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Building a House - Chateauroux


Paul now knew enough to feel that. the commission with which he was charged was one of considerable importance. The sole responsibility of it made him a little anxious. It would have been easy enough to write to the joiner to come to the chtiteau; but Eugene had asked M. de Gan delau to send Paul to see him, in order to put his clerk of the works to the test, and to know how he would manage the business. Eugene had given him ample instructions, and taken care to have them repeated several times; and Paul had noted down the important points. He was fur nished with plans to show the number of openings, the hanging of the doors, the areas of the floors, the extent of the wainscoting, the dado-moulding, the skirting, &c.

On arriving at Chateauroux about ten o'clock in the morning, Paul found the engineer, M. Victorien, his cousin's friend, waiting for him at the station as had been arranged. M. Victorien was still young, though his close-cut hair was growing grey. A sun-burnt complexion, a piercing eye, and aquiline nose, gave to his physiognomy a certain martial air which attracted our young architect at a glance. A letter from Eugene had informed him of the circum stances that had occasioned Paul's giving his attention to building during the last six months. M. Victorien had some acquaintance with M. de Gandelau, and felt a par-.

ticular esteem for his character. Such an introduction was more than enough to induce him to receive the traveller as a young brother. Madame Victorien, a short, buxom brunette, the very antithesis of her husband, who was tall and thin, - could find nothing good enough for her guest. At breakfast, Paul had to reply to all the questions that were addressed to him : - How had the re cent troubles been borne by the family at the chateau? What was the new house like? How far had it advanced? How many workmen did they employ? How was the work done? Paul gave the best answers he could think of, and even ventured to draw some sketches to explain to his hosts the situation of the new house and its present stage of,advancement.

"Well,"said M. Victorien,"I see that you have pro fited by the lessons you have had from your cousin, who is more ready at making an explanatory sketch than any man I know." This compliment encouraged Paul, who related the steps of his architectural education up to this time.

"We shall have the whole of to-morrow to visit your joiner, so if you like you shall accompany me to see some locks which I am making about six miles off. That will perhaps interest you." Paul eagerly accepted the invitation, although Madame Victorien protested against it, asserting that her young guest must be fatigued, and ought to be allowed to rest; that he had risen very early that morning, and so on.

"What,"said M. Victorien,"at his age and in excel lent health, fatigued by sitting two hours in a railway carriage ! Get us a good dinner by the time we return - about seven o'clock - and you shall see if our friend doesn't do justice to it. Besides, has he not told us that he is up at five o'clock every morning and is run ning about all day? Come, let us set out." They drove off in a small char-el-bane, and soon left the town behind them.

When they were mounting the first hill M. Victorien said :"Your cousin has not then been much fatigued by his short campaign. I saw him only for a moment when he passed through with his corps. He is an energetic man, but he does not always take enough care of himself. How clearly he explains a thing, does he not? It is a pleasure to take lessons of him. We were fellow-students formerly, and he hesitated whether he should become an architect or a civil engineer. He had qualifications for both." "What is the difference, then, between an architect and an engineer?"Paul ventured to ask.

"Upon my word, that is a question not easy to answer - I will give you an apologue : "There were once two little twins who resembled each other so much that even their mother could not dis tinguish them. Not only were their features, height, and gait the same, but they had also the same tastes and abilities. They had to work with their hands, for their parents were poor. Both became masons. They acquired skill in their calling, and they worked equally well. Their father, a narrow-minded man, thought that these four hands which wrought at the same work with equal per fection, would produce more and do still better by allot ting separate labours to each pair. To one of the pairs, therefore, he said : You shall only do underground work;' and to the other, You shall only work aboveground.' The brothers thought this scarcely reasonable, as they had been accustomed to help each other in both sorts of work; however, as they were obedient children they complied. But whereas hitherto these workmen had agreed and had co-operated to the advantage of the work, from that time forward they did not cease to dispute with each other. The one who worked above the cellars maintained that his foundations were not suitably prepared, and the one who laid the latter asserted that the conditions of their structure were not respected. The result was that they separated,

and as each had now become habituated to his particular work, he remained unfit for anything else." "I think I see the gist of your apologue, but - " "But it does not explain to you why a difference has been made between engineers and architects. In fact, a skilful engineer may be a good architect, as an accom plished architect ought to be a good engineer. En gineers make bridges, canals, docks, and embankments; but this does not prevent them from raising lighthouses, erecting factories, warehouses, and many other buildings. Architects ought to know how to do all these things; they actually did them formerly, because then the twin brothers were not separated, or rather, they were one and the same person. But since this individuality has been sepa rated into two, each half follows its own direction. If the engineers build a bridge, the architects say it is ugly - and are not always wrong in saying so. If the architects build a palace, the engineers think, not without reason, that in its construction the materials have been employed unskilfully, and without due economy or an exact acquaintance with their properties in point of durability and strength." "But why do engineers build bridges which architects do not consider beautiful?" "Because the question of art has been separated from that of science and calculation by that narrow-minded father who thought one brain could not entertain both. The architects have been told : You are to be artists; you are to look at nothing but form - trouble yourselves about nothing but form; ' while to the engineers it has been said : You are to occupy yourselves only with science and its applications; form does not concern you; leave that to artists who dream with their eyes open, and are incapable of reasoning ! ' "Ah ! that seems strange to your young mind, I can see. It is simply absurd, because the art of architecture is only a result of the art of constructing - that is, of employ ing materials according to their qualities or properties; and because architectural forms are notoriously derived from this judicious employment of them. But, my young friend, as you grow older, you will see in our poor country not a few even more important interests sticking in the rut of routine. - St ! Bob, trot on 1 it's all level now 1" They soon arrived at the locks. Two coffer-dams, one below, one above, barred the course of the water; a large cast-iron siphon caused the current to pass over the work men engaged in laying the foundations of the walls (the lateral walls) forming the chamber of the lock. Paul inquired about the working of the siphon, which he soon understood, as he had made one with quills and wax, and had emptied glasses of water with it. He had never imagined that this little hydraulic apparatus could be applied on so grand a scale. He saw how they made the concrete which was run under the lateral walls of the chamber, that is, the space comprised between the two gates of the lock. A horse was attached to a great wooden lever, which caused an iron shaft to revolve in a vertical cylinder, and which, furnished with beaters, mixed the slaked lime with the sand that was introduced at the top of this cylinder. An opening at the bottom let the mortar, well mixed, run into wheelbarrows which the workmen were taking to a wooden floor, where they mixed it with double its quantity of pebbles, by means of rakes. Then other workmen transported the concrete, well mingled, to a shoot which conducted it to the bottom of the excavation, where others again spread it in layers, and rammed it down with wooden damsels. Paul inquired, also, respecting the arrangement of the gates, the kerb, the stay, or sill, over which the folded gates of the lock were to abut, that is, presenting an obtuse angle towards the upper part of the stream, to resist the action of the current. He saw the carpenters' workshop, where they put the lock-gates on templets. While superintending his works and giving his orders, M. Victorien explained to Paul how each depart ment of labour contributed to the whole; and the latter took notes and made sketches in his memorandum-book with a view to keep in mind what he heard and saw. This attention on Paul's part appeared to please M. Victorien. So when they were again seated in the to return to the town, the engineer did not fail to complete his ex planations. He described to him the lock-gates of seaports, and how some were made in the present day thirty yards wide and more, part iron, part wood, or entirely iron; and promised to show him when they reached home the drawings of some of these locks. The conversation then turned on bridges, and by what means their piers could be built in the middle of a stream.

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paul, victorien, architects, engineers and architect