This page will take you into pieces of literature that are carefully selected for their great content at the literary, scientific, or philosophical level. A short selection will be presented in full. A long one will be divided into sections that will be refreshed regularly. Emphasis and highlights are mostly ours, not made by the original author.
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Jamaica Inn (1916) by Daphne du Maurier
Darkness was falling as she crossed the high road and into the yard. As usual, the inn looked dark and uninhabited, with the door bolted and the windows barred. She went round to the back of the house, and tapped on the door of the kitchen. It was opened immediately by her aunt, who seemed pale and anxious.
"Your uncle has been asking for you all day," she said. "Where have you been ? It's nearly five o'clock ; you've been gone since morning."
"I was walking on the moors," replied Mary. "I didn't think it mattered. Why should Uncle Joss ask for me ?" She was aware of a little pang of nervousness, and she looked towards his bed in the corner of the kitchen. It was empty. "Where has he gone ?" she said. "Is he better ?"
"He wanted to sit in the parlour," said her aunt. "He said he was tired of the kitchen. He's been sitting there all the afternoon at the window, looking out for you. You must humour him now, Mary, and speak fair to him, and not go against him. This is the bad time, when he's recovering ... he will get a little stronger every day, and he'll be very self-willed, violent perhaps. You'll be careful what you say to him, won't you, Mary ?"
This was the old Aunt Patience, with nervous hands and twitching mouth, who glanced over her shoulder as she talked. It was pitiable to see her, and Mary caught something of her agitation.
"Why should he want to see me ?" she said. "He never has anything to say to me. What can he want ?"
Aunt Patience blinked, and worked her mouth. "It's only his fancy," she said. "He mutters and talks to himself ; you mustn't pay any attention to what he says at times like these. He is not really himself. I'll go and tell him you're home." She went out of the room and along the passage to the parlour.
Mary crossed to the dresser, and poured herself out a glass of water from the pitcher. Her throat was very dry. The glass trembled in her hands and she cursed herself for a fool. She had been bold enough on the moors just now, and no sooner was she inside the inn than her courage must leave her, quaking and nervous as a child. Aunt Patience came back into the room.
"He's quiet for the moment," she whispered. "He's dozed off in the chair. He may sleep now for the evening. We'll have our supper early, and get it finished. There's some cold pie for you here."
All hunger had gone from Mary, and she had to force her food. She drank two cups of scalding tea, and then pushed her plate away. Neither of the women spoke. Aunt Patience kept looking towards the door. When they had finished supper they cleared the things away silently. Mary threw some turf on the fire and crouched beside it. The bitter blue smoke rose in the air, stinging her eyes, but no warmth came to her from the smouldering turf.
Outside in the hall the clock struck six o'clock with a sudden whirring note. Mary held her breath as she counted the strokes. They broke upon the silence with deliberation ; it seemed an eternity before the last note fell, and echoed through the house and died away. The slow ticking of the clock continued. There was no sound from the parlour, and Mary breathed again. Aunt Patience sat at the table, threading a needle and cotton by candlelight. Her lips were pursed and her forehead puckered to a frown as she bent to her task.
The long evening passed ; and still there was no call from the landlord in the parlour. Mary nodded her head, her eyes closed in spite of herself, and in that stupid, heavy state between sleeping and waking she heard
her aunt move quietly from her chair and put her work away in the cupboard beside the dresser. In a dream she heard her whisper in her ear, "I'm going to bed. Your uncle won't wake now ; he must have settled for
the night. I shan't disturb him." Mary murmured something in reply, and half consciously she heard the light patter of footsteps in the passage outside, and the creaking of the stairs.
On the landing above, a door closed softly. Mary felt the lethargy of sleep steal upon her, and her head sank lower into her hands. The slow ticking of the clock made a pattern in her mind, like footsteps dragging on a high road . . . one . . . two . . . one . . . two . . . they followed one another ; she was on the moors beside the running brook and the burden that she carried was heavy, too heavy to bear. If she could lay it aside for a little while, and rest herself beside the bank, and sleep ...
It was cold, though, much too cold. Her foot was wringing wet from the water. She must pull herself higher up the bank, out of the way. . . . The fire was out ; there was no more fire. . . . Mary opened her eyes, and saw that she was lying on the floor beside the white ashes of the fire. The kitchen was very cold, and the light was dim. The candle had burnt low. She yawned and shivered, and stretched her stiff arms. When the lifted her eyes she saw the door of the kitchen open very slowly, little by little, an inch at a time.
Mary sat without moving, her hands on the cold door. She waited, and nothing happened. The door moved and then was flung wide, crashing against the wall behind it. Joss Merlyn stood on the threshold of the room, his arms outstretched, rocking on his two feet.
At first she thought he had not noticed her ; his eyes were fixed on the wall in front of him, and he stood still where he was, without venturing farther into the room. She crouched low, her head beneath the level of the table, hearing nothing but the steady thump of her heart. Slowly he turned in her direction, and stared at her a moment or two without speaking. When his voice came, it was strained and hoarse, hardly above a whisper. "Who's there ?" he said. "What arceyou doing ? Why don't you speak ?" His face was a grey mask, drained of its usual colour. His bloodshot eyes fastened themselves upon her without recognition. Mary did not move.
"Put away that knife," he whispered. "Put it away, I tell you."
She stretched her hand along the floor and touched the leg of a chair with the tips of her fingers. She could not hold on to it unless she moved. It was just out of reach. She waited, holding her breath. He stepped forward into the room, his head bent, his two hands feeling the air, and he crept slowly along the floor towards her.
Mary watched his hands until they were within a yard of her and she could feel his breath on her cheek.
"Uncle Joss," she said softly. "Uncle Joss ..."
He crouched where he was, staring down at her, and then he leant forward and touched her hair and her lips. "Mary," he said, "is it you, Mary ? Why don't you speak to me ? Where have they gone ? Have you seen them ?"
"You've made a mistake, Uncle Joss," she said ; "there is no one here, only myself. Aunt Patience is upstairs. Are you ill ? Can I help you ?"
He looked about him in the half-light, searching the corners of the room.
"They can't scare me," he whispered. "Dead men don't harm the living. They're blotted out, like a candle. . . That's it, isn't it, Mary ?"
She nodded, watching his eyes. He pulled himself to a chair and sat down, his hands outstretched on the table. He sighed heavily, and passed his tongue over his lips. "It's dreams," he said ; "all dreams. The faces stand out like live things in the darkness, and I wake with the sweat pouring down my back. I'm thirsty, Mary ; here's the key ; go into the bar and fetch me some brandy." He fumbled in his pocket and produced a bunch of keys. She took them from him, her hand trembling, and slipped, out of the room into the passage. She hesitated for a moment outside, wondering whether she should creep upstairs at once to her room, and lock the door, and leave him to rave alone in the kitchen. She
began to tiptoe along the passage to the hall.
