小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Mikado Jewel » CHAPTER XVI LOVERS
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
CHAPTER XVI LOVERS
Next morning, it occurred to the Squire that he had dismissed Pentreddle too abruptly, or, rather--since the man wished to go--had given him leave too easily. A thousand and one questions came into his mind, which he desired to ask, and which he should have put to the sailor during their hurried interview. But a recollection that Harry was stopping at Hendle, and was holding himself at the disposal of his feudal chief--modern style--reconciled him to the oversight, and he decided that the second examination would be a longer one. "I shall drive over to Hendle to-day and cross-examine him," thought the Squire; and completing his toilette he descended to breakfast with an excellent appetite.

At the meal he heard news, for Akira stated that he would have to return that day to London, as his Chief wanted him. "But I am coming down again in a few days," said the Japanese, stealing a glance at Mara, who sat opposite to him, rosy-faced and interested, "in my yacht."

"I didn't know you had a yacht, Akira," said Basil, with the keen interest of a sailor in his craft.

"Oh, yes," replied the Count, composedly; "a very good yacht, my friend. I have much money, you know, and have taken to your English ways so far as to buy a steam yacht. Later, I propose returning to my own country in her."

Colpster was frankly relieved that Akira intended to leave. He did not for one moment connect him with those who were hunting, or who had been hunting for the Mikado Jewel; but while that curious object was in the house he preferred the Count's absence to his presence. There was no doubt that if the little man did learn how the gem had returned to its original possessors, that he would clamour for its restoration to Kitzuki. And that was not to be thought of for one moment. The Squire had not yet solved the problem as to why the jewel had been sent to him, or how the sender had known that its presence was desired at Beckleigh Hall by its master. He would have liked to question Akira, for if a priest, according to Pentreddle, had snatched the emerald from Patricia, Akira, as a Japanese, would best be able to explain that same priest's reasons for sending it to Devonshire. But it was obviously impossible to ask such a question, so Colpster contented himself with expressing regret that the Count had been compelled to cut short his stay at the Hall. "I trust when you return in your yacht you will at least complete your interrupted visit by sleeping under my roof," said Colpster.

"Thank you, no, sir," replied the Japanese politely. "I shall remain on my boat for the few days I stay here. And I hope," he added, with a comprehensive bow to all present, "that you will allow me to return your great hospitality, Mr. Colpster, by giving an entertainment on board."

"An entertainment!" cried Mara, and her eyes sparkled.

"Yes! A Japanese entertainment, with Japanese food and drinks and amusements, Miss Colpster. It will be a change for you, and no doubt will give you a great deal of pleasure."

"It will give us all pleasure," said Patricia, smiling, for the black eyes of the little man were fixed on her face.

"Then I ask you all to my entertainment. Even your servants must come, Mr. Colpster. They never see anything unusual down here, so it will amuse them to see how we Japanese live. I presume," added Akira, with an attempt at humour, "that you can allow this house to be empty for one night?"

"Oh, yes," said Theodore, laughing; "there are no robbers about here."

"In that case, I hope my invitation will be accepted."

"Certainly, Count, and thank you for the invitation," observed the Squire in a hearty manner. "On behalf of myself, my family and my household, I accept."

Akira bowed. "That is good, sir, for, as I depart for my own country, after I leave this place in my yacht, I will not see you again for many a long year. I have to remain at Tokio for official business. But I have had a delightful stay here"--he looked round pleasantly--"and you will see, all of you, how I can return your kindness."

"But won't you be tired travelling to London to-day?" said Theodore, quickly.

The Count's piercing eyes seemed to look the questioner through and through as if inquiring why he asked this particular question. "I retired early last night, as you know, Mr. Dane," he said quietly, "and so I am not at all weary. Dane," he turned sideways to Basil, "you will drive me to Hendle?"

"You must allow me to do that, Count," put in the Squire. "I have to go to Hendle on business to-day."

"Thank you, sir. You show true hospitality."

