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CHAPTER XX A FURTHER EXPLANATION
The morning dawned raw and bleak, to display the scene of the disaster in its most searching light. None of those who had come to the entertainment were allowed to go on shore during the hours of darkness. Basil, indeed, as soon as Akira informed him of the catastrophe--and Akira seemed to know positively what had taken place, even before the arrival of the steam-launch with the news--wished to see what had become of his uncle and brother. But the Japanese pointed out that fragments of the cliff were still falling, and that it would be dangerous to venture. As every hour or so the thunder of falling masses was heard, Dane considered that the advice was good, and possessed his soul in patience until the dawn. Frequently during the night he lamented that he had not the searchlight of his own ship to see what extent of damage was done. But, of course, such wishing was altogether vain.

As The Miko was large, there was plenty of accommodation, and the servants were persuaded to go below and sleep. The women were very hysterical, and the men greatly upset. Everyone was devoted to the Squire, and hoped against hope that he had been saved. But it was noticeable that no one troubled about Theodore. Until that night Basil had no idea how very unpopular his brother really was. But he had not much time to think, as the greater part of his time was spent in soothing Patricia. She felt the dreadful accident and its consequences much more than did Mara. That young lady neither wept nor expressed any great sorrow. With a rigid face she stared into the gloom which veiled the home of her childhood, and made scarcely any remark.

Akira, when Harry came on board, privately asked him if he thought that either Colpster or his nephew had escaped.

"I'm certain they have not," said Pentreddle emphatically. "Mr. Theodore was tied up, and the last I saw of the Squire he was at the window cursing me for taking away the Mikado Jewel."

"Ah, yes! You brought that away with you!" Akira held out his hand.

Harry produced the Jewel, which he had thrust carelessly into his pocket after his glimpse of it on the launch. "They all fell on their faces," he told the Japanese.

Akira smiled in a peculiar manner. "No wonder, when they saw the might of the Earth-Spirit."

"What do you mean exactly, sir?" asked the sailor, quite puzzled.

The Count handled the Jewel reverently, and producing a sandal-wood box, carefully wrapped up the emerald and its jade setting in fine silk before placing it therein. "I mean that this jewel holds the power of the Earth-Spirit, and pulled down the cliff on those who had to be punished," was his remark, as he locked the box and put it away safely.

"Is this the punishment you intended for Mr. Theodore for murdering my mother?" asked Pentreddle, with a faltering voice.

"Yes. Are you not satisfied?"

"I thought you would have taken him on board and tortured him."

Akira drew himself to his full height, which was not very great. Still in his indignation he contrived to look quite imperial. "I am a Japanese gentleman and do not torture anyone. I knew that the cliff would fall as soon as you left the house, and that those behind would be crushed."

"But how could you make the cliff fall?" persisted Harry.

"The Earth-Spirit brought the fall about through its power stored in the Jewel of Go Yojo. Do you understand?"

"No," said the bluff sailor, frankly bewildered.

"Well, then, I can explain no more. You must take it that there was an accident owing to the late rains. The earth fell for that reason. But you are revenged on your enemy. Now tell me all that took place."

Harry did not require much urging, and related everything. Akira listened in silence. "Hai!" said he, when the tale was ended. "This poor wretch was ready to commit a second murder. So much evil we have saved him. Have you the will he spoke of?"

"Yes." Pentreddle produced it from his pocket, but Akira did not offer to take it. In fact, he refused to touch it.

"Give it to Mr. Dane as you have been instructed. I am glad to hear that he will inherit the property. I have a great opinion of Mr. Dane and a better one of the charming young lady he is going to marry."

"I'll give it to him," said Pentreddle; "and now, sir, what is to become of me, if you please?"

"Well," said Akira quietly, "as you have restored the emerald, you are no longer in danger. I give you your life. Also, and because you obeyed my instructions so implicitly, you can have these," and he produced ten notes of ten pounds each. "One hundred pounds, my friend."

"I couldn't touch them, sir. It would look as though I wanted to take money for avenging my poor mother's death."

