It was evening. Javert fretted and paced the floor. Any moment, the door would open and the good master would be there. What should he prepare? He had wine, but the good master might not approve. Javert poured out the remains of the bottle and hid the bottle in a cupboard. Perhaps he should have prepared an extravagant meal? But the good master might chastise him for not giving the money for the food to the poor.
Javert found bread in the cupboard. Yes, bread, that is perfect. Bread and water. The good master will commend me for my austerity and my dedication to living a life free of temptations, he thought.
The footsteps sounded on the stairs. Javert went to the door. He greeted the good master and showed him to his seat. He wouldn’t have to tell the other policemen that the good master had come to visit. They were present when the good master had asked to be invited to Javert’s home. He had thought of inviting them to come along, but then he would not be able to tell them stories the next day.
Javert was busy at slicing the bread for the good master when there was a knock on the door. Javert started. Who could be here? Irritated he went to answer it.
She practically fell through the door when he opened it. He tried to stop her but it was too late. Fantine, that horrible prostitute from the gutter, what was she doing here?
She went to the good master. She laid her head in his lap and began to sob. Javert was repulsed. Her shaved scalp and missing teeth were hideous. What was she thinking, barging in like this?
Then the master lifted his hand from the table. Javert stood at attention, ready should the master wish for the woman to be thrown out. Instead the good master laid his hand upon the woman’s head. Javert barely heard the words he whispered. “Go in peace,” the good master said. “Your sins have been forgiven.”
Inside, Javert reeled. Did the good master know what sort of a woman Fantine was? How could he possibly forgive her sins?
As if he’d heard Javert’s thoughts, the good master turned his head to look at Javert. “I have a question for you, Javert,” the master said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him fifteen francs and the other fifteen hundred francs. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Which one of them will love him more?”
Confused, Javert asked, “Why did he forgive them at all? They should have paid their debts or gone to prison.”
A tear escaped the eye of the good master. “Oh Javert,” said the good master. “A thousand times I wished to show you mercy, but you were unwilling.”
Fantine left, a smile dancing at her lips. The good master finished his bread and then he departed. Javert cleaned up the table. Anger filled him and he flung the rest of the bread at the door that the good master had just closed. How dare the good master talk to him of mercy and forgiveness when such a vile and worthless creature like Fantine was touching him. At least, Javert thought, I had the decency to keep my distance from the good master. Out of respect, I did not touch him while he was in my home.
Perhaps the good master was only testing him. Yes, that was it. It was all a test. That brought a smile back to Javert’s face. Convinced he had passed the test, Javert went to sleep, determined to resume his hunt for Jean Valjean as soon as the sun arose.