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CHAPTER XIII THE UNEXPECTED
Next day Mara was quite her old indifferent self. With feminine craft, she denied what she had said, even though five witnesses were ready to repeat the words. "I didn\'t know what I was saying," said Mara impatiently. "Of course, the heat was too much for me."

"The heat?" repeated her father; "in January?"

"Beckleigh isn\'t England. My nerves are out of order.--Count Akira had some funny Japanese scent on his handkerchief.--Theodore was looking at me, and that always upsets me." And in this way she made idle excuses, none of which would hold water. "I wish you would leave me alone," she ended, angrily.

As there was nothing else for it, she was left alone, and the queer episode was passed over. Mara was polite to the Japanese and nothing more; but her eyes were constantly following him about, and she came upon him by design in unexpected places. Akira was too shrewd not to notice that he was an object of interest to this pale, golden-haired English maid, and inwardly was puzzled to think why she should pursue him in this secretive fashion. Mara everlastingly inquired about Japan, and about its people. She wished to know the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and entreated the Count to draw word-pictures of Far-Eastern landscapes. But he observed that she never asked him questions when anyone else was present. With a delicate sense of chivalry, he kept silent about this secret understanding which her odd conduct had brought about between them. For there was an understanding without doubt. Akira found himself wondering at times if she was really English, for towards him, at all events, she did not display the world-wide reserve for which the island race of the West is famous.

Of course, Squire Colpster seized the first opportunity to question his guest about the emerald. But Akira professed that he knew little more than the facts that there was such a stone and that it had been stolen some months before from the temple. "I have been to Kitzuki," said the Count, "as my religion is Shinto, and in Izumo is the oldest of our shrines. A very wonderful building it is, and was built in legendary ages by order of the Sun-goddess."

"But the same temple surely does not exist now?"

"Oh, no. It has been rebuilt twenty-eight times, and----"

The Squire interrupted him with an exclamation. "I remember! Lafcadio Hearn says that in one of his books."

"He was a very clever man, and loved our people," replied Akira quietly.

"Yes! yes!" Colpster nodded absently. "It is strange that he did not say anything about the Mikado Jewel."

"It is not generally shown to strangers," explained the Japanese. "I have seen it myself, of course."

"What is it like?"

"Like a chrysanthemum blossom of green jade with an emerald in the centre, Mr. Colpster. I believe it was given to the shrine by one of our Emperors, called Go Yojo."

"It was; and he received it from Shogun Ieyasu."

Akira fixed his sharp black eyes on the tired face of his host. "You seem--pardon me--to know a great deal about this jewel," he observed inquiringly.

"I ought to. The emerald belonged to our family centuries ago."

"You astonish me."

"I thought I would!" cried the Squire triumphantly. "Yes; an ancestor of mine gave the emerald to Queen Elizabeth, and she sent it, through an English pilot called Will Adams, to Akbar, the Emperor of India. Adams, however, was wrecked on your coasts, Count, and presented the jewel to Ieyasu."

"How very interesting," said Akira, his usually passive Oriental face betraying his wonder. "Thank you for telling me all this, Mr. Colpster. I must relate it to the priests of the Kitzuki Temple, when I return to my own land. I do so in a month or two," he added courteously.

"But the Jewel is now lost!"

"So I understand. I read the report of the death of your housekeeper."

Colpster gazed in astonishment at the little man. "Did that interest you?"

"Naturally," rejoined Akira, unmoved, "seeing that her death was connected with the Mikado Jewel."

"Are you sure that it is the same?" asked Colpster breathlessly.

"Assuredly, from the description. I expect the thief, whosoever he was, brought the emerald to London."

"But who stole it from Miss Carrol?"

Akira shrugged his shoulders and spread out his small hands. "Alas! I do not know. But you should, Mr. Colpster, seeing that the thief proposed to transfer it to your housekeeper through Miss Carrol?" He looked very directly at his host as he spoke.

