THE MAYOR'S WIFE
by Anna Katherine Green
I A SPY'S DUTY
III IN THE GABLE WINDOW
V THE STRANGE NEIGHBORS NEXT DOOR
VI AT THE STAIR-HEAD
VII A MOVING SHADOW
VIII THE PARAGRAPH
X A GLIMMER OF THE TRUTH
XIII A DISCOVERY
XIV I SEEK HELP
XV HARDLY A COINCIDENCE
XVI IN THE LIBRARY
XVII THE TWO WEIRD SISTERS
XVIII THE MORNING NEWS
XIX THE CRY FROM THE STAIRS
XXI THE CIPHER
XXIII THE WIFE'S TALE
XXIV THE SINS OF THE FATHERS
XXV THE FINGER ON THE WALL
XXVI "BITTER AS THE GRAVE"
XXVII A CHILD'S PLAYTHINGS
A SPY'S DUTY
I am not without self-control, yet when Miss Davies entered the
room with that air of importance she invariably assumes when she
has an unusually fine position to offer, I could not hide all
traces of my anxiety.
I needed a position, needed it badly, while the others -
But her eyes are on our faces, she is scanning us all with that
close and calculating gaze which lets nothing escape. She has
passed me by - my heart goes down, down - when suddenly her look
returns and she singles me out.
"Miss Saunders." Then, "I have a word to say to you."
There is a rustle about me; five disappointed girls sink back
into their seats as I quickly rise and follow Miss Davies out.
In the hall she faced me with these words:
"You are discreet, and you evidently desire a position. You will
find a gentleman in my sitting-room. If you come to terms with
him, well and good. If not, I shall expect you to forget all
about him and his errand the moment you leave his presence. You
"I think so," I replied, meeting her steady look with one equally
composed. Part of my strength - and I think I have some strength
- lies in the fact that I am quietest when most deeply roused. "I
am not to talk whatever the outcome."
"Not even to me," she emphasized.
Stirred still further and therefore outwardly even more calm than
before, I stopped her as she was moving on and ventured a single
"This position - involving secrecy - is it one you would advise me
to take, even if I did not stand in need of it so badly?"
"Yes. The difficulties will not be great to a discreet person.
It is a first-class opportunity for a young woman as experienced
"Thank you," was my abrupt but grateful rejoinder; and, obeying
her silent gesture, I opened the door of the sitting-room and
passed in. A gentleman standing at one of the windows turned
quickly at the sound of my step and came forward. Instantly
whatever doubt I may have felt concerning the nature of the work
about to be proposed to me yielded to the certainty that, however
much it might involve of the strange and difficult, the man whose
mission it was to seek my aid was one to inspire confidence and
He was also a handsome man, or no, I will not go so far as that;
he was only one in whom the lines of form and visage were fine
enough not to interfere with the impression made by his strong
nature and intense vitality. A man to sway women and also quite
capable of moving men (this was evident at a glance); but a man
under a cloud just at present, - a very heavy cloud which both
irked and perplexed him.
Pausing in the middle of the room, he surveyed me closely for an
instant before speaking. Did I impress him as favorably as he
did me? I soon had reason to think so, for the nervous trembling
of his hands ceased after the first moment or two of silent
scrutiny, and I was sure I caught the note of hope in his voice
as he courteously remarked:
"You are seeking a place, young lady. Do you think you can fill
the one I have to offer? It has its difficulties, but it is not
an onerous one. It is that of companion to my wife."
I bowed; possibly I smiled. I do smile sometimes when a ray of
real sunshine darts across my pathway.
"I should be very glad to try such a situation," I replied.
A look of relief, so vivid that it startled me, altered at once
the whole character of his countenance; and perceiving how
intense was the power and fascination underlying his quiet
exterior, I asked myself who and what this man was; no ordinary
personage, I was sure, but who? Had Miss Davies purposely
withheld his name? I began to think so.
"I have had some experience," I was proceeding -
But he waved this consideration aside, with a change back to his
former gloomy aspect, and a careful glance at the door which did
not escape me.
