"Here comes Delia, now," said Mary, as the kitchen door opened. "Delia, Mr. Jack was just telling how I cured you of indigestion."
"Indade you did, mom," said Delia. "If it hadn't been for you, I'd have been taken off to the hospital and lost my appendage."
The laughter that followed caused Delia to withdraw hastily to the kitchen and from there to the porch.
"I notice that Kate uses a brass tray in serving," said Harriet. "Don't you like the mahogany ones?"
"They're too hard to keep in good condition," replied Mary, "even those lined with glass.
The varnish is always coming off. Besides, the hammered metal ones seem to go with our dining-room better. The mahogany ones, even those with brightly patterned cretonne or silk under the glass, would be all right for your dining-room."
"Do you find wooden floors satisfactory here and in the kitchen?" asked Harriet. "We had to cover ours with linoleum. The wood got too dark and rough with wear, and was almost impossible to keep clean."
"I'm afraid we shall have to follow your example, Harriet," replied Mary. "I wish we had put in tiled floors - in the kitchen at least. Tiles seem to be impervious to odors and stains."
"Why do you line your cupboard shelves with that lacey paper?" asked Harriet. "I thought that went out of fashion ages ago."
"It did," said Mary, "but we had such oceans of shelf room with comparatively little to fill it, that I had to do something to take away the empty look."
"What a fine big range you have!" said Tom, as they entered the kitchen, "and a concrete floor in front of it."
"I wish the floor of the whole room were concrete," remarked Jack. "I tell you the old Romans knew what they were about when they built their houses. No wood and soft plaster for them. They used cement and plaster so composed and so applied that it has outlasted the ages."
"You mean they did after they got civilized," said Tom. "In the early days of the Roman Kings and the Roman Republic they built frame houses of the flimsiest kind."
"Of course," said Jack, "in talking about the Romans, I suppose one ought always to specify the period. The State they founded seven centuries before Christ, flourished twice as long after Christ, transferring its capital in 330 A.D. from Rome to Constantinople. I mean the Romans of the time of Hadrian."
"There were also some good houses built in Italy in the time of the Renaissance," added Tom.
"What century was that?" asked Mary. "I know, but I always forget."
"The Fifteenth and Sixteenth in Italy," replied Tom, "and the Sixteenth only in Germany, France, Spain and England. The Renaissance began in Italy a century earlier than elsewhere. The revival of the classic was easy in a country that had never really lost it."
"I know a house near Tuxedo Park that is being modeled on an old Italian villa of the Fifteenth Century," said Jack. "The walls of the immense living-room are in cement - "
"You told us about that once before, Jackie," said Mary. "I wonder where Delia is. I'm afraid we hurt her by laughing at her. She's a sensitive soul."
"Out on the servant's porch, probably," said Jack.
"Don't disturb her," said Mary, "or she'll run off into the woods and never come back."
"Do you have any trouble with odors in your kitchen?" asked Harriet. "I was at Carrie Martin's the other day, and knew just what we were going to have for dinner by what I smelled beforehand."
"Probably her kitchen isn't properly ventilated," said Jack. "We had a special flue or rather air-passage built in the chimney next the kitchen range flue, and that keeps continually sucking the bad air away from under the hood, and taking it up where it can do no harm."
"Sometimes these ventilating shafts don't seem to have any suction power," said Tom. "Ours works all right usually, but in hot weather it often seems to loaf on its job."
"Perhaps the ventilating shaft is too far from the range flue," commented Jack. "It should have the range flue as one of its sides, so as to get from it the heat that tempts air to rise, and creates a draught."
"How much did the range cost, Jack?" asked Harriet, who was weary of flues and ventilating shafts.
"It's a four-foot range with a five-foot hood," he replied, "and cost $94, with $32 extra for installation. The galvanized boiler was $21."
"Haven't you a gas stove for summer use?" went on Harriet.
"We have not," answered Mary. "There isn't any gas in this part of the country, and if there were we wouldn't use it. Gas," she added, with the manner of one repeating what some oracle has said, "is too inconvenient to use in lighting, and too expensive to use in heating."
"But is both convenient and inexpensive to use in cooking," commented Harriet. "We haven't any gas either where we are, down on the Sound, but we often miss it."
"Of course, the cook claims that the range heats up the kitchen uncomfortably in hot weather, but as for me I like hot water throughout the house at all times day or night, and no gas cooking stove gives you that," said Mary.
"They have a gas attachment for water heaters to use when the range isn't working," said Jack.
"And a very expensive attachment it is," said Tom. "Henry Rangeley had one in his house at Norwalk, and told me it cost him twenty-five cents for hot water every time he took a bath."
"Some of these gas companies are too anxious to get rich quickly," said Jack. "And in their efforts they are killing or have already killed the geese that laid the golden eggs. It was the stupid unprogressiveness of the gas companies that allowed electricity to drive them out of the lighting field. One of the officials in the Detroit gas company told me it was time wasted to try and keep people from substituting electricity for gas, much more to attempt to have new houses piped for gas."