Mary Elizabeth Overstreet
© Copyright January 1999
- NINE -
Javert regarded Stephan with a little amazement. The boy had a very sharp mind, but he never seemed to realize that discussing his studies at the dinner table did not suit most people. Girard was looking a little green and Jewelle decidedly pale. Girard's new wife, Anna had already gotten up and left the room. As for himself, Javert did not find it appetizing, but he had seen far too much in his life to be squeamish about interior anatomy.
"That was entirely unnecessary, Stephan," Jewelle said. "I'm sure Anna will never feel the same about serving sausage. I know I won't."
"I'm sorry, I couldn't help it. I've just spent the last three weeks on the"
"Stephan, please," Girard stopped him. "I can't hear any more."
Stephan looked over at Javert for support, and he shook his head. "Not a suitable topic for the supper table, Stephan. However, I will be more than happy to hear about your findings once we've left the table." He saw the pleasure in the young man's eyes. Oddly, since he'd begun his study of medicine, Stephan had begun turning to Javert more than Girard for help. At first, it had made Javert very uncomfortable. He did not know how to talk to the boy except as a man to a child, although he was now nearly twenty. But then it occurred to him one day, that he could talk to him as another man, and suddenly Stephan was asking him for help studying. It did not escape him that out of the four adults living in the house, Javert was the only one who could stomach hearing about gross anatomy, or who was the least interested. Perhaps it was his detective mind, always searching for clues to thingswhy not to the mysteries of the human body? He had learned a great deal since he'd begun helping Jewelle's son. He knew it made her happy to see them together. And it gave him something to do. Three and a half years of marriage had shown him that he and Jewelle could not be together every minute of the day. He had found diversions, helping Girard, even offering his services as a kind of consultant to local merchants who were trying to increase the security of their shops.
"Merci, Monsieur." Stephan had never been anything but formal with him, treating him as more of an instructor than anything else. "It was so interesting. Someday, you should come to the class and observe."
"Perhaps, I shall. Thank you for suggesting it."
"I had no idea that his becoming a physician was going to mean hearing about the inner workings of dead bodies," Jewelle said. "Thank God for you, Javert. I don't think I could do it if I had to help. I'm sorry, son. I just wasn't made for it."
"I know, Mother." He smiled at her. "I am sorry to have ruined your supper. I will apologize to Anna. Excuse me." He got up and left the room.
"Such a sharp boy," Girard said. "Pity I don't share his enthusiasm for. . .well, you know."
"He will make a fine doctor, I'm sure of it," Javert said. "He is observant, diligent and thorough."
"He's emulating you, my dear," Jewelle said. "You are all those things yourself. I can imagine that you would have made a fine doctor yourself, had you studied it."
"Such an opportunity was never available to me, and I doubt I would have pursued it had it been. I was far more interested in maintaining the order of things." To a fanatical point, he reminded himself.
"Still, you have the potential."
Javert glanced at Girard and shrugged. "My wife is very kind to me."
"She's that way. Always has been. That's why we loved her the minute we saw her."
Jewelle smiled at them and got up. "You're making a bid for dessert, are you?"
Both men stood up as well. "Not I, dear sister," Girard told her, then patted his somewhat substantial paunch. "I've got to let this settle after that comment your son made."
Javert cleared his throat, pretending to be uncomfortable. "I would like dessert, madame, if possible." His eyes met hers and locked, smiling.
"I think I can find you something. But first I'd better go check on Anna. Stephan may have made her even sicker by now."
Girard laughed. "And he wants to be a healer!"
"Well, he's young. . ." She laughed and went into the kitchen.
Javert sat back down, arranged the plates within his reach for easier removal to the kitchen. He still did not like disorder, though he had gotten used to Jewelle handling the food and clean-up most of the time. He suspected she shooed him away because she wanted a little more time to herself. Now that Anna was here, he almost never did any of it. Oh, how his life had changed! His home was a warm and friendly place, complete with the company of others most of the time. He still enjoyed solitude occasionally, but it was now the exception not the rule. Never had he dreamed life could be so rich and fulfilling. God had indeed given him another chance, and he never forgot to be thankful.
Girard was about to leave the dining room when both men heard a shout from the kitchen. Two voices simultaneously called out to Jewelle, one crying out "Mother!" and the other her name, before there was thudding sound. Javert was on his feet instantly and through the door before Girard had even crossed the room. He found his wife on the floor on her back, flanked by a kneeling Anna and Stephan. She appeared to be unconscious.
