"One more danger closes the list, so far as the system is concerned. Even if the water in the traps is clean and inoffensive it will evaporate quickly in warm weather, and then the prison door is open again. This adds another vigil which we can never lay aside if we must have plumbing and water traps. The burden may be somewhat lightened—since we are prone to forgetfulness as stones to fall downward—by using traps made of glass and leaving them in plain sight.
"I conclusion, I wish to remind you that the lower end of the main drain must be protected from the iniquity of the sewer or cesspool to which it runs by another trap, or dam, just below the open pipe that admits fresh air from outside the house (Fig. 5), and also, as I have before remarked, that the system is wrong. The rising tide of civilization will some time wash it all away."
"Uncle Harry's notion of reform," said Jack, after the long letter had been read, "seems to be to blow the universe to pieces and then put it together again on a new and improved plan. It strikes me we had better fight it out on this line and try to straighten the evils we know something about rather than invent new ones. If we had begun on that track and tried to utilize the waste materials on strictly economical principles, perhaps by this time our methods and machinery would have been so far perfected that the real or imaginary evils of modern plumbing would not have existed. It seems a pity to throw away all we have accomplished and begin again."
"That is a part of the price paid for progress," said Jill. "Stage coaches are useless when steam appears, and locomotives must go to the junk shop when electricity is ready to be harnessed. But I'm afraid we cannot afford to be pioneers, and I'm sure the neighbors are not ready to co-operate. We must still 'go by water,' and the important question is where to send the lower end of the main drain. There is no sewer in the street, and a cesspool is an atrocity worthy of the darkest ages. The only safe thing appears to be the sub-surface irrigation plan, for which, fortunately, there is plenty of room on our lot. This comes very near to Uncle Harry's notion of 'earth to earth' in the quickest time possible. If we do it and accept the architect's suggestion in the plan of the house we shall be reasonably safe from that most mysterious of all modern foes—sewer-gas."
"I've forgotten the architect's suggestions; in fact, I don't believe my head is quite equal to housebuilding with all the latest notions. When my house was built I just told the carpenter to get up something stylish and good, about like Judge Gainsboro's. He showed me the plans, I signed the contract, and that was the whole of it. I supposed a house was a house. Now, before the new house is begun, I'm like Dick Whittington in the days of his poverty—I've no peace by day or night."
"I shudder to think what it will he when the house is fairly under way. I can see five hundred different things at once, but when each one has five hundred sides and we get up into the hundred thousands, I begin to feel dizzy. Uncle Harry has settled the plumbing question to his own satisfaction, so far as first principles are concerned; but who will tell us what kind of pipes and trimmings and bowls and basins and traps and plugs and stops and pedals and pulls and cranks and pistons and plungers and hooks and staples and couplings and brakes and chains and pans and basins and tanks and floats and buoys and strainers and safes and bibbs and tuckers we are to adopt? If I should consume midnight oil during a full four years' course at a college for plumbers I should still find myself just upon the threshold of the temple of knowledge."
SAFE FLUES AND MORE LIGHT.
By a tender but vigorous application of the remedies usual in such cases, Jack was speedily restored to his wonted equanimity, and Jill, laying Uncle Harry aside, took up the architect's suggestions concerning the plumbing, which referred rather to its relations to the plan of the house than to the details of the work itself.
"A bath-room, with all the plumbing articles it usually contains, must possess at least three special characteristics. It must be easily warmed in cold weather, otherwise the annual bill for repairs will be greater than the cost of coal for the whole house; its walls, floors and ceilings must be impervious to sound. The music of murmuring brooks is delightful to our ears, so is the patter of the soft rain on the roof; but the splashing of water in a, bath-tub and the gurgling of unseen water-pipes are not pleasant accompaniments to a dinner-table conversation. Thirdly, it must be perfectly ventilated—not the drainpipes merely,—but the room itself in summer and in winter. Two of the above conditions can best be secured by arranging to have this important room placed in a detached or semi-detached wing; and here begin the compromises between convenience, cost and safety. It is convenient to have a bath-room attached to every chamber, and there is no doubt that this may be done with entire safety, provided you do not regard the cost. In your plan I have adopted the middle course. There is one bath-room for all the chambers of the second floor, not too remote but somewhat retired, and having no communication with any other room. It is ventilated by a large open flue carried up directly through the roof; it has also an outside window and inlets for fresh air near the floor. All the walls and partitions around it will be double and filled with mineral wool, and the floors will be deafened. The 'house side' of the water-closet traps will have three-inch iron pipes running to the ventilating flue beside the kitchen-chimney, a flue that will always be warm, and therefore certain to give a strong upward draught at all times, which cannot be said of any other flue in the house, not even of the main drain, or soil-pipe, which passes up through the roof. It would be easy to keep other flues warmed in cold weather by steam-pipes, but in summer you will have no steam for heating purposes. A 'circulation-pipe' might be attached to a boiler on the kitchen range for this purpose, but in the present case such a contrivance would cost more than the iron pipe carried from the bath-room to the flue that is warmed by the kitchen fire. A good way to build this ventilating flue is to inclose the smoke-pipe from the range, which may be of iron or glazed earthen pipe, in a larger brick flue or chamber (Fig. 1), keeping it in place by bars of iron laid into the masonry. The rising current of warm air around the heated smoke-pipe will be as constant and reliable as the trade winds. It will be well, indeed, if all your chimneys are made in a similar manner; that is, by enclosing hard-burned glazed pipe in a thin wall of bricks. Such chimneys will not only draw better than those made in the usual way, but there will be less danger from 'defective flues.' A four-inch wall of bricks between us and destruction by fire is a frail barrier, especially if the work is carelessly done or the mortar has crumbled from the joints. To build the chimneys with double or eight-inch walls makes them very large, more expensive, and still not as good as when they contain the smooth round flues. To leave an air-chamber beside or between them for ventilating (Fig. 2), is better than to open directly into the smoke-flue, because it will not impair the draught for the fire, and there will be no danger of a sooty odor in the room when the circulation happens to be downward, as it will be occasionally. The outside chimney, if there is one, should have an extra air-chamber between the very outer wall and the back of the fireplace to save heat (Fig. 3), a precaution that removes to a great extent the common objection to such chimneys. Whatever else you do, let these 'windpipes of good hospitalitie' have all the room they need. I shall not willingly carry them off by any devious way to be hidden in an obscure corner or dark closet, nor yet to give them a more respectable and well-balanced position on the roof. Like the wild forest trees they shall grow straight up toward heaven from the spot where they are first planted. If we happen to want a window where the chimney stands in an outer wall we will make one between the flues, as one might build a hut in the huge branches of a mighty oak. It isn't the best place for the window or the hut, but circumstances may justify it; as, for instance, when we must have the outlook in a certain direction, but cannot spare the wall-space for a window beside the chimney. The jambs beside a window so situated will be very wide, and you may, if you please, extend the view of the landscape indefinitely by setting two mirrors vis-a-vis in the opening at either side. This will also send the sunshine into the room after the sun has passed by the other windows on the same side of the house. It is rather a pretty fancy, too, when the outside view does not require a clear window, to set a picture in colored glass above the mantel, and the same thins: may be arranged in the sideboard, if it happens to stand against the outer wall. These are fancies, however, which lose their beauty and fitness unless they seem to have been spontaneously produced. There should be no apparent striving for effect."
"I like the idea of setting mirrors in the deep window-jambs, whether they are in the chimney or out of it," said Jill. "If I was obliged to live in a room where the sun never shone of its own accord, I would set a trap for it baited with large mirrors fixed on some sort of a windlass in a way to send the sunshine straight into my windows."
"Capital! You could do that easily, and if you wanted a green-house on the north side it would only be necessary to set up a few looking-glasses to pour a blazing sun upon it all day long. You might need a little clockwork to keep them adjusted at the right angles, but Yankee invention ought to be equal to that. I have no doubt we shall see patent sunshine-distributors in the market very shortly if your idea gets abroad; in fact, I shouldn't be surprised to hear that a company proposed to set up mammoth reflectors to keep the sun from setting at all until he drops into the Pacific Ocean."
"Well, you may laugh at my invention; I shall surely try it when I am obliged to live in a house that does not get sunlight in the regular way. As for the stained glass picture over the chimney-piece, I should like it for the bright color and because the lamps would make it so charming from the street outside. I shall also want colored glass in the upper part of the bay windows. The architect says we can have it and still keep the lower panes clear and large. He sends some sketches by way of suggestion, and thinks we may use it in the lower part of some of the windows to conceal a window-seat or other furniture. I should prefer screens of some other kind in such places, keeping the stained glass up where it would show against the sky. He says this colored glass is not necessarily expensive; that it may be set in common wood-sash or in lead-sash, as we please, and that it will not affect the usual opening and closing of the windows. He advises plate-glass for the larger lights, if we can afford it, not because it gives the house a more elegant appearance, though that is not a wholly unworthy motive, but because a beautiful landscape is so much more beautiful when it can be plainly seen. The instinct that prompts us to throw the window wide open in order to get a more satisfactory view is an unanswerable argument in favor of large, clear lights of glass for windows intended for outlooks."
