There must have been something, in the mixture of candour and innocence that I presented, that touched him. He began to describe what needed to be done. I would be expected to do typing and bookkeeping, fill in ledgers, prepare receipts for the premiums...Even before he’d finished I told him I was sure I could do all that and that I could start right away. In fact, I could not do it but I was sure I could learn.
What I didn’t mention was the trouble there would be if I went home jobless.
He began to ask me questions. The simple maths ones were not too bad: I could count money if nothing else. But I had no answers for any of the spelling tests.
Shocked by my lack of education, he asked what exactly I had done instead of attending school. I told him about being in the fields, and how I played on my own using a slate for a till and different coloured glass for money, and how much I liked all the flowers. I talked of watching all the insects and birds, of the different noises they made and which grasses were best for chewing.
Mr Deverill took a botany book from a shelf. I showed him all the grasses and flowers that I knew so well. I even made cricket noises for him. It was a most unorthodox interview.
Finally, he sat back. “Well you’ve no idea how to be a clerk,” he said, “but you’ve got courage. Telling me you’ve got to have the job! I’ll give you the job just for your nerve, but you’ve got to learn. The condition I’ll set is that you have to go to night school. I’ll book you in and pay for it but you have to go. You start Monday.”
I was amazed. If he had not given me the job, there would have been a row at home. But no one, even myself, had considered there was a real possibility of me getting it. I had been cheeky, but that had become instinctive. I did not really see people as having any interest in me. So when Mr Deverill gave me the job it was a real shock. Another shock went to Mr Deverill as I asked him for a week’s money in advance because my mam needed the money. He agreed to this and I thanked him and left.
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