Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: Book 8


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

Cosette: Book Eight: In which nuns violate public health and safety in the name of God, and Valjean is buried alive

Yes, these are things that are happening in this chapter. How did we arrive here, you may be asking, because I’m reading it and I’m wondering that too. Well, let us return to the night Valjean jumped into the garden. This is exactly where we left off on that wild tangent a couple sections ago, but it seems like it’s been a thousand years since Valjean scaled that wall.

He and Fauchelevent are hanging out eating cheese and wine and Valjean is watching Cosette sleep. He has come to the conclusion that he must stay in this convent. It is surely the most safest place to be, you know, besides a different city, or a different country, or any place other than the city in which Javert is currently employed.  Be that as it may, Javert would never suspect him in this convent, since nobody gets in. That’s a pretty reasonable assumption, but there are a couple of problems with this amazing plan.

A. Are the nuns really going to let another dude onto the premises?

B. If they do, they can’t know that he’s already broken into their convent. I’m pretty sure that would quickly get him on their bad side and they’d never allow him back in.

Valjean enlists Fauchelevent to help him scheme a way to accomplish his continued safety at Petit Picpus.

Fauchelevent is rightfully dubious that he can do anything about it. He only has contact with Mother Innocent, and all the other nuns run away from his knee-bell. He suggests Valjean just climb over the wall the way he came in, but apparently that cannot be done in the opposite direction. No. Really? Surely, it would be easier for Fauchelevent to say…acquire a ladder than what’s about to go down? I guess that would too be simple and easy, and we can’t have that.

Well, it just so happens there was a dying nun on the premises and Fauchelevent hears his own personal bell tone that means he’s being summoned to a meeting with Mother Innocent. Once he’s there, she goes into some long speech about the final wishes of the dead, particularly some of the sainted brothers and sisters that have lived their lives in service to God. Surely they deserve to have their final wishes honoured? She goes on to cite a couple of examples as precedent.

Meanwhile, Fauchelevent is explaining that he’s old and decrepit and he could use a little help around the garden. He has just the guy! His “brother” and his “brother’s” daughter should come to live among them and help out.

It seems as if Mother Innocent is down with this on one condition.  Can Fauchelevent procure a lever to lift the stone covering vault underneath the altar in the chapel? Fauchelevent can. He wonders why she would want to do that though.

She wonders if he did not hear the bells earlier that announced one of the nun’s deaths. He says he did not. He can’t hear much in his own little corner of the convent, besides, his bell is the only tone he pays attention to anyway.

Well, Mother Innocent explains, this particular nun’s final wish was to be laid to rest beneath the altar in the coffin that she has slept in during her life.

Wait. Is something lost in translation here again? Do nuns sleep in coffins for real? or was this woman secretly a vampire?

Fauchelevent is taken aback, because burying people under the floor is just not done. There are safety issues! What of the health inspectors? They would never let them just stick a body underneath the altar in the church where alive people congregate.

Mother Innocent is not going to let some silly government or the threat of disease get in the way of fulfilling this woman’s final wishes though. As far as she’s concerned, she’s got a higher authority that she must obey, so what does Fauchelevent think of those apples?

Fauchelevent isn’t going to argue about it any further. So, now to get down to the gritty details… It’s easy enough to conclude they are going to have bury a coffin at the cemetery, so nobody catches on; but how is Fauchelevent going to sneak the empty box out of the convent without the pallbearers knowing it’s empty?

Why is everybody leaving their scheming plans up to Fauchelevent here? He totally did not sign up for this when he fell under that cart.

Good thing Fauchelevents are smarter than they appear. You see, before he fell on hard times and had to turn to being a cart driver, he was a notary. He wasn’t always a simple laborer. He easily concludes that they can just fill the coffin up with dirt and be done with it.

Mother Innocent approves. With the plan in place, she dismisses him to go about his work.

Back in Fauchelevent’s shed of collusion, Valjean is still chillin’, watching Cosette and eating cheese. He asks how the meeting went. Everything is set with to bring in Fauchelevent’s “Brother”, now to get Valjean out.

It’s easy enough to sneak Cosette out, she’s tiny and easy to carry and hide. Valjean threatens her with Thénardiers again to make extra sure she doesn’t utter a peep, which is a tactic I don’t entirely like, but hey…it’s super effective.

