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CHAPTER XV PENTREDDLE'S STORY
Squire Colpster locked the recovered emerald in his safe and again repeated his orders that Theodore was to say nothing about it. Notwithstanding Patricia's doubts--founded upon the different sensations felt by her when holding the stone--the master of Beckleigh Hall really believed that he possessed the Mikado Jewel. But he could not comprehend why it had been forwarded to him, or how the thief had obtained his address, or why the thief should think that he wanted it. Had the Squire been less obsessed by the ornament, he might have taken Patricia's advice with regard to getting rid of it. And in this, perhaps, he would have been supported by Theodore, who was feeling uncomfortable, since Granny Lee's statement was always in his mind. But, as it was, he said nothing to urge his uncle to take such an extreme course, and the Squire certainly never suggested that the gem should be sent away. So there it lay in the safe, with its influence, either for good or bad, ready to become apparent.

Patricia, on her side, put the matter of the emerald out of her mind, as she did not like to think about occult matters, and, moreover, had to attend to her duties as housekeeper. A visit to Mara's room in the afternoon showed that the girl was up and dressed, and apparently quite her old indifferent self. She said nothing about the Miko dance in which she had figured, so Patricia did not remind her of it in any way. Once or twice she asked where Akira was, but on learning that he had gone sightseeing with Basil, she appeared to be satisfied.

The two gentlemen returned in time for dinner, tired and rather damp from the moisture of mists they had encountered on the moors. Akira expressed himself as pleased with the English country, although he shivered when he mentioned the absence of the sun. Yet, as Basil reminded him, Japan did not possess a particularly tropical climate. The conversation took place when the soup arrived, and, as usual, when any mention was made of the East, Mara grew a delicate rose-pink, and fixed her eyes eagerly on the diplomatist. Akira gave her an indifferent glance and answered the sailor's speech.

"In the north of Japan we have very cold weather, but it is sufficiently warm in the south. But in any case, there is nothing depressing in my country, such as a foreigner finds in England."

"It is the English climate, to a great extent, which has made us what we are, Count," observed Colpster seriously.

"I can say the same of Japan. Hardy climates make hardy men, sir. Do not think that I don't admire your country, for I do; but oh, these swathing mists and damp fields!" He shivered smilingly.

"At least, we have no earthquakes," put in Patricia with a nod.

"Ah, there you have the advantage of us," answered Akira, wiping his mouth; "but in some places we can keep earthquakes away."

"What do you mean?" asked Theodore, scenting something occult.

"Yes." Akira guessed what he vaguely felt. "There are laws which control earth waves."

"Scientific laws?" said Basil quickly.

"You might not call them so," said Akira quietly; "but in the East, you know, we are aware of natural laws which the West has not yet learned."

"Well, then, tell us how to control earthquakes," said the Squire, with a sceptical look on his face.

"Curious you should ask me that, sir. You should ask Miss Carrol."

"Ask me?" Patricia looked amazed.

"You held the Mikado Jewel in your hand," said Akira coolly.

Theodore, Colpster and Patricia exchanged looks, and wondered if the Japanese was aware that the gem reposed in the library safe. It was impossible, of course, since he had been absent all day with Basil. Yet it was strange that he should refer to an object which was uppermost in their minds. "I don't understand," said Patricia doubtfully.

"I can explain, Miss Carrol. Had you examined the emerald you would have seen the sign of the Earth-Spirit graven thereon. That sign shows that a power to control earth-forces lies in the stone."

"Oh, I can't believe that, Count."

"Yet you felt--so you told me--the radiating rays, which keep back all earth tremors--steady them, as it were."

Colpster looked up suddenly. "I thought you knew nothing about the Mikado Jewel, Count," he said sarcastically.

