© Copyright February 1997
The cold, turbulent water of the Seine took him down and battered him with its icy pervasiveness. Javert had felt the first shock of it and thrashed as it took him down. All was darkness, and the water when it entered his mouth choked him. This is it, this is it, he thought through the coming blackness, welcoming the relief from his consternation. Yes, this is it.
But then he no longer felt the cold or his convulsing body. His confusion and pain dropped away as a beautiful pure light, which began as a pinprick in his mind rapidly opened into a white garden. Javert felt a sense of wonder unlike anything he'd ever felt. Jean Valjean was merely a vague memory, here there was no pain, no uncertainty. He felt peace in his very soul as he slowly turned his head to look around.
Could it be, he wondered, that this is Heaven? His heart opened up with a love for God, that very God he had found so unbearable to accept. None of that mattered now. Somehow this light was getting inside him, bringing him unbelievable joy.
"No, my son, this is not Heaven," he heard a voice say. It was like a whisper in his ear, yet it stroked him with gentleness, and Javert felt his eyes welling up with unexpected tears. "This is a kind of way-station. Someday, I will come for you and lead you the rest of the way up."
Javert looked to see from whence the voice came and finally saw the vague shape of a man somewhere in the white mists of the garden's threshold. "Who are you?" he whispered in awe, still reeling with emotion, good, positive healing emotion.
"You may call me Michael. And you may call upon me at any time. But for now, you must go back. Your work is not yet finished. You have not completed your destiny, my son. Go with God in your heart, Javert. He has always been with you."
Javert nodded, not knowing how to go anywhere, but not concerned about it. He felt so drawn to the love and wonder he felt here, it was with a painful rush, that darkness began to pull him back. He wanted to scream in protest, but Michael's presence was suddenly with him again, and he felt comforted. My destiny, he thought as his mind was sank back into darkness.
"I know this man," Madame Jewelle Leblanc said to Riva, the washerwoman who had found him. She had gone to pick up her cleaned garments from the woman, when she had heard the shouting about a body found in the river.
The man's body had been pulled from the water and lay, head toward the river on the bank. His face was deathly white, and he was not breathing. His grey hair trailed almost back into the water.
"Yes," another observer said. "It is Inspector Javert."
Jewelle looked upon the man who had been instrumental in setting her on the course for a happy life. Her husband Guy was now deceased, but she lived with Girard and her son in a respectable section of Paris. Girard's business was good, he provided for them all very well, and Jewelle still helped with the sewing when she could, though she was no longer able to do the detail work because her near-vision had gotten so poor. She had seen Javert a time or two, considered speaking to him, but then had not. He seemed so much harder and colder than she remembered, and did not want her effort to end with a painful, curt response. Better to remember him as he had been when he helped her.
But this? She knelt down beside him, put her hand on his chest. "God bless you, monsieur." Jewelle found she could not quite take her hand away until other policemen came and got him. She forgot about her laundry and followed them, asking where he would be taken. And then she went there and found out he was to be buried with the unnamed masses in an unmarked grave. The remains of his estate, once it was determined if he had made a will, would be dealt with accordingly. Jewelle was not concerned about this and made a request for the body be taken the small cottage in the country where she and Girard and Stephan were staying for the summer. What anyone thought didn't matter. Jewelle wanted Javert to be buried with respect, not for his suicide to be the ruin of his long and respected career.
She went home while the arrangements were being made. "I know you will think me mad, Girard, but were it not for Monsieur Javert, I would never have known you or Guy."
"I know, I do not object. He did me a great favor in sending you to me. We will remember him together."
Jewelle smiled though she felt like weeping. "Merci, Girard. I knew you would understand."
He kissed her cheek. "And we were going to the cottage anyway, were we not?"
Javert's body arrived in the evening after Girard, Jewelle and Stephan had begun to open the cottage. His clothing had dried in the summer wind, and the two officers who brought him, put his body on the table in the main room.
"I never knew he had family," one of them told Girard.
"Perhaps he did not know either. Thank you for bringing him."
Jewelle looked down at Javert's face, seeing a peace there that had never been on his face in the time she had known him previously. The deep crease between his brows had smoothed away, and his deep laugh lines seemed less severe, though in general he had aged, his ever-present sideburns full of gray like his hair, which was rather long and had been pulled into a ponytail, before his death obviously because it was now somewhat disarrayed.
Jewelle touched his forehead tenderly. "I'm so sorry, Monsieur Javert, mon grand ours noir." With a suddenness that sent her staggering back, the man on the table took a terrible watery breath and began coughing.
"Mon dieu!" Girard said, catching Jewelle as she tried to regain her balance. "He is not dead!"
Javert found himself in the paroxysms of coughing out water from his lungs. He rolled onto his side and subsequently off the table to the floor where he curled up and coughed and coughed. It seemed like he could never catch his breath. He finally lay gasping on the dusty floorboards of the cottage.
