Short summary - The Chouans - Les Chouans - Honoré de Balzac

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Chouans - Les Chouans
Honoré de Balzac

At the beginning of the Vandemierre (end of September according to the usual calendar) a crowd of recruits marched from Fougeres to Mayenne. Four years ago, these places were engulfed in a royalist rebellion, and Fougeres has always been considered one of its most dangerous centers. That is why the commander of the semi-brigade Hulot decided to make the set announced by the Directory as soon as possible, but when the Bretons obediently came to the assembly point, he suspected something was wrong. Most of the recruits are too much like the Chouans - royalist peasants waging a guerrilla war in the name of God and the king. These fierce people in goat skins look at the officers from under their brows, and their intentions are clear - to take possession of the weapon. Hulot's attention is attracted by a stocky overgrown savage with a whip in his hand: when asked to name himself, he replies that his name is Sneak-on-Earth. This is a Shuan nickname, and Hulot is reinforced in his suspicions: the royalists are up to something - apparently, this is due to the fact that they have a young and brave leader by the production of "Well done".

The commander's misgivings come true: as soon as the detachment climbs Mount Pelerina, Sneak-on-Earth whistles deafeningly, and immediately a volley is heard. Despite the unexpected attack, the Blues are desperately fighting back, and a detachment from Fougeres is in a hurry to rescue them. Among the royalists, Hulot noticed a young man - a clear aristocrat in posture and demeanor. Obviously, this was "Well done" - had it not been for him, the peasants would hardly have dared to engage in open battle. In addition, in the midst of the fight, everyone clearly heard a woman's voice, inciting the Shuan to fight more boldly. When the Republican detachment leaves, the Bretons attack and rob the mail coach, much to the displeasure of the young leader. The Marquis de Montoran landed in France recently and still cannot get used to the Chouans' habits, which annoys the warlike lady who took part in the battle. The peasants do not care about these disputes: having captured the rich man d'Orgemont, who was riding in the stagecoach, Steal-on-Earth and Grab-Karavay demand a ransom of three hundred crowns - if there is no money in two weeks, the curmudgeon will bitterly regret it. And the Marquis is handed a letter from Paris: friends inform him that the Minister of Police Fouche intends to send a beautiful spy to him.

Two and a half months later, Hulot receives a dispatch from his general - two companies must accompany the carriage in which very important persons travel. The old soldier is furious: to guard two women and a Parisian whip - what a shame! But the order is the order: Marie de Verneuil with the servant Francine and a dapper gentleman named Corantin safely reach Alencon. At the hotel, they meet a naval officer and his too youthful mother - both closely look at Marie, trying to figure out who she is and why she is traveling under escort. The beauty of the stranger makes a strong impression on the sailor. In turn. Marie feels an irresistible attraction to the young man and does not allow him to be arrested, although Hulot recognizes him as the leader of the Chouans. Meanwhile, the keen-sighted Francine saw Stealth-on-Earth hiding in the courtyard - this is Pierre Leroy, her name. Madame du Ha, overwhelmed with jealousy, ordered him to finish off Marie. Francine threatens Pierre with eternal separation, if at least a hair falls from the head of her mistress.

Accompanied by sixty Republican soldiers, Madame du Gaut, her "son" and Marie set off for Fougeres. On the way, young people fall more and more in love with each other. Du Ga swears that he is just a friend of Montoran's - and Marie is very happy about this, not wanting, however, to enter into explanations. The young man offers to rest in the castle of Vivetier and gives his word of honor to the nobleman that the "blue" will be there in complete safety. But when the Comte de Bovan and Mama du Ga (the lady in love with Montoran from the first part of the novel) publicly proclaim Marie a dirty girl hired by Fouche to search for the leader of the Chouans, "Well done" goes into a terrible rage: the republican soldiers are treacherously killed, and Marie is given to amusement to the peasants - she is saved from a terrible fate by Sneak-on-Earth, who is afraid of losing Francine. Returning to the wine glass, Marie thinks only of revenge and is even ready to resort to the help of the hated Korantin - Fouche's right hand. But before her eyes, she still has a fiery gaze and the beautiful face of the Marquis de Montoran.