"I know very little, and told you what I did know," replied Akira quietly; "but this conversation about climates revived a memory of what one of the Kitzuki priests told me. The emerald has had certain ceremonies said over it, and has been set on the radiating petals of a jade chrysanthemum. Thus it possesses a repelling power, and was kept in the temple to repel earthquakes from shaking the ground upon which the temple stands."

Theodore stole a glance at Patricia, who looked sceptical. "If," he suggested in a low voice, "if the power, instead of radiating, was drawn to the emerald you speak of, Count, what would happen?"

Patricia was not quite sure, but she fancied that she saw a subtle smile on the bronzed face of her neighbour. But it might have been her fancy or the tricky light of the candles glimmering through their rosy-coloured shades. However, he replied courteously enough: "In that case, Mr. Dane--according to occult law, about which I confess I know little--the earthquake danger, instead of being repelled, would be drawn to the place where the jewel lay."

"Oh, we never have earthquakes here," said Mara, with a gay laugh.

"If the Mikado Jewel were here, and the power was reversed, as is suggested by Mr. Dane, you would soon feel an earthquake, or else this mighty cliff at the back of the house would fall and overwhelm the place."

Theodore shivered. Granny Lee had mentioned that she had seen him crushed as flat as a pancake, and he wondered if what Akira so idly said could really be true. It seemed so, for should the jewel have the in-drawing power--and that it assuredly had, if Patricia was to be believed--there was a great chance that Mrs. Lee's prophecy might be fulfilled. For was not the fatal gem in the house at this moment? Yes, Theodore shivered again, as he became more certain of belief. The Mikado Jewel was the "It" which the sibyl had warned him should never be allowed to enter Beckleigh Hall.

"Oh, it's all rubbish," said the Squire, who, not knowing anything about the occult, refused to believe what Patricia had told him, and what Akira had so strangely affirmed. "And even if such is the case--which I don't believe--the jewel is not here."

Akira laughed and nodded. "Now you can understand why I warned you not to seek for your family emerald again," he said.

"I'm afraid I'll never see it," said Colpster, lying with great ease. "From what Theodore thinks, it must be now on its way back to Japan."

"Let us hope so," said Akira politely. "As a native of that country, and because my religion is Shinto, I regret very much that the gem should have been stolen. In the hands of ignorant persons it may well bring about deaths. You understand," he looked at Patricia.

"Not at all," she confessed, and really in her heart she scouted the idea that the emerald should be endowed with such malignant powers. "Please do not talk any more about these horrid things. I hate them!"

"So do I," said Basil, who was growing restless at the way in which his brother eyed Patricia. "Let us change the subject," which was accordingly done.

After dinner the Squire went into the drawing-room with his family, but scarcely had he seated himself, to digest his meal, when the butler entered with the whispered information that a man wished to see him particularly.

"Who is it, Sims?" asked the old man, impatiently.

"Harry Pentreddle, sir," said Sims, who was an old retainer, and knew as much about members of the family as they did themselves.

Colpster bounded to his feet, and Theodore, who was standing before the fire, came hastily forward. Basil and Patricia also looked startled, as they knew the suggested connection between Pentreddle and the giving of the jewel. Only Akira and Mara, who were talking quietly in a corner, appeared unmoved, and continued their conversation. "I'll go at once," said the Squire, eagerly advancing towards the door.

"Let me come too, uncle," asked Theodore, following.

"No; I shall hear his story--if he has any to tell--myself, and then can repeat it to you. Stay where you are, Basil, and you, Patricia. I shall see Harry alone." And he went out hastily, while those left behind, with the exception of the Japanese and Mara, looked greatly disappointed.

Mr. Colpster walked quickly into the library, and found seated there before the fire a thick-set young man, blue-eyed and fair-haired, with the unmistakable look of a seaman. He rose as the Squire entered the room, and twisting his cap in his strong brown hands, looked bashful. In fact, he was a trifle nervous of his reception, and had every reason to be, for Mr. Colpster, who had known him from babyhood, fell on him tooth and nail.

