“He says he regrets he cannot see any one,” explained the servant.
“Yes. That’s all right. I know.” He caught the lapels of the coat preparatory to taking it off.
“No, sir. He cannot see anybody at all this evening,” insisted James, confident in being within his authority.
“Why, he told me to come and bring his books! I suppose he meant—!”
“No, sir. He is not very well this evening.”
Mr. Clark’s hands dropped to his side.
“Not well! Why, he left the office only an hour or two ago.”
“Yes, sir; but he walked up, and seemed very tired when he arrived. He did not eat anything, and—the doctor is coming to see him.”
Mr. Clark’s face expressed the deepest concern.
“He has been working too hard,” he said, shaking his head. “He ought to have let me go over those accounts. With all he has to carry!”
“Yes, sir, that’s it,” said James, heartily.
“Well, don’t you think I’d better go up and see him?” asked the old clerk, solicitously. “I might be able to suggest something?”
“No, sir. He said quite positive he would not see anybody.” James looked the clerk full in the face. “I was afraid something might ’ave ’appened down in the—ah—?”
Mr. Clark’s face lit up with a kindly light.
“No, indeed. It’s nothing like that, James. We never had so good a year. You can make your mind easy about that.”
“Thank you, sir,” said the servant. “We’ll have the doctor drop in to see him, and I hope he’ll be all right in the morning. Snowy night, sir.”
“I hope so,” said Mr. Clark, not intending to convey his views as to the weather. “You’ll let me know if I am wanted—if I can do anything. I will come around first thing in the morning to see how he is. I hope he’ll be all right. Good-night. A merry Christmas to you.”
“Good-night, sir. Thankee, sir; the same to you, sir. I’m going to wait up to see how he is. Good-night, sir.”
And James shut the door softly behind the visitor, feeling a sense of comfort not wholly accounted for by the information as to the successful year. Mr. Clark, somehow, always reassured him. The butler could understand the springs that moved that kindly spirit.
What Mr. Clark thought as he tramped back through the snow need not be fully detailed. But at least, one thing was certain, he never thought of himself.
If he recalled that a mortgage would be due on his house just one week from that day, and that the doctors’ bills had been unusually heavy that year, it was not on his own account that he was anxious. Indeed, he never considered himself; there were too many others to think of. One thought was that he was glad his friend had such a good servant as James to look after him. Another was pity that Livingstone had never known the joy that was awaiting himself when at the end of that mile of snow he should peep into