Paul was satisfied with the exterior aspect.
The interior, though simple, according to M. de Gande lau's express instructions, was in good taste; there was nothing to be seen in the way of plaster ornament or gild ing. The entrance-hall was surrounded by a low oak wainscot, forming part with the door-cases. The wood of the latter and of the wainscot had preserved its natural colour,' and was simply dressed with linseed-oil and wax. Above the wainscot, the walls, painted stone-colour, set off by a few red lines, gave a neat and inviting aspect to the entrance. The drawing-room was surrounded by a wainscot five feet high, painted white; the fireplace, wide and lofty, could warm a numerous circle. The jambs of the fireplace were cased with wood, and on the lofty mantelpiece, in an oaken frame, was prettily painted a bird's-eye view of M. de Gandelau's estate. The ceiling, with its two beams and joists, painted in light tones, set off by black and white lines, seemed to enlarge the apartment, and gave it a warm and habitable appearance, presenting on hot days lights and shades of an amber tint. The wall between the ceiling and the wainscot was hung with painted canvas. The chimney-piece stood out in bold relief on this back-ground. The entrance end of the drawing-room would have been rather sombre if the wide opening into the billiard room had not flooded it with light, softened by the verdure of the plants within the little conservatory. But what gave the drawing-broom a character which fascinated Paul at once, was the bay-window, all brilliant with light, and furnished with a chintz-covered divan. The billiard-room, also, was surrounded by a wainscoting of unpainted oak, and the same painted hangings. A portiere closing over the bay-window made it serve the putpose of a little boudoir, whence there was a charming view on three sides. The plants placed in the conservatory, transmitted on the south side only a softened and tranquil light into the billiard-room. The dining-room had been decorated almost in the same style as the billiard-room, and two large oaken sideboards formed part with the wainscoting in the two recesses reserved for them.
Paul was eager to run up stairs to see his sister's rooms. Hung entirely with Indian chintz, with a plain brown dado, this apartment exhibited great simplicity. The ceiling, however, treated like those of the ground-floor, gave it an original and pleasing aspect.
Paul wanted to see everything, and at the end of an hour, his cousin having made an appointment with some workmen to give them orders about details, left him to wander at will in the house.
The sun was already low when they thought of return ing to the chateau.
"Well, my young cousin, are you satisfied with your work? Have things been done during your absence as you intended they should be?" "I wish it was really my work,"replied Paul;"and I regret that I could not follow it to the end, for now I see all finished, it seems to me as if there was scarcely anything done when I went away." "It is with buildings, my dear fellow, as with all other human productions. You know the saying : Finis coronat opus.' Finishing is everything. Finishing may not require the greatest labour and knowledge, but it does, perhaps, require the highest degree of persistency, method, and care, as I think I have already told you.
You have been really useful to me during the building - I may say so without flattery, because you have thrown your energy and your whole mind into the endeavour to understand the instructions I have given, and to see that they were duly executed. But you would have had nothing to occupy you seriously while the work was being finished, since most of the recent additions came from the work shops ready made; you have nothing to regret, therefore; you would have lost your time here, whereas you have, it seems, employed it well at the Lyceum." "I never saw any hangings like this painted canvas before; they look very well; one might fancy they were tapestry." "Yes, I cannot imagine why these kind of hangings, which, were formerly much used, should have been aban doned; for it is clear that everybody could not have Flemish or Gobelin tapestry, any more than Cordova leather. Those things were very costly; whereas, painted canvas hangings do not cost much more than wall papers and less than upholstery hangings, chintz excepted. But it would scarcely do to hang a drawing-room or a dining room with chintz; it does not look substantial enough, though it may be well enough for a bedroom. In the principal apartments hangings should have a velvety, warm, substantial effect."
"And are these of painted canvas substantial?" "In appearance, certainly, and in reality also; in proof of which you may see at Rheims some dating from the fifteenth century, and which are perfectly well preserved." "And how are these hangings made?" "Canvas cloths are taken, either cross-woven or twilled, of coarse texture, manufactured for the purpose, rather like the cloths of which sacks are made. These cloths are stretched on a floor with tacks; then they size them, that is to say, give them a coating of leather size, to which is added a little Spanish white. Then when this coat is dry they proceed to paint them in distemper, as for theatre decorations. On this ground anything we choose can be painted - diapers, such as we have adopted here, and which do not cost much, as we stencil them; or ornaments, land scapes, flowers, and even figures. The cost of the material is trifling, and the value of the hangings depends on the artist's work. When dry, the cloths are rolled up, and can be sent anywhere at small expense; then on the spot they are stretched again on very thin frames, called tapestry stretchers. There is, therefore, a space between the wall and the hanging, which is necessary in the country where sized papers always spoil; and this is so much the more convenient, as if the rooms are not warmed in winter, and if damp is feared, the cloths can be taken down, rolled up, and put in a dry place, to be replaced in the spring, as we do with tapestry." "I thought when I opened the drawing-room door that it was tapestry." "The coarse texture of the cloth does in fact resemble the tapestry stitch, and the painting in distemper has the flat tone of wool. On the whole, the hangings of our house scarcely cost more than the high-priced papers that are made now-a-days, and they last longer, to say nothing of our being sure not to see our own patterns on every body's walls." "Very true; often on going into a drawing-room I have recognized a paper which I had seen elsewhere. But tell me, cousin, you have had lightning-conductors put up, have you not?" "Certainly; it was prudent to do so. I have had two constructed : one at the top of the staircase, and the other on the centre-point of the main-ridge." "Would not one have been enough?" "I think not; because lightning-conductors only pro tect the points inclosed in a cone of which they are the summit : at least, this is the recognized theory. For between ourselves, physicists are not quite agreed respecting the effects of the electric fluid, the relative efficiency of con ductors, and the precautions to be used in putting them up. I rely on my own experience, which has proved to me that no building, however exposed, has been struck by lightning when the lightning-rods were numerous, made of good conductors, put in communication with each other, and with their lower extremity dipping in water, or very damp earth. You know that water is a conductor of elec tricity; if the lightning-rod terminates in dry earth the electricity accumulates, and produces return shocks, which are very dangerous. The same effect results if the con ducting-wire is interrupted; the lightning-rod then pro duces the effect of a Leyden jar - it becomes charged, and is more dangerous than useful. Sockets with glass in sulators have also been recommended; but I have never observed that lightning-conductors otherwise well arranged caused accidents for want of insulators. I consider this precaution superfluous, because the fluid seeks the most direct path. The rod properly arranged is that path; so it should not make rapid angular turns, but as far as possible be conducted by the shortest way, and that which is nearest the vertical, into the damp soil." At dinner nothing was talked about but the new house and Madame Marie's arrival. There was a lively discussion about the way of making the surprise complete. The cere monial, to which M. de Gandelau had given some thought, was soon arranged. The contractors and craftsmen of the neighbourhood who had worked at the house were invited, and a dinner was to be provided for them in the garden. The gentleman who had given Paul lessons, the mayor, the cur/ of the parish, and some neighbours and friends, among others M. Durosay, who had again made his appearance in the neighbourhood, were asked to be present at the house-warming. The workmen had not been forgotten - they were all to receive some gratuity. There was to be a ball in the new park for all the country people, with the customary refreshments; and in the morning the poor of the parish were to receive gratuities -in kind.