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Tellson’s Bank by Temple Bar was an old-fashioned place, even in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty. It was very small, very dark, very ugly, very incommodious. It was an old-fashioned place, moreover, in the moral attribute that the partners in the House were proud of its smallness, proud of its darkness, proud of its ugliness, proud of its incommodiousness. They were even boastful of its eminence in those particulars, and were fired by an express conviction that, if it were less objectionable, it would be less respectable. This was no passive belief, but an active weapon which they flashed at more convenient places of business. Tellson’s (they said) wanted no elbow-room, Tellson’s wanted no light, Tellson’s wanted no embellishment. Noakes and Co.’s might, or Snooks Brothers’ might; but Tellson’s, thank Heaven—!
Any one of these partners would have disinherited his son on the question of rebuilding Tellson’s. In this respect the House was much on a par with the Country; which did very often disinherit its sons for suggesting improvements in laws and customs that had long been highly objectionable, but were only the more respectable.
Thus it had come to pass, that Tellson’s was the triumphant perfection of inconvenience. After bursting open a door of idiotic obstinacy with a weak rattle in its throat, you fell into Tellson’s down two steps, and came to your senses in a miserable little shop, with two little counters, where the oldest of men made your cheque shake as if the wind rustled it, while they examined the signature by the dingiest of windows, which were always under a shower-bath of mud from Fleet-street, and which were made the dingier by their own iron bars proper, and the heavy shadow of Temple Bar. If your business necessitated your seeing “the House,” you were put into a species of Condemned Hold at the back, where you meditated on a misspent life, until the House came with its hands in its pockets, and you could hardly blink at it in the dismal twilight. Your money came out of, or went into, wormy old wooden drawers, particles of which flew up your nose and down your throat when they were opened and shut. Your bank-notes had a musty odour, as if they were fast decomposing into rags again. Your plate was stowed away among the neighbouring cesspools, and evil communications corrupted its good polish in a day or two. Your deeds got into extemporised strong-rooms made of kitchens and sculleries, and fretted all the fat out of their parchments into the banking-house air. Your lighter boxes of family papers went up-stairs into a Barmecide room, that always had a great dining-table in it and never had a dinner, and where, even in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty, the first letters written to you by your old love, or by your little children, were but newly released from the horror of being ogled through the windows, by the heads exposed on Temple Bar with an insensate brutality and ferocity worthy of Abyssinia or Ashantee.
But indeed, at that time, putting to death was a recipe much in vogue with all trades and professions, and not least of all with Tellson’s. Death is Nature’s remedy for all things, and why not Legislation’s? Accordingly, the forger was put to Death; the utterer of a bad note was put to Death; the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death; the purloiner of forty shillings and sixpence was put to Death; the holder of a horse at Tellson’s door, who made off with it, was put to Death; the coiner of a bad shilling was put to Death; the sounders of three-fourths of the notes in the whole gamut of Crime, were put to Death. Not that it did the least good in the way of prevention—it might almost have been worth remarking that the fact was exactly the reverse—but, it cleared off (as to this world) the trouble of each particular case, and left nothing else connected with it to be looked after. Thus, Tellson’s, in its day, like greater places of business, its contemporaries, had taken so many lives, that, if the heads laid low before it had been ranged on Temple Bar instead of being privately disposed of, they would probably have excluded what little light the ground floor had, in a rather significant manner.
Cramped in all kinds of dim cupboards and hutches at Tellson’s, the oldest of men carried on the business gravely. When they took a young man into Tellson’s London house, they hid him somewhere till he was old. They kept him in a dark place, like a cheese, until he had the full Tellson flavour and blue-mould upon him. Then only was he permitted to be seen, spectacularly poring over large books, and casting his breeches and gaiters into the general weight of the establishment.
Outside Tellson’s—never by any means in it, unless called in—was an odd-job-man, an occasional porter and messenger, who served as the live sign of the house. He was never absent during business hours, unless upon an errand, and then he was represented by his son: a grisly urchin of twelve, who was his express image. People understood that Tellson’s, in a stately way, tolerated the odd-job-man. The house had always tolerated some person in that capacity, and time and tide had drifted this person to the post. His surname was Cruncher, and on the youthful occasion of his renouncing by proxy the works of darkness, in the easterly parish church of Hounsditch, he had received the added appellation of Jerry.
The scene was Mr. Cruncher’s private lodging in Hanging-sword-alley, Whitefriars: the time, half-past seven of the clock on a windy March morning, Anno Domini seventeen hundred and eighty. (Mr. Cruncher himself always spoke of the year of our Lord as Anna Dominoes: apparently under the impression that the Christian era dated from the invention of a popular game, by a lady who had bestowed her name upon it.)
Mr. Cruncher’s apartments were not in a savoury neighbourhood, and were but two in number, even if a closet with a single pane of glass in it might be counted as one. But they were very decently kept. Early as it was, on the windy March morning, the room in which he lay abed was already scrubbed throughout; and between the cups and saucers arranged for breakfast, and the lumbering deal table, a very clean white cloth was spread.
Mr. Cruncher reposed under a patchwork counterpane, like a Harlequin at home. At first, he slept heavily, but, by degrees, began to roll and surge in bed, until he rose above the surface, with his spiky hair looking as if it must tear the sheets to ribbons. At which juncture, he exclaimed, in a voice of dire exasperation:
“Bust me, if she ain’t at it agin!”
A woman of orderly and industrious appearance rose from her knees in a corner, with sufficient haste and trepidation to show that she was the person referred to.
“What!” said Mr. Cruncher, looking out of bed for a boot. “You’re at it agin, are you?”
After hailing the morn with this second salutation, he threw a boot at the woman as a third. It was a very muddy boot, and may introduce the odd circumstance connected with Mr. Cruncher’s domestic economy, that, whereas he often came home after banking hours with clean boots, he often got up next morning to find the same boots covered with clay.
“What,” said Mr. Cruncher, varying his apostrophe after missing his mark—“what are you up to, Aggerawayter?”
“I was only saying my prayers.”
“Saying your prayers! You’re a nice woman! What do you mean by flopping yourself down and praying agin me?”
“I was not praying against you; I was praying for you.”
“You weren’t. And if you were, I won’t be took the liberty with. Here! your mother’s a nice woman, young Jerry, going a praying agin your father’s prosperity. You’ve got a dutiful mother, you have, my son. You’ve got a religious mother, you have, my boy: going and flopping herself down, and praying that the bread-and-butter may be snatched out of the mouth of her only child.”
Master Cruncher (who was in his shirt) took this very ill, and, turning to his mother, strongly deprecated any praying away of his personal board.
“And what do you suppose, you conceited female,” said Mr. Cruncher, with unconscious inconsistency, “that the worth of your prayers may be? Name the price that you put your prayers at!”
“They only come from the heart, Jerry. They are worth no more than that.”
“Worth no more than that,” repeated Mr. Cruncher. “They ain’t worth much, then. Whether or no, I won’t be prayed agin, I tell you. I can’t afford it. I’m not a going to be made unlucky by your sneaking. If you must go flopping yourself down, flop in favour of your husband and child, and not in opposition to ’em. If I had had any but a unnat’ral wife, and this poor boy had had any but a unnat’ral mother, I might have made some money last week instead of being counter-prayed and countermined and religiously circumwented into the worst of luck. B-u-u-ust me!” said Mr. Cruncher, who all this time had been putting on his clothes, “if I ain’t, what with piety and one blowed thing and another, been choused this last week into as bad luck as ever a poor devil of a honest tradesman met with! Young Jerry, dress yourself, my boy, and while I clean my boots keep a eye upon your mother now and then, and if you see any signs of more flopping, give me a call. For, I tell you,” here he addressed his wife once more, “I won’t be gone agin, in this manner. I am as rickety as a hackney-coach, I’m as sleepy as laudanum, my lines is strained to that degree that I shouldn’t know, if it wasn’t for the pain in ’em, which was me and which somebody else, yet I’m none the better for it in pocket; and it’s my suspicion that you’ve been at it from morning to night to prevent me from being the better for it in pocket, and I won’t put up with it, Aggerawayter, and what do you say now!”
Growling, in addition, such phrases as “Ah! yes! You’re religious, too. You wouldn’t put yourself in opposition to the interests of your husband and child, would you? Not you!” and throwing off other sarcastic sparks from the whirling grindstone of his indignation, Mr. Cruncher betook himself to his boot-cleaning and his general preparation for business. In the meantime, his son, whose head was garnished with tenderer spikes, and whose young eyes stood close by one another, as his father’s did, kept the required watch upon his mother. He greatly disturbed that poor woman at intervals, by darting out of his sleeping closet, where he made his toilet, with a suppressed cry of “You are going to flop, mother. —Halloa, father!” and, after raising this fictitious alarm, darting in again with an undutiful grin.
Mr. Cruncher’s temper was not at all improved when he came to his breakfast. He resented Mrs. Cruncher’s saying grace with particular animosity.
“Now, Aggerawayter! What are you up to? At it again?”
His wife explained that she had merely “asked a blessing.”
“Don’t do it!” said Mr. Crunches looking about, as if he rather expected to see the loaf disappear under the efficacy of his wife’s petitions. “I ain’t a going to be blest out of house and home. I won’t have my wittles blest off my table. Keep still!”
Exceedingly red-eyed and grim, as if he had been up all night at a party which had taken anything but a convivial turn, Jerry Cruncher worried his breakfast rather than ate it, growling over it like any four-footed inmate of a menagerie. Towards nine o’clock he smoothed his ruffled aspect, and, presenting as respectable and business-like an exterior as he could overlay his natural self with, issued forth to the occupation of the day.
It could scarcely be called a trade, in spite of his favourite description of himself as “a honest tradesman.” His stock consisted of a wooden stool, made out of a broken-backed chair cut down, which stool, young Jerry, walking at his father’s side, carried every morning to beneath the banking-house window that was nearest Temple Bar: where, with the addition of the first handful of straw that could be gleaned from any passing vehicle to keep the cold and wet from the odd-job-man’s feet, it formed the encampment for the day. On this post of his, Mr. Cruncher was as well known to Fleet-street and the Temple, as the Bar itself,—and was almost as in-looking.
Encamped at a quarter before nine, in good time to touch his three-cornered hat to the oldest of men as they passed in to Tellson’s, Jerry took up his station on this windy March morning, with young Jerry standing by him, when not engaged in making forays through the Bar, to inflict bodily and mental injuries of an acute description on passing boys who were small enough for his amiable purpose. Father and son, extremely like each other, looking silently on at the morning traffic in Fleet-street, with their two heads as near to one another as the two eyes of each were, bore a considerable resemblance to a pair of monkeys. The resemblance was not lessened by the accidental circumstance, that the mature Jerry bit and spat out straw, while the twinkling eyes of the youthful Jerry were as restlessly watchful of him as of everything else in Fleet-street.
The head of one of the regular indoor messengers attached to Tellson’s establishment was put through the door, and the word was given:
“Hooray, father! Here’s an early job to begin with!”
Having thus given his parent God speed, young Jerry seated himself on the stool, entered on his reversionary interest in the straw his father had been chewing, and cogitated.
“Al-ways rusty! His fingers is al-ways rusty!” muttered young Jerry. “Where does my father get all that iron rust from? He don’t get no iron rust here!”
You know the Old Bailey well, no doubt?” said one of the oldest of clerks to Jerry the messenger.
“Ye-es, sir,” returned Jerry, in something of a dogged manner. “I do know the Bailey.”
“Just so. And you know Mr. Lorry.”
“I know Mr. Lorry, sir, much better than I know the Bailey. Much better,” said Jerry, not unlike a reluctant witness at the establishment in question, “than I, as a honest tradesman, wish to know the Bailey.”
“Very well. Find the door where the witnesses go in, and show the door-keeper this note for Mr. Lorry. He will then let you in.”
“Into the court, sir?”
“Into the court.”
Mr. Cruncher’s eyes seemed to get a little closer to one another, and to interchange the inquiry, “What do you think of this?”
“Am I to wait in the court, sir?” he asked, as the result of that conference.
“I am going to tell you. The door-keeper will pass the note to Mr. Lorry, and do you make any gesture that will attract Mr. Lorry’s attention, and show him where you stand. Then what you have to do, is, to remain there until he wants you.”
“Is that all, sir?”
“That’s all. He wishes to have a messenger at hand. This is to tell him you are there.”
As the ancient clerk deliberately folded and superscribed the note, Mr. Cruncher, after surveying him in silence until he came to the blotting-paper stage, remarked:
“I suppose they’ll be trying Forgeries this morning?”
“That’s quartering,” said Jerry. “Barbarous!”
“It is the law,” remarked the ancient clerk, turning his surprised spectacles upon him. “It is the law.”
“It’s hard in the law to spile a man, I think. It’s hard enough to kill him, but it’s wery hard to spile him, sir.”
“Not at all,” retained the ancient clerk. “Speak well of the law. Take care of your chest and voice, my good friend, and leave the law to take care of itself. I give you that advice.”
“It’s the damp, sir, what settles on my chest and voice,” said Jerry. “I leave you to judge what a damp way of earning a living mine is.”
“Well, well,” said the old clerk; “we all have our various ways of gaining a livelihood. Some of us have damp ways, and some of us have dry ways. Here is the letter. Go along.”
Jerry took the letter, and, remarking to himself with less internal deference than he made an outward show of, “You are a lean old one, too,” made his bow, informed his son, in passing, of his destination, and went his way.
They hanged at Tyburn, in those days, so the street outside Newgate had not obtained one infamous notoriety that has since attached to it. But, the gaol was a vile place, in which most kinds of debauchery and villainy were practised, and where dire diseases were bred, that came into court with the prisoners, and sometimes rushed straight from the dock at my Lord Chief Justice himself, and pulled him off the bench. It had more than once happened, that the Judge in the black cap pronounced his own doom as certainly as the prisoner’s, and even died before him. For the rest, the Old Bailey was famous as a kind of deadly inn-yard, from which pale travellers set out continually, in carts and coaches, on a violent passage into the other world: traversing some two miles and a half of public street and road, and shaming few good citizens, if any. So powerful is use, and so desirable to be good use in the beginning. It was famous, too, for the pillory, a wise old institution, that inflicted a punishment of which no one could foresee the extent; also, for the whipping-post, another dear old institution, very humanising and softening to behold in action; also, for extensive transactions in blood-money, another fragment of ancestral wisdom, systematically leading to the most frightful mercenary crimes that could be committed under Heaven. Altogether, the Old Bailey, at that date, was a choice illustration of the precept, that “Whatever is is right;” an aphorism that would be as final as it is lazy, did it not include the troublesome consequence, that nothing that ever was, was wrong.
Making his way through the tainted crowd, dispersed up and down this hideous scene of action, with the skill of a man accustomed to make his way quietly, the messenger found out the door he sought, and handed in his letter through a trap in it. For, people then paid to see the play at the Old Bailey, just as they paid to see the play in Bedlam—only the former entertainment was much the dearer. Therefore, all the Old Bailey doors were well guarded—except, indeed, the social doors by which the criminals got there, and those were always left wide open.
After some delay and demur, the door grudgingly turned on its hinges a very little way, and allowed Mr. Jerry Cruncher to squeeze himself into court.
