Above Rubies

Above Rubies by Mary Cummins Read Free Book Online

Book: Above Rubies by Mary Cummins Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Cummins
are getting sticky, and I don’t blame them. If we’re careless, they won’t pay up if we lose anything.”
    Now Merry began to study her list, and to help Nigel sort out the pieces for each mannequin to wear. Mr. Kilpatrick was welcoming his guests and showing them to small tables at the other end of the room, where discreet waiters were serving champagne, and bowls of crisps and nuts had been put in the centre of each table, together with cigarettes and ashtrays.
    Merry had a moment to study the guests. Many of the women looked elegant and charming and were already wearing a lovely but discreet piece of jewellery. Their husbands, looking every inch the successful professional or business man, laughed and joked with Mr. Kilpatrick.
    There were others, however, with sharp discontented faces and tired eyes, whose fingers were already clustered with glittering rings, while gold bracelets jostled each other on flabby white arms. Merry watched them weigh up the scene calculatingly, and shivered a little with distaste, as though a splash of ugliness had been painted over a lovely picture.
    “New warm clothes for the McConnells and decent living conditions for some of the cottagers in Kilbraggan,” whispered a voice in her ear.
    Merry started, then smiled as she turned to find Benjamin grinning at her.
    “Boots for Jake Grieve,” she returned.
    “He’s got a pair,” he told her.
    “I didn’t know you were coming.”
    “I made up my mind at the last moment,” he told her smilingly . “See how the other half live. Stephanie invited me.” Proudly he displayed his red badge. “Are you enjoying yourself, little Merry?”
    “I’m here to work,” she told him proudly, folding her list.
    “Nice working clothes. In that dress, your hair looks like lovely ripe chestnuts.”
    Merry couldn’t stop the warm colour flooding her cheeks, though the compliment was made in such an indulgent tone that she knew she couldn’t take it seriously.
    “I’m glad you like it,” she said primly, and he laughed.
    “What sort of work?” he asked, looking round curiously.
    “Checking,” she told him. “I’ve been given a list of the jewellery to be shown, and I mark off each piece as I get it from the models.”
    Benjamin frowned.
    “Whose idea was that?” he asked, rather coldly.
    “Why, Stephanie’s or Nigel’s, I suppose. Does it matter?”
    He looked at her thoughtfully.
    “They’ve no right to ask you to take responsibility like this,” he said firmly. “You’re only a youngster, and there’s thousands at stake in this little lot. If anything should go wrong ... something missing, for example ... it means you’re involved.”
    She flushed scarlet.
    “You ... you aren’t saying I can’t be trusted?” she snapped, her eyes sparking. “Or that I’m some sort of incompetent fool? I’ve had a good office training, and I used to hold down quite a responsible job with my uncle’s firm. Do you think the Kilpatricks would ask me if they thought I was some sort of idiot? I ...”
    “Steady on, steady on,” he told her. “Don’t keep flying off the handle because I talk a bit of horse sense to you. If you can’t see the risk, then heaven help me, I must try to point it out to you . .. ”
    “Well, you can stop playing watchdog to me,” she told him stormily. “Even if you did promise Aunt Ellen !”
    “Why, Benjamin darling, I’m so glad you got here !”
    Suddenly Stephanie was with them, darting Merry an angry look, and her heart sank even more. She had no wish to be bad friends with Stephanie. While she couldn’t exactly foresee a bosom friendship between them, or a time when she’d be very fond of Stephanie, yet she was Nigel’s sister, and Merry would have welcomed a girl of her own age as a friend. She’d felt that the other girl was beginning to like her a little, and was annoyed with Benjamin, quite illogically, for giving her the wrong impression.
    “Where’s Nigel?” asked

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