"It is not experience which is so much needed as discretion."
Again that word.
"The case is not a common one, or, rather," - he caught himself up
quickly, "the circumstances are not. My wife is well, but - she
is not happy. She is very unhappy, deeply, unaccountably so, and
I do not know why."
Anxious to watch the effect of these words, he paused a moment,
then added fervently:
"Would to God I did! It would make a new man of me."
The meaning, the deep meaning in his tone, if not in the
adjuration itself, was undeniable; but my old habit of
self-control stood me in good stead and I remained silent
and watchful, weighing every look and word.
"A week ago she was the lightest hearted woman in town, - the
happiest wife, the merriest mother. To-day she is a mere wreck
of her former self, pallid, drawn, almost speechless, yet she is
not ill. She will not acknowledge to an ache or a pain; will not
even admit that any change has taken place in her. But you have
only to see her. And I am as ignorant of the cause of it all - as
you are!" he burst out.
Still I remained silent, waiting, watchful.
"I have talked with her physician. He says there is something
serious the matter with her, but he can not help her, as it is
not in any respect physical, and advises me to find out what is
on her mind. As if that had not been my first care! I have also
consulted her most intimate friends, all who know her well, but
they can give me no clue to her distress. They see the
difference in her, but can not tell the cause. And I am obliged
to go away and leave her in this state. For two weeks, three
weeks now, my movements will be very uncertain. I am at the beck
and call of the State Committee. At any other time I would try
change of scene, but she will neither consent to leave home
without me nor to interrupt my plans in order that I may
"Miss Davies has not told me your name," I made bold to
He stared, shook himself together, and quietly, remarked:
"I am Henry Packard."
The city's mayor! and not only that, the running candidate for
governor. I knew him well by name, even if I did not know, or
rather had not recognized his face.
"I beg pardon," I somewhat tremulously began, but he waved the
coming apology aside as easily, as he had my first attempt at
ingratiation. In fact, he appeared to be impatient of every
unnecessary word. This I could, in a dim sort of way,
understand. He was at the crisis of his fate, and so was his
party. For several years a struggle had gone on between the two
nearly matched elements in this western city, which, so far, had
resulted in securing him two terms of office - possibly because
his character appealed to men of all grades and varying
convictions. But the opposite party was strong in the state, and
the question whether he could carry his ticket against such odds,
and thus give hope to his party in the coming presidential
election, was one yet to be tested. Forceful as a speaker, he
was expected to reap hundreds of votes from the mixed elements
that invariably thronged to hear him, and, ignorant as I
necessarily was of the exigencies of such a campaign, I knew that
not only his own ambition, but the hopes of his party, depended
on the speeches he had been booked to make in all parts of the
state. And now, three weeks before election, while every
opposing force was coming to the surface, this trouble had come
upon him. A mystery in his home and threatened death in his
heart! For he loved his wife - that was apparent to me from the
first; loved her to idolatry, as such men sometimes do love, -
often to their own undoing.
All this, the thought of an instant. Meanwhile he had been
studying me well.
"You understand my position," he commented. "Wednesday night I
speak in C - -, Thursday, in R - -, while she - " With an effort he
pulled himself together. "Miss - "
"Saunders," I put in.
"Miss Saunders, I can not leave her alone in the house. Some one
must be there to guard and watch - "
"Has she no mother?" I suggested in the pause he made.
"She has no living relatives, and mine are uncongenial to her."
This to save another question. I understood him perfectly.
"I can not ask any of them to stay with her," he pursued
decisively. "She would not consent to it. Nor can I ask any of
her friends. That she does not wish, either. But I can hire a
companion. To that she has already consented. That she will
regard as a kindness, if the lady chosen should prove to be one
of those rare beings who carry comfort in their looks without
obtruding their services or displaying the extent of their
interest. You know there are some situations in which the
presence of a stranger may be more grateful than that of a
friend. Apparently, my wife feels herself so placed now."