"That is very creditable to you, Pentreddle, but I don't think you need decline. You have been useful to me and deserve payment."

Thus persuaded, Harry gladly took the notes, but as he placed them in his pocket he observed gloomily that he thought Theodore Dane had died in too easy a manner. Akira shook his head and rebuked him.

"My friend, that Mr. Dane broke the Great Law, and when next he is born he will have to pay back to your mother all he owes her. By wishing to torture him, as you suggested to me, you are only preparing trouble for yourself. He has been partly punished. Leave him, as to the rest, to the Great Law."

"What is the Great Law?"

"As you sow, so shall you reap," said Akira quietly.

"I have heard that before, sir."

"It is in your sacred Book, my friend; but few of your people in the West understand its real meaning. They think that the Master who said it takes the reaping on His own shoulders, while they sit in happiness and see it done." Akira shrugged his shoulders. "A great many of these foolish ones will be undeceived when their Karma is ripe."

"Karma?"

The Count arose and shook his head. "We must not talk on these subjects, as I am no priest," he said with a smile; "all I tell you is, that you must obey the Great Law, or suffer according to your breaking of it. Now go and give the will to Mr. Dane."

Pentreddle did so, and when questioned as to how it came into his possession, related all that he knew, and how he had brought back the will to its rightful owner. Patricia was present when he explained, and both she and her lover were horrified to hear that Theodore had murdered the poor woman. They questioned and cross-questioned him until he was weary and excused himself so that he might get a little sleep. But there was none for the young couple.

"If Theodore is indeed dead, it is a mercy," said Basil thankfully.

"Oh, dearest! dead in his sin?"

"Oh!" said the young man rather cynically; "if one had to wait until Theodore, from what I knew of him, was fit to die, he would have become immortal. No, darling," he added quickly, catching sight of Patricia's pained face, "I don't mean to be flippant. God have mercy on his soul! I say, with all my heart. But he was a thoroughly bad man."

"Well, he is dead, so let us think no more about him."

So they said and so they felt, but throughout that weary night they continued to talk of the scamp. Also they referred regretfully to the death of the Squire, and Patricia wept for the old man who had been so kind to her. In the end, grief and anxiety wore her out, and she fell asleep on Basil's breast. They sat in a sheltered corner of the deck, for Miss Carrol refused to be parted from her lover.

In the grey, grim light they finally saw the ruin which had been wrought by the fall of the mighty cliff. There were vast rents in its breast, and it was by no means so high as it had been. Below was a tumbled mass of red rock, beneath which, not only the Hall but the greater part of the grounds were buried. That which had been Beckleigh was now a thing of the past, for in no way could that enormous quantity of rubble and rock, and sand and stone, be lifted. The whole formed a gigantic tumulus, such as of yore had been heaped over the body of some barbarous chief. Squire Colpster and his wicked nephew certainly had a magnificent monument to mark the place where they reposed. Amidst all that fallen rock it was impossible to rebuild the Hall, or to reconstruct the grounds.

"We have the income," said Basil, while he stood on deck with his arm round Patricia's waist, looking at the ruin, "but our home is gone for ever."

Patricia shuddered. "I am sorry, of course, for it is such a lovely place."

"Was such a lovely place, my dear."

"Yes! Yes! But I always felt afraid when in the Hall. I felt certain that some day the cliff would fall. It always seemed hostile to me."

"It was only hostile to two people," said the quiet voice of Akira behind them: "the man who murdered for the sake of the emerald, and the man who set in motion the causes which brought the emerald to Beckleigh. Both have paid for their sins."

"Whatever do you mean, Count?"

"I shall tell you and Dane when we go ashore," said the Japanese calmly; "in the meantime come down and have some breakfast. You look faint, Miss Carrol, and it is time that you restored your strength. Go down and see my wife, and she will look after you."

When Patricia descended the companion, Akira turned to Basil. "Excuse me, Dane," he said courteously, "but this fall of the cliff has robbed you of your home. You will want money. Allow me to be your banker."

