MARY and Harriet were in Harriet's living-room, busy with a portfolio of rare colored fashion plates of a century ago, which Uncle Henry had sent to Harriet as a birthday present. Jack and Tom sat in the south sun-room smoking their after-dinner cigars.
"I'd like to stroll down to the water, and get a good view of your house from there," said Jack, breaking the silence. "It will soon be too dark to see clearly."
"All right," responded Tom, calling through the open window to Harriet to let her know their intention.
"Oh, Tom," said Mary impulsively, "mayn't we come too? I must put my arm around that dear old Japanesy tree again. It fits so perfectly into the surroundings."
Harriet was annoyed and showed it by her manner. She said: "Mary, you are the most restless creature I ever saw. You can't sit still a minute. You lack continuity."
"What's that?" asked Mary.
"Continuity," answered Harriet, speaking very slowly and distinctly, "is the art of sticking at things. I wanted you to help me decide on my gown for Lydia Johnson's wed-ding."
"I will later," said Mary, "but it is too beautiful out of doors now. And the full moon is just rising," she added, looking out over the Sound.
Harriet capitulated. Despite her obvious habit of continuity, that sometimes degenerated into monotony, she usually followed where Mary led. Jack spoke up: "If you think Mary lacks perseverance, Harriet, you are very much mistaken."
"I know that," said Harriet, "but she perseveres in such a non-continuous way. Just when I have her almost won over to my way of thinking, she begins to tell a story about something that happened to her cook's little lame niece, and by the time we get back to the subject, the whole situation is changed."
As they stood by the water's edge, looking back toward the house, Jack said, "Don't you ever have dinner on the porch?"
"Sometimes we dine in the sun-room," answered Harriet, correcting him, "and we often breakfast there, but to-night one of the screens was out of order, and - "
"So you do have mosquitoes here," interrupted Jack, killing one on his hand as he spoke.
"We certainly do," assented Tom, "especially when the weather is warm and muggy and there is no breeze. Night before last it was impossible to stay out here because of them. Those two sun-rooms are the star features of the house. With the screens in, it's just like living out of doors. And when the colder weather comes, glass takes the place of screening, and we're as snug as a bug in a rug."
"Jack, I wish we had a sun-room, one with an open fireplace like Uncle Henry's," said Mary, recalling the happy days she had spent in it, practically out in the open, yet sheltered from bitter blasts of wind and snow and sleet.
"We use a portable heater, an oil one," said Tom, "and Harriet has an electric mat for her feet. There are floor plugs in both sun-rooms especially for it."
"Where did you get the sun-room furniture?" asked Jack.
"Part of it at Henderson's and part at McHarg's," answered Tom. "The blue-and-green chairs came from Henderson's, and we had the table made to match. I'm going to have the reclining chairs enameled to match, too," he added, seating himself in one of them.
South Sun Room of Cousin Tom's House.
"They look very well as they are," commented Tom, "and I'm afraid you'll have trouble getting the cane enameled right."
"Perhaps so," said Tom. "Meanwhile we wrap ourselves in our steamer rugs, and watch the Fall River boats, and dream we are crossing the ocean. When the wind is high, and the spray driving against the glass makes it impossible to see out, and the trees creak like the masts of a sailing vessel, the illusion is very complete."
"How delightful," said Mary, cuddling down in her rug and trying to make her imagination transport her to the deck of the Mauretania out in the middle of the Atlantic.
"I like the wicker furniture in the other sun-room better," remarked Harriet. "And there the rubber trees and cactuses and window garden remind me of the palm-room at the Mariana Grand. With the phonograph in the next room playing a Strauss waltz, the place is no longer lonely, but crowded with women in splendid gowns and men in evening dress."
"And after we've had three or four waltzes," said Tom, "we put in a song record and hear Caruso do the Spirito Gentil from Donizetti's 'Favorita.'" As he spoke he rose, went into the living-room, and started the machine.
All listened in silence. "It is wonderful," said Mary. "I never imagined they could reproduce Caruso's voice like that. I almost lost myself."
"You can hear it better in the other sun-room," said Harriet, leading the way through the pergola.
While Tom was inserting a new record, Mary said to Harriet: "What cunning cushions! Did they come with the chairs, Harriet?"
"Yes," answered Harriet, "or rather they were made to order for the chairs. The cretonne I selected myself. It is fading already," she complained.
"Why didn't you get the sunfast fabrics?" asked Mary.
"I did," answered Harriet.
"I think you must be mistaken, Harriet," said Jack. "They don't guarantee the printed colors sunfast and tubfast - sundour and tub-dour as one manufacturer calls it. It's only the colors that have been dyed into the yarn before weaving."
"These didn't fade till one night, when they got wet," said Harriet.
"Why don't they try glazed chintz?" asked Mary. "While I don't like it all over a big bedroom the way the English use it, it seems to me very suitable for a sun-room. How much were the chairs?"
"Eleven dollars and a half apiece, including the cushions," said Harriet, "and the settee was $19.50."
"And the fiber rug was $20," added Tom, "and the wicker flower stand was $8.75."