It was 1895, and Héroult felt he was standing still. He was
running out of steam, and to make things worse, his wife died suddenly, leaving
two small children, Paul 4 and Henriette 2.
He then turned
to the sole task of starting up the La
Praz plant. Orders began pouring in, and he suggested
increasing the production capacity by damming another waterfall, 240 ft. high, on the other
side of the torrent. The project fascinated him. It was another challenge, the
very thing he liked best. His imagination and his daring were fired up. He
proposed, not a bridge, but a self-sustained conduit in the shape of an arch,
supported only by concrete abutments on either side of the torrent. Everyone
called the proposal wild and bound to fail. Héroult then suggested
placing his mother and his children, the day the floodgates were to be opened,
in the center of the conduit, a forfeit that at last convinced his peers. On
D-day, the floodwaters rushed through the conduit, and as Héroult had
predicted, did not even shake up his loved ones. Once again Héroult's
methods had triumphed.
In regaining his confidence in his inventive powers, he also gradually
recovered his ability to enjoy life which had deserted him for a few years. He
remarried and had three more children, Patrice, Elisabeth, and Anne-Marie. The
happy father and ardent husband then decided to grant himself a long honeymoon
: a trip around the world, an eight-month long cruise, back in his preferred
element, the sea.