"Yes, I remember; it was a comical tragedy; and before we run any such risks let us look over our advisory letters. Here's one from Uncle Harry, who, as you know, is never without a hobby of some sort. Just at present he is devoted to sanitary questions. To be well warmed, ventilated and plumbed is the chief end of man. He begins by saying that 'sun's heat is the only external warmth that is natural or beneficial to human beings. When men have risen above the dark clouds of sin and ignorance they will discover how to preserve the extra warmth of the torrid zone and of the hot summers in our own latitudes to be evenly diffused through colder climes and seasons. Next to sun's heat is that which comes from visible combustion—the burning of wood and coal. Such spontaneous, radiant, living warmth differs essentially from that which we receive by contact with artificially-warmed substances, somewhat as fruit that has been long gathered differs from that taken directly from the vine.'"
"Isn't this getting sort of misty, what you might call 'transcendental like'?"
"Possibly, and this is still more so: 'Warmth is the vital atmosphere of life, and a living flame imparts to us some of nature's own mysterious vitality. Hence, the sun's rays and the blaze of burning fuel give not only a material but a spiritual comfort and cheer, which mere warm air is powerless to impart. Here is another reason why direct radiation, even from a black iron pipe, is preferable to a current of warm air brought from a distance: in a room warmed by such a current nothing is ever quite so warm as the air itself unless so situated as to obstruct its flow, but every solid substance near a hot stove or radiator absorbs the radiated heat and is satisfied, while the air for respiration remains at a comparatively low temperature.'"
"There may be a little sense in that," said Jack, "but the rest is several fathoms too deep for me. Has he any practical advice to give?"
"That depends upon what you call practical. 'I have little patience,' he says, 'with the common objection to direct radiation, that it brings no fresh air. Fresh air can be had for the asking under a small stove or radiator standing in a room as well as under a large stove or boiler standing in the cellar; neither does the dampness or dryness of the atmosphere depend primarily upon the mode of warming it, while, as for the appearance of steam pipes, if they are not beautiful as usually seen, it only proves that art is not wisely applied to iron work, and that architects have not learned the essential lesson that whatever gives added comfort to a house will, if rightly treated, enhance its beauty. Steam-pipes or radiators may stand under windows, behind an open screen or grill of polished brass, or they may be incorporated with the chimney piece, and need not, in either case, be unsightly or liable to work mischief upon the carpets or ceilings under them. Wherever placed, a flue to bring in fresh air should be provided and fitted with a damper to control the currents.'"
"I like the notion of putting them beside the fireplace," said Jack. "When they are both running, it would be like hitching a pair of horses before an ox-team or a steam engine attachment to an overshot water-wheel. It means business. Uncle Harry improves. What next?"
"He expounds his theories of light and shade, of plumbing, sewer-gas and malaria, and casually remarks that 'the variation of the north magnetic pole and the points of compass are not yet fully understood in their relation to human welfare.'"
"I should hope not! He must be writing under the influence of a full moon. Let us try a fresh correspondent."
"Very well. Here is Aunt Melville's latest, with a new set of plans. There will be neither trancendentalism nor vain repetitions here:
"'MY DEAR NIECE: Since writing you last I have had a most interesting experience, and hasten to give you the benefit of it. You remember Mr. Melville's niece married a young attorney in Tumbledonville; very talented and of good family, but poor, desperately poor. He hadn't over two or three thousand dollars in the world, but he has built a marvelous little house, of which I send you the plans. You enter a lovely hall, positively larger than, mine, an actual room in fact, with a staircase running up at one side and a charming fireplace at the right, built, if you will believe it, of common red bricks that cost only five dollars a thousand. It couldn't have taken over two hundred and fifty to build it.—'
"Just think of that! A charming fireplace for a dollar and a quarter!—"
"Communicating with the hall by a wide door beautifully draped with some astonishingly cheap material is the parlor, fully equal in every respect to my library, and adjoining that the dining-room, nearly as large. On the same side is a green-house between two bay windows, the whole arrangement having a wonderful air of gentility and culture. I am convinced that you ought to invest three-fourths of your father's wedding present in some safe business, and with the remainder build a house like this, buying a small lot for it, and defer the larger house for a few years. Keeping house alone with Jack and perhaps one maid-of-all-work will be perfectly respectable and dignified; the experience will do you good, and I have no doubt you will enjoy it. It will not only be a great economy in a pecuniary way, but society is very exacting, and a large house entails heavy social burdens which you will escape while living in a cottage. This will give you plenty of time to improve your taste in art, which is indispensable at present. There will be great economy, too, in the matter of furniture. A large house must be furnished according to prevailing fashions, but in a small one you may indulge any unconventional, artistic fancy you please.'"
"If Aunt Melville's advice and plans could be applied where they are needed they would be extremely valuable. Suppose we found a society and present them to it for gratuitous distribution."
"We can't spare them yet; we shall not use them, but it is well to hear all sides of a question."
TRUTH, POETRY AND ROOFS.
"How the wind does blow!" said Jill, as she laid aside Aunt Melville's latest, and Jack laid another log into the open stove. "It is a genuine 'gale from the northeast.'"
"So it is, and that reminds me," Jack exclaimed, jumping up, "that a driving rain from the northeast always gets the better of the attic window over the guest-room. There's something mysterious about that window," he explained. "It opens like a door; I believe they call it a 'casement' window, and in such a storm as this I have to keep sopping up the water that blows in. I had a carpenter look at it, but he said it couldn't be fixed without making a new one or fastening it up so it couldn't be opened at all. We don't have a northeast rain-storm very often, and that's the only window that ever leaks—except the skylight and the round one in the west gable which is hung at the top to swing inward and couldn't be expected to hold water."
Jill found some towels, and they hurried to the attic to "sop up" the rain that was driving under the sash and had already made its mark on the ceiling below. Then they examined the skylight and the round window, and just as they were about to descend perceived a smell of burning wood. Jack rushed down to the sitting-room, telling Jill to fly for a pail of water, found the wall beside the stove-pipe very hot, ran for an axe, and, smashing a hole through the lath and plastering, discovered a bit of wood furring to which the laths had been nailed resting directly against the sheet iron pipe. Catching the pail of water which Jill was about to pour into the stove, he cooled the hot pipe and extinguished the wood about to burst into flame, the smoke of which, rising beside the chimney to the attic, had warned them of the danger below. He then cut away around the pipe till the solid brick chimney was exposed, gathered up the rubbish, piling the chips upon the fire in the stove, and lay back in his chair, evidently enjoying the situation.
"How can you be so reckless, Jack, as to keep a fire in such a chimney?"
"The chimneys are all right, my dear. I took special pains with them when the house was built. The only danger there ever was lay in that little piece of inch board that happened to be too near the pipe."
"And how are we to know what other little pieces of board may be too near? I think it's a very dangerous house to live in. If we hadn't gone up to the attic when we did it would have been all in flames."
"And we shouldn't have gone to the attic at all if my windows had been proof against the east wind."
"No, nor would you have known we were having a gale from the northeast if I hadn't quoted the 'Wreck of the Hesperus.'"
"Consequently we owe our preservation to the well-beloved poet."
"Moral: Study the poets."
"Moral number two: Build leaky casements."
"Number three: When the wood around a chimney takes fire it doesn't prove a 'defective flue.'"
"Number four: A small fault hidden is more dangerous than a large one in sight."
"Very true; and if modern builders had kept to the poet's standard, and, like those in the elder days of art,
'wrought with greatest care, Each minute and hidden part,'
we should not be trembling before a black and ragged chasm in the wall, afraid to go to bed lest the fire should break out anew and burn us in our sleep."
"There's not the least danger. We are as safe as a barrel of gunpowder in a mill pond. There is nothing to set us on fire. That bit of dry wood was the key to the whole situation. We have captured that and can make our own terms. Still, if you feel nervous we will sit up and 'talk house' till the fire goes out."
Jill acceded to this proposal and began to discourse, taking moral number four for a text.
