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Mr Blaine did not approve of women in his office or taking part in business discussions. Melisande longed for India with a pang sharp enough to make her wince.

After the to-do of handshakes, cards and introductions, Mr Blaine dusted off his chair for her, back rigid, head high. He didn’t need to say a word, Melisande saw his disapproval.

“Thank you,” she said, settling herself, and smiled politely.

“Aye, weel I dinna expect to be seating the ladies,” he responded, his Scottish ancestry clear in his voice, “not in my office.”

The office, slightly dusty round the edges, had clean window panes, plants on the windowsills and a loaded desk. Decorated with wooden panelling, heavy brown paintwork and a cream ceiling, it was a working man’s office, Melisande thought, a busy working man and hopefully an honest man.

He was. He pushed his spectacles down from his forehead onto his generous nose, listening to Jeri’s enthusiastic explanation intently. His first questions showed his quality as he sorted out matters financial, legal and even took in their hopes and wishes. It was his final questions which floored Jeri and Richard.

“How do you expect to farm? How much work are you willing to do? How much work can you do?” His face expressed mild interest, he didn’t look her men up and down to make a point about their well-cut city suits, double breasted overcoats, suede gloves and matching trilbies, a contrast to his easy fitting suit and low collared shirt. He did nothing to point out that Jeri and Richard looked what they were, well to do young men, not manual workers, but his questions brought the contrast to mind.


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