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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Mikado Jewel » CHAPTER XIV THE JEWEL
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It was judged best by all concerned to keep the episode of the Miko dance from Mr. Colpster, since he undoubtedly would have been very angry had he known of the strain to which Mara's nervous system had been subjected. Not that the girl suffered any ill-effects, but she was extremely tired, and remained in bed for the greater part of the next day. Patricia attended to her tenderly, but could learn little from her as to why she had acted in so strange a way under the influence of the incense and the music. But she intimated vaguely that the dance had re-awakened her recollections of a previous life, when she was not Mara Colpster, but quite another person. Miss Carrol was quite distressed by what she regarded as an hallucination, and privately consulted Basil the next morning after breakfast.

"I am greatly annoyed myself," said Dane, frowning. "Akira should not have acted in the way he did without consulting me."

"You would not have given your consent to the experiment," said Patricia.

"Certainly not. Mara is too highly strung to be subjected to these things, and might easily lose her reason. It is just as well that we have decided not to tell my uncle. He would be furious, and then there would be trouble with Akira, who has not the best of tempers under his cool exterior. But why do you call it an experiment?"

"Can't you see?"

"No! I merely think that Akira wished to give us a specimen of Japanese music, and it influenced Mara, as you saw. Perhaps we have been too hard on Akira, and he did not know what she would do."

"If he did not intend something to happen, why did he throw that incense on the fire?" asked Patricia meaningly.

"I can't say, unless it was to heighten the dramatic effect of his silly nonsense," retorted Basil, whose temper was still hot.

"It was to revive Mara's memory."

"About what?"

"About her past life in Japan."

Basil stared at her. "Surely, Miss Carrol, you don't believe in what Akira said last night?" he observed, with some displeasure and stiffly.

"Don't you?" Patricia looked at him keenly, and the young sailor grew red.

"Well," he said, at length, "there is no doubt that much common-sense is to be found in the belief of reincarnation. I have been so long in the East that I don't scoff at it so much as Western people do. All the same, I do not go so far as to say that I entirely believe in it. But you--you who have never been east of Suez--you can't possibly credit the fact that Mara some hundreds of years ago was a priestess in Japan?"

Patricia looked straight out of the window at the azure sea, and the bright line of the distant horizon. "I dislike these weird things," she said, after a pause. "They are uncomfortable to believe, and since I have known your brother Theodore I dislike them more than ever, as he makes bad use of what he knows. I am certain of that."

"Does he really know anything?" asked Basil, sceptically.

"Yes," said Patricia decidedly. "I really believe he has certain powers, although they are not so much on the surface as mine. Everyone--according to him--has these powers latent, but they require to be developed. I don't want mine to be brought to the surface, as my own idea is to live a quiet and ordinary life."

Basil's eyes had a look in them which asked if she wished to live her ordinary life alone. All he said, however, was: "I quite agree with you."

Patricia nodded absently, being too much taken up with her own thoughts to observe his expression. "As I therefore have a belief in such things," she continued, "and a belief which has been more or less proved to my mind, by the strange feelings I experienced while holding the Mikado Jewel, I see no reason to doubt the doctrine of reincarnation. That seems to me better than anything else to answer the riddle of life. Mara is certainly, as you must admit, a strange girl."

"Very strange indeed," assented Basil readily; "unlike other girls."

"She has always--so she told me," went on Patricia steadily, "been trying to remember her dreams, by which, I think, she means her previous lives. She could never grasp them until last night. Then the music and the incense brought back her memories. They opened the doors, in fact, which, to most people--you and I, for instance--are closed."

"Then you really believe she lived in Japan centuries ago?" asked Basil, in rather an awed tone.

"Yes, I do," replied Miss Carrol firmly; "although I know that many people would laugh if I said so. This morning Mara is staying in bed and will not speak much. But I gather that the past has all returned to her. Remember how she loved to hear Count Akira's stories, and how she followed him about. He noticed that, and so acted as he did last night."

