About: Dak reads Les Misérables and recaps it here, so that she may better retain the information. Things not to expect: deep literary analysis. Things to expect: Spoilers. All the spoilers.
Pennies From Heaven
Today we arrive at Cosette and Valjean’s place, post Jondrette caper where Cosette and Valjean are suffering a collective loss of memory. But first a very short diversion backwards where we learn that our duo have really found that despite Cosette’s distraction with teenagerdom and Valjean’s Marius avoidance, their most joyful time together is helping the poor. Then the whole disaster with Thenardier happened.
Valjean returns to their abode and I realize now that he has actually been branded by Thenardier’s hot murder chisel on the arm. This wound has become gross and infected and Valjean is all feverish and incapacitated. He doesn’t want to go to any doctors, which is Cosette’s reasonable plan. He says call the vet instead. I think this was a plot line in season one of Schitt’s Creek.
I will inject here that Valjean isn’t quite angry at the whole Jondrette/Thenardier situation. He just kind of feels sorry for them, and shrugs it off because they are in prison now where they can do no harm. So, the Jondrettes will keep on keeping on, I suppose, while Valjean is over here dying of sepsis.
In any case, he doesn’t end up at the animal doctor. Cosette just takes care of him and nurses him back to health. All is well! In fact all is better than well according to Valjean’s mind, because, in taking care of him, Cosette seems to back to her doting former self. He gives praise to his gross infected wound for her continued attentions! She spends more time in the out back shack and Valjean has to push her to go hang out in her front garden again.
Speaking of the front garden, it’s springtime and the area is abloom and beautiful. I’m sure this is very symbolic. Something, something, rebirth, something, something, Cosette becoming a woman maybe? But you know what we say about symbolism here.
Regardless of symbology, they are happy again! So happy in fact, that Valjean maybe thinks that whole Marius business was in his imagination, and Cosette never even mentions the convict caravan again! Yay! Now they can live happily ever after, right?
As soon as Valjean is well enough, he begins his night walks again (apparently he was going on night walks sans Cosette), and here the book informs me right there in black and white that night walks are a great time for adventures! I assume this is alluding to a forthcoming night adventure Valjean is going to be having in this chapter! Let us forge ahead:
Now, do you remember little Gavroche? He is the young son of the Thenardiers who they don’t care about, so he lives on the street. He’s hungry because he hasn’t eaten tonight, or the night before, or the night before that. He decides that he’s going to this apple tree he knows about to find some apples to munch on.
This is Valjean’s garden, right?
Wrong! It is our friendly neighbor, Mabeuf’s garden. Gavroche doesn’t go apple raiding right off the bat. (watch out kid, an arrestable offense, or at least a way to get press ganged into the Royal Navy.) This is because Mabeuf is out and about, sitting on his old man rock looking sad and talking to Mother Plutrarch. We learn that Mabeuf is broke. He has no money for food or anything, and Mother Plutrarch is attempting to prompt some action out of him. Every one of the suggestions on what and how they’re going to eat is met with the news that he owes too much for the vendors to give any more. He just says he doesn’t want any of that old food that he can’t buy or get on credit anymore anyway. They can just eat the apples. Eventually mother Plutrarch departs since she’s not getting anywhere. Gavroche doesn’t go for the apples yet. Instead he crawls into some sort of alcove and then, from this hiding spot, he can see a couple people heading down the street.
I won’t keep you in suspense. One of them is Jean Valjean on his night walk, and the other one prowling around behind him with a rose in his teeth for some reason, the deadly dandy himself, Montparnasse. I guess the reason is just for a little panache. He throws it away as he assault’s Valjean though. Maybe that’s a symbol of his badness?
And, yes, Montparnasse is now fighting with and attempting to rob Valjean. Gavroche thinks he’s going to have an easy time with the old man, but we know that Valjean is stronger than bulls, faster than a wild horses, more wiley than a coyote, and stickier than a spider man. He quickly gets the best of the kid and is now in the street, in the dark holding Montparnasse in his clutches and interrogating him about his age and his current ambitions.
His current age is twenty and his ambitions are to be a lazy layabout do nothing i.e. funding his fancy tastes through thievery rather than working.
Valjean doesn’t like to hear that and is now giving our thief and huge, huge, very long lecture about the value of an honest day’s work, and how thieving and/or laziness is actually more work in the long run. It’s almost, but not quite as long as Grantaire’s monologue about how the world sucks. I mean, I guess he’s just trying to talk some sense into this guy, because he’s going on and on about his own experiences (and the little hidden saw in his coin that he used to escape Patron Minette) and if Montparnasse continues on this path he’s just going to end up in jail for twenty years. (And pursued by Javert off and on for the rest of time, but like—I feel as if it were at least insinuated in his intro that this dude is a murderer. Maybe he should be in prison?)
After Vajean gives Montparnasse all his advices on how it’s better to be an honest man, he let’s him go and gives the kid his purse anyway. As Valjean is walking away, Montparnasse just calls him a “blockhead” and stares slack jawed at him as he disappears. I’m not sure that Valjean’s speech and money was quite as inspiring as the Bishop of Digne’s gesture was for him so many years ago, but maybe we’ll see.
In any case Gavroche takes this moment of distraction to sneak on in and steal the purse off Montparnasse. That little scamp!
