Page:Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.djvu/125

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The Upper and the Nether Millstones

give the walls and ceiling three coats of paint would cost about three pounds five, for time and material. Between them the two brainworkers figured that fifteen pounds would cover the entire cost of the work—painting and decorating.

'Well, I reckon we can charge Sweater forty-five pounds for it,' said Rushton. 'It isn't like an ordinary job, you know. If he gets a London firm to do it, it'll cost him double that, if not more.'

Having arrived at this decision Rushton rang up Sweater's Emporium on the telephone, and finding that Mr Sweater was there he rolled up the designs and set out for that gentleman's office.

Hunter had taken on three more painters that morning. Bundy and two labourers were putting in the new drains; the carpenters had returned, and there was also a plumber at work in the house, so there was quite a little crowd in the kitchen at dinner time. Crass had been waiting for a suitable opportunity to produce the newspaper cutting which it will be remembered he showed to Easton on Monday morning, but he had waited in vain, for there had been scarcely any 'political' talk at meal times all the week, and it was now Thursday. As far as Owen was concerned his thoughts were so occupied with the designs for the drawing-room that he had no time for anything else, and most of the others were only too willing to avoid a subject which frequently led to unpleasantness. As a rule Crass himself had no liking for such discussions, but he was so confident of being able to 'flatten out' Owen with the cutting from the 'Obscurer' that he had several times tried to lead the conversation into the desired channel, but so far without success.

During dinner—as they called it—various subjects were discussed. Harlow mentioned that he had found traces of bugs in one of the bedrooms upstairs, and this called forth a number of anecdotes about those insects and of houses infested by them. Philpot remembered working in a house over at Windley where the people were very dirty and had no bedsteads, the beds consisting of dilapidated mattresses and rags on the floor. He declared that these ragged mattresses used to wander about the rooms by themselves. The house was so full of fleas, he said, that if you placed a sheet of newspaper on the floor you could hear and see them jumping on it. In fact, directly anyone went into that house they were covered from head to foot with