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CHAPTER VIII THEODORE
Life went so softly and gently at Beckleigh that it was like dwelling in an enchanted land, in a fabled heaven of drowsy ease. Patricia compared the place to the island of the Lotus-eaters, and after the storms of her early experiences, she enjoyed to the full its calm seclusion. Never was there so solitary a place. The Colpsters were a county family of respectable antiquity, and it was to be presumed that in the ordinary course of things they knew many people of their own rank. But either their friends and acquaintances lived too far away or were not invited to the house, for no stranger ever came near the place. Not even the inevitable tourist chanced upon this charmed spot. Beckleigh might have been situated in the moon, for all connection it had with the outside world.

The dwellers in this quiet haven did not seem to mind being left alone in this odd way. The servants, mostly old and staid, were contented with the house and grounds, and occasionally ventured on the quiet waters of the fairy bay in rowing-boats. Once a week the elderly butler drove to Hendle and to the adjacent villages, to bring back groceries and such things as were needful to support life. The postman came on a bicycle, once a day, with news from the outside world, and Patricia found that the library was well supplied with magazines and newspapers. There was no complaint to be made on that score, as the inhabitants of Beckleigh always knew what was going on both at home and abroad. They might be secluded, but they were not ignorant, and although not rolling stones, they gathered no moss. This warm, forgotten nook was an ideal home for a student.

And both Theodore and his uncle were students, as Patricia gradually learned. Mr. Colpster was writing a history of his family, and had been engaged for many years in doing so. From Amyas downward the Squire traced the history of his forebears, showing how they had risen to wealth and rank until the middle part of Elizabeth's reign, and how, from that period, by the selfish conduct of Bevis Colpster in parting with the emerald, his sons and grandsons had lost the greater part of their possessions. Also, he related various romantic stories dealing with the attempts of Georgian Colpsters to redeem the family fortunes. And, finally, when he reached the conclusion of the book, as he told Patricia, he intended to relate how the emerald had been recovered, and how again it had worked its spell of good fortune.

"But if you don't recover the emerald?" asked Miss Carrol very sensibly.

"I must recover it," said the Squire vehemently. "If I do not, the family will die out. When the Mikado Jewel is again in our possession, she can inherit the estates on condition that she marries Theodore or Basil."

"Are you speaking of Mara?" questioned Patricia, noting the vague way in which her companion talked.

"Of course; of course," he answered testily. "She must marry one of her cousins, and her husband can take the family name. Then the emerald will draw plenty of money to us, and we will again buy back our lost lands."

"How can the emerald draw back money?" asked Patricia, again thinking, as she very often did, of her sensations when holding the stone.

"I don't know; I can't say. I am only using a figure of speech, as it were, my dear girl. But in some way this emerald means good fortune to us, as was amply proved by the success of Amyas, his son and grandson. They owned all the land as far as Hendle; but when the emerald was lost the acres and their villages were lost also." Mr. Colpster rose and began to walk to and fro excitedly. "I must find that emerald; I must; I must!"

"How are you going to set about it?" asked the girl, doubtfully.

"I cannot say." He resumed his seat at his desk with a heavy sigh. "There is no clue to follow. If we could learn who murdered Martha we might discover the assassin and regain the jewel."

"But how can the assassin have it, Mr. Colpster? Assuming that he murdered poor Mrs. Pentreddle in order to steal the emerald, you know that it was not in her possession."

"No. That is quite true. While the assassin was searching the house, the emerald was being stolen from you in the Park. But undoubtedly the emerald was meant to be given to Martha since you went to receive it. How did she manage to get it? I want an answer to that question."

"Why not ask it of Harry Pentreddle?" suggested Patricia quietly.

Colpster raised his head and stared. "Why? What could Harry possibly know about the matter?"

"I am only putting two and two together," continued the girl, thoughtfully looking out of the window. "You told me that the emerald was taken to Japan, and also that Harry Pentreddle had returned from the Far East. He----"

"What?" Colpster rose excitedly to his feet. "You think that Harry brought it with him; that he stole it from the Temple of Kitzuki?"

"Why not?" demanded Patricia swiftly. "Japan is in the Far East, and Harry Pentreddle came from there. Also, his mother came up to London to meet him and receive the emerald. I feel sure of it."

"But Harry never came near the house," expostulated the Squire. "That was clearly proved at the inquest."