"So here you are at last, Harry," he said, with a frown. "You have given me a lot of trouble to hunt you out. What do you mean? Just tell me that. I didn't expect this behaviour from you, Harry. Your mother, my old servant, has been murdered in a most abominable manner, and instead of coming to assist me in hunting down the scoundrel who did it, you go away and hide. Are you not ashamed of yourself?"

Colpster thundered out the words largely, but they did not seem to produce much effect on the young man. Harry Pentreddle stood where he was, still twisting his cap, and stared at the Squire with steady blue eyes. This composure seemed to be not quite natural, nor did the silence. "Can you not sit down and speak?" demanded Colpster, throwing himself into his usual arm-chair and getting ready to ask questions.

Harry sat down quietly, and still continued to stare steadily. "I am not ashamed of myself, sir, because I can explain my conduct fully."

"Then do so," snapped the Squire. "Your mother and father were both my servants, and you were born at Beckleigh. As your parents are dead, I have a right to look after you."

"Do you think that I need looking after, sir?" asked Pentreddle, with a faint smile and a glance at his stalwart figure in the near mirror.

"You know what I mean, Harry. I wish to see you married to Isa and commanding a ship of your own. I intend to help you to get one."

"It is very good of you, sir."

"Not at all. You were born on the estate. And now that your future is settled, suppose you tell me why you didn't come back before?"

"If I tell you, sir, will you promise to keep what I say secret?"

"Yes--that is, in a way. I may tell my nephew Theodore, perhaps my other nephew--I can't say."

"I don't mind anyone in Beckleigh knowing," said Harry hastily, "but I do not wish the whole world to know."

"I am not acquainted with the whole world," said Colpster dryly, "so there is no chance of what you say being told to the entire inhabitants of this planet. Are you satisfied?"

"Quite. Well, then, sir, I went to Amsterdam to wait for a ship which I know is going to Japan. She is coming from Callao and is late."

"How do you mean late?"

"She is a tramp steamer, and I know her captain. She comes to Amsterdam to discharge a cargo, and then proceeds to Japan. I can get an engagement as second mate when she arrives. She is expected every day. I heard from Isa that you wished to see me, and so I came over. But I shall go back in two days, as I can't afford to lose the chance of getting to the Far East."

"Why do you want to go there?"

Harry looked down. "I can't exactly say," he observed in a low voice.

The Squire looked at him keenly, then leaned forward. "Do you go to Japan to punish the priest who murdered your mother."

The young man dropped his cap and half rose from his chair, only to fall into it again. He seemed utterly taken by surprise. "What priest?" he faltered.

"You heard me," said Colpster impatiently. "The one who murdered your mother--a priest of the Temple of Kitzuki."

"How did you know, sir?" Pentreddle stared open-mouthed.

"By putting two and two together. Martha--your mother, that is--sent Miss Carrol to get the emerald, and she could only have got it from you, who had--as you told Theodore--just returned from Japan. By the way, do you know all about the death?"

"Yes," said Pentreddle, stooping to pick up his cap and thus hide his emotion, for his lips were trembling. "I read everything in the papers, and I did not come over because I wished to return to Japan and to kill the priest who, I believe, is the assassin."

"Are you sure that a priest of Kitzuki killed her?"

"Yes, I feel sure."

"And to obtain possession of the emerald?"

"Yes. I am certain that was the motive for the crime."

"You stole the emerald?"

"Yes," said Pentreddle boldly. "I did." He laughed softly. "It is very clever of you to guess, unless my poor mother told you."

"She told me nothing," snapped the Squire, with a glare. "All she did was to ask me for a London holiday. She got it and went to her death. It was Miss Carrol--you must have read about her in the papers--who suggested that possibly you might have passed her the emerald."

