Section 4 - Saint-Denis and Idyll of the Rue Plumet
Book Fifteen - The Rue De L'Homme-Arme
The book begins by relating the details of Jean Valjean, Cosette and Toussaint's removal from the house on the Rue Plumet. For the first time Jean Valjean and Cosette were at odds and they maintained a stony silence born of Valjean's anxiety and Cosette's sadness. She had succeeded in giving her note to what she believed was a young workingman who was lingering outside the gate. Nevertheless, she feared she would never see Marius again. Jean Valjean had allowed the women only to bring a few essentials. Cosette had brought her writing utensils and her writing blotter and Valjean had brought only the little trunk in which he kept the clothes he had first given to Cosette at the Thenardiers. Soon after they arrived at the stark lodging on the rarely traveled Rue de l'Homme Arme, Cosette retired to her bed with claims of a headache. Jean Valjean felt his anxiety fade and began to pace the room while pondering the best way to make possible their removal to England. He was so absorbed that he barely noticed when Toussaint told him that there is fighting in the city. He was happy because all he required for his happiness was Cosette.
While pacing his gaze happened to fall upon Cosette's writing blotter reflected in the mirror and he sees Cosette's message to Marius. He is stunned and sinks into a chair. It seems to him that all the light has gone out of the world because it is obvious that Cosette has affections for another than himself. He feels betrayed. He knows immediately, without knowing his name, that the object of Cosette's affection is the young man from the Luxembourg. He feels hatred for this young man swell within him. He goes out to sit on the curb and listen to the sounds of the city.
Gavroche approaches looking for the correct address to deliver the letter from Marius. Gavroche notices that the lights in the street are still working and throws a stone to break one. Jean Valjean asks what is the matter and Gavroche tells him that he is hungry. Jean Valjean takes pity and gives the boy a five-franc piece, an amount Gavroche has never seen. The boy refuses the coin, however, and insists that he would rather break lamps than have the money. Jean Valjean insists that he may take the money and continue to break lamps and Gavroche happily accepts. Gavroche informs him of the address he seeks and Jean Valjean gleans that he must have a letter from Marius to Cosette. Jean Valjean pretends to be expecting the letter and Gavroche turns it over to him. Through subtle questioning, Jean Valjean learns the location of the barricade where Marius is fighting. Gavroche leaves and Jean Valjean goes upstairs to read the letter. After perusing its contents he realizes that Marius will be dead by morning but the knowledge gives him no comfort. Soon afterward he leaves the apartment dressed in his National Guard uniform and bearing a musket.
On his way back to the barricade, Gavroche steals a handcart from a drunken porter. His lamp carousing has not gone unnoticed in the otherwise peaceful quarter of the city and the local guard post hears the sound of his cart approaching. An officer stops him and demands to know where he is going but receives only sarcastic rebukes. Finally Gavroche shoves the cart into the officer's stomach which causes the man's gun to discharge. The whole barracks comes out in defense of their commander and begins firing at random but Gavroche has long since fled. He realizes that he is wasting time and resolves to head straight back to the barricade with no further distractions. The event becomes immortalized in the Quarter as the "Nocturnal attack on the post of the Imprimerie Royale."
Both Marius and Valjean go to the barricade out of despair. They both feel that they have lost Cosette and that death is their only form of consolation. Gavroche is motivated to go to the barricade because he wants excitement and adventure. None of these men appears to be motivated to fight for a particular cause.