PROGRESS OF THE HOUSE
THE winter had been an open one. Things in the trade were slack; and as Soames had reflected before making up his mind, it had been a good time for building. The shell of the house at Robin Hill was thus completed by the end of April.
Now that there was something to be seen for his money, he had been coming down once, twice, even three times a week, and would mouse about among the débris for hours, careful never to soil his clothes, moving silently through the unfinished brickwork of doorways, or circling round the columns in the central court.
And he would stand before them for minutes together, as though peering into the real quality of their substance.
On April 30 he had an appointment with Bosinney to go over the accounts, and five minutes before the proper time he entered the tent which the architect had pitched for himself close to the old oak tree.
The accounts were already prepared on a folding table, and with a nod Soames sat down to study them. It was some time before he raised his head.
'I can't make them out,' he said at last; 'they come to nearly seven hundred more than they ought!'
After a glance at Bosinney's face, he went on quickly:
'If you only make a firm stand against these builder chaps you'll get them down. They stick you with everything if you don't look sharp. Take ten per cent off all round. I shan't mind it's coming out a hundred or so over the mark!'
Bosinney shook his head:
'I've taken off every farthing I can!'
Soames pushed back the table with a movement of anger, which sent the account sheets fluttering to the ground.
'Then all I can say is,' he flustered out, 'you've made a pretty mess of it!'