"Quite so. But do you remember what you told me about the emerald being a sacred stone, and how you mentioned Wilkie Collins' novel of 'The Moonstone'? Perhaps some priests were on Harry Pentreddle's track, and so he did not dare to go openly to his mother. He must have arranged the signal of the red light in the Park, so that he could give his mother the emerald secretly. She could not keep the appointment by reason of her sprained foot, and so sent me. I now believe, on these assumptions," declared Patricia firmly, "that it was Harry Pentreddle who gave me the deal box."

Colpster grew very excited. "It sounds a feasible theory," he muttered. "Of course, Martha knew all about my desire to get back the emerald. But why should she get her son to steal it? I can understand the secrecy of the meeting in the Park, as undoubtedly the priests of the Kitzuki Temple would make every effort to regain the stone. Harry had to give the emerald to his mother secretly, and probably for the same reason he is now in hiding at Amsterdam. It all fits in. But"--Mr. Colpster paused and looked straightly at the girl--"why did Martha want the emerald?"

"Perhaps to give it to you."

"In that case, she would have told me of her plans."

"I think not," said Patricia, after a pause. "She might fancy you would not approve of the jewel being stolen. However, it is all theory, and the only way in which you can get at the truth is by questioning Harry Pentreddle."

"The question is how to find him," murmured the Squire musingly. "If he thinks the priests are after him, he will remain in hiding."

"If he has seen the report of his mother's death and of the inquest," said Patricia coolly, "he will see that there is no longer any reason for him to dread the priests of Kitzuki."

"Why not?"

"Because I believe that Harry was followed by one on that night, and that the second man who stole the jewel from me was one of the priests."

"If that is so, why was Martha murdered?"

"I can't say. Of course, like the Moonstone guardians, there may have been three priests. One followed Harry and one went to The Home of Art."

"And the third?"

"The third may have directed the other two. It is all fancy, perhaps," said Patricia, hesitating; "but I think that my theory is correct."

"I am positive that it is," said the Squire, with decision. "Where a man argues to reach a point, a woman jumps in the dark intuitively. Gradually I might have arrived at the same conclusion you suggest by reasoning; but I feel certain that you have given me the truth by using that subconscious mind which is more active in woman than man. Yes, yes!" Mr. Colpster opened and shut his hands excitedly; "you have given me the clue. Harry was told by his mother to steal the emerald; she did not tell me, as she knew that I would not approve. Harry secured the emerald and was followed by those who guarded it. Being in danger of death, he made the secret appointment with his mother which you kept, and passed along the jewel. The Japanese who was following saw that what he wanted had changed hands, and leaving Harry, came after you. When you looked at the jewel he snatched it. Meanwhile, in some way, these priests knew that the jewel was to go to Martha, and so one must have gone to get it from her. She refused to say anything and was killed by the man, who afterwards searched the house for the emerald. It is all clear, perfectly clear."

"What will you do now?" asked Patricia, catching fire from his enthusiasm.

"Do?" almost shouted the old man, straightening his bent frame. "I shall try and find Harry Pentreddle and see if he will endorse your story."

"My theory," corrected the girl quickly.

"Well, theory, if you like. But Harry must be found. No doubt, thinking he was in danger of his life, he went abroad and is in hiding."

"How can you find him, then?"

"I shall ask Isa Lee. She lives at Hendle, and is the girl to whom he is engaged. He must have written to her, and--and----"

"And why not ask Mara," broke in a quiet voice.

Patricia looked up with a start, so unexpected was the observation. From behind a screen which was placed in front of the door came Theodore Dane. For so huge a man--and in Patricia's eyes he looked more gigantic than ever at the moment--he moved as quietly as a cat. Mr. Colpster seemed rather annoyed by this stealthy entrance.

"I wish you would make more noise," he said irritably.

"I thought you did not like noise, uncle," said Theodore calmly, and allowed himself to drop into a saddle-back chair.

"No more I do. All the same, I don't care about being surprised in this way. You should have knocked at the door, or have rattled the handle, or----"

"I did knock, I did rattle the handle," said Dane carelessly, and thrust one white hand through his leonine masses of reddish hair; "but you were so interested in your conversation with Miss Carrol that you did not hear me."

"And you listened?" continued the Squire irritably.

"I ask pardon for doing so. But the conversation was about the Mikado Jewel, which always fascinates me, and I could scarcely help overhearing a few words. But if the conversation is private----" He heaved up his big frame as if to go away.

