The Mayor's Wife
8. The Paragraph
I was up betimes. Would Mrs. Packard appear at breakfast? I hardly thought so.
Yet who knows? Such women have great recuperative powers, and from one so
mysteriously affected anything might be expected. Ready at eight, I hastened
down to the second floor to find the lady, concerning whom I had had these
doubts, awaiting me on the threshold of her room. She was carefully dressed and
looked pale enough to have been up for hours. An envelope was in her hand,
and the smile which hailed my approach was cold and constrained.
"Good morning," said she. "Let us go down. Let us go down together. I slept
wretchedly and do not feel very strong. When did Mr. Packard come in?"
"Late. He went directly to the library. He said that he had but a short time in
which to rest, and would take what sleep he could get on the lounge, when I told
him of your very natural nervous attack."
She sighed--a sigh which came from no inconsiderable depths--then with a proud
and resolute gesture preceded me down-stairs.
Her husband was already in the breakfast-room. I could hear his voice as we
turned at the foot of the stairs. Mrs. Packard, hearing it, too, drew herself up still
more firmly and was passing bravely forward, when Nixon's gray head protruded
from the doorway and I heard him say:
"There's company for breakfast, ma'am. His Honor could not spare Mr. Steele
and asked me to set a place for him."
I noted a momentary hesitation on Mrs. Packard's part, then she silently
acquiesced and we both passed on. In another instant we were receiving the
greetings and apologies of the gentlemen. If Mr. Steele had expected that his
employer's wife would offer him her hand, he was disappointed.
"I am happy to welcome one who has proved so useful to my husband," she
remarked with cool though careful courtesy as we all sat down at the table; and,
without waiting for an answer, she proceeded to pour the coffee with a proud
grace which gave no hint of the extreme feeling by which I had seen her moved
the night before.
Had I known her better I might have found something extremely unnatural in her
manner and the very evident restraint she put upon herself through the whole
meal; but not having any acquaintance with her ordinary bearing under
conditions purely social, I was thrown out of my calculations by the cold ease
with which she presided at her end of the table, and the set smile with which she