A love story begins here… Daisy’s roommate, Sarah, was rather heavy on the subject of the coming interview. They had finished supper and Sarah, sipping coffee, was looking with approval at the flowers in the window box ( all her own work ).
“You realize Aubrey Foster is the managing director of the firm, ” said Sarah: not for the first time. “One can’t go higher than that.”
Sarah was in business, and Daisy had often noticed how the names of directors, chairmen, people like that, came into the conversation. Rather like a practiced skier mentions mountains. But Sarah had a kind heart and was wonderfully efficient.
“When I called he said he’d be delighted to see you, Daisy. It looks like a good chance this time, ” added Sarah.
Surah was small, dark, dressed with style, and practical. Daisy was willowy, blond, with a snub nose and a habit of scribbling poetry. The differences between the girls suited them. Sarah liked Daisy’s unexpectedness she even liked some of the poems, Daisy liked Sarah’s strength and common sense, and passionately admired Sarah’s way with her boyfriend, John.
“You’re so lucky to be in love! ” Daisy would wail. ” I never have been.
“It’ll happen. It’ll happen, ” was the positive reply. Daisy wasn’t too sure. She only seemed to meet fellows who wanted to borrow records or money. Or have their jeans patched?
“It’s your own fault. Hide the albums,” said Sarah.
There were times when Sarah had fits of trying to organize Daisy; at present, it was the problem of a job. Daisy, she declared, had been waitressing long enough. She must make the effort. “I thought you wanted to go into publishing.”
“Oh, I do. More than anything,”
“What have you done about it?”
“I’ve tried. Truly.”
“Months ago. Now what one needs is an introduction,” Sarah mused. “Let me see … who why, of course! Aubrey Foster! ”
She’d actually telephoned right away, spoken to this exalted character, and arranged an appointment. ” But how do you know he wants to see me ? ” asked Daisy.
“Daisy, higher ups in business have to see new people. They can’t afford to miss the chance of finding someone clever. ”
“And you’ve no idea whether you are clever or not ,” interrupted Sarah severely .
The morning of the interview it was raining steadily. A soft, muddy kind of day. When Daisy, who’d swopped days off with another waitress, wandered into the kitchen, she found Sarah dressed for work in blue and green and looking particularly perfect. Breakfast was ready.
“An egg ?” said Daisy , surprised .
“You have to be at your best for the interview .”
“Oh , Sarah . Thanks . But I’m not nervous .”
“Good things don’t happen by mistake,” said Sarah, expertly making coffee. I’ve been trying to think of anything that might help. And while I was having my bath I suddenly remembered something. My boss said it once that at an interview one should always let the prospective boss do the talking and just listen intelligently. The less you say the better . Sounds odd, but he swore it works. ”
“Okay. I shall quite like saying nothing,” said Daisy, loyally plowing through the egg.
“Ah. But remember there are ways of saying nothing.” Just before leaving, Sarah peered around Daisy’s door. ” What are you wearing?”
“My black cord. Why? ” They both knew Daisy had been tempted to wear her white dungarees. Sarah pretended she’d thought of no such thing, waved her goodbye, and wished her luck.
“Don’t talk too much!”
Daisy dressed slowly. You’d think I never stopped chattering, she thought, pulling on a white sweater and zipping up her black corduroy skirt. She looked out the window. The soft rain pattered down, so she put on an old raincoat that always reminded her of Bogart and borrowed Sarah’s second umbrella.
On the long bus journey, she felt cheerful. Waitressing was all very well, but it was true that she did long, and had indeed tried now and then, to be in publishing. Why did people always say ” in “? As if one had to jump into a lake? Or the sea, perhaps?
She thought dreamily about publishing. Bright jacketed books. Authors writing masterpieces in Highland cottages. Artists painting book jackets.
She was in good time as she stepped down from the bus and walked toward a mostly glass block that towered over the rest of the buildings. Somewhere up there, thought Daisy, looking at indistinguishable windows, is Mr. Aubrey Foster, Managing Director. One can’t go higher than that.
The doorman was helpful. “There’s another entrance at the end of the alleyway on the right. Double doors.”
Daisy went down a narrow paved alley. There were the doors. A large notice said, Use Next Door Please! She popped obediently through the next door, asked the elevator operator for Mr. Foster, and was wafted upward.
“The receptionist, a plump, dark lady, was knitting a green sweater and wearing an identical pink one. She looked surprised when Daisy asked for Mr. Foster.”
“I have an appointment. Eleven thirty.”
“Mr. Foster. I really am sorry. I’m afraid he’s in the Amster dam.
Daisy gasped. How often had Sarah extolled the marvelous efficiency, the reliability, like steel, of the higher ups.