Suddenly he shouted to her from the kitchen. "Where are you going ? I told you to fetch the brandy from the bar." She heard the chair scrape as he pushed it away from the table. She was too late. She opened the door of the bar, and felt in the cupboard amongst the bottles. When she returned to the kitchen he was sprawling at the table, his head in his hands. At first she thought he was asleep again, but at the sound of her footstep he lifted his head, and stretched his arms, and leant back in the chair. She put the bottle and a glass on the table in front of him. He filled the glass half full, and held it between his two hands, watching her all the while over the rim of it.
"You're a good girl," he said. "I'm fond of you, Mary ; you've got sense, and you've got pluck; you'd make a good companion to a man. They ought to have made you a boy." He rolled the brandy around on his tongue, smiling foolishly, and then he winked at her, and pointed his finger.
"They pay gold for this up-country," he said ; "the best that money can buy. King George himself hasn't better brandy than this in his cellar. And what do I pay ? Not one damned bloody sixpence. We drink free at Jamaica Inn."
He laughed and put out his tongue. "It's a hard game, Mary, but it's a man's game, for all that. I've risked my neck ten, twenty times. I've had the fellows thundering at my heels, with a pistol-shot whistling
through my hair. They can't catch me, Mary ; I'm too cunning; I've been at the game too long. Before we came here I was at Padstow, working from the shore. We ran a lugger once a fortnight with the spring tides. There were five of us in it, besides myself. But there's no money working in a small way ; you've got to do it big, and you've got to take your orders. There's over a hundred of us now, working inland to the border from the coast. By God, I've seen blood in my time, Mary, and I've seen men killed a score of times, but this game beats all of it--it's running side by side with death."
He beckoned her to his side, winking again, glancing first over his shoulder to the door. "Here" he whispered, "come close, down here by my side, where I can talk to you. You've got guts in you, I can see that; you're not scared like your aunt. We ought to be partners, you and I."
He seized hold of Mary's arm, and pulled her on the floor beside his chair. "It's this cursed drink that makes a fool of me," he said. "I'm as weak as a rat when it has hold of me, you can see that. And I have dreams, nightmares ; I see things that never scare me when I'm sober. Damn it, Mary, I've killed men with my own hands, trampled them under water, beaten them with rocks and stones ; and I've never thought no more about it ; I've slept in my bed like a child. But when I'm drunk I see them in my dreams ; I see their white-green faces staring at me, with their eyes eaten by fish ; and some of them are torn, with the flesh hanging on their bones in ribbons, and some of them have seaweed in their hair. . . . There was a woman once, Mary ; she was clinging to a raft, and she had a child in her arms ; her hair was streaming down her back. The ship was close in on the rocks, you see, and the sea was as flat as your hand ; they were all coming in alive, the whole bunch of 'em. Why, the water in places didn't come above your waist. She cried out to me to help her, Mary, and I smashed her face in with a stone ; she fell back, her hands beating the raft. She let go of the child and I hit her again ; I watched them drown in four feet of water. We were scared then ; we were afraid some of them would reach the shore. . . . For the first time we hadn't reckoned on the tide. In half an hour they'd be walking dry-shod on the sand. We had to pelt at 'em all with stones, Mary ; we had to break their arms and legs ; and they drowned there in front of us, like the woman and her child, with the water not up to their shoulders--they drowned because we smashed them with rocks and stones ; they drowned because they couldn't stand. . ."
His face was close to Mary, his red-flecked eyes staring into hers, and his breath on her cheek. "Did you never hear of wreckers before ?" he whispered.
Outside in the passage the clock struck one o'clock, and the single note rang in the air like a summons. Neither of them moved. The room was very cold, for the fire had sunk away to nothing and a little current of air blew in from the open door. The yellow flame of the candle bowed and flickered. He reached out to her and took her hand ; it lay limp in his, like a dead hand. Perhaps he saw something of the frozen horror in her face, for he let her go, and turned away his eyes. He stared straight before him at the empty glass, and he began to drum with his fingers on the table. Crouched on the ground beside him, Mary watched a fly crawl across his hand. She watched it pass through the short black hairs, and over the thick veins to the knuckles, and it ran to the tips of the long slim fingers. She remembered the swift and sudden grace of those fingers when they cut bread for her that first evening, and how if they chose they could be delicate and light ; she watched them drumming now on the table, and in her fancy she saw them curl round a block of jagged stone, and fasten upon it ; she saw the stone fly through the air. . .
Once more he turned to her, his whisper hoarse, and he jerked his head towards the ticking of the clock. "The sound of it rings in my head sometimes," he said, "and when it struck one just now, it was like the tolling of a bell-buoy in a bay. I've heard it come travelling down the air on the westerly wind : one-two-one-two, backwards and forwards the clapper goes against the bell, as though it tolled for dead men. I've heard it in my dreams. I heard it tonight. A mournful, weary sound, Mary, is a bell-buoy out in the bay. It rubs on your nerves and you want to scream. When you work on the coast you have to pull out to them in a boat and muffle them ; wrap the tongue in flannel. That deadens them. There's silence then. Maybe it's a misty night, with patches of white fog on the water, and outside the bay there'll be a ship casting for scent like a hound. She listens for the buoy, and no sound comes to her. And she comes in then, driving through the fog--she comes straight in to us who are waiting for her, Mary--and we see her shudder suddenly, and strike, and then the surf has her."
He reached for the bottle of brandy, and let a little liquid trickle slowly into the glass. He smelt it, and rolled it on his tongue.
"Have you ever seen flies caught in a jar of treacle ?" he said. "I've seen men like that ; stuck in the rigging like a swarm of flies. They cling there for safety, shouting in terror at the sight of the surf. Just like flies they are, spread out on the yards, little black dots of men. I've seen the ship break up beneath them, and the masts and yards snap like thread, and there they'll be flung into the sea, to swim for their lives. But when they reach the shore they're dead men, Mary."
He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, and stared at her. "Dead men tell no tales, Mary," he said.
