© Copyright February 1997
Javert did not remember much of the next few days. His fever ran very high, and it seemed a long and endless frustrating night. He dreamed of Valjean over and over. Always it was the same thing. He was caught in that moment of deciding whether or not to take him in. He was seconds away from it and never seemed able to do it. No relief came from it, only the anxiety of fever. It seemed he had never been anywhere else, done anything else.
But his fever did break, and he slept deeply, waking to find himself weak as a kitten with another angel beside his bed. But he knew her to be flesh and bloodan earthly angel then. Whatever she was, he saw beauty there in her fine, aging features, her still clear and flawless skin, her dark hair shot through with sliver, pulled primly back into a bun. Her hands as they laid a cool cloth over his forehead were small and delicate, soft as down. Javert had never felt such appreciation, such. . .affection for another human being.
"Ah, you're awake now," Jewelle said. "I have some broth for you when it's ready."
"Merci, madame," he husked, looking into her dark, kind eyes.
"Do you think you could eat?"
He thought about it and decided he would try. "Yes, I will try, madame."
"Please, Javert, call me Jewelle. I've been taking care of you for the past three days. There's no need for formality now."
He didn't know how that made him feel. "As you wish, Jewelle. An appropriate name," he said, then realized he'd said it aloud.
"Merci. Now, you just rest, and I will fetch the broth."
He watched her leave, wondering at the feelings going through him. Where had gone the rigid self-deprivation, the inflexible adherence to self-denial that had been his way of life? They just weren't there. Instead, he felt softer things, appreciation of beauty, love of life. Javert who had loved only the Law, respected only it and authority, now decided that the flowers in the vase by the window were exquisite. He wanted to touch them, feel the softness of their texture, somehow experience their beauty. And the sounds of birds singing nearby brought him joy. He realized he didn't know himself any more. And what was morehe liked it. He felt reborn.
Sitting up proved more than he could handle, and Javert slid back into the bed with a sigh and closed his eyes. He didn't want to move, he just wanted to lie there and think of Jewelle. She had now crossed that barrier in his mind from formality to familiarity. He thought of her by her first name, and it made him smile softly.
"I see you are having pleasant thoughts, monsieur," Jewelle said as she came up to the bed, carrying the tray with the broth on it.
"Yes, I am discovering things," he said, looking at her. "I am profoundly changed from the man I was. It is disconcerting and. . .and beautiful. Do I sound mad?"
"No. You sound happy. I'm glad to hear it. I was worried about you. You seemed so upset in your delirium." She smiled at him. "But you're much better now. Would you like me to help you?" She held up the spoon.
Part of Javert resisted, but the effort was more work than he could give, and it distracted him from the new pleasantness of his thoughts. He tried to push up to a sitting position, and she put the tray aside to prop extra pillows behind him.
"Merci, madame, Jewelle." He leaned back, exhausted. "You have been so kind to me. How did I end up here?" He reached for the spoon with a weak, trembling hand, and her touch when she put the spoon into it stirred up something inside him. It was the barest flicker, and gone before he could identify it, but he felt her touch lingering on his hand, and that further distracted him.
"You were found in the Seine, near the dock where Riva has her boat. She did our washing while we were in Paris." She watched him lift a half-full spoon to his lips, taking care not to spill it. "I arrived just after they pulled you out. And I recognized you. I never forgot you, monsieur. When we came to Paris, you were here alreadyyou were an inspector. I didn't speak to you because I was afraid you wouldn't remember me, and you were always very intimidating." She shrugged. "I don't think you're so intimidating now."
Javert smiled weakly. "I can see why not. This spoon seems like a leaden anchor. But the broth is very good. It's bringing my appetite back."
"Good. I will bring you some bread when you've finished, if you like." She studied him. "Your color is returning."
"Mada—Jewelle, you have not told me why I am here instead of the morgue or hospital." He found her eyes, a deep, green brown, to be the gentlest eyes he'd ever seen. His frown smoothed out as he looked at her.
"Because they said they were going to bury you without even a marker in the common field. I thought it was the least I could do to repay what you have done for me. I believed you deserved the respect you had earned. Fortunately, you were not dead." She smiled radiantly. "And it has been my pleasure to help you."
Javert had absolutely no experience in matters of the heart. He had never felt this way, and he just felt a captive of the strange and wonderful emotions that ran through him. Had he felt stronger he might have tried to analyze, to conquer them. But that Light was still inside him, and it demolished his darkness and the feelings with which he was most familiar.
