I must lose no time either.
Forgive me for being so mysterious, but I am in great trouble, and only your vicar or a magistrate can help me.
Can you tell me if the road to North Hill is hard to find?"
"No, that's easy enough.
You go two miles along the Launceston road, and then turn right by the turnpike; but it's scarcely a walk for a maid like you after nightfall, and I'd never go myself.
There's rough folk on the moors at times, and you cannot trust them.
We dare not venture from our homes these days, with robbery on the highroad even, and violence, too."
"Thank you for your sympathy; I am very grateful to you," said Mary, "but I have lived all my life in lonely places, and I am not afraid."
"You must please yourself," answered the woman, "but you'd best stay here and wait for the vicar, if you can."
"That is impossible," said Mary, "but when he does return, could you tell him perhaps that… Wait, though; if you have pen and paper I will write him a note of explanation; that would be better still."
"Come into my cottage here, and you may write what you will.
When you have gone, I can take the note to his house at once, and leave it on his table, where he will see it as soon as he comes home."
Mary followed the woman to the cottage and waited impatiently while she searched her kitchen for a pen.
The time was slipping away fast, and the added journey to North Hill had upset every former calculation.
She could hardly return to Jamaica Inn once she had seen Mr. Bassat and still hope her absence had remained unnoticed.
Her uncle would take warning from her flight and leave the inn before the intended time. In which case her mission would have been in vain….
Now the woman returned with paper and quill, and Mary wrote desperately, never pausing to choose her words: xxx I came here to ask your help, and you were gone.
By now you will have heard with horror, as everyone in the country must have done, of the wreck upon the coast on Christmas Eve.
It was my uncle's doing, he and the company from Jamaica Inn; that you will have guessed already.
He knows that suspicion will fall on him before long, and because of this he plans to leave the inn tonight, and cross the Tamar into Devon.
Finding you absent, I go now with all possible haste to Mr. Bassat at North Hill, to tell everything to him, and warn him of the escape, so that he can send at once to Jamaica Inn to seize my uncle before it is too late.
I am giving this note to your housekeeper, who will, I trust, lay it where your eyes will fall upon it directly you return.
In haste, then, Mary Yellan.
This she folded and gave to the woman by her side, thanking her and assuring her that she had no fear of the road; and so set out again upon a walk of four miles or more to North Hill.
She climbed the hill from Altarnun with a heavy heart and a wretched sense of isolation.
She had placed such faith in Francis Davey that it was hard to realise even yet that by his absence he had failed her.
He had not known, of course, that she needed him, and, even if he had, perhaps his plans would have come before her troubles.
It was disheartening and bitter to leave the lights of Altarnun behind her, with nothing as yet accomplished.
At this moment, perhaps, her uncle was thundering upon her bedroom door, calling her to answer.
He would wait a moment and then force the door.
He would find her gone, and the smashed window would tell him the manner of her going.
Whether this would play havoc with his plans was a matter for conjecture.
She could not know.
Aunt Patience was her concern, and the thought of her setting out upon the journey like a shivering dog tethered to its master made Mary run along the bare white road with fists clenched and chin thrust in the air.
She came at last to the turnpike and turned down the narrow twisting lane as the woman in Altarnun had told her.
High hedges screened the country on either side, and the dark moor was thrust away and hidden from her eyes.
The road twisted and turned, as the lanes in Helford used to do, and this change of scene, coming so suddenly after the bleak highroad, put faith in her once more.
She cheered herself by painting a picture of the Bassat family as kindly and courteous, like the Vyvyans at Trelowarren, who would listen to her with sympathy and understanding.
She had not seen the squire at his best before; he had come upon Jamaica Inn in high ill humour, and she thought now with regret of the part she had played in his deception.
As for his lady, she must know now that a horse thief had made a fool of her in Launceston market square, and it was lucky for Mary that she had not stood at Jem's side when the pony was sold back to his rightful owner.
She continued with her fantasy of the Bassats, but the little incidents came back to her in spite of it, and at the bottom of her heart she looked upon the approaching interview with trepidation.
The contour of the land had changed again, and hills rose away from her, forested and dark, and somewhere beyond her ran a stream singing and breaking over stones.
The moorland was no more.
The moon came now, topping the further trees, and she walked in confidence with the light blazing a path for her, leading her downwards to the valley, where the trees closed in friendliness upon her.
She came at last to lodge gates and the entrance to a drive, while beyond her the lane continued to a village.
That must be North Hill, and this the manor house belonging to the squire.
She went down the avenue to the house, and away in the distance a church clock struck seven.
She had been about three hours already from Jamaica Inn.
Her nervousness returned as she rounded upon the house, large and forbidding in the darkness, with the moon not yet risen high enough to shine kindly upon it.
She swung the great bell, and the sound was met at once by the furious baying of hounds.