He doesn’t keep it for himself. This starving child that hasn’t eaten for days, I remind you, throws the money into the garden and onto Mabeuf’s feet. It wakes up the poor old man who had dozed off, and he brings it to Mother Plutrarch. She praises the heavens for this sudden windfall, and that is the end of Valjean’s night walk adventure! Aww, that was kind of a nice adventure, not at all what I was expecting.
There is one thing that didn’t happen in this chapter, though. Maybe if I give up on Marius ever meeting Cosette it will finally happen? Cross your fingers, and I will catch you next time!
About: Dak reads Les Misérables and recaps it here, so that she may better retain the information. Things not to expect: deep literary analysis. Things to expect: Spoilers. All the spoilers
Saint-Denis and the Idyll of the Rue Plumet Book 2; Larking About
Wow. You guys are never going to believe who’s homeless again. Just kidding. You’re totally going to guess, because it is Marius. As soon as the whole business with his neighbors getting arrested went down, Marius fled into the night, leaving his neighbors to speculate and assume that he was in on the whole thing.
And you’ll never–nevermind. I’ll stop trying to create any sort of suspense here. I mean, if Marius had ended up on Grandpa G.’s doorstep that might be a surprise, but no. He’s gone to trusty bff, Courfeyrac’s place. It’s a new place, because he’s moved in order to be closer to the action. The action being the forthcoming revolution that is sure to be happening. I would tell you all the names of the streets and everything, because I assure you that information is contained in the text, but I don’t think it would do much good. You know, unless you are extremely familiar with Paris or are planning your Les Misérables walking tour of France. (In which case I’d have to warn you that it’s a pretty long trek from Toulon to Montrieul Sur Mer to Paris.)
Anyway, Courfeyrac isn’t going to turn his friend out on the street and he happens to sleep on double mattresses, so there’s even an extra one for Marius. This is where he stays until… Nope. Until nothing. This is just where he stays: on the mattress on the floor at Courfeyrac’s place.
He’s also not going to work. If he was sad before, he’s even lower now. He doesn’t even have a name to pin his hopes on anymore, because he knows his love isn’t an Ursula after all. So, now he’s extra poor, moping around, and mooching Francs off Courfeyrac to give to Thénardier in prison. Yes, you read that correctly. Even after everything, he’s still trying to help this guy out.
Marius is now in debt for the first time ever and showing no signs of coming out of it. Courfeyrac has got to be the most patient bro ever. He’s not even mad as far as I can tell. He’s just curious about what these francs are for, and Thénardier is equally as curious about where they’re coming from.
Meanwhile, Marius tries to translate, but he can’t even concentrate on that and keeps procrastinating and going for walks instead. He’s become a master at it. That isn’t to say he’s wandering around in a fog; in fact, he’s quite aware of the goings on around him. Everything just sucks with the thought that he might never see Cosette again hovering over him wherever he goes. He eventually finds a solitary place with a view of Notre Dame that a passerby informs him is called the “Meadow of the Lark.” The guy attempts to give a little background info on this name, but Marius stopped listening at the word “Lark”.
He had learned from listening to the Thénardier’s that this was Cosette’s nickname, and that’s all he needs to hear to decide that this is where he is going to park himself until she comes to him. I’m sure that this foolproof plan is totally going to work, Marius.
Now let’s catch up with Javert. Javert is doing some spectacular law enforcement failing to go along with the criminal failing that happened a couple chapters ago. He did indeed suspect that the white haired man was Valjean, but he escaped again. On top of that Javert has completely forgotten Marius’s name and now cannot find him anywhere for questioning or to testify about the happenings that went down that fateful night. This is what pen and paper are for, Javert. Geez. I know these things existed in the 1830’s, even Jondrette owned them. You would think somebody at this big city police station would take down Pontmercy’s details when he went in to report a possible crime. It probably wouldn’t take much sleuthing to figure it out from there. Though, if Javert thinks Marius would have gone home (he does), that is wrong too. I’m sure Grandpa G. would deny the boy’s existence. Who knows what Auntie the Elder would have to say.
He’s not only miffed at missing Valjean and blanking on the kid’s name, but also for not getting Montparnasse. Like pokémon, he wanted to catch them all. It says here that Montparnasse would have rather been, “Némorin with the daughter than Schinderhannes with the father.” Shinderhannes was a famous German thief, and Némorin…well, Google translate and This Text lead me to believe that they’d be friends from childhood eventually turned lovers. So, if you hadn’t already surmised what could possibly be more interesting than a good murder party, there you go.
On top of that, mysterious man of mystery, Claquesous had escaped. There is definitely talk about how this could have happened because Claquesous’s so bad that he’s on the side of good and is actually deep, deep undercover, but Javert isn’t having any of it. He’s annoyed with the whole situation.
As for Patron-Minette, the rest of the captured gang have all been put into solitary save Brujon. They leave him out in the yard so that maybe he might turn informant or something. Instead he passes along notes to the outside. The police catch wind of this and arrest some bad guys around the places that the notes were sent and think that’s the end of it.
About a week later a guard sees Brujon writing a letter. I’m not even going to explain the “chestnut” system, which is apparently some way the guard’s operate to make sure they’re checking up on the prisoners every hour, by dropping chestnut into a box, because… I cannot even envision how this would work. Chestnuts are for roasting on an open fire, guys.
