Les Miserables: Novel Summary: Section 2 - Book Two
Section 2 - Cosette
Book Two - The Ship Orion
By using a couple of newspaper articles the narrator relates that Jean Valjean was recaptured boarding a carriage that runs between Paris and Montfermeil and that before his recapture he withdrew a large sum (between five hundred and six hundred thousand francs) and hid them. The second article relates that he was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted to life of hard labor on the galleys at Toulon.
The narrator then goes on to relate the superstition held among the people of Montfermeil that the devil buries treasure in the their woods but death is the reward for those who seek to unearth what the devil has buried. One evening after Jean Valjean's escape an old road mender named Boulatruelle passed a man carrying a wooden box and digging implements. Later he espied the same man, whom he recognized from the galleys, leaving the woods but bereft of the box. He searched in vain for what he imagined was the buried treasure but to no avail.
In October of 1823 the naval ship Orion put into harbor at Toulon for repairs. During the course of the work a man fell from the main topsail but managed to catch a rope where he swung close to falling into the sea and certain death. None of the sailors wanted to risk their own lives to save him. A white-haired convict working on the ship requested permission to rescue the man and quickly broke his chains, climbed the mainsail, rescued the man and then fell into the sea himself. No trace of him was found and he was presumed dead. The convict was Jean Valjean.
In this section we again see the true nature of Jean Valjean when he is the only one who volunteers to rescue the sailor even though he has been shunned and convicted by society. We silently cheer him on when we realize that he has seized an opportunity to escape by falling back into the sea an dpretending to have drowned.