"Madame, you are an angel to me. I have never been in such a situation, nor felt the kind of things I do now. I pledge myself to you, and to Monsieur Leblanc. I will be your servant most gratefully."
"First you rest, Javert. Rest and recover. If you wish to stay, then, we welcome whatever help you might wish to give us." She patted his arm. "But for now, be our guest. I am at your disposal."
Javert did not think he could lift the spoon one more time. "Your kindness touches me, madame. I never thought I would feel this way, but. . .but I am a child, and I do not know how to proceed. It is so strange to me."
"Rest, Javert." She took the tray from him and helped him settle back into the bed. "Sleep now, and I'll bring you lunch in a little while."
"Merci, madame, merci." Javert relaxed, lying back and closing his eyes. Could it be at this late date in his lifehe was fifty-twohe was seeing the world as other people saw it. All the harshness and darkness that he'd made a part of his life, were only a small part. For a brief moment he understood frivolity, impetuousness. But then sleep took him down into its velvety depths.
Javert, who had always been a healthy man, regained his strength rapidly. Girard had procured his clothing, and with a few alterations by Jewelle and himself, turned his uniforms into less formal clothing. His cane had disappeared somewhere, and Javert no longer wanted it anyway. His first glimpse in the mirror had astounded him, though he'd known what to expect. The white hair transfigured him. Where always there had been darkness, there was now light. He even trimmed his heavy sideburns to a neater length. Because now, when he looked in the mirror, he found himself wondering what Jewelle thought of him. He didn't want to appear intimidating any more, he wanted mildness instead. Yes, Javert thought, I want to be mild.
And just how far are you willing to go, Javert? he asked himself. Far enough to break the Law? Are you so smitten with this woman that you would go that far? He had no answer. No one was requiring any infraction of him, though he thought perhaps it was his duty to report the fact that he was alive so that he would still be a tax-paying citizen. Not making that report unsettled him, and he decided he would take care of it as soon as he was able. The matters of his estate had not yet been settled, so Girard told him. He thought he would go soon and settle the matter quietly as possible. Jewelle had told him of the notice in the Moniteur about his apparent suicide. It might be best if the public continued to believe it.
Then what? Would he come back here? The strong, "Yes!" that popped into his mind immediately decided him. There was no place else he wished to be. Ah, to be subject to an emotion like this was so startling, but he was glad of it. And every time he thought of the vision he had seen, he was glad all over again. Oh, Valjean, if you saw me now. . .
Javert went into the main room, his tall stance slightly softened by residual weakness. Jewelle was in the kitchen, making supper. He smiled. "May I help you?" he said, coming up behind her.
She turned and smiled at him. "You may cut this chicken up for me." She looked up at him a moment, then turned back to her preparations.
Javert felt that trembly sort of hesitation overcome him. "I will certainly do so." Her face was etched into his mind as he turned to hack the plucked and gutted chicken into quarters. "Do you need any other labor done? I want to earn my keep here."
She looked at him again. "Monsieur, you could sit in that chair for the next twenty years, and I would be happy to have you here." Jewelle peered at him. "You've cut back your sideburns. Less intimidating, I must say." Her smile was mostly in her eyes.
"Yes. That part of my life is over." He felt his heart pounding and thought it had to be left-over illness. "I will say, Jewelle, that you've not aged a day since that evening I found you on the steps."
She seemed surprised and blushed. "You're kindness knows no bounds, Javert." She stood on tiptoe and quickly kissed his bewhiskered cheek. "Merci."
Javert felt his knees weaken, and his heart was doing wild things inside his chest. He set the knife he was holding down before he accidentally cut off a finger. And as quickly, emotion came bubbling out of him. For the first time in his life for which he had memory, Javert felt loved, the vision of Michael notwithstanding. He turned away, overwhelmed as the most unfamiliar tears came to his eyes and hard lump to his throat. Crying, he thought, Mon Dieu! I'm crying. But the feelings came without any clear source, only from the broad, dark depths of his soul.
He moved to the chair, sitting down, staring at his clean hand which was covered with tears. He could feel Jewelle's hands on his shoulders, but her words were just a soft drone in his ears. It was more than pain that made him cry, it was joy, it was loss and love.
