Some of the old women of Saint-Malo band up to undermine the Nazis. They learn that a Nazi leader is allergic to goldenrod, so they put goldenrod in his clothes and food. They intentionally send government packages to the wrong people, and delay train schedules. Madame Manec instructs her friend Madame Blanchard to write “Free France now” on money, ensuring that the message will be distributed across the country. While Etienne is morose and uninterested in undermining the authorities, Manec is gleeful, and says that she feels younger than she has in years as a result of her plots.
In the twilight of her life, Madame Manec gains a new sense of liveliness and purpose. Madame Manec is one of the only characters in the book who dares to actively risk her own life in fighting what she sees as evil. Etienne, on the other hand, remains stuck in his narrow, agoraphobic world. He is still frightened by his experiences in World War I, and so seems unwilling to involve himself in any outside affairs now—even if that means turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.