The Mayor's Wife
"Bess, why are you so white? What has happened to you in the last twenty-four
hours? Have you heard from him?"
"No, no; I'm all right." But her eyes, hunted and wandering, belied her words.
I drew her hands down into mine across the table lying between us.
"I want to help you," I whispered; "I think I can. Something has happened which
gives me great hope; only do me a favor first; show me, as you promised, the
papers which I dug out for you."
A smile, more bitter than any tear, made her face look very hard for an instant,
then she quietly led the way into the small room at the back. When we were quite
alone, she faced me again and putting her hand to her breast took out the much
creased, much crumpled bit of paper which was her only link to youth, to her life,
and to her love.
"This is all that will interest you," said she, her eyes brimming in spite of herself.
"It is my marriage certificate. The one thing that proves me an honest woman and
the equal of--" she paused, biting back her words and saying instead--"of any
one I see. My husband was a gentleman."
It was with trembling hands I unfolded the worn sheet. Somehow the tragedy of
the lives my own had touched so nearly for the last few days had become an
essential part of me.
"John Silverthorn Brainard," I read, the name identical with the one I had just
seen as the early signature of the man who claimed a husband's rights over Mrs.
Packard. The date with what anxiety I looked at it!--preceded by two years that of
the time he united himself to Olympia Brewster. No proof of the utter falsity of his
dishonorable claim could be more complete. As I folded up the paper and
handed it back, Bess noted the change which had come to me. Panting with
excitement she cried:
"You look happy, happy! You know something you have not told me. What?
what? I'm suffocating, mad to know; speak--speak--"
"Your husband is a man not unknown to any of us. You have seen him
constantly. He is--"
"Yes, yes; did he tell you himself? Has he done me so much justice? Oh, say that
his heart has softened at last; that he is ready to recognize me; that I have not
got to find those bonds--but you do not know about the bonds--nobody does. I