BOOK NINTH.--WHITHER ARE THEY GOING?
That same day, towards four o'clock in the afternoon, Jean Valjean
was sitting alone on the back side of one of the most solitary
slopes in the Champ-de-Mars. Either from prudence, or from a desire
to meditate, or simply in consequence of one of those insensible
changes of habit which gradually introduce themselves into the
existence of every one, he now rarely went out with Cosette.
He had on his workman's waistcoat, and trousers of gray linen;
and his long-visored cap concealed his countenance.
He was calm and happy now beside Cosette; that which had, for a time,
alarmed and troubled him had been dissipated; but for the last
week or two, anxieties of another nature had come up. One day,
while walking on the boulevard, he had caught sight of Thenardier;
thanks to his disguise, Thenardier had not recognized him; but since
that day, Jean Valjean had seen him repeatedly, and he was now certain
that Thenardier was prowling about in their neighborhood.
This had been sufficient to make him come to a decision.
Moreover, Paris was not tranquil: political troubles presented this
inconvenient feature, for any one who had anything to conceal in
his life, that the police had grown very uneasy and very suspicious,
and that while seeking to ferret out a man like Pepin or Morey,
they might very readily discover a man like Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean had made up his mind to quit Paris, and even France,
and go over to England.
He had warned Cosette. He wished to set out before the end of the week.
He had seated himself on the slope in the Champ-de-Mars, turning
over all sorts of thoughts in his mind,--Thenardier, the police,
the journey, and the difficulty of procuring a passport.
He was troubled from all these points of view.
Last of all, an inexplicable circumstance which had just attracted
his attention, and from which he had not yet recovered, had added
to his state of alarm.
On the morning of that very day, when he alone of the household
was stirring, while strolling in the garden before Cosette's
shutters were open, he had suddenly perceived on the wall,
the following line, engraved, probably with a nail:--
16 Rue de la Verrerie.
This was perfectly fresh, the grooves in the ancient black mortar
were white, a tuft of nettles at the foot of the wall was powdered
with the fine, fresh plaster.
This had probably been written on the preceding night.
What was this? A signal for others? A warning for himself?
In any case, it was evident that the garden had been violated,
and that strangers had made their way into it.
He recalled the odd incidents which had already alarmed the household.
His mind was now filling in this canvas.
He took good care not to speak to Cosette of the line written
on the wall, for fear of alarming her.
In the midst of his preoccupations, he perceived, from a shadow
cast by the sun, that some one had halted on the crest of the slope
immediately behind him.
He was on the point of turning round, when a paper folded in four
fell upon his knees as though a hand had dropped it over his head.
He took the paper, unfolded it, and read these words written
in large characters, with a pencil:--
"MOVE AWAY FROM YOUR HOUSE."
Jean Valjean sprang hastily to his feet; there was no one on the slope;
he gazed all around him and perceived a creature larger than
a child, not so large as a man, clad in a gray blouse and trousers
of dust-colored cotton velvet, who was jumping over the parapet
and who slipped into the moat of the Champde-Mars.
Jean Valjean returned home at once, in a very thoughtful mood.