And what of Valjean? Fachelevent can’t just throw a blanket over him and carry him out under his arm. I would hate to bear the wrath of these nuns should they find an unauthorized dude on the premises.

He’s just pondering this and how dirt in the coffin isn’t going to feel exactly like a human person … You know where this is heading now, right? You can practically see the lightbulbs appearing over their heads.

And this is why you should read the “brick”. For every endless chapter about nuns or Waterloo, there are treasure chests full of gleaming gems of amazingness like this. I wish the sheer length of this novel wasn’t such a deterrent, because it’s so worth the read. It’s just a thousand more pages to love. Seriously, Valjean just sneaked into a convent, so he could sneak out of a convent. IN A COFFIN. So, he can legitimately enter the convent and hide out there; an opportunity that presents itself just because he ran into a guy he used to know, and a nun happened to die that morning and wished to be buried on the premises rather than in an outside cemetery.

You also won’t know that Valjean is secretly hilarious. I don’t know that he means to be, but he is to my wry funny bone.

“You can come and nail me up in the coffin at two o’clock.”

Fauchelevent recoiled, and began to crack his finger joints.

“But it’s impossible!”

“Not at all. To take a hammer and drive some nails into a board?”

Valjean does not understand why this could be a problem

All plans are in place now. The only thing that Valjean is worried about in this surely foolproof caper is what’s going to happen when they get to the cemetery?

Fauchelevent has that covered though. He knows the ins and outs of the place and is a personal friend of the gravedigger, who is also a drunk and easily distracted in his drunkeness.

Fauchelevent plans to wait until the priest is done giving his blessings and then make sure the gravedigger is plastered then just send him home.

There is one important thing to note about the gravedigger’s duties. This cemetery has a gatekeeper and the only way the gravedigger can come and go after hours is with his card, which he drops into a box and is permitted entry or exit in some sort of 19th century key card system. If the gravedigger forgets his card than the gatekeeper can let him through by sight, but that’s a fifteen Franc fine. This is relevant information this time, I assure you.

So the day comes and everything is just going swimmingly. Cosette has been sneaked out and is hanging out with a flower shop lady for the time being. Poor little Cosette is worried about this of course. I don’t blame her for having abandonment issues at this point. She knows something is afoot though and instinctively keeps her mouth shut about it.

Meanwhile, let us return to: The Great Convent Escape!

Everything has gone perfectly so far on all of Fauchelevent’s flawless schemes. There’s a nun under the altar, Cosette is away, and Valjean is squeezed into a coffin, ready to go.

Nothing could go wrong, I tell you! NOTHING!

I know we’ve been hit with the foreshadowing stick before in this book, but this is a particularly gratuitous beatdown.

As soon as Fauchelevent meets up with the gravedigger everything starts falling quickly apart.

This gravedigger is not Fauchelevent’s drunken friend. This is some other guy who is all business and no drinking. What happened to the drunk? Well, he up and died. How dare he!

Fauchelevent is having a meltdown over here in the meanwhile, and is desperately trying to convince this gravedigger that he really needs to come out and have a drink. He even goes so far as to offer to pay himself, which is definitely above and beyond the call of duty.

New guy sort of relents, but only after his job has been done will he go grab a cup of wine. Fauchelevent tries to convince him that the taverns will close soon, but this guy is really determined to bury this ‘nun’.

Meanwhile, Valjean is chilling in the coffin, waiting for the priest to be done giving a blessing and for Fauchelevent to pry him out of this predicament. That’s when he hears the first shovel full of dirt rain down on him. This causes Valjean to basically have a panic attack, and he just passes the hell right out.

Back above ground Fauchelevent is beside himself. He doesn’t know what to do until he spots the gravedigger’s key card, and he gets an idea. He picks the gravedigger’s pocket and then asks him if he has his card.

The Gravedigger can’t find it, and it’s almost time for the graveyard to close. He must go home and find his missing card or have to pay fifteen francs. This dude is really very extremely opposed to having to pay a fine, so he rushes off home.

The gravedigger won’t be finding that card anytime soon, since Fauchelevent stole it and everything so there’s plenty of time to get Valjean.

