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Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, trans. Isabel F. Hapgood

Part 9 out of 36

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did nothing but play pranks on us," is the remark of one of them.
During the mysterious trip from the island of Elba to France,
on the 27th of February, on the open sea, the French brig of war,
Le Zephyr, having encountered the brig L'Inconstant, on which Napoleon
was concealed, and having asked the news of Napoleon from L'Inconstant,
the Emperor, who still wore in his hat the white and amaranthine
cockade sown with bees, which he had adopted at the isle of Elba,
laughingly seized the speaking-trumpet, and answered for himself,
"The Emperor is well." A man who laughs like that is on familiar
terms with events. Napoleon indulged in many fits of this laughter
during the breakfast at Waterloo. After breakfast he meditated
for a quarter of an hour; then two generals seated themselves on
the truss of straw, pen in hand and their paper on their knees,
and the Emperor dictated to them the order of battle.

At nine o'clock, at the instant when the French army, ranged in
echelons and set in motion in five columns, had deployed--
the divisions in two lines, the artillery between the brigades,
the music at their head; as they beat the march, with rolls on the drums
and the blasts of trumpets, mighty, vast, joyous, a sea of casques,
of sabres, and of bayonets on the horizon, the Emperor was touched,
and twice exclaimed, "Magnificent! Magnificent!"

Between nine o'clock and half-past ten the whole army, incredible as it
may appear, had taken up its position and ranged itself in six lines,
forming, to repeat the Emperor's expression, "the figure of six V's."
A few moments after the formation of the battle-array, in the midst
of that profound silence, like that which heralds the beginning
of a storm, which precedes engagements, the Emperor tapped Haxo on
the shoulder, as he beheld the three batteries of twelve-pounders,
detached by his orders from the corps of Erlon, Reille, and Lobau,
and destined to begin the action by taking Mont-Saint-Jean, which was
situated at the intersection of the Nivelles and the Genappe roads,
and said to him, "There are four and twenty handsome maids, General."

Sure of the issue, he encouraged with a smile, as they passed
before him, the company of sappers of the first corps, which he
had appointed to barricade Mont-Saint-Jean as soon as the village
should be carried. All this serenity had been traversed by but
a single word of haughty pity; perceiving on his left, at a spot
where there now stands a large tomb, those admirable Scotch Grays,
with their superb horses, massing themselves, he said, "It is a pity."

Then he mounted his horse, advanced beyond Rossomme, and selected
for his post of observation a contracted elevation of turf to the right
of the road from Genappe to Brussels, which was his second station
during the battle. The third station, the one adopted at seven
o'clock in the evening, between La Belle-Alliance and La Haie-Sainte,
is formidable; it is a rather elevated knoll, which still exists,
and behind which the guard was massed on a slope of the plain.
Around this knoll the balls rebounded from the pavements of
the road, up to Napoleon himself. As at Brienne, he had over
his head the shriek of the bullets and of the heavy artillery.
Mouldy cannon-balls, old sword-blades, and shapeless projectiles,
eaten up with rust, were picked up at the spot where his horse'
feet stood. Scabra rubigine. A few years ago, a shell of sixty pounds,
still charged, and with its fuse broken off level with the bomb,
was unearthed. It was at this last post that the Emperor said
to his guide, Lacoste, a hostile and terrified peasant, who was
attached to the saddle of a hussar, and who turned round at every
discharge of canister and tried to hide behind Napoleon: "Fool, it
is shameful! You'll get yourself killed with a ball in the back."
He who writes these lines has himself found, in the friable soil
of this knoll, on turning over the sand, the remains of the neck
of a bomb, disintegrated, by the oxidization of six and forty years,
and old fragments of iron which parted like elder-twigs between
the fingers.

Every one is aware that the variously inclined undulations of the plains,
where the engagement between Napoleon and Wellington took place,
are no longer what they were on June 18, 1815. By taking from this
mournful field the wherewithal to make a monument to it, its real
relief has been taken away, and history, disconcerted, no longer
finds her bearings there. It has been disfigured for the sake
of glorifying it. Wellington, when he beheld Waterloo once more,
two years later, exclaimed, "They have altered my field of battle!"
Where the great pyramid of earth, surmounted by the lion,
rises to-day, there was a hillock which descended in an easy slope
towards the Nivelles road, but which was almost an escarpment
on the side of the highway to Genappe. The elevation of this
escarpment can still be measured by the height of the two knolls
of the two great sepulchres which enclose the road from Genappe
to Brussels: one, the English tomb, is on the left; the other,
the German tomb, is on the right. There is no French tomb. The whole
of that plain is a sepulchre for France. Thanks to the thousands
upon thousands of cartloads of earth employed in the hillock one
hundred and fifty feet in height and half a mile in circumference,
the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean is now accessible by an easy slope.
On the day of battle, particularly on the side of La Haie-Sainte,
it was abrupt and difficult of approach. The slope there is so
steep that the English cannon could not see the farm, situated in
the bottom of the valley, which was the centre of the combat.
On the 18th of June, 1815, the rains had still farther increased
this acclivity, the mud complicated the problem of the ascent,
and the men not only slipped back, but stuck fast in the mire.
Along the crest of the plateau ran a sort of trench whose presence it
was impossible for the distant observer to divine.

What was this trench? Let us explain. Braine-l'Alleud is a
Belgian village; Ohain is another. These villages, both of them
concealed in curves of the landscape, are connected by a road about
a league and a half in length, which traverses the plain along its
undulating level, and often enters and buries itself in the hills
like a furrow, which makes a ravine of this road in some places.
In 1815, as at the present day, this road cut the crest of the plateau
of Mont-Saint-Jean between the two highways from Genappe and Nivelles;
only, it is now on a level with the plain; it was then a hollow way.
Its two slopes have been appropriated for the monumental hillock.
This road was, and still is, a trench throughout the greater portion
of its course; a hollow trench, sometimes a dozen feet in depth,
and whose banks, being too steep, crumbled away here and there,
particularly in winter, under driving rains. Accidents happened here.
The road was so narrow at the Braine-l'Alleud entrance that a
passer-by was crushed by a cart, as is proved by a stone cross
which stands near the cemetery, and which gives the name of the dead,
Monsieur Bernard Debrye, Merchant of Brussels, and the date of
the accident, February, 1637.[8] It was so deep on the table-land
of Mont-Saint-Jean that a peasant, Mathieu Nicaise, was crushed there,
in 1783, by a slide from the slope, as is stated on another stone cross,
the top of which has disappeared in the process of clearing the ground,
but whose overturned pedestal is still visible on the grassy slope
to the left of the highway between La Haie-Sainte and the farm
of Mont-Saint-Jean.

[8] This is the inscription:--
D. O. M.
A BRUXELLE LE [Illegible]

On the day of battle, this hollow road whose existence was in no
way indicated, bordering the crest of Mont-Saint-Jean, a trench
at the summit of the escarpment, a rut concealed in the soil,
was invisible; that is to say, terrible.



So, on the morning of Waterloo, Napoleon was content.

He was right; the plan of battle conceived by him was, as we have seen,
really admirable.

The battle once begun, its very various changes,--the resistance
of Hougomont; the tenacity of La Haie-Sainte; the killing of Bauduin;
the disabling of Foy; the unexpected wall against which Soye's
brigade was shattered; Guilleminot's fatal heedlessness when he
had neither petard nor powder sacks; the miring of the batteries;
the fifteen unescorted pieces overwhelmed in a hollow way by Uxbridge;
the small effect of the bombs falling in the English lines, and there
embedding themselves in the rain-soaked soil, and only succeeding
in producing volcanoes of mud, so that the canister was turned into
a splash; the uselessness of Pire's demonstration on Braine-l'Alleud;
all that cavalry, fifteen squadrons, almost exterminated; the right
wing of the English badly alarmed, the left wing badly cut into;
Ney's strange mistake in massing, instead of echelonning the four
divisions of the first corps; men delivered over to grape-shot,
arranged in ranks twenty-seven deep and with a frontage of two hundred;
the frightful holes made in these masses by the cannon-balls;
attacking columns disorganized; the side-battery suddenly unmasked on
their flank; Bourgeois, Donzelot, and Durutte compromised; Quiot repulsed;
Lieutenant Vieux, that Hercules graduated at the Polytechnic School,
wounded at the moment when he was beating in with an axe the door
of La Haie-Sainte under the downright fire of the English barricade
which barred the angle of the road from Genappe to Brussels;
Marcognet's division caught between the infantry and the cavalry,
shot down at the very muzzle of the guns amid the grain by Best
and Pack, put to the sword by Ponsonby; his battery of seven
pieces spiked; the Prince of Saxe-Weimar holding and guarding,
in spite of the Comte d'Erlon, both Frischemont and Smohain;
the flag of the 105th taken, the flag of the 45th captured; that black
Prussian hussar stopped by runners of the flying column of three
hundred light cavalry on the scout between Wavre and Plancenoit;
the alarming things that had been said by prisoners; Grouchy's delay;
fifteen hundred men killed in the orchard of Hougomont in less
than an hour; eighteen hundred men overthrown in a still shorter
time about La Haie-Sainte,--all these stormy incidents passing
like the clouds of battle before Napoleon, had hardly troubled
his gaze and had not overshadowed that face of imperial certainty.
Napoleon was accustomed to gaze steadily at war; he never added
up the heart-rending details, cipher by cipher; ciphers mattered
little to him, provided that they furnished the total, victory;
he was not alarmed if the beginnings did go astray, since he
thought himself the master and the possessor at the end; he knew
how to wait, supposing himself to be out of the question, and he
treated destiny as his equal: he seemed to say to fate, Thou wilt
not dare.

Composed half of light and half of shadow, Napoleon thought himself
protected in good and tolerated in evil. He had, or thought
that he had, a connivance, one might almost say a complicity,
of events in his favor, which was equivalent to the invulnerability
of antiquity.

Nevertheless, when one has Beresina, Leipzig, and Fontainebleau
behind one, it seems as though one might distrust Waterloo.
A mysterious frown becomes perceptible in the depths of the heavens.

At the moment when Wellington retreated, Napoleon shuddered.
He suddenly beheld the table-land of Mont-Saint-Jean cleared,
and the van of the English army disappear. It was rallying,
but hiding itself. The Emperor half rose in his stirrups.
The lightning of victory flashed from his eyes.

Wellington, driven into a corner at the forest of Soignes
and destroyed--that was the definitive conquest of England by France;
it was Crecy, Poitiers, Malplaquet, and Ramillies avenged.
The man of Marengo was wiping out Agincourt.

So the Emperor, meditating on this terrible turn of fortune,
swept his glass for the last time over all the points of the field
of battle. His guard, standing behind him with grounded arms,
watched him from below with a sort of religion. He pondered;
he examined the slopes, noted the declivities, scrutinized the
clumps of trees, the square of rye, the path; he seemed to be
counting each bush. He gazed with some intentness at the English
barricades of the two highways,--two large abatis of trees, that on
the road to Genappe above La Haie-Sainte, armed with two cannon,
the only ones out of all the English artillery which commanded the
extremity of the field of battle, and that on the road to Nivelles
where gleamed the Dutch bayonets of Chasse's brigade. Near this
barricade he observed the old chapel of Saint Nicholas, painted white,
which stands at the angle of the cross-road near Braine-l'Alleud;
he bent down and spoke in a low voice to the guide Lacoste. The guide
made a negative sign with his head, which was probably perfidious.

