“Oh!—Mr. Clark, I did not know I should have been so long about my work. I was so engaged getting my book straight for you, and writing—a few cheques for my annual contributions to hospitals, etc.,—that the time slipped by—”
The tone was unusually conciliatory for Livingstone; but he still retained it in addressing Clark. It was partly a remnant of his old time relation to Mr. Clark when he, yet a young man, first knew him, and partly a recognition of Clark’s position as a man of good birth who had been unfortunate, and had a large family to support.
“Oh! that’s all right, Mr. Livingstone,” said the clerk, pleasantly.
He gathered up the letters on the desk and was unconsciously pressing them into exact order.
“Shall I have these mailed or sent by a messenger?”
“Mail them, of course,” said Livingstone. “And Clark, I want you to—”
“I thought possibly that, as to-morrow is—” began the clerk in explanation, but stopped as Livingstone continued speaking without noticing the interruption.
—“I have been going over my matters,” pursued Livingstone, “and they are in excellent shape—better this year than ever before—”
The clerk’s face brightened.
“That’s very good,” said he, heartily. “I knew they were.”
—“Yes, very good, indeed,” said Livingstone condescendingly, pausing to dwell for a second on the sight of the line of pallid figures which suddenly flashed before his eyes. “And I have got everything straight for you this year; and I want you to come up to my house this evening and go over the books with me quietly, so that I can show you—”
“This evening?” The clerk’s countenance fell and the words were as near an exclamation as he ever indulged in.
“Yes—, this evening. I shall be at home this evening and to-morrow evening—Why not this evening?” demanded Livingstone almost sharply.
“Why, only—that it’s—. However,—” The speaker broke off. “I’ll be there, sir. About eight-thirty, I suppose?”
“Yes,” said Livingstone, curtly.
He was miffed, offended, aggrieved. He had intended to do a kind thing by this man, and he had met with a rebuff.
“I expect to pay you,” he said, coldly.
The next second he knew he had made an error. A shocked expression came involuntarily over the other’s face.
“Oh! it was not that!—It was—” He paused, reflected half a second. “I’ll be there,” he added, and, turning quickly, withdrew, leaving Livingstone feeling very blank and then, somewhat angry. He was angry with himself for making such a blunder, and then angrier with the clerk for leading him into it.
“That is the way with such people!” he reflected. “What is the use of being considerate and generous? No one appreciates it!”
The more he thought of it, the warmer he became. “Had he not taken Clark up ten—fifteen years ago, when he had not a cent in the world, and now he was getting fifteen hundred dollars a year—yes, sixteen hundred, and almost owned his house; and he had made every cent for him!”