Basil felt uneasy as he did not know if the guest spoke ironically or not, and resolved to test the matter. "I can come also, Akira."

"Ah, but no, it is not necessary." Akira held up a protesting hand. "I shall enjoy the drive with your uncle. Stay here, and we shall meet again on board the Miko."

Mara started. "The Miko!" she cried eagerly, and with shining eyes.

"The name of my yacht, Miss Colpster. I named her after the Divine Dancer."

The girl looked as though she wished to ask further questions, but a significant glance of Patricia's directed towards the Squire, who knew nothing about the Miko Dance, made Mara more prudent. She rose abruptly from the table, and shortly the rest followed her example. Akira went to see that his servant was packing his things properly, and Basil accompanied him. As for Theodore, he followed his uncle into the library and closed the door.

"What did Pentreddle say to you last night?" he asked anxiously.

"It's a long story," said Colpster, sitting down to look over his correspondence; "he will tell it to you himself. I am driving over to Hendle, and will bring him back with me. Akira I can drop at the station to catch the afternoon express."

"I should like to come also, uncle, as I am so anxious to hear Harry's story."

"There is no room in the brougham for you," said Colpster, coldly, and showed very plainly by this unnecessary lie that he did not wish for his nephew's company. Theodore frowned. He knew that he was no favourite.

"At least, uncle, give me a short account of what you heard."

The Squire at first refused, but Theodore was so persistent that in the end he was obliged to yield, and hastily ran through the story. "What do you think?" he asked, when he ended.

"I expect Harry is right, and that the priest with the scar murdered his mother. No doubt the man learned why Harry was hanging round the Home of Art and laid his plans accordingly."

"But Martha did not possess the emerald!" insisted the Squire, doubtfully.

"The priest did not know that at the time," said Dane, grimly; "his accomplice watched Harry, apparently, while the man with the scar watched the Crook Street house. He must have induced Martha to let him in--she might have thought it was her son, you know. Then, when she grew frightened, and threatened him with her stiletto, he used it against her, and having murdered the poor old thing, finally searched the house."

Colpster nodded. He could see no other solution of the mystery. "Curious, though, that the priest did not get caught by the police."

"Oh, according to the evidence the fog was very bad, and one policeman confessed in print that he did not patrol the cul de sac carefully. Pity he did not catch the brute."

"Oh!" said Colpster, with a grim look, "Harry will see that the man is punished. He is going from Amsterdam in a tramp steamer to Japan for that very purpose."

"I can't understand," said Theodore, after a pause, and tapping the desk with his long fingers, "why Harry didn't give me the emerald when he met me. It would have saved all this trouble."

The Squire coughed in rather an embarrassed manner. He could scarcely tell Theodore that Harry, acting under his mother's instructions, wished particularly to prevent him from gaining possession of the jewel. He therefore shrugged his shoulders and evaded the question. "There are many things we cannot understand in connection with this case."

"Quite so," said Theodore, with an uneasy look at the safe; "particularly why the Mikado Jewel should have been sent to you. Uncle," he added, after a pause, "get rid of it. Sell it; pawn it; return it to Akira to take back to Japan, but send it out of the house, I beg of you."

"Why?" demanded Colpster, drawing his brows together; "are you mad?"

Theodore wiped the perspiration from his high, white forehead. "On the contrary, I am particularly sane. You heard what Akira said about the reverse power possibly bringing the cliff down on the house."

"Oh, rubbish," said the Squire, roughly; "Akira doesn't know that the gem is in this house."

"All the more reason for believing that he spoke truly," said Dane, with a desperate look. "I am sure the thing is evil. There is now an in-drawing power, as you know. Miss Carrol felt it."

"I don't believe in all this rubbish. Patricia is a fanciful girl," said Colpster coldly. "The emerald is in my possession, and I intend to keep it. If you dare to tell Akira about it, Theodore, I shall send you out of the house and will never recognize you again as my nephew."

