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CHAPTER IX—NEW TROUBLES
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 the prison."
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——