Fauchelevent is totally my hero right now.  He is not just some rando that fell under a cart once upon a time.  Okay?

Soon enough, Valjean has been untombed and…well, he’s still passed the hell out, and Fauchelevent assumes he suffocated in there. He has another meltdown, but soon Valjean wakes up, the night air having revived him. Fauchelevent admonishes him for nearly scaring him to death.

All is right in the world again. They escape the cemetery using the stolen card and Fauchelevent stops by the gravedigger’s house (where he has turned everything over in the search for the missing card) to let him know the key is at the gatehouse. Fauchelevent “found” it on the “ground” and finished up the gravedigger’s job for him.

The poor gravedigger is relieved and forever grateful to Fauchelevent. As is everybody apparently.

The nuns are grateful that he’s helped them out with their scheme. They’re so pleased that they even give a report when the archbishop comes for a visit. Everybody is apparently A-Okay with storing bodies under the altar, government be damned!

And Valjean and Cosette come to live with him in the Convent free and clear. Valjean’s new alias is Ultimus Fauchelevent, which is Fauchelevent’s actual brother’s name, but who is dead now and can’t use it. It is also a totally bitchin’ name. ULTIMUS! The nuns just call him “Other Fauvent” though. He gets his own knee bell so they can avoid him forever.

As for Cosette, she goes to live in the school for girls where it is impressed upon her how incredibly homely she is. Which is mean, because she’s Fantine’s girl, there’s no way that’s actually true unless she inherited all of Tholomyès features or something. Which she hasn’t. It’s just something the nuns tell girls, so they don’t get ideas that they’re good looking enough to score a guy or worry about superficial things like appearances.

She gets an hour a day to spend with Valjean and that is the best hour of the day for both of them. Though, Cosette does wish she would have brought Catherine along had she known she was going to be stuck in a nunnery for the rest of her life.

This convent is Valjean’s new life. He dares not leave the convent for fear of being caught again, so that leads him to contemplation about his life in prison and this life here in which there are similarities. In fact, the nuns seem to live in even harsher conditions of their own volition than the convicts did.

And this is how Valjean now spends his days, putting his mad hedge pruning skillz to use and contemplating stuff, like how Godly institutions and/or love seem to enter his life every time he feels like he’s falling back into the abyss to remind him to stay on the straight and narrow.  He prays every night outside while the nuns are praying inside. 

And as for Javert, he’s spent a month keeping his eyes peeled.  Only a month?  I guess so, because that’s the last we hear about this particular pursuit, but we all know it’s not the last we’ll be hearing of Javert.

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Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: 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.

BOOK 4:  Valjean and Cosette

So, now we are learning all about an area of the city (Paris, in case you forgot where in France we are right now!) which is pretty shady sounding area. It’s boring in the daytime and terrifying at night. Y’know, due to all the murderin’ that’s gone on in the area. Let’s learn about a particular house at 50-52 Boulevard de l’Hôpital, . Here’s another anecdote for you!:

The Gorbeau House is a run down looking place that appears smaller on the outside than it actually is. It’s a TARDIS! There used to be two guys that lived there. They were lawyers and their lawyer bros made fun of them by creating cute poems in reference to their names: Corbeau (Raven) and Renard (Fox). Eventually they got fed up with this little rhyme dedicated to them and applied for a name change. Probably not a bad idea. I don’t know that I’d want to employ the Raven and Fox law firm. That sounds a little TOO crafty. So, they went before the King. And the King decided that Corbeau would get a fancy flourish added to his name to make it Gorbeau. As for Renard he got to add a P, making his name Prenard, which this text is telling me means “grasping fellow”. It’s not much of an improvement.

Wait, so what I’m getting here is that in order for your name to be changed, you have to petition for an audience with the King, and the King just gets to name you whatever the hell he wants? I don’t know that I’d want to roll that dice!

Anyway, that’s why the Gorbeau house is called what it is called, and there are spiders there. Gigantic spiders. This quiet creepy corner of the city is where Jean Valjean has made his home. Before we go any further, let me issue a correction: Jean Valjean is fifty five according to this chapter, because it’s right there in black and white. He just looked like he was in his sixties before I guess. This is what I get for letting things marinate in my brain for too long. I forget. That’s why I’m writing this in the first place!

