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Setting Out the Foundations of the House and Operations on the Ground


Next day a letter dated Naples was received from Madame Marie N - , expressing the liveliest and most patriotic apprehensions with regard to recent events. Paul's sister wished to induce the family to join her at Naples; her husband could not return to France just at present; the business which called him to Constantinople allowed of no delay, and would oblige him to embark very shortly. The letter terminated thus :"We have received Paul's designs; we suppose his cousin must have given him a little help. I should be delighted, and my husband too, if there was any chance of such a plan being realized; but who can think of building in the state in which our poor country is now ! Rather make up your mind to come and join us." "Well,"said M. de Gandelau after reading the letter,"you see your plans are approved : let us set to work at once. If the Prussians should come as far as this and set our old house on fire, as their custom is, they will not burn the walls of a building only just begun, and what we have spent in its erection will not get into their pockets." Eugene, helped by Paul, who calculated the items - he had never undertaken such a task before - drew up the estimate, which amounted in all to 7,000/. The earthworks and masonry were expected to cost 3,4001.

Master Branchu was summoned :"A very good gentle man your father is,"said he to Paul, when it was settled that they should begin the following day;"he sets people to work when the best hands are being turned off every where, and old fellows like me, who cannot go soldiering, would have a hard time of it all the winter. I shall go and drink his health with Jean Godard the carpenter, who will be desperate glad like myself." The rest of the day was employed in marking the princi pal dimensions on the plan, so as to be able to set out the excavations.

Master Branchu was already on the ground next day, equipped with lines, stakes, nails, and broches, a large car penter's square, and a water-level, when Paul and his cousin arrived at an early hour in the morning.

"You see,"said Eugene to Paul,"that the figures indi cate on this plan the distances between the centre-lines of the walls. Consulting these dimensions, we shall set out these centre-lines on the ground with the help of lines attached to what we call broches (Fig. i9), which consist of two stakes firmly fixed in the earth, and a crosspiece. The direction of one of the centre-lines being determined according to the orientation it suits us to choose, the places of the other axes will follow according to the distance figured on the plan and the square returns." Eugene had soon settled the line of centre, A, for the dining and billiard-rooms, according to the desired orienta tion. Then on this first centre-line was set out by means of

a small theodolite another at right angles, which was the centre-line of the entrance-hall. These two lines once laid down, the others were determined by means of the dimen sions previously marked on the plan. The centres of the principal walls were thus traced on the ground by lines attached to the broches.

As cellars were to be made under the whole extent of the main building, Eugene contented himself with ordering BranchU to excavate the entire ground to a distance of about a yard beyond the lines of the perimeter. Two labourers with their picks set to work therefore at once to mark out the excavation."If,"said he to the workmen,"you find stone, as may certainly be expected, at no great depth, and if it should prove to be of good quality, you will take care not to break it up; get it out for walling stone; we will make use of it and pay you for your extra trouble. If you find boulders, let them be blasted, and lay aside the best pieces for use. To-morrow or the next day we shall give you the plan and section of the cellars. Meantime lay in a good store of bricks, lime, and sand; you know that in this district it is desirable to arrange matters beforehand if we would have the materials when wanted. It is September already, and our cellars must be built at least before the first frosts." "This being settled then,"added Eugene, addressing Paul when they were returning to the house,"I appoint you clerk of the works, and these will be your duties : You will come to the ground every morning, and take care in the first place that the orders given in your presence are strictly executed. For instance, you will have to take account of the quantity of stone extracted from the exca vation, and to have it properly stacked in a heap about one yard thick, two yards broad, and of a length depending on the yield of the quarry. Having thus verified the daily increase of the heap, we shall be secure against any abstrac tion from it. You will keep a note-book in your pocket, in which you will mark its daily augmentation, and you will take care to have every leaf countersigned by Branchu. Your business just now will be only over-looking; but it will become more complicated as the works advance. If materials are brought you will take account of the quantity, - in numbers if it is bricks, or by solid content if it is sand or lime. For this purpose I shall have brought to the ground one of those road-labourer's boxes, which are a yard square and half a yard deep. Each measure when filled contains therefore half a cubic yard.

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set, plan, lines, eugene and yard