The Emperor straightened himself up and fell to thinking.

Wellington had drawn back.

All that remained to do was to complete this retreat by crushing him.

Napoleon turning round abruptly, despatched an express at full
speed to Paris to announce that the battle was won.

Napoleon was one of those geniuses from whom thunder darts.

He had just found his clap of thunder.

He gave orders to Milhaud's cuirassiers to carry the table-land
of Mont-Saint-Jean.



There were three thousand five hundred of them. They formed
a front a quarter of a league in extent. They were giant men,
on colossal horses. There were six and twenty squadrons of them;
and they had behind them to support them Lefebvre-Desnouettes's
division,--the one hundred and six picked gendarmes, the light
cavalry of the Guard, eleven hundred and ninety-seven men,
and the lancers of the guard of eight hundred and eighty lances.
They wore casques without horse-tails, and cuirasses of beaten iron,
with horse-pistols in their holsters, and long sabre-swords. That
morning the whole army had admired them, when, at nine o'clock,
with braying of trumpets and all the music playing "Let us watch
o'er the Safety of the Empire," they had come in a solid column,
with one of their batteries on their flank, another in their centre,
and deployed in two ranks between the roads to Genappe and Frischemont,
and taken up their position for battle in that powerful second line,
so cleverly arranged by Napoleon, which, having on its extreme
left Kellermann's cuirassiers and on its extreme right Milhaud's
cuirassiers, had, so to speak, two wings of iron.

Aide-de-camp Bernard carried them the Emperor's orders. Ney drew
his sword and placed himself at their head. The enormous squadrons
were set in motion.

Then a formidable spectacle was seen.

All their cavalry, with upraised swords, standards and trumpets
flung to the breeze, formed in columns by divisions, descended,
by a simultaneous movement and like one man, with the precision
of a brazen battering-ram which is effecting a breach, the hill
of La Belle Alliance, plunged into the terrible depths in which
so many men had already fallen, disappeared there in the smoke,
then emerging from that shadow, reappeared on the other side of
the valley, still compact and in close ranks, mounting at a full trot,
through a storm of grape-shot which burst upon them, the terrible
muddy slope of the table-land of Mont-Saint-Jean. They ascended,
grave, threatening, imperturbable; in the intervals between the
musketry and the artillery, their colossal trampling was audible.
Being two divisions, there were two columns of them; Wathier's division
held the right, Delort's division was on the left. It seemed as
though two immense adders of steel were to be seen crawling towards
the crest of the table-land. It traversed the battle like a prodigy.

Nothing like it had been seen since the taking of the great redoubt
of the Muskowa by the heavy cavalry; Murat was lacking here, but Ney
was again present. It seemed as though that mass had become a monster
and had but one soul. Each column undulated and swelled like the
ring of a polyp. They could be seen through a vast cloud of smoke
which was rent here and there. A confusion of helmets, of cries,
of sabres, a stormy heaving of the cruppers of horses amid the cannons
and the flourish of trumpets, a terrible and disciplined tumult;
over all, the cuirasses like the scales on the hydra.

These narrations seemed to belong to another age. Something parallel
to this vision appeared, no doubt, in the ancient Orphic epics,
which told of the centaurs, the old hippanthropes, those Titans
with human heads and equestrian chests who scaled Olympus at
a gallop, horrible, invulnerable, sublime--gods and beasts.

Odd numerical coincidence,--twenty-six battalions rode to meet
twenty-six battalions. Behind the crest of the plateau, in the
shadow of the masked battery, the English infantry, formed into
thirteen squares, two battalions to the square, in two lines,
with seven in the first line, six in the second, the stocks
of their guns to their shoulders, taking aim at that which was on
the point of appearing, waited, calm, mute, motionless. They did
not see the cuirassiers, and the cuirassiers did not see them.
They listened to the rise of this flood of men. They heard the
swelling noise of three thousand horse, the alternate and symmetrical
tramp of their hoofs at full trot, the jingling of the cuirasses,
the clang of the sabres and a sort of grand and savage breathing.
There ensued a most terrible silence; then, all at once, a long file
of uplifted arms, brandishing sabres, appeared above the crest,
and casques, trumpets, and standards, and three thousand heads with
gray mustaches, shouting, "Vive l'Empereur!" All this cavalry debouched
on the plateau, and it was like the appearance of an earthquake.

All at once, a tragic incident; on the English left, on our right,
the head of the column of cuirassiers reared up with a frightful clamor.
On arriving at the culminating point of the crest, ungovernable,
utterly given over to fury and their course of extermination of the
squares and cannon, the cuirassiers had just caught sight of a trench,--
a trench between them and the English. It was the hollow road of Ohain.

It was a terrible moment. The ravine was there, unexpected, yawning,
directly under the horses' feet, two fathoms deep between its
double slopes; the second file pushed the first into it, and the third
pushed on the second; the horses reared and fell backward, landed on
their haunches, slid down, all four feet in the air, crushing and
overwhelming the riders; and there being no means of retreat,--
the whole column being no longer anything more than a projectile,--
the force which had been acquired to crush the English crushed
the French; the inexorable ravine could only yield when filled;
horses and riders rolled there pell-mell, grinding each other,
forming but one mass of flesh in this gulf: when this trench
was full of living men, the rest marched over them and passed on.
Almost a third of Dubois's brigade fell into that abyss.

This began the loss of the battle.

A local tradition, which evidently exaggerates matters, says that two
thousand horses and fifteen hundred men were buried in the hollow
road of Ohain. This figure probably comprises all the other corpses
which were flung into this ravine the day after the combat.

Let us note in passing that it was Dubois's sorely tried brigade which,
an hour previously, making a charge to one side, had captured
the flag of the Lunenburg battalion.

Napoleon, before giving the order for this charge of Milhaud's
cuirassiers, had scrutinized the ground, but had not been able to see
that hollow road, which did not even form a wrinkle on the surface of
the plateau. Warned, nevertheless, and put on the alert by the little
white chapel which marks its angle of junction with the Nivelles highway,
he had probably put a question as to the possibility of an obstacle,
to the guide Lacoste. The guide had answered No. We might almost affirm
that Napoleon's catastrophe originated in that sign of a peasant's head.

Other fatalities were destined to arise.

Was it possible that Napoleon should have won that battle?
We answer No. Why? Because of Wellington? Because of Blucher?
No. Because of God.

Bonaparte victor at Waterloo; that does not come within the law of
the nineteenth century. Another series of facts was in preparation,
in which there was no longer any room for Napoleon. The ill will
of events had declared itself long before.

It was time that this vast man should fall.

The excessive weight of this man in human destiny disturbed the balance.
This individual alone counted for more than a universal group.
These plethoras of all human vitality concentrated in a single head;
the world mounting to the brain of one man,--this would be mortal
to civilization were it to last. The moment had arrived for the
incorruptible and supreme equity to alter its plan. Probably the
principles and the elements, on which the regular gravitations
of the moral, as of the material, world depend, had complained.
Smoking blood, over-filled cemeteries, mothers in tears,--
these are formidable pleaders. When the earth is suffering from
too heavy a burden, there are mysterious groanings of the shades,
to which the abyss lends an ear.

Napoleon had been denounced in the infinite and his fall had been
decided on.

He embarrassed God.

Waterloo is not a battle; it is a change of front on the part
of the Universe.



The battery was unmasked at the same moment with the ravine.

Sixty cannons and the thirteen squares darted lightning point-blank
on the cuirassiers. The intrepid General Delort made the military
salute to the English battery.

The whole of the flying artillery of the English had re-entered
the squares at a gallop. The cuirassiers had not had even the
time for a halt. The disaster of the hollow road had decimated,
but not discouraged them. They belonged to that class of men who,
when diminished in number, increase in courage.

Wathier's column alone had suffered in the disaster; Delort's column,
which Ney had deflected to the left, as though he had a presentiment
of an ambush, had arrived whole.

The cuirassiers hurled themselves on the English squares.

At full speed, with bridles loose, swords in their teeth pistols
in fist,--such was the attack.

There are moments in battles in which the soul hardens the man
until the soldier is changed into a statue, and when all this flesh
turns into granite. The English battalions, desperately assaulted,
did not stir.

Then it was terrible.

All the faces of the English squares were attacked at once.
A frenzied whirl enveloped them. That cold infantry remained impassive.
The first rank knelt and received the cuirassiers on their bayonets,
the second ranks shot them down; behind the second rank the cannoneers
charged their guns, the front of the square parted, permitted the passage
of an eruption of grape-shot, and closed again. The cuirassiers
replied by crushing them. Their great horses reared, strode across
the ranks, leaped over the bayonets and fell, gigantic, in the midst
of these four living wells. The cannon-balls ploughed furrows
in these cuirassiers; the cuirassiers made breaches in the squares.
Files of men disappeared, ground to dust under the horses. The bayonets
plunged into the bellies of these centaurs; hence a hideousness of
wounds which has probably never been seen anywhere else. The squares,
wasted by this mad cavalry, closed up their ranks without flinching.
Inexhaustible in the matter of grape-shot, they created explosions
in their assailants' midst. The form of this combat was monstrous.
These squares were no longer battalions, they were craters;
those cuirassiers were no longer cavalry, they were a tempest.
Each square was a volcano attacked by a cloud; lava contended
with lightning.

The square on the extreme right, the most exposed of all,
being in the air, was almost annihilated at the very first shock.
lt was formed of the 75th regiment of Highlanders. The bagpipe-player
in the centre dropped his melancholy eyes, filled with the reflections
of the forests and the lakes, in profound inattention, while men
were being exterminated around him, and seated on a drum, with his
pibroch under his arm, played the Highland airs. These Scotchmen
died thinking of Ben Lothian, as did the Greeks recalling Argos.
The sword of a cuirassier, which hewed down the bagpipes and the arm
which bore it, put an end to the song by killing the singer.

The cuirassiers, relatively few in number, and still further diminished
by the catastrophe of the ravine, had almost the whole English army
against them, but they multiplied themselves so that each man of them
was equal to ten. Nevertheless, some Hanoverian battalions yielded.
Wellington perceived it, and thought of his cavalry. Had Napoleon
at that same moment thought of his infantry, he would have won
the battle. This forgetfulness was his great and fatal mistake.

All at once, the cuirassiers, who had been the assailants,
found themselves assailed. The English cavalry was at their back.
Before them two squares, behind them Somerset; Somerset meant
fourteen hundred dragoons of the guard. On the right, Somerset had
Dornberg with the German light-horse, and on his left, Trip with
the Belgian carabineers; the cuirassiers attacked on the flank and
in front, before and in the rear, by infantry and cavalry, had to
face all sides. What mattered it to them? They were a whirlwind.
Their valor was something indescribable.