Anyway, the guards do not find the letter, but they send Brujon to the dungeon anyway. The letter is about a possible crime that may go down on Rue Plumet, and it finds its way from Brujon, to Babet, who sends it to a friend on the outside, Magnon. You remember Magnon, right? She’s the mother of Grandpa G’s illegitimate non-children and friend to Thénardiers apparently. We’ll hear more on her later, I’m reading. From there she sends this note along to Èponine who, along with Azelma, have been released from whatever juvenile facility they’ve been in.
Èponine goes to case the joint on Rue Plumet and returns a biscuit. Biscuits are prison code for canceling whatever plots are afoot. So much for that.
Moving swiftly along to Father Mabeuf. He’s in as much a sad state as Marius these days. Nobody comes to visit him anymore, since Marius no longer does anything but hang out at the meadow waiting for Cosette to materialize out of thin air. Mother Plutarch is ailing, and Gui de Books is dead. Turns out the bookseller does have a name after all! His name is Royol. Mabeuf is left with his books and his indigo plants and that’s it. He doesn’t laugh anymore, but he still has hope that one day his flowers will grow.
One night Mabeuf is out in his garden trying to water his indigo. He’s having a rough time getting the water out of his well when a girl appears and helps him out. She not only gets the water but waters all the plants as well! When she is finished, she asks him where she can find Marius.
He provides the information about the Meadow of the Lark; since he still passes by Marius, but they only just nod acknowledgement at each other anymore. Then the girl is gone, and Mabeuf might have thought he had imagined the entire thing if not for his freshly watered plants.
Later on, Èponine finds Marius exactly where Mabeuf said he would be. She tells him how she’s been looking all over for him, and talks at him about his moving and the probable reasons for doing so, and that he’s way too young and attractive to be a Baron. She comments on the disrepair of his clothes and how she’s going to fix them up for him.
Nothing seems to be getting through to him, I guess, since he’s pretty unresponsive. ‘Èponine doesn’t really want to tell him her news, but she really hates seeing him so despondent, so she dispenses with the small talk and tells him she has the address.
Marius asks what address as if he doesn’t know exactly what she’s talking about. I guess he doesn’t want to get his hopes up.
Èponine tells him, and once again it’s very clear that she’s not very happy about it. She’s going to show him how to get there anyway. Marius, as you can probably guess, is now completely overjoyed and excited. Èponine on the other hand is really sad that locating Cosette has cheered him up when she couldn’t even make a dent in his melancholy.
There is one last concern that Marius has. He grabs Èponine’s arm and makes her promise that she will never tell her father where Cosette is. She doesn’t at first, because she so happy that he actually knows her by name. She eventually promises, and that she won’t tell anybody else either.
Then they are off. Èponine is concerned that Marius is following too closely, because she doesn’t think a guy like him should be seen in the company of a girl like her. They start off again only to have her stop for Marius to catch up. She reminds him that he promised her something if she found Cosette.
Marius, still totally clueless, automatically attempts to hand her five francs. She just drops it on the ground. She doesn’t want his money. (Well, technically, it’s probably Courfeyrac’s money.)
That’s it! Maybe Cosette and Marius will actually speak to each other in the next chapter? Cross your fingers!
About: Dak reads Les Misérables and recaps it here, so that she may better retain the information. Things not to expect: deep literary analysis. Things to expect: Spoilers. All the spoilers
Marius: Book 8;Courfeyrac Needs Boats and the Jondrette Caper
Now that introductions to the baddies are complete, let’s see how our friend Marius is doing.
Terribly is how he’s doing. He’s fallen into this deep depression over losing this girl that he’s observed but never spoken to for three or five or — I lost count of how many years it’s been. His favorite things just don’t interest him anymore. Work doesn’t interest him. Walking around looking at plants doesn’t interest him. Thinking about stuff doesn’t interest him. He spends all his remaining energies trying to find Mlle. Lanoir to no avail.
He keeps a cork in all his sad emotions though. He doesn’t even confide in his bestie, Courfeyrac, which is probably the least surprising news of all time. Marius doesn’t seem like the type to really open up to anybody in the first place, and in the second place–Courfeyrac? He’s a good friend, but from what we’ve seen so far, he probably isn’t the one I’d go around sharing all my deep emotional manpain with.
In any case, Courfeyrac is still an observant BFF. He knows something is drastically wrong with his pal. In an attempt to cheer up the kid, he enlists Bossuet and Grantaire and they all go to a ball. Specifically Le Bal de Sceaux. Sceaux is a suburb of Paris. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing since they live in Paris, but it can’t not be an allusion to the story of the same name that is part of Balzac’s la Comédie Humaine series about the goings on of the people during the Restoration. Right?
This particular story, published around the time all this stuff in Les Misérables is taking place–1830, is about a girl name Émile who goes to a ball at Sceaux in search of a Pair de France husband. She finds instead a mystery guy named Maximilian who is mostly concerned about caring for his sick sister. He and Émile do eventually fall in love only for her to find out that he’s actually a lowly merchant. Scandal! She dumps him immediately and marries an old guy instead. Later, it turns out Maximilian is a Pair de France after all. He was only keeping shop to take care of his family. Oops.
I’m not sure what, if anything, that has to do with anything, but I didn’t want to pass up a good allusion that I actually managed to notice. Maybe it would help if I read the whole story of Émile and Max instead of just the summary, but…It’s taking me long enough to read this chapter; there is no time for a Balzac intermission!
