Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


It's for you to say the word."

Screened as she was by the door, Mary could neither see nor hear her uncle's new companion, and whatever gesture or sign he made in return escaped her.

They did not linger outside the parlour, but turned back along the hall to the further passage, and so down it to the bar beyond.

Then the door closed, and she heard them no more.

Her first instinct was to unbar the entrance and run out into the road, and so be away from them; but on reflection she realised that by doing this she would gain nothing; for all she knew, there might be other men — the pedlar himself perhaps, and the rest of them — posted at intervals along the highroad in the anticipation of trouble.

It seemed as though this new man, who had hidden all evening in the room above, could not have heard her leave her bedroom after all; had he done so he would by now have acquainted her uncle with the fact, and they would search for her; unless they dismissed her as being of no importance whatsoever in the general scheme of things.

The man in the bar was their first concern; she could be attended to later.

She must have stood for ten minutes or more waiting for some sound or signal, but everything was still.

Only the clock in the hall ticked on, wheezing slowly and impervious to action, a symbol of age and indifference.

Once she fancied she heard a cry; but it was gone and lost in an instant and was so faint and far a thing that it might have been some strange conjuring of her imagination, whipped as it was by all she had seen since midnight.

Then Mary went out into the hall, and so through to the dark passage.

No crack of light came under the skirting of the door to the bar.

The candles must have been extinguished.

Were they sitting there inside the room, all three of them, in darkness?

They made an ugly picture in her mind, a silent, sinister group, ruled by some purpose that she did not understand; but the very snuffing out of the light made the quietude more deadly.

She ventured as far as the door and laid her ear against the panel.

There was not even the murmur of a voice, nor that unmistakable suggestion of living, breathing people.

The old fusty drink smell that had clung to the passage all evening had cleared, and through the keyhole came a steady draught of air.

Mary gave way to a sudden uncontrollable impulse, and, lifting the latch, she opened the door and stepped into the room.

There was nobody there.

The door leading to the yard was open, and the room was filled with the fresh November air.

It was this that caused the draught in the passage.

The benches were empty, and the table that had crashed to the ground in the first scuffle still lay upon the floor, its three legs pointing to the ceiling.

The men had gone, though; they must have turned to the left outside the kitchen and walked straight onto the moor, for she would have heard them had they crossed the road.

The air felt cold and sweet upon her face, and now that her uncle and the strangers had left it the room seemed harmless and impersonal once more.

The horror was spent.

A last little ray of moonlight made a white circle on the floor, and into the circle moved a dark blob like a finger. It was the reflection of a shadow.

Mary looked up to the ceiling and saw that a rope had been slung through a hook in the beam.

It was the rope's end that made the blob in the white circle; and it kept moving backwards and forwards, blown by the draught from the open door.

Chapter 5

As the days passed, Mary Yellan settled down to life at Jamaica Inn with a sense of stubborn resolution.

It was evident that she could not leave her aunt to face the winter alone, but perhaps, with the coming of spring, Patience Merlyn could be persuaded to see reason, and the pair of them would leave the moors for the peace and quietude of Helford valley.

This was at any rate Mary's hope, and meanwhile she must make the best of the grim six months that lay ahead, and if possible she was determined to have the better of her uncle in the long run and expose him and his confederates to the law.

She would have shrugged her shoulders at smuggling alone, though, the flagrant dishonesty of the trade disgusted her, but all she had seen so far went to prove that Joss Merlyn and his friends were not content with this only; they were desperate men, afraid of nothing and no one, and did not stop at murder.

The events of that first Saturday night were never far from her mind, and the straggling rope's end hanging from the beam told its own tale.

Mary had not a doubt that a stranger had been killed by her uncle and another man, and his body buried somewhere on the moors.

There was nothing to prove it, however, and, considered in the light of day, the very story seemed fantastic.

She had returned to her room that night after the discovery of the rope, for the open door of the bar suggested that her uncle would be back at any moment, and, exhausted with all she had seen, she must have fallen asleep, for when she woke the sun was high, and she could hear Aunt Patience pattering about in the hall below.

No sign remained of the evening's work; the bar had been swept and tidied, the furniture replaced and the broken glass taken away, and there was no rope hanging from the beam.

The landlord himself spent the morning in the stable and the cowhouse, pitchforking filth into the yard and doing the work that a cowman should have done had he kept one; and when he came into the kitchen at midday, to wolf an enormous meal, he questioned Mary about the farm stock at Helford, and asked for her opinion on a calf that had fallen sick, nor did he make any reference to the events of the preceeding night.

He seemed in fair good humour and went so far as to forget to curse his wife, who hovered around him as usual, watching the expression in his eye like a dog who would please his master.

Joss Merlyn behaved like a perfectly sober normal man, and it was impossible to believe that he had murdered a fellow being only a few hours before. He might be guiltless of this, of course, and the blame rest upon his unknown companion, but at least Mary had seen him with her own eyes chase the naked idiot boy across the yard, and she had heard the boy scream as he felt the lash of the landlord's whip.

She had seen him ringleader of that vile company in the bar; she had heard him threaten the stranger who opposed his will; and here he sat before her now, his mouth full of hot stew, shaking his head over a sick calf.

And she answered "Yes" and "No" in reply to her uncle, and drank down her tea, watching him over the brim of her cup, her eyes travelling from his great plate of steaming stew to his long powerful fingers, hideous in their strength and grace.

Two weeks went by and there was no repetition of Saturday night.

Perhaps the last haul had satisfied the landlord and his companions, and they were content with that for the while, for Mary did not hear the waggons again, and, though she was sleeping soundly now, she was certain that the noise of wheels would have woken her.

Her uncle appeared to have no objection to her wandering on the moors, and day by day she came to know more of the surrounding country, stumbling upon tracks she had not noticed at first and which kept her to the high ground, leading ultimately to the tors, while she learnt to avoid the low soggy grass with tufted tops that by their very harmless appearance invited inspection, only to reveal themselves as the border line of treacherous and dangerous marsh.

Though lonely, she was not actively unhappy, and these rambles in the grey light of early afternoon kept her healthy at least and went some way towards tempering the gloom and depression of the long dark evenings at Jamaica, when Aunt Patience sat with her hands in her lap, staring at the turf fire, and Joss Merlyn shut himself up alone in the bar or disappeared on the back of his pony to some unknown destination.

Companionship there was none, and no one came to the inn for rest or nourishment. The driver of the coach had spoken the truth when he told Mary they never stopped now at Jamaica, for she would stand out in the yard to watch the coaches pass twice in the week, and they were gone by in a moment, rumbling down the hill and climbing the further one towards Five Lanes without drawing rein or pausing for breath.

Once Mary waved her hand as she recognised her driver, but he took no notice of her, only whipping his horses the harder, and she realised with a rather helpless sense of futility that so far as other people were concerned she must be considered in the same light as her uncle, and that even if she tried to walk to Bodmin or Launceston no one would receive her, and the doors would be shut in her face.