Mary interrupted. "For my guest-room I want white enameled furniture, with cretonne draperies and upholstery; but I simply cannot pay any such prices."
The salesman smiled. Mary grew indignant. "Harriet, it is time we were going."
"Not yet," said Harriet. "I have found exactly what I want for my guest-room. A Colonial bureau of solid and substantial character. I know Tom will like that."
The salesman assented. "A very well-made and durable piece of furniture, madam, of the Late Colonial type."
Harriet beamed. "I knew it was Colonial. Of course it isn't like any of the museum pieces, but it has an individuality and solidity that I like."
Mary looked to see if the salesman was smiling, but he was intent upon accomplishing the sale, and led the way to the bed that matched. "Napoleon himself would rest easy on a bed like that," he remarked.
"Empire Colonial, I suppose you call it," remarked Mary, manifesting a sudden interest. "Mr. Parsons says that when a piece of furniture looks like Colonial but isn't, then it's American Empire, and hides a multitude of decorative sins."
"I'm sure I don't care what your Mr. Parsons says," retorted Harriet. "He probably dotes on Louis XV and Rococo fragilities for my lady's boudoir, and consequently objects to the solidity of Empire."
"Hardly," commented Mary. "No one who knows Mr. Parsons would accuse him of a weakness for Rococo. It is his special detestation. Indeed, he is unfriendly to all the French styles from Louis XIV on. Says they are insincere and trivial."
"He helped me a great deal," ventured the salesman. "I took a course with him on the historic styles in decoration, and found that I'd been wrong on many vital points. But I can't quite follow him in all his preachments about furniture that is immoral."
"Nor I," said Mary. "One of my friends took the course. You know he gives it in the daytime for ladies, a special class for them only, and she got so saturated with his ideas about morality in chairs that she took all those in the house that wouldn't pass muster and had them chopped up into kindling wood."
"Mary, you are absurd," interrupted Harriet "And when he heard about it," continued Mary, "he complimented her on her moral courage, but added that if everybody did the same, there would soon be an oversupply of kindling wood. I'm crazy to meet him, and I'm going to take his course next winter, and then set up a shop of my own.
Cousin Tom's Guest Room.
"He has done more than any other man to improve the taste of Americans," again ventured the salesman. "He has taught not only the general public, but also the men in the trade who make and handle the goods, and have the power to control or at least to greatly influence the demand."
"Well, Harriet, are you going to take the Late American Empire Colonial bed and bureau?" asked Mary.
"Yes," responded Harriet, "and the chiffonier that stands next the bureau. Thank Heaven, that's done," she sighed, as the salesman wrote out the order. "What a cute little desk," she exclaimed, drawing back to get a good view. "I think I'll get it for the guestroom, and later move it into my room. How much is it, and will it go with the other furniture?"
The salesman hesitated, but imperceptibly. "Oh, yes," he said, "it's an excellent model, though a little simpler in style, and is beautifully made. Just see how smoothly the drawers work," he added, pushing them back and forth so as to produce the rush of air that shows tightly fitted cabinet work, "and it is finished just as well inside as out, and behind as before.
They call it the Martha Washington work table."
"Will the bureau drawers do that?" asked Mary in an earnest manner, as if the joy of her life depended on knowing.
"I'll take it," interrupted Harriet, "and now for the chairs."
"Will you please wait on me?" said Mary, addressing another salesman, who happened to be passing at the moment. "I'll meet you here in twenty minutes," she called to Harriet, "after you have bought the chairs and mirror."
"White enameled furniture," she said, turning again to the salesman. "I don't want our guest-room to look like an old-fashioned parlor. If there is anything I thoroughly and completely dislike, it is a sleeping-room lumbered up with dark and massive mahogany."
"The light colors are certainly more appropriate," commented the salesman respectfully. "I think I know what you want. An enameled iron bed, with bureau and dresser also in white enamel, and white enameled willow chairs upholstered all around on the inside."
