In the spring in Saint-Malo, Madame Manec gets sick. Marie-Laure takes care of her, and so does Etienne. Etienne is a tender nurse—he even reads to Manec when she’s getting tired. Manec becomes very cold, and Etienne covers her with blankets.
It seems that Manec is at the end of her life, and we see that it was partly this fact that gave her such reckless courage—she knew she would die soon anyway, so she decided to at least spend the rest of her life doing something important.