"Thank you; but there is really no need," said Basil hastily. "I have five or six pounds in my pocket: enough to take myself and Miss Carrol to London. Once we are there, I shall see my uncle's lawyers about the will, and get them to advance what I require."

"But all these servants who are homeless?"

"They can go to their various relatives and friends. I shall get the lawyers to send money for them. Don't be afraid, Akira, I shan't neglect my people. For they are mine now, you know. Unless----" he cast a hopeful glance at the scarred face of the cliff.

"No. Both the Squire and your brother are dead. They will lie under that mighty pile of earth to the end of time, unless some high tide washes it away. Of course, I mean their sheaths will. Their souls are now reaping according to the sowing. Come to breakfast."

Basil descended, and with Patricia and the bridal couple had an excellent breakfast, which was much needed. It was useless to sorrow for the dead to the extent of starving for them, for Basil had seen very little of his uncle for many years, and certainly had no cause to mourn for Theodore. As for Mara, she was as cool and composed as ever, and ate so well that no one would ever have believed that she had just lost her father.

"It is no use crying over spilt milk," she said, making use of her favourite proverb; and although both her cousin and Patricia considered that she was decidedly heartless, they could not deny the good sense of the saying she invariably quoted as an excuse for her indifference.

But she was not sufficiently hard-hearted to remain behind--although her feeling may have been merely one of curiosity--for she came on deck cloaked and gloved, and with her hat on, ready to join the party. Akira promptly told her that he did not wish her to go, and as his slightest wish was law to her, she obeyed. The yacht was to sail somewhere about noon, so there would be no chance for Basil and Patricia to come on board again. Nor did they want to, seeing that at present they had so much to think about. So they said good-bye to the Countess Akira and departed along with the melancholy household that had now no home.

The launch took them ashore under what seemed an ironically sunny and blue sky. After the late rains and storms, it was cheerful to see the water of the bay sparkle in the sunlight. But, alas! Beckleigh was as ruined as ever was Pompeii, and in future the fairy bay would only be stretched out before a desolate scene. Patricia almost wept when she saw the ruin of the beauty spot. Not a vestige of the house was to be seen: it was crushed flat under tons of red earth, while nearly down to the water's edge great sandstone rocks and much rubble had smashed the trees and obliterated the flower-beds. And over the gigantic heaps of débris, the mighty cliff still soared, rent and scarred, although not to its original height. Early as the day was, many people, both men and women, were moving amongst the rubbish, seeing what they could pick up. But there was absolutely nothing to be found. The enormous fall of tons and tons of earth had pulverized Beckleigh into dust. It was like the ruins of a pre-historic world.

Many people came down when they saw the approaching launch, amongst them relatives of the servants, together with friends. These took charge of the homeless wanderers, and gradually the whole household disappeared up the winding road to find shelter. Before they departed Basil informed them that within a week he would return to Hendle and attend to their needs, as he had inherited the property. Although the young man was a favourite, the dispossessed were too miserable to raise a cheer, and departed with sad faces and hanging heads. Their world was in ruins, and save what they stood up in, all were without money or home. But the promise made by their new master that he would look after them cheered them not a little.

Akira, after he had walked round the desolation with Basil and Patricia, asked them to return to the pier. Here, he had seats brought up from the launch, and they sat down to hear what he had to say. His first speech rather surprised them, used as they were becoming to the happening of the unexpected.

"I am sorry that all this has occurred," he said seriously, waving his hand towards the ruins; "but I had to bring it about."

They looked at one another and then at the speaker, believing, and with some reason, that he was crazy. "How could you possibly bring it about?" asked Mr. Dane in a sceptical tone.

"The Mikado Jewel brought it about."

"Oh!" Patricia winced; "are you going to talk more of this occult nonsense?"

"Can you call it nonsense in the face of this, Miss Carrol?"

"That is an accident owing to the late rains."

"Quite so, and that is what the world will consider it. But I can tell you differently. It happened because the Mikado Jewel was in the house."

