Les Miserables 81: Where Are They Going?

lesmiserablesAt this point in the story we have just seen Marius have his hopes of gaining his grandfather’s blessing to marry Cosette dashed.  Let us not forget that Thenardier and his gang have just tried to rob Jean Valjean’s house on the Rue Plumet.

In this section we have three short chapters showing key characters in the aftermath of these events, heading toward the story’s climax.  We see that Eponine has a hand in the events that steer two of the three characters to their places in the story’s climax.  Victor Hugo never comes out and says this is Eponine, but he gives you just enough to recognize her from earlier descriptions and put two and two together because he gives you the reader credit for having at least a little bit of intelligence.

First we see Jean Valjean.  He is sitting on a solitary embankment at the Champ de Mars.  He just wants to be alone with his thoughts.  He doesn’t suspect a thing as far as Marius and Cosette are concerned, but there have been some troubling developments lately.  He has seen Thenardier snooping around the neighborhood, and he has noticed a growing political unrest in the city.  A growing unrest would mean an increased police presence, which would of course put him in danger.  This alone was enough to make him seriously consider leaving the country.  Then, earlier in the day he was out in the garden and he noticed writing on the wall, where Marius had written his address for Cosette the night before.  But Valjean knew nothing of Marius’s nightly visits, and so he was deeply troubled.  And while he was sitting on the embankment, someone came up behind him and dropped a note which said nothing but “MOVE OUT”.  This sealed the deal for him.  He looked around and caught a brief glimpse of a childlike figure in workingman’s clothes running away.

We then turn to Marius.  He had gone to Gillenormand’s with little hope, he left with none.  He wandered the streets all through the night before returning to Courfeyrac’s in the wee hours of the morning.  He didn’t even bother to get ready for bed.  He slept through the day; when he finally woke up Courfeyrac and friends were preparing to head out for General Lamarque’s funeral.  This didn’t even register with him.  He headed out later, taking the two pistols that Javert had given him just before his adventure at Gorbeau.  He still had these laying around, and he couldn’t tell what impulse possessed him to take them with him.  (This is a small detail, but Victor Hugo feels compelled to mention it here, so we can be sure that these two pistols will play a significant role later on in the story.)  He continued to wander the streets just like he did after leaving Gillenormand’s, but he clung to the certainty that he would see Cosette that night.  That night he went to the Rue Plumet and entered the garden, but there was no Cosette.  He searched all around, but still no Cosette.  He knocked on the windows of the house and called for Cosette, even at the risk of exposing himself, but there was no response.  The house was completely deserted.  He then heard a voice that sounded just like Eponine’s calling out, “Monsieur Marius”, just as Eponine had addressed him in earlier meetings, and telling him that his friends were waiting for him at the barricade.  He looked around and saw a figure that looked like a young man (this connects this sighting of Eponine with the figure that Valjean saw earlier in the day) disappearing into the twilight.  (Remember that in Paris the days are very long in the summer and the sun doesn’t set until very late.)

Finally we see M. Mabeuf, whom we haven’t seen in quite some time.  His is an extremely heartbreaking tale.  The last we saw of him Gavroche had just dropped a purse in his garden which Montparnesse had attempted to steal from Valjean and which Valjean had given him, and which Gavroche had in turn stolen from him.  But Mabeuf was too honest for his own good and he did not trust this gift, so he returned it to the police station where it languished as unclaimed property.  Meanwhile he continued to decline.  He was forced to sell his plants, then his furniture, and finally his books.  Recall that Mabeuf loved gardening and rare books.  Both of these loves were taken from him as he descended into poverty.  When he reached the point where he was forced to sell his books, a dark veil seemed to pass over his face that would never lift again.  Finally he sold the last of his books to pay for some expensive medicines for his housekeeper who had fallen ill.  The day was June 4.  The next day he heard the sound of fighting off in the distance.  He asked a passerby what the noise was, and was informed that it was a riot near the Arsenal.  He went inside and looked for a book to sell.  When he saw the empty bookcase he remembered that there were no more.  He then wandered off in a daze.

You will have to stay tuned to find out what becomes of these three characters.