"I wish I could get maids like that," said Harriet, after they had adjoined to the dining-room. "Why, she did this beautifully and in no time at all."
"Do you remember her six months ago?" asked Mary.
"You don't mean to say this is the girl that broke those Sevres cups, and went out of the room without picking up the pieces?"
"The very same," answered Mary. "She was frightened nearly to death. She knew that those cups were part of a set that came from grandmother Allen, and I had given her full and free permission to break anything else in the apartment if she would only spare them."
"How did you ever come to keep her?" asked Harriet.
"I followed her into the kitchen and then to her own room. She was going to leave right away. She knew she was too awkward to learn how, and she was going to get a position in a laundry or a factory or some place where there was nothing to break. It took me half an hour to get her confidence again, and make her feel that I was her friend even if she had broken my Sevres cups."
"She is surely a jewel now," commented Harriet. "But I should never have the patience."
Tom looked annoyed. He loved Harriet, but was conscious of some of her imperfections. Harriet is kindness itself. She is generous to servants, more generous than Mary as far as money and clothes are concerned. But she does not get close to them. She keeps her distance and her dignity, and in consequence there is no esprit de corps in her household.
"We've been buying bedroom furniture," said Tom, turning toward Mary, who sat at his left with Harriet facing her. "Spent the whole afternoon at Sheffield's. Mary, these cakes are certainly fine. Did you make them yourself?"
"No," said Mary. "They were made by a young girl named Mary Elizabeth, who came from up the state and started a shop where she sells homemade candy and cakes, and has more than she can do, and has initiated her whole family into the business, and now she and her sister are well off and don't have to work, but are so interested they won't stop."
"I've heard of her," said Harriet languidly, "but I always get our special fancy things at Grouillard's. He has all the best trade nowadays. But I think I'll try her if you will give me her address."
"Here's one of her little folders," said Mary, returning from the next room. "It's right on Fifth Avenue. Did you buy brass beds or wooden beds?" inquired Mary. "We bought the loveliest pair of twin beds, white enameled, with square tubing and brass mounts. That's what the man called them."
"We started out to buy two mahogany beds," said Harriet, "but ended up by buying two brass ones."
"Square or round tubing?" asked Mary.
"Round," answered Harriet, "but very good style and with no dingle-dangles to work loose and fall off. The clerk said they were of the best and heaviest tubing made, and finished in the English fashion. They guarantee the finish for five years. I hope the guarantee is good. It ought to be; we paid $35 apiece for the bedsteads."
Mary thought of her own dainty white ones at $20, but did not reply.
"We've got the loveliest wall paper on our room," interrupted Mary. "All Japanesey, just like the big tree in front of your house. Every time I look at it I feel like a Japanese geisha, and want to do a Japanese turkey trot."
Harriet laughed. "We have a striped paper," she remarked. "Colonial in type. We've tried to keep the whole inside of the house Colonial as far as we conveniently could, with mahogany furniture and rush seats and Colonial mirrors and old fashioned andirons, etc."
"There's one thing about both houses," said Jack; "they're both splendidly supplied with fireplaces."
"Yes," agreed Tom. "There's nothing like a fireplace for comfort and cheer. Steam heat we must have to thoroughly warm the whole of a room. The man who tries to heat a room with a fireplace is sure to fail. No matter how learnedly the mantel and fireplace dealer may tell about reflecting the heat to the farthest corner of the room, there isn't a fireplace made that will do it. All the fireplace is good for is to look cozy, and poke at, and warm those sitting around it."
Owner's Bedroom of Jack's House.
"Right you are," said Jack. "I nearly froze to death in a London lodging-house when I was over there three years ago. No steam heat, no furnace, just one small grate at the end of a room 15 by 30 or thereabouts. Water would freeze at one end of the room while it was boiling at the other."
Harriet laughed. She and Jack had been good friends for years, although she sometimes suspected him of making fun of her.
"I am very glad," said Harriet, "that Mr. Stone, from whom we bought our house, is in the construction business. That's how we happen to have such splendid mantels."
"And also walls impervious to weather and wet," added Tom. "They tell me the walls of our house, if built by an ordinary individual, would have made the house cost twice as much as it did."