Javert joined them, taking her hands in his. "Jewelle, can you hear me?" He felt a kind of deep panic. Only his years of self-discipline kept him outwardly calm. Inside, he was in a turmoil of fear and dread.
"Mother, are you all right?" Stephan put his hand on her forehead, then his ear to her chest.
Javert did not know if his voice would be steady until he spoke. It was. "Is she. . . ?" He looked up at Anna. "What happened? Girard, fetch a doctor!" The other man had already gone to do so.
Stephan raised his head looked down at her. "She's alive, monsieur, but I don't know what is wrong. I am only still learning." The young man's voice quavered as he tried to remain calm.
"She just stepped into the room and fainted," Anna said.
Javert slid his arms under her, gathering her up. She felt light, extraordinarily light to him, and he held her tenderly to him as he got to his feet. He felt a sudden tension come into her limp body then, and hurried to the bedroom to set her gently down on the bed. Anna and Stephan followed him. He barely took his eyes from her face. "Jewelle, my love, are you all right? Can you hear me?"
Her eyes fluttered and opened, looking up at him, uncomprehending.
"Jewelle? Can you hear me?" He stroked her hair with his huge hand in somewhat frantic motion. He watched her stare straight ahead then close her eyes and relax. "Jewelle?! Jewelle, wake up!!" He managed to refrain from shaking her violently, fearing that she had died.
Stephan, who stood beside him, dismayed and fearful, held his hand in front of her mouth and nose. "She is still breathing," he said as calmly as he could. He had to push Javert's arm away so that he could put his ear to her chest and listen to her heart. "Her heart is beating."
"Is there anything we can do?" Javert looked to the young man, his eyes desperate, though he managed to keep the panic from his voice.
Stephan shook his head, buckling under the pressure of Javert's need. He fled from the room.
Anna, who had watched everything silently, called after him and then followed.
Javert didn't go after them, too concerned for his wife. He spoke softly to her, reminding her of his love for her and his devotion. God, he thought, has willed this. What was it Valjean had said? That he would be tested? Was this it? Was this a test? Would God be so cruel as to take her from him now? How would he live? His heart would be emptyhe could not go back to being what he had been before. He'd found love; he couldn't live without it. Jewelle was everything!
He felt a warm tear on the back of his hand and realized he was crying. He was afraid in a way he had never been before. The pain he had felt when his world had collapsed around him seemed foolish and insignificant when compared with the pain losing Jewelle would cause him. He could scarcely think it blinded him so.
"Mon chere, don't leave me," he pleaded with her, holding her hand to his lips. "You are my life. I can't live without you!"
For a while he was irrational, but his controlled nature did not allow that to go on very long. "You know what I am feeling, don't you, Jewelle? You must have felt the same when you lost Guy. Oh, but you are not lost to me. You will not be. God would not allow it. It is a test. Like Valjean told me. I will not lose my faith. You will be all right."
He glanced toward the door, wondering where the doctor was and why he hadn't arrived. Valjean, he thought, had managed to go on when he'd lost everything. Can I be so strong? But no, I will not lose Jewelle. I will not!
Javert heard the sound of the door opening, but didn't move away from the bed until Girard and another man came into the room.
The other man, older than Girard or Javert, and possessing a neatly trimmed white beard entered the room. "I am Dr. Gaillard," he announced and pushed past Javert to reach Jewelle. "Monsieur LeBlanc has told me what happened. Has there been any change?"
Javert's mind was ever sharp for details. He did not lose the fact that Jewelle had awakened after Girard had left. He told the doctor about it. "She did not seem to be aware of me."
"Yes, very well. Now please leave us. I must examine her."
Javert was reluctant, but allowed Girard to take him gently by the arm and escort him out. He shut the door behind them.
"Where are Anna and Stephan?" Girard asked.
Javert was almost too distracted with worry about Jewelle to answer. "I do not know. He ran out and she followed. I could not leave Jewelle to follow them. Did the doctor say what he thought might be wrong?"
"A stroke, heart failure, or other less serious things." Girard's eyes were full of his concern. "But he won't know until he's examined her."
Javert nodded and began pacing, arms hugged over his chest.
"I will go find Anna and Stephan." Girard left him.
It seemed an age before doctor came out of the room, and Javert was questioning him immediately. "Will she be all right? What happened to her?"
