“Ah, Monsieur Mabeuf,” said Cosette gently as she entered the room of the old man, who was staring at the wall, morose. When he looked up at her, frowning as if he was trying to remember who she was, she felt her heart clench. “It’s so warm in this room, Monsieur. Wouldn’t you like to get a bit of fresh air with me in the garden?”
“The garden,” repeated Monsieur Mabeuf, his eyes suddenly slightly brighter.
“Yes.” Cosette smiled. “Éponine mentionned to me that you had a fondness for flowers. I happen to have a lot of them, and i’ve neglected to see them for a long time now.”
“It’s no good to do that,” said Monsieur Mabeuf, shaking his head. “Flowers, they need care, and love. I had the book for you – i had, i had a lot of books…” His voice trailed off. He sighed. “I don’t know if I can move much, my lady. I am quite tired. Old men should not, perhaps, survive two bullets in the chest.”
“I won’t insist if you are too tired of course,” said Cosette carefully, moving in to rest a gentle hand on his frail shoulder. “But I would love to hear your advice, and i’ll be honest with you, it’ll be nice to have company to keep my mind off Marius’s sickness…”
“Oh,” said Mabeuf, startling. “You’re Marius’s lady. I thought – i was told you never left his side these days.”
Cosette’s cheeks turned dark, but she did not falter.
“Marius is well-cared for while I am absent,” she told Mabeuf. “He is with his friend Monsieur Courfeyrac, whom I think you know. Still, I can’t help feeling a bit agitated, as you understand. All signs point to him getting better, and yet -”
There was no pretense in the way her voice shook at the idea that Marius might truly never wake up. The thought horrified her still, and being far from him did not help her ease her worries. But the emotion seemed to do the trick at last. Mabeuf awkwardly patted her hand.
“There, there,” he said softly. “If an old man like me could get out of this barricade, I’m sure Marius can only do so too. He’s a brave boy, like his father. Help me out of his chair. We’ll go see your flowers now. Truly, flowers are more fragile than young men, we have to make sure they’re doing well.”