As quietly, however, as Livingstone had entered, his butler had heard him.
As Livingstone turned to take in all the beauty of the room, James was standing before him. His face showed some concern, and his voice, as he spoke, had a little tremor in it.
“When we found you had gone out, sir, we were afraid you might be sick, and the cook has got something hot for you?”
Livingstone glanced about to find a phrase with which to thank him for the trouble they had taken; but the butler spared him the pains.
“We thought we would try to make the house look a little cheery, sir. Hope you don’t mind, sir?”
“Mind!” said Livingstone, “I am delighted; and I thank you very much. Mind? I should think not!”
The tone of his voice and the light in his eye showed that there was a change in him and it acted like a tonic on the butler. The light came into his eyes too. He drew a breath of deep relief as though a mountain of care had rolled off him, and he came a step nearer his master, who had flung himself into a chair and picked up a cigar.
The next minute Livingstone plunged into the subject on his mind. It was a plan which made the butler’s eyes first open wide and then sparkle with pleasure.
The difficulty with Livingstone, however, was that the next day was a holiday and he did not know whether what he wanted could be got.
The butler came to his rescue. It was no difficulty to James. Such an emergency only quickened his powers. He knew places where whatever was wanted could be got, holiday or no holiday, and, “If Mr. Livingstone would only allow him—?”
“Allow you!” said Livingstone, “I give you carte blanche, only have everything ready by five o’clock.—Ask the cook to send up whatever she has; I’m hungry, and we’ll talk it over whilst I’m taking supper.”
“Yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir;” and James withdrew with a step as light as air.
“Extraordinary servant!” thought Livingstone. “Wonder I never took it in before!”
Ten minutes later Livingstone was seated at the table with an appetite like a schoolboy’s.
It was the happiest meal Livingstone had eaten in many a long day; for, all alone as he was, he was not alone. Thought-of-others sat at the board and a cheery companion it is.
“Tell the laundress to be sure and bring her children around to-morrow, and be sure you make them have a good time,” he said to James, as he rose from the table. James bowed.
“And ascertain where policeman, No. 268, is to be found to-morrow. I want to send a contribution to make a good slide for some boys on his beat.”
James bowed again, his eyes somewhat wider than before.
As Livingstone mounted the stair, though he was sensible of fatigue it was the fatigue of the body, so delicious to those who have known that of the mind. And he felt pity as well as loathing for the poor, worn creature who had climbed the same stair a few hours before.