Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


A happy Christmas to you."

And he was off in a moment, walking hard across the square, his hands thrust deep in his breeches pockets.

Mary followed, a discreet ten paces behind.

Her face was scarlet, and she kept her eyes on the ground.

The laughter bubbled up inside her, and she hid her mouth in her shawl.

She was near to collapsing when they reached the further side of the square, out of sight of the coach and the group of people, and she stood with her hand to her side, catching her breath.

Jem waited for her, his face as grave as a judge.

"Jem Merlyn, you deserve to be hanged," she said, when she had recovered herself. "To stand there as you did in the market square and sell that stolen pony back to Mrs. Bassat herself!

You have the cheek of the devil, and the hairs in my head have gone grey from watching you."

He threw back his head and laughed, and she could not resist him.

Their laughter echoed in the street until people turned to look at them, and they too caught the infection, and smiled, and broke into laughter; and Launceston itself seemed to rock in merriment as peal after peal of gaiety echoed in the street, mingling with the bustle and clatter of the fair; and with it all there was shouting, and calling, and a song from somewhere.

The torches and the flares cast strange lights on the faces of people, and there was colour, and shadow, and the hum of voices, and a ripple of excitement in the air.

Jem caught at her hand and crumpled the fingers.

"You're glad you came now, aren't you?" he said, and

"Yes," she said recklessly, and she did not mind.

They plunged into the thick of the fair, with all the warmth and the suggestion of packed humanity about them.

Jem bought Mary a crimson shawl and gold rings for her ears.

They sucked oranges beneath a striped tent and had their fortunes told by a wrinkled gypsy woman.

"Beware of a dark stranger," she said to Mary, and they looked at one another and laughed again.

"There's blood in your hand, young man," she told him. "You'll kill a man one day"; and

"What did I tell you in the jingle this morning?" said Jem. "I'm innocent as yet.

Do you believe it now?"

But she shook her head at him; she would not say.

Little raindrops splashed onto their faces, and they did not care.

The wind rose in gusts and billowed the fluttering tents, scattering paper and ribbons and silks; and a great striped booth shuddered an instant and crumpled, while apples and oranges rolled in the gutter.

Flares streamed in the wind; the rain fell; and people ran hither and thither for shelter, laughing and calling to one another, the rain streaming from them.

Jem dragged Mary under cover of a doorway, his arms around her shoulders, and he turned her face against him and held her with his hands and kissed her.

"Beware of the dark stranger," he said, and he laughed and kissed her again.

The night clouds had come up with the rain, and it was black in an instant The wind blew out the flares, the lanterns glowed dim and yellow, and all the bright colour of the fair was gone.

The square was soon deserted; the striped tents and the booths gaped empty and forlorn.

The soft rain came in gusts at the open doorway, and Jem stood with his back to the weather, making a screen for Mary.

He untied the handkerchief she wore and played with her hair.

She felt the tips of his fingers on her neck, travelling to her shoulders, and she put up her hands and pushed them away.

"I've made a fool of myself long enough for one night, Jem Merlyn," she said. "It's time we thought of returning. Let me alone."

"You don't want to ride in an open jingle in this wind, do you?" he said. "It's coming from the coast, and we'll be blown under on the high ground.

We'll have to spend the night together in Launceston."

"Very likely!

Go and fetch the pony, Jem, while this shower lifts for the moment.

I'll wait for you here."

"Don't be a Puritan, Mary.

You'll be soaked to the skin on the Bodmin road.

Pretend you're in love with me, can't you?

You'd stay with me then."

"Are you talking to me like this because I'm the barmaid at Jamaica Inn?"

"Damn Jamaica Inn!

I like the look of you, and the feel of you, and that's enough for any man.

It ought to be enough for a woman too."

"I daresay it is, for some.

I don't happen to be made that way."

"Do they make you different from other women, then, down on Helford River?