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BOOK FIRST: Waterloo
The narrator summarizes the story of the rise and fall of Napoleon. He describes the Plain of Waterloo, known at the time as the Plateau of Mont St. Jean. In June 1815, Napoleon was lined up for battle against the English, but heavy rain prevented him from moving his artillery until late in the day. This gave an advantage to the English who were able to hold out a bit longer although they were outnumbered.
By 4:00 in the afternoon, the English were nearly beaten . Napoleon ordered his cavalry to move forward for an intended charge, but, unknown to him, the road of Owain, which he had to cross, had caved in under the heavy rain. This created a deep ravine into which horses and men tumbled until the ravine was full. The remaining calvary crossed literally on the bodies made of their own forces. This was the beginning of the end for Napoleon. Thus, according to the narrator, the defeat of Napoleon was at the hand of God rather than any army.
The English infantry was badly decimated, but the delay caused by the rain allowed for the arrival of the Prussian reinforcements which created the turning point in the battle.
We are brought back into the story at the point when the battle is over and marauders are looting the bodies. One looter happens to be Thenardier who spots a ring on a hand under the pile of dead cavalry men. The body is alive, so Thenardier pulls him out from under the pile. The fallen soldier thinks Thenardier has intentionally saved his life and, after giving his name as Pontmercy, promises that he will remember Thenardier.