She hated him for it, and with a sudden intuition she knew the question that was forming itself, and her hands grew hot.
"If you believe it of me, why do you drive with me today to Launceston?" he said.
He was ready to mock her; an evasion or a stammered reply would be a triumph for him, and she steeled herself to gaiety.
"For the sake of your bright eyes, Jem Merlyn," she said. "I ride with you for no other reason," and she met his glance without a tremour.
He laughed at that, and shook his head, and fell to whistling again; and all at once there was ease between them, and a certain boyish familiarity.
The very boldness of her words had disarmed him; he suspected nothing of the weakness that lay behind them, and for the moment they were companions without the strain of being man and woman.
They came now to the highroad, and the jingle rattled along behind the trotting pony, with the two stolen horses clattering in tow.
The rain clouds swept across the sky, threatening and low, but as yet no drizzle fell from them, and the hills that rose in the distance from the moors were clear of mist.
Mary thought of Francis Davey in Altarnun away to the left of her, and she wondered what he would say to her when she told him her story.
He would not advise a waiting game again. Perhaps he would not thank her if she broke in upon his Christmas; and she pictured the silent vicarage, peaceful and still amongst the cluster of cottages that formed the village, and the tall church tower standing like a guardian above the roofs and chimneys.
There was a haven of rest for her in Altarnun — the very name spelt like a whisper — and the voice of Francis Davey would mean security and a forgetting of trouble.
There was a strangeness about him that was disturbing and pleasant. That picture he had painted; and the way he had driven his horse; and how he had waited upon her with deft silence; and strange above all was the grey and sombre stillness of his room that bore no trace of his personality.
He was a shadow of a man, and now she was not with him he lacked substance.
He had not the male aggression of Jem beside her, he was without flesh and blood.
He was no more than two white eyes and a voice in the darkness.
The pony shied suddenly at a gap in the hedge, and Jem's loud curse woke her with a jar from the privacy of her thoughts. She threw a shot at a venture.
"Are there churches hereabout?" she asked him. "I've lived like a heathen these last months, and I hate the feeling."
"Get out of it, you blasted fool, you!" shouted Jem, stabbing at the pony's mouth. "Do you want to land us all in the ditch?
Churches, do you say?
How in the hell should I know about churches?
I've only been inside one once, and then I was carried in my mother's arms and I came out Jeremiah.
I can't tell you anything about them. They keep the gold plate locked up, I believe."
"There's a church at Altarnun, isn't there?" she said. "That's within walking distance of Jamaica Inn.
I might go there tomorrow."
"Far better eat your Christmas dinner with me.
I can't give you turkey, but I can always help myself to a goose from old Farmer Tuckett at North Hill.
He's getting so blind he'd never know that she was missing."
"Do you know who has the living at Altarnun, Jem Merlyn?"
"No, I do not, Mary Yellan. I've never had any truck with parsons, and I'm never likely to.
They're a funny breed of man altogether.
There was a parson at North Hill when I was a boy; he was very shortsighted, and they say one Sunday he mislaid the sacramental wine and gave the parish brandy instead.
The village heard in a body what was happening, and, do you know, that church was so packed, there was scarcely room to kneel; there were people standing up against the walls, waiting for their turn.
The parson couldn't make it out at all; there'd never been so many in his church before, and he got up in the pulpit with his eyes shining behind his spectacles, and he preached a sermon about the flock returning to the fold.
Brother Matthew it was told me the story; he went up twice to the altar rails and the parson never noticed.
It was a great day in North Hill.
Get out the bread and the cheese, Mary; my belly is sinking away to nothing."
Mary shook her head at him and sighed.
"Have you ever been serious about anything in your life?" she said. "Do you respect nothing and nobody?"
"I respect my inside," he told her, "and it's calling out for food.
There's the box, under my feet.
You can eat the apple, if you're feeling religious.
There's an apple comes in the Bible, I know that much."
It was a hilarious and rather heated cavalcade that clattered into Launceston at half past two in the afternoon.
Mary had thrown trouble and responsibility to the winds, and, in spite of her firm resolution of the early morning, she had melted to Jem's mood and given herself to gaiety.
Away from the shadow of Jamaica Inn her natural youth and her spirits returned, and her companion noticed this in a flash and played upon them.
She laughed because she must, and because he made her; and there was an infection in the air caught from the sound and bustle of the town, a sense of excitement and well-being; a sense of Christmas.
The streets were thronged with people, and the little shops were gay. Carriages, and carts, and coaches too, were huddled together in the cobbled square. There was colour, and life, and movement; the cheerful crowd jostled one another before the market stalls, turkeys and geese scratched at the wooden barrier that penned them, and a woman in a green cloak held apples above her head and smiled, the apples shining and red like her cheeks.
The scene was familiar and dear; Helston had been like this, year after year at Christmastime; but there was a brighter, more abandoned spirit about Launceston; the crowd was greater and the voices mixed.
There was space here, and a certain sophistication; Devonshire and England were across the river.
Farmers from the next county rubbed shoulders with countrywomen from East Cornwall; and there were shopkeepers, and pastry cooks, and little apprentice boys who pushed in and out amongst the crowd with hot pastries and sausagemeat on trays.