M. Victorien explained to him how, by the use of means supplied by modern engineering, piers were built in the middle of wide, deep, and rapid streams, where formerly the operation was not regarded as practicable; how they sunk double-plated iron cylinders vertically, so that their lower extremity touched the bottom; how, with the help of powerful machinery, they compressed the air in these enormous hollow columns, and how they then filled these cylinders with masonry, so that they thus obtained piers perfectly solid, stable, and capable of sustaining heavy pressures; and while the metal-work must decay with time the columns of masonry remained intact, having had time to gain a solid consistence.
M. Victorien's explanations thus opened to Paul a new horizon of study, and he began to ask himself Q 2 whether he should ever have time to learn all these things; for M. Victorien did not fail to repeat to him continually that an architect ought not to be ignorant of these methods of construction, because it was possible that he would have to make use of them. His attention, therefore, seemed distracted. M. Victorien perceived it, and said to him,"Let us talk of something else, for you seem to me rather tired." "No,"replied Paul;"but I had a good deal of diffi culty in getting into my head all that my cousin told me about building a house only; and I thought that when I had thoroughly understood the different things he ex plained to me, I should have got the substance of all I had to learn : and now I see that there are many other things relating to construction which I ought to know, and - you know - " "And that disquiets and frightens you. Take time; do not try to understand all at once; listen attentively, that is all. By degrees it will be disentangled in your mind, and be properly classified. Do not be anxious about it - young brains consist of a number of empty drawers. Youth
need only be asked to open them; each new acquisition comes of itself to take its place in that which suits it. Afterwards, all we have to do is to open the drawer con taining such or such a thing, stored up almost without our being conscious of it : we find it untouched, fit to be used for its proper purpose. Only we must always keep all our drawers open in the gathering season, a season which is but short. If we leave the drawers shut during our early youth - that is, from twelve to twenty-five - it is hard work to fill them afterwards, for the locks are rusted, or they have been filled, we do not know how, with useless rubbish." Chatting thus, the travellers returned home, where Madame Victorien had prepared them a good supper, enlivened by the presence of two little fellows returned from school, and who were soon very good friends with Paul.
The following day was devoted to seeing the contractor for the wood-work, and explaining to him the particulars Paul had brought with him, and preparing the estimates in which M. Victorien gave some assistance. Paul, how ever, well trained by his cousin, executed his commission creditably, and felt much flattered when, at the close of the interview, the contractor addressed him as Monsieur Inspecteur,' giving him all sorts of technical explanations, which Paul did not always comprehend, though he took good care not to show his ignorance, waiting for the opportunity of asking his cousin to enlighten him where necessary.
On the morning of the third day they went to see some interesting buildings in the neighbourhood, and in the evening, at nine o'clock, Paul returned to the chateau, his travelling-bag full of information which M. Victorien had given him respecting bridges, locks, and the building materials of the district, and the way in which they were employed.