‘Stop it. I am not in the mood.’ Javert kicked out at the dog nipping his ankle, who whimpered and backed away. It sat staring at him, head cocked; he sneered at it, and looked out of the window instead. Snow had begun to fall. Montreuil would be buried at this rate. ‘And stop looking at me. You are a stupid creature.’
The dog – whose name was Dog – laid down, and set its head on its paws. Javert wished it would go away. It was a mangy thing, skinny and rough, with hair that resembled the black bristles of a sweeping brush. It was loyal, he would grant that, but he did not enjoy looking at it. It whined now, and he rolled his eyes. ‘What’s wrong with you? Shut up. You think I should have treated the woman kindly? I thought you knew better. And do not whinge over the mayor, I am sure he does not deserve it.’
Dog made no answer. It never spoke anymore. He remembered when it used to try, and he made it stop. A singularly unpleasant experience all around, and not one he dwelled on. ‘Now then,’ he muttered to himself. ‘We will see. Yes, we will see.’
He pulled paper and ink towards him. Dog curled in on itself, and closed its eyes.
Madeleine did not pause when he saw the mongrel at the corner, nor did his expression change. His lioness turned her head to examine the poor creature, but did not approach either. Both moved to the side as Javert emerged, to let him pass or stop to exchange a word as the man saw fit. The former suited, apparently; there was only a curl of his lip and a slight nod. The dog barked – an oddly hoarse, high-pitched sound – as they moved on.
‘You could speak to him. You know he took your intervention with Fantine badly.’
Yes, he could speak to him. But say what? He did not regret what he did, and would do it again. Moreover, he thought Javert behaved atrociously towards her…and further to that, he would rather not put himself in the man’s path more than he had to. He never avoided him, but never sought him out either. It seemed to have worked thus far.
‘The dog is ill,’ said Arielle, gently.
‘The dog has been ill for as long as I’ve known him,’ he said, shortly, and that was the end of it for today. He walked on, his thoughts turning to the factory and then to the three o’ clock visit with Fantine. Arielle lingered on the spot, watching the straight back of the inspector move down the street. The mongrel trailed at his heels, small and ignored. But Valjean was six paces ahead, and she could not linger. She sighed in resignation, and trotted to catch up.
‘I tell you that there is no Monsieur Madeleine and that there is no Monsieur le Maire. There is a thief, a brigand, a convict named Jean Valjean! And I have him in my grasp! That's what there is!’
The dog barked its hoarse bark; Arielle stood still, not even her tail twitching. Javert had his hand on Valjean’s collar. The woman was shrieking and her bird was careening round and around their heads, like some crazed, all-encompassing halo. Valjean made no move to resist, and indeed felt calm except for his worry about Fantine. Javert was in a state of great agitation, but there was no threat of violence from him beyond the grab. That was not how he worked, Valjean knew that.
But then Fantine sat upright, her taut arms holding her up shakily. She gazed around at the men, the nun, the dog even now biting at the feet of the lion. The bird squawked, an agonising sound that seemed to cut at Valjean like a rough saw through flesh. And then she stretched her arms out, her hands grasping. The bird’s wings flapped, and feathers began to drop through the air. Arielle turned her great head to watch…and Fantine fell back, her head hit the board, fell forward onto her chest, and she was dead.
There was silence for just a second, in which the bird evaporated in the air. Dust showered the two men. Javert shook it off angrily, and Dog began to bark once more. But Valjean did not move, and nor did Arielle, until moments had ticked on and he reached up and released himself from Javert’s grasp.
‘You have murdered that woman.’
‘Let's have an end of this!’ shouted Javert, in a fury. ‘I am not here to listen to argument-’
He was loud, and Dog cowered. Arielle observed the two of them as the words went on, and as the threat of thumbscrews came, she lifted one of her giant paws and placed it firmly, but gently, on the back of the small dog. There was no weight to it, it caused no pain. But to move it was impossible. One might as well have tried to lift a mountain. Javert’s face blanched, even though he paid no attention to the animals.
‘If I scratched it,’ said Arielle, conversationally. ‘Do you think he would come and save it?’
‘Hush, now,’ said Valjean quietly, and she acquiesced, turning her stern gaze back on the pinned creature. To Javert, he said, ‘I advise you not to disturb me at this moment.’
The silence was terrible to Javert. He watched Valjean minister to the woman with fury and loathing that tried to claw its way out of his chest, yet he could not move. Dog was writhing under the paw of the great cat, biting and scratching and yapping, but to no avail. The scene remained as it was until Valjean, finally, kissed the woman’s hand, and turned to face Javert. Arielle let the dog go. It immediately buried its teeth into her leg.
‘Now,’ said Valjean, calmly. ‘I am at your disposal.’
The dog sat facing the prison cell. Mangy though it was, its back was straight and its paws neatly aligned. Javert sat with his back to it, as though it were not there.
When the cell was found to be empty a few hours later, he kicked the dog into the wall. It yelped and was dazed for a time, but it kept up well enough when they ran after the escaped prisoner. It did not have a choice.
When the collar was finally put on Valjean three days later, Javert received a report that said the man had been found with his lioness on the opposite seat of the coach, and they were deep in conversation. No one knew what was said. Only that the animal was calm, and Valjean came without a struggle.