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 Thénardier; thanks to his disguise, Thénardier had not recognized him; but since that day, Jean Valjean had seen him repeatedly, and he was now certain that Thénardier 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 Pépin 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,—Thénardier, 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 Champ-de-Mars.
Jean Valjean returned home at once, in a very thoughtful mood.