Chapter 1 Some time after this, Boulatruelle (the convict from Montfermeil who had attempted to follow Valjean into the forest) has taken up a job as a road-mender, largely abandoning his thefts. One morning he’s on his way to work and catches sight of a familiar-looking man between the trees. Boulatruelle thinks of the treasure and vows to find the man. He pursues him into the forest but then loses him. He climbs up a beech tree to see better.
We return to Montfermeil and to Boulatruelle after a long absence, and now it’s suggested that even someone like Boulatruelle might be able to rehabilitate himself and his way of life. Of course, a path towards redemption is full of temptations, and Boulatruelle is just as susceptible to them as anyone.
Boulatruelle sees the man enter an open glade and approach a chestnut tree with a sheet of zinc nailed onto the bark. He jumps gaily down from the tree and zigzags through the underbrush, flailing among the nettles and hawthorns. Finally Boulatruelle reaches the tree, which now has a pick-axe left in front of it and an empty hole. He cries “Thief!” into the horizon.
This comic scene provides a bit of respite from the earlier, dramatic sections of the book, as we see how difficult it is for Boulatruelle to relinquish his sense that the money he’s spent so much time searching for is actually his by right, and the unknown man is the true thief.
Chapter 2 Marius remains in a fever for many weeks, with his grandfather seated at his side. Every day a well-dressed man with white hair inquires after him and leaves a package of lint for his bandages. In September Marius’s convalescence begins, and only two months later can he emerge from bed. Six months after the riots, however, France has largely forgotten the actors, and he’s no longer pursued.
This well-dressed man with white hair might not be known to the servants who open Gillenormand’s door, but it’s clear to us that it’s Valjean, whose hatred for Marius continues to coexist with a desire for him to recover—a desire linked only to Valjean’s love for Cosette.
When the doctor announces that Marius will recover, Gillenormand grows delirious with joy. Before, he had never really believed in God, but now he prays and cries “Long live the Republic!” Meanwhile, Marius continues to think about Cosette, the only fixed point in his life. His grandfather’s solicitude hasn’t entirely won him over—he believes that as soon as he mentions Cosette, Gillenormand’s true character will be unmasked again. He thinks again of his grandfather’s harshness towards his father. Gillenormand does notice that Marius hasn’t called him “father” since being restored to health. One morning he complains about the Convention based on a newspaper article, and Marius says firmly that the men of ’93 were giants. Gillenormand remains silent.
Gillenormand’s love for Marius provokes a somewhat sudden shift in values and beliefs, and he seems to embrace both God and republicanism upon learning of Marius’s recovery. Marius continues to be suspicious of his grandfather, whose last words to him had been a merry suggestion that he make Cosette his mistress. Marius may not notice, but it appears that at least for Gillenormand, politics has grown far less important than his relationship to his grandson, as evidenced by the fact that he stays silent rather than arguing and defending royalism.
Chapter 3 One day, Gillenormand suggests that Marius begin to eat meat to regain his strength. Marius takes the opportunity to sit up and say that he has something to say: he wishes to marry. His grandfather agrees and laughs merrily, while Marius, stunned, trembles. Gillenormand says that the girl has spent her time weeping and waiting for him. The girl is charming and discreet, Gillenormand says, and if Marius had died she would have as well. He’s realized Marius does not love him, and now he wants only for Marius to marry and be happy. Gillenormand bursts into tears, and Marius addresses him as Father, shocking his grandfather. He asks if he might see Cosette that day, and Gillenormand agrees.
Marius is still convinced that Gillenormand will remain just as stubborn and entrenched in his old ways as ever. While Marius has remained his stubborn, idealistic self, it’s Gillenormand whose very nature has been transformed as a result of his love for Marius. Now Gillenormand says he accepts that Marius doesn’t love him, though it’s clear that he feels less stoically about this coldness than he lets on, as this final reconciliation reveals.
Chapter 4 Cosette arrives at Marius’s room, delighted and afraid, followed by Jean Valjean. The porter cannot recognize in this man the haggard, muddy figure that had arrived on June 7th carrying Marius, but he still feels that he’s seen Valjean’s face before. Gillenormand asks Valjean for Cosette’s hand on behalf of Marius, and Valjean bows. Cosette tells Marius how afraid she was for him. Then they pause and Gillenormand tells the rest of the room to speak loudly so that the couple may speak in confidence.
While Gillenormand is now delighted to bring Marius and Cosette together, Valjean cannot feel such joy, though he knows that his entire drawn-out rescue of Marius intended this best-case scenario all along. For the first time, Cosette and Marius meet not hidden in the overgrown garden on the Rue Plumet, but with their families.
Gillenormand exclaims that Cosette is beautiful, but then he turns gloomy, and says that much of his wealth is tied up in an annuity, meaning that they won’t have much to live on after he dies. Valjean says that “Euphrasie Fauchelevent” possesses 600,000 francs, and opens the package on the table. The grandfather exclaims that young Marius has stumbled upon a “studentess” who’s actually a millionaire. Meanwhile Marius and Cosette gaze at each other, unaware of all this.
