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Passage fourteen

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   The clock struck a quarter past nine as Mary hurried into the big block of offices where she was going to work. Her bus had crawled through the dense city traffic, making her a few minutes late for her very first job. She resolved to leave home earlier the next day.
   Inside the building she had to wait once again, this time for the lift to take her up to the sixth floor. When at last she reached the door marked "J. King, Manager", she knocked rather nervously and waited. There was no answer. She tapped on the door again, but still there was no reply. From inside the next office she could hear the sound of voices, so she opened the door and went in.
   Although it was without doubt the same office she had been shown into when she had come for an interview with Mr King two weeks before, on that morning it looked quite different. In fact it hardly looked like an office at all. All the employees were standing about, chatting and smoking. At the far end of the room a man must have just told a very funny story, for there was a loud burst of laughter just as Mary came in. For a moment she thought that they were laughing at her.
   Then one of the men looked at his watch, clapped his hands and said something to the others. Immediately they all went to their desks and, in the space of a few seconds, everyone was working busily. No one took any notice of Mary at all. At last she went up to the man who was sitting at the desk nearest the door and explained that this was her first day in the office. Hardly looking up from his work, he told her to take a seat near him and wait for Mr. King, who would arrive at any moment. Then Mary realised that the day's work in the office began just before Mr. King arrived. Later she found out that he came up every morning from the country on the same train, arriving promptly in the office at 9.35, so that his staff knew precisely when to start work.

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