Moonrise Over the Mountains

By: Lilian Peake

CHAPTER ONE



“It’s no good trying to persuade me,” Gayle said. “I’m just not experienced enough to take on such an important position.”



“The trouble with you, love,” her father replied, “is that you should have more confidence in your own ability.”

Gayle laughed and said in a kindly way, “Look who’s talking! You’re hardly brimming with confidence yourself.”

Her father sighed, but it was the sigh of someone who had reconciled himself long ago to his own shortcomings. “It’s my nature. And there’s no doubt you’re your father’s daughter. You’re me all over again.”

“Suppose,” said Gayle, looking at him fondly, at his hair, still only touched with grey, at his patient round face and his comfortable figure, “just suppose, for the sake of argument, Mr. Pascall said to you, ‘From now on, Mr. Stuart, you’re the Personnel Manager. I’m moving you from deputy to the top post.’ How would you feel?”

“Like you, I’d say ‘no, thanks.’ I never was cut out to take overall responsibility. But then I’m fifty-two—thirty years older than you are. My career’s within a few years of its end. Yours is just beginning.” His daughter shook her head. “Gayle,” Herbert said, with a touch of urgency, “tomorrow Mr. Pascall is going to offer you the job—He spoke to me about it today, asked me how I thought you’d react. Favourably, I said.”

“Dad, how could you, without asking me first?”

He took his daughter’s mild rebuke with a lift of the shoulders. “Thought I knew my own daughter well enough to give a positive answer. He told me his fiancée has left. Returned to her old job of modelling, he said.”

“I know. But he’s got it wrong. The beautiful Miss Carla Grierson has never stopped modelling. She used to walk round the department as if she were showing whatever she happened to be wearing—even if it was an overall at stocktaking time—to a gaping, admiring crowd of fashion critics at a dress show.”

“That’s supposed to be the hallmark of a successful fashion model, isn’t it?” her father asked mildly.

Gayle shrugged. “You get a bit tired of it. Her looks and figure are so flawless even an admiring male must surely find himself looking for something out of place. I shouldn’t think she lets Ewan Pascall within a mile of her in case he dislodges her hair-style or messes up her perfectly arranged gowns—you can’t use the mundane description of dresses for the clothes she wears.”

“Well, someone must be appointed to take her place,” her father said. “You’re her assistant. There’s no one else, no one, that is, who could take over immediately. Mr. Pascall would have to advertise and that would take time. I did warn him you were a difficult ‘customer’ to deal with yourself.” He smiled in his slow way. “Mr. Pascall said ‘Better the devil you know...’ ”

Gayle cleared the table angrily. “Yes, he would. He’s the last word in arrogance. Walks round the store as if he owns it—” He does,” her father interrupted with a smile.

“Oh, you know what I mean—as if he owns the lives of everyone he employs.”

“You’re misjudging him, dear. You’re prejudiced—”

”I’m not! You’re prejudiced. You’ve worked there years, so he’s nice to you. When he’s on the prowl, word goes round and everyone’s on their best behaviour. He never comes to praise—except where his precious woman’s concerned. All his comments about the rest of us are criticisms.”

“Constructive, dear, surely you’ll admit that.”

“What,” scornfully, “does he know about fashion?”

“Quite a bit, I imagine, since the woman he’s going to marry is in the fashion business up to her neck.”

The front door opened—it was always on the catch—and the next-door neighbour walked in.

“Well,” Gayle said, taking the tea things into the kitchen, “he can ask me if he likes, but I’m turning it down.”

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