Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


She left the bar and walked into the kitchen, straight into the arms of the landlord himself.

"Who in hell's name were you talking to in the bar?" he thundered. "I thought I'd warned you to keep your mouth shut?"

The loudness of his voice echoed in the passage.

"All right," called the man from the bar, "don't beat her. She's broken my pipe and refused to serve me; that sounds like your training, doesn't it?

Come in and let's have a look at you.

I'm hoping this maid has done you some good."

Joss Merlyn frowned, and, pushing Mary aside, he stepped into the bar.

"Oh, it's you, Jem, is it?" he said. "What do you want at Jamaica today?

I can't buy a horse from you, if that's what you're after.

Things are going badly, and I'm as poor as a field mouse after a wet harvest."

He closed the door, leaving Mary in the passage outside.

She went back to her bucket of water in the front hall, wiping the dirty mark from her face with her apron.

So that was Jem Merlyn, her uncle's younger brother.

Of course, she had seen the resemblance all the time, and, like a fool, had not been able to place it. He had reminded her of her uncle throughout the conversation, and she had not realised it. He had Joss Merlyn's eyes, without the blood-flecked lines and without the pouches, and he had Joss Merlyn's mouth, firm, though, where the landlord's was weak, and narrow where his lower lip sagged.

He was what Joss Merlyn might have been eighteen, twenty years ago — but smaller in build and height, neater in person.

Mary splashed the water onto the stone flags and began to scrub furiously, her lips pressed tight together.

What a vile breed they were, then, these Merlyns, with their studied insolence and coarseness, their rough brutality of manner.

This Jem had the same streak of cruelty as his brother; she could see it in the shape of his mouth.

Aunt Patience had said he was the worst of the family.

Although he was a head and shoulders smaller than Joss, and half the breadth, there was a certain strength about him that the elder brother did not possess.

He looked hard and keen.

The landlord sagged round the chin, and his shoulders weighed on him like a burden. It was as though his power had been wasted in some way and had run to seed. Drink did that to a man, Mary knew, and for the first time she was able to guess something of the wreck Joss Merlyn had become, in comparison to his former self. It was seeing his brother that had shown her. The landlord had betrayed himself.

If the younger one had any sense in his head he would pull himself together before he travelled the same road.

Perhaps he did not care, though; there must be a fatality about the Merlyn family that did away with striving forward, and making good in life, and resolution.

Their record was too black.

"There's no going against bad blood," her mother used to say, "it always comes out in the end.

You may fight it as much as you like, but it will have the better of you.

If two generations live clean, that may clear the stream sometimes, but likely as not the third will break out and start it going again."

What a waste it all was, what a waste and a pity! And here was poor Aunt Patience dragged in the current with the Merlyns, all her youth and gaiety gone before her, leaving her — if the truth were faced — very little superior to the idiot boy at Dozmary.

And Aunt Patience might have been a farmer's wife at Gweek, with sons of her own, and a house and land, and all the little happy trivialities of a normal happy life: gossip with the neighbours, and church on Sundays, and driving into market once a week; fruit picking, and harvest-time. Things she would have loved, things that had foundation.

She would have known placidity, and they would be tranquil years that turned her hair in time to grey — years of solid work and calm enjoyment.

All this promise she had thrown away, to live like a slattern with a brute and a drunkard.

Why were women such fools, so shortsighted and unwise? wondered Mary; and she scrubbed the last stone flag of the hall with venom, as though by her very action she might cleanse the world and blot out the indiscretions of her kind.

She had worked up her energy to a frenzy, and, turning from the hall, proceeded to sweep the gloomy, dim parlour that had not seen a broom for years.

A cloud of dust met her face, and she beat savagely at the wretched threadbare mat.

She was so absorbed in her disagreeable occupation that she did not hear the stone flung at the window of the parlour, and it was not until a shower of pebbles made a crack in the glass that her concentration was disturbed, and, looking out of the window, she saw Jem Merlyn standing in the yard beside his pony.

Mary frowned at him and turned away, but he made answer with another shower of pebbles, this time cracking the glass in earnest, so that a small piece of the pane splintered onto the floor, with a stone beside it.

Mary unbolted the heavy entrance door and went out into the porch.

"What do you want now?" she asked him, conscious suddenly of her loose hair and rumpled dirty apron.

He still looked down at her with curiosity, but the insolence had gone, and he had the grace to appear the smallest bit ashamed of himself.

"Forgive me if I was rude to you just now," he said. "Somehow I didn't expect to see a woman at Jamaica Inn — not a young girl like you, anyway. I thought Joss had found you in one of the towns and had brought you back here for his fancy lady."

Mary flushed again and bit her lip in annoyance.

"There's nothing very fanciful about me," she said scornfully. "I'd look well in a town, wouldn't I, in my old apron and heavy shoes?

I should have thought anyone with eyes in his head could see I was farm bred."

"Oh, I don't know," he said carelessly. "Put you in a fine gown and a pair of high-heeled shoes, and stick a comb in your hair, I daresay you'd pass for a lady even in a big place like Exeter."

"I'm meant to be flattered by that, I suppose," said Mary, "but, thanking you very much, I'd rather wear my old clothes and look like myself."

"You could do a lot worse than that, of course," he agreed; and, looking up, she saw that he was laughing at her. She turned to go back into the house.

"Come, don't go away," he said. "I know I deserve black looks for speaking to you as I did, but if you knew my brother as well as I do you'd understand me making the mistake.

It looks strange, having a maid at Jamaica Inn.

Why did you come here in the first place?"