[T]o betray society in order to be true to his own conscience . . . this is what prostrated him.See Important Quotations Explained
After leaving Valjean at his house, Javert wanders the streets of Paris lost in thought. For the first time in his life, he is racked by indecision. He feels that turning in Valjean would be ignoble and undignified, but as an officer of the law he feels he cannot let his man go. Javert’s only goal in life is to be beyond reproach, but Valjean’s mercy makes it impossible for him to remain true to this goal. With a final note of resolution, Javert writes a letter to the prefect of the Parisian police with several suggestions about various matters of discipline and prison life. Javert then walks to the raging Seine, spends some time watching the waters flow by, and finally throws himself in and drowns.
Marius makes a slow recovery in his grandfather’s home, unaware that it is Valjean who rescued him from the barricades. Marius has suffered a broken collarbone and lost a lot of blood from his many wounds. After six months with a raging fever, he makes a full recovery, and his thoughts turn immediately to Cosette. Eager to reestablish good terms with his beloved grandson, Gillenormand grants Marius permission to marry Cosette. He does so with some reservation, since he still believes that Cosette is a simple working-class girl without any money. When Gillenormand finally meets Cosette, he is amazed by her beauty and shocked when Valjean tells him that Cosette will have a dowry of 600,000 francs. Cosette and Marius are not interested in such financial matters, and Marius declares his undying love for Cosette.
Because Valjean is the only one who knows about Cosette’s illegitimate birth, there are no more obstacles in the way of Cosette and Marius’s marital bliss. A few days before the wedding, Valjean fakes an accident with his writing hand. The others do not realize that it is merely a ruse so that he will not have to forge a false name on the marriage certificate. The ruse works, and Gillenormand signs all the necessary documents instead. The wedding day is a happy one, and Cosette moves into the Gillenormand household. Valjean, however, spends the night lost in thought, distraught that he is losing the only person he has ever loved.
Now that Cosette is married, Valjean feels compelled to confess his criminal past. He goes to Marius’s house and tells the young man everything. Marius is shocked by Valjean’s revelations and at first refuses to believe them. Valjean almost breaks down in his attempts to convince Marius that he is telling the truth. Marius finally accepts Valjean’s statements as the truth and offers to arrange for a pardon, but Valjean refuses. Cosette, flushed with happiness, comes into the room and jokes with the two men, and she pouts playfully when they send her away. Marius agrees with Valjean that it would be best if Valjean never saw Cosette again. In the end, however, Valjean caves and asks that he be allowed to see Cosette in the evenings at least. Marius agrees. Once Valjean leaves, Marius begins to regard his father-in-law as a criminal, a belief that is cemented by the fact that Marius thinks Valjean really did execute Javert on the barricade. Marius also begins to doubt the legitimacy of Cosette’s dowry.
Unknown to Cosette, Marius slowly pushes Valjean out of her life. Marius ensures that Valjean’s visits become less frequent, and when Valjean does come to the house he is received only in the unfurnished cellar below the parlor. Depressed at having lost Cosette forever, Valjean returns to his apartment. He takes to his bed and catches a fever. As he lies in his room in misery, Valjean thinks that he will never see Cosette again and that death cannot come soon enough.
Thénardier visits Marius a few weeks later, disguised as a statesman. He tells Marius that he has information about Valjean that he is willing to sell. Marius tells Thénardier his disguise is useless, since he knows who Thénardier really is, and contemptuously pays Thénardier five hundred francs. Thénardier reveals that Valjean earned Cosette’s dowry legitimately from his work as a manufacturer under the name Madeleine. He also tells Marius that Javert was not murdered, but actually killed himself.