Mavis intuitively knew what he meant. Her body quivered with rage; the fingers of her right hand clenched. Perhaps the man saw the anger in her eyes, because he stopped; but he was near enough for Mavis to feel his hot breath upon her cheek.
Thus they stood for a moment, he undecided, she on the defensive, when the door opened and a man came into the room. Mr Orgles, with an unpleasant look on his face, turned to see who the intruder might be.
“I’ve been looking for you, Orgles,” said the man.
“Indeed, sir! Very sorry, sir,” remarked Mr Orgles, who wore such an attitude of servility to the newcomer that Mavis could hardly believe him to be the same man.
“I see you’re busy,” continued the intruder. “Engaging someone in Miss Jackson’s place?”
“I was thinking about doing so, sir.”
Here the man—he was tall, dark, and fresh-coloured—looked kindly at Mavis; although not a gentleman, he had an unmistakable air of authority.
“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t, sir, only—”
“She’s had no experience, sir.”
The man turned to Mavis and said:
“If your references are satisfactory, you can consider yourself as engaged from next week.”
“Oh, thank you,” said Mavis, trying to voice her gratitude.
“Call to-morrow with your references at eleven and ask for Mr Skeffington Dawes,” said the stranger.
A great gladness and a great reproach came to the girl’s heart: a great gladness at having secured work; a great reproach at having believed that there was no one who cared if a human sparrow, such as she, should fall.
She bowed her thanks to Mr Skeffington Dawes and left the room, all unconscious of the malignant glance that Mr Orgles shot at her, after turning his head to bring the girl within his range of vision.
After securing a place in “Dawes’,” which Mavis did at her interview with Mr Skeffington Dawes (one of the directors of the firm), her first sensation was one of disappointment, perhaps consequent upon reaction from the tension in her mind until she was sure of employment.
Now, she was resentful at having to earn her bread as a shop-girl, not only on account of its being a means of livelihood which she had always looked down upon, but also, because it exposed her to the insults of such creatures as Orgles. She sat in Mrs Ellis’ back sitting-room three days before she was to commence her duties at “Dawes’”; she was moody and depressed; on the least provocation, or none at all, she would weep bitter tears for ten minutes at a time.
This physical lowness brought home to her the fear of possibly losing her hitherto perfect health. The prospect of being overtaken by such a calamity opened up a vista of terrifying possibilities which would not bear thinking about.