Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: 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

Marius: Book 7; A Rhombus of Villainy (and a list of other bad dudes)

Time for a break from Marius and his crazy pants for an: Actual Bad Guys Alert! This is actually all this short chapter is about. First, a long explanation comparing mines to the strata of society. Here’s a list of people from the top going down to the bottom of this mine analogy: Jan Hus > Luther > Descartes > Voltaire > Condorcet > Robespierre > Marat > Babeuf

Way down at the bottom is a black hole of evil and crime, and that is where we find the next giant list of characters that are going to be introduced to us. A quartet of bandits were ruling the night around Paris in the early 1830’s, and we are going to learn about them now!

First up is Gueulemer. He’s the big dumb lazy brawn of the group. He’s described as having “a colossus’s body and bird’s skull.” So now I’m imaging he looks like a goomba from that live-action Super Mario Brothers movie. Good luck removing that image from your head. You’re welcome! He could have used his brute power for good by capturing bad guys, but chose to become a bad guy instead.

Babet is the opposite of Gueulemer. He’s a thin shrewd man who doesn’t give away any of his secrets. He sells plaster busts of “The head of the Government,” as well as being one of those street tooth-pulling guys.

Babet had been a family man and a traveled with them once upon a time. He read the papers, which is a rare thing in the circles he runs in and bemoaned the fact that his wife never gave birth to a child with a goat face. This didn’t come out of nowhere. It wasn’t like he was yearning for a goat-faced child. He’d just read about such an event once, and that could have made them a lot of money. He left his family so he could take on Paris.

Claquesous is the most mysterious of the group. Nobody knows where he lives, nobody knows his name (Claquesous is a nickname.) Nobody knows what he looks like, he either wears a mask or lurks in the darkness. He only talks to people with his back turned.

Montparnasse is the youngest and I get the impression most deadly of the bunch. Not even twenty, he’s a fresh faced kid, bringing the pretty to the underworld party. By eighteen he had a stack of bodies in his wake already. Daaaamn, boyfriend. He is a gamin turned assassin, and his reason for being a murdering marauder is simply this: He wants to be the best dressed dude in Paris. (What? Is he disposing of the competish? Or is he stealing their finery? Or just stealing their money so he can buy new clothes? All of the above? What is your game, Montparnasse!?)

Even though his coat is a bit threadbare, Montparnasse is the fashion plate of the group. He wears his hat at a jaunty angle so he can show off a lock of hair as is the fashion. He keeps a flower in his buttonhole. He was “gentle, effeminate, graceful, robust, weak and ferocious.”

Does anybody else want to see some sort of dandy-off between Bamatabois, Bahorel, and Montparnasse? Fierce Mustache vs. Rash Waistcoat vs. Deadly Dandy. One of the events can be waistcoat layering! Bonus points for each extraneous fob watch chain!

bamatabois bahorel montparnasse Image Map

 

This band of characters was known as Patron-Minette. They were basically a pimple on the butt of society, if I had to put it into different words. If anybody needed any shady business done, then these were the guys to see.

Now this quartet weren’t single..err..eight handedly? perpetrating all the crime in all of Paris associated with Patron-Minette. Here is a big long list of the gang’s lower echelons:

Panchaud, aka Printainier, aka Bigrenaille,

Brujon. (There is a whole dynasty of Brujons that I am being informed we will be learning about later),

Boulatruelle. (See! I knew we would hear about him again! If you don’t remember and you hate links, Boulatruelle is the friendly former convict who saw Jean Valjean go into the woods with his treasure chest of money outside of Montfermeil. You know, when there was talk of Valjean belonging to some mysterious roaming pack of thieves. What are we describing now? A roaming pack of thieves? See, how it all comes together!)

Laveuve,
Finistère,
Homer Hogu (a black man),
Mardisoir,
Dépâche,
Fauntleroy, aka Bouquetière,
Glorieux (former convict),
Barrecarrosse, aka M. Dupont,
Lesplande-du-Sud,
Poussagrive,
Carmagnolet
Kruideniers aka Bizarro (aka best alias yet!)
Mangedentelle,
Les-pieds-en-l’air,
Demi-liard aka Deux-milliards,
and etc…

Hey! Why stop there, Hugo? We should learn the name of each and every bandit ever associated with Patron-Minette and their little dogs too!

There’s a few more paragraphs about how these goblins among men rule the night and the only thing that can slay them is the daylight, and that is it for this chapter!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these last few relatively short installments, because the next one is nearly 100 pages long, so I’m predicting a lot of crazy stuff is going to go down and we’ll have about a thousand new characters to learn about. Either that, or it’s one hundred pages about something only tangentially related to the story, like the history of Parisian cobblestones or something. I will leave you in suspense!

Until the next time!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: 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

Marius: Book 5; Forever Alone (but not really)

Hey! You remember way back in the beginning of Marius’s book when we were talking about the gamins and Gavroche and the Jondrettes: his terrible family who live in Gorbeau house next door to this mysterious man of mystery and no money named M. Marius?

I know, it’s been a while. That was one heck of a flashback. Well, we have arrived back at that point. Marius has disembarked from his schmancy hotel room next door to his buddy Courfeyrac and somehow landed himself at Gorbeau house in a closet sized room with only the bare necessities. He has three shirts, and two suits, and eats one egg and a slice of bread for breakfast. This part really goes into great detail about how he parses out the little money he does have.

The point is Marius is poor now, and the only thing he has left is his pride and his bootstraps, which he has taken a couple years (I surmise because he’s twenty now and the last time we were given his age he was only eighteen) to successfully pull himself up by to the point where he is not living in a cardboard box or dying of starvation in the street or aimlessly riding around in a cab with no idea about what to do. Hell, he’s even loaned Courfeyrac some money at this point. He’s learned English and German and has his translating job for his coin, and by the way, Marius is a lawyer now. He has apparently completed his schooling on the subject. I still have to wonder how he managed to pay for school since he’s so adamant about not taking money from his grandpa. Did Grandpa G. just foot the bill anyway? Did you only have to pay once back then and take the classes then you were a lawyer? I guess I could research how law school at this time actually functioned, but… maybe later.

Anyway, Marius in his mule-like stubbornness is dead set still against taking money from Grandpa G….which still occasionally appears at his doorstep. How does this keep happening? I can’t imagine Marius left them a forwarding address at any point, so how does his aunt keep finding him when he doesn’t even know where he’s going half the time? She’s like the alumni association at my former school. I swear, I could have an unlisted, untraceable phone that I only use once to make outgoing calls before tossing it out for a new one and they would still find me. I only wish they were trying to give me money instead of asking for it.

Marius even refuses to run up any debt at all. Unheard of in the land of studentry! Good job, Marius. If it comes down to a choice between skipping a meal or taking out credit to eat, he’s going to go hungry that day. He doesn’t have much, but he’s making it work. I was totally wrong about this kid. He’s functioning just fine on his own. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get distracted into not paying rent again since Gorbeau house is apparently the only run down tenement in all of Paris.

Still he is Marius, and we know he takes things very seriously once he manages to get focused. (He still seems unapproachable because he doesn’t talk much and this serious demeanor of his.) He’s still in mourning for his dad. Is two entire years far past the appropriate mourning period for this time, or is it just me? Because that seems extreme. He won’t even go out in his dark green suit unless it’s nighttime, because it’s not black enough. He only has two suits, so I guess he doesn’t venture out in the daytime much. Maybe somewhere up in heaven Georges is looking down saying: I love you Marius, but that’s enough, son.

Well, if there’s one thing we can learn about Marius, it’s that there is literally nothing he can’t get obsessed over, including being poor. He’s a lawyer, but he doesn’t take any cases. He squeaks by translating things and not eating, and stops just short of doing enough work to make a decent living. He’d rather be free to while away his days thinking about stuff instead of being chained to a desk for the rest of his life being a slave to the wage.

That’s not the only thing he’s being obsessive about these days. He’s also desperate to find the Thénardiers, and he’s traveling all over France in a bid to accomplish this. Yes, he wants to find the man who saved his father from the battlefield that day and do whatever he can to help the guy just as it said in his father’s will. It is really killing me that Marius is so earnest and determined about this, knowing who and what Thénardier is. He even feels bad about the hard times these people have fallen upon since they lost their inn. He wonders how it is possible he can’t find this Thénardier anywhere in France when Thénardier was able to find his dad in the midst of bullets flying and people dying everywhere at Waterloo. It surprises me too considering how often the characters in this book keep stumbling into each other in the unlikeliest of places. If only he knew. If only he knew a couple things actually.

As for Les Amis and Enjolras, they get another mention as still being friendly with Marius, so he hasn’t completely cut ties with them to become a hermit. However, a couple sentences later we are being told that his friends are Courfeyrac and Mabeuf, so I guess these two are higher up on the friend chain than the rest of them, and Mabeuf ranks higher than Courfeyrac as far as who Marius would rather hang out with if he has to hang out with other people.