"I wish it were possible," said she, "to build a house with everything in plain sight, the chimneys, the hot-air pipes from the furnace, if there are any, the steam pipes, the ventilators, the gas pipes, the water pipes, the speaking tubes, the cranks and wires for the bells—whatever really belongs to the building. They might all be decorated if that would make them more interesting, but even if they were quite unadorned they ought not to be ugly. If we could see them we shouldn't feel that we are surrounded by hidden mysteries liable at any time to explode or break loose upon us unawares. Those things that get out of order easily ought surely to be accessible. I don't believe there would have been half the trouble with plumbing, either in the way of danger to health or from dishonest and ignorant work, if it had not been the custom to keep it as much as possible out of sight. There is a great satisfaction, too, in knowing that everything is genuine."
"We might build a log house. The logs are solid, and the chimney, if there happens to be one, won't pretend to be of the same material as the walls of the building."
"I like better the notion of letting the material of which brick walls and partitions are composed form the actual finish inside as well as outside. The floors, too, should be bare, and the beams that support them ought to be visible, and in case of a wooden house, the posts, braces and other timbers should be left in sight when the building is finished. It is a sad pity that modern modes of building, like modern manners and fashions, conceal actual construction and character, making a mask that may hide great excellence or absolute worthlessness."
"Won't all these pipes, wooden beams, bell ropes and things be fearfully dusty and cumber the housekeeper with too much serving? I supposed you would vote for smooth, flat, hard wood and painted walls, they are so much easier to keep clean."
"Perhaps I shall; but we must remember the gnat and the camel and try to be consistent. A single portiere, especially if it be of the rag-carpet style, has a greater dust-collecting capacity than a whole houseful of wooden floors, ceilings and wainscots, even when they are moulded and ornamentally wrought. Surely they will not be troublesome if they are plain and simple, and only think how much more interesting than flat square walls and ceilings, which we feel compelled to cover with some sort of decoration to make them endurable. I suppose architects have outgrown the sheet-iron and stucco style of building, and do not generally approve of 'graining' honest pine in imitation of coarse-grained chestnut. But these are not the only concealments and disguises that ought to be reformed. If we cannot make our house a model in any other respect, I hope it will be free from hypocrisy and silly affectations."
"By all means; but you mustn't forget that reformers risk martyrdom. However, you can't be too honest for me; I am ready to sign any pledge you offer, even though it prohibit paint, putty and all other cloaks for poverty, ignorance and dishonesty."
"There's a time and place for paint and putty, lath, plaster and paper, but we ought not to be helplessly dependent upon them."
"Have you any idea how the house will look outside," asked Jack, giving the fire a poke, "or is that to be left to take care of itself?"
"No, indeed! not left to take care of itself. In that part of the undertaking we are bound to believe that the architect is wiser than we, and must accept in all humility what he decrees. Still I think the law of domestic architecture at least should be 'from within out.' For the sake of the external appearance it ought not to be necessary to make the rooms higher or lower than we want them for use, neither larger nor more irregular in shape. It ought not to be necessary to build crooked chimneys for the sake of a dignified standing on the roof, or to make a pretense of a window where none is needed. The windows are for you and me to look out from and to let in the sunlight, not for the benefit of outside observers, and should be treated accordingly. We will not have big posts—mullions, do you call them?—in the middle of them, as there are in these. When I try to look down the street to see if you are coming home I can scarcely see obliquely to the corner of the lot, and we don't get half as much sunshine as we should if the windows were all in one."
"Why not, if there's the same amount of glass?"
"Because the sun can't shine around a corner; and Jack, why did you set them so near the floor? There's no chance for a seat under them, and they do not give as much light or ventilation as they would if they ran nearly up to the ceiling."
"What is the use of making them long at the top? They are always half covered up with lambrequins or some fanciful contrivance."
"Indeed, they will not be; our windows will be arranged to be wholly uncovered whenever we need the light. Too many windows are not so unmanageable as too many doors, and I should like one room with a whole broadside of glass; but for most rooms the fewer windows the better, provided they are broad and high. I despise a room in which you can't sit down without being in front of a window or walk around without running against a door, that has no large wall spaces for pictures and no room for a piano, a book-case, a cabinet or a large lounge. A small room, that has doors or windows on all sides does not seem like a room intended for permanent occupation, but rather as a sort of outer court or vestibule belonging to something farther on."
"I suppose the architect will claim the porches, balconies, and things of that sort, as belonging to the exterior, and design them as he pleases; but I think we have a right to insist that they shall add to our comfort. They must be large enough to be used, they must be put where we can use them conveniently, and they must not interfere with the interior arrangements; beyond that we shall accept what the architect sets before us."
"'Asking no questions for conscience sake.' How about the roof—is that also a matter of evolution?"
"No; because the inside of the roof is of but little consequence. It must keep out the rain and wind, snow and ice; it must be strong and economically built and have a reasonable amount of light. The rest we shall leave to the architect. As Uncle Harry observes, 'the material part of the house rests upon the foundation stones; its spiritual character is displayed chiefly in the roof, which may change to an unlimited extent the expression of the building it covers.'"
"That's so. Let me make the roofs for a people and I care not who builds the houses. The roof on the house is like the hat on the man, as I can show you," said Jack, taking a piece of charcoal from the stove and drawing on the back of the fireboard some astonishing illustrations of his theory.
"Here is the president of a big corporation who must be dignified whether he has a soul or not. He represents the 'renaissance.' No nonsense about him, no sentiment, no sympathy, no anything but—himself and his own magnificence."
"This fellow is a brakeman—prompt, efficient, laconic. Same head, you see, but different hat. He stands for the hipped roof which has one duty to do and does it."
"Give the dignified president a smashing blow on the head and you see what he may become after an unsuccessful defalcation—an unfortunate tramp, who has 'seen better days.' He is a capital illustration of the roofs called 'French,' that were so imposing a few years ago, and are about as agreeable in the way of landscape decoration as the tramp himself, but not half so picturesque.
"Pull the string again and we have a benevolent 'broad-brim,' stiff, symmetrical and proper to the last degree, like an Italian villa; and, once more changing the straight lines to crooked ones, the conventional formalist becomes the unconventional, free-and-easy South-westerner, who may stand for Swiss or any other go-as-you-please style."
"It is midnight and the fire is out; let's adjourn."
PROFESSIONAL ETIQUETTE—BLINDS AND BESSIE.
The next demonstration from the architect was a pencil drawing of the floor plans, submitted for inspection and criticism. Concerning these he wrote to Jill's entire satisfaction. "From many of my clients I should expect the first question would be, 'Will a house built in this shape look well outside?' It is not necessary to remind you that at this stage of the proceedings such an inquiry is wholly irrelevant. The interior arrangements should be made without a thought of the exterior effect, precisely as if the house were to wear the ring of Gyges and be forever invisible to outsiders. There are several points, however, on which I await further instructions——"
"What's the use of having an architect," Jack inquired, "if you've got to keep instructing him all the time?"
——"provided you wish to give instructions," Jill continued reading. "There is often a misunderstanding between architect and client, and I wish to avoid it in the present case by saying at the outset that while there are many things which, in my opinion, should be referred to you, I am ready to decide them for you if you wish me to do so; but even in such cases I prefer to set before you the arguments pro and con, after which, if you still desire it, I shall accept the arbitration. This is not a rule that works both ways or applies universally, for while referring to you matters relating to use and expenditure, and at the same time standing ready to decide them for you, I cannot promise to accept your advice in matters of construction and design. I trust I have not yet reached the fossiliferous state of mind that prevents my listening with sincere respect to candid suggestions, even from those who are not fairly competent to give advice; but on these points you must not expect me to follow your taste and judgment in opposition to my own, even if you do pay the bills. When your physician prescribes arsenic and you inform him that you shall give it to your poodle and take strychnine instead, he will doubtless infer that his services are no longer desired; he will know that while he might be able to kill you, he could not hope to cure you. Patients have rights that physicians are bound to respect, but the right to commit suicide and ruin the physician's reputation is not among them. The relations of client and architect are similar.
"This is one of the questions which I refer to you, but will answer for you if you send it back: How shall the eyes of the house be closed? Shall the eyelids be outside blinds, inside folding shutters, 'Queen Anne' rolling blinds, sliding blinds or Venetian shades? There are good reasons for and against each kind; either, if adopted, compels some compromise. Whichever road you take you will wish you had taken the other.