Here his eyes again read my face, an ordeal out of which I came
triumphant; the satisfaction he evinced rightly indicated his
"Will you accept the position?" he asked. "We have one little
child. You will have no charge of her save as you may wish to
make use of her in reaching the mother."
The hint conveyed in the last phrase gave me courage to say:
"You wish me to reach her?"
"With comfort," said he.
"And if in doing so I learn her trouble?"
"You will win my eternal gratitude by telling it to one who would
give ten years of his life to assuage it."
My head rose. I began to feel that my next step must strike
"In other words to be quite honest - you wish me to learn her
trouble if I can."
"I believe you can be trusted to do so."
"And then to reveal it to you?"
"If your sense of duty permits, - which I think it will."
I might have uttered in reply, "A spy's duty?" but the high-
mindedness of his look forbade. Whatever humiliation his wishes
put upon me, there could be no question of the uprightness of his
motives regarding his wife.
I ventured one more question.
"How far shall I feel myself at liberty to go in this attempt?"
"As far as your judgment approves and circumstances seem to
warrant. I know that you will come upon nothing dishonorable to
her, or detrimental to our relations as husband and wife, in this
secret which is destroying our happiness. Her affection for me
is undoubted, but something - God knows what - has laid waste her
life. To find and annihilate that something is my first and
foremost duty. It does not fit well with those other duties
pressing upon me from the political field, does it? That is why
I have called in help. That is why I have called you in."
The emphasis was delicately but sincerely given. It struck my
heart and entered it. Perhaps he had calculated upon this. If
so, it was because he knew that a woman like myself works better
when her feelings are roused.
Answering with a smile, I waited patiently while he talked terms
and other equally necessary details, then dropping all these
considerations, somewhat in his own grand manner, I made this
"If your wife likes me, which very possibly she may fail to do, I
shall have a few questions to ask you before I settle down to my
duties. Will you see that an opportunity is given me for doing
His assent was as frank as all the rest, and the next moment he
left the room.
As he passed out I heard him remark to Miss Davies:
"I expect Miss Saunders at my house before nightfall. I shall
reserve some minutes between half-past five and six in which to
introduce her to Mrs. Packard."
I knew all the current gossip about Mrs. Packard before I had
parted with Miss Davies. Her story was a simple one. Bred in
the West, she had come, immediately after her mother's death, to
live with that mother's brother in Detroit. In doing this she
had walked into a fortune. Her uncle was a rich man and when he
died, which was about a year after her marriage with Mr. Packard
and removal to C - , she found herself the recipient of an
enormous legacy. She was therefore a woman of independent means,
an advantage which, added to personal attractions of a high
order, and manners at once dignified and winning, caused her to
be universally regarded as a woman greatly to be envied by all
who appreciated a well-founded popularity.
So much for public opinion. It differs materially from that just
given me by her husband.
The mayor lived on Franklin Street in a quarter I had seldom
visited. As I entered this once aristocratic thoroughfare from
Carlton Avenue, I was struck as I had been before by its
heterogeneous appearance. Houses of strictly modern type
neighbored those of a former period, and it was not uncommon to
see mansion and hovel confronting each other from the opposite
side of the street. Should I find the number I sought attached
to one of the crude, unmeaning dwellings I was constantly
passing, or to one of mellower aspect and possibly historic
I own that I felt a decided curiosity on this point, and
congratulated myself greatly when I had left behind me a
peculiarly obnoxious monstrosity in stone, whose imposing
proportions might reasonably commend themselves to the
necessities, if not to the taste of the city's mayor.
A little shop, one story in height and old enough for its simple
wooden walls to cry aloud for paint, stood out from the middle of
a row of cheap brick houses. Directly opposite it were two
conspicuous dwellings, neither of them new and one of them
ancient as the street itself. They stood fairly close together,
with an alley running between. From the number I had now reached
it was evident that the mayor lived in one of these. Happily it
was in the fresher and more inviting one. As I noted this, I
paused in admiration of its spacious front and imposing doorway.
