Skip to main content

Full text of "The priceless pearl /"

See other formats





























« 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 






























THE PRICELESS 
PEARL 


BY 

ALICE DUER MILLER 

i\ 

AUTHOR OF 

“Manslaughter” “Come Out of the Kitchen” 
“Are Parents People?” etc. 



NEW YORK 

DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 

1924 



Copyright 1923, 1924 
By Alice Duer Miller 




Printed in U. S. A. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 



THE PRICELESS PEARL 


CHAPTER I 



HE girl is simply too good-looking,” said 


Bunner, the office manager, in a high, 


complaining voice. “She is industrious, 
intelligent, punctual and well-mannered, but 
simply too good-looking—a disturbing element 
in the office on account of her appearance. I 
made a grave mistake in engaging her.” 

The president, who had been a professor of 
botany at a great university before he resigned 
in order to become head of The Universal En¬ 
cyclopedia of Necessary Knowledge Publishing 
Corporation, was a trifle deaf, but had not as yet 
admitted the fact to himself; and he inquired 
with the patient, slightly contemptuous surprise 
of the deaf, “But I do not understand why she 
is crying.” 

“It is not she who is crying,” answered the 
office manager regretfully; “it is Mr. Rixon, 


1 


2 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


our third vice president. He is crying because 
he has most unfortunately become interested in 
the young woman—fallen in love with her—so 
my stenographer tells me.” 

The president peered through his bifocal 
lenses. He did not wish to be thought one of 
those unsophisticated scientists who understand 
only the plain unpsychological process of plants. 
He inquired whether the girl had encouraged 
the third vice president, whether, in a word, she 
had given him to understand that she took a 
deeper interest in him than was actually the 
fact, “the disappointment of the discovery being 
the direct cause of the emotional outbreak which 
you have just described.” 

Bunner hesitated. He would have liked to 
consider that Miss Leavitt was to blame, for 
otherwise the responsibility was entirely his 
own. In his heart he believed she was, for he 
was one of those men who despise women and 
yet consider them omnipotent. 

“I can’t say I’ve ever seen her do more than 
say good morning to him,” he answered rather 
crossly. “But I believe there is a way 6f avoid¬ 
ing a man— with her appearance. You have 
probably never noticed her, sir, but-” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


3 


“Oh, I’ve noticed her,” said the president, 
nodding his old head. “I’ve noticed a certain 
youth and exuberant vitality, and—yes, I may 
say beauty—decided beauty.” 

Bunner sighed. 

“A girl like that ought to get married,” he 
said. “They ought not to be working in offices, 
making trouble. It’s hard on young men of 
susceptible natures like Mr. Rixon. You can 
hardly blame him.” 

No, they agreed they did not blame him at 
all; and so they decided to let the young woman 
have her salary to the first of the month and let 
her go immediately. 

“That will be best, Bunner,” said the presi¬ 
dent, and dismissed the matter from his mind. 

But Bunner, who knew that there was a possi¬ 
bility that even a beautiful young woman might 
not enjoy losing her job, could not dismiss the 
matter from his mind until the interview with 
her was over. He decided, therefore, to hold it 
at once, and withdrew from the president’s 
room, where, as a directors’ meeting was about 
to take place, the members of the board were 
already beginning to gather. 

Bunner was a pale fat man of forty, who was 


4 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


as cold to the excessive emotion of the third vice 
president as he was to the inconvenient beauty 
which had caused it. He paused beside Miss 
Leavitt’s desk in the outer office and requested 
a moment of her time. 

She had finished going over the article on 
Corals and was about to begin that on Coronach 
—a Scotch dirge or lamentation for the dead. 
She had just been wondering whether any 
created being would ever want to know anything 
about coronach, when Mr. Bunner spoke to her. 
If she had followed her first impulse she would 
have looked up and beamed at him, for she was 
of the most friendly and warmhearted nature; 
but she remembered that beaming was not safe 
where men were concerned—even when they 
were fat and forty—so she answered coldly, 
“Yes, Mr. Bunner,” and rose and followed him 
to his own little office. 

Miss Pearl Leavitt, A. B., Rutland College, 
was not one of those beauties who must be 
pointed out to you before you appreciate their 
quality. On the contrary, the eye roving in her 
neighborhood was attracted to her as to a lumin¬ 
ary. There was nothing finicky or subtle or fine¬ 
drawn about her. Her features were rather 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


5 


large and simple, like a Greek statue’s, though 
entirely without a statue’s immobility. Her col¬ 
oring was vivid—a warm brunette complexion, 
a bright golden head and a pair of large gray 
eyes that trembled with their own light as they 
fixed themselves upon you, much as the reflection 
of the evening star trembles in a quiet pool. But 
what had always made her charm, more than 
her beauty, was her obvious human desire to be 
a member of the gang—to enjoy what the crowd 
enjoyed and do what was being done. It was 
agony to her to assume the icy, impassive de¬ 
meanor which, since she had been working in 
offices, she had found necessary. But she did it. 
She was hard up. 

When Mr. Bunner had sent away his stenog¬ 
rapher and shut the door he sat down and 
pressed his small fat hands together. 

“Miss Leavitt,” he said, “I am sorry to be 
obliged to tell you that during the summer 
months when so many of our heads of depart¬ 
ments are away on their vacations, we shall be 
obliged to reduce our office staff; and so, though 
your work has been most satisfactory—we have 
no complaint to make of your work—still I am 
sorry to be obliged to tell you that during the 


6 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


summer months, when so many of our heads of 
departments——” 

He did not know what was the matter; the 
sentence appeared to be a circular sentence with¬ 
out exits. 

Miss Leavitt folded her arms with a rapid 
whirling motion. Of course, since the first three 
words of his sentence she had known that she had 
lost her job. 

“Just why is it that I am being sent away?” 
she said. 

Sulky children, before they actually burst into 
tears, have a way of almost visibly swelling like 
a storm cloud. It would be wrong to suggest 
that anything as lovely as Pearl Leavitt could 
swell, and yet there was something of this effect 
as she stared down at the office manager. He 
did not like her tone, nor yet her look. 

He said with a sort of acid smile, “I was about 
to explain the reason when you interrupted me. 
Although your work has been perfectly satis¬ 
factory, we feel that during the summer months 

-” He wrenched himself away from that 

sentence entirely. “It is the wish of the presi¬ 
dent,” he said, “that you be given your salary to 
the first of the month—which I hereby hand you 



THE PRICELESS PEARL 


7 


—and be told that it will not be necessary for 
you to come here after today. In parting with 
you, Miss Leavitt, I wish to assure you that 
the quality of your work for this organization 
has been in every respect-” 

“I want to speak to the president,” said Miss 
Leavitt. 

She did not raise her voice, but no one could 
have mistaken that her tone was threatening. 
She vibrated her head slightly from side to side, 
and spit out her fs in a way actually alarming to 
Bunner, who was a man susceptible to fear. 

“Our decision is quite final—quite final, I’m 
sorry to say,” he said, fussing with his papers as 
a hint that she had better go and leave him in 
peace. 

“That’s why I want to speak to him.” 

“Quite impossible,” answered Bunner. “The 
board is meeting at present in his room-” 

“What!” cried Pearl. “They’re all there to¬ 
gether, are they?” And before the office mana¬ 
ger took in her intention she was out of his of¬ 
fice, across the main office and in the board room. 

Like so many people destined to succeed in 
New York, Pearl came originally from Ohio. 
She was an orphan, and after her graduation 



8 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


from an Eastern college she had gone back to 
her native state, meaning to make her home with 
her two aunts. It had not been a successful sum¬ 
mer. Not only was it hot, and there was no 
swimming where her aunts lived, and Pearl 
loved to swim, but two of her cousins fell in love 
with her—one from each family—and it became 
a question either of their leaving home or of her 
going. So Pearl very gladly came East again, 
and under the guidance of her great friend Au¬ 
gusta Exeter began to look for a job. 

She had come East in September, and it was 
now July—hardly ten months—and yet in that 
time she had had and lost four good jobs through 
no fault of her own but wholly on account of her 
extraordinary beauty. She was not insulted; no 
one threatened her virtue or offered to run away 
with her. It was simply that, like Helen of 
Troy, “Where’er she came she brought 
calamity.” 

Her first place had been with a publishing 
firm, Dixon & Gregory. When Pearl came to 
them the business was managed by the two sons 
of the original firm; the elder Dixon was dead, 
and the elder Gregory, a man of fifty-six or 
eight, came to the office only once or twice a 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


9 


week. A desk for her had been put in his pri¬ 
vate room, as it was almost always vacant. It 
ceased, however, to be vacant as soon as he saw 
Pearl. He had no idea that he had fallen in love 
with her—perhaps he had not. He certainly 
never troubled her with attentions; as far as she 
knew he was hardly aware of her existence. His 
emotion, whatever it was, took the form of quar¬ 
reling with anyone who did speak to her—even 
in the course of necessary business. When at 
last one day he met her and the younger Dixon 
going out to lunch at the same hour and in the 
same elevator, but purely by accident, he made 
such a violent and inexplicable scene that the 
two younger partners, after consultation, decided 
that the only thing to do was to get rid of the 
girl quietly— get her to resign. They were both 
very nice about it, and themselves found her 
another place—as secretary to a magazine editor 
—a man of ice, they assured her. She never saw 
the elder Mr. Gregory again, and a few months 
later read in the papers of his death. 

Her new position went well for several 
months. The editor was, as represented, a man 
of ice; but, as Hamlet has observed, being as 
pure as snow and as chaste as ice does not protect 


10 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


against calumny, and the wife of the editor, en¬ 
tering the office one day to find her husband and 
his secretary bending over an illegible manu¬ 
script, refused to allow such dangerous beauty 
so near her husband, and Pearl lost her second 
job. 

Her next place was with an ambitious young 
firm which was putting a new cleaning fluid on 
the market. At first, in a busy office, Pearl 
seemed to pass almost unnoticed. Then one day 
the two partners, young men both and heretofore 
like brothers, came to her together and asked her 
if she would do the firm a great favor—sit for 
her portrait to a well-known artist so that they 
might use her picture as a poster to advertise 
their product. Pearl consented—she thought it 
would be rather good fun. The result was suc¬ 
cessful. Indeed, the only criticism of the pic¬ 
ture—which represented Pearl in tawny yellow 
holding up a saffron-colored robe at which she 
smiled brilliantly, with beneath it the caption, 
Why Does She Smile? Because Her Old Dress 
is Made New by—was that it would have been 
better to get a real person to sit for the picture, 
as the public was tired of these idealized types 
of female beauty. But the trouble started over 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


11 


who was to own the original pastel. It devel¬ 
oped that each partner had started the idea from 
a hidden wish to own a portrait of Pearl. They 
quarreled bitterly. The very existence of the 
firm was threatened. An old friend of the two 
families stepped in and effected a reconciliation, 
but his decision was that the girl must go. It 
did not look well for two boys of their age—just 
beginning in business—to have as handsome a 
woman as that in the office. People might talk. 

It was after this—some time after—that Pearl 
took the place with the Encyclopedia company. 
Her record began to tell against her. Everyone 
wanted to know why she changed jobs so often. 
She thought she had learned her lesson—not to 
beam, not to be friendly, not to do anyone favors. 
She had made up her mind to stay with the 
Encyclopedia forever. She had had no hint of 
danger. She hardly knew the third vice presi¬ 
dent by sight—someone in the office had told her 
a silly story about his crying one day, but she 
hadn’t even believed it. And now she had lost 
another job—and in July, too, when jobs are 
hard to find. 

Heretofore she had always gone docilely. But 


12 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


now she felt she could bear it no longer—she 
must tell someone what she thought. 

It was four o’clock on a hot summer afternoon, 
and round the board-room table the members 
were saying “aye” and “no” and “I so move,” 
while their minds were occupied with the ques¬ 
tions that do occupy the mind at such times— 
golf and suburban trains, and whether huckle¬ 
berry pie in hot weather hadn’t been a mistake— 
when the glass door opened and a beautful girl 
came in like a hurricane. She had evidently 
been talking for some seconds when she entered. 

She was saying, “-are just terrible. I want 

to tell you gentlemen, now that I have you to¬ 
gether, that I think men are just terrible.” She 
had a curious voice, deep and a little rough, more 
like a boy’s than a woman’s, yet a voice which 
when you once knew Pearl you remembered 
with affection. “This is the fourth job I’ve lost 
because men have no self-control. I do my work. 
I don’t even speak to any of you—I’d like to— 
I’m human, but I don’t dare any more. I attend 
to business, there’s no fault found with my work 
—but I’ve got to go because some man or other 
can’t work in the office with me. Why not? 
Because he has no self-control—and not ashamed 



THE PRICELESS PEARL 


13 


of it—not ashamed, that’s what shocks me. Why, 
if a girl found she couldn’t do her work because 
there was a good-looking man in the office, she’d 
die rather than admit she was so silly. But what 
does a man do? He goes whining to the presi¬ 
dent to get the poor girl dismissed. There it is! 
I have to go 1” 

And so on, and so on. The board was so as¬ 
tonished at her entrance, at the untrammeled 
way in which she was striding up and down, dig¬ 
ging her heels into the rug and flinging her arms 
about as she talked, that they were like people 
stunned. They turned their eyes with relief to 
Mr. Bunner, who came hurrying in behind her. 

“Miss Leavitt has been dropped,” he began, 
but she cut him short. 

“I’ve been dropped,” she said, “because-” 

“Will you let me speak?” said Mr. Bunner— 
a rhetorical question. He meant to speak in any 
case. 

“No,” answered Pearl. “Certainly not. 
Gentlemen, I have been dismissed—I know—be¬ 
cause some man in this office has no self-control. 
I can’t identify him, but I have my suspicions.” 
And she cast a dreadful glance at the third vice 


14 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


president “Why should I go? Why shouldn’t 
he? Crying! Woof! How absurd!” 

“Leave the room, Miss Leavitt,” said the 
president; but he weakened the effect of his edict 
by leaning forward with his hand to his ear so 
as to catch whatever she was going to say next. 

“I haven’t shed a tear since my mother died,” 
said Mr. Rixon rather tearfully to the man next 
him. 

“This is not the time to discuss your griev¬ 
ances, Miss Leavitt,” said the treasurer, wonder¬ 
ing why he had never kept in closer touch with 
the office; “but if you feel you have a just com¬ 
plaint against the company come to my office to¬ 
morrow afternoon-” 

“I’ll not go near your office,” said Pearl, and 
she began again to stride about the room, oc¬ 
casionally stamping her right foot without los¬ 
ing step. “I shall never again go into any office 
where men are. I won’t work for men. They’re 

poor sports; they have no self-” 

“You said that before,” said the treasurer. 

“-control,” Pearl went on, for people in 

her frame of mind cannot be stopped. “Why 
shouldn’t he go? But no > you have to be pro¬ 
tected from a girl like a herd of sheep from a 





THE PRICELESS PEARL 


15 


wolf—a girl who hasn’t even looked at you, at 
that. If I had ever spoken to the man- 

“Leave the room instantly, Miss Leavitt,” said 
the president, and this time he spoke as if he 
meant it, for he was afraid the identity of the 
third vice president might be revealed. Little 
it mattered to Pearl what the old man meant. 

“I wouldn’t mind so much,” she went on, “if 
you did not all pretend to be so brave and strong 
—to protect women. You protect each other— 
that’s who you protect.” 

“Come, come,” said a member of the board. 
“This isn’t the way to keep a job, you know.” 

“I don’t want to keep this job. I want you 
for once to hear what a woman thinks of the 
men she works for—a lot of poor sports—and 
not industrious—none of you work the way girls 
work for you. Slack, that’s what I call you, and 
lacking in self-control.” 

And she went out as suddenly as she had come 
in, and slammed the door so hard behind that 
those members of the board sitting near it ducked 
their heads into their collars in fear of falling 
glass. 

There was a minute’s pause, and then the 
president said with a slight smile, “Well, Mr. 


16 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Bunner, I think we all see what you meant when 
you said this young woman was a disturbing 
element in the office.” 

“There has never been anything like this be¬ 
fore,” said Bunner; “never anything in the least 
like this anywhere I have ever been.” 

“Well,” said the treasurer, “I don’t suppose 
we need distress ourselves about her finding an¬ 
other job.” 

There was a certain wistful undercurrent in 
his tone. 

“No,” said Bunner, slightly misunderstanding 
his meaning. “She is competent and indus¬ 
trious.” 

“She ought to get married, a pretty girl like 
that—not go about making trouble in offices,” 
said the president. 

“I have always been of the opinion,” said the 
third vice president, “that it would be much 
simpler to run the office entirely with men.” 

“Oh, it would be much better—much better, 
of course,” said Bunner; “only women are so 
much more accurate about detail, more indus¬ 
trious and less expensive.” 

And as there was no woman present to inquire 
why then men were so much more desirable, the 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


17 


question dropped, and the president recalled the 
board’s attention to the subject of the paper to be 
used in their next edition—the topic under con¬ 
sideration when Pearl made her entrance. It 
was rather hard to take any interest in it now. 

And so Pearl began once again to go the round 
of agencies, to interview or be interviewed by of¬ 
fice managers, and hear that if she came back in 
October there might be a chance. But October 
was three months away, and she could not live 
three months on something less than a hundred 
dollars. She even began to scan the columns of 
the newspapers—from clerks, through stenog¬ 
raphers, ushers, and finally winders—she never 
found out what winders were. 

If her dear friend and sage adviser, Augusta 
Exeter, had been in town she could have shared 
her room; but Augusta was in Vermont, visiting 
the family of the man she was going to marry. 
At least, Augusta’s last letter had been from 
Vermont; but as a matter of fact, three days 
after Pearl left the Encyclopedia’s employ Au¬ 
gusta came back to New York. She had had a 
letter from the agency where her name was reg¬ 
istered practically offering a position which 
sounded too good to refuse. Besides, Augusta 


13 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


did not really like farm life in Vermont, and the 
Baynes family, for some reason which she could 
not explain, gave her a composite picture of 
Horace, her fiance, which tended to make her 
love him less. Even New York in midsummer 
was preferable. 

Therefore it happened that as Pearl wan¬ 
dered, lonely as a cloud, from office to office, 
longing for her friend’s wisdom, Augusta her¬ 
self was sitting in the outer office of a company, 
looking for a job. 

Though the office was that of the Finlay- 
Wood Engineering Co., the position which Miss 
Augusta Exeter was considering was that of a 
governess. She was not at all sure that she 
wanted the place. College women are not well 
disposed toward positions as governesses; yet as 
Miss Exeter sat there in the busy outer office and 
watched the office boys coming in and out, and 
the impassive young woman at the switchboard, 
enunciating again and again, “Finlay-Wood 
Company,” “Hold the wire,” she went over the 
advantages of this offer—a high salary, the two 
hottest months of the summer at Southampton, 
and the fact that as she was to be married in Oc- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


19 


tobcr, she could not take a long-time position in 
any case. 

Mr. Wood’s secretary, with whom so far all 
the negotiations had been carried on, had im¬ 
pressed upon her the necessity of being punctual 
—“eleven precisely,” he had said, for it seemed 
Mr. Wood was going to Mexico that afternoon. 
And so Augusta, who was punctual by nature, 
had found herself in the office ten minutes ahead 
of time. She sat listening to the telephone girl 
and watching a door which bore the simple in¬ 
scription, “Mr. Wood.” And just behind that 
door a tall sunburned man in the neighborhood 
of thirty was standing, slapping the pockets of 
his blue serge clothes and saying, “Griggs, I have 
a feeling I’ve forgotten something. What is it 
I’ve forgotten, Griggs?” 

The desk was as bare as a desk ought to be 
when its owner is going away for two months. 
Griggs ran his eye proudly over it. 

“No, Mr. Wood,” he said. “I don’t think any¬ 
thing has been forgotten. Nothing was left ex¬ 
cept the letter to the President, the Spanish dic¬ 
tionary and the Mexican currency. All that has 
been attended to.” 


20 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


He consulted a list held in the palm of his 
hand. 

“It was something of my own,” said Wood, 
and he eyed his secretary with an air that might 
have appeared stern but was merely concen¬ 
trated, when the door opened and the office boy 
came in and said, “Miss Stone says she’s notified 
him that there’s a lady there to see him, and will 
we let her in to him?” 

“A lady?” said Griggs severely. 

“That’s it,” said Wood. “It’s the governess 
for my sister. Think of my nearly forgetting 
that!” 

“You ought not be worried about such things,” 
said Griggs, as if he were very bitter about it, 
“with all your responsibilities.” 

Wood smiled. It wasn’t true, but it was the 
way one’s secretary ought to feel. 

“I’d have a lot more to worry me,” he said, 
“if I were married myself.” 

“You certainly would,” answered Griggs, 
who was married. 

“But will we let her in to him?” said the of¬ 
fice boy, who clung to this formula, although the 
head clerk was trying to break him of it. 

“You may let her come in,” said Griggs, as 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


21 


if he would perish rather than allow his chief 
to hold verbal communication with anything so 
low as an office boy, and as he spoke he silently 
gave Wood a pale-blue card—one of a dozen on 
which in beautiful block letters he had written 
down the names, degrees, past experience, with 
notes on personal appearance, of all the candi¬ 
dates for position of governess in the household 
of Wood’s sister, Mrs. Conway. 

“This is the best of them?” said Wood, and he 
ran his eye rapidly over the card, which read: 

“Augusta Exeter, A. B. Rutland College; Ph. 
D., Columbia University, specialized in mathe¬ 
matics and household management.” 

He looked up. “Queer combination, isn’t it?” 

“I thought it was just what you wanted,” an¬ 
swered Griggs reproachfully. 

“Nothing queerer than that,” said Wood, and 
went on: “Six-month dietary expert—one year 
training—appearance, pleasing.” He glanced 
at his secretary. It amused him to think of the 
discreet Griggs appraising the appearance of 
these young women. “What system did you mark 
them on, Griggs?” he asked, but got no further, 
for the door opened and Miss Exeter entered, 
and Griggs, with his unfailing discretion, left. 


22 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Wood looked at her and saw that Griggs as 
usual had been exactly right—she was neither 
more nor less than pleasing—a small, slim, pale 
girl, whose unremarkable brown eyes radiated a 
steady intelligence. 

Wood had employed labor in many parts of 
the world, from Chile to China, and he had a 
routine about it—a preliminary intelligence test, 
which he applied. 

“Sit down, Miss Exeter,” he said. “I think 
it will save us both time if you will tell me all 
that you know about this position”—this was the 
test—“ and then I’ll fill in.” 

Augusta sat down. She found herself a trifle 
nervous. This man impressed her, for since her 
childhood she had cherished a secret romantic 
admiration for men who exercised any form of 
power—kings and generals and men of great 
affairs. It was a feeling that had nothing to do 
with real life and represented no disloyalty to 
her fiance, Horace Bayne, who exercised no 
power of any kind. 

One reason why it had had no relation to life 
was that she had not met any men of this type. 
Even in the outer office she had been impressed 
by the sense of a man waited on and protected 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


23 


by secretaries and office boys as an Eastern prin¬ 
cess is waited upon by slaves. And now when 
she saw him she saw that he had exactly the type 
of looks she admired most—tall, a little too thin, 
his face tanned to that shade of cafe au lait that 
the blond Anglo-Saxon acquires under the sun 
—those piercing bright-blue eyes—that large 
handsome hand, which, with the thumb in his 
waistcoat pocket, was so clearly outlined against 
the blue serge of his clothes. 

She said rather uncertainly, “I know that Mrs. 

Conway is a widow with three children-” 

Even this much was wrong. 

“Not, a widow,” he said; “divorced.” 

“-with three children,” Augusta went on; 

“a girl of seventeen, a boy of fifteen and a little 
girl of eleven. I know that during your absence 
you want someone to take the care and responsi¬ 
bility of the children off your sister’s shoulders.” 

He smiled—his teeth seemed to have the ex¬ 
traordinary whiteness that is the compensation 
of a dark skin. 

