Here to return to
LIVING5TONE glanced at the little figure beside him, hoping she would indicate where “Brown’s” was, but she did not. Every one must know “Brown’s.” The only ‘“Brown” Livingstone knew was the great banker, and a grim smile flickered on his cheek at the thought of the toys in which that Brown dealt. He shifted the responsibility to the driver.
“‘Driver, go to Brown’s. You know where it is?”
‘“Well, no, sir, I don’t believe I do. Which Brown do you mean, sir?”
“Why — ah — the toy-man’s, of course.” The driver stopped his horses and reflected. He shook his head slowly. Livingstone, however, was now equal to the emergency. Besides, there was nothing else to do. He turned to his companion.
“Where is it?” he began boldly, but as he saw the look of surprise in the little girl’s face he added, “I mean-exactly?”
“Why, right across from the grocer’s with the parrot and the little white woolly dog.” She spoke with astonishment that any one should not know so important a personage. And Livingstone, too, was suddenly conscious of the importance of this information. Clearly he had neglected certain valuable branches of knowledge.
Happily, the driver came to his rescue, “Where is that, Miss?” he asked.
“You go to the right and keep going to the right all the way,” she said definitely. Livingstone was in despair; but the driver appeared to understand now.
“You tell me when I go wrong,” he said, and drove on.
He must have children at home, thought Livingstone to himself as the sleigh after a number of turns drew up in front of one of the very windows Livingstone had passed that evening on the back street. He felt as though he would like to reward the driver. It was the first time Livingstone had thought of a driver in many years.
Just as they drove up the door of the shop was being closed, and the little girl gave an exclamation of disappointment.
“Oh, we are too late!” she cried. Livingstone felt his heart jump into his throat. He sprang to the door and rapped. There was no answer. The light was evidently being turned off inside. Livingstone rapped again more impatiently. Another light was turned down. Livingstone was desperate. His loud knocking produced no impression, and he could have bought out the whole square! Suddenly a little figure pushed against him as Kitty slipped before him, and putting her mouth to the crack of the door, called,
“Oh! Mr. Brown, please let me in. It’s me, Kitty Clark, Mr. Clark’s little girl.”
Instantly the light within was turned up. A step came towards the door, the bolts were drawn back and half the door was opened.
Livingstone was prepared to see the shopkeeper confounded when he should discover who his caller was. On the contrary, the man was in nowise embarrassed by his appearance. Indeed, he paid no attention whatever to Livingstone. It was to Kitty that he addressed himself, ignoring Livingstone’s presence utterly.
“Why, Kitty, what are you doing out at this time of night? Aren’t you afraid Santa Claus will come while you are away, and not bring you anything? You know what they say he does if he don’t find everybody asleep in bed?”
Kitty nodded, and leaning forward on her toes, dropped her voice to a mysterious whisper:
“I know who Santa Claus is.” The whisper ended with a little chuckle of delight at her astuteness. “I found it out last Christmas.”
“Kitty, you didn’t! You must have been mistaken?” said the shopkeeper with a grin on his kindly countenance. “Who is he?”
“Mr. — Brown, and Mr. and Mrs. — Clark,” said Kitty slowly and impressively, as though she were adding up figures and the result would speak for itself. She took in the shop with a wave of her little hand and a sweep of her eyes.
“I’m playing Santa Claus myself, to-night,” she said, tossing her hooded head, her eyes kindling at the thought. The next look around was one of business.
“This is Mr. Livingstone, papa’s employer.” She indicated that gentleman.
Mr. Brown held out his plump and not wholly immaculate hand.
“How d’ ye do, sir? I think I’ve heard of you?”
He turned back to Kitty. “Who for?” he asked.
“For him,” Kitty nodded. “He’s got a whole lot of little children — not his own children — other people’s children — that he’s going to give Christmas presents to, and I’ve come to help him. What have you got left, Mr. Santa Claus?”
She stood on tiptoe and peered over the shelves.
“Well, not a great deal, Miss Wide-awake,” said the shopkeeper dropping into her manner and mood. “You see there’s lots of children around this year as don’t keep wide-awake all night, and Santa Claus has had to look after ‘em quite considerable. I can’t tell you how many sleighs full of things he’s taken away from this here very shop. He didn’t leave nothing but them things you see and the very expensive things in the cases. He said they were too high-priced for him.”
He actually gave Livingstone a wink, and Livingstone actually felt flattered by it.
The reply recalled Kitty to her business. She turned to Mr. Livingstone.
“How much money have you got to spend?” she asked.
“Umhm — I don’t know,” said Livingstone. “As much as a dollar?”
“How much more?”
“As much as you want. Suppose you pick out the things you like and then we can see about the price,” he suggested.
“Some things cost a heap.”
She was looking at a doll on whose skirt was pinned a little scrap of card-board marked, “25c.”
“Yes, they do,” assented Livingstone. “But they are worth it,” he thought.
“I tell you what! — Suppose you look around and see just what you like, and I’ll go off here and talk with Mr. Brown so as not to disturb you.”
He was learning and the lesson was already bringing him pleasure.
He took the shopkeeper aside and had a little talk with him, learning from him all he could of Clark’s family and circumstances. It was an amazement to him. He had never known what a burden Clark had carried. The shopkeeper spoke of him with great affection and with great respect.
“He is the best man in the world,” he said. He treated Livingstone with familiarity, but he spoke of Clark with respect.
“He ought to be on the Avenue,” he asserted; “and if everybody had their rights some would be where Mr. Clark is and Mr. Clark would be in their place.”
Livingstone was not prepared just then to gainsay this.
He explained to Mr. Brown his wishes. He wanted to get many things, but did not know how to keep the child from suspecting his plan. The shopkeeper gave him a suggestion. Close association and sympathy with children had given Brown knowledge.Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.