"AT last our dining-room furniture is here," said Mary, as she and Jack welcomed Cousin Tom and Harriet. "I can hardly wait for you to see it. It was all carved by hand and made to order."
Presently dinner was announced and the four passed into the dining-room of the house that Jack built. "Why it looks like Latham's 'English Homes,'" exclaimed Harriet. "I feel as if you had taken us back to the Seventeenth Century, and to the exciting times when Charles I had his head chopped off."
"If Charles I had been a wise king," said Tom, "and Charles II a great one, the dominant decorative styles of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries would have been not French but English, and the great name in furniture periods would be not Louis but Charles."
"Charles I made a very good beginning," said Jack. "The tapestry works at Mortlake are a monument to his name, and anticipated the fame of the French government works of Louis XIV at the Gobelins by nearly half a century."
"The soup," interrupted Mary, "is still hot, but requires immediate attention. Besides, the subject under discussion to-night is not tapestries or dining-room furniture, but servants' rooms. And I have the architect's plans so that you can see just how our servants are installed."
"What an odd word to apply to servants," objected Harriet. "I thought it applied only to church dignitaries, like bishops and archbishops."
"Oh, no!" said Mary. "Lighting fixtures and furniture and heating and ventilating systems are also installed. So why not servants?"
"If you were speaking of horses - " ventured Tom.
"That'll do for you, sir," flashed Mary. "Puns are not permissible in polite conversation, at least not puns that suggest the stable. I must again remind you that we are to talk about servants' rooms, and as this is our last chapter we cannot afford to lose any time."
"The problem of servants' rooms," said Jack, "is very much easier when there is space enough to locate them in a wing by themselves."
"Jack," reproved Mary, "why don't you let Tom and Harriet notice for themselves the crazy angle of the servants' wing. Anybody would think - "
"They did notice it for themselves," retorted Jack, "the last time they were here, and after the table is cleared we can spread out the plans and show how completely protected we are at night against our own servants."
"There is no connection between the second floor of the main house and the servants' wing," explained Mary, "except by way of the loggia, and when Jack locks the main stairway door we are absolutely safe from intrusion."
"Mary had a fright once at Uncle Henry's," said Jack. "The cook became hilarious one night, after a big dinner-party, and having driven the other maids from their beds and lined them up on their knees in the kitchen, started in search of new worlds to conquer."
"I was sitting up, writing a note to Jack," said Mary, "when the door opened and the cook entered without knocking. 'Down on your knees," she screamed, brandishing a large stove poker, 'Down on your knees, and beg for your life!'"
"And what did you do?" asked Harriet, who for some reason seemed unfamiliar with the story. "How did you outwit her?"
"I didn't," responded Mary. "I promptly got down on my knees and might have been there yet, if the cook hadn't heard a noise in the hall, and gone to investigate."
"Did you get up and lock the door then?" asked Harriet.
"No," answered Mary. "The next thing I remember Aunt Emeline was petting me and saying 'There, dearie, it's all right now.' "
"Hush," said Mary, pressing the button of the electric annunciator with her foot, "I don't want the maids here to learn about it. They would think me such a coward, and now they are much impressed with my bravery."
"That is on account of the tramp," said Jack.
"Never mind about that story," said Mary. "The way some servants are treated," she added, after the maid had left the room, "is enough to make them discontented and ugly."
"Are you thinking about Mr. Malcom's house?" asked Jack.
"Indeed, I am," said Mary, with indignation in her voice. "The five maids sleep in three small rooms on the third floor, that are hot as tophet in summer, and cold as the polar regions in winter. No heat and poor ventilation. Low ceilings and decrepit furniture and bare floors. And one tiny bathroom where the water won't run when the pressure is low."
"You seem to have all the details " remarked Tom.
"Yes," assented Mary. "The maid that looked after my room was a nice young girl who had only been away from home a short time. She usually was all smiles, but one day she began to cry when I looked at her, and said she was tired of living."
"Of course, you began to make over her," said Harriet, "and before long knew all about her and her family and the other servants in the house."
"Yes," admitted Mary. "And I don't wonder the Malcoms have such a hard time with servants. They pay them well, but they don't take any personal interest in their comfort and happiness. I don't see how they can expect loyalty from those below if they don't set the example by doing their part as masters."
"The personal equation," commented Tom, "is of primary importance in running a household, and the smaller the household the more important it is. In a large residence the butler or housekeeper can to some extent fill the position of just and sympathetic director. But where there are only two or three maids inside, with one or two men outside, the master and mistress must show warm personal feeling or fail to get satisfactory and cheerful service."
"One of the most delighftul masters I have even known," remarked Jack, "is Mr. Boling-broke. To be sure he has abundant means, but it is not so much the sanitary arrangements and attractive furniture that hold his servants loyal to him, as the fact that he is personally interested in the welfare and individuality of each, and knows them when he sees them."