"AFTER all," said Jack, as they rose from the luncheon table, "the kitchen is the most vital part. Unless it is well equipped and efficiently manned - or rather womanned as is customary in the home of moderate size - there can be no real joy of living. Beautiful views are delightful to look at, fine furniture and architecture appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities, steam and hot water banish cold and dirt, but hunger can be appeased only by the art culinary. As the poet says:
"We can live without learning or riches or books, But civilized man cannot live without cooks."
"In other words," remarked Mary, "the road to a man's heart is through his stomach."
"And to a woman's, too," commented Harriet. "Does anything sweeten a girl's disposition like boxes of bonbons carefully timed and constantly repeated?"
"Mary has a special box every week from W------s," said Jack.
"And also some of the most delicious surprises during the week," added Mary. "But I'm making all sorts of confectionery and sweetmeats in our own kitchen now. Delia is a perfect treasure, and has a cousin who works at M------'s. Don't you want to see the service portion of the house?" And without waiting for an answer, she led the way through the butler's pantry to the kitchen.
"We regard the kitchen as the most successful part of our house," continued Jack to Tom and Harriet. "I wish we had a photograph to show the relation between the service wing and the rest of the house. It is 14 feet wide by 42 feet long, and does not set either parallel or perpendicular to the axis of the main structure, but bolts off at about fifteen degrees more than a right angle."
*'I remember it in the plans," said Tom. "You told me it was the architect's idea that the unusual angle would open the wing and also the pergola between it and the billiard-room to the breezes, and keep all kitchen odors away from the master's precincts."
"I thought probably it was Mary's idea to get the wing catty-cornered across the corner of the dining-room," said Harriet. "The more unusual and irregular the shape of a room, the better she seems to like it."
Plan of First Floor of Jack's House.
"Are you never coming?" asked Mary, reentering the dining-room. "I've had half an hour's conversation with Delia and prepared her for the honor of the visit."
"Harriet was just saying - ," began Jack.
"Never mind what Harriet was saying," interrupted Harriet. "Even if I do occasionally try to sharpen my wits at Mary's expense, I am obliged to admit that her constant catty-cornering, whether of people or furniture or houses, adds immensely to the gaiety of nations and makes us all feel for the time being at least that life is full of interest and novelty. How light it is," she added, turning her attention to the butler's pantry.
"Yes," responded Jack, "it's light both by day and by night. But I'm going to shorten the stem of the ceiling fixture, and substitute a 60-watt tungsten for the ordinary incandescent. It uses about the same amount of electricity and gives three times the light. With a 60-watt tungsten there, the light over the sink won't be needed."
"What a convenient sink!" said Harriet, noting the rubber tips on the faucets with approval. She knew well how many broken dishes they save.
"And the drying board," added Mary. "It is hinged at the side and folds up against the wall when not in use."
"Thereby allowing the cupboard compartment below to be examined without difficulty," explained Jack.
"The ice chest!" said Tom, opening the doors and examining the contents. "How do you get the ice in? Through the window or by way of the kitchen?"
"Neither," answered Jack. "Through the wall of the house. The ice man never enters. He drives up the back way, pushes the ice-box button, waits till Delia or Kate opens the ice-box door, and then deposits his load without conversation of any kind."
"Why not give him a key, and save the girls trouble?" asked Harriet.
"And give the ice man a chance to bill us for twice what we use!" said Mary, indignantly. "If I had my way we'd have a special scale to weigh the ice when it is delivered. We have one to weigh the sugar and coffee and small things. But it stops at twenty pounds. It's a parcel post scale."
Plan of Second Floor of Jack's House.
"I thought the parcel post stopped at eleven pounds," commented Tom.
"It does," said Jack, "but nevertheless this scale weighs up to twenty. And all the way up to eleven pounds there are special columns giving the weight for each zone. For instance, you put on a five pound package going to a place in the fifth zone, and it tells you how much, instanter."
"Here it is," said Mary, opening one of the cupboard doors. "You can see for yourself. And the postal regulations and the map of the zones are pasted up behind it."
"Where are the stamps - the special parcel post ones, I mean?" asked Harriet.
"Those," answered Mary, "I keep in my desk in the den. They last longer there. And I'm going to have the parcel post scale up there too," she added, "and get another larger one for the pantry."
"I can see she is after the ice man," remarked Tom.
"Oh, she'll get the ice man, all right," assented Jack. "You ought to see the conveniences for fixing up parcels she has in the den.
Every known kind of label and tag, cardboard and strawboard, and rolls of white paper and manilla wrapping paper - the smart but inexpensive kind that comes from Sweden - all mounted on a rack just as if we kept a grocery shop."
"Jack uses them constantly," said Mary.
"Mary is a natural born accumulator," said Jack. "She has the most complete assortment of medicines outside an apothecary shop. Comes an ache or a pain to any one in the house, and Mary is on the spot with the remedy. Did she ever tell you how she and Delia - "