The Mayor's Wife
25. The Finger On The Wall
At this appeal the mayor rose and faced his secretary and the spectacle was
afforded me of seeing two strong men drawn up in conflict over a woman both
had cherished above all else. And it was characteristic of the forceful men, as
well as the extreme nature of the conflict, that both were quiet in manner and
speech--perhaps the mayor the more so, as he began the struggle by saying:
"Is what Mrs. Packard says of your playing with her fears during these two weeks
true, Mr. Steele?"
Without a droop of his eye, or a tremor in his voice, the answer came short,
sharp and emphatic:
"Then, you are a villain! and I shall not feel myself called upon to show you any
consideration beyond what justice demands. Have you any plea to urge beyond
the natural one of her seemingly unprovoked desertion of you? Has not my wife--
" the nobility with which he emphasized those two words made my heart swell--
"spoken the truth?"
Ah! then the mask of disdainful serenity with which the other had hitherto veiled
the burning anguish of his soul fell in one burst of irresistible passion.
"True! yes, it is true. But what does that truth involve for me? Not two weeks, but
seven years of torture, five of them devoted to grief for her, loss, and two to rage
and bitter revulsion against her whole sex when I found her alive, and myself the
despised victim of her deception."
"She wronged you--she acknowledges that--but it was the wrong of an unthinking
child--not of a realizing woman. Would you, a realizing man, tear her now from
home, from her child, from her place in the community and my heart--make her
despicable as well as unhappy, just to feed your revenge?"
"Yes, I would do that."
"Jeopardize interests you have so often professed in my hearing to be far above
personal consideration--the success of your party, the triumph of your political
"My political principles!" Oh, the irony of his voice, the triumph in his laugh! "And
what do you know of them? What I have said. Mayor Packard, your education as
a politician has yet to be completed before you will be fit for the governorship of a