"But why did he think of the Miko dance in connection with Mara?"

"Theodore confessed to me--oh"--Patricia blushed--"I should not call him by his Christian name."

The young man suppressed a pang of jealousy. "I dare say you do so because you hear us all calling one another by our Christian names. I often wonder," he added cautiously, "that you do not call me Basil."

Patricia blushed still deeper, and waived the question. "I have to tell you what your brother said," she remarked stiffly. "He related to Count Akira how Mara danced in that weird manner when she smelt certain incense. That gave the Count a hint, and he acted upon it, as you saw." She paused, then turned to face Basil. "What is to be done now?"

The sailor had already made up his mind. "In the first place, my uncle must not be told, as he would make trouble. In the second, I shall take Akira to Hendle to-day sightseeing, so that he may not meet Mara. In the third, I shall hint that it would be as well, seeing the effect his presence has on Mara, that he should terminate his visit. Do you approve?"

"Yes," said Patricia, nodding. "You are taking the most practical way out of the difficulty. There is one thing I am afraid of, however?"

"What is that?"

"Mara may fall in love with Count Akira, if, indeed, she is not in love with him already."

"What! with that Japanese?" cried Basil furiously, and his racial hatred became pronounced at once. "That would never do. She must not see him again."

"He is bound to return here, so she must see him."

"Can't you keep her in her room until Akira goes?"

Patricia shook her head. "Mara is difficult to manage. However, although she may love the Count, he may not care for her. Let us hope so. All we can do is to act as you suggest. Now I must go and see after the dinner."

Basil would have liked to detain her, to talk on more absorbing topics. But the question of Mara and her oddities was so very prominent, that he decided against chatting about more personal matters. With a sigh he watched her disappear, and then went away to seek out Akira and take him out of the house for a few hours.

The Japanese, with all his astuteness, did not fathom the reason why he was asked to drive round the country, and willingly assented. He asked a few careless questions about Mara, but did not refer to the scene of the previous night. Basil, on his side, was acute enough to let sleeping dogs lie, so the pair started off about noon for their jaunt in a friendly fashion. They talked of this thing and that, and all round the shop--as the saying is--but neither one referred to the scene of the previous night. Yet a vivid memory of that was uppermost in Basil's mind, and--as he very shrewdly suspected--was present also in the thoughts of Akira. But judging from the man's composure and conversation he had quite forgotten what had taken place. Basil was pleased with this reticence, as it saved him the unpleasantness of explaining himself too forcibly.

Meanwhile, Patricia drew a long breath of relief when Basil drove away with the Japanese diplomatist, and she went at once to see if Mara was all right. The girl, feeling drowsy, was disinclined to chatter, but lay back with a smile of ecstasy on her pale face. Her lips were moving, although she did not open her eyes, and Patricia bent to hear if she required anything. But all that Mara was saying amounted to a reiteration that she had recalled the past. Doubtless, since the door was now wide open, she was in fancy dwelling again in her Oriental home. However, she was quite happy, so Miss Carrol, seeing that her presence was not necessary to the girl's comfort, stole on tip-toe out of the room.

It was when she came downstairs that she chanced upon Theodore in the entrance hall. The big man looked both startled and surprised, and spoke to her in an excited tone.

"Come into my uncle's library at once, Miss Carrol," he said, touching her arm. "It has come."

"What has come?" naturally asked Miss Carrol, puzzled by his tone and look.

"It came by post," went on Theodore breathlessly, "and was not even registered. There is not a line with it to show who sent it."

"I don't know what you are talking about, Mr. Dane."

"Uncle wants you to hold it again in your hand and see if you can feel the drawing-power you spoke of. Come! Come quickly!"

At last Patricia knew what he meant and her face grew white. "Have you the Mikado Jewel?" she asked, leaning against the wall, faint and sick.

For answer Theodore unceremoniously led her into the library, and she saw Mr. Colpster standing near the window, gloating over something which he held in his hand. As he moved to face the girl, a vivid green ray shot through the subdued light of the large room.

