"How many servants has he?" asked Harriet.
"Fifteen maids, each with her own outside room, simply but well furnished, all on the third floor, and ten men with rooms on the ground floor that would be the basement if the ground didn't fall away on that side of the house. All the men's rooms are light and airy, and there is a billiard and pool room and bowling alley for their especial use, and two large bathrooms."
"It was not a case of choice with Mr. Boling-broke," said Mary. "He told me that the servant problem in a remote country house is one that some owners are unable to solve, and that many magnificent places are closed a large part of the time principally because the servants won't stay. Still I think Mr. Boling-broke would have taken an interest anyway."
"Of course, he would," said Jack. "Mr. Bolingbroke is one of the finest men I am acquainted with. He helps everybody who comes near him. Not charity or big tips to servants, which afford an opportunity for the newly rich to quickly achieve what seems to them like popularity in public places. No, not charity, but brotherly love. He is a regular mine of creative ideas. I found him one day showing an Italian street vender how to display his wares so that they would attract attention, and before six months passed Tony had a small shop of his own."
"With money advanced by Mr. Bolingbroke?" asked Mary.
"Not at all," answered Jack. "He merely furnished the ideas, and told the policeman on the block to be easy with Tony. So Tony got acquainted with the policeman and took out his naturalization papers and - "
"We seem to be wandering from the subject," interrupted Mary. "Harriet and I have a report to submit on furniture bought for the two chambers of the servants' wing of the house that jack built."
"You mean you have," said Harriet. "I'm sure I don't remember whether we decided on iron or wooden beds. I do know that we had a long discussion with the salesman about it, and the more we listened, the less we knew."
"We had two beds and a dresser to buy for one room," said Mary, "and one bed and a dresser for the other. Both rooms have closets and the bathroom is large and convenient, so that chiffoniers and washstands are unnecessary."
"At first," said Harriet, "Mary was all for furniture in natural oak. And when the clerk showed us golden oak, I thought she would collapse with vexation."
"Golden oak, he insisted," said Mary, "was a standard finish, and the swellest dressers on the floor at a moderate price were all in golden oak."
"His idea of swellest dressers was a scream," said Harriet. "All plastered over with cheap carvings and full of ugly curves - "
"And if we didn't like golden oak, he recommended Mission," said Mary, "either in weathered oak or dark green. Lots of lumber but no style."
Kitchen in Mr. Livingstone's House.
"The mission of Mission," said Jack, "was to kill the American taste for golden oak machine carvings pasted on to shapes distorted from the French. Mission isn't a style. It was merely a medicine to take the bad taste out of the American mouth."
"The clerk showed us finally a small golden oak bureau for $8.50 that he considered good enough for a servant's room," said Mary.
"He lost all interest," added Harriet, "when he learned we were buying for the servants' rooms. Seemed to think we wanted the cheapest things to be had."
"One thing I noticed even in the very cheap bureaus and chiffoniers," said Mary, "they all had wooden knobs instead of the brass handles that used to be the style."
"There were some very good chiffoniers without mirrors, at $10.50," said Harriet. "Fairly good proportions and simple lines."
"And even the one at $7.50 wasn't bad," said Mary. "Only I notice that in the cheap ones the drawers won't work."
"Mary wanted to get a cheval glass for the double room," said Harriet. "She thinks it helps a girl's self-respect to be able to look at herself all over from head to foot"
"I don't see how a girl can be really neat who only has a small mirror," said Mary. "We saw a very attractive cheval glass for $18.50. Besides, I know maids like large mirrors. Kate just begged me to get her a princess dressing table. She saw one she just worshiped for $11.50. But I was afraid Jack and Tom would make fun of me."
"What I wanted to get was the dresser in natural oak at $22.50, and the beds at $21.50 each," said Mary.
"Why didn't you?" asked Jack.
"Because they would have made it cost too much," answered Mary. "That would have made over one hundred dollars without springs or mattresses or rugs."
"How much for the springs?" asked Tom.
"Four dollars and a quarter each in the three-foot width," answered Mary, "and fine felt mattresses for $11.75."
"You can get mattresses much cheaper than that," remarked Tom. "I was reading an advertisement this morning that offered them for $4.66."
"What kind?" asked Harriet.
"I didn't notice particularly," replied Tom. Finally he added, "I think they were fiber mattresses with cotton top."
