Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: Book 6


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

Marius: Book 6; Crazy in Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: Book 8


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fauchelevent recoiled, and began to crack his finger joints.

“But it’s impossible!”

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

Valjean does not understand why this could be a problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing could go wrong, I tell you! NOTHING!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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