Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


His hoofs thundered on the hard white road, raising a cloud of dust, and Mary was flung against her companion.

He made no effort to rein in his horse, and, glancing up at him, Mary saw that he was smiling.

"Go on," he said, "go on; you can go faster than this"; and his voice was low and excited, as though he were talking to himself.

The effect was unnatural, a little startling, and Mary was aware of a feeling of discomfiture, as though he had betaken himself to another world and had forgotten her existence.

Seated where she was, she could observe him for the first time in profile, and she saw how clear-cut were his features, how prominent the thin nose; perhaps it was the peculiarity of nature's creating him white in the beginning that made him different from any man she had ever seen before. He looked like a bird. Crouched in his seat, with his black cape-coat blown out by the wind, his arms were like wings. He might be any age, and she could not place him at all.

Then he smiled down at her and was human again.

"I love these moors," he said. "You have had a bad introduction to them, of course, so you can't understand me.

If you knew them as well as I do, and had seen them in every mood, winter and summer, you would love them too.

They have a fascination unlike any other part of the county. They go back a long way in time.

Sometimes I think they are the survival of another age.

The moors were the first things to be created; afterwards came the forests, and the valleys, and the sea.

Climb Rough Tor one morning before sunrise and listen to the wind in the stones.

You'll know what I mean then."

Mary kept thinking of the parson at her home. He was a cheerful little man with a long string of children exactly like himself, and his wife made damson cheese.

He preached the same sermon always on Christmas Day, and his parishioners could have prompted him anywhere.

She wondered what Francis Davey said in his church at Altarnun.

Did he preach about Rough Tor, and the light on Dozmary pool?

They had come to the dip in the road now, where a cluster of trees made a little valley for the river Fowey, and in front of them stretched the climb to the high, unsheltered ground, Already Mary could see the tall chimneys of Jamaica Inn outlined against the sky.

The drive was ended, and the exhilaration went from her. The old dread and loathing for her uncle returned.

The vicar stopped his horse just short of the yard, under the lee of the grass bank.

"There's no sign of anyone," he said quietly. "It's like a house of the dead.

Would you like me to try the door?"

Mary shook her head.

"It's bolted always," she whispered, "and the windows are barred.

That's my room, over the porch.

I can scramble up there, if you let me climb on your shoulder.

I've managed worse places than that at home.

My window is open at the top; once on the porch, it will be easy enough."

"You'll slip on those slates," he answered. "I won't let you do it. It's absurd.

Is there no other way of getting in?

What about the back?"

"The door of the bar will be bolted, and the kitchen too," said Mary. "We can slip round, if you like, and make certain."

She led the way round to the other side of the house, and then she turned to him suddenly, her finger to her lips.

"There's a light in the kitchen," she whispered. "That means my uncle is there.

Aunt Patience always goes up early.

There are no curtains to the window; if we pass by he will see us."

She leant back against the wall of the house.

Her companion motioned her to be still.

"Very well," he said, "I will take care he does not see me.

I am going to look in at the window."

She watched him to the side of the window, and he stood there for a few minutes gazing into the kitchen.

Then he beckoned to her to follow, that same tense smile on his face she had noticed before.

His face looked very pale against his black shovel hat.

"There'll be no argument tonight with the landlord of Jamaica Inn," he said.

Mary followed the direction of his eyes and pressed forwards to the window.

The kitchen was lit by a single candle stuck sideways into a bottle. It had already burnt down halfway, and great blobs of grease clung to the side of it.

The flame itself wavered and spluttered in the draught from the door, which was wide open to the garden.

Joss Merlyn sprawled at the table in a drunken stupor, his great legs stretched out on either side of him, his hat on the back of his head. He stared before him at the guttering candle, his eyes glazed and fixed like a dead man's.

Another bottle lay with its neck smashed on the table, and beside it an empty glass.

The peat fire had smouldered itself to nothing.