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CHAPTER VI A FAMILY LEGEND
Patricia packed her few belongings that same evening, and next day took leave of Ma and the children. Mrs. Sellars wept copiously, for she was sorry to lose the charming girl who made the house so bright. Also, she could not help lamenting that of all the fortunes offered to her, Miss Carrol had chosen what seemed to the old actress to be the meanest. Patricia could have married money and good looks and position, for all these had been offered to her by various letters, since her portrait had appeared in the illustrated papers. She could have been engaged at several music-halls at a lordly salary, getting twice over in one week what she had elected to receive a year. But the girl, rejecting wealth and publicity, had chosen obscurity and comparative poverty. No wonder Mrs. Sellars mourned.

"But I wish you well, my dear," she said, when the cab was waiting at the door and Patricia was shaking hands and kissing all round. "I hope you will be very happy, though from what I remember of Beckleigh, it is one of the dullest places in the world."

"I like dullness," said Miss Carrol, who was weary of argument, "and I am very thankful to get such a situation at such a good salary. Good-bye, dear Ma, and keep up your spirits. When I come to town again I shall see you."

"And write, my dear, write," screamed Mrs. Sellars, as the cab rolled away.

Patricia nodded a promise and leaned back on the cushions with a sigh of relief, as the vehicle turned the corner of the curved cul de sac. Her last glimpse of The Home of Art showed her Ma surrounded by her children standing at the front door, waving farewells and blowing kisses. Miss Carrol sighed. They were all good and kind and simple. All the same, she was glad to have left that dreary house, which was connected in her mind with so woful a tragedy. The excitement was now at an end, since the verdict of the jury had been given, and it was probable that in a few days the whole affair would be forgotten, for there seemed to be no chance that interest would be re-awakened by the capture of the assassin. That evil creature had stolen into the house out of the mist to kill his victim, and had then departed again into the darkness. And now Patricia herself was departing from the scene of the crime, and it seemed to her as though this horrible chapter in her life was closed for ever. "Thank God for that!" said the girl, putting her thoughts into speech.

At Paddington Station she found Squire Colpster waiting for her. The body of his late housekeeper, he informed her, had already gone on to Devonshire by the early morning train. Patricia was glad of this, as if the corpse had been in the train she was to travel in, she would have felt as though she were taking a portion of the disagreeable past with her into what she hoped would prove a very bright future. She strove to banish all the unpleasant memories of the past week, and presented a very smiling face to Mr. Colpster when he placed her in a first-class compartment. With a look of approval he commented on her cheerfulness when the train started.

"I am glad to see that your late troubles will not have a lasting effect on you," he said, placing a pile of magazines and illustrated papers beside her. "You look better than when I saw you last."

"It is because I am leaving all this unpleasantness behind," replied Patricia, with a little shiver. "And I am so thankful that you have taken me away from The Home of Art. I could not have remained there; it would have always been haunted to my fancy by the ghost of poor Mrs. Pentreddle. Yet if you had not offered me a home, Mr. Colpster, I don't know where I should have gone. In self-defence I might have had to accept the offer of that horrid music-hall manager. Beggars can't be choosers."

"You will never be a beggar again," said the Squire, with a kindly look on his clean-shaven face. "What would Colonel Carrol say if I allowed his only child to want?"

Patricia bent forward with sudden vivacity. "Did you know my father?"

"Yes. I knew him many years ago, and for this reason, amongst others, did I ask you to be my daughter's companion."

"I wondered why you made such an offer, when you knew nothing about me," said Miss Carrol thoughtfully.

"Oh, I know a great deal about you from Mrs. Sellars, who is your great admirer," said Mr. Colpster easily. "And then you have the very look of your father at times. I am asking you to Beckleigh, not so much as a companion to my daughter, as that you may become one to myself. You must look upon me as a relative, my dear girl."

"How good you are!" cried Patricia, taking his lean hand and stroking it softly. The two had the compartment to themselves, so she was able to give vent to her feelings in this way. "How can I thank you?"

