“Arr-oh-h!” they snarled in concert. “We ain’t a-hurtin’ him! What’s he got to do wid us anyhow!”
One more apt archer than the rest, shouted, “He ain’t no gentleman—a gentleman don’t never interfere wid poor little boys what ain’t a-done him no harm!”
But they stopped, and the more timid or impatient stole off to find new and less inconveniently guarded inclines.
Livingstone passed on. He did not know that the moment he left and the officer turned his back, the whole hillside swarmed again into life and fun and joy. He did not know this; but he bore off with him a new thorn which even his feeling of civic virtue could not keep from rankling. His head ached, and he grew crosser and crosser with every step.
He had never seen so many beggars. It was insufferable. For this evening, at least, every one was giving—except Livingstone. Want was stretching out its withered hand even to Poverty and found it filled. But Livingstone took no part in it. The chilly and threadbare street-venders of shoe-strings, pencils and cheap flowers, who to-night were offering in their place tin toys, mistletoe and holly-boughs, he pushed roughly out of his way; he snapped angrily at beggars who had the temerity to accost him.
“Confound them! They ought to be run in by the police!”
A red-faced, collarless man fell into the same gait with him, and in a cajoling tone began to mutter something of his distress.
“Be off. Go to the Associated Charities,” snarled Livingstone, conscious of the biting sarcasm of his speech.
“Go where, sir?”
“Go to the devil!”
The man stopped in his tracks.
A ragged, meagre boy slid in through the crowd just ahead of Livingstone, to a woman who was toiling along with a large bundle. Holding out a pinched hand, he offered to carry the parcel for her. The woman hesitated.
—“For five cents,” he pleaded.
She was about to yield, for the bundle was heavy. But the boy was just in front of Livingstone and in his eagerness brushed against him. Livingstone gave him a shove which sent him spinning away across the sidewalk; the stream of passers-by swept in between them, and the boy lost his job and the woman his service.
The man of success passed on.
If Livingstone had been in a huff when he left his office, by the time he reached his home he was in a rage.
As he let himself in with his latch-key his expression for a moment softened. The scene before him was one which might well have mellowed a man just out of the snowy street. A spacious and handsome house, both richly and artistically furnished, lay before him. Rich furniture, costly rugs, fine pictures and rare books, gave evidence not only of his wealth but of his taste. He was not a mere business machine, a mere money-maker. He knew men who were.