We directly continue the parallelism of the ship and the fake peasant from the last chapter in the very title. The structure of this chapter also mimics the previous one — it’s short, it starts out descriptive, it ends with a bang. (And promises a literal one!)
The ship takes the less-traveled, longer route for security — though evidently not safety, since it’s away from all the lighthouses — aiming to make landfall by morning. It’s dark and foggy, the sea is a little rough, but our fake peasant is walking sure-footed around the deck, eating a bar of chocolate. Chocolate! Where did he get that and why isn’t he sharing. With me, I mean, but he isn’t sharing with the crew, either.
Especially when the captain has given up his cabin for him! Because that won’t lead anyone on board — or anyone who happens to capture the ship — to suspect anything fishy at all. (As Pilf’s entry for the previous chapter noted, the deception decidedly doesn’t seem aimed at the ship’s crew.)
Then there’s conversation. Apparently it’s very, very important that no one find out who our fake peasant is. The captain, the second, and the man himself will all die sooner than give out his identity. It has to remain secret — until the moment of explosion. What explosion? A literal explosion, or a metaphorical one? What is happening! Why are these chapters so short!
At one point in this chapter, M. Not-A-Peasant “drew out of his pocket a cake of chocolate, broke off a piece and ate it.” My first thought was that this was something like a chocolate bar, but molded bars of chocolate as we know them today weren’t invented until 1847 (and milk chocolate wouldn’t come along until the 1870s).
So…chocolate cake then? It’s possible but unlikely — chocolate started being used in Europe for baking in addition to drinking in the mid-18th century. However, I’ll be darned if I could find any contemporary references to a cake (as in pound cake) flavored with chocolate.
What he’s most likely gnawing on is basically a chunk of compressed cocoa, probably flavored with spices, which would be used to make drinking chocolate. You can see a picture of a modern-day recreation of one of these cakes (and a 1750s recipe for chocolate meringues) here. It sounds like a chalky and not very appetizing snack.
Original says “tablette de chocolat” which is literally a chocolate bar, so maybe Hugo’s just indulging in some anachronism to show off how not-at-all-a-peasant this guy is…
Or maybe it just meant something else at the time. I don’t know! Though thinking further about it as I just have, would the compressed cocoa require having all your teeth to be able to eat it? Though on that thought — would a chocolate bar? I’d think either of those would melt in your mouth. Possibly Hugo mentions it because he’s just specified that he was chewing the chocolate. Hmmm.
It’s hard for me to even be angry about that because it’s just pure nonsense. What is he even saying?
It’s tricky to parse, but I think what he’s saying is: “People saying nice things to me has gone to my head and now I think I am an infallible writing genius, also no homo, but yes homo, but seriously no homo at all ever. Did I mention no homo.”
The “fallen angel” thing is the most bullshit of all bullshit. Where is he getting this from. Hannibal is not the goddamn devil, he a white male serial killer, one of the most boring things in existence honestly, stop glorifying this.
But mostly he’s so far up his own ass he can’t see sense. I’m not — angry, exactly, I’m just rolling my eyes.
Jean-Vincent Blanchard, Éminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise France
Wherein Anne, being questioned under humiliating circumstances about her involvement in a failed conspiracy to put Louis XIII’s younger brother on the throne, is not having any of Richelieu’s shit.