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CHAPTER XV PENTREDDLE\'S STORY
Squire Colpster locked the recovered emerald in his safe and again repeated his orders that Theodore was to say nothing about it. Notwithstanding Patricia\'s doubts--founded upon the different sensations felt by her when holding the stone--the master of Beckleigh Hall really believed that he possessed the Mikado Jewel. But he could not comprehend why it had been forwarded to him, or how the thief had obtained his address, or why the thief should think that he wanted it. Had the Squire been less obsessed by the ornament, he might have taken Patricia\'s advice with regard to getting rid of it. And in this, perhaps, he would have been supported by Theodore, who was feeling uncomfortable, since Granny Lee\'s statement was always in his mind. But, as it was, he said nothing to urge his uncle to take such an extreme course, and the Squire certainly never suggested that the gem should be sent away. So there it lay in the safe, with its influence, either for good or bad, ready to become apparent.

Patricia, on her side, put the matter of the emerald out of her mind, as she did not like to think about occult matters, and, moreover, had to attend to her duties as housekeeper. A visit to Mara\'s room in the afternoon showed that the girl was up and dressed, and apparently quite her old indifferent self. She said nothing about the Miko dance in which she had figured, so Patricia did not remind her of it in any way. Once or twice she asked where Akira was, but on learning that he had gone sightseeing with Basil, she appeared to be satisfied.

The two gentlemen returned in time for dinner, tired and rather damp from the moisture of mists they had encountered on the moors. Akira expressed himself as pleased with the English country, although he shivered when he mentioned the absence of the sun. Yet, as Basil reminded him, Japan did not possess a particularly tropical climate. The conversation took place when the soup arrived, and, as usual, when any mention was made of the East, Mara grew a delicate rose-pink, and fixed her eyes eagerly on the diplomatist. Akira gave her an indifferent glance and answered the sailor\'s speech.

"In the north of Japan we have very cold weather, but it is sufficiently warm in the south. But in any case, there is nothing depressing in my country, such as a foreigner finds in England."

"It is the English climate, to a great extent, which has made us what we are, Count," observed Colpster seriously.

"I can say the same of Japan. Hardy climates make hardy men, sir. Do not think that I don\'t admire your country, for I do; but oh, these swathing mists and damp fields!" He shivered smilingly.

"At least, we have no earthquakes," put in Patricia with a nod.

"Ah, there you have the advantage of us," answered Akira, wiping his mouth; "but in some places we can keep earthquakes away."

"What do you mean?" asked Theodore, scenting something occult.

"Yes." Akira guessed what he vaguely felt. "There are laws which control earth waves."

"Scientific laws?" said Basil quickly.

"You might not call them so," said Akira quietly; "but in the East, you know, we are aware of natural laws which the West has not yet learned."

"Well, then, tell us how to control earthquakes," said the Squire, with a sceptical look on his face.

"Curious you should ask me that, sir. You should ask Miss Carrol."

"Ask me?" Patricia looked amazed.

"You held the Mikado Jewel in your hand," said Akira coolly.

Theodore, Colpster and Patricia exchanged looks, and wondered if the Japanese was aware that the gem reposed in the library safe. It was impossible, of course, since he had been absent all day with Basil. Yet it was strange that he should refer to an object which was uppermost in their minds. "I don\'t understand," said Patricia doubtfully.

"I can explain, Miss Carrol. Had you examined the emerald you would have seen the sign of the Earth-Spirit graven thereon. That sign shows that a power to control earth-forces lies in the stone."

"Oh, I can\'t believe that, Count."

"Yet you felt--so you told me--the radiating rays, which keep back all earth tremors--steady them, as it were."

Colpster looked up suddenly. "I thought you knew nothing about the Mikado Jewel, Count," he said sarcastically.

"I know very little, and told you what I did know," replied Akira quietly; "but this conversation about climates revived a memory of what one of the Kitzuki priests told me. The emerald has had certain ceremonies said over it, and has been set on the radiating petals of a jade chrysanthemum. Thus it possesses a repelling power, and was kept in the temple to repel earthquakes from shaking the ground upon which the temple stands."

Theodore stole a glance at Patricia, who looked sceptical. "If," he suggested in a low voice, "if the power, instead of radiating, was drawn to the emerald you speak of, Count, what would happen?"

Patricia was not quite sure, but she fancied that she saw a subtle smile on the bronzed face of her neighbour. But it might have been her fancy or the tricky light of the candles glimmering through their rosy-coloured shades. However, he replied courteously enough: "In that case, Mr. Dane--according to occult law, about which I confess I know little--the earthquake danger, instead of being repelled, would be drawn to the place where the jewel lay."

"Oh, we never have earthquakes here," said Mara, with a gay laugh.

"If the Mikado Jewel were here, and the power was reversed, as is suggested by Mr. Dane, you would soon feel an earthquake, or else this mighty cliff at the back of the house would fall and overwhelm the place."

