Front Cover
 Half Title
 The children's library
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 A rash act
 The belle nivernaise
 Under way
 Life is hard
 Maugendre's ambitions
 Back Cover

Group Title: Children's library ; 9
Title: La Belle Nivernaise
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081871/00001
 Material Information
Title: La Belle Nivernaise the story of an old boat and her crew
Series Title: Children's library
Physical Description: 5 232 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 17 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Daudet, Alphonse, 1840-1897
Routledge, Robert ( Translator )
Montégut ( Illustrator )
Unwin, T. Fisher ( Thomas Fisher ), 1848-1935 ( Publisher )
Publisher: T. Fisher Unwin
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: 1892
Subject: Children -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Poverty -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Adopted children -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Kindness -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Brothers and sisters -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Parent and child -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Courtship -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Barges -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Family stories -- 1892   ( local )
Bldn -- 1892
Genre: Family stories   ( local )
novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
Statement of Responsibility: by Alphonse Daudet ; translated by Robert Routledge ; illustrated by Montégut.
General Note: Title and illustrated series title pages printed in red and black.
Funding: Children's library (London, England) ;
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081871
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002225202
notis - ALG5474
oclc - 40383487

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Half Title
        Half Title
    The children's library
        Unnumbered ( 4 )
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
    A rash act
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
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        Page 15
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        Page 18
        Page 19
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        Page 22
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        Page 46
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        Page 48
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        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
    The belle nivernaise
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
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        Page 70
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        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
    Under way
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
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        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
    Life is hard
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
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        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
    Maugendre's ambitions
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
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        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text





















THE street Des Enfants-Rouges is in the
Temple quarter-a very narrow street, with
stagnant gutters and puddles of black mud,
with foul water and mouldy smells pouring
from its gaping passages. The houses on
each side are very lofty, and have barrack-
like windows, that show no curtains behind

2 La Belle Nivernaise

their dirty panes. These are common lodg-
ing-houses, and dwellings of artisans, of day-
labourers, and of men who work at their

trade in their own rooms. There are shops
on the ground floor; many pork-dealers,
wine-retailers, vendors of chestnuts, bakers of

La rue des Enfants-Rouges

A Rash Act 5

coarse bread, butchers displaying viands of
repulsive tints. In this street you see no
carriages, no flounced gowns, no elegant

7 ,,

loungers on the pavement: but there are
costermongers crying the refuse of the
market-places, and a throng of workmen

6 La Belle Nivernaine

crowding out of the factories with their
blouses rolled up under their arms.
This is the eighth of the month, the day
when poor people pay their rents, the day
when landlords who are tired of waiting
any longer turn Want out of doors. On this
day you see removal carts going past
with piles of iron bedsteads, torn mattresses,
kitchen utensils, and lame tables rearing up
their legs in the air ; and with not even a
handful of straw to pack the wretched things,
damaged and worn out as they are by being
knocked about on dirty staircases, and
tumbled down from attic to basement.
It is now getting dark, and one after
another the gas-lamps are lighted, and send
their reflections from the gutters and the
shop windows. The passers-by, however,
hasten onwards; for the fog is chilly.

A Rash Act

But there, in a warm comfortable wine-
shop, is the honest old bargeman, Louveau,
leaning against the counter, and taking a

Villette. The bargeman's big, weather-beaten
face dilates into a hearty laugh, that makes
7 t :

4.. ii

friendly glass with the joiner from La
Villette. The bargeman's big, weather-beaten
face dilates into a hearty laugh, that makes

8 La Belle Nivernaise

the copper rings in his ears shake again, as
he exclaims:
So it's settled, friend Dubac, that you take
my load of timber at the price I have named."
Your good health."
Here's to yours."
They clink their glasses together, and
Louveau drinks with his head thrown back
and his eyes half closed, smacking his lips in
order to taste better the flavour of his white
It can't be helped, look you, but every one
has his failing; and white wine is the special
weakness of our friend Louveau. Not that
he is a drunkard. Far from it. Indeed, his
wife, who is a woman of sense, would not allow
fuddling; but when one has to live like our
bargeman, with his feet in the water, and

A Rash Act

his pate in the sun, it is quite necessary to
quaff off a glass now and then.
Louveau is getting more and more elated
and he smiles at the shining zinc counter--

which he now sees rather indistinctly-for it
brings to his mind the heap of new, bright
coins he will pocket to-morrow when he
delivers his timber.

