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

Saint-Denis and the Idyll of the Rue Plumet Book 3;  Beauty and the Boob

What is this?  A recap? I have not abandoned this brick, no.  I took some time off to read many other things. So, since it’s been 84 years, let’s  recap!

Last time:

Valjean was hiding in a convent, eating cheese with Fauchelevent, getting buried alive, raising Cosette, and escaping would be murderer/extortionists as well as Javert.

Marius was disowned and had no friends but  then fell in with a bunch of radicals via bald eagle. He lost his mind over Napoleon then lost his mind over a girl then foiled a dastardly murder plot and lost all hope and his home (again), so he moved in with Courfeyrac, because…

Courfeyrac was everywhere, Bossuet got kicked out of lawyer school and waxed poetic about butterflies. Jehan knew about love and flowers, Bahorel gave Jolllly good advice about trousers. Enjolras was busy planning revolution; blond hair flowing in the wind whilst Grantaire succeeded at witty banter and dressing the part but failed at inspiring the people and also at dominoes.

The Thenardiers were exposed and Patron Minette was arrested except for mysterious Claquesous and murdery Montparnasse, the evil anti-Enjolras. Javert terrified Paris to the point of thieves and murderers not bothering to resist arrest.  He was generally annoyed at all the baddies that have escaped him and one Marius Pontmercy whose name he does not remember. Mabeuf is still trying to grow indigo plants in France, and Grandpa G. was being a dick to every single one of his living relatives.

And finally, Èponine clearly has the hots for Marius, who remains totally clueless about it despite her promises of future domestic bliss, sock mending , and declarations of his attractiveness as spoken from her lips directly into his own ears on more than one occasion.  She is currently on her way to deliver our bambi to his one true lady love that he’s never uttered a word to.

But, before we get to this epic clash of true love… I assume it’s going to be epic since we’ve been waiting three or five or whatever years for Marius to finally speak to this girl.  First we must discuss in great detail what Jean Valjean has been up to all these years. I swear, after my prolonged hiatus, if we go through this entire chapter without Marius and Cosette meeting, I’m going to be very disappointed. <strike> (I have a feeling I’m going to be very disappointed.)</strike>  It has now become clear to me upon completion of this chapter that we are now going to engage in the story that we have already read, but from some different POVs. Maybe I didn’t need a recap after all? Oh, well–onward!

The first thing you might be asking yourself is why, oh why did Valjean leave the safe haven of the convent at Petit Picpus?  It was the perfect hiding spot after all. You know, if you’re going to insist on parking it in the same city that Javert is patrolling anyway.  I know, Paris is a large city, what are the chances? France is a pretty spacious country too, yet they still keep running into each other. The odds are not in your favor, Valjean.

As for his reasoning for leaving the convent, he is Cosette’s father for all intents and purposes and he didn’t want her to grow to resent him for basically roping her into nunhood before she got a chance to go out and experience the world for herself. This is something Valjean will come to regret.  His opening to leave comes when old Fauchelevent passes away.

Let’s have a moment for good old Fauchelevent, shall we…

Valjean tells the nuns that he has come into some money and he shall be leaving them. I kind of feel bad for the nuns.  Now they’re out two gardeners in one swoop. Anyway, he sets up three places around Paris a safe distance apart: Rue de l’Ouest, Rue de l’Homme-Armé, and the place at Rue Plumet.

A little history about this secluded piece of the city, because of course, we must have backstory on anything and everything, including Valjean’s house:

The place on Rue Plumet is the place that an old Judge used to keep his mistresses.  Back in those days the bourgeois would hide their mistresses while the lords would parade them around.  The judge had another little building out in the back of the garden where secret doctors or nurses could come and take care of the secret mistresses and secret babies without anybody knowing about it.  There was a secret path hidden by secret gardens that led out the back and emerged a ¼ mile away on a different street. This is the way the Judge would come and go to the house.

The point:  Shhh, it’s a secret, and that’s exactly the way Valjean likes it!  His days of parading around town doing philanthropic works all willy-nilly as a mayor are over!

Though he would spend time here and there at the other places, Rue Plumet is is where Jean Valjean’s HQ was.   He lived there with one old housekeeper named Toussaint, that he chose because she was an old country lady, and Cosette.  Cosette lives in a fabulous decked out bedroom in the house and wants for nothing while Valjean makes his home in the secret shack out back.  There is also a huge detailed passage at this point in this chapter about the secret garden, because, as we know by now, gardens are super important and very symbolic. (In short: The garden is a microcosm of the galaxy, Cosette is the naive and innocent heart, she has returned purity to this place after all that judge’s shenanigans. etc etc…)  This very symbolic garden Valjean has let grow wild so that the neighbors in their fancy houses won’t suspect anything, and nary a soul would even know about the secret path was there. I should hope so. It would be a terrible secret path if everybody knew about it. Oh! But if the birdies could gossip!

As for Valjean himself, he is hiding in plain sight by being in the National Guard.  He has no problems joining up and doing his duty as a taxpaying citizen, even despite his passing retirement age.  He is sixty now. Officially. And he doesn’t even look a day over fifty. Apparently Valjean is aging backwards, because ten years ago when he picked up Cosette at the Sergeant of Waterloo, he was in his fifties and I thought he was already in his sixties.

He no longer talks of Fantine as Cosette grows older.  He doesn’t know exactly why, but that perhaps she her modesty has been returned to her in death and he shouldn’t speak of her so as not to disturb her final peace.  Meanwhile Cosette dreams of her as an angel.

Valjean also goes on walks with Cosette at the Luxembourg Gardens choosing the most secluded area to frequent, of course.  Just to be on the safe side. He is proud of her and ultimately happy in his life at this point for having Cosette’s love. Unfortunately for him this area of the garden was not safe from wandering students.

As for Cosette, she grows up with the impression that she is just the plainest most homely creature that has ever existed, and maybe she was for a time.  She is actually a very sweet child. Even though Valjean seems to be perfectly willing to give her whatever she wants and the front garden for her do as she pleases,  she would just rather hang out with him in his out back shack instead of the big house and she insists on eating what he eats etc. But, as life goes on, people grow up, and one day Cosette wakes up,  looks in the mirror, and realizes that she is beautiful and that the dudes whispering about pretty girls out on the street are actually really talking about her. She can hardly believe it at first, but it’s true.  Thusly, Cosette becomes more interested in going out and being around the front garden where the gate is and the passersby roam rather than hanging with Dad all the time. She likes all the pretty frilly girly things in life now.  She’s greatly interested in the fashions of the day and the boys of the day. It’s kind of like the exact opposite reaction that Marius had to people whispering in the street about his hottie status. Basically, Cosette is just a typical teenager doing her teenage thing.  Valjean reacts in the dadly way by freaking out about it. He is wholly unprepared for his daughter’s entrance into young adulthood.  He has no idea how to react.  When Cosette first dons her fashionable ‘LaNoir’ gear and asks what Valjean thinks about it, he wonders why she doesn’t wear her old clothes.

“That getup!”  she said.  “Father, what would you have me do with it?  Oh, I’ll never wear those awful things again.  With that object on my head, I look like Madame Mad-Poodle.”

– I think Weird Al made an album about this hat–

 

Cosette in the meanwhile is greatly interested in that specific student that’s always loitering around that secluded area of the Luxembourg.  So, Marius wasn’t totally imagining her interest in some sort of lovesick fever dream after all. Good to know! It’s a requited love story despite the fact that they never speak to each other.  In fact, it was Cosette herself that suggested she and Valjean take a walk past Marius that fateful day when they made the eye contact that officially launched Marius into lovefoolish stalker territory.  She was completely fed up with his inability to make a move. We heard all about this from Marius’s point of view already, but now we know that Cosette orchestrated it.

Meanwhile, Valjean is over here hating all of this.  His daughter is the only love in his life and he’s just in fits thinking about her leaving him.  He’s teetering back on the edge of angry convict Valjean again because of this. This of course, makes him really hate poor Marius, whom he constantly thinks of as an awkward boob this entire chapter.  Clearly he is no good for Cosette, and Valjean is under the impression that she doesn’t particularly care about Marius one way or the other when he asks her about him.

This is not true.  She is 100% into Marius and his passionate nostrils.  She just a bit more subtle about it than Monsieur Pontmercy.   As for Marius, boy does Valjean have him figured out right from the start.  He knows Marius is pretend reading just to be near them and sprucing up his wardrobe to catch Cosette’s eye, and all of that we read from Marius’s point of view earlier.

Well, instead of bringing out intimidating former convict Valjean to just tell Marius to go back to wherever he came from and stop making eyes at Cosette, (I mean, I’m assuming strangers  in a public garden in the 19th century were allowed to speak words to each other without kingly intervention. Right? Maybe not.) We heard all about how Valjean tricked Marius into following them around just to make sure that the kid was indeed being a creeper and Marius falls for it completely, even following them all the way to their damn house. Again, C’mon, Marius. Dude.

This is when Valjean moves and stops with the garden strolls.  This not only upsets Marius, but also Cosette. It really does nothing to push her back into the old days of her childhood, hanging out in the outback shack with dad.  In fact, the next time Valjean suggests a trip to garden, she is overjoyed. Her joy is quickly shadowed by the fact that Marius no longer loiters around there anymore.  What would be the point? Cosette no longer gives a toss about garden strolls.

Later, Valjean has found alternate and isolated walking areas at the edge of  the city in some nice fields. Cosette likes them so she can run around and play, making daisy chains and the like.  Valjean likes them because they are out of the way. Just so happens one day as they are near the Barrière du Maine at dawn when a parade of convicts chained up in carts comes down the road.  It is explained that this convoy is going down this particular road to avoid the King’s kingly carriage path. This path was earlier detailed in the chapter in which Valjean first arrived in Paris.

Anyhow, the point of this is not really the King’s comings and goings, it’s Valjean’s chagrin.  This is not a thing he wants Cosette to be exposed to, and he for sure doesn’t want her to know about his past life of crime. Unfortunately she’s the one that points out these approaching wagons while Valjean is gazing around at the sky having some cosmic musings while Venus is on the rise.   Meanwhile, she is naturally curious about this foul mouthed chain gang now before her with a gathering crowd and a pack of gamin. We learn about each cart having a distinct personality including the final one which is piled up with maybe actually dead people. The guards have no qualms about beating any of the men.

Cosette is the most curious of cats and asks what’s up.  Who are they? Where are they going? Are they men? (are they Devo?)  Valjean tells her that they are convicts, heading to jail, and sometimes they are men.  Any further questions Cosette has throughout the night he doesn’t even answer, because he does not want to discuss this anymore.  Later, near bedtime she’s still got them on her mind and is talking under her breath later like a valley girl: “O my God, I would just die from seeing [A convict] near me”   Which has got to hurt Valjean right in the heart. Ouch!

Valjean manages to distract her with a conveniently timed festival over the coming week!  It works for a short while, but sometime later while he is observing her posing questions of love by plucking the petals of a Daisy  (Do I love thee: A little? A lot? Passionately? Not?) and wondering where the hell she learned this game, she asks one more time. What are convicts?

Cliffhanger!

Will Valjean have an answer?  A confession?

Will we rehash an entirely different part of the story we already read?

Will we return to Eponine leading Marius to his one true love?

Something else entirely?

Until next time, stay tuned!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / SAINT-DENIS AND THE IDYLL OF THE RUE PLUMET: Book 2


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

Saint-Denis and the Idyll of the Rue Plumet Book 2;  Larking About

Wow. You guys are never going to believe who’s homeless again. Just kidding. You’re totally going to guess, because it is Marius. As soon as the whole business with his neighbors getting arrested went down, Marius fled into the night, leaving his neighbors to speculate and assume that he was in on the whole thing.