“I see,” he said, “that Griggs has been discreet 
again.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m going to 
Mexico in a few hours, Miss Exeter. I have 
just twenty-five minutes. If in that time I am 



24 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


not thoroughly indiscreet I can’t look to you for 
any help. The situation is this: My sister mar¬ 
ried Gordon Conway when she was very young 
—eighteen; he turned out to be a gambler. I 
don’t know whether you’ve ever known any 
gamblers”—Miss Exeter never had—“but they 
are a peculiar breed—the real ones—charming 
—friendly—gay—open-handed when they are 
winning; they become the most inhuman devils 
in the world when they are losing. Never get 
tied up to a gambler. During my poor sister’s 
romance and marriage Conway was winning— 
large sums—on the races. But that stopped a 
month or so after their marriage, and ever since 
then, as far as I know, he has lost—in stocks, at 
Monte Carlo, and finally at every little gambling 
casino in Europe. After about six years of it we 
managed to get her a divorce. She has entire 
control of the children, of course. Conway has 
sunk out of sight. Oh, once in a while he turns 
up and tries to get a little money from her, but 
fortunately what little she inherited from my 
father came to her after her divorce, or other¬ 
wise he’d have managed to get it away from her. 
She’s very generous—weak—whichever you 
call it. One of the things I’m going to ask you to 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


25 


do is to prevent her seeing him at all, and cer¬ 
tainly prevent her letting him have any money. 
Though it isn’t likely to happen. I believe he’s 
abroad. 

“The great point is the children. I’m sorry 
to say that it seems to me my sister is ruining 
three naturally fine children as rapidly as a de¬ 
voted mother can. Of course, many parents are 
over indulgent, but my sister not only indulges 
her children but gives them at the same time the 
conviction that they are such interesting and 
special types that none of the ordinary rules ap¬ 
ply to them. The elder girl, Dorothy, is a pretty, 
commonplace American girl—no fault to find 
with her except that her mother treats her as if 
she were an empress. If, for instance, her 
mother keeps her waiting five minutes she be¬ 
haves as if she were an exiled queen faced by 
treachery among her dependents—won’t speak to 
her mother perhaps for a day. And if I say— 
which I oughtn’t to do, for it’s no use—Isn’t 
Dorothy a trifle insolent?’ my sister answers, Tm 
so delighted to see that she isn’t growing up ^ith 
the inferiority complex that I had as a girl.’ 
The boy is a perfectly straight manly boy, but 
he smokes constantly—at fifteen—and when I 


26 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


criticize him my sister says before him, ‘Well, 
Anthony, you know you smoke yourself. I can’t 
very well tell Durland it’s a crime. Besides, I 
have the theory that if he smokes enough now 
he’ll be tired of it by the time he grows up.’ ” 

“But that isn’t sound,” said Miss Exeter, quite 
shocked at the sketch she was hearing. “Habits 
formed in youth-” 

“Of course it isn’t sound,” said Wood. “And 
as a matter of fact, my sister never thought of it 
until I objected. She evolves these theories 
merely for the sake of protecting her children. 
Oddly enough, she not only doesn’t want to 
change them herself but she doesn’t want any 
one else to change them. Three years ago I en¬ 
gaged in a life-and-death struggle with her to 
get Durland—the boy—to boarding school. She 
advanced the following arguments against it: 
First, that he was a perfectly normal, manly boy 
and did not need to go; second, that he was of a 
peculiar, artistic, sensitive temperament and 
would be wrecked by being made to conform to 
boarding-school standards; third, that none of 
the successful men of the country had gone to 
boarding school; fourth, that success was the 
last thing she desired for any son of hers; fifth, 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


27 


that she did not wish to remove him from the 
benefits of my daily influence; and sixth, that I 
was a person of no judgment and absolutely 
wrong about its being wise for a boy to go to 
school.” 

“And is he at school?” Miss Exeter inquired 
politely. 

“Oh, yes,” answered Wood, without seeing 
anything amusing in her question. “Although 
my sister does a good deal to counteract the ef¬ 
fect—by making fun of the teachers and the 
rules, and always bringing him, when she goes 
to visit him, whatever is specially forbidden, like 
candy and cigarettes and extra pocket money. 
You see, that’s where it’s going to be hard for 
you. She not only doesn’t want to discipline 
them herself but she’s against any person or in¬ 
stitution that tries to do it for her. As soon as 
you begin to accomplish anything with the 
children—as I’m sure you will do—she’ll be 
against you; she’ll want you to go.” 

“That makes it pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?” 
said Miss Exeter. 

He shook his head briskly. 

“No,” he said; “for I have made her promise 
that she won’t send you away, no matter what 


28 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


happens, until I get back. I know what was in 
her mind when she g^ve the promise—that she 
could make it so unpleasant for you that you’d go 
of your own accord. So, Miss Exeter, I want 
you to promise me that you won’t go, no matter 
how disagreeable she makes it-” 

“Oh, Mr. Wood, I couldn’t do that,” said Au¬ 
gusta. 

“There’s no use in going at all otherwise,” he 
said. “Oh, come, be a sport! I’ll make it worth 
while. I’ll give you a bonus of five hundred dol¬ 
lars if you’re still on the job when I get back— 
or I’ll bring you a turquoise—I’m going down 
to inspect the best mine in the world. You see, 
I feel this means the whole future of those chil¬ 
dren—to be with a woman like you. I know you 
could do with them just what I want done.” 

“You may be mistaken about that, Mr. 
Wood.” 

“I may be, but I’m not.” 

The blue eyes fixed themselves on her. She 
said to herself that it was the five hundred dol¬ 
lars—so desirable for a trousseau— that turned 
the scale, but the blue eyes and the compliment 
had something to do with her decision. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


29 


“It seems a reckless thing to promise,” she 
murmured with a weak laugh. 

“No, not at all. I wouldn’t let you do any¬ 
thing reckless.” He spoke as a kindly grand¬ 
father might speak. “And now we have ten 
minutes left, and I want to talk to you about the 
little one—Antonia.” His face softened, and 
after a slight struggle he yielded to a smile. 
“The truth is,” he said, “that she’s much my fav¬ 
orite. She’s intelligent and honest, and the just- 
est person of any age or sex that I ever knew in 
my life.” He paused a second. “Perhaps it is 
because I’m fonder of her than of the other two, 
but it seems to me my sister is particularly un¬ 
wise about Antonia.” 

His mind went back to his parting the evening 
before with this small niece. He and his sister 
had been sitting on the piazza of the house they 
had taken at Southampton—at least she had 
taken it and he had paid for it. Only a few 
yards away the Atlantic, in one of its placid 
lakelike moods, was hissing slowly up and down 
on the sand. The struggle about a governess had 
been going on for several weeks. So far Mrs. 
Conway had won, for this was his last evening 
and none had been engaged. She had a wonder- 


30 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


ful method for dealing with her brother—a 
method to be commended to all weak people 
trying to get the maximum of interest and the 
minimum of control from stronger natures. She 
listened to everything he said as if she were 
wholly convinced by his words and intended to 
follow his advice to the last detail, and then she 
went away and did just what she had always 
meant to do. If he reproached her she looked 
at him wonderingly and said: “But, Anthony 
dear, I did agree with you at the time; but after¬ 
ward, when I came to think-Oh, how well 

he knew that dread phrase, “afterward, when I 
came to think!” 

By these methods she had managed to fend 
off action for three weeks, agreeing with him 
most cordially that the children ought to have a 
governess, but thinking, after he had gone to 
New York for the week, that it would be nice 
for them to take French lessons with that charm¬ 
ing French lady in the village, or that perhaps 
the Abernathys’ governess would come over for 
an hour a day- 

And now on his last evening he had out- 
maneuvered her by announcing that he was in- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


31 


terviewing candidates the next morning before 
he took his train, and would send her the best. 

“Em sure it’s very kind of you to take all this 
trouble, Tony,” she said. “Don’t send me any¬ 
one too hideous, will you?” 

“Griggs describes the young woman I have 
in mind as of pleasing appearance.” 

“That means perfectly hideous.” 

“You wouldn’t want a prize beauty, would 
you?” 

“Certainly I would. I like to have lovely 
things about me. I suppose you think that’s 
idiotic.” 

He assured her that he never thought her idi¬ 
otic—at least not unintentionally—and went 
on to obtain the famous pledge—the promise 
that she would keep the governess he sent her 
until his return in September. She agreed fi¬ 
nally, partly because it was getting late and she 
was sleepy, partly because she reflected that 
there were more ways of getting rid of gov¬ 
ernesses than by sending them away. 

“I’m so sleepy,” she said, yawning, “and yet 
I don’t quite like to go to bed until Antonia 
comes in.” 


32 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“Antonia?” said Wood. “I thought she went 
to bed at nine.” 

It appeared that Antonia had formed the hab¬ 
it lately of sleeping on the beach—at least for 
the earlier part of the night—just digging a 
hole and curling up there. Her mother thought 
it an interesting, primitive, healthy sort of in¬ 
stinct. 

“And yet,” she added thoughtfully, as if she 
knew she were a little finicky, “I don’t like to 
lock up the house until she comes in.” 

“I think you’re right,” said her brother. These 
were the things that terrified him so—a little girl 
out in the blackness of that beach in her paja¬ 
mas. How could he go to Mexico and leave 
her? He rose and went to the edge of the 
piazza, which rested on the dunes. 

He could see nothing but the stars. 

“Shall I call her?” he said. 

“I hate to wake her; but—yes, just give a 
call.” 

He shouted, and in a few seconds a faint, 
cheerful hullo reached them, and a little figure 
appeared over the dunes. 

“Were you asleep, darling?” said her mother. 

“No, I was swimming,” said Antonia. She 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


33 


stepped within the circle of light from the win¬ 
dows, and Wood could see that her dark curly 
hair was plastered to her head, and her pajamas 
clung to her like tissue paper. “I love to swim 
at night,” she said. “It makes you feel like a 
spirit.” 

She shared her more important thoughts with 
her uncle. Then, turning to her mother, she ad¬ 
vanced toward her with outstretched arms as if 
to clasp her in a wet embrace. 

“Look out for your mother’s dress,” said 
Wood, for Edna Conway was as usual perfectly 
dressed in white. She smiled at him and took 
the child to her breast. 

“Dear Anthony,” she said, “if you were mar¬ 
ried you’d know that a woman loves her children 
better than her clothes.” 

He was silent, wondering if she knew how 
much she had had to do with the fact that he 
wasn’t married. He had no taste for masculine 
women, and yet Edna had made him distrustful 
of all femininity which sooner or later devel¬ 
oped the sweet obstinacy, the clinging pig-head- 
edness, the subtle ability, under the idiotic coy¬ 
ness of a kitten, to get its own way. Well off and 
physically attractive, he had not been neglected 


34 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


by women, but always sooner or later it had 
seemed to him that he had seen the dread shadow 
of kittenishness. Cattishness he could have borne, 
but the kitten in woman disgusted him. 

“And, dearest,” his sister was saying to her 
daughter, “you won’t go to bed in your wet 
things, will you?” 

Antonia shook her finger at her mother. 

“Now don’t begin to be fussy,” she said, not 
impudently, but as one equal gives advice to an¬ 
other. Yet even this mild suggestion of reproof 
was painful to Edna. 

She turned to her brother and said passion¬ 
ately, “I’m not fussy, am I? I don’t see how you 
can say that, Antonia. It’s only that your uncle 
wouldn’t close an eye if he thought you were 
sleeping in damp pajamas; would you, An¬ 
thony?” And she laughed gayly. 

This was one of her most irritating ways— 
to pretend that she was just a wild thing like the 
children, but that to oblige some stuffy older per¬ 
son she was forced to ask the children to conform. 

“I might close an eye, at that,” said Anthony. 

The whole incident had finally decided him to 
take the prospective governess entirely into his 
confidence. He had thought at first it would be 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


35 


more honorable to let her discover the situation 
for herself, but now he saw that she would need 
not only all his knowledge of the situation but 
the full conviction that he was backing her, 
whatever she did. He became convinced of this 
even before he saw Miss Exeter. Having seen 
her, he had no further hesitation. He thought 
her as sensible a person as he had ever met. She 
sat there in the hard north light of his office, not¬ 
ing down now and then a few words in a little 
black notebook. She was not only sensible—she 
was to be depended on. 

“The truth is,” he said, “that Antonia, not to 
put too fine a point on it, is not personally clean.” 

Miss Exeter smiled, for to her mind the tone 
of agony in his voice was exaggerated. 

“But at a certain age no children are,” she 
said. 

“But most children are forced to be, and my 
sister lets this child run wild, so that people 
talk about it. I suppose I oughtn’t to mind so 
much,” he said, looking at her rather wistfully; 
“but you can’t imagine how I hate to think that 
people discuss Antonia’s being dirty. And all 
my sister says is that she’s so glad the child isn’t 
vain. Oh, Miss Exeter, if you could get An- 


36 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


tonia dressed like a nice, well brought up little 
girl I think I’d do anything in the world for 
you.” 

She promised that too. In fact, by the time 
she finally left the office and was on her way 
uptown, late for an engagement she had with 
Horace Bayne, she was alarmed to remember 
how many things she had promised—not only to 
stay until he came back but to write to him 
every day, a long report of just what had hap¬ 
pened in the family and what her impressions 
of it were. 

“Not letters,” he had said, “because I shan’t 
answer them; but reports—reports on my family, 
as I am going to make a report on this mine.” 

They were to be typewritten. He had no in¬ 
tention of struggling with any woman’s hand¬ 
writing, though Augusta murmured that hers 
was considered very legible. 

It was not her custom to take a definite step 
like this without consulting Horace—not so 
much because Horace insisted on it as because 
she thought highly of his opinion. She was as¬ 
tonished now, as in the Subway she thought over 
the interview, to find how little she had been 
thinking of Horace. They had been engaged for 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


37 


something over two years, one of those comfort¬ 
able engagements, which until recently had had 
no prospects of marriage. 

The Rutland College Club is almost deserted 
in summer. As she ran upstairs to the library, 
where she was to meet Horace, she glanced at 
her watch and saw to her regret that he must 
have been waiting almost an hour, for he was 
punctual, and usually arrived a little ahead of 
the hour. She was sorry—such a busy man; but 
he would understand—she would explain- 

He rose from a deep chair as she entered—a 
serious young man whom everyone trusted at 
first sight. She saw he looked a little more seri¬ 
ous than usual, and her sense of guilt made her 
attribute this seriousness to her own fault. She 
began to explain quickly and with unaccus¬ 
tomed vivacity. She sketched the interview— 
Mr. Wood—his office—the promise—the let¬ 
ters—the turquoise. Horace kept getting more 
and more solemn, although it seemed to her that 
she made a very good story of it—more amusing 
perhaps than the reality had been. 

“Isn’t it exciting?” she said. “I’m going down 
on Thursday, under this contract, to stay two 
months.” 



38 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“No, you’re not,” said Horace. 

She stared at him. He had never spoken like 
that in all the years she had known him. 

“What do you mean, dear?” she said rather 
reprovingly. 

“You were so busy telling me about this Adon¬ 
is you’re going to work for you did not stop to 
consider that I might have some news of my 
own. I’ve landed that job in Canada, and I’m 
going there on Friday and you’re going with me. 
You’re going to marry me the day after tomor¬ 
row and start north on Friday.” 

She stared at him, many emotions succeeding 
each other on her face. She had given her 
word—her most solemn word. She could hear 
Wood’s quiet voice asserting his confidence in 
her. “I know I can depend on you; if you give 
me your word I know you’ll keep it.” She could 
not break it. She said this, expecting that Hor¬ 
ace would admire her for her dependability—* 
would at least agree with her that she was doing 
right. Rut instead he looked at her with a 
smoldering expression, and when she had fin¬ 
ished he broke out. In fact he made her a scene 
of jealousy—the first he had ever made—but 
none the worse for that. For a beginner Horace 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


39 


showed a good deal of talent. He accused her 
openly of having fallen in love with this fellow; 
she wasn’t a girl to do anything as silly as that 
except under a hypnotic influence. People did 
fall in love at first sight. There were Romeo and 
Juliet; Shakespeare was a fairly wise guy—these 
letters every day—why, if she wrote to him, 
Horace, once a week he was lucky—but every 
day to this man. And jewels and money—no, 
not much! 

Jealousy, which is popularly supposed to be 
an erratic and fantastic emotion, is often founded 
on the soundest intuition. Augusta found her¬ 
self hampered in defending herself by a certain 
inner doubt; and her silence enabled Horace to 
work himself up to such a pitch that he issued 
an ultimatum—a dangerous thing to do. She 
would either marry him and go to Canada with 
him, or else everything was over between them. 

It was a terrible situation for Augusta. On 
the one hand, her spoken word, given to a person 
whose good opinion she greatly desired, and on 
the other, her sincere love of Horace, increased 
by the decisive stand he was taking; for it is un¬ 
fortunately true that if you do not hate a person 
for making a scene you love him more. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


.40 

Perhaps Horace saw this. In any case, he 
would not retreat an inch. This was the situa¬ 
tion when the door of the library opened and in 
came Augusta’s friend and classmate, Pearl Lea¬ 
vitt, with whom she had an engagement for lun¬ 
cheon—only in the general strain and excitement 
of the morning she had entirely forgotten the 
fact 

Pearl, like Augusta herself, was too much 
occupied with her own mood to notice that a 
mood was already waiting for her. It seemed to 
her that Augusta and Horace were just sitting 
there as usual, without much to say to each 
other. She had been looking for a job all the 
morning, and all the day before, and was dis¬ 
covering that beauty may find it as hard to get a 
job as it had been to keep one. 

“Hullo, Gussiel Hullo, Horrie!” she said, 
striding in, full of her own troubles. “I think 
men are just terrible.” 

“You must have changed a lot,” said Bayne, 
who was in no humor to let anything pass. 

He had known Pearl since her freshman year 
at Rutland, and was accustomed to seeing her 
surrounded by a flock of the condemned sex, 
whose attentions had never seemed unwelcome. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 41! 

“Yes, IVe changed,” said Pearl. “You see, 
I’ve worked for men—at least I’ve tried to. I’ve 
been trying to all morning. If they kept turn¬ 
ing you down because you were lame or marked 
with smallpox they’d feel ashamed, but if they 
turn you down because they think you’re good- 

looking-” Miss Leavitt here interrupted her 

narrative to give a grinning representation of the 
speaker. “ ‘Forgive my speaking plainly, but you 
are too good-looking for office work.’ Doesn’t 
it occur to them that even good-looking people 
must eat? And they are so smug and pleased 
with themselves. Well, here I am with two 
weeks’ salary between me and starvation—all on 
account of my looks. I believe I’ll go and teach 
in a convent, where there are not any men to be 
rendered hysterical by my appearance.” 

And she gave a terrible glance at Horace, and 
then feeling she had been too severe she beamed 
at him—beaming at Horace was perfectly safe 
—and added, “I’ve always liked you, Horrie; 
but I have no use for your sex—especially as em¬ 
ployers; they are too emotional.” 

“And what would you say, Pearl,” said Hor¬ 
ace in a deadly impartial tone, “if a man offered 
you a job, and in the first interview told his life’s 


42 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


story, asked you to write to him every day and 
promised you jewels if you stayed on the job 
until he got back—what would you say?” 

“I wouldn’t say a word,” answered Pearl. “I’d 
take to the tall timber. I know that kind.” 

“You are both absolutely ridiculous,” said 
Augusta haughtily. 

“You are absolutely right,” said Horace. 

“You don’t mean to say that someone has been 
trying to wangle Augusta away from you, Hor¬ 
ace?” asked Pearl, generously abandoning all in¬ 
terest in her own problems for the moment. 

The two others said no and yes simultaneously, 
and began to pour out the story. Augusta’s 
point was that Horace did not respect her busi¬ 
ness honor or else he would not ask her to break 
—Horace’s point was that Augusta did not real¬ 
ly love him or she wouldn’t think up all these ex¬ 
cuses—she’d marry him as he asked her to do. 
Ah, but he hadn’t had any idea of gettiiig mar¬ 
ried until he heard that she was going to take 
this place 1 He had—he had—he had come there 
to tell her, only she had been so excited about 

this other man-Nonsense, the trouble with 

Horace was that he was jealous. No, he was not 
at all jealous, but if he were he had good reason 



THE PRICELESS PEARL 43 

to be—writing to a man every day, and accept¬ 
ing jewels— 

Pearl kept looking from one to the other, 
deeply interested. In the first pause— which 
did not come for a long time—she said gravely, 
“How is it, Gussie? Do you really want to 
marry Horace?” 

She said it very nicely, but on her expressive 
face was written the thought that she herself 
could not see how anyone could want to marry 
him. 

“I do, I do,” answered Augusta rather tear¬ 
fully; “but how can I when I’ve given my 
word?” 

“I’ll tell you how you can,” said Pearl. “You 
marry him and disappear into the wilds of Can¬ 
ada, and I’ll take your place with the Conway 
family.” 

They stared at each other like people waiting 
for the sound of an explosion. They were trying 
to think of obstacles. 

“Except,” said Pearl, “that I’m not efficient 
like you, and not very good at mathematics.” 

“You were efficient in the way you ran the 
junior ball,” said Augusta. “Everyone said-” 

A spasm of amusement crossed Pearl’s face. 


44 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“Did I never tell you about that?” she said. 
“I vamped the senior at Amherst who had run 
theirs, and he not only gave me all the dope but 
he did most of my work. I was a mine of in¬ 
formation. But that isn’t efficiency.” 

“I disagree with you,” said Augusta. 

The more she thought of this idea, the more 
it seemed to her perfect. There had always 
been a kind of magic about Pearl, and wasn’t 
magic the highest form of human efficiency? It 
was not breaking one’s word to substitute a better 
article than that contracted for. To send Pearl 
in her place would be keeping her word doubly. 
She saw Pearl charming Antonia, dazzling the 
boy, setting all the Conway household to rights 
by ways peculiarly her own. 

“But perhaps they won’t want Pearl,” said 
Horace. “I mean-” 

“They won’t have any choice,” said the two 
girls together. 

“But I mean,” reiterated Horace, “that no one 
would want a governess who looked like Pearl.” 

Then the storm broke over his head. What? 
Wouldn’t he even let her be a governess? Did 
he want her just to starve? Would he tell her 
what she could do? Starve perhaps—just starve 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


45 


—all men were alike. Again Pearl began to 
stride up and down the room, flicking the front 
of her small black hat with her forefinger until 
finally it fell off and rolled on the floor like an 
old-fashioned cannon ball. If Horace had spok¬ 
en from motives of diplomacy he could not have 
done better for himself. His objection made the 
two girls a unit for the plan. It just showed, 
Pearl explained, that if Horace, who had known 
her all these years, really considered her looks an 
obstacle to her taking a place even as a gov¬ 
erness, why, it was hopeless to suppose that she 
could ever get another job. 

At length they sent him away—he had a busi¬ 
ness engagement of his own for lunch—and they 
settled down quietly to discuss the details of the 
plan over one of the small bare gray wood tables 
of the club’s dining room. Ordinarily they 
would have spent most of their time complaining 
about the club luncheon, which consisted large¬ 
ly of loose leaves of lettuce and dabs of various 
kinds of sauces; but now they were so interested 
that they were hardly conscious of what they put 
into their mouths. 

Of course, Pearl would be obliged to go in the 
character of Miss Exeter. Mr. Wood would un- 


46 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


doubtedly have given some description of the 
governess’ personal appearance when he tele¬ 
phoned his sister, as he had said he meant to do. 
But Augusta was not alarmed by this idea. Men 
were so queer about women’s looks that Mrs. 
Conway would say, “Isn’t that like a man, not 
even to know a great beauty when he sees one?” 
As to the daily letter, how fortunate that he had 
insisted it should be typewritten. Anyone could 
sign Augusta Exeter to a man who had seen her 
signature only once. 

“I hope you won’t be found out; I don’t see 
how you can be,” said Augusta. 

“I can’t see that it matters much if I am,” an¬ 
swered Pearl. “I’ll try to put it off, anyhow, 
until they have become attached to me for my¬ 
self.” And then suddenly falling back in her 
chair, she stared at her friend with opened eyes. 
“My dear, I can’t do it! How could I have for¬ 
gotten? I can’t leave Alfred!” 