It is really not surprising that Marius prefers being around people decades older than he is though, is it? (especially ones that knew his father)

We have reached year three of Marius’s estrangement from his grandfather now. Neither one of them is willing to make an overture. Marius seems to be perfectly content in his solitary life as a pauper/lawyer and just assumes that Grandpa G. hates him and never wants to see him again. Grandpa G. has done absolutely nothing to make him think otherwise. If the text wasn’t telling me that all his cane waving angry talk was his crotchety old man way of loving his dear grandson then I’d think the guy hated him too. He misses Marius a lot, but is still unwilling to admit that to anybody.

Well, at least somebody does. The Elder has no thoughts about her nephew at all, but we all know who her fave “nephew” is, and it isn’t poor old (at heart) Marius. We will learn the extent of just how much of a non-entity Marius is to her later on in this chapter, but now…

Let us embark on another interlude and learn all about our favorite Church Warden, Mabeuf!

Mabeuf, we come to find, is a great fan of plants and a devoted book lover. He’s not really here for all this political biz. He doesn’t understand why men spend time hating each other over things like charters and monarchies and democracies, etc and so forth. There are too many plants to admire and books to read to be fussed with that stuff. If we are to describe him as any “ist” (because everybody is an ist of some sort), he is a Bookist. Bookist!? Where do I sign up for this party? He doesn’t want to be a useless old man, so he reads as much as he collects books, and admiring plants doesn’t stop him gardening, something he and Georges bonded over. Of course they did! It’s officially reached the point where all this good guy gardening hardly comes as a surprise anymore. He even combined his two passions and wrote a book about plants. He owns the plates himself, so up until the July Revolution in 1830, he had made quite a tidy living selling these books in addition to being a church warden. Turns out people aren’t too fond of spending their hard earned cash on things like flower books when there’s a revolution on.

A few more tidbits about Mabeuf, he’s a little gouty, a little arthritic, doesn’t like swords or guns, has a curé brother, white hair, and rather looks like an old sheep. His dream is to naturalize the indigo plant to France, and he doesn’t have friends aside from an old bookseller and the kid. He lets Marius hang around because young people are like a sunny day to help to warm up an old guy’s soul. (I never imagined being around Marius would ever be compared to a sunny day, but there you have it!)

As for Mabeuf’s personal life, well… He likes his books the way Grandpa G. loves the ladies. He has a housekeeper whom he calls Mother Plutarch. She’s an old cat lady who spends her free time collecting white caps and admiring her linens. Her cat’s name is Sultan. They have matching whiskers.

His brother, the curé, had died in 1830, and Mabeuf had fallen on hard times due to that whole revolution business. He had to move into a smaller place where the only people allowed to visit were Marius and the bookseller friend. How does the cat have a name, but not this book guy? Can I name him Gui de Books from now on? (My spell check thinks I’m trying to spell guidebooks! Wow, pun not intended!)

As for Marius, we learn he likes Courfeyrac well enough, but he goes out of his way to visit Mabeuf. Only once or twice a month though. I guess Marius might turn into a pumpkin if he has too much human contact. (Hey, if that happens, he can wear one of those melon jackets!)  Most of the time he just walks around alone and admires gardens. Once, he spent half an entire hour in a vegetable patch…looking at cabbages and chickens and a manure pile or some such. I was wondering when Marius was going to start his transition into an old man with a garden. This is how it begins!

He has mellowed out with his political opinions during this time, so I guess he isn’t going to be climbing up on his soapbox and extolling the virtues of Napoleon in front of unreceptive audiences anymore? We also learn that Marius did have a reason for choosing the Gorbeau house, a place he stumbled upon during one of his walks. He likes the solitude and the price. Somehow, despite having a limited amount of friends and preferring to hang out with himself forever alone, staring at plants, he does get invited to parties with old military friends of his father’s that he’s met around town. He only goes out when the ground his frozen, though, because he can’t go out to these fancy parties with dirty shoes (scandal!) and he can’t afford the cab to keep his feet out of the mud. That’s really got to limit his social engagements, doesn’t it? He only goes out at night when the ground is frozen?

One more incident regarding Marius before we move on. One day he came home to his room at the Gorbeau house and the landlady/housekeeper person tells him that she’s going to kick the Jondrettes out of the house because they’re two months behind on rent. Marius hardly pays attention to these people to even know who they are, but he he pays for their rent + five extra francs with almost his entire cache of rainy day money anyway with the provision that they never know it was him that did the good deed. You are being far too kind, Marius. Really.

Meanwhile, at the Gillenormand pad, the Elder is hatching her own nefarious plot. What could she be planning? Well, guess who’s regiment is now stationed in Paris? You should be guessing Théodule because he’s the only military man we know that’s still alive. Stationed in Paris? I have a sinking feeling about this turn of events. As for the Elder and her grand scheme, she thinks if she can get Grandpa G. and his nephew together then maybe Théodule could take the place of Marius in the household or something. She wants to exchange the Lawyer for the Lieutenant. Man, is it just me, or does Mlle. here have quite a thing for her distant relative? Of course, he is the only dude that’s ever kissed her apparently, and he has the shiniest of mustaches, so I guess I can see the attraction. You don’t just replace Marius, though! C’mon, lady! Clearly he is a special boy that cannot be replicated.

As for Grandpa G. he doesn’t even know who Théodule is. Does he just not care to know, or is he having a senior moment? He’s got to be a hundred years old by now, so who knows. The Elder reminds him and then coaches Théodule for the imminent meeting by telling him to just agree with everything that comes out of the old man’s mouth.

Grandpa G. spends the entire meeting ranting and raving about those damn kids on his lawn. His Royalist leaning newspaper has told him that the students are preparing to have a debate about the National Guard artillery, but he doesn’t think it’s something to be debated. The King’s military can do no wrong, so there’s no need to discuss it. How dare they! He presumes Marius is going to be there, since he’s a student; and in addition to being generally irritated with kids these days, he’s particularly perturbed by that ungrateful grandson of his going off to be a republican.

Théodule dutifully agrees with Grandpa G.’s every crazy old man opinion, and gets called a fool for his efforts. Can anybody win with Grandpa G.?  The magic 8 ball says: Very Doubtful.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: Book 4


 

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

Marius: Book 4; They’re Historic to Me!

First a correction! Théodule, I realize now, Is Grandpa G.’s great nephew. That makes total sense. I guess I mixed up my M.s and my Mlle.s To be fair though, he still referred to the Elder as Aunt, so you can see the confusion, right?

Moving right along… I know what you were thinking: This book does not have enough amazing characters in it. We need at the very least nine more to love. It’s time to meet Enjolras and his crew: Smarty, Friendly, Unlucky, Fighty, Drunky, Little Orphan Feuilly, and of course, Bashful and Doc. In case you didn’t get where I was going with that. Bring it on, and bring on the puns in all their glorious glory.

So, Paris at this time was in some sort of pre-revolution period. The rumblings of unrest were stirring, and although there was no massive organized group of dissidents, there were starting to crop up underground groups here and there.

A man named Enjolras headed up one small secret group known as Les Amis de l’ABC: Friends of the ABC translated.  However, in French, ABC pronounced like Ah-Bay-Say, which is pronounced like the French word abaissé , The Abased in English; aka the People. This is who they advocated for. Down with the Monarchy, up with the People, etc… They met in at the bistro Corinth near the workers or in the backroom at the café Musain, near the students where they hung up a map of the old Republic and discussed their plans and ideas and drank and had fun and talked about about life and anything and everything, sometimes all at the same time as we will see a little later in this chapter. Most of them were students, a couple were not. They were more than mere friends. They had formed a little family.

Let us get to know their names and their distinct and delightful personalities.  (They have them!) Y’know, before a truly terrible fate is going to befall all of them. Yes, the text straight up warns us right here and now this will definitely be happening. I hope you’ve enjoyed most of your faves being alive for half the book so far. Seriously though, by the end of this you are going to feel like you’ve been stabbed in the heart. Repeatedly. So, fair warning.

First and foremost; Enjolras: “Marble Lover of Liberty”, the only son from a rich family. He is often compared to a statue and by all accounts is the fairest of them all. No, seriously, Enjolras is one beautiful guy.

He’s in his early twenties, but still has the youthful appearance of a teenager. Blue eyes, fair skin, rosy cheeks, long lashes, red lips, blond hair flowing in the wind. (I’m not making up the blowing in the wind part. Apparently this is a thing that Enjolras’s hair actually does. Maybe Feuilly follows him around with a fan sometimes?)

Watch out, ladies! No, really. watch out. Because, woe…actual WOE unto the poor woman that gets her sights set on this guy. It’s never going to happen. He’s just not that into you, ladies. Anybody that would happen to try it on will just get a death glare in return for their troubles.

Though he has this fresh faced and youthful appearance, there is something in his eyes like he’s seen it all before in some other life maybe; Revolution. He is a warrior at heart, “officiating and militant”, “Soldier of Democracy.” He’s not mindful of much else aside from justice and the Republic, not women, not spring, not stopping and smelling the roses. He’s definitely charming, inspiring in his speeches, leader of men, also…here it says capable of being intimidating. I’ve seen others where it says terrible instead of intimidating, but either way he’s not someone to be trifled with.

Don’t mess with Enjolras. Don’t underestimate him. He’ll fuck you up if you get in his way.

Here’s a few people he gets compared to in this section: Antoinous, Gracchus, Harmodious.

