In regard to the brass Holland milk-can on the parlor table, - a table, by the way, once in the boudoir of Marie Antoinette, - there is nothing to be urged in defence except the plea of its color. It might be argued in fact, that every law of propriety had been violated, and that under no conditions should a milk-can once belonging to a peasant, and a table once belonging to the Queen of a different country, indeed that a milk-can at all, should appear together in a parlor. But the informalities of this one justify the combination, and the color of the can itself, and the colors it repeats, now from this object now from that, are beautiful. When a white rose with green leaves is placed on the table by it, the reflections, broken by the dented, uneven surface of the brass, are irresistible. When a mass of Easter lilies or chrysanthemums is thrust into it, or a pot of ivy fills the can and falls about the sides, it is no longer a milk-can, but a receptacle for flowers. The Marie Antoinette table, being covered with a black Egyptian marble, cannot be spoiled by drops of water from the flowers.

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Every nation has its ideal, its standard of true excellence, its great desideratum. When you look from the street into the windows of a certain class of Cuban houses, you see a room bare of hangings, with now and then chromos and colored lamps, but always the long narrow rug in the middle of a floor, and a dozen or more rocking-chairs drawn up about it, facing each other. In the sitting-rooms of French peasants in a certain district there is invariably the bed with its feathered mattress laid smooth and three chairs placed formally against it, - chairs that no one dreams of occupying except perhaps an occasional cat. Round the chimneypiece there are benches and seats for the guests.

With us the standard of excellence varies from time to time, otherwise we might have been hopelessly committed to many a hideous fashion - stuffed birds under glass; framed samplers or mottoes on the wall; family Bibles on marble-topped tables; worsted mats under lamps; daguerrotypes on the mantel; pink and white coral in the cabinets; rocking-chairs tied with bows of ribbon; rocking-chairs in parlors at all.



Yes, it is certainly better to live where fashions change now and then, especially in parlors, which brings me again to a point I have often urged; when a parlor is to be arranged, the foundations only should be at first laid. Then is there a chance to grow, - the possibility of making a better choice of objects as tastes develop; of buying separate and interesting pieces of mahogany, good pictures, good books; of building up the room, in fact. If this last rule of going slowly is followed, no one will commit the folly of a "parlor suit." The very name carries a disagreeable suggestion, to persons who have lived in large towns and seen these "suits" set out on the pavement for sale. Furniture may match, but a "suit" is something to be shunned.

"What kind of a parlor suit is coming in now?" is a question asked again and again by the inexperienced wanting to do the proper thing, as if the question were to be answered as easily as one relating to clothes. A dress has more or less of an ephemeral value. It is in fashion this year and out of it the next. One's household furniture can never be regarded in this way. The moment too ephemeral a character is given to it, that moment all sense of the abiding is destroyed in a house. At the same time one is quite right in wanting to know what new and pretty things are being put out on the market, for the manufacturers are constantly changing their patterns and their styles, sometimes in obedience to an example like that set long ago by Mr. William Morris, and sometimes because of those furnished by artists who have educated us to know what is beautiful, and have given us their reasons for pronouncing bad certain departures from the beautiful.

Furniture made by a lover of good lines and fine workmanship must be better than that which is turned out to satisfy the demands of persons whose greatest desire is something to show for their money. I say this because only the other day I went through a large factory where chairs and sofas of every description were being made, - so ugly that I wanted to get out of the place, and so costly that even had I wanted to buy, I should have had to turn away in despair.

When I asked why these articles were so hideous and why it was not as easy to make a beautiful thing, I was told that many persons living out of town would buy nothing else. Therefore, if a question about what new suits were in fashion had to be answered, I could only reply, "Some very ugly ones." And if another common question were given me to answer, and I should be asked to declare in favor of furniture "entirely covered with upholstery" as opposed to that "showing wooden frames," I could not do it.

The only wise course for the searcher after excellence is to study good pictures and models of mahogany. We excel in this country in what is now called the Colonial furniture, and good imitations of these, when the genuine is not possible, is the safest investment. No one, on the other hand, should be persuaded to buy an imitation inlaid mahogany chair, covered with a brocade, and cheap at five dollars. It would introduce a false note into any parlor.

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