The Mayor's Wife HTML version

26. Bitter As The Grave
But Nixon was wrong. Mr. Steele did not die--not this time. Cared for by the
physician who had been hastily summoned, he slowly but surely revived and by
midnight was able to leave the house. As he passed the mayor on his way out, I
heard Mr. Packard say:
"I shall leave the house myself in a few minutes. I do not mean that your
disaffection shall ruin my campaign any more than I mean to leave a stone
unturned to substantiate my accusation that you had no right to marry and
possess legal claims over the woman whose happiness you have endeavored to
wreck. If you are wise you will put no further hindrance in my way."
I heard no answer, for at that instant a figure appeared in the open door which
distracted all our attention. Miss Thankful, never an early sleeper and much
given, as we know, to looking out of her window, had evidently caught the note of
disaster from the coming and going of the doctor. She had run in from next door
and now stood panting in the open doorway face to face with Mr. Steele, with her
two hands held out, in one of which, remarkable as it seems to relate, I saw the
package of bonds which I had been fortunate enough to find for her.
The meeting seemed to paralyze both; her face which had been full of tremulous
feeling blanched and hardened, while he, stopped in some speech or final effort
he was about to make, yielded to the natural brutality which underlay his polished
exterior, and, in an access of rage which almost laid him prostrate again, lifted
his arm and struck her out of his path. As she reeled to one side the bonds flew
from her hand and lay at his feet; but he saw nothing; he was already half-way
down the walk and in another moment the bang of his carriage door announced
his departure.
The old lady, muttering words I could not hear, stared mute and stricken at the
bonds which the mayor had hastened to lift and place in her hands.
Pitying her and anxious to relieve him from the embarrassment of her presence
when his own mind and heart were full of misery, I rushed down to her side and
endeavored to lead her away. She yielded patiently enough to my efforts, but, as
she turned away, she cast one look at the mayor and with the tears rolling down
her long and hollow cheeks murmured in horror and amaze:
"He struck me!"
The flash in Mayor Packard's eye showed sympathy, but the demands of the
moment were too great for him to give to those pathetic words the full
significance which I suddenly suspected them to hold. As I led her tottering figure
down the step and turned toward her door I said gently: