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Emile Bouet, skipper of a fishing boat at La Rochelle, is living with Fernande whom he had taken from a low dance-hall where she was a singer. In an atmosphere of face-slapping, drinking, shouting laughter, tears and frenzy, they lead a happy existence. One day Emile is summoned by Mr. larmentiel, the town's most important personage, whose family has resigned over La Rochelle for three generations. Larmentiel is disturbed. His brother Edmond has just returned, dying, from Tahiti. In his mind, fuddled by forty years of drugs and alcool, Edmond Larmentiel has got the idea of making his sole heir the natural son he had in earlier days by associating with a girl from the port. This natural son is... Emile Bouet. François Larmentiel is to try and ward off this move. To a dumbfounded and credulous Emile, he first offers a partnership and then even promises him his daughter in mariage... But things quickly begin to go wrong. First of all, Fernande must be got out of the way. The very thought of such an action makes Emile incapable of doing it. He begins to drink heavily and cannot sleep. Fernande grows to understand and takes herself off. But Emile, unable to do without her, fetches her back. But her return solves nothing ; on the contrary...