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BOOK SECOND: The Ship Orion
The story of Jean Valjeanís recapture is told. He was accused of being one of a band of armed robbers from the south and was condemned to death, but the king commuted the sentence to hard labor. The city of Montreuil-sur-mer along with the business Valjean had built up suffers economic collapse. Before being recaptured he was successful in hiding the profit he made from the factories; he buried the money in the ground in a secret spot in the woods. A common laborer named Boulatruelle sees him enter the woods and attempts to follow but loses him. Thereafter Boulatruelle takes every opportunity to dig holes in the forest in search of wealth he imagines is hidden there somewhere.
1823 is the time of the Spanish War. Valjean has been working on board the ship Orion which has been put into port for repairs. During the work, one of the sailors falls from the upper rigging and dangles above the sea by a rope. Valjean gets permission to rescue him, breaks the chain from his ankle with one blow of the hammer, and rescues the seaman. Immediately after, he appears to fall overboard himself and is presumed drowned.
Itís a mark of Valjeanís cleverness that he knows how to play the necessary ruse when the opportunity presents itself. After rescuing the seaman, he was seen to hesitate as if having difficulty climbing the rigging. Perhaps he was gauging his chances with the sea; perhaps he was ascertaining whether he could truly pull off an escape. At any rate, the trick is successful.