"By rousing Mara from her dreamy state," said he quickly. "I want to see her more practical and take more interest in life. As it is, she always seems to be in the clouds."

"Has she ever had a companion of her own age?"

"No. All her young life she had been with older people. Certainly my nephew Theodore has been with her a great deal; but, like myself, he is inclined to study and so is much alone. Basil, who is in the Navy, is nearly always absent with his ship. Beckleigh Hall is isolated too," added Mr. Colpster thoughtfully; "so I daresay Mara's sadness and dreamy ways are due to her surroundings. All the servants are more or less old, and we live a very, very quiet life."

Patricia nodded, and quite comprehended. "I don't wonder that Mara is sad," she said bluntly. "How old is she?"

"Eighteen!"

"And you have kept her more or less surrounded by elderly people all these years," cried Patricia reproachfully. "No wonder she is sad, as I said before. I am glad I am coming to cheer her up. Has she been to school?"

"No. She has always been delicate, and I did not think it wise that she should leave home. Until last year she had a governess."

"Also elderly?"

"Yes. Miss Tibbets was nearly fifty," replied Colpster, with a smile.

"Oh, poor Mara! But does not your nephew try to brighten her life?"

The Squire's face grew dark, and his heavy grey eyebrows drew down over his keen eyes. "She does not like Theodore," he said at length, and he seemed to weigh his words. "Yet he wishes to marry her."

"He loves her?"

"So far as a cold-hearted being such as Theodore is can love, I believe he does love Mara. But he is much taken up with literary work, and studies for hours all alone in his own room. Basil is quite different, being gay and light-hearted."

"Does Mara love Mr. Basil?"

"In a sisterly way she does. The two boys and Mara have been brought up together, although Theodore and Basil are much older. I don't think Mara is earthly enough to love anyone. She always seems to live in a land of dreams, and looks more like a shadow than a flesh-and-blood girl."

Patricia nodded absently. She felt a strong desire in her heart to see this strange girl with her fancies and unearthly nature. Surrounded almost constantly by elderly people and secluded in an old country-house hidden away in a lonely corner of Devonshire, it was scarcely to be wondered at that the girl with the weird name should be unlike those of her own age.

"And Mara means 'bitter,' doesn't it?" asked Miss Carrol, following her idle thoughts.

Mr. Colpster bowed his head. "Yes. Her mother died in child-birth when Mara was born, and so I gave her the name. As the sole child of my house in the direct line, she also deserves it, for we have fallen on evil days."

"What do you mean?" asked Patricia, wondering at the strange subdued excitement of the old man, for his face was red, his eyes sparkled, and his deep voice shook with emotion.

"What I mean will take some time to tell," he said, after a pause. "It is because I had to tell you something and to question you that I engaged this compartment. We are undisturbed here, and we have some hours to ourselves before we arrive at Hendle, which is the nearest station to Beckleigh." He fixed his fiery eyes on her startled face. "Are you prepared to believe a strange story, Miss Carrol?"

"Yes," replied Patricia boldly. "I have experienced such strange things myself lately that I am prepared to believe anything."

"Good. I shall tax your credulity to the uttermost. It is strange, as you will admit, that the daughter of my old friend should be brought into my life to help the Colpster family to regain what has been lost."

Patricia echoed his words in a puzzled manner: "What has been lost?"

"The emerald snatched from you in the Park is lost, is it not?"

The girl started forward in her seat, almost too amazed to speak. That the Squire should refer to the incident on the night of the murder was the very last thing she expected. "What do you mean?" she asked again.

He replied irrelevantly, as it seemed: "Let me tell you a story, Miss Carrol. I can trace my family back to Amyas Colpster, who lived in the reign of Henry the Seventh. Who his father was, or where he came from, there is nothing to show. He was what would be nowadays called an adventurer, and in that capacity he went to the New World."

"Was the New World discovered then?" asked Patricia, wondering what all this was to lead to.

