Hushed voices came from down the hall, pitched low to avoid disturbing the sleeping child within the next room. A husband and wife had been reunited, but the meeting was somewhat marred by the bitter taste of defeat. Paris had fallen a few days prior, the emperor had abdicated his rule and the Bourbon hog was back on the throne. For the wife this knowledge was something of a relief, knowing that her husband was back to stay, but for Captain Georges Pontmercy, there was a bitter taste in his mouth, a sense of things left unfinished. He had proudly served his emperor, seeing distinguished service at Mayence, Austerlitz, Eylau and Arney-le-Duc. He had received the cross from Napoléon, the medal proudly hanging from the uniform that he still wore. He was a soldier, a Bonapartist, and he was defeated.
Yet Pontmercy was not of the breed of soldier who knew nothing but war. The bitter sting of failure was masked by the bright joy of reunion with his wife and child. He almost feared to see little Marius, for the change in the growing boy was startling each time he came back from a campaign. He had not been present at his only child’s birth, and upon each return he saw the milestones that he missed, the infant that he had held in his arms only a few times now talking and walking. His son’s life had continued without him there, those precious minutes ticking away, never to be reclaimed. Now, at last, he had the opportunity to be there for his boy, to be the father that Marius deserved, and despite the lateness of the hour found himself gently pulling away from his wife’s loving embrace, eyes longingly drifting towards the door to Marius’ room. The former Mlle Gillenormand, sensing his thoughts, gave his shoulder a playful shove.
“It's late, Georges dear, you’ll wake the poor thing. Can’t you wait until morning?” The words were uttered without any real chastisement within them, the woman’s lips curved into an affectionate smile. Georges, in turn, paid little heed to them, returning the smile before lifting her hand and pressing a soft kiss to it.
“I only want to say goodnight to him. I’ll be back in a moment.” The man didn’t even hear her half-laughing “Go on, then!” eyes and thoughts already fixated on the door. Georges Pontmercy loved and cherished his wife; he worshipped his son. He moved as stealthily as he could within his boots, reaching the door and gently pushing it open so he could peer into the darkness, searching out the form of the child. A smile graced his handsome features when he found him, face not yet disfigured by the scar that would come to define it, his days of bloody heroism not yet at their end. This was merely the lull before the storm, but Pontmercy, heart trembling with adoration at the sight of his child, had no idea of this.
Floorboards creaked quietly as he left the doorway and approached his son’s bedside, eyes straining to get a better look in the dim light the moon provided. His calloused fingers gently brushed back the boy’s dark hair as he bent, pressing a tender kiss to the boy’s forehead. As he pulled away, he whispered a single word, the name leaving his lips like a prayer uttered by a devout man.