"I don't doubt it," assented Jack. "Double hollow tile construction is expensive. Mr.
Stone told me that when he was building, his firm happened to have on hand bargain lots of many of the materials - good in quality, but odds and ends from big buildings - and he took over what he wanted for a song."
"And now after building the house and telling everybody he loved it as the apple of his eye, he's gone back to town," interrupted Mary.
"He told me he couldn't stand the commuting," said Tom. "His business is very confining and frequently keeps him two or three nights a week."
"I wouldn't have a husband with a business like that," said Mary indignantly. "If my husband stayed away from me two or three nights a week, I'd begin looking around for amusement myself."
"Why, Mary," said Harriet, who was a bit piqued, for Tom was by no means as devoted to her as Jack to Mary. "I thought you adored the ground Jack walks on."
"I do," said Mary. "But he can't walk on me. And do you know, we got the loveliest hand-painted Japanese screen - one of the tall folding ones. It matches the wall paper beautifully."
"I must say, Jack," said Tom, weighing his words carefully, "that I rather envy you your bedroom - I mean the shape of it; and the dressing-room for Mary, and above all that special closet devoted to your wardrobe, with shelves and drawers for twice as many clothes as you'll ever own."
Owner's Bedroom in Cousin Tom's House.
Mary interrupted. "Don't be too sure of that, Cousin Tom. Jack is naturally a good deal of a dandy, and I like to have him always looking his best."
Harriet spoke up. "I think the wardrobe in Mary's dressing-room is the most wonderful thing I ever saw. It must hold a hundred dresses."
"It would, I think, if I should ever have a hundred," said Mary, "and without crushing a single one. If ever lady had cause to bless her architect, I have. But I don't like the way he has the lights."
"Why not?" asked Tom.
"Because," said Mary, "there's no way to light my dressing-room table. If I put it against the north wall, the only light it has is from the bracket above on the left, for the outlet on the right is too close to the wardrobe. And I don't like it between the windows under the silk shade."
"Then I'm afraid," said Jack, "that you'll have to do your hair dressing and primping in the bathroom. The light is perfect there."
"I shall," said Mary.
Jack sighed. He could see himself waiting while Mary preempted the spot where he had planned to shave in luxury with mirrors on three sides and light from two. He decided to purchase one of the little adhesive mirrors - those mounted on a rubber cap that with open mouth clings by suction to the window glass. He knew he could bribe Mary to let him have hot water, or at the worst he could get it from the guest's bathroom, or have it brought up from downstairs.
"Never mind, Jackie," said Mary, "the next house we build you shall have a big bathroom all your own."
Harriet smiled. "You spoil him dreadfully. Men can't stand too much petting. It makes them conceited."
Mary did not retort. She disagreed with Harriet so fundamentally that she knew she could never make her understand. But she also knew that Tom understood. The pity of it! I mean the pity of seeing women lose their husbands because they are afraid of not seeming self-assertive enough. It is the place of women to guide and control in affairs of the heart, but they can't do it by any tit-for-tat methods.
Mary's Dressing Room.
Tom remarked: "The balcony that opens out from your bedroom is a wonder. It is like being on the top of some ancient castle with all the world below. Only, of course, I like the sea-shore better."
"You always were fond of the water, Tom," said Jack. "Do you still own the Aloha?"
"No," said Tom, "I sold the Aloha, and am going to have a motor boat instead - one with a cabin that will stand a little weather. I used to enjoy sailing in spite of, even because of, the uncertainty of it, but now when I start anywhere I want to get there, and quickly."
"We've got the loveliest couch for our bedroom," said Mary, "to go across the foot of the bed. A great big couch with a cretonne cover to match the easy chair, and the softest down pillows you ever felt."
"Tom, we simply must be going," interrupted Harriet. "We have to dress for dinner, and its after six already."
"We must see you again soon," said Mary, as they all stood in the hall. "Jack wants to ask Tom a lot of questions about Oriental rugs."
"Well, I'm no expert," said Tom, "but I do like them and anything I know is at Jack's service. Goodbye."
As the door closed behind them, Mary turned to Jack and said: "The pity of it."