As for Marius, he only agrees to go with them to this bash because he thinks he might find his “Ursula” there. It doesn’t cheer him up when she is nowhere to be found. Grantaire makes a comment about all lost girls being found there. I’m not sure if it’s a commentary on the women that attend this type of function, or if he’s just being really sarcastic about Marius’s optimism. Maybe both.
Oh, well, if a night out on the town with this particular trio of Amis isn’t going to cheer you up, I don’t know what to tell you, son. At least they tried.
Now, a couple of incidents:
First, Marius thinks he sees M. Leblanc on the street one day. This man he spotted has the hat and the white hair of the old man, and Marius thinks that maybe he should follow the guy. He know’s where that got him last time though. He thinks he could have been happy just sitting on his bench in varying proximity to the girl of his dreams for the rest of time. If only he had never followed then maybe he could still be happy there. I don’t know…what about option #3: speaking words to these people like a human person and not coming off like a shady creepster that is up to no good?
Oh, well, Marius is a man of few words, unless they are about Napoleon, so it is how it is. At least he learned something from the incident, and decides that he’s imagining things, and it’s probably not a good idea to go around stalking people in the shadows anymore. The way things are in this book, it probably was Valjean, but spotting him on the street one day is not nearly coincidental enough of a chance meeting. Try again, Marius.
Incident #2: A couple of girls on the run knock into him as he’s walking in the street one day. It can be gleaned that they are running away from the authorities by what they are shouting at each other. Once they are gone, Marius finds a packet of letters that he figures they must have dropped. He goes shouting after them, but can’t find them, and concludes that they’re out of earshot. You know, because shouting after a couple of kids on the run from authorities is sure to bring them right out of hiding.
Later, we are told again how much Marius doesn’t pay a lick of attention to his neighbors. This is relevant, because he’s totally about to meet them.
One day he’s sitting in his barren room after getting ready for bedtime and opens up the packet of mystery letters to see if he can figure out who they belong to, or where they need to be delivered. What he discovers as he reads them is that they are all written on the same tobacco scented paper and they are all written to different people, begging them for money. They are all signed with different names, but they are all clearly written by the same person.
He’s just way too depressed and sleepy to give any craps about these letters right now, though, so he puts them away and throws the packet into a corner.
The next morning, after Marius has had his toast, he’s ready to get on his way to work when he hears a knock on his door.
This is weird to him, because he leaves his key in the lock all the time basically just inviting all comers into his apartment. The landlady had told him that this was a sure recipe to being robbed blind, but Marius don’t care. He doesn’t think he has anything to steal. Naturally, he is wrong about this. Marius has plenty of stuff to steal. He has two whole suits and toast! The landlady is vindicated when this open door policy got his boots stolen one day.
Still, he leaves the key in the door after that happened. Marius. Learn from your mistakes, bro. He hears the knock again and, without looking up from what he’s doing, asks the landlady what she wants.
It isn’t the landlady.
So, in comes a young girl in this outfit that is basically crumbling right off her because it’s so worn out and threadbare. She’s dirty and barefoot, all bones, and is missing a few teeth. She might have been pretty once upon a time, but life has kicked her down into the state she is now. She is there to deliver a letter to Monsieur Marius, whom she knows by name. He’s sitting there pondering this new and exciting development, because she must have actual business with him if she knows his name. Meanwhile the girl just makes herself right at home there in his room. She basically just barges in without an invitation and pokes and prods at all his stuff from his toiletries down to his ink pens.
He says nothing about her rummaging through his belongings like it ain’t no thing, because he’s too busy feeling pity for her and reading the letter. It is a missive from Jondrette himself, the girl is his daughter, and wouldn’t you know it? It’s written in the exact same way and on the same paper in the exact same handwriting as all the mystery letters! Marius has a moment of clarity where he realizes that Jondrette is actually a big old crook/con-man, so he just checks out of real life for a moment into Marius-land, ruminating on the state of society that would force people into such dire straits.
As for the letter contents, it seems Daddy Jondrette has found out that Marius paid their rent. Now he’s asking for more.
Speaking of Marius, I’m kind of surprised that he hasn’t crumbled to dust and blown away at this point with this girl in his room, touching his things, spilling out of her dress, talking and talking and talking at him. He is pretty distracted with the letter and thinking about stuff though, until she sees his books and is really excited to show him that she can read. She reads a bit from one that happens to be about Waterloo, because of course it is. I imagine that all the books Marius owns that aren’t about lawyering, are probably about Napoleon, and maybe Mabeuf’s flower book. She tells him about her dad, who was at Waterloo.
She also wants to prove to him that she can write too, so she just grabs a pen and a piece of paper and writes down on it:
The Cops Are Here.
So, yeah…if there was any doubt about Jondrette’s occupation, this probably dispels it.
Now that she’s shown him her writing skillz, she’s now going to confess that she’s watched him come and go. She’s even spotted him visiting Mabeuf on occasion. This is why she knows his name. She probably is familiar with his toast habits too, and also, she’ll just go ahead and let Marius know that she thinks he’s “a very pretty boy”.
Marius is retreating into brusque hermit mode now, which feels more like him. He changes the subject quickly and hands over the packet of letters. The girl doesn’t seem to notice he’s gotten frosty, she’s distracted now.
