She let her husband squeeze her hand, but her thoughts were wandering from his blandishments. Presently she said: “Lewis, I’ve begun lately to doubt if that stag is really pretty.”
“The stag? Well, now, I’ve always thought it tasty—one of the features of our little place.”
“No one would mistake it for a real deer. It looks to me almost comical.”
Babcock turned to regard judicially the object of her criticism.
“I like it,” he said somewhat mournfully, as though he were puzzled. “But if you don’t, we’ll change the stag for something else. I wish you to be pleased first of all. Instead we might have a fountain; two children under an umbrella I saw the other day. It was cute. How does that strike you?”
“I can’t tell without seeing it. And, Lewis, promise me that you won’t select anything new of that sort until I have looked at it.”
“Very well,” Babcock answered submissively. But he continued to look puzzled. In his estimate of his wife’s superiority to himself in the subtleties of life, it had never occurred to him to include the choice of every-day objects of art. He had eyes and could judge for himself like any other American citizen. Still, he was only too glad to humor Selma in such an unimportant matter, especially as he was eager for her happiness.
Seven designs for the new church were submitted, including three from Benham architects. The leaven of influence exercised by spirits like Mrs. Taylor was only just beginning to work, and the now common custom of competing outside one’s own bailiwick was still in embryo. Mr. Pierce’s design was bold and sumptuous. His brother-in-law stated oracularly not long before the day when the plans were to be opened: “Pierce is not a man to be frightened out of a job by frills. Mark my words; he will give us an elegant thing.” Mr. Pierce had conceived the happy thought of combining a Moorish mosque and New England meeting-house in a conservative and equitable medley, evidently hoping thereby to be both picturesque and traditional. The result, even on paper, was too bold for some of his admirers. The chairman was heard to remark: “I shouldn’t feel as though I was in church. That dome set among spires is close to making a theatre of the house of God.”
The discomfiture of the first architect of Benham cleared the way for the triumph of Mrs. Taylor’s taste. The design submitted by Wilbur Littleton of New York, seemed to her decidedly the most meritorious. It was graceful, appropriate, and artistic; entirely in harmony with religious associations, yet agreeably different from every day sanctuaries. The choice lay between his and that presented by Mr. Cass, a Benham builder—a matter-of-fact, serviceable, but very conventional edifice. The hard-headed stove dealer on the committee declared in favor of the native design, as simpler and more solid.