Well, the only things Valjean has in his living space are a mattress on the floor and a cot. He places Cosette on the cot and the next morning watches her until she wakes up. She’s really disoriented at first and still thinks she’s at the Thénardier’s, but she’s safe for now. Catherine is there, and her buddy Valjean is there and there are no more floors to be swept.

While he’s watching her, Valjean has this strange feeling come over him. It’s nothing he’s never felt before. Could it be… love?

But wait! You might be saying.  What about Valjean’s family? We learned about them. He clearly loved them because he took care of them and stole bread for them. That’s what got him here in the first place. Had things turned out differently would he still be pruning hedges? Well, all of that was before prison messed him up and hardened his heart. It’s been so long that he doesn’t really remember them. Though he has tried to search for them and hasn’t turned up neither hide nor hair. We didn’t get to hear about any of that though, because we were off learning about history, and vulture eyes, and giant Gorbeauian spiders.

Cosette is here now, and she is successfully melting Valjean’s heart, and he’s feeling real love for another person for the first time twenty five years. They spend their days in each other’s company, only going out at night. Valjean’s trying really hard to stay under the radar now. No more being on the lam while simultaneously rebuilding an entire industry and rising to a prominent position in a political office. Nope. He’s going to find the darkest corner in the biggest city and hide this time.

We get to learn that Valjean has been teetering on the edge for a while now, and Cosette bringing love back into his life has pulled him back over to the side of virtue again. See, in all this time, even the bishop’s influence has been waning on and off. It’s been a while since his kindness had touched Valjean’s heart, and he was starting to get disillusioned once again. What with Fantine’s sad story, and him being imprisoned again despite everything good he’d done and despite doing the right thing by turning himself in so Champmathieu didn’t have to go to jail who can blame him?. Yeah, so Valjean was close to falling off the wagon after all apparently.

As for Cosette, for the first time she has someone that cares about and someone to call father. He tells her all about her mother, and teaches her to read…something he learned in prison for the express purpose of doing bad things. He feels happy about using his powers of literacy for good. They go on walks together, but sometimes Cosette stays behind with the nosy landlady to watch. This woman is the only other person to live in the house and functions as a sort of concierge. It turns out that, though she still has her quiet moments, Cosette loves to play. She’s an actual kid underneath all that sadness. Wouldn’t you know it?

Of course the nosy landlady has speculation about Valjean, and she snoops around, one day following him to a deserted room in the house where she spies him removing a thousand Franc note from the lining of his old yellow jacket. He still dresses as a poor man despite all his money, so much so that people mistake him for a beggar as he’s walking in the street and they give him money. He in turn discreetly gives even more money to the actual beggars. They call him the beggar that gives alms.

Anyway, later on the lady snoops some more and feels around in his jacket while he is otherwise occupied. It has everything in there: Needles, thread, wigs. Wigs? I know, I know, they’re probably in there for clever disguising should he need it, but how big is this coat? How many pockets does it have? Is it some kind of bag of holding? In the lining she thinks she can feel other paper notes hiding.

There is a certain beggar that Valjean always gives money to, and one night as he hands over the cash, he looks down and thinks that instead of the usual guy, it’s Javert! That can’t be, but he doesn’t ask. He just goes on about his biz and frets over it until the next time. When he looks the man in the eye it actually is the beggar he remembers. Valjean convinces himself that he was just imagining things. He wonders why he would be imagining Javert after all this time. Maybe it’s some kind of post traumatic flashback?

He becomes even more worried when he hears someone come into the house one night and he knows it isn’t the landlady, because she’s usually in bed by that time. He rationalizes that maybe she’s ill and had gone out for some medicine. He blows out the candles, and tells Cosette to go to bed quietly anyway. He sits there nervously in the dark listening to the unknown footsteps in the hallway. He can see a light through the keyhole as if this stranger is just standing there in front of his door with a candle. Eventually the stranger moves on since there isn’t a peep coming out of Valjean’s room.

The next time Valjean hears the man go by he peeps through his extra large keyhole to see what he can see. What does he see?