“Mr. Powell is taking interviews this morning, ” said the plump receptionist. ” I’ll buzz him. ”
“Here’s my name and address, ” said Daisy helpfully. The receptionist dialed on the intercom. ” Mr. Powell? Reception here. I have a ” looking at Daisy’s note Miss Daisy Elizabeth Morris here. Appointment with Mr. Foster. Could you…?”
She hung up. “Mr. Powell is just coming, ” she said and returned with some relief to the green knitting.
A young man came briskly down the corridor. He was tall, redheaded, with a tough, freckled face.
“Miss Morris? Hello. Come in, would you? ”
He bustled her into a large, plain office with large windows overlooking wet rooftops and a church spire or two. She was settled into a chair facing his desk, and offered coffee. “From the machine and pretty horrible. But hot, ” he said.
While they waited for the coffee, he apologized for Mr. Foster’s absence. “You know how it is with trips abroad.”
Daisy untruthfully said she did.
He asked her when she had graduated and what she was doing now. When Daisy explained about the waitressing, he looked impressed. “A hardy girl,” he said. They both smiled.
Her spirits rose a little. She did like the man on the other side of the desk the fact that he wasn’t, after all, a higher-up was rather comfortable. She could imagine him with authors … a budding Evelyn Waugh, for instance. But his office was a disappointment, not a book in sight. Daisy had thought there would be rainbows of them.
“Shall we talk a bit about the job, Miss Morris? ”
Daisy nodded seriously and settled down to take Sarah’s advice. She fixed her brown eyes on the young man with concentrated attention.
“The first thing to mention, of course, is the traveling. There’s a great deal of it, ” said Nick Powell.
But she said nothing. She listened.
“That’s the basic trouble with this kind of work, ” he went on thoughtfully. ” It’s wonderful training for the future, of course. But one has no home life. I know I didn’t. Three or four days in each city – a week or ten days at the outside. Moving about all the time. It isn’t easy to live like that.”
“I suppose not, ” muttered Daisy.
She was totally and completed confused. What on earth could this publishing job be? What had Sarah said to Mr. Aubrey Foster? Sarah was rather daring in business had she indicated that Daisy might actually be turned into a book saleswoman? Daisy knew perfectly well she’d never have the nerve.
“I’m afraid, ” went on Nick Powell easily, with his warm smile, ” there’s another problem one has to consider . You’ll have a senior with you, naturally. But different firms often use entirely different systems.”
“I suppose they must, ” said poor Daisy.
“That’s what makes it such fascinating work, but also makes it tough. Doing a firm’s audit is often like starting an entirely fresh job every time.”
Daisy’s eyes nearly popped out of her head.
She was in the wrong place!
But it’s impossible, she thought desperately, no longer listening to Nick Powell’s voice. There can’t be two Mr. Fosters. But there are. There must be.
Nick Powell continued his improbable description of the work of a traveling auditor. He spoke of schedules, double entries, books ah, what different books those were computer data and systems. How can I jump up and say I’m not what he thinks, though Daisy, getting more frantic. He’ll think I’m mad but I’m not! The doorman sent me here. Oh, help.
“I think that pretty well covers everything, Miss Morris,” finished Nick Powell. “Naturally you will want to think it over, and perhaps you’d drop a line to Mr. Foster. This is only a preliminary chat, you know. Mr. Foster will want to see you. I’ll tell him that we met today. “
“He stood up and so did Daisy.” Now was the time to speak. But he took her hand in a large warm grasp and looked at her with a smile, and she didn’t say a word.
Blessedly alone in the downstairs entrance, she stared up at the list of firms. Little, Foster & Partners, Accountants.
And a minute later, through the first pair of swinging doors the one without the taped notice actually opened there it was: Peter Edwards & Aubrey Foster, Publishers.
The clock on the wall said she was forty minutes too late. Sarah’s face was a mask of horror. ” You did what? You saw who? ”
“Whom,” corrected John, Sarah’s boyfriend, who was looking rather strange as he listened.
“What job were you interviewed for ?” cried Sarah, her voice rising.
“Traveling auditor,” said John, and could contain himself no longer. He burst into a shout of laughter.
“Oh, Daisy, Daisy, why didn’t you accept? What a whirl you’d be, doing the company’s books.”
“It is not in the least funny,” snapped Sarah. She was extremely cross. “What will Aubrey Foster think? One does not make an appointment for a friend with a managing director and the friend simply does not turn up. It is extremely rude.”
“I am sorry, Sarah.”
“It wasn’t the girl’s fault. Two Fosters,” said John, who was short and dark and earnestly trying to straighten his face.