"Splendid!" said Mary; "I mean the chairs. They had been puzzling me. I wanted them light and inexpensive. But I want twin beds."
"This way to the chairs, madam," said the salesman, going ahead.
"Don't madam me, young man," snapped Mary. "Every time any one does it to me, I take it as a personal insult. If you have forgotten my name, then leave it out altogether. But don't address me as madam."
"I beg your pardon, miss," retorted the salesman gallantly, with a bow that made Mary laugh. "I was merely following the instructions we get from the firm."
Mary looked at him more closely. "I thought you were the one who waited on myself and Mr. Jack when we bought the draperies for the living-room," she said. "We were so pleased with the result, that I thought I would give him another opportunity."
"We are showing the best patterns of willow furniture made," said the salesman, as he led the way to the chairs. "It comes either in natural finish or enamel, and when intended for chambers, we recommend that the cushion and back be upholstered in cretonne to match the draperies - like this," he said, indicating by his glance a grouping of bed, chairs, and drapery.
"How charming," said Mary. "But I don't want gray enamel; I want white enamel."
"The price is the same," remarked the salesman.
"And I don't want such expensive beds," added Mary, reading the price tag. "The chairs are less than I expected, but the beds are much more."
"We can easily find less expensive beds that are good," said the salesman, "but I was especially anxious about the chairs - that you should be pleased with the style and shape, I mean. How many do you need?"
"One of these," said Mary, reclining luxuriously in the reading-chair, "and two of the armchairs. How much altogether?"
"For the reading-chair, $20; and for each of the armchairs $11.50 - $43, in all. That is for the chairs complete, with cretonne upholstery to match the draperies, but extra for the imported cretonnes."
"Why pay extra for imported cretonnes?" asked Mary. "Don't they make just as good ones here as abroad?"
"They do not," responded the salesman. "All our finest cretonnes come from France or England, especially those with large figures that have to be hand blocked.
"Oh, I remember," said Mary, "there was an article about them in the October, 1912, number of Country Life in America."
Guest Room in Jack's House.
"With illustrations of a number of the best ones," added the salesman. "But that doesn't mean we don't produce any good cretonnes in America. The one on the grouping there is domestic, and so is this," he continued, displaying a yard and half length.
"Fine," said Mary. "I'll take it. How much?"
"Thirty-five cents a yard," answered the salesman. "I'll have the beds you select measured for the covers and send out a man to measure for the draperies."
"You charge extra for that, don't you?" asked Mary, looking for the moment very much like a woman of business.
"Oh, it all comes in the bill as a whole," answered the salesman.
"But makes the bill just so much larger. No, thank you," said Mary. "Here is a plan of the windows with exact sizes, which Mr. Jack made this morning, and that's the kind of draperies he wants."
"I see," said the salesman. "Side curtains with a shallow valance. Two double windows. Nothing could be better. He did as well as our own man would. I'll have the estimate for the whole sent you to-morrow."
After Mary had selected the beds at $18 each, they adjourned to the section where stood bureaus and dressers. It did not take long to select the least expensive among those that Mary considered possible. "I suppose Mrs. Tom will turn up her nose at the bandy legs," she remarked confidentially to the salesman, "and will say cutting things about having French furniture in American homes. At any rate, it isn't so very French."
"No," assented the salesman. "It certainly bears every mark of having been naturalized."
"All our good furniture is downstairs," said Mary. "We had everything in the dining-room made to order and carved by hand. Jacobean, or is it Jacobean?" she added, hesitating between the short and long a.
"Some people say Jacobean," suggested the salesman, accenting the o, "but I believe Jacobean, with the accent on the e, is preferable."
"Our guest-room has the most splendid closet," said Mary, apparently not noticing the approach of Harriet, "with a grating cut through the doors. Mr. Jack says it adds to the architectural interest of the room, that the spacing of the doors - Why, Harriet," she cried, turning abruptly, "you did give me a start. Are you through?" and they went to join Jack and Tom for dinner at the Cafe d'Or.