“Clothes aren’t everything.”
“Well, they are a lot.”
“I would give them all to be as young as you are.”
“You don’t look old, Mary.”
“Of course I take care of myself,” said Mary, “but if I were as young as you I’d begin over again.”
“How do you mean ‘begin,’ Mary?”
But Mary was not communicative. “Oh, well, I’d have some things that I might have had and can’t get now,” was all the satisfaction that she gave Nannie.
It was through Mary that Nannie had obtained her position in Kingdon Knox’s office. Mary had boarded with Nannie’s mother for five years. Nannie was fourteen when Mary came. She had finished high school and had had a year in a business college, and then Mrs. Ashburner had asked Mary if there was any chance for her in Kingdon Knox’s office.
Mary had considered it, but had seemed to hesitate. “We need another typist, but I am not sure it is the place for her.”
Mary did not say why. “I wish she didn’t have to work at all. She ought to get married.”
“Dick McDonald wants her. But she’s too young, Mary.”
“You were married at nineteen.”
“Yes, and a lot I got out of it.” Mrs. Ashburner was sallow and cynical. “I kept boarders to make a living for my husband, Mary; and since he died I’ve kept boarders to make a living for Nannie and me.”
“But Dick gets good wages.”
“Well, he can wait till he saves something.”
“Don’t make him wait too long.”
It was against her better judgment that Mary Barker spoke to her employer about Nannie. “I should want her to help me. She is not expert enough to take your dictation, but she could relieve me of a lot of detail.”
“Well, let me have a look at her,” Kingdon Knox had said.
So Nannie had come to be looked over, and she had blushed a little and had been rather breathless as she had talked to Mr. Kingdon, and he had been aware of the vividness of her young beauty; for Nannie had red hair that curled over her ears, and her skin was warm ivory, and her eyes were gray.
Her clothes were not quite up to the office standard, but Knox, having hired her, referred the matter to Mary. “You might suggest that she cut out thin waists and high heels,” he had said; “you know what I like.”
Mary knew, and Nannie’s first month’s salary had been spent in the purchase of a serge one-piece frock.
Mrs. Ashburner had rebelled at the expense. But Mary had been firm. “Mr. Knox won’t have anybody around the office who looks slouchy or sloppy. It will pay in the end.”
Nannie thought Mr. Knox wonderful. “He says that he wants me to work hard so that I can handle some of his letters.”
“When did he tell you that?”
“Last night, while you were taking testimony in the library.”
The office library was lined with law books. There were a handsome long mahogany table, green covered, and six handsome mahogany chairs. Mary, shut in with three of Knox’s clients and a consulting partner, had had a sense of uneasiness. It was after hours. Nannie was waiting for her in the outer office. Everybody else had gone home except Knox, who was waiting for his clients.