There'll be blinds down, and sermons, and long faces, and prayers offered for poor sailormen who come by misadventure by the devil's hand; but they'll not go seeking the devil on the Sabbath.
"Twenty-four hours we have, Harry, my boy, and tomorrow night, when you've broken your back spading turf and turnips over my property in the farm cart, and kissed me good-bye, and Patience too, and maybe Mary there as well — why then you can go down on your knees and thank Joss Merlyn for letting you go free with your life, instead of squatting on your scut in a ditch, where you belong to be, with a bullet in your black heart."
He raised his gun again, edging the cold muzzle close to the man's throat.
The pedlar whimpered, showing the whites of his eyes.
The landlord laughed.
"You're a pretty marksman in your way, Harry," he said. "Isn't that the spot you touched on Ned Santo the other night?
You laid his windpipe bare, and the blood whistled out in a stream.
He was a good boy, was Ned, but hasty with his tongue.
That's where you got him, wasn't it?"
Closer the muzzle pressed against the pedlar's throat.
"If I made a mistake now, Harry, your windpipe would come clean, just like poor Ned's.
You don't want me to make a mistake, do you?"
The pedlar could not speak.
His eyes rolled up in a squint, and his hand opened wide, the four fingers spread square, as though clamped to the floor.
The landlord shifted his gun, and, bending down, he jerked the pedlar to his feet.
"Come on," he said; "do you think I'm going to play with you all night?
A jest is a jest for five minutes; after that it becomes a burden on the flesh.
Open the kitchen door and turn to the right and walk down the passage until I tell you to stop.
You can't escape through the entrance to the bar; every door and window in this place is barred.
Your hands have been itching to explore the wreckage we brought from the shore, haven't they, Harry?
You shall spend the night in the storeroom amongst it all.
Do you know, Patience, my dear, I believe this is the first time we've offered hospitality at Jamaica Inn.
I don't count Mary there; she's part of the household."
He laughed, in high good humour, his mood switched round now like a weathercock, and, butting his gun into the pedlar's back, he prodded him out of the kitchen and down the dark flagged passage to the store.
The door, that had been battered in rough-and-ready manner by Squire Bassat and his servant, had been reinforced with new planking and post, and was now as strong as, if not stronger than, before.
Joss Merlyn had not been entirely idle during the past week.
After he had turned the key on his friend, with a parting injunction not to feed the rats, whose numbers had increased, the landlord returned to the kitchen, a rumble of laughter in his chest.
"I thought Harry would turn sour," he said. "I've seen it coming in his eyes for weeks, long before this mess landed on us.
He'll fight on the winning side but he'll bite your hand when the luck turns.
He's jealous; he's yellow-green with it, rotten through and through.
He's jealous of me. They're all jealous of me.
They knew I had brains and hated me for it.
What are you staring at me for, Mary?
You'd better get your supper and go to bed.
You have a long journey before you tomorrow night, I warn you here and now it won't be an easy one."
Mary looked at him across the table.
The fact that she would not be going with him did not concern her for the moment; he might think as he liked about it.
Tired as she was, for the strain of all she had seen and done weighed heavily upon her, her mind, was seething with plans.
Sometime, somehow, before tomorrow night, she must go to Altarnun.
Once there, her responsibility was over.
Action would be taken by others.
It would be hard for Aunt Patience, hard for herself at first, perhaps; she knew nothing of the jingle and complexities of the law; but at least justice would win.
It would be easy enough to clear her own name and her aunt's.
The thought of her uncle, who sat before her now, his mouth full of stale bread and cheese, standing as he would with his hands bound behind him, powerless for the first time and forever, was something that afforded her exquisite pleasure, and she turned the picture over and over in her mind, improving upon it.
Aunt Patience would recover in time; and the years would drain away from her, bringing her peace at last, and quietude.
Mary wondered how the capture would be effected when the moment came.
Perhaps they would set out upon the journey as he had arranged, and as they turned out upon the road, he laughing in his assurance, they would be surrounded by a band of men, strong in number and in arms, and as he struggled against them hopelessly, borne to the ground by force, she would lean down to him and smile.
"I thought you had brains, Uncle," she would say to him, and he would know.
She dragged her eyes away from him and turned to the dresser for her candle.
"I'll have no supper tonight," she said.