The Squire reflected for a few minutes. "I will be frank with you, Count," he observed earnestly. "That emerald brought good luck to our family, and since it has left our possession, we have had misfortunes and losses. I wished to get back the jewel and gave Basil a sum of money to----"

"To offer to buy it back," interrupted Akira, nodding. "Yes, I know. You sent him on a dangerous errand, Mr. Colpster. But for me he would have been murdered, as perhaps you know."

"Basil told me the story," said Colpster, drawing himself up stiffly; "but I cannot really agree with you as to the danger. I merely offered to buy back what belonged to an ancestor of mine."

"Your ancestor parted with it," said Akira, readily and rather dryly, "so, as the stone has become a sacred one, it was impossible for the priests to take money for it. I know Dane had nothing to do with its disappearance."

"Ah!" the Squire became cautious. "I don\'t know who had anything to do with the theft. I wish I did."

"What then?"

"I would seek out the thief and regain the jewel."

"By your own showing the thief parted with the emerald to Miss Carrol," was Akira\'s quiet remark. "That it was taken from her is strange."

"Oh, I don\'t think so, Count. Some thief saw Miss Carrol looking at it--you remember, of course, the details given at the inquest--and snatched it."

Akira was silent for a few moments. "Mr. Colpster," he said earnestly, "if you are wise, you will make no attempt to regain this stone. It brought your family good luck centuries ago, but if it comes into your possession again, it will bring bad luck."

"How do you, know?"

"I don\'t know for certain; I don\'t even know why it was snatched from Miss Carrol, or where it is now," said Akira coldly, "but I do know," he added with great emphasis, "that since the emerald has been adapted to certain uses in the Shinto Temple at Kitzuki, the powers it possesses must be entirely changed."

"Oh, I don\'t believe it has such powers," said the Squire roughly.

"Yet you believe that it will bring you good luck," said Akira with a dry little cough. "Isn\'t that rather illogical, sir?"

Mr. Colpster could find no rejoinder to this very leading question, and dropped the subject. It was very plain that Akira knew very little about the matter, and also it was dangerous to speak to him on the subject. If, indeed, the jewel was in the possession of a London thief, it might be recovered sooner or later. And if Akira knew that it had again passed into the possession of the Colpster family, he might get his ambassador to claim it for Japan. The Squire rather regretted that he had spoken of the matter at all, since his explanation might arouse his guest\'s curiosity. But as the days passed away, and Akira did not again refer to the abruptly terminated conversation, Colpster thought that he was mistaken. The Japanese really was indifferent to the loss of the Jewel, and no doubt had never given the subject a second thought. But the Squire determined, should he learn anything from Harry Pentreddle, to keep his knowledge to himself.

"Akira doesn\'t care," he meditated; "but one never knows. If I can get the emerald by some miracle, he may want it for Kitzuki again. I shall hold my tongue for the future. I was a fool to speak of the matter."

Having decided to act in this manner, he warned Theodore and Basil and Mara not to refer in any way to the Mikado Jewel. Yet, strangely enough, he did not warn the person who knew most to hold her tongue. It therefore came about that one day, while Patricia was showing the gardens to Akira, he abruptly mentioned the subject of the inquest and incidentally touched on her adventure in Hyde Park.

"Were you not afraid, Miss Carrol?"

"Yes and no. I was not afraid until the emerald was taken from me," said Patricia frankly.

"Why?" asked the Count politely, and with seeming indifference.

She hesitated. "I fear you will think me silly." Then in reply to his wave of a hand that such an idea would never enter his head, she added hastily: "When I held the emerald I felt a power radiating out from it."

"Ah!" the Japanese started in spite of his usual self-command. "Then you have occult powers and sight and feeling and hearing?"

"I have not," replied Patricia, vexed with herself that she had spoken so freely. "I am a very commonplace person indeed, Count. I felt that feeling because I was worried and hungry."

"Naturally!" muttered Akira to himself; "you get in touch with it when the physical body is weak."

"Get in touch with what?" asked Patricia crossly, for she began to think tha............
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