"And here is an illustration right before us," said Jack. "I am impelled by a powerful impulse to open the window and see if I can recognize the lady driving up the street. It wouldn't be good manners, but I wish the window was plate-glass."
To Jack's astonishment, however, Jill threw open the window and waved her handkerchief in cordial salutation as Aunt Jerusha drove slowly up to the house. "Doing her own work" for half a century had not rendered her incapable of taking and enjoying a carriage ride of fifteen miles alone to visit her niece.
Like all wise people who are able to give advice, Aunt Jerusha offered none until it was asked, and then gave only in small doses. She had never seen the house that Jack built, but had heard much of it from the friends and relatives who had never underrated Jill's obstinacy in refusing to accept it as a permanent home.
"I almost wonder at you, Jill, for being so set against it. I'm sure it's a fine house and cost a good deal of money. There must be some drawback that doesn't show. I hope It isn't haunted."
"That's it, Aunt Jerusha; it's haunted. Several uncomfortable demons have taken possession of it and Jill isn't able to exorcise them. It was a great grief to me at first, and I made a bargain with Jill to keep still about them, but it is an open secret now and she may tell you everything."
"Very well. I can easily explain the mystery. The mischief began with the evil spirits of Ignorance and Incompetence. The carpenter who planned the house knew nothing about our tastes or needs, and the builder was unable to make a comfortable flight of stairs, safe chimneys, smooth floors or tight windows. After these two came another pair, worse than the first—Ostentation and Avarice. They tried to make a grand display and at the same time a large profit on the job. How can I exorcise such demons as these except by tearing down the house?"
"Couldn't you sell it, dear? What seem demons to you might appear like angels of light to some one else," said Aunt Jerusha.
"You are an angel of light to me, Aunt Jerusha," said Jack. "But I might have known you would stand up for my house."
"Aunt Jerusha, there isn't a closet in the whole establishment," said Jill, solemnly, knowing that defect to be an architectural sin which even her aunt's broad charity would fail to cover.
"Oh, Jill! where have you laid your conscience? I can't stay to hear my house abused. Please show Aunt Jerusha the pantry and the china-closet and I will flee to the office."
"Why, yes, to be sure you have a very nice buttery and china-cupboard."
"I meant good, generous closets for the chambers. Of course there's a pantry, but I don't think the arrangement of shelves, drawers and cupboards is very convenient."
"It seems very liberal."
"Yes, but would you advise me to have the pantry in the new house like it?"
"Well, no, dear; since you asked me, I wouldn't. It is possible to have too many conveniences even in a pantry. It is a good plan to have a few cupboards to keep some things from the dust and others from the light, but most of our raw materials now-a-days come in tight boxes or cans, and I find them more handy standing on the shelves than shut up in drawers. I don't suppose it would be so in your case, dear, but a drawer sometimes hides very slovenly habits. It is so easy to drop an untidy thing into a drawer and shove it out of sight. These large wooden boxes, all built in with their covers and handles, look nice and handy, but it's hard to clean them out. I would rather have good wide shelves and light movable tin boxes like those used in the groceries. You could buy them, I suppose, but I had mine made at the tin-shop to fit the shelves. I can take them out and wash them any time, and they never get musty, as wooden boxes will, even with the best of care. But you mustn't be biased by my old-fashioned notions."
"I think they are very good notions if they are old-fashioned. If we have cupboards inside the pantry, drawers inside the cupboards, and boxes and cases inside the drawers, finding the spices is like opening a nest of. Chinese puzzles. A mechanic would never hide the tools in his workshop in that way."
"How do you reach the upper shelves?"
"I never reach them, and all that room is wasted. It is worse than wasted. It is a reservoir for dust and cobwebs."
"Wouldn't it be well, dear, if all the upper part was made into cupboards for things seldom used?"
"Indeed it would. I think I will have the new pantry made something like this: low cupboards next to the floor, for things that; need to be shut up and yet must be handy; on the top of these, which will be not quite three feet high, a very wide shelf; over this several open shelves, as high as I can easily reach; and above the shelves, filling the space to the ceiling, short cupboards entirely around the room for cracked dishes that are too good to throw away, but are never used: for ice-cream freezers in the winter, and a great many more things that belong to the same category—a sort of hospital for disabled or retired culinary utensils. Now we will look at the china closet, but we shall need the gas in order to see it in all its glory, and you can tell Jack it is lovely with a clear conscience."
"I never speak without a clear conscience," said Aunt Jerusha mildly.
A DANGEROUS RIVAL.
"Dear me," said Aunt Jerusha, as Jill, after displaying the kitchen pantry, showed her the windowless china closet, elegant with varnished walnut, plate-glass and silver-plated plumbing, "dear me, this is as fine as a parlor. It seems a real pity to keep it all out of sight."
"The pity is that it was made so fine. I should not object to polished walnut in a light room, although cherry, birch or some other fine-grained, hard, light-colored wood is preferable; but all this ornamental work, these mouldings, cornices and carved handles are worse than useless—they are ugly and troublesome. If I can have my own way—I'm glad Jack isn't here to make comments—I shall have every part of the new pantries as plain and smooth as a marble slab, with not a groove or a moulding to hold dust, and never a crack nor a crevice in which the tiniest spider can hide. The shelves will be thin, light and strong; some wide and some narrow; a wineglass doesn't need as much room as a soup tureen; the cupboard doors shall be as plain as doors can be made, and shall not be hung like these, to swing out against each other at the constant risk of breaking the glass and of pushing something from the narrow shelf in front of them. They ought to slide, one before another, and the front shelf should be wide enough to hold lots of things when they are handed down from the upper part of the cupboards."
"I'm sure the little sink must be handy," said Aunt Jerusha, amiably looking for merits where Jill saw only defects.
"It might be if there was room enough at each side for drainers and for dishes to stand before and after washing. I don't wonder that Jack's china is 'nicked' till the edges look like saw teeth; glass and fine crockery can't be piled up into pyramids even by the most experienced builders without serious damage to the edges. There ought to be four times as much space at each side."
"I suppose there wasn't quite room enough."
"There was always room enough. There's enough now outside, and would have been inside, if the house had been well planned," said Jill rather sharply.
"These are proper, nice, large drawers."
"They are too nice and too large. Even when they are but half full I have to tumble their contents all over to find any particular thing, unless it lies on top. Some drawers ought to be large and some small, but I don't believe there ever was a man," said Jill vehemently, "who knew enough to arrange the small comforts and conveniences for housekeeping. Every day I am exasperated by something which Jack never so much as noticed. When I explain it he laughs and says it is fortunate we have so good an opportunity for learning what to avoid, and all the time I am certain he thinks there will be a great many more faults in the new house. If there are I shall be sorry it is fire-proof."
"Why, Jill, my dear, don't be rash! That doesn't sound like you. You mustn't set your heart on having things exactly to suit you in this world. I've lived a great many years, and a good many times I find it easier to bring my mind to things as they are than it is to make everything come just to my mind. I've seen plenty of women wear themselves out for want of things to do with, and I've seen other women break down from having too many; trying to keep up with all the modern fashions and conveniences, and to manage their houses with the same kind of regularity—'system' they call it—that men use in carrying on a manufacturing business."
"Well, why shouldn't they, Aunt 'Rusha?"
"I'll tell you why, my dear. A business man has a certain, single, definite thing to do or to make. Every day's work is very much like that of the day before. He may try to improve gradually, but, in the main, it is the same thing over and over again. Our home life ought not to be like that. A man ought not to be merely an engine or a cash-book; a woman ought to be something more than a dummy or a fashion-plate; our children should not be like so many spools of thread or suits of clothes, turned in the same lathe, spun to the same yarn, and cut according to the same pattern and rule. I'm sure I could never have done my work and brought up six children without some sort of a system, or if your uncle had been a bad provider. But I never could have got on as well as I have if I had given all my mind to keeping things in order and learning how to use new-fashioned labor-saving contrivances. There's nothing more honorable for womankind," said Aunt Jerusha, as she rolled up her knitting and prepared to set out on her homeward ride, "than housework, but it ain't the chief end of woman, and unless your house is something more than a workshop or a showcase, it will always be a good deal less than a home."
Jill hardly needed this parting admonition, but listened to it and to much more good advice with the respect due to one who, for nearly half a century, had looked well to the ways of her household, whose helping hands were always outstretched to the poor and needy, whose children rose up and called her blessed, and whose husband had never ceased to praise her. After her departure her niece indulged in a short season of solemn reflection, striving faithfully to attain to that wisdom which always knows when to protest against existing circumstances and when to accept them with equanimity. Ultimately she reached the conclusion that, while the house that Jack built might indeed be a thoroughly comfortable home to one who had a contented mind, it was really her duty in her probationary housekeeping to be as critical as possible.
Among other things the doors came in for a share of her usually amiable denunciation. She declared they were huge and heavy enough in appearance for prison cells, yet so loosely put together that their prolonged existence seemed to be a question of glue. They were swollen in the damp, warm weather till they refused to be shut, and would doubtless shrink so much under the influence of furnace heat in the winter that they would refuse to stay shut. The closet doors swung against the windows, excluding instead of admitting the light. The doors of the chambers opened squarely upon the beds, and there seemed to have been no thought of convenient wall spaces for pictures and furniture.
The architect's theory of doors, as expounded in one of his letters, was simple enough: "Outside doors are barricades; they should be solid and strong in fact and in appearance. Inner doors, from room to room, require no special strength; they should turn whichever way gives the freest passage and throws them most out of the way when they are open. Seclusion for the inmates is the chief service of chamber doors, and they should be placed and hung so as not to give a direct glimpse across the bed or into the room the moment they are set even slightly ajar. Closet doors are screens simply, and ought to hide the interior of the closet when they are partially open, as well as when they are closed. They may be as light as it is possible to make them. In many houses one-half the doors might wisely be sent to the auction-room and the proceeds invested in portieres, which are often far more suitable and convenient than solid doors, especially for chamber closets, for dressing-rooms, or other apartments communicating in suites, and not infrequently a heavy curtain is an ample barrier between the principal rooms. It may be well to supplement them, with light sliding doors, to be used in an emergency, but which being rarely seen, may be exceedingly simple and inexpensive, having no resemblance to the rest of the finish in the room. For that matter such conformity is not required of any of the doors, though it is reckoned by builders as one of the cardinal points in hard-wood finish that veneered doors must 'match' the finish of the rooms in which they show. This is absurd. Doors are under no such obligations. They may be of any sort of wood, metal or fabric. They may be veneered, carved, gilded, ebonized, painted, stained or 'decorated.' To finish and furnish a room entirely with one kind of wood, making the wainscot, architraves, cornices, doors and mantels, the chairs, tables, piano, bookcase, or sideboard, all of mahogany, oak, or whatever may be chosen—the floors, too, perhaps, and the picture frames—is strictly orthodox and eminently respectable; but like the invariable use of 'low tones' in decorating walls and ceilings, it betrays a sort of helplessness and lack of courage. Discords in sound, color and form are, indeed, always hateful, and they are sure to be produced when ignorance or accident strikes the keys. Yet, on the other hand, neutrality and monotone are desperately tedious, and it is better to strive and fail than to be hopelessly commonplace."
This advice concerned not the doors alone, but referred to other queries that had been raised as to the interior finish generally.
One evening Jack came home and found Jill "in the dumps," or as near as she ever came to that unhappy state of mind, the consequence, as it appeared, of Aunt Melville's zeal in her behalf.
"Why should these plans worry you?" said Jack. "I thought common sense was your armor and decision your shield against Aunt Melville's erratic arrows of advice."
"My armor is intact, but, for a moment, I have lowered my shield and it has cost me an effort to raise it again, I supposed my mind was fixed beyond the possibility of change, but this is a wonderfully taking plan. At first I felt that if our lot had not been bought and the foundation actually begun we would certainly begin anew and have a house something like these plans. Then it occurred to me that in building a house that is to be our home as long as we live, perhaps, it would be the height of absurdity to tie ourselves down to one little spot on the broad face of this great, beautiful world and live in a house that will never be satisfactory, just because we happen to have this bit of land in our possession and have spent upon it a few hundred dollars."
"Sensible, as usual. What next?"
"Well, this last and best discovery of Aunt Melville's was undoubtedly made like our own plan to fit a particular site, and it seems beginning at the wrong end to arrange the house first and then try to find a lot to suit it."
"I don't see it in that light," said Jack. "I know the architect has been preaching the importance of adapting the plan to the lot, but if two thousand dollars are going into the land and eight thousand into the house, I should say the house is entitled to the first choice."
"Certainly, if it was a city lot, with no character of its own, a mere rectangular piece of land shut in upon three sides and open at one. But ours has certain strong points not to be found in any other unoccupied lot in town. Besides, there are other reasons why it would not answer for us; but if our lot was right for it, and if we wanted so large a house, how I should enjoy building it!"
"I don't see anything so very remarkable about the plan," said Jack, taking up the drawings.
"My dear, short-sighted husband," said Jill with the utmost impressiveness of tone and manner, "it is a one-story house. 'There shall be no more stairs' sounds almost as delightful as the scriptural promise of no more sea. And look at the plan itself: The great square vestibule, or reception-room, with the office at one side—wouldn't you enjoy that, Jack?—then a few steps higher the big keeping-room, with a huge fireplace confronting you, and room enough for—anything. For games, for dancing, for a billiard table, for a grand piano, for a hammock—or—"
"Say a sewing machine, a spinning-wheel or something useful."
"Anything you like, a studio or a picture gallery, for it is twice as high as the other rooms, and lighted from the roof. At the right of this, and with such a great wide door between them that they seem like two parts of the same room, is the sitting-room, with another great fireplace in the corner, bay window and a conservatory fronting the wide entrance to the dining-room, at the farther end of which there is still another grand fireplace, with a stained-glass window above it. These three rooms—four, if we count the conservatory—are just as near perfection as possible. Then see the long line of chambers, closets and dressing-rooms running around the south and east sides, every one with a southern window, and all communicating with the corridor that leads from the keeping-room, yet sufficiently united to form a complete family suite. The first floor—I mean the one floor—is five or six feet from the ground, so there can be no dampness in the rooms—and just think what a cellar! Altogether too much for us."
"Indeed, there isn't. I'd have a bowling alley, a skating rink, a machine shop, a tennis court, and—a rifle range. Yes, it is a taking plan, but there are two things that I don't understand. How can you cover such a big box, and where is the cooking to be done?"
"The old rule of two negatives applies. Even a one-story house must have a roof, and the breadth of this makes a roof large enough to hold not only the kitchen but the servants' room on the same upper level."
"A kitchen up stairs!" exclaimed Jack, for once startled into solemnity.
"Aunt Melville considers this the crowning glory of the plan. Owing to this elevation of the cooking range there is no back door, no back yard, no chance for an uncouth or an unsightly precinct at either side of the house."
"That would be something worth living for. I think, Jill, we had better examine these plans a little farther."
A NEW WAY OF GETTING UP STAIRS AND A NEW MISSIONARY FIELD.
"The question of getting up stairs," said Jack, as they continued the study of the one-story plan, "is at least an interesting one. It seems to be accepted as a foregone conclusion that modern dwelling houses, even in the country, where the cost of the land actually covered by the house is of no consequence, must be two stories at least above the basement; but I doubt whether this principle in the evolution of domestic habitations is well established. Between the aboriginal wigwam, whose first and only floor is the bare earth itself, and the 'high-basement-four-story-and-French-roof' style, there is somewhere the happy medium which our blessed posterity—blessed in having had such wise ancestors—will universally adopt as the fittest survivor of our uncounted fashions. I fancy it will be much nearer to this one-story house, with the high basement and big attic, than to the seven-story mansard with sub-cellar for fuel and furnace. Still the tendency during the last fifty years has been upward. Our grandfathers preferred to sleep on the ground floor; we should expect to be carried off by burglars or malaria if we ventured to close our eyes within ten feet of the ground. Our city cousins like to be two or three times as high. Under these circumstances building a one-story house would be likely to prove a flying-not in the face of Providence, but, what is reckoned more dangerous and discreditable—flying in the face of custom. Humility isn't popular in the matter of house-building."
"I am not afraid of custom, and have no objection to a reasonable humility," said Jill, "but I never once thought of burglars. If a house has but one floor I think it should be so for from the ground as to be practically a 'second' floor. The main point is to have all the family rooms on one level."
"That is, a 'flat.'"
"Yes, one flat; not a pile of flats one above another, as they are built in cities, but one large flat raised high enough to be entirely removed from the moisture of the ground, to give a pleasant sense of security from outside intrusion and to afford convenient outlooks from the windows. One or two guest rooms, that are not often used, might be on a second floor, under the roof, if there was space enough."
"But this plan has the servants' chambers, the kitchen and the store closets all in the roof. Isn't that rather overdoing the matter?"
