Jan and Her Job

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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SHE was something of a puzzle to the other passengers. They couldn't quite place her. She came on board the P. and O. at Marseilles. Being Christmas week the boat was not crowded, and she had a cabin to herself on the spar deck, so there was no "stable-companion" to find out anything about her.

The sharp-eyed Australian lady, who sat opposite her at the Purser's table, decided that she was not married, or even engaged, as she wore no rings of any kind. Besides, her name, "Miss Janet Ross," figured in the dinner-list and was plainly painted on her deck-chair. At meals she sat beside the Purser, and seemed more or less under his wing. People at her table decided that she couldn't be going out as a governess or she would hardly be travelling first class, and yet she did not look of the sort who globe-trot all by themselves.

Rather tall, slender without being thin, she moved well. Her ringless hands were smooth and prettily shaped, so were her slim feet, and always singularly well-shod.

Perhaps her chief outward characteristic was that she looked delightfully fresh and clean. Her fair skin helped to this effect, and the trim suitability of her clothes accentuated it. And yet there was nothing challenging or particularly noticeable in her personality.

Her face, fresh-coloured and unlined, was rather round. Her eyes well-opened and blue-grey, long-sighted and extremely honest. Her hair, thick and naturally wavy, had been what hairdressers call "mid-brown," but was now frankly grey, especially round the temples; and the grey hair puzzled people, so that opinions differed widely regarding her age.

The five box-wallahs (gentlemen engaged in commercial pursuits are so named in the East to distinguish them from the Heaven-Born in the various services that govern India), who, with the Australian lady, sat opposite to her at table, decided that she was really young and prematurely grey. Between the courses they diligently took stock of her. The Australian lady disagreed with them. She declared Miss Ross to be middle-aged, to look younger than she was. In this the Australian lady was quite sincere. She could not conceive of any young woman neglecting the many legitimate means that existed of combating this most distressing semblance—if semblance it was—of age.

The Australian lady set her down as a well-preserved forty at least.

Mr. Frewellen, the oldest and crossest and greediest of the five box-wallahs, declared that he would lay fifteen rupees to five annas that she was under thirty; that her eyes were sad, and it was probably trouble that had turned her hair. At his time of life, he could tell a young woman when he saw one. No painted old harridan could deceive him. After all, if Miss Ross had grey hair, she had plenty of it, and it was her own. But Mr. Frewellen, who sat directly opposite her, was prejudiced in her favour, for she always let him take her roll if it was browner than his own. He also took her knife if it happened to be sharper than the one he had, and he insisted on her listening to his incessant grumbling as to the food, the service, the temperature, and the general imbecility and baseness of his fellow-creatures....