Valjean spent all day making preparations to leave. It was too dangerous for him and Cosette to stay there another night. That evening, he went downstairs and looked up and down the street. It seemed empty, although he could not see into the shadows behind the trees. He went back upstairs for Cosette, who was waiting for him patiently, holding her doll.
‘Come along,’ he said. ‘It’s time to leave.’
Cosette took his hand, and went with him down the stairs.
There was a full moon, and this pleased Valjean as he moved quickly along the narrow streets. By keeping close to the walls in the shadows, he could clearly see what was happening in the light. After a while, he felt confident that he and Cosette were not being followed. But, as the church bells of the city struck eleven o’clock, something made him look back. In the light of a lamp above a doorway, he saw four men moving along the street in his direction. He gripped Cosette’s hand and began to walk more quickly. Every few minutes, he stopped in the shadows of a doorway or at the corner of a street to look back. The four men were still following him. He could see their faces clearly in the moonlight, and one of them belonged to Inspector Javert.
By now, Cosette was exhausted. Valjean picked her up and ran with her through a confusing system of alleys until he came to a bridge. On the other side of the river, he stopped at the entrance of a high-walled alley and looked back. He could see four figures in the distance on the far side of the bridge.
Walking more slowly now, thinking he was safe from his pursuers, Valjean followed the alley until he came to a lane that seemed to lead away from the city. He walked along this lane for a long time until, to his horror, he discovered his way blocked by a high wall. There was no way forward, but as he was turning back, he saw movements in the distance and the flash of moonlight on metal. Seven or eight soldiers were moving slowly along the lane in his direction.
Valjean looked desperately for an escape from the alley, but could see none. On one side of him was a tall building, all its doors and windows covered with metal bars. On the other side there was a wall, higher than a tree. He would be able to climb the wall on his own, but how could he carry Cosette? Suddenly, he had an idea. He ran to a nearby streetlight and pulled some wire from a metal box at its base. He tied one end of the wire around Cosette’s waist, climbed the wall and, with great difficulty, pulled the girl up behind him. He was only just in time. There was a tree on the other side of the wall, and Valjean carried Cosette down into its branches just as the soldiers arrived.
‘He must be here!’ He heard Javert’s voice clearly on the other side of the wall. ‘He can’t have escaped. There’s no way out!’
At last, the soldiers gave up their search and went back in the direction they had come. Valjean hugged Cosette tightly with relief, knowing that at last they were both safe.