The Romance of a Busy Broker – Pre-Intermediate Level
Pitcher worked in the office of Harvey Maxwell, stockbroker. He looked up in surprise as his employer came through the office door. Mr Maxwell was unusually late, and had his young secretary with him.
“Good morning, Pitcher,” said Maxwell as he walked quickly over to his desk. There were many letters and other papers on it waiting for him. Without another word, he sat down and started to go through them.
The secretary had worked for Maxwell for a year. She was very beautiful, but dressed differently to most other secretaries. She did not spend a lot of money on her hair. She did not wear expensive jewelry. Although her dress fitted her shape very well, it was grey and simple. The only unusual thing she wore was small, black hat. In it was the brightly colored wing of a bird.
On this morning she looked as if something was shining inside her. Her eyes were bright and dreamy. Her cheeks were pink, and she looked very happy. As Pitcher watched her, he noticed another difference this morning. She did not go straight into the next room, where her desk was. She stood and waited, as if she was not sure what to do. Then she moved over closer to Maxwell’s desk. She stood near enough for him to see that she was there. But the person sitting at that desk was no longer a man. He was a busy New York stockbroker, working like a machine.
“Well, what is it? Anything?” asked Maxwell. Opened letters covered his desk like snow. He looked up. She could see from his cold, grey eyes that he wanted to get back to his work.
“Nothing,” answered the secretary, moving away with a little smile.
“Mr Pitcher,” she said. “Did Mr Maxwell say anything yesterday about employing another secretary?”
“He did,” answered Pitcher. “He told me to get another one. I called the agency yesterday afternoon. I asked them send some for us to look over this morning. It’s nearly ten o’clock, but none have come yet.”
“I will do the work as usual, then,” said the young woman. “I’ll continue until we get someone to fill the job.” She went to her desk and hung the black hat with the brightly colored bird wing in its usual place.
Working as a New York stockbroker is one of the busiest jobs in the world. Every minute of every hour is full of things that must be done. And this day was an unusually busy day for Harvey Maxwell.
Next to his desk was a machine. A long, endless stream of paper came out of it. This brought him stock prices as they changed. The telephone seemed to ring every minute. Men came into the office with orders to buy and sell stock. Some spoke to him politely, others shouted with anger or excitement. Boys ran in and out with messages that he had to answer at once.
There were big things happening in the business world that day. Each of these was felt in the broker’s offices. The people working in the office were running around like sailors during a storm. Even Pitcher’s usually calm face showed some of the pressure. Maxwell put his chair against the wall so that he could move about. He jumped from machine to phone and from desk to door like a highly trained dancer.
In the middle of all this action came a woman. Her golden hair was piled high on her head. On top of it all sat a large hat covered in birds’ wings. She was wearing an expensive jacket and a long chain with a silver heart at the end.
“A woman from the secretary’s agency to see about the job,” said Pitcher.
Maxwell turned half around, with his hands full of papers.
“What job?” he asked, as if he did not understand.
“The secretary,” said Pitcher. “You told me yesterday to call them up and have one sent over this morning.”
“You are losing your mind, Pitcher,” said Maxwell. “Why should I have told you to do that? Miss Leslie has worked very well during the year she has been here. The job is hers as long as she chooses to work here. There’s no job open here. Call the agency, Pitcher. Tell them not to send any more of them here.”
The golden haired woman angrily left the office. “Mr Maxwell seems to get more forgetful every day,” said Pitcher quietly to one of the other staff.
The day got busier and busier. A number of stocks were in trouble. Some of Maxwell’s customers were heavy investors in them. Orders to buy and sell were coming in every minute. Some of Maxwell’s own investments were in danger. The man was working like a powerful machine. He had to be fast, making quick decisions all day. This was the world of finance. There was no room in it for the human world or the world of nature.
During the lunch hour, things became a little quieter.
Maxwell stood by his desk with his hands full of paper. There was a pen over his right ear. His hair was hanging over his face. The window was open. It was Spring and the weather was getting warmer. There was a sweet smell of flowers. But it did not come from a garden below. It was Miss Leslie’s perfume, and it made him think of her. The world of finance seemed less and less important. Although she was in the next room, it seemed as if she was standing right there in front of him.
“I’ll do it now,” he said to himself. “I’ll ask her now. I can’t understand why I didn’t do it long ago.”
He walked quickly into the inner office and stopped beside the desk of the secretary. His hands were still full of paper. The pen was still above his ear.
She looked up at him with a smile. Her round eyes were kind and honest. A soft pink color came over her cheeks.
“Miss Leslie,” he began, “I only have a moment of free time. I want to ask you something. Will you be my wife? I sorry that I haven’t had time to make love to you in the usual way. But I really do love you. Talk quickly, please. I must get back to work.”
“Oh, what are you talking about?” said the young woman. She stood up and looked at him in surprise.
“Don’t you understand?” said Maxwell. “I want you to marry me. I love you, Miss Leslie. I had to tell you. I took a minute out of my day when things were quieter. They’re calling me to the phone now.”
“Tell them to wait a minute, Pitcher,” he shouted. “Won’t you, Miss Leslie?” he asked quietly.
The secretary acted very strangely. At first it seemed that she did not understand. Then she began to cry. But she was smiling through the tears. She put one of her arms lovingly about the broker’s neck and pulled him towards her.
“I know now,” she said, softly. “This old business has put everything else out of your head. I was frightened at first. Don’t you remember, Harvey? We were married at 8 o’clock last night in the little church around the corner.”