"I did, although at the time in the fog and darkness I believed it was my mother. Only when reading about her death did I know that she had been kept at home with a sprained ankle. She----"

"Wait a bit," said Colpster, throwing up his hand; "you are confusing me. I want to hear all from the beginning." He paused, and seeing that Pentreddle looked nervous and was beginning to twist his cap again, swiftly made up his mind to a course of action to suggest confidence. "Wait a bit," said Colpster again, and went to the safe. When he returned to the table he placed the Mikado Jewel under the lamp.

Harry rose and bent over it quite speechless with astonishment. "I thought it was snatched from Miss Carrol in the Park," he gasped.

"So it was. But someone--the thief, I presume--sent it to me. It arrived here without details. You are sure that it is the Jewel?" he asked quickly.

"Yes, it's the Jewel right enough," answered Pentreddle, returning to his seat. "But how did the thief know you wanted it?"

"I can't say, and I am not even aware if the thief sent it. All I know is that there lies the Luck of the Colpsters, and that I have shown it to you, so that you may see I repose confidence in you. And in return, Harry," the Squire leaned forward and touched the young man's knee, "I wish to hear all about the theft of the emerald from the Kitzuki Temple."

Pentreddle thought for a few moments, while he looked at the winking green ornament under the lamplight. Then he glanced at his watch and nodded. "I must get away soon," he said briskly. "I am staying at Hendle and a friend of mine is waiting on the Moor Road with a trap. It won't take me long to tell you everything, sir."

Colpster leaned back and placed the tips of his fingers together. "I am ready to hear you," he said quietly and bending his head.

Harry began his story in a hurry. "My mother, as you know, sir, nursed your nephews. Mr. Basil was always her favourite, but she never could abide Mr. Theodore. She learned from you, sir, that you intended to leave the estates to the nephew who got back the emerald, which is the family luck."

"Yes. Such was my intention. Well?"

"My mother," went on the sailor, twirling his cap, "was determined that Mr. Theodore would never inherit, so, as she knew that I was going to Japan, she asked me to steal the emerald."

"You had no right to steal it. I would have forbidden Martha suggesting such a thing," said the Squire angrily.

Pentreddle nodded. "I know. For that reason my mother kept the affair a secret. I readily agreed to do what she wanted, as Mr. Basil has always been kind to me, whereas Mr. Theodore----" he halted.

"Oh, go on," said Colpster, with a cynical smile. "I know that Mr. Theodore is not a favourite with anyone."

"How can he be, sir, when he behaves so badly? He insulted me and--but that is neither here nor there, sir, and I have no time to talk of that matter. I told my mother that I would get the emerald somehow, and when I landed at Nagasaki, I set about looking for it."

"But in what way?"

"Well, you see, sir, my mother learned from you all about the giving of the emerald to that Shogun chap, and then she told me how Miss Mara, in some funny way, knew that it was at the Temple of Kitzuki. I went there on the chance, and a man who kept a tea-shop told me all about the jewel. He said that it had been given to the temple by a Mikado. I thought it was a Shogun."

"The Shogun, who got it from Will Adams, gave it to the Mikado, and he presented it to the temple," explained Colpster. "Go on."

"Oh, that's it, is it, sir? Well, then," he went on, twirling his cap, "I got a sight of the Jewel in the temple and stole it."

"But how, when it was so carefully guarded?"

"I don't think it was guarded over-much," said Pentreddle thoughtfully. "You see, sir, the tea-shop man told me that the emerald was under the spell of the Earth Spirit--he called him some queer name I can't remember--to keep away earthquakes. No Japanese would dare to touch the jewel, and it lay--as I saw--on a small altar near the shrine. I managed to stop inside the temple after dark, and stole it."

"How did you get away?" said the Squire, wondering at this daring.

"I'll tell you that another day, sir, as it is getting late. I did manage to get away and stow the Jewel on board my ship; but I was followed."

"Followed? By whom?"

"Japanese. I suppose they were priests. I was nearly knifed at Nagasaki and once I was drugged. But I had hidden the emerald away, and they could not find it. When I got to the Port of London I thought that I was safe; but I soon found that I was dogged there also."

