Cosette blamed herself that her flowers only appeared on the grave in September. The news of a rebellion in Paris had been given no great significance in Milan where they reached her and Marius. A little later they found out that it had been suppressed and all in a flurry Cosette wrote a tearful letter that was never answered.

They left for France immediately but it was late August by the time they were once again riding through the streets of Paris. Through the window of the carriage Cosette could see bullet holes in some of the houses. They could have been ancient or they could have been new and quite frankly, Cosette had no desire to know which they were.

Then it took a while to find out where the bodies had been buried. Marius had not wanted to tell her the grim details but Cosette insisted. Well, it turned out that the morgue - Cosette had not known that such a horrid place existed - could not bear the burden of all the bodies in the overbearing summer heat and only allowed the most minimal time to handle them. The precise reasons for them having to look for a public grave Cosette did not quite catch in between desperate attempts to collect herself.

It did not matter. It only made sense. She had lost all nine just as she had met them on that far away day that seemed too strange and distant to be true. It made sense for all nine to stay together, even in death.

She came almost every day, bearing tributes of flowers and pretty pebbles and autumn leaves. Every day, she knelt down by the side of the grave and called their names.

"I am very angry with you," she challenged them in a broken whisper. "How could you do such a horrid thing? Go and get yourselves killed like that when there are enough leaves on the pavement to bathe in and they're selling chestnuts in the Luxembourg?"

Cosette took a deep breath and wiped away the tears that were streaming down her nose in the most undignified manner.

"Well, I understand it well enough," she continued, unable to quite stop speaking to them as she used to do. "I know why you had to go and fight. I knew it all along. But why you couldn't be more careful about it, that will puzzle me for the rest of my life. Oh, I don't suppose it's your fault, you poor things. Who wants to die when there is so much to live for?"

Another sob escaped from her chest and Cosette wished she hadn't told Marius that he ought to stay in the office and work.

"Well, I'll stop crying," she said to herself, trying to persuade herself to do so. "Uncle Courfeyrac would have said I'm ruining my eyes and so I am. What's the point of crying, Cosette? Do you think it will bring them back, you silly creature? You'd better do what they told you instead of going on in this stupid manner."

Cosette stood up, scattering the last of the flowers on the grave.

"I hope you're watching me from heaven," she whispered. "Because I'll make you proud, I promise. I'll try ever so hard for your sake. I'll help all the poor little girls like you helped me. I'll visit all the poor to try to make their lives a little easier and I'll tell them all about you. I won't let them forget you, whether they want it or not. Then Marius will be doing his cases pro bono and everything will be so wonderful."

She said goodbye, then turned around to go.

There was something rustling in the nearby bushes. Cosette looked up just in time to see a shadow hide behind the trunk of a thick oak.

"Who is there?" she called out, a little anxious. The day was gloomy and there was no one around as far as she could see. "Show yourself, please!"

There was silence. Cosette stood waiting for a few moments, then when she was sure that no one will come, a thin, ragged figure emerged from behind the tree.

Cosette looked closer and realised it was a girl, no older than herself but dressed in the most abominable rags that reminded her painfully of that time long ago.

"Who are you?" she said cautiously, taking a step towards the girl. "Why are you here?"

The girl was scanning her from head to toe with a contemptuous, haughty look.

Quite unnerved, Cosette still decided to press on. "You must be hungry," she said. "Would you like to come with me? I could give you some food and a better set of clothes. Winter is coming and I know how terrible it is to be cold."

The girl scoffed. "I want no charity from you, Madame Cosette," she drew out in a hoarse, low voice, putting a special scornful stress on the Madame. "If I do come, it's not for you. I want to see M'sieur Marius. I'm a friend of his, you see."

"A friend of Marius?" Cosette exclaimed, now perfectly reassured. A friend of Marius was a friend of hers. "Then please, do come with me. I'm sure my husband will be delighted to see you!"

And she took the girl by the hand, leading her past the graves and towards the street where there was life and hope and a future, one that she will dedicate to that same struggle as those nine men that loved her.