His face nodded at her, and narrowed suddenly, and was blotted out. No longer was she kneeling on the kitchen floor, her hands gripping the table ; she was a child again, running beside her father on the cliffs beyond St. Kevern. He swung her up on to his shoulder, and there were other men running with them, who shouted and cried. Somebody pointed to the distant sea, and, clinging to her father's head, she saw a great white ship like a bird rolling helplessly in the trough of the sea, her masts broken short and her sails tailing in the water beside her. "What are they doing ?" asked the child that had been herself ; and nobody answered her ; they stood where they were, staring in horror at the ship that rolled and plunged. "God have mercy upon them," said her father ; and the child Mary began to cry, calling for her mother, who came at once from amongst the crowd and took her in her arms, and walked away
with her out of sight of the sea. There all memory snapped, and vanished, and there was no ending to the story ; but when she grew to understanding, and was no longer a child, her mother would talk of the day they had gone to St. Kevern, when a great barque had sunk with all on board, her back broken on the dreaded Manacles. Mary shivered and sighed, and once more her uncle's face loomed before her in its frame of matted hair, and she was kneeling beside him again in the kitchen at Jamaica Inn.
She felt deadly sick, and her hands and feet were icy-cold. She longed only to stumble to her bed and bury her head in her hands, pulling the blanket and pillow over her for greater darkness. Perhaps if she pressed her hands against her eyes she would blot out his face, and the pictures he had painted for her. Perhaps if she thrust her fingers in her ears she would muffle the sound of his voice, and the thunder of the surf upon the shore. ...
.... while tlie girl snapped back at him from the bedroom overhead, her figure sagging and her curls gone,
pacing backward and forward with a bundle in her arms that mewed like a cat and would not sleep. There was no talk then of the moonlight on the water. No, Mary had no illusions about romance. Falling in love was a pretty name for it, that was all. Jem Merlyn was a man, and she was a woman, and whether it was his hands or his skin or his smile she did not know, but something inside her responded to him, and the very thought of him was an irritant and a stimulant at the same time. It nagged at her and would not let her be. She knew she would have to see him again.
Once more she looked up at the grey sky and the low-flying clouds. If she were going to Launceston, then it was time to make ready and be away. There would be no excuses to make ; she had grown hard in the
last four days. Aunt Patience could think what she likes. If she had any intuition, she must guess that Mary did not want to see her. And she would look at her husband, with his bloodshot eyes and his shaking hands, and she would understand. Once more, perhaps for the last time, the drink had loosened his tongue. His secret was spilt ; and Mary held his future in her hands. She had not yet determined what use to make of her knowledge, but she would not save him again. Today she would go to Launceston with Jem Merlyn, and this time it was he who would answer her questions : he would show some humility too when he realised she was no longer afraid of them, but could destroy them when she chose. And tomorrow--well, tomorrow could take care of itself. There was always, Francis Davey and his promise ; there would be peace and shelter for her at the house in Altarnun.
This was a strange Christmas-tide, she pondered, as she strode across the East Moor with Hawk's Tor as her guide, and the hills rolling away from her on either side. Last year she had knelt beside her mother in church, and prayed that health and strength and courage should be given to them both. She had prayed for peace of mind, and security ; she had asked that her mother might be spared to her long, and that the farm should prosper. For answer came sickness, and poverty, and death. She was alone now. caught in a mesh of brutality and crime, living beneath a roof she loathed, amongst people she despised ; and she was walking out across a barren, friendless moor to meet a horse-thief and a murderer of men. She would offer no prayers to God this Christmas.
Mary waited on the high ground above Rushyford, and in the distance she saw the little cavalcade approach her : the pony, the jingle, and two horses tethered behind. The driver raised his whip in a signal of welcome. Mary felt the colour flame into her face and drain away. This weakness was a thing of torment to her, and she longed for it to be tangible and alive so that she could tear it from her and trample it underfoot. She thrust her hands into her shawl and waited, her forehead puckered in a frown. He whistled as he approached her, and flung a small package at her feet. "A happy Christmas to you," he said. "I had a silver piece in my pocket yesterday and it burnt a hole. There's a new handkerchief for your head."
She had meant to be curt and silent on meeting him, but this introduction made it difficult for her. " That's very kind of you," she said. "I'm afraid you've wasted your money all the same."
"That doesn't worry me. I'm used to it," he told her, and he looked her up and down in the cool offensive way of his, and whistled a tuneless song. "You were early here," he said. "Were you afraid I'd be going without you ?"
She climbed into the cart beside him and gathered the reins in her hands. "I like to have the feel of them again," she said, ignoring his remark. "Mother and I, we would drive into Helston once a week on
market-days. It all seems very long ago. I have a pain in my heart when I think of it, and how we used to laugh together, even when times were bad. You wouldn't understand that, of course. You've never cared for anything but yourself."
He folded his arms and watched her handle the reins.
"That pony would cross the moor blindfold," he told her. "Give him his head, can't you ? He's never stumbled in his life. That's better. He's taking charge of you, remember, and you can leave him to it. What were you saying ?"
Mary held the rein lightly in her hands, and looked at the track ahead of her. "Nothing very much," she answered. "In a way I was talking to myself. So you're going to sell two ponies at the fair, then ?"
"Double profit, Mary Yellan, and you shall have a new dress if you help me. Don't smile and shrug your shoulder. I hate ingratitude. What's the matter with you, today ? Your colour is gone and you've no light in your eyes. Are you feeling sick, or have you a pain in your belly ?"
"I've not been out of the house since I saw you last," she said. "I stayed up in my room with my thoughts. They didn't make cheerful company. I'm a deal older than I was four days ago."
"I'm sorry you've lost your looks," he went on. "I fancied jogging into Launceston with a pretty girl beside me, and fellows looking up as we passed and winking. You're drab today. Don't lie to me, Mary. I'm not as blind as you think. What's happened at Jamaica Inn ? "
"Nothing's happened." she said. "My aunt patters about in the kitchen, and my uncle sits at the table with his head in his hands and a bottle of brandy in front of him. It's only myself that has changed."
"You've had no more visitors, have you ?"
"None that I know of. Nobody's crossed the yard."
"Your mouth is set very firm, and there are smudges under your eyes. You're tired. I've seen a woman look like that before, but there was a reason for it. Her husband came back to her at Plymouth after four years at sea. You can't make that excuse. Have you been thinking about me by any chance ?"
" Yes, I thought about you once," she said. "I wondered who would hang first, you or your brother. There's little in it, from what I can see."
"If Joss hangs, it will be his own fault," said Jem. "If ever a man puts a rope round his own neck, he does. He goes three-quarters of the way to meet trouble. When it does get him it will serve him right, and
there'll be no brandy-bottle to save him then. He'll swing sober."
They jogged along in silence, Jem playing with the thong of the whip, and Mary aware of his hands beside her. She glanced down at them out of the tail of her eye, and she saw they were long and slim ; they had the same strength, the same grace, as his brother's. These attracted her ; the others repelled her. She realised for the first time that aversion and attraction ran side by side ; that the boundary-line was thin between them. The thought was an unpleasant one, and she shrank from it. Supposing this had been Joss beside her, ten, twenty years ago ? She shuttered the comparison at the back of her mind, fearing the picture it conjured. She knew now why she hated her uncle.