Theodore shivered. Granny Lee had mentioned that she had seen him crushed as flat as a pancake, and he wondered if what Akira so idly said could really be true. It seemed so, for should the jewel have the in-drawing power--and that it assuredly had, if Patricia was to be believed--there was a great chance that Mrs. Lee\'s prophecy might be fulfilled. For was not the fatal gem in the house at this moment? Yes, Theodore shivered again, as he became more certain of belief. The Mikado Jewel was the "It" which the sibyl had warned him should never be allowed to enter Beckleigh Hall.

"Oh, it\'s all rubbish," said the Squire, who, not knowing anything about the occult, refused to believe what Patricia had told him, and what Akira had so strangely affirmed. "And even if such is the case--which I don\'t believe--the jewel is not here."

Akira laughed and nodded. "Now you can understand why I warned you not to seek for your family emerald again," he said.

"I\'m afraid I\'ll never see it," said Colpster, lying with great ease. "From what Theodore thinks, it must be now on its way back to Japan."

"Let us hope so," said Akira politely. "As a native of that country, and because my religion is Shinto, I regret very much that the gem should have been stolen. In the hands of ignorant persons it may well bring about deaths. You understand," he looked at Patricia.

"Not at all," she confessed, and really in her heart she scouted the idea that the emerald should be endowed with such malignant powers. "Please do not talk any more about these horrid things. I hate them!"

"So do I," said Basil, who was growing restless at the way in which his brother eyed Patricia. "Let us change the subject," which was accordingly done.

After dinner the Squire went into the drawing-room with his family, but scarcely had he seated himself, to digest his meal, when the butler entered with the whispered information that a man wished to see him particularly.

"Who is it, Sims?" asked the old man, impatiently.

"Harry Pentreddle, sir," said Sims, who was an old retainer, and knew as much about members of the family as they did themselves.

Colpster bounded to his feet, and Theodore, who was standing before the fire, came hastily forward. Basil and Patricia also looked startled, as they knew the suggested connection between Pentreddle and the giving of the jewel. Only Akira and Mara, who were talking quietly in a corner, appeared unmoved, and continued their conversation. "I\'ll go at once," said the Squire, eagerly advancing towards the door.

"Let me come too, uncle," asked Theodore, following.

"No; I shall hear his story--if he has any to tell--myself, and then can repeat it to you. Stay where you are, Basil, and you, Patricia. I shall see Harry alone." And he went out hastily, while those left behind, with the exception of the Japanese and Mara, looked greatly disappointed.

Mr. Colpster walked quickly into the library, and found seated there before the fire a thick-set young man, blue-eyed and fair-haired, with the unmistakable look of a seaman. He rose as the Squire entered the room, and twisting his cap in his strong brown hands, looked bashful. In fact, he was a trifle nervous of his reception, and had every reason to be, for Mr. Colpster, who had known him from babyhood, fell on him tooth and nail.

"So here you are at last, Harry," he said, with a frown. "You have given me a lot of trouble to hunt you out. What do you mean? Just tell me that. I didn\'t expect this behaviour from you, Harry. Your mother, my old servant, has been murdered in a most abominable manner, and instead of coming to assist me in hunting down the scoundrel who did it, you go away and hide. Are you not ashamed of yourself?"

Colpster thundered out the words largely, but they did not seem to produce much effect on the young man. Harry Pentreddle stood where he was, still twisting his cap, and stared at the Squire with steady blue eyes. This composure seemed to be not quite natural, nor did the silence. "Can you not sit down and speak?" demanded Colpster, throwing himself into his usual arm-chair and getting ready to ask questions.

Harry sat down quietly, and still continued to stare steadily. "I am not ashamed of myself, sir, because I can explain my conduct fully."

"Then do so," snapped the Squire. "Your mother and father were both my servants, and you were born at Beckleigh. As your parents are dead, I have a right to look after you."

"Do you think that I need looking after, sir?" asked Pentreddle, with a faint smile and a glance at his stalwart figure in the near mirror.

"You know what I mean, Harry. I wish to see you married to Isa and commanding a ship of your own. I intend to help you to get one."

"It is very good of you, sir."

"Not at all. You were born on the estate. And now that your future is settled, suppose you tell me why you didn\'t come back before?"

"If I tell you, sir, will you promise to keep what I say secret?"

"Yes--that is, in a way. I may tell my nephew Theodore, perhaps my other nephew--I can\'t say."

"I don\'t mind anyone in Beckleigh knowing," said Harry hastily, "but I do not wish the whole world to know."

"I am not acquainted with the whole world," said Colpster dryly, "so there is no chance of what you say being told to the entire inhabitants of this planet. Are you satisfied?"

"Quite. Well, then, sir, I went to Amsterdam to wait for a ship which I know is going to Japan. She is coming from Callao and is late."

"How do you mean late?"

"She is a tramp steamer, and I know her captain. She comes to Amsterdam to discharge a cargo, and then proceeds to Japan. I can get an engagemen............
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