“What’s on?” he asked, in a whisper, of the man he found himself next to.
“What’s coming on?”
“The Treason case.”
“The quartering one, eh?”
“Ah!” returned the man, with a relish; “he’ll be drawn on a hurdle to be half hanged, and then he’ll be taken down and sliced before his own face, and then his inside will be taken out and burnt while he looks on, and then his head will be chopped off, and he’ll be cut into quarters. That’s the sentence.”
“If he’s found Guilty, you mean to say?” Jerry added, by way of proviso.
“Oh! they’ll find him guilty,” said the other. “Don’t you be afraid of that.”
Mr. Cruncher’s attention was here diverted to the door-keeper, whom he saw making his way to Mr. Lorry, with the note in his hand. Mr. Lorry sat at a table, among the gentlemen in wigs: not far from a wigged gentleman, the prisoner’s counsel, who had a great bundle of papers before him: and nearly opposite another wigged gentleman with his hands in his pockets, whose whole attention, when Mr. Cruncher looked at him then or afterwards, seemed to be concentrated on the ceiling of the court. After some gruff coughing and rubbing of his chin and signing with his hand, Jerry attracted the notice of Mr. Lorry, who had stood up to look for him, and who quietly nodded and sat down again.
“What’s he got to do with the case?” asked the man he had spoken with.
“Blest if I know,” said Jerry.
“What have you got to do with it, then, if a person may inquire?”
“Blest if I know that either,” said Jerry.
The entrance of the Judge, and a consequent great stir and settling down in the court, stopped the dialogue. Presently, the dock became the central point of interest. Two gaolers, who had been standing there, went out, and the prisoner was brought in, and put to the bar.
Everybody present, except the one wigged gentleman who looked at the ceiling, stared at him. All the human breath in the place, rolled at him, like a sea, or a wind, or a fire. Eager faces strained round pillars and corners, to get a sight of him; spectators in back rows stood up, not to miss a hair of him; people on the floor of the court, laid their hands on the shoulders of the people before them, to help themselves, at anybody’s cost, to a view of him—stood a-tiptoe, got upon ledges, stood upon next to nothing, to see every inch of him. Conspicuous among these latter, like an animated bit of the spiked wall of Newgate, Jerry stood: aiming at the prisoner the beery breath of a whet he had taken as he came along, and discharging it to mingle with the waves of other beer, and gin, and tea, and coffee, and what not, that flowed at him, and already broke upon the great windows behind him in an impure mist and rain.
The object of all this staring and blaring, was a young man of about five-and-twenty, well-grown and well-looking, with a sunburnt cheek and a dark eye. His condition was that of a young gentleman. He was plainly dressed in black, or very dark grey, and his hair, which was long and dark, was gathered in a ribbon at the back of his neck; more to be out of his way than for ornament. As an emotion of the mind will express itself through any covering of the body, so the paleness which his situation engendered came through the brown upon his cheek, showing the soul to be stronger than the sun. He was otherwise quite self-possessed, bowed to the Judge, and stood quiet.
The sort of interest with which this man was stared and breathed at, was not a sort that elevated humanity. Had he stood in peril of a less horrible sentence—had there been a chance of any one of its savage details being spared—by just so much would he have lost in his fascination. The form that was to be doomed to be so shamefully mangled, was the sight; the immortal creature that was to be so butchered and torn asunder, yielded the sensation. Whatever gloss the various spectators put upon the interest, according to their several arts and powers of self-deceit, the interest was, at the root of it, Ogreish.
Silence in the court! Charles Darnay had yesterday pleaded Not Guilty to an indictment denouncing him (with infinite jingle and jangle) for that he was a false traitor to our serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth, prince, our Lord the King, by reason of his having, on divers occasions, and by divers means and ways, assisted Lewis, the French King, in his wars against our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth; that was to say, by coming and going, between the dominions of our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth, and those of the said French Lewis, and wickedly, falsely, traitorously, and otherwise evil-adverbiously, revealing to the said French Lewis what forces our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth, had in preparation to send to Canada and North America. This much, Jerry, with his head becoming more and more spiky as the law terms bristled it, made out with huge satisfaction, and so arrived circuitously at the understanding that the aforesaid, and over and over again aforesaid, Charles Darnay, stood there before him upon his trial; that the jury were swearing in; and that Mr. Attorney-General was making ready to speak.
The accused, who was (and who knew he was) being mentally hanged, beheaded, and quartered, by everybody there, neither flinched from the situation, nor assumed any theatrical air in it. He was quiet and attentive; watched the opening proceedings with a grave interest; and stood with his hands resting on the slab of wood before him, so composedly, that they had not displaced a leaf of the herbs with which it was strewn. The court was all bestrewn with herbs and sprinkled with vinegar, as a precaution against gaol air and gaol fever.
Over the prisoner’s head there was a mirror, to throw the light down upon him. Crowds of the wicked and the wretched had been reflected in it, and had passed from its surface and this earth’s together. Haunted in a most ghastly manner that abominable place would have been, if the glass could ever have rendered back its reflections, as the ocean is one day to give up its dead. Some passing thought of the infamy and disgrace for which it had been reserved, may have struck the prisoner’s mind. Be that as it may, a change in his position making him conscious of a bar of light across his face, he looked up; and when he saw the glass his face flushed, and his right hand pushed the herbs away.
It happened, that the action turned his face to that side of the court which was on his left. About on a level with his eyes, there sat, in that corner of the Judge’s bench, two persons upon whom his look immediately rested; so immediately, and so much to the changing of his aspect, that all the eyes that were turned upon him, turned to them.
The spectators saw in the two figures, a young lady of little more than twenty, and a gentleman who was evidently her father; a man of a very remarkable appearance in respect of the absolute whiteness of his hair, and a certain indescribable intensity of face: not of an active kind, but pondering and self-communing. When this expression was upon him, he looked as if he were old; but when it was stirred and broken up—as it was now, in a moment, on his speaking to his daughter—he became a handsome man, not past the prime of life.
His daughter had one of her hands drawn through his arm, as she sat by him, and the other pressed upon it. She had drawn close to him, in her dread of the scene, and in her pity for the prisoner. Her forehead had been strikingly expressive of an engrossing terror and compassion that saw nothing but the peril of the accused. This had been so very noticeable, so very powerfully and naturally shown, that starers who had had no pity for him were touched by her; and the whisper went about, “Who are they?”
Jerry, the messenger, who had made his own observations, in his own manner, and who had been sucking the rust off his fingers in his absorption, stretched his neck to hear who they were. The crowd about him had pressed and passed the inquiry on to the nearest attendant, and from him it had been more slowly pressed and passed back; at last it got to Jerry:
“For which side?”
“Against what side?”
The Judge, whose eyes had gone in the general direction, recalled them, leaned back in his seat, and looked steadily at the man whose life was in his hand, as Mr. Attorney-General rose to spin the rope, grind the axe, and hammer the nails into the scaffold.
Mr. Attorney-General had to inform the jury, that the prisoner before them, though young in years, was old in the treasonable practices which claimed the forfeit of his life. That this correspondence with the public enemy was not a correspondence of to-day, or of yesterday, or even of last year, or of the year before. That, it was certain the prisoner had, for longer than that, been in the habit of passing and repassing between France and England, on secret business of which he could give no honest account. That, if it were in the nature of traitorous ways to thrive (which happily it never was), the real wickedness and guilt of his business might have remained undiscovered. That Providence, however, had put it into the heart of a person who was beyond fear and beyond reproach, to ferret out the nature of the prisoner’s schemes, and, struck with horror, to disclose them to his Majesty’s Chief Secretary of State and most honourable Privy Council. That, this patriot would be produced before them. That, his position and attitude were, on the whole, sublime. That, he had been the prisoner’s friend, but, at once in an auspicious and an evil hour detecting his infamy, had resolved to immolate the traitor he could no longer cherish in his bosom, on the sacred altar of his country. That, if statues were decreed in Britain, as in ancient Greece and Rome, to public benefactors, this shining citizen would assuredly have had one. That, as they were not so decreed, he probably would not have one. That, Virtue, as had been observed by the poets (in many passages which he well knew the jury would have, word for word, at the tips of their tongues; whereat the jury’s countenances displayed a guilty consciousness that they knew nothing about the passages), was in a manner contagious; more especially the bright virtue known as patriotism, or love of country. That, the lofty example of this immaculate and unimpeachable witness for the Crown, to refer to whom however unworthily was an honour, had communicated itself to the prisoner’s servant, and had engendered in him a holy determination to examine his master’s table-drawers and pockets, and secrete his papers. That, he (Mr. Attorney-General) was prepared to hear some disparagement attempted of this admirable servant; but that, in a general way, he preferred him to his (Mr. Attorney-General’s) brothers and sisters, and honoured him more than his (Mr. Attorney-General’s) father and mother. That, he called with confidence on the jury to come and do likewise. That, the evidence of these two witnesses, coupled with the documents of their discovering that would be produced, would show the prisoner to have been furnished with lists of his Majesty’s forces, and of their disposition and preparation, both by sea and land, and would leave no doubt that he had habitually conveyed such information to a hostile power. That, these lists could not be proved to be in the prisoner’s handwriting; but that it was all the same; that, indeed, it was rather the better for the prosecution, as showing the prisoner to be artful in his precautions. That, the proof would go back five years, and would show the prisoner already engaged in these pernicious missions, within a few weeks before the date of the very first action fought between the British troops and the Americans. That, for these reasons, the jury, being a loyal jury (as he knew they were), and being a responsible jury (as they knew they were), must positively find the prisoner Guilty, and make an end of him, whether they liked it or not. That, they never could lay their heads upon their pillows; that, they never could tolerate the idea of their wives laying their heads upon their pillows; that, they never could endure the notion of their children laying their heads upon their pillows; in short, that there never more could be, for them or theirs, any laying of heads upon pillows at all, unless the prisoner’s head was taken off. That head Mr. Attorney-General concluded by demanding of them, in the name of everything he could think of with a round turn in it, and on the faith of his solemn asseveration that he already considered the prisoner as good as dead and gone.
When the Attorney-General ceased, a buzz arose in the court as if a cloud of great blue-flies were swarming about the prisoner, in anticipation of what he was soon to become. When toned down again, the unimpeachable patriot appeared in the witness-box.
Mr. Solicitor-General then, following his leader’s lead, examined the patriot: John Barsad, gentleman, by name. The story of his pure soul was exactly what Mr. Attorney-General had described it to be—perhaps, if it had a fault, a little too exactly. Having released his noble bosom of its burden, he would have modestly withdrawn himself, but that the wigged gentleman with the papers before him, sitting not far from Mr. Lorry, begged to ask him a few questions. The wigged gentleman sitting opposite, still looking at the ceiling of the court.
Had he ever been a spy himself? No, he scorned the base insinuation. What did he live upon? His property. Where was his property? He didn’t precisely remember where it was. What was it? No business of anybody’s. Had he inherited it? Yes, he had. From whom? Distant relation. Very distant? Rather. Ever been in prison? Certainly not. Never in a debtors’ prison? Didn’t see what that had to do with it. Never in a debtors’ prison?—Come, once again. Never? Yes. How many times? Two or three times. Not five or six? Perhaps. Of what profession? Gentleman. Ever been kicked? Might have been. Frequently? No. Ever kicked downstairs? Decidedly not; once received a kick on the top of a staircase, and fell downstairs of his own accord. Kicked on that occasion for cheating at dice? Something to that effect was said by the intoxicated liar who committed the assault, but it was not true. Swear it was not true? Positively. Ever live by cheating at play? Never. Ever live by play? Not more than other gentlemen do. Ever borrow money of the prisoner? Yes. Ever pay him? No. Was not this intimacy with the prisoner, in reality a very slight one, forced upon the prisoner in coaches, inns, and packets? No. Sure he saw the prisoner with these lists? Certain. Knew no more about the lists? No. Had not procured them himself, for instance? No. Expect to get anything by this evidence? No. Not in regular government pay and employment, to lay traps? Oh dear no. Or to do anything? Oh dear no. Swear that? Over and over again. No motives but motives of sheer patriotism? None whatever.
The virtuous servant, Roger Cly, swore his way through the case at a great rate. He had taken service with the prisoner, in good faith and simplicity, four years ago. He had asked the prisoner, aboard the Calais packet, if he wanted a handy fellow, and the prisoner had engaged him. He had not asked the prisoner to take the handy fellow as an act of charity—never thought of such a thing. He began to have suspicions of the prisoner, and to keep an eye upon him, soon afterwards. In arranging his clothes, while travelling, he had seen similar lists to these in the prisoner’s pockets, over and over again. He had taken these lists from the drawer of the prisoner’s desk. He had not put them there first. He had seen the prisoner show these identical lists to French gentlemen at Calais, and similar lists to French gentlemen, both at Calais and Boulogne. He loved his country, and couldn’t bear it, and had given information. He had never been suspected of stealing a silver tea-pot; he had been maligned respecting a mustard-pot, but it turned out to be only a plated one. He had known the last witness seven or eight years; that was merely a coincidence. He didn’t call it a particularly curious coincidence; most coincidences were curious. Neither did he call it a curious coincidence that true patriotism was his only motive too. He was a true Briton, and hoped there were many like him.
The blue-flies buzzed again, and Mr. Attorney-General called Mr. Jarvis Lorry.
“Mr. Jarvis Lorry, are you a clerk in Tellson’s bank?”
“On a certain Friday night in November one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, did business occasion you to travel between London and Dover by the mail?”
“Were there any other passengers in the mail?”
“Did they alight on the road in the course of the night?”
“Mr. Lorry, look upon the prisoner. Was he one of those two passengers?”
“I cannot undertake to say that he was.”
“Does he resemble either of these two passengers?”
“Both were so wrapped up, and the night was so dark, and we were all so reserved, that I cannot undertake to say even that.”
“Mr. Lorry, look again upon the prisoner. Supposing him wrapped up as those two passengers were, is there anything in his bulk and stature to render it unlikely that he was one of them?”
“You will not swear, Mr. Lorry, that he was not one of them?”
“So at least you say he may have been one of them?”
“Yes. Except that I remember them both to have been—like myself—timorous of highwaymen, and the prisoner has not a timorous air.”
“Did you ever see a counterfeit of timidity, Mr. Lorry?”
“I certainly have seen that.”
“Mr. Lorry, look once more upon the prisoner. Have you seen him, to your certain knowledge, before?”
“I was returning from France a few days afterwards, and, at Calais, the prisoner came on board the packet-ship in which I returned, and made the voyage with me.”
“At what hour did he come on board?”
“At a little after midnight.”
“In the dead of the night. Was he the only passenger who came on board at that untimely hour?”
“He happened to be the only one.”
“Never mind about ‘happening,’ Mr. Lorry. He was the only passenger who came on board in the dead of the night?”
“Were you travelling alone, Mr. Lorry, or with any companion?”
“With two companions. A gentleman and lady. They are here.”
“They are here. Had you any conversation with the prisoner?”
“Hardly any. The weather was stormy, and the passage long and rough, and I lay on a sofa, almost from shore to shore.”
The young lady, to whom all eyes had been turned before, and were now turned again, stood up where she had sat. Her father rose with her, and kept her hand drawn through his arm.