"I am not so sure but what I would prefer to be out of the house, while that damned thing is in it," said Theodore between his teeth. "You are playing with fire, uncle. See that you don't get burnt," and with this warning he departed, leaving the old man looking after his back contemptuously. He was a very material man was the Squire, and considered that his nephew was an ass for believing in things which could not be proved by arithmetic.

Theodore was not happy in his mind when Akira and Colpster departed, for there were many matters which worried him. Basil, as usual, was following Patricia about the house, and that was one grievance. Now that Mara would not marry him he would certainly lose the chance of inheriting, through her, the desirable acres of Beckleigh, and that was another grievance. Finally, the presence of the charmed Mikado Jewel in the house troubled him very much indeed. He felt certain that Granny Lee's prophecy concerned it, since Akira had spoken of the occult powers of the stone. And Patricia had felt the reversion of the power, so Theodore uneasily considered that it was just possible that the cliff might be shaken down in ruins on the house.

He went out and looked at its mighty height, almost expecting to see signs of crumbling. But, of course, there were none. The red cliff stood up boldly and gigantically, as it had stood for centuries past. The sight of its massive grandeur rather reassured Theodore.

"It's all rubbish," he muttered to himself, coming in out of the rain, for all the morning there had been a downpour. "I daresay I am making a mountain out of a mole-hill. All the same"--his eyes fell on the safe in the library. In it he knew was the jewel safely locked away. To shift the Mikado emerald he would need to shift the safe, and that was impossible. "Oh, it is all rubbish!" he declared again, and then went to his own rooms.

On the way he passed the library, and saw Mara lying on the cushions of the sofa stringing beads: onyx, turquoise, malachite, pink coral and slivers of amethyst. They gleamed like a rainbow as they slid through her deft hands. Theodore wondered where she got them and entered to inquire.

"Count Akira gave them to me," said Mara, gaily, and tried the effect of the glittering chain against her pale golden hair; "aren't they lovely?"

"Yes, but your father won't like you taking presents from that infernal Japanese, Mara," said Theodore, crossly. His nerves were so upset that he felt it would relieve him to vent his temper on someone.

Mara sprang to her feet like a small fury, and her face grew darkly red, as her pale eyes blazed with anger. "You have no right to speak in that way of Count Akira. I love him; I don't care who hears me. I love him!" She sat down again suddenly. "I wish he would take me to Japan," she ended viciously.

"Mara!" Theodore was horrified; "a Japanese?"

"Well. I was one ages ago," she retorted.

"I don't believe it."

"Yes, you do. You know too much about these occult things to disbelieve."

Theodore, as a matter of fact, did believe, but he did not intend to confess as much. "You can't be sure," he snapped, furiously.

"I can be sure, and I am sure," said Mara, mutinously; "since I danced the Round of the Divineress and heard the music, it all has come back to me. I remember the Temple of Kitzuki quite well, and the ceremonies. Oh, I wish I could go back there. It is my native land."

Theodore looked at her stealthily, and his eyes glittered as an idea struck him hard. "Would you go if Akira took you?"

"Yes." Mara wet her lips and stared at him. "Perhaps he will take me," she said softly; "he is coming back in his yacht, you know."

"If you went, your father would disown you."

"I don't care."

"You would lose Beckleigh."

"I don't care."

"You would be cut off from your own race."

"I don't care."

"You are a fool," shouted Theodore, savagely. "I'll tell your father."

Mara wreathed her many-hued beads artistically round her neck and admired herself in the mirror over the fireplace. But she also had a glimpse of her cousin's face, and spoke from what she read written thereon. "No, you won't, Theodore," she observed, coolly, and meaningly; "you would be glad to see me run off with Count Akira and give up everything."

"Why should I be glad?" demanded Dane, taken aback by this shrewd reading of his most secret thoughts.

"Because, as you say, my father would have nothing to do with me, and you would inherit Beckleigh. I am safe in your hands."

