In 1815, Monsieur Charles Francois Bienvenu Myriel was bishop of Digne. When he first arrived, Monsieur Myriel was set up in his episcopal palace with all the honours required by imperial decree. The episcopal palace of Digne was next to the hospital. Once he had moved in, the town waited to see their bishop on the job.
Three days after his arrival, the bishop visited the hospital. When his visit was over, he politely begged the director to accompany him back to his place.
"Monsieur le directeur, how many sick people do you have in your hospital at the moment?" "Twenty-six, Monseigneur." "That's what I counted." "The beds are all jammed together," the director went on. "That's what I noticed." "The living areas are just bedrooms, and they're difficult to air." "That's what I thought." "Then again, when there's a ray of sun, the garden's too small for the convalescents." "That's what I said to myself." "What can we do, Monseigneur?" said the director. "We have to resign ourselves to it."
"Look, my dear director, I'll tell you what. There has obviously been a mistake. There are twenty-six of you in five or six small rooms. There are three of us here and we've got enough room for sixty. There's a mistake, I'm telling you. You've got my place and I've got yours. Give me back my house. It's your rightful home, here."
The next day, the twenty-six poor were moved into the bishop's palace and the bishop was at the hospital.
All he had, he gave to the poor. Out of the 15,000 livres paid him by the crown, he kept only 1,000 livres for his household expenditure annually. The only luxury he allowed himself was a set of silver cutlery and two silver candlesticks.
In the first days of the month of October 1815, about an hour before sunset, a man traveling on foot entered the small town of Digne. The few inhabitants who found themselves at their windows or front doors at that moment watched the traveler with vague anxiety. You would have been hard-pressed to come across anyone on the road more derelict in appearance.
The man headed for the inn, which was the best in the district. The innkeeper sent word to the mairie inquiring about this newcomer. The traveler did not see any of this. When the innkeeper got his answer, he addressed the man. "Monsieur," said the innkeeper, "I can't put you up."
"What! Are you frightened I won't pay? Do you want me to pay in advance? I have money, I tell you."
"Listen, enough talk. Do you want me to tell you who you are? You are Jean Valjean. Now, would you like me to tell you what you are? I'm in the habit of being polite to everyone. Get out of here."
The man dipped his head, picked up his bag, and left.
He headed for the tavern. The taverner clapped his hand roughly on his shoulder, and said "On your way!" The stranger turned to face him and replied mildly, "Ah! So you know?" "Too right I know." "They turned me away at the other inn." "And we're kicking you out of this one." "Where am I supposed to go?" "Somewhere else" The man took his stick and his bag and left.
He was suffering from cold and hunger. He had resigned himself to the hunger, but at least he could find shelter to the cold. He entered a small hut. He lay down on his stomach and slid into the hut. It was warm inside and he found quiet a decent bed of straw. At that moment, a ferocious growl could be heard. It was a dog kennel.
He grabbed his stick as weapon, used his bag as a shield, and got out of the hut as best he could.
Once again, he found himself on the street, alone, without a place to stay, without a roof over his head, without shelter, driven even from a straw bed in a miserable dog kennel, he sank down rather than sat on a rock, and it appears tha someone going past him heard him cry out: "I'm not even a dog!"