Javert: Back on Track.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or whatever.
This is what I think should happen in the book. Although I tried to make the speech just a shade less archaic, I'm going for the style of the book and even borrowing some of the phrasing, so if it seems a bit long-winded, that's why. I kept with Hugo's semi-omniscient-ish narration. And I made Javert a bit more serious than I usually write him, but that has more to do with his emotional state than with the evil influence of Hugo's robo-Javert. And why I think anybody would care about any of this… I have no idea.
Please tell me what you think.
(Valjean comes downstairs, and Javert has not yet gone away…)
When Valjean returned outside, Javert was waiting impassively. "Any more errands?" It was impossible to tell his state of mind; his unnatural stillness could have just as easily signified leashed agitation as peace.
"No – thank you. You've done everything I asked."
"Then you're ready. Let's go."
His tone was all business, police to prisoner, with none of the respect which had characterized it since the escapade at the barricade. Noticing this, Valjean had difficulty swallowing his surprise. "Yes, I'm ready," he murmured after a moment.
"Then let's go."
They walked as far as the corner, Javert leading the way and Valjean trailing a step or two behind. Then, in the dim circle of light cast by a street-lamp, Valjean stopped. "Javert…aren't you afraid?"
"Afraid?" Javert spoke as if in a dream.
"You're alone and I am not even chained up – I could get away if I tried."
Javert shrugged but didn't turn back. "You said that you're my prisoner, and so you are," he said with unconscious arrogance. "Now come – the police station is just ahead, we're almost there…"
"Yes," Valjean echoed, "We're almost there."
The tone was soft, mild, almost tranquil, but there was something in it that disturbed the inspector. Javert had thought himself prepared to do this quickly and unflinchingly, and was now realizing his mistake. "Wait," he said quite suddenly, stopping in his tracks. Valjean waited, and eventually Javert whirled to face him, arms crossed over his chest. "I don't understand. You really do intend to return to the galleys? Truly – you'll go?"
Valjean sighed. "Truly, Javert, I can't run any longer. Look at me. I am finally old. I just don't have the energy to disappear and hide and start over. I have done what I needed to do – Cosette is going to be married; she is happy and will be provided for for the rest of her days. And you've caught me. Of course I don't want to return to…to there… but suicide is a mortal sin and it's out of the question. Besides," he added with a flippancy that was belied by the bleak expression on his face, "I would never deprive you of the honor of apprehending a notorious criminal as dangerous as me."
Javert felt a little sick. A criminal, that was true. A criminal who has just saved my life, he thought unwillingly. A criminal who chats with me like a friend, even as I bring him to his death…
Caught between the desire to prolong his last hour of freedom, and the desire to just end this nightmare, Valjean finally spoke up. "Come on, Javert," he urged. "It's cold. I know you want to savor the moment, but…could we hurry? I just want the suspense to end."
"Savor the moment?" Javert echoed, stupefied. "You think that I…"
He couldn't continue, and Valjean stepped closer. "Is something wrong?"
Concern? How on earth-? Javert turned away abruptly. "One moment, I beg you," he grated. After some minutes of silence he asked, back still turned, "You could have shot me today – why in Heaven's name didn't you do it?"
"Because I am not a murderer," Valjean answered with severity. "Because I am not a godless, soulless animal…that is what you called us convicts, isn't it?"
"Peace! Yes, that's what I called you," Javert admitted, his voice rough. "Now stop tormenting me – I'm busy."
He was actually busy fighting ideas that were completely crazy. Some part of him was whispering that he ought not to take this prisoner to the station at all.
What? He wanted to let Jean Valjean go free? On his own initiative, for no valid reason, he wished to pardon a convict, to release a slave of the government?
But deliver up his savior? Equally impossible! It would be he, Javert, agent of the law – and not the convict – who would be the soulless animal in that case.
A methodical analysis of the situation identified it as a moral dilemma. Were there laws for that? Yes, there are, Javert told himself. They're called the Bible. Bah – religion. He never had understood religion anyway…
All his life he had been honest and forthright and he saw no reason to change now. "You confuse me," he said to his prisoner, forcing himself to make eye contact at last. "I don't know what to do."
At that moment Jean Valjean understood that the impossible might take place. That Javert – Javert... was uncertain. That he doubted.
