Valjean finds an out-of-the-way place where he and Cosette can live —a rundown tenement called the Gorbeau House. Valjean tells the landlady that Cosette is his granddaughter. He soon acquires a reputation in the neighborhood for philanthropy, and because his own clothes are so shoddy, the locals call him the “beggar who gives alms.” One day, Valjean stops to give a beggar some money and is petrified when he sees what he thinks is Javert’s face peering out from under the beggar’s hood. Valjean has heard rumors that the beggar is a police spy, but he assures himself that he is imagining things.
The next night, Valjean hears the sound of unfamiliar footsteps coming up the stairs of his tenement. He tells Cosette to keep absolutely silent and stays up all night waiting for the person outside their apartment to leave. Toward daybreak, Valjean hears someone heading back downstairs. Valjean peers through the keyhole and sees the unmistakable figure of Javert. Later that morning, the landlady asks Valjean if he heard anyone come in during the previous evening. Valjean replies that he heard footsteps, and the landlady tells him it was probably the new tenant, a man named Dumont. Valjean begins to worry that the landlady is spying on him for Javert. He resolves to leave the Gorbeau House as quickly as possible.
Valjean hurriedly packs all of his and Cosette’s belongings and they rush out of the apartment as soon as it is dark. Valjean senses that they are being followed and sees Javert and two other policemen close behind them. With Cosette in his arms, Valjean runs across the eastern quarters of Paris for hours, but he is unable to shake Javert completely. After crossing the river Seine on the Austerlitz Bridge, Valjean is confident that he is finally free. He soon sees, however, that Javert is still close behind and that the number of men with him has grown.
Without hesitation, Valjean rushes down a dark alleyway, only to realize that it is a dead end. Peering around the corner of the alley, he sees that Javert has commandeered a passing patrol and that they are at most fifteen minutes away from finding him. Desperate, Valjean decides to draw on his old talent for climbing, a skill that he mastered as a convict. To persuade Cosette to go along with his desperate plan, he tells her that the Thénardiers are after them. By a stroke of luck, he finds a length of rope attached to a nearby lamppost. He cuts the rope down and attaches it to Cosette. Valjean expertly scales the steep wall at the end of the alley and then pulls Cosette up to him. They find a way down from the wall just as Javert and his men enter the dark alley.
Valjean and Cosette find themselves in a vast, dark garden. They hear music and drop thankfully to their knees in prayer. A man approaches them with a bell clanging softly against his leg. Surprised, Valjean offers the man one hundred francs to let them spend the night in his lodgings. By incredible coincidence, the man is Fauchelevent, whom Valjean rescued from underneath a carriage in Montreuil. Fauchelevent addresses Valjean as M. Madeleine and declines his one hundred francs, remembering that Valjean once saved his life and found him a job. Fauchelevent tells Valjean that he and Cosette are in the garden of the convent of Petit-Picpus. He offers them a place to stay for the night. Valjean accepts, and they quickly move Cosette inside, out of the cold.
Book Five concludes with an explanation of how Javert manages to track down Valjean. Like the rest of the world, Javert thinks that Valjean died after his fall from the Orion, but the news of Cosette’s kidnapping from the Thénardiers arouses his interest. The Thénardiers, anxious to hide their own crimes, say Cosette was retrieved by her grandfather. Their answer initially puts Javert’s mind at ease, but when he hears the anecdotes about a “beggar who gives alms,” he becomes suspicious again. After a brief investigation, Javert realizes that this man is really Valjean. He lies in wait on the night that Valjean flees the Gorbeau House, but he is so thrilled by the idea of hunting down Valjean that he intentionally toys with him and gives him time to get away. After carefully searching the area, Javert returns to police headquarters frustrated and ashamed.