Les Miserables: Novel Summary: Section 2 – Book 8

 Section 2 – Cosette
Book Eight – Cemeteries Take What is Given Them
Jean Valjean and Old Fauchelevent pass a sleepless night. Valjean worries about Javert and determines that he must find a way to stay in the convent. Old Fauchelevent wonders how Father Madeleine got into the convent and about the identity of the little girl who is with him. In the end he resolves that he will do everything he can to protect the man who saved his life.
At daybreak they consult and Fauchelevent observes that since one of the sisters is on her deathbed and the nuns do not look at the gardeners shack out of habit, they will not be discovered so long as Father Madeleine and Cosette do not leave the shack. Old Fauchelevents only concern is that one of the little girls from the school will discover them. They hear the sound of a bell knelling and know that the sister has died.
After some more conversation it becomes clear that in order for Madeleine and Cosette to stay they must first leave so that the nuns know how they came to be there. Fauchelevent observes that it will be easy enough to sneak Cosette out in a basket but the problem will be to effect the removal of Madeleine. Though Valjean is reluctant to leave, he sees Fauchelevants point. The Prioress summons Fauchelevent and once he is in her presence he petitions that his brother and niece may come to live with him and help in his work. Without addressing Fauchelevents petition, the Prioress asks him to assist in the illegal burial of the deceased nun who requested to be buried in her own coffin in the convents crypt. Fauchelevent humbly agrees and offers to fill the government-supplied coffin with earth before he nails it up so that the bearers will not suspect that it is empty. The Prioress is pleased and tells Fauchelevent to bring his brother and niece to see her the next day.
When Fauchelevent returns to his shack, he and Jean Valjean ponder over the best way to get Valjean out of the convent so he can return. As soon as Fauchelevent tells him of the plan to bury the nun in the crypt and the problem of the unused coffin, Jean Valjean asserts that he will occupy the coffin. They work out the scheme and Fauchelevent describes the drunkard who normally helps him cover the coffin with dirt. He explains that once the priest has departed, he will take this man to a pub and then take his entry card to the cemetery and use it to retrieve Jean Valjean. If the man is already drunk he will tell him to leave and then free his friend. The plan goes smoothly until the coffin arrives at the graveyard and Fauchelevent discovers that a new man has come to assist with the gravedigging. He is very serious and refuses to accompany the increasingly desperate Fauchelevent to the pub. He begins to dump soil on the lowered coffin and inside Jean Valjean loses consciousness. Fauchelevent offers to pay for the drinks but the man insists on doing his duty so that his seven children will have food. In a moment of inspiration Fauchelevent lifts the mans entry card from his pocket and then asks if he has it. The gravedigger becomes distraught when he discovers it missing and knows he will have to pay a fine. Fauchelevent suggests that the man run home to find it while he watches the coffin. The thankful man readily assents. Fauchelevent unearths Jean Valjean who appears dead but soon recovers. They bury the empty coffin, drop the gravediggers card in the porters box and walk to the gravediggers house where the anxious man has torn apart his apartment looking for the card. To the mans eternal gratitude Fauchelevent explains that he found the card, left it with the porter and did the mans job.
The next day Jean Valjean is admitted as the convents second gardener, Ultimus Fauchelevent, and Cosette is accepted into the school. The nuns take a liking to Cosette because they believe she will grow up homely and therefore pure. Jean Valjean keeps the clothes he had bought for Cosette in a small valise. The convent was like an island in the city to them and for the time being Cosette is happy.
Once again Valjean finds a new life by staging a death for himself. He and Cosette are able to stay at the Convent and begin a new life.