OLD MAN SAVARIN

Old 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 be here, me, for see the river when she’s like this.”

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 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 a sigh.

“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, 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.’

“’Rent!’ my fader say. ’_Saprie_! Dat’s my fader’s platform for scoop
fish! You ask anybody.’

“’Oh, I’ll 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.’

“’_Baptême_! I’ll show you ’bout dat,’ my fader say.

“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’!

“’Mebbe dat’s 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.

“’You ain’t got ’nuff yet for fishin’ on my land, eh? Come out of dat,’
Old Man Savarin is say.

“’_Saprie_! Ain’t I pay nine shillin’ for fish here?’ my fader say.

“’Old—you pay nine shillin’ for fish here _wisout_ my leave. But you
ain’t pay nothin’ for fish here _wis_ my leave. You is goin’ up before
de magistrate some more.’

“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 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 catch.’

“’_Monjee_! Never!’

“’Five dollar a year, den.’

“’_Saprie_, no. Dat’s too much.’

“’All right. Keep off my lan’, if you hain’t want anoder lesson.’

“’You’s a tief,’ my fader say.

“’Hermidas, make 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?’

“’_Tort Dieu_. You rob me of my place for fish, but I’ll take my
platform anyhow,’ my fader is say.

“’Yes, eh? 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 dollars 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.

“’What for?’ Frawce say.

“’For try to scare you.’

“’He hain’t hurt me none.’

“’But he’s say he will lick you.’

“’Dat’s only because he’s vex,’ Frawce say.

“’_Baptême_! Non!’ my fader say. ’I’ll be goin’ for lick you good,
Frawce.’

“’For sure?’ Frawce say.

“’_Saprie_! Yes; for sure.’

“’Well, dat’s 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.

“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 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 bose sorry. So dey’s kiss one anoder
good—only all their close is tore to pieces.

[Illustration: DEY’S FIGHT LIKE DAT FOR MORE AS FOUR HOURS]

“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
of night.

“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.’

“’Ach—ugh—I’ll hain’t be able. Oh, I’ll be so sick. An’ I hain’ got no
place for scoop fish now no more. Frawce Seguin has rob my platform.’

“’Take de nex’ one lower down,’ my moder she’s say.

“’Dat’s Jawnny Leroi’s.’

“’All right for dat. Jawnny he’s hire for run timber to-day.’

“’Ugh—I’ll not be able for get up. Send for M’sieu le Curé—I’ll be
goin’ for die for sure.’

“’_Misère_, 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 fish dere.

“Pretty quick I’ll look up and I’ll see Alphonsine Seguin scoop, scoop
on my fader’s 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!

“Alphonsine she’s 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 to myself:—

“’Dat’s my 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 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-up.

“_Monjee!_ what 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:—

“’Dat’s good 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 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 dem talk.

“’Dat’s my fish,’ Old Man Savarin is say. ’Didn’t I save him? Wasn’t
you goin’ for lose him, for sure?’

“Me—I’ll laugh good. Dass _such_ an old rascal.

“’You get off dis platform, quick!’ Alphonsine she’s say.

“’Give me my sturgeon,’ he’s say.

“’Dat’s a lie—it hain’t your sturgeon. It’s my sturgeon,’ she’s yell.

“’I’ll learn 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 der’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.

“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 to.

“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.

“’I’ll hain’t be able,’ I’ll say.

“Jus’ den Alphonsine she’s come ’long, an’ she’s laugh so she can’t
hardly hold on wis me to de hannle. I was laugh good some more. When de
old villain see us have fun, he’s yell: ’I’ll learn you bose one lesson
for this. Pull me ashore!’

“’Oh! you’s 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.

“’_Monjee!_ I’ll be drown’ if you don’t pull me out,’ he’s mos’ _cry_.

“’Ver’ well—if 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.’

“’How much?’ Alphonsine she’s say.

“He’s tink, and he’s say, ’Quarter dollar.’

“Alphonsine an’ me is laugh, laugh.

“’Save me,’ he’s cry some more. ’I hain’t fit for die dis mawny.’

“’You hain’t fit for live no mawny,’ Alphonsine she’s say. ’One quarter
dollar, eh? Where’s my sturgeon?’

“’He’s got away when I fall in,’ he’s say.

“’How much you goin’ give me for lose my big sturgeon?’ she’s ask.

“’How much you’ll want, Alphonsine?’

“’Two dollare.’

“’Dat’s too 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.

“’Oh, _misère, misère_! I’ll pay de two dollare,’ he’s say when his
head come up some more.

“’Ver’ well, den,’ Alphonsine she’s say; ’I’ll 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 didn’t lost no sturgeon for Marie,’ he’s say.

“’No, eh?’ 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?’ he’s say.

“’Ten dollare for de platform, dat’s all.’

“’Never—-dat’s 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 she’s say.

“But de old rascal is so scare ’bout dat, dat he’s say he’s pay right
off. So we’s pull him up near to de platform, only we hain’t big ’nuff
fool for let him out of de net till he’s take out his purse an’ pay de
twelve dollare.

“_Monjee_, M’sieu! 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, and’
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:—

“’M’sieu Savarin, 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. ’Hain’t you goin’ to learn dose
girl one lesson for take advantage of me dat way?’

“’Didn’t you pay dose girl yoursef? Didn’t you took out your purse
yoursef? Yes, eh? Well, den, I’ll goin’ for learn you one lesson
yourself, 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 life.’

“An’ 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.”