The latter was in the best style of Colonial architecture, and
though raised but one step from the walk, was so distinguished by
the fan-tailed light overhead and the flanking casements glazed
with antique glass, that I felt myself carried back to the days
when such domiciles were few and denoted wealth the most solid,
and hospitality the most generous.
A light wall, painted to match the house, extended without break
to the adjoining building, a structure equal to the other in age
and dimensions, but differing in all other respects as much as
neglect and misuse could make it. Gray and forbidding, it
towered in its place, a perfect foil to the attractive dwelling
whose single step I now amounted with cheerful composure.
What should I have thought if at that moment I had been told that
appearances were deceitful, and that there were many persons then
living who, if left to their choice, would prefer life in the
dismal walls from which I had instinctively turned, to a single
night spent in the promising house I was so eager to enter.
An old serving-man, with a countenance which struck me pleasantly
enough at the time, opened the door in response to my ring, only
to make instant way for Mayor Packard, who advanced from some
near-by room to greet me. By this thoughtful attention I was
spared the embarrassment from which I might otherwise have
His few words of greeting set me entirely at my ease, and I was
quite ready to follow him when a moment later he invited me to
meet Mrs. Packard.
"I can not promise you just the reception you naturally look
for," said he, as he led me around the stairs toward an opening
at their rear, "but she's a kind woman and can not but be struck
with your own kind spirit and quiet manner."
Happily, I was not called upon to answer, for at that moment the
door swung open and he ushered me into a room flooded brilliantly
with the last rays of the setting sun. The woman who sat in its
glow made an instant and permanent impression upon me. No one
could look intently upon her without feeling that here was a
woman of individuality and power, overshadowed at present by the
deepest melancholy. As she rose and faced us I decided instantly
that her husband had not exaggerated her state of mind. Emotion
of no ordinary nature disturbed the lines of her countenance and
robbed her naturally fine figure of a goodly portion of its
dignity and grace; and though she immediately controlled herself
and assumed the imposing aspect of a highly trained woman, ready,
if not eager, to welcome an intruding guest, I could not easily
forget the drawn look about mouth and eyes which, in the first
instant of our meeting, had distorted features naturally
harmonious and beautifully serene.
I am sure her husband had observed it also, for his voice
trembled slightly as he addressed her.
"I have brought you a companion, Olympia, one whose business and
pleasure it will be to remain with you while I am making speeches
a hundred miles away. Do you not see reason for thanking me?"
This last question he pointed with a glance in my direction,
which drew her attention and caused her to give me a kindly look.
I met her eyes fairly. They were large and gray and meant for
smiling; eyes that, with a happy heart behind them, would
illumine her own beauty and create joy in those upon whom they
fell. But to-day, nothing but question lived in their dark and
uneasy depths, and it was for me to face that question and give
no sign of what the moment was to me.
"I think - I am sure, that my thanks are due you," she courteously
replied, with a quick turn toward her husband, expressive of
confidence, and, as I thought, of love. "I dreaded being left
He drew a deep breath of relief; we both did; then we talked a
little, after which Mayor Packard found some excuse for taking me
from the room.
"Now for the few words you requested," said he; and, preceding me
down the hall, he led me into what he called his study.
I noted one thing, and only one thing, on entering this place.
That was the presence of a young man who sat at a distant table
reading and making notes. But as Mayor Packard took no notice of
him, knowing and expecting him to be there, no doubt, I, with a
pardonable confusion, withdrew my eyes from the handsomest face I
had ever seen, and, noting that my employer had stopped before a
type-writer's table, I took my place at his side, without knowing
very well what this move meant or what he expected me to do
I was not long left in doubt. With a gesture toward the
type-writer, he asked me if I was accustomed to its use; and when
I acknowledged some sort of acquaintance with it, he drew an
unanswered letter from a pile on the table and requested me to
copy it as a sample.
I immediately sat down before the type-writer. I was in
something of a maze, but felt that I must follow his lead. As I
proceeded to insert the paper and lay out the copy to hand, he
crossed over to the young man at the other end of the room and
began a short conversation which ended in some trivial demand
that sent the young man from the room. As the door closed behind
him Mayor Packard returned to my side.
