The Mayor's Wife
23. The Wife 'S Tale
Ten minutes later this woman was pleading her cause. She had left the side of
the man who had just assumed the greatest of all rights over her and was
standing in a frenzy of appeal before him she loved so deeply and yet had
Mayor Packard was sitting with his head in his hands in the chair into which he
had dropped when the blow fell which laid waste his home, his life, the future of
his child and possibly the career which was as much, perhaps more, to him than
all these. He had not uttered a word since that dreadful moment. To all
appearance her moans of contrition fell upon deaf ears, and she had reached the
crisis of her misery without knowing the extent of the condemnation hidden in his
persistent silence. Collapse seemed inevitable, but I did not know the woman or
the really wonderful grip she held on herself. Seeing that he was moved by
nothing she had said, she suddenly paused, and presently I heard her observe in
quite a different tone:
"There is one thing you must know--which I thought you would know without my
telling you. I have never lived with this man, and I believe him dead when I gave
my hand to you."
The mayor's fingers twitched. She had touched him at last. "Speak! tell me," he
murmured hoarsely. "I do not want to do you any injustice."
"I shall have to begin far, far back; tell about my early life and all its temptations,"
she faltered, "or you will never understand."
Sensible at this point of the extreme impropriety, of my presence, I rose, with an
apology, to leave. But she shook her head quickly, determinedly, saying that as I
had heard so much I must hear more. Then she went on with her story.
"I have committed a great fault," said she, "but one not so deep or inexcusable as
now appears, whatever that man may say," she added with a slow turn toward
the silent secretary.
Did she expect to provoke a reply from the man who, after the first triumphant
assertion of his claim, had held himself as removed from her and as
unresponsive to her anguish as had he whom she directly addressed? If so, she
must have found her disappointment bitter, for he did not respond with so much
as a look. He may have smiled, but if so, it was not a helpful smile; for she turned
away with a shudder and henceforth faced and addressed the mayor only.