Jean-Paul is the second son of an impoverished gentleman from the city. Poor and rich are, of course, relative terms. Jean-Paul has never known wealth, but his upbringing was certainly more comfortable than that of the urchins he was taught to look down upon.
The Marsaud family knew more prosperous times in generations past, but failed business ventures overseas drained the family purse. Now, what little they have is concentrated in a small haberdashery run by his parents, assisted by his older brother, Yves, who is content that one day he will inherit this modest business. His sisters, Marie-France and Claudette, still live at home, but Jean-Paul has come of age, and sets his sights rather higher. Perhaps, si le bon Dieu le veut, he will one day succeed in restoring the family to its former status.
Jean-Paul lives in a small apartment with his dog, Bruno. Bruno loves to play with a ball in the garden, which occasionally brings Jean-Paul into conflict with his fellow tenants, who believe animals belong on farms. None of them has dared make too grave a matter of it, though, since one impertinent oaf learned first hand of Jean-Paul's skill with a rapier. A poor gentleman is still a gentleman, and no peasant should ever think himself an equal if the only weapon he knows is a cudgel.
Jean-Paul led his company in search of the enemy. Or rather, in search of loot. He had debts to repay, were he ever again to be able to show his face in Paris, and his wages did not even cover his living expenses.
They filed along a ravine until they were behind the Spanish lines, then climbed up into a coppice overlooking a track which led to the city. There, they lay ready to ambush any passing supply train. Hopefully, thought Jean-Paul, they would intercept a pay wagon, loaded with silver reals.
Unfortunately, the main French assault was easily repulsed, and the company soon found themselves in danger of being cut off; already, Jean-Paul could see Spanish cavalry moving towards the route they had used on their way here. The clearest way out now was to follow the advancing Spanish infantry at a safe distance, and look for a way to pass them unseen.
Cresting a rise, the company saw the rest of their regiment making a desperate stand below, their backs to the river, unable to ford en masse, so fighting a holding action as the men waded across in small groups. Soon, the last men on this side would be overwhelmed. Jean-Paul could not leave his comrades to their fate, so gave the order to attack, and his men charged down the slope.
Taken by surprise, and slow to respond to the change in their situation, the Spaniards panicked and withdrew along the river to await reinforcements, allowing the Languedoc troops to cross to safety.
Back at camp, Major Marsaud was summoned to the Colonel's tent. His heart was in his mouth as he was escorted in to face the music.
"I saw what you were about, today, Major," started the Colonel.
Jean-Paul could barely stand straight. What would the punishment be? Disgrace, obviously, but maybe worse … he had heard of even senior officers being summarily executed for dereliction of duty.
"Yes, an unconventional, but most effective tactic," continued his commanding officer. "Showed great promise. I shall commend you in my report. Well done."
Jean-Paul could not believe what he was hearing. He stood, frozen in place.
"Dismissed, Major," bellowed the Colonel, and his adjutant ushered Jean-Paul away.
"I suggest you clean up and have your batman wash your uniform," whispered the captain. "You must have picked up something nasty in your traipse through the forest this morning, to judge by the smell. And maybe you slipped as you charged to the rescue … you do appear to have rather soiled your breeches."