Ma’ame Paradis had caught seventeen small doré,
four suckers, and eleven channel-catfish before she
used up all the worms in her tomato-can. Therefore
she was in a cheerful and loquacious humor when I came
along and offered her some of my bait.
“Merci; non, M’sieu.
Dat’s ’nuff fishin’ for me.
I got too old now for fish too much. You like
me make you present of six or seven doré?
Yes? All right. Then you make me present
of one quarter dollar.”
When this transaction was completed,
the old lady got out her short black clay pipe, and
filled it with tabac blanc.
“Ver’ good smell
for scare mosquitoes,” said she. “Sit
down, M’sieu. For sure I like to [Page
7] be here, me, for see the river when she’s
Indeed the scene was more than
picturesque. Her fishing-platform extended twenty
feet from the rocky shore of the great Rataplan Rapid
of the Ottawa, which, beginning to tumble a mile to
the westward, poured a roaring torrent half a mile wide
into the broader, calm brown reach below. Noble
elms towered on the shores. Between their trunks
we could see many whitewashed cabins, whose doors of
blue or green or red scarcely disclosed their colors
in that light.
The sinking sun, which already
touched the river, seemed somehow the source of the
vast stream that flowed radiantly from its blaze.
Through the glamour of the evening mist and the maze
of June flies we could see a dozen men scooping for
fish from platforms like that of Ma’ame Paradis.
Each scooper lifted a great
hoop-net set on a handle some fifteen feet long, threw
it easily [Page 8] up stream, and swept
it on edge with the current to the full length of his
reach. Then it was drawn out and at once thrown
upward again, if no capture had been made. In
case he had taken fish, he came to the inshore edge
of his platform, and upset the net’s contents
into a pool separated from the main rapid by an improvised
wall of stones.
“I’m too old for
scoop some now,” said Ma’ame Paradis, with
“You were never strong
enough to scoop, surely,” said I.
“No, eh? All right,
M’sieu. Then you hain’t nev’
hear ’bout the time Old Man Savarin was catched
up with. No, eh? Well, I’ll tol’
you ’bout that.” And this was her
story as she told it to me.
“Der was fun dose time.
Nobody ain’t nev’ catch up with dat old
rascal ony other time since I’ll know him first.
Me, I’ll be only fifteen den. Dat’s
long time ’go, eh? Well, [Page 9]
for sure, I ain’t so old like what I’ll
look. But Old Man Savarin was old already.
He’s old, old, old, when he’s only thirty;
an’ mean— baptême!
If de old Nick ain’ got de hottest place for dat
old stingy—yes, for sure!
“You’ll see up dere
where Frawce Seguin is scoop? Dat’s the
Laroque platform by right. Me, I was a Laroque.
My fader was use for scoop dere, an’ my gran’fader—the
Laroques scoop dere all de time since ever dere was
some Rapid Rataplan. Den Old Man Savarin he’s
buyed the land up dere from Felix Ladoucier, an’
he’s told my fader, ‘You can’t scoop
no more wisout you pay me rent.’
fader say. ‘Saprie! Dat’s
my fader’s platform for scoop fish! You
know all ’bout dat,’ Old Man Savarin is
say. ‘Ladoucier let you scoop front of his
land, for Ladoucier one big fool. De lan’s
mine now, an’ de fishin’ right is mine.
You can’t scoop dere wisout you pay me rent.’
I’ll show you ’bout dat,’ my fader
“Next mawny he is go for
scoop same like always. Den Old Man Savarin is
fetch my fader up before de magistrate. De magistrate
make my fader pay nine shillin’!
learn you one lesson,’ Old Man Savarin is say.
“My fader swear pretty
good, but my moder say: ‘Well, Narcisse, dere
hain’ no use for take it out in malediction.
De nine shillin’ is paid. You scoop more
fish—dat’s the way.’
“So my fader he is go
out early, early nex’ mawny. He’s
scoop, he’s scoop. He’s catch plenty
fish before Old Man Savarin come.
got ’nuff yet for fishin’ on my land, eh?
Come out of dat,’ Old Man Savarin is say.