“Miss Manette, look upon the prisoner.”
To be confronted with such pity, and such earnest youth and beauty, was far more trying to the accused than to be confronted with all the crowd. Standing, as it were, apart with her on the edge of his grave, not all the staring curiosity that looked on, could, for the moment, nerve him to remain quite still. His hurried right hand parcelled out the herbs before him into imaginary beds of flowers in a garden; and his efforts to control and steady his breathing shook the lips from which the colour rushed to his heart. The buzz of the great flies was loud again.
“Miss Manette, have you seen the prisoner before?”
“On board of the packet-ship just now referred to, sir, and on the same occasion.”
“You are the young lady just now referred to?”
“O! most unhappily, I am!”
The plaintive tone of her compassion merged into the less musical voice of the Judge, as he said something fiercely: “Answer the questions put to you, and make no remark upon them.”
“Miss Manette, had you any conversation with the prisoner on that passage across the Channel?”
In the midst of a profound stillness, she faintly began: “When the gentleman came on board—”
“Do you mean the prisoner?” inquired the Judge, knitting his brows.
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Then say the prisoner.”
“When the prisoner came on board, he noticed that my father,” turning her eyes lovingly to him as he stood beside her, “was much fatigued and in a very weak state of health. My father was so reduced that I was afraid to take him out of the air, and I had made a bed for him on the deck near the cabin steps, and I sat on the deck at his side to take care of him. There were no other passengers that night, but we four. The prisoner was so good as to beg permission to advise me how I could shelter my father from the wind and weather, better than I had done. I had not known how to do it well, not understanding how the wind would set when we were out of the harbour. He did it for me. He expressed great gentleness and kindness for my father’s state, and I am sure he felt it. That was the manner of our beginning to speak together.”
“Let me interrupt you for a moment. Had he come on board alone?”
“How many were with him?”
“Two French gentlemen.”
“Had they conferred together?”
“They had conferred together until the last moment, when it was necessary for the French gentlemen to be landed in their boat.”
“Had any papers been handed about among them, similar to these lists?”
“Some papers had been handed about among them, but I don’t know what papers.”
“Like these in shape and size?”
“Possibly, but indeed I don’t know, although they stood whispering very near to me: because they stood at the top of the cabin steps to have the light of the lamp that was hanging there; it was a dull lamp, and they spoke very low, and I did not hear what they said, and saw only that they looked at papers.”
“Now, to the prisoner’s conversation, Miss Manette.”
“The prisoner was as open in his confidence with me—which arose out of my helpless situation—as he was kind, and good, and useful to my father. I hope,” bursting into tears, “I may not repay him by doing him harm to-day.”
Buzzing from the blue-flies.
“Miss Manette, if the prisoner does not perfectly understand that you give the evidence which it is your duty to give—which you must give—and which you cannot escape from giving—with great unwillingness, he is the only person present in that condition. Please to go on.”
“He told me that he was travelling on business of a delicate and difficult nature, which might get people into trouble, and that he was therefore travelling under an assumed name. He said that this business had, within a few days, taken him to France, and might, at intervals, take him backwards and forwards between France and England for a long time to come.”
“Did he say anything about America, Miss Manette? Be particular.”
“He tried to explain to me how that quarrel had arisen, and he said that, so far as he could judge, it was a wrong and foolish one on England’s part. He added, in a jesting way, that perhaps George Washington might gain almost as great a name in history as George the Third. But there was no harm in his way of saying this: it was said laughingly, and to beguile the time.”
Any strongly marked expression of face on the part of a chief actor in a scene of great interest to whom many eyes are directed, will be unconsciously imitated by the spectators. Her forehead was painfully anxious and intent as she gave this evidence, and, in the pauses when she stopped for the Judge to write it down, watched its effect upon the counsel for and against. Among the lookers-on there was the same expression in all quarters of the court; insomuch, that a great majority of the foreheads there, might have been mirrors reflecting the witness, when the Judge looked up from his notes to glare at that tremendous heresy about George Washington.
Mr. Attorney-General now signified to my Lord, that he deemed it necessary, as a matter of precaution and form, to call the young lady’s father, Doctor Manette. Who was called accordingly.
“Doctor Manette, look upon the prisoner. Have you ever seen him before?”
“Once. When he called at my lodgings in London. Some three years, or three years and a half ago.”
“Can you identify him as your fellow-passenger on board the packet, or speak to his conversation with your daughter?”
“Sir, I can do neither.”
“Is there any particular and special reason for your being unable to do either?”
He answered, in a low voice, “There is.”
“Has it been your misfortune to undergo a long imprisonment, without trial, or even accusation, in your native country, Doctor Manette?”
He answered, in a tone that went to every heart, “A long imprisonment.”
“Were you newly released on the occasion in question?”
“They tell me so.”
“Have you no remembrance of the occasion?”
“None. My mind is a blank, from some time—I cannot even say what time—when I employed myself, in my captivity, in making shoes, to the time when I found myself living in London with my dear daughter here. She had become familiar to me, when a gracious God restored my faculties; but, I am quite unable even to say how she had become familiar. I have no remembrance of the process.”
Mr. Attorney-General sat down, and the father and daughter sat down together.
A singular circumstance then arose in the case. The object in hand being to show that the prisoner went down, with some fellow-plotter untracked, in the Dover mail on that Friday night in November five years ago, and got out of the mail in the night, as a blind, at a place where he did not remain, but from which he travelled back some dozen miles or more, to a garrison and dockyard, and there collected information; a witness was called to identify him as having been at the precise time required, in the coffee-room of an hotel in that garrison-and-dockyard town, waiting for another person. The prisoner’s counsel was cross-examining this witness with no result, except that he had never seen the prisoner on any other occasion, when the wigged gentleman who had all this time been looking at the ceiling of the court, wrote a word or two on a little piece of paper, screwed it up, and tossed it to him. Opening this piece of paper in the next pause, the counsel looked with great attention and curiosity at the prisoner.
“You say again you are quite sure that it was the prisoner?”
The witness was quite sure.
“Did you ever see anybody very like the prisoner?”
Not so like (the witness said) as that he could be mistaken.
“Look well upon that gentleman, my learned friend there,” pointing to him who had tossed the paper over, “and then look well upon the prisoner. How say you? Are they very like each other?”
Allowing for my learned friend’s appearance being careless and slovenly if not debauched, they were sufficiently like each other to surprise, not only the witness, but everybody present, when they were thus brought into comparison. My Lord being prayed to bid my learned friend lay aside his wig, and giving no very gracious consent, the likeness became much more remarkable. My Lord inquired of Mr. Stryver (the prisoner’s counsel), whether they were next to try Mr. Carton (name of my learned friend) for treason? But, Mr. Stryver replied to my Lord, no; but he would ask the witness to tell him whether what happened once, might happen twice; whether he would have been so confident if he had seen this illustration of his rashness sooner, whether he would be so confident, having seen it; and more. The upshot of which, was, to smash this witness like a crockery vessel, and shiver his part of the case to useless lumber.
Mr. Cruncher had by this time taken quite a lunch of rust off his fingers in his following of the evidence. He had now to attend while Mr. Stryver fitted the prisoner’s case on the jury, like a compact suit of clothes; showing them how the patriot, Barsad, was a hired spy and traitor, an unblushing trafficker in blood, and one of the greatest scoundrels upon earth since accursed Judas—which he certainly did look rather like. How the virtuous servant, Cly, was his friend and partner, and was worthy to be; how the watchful eyes of those forgers and false swearers had rested on the prisoner as a victim, because some family affairs in France, he being of French extraction, did require his making those passages across the Channel—though what those affairs were, a consideration for others who were near and dear to him, forbade him, even for his life, to disclose. How the evidence that had been warped and wrested from the young lady, whose anguish in giving it they had witnessed, came to nothing, involving the mere little innocent gallantries and politenesses likely to pass between any young gentleman and young lady so thrown together;—with the exception of that reference to George Washington, which was altogether too extravagant and impossible to be regarded in any other light than as a monstrous joke. How it would be a weakness in the government to break down in this attempt to practise for popularity on the lowest national antipathies and fears, and therefore Mr. Attorney-General had made the most of it; how, nevertheless, it rested upon nothing, save that vile and infamous character of evidence too often disfiguring such cases, and of which the State Trials of this country were full. But, there my Lord interposed (with as grave a face as if it had not been true), saying that he could not sit upon that Bench and suffer those allusions.
Mr. Stryver then called his few witnesses, and Mr. Cruncher had next to attend while Mr. Attorney-General turned the whole suit of clothes Mr. Stryver had fitted on the jury, inside out; showing how Barsad and Cly were even a hundred times better than he had thought them, and the prisoner a hundred times worse. Lastly, came my Lord himself, turning the suit of clothes, now inside out, now outside in, but on the whole decidedly trimming and shaping them into grave-clothes for the prisoner.
And now, the jury turned to consider, and the great flies swarmed again.
Mr. Carton, who had so long sat looking at the ceiling of the court, changed neither his place nor his attitude, even in this excitement. While his learned friend, Mr. Stryver, massing his papers before him, whispered with those who sat near, and from time to time glanced anxiously at the jury; while all the spectators moved more or less, and grouped themselves anew; while even my Lord himself arose from his seat, and slowly paced up and down his platform, not unattended by a suspicion in the minds of the audience that his state was feverish; this one man sat leaning back, with his torn gown half off him, his untidy wig put on just as it had happened to light on his head after its removal, his hands in his pockets, and his eyes on the ceiling as they had been all day. Something especially reckless in his demeanour, not only gave him a disreputable look, but so diminished the strong resemblance he undoubtedly bore to the prisoner (which his momentary earnestness, when they were compared together, had strengthened), that many of the lookers-on, taking note of him now, said to one another they would hardly have thought the two were so alike. Mr. Cruncher made the observation to his next neighbour, and added, “I’d hold half a guinea that he don’t get no law-work to do. Don’t look like the sort of one to get any, do he?”
Yet, this Mr. Carton took in more of the details of the scene than he appeared to take in; for now, when Miss Manette’s head dropped upon her father’s breast, he was the first to see it, and to say audibly: “Officer! look to that young lady. Help the gentleman to take her out. Don’t you see she will fall!”
There was much commiseration for her as she was removed, and much sympathy with her father. It had evidently been a great distress to him, to have the days of his imprisonment recalled. He had shown strong internal agitation when he was questioned, and that pondering or brooding look which made him old, had been upon him, like a heavy cloud, ever since. As he passed out, the jury, who had turned back and paused a moment, spoke, through their foreman.
They were not agreed, and wished to retire. My Lord (perhaps with George Washington on his mind) showed some surprise that they were not agreed, but signified his pleasure that they should retire under watch and ward, and retired himself. The trial had lasted all day, and the lamps in the court were now being lighted. It began to be rumoured that the jury would be out a long while. The spectators dropped off to get refreshment, and the prisoner withdrew to the back of the dock, and sat down.
Mr. Lorry, who had gone out when the young lady and her father went out, now reappeared, and beckoned to Jerry: who, in the slackened interest, could easily get near him.
“Jerry, if you wish to take something to eat, you can. But, keep in the way. You will be sure to hear when the jury come in. Don’t be a moment behind them, for I want you to take the verdict back to the bank. You are the quickest messenger I know, and will get to Temple Bar long before I can.”
Jerry had just enough forehead to knuckle, and he knuckled it in acknowledgment of this communication and a shilling. Mr. Carton came up at the moment, and touched Mr. Lorry on the arm.
“How is the young lady?”
“She is greatly distressed; but her father is comforting her, and she feels the better for being out of court.”
“I’ll tell the prisoner so. It won’t do for a respectable bank gentleman like you, to be seen speaking to him publicly, you know.”
Mr. Lorry reddened as if he were conscious of having debated the point in his mind, and Mr. Carton made his way to the outside of the bar. The way out of court lay in that direction, and Jerry followed him, all eyes, ears, and spikes.
The prisoner came forward directly.
“You will naturally be anxious to hear of the witness, Miss Manette. She will do very well. You have seen the worst of her agitation.”
“I am deeply sorry to have been the cause of it. Could you tell her so for me, with my fervent acknowledgments?”
“Yes, I could. I will, if you ask it.”
Mr. Carton’s manner was so careless as to be almost insolent. He stood, half turned from the prisoner, lounging with his elbow against the bar.
“I do ask it. Accept my cordial thanks.”
“What,” said Carton, still only half turned towards him, “do you expect, Mr. Darnay?”
“It’s the wisest thing to expect, and the likeliest. But I think their withdrawing is in your favour.”
Loitering on the way out of court not being allowed, Jerry heard no more: but left them—so like each other in feature, so unlike each other in manner—standing side by side, both reflected in the glass above them.
An hour and a half limped heavily away in the thief-and-rascal crowded passages below, even though assisted off with mutton pies and ale. The hoarse messenger, uncomfortably seated on a form after taking that refection, had dropped into a doze, when a loud murmur and a rapid tide of people setting up the stairs that led to the court, carried him along with them.
“Jerry! Jerry!” Mr. Lorry was already calling at the door when he got there.
“Here, sir! It’s a fight to get back again. Here I am, sir!”
Mr. Lorry handed him a paper through the throng. “Quick! Have you got it?”
Hastily written on the paper was the word “Acquitted.”
“If you had sent the message, ‘Recalled to Life,’ again,” muttered Jerry, as he turned, “I should have known what you meant, this time.”
He had no opportunity of saying, or so much as thinking, anything else, until he was clear of the Old Bailey; for, the crowd came pouring out with a vehemence that nearly took him off his legs, and a loud buzz swept into the street as if the baffled blue-flies were dispersing in search of other carrion.
From the dimly-lighted passages of the court, the last sediment of the human stew that had been boiling there all day, was straining off, when Doctor Manette, Lucie Manette, his daughter, Mr. Lorry, the solicitor for the defence, and its counsel, Mr. Stryver, stood gathered round Mr. Charles Darnay—just released—congratulating him on his escape from death.
It would have been difficult by a far brighter light, to recognise in Doctor Manette, intellectual of face and upright of bearing, the shoemaker of the garret in Paris. Yet, no one could have looked at him twice, without looking again: even though the opportunity of observation had not extended to the mournful cadence of his low grave voice, and to the abstraction that overclouded him fitfully, without any apparent reason. While one external cause, and that a reference to his long lingering agony, would always—as on the trial—evoke this condition from the depths of his soul, it was also in its nature to arise of itself, and to draw a gloom over him, as incomprehensible to those unacquainted with his story as if they had seen the shadow of the actual Bastille thrown upon him by a summer sun, when the substance was three hundred miles away.
Only his daughter had the power of charming this black brooding from his mind. She was the golden thread that united him to a Past beyond his misery, and to a Present beyond his misery: and the sound of her voice, the light of her face, the touch of her hand, had a strong beneficial influence with him almost always. Not absolutely always, for she could recall some occasions on which her power had failed; but they were few and slight, and she believed them over.
Mr. Darnay had kissed her hand fervently and gratefully, and had turned to Mr. Stryver, whom he warmly thanked. Mr. Stryver, a man of little more than thirty, but looking twenty years older than he was, stout, loud, red, bluff, and free from any drawback of delicacy, had a pushing way of shouldering himself (morally and physically) into companies and conversations, that argued well for his shouldering his way up in life.
He still had his wig and gown on, and he said, squaring himself at his late client to that degree that he squeezed the innocent Mr. Lorry clean out of the group: “I am glad to have brought you off with honour, Mr. Darnay. It was an infamous prosecution, grossly infamous; but not the less likely to succeed on that account.”
“You have laid me under an obligation to you for life—in two senses,” said his late client, taking his hand.
“I have done my best for you, Mr. Darnay; and my best is as good as another man’s, I believe.”
It clearly being incumbent on some one to say, “Much better,” Mr. Lorry said it; perhaps not quite disinterestedly, but with the interested object of squeezing himself back again.
“You think so?” said Mr. Stryver. “Well! you have been present all day, and you ought to know. You are a man of business, too.”
“And as such,” quoth Mr. Lorry, whom the counsel learned in the law had now shouldered back into the group, just as he had previously shouldered him out of it—“as such I will appeal to Doctor Manette, to break up this conference and order us all to our homes. Miss Lucie looks ill, Mr. Darnay has had a terrible day, we are worn out.”
“Speak for yourself, Mr. Lorry,” said Stryver; “I have a night’s work to do yet. Speak for yourself.”
“I speak for myself,” answered Mr. Lorry, “and for Mr. Darnay, and for Miss Lucie, and—Miss Lucie, do you not think I may speak for us all?” He asked her the question pointedly, and with a glance at her father.
His face had become frozen, as it were, in a very curious look at Darnay: an intent look, deepening into a frown of dislike and distrust, not even unmixed with fear. With this strange expression on him his thoughts had wandered away.
“My father,” said Lucie, softly laying her hand on his.
He slowly shook the shadow off, and turned to her.
“Shall we go home, my father?”
With a long breath, he answered “Yes.”
The friends of the acquitted prisoner had dispersed, under the impression—which he himself had originated—that he would not be released that night. The lights were nearly all extinguished in the passages, the iron gates were being closed with a jar and a rattle, and the dismal place was deserted until to-morrow morning’s interest of gallows, pillory, whipping-post, and branding-iron, should repeople it. Walking between her father and Mr. Darnay, Lucie Manette passed into the open air. A hackney-coach was called, and the father and daughter departed in it.
Mr. Stryver had left them in the passages, to shoulder his way back to the robing-room. Another person, who had not joined the group, or interchanged a word with any one of them, but who had been leaning against the wall where its shadow was darkest, had silently strolled out after the rest, and had looked on until the coach drove away. He now stepped up to where Mr. Lorry and Mr. Darnay stood upon the pavement.
“So, Mr. Lorry! Men of business may speak to Mr. Darnay now?”
Nobody had made any acknowledgment of Mr. Carton’s part in the day’s proceedings; nobody had known of it. He was unrobed, and was none the better for it in appearance.
“If you knew what a conflict goes on in the business mind, when the business mind is divided between good-natured impulse and business appearances, you would be amused, Mr. Darnay.”
Mr. Lorry reddened, and said, warmly, “You have mentioned that before, sir. We men of business, who serve a House, are not our own masters. We have to think of the House more than ourselves.”
“I know, I know,” rejoined Mr. Carton, carelessly. “Don’t be nettled, Mr. Lorry. You are as good as another, I have no doubt: better, I dare say.”
“And indeed, sir,” pursued Mr. Lorry, not minding him, “I really don’t know what you have to do with the matter. If you’ll excuse me, as very much your elder, for saying so, I really don’t know that it is your business.”
“Business! Bless you, I have no business,” said Mr. Carton.
“It is a pity you have not, sir.”
“I think so, too.”
“If you had,” pursued Mr. Lorry, “perhaps you would attend to it.”
“Lord love you, no!—I shouldn’t,” said Mr. Carton.
“Well, sir!” cried Mr. Lorry, thoroughly heated by his indifference, “business is a very good thing, and a very respectable thing. And, sir, if business imposes its restraints and its silences and impediments, Mr. Darnay as a young gentleman of generosity knows how to make allowance for that circumstance. Mr. Darnay, good night, God bless you, sir! I hope you have been this day preserved for a prosperous and happy life.—Chair there!”
Perhaps a little angry with himself, as well as with the barrister, Mr. Lorry bustled into the chair, and was carried off to Tellson’s. Carton, who smelt of port wine, and did not appear to be quite sober, laughed then, and turned to Darnay:
“This is a strange chance that throws you and me together. This must be a strange night to you, standing alone here with your counterpart on these street stones?”
“I hardly seem yet,” returned Charles Darnay, “to belong to this world again.”
“I don’t wonder at it; it’s not so long since you were pretty far advanced on your way to another. You speak faintly.”
“I begin to think I am faint.”
“Then why the devil don’t you dine? I dined, myself, while those numskulls were deliberating which world you should belong to—this, or some other. Let me show you the nearest tavern to dine well at.”
Drawing his arm through his own, he took him down Ludgate-hill to Fleet-street, and so, up a covered way, into a tavern. Here, they were shown into a little room, where Charles Darnay was soon recruiting his strength with a good plain dinner and good wine: while Carton sat opposite to him at the same table, with his separate bottle of port before him, and his fully half-insolent manner upon him.
“Do you feel, yet, that you belong to this terrestrial scheme again, Mr. Darnay?”
“I am frightfully confused regarding time and place; but I am so far mended as to feel that.”
“It must be an immense satisfaction!”
He said it bitterly, and filled up his glass again: which was a large one.
“As to me, the greatest desire I have, is to forget that I belong to it. It has no good in it for me—except wine like this—nor I for it. So we are not much alike in that particular. Indeed, I begin to think we are not much alike in any particular, you and I.”
Confused by the emotion of the day, and feeling his being there with this Double of coarse deportment, to be like a dream, Charles Darnay was at a loss how to answer; finally, answered not at all.
“Now your dinner is done,” Carton presently said, “why don’t you call a health, Mr. Darnay; why don’t you give your toast?”
“What health? What toast?”
“Why, it’s on the tip of your tongue. It ought to be, it must be, I’ll swear it’s there.”
“Miss Manette, then!”
“Miss Manette, then!”
Looking his companion full in the face while he drank the toast, Carton flung his glass over his shoulder against the wall, where it shivered to pieces; then, rang the bell, and ordered in another.
“That’s a fair young lady to hand to a coach in the dark, Mr. Darnay!” he said, filling his new goblet.
A slight frown and a laconic “Yes,” were the answer.
“That’s a fair young lady to be pitied by and wept for by! How does it feel? Is it worth being tried for one’s life, to be the object of such sympathy and compassion, Mr. Darnay?”
Again Darnay answered not a word.
“She was mightily pleased to have your message, when I gave it her. Not that she showed she was pleased, but I suppose she was.”
The allusion served as a timely reminder to Darnay that this disagreeable companion had, of his own free will, assisted him in the strait of the day. He turned the dialogue to that point, and thanked him for it.
“I neither want any thanks, nor merit any,” was the careless rejoinder. “It was nothing to do, in the first place; and I don’t know why I did it, in the second. Mr. Darnay, let me ask you a question.”
“Willingly, and a small return for your good offices.”
“Do you think I particularly like you?”
“Really, Mr. Carton,” returned the other, oddly disconcerted, “I have not asked myself the question.”
“But ask yourself the question now.”
“You have acted as if you do; but I don’t think you do.”
“I don’t think I do,” said Carton. “I begin to have a very good opinion of your understanding.”
“Nevertheless,” pursued Darnay, rising to ring the bell, “there is nothing in that, I hope, to prevent my calling the reckoning, and our parting without ill-blood on either side.”
Carton rejoining, “Nothing in life!” Darnay rang. “Do you call the whole reckoning?” said Carton. On his answering in the affirmative, “Then bring me another pint of this same wine, drawer, and come and wake me at ten.”
The bill being paid, Charles Darnay rose and wished him good night. Without returning the wish, Carton rose too, with something of a threat of defiance in his manner, and said, “A last word, Mr. Darnay: you think I am drunk?”
“I think you have been drinking, Mr. Carton.”
“Think? You know I have been drinking.”
“Since I must say so, I know it.”
“Then you shall likewise know why. I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.”
“Much to be regretted. You might have used your talents better.”
“May be so, Mr. Darnay; may be not. Don’t let your sober face elate you, however; you don’t know what it may come to. Good night!”
When he was left alone, this strange being took up a candle, went to a glass that hung against the wall, and surveyed himself minutely in it.
“Do you particularly like the man?” he muttered, at his own image; “why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for taking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you might have been! Change places with him, and would you have been looked at by those blue eyes as he was, and commiserated by that agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words! You hate the fellow.”
He resorted to his pint of wine for consolation, drank it all in a few minutes, and fell asleep on his arms, with his hair straggling over the table, and a long winding-sheet in the candle dripping down upon him.
Those were drinking days, and most men drank hard. So very great is the improvement Time has brought about in such habits, that a moderate statement of the quantity of wine and punch which one man would swallow in the course of a night, without any detriment to his reputation as a perfect gentleman, would seem, in these days, a ridiculous exaggeration. The learned profession of the law was certainly not behind any other learned profession in its Bacchanalian propensities; neither was Mr. Stryver, already fast shouldering his way to a large and lucrative practice, behind his compeers in this particular, any more than in the drier parts of the legal race.
A favourite at the Old Bailey, and eke at the Sessions, Mr. Stryver had begun cautiously to hew away the lower staves of the ladder on which he mounted. Sessions and Old Bailey had now to summon their favourite, specially, to their longing arms; and shouldering itself towards the visage of the Lord Chief Justice in the Court of King’s Bench, the florid countenance of Mr. Stryver might be daily seen, bursting out of the bed of wigs, like a great sunflower pushing its way at the sun from among a rank garden-full of flaring companions.
It had once been noted at the Bar, that while Mr. Stryver was a glib man, and an unscrupulous, and a ready, and a bold, he had not that faculty of extracting the essence from a heap of statements, which is among the most striking and necessary of the advocate’s accomplishments. But, a remarkable improvement came upon him as to this. The more business he got, the greater his power seemed to grow of getting at its pith and marrow; and however late at night he sat carousing with Sydney Carton, he always had his points at his fingers’ ends in the morning.
Sydney Carton, idlest and most unpromising of men, was Stryver’s great ally. What the two drank together, between Hilary Term and Michaelmas, might have floated a king’s ship. Stryver never had a case in hand, anywhere, but Carton was there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling of the court; they went the same Circuit, and even there they prolonged their usual orgies late into the night, and Carton was rumoured to be seen at broad day, going home stealthily and unsteadily to his lodgings, like a dissipated cat. At last, it began to get about, among such as were interested in the matter, that although Sydney Carton would never be a lion, he was an amazingly good jackal, and that he rendered suit and service to Stryver in that humble capacity.
“Ten o’clock, sir,” said the man at the tavern, whom he had charged to wake him—“ten o’clock, sir.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Ten o’clock, sir.”
“What do you mean? Ten o’clock at night?”
“Yes, sir. Your honour told me to call you.”
“Oh! I remember. Very well, very well.”
After a few dull efforts to get to sleep again, which the man dexterously combated by stirring the fire continuously for five minutes, he got up, tossed his hat on, and walked out. He turned into the Temple, and, having revived himself by twice pacing the pavements of King’s Bench-walk and Paper-buildings, turned into the Stryver chambers.
The Stryver clerk, who never assisted at these conferences, had gone home, and the Stryver principal opened the door. He had his slippers on, and a loose bed-gown, and his throat was bare for his greater ease. He had that rather wild, strained, seared marking about the eyes, which may be observed in all free livers of his class, from the portrait of Jeffries downward, and which can be traced, under various disguises of Art, through the portraits of every Drinking Age.
“You are a little late, Memory,” said Stryver.
“About the usual time; it may be a quarter of an hour later.”
They went into a dingy room lined with books and littered with papers, where there was a blazing fire. A kettle steamed upon the hob, and in the midst of the wreck of papers a table shone, with plenty of wine upon it, and brandy, and rum, and sugar, and lemons.
“You have had your bottle, I perceive, Sydney.”
“Two to-night, I think. I have been dining with the day’s client; or seeing him dine—it’s all one!”
“That was a rare point, Sydney, that you brought to bear upon the identification. How did you come by it? When did it strike you?”
“I thought he was rather a handsome fellow, and I thought I should have been much the same sort of fellow, if I had had any luck.”
Mr. Stryver laughed till he shook his precocious paunch.
“You and your luck, Sydney! Get to work, get to work.”
Sullenly enough, the jackal loosened his dress, went into an adjoining room, and came back with a large jug of cold water, a basin, and a towel or two. Steeping the towels in the water, and partially wringing them out, he folded them on his head in a manner hideous to behold, sat down at the table, and said, “Now I am ready!”
“Not much boiling down to be done to-night, Memory,” said Mr. Stryver, gaily, as he looked among his papers.
“Only two sets of them.”
“Give me the worst first.”
“There they are, Sydney. Fire away!”
The lion then composed himself on his back on a sofa on one side of the drinking-table, while the jackal sat at his own paper-bestrewn table proper, on the other side of it, with the bottles and glasses ready to his hand. Both resorted to the drinking-table without stint, but each in a different way; the lion for the most part reclining with his hands in his waistband, looking at the fire, or occasionally flirting with some lighter document; the jackal, with knitted brows and intent face, so deep in his task, that his eyes did not even follow the hand he stretched out for his glass—which often groped about, for a minute or more, before it found the glass for his lips. Two or three times, the matter in hand became so knotty, that the jackal found it imperative on him to get up, and steep his towels anew. From these pilgrimages to the jug and basin, he returned with such eccentricities of damp headgear as no words can describe; which were made the more ludicrous by his anxious gravity.
At length the jackal had got together a compact repast for the lion, and proceeded to offer it to him. The lion took it with care and caution, made his selections from it, and his remarks upon it, and the jackal assisted both. When the repast was fully discussed, the lion put his hands in his waistband again, and lay down to meditate. The jackal then invigorated himself with a bumper for his throttle, and a fresh application to his head, and applied himself to the collection of a second meal; this was administered to the lion in the same manner, and was not disposed of until the clocks struck three in the morning.
“And now we have done, Sydney, fill a bumper of punch,” said Mr. Stryver.
The jackal removed the towels from his head, which had been steaming again, shook himself, yawned, shivered, and complied.
“You were very sound, Sydney, in the matter of those crown witnesses to-day. Every question told.”
“I always am sound; am I not?”
“I don’t gainsay it. What has roughened your temper? Put some punch to it and smooth it again.”
With a deprecatory grunt, the jackal again complied.
“The old Sydney Carton of old Shrewsbury School,” said Stryver, nodding his head over him as he reviewed him in the present and the past, “the old seesaw Sydney. Up one minute and down the next; now in spirits and now in despondency!”
“Ah!” returned the other, sighing: “yes! The same Sydney, with the same luck. Even then, I did exercises for other boys, and seldom did my own.”
“And why not?”
“God knows. It was my way, I suppose.”
He sat, with his hands in his pockets and his legs stretched out before him, looking at the fire.
“Carton,” said his friend, squaring himself at him with a bullying air, as if the fire-grate had been the furnace in which sustained endeavour was forged, and the one delicate thing to be done for the old Sydney Carton of old Shrewsbury School was to shoulder him into it, “your way is, and always was, a lame way. You summon no energy and purpose. Look at me.”
“Oh, botheration!” returned Sydney, with a lighter and more good-humoured laugh, “don’t you be moral!”
“How have I done what I have done?” said Stryver; “how do I do what I do?”
“Partly through paying me to help you, I suppose. But it’s not worth your while to apostrophise me, or the air, about it; what you want to do, you do. You were always in the front rank, and I was always behind.”
“I had to get into the front rank; I was not born there, was I?”
“I was not present at the ceremony; but my opinion is you were,” said Carton. At this, he laughed again, and they both laughed.
“Before Shrewsbury, and at Shrewsbury, and ever since Shrewsbury,” pursued Carton, “you have fallen into your rank, and I have fallen into mine. Even when we were fellow-students in the Student-Quarter of Paris, picking up French, and French law, and other French crumbs that we didn’t get much good of, you were always somewhere, and I was always nowhere.”
“And whose fault was that?”
“Upon my soul, I am not sure that it was not yours. You were always driving and riving and shouldering and passing, to that restless degree that I had no chance for my life but in rust and repose. It’s a gloomy thing, however, to talk about one’s own past, with the day breaking. Turn me in some other direction before I go.”
“Well then! Pledge me to the pretty witness,” said Stryver, holding up his glass. “Are you turned in a pleasant direction?”
Apparently not, for he became gloomy again.
“Pretty witness,” he muttered, looking down into his glass. “I have had enough of witnesses to-day and to-night; who’s your pretty witness?”
“The picturesque doctor’s daughter, Miss Manette.”
“Is she not?”
“Why, man alive, she was the admiration of the whole Court!”
“Rot the admiration of the whole Court! Who made the Old Bailey a judge of beauty? She was a golden-haired doll!”
“Do you know, Sydney,” said Mr. Stryver, looking at him with sharp eyes, and slowly drawing a hand across his florid face: “do you know, I rather thought, at the time, that you sympathised with the golden-haired doll, and were quick to see what happened to the golden-haired doll?”
“Quick to see what happened! If a girl, doll or no doll, swoons within a yard or two of a man’s nose, he can see it without a perspective-glass. I pledge you, but I deny the beauty. And now I’ll have no more drink; I’ll get to bed.”
When his host followed him out on the staircase with a candle, to light him down the stairs, the day was coldly looking in through its grimy windows. When he got out of the house, the air was cold and sad, the dull sky overcast, the river dark and dim, the whole scene like a lifeless desert. And wreaths of dust were spinning round and round before the morning blast, as if the desert-sand had risen far away, and the first spray of it in its advance had begun to overwhelm the city.
Waste forces within him, and a desert all around, this man stood still on his way across a silent terrace, and saw for a moment, lying in the wilderness before him, a mirage of honourable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance. In the fair city of this vision, there were airy galleries from which the loves and graces looked upon him, gardens in which the fruits of life hung ripening, waters of Hope that sparkled in his sight. A moment, and it was gone. Climbing to a high chamber in a well of houses, he threw himself down in his clothes on a neglected bed, and its pillow was wet with wasted tears.
Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.
The quiet lodgings of Doctor Manette were in a quiet street-corner not far from Soho-square. On the afternoon of a certain fine Sunday when the waves of four months had rolled over the trial for treason, and carried it, as to the public interest and memory, far out to sea, Mr. Jarvis Lorry walked along the sunny streets from Clerkenwell where he lived, on his way to dine with the Doctor. After several relapses into business-absorption, Mr. Lorry had become the Doctor’s friend, and the quiet street-corner was the sunny part of his life.
On this certain fine Sunday, Mr. Lorry walked towards Soho, early in the afternoon, for three reasons of habit. Firstly, because, on fine Sundays, he often walked out, before dinner, with the Doctor and Lucie; secondly, because, on unfavourable Sundays, he was accustomed to be with them as the family friend, talking, reading, looking out of window, and generally getting through the day; thirdly, because he happened to have his own little shrewd doubts to solve, and knew how the ways of the Doctor’s household pointed to that time as a likely time for solving them.
A quainter corner than the corner where the Doctor lived, was not to be found in London. There was no way through it, and the front windows of the Doctor’s lodgings commanded a pleasant little vista of street that had a congenial air of retirement on it. There were few buildings then, north of the Oxford-road, and forest-trees flourished, and wild flowers grew, and the hawthorn blossomed, in the now vanished fields. As a consequence, country airs circulated in Soho with vigorous freedom, instead of languishing into the parish like stray paupers without a settlement; and there was many a good south wall, not far off, on which the peaches ripened in their season.
The summer light struck into the corner brilliantly in the earlier part of the day; but, when the streets grew hot, the corner was in shadow, though not in shadow so remote but that you could see beyond it into a glare of brightness. It was a cool spot, staid but cheerful, a wonderful place for echoes, and a very harbour from the raging streets.
There ought to have been a tranquil bark in such an anchorage, and there was. The Doctor occupied two floors of a large stiff house, where several callings purported to be pursued by day, but whereof little was audible any day, and which was shunned by all of them at night. In a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane-tree rustled its green leaves, church-organs claimed to be made, and silver to be chased, and likewise gold to be beaten by some mysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the wall of the front hall—as if he had beaten himself precious, and menaced a similar conversion of all visitors. Very little of these trades, or of a lonely lodger rumoured to live up-stairs, or of a dim coach-trimming maker asserted to have a counting-house below, was ever heard or seen. Occasionally, a stray workman putting his coat on, traversed the hall, or a stranger peered about there, or a distant clink was heard across the courtyard, or a thump from the golden giant. These, however, were only the exceptions required to prove the rule that the sparrows in the plane-tree behind the house, and the echoes in the corner before it, had their own way from Sunday morning unto Saturday night.
Doctor Manette received such patients here as his old reputation, and its revival in the floating whispers of his story, brought him. His scientific knowledge, and his vigilance and skill in conducting ingenious experiments, brought him otherwise into moderate request, and he earned as much as he wanted.
These things were within Mr. Jarvis Lorry’s knowledge, thoughts, and notice, when he rang the door-bell of the tranquil house in the corner, on the fine Sunday afternoon.
“Doctor Manette at home?”
“Miss Lucie at home?”
“Miss Pross at home?”
Possibly at home, but of a certainty impossible for handmaid to anticipate intentions of Miss Pross, as to admission or denial of the fact.
“As I am at home myself,” said Mr. Lorry, “I’ll go upstairs.”
Although the Doctor’s daughter had known nothing of the country of her birth, she appeared to have innately derived from it that ability to make much of little means, which is one of its most useful and most agreeable characteristics. Simple as the furniture was, it was set off by so many little adornments, of no value but for their taste and fancy, that its effect was delightful. The disposition of everything in the rooms, from the largest object to the least; the arrangement of colours, the elegant variety and contrast obtained by thrift in trifles, by delicate hands, clear eyes, and good sense; were at once so pleasant in themselves, and so expressive of their originator, that, as Mr. Lorry stood looking about him, the very chairs and tables seemed to ask him, with something of that peculiar expression which he knew so well by this time, whether he approved?
There were three rooms on a floor, and, the doors by which they communicated being put open that the air might pass freely through them all, Mr. Lorry, smilingly observant of that fanciful resemblance which he detected all around him, walked from one to another. The first was the best room, and in it were Lucie’s birds, and flowers, and books, and desk, and work-table, and box of water-colours; the second was the Doctor’s consulting-room, used also as the dining-room; the third, changingly speckled by the rustle of the plane-tree in the yard, was the Doctor’s bedroom, and there, in a corner, stood the disused shoemaker’s bench and tray of tools, much as it had stood on the fifth floor of the dismal house by the wine-shop, in the suburb of Saint Antoine in Paris.
“I wonder,” said Mr. Lorry, pausing in his looking about, “that he keeps that reminder of his sufferings about him!”
“And why wonder at that?” was the abrupt inquiry that made him start.
It proceeded from Miss Pross, the wild red woman, strong of hand, whose acquaintance he had first made at the Royal George Hotel at Dover, and had since improved.
“I should have thought—” Mr. Lorry began.
“Pooh! You’d have thought!” said Miss Pross; and Mr. Lorry left off.
“How do you do?” inquired that lady then—sharply, and yet as if to express that she bore him no malice.
“I am pretty well, I thank you,” answered Mr. Lorry, with meekness; “how are you?”
“Nothing to boast of,” said Miss Pross.
“Ah! indeed!” said Miss Pross. “I am very much put out about my Ladybird.”
“For gracious sake say something else besides ‘indeed,’ or you’ll fidget me to death,” said Miss Pross: whose character (dissociated from stature) was shortness.
“Really, then?” said Mr. Lorry, as an amendment.
“Really, is bad enough,” returned Miss Pross, “but better. Yes, I am very much put out.”
“May I ask the cause?”
“I don’t want dozens of people who are not at all worthy of Ladybird, to come here looking after her,” said Miss Pross.
“Do dozens come for that purpose?”
“Hundreds,” said Miss Pross.
It was characteristic of this lady (as of some other people before her time and since) that whenever her original proposition was questioned, she exaggerated it.
“Dear me!” said Mr. Lorry, as the safest remark he could think of.
“I have lived with the darling—or the darling has lived with me, and paid me for it; which she certainly should never have done, you may take your affidavit, if I could have afforded to keep either myself or her for nothing—since she was ten years old. And it’s really very hard,” said Miss Pross.
Not seeing with precision what was very hard, Mr. Lorry shook his head; using that important part of himself as a sort of fairy cloak that would fit anything.
“All sorts of people who are not in the least degree worthy of the pet, are always turning up,” said Miss Pross. “When you began it—”
“I began it, Miss Pross?”
“Didn’t you? Who brought her father to life?”
“Oh! If that was beginning it—” said Mr. Lorry.
“It wasn’t ending it, I suppose? I say, when you began it, it was hard enough; not that I have any fault to find with Doctor Manette, except that he is not worthy of such a daughter, which is no imputation on him, for it was not to be expected that anybody should be, under any circumstances. But it really is doubly and trebly hard to have crowds and multitudes of people turning up after him (I could have forgiven him), to take Ladybird’s affections away from me.”
Mr. Lorry knew Miss Pross to be very jealous, but he also knew her by this time to be, beneath the service of her eccentricity, one of those unselfish creatures—found only among women—who will, for pure love and admiration, bind themselves willing slaves, to youth when they have lost it, to beauty that they never had, to accomplishments that they were never fortunate enough to gain, to bright hopes that never shone upon their own sombre lives. He knew enough of the world to know that there is nothing in it better than the faithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from any mercenary taint, he had such an exalted respect for it, that in the retributive arrangements made by his own mind—we all make such arrangements, more or less—he stationed Miss Pross much nearer to the lower Angels than many ladies immeasurably better got up both by Nature and Art, who had balances at Tellson’s.
“There never was, nor will be, but one man worthy of Ladybird,” said Miss Pross; “and that was my brother Solomon, if he hadn’t made a mistake in life.”
Here again: Mr. Lorry’s inquiries into Miss Pross’s personal history had established the fact that her brother Solomon was a heartless scoundrel who had stripped her of everything she possessed, as a stake to speculate with, and had abandoned her in her poverty for evermore, with no touch of compunction. Miss Pross’s fidelity of belief in Solomon (deducting a mere trifle for this slight mistake) was quite a serious matter with Mr. Lorry, and had its weight in his good opinion of her.
“As we happen to be alone for the moment, and are both people of business,” he said, when they had got back to the drawing-room and had sat down there in friendly relations, “let me ask you—does the Doctor, in talking with Lucie, never refer to the shoemaking time, yet?”
“And yet keeps that bench and those tools beside him?”
“Ah!” returned Miss Pross, shaking her head. “But I don’t say he don’t refer to it within himself.”
“Do you believe that he thinks of it much?”
“I do,” said Miss Pross.
“Do you imagine—” Mr. Lorry had begun, when Miss Pross took him up short with:
“Never imagine anything. Have no imagination at all.”
“I stand corrected; do you suppose—you go so far as to suppose, sometimes?”
“Now and then,” said Miss Pross.
“Do you suppose,” Mr. Lorry went on, with a laughing twinkle in his bright eye, as it looked kindly at her, “that Doctor Manette has any theory of his own, preserved through all those years, relative to the cause of his being so oppressed; perhaps, even to the name of his oppressor?”
“I don’t suppose anything about it but what Ladybird tells me.”
“And that is—?”
“That she thinks he has.”
“Now don’t be angry at my asking all these questions; because I am a mere dull man of business, and you are a woman of business.”
“Dull?” Miss Pross inquired, with placidity.
Rather wishing his modest adjective away, Mr. Lorry replied, “No, no, no. Surely not. To return to business:—Is it not remarkable that Doctor Manette, unquestionably innocent of any crime as we are all well assured he is, should never touch upon that question? I will not say with me, though he had business relations with me many years ago, and we are now intimate; I will say with the fair daughter to whom he is so devotedly attached, and who is so devotedly attached to him? Believe me, Miss Pross, I don’t approach the topic with you, out of curiosity, but out of zealous interest.”
“Well! To the best of my understanding, and bad’s the best, you’ll tell me,” said Miss Pross, softened by the tone of the apology, “he is afraid of the whole subject.”
“It’s plain enough, I should think, why he may be. It’s a dreadful remembrance. Besides that, his loss of himself grew out of it. Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never feel certain of not losing himself again. That alone wouldn’t make the subject pleasant, I should think.”
It was a profounder remark than Mr. Lorry had looked for. “True,” said he, “and fearful to reflect upon. Yet, a doubt lurks in my mind, Miss Pross, whether it is good for Doctor Manette to have that suppression always shut up within him. Indeed, it is this doubt and the uneasiness it sometimes causes me that has led me to our present confidence.”
“Can’t be helped,” said Miss Pross, shaking her head. “Touch that string, and he instantly changes for the worse. Better leave it alone. In short, must leave it alone, like or no like. Sometimes, he gets up in the dead of the night, and will be heard, by us overhead there, walking up and down, walking up and down, in his room. Ladybird has learnt to know then that his mind is walking up and down, walking up and down, in his old prison. She hurries to him, and they go on together, walking up and down, walking up and down, until he is composed. But he never says a word of the true reason of his restlessness, to her, and she finds it best not to hint at it to him. In silence they go walking up and down together, walking up and down together, till her love and company have brought him to himself.”
Notwithstanding Miss Pross’s denial of her own imagination, there was a perception of the pain of being monotonously haunted by one sad idea, in her repetition of the phrase, walking up and down, which testified to her possessing such a thing.
The corner has been mentioned as a wonderful corner for echoes; it had begun to echo so resoundingly to the tread of coming feet, that it seemed as though the very mention of that weary pacing to and fro had set it going.
“Here they are!” said Miss Pross, rising to break up the conference; “and now we shall have hundreds of people pretty soon!”
It was such a curious corner in its acoustical properties, such a peculiar Ear of a place, that as Mr. Lorry stood at the open window, looking for the father and daughter whose steps he heard, he fancied they would never approach. Not only would the echoes die away, as though the steps had gone; but, echoes of other steps that never came would be heard in their stead, and would die away for good when they seemed close at hand. However, father and daughter did at last appear, and Miss Pross was ready at the street door to receive them.
Miss Pross was a pleasant sight, albeit wild, and red, and grim, taking off her darling’s bonnet when she came up-stairs, and touching it up with the ends of her handkerchief, and blowing the dust off it, and folding her mantle ready for laying by, and smoothing her rich hair with as much pride as she could possibly have taken in her own hair if she had been the vainest and handsomest of women. Her darling was a pleasant sight too, embracing her and thanking her, and protesting against her taking so much trouble for her—which last she only dared to do playfully, or Miss Pross, sorely hurt, would have retired to her own chamber and cried. The Doctor was a pleasant sight too, looking on at them, and telling Miss Pross how she spoilt Lucie, in accents and with eyes that had as much spoiling in them as Miss Pross had, and would have had more if it were possible. Mr. Lorry was a pleasant sight too, beaming at all this in his little wig, and thanking his bachelor stars for having lighted him in his declining years to a Home. But, no Hundreds of people came to see the sights, and Mr. Lorry looked in vain for the fulfilment of Miss Pross’s prediction.
Dinner-time, and still no Hundreds of people. In the arrangements of the little household, Miss Pross took charge of the lower regions, and always acquitted herself marvellously. Her dinners, of a very modest quality, were so well cooked and so well served, and so neat in their contrivances, half English and half French, that nothing could be better. Miss Pross’s friendship being of the thoroughly practical kind, she had ravaged Soho and the adjacent provinces, in search of impoverished French, who, tempted by shillings and half-crowns, would impart culinary mysteries to her. From these decayed sons and daughters of Gaul, she had acquired such wonderful arts, that the woman and girl who formed the staff of domestics regarded her as quite a Sorceress, or Cinderella’s Godmother: who would send out for a fowl, a rabbit, a vegetable or two from the garden, and change them into anything she pleased.
On Sundays, Miss Pross dined at the Doctor’s table, but on other days persisted in taking her meals at unknown periods, either in the lower regions, or in her own room on the second floor—a blue chamber, to which no one but her Ladybird ever gained admittance. On this occasion, Miss Pross, responding to Ladybird’s pleasant face and pleasant efforts to please her, unbent exceedingly; so the dinner was very pleasant, too.
It was an oppressive day, and, after dinner, Lucie proposed that the wine should be carried out under the plane-tree, and they should sit there in the air. As everything turned upon her, and revolved about her, they went out under the plane-tree, and she carried the wine down for the special benefit of Mr. Lorry. She had installed herself, some time before, as Mr. Lorry’s cup-bearer; and while they sat under the plane-tree, talking, she kept his glass replenished. Mysterious backs and ends of houses peeped at them as they talked, and the plane-tree whispered to them in its own way above their heads.
Still, the Hundreds of people did not present themselves. Mr. Darnay presented himself while they were sitting under the plane-tree, but he was only One.
Doctor Manette received him kindly, and so did Lucie. But, Miss Pross suddenly became afflicted with a twitching in the head and body, and retired into the house. She was not unfrequently the victim of this disorder, and she called it, in familiar conversation, “a fit of the jerks.”
The Doctor was in his best condition, and looked specially young. The resemblance between him and Lucie was very strong at such times, and as they sat side by side, she leaning on his shoulder, and he resting his arm on the back of her chair, it was very agreeable to trace the likeness.
He had been talking all day, on many subjects, and with unusual vivacity. “Pray, Doctor Manette,” said Mr. Darnay, as they sat under the plane-tree—and he said it in the natural pursuit of the topic in hand, which happened to be the old buildings of London—“have you seen much of the Tower?”
“Lucie and I have been there; but only casually. We have seen enough of it, to know that it teems with interest; little more.”
“I have been there, as you remember,” said Darnay, with a smile, though reddening a little angrily, “in another character, and not in a character that gives facilities for seeing much of it. They told me a curious thing when I was there.”
“What was that?” Lucie asked.
“In making some alterations, the workmen came upon an old dungeon, which had been, for many years, built up and forgotten. Every stone of its inner wall was covered by inscriptions which had been carved by prisoners—dates, names, complaints, and prayers. Upon a corner stone in an angle of the wall, one prisoner, who seemed to have gone to execution, had cut as his last work, three letters. They were done with some very poor instrument, and hurriedly, with an unsteady hand. At first, they were read as D. I. C.; but, on being more carefully examined, the last letter was found to be G. There was no record or legend of any prisoner with those initials, and many fruitless guesses were made what the name could have been. At length, it was suggested that the letters were not initials, but the complete word, DIG. The floor was examined very carefully under the inscription, and, in the earth beneath a stone, or tile, or some fragment of paving, were found the ashes of a paper, mingled with the ashes of a small leathern case or bag. What the unknown prisoner had written will never be read, but he had written something, and hidden it away to keep it from the gaoler.”
“My father,” exclaimed Lucie, “you are ill!”
He had suddenly started up, with his hand to his head. His manner and his look quite terrified them all.
“No, my dear, not ill. There are large drops of rain falling, and they made me start. We had better go in.”
He recovered himself almost instantly. Rain was really falling in large drops, and he showed the back of his hand with rain-drops on it. But, he said not a single word in reference to the discovery that had been told of, and, as they went into the house, the business eye of Mr. Lorry either detected, or fancied it detected, on his face, as it turned towards Charles Darnay, the same singular look that had been upon it when it turned towards him in the passages of the Court House.
He recovered himself so quickly, however, that Mr. Lorry had doubts of his business eye. The arm of the golden giant in the hall was not more steady than he was, when he stopped under it to remark to them that he was not yet proof against slight surprises (if he ever would be), and that the rain had startled him.
Tea-time, and Miss Pross making tea, with another fit of the jerks upon her, and yet no Hundreds of people. Mr. Carton had lounged in, but he made only Two.
The night was so very sultry, that although they sat with doors and windows open, they were overpowered by heat. When the tea-table was done with, they all moved to one of the windows, and looked out into the heavy twilight. Lucie sat by her father; Darnay sat beside her; Carton leaned against a window. The curtains were long and white, and some of the thunder-gusts that whirled into the corner, caught them up to the ceiling, and waved them like spectral wings.
“The rain-drops are still falling, large, heavy, and few,” said Doctor Manette. “It comes slowly.”
“It comes surely,” said Carton.
They spoke low, as people watching and waiting mostly do; as people in a dark room, watching and waiting for Lightning, always do.
There was a great hurry in the streets of people speeding away to get shelter before the storm broke; the wonderful corner for echoes resounded with the echoes of footsteps coming and going, yet not a footstep was there.
“A multitude of people, and yet a solitude!” said Darnay, when they had listened for a while.
“Is it not impressive, Mr. Darnay?” asked Lucie. “Sometimes, I have sat here of an evening, until I have fancied—but even the shade of a foolish fancy makes me shudder to-night, when all is so black and solemn—”
“Let us shudder too. We may know what it is.”
“It will seem nothing to you. Such whims are only impressive as we originate them, I think; they are not to be communicated. I have sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by-and-bye into our lives.”
“There is a great crowd coming one day into our lives, if that be so,” Sydney Carton struck in, in his moody way.
The footsteps were incessant, and the hurry of them became more and more rapid. The corner echoed and re-echoed with the tread of feet; some, as it seemed, under the windows; some, as it seemed, in the room; some coming, some going, some breaking off, some stopping altogether; all in the distant streets, and not one within sight.
“Are all these footsteps destined to come to all of us, Miss Manette, or are we to divide them among us?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Darnay; I told you it was a foolish fancy, but you asked for it. When I have yielded myself to it, I have been alone, and then I have imagined them the footsteps of the people who are to come into my life, and my father’s.”
“I take them into mine!” said Carton. “I ask no questions and make no stipulations. There is a great crowd bearing down upon us, Miss Manette, and I see them—by the Lightning.” He added the last words, after there had been a vivid flash which had shown him lounging in the window.
“And I hear them!” he added again, after a peal of thunder. “Here they come, fast, fierce, and furious!”
It was the rush and roar of rain that he typified, and it stopped him, for no voice could be heard in it. A memorable storm of thunder and lightning broke with that sweep of water, and there was not a moment’s interval in crash, and fire, and rain, until after the moon rose at midnight.
The great bell of Saint Paul’s was striking one in the cleared air, when Mr. Lorry, escorted by Jerry, high-booted and bearing a lantern, set forth on his return-passage to Clerkenwell. There were solitary patches of road on the way between Soho and Clerkenwell, and Mr. Lorry, mindful of foot-pads, always retained Jerry for this service: though it was usually performed a good two hours earlier.
“What a night it has been! Almost a night, Jerry,” said Mr. Lorry, “to bring the dead out of their graves.”
“I never see the night myself, master—nor yet I don’t expect to—what would do that,” answered Jerry.
“Good night, Mr. Carton,” said the man of business. “Good night, Mr. Darnay. Shall we ever see such a night again, together!”
Perhaps. Perhaps, see the great crowd of people with its rush and roar, bearing down upon them, too.
Monseigneur, one of the great lords in power at the Court, held his fortnightly reception in his grand hotel in Paris. Monseigneur was in his inner room, his sanctuary of sanctuaries, the Holiest of Holiests to the crowd of worshippers in the suite of rooms without. Monseigneur was about to take his chocolate. Monseigneur could swallow a great many things with ease, and was by some few sullen minds supposed to be rather rapidly swallowing France; but, his morning’s chocolate could not so much as get into the throat of Monseigneur, without the aid of four strong men besides the Cook.
Yes. It took four men, all four ablaze with gorgeous decoration, and the Chief of them unable to exist with fewer than two gold watches in his pocket, emulative of the noble and chaste fashion set by Monseigneur, to conduct the happy chocolate to Monseigneur’s lips. One lacquey carried the chocolate-pot into the sacred presence; a second, milled and frothed the chocolate with the little instrument he bore for that function; a third, presented the favoured napkin; a fourth (he of the two gold watches), poured the chocolate out. It was impossible for Monseigneur to dispense with one of these attendants on the chocolate and hold his high place under the admiring Heavens. Deep would have been the blot upon his escutcheon if his chocolate had been ignobly waited on by only three men; he must have died of two.
Monseigneur had been out at a little supper last night, where the Comedy and the Grand Opera were charmingly represented. Monseigneur was out at a little supper most nights, with fascinating company. So polite and so impressible was Monseigneur, that the Comedy and the Grand Opera had far more influence with him in the tiresome articles of state affairs and state secrets, than the needs of all France. A happy circumstance for France, as the like always is for all countries similarly favoured!—always was for England (by way of example), in the regretted days of the merry Stuart who sold it.
Monseigneur had one truly noble idea of general public business, which was, to let everything go on in its own way; of particular public business, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea that it must all go his way—tend to his own power and pocket. Of his pleasures, general and particular, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea, that the world was made for them. The text of his order (altered from the original by only a pronoun, which is not much) ran: “The earth and the fulness thereof are mine, saith Monseigneur.”
Yet, Monseigneur had slowly found that vulgar embarrassments crept into his affairs, both private and public; and he had, as to both classes of affairs, allied himself perforce with a Farmer-General. As to finances public, because Monseigneur could not make anything at all of them, and must consequently let them out to somebody who could; as to finances private, because Farmer-Generals were rich, and Monseigneur, after generations of great luxury and expense, was growing poor. Hence Monseigneur had taken his sister from a convent, while there was yet time to ward off the impending veil, the cheapest garment she could wear, and had bestowed her as a prize upon a very rich Farmer-General, poor in family. Which Farmer-General, carrying an appropriate cane with a golden apple on the top of it, was now among the company in the outer rooms, much prostrated before by mankind—always excepting superior mankind of the blood of Monseigneur, who, his own wife included, looked down upon him with the loftiest contempt.
A sumptuous man was the Farmer-General. Thirty horses stood in his stables, twenty-four male domestics sat in his halls, six body-women waited on his wife. As one who pretended to do nothing but plunder and forage where he could, the Farmer-General—howsoever his matrimonial relations conduced to social morality—was at least the greatest reality among the personages who attended at the hotel of Monseigneur that day.
For, the rooms, though a beautiful scene to look at, and adorned with every device of decoration that the taste and skill of the time could achieve, were, in truth, not a sound business; considered with any reference to the scarecrows in the rags and nightcaps elsewhere (and not so far off, either, but that the watching towers of Notre Dame, almost equidistant from the two extremes, could see them both), they would have been an exceedingly uncomfortable business—if that could have been anybody’s business, at the house of Monseigneur. Military officers destitute of military knowledge; naval officers with no idea of a ship; civil officers without a notion of affairs; brazen ecclesiastics, of the worst world worldly, with sensual eyes, loose tongues, and looser lives; all totally unfit for their several callings, all lying horribly in pretending to belong to them, but all nearly or remotely of the order of Monseigneur, and therefore foisted on all public employments from which anything was to be got; these were to be told off by the score and the score. People not immediately connected with Monseigneur or the State, yet equally unconnected with anything that was real, or with lives passed in travelling by any straight road to any true earthly end, were no less abundant. Doctors who made great fortunes out of dainty remedies for imaginary disorders that never existed, smiled upon their courtly patients in the ante-chambers of Monseigneur. Projectors who had discovered every kind of remedy for the little evils with which the State was touched, except the remedy of setting to work in earnest to root out a single sin, poured their distracting babble into any ears they could lay hold of, at the reception of Monseigneur. Unbelieving Philosophers who were remodelling the world with words, and making card-towers of Babel to scale the skies with, talked with Unbelieving Chemists who had an eye on the transmutation of metals, at this wonderful gathering accumulated by Monseigneur. Exquisite gentlemen of the finest breeding, which was at that remarkable time—and has been since—to be known by its fruits of indifference to every natural subject of human interest, were in the most exemplary state of exhaustion, at the hotel of Monseigneur. Such homes had these various notabilities left behind them in the fine world of Paris, that the spies among the assembled devotees of Monseigneur—forming a goodly half of the polite company—would have found it hard to discover among the angels of that sphere one solitary wife, who, in her manners and appearance, owned to being a Mother. Indeed, except for the mere act of bringing a troublesome creature into this world—which does not go far towards the realisation of the name of mother—there was no such thing known to the fashion. Peasant women kept the unfashionable babies close, and brought them up, and charming grandmammas of sixty dressed and supped as at twenty.
The leprosy of unreality disfigured every human creature in attendance upon Monseigneur. In the outermost room were half a dozen exceptional people who had had, for a few years, some vague misgiving in them that things in general were going rather wrong. As a promising way of setting them right, half of the half-dozen had become members of a fantastic sect of Convulsionists, and were even then considering within themselves whether they should foam, rage, roar, and turn cataleptic on the spot—thereby setting up a highly intelligible finger-post to the Future, for Monseigneur’s guidance. Besides these Dervishes, were other three who had rushed into another sect, which mended matters with a jargon about “the Centre of Truth:” holding that Man had got out of the Centre of Truth—which did not need much demonstration—but had not got out of the Circumference, and that he was to be kept from flying out of the Circumference, and was even to be shoved back into the Centre, by fasting and seeing of spirits. Among these, accordingly, much discoursing with spirits went on—and it did a world of good which never became manifest.