"Keep on with your work and never mind mistakes," said he. "What
I want is to hear the questions you told me to expect from you if
Seemingly Mayor Packard did not wish this young man to know my
position in the house. Was it possible he did not wholly trust
him? My hands trembled from the machine and I was about to turn
and give my full thought to what I had to say. But pride checked
the impulse. "No," I muttered in quick dissuasion, to myself.
"He must see that I can do two things at once and do both well."
And so I went on with the letter.
"When," I asked, "did you first see the change in Mrs. Packard?"
"On Tuesday afternoon at about this time."
"What had happened on that day? Had she been out?"
"Yes, I think she told me later that she had been out."
"Do you know where?"
"To some concert, I believe. I did not press her with questions,
Miss Saunders; I am a poor inquisitor."
Click, click; the machine was working admirably.
"Have you reason to think," I now demanded, "that she brought her
unhappiness in with her, when she returned from that concert?"
"No; for when I returned home myself, as I did earlier than
usual that night, I heard her laughing with the child in the
nursery. It was afterward, some few minutes afterward, that I
came upon her sitting in such a daze of misery, that she did not
recognize me when I spoke to her. I thought it was a passing
mood at the time; she is a sensitive woman and she had been
reading - I saw the book lying on the floor at her side; but when,
having recovered from her dejection - a dejection, mind you, which
she would neither acknowledge nor explain - she accompanied me
out to dinner, she showed even more feeling on our return,
shrinking unaccountably from leaving the carriage and showing,
not only in this way but in others, a very evident distaste to
reenter her own house. Now, whatever hold I still retain upon
her is of so slight a nature that I am afraid every day she will
My fingers paused; my astonishment had got the better of me.
"Yes; it is as bad as that. I don't know what day you will send
me a telegram of three words, 'She has gone.' Yet she loves me,
really and truly loves me. That is the mystery of it. More than
this, her very heart-strings are knit up with those of our
"Mayor Packard," - I had resumed work, - "was any letter delivered
to her that day?"
"That I can not say."
Fact one for me to establish.
"The wives of men like you - men much before the world, men in the
thick of strife, social and political - often receive letters of a
very threatening character."
"She would have shown me any such, if only to put me on my guard.
She is physically a very brave woman and not at all nervous."
"Those letters sometimes assume the shape of calumny. Your
character may have been attacked."
"She believes in my character and would have given me an
opportunity to vindicate myself. I have every confidence in my
wife's sense of justice."
I experienced a thrill of admiration for the appreciation he
evinced in those words. Yet I pursued the subject resolutely.
"Have you an enemy, Mayor Packard? Any real and downright enemy
capable of a deep and serious attempt at destroying your
"None that I know of, Miss Saunders. I have political enemies,
of course men, who, influenced by party feeling, are not above
attacking methods and possibly my official reputation; but
personal ones - wretches willing to stab me in my home-life and
affections, that I can not believe. My life has been as an open
book. I have harmed no man knowingly and, as far as I know, no
man has ever cherished a wish to injure me."
"Who constitute your household? How many servants do you keep
and how long have they been with you?"
"Now you exact details with which only Mrs. Packard is
conversant. I don't know anything about the servants. I do not
interest myself much in matters purely domestic, and Mrs. Packard
spares me. You will have to observe the servants yourself."
I made another note in my mind while inquiring:
"Who is the young man who was here just now? He has an uncommon
"A handsome one, do you mean?"
"Yes, and - well, what I should call distinctly clever."
"He is clever. My secretary, Miss Saunders. He helps me in my
increased duties; has, in a way, charge of my campaign; reads,
sorts and sometimes answers my letters. Just now he is arranging
my speeches - fitting them to the local requirements of the
several audiences I shall be called upon to address. He knows
mankind like a book. I shall never give the wrong speech to the
wrong people while he is with me."
"Do you like him? - the man, I mean, not his work."
"Well - yes. He is very good company, or would have been if, in
the week he has been in the house, I had been in better mood to
enjoy him. He's a capital story-teller."