|Set Display||Please Turn On Your Virtual Bookmarks||Help Support This Site||Table of Contents||Victor Hugo|
At last the mayor laid down his pen and turned half round.
"Well! What is it? What is the matter, Javert?"
Javert remained silent for an instant as though collecting his ideas, then raised his voice with a sort of sad solemnity, which did not, however, preclude simplicity.
"This is the matter, Mr. Mayor; a culpable act has been committed."
"An inferior agent of the authorities has failed in respect, and in the gravest manner, towards a magistrate. I have come to bring the fact to your knowledge, as it is my duty to do."
"Who is the agent?" asked M. Madeleine.
"I," said Javert.
"And who is the magistrate who has reason to complain of the agent?"
"You, Mr. Mayor."
M. Madeleine sat erect in his arm-chair. Javert went on, with a severe air and his eyes still cast down.
"Mr. Mayor, I have come to request you to instigate the authorities to dismiss me."
M. Madeleine opened his mouth in amazement. Javert interrupted him:--
"You will say that I might have handed in my resignation, but that does not suffice. Handing in one's resignation is honorable. I have failed in my duty; I ought to be punished; I must be turned out."
And after a pause he added:--
"Mr. Mayor, you were severe with me the other day, and unjustly. Be so to-day, with justice."
"Come, now! Why?" exclaimed M. Madeleine. "What nonsense is this? What is the meaning of this? What culpable act have you been guilty of towards me? What have you done to me? What are your wrongs with regard to me? You accuse yourself; you wish to be superseded--"
"Turned out," said Javert.
"Turned out; so it be, then. That is well. I do not understand."
"You shall understand, Mr. Mayor."
Javert sighed from the very bottom of his chest, and resumed, still coldly and sadly:--
"Mr. Mayor, six weeks ago, in consequence of the scene over that woman, I was furious, and I informed against you."
"Informed against me!"
"At the Prefecture of Police in Paris."
M. Madeleine, who was not in the habit of laughing much oftener than Javert himself, burst out laughing now:--
"As a mayor who had encroached on the province of the police?"
"As an ex-convict."
The mayor turned livid.
Javert, who had not raised his eyes, went on:--
"I thought it was so. I had had an idea for a long time; a resemblance; inquiries which you had caused to be made at Faverolles; the strength of your loins; the adventure with old Fauchelevant; your skill in marksmanship; your leg, which you drag a little;-- I hardly know what all,--absurdities! But, at all events, I took you for a certain Jean Valjean."
"A certain--What did you say the name was?"
"Jean Valjean. He was a convict whom I was in the habit of seeing twenty years ago, when I was adjutant-guard of convicts at Toulon. On leaving the galleys, this Jean Valjean, as it appears, robbed a bishop; then he committed another theft, accompanied with violence, on a public highway on the person of a little Savoyard. He disappeared eight years ago, no one knows how, and he has been sought, I fancied. In short, I did this thing! Wrath impelled me; I denounced you at the Prefecture!"