16 La Belle Nivernaise

After a parting glass, and a shake of the
hands, our friends separate.
To-morrow without fail? "
"You may depend on me."
Louveau, at least, will not fail to keep the
appointment. The bargain is too good, and has
been too hard driven for him to be behind.
So in high glee, our bargeman turns down
towards the Seine, rolling his shoulders and
elbowing his way along, with the exuberant
delight of a school-boy who has a franc piece
in his pocket.
What will mother Louveau say-the wife
with a head-piece-when she learns that her
husband has sold his timber right off, and
that at a good profit? Two or three more
bargains like this, and then they can afford to
buy a new boat and drop the Belle Nivernaise,
for she is beginning to get much too leaky.

A Rash Act

Not that she is to blame for that, for she was
a fine boat when she was new; only, you
see, everything gets old and goes to decay;
and Louveau himself feels that even he is

: ~ .
..,i~v 'f i. i ""* .

,!.' ,l ,-r ^ :*;

'_ -

not now as active as when he used to assist
in steering the timber-rafts on the Marne.
But what is going on down there ? The

ia LZa Belle Nivernaise

gossips are collected before a door, and people
are stopping, and engaging in conversation,
while the policeman standing in the middle

of the gathering is writing something in his
note-book. Like everybody else, our barge-
man crosses the road to satisfy his curiosity,

A Rask Art

and see whether a dog has been run over, or
a vehicle has stuck fast, or a tipsy man has
fallen into the gutter, or what other equally
uninteresting event has occurred. Something
different this time A small child with
disordered hair, and cheeks all over jam, is
sitting on a wooden chair, rubbing his eyes
with his hands, and crying. The tears that
have streamed down his rather dirty face have
left upon it fantastically shaped marks. The
officer is questioning the little fellow, with a
calm and dignified air, as if he were examining
a prisoner, and he is taking notes of the
What is your name ?"
"Victor What? "
No answer; only the poor little brat cried
more, and sobbed Mamma Mamma "

La Belle Nizvernaise

At this moment, a very plain and untidy
woman of the labouring class, was passing by,
dragging her two children after her. She

.-i T ..1 1C ,

advanced through the group, and asked the
police-officer to allow her to try what she
could do. She knelt down, wiped the little
could do. She knelt down, wiped the little

A Rash Act

fellow's nos2, dried his eyes, and kissed his
sticky cheeks.
What is your mammy's name, my
dear ?"
He did not .know. Then the policeman
addressed himself to one of the neighbours:
Now you should know something about
these people, as you are the door-keeper."
No, he had never heard their name, and
then there were so many tenants going back-
S wards and forwards in the house. All that
could be ascertained was that they had lived
there for a month, that they had never paid
a farthing of rent, that the landlord had just
turned them out, and that it was a good
What did they do ?"
Nothing at all."
The father and mother used to spend the

La Belle Nivernaise

day in drinking, and the evening in fighting.
They never agreed together in anything,
except in thrashing their other children, two

as you ay believe.

-. "," --.t'l' -,

.. .i -C, .

.- -", r ,^ .

*' ,.'T ,,- .. .
: r '. ---

lads that used to beg .in the streets, and steal
things there exposed for sale. A nice family,
as you may believe.

A Rash Act 17

Do you think they will come to look for
their child ? "
I am sure they will not."
The removal had, in fact, afforded them an
opportunity of abandoning the child. That
was not the first time such a thing had
happened on the term days.
"Did nobody see the parents leaving?"
asked the policeman.
Yes! they went away in the morning,
the husband pushing the hand-cart, while
his wife carried a package in her apron,
and the two lads had nothing, but their hands
in their pockets.
The passers-by after indignantly exclaim-
ing that these people should be caught,
continued on their way.
The poor little brat had been there since
noon, when his mother had set him in the

La Belle iNVvernaise

chair and told him to "be good," and all
that time he had been waiting. But when
he began to cry for hunger, the fruit-woman
over the way had given him a slice of bread
with jam on it. This had long ago been
devoured, and the little wretch was beginning
to cry again.
The poor innocent too was nearly dying
with fear. He was afraid of the dogs prowling
round him-afraid of the night that was
coming on-afraid of the strangers talking to
him-and his little heart was beating
violently in his bosom, like that of an
expiring bird.
As the crowd round him continued to
increase, the police office-r, tired of the scene,
took the child by the hand to lead him to
the station.
Come now ; does anybody claim him ?"

A Rash Act 19

Stop a minute !"
Every one turned round, and saw a great

S .. .. .;'
"'. "'-


-_ --I ....

ruddy face wearing a silly smile that
extended from one copper-ringed ear to the

La Belle Nivernaise

"Stop a minute! if nobody wants him, I
will take him myself."
Loud exclamations burst from the crowd:
"Well done,"-" That's right,"-" You are
a good fellow."
Old Louveau, excited by the white wine,
the success of his bargain, and the general
approbation, stood with folded arms in the
middle of the admiring circle.
Oh, it's a simple matter."
Those who were curious went on with him
to the police magistrate's, without letting his
enthusiasm cool. When he got there he
was asked the questions usual in such cases
Your name? "
Francis Louveau, your Honour, a
married man, and if I may say so, well
married, to a wife with a head-piece. And
that is lucky for me, your Honour, for you

A Rash Act

see I am not very clever myself, ha ha not
very clever. I'm not an eagle. 'Francis is
not an eagle,' my wife says."
He had never before been so eloquent,
but now he felt his tongue loosened, and
all the assurance of a man who had just
concluded a good bargain--and who had
drunk a bottle of white wine.
Your occupation ? "
Bargeman, your Honour, master of the
Belle Nivernaise, rather a rough boat,
but manned by a smartish crew. Ah now
mine is a famous crew. Ask the lock-
keepers all the way from the Pont Marie
to Clamecy. has your Honour ever been
there, at Clamecy ? "
The people about him were smiling, but
Louveau went on, spluttering and clipping
short his syllables,

22 Za Belle Nivernaise

"Well now, Clamecy is a nice place, if
you like It's wooded from top to bottom;
and with good wood, workable wood; all the
joiners know that. It is there I buy my
timber. He he! I am famous for my
timber. I see a thing at a glance, look you !
Not because I am clever; as my wife says,
I am by no means an eagle : but in fact I do
see a thing at a glance. .For instance,
now, I take a tree as thick as you-asking
your Honour's pardon-and I lap a string
round it, this way. ."
He had drawn a cord from his pocket, and
seizing hold of the officer standing by, had
encircled him with it.
The officer struggled to disentangle himself:
Please leave me alone."
Yes. yes. I want to show his
Honour how I pass the string round it, and

A Rash Act 23

then when I have the girth, I multiply it
by. I multiply by. I forget now what I
multiply by. My wife does the calcu-


She has a good head-piece, has my

24 La Belle Nivernaise

The audience was highly amused, and
the magistrate himself could not refrain from

smiling behind his table. When the laughter
had subsided a little, he asked:
What will you make of this child ?"

A Rash Act 2

"Certainly not a gentleman. We have
never had a gentleman in our family. But

he shall be a bargeman, a smart barge lad,
like the rest."

La Belle Nivernaise

"Have you any children?"
"I should think I have I have one able
to walk, another at the breast, and there is a
third one coming. That's not so bad, is it?
for a man who is not an eagle. With this
one there willbe four; but pooh! where there
is enough for three, there is enough for
four. Packed a little closer, that's all.
One must pull one's belt a little
tighter and try to get more for one's
And his laughter again shook the ear-rings,
as he turned a complacent look on those
A big book was put before him, but
as he could not write he had to sign with
a cross.
The magistrate thereupon gave the lost
child up to him,

A Rask Act 27

"Take the little fellow away, Francis
Louveau, and mind you bring him up well.

If any inquiries are made about him, I will
let you know. But it is not likely that his

28 La Belle Nivcrnaise

parents will ever claim him. As for you, you
seem to me an honest man, and I have
confidence in you. Always be guided by your
wife; and now good bye, and don't you
take too much white wine."
A dark night, a cold fog, a lot of uncon-
cerned people hurrying away home-that
all tends to quickly bring a man to his
Hardly had our bargeman got into the street
by himself, leading by the hand the child he
had taken under his care, and carrying his
stamped document in his pocket, than he felt
his enthusiasm suddenly cool down and he
became aware of the serious import of'
his act.
Is he then always to be like this ?
Always to be a simpleton and a braggart ?
Why could not he go on his way like other

Leading by the hand the child he had taken under his care

~L~- ,




A Rash Act

people without meddling in what did not
concern him ?
Now for the first time, he pictured to
himself the wrath of mother Louveau.
Just fancy the kind of reception he will
meet with !
What a dreadful thing it is for a simple
kind-hearted man to have a shrewd wife !
He would never have the courage to go
home and yet he dared not go back to
the police magistrate's. Whatever should he
They went on through the fog, Louveau
gesticulating and talking to himself. He was
getting a speech ready.
Victor was dragging his shoes in the mud
and letting himself be pulled along like a
dead weight. At length, he could go no
farther, and then Louveau stepped, lifted him

La Belle Nivernaise

up and carried him, wrapping his overall
round him. The twining of the little arms
round his neck caused our bargeman to re-
sume his journey with a rather better heart.