In addition to this, they had behind them the battery, which was
still thundering. It was necessary that it should be so, or they
could never have been wounded in the back. One of their cuirasses,
pierced on the shoulder by a ball from a biscayan,[9] is in the
collection of the Waterloo Museum.

[9] A heavy rifled gun.

For such Frenchmen nothing less than such Englishmen was needed.
It was no longer a hand-to-hand conflict; it was a shadow, a fury,
a dizzy transport of souls and courage, a hurricane of lightning swords.
In an instant the fourteen hundred dragoon guards numbered only
eight hundred. Fuller, their lieutenant-colonel, fell dead.
Ney rushed up with the lancers and Lefebvre-Desnouettes's light-horse.
The plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean was captured, recaptured, captured again.
The cuirassiers quitted the cavalry to return to the infantry;
or, to put it more exactly, the whole of that formidable rout
collared each other without releasing the other. The squares still
held firm.

There were a dozen assaults. Ney had four horses killed under him.
Half the cuirassiers remained on the plateau. This conflict lasted
two hours.

The English army was profoundly shaken. There is no doubt that,
had they not been enfeebled in their first shock by the disaster
of the hollow road the cuirassiers would have overwhelmed the centre
and decided the victory. This extraordinary cavalry petrified Clinton,
who had seen Talavera and Badajoz. Wellington, three-quarters vanquished,
admired heroically. He said in an undertone, "Sublime!"

The cuirassiers annihilated seven squares out of thirteen, took or
spiked sixty pieces of ordnance, and captured from the English
regiments six flags, which three cuirassiers and three chasseurs of
the Guard bore to the Emperor, in front of the farm of La Belle Alliance.

Wellington's situation had grown worse. This strange battle
was like a duel between two raging, wounded men, each of whom,
still fighting and still resisting, is expending all his blood.

Which of the two will be the first to fall?

The conflict on the plateau continued.

What had become of the cuirassiers? No one could have told.
One thing is certain, that on the day after the battle, a cuirassier
and his horse were found dead among the woodwork of the scales
for vehicles at Mont-Saint-Jean, at the very point where the four
roads from Nivelles, Genappe, La Hulpe, and Brussels meet and
intersect each other. This horseman had pierced the English lines.
One of the men who picked up the body still lives at Mont-Saint-Jean.
His name is Dehaze. He was eighteen years old at that time.

Wellington felt that he was yielding. The crisis was at hand.

The cuirassiers had not succeeded, since the centre was not
broken through. As every one was in possession of the plateau, no one
held it, and in fact it remained, to a great extent, with the English.
Wellington held the village and the culminating plain; Ney had only the
crest and the slope. They seemed rooted in that fatal soil on both sides.

But the weakening of the English seemed irremediable.
The bleeding of that army was horrible. Kempt, on the left wing,
demanded reinforcements. "There are none," replied Wellington;
"he must let himself be killed!" Almost at that same moment,
a singular coincidence which paints the exhaustion of the two armies,
Ney demanded infantry from Napoleon, and Napoleon exclaimed, "Infantry!
Where does he expect me to get it? Does he think I can make it?"

Nevertheless, the English army was in the worse case of the two.
The furious onsets of those great squadrons with cuirasses of iron
and breasts of steel had ground the infantry to nothing. A few
men clustered round a flag marked the post of a regiment; such and
such a battalion was commanded only by a captain or a lieutenant;
Alten's division, already so roughly handled at La Haie-Sainte,
was almost destroyed; the intrepid Belgians of Van Kluze's brigade
strewed the rye-fields all along the Nivelles road; hardly anything
was left of those Dutch grenadiers, who, intermingled with Spaniards
in our ranks in 1811, fought against Wellington; and who, in 1815,
rallied to the English standard, fought against Napoleon.
The loss in officers was considerable. Lord Uxbridge, who had
his leg buried on the following day, had his knee shattered.
If, on the French side, in that tussle of the cuirassiers, Delort,
l'Heritier, Colbert, Dnop, Travers, and Blancard were disabled,
on the side of the English there was Alten wounded, Barne wounded,
Delancey killed, Van Meeren killed, Ompteda killed, the whole
of Wellington's staff decimated, and England had the worse of it
in that bloody scale. The second regiment of foot-guards had
lost five lieutenant-colonels, four captains, and three ensigns;
the first battalion of the 30th infantry had lost 24 officers and
1,200 soldiers; the 79th Highlanders had lost 24 officers wounded,
18 officers killed, 450 soldiers killed. The Hanoverian hussars
of Cumberland, a whole regiment, with Colonel Hacke at its head,
who was destined to be tried later on and cashiered, had turned
bridle in the presence of the fray, and had fled to the forest
of Soignes, sowing defeat all the way to Brussels. The transports,
ammunition-wagons, the baggage-wagons, the wagons filled with wounded,
on perceiving that the French were gaining ground and approaching
the forest, rushed headlong thither. The Dutch, mowed down by the
French cavalry, cried, "Alarm!" From Vert-Coucou to Groentendael,
for a distance of nearly two leagues in the direction of Brussels,
according to the testimony of eye-witnesses who are still alive,
the roads were encumbered with fugitives. This panic was such
that it attacked the Prince de Conde at Mechlin, and Louis XVIII.
at Ghent. With the exception of the feeble reserve echelonned
behind the ambulance established at the farm of Mont-Saint-Jean,
and of Vivian's and Vandeleur's brigades, which flanked the left wing,
Wellington had no cavalry left. A number of batteries lay unhorsed.
These facts are attested by Siborne; and Pringle, exaggerating
the disaster, goes so far as to say that the Anglo-Dutch army was
reduced to thirty-four thousand men. The Iron Duke remained calm,
but his lips blanched. Vincent, the Austrian commissioner, Alava,
the Spanish commissioner, who were present at the battle in the
English staff, thought the Duke lost. At five o'clock Wellington
drew out his watch, and he was heard to murmur these sinister words,
"Blucher, or night!"

It was at about that moment that a distant line of bayonets gleamed
on the heights in the direction of Frischemont.

Here comes the change of face in this giant drama.



The painful surprise of Napoleon is well known. Grouchy hoped for,
Blucher arriving. Death instead of life.

Fate has these turns; the throne of the world was expected;
it was Saint Helena that was seen.

If the little shepherd who served as guide to Bulow, Blucher's lieutenant,
had advised him to debouch from the forest above Frischemont,
instead of below Plancenoit, the form of the nineteenth century might,
perhaps, have been different. Napoleon would have won the battle
of Waterloo. By any other route than that below Plancenoit,
the Prussian army would have come out upon a ravine impassable
for artillery, and Bulow would not have arrived.

Now the Prussian general, Muffling, declares that one hour's delay,
and Blucher would not have found Wellington on his feet. "The battle
was lost."

It was time that Bulow should arrive, as will be seen. He had,
moreover, been very much delayed. He had bivouacked at Dion-le-Mont,
and had set out at daybreak; but the roads were impassable, and his
divisions stuck fast in the mire. The ruts were up to the hubs
of the cannons. Moreover, he had been obliged to pass the Dyle on
the narrow bridge of Wavre; the street leading to the bridge had been
fired by the French, so the caissons and ammunition-wagons could
not pass between two rows of burning houses, and had been obliged
to wait until the conflagration was extinguished. It was mid-day
before Bulow's vanguard had been able to reach Chapelle-Saint-Lambert.

Had the action been begun two hours earlier, it would have been
over at four o'clock, and Blucher would have fallen on the battle
won by Napoleon. Such are these immense risks proportioned
to an infinite which we cannot comprehend.

The Emperor had been the first, as early as mid-day, to descry
with his field-glass, on the extreme horizon, something which had
attracted his attention. He had said, "I see yonder a cloud,
which seems to me to be troops." Then he asked the Duc de Dalmatie,
"Soult, what do you see in the direction of Chapelle-Saint-Lambert?"
The marshal, levelling his glass, answered, "Four or five
thousand men, Sire; evidently Grouchy." But it remained motionless
in the mist. All the glasses of the staff had studied "the cloud"
pointed out by the Emperor. Some said: "It is trees." The truth is,
that the cloud did not move. The Emperor detached Domon's division
of light cavalry to reconnoitre in that quarter.

Bulow had not moved, in fact. His vanguard was very feeble,
and could accomplish nothing. He was obliged to wait for the body
of the army corps, and he had received orders to concentrate his
forces before entering into line; but at five o'clock, perceiving
Wellington's peril, Blucher ordered Bulow to attack, and uttered
these remarkable words: "We must give air to the English army."

A little later, the divisions of Losthin, Hiller, Hacke, and Ryssel
deployed before Lobau's corps, the cavalry of Prince William of
Prussia debouched from the forest of Paris, Plancenoit was in flames,
and the Prussian cannon-balls began to rain even upon the ranks
of the guard in reserve behind Napoleon.



Every one knows the rest,--the irruption of a third army; the battle
broken to pieces; eighty-six months of fire thundering simultaneously;
Pirch the first coming up with Bulow; Zieten's cavalry led
by Blucher in person, the French driven back; Marcognet swept
from the plateau of Ohain; Durutte dislodged from Papelotte;
Donzelot and Quiot retreating; Lobau caught on the flank; a fresh
battle precipitating itself on our dismantled regiments at nightfall;
the whole English line resuming the offensive and thrust forward;
the gigantic breach made in the French army; the English grape-shot
and the Prussian grape-shot aiding each other; the extermination;
disaster in front; disaster on the flank; the Guard entering the line
in the midst of this terrible crumbling of all things.

Conscious that they were about to die, they shouted, "Vive l'Empereur!"
History records nothing more touching than that agony bursting
forth in acclamations.

The sky had been overcast all day long. All of a sudden, at that
very moment,--it was eight o'clock in the evening--the clouds on
the horizon parted, and allowed the grand and sinister glow of the
setting sun to pass through, athwart the elms on the Nivelles road.
They had seen it rise at Austerlitz.

Each battalion of the Guard was commanded by a general for this
final catastrophe. Friant, Michel, Roguet, Harlet, Mallet,
Poret de Morvan, were there. When the tall caps of the grenadiers
of the Guard, with their large plaques bearing the eagle appeared,
symmetrical, in line, tranquil, in the midst of that combat,
the enemy felt a respect for France; they thought they beheld twenty
victories entering the field of battle, with wings outspread,
and those who were the conquerors, believing themselves to be vanquished,
retreated; but Wellington shouted, "Up, Guards, and aim straight!"
The red regiment of English guards, lying flat behind the hedges,
sprang up, a cloud of grape-shot riddled the tricolored flag
and whistled round our eagles; all hurled themselves forwards,
and the final carnage began. In the darkness, the Imperial Guard
felt the army losing ground around it, and in the vast shock of
the rout it heard the desperate flight which had taken the place
of the "Vive l'Empereur!" and, with flight behind it, it continued
to advance, more crushed, losing more men at every step that it took.
There were none who hesitated, no timid men in its ranks.
The soldier in that troop was as much of a hero as the general.
Not a man was missing in that suicide.

