Dom juan

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  • Publié le : 20 avril 2011
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When she saw the books the tall slave named Grace straightened and asked if I would like a ewer(1) of warm water for my toilet before she showed me to the master's room. I had shaved by the river that morning before l'd made my crossing, but I was pleased at the chance for a hot wash. When Grace returned, she said the master bade me to bring the books and leave the rest. She led the way throughthe narrow hall that joined the kitchen, warming room, and buttery to the cool expanse of the main house. The house was not especially large, nor by any means the grandest I had been in -some of the plantation homes along the James(2) were more like palaces- but it was perfect in proportion and exquisite in appointments.

Grace gestured with her long-fingered hand -not hands that appeared muchaccustomed to heavy chores, I noted- indicating I should sit upon a marble bench. "That is the master's library. He will be with you presently," Grace said, and swept away to her duties.

The home's massive entrance was to my right, the wide door surrounded by lights of beveled glass, and I sat there, watching the golden morning sunshine fracture into tiny rainbows. Because I had been staringinto the bright light, I could not see him well when he at last opened the library door, for he stood in its shadow. There was an impression only; of great height, very erect bearing, and a mellow voice.

"Good day to you, sir. Would you kindly come in?"
I entered and I stopped and twirled as if I were on a pivot. lt was a double-height room, with a narrow gallery at the midpoint. Books linedevery inch of it. A very large, plain, and beautiful rosewood desk stood in the center.
"Augustus Clement", he said, holding out his hand. I shifted the weight of the books into the crook of my left arm and shook his hand absently, for I was transfixed by the magnitude of his collection. "I've always imagined paradise as something like a library. Now I know what it looks like." I barely realized Ihad spoken aloud, but Mr. Clement laughed and clapped me on the shoulder.
"We get a few of you men through here, or we used to, before my daughter married. I think she just liked to talk to young men, actually. But I've never come across one of you with an interest in books. Set them down there, would you?"
I placed them on the rosewood desk, and he worked briskly through the pile. Now that Ihad seen the magnitude of his library, I doubted he would find anything of interest to him. But the Lavater Physiognomy caught his eye. "This is a later edition than the one I have; I am curious to see his revisions. Tell Grace what you require for it and she will see to your payment."
"Sir, I don't sell the books for cash."
"I trade for them-barter(3)-a book for a book, you know.That way I keep myself in something fresh to read along the journey."
"Do you so! Capital idea!" he said. "Though no way to make a profit."
"I am interested in money, of course sir; it is necessary for a young man in my circumstances to be so. But I trust you will not think me irresponsible if I tell you I am more interested in laying up the riches of the mind(4)."
"Well said, young Mr.-March,was it? Well, as it happens I have business elsewhere this day, so why don't you make yourself free of the library. Do us the honor of taking dinner here, and you can tell me then what volume you would consider in barter for the Lavater."
"Sir, I could not impose upon you-"
"Mr. March, you would be doing me a great kindness. My household is reduced, at present. My son is away with my manageron business. Solitude is no friend to science. You know that we in the South suffer from a certain malnourishment of the mind: we value the art of conversation over literary pursuits, so that when we gather together it is all for gallantries and pleasure parties. There is much to be said for our agrarian way of life. But sometimes I envy your bustling(5) Northern cities, where men of genius are...
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