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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Mikado Jewel » CHAPTER XVII TROUBLE
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Misfortunes rarely come singly. Theodore was so damaged by Basil that he was compelled to keep to his rooms, and had his meals sent up to him. Apart from his physical pain, the schemer was very satisfied with the result of the comedy he had played in the smoking-room. Lurking unseen at the corner of the house, he had beheld Patricia in his brother's arms, and could believe the evidence of his own eyes that the Rubicon had been crossed. Nevertheless, he felt a pang at losing the girl, for apart from her psychic powers, which would have been extremely useful to him in his studies, she was so pretty and charming that a less susceptible man than Dane would have regretted the success of another. But Theodore had by this time decided that he could not have his cake and eat it, so it was necessary to lose either Beckleigh or Patricia. It was characteristic of his greedy nature that he had sacrificed the girl for the estate.

No doubt Mara's hint that she might go with Akira to Japan had urged him to the course he had adopted, for with both his brother and his cousin out of the way, Dane did not see how he could lose Beckleigh. He was the only one save these two who had the Colpster blood in his veins, and even though his uncle disliked him, he could scarcely pass him over. With aching limbs Theodore lay snug in bed, building castles in the air. Next day he intended to arouse the old man's jealousy by telling him of the embrace, of the kisses, and of the probable engagement. Then the lovers would be turned out of the house. Later, when Akira came round in his yacht, Mara would go, and he would be lord of all he surveyed. No wonder Theodore chuckled.

But then came the second misfortune, and an even more unexpected one. Mr. Colpster was brought back from Hendle with a broken leg. He had duly driven Akira and his servant to the railway station, but had failed to find Harry Pentreddle at his lodgings. Rather annoyed, the old man had left a note, saying that the sailor was to come to Beckleigh and stay the night, so that he might repeat his story to the Danes, and then had turned homeward. But on the winding road which led down to the Hall, the horse had slipped on the rain-soaked ground, and Mr. Colpster, having foolishly tried to get out, had been thrown over the high bank. The coachman was uninjured, although, with the horse and vehicle, he had rolled down the slope. But the Squire had been picked up insensible by some labourers who had seen the accident, and had been carried into his own house with a broken leg.

Much concerned, Basil and Patricia had the Squire put to bed and sent for a doctor. Mara, in an indifferent way, expressed her sorrow, although she never offered to nurse her father. Instead of helping, she went up to her cousin's room to tell him of the accident. Not finding him in the sitting-room, she knocked at his bed-room door, and stood amazed to find that he--as she supposed--had gone to rest.

"Are you ill, Theo?" she asked, crossing to the bed.

Theodore groaned. "I had a row with Basil and he threw me out of the window."

Mara clapped her hands and her eyes sparkled. "How strong he is!" she said, which was not the sympathetic speech Theodore desired to hear. "Why did he fight you, Theo?"

"I asked Patricia to marry me and Basil cut up rough."

"No wonder!" said Mara disdainfully. "Why, any fool could have seen that Basil is in love with Patricia. He won't let anyone come near her. Oh!" she clapped her hands again and laughed gaily. "I should have liked to see you flying through the window."

"Little beast, you are," snarled Theodore. "I'm all aches and pains, and my eye is black where he struck me, damn him!"

"Would you like to see the doctor?"

"No. It's not worth sending to Hendle for the doctor. Besides, he'd only chatter. I know these local gossips."

"But the doctor is coming here. You had better let him examine you, Theo."

Theodore, from the shadow of the curtains, stared at the delicate face of his cousin. "Why is the doctor coming?"

"Oh, I quite forgot what I came up to tell you about," said Mara in a matter-of-fact tone. "Father has broken his leg."

"Broken his leg!" With a groan of pain Theodore hoisted himself on one elbow. "How did he do that?"

"The horse slipped coming down the winding road. Jarvis could not hold him up and they all fell over the bank. Father tried to get out, and broke his leg. But Jarvis and the horse are all right," ended Mara cheerfully.

"I don't believe you are sorry," said Theodore, angered at her indifference.

"I don't see what is the use of crying over spilt milk," replied the girl calmly. "If I cried my eyes out and tore my hair, it would do father no good."

"You might at least pretend to be sorry for him," growled Dane, sinking back.

"Well, I am. It's horrid to suffer pain. I'll tell him I'm sorry."

"If you tell him in that voice he'll box your ears," said Theodore grimly. "You don't display much sorrow for me, young lady."

"Because I don't feel any," said Mara coolly. "You brought it on yourself, for I told you that Basil loved Patricia. Besides, I don't like you."