He never quite sobbedthat would have been too far for him to gobut sat, breathing raggedly as tumultuous emotions slowly rose and washed over him like high tide. Where did it all come from? he wondered. Why were things he remembered so painful now, his childhood, the prison, his mother's attempt to shelter him which he shunned after several incidents involving guards and prisoners. He still had scars from the beating one of the warders gave him. The wounds had not healed that well, and they had always been constant reminders to him of the divisions society imposed on its people. Now, when he remembered that almost unprovoked beating, he saw more than ever before. The man who had done it had acted from hatred, the same hatred for the gypsy race that it instilled in Javert. He'd been beaten because he was gypsy, his people were criminals and thieves, and he could either be a part of that or not. He could find that same hatred easily enough, and had. And as his mother had half-carried, half-dragged him away from his assailant, he'd looked up into the man's eyes and known which way he had to go. He had never spoken a kind word to his mother after that, though she tended the lacerations on his body with gentleness.
Now, when he thought of that time, Javert felt a grief he had never known himself capable of feeling. He looked back, grieving, but unable to feel the same hatred as he'd had before. All that came was pity for the poor boy who had turned his misery into hatred, channeled that hatred into fanatical duty. And pity for his mother who had been screaming for the assault to stop. The thought that Valjean probably pitied him made bitterness come up with all the rest. Javert tried to remember his vision of Michael and felt comforted a little. God has touched me, he thought, He will help me.
Javert then came out of it a little, feeling a hand softly smoothing his hair. Jewelle, he thought, and his heart seemed to burst. "Do you know something, madame?" he began hoarsely. "Do you know why I jumped from the bridge?"
"No, Javert," she said, standing very close, then kneeling down beside him so that she might see his face.
He looked at her, his eyes bloodshot and still tearing. "Because I could not accept something. And it seems so. . .so stupid now, because everything is different." He paused, searching her face, finding the kindness there made his heart pound. "I found that all was not as I thought. A man who was a convict, a hardened criminal, could be something other than that. And a part of me knew that, but. . ." He cast his gaze around, as if answers could be found in the table, in the window or walls. "But it made no sense to me. He had the chance to kill me. Ithe only one who knew who he was, who could send him back to prisonhe let me go, he gave me my life. How could he do that? I wondered, and I didn't want to believe it." Javert wiped his face with his hand. "Suddenly it was not simple any more, and he let me. . . He gave me ample opportunity to arrest him." He looked at Jewelle again. "But I did not. I let him go. I allowed him to complete his business, and I just walked away."
Javert leaned back in the chair and took a deep breath. "Everything is different now. After the vision, I can see that my life, my devotion to duty was too strong. I was inflexible, and when he let me live and I let him go, I broke. I could not go on after what I had done." His eyes slowly returned to Jewelle who had not moved, her hand on his arm as she knelt beside him. "I discovered that there was a greater force in all of this, and I couldn't bear it. But I didn't know," he felt his pain begin to fade, "that He was forgiving, that I could feel so much. And that it would be good. Suicide will send you to Hell, I always thought, but no Hell could have been worse than the conflict in which I found myself." He noticed suddenly that her face was wet with tears, and the sight made his heart lurch with pain.
"Jewelle, you must not cry for me. What I have done is over. God has helped me." He wanted to touch her, but he didn't know how or what was appropriate. He tried to smile. "I am changed."
"Monsieur, God has always been with you. And I will be as long as you need me."
Javert was suddenly embarrassed. "I do not wish to be a burden."
"You could never be, Javert." She rose up, leaned toward him and kissed his forehead before straightening completely. "It's time you had joy and lightness in your life." She tugged at his arm. "Come, I have a task for you."
Javert rose to his feet, wondering, still feeling the velvety soft touch of her lips upon his skin. He would have jumped back into the Seine for her at that moment, had she asked it of him.
"You see that field over there?" She pointed out the window. "I would like you to pick me some flowers for the vase here. I often do it myself, but I think you should. Will you?"
"Of course I will. But I do not. . . I have never done such a thing. Is there a special way. . ." He felt the remainder of his sorrow slide away as he looked into her eyes.
"I will get you started. It's easy."
Javert smiled and followed. I'm going to pick flowers, he thought. Flowers for this woman. What has become of me? Am I mad? Still delirious? Can this be?
Yes, he decided as he watched her. It can be, and this is no fever dream. This has to be Heaven.
