© Copyright February 1997
Jewelle went to work early, hoping to be in the line to enter the building before Elise. She was almost too mortified to face her. Only her concern over keeping her room gave her the strength to do it. And in leaving early, she also missed seeing the policeman who had saved her. She was too embarrassed to face him.
Inside, she went to her place, and began working, as usual without a word to anyone. Doing the detailed stitchery at which she had always been good gave her to the excuse to keep her eyes down. When Elise showed up, she patted Jewelle on the shoulder as she passed to take her place.
"We enjoyed having you over, Jewelle," she said.
"Merci, madame. It was a wonderful supper." She did not look up and could feel her face burning with shame.
"You must come again soon." She peered at the younger woman, trying to see her face. "What's the matter, child?"
"Nothing, madame. I am working."
Elise followed and said nothing more. Jewelle could feel tension like a taut rope strung between them. Oh, Jeannette, she thought, why did you leave me? I need you. How am I to go on?
The day dragged into infinity, her work made more difficult by the tears that occasionally filled her eyes. She didn't hear the other women talking, only the bell that signaled an end to the work day. She hurried home, too upset to go by the market. She still had some breadshe would eat that, surround herself with Jeannette's things and pray for a solution. She knew it could get worse; she prayed it would not.
Javert was working a late shift on patrol when he spotted a figure sitting in the moonlight on the steps of a building. It was a warm night, and spring was very much in evidence. But in the darkness, the figure looked cold and forlorn, and Javert thought he recognized her.
He made his way over, staying at the edge of the street. "Mademoiselle, you may not stay out here." He looked at her pale, thin face when she turned it up to him.
"He will not let me in, monsieur. I do not know where to go!" Her voice cracked. "I do not know what to do!" She covered her face with her hands, sobbing silently.
Javert had not seen her in the mornings lately because his patrol had been moved to the night for several weeks while some re-shuffling was done in the local police force. "You may not stay out here, mademoiselle, it is against the law."
She nodded, dropped her hands from her face and stood up. "I'm sorry, monsieur. I was hoping he would let me in."
"Monsieur Troufeau? Why has he shut you out?" Perhaps it was not the woman's doing, Javert thought.
"I am late with my rent." She looked at him again, and her composure broke. "Madame Bouchard got me fired from my job! I haven't been able to find another one." She sobbed brokenly, one hand on her face, the other on her stomach. "No one will hire me because of what she said. But it's not true!" She looked back up at him. "You know it is not, monsieur! You were there. You sent him away! What'll I do?"
Javert listened to her words and understood the situation perfectly. So the wife of the scoundrel who had attempted to force his attentions on Mademoiselle Bonacieux had grown jealous and gotten rid of the girl. The only one at fault here was Monsieur Bouchard. But turning back the opinions of other people seldom worked. She would do better at another job.
"Mademoiselle, you may not stay out here tonight. You will come with me, please."
"Are you arresting me, monsieur?" she said quietly.
"No, of course not. You will stay tonight at the inn on Rue D'Augusta."
"But I have no money. I could not pay." She wiped at her face, able to look at this man without averting her eyes.
"Mademoiselle, what are your skills? What did you do at your job?" Javert began walking, expecting her to come with him.
"I'm a seamstress. I was sewing fine shirts at the factory." She fell in step beside him, having to walk fast to keep up with his long strides.
Javert thought about this. He knew a man, Girard Leblanca tailor who was looking for helpand thought that perhaps he could persuade him to give Mademoiselle Bonacieux a chance. In that way, she would be able to remain a good citizen. She would have to take a room somewhere else. Javert knew the house in which her garret had been was more expensive than a single working girl could afford. Apparently, she did not have resources enough to stay there as he'd previously thought.
"But, monsieur, I cannot stay at the innI have nothing. Everything is in my room."
"I will pay for the room, mademoiselle"
"Oh, I could not except monsieur's charity!" Jewelle said, interrupting for possibly the first time in her life.
Javert, who had never made such an offer in his life, did not examine his motivations. It seemed a part of duty, and for the moment, he left it at that. "You would rather spend the night outside?"
"No," she said soberly. "I will repay you, monsieur. I will consider it a loan."
"As you wish." He said nothing else as they made their way to the inn. It was a reasonably respectable placethere had not been too much trouble thereand the owner was about as honest as innkeepers get, which is to say, she would not be robbed blind had she anything worth taking.
Javert entered the establishment behind Jewelle, holding the door for her. The front room was also the dinning room, and there were only a few patrons there, travelers mostly. She, once again, drew in on herself, looking at no one as they approached the counter.
Javert looked at her, noting the extreme thinness. "A room for the young lady, and a meal if you've anything left," he told the proprietor.
"Yes, Monsieur Sergeant Javert, we do have plenty. A caravan is coming, so I'm told."
"Very well." Javert paid the man and turned back to Jewelle.
"It is a loan, monsieur," she said, looking up at him, then glancing at the proprietor to be sure that he heard her.
"Of course, mademoiselle." He indicated she take a seat at one of the empty tables then sat down across from her, pulling out of his pocket a small notebook. He looked toward the counter. "A pen, monsieur," he told him. Very shortly, the man returned with a quill and ink.
Javert was writing when the food was brought out for Jewelle. She was so hungry, she thought she would eat it all, but her shrunken stomach would never hold that much. But it was paid for, and she thought she could take the least perishable parts back to her room.
"Mademoiselle, take this to Girard Leblanc. He is a tailor. I think, he will perhaps hire you."
Jewelle looked down at the paper, which was folded twice with the address written on the top, and picked it up. She looked up at le grand ours noir, who was her savior twice now and didn't find him so intimidating any more. "Merci, Monsieur Sergeant Javert. I will be forever in your debt."
He was not used to such declarations because there was usually none from the people with whom he interacted. An occasional proprietor or citizen would thank him for apprehending some malefactor, but none had ever made him feel anything besides satisfaction. Just looking at her grateful countenance was disturbing. He knew he had good reasons for doing this, it was a part of maintaining peace, preventing crime. And while he never loaned money, he respected her for refusing charity. She was strong enough to stick to her moral convictions, and he found this appealing.
Before he could, however, let his heart thaw any at all, he decided his duty had been served. Javert stood up. "Mademoiselle," he said nodding. "Good night."
She stood up. "Merci, monsieur, merci. I will not forget my debt. I will repay you."
"As you wish." Javert found he could not quite leave. He stayed nearby, until he saw that she was going to her room. It would not do to have some scoundrel accost her and undo everything he had just done. Just let them try it, he thought. I will be there, mademoiselle. Had any of his colleagues seen him, they would have been shocked and misinterpreted his interest in the woman. It might have seemed Javert had a heart after all.
Jewelle smiled as she lifted up the lace handkerchief that had belonged to Jeannette. She had not kept everything of her sister's, but she still had the most personal thingsher handkerchief, a locket, her beautiful ivory vanity set. Of the furniture, their bed, dressing table and dining table and chairsall but the bed and dressing table had been sold. And moving the rest had not been easy, but Monsieur Leblanc was very kind and had sent his brothers to help her move. She now lived in a small, clean room two floors above the shop. Not a day passed that she did not think of the kind Monsieur Javert and send a blessing his way.
She had the money now to repay him, but found he had been transferred to another town somewhere. She sent it to him through the police force and hoped he might respond with a letter, but she never received one. And soon it did not matter, because happiness had come back into her life, and she fell in love. Guy, Girard's youngest brother had begun to court herno matter that she had no dowry. Guy was smart, intense and headstrong, and he charmed her without becoming threatening. She could not help but fall for him. She thought he was perfect. She knew he would never bring her down.