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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 5 Piercing Grey Eyes

...Like Helen Greenwood she had steady intelligent grey eyes, which widened slightly as the young girl came in shyly. Just for an instant they showed surprise. Then she looked down at the papers on her desk again. The physical resemblance between them was startling. You would have taken them for mother and daughter...

Helen is at last face to face with the woman who is to interview her for a job at Illingworths.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story which revolves around a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty. To read earlier chapters please click on
http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

The office lad stopped abruptly outside a separate office at the far end of the room. Helen almost collided with him as he tapped respectfully on a frosted-glass window set in the door. A woman's voice the other side answered. He opened the door fearfully, announcing her to whoever was inside. Then, standing back to let her go through, he shut the door hurriedly and walked off.

She was left by herself, facing a handsome woman in her early forties. She sat behind her desk with an air of authority and didn't look up immediately but studied some papers before her. Helen recognised the handwriting on the letter accompanying those papers. It was her own. It was her application letter and curriculum vitae.

The woman's rich auburn hair was cropped short and beautifully coiffured. She was tastefully but simply dressed in a light blue suit. Like Helen she wore no make-up, for like Helen she'd a superb complexion. And like Helen Greenwood she had steady intelligent grey eyes, which widened slightly as the young girl came in shyly. Just for an instant they showed surprise. Then she looked down at the papers on her desk again. The physical resemblance between them was startling. You would have taken them for mother and daughter.

Helen regarded her closely. Her anger had disappeared and, strangely, with it her nervousness. She felt at ease and unconsciously began sizing up the woman before her. The other sensed it and raised her eyes quickly. She had high cheekbones and a firm jaw line.

But it was her eyes which commanded attention. They were so grey they seemed translucent. Intelligence shone from them, as did authority. But there were also hints of sadness there. They looked at Helen closely, but this time showed no surprise. She was in complete control.

"Good afternoon, Miss Greenwood," she began, and Helen felt the full force of those eyes. "I'm Miss Calow, the office manager. Please sit down." She motioned to a chair opposite her on the other side of the desk.

Helen sat on it, relieved there were no others in the room as she had feared. The woman before her was enough to cope with. She could see now why the
office boy held her in awe.

Miss Calow continued looking over Helen's references. "Your present employer seems very loathe to part with you," she said. "He lists all you do - when you can decipher his letter!" she added wryly.

Helen thought she'd had it then. Miss Calow had picked up Grayson's semi-literate scrawl on oil-stained notepaper. She held it like an infected plague bag and put it down on the far side of her desk when she'd looked at it.

Then she picked up Helen's reference from her college. "You have a very good report from your tutor," she continued. "An excellent one."

Helen looked up. She might be in with a chance after all, and as the interview went on she felt more and more confident. Especially when Miss Calow referred to Joe. It surprised Helen. She knew all about him; had been quite a fan of his in the past when she'd gone to see the Keighworth team play.

She must have been quite a lass in her younger days, thought Helen.. Few women followed rugby league. It was very much a male preserve. There was more to Mary Calow than met the eye. But she floored Helen with her final question.

"Have you a steady boy-friend, Miss Greenwood?"

Helen hadn't, but felt affronted. She said she hadn't, but added, before she could stop herself, "What difference does it make, Miss Calow? If I did have one, it wouldn't stop me doing my job properly."

For a moment Helen received the full force of those piercing grey eyes. They flashed with controlled anger. Mary Calow was clearly not used to being answered back. Then she relaxed and the merest smile crossed her lips.

"We train our staff well here, young lady," Miss Calow answered. "We don't want you leaving in next to no time to get married. It's our rule we don't employ married women in the office. Consequently many of our staff have been with us for years. You understand?"

"Yes, miss," Helen murmured and bit her lip downcast.

The other sensed her mood and added more gently, "You're a pretty girl. I'm surprised you've no boyfriend, but I'm pleased you don't smother yourself with make-up. I don't want girls in my office looking like tarts! You'll spend most of your time here working as my assistant and I don't care for overdone girls, you understand?"

Helen's heart leapt. Was she giving her the job?
She'd no time to recover from her surprise before the other said, "I'm giving you a month's trial, Miss Greenwood. I expect punctuality, courtesy, efficiency - and no make-up! You may claim your expenses from Mr Brooksbank, the cashier, in the office outside. You start on Monday at 8.30 am sharp. Good morning, Miss Greenwood."

Her ordeal was over. And she'd got the job! She couldn't believe it.

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