Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


"You think you're not afraid of me, don't you?" he said. "You sneer at me with your pretty white face and your monkey eyes.

Yes, I'm drunk; I'm drunk as a king, and heaven and earth can smash for all I care.

Tonight we shall ride in glory, every man jack of us, maybe for the last time; and you shall come with us, Mary; to the coast…."

He turned away from her, shouting to his companions, and the horse, startled by his cry, started forward again in his stride, dragging the carriage behind him; and the lights of Jamaica Inn vanished in the darkness.

Chapter 11

It was a nightmare journey of two hours or more to the coast, and Mary, bruised and shaken by her rough handling, lay exhausted in the corner of the carriage, caring little what became of her.

Harry the pedlar and two other men had climbed in beside her uncle, and the air became foul at once with the stink of tobacco and stale drink and the smell of their bodies.

The landlord had worked himself and his companions into a state of wild excitement, and the presence of a woman amongst them brought a vicious tang to their enjoyment, her weakness and distress acting pleasurably upon them.

At first they talked at her and for her, laughing and singing to win her notice, Harry the pedlar bursting into his lewd songs, which rang with immoderate force in such close quarters and brought howls of appreciation from his audience, stimulating them to greater excitement.

They watched for the effect upon her face, hoping that she would show some sign of shame or discomfort, but Mary was too tired now for any word or song to penetrate her. She heard their voices through a haze of exhaustion; she was aware of her uncle's elbows thrust in her side, bringing another dull ache to add to her pains, and with throbbing head and smarting eyes she saw a sea of grinning faces through the smoke.

What they said or did hardly mattered to her any more, and the longing for sleep and forgetfulness became a torment.

When they saw how lifeless she was, and dull, her presence lost its flavour; even the songs lost sting, and Joss Merlyn fumbled in his pocket and produced a pack of cards.

They turned from her at once to this new interest, and, in the momentary lull that blessed her, Mary shrank closer in her corner, away from the hot, animal smell of her uncle, and, closing her eyes, she resigned herself to the movement of the swaying, jolting carriage.

Her fatigue was such that full consciousness was no longer part of her; she was swinging in a trance land across the border.

She was aware of pain, and the rocking carriage wheels, and in the far distance a murmur of voices; but these things moved away from her and not with her; she could not identify them with her own existence.

Darkness came upon her like a boon from heaven, and she felt herself slip away into it; and so was lost.

Time had nothing to do with her then.

It was the cessation of movement that dragged her back to the world; the sudden stillness, and the cold damp air blowing upon her face through the open carriage window.

She was alone in her corner.

The men had gone, taking their light with them.

She sat motionless at first, fearing to bring them back and uncertain what had befallen her; and then, when she leant forward to the window, the pain and stiffness in her body were intolerable.

A weal of pain ran across her shoulders where the cold had numbed her, and her bodice was still damp from the rain that had soaked her early in the evening. She waited a moment and then leant forward again.

It was still blowing hard, but the driving rain had ceased, and only a thin cold mizzle pattered against the window.

The carriage had been abandoned in a narrow gullyway with high banks on either side, and the horse had been taken from the traces.

The gully appeared to descend sharply, the path becoming rough and broken.

Mary could not see more than a few yards in front of her.

The night had thickened considerably, and in the gullyway it was black like a pit.

There were no stars now in the sky, and the sharp wind of the moors had become a boisterous thing of noise and bluster, trailing a wet fog for company.

Mary put her hand out of the window and touched the bank. Her fingers came upon loose sand and stems of grass, sodden through with the rain.

She tried the handle of the door, but it was locked.

Then she listened intently.

Her eyes strained to pierce the darkness ahead of her, down the sharp descent of the gullyway, and borne up to her on the wind came a sound at once sullen and familiar, a sound that for the first time in her life she could not welcome, but must recognise with a leap of her heart and a shiver of foreboding.

It was the sound of the sea.

The gully was a pathway to the shore.

She knew now why a softness had crept upon the air, and why the mizzle of rain fell on her hand lightly, with a tang of salt.

The high banks gave a false feeling of shelter in contrast to the bleak wilderness of the moors, but once away from their deceptive shadow the illusion would be lost and the tearing gale cry louder than before.

There could be no stillness where the sea broke upon the rockbound shore.

She heard it again now, and continually; a murmur and a sigh as the spent water gave itself to the strand and withdrew reluctantly, and then a pause as the sea gathered itself for a renewal of effort — a momentary fragment in time — and then once more the thunder and the crash of fulfilment, the roar of surf upon shingle and the screaming scatter of stones as they followed the drag of the sea.

Mary shuddered; somewhere in the darkness below, her uncle and his companions waited for the tide.

If she could have heard some sound of them, the waiting in the empty carriage would have been more bearable.

The wild shouting, the laughter, and the singing with which they had fortified themselves for the journey would have been a relief, however loathsome; but this deadly quietude was sinister.

Business had sobered them, and they had found work for their hands.

Now that her senses were her own again, and her first fatigue cast aside, Mary found inactivity impossible.

She considered the size of the window.

The door was locked, as she knew, but with straining and wriggling she might yet attempt to squeeze her body through the narrow frame.

The endeavour was worth the risk.

Whatever happened tonight, her own life could be counted of little value; her uncle and his companions could find her and kill her if they wished.

This country was known to them, and not to her.

They could trace her in a moment if they wanted, like a pack of hounds.

She worked and strained at the window, leaning backwards through the gap, the effort made even more difficult because of her stiff shoulder and her back.