"I believe she will recover, although she needs to rest for several days. And, monsieur, she may have difficulty speaking or walking. I believe she had a stroke."
"A stroke? Is she awake?"
"Yes, and she is completely aware, but she will need care and"
"She will have it!" He turned from the doctor to go back in with Jewelle.
"Monsieur, do nothing to upset her. She needs complete rest. I will come back tomorrow to check on her."
"Merci, doctor," Javert said from the doorway to his and Jewelle's room. He hurried to the bedside. "My love," he said, smiling when Jewelle looked at him.
"Javert," she whispered, slightly slurred.
"How do you feel?"
"Do you need anything?" He leaned down over her, stroking her hair, and kissed her forehead.
"Only you. But I would like to sleep for a while."
"Of course. I will be right here." His kissed her again and moved to sit in the chair he pulled near the bed. Lord, he prayed as he watched her close her eyes and lie there, heal her with Your power as You healed my heart that I might be with her. I am grateful for my life with her, and I do not want it to end. I wish only to make her happy and to serve You. You have given me this gift, please do not take it away.
Javert did not move for hours, even when Girard and Anna came back and said they could not find Stephan. He could not leave Jewelle, and he only moved when she woke briefly and told him to come into the bed beside her. He obeyed, not sleeping, but holding her hand for a while as he watched her in the dim light that filtered in through the window from street lights.
The next few days went by with the surreality of a dream. Javert left Jewelle for only minutes a day. Girard and Anna took turns looking for Stephan and bringing food into the room for both Jewelle and Javert. When Jewelle asked about her son, Javert did not tell her that he was missing, only that he was out. But it made him realize that he had to find Stephan lest her worry cause another stroke. So, for that reason he left of for the first significant period since her collapse.
At first he did not know where to look. He went to the school only to find that Stephan had not been attending classes. Ever the detective mind, Javert asked Stephan's classmates for places he would likely be, and finally came to the conclusion when he did not find him there, that the boy had possibly journeyed to the cottage.
He found Stephan by the stream, sitting on the fallen log they all used as a seat when they were fishing. It was cold out, if dry and the sun was low on the horizon.
"Your mother is asking for you," Javert said, coming up behind him.
Stephan looked at him with sad and disillusioned eyes. "Is she all right?"
"She is recovering well. She walked this morning. The doctor says she will recover completely if she rests enough."
"No thanks to me," Stephan said, looking back out at the water.
"You're a student, Stephan. It takes years of experience to become a doctor. You don't think I was put on hard cases when I first became a policeman, do you?"
"It doesn't matter. I'll never be a doctor."
"Stephan, stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you had committed some error, perhaps you would own blame, but you have not, and you do not. Neither she nor I expect you to function as a doctor yet. Why, I wouldn't trust you to look at me if I were ill for another ten years!" The boy looked at him in surprise. "Yes, Stephan, it takes years. And you know what else? The doctor that came did nothing to her. Gave no medicine, did not bleed her, or any of that. He just diagnosed her and said she needed to rest."
"What was his name?" The light had begun to come back into Stephan's eyes.
"Dr. Gaillard. Do you know him?"
"Well, then, what do I tell your mother? Will you come back with me?"
"Yes, monsieur. But we should lock up the cottage."
"Of course." Javert lead the way, and they were soon in the fiacre Javert had taken out to the cottage. After some time when neither spoke, Javert asked Stephan if he was going to continue his studies. He was surprised to see the tears on the young man's face.
"How can I? I've already missed days of anatomy classes!"
"Then you will have to catch up. It will mean extra work and hard studying, but you can do it. I will help you as much as you need me."
Stephan looked at him gratefully. "You would do that, monsieur?"
"Absolutely, I will." Javert felt something then. It was like a soft touch to his heart. A caress almost, and he was suddenly filled with that glorious white light. My purpose, the thought, basking in the wonder and the love. He looked over at Stephan and smiled, the radiance making him almost glow. "You will be a doctor, Stephan, and you will help many people."
The Presence left him slowly, and Javert did not stop smiling. He was going home to Jewelle, to his family, to people he loved. He was important to them, and he was going to succeed. And he was going to love and protect them until God called him Home. Javert had never felt so fulfilled. And he was truly happy to serve this purpose.
"Monsieur Javert," Stephan said with awe. "You wereyou were glowing!"
Javert nodded. "Merci, Stephan. Merci."