I’ll give you a hint: He’s tall, terrifying, and carries a cudgel

It IS Javert!

What is happening? I don’t know, but this simply cannot be coincidence.

Valjean questions the landlady the next day, and she informs him that Javert is the new tenant. She thinks his name is Dumont, and he is just a guy living on his income just like Valjean is.

She could have meant nothing by that, but Valjean has in his brain that there’s something behind those words. He packs up some money, and gets Cosette and they head off down a seemingly deserted street.

Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: Book 3


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.

BOOK 3: Simply having a Terrible Christmas Time

So, I don’t know why I got so bogged down in the details of this chapter.  Perhaps I was having trouble describing just how despicable the Thénardiers are, because they are.  They are not hilarious or funny in any way here. They are truly, truly awful people.  But, enough with the intro, you will see in short order.

Right now it’s time to discuss the water situation on Montfermeil. This place sits upon a plateau and the water is in either end some distance away. There is a dude that will bring it to you during the day for a fee, but if you need it after hours then you’re out of luck and have to go get it yourself.

This night is a Christmas Eve and there have been some traveling booths set up around the city to showcase wares of which we will note two particular things:

First is the Brazilian (King) Vulture on display, bound for the King’s menagerie. It’s exciting, and amazing because the bird’s eye is a tri-coloured cockade! I actually looked this up, because I was having trouble picturing what this would look like and if it was actually true. It’s true. Soldier’s have come from all around to see it, because of this patriotic eyeball and declare it destiny that the creature is headed for the menagerie. And we know that nothing says destiny like taking a creature from its natural habitat and caging them in entirely different areas of the world.

As far as I know this has nothing to do with anything. I just thought it was interesting.

The other booth of note is the one straight across from the Sergeant of Waterloo. It is a toy booth and there is one particular beautiful doll that all the girls in the village covet. It is the most beautiful doll in all of dolldom.

This is where we meet Cosette again, a young girl of around eight, and her situation has not improved at all. If anything it has probably worsened since her mother passed away. She has to work, and she can only look at the beautiful doll from afar. Her days are spent slaving away and attempting to not rouse the ire of Mme. Thénardier, which is pretty much impossible because her ire always seems to be roused. The Thénardiers also have a baby boy at this point who nobody seems to give a toss about to bother with him at all. (jot that down under things to remember.) Mme. doesn’t even remember why she had another kid, except for that she got bored one day.

Almost everybody here is described in some animal analogy: Cosette is a mouse (and also a lark), Thénardiess is an Elephant (and also an Ogre…I am now imagining that she looks like Fiona from Shrek. Thanks for that mental image, Dreamworks.) She’s basically described as a giant, intimidating beast, and you really should read it, because I’m not doing anybody justice here! M. Thénardier is a Weasely Weasel who Weasels (and also looks like Abbé Delille)

As for Thénardier, he spends his days palling around with the customers, drinking but never appearing drunk and swindling everybody. He likes to regale people with stories of his grand heroics on the battlefield of Waterloo. Much exaggerated, as we already learned. Fearsome as Mme. Thénardier is, she is still afraid of this husband. They make quite the pair.

He’s fifteen hundred in debt since acquiring the inn and makes extra cash by charging his customers for everything down to how much a man’s reflection wears down a mirror. (someone write a story about what would happen if mirrors actually did that.) He’s pleasant to his customers, of course. How else would you convince someone to hand over their hard earned cash if not with a friendly smile?

Cosette is still getting beaten often, she’s even sporting a black eye that Mme. Thénardier gave her. She is a quiet child and has the countenance of someone much older, you know, since she’s basically living in hell right now. At present, she is working her little fingers away, while keeping out of sight under the table, on knitting stockings for the other girls. She becomes wary when Mme. Thénardier goes for the water bucket and only comes out with half a cup while she’s cooking.

Thankfully, she declares this amount enough, and no more water will be needed for the night. The patrons there aren’t going to be drinking any. They have other things they’re more interested in drinking. (I mean booze, in case that wasn’t clear.)

Just as Cosette was beginning to relax, as much as she can in this awful, terrible, no good, very bad place, one of the patron speaks up.

He says his horse hasn’t been watered yet.

