"That's an Afghan of inferior quality. It wouldn't do for you at all."
"It's the blackest thing I ever saw," said Mary. "I didn't know any Orientals were ever so dark."
"Few of them are," remarked Tom, who always liked to be heard when the subject of rugs came up. "The Afghans have more dark browns and brown blacks than any others woven."
"Do they come from Afghanistan?" asked Mary.
"No," said Tom, "they are called Afghans because made by Afghan tribes who roam through part of Central Asia between the khanate of Bokhara and the country of Afghanistan, perhaps crossing the border occasionally. But the rugs are marketed via Bokhara and the Transcaspian Railway, and are commonly called Khiva Bokharas."
"Then Bokhara must be in Russia," said Mary, who knew that the Transcaspian Railway was a Russian enterprise.
"It is," replied Tom. "The country east of the Caspian Sea for 3,000 miles is Russian Central Asia, and the railway has opened it up to travelers and to commerce. The rugs that once were packed on the backs of camels now are shipped in freight-cars like coal and potatoes."
"The caravans were much more romantic," said Mary, who saw before her eyes a winding procession of splay-footed dromedaries, swinging rhythmically from side to side, while mounted horsemen, armed to the teeth, led the van and brought up the rear, to protect the party from brigands.
"But also more expensive," said Tom. "The cost of shipping from Bokhara to Constantinopie is only a fraction of what it once was. Now they cross the Caspian in a large steamboat, instead of by camel overland through Northern Persia. On the western side of the Caspian, at Baku, they are transferred to the Transcauca-sian Railway, and at Batum to steamboat again for Constantinople."
"You certainly are up on geography," remarked Jack, who had been listening intently. "I believe you know more about Oriental countries than I do about America."
"Certainly more than I myself know about America. From the time I first began to study Oriental rugs I have been learning Oriental geography. Every new rug I see is a lesson in topography."
"What's that?" said Mary.
Jack laughed as Tom responded, "The science of location."
"I'm just as badly off as before," said Mary, rather tartly. "Why don't you say plain geography and be done with it? Now there is something like a rug," she added, turning the attention of all back to the business in hand. "It has style and character and good color. How much is it?" she asked the dealer.
"Two hundred dollars," he answered, "and a remarkably good specimen for the price. It really should be $50 higher."
"Do you like it, Tom?" asked Mary.
"Yes, for your dining-room it is just the thing, but personally I prefer fine Persians."
"Do you like it, Jack?"
Jack nodded assent.
"Then we'll take it," said Mary to the dealer. "Now for the Gorevan that Mr. Joannes told us to get for the living-room. What is a Gorevan?"
"A Gorevan," said Tom, "is a rug woven in the Herez district in Northern Persia. The very finest rugs woven there are called Serapis. They are just like the Gorevans, only of finer weave with more detail in the pattern. Gore-vans, usually have a large medallion centre and a wide border, and are large figured, with strapwork effects prominent."
"Are all the colors as good as this?" asked Mary, pointing to one that had just been unfolded before them.
"Not always," said Tom, "but usually. Occasionally the reds are a little bright, but, as a rule, both the reds and the blues are inclined toward and are mingled with terra cottas and gray-greens, especially in the fine Serapis."
"I don't care for the pattern of this one," said Mary. "The medallion is so strong that it seems to rise up off the floor, and throw it out of level."
"It is rather strong," commented the dealer, "but a great many people want them that way. How will this do?" he inquired when the roustabouts had unfolded another.
"Too much blue in it for me," said Jack.
"Next," said Mary.
They ran through five or six more and finally came to the one that is now in Jack's dining-room. The size is 12x16 and the price was $250.
"Talking about halls," remarked Tom, while Mary was selecting three small rugs for the lower hall, from a pile of rich and silky Kazaks, "Harriet and I were down to a weekend at Senator Parker's new residence near Atlantic City. His front hall is as large as my whole house and cost to decorate and furnish, I am told, over $5,000.