Faith, bad as it was, he would run the risk.
If mother Louveau turned them out, there
would still be time to carry the little brat back
to the police-office; but if she would keep

A Rash Act

him only for one night, he would be the
gainer by a good meal.
They came to the Bridge of Austerlitz

where the Belle Nivernaise was moored, and
the faint pleasant odour from the loads of
newly-cut wood filled the night air. A whole

I.a Belle Nirernaise

fleet of boats was rocking in the dark shade
of the river's bank, and the movement of the
water made the lamps swing and the chains
grate together.
To get to his boat, Louveau had to pass
over two lighters connected by planks. He
went on with timid steps and trembling
limbs, hampered by the hug of the child's
arms about his neck.
The night was extremely dark, and the
only signs of life about the Belle Nivernaise
were the little lamp shining in the cabin
window, and the ray of light that found its
way beneath the door.
Mother Louveau's voice was heard chiding
the children, while she was cooking the
evening meal:
Be quiet, Clara !"
It was now too late for retreat, and the

A Rash Act

bargeman pushed the door open. Mother
Louveau had her back towards it, and was

( (

leaning over her frying-pan, but she knew his
footstep, and without turning round, said:

La Belle ANivernaise

Is it you, Francis ? How late you are in
getting back "
The frying potatoes were dancing about
in the crackling oil; and as the steam from


the pan passed towards the open door, it
dimmed the panes of the cabin windows.
Francis had put the poor brat on the
floor, and the little fellow, impressed by the
warmth of the place, and feeling his reddened

A -Rash Act

fingers restored to animation, smiled and said
in a rather soft and sweet voice:
"Warm here. ."
Mother Louveau turned round, and point-
ing to the ragged child standing in the
middle of the room, asked her husband in
angry tones:
"What is that? "
But even in the best of households, there
are such moments.
SA surprise for you, he i he a surprise."
The bargeman grinned from ear to ear, in
order to keep himself in countenance ; but he
very much wished that he was still in the
street. However, as his wife was waiting for an
explanation, and glaring at him with a dread-
ful look, he faltered out his story in a jumbled
way, with the supplicating eyes of a dog
threatened with the whip.

La Belle Nivernaise

His parents had abandoned him, and he
had found him crying on the pavement.
Some one had asked if anybody would take
him. He said he would. And the police

-. ': Wt-.,


magistrate had told him he might take' him
"Didn't he, my child?"
Then the storm burst upon him:
"You are mad, or drunk! Did ever
any one hear tell of such a piece of

A Rash Act 41

folly! I suppose you want us to die of
starvation? Do you think we are too well
off? That we have too much to eat? Too
much room to lie in ? "
Francis contemplated his shoes without
answering a word.
Think of yourself, you wretch, and think
of us Your boat is holed like my skimmer,
and yet you must go and amuse yourself by
picking up other people's children out of the
gutter !"
But the poor fellow knew all that too well
already, and did not attempt to deny it. He
bowed his head like a criminal listening to
the statement of his guilt.
You will do me the favour of taking that
child back to the police magistrate, and if
any objections are made about receiving
him back again, you must say that

42 La Belle Nivernaise

your wife won't have him. Do you
understand ?"
She advanced towards him pan in hand,

with a threatening gesture, and the bargeman
promised to do all she wished.
Come now, don't get vexed. I thought

A Rash Act 43

I was doing right. I have made a mistake.
That's enough. Must he be taken back at
once? "
Her good-man's submission softened mother



Louveau's heart. Perhaps also there arose
in her mind the vision of a child of her
own, lost and alone at night, stretching out
its hands towards the passers-by.

44 La Belle Nivernaise

She turned to put her pan on the fire, and
said in a testy tone :

It cannot be done to-night, for the office
is closed. And now that you have brought
him, you cannot set him down again on the


A Ras/z Act 45

He shall remain to-night; but
Louveau was so enraged that she

poked the fire first with one hand and then
with the other.