"They pack down as hard as a board in six months," commented Mary, "and if they have a cotton top on only one side, they can't be turned. I wouldn't insult a servant of mine by asking her to try to sleep on a fiber mattress. A good cotton felt mattress is all right, and stays elastic and springy. Besides, felt mattresses are sanitary, which is more than can be said of the cheap hair ones at anywhere near the same price."
"Yes," chimed in Jack, "the best hair mattresses are superior to any other sleeping surface made. But the cheap ones aren't worth house room."
"If you didn't get the natural oak beds," asked Tom, "what did you select?"
"Enameled iron, of course," answered Mary. "It was Hobson's choice. Enameled iron beds with wooden bureaus also in white enamel. The beds cost $5.50 each and the bureaus $15.50 each."
"Less than half the cost of the natural oak ones," said Jack, who had been following the figures with close attention. And after some more work with his lead pencil, he announced the total cost of the natural oak ones as $109.50 and of the enameled pieces as $47.50. Then adding $48, the cost of the three springs and three mattresses, he arrived at a total of $95.50 as the amount already spent.
"We could have saved money on the beds," said Mary. "In one store they had them for $2.97 marked down from $3.49. But they weren't very good beds. They looked strong and they had no trashy ornament, but somehow just to look at them made me feel homesick."
"The kind they call bungalow beds, aren't they?" asked Jack.
"Oh, no," said Mary. "They are several grades below bungalow beds. These look more humble and lowly than a cot. I like enough of the head and foot of a bed to show, to make it evident that the bed is a bed and not a bunk. That's why I bought springs that were raised on blocks at the ends so as to make the bed look high when made up."
"Your servants ought certainly to be comfortable," said Harriet, looking at the plans that were now spread out on the table. "Steam heat in both rooms, with two windows in one room and three in the other, and an outside hall and an outside bathroom."
"I think they like the porch best of all," said Mary. "They seem to have a feeling that the chambers look too much like a hospital with all the white enameled woodwork and furniture."
"We're thinking of changing it to French gray," ventured Jack, and they all laughed heartily.
"At any rate," said Mary, "I didn't get blue and white rugs, except for the bathroom. But I did worse."
"From the art point of view, perhaps," assented Harriet, "but you certainly pleased those who have to live with the rugs." Turning to Jack and Tom, she added: "She bought four of the old-fashioned axminster rugs with soft loose pile, two of them with animal scenes pictured out, the other two patterned simply."
"And when Delia saw hers," said Mary, "the one with the puppies on, I mean, she dropped right down on the floor and began to cry, and said it took her back home, and now she always walks around the rug and won't step on it for fear of hurting the doggies."
"The rug ought to wear a long time," commerited Tom. "But as long as she likes it, I suppose it's all right."
"About one thing I'm very much disappointed," said Mary. "And that is the fact that we weren't able to get any good photographs of the servants' rooms, either our own or Mr. Bolingbroke's. But we have a rather interesting view of the servants' dining-room in Mr. Livingstone's residence at Newport."
"It doesn't look much like 'Home, Sweet Home,' " remarked Harriet.
"I should say not," said Tom. "The chairs suggest a poorhouse, and the exposed steam pipes and the radiator in dark color, a cheap office building. And the lighting fixture is certainly ridiculous."
"Ridiculous from the economic point of view as well as from the artistic and comfortable," said Jack. "One ioo-watt tungsten with frosted tip would give more light and use half the current of the four incandescents. And the white porcelain shade is both ugly and inefficient. One in cream opalescent glass, ribbed and shaped gracefully, would obviate danger to the eyes of the servants while - "
"That," interrupted Tom, "is a very real danger, Formerly eye-strain was usually caused by too little light. To-day it is caused by too much."
Servants' Dining Room in Mr. Livingstone's House.
"One thing about the servants' dining-room of Mr. Livingstone's house," remarked Mary, "is that it serves food for the mind as well as food for the body."
"How is that?" asked Harriet.
"Don't you see the books in the cases on the left? Those are good novels and other books selected by Mrs. Livingstone herself," replied Mary.
"Mary," said Harriet, as she and Tom started to leave at the end of the evening, "I've enjoyed our talks about house-furnishing more than I can say, and I am so sorry they're over. Can't you sell this house and build another one?"
"Perhaps so, some time," answered Mary, "Good night," she called as Tom's car turned the corner that led into the highway.