A pocketful of rye – Agatha Christie
It was Miss Somers’s turn to make the tea. Miss Somers was the newest and the most inefficient of the typists. She was no longer young and had a mild worried face like a sheep. The kettle was not quite boiling when Miss Somers poured the water on to the tea, but poor Miss Somers was never quite sure when a kettle was boiling. It was one of the many worries that afflicted her in life.
She poured out the tea and took the cups round with a couple of limp, sweet biscuits in each saucer.
Miss Griffith, the efficient head typist, a grey-haired martinet who had been with Consolidated Investments Trust for sixteen years, said sharply: “Water not boiling again, Somers!” and Miss Somers’s worried meek face went pink and she said, “Oh dear, I did think it was boiling this time.”
Miss Griffith thought to herself. “She’ll last for another month, perhaps, just while we’re so busy… But really! The mess the silly idiot made of that letter to Eastern Developments – a perfectly straightforward job, and always so stupid over the tea. If it weren’t so difficult to get hold of any intelligent typists – and the biscuit tin lid wasn’t shut tightly last time, either. Really -“
Like so many of Miss Griffith’s indignant inner communings the sentence went unfinished.
At that moment Miss Grosvenor sailed in to make Mr Fortescue’s sacred tea. Mr Fortescue had different tea, and different china and special biscuits. Only the kettle and the water from the cloakroom tap were the same. But on this occasion, being Mr Fortescue’s tea, the water boiled. Miss Grosvenor saw to that.
Miss Grosvenor was an incredibly glamorous blonde. She wore an expensively cut little black suit and her shapely legs were encased in the very best and most expensive blackmarket nylons.
She sailed back through the typists’ room without deigning to give anyone a word or a glance. The typists might have been so many blackbeetles. Miss Grosvenor was Mr Fortescue’s own special personal secretary; unkind rumour always hinted that she was something more, but actually this was not true. Mr Fortescue had recently married a second wife, both glamorous and expensive, and fully capable of absorbing all his attention. Miss Grosvenor was to Mr Fortescue just a necessary part of the office decor – which was all very luxurious and very expensive.
Miss Grosvenor sailed back with the tray held out in front other like a ritual offering. Through the inner office and through the waiting-room, where the more important clients were allowed to sit, and through her own ante-room, and finally with a light tap on the door she entered the holy of holies, Mr Fortescue’s office.
It was a large room with a gleaming expanse of parquet floor on which were dotted expensive oriental rugs. It was delicately panelled in pale wood and there were some enormous stuffed chairs upholstered in pale buff leather. Behind a colossal sycamore desk, the centre and focus of the room, sat Mr Fortescue himself.
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