46 La Belle Nivernaise

But I vow that to-morrow you shall rid
me of him "
There was silence.
The housewife laid the table savagely,
knocking the glasses together, and dashing
the forks down. Clara was frightened, and
kept very quiet in one corner.
The baby was whining on the bed, and
the lost child was looking with wonder at the
cinders in the stove getting red hot. Perhaps
he had never seen a fire in all his life before.
There was, however, another pleasure in
store for him, when he was put to the table
with a napkin round his neck, and a heap
of potatoes on his plate. He ate like a
robin-redbreast picking crumbs off the
Mother Louveau helped him furiously, but
at heart she was a little bit touched by the

A Rash Act. 47

appetite of the starved child. Little Clara
was delighted, and stroked him with her
spoon. Louveau was dismayed and dared not
lift an eye.

When she had removed the table things
and put her children to bed, mother Lou-
veau seated herself near the fire, and took the
child between her knees to give him a
little wash.

48 La Belle Nivernaise

"We can't put him to bed in that dirty
I lay he had never before seen either
sponge or comb. Under her hands the poor
child twirled round like a top.
But when once he had been washed and
tidied up, the little lad did not look bad,
with his pink poodle-like nose, and hands as
plump as rosy apples.
Mother Louveau looked upon her work
with a certain degree of satisfaction.
I wonder how old he is ?"
Francis laid down his pipe, delighted once
more to be an actor in the scene. This was
the first time he had been spoken to all
the evening, and a question addressed to
him was almost like a recall to grace.
He rose up and drew his cords from his

A Rash Act

"How old? He he! I'll tell you in a

: i .

He took the little fellow in his arms, and
wound lines round him as he did to the tree
at Clamecy.
Mother Louveau looked on with amaze-

La Belle .V ,,

Whatever are you doing? "
"I am taking his dimensions."
She snatched the cord from his hands, and
flung it to the other end of the apartment.
My good man, how silly you make
yourself with these mad tricks The child
is not a young tree."
No chance for you, this evening, poor
Francis Quite abashed he beats a retreat,
whilst mother Louveau puts the little one
to bed in Clara's cot.
The little girl is sleeping with closed hands
and taking up all the room. She is vaguely
conscious that something is put beside her,
stretches out her arms, pushes her neighbour
into a corner, digs her elbows into his eyes,
turns over and goes to sleep again.
In the meantime the lamp has been
blown out, and the Seine rippling round

A R-ash Act 51

the boat gently rocks the wooden

The poor lost child feels a gentle warmth

52 La Belle Nivernaise

steal over him, and he falls asleep with the
new sensation of something like a caressing
hand upon his head, just as his eyes are



awake early, and this morning she was sur-
prised at not seeing her mother in the cabin,
and at finding another head on the pillow
beside her. She rubbed her eyes with her
little fingers, then took hold of her bedfellow
by the hair and shook him.

54 La Belle Nivcrnaise

Poor "Totor was roused by the strangest
sensations, for roguish fingers were teasing
him by tickling his neck and seizing hold of
his nose.
He cast his wondering eyes round about

( v -. -,j -
4 \4 .- .

him, and was quite surprised that his dream
still continued. Above them there was a
creaking of footsteps, and a rumbling sound
caused by the unloading of the planks upon
the quay.


" the delivery of the wood'

Tie Belle Nivernaise 57

Mademoiselle Clara seemed greatly per-
plexed. She pointed her little finger to the
ceiling with a gesture that seemed to ask
her friend:
"What is that?"

(' '

It was the delivery of the wood beginning.
Dubac, the joiner from La Villette, had come
at six o'clock with his horse and cart, and
Louveau had very quickly set to work, with
a hitherto unknown ardour.

La Belle Nivernaise

The good fellow had not closed an eye all
night for thinking that he would have to take
that child, who had been so cold and hungry,
back to the police-magistrate.

