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BOOK SIXTH: The Conjunction of Two Stars
In spite of Courfeyrac’s advice and urging, Marius avoids the society of women. He has become very handsome and notices that the girls’ heads turn to look at him when he passes, but he thinks they are making fun of his shabby coat. The only two women he does not avoid are his cleaning woman and a little girl who can be seen almost daily walking with her father in the Rue de l’Ouest. The child is ugly in Marius’ opinion and is always disagreeably dressed in black. The man wears a blue coat with brilliant Quaker linen and has snow white hair. The couple attract the attention of several students who knickname them “Mademoiselle Lanoire” and Monsieur Leblanc.
For several months, the demands of his tasks prevent him from going to the Luxembourg to walk. He returns one day and sees the strange pair again, but the child has become a young woman. Marius and the girl exchange glances-and Marius falls head over heels in love. The “father and daughter” are of course Valjean. Gradually Marius summons the courage to walk close enough to be able to truly observe the girl. Valjean however is just as observant. Suspecting the strange young man as No Good, Valjean deliberately leaves behind his handkerchief in an attempt to see if the young man will take it. Marius mistakenly believes the handkerchief belongs to the girl. The initials “UF” on the border suggest to him that her name must be “Ursula.”
Although Marius thinks he has been clever enough to prevent discovery, the man moves his and the girl’s sitting places close to the opposite end of the popular walking area and he begins to come without the girl on occasion. However, Valjean is trying to see to just what extent Marius will follow. When Marius approaches if Cosette is there and keeps a greater distance if it is just Valjean, Valjean feels that he has caught Marius in the act of trying to flirt with Cosette. Soon Valjean and Cosette move away, and leave no forwarding address.
The two stars are of course Marius and Cosette. Hugo includes a bit of the comic in the naivete of the two young people. Marius pretends to look at a book but Valjean sees through the ruse. Marius makes a fool of himself in his precautions against discovery which actually do more to reveal his intentions than if he had acted normally. Cosette, too, is given an opportunity to play just a bit of the coquette. Before Valjean brings the daily visits to a halt, Cosette makes a move by walking past Marius and catching his eye. Cosette is becoming a young lady, is aware of her charms and has very little opportunity to deploy them. The innocence of the two make their “affair” both childishly sweet and romantically precious.