"Look! Look!" cried the Squire, stuttering in his excitement, and he held up the jade chrysanthemum with the emerald flashing in its centre, as the sunlight caught its many facets.

"The Mikado Jewel!" gasped Patricia, and her legs refused to sustain her any longer. She sank into a chair. "How--how did you get it?"

"It came by post--by the mid-day post," explained the Squire, repeating what his nephew had said earlier. "Just carelessly wrapped up in brown paper and directed to me. Not even registered, and packed in a small tin box tied round with string. The postmark is London, so it must have been sent through the General Post Office. No district name is stamped on the covering. Oh, wonderful! wonderful! The luck of the Colpsters has returned."

"But who sent it?" asked Patricia, looking with ill-concealed repugnance at the sinister gem, which had indirectly brought about the death of Mrs. Pentreddle. "The man who committed the crime?"

"No, no!" struck in Theodore impatiently; "that's impossible. The assassin of poor Martha never had it in his possession, although, as we know, he hunted the house to find it. The thief who snatched it from you in the Park, Miss Carrol, must have repented and sent it to its rightful owner."

"And I am its rightful owner," said the Squire, drawing up his spare form to its full height. "This gem belonged to my ancestor, and it is only fair that I should possess it."

Patricia could not approve of this speech, as she knew from Colpster's own lips that Sir Bevis had given it to Queen Elizabeth in exchange for his knighthood. But she knew, also, that it was useless to argue with the Squire, as he appeared to be obsessed by the Jewel, to which he ascribed such fantastical powers. Nothing, she was convinced, would ever make him give it up, and she was confirmed in this opinion by his next words.

"Say nothing to Basil, or Akira, about the arrival of the emerald," he said hurriedly to his companions. "I don't trust that Japanese. He thinks that the Jewel belongs to the Temple of Kitzuki."

"So it does," remarked Patricia quickly.

Colpster snarled, and his face became quite ugly and animal in its anger, when he turned on her sharply. "It belongs to me! to me! to me!" he cried vehemently, and pressed the Jewel close to his breast. "I shall never give it up; never, never, never. Tell Akira at your peril."

"I don't intend to say a word to the Count," said Patricia, retreating a step before his malignant expression. "It is none of my business. But if you are wise you will throw it away."

"Why? Why? Why?" chattered Colpster, still angry at her opposition, and perhaps pricked in his conscience by her words.

"I think it will bring evil upon you. You shouldn't let it come into the house," she panted, and felt that what she said was true.

Theodore started and grew pale. Granny Lee had used almost the same words when he had asked her about the possible danger. The old woman had refused to say what the danger was, or perhaps--as she stated--she could not put a name to it. But after hearing Patricia's remark, Theodore felt that perhaps the Mikado Jewel had been referred to as "It." Granny Lee had said plainly: "Don't let It come into the house!" And now this girl, who also possessed certain powers, declared that it should not be allowed to remain under the roof lest it should bring evil in its train.

"You are talking rubbish," said Theodore roughly, and trying to conceal his dismay. "How can that jewel hurt anyone?"

"I don't know; I can't say; but it should not be allowed to remain here."

Squire Colpster laughed and laid the lovely thing down on his desk, where it flashed gloriously in a ray of sunshine. "It shall remain here always and bring good fortune to the family," he said vaingloriously.

Patricia, impelled by some outside power, rose and went up to lay a warning hand on the old man's arm. "There is something wrong," she urged. "Consider, Mr. Colpster! How could the thief have sent the jewel to you unless he knew more about the matter than we think? If an ordinary tramp stole it, he would have pawned it; if a priest of the temple took it, he would have carried it, as Mr. Theodore suggested, back to Japan. Why is it sent to you?"

"I don't know. That is what puzzles me," said Colpster, and his mouth grew more obstinate than ever. "But I'm going to keep it, anyhow."

"What do you say?" Miss Carrol turned to Theodore.