E --

H- e expected to have a scene in the
morning again; but mother Louveau had
some other notions in her head, for she
did not mention Victor to him: and Francis

The Belle Nivernaise

thought that much might be gained by
postponing the time for explanations.
He was striving to efface himself, and to
escape from his wife's view, and he was
working with all his might, lest mother
Louveau should see him idle, and should
call out to him:
Come now, as you have nothing to do,
take the little boy back where you found
And he did work. The pile of planks was
visibly diminishing. Dubac had already
made three journeys, and mother Louveau,
standing on the gangway with her nursling on
her arm, had her time fully taken up in
counting the lots as they passed.
Working with a will, Francis selected for
his burdens rafters as long as masts and as
thick as walls. If the beam were too

6o La Belle Nivernaise

heavy, he called the Crew to help him to
The Crew was a boatman with a wooden leg,

'W- 8


and he alone formed the personal equipment
of the Belle Nivernaise. He had been picked
up from charity, and retained from habit.
This maimed one would prop himself up

The Belle Nivernaise 61

on his peg, or raise up the log with great
effort, and Louveau, bending beneath the load,

with his belt tight round his waist, would pass
slowly over the movable bridge.
How could a man so busily occupied be
interrupted in his work? Mother Louveau

Za Belle Nivernaise

could not think of it. She went up and down
on the gangway, intent only on Mimile who
was at her breast.

He was always thirsty, that Mimile. Like
his father. But Louveau, thirsty? he

The Belle Nivernaise 63

certainly was not so to-day. He had been
working since morning, and the question of
white wine had never been raised. He had
not even taken breathing time, or wiped his
brow, or drunk a drop at the edge of a

counter. Even when, after a little, Dubac
proposed to go and have a glass, Francis
heroically replied:
We shall have time later on."

64 La Belle Nivernaise

Refuse a glass! the housewife could not
understand it at all; this could not be her
Louveau, but must be some substitute.
Her Clara now seems a changeling also, for
eleven o'clock has struck, and the little girl,

1' -"

who would never remain in bed, has not
stirred the whole morning.
Mother Louveau hastens into the cabin to
see what is going on. Francis remains on
deck, swinging his arms, and gasping for
breath, as if he had just received in his
stomach a blow from a joist.

The Belle Nivernaise

Now for it! His wife has bethought
herself of Victor; she is going to bring him
on deck, and he must start for the police
office. But no ; mother Louveau
reappears all alone. She is laughing and
she beckons to him:
Just come and look here, it is so funny !"
The good man cannot understand this
sudden hilarity, and he follows her like an
automaton, the fulness of his emotion almost
depriving him of the use of his legs.
The two monkeys were sitting on the edge
of the bed, in their shirts, and with bare feet.
They had possessed themselves of the bowl
of soup that the mother left within reach.of
their little arms when she got up. As there
was only one spoon for the two mouths, they
were cramming each other in turns, like
fledglings in a nest; and Clara, who used

66 La Belle Nivernaise

always to be averse to taking her soup, was
laughing and stretching out her mouth for
the spoon. Although some crumbs of bread
might have got into eyes or ears, the two
babies had broken nothing, had upset nothing,

-..^ *r -' ..-

and they were amusing themselves so heartily
that it was impossible to find fault with them.
Mother Louveau continued to laugh.
"As they are agreeing so well as that, we
need not trouble ourselves about them."

The Belle Aivernaise

Francis immediately returned to his work,
quite delighted with the turn things were
Usually, at the unloading time, he would
take a rest during the day; that is to say, he
would go the round of all the bargemen's
taverns, from the Point-du-Jour to the Quai
de Bercy. So that the unloading used to
drag on for a whole week, during which
mother Louveau's wrath would continue
But this time there was no idleness, no
white wine, but a passionate desire to do well
by ardent and sustained labour.
On his part the little fellow, as if he under-
stood that his cause must be won, was doing
all that he possibly could to amuse Clara.
For the first time in her life, this little girl
passed a whole day without tears, without

La Belle Nivernaise

dashing .herself about, without making holes
in her stockings. Her companion amused
her, soothed her. He was always willing to
make a sacrifice of his hair to stop Clara's
tears on the edges of her eyelids.
And she tugged at her big friend's rough
poll by handfuls, teasing him like a pug-dog
nipping a poodle.
Mother Louveau observed all this from a
distance, and inwardly remarked that this child
was just as useful as a little nurse. So they
might keep Victor until the unloading was
finished. There would be time to take him
back afterwards, just before their departure.
For this reason, she did not that evening
make any allusion to sending him back, but
gorged him with potatoes, and put him to bed
as on the night before.
One would have thought that Louveau's

The Belle Nivernaise

little friend was a member of the family, and
to see the way Clara put her arm round his
neck as she went to sleep, would lead one to
suppose that she had taken him under her
special protection.
The unloading of the Belle Nivernaise lasted
three days. Three days of impetuous labour,
without any relaxation, without any break.
About midday the last cart was laden and
the boat was empty.
They could not take the tug until the
morrow, and Francis passed the whole day
between decks, repairing the planks, but still
haunted by those words that for three days
had been ringing in his ears :
Take him back to the police-magistrate."
Ah! that magistrate He was not more
dreaded in the house of wicked Mr. Punch
than he was in the cabin of the Belle

70 La Belle Nhiernaise

Nivernaise. He had become a kind of bogle
that mother Louveau availed herself of to
keep Clara quiet.

