And off goes the owner to Launceston fair with his eyes wide open. But he doesn't find his pony.
Mark you, the pony is there, right enough, and he's bought by some dealer and sold away upcountry.
Only his mane is clipped, his four feet are all the same colour, and the mark in his ear is a slit, not a diamond.
The owner didn't even look at him twice.
That's simple enough, isn't it?"
"So simple that I can't understand why you don't ride past Jamaica in your own coach, with a powdered footman on the step," said Mary swiftly.
"Ah, well, there you are," he said, shaking his head. "I've never had the brain for figures.
You'd be surprised to learn how quickly money slips through my fingers.
Do you know, I had ten pounds in my pocket last week. I've only a shilling piece today.
That's why I want you to buy that little pony."
Mary laughed, in spite of herself.
He was so frank in his dishonesty that she had not the heart to be angry with him.
"I can't spend my small savings on horses," she said. "I'm laying aside for my old age, and if I ever get away from Jamaica I shall need every penny, you may depend on that."
Jem Merlyn looked at her gravely, and then, on a sudden impulse, he bent towards her, first glancing over her head into the porch beyond.
"Look here," he said, "I'm serious now; you can forget all the nonsense I've told you.
Jamaica Inn is no place for a maid — nor for any woman, if it comes to that.
My brother and I have never been friends, and I can say what I like about him.
We go our own ways and be damned to one another.
But there's no reason why you should be caught up in his dirty schemes.
Why don't you run away?
I'd see you on the road to Bodmin all right."
His tones were persuasive, and Mary could almost have trusted him.
But she could not forget he was Joss Merlyn's brother, and as such might betray her.
She dared not make a confidant of him — not yet, anyway.
Time would show whose side he was on.
"I don't need any help," she said; "I can look after myself."
Jem threw his leg over the pony's back and stuck his feet into the leathers.
"All right," he said, "I won't worry you.
My cottage is across the Withy Brook, if you ever want me.
The other side of Trewartha Marsh, at the foot of Twelve Men's Moor.
I shall be there until the spring, anyway.
Good day to you." And he was off and away down the road before she had time to say a word in return.
Mary went slowly back into the house.
She would have trusted him had his name been other than Merlyn.
She was in urgent need of a friend; but she could not make a friend of the landlord's brother.
He was no more than a common horse thief, a dishonest scoundrel, when all was said and done. He was little better than Harry the pedlar and the rest of them.
Because he had a disarming smile and his voice was not unpleasing, she had been ready to believe in him, and he all the time perhaps laughing at her the other side of his face.
There was bad blood in him; he broke the law every day of his life, and whatever way she looked at it there was no escaping from that one unredeemable fact — he was Joss Merlyn's brother.
He had said there was no bond between them, but even that might be a lie to enlist her sympathy, while the whole of their conversation perhaps had been prompted by the landlord in the bar.
No, whatever happened, she must stand alone in this business and trust no one.
The very walls of Jamaica Inn smelt of guilt and deceit, and to speak aloud in earshot of the building courted disaster.
It was dark in the house, and quiet once more.
The landlord had returned to the peat stack at the bottom of the garden, and Aunt Patience was in her kitchen.
The surprise of the visit had been a little excitement and a breaking up of the long, monotonous day.
Jem Merlyn had brought something of the outer world with him, a world that was not entirely bounded by the moors and frowned upon by tors of granite; and now that he had departed the early brightness of the day went with him.
The sky became overcast, and the inevitable rain came sweeping from the west, topping the hills in mist.
The black heather bowed before the wind.
The ill temper that had fastened upon Mary at the beginning of the morning had passed away, and in its place had stolen a numb indifference born of fatigue and despair.
Interminably the days and weeks stretched themselves before her, with no other sight but the long white road to tempt her, the stone walls, and the everlasting hills.
She thought of Jem Merlyn riding away with a song on his lips, kicking his heels into his pony's side, and he would ride hatless, careless of the wind and the rain, choosing his own road.