William was thinking of the pictures as he went home. That painter one was jolly good. When they all got all over paint! And when they all fell downstairs! William suddenly guffawed out loud at the memory. But what had the painter chap been doing at the very beginning before he began to paint? He’d been getting off the old paint with a sort of torch thing and a knife, then he began putting the new paint on. Just sort of melting the old paint and then scraping it off. William had never seen it done in real life, but he supposed that was the way you did get old paint off. Melting it with some sort of fire, then scraping it off. He wasn’t sure whether it was that, but he could find out. As he entered the house he took his penknife from his pocket, opened it thoughtfully, and went upstairs.
Mr. Brown came home about dinner-time.
“How’s your head, father?” said Ethel sympathetically.
“Rotten!” said Mr. Brown, sinking wearily into an arm-chair.
“Perhaps dinner will do it good,” said Mrs. Brown, “it ought to be ready now.”
The housemaid entered the room.
“Mr. Morgan, mum. He wants to see Miss Ethel. I’ve shown him into the library.”
“Now?” exploded Mr. Brown. “What the deu—why the dickens is the young idiot coming at this time of day? Seven o’clock! What time does he think we have dinner? What does he mean by coming round paying calls on people at dinner time? What——”
“Ethel, dear,” interrupted Mrs. Brown, “do go and see what he wants and get rid of him as soon as you can.”
Ethel entered the library, carefully closing the door behind her to keep out the sound of her father’s comments, which were plainly audible across the hall.
She noticed something wan and haggard-looking on Mr. Morgan’s face as he rose to greet her.
“Er—good evening, Miss Brown.”
“Good evening, Mr. Morgan.”
Then they sat in silence, both awaiting some explanation of the visit. The silence became oppressive. Mr. Morgan, with an air of acute misery and embarrassment, shifted his feet and coughed. Ethel looked at the clock. Then—
“Was it raining when you came, Mr. Morgan?”
“Raining? Er—no. No—not at all.”
“I thought it looked like rain this afternoon.”
“Yes, of course. Er—no, not at all.”