His voice broke in upon her thoughts. "What are you looking at ?" he said. She lifted her eyes to the scene in front of her. "I happened to notice your hands," she said briefly : "they are like your brother's. How far do we go across the moor ? Isn't that the high road winding away yonder ?"
"We strike it lower down, and miss two or three miles of it. So you notice a man's hands, do you ? I should never have believed it of you. You're a woman after all, then, and not a half-fledged farm-boy. Are you going to tell me why you've sat in your room for four days without speaking, or do you want me to guess ? Women love to be mysterious."
"There's no mystery in it. You asked me last time we met if I knew why my aunt looked like a living ghost. Those were your words, weren't they ? Well, I know now, that's all."
Jem watched her with curious eyes, and then he whistled again.
"Drink's a funny thing," he said, after a moment or two. "I got drunk once, in Amsterdam, the time I ran away to sea. I remember hearing a church clock stake half-past nine in the evening, and I was sitting on the floor with my arms round a pretty red-haired girl. The next thing I knew, it was seven in the following morning, and I was lying on my back in the gutter, without any boots or breeches. I often wonder what I did during those ten hours. I've thought and thought, but I'm damned if I can remember."
"That's very fortunate for you," said Mary. "Your brother is not so lucky. When he gets drunk he finds his memory instead of losing it."
The pony slacked in his stride, and she flicked at him with the reins. "If he's sdone he can talk to himself," she continued ; "it wouldn'thave much effect on the walls of Jamaica Inn. This time he was not alone, though. I happened to be there when he woke from his stupor. And he'd been dreaming."
"And when you heard one of his dreams, you shut yourself up in your bedroom for four days, is that it ?" said Jem.
"That's as near as you'll ever get to it," she replied.
He leant over her suddenly, and took the reins out of her hands.
"You don't look where you're going," he said. "I told you this pony never stumbled, but it doesn't mean you have to drive him into a block of granite the size of a cannon-ball. Give him to me." She sank back in the jingle and allowed him to drive. It was true, she had lacked concentration, and deserved his reproach. The pony picked up his feet and broke into a trot.
"What are you going to do about it ?" said Jem.
Mary shrugged her shoulders. "I haven't made up my mind," she said. "I have to consider Aunt Patience. You don't expect me to tell you, do you ?"
"Why not ? I hold no brief for Joss."
"You're his brother, and that's enough for me. There are many gaps in the story, and you fit remarkably well into some of them."
"Do you think I'd waste my time working for my brother ?"
"There'd be little waste of time, from what I've seen. There's profit enough and to spare in his business, and no payment in return for his goods. Dead men tell no tales, Jem Merlyn."
"No, but dead ships do, when they run ashore in a fair wind. It's lights a vessel looks for, Mary, when she's seeking harbour. Have you ever seen a moth flutter to a candle, and singe his wings ? A ship will do the same to a false light. It may happen once, twice, three times perhaps ; but the fourth time a dead ship stinks to heaven, and the whole country is up in arms, and wants know the reason why. My brother has lost his own rudder by now, and he's heading for the shore himself."
"Will you keep him company ?"
"I ? What have I to do with him ? He can run his own head into the noose. I may have helped myself to baccy now and then, and I've run cargoes, but I'll tell you one thing, Mary Yellan, and you can believe it or not, as the mood takes you : I've never killed a man--yet."
He cracked the whip savagely over his pony's head, and the animal broke into a gallop. "There's a ford ahead of us, where that hedge runs away to the east. We cross the river, and come out on the Launceston road half a mile on. Then we've seven miles or more before we reach the town. Are you getting tired ?"
She shook her head. "There's bread and cheese in the basket under the seat," he said, "and an apple or two, and some pears. You'll be hungry directly. So you think I wreck ships, do you, and stand on the shore and watch men drown ? And then put my hands into their pockets afterwards, when they're swollen with water ? It makes a pretty picture."
Whether his anger was pretended or sincere she could not say, but his mouth was set firm, and there was a flaming spot of colour high on his cheekbone.
"You haven't denied it yet, have you ?" she said.
He looked down at her with insolence, half contemptuous, half amused, and he laughed as though she were a child without knowledge. She hated him for it, and with a sudden intuition she knew the question that was forming itself, and her hands grew hot.
"If you believe it of me, why do you drive with me today to Launceston ?" he said.
He was ready to mock her ; an evasion or a stammered reply would be a triumph for him, and she steeled herself to gaiety.
"For the sake of your bright eyes, Jem Merlyn," she said. "I ride with you for no other reason," and she met his glance without a tremor.
He laughed at that, and shook his head, and fell to whistling again ; and all at once there was ease between them, and a certain boyish familiarity. The very boldness of her words had disarmed him ; he suspected nothing of the weakness that lay behind them, and for the moment they were companions without the strain of being man and woman.
They came now to the high road, and the jingle rattled along behind the trotting pony, with the two stolen horses clattering in tow. The rain-clouds swept across the sky, threatening and low, but as yet no drizzle fell from them, and the hills that rose in the distance from the moors were clear of mist. Mary thought of Francis Davey in Altarnun away to the left of her, and she wondered what he would say to her when she told him her story. He would not advise a waiting game again. Perhaps he would not thank her if she broke in upon his Christmas ; and she pictured the silent vicarage, peaceful and still amongst the cluster of cottages that formed the village, and the tall church tower standing like a guardian above the roofs and chimneys.
There was a haven of rest for her in Altarnun--the very name spelt like a whisper--and the voice of Francis Davey would mean security and a forgetting of trouble. There was a strangeness about him that was disturbing and pleasant. That picture he had painted ; and the way he had driven his horse ; and how he had waited upon her with deft silence ; and strange above all was the grey and sombre stillness of his room that
bore no trace of his personality. He was a shadow of a man, and now she was not with him he lacked substance. He had not the male aggression of Jem beside her, he was without flesh and blood. He was no more than two white eyes and a voice in the darkness.
The pony shied suddenly at a gap in the hedge, and Jem's loud curse woke her with ajar from the privacy of her thoughts.
She threw a shot at a venture. "Are there churches hereabouts ?" she asked him. "I've lived like a heathen these last months, and I hate the feeling."
"Get out of it, you blasted fool, you !" shouted Jem, stabbing at the pony's mouth. "Do you want to land us all in the ditch ? Churches, do you say ? How in the hell should I know about churches ? I've only been inside one once, and then I was carried in my mother's arms and I came out Jeremiah. I can't tell you anything about them. They keep the gold plate locked up, I believe."
"There's a church at Altarnun, isn't there ?" she said. "That's within walking distance of Jamaica Inn. I might go there tomorrow."