Ney, bewildered, great with all the grandeur of accepted death,
offered himself to all blows in that tempest. He had his fifth horse
killed under him there. Perspiring, his eyes aflame, foaming at
the mouth, with uniform unbuttoned, one of his epaulets half cut
off by a sword-stroke from a horseguard, his plaque with the great
eagle dented by a bullet; bleeding, bemired, magnificent, a broken
sword in his hand, he said, "Come and see how a Marshal of France
dies on the field of battle!" But in vain; he did not die.
He was haggard and angry. At Drouet d'Erlon he hurled this question,
"Are you not going to get yourself killed?" In the midst of all
that artillery engaged in crushing a handful of men, he shouted:
"So there is nothing for me! Oh! I should like to have all these
English bullets enter my bowels!" Unhappy man, thou wert reserved
for French bullets!



The rout behind the Guard was melancholy.

The army yielded suddenly on all sides at once,--Hougomont, La
Haie-Sainte, Papelotte, Plancenoit. The cry "Treachery!" was
followed by a cry of "Save yourselves who can!" An army which is
disbanding is like a thaw. All yields, splits, cracks, floats,
rolls, falls, jostles, hastens, is precipitated. The disintegration
is unprecedented. Ney borrows a horse, leaps upon it, and without
hat, cravat, or sword, places himself across the Brussels road,
stopping both English and French. He strives to detain the army,
he recalls it to its duty, he insults it, he clings to the rout.
He is overwhelmed. The soldiers fly from him, shouting, "Long live
Marshal Ney!" Two of Durutte's regiments go and come in affright
as though tossed back and forth between the swords of the Uhlans
and the fusillade of the brigades of Kempt, Best, Pack, and Rylandt;
the worst of hand-to-hand conflicts is the defeat; friends kill each
other in order to escape; squadrons and battalions break and disperse
against each other, like the tremendous foam of battle. Lobau at
one extremity, and Reille at the other, are drawn into the tide.
In vain does Napoleon erect walls from what is left to him of his Guard;
in vain does he expend in a last effort his last serviceable squadrons.
Quiot retreats before Vivian, Kellermann before Vandeleur,
Lobau before Bulow, Morand before Pirch, Domon and Subervic before
Prince William of Prussia; Guyot, who led the Emperor's squadrons
to the charge, falls beneath the feet of the English dragoons.
Napoleon gallops past the line of fugitives, harangues, urges, threatens,
entreats them. All the mouths which in the morning had shouted,
"Long live the Emperor!" remain gaping; they hardly recognize him.
The Prussian cavalry, newly arrived, dashes forwards, flies, hews,
slashes, kills, exterminates. Horses lash out, the cannons flee;
the soldiers of the artillery-train unharness the caissons and use
the horses to make their escape; transports overturned, with all
four wheels in the air, clog the road and occasion massacres.
Men are crushed, trampled down, others walk over the dead and
the living. Arms are lost. A dizzy multitude fills the roads,
the paths, the bridges, the plains, the hills, the valleys,
the woods, encumbered by this invasion of forty thousand men.
Shouts despair, knapsacks and guns flung among the rye, passages forced
at the point of the sword, no more comrades, no more officers,
no more generals, an inexpressible terror. Zieten putting France to the
sword at its leisure. Lions converted into goats. Such was the flight.

At Genappe, an effort was made to wheel about, to present a
battle front, to draw up in line. Lobau rallied three hundred men.
The entrance to the village was barricaded, but at the first volley
of Prussian canister, all took to flight again, and Lobau was taken.
That volley of grape-shot can be seen to-day imprinted on the
ancient gable of a brick building on the right of the road at
a few minutes' distance before you enter Genappe. The Prussians
threw themselves into Genappe, furious, no doubt, that they were
not more entirely the conquerors. The pursuit was stupendous.
Blucher ordered extermination. Roguet had set the lugubrious example
of threatening with death any French grenadier who should bring him
a Prussian prisoner. Blucher outdid Roguet. Duhesme, the general
of the Young Guard, hemmed in at the doorway of an inn at Genappe,
surrendered his sword to a huzzar of death, who took the sword and
slew the prisoner. The victory was completed by the assassination
of the vanquished. Let us inflict punishment, since we are history:
old Blucher disgraced himself. This ferocity put the finishing
touch to the disaster. The desperate route traversed Genappe,
traversed Quatre-Bras, traversed Gosselies, traversed Frasnes,
traversed Charleroi, traversed Thuin, and only halted at the frontier.
Alas! and who, then, was fleeing in that manner? The Grand Army.

This vertigo, this terror, this downfall into ruin of the loftiest
bravery which ever astounded history,--is that causeless?
No. The shadow of an enormous right is projected athwart Waterloo.
It is the day of destiny. The force which is mightier than man
produced that day. Hence the terrified wrinkle of those brows;
hence all those great souls surrendering their swords. Those who had
conquered Europe have fallen prone on the earth, with nothing left
to say nor to do, feeling the present shadow of a terrible presence.
Hoc erat in fatis. That day the perspective of the human race
underwent a change. Waterloo is the hinge of the nineteenth century.
The disappearance of the great man was necessary to the advent of the
great century. Some one, a person to whom one replies not, took the
responsibility on himself. The panic of heroes can be explained.
In the battle of Waterloo there is something more than a cloud,
there is something of the meteor. God has passed by.

At nightfall, in a meadow near Genappe, Bernard and Bertrand
seized by the skirt of his coat and detained a man, haggard,
pensive, sinister, gloomy, who, dragged to that point by the
current of the rout, had just dismounted, had passed the bridle
of his horse over his arm, and with wild eye was returning
alone to Waterloo. It was Napoleon, the immense somnambulist
of this dream which had crumbled, essaying once more to advance.



Several squares of the Guard, motionless amid this stream of
the defeat, as rocks in running water, held their own until night.
Night came, death also; they awaited that double shadow,
and, invincible, allowed themselves to be enveloped therein.
Each regiment, isolated from the rest, and having no bond with
the army, now shattered in every part, died alone. They had taken
up position for this final action, some on the heights of Rossomme,
others on the plain of Mont-Saint-Jean. There, abandoned, vanquished,
terrible, those gloomy squares endured their death-throes
in formidable fashion. Ulm, Wagram, Jena, Friedland, died with them.

At twilight, towards nine o'clock in the evening, one of them was left
at the foot of the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean. In that fatal valley,
at the foot of that declivity which the cuirassiers had ascended,
now inundated by the masses of the English, under the converging
fires of the victorious hostile cavalry, under a frightful density
of projectiles, this square fought on. It was commanded by an obscure
officer named Cambronne. At each discharge, the square diminished
and replied. It replied to the grape-shot with a fusillade,
continually contracting its four walls. The fugitives pausing
breathless for a moment in the distance, listened in the darkness
to that gloomy and ever-decreasing thunder.

When this legion had been reduced to a handful, when nothing was left
of their flag but a rag, when their guns, the bullets all gone,
were no longer anything but clubs, when the heap of corpses was larger
than the group of survivors, there reigned among the conquerors,
around those men dying so sublimely, a sort of sacred terror,
and the English artillery, taking breath, became silent. This furnished
a sort of respite. These combatants had around them something in
the nature of a swarm of spectres, silhouettes of men on horseback,
the black profiles of cannon, the white sky viewed through wheels
and gun-carriages, the colossal death's-head, which the heroes
saw constantly through the smoke, in the depths of the battle,
advanced upon them and gazed at them. Through the shades of twilight
they could hear the pieces being loaded; the matches all lighted,
like the eyes of tigers at night, formed a circle round their heads;
all the lintstocks of the English batteries approached the cannons,
and then, with emotion, holding the supreme moment suspended above
these men, an English general, Colville according to some, Maitland
according to others, shouted to them, "Surrender, brave Frenchmen!"
Cambronne replied, "-----."

{EDITOR'S COMMENTARY: Another edition of this book has the word
"Merde!" in lieu of the ----- above.}



If any French reader object to having his susceptibilities offended,
one would have to refrain from repeating in his presence what is
perhaps the finest reply that a Frenchman ever made. This would
enjoin us from consigning something sublime to History.

At our own risk and peril, let us violate this injunction.

Now, then, among those giants there was one Titan,--Cambronne.

To make that reply and then perish, what could be grander?
For being willing to die is the same as to die; and it was not this
man's fault if he survived after he was shot.

The winner of the battle of Waterloo was not Napoleon, who was put
to flight; nor Wellington, giving way at four o'clock, in despair
at five; nor Blucher, who took no part in the engagement.
The winner of Waterloo was Cambronne.

To thunder forth such a reply at the lightning-flash that kills
you is to conquer!

Thus to answer the Catastrophe, thus to speak to Fate, to give
this pedestal to the future lion, to hurl such a challenge to the
midnight rainstorm, to the treacherous wall of Hougomont, to the
sunken road of Ohain, to Grouchy's delay, to Blucher's arrival,
to be Irony itself in the tomb, to act so as to stand upright
though fallen, to drown in two syllables the European coalition,
to offer kings privies which the Caesars once knew, to make the lowest
of words the most lofty by entwining with it the glory of France,
insolently to end Waterloo with Mardigras, to finish Leonidas
with Rabellais, to set the crown on this victory by a word impossible
to speak, to lose the field and preserve history, to have the laugh
on your side after such a carnage,--this is immense!

It was an insult such as a thunder-cloud might hurl! It reaches
the grandeur of AEschylus!

Cambronne's reply produces the effect of a violent break.
'Tis like the breaking of a heart under a weight of scorn.
'Tis the overflow of agony bursting forth. Who conquered?
Wellington? No! Had it not been for Blucher, he was lost.
Was it Blucher? No! If Wellington had not begun, Blucher could
not have finished. This Cambronne, this man spending his last hour,
this unknown soldier, this infinitesimal of war, realizes that here is
a falsehood, a falsehood in a catastrophe, and so doubly agonizing;
and at the moment when his rage is bursting forth because of it,
he is offered this mockery,--life! How could he restrain himself?
Yonder are all the kings of Europe, the general's flushed with victory,
the Jupiter's darting thunderbolts; they have a hundred thousand
victorious soldiers, and back of the hundred thousand a million;
their cannon stand with yawning mouths, the match is lighted; they grind
down under their heels the Imperial guards, and the grand army;
they have just crushed Napoleon, and only Cambronne remains,--
only this earthworm is left to protest. He will protest. Then he seeks
for the appropriate word as one seeks for a sword. His mouth froths,
and the froth is the word. In face of this mean and mighty victory,
in face of this victory which counts none victorious, this desperate
soldier stands erect. He grants its overwhelming immensity, but he
establishes its triviality; and he does more than spit upon it.
Borne down by numbers, by superior force, by brute matter,
he finds in his soul an expression: "Excrement!" We repeat it,--
to use that word, to do thus, to invent such an expression, is to be
the conqueror!

The spirit of mighty days at that portentous moment made its descent
on that unknown man. Cambronne invents the word for Waterloo as
Rouget invents the "Marseillaise," under the visitation of a breath
from on high. An emanation from the divine whirlwind leaps forth
and comes sweeping over these men, and they shake, and one of them
sings the song supreme, and the other utters the frightful cry.

