Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


"All right," he said; "that's like a foretaste of punishment, and you know what to expect.

Keep your mouth shut and I'll treat you like a lamb.

It doesn't do to be curious at Jamaica Inn, and I'll have you remember that."

He was not laughing now, but stared down at her, frowning, as though he would read her thoughts.

"You're not a fool like your aunt," he said slowly, "that's the curse of it. You've got a clever little monkey face, and a ferreting monkey mind, and you're not easily scared.

But I tell you this, Mary Yellan: I'll break that mind of yours if you let it go astray, and I'll break your body too.

Now go upstairs to bed, and let's hear no more of you tonight."

He turned away from her and, frowning still, picked up a glass from the bar in front of him, turning it over and over in his hands, rubbing it slowly with a cloth.

The contempt in her eyes must have irritated him, for his good humour had left him in a flash, and he flung aside the glass in a fit of ill temper, splitting it to fragments.

"Strip that damned idiot of his clothes," he thundered, "and send him back naked to his mother. Maybe the November air will cool that purple face of his and cure his dog tricks.

We've had enough of him at Jamaica."

The pedlar and his group yelled in delight and, throwing the wretched half-wit on his back, began to tear off his coat and breeches, while the bewildered fellow flapped out at them with useless hands, bleating like a sheep.

Mary ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her, and as she went up the rickety stairs, her hands over her ears, she could not keep out that sound of laughter and wild song that echoed down the draughty passage, following her to her room, penetrating through the cracks on the floor boards.

She felt very sick and threw herself on her bed, her head in her hands.

There was a babel of noise in the yard below, and yells of laughter, while a stream of light from a tossing lantern cast a beam up to her window.

She got up and pulled down the blind, but not before she had seen the outline of a quivering, naked form bound across the yard with great loping strides, screaming like a hare and pursued by a handful of hooting, jeering men, with Joss Merlyn's giant figure in the lead cracking a horsewhip above his head.

Then Mary did as her uncle had told her. She undressed hurriedly and crept into bed, pulling the blanket over her head, stuffing her fingers in her ears, her only thought now to be deaf to the horror and the revelry below; but even with eyes shut and face pressed tight against the pillow, she could see the purple blotched face of the poor idiot man upturned towards his captors, and she could hear the thin echo of his cry as he stumbled into the ditch and fell.

She lay in that half-conscious state that waits on the borderland of sleep, when the events of the past day crowd into the mind and make a jumble of confusion.

Images danced before her, and the heads of unknown people, and though at times she seemed to be wandering on the moor, with the great crag of Kilmar dwarfing the neighbouring hills, she was aware of the little path of light made by the moon on her bedroom floor, and the steady rattle of the window blind.

There had been voices, and now there were none; somewhere far away on the highroad a horse galloped, and wheels rumbled, but now all was still.

She slept; and then, without warning, she heard something snap in the peace of mind that had enfolded her, and she was awake suddenly, sitting up in bed, with the moonlight streaming on her face.

She listened, hearing nothing at first but the thumping of her own heart, but in a few minutes there came another sound, from beneath her room this time — the sound of heavy things being dragged along the stone flags in the passage downstairs, bumping against the walls.

She got out of bed and went to the window, pulling aside an inch of blind.

Five waggons were drawn up in the yard outside.

Three were covered, each drawn by a pair of horses, and the remaining two were open farm carts. One of the covered waggons stood directly beneath the porch, and the horses were steaming.

Gathered round the waggons were some of the men who had been drinking in the bar earlier in the evening; the cobbler from Launceston was standing under Mary's window, talking to the horse dealer; the sailor from Padstow had come to his senses and was patting the head of a horse; the pedlar who had tortured the poor idiot was climbing into one of the open carts and lifting something from the floor.

And there were strangers in the yard whom Mary had never seen before.

She could see their faces clearly because of the moonlight, the very brightness of which seemed to worry the men, for one of them pointed upwards and shook his head, while his companion shrugged his shoulders, and another man, who had an air of authority about him, waved his arm impatiently, as though urging them to make haste, and the three of them turned at once and passed under the porch into the inn.

Meanwhile the heavy dragging sound continued, and Mary could trace the direction of it without difficulty from where she stood. Something was being taken along the passage to the room at the end, the room with the barred windows and the bolted door.

She began to understand.

Packages were brought by the waggons and unloaded at Jamaica Inn. They were stored in the locked room.

Because the horses were steaming, she knew they had come over a great distance — from the coast perhaps — and as soon as the waggons were unloaded they would take their departure, passing out into the night as swiftly and as silently as they had come.

The men in the yard worked quickly, against time.

The contents of one covered waggon were not carried into the inn, but were transferred to one of the open farm carts drawn up beside the drinking well across the yard.

The packages seemed to vary in size and description; some were large parcels, some were small, and others were long rolls wrapped round about in straw and paper.

When the cart was filled, the driver, a stranger to Mary, climbed into the seat and drove away.

The remaining waggons were unloaded one by one, and the packages were either placed in the open carts and driven out of the yard or were borne by the men into the house.

All was done in silence.

Those men who had shouted and sung earlier that night were now sober and quiet, bent on the business in hand.

Even the horses appeared to understand the need for silence, for they stood motionless.

Joss Merlyn came out of the porch, the pedlar at his side.

Neither wore coat or hat, in spite of the cold air, and both had sleeves rolled to the elbows.

"Is that the lot?" the landlord called softly, and the driver of the last waggon nodded and held up his hand.

The men began to climb into the carts.

Some of those who had come to the inn on foot went with them, saving themselves a mile or two on their long trek home.

They did not leave unrewarded; all carried burdens of a sort: boxes strapped over their shoulders, bundles under the arm; while the cobbler from Launceston had not only laden his pony with bursting saddlebags but had added to his own person as well, being several sizes larger round the waist than when he first arrived.

So the waggons and the carts departed from Jamaica, creaking out of the yard, one after the other in a strange funereal procession, some turning north and some south when they came out onto the highroad, until they had all gone and there was no one left standing in the yard but one man Mary had not seen before, the pedlar, and the landlord of Jamaica Inn himself.

Then they too turned and went back into the house, and the yard was empty.

She heard them go along the passage in the direction of the bar, and then their footsteps died away and a door slammed.

There was no other sound except the husky wheezing of the clock in the hall and the sudden whirring note preparatory to the strike. It rang the hour — three o'clock — and then ticked on, choking and gasping like a dying man who cannot catch his breath.