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‘Good.’ She smiled at him from across the desk; then she said, ‘I would like you to accompany me to Hexham on Monday.’

‘Hexham?’ He moved his head downwards while keeping his eyes on her. ‘Very well.’ He sometimes omitted to say miss, but she had never pulled him up for it.

‘I think it’s time you saw the places you’re going to be responsible for.’

‘Aye, yes, of course.’ He’d have to stop himself saying aye.

‘By the way—’ she was still smiling at him—’I should like to come and see your boatyard. I’m very interested in it. I may be of some assistance in supplying freight—in a small way. Would this afternoon be convenient?’

He thought quickly. What was the place like, was it tidy? Was there any washing hanging about? No, Janie had cleared the ironing up last night and scrubbed out last thing www.onlinecasinoitaliani.com/recensioni/loki/.

He nodded at her, saying, ‘Yes, that’ll be all right with me. Me wife won’t be in because she works until four on a Saturday, she’s nursemaid at the Buckhams in Westoe, but you’ll be welcome to see . . .’

‘Your ! . . wife?’ The words came from deep within her chest and were separate as if they were strange and she had never spoken them before.

‘Yes. Yes, miss, me wife . . .’ His voice trailed off for he was amazed to see the colour flooding up over her face like a great blush.

‘I . . . I wasn’t aware that you were married, Mr Connor ! . . Since when?’

‘Well, well—’ he moved uneasily in the chair— ‘just recently, miss. I didn’t like to mention it to you at the time because the date was fixed for shortly after your father’s funeral. I couldn’t change it, but it didn’t seem proper to . . .’

Her eyes were shaded now as she looked down towards the desk and on to her hands which were lying flat on the blotter, one on each side of the ledger that he had placed before her. Her back was straight, her body looked rigid. She said coolly, ‘You should have informed me of your change of situation, Mr Connor.’

‘I . . . I didn’t think it was of any importance.’

‘No importance!’ She did not look at him, but now her eyes flicked over the table as if searching for some paper or other. ‘A married man cannot give the attention to business that the single man can, for instance, he hasn’t the time.’

‘Oh, I have all the time . . .’

‘Or the interest.’ She had raised her eyes to his now. The colour had seeped from her face leaving it moist and grey. This alters matters, Mr Connor.’

He stared at her, his voice gruff now as he said, ‘I don’t understand, I can’t see why.’

‘You can’t? Well then, if you can’t then I am mistaken in the intelligence I credited you with.’

His back was as straight as hers now, his face grim.

As she held his gaze he thought, No, no, I’d be barmy to think that. I haven’t got such a bloody big head on me as that. No I No! Yet it was pretty evident that the fact that he was married had upset her. She was likely one of these people who didn’t believe in marriage, there were such about; there was one lived in the end house down the lane. She dressed like a man and it was said that she handled a horse and a boat as well as any man, but she looked half man. This one didn’t. Although she had a business head on her shoulders she dressed very much as a woman of fashion might. He couldn’t make her out. No, by God! he couldn’t.

He said now, ‘I can assure you, miss, me being married won’t make any difference to my work. I’ll give you my time and loyalty . . .’

Markus Weber

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