Ain’t I pay nine shillin’ for fish here?’
my fader say.
pay nine shillin’ for fish here wisout
my leave. But you ain’t pay nothin’
for [Page 11] fish here wis
my leave. You is goin’ up before de magistrate
“So he is fetch my fader
up anoder time. An’ de magistrate make my
fader pay twelve shillin’ more!
“‘Well, I s’pose
I can go fish on my fader’s platform now,’
my fader is say.
“Old Man Savarin was laugh.
‘Your honor, dis man tink he don’t have
for pay me no rent, because you’ll make him pay
two fines for trespass on my land.’
“So de magistrate told
my fader he hain’t got no more right for go on
his own platform than he was at the start. My
fader is ver’ angry. He’s cry, he’s
tear his shirt; but Old Man Savarin only say, ‘I
guess I learn you one good lesson, Narcisse.’
“De whole village ain’t
told de old rascal how much dey was angry ’bout
dat, for Old Man Savarin is got dem all in debt at his
big store. He is grin, grin, and told everybody
how he learn my fader two good lesson. An’
he is told [Page 12] my fader: ‘You
see what I’ll be goin’ for do wis you if
ever you go on my land again wisout you pay me rent.’
“‘How much you want?’
my fader say.
“‘Half de fish you
“‘Five dollar a
no. Dat’s too much.’
Keep off my lan’, if you hain’t want anoder
tief,’ my fader say.
up Narcisse Laroque bill,’ de old rascal say to
his clerk. ‘If he hain’t pay dat bill
to-morrow, I sue him.’
“So my fader is scare
mos’ to death. Only my moder she’s
say, ‘I’ll pay dat bill, me.’
“So she’s take the
money she’s saved up long time for make my weddin’
when it come. An’ she’s paid de bill.
So den my fader hain’t scare no more, an’
he is shake his fist good under Old Man Savarin’s
ugly nose. But dat old rascal only laugh an’
say, ‘Narcisse, you like to be fined some more,
eh?’ [Page 13]
You rob me of my place for fish, but I’ll take
my platform anyhow,’ my fader is say.
All right—if you can get him wisout go on my land.
But you go on my land, and see if I don’t learn
you anoder lesson,’ Old Savarin is say.
“So my fader is rob of
his platform, too. Nex’ ting we hear, Frawce
Seguin has rent dat platform for five dollar a year.
“Den de big fun begin.
My fader an Frawce is cousin. All de time before
den dey was good friend. But my fader he is go
to Frawce Seguin’s place an’ he is told
him, ‘Frawce, I’ll goin’ lick you
so hard you can’t nev’ scoop on my platform.’
“Frawce only laugh.
Den Old Man Savarin come up de hill.
“‘Fetch him up to
de magistrate an’ learn him anoder lesson,’
he is say to Frawce.
“‘For try to scare
you.’ [Page 14]
hurt me none.’
say he will lick you.’
because he’s vex,’ Frawce say.
Non!’ my fader say. ‘I’ll
be goin’ for lick you good, Frawce.’
Yes; for sure.’
all right den, Narcisse. When you goin’
for lick me?’
“‘First time I’ll
get drunk. I’ll be goin’ for get drunk
dis same day.’
“‘All right, Narcisse.
If you goin’ get drunk for lick me, I’ll
be goin get drunk for lick you’— Canadien
hain’t nev’ fool ’nuff for fight,
M’sieu, only if dey is got drunk.
“Well, my fader he’s
go on old Marceau’s hotel, an’ he’s
drink all day. Frawce Seguin he’s go cross
de road on Joe Maufraud’s hotel, an’ he’s
drink all day. When de night come, dey’s
bose stand out in front of de two hotel for fight. [Page
“Dey’s bose yell
an’ yell for make de oder feller scare bad before
dey begin. Hermidas Laronde an’ Jawnny Leroi
dey’s hold my fader for fear he’s go ’cross
de road for keel Frawce Seguin dead. Pierre Seguin
an’ Magloire Sauve is hold Frawce for fear he’s
come ’cross de road for keel my fader dead.
And dose men fight dat way ’cross de road, till
dey hain’t hardly able for stand up no more.
