Looking at you now, with your clear eye and skin, and the way you carry your head, and, above all, the set of your chin, you bear little trace of what you endured.
The word of a parish priest may not go for much — but you have shown remarkable fortitude.
I admire you."
She looked up at him, and then away again, and fell to crumbling a piece of bread in her hand.
"When I consider the pedlar," he continued, after a while, helping himself generously to stewed damsons, "I feel it very remiss of the murderer not to have looked into the barred room.
It may have been that he was pressed for time, but a minute or two could hardly have affected the issue, and he would most certainly have made the whole affair more thorough."
"In what way, Mr. Davey?"
"Why, by putting paid to the pedlar's account."
"You mean, he might have killed him too?"
The pedlar is no ornament to the world while he lives, and dead he would at least make food for worms.
That is my opinion.
What is more, had the murderer known that the pedlar had attacked you, he would have had a motive strong enough to kill twice over."
Mary cut herself a slice of cake she did not want and forced it between her lips.
By making a pretence of eating she gave herself countenance.
The hand shook, though, that held the knife, and she made a poor job of her slice.
"I don't see," she said, "what I have to do in the matter."
"You have too modest an opinion of yourself," he replied.
They continued to eat in silence, Mary with lowered head and eyes firm fixed upon her plate.
Instinct told her that he played her as an angler plays the fish upon his line.
At last she could wait no longer, but must blurt him a question:
"So Mr. Bassat and the rest of you have made little headway, after all, and the murderer is still at large?"
"Oh, but we have not moved as slowly as that.
Some progress has been made.
The pedlar, for instance, in a hopeless attempt to save his own skin, has turned King's evidence to the best of his ability, but he has not helped us much.
We have had from him a bald account of the work done on the coast on Christmas Eve — in which, he says, he took no part — and also some patching together of the long months that have gone before.
We heard of the waggons that came to Jamaica Inn by night among other things, and we were given the names of his companions. Those he knew, that is to say.
The organisation appears to have been far larger than was hitherto supposed."
Mary said nothing.
She shook her head when he offered her the damsons.
"In fact," continued the vicar, "he went so far as to suggest that the landlord of Jamaica Inn was their leader in name only, and that your uncle had his orders from one above him.
That, of course, puts a new complexion on the matter.
The gentlemen became excited and a little disturbed.
What have you to say of the pedlar's theory?"
"It is possible, of course."
"I believe you once made the same suggestion to me?"
"I may have done.
"If this is so, it would seem that the unknown leader and the murderer must be one and the same person.
Don't you agree?"
"Why, yes, I suppose so."
"That should narrow the field considerably.
We may disregard the general rabble of the company and look for someone with a brain and a personality.
Did you ever see such a person at Jamaica Inn?"
"He must have gone to and fro in stealth, possibly in the silence of the night when you and your aunt were abed and asleep.
He would not have come by the highroad, because you would have heard the clatter of his horse's hoofs.
But there is always the possibility that he came on foot, is there not?"
"Yes, there is always that possibility, as you say."
"In which case the man must know the moors, or at least have local knowledge.