Alfred was not a beautiful young lover, as her 
tone of lingering affection might have seemed to 
indicate, but a peculiarly ugly black-and-white 
cat—black where he ought to have been white, 
and vice versa—that is to say, black round one 
eye, which made him look dissipated, and black 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


47 


about the nose, which made him look dirty. Also 
he had lost one paw. Pearl had rescued him 
from a band of boys in an alley and cherished 
him with a steady maternal affection. 

“Oh, Alfred/’ said Augusta, as if this did not 
make much difference. 

This was not only wrong in tone but she had 
failed to say the thing Pearl wanted her to say, 
namely, that Mrs. Conway would be delighted if 
the new governess brought her pet cat with her. 
Pearl explained that Alfred was really no 
trouble in the house—he slept all day and caught 
mice at night— except one night he did tumble 
all the way downstairs on account of his paw. 

“And you’d be surprised, Gussie,” said Pearl, 
her whole generous face lighting up with admir¬ 
ation ; “that cat—that little creature made a noise 
like an elephant falling, he’s so solid.” 

But Augusta, who was not so easily moved to 
admiration as Pearl, was not at all moved now. 

“I can’t see,” she observed coldly, “what it is 
you see in Alfred that makes you love him so.” 

Pearl, who had really a nice nature, wasn’t 
angry. 

“It isn’t exactly that I love him so much,” she 
answered. “But I feel so sorry for him; and 


48 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


when I feel sorry for anyone they to a certain 
extent own me. I feel as if I could never make 
up to them for the way life has treated them. I 
feel tjiat way to Alfred—about his paw, you 
know.” 

“You didn’t feel that way to the man who 
cried in the Encyclopedia.” 

“I should say not,” answered Pearl. “No, I 
can’t pity him. He was such a poor sport about 
it. Men are poor sports where women are con¬ 
cerned—even Horace. If you had asked him to 
break his word because you had had a brain 
storm he’d have been shocked.” 

“He’d have been immensely flattered,” said 
Augusta reflectively. 

“But he thinks it’s absolutely all right for him 
to break up all your business arrangements be¬ 
cause he goes off halfcocked with a fantastic idea 
that you’ve fallen in love with a man you merely 
want to work for.” 

Augusta thought a minute and then she said, 
“It wasn’t quite so fantastic as you think, Pearl. 
I was attracted by Mr. Wood. I might have 
fallen in love with him if I had been brought 
into contact with him much more. Oh, Pearl, 
haven’t you ever felt a sudden charm like that?” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


49 


Pearl shook her head.' She could not say,— 
perhaps she did not really herself understand 
why such emotions were forbidden to her, but 
the true reason was that if her speaking counten¬ 
ance had ever turned upon a man with that 
thought in mind the next instant her lovely nose 
would have been buried in a tweed lapel or grat¬ 
ing against a stiff collar. 

“You know,” Augusta went on, “that I really 
love Horace; and Mr. Wood took no interest in 
me, except as a governess for his nieces; but have 
you never said to yourself, ‘There is the type of 
man whom I could have loved madly if only 
things had been different’?” 

Again Pearl’s head wagged. Then she said, 
“Describe my employer to me.” 

“Well,” Augusta began solemnly, “he has a 
smooth brown face out of which look two bright- 
blue eyes like a Chinaman.” 

Pearl scowled. 

“But Chinamen don’t have blue eyes,” she 
objected. 

“No more they do. Why did I keep thinking 
of China then? China-blue, perhaps, or maybe 
the way they are set. I think there is an angle— 
a little up at the corners. Then his shoulders 


50 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


are broad, or his waist is awfully thin, because 
his coat falls in that loose nice way, like the 
English officers who came to lecture at college.” 

“Mercy,” said Pearl, “what things you no¬ 
tice!” 

“And he’s very direct, and not at all afraid 
of saying what has to be said. And he doesn’t 
lecture you about women’s intuition or how he 
made his business success or any of those things 
that men always do talk about when they offer 
you a job. And oh, it rings in my ears the way he 
said as we parted, ‘If you give me your word I 
know I can trust you to keep it,’ or something 
like that.” 

And at this moment the housekeeper of the 
club came into the dining room, nominally to 
see that luncheon was being properly served, 
but actually, as she soon explained, because the 
club was so lonely in summer, and her little dog 
had been killed by an automobile the week be¬ 
fore. Pearl was, of course, immensely sympa¬ 
thetic about this loss; and Augusta, with a flash 
of efficiency, suggested that Alfred could live at 
the club for the two months Pearl was away, and 
the housekeeper greeted the idea with enthus¬ 
iasm. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


51 


And so, the last obstacle being removed, these 
two efficient women went upstairs to the library 
and, sitting side by side, with the black notebook 
between them, worked the whole thing out, as in 
their college days they had so often worked up 
an examination. All the facts that Wood had 
spread out for Augusta, Augusta now spread out 
for Pearl—the salary, the bonus, the characters 
of those involved, the results which Mr. Wood 
especially wished to see accomplished: That 
Antonia should be made clean and neat and 
dressed like a normal little girl; that Durland 
should be taught algebra thoroughly and made 
to stop smoking, though that would be difficult; 
that Mrs. Conway should not be worried by her 
former husband, and certainly prevented from 
lending him money. 

“And there is his address in Mexico, and 
you’re to write every day. That’s the most im¬ 
portant thing of all—to write every day.” 

Pearl took the notebook and put it into her 
pocketbook. 

“And how often does he write to me?” she 
inquired. 

Augusta smiled. 

“He never does—he never answers. I suppose 


52 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


it’s the first time in your life, Pearl, you ever 
wrote to a man who did not answer your letters.” 

“I rather like the idea,” said Pearl. 

They were interrupted by a telegram being 
brought in and given to Augusta. She opened 
it. 

“It’s from Mr. Wood,” she said; and added 
with surprise, “It seems to be about you.” 

“About me?” 

“No,” said Augusta with relief, “I read it 
wrong. It’s about Mrs. Conway’s jewels. He 
told me she had a string of priceless pearls that 
her husband gave her when they were first 
married. 

“The message says, ‘Please see that pearls are 
kept in safe on account of recent Long Island 
burglaries.’ ” She gave the yellow sheet to her 
friend. “Keep that,” she said, “ and be sure to 
mention in your first report that you have re¬ 
ceived it. That will make absolutely sure that 
you’re me.” 

“You ought to say ‘you’re I’ if you are going 
to be a governess,” said Pearl. 

“But I’m not,” said Augusta. 


CHAPTER TWO 

T HE following Thursday afternoon Pearl 
stepped from the fast train to the plat- 
from of the Southampton station. Since 
the train reached Quogue she had been agree¬ 
ably aware of the damp saltness in the air, which 
comes only from proximity to the open ocean. 
But now, on the platform, she smelled nothing 
but the fumes of innumerable exhausts, saw 
nothing but masses of automobiles crowding 
toward the station like a flock of parti-colored 
elephants. She stood dazed for a minute by the 
noise of self-starters and the crowd of arrivals, 
until, darting in and out under the elbows of 
chauffeurs and passengers, she saw a little bare¬ 
headed, barefooted figure in a dirty white dress 
edged with the finest Valenciennes lace. Pearl 
felt an instant conviction that this was her future 
charge. 


53 


54 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“Antonia,” she said in her deep voice, and the 
child made a rush for her. 

“Are you Miss Exeter?” she exclaimed, and 
she gave a little boyish shake to her head. “I 
must say I think you are much more than pleas¬ 
ing. My mother said you’d be much less. She 
drew me a picture of what she thought you’d 
look like. Mother doesn’t draw very well. I’m 
glad you’re not like that. If I’d taken that as 
a guide I’d never have found you at all.” 

She beckoned to a large green touring car, 
and having arranged about Pearl’s trunk and 
seen the bags put into the car, she herself sank 
beside Pearl on the wide back seat, while to 
steady herself on the slippery leather she raised 
one leg and clutched the back of the front seat 
with her bare flexible toes. 

“How do you like Southampton?” she said. 

If they had gone down the main street Pearl 
would have seen some old gray-shingled houses 
and elm trees that she would have honestly ad¬ 
mired, but they had turned eastward and were 
now driving down a perfectly straight road at 
the end of which, through a dip in the dunes, the 
deep blue of the afternoon sea could be seen. 
The country was flat in every direction except 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


55 


the north, where a wooded rise in the ground cut 
off the horizon. To be candid, Pearl did not 
greatly admire the prospect, but she said tact¬ 
fully, “I love the sea.” 

“Can you swim?” 

“Yes.” 

“Can you play tennis?” 

“Yes.” 

“Can you drive a car?” 

“No.” 

“Good!” said the child with her friendly 
smile. “I’m glad I’ve found something you can’t 
do. Beckett,” she said, leaning forward and 
shouting in the ear of the chauffeur, “I mean to 
teach Miss Exeter to drive.” 

“Maybe it’d be as well to learn yourself first, 
miss,” said the man coldly. 

Antonia sighed. 

“Beckett’s cross,” she said, “because I bent 
the fender coming up. My legs are too short to 
reach the foot brake in a hurry. Beckett knows 
that, but he doesn’t make allowances.” 

“Is it safe for you to drive, then?” asked Pearl. 

“Well, if you ask me, no,” said Antonia can¬ 
didly; “but as long as mother lets me do it, of 
course I’m going to. I wonder if you’re going 


56 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


to like us. I don’t see how anyone could like 
Dolly.” 

“What’s the matter with Dolly?” 

“Oh, about everything,” answered Antonia. 
“I’ll tell you the kind of person she is: If you 
forget something she asks you to do she treats 
you as if you were a moron to have forgotten it, 
and if she forgets something you ask her to do 
she treats you as if you were a moron to have 
asked her to do it.” 

“There must be something to be said for her,” 
Pearl suggested. 

Antonia considered the question. She was, as 
her uncle had said, the justest of created beings. 

“I suppose there must be, but I don’t know 
what it is. Then there’s Durland—he’s great— 
only he doesn’t notice me much. I wish I were 
a boy. I want to wear trousers and be free.” 

“You seem to me pretty fairly free.” 

Antonia laughed. 

“That’s funny,” she said. “I mean it’s funny 
that you said that exactly the way Uncle An¬ 
thony talks—that gentle tone that makes you feel 
like nothing at all. Do you like Uncle Anthony? 
Do you think he’s handsome?” 

“Yes, indeed I do,” answered Pearl, with the 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


57 


modest enthusiasm which she thought under the 
circumstances Augusta would have allowed her¬ 
self. 

“So do I,” said Antonia. “So does Miss Wel¬ 
lington, whose mother has the house next us. She 
took it before she knew Uncle Anthony was go¬ 
ing to be away all summer—at least that’s what 
mother and I think. Miss Wellington told me 
she thought him handsome and she said ‘And you 
can tell him I said so,’ but I didn’t—for rather 
a spiteful reason; I thought she wanted me to.” 

“It sounds that way to me, too,” said Pearl. 

“I’m glad you like him,” Antonia went on. 
“He likes you too. He telephoned mother about 
you. He said he had found a pearl—wasn’t 
that funny?” It was funnier than Antonia 
knew. “So now mother always speaks of you 
as the priceless pearl. Mother’s rather amus¬ 
ing, like that. He said you were not so much 
on looks—just pleasing, he said. But I think 
you are perfectly beautiful. Do you think you’re 
beautiful, Miss Exeter?” 

This was the first crisis. Pearl knew that if 
she said no Antonia would distrust her honesty, 
and if she said yes it might be used against her. 
So she compromised. 


58 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“I’ll answer that question the day I leave,” 
she said. 

“I’ll tell you something funny about that,” 
said Antonia. “Perhaps I oughtn’t to, but I’m 
going to. Uncle Anthony made mother promise 
not to send you away until he came back, no mat¬ 
ter what happened; but mother says she knows 
a way to get round that if the worst comes to the 
worst. You see, I don’t want to hurt your feel¬ 
ings; but we all felt it was rather hard on us to 
have a governess at all in summer. Mother 
thinks it’s hard too. She says it’s just one of 
Uncle Anthony’s ideas. She says a man can’t 
take an interest in anything unless he thinks he’s 
running it. So she just lets him think he runs the 
family, and then when he’s away she does what 
she thinks best. This is our gate now. What do 
you think of the house? We only rent it. There’s 
Durland going in for a swim before dinner. I 
wonder if he’d wait for us. Durland I Dur¬ 
land!” 

It was quite extraordinary the volume of 
sound that could issue from so small a person as 
Antonia. She sprang out of the car over the 
closed door and ran round the house toward the 
ocean, while Pearl entered the front door alone. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


59 


A slim, gray-haired figure in delft blue came 
out of a neighboring room and said “Good heav¬ 
ens, you are not Miss Exeter, are you?” 

Pearl smiled her most winning smile. 

“Won’t I do?” she said. 

But merriment did not seem quite in order. 
Mrs. Conway’s manners were perfect, but she 
was not going to begin by being any more friend¬ 
ly than she could help. 

She answered politely, “Oh, perfectly, I feel 
sure. Only you do not look quite as my brother’s 
description led me to expect; but then men are 
not very good at describing women.” 

Her hair, prematurely gray, gave more the 
effect of powder. Her brows were arched so 
much that she seemed to be looking up from 
under a thatch. They were blue eyes; not quite 
China blue, as Pearl had heard the family eyes 
described; they were sad, appealing eyes, which 
kept veiling themselves in an effort to seem dig¬ 
nified and remote. Yes, Pearl thought, there was 
something pathetic about Mrs. Conway—some¬ 
thing that made her feel just a little bit as Al¬ 
fred’s lost paw made her feel; so she beamed 
gently down upon her new employer while tha«t 
lady continued: 


60 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“I don’t see how Antonia ever found you— 
from his account. Fortunately the child is won¬ 
derfully quick or you would be waiting at the 
station still. Where is she, by the way?” 

Pearl explained that she had dashed down to 
the beach to ask her brother to wait for them, and 
would it be all right if she went swimming too? 
Over Mrs. Conway’s shoulder Pearl could catch 
a glimpse of the piazza, and beyond that the 
faultless blue rim of the horizon; and as she 
talked she could hear close by the thud and hiss 
as a wave went up the beach. She longed to be 
in the water. 

“Oh, yes, go if you want to,” said Mrs. Con¬ 
way. She was not exactly cordial. Gentle, 
friendly people like Edna Conway always go too 
far when they try to be cold; they have no ex¬ 
perience in the role. “But try not to keep them 
waiting too long. My children hate to be kept 
waiting.” 

“I do myself,” answered Pearl gayly. 

“Really?” said Mrs. Conway, and the arched 
eyebrows went up under the gray thatch. 

Pearl saw she had said the wrong thing; but 
whether it was wrong for a governess to dislike 
being kept waiting, or presumptuous to put her- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


61 


self into the same interesting group as the Con¬ 
way children, she had no idea. She did not 
much care either. The smooth blue sea was 
waiting for her, and she went springing upstairs, 
slinging off a string of beads— translucent pearl- 
gray glass, the color of her eyes—and thinking 
to herself that it was a mercy she had had sense 
enough to put her bathing dress in her bag. She 
tore it out from the lower layers so violently that 
shoes and brushes flew into the air like stones 
from a volcano; and in a surprisingly short time 
she was running through the deserted sitting 
room, out across the piazza, down the steep 
wooden steps to the beach. 

At the edge of the water Durland was stand¬ 
ing with his back to her. Although he was a 
thin boy of fifteen in a striped red-and-blue bath¬ 
ing suit, he was standing with one knee ad¬ 
vanced, his hand on his hip and a cigarette dang¬ 
ling from his lip, as if he were the late King 
Edward VII at Homburg. Beside him, Anton¬ 
ia was digging a hole like a dog—possibly her 
sleeping hole for the evening—and talking all 
the time. She was talking about Miss Exeter. 

Durland was deeply opposed to the idea of 
Miss Exeter. In the first place he was opposed 


62 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


to women, as a prisoner is opposed to stone 
walls. He was surrounded by them, dominated 
by them. His mother, his mother’s maid, who 
had been with them forever, his sister Dorothy— 
they all bullied him and cut him off from his 
fellow men. Sometimes, with disgust, he heard 
himself using the feminized vocabulary of the 
women about him, and though he was as mascu¬ 
line as possible—smoked and everything—he 
could not shake off their influence. Then he 
hated governesses as representing that most 
emasculated form of that most emasculated 
thing—learning. His friends had already 
made fun of him about it. It had been 
said on the beach, “I hear they’re getting a gov¬ 
erness to keep you in order, Durlie.” He had de¬ 
cided to make it clear that he had nothing to do 
with the woman. He doubted if he even allowed 
her to teach him algebra, though as a matter of 
fact he wanted to pass his examination. And 
then, last but not least of his reasons, he felt op¬ 
posed to anything that Antonia so wildly recom¬ 
mended, because that was one way of keeping 
her in the complete subjection to him in which 
she lived. 

So while she chattered of Miss Exeter and her 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


63 


beauty and her youngness and the sort of nice¬ 
ness of the way in which she looked at you, he 
stood gazing out to sea as if the best he could do 
for his little sister was just not to hear her at all. 

Then Antonia cried “Here she is!” and ex¬ 
ecuted a four-footed leap on finger tips and 
toes; and then Durland was aware of a circular 
motion of white arms and long white legs whirl¬ 
ing past his shoulder, and the new governess 
had plunged into the Atlantic. 

This really wouldn’t do at all—governess do¬ 
ing hand-springs. It looked peculiar, and yet it 
did pique the curiosity. He sauntered a step 
nearer with a slow, sophisticated, loose-kneed 
walk. Miss Exeter and Antonia were behaving 
foolishly, and noisily, too—splashing each other 
and laughing. He himself went in as if the object 
of a swim were not to disturb one unnecessary 
drop of water. He swam a stroke or two under 
the surface, and coming up out of a wave found 
himself face to face with Pearl. The wonderful 
radiance of those gray eyes came to rest on his; 
and his heart melted within him like a pat of 
butter. It wasn’t just her beauty though that 
would probably have been enough; but it was the 
immense, generous friendliness toward all the 


64 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


world when the world would allow her to be 
friendly that warmed and comforted his young 
spirit. He gazed at her, and suddenly the gaze 
was cut short by Pearl’s decision to stand on her 
head. Two white feet clapped together in front 
of Durland’s nose. 

If she had been less beautiful he would have 
said to himself that she really did not know how 
to behave. As it was, he thought that she would 
certainly lay herself open to unkind criticism. 
He wanted to protect her, and he was not with¬ 
out tact. He said, when she came to the surface, 
blinking the water from her long, matted eye¬ 
lashes, “It’s nice to have our own beach, isn’t it? 
—to be able to do what we like—stand on our 
heads or anything without being talked about.” 

She did not seem to get it at all. 

“Let’s swim out,” she said, and laid her ear 
upon the face of the sea as if she were a baby 
listening to the ticking of a watch. He swam 
beside her, looking into her face, and she gave 
him a friendly little beam every now and then. 
It was wonderful to be under no necessity of 
suppressing her cheerful kindness of heart. “Let 
it do its deadly work” was her feeling. 

They had a good long swim, and when they 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


65 


came in were met by Mrs. Conway at the head of 
the steps. She was dressed for dinner in a faint 
pink tea gown with pearls. 

She said civilly, but all on one note, “Dinner 
is ready, Miss Exeter.” 

Yes, she who had so often waited uncomplain¬ 
ingly for hours for her children, pretending that 
the clocks were wrong, or the dinner hour 
changed, or that the mistake had been hers, was 
now feeling outraged at being obliged to wait ten 
minutes for this governess her brother had so 
obstinately insisted on engaging. 

“Oh, I won’t be a minute, Mrs. Conway,” said 
Pearl, feeling genuinely sorry to have incon¬ 
venienced anyone, but not feeling at all guilty 
as Mrs. Conway wanted her to feel. 

“Yes, I do hope you’ll contrive not to be very 
long,” she said, and could not understand the 
cause for a dark look her son gave her as he pur¬ 
sued his shivering way upstairs. 

She went into the sitting room, where her 
daughter Dorothy was already waiting. It was 
not a miracle that Dolly was ready on time, but 
a phenomenon to be explained by the fact that 
she had a bridge engagement immediately after 
dinner. 


66 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


She was a pretty, round-faced girl, rather like 
her mother, except that her hair was still a na¬ 
tural light brown, and her eyes were brown too. 
She did not raise her head, as her mother en¬ 
tered, from the fashion paper which she was 
languidly studying. 

“Not a very promising beginning, is it?” said 
Mrs. Conway. She knew Dolly would be an¬ 
noyed and she wished to cut herself off com¬ 
pletely from the guilty one. “Do you suppose 
she’s going to keep us waiting for dinner half an 
hour every evening?” 

Dolly bent her head to examine a picture of 
an ermine wrap. 

“Oh, well, mother,” she said, “what can you 
expect if you give in to every whim of Uncle 
Anthony’s?” 

Mrs. Conway made a pathetic little grimace 
—pathetic because it was so obviously intended 
to win Dolly to her side—to make the girl feel 
that she and her mother had a secret alliance 
against the world at large. 

“You’ll find, my dear,” she said, “that in deal¬ 
ing with men it’s easier to yield at the moment 
and find a way out at leisure.” 

But Dolly, who had not even looked up long 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


67 


enough to see the grimace, answered with a bit¬ 
ter little laugh, “It may be easier for you, but 
not for us. We have to suffer. That’s the 
trouble with you, mother—you think of no one 
in the world but yourself.” 

Her mother did not answer—she could not. 
Tears rose in her blue eyes. She had enormous 
capacity for being hurt. Strangely enough, there 
was something in her that drove those she loved 
to say exactly the thing that would hurt her most. 
It had always been so with her husband, and now 
it was so with her children. 

A misplaced fortitude always led her to hide 
the fact that she was hurt. 

She said now with false gayety, “Well, my 
dear, I hope some day you will find someone 
who loves you even better than I do, then.” 

“I’m sure I hope so,” said Dolly, turning the 
page. 

Her manner suggested that if she could not 
do that much her life would indeed be a failure. 

Mrs. Conway stepped out on the piazza. That 
was the way—you gave up your life to making 
your children happy, to shielding them from 
grief and anxiety, and then they blamed you and 
hurt you horribly for something that was not at 


68 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


all your fault. She felt a moment of resentment 
toward her brother. Why had Anthony insisted 
on this silly plan? She had been too considerate 
of Anthony’s feelings; she ought to have refused 
to have a governess at all. It was much wiser in 
this world to be stern and cruel. She decided to 
be stern and to begin with Miss Exeter, who en¬ 
tered the sitting room at this moment. She was 
wearing a plain cream-colored dress out of 
which her lovely head—all brown and rose col¬ 
or and gold—seemed strangely bright colored. 

“I suppose you’re Dolly,” she said in her deep 
warm voice, and held out an open hand. 

Dolly, like most young people, estimated 
beauty as the best of gifts. She might have been 
almost as much captured by Pearl’s as her 
brother had been, except that her ego was taken 
up with the outrage of her being kept waiting— 
she, the most important person in the house, who 
had taken the trouble not only to order dinner 
on time but—what did not always happen—to 
be on time herself. 

She rose, and allowing a limp hand to pass 
rapidly through Miss Exeter’s, she said, “Do 
let’s go in to dinner, mother.” 

“Yes, indeed,” said her mother, coming in rap- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 69 

idly from the piazza. “We dine at eight, Miss 
Exeter. Another evening I’m sure you will be 
on time.” 

This was not perhaps a very terrible beginning 
to a regime of sternness; but to Durland, just 
getting down, it appeared one of the most dis¬ 
gusting exhibitions of slave driving that he had 
ever heard. 

“It is entirely my fault that we are late,” he 
said, giving his mother a steady, brave look. 

She answered irrelevantly, “Why, Durland, 
how nice you look! Are you going anywhere 
this evening?” 

“Very likely,” he answered coldly. He 
thought to himself, “Why must she give Miss 
Exeter the impression that I look like a cowboy 
generally?” He was of course going nowhere. 

So, having completely alienated her two elder 
children—Antonia had early supper by herself 
—Mrs. Conway found herself obliged to direct 
her conversation to the interloper. She had her 
revenge, if she had only known it, by talking 
about her brother, questioning Miss Exeter 
about him. Had he seemed very much rushed? 
Did he say anything about his golf clubs? 


70 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Wasn’t it a delightful office? Wonderful! So 
cool in summer. 

