About: Dak reads Les Misérables and recaps it here, so that she may better retain the information. Things not to expect: deep literary analysis. Things to expect: Spoilers. All the spoilers.
BOOK 1: A Little History
We are now on Part 2 of the story, called “Cosette”. I thought we were starting out with Jean Valjean coming across Hougoumont, because I just assume any unknown person wandering around is Jean Valjean at this point, but no, it’s the author of this story, who is now going to tell us all about a certain battle.
Hougoumont, If you are unfamiliar, is a farm in Waterloo. You’ve probably heard of it. If you don’t know how that all went down, aside from the fact that Napoleon lost a battle there once in such spectacular fashion that it is still, nearly 200 years later, synonymous with crushing defeat… I am now going to suggest you go either: A. Read up on the battle in your History books or B. Read Hugo’s prose yourself or C. Do Both, because this battle is exactly what the first part of this chapter is about, and I think me filtering that information is probably as useless as me making a laundry list of all the Bishop’s good works that were mentioned in the opening of the book. Just for a little perspective though, Waterloo took place around the time Fantine first hooked up with Felix if he was dumping her in 1817.
A couple of random notes:
Every time Blücher’s name makes an appearance my brain’s Pavlovian response is to hear horses whinnying.
I did not think I was going to have to use the dead horse tag this many times.
Anyway, the author finally gets back to details of the actual story he’s telling in the very last part of this chapter.
There are men who follow along behind these armies for the purpose of looting the corpses after the battles have taken their tolls. This particular night Wellington (the English General) has ordered these thieves executed.
One if them is skulking around near the sunken road when something in the moonlight catches his eye. It is a gold ring. He lifts the ring from the corpse and turns away, but finds he is held in place by a hand grabbing onto his cape.
He ends up clearing everything away from the hand and there is an unconscious man underneath. He has a gash from a sabre across his face and the way he had fallen happened to keep him from getting trampled as many others had.
The thief proceeds to rob him of all his money and his Legion of Honour medal while he is passed out. All this rifling around on his person does eventually wake him up though.
He thanks this man who has stolen all his stuff, and asks who won the battle. He gets the news that it was the English, and then proceeds to attempt to offer the thief all the money that was just stolen. The wounded man assumes he has already been robbed by somebody else and is not in the process of being robbed at this very moment.
Meanwhile, there are men on watch, looking out for these crooks and one is approaching, so the thief lies to the wounded man and tells him, although he is a fellow soldier, he must go lest he be shot.
The fallen soldier asks after his rank and his name. He gives the rank sergeant, and as for his name?
Now you know why the Thénardier’s inn is named what it is named. That was an awful lot of words to get to that payoff.
And the wounded Soldier? Well, he’s going to remember Thénardier as the man who saved his life. This soldier’s name is Pontmercy.
You should probably hang onto that piece of information too. Just sayin’.