But, the comfort was, that all the company at the grand hotel of Monseigneur were perfectly dressed. If the Day of Judgment had only been ascertained to be a dress day, everybody there would have been eternally correct. Such frizzling and powdering and sticking up of hair, such delicate complexions artificially preserved and mended, such gallant swords to look at, and such delicate honour to the sense of smell, would surely keep anything going, for ever and ever. The exquisite gentlemen of the finest breeding wore little pendent trinkets that chinked as they languidly moved; these golden fetters rang like precious little bells; and what with that ringing, and with the rustle of silk and brocade and fine linen, there was a flutter in the air that fanned Saint Antoine and his devouring hunger far away.
Dress was the one unfailing talisman and charm used for keeping all things in their places. Everybody was dressed for a Fancy Ball that was never to leave off. From the Palace of the Tuileries, through Monseigneur and the whole Court, through the Chambers, the Tribunals of Justice, and all society (except the scarecrows), the Fancy Ball descended to the Common Executioner: who, in pursuance of the charm, was required to officiate “frizzled, powdered, in a gold-laced coat, pumps, and white silk stockings.” At the gallows and the wheel—the axe was a rarity—Monsieur Paris, as it was the episcopal mode among his brother Professors of the provinces, Monsieur Orleans, and the rest, to call him, presided in this dainty dress. And who among the company at Monseigneur’s reception in that seventeen hundred and eightieth year of our Lord, could possibly doubt, that a system rooted in a frizzled hangman, powdered, gold-laced, pumped, and white-silk stockinged, would see the very stars out!
Monseigneur having eased his four men of their burdens and taken his chocolate, caused the doors of the Holiest of Holiests to be thrown open, and issued forth. Then, what submission, what cringing and fawning, what servility, what abject humiliation! As to bowing down in body and spirit, nothing in that way was left for Heaven—which may have been one among other reasons why the worshippers of Monseigneur never troubled it.
Bestowing a word of promise here and a smile there, a whisper on one happy slave and a wave of the hand on another, Monseigneur affably passed through his rooms to the remote region of the Circumference of Truth. There, Monseigneur turned, and came back again, and so in due course of time got himself shut up in his sanctuary by the chocolate sprites, and was seen no more.
The show being over, the flutter in the air became quite a little storm, and the precious little bells went ringing downstairs. There was soon but one person left of all the crowd, and he, with his hat under his arm and his snuff-box in his hand, slowly passed among the mirrors on his way out.
“I devote you,” said this person, stopping at the last door on his way, and turning in the direction of the sanctuary, “to the Devil!”
With that, he shook the snuff from his fingers as if he had shaken the dust from his feet, and quietly walked downstairs.
He was a man of about sixty, handsomely dressed, haughty in manner, and with a face like a fine mask. A face of a transparent paleness; every feature in it clearly defined; one set expression on it. The nose, beautifully formed otherwise, was very slightly pinched at the top of each nostril. In those two compressions, or dints, the only little change that the face ever showed, resided. They persisted in changing colour sometimes, and they would be occasionally dilated and contracted by something like a faint pulsation; then, they gave a look of treachery, and cruelty, to the whole countenance. Examined with attention, its capacity of helping such a look was to be found in the line of the mouth, and the lines of the orbits of the eyes, being much too horizontal and thin; still, in the effect of the face made, it was a handsome face, and a remarkable one.
Its owner went downstairs into the courtyard, got into his carriage, and drove away. Not many people had talked with him at the reception; he had stood in a little space apart, and Monseigneur might have been warmer in his manner. It appeared, under the circumstances, rather agreeable to him to see the common people dispersed before his horses, and often barely escaping from being run down. His man drove as if he were charging an enemy, and the furious recklessness of the man brought no check into the face, or to the lips, of the master. The complaint had sometimes made itself audible, even in that deaf city and dumb age, that, in the narrow streets without footways, the fierce patrician custom of hard driving endangered and maimed the mere vulgar in a barbarous manner. But, few cared enough for that to think of it a second time, and, in this matter, as in all others, the common wretches were left to get out of their difficulties as they could.
With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way. At last, swooping at a street corner by a fountain, one of its wheels came to a sickening little jolt, and there was a loud cry from a number of voices, and the horses reared and plunged.
But for the latter inconvenience, the carriage probably would not have stopped; carriages were often known to drive on, and leave their wounded behind, and why not? But the frightened valet had got down in a hurry, and there were twenty hands at the horses’ bridles.
“What has gone wrong?” said Monsieur, calmly looking out.
A tall man in a nightcap had caught up a bundle from among the feet of the horses, and had laid it on the basement of the fountain, and was down in the mud and wet, howling over it like a wild animal.
“Pardon, Monsieur the Marquis!” said a ragged and submissive man, “it is a child.”
“Why does he make that abominable noise? Is it his child?”
“Excuse me, Monsieur the Marquis—it is a pity—yes.”
The fountain was a little removed; for the street opened, where it was, into a space some ten or twelve yards square. As the tall man suddenly got up from the ground, and came running at the carriage, Monsieur the Marquis clapped his hand for an instant on his sword-hilt.
“Killed!” shrieked the man, in wild desperation, extending both arms at their length above his head, and staring at him. “Dead!”
The people closed round, and looked at Monsieur the Marquis. There was nothing revealed by the many eyes that looked at him but watchfulness and eagerness; there was no visible menacing or anger. Neither did the people say anything; after the first cry, they had been silent, and they remained so. The voice of the submissive man who had spoken, was flat and tame in its extreme submission. Monsieur the Marquis ran his eyes over them all, as if they had been mere rats come out of their holes.
He took out his purse.
“It is extraordinary to me,” said he, “that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for ever in the way. How do I know what injury you have done my horses. See! Give him that.”
He threw out a gold coin for the valet to pick up, and all the heads craned forward that all the eyes might look down at it as it fell. The tall man called out again with a most unearthly cry, “Dead!”
He was arrested by the quick arrival of another man, for whom the rest made way. On seeing him, the miserable creature fell upon his shoulder, sobbing and crying, and pointing to the fountain, where some women were stooping over the motionless bundle, and moving gently about it. They were as silent, however, as the men.
“I know all, I know all,” said the last comer. “Be a brave man, my Gaspard! It is better for the poor little plaything to die so, than to live. It has died in a moment without pain. Could it have lived an hour as happily?”
“You are a philosopher, you there,” said the Marquis, smiling. “How do they call you?”
“They call me Defarge.”
“Of what trade?”
“Monsieur the Marquis, vendor of wine.”
“Pick up that, philosopher and vendor of wine,” said the Marquis, throwing him another gold coin, “and spend it as you will. The horses there; are they right?”
Without deigning to look at the assemblage a second time, Monsieur the Marquis leaned back in his seat, and was just being driven away with the air of a gentleman who had accidentally broke some common thing, and had paid for it, and could afford to pay for it; when his ease was suddenly disturbed by a coin flying into his carriage, and ringing on its floor.
“Hold!” said Monsieur the Marquis. “Hold the horses! Who threw that?”
He looked to the spot where Defarge the vendor of wine had stood, a moment before; but the wretched father was grovelling on his face on the pavement in that spot, and the figure that stood beside him was the figure of a dark stout woman, knitting.
“You dogs!” said the Marquis, but smoothly, and with an unchanged front, except as to the spots on his nose: “I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently near it, he should be crushed under the wheels.”
So cowed was their condition, and so long and hard their experience of what such a man could do to them, within the law and beyond it, that not a voice, or a hand, or even an eye was raised. Among the men, not one. But the woman who stood knitting looked up steadily, and looked the Marquis in the face. It was not for his dignity to notice it; his contemptuous eyes passed over her, and over all the other rats; and he leaned back in his seat again, and gave the word “Go on!”
He was driven on, and other carriages came whirling by in quick succession; the Minister, the State-Projector, the Farmer-General, the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Ecclesiastic, the Grand Opera, the Comedy, the whole Fancy Ball in a bright continuous flow, came whirling by. The rats had crept out of their holes to look on, and they remained looking on for hours; soldiers and police often passing between them and the spectacle, and making a barrier behind which they slunk, and through which they peeped. The father had long ago taken up his bundle and bidden himself away with it, when the women who had tended the bundle while it lay on the base of the fountain, sat there watching the running of the water and the rolling of the Fancy Ball—when the one woman who had stood conspicuous, knitting, still knitted on with the steadfastness of Fate. The water of the fountain ran, the swift river ran, the day ran into evening, so much life in the city ran into death according to rule, time and tide waited for no man, the rats were sleeping close together in their dark holes again, the Fancy Ball was lighted up at supper, all things ran their course.
Abeautiful landscape, with the corn bright in it, but not abundant. Patches of poor rye where corn should have been, patches of poor peas and beans, patches of most coarse vegetable substitutes for wheat. On inanimate nature, as on the men and women who cultivated it, a prevalent tendency towards an appearance of vegetating unwillingly—a dejected disposition to give up, and wither away.
Monsieur the Marquis in his travelling carriage (which might have been lighter), conducted by four post-horses and two postilions, fagged up a steep hill. A blush on the countenance of Monsieur the Marquis was no impeachment of his high breeding; it was not from within; it was occasioned by an external circumstance beyond his control—the setting sun.
The sunset struck so brilliantly into the travelling carriage when it gained the hill-top, that its occupant was steeped in crimson. “It will die out,” said Monsieur the Marquis, glancing at his hands, “directly.”
In effect, the sun was so low that it dipped at the moment. When the heavy drag had been adjusted to the wheel, and the carriage slid down hill, with a cinderous smell, in a cloud of dust, the red glow departed quickly; the sun and the Marquis going down together, there was no glow left when the drag was taken off.
But, there remained a broken country, bold and open, a little village at the bottom of the hill, a broad sweep and rise beyond it, a church-tower, a windmill, a forest for the chase, and a crag with a fortress on it used as a prison. Round upon all these darkening objects as the night drew on, the Marquis looked, with the air of one who was coming near home.
The village had its one poor street, with its poor brewery, poor tannery, poor tavern, poor stable-yard for relays of post-horses, poor fountain, all usual poor appointments. It had its poor people too. All its people were poor, and many of them were sitting at their doors, shredding spare onions and the like for supper, while many were at the fountain, washing leaves, and grasses, and any such small yieldings of the earth that could be eaten. Expressive signs of what made them poor, were not wanting; the tax for the state, the tax for the church, the tax for the lord, tax local and tax general, were to be paid here and to be paid there, according to solemn inscription in the little village, until the wonder was, that there was any village left unswallowed.
Few children were to be seen, and no dogs. As to the men and women, their choice on earth was stated in the prospect—Life on the lowest terms that could sustain it, down in the little village under the mill; or captivity and Death in the dominant prison on the crag.
Heralded by a courier in advance, and by the cracking of his postilions’ whips, which twined snake-like about their heads in the evening air, as if he came attended by the Furies, Monsieur the Marquis drew up in his travelling carriage at the posting-house gate. It was hard by the fountain, and the peasants suspended their operations to look at him. He looked at them, and saw in them, without knowing it, the slow sure filing down of misery-worn face and figure, that was to make the meagreness of Frenchmen an English superstition which should survive the truth through the best part of a hundred years.
Monsieur the Marquis cast his eyes over the submissive faces that drooped before him, as the like of himself had drooped before Monseigneur of the Court—only the difference was, that these faces drooped merely to suffer and not to propitiate—when a grizzled mender of the roads joined the group.
“Bring me hither that fellow!” said the Marquis to the courier.
The fellow was brought, cap in hand, and the other fellows closed round to look and listen, in the manner of the people at the Paris fountain.
“I passed you on the road?”
“Monseigneur, it is true. I had the honour of being passed on the road.”
“Coming up the hill, and at the top of the hill, both?”
“Monseigneur, it is true.”
“What did you look at, so fixedly?”
“Monseigneur, I looked at the man.”
He stooped a little, and with his tattered blue cap pointed under the carriage. All his fellows stooped to look under the carriage.
“What man, pig? And why look there?”
“Pardon, Monseigneur; he swung by the chain of the shoe—the drag.”
“Who?” demanded the traveller.
“Monseigneur, the man.”
“May the Devil carry away these idiots! How do you call the man? You know all the men of this part of the country. Who was he?”
“Your clemency, Monseigneur! He was not of this part of the country. Of all the days of my life, I never saw him.”
“Swinging by the chain? To be suffocated?”
“With your gracious permission, that was the wonder of it, Monseigneur. His head hanging over—like this!”
He turned himself sideways to the carriage, and leaned back, with his face thrown up to the sky, and his head hanging down; then recovered himself, fumbled with his cap, and made a bow.
“What was he like?”
“Monseigneur, he was whiter than the miller. All covered with dust, white as a spectre, tall as a spectre!”
The picture produced an immense sensation in the little crowd; but all eyes, without comparing notes with other eyes, looked at Monsieur the Marquis. Perhaps, to observe whether he had any spectre on his conscience.
“Truly, you did well,” said the Marquis, felicitously sensible that such vermin were not to ruffle him, “to see a thief accompanying my carriage, and not open that great mouth of yours. Bah! Put him aside, Monsieur Gabelle!”
Monsieur Gabelle was the Postmaster, and some other taxing functionary united; he had come out with great obsequiousness to assist at this examination, and had held the examined by the drapery of his arm in an official manner.
“Bah! Go aside!” said Monsieur Gabelle.
“Lay hands on this stranger if he seeks to lodge in your village to-night, and be sure that his business is honest, Gabelle.”
“Monseigneur, I am flattered to devote myself to your orders.”
“Did he run away, fellow?—where is that Accursed?”
The accursed was already under the carriage with some half-dozen particular friends, pointing out the chain with his blue cap. Some half-dozen other particular friends promptly hauled him out, and presented him breathless to Monsieur the Marquis.
“Did the man run away, Dolt, when we stopped for the drag?”
“Monseigneur, he precipitated himself over the hill-side, head first, as a person plunges into the river.”
“See to it, Gabelle. Go on!”
The half-dozen who were peering at the chain were still among the wheels, like sheep; the wheels turned so suddenly that they were lucky to save their skins and bones; they had very little else to save, or they might not have been so fortunate.
The burst with which the carriage started out of the village and up the rise beyond, was soon checked by the steepness of the hill. Gradually, it subsided to a foot pace, swinging and lumbering upward among the many sweet scents of a summer night. The postilions, with a thousand gossamer gnats circling about them in lieu of the Furies, quietly mended the points to the lashes of their whips; the valet walked by the horses; the courier was audible, trotting on ahead into the dull distance.
At the steepest point of the hill there was a little burial-ground, with a Cross and a new large figure of Our Saviour on it; it was a poor figure in wood, done by some inexperienced rustic carver, but he had studied the figure from the life—his own life, maybe—for it was dreadfully spare and thin.
To this distressful emblem of a great distress that had long been growing worse, and was not at its worst, a woman was kneeling. She turned her head as the carriage came up to her, rose quickly, and presented herself at the carriage-door.
“It is you, Monseigneur! Monseigneur, a petition.”