"Better in the attic than in the basement. It is light, dry and 'airy.' There is no danger that the odors of cooking will come down, and as for the extra trouble, a well-arranged elevator will take supplies from the basement up twenty feet to the level of the kitchen, store-rooms and pantries as easily as they could be taken the usual distances horizontally. In brief, a kitchen above the dining-room is at worst no more 'inconvenient' than below it. Of course, there must be stairs even in a one-story house, but they would not be in constant use. Instead of living edgewise, so to speak, we should be spread out flatwise. We could climb when we chose, but should not of necessity be forever climbing. Yes, I like this plan exceedingly, not alone for its one principal floor, but I have always had a fancy for the 'rotunda' arrangement—one large central apartment for any and all purposes, out of which the rooms for more special and private uses should open. Indeed, I don't see how a very large house can be built in any other way without leaving a considerable part of the interior as useless for domestic as Central Africa is for political purposes. With this arrangement the central keeping-room, lighted from above, may be as large as a circus tent, and all the surrounding cells will be amply supplied with light and air from the outside walls.
"According to Aunt Melville's enthusiastic account, the construction of the house is but little less than marvelous. 'The high walls of the basement are built of those native, weather-stained and lichen-covered boulders, the walls above being of a material hitherto unknown to builders. You will scarcely believe it when I tell you they are nothing else than the waste rubbish from brickyards, the rejected accumulations of years—not by any means the unburned, but the overburned, the hard, flinty, molten, misshapen and highly-colored masses of burned clay which indeed refused to be consumed, but have been twisted into shapeless blocks by the fervent heat. Of course, with such unconventional materials for the main walls it would be a silly affectation to embellish the exterior of the house with elaborate mouldings or ornamental wood-work, and the visible details are therefore plain to the verge of poverty. But as men of great genius can disregard the trifling formalities of society, so there are no architectural rules which this house is obliged to respect.'"
"That suits me perfectly," said Jack; "but I am amazed at Aunt Melville. Never before did she make such a concession even to great genius. Never before have I felt inclined to agree with her; but the conviction has grown upon me of late that the new house is in danger of being too much like other houses. If a fellow is really going in for reform, I like to have him go the whole figure. What do you say to beginning anew and building such a house as no mortal ever built before—something to make everybody wonder what manner of people they are who live in such a habitation—something to convince our neighbors that we are no weak-minded time-servers, but are able to be an architectural as well as domestic law unto ourselves—something to make them stop and stare—a sort of local Greenwich from which the community will reckon their longitude—'so many miles from the house that Jill built'?"
"My dear, did it ever occur to you that you cannot be too thankful for a wife who is not blown about by every wind of new doctrine? I do like the plan of 'The Oaks' exceedingly, not only for itself, but for the spirit of it, for its breadth and freedom. It seems to me a charming illustration of the true gospel of home architecture. There is no thoughtless imitation of something else that suits another place and another family. Neither does it appear that the owner tried to make a vain display for the sake of 'astonishing the natives.' He knew what he wanted, and built the house to suit his wants, using the simplest, the cheapest and the most durable materials at hand in the most direct and unaffected manner. Did you notice in the sketch of the keeping-room fireplace the little gallery passing across the end of the room above the entrance to the sitting-room? Probably you thought that was built for purely ornamental purposes, but it isn't. It is simply the walk from the kitchen to another part of the attic, which can be most conveniently reached by this interior bridge. Of course it adds to the interest and beauty of the room, but it was not made for that purpose, and, as I understand the matter, it is all the more beautiful because it was first made to be useful. There is another thing in this house—the elevator—which, queerly enough, we do not often find in houses of more aspiring habit, where it would he of even greater value. It is amazing to me that housekeepers will go on tugging trunks, coal-hods and heavy merchandise of all kinds up stairways, day after day and year after year, when a simple mechanical contrivance, moved by water, or weights and pulleys, would save us from all these heavy burdens. Think of the bruised knuckles, the trembling limbs that stagger along with the upper end of a Saratoga 'cottage,' the broken plastering at the sides, the paper patched with bright new pieces that look 'almost worse' than the uncovered rents, and the ugly marks of perspiring fingers."
"All of which I have seen and a part of which I have been," said Jack. "I intended to have a lift in this house, but somehow it was left out."
"Our architect." Jill continued, "must be instructed to arrange not only an easy staircase, but there must be a paneled wainscot at the side. We will dispense with elegance in any other quarter, if need be, in order to have the stairs ample, strong and well protected. I am not over-anxious to have them ornate, although handsome stairs are very charming if well placed; like many other beautiful things, they become incurably ugly when too obtrusive. The architect has sent several designs of balustrades from which we are to choose, and gives this advice about the dimensions: 'As you have plenty of room, the staircase should be four or four and a-half feet wide, so that two people can easily walk over it abreast, I have arranged to make the steps twelve inches wide, besides the projection that forms the finish—the "nosing"—and six inches high; that is, six inches "rise" and twelve inches "run." Some climbers think this too flat, and perhaps it is in certain situations; but for homes, for easy, leisurely ascent by children and old folks. I think it better than a steeper pitch. All large dwelling-houses, and some small ones, ought to be supplied with "passenger elevators," at least from the first to the second story. Those who take the rooms still higher are usually able to make the ascent in the common way. Such an elevator can undoubtedly be made that will be safe and economical, especially where there is an ample water supply.'"
"The safety is the most troublesome part of the problem," said Jack; "and I can think of no way to overcome the danger of walking off the precipice, when the platform happens to be at the bottom, but by having the car run up an inclined plane. There would be no more danger of falling down this than down a common stairway, and the car might be fixed so it couldn't move up or down faster than a walk or a slow trot."
"Would you like to experiment in the new house? You may do so—at your own expense—if you will promise not to spoil the plan. Among the designs for the stairs there is one that will be of no service to us—the screen at the foot of the stairs; our 'reception' hall will be separated from the staircase hall by the chimney and the curtains at the sides."
"I have an idea," exclaimed Jack, "a truly philanthropic one. You know we are accumulating a large stock of plans, to say nothing of general information on architectural subjects, which we cannot possibly use ourselves, but which ought not to be wasted. Now you know Bessie is pining for a mission.".
"Bessie has gone home."
"I know, but she will come back if we send for her and tell her that she and Jim are to be sent out in the express wagon on a benevolent expedition to the heathens—the uncultured domestic heathens. We can have some of the architect's letters printed in tract form for them to distribute, and they can take along these superfluous plans to be applied where they will be most effective. Take, for instance, this hall screen, or whatever it may be, with the square staircase behind it. This would be just the thing for one of those old-fashioned square houses with the hall running through the middle and the long staircase splitting the hall in two lengthwise. If Bessie could persuade the owner of a single one of these old houses to take out the straight and narrow stairs, move them back, and, by introducing this semblance of a separation, make a reception hall of the front part, she would feel that she had not lived in vain. If she could at the same time cause cashmere shawls and rag carpets to be hung as portieres in place of doors to the front rooms she would be ready for translation."
Jill laughed. "I'm not sure," said she, "but this is a good field for people of missionary proclivities. Some of these old-fashioned houses have far more real, artistic excellence than those of the later, transition periods, and need but slight alterations to be most satisfactory types of architectural beauty as well as models of comfort and convenience. Broad, easy stairs, wide doorways and generous windows, with ample porches and piazzas outside, would transform them and make them not merely as good as new, but vastly better. Reopening fireplaces that have been ignominiously bricked up would be another promising field."
"Oh! I tell you my idea is a capital one. I'll send for Bess this very day. They shall have Bob and the express wagon a week if they want it. They shall dispense an esthetic gospel and accumulate ancient bric-a-brac to their hearts' content. Bessie will be in ecstacies, and Jim will be in a helpless state of amazement and admiration."
"How perfectly absurd, Jack! I wouldn't allow those children to go off on such an excursion for all the old houses in America. One would think you were determined to have an esthetic sister-in-law at all hazards."
"Never thought of such a thing! But now that you suggest it—"
"I haven't suggested it," said Jill indignantly.
"Well, you put it into my head at all events, and really now it wouldn't be such a bad idea. Jim is behind the times, artistically speaking, and needs to be waked up; and as for Bess, she would very soon learn to be careful how she expressed a longing for the unattainable, for Jim is a practical fellow, and whatever she wanted he would go for in a twinkling. Honestly, Jill, it strikes me as a first-class notion, and I'm glad you suggested it."
"I didn't suggest it, and I think it would be a dreadful thing—I mean to send them off on another excursion. I am not sure, however, but we might found an A.B.C.A.M. with the materials and implements in our possession."
THE RIGHT SIDE OF PAINT; A PROTEST AND A PROMISE.
Jack's benevolent ambition to distribute their superfluous plans among those in need of such aids was strengthened by the receipt of another roll of drawings, showing designs for the interior work, wainscots, cornices, architraves, paneled ceilings and such wood finishings as are commonly found in houses that are built in conventional fashion, with lathed and plastered walls, trimmed at all corners and openings with wood more or less elaborately wrought. Of course, it was a large condescension in the architect to offer such a variety, and contrary to his avowed determination to decide without appeal all questions of construction and design, but he appreciated his clients and knew when to break his own rules and when to insist upon their observance. If Jill, had required an assortment he would doubtless have suggested that certain "practical" builders could furnish a full line of ready-made "artistic" patterns for little more than the cost of the paper on which they were printed; from these he would have advised her to select her own designs, as she might have chosen from a medicine chest sweet-smelling drops or sugar-coated pills of varying hue and form—the result would doubtless he as satisfactory in one case as in the other. Since she had not demanded it as an inalienable right he gave her an opportunity to criticise and select, which she accepted by no means unwillingly. As a rule, the designs were, in her opinion, too elaborate and obtrusive. There were too many mouldings, there was too much carving, and too evident a purpose to provide a finish that should challenge attention by its extent or elegance. It would require too much labor to keep it in order, and—it would cost too much. If she could not have work that was truly artistic, and therefore enduringly beautiful, whatever changes of fashion might occur, it was her wish to keep all the essential part of the building and finish modestly in the background, not attempting to make it ornamental, but relying upon the furniture for whatever conspicuous ornament or decoration might be desired. Nothing annoyed her more than an elegantly-finished house scantily provided with shabby, incongruous and misapplied furniture. The amiable concession of the architect came near causing a fatal quarrel, as amiable concessions are apt to do, for he found it almost impossible to satisfy Jill's taste in the direction of simplicity; he seemed to feel that he was neglecting his duty if he gave her plain, narrow bands of wood absolutely devoid of all design beyond a designation of their width and thickness. Any carpenter's boy could make such plans. "It would be worse," he wrote, "than prescribing bread pills and 'herb drink' for a sick man." To which Jill replied in substance that the needs of the patient are more important than professional rules.
Over the first great question, regarding the visible wood work of the interior, Jack and Jill had held many protracted discussions: should any of it be painted, or should all the wood be left to show its natural graining and color? To the argument that unpainted wood is not only "natural" but strictly genuine and more interesting than paint, Jack replied that "natural" things are not always beautiful; that paint, which makes no pretense of being anything but paint, is as genuine as shellac or varnish, and that if the object is to be interesting, the bark, the knots, the worm-holes, and, if possible, the worms themselves should be displayed. "Besides," said he, "if we decide on hard wood, who shall choose the kinds? There's beech, birch and maple; cherry, whitewood and ebony; ash and brown ash and white ash and black ash; ditto oak, drawn and quartered; there's rosewood, redwood, gopherwood and wormwood; mahogany, laurel, holly and mistletoe; cedar of Lebanon and pine of Georgia, not to mention chestnut, walnut, butternut, cocoanut and peanut, all of which are popular and available woods for finishing modern dwellings. If we choose from this list, which may be indefinitely extended, the few kinds for which we can find room in our house, we shall be tormented with regret as long as we both do live because we didn't choose something else. Now if we paint, behold how simple a thing it is! We buy a lot of white pine boards, put them up where they belong and paint them in whatever unnamable hues the prevailing fashion may chance to dictate. Our boards need not even be of the best quality; an occasional piece of sound sap, a few hard knots, or now and then a 'snoodledog'—as they say in Nantucket—would do no harm. A prudent application of shellac and putty before painting will make everything right. Then if the fashions change, or if we should be refined beyond our present tastes and wish to go up higher, all we should need to lift the house to the same elevated plane is—another coat of paint. On the other hand, if we had a room finished in old English oak, growing blacker and blacker every year; in mahogany or in cheap and mournful black walnut, what could we do if the imperious mistress of the world should decree light colors? With rare, pale, faded tints on the walls our strong, bold, heavy hard-wood finish would be painful in the extreme. We couldn't change the wood and we couldn't change the fashion."
"If you were not my own husband, Jack, I should say you were dreadfully obtuse. Concerning fashions in house-building and furnishing I feel very much as Martin Luther felt about certain, formal religious dogmas. If we are asked to respect them as a matter of amiable compliance, if we find them convenient, agreeable and at the same time harmless, then let us quietly accept them; but, if we are commanded to obey them as vital, if they are set before us as solemn obligations to be reverenced as we reverence the everlasting truth, then, for Heaven's sake, let us tear them in pieces and trample them under our feet, lest we lose our power to distinguish the substance from the shadow. The moment any particular style of building, finishing or furnishing becomes a recognized fashion, that moment I feel inclined to turn against it with all my might."
"If you were not my own idolized wife, I should say that was 'pure cussedness.'"
"On the contrary, it is high moral principle; that is, moral principle applied to art. It is a simple, outright impossibility for human beings to have any true perception of art while a shadow of a thought of fashion remains. It is, indeed, possible that fashion may, for a moment, follow the straight and narrow road that leads to artistic excellence, as the fitful breath of a cyclone may, at a certain point in its giddy whirl, run parallel with the ceaseless sweep of the mighty trade-winds, but whoever tries to keep constantly in its track is sure to be hopelessly astray."
"My dear, indignant, despiser of fashion, you know you wouldn't wear a two-year-old bonnet to church, on a pleasant Sunday morning, for the price of a pew in the broad aisle."
"Certainly not; that would be both mercenary and irreverent; moreover, my bonnet has nothing to do with artistic rules. It is not a work of art or of science, of nature or of grace. It is a conventional signal by which I announce a friendly disposition toward the follies of my fellow-creatures—a sort of flag of truce, a badge of my conformity in little things. I wear it voluntarily and could lay it aside if I chose."
"Undoubtedly, if you chose. Now, let us resume the original discussion. I had given one powerful argument in favor of paint when I was rashly interrupted: here is another—it is much cheaper."
"That would depend," said Jill. "Ash, butternut, cherry and various other woods cost little, if any more, than the best pine, and the pine itself is very pretty for chambers."
"Ah, but you forget the labor question. It is one thing to join two pieces of wood so closely as to leave no visible crack between them, and quite another to bring them into the same neighborhood, fill the chasm with putty and hide the whole under a coat of paint. The difference between these two kinds of joints is the difference between one stroke and two, between one day's work and five days, between one thousand dollars and five thousand. My third argument you will surely appreciate. Paint is more artistic." Here Jack paused to give his words effect; then proceeded like one walking on stilts. "Pure tones symphoniously gradated from contralto shadows to the tender brightness of the upper registers and harmoniously blended with the prevailing quality—"
"Oh, Jack! Don't go any farther, you are already beyond your depth. When you attempt to quote Bessie's sentiments you should have her letter before you. Perhaps I have a dim perception of the principle that underlies your thirdly. If so, this room is a pertinent illustration of it. Instead of all this white paint, if the wood work had been colored to match the predominant tint in the background of the paper, or a trifle darker, this being also the general 'tone' of the carpet, it is easy to see how the coloring of the room would have been simple and pleasing, instead of glaring and ugly. Yes, your plea for paint is not without value. I think, however, it would be entirely possible to stain the unpainted wood to produce any desired symphony, fugue or discord. It might be unnatural, especially if we wished to look blue, but it would not conceal the marking and shading of the grain of the wood which is so much prettier than any moulding or carving, and vastly easier to keep in order. Your economical arguments are always worth considering. I think the happy compromise for us will be to use hard wood in the first story and painted pine in the chambers, with various combinations and exceptions. The bath-rooms, halls and dressing-rooms of the second story should of course be without paint, and we may relieve the solid monotony of the hardwood finish with occasional fillets or bands of color, painted panels or any other irregularities we choose to invent. But this is invading the mighty and troublous realm of 'interior decoration,' from which I had resolved to keep at a respectful distance until the house is at least definitely planned in all its details."
A wise decision, for although what we call in a general way "interior decoration" is closely allied to essential construction—not infrequently seems to be a part of it—there is still a sharp though often unseen line between them that cannot be crossed with impunity. Artistic construction is at best only second cousin to decoration, and while we may in building arrange to accommodate a certain style of furniture or ornament, as Bessie's friend built her parlor to suit the rug, the result of such contriving is apt to be discouraging if not disastrous.
"Two things we must surely have," said Jill, "which the architect has not sent; one, an old fashion, the other, a new one. We must have 'chair rails,' in every room down stairs that has not a solid wainscot, if I have to make the plans and put them up myself. We must also have another band of wood higher up entirely around every room in both stories, to which the pictures can be hung."
"Perhaps the architect will object to this as interfering with his plans."
"He cannot, for they belong to our side of the house; they are matters of use, not of design. He may put them where he pleases, within reasonable limits, and make them of any pattern, with due regard to cost. He may treat one as part of the dado, the other as a member of the cornice, if he chooses, but we must have them—they are indispensable."
"They are also dangerous, because they are fashionable."
"Yes, an illustration of the temporary agreement of fashion and common sense. But things of real worth do not go out of fashion; fashion goes out of them; henceforth they live by their own merit and no one questions their right to be."
"Have you written to Bessie?"
"Written to Bessie? What for?"
"Why, to come and get ready to start on her mission."
"No, indeed; I supposed you had forgotten that absurd notion."
"Not at all absurd. I mentioned it to Jim, and he was delighted. Offered to go up and escort her down. He said they could go out in a different direction every day and do a great deal of good in the course of a week."
"Jack, I am ashamed of you! Don't mention the subject to me again."
"What shall I say to Jim?"
"You needn't say anything to Jim. Tell him I am going to invite Bessie to visit us in the new house, and if he is in this part of the world I will send for him at the same time."
"And that will be a full year, for the house is hardly begun."
"Yes, a full year."
THE HOUSE FINISHED AND THE HOME BEGUN.
It was indeed a full year for Jill before Bessie received the promised invitation. Not merely full as to its complement of days, but full of new cares, interests and activities. It is needless to say it was also a happy year. Building a house for a home is a healthful experience, a liberal education to one who can give personal attention to it; who has some knowledge of plans with enough imagination to have a fair conception of what they will be when executed; who is content to receive a reasonable return for a given outlay, not anxious to get the best end of every bargain, nor over-fearful of being cheated; who cares more for home comfort than for a fine display, and whose soul is never vexed by the comments of Mrs. Grundy, nor tormented by the decrees of fashion.
The question was raised, whether the house should be built by contract or by "day's work." The worldly-wise friends advised the former. Otherwise they affirmed the cost of the house would exceed the appropriation by fifty, if not a hundred, per cent., since it would be for the interest of both architect and builders to make the house as costly and the job as long as possible. And, while it was doubtless true that "day work" is likely to be better than "job work," still, if the plans and specifications were clearly drawn and the contract made as strong as the pains and penalties of the law could make it, the contractor might be compelled to keep his agreement and furnish "first-class" work.
Jill's father settled this point at once. "It is true," said he, "that the plans and specifications should be clearly drawn, that you may see the end from the beginning, and it will be well to carefully estimate the cost, lest, having begun to build, you should be unable to finish. But I am neither willing to hold any man to an agreement, however legal it may be, that requires him to give me more than I have paid for, nor, on the other hand, do I wish to pay him more than a fair value for his work and material. You cannot avoid doing one of these two things in contracting such work as your house, for it is impossible to estimate its cost with perfect accuracy, and no specifications, however binding, can draw a well-defined line between 'first' and 'second'-class work. A general contract may be the least of a choice of evils in some cases; it is not so in yours. If you know just what you want, the right mode of securing it is to hire honest, competent workmen and pay them righteous wages. If, before the work is completed, you find the cost has been underestimated, stop when your money is spent. It may be mortifying and inconvenient to live in an unfinished house; it is far more so to be burdened with debt or an uneasy conscience. There is another thing to be remembered: We hear loud lamentations over the dearth of skillful, trusty laborers. There is no way of promoting intelligent, productive industry—which is the basis of all prosperity—but by employing artisans in such a way that the personal skill and fidelity of each one shall have their legitimate reward. The contract system, as usually practiced, acts in precisely an opposite direction. Your house must be built 'by the day' Jill, or I shall recall my gift." That question was settled. The good and wise man had previously decided as peremptorily an early query relating to the plans. When it was known that a new house was to be built, several architects, with more conceit than self-respect, proposed to offer plans "in open competition"—not to be paid for unless accepted—concerning which Jill had asked her father's advice.
"What should you think of a physician," said he, "who, on hearing that you were ill, should hasten to present himself with a prescription and a bottle of medicine, begging you to read the one, test the other, and, if they made a favorable impression, give him the job of curing you? There are such who call themselves physicians; other people call them quacks, and there is one place for their gratuitous offerings—the fire. I shall burn any plans that are presented in this way. Choose your architect at the outset, and give him all possible aid in carrying out your wishes, but do not employ one of those who must charge a double price for their actual work in order to work for nothing half the time. In any other business such a practice would be condemned at once."
"Isn't it the same thing as offering samples of goods?"
"No, it is offering the goods themselves—the top of the barrel at that."
Of course this did not apply to the contributions that were prompted by personal friendship, of which Jill, as we have seen, received her full share, none of them, excepting the one-story plan, proving in the least tempting.
As the race of competent, industrious mechanics is not yet extinct, whatever the croakers may say such were found to build the house, which was well closed in before winter. The walls and roof were completed and the plastering dried while the windows could be left open without danger of freezing, a most important thing, because although mortar may be kept from freezing by artificial heat, the moisture it contains, unless expelled from the house, will greatly retard the "seasoning" of the frame and the walls of the building. After it has all been blown out of the windows, if the house is kept warm and dry the fine wood-finishing will "keep its place" best if put up in winter rather than in summer. For the most carefully seasoned and kiln-dried lumber will absorb moisture so rapidly in the hot, steaming days of June and in the damp dog-day weather that no joiner's skill can prevent cracks from appearing when the dry furnace heat has drawn the moisture from its pores.
One year is a reasonable length of time for building a common dwelling-house. Twelve months from the day the workmen appeared to dig the foundation trenches the last pile of builder's rubbish was taken away and the new, clean, bright, naked, empty house stood ready for the first load of furniture. If the social and domestic tastes of Jack and Jill have been even slightly indicated, it is unnecessary to say that this first load did not consist of the brightest and best products of the most fashionable manufacturers. Aunt Melville had sent a few ornaments and two or three elegant trifles in the way of furniture, a chair or two in which no one could sit without danger of mutual broken limbs, and a table that, like many another frail beauty, might enjoy being supported but could never bear any heavier burden than a card-basket, and was liable to be upset by the vigorous use of dust-brush or broom. "They will help to furnish your rooms," said the generous aunt, "and will give a certain style that cannot be attained with furniture that is simply useful."
The ornaments that were ornamental and nothing more Jill accepted gratefully. The furniture that must be protected to preserve its beauty, and generally avoided lest it should be broken, she returned, begging her aunt to give it to some one having a larger house.
On one of those perfect days that are so rare, even in June, Bessie appeared in all the glory of the lilies. To Jill's surprise, her first remark after the customary effusive greeting was, "How lovely it is to have a home of your own. I shouldn't care if it was made of slabs and shaped like a wigwam. Of course, this house is exquisite. I knew it would be, but it is ten times as large as I should want. It will be so much work to take care of it."
"I don't expect to take care of it alone."
"I know you don't, but I should want to take care of my own house, if I had one, every bit of it. Oh, you needn't look so amazed. I know what I am saying. I have learned to cook, and dust, and sweep, and kindle fires, and polish, silver, and—and black stoves!"
No wonder Jill was dumb while Bessie went on at a breathless rate.
"And do you know, Jill dear, I wouldn't take this house if you would give it to me. There! I would a thousand times rather have a little bit of a cottage, just large enough for—for two people, and everything in it just as cosy and simple as it could be. Then we—then I could learn to paint and decorate—I've learned a little already—and embroider and such things, and slowly, very slowly, you know, I would fill the house with pretty things that would belong to it and be a part of it, and a part of me, too, because I made them."
"Wouldn't it be much cheaper and better to hire some skillful artist to do these things?" said Jill, taking refuge in matter-of-fact.
"If I hired any one of course it would be an artist, but our homes are not dear to us because they are beautiful, it is because they are ours, because we have worked for them and in them until they are a part of ourselves. I love artistic things as well as I ever did, but there are some things that are ten thousand times lovelier."
Before Jill had recovered from her astonishment at Bessie's transformed sentiments or imagined their cause, who should drive up but Aunt Jerusha. She and Bessie had never met before, but the mysterious laws of affinity, that pay no regard to outward circumstances or expectations, brought them at once into the warmest sympathy. Jill had provided extremely pretty china for her table, and for Bessie's sake had brought out certain rare pieces not intended for every-day use. It was contrary to her rule to make any difference between "every-day" and "company days." "Nothing is too good for Jack," was the basis of her argument. The one exception was china. But Bessie was absolutely indifferent to the frail and costly pottery. She was intent on learning domestic wisdom from Aunt Jerusha, and insisted upon writing in her note-book the recipes for everything she ate and recording the rules for carrying on whatever household matters chanced to be mentioned, from waxing floors to canning tomatoes. Jack strove to enliven the conversation by throwing in elaborate remarks upon the true sphere of women, the uncertainty of matrimonial ventures and the deceitfulness of mankind in general. Jill meanwhile preserved her equanimity upon all points relating to her house. She admitted the force of Aunt Jerusha's suggestion that a portion of the long serving-table in the kitchen should be movable and a door made from kitchen to china-closet, to be kept locked, as a rule, but available in an emergency, when one or both servants were sick or discharged; she appreciated her advice to form the habit of washing the silver and fine glasses with her own hands before leaving the table; she was able to repeat her favorite recipes correctly; she carved gracefully, as a lady ought, and gave due attention to her guests. Beyond these duties she was in a state of bewilderment. What had happened to Bessie, and what new mischief Jack was incubating were puzzles she could neither solve nor dismiss.
By one of those coincidences, not half as rare as they seem, at four o'clock the same day Aunt and Uncle Melville appeared upon the scene. They were spending a short time at a summer hotel in the vicinity, and Jill persuaded them to stay for tea, sending their carriage back for Cousin George and his wife, who were at the same place. She also invited her father and mother to improve the opportunity to make a small family gathering. "I suppose you know Jim is coming over this evening," said Jack. "Don't you think he had better bring Uncle Harry along?"
"I didn't know Jim was coming, but he is always welcome, and Uncle Harry too. Your father and mother, of course, if they are able to come out this evening."
"Oh, they are coming, anyway," Jack began and stopped suddenly. "That is, I mean, certainly they will be delighted, if you send for them."
Jill was more puzzled than ever, but they all came.
"Now, you will please consider yourselves a 'board of visitors,'" said she, as they sat at the table after tea, "authorized to inspect this institution and report your impressions."
"Remembering that Jill is the warden and I am the prisoner," said Jack.
"But you must conduct us to the cells," said her father, rising, "and tell us what to admire."
Jill accordingly began at the beginning. She showed them the light vestibule, with a closet at one side for umbrellas and overshoes, and a seat at the other; the central hall that would be used as a common reception-room, and on such occasions as the present, would become a part of one large apartment—the entire first floor of the main house; the staircase with the stained-glass windows climbing the side; the toilet-room from the garden entrance and the elevator reaching from the basement to the attic. She showed them the family suite of rooms; her own in the southeast corner, with the dressing-room and adjoining chamber toward the west, and Jack's room over the front hall, with the large guest-room above the dining-room. She urged them to count the closets and notice their ample size; referred with pride to the servants' rooms, and explained how there was space in the roof for two chambers and a billiard-room, if they should ever want them. With true housekeeper's pride she declared the beauties and wonders of the kitchen arrangements, a theme that had been often rehearsed, and from the kitchen they descended to the basement, which contained the well-lighted laundry, the servants' bath-room and store-rooms without name or number; some warm and sunny, others cool and dark, but all dry and well ventilated.
Then they returned to the drawing-room to make their reports.
"It's too large," said Bessie.
"It isn't small enough," said Jim.
"The third floor is not the proper place for a billiard-table," remarked Uncle Melville, sententiously. "It is too remote for such a social pastime; too difficult of access; too—too—er—"
"The house looks smaller than it is," said Aunt Melville, "which I consider a serious defect. It ought to look larger; it should have a tower, and the front door should be toward the street."
"Your chambers are excellent," said Uncle Harry. "The personality of human beings should be respected. The chief object of home is to give to each individual a chance for unfettered development. Every soul is a genius at times and feels the necessity of isolation. Especially do we need to be alone in sleep, and to this end every person in a house is entitled to a separate apartment. I commend the family suite."
"A nobby house," said Cousin George.
"I like our own better," said his wife, sotto voce, which was a worthy sentiment and should have been openly expressed. Fondness for our own is the chief of domestic virtues.
"Is it paid for?" inquired Jack's father. To which Jack replied:
"It is: and the house that I built is sold to the most stylish people you ever saw. They paid me more than this cost, but I wouldn't swap with them for a thousand dollars to boot."
"No; neither would they change with us for two thousand."
Just as the clock struck nine the door-bell rang and the rector and his wife were announced. Before Jill could realize what was taking place she found herself an amazed and helpless spectator in her own house, for Jim and Bessie stood side by side under the curtains leading to the library, and the rector was reading the solemn marriage service. By way of calming her excitement Jack found a chance to whisper to Jill,
"They have been engaged six months."
"You unnatural husband! Why didn't you tell me?"
"Didn't know it myself till this afternoon."
There was no time for further explanations, for the good rector was saying: "I am sure you will agree with me that building and cherishing a consecrated home is the noblest work we can do on earth. From such homes spring all public and private excellence, all patriotic virtues, all noble charities and philanthropies, all worthy service of God and man. Whether high or low, rich or poor, in all times and in all places, domestic life, in its purity and strength, is the safeguard of individuals and the bulwark of nations. And when, in after years, other solemn sacraments shall be performed beneath this roof, may it still be found a sacred temple of peace and love!"
Bessie and Jim kept house in two chambers until a cottage of four rooms, with an attic and wood-shed, was finished, which happened before cold weather. Her wedding present from Jack was an express wagon full of obsolete household utensils. She had learned to make the fire in the kitchen, and nothing was more acceptable than such a load of dry kindling wood.
The house that Jill built cost ten thousand dollars. Jim's cost less than one thousand. Bessie declares that the smaller the house the greater the happiness it contains. She may be right, but Jill denies it, and it is never safe to draw general conclusions from special cases.
TEN YEARS AFTER.
Jack, Jr., and his sister Bessie, were building block houses on the piazza. Jack was pretending to read the evening paper, in reality watching the builders; and Jill was making no pretense of doing anything else.
"Really Jack, I think Bessie shows more skill in building than her brother. Her houses look like realities, and they have more grace and dignity than his."
"Of course. Haven't I always said that women would make the best architects if they had a fair chance? Didn't you make the plans of this house? Hasn't it been all our fancy painted and a great deal more? There isn't a stick nor a stone, a brick nor a shingle that I would have changed if we were to build it again."
"And haven't I always said that men were more conservative than women? I would be glad to change everything there is in the house to build it all over again, and build it differently."
"Oh the inconstancy of women! Even the moon is more constant, for her changes are only superficial and temporary."
"When I say; 'I have changed my mind,' it is only another way of saying, 'I am wiser to-day than I was yesterday.'"
"I understand; what a Jacob's ladder of wisdom you must be! All right; change your mind every day, grow wiser and wiser; I will try to keep the hem of your garments in sight."
"Have you selected a lot?"
"For a new house."
"Bless you, my dear husband, I wouldn't build another house, still less live in it, for all the wealth of the treasury vaults. Isn't this our own? Hasn't it always been perfectly suited to our wants? What upon earth are you thinking of?"
"Oh, nothing in particular. I never think if I can help it. I have heard that a man ought always to build two houses, one to learn how, the second to correct the mistakes of the first. I thought perhaps it was the same way with women."
"This house was exactly right when it was built, it could not have been improved, but that was ten years ago, and a great many things have happened in the last ten years; but, then, a great many more will happen in the next ten, and ten years hence there will be just as many things to change in the houses that are built this year as there are now in those that are of the same age as ours."
"But how would you change this house if it could be done by a magic wand or by the exercise of faith, and without raising a speck of dust or upsetting the housekeeping affairs for a single minute?"
"I would make it larger for one thing. Our rooms are too small. The number of rooms a house contains should depend on the number of people there are to live in it, including all the children, the guests and the servants, with a certain allowance for contingencies."
"Depending on the hospitality of the family."
"Yes; and whatever the number of rooms, they should be large enough, not merely to hold the occupants when the doors are shut, but for comfortable living and moving about. There is nothing in which all men and women are more conservative than in the planning of their houses; there seems to be something hereditary about it, as difficult to change as a tendency to bald heads and awkward locomotion. Americans are special sufferers in this respect. The primitive Anglo-American home was only a step removed from the wigwams of the aboriginal savages, in size, shape and general accommodations. Even our English ancestors, from whom we derived some of our domestic notions, were not accustomed to anything magnificent in the way of dwellings. The climate was against them, and they were not sufficiently luxurious in their tastes. Their houses were primarily places for shelter and refuge. In summer they lived out of doors, and in winter they crept into close quarters and waited for warm weather. With plenty of land and building materials to be had for the taking, our colonial grandfathers should have had the most generous homes in the world."
"Yes; and to judge by some of the old colonial mansions which have escaped the 'making-over' vandals we have been going backwards in that respect during the last fifty or a hundred years."