"Javert," Valjean suggested hoarsely, with hardly a wisp of hope, "I could disappear…"
"Disappear?" Javert echoed, then tried once more to sort out his thoughts. His goal had always been to stride through life without making a single mistake…but which would be the mistake now? He wanted to follow the straight and narrow path, and yet, here, the path seemed to fork. Something had obviously gone wrong in his reasoning process.
He had to concede that Valjean posed no threat any longer. Far from attacking society, for nearly two decades the man had done nothing but work steadily for peace and goodness. Chaining up a man like that and throwing him to the wolves was wrong, Javert was certain. And then in addition there was the life-debt that he, Javert, clearly owed this…this jailbird. How perverse! Yet it existed.
Despite all this, though, how could he do anything but take the man to prison? That was his duty. That was his mission. It might be wrong to turn him in, but it was also wrong to set him free.
This was really a difficulty for which there was no perfect solution; either option left Javert reproaching himself for something. How could two such opposite options present themselves with such equal but different merits? Examining the situation took him in circles, so he tried examining his own feelings.
Personally he would prefer to release Valjean on the spot. Somehow or other, this convict had earned the fearsome officer's respect. Odd as it sounded, it was the truth, and Javert felt distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of repaying the man his generosity by sending him back to the galleys.
He could do it, of course. If duty demanded it, he could do whatever was necessary. But what did duty say? Possibly, that he should encourage such behavior from a convict, who had obviously undergone a considerable reformation. Javert maintained that he could, if necessary, force himself to turn the criminal in. On the other hand, he didn't think it necessary to force himself. Why should he? Either way, he was damning himself to imperfection, so why not just set him free?
He had been lost in contemplation for nearly a quarter of an hour, and Valjean had not stirred or interrupted. "Very well," he said at last, raising his head defiantly. "Go." Valjean didn't move. "Are you deaf? I said, you are free. Go."
At first Valjean did not believe it. He thought it more likely that he was losing his mind than that Javert had actually said to him, you are free.
But it had happened.
He felt so light-headed he very nearly fell to his knees. Hardly aware of what he was doing, he groped blindly for Javert's hand and raised it to his lips. "God bless you," he choked out.
Javert snatched his hand away and backed up a few paces. "Enough! Go, you half-wit, get out of my sight!"
Valjean turned to go, searching that furious snarl for a trace of affection. He had almost disappeared into the gloom when Javert called his name. "Valjean!"
He froze. "How odd to hear that name…and without fear…" Valjean mused.
"I just want to remind you," Javert continued sternly, "That if you are hungry, there's a bakery two streets down that is open at all hours of the night." He paused. "Please make an effort not to steal any more bread."
Review this for me!
Okay, if you're interested, here's an explanation for Javert's last comment. In the book, when Javert is judging Fantine, he goes on some kind of power trip (not exactly the right word…is "importance trip" a word?) where he feels that the law, the government, God, the whole damn Light side of the Force is personified and united in his own little body. The fact that at the end, after all these years, Javert might still perceive things as such absolutes makes it look like he hasn't developed at all during his life. Instead, I'd like to think that, at least by now, Javert is not so shallow. While he does still have the tendency to attach more importance than necessary to law-breaking, I think that if he analyzes everything carefully, he is capable of seeing and considering the triviality of the beginning of Valjean's criminal career.
In the chapter "Javert Derailed," (I hate that title – why do we need to compare Javert to a train? He is a human being.) Hugo has Javert blow Valjean's actions waaaaay out of proportion. According to that chapter, it is only the act of sparing Javert's life that makes Valjean worthy of pardon. It makes him more an angel than a man and yadda yadda. I find that unflattering to humanity in general. I mean, arch-nemesis or not, Javert is still a human being and was his colleague for years, so I think it's only proper that Valjean does have a problem with seeing him shot in cold blood. Who wouldn't? The bottom line is, I think Javert would feel indebted to Valjean for the barricade incident, and it would form the cornerstone of his opinion change, but put in perspective, it is only a part of a long string of actions that makes Valjean an okay guy, maybe even by Javert's standards when he stops to think about it.
Okay, I'm pulling the plug on my ranting now. I could go on for pages. If you actually read to the end, PLEASE review!