"For instance, in hot weather outside blinds that shield the glass from the direct rays of the sun keep the rooms cooler than any form of inside shutters; they allow a gradation of light and a free circulation of air. You can even leave the window open during a summer shower without danger of being drenched. Last but not least they are inexpensive. The wrong side of the outside blinds appears when you wish to make wide windows, or mullioned windows, or windows that cannot command at each side an unobstructed wall space equal to at least half their own width for the blinds to rest against when open. Under such circumstances, which are by no means rare, outside blinds are stubbornly unmanageable.
"Inside blinds that fold back and swing away from the windows must have wide recessed jambs to hold them when they are not in use. If the windows are broad these 'pockets' will require a thick wall and thus increase the actual size of the house. A little space may be saved by allowing them to stand out obliquely when open, or turn around upon the inside face of the wall, but either mode increases the cost of finishing the rooms. If these blinds are made of open slats, many housekeepers despise them as being no better than small cabinets maliciously contrived to accumulate dust; if of solid panels, they make a room perfectly dark, or when opened ever so slightly admit unbroken rays of sunlight. On the other hand, inside blinds are accessible; they can be opened and closed without leaning half one's length out of the window; they do not hide the glory of plate glass; they graciously permit windows to stand where they please and to be as large as they please; and they never quarrel with piazza roofs, awnings, hoods or other outside accessories.
"Shutters that coil up into a box over the window or down into a box below it have the modest excellence of being always out of the way when they are not wanted, of staying where they are put when partially open, of occupying but little space and never standing in the way of the window curtains. They are, in fact, wooden shades similar to the old-fashioned green slat curtains, that were rolled up by drawing a cord, but are far more substantial. The single slats of which they are composed do not revolve, and consequently it is not easy to 'peep through the blind just to hear the band play.'
"Venetian shades, with their multiplicity of bright-colored straps, cords, hooks and trimmings, are picturesque and graceful. They are somewhat subject to dust and repairs, and when the window is open are not proof against tornadoes and thunder showers.
"Inside blinds are sometimes contrived to slide sideways, like barn doors, into cavities formed to receive them. If built with extreme care and handled with the utmost tenderness they are a degree less obtrusive than when wholly dependent on hinges. Likewise, outside blinds may be contrived to swing horizontally as well as vertically, standing out from the top of the window like a small shed roof. They are not quite wide enough to serve as awnings, and are liable to catch more wind than they can hold."
"It strikes me that the whole thing is a 'blind.' What is he driving at?"
"The conclusion of the matter seems to be given in this sentence: 'You will perceive, therefore, that a decision in regard to blinds should be made even before the house is staked out, since the size of the foundation itself may be affected by it, as well as the minor details.'"
"I'm ready for the question; are you?"
"Yes. In the bay windows and for the long windows that give access to the balconies and piazzas we will have blinds that roll up out of the way. A few of the windows on the sunny side will have for summer use outside blinds, a few more will have cloth awnings. The most of the windows will have no blinds at all, only such shades and curtains as we choose to furnish. I don't think the eyes of a house ought to be closed much of the time. It is certainty absurd to hang blinds at all the windows when we only need them at a few."
"Oh, but won't the neighbors rage and imagine vain things when they see a house with here and there a blind and here and there an awning?"
"The wise ones will approve; the foolish ones will demonstrate their folly by criticising what they don't understand."
"Very well, that point is settled. Unless the next is sharp and short you must decide it without my help. It is high time I was at the office."
"We will defer them all. It is time for me to be at my household duties. You know Cousin Bessie comes this afternoon, and I've noticed that extremely intellectual people are sometimes extremely fond of a good dinner."
"If Bessie is coming I must anoint my beard with oil of sunflowers and trot out my old gold slippers. Shall I send up some pale lilies for dessert? And that reminds me—Jim came home last night and I asked the old fellow to come up to dinner. How do you suppose Bess found it out?"
"Don't be spiteful, Jack. She didn't find it out at all. I invited her a week ago. Now go to the office, please, while I put the house in order."
During this important process Jill entertained herself by philosophical reflection upon the style of living that requires a house to be constantly "put in order." She recalled certain of Uncle Harry's observations to the effect that in a truly civilized state housekeeping would be so conducted and houses would be so contrived that instead of causing care and labor proverbially endless, housekeepers would no more be burdened by their domestic duties than are the fowls of the air. Jill had too much of the rare good sense, incorrectly called "common," to attempt to reduce Uncle Harry's theories to practice all at once. She knew that though we may not reach the summit of our ambition, it is well to advance toward it even by a single step, or failing in that, to help prepare a way for some one else. She understood the wisdom of striving to increase the fraction of life by dividing the denominator, and at the same time cherished the broader hope that her life and her home might be filled with whatever is of most enduring worth.
Moralizing thus, but always with an architectural or house-building background, she continued her work, noticing the sharp grooves and projecting mouldings that caught the dust, the high, ugly thresholds, the doors that swung the wrong way, compelling half a dozen extra steps in passing through them; shelves that were too high or too narrow; drawers that refused to "draw" or dropped helplessly on the floor as soon as they were drawn out far enough to display the spoons and spices they contained; window stools that came down behind tables and shelves, forming a sort of receptacle for lost articles belonging to the kitchen or pantry—all of which she resolved should not be repeated. When Bessie arrived the house was in that most perfect order which gives no sign of unusual preparation.
"This is too perfectly lovely for anything," exclaimed Bessie. "I just dote on domestic duties. You can't help being overpoweringly happy, Jill, with such a home and such a husband. Then only to think of the new house drives me completely frantic. What will it be like? Are the plans made? Oh! I do hope not, for I have a million of things to tell you about that are totally unspeakable."
"Then you are just in time. We had a long letter from the architect this morning asking for instructions on various matters."
"How perfectly fascinating! Let's sit down this minute and begin upon them."
But Jill preferred waiting till Jack came home, bringing with him his younger brother, just home for summer vacation.
"It isn't necessary to announce dinner," said she. "The preliminary odors have already advertised it through the entire house."
"I thought these observations were to be strictly confidential," observed Jack.
"That wasn't 'finding fault.' It was a mere casual remark. Some people may think it pleasanter to be summoned by the odor of broiling fish than by the noise of a dinner-bell."
"Indeed I do," said Bessie, taking Jack's proffered arm. "Odors are too delicious for anything. They are so refined and spiritual I'm sure I could live on them. I would far prefer the fragrance of a dish of strawberries to the fruit itself."
"We shall get along capitally then. You can smell of the berries and I'll eat them afterwards. You see now, Jill, the advantage of having a house built like this. Cousin Bessie proposes that we live on the fragrance of the food. It won't be necessary even to come to the dining-room. We can all stay in the parlor or in our chambers and absorb sustenance from the circumambient air, as the sprightly goldfish gathers honey from the inside of a glass ball."
"Please don't make fun of me, Cousin Jack, for I do truly revel in fragrance, and I'm sure your house is beautifully planned. Don't you think so, Mr. James?"
"I realty don't know much about such things. I never did like to know what I was going to have for dinner long beforehand—it makes me so awfully hungry."
"Precisely so, Jim; it gives you am appetite. I had the house planned in this way for that very purpose."
"Now that you have introduced the subject," said Jill, "I will tell you how I should have planned it. There should have been a 'cut-off' somewhere—a little lobby between the kitchen and the rest of the house, with a ventilating flue so large that neither smoke nor steam nor perfumed air could pass it without being caught up and carried to the sky. Of course these odors ought not to get away from the ventilator above the range, but the best contrivances are not proof against the carelessness of the cook when she is in a hurry—as she always is just before dinner."
When they returned to the sitting-room Bessie brought down a set of plans her father had sent for Jack and Jill to examine, thinking they would suit their lot and taste. They did suit the lot fairly, but Jill's mind was too fully made up to accept any change from her own plan. The exterior she approved cordially, but to Bessie's despair would not promise to imitate it, preferring to leave the outside to her architect without reserve.
While they were spoiling their eyes in the twilight Jack pressed the electric "button" that lighted the gas instantaneously all over the house, causing Bessie to cry out in protest against such a sudden transition. "It is so violent, so unlike the slow, sweet processes of nature. I never shall learn to like gas, and the electric light is absolutely horrid. Don't you love tapers, Mr. James?"