This challenge of titanic scorn Cambronne hurls not only at Europe
in the name of the Empire,--that would be a trifle: he hurls it at
the past in the name of the Revolution. It is heard, and Cambronne
is recognized as possessed by the ancient spirit of the Titans.
Danton seems to be speaking! Kleber seems to be bellowing!

At that word from Cambronne, the English voice responded, "Fire!"
The batteries flamed, the hill trembled, from all those brazen
mouths belched a last terrible gush of grape-shot; a vast volume
of smoke, vaguely white in the light of the rising moon, rolled out,
and when the smoke dispersed, there was no longer anything there.
That formidable remnant had been annihilated; the Guard was dead.
The four walls of the living redoubt lay prone, and hardly was
there discernible, here and there, even a quiver in the bodies;
it was thus that the French legions, greater than the Roman legions,
expired on Mont-Saint-Jean, on the soil watered with rain and blood,
amid the gloomy grain, on the spot where nowadays Joseph, who drives
the post-wagon from Nivelles, passes whistling, and cheerfully
whipping up his horse at four o'clock in the morning.



The battle of Waterloo is an enigma. It is as obscure to those who
won it as to those who lost it. For Napoleon it was a panic;[10]
Blucher sees nothing in it but fire; Wellington understands
nothing in regard to it. Look at the reports. The bulletins
are confused, the commentaries involved. Some stammer, others lisp.
Jomini divides the battle of Waterloo into four moments; Muffling cuts
it up into three changes; Charras alone, though we hold another
judgment than his on some points, seized with his haughty glance
the characteristic outlines of that catastrophe of human genius
in conflict with divine chance. All the other historians suffer from
being somewhat dazzled, and in this dazzled state they fumble about.
It was a day of lightning brilliancy; in fact, a crumbling of
the military monarchy which, to the vast stupefaction of kings,
drew all the kingdoms after it--the fall of force, the defeat of war.

[10] "A battle terminated, a day finished, false measures repaired,
greater successes assured for the morrow,--all was lost by a moment
of panic, terror."--Napoleon, Dictees de Sainte Helene.

In this event, stamped with superhuman necessity, the part played
by men amounts to nothing.

If we take Waterloo from Wellington and Blucher, do we thereby deprive
England and Germany of anything? No. Neither that illustrious
England nor that august Germany enter into the problem of Waterloo.
Thank Heaven, nations are great, independently of the lugubrious
feats of the sword. Neither England, nor Germany, nor France
is contained in a scabbard. At this epoch when Waterloo is
only a clashing of swords, above Blucher, Germany has Schiller;
above Wellington, England has Byron. A vast dawn of ideas is the
peculiarity of our century, and in that aurora England and Germany
have a magnificent radiance. They are majestic because they think.
The elevation of level which they contribute to civilization is intrinsic
with them; it proceeds from themselves and not from an accident.
The aggrandizement which they have brought to the nineteenth
century has not Waterloo as its source. It is only barbarous
peoples who undergo rapid growth after a victory. That is the
temporary vanity of torrents swelled by a storm. Civilized people,
especially in our day, are neither elevated nor abased by the good
or bad fortune of a captain. Their specific gravity in the human
species results from something more than a combat. Their honor,
thank God! their dignity, their intelligence, their genius, are not
numbers which those gamblers, heroes and conquerors, can put in the
lottery of battles. Often a battle is lost and progress is conquered.
There is less glory and more liberty. The drum holds its peace;
reason takes the word. It is a game in which he who loses wins.
Let us, therefore, speak of Waterloo coldly from both sides.
Let us render to chance that which is due to chance, and to God
that which is due to God. What is Waterloo? A victory? No. The
winning number in the lottery.

The quine[11] won by Europe, paid by France.

[11] Five winning numbers in a lottery.

It was not worth while to place a lion there.

Waterloo, moreover, is the strangest encounter in history.
Napoleon and Wellington. They are not enemies; they are opposites.
Never did God, who is fond of antitheses, make a more striking
contrast, a more extraordinary comparison. On one side, precision,
foresight, geometry, prudence, an assured retreat, reserves spared,
with an obstinate coolness, an imperturbable method, strategy,
which takes advantage of the ground, tactics, which preserve the
equilibrium of battalions, carnage, executed according to rule,
war regulated, watch in hand, nothing voluntarily left to chance,
the ancient classic courage, absolute regularity; on the other,
intuition, divination, military oddity, superhuman instinct,
a flaming glance, an indescribable something which gazes like
an eagle, and which strikes like the lightning, a prodigious art
in disdainful impetuosity, all the mysteries of a profound soul,
associated with destiny; the stream, the plain, the forest,
the hill, summoned, and in a manner, forced to obey, the despot going
even so far as to tyrannize over the field of battle; faith in a
star mingled with strategic science, elevating but perturbing it.
Wellington was the Bareme of war; Napoleon was its Michael Angelo;
and on this occasion, genius was vanquished by calculation.
On both sides some one was awaited. It was the exact calculator
who succeeded. Napoleon was waiting for Grouchy; he did not come.
Wellington expected Blucher; he came.

Wellington is classic war taking its revenge. Bonaparte, at his
dawning, had encountered him in Italy, and beaten him superbly.
The old owl had fled before the young vulture. The old tactics
had been not only struck as by lightning, but disgraced. Who was
that Corsican of six and twenty? What signified that splendid
ignoramus, who, with everything against him, nothing in his favor,
without provisions, without ammunition, without cannon, without shoes,
almost without an army, with a mere handful of men against masses,
hurled himself on Europe combined, and absurdly won victories
in the impossible? Whence had issued that fulminating convict,
who almost without taking breath, and with the same set of combatants
in hand, pulverized, one after the other, the five armies of the emperor
of Germany, upsetting Beaulieu on Alvinzi, Wurmser on Beaulieu,
Melas on Wurmser, Mack on Melas? Who was this novice in war
with the effrontery of a luminary? The academical military school
excommunicated him, and as it lost its footing; hence, the implacable
rancor of the old Caesarism against the new; of the regular sword
against the flaming sword; and of the exchequer against genius.
On the 18th of June, 1815, that rancor had the last word.
and beneath Lodi, Montebello, Montenotte, Mantua, Arcola,
it wrote: Waterloo. A triumph of the mediocres which is sweet
to the majority. Destiny consented to this irony. In his decline,
Napoleon found Wurmser, the younger, again in front of him.

In fact, to get Wurmser, it sufficed to blanch the hair of Wellington.

Waterloo is a battle of the first order, won by a captain of the second.

That which must be admired in the battle of Waterloo, is England;
the English firmness, the English resolution, the English blood;
the superb thing about England there, no offence to her, was herself.
It was not her captain; it was her army.

Wellington, oddly ungrateful, declares in a letter to Lord Bathurst,
that his army, the army which fought on the 18th of June, 1815,
was a "detestable army." What does that sombre intermingling
of bones buried beneath the furrows of Waterloo think of that?

England has been too modest in the matter of Wellington. To make
Wellington so great is to belittle England. Wellington is nothing
but a hero like many another. Those Scotch Grays, those Horse Guards,
those regiments of Maitland and of Mitchell, that infantry of Pack
and Kempt, that cavalry of Ponsonby and Somerset, those Highlanders
playing the pibroch under the shower of grape-shot, those battalions
of Rylandt, those utterly raw recruits, who hardly knew how to
handle a musket holding their own against Essling's and Rivoli's
old troops,--that is what was grand. Wellington was tenacious;
in that lay his merit, and we are not seeking to lessen it:
but the least of his foot-soldiers and of his cavalry would have been
as solid as he. The iron soldier is worth as much as the Iron Duke.
As for us, all our glorification goes to the English soldier,
to the English army, to the English people. If trophy there be,
it is to England that the trophy is due. The column of Waterloo would
be more just, if, instead of the figure of a man, it bore on high
the statue of a people.

But this great England will be angry at what we are saying here.
She still cherishes, after her own 1688 and our 1789,
the feudal illusion. She believes in heredity and hierarchy.
This people, surpassed by none in power and glory, regards itself
as a nation, and not as a people. And as a people, it willingly
subordinates itself and takes a lord for its head. As a workman,
it allows itself to be disdained; as a soldier, it allows itself
to be flogged.

It will be remembered, that at the battle of Inkermann a sergeant
who had, it appears, saved the army, could not be mentioned
by Lord Paglan, as the English military hierarchy does not permit
any hero below the grade of an officer to be mentioned in the reports.

That which we admire above all, in an encounter of the nature of Waterloo,
is the marvellous cleverness of chance. A nocturnal rain, the wall
of Hougomont, the hollow road of Ohain, Grouchy deaf to the cannon,
Napoleon's guide deceiving him, Bulow's guide enlightening him,--
the whole of this cataclysm is wonderfully conducted.

On the whole, let us say it plainly, it was more of a massacre
than of a battle at Waterloo.

Of all pitched battles, Waterloo is the one which has the smallest
front for such a number of combatants. Napoleon three-quarters
of a league; Wellington, half a league; seventy-two thousand
combatants on each side. From this denseness the carnage arose.

The following calculation has been made, and the following
proportion established: Loss of men: at Austerlitz, French,
fourteen per cent; Russians, thirty per cent; Austrians,
forty-four per cent. At Wagram, French, thirteen per cent;
Austrians, fourteen. At the Moskowa, French, thirty-seven per cent;
Russians, forty-four. At Bautzen, French, thirteen per cent;
Russians and Prussians, fourteen. At Waterloo, French, fifty-six
per cent; the Allies, thirty-one. Total for Waterloo, forty-one per
cent; one hundred and forty-four thousand combatants; sixty thousand dead.

To-day the field of Waterloo has the calm which belongs to the earth,
the impassive support of man, and it resembles all plains.

At night, moreover, a sort of visionary mist arises from it;
and if a traveller strolls there, if he listens, if he watches, if he
dreams like Virgil in the fatal plains of Philippi, the hallucination
of the catastrophe takes possession of him. The frightful 18th
of June lives again; the false monumental hillock disappears,
the lion vanishes in air, the battle-field resumes its reality,
lines of infantry undulate over the plain, furious gallops traverse
the horizon; the frightened dreamer beholds the flash of sabres,
the gleam of bayonets, the flare of bombs, the tremendous interchange
of thunders; he hears, as it were, the death rattle in the depths
of a tomb, the vague clamor of the battle phantom; those shadows
are grenadiers, those lights are cuirassiers; that skeleton Napoleon,
that other skeleton is Wellington; all this no longer exists,
and yet it clashes together and combats still; and the ravines
are empurpled, and the trees quiver, and there is fury even in the
clouds and in the shadows; all those terrible heights, Hougomont,
Mont-Saint-Jean, Frischemont, Papelotte, Plancenoit, appear confusedly
crowned with whirlwinds of spectres engaged in exterminating each other.



