This morning, as I traversed the muddy streets of Vigo (France), a raven, for reasons I’ve yet to discover, swept down from the morning sky and pecked my horse’s hind quarters. The beast was startled and darted away rather quickly, pulling my cart, full of wares, with it. Turning a corner too sharply, the horse caused my cart to spill. My belongings, tools, a few blankets, a bucket, etc., found themselves sinking in mud. The cart, on its side, could not be pulled and my horse stopped. People laughed as I began to collect my things, now sullied with mud, near my overturned cart.
“Here, let me help you,” said a deep voice. I turned, and to my surprise, the mayor of Vigo was walking through the mud, retrieving my things. His shoulders were broad, and strong, draped in a fine coat, a finer coat than I ever had worn.
“Mr. Mayor,” I said, “please don’t trouble yourself.”
“Tis no trouble. We all need some help from time to time.”
After all of my possessions were on the ground near my overturned cart, the mayor asked me to stand by the horse. He said we didn’t want it to off again. The mayor then, asking a small boy to hold is hat for a moment, a fine, fine hat, bent so to slide his hands under my cart. Then, with an ease that surprised me, he lifted my cart, placing it back on its wheels.
“There, my friend,” said the mayor as he returned his hat to his head. “I see you have some fine tools here. Do you sell them?”
“Yes, Mr. Mayor,” I answered, still somewhat astonished.
“Then, later today, please visit my house. I may buy an item of two. A man needs good tools.”
The mayor then tipped his hat to me and walked off.
Later that day, I heard a nasty rumor. The mayor, people said, was not a true mayor at all. He was a convict who had broken parole. His name was JeanValjean. Of course, I didn’t believe it. No, not at all.
Jean Valjean is a fictional character and the protagonist of Victor Hugo‘s 1862 novel Les Misérables. Hugo depicts the character’s 19-year-long struggle to lead a normal life after serving a prison sentence for stealing bread to feed his sister’s children during a time of economic depression and various attempts to escape from prison.