"There is no chance for me," said Theodore tartly. "Failing you, Basil would inherit."

"I don't think so if he marries Patricia."

"Uncle George likes Patricia."

"I know that: so do we all. But I don't think he would like Basil to marry her. In fact," Mara faced him, "I believe that father would like to make Patricia my step-mother."

"What!" Theodore was now really astonished. "It's absurd!"

"I don't see that. Father is still a young man for his years, and----"

"Oh, rubbish; nonsense!" Theodore broke furiously into her speech, and fairly ran out of the room to think over the problem thus presented to him.

He believed that what his cousin said was perfectly true, as Mara was an observant young person in spite of her dreamy ways. Then he remembered how Colpster always professed to admire Patricia, and did so loudly. He was always asking her if she liked the place and what he could do for her, and telling her that he hoped she would stay there for the rest of her life.

Theodore drew a long breath. "I see what the old man is up to," he considered. "As Mara won't marry either Basil or myself, he intends to marry Patricia in the hope of having an heir to the estate. That would be an end to everything. Not that I believe the girl would have him."

And yet of this Theodore could not be sure, as he judged Miss Carrol by his own greedy self. Could any girl, penniless, as he knew Patricia to be, resist the offer of so beautiful a home? Dane thought not, and set his wits to work to bar any possible chance of this very unexpected thing coming to pass. To do so, he had only to throw Patricia into Basil's arms and he believed that he knew how to do that.

"I'll ask her to marry me," thought Theodore with an evil smile; "and then Basil will be so furious that he'll ask her. She hates me and loves him, so in the end they will become engaged. Then Uncle George will kick them both out of the house. Mara evidently intends to elope with Akira when he returns in his yacht. The little beast said that the boat after leaving here was going straight to Japan. That will settle her. Ha! I shall be the only person left to console Uncle George, so he must as a reasonable man leave me the property. I can see it all."

Thus arranging his plans, he went away to find Patricia, and force her into Basil's arms. He was sorry to lose the girl because of her psychic powers, but as she plainly hated him--he saw that easily--there was not any chance for him. Since he could not make use of her in one way, he therefore decided to make use of her in another. Through her, Basil could be got rid of, and then Mara would ruin herself by eloping with Akira. Dane rubbed his hands with delight, at the prospect thus opened out before him. He even forgot his uneasiness over the Mikado Jewel, and ceased for the moment to remember the sinister prophecy of Mrs. Brenda Lee.

Of course, it was necessary to act a comedy so as to accomplish his aims, and he suspected that he would suffer pain during his acting. If he insulted Patricia, which he intended to do, Basil would assuredly knock him down. But if the sailor did that he would be obliged to declare his love for Patricia, if only to prove his rights to be her champion. And what did a little pain matter to the prospective owner of Beckleigh Hall?

The schemer found the pair in the smoking-room, a cosy and somewhat modern apartment--for the house--which was in the west wing. It possessed a large plate-glass window which looked down the vista, where the trees were cut down, to the beach and the waters of the bay. Patricia, knitting a silk tie, sat on the sofa near the window, while Basil lounged in a deep arm-chair smoking his pipe. The two were laughing when Theodore entered, but suddenly became serious when they saw who had disturbed them. It was strange that the elder Dane should always produce a dull impression on the gayest of people. Perhaps it was owing to the uncanny and disagreeable atmosphere which he always carried about with him.

"What's the joke?" asked the new-comer, throwing himself into an arm-chair opposite to that in which his brother sat.

"Nothing," said Basil shortly, and his brow wrinkled. "What do you want?"

"To smoke a cigarette," replied Theodore, producing his case; "the room is free to all, isn't it?"

"Quite free," said Patricia colouring, for she did not like his tone. When the two brothers were together she was always apprehensive of trouble. For this reason, and because she hoped to throw oil on troubled fraternal waters, did she refrain from leaving the room. Yet Theodore's look was so insolent that she half rose to do so. "I must----"

"Don't go, Patricia," said the elder brother hastily.

