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Salthaven   By: (1863-1943)

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By W. W. Jacobs



MR. JOHN VYNER, ship owner, pushed his chair back from his writing table and gazed with kindly condescension at the chief clerk as he stood before it with a handful of papers.

"We shall be able to relieve you of some of your work soon, Hartley," he said, slowly. "Mr. Robert will come into the firm next week." The chief clerk bowed.

"Three years at Cambridge," resumed Mr. Vyner, meditatively, "and two years spent up and down the world studying the business methods of other nations ought to render him invaluable to us."

"No doubt, sir," said Hartley. "It is an excellent training."

"For a time," said the ship owner, leaning back and placing the tips of his fingers together, "for a time I am afraid that he will have to have your room. Later on ha if a room should ha fall vacant in the building, we might consider taking it."

"Yes, sir," said the other.

"And, of course," resumed Mr. Vyner, "there is one great advantage in your being in the general office which must not be overlooked; you can keep an eye on the juniors better."

"It is cheerful, too, sir," suggested the chief clerk; "the only thing "

"Yes?" said Mr. Vyner, somewhat loudly.

Mr. Hartley shrank a little. "I was going to say that it is rather a small room for Mr. Robert," he said, quickly.

"It will do for a time," said the other.

"And and I think I told you, sir, that there is an unpleasant sm odour."

Mr. Vyner knitted his brows. "I offered to have that seen to, but you said that you didn't mind it," he remarked.

"Just so, sir," said Hartley; "but I was thinking of Mr. Robert. He might not like it; it's very strong at times very strong indeed."

"You ought to have had it attended to before," said Mr. Vyner, with some severity. "You had better call at Gillows' on your way home and ask them to send a man up first thing to morrow morning."

He drew his chair to the table again, and Hartley, after lingering a moment, withdrew to his own room.

Ten out of his thirty five years of service had been passed there, and he stifled a sigh as he looked at the neat array of drawers and pigeon holes, the window overlooking the bridge and harbour, and the stationer's almanac which hung over the fireplace. The japanned letter rack and the gum bottle on the small mantelpiece were old friends.

The day's work completed, he walked home in sober thought. It was a pleasant afternoon in May, but he was too preoccupied to pay any heed to the weather, and, after informing a man who stopped him to tell him that he had lost a wife, six children, and a right leg, that it was just five minutes past six, resumed his way with a hazy idea of having been useful to a fellow creature.

He brightened a little as he left the bustle of the town behind, and from sheer force of habit glanced at the trim front gardens as he passed. The cloud lifted still more as he reached his own garden and mentally compared his flowers with those he had just passed.

His daughter was out, and tea for one was laid in the front room. He drew his chair to the table, and taking up the tea pot, which the maid had just brought in, poured himself out a cup of tea.

He looked round the comfortable room with pleasure. After all, nobody could take that from him. He stirred his tea and had just raised the cup to his lips when he set it down untasted and sat staring blankly before him. A low rumble of voices from the kitchen fell unpleasantly on his ear; and his daughter Joan had left instructions too specific to be misunderstood as to his behaviour in the event of Rosa entertaining male company during her absence. He coughed twice, loudly, and was glad to note the disappearance of the rumble. Pleased with his success he coughed a third time, a sonorous cough charged with importance. A whispered rumble, possibly a suggestion of withdrawal, came from the kitchen.

"Only his tea gone the wrong way," he heard, reassuringly, from Rosa... Continue reading book >>

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