Miss Twill cast that bewitching gaze downwards to her timepiece: 9.58 am. This meant two things: 1. That it was 9.58 am; 2. That the hour was nigh. Perfect: for she was primed and ready to receive her … interrogation. For at precisely 10 Ante Meridiem on this timorous Tuesday, Miss Twill had a job interview for a prospective position of indubitable importance and rigorous responsibility: that of Acquisitions Secretary and Personal Assistant to Lord Girth Firmwood II, full-time dashing nobleman and part-(perhaps three-quarters)-time Rare Book Dealer and Head of Firmwood Antiquarian, Adequately Meeting Your Most Unusual Needs Since 1857.
Miss Twill’s role (not that she had it just yet, of course; a lady musn’t get ahead of herself, and too much confidence is most unbecoming) required possession of a strong but loving grasp of precious commodities and highly skilled finger-work—there would be much light manual labour involved in this job (typing and shelving, largely).
Miss Twill delicately adjusted her silk stockings and pushed her pince-nez up onto the bridge of her button-like nose with one gracefully tapered finger (pianist fingers, her mother had always said; Miss Twill was one of those enviable ladies who could simply have done anything to which she turned her pretty—and yet also probing, in the strictly intellectual sense—hands). She swished up the broad stone steps and entered the huge oak doors, hardly daring to breathe as she stepped, gazelle-like, into the marble atrium and came face to face with … her potential proprietor.
For indeed, Lord Firmwood—statuesque, Romanesque, one might even say Hemingwayesque, with his deliciously dishevelled beard and palpable passion for words—was already awaiting her arrival. ‘You came,’ he intoned with attractively gravelly inflection, enveloping Miss Twill’s petal-like fingers in his manly maw. ‘How simply delightful to see you again, Petunia. Please … step into my office and we can explore your skills together.’
Miss Twill seamlessly executed an appropriately deferential—and yet also resourceful and enterprising, as per the job selection criteria—response: a subtle dip of the head immediately followed by a swift and alluring raise of those doe-like eyes (they were almost her best assets; it would be improper to accentuate the others just yet).
Lord Firmwood nodded his appraisal and led the way. ‘Take a seat,’ he said smoothly, guiding her gently into his ostentatiously understated study and gesturing to a long, wide, formidably firm-looking Chesterfield sofa upon which there was clearly room enough for … more than one person.
As Miss Twill lowered her derrière onto the sumptuously soft leather, Lord Firmwood handed her a typed copy of the Acquisitions Secretary position description with an admirably forceful thrusting motion. ‘Of course, I can sense from the precision of the prose in your application letter how closely you can attend to my needs’—here, he swept a well-toned, but not overly muscular (a quality that Miss Twill, who also possessed a refined aesthetic sensibility, did not overly appreciate) arm around his study, indicating row upon row of rare books awaiting Miss Twill’s fastidious fingers—‘and I wonder if we might simply … skip the entrée and move straight to the main course, as it were?’
Miss Twill was ready; she’d been ready for days, although she wasn’t about to expose herself to Lord Firmwood like this just yet. ‘Of course, Lord Firmwood,’ she breathed, folding those pianist fingers demurely in her lap. ‘I’m available immediately. When would you like to take me … on board?’
Lord Firmwood nodded vigorously; Miss Twill noted with pleasure that he was clearly a man of lasting energies. ‘Excellent, Petunia,’ he said, turning his penetrating gaze towards her. ‘You can start right now. I simply can’t wait any longer to have you working under me. I think we’re going to find each other … deeply satisfying.’