“Good! Good!” rang thrilling through the room, as the old man reeled back from the wall against which he had been cast. “God has finished what these old arms had only strength enough to begin. He is dead this time, and it’s a mercy! Thank God, Miss Olympia! thank God as I do now on my knees!” But here catching the mayor’s eye, he faltered to his feet again, saying humbly as he crept away:
“I couldn’t help it, your Honor. I shouldn’t have been listening at the door; but I have loved Miss Olympia, as we used to call her, more than anything in the world ever since she came to make my old master’s house a place of sunshine, and all I’m sorry for is that God had to do the finishing which twenty years ago I could have done myself.”
“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: