"My dear," said my wife to me at breakfast, "our house is about done. To be sure there are ever so many little niceties that I haven't got as yet, but it's pretty enough now. So that I'm not at all ashamed to show it to mamma or Aunt Maria, or any of them."

"Do you think," said I, "that last-named respectable individual could possibly think of countenancing us, when we have only an ingrain carpet on our parlor and nothing but mattings on the chambers, and live down here where nobody lives?"

"Well, poor soul!" said Eva, "she'll have to accept it as one of the trials of life, and have recourse to the consolations of religion. Then, after all, Harry, I really am proud of our parlor. Of course, we've had the good luck to have a good many handsome ornaments given to us; so that, though we haven't the regulation things that people generally get, it does look very bright and pretty."

"It's perfectly lovely," said I. "Our house to me is a perfect dream of loveliness. I think of it all day from time to time when I'm at work in my office, and am always wanting to come home and see it again, and have a little curiosity to know what new thing you've accomplished. So far, your career has been a daily succession of triumphs, and the best of it is that it's all so much like you."

"So," said she, "that I can't be jealous at your loving the house so much. I suppose you think it as much a part of me as the shell on a turtle's back. Well, now, before we invite mother and Aunt Maria, and all the folks down here, I propose that we have just a nice little housewarming, with our own little private particular set, who know how to appreciate us."

"Agreed!" said I; "Bolton, and Jim, and Alice, and you and I will have a commemoration-dinner together. Our fellows, you see, seem to feel as much interested in this house as if it were their own."

"I know it," said she. "Isn't it really amusing to see the grandfatherly concern that Bolton has for our cooking-stove?"

"Oh! Bolton has staked his character on that stove," I said. "Its success is quite a personal matter now."

"Well, it does bake admirably," said my wife, "and I think our dinner will be a perfect success, so far as that is concerned. And, do you know, I'm going to introduce that new way of doing up cold chicken which I've invented."

"Yes," said I, "we shall christen it Chicken à la Eva."

"And I've been talking with our Mary about it, and she's quite in the spirit of the affair. You see, like all Irish women, Mary perfectly worships the boys, and thinks there never was anybody like Mr. Bolton, and Mr. Jim; and of course it's quite a labor of love with her. Then I've been giving her little cub there a series of lessons to enable her to wait on table; and she is all exercised with the prospect."

"Why," said I, "the little flibberty-gibbet is hardly as high as the table."

"Oh, never say that before her. She feels very high indeed in the world, and is impressed with the awful gravity and responsibility of being eight years old. I have made her a white apron with pockets, in which her soul delights; and her mother has starched and ironed it till it shines with whiteness. And she is learning to brush the table-cloth, and change plates in the most charming way, and with a gravity that is quite overcoming."

"Capital!" said I. "And when shall it be?"

"To-morrow night."

"Agreed! I'll tell the fellows this is to be a regular blow-out, and we must do our very prettiest, which is very pretty indeed," said I, "thanks to the contributions of our numerous friends. For my part, I think the fashion of wedding-presents has proved a lucky thing for us."

"Even if we have six pie-knives, and no pie to eat with them," said my wife, "as may happen in our establishment pretty often."

"Still," said I, "among them all there are a sufficiency of articles that give quite another aspect to our prudent little house from what it would wear if we were obliged to buy everything ourselves."

"Yes," said my wife, "and one such present as that set of bronzes on the mantel-piece gives an air to a whole room. A mantel-piece is like a lady's bonnet. It's the headpiece of a room, and if that be pleasing the rest is a good deal taken for granted. Then, you see, our parlor is all of a warm color,—crimson carpet, crimson curtains,—everything warm and glowing. And so long as you have the color it isn't a bit of matter whether your carpet cost three dollars and a half a yard or eighty-seven cents, and whether your curtains are damask or Turkey red. Color is color, and will produce its effects, no matter in what material."

"And we men," said I, "never know what the material is, if only the effect is pleasant. I always look at a room as a painting. It never occurs to me whether the articles in it are cheap or dear, so that only the general effect is warm, and social, and agreeable. And that is just what you have made these rooms. I think the general effect of the rooms, either by daylight, or lamp-light, or firelight, would be to make a person like to stay in them, and when he had left them want to come back."

"Yes," said my wife, "I flatter myself our rooms have the air of belonging to people that are having nice times, and enjoying themselves, as we are. And, for my own part, I feel like sitting right down in them. All that round of party-going, and calling, and visiting, that I used to have to keep up, seems to me really wearisome. I want you to understand, Harry, that it's not the slightest sacrifice in the world for me to give it up. I'm just happy to be out of it."

"You see," said I, "we can sit down here and make our own world. Those that we really like very much and who like us very much will come to us. My ideal of good society is of a few congenial persons who can know each other very thoroughly, so as to feel perfectly acquainted and at home with one another. That was the secret of those reunions that went on so many years around Madame Récamier. It made no difference whether she lived in a palace, or a little obscure street; her friends were real friends, and followed her everywhere. The French have made a science of the cultivation of friendship, which is worth study."

Thus my wife and I chatted, and felicitated each other, in those first happy home making days. There was never any end to our subjects of mutual conversation. Every little change in our arrangements was fruitful in conversation. We hung our pictures here at first, and liked them well, but our maturer second-thoughts received bright inspirations to take them down and hang them there; and then we liked them better. I must say, by the by, that I had committed one of those extravagances which lovers do commit when they shut their eyes and go it blind. I had bought back the pictures of Eva's little boudoir from Goupil's. The fact was that there was a considerable sympathy felt for Mr. Van Arsdel, and one of the members of the concern was a nice fellow, with whom I had some pleasant personal acquaintance. So that the redemption of the pictures was placed at a figure which made it possible for me to accomplish it. And the pictures themselves were an untold store of blessedness to us. I believe we took them all down and hung them over four times, on four successive days, before we were satisfied that we had come to ultimate perfection.

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