"I'm not a Japanese. Eh?"

"No. You're not anything half so nice. Would you like Basil to come and see you?" she added maliciously. "I'm afraid Patricia can't, as she's attending to father."

"Oh, get out of the room and tell the cook to send up my dinner to me here as soon as she can. When I'm up again, I'll tell Uncle George everything."

"What do you mean?"

"I shall tell him that Basil and that infernal girl are engaged, and he'll give her notice to quit. And I shall tell him that you intend to run away with that beastly little Japanese."

"Oh, I haven't made up my mind what to do," said Mara, retreating to the door. "And if I decide to go with Akira, I shall do so, in spite of father or anyone else. But you won't tell, Theo; you're only too glad for me to go. You look like a great toad lying in bed."

Theodore caught up one of his slippers. "Will you clear out?"

"Mum! Mum! Mum!" jeered Mara, with an elfish laugh. "You can't do anything. And even if I do go, even if Basil does marry Patricia, you won't get Beckleigh. Mum! Mum! Mum!" And she closed the door just in time to escape the slipper which Theodore threw with all his strength.

The doctor duly arrived and put the Squire's leg in splints. The old man had recovered his senses, and considering his pain, behaved himself very well. The doctor approved of his patient's fine constitution and cheerfully said that he would soon be on his legs again. "You're not dead yet, sir," he remarked, when Colpster had been made comfortable for the night.

"I don't intend to die," said the Squire coolly. "Quite other plans are in my mind. But while I lie here I shan't have anything disturbed in the house. Patricia remember that. Should Akira's yacht arrive, you and Mara and Basil, together with Theodore and the servants, can go to his entertainment."

"Oh, we couldn't leave you like that, Mr. Colpster," said Patricia quickly.

"You can and you shall. I hate a lot of fuss." And then the doctor took Patricia out of the room to explain that the patient must be kept very quiet, else he would work himself into a fever.

"Humour him, Miss Carrol, humour him," said the doctor, as he took his leave. "To-morrow I shall come over and see him. Don't worry."

But Patricia did worry, not so much over the Squire, who was getting along fairly well considering his age, as over the fracas with Theodore. She dreaded lest he might speak to the Squire. "And then I should have to leave," said Patricia, much distressed.

"I don't see why, dearest," replied Basil, twining his brown fingers in her hair and wondering if God had ever created a more perfect woman.

The two were seated, as usual, in the smoking-room, deeming that the safest place, since Theodore since the quarrel had carefully avoided entering it. It was now three days since the accident, and since Basil had been driven to disclose his feelings. They had the house to themselves almost entirely, for Mara rarely troubled them. Theodore, although he had risen from his sick-bed with a more or less discoloured eye, kept to his own rooms, and did not even present himself at meals. He cherished a deep anger against Basil, and was sullen with Patricia as the original cause of his humiliation. The elder Dane had not a forgiving nature. Nor, indeed, did his brother feel inclined to welcome any advances. He was too much disgusted with Theodore to pardon him readily.

"I don't see why, dearest," said Basil again, and slipped his arm round Patricia's waist. "Uncle George can't kill us."

"He could turn me out of the house, and I have nowhere to go."

"There is no reason why he should turn you out. He loves you like a daughter. I'm certain of that."

Patricia sighed. "You are wrong, Basil. He loves me, certainly, but not like a daughter."

"What!" Basil scowled with a brow of thunder. "Does he dare to----"

"He dares nothing," interposed Patricia hurriedly, and placed her pink palm over his mouth to prevent further speech. "But I am certain that he wants to marry me."

"At his age. Ridiculous!"

"Why ridiculous? Older men than the Squire have married."

Basil's arm grew loose round her waist. "Do you admire him, then?"

"Of course. I both admire him and love him. Look how good he has been to me. I hadn't a shilling when he took me from The Home of Art."

"Patricia, do you mean to say----"

She stopped him again, and this time his mouth was closed with a kiss. "I mean to say that you are a dear old stupid thing, darling. I can't help myself if your uncle admires me."

"It shows his good taste. All the same----"

"All the same, I'm going to marry you, my dear. But we'll both be turned out of the house, I'm sure of that."

Basil hugged her again. "I knew you would never marry for money, dearest," he whispered.

"And if we are turned out we can live on my pay. I have to join the Mediterranean Fleet when my leave is up in a couple of months from now. My ship will be always at Malta--always calling in there, you know. We'll get a tiny flat, and you shall stay there when we're married."

"Oh, darling, that will be heaven!"