And you’ll never–nevermind. I’ll stop trying to create any sort of suspense here. I mean, if Marius had ended up on Grandpa G.’s doorstep that might be a surprise, but no. He’s gone to trusty bff, Courfeyrac’s place. It’s a new place, because he’s moved in order to be closer to the action. The action being the forthcoming revolution that is sure to be happening. I would tell you all the names of the streets and everything, because I assure you that information is contained in the text, but I don’t think it would do much good. You know, unless you are extremely familiar with Paris or are planning your Les Misérables walking tour of France. (In which case I’d have to warn you that it’s a pretty long trek from Toulon to Montrieul Sur Mer to Paris.)

Anyway, Courfeyrac isn’t going to turn his friend out on the street and he happens to sleep on double mattresses, so there’s even an extra one for Marius. This is where he stays until… Nope.  Until nothing. This is just where he stays: on the mattress on the floor at Courfeyrac’s place.

He’s also not going to work. If he was sad before, he’s even lower now. He doesn’t even have a name to pin his hopes on anymore, because he knows his love isn’t an Ursula after all. So, now he’s extra poor, moping around, and mooching Francs off Courfeyrac to give to Thénardier in prison. Yes, you read that correctly. Even after everything, he’s still trying to help this guy out.

Marius is now in debt for the first time ever and showing no signs of coming out of it. Courfeyrac has got to be the most patient bro ever. He’s not even mad as far as I can tell.  He’s just curious about what these francs are for, and Thénardier is equally as curious about where they’re coming from.

Meanwhile, Marius tries to translate, but he can’t even concentrate on that and keeps procrastinating and going for walks instead. He’s become a master at it. That isn’t to say he’s wandering around in a fog; in fact, he’s quite aware of the goings on around him.  Everything just sucks with the thought that he might never see Cosette again hovering over him wherever he goes. He eventually finds a solitary place with a  view of Notre Dame that a passerby informs him is called the “Meadow of the Lark.” The guy attempts to give a little background info on this name, but Marius stopped listening at the word “Lark”.

He had learned from listening to the Thénardier’s that this was Cosette’s nickname, and that’s all he needs to hear to decide that this is where he is going to park himself until she comes to him. I’m sure that this foolproof plan is totally going to work, Marius.

Now let’s catch up with Javert. Javert is doing some spectacular law enforcement failing to go along with the criminal failing that happened a couple chapters ago. He did indeed suspect that the white haired man was Valjean, but he escaped again. On top of that Javert has completely forgotten Marius’s name and now cannot find him anywhere for questioning or to testify about the happenings that went down that fateful night. This is what pen and paper are for, Javert. Geez. I know these things existed in the 1830’s, even Jondrette owned them. You would think somebody at this big city police station would take down Pontmercy’s details when he went in to report a possible crime. It probably wouldn’t take much sleuthing to figure it out from there.  Though, if Javert thinks Marius would have gone home (he does), that is wrong too. I’m sure Grandpa G. would deny the boy’s existence. Who knows what Auntie the Elder would have to say.

He’s not only miffed at missing Valjean and blanking on the kid’s name, but also for not getting Montparnasse. Like pokémon, he wanted to catch them all. It says here that Montparnasse would have rather been, “Némorin with the daughter than Schinderhannes with the father.” Shinderhannes was a famous German thief, and Némorin…well, Google translate and This Text lead me to believe that they’d be friends from childhood eventually turned lovers. So, if you hadn’t already surmised what could possibly be more interesting than a good murder party, there you go.

On top of that, mysterious man of mystery, Claquesous had escaped. There is definitely talk about how this could have happened because Claquesous’s so bad that he’s on the side of good and is actually deep, deep undercover, but Javert isn’t having any of it. He’s annoyed with the whole situation.

As for Patron-Minette, the rest of the captured gang have all been put into solitary save Brujon. They leave him out in the yard so that maybe he might turn informant or something. Instead he passes along notes to the outside. The police catch wind of this and arrest some bad guys around the places that the notes were sent and think that’s the end of it.

About a week later a guard sees Brujon writing a letter. I’m not even going to explain the “chestnut” system, which is apparently some way the guard’s operate to make sure they’re checking up on the prisoners every hour, by dropping chestnut into a box, because… I cannot even envision how this would work. Chestnuts are for roasting on an open fire, guys.

Anyway, the guards do not find the letter, but they send Brujon to the dungeon anyway. The letter is about a possible crime that may go down on Rue Plumet, and it finds its way from Brujon, to Babet, who sends it to a friend on the outside, Magnon. You remember Magnon, right? She’s the mother of Grandpa G’s illegitimate non-children and friend to Thénardiers apparently. We’ll hear more on her later, I’m reading. From there she sends this note along to Èponine who, along with Azelma, have been released from whatever juvenile facility they’ve been in.

Èponine goes to case the joint on Rue Plumet and returns a biscuit. Biscuits are prison code for canceling whatever plots are afoot. So much for that.

Moving swiftly along to Father Mabeuf. He’s in as much a sad state as Marius these days. Nobody comes to visit him anymore, since Marius no longer does anything but hang out at the meadow waiting for Cosette to materialize out of thin air. Mother Plutarch is ailing, and Gui de Books is dead. Turns out the bookseller does have a name after all! His name is Royol. Mabeuf is left with his books and his indigo plants and that’s it. He doesn’t laugh anymore, but he still has hope that one day his flowers will grow.

One night Mabeuf is out in his garden trying to water his indigo. He’s having a rough time getting the water out of his well when a girl appears and helps him out. She not only gets the water but waters all the plants as well! When she is finished, she asks him where she can find Marius.

He provides the information about the Meadow of the Lark; since he still passes by Marius, but they only just nod acknowledgement at each other anymore. Then the girl is gone, and Mabeuf might have thought he had imagined the entire thing if not for his freshly watered plants.

Later on, Èponine finds Marius exactly where Mabeuf said he would be. She tells him how she’s been looking all over for him, and talks at him about his moving and the probable reasons for doing so, and that he’s way too young and attractive to be a Baron. She comments on the disrepair of his clothes and how she’s going to fix them up for him.

Nothing seems to be getting through to him, I guess, since he’s pretty unresponsive. ‘Èponine doesn’t really want to tell him her news, but she really hates seeing him so despondent, so she dispenses with the small talk and tells him she has the address.

Marius asks what address as if he doesn’t know exactly what she’s talking about. I guess he doesn’t want to get his hopes up.

Èponine tells him, and once again it’s very clear that she’s not very happy about it.  She’s going to show him how to get there anyway. Marius, as you can probably guess, is now completely overjoyed and excited.  Èponine on the other hand is really sad that locating Cosette has cheered him up when she couldn’t even make a dent in his melancholy.

There is one last concern that Marius has. He grabs Èponine’s arm and makes her promise that she will never tell her father where Cosette is. She doesn’t at first, because she so happy that he actually knows her by name. She eventually promises, and that she won’t tell anybody else either.

Then they are off. Èponine is concerned that Marius is following too closely, because she doesn’t think a guy like him should be seen in the company of a girl like her. They start off again only to have her stop for Marius to catch up. She reminds him that he promised her something if she found Cosette.

Marius, still totally clueless, automatically attempts to hand her five francs. She just drops it on the ground. She doesn’t want his money. (Well, technically, it’s probably Courfeyrac’s money.)

That’s it! Maybe Cosette and Marius will actually speak to each other in the next chapter? Cross your fingers!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: 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

Marius: Book 8; Courfeyrac Needs Boats and the Jondrette Caper

Now that introductions to the baddies are complete, let’s see how our friend Marius is doing.

Terribly is how he’s doing. He’s fallen into this deep depression over losing this girl that he’s observed but never spoken to for three or five or — I lost count of how many years it’s been. His favorite things just don’t interest him anymore. Work doesn’t interest him. Walking around looking at plants doesn’t interest him. Thinking about stuff doesn’t interest him. He spends all his remaining energies trying to find Mlle. Lanoir to no avail.

He keeps a cork in all his sad emotions though. He doesn’t even confide in his bestie, Courfeyrac, which is probably the least surprising news of all time. Marius doesn’t seem like the type to really open up to anybody in the first place, and in the second place–Courfeyrac? He’s a good friend, but from what we’ve seen so far, he probably isn’t the one I’d go around sharing all my deep emotional manpain with.

In any case, Courfeyrac is still an observant BFF. He knows something is drastically wrong with his pal. In an attempt to cheer up the kid, he enlists Bossuet and Grantaire and they all go to a ball. Specifically Le Bal de Sceaux. Sceaux is a suburb of Paris. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing since they live in Paris, but it can’t not be an allusion to the story of the same name that is part of Balzac’s la Comédie Humaine series about the goings on of the people during the Restoration. Right?

This particular story, published around the time all this stuff in Les Misérables is taking place–1830, is about a girl name Émile who goes to a ball at Sceaux in search of a Pair de France husband. She finds instead a mystery guy named Maximilian who is mostly concerned about caring for his sick sister. He and Émile do eventually fall in love only for her to find out that he’s actually a lowly merchant. Scandal! She dumps him immediately and marries an old guy instead. Later, it turns out Maximilian is a Pair de France after all. He was only keeping shop to take care of his family. Oops.

I’m not sure what, if anything, that has to do with anything, but I didn’t want to pass up a good allusion that I actually managed to notice. Maybe it would help if I read the whole story of Émile and Max instead of just the summary, but…It’s taking me long enough to read this chapter; there is no time for a Balzac intermission!

As for Marius, he only agrees to go with them to this bash because he thinks he might find his “Ursula” there. It doesn’t cheer him up when she is nowhere to be found. Grantaire makes a comment about all lost girls being found there. I’m not sure if it’s a commentary on the women that attend this type of function, or if he’s just being really sarcastic about Marius’s optimism. Maybe both.

Oh, well, if a night out on the town with this particular trio of Amis isn’t going to cheer you up, I don’t know what to tell you, son. At least they tried.

Now, a couple of incidents:

First, Marius thinks he sees M. Leblanc on the street one day. This man he spotted has the hat and the white hair of the old man, and Marius thinks that maybe he should follow the guy. He know’s where that got him last time though. He thinks he could have been happy just sitting on his bench in varying proximity to the girl of his dreams for the rest of time. If only he had never followed then maybe he could still be happy there. I don’t know…what about option #3: speaking words to these people like a human person and not coming off like a shady creepster that is up to no good?

Oh, well, Marius is a man of few words, unless they are about Napoleon, so it is how it is. At least he learned something from the incident, and decides that he’s imagining things, and it’s probably not a good idea to go around stalking people in the shadows anymore. The way things are in this book, it probably was Valjean, but spotting him on the street one day is not nearly coincidental enough of a chance meeting. Try again, Marius.

Incident #2: A couple of girls on the run knock into him as he’s walking in the street one day. It can be gleaned that they are running away from the authorities by what they are shouting at each other. Once they are gone, Marius finds a packet of letters that he figures they must have dropped. He goes shouting after them, but can’t find them, and concludes that they’re out of earshot. You know, because shouting after a couple of kids on the run from authorities is sure to bring them right out of hiding.

Later, we are told again how much Marius doesn’t pay a lick of attention to his neighbors. This is relevant, because he’s totally about to meet them.