Pearl hazarded that the harbor was very 
beautiful, and learned that Mr. Wood’s office 
looked north—up the Hudson. She must be 
careful. 

Durland inquired with a friendly grin wheth¬ 
er Uncle Anthony had frightened her to death. 

“Frightened me?” said Pearl, trying to gain 
time. 

“Some people are awfully afraid of him.” 

“Naughty little boys are,” said Dolly. 

It always annoyed her to see her brother sit¬ 
ting at the foot of the dinner table. They had 
fought about it for five years—whether she as 
eldest child or he as the only man in the house 
ought to occupy this place of honor. 

“I’m not afraid of him,” said Durland. 

“Oh, are you a naughty little boy?” said Dolly, 
laughing in an irritating way. 

Mrs. Conway, to avert war, began talking 
about the day’s schedule—the problem of how to 
work in a few lessons without interfering with 
any of the more important pleasures of her 
children. 

“Antonia first, I think. Wouldn’t that be your 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


71 


idea, Dolly—Antonia at half past nine? Dolly 
and Durland sometimes sleep rather late—so 
good for them, I think—but Antonia is up early. 
She reads sometimes from five o’clock. She 
reads a great deal—everything.” 

“Quite the little genius, according to mother,” 
said Dolly. 

“She is clever,” answered Mrs. Conway pas¬ 
sionately. “I don’t know why you two are al¬ 
ways so disagreeable about your little sister.” 

“Because you spoil her so, mother,” said 
Dolly. 

“Because she’s so dirty, mother,” said Dur¬ 
land. 

Mrs. Conway made this attack a means of 
aligning herself with her children against the 
governess. 

“Oh, well,” she said, “that is all going to be 
changed now. Miss Exeter is going to make us 
all over. Antonia is to be clean and tidy, though 
why in the world your uncle thinks it desirable 
for a child of eleven to think of nothing but 
clothes I can’t see. And Durland is to made into 
a mathematician. I suppose I’m very ignorant, 
but I never could see what good algebra does a 
person—all about grayhounds leaping after 


72 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


hares, and men doing pieces of work at seventy- 
five cents a day. I wish I could find some like 
that. Poor Durland, like so many people with 
a creative turn of mind, simply cannot do mathe¬ 
matics.” 

“More people than creative geniuses are poor 
at mathematics,” said Pearl genially; and Dur¬ 
land, afraid that she would identify him with his 
mother in this ridiculous point of view, looked 
into those pools of gray light and said modestly 
that he was just a dub at problems. 

“Then at half past eleven,” Mrs. Conway went 
on, “you’ll be free to take Antonia to the beach— 
the public beach, where she likes to get a swim 
and see her little friends.” 

“Fight a round or two with her little enemies,” 
said her brother. 

“She’s only fought once this summer,” said 
his mother. “And I for one think she was per¬ 
fectly right. Maud is the most annoying child— 
ugly and impertinent like her mother, and very 
badly brought up.” 

“Well, that’s not a patch on what they think 
about Antonia,” said Durland, and he turned to 
Miss Exeter. “Gee, it was great! This Maud 
child said something rude about Antonia’s bare 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


73 


feet, and she sailed in and landed her one on the 
jaw; and they fought so that the nurses and gov¬ 
ernesses all ran screaming away and the life-sav¬ 
ing men had to come in and separate them.” 

Mrs. Conway hated this story about her 
youngest child. 

She rose from table in order to interrupt it, 
observing that Durland needn’t worry, as now 
they were all going to be made perfect. 

Pearl on the whole felt encouraged. Augusta, 
with all her efficiency, could not have swung 
this job, she thought. It required a solid, al¬ 
most irrational good temper, which Augusta 
did not possess. Mrs. Conway would have ren¬ 
dered Augusta acid and powerless in one eve¬ 
ning. Pearl was not so efficient in certain ways, 
but she had good temper and a robust will. 

She and Durland went into the sitting room 
while Mrs. Conway was getting Dolly off to her 
bridge party. Durland did what, alas, men have 
been doing for many centuries—he attempted 
to impress the object of his affection by doing 
one of the things most certain to alienate her. 
He stood before her, lighting a cigarette, shak¬ 
ing the match deliberately in the air, his legs 
rather wide apart. Pearl, who had sunk into a 


74 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


nice deep chair, sprang up and put her hand on 
his shoulder. 

“Oh, don’t smoke,” she said. 

Hundreds of women had said that to him. 
Even the lovely Caroline Temple—his former 
love—had said that her parents had forbidden 
her to have him at the house on account of his 
smoking; such a bad example. 

“Caroline,” he had said quietly, “I simply do 
openly what all the others do secretly.” 

He had not wavered about it. Neither had 
her parents. He and Caroline met at the tennis 
club and at the beach—no longer at her house. 
But he had never thought of changing his habits. 
His cigarette was to him what a car is to a the¬ 
atrical star—a symbol of greatness. He was 
firm now, even under the pleading of a new idol. 

“I’m afraid I can’t give it up,” he said. “I’m 
afraid it has too much of a grip on me for that.” 

He frowned as one who, looking inward, saw 
nothing but vice and ruin. He was disappoint¬ 
ed to find that she just let it drop—as if she were 
not vitally interested in saving him. But before 
he had time to commit the natural mistake of 
asking her why she did not rescue him from his 
worse self, his mother came back into the room. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


75 


Her first words were, “Do you think that a 
good picture of my brother?” 

Something mocking and teasing in her tone 
unnerved Pearl a little; so that instead of fol¬ 
lowing the direction of Mrs. Conway’s eyes she 
said rather wildly, “Where?” 

Durland came to her rescue by politely giving 
her a large silver frame in which was the photo¬ 
graph of a man she was prepared to admire, and 
so she did admire him—so much that something 
tense was apparent as she gazed into those China- 
blue eyes, which looked—if one had not had 
private information—as if they were brown. 

Mrs. Conway watched with sly amusement. 
The mocking quality in her question had not 
arisen, as Pearl half feared, from any doubt as 
to the new governess’ identity, but rather from 
the suspicion that there was more between her 
brother and this lovely creature than had been 
confessed _ke many gentle sweet people, Edna 
Conway was extremely suspicious; her mind 
ran rapidly over a situation, examining though 
not necessarily believing all the darkest possi¬ 
bilities. She did not actually suspect her brother 
of finding a safe home for a dangerous girl dur¬ 
ing his absence, but she did say to herself—per- 


76 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


haps not unnaturally, “There’s more in this than 
meets the eye.” 

A voice from the piazza called, “Did An¬ 
thony’s pearl arrive?” And a woman in eve¬ 
ning dress entered. 

“Yes, Cora, this is she,” said Mrs. Conway, 
and she added with a certain hint of malice, 
“You ought to know each other—both so conse¬ 
crated to doing whatever Anthony wants done. 
Miss Exeter, Miss Wellington.” 

Miss Wellington’s emotions were clearly writ¬ 
ten on her face. She had been in love with An¬ 
thony ever since he succeeded. This which 
sounds like a paradox was the simple truth. To 
her, success was not necessarily financial— 
though Wood’s had had this agreeable aspect— 
but importance and preeminence were to her as 
essential elements in male attraction as feminine 
beauty is to most men. When she was eighteen 
and Anthony still in the School of Mines there 
had been sentimental scenes which had left her 
cold. She occasionally referred to them as “the 
time when you thought you wanted to marry 
me,” and he did not contradict her. He had 
thought he did. He still admired her—she was 
elegant in appearance, beautifully dressed, com- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


77 


petent in all the practical aspects of life. If she 
had married someone else he would have said to 
her, “Your marriage was a great blow to me, 
Cora. I had always fancied that some day you 

and I-” But he never would have said it 

until after she was safely married. 

She had, however, no intention of marrying 
anyone else—for the simple reason that Anthony 
was by far the most attractive man of importance 
that she knew. Her feelings on discovering 
Pearl—the young person she had heard des¬ 
cribed as being of merely pleasing appearance— 
to be an exuberant beauty, and discovering her, 
moreover, staring sentimentally at Anthony’s 
picture, were not suspicions; she had the con¬ 
viction of disaster. She couldn’t be cordial; and, 
Pearl, who had the kind of sensitiveness that 
comes from generosity, not from egotism, saw 
that the moment had come for her to go upstairs 
and write her first letter to the man whose face 
she liked so much. 

She had always been a poor correspondent. 
She had never enjoyed writing before, but now 
the idea of pouring herself out—or rather not 
herself, but her observation of a situation in 
which he was vitally interested—delighted her. 



78 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


All of us, it has been said, can write well if we 
have something interesting to say. What Pearl 
had to say could not fail to be interesting to the 
man she was writing to. There was no motive 
for caution. At last she had found a man with 
whom she could be candid and natural. Late 
into the night the sound of a portable typewriter 
could be heard ticking from the room of the 
new governess. 

It was not easy to put a routine into operation 
in the Conway household. At half past nine, the 
hour set for Antonia’s lessons, Antonia was no¬ 
where to be found. Pearl at last ventured to tap 
at Mrs. Conway’s bedroom door. Mrs. Conway 
was sitting up in bed, in white satin and yellow 
lace, with her breakfast tray on her lap. 

In response to the news that her youngest child 
was missing, she answered, “She’s probably gone 
crabbing. I’m afraid that if you want to do les¬ 
sons in summer you will have to get up a little 
earlier. She was out of the house by seven, I 
dare say.” And she smiled maliciously. 

Pearl saw that cooperation was unlikely, hos¬ 
tility probable, and withdrew. 

Durland, her second pupil, presented himself 
a little ahead of time. He came downstairs at 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


79 


ten, drank a cup of black coffee and ate a peach. 
He was recklessly wearing his last pair of clean 
white trousers. He was paler and more like a 
young bird than usual. He, too, had his prob¬ 
lems. 

While willing to oblige Miss Exeter in every 
particular, while eager to help her and make her 
appear a worker of miracles, her mere proximity 
prevented his mind from functioning at all. Do 
what she could, her efforts to get him thinking 
about the problem of three men, A, B and C, 
who, working together, could do a piece of work 
in three days, was like trying to crank a dead 
automobile. She tried beaming upon him, she 
tried being severe; either way his intense 
emotion flooded his mental processes. 

She thought, “I’ve solved worse problems than 
this, but I’m sure I don’t know what to do.” 

He himself gave her the clew. She had ex¬ 
plained for the third time that if you let x equal 
the number of days that it took A, working alone 
—when he interrupted her. He was sitting be¬ 
side her, leaning his head on his hand and star¬ 
ing at her in a maze of admiration. 

Suddenly he said, “Do you like teaching, Miss 
Exeter?” 


80 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“I like teaching girls,” she answered with a 
quick inspiration. 

He drove his unwilling intelligence to take 
in this incredible statement. 

“Girls,” he said, opening his honest blue eyes 
and wrinkling his forehead. “Why girls?” 

“They’re so much cleverer than boys.” 

She tossed it off as if were a well-known and 
generally admitted fact. He was gentle with 
her. 

“People think just the opposite,” he said. 

“Men do.” 

“I think you’re wrong about that, really,” 
Durland said. “I think anyone—even a very 
just man like Uncle Anthony—would say that 
women can’t think, at least not like men.” 

“Would he, indeed?” said Pearl. “Well, I 
don’t know him; but he may be the kind of man 
who prefers inferior people of both sexes.” 

Durland, unable to believe she really thought 
this, looked wistfully into her face for a sign of 
relenting. 

“Of course,” he said, “you are very unusual. 
You must not judge other women by yourself.” 

“I was fifteenth in my class,” said Pearl. 
“Quite stupid compared to the others; but even 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


81 


I never had any trouble with algebra. I put 
my mind on it. That the trouble with boys— 
they’re so scattered.” 

This was cruel, considering who had scattered 
him; but like many cruelties it worked. 

As the hour finished, Dolly came downstairs 
and said, without looking at anyone, that she 
herself was going immediately in the motor to 
Shinnecock for her golf lesson and could not de¬ 
lay an instant; but if Antonia were there and 
ready there was no objection to dropping her 
and Miss Exeter at the public beach. At that 
moment Antonia, who, just as her mother had 
suggested, had been crabbing since dawn, ap¬ 
peared on the lawn, streaked with seaweed and 
exuding a faintly ancient and fishy smell. Dolly 
was like steel and would not allow her a mo¬ 
ment for changing; and so, dropping her crabs 
and nets on the piazza, Antonia with Miss 
Exeter got into the car after Dolly, and were 
duly dropped at the little group of dark-red 
bathing houses that formed the entrance to the 
public beach. 

Pearl found the child, in spite of her person¬ 
al untidiness, a most agreeable companion. She 
had read widely and with imagination. She 


82 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


knew a great deal of poetry—rather martial 
poetry—by heart; all of Horatius, for instance, 
which she said she usually recited to herself in 
the dentist’s chair and from which she gained 
comfort 

They were walking up the wide steps to the 
bathing house as she spoke, and she stopped and 
bent down to examine a boy’s bicycle—she was a 
connoisseur of bicycles. 

They came in sight of the beach now—all set 
out with bright-colored umbrellas like gay pois¬ 
onous mushrooms. It was the hour when the 
beach was given over to children. 

Pearl was thinking that it looked very pretty, 
when once again she heard Antonia’s clarion 
voice break out at her elbow. 

“Hi, there, you kids! Leave that fort alone! 
It’s mine!” 

She darted down the narrow boardwalk to¬ 
ward an immense hole in the sand, scattering 
a band of neatly dressed children, much as the 
effete Romans were scattered by the first on¬ 
slaught of the northern barbarians. Pearl could 
not help laughing as she saw children run to 
their governesses or snatched back by their 
nurses; but the next moment she was sorry, for 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


83 


she saw that it was being said in various tongues 
that Antonia was quite the worst brought-up 
child in the world. Pearl was nothing if not a 
partisan, and she was already completely on 
Antonia’s side. 

She and Antonia were supposed to bathe early 
so as to leave the two Conway bathhouses free 
for Mrs. Conway and Dolly when they appeared 
at a later and more fashionable hour. “Every¬ 
thing in our family is done for Dolly,” said An¬ 
tonia when she was finally dragged out of the 
water, “It makes me tired the way mother in¬ 
dulges every whim of hers.” 

Rebellious or not, however, Antonia was 
dressed—as much dressed as she ever was, which 
was about three-quarters as much as other little 
girls—by half after twelve. 

She and Pearl went back to the beach and sat 
down under the red-and-black-striped umbrella 
which the life-saving man had stuck in the sand 
for them as if he were about to do a pole vault 
with it. And presently Durland, ready for his 
swim, came and plopped down beside them, and 
immediately a girl in a one-piece tomato-col¬ 
ored bathing dress rose from another part of the 
beach and came and sat on the other side of him. 


84 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Antonia, with a thin brown arm, still smelling 
very slightly of crabs in spite of her swim, 
clasped about Pearl’s neck, blew in her gover¬ 
ness’ ear the information that this was Caroline 
Temple, Durland’s best girl. Like so many 
courtships, this one, to the outside world, seemed 
to be carried on principally by the lady. She 
neither looked at nor spoke to Pearl and An¬ 
tonia. 

To Durland she said, “Shall we go in now?” 

Durland was digging a small hole near Miss 
Exeter’s hand; his shoulder was turned to Caro¬ 
line and he did not shift it as he replied, “You 
can if you like.” 

There was a pause. Apparently she didn’t 
like, for she did not move, and after a time she 
said in the same tone of lowered confidence, “I 
have the car here. I’ll drive you home.” 

“Thanks,” said Durland. “I’m on my bi¬ 
cycle.” Another pause. 

“Shall we play tennis this afternoon?” 

“I may,” answered Durland. 

Pearl began to feel her sex pride wounded. 
She bent forward, and beaming upon the new¬ 
comer, she said, “You play tennis?” 

Caroline just glanced at her. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


85 


“Of course I do,” she said. 

She had not the smallest intention of being 
rude, for she was a sweet-tempered child; even 
less did it occur to her to be jealous of an elderly 
woman of twenty-four; but her mind, concen¬ 
trated upon the pursuit of Durland, was ren¬ 
dered irritable by inconsequential interruptions. 
Durland, however, though no critic of manners, 
was aware that a gesture of friendship from a 
goddess had not been gratefully received. 

“You might be civil about it,” he said, and 
then looking up at Pearl, he asked in a softened 
tone of adoration whether she would like to play 
tennis that afternoon. 

“Doubles?” said Caroline, as if this were, of 
course, possible though utterly undesirable. 

“Would you like to play doubles?” Durland 
asked again. 

“If it is convenient to your mother,” said 
Pearl. 

Durland dismissed such an idea as repellent 
to him and, glancing over his shoulder to Caro¬ 
line, he said, “All right. Miss Exeter and I 
will play you—if you can get a fourth.” 

It was not the way Caroline had designed the 
set and she said so. She said clearly and rather 


86 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


complainingly that she had expected to play 
with Durland, and yet she did not seem wound¬ 
ed so much as thwarted. 

“I’m sure I don’t know whom I can get,” she 
said. 

“I suppose you can get the faithful Wally— 
anyone can get Wally.” 

“I thought you did not like Wally.” 

“I?” said Durland, as if it were far beneath 
him ever to have been aware of Wally’s exis¬ 
tence; and without any further answer he got 
up and walked into the Atlantic so suddenly that 
Miss Temple, scrambling as rapidly as possible 
to her feet, was several yards behind him as he 
dived into his first wave. 

“Isn’t she pretty?” said Antonia. “She’s been 
his best girl for two summers.” 

“I don’t think he’s very nice to her,” said 
Pearl. 

“Well,” said Antonia, giving one of her little 
shakes of the head, “it would seem wonderful 
to me if Durlie spoke to me at all. However, it 
may be over. Like what Shakespeare says—one 
foot on land. Next time I have a chance I’ll 
look and see if her picture is still in the back 
of his watch.” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


87 


Presently they were back in the same order— 
Durland first, and Miss Temple following. He 
sat dripping, and taking a cigarette from a pack¬ 
age he had left on the sand, he began groping 
for a match. 

“Oh, Durland,” said Miss Temple, “I do wish 
you wouldn’t smoke. It isn’t good for you. It 
looks so badly.” Durland gave a short laugh 
that seemed to say that if he had regarded public 
opinion he would have made of life a very diff¬ 
erent thing. In her distress Caroline turned to 
the stranger whose presence she had so far re¬ 
fused to acknewledge. “Don’t you think it’s 
wrong for him to smoke?” she said. 

It was Pearl’s moment. 

“Why, no,” she answered, “I can’t see any¬ 
thing wrong about it.” 

She put out a lazy hand and took one from the 
little paper envelope. Durland’s hand, with the 
match in it, was arrested. 

“But—you’re not going to smoke—here? On 
the public beach?” 

“Isn’t it allowed?” asked Pearl, all innocence. 
“It must be—you are smoking. Let me have a 
match.” 

“I haven’t a match,” he said, and threw away 


88 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


his own cigarette so that she could not get a light 
from that. It was an important moment in his 
life. He thought rapidly. “I hope you won’t 
think me fresh or anything,” he said, “but I 
don’t think a governess ought to smoke, if you 
know what I mean—not in public anyhow.” 

She wasn’t angry, only thoughtful. 

“Well, that’s only your opinion.” 

It touched him that she knew so little of the 
world—or of her own position. He said gently, 
“I’m afraid you’d find it was everybody’s 
opinion.” 

“Ought you to be so much influenced by the 
opinion of other people?” 

“Yes, indeed,” he answered. The cigarette 
with which she was still playing might separate 
them forever. His mother, he knew, was just 
waiting for a good excuse to send her away, and 
where could she find a better one? 

She argued it further, tapping the cigarette 
on her hand as if she were about to place it be¬ 
tween her lips. 

“But you don’t pay any attention when people 
say you oughtn’t to smoke.” 

Even then he did not know that a trap had 
been set for him. On the contrary, he thought 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


89 


he had an original idea of some beauty when he 
said impulsively, “I tell you what, I’ll swear off 
if you will.” 

She seemed to debate it through an agonizing 
second or two, while he looked at her with dog¬ 
like eyes. Then she smiled and gave him a 
strong hand. 

“All right,” she said. “That’s a bargain.” 

Durland felt flooded with joy—not only at 
having saved a beloved woman but at having 
done it in just the right way. He picked up the 
package of cigarettes and flung it toward the 
sea. It did not quite reach the water and Caro¬ 
line sprang up and brought it back to him. 

“I suppose you thought that was empty,” she 
said. 

He tossed it away again without thanking her, 
but at last to her repeated clamors he yielded the 
information that he had given up smoking. 

“Oh, Durland,” she said, “now you can come 
to the house again. Is that why you did it?” 

He did not want to deceive the girl, but he 
could not resist the temptation of allowing her to 
deceive herself. He did not answer directly; but 
rising, he said, “Anyone who wishes to swim to 
the barrels with me may now do so.” 


90 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


It was more like an invitation than anything 
he had said all morning, and they were soon 
swimming side by side. 

Presently Mrs. Conway in a dark-blue silk 
bathing dress with ruffles appeared and dropped 
a string of pearls into the lap of the governess 
as if they had been beads. Pearl had never had 
such pearls in her hands before. They were 
heavier—much heavier than she had imagined, 
and brighter, more iridescent, better worth look¬ 
ing at. She was not given to envy, but she was 
aware of thinking that there was something 
slightly wrong with a world where Mrs. Con¬ 
way had pearls and she had not. Antonia in¬ 
sisted on her putting them around her neck. 

“It’s much safer—you can’t drop them in the 
sand—Cousin Cora always does— that’s Miss 
Wellington; she’s no relation, but she likes us to 
call her cousin—she wants us to her aunt, but 
mother says, Wait till she is.’ ” 

“Oh,” said Pearl, conscious of a distinct 
pang, “is she going to be?” 

Antonia gave one of her head shakes. 

“Mother says, ‘Say not the struggle nought 
availeth.’ Older people make a lot of fun of 
their best friends, don’t they?” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


91 


“AVould you like her for an aunt?” said Pearl. 

“Yes and no,” Antonia replied. “I think the 
wedding would be fun, and I think Ed be a 
bridesmaid or something; but as a family we 
prefer to keep Uncle Anthony to ourselves. 
Mother says if he marries Cora we wouldn’t 
lose him as much as if he married a stranger. 
There was a Russian actress one year, with red 
hair; I didn't think her a bit pretty. She used 
to send mother flowers and seats for her plays. 
They were all pretty sad though. Then there 
was another time—she was married this time, 
but mother said-” 

Antonia broke off to call Pearl’s attention to 
Dolly, who was coming down the boardwalk in 
a bathing dress of as many hues as Joseph's coat 
Everything about her was bent—her back, her 
knees, her elbows, her fingers, and every crook 
was obviously intended to charm the young man 
by whose side she was walking, who was staring 
out to sea and very thoughtfully putting cotton 
in his ears. Even Pearl, indifferent as she then 
supposed herself to be to all men, could not but 
admit that he was as splendid an example of 
young blond manhood as she had ever seen. 
Then as he came nearer she saw a certain pale 


92 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


red-rimmedness about the eyes, and she thought, 
“He’s the kind you’d have to describe as hand¬ 
some, and yet if anyone else did, you’d say, ‘Oh, 
do you think him handsome? I don’t like his 
looks at all.’ ” 

Antonia meantime was pouring his life history 
into her ear. 

“Allen Williams. He’s twenty-one and has 
been a freshman for two years—isn’t he hand¬ 
some?—and very vicious—gambles and drinks 
and everything. I heard the Williams’ gover¬ 
ness telling someone the other day that Monsieur 
Allen was dejd ires connu dans le monde — le 
monde gal — gal — something or other. I wish 
I knew more French. You can’t really tell much 
what goes on on the beach unless you know 
French. Of course, he’s just amusing himself 
with Dolly.” 

“I tell you what I think,” said Pearl, suddenly 
becoming aware that she had been staring, and 
not only this, but also stared at. “I think it’s 
horrid of you to be against your own sister.” 

“But look at the way she’s giggling and wrig¬ 
gling. I feel ashamed of her,” said Antonia. 

“That’s the very time you ought to stick up for 
her,” said Pearl. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


93 


“Well, it’s a point of view,” said Antonia. 
“That’s what Uncle Anthony always says when 
he doesn’t agree with you but is too lazy to argue 
it out.” 