“My fader he’s tear
his shirt and he’s yell, ‘Let me at him!’
Frawce he’s tear his shirt and he’s yell,
‘Let me at him!’ But de men hain’t
goin’ for let dem loose, for fear one is strike
de oder ver’ hard. De whole village is shiver
’bout dat offle fight—yes, seh, shiver bad!
“Well, dey’s fight
like dat for more as four hours, till dey hain’t
able for yell no more, an’ dey hain’t able
for yell no more, an’ dey hain’t got no
money left for buy wheeskey for de crowd. Den
Marceau and Joe Maufraud tol’ dem bose it was
a shame for two cousins to fight so bad. An’
my fader he’s say he’s ver’ sorry
dat he lick Frawce so hard, and dey’s [Page
16] bose sorry. So dey’s kiss one
anoder good—only all their close is tore to pieces.
“An’ what you tink
’bout Old Man Savarin? Old Man Savarin is
just stand in front of his store all de time, an’
he’s say: ‘I’ll tink I’ll fetch
him bose hup to de magistrate, an’ I’ll
learn him bose a lesson.’
“Me, I’ll be only
fifteen, but I hain’t scare ’bout dat fight
same like my moder is scare. No more is Alphonsine
Seguin scare. She’s seventeen, an’
she wait for de fight to be all over. Den she
take her fader home, same like I’ll take my fader
home for bed. Dat’s after twelve o’clock
“Nex’ mawny early
my fader he’s groaned and he’s groaned:
‘Ah—ugh—I’m sick, sick, me.
I’ll be goin’ for die dis time, for sure.’
“‘You get up an’
scoop some fish,’ my moder she’s say, angry.
‘Den you hain’t be sick no more.’
hain’t be able. Oh, I’ll be so sick.
An’ I hain’ got no place for scoop [Page
17] fish now no more. Frawce Seguin has
rob my platform.’
“‘Take de nex’
one lower down,’ my moder she’s say.
“‘All right for
dat. Jawnny he’s hire for run timber to-day.’
not be able for get up. Send for M’sieu
le Curé—I’ll be goin’ for die
but dat’s no man! Dat’s a
drunk pig,’ my moder she’s say, angry.
‘Sick, eh? Lazy, lazy—dat’s
so. An’ dere hain’t no fish for de
little chilluns, an’ it’s Friday mawny.’
So my moder she’s begin for cry.
“Well, M’sieu, I’ll
make de rest short; for de sun is all gone now.
What you tink I do dat mawny? I take de big scoop-net
an’ I’ll come up here for see if I’ll
be able for scoop some fish on Jawnny Leroi’s
platform. Only dere hain’t nev’ much
“Pretty quick I’ll
look up and I’ll see Alphonsine Seguin scoop,
scoop on my fader’s [Page 18]
old platform. Alphonsine’s fader is sick,
sick, same like my fader, an’ all de Seguin boys
is too little for scoop, same like my brudders is too
little. So dere Alphonsine she’s scoop,
scoop for breakfas’.
“What you tink I’ll
see some more? I’ll see Old Man Savarin.
He’s watchin’ from de corner of de cedar
bush, an’ I’ll know ver’ good what
he’s watch for. He’s watch for catch
my fader go on his own platform. He’s want
for learn my fader anoder lesson. Saprie!
dat’s make me ver’ angry, M’sieu!
scoop, scoop plenty fish. I’ll not be scoop
none. Dat’s make me more angry. I’ll
look up where Alphonsine is, an’ I’ll talk
fader’s platform,’ I’ll be say.
‘Dat’s my fader’s fish what you catch,
Alphonsine. You hain’t nev’ be my
cousin no more. It is mean, mean for Frawce Seguin
to rent my fader’s platform for please dat old
rascal Savarin.’ Mebby I’ll not be
so angry at [Page 19] Alphonsine, M’sieu,
if I was able for catch some fish; but I hain’t
able—I don’t catch none.
“Well, M’sieu, dat’s
de way for long time—half-hour mebby. Den
I’ll hear Alphonsine yell good. I’ll
look up de river some more. She’s try for
lift her net. She’s try hard, hard, but
she hain’t able. De net is down in de rapid,
an’ she’s only able for hang on to de hannle.