"It will be poverty," said Basil ruefully; "not what you're used to."

"My dear," she put her arm round his neck and looked into his hazel eyes, "what nonsense you talk. Since my father died I have been desperately hard up in every way, and if your uncle had not taken pity upon me, I really don't know what I should have done. I can cook and sew and look after a house splendidly. I'm just the wife for a hard-up sailor."

"You are, indeed," said Basil fervently, and would have embraced her, but that a knock came at the door. "Oh, hang it! here's Sims."

"I must attend to my duties," said Patricia, as Sims entered. "It's the butcher, of course. Go on, Sims. I'm coming to the kitchen." And Sims discreetly departed with a knowing smile, while Patricia remained for a last kiss.

The Beckleigh Hall servants saw very plainly what was taking place, and even although they were old and jealous retainers, did not resent it. Basil was an immense favourite with one and all, while Patricia during the short time she had acted as housekeeper had captured all hearts with great ease.

In the days which followed Patricia was kept closely in attendance on the Squire, since Mara would do nothing, and Colpster objected to being attended to wholly by the servants. She became rather pale and thin, which only made her the more adorable in Basil's eyes, and, unfortunately, in the eyes of her patient also. The Squire had made up his mind to ask Patricia to be his wife, notwithstanding the difference in their ages. Since Mara resolutely refused to marry either of her cousins, Colpster's pet scheme for the family to be re-established, now that the emerald had returned, fell to the ground. Failing this, he wished to make Miss Carrol his wife, and hoped that she would give him an heir in the direct line of descent. The more he thought of the scheme, the more he liked it, as he was extremely fond of Patricia, notwithstanding he had been so rude to her on the night when the Mikado Jewel had arrived so mysteriously. It never struck him that she might fall in love with a handsome young man like Basil.

Patricia saw how devoted the old man was becoming to her, and at times she was quite embarrassed by the youthful fire of his eyes. Colpster was now getting well rapidly, as it was a fortnight since the accident and the leg was mending. He remained, of course, in bed, and received various visits from the various members of his household. Theodore and Mara did not pay many visits, as the former knew that his uncle disliked him, and the latter was entirely without affection. The Squire never did expect much from Mara, as he looked upon her as weak-minded. She certainly was not, but her father never took the trouble to see what qualities she possessed. It was little wonder that Mara did not give affection, seeing that she never received any.

Mr. Colpster worried a great deal over the continued absence of Harry Pentreddle, and had frequently sent Jarvis to Hendle to inform him that he was wanted at the Hall. But Pentreddle had gone away from his lodgings without leaving any message behind, and no one--not even Isa Lee--knew where he was to be found. This absence and silence made the Squire quite uneasy, especially when he remembered that Harry had seen the emerald. He had stolen it before and--as the Squire, without any grounds to go upon, considered--he might steal it again. Haunted by this thought, Colpster gave Patricia the key of the safe and made her bring him the Jewel. He slept with it under his pillow and hugged it to his heart every day, talking meanwhile about the good luck it would bring.

"It has not brought any good luck yet, Mr. Colpster," said Patricia one evening, after her lovemaking with Basil in the smoking-room.

"How do you mean, my dear?"

"Well, in the first place, you have broken your leg; in the second, you have lost that lawsuit which----"

The Squire groaningly interrupted her: "Yes, I have lost it, worse luck, my dear. The land has gone, and my income will be diminished to eight hundred. Yes, I admit that bad luck. And the weather is really terrible too," he added, looking at the streaming window-pane. "It so rarely rains here, yet it has poured ever since my accident."

"And before then," Patricia reminded him. "The rain, by making the road slippery, caused your accident. If I were you, Mr. Colpster, I would send back the jewel to Japan with Count Akira. He is quite right: the good luck it brought to your family centuries ago has changed to bad."

"How can you believe in such rubbish!" groaned the Squire, hugging his gem.

"You believe in it," said Miss Carrol, wondering at his want of logic, "or you would let the Mikado Jewel go."

"The luck will change now," insisted Colpster, trying to persuade himself into a kindly belief. "Everything will come right."

"I hope so," said Patricia, poking the bedroom fire, before which she was kneeling. "You must write and tell me if it does."

The Squire sat up in bed and gasped. "Write and tell you?"

"Yes. I am going away."

"Nonsense! Why should you go away?"

"Mr. Colpster," said Patricia, who had brought the conversation round to this point that she might thoroughly explain herself, "you have been very good to me, and I have been very happy here. But your nephew Theodore has been rude to me; in fact, he has insulted me; so I cannot remain under the same roof with him."

