"Shut your mouth, can't you?" thundered her husband. "I've never asked your counsel yet, and I don't ask it now.
I can face what's coming to me alone, without you bleating beside me like a sheep.
So you'll throw your hand in too, Harry, will you?
Run with your tail between your legs because a lot of clerks and Wesleyans are howling to Jesus for your blood?
Have they proved it on us? Tell me that.
Or has your liver conscience gone against you?"
"Damn my conscience, Joss; it's common sense I'm thinking of.
This part of the country has come unhealthy, and I'll go from it while I can.
As to proof, we've sailed close enough to the wind these last months to be proof enough, haven't we?
I've stuck to you, haven't I?
Come out here today, risking my neck, to give you warning.
I'm not saying anything against you, Joss, but it was your damned stupidity brought us into this mess, wasn't it?
You got us mad drunk like yourself and led us to the shore, on a crazy harebrained venture that none of us had planned.
We took a chance in a million, and the chance came off — too damned bloody well.
Because we were drunk we lost our heads, left the stuff and a hundred tracks scattered on the shore.
And whose fault was it?
Why, yours, I say."
He smashed his fist on the table, his yellow, impudent face thrust close to the landlord, a sneer on his cracked lips.
Joss Merlyn considered him for a moment, and when he spoke his voice was dangerous and low.
"So you accuse me, do you, Harry?" he said. "You're like the rest of your kind, wriggling like a snake when the luck of the game turns against you.
You've done well out of me, haven't you?
Had gold to burn you never had before; lived like a prince all these months, instead of at the bottom of a mine, where you belong.
And supposing we'd kept our heads the other night, and cleared in order before dawn, as we've done a hundred times before?
You'd be sucking up to me now to fill your pockets, wouldn't you?
You'd be fawning on me with the rest of the sniffing curs, begging your share of the spoil, calling me God Almighty; you'd lick my boots and lie down in the dust.
Run, then, if you like; run to the Tamar bank with your tail between your legs, and be damned to you!
I'll take the world on alone."
The pedlar forced a laugh and shrugged his shoulders.
"We can talk, can't we, without cutting each other's throats?
I've not gone against you; I'm on your side still.
We were all mad drunk on Christmas Eve, I know that; let's leave it alone then: what's done is done.
Our lot is scattered, and we needn't reckon with them.
They'll be too scared to show their heads and worry us.
That leaves you and I, Joss.
We've been in this business, the pair of us, deeper than most, I know that, and the more we help each other, the better it'll be for us both.
Now then, that's why I'm here, to talk it over and see where we stand."
He laughed again, showing his soft gums, and began to beat a tattoo on the table with his squat black fingers.
The landlord watched him coolly and reached once more for his pipe.
"Just what would you be driving at, Harry?" he said, leaning against the table and filling his pipe afresh.
The pedlar sucked his teeth and grinned.
"I'm not driving at anything," he said. "I want to make things easier for all of us.
We've got to quit, that's evident, unless we want to swing.
But it's like this, Joss; I don't see the fun in quitting empty-handed, for all that.
There's a mint of stuff we dumped along in the room yonder two days ago, from the shore. That's right, isn't it?
And by rights it belongs to all of us who worked for it on Christmas Eve.
But there's none of 'em left to claim it but you and I.
I'm not saying there's much of value there — it's junk mostly, no doubt — but I don't see why some of it shouldn't help us into Devon, do you?"
The landlord blew a cloud of smoke into his face.
"So you didn't come back to Jamaica Inn because of my sweet smile alone, then?" he said. "I was thinking you were fond of me, Harry, and wanted to hold my hand."
The pedlar grinned again and shifted on his chair.