"The time passes."
"You've got a close tongue, haven't you, young woman?
Well, I don't envy you your relatives.
I'd rather see any daughter of mine in her grave than living at Jamaica Inn with a man like Joss Merlyn."
He turned away and climbed onto his horse, gathering the reins in his hands.
"One other thing," he called from his saddle.
"Have you seen anything of your uncle's younger brother, Jem Merlyn, of Trewartha?"
"No," said Mary steadily; "he never comes here."
"Oh, he doesn't?
Well, that's all I want from you this morning.
Good day to you both."
And away they clattered from the yard, and so down the road and to the brow of the further hill.
Aunt Patience had already preceded Mary to the kitchen and was sitting on a chair in a state of collapse.
"Oh, pull yourself together," said Mary wearily. "Mr. Bassat has gone, none the wiser for his visit, and as cross as two sticks because of it.
If he'd found the room reeking of brandy, then there would be something to cry about.
As it is, you and Uncle Joss have scraped out of it very well."
She poured herself out a tumbler of water and drank it at one breath.
Mary was in a fair way to losing her temper.
She had lied to save her uncle's skin, when every inch of her longed to proclaim his guilt.
She had looked into the barred room, and its emptiness had hardly surprised her when she remembered the visitation of the waggons a few nights back; but to have been faced with that loathsome length of rope, which she recognised immediately as the one she had seen hanging from the beam, was almost more than she could bear.
And because of her aunt she had to stand still and say nothing.
It was damnable; there was no other word for it.
Well, she was committed now, and there was no going back.
For better, for worse, she had become one of the company at Jamaica Inn.
As she drank down her second glass of water she reflected cynically that in the end she would probably hang beside her uncle.
Not only had she lied to save him, she thought with rising anger, but she had lied to help his brother, Jem.
Jem Merlyn owed her thanks as well.
Why she had lied about him she did not know.
He would probably never find out anyway, and, if he did, he would take it for granted.
Aunt Patience was still moaning and whimpering before the fire, and Mary was in no mood to comfort her.
She felt she had done enough for her family for one day, and her nerves were on edge with the whole business.
If she stayed in the kitchen a moment longer she would scream with irritation.
She went back to the washtub in the patch of garden by the chicken run and plunged her hands savagely into the grey soapy water that was now stone-cold.
Joss Merlyn returned just before noon.
Mary heard him step into the kitchen from the front of the house, and he was met at once with a babble of words from his wife.
Mary stayed where she was by the washtub; she was determined to let Aunt Patience explain things in her own way, and, if he called to her for confirmation, there was time enough to go indoors.
She could hear nothing of what passed between them, but the voice of her aunt sounded shrill and high, and now and again her uncle interposed a question sharply.
In a little while he beckoned Mary from the window, and she went inside.
He was standing on the hearth, his legs straddled wide and his face as black as thunder.
"Come on!" he shouted. "Out with it. What's your side of the story?
I get nothing but a string of words from your aunt; a magpie makes more sense than she.
What in hell's been going on here? That's what I want to know."
Mary told him calmly, in a few well-chosen words, what had taken place during the morning.
She omitted nothing — except the squire's question about his brother — and ended with Mr. Bassat's own words — that people would not sleep easy in their beds until Joss Merlyn was hanged, like his father before him.
The landlord listened in silence, and, when she had finished, he crashed his fist down on the kitchen table and swore, kicking one of the chairs to the other side of the room.
"The damned skulking bastard!" he roared. "He'd no more right to walk into my house than any other man.
His talk of a magistrate's warrant was all bluff, you blithering fools; there's no such thing.
By God, if I'd been here, I'd have sent him back to North Hill so as his own wife would never recognise him, and, if she did, she'd have no use for him again.
Damn and blast his eyes!
I'll teach Mr. Bassat who's got the run of this country, and have him sniffing round my legs, what's more.