She’s is really excited about finding the missing letters, because she and her sister had been looking all over for them. They had searched and searched and searched, and in the end had lied to their father and told him that all their prospective benefactors had refused to give them money instead of admitting that they’d lost the letters. She takes the packet from Marius with the intent to head straight off and deliver the one for the church-going philanthropist. It’s just about the time he’s getting out of church, so perfect timing!!
Marius hasn’t forgotten his very own letter from Jondrette though. He’s going to give them money anyway, even though he knows Jondrette is a scam artist. People got to do what they got to do to eat, and there’s no question that his neighbors don’t have much. He fishes around in his pockets for the cash, reserving only enough for his own meals and giving her the rest; a grand total of five francs. She’s grateful for this and grabs a moldy dried out crust of bread that she spots to eat on her way out.
And that is that! Or is it?
No, it’s not, because Marius is thinking some more about the state of things and his poor neighbors. He feels really badly about it, because he’s spent all his time there not noticing their hardships. He really wishes he could have done more to help them out and is totally awash with guilt about it. He then decides he really needs to learn more about these people. There is a word for people like the Jondrettes. Everybody say it with me now: Les Misérables. There’s supposed to be some kind of fanfare and confetti falling from the sky when a work references its own title, right?
It just so happens that despite the Gorbeau house being empty of all tenants aside from Marius and the Jondrettes, they are living in adjacent rooms. Also, there is a hole in the wall just big enough for Marius to peep through, because of course there is and of course he would. I think Marius’s entire book should be subtitled again. Les Misérables: Vol. III: Marius: What are you doing?
Marius maybe hasn’t actually learned anything from the last time he was a giant creeper, so he goes on ahead and climbs up on his dresser to peephole height, so he can peep the Jondrette’s living quarters.
What he sees certainly shocks him, because these people are living in filth pretty much. Like, he thought he was poor? By comparison, Marius is living the high life. These people have nothing. On the other hand Marius has a job, he’s got skills, and an education, he has good friends who help help out no questions asked, he can buy new boots after his get stolen and still leave his door unlocked, and he can afford to let his crusts of bread sit around long enough for them to turn into moldy rocks for goodness sake!
Jondrette is a thin weasly looking guy, skinny in his woman’s blouse, with a long scraggly grey beard. The wife is there, she’s a hulking woman with red hair cooking by the fire, and there is a younger girl who’s practically naked. He’s standing there observing the dire conditions of his neighbor’s lodgings when the older girl bursts into the place and she’s got news. One of the letter addressees, an old philanthropist, is coming to visit them. He’s right on her tail.
And so begins the preparations for their benefactor’s arrival. Marius is about to witness the execution of a con. Not that they aren’t super poor to begin with, but Jondrette is making it his mission to make them appear even more destitute.
Jondrette gives his family instructions. He tells the younger girl to break the window. She doesn’t want to, but eventually gives in and just punches out a pane of glass with her bare hand. She cuts herself as she does it. I’ll let you ponder how intimidating and abusive Daddy Jondrette is to be able to compel a child to do that. He’s even pleased at his daughter’s misfortune, because now she can cry real tears in her mother’s arms and look even more pitiful with that injury. Mom is none too pleased about this, but she goes along with her husband anyway. On top of this, it is winter and freezing outside.
He tries to get the older girl to break out the bottom of the only chair, but she doesn’t do it. He breaks the chair by sticking his foot through it. They are now ready to receive company.
Marius sticks to his peephole like glue and what he sees next shocks him to the core, because who walks in the door but M. Leblanc and Mlle. Lanoir! (I did not intend for that sentence to be so Seusstastic!) There they are, in the flesh, right in the very same building that he lives in! And that is how you do a proper chance meeting!
They come bearing gifts of clothing and blankets. Jondrette is not pleased with material goods though. He’s after the cash, so now he has to put on a show. Jondrette gives Leblanc the entire spiel he had prepared for his playwright character. This is his cover for this particular letter. I assume he’s crafted each identity to appeal most to each letter recipient. In any case, Jondrette bemoans the lack of funding in the arts these days. What’s a poor author to do with a family to feed? Leblanc is sympathetic of course, because if there’s one thing this guy loves to do it’s help the less fortunate whether they need a job at a bead factory or need rescuing from a ship’s rigging, or rescuing from Javert, or just giving his money away in general.
Jondrette pleads for an amount of rent money which is much more than is due. Marius knows because it couldn’t have accumulated that much since the time he paid it. Leblanc hands over five francs. Jondrette isn’t exactly pleased over only five francs though.
Leblanc promises to return later in the evening with some more though, and he also leaves his coat for Jondrette.
Marius quickly comes to the decision that he must follow them. Always a good idea. He overestimates the amount of time it’s going to take them to get back down to the fiacre though (He’s afraid Valjean will spot him, recognize him, and move again) By the time he’s made it outside, they’re already turning the corner. Marius decides that he can’t run after it to follow, because that would just be crazy. Luckily an empty cab is right there for him to jump into. This is kind of surprising, because isn’t Gorbeau house supposed to be in some shady hidden side-street off the beaten path somewhere? I’m pretty sure that’s a specific reason why Marius, Jondrette and Valjean picked it for their lodgings. I wouldn’t imagine a lot of cab traffic would be going through there. I guess Marius is just that fortunate. Alright! Mad fiacre chase through the streets of Paris to find the love of his life that he’s never spoken to? Let’s go!
