Some people seem to drift into jobs that don’t really suit them. If they’re
lucky then their lives get shaken up and they finally find themselves where
they ought to be. Still it can be a traumatic experience and you end up
hoping that it was worth the effort.
I knew one couple who went through this process. Both were in jobs which
they didn’t particularly like but weren’t quite sure how they could escape
from them. One was Roa. She was a young woman who somehow ended up a downstairs maid. Even though it was a large establishments she found herself doing a fair bit of kitchen work as well. Many women quite take to the life and even look back on it with a degree of affection, once matrimony was whisked them away from it. Others frankly loath it and get out as soon as possible. Roa was trapped because whilst she didn’t like the job, her
dislike wasn’t intense enough to drive her to do something about it.
She was, after a fashion, courted by Erlman. His job was a little
specialist. He was employed by a legal practice who would hire him out to
householders worried about the honesty of their servants. Erlman would be
sent to the household and would try and entice the servants into corrupt
practices. If he succeeded the servant would be sacked.
The problems became apparent when Erlman started to ‘test’ Roa as his
contract of employment demanded. Firstly he was smitten with her. Secondly, when he suggested some minor peculation, Roa scolded him, not for his dishonesty but for his lack of imagination. Erlman had suggested she add a couple of bottles of wine to the order when the household wanted to top up their wine cellar. His cunning plan would be that they wouldn’t be missed when she spirited them away and they resold them.
Roa pointed out that it would make far more sense to put in an extra grocery order. Rather than just have it delivered, tell the supplier it was for the family’s rural estate and so Erlman and her could hire a wagon, collect the extra and then sell that
As I said, Erlman was probably more than a little in love with Roa at this
point. So not only was he swayed by her genius, he also saw it as a way for
him to get out of a job he disliked. Roa put in the order; Erlman collected
it and then started a grocer’s business, selling produce from the back of a
wagon. Obviously they couldn’t put too many extra orders on thehousehold
budget because somebody would notice. Roa came up with the idea of putting in extra orders for other households as well. It was all quite informal, Erlman would present his list and whilst that was being fulfilled, then he would present a second, much shorter list. This he asked them to put on another account. He merely commented that as he was virtually passing the door of one establishment on his way to the other, everybody seemed to think it made sense for him to collect the extra. By sounding somewhat ‘put-upon’ he managed to convince everybody.
The system worked remarkably well, they even bought their own wagon, pulled by two horses. Yet eventually the housekeeper in one of the establishments noticed that they seemed to be buying an awfully large amount of carbolic soap (one of Erlman’s best sellers,) and yet could never find any when they wanted it.
Everything rushed headlong to an embarrassing climax.
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