"Yes; and we ought to have been going the other way, for the size of rooms should increase as the cost of furniture diminishes. Take for instance, a parlor or sitting room fifteen feet square, which is, I believe, about the orthodox size for a modern house. Give such a room a dozen straight-backed and straight-legged chairs ranged along the sides, a table in the center of the room with a green cover and four books on it, two or three unhappy-looking family portraits on the walls, a pair of brass candlesticks on the high, wooden mantel, a pair of bellows, a shovel and tongs, with, perhaps, in the way of luxury, a haircloth sofa. Now compare the room furnished in that way, which was by no means uncommon in the days of our grandfathers with a room of the same size, in which are stored half a dozen chairs, no two alike, and some of them as large as small lounges, a center table piled with books and magazines and photographs, till like a heap of jack straws, it is impossible to remove one without disturbing the whole pile; a lounge with a back, a divan or something without a back, an upright piano, two or three bookcases, several small stools and piles of Turkish cushions to catch the unwary, huge Japanese vases beside the fireplace, a leopard skin with a solid head in front of the table, and a sprinkling of Persian rugs spilt over the floor; a cabinet of bric-a-brac in the northeast corner, a 'whatnot' with a big jardiniere bearing a three-foot palm on the top story in the northwest, a carved bracket with a sheaf of Florida grasses in the southeast, and a tall wooden clock that won't go in the southwest; a brass tea kettle hanging from a wrought iron frame beside a fragile stand that carries a half dozen of still more fragile 'hand-painted' teacups and saucers; lambrequins and heavy curtains at all the windows and most of the doors, a big combination gas and electric chandelier suspended from the center of the ceiling, bedangled with jumping jacks, Christmas cards, straw ornaments and other artistic 'curious'; one or two small tables scattered 'promiscous like' about the room; a music stand and a banjo; with photographs, chromos, oil paintings, water colors and etchings, from one to three feet square, in gilt, enameled and wooden frames of all styles and degrees of fitness on the walls of the room,—take a room furnished in this way or a great deal more so, and compare it with another of the same actual dimensions furnished in the old-fashioned way and see which is the larger. The modern furnishing may be 'cozy,' oppressively cozy when there are half a dozen people trying to move gracefully around and between it without upsetting or destroying anything, but what sort of hospitality can we offer our guests if they must be always afraid of breaking something valuable if they stir?"
"Why not have a bonfire and liquidate some of this superfluous stock?"
"It is not superfluous; all these things, if they are good add to the enjoyment of living, if we have room for them and are able to take good care of them without neglecting weightier matters. Our own rooms are not large enough. However, if we cannot enlarge them we can build new ones for special purposes. For one, we must have a children's workroom. If Jack is going to be an artist, and you know he shows decided talent, and Bessie an architect, there's no doubt of her having real genius in that direction, they should have one room immediately, and two by and by, for their own exclusive use. A room where they could keep all their books, and tools and toys, and where they could work in their own spontaneous, untrammeled way."
"You mean a nursery."
"No, I do not mean a nursery, but a workshop, study, gymnasium, call it anything you please. The floor should be smooth and hard, and the walls should be wainscoted with smooth, hard wood. There should be blackboards and shelves at the sides, and the children should be allowed to drive nails wherever they please. I am not sure but I would have a sink and a water faucet."
"Not unless the room is in the cellar or has a floor tight enough for a swimming tank. Well, what next?"
"We must have a hospital."
"For inebriates or the insane?"
"A room similar to the private wards in a hospital. You know our own and the children's sleeping rooms are very simply furnished, but a sick room should be still more severe. The children have both had the measles, thank goodness, and I hope they never will have smallpox, scarlet fever, or diphtheria, but if they should it would be necessary to send them away from home or run the risk of their exposing one another."
"You might as well include every other ill that flesh is heir to. If we have got to fight germs day and night in order to live, the cleaner and more open we can keep the battle ground the better. It strikes me that it might be a good thing to have the whole house sort of clean and wholesome."
"Of course. But none of us would like to have the living rooms as absolutely bare of all superfluous furnishing as a hospital ward. We should not be willing to give up our rugs, take down the curtains, throw away the cushions and sit in hard wooden chairs."
"No, and I wouldn't like to burn my books, although there is nothing quite so 'germy' as my musty old books that were made in Italy in plague times and smell like the 16th century every time they are opened. So I suppose we must have a hospital for the children to be sick in, a workshop for them to work in, and what would you say to a small chapel and penitentiary, with a dungeon or two? While we are about it, let's have a market and cold storage annex."
"Precisely what I was going to suggest. It would be the easiest thing in the world to attach a small room to the cellar or the kitchen, where a low temperature can be kept at all times, either by ice or by the artificial refrigeration that will soon be distributed and sold in the same way that gas, water, steam, electric light and power are now furnished in many cities."
"I never thought of it before, but why shouldn't milk and beer and other medicinal drinks be distributed in the same way as water and gas?"
"Please don't interrupt me. These are really serious considerations. Why, Jack, we haven't begun to guess at the wonderful changes that are to be made in all our housekeeping affairs, as well as in everything else by electricity. In a few years we shall find our present cooking arrangements as much out of date as the old turnspit and tin ovens and the great wood fires on the hearth. And light! Our houses will be as light as day all the time, unless we choose darkness in order to sleep more comfortably."
"Or because our deeds be evil, or for the better accommodation of burglars. No self-respecting burglar would think of 'burgling' without a dark lantern."
"And heat; do you remember how something more than twenty-five years ago a French scientist proposed to supply all the heat needed for human comfort in cold climates directly from the sun's rays?"
"I can't say that I do remember that particular philosopher, but I have a notion that the sun was considered a fair sort of furnace a good many years before the first Frenchman was born."
"Yes, yes; but he was going to gather the sun's heat into such shape that it would warm our houses in winter, do all the cooking, take the place of all the steam boilers and furnaces. I never heard that his theories were reduced to practice, but we have found another source of light and heat that is already under our control. There is no more doubt that all the warmth, illumination and mechanical power that we can use are within our reach, when we have learned how to take possession of them, than there is of gravitation. It is all waiting at the door, we have only to clap our hands and the potent spirit is ready to do our bidding."
"Without money and without price?"
"No, not quite that, there are too many incorporated monopolies in the way. But it is coming nearer and nearer, and with the unlimited power of wind and waves and waterfalls, all these things will soon be as cheap as anything really worth having ought to be."
"Say, Jill, do you suppose we shall live to see all our necessities supplied, gratis, and have nothing to work for except the luxuries?"
"We have lived long enough to find that for most people in our day and generation, even for those who think they have to work very hard 'just to get a living,' their most serious toil is to provide, what might be called, not the 'bare' necessities of life, but the well-dressed necessities. But it is time for those children to be in bed."
A DOUBLE CONCLUSION.
"Now Jill," this was half an hour later, the children were asleep and the gas was lighted, "let us by way of amusement draw plans of a castle in Spain. Let us forget all the houses that ever were built and fancy ourselves, not Adam and Eve, with the responsibility of setting the housekeeping pace for the rest of the human family nor Robinson Crusoe, whose domestic arrangements were somewhat handicapped, but a wise pair of semi-Bourbons, at the end of the 19th century, who forget nothing old but are willing to learn and adopt anything new, provided it is good."
"All right; go ahead."
"In the first place our castle will not be destructible by fire or water. All the walls will be of masonry and the floor beams will be of steel. There will be nothing to invite moth or rust."
"Nor burglars; not so much as a silver spoon or a candlestick."
"I have always been sorry that the roof of this house was not fireproof, but I suppose it would have cost too much, though the architect said it might have been made like the floors if we would consent to have it flat."
"Moral: if you want a roof of the mountainous variety you must either pay for it or run the risk of being burned out on top. But what do castles in Spain care for the cost? We can have fireproof roofs in miniature copy of Alpine peaks or we can use them for billiard tables and croquet grounds."
"Really," Jill continued, "there is no good reason for steep roofs. Snow is more troublesome on the ground around the house than on top of it, if it will stay there, and a very slight slope will carry off the rain. I fancy steep roofs must have been invented when builders used such clumsy materials for covering that they were obliged to lay them on a steep pitch in order to keep out the water. Shingles of course last longer the steeper the roof."
"If that's the case they ought to last forever on the second story walls of our house, where they are straight up and down. When you come to think of it, high roofs must be built now-a-days mainly for show, incidentally they cover the house. First beautiful, then useful. How large will it be?"
"What, the roof?"
"No, the whole thing; how many rooms will it have?"
"That will depend on the size of the family. Not less than ten nor more than forty. Ten rooms will answer for two people, and more than forty complicates the housekeeping."
"Do you count closets?"
"Oh, no. Closets and dressing rooms, storerooms, bath rooms, cupboards and things of that sort, are mere adjuncts. They are to the real rooms what the pockets are to a suit of clothes."