Thankfully there is someone there to temper him before he jumps headfirst into a fire without thinking it through. Enjolras’s second in command, Combeferre. He is the calm, the voice reason, to go with Enjolras’s passion. A student of philosophy, and everything, really. Combeferre knows all the things. Don’t challenge him to a game of Trivial Pursuit, because you will lose. He’s one smart cookie.

He’s really concerned about the state of education these days, because he thinks society should work towards gaining more knowledge and throwing more ideas out into the world. He’s a big fan of innovation, and he is afraid that the methods of the day, the routine, and the dogmatism is just stagnating. That the world is just going to slip into complacency. Preach it, Combeferre.

Combeferre is Enjolras’s “guide” here. Though he’s not against a fight. He can throw down with the best of them if it comes to that. He would prefer to solve the problems of the world with enlightenment though. While his brethren were ready for revolutionary adventure time, he was okay with progress’s natural and slow but inevitable march forward.

Then there’s Jean Prouvaire. He’s rich and an only child like Enjolras and he even gets a first name! He calls himself Jehan. He is soft-spoken, seemingly shy, but underneath his mannerisms, Jehan is brave and strong and definitely isn’t afraid of speaking up when the time calls for it. He writes poems, plays the flute, is prone to crying, blushes often, has awkward hair, a terrible fashion sense, and cultivates a pot of flowers, so we know for a fact he’s a good person right down to his core. Hah! I really hope this isn’t the last mention of Jehan and his flowers, because wandering around fandom makes it feel like he has such an epic love of flora that he’s got them sprouting out from his heels wherever he walks, Fern Gully style.

Actually that’s not too far off. He does enjoy a good frolic in fields of wheat and bluebells while observing the clouds. Is he Bambi? What is happening? Wait, no, strike that…he would totally be Flower if we’re talking in Bambi metaphors now. (We all know Marius would be the Bambi in this scenario anyway! Courfeyrac is Thumper.)

Jehan is who we’re talking about now though! He’s a well read individual, and knows at least three languages so he can read Dante, Juvenal, Aeschylus, and Isaiah, and when he’s not pondering clouds, he’s pondering social issues of the day.

rashwaistcoat.jpg

Next up, Bahorel. His parents are country folk, but he’s been a professional student for long enough that he knows his way around Paris and is the string that connects these newly forming revolutionary groups around town. His an idler, has a hat, and wears rash waistcoats… How can a waistcoat be rash? Help me translation gods, I don’t understand what this means! Bold colours to go with his personality? I don’t know. (It’s going into the closet with the “melon jackets”) He’s also full of good humor, talkative, friendly, brave, spends money like it’s going out of style, loves escalating an argument into a good brawl and is always up for taking down a government. He was even involved in the insurrections during the Workers movement in the early 1820s.

He’d studied law once, but it isn’t really for him apparently since his motto is “Never a Lawyer”. Good motto! He’s been a student for a while now though, I have no idea what he’s studying now if not law? Is he just sitting there in school, taking up space, thinking up songs and doodling his in the margins of his notebooks while pondering his next great adventure? Well, whatever is going on with his studies, he does in fact do a whole lot of nothing on top of that, and has apparently a huge allowance to do it with. (3,000 francs approximately) I guess his parents are pretty successful at whatever it is they’re doing out in the country.

Lesgle, aka L’Aigle, aka L’Aigle de Meaux (Eagle of Meaux), aka Lésgle aka Bossuet aka OMG why do you have all these names, Lesgle?

Okay, there is a story. Let us hear it told: Once upon a time a man presented a petition to the King, because he wanted a post office. This dude was called L’Aigle. The king was not pleased with this name at first. (I’m assuming because of This Guy?), but then he saw the name on the petition was signed “Lesgle” This made the king happy because it wasn’t a Bonapartist spelling.

To make a long story even longer, this L’Aigle character goes on to explain that his non-specific ancestor with a very specific occupation (dog trainer) was actually named Lesgueules. He’d contracted it to Lesgle, and further into L’Aigle. Somehow this story that has nothing to do with anything really, least of all why this guy should get a post office, has pleased the king even further. He gives the guy his post office either “intentionally, or inadvertently”.

How do you accidentally give a man a post office? How does that happen? We may never know.

In any case, this post office was in Meaux, and this guy had a son. This son is the L’Aigle de Meaux we will come to know and love. His friends call him Bossuet, for “brevity’s” sake. I assume because, if he went by L’Aigle, they’d have to tell the entire post office story every time they said it?

So, I’m making an executive decision to call him Bossuet from now on, since we’re all friends here. He is the unluckiest Eagle to have ever perched in France apparently. He can’t do anything right. He’s bald at twenty five, he lost all the money and land his father left him in bad investments. Therefor, he has a great sense of humour about life, probably because if he didn’t laugh, he would have to cry. He is also a law student in the way Bahorel is a law student (Law students against lawyers?) and he’s kind of homeless. He splits his time living with his friends, most often at Joly’s place.

If there’s one thing you should take from this passage it is this: Bossuet’s nickname is the Eagle. He is bald. You realize this makes him a bald eagle, yes? In a chapter full of puns, I feel like this is a thing that needed to be said.

Joly is two years younger than Bossuet (so 23). He is the resident hypochondriac doctor in training! Well, being in doctor school (congratulations on not being a lawyer, Joly!) has put him on the lookout for anything and everything that could be a sign that something is going wrong with him. He spends a great amount of time peering at his tongue in the mirror and positioning his bed to get the most out of the Earth’s magnetic fields. Despite being so neurotic about his health, he is the most jovial in a group that seems to packed to the brim with good humour. Seriously, they seem like a swell bunch of guys to hang out with.

His friends call him Jolllly sometimes, because he can soar on four L’s says Jehan. Ailes = wings in English. Get it? You guys are just being silly now! These name puns will be the death of me! I will die laughing.

He rubs his nose with his cane as a habit, which is apparently a sign of a sharp mind (or an itchy nose?)

Courfeyrac is the son of an M. de Courfeyrac. Back in the day the “de” was highly valued by the bourgeois, so much so that your average man would just drop it from their name. Courfeyrac’s father dropped the “de” and this is why Courfeyrac has no participle in his name, because I know that is something you were wondering about.  He kept it the way his father had, because he didn’t want to go backsliding into the past. He is the centre of the group, the heart if you will, but there is not too much description about him, because he is described as: Felix Tholomyès. You remember Tholomyès, right? I know, I know, I was trying to forget that guy too.

Wait, before you get out your pitchforks and come for Courfeyrac, let us explain the defining way in which he is not like Tholomyès.

Courfeyrac is honourable where Tholomyès was not. I presume this to mean that Courfeyrac is a magnetic personality. He’s friendly and charming and talkative and everybody loves him, but should he happen to knock up one of his mistresses, he would at the very least take care of them in some way rather than playing the worst practical “joke” to have ever existed in the whole of human history them? I don’t really like this as a shortcut for a description, because I don’t really want to think of Courfeyrac and Tholomyès in the same sentence. Boo.

Feuilly is a working man. He makes fans for a living. This is his legitimate occupation, and it’s hard work! He only makes 3 francs a day doing this. It’s a living, I guess. He is a generous guy and a self-taught man. He learned how to read and write on his own and is a big fan (no pun intended! There’s enough of them already.) of learning stuff.

Feuilly is an orphan in the world. He doesn’t know where he came from, and having no mother he’s embraced the country as one and the people as his family. He doesn’t believe anybody should be without country and has studied histories expressly so he can indignant about societies’ struggles and all the injustices through the ages and ongoing forever to this very day. Everybody else here was mainly preoccupied with France’s struggles…seeing as they’re right smack in the middle of it, but Feuilly’s embrace is wide and his specialties are Greece, Poland, Romania, Italy, and Hungary. He gets especially fired up about the Partitions of Poland.

And then there’s Grantaire. Last, but not least because one of these things is not like the others. Grantaire is the resident cynic. He’s often drunk and takes great care not to give a shit about anything (caring hurts, yo!), especially all the causes his friends so passionately believe in. He knows all the best places for everything around Paris (coffee? check. Girls? Check. Drinks? Double-Check PLUS!) and signs his name “R”…because in French a way to pronounce Capital R is “Grand Err”. It sounds like Grantaire, you see. Get it? I’m dead now.

In addition to being a hard drinking cynic, Grantaire is handy with single stick combat, and just really very ugly. Impossibly even. Irma Bossy, the prettiest boot stitcher around, says so. His self-esteem doesn’t suffer for this though. He continues to stare tenderly at all the ladies: “Appearing to say about all of them: if only I wanted to ; and trying to make his comrades believe that he was in general demand”. I’m just quoting that because this sentence makes me think there is no actual demand. He is also described as a drunken-roving-libertine, and a general annoyance to his friends by constantly singing “I loves the girls, and I loves good wine” to the tune of this song: Vive Henri IV . Yes. That would be rather annoying, I should think.

Now, you may be asking yourself why this cynic is even hanging out with this group of idealists if he doesn’t give a whit about their causes or their beliefs. Aside from a couple literary devices to make things interesting: Juxtaposition and Irony (Hipster before it was cool? Just kidding, it was never cool.) One word:

Enjolras.

