Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


I'll whip the horses on when we've climbed the hill out of Bodmin, for it's no night for the road. I shan't be easy in my mind until I reach my bed in Launceston.

There's not many of us likes to cross the moors in wintertime, not when the weather's dirty."

He slammed the door and climbed to his seat.

The coach rumbled away down the street, past the safe and solid houses, the busy winking lights, the scattered people hurrying home for supper, their figures bowed against the wind and rain.

Through the shuttered windows Mary could see chinks of friendly candlelight; there would be a fire within the grate, and a cloth spread on the table, a woman and children sitting down to their meal, while the man warmed his hands before the cheerful blaze.

She thought of the smiling countrywoman who had been her fellow passenger; she wondered if she was now sitting at her own table, with her children by her side.

How comfortable she had been, with her apple cheeks, her rough, worn hands! What a world of security in her deep voice!

And Mary made a little story to herself of how she might have followed her from the coach, and prayed her company, and asked her for a home.

Nor would she have been refused, she was certain of that.

There would have been a smile for her, and a friendly hand, and a bed for her.

She would have served the woman, and grown to love her, shared something of her life, become acquainted with her people.

Now the horses were climbing the steep hill out of the town, and, looking through the window at the back of the coach, Mary could see the lights of Bodmin fast disappearing, one by one, until the last glimmer winked and flickered and was gone.

She was alone now with the wind and the rain, and twelve long miles of barren moor between her and her destination.

She wondered if this was how a ship felt when the security of harbour was left behind.

No vessel could feel more desolate than she did, not even if the wind thundered in the rigging and the sea licked her decks.

It was dark in the coach now, for the torch gave forth a sickly yellow glare, and the draught from the crack in the roof sent the flame wandering hither and thither, to the danger of the leather, and Mary thought it best to extinguish it.

She sat huddled in her corner, swaying from side to side as the coach was shaken, and it seemed to her that never before had she known there was malevolence in solitude.

The very coach, which all the day had rocked her like a cradle, now held a note of menace in its creaks and groans.

The wind tore at the roof, and the showers of rain, increasing in violence now there was no shelter from the hills, spat against the windows with new venom.

On either side of the road the country stretched interminably into space. No trees, no lane, no cluster of cottages or hamlet, but mile upon mile of bleak moorland, dark and untraversed, rolling like a desert land to some unseen horizon.

No human being could live in this wasted country, thought Mary, and remain like other people; the very children would be born twisted, like the blackened shrubs of broom, bent by the force of a wind that never ceased, blow as it would from east and west, from north and south.

Their minds would be twisted, too, their thoughts evil, dwelling as they must amidst marshland and granite, harsh heather and crumbling stone.

They would be born of strange stock who slept with this earth as a pillow, beneath this black sky.

They would have something of the devil left in them still.

On wound the road across the dark and silent land, with never a light to waver for an instant as a message of hope to the traveller within the coach.

Perhaps there was no habitation in all the long one-and-twenty miles that stretched between the two towns of Bodmin and Launceston; perhaps there was not even a poor shepherd's hut on the desolate highway: nothing but the one grim landmark that was Jamaica Inn.

Mary lost count of time and space; the miles might have been a hundred and the hour midnight, for all she knew.

She began to cling to the safety of the coach; at least it had some remnant of familiarity.

She had known it since the early morning, and that was long ago.

However great a nightmare was this eternal drive, there were at least the four close walls to protect her, the shabby leaking roof, and, within calling distance, the comfortable presence of the driver.

At last it seemed to her that he was driving his horses to an even greater speed; she heard him shout to them, the cry of his voice blown past her window on the wind.

She lifted the sash and looked out.

She was met with a blast of wind and rain that blinded her for the moment, and then, shaking clear her hair and pushing it from her eyes, she saw that the coach was topping the breast of a hill at a furious gallop, while on either side of the road was rough moorland, looming ink black in the mist and rain.

Ahead of her, on the crest, and to the left, was some sort of a building, standing back from the road. She could see tall chimneys, murky dim in the darkness.

There was no other house, no other cottage.

If this was Jamaica, it stood alone in glory, foursquare to the winds.

Mary gathered her cloak around her and fastened the clasp.

The horses had been pulled to a standstill and stood sweating under the rain, the steam coming from them in a cloud.

The driver climbed down from his seat, pulling her box down with him.

He seemed hurried, and he kept glancing over his shoulder towards the house.

"Here you are," he said; "across the yard there yonder. If you hammer on the door they'll let you in.

I must be getting on or I'll not reach Launceston tonight." In a moment he was up on his seat again and picking up the reins.

He shouted at his horses, whipping them in a fever of anxiety.

The coach rumbled and shook, and in a moment it was away and down the road, disappearing as though it had never been, lost and swallowed up in the darkness.

Mary stood alone, with the trunk at her feet.

She heard a sound of bolts being drawn in the dark house behind her, and the door was flung open.

A great figure strode into the yard, swinging a lantern from side to side.

"Who is it?" came the shout. "What do you want here?"

Mary stepped forward and peered up into the man's face.

The light shone in her eyes, and she could see nothing.