"Far better eat your Christmas dinner with me. I can't give you turkey, but [ can always help myself to a goose from old Farmer Tuckett at North Hill. He's getting so blind he'd never know that she was missing."
"Do you know who has the living at Altarnun, Jem Merlyn ?"
"No, I do not, Mary Yellan, I've never had any truck with parsons, and I'm never likely to. They're a funny breed of man altogether. There was a parson at North Hill when I was a boy ; he was very short-sighted, and they say one Sunday he mislaid the sacramental wine and gave the parish brandy instead. The village heard in a body what was happening, and, do you know, that church was so packed, there was scarcely room to kneel ; there were people standing up against the walls, waiting for their turn. The parson couldn't make it out at all ; there'd never been so many in his church before and he got up in the pulpit with his eyes shining behind his spectacles, and he preached a sermon about the flock returning to the fold. Brother Matthew it was told me the story ; he went up twice to the altar-rails and the parson never noticed. It was a great day in North Hill. Get out the bread and the cheese, Mary ; my belly Is sinking away to nothing."
Mary shook her head at him and sighed. "Have you ever been serious about anything in your life ?" she said. "Do you respect nothing and nobody ?"
"I respect my inside," he told her, "and it's calling out for food. There's the box, under my feet. You can eat the apple, if you're feeling religious. There's an apple comes in the Bible, I know that much."
It was a hilarious and rather heated cavalcade that clattered into Launceston at half past two in the afternoon. Mary had thrown trouble and responsibility to the winds, and, in spite of her firm resolution of the early mornirxg, she had melted to Jem's mood and given herself to gaiety. Away from the shadow of Jamaica Inn her natural youth and her spirits returned, and her companion noticed this in a flash and played upon them.
She laughed because she must, and because he made her ; and there was an infection in the air caught from the sound and bustle of the town, a sense of excitement and well-being ; a sense of Christmas. The streets were thronged with people, and the little shops were gay. Carriages, and carts, and coaches too, were huddled together in the cobbled square. There was colour, and life, and movement ; the cheerful crowd jostled one another before the market stalls, turkeys and geese scratched at the wooden barrier that penned them, and a woman in a green cloak held apples above her head and smiled, the apples shining and red like her cheeks. The scene was familiar and dear ; Helston had been like this, year after year at Christmas-time ; but there was a brighter, more abandoned spirit about Launceston ; the crowd was greater and the voices
mixed. There was space here, and a certain sophistication ; Devonshire and England were across the river. Farmers from the next county rubbed shoulders with country-women from East Cornwall ; and there were shopkeepers, and pastrycooks, and little apprentice-boys who pushed in and out amongst the crowd with hot pasties and sausage-meat on trays. A lady in a feathered hat and a blue velvet cape stepped down from her coach and went into the warmth and light of the hospitable White Hart, followed by a gentleman in a padded greatcoat of powder-grey. He lifted his eyeglass to his eyes and strutted after her, for all the world like a turkey-cock himself.
This was a gay and happy world to Mary. The town was set on the bosom of a hill, with a castle framed in the centre, like a tale from old history. There were trees clustered here, and sloping fields, and water
gleamed in the valley below. The moors were remote ; they stretched away out of sight behind the town, and were forgotten. Launceston had reality ; these people were alive. Christmas came into its own again in the town and had a place amongst the cobbled streets, the laughing jostling crowd, and the watery sun struggled from his hiding-place behind the grey banked clouds to join festivity. Mary wore the handkerchief Jem
had given her. She even unbent so far as to permit him to tie the ends under her chin. They had stabled the pony and jingle at the top of the town, and now Jem pushed his way through the crowd, leading his two stolen horses, Mary following at his heels. He led the way with confidence, making straight for the main square, where the whole of Launceston gathered, and the booths and tents of the Christmas fair stood end to end. There was a place roped off from the fair for the buying and selling of livestock, and the ring was surrounded by farmers and countrymen, gentlemen too, and dealers from Devon and beyond. Mary's heart beat faster as they approached the ring ; supposing there was someone from North Hill here, or a farmer from a neighbouring village, surely they would recognise the horses ? Jem wore his hat at the back of his head, and he whistled. He looked back at her once, and winked his eye. The crowd parted and made way for him. Mary stood on the outskirts, behind a fat market-woman with a basket, and she saw Jem take his place amongst a group of men with ponies, and he nodded to one or two of them, and ran his eye over their ponies, bending as he did so to a flare to light his pipe. He looked cool and unperturbed. Presently a flashy-looking fellow with a square hat and cream breeches thrust his way through the crowd and crossed over to the horses. His voice was loud and important, and he kept hitting his boot with a crop, and then pointing to the ponies. From his tone, and his air of authority, Mary judged him to be a dealer. Soon he was joined by a little lynx-eyed man in a black coat, who now and again jogged his elbow and whispered in his ear.
Mary saw him stare hard at the black pony that had belonged to Squire Bassat ; he went up to him, and bent down and felt his legs. Then he whispered something in the ear of the loud-voiced man. Mary watched him nervously.
"Where did you get this pony ? " said the dealer, tapping Jem on the shoulder. "He was never bred on the moors, not with that head and shoulders."
"He was foaled at Callington four years ago," said Jem carelessly, his pipe in the corner of his mouth. "I bought him as a yearling from old Tim Bray ; you remember Tim ? He sold up last year and went into Dorset. Tim always told me I'd get my money back on this pony. The dam was Irish bred, and won prizes for him up-country. Have a look at him, won't you ? But he's not going cheap, I'll tell you that."
He puffed at his pipe, while the two men went over the pony carefully. The time seemed endless before they straightened themselves and stood back. "Had any trouble with his skin ?" said the lynx-eyed man. "It feels very coarse on the surface, and sharp like bristles. There's a taint about him, too, I don't like. You haven't been doping him, have you ?"
"There's nothing ailing with that pony," replied Jem. "The other one there, he fell away to nothing in the summer, but I've brought him back all right. I'd do better to keep him till the spring now, I believe,
but he's costing me money. No, this black pony here, you can't fault him. I'll be frank with you over one thing, and it's only fair to admit it. Old Tim Bray never knew the mare was in foal--he was in Plymouth
at the time, and his boy was looking after her--and when he found out he gave the boy a thrashing, but of course it was too late. He had to make the best of a bad job. It's my opinion the sire was a grey ; look at the short hair there, close to the skin--that's grey, isn't it? Tim just missed a good bargain with this pony. Look at those shoulders ; there's breeding for you, I tell you what. I'll take eighteen guineas for him." The lynx-eyed man shook his head, but the dealer hesitated.
"Make it fifteen and we might do business," he suggested.