"Tapirs? I don't think I'm a judge; I never had one. I should rather have a tame zebra."
"Oh, I mean tapers for light!"
"Excuse me—certainly: yes, that is, I think I do. We don't use them very often. Do you mean tallow or wax?"
"Wax, of course! They have such elegant decorations on them. I had a most exquisite sconce Christmas, with two of the loveliest tapers completely covered with Moorish arabesques in crimson and old gold."
"What becomes of the decorations when the tapers burn up?"
"Well, we don't burn them much. Indeed, I don't think we ought to use artificial light at all. The mysterious light of the moon and stars is so much more enchanting. Don't you love to muse and dream in the fading twilight?"
"No, not very well. The trouble is if I get to sleep before I go to bed I don't sleep as well afterward."
"Oh, I don't mean actual dreams, but vague, dreamy musings, esthetic aspirations and longings. Do you never long for abstract beauty?"
"Well, no, not long. If I can't get what I want pretty quick I generally go for something else."
This irrelevant conversation was vastly entertaining to Jack, who, knowing how unlike were the dispositions of his brother and his wife's cousin, had contrived their meeting with special reference to his own amusement. When the clock told the hour for retiring he brought Bessie a tin candlestick, in which a tallow candle smoked and spluttered in a feeble way, but filled the soul of the young lady with admiration, it was so "full of feeling."
"Life is so much richer when our environment is illuminated and glorified—"
"By tapers," said Jack as he bade her an affectionate good-night.
MORE QUESTIONS OF FIRE AND WATER.
"We must devote this evening exclusively to the new house," said Jill, as Jack started for his office. "The architect is waiting for instructions, and every day we lose now will give us another day of vexation and impatience when we are waiting for the house to be finished."
"That's true, and it's a chronological fact that house-builders often forget. Very well, I'll come home early. Will Bessie be here?"
"Certainly. She has come for a long visit."
"Then I shall bring up Jim again. One-half Bess says he can't understand, and he doesn't approve of the other half; but we couldn't keep him away if we tried. So we'll invite him to come. It's great fun to hear Bessie's comments and witness Jim's helplessness."
"If you are going to devote yourself to Jim and Bessie," said Jill severely, "I may as well answer these questions without consulting you at all."
"Oh, pray don't do that. Give me a chance to express my opinions. Some of them are strikingly bold and original. Besides, you will need me to conduct the meeting."
It happened, accidentally of course, that Bessie's evening dress was of a color that looked well by gaslight, and no objection was made to the unnatural illumination.
Jill took up the architect's letter, where she had left it, at the conclusion of the blind question. "Another point that was mentioned when I was at your father's house must be decided soon: Shall there be gutters to catch the water from the roof, with pipes of some sort to convey it to the ground, or shall it be left to take care of itself? If there are none, the ground around the house should pitch sharply away from the walls and a slight depression should be formed, into which the water would fall. This shallow ditch should be perhaps two feet wide, as the drops will not always come down in straight lines. It may be paved with small stones or bricks, between which the grass will grow, or it maybe more carefully lined with asphalt paving. If it is desired to conduct the water to a certain point, this drain can descend slightly toward it, and, if the lawn will not be injured by an occasional inundation, even the shallow ditch may be omitted, making merely a one-sided slope, hardened to prevent the water from wearing a ragged, unsightly channel around the house. The advantages of disposing of the water in this way, dispensing with the gutters, are its economy and its permanence. Whatever the material may be of which they are made, gutters attached to the eaves or roof cause more or less trouble and expense from the time they are put in place till the house is given up to the owls and the bats. They are liable to be corroded by rust, to be clogged with leaves and dust, to be choked with ice, or to become loosened from their fastenings. If used at all, they should be frankly acknowledged. This is not, however, a point on which I am in need of instructions, but would remind you that one of the interesting illustrations of the happy skill of the old masters in making a virtue of necessity is found in the effective treatment of the waterspouts and conductors. They made them bold, quaint and picturesque in appearance, far removed from the tin contrivances that we hang in frail awkwardness to our roofs."
"How perfectly delightful!" exclaimed Bessie. "Those horribly grotesque old gargoyles are just glorious. Don't you delight in the antique, Mr. James, when it isn't too horrible?"
"Yes, they are awfully jolly. We had a great time with them last 'Fourth.' I got myself up as a pirate king—black flag, skull and cross-bones, you know. It was awfully jolly."
"I never saw any of that kind, but you will have some gargoyles, won't you, Jill?"
"Possibly, for the architect says' whether you have gutters entirely around the house or not; it will doubtless be necessary to catch the water that would fall upon the steps or balconies in short eave-troughs, and as they are certain to be conspicuous they should be respectfully treated. As they add to the comfort of the house they should also add to its beauty.' Now what shall be said on this subject? His opinion appears to be that if we do not need to save the water for use, and if it will do no harm upon the ground around the house, it will be best to omit them except where protection is needed for something below. He sends some sketches and says 'they represent a few of the methods by which the water may be caught and carried to the ground. Number two and number three will prevent the sliding of the snow from the roof, which is sometimes desirable, but not always. Gutters made in this form should be so near the eaves that in case of accidental injury the water could not find its way inside the main walls. Number five has the advantage of leaving the house uninjured whatever happens to the gutter itself. It may leak through its entire length or run over on both sides without doing other harm than wasting the water.' I don't see," said Jill, laying down the letter, "how we can give instructions without dictating in matters of 'construction and design,' concerning which the architect distinctly objects to advice."
"Tell him we don't care what becomes of the water and the lawn will take care of itself. Then 'instruct' him to exercise his own discretion. That's what he is for. What next?"
"He would like to know our wishes in regard to fireplaces."
"I thought the heating question had been decided once according to Uncle Harry's doctrines."
"Not fully. We shall have both steam and open fires; the architect understands that, but he doesn't know how many fireplaces nor what kind. We can tell him how many easily enough: one in each room of the first story except the kitchen, but including the hall, and one in each of the bed-rooms."
"Including the guest chambers?"
"By all means. There is nothing that makes one feel so thoroughly welcome, so delightfully at home as a room with an open fire. Mahogany four-posters, velvet carpets and sumptuous fare are trivial compliments in comparison. Concerning the style and cost he says: 'Of designs there is an endless variety, and there is a wide range in cost, from the simple recess in the side of a plain brick chimney'—"
"One of the kind that Aunt Melville builds for a dollar and a quarter."
"'—to the elaborate affairs that cost as much as a comfortable cottage. It would be idle for me to attempt to give you a full description of them all—my letter would appear like a manufacturer's catalogue. Indeed, you can find whole books on the subject, large books too, which it will be interesting and profitable for you to study; but first it is necessary to lay out the chimneys to accommodate the sizes and styles to be chosen. You will easily understand that a grate for burning coal alone, especially hard coal, may be much smaller than a fireplace to hold hickory logs that it takes two men to carry; but the heat of anthracite coal would soon destroy the lining of a fireplace adapted to an ordinary fire of wood. It cannot be necessary to remind you that the best open fireplaces, whether for wood or coal, are those which, instead of sending three-fourths of the heat up the chimney flue, give it out from all sides, to be saved either directly or by being conveyed to an adjoining or upper room. It is also possible to make a fireplace that will accommodate either wood or coal, but like all compromises this is attended with certain disadvantages. If large enough for wood it is too large for hard coal. The smoke flue for a coal fire may also be smaller, the hotter fire causing the stronger draught. Coal ashes, too, ought to be dropped through the hearth into ash pits below, even from the fires of the upper rooms. To "take up the ashes" of a wood fire is not so troublesome. These are some of the reasons why it is necessary to determine the kind and number of your fireplaces before the plans of the chimneys are drawn.'"
"Why not make an appropriation of fifty dollars apiece for each grate, mantel and hearth, and have him do the best he can with it?"
"We can fix that as an average price, but shall want some better than others, and must mark in each room whether we wish to provide for wood, for coal, or for both. That is, whether we want 'set' grates or open fireplaces with andirons or something of that kind."
"Oh, do have andirons. Please have andirons," said Bessie. "You know you can go out into the country and buy them for old brass of the farmers who haven't the remotest idea of their value. They keep them up in those dear old musty garrets covered with dust and spider webs."
