Towns are never so pleasant as when out of season. Florence in June, and London in August, how immensely emptiness increases their charm!

Flat-hunting in London is more bewildering and difficult even than house-hunting, so I was indeed lucky to find one with perfect views, very high up, with a lift, and just what I wanted in every way. I always have thought the garret was the nicest part of a London house. It has the best air and generally some sort of view. A high flat has all these advantages, and the lift does away with the fatigue of the stairs. A French landlady once said, when we had panted up her five storeys to her airy apartment and complained a little of the pull up: 'Le cinquième n'est au cinquième que pour les monstres de la rue. C'est au premier pour les Anges!' One does feel nearer the sky, and the gulls fly by the windows in stormy weather. The cloud-effects can be endlessly studied, and often smoke rather adds to than detracts from the beauty of sunsets, as Mr. Ruskin puts it in that beautiful chapter on the truth of colour in the first volume of 'Modern Painters': 'When Nature herself takes a colouring fit, and does something extraordinary - something really to exhibit her power - she has a thousand ways and means of rising above herself, but incomparably the noblest manifestations of her capability of colour are in these sunsets among the high clouds. I speak especially of the moments before the sun sinks, when his light turns pure rose-colour, and when this light falls upon a zenith covered with countless cloud-forms of inconceivable delicacy, threads and flakes of vapour which would in common daylight be pure snow-white, and which give therefore fair field to the tone of light. There is then no limit to the multitude, and no check to the intensity of the hues assumed. The whole sky from the zenith to the horizon becomes one molten, mantling sea of colour and fire; every black bar turns into massy gold, every ripple and wave into unsullied, shadowless crimson and purple and scarlet, and colours for which there are no words in language and no ideas in the mind - things which can only be conceived while they are visible - the intense hollow blue of upper sky melting through it all, showing here deep and pure and lightless; there modulated by the filmy, formless body of the transparent vapour, till it is lost imperceptibly in its crimson and gold.' All this, and indeed much more, can be seen now and again from the top of a high London house by those who have eyes to see and a heart to appreciate. There are other effects - white clouds sailing on pure blue, storm-clouds rising and dispersing, and (in autumn) the sun lying like a little gold ball on the mist, the lights glimmering through the fog in the streets below, which are in darkness, whilst we dress and breakfast without ever having to touch the switch which produces the magic light. One more evening picture is the new moon shining in at the windows, high up and above a long, graduated space of evening sky and a far mysterious purple vista, half town-lights, coming through the darkness as in one of Whistler's harmonies, painted as he alone can paint such effects. The distance is cut off by the black roofs and gables of the houses opposite.

Hitherto I have always moved from smaller houses to larger, which is comparatively easy. Changing from a large house to a small flat is the most difficult thing I have yet had to do. All the flats I have ever seen are, to my mind, spoilt by being so much overcrowded, and yet in many cases it is for the preservation of property that the flat or smaller house is taken at all. To help the non-crowding of these small rooms I got rid of as many superfluities as possible. I reduced the bulkiness and heaviness of curtains, and, where I could, made a broad hearth with no fenders at all. I think tiles and painted wood for fireplaces have been overdone of late. I hope we shall return to more marble and stone. A green Irish Connemara marble makes a beautiful hearth, and this and other marbles could be adapted in many ways where tiles have been used.

I find that many people have been puzzled by my advice to have inner curtains and no blinds. When they are there, of course it is cheaper to keep the blinds. One friend wrote that she could not make up her mind to have no blinds, as she thought the little curtains attached to the sash looked so untidy when pulled aside, like a petticoat hung up. I do not think this at all, and have lately found two stuffs which are most useful for curtains in the place of blinds. One is green bunting, which does not fade, and is very cheap, but narrow. It can be got in several colours from Cayler & Pope, 113 High Street, Marylebone, and I dare say at many other places. It is very pretty in white. The green looks well from the outside of the house, as does the red twill I recommended before. White cotton-twill sheeting also makes very pretty inner curtains. They are specially pretty with outer curtains of white muslin. This in a small room makes a very pretty effect, and there is nothing to fade or to detract from the beauty of plants, etc., inside the room. My friend who was afraid to use the small curtains said the only use of blinds is in case of death. It is for that very reason I should like blinds done away with. Drawing down blinds in cases of death seems such a foolish fashion, when in time of sorrow one wants the help of all the sunshine that can be had. I must own sash windows are difficult to manage with curtains. I myself do not like them cut in two; but even then they are not so ugly as smart blinds edged with embroidery or lace.

Many ask if white paint, especially on staircases, does not prove unserviceable. I think white paint knocks off less than any other, and there is no wear and tear on a staircase except on the carpet in the middle. It is very desirable to have a piece over at both ends of the stair-carpet, so that when it gets worn it can be shifted either up or down. This is a touch of economy beginning with expense, as it requires a little more carpet. I have never heard it suggested by the shopman who sells or lays the carpet. To return to paint, it is essential that white paint should be good, which depends entirely on using the very best white lead. This is perfectly well known in the trade, but it naturally costs more than the inferior qualities, and so is seldom used. I never use varnish except in London, as even the best varnish always turns the paint yellow after a little time. I am obliged to own that, though very cheap in the first instance, my favourite white-washed walls do seem extravagant, as they are not pretty unless constantly renewed and kept spotlessly white, and that is what the holder of the purse-strings will rarely agree to. White-washed walls soiled by smoke look very unsatisfactory. A paper will look cleaner after sixteen or seventeen years of wear than white-wash does after two or three.