Euphrasie had been the original name Fantine gave to Cosette, though we haven’t heard it spoken before now. By retaining the name Fauchelevent, Valjean continues to conceal one aspect of Cosette’s past. We’ve seen these 600,000 francs before, as the approximate amount of the mayor Madeleine’s hidden fortune.
Chapter 5 The narrator assumes the reader has gathered how Valjean had been able to bury the sum previously deposited at Laffitte’s in the forest of Montfermeil, together with the Bishop’s candlesticks. He’s returned each time he needed money. Now he keeps only 500 francs for himself. He knows he’s free from Javert; he saw in the newspaper that the police inspector was found drowned, in a probable case of mental illness and suicide.
The mystery of Boulatruelle and the hidden treasure is now resolved, and it becomes clear that Valjean has only retained his wealth in order to bestow it upon Cosette, the person he loves most. It’s ironic that Javert’s revelation, in which he finally grasped the truth of real justice, is considered in society as “mental illness.”
Chapter 6 Valjean and Gillenormand prepare the wedding. Valjean concocts a whole deceased family for Cosette, in which he is her uncle. She’s declared an orphan, with Valjean (as Fauchelevent) her guardian. They deposit a legacy supposedly given to her by a dead person who had wished to remain anonymous. Cosette is slightly saddened by the realization that Valjean is not her true father, but she’s already so joyful that it matters less than it might have otherwise, and she continues to call him father.
While Valjean had been ready to give up his disguises and yield to Javert not much earlier, he now is careful to resume his concealment, though for Cosette’s sake rather than for his own. Cosette, once again, is portrayed as somewhat simple but also consistently loving towards both Valjean and Marius.
Gillenormand is more excited than anyone about the wedding, but claims that the 18th century knew better how to organize such events, with its manners, music, luxury, and gaiety. Today people are too serious, he says, expounding upon the older days as Cosette and Marius stop listening and gaze only at each other. Aunt Gillenormand has lived these past few months in a state of shock, but now she regains her piety and begins to spend much time at church, mumbling her rosary. She’s hurt by her father’s failure to consult her about the marriage, but ultimately decides to leave her inheritance to the young people. It’s decided that they will live with Gillenormand.
Gillenormand is described somewhat sympathetically in his newly gained enthusiasm for his grandson’s decision to marry, but he’s still rather ridiculous, and his rambling monologues serve as a comic counterpoint to the romantic silences between Cosette and Marius. Aunt Gillenormand has not experience anything close to the kind of political and personal transformation undergone by her father, but even she looks kindly on the couple.
Chapter 7 Cosette and Marius see each other every day, accompanied by Fauchelevent/Valjean. Marius doesn’t entirely understand the man, and he asks himself whether he might have seen him in the barricade. Marius is haunted by the thoughts of his friends, all dead. It’s difficult for him to believe that he’s now rich, has a family, and will marry Cosette—nothing he could have expected. Only once does Marius ask Fauchelevent, if he’s acquainted with the Rue de la Chanvrerie, and Fauchelevent replies that he has no idea where that is. Marius decides that he must have been hallucinating.
Marius had been carried through the sewers and had been deposited at his grandfather’s home in a state of near death, which further complicates the matter of sorting out the different identities and guises that he’s seen “Fauchelevent” take on. His love for Cosette is such that he doesn’t have too much time to probe these matters more deeply, so Valjean’s secrets can remain still undiscovered for a while.
Chapter 8 Marius makes all the attempts he can to find two men: Thenardier and the unknown man who had brought him back to Gillenormand. But Madame Thenardier had died in prison, and no one can find a trace of the husband or his daughter Azelma. For the other man, Marius finds the coachman who had brought him to the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire on June 6th, who declares that on that afternoon, he had stood at the command of a police-agent (Javert) on the quai; around nine o’clock that evening, a man had emerged from the sewer grating bearing another who appeared to be dead. The agent had first brought the two men into the carriage and then to the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, where they had deposited the dead man (Marius). Then the police agent had led the other man away into the dark.
Rather than attempting to resolve the murky familiarity of Fauchelevent, Marius turns to two mysteries that seem more vital to him. He obviously doesn’t know that he’d met Thenardier in the sewers, though Thenardier had believed him to be already dead. By tracking down the coachman, Marius learns that there must have been some connection between Javert—or the police force in general—and the person who saved him. Finding this person and Thenardier will allow Marius, he believes, to repay both his own debts and those of his father.
Marius wants to find the savior who had led him through the sewer. He asks the police, but no one has any report of an arrest made on June 6th, and they say that the coachman must have made the affair up. Marius wonders what has become of this agent. One day, speaking with Valjean and Cosette, he exclaims how sublime this man must have been, to have traveled more than a league in the terrifying underground chambers with the sole object of saving himself, risking his own life twenty times, whereas he, Marius, was only an insurgent. He would give all Cosette’s 600,000 francs to know who this man was. Valjean remains silent.
The reader is of course far better acquainted with this mystery than is Marius, who seems to have reached a dead end, given that his savior appears not to have been arrested, despite having supposedly been accompanied by a police agent through the night. It’s somewhat frustrating, then, to see Valjean refuse to clarify the mystery, though it makes sense as part of his general reluctance to admit heroism or glory.