Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/40

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38
HOMES OF THE LONDON POOR.

When we set about our repairs and alterations, there was much that was discouraging. The better class of people in the court were hopeless of any permanent improvement. When one of the tenants of the shops saw that we were sending workmen into the empty rooms, he said considerately, "I'll tell you what it is, Miss, it'll cost you a lot o' money to repair them places, and it's no good. The women's 'eads 'll be druv through the door panels again in no time, and the place is good enough for such cattle as them there." But we were not to be deterred.

On the other hand, we were not to be hurried in our action by threats. These were not wanting. For no sooner did the tenants see the workmen about than they seemed to think that if they only clamored enough they would get their own rooms put to rights. Nothing had been done for years. Now, they thought, was their opportunity. More than one woman locked me in her room with her, the better to rave and storm. She would shake the rent in her pocket to tempt me with the sound of the money, and roar out "that never a farthing of it would she pay till her grate was set," or her floor was mended, as the case might be. Perfect silence would make her voice drop lower and lower, until at last she would stop, wondering that no violent answers were hurled back at her, and a pause would ensue. I felt that promises would be little believed in, and, besides, I wished to feel free to do as much, and only as much, as seemed best to me; so that my plan was to trust to my deeds to speak for themselves, and inspire confidence as time went on. In such a pause, therefore, I once said to a handsome, gypsy-like Irishwoman, "How long have you lived here?" "More than four years," she replied, her voice swelling again at the remembrance of her wrongs; "and always was a good tenant, and paid my way, and never a thing done! And my grate, etc., etc., etc." "And how long have I had the houses?" "Well, I suppose since Monday week," in a gruff but somewhat mollified tone. "Very well, Mrs. L——, just think over quietly