Wait, not so fast, Marius. The driver wants him to pay up front. He’s a pretty savvy cabbie, I have to say. Because of Marius’s old beat up clothings, the man doesn’t think he can pay for this ride. I don’t really blame him. If he’s driving around places like Gorbeau house looking for fares, he’s probably been burned before. Marius says he’ll pay when they get back, but the driver is not having it, and just like that Marius’s 19th century version of a Rom-Com cliche has been foiled.
He heads back into the house but not before noticing and also not noticing that Jondrette is outside talking to famous night-stalker Panchaud aka Printanier, aka Bigrenaille, and in a great feat of word-padding, the likes of which are usually only seen in November, almost every time this guy is referred to in this chapter it’s by at least two of these names. Even Marius knows who he is, because Courfeyrac told him. (Courfeyrac knows because he is everywhere, of course).
I guess this Panchaud character is important because we start going into detail about what a legend … He will become. He’s not quite so notorious as to inspire awe among his future convict fellows yet, so I’m not even sure why we’re talking about him in such great detail.
Back inside the eldest Jondrette girl is following after him, and now Marius is bursting with resentment for her, because she has the five francs that were jangling around in his pockets that very morning and could have paid for his cab fare just now. He knows he can’t even ask her where Lanoir lives, because the letter was addressed to the church.
The girl isn’t going to leave him alone and just watch him this time. She actually holds the door to his room open when he tries to shut it. He’s really impatient and huffy and downright snippy with her this time when she asks what’s wrong with him. She doesn’t understand why he was so nice and generous to her this morning and now he’s being such a dick all of a sudden. She’s much more timid than she was this morning and stays in the doorway as she offers to help him resolve whatever issues he’s having, because she doesn’t want him to feel bad anymore. This sparks an idea in him. He’s suddenly more happy and optimistic, and she’s a little more brighter because he is. He asks if she can find out where their benefactors live. And just like that she’s back to gloomy. She rightly guesses that it isn’t LeBlanc that he cares about, but the girl.
She can find them but is giving off serious vibes that this is a task she really doesn’t actually want to do. For reasons. She agrees to do it though, because Marius asked. Her bitter tone of voice whenever she mentions the girl makes him uneasy, but he just fails to make the connection that she might be upset because he’s so into this Lanoir character especially after she flat out just told him to his face that very morning that she watches him and thinks he’s totally hot.
Back in his own abode, Marius was about to sit down and do whatever it is that Marius does during the day while he’s… I guess he’s just going to be skipping work today. He can hear Jondrette ranting and raving in the other room again. How can he resist? He climbs back up to his peephole to peep some more. There he finds Jondrette having a fit about the M. Leblanc being the man who took Mlle. Lanoir away from them so many years ago, depriving them of sorely needed income. Okay, I’m dropping Courfeyrac’s nicknames for good now. They’re going to be Valjean and Cosette again.
Anyway, the Jondrette woman is totally skeptical about her husband’s assertion at first, because no way the lark could have grown up into the lovely young lady Cosette is today.
Jondrette is convinced though, and he has a plan! Marius sits there and listens to all the sinister plotting going on next door. Jondrette is going to enlist his shady underworld buddies to get all the millions of Francs he thinks he is owed, from M. Leblanc. He seems to be under the impression that this guy has all the money in the world, and if he doesn’t fork it over then Jondrette is going to kill him. He plans to use Valjean’s five francs to go buy some sort of murder tool at the hardware store.
Well, well, well–Murder! That is shocking to Marius. He waffles about what to do about what he’s overheard and eventually decides to go to the police.
On his way there he hears whisperings from behind a wall and decides that he wants to hear more. It’s a couple of rough looking dudes talking about “The Affair” and how it can’t go wrong with Patron Minette! They’re all due five or six hundred francs if everything goes according to plan, and if it goes wrong the max they could get is ten years. Marius decides “The Affair” must be Jondrette’s plot, because apparently there can only be one big crime committed at a time here.
When Marius finally gets to the Police Station, he is directed to a certain wolf-esque inspector who we all know and love. This entire meeting between Marius and the inspector goes without his name being spoken until the very end, but it’s Javert. I’m not even going to try and keep you in suspense, because it’s already totally obvious from the start.
Javert listens to Marius’s story. He’s particularly interested about whether or not the four corners of Patron Minette are going to be there, but Marius hasn’t seen them. Just Panchaud and the mention of the gang by the whispering bandits that Javert calls Brujon and Demi-Liard. Javert decides Marius is an upstanding and honest young man on the basis of their conversation here and absolutely nothing else even though Marius is peeved that Javert hasn’t called him Monsieur during the exchange and indignant that Javert thinks he might not be brave enough to handle the forthcoming shenanigans. So, Javert hands him two pistols and instructions to conceal them in his fob pockets and go back to his peephole at the appropriate time to fire off a warning shot at the exactly perfect moment for the cops catch Jondrette in the act of an actual crime and bust up his little extortion/murder party. Marius should know when, because he is a lawyer and lawyers should know such things. Sure they should, but Marius. . .
Okay, so we’re just giving out guns to randoms just in off the street? I mean, I know owning a gun was probably par for the course back in the days, but it doesn’t seem like the wisest decision of all time. What credibility does Marius Pontmercy: Lawyer, translator, and garden ponderer extraordinaire actually have aside from Javert’s intuition? For all Javert knows, Marius could be putting on a masterful show and is the secret heretofore unseen, unknown, singular mastermind behind the Patron Minette gang Javert’s so keen on capturing. It could be a trap! Of course this is all speculatory nothings to us, because we know Bambi over here isn’t the secret mastermind behind anything aside from stalking Cosette. Javert, on the other hand, should probably know better. He’s also severely underestimating Marius’s infinite capacity for being distracted and conflicted. This is a mistake that is surely going to come back and bite him in the ass.
