Our house seemed so far to be ours that it was apparently regarded by the firm of good fellows as much their affair as mine. The visits of Jim and Bolton to our quarters were daily, and sometimes even hourly. They counseled, advised, theorised, and admired my wife's generalship in an artless solidarity with myself. Jim was omnipresent. Now he would be seen in his shirt-sleeves nailing down a carpet, or unpacking a barrel, and again making good the time lost in these operations by scribbling his articles on the top of some packing-box, dodging in and out at all hours with news of discoveries of possible bargains that he had hit upon in his rambles.

For a while we merely bivouacked in the house, as of old the pilgrims in a caravansary, or as a picnic party might do, out under a tree. The house itself was in a state of growth and construction, and, meanwhile, the work of eating and drinking was performed in moments snatched in the most pastoral freedom and simplicity. I must confess that there was a joyous, rollicking freedom about these times that was lost in the precision of regular housekeepers. When we all gathered about Mary's cooking-stove in the kitchen, eating roast oysters and bread and butter, without troubling ourselves about table equipage, we seemed to come closer to each other than we could in months of orderly housekeeping.

Our cooking-stove was Bolton's especial protégé and pet. He had studied the subject of stoves, for our sakes, with praiseworthy perseverance, and after philosophic investigation had persuaded us to buy this one, and of course had a fatherly interest in its well-doing. I have the image of him now as he sat, seriously, with the book of directions in his hand, reading and explaining to us all, while a set of muffins were going through the "experimentum crucis"—the oven. The muffins were excellent and we ate them hot out of the oven with gladness and singleness of heart, and agreed that we had touched the absolute in the matter of cooking-stoves. All my wife's plans and achievements, all her bargains and successes, were reported and admired in full conclave, when we all looked in at night, and took our snack together in the kitchen.

One of my wife's enterprises was the regeneration of the dining-room. It had a pretty window draped pleasantly by the grape-vine, but it had a dreadfully common wall-paper, a paper that evidently had been chosen for no other reason than because it was cheap. It had moreover a wainscot of dark wood running round the side, so that what with our low ceiling, the portion covered by this offending paper was only four feet and a half wide.

I confess, in the multitude of things on hand in the work of reconstruction, I was rather disposed to put up with the old paper as the best under the circumstances.

"My dear," said I, "why not let pretty well alone."

"My darling child!" said my wife, "it is impossible—that paper is a horror."

"It certainly isn't pretty, but who cares?" said I. "I don't see so very much the matter with it, and you are undertaking so much that you'll be worn out."

"It will wear me out to have that paper, so now, Harry dear, be a good boy, and do just what I tell you. Go to Berthold & Capstick's and bring me one roll of plain black paper, and six or eight of plain crimson, and wait then to see what I'll do."

The result on a certain day after was that I found my dining-room transformed into a Pompeiian saloon, by the busy fingers of the house fairies.

The ground-work was crimson, but there was a series of black panels, in each of which was one of those floating Pompeiian figures, which the Italian traveler buys for a trifle in Naples.

"There now," said my wife, "do you remember my portfolio of cheap Neapolitan prints? Haven't I made good use of them?"

"You are a witch," said I. "You certainly can't paper walls."

"Can't I! haven't I as many fingers as your mother? and she has done it time and again; and this is such a crumb of a wall. Alice and Jim and I did it to-day, and have had real fun over it."

"Jim?" said I, looking amused.

"Jim!" said my wife, nodding with a significant laugh.

"Seems to me," said I.

"So it seems to me," said she. After a pause she added, with a smile, "but the creature is both entertaining and useful. We have had the greatest kind of a frolic over this wall."

"But, really," said I, "this case of Jim and Alice is getting serious."

"Don't say a word," said my wife, laughing. "They are in the F's; they have got out of Flirtation and into Friendship."

"And friendship between a girl like Alice and a young man, on his part soon gets to mean——."

"Oh, well, let it get to mean what it will," said my wife; "they are having nice times now, and the best of it is, nobody sees anything but you and I. Nobody bothers Alice, or asks her if she is engaged, and she is careful to inform me that she regards Jim quite as a brother. You see that is one advantage of our living where nobody knows us—we can all do just as we like. This little house is Robinson Crusoe's island—in the middle of New York. But now, Harry, there is one thing you must do toward this room. There must be a little gilt molding to finish off the top and sides. You just go to Berthold & Capstick's and get it. See, here are the figures," she said, showing her memorandum-book. "We shall want just that much."

"But, can we put it up?"

"No, but you just speak to little Tim Brady, who is a clerk there—Tim used to be a boy in father's office—he will like nothing better than to come and put it up for us, and then we shall be fine as a new fiddle."

And so, while I was driving under a great pressure of business at the office daily, my home was growing leaf by leaf, and unfolding flower by flower, under the creative hands of my home-queen and sovereign lady.

Time would fail me to relate the enterprises conceived, carried out, and prosperously finished under her hands. Indeed I came to have such a reverential belief in her power that had she announced that she intended to take my house up bodily and set it down in Japan, in the true "Arabian Nights" style, I should not in the least have doubted her ability to do it. The house was as much an expression of my wife's personality, a thing wrought out of her being, as any picture painted by an artist.

Many homes have no personality. They are made by the upholsterers; the things in them express the tastes of David and Saul, or Berthold & Capstick, or whoever else of artificers undertake the getting up of houses. But our house formed itself around my wife like the pearly shell around the nautilus. My home was Eva,—she the scheming, the busy, the creative, was the life, soul, and spirit of all that was there.

Is not this a species of high art, by which a house, in itself cold and barren, becomes in every part warm and inviting, glowing with suggestion, alive with human tastes and personalities? Wall-paper, paint, furniture, pictures, in the hands of the home artist, are like the tubes of paint out of which arises, as by inspiration, a picture. It is the woman who combines them into the wonderful creation which we call a home.

When I came home from my office night after night, and was led in triumph by Eva to view the result of her achievements, I confess I began to remember with approbation the old Greek mythology, and no longer to wonder that divine honors had been paid to household goddesses.

It seemed to me that she had a portion of the talent of creating out of nothing. Our house had literally nothing in it of the stereotyped sets of articles expected as a matter of course in good families, and yet it looked cosy, comfortable, inviting, and with everywhere a suggestion of ideal tastes, and an eye to beauty. There were chambers which seemed to be built out of drapery and muslins, every detail of which, when explained, was a marvel of results at small expense. My wife had an aptitude for bargains, and when a certain article was wanted, supplied it from some second-hand store with such an admirable adaptation to the place that it was difficult to persuade ourselves after a few days that it had not always been exactly there, where now it was so perfectly adapted to be.

In fact, her excursions into the great sea of New York and the spoils she brought thence to enrich our bower reminded me of the process by which Robinson Crusoe furnished his island home by repeated visits to the old ship which was going to wreck on the shore. From the wreck of other homes came floating to ours household belongings, which we landed reverently and baptized into the fellowship of our own.

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