In Victor Hugo's epic Les Miserables Colonel Pontmercy is struck with a brain fever. But, on the first day, he has enough presence of mind to ask for his son to come. Having received his message, neither the father-in-law, M.Gillenormand nor Mariius, the son, think to inquire about quick passage to Vernon. Had they done so, Marius could have reached his father before he died. However, he did not; the colonel lay dead on the floor with a tear yet alive in his eye as the colonel had exclaimed, "My son did not come," sprang from his bed, and died. A servant later finds a scrap of paper which she hands to Marius.
For my Son.- The emperor made me a baron upon the battle-fiedl of Waterloo. Since the Restoration contests this title which I hae bought with my blook, my son will take it and bear it. I need not say that he will be worthy of it....At this same battle of Waterloo, a serbeant saved my life. This man's name is Thenardier. Not long ago, I believe he was keeping a little tavern in a village in the suburbs of Paris, at Chelles or at Monfermeil. If my son meets him, he will do Thenardier all the service he can.
The irony to these instructions is that Thernardier came upon Pontmercy as he was plundering what he could on the battlefied. When he came upon Pontmercy, the miserable and sometimes malevolent Thernardier believed him dead until he attempted to remove Pontmercy's boots. Then, the wounded man stirred. So, Thernardier was forced to act as though he were looking for survivors, and Pontmercy misinterpreted his actions.
Pontmercy, who is the estranged father of Marius, leaves his son a note asking him to help the innkeeper (Thenardier) who had saved his life at Waterloo.