Dolly and Mr. Williams had reached them by 
this time. Dolly was for passing by, but Wil¬ 
liams stopped and said in a voice clearly audible, 
“And who is the beautiful girl in the pearls?” 

Dolly’s voice was too low to be audible. She 
stopped. Spoiled and selfish she might be, but 
she was at heart a lady. She introduced Mr. 
Williams to Miss Exeter with perfect civility. 
Williams took Pearl’s hand and looked at her 
with something fierce and blank in his eyes. 

Oh, how well she knew that look! 


CHAPTER THREE 

T HAT evening Pearl had the satisfaction 
of writing Mr. Wood that Durland had 
stopped smoking. She gave the whole 
scene on the beach. Never before in all her life 
had she been amused at writing a letter; she had 
looked upon them as a duty to be paid to friend¬ 
ship. But to this man whom she had never seen 
she enjoyed writing. It was like patting Alfred 
—you could express your friendly emotion with¬ 
out fear of rousing any response whatsoever. 
Almost every day she had some progress to re¬ 
port—Mrs. Conway had consented to keep her 
jewelry in the safe in her bedroom provided for 
the purpose. At first she had positively refused, 
asserting that as she could never remember the 
combination her jewels remained locked up until 
an expert was sent down from town to open the 
safe; and that for her part she would as lief a 

94 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


95 


thief had them, who might get some fun out of 
them, as that they stayed locked up in her safe 
for the rest of time. But Pearl very competent¬ 
ly offered to make the combination and remem¬ 
ber it, and come every morning and get them out 
at any hour Mrs. Conway chose. A rumor of 
burglaries in the neighborhood induced Edna 
to yield. 

Then before a week was over algebra became 
to Durland an illumined subject, a study of mys¬ 
tic beauty and romantic association. He not only 
mastered it in the proud determination to prove 
that men were not fools but he invented clever 
discussions to lengthen his brief hour into an 
hour and a half; while Antonia, wondering at 
his industry, kept insisting that it was time to go 
to the public beach. 

All this Pearl wrote, day by day. But she 
could not write the thing which of all others she 
knew Mr. Wood wanted to hear—that Antonia 
was dressed like a nice little girl. The best she 
could say was that the child was not actually 
dirty. Nor could she say that she had gained 
Mrs. Conway’s friendship. That lady remained 
aloof, a little malicious, always in the opposition, 
treating Pearl’s triumphs as petty tyrannies over 


96 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


the children’s free spirits, treating Pearl’s fail¬ 
ures as splendid triumphs in the field of human 
freedom. 

When Pearl appealed to her with “I don’t 
think Antonia ought to wear that torn dress to 
Olive’s for tea, Mrs. Conway,” Edna would 
smile and answer, “You know, Miss Exeter, I 
can’t think those things a matter of life and 
death the way you do. I own I should be sorry 
if at eleven she thought of nothing but dress.” 

“Like Dolly,” said Antonia. 

That, Pearl discovered, was the secret of An¬ 
tonia’s dislike of neatness. She was afraid of 
being like Dolly—Dolly, who represented 
simply everything of which Antonia disap¬ 
proved. 

All this Pearl wrote to Anthony; long, long 
letters composed after the rest of the household 
were in bed. “It is long after midnight, and I 
should be in bed instead of writing-” 

She paused. The well-known illustrator who 
had done her picture for the cleaning-fluid firm 
had told her—and the illustrator was herself 
a beautiful woman, experienced in the ways of 
the world—that all love letters from unmarried 
girls ended with the words, “But it is after mid- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


97 


night, and I ought to be in bed instead,” whether 
they were written at noon or at night. 

Love letters! How absurd! 

Letters which amuse the writer to write rarely 
fail to amuse the recipient to read. Pearl’s 
letters, arriving as they did in bunches, amused 
him not only on account of their dashing style 
but on account of the contrast between this style 
and the pale demure little person he remem¬ 
bered. Anything written day by day gains a ser¬ 
ial interest; and Anthony, without newspapers, 
waited for Pearl’s letters as the great interest of 
life. He had never felt so intimate with his 
family as through her careful description of 
them. His sister, though a fairly regular cor¬ 
respondent, had to perfection the art of cover¬ 
ing the paper with sentences which by the time 
they reached her correspondent meant nothing. 
“I did so wonder whether the preserved ginger 
I ordered for you had caught your steamer of if 
the man had mistaken the line—he seemed so 

stupid-” Pages like this, when he wanted to 

hear of the contemporary life of the children. 

Yet this time the first sentence of his sister’s 
letter interested him: 




98 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


She arrived the day before yesterday—your price¬ 
less pearl—Antonia’s idea of Helen of Troy. But 
do you think Helen would have made a comfortable 
sort of governess? This young woman is entirely 
untrained—turns handsprings on the beach and goes 
shouting about the tennis courts in a loud Western 
voice that I do hope the children won’t learn to 
copy. Dolly, who is, as you know, the most sensi¬ 
tively refined being that was ever made, is quite 
shocked by her. The two younger ones like her 
well enough, but I can’t imagine her ever having any 
control over them. I always think one must be a 
little disciplined oneself in order to exercise control 
over others. I must confess, Anthony, that I should 
pack your selection off tomorrow if I had not given 
you my word to keep her. Cora quite agrees with 
me that Miss Exeter would do better on the variety 
stage than as a governess. I don’t think there is 
any news. Durland has entirely given up smoking, 
as I always said he would—entirely of his own ac¬ 
cord. You don’t believe me, but a mother has a 
sort of psychic understanding of her children. 

How could he help being on the other side? 
Yet the letter gave him something to think about. 
Helen of Troy—that pale, thin girl! Well, he 
should never understand women’s estimates of 
other women’s looks. He laughed aloud over 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


99 


the note about Durland’s smoking, Edna and her 
psychic understanding! 

But thinking of psychic things—and far 
away in the folds of that bare Mexican 
valley Anthony had time to think—some¬ 
thing psychic came from Miss Exeter’s letters 
which he had not felt in her personality. He 
could not call it exactly conceit, but it was like 
a conviction of beauty. He did not know how 
to describe it, but it made him think of an essay 
by a novelist which he had read, when or where 
he could not remember—was it by Stevenson? 
—in which the writer had spoken of the uncon¬ 
trollable way in which heroines whom you con¬ 
stantly described as lovely kept turning plain and 
uninteresting on your hands; and the other way 
round—how heroines, with just a few words of 
friendly description, suddenly walked through 
your pages as tremendous beauties, with no as¬ 
sistance from you. Clara Middleton, in the 
Egoist, had been cited as one of the latter class. 
Well, it seemed to him that this girl was like 
that. He had seen her—a nice-looking young 
woman, but her letters were the letters of a beau¬ 
ty. Probably it was the profound subconscious 
egotism of the woman coming out. The point 


100 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


was that she was getting away with it. He wrote 
and asked Durland to send him a photograph 
of her. But it did not need much diplomacy on 
the part of Pearl to prevent its ever being dis¬ 
patched. 

As a matter of fact, she did not dread discov¬ 
ery very much. It seemed to her it would be 
nothing more than an awkward moment—after 
all, he already knew her better than he had ever 
known Augusta—only before he came back she 
must have worked all the desired miracles. Far 
from dreading his return, she looked forward 
to it with veiled excitement—great fun, like 
taking off your masks at a fancy ball. 

She had been with the Conway family almost 
a month when she witnessed the first trial of 
strength between the hostile factions—Dolly 
against Antonia. There was only one spare room 
in the cottage since the governess had come. 
Dolly announced at luncheon, very casually, that 
she had invited Allen Williams to spend the 
following Sunday with them. Antonia broke 
out at once with the passionate sense of defeat 
that betrays the young. She had invited her 
best, indeed her only, friend Olive, who was to 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 101 

be abandoned by her family, for the coming 
Sunday. 

“You said I could ask her, mother. I did ask 
her—you let me ask her. I asked her first—be¬ 
fore Dolly asked Allen—you said I could”— 
over and over again; but Dolly’s flashing silence 
was more impressive. Pearl knew that it was 
not so much a question of justice as of trial by 
torture. Mrs. Conway would yield to whichever 
of her children could inflict the most pain upon 
her, and that, of course, was Dolly. Dolly did 
not reiterate her position like Antonia. Now and 
then she dropped a frigid sentence that revealed 
her argument. Her mother had always told 
her she might ask anyone she liked for week ends. 
She had asked Allen and he had accepted. As 
for Olive, she lived in Southampton—why 
shouldn’t she stay in her own house? It was 
just as an excuse for little girls to sit up talking 
all night and steal food out of the pantry and 
get the whole household upset. 

This was shrewd. The last time Olive had 
come to stay it had resulted in the loss of a cook. 
Mrs. Conway remembered this as Dolly spoke. 
Her position was painful. She had promised 
Antonia she could have her friend this Sunday, 


102 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


when Olive’s parents were away. But then on 
the other hand she had also encouraged Dolly to 
ask anyone she liked to the house. Yet she dis¬ 
liked young Williams and feared Dolly’s grow¬ 
ing devotion to him. Somebody had already said 
to her that it was a pity for Dolly to make her¬ 
self so conspicuous with him—he was no good, 
that young man. But part of her tragedy as a 
mother was that she sympathized with her child¬ 
ren when thwarted in something in which she 
knew they ought to be thwarted. She knew now 
that Dolly’s hold on young William’s interest 
was of the slightest; she knew that the girl had 
obtained this promise of a week end visit with 
difficulty—perhaps even it was mere conven¬ 
ience—he wanted to go to some party, or to see 
some other woman. Mrs. Conway knew that if 
she decided in favor of Antonia, as perhaps 
strict justice would demand, there never would 
be any other week end for Williams. Dolly 
would lose him; and though this was exactly 
what she desired, she could not be so cruel as to 
bring it about. So she decided in favor of her 
elder daughter, and managed as usual to anger 
both of them. 

“I’m afraid, my dear,” she said to Antonia, as 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


103 


if she were being particularly impartial, “that 
this is one of those terrible occasions on which 
you are called upon to be unselfish and noble and 
all that. I own I don’t care for this young man 
who says bur-r-rud and wor-ruld, and seems to 
me to be quite the dullest person I ever met; but 
Dolly is older than you, you know, and must be 
allowed to have her playmates first. When you 
are a big girl and want to have beautiful young 
morons to stay-” 

“I hope I shan’t ride roughshod over other 
people’s rights,” said Antonia with snapping 
eyes. 

“I’m sorry my friends must be insulted, 
mother, just because I have ventured to invite 
them to your house. Believe me, if I had a 
house of my own I would not trouble you either 
with my friends or myself.” 

Tears rose to Mrs. Conway’s eyes. She was 
so deeply hurt she could not even pretend that 
she wasn’t; so hurt that she spoke naturally to 
the governess when for a second after luncheon, 
owing to the withdrawal in opposite directions 
of her two daughters, she found herself alone 
with the interloper. 

“Young people are so cruel,” she said. “What 


104 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


more could I do for Dolly? I sacrifice poor 
little Antonia, I make the house hers— and she 
tells me practically she only stays with me be¬ 
cause she has to.” 

As Pearl went upstairs Dolly called her into 
her room—the first time she had ever done such 
a thing. But after all the woman with all her 
faults had the virtue of not being a member of 
the family, 

“You see what I mean, Miss Exeter,” she said, 
looking up from polishing her nails with a fever¬ 
ish rapidity. “Everything in this house is done 
for Antonia—or would be if I did not fight for 
my rights. Nobody likes to make a scene, but 
to ask a man like Mr. Williams—you don’t 
know, but women—older women—married 
women—like Mrs. Temple—so silly—it just 
bores Allen; but he feels he ought to go there, 
and when he said he would come here instead, 
fancy my having to put him off because Antonia 
wanted that fat Olive to come, when Olive lives 
here anyhow.” 

Pearl’s limpid gray eyes gazed at her sym¬ 
pathetically. It was her nature to be sympa¬ 
thetic, and presently Dolly was telling her how 
she had first met Allen, how he had danced and 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


105 


how wonderfully their steps went together. It 
seemed as if she had remembered every syllable 
that had ever fallen from his lips, and loved to 
repeat them, though they were of a conspicuous¬ 
ly commonplace character. Then she confided 
a secret—he had asked himself. She would 
never have dared to ask him. 

“Dared!” said Pearl, every inch the feminist. 

“Oh, well,” Dolly retreated rapidly, “this 
house is so full of uninteresting children like 
Antonia and Durland—under your feet all day 
long; but when Allen said himself, telling how 
he didn’t want to go to the Temples, Why don’t 
you ask me?’-” 

Her voice softened over the remembered 
tones; of course she had asked him. 

Pearl’s heart sank at this news. She won¬ 
dered if she were vain to attach a dread signi¬ 
ficance to his initiative. She remembered that 
peculiar fierce stare from those pale eyes. Well, 
she wouldn’t speak to him—that was all there 
was to that. 

Presently she left Dolly and went to knock 
on Antonia’s door, which was suspiciously shut; 
usually Antonia lived and dressed open to cor¬ 
ridors. 


106 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Yes, as Pearl feared, Antonia was lying on her 
bed, crumpled as to clothes and damp about the 
cheeks. Miss Exeter could see now, she said; 
she was treated like a step-child. Her mother 
didn’t love her as she loved Dolly, and how could 
anyone love Dolly?—that’s what she couldn’t 
understand. 

Pearl had not thought it worth while to try 
to argue Antonia’s case with Dolly, but the child 
was so clear-minded she did try to put Dolly’s 
side of the case to her. Antonia admitted it all, 
but impatiently. 

“And why is he willing to come,” she said —“a 
man like him? He’s just making a convenience 
of Dolly, or something. He doesn’t think any¬ 
thing about her at all.” 

It was exactly Pearl’s own impression. Then 
why was he coming? 

He came on Friday afternoon by the fast train, 
and Dolly in her new pink hat and her white 
motoring coat—just back from the cleaner and 
smelling a little bit of gasoline, but so much more 
becoming than her gray one—went to meet him. 
She and Allen and Mrs. Conway were all dining 
out that evening, and Pearl had organized a pic¬ 
nic for herself and Antonia and Durland, far 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


107 


up the beach, with the moon and a fire of drift¬ 
wood and a great deal of excellent food. They 
did not see the house guest that evening. 

The next morning at half past nine Pearl was 
obliged to go to the garage to find Antonia; she 
was studying the oiling system of the green car. 
There was nothing unfriendly in her attitude to 
study; she was perfectly willing to learn, if she 
could only manage to remember that lesson time 
had come. 

They had lessons on the piazza. Pearl, look¬ 
ing out over the dazzling sea and thinking how 
pleasant a swim was going to be, had said “How 
do you spell ‘separate,’ Antonia?” and Antonia, 
twining her bare toes about the calf of the other 
leg, had got as far as “Well, I know it’s an e 
where you expect an a or just the other way,” 
when Williams, bending his head slightly under 
the curtains, stepped from the dining room upon 
the piazza. 

He looked extremely polished and soaped. He 
had on white trousers, a gray coat, a blue tie. 
Antonia, who had never seen him so near before, 
stared at him, forgetting even to say good morn¬ 
ing. He bowed rather formally to the gov¬ 
erness, but to Antonia he said, “Where were you 


108 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


last evening? I was watching for you and you 
didn’t appear.” 

He sat down and drew her toward him with 
an immaculate brown hand. 

Pearl had never seen Antonia embarrassed be¬ 
fore. The child kept glancing up at Williams 
as if fascinated, and glancing quickly away again 
as if dazzled. Then she turned both knees in¬ 
ward, seemed to dig her toes into the boards 
and answered in a low, husky voice that they 
had been out on a picnic. 

“I think you might have asked me,” said Wil¬ 
liams. 

He spoke in that tone of false comedy—as if 
anything you said to a child must be ridiculous— 
that was peculiarly annoying to Pearl. 

Antonia bent her head and muttered that she 
had not thought he would have enjoyed it. 

“I should have enjoyed it,” he said, and drew 
Antonia closer, so that over her head he could 
give Pearl a hard, significant look. 

Pearl rose to her feet. This was a situation 
she understood thoroughly. She was not going 
to lose another job on account of a man—a boy 
rather, younger than herself. In spite of Wil¬ 
liams’ protests and teasing efforts to retain the 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


109 


child, she swept her up to her bedroom to finish 
her lessons. But she no longer had Antonia’s 
full attention. 

When asked again to spell “separate,” Antonia 
answered, “He is handsome, isn’t he?” 

“Not to my mind,” Pearl answered firmly. 
“He’s clean and healthy looking.” 

“He’s beautifully clean,” said Antonia. 
“Think of going about with someone like that!” 
The measure of her collapse might be taken 
when a few minutes later she dashed to the win¬ 
dow to watch him drive away with her sister, 
and turning back she exclaimed sadly, “Gee, I 
never thought I’d wish I was Dolly!” 

Pearl thought to herself that there was no 
great difficulty in seeing through this young 
man’s plans. He wasn’t the kind who wept on 
the desk like the third vice president of the En¬ 
cyclopedia company. No, he was going to use 
Antonia’s open admiration as an avenue to the 
governess. Well, the situation could not pro¬ 
long itself. This was Saturday, and he would be 
going early Monday morning. There oughtn’t 
to be much trouble in keeping out of his way. 
She could count on Dolly’s cooperation. She 
sighed, wishing that Mrs. Conway were more 


110 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


friendly. Dolly would keep him playing golf 
as late as possible; they would not meet again un¬ 
til luncheon, and that was perfectly safe. 

She miscalculated. Williams’ will was 
stronger than Dolly’s. It was a day of long, 
regular waves, high but without force, turned 
back from the shore by a northerly wind. An¬ 
tonia was standing near shore diving them, wave 
after wave, and shaking her short hair out of her 
eyes after each one passed over her head. Pearl 
had swum out beyond the line of breakers and 
was sitting on a barrel, enjoying the sensation of 
being pulled gently in and out as each swell 
rolled past her. Suddenly on the shore she saw 
Williams and Dolly appear in their bathing 
things. She understood it all. Dolly had been 
lured to the beach at this early hour by the idea 
of an undisturbed tete-a-tete. The girl sat 
down, as if confident that Williams was going 
to do the same, but he stood gazing out to sea. 
Pearl felt his eyes reach her, and then he dived 
into one of the great crested billows and she saw 
that he was making straight for her barrel. He 
was coming fast, but he was coming under water. 
When he reached the barrel Pearl was not there. 
Looking back, he saw her almost at the shore. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


111 


He was, however, the kind of man in whom 
opposition rouses a sort of malignant persistence. 
All through luncheon she kept catching his pale 
eye. She thought Durland noticed it, and hoped 
that Dolly didn’t. Antonia hardly moved her 
eyes from his face. 

After lunch, when they were all in the sitting 
room, Antonia ran away to get him a match be¬ 
fore anyone else had noticed he needed one. 
Dolly smiled. 

“What’s this, Allen?” she said. “Is Antonia 
another of your victims?” 

Williams frowned, not because he was in the 
least annoyed but to indicate that he was a man 
impervious to flattery. Pearl had one of her 
inspirations. 

“If it’s true,” she said, “Mr. Williams has it 
in his power to do us all a great favor. Do ask 
him, Dolly, to say to Antonia that he likes to 
see a little girl neatly dressed like other little 
girls.” 

“That would, indeed, be a miracle,” said 
Dolly, not wanting anything Allen might ac¬ 
complish to be underestimated. 

“Certainly, if I can,” said Allen, looking at 
the governess. 


112 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Pearl was standing turning over the papers 
on the table, ready for flight, although with Dur- 
land and Dolly both in the room she felt per¬ 
fectly secure. She was delighted with her idea. 

“It would be a great help in my life,” she 
said, “if you would.” And she looked straight 
at him and smiled as if she saw before her a 
combination of a god and a saint. It was a look 
that went straight to his rather stupid head, 
through which all sorts of ideas began to dance 
brightly. 

“And what do I get out of it?” he asked. 

Dolly laughed. “Oh, Allen,” she said, “you 
must not be so mercenary.” 

And Pearl, avoiding his hard, demanding 
eyes, slipped quietly out of the room just as An¬ 
tonia returned with the matches. 

Pearl had not been in her room more than 
five minutes when a knock came at the door, in¬ 
stantly followed by the entrance of Antonia. The 
first impression was that the child was in physi¬ 
cal pain. Her whole face was trembling, her 
hand was clasped over her mouth, and the instant 
the door was shut behind her she burst out cry¬ 
ing. 

Mr. Williams had said she was dirty! 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


113 


Pearl, full of pity and feeling horribly guilty, 
denouncing Williams in her heart as a heavy- 
handed idiot, could not but marvel over the 
power of romantic love. Everyone, even the 
adored Durland, had been saying for years that 
Antonia was dirty, and eliciting nothing from 
her but pitying smiles; and now this agony of 
shame and remorse was occasioned by the same 
words from a total stranger. 

Suffering like this, Pearl knew, could be 
allayed only by action. She invented action. 
Antonia should appear for church the next 
morning, clean, faultless, perfect in every detail. 
Antonia shook her head dumbly—she had noth¬ 
ing—it was Saturday and all her white dresses 
were in the wash—her light-blue crepe de chine 
had raspberry-ice stains on it—and she had hid¬ 
den it away; her green linen was covered with 
motor oil. Mrs. Conway’s maid had long ago 
refused to take any responsibility for Antonia’s 
wardrobe, and Pearl could not blame her. 

But the value of the plan was its difficulty. 
Antonia’s agony would not have been soothed by 
anything easy, and this was not easy. It took 
all afternoon and most of the evening. Under 
some crab nets a pair of gray suede slippers were 


114 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


found, which Pearl cleaned with gasoline and a 
little powder; stuffed into the crown of a riding 
hat to make it smaller was a pair of fine gray 
silk stockings; her best black hat, worn only 
once, had fallen into the water and was a ruin; 
but retrimmed with a pink rose from an evening 
dress of Pearl’s, it looked better than before. At 
last a crumpled pink linen dress was discovered 
wrapped about some precious phonograph rec¬ 
ords. Pearl borrowed the maid’s electric iron 
and went to work at this. She was so tired when 
she had finished that she omitted, for the first 
time, her daily letter to Anthony. 

Dressing Antonia the next morning was an 
excitement. The child’s spirits had revived so 
that she could look at the situation with her cus¬ 
tomary detachment. 

“I’m like that thing in the Bible,” she said. 
“I’ve put away childish things.” 

“It will be great fun, you’ll find, being as nice- 
looking as you can be,” said Pearl. 

Antonia nodded. 

“But the other was fun too,” she said. 

Everything turned out exactly as Pearl had 
intended. Dolly did not come down to break¬ 
fast, and Williams did. So, by a miracle, did 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


,115 


Mrs. Conway. Antonia’s entrance created a sen¬ 
sation—her carefully curled hair, her spotless 
linen, her long slim legs in their gray silk stock¬ 
ings. Not only Williams but even Durland 
administered honeyed words of praise. Mrs. 
Conway approved of her child, but allowed no 
credit to Miss Exeter. 

“It’s so silly to worry about those things,” she 
said. “I always knew that she would eventually 
begin to take care of her appearance. I shall 
write Anthony that feminine vanity has asserted 
itself just as I knew it would.” 

Mrs. Conway and Pearl and Durland and An¬ 
tonia went to church, accompanied, as Pearl 
knew they would be accompanied, by Williams. 
He said it was entirely on account of Antonia— 
was a privilege to go to church with a little girl 
who looked as pretty as she did. Although he 
spoke in an irritating tone, as if you could make 
fun of a child without a child suspecting it, 
Pearl saw that Antonia was flattered at receiving 
any of his priceless attention. 

In the few weeks of Pearl’s stay she had be¬ 
come attached to the little wooden church on the 
dunes. She always sat so that she could look out 
through the door of the south transept, the upper 


116 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


half of which was usually open, and see the 
ocean; when it was rough it seemed to roll out 
a deeper accompaniment than the organ’s to: 

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, 

For those in peril on the sea . 

There was a tradition that this Was always 
sung. 