Yes, that is right. Enjolras is why he is there. Okay, he does like being surrounded by friends and good company despite his general lack of faith in the human race as a species, but mostly Enjolras. He is the one thing Grantaire actually believes in. Grantaire is this young man’s obverse: Enjolras is beautiful and Grantaire is ugly, Grantaire is the green to his red, the opposite side of his coin, the yin to his yang. Enjolras doesn’t really get a pov here, but as far as Grantaire is concerned, he needs this guy like a person needs a beating heart and even he is unsure of why that is. It just is. Some men are just born to be the opposite of others, or as the book says way more eloquently: “We are attracted to what we lack” and “Nobody loves the light like a blind man”

Even though Grantaire can’t bring himself to believe, he loves to watch Enjolras with his super passionate faith and conviction in France, the people, the Republic, and revolution on which he speaks.

Grantaire also gets a list of peeps to be compared to:

Pollux, Patroclus, Nisus , Eudamidas, Ephestion, Pechmeja, and particularly Orestes and Pylades..

There’s a bunch of links for a quick look, so you can make like Combeferre and be educated. (Not that wikipedia is the best source, just the quickest.  I urge you to go forth and engage further with History)  I’m not going to pretend to be the all-knowing interpreter of texts. You can come to your own conclusions. If you want to know what I think, I’m hard pressed to interpret this as anything other than Grantaire being head over heels for and totally devoted to this Enjolras fellow.

As for Enjolras, he needs Grantaire about as much as an appendix, or tonsils or something, and really only has disdain for the non-believer, and pity for the drunk. And whenever he kicks Grantaire down, Grantaire always pops back up proclaiming, “What fine marble!”

That doesn’t sound like the most healthy of relationships, R. Woe indeed.

And there you have it: Les Amis de l’ABC!

Now, back to the story at hand. Let us hop in Théodule’s time machine and travel back to the day Marius’s massive Bonapartism was discovered by Grandpa G. As we know, he has been riding around in a cab with no aim or direction, when he just so happens to pause by a cafe where our friend Bossuet was hanging out in front “Like a Caryatid on vacation” I am quoting that because this is absolutely my new favorite way of describing someone who is slouching against a building.

A caryatid, for those that don’t know is an architectural term for a pillar on a building that is shaped like a person. I did not know this from art school. Thanks a lot, art school. It’s from looking up the song “Caryatid Easy” by the band Son Volt. I wasn’t able to find it at first because I always thought it was “Carrie Had it Easy”. I eventually figured out I was wrong, then I had to go look up what in the wide wide world of sports a caryatid is anyway.

This mostly irrelevant tangent was brought to you by Victor Hugo. I’ve been reading this so long that he’s rubbing off on me now.

Anyway, so Bossuet sees this cab and notices Marius’s bag in full view. There is a card visible on it. Like, how close is this cab to this building? How large is Marius’s name on this card? Maybe Bossuet has amazing super vision, which is kind of surprising. I mean considering his luck it’s a wonder he hasn’t managed to go blind somehow by now. He only notices this cab in the first place because it’s going at a slow pace with no particular destination.

It’s a good thing his eagle eyes spotted this though, because he’s been looking for this Pontmercy character! He calls out to the cab and tells Marius as much. Marius is naturally extremely confused by this, because he doesn’t even know anybody under the age of fifty, so why would this bald dude he’s never met in his life be looking for him? Well, Bossuet is going to tell us. I just have to say I love the way he tells this story. I’d like to imagine a lot of theatrical hand gestures and animated expressions go along with it.

Okay, so Bossuet was just attending lawyer class like a good student for once. It happens sometimes.  The teacher was taking roll. This guy’s name is Blondeau. Apparently they are operating on some sort of three strikes policy, so if your name is said three times with no answer than you are out and Blondeau takes malicious pleasure in striking names off the roll. Everybody on this list so far had dutifully answered the call, even though he’s going out of alphabetical order. Bossuet is pretty pleased that this guy’s evil plot is being foiled, while Blondeau is pretty disappointed that he isn’t teaching a class full of truants, that is until he comes to the “P”s. I’m not sure exactly how far back this story goes, but Pontmercy was probably off wandering around somewhere in Vernon, or reading up on Napoleon or something, and most definitely not in class learning to be a lawyer like he’s supposed to be doing.

Blondeau is really excited when he doesn’t get an answer. He gets his pen ready in anticipation to mark Pontmercy off. Bossuet wonders who this absent guy is and what he could be doing that’s more important than ruining Blondeau’s fun. He could be doing anything out there, even hooking up with Bossuet’s mistress or something. Bossuet isn’t going to let this stand though. I mean the attendance thing, not the mistress thing. He’s always up for lending a helping hand to a fellow slacker. Down with Blondeau! He answers the call in Marius’s stead! Day saved, right?

Wrong.

Blondeau immediately jumps from P to the L’s after this and calls out Bossuet’s name (if you recall, his real name begins with an L. L’Aigle…it’s a name that Marius is really enthusiastic about when they meet here, incidentally). This was destined to happen of course, because Bossuet is the luckiest person to have ever walked the planet. Somebody get this man a four leaf clover or a rabbit foot or something!

He tries to answer the call again, but Blondeau wasn’t born last night. How can Bossuet and Pontmercy be the same person? He marks Bossuet out.

It’s nice to see that kids have been trying to scam their professors on attendance for hundreds of years. Does he pay that nerd Combeferre to sit in and take his tests for him too?

Upon hearing this story, Marius is super apologetic. Like, if he could give Bossuet his firstborn he probably would-apologetic.

Now, I know Marius doesn’t people, but I don’t think Bossuet’s angry. I’m pretty sure he’s aware that this situation is his own damn unlucky fault and he’s accustom to the point of being unfazed about these inauspicious things that happen to him. In fact, he’s less than mad, he’s grateful that Marius has saved him from having to be a lawyer he says. He eventually asks where Marius is living so he can call and thank him for saving him from a life of litigation, and Marius answers that he’s living in the cab.

Oh, really? Is the driver aware that he’s adopted a vagrant?

Bossuet thinks this is as amusing as I do, because he says exactly what I was thinking: that’s going to be some damn expensive rent, living in a cab. Marius must be baron moneybags over here.

While they’re having this conversation about Marius’s impending gigantic cab fare, Courfeyrac exits the café and joins them to see what’s up. When he finds out Marius is homeless, being the “knight-errant” he is, he immediately offers to take him home right then and there without a question asked. He has never seen this kid before in his life, but as far as he’s concerned it’s total nonsense that this cab dwelling stranger doesn’t have a place to stay, not while Courfeyrac is around!

Bossuet puts up a token amount of protest since he doesn’t actually have his own place to offer. He’s the one who saw Marius first after all!

C’mon guys. Let’s night fight over who gets to take the kitten home. You might come to regret it later.

Courfeyrac gets him a room next door at the hotel he’s living in and Marius, after so many years on this green earth, finally gets a friend. It only takes a couple of days for him and Courfeyrac to become buddies for life, but I gather that it’s nigh unto impossible not to become Courfeyrac’s BFF once you’re pulled into his orbit.

As for Marius, he feels great about this new turn of events. He’s a new man, finally comfortable in his own skin around Courfeyrac, because the guy asks nothing of him. You know, until that one day he asks what Marius’s politics are. Nothing lasts forever, right? Marius tells him what’s up; and Courfeyrac is pleased, because he has a new recruit. He takes Marius to his first Les Amis de L’ABC meeting.

And now Marius is thrust into this den of free-thinking radical revolutionary minded individuals that are even lefter in their politics than he is. Just throw him right into the deep end of the pool, why don’t you, Courfeyrac? It’s all kind of overwhelming for him to be surrounded by people openly discussing all manner of thoughts and ideas on many a subject after the full-geriatric-ultra-immersion that had lasted his entire life up until he met Mabeuf.

I’m not sure how much time passes between his first meeting and this next incident in Marius’s progression here, but I gather he’s been hanging around these people taking everything in for at least a little while before this happens.

Let us set the scene.

Everybody’s chattering about this and that around the back room at the Café Musain with the exception of Enjolras and Marius, who are just sitting there in silence.

In one corner Grantaire is loudly giving this massive pages long speech. I am absolutely not joking about the length of this. It’s three entire uninterrupted pages of Grantaire talking about the state of the terrible world and the terrible people in it (who will never ever learn) He needs a drink, life is a cruel joke, and why should any place or anyone in the world be admired over another because the world is a massive ball of suck at the end of the day no matter where you are. Once upon a time he used to be a student of Gros. He was supposed to be painting, but he stole apples instead.

Dang, Grantair, stealing apples? That’s a dangerous game! You could have Valjeaned yourself into a lifetime prison sentence for that!

His spleen is suffering from melancholia, and God sure did make a terrible mistake when he invented people, because we are just the worst. Butterflies are okay though. I’m not sure anybody is actually listening to him. You should read it though! If I had my druthers, I’d probably just direct quote every word that comes out of Grantaire’s mouth. I will try to contain myself.

While he’s on his tear, his friends are calling him  Capital R…, which looks silly, because that just takes all the fun out of the pun and makes them sound kind of insane, because it sounds nothing like his name in English!