"Certainly, we will have a few andirons and several spinning-wheels and moony clocks and solid old carved oak chests that for generations have been full of moths and food for worms. I never happened to come across one of those old bonanza garrets, but I suppose there are plenty of them lying around and just running over with these antique treasures. Jim, can't I hire you to go out among the unesthetic heathens and buy up a few loads of heirlooms and other relics of former greatness? We shall want some old associations in the new house, and if we haven't any of our own we must buy some."
"I don't think I know much about such things. Why don't you go to a furniture store and get what you want first-hand? Second-hand furniture always looks shabby and out of date. However, if Miss Bessie could go with me to pick out things, I wouldn't mind taking a drive into the country to see what we could find."
"Now, really, wouldn't you mind it? How enchanting! It will be delightful to be associated with the new house. I know we shall find some lovely things."
"All right. You shall have Bob and the express wagon to-morrow. What next, Jill?"
"'I should be glad to know your feeling in regard to height of rooms, but shall not promise fully to agree with you. My purpose is to make the principal rooms of the first story ten and a-half or eleven feet high.'"
"Oh, how dreadful! I don't know how high eleven feet is, but I'm sure they ought not to be more than seven feet."
"I thought you were going to say not less than fourteen," said Jim.
"Oh, no, indeed! Low rooms are so deliciously quaint and cosy."
"But I should be all the time expecting to hit my head."
"You wouldn't think of that for a moment if you could only feel the influence of Kitty Kane's library. It is a copy of an old English bar-room, or something of that sort, I don't exactly remember what, but it is in the Queen Anne style, and it's too lovely for anything. Please have low rooms, Jill."
Jill continued reading: "For rooms of ordinary sizes and devoted to ordinary domestic purposes, that is high enough for use, for comfort and for any reasonable amount of decoration, either upon the walls themselves or in the shape of pictures or other ornaments. You will certainly think it enough when you are climbing the stairs to the rooms of the second story. It may be practicable to reduce the height of some of the smaller apartments, but it is usually much more convenient to keep the ceilings of the main rooms of uniform height, even if this does upset the 'correct proportion' which critics attempt in vain to establish. To make ceilings very low seems an affectation of humility or of antiquity not justified by common sense. In the polar regions, where the sun never reaches an altitude above twenty-three degrees, low rooms and short windows would be entirely satisfactory. In the torrid zone, where it is not safe to build more than one story for fear of earthquakes and tornadoes, where chambers would be useless, and where the grand question is not how to keep warm but how to keep cool, the higher the better. For houses in the temperate zones the medium height is the safest, the best—and the most artistic. If any one dares to say it is not, ask him to tell you the reason why."
"How perfectly exasperating," said Bessie in a tragic aside to Jim. "No one ought to try to give reasons in art, in religion or in politics. Intuitions are so much more satisfactory. Don't you always rely on your intuitions, Mr. James?"
"Perhaps I should if I had them, but somehow I—I never seem to have any."
"The meeting appears to be divided," said Jack. "Bessie says seven, Jim says fourteen. Suppose we split the difference and call it ten and a half."
"That is, we advise the architect to do as he pleases, then he will be sure to follow our advice."
WHAT SHALL WE STAND UPON?
"Splitting the difference" is a convenient compromise, but it is not always creditable to both parties, and Jill thought it would not be safe with such advisers to assume that Wisdom's house is always built between two extremes. She felt, too, that the architect's discussion of details must be tiresome to her guests, and therefore resolved to take up but one more of his queries, spending the remainder of the evening in looking over plans and letters, of which she had an ample store still unexplored, or in listening to Bessie's ardent description of the treasures she hoped to find in the lofty recesses of the old garrets.
"I fear the next topic will not be deeply interesting, but it is the last one to-night, and Jack must give me his undivided attention if he wishes to know what we are to stand upon in the new house."
"Is it about floors?" Bessie asked. "Do please have waxed floors. I dote on waxed floors, don't you, Mr. James?"
"Not especially; but I'm pretty apt to slip on them. Is it about floors, Jill?"
"Yes, but chiefly about the best way to build them—their construction."
"I thought the architect was to settle questions of construction to suit himself."
"He is, and this topic he writes 'concerns construction, cost, use and design, and is, therefore, one on which we may properly take counsel together.'"
"I suppose you would object to iron girders with brick arches between them on account of their cost, but I hope to see rolled iron beams for brick dwelling-houses so cheaply made that they will be commonly used instead of wood. Such iron ribs, with the brick arches or other masonry between them, might well form the finish of the ceilings, and if we were accustomed to see them, our frail lath and plaster would seem stale, flat and combustible in comparison. The usual mode of making floors of thin joists set edgewise, from one to two feet apart, with one or two thicknesses of inch boards on the top to walk upon, and lathing underneath to hold the plastering, is perhaps the most economical use of materials. A more satisfactory construction would be to use larger beams two or three times as far apart, laying thicker planks upon them and dispensing with plastering altogether, or perhaps applying it between the timbers directly to the under-side of the planks, leaving the beams themselves in sight. If the floor is double the planks or boards lying directly upon the joists may be of common, coarse stock, hemlock or spruce, upon which must be laid another thickness of finished boards. It is for you to say whether the finished upper floor shall be of common, cheap stock, to be always covered by carpets, or of some harder wood carefully polished and not concealed at all, except by occasional rugs.'"
"Oh, I do hope she will have rugs!" Bessie's remarks were semi-asides addressed chiefly to Jim. "There's nothing so lovely as these oriental rugs. Kitty Kane had an exquisite one among her wedding presents, and when her house was built the parlor was made to fit the rug. It makes it rather long and narrow, but the rug is too lovely."
"'It is also for you to say whether the finished floor, if you have no carpets, shall consist simply of plain narrow boards or be more expensively laid in parquetry designs. In the latter case I shall claim the privilege of choosing the pattern.'"
"Why should he trouble himself about the pattern of the wood floors any more than he would about the style of the carpets?"
"He would probably say, because the floors are a part of the house for which he is making the plans and will last as long as the house itself, while the carpets are subject to changing fashions and will soon return to their original dust. But he may attempt to dictate in regard to carpets if we give him a chance."
"Undoubtedly—to the extent of pitching them out of the window."
"In laying double floors one simple matter must not be neglected. The under, or lining boards, which are usually wide and imperfectly seasoned, should be laid diagonally upon the joists; otherwise in their shrinking and swelling they will move the narrow finished boards resting upon them and cause ugly cracks to appear, even though the upper floor is most carefully laid and thoroughly seasoned. The liberal use of nails is another obvious but often neglected duty of floor-makers, who seem, at times to act upon the supposition that as a floor has nothing to do but lie still and be trodden upon, it only needs to be laid in place and let alone. This may be true of stone flagging; it is far from being true of inch boards, that have an incurable tendency to warp, twist, spring and shake. Lining floors, especially, whatever their thickness, should be nailed—spiked is a more forcible term—to every possible bearing and with generous frequency; to be specific, say every three inches. The finished hoards must also be secured by nails driven squarely through them. If you object to the appearance of nail heads the boards may be secured by nails driven through the edges in such way that they will be out of sight when the floor is finished; but this should never be done except by skillful and conscientious workmen. There is no excuse for this "blind" nailing in floors that are to be covered by carpets, and it is seldom desirable under any circumstances. All thorough nailing adds greatly to the strength, and will alone prevent the creaking of the boards, so annoying in a sick room and so discouraging to burglars.'"
"Whatever else we do we must make it all right for the burglars. Tell him we will have floors that can be used either way, with rugs or without, with matting, with carpets, or with nothing at all but their own unadorned loveliness. Those in the chambers, where there is not much wear and tear, may be of common clear pine, and we can paint or stain a border around the edges. The others ought to be of harder wood, and, as they will last as long as we shall need floors, we can afford to have them cost rather more than a good carpet, perhaps thirty or forty cents a square foot."
"I don't see the necessity for that," said Jill, who had a frugal mind—at times. "I know they will outlast a great many carpets, but it is considerable work to keep a bare floor in order—or rather to put it in order—which must be taken into account; and, as for saving the expense of carpets, we shall be likely to spend twice as much for rugs as the carpets would cost. However, extravagance in rugs is not the fault of the hard-wood floors and ought not to be charged against them. We might have a few parquetry floors, but for most of the rooms plain narrow strips, with a pretty border, will be good enough. What do you think about it, Jim?"
