The future loomed very black at times, especially as Aunt Patience made little effort to be companionable; and though now and again she took hold of Mary's hand and patted it for a few minutes, telling her how glad she was to have her in the house, for the most part the poor woman existed in a dream, pottering about her household duties in a mechanical fashion and seldom uttering.
When she did speak, it was to let forth a torrent of nonsense about the great man her husband might have been had not ill luck constantly followed him. Any normal conversation was practically impossible, and Mary came to humour her and talk gently as she would have done to a child, all of which was a strain on her nerves and on her patience.
So that it was in a mood of truculence, following upon a day of wind and rain that had made it impracticable to venture out of doors, that Mary one morning set herself to clean down the long stone passage that ran the full width of the back of the house.
The hard work, if it strengthened her muscles, did not improve her temper, and by the time she had finished she was so disgusted with Jamaica Inn and its inhabitants that for very little she would have walked out into the patch of garden behind the kitchen, where her uncle was working, heedless of the rain upon his mat of hair, and thrown her bucket of dirty soapy water into his very face.
The sight of her aunt, who with bent back poked at the dull peat fire with the end of a stick, defeated her, and Mary was about to start on the stone flags of the entrance hall when she heard a clatter of hoofs in the yard, and in a moment someone thundered on the closed door of the bar.
No one had approached Jamaica Inn before, and this summons was an event in itself. Mary went back to the kitchen to warn her aunt, but she had left the room, and, looking out of the window, Mary could see her pattering across the garden to her husband, who was loading turf from the stack into a barrow.
They were both out of earshot, and neither could have heard the sound of this new arrival.
Mary wiped her hands on her apron and went into the bar.
The door must have been unlocked after all, for to her surprise there was a man sitting straddle-legged across a chair, with a glass in his hand filled to the brim with ale, which he had calmly poured out from the tap himself.
For a few minutes they considered one another in silence.
Something about him was familiar, and Mary wondered where she had seen him before.
The rather drooping lids, the curve of his mouth, and the outline of his jaw, even the bold and decidedly insolent stare with which he favoured her, were things known to her and definitely disliked.
The sight of him looking her up and down and drinking his ale at the same time irritated her beyond measure.
"What do you think you're doing?" she said sharply. "You haven't any right to walk in here and help yourself.
Besides, the landlord doesn't encourage strangers."
At any other moment she would have laughed to hear herself speak thus, as though in defence of her uncle, but scrubbing the stone flags had done away with her sense of humour, if only for the moment, and she felt she must vent her ill temper on the nearest victim.
The man finished his ale and held out the glass to be refilled.
"Since when have they kept a barmaid at Jamaica Inn?" he asked her, and, feeling in his pocket for a pipe, he lit it, puffing a great cloud of smoke into her face.
His manner infuriated Mary, and she leant forward and pulled the pipe out of his hand, throwing it behind her onto the floor, where it smashed at once.
He shrugged his shoulders and began to whistle, the very tunelessness adding fuel to her flame of irritation.
"Is this how they train you to serve customers?" he said, breaking off in the middle. "I don't think much of their choice.
There are better-mannered maids in Launceston, where I was yesterday, and pretty as paint into the bargain.
What have you been doing with yourself?
Your hair is coming down at the back, and your face is none too clean."
Mary turned away and walked towards the door, but he called her back.
"Fill up my glass. That's what you're here for, isn't it?" he said. "I've ridden twelve miles since breakfast, and I'm thirsty."
"You may have ridden fifty miles for all I care," said Mary. "As you seem to know your way about here, you can fill your own glass. I'll tell Mr. Merlyn you are in the bar, and he can serve you himself if he has the mind."
"Oh, don't worry Joss; he'll be like a bear with a sore head at this time of day," came the answer. "Besides, he's never very anxious to see me.
What's happened to his wife?
Has he turned her out to make room for you?
I call that hard on the poor woman.
You'll never stay with him ten years, anyway."
"Mrs. Merlyn is in the garden, if you want to see her," said Mary.
"You can walk out of the door and turn to the left, and you'll come to the patch of garden and the chicken run.
They were both of them down under, five minutes ago.
You can't come through this way because I've just washed the passage, and I don't want to do it all over again."
"Oh, don't get excited; there's plenty of time," he replied. She could see he was still looking her up and down, wondering what to make of her, and the familiar, somewhat lazy insolence in his eyes maddened her.
"Do you want to speak to the landlord or not?" she asked at length. "Because I can't stand here all day awaiting your pleasure.
If you don't want to see him, and you've finished your drink, you can put down your money on the counter and go away."
The man laughed, and his smile and the flash of his teeth struck a chord in her memory, but still she could not name the resemblance.
"Do you order Joss about in that way?" he said. "He must be a changed man if you do.
What a creature of contradictions the fellow is, after all.
I never thought he'd run a young woman alongside his other activities.
What do you do with poor Patience of an evening?
Do you turn her out on the floor, or do you sleep all three abreast?"
Mary flushed scarlet.
"Joss Merlyn is my uncle by marriage," she said. "Aunt Patience was my mother's only sister.
My name is Mary Yellan, if that means anything to you.
There's the door behind you."