Bossuet eventually just puts a hand on him in an attempt to quiet him.

Grantaire tells him: “Eagle of Meaux, down with your claws!”…which is a line of dialogue that is totally cracking me up right now for reasons I can’t entirely explain.

His claws being ineffective, Bossuet just finally straight out tells him to shut-up already since he’s trying to carry on a different conversation and Grantaire is being loud as hell..

In another corner, Joly and Bahorel are playing dominoes talking about love. They are having a small disagreement over whether or not a laughing mistress is a good thing. (Joly says yes of course, Bahorel says no, happy mistresses make one feel less guilty.) This naturally leads to friendly conversation about Joly’s tiny footed, literary minded mistress, Musichetta, who he has apparently had some sort of falling out with. Bahorel thinks he should move on, but it isn’t that easy since Joly is crazy about her.

Well, in that case, Bahorel has some sage advice for this situation. Show a little more leg. Keep her interested. He knows where Joly can get just the right trousers for it. I love that Bahorel is the first guy you’d go to for a helping hand in a fight and also for fashion advice on how to please your lady. (Also, Joly and Bahorel shopping for trousers? Somebody write the fic!)

In another corner Jehan is discussing mythology. I don’t know who he’s talking to, but the point is he’s really fired up about it. Just pointing out that he can be timid, but once he’s on a topic of interest there’s no stopping his enthusiasm.

Over in the last corner is a discussion about politics. Courfeyrac and Combeferre are having a lively chat about the charter of Louis XVIII. Combeferre is kind of defending it, but Courfeyrac is really giving it the what for. No Kings. No Charters. To illustrate his point, he throws the copy of this charter that just happens to be there right into the fire. So there.

In midst of all this hoo-ha, one date spoken emerges to inject some seriousness into the proceedings. It is some kind of mysterious mystery how Bossuet manages to bring up Waterloo as some sort of addendum to something Combeferre is saying. This isn’t me being confused, because goodness knows, I’m oft confused, but we actually aren’t told what conversation leads to this.

The mention of Waterloo has piqued Marius’s interest, though. This is something that Marius thinks he knows a thing or three about. Courfeyrac goes on to describe how the number 18 is interesting, Napoleon’s “fatal number”. Enjolras has also been roused out of silence. He calls it a crime.

Marius isn’t going to stand for anybody calling anything to do with Napoleon a crime. He’s held his tongue long enough, so he goes to the map to point out Corsica and claim that it is an island that made France great. Marius has managed to shock everybody into silence by doing this. I think they know something is about to go down

And it is, because Enjolras isn’t going to let that go either. He says that France is great because France is France. She doesn’t need any islands where any former emperors were born to achieve greatness.

Marius just isn’t going to take a hint and back down on this topic though. He goes on to give this really long impassioned speech, only spurred on by everyone’s silence an sudden inability to look him in the eye, about how awesome and great Napoleon is and why do you guys pronounce his name like a bunch of Royalists, huh? Why shouldn’t you worship Napoleon? What could be better than the most awesomest Emperor to have ever Empered?

“To be Free,” says Combeferre.

Oooooo, Snap!, Marius. You just got told! Also, I have to say, Pontmercy, trying to pick a fight with Enjolras of all the people in the room on that topic of all the topics in the world? Okay, granted, Marius doesn’t seem to ever know what he’s getting himself into until he’s up to his ear in it, or that Enjolras’s passion for the Republic burns with the intensity of a zillion suns going supernova and consuming everything their path, but still… Congratulations on having the balls.

It’s Marius’s turn to avoid eye contact with everybody in the room now, because Combeferre’s words have really gotten to him and stopped him cold. When he looks up the only one that’s still there is Enjolras, who is just staring him down. Combeferre, thinking the situation has been resolved, had gone outside and everyone else had followed.

Marius isn’t ready to give up the final word though. He’s about to continue to get into it further with Enjolras, when the silence is broken by Combeferre singing a song from outside.

If Ceasar had given me
Glory and war,And if I must abandon
the love of my mother,
I would say to great Caesar:
Take your scepter and chariot
I love my mother more, alas!
I love my mother more.
Combeferre, diffusing situations when he’s not even in the room.

Marius tries to complete a thought about his mother but just trails off instead.

Enjolras, who by this time has stood up to place a hand on Marius’s shoulder, says that his mother is the Republic.

Later, after this whole Napoleon debacle, Marius’s brain space is in utter chaos and it’s really making him sad, being on the outs with not only Grandpa G, but his new friends too. He’s stuck in this netherworld between two beliefs. He’s kind of starting to see the world in another whole new light again, but so soon after he ditched the ultras and started following in his father’s footsteps? He feels like if he were to go in with Enjolras and his crew and start opening his mind fully to all their ideas now that it will be doing his father a disservice. He just can’t do what he thinks might take him further away from Georges’s memory, so he stops going to Les Amis meetings after that. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.

Now, Marius is broker than broke as he lives in this hotel next to Courfeyrac. What would have become of the lamb had Bossuet not gone rogue on the attendance that day; I have to wonder. Seriously, he just doesn’t actually know how to function out in the world beyond Grandpa G.s walls; does he? It doesn’t help that he can’t seem to focus on more than one thing at a time, and right now he’s so messed up with all the thoughts that are now swirling around in his brain instigating yet another self-identity crisis, that he’s not even paying his rent. You don’t just not pay rent, Marius. Geez. I think he needs a new title: Marius Pontmercy, Baron of Being Distracted. The landlord of course takes issue with this freeloading and Marius tells him to go get Courfeyrac instead of paying the bill. See what happens when you take in strays, Courfeyrac?

Instead of, you know, leaving Pontmercy a note to fend for himself and it was nice knowing him, then absconding in a cab to become a fat country lawyer never to be seen again, Courfeyrac is more than patient and helpful when he finds out Marius’s big secret (that he has been disowned and has no family anymore.) He asks Marius if he wants a loan. Marius does not. So, instead, he helps Marius figure out how to get some cash by selling some of his things for the delinquent rent money and tries to help him find one of those job thingies, so this doesn’t happen again. There’s an opening for a translator, but unfortunately Marius doesn’t know any German or English. He damn well is determined to learn if it means he gets to continue to eat and have a room.

And we know Marius is determined as hell to make it on his own, because on top of refusing Courfeyrac’s loan offer, Grandpa’s sixty pistoles arrives at his doorstep one day after school, and dirt poor Marius with only ten francs to his name and more like his dad than he ever knew, just sends it all back. He’s absolutely not going to take Grandpa G.’s money. It’s not worth his pride. Stick it to the man, Marius!

Back at the Gillenormand abode, The Elder is the one to receive the money back. She doesn’t tell Grandpa G. about it though. She rationalizes not telling him that Marius has refused it, because didn’t Grandpa G. tell her he never wanted to hear another word about the kid?

And nary a word shall he hear!

By the way, Marius leaves the hotel after this, so he doesn’t fall into debt. And so we end this section just as it started, with Marius homeless with nowhere to go.

Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: 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

Marius: Book 3; Marius Does a Spectacular One-Eighty

So, now it is time to learn all about this brigand of a son-in-law that is such a disgrace to M. Gillenormand. Seems, he’s been all over the place as a career military man, gathering accolades and rank left and right. He suffered a gash across his face at Waterloo, barely survived falling in the sunken road… If you haven’t sussed it out by now, this son-in-law is the Pontmercy that Thénardier accidentally saved by pulling him out from under a pile of dudes so that he might loot the body. He even gets a first name! Georges “The ‘S’ is silent, why do you even have letters at the end of things if you’re not going to use them, French language?” Pontmercy.

He was forced out of active duty and lives off a meager pay now after a change in regime, and moved to a place down by the river in Vernon in the smallest house available. He lived there with his lovely wife Mlle. Gillenormand the younger, that he loved, despite her father’s very grudging approval of their marriage.

Seems like a cozy little life until she died in childbirth. No! At least he has his son… Wait, what is this you’re telling me, book? Gillenormand swooped in and took the baby away from his father?

Yes, he did. The grandfather absconded with the child under threat of disinheritance. Georges knew that he had to let go to do what was best for his kid, so that he could have a better life growing up. This really bums me out majorly, single parents getting taken advantage of all over, I have to say. Not only that, but being a Napoleon fan and such, now that the Bourbons are back in charge, the powers that be have got an eye on him. His rank is no longer recognized, and neither is his title of Baron nor his position in the Legion of Honour. That isn’t to say Pontmercy abides by any of this. He still wears his Legion of Honour Rosette out, despite receiving repeated letters that he would be prosecuted for it since it is illegal, and gosh-darn, he is going to sign his name Colonel Baron Pontmercy every chance he gets regardless. He even runs into the prosecutor on the road one day and goes up to him on his own accord to rather sarcastically ask if he’s still allowed to wear his scars. Stick it to the man, Georges!

Now, getting back to Georges’s home life. He is the old scarred up man in the loneliest little house. He spends his days tending his postage stamp of a garden, because that is all he has left. His flowers. He spends time thinking about his salad days on the battlefield and about how he spends his time now, innocently pruning his hedges and hanging out with his friend Abbé Mabeuf ? Name to remember alert.