"It was not!" said Basil imperatively, and would have gone on talking, but that Patricia stopped him.

"It was in the house," she said quickly, "only Mr. Colpster--poor man!--asked Theodore and myself to say nothing about it."

Basil cast a glance at the red heaps. "Then it is buried under this rubbish," he said disdainfully; "for all its occult power, it couldn't look after itself!

"I looked after it," said Akira quietly. "It is now on board the yacht, and I am taking it back to Japan to restore it to the Temple of Kitzuki."

"How did you get it, Akira?"

"Pentreddle, by my desire, took it from the Squire when he went last night to accuse Theodore, your brother, of murder."

"He did not tell me that," said Basil involuntarily.

"I asked him not to, as I wished to tell you myself. I am sorry to bore you with occult talk, Miss Carrol, but I think you would like to understand the reason for the Jewel being at Beckleigh at all."

"You sent it to Mr. Colpster?"

"Yes, I did. To punish him for daring to have it stolen from Kitzuki."

"But he didn't wish it stolen. He was angry that Harry should steal it."

Akira waved his hand. "Mr. Colpster was the original cause of setting in motion the causes which led to Mrs. Pentreddle's death, to his own death, and to that of his nephew. He believed that the Jewel would bring back luck. Instead of that, it brought that," and he pointed to the ruins.

Basil looked helplessly at the speaker. "My dear fellow, I am quite in the dark as to what you are talking about."

"Listen, and I shall explain. Something of what I tell you has been told to you before, but something I now tell you is new." He drew a long breath and continued: "I don't expect you to believe all I say."

"We'll try," said Basil ironically. "Go on!"

"Mr. Colpster wished for the Mikado Jewel," said Akira deliberately, "and so he employed you, Dane, to offer money for it. Mrs. Pentreddle heard from her late master that he intended to give the property to the nephew who brought back the Jewel. She hated Theodore, and loved you, so, as her son was going to Japan, she asked him to get the Jewel. In a way which he told Mr. Colpster, but which I need not repeat, he stole it, and got away with it. But he was followed and watched. The priests of the temple told the Government at Tokio, and I was deputed to see if the Jewel could be recovered. I went to Kitzuki and saved your life when you came to offer money for the gem."

"And thank you for doing it, Akira," said Basil heartily.

"All right. I was only too pleased, since the information you gave me about the emerald having been presented to one of your queens, helped me to unravel the mystery. Several attempts were made to get the gem from Pentreddle while he was in Japan, but all failed. I therefore sent two men to watch for the arrival of his ship in London and followed myself. I knew that I had made you my friend, and intended to come to Beckleigh, if it was necessary. When I arrived in London I found that Pentreddle was trying to give the Jewel to his mother, and learned--through his hanging round the house--that the old lady was staying at The Home of Art, in Crook Street."

"And you had that watched, I suppose?"

"Of course," replied Akira serenely. "A man with a scar on his cheek, who was an attendant in the Temple of Kitzuki, watched that house. Then I learned where Pentreddle was boarding in Pimlico, and my second man gained access to his room. His letters, which he left about, were read, and I learned that his mother intended to meet him at the Serpentine in the way we know of. I followed him when he went to keep the appointment."

"What?" cried Patricia. "Was it you, Count, who snatched the jewel from me?"

"Yes. I noticed that Pentreddle passed you the box, and followed you. I fancied you would take the box home, but you sat down to examine it."

"It was the strange drawing-power which made me open the box. I wanted to see what caused the power."

"I fear," answered Akira, rather ironically, "that your curiosity was not gratified. However, as the power still radiated from the stone, keeping off all things that would hurt it, I reversed the power, or rather, stopped it altogether."

"How did you manage that?" asked Basil doubtfully.

Akira shook his head. "I cannot tell you. I dare not. It is a secret. And even if I did, you would only laugh, since you do not believe in these sort of things. I knew the necessary mantra to say and said it." He looked at Patricia with a smile. "You felt the difference."

"Yes," she nodded, with a look of something like awe. "Then you snatched it."

