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CHAPTER III—JAVERT SATISFIED
This is what had taken place.
The half-hour after midnight had just struck when M. Madeleine quitted the
Hall of Assizes in Arras. He regained his inn just in time to set out
again by the mail-wagon, in which he had engaged his place. A little
before six o'clock in the morning he had arrived at M. sur M., and his
first care had been to post a letter to M. Laffitte, then to enter the
infirmary and see Fantine.
However, he had hardly quitted the audience hall of the Court of Assizes,
when the district-attorney, recovering from his first shock, had taken the
word to deplore the mad deed of the honorable mayor of M. sur M., to
declare that his convictions had not been in the least modified by that
curious incident, which would be explained thereafter, and to demand, in
the meantime, the condemnation of that Champmathieu, who was evidently the
real Jean Valjean. The district-attorney's persistence was visibly at
variance with the sentiments of every one, of the public, of the court,
and of the jury. The counsel for the defence had some difficulty in
refuting this harangue and in establishing that, in consequence of the
revelations of M. Madeleine, that is to say, of the real Jean Valjean, the
aspect of the matter had been thoroughly altered, and that the jury had
before their eyes now only an innocent man. Thence the lawyer had drawn
some epiphonemas, not very fresh, unfortunately, upon judicial errors,
etc., etc.; the Pr�sident, in his summing up, had joined the counsel for
the defence, and in a few minutes the jury had thrown Champmathieu out of
Nevertheless, the district-attorney was bent on having a Jean Valjean; and
as he had no longer Champmathieu, he took Madeleine.
Immediately after Champmathieu had been set at liberty, the
district-attorney shut himself up with the Pr�sident. They conferred "as
to the necessity of seizing the person of M. le Maire of M. sur M." This
phrase, in which there was a great deal of of, is the district-attorney's,
written with his own hand, on the minutes of his report to the
attorney-general. His first emotion having passed off, the Pr�sident did
not offer many objections. Justice must, after all, take its course. And
then, when all was said, although the Pr�sident was a kindly and a
tolerably intelligent man, he was, at the same time, a devoted and almost
an ardent royalist, and he had been shocked to hear the Mayor of M. sur M.
say the Emperor, and not Bonaparte, when alluding to the landing at
The order for his arrest was accordingly despatched. The district-attorney
forwarded it to M. sur M. by a special messenger, at full speed, and
entrusted its execution to Police Inspector Javert.
The reader knows that Javert had returned to M. sur M. immediately after
having given his deposition.
Javert was just getting out of bed when the messenger handed him the order
of arrest and the command to produce the prisoner.
The messenger himself was a very clever member of the police, who, in two
words, informed Javert of what had taken place at Arras. The order of
arrest, signed by the district-attorney, was couched in these words:
"Inspector Javert will apprehend the body of the Sieur Madeleine, mayor of
M. sur M., who, in this day's session of the court, was recognized as the
liberated convict, Jean Valjean."
Any one who did not know Javert, and who had chanced to see him at the
moment when he penetrated the antechamber of the infirmary, could have
divined nothing of what had taken place, and would have thought his air
the most ordinary in the world. He was cool, calm, grave, his gray hair
was perfectly smooth upon his temples, and he had just mounted the stairs
with his habitual deliberation. Any one who was thoroughly acquainted with
him, and who had examined him attentively at the moment, would have
shuddered. The buckle of his leather stock was under his left ear instead
of at the nape of his neck. This betrayed unwonted agitation.
Javert was a complete character, who never had a wrinkle in his duty or in
his uniform; methodical with malefactors, rigid with the buttons of his
That he should have set the buckle of his stock awry, it was indispensable
that there should have taken place in him one of those emotions which may
be designated as internal earthquakes.
He had come in a simple way, had made a requisition on the neighboring
post for a corporal and four soldiers, had left the soldiers in the
courtyard, had had Fantine's room pointed out to him by the portress, who
was utterly unsuspicious, accustomed as she was to seeing armed men
inquiring for the mayor.
On arriving at Fantine's chamber, Javert turned the handle, pushed the
door open with the gentleness of a sick-nurse or a police spy, and
Properly speaking, he did not enter. He stood erect in the half-open door,
his hat on his head and his left hand thrust into his coat, which was
buttoned up to the chin. In the bend of his elbow the leaden head of his
enormous cane, which was hidden behind him, could be seen.
Thus he remained for nearly a minute, without his presence being
perceived. All at once Fantine raised her eyes, saw him, and made M.
Madeleine turn round.
The instant that Madeleine's glance encountered Javert's glance, Javert,
without stirring, without moving from his post, without approaching him,
became terrible. No human sentiment can be as terrible as joy.
It was the visage of a demon who has just found his damned soul.
The satisfaction of at last getting hold of Jean Valjean caused all that
was in his soul to appear in his countenance. The depths having been
stirred up, mounted to the surface. The humiliation of having, in some
slight degree, lost the scent, and of having indulged, for a few moments,
in an error with regard to Champmathieu, was effaced by pride at having so
well and accurately divined in the first place, and of having for so long
cherished a just instinct. Javert's content shone forth in his sovereign
attitude. The deformity of triumph overspread that narrow brow. All the
demonstrations of horror which a satisfied face can afford were there.
Javert was in heaven at that moment. Without putting the thing clearly to
himself, but with a confused intuition of the necessity of his presence
and of his success, he, Javert, personified justice, light, and truth in
their celestial function of crushing out evil. Behind him and around him,
at an infinite distance, he had authority, reason, the case judged, the
legal conscience, the public prosecution, all the stars; he was protecting
order, he was causing the law to yield up its thunders, he was avenging
society, he was lending a helping hand to the absolute, he was standing
erect in the midst of a glory. There existed in his victory a remnant of
defiance and of combat. Erect, haughty, brilliant, he flaunted abroad in
open day the superhuman bestiality of a ferocious archangel. The terrible
shadow of the action which he was accomplishing caused the vague flash of
the social sword to be visible in his clenched fist; happy and indignant,
he held his heel upon crime, vice, rebellion, perdition, hell; he was
radiant, he exterminated, he smiled, and there was an incontestable
grandeur in this monstrous Saint Michael.
Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him.
Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things
which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when
hideous, remain grand: their majesty, the majesty peculiar to the human
conscience, clings to them in the midst of horror; they are virtues which
have one vice,—error. The honest, pitiless joy of a fanatic in the
full flood of his atrocity preserves a certain lugubriously venerable
radiance. Without himself suspecting the fact, Javert in his formidable
happiness was to be pitied, as is every ignorant man who triumphs. Nothing
could be so poignant and so terrible as this face, wherein was displayed
all that may be designated as the evil of the good.