Dak Reads Les Misérables / SAINT-DENIS AND THE IDYLL OF THE RUE PLUMET: Book 4

About: Dak reads Les Misérables and recaps it here, so that she may better retain the information.  Things not to expect: deep literary analysis.  Things to expect: Spoilers.  All the spoilers.

Pennies From Heaven

Today we arrive at Cosette and Valjean’s place, post Jondrette caper where Cosette and Valjean are suffering a collective loss of memory. But first a very short diversion backwards where we learn that our duo have really found that despite Cosette’s distraction with teenagerdom and Valjean’s Marius avoidance, their most joyful time together is helping the poor. Then the whole disaster with Thenardier happened.

 Valjean returns to their abode and I realize now that he has actually been branded by Thenardier’s hot murder chisel on the arm. This wound has become gross and infected and Valjean is all feverish and incapacitated. He doesn’t want to go to any doctors, which is Cosette’s reasonable plan. He says call the vet instead. I think this was a plot line in season one of Schitt’s Creek. 

I will inject here that Valjean isn’t quite angry at the whole Jondrette/Thenardier situation. He just kind of feels sorry for them, and shrugs it off because they are in prison now where they can do no harm. So, the Jondrettes will keep on keeping on, I suppose, while Valjean is over here dying of sepsis.

 In any case, he doesn’t end up at the animal doctor. Cosette just takes care of him and nurses him back to health. All is well! In fact all is better than well according to Valjean’s mind, because, in taking care of him, Cosette seems to back to her doting former self. He gives praise to his gross infected wound for her continued attentions! She spends more time in the out back shack and Valjean has to push her to go hang out in her front garden again. 

 Speaking of the front garden, it’s springtime and the area is abloom and beautiful. I’m sure this is very symbolic. Something, something, rebirth, something, something, Cosette becoming a woman maybe? But you know what we say about symbolism here. 

Regardless of symbology, they are happy again! So happy in fact, that Valjean maybe thinks that whole Marius business was in his imagination, and Cosette never even mentions the convict caravan again! Yay! Now they can live happily ever after, right? 

 Wrong. 

As soon as Valjean is well enough, he begins his night walks again (apparently he was going on night walks sans Cosette), and here the book informs me right there in black and white that night walks are a great time for adventures! I assume this is alluding to a forthcoming night adventure Valjean is going to be having in this chapter! Let us forge ahead: 

Now, do you remember little Gavroche? He is the young son of the Thenardiers who they don’t care about, so he lives on the street. He’s hungry because he hasn’t eaten tonight, or the night before, or the night before that. He decides that he’s going to this apple tree he knows about to find some apples to munch on.

This is Valjean’s garden, right?

Wrong! It is our friendly neighbor, Mabeuf’s garden. Gavroche doesn’t go apple raiding right off the bat. (watch out kid, an arrestable offense, or at least a way to get press ganged into the Royal Navy.) This is because Mabeuf is out and about, sitting on his old man rock looking sad and talking to Mother Plutrarch. We learn that Mabeuf is broke. He has no money for food or anything, and Mother Plutrarch is attempting to prompt some action out of him. Every one of  the suggestions on what and how they’re going to eat is met with the news that he owes too much for the vendors to give any more. He just says he doesn’t want any of that old food that he can’t buy or get on credit anymore anyway. They can just eat the apples. Eventually mother Plutrarch departs since she’s not getting anywhere. Gavroche doesn’t go for the apples yet. Instead he crawls into some sort of alcove and then, from this hiding spot, he can see a couple people heading down the street.

 I won’t keep you in suspense. One of them is Jean Valjean on his night walk, and the other one prowling around behind him with a rose in his teeth for some reason, the deadly dandy himself, Montparnasse. I guess the reason is just for a little panache. He throws it away as he assault’s Valjean though. Maybe  that’s a symbol of his badness? 

And, yes, Montparnasse is now fighting with and attempting to rob Valjean. Gavroche thinks he’s going to have an easy time with the old man, but we know that Valjean is stronger than bulls, faster than a wild horses, more wiley than a coyote, and stickier than a spider man. He quickly gets the best of the kid and is now in the street, in the dark holding Montparnasse in his clutches and interrogating him about his age and his current ambitions.

His current age is twenty and his ambitions are to be a lazy layabout do nothing i.e. funding his fancy tastes through thievery rather than working.

Valjean doesn’t like to hear that and is now giving our thief and huge, huge, very long lecture about the value of an honest day’s work, and how thieving and/or laziness is actually more work in the long run. It’s almost, but not quite as long as Grantaire’s monologue about how the world sucks. I mean, I guess he’s just trying to talk some sense into this guy, because he’s going on and on about his own experiences (and the little hidden saw in his coin that he used to escape Patron Minette) and if Montparnasse continues on this path he’s just going to end up in jail for twenty years. (And pursued by Javert off and on for the rest of time, but like—I feel as if it were at least insinuated in his intro that this dude is a murderer. Maybe he should be in prison?)

After Vajean gives Montparnasse all his advices on how it’s better to be an honest man, he let’s him go and gives the kid his purse anyway. As Valjean is walking away, Montparnasse just calls him a “blockhead” and stares slack jawed at him as he disappears. I’m not sure that Valjean’s speech and money was quite as inspiring as the Bishop of Digne’s gesture was for him so many years ago, but maybe we’ll see.

In any case Gavroche takes this moment of distraction to sneak on in and steal the purse off Montparnasse. That little scamp!

He doesn’t keep it for himself. This starving child that hasn’t eaten for days, I remind you, throws the money into the garden and onto Mabeuf’s feet. It wakes up the poor old man who had dozed off, and he brings it to Mother Plutrarch. She praises the heavens for this sudden windfall, and that is the end of Valjean’s night walk adventure! Aww, that was kind of a nice adventure, not at all what I was expecting. 

There is one thing that didn’t happen in this chapter, though. Maybe if I give up on Marius ever meeting Cosette it will finally happen? Cross your fingers, and I will catch you next time!


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