"What?" the Squire's scanty hair bristled and he trembled with rage. "Has that dog of a Theodore been rude? He shall leave my house at once."

"No. That would not be fair. He is your nephew. I shall go."

"I shan't let you go, child. I love you too much to let you go. How did he insult you--what did he say? Tell me and I'll--I'll----" Rage choked his further utterance, and he sank back on his pillows.

His nurse came forward and smoothed the bedclothes. "Don't worry over the matter, Mr. Colpster. It's not worth it."

"It's worth everything when you want to leave. How did Theodore insult you?"

Patricia looked down and sketched out figures with the tip of her bronze shoe. "He is angry because I am engaged to Basil."

Colpster flung himself forward and caught her wrist. His sunken eyes filled with angry fire. "You are not engaged to Basil?" he said fiercely.

"But I am. Leave go my wrist, Mr. Colpster, or I shall go away at once."

He still held her tightly. "You shan't marry Basil. You shall marry me."

Patricia was greatly indebted to the old man, as she had admitted, and was sorry for his misplaced passion. But she was also a woman, with a woman's feeling, and did not intend to allow him to dictate to her. With a dexterous twist, she freed herself from his grip and retreated to a safe distance. "If you behave like this, I shall leave the room and never enter it again," she exclaimed, angry at his want of self-control.

The threat brought the Squire to his knees. "No! no! Don't go!" he cried in piteous tones. "I can't live without you. I wish to marry you. See, Patricia, dear, I shall settle Beckleigh on you, and when the emerald brings back the good luck you shall----"

"The emerald will only bring bad luck," said Patricia, interrupting coldly. "And if you had millions I would not marry you. I love you as a daughter, and I thought that you loved me in the same way. Basil and I are engaged and intend to get married in a few months."

"He has no money," wailed the Squire, clutching the sheets; "no money."

"I don't care. He is the man I love."

"He has no right to ask you to marry him."

"If he had not asked me, Mr. Colpster, I believe I should have asked him," was the girl's quick answer. "Can't you understand that he is the only man in the world for me? If you don't, then the sooner I leave this house the better. You have no right to dictate co me, and I won't allow it."

"I'll cut Basil out of my will. I shall leave the property to Theodore."

"That is a matter for your own consideration," said Patricia coldly. "Now it's time for your beef-tea, and I must go and get it."

"I shan't take it," cried the Squire childishly.

"Mr. Colpster, for a man of your years you are very silly."

"My years--my years; you reproach me with those!"

"I reproach you with nothing," said Miss Carrol, tired of the futile argument. "Can't you see that if you go on like this I must leave?"

"No, don't," he implored, with wild eyes. "I'll be good."

"Very well," she said, in a matter-of-fact tone. "Now I shall get your beef-tea," and for that purpose she left the room.

Left alone, Mr. Colpster whimpered a little. He was old, he was sick, and he was very sorry for himself. He had sought to woo a girl who was young enough to be his daughter, and his wooing had taken the fashion of trying to bribe her with house and land and money. To this insult she had retorted by showing him the mother that is hidden in every woman, married or unmarried. He felt like a naughty boy who had been put in the corner, and at his age he did not like the new experience. He could have kicked himself for having gone on his knees to be whipped, for that was what it amounted to. In the darkness--it was evening, and there was no light in the big bed-room save that of the fire--he flushed and burned with shame. How, indeed, could she, having found her mate in a young man of her own age, beautiful and ardent as she was, be expected to accept his Philistine offer of beeves and land?

The Squire, with all his oddities, was a gentleman, and as he came from a brave race he was a man. His age, his fantasy about refounding the family, his sickness, had all landed him in this slough. It behoved him, if he wished ever again to look his ancestors' portraits in the face, to get out of the quagmire and reassert his manhood as well as his good breeding. Patricia should marry Basil and become his niece-in-law. Mara could be given an income to indulge in her fantasies, and he could live at Beckleigh with Mr. and Mrs. Colpster, which was to be the married name of the young couple. In the middle of these visions, Patricia returned with the beef-tea and a lamp. The naughty boy came out of his corner to beg pardon.

"My dear," he said, in an apologetic voice, "I'm an old fool."

"Oh, no," said Patricia kindly; "you are just one who has cried for the moon."

"I give the moon to Basil," said the Squire, holding out his hand. "And he will be my heir. Forgive me."

"Willingly," said Miss Carrol, and they shook hands gravely.

"But I agree with you," sighed Colpster, ending the scene; "the jewel has brought bad luck."


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