"It's not private," snapped Colpster, sitting down at his desk; "only your unexpected appearance startled me. I would have reported the conversation to you later, as I know that you are as anxious as I am to recover the palladium of the family."

"I should certainly like to recover it personally," said Theodore with point, "as I know the succession to the estate depends upon its being given to you. If I get it, I inherit; if Basil is the lucky finder, he obtains all the property. You know what you arranged."

"Yes, and I hold to that arrangement. But as neither Basil nor you have secured the Mikado Jewel----"

"Neither one of us inherits?" finished Dane quietly.

"The one who marries Mara gets it," said Colpster decisively. "She is my only daughter and must benefit under my will. Marry her, Theodore, and be my heir. Mara is a nice girl; you can't object."

"Mara will. She likes Basil better than she does me."

"In that case, she must marry Basil, and he can become master here, when I pass over," said Mr. Colpster, with a shrug.

Theodore's white face flushed and his blue eyes glittered even more brightly than usual. Patricia, who was watchful of his every movement--for the latent strength of the man impressed her--guessed that he was furiously angry, but was reining in his passion with an iron hand. "If Basil inherits he will turn me out of doors," he said heavily.

"Oh, you can make your own arrangements with Basil," said the Squire. "You and he never get on well together, so----"

"Because I am the ugly duckling," burst out Theodore, his eyes flaming like sapphires. "Basil is the popular one; he has all the looks and all the----" He checked himself suddenly and smiled in a wry manner. "But these family arrangements cannot interest Miss Carrol. Let us leave marriages and any arrangement that may come after your death, uncle, alone for the moment. We have to find the emerald."

"In what way?" asked the Squire directly, and rather sourly. There did not seem to be much love lost between him and his burly nephew.

"We must find out where Harry Pentreddle is and question him. Isa Lee may know, but in order not to lose time, I suggest that we question Mara."

"No," said Colpster sharply. "Last time you put her in a trance she was ill for days. I won't have her constitution tampered with."

"Mara's spirit got beyond my control," said Theodore quickly, "and remained away longer than was wise. It would not obey!"

"The child might have died," growled the Squire, who did not seem surprised at this strange speech of his nephew's. "Leave her alone. Isa Lee will certainly be able to tell us where Harry is. Mara is useless."

"She was not useless when she told you where the emerald was to be found," said Theodore calmly, and lounging in his deep chair.

Mr. Colpster looked at Patricia, who was privately amazed at this extraordinary conversation, which dealt in a matter-of-fact way with super-physical things, and laughed at the expression on her face. "I promised to explain one day how I came to learn where the emerald was," he remarked.

Patricia nodded. "Yes, you did, Mr. Colpster. In the train."

"I remember. Well, then, Theodore here put Mara asleep, and told her to look for the jewel. She went unerringly to Japan and saw that it was in the Temple of Kitzuki in the province of Izumo. At the time I did not believe this, but it proved to be true, and the shrine which held it, as Basil wrote home to me, was precisely described by Mara when in her trance."

"But I don't believe in these things," burst out Patricia, staring aghast at what she regarded as gross superstition.

"And the Inquisition did not believe that the earth went round the sun," said Theodore coolly. "But although they forced Galileo to deny that truth, the earth continued to circle the sun and took the disbelieving Inquisitors along with it. Do not measure everything by your own brain, Miss Carrol, for there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your----"

"Oh, I have heard that quotation so often," cried Patricia impetuously; "but nothing can be proved."

"Not to those who only possess physical brains. But those who have eyes can see and those who have ears can hear. To those people Christ appealed."

Patricia laid her delicate hands on her lap despairingly. "I don't know what you are talking about," she observed, with a shrug.

"Well, never mind," Theodore hastened to say, seeing that she was rather annoyed. "Some day you will understand. Just now all you need know is that Mara told us that the emerald was to be found in the Temple of Kitzuki in Japan. That proved to be true, although it was learned in what appears to you to be a nonsensical way. I believe," he fixed her gaze with his keen blue eyes strongly, "I believe that you are psychic yourself."

Mr. Colpster jumped up a trifle nervously. "I won't have it, Theodore. Leave Patricia alone. I am quite sure your experiments with Mara have done her a great deal of harm, and have made her more dreamy and unpractical than ever. I won't have Patricia caught in these evil nets."

"There is no evil in searching for the Unseen," protested Theodore warmly. "In that case--if it was regarded as evil, I mean--men would cease to inquire and there would be no inventions."

