Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


Once more she looked up at the grey sky and the low-flying clouds.

If she was going to Launceston, then it was time to make ready and be away.

There would be no excuses to make; she had grown hard in the last four days.

Aunt Patience could think what she liked.

If she had any intuition, she must guess that Mary did not want to see her.

And she would look at her husband, with his bloodshot eyes and his shaking hands, and she would understand.

Once more, perhaps for the last time, the drink had loosened his tongue. His secret was spilt; and Mary held his future in her hands.

She had not yet determined what use to make of her knowledge, but she would not save him again.

Today she would go to Launceston with Jem Merlyn, and this time it was he who would answer her questions; he would show some humility too when he realised she was no longer afraid of them, but could destroy them when she chose.

And tomorrow — well, tomorrow could take care of itself.

There was always Francis Davey and his promise; there would be peace and shelter for her at the house in Altarnun.

This was a strange Christmastide, she pondered, as she strode across the East Moor with Hawk's Tor as her guide, and the hills rolling away from her on either side.

Last year she had knelt beside her mother in church, and prayed that health and strength and courage should be given to them both.

She had prayed for peace of mind and security; she had asked that her mother might be spared to her long, and that the farm should prosper.

For answer came sickness, and poverty, and death.

She was alone now, caught in a mesh of brutality and crime, living beneath a roof she loathed, amongst people she despised; and she was walking out across a barren, friendless moor to meet a horse thief and a murderer of men.

She would offer no prayers to God this Christmas.

Mary waited on the high ground above Rushyford, and in the distance she saw the little cavalcade approach her: the pony, the jingle, and two horses tethered behind.

The driver raised his whip in a signal of welcome.

Mary felt the colour flame into her face and drain away.

This weakness was a thing of torment to her, and she longed for it to be tangible and alive so that she could tear it from her and trample it underfoot.

She thrust her hands into her shawl and waited, her forehead puckered in a frown.

He whistled as he approached her and flung a small package at her feet.

"A happy Christmas to you," he said. "I had a silver piece in my pocket yesterday and it burnt a hole.

There's a new handkerchief for your head."

She had meant to be curt and silent on meeting him, but this introduction made it difficult for her.

"That's very kind of you," she said. "I'm afraid you've wasted your money all the same."

"That's doesn't worry me, I'm used to it," he told her, and he looked her up and down in the cool offensive way of his, and whistled a tuneless song.

"You were early here," he said. "Were you afraid I'd be going without you?"

She climbed into the cart beside him and gathered the reins in her hands.

"I like to have the feel of them again," she said, ignoring his remark. "Mother and I, we would drive into Helston once a week on market days.

It all seems very long ago.

I have a pain in my heart when I think of it, and how we used to laugh together, even when times were bad.

You wouldn't understand that, of course. You've never cared for anything but yourself."

He folded his arms and watched her handle the reins.

"That pony would cross the moor blindfold," he told her. "Give him his head, can't you?

He's never stumbled in his life.

That's better.

He's taking charge of you, remember, and you can leave him to it.

What were you saying?" Mary held the reins lightly in her hands and looked at the track ahead of her.

"Nothing very much," she answered. "In a way I was talking to myself.

So you're going to sell two ponies at the fair, then?"

"Double profit, Mary Yellan, and you shall have a new dress if you help me.

Don't smile and shrug your shoulder.

I hate ingratitude.

What's the matter with you today?

Your colour is gone, and you've no light in your eyes.

Are you feeling sick, or have you a pain in your belly?"

"I've not been out of the house since I saw you last," she said. "I stayed up in my room with my thoughts. They didn't make cheerful company.

I'm a deal older than I was four days ago."