Chapter 7

Dick Danvers presents his Petition

William Clodd, mopping his brow, laid down the screwdriver, and stepping back, regarded the result of his labours with evident satisfaction.

“It looks like a bookcase,” said William Clodd. “You might sit in the room for half an hour and never know it wasn’t a bookcase.”

What William Clodd had accomplished was this: he had had prepared, after his own design, what appeared to be four shelves laden with works suggestive of thought and erudition. As a matter of fact, it was not a bookcase, but merely a flat board, the books merely the backs of volumes that had long since found their way into the paper-mill. This artful deception William Clodd had screwed upon a cottage piano standing in the corner of the editorial office of Good Humour. Half a dozen real volumes piled upon the top of the piano completed the illusion. As William Clodd had proudly remarked, a casual visitor might easily have been deceived.

“If you had to sit in the room while she was practising mixed scales, you’d be quickly undeceived,” said the editor of Good Humour, one Peter Hope. He spoke bitterly.

“You are not always in,” explained Clodd. “There must be hours when she is here alone, with nothing else to do. Besides, you will get used to it after a while.”

“You, I notice, don’t try to get used to it,” snarled Peter Hope. “You always go out the moment she commences.”

“A friend of mine,” continued William Clodd, “worked in an office over a piano-shop for seven years, and when the shop closed, it nearly ruined his business; couldn’t settle down to work for want of it.”

“Why doesn’t he come here?” asked Peter Hope. “The floor above is vacant.”

“Can’t,” explained William Clodd. “He’s dead.”

“I can quite believe it,” commented Peter Hope.

“It was a shop where people came and practised, paying sixpence an hour, and he had got to like it—said it made a cheerful background to his thoughts. Wonderful what you can get accustomed to.”

“What’s the good of it?” demanded Peter Hope.

“What’s the good of it!” retorted William Clodd indignantly. “Every girl ought to know how to play the piano. A nice thing if when her lover asks her to play something to him——”

“I wonder you don’t start a matrimonial agency,” sneered Peter Hope. “Love and marriage—you think of nothing else.”

“When you are bringing up a young girl——” argued Clodd.

“But you’re not,” interrupted Peter; “that’s just what I’m trying to get out of your head. It is I who am bringing her up. And between ourselves, I wish you wouldn’t interfere so much.”

“You are not fit to bring up a girl.”

“I’ve brought her up for seven years without your help. She’s my adopted daughter, not yours. I do wish people would learn to mind their own business.”

“You’ve done very well——”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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