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Les MisÚrables - The Quid Obscurum of Battles

1. M. Myriel

2. M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome

3. A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop

4. Works corresponding to Words

5. Monseigneur Bienvenu made his Cassocks last too long

6. Who guarded his House for him

7. Cravatte

8. Philosophy after Drinking

9. The Brother as depicted by the Sister

10. The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light

11. A Restriction

12. The Solitude of Monseigneur Welcome

13. What he believed

14. What he thought

15. The Evening of a Day of Walking

16. Prudence counselled to Wisdom

17. The Heroism of Passive Obedience

18. Details concerning the Cheese-Dairies of Pontarlier

19. Tranquillity

20. Jean Valjean

21. The Interior of Despair

22. Billows and Shadows

23. New Troubles

24. The Man aroused

25. What he does

26. The Bishop works

27. Little Gervais

28. The Year 1817

29. A Double Quartette

30. Four and Four

31. Tholomyes is so Merry that he sings a Spanish Ditty

32. At Bombardas

33. A Chapter in which they adore Each Other

34. The Wisdom of Tholomyes

35. The Death of a Horse

36. A Merry End to Mirth

37. One Mother meets Another Mother

38. First Sketch of Two Unprepossessing Figures

39. The Lark

40. The History of a Progress in Black Glass Trinkets

41. Madeleine

42. Sums deposited with Laffitte

43. M. Madeleine in Mourning

44. Vague Flashes on the Horizon

45. Father Fauchelevent

46. Fauchelevent becomes a Gardener in Paris

47. Madame Victurnien expends Thirty Francs on Morality

48. Madame Victurnien's Success

49. Result of the Success

50. Christus nos Liberavit

51. M. Bamatabois's Inactivity

52. The Solution of Some Questions connected with the Municipal Police

53. The Beginning of Repose

54. How Jean may become Champ

55. Sister Simplice

56. The Perspicacity of Master Scaufflaire

57. A Tempest in a Skull

58. Forms assumed by Suffering during Sleep

59. Hindrances

60. Sister Simplice put to the Proof

61. The Traveller on his Arrival takes Precautions for Departure

62. An Entrance by Favor

63. A Place where Convictions are in Process of Formation

64. The System of Denials

65. Champmathieu more and more Astonished

66. In what Mirror M. Madeleine contemplates his Hair

67. Fantine Happy

68. Javert Satisfied

69. Authority reasserts its Rights

70. A Suitable Tomb

71. What is met with on the Way from Nivelles

72. Hougomont

73. The Eighteenth of June, 1815

74. A

75. The Quid Obscurum of Battles

76. Four o'clock in the Afternoon

77. Napoleon in a Good Humor

78. The Emperor puts a Question to the Guide Lacoste

79. The Unexpected

80. The Plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean

81. A Bad Guide to Napoleon; a Good Guide to Bulow

82. The Guard

83. The Catastrophe

84. The Last Square

85. Cambronne

86. Quot Libras in Duce?

87. Is Waterloo to be considered Good?

88. A Recrudescence of Divine Right

89. The Battle-Field at Night

90. Number 24,601 becomes Number 9,430

91. In which the reader will peruse Two Verses which are of the Devil's Composition possibly

92. The Ankle-Chain must have undergone a Certain Preparatory Manipulation to be thus broken with a Blow from a Hammer

93. The Water Question at Montfermeil

94. Two Complete Portraits

95. Men must have Wine, and Horses must have Water

96. Entrance on the Scene of a Doll

97. The Little One All Alone

98. Which possibly proves Boulatruelle's Intelligence

99. Cosette Side by Side with the Stranger in the Dark

100. The Unpleasantness of receiving into One's House a Poor Man who may be a Rich Man

101. Thenardier at his Manoeuvres

102. He who seeks to better himself may render his Situation Worse

103. Number 9,430 reappears, and Cosette wins it in the Lottery

104. Master Gorbeau

105. A Nest for Owl and a Warbler

106. Two Misfortunes Make One Piece of Good Fortune

107. The Remarks of the Principal Tenant

108. A Five-Franc Piece Falls on the Ground and Produces a Tumult

109. The Zigzags of Strategy

110. It Is Lucky That the Pont D'Austerlitz Bears Carriages

111. To Wit, the Plan of Paris in 1727

112. The Gropings of Flight

113. Which Would be Impossible With Gas Lanterns

114. The Beginning of an Enigma

115. Continuation of the Enigma

116. The Enigma Becomes Doubly Mysterious

117. The Man with the Bell

118. Which Explains How Javert Got on the Scent

119. Number 62 Rue Petit-Picpus

120. The Obedience of Martin Verga

121. Austerities

122. Gayeties

123. Distractions

124. The Little Convent

125. Some Silhouettes of this Darkness

126. Post Corda Lapides

127. A Century under a Guimpe

128. Origin of the Perpetual Adoration

129. End of the Petit-Picpus

130. The Convent as an Abstract Idea

131. The Convent as an Historical Fact

132. On What Conditions One can respect the Past

133. The Convent from the Point of View of Principles

134. Prayer

135. The Absolute Goodness of Prayer

136. Precautions to be observed in Blame

137. Faith, Law

138. Which treats of the Manner of entering a Convent

139. Fauchelevent in the Presence of a Difficulty

140. Mother Innocente

141. In which Jean Valjean has quite the Air of having read Austin Castillejo

142. It is not Necessary to be Drunk in order to be Immortal

143. Between Four Planks

144. In which will be found the Origin of the Saying: Don't lose the Card

145. A Successful Interrogatory

146. Cloistered







Every one is acquainted with the first phase of this battle;
a beginning which was troubled, uncertain, hesitating, menacing to
both armies, but still more so for the English than for the French.