The city of Fougeres rises on a steep cliff. Five days after the massacre in Vivetier, Marie, walking along the boulevard at sunset, notices the "Molodtsa" in the valley and decides to hunt him down. On the outskirts of the city many Shouans have gathered - they are preparing for the assault. Marie swiftly falls down, and shy away from her in horror, mistaking her for a ghost. Finally realizing the danger, the girl takes refuge in the first house she comes across and becomes a witness. scary scene: Grab-Loaf and Sneak-on-Earth torture d'0r-gemon, who never paid the ransom. When Marie appears, the Chouans scatter, and the old man takes her out through a secret passage and gives her the password so that she can hide in the hut of Naley-Zhban, who is ready to serve both the "white" and the "blue". Meanwhile, the Republicans, repelling the attack, go on the offensive, and Count de Bovan runs to hide to Naley-Zhban. Taking him prisoner with the help of one of the soldiers, Marie proves to him that she is the daughter of the Duke de Verneuil. The crushed aristocrat regrets that he insulted her in Vivetier, and Marie demands that she be whitewashed before all the royalists. Then the count invites the girl to a ball at his estate of Saint-James, where her appearance makes a splash: everyone is amazed at both her beauty and noble birth. Montoran begs her beloved to forgive him, and Marie, in a fit of remorse, confesses everything: she was imposed a vile role, but she renounces the past - of course, the marquis can no longer marry her, but she will not give him into the hands of the executioners. The shocked "Well done" does not hold her, and she returns to Fougeres in deep sorrow.

The next day Naley-Zhban comes to her - at two o'clock the Marquis will be waiting for her in the hut. Unfortunately, the Korantin who entered at this moment recognizes the Shuan. When the perked up Marie goes on a date, the "blue" follow her - in order to deceive the peasants, they dress up as Bretons, and the wife of Naley-Zhbana, mistaking them for her own, involuntarily betrays "Well done." And the lovers cannot look at each other: everything is behind - both mutual suspicion and resentment. Montoran announces to Marie that tomorrow they will be married by a priest in her Fougeres house, and then they will leave these places, desecrated by a merciless war. At this moment, the soldiers sneak up to the house, but the marquis miraculously breaks through their ranks. Frustrated, Koranten realizes that now one cannot do without Mari's help: however, this suits a clever spy - he needs to dump a proud girl in the mud in order to get hold of her. Marie does not know the handwriting of the Marquis, and Corantin scribbles a fake message in which Montoran assures Madame du Gaut that he has won the bet - the corrupt girl is ready to surrender to him. Marie is brought this letter, allegedly intercepted from the Chouans, and the light dims before her eyes. She makes the final decision - the marquis who betrayed her must die.

Hulot and Corantin are carefully preparing an ambush. The son of Naley-Zhbana becomes their messenger: Sneak-on-Earth and Grab-Karavay cut off the head of his father, accused of treason, and the mother, burning with a thirst for revenge, herself took the boy to the "blue" with orders to kill Shuan. Unsuspecting Montoran comes to Marie, accompanied by three people - seeing the priest and witnesses, the girl falls to her knees shouting "I'm sorry!" The Holy Father performs the wedding ceremony: Marie is unusually pale, but at such a solemn moment this does not surprise anyone. The first wedding night is coming for the spouses, and only Marie knows that they have only six hours to live. At dawn, they suddenly hear the cry of an owl, and hope awakens in Mari's heart - Stealth-on-Earth managed to get to the house. Montoran puts on a Chuan dress, and Marie, in a selfless impulse, puts on his suit. A volley is fired, then shooting comes from somewhere in the distance. The soldiers inform Hulot that the "Good fellow" was shot in the head. Taking off his hat from the imaginary marquis, the commander sees the long black braids of Marie de Verneuil. Soon they bring Montoran with broken legs - he is placed next to his wife on a camp bed. The dying marquis asks Hulot to notify his younger brother about his death - let him serve the king, but never raise arms against France. And the old soldier tells Koranten to get away and never again come across him on the road. For a spy, this threat means absolutely nothing - Hulot is one of those decent people who will never make a career.