"Yes. Columbus discovered America in Henry's reign, and, indeed, the King might have fitted out the expedition had not Ferdinand and Isabella done so earlier. But I do not refer so much to Columbus as to those who followed him. It was in the early part of Henry VIII.'s reign that Cortes conquered Mexico, and it was about 1532 that Pizarro took possession of Peru."

"But what has all this to do with the emerald stolen from me in----"

"You shall hear," interrupted Mr. Colpster, rather impatiently. "Amyas, my ancestor, went to Mexico, but had no success there. Afterwards he went to Peru and there accumulated a fortune, with which he returned to England. He bought Beckleigh and a great deal of land, and so built up our family. When in Peru he saved an Inca princess from death, and out of gratitude she gave him a large emerald." Patricia uttered an exclamation. "Yes, the same emerald that was stolen from you on the night of the murder. It formerly belonged to the Temple of the Sun at Cuzco, and passed, in the way I have related, into the possession of Amyas Colpster. Being a sacred stone, it was reported to have some strange influence, which brought luck to its possessor, and Amyas believed this, as while it remained in his possession and in the possession of the son who succeeded him, everything went well. The family increased in wealth and in favour with the reigning monarch. It remained for Bevis Colpster, towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, to throw away the luck which had been bestowed on his grandfather by the Inca princess."

"Do you mean that he gave away the emerald?"

"Yes. To gain a knighthood, he presented it to the Queen. From that time the fortunes of our family have decreased gradually, and now I have only about fifty acres of land, the old Hall, and one thousand a year well invested."

"That doesn't seem to be absolute pauperism," said Patricia, with a smile.

"It is poverty compared to what our family once possessed," said the old Squire petulantly. "Once we had wide lands and much money, and great influence in worldly affairs. All these things Bevis Colpster threw away for a knighthood which did him no good, for a title which did not even descend to his children. And our fortunes have dwindled since then, until we have only what I mention. But unless the emerald is recovered, what we now possess will also leave us, and our family will die out. Even as it is," he ended bitterly, "I have no son to succeed me."

Patricia wondered at what she took to be superstition in so clever a man, but saw that he could not be argued out of his fancies. She therefore pretended to accept his beliefs as true, and asked a question. "What became of the emerald?" she inquired eagerly, for the family legend interested her.

Colpster roused himself and his sunken eyes flashed keenly. "When Will Adams went to Japan, in 1597, as a pilot of Jacques Mahay's fleet, the Queen gave him the emerald to present to some potentate in the East."

"To the Emperor of Japan?"

"No. Because the fleet which sailed from Amsterdam did not intend to go to Japan. I was wrong in saying so. It was going to the Indies. Akbar was reigning then, and the emerald was for him. But Adams was wrecked on the coast of Japan, and when he became a favourite with the Shogun Ieyasu, he presented him with the great jewel. Ieyasu gave it to the Mikado Go Yojo, and he presented it--or one of his successors did--to the Shinto Temple of Kitzuki. There it remained for hundreds of years."

"But how did it come to be in the deal box? And what had Mrs. Pentreddle to do with it? And why was it snatched from me in----"

Mr. Colpster threw up his slender hand. "One question at a time, please," he said, with a faint smile. "I can't exactly say. You can form your own conclusions from what I tell you."

He paused, as though collecting his thoughts, and Patricia did not interrupt him again. She also was thinking and recalling that strange jewel which was set in the centre of the regular circle of stiff petals. Knowing that the chrysanthemum was the royal badge of Japan, she felt certain that the whole jewel was meant to represent the same. It was at this point of her meditations that Mr. Colpster began to speak again.

"As I told you," he continued, "I was anxious that we should recover the emerald, so that our family luck should return. I therefore read many books of travel, and spoke to many Japanese about the stone. In a strange way, which I shall tell you some day, I learned that the jewel was at the Temple of Kitzuki, in the province of Izumo. It was regarded as very sacred, and how to regain it again I could not tell."

