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It was a cold grey day in late November, The weather had changed overnight when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it,and although it was now only a little after two o'clock in the afternoon the pallour of a winter eveningseemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist. It would be dark by four. The air was clammy cold, and for all the tightly closed windows It penetrated the interior of the coach. The leather seats damp to the hands, and there must have been a small crack in the roof, because now and again little drips of rain fell softly through, smudging the leather and leaving a dark blue stain like a splodge of ink. The Wind came in gusts, at times shaking the coach as it travelled round the bend of the road, and in the exposed places on the high ground it blew with such force that the whole body of the coach trembled and swayed, rocking between the high wheels like a drunken man.
The driver, muffled in a greatcoat to his ears, bent almost double in his seat; in a faint endeavour to gain shelter from his own shoulders, while the dis pirited horses plodded sullenly to his command, too broken by the wind and the rain to feel the whip that now and again cracked above their heads, while it: swung between the numb fingers of the driver.
The wheels of the coach creaked and groaned as they sank onto the rats on the road, and sometimes they flung up the soft spattered mud against the windows, where it mingled with the constant driving rain, and whatever view there might have been of the countryside was hopelessly obscured.
The few passengers huddled together for warmth, exclaiming in unison whenthe coach sank into a heavier rut than usual, and one old fellow, who had kept up a constant complaint ever since he had joined the coach at Truro, rose from his seat in a fury, and, fumbling with the window sash, let the window down with a crash, bringing a shower of rain in upon himself and his fellow passengers. He thrust his head out and shouted up to the driver, cursing him in a high petulant voice for a rogue and a murderer; that they would all be dead before they reached Bodmin if he persisted in driving at breakneck speed; they had no breath left in their bodies as it was, and he for one would never travel by coach again.
Whether the driver heard him or not was uncertain; it seemed more likely that the stream of reproaches was carried away in the wind, for the old fellow, after waiting a moment, put up the window again, having thoroughly chilled the interior of the coach, and, settling himself once more in his comer, wrapped his blanket about his knees and muttered in his heard.
His nearest neighbour, a jovial red-faced woman in blue cloak, sighed heavily in sympathy, and, witha wink to anyone who might be looking and a jerk of her head towards the old man, she remarked for at least the twentieth time that it was the dirtiest night she ever remembered, and she had known some; that it was proper old weather and no mistaking It for
Summer this time; and, burrowing into the depths of a large basket she brought out a greatand plunged into it with strong white teeth.
Mary YeIlan sat in the opposite comer, where the trickle of rain oozed through the crack in the roof. Sometimes a cold drip of moisture fell upon her shoulder, which she brushed away with impatient fingers.
She sat with her chin capped in her hands, her eyes fixed on the window splashed with mud and rain, hoping with a sort of desperate interest that some ray of light would break the heavy blanket of sky, and but a momentary trace of that lost blue heaven that had mantled Helford yesterday shine for an instant as a forerunner of fortune,
Already, though barely forty miles by road from what had been her home for three-and-twenty years, the hope within her heart had tired, and that rather gallant courage which was so large a part of her, and had stood her in such stead during the long agony of her mother's illness and death, was now shaken by this first fall of rain and the nagging wind.
The country was alien to her, which was a defeat in itself. As she peered through the misty window of the coach she looked out upon a different world from the one she had known only a day's journey back. How remote now and hidden perhaps for ever were the shining waters of Helford, the green hills and the sloping valleys, the white cluster of cottages at the water's edge. It was a gentle rain that fell at Helford, a rain that pattered in the many trees and lost itself in the lush grass, formed into brooks and rivulets that emptied into the broad river, sank into the grateful so which gave back flowers in payment.
This was a lashing, pitiless rain that string the windows of the coach and it soaked into a hard and barren soil. No trees here, save one or two that stretched bare branches to the four winds, bent and twisted from centuries of storm, and so blackened were they by time and tempest that even if spring did breathe on such a place, no buds would dare to come to leaf for fear that the late frost should kill them. It was a scrubby land, without hedgerow or Meadow; a country of stones, black heather, and stunted broom.
There would never be a gentle season here, thought Mary; either grim winter as it was today, or else the dry and parching heat of midsummer, with neverJamaica Inn. Copyright © by Daphne Du Maurier. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.