“Umhm—I don’t know,” said Livingstone.
“As much as a dollar?”
“How much more?”
“As much as you want. Suppose you pick out the things you like and then we can see about the price,” he suggested.
“Some things cost a heap.”
She was looking at a doll on whose skirt was pinned a little scrap of card-board marked, “25c.”
“Yes, they do,” assented Livingstone. “But they are worth it,” he thought. “I tell you what!—Suppose you look around and see just what you like, and I’ll go off here and talk with Mr. Brown so as not to disturb you.”
He was learning and the lesson was already bringing him pleasure.
He took the shopkeeper aside and had a little talk with him, learning from him all he could of Clark’s family and circumstances. It was an amazement to him. He had never known what a burden Clark had carried. The shopkeeper spoke of him with great affection and with great respect.
“He is the best man in the world,” he said.
He treated Livingstone with familiarity, but he spoke of Clark with respect.
“He ought to be on the Avenue,” he asserted; “and if everybody had their rights some would be where Mr. Clark is and Mr. Clark would be in their place.”
Livingstone was not prepared just then to gainsay this.
He explained to Mr. Brown his wishes. He wanted to get many things, but did not know how to keep the child from suspecting his plan. The shopkeeper gave him a suggestion. Close association and sympathy with children had given Brown knowledge.
They returned to Kitty. She was busy figuring on a little piece of paper, moistening her little stub of a pencil, every other second, with her tongue. Her little red mouth showed streaks of black. She was evidently in some trouble.
Livingstone drew near.
“How are you coming on?” he asked.
She looked up with a face full of perplexity.
“Oh! I’ve spent nearly the whole dollar and I haven’t but nine presents yet. We must get something cheaper.—But they were so pretty!” she lamented, her eyes glancing longingly towards the articles she had selected.
“Let’s see. Maybe, you have made a mistake,” said Livingstone. He took the bit of paper and she handed him the pencil.
“I’m not very good at making figures,” she observed.
“I’m not either,” said Livingstone, glancing at the paper. “I’ll tell you what let’s do,” he said. “Let’s get Mr. Brown to open all his cases and boxes, and let’s look at everything and just see what we would select if we could have our choice?”
The little girl’s eyes opened wide.
“You mean, let’s make pretense that we are real sure-enough Santa Claus and just pick out everything we want to give everybody, and pretend that we could get it and give it to them?”