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CHAPTER VIII THEODORE
Life went so softly and gently at Beckleigh that it was like dwelling in an enchanted land, in a fabled heaven of drowsy ease. Patricia compared the place to the island of the Lotus-eaters, and after the storms of her early experiences, she enjoyed to the full its calm seclusion. Never was there so solitary a place. The Colpsters were a county family of respectable antiquity, and it was to be presumed that in the ordinary course of things they knew many people of their own rank. But either their friends and acquaintances lived too far away or were not invited to the house, for no stranger ever came near the place. Not even the inevitable tourist chanced upon this charmed spot. Beckleigh might have been situated in the moon, for all connection it had with the outside world.

The dwellers in this quiet haven did not seem to mind being left alone in this odd way. The servants, mostly old and staid, were contented with the house and grounds, and occasionally ventured on the quiet waters of the fairy bay in rowing-boats. Once a week the elderly butler drove to Hendle and to the adjacent villages, to bring back groceries and such things as were needful to support life. The postman came on a bicycle, once a day, with news from the outside world, and Patricia found that the library was well supplied with magazines and newspapers. There was no complaint to be made on that score, as the inhabitants of Beckleigh always knew what was going on both at home and abroad. They might be secluded, but they were not ignorant, and although not rolling stones, they gathered no moss. This warm, forgotten nook was an ideal home for a student.

And both Theodore and his uncle were students, as Patricia gradually learned. Mr. Colpster was writing a history of his family, and had been engaged for many years in doing so. From Amyas downward the Squire traced the history of his forebears, showing how they had risen to wealth and rank until the middle part of Elizabeth\'s reign, and how, from that period, by the selfish conduct of Bevis Colpster in parting with the emerald, his sons and grandsons had lost the greater part of their possessions. Also, he related various romantic stories dealing with the attempts of Georgian Colpsters to redeem the family fortunes. And, finally, when he reached the conclusion of the book, as he told Patricia, he intended to relate how the emerald had been recovered, and how again it had worked its spell of good fortune.

"But if you don\'t recover the emerald?" asked Miss Carrol very sensibly.

"I must recover it," said the Squire vehemently. "If I do not, the family will die out. When the Mikado Jewel is again in our possession, she can inherit the estates on condition that she marries Theodore or Basil."

"Are you speaking of Mara?" questioned Patricia, noting the vague way in which her companion talked.

"Of course; of course," he answered testily. "She must marry one of her cousins, and her husband can take the family name. Then the emerald will draw plenty of money to us, and we will again buy back our lost lands."

"How can the emerald draw back money?" asked Patricia, again thinking, as she very often did, of her sensations when holding the stone.

"I don\'t know; I can\'t say. I am only using a figure of speech, as it were, my dear girl. But in some way this emerald means good fortune to us, as was amply proved by the success of Amyas, his son and grandson. They owned all the land as far as Hendle; but when the emerald was lost the acres and their villages were lost also." Mr. Colpster rose and began to walk to and fro excitedly. "I must find that emerald; I must; I must!"

"How are you going to set about it?" asked the girl, doubtfully.

"I cannot say." He resumed his seat at his desk with a heavy sigh. "There is no clue to follow. If we could learn who murdered Martha we might discover the assassin and regain the jewel."

"But how can the assassin have it, Mr. Colpster? Assuming that he murdered poor Mrs. Pentreddle in order to steal the emerald, you know that it was not in her possession."

"No. That is quite true. While the assassin was searching the house, the emerald was being stolen from you in the Park. But undoubtedly the emerald was meant to be given to Martha since you went to receive it. How did she manage to get it? I want an answer to that question."

"Why not ask it of Harry Pentreddle?" suggested Patricia quietly.

Colpster raised his head and stared. "Why? What could Harry possibly know about the matter?"

"I am only putting two and two together," continued the girl, thoughtfully looking out of the window. "You told me that the emerald was taken to Japan, and also that Harry Pentreddle had returned from the Far East. He----"

"What?" Colpster rose excitedly to his feet. "You think that Harry brought it with him; that he stole it from the Temple of Kitzuki?"

"Why not?" demanded Patricia swiftly. "Japan is in the Far East, and Harry Pentreddle came from there. Also, his mother came up to London to meet him and receive the emerald. I feel sure of it."

"But Harry never came near the house," expostulated the Squire. "That was clearly proved at the inquest."