One day he’s sitting in his barren room after getting ready for bedtime and opens up the packet of mystery letters to see if he can figure out who they belong to, or where they need to be delivered. What he discovers as he reads them is that they are all written on the same tobacco scented paper and they are all written to different people, begging them for money. They are all signed with different names, but they are all clearly written by the same person.

He’s just way too depressed and sleepy to give any craps about these letters right now, though, so he puts them away and throws the packet into a corner.

The next morning, after Marius has had his toast, he’s ready to get on his way to work when he hears a knock on his door.

This is weird to him, because he leaves his key in the lock all the time basically just inviting all comers into his apartment. The landlady had told him that this was a sure recipe to being robbed blind, but Marius don’t care. He doesn’t think he has anything to steal. Naturally, he is wrong about this. Marius has plenty of stuff to steal. He has two whole suits and toast! The landlady is vindicated when this open door policy got his boots stolen one day.

Still, he leaves the key in the door after that happened. Marius. Learn from your mistakes, bro. He hears the knock again and, without looking up from what he’s doing, asks the landlady what she wants.

It isn’t the landlady.

So, in comes a young girl in this outfit that is basically crumbling right off her because it’s so worn out and threadbare. She’s dirty and barefoot, all bones, and is missing a few teeth. She might have been pretty once upon a time, but life has kicked her down into the state she is now. She is there to deliver a letter to Monsieur Marius, whom she knows by name. He’s sitting there pondering this new and exciting development, because she must have actual business with him if she knows his name. Meanwhile the girl just makes herself right at home there in his room. She basically just barges in without an invitation and pokes and prods at all his stuff from his toiletries down to his ink pens.

He says nothing about her rummaging through his belongings like it ain’t no thing, because he’s too busy feeling pity for her and reading the letter. It is a missive from Jondrette himself, the girl is his daughter, and wouldn’t you know it? It’s written in the exact same way and on the same paper in the exact same handwriting as all the mystery letters! Marius has a moment of clarity where he realizes that Jondrette is actually a big old crook/con-man, so he just checks out of real life for a moment into Marius-land, ruminating on the state of society that would force people into such dire straits.

As for the letter contents, it seems Daddy Jondrette has found out that Marius paid their rent. Now he’s asking for more.

Speaking of Marius, I’m kind of surprised that he hasn’t crumbled to dust and blown away at this point with this girl in his room, touching his things, spilling out of her dress, talking and talking and talking at him. He is pretty distracted with the letter and thinking about stuff though, until she sees his books and is really excited to show him that she can read. She reads a bit from one that happens to be about Waterloo, because of course it is. I imagine that all the books Marius owns that aren’t about lawyering, are probably about Napoleon, and maybe Mabeuf’s flower book. She tells him about her dad, who was at Waterloo.

She also wants to prove to him that she can write too, so she just grabs a pen and a piece of paper and writes down on it:

The Cops Are Here.

So, yeah…if there was any doubt about Jondrette’s occupation, this probably dispels it.

Now that she’s shown him her writing skillz, she’s now going to confess that she’s watched him come and go. She’s even spotted him visiting Mabeuf on occasion. This is why she knows his name. She probably is familiar with his toast habits too, and also, she’ll just go ahead and let Marius know that she thinks he’s “a very pretty boy”.

Marius is retreating into brusque hermit mode now, which feels more like him. He changes the subject quickly and hands over the packet of letters. The girl doesn’t seem to notice he’s gotten frosty, she’s distracted now.

She’s is really excited about finding the missing letters, because she and her sister had been looking all over for them. They had searched and searched and searched, and in the end had lied to their father and told him that all their prospective benefactors had refused to give them money instead of admitting that they’d lost the letters. She takes the packet from Marius with the intent to head straight off and deliver the one for the church-going philanthropist. It’s just about the time he’s getting out of church, so perfect timing!!

Marius hasn’t forgotten his very own letter from Jondrette though. He’s going to give them money anyway, even though he knows Jondrette is a scam artist. People got to do what they got to do to eat, and there’s no question that his neighbors don’t have much. He fishes around in his pockets for the cash, reserving only enough for his own meals and giving her the rest; a grand total of five francs. She’s grateful for this and grabs a moldy dried out crust of bread that she spots to eat on her way out.

And that is that! Or is it?

No, it’s not, because Marius is thinking some more about the state of things and his poor neighbors. He feels really badly about it, because he’s spent all his time there not noticing their hardships. He really wishes he could have done more to help them out and is totally awash with guilt about it. He then decides he really needs to learn more about these people. There is a word for people like the Jondrettes. Everybody say it with me now: Les Misérables. There’s supposed to be some kind of fanfare and confetti falling from the sky when a work references its own title, right?

It just so happens that despite the Gorbeau house being empty of all tenants aside from Marius and the Jondrettes, they are living in adjacent rooms. Also, there is a hole in the wall just big enough for Marius to peep through, because of course there is and of course he would. I think Marius’s entire book should be subtitled again. Les Misérables: Vol. III: Marius: What are you doing?

Marius maybe hasn’t actually learned anything from the last time he was a giant creeper, so he goes on ahead and climbs up on his dresser to peephole height, so he can peep the Jondrette’s living quarters.

What he sees certainly shocks him, because these people are living in filth pretty much. Like, he thought he was poor? By comparison, Marius is living the high life. These people have nothing. On the other hand Marius has a job, he’s got skills, and an education, he has good friends who help help out no questions asked, he can buy new boots after his get stolen and still leave his door unlocked, and he can afford to let his crusts of bread sit around long enough for them to turn into moldy rocks for goodness sake!

Jondrette is a thin weasly looking guy, skinny in his woman’s blouse, with a long scraggly grey beard. The wife is there, she’s a hulking woman with red hair cooking by the fire, and there is a younger girl who’s practically naked. He’s standing there observing the dire conditions of his neighbor’s lodgings when the older girl bursts into the place and she’s got news. One of the letter addressees, an old philanthropist, is coming to visit them. He’s right on her tail.

And so begins the preparations for their benefactor’s arrival. Marius is about to witness the execution of a con. Not that they aren’t super poor to begin with, but Jondrette is making it his mission to make them appear even more destitute.

Jondrette gives his family instructions. He tells the younger girl to break the window. She doesn’t want to, but eventually gives in and just punches out a pane of glass with her bare hand. She cuts herself as she does it. I’ll let you ponder how intimidating and abusive Daddy Jondrette is to be able to compel a child to do that. He’s even pleased at his daughter’s misfortune, because now she can cry real tears in her mother’s arms and look even more pitiful with that injury. Mom is none too pleased about this, but she goes along with her husband anyway. On top of this, it is winter and freezing outside.

He tries to get the older girl to break out the bottom of the only chair, but she doesn’t do it. He breaks the chair by sticking his foot through it. They are now ready to receive company.

Marius sticks to his peephole like glue and what he sees next shocks him to the core, because who walks in the door but M. Leblanc and Mlle. Lanoir! (I did not intend for that sentence to be so Seusstastic!) There they are, in the flesh, right in the very same building that he lives in! And that is how you do a proper chance meeting!

They come bearing gifts of clothing and blankets. Jondrette is not pleased with material goods though. He’s after the cash, so now he has to put on a show. Jondrette gives Leblanc the entire spiel he had prepared for his playwright character. This is his cover for this particular letter. I assume he’s crafted each identity to appeal most to each letter recipient. In any case, Jondrette bemoans the lack of funding in the arts these days. What’s a poor author to do with a family to feed? Leblanc is sympathetic of course, because if there’s one thing this guy loves to do it’s help the less fortunate whether they need a job at a bead factory or need rescuing from a ship’s rigging, or rescuing from Javert, or just giving his money away in general.

Jondrette pleads for an amount of rent money which is much more than is due. Marius knows because it couldn’t have accumulated that much since the time he paid it. Leblanc hands over five francs. Jondrette isn’t exactly pleased over only five francs though.

Leblanc promises to return later in the evening with some more though, and he also leaves his coat for Jondrette.

Marius quickly comes to the decision that he must follow them. Always a good idea. He overestimates the amount of time it’s going to take them to get back down to the fiacre though (He’s afraid Valjean will spot him, recognize him, and move again) By the time he’s made it outside, they’re already turning the corner. Marius decides that he can’t run after it to follow, because that would just be crazy. Luckily an empty cab is right there for him to jump into. This is kind of surprising, because isn’t Gorbeau house supposed to be in some shady hidden side-street off the beaten path somewhere? I’m pretty sure that’s a specific reason why Marius, Jondrette and Valjean picked it for their lodgings. I wouldn’t imagine a lot of cab traffic would be going through there. I guess Marius is just that fortunate. Alright! Mad fiacre chase through the streets of Paris to find the love of his life that he’s never spoken to? Let’s go!

Wait, not so fast, Marius. The driver wants him to pay up front. He’s a pretty savvy cabbie, I have to say. Because of Marius’s old beat up clothings, the man doesn’t think he can pay for this ride. I don’t really blame him. If he’s driving around places like Gorbeau house looking for fares, he’s probably been burned before. Marius says he’ll pay when they get back, but the driver is not having it, and just like that Marius’s 19th century version of a Rom-Com cliche has been foiled.

He heads back into the house but not before noticing and also not noticing that Jondrette is outside talking to famous night-stalker Panchaud aka Printanier, aka Bigrenaille, and in a great feat of word-padding, the likes of which are usually only seen in November, almost every time this guy is referred to in this chapter it’s by at least two of these names. Even Marius knows who he is, because Courfeyrac told him. (Courfeyrac knows because he is everywhere, of course).

I guess this Panchaud character is important because we start going into detail about what a legend … He will become. He’s not quite so notorious as to inspire awe among his future convict fellows yet, so I’m not even sure why we’re talking about him in such great detail.

Back inside the eldest Jondrette girl is following after him, and now Marius is bursting with resentment for her, because she has the five francs that were jangling around in his pockets that very morning and could have paid for his cab fare just now. He knows he can’t even ask her where Lanoir lives, because the letter was addressed to the church.

The girl isn’t going to leave him alone and just watch him this time. She actually holds the door to his room open when he tries to shut it. He’s really impatient and huffy and downright snippy with her this time when she asks what’s wrong with him. She doesn’t understand why he was so nice and generous to her this morning and now he’s being such a dick all of a sudden. She’s much more timid than she was this morning and stays in the doorway as she offers to help him resolve whatever issues he’s having, because she doesn’t want him to feel bad anymore. This sparks an idea in him. He’s suddenly more happy and optimistic, and she’s a little more brighter because he is. He asks if she can find out where their benefactors live. And just like that she’s back to gloomy. She rightly guesses that it isn’t LeBlanc that he cares about, but the girl.

She can find them but is giving off serious vibes that this is a task she really doesn’t actually want to do. For reasons. She agrees to do it though, because Marius asked. Her bitter tone of voice whenever she mentions the girl makes him uneasy, but he just fails to make the connection that she might be upset because he’s so into this Lanoir character especially after she flat out just told him to his face that very morning that she watches him and thinks he’s totally hot.

Back in his own abode, Marius was about to sit down and do whatever it is that Marius does during the day while he’s… I guess he’s just going to be skipping work today. He can hear Jondrette ranting and raving in the other room again. How can he resist? He climbs back up to his peephole to peep some more. There he finds Jondrette having a fit about the M. Leblanc being the man who took Mlle. Lanoir away from them so many years ago, depriving them of sorely needed income. Okay, I’m dropping Courfeyrac’s nicknames for good now. They’re going to be Valjean and Cosette again.