The big man winced and grew a shade whiter, for the warning of Granny Lee still haunted his mind. But the sight of the Jewel, and the knowledge that he might one day possess it, awoke all his covetous nature, and he could not make up his mind to suggest that it should be sent away. And, after all, the "It" to which Brenda Lee referred might not be this gem. "I say keep it," he remarked, drawing a deep breath. "The luck of the family is bound up in it, I am certain."

"The bad luck of the family," said Patricia bitterly.

"Oh, you have been listening to Akira," said the Squire crossly. "He declared that probably the power had been changed. How he could know when he never set eyes on the jewel I can't imagine. I admit that it is very strange that it should have been sent to me, and I can't conceive how the thief either obtained my address, or how he knew that I wanted his plunder."

"He might read in the papers----" began Theodore, only to be stopped by his uncle, who looked at him sharply.

"You talk rubbish, my boy. I said nothing at the inquest about my interest in the jewel, and no one outside our own family knew that I desired it.

"I shouldn't wonder if Akira knew," said Theodore quickly.

"Impossible. You have heard all he had to tell. All the same, it will be as well to say nothing about our recovery of the gem while he is in the house. I have your promise, Miss Carrol?"

"Yes. I shall say nothing."

"And you, Theodore? Good. Don't even tell Mara or Basil, else they may let out something to that infernal Japanese. I shall lock the jewel in my safe yonder," and he pointed to a green-painted safe, standing in an alcove of the room. "Now we shall see the luck returning! I shall win that lawsuit; I shall sell that ruined hay to advantage; I shall----"

Patricia stopped him. "I believe everything will go wrong with you."

"How dare you say that, girl!" exclaimed Colpster furiously.

"Because I feel that I must. That jewel has been sent to you for no good purpose, I am convinced."

"Your sixth sense again, I suppose," scoffed the Squire angrily.

"Perhaps," said Patricia simply. Privately she believed that the Jewel was already beginning to do harm, since the old man behaved so rudely. As a rule he had always treated her with politeness, but now he revealed a side to his character which she had not seen. His eyes shone with greed, and he showed all the instincts of a miser. Looking at her and then glancing at his nephew, he continued to speak to her.

"Hold this in your hand and see if you still feel the drawing-power you spoke of."

In silence Patricia took the cold jade blossom, and it lay outstretched on her pink palm. She did not speak, but a bewildered expression gradually took possession of her face. The two men, who were watching her closely, both spoke together, moved by a single impulse.

"What do you feel?"

Patricia did not reply directly. "This is not the Mikado Jewel," she said in breathless tones. "I am sure it is not."

The Squire became pale and Theodore looked amazed. "What makes you think that?" demanded the latter, who was first able to command his voice.

"The drawing-power is reversed in this jewel," said Patricia. "Yes! oh, yes! I feel it quite plainly. Instead of the power radiating and keeping away evil, it is drawing danger towards itself."

"Danger?" gasped the Squire, and his nephew, mindful of Granny Lee's warning, winced visibly. "Danger and darkness. Wave after wave of fear is coming towards me, while I hold the stone, and the darkness is swallowing me up. Oh!" Patricia shivered and deliberately dropped the jewel on the floor. "Take it away! I don't like it at all."

Colpster picked up the gem. "Are you sure?"

"I wouldn't have let the emerald fall otherwise," said Patricia, who was now trembling as if with cold. "When I last held it waves of light went out, and I felt absolutely safe. Now tides of darkness press in on me on every side, and there is a sense of danger everywhere."

"What sort of danger?" asked Theodore nervously.

"I can't say; I can't put my feelings into words. It looks like the Mikado Jewel, but it can't be, when it feels so different."

"I am certain that it is the Mikado Jewel!" cried Colpster angrily.

"Whether it is or not I can't say," retorted Patricia, backing towards the library door, "but it is dangerous. Get rid of it, or suffer." And she went quickly out of the room, leaving the two men staring at one another.


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