While Jim was preparing to say that he didn't think he knew much about such things, there came a crash on the floor above, followed by loud and incoherent observations by the chambermaid. The chandelier began to shake, as that substantial domestic fairy flew through the passage that led to the back stairs, at the head of which she was distinctly heard to exhort the cook in good set terms to "hurry up with the mop, for the water-jug was upset and the mistress would be raving if the water came through the ceiling."
The quartette below listened with conflicting emotions. Jill was indignant, Bessie horrified—apparently, Jim greatly amused, and Jack sublimely indifferent. "If there's anything I despise," said Jill, "it is a house that makes a human being seem like an elephant, and where I can't say my prayers or move a chair in my own room without rousing the entire household."
"There's one good thing about it," said Jim pleasantly. "You can't help knowing what is going on in your own house."
"Spoken like a man and a brother, James. You always go to the root of a matter. I like to keep posted. No skeletons and gunpowder plots for me. I had this house made so on purpose." Whereat they all laughed and again took up the floor question, while the sound of hurrying feet and the rattling of domestic implements went on overhead, and the chandelier trembled with the jarring floors.
"I suppose forty dollars' worth of timber originally added to these floors would have made them so firm that we might drive a caravan across them without shaking the building. We will, at least, have solid floors in the new house; but the architect informs us that 'effectual deafening of the floors and partitions necessarily adds considerably to their cost, since the walls and ceilings must be virtually double or filled with some light porous material. The construction I have described for making the house fireproof, or nearly so, would also make it comparatively sound-proof. It would prevent the passage of any reasonable in-door noises, though it might not withstand the stamping of heavy steel-shod feet. Indeed, the question of bare, hard-wood floors is, in one of its aspects, rather a question of boots. It is most unreasonable to say the floors are noisy and slippery when the fault lies rather in the hard, stiff, awkward receptacles in which our feet are imprisoned. If we are ever clad from head to foot in the robes of a perfect civilization, we shall doubtless find smooth bare floors for general use more satisfactory than any kind of rugs, mats or carpets.'
"And now," said Jill, "we will leave the rest of this interminable letter for a more convenient season and see what our indefatigable aunt has sent as the latest and best thing in domestic architecture. If you will take the plans and follow the description, I will read the letter straight through, though it will doubtless contain more or less advice not strictly pertinent to house-building. Here it is:
"MY DEAR JILL: On further reflection I have concluded that the little cottage plans which I sent last will not answer. I doubt whether you and Jack have sufficient independence and originality to make a success of living; even temporarily, in a small, unpretending cottage. It requires unusual strength of character'—
—to establish and maintain a high social standing with no adventitious aids. You cannot at present afford a large establishment, but you must have one that is striking and elegant. I was first attracted to this house by its external appearance—not especially the form, but the material, as we often see a lady of inferior physique whose rich and tasteful attire makes her the observed of all observers."
"Aunt Melville is inclined to be dumpy, and is immensely proud of her taste in dress.
"'The walls near the ground—the underpinning, I suppose—is of solid granite blocks, irregular in size, rough and rugged in appearance. Indeed, the impression is of exceeding solidity and strength, perhaps because the walls slope backward as they rise. The first story is also of stones, but such peculiar stones as I never expected to see in a dwelling house, precisely like those used in the country for fences.'"
"How exquisite!" exclaimed Bessie, clapping her hands in ecstacy.
"'Some of them seemed to be covered with the gray lichens that are found growing on rocks,—'
"'—but I very much fear these will be destroyed by the action of the lime in the mortar. The stones vary in color, and at a little distance the effect is like a rich mosaic. The corners of the house and the sides of the windows are made of peculiarly dark, rough-looking bricks that harmonize well with the general tone of the stone walls. The second story is of wood, covered with shingles that have not been painted, but simply oiled, and they have turned a dark reddish-brown. I found on inquiry that they are California red wood. The roof is of red tiles, and the chromatic effect of the entire building is very charming and aristocratic.'"
"That would suit us perfectly," said Jack, "but I think our aristocratic aunt is more tiresome than the architect. Jim is asleep and Bessie is on the verge of slumber." But just at that moment Bessie gave a piercing scream and bounded from the sofa in uncontrollable affright, while an army of reckless June bugs came dashing in through the open, unscreened windows.
FROM MATHEMATICS TO ANCIENT BRIC-A-BRAC.
Taking advantage of the incursion of the June bugs, Jim withdrew in good order, and Bessie shortly after retired with her tin candlestick.
"Do you seriously intend to allow that pair of incompatibles to go off to-morrow looking for old furniture and antiquated household implements?" asked Jill.
"Most certainly I do. It will he the greatest fun in the world. I only wish we could go as invisible spectators; but, on the whole, we shall best enjoy imagining what they will say or do if left to their own devices, knowing, as we should, that our presence would prevent some of their wildest absurdities. I'm awfully sorry they are not going to build and furnish a house somewhere in this vicinity, according to their combined notions."
"And I am extremely sorry you cannot take your thoughts from Bessie long enough at least to hear the conclusion of Aunt Melville's letter."
"My dear, like John Gilpin, 'of womankind I do admire but one.' I shall listen with undivided attention to whatever you lay before my ears. Pray go on."
"'I was fortunate enough to get a drawing of the interior of the reception hall, which, while it is simple and inexpensive, is also dignified and impressive. Houses often resemble people, and you will easily recall among your friends certain ones who, without being either wealthy or brilliant, are still very impressive. The other rooms which we visited are ample for your needs, as you will find it far more advantageous to entertain but few people at a time, and those of the best society, than to have larger and more indiscriminate gatherings. The amount of room in the house is surprising; but that, of course, is because it is so nearly square.'"
"That is feminine logic. A man would have said that the size of a house determines the amount of room it contains."
"Undoubtedly he would; but it does not," said Jill, decidedly. "I can show you houses that look large and are large, that make great pretensions in point of style, that cost a great deal of money, and yet have no room in them. They have no place for the beds to stand, no room for the doors to swing, no room for a piano, no room for a generous sofa, no room for the book-cases, no room for easy stairs, no room for fireplaces, no room for convenient attendance at the dining-table, no room for wholesome cooking, no room for sick people, no room for fresh air, no room for sunlight, no room for an unexpected guest. They have plenty of rooms, apartments, cells—but no real, generous, comfortable house room."
"I suppose Aunt Melville refers to the mathematical fact that a house forty feet square contains more cubic feet than the same length of walls would hold in a more elongated or irregular shape."
"By the same rule an octagon or circle would be better still, which is absurd. No; her feminine logic is no worse than yours, and no better. The amount of room a house contains depends neither upon its size nor its shape. Her analogy, too, is at fault when she implies that the outside of a house bears the same relation to the interior that clothing bears to the person who wears it. The art of the tailor and dressmaker has at present no other test of merit than fashion and costliness, elements to which real art, architectural or otherwise, is always and absolutely indifferent. The external aspect of the house should be the natural spontaneous outgrowth of its legitimate use and proper construction, as face, form and carriage express the character of each individual."
Jill spoke with unwonted seriousness and a wisdom beyond her years. Even Jack was impressed for the moment, and expressed a wish to tear down some of the ornamental appendages from his own house. "The piazzas are well enough—that is, they would be if they were twice as wide—but the observatory is good for nothing, because nobody can get into it to observe, unless he crawls along the ridge-pole, and I never did know what all that mess of wooden stuff under the eaves and about the windows was for. I suppose it was intended to give the house a richer look."
"Yes, it enriches it just as countless rows of puffs, ruffles and flounces, made of coarse cotton cloth with a sewing machine and piled on without regard to grace or comfort, would 'enrich' a lady's dress."
"I thought you objected to the dress anology?"
"I do, positively, but it appears to have been the theory accepted by modern architects almost universally. I don't see. Jack, that your house is any worse than others in this respect, and I have no doubt it will 'sell' all the better for the superfluous lumber attached to the outside walls."
"Thank you, my dear! That is the first good word you have spoken for it. Well, there is one comfort; I am convinced that you didn't commit the reprehensible folly of marrying me for my house."