Cosette says something too, because she’s desperate not to go out at night. It’s really dark and the well is out of town and in the woods. She insists that the horse had been watered, but the man is just as adamant. He knows what his horse is like when it hasn’t had its drink. I don’t want Cosette to go out in the inky black night either, but somebody get this horse some water!

Cosette attempts to hide, but it’s no use.  Mme finds her, tells her to get the water, and calls her “nameless”, “the worst”, and a “toad” just in case Cosette has accumulated some shred of self esteem.

Cosette is handed this gigantic bucket that is almost as big as she is and some money for bread while she’s out wandering the cold night. She stops at the toy booth to gaze upon the doll until Mme. Thénardier notices and shouts at her. Travelling through town isn’t so bad. At first there’s the lights of the booths to illuminate the way, then there’s the light from the townspeople’s houses, but there comes a point where she reaches the beginning of the woods. This is terrifying, but she ultimately decides that Mme. Thénardier’s wrath is even more terrifying. What we are saying is that this woman is scarier than the night. Yup. And this is what Cosette has been dealing with for five years.

She runs until she makes it the water and manages to fill it, but it’s slow going back to the inn. As was pointed out, this bucket is already much too large for her to be carrying, and now it’s full of water. Even I have been known to fill up a bucket of water far past my abilities to carry it effectively, and I’m a grown up person. Little Cosette can only travel for a very short distance before stopping to rest, and it’s dark, and it’s cold, and her clothes are rags, her hands are freezing from the bucket handle and the water splashing all over because it’s awkward as hell. She’s miserable and trying not to cry, because that will earn her another beating. She realizes it’s going to take over an hour to get back to the inn, and that is also good for a beating. Cosette can’t win either way.

This is when she feels her burden being lifted from her, and suddenly there is a gigantic stranger man hauling the bucket instead. Somehow, this stranger in the woods is the least terrifying thing going down right now, because Cosette’s instinct is not to fear him at all.

We’re going to take a break from Cosette and this stranger man whose identity is a mysterious mystery. *wink* Let’s find out what this mysterious stranger has been up to.

I’ll just make it short: He got himself a room in Paris, tramped around the woods as if he were searching for something. Gee. I wonder what it could be? This mysterious white haired stranger is in his sixties or thereabouts. Since we can all make an educated guess as to who this dude is, just let that info soak into your brain and think about what happened down in Toulon on the Orion not so long ago. Seriously. What are they feeding this dude in prison?

I guess it’s important to note a certain event that happens to this guy while he is in Paris going on about his business, whatever that is. Every day, around two o’clock, the King comes riding in his carriage down a certain road. Everybody in Paris knows this is the daily routine, but this guy, being new in town, does not.

He sees this official procession along with the guard and ducks around a corner. This makes him something of a suspicious person with his yellow jacket that he’s wearing and everything. Thus the order is given for him to be followed.

He loses the tail and immediately books passage some distance out of town. He pays for the entire ride, but gets off the carriage early. I guess this could work as an getaway tactic, but let’s hope nobody questions the driver.

And now he is carrying Cosette’s bucket and making conversation with her.

She explains her whole sordid life to him. She lives with these terrible people.   She has to work and rarely, if ever gets to play. All that fun stuff is reserved for ‘Ponine and ‘Zelma.

She explains that her only toy is a little lead knife. It is only good for cutting lettuce and cutting the heads off flies, and this whole walk and conversation with this mysterious stranger man is totally endearing her to me right now. Seriously, she has to put up with so much crap. Her guardians are abusive, her ‘sisters’ are also terrible to her, she lives off scraps, goes barefoot if M. Thénardier has anything to say about it, her bff is the cat, the knife is her plaything, not that they give her a chance to play, and she survives.

She also tells him that she has no mother that she knows of. Hey, remember all those letters Fantine paid to have written to Cosette? I guess she never got them.

Cosette steals one last longing glance at the beautiful doll in the booth, and before heading on in she takes the bucket from the man, because she will get a beating if they know she didn’t carry it the entire way. The Thénardiess immediately starts giving shit to Cosette anyway for taking so damn long. That is, until she notices stranger man there. She turns on the charm for him as he requests a room as a paying customer.

