He looked paler and thinner than she remembered. His dark clothes were almost invisible in the shadows, and his face shone softly in the fading light. Cosette felt suddenly faint, but she did not move or make a sound.
‘Forgive me for being here.’ Marius spoke at last. ‘But I’ve been so unhappy. Do you recognize me? You mustn’t be afraid. It’s a long time ago, but do you remember the day when you first looked at me — in the Luxembourg Gardens? And the day you walked past me? Those things happened nearly a year ago. Forgive me for talking like this, I don’t know what I’m saying — perhaps I’m annoying you? But the truth is, I can’t live without you.’
‘Mother!’ Cosette murmured, and began to fall.
Marius caught her and held her tightly in his arms without realizing what he was doing, lost in a mist of love. Cosette, feeling her body close to his, took his hand and pressed it against her heart. Aware of the shape of the notebook under her dress, he said, ‘So, you’ve read my notebook. Do you love me, too?’
‘Of course,’ she answered in a low voice. ‘You know I do.’
Then, as if by magic, her lips were next to his and they were kissing. Afterwards, they sat together on the garden bench in a state of shock, neither of them speaking. Beneath the stars, they were happy just to look into each others eyes and hold each other’s hands. Then, at last, they began to speak. They talked all evening about their dreams, their mistakes, their moments of happiness, their moments of despair. When everything had been said, she laid her head on his shoulder and asked, ‘What’s your name?’
‘My name’s Marius. And yours?’
During that month of May in the year 1832, Cosette and Marius met every day in the wild garden of that small, secret house. They would sit and hold hands and talk, or just gaze into each other’s eyes and smile.
‘How lovely you are,’ Marius would sigh. ‘There are moments when I think this is a dream. There are other moments when I think I’m a little mad. I love you so much.’
To which Cosette would reply, ‘I love you more with every minute that passes.’
In this way, bathed in happiness, they lived untroubled by the world.
One beautiful, starry evening, Marius found Cosette sitting unhappily in her garden.
‘What’s the matter?’ he asked, sitting next to her on the bench.
‘My father said that we may have to leave,’ she replied.
Marius trembled. For six weeks, he had known nothing but uncomplicated happiness. Now, for the first time, there was a cloud in the clear blue sky of his life. He could not speak, and Cosette felt his hand grow cold.
She asked, as he had done, ‘What’s the matter?’
He replied, in a voice so low that she could hardly hear it, ‘I don’t understand what you mean.’
‘Father told me this morning that I have to pack everything and be ready to leave for England within a week.’
Marius rose to his feet and said coldly, ‘Cosette, are you going?’
She looked up at him, her pale face lined with misery.
‘What else can I do?’ she cried.
‘So you’re leaving me.’
‘Oh, Marius, why are you being so cruel to me?’
Marius turned his back to her and said, ‘Then I shall have to go away.’
‘No, Marius, wait. I’ve got an idea.’
Marius turned and was surprised to see her smiling.
‘What is it?’
‘If we go, you must come too. I’ll tell you where, and you must meet me there, wherever it is.’
‘How can I possibly do that?’ he cried. ‘Are you crazy? You need money to go to England, and I haven’t got any. I haven’t told you, Cosette, but I’m a poor man. I wear a cheap hat, my jacket has lost half its buttons and there are holes in my boots.’ He turned away from her and stood with his face pressed to the trunk of a tree, almost ready to faint. He stayed in that position for some time. Finally, he heard a small sound behind him and, turning round, he saw that Cosette was in tears.
He fell on his knees in front of her and pressed her hand to his lips.
‘Don’t cry,’ he said. ‘I cannot let you leave me. I promise you that if you leave me, I shall die. But listen to me — I have a plan. Don’t expect me here tomorrow.’
‘Why not?’ Cosette said, drying her tears. ‘A whole day without seeing you! That’s unbearable!’
‘It’s worth losing a day together if we want to be happy for the rest of our lives.’
‘But what are you going to do?’
‘Wait until the day after tomorrow. I’ll tell you then. But until then, I must give you my address. I’m living with a friend of mine, Enjolras.’ Marius then took a knife out of his pocket and scratched his address on the wall — 16, rue de la Verrerie.’
‘Please, Marius,’ Cosette said as she watched him. ‘Where are you going tomorrow evening? I won’t be able to sleep if you don’t tell me.’
‘I’m going to try something.’
‘Well, I’ll pray for you to succeed and I’ll never stop thinking about you. I’ll ask no more questions, but you must promise to be here early the day after tomorrow. Not later than nine o’clock.’
‘I promise,’ Marius said.