With a shock those figures slipped before his eyes and would not go away. Even when he shut his eyes and rubbed them the ghastly line was there.
He turned and gazed down the long room. It was as empty as a desert. He listened to see if he could hear any sound, even hoping to hear some sound from his servants. All was as silent as a tomb.
He rubbed his eyes, with a groan that was almost a curse. The figures were still there.
He suddenly rose to his feet and gave himself a shake. He determined to go to his club; he would find company there,—perhaps not the best, but it would be better than this awful loneliness and deadly silence.
He went through the hall softly, almost stealthily; put on his hat and coat; let himself quietly out of the door and stepped forth into the night.
It had stopped snowing and the stars looked down from a clearing sky. The moon just above the housetops was sailing along a burnished track. The vehicles went slowly by with a muffled sound broken only by the creaking of the wheels in the frosty night. From the cross streets, sounded in the distance the jangle of sleigh-bells.
Livingstone plodded along through the snow, relieved to find that the effort made him forget himself and banished those wretched figures. He traversed the intervening streets and before he was conscious of it was standing in the hall of the brilliantly lighted club. The lights dazzled him, and he was only half sensible of the score of servants that surrounded him with vague, half-proffers of aid in removing his overcoat.
Without taking off his coat, Livingstone walked on into the large assembly-room to see who might be there. It was as empty as a church. The lights were all turned on full and the fires burned brightly in the big hearths; but there was not a soul in the room, usually so crowded at this hour.
Livingstone turned and crossed the marble-paved hall to another spacious suite of rooms. Not a soul was there. The rooms were swept and garnished, the silence and loneliness seeming only intensified by the brilliant light and empty magnificence.
Livingstone felt like a man in a dream from which he could not awake. He turned and made his way back to the outer door. As he did so he caught sight of a single figure at the far end of one of the big rooms. It looked like Wright,—the husband of Mrs. Wright to whom Livingstone had sent his charity-subscription a few hours before. He had on his overcoat and must have just come in. He was standing by the great fire-place rubbing his hands with satisfaction. As Livingstone turned away, he thought he heard his name called, but he dashed out into the night. He could not stand Wright just then.
He plunged back through the snow and once more let himself in at his own door. It was lonelier within than before. The hall was ghastly. The big rooms, bigger than they had ever seemed, were like a desert. It was intolerable: He would go to bed.