"That for you," said Mary, slapping his cheek, but gently, and then taking hold of his hand under the carriage robe, "you never forget any joke on me. I notice you never say anything about the time you tried to decorate the house with autumn leaves."
"No," laughed Jack, "naturally enough. I now leave the subject of flowers and foliage entirely to you, and declare you the queen of them all."
Mary gave his hand a squeeze, and returned to the subject of the dining-room. "Our tinted walls are certainly much more pleasing than their wall paper," she said. "Why, if we had wall paper like that in our dining-room, it would be impossible to eat for the noise."
"I don't think it is quite as bad in Tom's dining-room as it would be in ours," said Jack amiably.
"I think it's worse," said Mary. "There is certainly nothing Colonial about that grapevine pattern. Of course, it's not Old English either, but somehow the rich colors and strong pattern effect seem to suggest anything but Colonial."
"There is Colonial and Colonial," said Jack. "Isn't it Mr. Hunter who is always getting off that epigram about 'Colonial being the mixture of all styles, just as Mission is the absence of any' ?"
"That's his," answered Mary. "And every time I see one of those old-fashioned Colonial rooms, with Jacobean, Queen Anne, Charles II, Chippendale, Sheraton, and Hepplewhite jumbled together, and Empire thrown in to complete the confusion, I think of him."
"Well," said Jack, "be sure not to see too many Colonial rooms, especially those of the polygen-eric type."
"What's that?" asked Mary; "and where did you get it?"
"That," responded Jack, "is a particular pet of mine I acquired in a course on anthropology, when a sophomore at Harvard. It means 'of many kinds or races.' I always use it when anybody throws a large chunk of the encyclopedia in my direction. Where did you learn how to assemble all those names you mouthed so fluently?"
"Oh, I've been reading up when you didn't know," said Mary. "I've been all through Jennings's 'Our Homes,' and you know I read Mr. Hunter's articles in Country Life religiously."
"And Jack," she went on, "there was the most amusing anecdote in Mr. Jennings's book about an English Jack and Mary."
"How did it go?" asked Jack.
"Oh, something like this," answered Mary. "She thought she would make him a useful present on his birthday, so she bought him a set of chairs for the dining-room. When he came home at night, she showed him the chairs, saying, 'I hope you'll like these Sheraton chairs.' Instead of kissing her and petting her and telling her they were just splendid, and leaving any unpleasant facts until later, he looked stupidly at her without saying a word and she naturally got choked and asked, with tears in her eyes: 'Why, Jack, what's the matter? Don't you like them?' He hesitated and stammered and finally came out with, 'Mary, what makes you think they're Sheraton?' Her spirits revived. The situation wasn't so awful, after all. Why, Jack!' she responded confidently, 'the clerk said they weren't walnut, and I know they're not Chippendale, so they must be Sheraton.' "
"A rattling good story," laughed our American Jack, "and cleverly told. You're getting to be quite a reconteur, Mary."
"I have to," said Mary, "the afternoons at the Priscilla Club would be as slow as a church social if some one didn't work up stories and conversation beforehand."
"I don't believe you have to do much of that," said Jack. "You're a born talker, the most interesting one I ever met. Even the simplest event of the day becomes picturesque in your mouth."
Mary said nothing. She had heard this so many times that to deny it seemed an act of over-self-consciousness. Nevertheless she was pleased. Every compliment Jack paid her was one more link in the velvet chain that bound them together. And in return she was very generous to Jack in her appreciations of him. Her mother had been one of those wise women who learn from experience, and one of the lessons she taught her daughter was the importance not of making people do things, but of making them want to do them. "It is just the same in the home as in the big world," she used to say. "The moment you arouse enthusiasm, the victory is half won. Napoleon conquered because his soldiers believed in him and wanted with him. The woman who longs to be a power for good in her home and in the community must learn to stir the imaginations of those around her, and capture their interest not only by the way she tells things but also by the way she does things."
"Jack," said Mary, giving his hand another gentle pressure, "you were very wise when you insisted on having the dining-room furniture made as Mr. Joannes wanted it. I could never bear to live with Tom's dining-room chairs and table. I don't believe the architect could, either."
"Of course not," assented Jack. "Mr. Hiss is a man of broad culture and unusually good taste in decoration and furniture. He never saw the home after Tom bought it. And even with the selection of the furniture that was in it before that he had practically nothing to do. His client took the matter into his own hands."
"I'm glad we listened to Mr. Joannes," said Mary. "The only regret I have is that he couldn't have helped us choose all the furnishings."
"You could hardly expect that," said Jack. "The importance of the commission didn't justify it. But he certainly did prevent us from making a lot of mistakes."
"And he made us get hand-carved furniture for the dining-room. Everybody says that that is the most attractive set of furniture in the house."
"About the only real set," commented Jack.
"And much more of a set," said Mary, "than the furniture in Tom's dining-room."
"Oh, that isn't a set at all," agreed Jack. "The sideboard is a modern version of Sheraton, the chairs are a Colonial attempt at Chippendale as revised by a modern maker, and the big round table has feet which look like those of the Roman colossus that gave its name to the Colosseum."
Mary laughed. "I'm afraid we like our own things best. I almost quarreled with Harriet about the best way of lighting a dining-room. She insists on table candles, with the other lights turned low after the guests are seated at table."
"I like that myself," said Jack, "when the table is large and the guests are many. But for ordinary, every-day use, give me our big silk shade. Its brownish golds are simply beautiful, and having some woven stuff in the center of the room, softens it."
"I think so, too," said Mary, "but I did just love the two silver candelabra that Harriet received from Uncle Henry as a wedding present, the ones that stood on the mantel, I mean."
Another View of Jack's Dining Room.
"Yes," assented Jack, "they were just fine for a Colonial room, but disregarding all questions of style and just looking at them from the point of intrinsic merit of design, I think our dining-room brackets have theirs beaten a mile."
"Just as I think you have every other man in the world beaten many miles," said Mary, as the car took the first turn of the road leading up from the highway to their home.
In a few minutes they were on the porch, watching a wonderful sunset, at peace with themselves and with the world, and grateful to God for His goodness to them in allowing them to live where they do and as they do."