His Forced Wife

Chapter 1

It was the morning of Kate Quinn’s twentieth birthday when she was given the opportunity of taking what the majority of secretaries would have considered the most exciting job in the business world - private secretary to Sir Angus Hamilton, chairman and founder of the Hamilton Press, one of the largest newspaper groups in the country.

But to Kate the offer was anything but a pleasure, for if her six months' sojourn in the typists' pool had taught her one thing, it was that being secretary to Sir Angus would not only give her more money but also the likelihood of a nervous breakdown.

"Well," asked George Simmons, personnel manager of the group, "how do you feel about it? It's a great honor you know, being singled out like this. But I've been watching your work since you did that rush job for me, and when I was told Miss Evans was definitely too ill to return to Sir Angus again, I immediately thought of you."

"Not immediately," Kate corrected, honesty getting the better of discretion. "I believe Sir Angus has already tried several of the girls from the typing pool."

"Only because he insisted on having someone in their thirties," came the bland answer. "I gave him your name at the beginning, but he thought you were too young."

"And now he doesn't?"

"Sir Angus hasn't been consulted," George Simmons said testily. "If it had been left to me I would have chosen you in the first place. But you know what Sir Angus is like… Come now, Miss Roberts, you've nothing to lose by giving it a try."

"Except my head!"

He laughed. "You're not being asked to many the chairman - though as a matter of fact you will be the sixth girl he's tried."

"And Henry the Eighth didn't have a chance to behead his sixth wife, did he?" murmured Kate, and then grinned. "Very well, Mr. Simmons, the worst that can happen is that I'll have to return to the typist’s pool." Kate's original feeling when offered the job was nothing compared to her misgivings as, the following morning, she stood in Sir Angus's panel-lined room - office was far too meager a word for such sumptuousness - and came face to face with her new employer. Although she had worked at the Hamilton Press since leaving secretarial school, this was the first time she had actually seen its chairman, and her close view only served to heighten her doubts, for he was even more grim-looking than he appeared in his

Photographs: his hair less grey, his smile less benign and his eyes far sharper.

"So now they're sending me schoolgirls," he said abruptly.

"I was twenty yesterday," Kate replied. "My shorthand and typing speeds are -"

"I know all the details," he interrupted, "but I want more than a dictating machine. I've enough of those already. I need a secretary, not a typist - someone who's got sufficient sense to know the people I want to speak to and the people I don't, who can tone down my letters when I've lost my temper while doing them, and who can-" he stopped irritably. "You're too young to do any of that. Far too young."

"An old-fashioned view, if I may say so, Sir Angus," Kate said. "I'm old enough to vote, and if I'm not too young to decide on the people who govern me I should be able to-"

"Voting for some nincompoop or other has got nothing to do with what I want!"

"But why judge me without trying me? Isn't that against the policy of your newspapers? 'The truth as it is and not as we would like it to be.' I understand that is your motto, Sir Angus. Yet you're judging me on personal bias - because you've never had the opportunity of employing a secretary of my age before."

"No one who talked so much!"

She reddened. "I'm sorry, you're quite right. Please forgive me." She turned and was at the door when he called her back. Wait a minute, Miss… err——-Come here and sit down."

Notebook and pencil in hand, she did as he told her, sitting on the chair in front of his desk. A ray of early morning sunlight touched her hair, making it glow like a raven's wing. Its dark sheen was heightened by the severe way it was drawn back from her wide forehead and combed into a style reminiscent of a medieval pageboy. It was an old fashioned look that suited her, for her face had none of the sharp pertness associated with contemporary fashion — heart-shaped, with high-set cheekbones and grey-green eyes - whose brilliant color emphasized the unusual translucent quality of her skin - and she gave promise of the greater beauty that would come with maturity.

For a long moment he regarded her with a face so expressionless that she was not-sure whether he was looking at her or was deep in his own thoughts. Then with startling abruptness he began to dictate a memorandum.

It was an instant before Kate realized she was meant to be taking it down in shorthand, and she began to write furiously, so intent on keeping up with the words that what he said made no sense to her. He worked for an hour without stopping, and only during a momentary pause while he garnered his thoughts did she wonder whether there was a mechanical process by which he had been able to divert all telephone calls to his office, for none of the three telephones on his desk rang to disturb them.

At last he finished dictating and leaned back in his chair, sly amusement on his face. "Type that back for me, Miss… err… if you've managed to get it down!"

"Yes, Sir Angus. And my name is Kate Quinn."

"Thank you for reminding me."

 The red telephone in front of him gave a delicate chime and he lifted it up and began to speak into it. Kate went out, quietly closing his door behind her. But once outside her calmness disappeared and she leaned against the lintel, her body trembling too much for her to walk any further. What a tyrant the man was! She had told him she was capable of working for him provided he gave her a fair chance; and the dictation she now had in her notebook was his idea of fair! Angrily she crossed over to Miss Evans' desk. If Sir Angus had set out deliberately to use words that had never appeared in any shorthand instruction book he could not have succeeded better. But she would show him. If it was the last thing she did she would make him eat his words; make him take back his criticism of her.

She whipped the cover from the typewriter, giving muttered thanks that it was the same type as her own electric machine. Then she went through each filled-in page in her notebook, and not until she had carefully put in every one of the words which speed had forced her to omit did she commence to type. Several times she was interrupted by telephone calls, but it was exactly noon when she reentered Sir Angus's office with the typed draft of his memorandum. He went through it critically and she stood in front of him, outwardly calm but inwardly quaking. "Excellent," he said slowly, and handed it back to her. "Do a final copy of it ready for tomorrow morning. Now let's get down to some letters."

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