had numbed her. But now she felt a slackening of the strain. New York might be too much for her, but she could cope with Joe.

The haughty boy returned. Mr. Rendal was disengaged. She rose and went into an inner room, where a big man was seated at a desk.

It was Joe. There was no doubt about that. But it was not the Joe she remembered, he of the twisted fingers and silent stare. In his case, too, New York had conjured effectively. He was better-looking, better-dressed, improved in every respect. In the old days one had noticed the hands and feet and deduced the presence of Joe somewhere in the background. Now they were merely adjuncts. It was with a rush of indignation that Mary found herself feeling bucolic and awkward. Awkward with Joe! It was an outrage.

His manner heightened the feeling. If he had given the least sign of embarrassment she might have softened towards him. He showed no embarrassment whatever. He was very much at his ease. He was cheerful. He was even flippant.

“Welcome to our beautiful little city,” he said.

Mary was filled with a helpless anger. What right had he to ignore the past in this way, to behave as if her presence had never reduced him to pulp?

“Won’t you sit down?” he went on. “It’s splendid, seeing you again, Mary. You’re looking very well. How long have you been in New York? Eddy tells me you want to be taken on as a secretary. As it happens, there is a vacancy for just that in this office. A big, wide vacancy, left by a lady who departed yesterday in a shower of burning words and hairpins. She said she would never return, and, between ourselves, that was the right guess. Would you mind letting me see what you can do? Will you take this letter down?”

Certainly there was something compelling about this new Joe. Mary took the pencil and pad which he offered—and she took them meekly. Until this moment she had always been astonished by the reports which filtered through to Dunsterville of his success in the big city. Of course, nobody had ever doubted his perseverance; but it takes something more than perseverance to fight New York fairly and squarely, and win. And Joe had that something. He had force. He was sure of himself.

“Read it please,” he said, when he had finished dictating. “Yes, that’s all right. You’ll do.”

For a moment Mary was on the point of refusing. A mad desire gripped her to assert herself, to make plain her resentment at this revolt of the serf. Then she thought of those scuttling, clucking crowds, and her heart failed her.

“Thank you,” she said, in a small voice.

As she spoke the door opened.

“Well, well, well!” said Joe. “Here we all are! Come in, Eddy. Mary has just been showing me what she can do.”

If time had done much for Joe, it had done more for his fellow-emigrant, Eddy Moore. He had always been good-looking and—according to local standards—presentable. Tall, slim, with dark eyes that made you catch your breath when they looked into yours, and a ready flow of speech, he had been Dunsterville’s prize exhibit. And here he was with all his excellence heightened and accentuated by the polish of the city. He had filled out. His clothes were wonderful. And his voice, when he spoke, had just that same musical quality.

“So you and Joe have fixed it up? Capital! Shall we all go and lunch somewhere?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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