Anyway, the Jondrette woman is totally skeptical about her husband’s assertion at first, because no way the lark could have grown up into the lovely young lady Cosette is today.

Jondrette is convinced though, and he has a plan! Marius sits there and listens to all the sinister plotting going on next door. Jondrette is going to enlist his shady underworld buddies to get all the millions of Francs he thinks he is owed, from M. Leblanc. He seems to be under the impression that this guy has all the money in the world, and if he doesn’t fork it over then Jondrette is going to kill him. He plans to use Valjean’s five francs to go buy some sort of murder tool at the hardware store.

Well, well, well–Murder! That is shocking to Marius. He waffles about what to do about what he’s overheard and eventually decides to go to the police.

On his way there he hears whisperings from behind a wall and decides that he wants to hear more. It’s a couple of rough looking dudes talking about “The Affair” and how it can’t go wrong with Patron Minette! They’re all due five or six hundred francs if everything goes according to plan, and if it goes wrong the max they could get is ten years. Marius decides “The Affair” must be Jondrette’s plot, because apparently there can only be one big crime committed at a time here.

When Marius finally gets to the Police Station, he is directed to a certain wolf-esque inspector who we all know and love. This entire meeting between Marius and the inspector goes without his name being spoken until the very end, but it’s Javert. I’m not even going to try and keep you in suspense, because it’s already totally obvious from the start.

Javert listens to Marius’s story. He’s particularly interested about whether or not the four corners of Patron Minette are going to be there, but Marius hasn’t seen them. Just Panchaud and the mention of the gang by the whispering bandits that Javert calls Brujon and Demi-Liard. Javert decides Marius is an upstanding and honest young man on the basis of their conversation here and absolutely nothing else even though Marius is peeved that Javert hasn’t called him Monsieur during the exchange and indignant that Javert thinks he might not be brave enough to handle the forthcoming shenanigans. So, Javert hands him two pistols and instructions to conceal them in his fob pockets and go back to his peephole at the appropriate time to fire off a warning shot at the exactly perfect moment for the cops catch Jondrette in the act of an actual crime and bust up his little extortion/murder party. Marius should know when, because he is a lawyer and lawyers should know such things. Sure they should, but Marius. . .

Okay, so we’re just giving out guns to randoms just in off the street? I mean, I know owning a gun was probably par for the course back in the days, but it doesn’t seem like the wisest decision of all time. What credibility does Marius Pontmercy: Lawyer, translator, and garden ponderer extraordinaire actually have aside from Javert’s intuition? For all Javert knows, Marius could be putting on a masterful show and is the secret heretofore unseen, unknown, singular mastermind behind the Patron Minette gang Javert’s so keen on capturing. It could be a trap! Of course this is all speculatory nothings to us, because we know Bambi over here isn’t the secret mastermind behind anything aside from stalking Cosette. Javert, on the other hand, should probably know better. He’s also severely underestimating Marius’s infinite capacity for being distracted and conflicted. This is a mistake that is surely going to come back and bite him in the ass.

On his way back home, Marius spots Jondrette, and decides to follow him. Of course he does. All of life’s problems can be solved by stalking people and listening in on their conversations, right?

You’ll never guess who spots Marius trailing along after Jondrette.

Here is a pause for you to guess… …

If you guessed Courfeyrac (because Courfeyrac is everywhere) and Bossuet, then you would be right. Seriously, what is with the peanut gallery over here? Courfeyrac is always cropping up at random to LOL at Marius. Not that Marius doesn’t do LOL worthy things, but still. It’s like Marius is trying to hunt ducks and Courfeyrac is the loyal hunting dog popping up out of the reeds to snicker at his efforts.

Bousset is in the midst of poetically comparing the snow to beautiful butterflies when they spot their friend. Courfeyrac decides they shouldn’t go say hi, because Marius is tailing someone and is in love, and Bossuet is confused because there are no beautiful ladies anywhere to be seen. Courfeyrac points out that he is following a guy and they have a laugh.

Bossuet wants to see what he’s really up to still. They don’t have to say hi, but they can follow him! Because as we have learned so far, creeping on people can only lead to good things! You know, like heartache, depression, and overhearing criminal murder plans. Courfeyrac thinks this is foolish and calls Bossuet “Eagle of Meaux” whilst telling him so. This still cracks me up. I think because it’s such a regal and serious sounding nickname, and Bossuet is Bossuet.

Anyway, this is probably a good thing, since I have the feeling the whole “affair” is going to descend into chaos as it is. Do we really need to add Courfeyrac and Bossuet to the equation? (The answer is actually yes! Always! Courfeyrac and Bossuet for all the lawyer adventures. Are you listening, Rob Thomas?)

Marius is too focused on following Jondrette to notice his pals. He watches the guy go into a hardware store, and then it’s time for Marius to go home and resume his post on top of his dresser before the landlady locks the door for the night since he’d given his master key to Javert. On his way up to his lodgings, he thinks he sees some people in one of the empty rooms.

Back in his room Marius can hear the conversation when Jondrette comes in without having to get up to his peephole, because now he’s listening. By what they’re saying, Marius can tell that Madame Jondrette is all dressed up and the girls are about to go out to keep watch, but not before the eldest is ordered to go check Marius’s room to make sure nobody’s in there. She’s sure there isn’t, but they make her go check anyway. There’s only one place to hide and that is under the bed.

The girl doesn’t seem really interested in conducting a thorough search of the place to see if he’s hiding somewhere. She’s more interested in making use of his mirror while she has the chance. She lies and tells her dad that she did look under the bed when she didn’t, so he’s safe for now.

Now it’s time for Marius to get up on his dresser, the girls are gone, and the stage is set. The chisel Jondrette bought is on the fire and Marius gets a gander at Madame Jondrette’s getup. She’s got a feather hat and everything. Apparently it’s a spectacle that Courfeyrac would have found hilarious, because we should definitely know what Courfeyrac’s opinion would have been had he been Marius. (It’s a good thing he’s not. Bossuet tried to be Marius once, and it didn’t work out for him at all.) Jondrette decides he needs a couple chairs for the guests. I guess that’s reasonable, since he destroyed their only one earlier in the day. If you’re going to be murdering a guy, might as well give him a place to sit. Before Marius can even move from his perch, the Jondrette woman is over at his place “borrowing” his chair. She just waltzes right in and doesn’t even notice Marius standing on top of his dresser. I know this action is getting really serious right now, but — I think you’ll have to agree that is a pretty comical image.

Soon, M. Leblanc aka. Ultimus Fauchelevent, aka Jean Valjean is back with the money for Jondrette. Before he can get out of there though, Jondrette sits him down and tries to get him to buy a painting that Marius had noticed during his earlier peeping.

Valjean is having none of this, even as Jondrette tries to talk the thing up and haggle with him. Haggling only works if the other party is interested in purchasing the item though, and Valjean can see that it is merely an old broken down wooden sign for an inn. This goes on for a while, and as it does, three people in blackface or masks have stealthily entered the room. Jondrette tries to pass them off as his neighbors. Because it’s normal for your neighbors to just pop right in without knocking and stand around with their faces masked looking sinister and intimidating.

Just as Valjean and Marius are noticing these newcomers, the door burst open and it’s none other than the top bad guys of Patron Minette themselves, Babet, Claquesous, and Guelemer; they say everything is prepared. Everything except for Montparnasse who had taken a detour to chat with Eponine. What is that all about? He’s missing a good murder party here.

Jondrette is losing patience quickly now. He starts goading Valjean about how they know each other for a while whilst Valjean feigns ignorance. Denying it, isn’t going to work though, because Jondrette is determined. And he really doesn’t like it when Valjean calls them bandits, because how dare he when he can sit in his nice house with nice shoes and never know what it’s really like to be poor and suffer.

He finally gives up the song and dance and drops the big reveal on us. Jondrette is really Thénardier!

Shocking. I know.

Well, it is to Marius at least. He was preparing to fire his gun when this happens and it’s like a ton of bricks falling on him. He doesn’t know what to do. What seemed so black and white: Catch the Murderous Bad Guys, now isn’t quite so clear. On one hand this is the man who saved his father. It must be, and Marius had dedicated himself to fulfilling his father’s wish to do service for this man. As if he was reading Marius’s mind, Thénardier confirms it by going on and on and on about that guy he saved at Waterloo, and he’s such a hero, and he’s really laying it on thick. It’s almost as if even he has forgotten that he was actually robbing the guy, wasn’t actually in the fight to begin with, and only saved Georges by pure happenstance.

Marius starts thinking that turning this dude in to Javert is going to dishonour his father’s memory and his wishes.  On the other, Cosette’s probably going to pretty upset with him if she ever finds out he let her father perish when he had the chance to save him. You know, if they ever meet and speak words to each other that is. What to do?

Whilst Marius is pondering over this, Thénardier is busy wildly threatening Valjean who is attempting to jump out the window but gets tied up to the bed instead. In the scuffle Boulatruelle gets knocked unconscious.

Thénardier is now going to dictate a letter for Valjean to write to Cosette, and Valjean reveals yet another alias: Urbain Fabre. So…is this a fake-out, or is this a new name he goes by? One that he presumably chose, so he didn’t have to buy all new monogrammed hankies? In any case, Valjean is steadfastly denying he even knows this girl Thenardier is talking about. (Marius realizes in this space that Ursula is definitely not the girl’s name and he’s been carrying the old man’s hankie over his heart this entire time.)

With the information had, Thénardier sends the wife off in a waiting carriage and proceeds to let Valjean in on his dastardly plan to make sure he pays up. If he has a mustache to go with his beard, he should probably be twirling it right about now.

The plan is to send his wife to fetch Cosette and keep her hidden away until Valjean pays up.  The note is so she will come willingly, and he can’t call the police because that will be the end of Cosette.

Eventually Thénardiess comes back only to reveal the address was fake and they’d never heard of this Urbain Fabre. Thénardier wants to know what Valjean hoped to gain by that and threatens him with the now sufficiently heated chisel he got from the hardware store earlier.

Time! Valjean says, because he is a super cool action hero with spiffy comebacks. He is now unbound! How did he manage to do that? Well, he keeps a coin with a hidden built in little saw for just such occasions, because of course he does. He is mostly free, but he can’t make a break for it just yet, because he’s still surrounded by bandits and one foot is still tied to the bed..

Meanwhile, despite death threats, bondage, and the possible kidnapping in progress of his lady love, Marius remains rooted to his spot at the peephole completely frozen and watching as Valjean’s situation gets more and more dire. To be fair, his reasoning for not firing the warning shot had shifted from the feeling of honor-bound duty to his father to concern for Cosette’s safety. Now that he knows she’s safe, he has a choice to make before someone gets killed.

He doesn’t want the old man to die, but he doesn’t want to betray his father, etc… This is when he spots the note that Eponine wrote that morning, cinematically lit up by a shaft of moonlight coming in through the window: The Cops Are Here. He wraps it up in a rock and when he thinks everybody is distracted, he pushes it through the peephole.

That is… Well, it’s a bit convenient that phrase is the one Eponine is most familiar writing, but that’s also actually a pretty clever way out of this moral dilemma. Of course it could all go terribly wrong anyway, but as it is, the bandits have come to the conclusion that they must all abscond through the window ASAP. All of them. Through the Window. They are busy wasting time deciding in which order the seven of them are going descend down the rope ladder that Thénardier had quickly attached to the sill. Thénardier thinks they’re being idiots as they try to decide whether or not to draw straws or put their names in a hat to decide who goes first. Inspector Javert, who had had enough of Marius’s dilly-dallying, makes his wolfy presence known by throwing the door open and offering his own hat.

