"Mary, you know I love a swivel chair," said Jack.
"Yes," assented Mary, "but the reason you bought that desk and chair was because you can turn them over to your office in town later and save just that much money. And the money you saved on your desk you wasted on mine."
"Oh, that cost only $85," said Jack. "And you had set your heart on a Lady Hamilton desk that cost $305, and said - "
"No matter what I said," retorted Mary. "The Lady Hamilton desk, with its satinwood and delicate inlay, would have been absolutely useless and out of place in a den. But it was so beautiful, I just lost my head. Only for actual work I'd rather have the biggest roll-top desk that is made."
"Mary has to have a great many pigeon-holes to file all her different papers and supplies. She has the most complete assortment of office supplies this side of Harlem River - stationery of all shapes and sizes for all purposes, the latest inventions in paste and glue and methods of applying them safely, tags and labels in bewildering variety, balls of cord in graded sizes from - "
"That will do, Jack," said Mary. "I notice that you make frequent requisitions upon my office supplies, and that you always use my patent filler for your fountain pen, although you insisted you never would."
"That mahogany desk is about the only Colonial piece in your whole house, isn't it?" asked Tom.
"Yes," assented Jack, "except the mahogany table with four columns at each end, for legs."
"What was the cost of that table, Jack?" asked Mary. "Do you remember?"
"I think it was $30," answered Jack, "marked down from $42. We bought it at one of Henderson's semi-annual sales."
"It isn't at all what we needed," commented Mary. "We should have had a large table for books and magazines."
"Yes," agreed Jack, "but a large mahogany table would have cost twice or three times as much."
"It seems to me that mahogany is a dreadfully expensive wood," said Mary. "Even the small pieces cost a lot. Just think how inexpensive wicker and willow furniture are by comparison. The two armchairs in the den cost only $15 apiece, with cushions included."
"But the mahogany furniture lasts, and the other doesn't," observed Harriet. "The wicker furniture is made to sell and the mahogany furniture to wear."
"Undoubtedly that is true to a certain extent," admitted Jack, "and undoubtedly if you want durability and style combined you must pay the price, but some of the wicker furniture being shown this season has an individuality and a charm all its own. There are even beds and tables in wicker."
"I should like to see them," said Harriet. "Where are they being shown?"
"At McHarg's," answered Jack. "And for the couches and chairs they have cushions stuffed with a new kind of floss that is light as down and very elastic and springy."
Mr. Van Arden's Billiard Room.
"Springy while it is new," commented Tom. "All of these patent flosses mat together sooner or later. Feather and hair are the real things for cushions."
"Anyhow," said Jack, "these cushions and pillows are very inexpensive, and the manufacturer of the floss claims, so the clerk told me, that they will retain their resiliency longer than any other artificial stuffing."
"How expensive are the wicker beds?" asked Tom.
"One hundred and fifty dollars for twins," responded Jack. "And large couches with long cushions only $36.25. The cheap box couch in our den cost $18; the wicker one is much lighter and more graceful."
"There is certainly nothing beautiful about a box couch," said Tom, "but Harriet finds them very useful."
"That's because I haven't a room-size wardrobe like the one in Mary's dressing-room," retorted Harriet. "Our closets are miniatures by comparison."
"Where did you get the lamps in your den?" asked Tom. "They have more of a denlike character than anything else in the room."
"Those," responded Jack, "were the result of one of Mary's solitary expeditions. She bought all three the same afternoon."
"But at three different shops," said Mary. "I know all the lamp shops in New York."
"How many are there?" asked Tom mischievously.
"Enough to wear one to a frazzle looking through them," said Mary, passing him a demi-tasse of black coffee. "Fifth Avenue, Fourth Avenue, Madison Avenue, and a dozen cross streets, and endless department stores. Of course I didn't go to all of them, but I saw lamps enough to illuminate the whole of Central Park. In one shop there were Oriental hammered brass lamps, and porcelain ones with lovely shades, some in hand-painted paper and some in silk; in another were little wooden standards with cretonne shades and hundreds of larger electric portables with leaded glass shades, most of them ugly, and huge leaded-glass dining-room domes, all of them ugly; in another shop I saw the most wonderful variety of lamps with silk and fancy fabric shades, all very expensive but very delicate and Frenchy; in another store, where they sell nothing but lamps and fixtures, were carved alabaster bowls from Italy, the most beautiful I have ever seen, some as low as $90.