No, eighteen guineas is my sum, and not a penny less," said Jem.
The two men consulted together and appeared to disagree. Mary heard the word "fake," and Jem shot a glance at her over the heads of the crowd. A little murmur rose from the group of men beside him. Once more the lynx-eyed man bent and touched the legs of the black pony. "I'd advise another opinion on this pony," he said. "I'm not satisfied about him myself. Where's your mark ?"
Jem showed him the narrow slit in the ear and the man examined it closely.
"You're a sharp customer, aren't you ?" said Jem. "Anyone would think I'd stolen the horse. Anything wrong with the mark ?"
"No, apparently not. But it's a good thing for you that Tim Bray has gone to Dorset. He'd never own this pony, whatever you like to say. I wouldn't touch him, Stevens, if I were you. You'll find yourself in trouble. Come away, man."
The loud-voiced dealer looked regretfully at the black pony.
"He's a good-looker," he said. "I don't care who bred him, or if his sire was piebald. What makes you so particular. Will ? "
Once more the lynx-eyed man plucked at his sleeve and whispered in his ear. The dealer listened, and pulled a face, and then he nodded. "All right," he said aloud ; "I've no doubt that you're right. You've
got an eye for trouble, haven't you? Perhaps we're better out of it. You can keep your pony," he added to Jem. "My partner doesn't fancy him. Take my advice and come down on your price. If you have him for long on your hands you'll be sorry." And he elbowed his way through the crowd, with the lynx-eyed man beside him, and they disappeared in the direction of the White Hart. Mary breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the last of them. She could make nothing of Jem's expression ; his lips where framed in the inevitable whistle. People came and went ; the shaggy moorland ponies were sold for two or three pounds apiece, and their late owners departed satisfied. No one came near the black pony again. He was looked at askance by the crowd. At a quarter to four Jem sold the other horse for six pounds to a cheerful, honest-looking farmer, after a long and very good-humoured argument. The farmer declared he would give five pounds, and Jem stuck out for seven. Alter twenty minutes' riotous bargaining the sum of six pounds was agreed, and the farmer rode off on the back of his purchase with a grin from ear to ear. Mary began to flag on her feet. Twilight gathered in the market square and the lamps were lit. The town wore an air of mystery. She was thinking of returning to the jingle when she heard a woman's voice behind her, and a high affected laugh. She turned and saw the blue cloak and the plumed hat of the woman who had stepped from the coach earlier in the afternoon. "Oh, look, James," she was
saying. "Did you ever see such a delicious pony in your life ? He holds his head just like poor Beauty did. The likeness would be quite striking, only this animal of course is black, and has nothing of Beauty's breeding. What a nuisance Roger isn't here. I can't disturb him from his meeting. What do you think of him, James ? "
Her companion put up his eyeglass and stared. "Damn it, Maria," he drawled, "I don't know a thing about horses. The pony you lost was a grey, wasn't it ? This thing is ebony, positively ebony, my dear. Do you want to buy him ?"
The woman gave a little trill of laughter. "It would be such a good Christmas present for the children," she said. "They've plagued poor Roger ever since Beauty disappeared. Ask the price, James, will you ?"
The man strutted forward. "Here, my good fellow," he called to Jem, "do you want to sell that black pony of yours ?"
Jem shook his head. "He's promised to a friend," he said. "I wouldn't like to go back on my word. Besides, the's pony wouldn't carry you. He's been ridden by children."
"Oh, really. Oh, I see Oh, thank you. Maria, this fellow says the pony is not for sale."
"Is he sure ? What a shame. I'd set my heart on him. I'll pay him his price, tell him. Ask him again, James."
Once more the man put up his glass and drawled, "Look here, my man, this lady has taken a fancy to your pony. She has just lost one, and she wants to replace him. Her children will be most disappointed if they hear about it. Damn your friend, you know. He must wait. What is your price ?"
"Twenty-five guineas," said Jem promptly. "At least, that's what my friend was going to pay. I'm not anxious to sell him."
The lady in the plumed hat swept into the ring. "I'll give you thirty for him," she said. "I'm Mrs. Bassat from North Hill, and I want the pony as a Christmas present for my children. Please don't be obstinate. I have half the sum here in my purse, and this gentleman will give you the rest. Mr. Bassat is in Launceston now, and I want the pony to be a surprise to him as well as to my children. My groom shall fetch the pony immediately, and ride him to North Hill before Mr. Bassat leaves the town. Here's the money."
Jem swept off his hat and bowed low. "Thank you, madam," he said. "I hope Mr. Bassat will be pleased with your bargain. You will find the pony exceedingly safe with children."
"Oh, I'm certain he will be delighted. Of course the pony is nothing like the one we had stolen. Beauty was a thorough-bred, and worth a great deal of money. This little animal is handsome enough, and will please the children. Come along, James ; it's getting quite dark, and I'm chilled to the bone."
She made her way from the ring towards the coach that waited in the square. The tail footman leapt forward to open the door. "I've just bought a pony for Master Robert and Master Henry," she said. " Will you find Richards and tell him he's to ride it back home ? I want it to be a surprise to the squire." She stepped into the coach, her petticoats fluttering behind her, followed by her companion with the monocle.
Jem looked hastily over his shoulder, and tapped a lad who stood behind him on the arm. "Here," he said, "would you like a five-shilling piece ?" The lad nodded, his mouth agape. "Hang on to this pony, then, and, when the groom comes for him, hand him over for me, will you ? I've just had word that my wife has given birth to twins and her life is in danger. I haven't a moment to lose. Here, take the bridle. A happy Christmas to you.
And he was off in a moment, walking hard across the square, his hands thrust deep in his breeches pocket. Mary followed, a discreet ten paces behind. Her face was scarlet and she kept her eyes on the ground. The daughter bubbled up inside her and she hid her mouth in her shawl. She was near to collapsing when they reached the farther side of the square, out of sight of the coach and the group of people, and she stood with her hand to her side, catching her breath. Jem waited for her, his face as grave as a judge.
"Jem Merlyn, you deserve to be hanged," she said, when she had recovered herself. "To stand there as you did in the market square and sell that stolen pony back to Mrs. Bassat herself ! You have the cheek of the Devil, and the hairs in my head have gone grey from watching you."
He threw back his head and laughed, and she could not resist him. Their laughter echoed in the street until people turned to look at them, and they too caught the infection, and smiled, and broke into laughter ; and Launceston itself seemed to rock in merriment as peal after peal of gaiety echoed in the street, mingling with the bustle and clatter of the fair ; and with it all there was shouting, and calling, and a song from somewhere. The torches and the flares cast strange lights on the faces of people, and there was colour, and shadow, and the hum of voices, and a ripple of excitement in the air.