Every time she pronounced that name of
fear, the little fellow fixed upon her the

The Belle NVivernaise 7

restless eyes of a child who has too early had
experience of suffering.
He vaguely understood all that this word
meant of dangers to come. The magistrate !
That meant no more Clara, no more
caresses, no more warmth, no more potatoes;
but a return to a cheerless life, to days
without bread, to slumbers without bed, to
awakening in the morning without kisses.
How he therefore clung to mother
Louveau's skirts on the eve of the boat's
departure !-when Francis, in a trembling
voice, asked :
Come now, shall we take him back, yes
or no ? "
Mother Louveau did not answer. You
would even fancy she was thinking of some
pretext for keeping Victor.
As for Clara, she rolled on the floor,

72 La Belle Nivernaise

choking with sobs, and determined to have
convulsions if she were separated from her
Then the wife with a head-piece spoke
seriously :
My good man, you have done a foolish
act, as usual. And now you have to pay for
it. This child has become attached to us,
Clara is fond of him, and every one would be
grieved to see him leave. I am going to
try and keep him, but I will have each one
to bear a part. The first time that Clara
works herself up into a fit of passion, or that
you get drunk, I shall take him back to the
Old Louveau became radiant.
It was done. He would drink no more.
He smiled right up to his ear-rings and
sang away as he coiled his cable on the

The Belle Nivernaise 73

deck, whilst the tug towed along the Belle
Nivernaise together with quite a fleet of
other boats.


x** '""

I ll-



VICTOR was under way. Under way for
the suburban country, where the water
mirrors little houses and green gardens-
under way for the white land of the chalk
hills--under way beside the flagged, resound-
ing towing-paths-under way for the up-
lands, for the canal of the Yonne, slumbering
within its locks-under way for the verdure
of winter, and for the woods of Morvan.
Francis leant against the tiller of his
boat, firm in his resolution not to drink, and

La Beile lVivernaise

turned a deaf ear to the invitations of the
lock-keepers, and of the wine-dealers, who

I ..

,l il "

w ast-o t see hi m pI g fre "--

were astonished to see him passing free. He

Under Way 79

was obliged to cling to the tiller to keep the
Belle, A.' -.... from going alongside of the
taverns. The old boat, from the time she
had made the same voyage, seemed as if she
knew the stations, and wanted to stop at then
of.her own accord, like an omnibus horse.


The Crew was perched on one leg in the
prow, where, handling an immense boat-hook
in a melancholy way, he pushed back the
bushes, rounded the turns, and grappled the
It was not much work he used to do,

La Belle Nivernaise

although the noise of his wooden leg on the
deck might be heard day and night.
Resigned and silent, he was one of those
for whom everything in life had gone wrong.

A school-fellow had caused him the loss of
an eye; an axe had lamed him at the saw-mill;
a vat had scalded him at the sugar refinery.

Under Way 81

He would have been a beggar dying of
hunger at the edge of a ditch, if Louveau-
who always saw a thing at a glance-had not,

as he was coming out of the hospital, engaged
him to help in working the boat.
This was, at the time, the occasion of a

La Belle Nivernaise

great quarrel-exactly as for Victor. The
wife with a head-piece was vexed, whereupon
Louveau gave in.
In the end, the Crew remained, and at this
time he formed part of the household of the
Belle Nivernaise, on the same footing as the
cat and the raven.
Old Louveau steered so exactly, and the
Crew worked the boat so well, that after
having ascended the river and the canals,
the Belle Niverlaise, twelve days after her
departure from Paris, got moored at the
bridge of Corbigny, there to rest peacefully
in her winter sleep.
From December to the end of February,
the bargemen make no voyages, but repair
their boats, and look through the forests to
buy the spring cuttings as they stand.
As wood is cheap, they keep good fires in

Under Way 83

the cabins ; and if the autumn sale has been
successful, this idle time is made into a very
enjoyable holiday.
The Belle Nivernaise was laid up for
wintering ; that is to say, the rudder was



detached, the jury-mast was stowed away
between decks, and the whole space was clear
for playing and running about on the upper
What a change in his life for the foundling !
During all the voyage, he had continued in a