Why is it that the good guys in this book are all really awesome at cultivating and taking care of gardens? Valjean and Champmatheiu were pruners at Faveroles, Fauchelevent has his nun garden, and now Pontmercy. Not that we know too terribly much about Georges, but he doesn’t seem like a bad guy so far. This imagery recurs too often. My symbolism detector is going off, and here I thought it was totally broken to everything except anvils falling on my head. (The Internet says: yes it is. This explains everything, but we are not here for deep literary analysis! *runs away from symbolism*)

So, what is Gillenormand up to when he’s not extorting good men into giving up their parental rights? Well, he’s just hanging out at Madame de T’s Salon. A Salon is basically just a place where a bunch of wealthy/society people gather to gab about things, not a place to get your hair cut (it can be that too, but we’re not talking about that). Apparently when he’s not waving his anger-cane at his grandson, Old G. cuts quite the clever and charming figure.

Here at these Salons they discuss current events and art and politics in the form of punnery, poetry, and clever songs, because I guess this is what idle rich people do when they’re being idle and rich. WORD PLAY!

He attends these gatherings often with his daughter and the little boy. If it wasn’t completely obvious to you by now, this kid’s name is Marius. The only thing he knows of his father is that he has one, since M. Gillenormand refuses to talk about the guy unless it’s to poke fun at his Baronry with his Salon friends. Possibly in rhyming couplets with piano accompaniment.

As baby Maris gets older, he starts to absorb the whisperings of these people about his dad. As we know, they don’t think much of him and regard him as a brigand and a disgrace, therefore Marius’s little heart has been poisoned against his dad before Georges even got a chance. This is totally not okay. Especially since the only thing Georges ever did as far as Gillenormand is concerned was standing on the “wrong” side of politics.

Now, little Marius is allowed to write a letter to his dad only twice a year as dictated by his aunt, who…by the way, is the one with all the money Marius stands to inherit, not Old G. C’mon, Mlle!  Why are you complicit in your dad’s curmudgeonly doings? Maybe she agrees with him? Maybe Old G. is someone she just can’t say no to.

As for the letters they are basically a rather cold affair more out of obligation than anything, but Georges always replies with tender letters of his own.

Which Old G. does not read or open or give to Marius. He disposes of them.

As for Georges, if there is any doubt that his motivations for giving up his son were pure, let us dispel that now. Be it the right or wrong decision in the long run, Georges truly believed he was sacrificing his own happiness so that the boy would be well taken care of and have a better life than he could provide for him in his little garden down by the river with the French government peeping on his every move to the point of actively trying to dictate what he wears. He dared not violate the agreement set forth by Old G that he not see his son, lest the boy be disinherited.

Except for those times when he sneaked down to Paris on the days he knew Mlle. Gillenormand the Elder brought Marius to mass. That was where he watched Marius grow up and shed tears that he could never meet him as he hid behind a pillar so no Gillenormands would catch sight of him, and that was where he caught the eye of Abbé Mabeuf.

Mabeuf was there visiting his curé brother, when he noticed this big old soldier with a handsome sabre scar down his face over in the corner weeping like a little girl. Naturally, this juxtaposition piqued his interest, and he conspired with his brother to meet this guy. I’m not sure why meeting Georges required a plan. They meet later on down the road and Georges invites him over to his shack in Vernon, where he spills his guts out about the whole sordid affair. And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, because, like the PB&J of 19th century France, nothing goes together like an old soldier and an old priest.

As for Marius, he grows up hanging around in salons none the wiser. Madame de T’s is his home, which is pretty unfortunate, because hanging out with these old people who look upon young people as strange and foreign entities, and spend all their time being Ultra Royalists has made him a very serious and morose little child.

These guys are unapologetically aligned with the monarchy, as opposed to the new kind of Royalists who kind of feel bad about it. We get to learn all about all the oldies that spend their days at Madame de T’s and the kind of stories they tell, like the one an old priest tells about the time when he was a soldier down in Toulon and his job was to go up the scaffolding at the end of the day and gather up all the guillotined heads from the day’s executions.  I don’t even know what to say about that.

Right, so, a bunch of older people hanging around talking about politics and dismissing anybody who disagrees with them while making fun of them with clever slogans. Sounds like Thanksgiving dinner to me. Unfortunately Marius has no cousins to go hang out with in the basement, so he absorbs all this like a sponge as children are wont to do.

Meanwhile, M. Gillenormand has assured that the kid gets an education. We’ll just skip over his adolescence and go straight to young adulthood and him being in law school now. He has gone from a serious child to a serious young adult. His cool demeanor leads to a complete inability to make friends since this makes him a pretty unapproachable character.

Now, Marius wasn’t fond of his grandfather. This explains who adored who in the previous chapter. It wasn’t the kid who adored the grandpa. That is clear now. He feels even less charitable toward his father. There’s a void where the man should be, and Marius has spent eighteen years thinking that his dad abandoned him and never loved him. Nobody sees fit to correct this impression of course, so when he’s called in to Old G. one day and told he is to travel to Vernon to see his long lost father who is now dying, he isn’t exactly excited about the idea. What’s the opposite of excited? He is that.

He’s feeling so ambivalent about the whole thing that he doesn’t book immediate passage to Vernon. He could have taken the overnight coach, but he was in no hurry. This means that by the time Marius manages to make his way over to his dad’s place, Georges has already died. He died right before Marius got there. The Curé was too late, the Doctor was too late, and Marius was too late.

In fact, Georges was so distraught that his son had not come right away that he was roused from his deathbed in the middle of the night and collapsed there in the hallway where he perished. I don’t know, this seems to somewhat parallel Fantine’s death in a way…both of them on their deathbeds awaiting their dearly beloved children that would never come.

If you’re thinking Marius is going to be moved at all by finding his dead dad on the floor, you would be wrong. He feels nothing. This isn’t to say Marius doesn’t feel bad for not feeling anything. He totally does, but even though we know Georges isn’t a horrible child abandoning beast-monster, this man is a stranger to Marius and stands for everything that he hates. This is how Marius grew up, and this is what Grandpa G. has drilled into his brain.

He leaves with nothing more than a note his father left for him passing on his title of baron even though it is not officially recognized and instructions to find and be of service to the man who saved him: Thénardier, who owns an inn in Montfermeil. Marius doesn’t stay for the funeral. He leaves right away, gives away Georges’s possessions, and after he’s gone the town loots Georges’s precious garden of all the rare and beautiful flowers and the plot becomes wild and overgrown.

As for Marius, he wears the requisite mourning band on his hat and would probably not have given much more thought to Georges if he hadn’t gone to his old church one day and sat in a certain church warden’s seat. He was just kind of wandering around in a dreamy state as Marius does when he kneels down at this chair behind a pillar. There he is approached by Abbé Mabeuf who points out that it is his seat and yes, indeed, his name is on it. Literally.

Marius gives up his spot, and again, would have gone on about his merry way if Mabeuf hadn’t felt the need to explain himself. You see, this spot is sort of sacred to him, for that is where he spied Georges and got to know him. He explains the whole story about this man who was a colonel at Waterloo under Napoleon, who came every week to tearfully hide behind a pillar and watch his son that he was torn apart from due to familial disagreements. Mabeuf thinks this is a shame.

“Certainly I approve of political opinions, but there are people who do not know where to stop!”
Mabeuf drops a Manhattan Project size truth bomb that is still applicable over a hundred years later and will probably continue to be relevant for hundreds of years to come, because the human race never ever learns.

 

This whole time Marius is listening to this story and you can sort of tell that alarm bells are going off all over his brain. When Mabeuf tries to remember the old soldier’s last name and fumbles it, Marius supplies it for him:

Pontmercy.

Marius is the little boy, now adult, and he has just learned that everything he thought he knew about his dad is wrong.

As a result of learning that his father was not in fact a child abandoning beast-monster, Marius throws himself into learning everything he can about him. He goes to the library and reads up on the Revolution and the Republic and the Empire and Napoleon. This doesn’t feel like a gradual thing at all. It’s like he’s completely flipped around in a matter of days. He has totally ripped his Long Live the King sticker from his trapper keeper and replaced it with Bonaparte 5-Ever! He wholeheartedly embraces everything his dad believed in instead. He’s just really kind of obsessive about it to the point of totally ignoring all the bad parts. Georges he worships, and Napoleon is now his idol, and as for Grandpa, well, they never got along to begin with and Marius just drifts further and further away until he gets stranded on the island of hatred. This was the man that kept him separated from the father he now adores for his entire life after all.

Having shed the Royalist skin his grandpa had thrust upon him from birth almost to the point of being one of those Republican’s that Old G. so despises — Marius, in what is apparently the next logical step in his Pontmercy brain, rushes out to the printer to get calling cards printed up with his new title of Baron on them. He’s so damn excited about it. However, Marius having grown up in a salon hanging out with old Ultras and having no social skills to speak of, has nobody to call on. The kid has no friends, so he just stuffs his fancy cards in his pocket and goes on about his day.

This is simultaneously really sad, and unintentionally hilarious. What are we going to do with you, Pontmercy?