He paused once more, and then went on quietly: "As you know, I have no son of my name to carry on the line. But my only sister, whose husband was already dead, died also and left me her two sons to look after. I brought them up with my daughter. Basil went into the Navy and Theodore remained at home to look after the estate."

"Then is Mr. Theodore your heir?" asked Patricia swiftly.

"At one time I intended him to be, as I desired to marry him to Mara. He could then, as I decided, take the name of Colpster, and when I was gone, carry on the family in the female line. But while the emerald was lost I thought that the luck would not return to the Colpsters. I therefore told what I have told you to my nephews, and said that the one who brought back the Mikado Jewel--as I called it--should be my heir."

"What did they say?"

"Theodore scoffed at the idea, and said that he did not want my money. He declined to go to Japan and run any risk of getting the jewel, either by stealing or purchase."

"But surely you did not wish him to steal it?"

"Oh, no," said Mr. Colpster, so hurriedly that Patricia felt sure he had once intended to get the jewel fraudulently, if not honestly; "but I thought that the emerald might be brought back. Will Adams had no right to give it to the Shogun, as it was intended by Queen Elizabeth to cement her friendship with Akbar. We--the family, I mean--would be quite justified in taking it by force. But that was not to be thought of. I therefore gave Basil a sum of money, which I obtained by mortgaging all my property, and told him, when his ship touched at Nagasaki, to try and buy it. I am expecting his ship, H.M.S. Walrus, back in a fortnight."

"But the emerald is in London."

"Exactly, and it was brought to be given to Martha Pentreddle. That is what puzzles me. What do you think, Miss Carrol?"

"I hardly know what to think," said the girl, in a puzzled voice; then added, after a few moments of thought: "Perhaps it isn't the Colpster emerald after all."

"Yes, it is," asserted the Squire positively. "When I read your description of the jewel I was certain that it was the same stone. It was made into a sacred jewel by the Shinto priests of the Temple. They surrounded it with the petals of a chrysanthemum flower carved out of green jade."

"Jade!" Patricia recollected the stiff petals. "Oh, is that the kind of stone?"

"Ah!" said Colpster eagerly and with an air of triumph. "You see, you remember the Mikado Jewel. Yes, the emerald in the centre is the same which Amyas Colpster got from the Inca princess and which Bevis parted with to Elizabeth for a knighthood."

"But can you be certain?" persisted Patricia, bewildered by the strangeness of what she took to be a coincidence. "The emerald and the jade chrysanthemum may be still at Kitzuki, in the province of Izumo."

The Squire shook his head sadly. "No. Basil wrote me some time ago, saying that he had gone to Kitzuki to make an offer to buy back the emerald, but he learned that it had been stolen."

"Stolen! Who could have stolen it?"

"That is what I wish to find out. But it has been stolen, and now it appears in London, and was placed in your hands only to be taken away again by----" He paused and looked at the girl.

"I don't know who gave it into my hands, or who snatched it," she said, in a regretful tone. "You know all that I know."

"Didn't Martha tell you anything?" he asked eagerly.

"Not a word. She said that when I came back with the deal box she would explain. You know what happened before I reached home."

Colpster nodded. "She was murdered. Who could have murdered her? Unless----"

"Unless what?" asked Patricia, quickly.

"Have you read Wilkie Collins' story of The Moonstone?"

"Yes, many years ago."

"Well, as you know, it is about a sacred diamond taken from the eye of an idol, and is recovered after various adventures by the priests of the god."

"But what has that to do with----?"

"One moment, Miss Carrol. This emerald also has become a sacred stone; it also has been stolen. What is more likely but that some Shinto priest murdered Martha and another priest should snatch it from your hands?"

"But why should the emerald come to Mrs. Pentreddle at all?"

"That is what I wish to know," said the Squire, feverishly and clenching his hands. "And that," he added, bending forward, "is what you and I must find out. We must learn who murdered Martha and recover our family luck."

"I don't see how it is to be done," sighed Patricia.

"It must be done; it has to be done," and Colpster smote his knee hard.

"I'll try," said the girl and extended her hand. The Squire shook it warmly.


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