"Mr. Dane, I do not like you to call me by my Christian name," she said, and her colour grew deeper than ever. She rose to her full height now, and made ready to go.

"Theodore doesn't know what he is saying," muttered Basil in a tone of suppressed rage; and his brother, looking at him mockingly, saw that his face was as crimson as that of Patricia's.

"Really, I seem to be like the Goddess of Discord," went on the intruder, intent upon bringing about a catastrophe; "you seemed jolly enough when I entered, laughing and talking and----"

"We'll be jolly, again, when you leave," snapped Basil savagely.

"I daresay. But you shan't have Miss Carrol all to yourself. No, don't go, Miss Carrol, you see that I am addressing you with all respect." He rose and slipped between her and the door as he spoke. "I want Basil to see that you like me as much as you do him."

Patricia looked nervous and her feelings were not soothed when Basil rose in his turn. "Go away, Miss Carrol," he said sternly, and the veins on his forehead stood out with rage. "I can deal with Theodore."

"Theodore can deal with himself," said that gentleman, turning on his brother with a black look on his face. "You are always taking up Patricia's time, and I have a right to it also. Yes"--he faced to the startled girl--"I intend to call you Patricia because I love you. I want you to marry me."

"Theodore, are you mad?" thundered Basil furiously.

"Is it mad to ask a girl's hand in marriage?" sneered Theodore.

Patricia stopped the further speech of Basil with an imperative gesture and looked at Theodore. "I am well able to take care of myself," she said quietly. "Mr. Dane, I thank you for your offer, but I decline it."

"Oh, I am not so handsome as Basil. I am not so rich as Uncle George!"

"Take care; take care!" breathed Basil savagely in his ear.

But Patricia again stopped him. Her temper rose, and her eyes sparkled in an angry fashion. "What do you mean by your reference to Mr. Colpster?"

"You want to marry him, and--ah! keep off!"

Theodore flung out his hands with a scream, as Basil hit out. The blow caught him fairly in his left eye, and he reeled towards the window to fall on the sofa. "You bully!" he fairly sobbed.

"Apologise to Miss Carrol, or, by Heaven! I'll break your neck!" raged Basil, standing over the flabby man with clenched fists.

Patricia, admiring her strong lover, came forward and laid her hand on his arm imploringly. "Leave him alone, Basil. He is not worth hitting."

Theodore struggled to his feet, and with his rapidly swelling eye presented a miserable spectacle. "Basil!" he screamed, and his rage was partly real; "so you call him Basil, and no doubt that that is for him you are knitting. Oh!" he burst into mocking laughter, and pointed a finger at them both; "so this is how you are carrying on! This is----"

He got no further. Basil, breaking from Patricia, sprang forward, and catching Theodore's bulky body in his powerful arms, fairly flung him through the window with a mighty heave. Patricia gasped with surprise and delight as the glass smashed and Theodore swung across the grass and down the slope like a stone fired from a catapult. "You devil!" roared Basil, shaking his fist through the broken window. "I'll kill you it you come near me or Patricia!"

"Oh, he's dead!" gasped the girl, clinging to the sailor.

"Not he! See!" and sure enough Theodore, with his face convulsed with impotent rage, rose heavily and limped out of sight. "I've settled him, the hound! and now----" he looked at her meaningly.

Patricia shrank back flushing like a sunset. "Mr. Dane!"

"You called me Basil just now, and you shall call me Basil for the rest of your life. You would not marry Theodore; but," he said masterfully, "you shall marry me."

"Yes," whispered Patricia, yielding to his embrace; "I always loved you."

"My darling! my darling! my darling!" cried the delighted sailor, straining her to his breast. "Theodore meant to part us, but he only succeeded in bringing us together!" and he kissed her again and again.

He little knew how Theodore had schemed to bring about that very kiss!



欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533

鲁ICP备05031204号