As time goes by, Marius spends less and less time at home, between reading up on his new found interests and trying to find the Thénardiers. They are not longer in Montfermeil, since the inn has failed. Marius tells everybody that he’s just really busy studying the law at lawyer school, but nobody believes any of his excuses. That leads me to believe that Marius has never “studied” this hard in his life, and he’s a terrible liar. Old G and Auntie G are convinced that he has a lady friend that he’s spending all his time with. They have no way to tell until a certain cousin we have heard of before comes for a visit on his way through town.

Now, I call Théodule a cousin because we learn here that, even though Hugo says so, there is no actual way he is Mlle. Gillenormand the Elder’s Great Nephew. It is literally impossible for him to be that relation, unless he is Marius’s own son traveling through time from the future (SOMEONE WRITE THE FANFIC!). See, in order to be a great nephew, he would have to be the grandson of Mlle. Gillenormand’s sibling, of which we know there to be only her half-sister: Marius’s Mom. Since Théodule is related on M. Gillenormand’s side and carries the Gillenormand name, that makes him some sort of cousin.

Unless I missed a brother, or he’s one of Magnon’s boys’ kids, but I doubt Old G. would let his illegitimate non-children run around with the family name attached to them. That age gap would probably make Théodule impossible anyway, since he’s clearly older than Marius. I am not sure why I am so concerned about Théodule’s lineage, but I am.

Back to the story at hand! Théodule has come to visit his “Auntie”, and she is delighted to see him. He is her favourite after all, precisely because he doesn’t come around all that often. He can remain idealized in her mind since she doesn’t get to ever know all his bad habits or disagreeable opinions should he have them. Sorry about your luck, Marius. The dude that isn’t even her actual nephew is still her favorite nephew over you.

She wants him to stay for a while, but he’s only passing through Paris on his way to Vernon on his way to somewhere else as per his orders. This gives Mlle. Gillenormand an idea! Marius is also on his way out, and he doesn’t really know Théodule and his perfectly curled mustache well enough to recognize him. This is the ideal opportunity to spy on the kid and see who his secret girlfriend is!

Oh, dear.

Théodule agrees to this. It’s just a bit of fun after all even though I think all of these elderly relatives are way too invested in what is going on in Marius’s pants. In any case, Théodule catches the coach with Marius, who is riding on the outside while he rides on the inside, so there’s even less of a chance of being caught at spying.

Théodule is not that great of a spy though since he falls asleep and almost loses Marius, but he wakes up just in time to see him get off the coach. He follows and watches as the kid buys the biggest bouquet from a flower girl, all the while, the wheels of his mind are spinning about this girl Marius is going to see.

Marius heads to the church.

Intrigue! What kind of illicit love affair is this that they are meeting at the church?

Marius goes behind the church.

And this is where all the fun speculation about Marius’s non-existent love life ends, because Marius is visiting his father’s grave. The pretty flowers are for his dad.

Théodule is totally nonplussed by this, and he feels the prickings of his conscience. This now seems like something way too personal for him to be intruding on, and being a military man himself, he has respect for the colonel. To his credit, Théodule does not report this back to the Gillenormands. It may have been because he didn’t know what to say, but still. I’m glad he didn’t tattle. Not that it does anything to stop the oncoming Hurricane Gillenormand.

Now, one early morning while Marius is passing through the house after one of his trips, he decides what he really needs is a swim. So he abandons his jacket and the black ribbon necklace thing he wears underneath his jacket and out of sight on his bed and leaves it there.

Old G. wakes up early that morning, because healthy old people are always up at the crack of dawn. Initially, he just wants to go say hi and welcome home to his grandson and maybe ask a few questions about his mystery lady. Marius has already departed for the baths though, and all Gillenormand finds are the things he left behind out in the open. In the perfect place for snooping. Old G finds the ribbon and attached to it is a small box; a sort of locket type thing. He’s getting excited now, because what could be in it? A love note?

He opens the case. Inside he finds the bit of paper that Georges bequeathed his title to Marius on. Oh, my. That leads to a search of the jacket pockets, which reveal the packet of calling cards emblazoned with: Baron Marius Pontmercy.

Old G. throws Marius’s things on the ground and has Nicolette take them away. When the grandson returns Grandpa is there waiting for him. I’d like to imagine he’s sitting on a big ornate chair lurking in the dark, possibly stroking a white cat and muttering to himself about Georges and Napoleon as he waits. But that’s just my imagination.

He confronts Marius with the cards as soon as he gets back demanding an explanation for what the meaning of this is!

Marius announces that this is who he is. His father’s son. And so, the storm has begun.

Old G. is righteously indignant about this declaration and yells that he is Marius’s is father.

Marius is having none of this and calls the old man out by telling him exactly who his father is; a heroic man that served the Republic and France whose only fault was loving a son and a country that didn’t love him back.

The mention of the Republic in such a way causes Gillenormand to just fly off the handle into crazy old man town. He pretty much screams down an entire page that Georges Pontmercy doesn’t exist, he doesn’t know this man, he is nothing to him, he doesn’t want to know him or hear about him. It’s like if he shouts loudly enough it will wipe Georges’s memory right off the face of the planet and Marius will go back to being an obedient little mini-Gillenormand and forget all about it.

Marius has other ideas. Namely to be torn for a moment between the man he grew up with and the father he never met, then to shout “Down with the Bourbons!” in his grandfather’s face when he can’t figure out what to do.

As you can probably guess, this tactic goes over like a lead balloon, and Marius is summarily ejected from the house. Old G. gives instructions to send him 60 Pistoles every six months and never speak of the child again.

Gillenormand takes out his residual anger on his daughter for the next few months, and Marius leaves in indignation further stoked by the fact that Nicolette had lost his father’s note. He assumes M. Gillenormand (For no longer shall this man be known to him as grandfather) has thrown the paper in the fire.

Now, you might remember from earlier that Marius is friendless and has nobody to call on, so he hops a cabriolet to the Latin Quarter with absolutely no plans or any place to stay. And that is where we leave him: homeless and abandoned with nowhere to turn.

Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: Book 1


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 1; In which Paris is the Hub of the Universe and homeless children roam the streets
So, in this chapter we have moved on from nuns to gamins. Google tells me gamin means ‘kid’ or more specifically a small boy. Apparently there is more to it than that though, because I just read thousands and thousands of words about them.

They are in this context the young boys that populate the streets of Paris.  They don’t really have any homes or parents or anything. The street is their home.

They’ve got their own little society going on, with its own rules, money, and hierarchies depending on where the kid’s been and what he’s seen. The kid that saw a dude fall off Notre Dame gets some mad respect. One important thing to note: They know all the police officers. Maybe not by name, but definitely by appearance: The tall one, the short one, the mean one, the one with a fierce mustache etc…. This might come into play later on. By might, I mean definitely.

So, these homeless children running around everywhere were convenient when the King wanted to build up a navy. The police would just grab a kid whenever they needed someone, and nobody missed them when they disappeared. Sometimes, though, if supply was running short, a kid that did have a father would get nabbed. There were nasty rumors about the King’s “Crimson Bath”: a cursory web search to see if this was an actual rumor of the time only nets me pictures of red tiled bathrooms, but since it’s described as a “Monstrous Conjecture” I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s some sort of Elizabeth Báthory type situation they’re imagining. Monstrous indeed.

And what of these fathers whose sons were stolen away? Well, they’d go after the policemen who grabbed the boys and end up having to face the law themselves. Apparently this usually ended in a hanging sentence for the fathers.

Moving on to the city itself, this is another one of those intro chapters that name-drops about a hundred million things in order to describe Paris that I’m going to have to look up. Just imagine a tidal wave of text filled with names and places and allusions to ancient Greeks and Romans and — well — everything and anything, and you will have this chapter. Someone in two hundred years is going to need to upload some encyclopedias into their brains to catch all the nuances and references. I am afraid I have no such encyclopedic knowledge, and the only ones I caught without a Google were the refs about Boston in the 1770s and Harper’s Ferry, the latter of which hadn’t even happened at the point in which this book is taking place right now. To be fair it’s in a paragraph about Paris influencing future as well as past events, specifically revolutions.

You can sort of get the idea though: Paris is a happen’ town in not just the Earth, but the whole dang Universe with a wide influence in a vast array of areas, a hub for sure.

Even its street dwelling orphans are a special breed. Even my website is named after it.*** Look at that! It’ll build you up. It’ll let you down. It will laugh right in your face:

Paris does more than lay down the law; it lays down the fashion; Paris does more than lay down the fashion; it lays down the routine. Paris can be stupid if it likes; sometimes it indulges in this luxury , and the whole universe is stupid along with it. Then Paris wakes up, rubs its eyes and says, “Am I ever stupid!” and burst out laughing in the face of mankind.
Go Home, Paris. You’re drunk.

We are going to meet one very specific little boy here.  His name is Gavroche, a child of around ten or twelve, something like that.  Whatever.

His family goes by the name Jondrette, and four of them live in one room in Gorbeau House, because of course they do. Of all the run down tenements in all the towns…

Sometimes Gavroche drops by for a visit where the entire family lives in a single room… Mom, Dad, and two older girls, but he doesn’t get anything out of it as far as I can tell. He comes from the streets and returns to the streets at the end of the day. Needless to say these parents don’t really care for him. There’s not a spark of warmth from his mother, though she does love the two sisters.