Jewelle had recovered from her shock. "Stephan!" she called her son, who had just entered after seeing to the horses. "Fetch blankets, please!"
The boy who was now sixteen look down at the gasping man who gave an occasional cough. "I thought he was dead?" he said as he crossed to the hall.
"So did we!" Girard said. "Monsieur, are you all right?"
Javert did not look up. He just shook his head.
Jewelle knelt down beside him. "Monsieur Inspector"
"No!" Javert gasped. "I'm no inspector now." His face twisted into a terrible mask of anxiety. "I don't know what I am!"
"I know what you are, Monsieur Javert." She looked at him as he turned his face which had gone red with his efforts. "You're a man who was once very kind to me. I have not forgotten it."
"Kind to you?" He pushed himself up, still trying to breathe without coughing. "Madame, I do not know you."
"But I know you." She looked up when Stephan brought in two blankets. "Come, we have a bed for you. You must need to rest. It is a miracle that you are alive."
He looked at her, the word miracle had an obvious effect on him. "Yes, it is." He looked heavenward and the transition that overcame him seemed to come from within. From the dark man, who had never looked more than brooding and frightening, there came a light into his eyes, seeming to shine right through his skin. It was more than the light of understanding, it was that and the radiance of God, the acceptance of God, the Love of God. Javert was transfigured in that one moment. When he looked down at Jewelle, there was kindness in his eyes, reflected in her own which were shining with tears.
"He came to me," Javert told them, rising to his feet with obvious effort. "As I drowned, He came to me."
"The Lord?" Jewelle asked.
"His Angel Michael." He coughed, and allowed them to help him into a chair. He was shivering now. "He showed me the Light of God." His eyes found Jewelle's, and their intensity was extreme. "I am not the same. I feel things. . ."
"Monsieur, you are ill. Let us get you a bed, and I will bring you something hot to eat. It will warm you. Come." Jewelle had never really seen anyone so literally touched by God before. His transformation was so profound, she found herself staring.
"Yes, madame, I will do as you say. You are my benefactress." Javert let them help him to one of the rooms, waited in a kind of fog for them to prepare the bed then lay down on it, shivering.
"Rest, Monsieur Javert. I will return to you in a short while."
"Merci, madame." He closed his eyes.
Jewelle was afraid he would not wake up, but decided to trust the Lord and his mysteries. A miracle had happened, and she felt touched by it herself. It made her want to weep, and she found herself hugging Stephan, then Girard when they had left Javert alone.
"Help me, Stephan, and I will prepare something for him."
Javert slept for a little while. He was still entirely in his clothes, including his boots. But it didn't bother him. His mind was so taken up with the vision he'd had, that nothing so inconsequential as his attire ever entered his mind.
The small room was lit with several candles, revealing the bed, a night stand, an armoir and writing desk. He didn't see the layers of dust on everything.
Wherever he was, Javert had suddenly stepped across a barrier he had lived all his life believing existed. He had lived outside society as part of the police so that he would not live outside it as a criminal. He had believed that was the best choice available to him. But there, in front of him, over the course of at least ten years he'd had an example that proved that barrier did not exist. Jean Valjean, a convict and parole-breaker had somehow become mayor of a small town. He had crossed that line for as long as no one knew, and he had done good there. Quite a lot of it, now that Javert considered it. And then more recently he had stepped outside the confines of his position again and done something no convict was supposed to ever do. And all this was there before him, and Javert had never acknowledged it until he found himself stepping outside his own barriers and letting Valjean go.
Now, when he thought about it, it seemed simple, and did not rack him with conflict. Because God was real and benevolent and had touched him, Javert could accept. His bitter childhood and stone cold heart had melted, and he felt whole and without any driving need. That world that had torn him asunder, sending him into the flooded river Seine, seemed but a shadow of what he believed of the world now. Everything shown in a different light. Never had he known such peace, such contentment. His satisfaction over having triumphed over Valjean those years ago seemed a pale and hollow victory. He knew now he had been wrong, and he knew what he must do. Inspector Javert was deadhad killed himself. Javert, a man who had somehow earned benefactors, was alive now.
I have a destiny, he thought, a destiny that was not putting Jean Valjean back in prison. In fact, he had no intention of ever seeking him again. Let the old man think he had died, let all of France believe that. Because it is true, Javert thought. I am not the same man. God has touched me. He has shown me a new way.
With that thought, Javert felt the Light fill him again and blissful peace saturated his entire being. It was so exquisite it was almost painful. No thoughts entered his mind from elsewhere, he merely basked in the Glory and kept breathing.
As quickly as it had begun, the feeling of being filled with light receded, leaving him content and reassured. With a start he understood what was required of him for the remainder of his days.
