Are you sure you won't change your mind?"
Mary shook her head and laughed.
"You'd have me tie him up in the stable at Jamaica, I suppose," she said, "and when Mr. Bassat calls again he wouldn't be likely to recognise him, would he?
Thanking you for your trouble, but I'd rather not risk it all the same.
I've lied enough for your family, Jem Merlyn, for one lifetime."
Jem pulled a long face and slid to the ground.
"You've refused the best bargain that you'll ever have offered to you," he said, "and I won't give you the chance again.
He'll go to Launceston on Christmas Eve; the dealers there will swallow him up." He clapped his hands on the hindquarters of the pony. "Get on with you, then"; and the animal made a startled dash for the gap in the bank.
Jem broke off a piece of grass and began to chew it, glancing sideways at his companion.
"What did Squire Bassat expect to see at Jamaica Inn?" he said.
Mary looked him straight in the eyes.
"You ought to know that better than I do," she answered.
Jem chewed his grass thoughtfully, spitting out little bits of it onto the ground.
"How much do you know?" he said suddenly, throwing the stalk away.
Mary shrugged her shoulders.
"I didn't come here to answer questions," she said.
"I had enough of that with Mr. Bassat."
"It was lucky for Joss the stuff had been shifted," said his brother quietly. "I told him last week he was sailing too close to the wind.
It's only a matter of time before they catch him.
And all he does in self-defence is to get drunk, the damned fool."
Mary said nothing.
If Jem was trying to trap her by this exhibition of frankness he would be disappointed.
"You must have a good view from that little room over the porch," he said. "Do they wake you out of your beauty sleep?"
"How do you know that's my room?" Mary asked swiftly.
He looked taken aback at her question; she saw the surprise flash through his eyes.
Then he laughed and picked another piece of grass from the bank.
"The window was wide open when I rode into the yard the other morning," he said, "and there was a little bit of blind blowing in the wind.
I've never seen a window open at Jamaica Inn before."
The excuse was plausible, but hardly good enough for Mary.
A horrible suspicion came into her mind.
Could it have been Jem who had hidden in the empty guest room that Saturday night?
Something went cold inside her.
"Why are you so silent about it all?" he continued. "Do you think I'm going to go to my brother and say,
'Here, that niece of yours, she lets her tongue run away with her'?
Damn it, Mary, you're not blind or deaf; even a child would smell a rat if he lived a month at Jamaica Inn."
"What are you trying to make me tell you?" said Mary. "And what does it matter to you how much I know?
All I think about is getting my aunt away from the place as soon as possible.
I told you that when you came to the inn.
It may take a little time to persuade her, and I'll have to be patient.
As for your brother, he can drink himself to death for all I care.
His life is his own, and so is his business. It's nothing to do with me."
Jem whistled and kicked a loose stone with his foot.
"So smuggling doesn't appal you after all?" he said. "You'd let my brother line every room at Jamaica with kegs of brandy and rum, and you'd say nothing, is that it?
But supposing he meddled in other things — supposing it was a question of life, and death, and perhaps murder — what then?"
He turned round and faced her, and she could see that this time he was not playing with her; his careless, laughing manner was gone, and his eyes were grave, but she could not read what lay behind them.
"I don't know what you mean," said Mary.
He looked at her for a long time without speaking.
It was as though he debated some problem in his mind and could only find solution in the expression of her face.
All his resemblance to his brother vanished.
He was harder, older suddenly, and of a different breed.