When the hour came for him to take his departure from the galleys,
when Jean Valjean heard in his ear the strange words, Thou art free!
the moment seemed improbable and unprecedented; a ray of vivid light,
a ray of the true light of the living, suddenly penetrated within him.
But it was not long before this ray paled. Jean Valjean had been
dazzled by the idea of liberty. He had believed in a new life.
He very speedily perceived what sort of liberty it is to which a yellow
passport is provided.
And this was encompassed with much bitterness. He had calculated
that his earnings, during his sojourn in the galleys, ought to amount
to a hundred and seventy-one francs. It is but just to add that he had
forgotten to include in his calculations the forced repose of Sundays
and festival days during nineteen years, which entailed a diminution
of about eighty francs. At all events, his hoard had been reduced
by various local levies to the sum of one hundred and nine francs
fifteen sous, which had been counted out to him on his departure.
He had understood nothing of this, and had thought himself wronged.
Let us say the word--robbed.
On the day following his liberation, he saw, at Grasse, in front
of an orange-flower distillery, some men engaged in unloading bales.
He offered his services. Business was pressing; they were accepted.
He set to work. He was intelligent, robust, adroit; he did his best;
the master seemed pleased. While he was at work, a gendarme passed,
observed him, and demanded his papers. It was necessary to show him
the yellow passport. That done, Jean Valjean resumed his labor.
A little while before he had questioned one of the workmen
as to the amount which they earned each day at this occupation;
he had been told thirty sous. When evening arrived, as he was
forced to set out again on the following day, he presented himself
to the owner of the distillery and requested to be paid. The owner
did not utter a word, but handed him fifteen sous. He objected.
He was told, "That is enough for thee." He persisted. The master
looked him straight between the eyes, and said to him "Beware of
There, again, he considered that he had been robbed.
Society, the State, by diminishing his hoard, had robbed him wholesale.
Now it was the individual who was robbing him at retail.
Liberation is not deliverance. One gets free from the galleys,
but not from the sentence.
That is what happened to him at Grasse. We have seen in what manner
he was received at D----