The next moment Kitty discovered a large envelope lying at the foot of the tree. It was addressed,
John Clark, Esq.,
Father of Santa Claus’s Partner.
It was strange that Kitty should have overlooked it before.
With a spring she seized it and handed it to her father with a little shout of joy, for she had not been able to keep from showing disappointment that he had received nothing.
Clark smiled at her pleasure, for he knew that the kisses which she had given him from time to time had been to make amends to him, and not, as others thought, from joy over her own presents.
Clark knew well the hand-writing, and even as he opened the envelope he glanced around to catch Livingstone’s eye and thank him. Livingstone, however, had suddenly disappeared; so Clark read the letter.
It was very brief. It said that Livingstone had never known until the night before how much he owed him; that he was not sure even now that he knew the full extent of his indebtedness, but at least he had come to recognize that he owed much of his business success to Mr. Clark’s wisdom and fidelity; and he asked as a personal favor to him that Clark would accept the enclosed as a token of his gratitude, and would consider favorably his proposal.
Opening an enclosed envelope, Clark found two papers. One was a full release of the mortgage on Clark’s house (Livingstone had spent the morning in securing it), the other was a Memorandum of “Articles of Partnership” between Berryman Livingstone and John Clark, beginning from that very day,—indeed, from the day before,—all ready, signed by Livingstone and wanting only Mr. Clark’s signature to make it complete.
Mr. Clark, with his face quite white and looking almost awed, turned and walked into the next room where he found Livingstone standing alone. The old clerk was still holding the papers clutched in his hand and was walking as if in a dream.
“Mr. Livingstone,” he began, “I can never—I am overwhelmed!—Your letter—your gifts—” But Livingstone interrupted him. His face was not white but red.
“Nonsense!” he said, as he turned and put his hand on the other’s shoulder. “Clark, I am not giving you anything. I am paying.—I mean, I owe you everything, and what I don’t owe you, I owe Kitty. Last night you lent me—” He stopped, caught himself, and began again.
“It was more than even you knew, Clark,” he said, looking the other kindly in the eyes, “and I’ll owe you a debt of gratitude all my life. All I ask is, that you will forget the past and help me in the future and sometimes lend me Kitty. I never knew until now how good it was to have a partner.”
Just then he became conscious that someone else was near him. Kitty, with wide-open, happy eyes, was standing beside them looking up inquiringly in their faces. The child seemed to know that something important had happened, for she put up her arms, and pulling her father down to her kissed him, and then turning quickly she caught Livingstone and, drawing him down, kissed him too.