|The end papers of Laughter on the Stairs|
featuring the interior of Merry Hall
as drawn by William McLaren
This book records Mr. Nichols's quarrel with a stained glass window left by the previous owner, his installation of a window grill in the music room cupboard, the purchase of art, and the delivery of four walnut chairs designed and crafted in 1695 by a gentleman named Daniel Marot. It is these chairs, the gift from a friend, that Mr. Nichols sets as the standard for all the other furniture he purchases for the house.
The vow was that somehow or other, cost what it may, I would try to live up to those chairs. To try to 'live up to' anything beautiful, whether it is a Greek vase or a slow movement by Mozart, is a most worthy and moral aim; if beauty is in your head, if even a fragment of perfection abides in you, it acts as a standard to which you may constantly refer, even if the reference is subconscious. The lines of the vase, the lines of the music -- they are a corrective to excess.
We also get to meet up again with Miss Emily, Our Rose, and the mysterious and erudite Marius and are introduced to Miss Mint and Erica, another author and faux gypsy. Everyone likes Miss Mint; Erica, on the other hand, is thought to be quite a pain. And, deservedly so.
Mr. Nichols has great fun walking these characters, along with Gaskin his manservant and Oldfield the aged gardener, in and out of the gardens and the rooms of Merry Hall and their exploits, conversations, and opinions sparkle on the page.