Jewelle looked out the window at Javert. His flower-picking could best be described as methodical. Each bloom he came to received considerable study before being abandoned or its stem cut quickly with the knife he held, then further studied. From this distance she could not see his expression, but she didn't think she needed to to know what it held. His thick white hair shown in the sunlight like snow, contrasting the dark blue of his jacket. Jewelle found his manner endearing. There was something innocent about him, but she didn't quite know what it was, or if it was due to the vision he'd had. She sensed the same loneliness in him that she'd noticed before, but now it was without his dark, forbidding demeanor. Instead of being merely sad because it was so self-imposed, it was now a need in him. He had been changed, he was appreciating things for which he had never before taken much note. He was now open to the need for companionship, and Jewelle found this very appealing.
Until Guy, she had never seriously considered marrying. She had been utterly innocent, living in Jeannette's shadow, seeing the world filtered through her older sister's eyes. In the years of her marriage, she had come to accept that Jeannette had been wrong about a few things. She had never known a man either, and had missed out on so many things in life, not the least of which was intimacy. Jewelle did not know whether it was gratitude that predisposed her to find Javert attractive or if she would have found him so anyway. But in the days of his recovery, she had become more and more aware of the feeling. The way he would look at her, then seem embarrassed when she returned the gaze caused her to think that perhaps it was mutual. Javert was nothing like Guy, and she could not help but compare them. Her husband had always been so energetic, so charged that he'd seldom sat still unless designing something, and then all that intensity had been directed at his work. He talked a great deal as well, and loved to laugh and tease. Perhaps Javert had been as focused as Guy had been about his work, but otherwise they were different as black and white. Yet in Javert, she saw the burgeoning of lightness in him, and she found herself encouraging it, ready to offer solace should he need it, but wanting to lead him into happiness.
With a contented sigh, she turned away from the window to finish preparing supper. But her mind was still on him, wondering, speculating, day-dreaming.
When he entered the cottage, his had a considerable bouquet in one large hand. Jewelle went to him, smiling as she admired the collection. "Well, Javert, you have an eye for flower-picking. These are beautiful." The flowers were either lavender, yellow or white, and he had put them in his hand with the same careful consideration he had picked them. "I'll hardly need to arrange them. Merci."
He nodded, smiling a little. "I found it very relaxing. The weather is beautiful. I should like to have stayed out all afternoon."
"Well, do it, then!" she said, laughing. "And if you help Stephan set up, perhaps we can have our supper on the porch?"
"That would be my pleasure, maJewelle. Just tell me what I need to do."
She found herself blushing and took the flowers from him. "Only if you are up to it. I won't have you relapsing."
"I assure you, I am quite capable."
"Very well. Girard and Stephan are down by the stream fishing, I'm sure. If you'll just fetch Stephan for me. Would you like some water first?"
"Yes, please," Javert said, holding the vase for her while she worked the bundle of stems down into it. "But I can get it myself."
Jewelle put her hand on his arm and looked up at him. "Allow me, monsieur." She wondered again why he looked so uncomfortable suddenly, and she abruptly realized his manner reminded her of Stephan when any of the pretty village girls stopped by with eggs or vegetables to sell. It made him all the more appealing to her.
She gave him a glass of water, bade him sit down for a few minutes while he drank. "May I ask you something personal, Javert?"
"Of course," he said, but would not look at her.
"Have you ever been married?"
He looked at her in surprise, then away. "No, madame. I have not. My life was too. . .dark, and too full of the Law for such endeavors." His eyes took on a far-away look. "But everything has changed. II. . ." He shrugged helplessly.
"Yes, Javert, I think everything has changed. I find myself looking forward to seeing you each day. And now that you're up and around, it's like you are this wonderful puzzle to solve a little at a time. Please don't leave us, Javert. Stay here. We want you here. I want you here."
He was blinking rapidly as tears again sprang to his eyes. "No one, madameI mean, Jewelle, has ever wanted me. Oh, I suppose if you count those citizens in need of a policeman, then I have been wanted. But it wasn't Javert they wanted, but the police. And I can't blame them. I have never been one to whom others warm. And until the vision, it didn't matter to me. I was content with my stand, it was they way I wanted my life to be. I never thought I could have anything else." He shook his head, staring into the empty glass. "I find all this so disconcerting, yet wonderful." He looked up at her then. "As I do you."
She smiled gently. "It will take time, Javert. And I will be here for you."
She took the glass from him, deciding not to confound him any further for one day. "Go to the stream, would you? I'd best be finishing supper."
Javert stood up, bowing his head politely. "I will return shortly."
Jewelle watched him go, relishing the thought of shepherding him through this change. Whatever had happened to turn him to such a severe and dark life, she might never know, but this time, she wanted to make sure he took the other path.