Because he too is a super cool action hero with spiffy comebacks!

Javert only has to make his appearance and all the baddies in the room don’t even want to fuck with him. They just give right up. These guys are really failing at being murderous criminals right now. I know they’re outgunned and outnumbered by Javert’s crew, but aren’t they supposed to go out in a blaze of glory or at least attempt a halfhearted scuffle to save face or something? None of them even attempt a quick jump out the window or anything.

Javert on the other hand has apparently done a bang up job of instilling fear in the populous. He’s captured most of the leadership of Patron Minette, because all of them save Montparnasse had decided to all gather so conveniently in the same tiny room from which there is virtually no escaping for no reason.  Thénardier himself was wondering why so many of them showed up. Yes. Definitely some really spectacular villain failure happening here. Which is good for Javert, because he was getting zero help from his man on the inside. I bet this is probably the last time he entrusts crucial tactical decisions to a twenty something old dreamer with daddy issues, who is probably still frozen on top of his own dresser.

As for Valjean, he’s taken the window option himself in the confusion, because of course he did. This particular section is labeled: “The Victim’s Should Always be Arrested First”    Which definitely would have been a prudent move on Javert’s part. Can you imagine? Valjean would just be the icing on the Patron Minette cake.

Later, Gavroche–you remember Gavroche, right? He’s on his way to drop in on his family for the odd visit only to find out from the landlady that they’ve all been arrested.

And that is it for Vol. III: Marius (What Are You Doing????). Next time: It looks like we’ll learn more about historical context and Brujons!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: Book 6


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

Marius: Book 6; Crazy in Love

Guess what? Now that we’ve spent five entire chapters learning everything we could ever possibly want to know about Marius and his Pontmercy ways right down to his toast eating habits, it is time to describe what he actually looks like! This might have come in handy before the mental picture already distilled in our brains, but oh well.

Our boy, Marius, has grown into a fine handsome looking fellow with jet black hair, a refined but not too chiseled jawline and passionate nostrils. Great. Now I’m imagining he looks like a young Judd Nelson. Thanks, book!

Marius is still having problems in the area of human interactions. He dares not even glance at a woman, because he think’s they’re all just having a good laugh at him when they look his way because of his old worn out poor people clothes. This isn’t really the case though, he’s just a certified hottie. Let me just take a moment to profess my love for book Marius and his introverted, socially awkward ways.

Well, being an observant BFF, Courfeyrac notices the way he acts about women (directly in opposition to the way Courfeyrac is by the by. Let’s just say he gets around.) He tries to hook Marius up, pokes fun at the kid for his lady troubles, and sometimes calls him Abbé. You know, because clergymen are supposed to be celibate and have no impure thoughts, I’m assuming is the joke here. Of course, Marius takes Courfeyrac’s words to heart instead of laughing it off as he probably should. Whenever this happens it makes him shrink even further into himself, avoiding women even more than usual and also Courfeyrac. Especially Courfeyrac.

There are only two girls in the entirety of Paris that Marius isn’t terrified of. One of them is the old bearded landlady/housekeeper who sweeps his floor. This gives Courfeyrac opportunity to poke more fun by saying she wears a beard so Marius doesn’t have to. The other is a girl of around thirteen or fourteen or so that he stumbled upon in a remote corner of the Luxembourg Gardens when he first started his garden strolling. She was there every day sitting on a bench with a man presumed to be her father.

Marius might have thought the father was a former military man by the way he carried himself. This man was around sixty, white hair, always wore a new hat and had a kind expression, but not one that would invite people to talk to them. As for the girl, she was small and homely and wore the uniform of a person who lives at a convent. Gee, I wonder who these mysterious people could be. Let us stroke our chins and ponder.

Marius always observed them on his walks even though they paid him no attention. The girl always was the one talking; the dad not so much. Marius began an unconscious routine of passing by this bench on his walks at least six times a walk, five or six times a week. Of course, he never spoke to them.  Perhaps because these two seemed to be trying to avoid attention. Marius isn’t the only one strolling around Luxembourg though. The father and daughter, by sitting there all the time, had attracted the attentions of a couple roving packs of students, Courfeyrac included.

Courfeyrac didn’t think much of the girl, but to give her the nickname of Mlle. Lanoir and the dad M. Leblanc. (Miss Black and Mr. White on account of her dress and his hair.) This nickname stuck. Marius developed a liking for M. Leblanc, but he doesn’t think much about the girl.

After two years of the same routine, every day walks at the Luxembourg passing by the father and daughter team, Marius stops going there. There’s no reason for this.  He just takes a break and doesn’t return for six entire months. When he does, this homely girl has grown up into a beautiful young lady. Brown hair with golden highlights, blushing skin, blue eyes. Marius can’t believe it’s the same girl. He wouldn’t if she wasn’t sitting there with M. Leblanc as usual.

They regard each other with complete indifference, and Marius resumes his laps around the gardens because that is his habit.

One fateful day they actually managed to make eye contact on one of these walks of his, and that’s it. It’s all over from there. He goes home that night and realizes just how worn down and unpresentable his clothes are. Really? Just now? I thought his raggedy old duds were already an ongoing contributor to his crippling insecurity. The next morning Marius puts on his good suit. He runs into Courfeyrac on his way to the Luxembourg and has the good sense to avoid him. He’s spotted anyway, and gets made fun of again behind his back. Courfeyrac thinks Marius’s new look is “Idiotic” and he must be going to some really important exam dressed like that. Why are these two friends again? They are totally an odd couple. Hah! I’d imagine that Marius would be closest in temperament to Jean Prouvaire. They could totally just hang out quietly and avoid looking at women together.

Anyway, this new wardrobe is the start of…I don’t even know what Marius is trying to accomplish here. Well, I do, but he’s going about it the most awkward and creepy way possible. He approaches the bench in slow motion on that first day, but can’t bring himself to walk past it. He walks halfway there then retreats, then tries it again over and over, fretting about how he looks in his fancy suit even though he’s too far away to be noticed, until he’s finally able to will himself into passing by the bench.

Instead of going around and around six times like he usually does, this great feat of strutting past this girl in his Sunday best has apparently taken it out of him. On the way back he just sits down in the middle of the path and starts scratching at the ground with a stick he has somehow acquired. At first I was confused as to whether or not he just plopped his ass down right in the gravel. Since he’s already worked himself into a fine bundle of nerves over this girl, it wouldn’t have surprised me if he just collapsed. But that would be totally unbecoming of a gentleman! He’s actually seated himself on a different bench. I still have no idea where Marius got a stick though. If it came from one of the garden trees, he should be careful. He could probably get arrested for that.

This is his new routine. Every day he gets dressed up in his best suit, heads out to the garden, Courfeyrac provides witty commentary, and Marius sits on his own bench rather than doing laps around Mlle. Lanoir and M. Leblanc. Sometimes he has a book that he pretends to read whilst worrying about whether or not she’s noticing him. This is probably how things would have continued until they died of old age if not for the day the father and daughter rose from their bench and walked in Marius’s direction.

As they pass by, the girl makes deliberate eye contact with him. Marius is already besotted, so this is just putting him over the moon and making him even more of a basket case. He has still never uttered a word to these people, but that doesn’t seem to matter. She definitely noticed him. He rants and raves around the Luxembourg for a minute and then follows them but loses them out on the street. He frets about whether or not she noticed his dusty old boots. Marius is fully in love with her now.

Later, Marius stumbles into Courfeyrac, because Courfeyrac is everywhere. This time Marius doesn’t even attempt to avoid his friend and the inevitable jokes at his expense. Instead he invites Courfeyrac out on a man-date to dinner and the theatre. That is how great of a mood he’s in. Well, this girl from the garden has Marius in quite a state. He doesn’t even look at a hat girl’s garter as she passes by them on their way out of the theatre, and he’s even offended at Courfeyrac making comments about adding her to his “collection”. I actually wouldn’t be all that surprised if there are already a bunch of little Courfeyracs running around Paris come to think of it.

They meet a few friends at the usual place for lunch the next day, and Marius is particularly jolly. I’m assuming this gaiety is wildly out of character for a usual somber Marius. Courfeyrac thinks Marius is being totally hilarious. Jean Prouvaire, on the other hand, being the sensitive soul that he is, is the one that realizes the gravity of the situation. Jehan knows Marius’s twitterpation is serious business.

Serious business it is too, because Marius is about to go full stalker mode on this girl. I’m not even joking. He feels like he might be attracting too much attention sitting on his bench or walking around them in a circle, so he’s taken to hiding behind statues and bushes and things. Now that he’s got it bad for the girl, he doesn’t want to attract the father’s attentions. I’m not sure why he thinks this is a better tactic, since he’s been orbiting them for almost every day for nearly three years already, and they didn’t seem to mind.

Stealth is not something Marius is very good at though, because it absolutely doesn’t go unnoticed by M. Leblanc that this once innocuous student is being a total creeper now. Leblanc hatches his own plot to move around and take up residence on a new bench just to see if Marius really is following them around or if this is all just a massive coincidence.

Marius isn’t savvy enough to catch on and falls for the trap. Now M. Leblanc knows for sure that some stranger is following them. Marius remains completely oblivious.

One day he has the good fortune to find a handkerchief left behind on the bench with the initials U.F. on it. Should we even pretend we don’t already know that this stands for “Ultimus Fauchelevent” aka Jean Valjean? The hankie belongs to the old man.

Marius assumes it belongs to the girl and immediately jumps to the conclusion that her name must be Ursula, because that is the only girl’s name he can think of that begins with “U” I guess. He carries it with him everywhere, kisses it, sleeps with it, smells the perfume on it. Please stop, Marius. I’m begging you! Also, never ever tell Courfeyrac about this. You’ll never live it down.

He makes sure the girl sees him kiss the handkerchief and place it over his heart every day they “meet”, which totally confounds her of course, because it’s not hers and she doesn’t know what this crazy man is doing. Marius just thinks she’s being modest about the token of affection she’d left for him.

One day a strong gust of wind blows the girl’s skirt up enough to glimpse a little bit of skin. This drives Marius absolutely wild with jealousy even though there isn’t even anybody around to see it. He’s jealous of his shadow. He’s jealous of an old veteran who winks conspiratorially at Marius as he passes by several minutes after it happens. This vet hadn’t been there to observe the gust of wind. He’s just Captain Winks-a-lot, I guess. Marius gives the girl angry eyes afterward because she let this happen. She gives him WTF is wrong with this dude eyes, because WTF is wrong with this dude? This is their first argument.

And the last and final thread in Marius’s unraveling  is when he decides it would be a good idea to follow this “Ursula” home. He’s not content just knowing where she lives now either. He’s bold enough to question the doorman. He learns that M. Leblanc is an old retired man who lives with his daughter. He doesn’t get much further than that because the doorman is suspicious.

M. Leblanc and his daughter only visit the Luxembourg once after that. They don’t show up again, and Marius is beside himself. He goes to their house and their light isn’t on. After a few more days of waiting for them he finally asks the doorman what happened. The couple has moved! Marius is devastated. This is what happens when you try to woo people by being a creepy stalker, Marius. Seriously, dude. You really might want to reconsider your strategy for meeting girls!