On his way back home, Marius spots Jondrette, and decides to follow him. Of course he does. All of life’s problems can be solved by stalking people and listening in on their conversations, right?
You’ll never guess who spots Marius trailing along after Jondrette.
Here is a pause for you to guess… …
If you guessed Courfeyrac (because Courfeyrac is everywhere) and Bossuet, then you would be right. Seriously, what is with the peanut gallery over here? Courfeyrac is always cropping up at random to LOL at Marius. Not that Marius doesn’t do LOL worthy things, but still. It’s like Marius is trying to hunt ducks and Courfeyrac is the loyal hunting dog popping up out of the reeds to snicker at his efforts.
Bousset is in the midst of poetically comparing the snow to beautiful butterflies when they spot their friend. Courfeyrac decides they shouldn’t go say hi, because Marius is tailing someone and is in love, and Bossuet is confused because there are no beautiful ladies anywhere to be seen. Courfeyrac points out that he is following a guy and they have a laugh.
Bossuet wants to see what he’s really up to still. They don’t have to say hi, but they can follow him! Because as we have learned so far, creeping on people can only lead to good things! You know, like heartache, depression, and overhearing criminal murder plans. Courfeyrac thinks this is foolish and calls Bossuet “Eagle of Meaux” whilst telling him so. This still cracks me up. I think because it’s such a regal and serious sounding nickname, and Bossuet is Bossuet.
Anyway, this is probably a good thing, since I have the feeling the whole “affair” is going to descend into chaos as it is. Do we really need to add Courfeyrac and Bossuet to the equation? (The answer is actually yes! Always! Courfeyrac and Bossuet for all the lawyer adventures. Are you listening, Rob Thomas?)
Marius is too focused on following Jondrette to notice his pals. He watches the guy go into a hardware store, and then it’s time for Marius to go home and resume his post on top of his dresser before the landlady locks the door for the night since he’d given his master key to Javert. On his way up to his lodgings, he thinks he sees some people in one of the empty rooms.
Back in his room Marius can hear the conversation when Jondrette comes in without having to get up to his peephole, because now he’s listening. By what they’re saying, Marius can tell that Madame Jondrette is all dressed up and the girls are about to go out to keep watch, but not before the eldest is ordered to go check Marius’s room to make sure nobody’s in there. She’s sure there isn’t, but they make her go check anyway. There’s only one place to hide and that is under the bed.
The girl doesn’t seem really interested in conducting a thorough search of the place to see if he’s hiding somewhere. She’s more interested in making use of his mirror while she has the chance. She lies and tells her dad that she did look under the bed when she didn’t, so he’s safe for now.
Now it’s time for Marius to get up on his dresser, the girls are gone, and the stage is set. The chisel Jondrette bought is on the fire and Marius gets a gander at Madame Jondrette’s getup. She’s got a feather hat and everything. Apparently it’s a spectacle that Courfeyrac would have found hilarious, because we should definitely know what Courfeyrac’s opinion would have been had he been Marius. (It’s a good thing he’s not. Bossuet tried to be Marius once, and it didn’t work out for him at all.) Jondrette decides he needs a couple chairs for the guests. I guess that’s reasonable, since he destroyed their only one earlier in the day. If you’re going to be murdering a guy, might as well give him a place to sit. Before Marius can even move from his perch, the Jondrette woman is over at his place “borrowing” his chair. She just waltzes right in and doesn’t even notice Marius standing on top of his dresser. I know this action is getting really serious right now, but — I think you’ll have to agree that is a pretty comical image.
Soon, M. Leblanc aka. Ultimus Fauchelevent, aka Jean Valjean is back with the money for Jondrette. Before he can get out of there though, Jondrette sits him down and tries to get him to buy a painting that Marius had noticed during his earlier peeping.
Valjean is having none of this, even as Jondrette tries to talk the thing up and haggle with him. Haggling only works if the other party is interested in purchasing the item though, and Valjean can see that it is merely an old broken down wooden sign for an inn. This goes on for a while, and as it does, three people in blackface or masks have stealthily entered the room. Jondrette tries to pass them off as his neighbors. Because it’s normal for your neighbors to just pop right in without knocking and stand around with their faces masked looking sinister and intimidating.
Just as Valjean and Marius are noticing these newcomers, the door burst open and it’s none other than the top bad guys of Patron Minette themselves, Babet, Claquesous, and Guelemer; they say everything is prepared. Everything except for Montparnasse who had taken a detour to chat with Eponine. What is that all about? He’s missing a good murder party here.
Jondrette is losing patience quickly now. He starts goading Valjean about how they know each other for a while whilst Valjean feigns ignorance. Denying it, isn’t going to work though, because Jondrette is determined. And he really doesn’t like it when Valjean calls them bandits, because how dare he when he can sit in his nice house with nice shoes and never know what it’s really like to be poor and suffer.
He finally gives up the song and dance and drops the big reveal on us. Jondrette is really Thénardier!
Shocking. I know.