There exists a very respectable liberal school which
does not hate Waterloo. We do not belong to it.
To us, Waterloo is but the stupefied date of liberty.
That such an eagle should emerge from such an egg is certainly unexpected.

If one places one's self at the culminating point of view of the question,
Waterloo is intentionally a counter-revolutionary victory. It is Europe
against France; it is Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna against Paris;
it is the statu quo against the initiative; it is the 14th of July,
1789, attacked through the 20th of March, 1815; it is the monarchies
clearing the decks in opposition to the indomitable French rioting.
The final extinction of that vast people which had been in eruption
for twenty-six years--such was the dream. The solidarity of
the Brunswicks, the Nassaus, the Romanoffs, the Hohenzollerns,
the Hapsburgs with the Bourbons. Waterloo bears divine right on
its crupper. It is true, that the Empire having been despotic,
the kingdom by the natural reaction of things, was forced to be liberal,
and that a constitutional order was the unwilling result of Waterloo,
to the great regret of the conquerors. It is because revolution cannot
be really conquered, and that being providential and absolutely fatal,
it is always cropping up afresh: before Waterloo, in Bonaparte
overthrowing the old thrones; after Waterloo, in Louis XVIII.
granting and conforming to the charter. Bonaparte places a postilion
on the throne of Naples, and a sergeant on the throne of Sweden,
employing inequality to demonstrate equality; Louis XVIII.
at Saint-Ouen countersigns the declaration of the rights of man.
If you wish to gain an idea of what revolution is, call it Progress;
and if you wish to acquire an idea of the nature of progress,
call it To-morrow. To-morrow fulfils its work irresistibly, and it is
already fulfilling it to-day. It always reaches its goal strangely.
It employs Wellington to make of Foy, who was only a soldier,
an orator. Foy falls at Hougomont and rises again in the tribune.
Thus does progress proceed. There is no such thing as a bad tool
for that workman. It does not become disconcerted, but adjusts
to its divine work the man who has bestridden the Alps, and the
good old tottering invalid of Father Elysee. It makes use of the
gouty man as well as of the conqueror; of the conqueror without,
of the gouty man within. Waterloo, by cutting short the demolition
of European thrones by the sword, had no other effect than to cause
the revolutionary work to be continued in another direction.
The slashers have finished; it was the turn of the thinkers.
The century that Waterloo was intended to arrest has pursued its march.
That sinister victory was vanquished by liberty.

In short, and incontestably, that which triumphed at Waterloo;
that which smiled in Wellington's rear; that which brought him all
the marshals' staffs of Europe, including, it is said, the staff
of a marshal of France; that which joyously trundled the barrows full
of bones to erect the knoll of the lion; that which triumphantly
inscribed on that pedestal the date "June 18, 1815"; that which
encouraged Blucher, as he put the flying army to the sword; that which,
from the heights of the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean, hovered over
France as over its prey, was the counter-revolution. It was the
counter-revolution which murmured that infamous word "dismemberment."
On arriving in Paris, it beheld the crater close at hand; it felt
those ashes which scorched its feet, and it changed its mind;
it returned to the stammer of a charter.

Let us behold in Waterloo only that which is in Waterloo.
Of intentional liberty there is none. The counter-revolution was
involuntarily liberal, in the same manner as, by a corresponding
phenomenon, Napoleon was involuntarily revolutionary. On the 18th
of June, 1815, the mounted Robespierre was hurled from his saddle.



End of the dictatorship. A whole European system crumbled away.

The Empire sank into a gloom which resembled that of the Roman
world as it expired. Again we behold the abyss, as in the days
of the barbarians; only the barbarism of 1815, which must be called
by its pet name of the counter-revolution, was not long breathed,
soon fell to panting, and halted short. The Empire was bewept,--
let us acknowledge the fact,--and bewept by heroic eyes.
If glory lies in the sword converted into a sceptre, the Empire
had been glory in person. It had diffused over the earth all the
light which tyranny can give a sombre light. We will say more;
an obscure light. Compared to the true daylight, it is night.
This disappearance of night produces the effect of an eclipse.

Louis XVIII. re-entered Paris. The circling dances of the 8th
of July effaced the enthusiasms of the 20th of March. The Corsican
became the antithesis of the Bearnese. The flag on the dome of the
Tuileries was white. The exile reigned. Hartwell's pine table took
its place in front of the fleur-de-lys-strewn throne of Louis XIV.
Bouvines and Fontenoy were mentioned as though they had taken
place on the preceding day, Austerlitz having become antiquated.
The altar and the throne fraternized majestically. One of the
most undisputed forms of the health of society in the nineteenth
century was established over France, and over the continent.
Europe adopted the white cockade. Trestaillon was celebrated.
The device non pluribus impar re-appeared on the stone rays
representing a sun upon the front of the barracks on the Quai d'Orsay.
Where there had been an Imperial Guard, there was now a red house.
The Arc du Carrousel, all laden with badly borne victories,
thrown out of its element among these novelties, a little ashamed,
it may be, of Marengo and Arcola, extricated itself from its
predicament with the statue of the Duc d'Angouleme. The cemetery
of the Madeleine, a terrible pauper's grave in 1793, was covered
with jasper and marble, since the bones of Louis XVI. and Marie
Antoinette lay in that dust.

In the moat of Vincennes a sepulchral shaft sprang from the earth,
recalling the fact that the Duc d'Enghien had perished in the
very month when Napoleon was crowned. Pope Pius VII., who had
performed the coronation very near this death, tranquilly bestowed
his blessing on the fall as he had bestowed it on the elevation.
At Schoenbrunn there was a little shadow, aged four, whom it was
seditious to call the King of Rome. And these things took place,
and the kings resumed their thrones, and the master of Europe
was put in a cage, and the old regime became the new regime,
and all the shadows and all the light of the earth changed place,
because, on the afternoon of a certain summer's day, a shepherd
said to a Prussian in the forest, "Go this way, and not that!"

This 1815 was a sort of lugubrious April. Ancient unhealthy
and poisonous realities were covered with new appearances.
A lie wedded 1789; the right divine was masked under a charter;
fictions became constitutional; prejudices, superstitions and
mental reservations, with Article 14 in the heart, were varnished
over with liberalism. It was the serpent's change of skin.

Man had been rendered both greater and smaller by Napoleon.
Under this reign of splendid matter, the ideal had received the
strange name of ideology! It is a grave imprudence in a great man
to turn the future into derision. The populace, however, that food
for cannon which is so fond of the cannoneer, sought him with
its glance. Where is he? What is he doing? "Napoleon is dead,"
said a passer-by to a veteran of Marengo and Waterloo. "He dead!"
cried the soldier; "you don't know him." Imagination distrusted
this man, even when overthrown. The depths of Europe were full
of darkness after Waterloo. Something enormous remained long empty
through Napoleon's disappearance.

The kings placed themselves in this void. Ancient Europe
profited by it to undertake reforms. There was a Holy Alliance;
Belle-Alliance, Beautiful Alliance, the fatal field of Waterloo
had said in advance.

In presence and in face of that antique Europe reconstructed,
the features of a new France were sketched out. The future,
which the Emperor had rallied, made its entry. On its brow it bore
the star, Liberty. The glowing eyes of all young generations were
turned on it. Singular fact! people were, at one and the same time,
in love with the future, Liberty, and the past, Napoleon. Defeat had
rendered the vanquished greater. Bonaparte fallen seemed more
lofty than Napoleon erect. Those who had triumphed were alarmed.
England had him guarded by Hudson Lowe, and France had him watched
by Montchenu. His folded arms became a source of uneasiness
to thrones. Alexander called him "my sleeplessness." This terror
was the result of the quantity of revolution which was contained
in him. That is what explains and excuses Bonapartist liberalism.
This phantom caused the old world to tremble. The kings reigned,
but ill at their ease, with the rock of Saint Helena on the horizon.

While Napoleon was passing through the death struggle at Longwood,
the sixty thousand men who had fallen on the field of Waterloo
were quietly rotting, and something of their peace was shed abroad
over the world. The Congress of Vienna made the treaties in 1815,
and Europe called this the Restoration.

This is what Waterloo was.

But what matters it to the Infinite? all that tempest, all that cloud,
that war, then that peace? All that darkness did not trouble
for a moment the light of that immense Eye before which a grub
skipping from one blade of grass to another equals the eagle
soaring from belfry to belfry on the towers of Notre Dame.



Let us return--it is a necessity in this book--to that fatal

On the 18th of June the moon was full. Its light favored
Blucher's ferocious pursuit, betrayed the traces of the fugitives,
delivered up that disastrous mass to the eager Prussian cavalry,
and aided the massacre. Such tragic favors of the night do occur
sometimes during catastrophes.

After the last cannon-shot had been fired, the plain of Mont-Saint-Jean
remained deserted.

The English occupied the encampment of the French; it is the
usual sign of victory to sleep in the bed of the vanquished.
They established their bivouac beyond Rossomme. The Prussians,
let loose on the retreating rout, pushed forward. Wellington went
to the village of Waterloo to draw up his report to Lord Bathurst.

If ever the sic vos non vobis was applicable, it certainly is
to that village of Waterloo. Waterloo took no part, and lay half
a league from the scene of action. Mont-Saint-Jean was cannonaded,
Hougomont was burned, La Haie-Sainte was taken by assault,
Papelotte was burned, Plancenoit was burned, La Belle-Alliance beheld
the embrace of the two conquerors; these names are hardly known,
and Waterloo, which worked not in the battle, bears off all the honor.

We are not of the number of those who flatter war; when the occasion
presents itself, we tell the truth about it. War has frightful
beauties which we have not concealed; it has also, we acknowledge,
some hideous features. One of the most surprising is the prompt
stripping of the bodies of the dead after the victory. The dawn
which follows a battle always rises on naked corpses.

Who does this? Who thus soils the triumph? What hideous,
furtive hand is that which is slipped into the pocket of victory?
What pickpockets are they who ply their trade in the rear of glory?
Some philosophers--Voltaire among the number--affirm that it is
precisely those persons have made the glory. It is the same men,
they say; there is no relief corps; those who are erect pillage
those who are prone on the earth. The hero of the day is the
vampire of the night. One has assuredly the right, after all,
to strip a corpse a bit when one is the author of that corpse.
For our own part, we do not think so; it seems to us impossible
that the same hand should pluck laurels and purloin the shoes from a
dead man.

One thing is certain, which is, that generally after conquerors
follow thieves. But let us leave the soldier, especially the
contemporary soldier, out of the question.