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 5


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 Five:  Return of the Wolf Puppy

Alright, people! Are you prepared for Hugo to drop some real realness in your eyes? Well, here it goes. He does that thing that I usually despise by interjecting author notes directly into the story. He wants to let us know that this Paris he’s about to describe is the Paris of the past. It has changed through the years and this is how Hugo remembers it. Have some of his thoughts about it:

While we come and go in our native land, we imagine that we are indifferent t these streets, that these windows, roofs and doors mean nothing to us, that these walls are strangers to us, that these trees are like any other trees, that these houses we never enter are of no use to us, that the pavement where we walk is no more than stone blocks. Later, when we are no longer there, we find that those streets are very dear to us, that we miss the roofs, windows and doors, that the walls are essential to us, that the trees are beloved, that every day we did enter those houses we never entered, and that we have left something of our affections, our life, and our heart on those paving stones. All those places that we no longer see, which perhaps we shall never see again, but whose image we have preserved, assume a painful charm, return to us with the sadness of a ghost, make the holy land visible to us, and are so to speak, the true shape of France; and we love them and call them up such as they are, such as they were, and hold onto them, unwilling to change a thing, for one clings to the form of the fatherland as to the face of the mother. (Now that we’re all thinking about where we grew up and how it’s all changed…)

Oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know…Hugo was in exile for fifteen years after speaking out against Napoleon III (This novel was published while he was away). So, there’s that. I think I don’t mind the interjections and digressions, because it may not be relevant, but it’s definitely interesting information that I don’t mind being in my brain.

Back to Jean Valjean, who is now traversing these streets of Paris, and I suppose that disclaimer up there is sort of relevant, because he lists off the many streets Valjean is traveling down, even down to a sign advertising a sale outside a shop as he passes by. He doesn’t really have any destination in particular. He’s letting God lead the way, and as for Cosette? She trusts Valjean, and goes with him without any fuss.

He comes to the realization that Javert is indeed on his tail. He thinks he shakes him several times, but Javert and his men are never too far behind. Valjean crosses a bridge and becomes trapped at Petit Picpus when he notices a sentry is posted at the outlet of the street. He knows he can’t go back the other way, because Javert is back there.

What’s a guy to do?

There is an old decrepit door there, but Valjean soon realizes that the thing isn’t actually a door. When is a door not a door? When it’s just hanging there on the wall for no apparent reason. He knows it’s a waste of time to break it down if there’s not going to be an opening behind it. He eventually formulates a plan to go over one of the walls.

It’s an easy job for himself. He used to scale walls like a spiderman back in prison, but he’s got Cosette now, and he can tell that the police are moving in on him. They are taking their good sweet time about it though, methodically checking out every crevasse as they inch slowly toward him.

He finds a rope attached to a street lamp that he can use to hoist her up after him and thus begins his ascent. Cosette’s getting a little bit worried at this point and wants to know who these people are that are after them. Valjean gets her to be quiet by telling her it’s the Thénardiess. This is an effective bogeyman, and we won’t be hearing a peep out of Cosette now. They make it over the wall and into what is apparently the creepiest garden to ever creep. It’s super gloomy and weird things are afoot there.

Valjean finds a shed to hide in and they remain silent as they listen to Javert and his buddies searching around out in the street. It feels like they’re sitting there for quite a while. Valjean peeps inside a nearby building and sees what looks like a dead body, but isn’t a dead body? Whatever the case, it’s really weird, and then there’s the singing, and the sound of a bell coming from what appears to be a guy tending garden. Is Valjean trippin’ ? Because this is just strange. Maybe there’s a reasonable explanation?

As he sits there, he reflects about Cosette and how she’s everything to him now. He’s going to live his life for the little girl and do everything for her, and it is at this point that he notices she has gone cold as she’d fallen asleep in the freezing night air. He has only one recourse and picks Cosette up, rushing to the guy with the bell. He has to warm her up fast and this is the only option, even if it means being caught.

The old man is extremely excited to see Valjean there. He’s surprised and delighted to find Monsieur Madeline has apparently fallen from the sky straight into his garden. Wait a minute…

Who is this old man who seems to know Valjean from another life? It’s Fauchelevent! You remember Fauchelevent, right? He’ll refresh everybody’s memory now, because Valjean doesn’t even remember him.

 

Fauchelevent was the guy that was trapped under a cart once upon a time and Valjean saved his life that day despite Javert and his suspicious eyes being all over him. What Valjean has stumbled into is the Convent at Petit-Picpus, the very same place he procured work for old Fauchelevent. The guy is only out in the cold night to put jackets on his melons so they don’t get frosty. The reason he has to wear a bell on his bum knee so the nuns stay away from him, and he has no idea about Valjean and his post mayoral trials and tribulations. As far as he knows, Valjean is still Madeline. He’s also a bit put out that Valjean had no idea who he was and calls him an ingrate, but is still willing to help him out in any way he can. To be fair though, Valjean’s got a hell of a lot on his mind right now.

And he’s totally going to take advantage of Fauchelevent’s cluelessness right now. He only has a couple things to ask for and that’s a warm place for Cosette and that he doesn’t utter a word about this to anybody. Fauchelevant is happy to provide and soon Cosette is sleeping warm and cozy in a bed by the fire and very much not dead.

That is how Valjean evaded the clutches of Inspector Javert and found a safe haven, but how about we take a look at it from a different angle? It’s time for Javert’s point of view now!

So, after he played a crucial role in bringing Valjean in after he escaped in Montreuil Sur Mer, he was given a position in Paris. Seems as if his zesty zeal in catching Valjean did not go unnoticed. This is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Javert is in Paris, and, as it turns out, he has not been ceaselessly chasing after Valjean every waking second of the day and also in his dreams (okay, maybe in his dreams). These two have a history now.

In fact, Javert probably would have gone on about his business of terrifying the rest of the Paris citizenry, content with the knowledge that Valjean, the dangerous criminal, is back in Toulon serving his time where he belongs, had he not happened to open up the paper for the purposes of catching up on Monarchy news. It’s the only reason he was even looking at it; he usually doesn’t read the paper. This is where he saw Valjean’s death notice.

Again, Javert is was totally taking this at face value and was on the road to forgetting about Valjean, since he was dead and everything.  The wolf has new things to sniff out, so there’s no reason for the old stuff to stick around, right?  This is when he gets word through police networks of a girl kidnapped from Montfermeil. This piques his interest greatly, because that was the area in which Valjean was last captured, and Javert knew exactly why he was there. He still thinks it’s hilarious that Valjean had the audacity to ask him for three days grace to go fetch Fantine’s little girl right in the middle of being arrested. It just so happens this little girl is the same girl that had been reported missing.

I’m telling you, were Javert the star in his own crime procedural, we’d all be rooting for him and the exemplary sleuthing skillz he’s putting on display here. He would have his own show on USA and nobody would call him the villain. He would still be the annoyingly uptight, straight-laced, absolutely frustrating by the book 100% detective, and they would team him up with the loose cannon, rule breaking newbie with a heart of gold though.

In any case, Javert wants to be really sure that he’s right about this. He doesn’t want the press to have a field day should he wrongfully arrest an innocent man. So, he puts in the requisite work rather than going off half-cocked on some wild goose chase.

He goes to speak with Thénardier, who filed the report and regrets it now that he’s got a wolf on his doorstep. He attempts to recant and says that Cosette wasn’t stolen away. She merely went to go live with her grandfather. Lol. Those townspeople, you know how they talk? Javert doesn’t really believe this, but he does have doubt seeds growing. He really doesn’t want to get this wrong.

He hears about the beggar who gives alms, and this gets his gears working too. He goes undercover as one of his police informants. Who is his police informant? It’s the beggar that Valjean regularly funds, and this is the point at which Valjean first peeped spy!Javert, and Javert first laid eyes on Valjean again.

They are both still not sure though. Javert gets the aid of the landlady in his spying, so Valjean was correct in assuming they were in cahoots when he decided to make a run for it. He dropped some coins on the floor which gave him away though, and the Landlady ratted him out to Javert.

It really isn’t until they catch sight of each other at various points during the chase that they are really surely sure that what they are seeing is what they had believed to be true. I guess neither one of them had been able to wrap their mind around it until everything unfolded right in front of them.  Javert had honestly had doubts up until this point, and he couldn’t in good conscience make that arrest.  On top of that, he followed instead of arresting Valjean right away, because he was slightly worried that if this man were not Valjean, then he might be some sort of criminal underworld mastermind.  In this case, Javert would want to follow him and see what he was up to.  A premature arrest wouldn’t be wise if that were so.

 He had asked for resources from the higher ups though, without telling them exactly what he’s been up to for a couple of reasons:   He doesn’t want anybody to think he’s insane or be eviscerated in the press. Remember, he already got accused of the crazies when he thought Mayor Madeline was Jean Valjean while a different man was in custody, and wrongful arrests were starting to be a problem.  Valjean’s not even supposed to be alive, remember?  On top of that, Javert knows, being a relative newcomer to the Paris police, those higher ups are going to take credit for his great feats of detectiving.

No. He wants this great masterpiece of police work to be a surprise (He loves surprises!), only to be revealed when everything falls neatly into place and he can ride into work the next day on the stallion of triumph, having been the one dude smart enough and sly enough to capture a man everybody else thought was dead.

Javert? You are familiar with the saying about what pride precedes, right?

He keeps his eyes on Valjean the entire time he’s trying to escape down all those streets. Even while Valjean thought he was safe in the shadows, Javert’s suspicious eyes were there. He follows along with his goon squad at a safe distance, picking up backup and random patrolling soldiers along the way to aid him, until he finally traps Valjean in Petit Picpus.

Having caught Valjean, and thinking there’s no way the man is getting away now, he takes his good old time searching every single nook and cranny from both ends of the street in for the express purpose of messing with Valjean’s mind like a tiger playing with a mouse before eating it. As we know now, Valjean was totally sweating this. Unfortunately for Javert,Valjean isn’t a mouse. This dilly-dallying gave him enough time to formulate an escape plan that we have seen.

By the time Javert and his wolfpack meet in the middle, Valjean is gone.

You say you like surprises, Javert? Well… SURPRISE!!!

They can’t figure out where the hell Valjean went, though they assume somewhere over the wall because they spot the rope, but where it’s lying is a misdirect. They still can’t find him, searching gardens in the opposite direction from the one he’d actually gone in. There are a few paragraphs devoted to what an egregious fuckup this is for Javert. Apparently his failure to arrest Valjean straight away is right up there with the greatest tactical blunders of all time. Ouch!

He returns to work riding on the donkey of shame instead.  This was not how he thought things were going to go.

What’s going to happen now? Is Javert going to try and get himself fired again? I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see until next time!

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!

 

Dak Reads Les Misérables / FANTINE: 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.

BOOK 8: Javert Gets His Man…for a second

Somehow I forgot to mention that this whole ordeal in the last chapter has turned Valjean’s hair completely white. Yep, that is a thing that has happened. He hitches a ride on the mail cart after he evades authorities by…continuing on about his business as planned, because they’re too busy trying to figure out what the hell just happened to arrest him. (The Mayor has gone mad is still a popular opinion) They’re still attempting to finish the trial anyway, and we’re going to recap that even though we learned what happened to Champmathieu in the last chapter already.

The prosecution still tries to go get Champmathieu convicted, but the defense has been handed a massive gift horse that the judge and jury just can’t ignore. Champmathieu is acquitted, and a warrant is sent out for Jean Valjean aka M. Madeline.

They have to send it by special courier so it will make it to Montrieul Sur Mer and Javert before Valjean can get away. So, I guess he could have avoided all of what happens next if he’d just not gone back there, but he still has some things to take care of. Also, I don’t think he’s actually trying to avoid anything anyway. He did really try his best to get arrested back in Arras.

