"WHY do you call it the den?" asked Harriet, referring to the upstairs room where Jack and Mary have their writing-desks.
Tom and Harriet were dining with Jack and Mary in the house that Jack built. The oyster cocktails had been finished, and the cream of mushroom soup was on the table.
"We call it the den," replied Mary, "because that is where we growl at each other. If I have spent more than I should, then Jack growls. If Jack has made a bad investment or been too easy with some one who owes him money, then I growl."
"You see," explained Jack, "all the business of the household is transacted in the den. Mary has her desk and I have mine, and we help each other with our accounts."
"Much help I am to you," commented Mary. "You know that my bank balance has never come out right but once since we were married."
"And that was when we were traveling and you hadn't drawn any checks or made any deposits," chuckled Jack. But he stopped quickly, for he saw that Mary's eyes were getting moist, despite the fact that she had invited the joke upon herself. "Mary is really of very great assistance to me in my business. She may be weak on arithmetic, but she is as shrewd as the shrewdest when it comes to a big deal. It was Mary who kept me from tying up most of my ready money in Bailey's great development scheme for Pocono."
"Jack wanted to put in a lot of my money, too," explained Mary, "and when I wouldn't let him, he sulked for three whole days."
"I had really committed myself to Bailey," said Jack, "and his remarks about my cold feet were deucedly unpleasant."
"At any rate, Jack drew out of it altogether," said Mary, "and he and Bailey don't speak as they pass by."
"I shouldn't think Bailey would have the nerve to look anybody in the face who did invest with him," said Tom. "His operations came as near swindling as operations can come where the operator keeps out of jail."
"It takes enthusiasm and excess of optimism to develop suburban real estate that has long been inactive," said Jack, "When the operator puts it over, he is a clever business man. When he slips up, often through no fault of his own, he is blackguarded by everybody. If I had gone in with Bailey, I'd have been in the same boat."
"Not quite as bad as that, Jack," said Tom. "You have more resources than Bailey. But you probably would have been cramped for years to come."
"And the funny part of it all is," said Mary, "that the reason I kept Jack out of it, was because I didn't like Mr. Bailey personally. I really thought the Pocono scheme was a fine one, and that there was a lot of money in it, but couldn't bear to have Jack get intimate with Mr. Bailey. He dined here once," she added reflectively, "and - "
"It is certainly a great convenience to have one room in the house devoted to business," interrupted Jack. "It enables me to stay out one or two days a week, without neglecting my work at the office. I have a vertical filing cabinet and a typewriter, and much of my correspondence is attended to here."
"I can play the typewriter," said Mary, "and I'd do Jack's letters for him, if he didn't insist on having carbon copies. The carbons are so mussy."
"Why don't you get some of the new kind of carbon paper that isn't mussy?" inquired Tom. "It costs a little more, but will make at least two and sometimes three copies almost equal to the original."
"I'd rather sew," remarked Harriet. "I never wanted to parade in the streets or make a political speech, or pound a typewriter. But I do love to do embroidery and fancy stitches."
"And terribly clever you are at it," said Mary, who knew that Harriet's lingerie as well as shirtwaists bore proof of her skill. "But I'd like to vote just the same, and go to town every day and work in an office, and fill Jack's inkwell and - "
They all laughed. Mary is as ardent a suffragist as Harriet is an anti, and they often clash delightfully, seldom unpleasantly. Tom spoke up: "Mary is the most feminine creature to have advanced ideas I have ever seen. Why she should seek added power I do not understand. If she were one of the women who have to fight for themselves because no one will fight for them, I could understand, but - "
Den in Jack's House.
"This was intended to be a serious evening devoted to the discussion of furniture for dens, including billiard-rooms and libraries and bachelor's apartments," interrupted Mary. "I call the meeting to order."
"Why not spinsters' apartments," queried Tom, "or bachelor girls' apartments if you prefer the latter term."
"Indeed, I do," said Mary. "Spinster is as bad as old maid and worse. Old maid belongs to the last generation, but spinster to a century ago. Spinster indeed."
"I think there is something rather quaint and fine about spinster," commented Harriet. "When I read the word on ancient gravestones, it suggests the days of Sir Roger de Coverley, and a lady who having loved once and lost, lived lonely the rest of her life and died with the image of her first lover still enshrined in her heart."
"Why, Harriet," said Mary. "That is beautiful. I shall love the word spinster now, just as if it came out of a poem."
"Mary and I had great fun buying furniture for the den," said Jack. "We just shopped and shopped without thoughts of architect or decorator or period style to restrain us. We had made up our minds to spend just as little as possible, and buy what appealed to us without wondering whether it went with the room or not."
"Anyway," said Mary, "we're going to furnish it all over in two or three years."
Harriet smiled quietly to herself.
"The way Jack fooled me about his desk," went on Mary, "was disgraceful. He made believe for the moment that he really had set his heart on a Mission desk with a flat top, and that he couldn't be comfortable without a swivel chair."