a lot in his time; he's been to more places than I can remember the names.

I believe he was in America once."