"Of course, and the jewel being recovered, I would then and there have taken it back to Japan, but for the murder of Mrs. Pentreddle."

"Theodore did murder her, then?" said Basil in a low, shamed voice.

"Oh, yes, and in the way her son told you. My man with the scar saw the crime committed, and secured the scarf, as evidence, with the name of your brother marked in the corner."

"Bad as Theodore was," said Basil, drawing a deep breath, "I am glad that you did not shame the family by denouncing him."

Akira smiled at him in a friendly way. "Of course, you are my friend," he observed. "Also, I wished to find young Pentreddle. I came down to Beckleigh, as you know, and left instructions to my two men to send down the Jewel to Mr. Colpster. But before leaving London I reversed the power."

"But I don't see----"

"I do not expect you to see, my dear man," interrupted Akira quickly; "but the jewel arrived with the power reversed."

"Yes," Patricia nodded again. "I felt it," and she shivered.

"Well, then," Akira glanced at his watch, "there is little more to tell. I simply waited while the Jewel did its work of loosening the cliff. All the time it was in the house it was drawing those tons of earth down on the place. I heard in the drawing-room that night that Mr. Colpster was going to speak to Pentreddle, and pretended to go to bed. Instead of doing so, I got out of the window and intercepted him on the winding road. I then told him that I could prove who killed his mother, and sent him to wait for my arrival in London. He went the next morning. I came on later, and then I made my man with the scar tell him everything. Pentreddle left me with a full statement, signed by my man and witnessed. As your brother is dead and it is useless to make a scandal," said Akira, glancing at Basil, "I got that document from him last night and burned it."

Dane leaned forward and shook the hand of the Japanese. "I am greatly obliged to you," he said with emotion.

"Why," said Akira, in a friendly manner, "there is no reason that you should suffer for the sins of others. That would not be fair. Besides, I wish you to give Miss Carrol a clean name. Now, then, do you wish to know any more, as I must up anchor and steam for the East?"

"How many people know that my brother committed this murder?"

"I do and my two men. As we are going away for ever and will hold our tongues, you need not fear us. Harry Pentreddle will say nothing, as he respects you and Miss Carrol too much. Besides, I gave him one hundred pounds to get married on, so when he is happy himself he will not wish to make others unhappy. The Squire was the only other person who knew, and he is dead. Your name is quite safe."

"Thank God for that!" said Basil reverently, and took off his hat.

"One question more," said Patricia, rising. "What did you mean when you told me that you now knew why you had come to Beckleigh?"

"It was because of Mara," explained Akira gravely. "She was formerly a priestess in the Temple of Kitzuki, and for some reason the Spirit of the Earth, whose spell was on the emerald, wished to bring her to my arms. We had promised to love for seven lives, you know. For this reason the theft of the Mikado Jewel was permitted. But for that, Pentreddle would have been kept back by the radiating power. Even I, with no ill-intent, had to reverse, or rather break, the power, before I could take the gem from you. But, then, I know the spell."

"And what is the power contained in the stone now?"

Akira hesitated. "I told you that the Jewel was left on board," he said, "but that was not true. I brought it with me." He produced the box from his pocket and took from it the Jewel. The great stone blazed with green lustre in the sunlight. "Take it in your hands, Miss Carrol."

Patricia did so, while Basil looked at the gem curiously. He had never seen it before. Suddenly Patricia cried out with delight. "Oh, yes, I feel the warmth and the light, and the power streaming out from every petal."

"Imagination," said Basil impatiently, and took the stone. "I can feel nothing of what you describe."

The Count carefully replaced the Jewel in its box. "You are not psychic."

"I never wish to hear that word again," said Basil fervently.

"I don't think you will," replied Akira dryly, and slipped the box into his pocket. "Well, now I shall say good-bye, and from Japan I shall send you my wedding-present."

"Be kind to Mara," said Patricia imploringly.