“Did you phone and apologize ?” demanded Sarah.
“I didn’t like to. I thought he’d never believe me.”
“Good grief. I’d better do it.”
Sarah slammed off to the telephone.
John met Daisy’s mournful stare and began to chuckle again. “Oh, Daisy. Nobody but you could get through the whole interview without talking. Why didn’t you say something?”
“At first because Sarah had said the less one talks at interviews, the better . And then. … Then I don’t know.”
John’s eyes had begun to sparkle again, but Sarah marched back and frowned at him.” Mr. Foster was extremely gritty. I don’t blame him. I explained what had happened, and he accepted it, but what surprised him was that you hadn’t called his secretary afterward. However, he says he will see you tomorrow at twelve. Which is very nice of him.
Daisy said a crushed thank you. Sarah and John (still none too straight-faced) went off to a disco. As they left the apartment, Daisy heard Sarah say,” It is not funny and stop sniggering.”
The apartment was quiet after they’d gone. It had grown dark, and Daisy switched on the lights and changed into her dungarees, which were a comfort in the time of trial. She washed her hair.
She was having a gloomy cup of coffee too dispirited for supper and listening to a frightening radio play about robots when the front doorbell rang.
“Yes ?” she said nervously from the other side of the door.
“It’s Nick Powell,” called a voice.
Oh, help, thought Daisy.
As she opened the door she blushed a burning scarlet. Even her nose was red.
“Sorry to barge in. Have you got a moment?”
“Yes. Come in.”
She led the way to the sitting room in silence loud with embarrassment and asked him to sit down.
“I found you because Molly, our receptionist, had your address.”
He looked at the girl in the white dungarees. She looked distinctly younger, and her long fair hair was damp.
“I felt I had to see you,” he said.
“Yes.” The blush had faded. She looked at him dolefully.
“I checked after you’d gone,” said Nick Powell. ” And Mr. Foster had no appointment this morning with a Miss Morris. So then I began thinking about you, and there was something ….
“Not very auditors?”
Daisy explained for the second time that evening. She braced herself for the roar of laughter, but he only looked interested.
” Poor you,” he said when she finished. “ I must say you did look a bit horrified when I was describing the job. I thought it was the idea of traveling. Why didn’t you stop me? ”
I don’t know, ” Daisy said and sighed. ” It – will when you’d taken the trouble to see me and everything, it seemed so rude.
He gave her the oddest look. They talked a little longer. About auditing. Publishing, Coincidences. Then he said, ” Look — have you had supper? Shall we go to that Italian place on Linden Road? I’d like it very much if you’d come. ”
They had a delicious supper. Daisy felt happy. He was funny and interesting, quick and kind. When he brought her home to the front door, he gave her a hug.
” What time is your appointment with the real Mr. Foster? ”
” Twelve tomorrow. Should I have the nerve to go? ”
” Of course. And he’ll snap you up. We all want to do that.”
He hugged her again. He’d call tomorrow evening, he said.
Daisy went to bed in a haze and slept badly. She woke at four and lay thinking about Nick Powell. She slept again and woke to feel distinctly sloppy. It was a surprise to find Sarah getting breakfast and still cross.
It seemed odd, after having been wished severe good luck by Sarah, to put on the black corduroy skirt and white sweater and the Bogart raincoat ( it was still raining ). She took the same bus and walked up to the same glass building. But this time she thought that somewhere among those lines of windows was a young man who had hugged her tightly.
She thought about Nick as she went through the doors and up in the elevator. She got out of the elevator and suddenly, “ Daisy!”
It was Nick. She couldn’t believe her eyes. He grasped both her hands and gave her the longest, loveliest look.
“I knew you’d come. I’ve been waiting.”
“You came to me. You were thinking of me. I’ve been doing the same. Do you always do such beautiful things? Come on, we have five minutes to get you there. ”
He rushed her back into the elevator, into the neighboring building.
“I’m delivering you in person this time. I’m not having anyone interview you except this publishing character.”
They went up in the elevator holding hands. The elevator stopped, and Nick steered her through more doors. And suddenly she was in a rainbow world. Books of every color spilled along shelves. Display cards showed leaping horses, windmills, girls, tigers.
A middle aged lady at the reception desk said, “Miss Daisy Morris?”
“Come and pick me up when you’re through,” said Nick. “I’m taking you to lunch.”
Nick always claimed afterward that it was entirely due to him that Mr. Foster gave her a job.
“But, Nick, why? I’d behaved so crazily. I wouldn’t have thought bosses liked people to do that.”
“Bosses like people who are determined to find them, no matter what, ”said Nick. There was a little pause.” And you found me, too, didn’t you, darling Daisy?”
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