Well, it is to Marius at least. He was preparing to fire his gun when this happens and it’s like a ton of bricks falling on him. He doesn’t know what to do. What seemed so black and white: Catch the Murderous Bad Guys, now isn’t quite so clear. On one hand this is the man who saved his father. It must be, and Marius had dedicated himself to fulfilling his father’s wish to do service for this man. As if he was reading Marius’s mind, Thénardier confirms it by going on and on and on about that guy he saved at Waterloo, and he’s such a hero, and he’s really laying it on thick. It’s almost as if even he has forgotten that he was actually robbing the guy, wasn’t actually in the fight to begin with, and only saved Georges by pure happenstance.
Marius starts thinking that turning this dude in to Javert is going to dishonour his father’s memory and his wishes. On the other, Cosette’s probably going to pretty upset with him if she ever finds out he let her father perish when he had the chance to save him. You know, if they ever meet and speak words to each other that is. What to do?
Whilst Marius is pondering over this, Thénardier is busy wildly threatening Valjean who is attempting to jump out the window but gets tied up to the bed instead. In the scuffle Boulatruelle gets knocked unconscious.
Thénardier is now going to dictate a letter for Valjean to write to Cosette, and Valjean reveals yet another alias: Urbain Fabre. So…is this a fake-out, or is this a new name he goes by? One that he presumably chose, so he didn’t have to buy all new monogrammed hankies? In any case, Valjean is steadfastly denying he even knows this girl Thenardier is talking about. (Marius realizes in this space that Ursula is definitely not the girl’s name and he’s been carrying the old man’s hankie over his heart this entire time.)
With the information had, Thénardier sends the wife off in a waiting carriage and proceeds to let Valjean in on his dastardly plan to make sure he pays up. If he has a mustache to go with his beard, he should probably be twirling it right about now.
The plan is to send his wife to fetch Cosette and keep her hidden away until Valjean pays up. The note is so she will come willingly, and he can’t call the police because that will be the end of Cosette.
Eventually Thénardiess comes back only to reveal the address was fake and they’d never heard of this Urbain Fabre. Thénardier wants to know what Valjean hoped to gain by that and threatens him with the now sufficiently heated chisel he got from the hardware store earlier.
Time! Valjean says, because he is a super cool action hero with spiffy comebacks. He is now unbound! How did he manage to do that? Well, he keeps a coin with a hidden built in little saw for just such occasions, because of course he does. He is mostly free, but he can’t make a break for it just yet, because he’s still surrounded by bandits and one foot is still tied to the bed..
Meanwhile, despite death threats, bondage, and the possible kidnapping in progress of his lady love, Marius remains rooted to his spot at the peephole completely frozen and watching as Valjean’s situation gets more and more dire. To be fair, his reasoning for not firing the warning shot had shifted from the feeling of honor-bound duty to his father to concern for Cosette’s safety. Now that he knows she’s safe, he has a choice to make before someone gets killed.
He doesn’t want the old man to die, but he doesn’t want to betray his father, etc… This is when he spots the note that Eponine wrote that morning, cinematically lit up by a shaft of moonlight coming in through the window: The Cops Are Here. He wraps it up in a rock and when he thinks everybody is distracted, he pushes it through the peephole.
That is… Well, it’s a bit convenient that phrase is the one Eponine is most familiar writing, but that’s also actually a pretty clever way out of this moral dilemma. Of course it could all go terribly wrong anyway, but as it is, the bandits have come to the conclusion that they must all abscond through the window ASAP. All of them. Through the Window. They are busy wasting time deciding in which order the seven of them are going descend down the rope ladder that Thénardier had quickly attached to the sill. Thénardier thinks they’re being idiots as they try to decide whether or not to draw straws or put their names in a hat to decide who goes first. Inspector Javert, who had had enough of Marius’s dilly-dallying, makes his wolfy presence known by throwing the door open and offering his own hat.
Because he too is a super cool action hero with spiffy comebacks!
Javert only has to make his appearance and all the baddies in the room don’t even want to fuck with him. They just give right up. These guys are really failing at being murderous criminals right now. I know they’re outgunned and outnumbered by Javert’s crew, but aren’t they supposed to go out in a blaze of glory or at least attempt a halfhearted scuffle to save face or something? None of them even attempt a quick jump out the window or anything.
Javert on the other hand has apparently done a bang up job of instilling fear in the populous. He’s captured most of the leadership of Patron Minette, because all of them save Montparnasse had decided to all gather so conveniently in the same tiny room from which there is virtually no escaping for no reason. Thénardier himself was wondering why so many of them showed up. Yes. Definitely some really spectacular villain failure happening here. Which is good for Javert, because he was getting zero help from his man on the inside. I bet this is probably the last time he entrusts crucial tactical decisions to a twenty something old dreamer with daddy issues, who is probably still frozen on top of his own dresser.
As for Valjean, he’s taken the window option himself in the confusion, because of course he did. This particular section is labeled: “The Victim’s Should Always be Arrested First” Which definitely would have been a prudent move on Javert’s part. Can you imagine? Valjean would just be the icing on the Patron Minette cake.
Later, Gavroche–you remember Gavroche, right? He’s on his way to drop in on his family for the odd visit only to find out from the landlady that they’ve all been arrested.
And that is it for Vol. III: Marius (What Are You Doing????). Next time: It looks like we’ll learn more about historical context and Brujons!
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.
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:
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!
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.