Jem caught at her hand and crumpled the fingers. "You're glad you came now, aren't you ?" he said, and "Yes" she said recklessly, and she did not mind.
They plunged into the thick of the fair, with all the warmth and the suggestion of packed humanity about them. Jem bought Mary a crimson shawl, and gold rings for her ears. They sucked oranges beneath a striped tent, and had their fortunes told by a wrinkled gypsy woman. "Beware of a dark stranger," she said to Mary, and they looked at one another and laughed again.
"There's blood in your hand, young man," she told him. "You'll kill a man one day" ; and "What did I tell you in the jingle this morning ?" said Jem. "I'm innocent as yet. Do you believe it now ?" But she shook her head at him ; she would not say. Little raindrops splashed on to their faces and they did not care. The wind rose in gusts and billowed the fluttering tents, scattering paper, and ribbons, and silks ; and a great striped booth shuddered an instant and crumpled, while apples and oranges rolled in the gutter. Flares streamed in the wind ; the rain fell ; and people ran hither and thither for shelter, laughing and calling to one another, the rain streaming from them.
Jem dragged Mary under cover of a doorway, his arms around her shoulders, and he turned her face against him, and held her with his hands, and kissed her. "Beware of the dark stranger," he said, and he laughed and kissed her again. The night clouds had come up with the rain, and it was black in an instant. The wind blew out the flares, the lanterns glowed dim and yellow, and all the bright colour of the fair was gone. The square was soon deserted ; the striped tents and the booths gaped empty and forlorn. The soft rain came in gusts at the open doorway, and Jem stood with his back to the weather, making a screen for Mary. He untied the handkerchief she wore, and played with her hair. She felt the tips of his fingers on her neck, travelling to her shoulders, and she put up her hands and pushed them away. "I've made a fool of myself long enough for one night, Jem Merlyn," she said. "It's time we thought of returning. Let me alone."
"You don't want to ride in an open jingle in this wind, do you ?" he said. "It's coming from the coast and we'll be blown under on the high ground. We'll have to spend the night together in Launceston."
"Very likely. Go and fetch the pony, Jem, while this shower lifts for the moment. I'll wait for you here."
"Don't be a Puritan, Mary. You'll be soaked to the skin on the Bodmin road. Pretend you're in love with me, can't you ? You'd stay with me then."
"Are you talking to me like this because I'm the barmaid at Jamaica Inn?"
"Damn Jamaica Inn ! I like the look of you, and the feel of you, and that's enough for any man. It ought to be enough for a woman too."
"I daresay it is, for some. I don't happen to be made that way."
"Do they make you different from other women, then, down on Helford river ? Stay here with me tonight, Mary, and we can find out. You'd be like the rest by the time morning came, I'd take my oath on that."
"I haven't a doubt of it. That's why I'd rather risk a soaking in the jingle."
"God, you're as hard as flint, Mary Yellan. You'll be sorry for it when you're alone again."
"Better be sorry then than later."
"If I kissed you again would you change your mind ?"
"I would not."
"I don't wonder my brother took to his bed and his bottle for a week, with you in the house. Did you sing psalms to him ? "
"I daresay I did,"
"I've never known a woman so perverse. I'll buy a ring for you if it would make you feel respectable. It's not often I have money enough in my pocket to make the offer."
"How many wives do you belong to have ?"
" Six or seven scattered over Cornwall. I don't count the ones across the Tamar."
"That's a good number for one man. I'd wait awhile before I took on an eighth, if I were you."
"You're sharp, aren't you ? You look like a monkey in that shawl of yours, with your bright eyes. All right, I'll fetch the jingle, and take you home to your aunt, but I'll kiss you first, whether you like it or not."
He took her face in his hands. "'One for sorrow, two for joy,'" he said. "I'll give you the rest when you're in a more yielding frame of mind. It wouldn't do to finish the rhyme tonight. Stay where you're to ; I'll not be long."
He bowed his head against the rain and strode across the street. She saw him disappear behind a line of stalls, and so around the corner.
She leant back once more within the shelter of the door, it would be desolate enough on the high road, she knew that ; this was a real driving rain, with a venomous wind behind it and there would be little mercy from the moors. It required a certain amount of courage to stand those eleven miles in an open jingle. The thought of staying in Launceston with Jem Merlyn made her heart beat faster perhaps, and it was exciting to think upon it now he was gone and he could not see her face, but for all that she would not lose her head to please him. Once she departed from the line of conduct she had laid down for herself,
there would be no returning. There would be no privacy of mind no independence. She had given too much away as it was, and she would never be entirely free of him again. This weakness would be drag on her and make the four walls of Jamaica Inn more hateful than they were already. It was better to bear solitude alone. Now the silence of the moors would be a torment because of his presence four mile distant from her. Mary wrapped her shawl around her and folded her arms. She wished that worries were not the frail things of straw she believed them to be ; then she could stay this night with Jem Merlyn and forget herself as he could forget, and both of them part with a laugh and a shrug of the shoulder in the morning. But she was a woman, and it was impossible. A few kisses had made a fool of her already. She thought of Aunt Patience, trailing like a ghost in the shadow of her master, and she shuddered. That would be Mary Yellan too, but for the grace of God and her own strength of will. A gust of wind tore at her skirt and another shower of rain blew in at the open doorway. It was colder now. Puddles ran on the cobbled atones, and the lights and the people had vanished. Launceston had lost its glamour. It would be a bleak and cheerless Christmas day tomorrow.
Mary waited, stamping her feet and blowing upon her hands. Jem was taking his own time to fetch the jingle. He was annoyed with her, no doubt, for refusing to stay, and leaving her to become wet and
chilled in the open doorway was to be his method of punishment. The long minutes passed and still he did not come. If this was his system of revenge, the plan was without humour and lacked originality. Somewhere a clock struck eight. He had been gone over half an hour, and the place where the pony and jingle were stabled was only five minutes away. Mary was dispirited and tired. She had been on her legs since
the early afternoon, and now that the high pitch of excitement had died away she wanted to rest. It would be difficult to recapture the careless, irresponsible mood of the last few hours. Jem had taken his gaiety with him.
At last Mary could stand it no longer, and she set off up the hill in search of him. The long street was deserted, save for a few stragglers, who hung about in the doubtful shelter of doorways as she had done. The rain was pitiless, and the wind came in gusts. There was nothing left now of the Christmas spirit.
In a few minutes she came to the stable where they had left the pony and jingle in the afternoon. The door was locked, and, peering through a crack, she saw that the shed was empty. Jem must have gone, then.
She knocked at the little shop next door, in a fever of impatience, and after a while it was opened by the fellow who had admitted them to the shed earlier in the day.