"No, indeed, Jack. It was pure devotion; a desperate case of elective affinity."
"And yet we are happily married! We shall never do for the hero and heroine of a modern romance. There isn't a magazine editor or a book publisher that would look at us for a moment."
"Let us be thankful—and finish our letter.
"'I am anxious, as you know, my dear niece, that you should, begin life in a manner creditable to the family, and I trust you will allow no romantic or utilitarian notions to prevent your conforming to the requirements of good society. This house, in all such respects, will be perfectly satisfactory. I have bought the plans for you from the owner, and I hope you will accept them with my best wishes.'
"And that is all, this time. Aunt Melville's notion of a house seems to be a place for entertaining the 'best society.' Her zeal is certainly getting the better of her conscience and judgment. She cannot honestly buy the plans from the owner of the house, because he never owned them; they belong to the architect, and she ought to know better than to advise the use of material that would have to be brought at great expense from a long distance. If cobble-stones and boulders were indigenous in this region, and old stone fences could be had for the asking, I should like to use them, but they are not. It is also evident that she did not penetrate far into the interior of the house or she would have discovered an unpardonable defect—the absence of 'back' stairs. I do not think it very serious in such a plan, where the one flight is near the centre of the house and is not very conspicuous, but Aunt Melville would lie awake nights if she knew there were no back stairs for the servants."
The next morning Jim appeared with the express wagon, and Bessie climbed upon the high seat beside him under the big brown umbrella, her Gainsborough hat encircled with a garland of white daisies, huge bunches of the same blossoms being attached somewhat indiscriminately to her dress by way of imparting a rural air, and together they drove off in search of old and forgotten household gods. Jill had suggested sending them out to investigate, reporting what they found, and purchasing afterward if thought best, but Jack urged that it would be wiser to secure their treasures at once, lest the thrifty farmers, finding their old heir-looms in demand, should mark up the prices while they were deliberating—a view with which Bessie fully concurred.
Beguiling the way with the duet that is always so delightful to the performers, whatever the audience may think of it, they followed the pleasant country roads for many miles without finding a castle that seemed to promise desirable plunder. A worn-out horseshoe lying in the road was their first prize. It presaged good luck, and was to be gilded and hung above the library door. At length they came to a typical old farm-house, gray and weather-beaten, but still dignified and well cared for. The big barns stood modestly back from the highway, and the yard about the front door, enclosed by a once white picket fence, was filled with the fragrance of cinnamon roses and syringas. As they drove up at the side of the house across the open lawn, the close cropping of which showed that the cows were wont to take their final bite upon it as they came to the yard at night, they encountered an elderly man carrying a large jug in one hand and apparently just starting for the fields with some refreshing drink for the workmen.
"Good morning, sir," said Jim, touching his hat. Bessie smiled and asked, "Are you the farmer?"
"Wal, yes ma'am; I suppose I am. Leastways I own the farm and get my living off from it as well as I can—same as my fathers did afore me."
"How lovely! Have you got any old—I mean, can you give us a drink of water? We—we happen to be passing and we're very thirsty."
"Just as well as not. The well is right behind the house. You can jump down and help yourselves."
"You don't mean jump down the well," said Jim, laughing.
"Not exactly. Will your horse stand?"
When Bessie saw the old well-sweep, which for some unaccountable reason had not been swept away by a modern pump, she exclaimed in a stage whisper: "Wouldn't it be glorious if we could carry it home?"
Jim found the cool water most refreshing and thought he would rather carry home the well.
"What an enormous wood pile," Bessie continued aloud, in a desperate endeavor to lead up to andirons by an unsuspicious route. "Do you burn wood?"
"Not so much as we used to. The women folks think they must have it to cook with, but we use coal a good deal in the winter."
"Don't you have fireplaces?" was the next innocent question.
"Plenty of 'em in the house, but they're mostly bricked up. It takes too big a wood pile to keep 'em going."
"So you use stoves instead; I suppose it is less trouble. Oh, and that reminds me, have you any old andirons, anywhere around?"
"Shouldn't be surprised if there was. Yes, there's one now, hangin' on the gate right behind you."
Bessie, as she afterwards declared, was almost ready to faint at this announcement, but on turning to look she saw indeed, hanging by a chain to keep the gate closed, a dumpy, rusty, cast-iron andiron.
"Should you be willing to sell it for old brass? Isn't there a mate to it somewhere? They generally go in pairs, don't they?"
"No, I shouldn't want to sell it for old brass, because you see it's iron. Most likely there was a pair of 'em once, but there's no tellin' where t'other one is now. Maybe in the suller and maybe in the garret."
"Please could we go up in the garret and look for it? We will be very careful."
The worthy man, considerably puzzled to know what sort of angels he was entertaining unawares, obtained permission from the "women folks," sent a boy off with the jug of drink and showed his callers to the topmost floor of the house.
"Oh, oh! If there isn't a real spinning-wheel. This passes my wildest anticipations," murmured Bessie to Jim; then, restraining her enthusiasm for fear of spoiling a bargain, she inquired aloud: "Do any of your family spin?"
"No, no; not now-a-days. My old mother vised to get the wheel out now and then, when I was a youngster, but it's broke now and part of it is lost."
"Would you sell it?"
"If it isn't all here—" Jim began, but Bessie checked him and eagerly accepted the old wheel, which had lost its head and two or three spokes, for the moderate sum of one dollar.
Rummaging among old barrels, Jim found the missing half of the pair of andirons. One broken leg seemed to add to its value in Bessie's eyes and she quickly closed a bargain for them at fifteen cents, which their owner, after "hefting" them, "guessed" would be about their value for old iron. One old chair, minus a back and extremely shaky as to its legs, and another that had lost a rocker and never had any arms, were secured for a nominal price, and Bessie's attention was then attracted to a tall wooden vessel hooped like a barrel, but more slender, "big at the bottom and small at the top," which proved to be an old churn. Jim objected to this until his companion explained how it could be transformed by a judicious application of old gold and crimson into a most artistic umbrella stand, while the "dasher" would make a striking ornament for the hall chimney-piece. As they were about to depart with their treasures, the honest farmer invited them to look at a ponderous machine five or six feet high and nearly as broad—a horrid monster, misshapen and huge, that stood in the back chamber over the wood-shed. It was a cheese-press. "How magnificent!" whispered Bessie, and then, turning to their host, inquired—"Do you use it every day?"
"Oh, law, no! Hain't used it this twenty years. Make all the cheese at the factory. It's kind of a queer old thing and I thought maybe you would like to see it. 'Tain't likely you will ever see another just like it."
"Would you be willing to sell it?"
"Of course, I'd be willing enough, only it don't seem just right to sell a thing that ain't good for anything but firewood. However, if you really want it you may have it for a dollar and a-half, and I'll have the hired men load it up for you."
"Now, really, Miss Bessie," said Jim, when the farmer had gone to call the men, "don't you think it's rather a clumsy affair? We can hardly get it into the express wagon, and I don't see where they can put it if we carry it home."
"Clumsy! no, indeed, it's massive, it's grand! There will be plenty of room in the new house. They will have one entire room for bric-a-brac."
"But what can they do with it? They won't make cheese."
"Can't you see what a delicious cabinet it will make? These posts and things can all be carved and decorated, and it will be perfectly unique. There isn't such a cabinet in the whole city of New York. Oh, I think our trip has been an immense success already. I shall always believe in horseshoes after this; but isn't it a pity we can't carry home the well-sweep?"
The huge machine had to be taken from the shed chamber in sections, but was properly put together again in the wagon by the hired men, and made the turnout look like a small traveling juggernaut. Just before starting: Bessie espied, leaning against the fence, a hen-coop from which the feathered family had departed, and explaining to Jim that if the sides were painted red and the bars gilded it would be a charming ornament for the front porch, persuaded him to add that to their already imposing load. Then they departed, leaving the farmer and his men in doubt whether to advertise a pair of escaped lunatics or accept their visitors as "highly cultured" members of modern society.
When they reached home Jack had just come in from the office. He looked out of the window as they drove up, felt his strength suddenly give way, and rolled on the floor in convulsions.
"Less than five dollars for the whole lot, did you say, Jim? I wouldn't have missed seeing that load for fifty."