Sometimes an impatient dog would stand on 
its hind legs and look in, seeking a praying mas¬ 
ter; and once a wolfhound had bounded over the 
half door of one transept and, not finding his 
owner, had bounded out at the other. 

During the sermon Pearl, it must be confessed, 
was engaged in composing her daily report to 
Anthony. At last she had accomplished the 
great achievement—at last she could tell him 
the thing he most wanted to hear. She made 
up her mind that she would begin: “All through 
church I looked at Antonia’s pretty little profile 

under a black hat trimmed with pink roses-” 

Life presented itself to her in the form of her 
letters to Wood, thus offsetting the sense of lone¬ 
liness that Mrs. Conway’s mocking aloofness 
caused her. She was still composing when, after 
church was over, they walked—Mrs. Conway 



THE PRICELESS PEARL 


117 


and Williams ahead and Pearl with Durland on 
one side and Antonia on the other—the few 
yards that separated the church from the public 
beach. Antonia’s appearance was much noticed. 

Pearl heard an elderly gentleman murmur to 
Mrs. Conway, “Your little daughter is lovely— 
lovely. Is beauty contagious?” And he gave a 
glance at Pearl, who was looking perfectly un¬ 
conscious but caught Mrs. Conway’s bitter re¬ 
ply: “Thank you; I see you feel she was never 
exposed to it before.” 

For the first time in her life Antonia was the 
center of a group of boys—many of them in their 
first long trousers; all with stiff turned-down 
collars, white against the sunburn and freckles 
of their summer complexions. They were telling 
her, with the perfect candor of youth, that she 
might have been the recipient of their attentions 
long before this if she had been dressed as she 
was dressed today. 

“How could I go round the links with a girl 
without shoes?” one conservative had wailed, 
revealing a hidden struggle. And Bill Temple, 
Caroline’s elder brother, a year older than Dur¬ 
land, and likely to be junior tennis champion, 
had said loudly in passing, “Gee, the kid cer- 


[118 THE PRICELESS PEARL 

tainly looks great in that get-up!” If he had 

composed “Helen, thy beauty is to me-” all 

in her honor he could not have given her a fuller 

joy- 

Pearl was so happy that she allowed her gen¬ 
erous nature to lead her into making an acknowl¬ 
edgment to Williams. She had just heard him 
agree to motor to New York after dinner that 
evening—his stay was a question of only a few 

hours now, and on the crowded beach- 

She looked up at him and said, waves of grati¬ 
tude and friendliness rolling toward him like a 
perfume, “We owe all this to you.” 

He answered without the least change of ex¬ 
pression and in a tone that did not carry an inch 
beyond Pearl’s left ear, “Have you any idea what 

you do to men?—drive them mad-” 

She did not answer at all, but stepped back 
and allowed other people to come between them; 
and presently, knowing that the Conway car 
would be crowded, she invited the willing Dur- 
land to walk home with her along the beach. 

There were a good many outsiders at lunch¬ 
eon, and though Williams followed her closely 
into the dining room she slipped into a chair 
between the two children, and all through the 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


119 


meal was aware of Williams’ steady, father 
sulky stare from across the table. 

After luncheon was over she disappeared. She 
had the afternoon to herself, for Antonia was 
going out with her mother. Pearl took a parasol 
and went and sat on the beach, concealed by the 
jutting of a dune. She took a book with her, 
but hardly read. She sat there for an hour, and 
about four, knowing that Dolly and Wil¬ 
liams had arranged to play golf and that she 
would now have the house to herself, she went 
back, thinking about the Sunday papers. Almost 
the only hardship she felt in her position was 
that her rights to the newspapers were not prop¬ 
erly respected—the butler, who was a baseball 
enthusiast, regularly removing the papers to the 
pantry as soon as Mrs. Conway had read the 
headlines. 

The sitting room was deserted and the news¬ 
papers strewn about the table—a condition 
which should have suggested to Pearl that the 
room had been too recently occupied for the 
servants to have had time to come in and put it 
to rights. But she didn’t think of that. She took 
up the first sheet that came to hand and saw a 
long illustrated article about the turquoise mines 


120 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


of Mexico, into which she plunged with a thrill 
of interest. She was standing with both arms 
outstretched, her gold-colored head a little bent. 

Suddenly she felt two hard, masculine arms 
go round her, a kiss on the back of her neck, 
another on her reluctantly turned cheek. It 
happened in a second. As she struggled un¬ 
gracefully, angrily, she saw over Williams’ 
shoulder the figure of Durland rising from the 
hammock on the piazza. 

If Wood had received that batch of Sunday 
letters at the mine he would have torn open 
Pearl’s first—as likely to promise the most 
amusement. But he got them at his hotel in 
Mexico City, and conscious of great leisure—for 
he was staying there a week or so on his way 
home while he dickered over taxes with a gov¬ 
ernmental department—he adopted a different 
method. He ranged them before him inversely 
in the order of interest. They came—first Dur- 
land’s. He wondered what Durland wanted, for 
his nephew was never moved to the momentous 
effort of writing except under the stress of great 
financial necessity; second, Edna’s; third, that 
of Miss Wellington, who did not write often; 
and last Pearl’s thick typewritten budget. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


121 


Dear Uncle Anthony : I know mother is writing 
her point of view about this, and I want you to know 
the truth. I was there and mother was not. Miss 
Exeter could not have helped what happened. If it 
was any of our faults it was Dolly’s—not only for 
having that kind of a thug to stay but for being as 
usual an hour late in getting off, so that Miss Exe¬ 
ter thought they had gone. You can imagine how 
I felt in seeing a great beast like Williams coming 
up behind her and grabbing her like that. I let him 
know what I thought, but I would like to have 
pasted him one on the jaw. I wish you had been 
here. Mother is all wrong—a dreadful injustice 
is being done a very wonderful woman. She is pa¬ 
tient, but I don’t suppose she will stand much more. 
I wouldn’t if I were her. 

Your affectionate nephew, 

D urland Conway 

Wood tore open his sister’s letter. His thought 
was, “Impossible!” 

Dear Anthony : I am sorry, after the trouble you 
took [ U A lot you are,” he thought] that your price¬ 
less pearl will really have to go. It has been an 
impossible situation from the first, but I have 
loyally tried to carry it through for your sake—you 
seemed to care so much about it. I have never liked 
the girl. She has a sort of breezy aggressiveness 
that I can’t stand, and Cora Wellington felt just 


122 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


the same. I did not write you, but that first eve¬ 
ning Cora said to me, “Where is Anthony’s judg¬ 
ment—sending you a girl like that?” I do not like 
the effect she has had on the children—taking all 
the spirit out of poor Durland, and Antonia ap¬ 
peared dressed for church this morning like a little 
French doll. 

However, when Durland discovered her this af¬ 
ternoon clasped in the arms of a detestable young 
man by the name of Williams—Allen Williams, 
whom Dolly, poor child, has had spending Sunday, 
much against my inclination—I did feel that things 
had reached a point when even you would hardly 
blame me for getting rid of her. I sent for the girl 
and told her she must go. I was surprised and, I 
own, hurt, Anthony, when she answered that you 
had extracted a secret promise from her not to go 
until you released her. 

I hope you see what a disagreeable and humiliat¬ 
ing position you have put me in. I think I should 
have ignored both her promise and my own, except 
that the girl has acquired such a hold over Durland 
and Antonia that they go on like little maniacs about 
the injustice I am doing her. Dolly and Cora en¬ 
tirely agree with me. However, I have consented 
to keep her until I get a telegram from you releasing 
us both. I do hope you will immediately send it on 
the receipt of this letter. 

Wood laid the letter down with a feeling of 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


123 


the most intense surprise. Allen Williams—a 
young man unfavorably known to him as an ad¬ 
mirer of the most conspicuous of the year’s 
Broadway beauties—that man spontaneously in¬ 
terested in a girl like Miss Exeter—a ruthless, 
stupid young animal like Williams attracted by 
that pale, honest, intellectual, badly dressed girl 
—without an effort on her part. No, that was 
too much to ask him to believe. 

He opened Cora’s letter. Cora wrote a large, 
sprawling hand, and her only rule was never to 
write upon the next consecutive page, so that her 
correspondent went hopelessly turning her let¬ 
ters round and about to find the end of a sentence. 

Wood caught “-getting herself kissed in poor 

Edna’s blameless sitting room in broad daylight, 
and thus getting rid of her and an undesirable 
suitor of Dolly’s at one fell-” 

He twisted the letter about, trying to find the 
end of this, but coming only upon a description 
of moonlight on the ocean, he tossed it aside and 
opened that of the culprit herself. 

I regret to say, [it began in vein that struck Wood 
as none too serious] that I have caused a scandal. 
A young man called Williams tried to kiss me—in 
fact he did—when I was reading the paper and 


124 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


didn’t even know he was in the house. I should 
have dealt with him; but Durland, who saw it all, 
was so cunning and manly, and ordered him out of 
the house. Your sister is naturally annoyed with 
both of us and won’t believe I was not to blame. 
She keeps quoting something you once said to Dolly 
under circumstances described as similar—that no 
man kisses a girl if he knows it’s really against her 
will. If you did say that, Mr. Wood, you’re wrong. 
If a man wants to kiss a girl something in his psy¬ 
chology makes him feel sure she wants him to. But 
the loathsome creepiness a girl feels at having a man 
whom she doesn’t like touching her is something no 
man can possibly understand. 

Williams has behaved technically correctly and 
actually horridly—saying sourly enough that it was 
entirely his fault, that he alone was to blame, but 
letting everyone see that he feels I led him on—only 
that, of course, a gentleman’s lips are sealed. How¬ 
ever, he was instantly shipped back to New York on 
a slow train that stops at every station. 

As soon as he was gone Mrs. Conway and I 
had rather a scene. She wanted me to go at once. 
I said I could not go without your permission. She 
finally agreed to let me wait until you had been 
heard from. I need not say I shall do exactly as 
you wish. It will not be particularly easy to stay 
after this, but I will do it if you wish—or go—just 
as you telegraph. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


125 


Whatever Anthony Wood’s faults might be, 
lack of decision was not usually one of them. 
He folded the letters neatly on his table, took 
his panama hat from the peg, went to the tele¬ 
graph office and sent his sister the following 
message: 

Letters received. Please keep Miss Exeter until 
my return. Should be back within two weeks. 

And then, rapid decisions being at times dan¬ 
gerously like impulses, he sent a second one to 
Miss Exeter herself, which read: 

Wish to express my complete confidence in you. 

The days before those two messages came were 
trying ones in the Conway household, which was 
now divided into two hostile parties—Pearl, 
Durland and Antonia on one hand; Mrs. Con¬ 
way and Dolly, occasionally reenforced by Miss 
Wellington, on the other. Miss Wellington did 
not make matters any easier by suggesting to Ed¬ 
na that something similar must have taken place 
in the case of Anthony himself—just what you’d 
expect from that sort of girl—that hair, that 
great curved red mouth. She understood from 
dear little Dolly that Williams had told her— 
as much as a man could tell such a thing—that 
he could hardly have done anything else. 


126 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


What Williams had really said, for few men 
are as bad as their adoring women represent 
them, was that her mother was taking the inci¬ 
dent too seriously. 

Pearl could not have borne life if it had not 
been for her daily letter, which she continued to 
write. Mrs. Conway hardly spoke to her; and if 
she did, she spoke slowly, enunciating every 
word carefully as if Pearl’s moral obliquity had 
somehow made her idiotic. Durland, loyal to the 
death, was not much help, because he merely 
hated his family and scowled through every 
meal. Antonia, on the other hand, was one of 
those rare natures who could be an ally without 
being a partisan. 

“Of course,” she would say calmly to anyone 
who would listen to her, “Allen only came here 
at all in the hope of seeing Miss Exeter, but you 
can’t expect Dolly to understand that.” 

Anthony’s two telegrams arrived one evening 
at dinnertime and were handed by the butler, 
one to Mrs. Conway and one to the governess. 
Pearl’s heart sank on seeing there were two. She 
thought it must mean he was deciding against 
her; and though she found her present position 
unpleasant, she did not want Mr. Wood to de- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


127 


cide against her. She opened hers and read its 
few words at one glance. It was not her habit to 
blush, but she blushed now with a deep emotion 
—of gratitude and admiration. Not many men 
would have stood by her, she thought, in a situa¬ 
tion like this. She knew where Antonia got her 
sense of justice. Or, she thought with something 
very like jealousy, was it really Augusta in 
whom he was expressing his confidence, not in 
her at all? Yes, of course, anyone who had once 
seen Augusta would feel confidence in her. 

The next day she settled back to the routine— 
lessons with Antonia and then with Durland— 
the public beach—a silent luncheon—then some¬ 
times a little feeble tennis with Antonia; but 
more often now her mother took the child out 
with her, as if Pearl were not a proper person 
to be given charge of a pure young child. Left 
alone, Pearl would take her book and parasol 
and retire to the Conway’s beach. She seldom 
read, for, to be candid, she was not a great read¬ 
er; but she would sit and stare at the empty sea 
—empty at least if the wind were from the 
south; but when it turned and blew from the 
north, then the whole ocean would be dotted 
with fishing boats out of Gardiner’s Bay; and 


128 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Pearl, lying there idly, would watch the row¬ 
boats putting out and taking in the nets. Some¬ 
times Antonia was permitted to be her compan¬ 
ion, and then she read aloud to the child. An¬ 
tonia was in the stage of development when she 
loved poetry, but poetry of a stirring, narrative 
quality—The Ballad of East and West, The Re¬ 
venge, The Burial of Moses. She would lie with 
her head in Miss Exeter’s lap, gazing up into the 
unquenchable blue of the sky, and say “I’m go¬ 
ing to learn that one by heart,” and would get 
as far as the second verse when it was time to go 
in and dress. After dinner Pearl and Durland 
would play Russian bank, which he had proudly 
and lovingly taught her; and Dolly and Mrs. 
Conway would run over to Miss Wellington’s, 
where they could abuse the governess to their 
heart’s content 

One night—just between night and day— 
Pearl woke with an overmastering sense of 
dread. She had been dreaming that the sea, a 
perpendicular wall miles and miles high, was 
coming over the dunes. After two or three days 
of damp heat the waves had been rising; local 
weather prophets were talking about the August 
twister. Now, as she sat up in bed, listening and 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


129 


looking into the dark, she became aware that the 
wind had risen; the wooden house was creaking 
and trembling like a ship. 

She was frightened, as an animal must be 
frightened without reason and out of all propor¬ 
tion. In the medley of little sounds she thought 
she detected the sound of something hostile. The 
pearls—she thought of the pearls. 

It would have been easy to lock her door—no, 
not easy, for as she sat rigid in her bed she 
found the idea of motion terrifying; but she 
could have summoned courage to cross the floor 
and lock the door. Only, Pearl was afflicted by 
a sense of responsibility. 

She turned on her light—that helped her. She 
was no longer terrified like an animal; she was 
merely frightened like a human being. She got 
up, put on her dressing gown and, crossing the 
hall by a supreme effort of courage, entered Mrs. 
Conway’s darkened room. Perfectly gentle, 
regular breathing greeted her ear. She knew 
where the switch was and turned on the light. 

Mrs. Conway sat up in bed and said, “Is any¬ 
thing wrong—the children?” 

Pearl’s fears melted in the face of human com¬ 
panionship. She felt calm again and rather 


130 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


foolish as she explained that she had felt alarmed 
for no special reason—had thought about the 
pearls. Mrs. Conway glanced at the closed safe. 

“I thought,” she said, “that the argument for 
keeping valuables in the safe was that we could 
sleep calmly. The safe can’t be opened unless 
you give the combination.” 

“It was childish of me,” said Pearl. “I was 
frightened.” 

Mrs. Conway smiled at her more kindly than 
she had ever done. It was one of the contradic¬ 
tions in her nature that she was physically brave 
—a fact obscured to most observers on account 
of her moral cowardice. Like most brave 
people, she was kind to the timid. 

“It’s the storm,” she said. “It gets on some 
people’s nerves. I hope the roof isn’t leaking; 
it nearly always does in one of these storms. 
What were you afraid of?” 

“I don’t exactly know,” said Pearl. 

“Would you like me to go back to your room 
with you? Would you like to sleep on my 
sofa?” Edna asked. 

But that was too ignominious. A faint wild 
dawn was breaking, and Pearl knew that with 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 131 

the night her terror had gone. She went back 
to bed. 

The next morning the wind was still blowing 
like a hurricane from the south, though the rain 
had stopped. Great waves were running up the 
beach, in some places as far as the sand hills, and 
forming a long, narrow pool at the base of the 
dunes. As soon as lessons were over Antonia 
dragged Miss Exeter to the beach—it was no 
easy matter, for the wind blew the sand stinging- 
ly against face and hands. There was no use in 
going to the public beach that morning, for the 
bathing apparatus of barrels and life lines had 
been washed away, the bathhouses were threat¬ 
ened, and there was a rumor that the sea was 
washing into Lake Agawam. 

Pearl and Antonia sat on their own dunes, 
watching the wild scene, and suddenly Antonia 
said, “Look here, Miss Exeter, I want to ask 
you something. Perhaps I oughtn’t to.” 

Pearl had so completely lost any sense of hav¬ 
ing a guilty secret that she answered tranquilly, 
“Go ahead.” 

“Is Uncle Anthony in love with you—like Mr. 
Williams?” 

Ah, Pearl knew what that meant: Antonia 


132 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


had taken a long drive with her mother and 
Miss Wellington the day before! She picked 
her words carefully. 

“I only saw your uncle once,” she said. 

“But Allen only saw you once or twice— and 
look at the darn thing!” 

“Mr. Williams is not in the least in love with 
me.” 

“Miss Wellington said that some women have 
the power of rousing-” 

“Antonia, I don’t want to hear what she said.” 

“You don’t like her, do you?” 

“No.” 

“Shake,” said Antonia heartily. “I don’t like 
her, though she’s very kind to me; but it doesn’t 
seem to me”—Antonia’s voice took on the flavor 
of meditation—“that she quite tells the truth. 
For instance, just before Uncle Anthony went 
away, she telephoned to him one morning and 
asked him to come over. He was playing a game 
of parcheesi with me—I’d teased him a good 
deal to play—and he said he couldn’t come, and 
she—well, I couldn’t hear what she was saying, 
but at last he said, rather ungraciously,‘ All right 
then, I’ll come.’ And he went, and he took me 
with him. And we only stayed about ten min- 



THE PRICELESS PEARL 


133 


utes, although she wanted us to stay longer. And 
then later at the bathing beach I heard her tell¬ 
ing someone that she was late—she was sorry— 
she couldn’t help it, because Anthony Wood 
came in just as she was starting—of course she 
adored having him run in like that, but it did 
take a good deal of one’s time—‘one’s time’— 
that’s what she said. I call that a lie, don’t you?” 

“I certainly do,” said Pearl. 

“That’s what I like about you, Miss Exeter; 
you say right out what you think—even to a 
child.” Antonia looked thoughtful. “It’s a 
great mistake not to tell children the truth; it 
makes it so hard for them to know what to do. 
For instance, we have an aunt—a great aunt— 
Aunt Sophia. She’s awful, or as you would say, 
just terrible, but it seems she’s going to leave us 
all her money. Now if mother would tell us 
that, it would be simple; but she doesn’t. She 
says to be nice to Aunt Sophia because she’s such 
a dear. She isn’t a bit a dear. So I had to find 
out all by myself why mother, who’s so awful 
to most of her relations, is so nice to Aunt 
Sophia. I did. And it’s the same thing about 
my father. He tried to kidnap me once—at 
least he met me on my way to school and asked 


134 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


me to take a drive with him. I wouldn’t do it. 
Mother said it was lucky I didn’t. But it wasn’t 
luck. It was good judgment. Grown-up 
people are queer about that. When they do 
something wise they say it was wise. But when 
a child does something wise they say it was 
lucky. Children have more sense than people 
think; they have to have.” 

“You have,” said Pearl, who had never 
thought of all this before. 

“Now this morning, do you know why mother 
wanted to get us all out of the house?” Antonia 
continued. 

Pearl felt tempted to say that Mrs. Conway 
always wanted to get her out of the house, but 
she merely shook her head, and Antonia went 
on, “Because she is going to have an interview 
with my father.” 

“With your father?” Pearl sprang to her feet. 
“Are you sure?” 

Antonia nodded. 

“When mother is going to see father she looks 
the way I feel as if I looked when I’m going to 
the dentist—don’t you know, you say to your¬ 
self, T wouldn’t think twice about this if I were 
brave’—and then you think about it all the time. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


135 


You know, mother doesn’t think she tells us 
everything, but she really does, except about my 
father. And so, you see, if it’s something about 
my father I always know, because mother’s 
worried without saying why.” 

This reasoning seemed sound to Pearl. She 
felt that in order to fulfill Anthony’s instructions 
she must go to Mrs. Conway’s assistance at once. 
She did not like to burst in upon them from the 
open windows of the sitting-room, and so ran 
round the house to the front door. A small, 
shabby automobile was standing in the circle, 
and as Pearl bounded up the steps a man came 
out quickly and got into it—a pale man, with 
long white hands and something of Durland’s 
birdlike quality. She saw that she was too late. 
She went into the sitting-room. 

Mrs. Conway was standing in the middle of 
the room, supporting one elbow in one hand and 
two fingers of the other resting against her chin. 
She looked so white that every grain of rouge 
seemed to stand out—away from her cheeks. She 
turned her eyes coldly upon Pearl. 

“Well?” she said. 

Pearl had not thought at all what she was 
going to say, and blurted out, “Oh, Mrs. Con- 


136 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


way, I thought you might need me! I thought 
I could help you if—Mr. Wood said-” 

Edna, rather to her own surprise, suddenly 
lost her temper. 

“Fm tired of being considered a perfect fool/’ 
she said. “Anthony! I know what Anthony 
thinks—that I’m always going to give Gordon 
all the children’s money. As a matter of fact. 
I know better than anyone—though it isn’t al¬ 
ways very easy to say no, no, no, to a man who 
has been your husband and who insists if he had 
five dollars he could make a fortune; but I do 
say it—I always have—always—almost always. 
It’s a little too much to be watched over and lec¬ 
tured by you, Miss Exeter.” 

After which speech Mrs. Conway lelt the 
room. 

Luncheon was more than usually silent that 
day, although Edna attempted to take an interest 
in the children’s morning, asking whether it had 
been pleasant in the water. 

“My goodness, mother,” Antonia answered, 
“have you looked at the water? We’d certainly 
have been drowned if we’d gone in.” 

After lunch was over Edna was obliged to 
address Miss Exeter directly. 



THE PRICELESS PEARL 


137 


“I think you went off this morning without 
unlocking my safe,” she said. 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Pearl. 

Mrs. Conway smiled faintly. 

“It was quite what I expected—it always 
happens with safes,” she said. “But now perhaps 
you will get me my pearls.” 

Pearl went eagerly, and as she went she re¬ 
membered that she had remembered to unlock 
the safe—just before she went to the beach with 
Antonia. Yes, as she thought, the safe was very 
slightly ajar. She took the long, slim, blue 
velvet case from its compartment and brought 
it to Mrs. Conway in the drawing-room. 

It was empty! 

The surprise was like a physical blow, and yet 
no one at first supposed that the pearls were ac¬ 
tually gone. Mrs. Conway, as so often happens 
to anyone who has sustained a loss, was instantly 
severely lectured by her three children on her 
habitual carelessness. 

Then a superficial search was made on her 
dressing table, on the glass shelves in the bath¬ 
room. Then a recapitulation was made—a joint 
effort on the part of everybody—of just what had 
occurred since the pearls were last seen. 


138 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Everyone agreed that Mrs. Conway had been 
wearing them at dinner the night before. She 
had gone to bed rather early, and distinctly re¬ 
membered that she had put the pearls in their 
slim blue velvet case and put the case in the safe 
and shut the safe, which was then automatically 
locked. She did not remember seeing the safe 
unlocked in the morning. 

No, Pearl explained, the reason for this was 
that she, Pearl, had knocked at the door about 
eleven, just after finishing Durland’s algebra 
lesson. There had been no answer, because Mrs. 
Conway was in her bath—her bathroom opened 
out of her bedroom. Pearl had been in a hurry, 
so that she had just run and unlocked the safe 
and had called to Mrs. Conway that it was un¬ 
locked. There had been no one in the room at 
the time; but the maid—the maid had been 
Dolly’s nurse when she was a baby, and was 
therefore absolutely above suspicion—had been 
sewing in the next room. 