Den I’ll know she’s got one big sturgeon,
an’ he’s so big she can’t pull him
I care ’bout dat! I’ll laugh me.
Den I’ll laugh good some more, for I’ll
want Alphonsine for see how I’ll laugh big.
And I’ll talk to myself:—
for dose Seguins,’ I’ll say. ‘De
big sturgeon will pull away de net. Den Alphonsine
she will lose her fader’s scoop wis de sturgeon.
Dat’s good ’nuff for dose Seguins!
Take my fader platform, eh?’
“For sure, I’ll
want for go an’ help Alphonsine all de same—she’s
my cousin, an’ I’ll want for see de sturgeon,
me. But I’ll only [Page 20]
just laugh, laugh. Non, M’sieu;
dere was not one man out on any of de oder platform
dat mawny for to help Alphonsine. Dey was all
sleep ver’ late, for dey was all out ver’
late for see de offle fight I told you ’bout.
“Well, pretty quick, what
you tink? I’ll see Old Man Savarin goin’
to my fader’s platform. He’s take
hold for help Alphonsine an’ dey’s bose
pull, and pretty quick de big sturgeon is up on de platform.
I’ll be more angry as before.
“Oh, tort Dieu!
What you tink come den? Why, dat Old Man Savarin
is want for take de sturgeon!
“First dey hain’t
speak so I can hear, for de Rapid is too loud.
But pretty quick dey’s bose angry, and I hear
fish,’ Old Man Savarin is say. ‘Didn’t
I save him? Wasn’t you goin’ for lose
him, for sure?’
good. Dass such an old rascal. [Page
“‘You get off dis
platform, quick!’ Alphonsine she’s say.
“‘Give me my sturgeon,’
lie—it hain’t your sturgeon. It’s
my sturgeon,’ she’s yell.
you one lesson ’bout dat,’ he’s say.
“Well, M’sieu, Alphonsine
she’s pull back de fish just when Old Man Savarin
is make one grab. An’ when she’s pull
back, she’s step to one side, an’ de old
rascal he is grab at de fish, an’ de heft of de
sturgeon is make him fall on his face, so he’s
tumble in de Rapid when Alphonsine let go de sturgeon.
So dere’s Old Man Savarin floating in de river
—and me! I’ll don’
care eef he’s drown one bit!
One time he is on his back,
one time he is on his face, one time he is all under
de water. For sure he’s goin’ for
be draw into de culbute an’ get drown’
dead, if I’ll not be able for scoop him when he’s
go by my platform. I’ll want for laugh,
but I’ll be too much scare. [Page 22]
“Well, M’sieu, I’ll
pick up my fader’s scoop and I’ll stand
out on de edge of de platform. De water is run
so fast, I’m mos’ ’fraid de old man
is boun’ for pull me in when I’ll scoop
him. But I’ll not mind for dat, I’ll
throw de scoop an’ catch him; an’ for sure,
he’s hold on good.
“So dere’s de old
rascal in de scoop, but when I’ll get him safe,
I hain’t able for pull him in one bit. I’ll
only be able for hold on an’ laugh, laugh—he’s
look ver’ queer! All I can do is
to hold him dere so he can’t go down de culbute.
I’ll can’t pull him up if I’ll want
“De old man is scare ver’
bad. But pretty quick he’s got hold of de
cross-bar of de hoop, an’ he’s got his ugly
old head up good.
“‘Pull me in,’
he say, ver’ angry.
be able,’ I’ll say.
Alphonsine she come ’long, an’ she’s
laugh so she can’t hardly hold on wis me to de
hannle. I was laugh good some more. [Page
23] When de old villain see us have fun, he’s
yell: ‘I’ll learn you bose one lesson for
this. Pull me ashore!’
learn us bose one lesson, M’sieu Savarin, eh?’
Alphonsine she’s say. ‘Well, den,
us bose will learn M’sieu Savarin one lesson first.
Pull him up a little,’ she’s say to me.
