It was the Jondrette girl.
‘So it’s you again,’ he said almost fiercely. ‘What do you want now?’
She did not reply but stood thoughtfully looking at him, seeming to have lost all her earlier confidence. She had not entered the room, but was still standing in the half-light of the corridor.
‘What do you want?’ Marius repeated angrily.
‘M. Marius,’ she said at last, a faint light in her sad eyes, ‘you seem upset. What’s the matter?’
‘Nothing. Now please leave me alone.’ Marius tried again to shut the door, but she still held it open.
‘You’re making a mistake,’ she said. ‘You aren’t rich, but you were generous this morning. You’ve been kind to us — now I want to be kind to you. Is there anything that I can do?’
Marius considered her offer, then had an idea. Moving closer to her, he said, ‘Do you know the address of those people who’ve just left your room?’
‘Can you find out for me?’
‘Is that what you want?’ she said, a disappointed look on her face.
The girl looked hard at him for a minute.
‘What will you give me?’ she said at last.
‘Anything you want.’
‘Then I’ll get it.’
She left immediately, closing the door behind her.
Marius sat down and buried his face in his hands, too overcome by emotion to think clearly. But then he heard a loud voice from the next room.
‘I tell you I’m sure.’ Jondrette was speaking to his wife. ‘I recognized him.’
Without another thought, Marius jumped on to the cupboard and looked again through the hole in the wall.
‘Really?’ His wife looked puzzled. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course I’m sure. It’s been eight years, but I recognized him at once.’
He told the two girls to leave the room and then, when alone with his wife, he said, ‘And I recognized the girl too. I’m surprised you didn’t.’
‘Why should I? I’ve never seen her’
But Jondrette bent down and whispered something in her ear. Straightening up, he said, ‘Now do you recognize her?’
‘Her?’ said the woman, her voice filled with sudden hatred. ‘Are you sure? That’s impossible!’ she cried. ‘Our daughters barefoot and without a dress between them, while she wears leather boots and a fur coat? You must be wrong. You’ve forgotten, that child was ugly, and this one’s not bad-looking.’
‘I tell you, it’s the same girl. You’ll see. And I’ll tell you another thing. She’s going to make us a fortune. I’m tired of being poor. We deserve a better life, and this is our chance.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He said he’ll be here at six o’clock, with sixty francs. I’ll bring some friends round, and we’ll make sure he gives us a lot more money.’
‘What will you do if he doesn’t give you more money?’
Jondrette stroked his beard and laughed. ‘We’ll know what to do about it.’ And then, as he was going to leave the room, he turned to his wife and said, ‘You know, it’s lucky he didn’t recognize me. If he had, he wouldn’t be coming back here again. It’s the beard that saved me — my lovely, long, romantic beard!’
With an ugly laugh, he pulled his cap down over his eyes and left the room.
Although Marius was a dreamer and not a man of action, he knew immediately that he had to save M. Leblanc and ‘Ursula’ from the trap that Jondrette was setting for them. But what could he do? He could not warn M. Leblanc because he did not know the old man’s address. There was only one thing to do: he had to tell the police.
Half an hour later, Marius was at the nearest police station.
The desk clerk showed him into the police chief’s office, where a tall man with a wide face and a thin, tight mouth was trying to keep warm next to a tire.
‘Are you the chief of police?’ Marius asked.
‘He’s away,’ the tall man said. ‘I’m Inspector Javert. Now, what do you want?’
Marius told Javert about the morning’s events. When he told Javert his address, he noticed the inspector’s eyes light up with great interest. Then, when everything had been explained, Javert thought for a moment. Finally, he asked Marius for his door key and told him to go home and hide quietly in his room so that his neighbours would think he was out.
‘Take these with you,’ the inspector went on, producing two small guns. ‘When the old man and the girl arrive, let them start their business. When you think it’s getting dangerous, shoot one of these guns. After that, I’ll take charge.’
Back in his room, Marius sat down nervously on his bed. It was nearly six o’clock. Outside it had stopped snowing, and a full moon was growing steadily brighter above the mist. Suddenly, he heard voices. Taking off his boots, he quietly climbed on to the cupboard and looked through the hole in the wall. A fire burned in the corner of the room, filling it with blood-red light. Jondrette, who had just come in, was shaking snow from his shoes.
‘Everything’s arranged,’ he said. ‘Has the concierge gone out?’
‘Yes,’ his wife said.
‘And you’re sure he’s not in next door?’
‘Good.’ Then he turned to his daughters. ‘Now, you two must go and keep guard in the street, one by the gate, one at the street corner.’