"By whom?" asked Colpster once more.

"Japanese," said Pentreddle again. "Wherever I went I met Japanese. They swarmed all round me. I had written to my mother saying that I would give her the emerald if she came to London. She did, and wrote asking me to go to The Home of Art. But I knew better than to do that, sir. I felt certain that if I gave the jewel to my mother she would run a chance of being killed. There was one big chap with a scar across his cheek. I believe he killed my poor mother."

"What makes you think that, Harry?" asked Colpster eagerly.

"Because I was loafing round The Home of Art one evening trying to catch a glimpse of my mother, when I saw the beast watching me and the house."

"Was the man with the scar a priest?"

"He just was," said the sailor vigorously; "a Shinto priest. I saw him in the temple at Kitzuki. Then I was certain that I was being followed by the priests, and wrote and told my mother that I could only give her the emerald secretly. She replied, saying that the whole household at The Home of Art had an appointment to see some play----"

"I know all that," said the Squire impatiently. "Skip that."

"Well, then, sir, my mother said, that being alone she could leave the house at night without suspicion being aroused. She told me to meet her at nine o'clock at the right-hand corner of the Bayswater side of the Serpentine Bridge, and to look for a red light. But, of course, as I learned later, she was kept in by her sprained foot, and sent Miss Carrol."

"Why did you not speak to Miss Carrol?"

"I hadn't a chance," said Harry simply. "I guessed that I was being followed."

"By the priest with the scar?"

"No. By a smaller and slighter-built chap. He dodged at my heels in the fog, so I had just time to shove the box into Miss Carrol's hand--into my mother's hands, as I thought--and then run off in the hope the little beast would follow me."

"He did, didn't he?"

"For a time. Then I fancy his suspicions must have been aroused by the red light, and by my stopping for a moment. I lost him, or he lost me in the fog, and then, instead of returning to my lodgings in Pimlico, I made for Limehouse Docks. I heard next morning of the death."

"Why didn't you then come to The Home of Art?"

"What was the good, sir," remonstrated Pentreddle. "I should only have been knifed by those Japanese, and there would have been two murders instead of one. No, sir; I wasn't such a fool, as my going to The Home of Art wouldn't have brought my mother back to life. I bunked over to Amsterdam and lay low. Then I read in the papers how Miss Carrol had been robbed of the gem."

Colpster nodded. "You should have returned then."

"It was of no use, sir," said the sailor gloomily. "I knew that the emerald must have got back into the hands of the priests, and that they would return to Kitzuki, in Japan. I was certain, and I am now, that the big man with the scar on his cheek stabbed my mother, so I waited for the ship I told you about to go back to Japan and kill him. Then Isa wrote me and said if you saw me you could help me. But," Pentreddle looked at the emerald, "it seems to me that things are more muddled up than ever. Here is the Mikado Jewel, but where are the priests?"

Colpster pinched his nether lip and looked perplexed. "I can't say. By the way, Theodore met you in London?"

"Yes, sir. By chance in Pimlico."

"Why didn't you give him the emerald?"

"Why?" Harry looked astonished. "Because it was to prevent Mr. Theodore becoming your heir that my mother took all this trouble, and so met with her death." He rose to his feet. "I'll go now, sir."

The Squire rose also, "Yes, unless you prefer to stay here for the night."

"No, sir. I want to get back to Hendle. I'll come and see you again if you want to hear more."

"I think it will be as well. I should like you to repeat this story in the presence of my nephews. Meanwhile, good-night," and the Squire, having shaken hands with the sailor, sent him away. He wished to be alone to think over things, and while doing so he put away the Mikado Jewel in the safe.

Ten minutes later he returned to the drawing-room. "Where is Count Akira?"

"Akira was tired and went early to bed," said Basil. "I'm off too, uncle."


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