Her first instinct is to assume that he’s poor because of his state of dress and his threadbare yellow coat. They call him ‘yellow man’. She charges him double the price of a room. The other patrons manage to notice this discrepancy despite their varying states of inebriation. Apparently, it’s double for poor people. Okay, then.

Mme. Thénardier asks after the bread that Cosette was supposed to purchase, and Cosette, has not only forgotten to stop at the bakery, but she’s lost the money that she’d been given. She lies and says the bakery was closed, but then cannot provide the missing coin. Of course the Ogress is not going to believe the poor child and assumes that she’d just taken the money. Just as she’s about to completely lose it on Cosette, the Yellowman speaks up and gives her one of his own coins, pretending that he’d just found it on the floor. The coin this stranger provides is worth more than what Cosette had been given for the bread, but Mme. Thénardier takes it anyway.

Cosette meanwhile, has resumed her knitting work underneath the table and Jea… I mean the stranger in the yellow coat observes quietly while the Thénardiers speculate about the state of his finances. They try to get him to buy dinner, but he just sits there watching out for Cosette, and they wonder if he’s going to get a room or not.

Eponine and Azelma make their grand appearance then. They come in looking every inch the opposite of poor Cosette. These girls are well fed, and well clothed, and apparently well loved by the Thénardiess, who has so far only been observed to be a heinous beast where Cosette is concerned. Cosette, who is clothed in rags, often barefoot, and threatened with a whipping if she even thinks about doing something out of line. She spends most of her time miserably cowering in the grip of fear, because pretty much everything she does is considered out of line.

For instance, Cosette is sitting quietly watching the other girls play with their doll. This is wrong because she should be working her fingers raw right now instead of dreaming about pretty dolls, and the Thénardiess is about to get the whip down again, when the stranger steps in again. He asks about Cosette and what the problem is, and the Thénardiess proceeds to badmouth a little girl and her mother in front of him. It’s sort of like that awkward moment when someone makes conversation thinking you’re going to agree with them and they’re really proud of their terrible opinions…but you don’t and you really think they’re awful.

He thinks Cosette should be allowed to play, so what of it? Mme. Thénardier has to come up with a new excuse — Cosette needs to work on those socks because she needs to pay her way and Èponine and Azelma might soon have to go sockless. (Meanwhile Cosette’s feet are raw in her wooden shoes.) Either way, they haven’t heard from the mother or received payment in six months. They think the woman might be dead; and they’re not into charity, so Cosette works.

Cosette catches bits of this conversation and is now murmuring a chant about her mother being dead while she hides under the table.

Yellowman asks how much the time Cosette is spending knitting these socks is worth.

The Thénardiess comes up with a number, the stranger shells out more cash than she asked for and now, having purchased Cosette’s time, instructs her to play, because that is what children of eight are supposed to be doing. Everybody’s kind of stunned that he would do this, and Cosette goes, a bit reluctantly after she asks permission from Mme. Thénardier, to retrieve her knife, which she treats like a little pointy doll…because gender roles. Meanwhile, the Thénardiers are reconsidering the amount of money this guy might have on him. They have to figure out just how much money they can get out of him, right?

Èponine and Azelma are playing with their doll by the fire though, happy and healthy, but they are soon distracted by the cat. They have decided it would be much more fun to dress up the poor creature and the doll is abandoned.

Probably against her better judgement, Cosette decides that it might be okay if she played with the doll. Nobody else is. It’s just laying on the floor, right? She gets fifteen whole minutes of happiness as she plays. Eventually Èponine notices the doll’s foot sticking out from under the table and runs tattling to her mother. As far as the Thénardier girls are concerned Cosette is on the same level as the family dog. They barely notice her existence, and how dare she play with their toy?

The Thénardiess goes into a rage again, and again the stranger intervenes. Descriptions of how Cosette’s dirty hands shouldn’t be sullying her own daughter’s playthings don’t impress him, and he challenges the woman. So what if the kid plays with the doll? He walks right on out of the inn at that moment (a moment in which Mme. Thénardier takes to kick Cosette.) and he returns with the doll from the booth across the street. That precious doll that the entire town has been admiring. He gifts it to Cosette. She names the doll Catherine.