Mrs. Conway did not contradict this story. 
She simply raised her eyebrows and said that she 
had not noticed that the safe was open. 

Evidently it must have been open all day long 
—very unfortunate. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


139 


Pearl felt and probably looked horribly 
guilty. Of course she ought to have looked to 
see whether the pearls were in their case when 
she opened the safe. She usually did. She re¬ 
membered, too, her strange terror of the night 
before. Was it possible that that had been based 
on something real ? Had she really heard a foot¬ 
step under the noise of the storm? Could there 
have been a burglar in the house, hidden perhaps 
all night, and stepping out at the right moment 
about noon when the upstairs rooms were de¬ 
serted? 

It was Pearl who insisted on telephoning to 
New York for a detective. Mrs. Conway at 
first objected and said she would feel like a goose 
if the pearls were immediately discovered— 
caught in tne lace of her tea gown, or something 
like that. But Pearl was quite severe. If there 
had been a robbery, she knew that every minute 
was of importance. 

Just before dinner she called an agency. Two 
detectives arrived by motor about ten o’clock 
that night. They had a long secret conference 
with Mrs. Conway. Then one went back to 
New York and the other—the head man, Mr. 
Albertson—took up his residence in the house. 


140 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Pearl went to bed more worried than ever. It 
didn’t seem to her that the detectives had really 
taken hold of the situation. She herself could 
think of a dozen things they might have done 
that night. It did not occur to her that their first 
action was to look up the past record of everyone 
in the household. 


CHAPTER FOUR 

H UMAN nature being as it is, it is prob¬ 
able that the loss of the pearls was noth¬ 
ing to Edna Conway in comparison with 
the satisfaction of being able to telegraph her 
brother that his priceless pearl was suspected of 
having stolen them. She was a kind-hearted 
woman and would not normally have wished to 
put even the most degraded criminal in prison; 
but there seemed an ironic justice in the fact that 
a woman sent to reform the manners of her child¬ 
ren should turn out to be a thief. She valued 
her pearls too. They were not only beautiful 
and becoming but they had a sentimental asso¬ 
ciation. Her husband had given them to her 
when they were first married, after a tremendous 
success at Monte Carlo. They had cost a great 
deal of money in the days when pearls were 
cheap, and yet, as he had got them from a ruined 

141 


142 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


Polish nobleman, they had not cost their full 
value. He had said to her as he gave them to 
her, “There, my dear, if I never give you any¬ 
thing else-” As a matter of fact, he never 

had given her anything else; in fact, he had often 
tried to take them away from her when things 
had first begun to go wrong. But Edna had 
managed to cling to them, feeling that they 
would always keep away that wolf which idle 
well-to-do middle-aged women appear to dread 
more than any other group in the community. 

Edna was not only kind-hearted but she was 
normally utterly lacking in persistence; she 
would not have been able to conceal suspicions 
from anyone over a protracted period. But mal¬ 
ice is a powerful motive, and she managed in 
the days that followed the loss to play her part 
admirably. The idea that Anthony was already 
hurrying home to meet the imposter who had 
slipped into the real Miss Exeter’s place gave 
her a determination she usually lacked. 

It was perhaps stupid of Pearl not to guess 
that her fraud had been detected as soon as the 
detectives set to work. But Pearl was so much 
interested in the recovery of the jewels that it 
never crossed her mind she herself was sus- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


143 


pected. She did notice a slight change for the 
better in Mrs. Conway’s manner—a certain su¬ 
gary sweetness—a willingness to be in the same 
room with her, especially if the detectives were 
for any reason busy—a new interest in all her 
plans. 

The thought that occupied her mind was the 
idea that Wood was on his way home; that at 
last she and the man she had been writing to 
every day for weeks were to meet face to face. 
How could he fail to be pleased with her—she 
who had made Antonia neat, Durland studious, 
and had at least suggested to Dolly’s egotism 
that there were other women in the world at 
least as attractive as she? Pearl thought a great 
deal about their first meeting; there would be a 
certain awkwardness about it, especially if it 
took place in the presence of the family, as it 
probably would. Still, she could manage it. 
She would say in a few simple words that she 
was Augusta Exeter’s best friend, and had taken 
her place. He was sure to be amused and smile 
that nice smile which Augusta had described. 
The interview went on and on in her imagina¬ 
tion, a different way each time she imagined it; 
but always agreeable, always exciting, always 


144 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


ending in Mr. Wood expressing his gratitude 
and admiration. 

Yet this man about whom she was thinking so 
constantly was actually speeding toward her, 
feeling as bitter about her as it is possible to feel 
about a person you have never seen. We forgive 
anything better than being made ridiculous. It 
was not mere vanity, though, that made Anthony 
so angry. He knew that much of his power over 
his sister had been destroyed. Everything that 
he suggested in the future would be met*by Ed¬ 
na’s amused “Another priceless pearl, Anthony.” 
Yes, he said to himself as he sat with folded arms 
and stared out of the train window, he had made 
a fool of himself. What did he know of the real 
Miss Exeter? He had no one but himself to 
blame. 

He had been on the point of starting home 
when he received Edna’s second telegram an¬ 
nouncing her loss. Everyone, as the author of 
Cranford has observed, has a pet economy, and 
Edna’s economy was telegrams. She never 
cabled or telegraphed if she could help it, and 
then she usually obscured her meaning by com¬ 
pressing it into as few words as possible. When 
Anthony opened this one and saw its great length 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


145 


and her name at the bottom of it he knew that 
something was terribly wrong. It said: 

Pearls stolen from safe. Only governess had 
combination. Detectives discover she is imposter. 
Real Miss Exeter married and went to Canada two 
days after you saw her in New York. This woman 
has no idea she is suspected. Is closely watched 
and has had no opportunity of disposing of jewels. 
Pearls thought to be still on place or hidden on 
beach. Please return immediately. Be careful 
about telegrams. She might get them first. 

As soon as Anthony read that message he felt 
a conviction that it was all true. Whether or 
not she had stolen the pearls, he knew she was 
an imposter, for he realized now that he had 
known from the beginning that he had been in 
correspondence with a beautiful woman. He 
had tried to tell himself that the quality he felt 
in her letters was the vanity of a plain one, but 
all along he had known in his heart that in some 
strange and subtle way beauty has exuded from 
every line she wrote. He had been made a fool 
of by a beautiful and criminal woman. Well, 
he would hurry home and settle that score in 
short order. He was not a cruel man, he said 


146 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


to himself, but this did not seem a situation that 
called for mercy. 

It was, of course, necessary that someone 
should meet Anthony on his arrival in New York 
and acquaint him with all the details. As Edna 
was unwilling to leave her household, the duty 
fell to Miss Wellington, who complained a great 
deal and leaped at the chance. 

So when Anthony got off the train in the 
Pennsylvania Station there was not only his sec¬ 
retary but his old friend, Cora Wellington, wait¬ 
ing to greet him. The secretary remained to see 
about the bags, while he and Miss Wellington 
drove to his apartment. The robbery was still 
a secret—not to be told to the papers—even the 
secretary did not know of it. As they drove up 
the long incline to the level of Seventh Avenue 
Cora said the thing that Anthony wanted to hear 
and yet would not say even to himself: 

“Really, Anthony, I think Edna might have 
guessed that it was not the governess you had 
sent. You couldn’t have selected such a person 
—dyed yellow hair and a sort of exuberant, al¬ 
most coarse good looks that you wouldn’t admire 
in any woman and would not tolerate in a gov¬ 
erness, I’m sure.” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 147 

It was agreeable to hear, but he would not ad¬ 
mit it. 

“Poor old Edna,” he said. “I don’t feel ex¬ 
actly in a position to criticize. This woman must 
be clever.” 

“Clever!” exclaimed Miss Wellington. “It’s 
uncanny! Instantly she obtained an almost hyp¬ 
notic influence over Durland and Antonia. Even 
Dolly was on the point of succumbing—if it had 
not been that the woman overreached herself in 
her affair with young Williams. Between our¬ 
selves, Anthony, though I haven’t said this to 
Edna, I don’t feel at all sure that that affair did 
not go a great deal further than the kiss.” 

Anthony frowned in silence. This was almost 
more than he could bear. He said to himself 
that it was the idea of Antonia being brought 
into contact with such a situation that disgusted 
him. 

Cora was kind enough to sit in his drawing¬ 
room and wait while he had a bath and dressed. 
It was a nice room and she thought as she waited 
how she would rearrange the furniture if ever 
she should come to live there. There were 
photographs of the children about—Antonia as 
a baby, Durland in his first sailor suit, a picture 


148 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


of Edna with the three children grouped about 
her like English royalties. 

She was wearing the pearls. 

Then Anthony came out of his room, looking 
handsome and sleek and brown and very well 
dressed in blue serge; and they went out and 
had luncheon together, and then started at once 
for their drive of a hundred miles in Anthony’s 
car. 

She answered all his questions—and one he 
did not ask. She volunteered: “I must confess, 
Anthony, when I first saw this girl—saw how 
unsuitable she was—I felt your wonderful 
judgment must have been clouded by your hav¬ 
ing fallen in love with her.” 

“Recollect, please,” he returned, “that even 
if it had been the girl I saw, I had only seen her 
once.” 

“Don’t people fall in love at first sight?” 

Anthony smiled. 

“I don’t,” he said; and he went on to describe 
the slow process by which a love which can be 
depended on to last must necessarily grow. 

To Miss Wellington, who had known An¬ 
thony for fifteen years, the description was per¬ 
fectly satisfactory. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


149 


They reached Edna’s house a little after five. 
Dolly had gone away the day before to soothe 
her wounded feelings at a house party in the 
Adirondacks. Durland was playing golf and 
Antonia having supper with her friend Olive. 
Edna alone received the traveler. She did not 
reproach him; she gave him the greeting of a 
woman simply crushed by anxiety. 

He said, “I’m awfully sorry about this, Edna. 
You’ve had a disagreeable time—aside from the 
pearls, I mean.” 

She raised her large sullen eyes. 

“If only you had not made me promise, Tony 
—so that I was not free to turn a thief out of my 
house until she had actually stolen my valuables. 
A woman has an intuition when she’s allowed to 
follow it.” 

He had not a word to say in answer. He had 
an interview with the detective—the head man, 
Mr. Albertson; the other one was engaged in 
watching Miss Exeter—the false Miss Exeter, 
who was sitting, as her custom was of an after¬ 
noon, on the beach. It was this habit of sitting 
for hours alone on the beach that had led to the 
theory that the pearls were hidden there, waiting 


,150 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


the right opportunity to be dug up and dis¬ 
patched to a confederate. 

Mr. Albertson was a tall, gray-haired man of 
the utmost dignity. His figure would have been 
improved by a faithful addiction to the daily 
dozen, and his feet were extraordinarily large. 
He had a calm, grand manner and was extremely 
chivalrous in his attitude toward all women— 
even those he was engaged in sending to jail. 
He reminded Anthony of the walrus—or was it 
the carpenter?—who wept so bitterly for the 
oysters while he sorted out those of the largest 
size. Mr. Albertson melted with pity for that 
sweet young creature as he detailed the growing 
mass of evidence against her: The burglaries 
in Southampton since her coming; the fact that 
she had insisted on having the combination of 
the safe; the fact that Mrs. Conway had locked 
the pearls in the safe and that only Miss Exeter 
had gone to the safe afterward; the mysterious 
appearance of Miss Exeter in Mrs. Conway’s 
room during the night before the robbery, and, 
of course, her alias. It had been largely a matter 
of form, Mr. Albertson said—the sending of his 
men to look up her record. It had been a shock 
to them all to find that the agency which had or- 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


151 


iginally sent Wood the names of governesses 
could offer proof that their Miss Exeter had 
married and gone to Canada. So far they 
had not been able to get any information as to 
this woman who had slipped into her place. 
Some of her things had a P on them. Mr. Al¬ 
bertson mentioned that there was a notorious 
English thief—Golden Polly or Golden Moll. 

“She’s called by both names,” said Mr. Al¬ 
bertson. “This girl answers her description very 
good.” 

Wood nodded. Had he in fact been getting 
a daily letter all these weeks from Golden Moll? 
The idea intrigued him not a little. 

“I think I’ll go and have a talk with her,” he 
said. 

“By all means, by all means,” said Mr. Al¬ 
bertson. “We’ve just been waiting for you, you 
know—just to see how she’ll act when confronted 
with you. She hasn’t a notion, you know, that 
you’ve left Mexico. But,” he went on in his 
deep rich voice, “I’d speak her fair if I was you. 
Kindness, Mr. Wood, never does any harm. 
What are we put in this world for except to help 
each other—women especially? If I was you 
I’d say, ‘Look, girlie, we want to help you. We 


152 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


have you dead to rights, and you’d better come 
across. Come across, girlie,’ I’d say, ‘and make 
it easy for everyone.’ ” Mr. Albertson had al¬ 
ready recommended this speech to Mrs. Con¬ 
way without success, and now it seemed to him 
that Mr. Wood was not really going to make it. 

“Ay, yes,” Anthony said rather noncommit¬ 
tally. 

He turned from Mr. Albertson quietly, as is 
some people’s manner when they are doing some¬ 
thing important and, crossing the piazza, stood a 
moment at the top of the steps. 

The sun had just set behind his right shoulder, 
and to those who love the sea the bare flat scene 
had at this moment an extraordinary beauty. All 
round the circle of the horizon there was a gray¬ 
ish lilac color. The sea was blue and gray, the 
beach was pink, with gray shadows under the 
dunes—strange blending colors that come with 
no other light. The storm was over, and the 
sea, though not smooth, was heaving with a slow, 
regular swell. The beach, even to the dunes, 
was strewn still with seaweed and lumber and all 
the flotsam and jetsam of a high tide. 

Immediately in front of Anthony was a large 
rose-colored parasol, the owner of which had 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


153 


evidently forgotten to put it down, although for 
an hour now it could have been of not the slight¬ 
est use. Nothing appeared beneath it but the tip 
of a white suede slipper. 

Anthony stood and looked, a smile hovering at 
the corners of his mouth. There she was—pos¬ 
sibly the Golden Moll of Albertson’s suspicions, 
certainly the writer of interesting letters, the re¬ 
former of his niece’s manners, the stealer of the 
pearls. 

Then he heard Antonia’s voice behind him, 
calling his name. Ordinarily she would have 
stolen up behind him and clung round his neck 
with her feet off the ground; but now she evi¬ 
dently wanted him to get the full effect of her 
changed appearance, for she stood ten feet off 
and spoke to him. Oddly enough, she was 
wearing the very clothes which Pearl had 
described—the pink linen, the hat with the pink 
rose, the gray silk stockings and gray suede 
pumps. Nothing, Anthony thought, could have 
been more accurate. The child was very beauti¬ 
ful, just as he had hoped—hardly dared to hope 
—to see her. 

She gave him just that second to take her all 
in, and then sprang at his neck. 


154 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“Oh, don’t you think I look nice?” she said 
passionately. “It’s all Miss Exeter—your price¬ 
less pearl—and she is priceP j. Don’t you think 
I look nice? I like her better almost than any¬ 
one I ever knew, because she’s so straight. Don’t 
you think I look nice?” 

“Indeed I do,” said her uncle. He managed 
to free his neck from the yoke of Antonia’s arms 
and held her off and turned her round. “Yes,” 
he said, “you look exactly as I like to see you.” 

Antonia smiled and then sighed. 

“I feel every stitch I have on,” she said, “par¬ 
ticularly the shoes and stockings.” She raised 
first one leg and then the other and shook it, with 
a gesture not at all graceful. “I’ve never worn 
them except in winter before. But still, it does 
make a difference in one’s po pularity—clothes 
—particularly with boys. Boys are funny, Uncle 
Anthony.” 

Nothing interested Anthony more than to dis¬ 
cuss the problems of life with his niece, but at 
the moment his mind was not sufficiently dis¬ 
engaged. He was sorry to interrupt her, but he 
was obliged to go and have a few words with her 
governess. 

“That’s all right,” said Antonia. “I’ll go too.” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


155 


And she slipped her arm through his and, lean¬ 
ing her head against the point of his shoulder 
prepared to descend the steps. 

But Anthony explained to her that he wished 
to talk to Miss Exeter by himself. Antonia was 
disappointed. She had looked forward to being 
present when her uncle and the governess met 
again, but she adjusted herself as usual. 

“There’s Mr. Albertson,” she said. “I’ll get 
him to come and sit with me while I have sup¬ 
per, and tell me stories of crime. He says there 
aren’t any people like Sherlock Holmes, and that 
stories like that make it hard for real detectives. 
I suppose that’s true, and yet it’s horrid to face 
facts sometimes, isn’t it, Uncle Anthony? It 
makes real life seem pretty dull sometimes.” 

“Real life is not dull, Antonia,” said her uncle, 
“take it from me.” 

He watched her safely into a conversation 
with Mr. Albertson, and then, with his hands in 
his pockets, he sauntered down the steps, across 
the sand toward that rose-colored parasol. 

“Good afternoon, Miss Exeter,” he said 
pleasantly. 

It had been kept a profound secret that An¬ 
thony was on his way home. The detectives had 


156 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


pointed out to Mrs. Conway that this was im¬ 
portant—that if the woman knew she was about 
to be unmasked she might be goaded into sudden 
action—perhaps even into destroying the pearls. 

Hearing a strange voice calling her by name, 
Pearl came out of a trance into which the sunset 
and the sea had thrown her; glancing up from 
under her parasol, she saw at once that the speak¬ 
er was Anthony Wood, and that he was exactly 
as she had imagined him. Seeing this, her heart 
gave a peculiar leap, and she beamed at him, 
more freely and wonderfully than she had ever 
beamed at anyone in the world. The look affect¬ 
ed him—it would have affected any man; not 
just her beauty, for he had seen a good deal of 
beauty in his day, but this warm, generous hon¬ 
esty combined with beauty was something he had 
never seen. For a second or two they just looked 
at each other, Pearl beaming and beaming, and 
Wood looking at her, his face like a dark mask, 
but his turquoise eyes piercing her heart. 

She spoke first. She said in her queer deep 
voice, “Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come, Mr. 
Wood.” 

“Are you?” he said. 

Of all the sentences with which she might 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


157 


have greeted him—sentences of excuse, of ex¬ 
planation, of appeal—he had never thought of 
her saying this, and saying it with all the manner 
of joy and relief. 

“Indeed I am,” she went on, still on that same 
note. “Have you seen Antonia?” 

“Yes, I have.” 

“And isn’t she-” 

“We’ll leave that for a moment,” he said, for 
her effrontery began to annoy him, and his tone 
was curt. But instead of being alarmed or apol¬ 
ogetic, she gave a little chuckle. 

“Oh, yes, I know,” she said; “of course you 
want an explanation; only I wanted to be sure 
you’d seen my great achievement first, for it is 
an achievement, isn’t it?” 

His eyebrows went up. 

“Do you really expect to be praised for any¬ 
thing you may have done,” he said, “before you 
offer some explanation as to why you are here 
masquerading as Miss Exeter?” 

Pearl’s face fell. He was really quite cross. 
It seemed hard to her that the meaningless sort 
of beam with which she accompanied a casual 
good morning had been enough to reduce the 
third vice president to weeping on his desk, 



158 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


while a particularly concentrated beam—a beam 
designed to say in a ladylike, yet unmistakable 
manner that the one man of all men was now 
standing before her—seemed to have no effect 
whatsoever on said man. She tried it neverthe¬ 
less. 

Anthony, seeing it, suddenly became angry. 
Did this woman, he thought, who was perhaps 
a thief and was certainly an impostor, really 
suppose she was going to charm him, Anthony 
Wood, by her mere beauty—he who was well 
known to be indifferent to women? Sfre would 
learn- 

But what she would learn was not formulated, 
for she now surprised him by jumping to her 
feet and running like a gazelle toward the sea, 
crying out something to him which he did not 
catch. He started, however, in full pursuit— 
his first thought being that she iotended to drown 
herself; the second that she meant to fling the 
pearls into the sea—the well-known trick of 
destroying the evidence in a tight place. She ran 
on. The sea was up to her knees—up to her waist, 
fully dressed as she was; she was now swim¬ 
ming. They had the sea entirely to themselves. 
Even the detectives, trusting to Mr. Wood, had 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


159 


withdrawn for a bite to eat; and at five o’clock 
all those fortunate people who come to the sea¬ 
side for the summer are engaged in golfing or 
playing bridge, and seem to ignore the existence 
of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Anthony had hesitated at the brink of the 
sea long enough to take off first his shoes, second 
his watch and third the light coat which he had 
worn driving the car, so that he was some little 
distance behind her. Swimming hard and for 
the most part under water, he did not see for 
some time the object which had attracted Pearl’s 
attention. Neither suicide nor the pearls were 
the object of her plunge, but a small white dog 
which appeared to be drowning. Some children 
up the beach had been throwing sticks for it, 
and now at the end of a long afternoon it had got 
caught in some current and was obviously in 
trouble, every third or fourth wave washing over 
its little pointed nose. 

Pearl, never doubting that Wood was actuated 
by the same motives as herself, panted out, “Can 
we get there in time?” 

He came alongside her now. 

“You’re not going to drown too!” he said. 

She shook her wet head. Together they towed 


160 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


the exhausted little creature back. As soon as 
she could walk Pearl picked it up in her arms 
and strode ashore. 

“Don’t you think it was a crime for those 
children to go away and leave him like that?” 
Her gray eyes, instead of beaming, glowed an¬ 
grily. 

“Are you so against crime?” said Anthony, 
trying to smooth the water out of his hair. 

She did not even take the trouble to answer 
but became absorbed in tending the dog. It 
was a white dog, at least its hair was white; but 
now, soaked and plastered to its body, the general 
effect was of a cloudy pink with gray spots. It 
was the offspring probably of a spotted carriage 
dog and a poodle. Between it and Pearl a per¬ 
fect understanding seemed to have been at once 
established. She knelt beside it, and suddenly 
looking up at Anthony with one of her spread¬ 
ing smiles, she said, “I’m afraid it’s awfully 
ugly.” 

“It has personality,” he answered. He could 
not but be aware that Pearl’s thin dress was 
clinging to her almost as closely as the dog’s soft 
coat. 

“Let me have your coat,” she said. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


161 


He held it out, expecting that she meant to 
put it on, for every line of her figure was visible, 
and every line was lovely. But Pearl was utterly 
unconscious of herself. She took the coat and 
wrapped the dog in it, so that only its head stuck 
out, with its adoring eyes turned to her. As he 
watched her he found he knew positively that 
she had not taken the pearls. It was no logical 
process; he did not say, “This girl is too kind or 
too generous or too without selfconsciousness or 
too much at peace,” Perhaps it was a combina¬ 
tion of all these ideas, or perhaps it was just the 
miracle of personality; but somehow or other he 
knew positively and for all time that she was not 
a thief; that she, on the contrary, was just what 
in his opinion a woman ought to be. He looked 
down at the bent golden head, dripping pure 
drops of crystal. Dyed! What a spiteful goose 
Cora Wellington was! 

Then Durland came down the steps. 

“What’s happened?” he asked. 

“We’ve been rescuing a dog,” said Anthony. 
“Miss—Exeter and I.” So far he knew no other 
name for her. 

Durland smiled at him above her head, as 
much as to say, “Could anything be more ridic- 


162 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


ulously attaching than women are—this woman 
in particular?” And Anthony smiled back in a 
similar manner. 

Then there was a shout, and Antonia, having 
finished her supper and exhausted at least for the 
moment Mr. Albertson’s narrative powers, came 
flying down the steps, eager to know why it was 
that Miss Exeter and her uncle had been in 
swimming with their clothes on. When ex¬ 
plained, it appeared to her the most natural 
thing in the world. 

“Isn’t he sweet?” she said, when she had heard 
the story. “I think Horatius would be a good 
name for him—on account of ‘Never, I ween, 
did swimmer, in such an evil case, struggle 
through such a raging flood’—you know. Do 
you think mother will let us keep him? Or do 
you want to keep him, Miss Exeter? Oh, dear, 
I suppose you do I” 

“No, I can’t,” said Pearl, with regret. “I’d 
like to, but Alfred hates dogs.” 

