I'll bring you home by midnight.
Say you're coming, Mary."
"Supposing you are caught in Launceston with Mr. Bassat's pony?
You would look like a fool then, wouldn't you? And so would I, if they clapped me into prison alongside of you."
"No one's going to catch me, not yet awhile, anyway.
Take a risk, Mary; don't you like excitement, that you're so careful of your own skin?
They must breed you soft down Helford way."
She rose like a fish to his bait.
"All right then, Jem Merlyn, you needn't think I'm afraid.
I'd just as soon be in prison as live at Jamaica Inn anyway.
How do we go to Launceston?"
"I'll take you there in the jingle, with Mr. Bassat's black pony behind us.
Do you know your way to North Hill, across the moor?"
"No, I do not."
"You only have to follow your nose.
Go a mile along the highroad, and you'll come to a gap in the hedge on the top of the hill, bearing to the right.
You'll have Carey Tor ahead of you, and Hawk's Tor away on your right, and if you keep straight on you can't miss your way.
I'll come half of the distance to meet you.
We'll keep to the moor as much as we can.
There'll be some travelling on the road Christmas Eve."
"What time shall I start, then?"
"We'll let the other folk make the pace and get there in the forenoon, and the streets will be thick enough for us by two o'clock.
You can leave Jamaica at eleven, if you like."
"I'll make no promises.
If you don't see me you can go on your way.
You forget Aunt Patience may need me."
"That's right. Make your excuses."
"There's the gate over the stream," said Mary. "You don't have to come any further.
I can find my own way.
I go straight over the brow of that hill, don't I?"
"You can give the landlord my respects, if you like, and tell him I hope his temper has improved, and his tongue also.
Ask him if he'd care for me to hang a bunch of mistletoe on the porch of Jamaica Inn!
Mind the water.
Do you want me to carry you through the gate? You'll wet your feet."
"If I went up to my waist it wouldn't hurt me.
Good afternoon, Jem Merlyn."
And Mary leapt boldly across the running brook, with one hand on the gate to guide her.
Her petticoat dipped in the water, and she lifted it up out of the way.
She heard Jem laugh from his bank on the other side, and she walked away up the hill without a backward glance or a wave of her hand.
Let him match himself against the men from the south, she thought; against the fellow from Helford, and Gweek, and Manaccan.
There was a blacksmith at Constantine who could twist him around his little finger.
Jem Merlyn had little to be proud of.
A horse thief, a common smuggler, a rogue and a murderer into the bargain, perhaps.
They bred fine men on the moors, it seemed.
Mary was not afraid of him; and to prove it she would ride beside him in his jingle to Launceston on Christmas Eve.
Darkness was falling as she crossed the highroad and into the yard.
As usual, the inn looked dark and uninhabited, with the door bolted and the windows barred.
She went round to the back of the house and tapped on the door of the kitchen.
It was opened immediately by her aunt, who seemed pale and anxious.
"Your uncle has been asking for you all day," she said. "Where have you been?