While in this state of despair, Valjean felt a hand on his shoulder. He thought he was dreaming. He looked up and saw a man dressed in old clothes standing beside him. Despite the unexpectedness of this meeting, Valjean recognized the man at once. It was Thenardier. Valjean did not show that he recognized the man, and saw with relief that Thenardier had not recognized him.
‘I’ll make a bargain with you,’ the man said.
‘What do you mean?’
Thenardier nodded in Marius’s direction.
‘You’ve killed a man. Give me half of what you found in this man’s pockets, and I’ll unlock the gate for you.’ He produced a large key from his pocket, and a piece of rope. ‘I’ll give you this as well,’ he said. ‘Then you can tie stones to the body and throw it in the river.’
Valjean took the rope without speaking.
‘What about my share of the money?’Thenardier asked.
Valjean took thirty francs from his pockets and showed it to Thenardier, who stared with disbelief. ‘You killed a man for just thirty francs? You’re a fool.’ He searched Marius’s pockets himself, and then Valjean’s.
‘It’s true,’ he said at last. ‘That’s all there is. Oh well. Never say that I’m not a kind man.’
He took the thirty francs and, helping Valjean to lift Marius on to his shoulders, he put the key in the lock and opened the gate just wide enough for Valjean to pass through. When Valjean was outside, Thenardier closed the gate behind him and disappeared, like a rat, into the darkness of the sewers.
Valjean laid Marius gently on the grass and stood up, surrounded by silence, enjoying the feeling of fresh air on his face. Then, just as he was bending to splash water from the river on Marius’s face, he was aware of someone else standing behind him. He looked round quickly and saw a tall man in a long coat, a large stick in his hand. Although the man’s face was hidden in shadow, Valjean recognized him as Inspector Javert.
Javert, however, did not recognize Valjean at first. He had been more interested in catching Thenardier, who had escaped from prison and was known to be in the area.
‘Who are you?’ he asked.
Valjean told him his name and stood, without moving, as Javert approached and stared into his eyes.
‘Inspector Javert,’ Valjean said quietly. ‘I beg you to do me one favour. I promise not to try and escape. I gave you my address this morning, if you remember, so you would know where to find me anyway.’
Javert did not seem to hear. He stared into Valjean’s eyes for a long time, then, stepping back with a look of confusion in his eyes, asked dreamily, ‘What are you doing here? Who is this man?’
‘Will you help me to take him home?’ Valjean said. ‘He’s badly injured.’
Javert looked unhappy, but he did not refuse. Bending down, he took a handkerchief from his pocket, wet it in the river and bathed Marius’s blood-stained forehead. Then he felt Marius’s wrist.
‘He’s dead,’ he said.
‘No, not yet,’ Valjean replied, feeling in Marius’s jacket for the wallet. ‘Look,’ he said, showing Javert the note with Marius’s grandfather’s address. ‘That’s where we need to take him.’
Javert shouted to the driver who was waiting for him to bring his carriage close to the river. With Marius in the back seat, Valjean and Javert side by side in the front, the carriage drove off quickly through the dark and strangely empty streets of Paris.
When they arrived at M. Gillenormand’s house, a servant answered the door.
‘Does M. Gillenormand live here?’ Javert asked.
‘Yes. What do you want?’
‘We’re bringing back his grandson. He’s dead. Go and wake his grandfather. We’re bringing him in.’
Javert, Valjean and the driver carried Marius into the house and laid him gently on a sofa in M. Gillenormand’s sitting-room. While one servant ran to find a doctor and another looked for clean sheets, Valjean felt Javert’s hand on his arm. He understood, and went downstairs with Javert close behind him. When they had got back into the carriage, however, Valjean said, ‘Inspector, will you do one last thing for me before you arrest me?’
‘What is it? ‘Javert replied impatiently.
‘Let me go home for a minute. After that, you can do whatever you want with me.’
Javert was silent for some moments, his chin sunk in the collar of his overcoat. Then he pulled down the window in front of him.
‘Number 7, rue de l’Homme-Arme,’ he told the driver.
Neither man spoke during the journey. At the end of the rue de l’Homme-Arme, which was too narrow for the carriage to enter, Javert paid the driver and accompanied Valjean to his front door on foot.
‘Go in,’ said Javert, with a strange, distant look in his eyes. ‘I’ll wait for you here.’
Valjean went into his house and called, ‘It’s me!’ Climbing the stairs, he paused for a moment to look out of the window to see what Javert was doing. But the street was empty; there was no one there.
The next morning, Inspector Javert’s body was discovered floating in the river. The poor man, unable to understand the kindness and gentle nature of the man he had spent his whole life hating, had taken his own life by jumping from a bridge. It was the only way he knew to escape the confusion that was poisoning his heart.
When M. Gillenormand saw his pale, lifeless-looking grandson lying on the sofa, he shook from head to foot. Leaning against the door for support, he murmured, ‘Marius!’
‘He has just been brought here,’ said a servant. ‘He was on the barricade and
‘He’s dead!’ cried the old man in a terrible voice. ‘The fool! He did this to hurt me, the ungrateful boy. I try to be good to him, and this is how he rewards me!’
The old man walked to the window and, while he complained to the night about the pain and grief his grandson had caused him, the doctor arrived. After listening to Marius’s heart, he organized his removal to a bed in another room, and returned to M. Gillenormand, who was still standing by the window.
‘Will he live?’ M. Gillenormand asked, his eyes wild with fear.
‘I don’t know,’ the doctor replied. ‘The wound to his body is not serious, but there are deep cuts on his head. It’s difficult to say M. Gillenormand went to Marius’s bedside.
‘You heartless boy,’ he said angrily. ‘A fool who prefers fighting to dancing and having fun. What kind of man are you? Are you mad? But it makes no difference. I too shall die. That makes you a murderer, a cold-hearted killer. I cannot feel grief for you. At that moment, Marius’s eyes slowly opened and his gaze rested upon M. Gillenormand.
‘Marius!’ the old man cried. ‘Marius, my child, grandson! You’re alive after all!’