Her tone was not very enthusiastic, but it was assent and Livingstone felt as though he had just been redeemed.
The next moment the child turned to the door.
Livingstone rose and followed her. He was amused at his feeling of helplessness and dependence. She was suddenly the leader and without her he felt lost.
She stepped into the sleigh and he followed her.
“Where shall we go first?” she asked.
This was a poser for Livingstone. All the shops of which he knew anything were closed long ago.
“Why, I think I will let you select the place,” he began, simply seeking for time.
“What do you want to get?” she asked calmly, gazing up at him.
Livingstone had never thought for a second that there would be any difficulty about this. He was hopelessly in the dark. Stocks, “common” or “preferred,” bonds and debentures, floated through his mind. Even horses or pictures he would have had a clear opinion on, but in this field he was lost. He had never known, or cared to know, what children liked.
Suddenly a whole new realm seemed to open before him, but it was shrouded in darkness. And that little figure at his side with large, sober, searching eyes fixed calmly on him was quietly demanding his knowledge and waiting for his answer. He had passed hundreds of windows crowded with Christmas presents that very evening and had never looked at one. He had passed as between blank walls. What would he not have given now for but the least memory of one glance!
But the eyes were waiting and he must answer.
It was an inspiration and Livingstone shook himself with self-approval.
“Yes—ah—TOYS! you know?” he repeated.
He glowed with satisfaction over his escape.
The announcement, however, did not appear to astonish his companion as much as he felt it should have done. She did not even take her eyes from his face.
“How many children are there?”
“Why—twenty.” Livingston caught at a number, as a sinking man catches at a twig.
As she accepted this, Livingstone was conscious of elation. He felt as though he were playing a game and had escaped the ignominy of a wrong answer: he had caught a bough and it held him.
“How old are they?”
Livingstone gasped. The little ogress! Was she just trifling with him? Could it be possible that she saw through him? As he looked down at her the eyes fastened on him were as calm as a dove’s eyes.
“Why—ah—. How many brothers and sisters have you?” he asked.
He wished to create a diversion and gain time. She answered promptly.
“Seven: four sisters and three brothers. John, he’s my oldest brother; Tom, he’s next—he’s eight. Billy is the baby.”
This contribution of family history was a relief, and Livingstone was just trying to think of something else to say, when she demanded again,