In any case, Valjean makes it there slightly ahead of the order for his arrest. He goes home where he learns of Fantine’s poor state the night before, and that Sister Simplice let her believe that Cosette was on the way and how it made her feel better. He thinks it’s for the best. She’s surprised to find that his hair has turned completely white.

He asks to see Fantine, and Sister Simplice doesn’t think this is the best idea, since Cosette isn’t with him after all. She thinks maybe if he takes a few days to go and get her that it would be for the best. Fantine won’t know the difference, and it will make her happy. That way she won’t have to lie again.

Lie or not, Sister is getting adept at this deception thing.

And it would be a fine enough plan, if Valjean wasn’t about to get arrested at any moment. This is what he’s worried about, and he wants to see Fantine before he goes. Sister Simplice acquiesces to his request, and he finds Fantine. She’s happy to see him and is already in quite a state, thinking that Cosette is there. She’s happy that she’s going to get to see her daughter, and the sound of a different child playing outside has her convinced that the happy reunion is moments away. Valjean is talking to her, trying to stall the best he can when she sits straight up in bed, terrified, staring at a spot beyond him like she’s seen a ghost. Or a monster. Or a monster ghost.

What is so frightful that could make Fantine react like this?

It’s Javert standing in the doorway. Hand in coat, he seems outwardly chill about this whole thing, but if you’re a close personal friend of Javert (I would like to know who these close personal friends of Javert’s are) you can tell that he’s super keyed up right now and not quite as cool as he’s acting. How can you tell?

The buckle on his collar is on the side by his ear and not in the back where it should be. Just taking this moment to profess my love for Javert and how he expresses emotion through buckle location here. (Also, I’ve attempted to look up what exactly a collar buckle is, and I think it’s referring to a stock buckle, because that actually makes sense in this context.) He is just really pleased with himself for being vindicated after all those years of suspicions and trying to catch the Mayor at being Valjean. Not even the fact that he testified about the wrong man’s identity in front of God and everybody can put a damper on the fact that he’s finally got his guy. He’s gone so far to the left of being pleased with his rightness that he’s dancing on the wrong side of it and is getting a bit scary in the process.

He’s left some soldiers out in the courtyard and hasn’t come in guns blazing or anything. He just grabs Valjean by the collar, tells him to hurry up, without showing a warrant or anything. Javert don’t need no warrants when he’s this right, I guess.

Valjean, much to Fantine’s extreme distress, hangs his head and doesn’t attempt to break Javert’s hold on him. She doesn’t know how this could be; as far as she’s concerned the Mayor is her savior, and Javert can’t hurt her as long as he’s there. Javert, on the other hand is the monster that tried to put her away for defending herself. She’s really confused, because up until that point, she’d thought the Inspector had come for her.

Valjean would be ready to go, resigned to his fate, but there’s one thing he wants to take care of first. He asks Javert for a moment to speak to him alone.

Javert is having none of this. Whatever Valjean has to say, he can say it in front of everybody. So, he has no choice but to ask, out loud, in front of Fantine, for those three days to go fetch Cosette and bring her back. Then he’ll turn himself in. He even offers to let Javert accompany him.

Now, I know we all want to see Fantine and Cosette reunited, and we’re rooting for Valjean, because he’s turned his life around after prison messed him all up, but… Javert isn’t doing anything wrong here, and this is a totally insane request from his point of view or any policeman’s point of view, really. At least if they’re not terrible at their job. There’s absolutely no reason to think that Valjean isn’t just going to take off, never to be seen again. He’s escaped before, several times. The fact that he’s repeatedly been caught at it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent. Javert is absolutely not going to grant this request. I can’t really blame him.

Well if you weren’t able to tell Javert’s current state of agitation by the location of his buckle before, then you will be able to now because he’s not being very subtle about it anymore. He’s pretty much howling in disbelief that a convict would ask such a thing of him. He denounces this town were convicts can be mayor, and calls Fantine a whore for good measure. Way harsh, Javert.

Javert is just getting increasingly excited this whole time. When Fantine cries out for the mayor, Javert silences her, grabs Valjean by the collars again and goes off on this rant about Valjean and convicts and there is no mayor. I have this mental picture of Javert bouncing around the room, arms flailing in triumph shouting something like: I got him! Valjean, that dastardly criminal is mine at last! Woohoo! Javert, for the win!

As for poor Fantine, she has now been alerted to the truth. The mayor is a former convict, Cosette is not there, and nobody’s going to get her. Thanks a bunch, Inspector. She sits up in bed again; a spectre of herself. With all this terrible news hitting her all at once, she finally gives in, and with one last breath, she is gone.

This tragic turn of events causes Valjean to lose patience. He easily pries Javert’s hand from his collar, because the only reason Javert held onto him at all was because he was allowing it. Valjean walks over to the the fire place to grab some kind of big ole metal rod thing and warns Javert that he’d better not try anything. Javert does not, which is probably a wise choice.

He returns to Fantine’s bedside and arranges her on the pillow. she looks at peace for the first time in a very long time. He whispers something in her ear that later Sister Simplice swears caused a smile to cross the dead woman’s lips.

When Valjean is finished at Fantine’s bedside he gives himself over to Javert’s custody.

As we well know by now, gossip travels here and in the wink of an eye the entire town has turned against the former mayor despite all the awesome things he’s done for everybody. Its like a game of telephone when they talk of his real identity: “Béjean”, “Bojean”, “Bonjean”…(Bonjovi?) There are only three people who are still on Valjean’s side. Any guesses?

If you guessed the sisters and his concierge/servant (who, as it turns out, is a woman. I don’t know how that escaped me before.) you would be right.

Later as the concierge is getting ready for the night, she finds a key removed from its peg. Where has it gone? Well, Jean Valjean has escaped from prison again and has sneaked back into his former residence for unfinished biz. Can I just say that I quite enjoy that Valjean did not, in fact, escape from Javert right there at Fantine’s bedside. He actually broke out of jail AGAIN. (Fifth time’s a charm??? Countdown to recapture starts now.) Of course, if they put the many awesome things that happen in this book into the film/stage adaptations we’d be sitting there for a month. The first chapter alone would take a week, although I would look forward to the song about the bandits returning their stolen goods to the Bishop, and the one about his thirteen chairs. Somebody make it happen.

Here Valjean actually prefers not to visit Fantine, because he doesn’t want to disturb her just in case he gets arrested in her presence again. Instead he asks for the concierge to fetch Sister Simplice, who is holding vigil over Fantine with Sister Perpétua and to meet him in his room.

Since they’re all still friends there, she only questions how he’s not in jail right now. He tells her the story which involves removing a metal bar and dropping off a roof. Ain’t no big thing. Once Sister Simplice arrives, he hands over a note. It’s instructions for his money to be given to the Curé to be divided up to pay for his trial, Fantine’s funeral, and the poor. No sooner does he do this than there are some noises out in the hallway. Valjean goes to hide in a corner.

It’s Javert and some henchmen coming around like a herd of elephants. He demands entrance despite the concierge’s protestations, because he saw a light in the window.

Javert is chastened when he barges in and finds Sister Simplice praying instead of the Valjean he is expecting. Now, Javert is a man who believes in authority, and the clergy and the nuns, etc…etc… are right on up there.  As far as he is concerned these men and women of God are above reproach.  Particularly Sister Simplice, because it is well known that she just never ever ever ever lies.

So, when he asks if Jean Valjean is there (he is) and she says without hesitation that he’s not, Javert believes her.

And when he asks if Valjean had been there at all that night and she says “no”, he believes her.

Dang, Sister Simplice! Look at you, aiding and abetting!

Javert leaves empty handed, and Valjean heads off into the night in the direction of Paris.

Later, the Curé decides that he’s going to allocate most of Valjean’s money to the poor, and gives Fantine the cheapest burial available…in a common grave. If you don’t know what that is: Here. And join me in feeling extremely horrible and sad about this final turn of events in Fantine’s story.

Dak Reads Les Misérables / FANTINE: Book 7


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 7: Remember That Guy Who Stole That Bread?

So, now we are going to learn about some events in which nobody really actually knows exactly how or what happened. They must, however be described in very great detail anyway. This is not conjecture on my part due to the verbosity of previous chapters…that is the actual text in the first paragraph. So, let’s get detailed all up in these mysterious events! Settle in!

Fantine has two caretakers in the infirmary, Sister Perpetue and Sister Simplice. To Sister Perpetue being a nun was just a job. Apparently for many this is the case these days. It just seems like the thing to do. Sister Simplice on the other hand was devout, pure and good, fragile in appearance, but strong, neither young nor old, and above everything else she cannot tell a lie.

Let me stress this, because apparently it is something that needs stress: No lies detected. Lying is not within this woman’s capabilities. Never shall her pants be alight. I have some foreshadowy feelings right now.

In any case, Fantine is still dying and waiting for Cosette. She’s not getting better. M. Madeline comes to visit her everyday to reassure her. She no longer hates his guts, and his visits are now the highlight of her days. She asks for Cosette, he says soon, my heart breaks a little, because there is no Cosette forthcoming and Fantine is fading fast.

Later, M. Madeline goes to see a man about a horse. He is really careful to avoid the door to the rectory and the curé that lives inside for some reason. I wonder why? Anyway, he needs a horse that can travel an exactly calculated distance in a short time at a fast clip without dropping dead in the street as horses are apparently wont to do in these days. M. Scaufflaire, the horse renting dude, has the perfect candidate, but he has all sorts of provisions that Madeline must follow if he’s going to be working the poor thing that hard. After haggling for a while, Madeline procures the ride which will arrive early the next morning to his place of residence.

M. Scaufflaire and his wife have a little back and forth about where the mayor is going in such a big hurry, because of course they do. Everybody talks about everybody’s business here, don’t they? She thinks he’s off to Paris naturally, but he has the exact distances that Madeline outlined for him. He’s going to Arras, which just so happens to be the place Champmathieu is being tried.

Meanwhile, Madeline avoids the rectory again on the way back and returns to his room where, according to the dude who lives below him, he paces back and forth all night long.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re just going to spell it out for you right now that Champmathieu is not the ValJean they are looking for. M. Madeline is indeed the Jean Valjean of legend, and right now he’s having a massive internal crisis over what he should do with the info that Javert has just laid upon him. It’s the reason he avoided the rectory earlier in the afternoon. He was hoping he had left Jean Valjean behind him for good.

He vacillates between the two options: A. Turn himself in and B. Do nothing.

First he thinks he ought to do nothing because clearly God wanted Champmathieu to go to prison in his place, and who is he to go against God?

After that he thinks he should turn himself in, because to remain hidden and let this other man take the fall for him would be a crime unto itself, and it would undo all the good he’s done in his life after turning over his new leaf. He could either be a good devout man in public but secretly a sketchy bad dude or vice versa.

Then he thinks of Fantine and everybody else in town. what would happen to all of them if he goes back to the slammer? And, I mean, Champmathieu was born with his face after all, and he did steal those apples, didn’t he? So he should be going to jail anyway. Of course there is a world of difference between a while in Jail for a first time apple stealing offence and the remainder of life on the chain gang for breaking parole and stealing from a chimney sweep.

