At the office that day, Martha was left to ‘keep her eyes open’ until after the lunch hour. Then Max Cohen brought her a document to copy. She was so tense, she had to start afresh three times and when he came to fetch it, all that had been achieved were the words ‘Memorandum of Agreement of Sale’ typed raggedly across the top of the sheet. She shrank under his impatient assurance that it did not matter in the least, and she had to take her time. Her fingers were heavy, trembling and her head was thick. To type two pages of his small neat writing into something clear and pleasant to look at seemed to her, just then, an impossibly difficult task. He went home with coming to her desk again; and she flung a dozen sheets of paper into the wastepaper basket, and decided she would come early next morning and do it before anyone else arrived.
Mrs Buss, on her way out, asked, ‘Have you got any certificates?’ Martha said no, she had learned to type at home. Mrs Buss said nothing consoling, but merely nodded absentmindedly, for her eye were on the elegant Mrs Jasper Cohen. Martha could barely see where she was going as she left the office. She was filled with a violent revulsion against the law and everything connected with it. What she said to herself was ‘I won’t spend the rest of my life typing this stupid jargon’.
She stood at the corner of the street and watched a crowd of carefree young people going into McGrath’s Hotel, and felt sick with envy. Then she crossed the street and went into the offices of the Zambesi News. She was going to see if Mr Spur, an old journalist, whom she had known ’as a child — that is to say, — she had spent a month’s holiday with him and his wife about four years before, — could offer her any kind of position. She was in the building about half an hour, and when she came out her face was hot with embarrassment. It had been so painful she could not bear to remember what had happened. What she must remember was that she had no qualifications whatsoever.
She understood, finally, the extent of the favour Mr Cohen was doing her; and next morning she was at her desk in a very chastened frame of mind. Her eyes were certainly opened, but she had no time to use them, for long before that first document was finished, several more arrived on her desk and it was lunchtime before she knew it. She tried to persuade herself that the papers she sent neatly clipped and tied with green tape in the form of the exquisite, faultless documents Mrs Bi turned out with such ease, were satisfactory. Mr Max Cohen received them with a noncommitt glance and a nod; and later Martha saw Mrs Buss doing them again. She was given no more. For whole day she sat idle at her desk, feeling sick and useless, wishing that she could run away, wondering what would happen. The fair, plump girl, Maisie Gale, who sat next to her said consolingly,
«Don’t lose any sleep. Just do what you can get away with, that’s my motto.» Martha was offended and replied with a stiff smile.
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Why did Martha find her first day at the office difficult?
- She was not used to work under pressure.
- The task given to her was very difficult.
- She was too nervous to think.
- Mr Cohen was not easy to please.
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