The Day Before: A Romantic Chronicle

The Day Before: A Romantic Chronicle

The Day Before: A Romantic Chronicle

The Day Before: A Romantic Chronicle

Excerpt

There was a tattoo of hammers on the packing floor of Davenant's warehouse, Cheapside. They were closing down the lids of cases marked for distant havens. The methodical sound did not shatter the peace of the house. Hammering there was the sound of necessity. It was heard but in the soul, which remained indifferent, having no work to do at Davenant's. On that day, too, the beat of hammers was desultory. The rhythm of labour on the packing floor would have told anyone who knew the warehouse that it was dear of its principal overseer. He was, in fact, supposed by his men to be out of London. They comfortably assumed that more than likely at that moment he was letting them have it at the Manchester end; and they did not begrudge the other end its treat, on a suitable day in May.

The packing floor that day had a nominal supervisor, young Mr. Venner; yet as he was simply Clem to everybody but his chief, his authority caused no anxiety. He was then, it must be said, taking things easily, leaning against a bench reading a book, though he was showing distaste with a frown. The proprietor's secretary, Miss Marshall, entered the floor, and stood watching him, gathering her dress from contact with coarse bales and lumber, and she was as still as a bird alert against surprises. This was the lowest department of the house, and she had come down to it. Only her head and shoulders appeared over a smallish crate, and Mr. Venner was unaware of her sharp scrutiny of his department. She had come to look for him, when all she had to do . . .

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