"I'm sorry you've lost your looks," he went on. "I fancied jogging into Launceston with a pretty girl beside me, and fellows looking up as we passed and winking.
You're drab today.
Don't lie to me, Mary. I'm not as blind as you think.
What's happened at Jamaica Inn?"
"Nothing's happened," she said.
"My aunt patters about in the kitchen, and my uncle sits at the table with his head in his hands and a bottle of brandy in front of him.
It's only myself that has changed."
"You've had no more visitors, have you?"
"None that I know of.
Nobody's crossed the yard."
"Your mouth is set very firm, and there are smudges under your eyes. You're tired.
I've seen a woman look like that before, but there was a reason for it.
Her husband came back to her at Plymouth after four years at sea.
You can't make that excuse.
Have you been thinking about me by any chance?"
"Yes, I thought about you once," she said. "I wondered who would hang first, you or your brother.
There's little in it, from what I can see."
"If Joss hangs, it will be his own fault," said Jem.
"If ever a man puts a rope around his own neck, he does.
He goes three quarters of the way to meet trouble.
When it does get him it will serve him right, and there'll be no brandy bottle to save him then.
He'll swing sober."
They jogged along in silence, Jem playing with the throng of the whip, and Mary aware of his hands beside her.
She glanced down at them out of the tail of her eye, and she saw they were long and slim; they had the same strength, the same grace, as his brother's.
These attracted her; the others repelled her.
She realised for the first time that aversion and attraction ran side by side; that the boundary line was thin between them.
The thought was an unpleasant one, and she shrank from it.
Supposing this had been Joss beside her ten, twenty years ago?
She shuttered the comparison at the back of her mind, fearing the picture it conjured.
She knew now why she hated her uncle.
His voice broke in upon her thoughts.
"What are you looking at?" he said.
She lifted her eyes to the scene in front of her.
"I happened to notice your hands," she said briefly; "they are like your brother's.
How far do we go across the moor?
Isn't that the highroad winding away yonder?"
"We strike it lower down, and miss two or three miles of it.
So you notice a man's hands, do you?
I should never have believed it of you.
You're a woman after all, then, and not a half-fledged farm boy.
Are you going to tell me why you've sat in your room for four days without speaking, or do you want me to guess?
Women love to be mysterious."
"There's no mystery in it.
You asked me last time we met if I knew why my aunt looked like a living ghost.
Those were your words, weren't they?
Well, I know now, that's all."
Jem watched her with curious eyes, and then he whistled again.
"Drink's a funny thing," he said, after a moment or two. "I got drunk once, in Amsterdam, the time I ran away to sea.
I remember hearing a church clock strike half past nine in the evening, and I was sitting on the floor with my arms round a pretty red-haired girl.
The next thing I knew, it was seven in the following morning, and I was lying on my back in the gutter, without any boots or breeches.