"Indeed they are beautiful," said Tom. "To me they represent the most perfect form of lighting. They let enough of the light go down through them to illuminate the space below and prevent the black shadows caused by the so-called indirect lighting where the bowls are opaque instead of translucent."
"The light from the alabaster bowls never hurts my eyes," said Mary. "They are very different from those rings of frosted bulbs they have at St. Margaret's."
"Most churches are badly lighted," said Tom. "But you started to tell us where you got the three lamps for the den and what they cost."
"The one on Jack's desk cost $10.50," answered Mary, "and it wasn't what he wanted at all. He wanted a goose neck, but the man said this was just as good as a goose neck and would adjust in any position."
"What is a goose neck?" asked Harriet.
"A goose neck," answered Mary, "is a flexible tube that lets you move the light anywhere you want it, and being stiffened with wire it will stop wherever you want it. They're not expensive - from $5 to $10, according to the fittings and quality - and they're very useful to light the music on a piano. The base is weighted with lead to keep the long neck from pulling the thing over. Goose necks are not beautiful, but they are a great convenience. Besides, they can be covered with velours, tin shade and all, and then they look very rich. The leaded glass lamp on my desk I got at a sale and paid $6.50 for it. The standard with the Japanese paper shade was $7-7$"
"The linolites," said Tom as he rose from the table, "are more expensive than goose necks, but being ten or twelve inches wide they light the music better."
After Tom and Jack had adjourned to the billiard-room, Tom said: "It really was a good idea of yours to build a billiard-room, Jack. It has more of a man's atmosphere than any other room in the house."
"Yes," said Jack, "my idea of a real den is a big space surrounded by built-in seats, with a billiard-table in the center, a well-filled humidor in one corner, and a well-filled cellarette in another corner."
"Yours is almost that," said Tom. "It could be made mighty attractive with enough deep cushions and down sofa pillows."
"I knew one once in Chicago," said Jack, "that was the most popular room in the house. Often, when an entertainment was on, they would cover up the table with extension table leaves, spread mat and richly colored cloth over it, and use it as a buffet."
"A good idea," said Tom. "As a rule, the billiard-room is very much neglected, especially after the cloth of the table gets worn and the cues lose their tips."
"My cues are all in good condition," said Jack, making a difficult draw shot, "but they'll rust out before they wear out. This is the first game I've had for three months. You and Harriet must come over oftener."
"Nothing would please us better," said Tom. "Mary is good medicine for Harriet and you for me."
Just then the two ladies entered the billiard-room. "That is certainly a novel way of using deer horns," said Tom, indicating the brackets over the mantel. "How did you happen to think of it?"
"That was entirely Jack's idea," said Mary. "He shot the deer one summer in Canada, and I didn't know anything about the brackets until they were up. They weren't expensive - only $14 apiece."
"But the antlers are worth $15 or $20 each," protested Jack.
"What are these photographs?" asked Harriet, picking up two that lay loose on the mantel.
"That," said Jack, "is Mr. Van Arden's billiard-room, designed by the architect Oswald C. Hering, and a beautiful one it is. It's half a floor below the level of the other main rooms. The going down cellarward gives a distinct den impression, which the stains and the beamed ceiling and the hunting scenes confirm. The frieze paintings all picture games," he continued, "chess, bowling, a boar hunt, cards, golf. The tiles that frame the fireplace are a deep salmon red. The wainscot panels are in canvas, stippled bronze, red, green, and gold. The ceiling beams are stenciled in reds and blues."
"It must look very rich," said Tom, "but if I could afford a room like that I'd have seats all around it."
"The other picture," said Mary, "is Charlie Hall's den at college. Typical, isn't it?"
Charlie Hall's College Room.
"Yes," said Harriet. "When it comes to furnishing a college-room, all rules are suspended."
"Well, I did you that time, old man," cried Tom, "but I'm half afraid you played off just to make it easy for me. Come, Harriet, we ought to be coasting down toward the Sound. It's a dark night out, and we'll have to drive mighty slow."