“So we pull him up, an’
den Alphonsine she’s say to me: ‘Let out
de hannle, quick’— and he’s under
de water some more. When we stop de net, he’s
got hees head up pretty quick.
I’ll be drown’ if you don’t pull me
out,’ he’s mos’ cry.
you’s drown, your family be ver’ glad,’
Alphonsine she’s say. ‘Den they’s
got all your money for spend quick, quick.’
“M’sieu, dat scare
him offle. He’s begin for cry like one baby.
“‘Save me out,’
he’s say. ‘I’ll give you anything
I’ve got.’ [Page 24]
Alphonsine she’s say.
“He’s tink, and
he’s say, ‘Quarter dollar.’
me is laugh, laugh.
he’s cry some more. ‘I hain’t
fit for die dis mawny.’
fit for live no mawny,’ Alphonsine she’s
say. ‘One quarter dollar, eh? Where’s
away when I fall in,’ he’s say.
“‘How much you goin’
give me for lose my big sturgeon?’ she’s
“‘How much you’ll
much for one sturgeon,’ he’s say.
For all he was not feel fit for die, he was more ’fraid
for pay out his money.
“‘Let him down some
more,’ Alphonsine she’s say.
misère! I’ll pay de two dollare,’
he’s say when his head come up some more.
den,’ Alphonsine she’s say; ‘I’ll
[Page 25] be willin’ for save
you, me. But you hain’t scooped
by me. You’s in Marie’s net.
I’ll only come for help Marie. You’s
her sturgeon;’ an’ Alphonsine she’s
laugh an’ laugh.
I’ll say mysef. ‘But you’s steal
my fader’s platform. You’s take his
fishin’ place. You’s got him fined
two times. You’s make my moder pay his bill
wis my weddin’ money. What you
goin’ pay for all dat? You tink I’ll
be goin’ for mos’ kill mysef pullin’
you out for noting? When you ever do someting
for anybody for noting, eh, M’sieu Savarin?’
“‘How much you want?’
“‘Ten dollare for
de platform, dat’s all.’
robbery,’ he’s say, an’ he’s
begin to cry like ver’ li’ll baby.
“‘Pull him hup,
Marie, an’ give him some more,’ Alphonsine
“‘But de old rascal
is so scare ’bout dat, dat [Page 26]
he’s say he’s pay right off. So we’s
pull him up near to de platform, only we hain’t
big ’buff fool for let him out of de net till
he’s take out his purse an’ pay de twelve
If ever you see one angry old rascal! He not even
stop for say: ‘T’ank you for save me from
be drown’ dead in the culbute!’
He’s run for his house an’ he’s put
on dry clo’es, an’ he’s go up to de
magistrate first ting for learn me an’ Alphonsine
one big lesson.
“But de magistrate hain’
ver’ bad magistrate. He’s only laugh
an’ he’s say: —
de whole river will be laugh at you for let two young
girl take eet out of smart man like you like dat.
Hain’t you tink your life worth twelve dollare?
Didn’t dey save you from de culbute?
Monjee! I’ll tink de whole river not
laugh so ver’ bad if you pay dose young girl one
hunder dollare for save you so kind.’
“‘One hunder dollare!’
he’s mos’ cry. [Page 27]
‘Hain’t you goin’ to learn dose girl
one lesson for take advantage of me dat way?’
pay dose girl yoursef? Didn’t you took out
your purse yoursef? Yes, eh? Well, den,
I’ll goin’ for learn you one lesson yoursef,
M’sieu Savarin,’ de magistrate is say.
‘Dose two young girl is ver’ wicked, eh?
Yes, dat’s so. But for why? Hain’t
dey just do to you what you been doin’ ever since
you was in beesness? Don’ I know?
You hain’ never yet got advantage of nobody wisout
you rob him all you can, an’ dose wicked young
girl only act just like you give dem a lesson all your
de best fun was de whole river did laugh at
M’sieu Savarin. An’ my fader and Frawce
Seguin is laugh most of all, till he’s catch hup
wis bose of dem anoder time. You come for see
me some more, an’ I’ll tol’ you ’bout
dat.” [Page 28]