Well, if this isn’t a familiar scenario, don’t you think? I will let you ponder about where you’ve heard this one before and give you a friendly reminder about all the times people keep coincidentally running into each other in what I think is a pretty big country to keep running into the same people all the time!

There are other tenants in the Gorbeau house now. The old landlady has since passed away and been replaced by a new one exactly like her, so we don’t have to bother describing her. There’s no mention of the giant creepy spiders, but I’m going to assume they’re still spinning around, and there is a dirt poor fellow that lives there in the room next to these Jondrettes. Guess who it is?
I’ll give you a hint: this entire volume is named after him.

He is is called Monsieur Marius.

*** I guess I can mention here, that this website is named after the city in which I grew up: Cincinnati. It was one of the Queen City’s many nicknames at one point. It is merely a happy accident that it coincides so nicely with what I’m reading right now!

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 4


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

BOOK 4:  Valjean and Cosette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It IS Javert!

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

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

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

Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: Book 3


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

BOOK 3: Simply having a Terrible Christmas Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He says his horse hasn’t been watered yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: 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.


BOOK 2
:
The Devil Came to Montfermeil 

 

You guys are not going to believe what just happened while we were over in Belgium pontificating about Waterloo for sixty pages!

If you guessed that Valjean got recaptured, then you would be right. Seriously, Valjean. What are you doing, bro?

In any case we aren’t going to get any details about how that happened at all, which is a first for this novel. Suffice it to say that our dear Valjean has a new number that nobody is going to remember, since 24601 has been fully imprinted onto all our brains with the power of song now.

The shiny new number of record is 9430 though. Let’s have a quick look at what happened post escaping Javert in Montrieul sur Mer by piecing together bits of information from some newspaper articles:

Jean Valjean had withdrawn about half a mil of his legitimately earned money from his bank account and stashed it somewhere during his time of escape. Nobody knows where. He was recaptured near Montfermeil in Paris. He mounted no defense, even when they found him guilty of being part of a band of thieves that have been thieving around the area. Which is suspect at best. I mean, we’re pretty short on details about what he’s been doing during this escape, but I doubt Valjean would be hooking up with a bunch of criminals at this point in his life.

At first he was sentenced to death. Oh, no! But if that happened the this book would be really…okay, it would still be really long. Luckily the sentence that was commuted to life of hard labour. Just how lucky that is depends on your opinion about working on a chain gang for the rest of your live long days.

In order to advance the story, we must have a few words regarding superstitions about the devil in Montfermeil. It has been told that sometimes, under the cover of darkness, a strange being can be seen lurking around the forests. It appears to have horns and is said to be the devil burying his treasure.

If you were to go up to this devil and have a chat with him you will see that it is just a guy toting a pitchfork on his back. Guess nothing irks the Devil more than having to chat with people while he’s trying to bury his treasure incognito, because if you talk to him, you will die within the week.

If you see him and don’t talk to him, but instead dig up his treasure then you will die in a month.

If you ignore the devil and run away then you will live for a whole year… then you die.

Most opt for option two, because at least they get some treasure out of the deal and they are going to perish no matter what.

I don’t know why, because the devil’s treasure is pretty crappy. Sometime’s there’s a bit of money, but mostly it consists of things like bloody skeletons and pennies or maybe gunpowder that will make your gun explode in your face. I’m not seeing the upside to this “treasure”

Back to the real world we go, where a old convict and drunkard named Boulatruelle has been lurking in and about the woods. Nobody trusts him because he is just too darn nice (He even smiles at gendarmes! The nerve of that guy!) The gossip is that he is part of a band of thieves. Is this band of thieves going to come in play later, because this is shout out number two for these guys? I’m not sure of anything any more. That’s why I’ll mention Boulatruelle by name. Everybody’s paths keep intertwining, even characters I thought we would never see again.

The townsfolk of Montfermeil are wondering what Boulatruelle is up to anyway, and maybe he’s seen that Devil of legend. It’s the logical explanation considering his recent creeping in and out of the woods.

A certain innkeeper (it’s Thénardier, you guys!) decides the best way to get to the bottom of this mystery is to ply the drunk with drinks. Of course, this takes a whole lot of drinks, and he’s still pretty tight lipped.

Boulatruelle reveals eventually, through bits and pieces, that he saw a man he recognized go into the woods with a little chest, a pick axe, and a spade. This strange man comes out without the chest so Boulatruelle has been searching the woods for the treasure it must have contained, because what would be kept in a small chest besides piles money?

Now that the tale of Boulatruelle has been covered we’re going to go back to Toulon, where the ship Orion has come to port.  It’s in for repairs and so we can get another history lesson about French wars and revolutions.

Well, the ship is being repaired when one of the men gets caught up in some line and is left dangling far above the decks. Nobody dares to go up there and save him, because it’s a really dangerous job and nobody is up for the task.  There is a mass of spectators watching this unfold, because they came to see the great warship.  It was a big deal back then.

 

These spectators become witnesses to this terrible accident when suddenly! They spot a convict climbing up the rigging on his way to rescue the dangling man, who is getting weaker by the second as he tries to hang on. They can tell this savior is a convict by his clothes and they can tell he’s a lifer by his hat, and they are surprised to see his white hair when the hat blows away. This man of incredible strength is no spring chicken.

The crowd calls out for his pardon once the man is saved. Yes! Pardons all around! I agree, crowd. But soon, this now unchained convict is falling into the water, in between ships. He doesn’t come back up for air, and they can’t find the body despite dredging near the docks. He is declared dead.

This convict? We keep his big reveal to the end of the chapter, even though we all knew damn well who it was as soon as the word convict was mentioned. If not, then the white hair and the fact that Jean Valjean can simply not help himself from helping others in mortal peril probably did. You see, when nobody stepped up to help the poor man, Valjean asked to be freed so that he might take the chance.

Since the guy in charge of this particular chain gang at the time was not a Javert, he released Valjean from the chain.

   Oops.

his is jailbreak #6 for those of you keeping score at home, and on top of that, everybody is now convinced that he’s dead. I take it all back. Jean Valjean is still the worst at hiding, but he has got to be some kind of escaping mastermind!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / FANTINE: Book 4


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

BOOK 4: The Sergeant of Waterloo

In which we meet the Thénardiers. They own an inn outside of Paris in Montfermeil. It is called the Sergeant of Waterloo for reasons. We will get to the reasons later on, I’m told, so hold that thought! There’s some sort of broken down vehicle in front of the place. It is described in great detail, but I think the main point is that it is huge and rusty. So, what better to do with a huge hunk of rusty machinery than to play on it?

At least that’s what the Thénardier girls are doing at the moment. They are on a makeshift swing that their mother is pulling them on as she sits nearby.

That is the scene when Fantine stumbles by. She has decided that she can’t stay in Paris any longer, and she’s on her way to her old hometown Montreuil Sur Mer to look for work. She lost all her friends in the aftermath of Tholomyès little joke, and then, having gotten used to the life she’d been living with him, she let her opportunities pass her by. I guess that means she could not / would not get work as a seamstress anymore. So, Fantine is jobless and friendless and the only thing she has in the world is her baby girl, having sold all her fine clothes to pay her debt.

(PS: In case you are wondering what happens to Felix before he is never spoken of again, he becomes a fat country lawyer.)

On her way to Montreuil sur Mer, Fantine sees Thénardier there with her kids, who are looking happy and well taken care of. Introductions are made and all three kids begin playing together. They look like they could be sisters, and this sparks an idea in Fantine.

She doesn’t think the child is going to make the journey, and offers to pay the Thénardiers to watch dear little Cosette for her. Cosette’s real name is Euphrasie. Fantine just calls her Cosette, and so shall we all for the rest of time. Nicknames, such weird things, incomprehensible even to Etymologists. Anyway, she pretty much thinks this will be a great arrangement, because in the two seconds she’s known Thénardier, the lady seems like a great mom, and Cosette is so happy playing around with the other kids.

Fantine is a terrible judge of character. The Thénardiers are actually the worst.

After  Thénardier and her husband haggle a bunch of money out of Fantine, they come to an agreement. A few Francs a week and all of Cosette’s fabulous clothes, of course. Fantine leaves her daughter in their care, but all is not candy and roses.

The Thénardier’s price keeps increasing steadily over the years, and their treatment of Cosette is downright abusive. (Actual bad guys alert) The poor kid is made to work, wear hand-me-down rags because they pawn off her clothes, and she eat scraps in the corner with the dog and the cat. I’ll point out now that Cosette is only between 2 and 5 years old during this time, and all of Thénardier’s negative attentions rain down on her in the forms of yelling or beating or whatever. The Mother pretty much hates the girl since any attention, even the negative attention she gets is something taken away from her own daughters, who she adores. And the Daughters, Azelma and Èponine? Well, they treat Cosette like crap too, because they’re just following the leader.

Eventually, Fantine falls behind in her payments to them as they extort more and more money out of her.

The people of the town think the Thénardiers are great people for taking the child in, and that Fantine had abandoned her. The people in town are also bad judges of character.