Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


The kitchen was black as a pit.

She laid her hand on the knob of the door and slowly turned it. It gave, to her astonishment, and the door opened.

This easy entrance, entirely unforeseen, shocked her for a moment, and she was afraid to enter.

Supposing her uncle sat on his chair, waiting for her, his gun across his knee?

She had her own pistol, but it gave her no confidence.

Very slowly she laid her face to the gap made by the door.

No sound came to her.

Out of the tail of her eye she could see the ashes of the fire, but the glow was almost gone.

She knew then that nobody was there.

Some instinct told her that the kitchen had been empty for hours.

She pushed the door wide and went inside.

The room struck cold and damp.

She waited until her eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, and she could make out the shape of the kitchen table and the chair beside it.

There was a candle on the table, and she thrust it into the feeble glow of the fire, where it took light and flickered.

When it burnt strong enough, she held it high above her head and looked about her.

The kitchen was still strewn with the preparations for departure.

There was a bundle belonging to Aunt Patience on the chair, and a heap of blankets lay on the floor ready to be rolled.

In the corner of the room, where it always stood, was her uncle's gun.

They had decided, then, to wait for another day, and were now abed and asleep in the room upstairs.

The door to the passage was wide open, and the silence became more oppressive than before, strangely and horribly still.

Something was not as it had been; some sound was lacking that must account for the silence.

Then Mary realised that she could not hear the clock. The ticking had stopped.

She stepped into the passage and listened again.

She was right; the house was silent because the clock had stopped.

She went forward slowly, with the candle in one hand and the pistol levelled in the other.

She turned the corner, where the long dark passage branched into the hall, and she saw that the clock, which stood always against the wall beside the door into the parlour, had toppled forward and fallen upon its face.

The glass was splintered in fragments on the stone flags, and the wood was split.

The wall gaped bare where it had stood, very naked now and strange, with the paper marked a deep yellow in contrast to the faded pattern of the wall.

The clock had fallen across the narrow hall, and it was not until she came to the foot of the stairs that Mary saw what was beyond. The landlord of Jamaica Inn lay on his face amongst the wreckage.

The fallen clock had hidden him at first, for he sprawled in the shadow, one arm flung high above his head and the other fastened upon the broken splintered door.

Because his legs were stretched out on either side of him, one foot jamming the wainscoting, he looked even larger in death than he did before, his great frame blocking the entrance from wall to wall.

There was blood on the stone floor; and blood between his shoulders, dark now and nearly dry, where the knife had found him.

When he was stabbed from behind he must have stretched out his hands and stumbled, dragging at the clock; and when he fell upon his face the clock crashed with him to the ground, and he died there, clutching at the door.

Chapter 15

It was a long while before Mary moved away from the stairs.

Something of her own strength had ebbed away, leaving her powerless, like the figure on the floor.

Her eyes dwelt upon little immaterial things: the fragments of glass from the smashed clock face that were bloodstained too, and the discoloured patch of wall where the clock had stood.

A spider settled on her uncle's hand; and it seemed strange to her that the hand stayed motionless and did not seek to rid itself of the spider.

Her uncle would have shaken it free.

Then it crawled from his hand and ran up his arm, working its way beyond the shoulder.

When it came to the wound it hesitated and then made a circuit, returning to it again in curiosity, and there was a lack of fear in its rapidity that was somehow horrible and desecrating to death.

The spider knew that the landlord could not harm him.

Mary knew this, too, but she had not lost her fear, like the spider.

It was the silence that frightened her most.

Now that the clock no longer ticked, her nerves strained for the sound of it; the slow wheezing choke had been familiar and a symbol of normality.

The light of her candle played upon the walls, but it did not reach to the top of the stairs, where the darkness gaped at her like a gulf.

She knew she could never climb those stairs again, nor tread that empty landing.

Whatever lay beyond her and above must rest there undisturbed.

Death had come upon the house tonight, and its brooding spirit still hovered in the air.

She felt now that this was what Jamaica Inn had always waited for and feared.