He decides again that it would probably be best for everyone if he just let nature take its course and stay put instead of going to confess his identity. So, he opens up a secret cupboard where he has been keeping all remnants of his former life. His old walking stick is there, his old convict clothes are there. That 40 sou piece he stole from the chimney sweep is there. He throws all that in the fire. All vestiges of Jean Valjean are gone, save one… The Bishop’s candlesticks. The most valuable of all the silver and the only pieces that Valjean did not sell. He has kept them as a sort of souvenir, to remember his goal to turn his life around. He can’t decide whether or not he wants to pitch those into the flame as well. You see, he’s only had two goals since he came to that crossroads those years ago: #1 Live his life as a better man, doing good works and such. He’s basically been following in the Bishop’s footsteps all this time. and #2 Self preservation, and he’s been willing to sacrifice #2 for #1 in the past. See: going into mourning for the Bishop, and keeping his candlesticks on full display in his room instead of hiding them away with the rest of his past, and lifting that cart off Fauchelevent despite Javert standing around practically calling him out right there.

It is at this point while he’s pondering the melting point of silver that he hears voices. They might be the voices of his conscious at work, which I imagine sound like a certain Bishop, telling him that it’s wrong to let an innocent man take the fall for something he didn’t do. And his mind continues to go around and around in these circles all night long.

Madeline remains undecided until 5am when the cart arrives. He does manage to write a letter to his banker and get a wink of sleep in which he has an insane dream during this long night of reflection. He writes down the dream so we can relive it in vivid detail, because these are the most detailed events that nobody knows about ever:

He’s walking around chatting with his brother that he hasn’t thought about in ages in a place that he thinks might be Romainville by way of a desert road. They’re talking about a neighbor that used to leave her window open, because that is the sort of thing that happens in dreams. It is probably symbolic in some way that I can’t parse right now. There’s also a hairless grey skull man riding a brown horse that doesn’t talk to them. The brother disappears and leaves Valjean in this mysterious town with mysterious men around every corner who just stare at him and don’t answer his questions about where he is.

He decides to leave this city, and as he’s out walking in the fields he realizes that all these men are following him. They overtake and surround him and tell him that he’s been dead for a while. When he tries to speak they have all disappeared.

He wakes up in a kind of daze to the coach waiting for him. His one and only servant comes to get him. He’s really confused at first until he gets his bearings back and he decides to go ahead to Arras.

He takes off out of town at quite the pace, according to the guy delivering mail…a process which is described in great detail down to the color of the mail cart and when the mail is delivered. M. Madeline is a man with a purpose! He brushes by the mail cart on his way, and he stops at the agreed upon intervals to rest his horse, and doesn’t realize that he’s been running on a broken wheel the whole time until a wheelwright there happens to notice and inform him that he was lucky to make it as far as he had.

M. Madeline attempts to get the wheelwright to fix the wheel, but he’s told it will take the rest of the day, but it’s alright, he can make it to Arras in the morning. Of course, this won’t do, because the trial is supposed to be that day. Madeline then tries to buy a whole new wheel, but he can’t drive on mismatched wheels. He tries to buy two new wheels, but they won’t fit on the axle on his particular cart. He tries to buy a whole cart, but all the available carts are too heavy for his poor horse that is really tired already. The wheelwright isn’t going to rent him a new one either, because he’s worried about what condition they might come back in judging by Madeline’s current horse and cart situation.

I’m really worried about this horse at this point, and also wondering why Madeline just doesn’t buy a riding horse from someone since he’s flinging money around for carts and wheels all over anyway. (In retrospect, a day after reading this I realize that he can’t ride his current horse because Scaufflaire specifically mentioned that this speedy creature doesn’t like riders. It likes pulling the cart though.) In any case, he’s actually really rather grateful to be running up against all these obstacles, because the longer he’s delayed the less he has to confess his Valjeanness to the world. He’s just about ready to feel relieved about the situation when he’s accosted by another citizen who just so happen to have a rickety old cart he could use.

Oh, well.

On the road again. Eventually his new cart is too rickety and his horse too tired to go the final miles which have increased because of road construction and he now would have to navigate a new route through unknown country in the dark. Once again the townsfolk try to convince him to stay the night, and again he tries his best to continue on his way, because if he tried his best then at least he can get a gold star for trying. He considers that maybe God is trying to tell him that he shouldn’t be going to Arras after all, but he manages to procure a new cart, a supplementary horse to help pull it, and even a guide to help him on his way. He makes it to the trial by 8 o’clock. He thinks maybe they have finished and he missed it, because he’s really late and his trip took ten more hours than he was expecting it to take. He asks after the verdict and someone happily tells him that it was an easy guilty call.

He’s sort of relieved until he finds out that it was the trial before Champmathieu that’s being referred to. A woman, an infanticide. Open and shut. The guy he’s talking to seems to think the apple stealing, chimney sweep robbing, former convict case will be just as easy, but that trial is still ongoing.

At first they won’t let Madeline into the trial, but he calls on his mayoral renown to get a seat in the packed room. He’s still roiling in his internal conflict and very nearly runs away, but he’s drawn back and takes his seat in the poorly lit room where he can see what is going on, but they can’t really see him.

I would like to take this moment to point out that jerk, Bamatabois, is a juror in this trial. If you don’t remember, he’s the fierce mustache that Fantine almost got arrested for attacking. I wonder if he just randomly keeps popping up everywhere for no reason.

Anyway, there Madeline finds himself, facing himself in the form of Champmathieu who is quite bewildered at the whole situation and denying everything, even his ‘name’, because it’s not his name. We know that, of course, but everybody else is quite convinced otherwise, what with so many witnesses including one Inspector of unimpeachable moral character. Madeline spies his former convict buddies, but he can’t see Javert anywhere even though he knows the Inspector is supposed to be there testifying. Right now Champmathieu is only being charged for the apples, which they’re only certain he stole because he’s this former convict. Otherwise there is no proof. If they prove he’s Jean Valjean then that is enough. He’ll be tried for the other things (the parole breaking and chimney sweep robbing) at a later time, and the punishment will be much harsher for being a second time offender.

Well, what’s a mayor to do now? He’s had every obstacle thrown in front of him, and here he is facing his fate anyhow. Maybe God is trying to tell him something after all, but it’s not the thing he wanted to hear.

Meanwhile, Fantine is in a terrible state. She’s withering away and her illness has made her old. She’s weak and watching the click for any sign of M. Madeline, but we know he is off carting himself to Arras at this point.

In fact the sisters have only just found out from the servant guy that Madeline is gone out and they have no idea where to. So what to tell Fantine when the time of Madeline’s regular visit has come and gone and still there is no sign of him?

This is where Sister Simplice’s lie comes in.

It’s pretty much a lie of omission for not telling Fantine everything about M. Madeline’s trip…not that she knows much to tell. She lets Fantine believe that he has gone to Montfermeil to fetch Cosette and she’ll be there in the morning. This thought makes Fantine’s spirits soar. Where she was tired and haggard before, she is now bright and alert.

Oh, Fantine.

As we know, Madeline has actually gone in the opposite direction from Paris. He’s still watching Champmathieu denying any wrongdoing over in Arras. The poor old guy denies even stealing the apples! He claims to have found the branch lying on the ground, and he’s never heard of this Jean Valjean character.

In the face of these denials, the witnesses are called again. Except for Javert. The reason Madeline hasn’t spotted him isn’t because he’s lurking somewhere in a dark corner, but he had to return to work.

His previous testimony is read aloud, where he recounts his time working at Toulon and seeing Valjean there, and his suspicion that Valjean did steal the silver despite what the Bishop told the gendarmes, and of course the matter of the forty sous.

Then the convicts are paraded in one by one. They can’t be sworn in officially, but they testify to Champmathieu’s identity as well.

So the trial is about to end and poor Champmathieu is pretty much a goner at this point despite his only crime being nothing actually, when there is a cry from Madeline as he enters the courtroom floor. Gasps of surprise from Bamatabois and all around.

Madeline reveals himself as the real Jean Valjean right there at the last possible second. The judge wants him to be taken into medical care because clearly he has come down with a case of the crazies. Nobody believes his confession. He even confesses to the silver theft and wishes Javert was there, because Javert would believe him for sure.

I’m not gonna lie, I wish Javert was there too. I’m sure the look on his face would be priceless.

Madeline finally has to prove himself by revealing details about his convict buddies that only the real Valjean would know.

In the end Champmathieu is found not guilty and Valjean walks right out because everybody’s too stunned to do anything about it. Where’s a wolf puppy when you need one!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / FANTINE: Book 6


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 6
: Wolf Puppy!

In which Javert even refers to himself in the third person in the book.

M. Madeline takes Fantine to the hospital after she passed out in the last chapter. The hospital is also his house, or his house contains hospital beds. Either way, Fantine is there. She’s not really recovering, but she hopes to see her daughter soon.

Madeline has written to the Thénardiers and attempts to settle Fantine’s debt to them. He sends for the child. The Thénardiers are no dummies, so they realize quickly that Cosette has just turned into some kind of major cash cow. They don’t send her. Instead they ask for more money. Madeline supplies it.

No Cosette. They want more money. So it goes for a while while Fantine is over here dying. Madeline’s about to travel down to Montfermiel himself to get Cosette when he is visited by a certain Javert.

We’ll switch gears for a moment and see what our dear inspector has been up to since last we saw him. Gossip around town is that he’s been corresponding with Paris and now he’s come to tell the Mayor that there has been a crime committed. A crime that has been perpetrated against the Mayor himself!

This all comes as news to Madeline. I mean if someone committed a crime against him, surely he would know about it. Right? He asks Javert what the fresh hell he’s talking about. Javert, as it turns out, is the perpetrator.

Plot Twist!

Madeline is still confused. Javert insists that he be fired. Quitting would be too honorable, and he feels he should be disgraced for his indiscretion. We’re all going to need a little clarification before anybody gets dismissed, and Javert is going to give us a tour through the mind acrobatics he’s gone through in order to arrive at the conclusion that he ought to be sent packing.

So, after the whole Fantine debacle, Javert was pretty enraged. He actually put pen to paper and wrote down his suspicions and sent them on their suspicious way to Paris. Their reply? Javert, you crazy! They already had the suspect, Jean Valjean, in custody.

Oh, really?

Let’s explain…

It seems a guy who just happens to match Jean Valjeans description was caught stealing apples from somebody’s tree. (Bread is a gateway food!) This guy also just happens to have had the same job as a pruner that Valjean had. Though nobody from Valjean’s old life can be found to identify him, there are a couple of his old convict friends that say this apple-stealer is the guy. Even Javert recognizes him, and is already to set forth and identify the man himself.

And then there is the matter of his name. His name is Champmathieu. I will spare you the prodigious hoops it takes to derive that from Jean Valjean. All you need to know is that it is somehow a perfectly logical assumption based on Valjean’s mother’s maiden name and French dialects. Javert seems excited about it.

And this is why he must be dismissed, for slandering the mayor’s good name.

Of course, Madeline has absolutely zero intention of dismissing anybody. Javert insists, Madeline declines — a few times. Javert makes his case further.

He doesn’t think he should be dismissed for being suspicious. He would be a crap inspector if he wasn’t. He thinks he deserves the dishonor because he denounced Madeline as a convict in a fit of pique with no proof, and it just isn’t right to be vengeful like that. He doesn’t want any special consideration, because he would totally sack his subordinates if they ever did such a thing, and what kind of an example would that be if he didn’t abide by the same rules?

Javert spends a bit more time explaining why he must be fired immediately, and in the end Madeline shakes his hand and offers up a maybe. Javert is certainly vexed at this point. He considers himself no better than a spy right now, and the Mayor should not even deign to shake hands with him. What does a guy gotta do to get fired around here?

Javert finally leaves, informing Madeline that he will do his job until his replacement arrives, and that is that.