Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


"I never said nothing about loneliness," answered the man.

"Maybe you don't understand, being a stranger up here.

It's not the twenty-odd mile of moor I'm thinking of, though that'd scare most women.

Here, wait a minute." He called over his shoulder to a woman who stood in the doorway of the Royal, lighting the lamp above the porch, for it was already dusk. "Missus," he said, "come here an' reason with this young girl.

I was told she was for Launceston, but she's asked me to put her down at Jamaica."

The woman came down the steps and peered into the coach.

"It's a wild, rough place up there," she said, "and if it's work you are looking for, you won't find it on the farms.

They don't like strangers on the moors.

You'd do better down here in Bodmin."

Mary smiled at her.

"I shall be all right," she said. "I'm going to relatives.

My uncle is landlord of Jamaica Inn."

There was a long silence.

In the grey light of the coach Mary could see that the woman and the man were staring at her.

She felt chilled suddenly, anxious; she wanted some word of reassurance from the woman, but it did not come. Then the woman drew back from the window.

"I'm sorry," she said slowly. "It's none of my business, of course.

Good night."

The driver began to whistle, rather red in the face, as one who wishes to rid himself of an awkward situation.

Mary leant forward impulsively and touched his arm.

"Would you tell me?" she said. "I shan't mind what you say.

Is my uncle not liked?

Is something the matter?"

The man looked very uncomfortable.

He spoke gruffly and avoided her eyes.

"Jamaica's got a bad name," he said; "queer tales get about; you know how it is. But I don't want to make any trouble.

Maybe they're not true."

"What sort of tales?" asked Mary. "Do you mean there's much drunkenness there?

Does my uncle encourage bad company?"

The man would not commit himself.

"I don't want to make trouble," he repeated, "and I don't know anything.

It's only what people say.

Respectable folk don't go to Jamaica any more.

That's all I know.

In the old days we used to water the horses there, and feed them, and go in for a bit of a bite and drink.

But we don't stop there any more.

We whip the horses past and wait for nothing, not till we get to Five Lanes, and then we don't bide long."

"Why don't folk go there?

What is their reason?" Mary persisted.

The man hesitated; it was as though he were searching for words.

"They're afraid," he said at last; and then he shook his head; he would say no more.

Perhaps he felt he had been churlish and was sorry for her, for a moment later he looked in at the window again and spoke to her.

"Will you not take a cup of tea before we go?" he said.

"It's a long drive before you, and it's cold on the moors."

Mary shook her head.

Desire for food had left her, and though the tea would have warmed her, she did not wish to descend from the coach and walk into the Royal, where the woman would have stared at her, and people would murmur.

Besides, there was a little nagging coward in her that whispered,

"Stay in Bodmin, stay in Bodmin," and for all she knew she might have given way to it in the shelter of the Royal.

She had promised her mother to go to Aunt Patience, and there must be no going back on her given word.

"We'd best be going then," said the driver. "You are the only traveller on the road tonight.

Here's another rug for your knees.