Every army has a rear-guard, and it is that which must be blamed.
Bat-like creatures, half brigands and lackeys; all the sorts
of vespertillos that that twilight called war engenders; wearers
of uniforms, who take no part in the fighting; pretended invalids;
formidable limpers; interloping sutlers, trotting along in little carts,
sometimes accompanied by their wives, and stealing things which they
sell again; beggars offering themselves as guides to officers;
soldiers' servants; marauders; armies on the march in days gone by,--
we are not speaking of the present,--dragged all this behind them,
so that in the special language they are called "stragglers." No army,
no nation, was responsible for those beings; they spoke Italian and
followed the Germans, then spoke French and followed the English.
It was by one of these wretches, a Spanish straggler who spoke French,
that the Marquis of Fervacques, deceived by his Picard jargon,
and taking him for one of our own men, was traitorously slain
and robbed on the battle-field itself, in the course of the night
which followed the victory of Cerisoles. The rascal sprang
from this marauding. The detestable maxim, Live on the enemy!
produced this leprosy, which a strict discipline alone could heal.
There are reputations which are deceptive; one does not always know why
certain generals, great in other directions, have been so popular.
Turenne was adored by his soldiers because he tolerated pillage;
evil permitted constitutes part of goodness. Turenne was so good that
he allowed the Palatinate to be delivered over to fire and blood.
The marauders in the train of an army were more or less in number,
according as the chief was more or less severe. Hoche and Marceau
had no stragglers; Wellington had few, and we do him the justice to
mention it.

Nevertheless, on the night from the 18th to the 19th of June,
the dead were robbed. Wellington was rigid; he gave orders that any
one caught in the act should be shot; but rapine is tenacious.
The marauders stole in one corner of the battlefield while others
were being shot in another.

The moon was sinister over this plain.

Towards midnight, a man was prowling about, or rather, climbing in
the direction of the hollow road of Ohain. To all appearance he
was one of those whom we have just described,--neither English
nor French, neither peasant nor soldier, less a man than a ghoul
attracted by the scent of the dead bodies having theft for
his victory, and come to rifle Waterloo. He was clad in a blouse
that was something like a great coat; he was uneasy and audacious;
he walked forwards and gazed behind him. Who was this man?
The night probably knew more of him than the day. He had no sack,
but evidently he had large pockets under his coat. From time to
time he halted, scrutinized the plain around him as though to see
whether he were observed, bent over abruptly, disturbed something
silent and motionless on the ground, then rose and fled.
His sliding motion, his attitudes, his mysterious and rapid gestures,
caused him to resemble those twilight larvae which haunt ruins,
and which ancient Norman legends call the Alleurs.

Certain nocturnal wading birds produce these silhouettes among
the marshes.

A glance capable of piercing all that mist deeply would have
perceived at some distance a sort of little sutler's wagon
with a fluted wicker hood, harnessed to a famished nag which was
cropping the grass across its bit as it halted, hidden, as it were,
behind the hovel which adjoins the highway to Nivelles,
at the angle of the road from Mont-Saint-Jean to Braine l'Alleud;
and in the wagon, a sort of woman seated on coffers and packages.
Perhaps there was some connection between that wagon and that prowler.

The darkness was serene. Not a cloud in the zenith. What matters it
if the earth be red! the moon remains white; these are the indifferences
of the sky. In the fields, branches of trees broken by grape-shot,
but not fallen, upheld by their bark, swayed gently in the breeze
of night. A breath, almost a respiration, moved the shrubbery.
Quivers which resembled the departure of souls ran through the grass.

In the distance the coming and going of patrols and the general
rounds of the English camp were audible.

Hougomont and La Haie-Sainte continued to burn, forming, one in
the west, the other in the east, two great flames which were joined
by the cordon of bivouac fires of the English, like a necklace
of rubies with two carbuncles at the extremities, as they extended
in an immense semicircle over the hills along the horizon.

We have described the catastrophe of the road of Ohain. The heart
is terrified at the thought of what that death must have been
to so many brave men.

If there is anything terrible, if there exists a reality which
surpasses dreams, it is this: to live, to see the sun; to be in full
possession of virile force; to possess health and joy; to laugh valiantly;
to rush towards a glory which one sees dazzling in front of one;
to feel in one's breast lungs which breathe, a heart which beats,
a will which reasons; to speak, think, hope, love; to have a mother,
to have a wife, to have children; to have the light--and all at once,
in the space of a shout, in less than a minute, to sink into an abyss;
to fall, to roll, to crush, to be crushed; to see ears of wheat,
flowers, leaves, branches; not to be able to catch hold of anything;
to feel one's sword useless, men beneath one, horses on top of one;
to struggle in vain, since one's bones have been broken by some
kick in the darkness; to feel a heel which makes one's eyes start
from their sockets; to bite horses' shoes in one's rage; to stifle,
to yell, to writhe; to be beneath, and to say to one's self,
"But just a little while ago I was a living man!"

There, where that lamentable disaster had uttered its death-rattle,
all was silence now. The edges of the hollow road were encumbered
with horses and riders, inextricably heaped up. Terrible entanglement!
There was no longer any slope, for the corpses had levelled the road
with the plain, and reached the brim like a well-filled bushel
of barley. A heap of dead bodies in the upper part, a river of
blood in the lower part--such was that road on the evening of the
18th of June, 1815. The blood ran even to the Nivelles highway,
and there overflowed in a large pool in front of the abatis
of trees which barred the way, at a spot which is still pointed out.

It will be remembered that it was at the opposite point,
in the direction of the Genappe road, that the destruction
of the cuirassiers had taken place. The thickness of the layer
of bodies was proportioned to the depth of the hollow road.
Towards the middle, at the point where it became level,
where Delort's division had passed, the layer of corpses was thinner.

The nocturnal prowler whom we have just shown to the reader
was going in that direction. He was searching that vast tomb.
He gazed about. He passed the dead in some sort of hideous review.
He walked with his feet in the blood.

All at once he paused.

A few paces in front of him, in the hollow road, at the point
where the pile of dead came to an end, an open hand, illumined by
the moon, projected from beneath that heap of men. That hand
had on its finger something sparkling, which was a ring of gold.

The man bent over, remained in a crouching attitude for a moment,
and when he rose there was no longer a ring on the hand.

He did not precisely rise; he remained in a stooping and
frightened attitude, with his back turned to the heap of dead,
scanning the horizon on his knees, with the whole upper portion
of his body supported on his two forefingers, which rested on
the earth, and his head peering above the edge of the hollow road.
The jackal's four paws suit some actions.

Then coming to a decision, he rose to his feet.

At that moment, he gave a terrible start. He felt some one clutch
him from behind.

He wheeled round; it was the open hand, which had closed, and had
seized the skirt of his coat.

An honest man would have been terrified; this man burst into a laugh.

"Come," said he, "it's only a dead body. I prefer a spook
to a gendarme."

But the hand weakened and released him. Effort is quickly exhausted
in the grave.

"Well now," said the prowler, "is that dead fellow alive?
Let's see."

He bent down again, fumbled among the heap, pushed aside everything
that was in his way, seized the hand, grasped the arm, freed the head,
pulled out the body, and a few moments later he was dragging
the lifeless, or at least the unconscious, man, through the shadows
of hollow road. He was a cuirassier, an officer, and even an officer
of considerable rank; a large gold epaulette peeped from beneath
the cuirass; this officer no longer possessed a helmet. A furious
sword-cut had scarred his face, where nothing was discernible but blood.

However, he did not appear to have any broken limbs, and, by some
happy chance, if that word is permissible here, the dead had been vaulted
above him in such a manner as to preserve him from being crushed.
His eyes were still closed.

On his cuirass he wore the silver cross of the Legion of Honor.

The prowler tore off this cross, which disappeared into one
of the gulfs which he had beneath his great coat.

Then he felt of the officer's fob, discovered a watch there,
and took possession of it. Next he searched his waistcoat,
found a purse and pocketed it.

When he had arrived at this stage of succor which he was administering
to this dying man, the officer opened his eyes.

"Thanks," he said feebly.

The abruptness of the movements of the man who was manipulating him,
the freshness of the night, the air which he could inhale freely,
had roused him from his lethargy.

The prowler made no reply. He raised his head. A sound of footsteps
was audible in the plain; some patrol was probably approaching.

The officer murmured, for the death agony was still in his voice:--

"Who won the battle?"

"The English," answered the prowler.

The officer went on:--

"Look in my pockets; you will find a watch and a purse. Take them."

It was already done.

The prowler executed the required feint, and said:--

"There is nothing there."

"I have been robbed," said the officer; "I am sorry for that.
You should have had them."

The steps of the patrol became more and more distinct.

"Some one is coming," said the prowler, with the movement of a man
who is taking his departure.

The officer raised his arm feebly, and detained him.

"You have saved my life. Who are you?"

The prowler answered rapidly, and in a low voice:--

"Like yourself, I belonged to the French army. I must leave you.
If they were to catch me, they would shoot me. I have saved your life.
Now get out of the scrape yourself."

"What is your rank?"


"What is your name?"


"I shall not forget that name," said the officer; "and do you
remember mine. My name is Pontmercy."




Jean Valjean had been recaptured.

The reader will be grateful to us if we pass rapidly over
the sad details. We will confine ourselves to transcribing
two paragraphs published by the journals of that day, a few
months after the surprising events which had taken place at M. sur M.

These articles are rather summary. It must be remembered, that at
that epoch the Gazette des Tribunaux was not yet in existence.

We borrow the first from the Drapeau Blanc. It bears the date
of July 25, 1823.

An arrondissement of the Pas de Calais has just been the
theatre of an event quite out of the ordinary course. A man,
who was a stranger in the Department, and who bore the name of
M. Madeleine, had, thanks to the new methods, resuscitated some
years ago an ancient local industry, the manufacture of jet and of
black glass trinkets. He had made his fortune in the business,
and that of the arrondissement as well, we will admit. He had been
appointed mayor, in recognition of his services. The police discovered
that M. Madeleine was no other than an ex-convict who had broken
his ban, condemned in 1796 for theft, and named Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean has been recommitted to prison. It appears that previous
to his arrest he had succeeded in withdrawing from the hands of
M. Laffitte, a sum of over half a million which he had lodged there,
and which he had, moreover, and by perfectly legitimate means,
acquired in his business. No one has been able to discover where Jean
Valjean has concealed this money since his return to prison at Toulon.

The second article, which enters a little more into detail,
is an extract from the Journal de Paris, of the same date.
A former convict, who had been liberated, named Jean Valjean,
has just appeared before the Court of Assizes of the Var,
under circumstances calculated to attract attention. This wretch
had succeeded in escaping the vigilance of the police, he had changed
his name, and had succeeded in getting himself appointed mayor
of one of our small northern towns; in this town he had established
a considerable commerce. He has at last been unmasked and arrested,
thanks to the indefatigable zeal of the public prosecutor.
He had for his concubine a woman of the town, who died of a shock
at the moment of his arrest. This scoundrel, who is endowed with
Herculean strength, found means to escape; but three or four days
after his flight the police laid their hands on him once more,
in Paris itself, at the very moment when he was entering one of
those little vehicles which run between the capital and the village
of Montfermeil (Seine-et-Oise). He is said to have profited
by this interval of three or four days of liberty, to withdraw a
considerable sum deposited by him with one of our leading bankers.
This sum has been estimated at six or seven hundred thousand francs.
If the indictment is to be trusted, he has hidden it in some place
known to himself alone, and it has not been possible to lay hands
on it. However that may be, the said Jean Valjean has just been
brought before the Assizes of the Department of the Var as accused
of highway robbery accompanied with violence, about eight years ago,
on the person of one of those honest children who, as the patriarch
of Ferney has said, in immortal verse,

". . . Arrive from Savoy every year,
And who, with gentle hands, do clear
Those long canals choked up with soot."