Anthony was surprised to hear his own voice 
saying sharply, “And who is Alfred?” 

“He’s my cat,” said Pearl, turning her whole 
face up to him. “Everyone says he’s very ugly, 
but I love him.” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


163 


They smiled at each other; it was so obvious 
that Anthony refrained from saying, “Lucky 
creature.” 

Presently they moved toward the house—first 
Pearl, bearing Horatius still wrapped in An¬ 
thony’s motoring coat; then Durland, most so¬ 
licitous lest the dog should be too heavy for Miss 
Exeter; then Anthony carrying his shoes and 
coat and waistcoat; and then Antonia, dancing 
about. They approached the house in a quiet 
and rather sneaky way, by the kitchen entrance. 
Anthony had no wish to meet his sister, who sup¬ 
posed that he had been grilling a criminal. The 
children felt grave doubts that their mother 
would welcome Horatius at all—not that she 
was a cruel woman, but that she feared strange 
curs about the house. Fortunately the cook, who 
had a great weakness for Antonia, was cordial, 
and allowed HPratius to dry put behind the 
kitchen stove. 

It was now high time to dress for dinner, so 
there was a good excuse for stealing softly up the 
back stairs. 

While Anthony was tying his tie a knock came 
at the door, and Edna came in with the manner 


164 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


of a person confidently expecting important in¬ 
telligence. 

She said in a low voice, but with an immense 
amount of facial gesticulation to take the place 
of sound, “Albertson told me you had an inter¬ 
view. What did you find out?” 

For the first time Anthony realized that he 
had been an hour in the company of the false 
Miss Exeter without having even asked her true 
name. He might at least have done that. A 
weak man would have answered irritably that 
what between stray dogs drowning and Edna’s 
children interrupting he had not had an oppor¬ 
tunity to ask the woman anything. But he was 
not weak. He simply told her the truth. He 
saw that she accepted the story with reservations. 
A drowning dog was all very well, but how 
about her pearls? 

Dinner ought to have been a terrible meal, 
with Edna bitter and suspicious and the two 
detectives looking in at the window every now 
and then—just to show that they were on the 
job; but, as a matter of fact, it was extremely gay 
and pleasant. Antonia was allowed to hover 
about the room in honor of her uncle’s return, 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


165 


and Pearl and Anthony were—or appeared to 
be—in the highest spirits. 

Need it be recorded that Pearl had on her best- 
dress? It was a soft, black, shining crepe which 
she had run up one afternoon in the spring when 
she felt most depressed about not being able to 
find a position. Dressmaking often lightened 
her black moments; it was to her an exciting 
form of creation. It had been quickly and cas¬ 
ually done, but it had turned out well. Round 
her neck she wore the silliest little string of 
bright blue-glass beads, which someone had once 
given a doll of Antonia’s in the dead past when 
Antonia played with dolls, and which Antonia 
herself occasionally wore. Antonia had left 
them in Pearl’s room, for her new-found per¬ 
sonal neatness did not as yet extend to the care 
of her possessions, and in an impulse Pearl had 
put them on and found the result good. So did 
Antonia. 

“Oh, seel” she said as they sat down at table. 
“She has on my beads.” 

“Fancy Miss Exeter wearing someone else’s 
beads I” said Edna in a tone hard to mistake for 
a friendly one. 

“But don’t they look well on her?” said An- 


166 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


tonia. “Uncle Tony, don’t you think they look 
well on her? How could you describe her as 
‘of pleasing appearance’? It nearly made me 
miss her at the station that first day. I went 
dodging about, trying to find a pale, plain girl— 
that’s what mother told me to look for. I think 
Miss Exeter is beautiful, don’t you?” 

“Antonia!” said her mother scornfully, as if 
nonsense were being talked. 

Anthony, however, never allowed his niece to 
put him in a hole. 

“I certainly do,” he said, and he looked 
straight at Pearl, and she looked straight at him 
and laughed and said, “You’d be a brave man to 
say no when Antonia takes that tone.” 

“I should be worse than brave—I should be a 
liar,” said Anthony. 

The sentiment, which brought a lovely beam 
from Pearl, brought him a dark glance from his 
sister. She thought it was not like Anthony to 
be silly about a woman, and then the encouragN 
ing idea occurred to her that he was luring her 
on in order to win her confidence—clever crea¬ 
ture that he was. 

As soon as dinner was over the children 
rushed away to feed Horatius; and Edna, who 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


167 


felt the need of uninterrupted conversation with 
her brother, led him across the lawn to Miss 
Wellington’s house. It was not easy, for he 
showed the same reluctance to go that people 
show toward leaving a wood fire on a cold day; 
but when Miss Exeter—who, of course, everyone 
knew wasn’t Miss Exeter—said she had a letter 
to write he rose to his feet. 

“A letter?” he said, the idea being, of course, 
that now he was at home, there could be no more 
letters in the world. 

Pearl nodded. It really was important, for 
she had always promised Augusta to write her a 
full account of the first meeting with her re¬ 
spected employer; and, as a matter of fact, Pearl 
was bursting with eagerness to express her emo¬ 
tion to someone. If she wrote at once the letter 
could be posted that evening, when, about nine 
o’clock, a man came to deliver and receive mail. 

As Edna and her brother went out they passed 
Mr. Albertson on guard, and Edna conveyed 
the information to him that “she” had gone to 
write a letter. Albertson made a reassuring ges¬ 
ture and they passed on. 

Cora was all eagerness and cordiality. 

“And what has Anthony discovered about 


168 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


her?” were her first words—spoken to Edna, but 
directed toward him. 

Edna came nobly to his assistance, give an ac¬ 
count of the rescue of Horatius quite as if she 
thought it a natural, explainable incident, which 
she was really very far from thinking. 

“And what are his impressions?” said Cora. 

Anthony found this question almost as embar¬ 
rassing as the first one. He could not share his 
impressions. They were mingled—that the girl 
was beautiful—that swimming was a sensuous 
and graceful motion—that wet garments cling¬ 
ing to lovely limbs had not been sculptured since 
the Greeks made statuettes—that absolute integ¬ 
rity is consistent with masquerading under an¬ 
other name than your own and stealing someone 
else’s references. But, alas, these convictions 
were as impossible to share as a religious revela¬ 
tion. He turned for help to the most ancient 
methods. 

“And what do you think of her, Cora?” he 
said, as if he really cared. 

“I wrote you what I thought,” said Cora, and 
went into it again, while he sat smoking and try¬ 
ing to remember whether or not he had ever read 
that letter of Cora’s with the long description 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 169 

of moonlight on the sea. He rather thought he 
hadn’t. 

“Ah,” said Edna, willing to do Cora a kind¬ 
ness, “so you and Anthony correspond, do you?” 
At which Cora laughed self-consciously, and 
Anthony looked like a graven image—his well- 
known method of concealing emotion. This 
time the emotion was simply irritation, but Edna 
said to herself, “Well, after all, she wouldn’t be 
so bad.” 

In the short pause that followed, Durland 
bounded suddenly into the room. His eyes, 
which were normally blue like his mother’s, 
looked almost white in the sudden lights of the 
room. They were very wide open, and his small 
face was pale under his freckles and set with 
anger. 

“Look here, Uncle Anthony,” he said, “did 
you know what is going on in our house? Did 
you know they suspected Miss Exeter of stealing 
mother’s pearls?” No one answered, and he con¬ 
tinued, his voice shaking a little: “She asked me 
to give a letter she had been writing to the man 
who comes with the evening mail, and as I 
did Albertson came out and tried to take it from 
me—but that was a little too much.” The letter 


170 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


was still in his hand, crumpled from the 
struggle. “I never heard of such a thing 1 It’s 
an outrage 1 Did you know of this, mother?” 
There was something menacing in his tone. 

“My dear boy,” said Edna, in that patroniz¬ 
ing tone that people use as if their ability to con¬ 
ceal something from a child were a tremendous 
proof of their own superiority. “I’m afraid it 
will be a great shock to you, but you must face 
the fact that she did steal my pearls—at least 
so we believe; and that she is not Miss Exeter 
at all—she is a notorious English jewel thief 
known by the agreeable sobriquet of Golden 
Moll.” 

“You don’t know that, Edna,” said her brother 
quickly. 

“I should say notl” cried Durland. “Mother, 
I think it’s perfectly rotten of you to think it’s 
even possible.” 

Edna turned to her brother. 

“You see, Anthony,” she said, “what you’ve 
done to me, introducing this woman into my 
house—turning my own children against me.” 

Cora smiled at the boy soothingly. 

“But Durland doesn’t know that we have 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


171 


proof that she took the pearls,” she said, as one 
calmly able to make all smooth and easy. 

“No, Durland,” said his mother, “I have not 
been able to tell you—the detectives would not 
let me until your uncle got back—that we have 
proof. Miss Exeter is not Miss Exeter at all— 
just an imposter. Oh, tell him, Anthony—tell 
him that she’s—a common, everyday thief.” 

“I can’t do that,” said Wood, “because I don’t 
think so.” 

“You mean,” said his sister, as if now, indeed, 
a chasm had opened at her very feet, “that you 
have any doubt that she stole the pearls?” 

“I’m perfectly certain that she didn’t,” said 
Wood. 

Edna burst out at this into a wail of reproach 
and anger, ending with the not unnatural accu¬ 
sation that her brother must be in love with the 
woman too. 

“Yes, perhaps I am,” said Anthony. 

The idea was new to him, and not repugnant; 
but he spoke more to annoy his sister than from 
any more serious motive; but as he spoke he saw 
that Pearl and Mr. Albertson were in the room 
and must have heard him, Pearl, however, was 
too much excited already to register any further 


172 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


excitement. She strode into the room as she 
strode into the board room of the Encyclopedia; 
and almost at once catching sight of her letter, 
still in Durland’s hand, she made a grab for it; 
only Edna was quicker—or rather nearer—and 
succeeded in getting it first. Pearl turned to 
Anthony. 

“Mr. Wood,” she said, “I want my letter—I 
won’t have anyone read my letter. It’s an out- 
rage!” 

Mr. Albertson felt his moment had come. 

“Now look, girlie,” he said, “we about have 
the goods on you. Think of your folks! We 
want to help you.” He took the letter from Mrs. 
Conway. “I know,” he said, “that a lady’s cor¬ 
respondence ought to be sacred, but—— 

“But,” said Edna, not able to refrain from in¬ 
terrupting—“but ask her why it is she doesn’t 
want her letter read.” 

“Well, I reckon I can figure that out for my¬ 
self,” said Mr. Albertson. 

But in this instance—perhaps the only one of 
his long and successful career—he was wrong. 
He could not figure out why it was Pearl object¬ 
ed so violently to allowing that letter to be read. 

The reason was this: She had always promised 



THE PRICELESS PEARL 


173 


Augusta that she would communicate her first 
impressions of Mr. Wood, and as soon as he and 
his sister left the house to go to Miss Welling¬ 
ton’s she had run upstairs, and on the much-used 
typewriter she hastily ticked out a prose lyric on 
the subject of her meeting with the only man she 
ever could have or ever had loved. It began: 

My dear, he came this afternoon. Why didn’t 
you tell me what he was like? Oh, I know you said 
he was attractive. Attractive! He’s incredible! 
He’s devastating! And that voice! You never said 
a word about that voice, which makes me shake 
every time he speaks—like a telegraph wire in a 
wind. Oh, Augusta, isn’t it silly? But I think I 
love him- 

That was just the way it began. 

At the sight of that letter in Mrs. Conway’s 
hands, a storm of emotion swept over Pearl, even 
before she remembered just what she had said. 
But as phrase after phrase flashed before her 
eyes and seemed actually to tingle down to the 
tips of her fingers, she sprang like an animal at 
its prey, and would have had it, too, if it had not 
been for Mr. Albertson, who catching her elbow 
as she went by, not only stopped her, but spun 



174 THE PRICELESS PEARL 

her completely round—so vigorous had been her 
motion. 

Frustrated in action, Pearl burst into speech. 
She said that she must and would have that let¬ 
ter back; she said that opening other people’s 
letters was a state’s prison offense; she went on 
like a maniac, and every word she uttered made 
Mr. Albertson feel more and more convinced 
that the letter must be read. Still, he was a chiv¬ 
alrous man; he believed in chivalry as some 
people believe in Christianity—as the important 
highway in their lives, from which at moments 
they are obliged to stray. 

“Now look, girlie,” he said again, in accents 
even more honeyed, “don’t excite yourself. Why 
would you mind me reading your letter, which 
I see is to another lady?” 

“It’s none of your business why I mind,” said 
Pearl. “I just do. Oh, Mr. Wood,” she said, 
turning to Anthony, “don’t let them read my 
letter!” 

“I won’t,” he said. “I’ll read it myself.” 

“Oh, no!” said Pearl with a little scream. 

There was a pause. Anthony already had the 
letter in his hands now. He looked very gravely 
at Pearl. 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 175 

“I’m sorry you mind,” he said. “But this let¬ 
ter must be read either by my sister or me or 
Albertson. Which one would you rather have 
read it?” 

It was a hard choice. Pearl looked deliber¬ 
ately from one to another, and then she looked 
at Anthony. 

“You,” she said. 

In complete silence he opened it and read it 
carefully through. Pearl stood motionless, 
watching him, studying his face. If he had 
laughed, if he had even smiled, she would have 
killed him. She was hardly aware of Albertson 
and Edna and Cora and Durland, all also watch¬ 
ing him, to read in his face what he was reading 
on the paper. None of them read anything. His 
face was like a mask. He folded the letter and 
replaced it in the envelope. Then he took out 
his pocketbook and put the letter in it and put 
the pocketbook back in his pocket. 

Then he said, “I wish to have a word with 
Miss Exeter alone.” There was a small room 
that opened off the room in which they were sit¬ 
ting ; he walked toward it. “May we go in here, 
Cora?” he said. He made a motion with his 


176 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


hand, and Pearl, like a person bewitched, pre¬ 
ceded him. 

“Don’t be long, Tony,” Edna called to him. 

“I may be some time,” he answered, and shut 
the door behind him. 

Five minutes passed—ten. To those waiting 
it seemed an hour. Once Mr. Albertson walked 
near the door and bent his head. 

“Can you hear anything?” said Edna. 

“Not a thing,” said Mr. Albertson. 

“You wouldn’t be such a cad as to listen, 
would you?” said Durland. 

Nobody answered him. More time elapsed; 
and then Albertson, springing up, walked with a 
firm step to the door and turned the handle. It 
was locked. Albertson shook back a long gray 
lock from his forehead. 

“What do you make of that?” he said. 

Miss Wellington laughed. 

“Mrs. Conway has the right explanation, I 
think,” she said. “She’s done the trick with Mr, 
Wood too.” 

“Not at all,” said Edna, “How can you be so 
low, Cora? I only said that to make Anthony 
angry. He’s finding out—luring her to tell him 
everything.” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


177 


“Kidding her along, you mean?” said Mr. Al¬ 
bertson, who hated people not to use the right 
word. 

“TheyVe probably both got out of the back 
window by this time,” said Miss Wellington. 

This time Mr. Albertson frankly leaned his 
ear against the crack of the door. 

“No, they’re there yet,” he said, moving away 
again. “I can hear them talking—low.” 

Another silence succeeded to this information, 
and then Mrs. Conway’s butler appeared in the 
doorway. He looked about and said over his 
shoulder, “Yes, sir, she’s here.” He drew back 
and ushered in Gordon Conway. 

Edna looked at the man who had been her 
husband and said irritably, “You, Gordon; This 
is really a little too much!” 

“Hullo, father,” said Durland. 

“Hullo, Durlie,” said his father, as if he were 
trying to be cordial; and then, seeing Albertson, 
he added in a tone really cordial, “Why, Al¬ 
bertson, how do you do? I haven’t seen you 
since the night what’s his name—who had that 
crooked wheel in Hester Street—was pulled. 
Off the force?” 

The two men shook hands. 


178 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“Gordon,” said Edna, again determined to 
know the worst, “what do you want?” 

“Why, oddly enough—nothing at all,” replied 
Mr. Conway. 

He did not give the same impression of fur¬ 
tiveness and wasted pallor that Pearl had gained 
when she had caught a glimpse of him on the 
steps. No one could say he had a color, but he 
was distinctly less corpselike. There was noth¬ 
ing shabby about him now either. He was very 
well dressed in a dark morning suit; his boots, 
his tie, the wrist watch which he kept glancing 
at as if his time was rather short, were all of the 
most elegant sort. 

“No, my dear,” he went on, “you ought to 
welcome me most cordially, for I have come to 
make you a present—quite a present.” And 
fishing languidly in his pocket he produced the 
string of pearls. 

“A present!” cried Edna. “Those are my 
pearls!” 

“They are now,” said her husband politely, 
“because I have made up my mind to give them 
to you.” 

“You gave them to me originally—they were 
always mine.” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


179 


Conway shook his head a number of times. 

“So you have always said, Edna; but saying 
a thing over and over again does not make it 
any truer. I did not give them to you——” 

“You did,” said Edna. 

“Ah, Edna,” he answered sadly, “how you can 
take the grace out of life! You can make even 
the present of a splendid string of pearls seem 
ungracious. I never gave them to you. I let 
you wear them while you were my wife—a mis¬ 
take, for when you ceased to be my wife you 
would not give them back—natural, but hardly 
honest.” 

“That’s absolutely untrue,” said Edna. 

He did not allow her to ruffle him. 

“But now,” he went on, “I do give them to 
you—freely and completely. Be witness, Al¬ 
bertson, that I present this string of pearls to this 
lady—who was once my wife.” 

Edna was examining them pearl by pearl. 

“They seem to be all right,” she said. “The 
number is right. What’s this?” she added, indi¬ 
cating an emerald drop which had never been 
on them before. 

“That’s an extra; that’s interest on the money,” 
answered Conway with a flourish; “that’s an ex- 



180 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


pression of thanks for your courtesy in letting 
me have them at a moment when they meant so 
much to me” 

This recalled the question of how he had ob¬ 
tained them. ‘‘Gordon, 5 ’ she said, “did you steal 
those out of my safe?” 

He shook his head. “You can’t steal what is 
already your own.” 

“I can’t see how in the world you got them,” 
said Edna, “unless that woman is a confederate. 
Did she give them to you?” 

“I don’t even know what woman you mean, 
Edna,” he answered. “If you mean a magnifi¬ 
cent Hebe who was coming into the house in a 
hurry as I was going out the other day, I may 
say I should always be glad to be her confederate 
in anything— one of the few times in my life, 
Edna, I was actually sorry to leave your house. 
No, I did not go to your safe, although I am in¬ 
terested to know that you have one.” 

“That’s where they were,” said Edna indig¬ 
nantly, looking round. “The pearls were locked 
up in the safe. I know that.” 

“Like so much of your more positive informa¬ 
tion, my dear, that, too, is wrong,” said Conway. 
“You had them on when I called. And as we 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


181 


talked they came unfastened, and you took them 
off and laid them on the table beside you. Some¬ 
thing told me that you had not been aware of 
what you did, and so when you refused so very 
roughly to lend me the sum of money I needed 
I simply took back my pearls—when you were 
not looking.” 

“Gordon,” said Edna, “you stole my pearls.” 
And her tone had a note of triumph as if the old 
delight of putting him in the wrong had not en¬ 
tirely died. 

“I took my pearls from the table,” said Con¬ 
way, “and turned them for a few days into cash, 
with which I know you will be glad to know I 
made a lot of money—a pot of money, Albertson 
—there is money still to be made on the races 
for a smart fellow who knows how; and then, 
my dear, with a quixotic impulse I gave you the 
pearls, as I have always thought of doing. Some 
men might have given them to a younger and 
more amiable woman, but my nature has always 
been distinguished by a peculiar form of loyalty. 
I give them to you—for the sake of old times.” 

“You brought them back for the sake of not 
going to jail,” said Edna, her eyes flashing at 
him. He smiled gently. 


182 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


“Edna,” he said, “as time goes on you learn 
nothing—absolutely nothing. Durland, when v 
are you going to begin to grow? Good night, 
Albertson. Remember that you are a witness to 
this gift. Good night.” 

And he had taken his departure before any¬ 
one spoke again, It was Durland who spoke 
first. His voice shook a little. 

“You see, mother,” he said, “what a terrible 
injustice you have done Miss Exeter. She might 
sue you, only she’s too generous. Oh, if you had 
only told me that my father had been about that 
day—only you never tell me anything, as if I 
were a baby. You will apologize to her, won’t 
you?” 

“I do not seem to be likely to get the chance 
of speaking to her at all,” said Edna, glancing 
at the closed door. 

Cora Wellington rose to her feet. 

“I’m sorry to be inhospitable, Edna,” she said, 
“but I have had a long, hard day attending to 
your business, and I want to go to bed. In fact, 
I think I’ll go.” And she walked firmly out of 
the room and upstairs, where, since the house— 
like the Conways’—was lightly built, she could 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 183 

be heard rapidly walking about on her heels in 
the room immediately overhead. 

“Well,” said Mr. Albertson, “it looks like I 
may as well be getting back to the Great White 
Way myself. I congratulate you on the happy 
termination of this affair, Mrs. Conway. I do 
not think that emerald is genuine, but I presume 
it is the sentiment that will appeal to you. I feel 
as happy as you do that that sweet young lady is 
as innocent as a baby.” 

It cannot be said that Edna looked particu¬ 
larly happy over this point. She raised her 
shoulders. 

“But we don’t know yet who she is. She cer¬ 
tainly is not Miss Exeter.” 

Albertson smiled. 

“You will find it was just a girlish prank,” he 
said. “And I think we may presume that Mr. 
Wood now knows the whole story. I think if 
you’ll permit me I’ll call my assistant and we 
will get the car and be off.” 

Mrs. Conway, once again wearing her pearls, 
and Durland, still talking of apologies, accom¬ 
panied Mr. Albertson back to the other house. 

So the room was empty. Gradually it seemed 


184 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


to lose even the remembrance of its late occu¬ 
pants. The down cushion of the chair in which 
Edna had been sitting rose softly to its accus¬ 
tomed level with something like a sigh of relief. 
A wicker sofa, of stiffer nature, creaked in every 
fibre. A drooping flower in a glass vase gave a 
little shiver and shed every last petal on the 
table, as if it had been waiting all the evening 
to do this. Even the window curtains ceased 
swaying in the sea-breeze. It was as if the room 
and everything in it settled down to a breathless 
expectancy. 

And at last the door of the little room opened 
and Pearl and Anthony came out. They did not 
appear at all surprised to find the room empty. 
They would not have been surprised to find the 
universe empty—to hear phantom newsboys 
calling an extra announcing that no one existed 
but themselves—“Rumor confirmed that only 
Pearl and Anthony Exist.” 

Pearl looked about her with that beautiful 
starry blankness that certain emotions bring to 
any human countenance—a thousand times star¬ 
rier than ever before. 

“I wonder,” she said, without the slightest 
trace of real interest, “what has happened.” 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


185 


“Haven’t you been listening to me,” said An¬ 
thony. “A miracle has happened—we have fal¬ 
len in love.” 

Nevertheless he understood her meaning; and 
just to please her he walked to the door and 
glanced into the corridor. It was as essentially 
empty as the room. Then as he returned to her, 
although she was staring in the opposite direc¬ 
tion and he made not the slightest sound on the 
thick rug, she turned her face slowly up and over 
her shoulder, and met his lips with hers. Nor 
did either of them mention this as a miracle 
or even an example of uncharted psychic powers. 

It was a long kiss; an inexperienced onlooker 
might have thought it a quiet ritual rather than 
a manifestation of human passion. When it was 
over, they stood once more in complete silence. 
Then Pearl said: 

“I think we ought to go back to our sister’s 
house.” 

“I suppose so,” said Anthony. And again by 
an apparently mystical understanding they 
moved not across the lawn toward Mrs. Con¬ 
way’s house, but out across the dunes toward the 
beach. 


186 


THE PRICELESS PEARL 


There was no moon, but the milky way like 
a narrow cloud rose straight out of the sea, and 
the Scorpion was brightly festooned above the 
southern horizon. 


THE END 













r