It had rained all night, the earth had been cut up by the downpour,
the water had accumulated here and there in the hollows of the plain
as if in casks; at some points the gear of the artillery carriages
was buried up to the axles, the circingles of the horses were dripping
with liquid mud. If the wheat and rye trampled down by this cohort
of transports on the march had not filled in the ruts and strewn a
litter beneath the wheels, all movement, particularly in the valleys,
in the direction of Papelotte would have been impossible.

The affair began late. Napoleon, as we have already explained,
was in the habit of keeping all his artillery well in hand,
like a pistol, aiming it now at one point, now at another,
of the battle; and it had been his wish to wait until the horse
batteries could move and gallop freely. In order to do that it
was necessary that the sun should come out and dry the soil.
But the sun did not make its appearance. It was no longer
the rendezvous of Austerlitz. When the first cannon was fired,
the English general, Colville, looked at his watch, and noted
that it was thirty-five minutes past eleven.

The action was begun furiously, with more fury, perhaps, than the
Emperor would have wished, by the left wing of the French resting
on Hougomont. At the same time Napoleon attacked the centre by
hurling Quiot's brigade on La Haie-Sainte, and Ney pushed forward
the right wing of the French against the left wing of the English,
which rested on Papelotte.

The attack on Hougomont was something of a feint; the plan was
to draw Wellington thither, and to make him swerve to the left.
This plan would have succeeded if the four companies of the English
guards and the brave Belgians of Perponcher's division had not held the
position solidly, and Wellington, instead of massing his troops there,
could confine himself to despatching thither, as reinforcements,
only four more companies of guards and one battalion from Brunswick.

The attack of the right wing of the French on Papelotte was calculated,
in fact, to overthrow the English left, to cut off the road
to Brussels, to bar the passage against possible Prussians,
to force Mont-Saint-Jean, to turn Wellington back on Hougomont,
thence on Braine-l'Alleud, thence on Hal; nothing easier.
With the exception of a few incidents this attack succeeded
Papelotte was taken; La Haie-Sainte was carried.

A detail to be noted. There was in the English infantry,
particularly in Kempt's brigade, a great many raw recruits. These young
soldiers were valiant in the presence of our redoubtable infantry;
their inexperience extricated them intrepidly from the dilemma;
they performed particularly excellent service as skirmishers:
the soldier skirmisher, left somewhat to himself, becomes, so to speak,
his own general. These recruits displayed some of the French
ingenuity and fury. This novice of an infantry had dash.
This displeased Wellington.

After the taking of La Haie-Sainte the battle wavered.

There is in this day an obscure interval, from mid-day to four o'clock;
the middle portion of this battle is almost indistinct, and participates
in the sombreness of the hand-to-hand conflict. Twilight reigns
over it. We perceive vast fluctuations in that fog, a dizzy mirage,
paraphernalia of war almost unknown to-day, pendant colbacks,
floating sabre-taches, cross-belts, cartridge-boxes for grenades,
hussar dolmans, red boots with a thousand wrinkles, heavy shakos
garlanded with torsades, the almost black infantry of Brunswick mingled
with the scarlet infantry of England, the English soldiers with great,
white circular pads on the slopes of their shoulders for epaulets,
the Hanoverian light-horse with their oblong casques of leather,
with brass hands and red horse-tails, the Scotch with their bare
knees and plaids, the great white gaiters of our grenadiers;
pictures, not strategic lines--what Salvator Rosa requires,
not what is suited to the needs of Gribeauval.

A certain amount of tempest is always mingled with a battle.
Quid obscurum, quid divinum. Each historian traces, to some extent,
the particular feature which pleases him amid this pellmell.
Whatever may be the combinations of the generals, the shock of armed
masses has an incalculable ebb. During the action the plans of
the two leaders enter into each other and become mutually thrown
out of shape. Such a point of the field of battle devours more
combatants than such another, just as more or less spongy soils
soak up more or less quickly the water which is poured on them.
It becomes necessary to pour out more soldiers than one would like;
a series of expenditures which are the unforeseen. The line of battle
waves and undulates like a thread, the trails of blood gush illogically,
the fronts of the armies waver, the regiments form capes and gulfs
as they enter and withdraw; all these reefs are continually moving
in front of each other. Where the infantry stood the artillery arrives,
the cavalry rushes in where the artillery was, the battalions are
like smoke. There was something there; seek it. It has disappeared;
the open spots change place, the sombre folds advance and retreat,
a sort of wind from the sepulchre pushes forward, hurls back,
distends, and disperses these tragic multitudes. What is a fray?
an oscillation? The immobility of a mathematical plan expresses
a minute, not a day. In order to depict a battle, there is required
one of those powerful painters who have chaos in their brushes.
Rembrandt is better than Vandermeulen; Vandermeulen, exact at noon,
lies at three o'clock. Geometry is deceptive; the hurricane alone
is trustworthy. That is what confers on Folard the right to
contradict Polybius. Let us add, that there is a certain instant
when the battle degenerates into a combat, becomes specialized,
and disperses into innumerable detailed feats, which, to borrow
the expression of Napoleon himself, "belong rather to the biography
of the regiments than to the history of the army." The historian has,
in this case, the evident right to sum up the whole. He cannot
do more than seize the principal outlines of the struggle, and it
is not given to any one narrator, however conscientious he may be,
to fix, absolutely, the form of that horrible cloud which is called
a battle.

This, which is true of all great armed encounters, is particularly
applicable to Waterloo.

Nevertheless, at a certain moment in the afternoon the battle came
to a point.




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