This bandit refused to defend himself. It was proved by the
skilful and eloquent representative of the public prosecutor,
that the theft was committed in complicity with others, and that
Jean Valjean was a member of a band of robbers in the south.
Jean Valjean was pronounced guilty and was condemned to the death
penalty in consequence. This criminal refused to lodge an appeal.
The king, in his inexhaustible clemency, has deigned to commute
his penalty to that of penal servitude for life. Jean Valjean was
immediately taken to the prison at Toulon.

The reader has not forgotten that Jean Valjean had religious
habits at M. sur M. Some papers, among others the Constitutional,
presented this commutation as a triumph of the priestly party.

Jean Valjean changed his number in the galleys. He was called 9,430.

However, and we will mention it at once in order that we may not be
obliged to recur to the subject, the prosperity of M. sur M. vanished
with M. Madeleine; all that he had foreseen during his night
of fever and hesitation was realized; lacking him, there actually
was a soul lacking. After this fall, there took place at M. sur
M. that egotistical division of great existences which have fallen,
that fatal dismemberment of flourishing things which is accomplished
every day, obscurely, in the human community, and which history has
noted only once, because it occurred after the death of Alexander.
Lieutenants are crowned kings; superintendents improvise manufacturers
out of themselves. Envious rivalries arose. M. Madeleine's vast
workshops were shut; his buildings fell to ruin, his workmen
were scattered. Some of them quitted the country, others abandoned
the trade. Thenceforth, everything was done on a small scale,
instead of on a grand scale; for lucre instead of the general good.
There was no longer a centre; everywhere there was competition
and animosity. M. Madeleine had reigned over all and directed all.
No sooner had he fallen, than each pulled things to himself;
the spirit of combat succeeded to the spirit of organization,
bitterness to cordiality, hatred of one another to the benevolence
of the founder towards all; the threads which M. Madeleine had set
were tangled and broken, the methods were adulterated, the products
were debased, confidence was killed; the market diminished,
for lack of orders; salaries were reduced, the workshops stood still,
bankruptcy arrived. And then there was nothing more for the poor.
All had vanished.

The state itself perceived that some one had been crushed somewhere.
Less than four years after the judgment of the Court of Assizes
establishing the identity of Jean Valjean and M. Madeleine,
for the benefit of the galleys, the cost of collecting taxes had
doubled in the arrondissement of M. sur M.; and M. de Villele called
attention to the fact in the rostrum, in the month of February, 1827.



Before proceeding further, it will be to the purpose to narrate
in some detail, a singular occurrence which took place at about the
same epoch, in Montfermeil, and which is not lacking in coincidence
with certain conjectures of the indictment.

There exists in the region of Montfermeil a very ancient superstition,
which is all the more curious and all the more precious, because a popular
superstition in the vicinity of Paris is like an aloe in Siberia.
We are among those who respect everything which is in the nature
of a rare plant. Here, then, is the superstition of Montfermeil:
it is thought that the devil, from time immemorial, has selected
the forest as a hiding-place for his treasures. Goodwives affirm
that it is no rarity to encounter at nightfall, in secluded nooks
of the forest, a black man with the air of a carter or a wood-chopper,
wearing wooden shoes, clad in trousers and a blouse of linen,
and recognizable by the fact, that, instead of a cap or hat,
he has two immense horns on his head. This ought, in fact, to render
him recognizable. This man is habitually engaged in digging a hole.
There are three ways of profiting by such an encounter. The first is
to approach the man and speak to him. Then it is seen that the man
is simply a peasant, that he appears black because it is nightfall;
that he is not digging any hole whatever, but is cutting grass
for his cows, and that what had been taken for horns is nothing
but a dung-fork which he is carrying on his back, and whose teeth,
thanks to the perspective of evening, seemed to spring from his head.
The man returns home and dies within the week. The second way is
to watch him, to wait until he has dug his hole, until he has filled
it and has gone away; then to run with great speed to the trench,
to open it once more and to seize the "treasure" which the black
man has necessarily placed there. In this case one dies within
the month. Finally, the last method is not to speak to the black man,
not to look at him, and to flee at the best speed of one's legs.
One then dies within the year.

As all three methods are attended with their special inconveniences,
the second, which at all events, presents some advantages,
among others that of possessing a treasure, if only for a month,
is the one most generally adopted. So bold men, who are tempted
by every chance, have quite frequently, as we are assured, opened the
holes excavated by the black man, and tried to rob the devil.
The success of the operation appears to be but moderate. At least,
if the tradition is to be believed, and in particular the two
enigmatical lines in barbarous Latin, which an evil Norman monk,
a bit of a sorcerer, named Tryphon has left on this subject.
This Tryphon is buried at the Abbey of Saint-Georges de Bocherville,
near Rouen, and toads spawn on his grave.

Accordingly, enormous efforts are made. Such trenches are
ordinarily extremely deep; a man sweats, digs, toils all night--
for it must be done at night; he wets his shirt, burns out his candle,
breaks his mattock, and when he arrives at the bottom of the hole,
when he lays his hand on the "treasure," what does he find?
What is the devil's treasure? A sou, sometimes a crown-piece,
a stone, a skeleton, a bleeding body, sometimes a spectre folded
in four like a sheet of paper in a portfolio, sometimes nothing.
This is what Tryphon's verses seem to announce to the indiscreet
and curious:--

"Fodit, et in fossa thesauros condit opaca,
As, nummas, lapides, cadaver, simulacra, nihilque."

It seems that in our day there is sometimes found a powder-horn
with bullets, sometimes an old pack of cards greasy and worn,
which has evidently served the devil. Tryphon does not record
these two finds, since Tryphon lived in the twelfth century,
and since the devil does not appear to have had the wit to invent
powder before Roger Bacon's time, and cards before the time of Charles VI.

Moreover, if one plays at cards, one is sure to lose all that
one possesses! and as for the powder in the horn, it possesses
the property of making your gun burst in your face.

Now, a very short time after the epoch when it seemed to the prosecuting
attorney that the liberated convict Jean Valjean during his flight
of several days had been prowling around Montfermeil, it was remarked
in that village that a certain old road-laborer, named Boulatruelle,
had "peculiar ways" in the forest. People thereabouts thought
they knew that this Boulatruelle had been in the galleys.
He was subjected to certain police supervision, and, as he could
find work nowhere, the administration employed him at reduced
rates as a road-mender on the cross-road from Gagny to Lagny.

This Boulatruelle was a man who was viewed with disfavor by the
inhabitants of the district as too respectful, too humble, too prompt
in removing his cap to every one, and trembling and smiling in the
presence of the gendarmes,--probably affiliated to robber bands,
they said; suspected of lying in ambush at verge of copses at nightfall.
The only thing in his favor was that he was a drunkard.

This is what people thought they had noticed:--

Of late, Boulatruelle had taken to quitting his task of stone-breaking
and care of the road at a very early hour, and to betaking himself
to the forest with his pickaxe. He was encountered towards
evening in the most deserted clearings, in the wildest thickets;
and he had the appearance of being in search of something,
and sometimes he was digging holes. The goodwives who passed took
him at first for Beelzebub; then they recognized Boulatruelle,
and were not in the least reassured thereby. These encounters seemed
to cause Boulatruelle a lively displeasure. It was evident that he
sought to hide, and that there was some mystery in what he was doing.

It was said in the village: "It is clear that the devil has appeared.
Boulatruelle has seen him, and is on the search. In sooth, he is
cunning enough to pocket Lucifer's hoard."

The Voltairians added, "Will Boulatruelle catch the devil,
or will the devil catch Boulatruelle?" The old women made a great
many signs of the cross.

In the meantime, Boulatruelle's manoeuvres in the forest ceased;
and he resumed his regular occupation of roadmending; and people
gossiped of something else.

Some persons, however, were still curious, surmising that in all
this there was probably no fabulous treasure of the legends,
but some fine windfall of a more serious and palpable sort than
the devil's bank-bills, and that the road-mender had half discovered
the secret. The most "puzzled" were the school-master and Thenardier,
the proprietor of the tavern, who was everybody's friend,
and had not disdained to ally himself with Boulatruelle.

"He has been in the galleys," said Thenardier. "Eh! Good God!
no one knows who has been there or will be there."

One evening the schoolmaster affirmed that in former times the law
would have instituted an inquiry as to what Boulatruelle did in
the forest, and that the latter would have been forced to speak,
and that he would have been put to the torture in case of need,
and that Boulatruelle would not have resisted the water test,
for example. "Let us put him to the wine test," said Thenardier.

They made an effort, and got the old road-mender to drinking.
Boulatruelle drank an enormous amount, but said very little.
He combined with admirable art, and in masterly proportions,
the thirst of a gormandizer with the discretion of a judge.
Nevertheless, by dint of returning to the charge and of comparing
and putting together the few obscure words which he did allow to
escape him, this is what Thenardier and the schoolmaster imagined
that they had made out:--

One morning, when Boulatruelle was on his way to his work, at daybreak,
he had been surprised to see, at a nook of the forest in the underbrush,
a shovel and a pickaxe, concealed, as one might say.

However, he might have supposed that they were probably the shovel
and pick of Father Six-Fours, the water-carrier, and would have
thought no more about it. But, on the evening of that day, he saw,
without being seen himself, as he was hidden by a large tree,
"a person who did not belong in those parts, and whom he, Boulatruelle,
knew well," directing his steps towards the densest part of
the wood. Translation by Thenardier: A comrade of the galleys.
Boulatruelle obstinately refused to reveal his name. This person
carried a package--something square, like a large box or a small trunk.
Surprise on the part of Boulatruelle. However, it was only
after the expiration of seven or eight minutes that the idea of
following that "person" had occurred to him. But it was too late;
the person was already in the thicket, night had descended,
and Boulatruelle had not been able to catch up with him. Then he
had adopted the course of watching for him at the edge of the woods.
"It was moonlight." Two or three hours later, Boulatruelle had seen
this person emerge from the brushwood, carrying no longer the coffer,
but a shovel and pick. Boulatruelle had allowed the person to pass,
and had not dreamed of accosting him, because he said to himself
that the other man was three times as strong as he was, and armed
with a pickaxe, and that he would probably knock him over the head
on recognizing him, and on perceiving that he was recognized.
Touching effusion of two old comrades on meeting again. But the
shovel and pick had served as a ray of light to Boulatruelle; he had
hastened to the thicket in the morning, and had found neither shovel
nor pick. From this he had drawn the inference that this person,
once in the forest, had dug a hole with his pick, buried the coffer,
and reclosed the hole with his shovel. Now, the coffer was too small
to contain a body; therefore it contained money. Hence his researches.
Boulatruelle had explored, sounded, searched the entire forest
and the thicket, and had dug wherever the earth appeared to him
to have been recently turned up. In vain.

He had "ferreted out" nothing. No one in Montfermeil thought
any more about it. There were only a few brave gossips, who said,

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