Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


The kitchen was very cold, and the light was dim. The candle had burnt low.

She yawned and shivered and stretched her stiff arms. When she lifted her eyes she saw the door of the kitchen open very slowly, little by little, an inch at a time.

Mary sat without moving, her hands on the cold floor.

She waited, and nothing happened.

The door moved again, and then was flung wide, crashing against the wall behind it.

Joss Merlyn stood on the threshold of the room, his arms outstretched, rocking on his two feet.

At first she thought he had not noticed her; his eyes were fixed on the wall in front of him, and he stood still where he was, without venturing further into the room.

She crouched low, her head beneath the level of the table, hearing nothing but the steady thump of her heart.

Slowly he turned in her direction and stared at her a moment or two without speaking.

When his voice came, it was strained and hoarse, hardly above a whisper.

"Who's there?" he said. "What are you doing?

Why don't you speak?"

His face was a grey mask, drained of its usual colour. His bloodshot eyes fastened themselves upon her without recognition.

Mary did not move.

"Put away that knife," he whispered. "Put it away, I tell you."

She stretched her hand along the floor and touched the leg of a chair with the tips of her fingers. She could not hold onto it unless she moved. It was just out of reach.

She waited, holding her breath.

He stepped forward into the room, his head bent, his two hands feeling the air, and he crept slowly along the floor towards her.

Mary watched his hands until they were within a yard of her and she could feel his breath on her cheek.

"Uncle Joss," she said softly. "Uncle Joss—"

He crouched where he was, staring down at her, and then he leant forward and touched her hair and her lips.

"Mary," he said, "is it you, Mary?

Why don't you speak to me?

Where have they gone?

Have you seen them?"

"You've made a mistake, Uncle Joss," she said; "there is no one here, only myself.

Aunt Patience is upstairs.

Are you ill?

Can I help you?"

He looked about him in the half-light, searching the corners of the room.

"They can't scare me," he whispered. "Dead men don't harm the living.

They're blotted out, like a candle….

That's it, isn't it, Mary?"

She nodded, watching his eyes.

He pulled himself to a chair and sat down, his hands outstretched on the table. He sighed heavily and passed his tongue over his lips.

"It's dreams," he said, "all dreams.

The faces stand out like live things in the darkness, and I wake with the sweat pouring down my back.

I'm thirsty, Mary; here's the key; go into the bar and fetch me some brandy." He fumbled in his pocket and produced a bunch of keys.

She took them from him, her hand trembling, and slipped out of the room into the passage.

She hesitated for a moment outside, wondering whether she should creep upstairs at once to her room, and lock the door, and leave him to rave alone in the kitchen.

She began to tiptoe along the passages to the hall.

Suddenly he shouted to her from the kitchen.

"Where are you going?

I told you to fetch the brandy from the bar."

She heard the chair scrape as he pushed it away from the table.

She was too late.

She opened the door of the bar and felt in the cupboard amongst the bottles.

When she returned to the kitchen he was sprawling at the table, his head in his hands.

At first she thought he was asleep again, but at the sound of her footstep he lifted his head, and stretched his arms, and leant back in the chair.

She put the bottle and a glass on the table in front of him.