"If the searching you mention was regarded as evil," said the Squire grimly, "men would certainly search more willingly than if the powers were regarded as good. However, I put my foot down. I am not an unbeliever, as you know, but I don't think it is right to pry into what God wishes to be concealed. 'Thus far shalt thou go and no further!'"

"That was said of the ocean," retorted Theodore. "And yet we have reclaimed lands from the sea and prevented the waves from going as far as they used to. Everything is good if rightly used, and----"

"I won't hear; I won't hear;" Mr. Colpster walked abruptly to the window. "You are always arguing. Leave Patricia alone."

"What does Miss Carrol say herself?" asked Dane, turning to the girl.

"I agree with Mr. Colpster," she rejoined promptly. "I don't like such things, and think they are evil."

"Very good. We will talk no more of the matter," said Theodore quietly. "Only one thing I will ask you, since I believe you to be a sensitive. Have you not experienced strange sensations yourself?"

"In connection with the emerald I have," replied Patricia, who was anxious to have her curiosity in this respect gratified. And Dane certainly seemed a man who could do so.

On hearing her reply, Mr. Colpster turned away from the window and walked back to plant himself before her. "What do you mean?" he asked abruptly.

"I mean that while I held the emerald I felt the strangest sensations. It was because I felt these that I opened the box."

Theodore leaned forward with his hands on the arms of his chair. "I knew you were psychic," he said triumphantly. "All Irish people are, more or less, as they come along the Chaldean-Egyptian-Carthagenian line."

"What do you mean?" asked Patricia, completely puzzled.

"Oh, never mind; never mind," broke in the Squire impatiently. "Theodore can explain himself later. Meanwhile tell me what sensations you felt?"

Patricia stared straight before her, striving to recall what she had experienced on that terrible night. "Both when the jewel was in the box and in my hand," she said slowly, "I felt a sensation as though it held some great force which was ever pushing outward."

"Pushing outward!" muttered Theodore, pinching his nether lip. "How?"

"I can scarcely explain. Wave after wave of this invisible force seemed to radiate from the petals of the flower."

"What flower?" asked Colpster, greatly interested.

"The chrysanthemum blossom which was formed of the carved jade petals, with the emerald in its centre. The radiating force seemed to push back all darkness and all evil, so that I did not feel afraid. It seemed as though I were in the middle of a circle of light, and thus was safe from any harm."

Theodore muttered again and bent forward eagerly. "Was there any sign carved on the emerald?" he demanded breathlessly.

"What sign?" she asked, greatly puzzled.

"A triangle; a circle; a--a--oh, any sign?"

"I did not observe," replied Patricia simply. "The jewel was so lovely, and my sensations were so strange, that I kept staring at it in silence, feeling happy and safe. When it became cold and dark I then was afraid."

Theodore held up his hand to prevent his uncle from speaking. "When did the jewel become cold and dark, as you phrase it?" he asked sharply.

"Just before the man snatched it. The radiance seemed to die away, and the power appeared to falter. When I felt that I was holding a mere ornament, dull and dead and cold, the thief snatched it away from me."

Dane rose slowly, and nodded towards his uncle. "It certainly was a priest who stole the jewel," he observed. "Probably it is now on its way back to Japan. You will never get it, uncle, as now it will be guarded more carefully."

"Why do you think the thief is a priest?" questioned the Squire abruptly.

"Well, you thought so yourself," said Theodore lightly. "And it seems natural to suppose that the priests of Kitzuki would be more anxious than other people to get back their sacred talisman."

"Talisman!" echoed Patricia.

Theodore turned heavily towards her. "Yes," he said emphatically. "The emerald in some way has been impregnated with the radiating power you mention, for some purpose which I cannot say. Perhaps, as you suggest, to keep off evil and darkness. At all events, the man who stole it had some way of neutralizing the power, which he did when he saw you staring at the jewel. It might be that he could not take it from you until he had destroyed the barrier of light which you felt. But in any case, seeing that he was able to take away the force, he must have been a priest of the Temple, who knew all about the Mikado Jewel. You understand."

"No," faltered Patricia. "I don't understand at all."

"Neither do I," growled the Squire; "but I intend to recover the jewel some day and in some way. It is mine, and I shall regain it."

Theodore shook his head. "You will never regain it," he said firmly. "It is now on its way back to the shrine whence it was taken by Pentreddle."


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