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CHAPTER X—THE MAN AROUSED
As the Cathedral clock struck two in the morning, Jean Valjean awoke.
What woke him was that his bed was too good. It was nearly twenty years
since he had slept in a bed, and, although he had not undressed, the
sensation was too novel not to disturb his slumbers.
He had slept more than four hours. His fatigue had passed away. He was
accustomed not to devote many hours to repose.
He opened his eyes and stared into the gloom which surrounded him; then he
closed them again, with the intention of going to sleep once more.
When many varied sensations have agitated the day, when various matters
preoccupy the mind, one falls asleep once, but not a second time. Sleep
comes more easily than it returns. This is what happened to Jean Valjean.
He could not get to sleep again, and he fell to thinking.
He was at one of those moments when the thoughts which one has in one's
mind are troubled. There was a sort of dark confusion in his brain. His
memories of the olden time and of the immediate present floated there
pell-mell and mingled confusedly, losing their proper forms, becoming
disproportionately large, then suddenly disappearing, as in a muddy and
perturbed pool. Many thoughts occurred to him; but there was one which
kept constantly presenting itself afresh, and which drove away all others.
We will mention this thought at once: he had observed the six sets of
silver forks and spoons and the ladle which Madame Magloire had placed on
Those six sets of silver haunted him.—They were there.—A few
paces distant.—Just as he was traversing the adjoining room to reach
the one in which he then was, the old servant-woman had been in the act of
placing them in a little cupboard near the head of the bed.—He had
taken careful note of this cupboard.—On the right, as you entered
from the dining-room.—They were solid.—And old silver.—From
the ladle one could get at least two hundred francs.—Double what he
had earned in nineteen years.—It is true that he would have earned
more if "the administration had not robbed him."
His mind wavered for a whole hour in fluctuations with which there was
certainly mingled some struggle. Three o'clock struck. He opened his eyes
again, drew himself up abruptly into a sitting posture, stretched out his
arm and felt of his knapsack, which he had thrown down on a corner of the
alcove; then he hung his legs over the edge of the bed, and placed his
feet on the floor, and thus found himself, almost without knowing it,
seated on his bed.
He remained for a time thoughtfully in this attitude, which would have
been suggestive of something sinister for any one who had seen him thus in
the dark, the only person awake in that house where all were sleeping. All
of a sudden he stooped down, removed his shoes and placed them softly on
the mat beside the bed; then he resumed his thoughtful attitude, and
became motionless once more.
Throughout this hideous meditation, the thoughts which we have above
indicated moved incessantly through his brain; entered, withdrew,
re-entered, and in a manner oppressed him; and then he thought, also,
without knowing why, and with the mechanical persistence of revery, of a
convict named Brevet, whom he had known in the galleys, and whose trousers
had been upheld by a single suspender of knitted cotton. The checkered
pattern of that suspender recurred incessantly to his mind.
He remained in this situation, and would have so remained indefinitely,
even until daybreak, had not the clock struck one—the half or
quarter hour. It seemed to him that that stroke said to him, "Come on!"
He rose to his feet, hesitated still another moment, and listened; all was
quiet in the house; then he walked straight ahead, with short steps, to
the window, of which he caught a glimpse. The night was not very dark;
there was a full moon, across which coursed large clouds driven by the
wind. This created, outdoors, alternate shadow and gleams of light,
eclipses, then bright openings of the clouds; and indoors a sort of
twilight. This twilight, sufficient to enable a person to see his way,
intermittent on account of the clouds, resembled the sort of livid light
which falls through an air-hole in a cellar, before which the passersby
come and go. On arriving at the window, Jean Valjean examined it. It had
no grating; it opened in the garden and was fastened, according to the
fashion of the country, only by a small pin. He opened it; but as a rush
of cold and piercing air penetrated the room abruptly, he closed it again
immediately. He scrutinized the garden with that attentive gaze which
studies rather than looks. The garden was enclosed by a tolerably low
white wall, easy to climb. Far away, at the extremity, he perceived tops
of trees, spaced at regular intervals, which indicated that the wall
separated the garden from an avenue or lane planted with trees.
Having taken this survey, he executed a movement like that of a man who
has made up his mind, strode to his alcove, grasped his knapsack, opened
it, fumbled in it, pulled out of it something which he placed on the bed,
put his shoes into one of his pockets, shut the whole thing up again,
threw the knapsack on his shoulders, put on his cap, drew the visor down
over his eyes, felt for his cudgel, went and placed it in the angle of the
window; then returned to the bed, and resolutely seized the object which
he had deposited there. It resembled a short bar of iron, pointed like a
pike at one end. It would have been difficult to distinguish in that
darkness for what employment that bit of iron could have been designed.
Perhaps it was a lever; possibly it was a club.
In the daytime it would have been possible to recognize it as nothing more
than a miner's candlestick. Convicts were, at that period, sometimes
employed in quarrying stone from the lofty hills which environ Toulon, and
it was not rare for them to have miners' tools at their command. These
miners' candlesticks are of massive iron, terminated at the lower
extremity by a point, by means of which they are stuck into the rock.
He took the candlestick in his right hand; holding his breath and trying
to deaden the sound of his tread, he directed his steps to the door of the
adjoining room, occupied by the Bishop, as we already know.
On arriving at this door, he found it ajar. The Bishop had not closed it.