It was like a flash of light and Livingstone was conscious of a thrill of joy at the idea, but it faded out leaving him in blanker darkness than before. He did not know a single child.—He knew in a vague, impersonal way a number of children whom he had had a momentary glimpse of occasionally at the fashionable houses which he visited; but he knew them only as he would have known handsomely dressed dolls in show windows. He had never thought of them as children, but only as a part of the personal belongings of his acquaintances—much as he thought of their bric-a-brac or their poodles. They were not like the children he had once known. He had never seen them romp and play or heard them laugh or shout.
He was sunk in deep darkness.
In his gloom he glanced up. His father’s serene face was beaming down on him. A speech he had heard his father make long, long ago, came back to him: “Always be kind to children. Grown people may forget kindness, but children will remember it. They forgive, but never forget either a kindness or an injury.”
Another speech of his father’s came floating to Livingstone across the years: “If you have made an enemy of a child, make him your friend if it takes a year! A child’s enmity is never incurred except by injustice or meanness.”
Livingstone could not but think of Clark’s little girl. Might she not help him? She would know children. But would she help him?
If she were like Clark, he reasoned, she would be kind-hearted. Besides, he remembered to have heard his father say that children did not bear malice: that was a growth of older minds. It was strange for Livingstone to find himself recurring to his father for knowledge of human nature—his father whom he had always considered the most ignorant of men as to knowledge of the world.
He sprang to his feet and looked at his watch. Perhaps, it was not yet too late to see the little girl to-night if he hurried? Clark lived not very far off, in a little side street, and they would sit up late Christmas Eve.
As he turned to the mirror it was with trepidation, his last glance at it had been so dreadful; but he was relieved to find a pleasanter expression on his face. He almost saw a slight resemblance to his father.
The next moment he hurried from the room; stole down the stair; slipped on his overcoat, and hastily let himself out of the door.
It was quite clear out now and the moon was riding high in a cloudless heaven. The jingle of sleigh-bells had increased and just as Livingstone turned the corner a sleigh dashed past him. He heard the merry voices of young people, and amid the voices the ringing laughter of a young girl, clear as a silver bell.