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Santa Claus's Partner By Thomas Nelson Page Characters: 8195

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Livingstone closed his books. He had put everything in such shape that Clark, his confidential clerk, would not have the least trouble this year in transferring everything and starting the new books that would now be necessary.

Last year Clark had been at his house a good many nights writing up these private books; but that was because Clark had been in a sort of muddle last winter,-his wife was sick, or one of his dozen children had met with an accident,-or something,-Livingstone vaguely remembered.

This year there would be no such trouble. Livingstone was pleased at the thought; for Clark was a good fellow, and a capable bookkeeper, even though he was a trifle slow.

Livingstone felt that he had, in a way, a high regard for Clark. He was attentive to his duties, beyond words. He was a gentleman, too,-of a first-rate family-a man of principle. How he could ever have been content to remain a simple clerk all these years, Livingstone could not understand. It gave him a certain contempt for him. That came, he reflected, of a man's marrying indiscreetly and having a houseful of children on his back.

Clark would be pleased at the showing on the books. He was always delighted when the balances showed a marked increase.

Livingstone was glad now that he had not only paid the old clerk extra for his night-work last year, but had given him fifty dollars additional, partly because of the trouble in his family, and partly because Livingstone had been unusually irritated when Clark got the two accounts confused.

Livingstone prided himself on his manner to his employees. He prided himself on being a gentleman, and it was a mark of a gentleman always to treat subordinates with civility. He knew men in the city who were absolute bears to their employees; but they were blackguards.

He, perhaps, ought to have discharged Clark without a word; that would have been "business;" but really he ought not to have spoken to him as he did. Clark undoubtedly acted with dignity. Livingstone had had to apologize to him and ask him to remain, and had made the amend (to himself) by giving him fifty dollars extra for the ten nights' work. He could only justify the act now by reflecting that Clark had more than once suggested investments which had turned out most fortunately.

Livingstone determined to give Clark this year a hundred dollars-no, fifty-he must not spoil him, and it really was not "business."

The thought of his liberality brought to Livingstone's mind the donations that he always made at the close of the year. He might as well send off the cheques now.

He took from a locked drawer his private cheque-book and turned the stubs thoughtfully. He had had that cheque-book for a good many years. He used to give away a tenth of his income. His father before him used to do that. He remembered, with a smile, how large the sums used to seem to him. He turned back the stubs only to see how small a tenth used to be. He no longer gave a tenth or a twentieth or even a-he had no difficulty in deciding the exact percentage he gave; for whenever he thought now of the sum he was worth, the figures themselves, in clean-cut lines, popped before his eyes. It was very curious. He could actually see them in his own handwriting. He rubbed his eyes, and the figures disappeared.

Well, he gave a good deal, anyhow-a good deal more than most men, he reflected. He looked at the later stubs and was gratified to find how large the amounts were,-they showed how rich he was,-and what a diversified list of charities he contributed to: hospitals, seminaries, asylums, churches, soup-kitchens, training schools of one kind or another. The stubs all bore the names of those through whom he contributed-they were mostly fashionable women of his acquaintance, who either for diversion or from real charity were interested in these institutions.

Mrs. Wright's name appeared oftenest. Mrs. Wright was a woman of fortune and very prominent, he reflected, but she was really kind; she was just a crank, and, somehow, she appeared really to believe in him. Her hus

band, Livingstone did not like: a cold, selfish man, who cared for nothing but money-making and his own family.

There was one name down on the book for a small amount which Livingstone could not recall.-Oh yes, he was an assistant preacher at Livingstone's church: the donation was for a Christmas-tree in a Children's Hospital, or something of the kind. This was one of Mrs. Wright's charities too. Livingstone remembered the note the preacher had written him afterwards-it had rather jarred on him, it was so grateful. He hated "gush," he said to himself; he did not want to be bothered with details of yarn-gloves, flannel petticoats, and toys. He took out his pencil and wrote Mrs. Wright's name on the stub. That also should be charged to Mrs. Wright. He carried in his mind the total amount of the contributions, and as he came to the end a half-frown rested on his brow as he thought of having to give to all these objects again.

That was the trouble with charities,-they were as regular as coupons. Confound Mrs. Wright! Why did she not let him alone! However, she was an important woman-the leader in the best set in the city. Livingstone sat forward and began to fill out his cheques. Certain cheques he always filled out himself. He could not bear to let even Clark know what he gave to certain objects.

The thought of how commendable this was crossed his face and lit it up like a glint of transient sunshine. It vanished suddenly as he began to calculate, leaving the place where it had rested colder than before. He really could not spend as much this year as last-why, there was-for pictures, so much; charities, so much, etc. It would quite cut into the amount he had already decided to lay by. He must draw in somewhere: he was worth only-the line of figures slipped in before his eyes with its lantern-slide coldness.

He reflected. He must cut down on his charities. He could not reduce the sum for the General Hospital Fund; he had been giving to that a number of years.-Nor that for the asylum; Mrs. Wright was the president of that board, and had told him she counted on him.-Hang Mrs. Wright! It was positive blackmail!-Nor the pew-rent; that was respectable-nor the Associated Charities; every one gave to that. He must cut out the smaller charities.

So he left off the Children's Hospital Christmas-tree Fund, and the soup-kitchen, and a few insignificant things like them into which he had been worried by Mrs. Wright and other troublesome women. The only regret he had was that taken together these sums did not amount to a great deal. To bring the saving up he came near cutting out the hospital. However, he decided not to do so. Mrs. Wright believed in him. He would leave out one of the pictures he had intended to buy; he would deny himself, and not cut out the big charity. This would save him the trouble of refusing Mrs. Wright and would also save him a good deal more money.

Once more, at the thought of his self-denial, that ray of wintry sunshine passed across Livingstone's cold face and gave it a look of distinction-almost like that of a marble statue.

Again he relapsed into reflection. His eyes were resting on the pane outside of which the fine snow was filling the chilly afternoon air in flurries and scurries that rose and fell and seemed to be blowing every way at once. But Livingstone's eyes were not on the snow. It had been so long since Livingstone had given a thought to the weather, except as it might affect the net earnings of railways in which he was interested, that he never knew what the weather was, and so far as he was concerned there need not have been any weather. Spring was to him but the season when certain work could be done which in time would yield a crop of dividends; and Autumn was but the time when crops would be moved and stocks sent up or down.

So, though Livingstone's eyes rested on the pane, outside of which the flurrying snow was driving that meant so much to so many people, and his face was thoughtful-very thoughtful-he was not thinking of the snow, he was calculating profits.

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