"Be sure of that. She is a sacred thing to me. Was she not the Miko of Kitzuki, and did not the Earth-Spirit bring her to my arms?" He changed his reverent tone for a matter-of-fact one. "Good-bye, Dane!"

Akira held out his hand, then suddenly drew it back. "There is one thing I should like to add, so that you may guess that I am not in favour of killing innocent people. I gave my entertainment so as to lure you, Dane, and you, Miss Carrol, together with all your servants, on board the yacht out of harm's way. Therefore Mr. Colpster and the assassin were left to their fate alone in the house."

"But Pentreddle?" asked Basil, shuddering.

Akira looked towards the winding road up which Harry was slowly climbing. "I had to send him to get the Jewel," he remarked, "but I warned him of the danger and he escaped. Now that is all I have to tell," he added quickly, seeing that Patricia was about to ask another question. "Good-bye, both of you, once more."

They shook hands gravely all round, then Akira jumped into his launch and it steamed away in a great hurry, as usual. Basil and Patricia set their faces landward and picked their way over the loose rocks. In a short time, and walking above the grave of uncle and cousin, they gained the clear space of the winding road. Here they came face to face with Mrs. Lee, who was toiling down all alone.

"Ah!" she said, with a chuckle. "So it's you, Mr. Basil." The old creature nodded. "I told him he would be crushed as flat as a pancake if he allowed It to come into the house. He did, like a silly fool, and now he is buried under all that rubbish." She pointed her staff disdainfully downwards.

"Who did you tell this to, Granny?" asked Basil, who knew her well.

"To your brother Theodore. Bless you, deary, he often came to consult me. I didn't like him, though, as he brought such bad Ones with him."

"What is the It you meant?" questioned Patricia, wondering if Mrs. Lee had any knowledge of the fatal Jewel.

It appeared that she had not. "Ah, lovey! They didn't tell me that. All I knew and all I told him was that It would crush him as flat as a pancake." She looked at the tumbled red earth and chuckled maliciously. "And it has, deary; it has. A grave for an emperor that is."

"I don't believe these things, Granny," said Basil, placing Patricia's arm within his own. "Here's a shilling."

"Bless you, deary; may you never want bread," croaked the old crone, biting the shilling before tying it up in a corner of her apron. Then she faced them and waved a circle thrice, which she crossed once. "The sign of power to bring you luck, my dears," she explained, wagging her head. "But, bless you both, you ain't wicked to the marrow as he was, drat him! I can see your future bright and fair." Her eyes became fixed as she spoke, and she looked into the viewless air. "You'll both be happy all your lives, for sorrow is ended and the debts of Fate are paid. Money and children and rank and lots of good, staunch friends. All that you desire will come to you and the poor will bless you evermore. So be it and let it be." After which weird speech the old creature toddled down the hill with a senile laugh.

"What do you make of that, Basil?" asked Patricia, when they reached the top of the winding road and came in sight of the carriage which was to take them to Hendle railway station.

"Well," said the young man reflectively, "after what has taken place I dare not disbelieve in many things."

"I hope that what Granny says will come true."

"My dear," Basil amidst all his trouble turned to catch her in his arms, "I am sure that with such a darling as you are for my wife everything is entirely feasible and possible. If the emerald of Amyas Colpster brought luck to no one, it certainly has done so to me. And now let us drive to Hendle and catch the evening train to London. To-morrow we must get married."

"It seems heartless when your uncle is just dead," sighed Patricia, "but I have no home to go to, and no one but you."

"You shall stay at The Home of Art, and when I marry you, my dear, Mrs. Sellars shall be the bridesmaid. Come, my darling!"

The sound of a gun stopped them before they could take a single step towards the new life, which spread out so brightly before them. They turned to see The Miko standing out to sea, with the black smoke pouring from her funnel. As they waved their handkerchiefs, the yacht dipped her ensign, and fired a second gun. Then they saw her turn her nose seaward and steam direct for Japan. And the boat was carrying the Mikado Jewel, after it had fulfilled its mission in the West, back to its shrine in the Temple of Kitzuki, in the Province of Izumo.

The End


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