He paused, and then:
"I'll go to the inn if you would care for me to, and see for myself if he has left any trace behind him.
There might be something—"
Mary seized hold of his arm.
"I'll not be alone again," she said swiftly. "Think me a coward if you will, but I could not stand it.
Had you been inside Jamaica Inn you would understand.
There's a brooding quiet about the place tonight that cares nothing for the poor dead body lying there."
"I can mind the time, before your uncle came there, when the house stood empty," said the servant, "and we'd take the dogs there after rats, for sport.
We thought nothing of it then; just a lonely shell of a place it seemed, without a soul of its own. But the squire kept it in good repair, mind you, while he waited for a tenant.
I'm a St. Neot man myself, and never came here until I served the squire, but I've been told in the old days there was good cheer and good company at Jamaica, with friendly, happy folk living in the house, and always a bed for a passing traveller upon the road.
The coaches stayed here then, what never do now, and hounds would meet here once a week in Mr. Bassat's boyhood.
Maybe these things will come again."
Mary shook her head.
"I've only seen the evil," she said;
"I've only seen the suffering there's been, and the cruelty, and the pain.
When my uncle came to Jamaica Inn he must have cast his shadow over the good things, and they died."
Their voices had sunk to a whisper, and they glanced half-consciously over their shoulders to the tall chimneys that stood out against the sky, clear-cut and grey, beneath the moon.
They were both thinking of one thing, and neither had the courage to mention it first; the groom from delicacy and tact, Mary from fear alone.
Then at last she spoke, her voice husky and low:
"Something has happened to my aunt as well; I know that; I know she is dead.
That's why I was afraid to go upstairs.
She is lying there in the darkness, on the landing above.
Whoever killed my uncle will have killed her too."
The groom cleared his throat.
"She may have run out onto the moor," he said, "she may have run for help along the road—"
"No," whispered Mary, "she would never have done that. She would be with him now, down in the hall there, crouching by his side.
She is dead.
I know she is dead.
If I had not left her, this would never have happened."
The man was silent.
He could not help her.
After all, she was a stranger to him, and what had passed beneath the roof of the inn while she had lived there was no concern of his.
The responsibility of the evening lay heavy enough upon his shoulders, and he wished that his master would come.
Fighting and shouting he understood; there was sense in that; but if there had really been a murder, as she said, and the landlord lying dead there, and his wife too — why, they could do no good in staying here like fugitives themselves, crouching in the ditch, but were better off and away, and so down the road to sight and sound of human habitation.
"I came here by the orders of my mistress," he began awkwardly; "but she said the squire would be here.
Seeing as he is not—"
Mary held up a warning hand.
"Listen," she said sharply. "Can you hear something?"
They strained their ears to the north.
The faint clop of horses was unmistakable, coming from beyond the valley, over the brow of the further hill.
"It's them," said Richards excitedly; "it's the squire; he's coming at last.
Watch now; we'll see them go down the road into the valley."
They waited, and when a minute had passed, the first horseman appeared like a black smudge against the hard white road, followed by another, and another.
They strung out in a line, and closed again, travelling at a gallop; while the cob who waited patiently beside the ditch pricked his ears and turned an enquiring head.
The clatter drew near, and Richards in his relief ran out upon the road to greet them, shouting and waving his arms.
The leader swerved and drew rein, calling out in surprise at the sight of the groom.
"What the devil do you do here?" he shouted, for it was the squire himself, and he held up his hand to warn his followers behind.
"The landlord is dead, murdered," cried the groom. "I have his niece here with me in the trap.
It was Mrs. Bassat herself who sent me out here, sir.
This young woman had best tell you the story in her own words."