Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


The lips parted, showing the white teeth; and then the lantern was lifted to the window so that the light should fall upon the interior of the carriage. One hand held the lantern, and the other clasped the smoking barrel of a pistol; they were long slim hands, with narrow pointed fingers, things of beauty and of grace, the rounded nails crusted with dirt.

Joss Merlyn smiled, the crazy, delirious smile of a man possessed, maddened, and exalted by poison; and he levelled the pistol at Mary, leaning forward into the carriage so that the barrel touched her throat.

Then he laughed and threw the pistol back over his shoulder, and, wrenching open the door, he reached for her hands and pulled her out beside him on the road, holding the lantern above his head so that all could see her.

There were ten or twelve of them standing in the road, ragged and ill kept, half of them drunk as their leader, wild eyes staring out of shaggy bearded faces; and one or two had pistols in their hands, or were armed with broken bottle, knives, and stones.

Harry the pedlar stood by the horse's head, while face downwards in the ditch lay the driver of the carriage, his arm crumpled under him, his body limp and still.

Joss Merlyn held Mary to him and tilted her face to the light, and when they saw who she was a howl of laughter broke from the company of men, and the pedlar put his two fingers to his mouth and whistled.

The landlord bent to her and bowed with drunken gravity; he seized her loose hair in his hand and twisted it in a rope, sniffing at it like a dog.

"So it's you, is it?" he said. "You've chosen to come back again, like a little whining bitch, with your tail between your legs?"

Mary said nothing.

She looked from one to the other of the men in the crowd, and they stared back at her, jeering hemming in upon her and laughing, pointing to her wet clothes, fingering her bodice and her skirt.

"So you're dumb, are you?" cried her uncle, and he hit her across the face with the back of his hand.

She called out and put up an arm to protect herself, but he knocked it away and, holding her wrist, he doubled it behind her back.

She cried with the pain, and he laughed again.

"You'll come to heel if I kill you first," he said. "Do you think you can stand against me, with your monkey face and your damned impudence?

And what do you think you do, at midnight, riding on the King's highway in a hired carriage, half naked, with your hair down your back?

You're nothing but a common slut, after all."

He jerked at her wrist, and she fell.

"Leave me alone," she cried; "you have no right to touch me or speak to me.

You're a bloody murderer and a thief, and the law knows it too.

The whole of Cornwall knows it.

Your reign is over, Uncle Joss.

I've been to Launceston today to inform against you."

A hubbub rose amongst the group of men; they pressed forward, shouting at her and questioning, but the landlord roared at them, waving them back.

"Get back, you damned fools!

Can't you see she's trying to save her skin by lies?" he thundered. "How can she inform against me when she knows nothing?

She's never walked the eleven miles to Launceston.

Look at her feet.

She's been with a man somewhere down on the road, and he sent her back on wheels when he'd had enough of her.

Get up — or do you want me to rub your nose in the dust?"

He pulled her to her feet and held her beside him.

Then he pointed to the sky, where the low clouds fled before the scurrying wind and a wet star gleamed.

"Look there," he yelled. "There's a break in the sky, and the rain's going east.

There'll be more wind yet before we're through, and a wild grey dawn on the coast in six hours' time. We'll waste no more of it here.

Get your horse, Harry, and put him in the traces here; the carriage will carry half a dozen of us.

And bring the pony and the farm cart from the stable; he's had no work for a week.

Come on, you lazy drunken devils, don't you want to feel gold and silver run through your hands?

I've lain like a hog for seven crazy days, and by God, I feel like a child tonight and I want the coast again.

Who'll take the road with me through Camelford?"

A shout rose from a dozen voices, and hands were thrust into the air.

One fellow burst into a snatch of song, waving a bottle over his head, reeling on his feet as he stood; then he staggered and fell, crumpling onto his face in the ditch.

The pedlar kicked him as he lay, and he did not stir; and, snatching the bridle of the horse, he dragged the animal forward, urging him with blows and cries to the steep hill, while the wheels of the carriage passed over the body of the fallen man, who, kicking for an instant like a wounded hare, struggled from the mud with a scream of terror and pain, and then lay still. The men turned with the carriage and followed it, the sound of their running feet pattering along the highroad, and Joss Merlyn stood for a moment looking down upon Mary with a foolish drunken smile; then on a sudden impulse he caught her in his arms and pulled her towards the carriage, wrenching the door once more. He threw her onto the seat in the corner, and then, leaning out of the window, he yelled to the pedlar to whip the horse up the hill.

His cry was echoed by the men who ran beside him, and some of them leapt onto the step and clung to the window, while others mounted the driver's empty seat and rained at the horse with sticks and a shower of stones.

The animal quivered, sweating with fear; and he topped the hill at a gallop, with half a dozen madmen clinging to the reins and screaming at his heels. Jamaica Inn was ablaze with light; the doors were open, and the windows were unbarred. The house gaped out of the night like a live thing.

The landlord placed his hand over Mary's mouth and forced her back against the side of the carriage.

"You'd inform against me, would you?" he said. "You'd run to the law and have me swinging on a rope's end like a cat?

All right, then, you shall have your chance.

You shall stand on the shore, Mary, with the wind and the sea in your face, and you shall watch for the dawn and the coming in of the tide.

You know what that means, don't you?

You know where I'm going to take you?"

She stared back at him in horror; the colour drained from her face, and she tried to speak to him, but his hands forbade her.