Human nature being as it is, it is probable that the loss of the pearls was nothing 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 children should turn out to be a thief. She valued her pearls too. They were not only beautiful and becoming but they had a sentimental association. 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 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 anything 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 malice 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 suspected. She did notice a slight change for the better in Mrs. Conway's manner--a certain sugary 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