"Quite so. But do you remember what you told me about the emerald being a sacred stone, and how you mentioned Wilkie Collins\' novel of \'The Moonstone\'? Perhaps some priests were on Harry Pentreddle\'s track, and so he did not dare to go openly to his mother. He must have arranged the signal of the red light in the Park, so that he could give his mother the emerald secretly. She could not keep the appointment by reason of her sprained foot, and so sent me. I now believe, on these assumptions," declared Patricia firmly, "that it was Harry Pentreddle who gave me the deal box."

Colpster grew very excited. "It sounds a feasible theory," he muttered. "Of course, Martha knew all about my desire to get back the emerald. But why should she get her son to steal it? I can understand the secrecy of the meeting in the Park, as undoubtedly the priests of the Kitzuki Temple would make every effort to regain the stone. Harry had to give the emerald to his mother secretly, and probably for the same reason he is now in hiding at Amsterdam. It all fits in. But"--Mr. Colpster paused and looked straightly at the girl--"why did Martha want the emerald?"

"Perhaps to give it to you."

"In that case, she would have told me of her plans."

"I think not," said Patricia, after a pause. "She might fancy you would not approve of the jewel being stolen. However, it is all theory, and the only way in which you can get at the truth is by questioning Harry Pentreddle."

"The question is how to find him," murmured the Squire musingly. "If he thinks the priests are after him, he will remain in hiding."

"If he has seen the report of his mother\'s death and of the inquest," said Patricia coolly, "he will see that there is no longer any reason for him to dread the priests of Kitzuki."

"Why not?"

"Because I believe that Harry was followed by one on that night, and that the second man who stole the jewel from me was one of the priests."

"If that is so, why was Martha murdered?"

"I can\'t say. Of course, like the Moonstone guardians, there may have been three priests. One followed Harry and one went to The Home of Art."

"And the third?"

"The third may have directed the other two. It is all fancy, perhaps," said Patricia, hesitating; "but I think that my theory is correct."

"I am positive that it is," said the Squire, with decision. "Where a man argues to reach a point, a woman jumps in the dark intuitively. Gradually I might have arrived at the same conclusion you suggest by reasoning; but I feel certain that you have given me the truth by using that subconscious mind which is more active in woman than man. Yes, yes!" Mr. Colpster opened and shut his hands excitedly; "you have given me the clue. Harry was told by his mother to steal the emerald; she did not tell me, as she knew that I would not approve. Harry secured the emerald and was followed by those who guarded it. Being in danger of death, he made the secret appointment with his mother which you kept, and passed along the jewel. The Japanese who was following saw that what he wanted had changed hands, and leaving Harry, came after you. When you looked at the jewel he snatched it. Meanwhile, in some way, these priests knew that the jewel was to go to Martha, and so one must have gone to get it from her. She refused to say anything and was killed by the man, who afterwards searched the house for the emerald. It is all clear, perfectly clear."

"What will you do now?" asked Patricia, catching fire from his enthusiasm.

"Do?" almost shouted the old man, straightening his bent frame. "I shall try and find Harry Pentreddle and see if he will endorse your story."

"My theory," corrected the girl quickly.

"Well, theory, if you like. But Harry must be found. No doubt, thinking he was in danger of his life, he went abroad and is in hiding."

"How can you find him, then?"

"I shall ask Isa Lee. She lives at Hendle, and is the girl to whom he is engaged. He must have written to her, and--and----"

"And why not ask Mara," broke in a quiet voice.

Patricia looked up with a start, so unexpected was the observation. From behind a screen which was placed in front of the door came Theodore Dane. For so huge a man--and in Patricia\'s eyes he looked more gigantic than ever at the moment--he moved as quietly as a cat. Mr. Colpster seemed rather annoyed by this stealthy entrance.

"I wish you would make more noise," he said irritably.

"I thought you did not like noise, uncle," said Theodore calmly, and allowed himself to drop into a saddle-back chair.

"No more I do. All the same, I don\'t care about being surprised in this way. You should have knocked at the door, or have rattled the handle, or----"

"I did knock, I did rattle the handle," said Dane carelessly, and thrust one white hand through his leonine masses of reddish hair; "but you were so interested in your conversation with Miss Carrol that you did not hear me."

"And you listened?" continued the Squire irritably.

"I ask pardon for doing so. But the conversation was about the Mikado Jewel, which always fascinates me, and I could scarcely help overhearing a few words. But if the conversation is private----" He heaved up his big frame as if to go away.

"It\'s not private," snapped Colpster, sitting down at his desk; "only your unexpected appearance startled me. I would have reported the conver............
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