"Jack, why don't you help me pick out these rugs, instead of gossiping with Tom? And you must help me too, Tom," interrupted Mary.
Tom answered apologetically, "I was just telling Jack about our visit to Senator Parker's magnificent home."
"I'm not a bit jealous of the luxury the Parkers live in," said Mary. "They enjoy each other so little that it would be a pity if they didn't have at least the material comforts."
"It certainly would," responded Tom. "I thought you went to school with Elizabeth Parker, Mary."
"I did," said Mary, "but then she was a demure creature with a passion for quoting Browning. There was nothing gay about her at that time. She waited for that till after her marriage."
"She presides with great dignity over the Senator's dinner-table, and rules him with a firm hand, as if she were twice his age instead of half," remarked Tom.
"It was at an afternoon musical," said Mary, "that I first saw the villa - that is what they call it. The doors were open wide into the living-room and the dining-room. There were crowds of richly gowned women and frock-coated men, and the grandeur of the Italian Renaissance background set them off superbly."
"Rather big words those," commented Jack, nodding his approval of a rug to which Mary had pointed favorably. "Your study of interior decoration has certainly broadened your vocabulary."
"And also increased my knowledge of rugs," retorted Mary. "The main types are Persian and Turkish and Caucasian and Central Asian and Chinese," she rattled on.
"And Indian," added Tom "although I don't care much for them."
"Also," said Mary, "I know that Kazaks come from the Caucasus, and are woven by Cossack nomads, which is why they are called Kazaks."
"The beauty of Kazaks," said Tom, "is their soft texture. The weave is so open that the long pile bends down and makes a surface resilient as eiderdown."
"I like them," said Mary, "because the colors are rich, and they are so woolly."
"Yes," said Tom, "warp and woof as well as pile are of wool, and it is the four or more woof threads between rows of knots that holds the knots apart and produces the looseness of texture."
"Why couldn't we have a Kazak for the dining-room?" queried Mary.
"Because they only come in small sizes, nearly square, and seldom over 5 x 8," explained the dealer.
"Well, they ought to come in all sizes," commented Mary. "I don't want to make our home an Oriental geography. I'd like the same kind of rug in every room."
"I have," said Tom, "or nearly so. 'Almost all of my rugs are Kermans, and all of them are Persians."
"Fortunately," said Mary, "we have rag carpets upstairs and it is not necessary to have a reference library to understand them."
"What lighting fixture did you and Harriet finally select for your hall?" asked Mary of Tom, as they were preparing to leave the rug shop.
"The one with Colonial prisms that sets close to the ceiling," answered Tom. "It cost only $40 finished in dull brass, and gives character to the whole entrance. The two small hanging fixtures with ground-and-art glass shade, in the upper hall, cost $12 each."
"We used the same small fixtures close to the ceiling in both our halls," said Jack, "upstairs and downstairs - four of them at $10 apiece. But why didn't you have your upstairs fixtures close to the ceiling?"
Cousin Kate's Dining-Room.
"Because we had read," answered Tom, "and I had also found out by experimenting for myself, that the way to make a narrow hall look as wide as possible is to leave the ceiling dim or dark and make the side walls bright. So we chose a fixture that hangs down and sends most of its light to the side walls at from four to seven feet high."
"Our upper hall, the main part, is not very well lighted," said Mary, "and the light there seems curiously far away."
"I think," remarked Jack, "there should have been two ceiling outlets instead of one. The hall is too long to be illuminated by only one light, even a tungsten."
And Jack was right. While a 40-watt tungsten would have given light enough to illuminate the hall, it would not have illuminated it thoroughly, because too far from the ends of it. Placed in the middle, it enlarged the middle of the hall and contracted the ends. Two ceiling lights, pendant about 18 inches and each about three feet from its doorway, would have lighted the hall without distortion, and would have supplied brightness where it is needed, at the thresholds.