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Building a House - the Tree of Knowledge

"I don't exactly see,"said Paul to his cousin, when they were both in the park after breakfast,"why my father should wish to have a house built for my sister, since he thinks it so desirable to keep for himself and for us the old mansion in which we were born." "It is not a matter of very easy explanation; but you are old enough, Paul, to understand it. In the first place, your sister Marie now bears another name than yours; and a well-known respected name has a similar standing in the neighbourhood with the old house to which, so to speak, it is attached. If you had not been born, and your parents were no longer living, Madame N - , your sister, on coming to live on this estate, might safely pull down the old house and build a new one, for it would not be more difficult to introduce the new house than the name of a new proprietor. She would have to create new ties with all this little world that surrounds you, and consequently to establish between this world and her new family relations differing probably from those which now exist between your father and the people of your neighbourhood. Your father's connection with the peasants of Berri, among whom he has always lived, is intertwined with traditions handed down through several generations without interruption. He can therefore obtain services from them, and inspire them with a confidence which would not be accorded to new-comers, or to any name but his; while these peasants on their part unsuspectingly accept favours which they know from long experience to be disinterested. The old manor-house, occupied by a stranger bearing a new name, would lose the prestige which your father so justly ap preciated; there would in that case be no advantage in preserving its time-honoured aspect. M. de Gandelau, therefore, who does nothing without consideration, perceives that some day or other, by the pressure of circumstances, his house might be no longer suitable for his children, so that before its possible disappearance, he builds a new one for your sister; a house to which the neighbourhood will become gradually accustomed, and which will form a new family centre; for Madame Marie is beloved and esteemed throughout the neighbourhood. People will become accus

tomed to the more modern habits of the new manor-house, and no one will then think it strange that the old one should be demolished. Your father is preparing a gradual transition from a social condition, which, though on the decline even in the country districts, still exists, to that which is destined to replace it. You see, then, that though he values the past, and endeavours to preserve its advan tages, he does not believe in its perpetuity, and foresees the time when it must vanish before the habits and require ments of the present. Natural as is your father's mode of living, because it is the result of habits that have not been interrupted for many generations, it would be difficult for a new-comer to conform to these habits. Besides, this estate which M. de Gandelau has rendered so productive, and which he has increased in extent, will have to be divided at his decease amongst his three children. Already he has detached a portion of it to form your sister's dowry. He intends, then, by the residence we are going to build, to have this part now brought into harmony with the habits of the new proprietors, who are young, and whose mode of life must be different from that which still suits your father. When you are older you will appreciate all these things better. Let us go and resume our work." Paul was endeavouring to gain a clear view of the grave subjects his cousin had been discussing. He recalled the conversation of the preceding days between his father and mother, and his mind was evidently full of ideas, new to him, which had been thus suggested. At any rate, the old house began to assume in his eyes a venerable appearance, and he was no longer inclined to censure its inconvenient arrangements and somewhat inelegant exterior.

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father, habits, name, sister and neighbourhood