He looked annoyed at being disturbed from the comfort of his fire, and at first he did not recognise her, wild as she was in her wet shawl.
"What do you want? he said. "We don't give food to strangers here."
" I haven't come for food," Mary replied. "I'm looking for my companion. We came here together wih a pony and jingle, if you remember. I see the stable is empty. Have you seen him ? "
The man muttered an apology. "You'll excuse me, I'm sure. Your friend has been gone twenty minutes or more. He seemed in a great hurry, and there was another man with him. I wouldn't be sure, but he looked like one of the servants from the White Hart. They turned back in that direction at any rate."
"He left no message, I suppose ? "
"No, I'm sorry he did not. Maybe you'll find him at the White Hart. Do you know where it is ?"
"Yes, thank you. I'll try there. Good night."
The man shut the door in her face, glad enough to be rid of her, and Mary retraced her steps in the direction of the town. What should Jem want with one of the servants from the White Hart ? The man
must have been mistaken. There was nothing for it but to find out the truth for herself. Once more she came to the cobbled square. The White Hart looked hospitable enough, with its lighted window, but there was no sign of the pony and jingle. Mary's heart sank. Surely Jem had not taken the road without her ? She hesitated for a moment, and then she went up to the door and passed inside. The hall seemed to be full of gentlemen, talking and laughing, and once again her country clothes and wet hair caused consternation, for a servant went up to her at once and bade her be gone. "I've come in search of a Mr. Jem Merlyn," said Mary firmly. "He came here with a pony and jingle, and was seen with one of your servants. I'm sorry to trouble you, but I'm anxious to find him. Will you please make some enquiry ?"
The man went off with an ill grace, while Mary waited by the entrance, turning her back on the little group of men who stood by the fire and stared. Amongst them she recognised the dealer and the little lynx-eyed
She was aware of a sudden sense of foreboding. In a few moments the servant returned with a tray of glasses, which he distributed amongst the company by the fire, and later he appeared again with cake and ham. He took no more notice of Mary, and only when she called to him for the third time did he come towards her. "I'm sorry," he said ; "we've plenty here tonight without wasting our time over people from the fair. There's no man here by the name of Merlyn. I've asked outside, and nobody had heard of him."
Mary turned at once for the door, but the lynx-eyed man was there before her. "If it's the dark gypsy fellow who tried to sell my partner a pony this afternoon, I can tell you about him," he said, smiling wide, and showing a row of broken teeth. Laughter broke out from the group by the fire.
She looked from one to the other. "What have you to say ?" she said.
"He was in the company of a gentleman barely ten minutes ago,"returned the lynx-eyed man, still smiling, and looking her up and down, "and with the help of some of us he was persuaded to enter a carriage that was waiting at the door. He was inclined to resist us at first, but a look from the gentleman appeared to decide him. No doubt you know what became of the black pony ? The price he was asking was
His remark brought forth a fresh burst of laughter from the group by the fire. Mary stared steadily at the little lynx-eyed man.
"Do you know where he went ?" she asked.
He shrugged his shoulders, and pulled a mock face of pity.
"His destination is unknown to me," he said, "and I regret to say that your companion left no message of farewell. However, it is Christmas Eve, the night is young yet, and you can see for yourself it's no
weather to remain outside. If you care to wait here until your friend chooses to return, myself and the rest of these gentlemen will be delighted to entertain you."
He laid a limp hand on her shawl. "What a blackguard the fellow must be to desert you," he said smoothly. "Come in and rest, and forget him."
Mary turned her back on him without a word and passed out through the door once more. As it closed behind her she caught the echo of his laughter.
She stood in the deserted market square with the gusty wind and scattered showers of rain for company. So the worst had happened, and the theft of the pony had been discovered. There was no other explanation. Jem had gone. Stupidly she stared before her at the dark houses, wondering what was the punishment for theft. Did they hang men for that as well as murder ? She felt ill in body, as though someone had beaten her, and her brain was in confusion. She could see nothing clearly, she could make no plans. She supposed that Jem was lost to her now anyway, and she would never see him again. The brief adventure was over. For the moment she was stunned, and, hardly knowing that she did so, she began to walk aimlessly across the square towards the castle hill. If she had consented to stay in Launceston this would never had happened. They would have gone from the shelter of the doorway and found a room in the town somewhere ; she would have been beside him, and they would have loved one another.
And, even if he had been caught in the morning, they would have had those hours alone. Now that he was gone from her, mind and body cried out in bitterness and resentment, and she knew how much she had wanted him. It was her fault that he had been taken, and she could do nothing for him. No doubt they would hang him for this ; he would die like his father before him. The castle wall frowned down upon her and the rain ran in rivulets beside the road. There was no beauty left in Launceston any more ; it was a grim, grey, hateful place, and every bend in the road hinted at disaster. She stumbled along with the mizzling rain driving in her face, caring little where she went, and careless of the fact that eleven long miles lay between her and her bedroom at Jamaica Inn. If loving a man meant this pain and anguish and sickness, she wanted none of it. It did away with sanity and composure, and made havoc of courage. She was a babbling child now when once she had been indifferent and strong. The steep hill rose before her. They had
clattered down it in the afternoon ; she remembered the gnarled tree-trunk at the gap in the hedge. Jem had whistled, and she had sung snatches of song. Suddenly she came to her senses, and faltered in her steps. It was madness to walk any farther ; the road stretched like a white ribbon in front of her and two miles of it would bring exhaustion in this wind and rain.
She turned again on the slope of the hill, with the winking lights of the town beneath her. Someone perhaps would give her a bed for the night, or a blanket on the floor. She had no money ; they would have to trust her for payment. The wind tore at her hair, and the small stunted trees bowed and curtseyed before it. It would be a wild, wet dawn to Christmas Day.
She went away down the road, driven like a leaf before the wind, and out of the darkness she saw a carriage crawling up the hill towards her. It looked like a beetle, stubby and black, and its progress was slow, with the full force of the weather against it. She watched it with dull eyes ; the sight conveyed no message to her brain, except that somewhere on an unknown road Jem Merlyn travelled to his death perhaps
by the same manner. The carriage had crept up to her and was passing by, before she ran towards it on an impulse and called to the driver wrapped in a greatcoat on the seat. "Are you taking the Bodmin road ?" she cried. "Have you a passenger inside ?" The driver shook his head and whipped on his horse, but before Mary could step aside an arm came out of the carriage window, and a hand was laid on her shoulder.
"What does Mary Yellan do alone in Launceston on Christmas Eve ?" said a voice from within.
The hand was firm, but the voice was gentle. A pale face stared at her from the dark interior of the carriage: white hair and white eyes beneath the black shovel-hat. It was the vicar of Altarnun.