The Mayor's Wife
7. A Moving Shadow
I bent to lift the prostrate form of the unhappy woman who had been placed in my
care. As I did so I heard something like a snarl over my shoulder, and, turning,
saw Nixon stretching eager arms toward his mistress, whose fall he had
"Let me! let me!" he cried, his old form trembling almost to the point of incapacity.
"We will lift her together," I rejoined; and though his eyes sparkled irefully, he
accepted my help and together we carried her into her own room and laid her on
a lounge. I have had some training as a nurse and, perceiving that Mrs. Packard
had simply fainted, I was not at all alarmed, but simply made an effort to restore
her with a calmness that for some reason greatly irritated the old man.
"Shall I call Ellen? Shall I call Letty?" he kept crying, shifting from one foot to
another in a frightened and fussy way that exasperated me almost beyond
endurance. "She doesn't breathe; she is white, white! Oh, what will the mayor
say? I will call Letty."
But I managed to keep him under control and finally succeeded in restoring Mrs.
Packard--a double task demanding not a little self- control and discretion. When
the flutter of her eyelids showed that she would soon be conscious, I pointed out
these signs of life to my uneasy companion and hinted very broadly that the
fewer people Mrs. Packard found about her on coming to herself, the better she
would be pleased. His aspect grew quite ferocious at this, and for a moment I
almost feared him; but as I continued to urge the necessity of avoiding any fresh
cause of agitation in one so weak, he gradually shrank back from my side where
he had kept a jealous watch until now, and reluctantly withdrew into the hall.
Another moment and Mrs. Packard had started to rise; but, on seeing me and me
only standing before her, she fell wearily back, crying in a subdued way, which
nevertheless was very intense:
"Don't, don't let him come in--see me--or know. I must be by myself; I must be!
Don't you see that I am frightened?"
The words came out with such force I was startled. Leaning over her, with the
natural sympathy her condition called for, I asked quietly but firmly:
"Whom do you mean by him? There is only one person in the hall, and that is
"Hasn't Mr. Packard returned?"