84 Za -Pelle iivernaise

state of astonishment and fear. He was like
a cage-bird surprised by being set free, that
in the suddenness of the change, forgets its

^il-,i ',' '"'

song and its wings. Though too young to
enjoy the charms of the landscape spread

Under Way

before his eyes, he had nevertheless been
impressed by the grandeur of that passage up
the river between two ever-changing horizons.
Mother Louveau, seeing him shy and
silent, kept on all day saying
He is deaf and dumb."
But the little Parisian from the Temple
district was not dumb When he got to
understand that he was not dreaming, that he
should no more go back to his garret, and
that, in spite of mother Louveau's threats,
there was really not much to fear from the
police-magistrate, his tongue was loosed. It
was like the blossoming of a plant grown in a
cellar and then put upon a window shelf. He
ceased to cower timidly down in corners like
a hunted ferret. His eyes, deeply set under
his projecting brow, lost their uneasy rest-
lessness, and although he remained rather

86 La Belle Nivernaise

pale and had a thoughtful look, he learned
to laugh with Clara.
The little girl passionately loved her play-

fellow, as people do love each other at that
age-for the pleasure of falling out and
making it up again. Although she was as

Under Way

self-willed as a little donkey, she had a very
tender heart, and the mention of the
magistrate was enough to make her do as
she'was bid.
They had hardly arrived at Corbigny, when
another sister came into the world. Mimile
was just eighteen months old, and that
made cots enough in the cabin--and
work enough likewise; for, with all the
encumbrances they had, they could not
afford a servant.
Mother Louveau grumbled so much that
the Crew's wooden leg quaked with fear.
But nobody in the place had any pity for
her. Even the peasants did not hesitate to
say what they thought about it to the priest,
who used to hold up the bargeman as a
"Say what your Reverence likes, there's

La Belle Nivernaise

no common sense in a man who has three
children of his own picking up those of other
people. But the Louveaus have always been
like that. They are full of vanity and conceit,
and no advice you can give them will alter
People did not wish them ill, but were not
sorry they had got a lesson.
The vicar was a kind, well-meaning man,
who easily adopted the opinions of others,
and always wound up by recollecting some
passage of Scripture, or sentence from the
Fathers, with which to keep his own mind
easy about his sudden turns and changes.
"My parishioners are right," said he to
himself as he passed his hand under his
badly shaven chin, we must not tempt
divine Providence."
But as the Louveaus were, on the whole,

Under Iay

good honest people, he made his pastoral
call on them as usual.
He found mother Louveau cutting
breeches for Victor out of an old jacket, for
the little brat had brought no clothes with

him, and she could not bear rags and tatters
about her.
She placed a seat for his Reverence, and
when he spoke to her about Victor, hinting
that with the influence of the Bishop they

90 La Belle Nivernaise

might perhaps get him into the orphanage
at Autun, mother Louveau who would speak
her mind to everybody, abruptly answered :
"The little fellow may be a burden to
poor folks like us, certainly; I think that
when he brought him home, Francis gave
one more proof that he is not an eagle.
I am not harder hearted than my husband;
if I had met Victor, I should have been
sorry for him, but yet I would have left him
where he was. But now that we have taken
him, it is not in order to get rid of him; and
if we should some day find ourselves in a
difficulty through him, we shall not go and
ask charity from anybody."
At this moment Victor came into the cabin
with Mimile in his arms.
The little monkey, angry at having been
weaned, was seeking his revenge by refusing

Under Way 91

to be set down, and was showing his teeth
and biting everybody.



Touched by this sight, the vicar put his
hand on the foundling's head and gravely

92 La Belle A'- ".

God's blessing is on large families."
And away he went, delighted with himself
for having recollected a sentence so appro-
priate to the situation.
Mother Louveau but told the truth when
she said that Victor was now one of the
While continually grumbling, and talking
about taking the little fellow back to the
police-magistrate's, this woman with a head-
piece was getting to like the pale-faced child
that clung so persistently to her skirts.
When old Louveau thought they were
making too much of him, she always
"Then you should not have taken him."
As soon as he was eight years of age, she
sent him to school with Clara.
Victor would always carry the books and

Under Way 93

,the basket. He would fight bravely in defend-

"1 % (\

.::'..3 -4 ,-"

ing their luncheon against the unscrupulous
appetites of the young Morvandians.

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