But he would be doing little besides recovering, he realized as he coughed. The chill of death had been replaced by that of fever. The water in his lungs was gone, but the damage was done. Javert was very ill.
The sound of her gasp woke him, Jewelle saw once she had regained control of the tray she'd nearly dropped. "Mon Dieu," she whispered.
"Madame?" Javert said, and began a fit of coughing.
She set the tray down on the writing desk and went to his side. "Monsieur, are you all right?" She touched his brow. "You have a fever." She resisted the impulse to touch his hair.
The coughing subsided. He had never been fussed over in his lifeit felt strange and discomfiting. "I am ill. But you needn't trouble yourself over me." He started to sit up.
She pushed him gently back. "No, you must lie down. I will take care of you, monsieur." She looked down at his clothing which was wrinkled and disarrayed as much as the fastened buttons would allow. "First we must get you a gown."
"Madame, you do not need to do this. I can make my own way."
"But you will not, Javert." Jewelle decided in an instant to be more familiar with himit somehow seemed right. "You will allow me to help you because I am repaying a debt to you. Our cottage has plenty of room for all of us. Now you just rest, and I will give you the soup I've made for you. Afterwards, you can change clothes, then sleep."
Javert looked up at her, watching as she brought the tray over. "Madame, you are very kind. I have known little kindness in my life. I have received little, given none."
"But you are wrong. Your kindness saved me. You made sure I had a roof over my head and a good meal when I was starving. And then you found me a job. Did you ever receive the money I sent you for that night at the inn?"
"You are Jewelle Bonacieux?"
She nodded. "Jewelle Leblanc, now."
"I recognize you now. Yes, madame, I did. Merci."
She held a loaded spoon in front of his face. "Will you eat?"
Javert balked. "I can feed myself, madame." He sat up and was then racked with a cough.
"Monsieur, I will send for a doctor."
"No! I do not want anyone to know me."
"Perhaps he will not."
"Why do you say that?"
"Your hair, monsieur, has gone white like snow. I was so startled when I came in that I nearly dropped the tray." She saw him blanch as he reached up to touch it. Locks of it had come loose from the tie at the back of his neck, and it was a simple matter to pull one down in front of his eyes.
"I don't believe it," he whispered, and his face reflected a sense of wonder. "It is like that garden," he still whispered, "that beautiful white garden. It's a sign, a real sign that I have been touched by God." He looked at Jewelle. "You may be right. Perhaps I would not be recognized. But, madame, it would cost money, and I cannot ask that of you."
"Don't concern yourself about it now. Girard can go to your garret and collect all your things, if you like. If it is not too late."
He nodded. "Very well." He looked at the bowl of soup. "If I may?"
She set the tray on his lap. "I will get Girard."
Girard was on his way a few minutes later, and Jewelle returned to Javert's room. He was finishing the soup. "Merci, madame. It is very good."
"Please call me Jewelle. I am your friend, wouldn't you say?"
Javert, who had never known a real friendship, didn't seem to know what to say. "I would say so, yes, madameJewelle. Forgive me, my experience has been scant in this area. I've spent little time on social graces."
She just smiled at him. "I used to find you so intimidatingall those years ago. But now I see a lonely man, in need of others. Did you know that by sending me to Girard's, you were giving me far more than just a job?" He shook his head, but when he looked at her his eyes were a little glassy with fever. "Girard's youngest brother, Guy, was an impetuous, talented, brilliant manmore of a designer than tailorand he courted me over the first year I lived over the shop. We were married in August of the next year, and I had a son several years later. You saw himStephanearlier. Guy was killed two years ago when a building collapsed. I miss him terribly, but I try to remember the happy days. And I have Stephan and Girard."
"I am sorry for your loss. I remember that you lost your sister, as well. But you were brave and held to your convictions. That is one reason I helped you. I did not want to see a woman of your moral fibre end up as so many do."
"Bless you, Javert. Your kindness was never forgotten. You have always been in my prayers." She saw him suddenly blinking his eyes which had filled with tears. She thought he was probably a man who never cried.
"I am ill. I don't know what's wrong with me." He wiped his eyes with his hand, looking down at the tray.
"I will leave you to change, monsieur. Your gown is here."
"Merci, you are too kind." He sat, still looking down.
Jewelle felt a rush of affection for him, for his obvious aloneness and confusion. She had thought of him all these years, and now here he was, the darkness of his being replaced by Light and given a second chance to live. Jewelle felt blessed to have been there when he was found. She could not imagine what would have caused him to commit suicidehis colleagues had all seemed astonishedbut she thought it must have been pain and loneliness. But she couldn't know, and it would not be polite to ask.
So, she would take care of himshe missed taking care of Guyand give him whatever he needed. She guessed she owed him about twenty years of happiness. She was eager to repay him.