The next day was Sunday. Monday afternoon Bessie went home.
ECONOMY, CLEANLINESS AND HEALTH.
"Dirt is matter out of place," quoted Uncle Harry, in one of his erratic epistles which Jack and Jill always read with interest if not profit. "When you find anything that seems unclean or offensive in any part of your house, remember this: the fault is not in the thing itself, but in your ignorant or thoughtless management. There isn't a material thing in the universe, whatever its name or characteristic qualities maybe; not a flaunting weed nor an unseen miasmatic vapor, which is not created for some good and wise purpose. It is for us to learn those purposes. The grand secret of safe and comfortable living lies in keeping yourself and everything about you in the right place. I hear much of the dangers and annoyances that arise from modern plumbing. I am not surprised by them; on the contrary, I wonder they are not more numerous and fatal, since nothing is more inconsistent with the first principles of comfort and health than our relations to these 'modern conveniences.' Instead of disposing of what are incorrectly called waste materials according to nature's modes, we persist in defying her examples and her laws, even after we fully understand them, and, in the vain hope of adding to our own case, bring upon ourselves untold calamities. 'Earth to earth' is a mandate that cannot be disregarded with impunity. The infinite laboratories of nature welcome to their crucibles all the strange and awful elements which we fail to comprehend and against which we wage a futile warfare. If all these miscalled 'wastes' that we find so hurtful and offensive when out of place in and around our homes could be consigned to the bosom of mother earth the moment they seem to us worthless, they would be at once changed to life-giving forces, out of which forms of freshness and beauty would arise to fill us with delight. They are willing to serve us whenever we give them an opportunity. The one direct and infallible mode of doing that is to put them in the ground before they have a chance to work us injury. If we bury them, or, rather, plant them, they will bring forth, some thirty, some sixty, some an hundredfold.
"It is my impression that sewers were originally invented by the Evil one. He couldn't drag men down to his dominions fast enough, so he moved a portion of his estate to this planet, and lest its true character should be discovered, buried it under paved streets and flowery parks. We might easily and quietly put these crude materials into convenient receptacles, to be carried where they will bless the world by making two ears of corn grow where one grew before. This we could do, each one for ourselves, or more advantageously by cooperating with one another. We are too wasteful, too indolent, too ignorant. Tempted by the invisible sewers we imprison these misplaced and inharmonious elements for a time in lead or iron pipes, while they grow more hostile, occasionally escaping by violence or stealth into our chambers, and then with many nice contrivances and much perishable machinery we try to wash them away with a bucket of water. Not to carry them where they will do any good, not to put them out of existence, but simply to hide them: to send them out of our immediate sight, and very likely into some greater mischief. The system is radically wrong, and while many of its existing evils may be averted, they cannot all be removed till we make our attacks from a different base. Improving sewers, like strengthening prison walls, is a good thing if the institutions remain; to prevent the need of maintaining them would be better still. Three-fourths of the solid wastes that proceed from human dwellings—scraps of food, waste paper, worthless vegetables, worn-out utensils, bones, weeds, old boots and shoes, whatever unmanageable and unnamable rubbish appears—ought to be at once consumed by fire, for which purpose a small cremating furnace should be found in every house. A similar trial by fire would reduce a large part of the liquids and semi-liquids to solid form to be also consumed, and the rest, absorbed by dry earth or ashes, could easily be transported to the barren fields that await the intelligence and power of man to transform them into blooming gardens.
"Of the usual modes of bringing water to our houses to wash away these things I know but little, because there is but little to be known. Complications and mysteries are not to my taste. I find no satisfaction in overthrowing a man of straw, and am comparatively indifferent to the rival claims of patentees and manufacturers, except as they promise good material, faithful workmanship and moderate prices.
"The one thing needful, if we adopt the hydraulic method of carrying away these waste substances, is a smooth cast-iron pipe running from the ground outside the house in through the lower part and up and out through the roof. It should be open at both ends, and so free from obstruction that a cat, a chimney-swallow or a summer breeze could pass through it without difficulty. I would, however, put screens over the open ends to keep out the cats and the swallows. The purifying breezes should blow through in summer and winter without let or hindrance, and to promote their circulation I would, if possible, place the pipe beside a warm chimney. Yet if the air it contains should sometimes move downward it will do no special harm; anything is better than stagnation. Into this open pipe, which should be not only water-tight but air-tight through its entire length, all waste-pipes from the house should empty as turbid mountain torrents pour into the larger stream that flows through the valley. (Fig. 1.) Now, unless the upward draught through this large pipe is constant and strong, you will see at once that the air contained in it (which we must treat as though it were always poisonous) would be liable to come up through these branches into the rooms, where they stand with open mouths ready to swallow whatever is poured into them. It is necessary, therefore, to build dams across them that will allow water to go down but prevent air from going up. These dams are called 'traps.' They are intended to catch only hurtful elements that might seek to intrude. It often happens that those who set them get caught, for they are not infallible. Whatever the form or patent assumed by these water-dams, they amount to a bend in the pipe rilled with water. (Fig. 2.) Sometimes a ball or other form of valve is used, but the water is the mainstay.
"Theoretically, this is the whole machinery of safe, 'sanitary' plumbing: A large open pipe kept as clean and free as possible, into which the smaller drains empty, these smaller drains or waste-pipes having their mouths always full, and being able, so to speak, to swallow in but one direction. Everything can go down; nothing can come up. That all these pipes shall be of sound material, not liable to corrosion; that the different pieces of which they are composed shall be tightly joined; that they shall be so firmly supported that they will not bend or break by their own weight, or through the changes of temperature to which they are subject, and that they shall be, if not always in plain sight, at most only hidden by some covering easily removed, are points which the commonest kind of common sense would not fail to observe.
"Practically, there are weak spots in the system, even if plumbers were always as honest as George Washington—-before he became a man, and as wise as Solomon—before he became discouraged. A water barricade, unless it is as wide as the English Channel, is not a safeguard against dangerous invasion. A slight pressure of air, as every boy blowing soap bubbles can show you, will force a way through a basin full, and the same thing would happen if there should chance to be a backward current of air through these pipes, with this difference, that while the soap bubbles are harmless beauties, these may be filled with the germs of direful diseases. Still another danger to which this light water-seal is exposed is that a downward rush of water may cause a vacuum in the small pipes, somewhat as the exhaust steam operates the air-brakes, and empty the trap, leaving merely an open crooked pipe. Both these weak points may be strengthened by a breathing hole in the highest part of the small pipe below the trap. This must, of course, have a ventilating pipe of its own, which, to be always effectual, should be as large as the waste-pipe itself. (Fig. 3.)
"Now, if the water that fills these traps and stops the open mouths of the drains were always clean, there would be no further trouble from this source. Unfortunately it is not; and although constant watchfulness might keep it so, the safety that only comes from eternal vigilance is an uncomfortable sort of safety—if we have too much of it life becomes a burden. This particular ill might be remedied by some contrivance whereby the upper ends of the waste-pipes should be effectually corked—not simply covered, but corked as tightly as a bottle of beer—at all times except when in actual use. This would doubtless be more troublesome, but indolence is at the bottom of most of our woes: our labor-saving contrivances bring upon us our worst calamities. Even this thorough closing of the outlet of washbasins and bath-tubs, as they are usually made, would be of little avail, for they are furnished with an 'overflow' (Fig. 4), through which exhalations from the trap would rise, however tightly the outlet might be sealed. It is also customary and doubtless wise, considering our habit of doing things so imperfectly the first time that we have no confidence in their stability, to place large basins of sheet-lead under all plumbing articles, lest from some cause they should 'spring a leak' and damage the floors or ceilings below them. One strong safeguard being better than two weak ones, I would dispense with the 'overflow' and arrange so that when anything ran over accidentally the lead basin or 'safe' should catch the water and carry it through an ample waste-pipe of its own to some inoffensive outlet. This would perhaps involve setting the plumbing articles in the most simple and open fashion—which ought always to be done. 'Cabinets,' cupboards, casings and wood finish, no matter how full of conveniences, or how elegantly made, are worse than useless in connection with plumbing fixtures, which, for all reasons, should stand forth in absolute nakedness. They must be so strongly and simply made that no concealment will be necessary.