The Thénardiers are shocked at this, of course, but they let him do it, since paying customers get to do what they want. This leaves Cosette asking permission of the Thénardiess every time she makes a move with the doll, and Mme. Thénardier has to reassure the kid that it’s okay.  It is probably killing the woman to be somewhat nice to Cosette here.

The stranger sits at his table well past midnight. Everybody has gone to bed except for Thénardier, who has stayed and eventually just asks this guy in the yellow coat if he’s ready to rest. The stranger, now broken out of whatever thoughtful reverie he has been sitting in, asks to be shown to the stables. Instead, Thénardier leads him to the bridal suite.

The stranger bluntly informs Thénardier that he’d have preferred the stables.

Later on, he goes creeping around the inn after everybody is asleep. He finds that Cosette’s room is the nook beneath the stairs, and she sleeps on a straw mattress that can’t even hold in all the straw. From there he wanders into another room where Èponine and Azelma and the unnamed baby boy are sleeping. He almost leaves when he notices their shoes by the fireplace. There is one empty wooden clog there that clearly belongs to Cosette. He drops in a gold Louis and heads off to bed.

The next morning, the Thénardiers confer on what inflated charges they are going to make the stranger pay for. He decides that the bill should be twenty three Francs. She’s a little surprised at this, but they both agree that he deserves it after all the business he caused with Cosette the previous night. In fact, just the sight of Cosette having something as nice as her new doll has upset Mme. Thénardier so much that she’s going to kick the girl out.

It’s Christmas day too, just in case you were forgetting that. Happy Christmas, Cosette!

Thénardier gives the wife the bill to hand over to the stranger. She even seems a little embarrassed to do it with that huge price tag. The stranger asks if they do good business there at the inn when he receives it and she complains that it isn’t great, and they can’t afford much much, especially charity cases like Cosette when they have their own children to feed.

He offers to take Cosette off their hands. The Thénardiess is more than happy to have him just take her away, but…

Thénardier stands up in the middle and declares the bill a mistake. It’s not 23 Francs, but 23 Sous! He does this, because he’s about to sell Cosette for the 1,500 Francs he needs to settle his debt. After Thénardier puts on a show of actually caring about Cosette, the stranger pulls out his huge wad of cash and just peels off the bills like it ain’t no thing.

The Thénardiess fetches Cosette, and the stranger gives her a mourning outfit to wear. It’s a real outfit, not rags or hand-me-downs or anything. Nobody recognizes the girl as they leave.

As soon as they have gone the Thénardiers come to the conclusion that they could have gotten so much more money out of that guy. He was throwing Francs around like they were going out of style, and Thénardier only asked for enough to cover his debt? He grabs his coat and hat and actually runs off after them.

Thénardier manages to catch up on the road out of town when the stranger and Cosette stop to rest. There he tries to get Cosette back so he can extract more money, but the stranger has had enough of his shit. He shows Thénardier a letter from Fantine that gives him custody of Cosette, and when Thénardier tries to explain that she still owes, the stranger busts out the maths.  It seems he knows exactly how much Fantine owed and how much has been paid.  Her debt is more than settled.  He then stands up with Cosette in his arms and his big old walking stick in his hand and tells Thénardier in no uncertain terms that they are finished. His walking stick and stature is intimidating enough to get the innkeeper to back off.

Thénardier does follow them though. He wants to see who this stranger is and where he’s going. The stranger eventually catches sight of him, and gives him a look that makes makes Thénardier decide that it isn’t really worth the trouble to follow the guy. He turns to go back home and wishes he would have brought his gun.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this stranger is Jean Valjean, who is confirmed to not be dead in the last part of this chapter. (but let’s face it, we already knew that.) He had escaped by swimming to a boat that was attached to a ship that was moored in the harbor after he fell into the water in Toulon. He hid in that boat until he could swim back to shore. There he got some clothes and wandered all around France until he came to his destination in Paris. Once there he procured lodgings and mourning clothes for a child. Then he retrieved Cosette and took her on a round about path in carriages and on foot back to where he was staying.

This way of travelling made the poor girl tired, and she eventually fell asleep holding her doll, cradled in his arms with her head on his shoulder. All together now: Awwwwwwwww!