With an exclamation of impatience, but with his unchangeable face, Monseigneur looked out.
“How, then! What is it? Always petitions!”
“Monseigneur. For the love of the great God! My husband, the forester.”
“What of your husband, the forester? Always the same with you people. He cannot pay something?”
“He has paid all, Monseigneur. He is dead.”
“Well! He is quiet. Can I restore him to you?”
“Alas, no, Monseigneur! But he lies yonder, under a little heap of poor grass.”
“Monseigneur, there are so many little heaps of poor grass?”
She looked an old woman, but was young. Her manner was one of passionate grief; by turns she clasped her veinous and knotted hands together with wild energy, and laid one of them on the carriage-door—tenderly, caressingly, as if it had been a human breast, and could be expected to feel the appealing touch.
“Monseigneur, hear me! Monseigneur, hear my petition! My husband died of want; so many die of want; so many more will die of want.”
“Again, well? Can I feed them?”
“Monseigneur, the good God knows; but I don’t ask it. My petition is, that a morsel of stone or wood, with my husband’s name, may be placed over him to show where he lies. Otherwise, the place will be quickly forgotten, it will never be found when I am dead of the same malady, I shall be laid under some other heap of poor grass. Monseigneur, they are so many, they increase so fast, there is so much want. Monseigneur! Monseigneur!”
The valet had put her away from the door, the carriage had broken into a brisk trot, the postilions had quickened the pace, she was left far behind, and Monseigneur, again escorted by the Furies, was rapidly diminishing the league or two of distance that remained between him and his chateau.
The sweet scents of the summer night rose all around him, and rose, as the rain falls, impartially, on the dusty, ragged, and toil-worn group at the fountain not far away; to whom the mender of roads, with the aid of the blue cap without which he was nothing, still enlarged upon his man like a spectre, as long as they could bear it. By degrees, as they could bear no more, they dropped off one by one, and lights twinkled in little casements; which lights, as the casements darkened, and more stars came out, seemed to have shot up into the sky instead of having been extinguished.
The shadow of a large high-roofed house, and of many over-hanging trees, was upon Monsieur the Marquis by that time; and the shadow was exchanged for the light of a flambeau, as his carriage stopped, and the great door of his chateau was opened to him.
“Monsieur Charles, whom I expect; is he arrived from England?”
“Monseigneur, not yet.”
It was a heavy mass of building, that chateau of Monsieur the Marquis, with a large stone courtyard before it, and two stone sweeps of staircase meeting in a stone terrace before the principal door. A stony business altogether, with heavy stone balustrades, and stone urns, and stone flowers, and stone faces of men, and stone heads of lions, in all directions. As if the Gorgon’s head had surveyed it, when it was finished, two centuries ago.
Up the broad flight of shallow steps, Monsieur the Marquis, flambeau preceded, went from his carriage, sufficiently disturbing the darkness to elicit loud remonstrance from an owl in the roof of the great pile of stable building away among the trees. All else was so quiet, that the flambeau carried up the steps, and the other flambeau held at the great door, burnt as if they were in a close room of state, instead of being in the open night-air. Other sound than the owl’s voice there was none, save the falling of a fountain into its stone basin; for, it was one of those dark nights that hold their breath by the hour together, and then heave a long low sigh, and hold their breath again.
The great door clanged behind him, and Monsieur the Marquis crossed a hall grim with certain old boar-spears, swords, and knives of the chase; grimmer with certain heavy riding-rods and riding-whips, of which many a peasant, gone to his benefactor Death, had felt the weight when his lord was angry.
Avoiding the larger rooms, which were dark and made fast for the night, Monsieur the Marquis, with his flambeau-bearer going on before, went up the staircase to a door in a corridor. This thrown open, admitted him to his own private apartment of three rooms: his bed-chamber and two others. High vaulted rooms with cool uncarpeted floors, great dogs upon the hearths for the burning of wood in winter time, and all luxuries befitting the state of a marquis in a luxurious age and country. The fashion of the last Louis but one, of the line that was never to break—the fourteenth Louis—was conspicuous in their rich furniture; but, it was diversified by many objects that were illustrations of old pages in the history of France.
A supper-table was laid for two, in the third of the rooms; a round room, in one of the chateau’s four extinguisher-topped towers. A small lofty room, with its window wide open, and the wooden jalousie-blinds closed, so that the dark night only showed in slight horizontal lines of black, alternating with their broad lines of stone colour.
“My nephew,” said the Marquis, glancing at the supper preparation; “they said he was not arrived.”
Nor was he; but, he had been expected with Monseigneur.
“Ah! It is not probable he will arrive to-night; nevertheless, leave the table as it is. I shall be ready in a quarter of an hour.”
In a quarter of an hour Monseigneur was ready, and sat down alone to his sumptuous and choice supper. His chair was opposite to the window, and he had taken his soup, and was raising his glass of Bordeaux to his lips, when he put it down.
“What is that?” he calmly asked, looking with attention at the horizontal lines of black and stone colour.
“Outside the blinds. Open the blinds.”
It was done.
“Monseigneur, it is nothing. The trees and the night are all that are here.”
The servant who spoke, had thrown the blinds wide, had looked out into the vacant darkness, and stood with that blank behind him, looking round for instructions.
“Good,” said the imperturbable master. “Close them again.”
That was done too, and the Marquis went on with his supper. He was half way through it, when he again stopped with his glass in his hand, hearing the sound of wheels. It came on briskly, and came up to the front of the chateau.
“Ask who is arrived.”
It was the nephew of Monseigneur. He had been some few leagues behind Monseigneur, early in the afternoon. He had diminished the distance rapidly, but not so rapidly as to come up with Monseigneur on the road. He had heard of Monseigneur, at the posting-houses, as being before him.
He was to be told (said Monseigneur) that supper awaited him then and there, and that he was prayed to come to it. In a little while he came. He had been known in England as Charles Darnay.
Monseigneur received him in a courtly manner, but they did not shake hands.
“You left Paris yesterday, sir?” he said to Monseigneur, as he took his seat at table.
“Yesterday. And you?”
“I come direct.”
“You have been a long time coming,” said the Marquis, with a smile.
“On the contrary; I come direct.”
“Pardon me! I mean, not a long time on the journey; a long time intending the journey.”
“I have been detained by”—the nephew stopped a moment in his answer—“various business.”
“Without doubt,” said the polished uncle.
So long as a servant was present, no other words passed between them. When coffee had been served and they were alone together, the nephew, looking at the uncle and meeting the eyes of the face that was like a fine mask, opened a conversation.
“I have come back, sir, as you anticipate, pursuing the object that took me away. It carried me into great and unexpected peril; but it is a sacred object, and if it had carried me to death I hope it would have sustained me.”
“Not to death,” said the uncle; “it is not necessary to say, to death.”
“I doubt, sir,” returned the nephew, “whether, if it had carried me to the utmost brink of death, you would have cared to stop me there.”
The deepened marks in the nose, and the lengthening of the fine straight lines in the cruel face, looked ominous as to that; the uncle made a graceful gesture of protest, which was so clearly a slight form of good breeding that it was not reassuring.
“Indeed, sir,” pursued the nephew, “for anything I know, you may have expressly worked to give a more suspicious appearance to the suspicious circumstances that surrounded me.”
“No, no, no,” said the uncle, pleasantly.
“But, however that may be,” resumed the nephew, glancing at him with deep distrust, “I know that your diplomacy would stop me by any means, and would know no scruple as to means.”
“My friend, I told you so,” said the uncle, with a fine pulsation in the two marks. “Do me the favour to recall that I told you so, long ago.”
“I recall it.”
“Thank you,” said the Marquis—very sweetly indeed.
His tone lingered in the air, almost like the tone of a musical instrument.
“In effect, sir,” pursued the nephew, “I believe it to be at once your bad fortune, and my good fortune, that has kept me out of a prison in France here.”
“I do not quite understand,” returned the uncle, sipping his coffee. “Dare I ask you to explain?”
“I believe that if you were not in disgrace with the Court, and had not been overshadowed by that cloud for years past, a letter de cachet would have sent me to some fortress indefinitely.”
“It is possible,” said the uncle, with great calmness. “For the honour of the family, I could even resolve to incommode you to that extent. Pray excuse me!”
“I perceive that, happily for me, the Reception of the day before yesterday was, as usual, a cold one,” observed the nephew.
“I would not say happily, my friend,” returned the uncle, with refined politeness; “I would not be sure of that. A good opportunity for consideration, surrounded by the advantages of solitude, might influence your destiny to far greater advantage than you influence it for yourself. But it is useless to discuss the question. I am, as you say, at a disadvantage. These little instruments of correction, these gentle aids to the power and honour of families, these slight favours that might so incommode you, are only to be obtained now by interest and importunity. They are sought by so many, and they are granted (comparatively) to so few! It used not to be so, but France in all such things is changed for the worse. Our not remote ancestors held the right of life and death over the surrounding vulgar. From this room, many such dogs have been taken out to be hanged; in the next room (my bedroom), one fellow, to our knowledge, was poniarded on the spot for professing some insolent delicacy respecting his daughter—his daughter? We have lost many privileges; a new philosophy has become the mode; and the assertion of our station, in these days, might (I do not go so far as to say would, but might) cause us real inconvenience. All very bad, very bad!”
The Marquis took a gentle little pinch of snuff, and shook his head; as elegantly despondent as he could becomingly be of a country still containing himself, that great means of regeneration.
“We have so asserted our station, both in the old time and in the modern time also,” said the nephew, gloomily, “that I believe our name to be more detested than any name in France.”
“Let us hope so,” said the uncle. “Detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low.”
“There is not,” pursued the nephew, in his former tone, “a face I can look at, in all this country round about us, which looks at me with any deference on it but the dark deference of fear and slavery.”
“A compliment,” said the Marquis, “to the grandeur of the family, merited by the manner in which the family has sustained its grandeur. Hah!” And he took another gentle little pinch of snuff, and lightly crossed his legs.
But, when his nephew, leaning an elbow on the table, covered his eyes thoughtfully and dejectedly with his hand, the fine mask looked at him sideways with a stronger concentration of keenness, closeness, and dislike, than was comportable with its wearer’s assumption of indifference.
“Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend,” observed the Marquis, “will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof,” looking up to it, “shuts out the sky.”
That might not be so long as the Marquis supposed. If a picture of the chateau as it was to be a very few years hence, and of fifty like it as they too were to be a very few years hence, could have been shown to him that night, he might have been at a loss to claim his own from the ghastly, fire-charred, plunder-wrecked rains. As for the roof he vaunted, he might have found that shutting out the sky in a new way—to wit, for ever, from the eyes of the bodies into which its lead was fired, out of the barrels of a hundred thousand muskets.
“Meanwhile,” said the Marquis, “I will preserve the honour and repose of the family, if you will not. But you must be fatigued. Shall we terminate our conference for the night?”
“A moment more.”
“An hour, if you please.”
“Sir,” said the nephew, “we have done wrong, and are reaping the fruits of wrong.”
“We have done wrong?” repeated the Marquis, with an inquiring smile, and delicately pointing, first to his nephew, then to himself.
“Our family; our honourable family, whose honour is of so much account to both of us, in such different ways. Even in my father’s time, we did a world of wrong, injuring every human creature who came between us and our pleasure, whatever it was. Why need I speak of my father’s time, when it is equally yours? Can I separate my father’s twin-brother, joint inheritor, and next successor, from himself?”
“Death has done that!” said the Marquis.
“And has left me,” answered the nephew, “bound to a system that is frightful to me, responsible for it, but powerless in it; seeking to execute the last request of my dear mother’s lips, and obey the last look of my dear mother’s eyes, which implored me to have mercy and to redress; and tortured by seeking assistance and power in vain.”
“Seeking them from me, my nephew,” said the Marquis, touching him on the breast with his forefinger—they were now standing by the hearth—“you will for ever seek them in vain, be assured.”
Every fine straight line in the clear whiteness of his face, was cruelly, craftily, and closely compressed, while he stood looking quietly at his nephew, with his snuff-box in his hand. Once again he touched him on the breast, as though his finger were the fine point of a small sword, with which, in delicate finesse, he ran him through the body, and said,
“My friend, I will die, perpetuating the system under which I have lived.”
When he had said it, he took a culminating pinch of snuff, and put his box in his pocket.
“Better to be a rational creature,” he added then, after ringing a small bell on the table, “and accept your natural destiny. But you are lost, Monsieur Charles, I see.”
“This property and France are lost to me,” said the nephew, sadly; “I renounce them.”
“Are they both yours to renounce? France may be, but is the property? It is scarcely worth mentioning; but, is it yet?”
“I had no intention, in the words I used, to claim it yet. If it passed to me from you, to-morrow—”
“Which I have the vanity to hope is not probable.”
“—or twenty years hence—”
“You do me too much honour,” said the Marquis; “still, I prefer that supposition.”
“—I would abandon it, and live otherwise and elsewhere. It is little to relinquish. What is it but a wilderness of misery and ruin!”
“Hah!” said the Marquis, glancing round the luxurious room.
“To the eye it is fair enough, here; but seen in its integrity, under the sky, and by the daylight, it is a crumbling tower of waste, mismanagement, extortion, debt, mortgage, oppression, hunger, nakedness, and suffering.”
“Hah!” said the Marquis again, in a well-satisfied manner.
“If it ever becomes mine, it shall be put into some hands better qualified to free it slowly (if such a thing is possible) from the weight that drags it down, so that the miserable people who cannot leave it and who have been long wrung to the last point of endurance, may, in another generation, suffer less; but it is not for me. There is a curse on it, and on all this land.”
“And you?” said the uncle. “Forgive my curiosity; do you, under your new philosophy, graciously intend to live?”
“I must do, to live, what others of my countrymen, even with nobility at their backs, may have to do some day—work.”
“In England, for example?”
“Yes. The family honour, sir, is safe from me in this country. The family name can suffer from me in no other, for I bear it in no other.”
The ringing of the bell had caused the adjoining bed-chamber to be lighted. It now shone brightly, through the door of communication. The Marquis looked that way, and listened for the retreating step of his valet.
“England is very attractive to you, seeing how indifferently you have prospered there,” he observed then, turning his calm face to his nephew with a smile.
“I have already said, that for my prospering there, I am sensible I may be indebted to you, sir. For the rest, it is my Refuge.”
“They say, those boastful English, that it is the Refuge of many. You know a compatriot who has found a Refuge there? A Doctor?”
“With a daughter?”
“Yes,” said the Marquis. “You are fatigued. Good night!”
As he bent his head in his most courtly manner, there was a secrecy in his smiling face, and he conveyed an air of mystery to those words, which struck the eyes and ears of his nephew forcibly. At the same time, the thin straight lines of the setting of the eyes, and the thin straight lips, and the markings in the nose, curved with a sarcasm that looked handsomely diabolic.
“Yes,” repeated the Marquis. “A Doctor with a daughter. Yes. So commences the new philosophy! You are fatigued. Good night!”
It would have been of as much avail to interrogate any stone face outside the chateau as to interrogate that face of his. The nephew looked at him, in vain, in passing on to the door.
“Good night!” said the uncle. “I look to the pleasure of seeing you again in the morning. Good repose! Light Monsieur my nephew to his chamber there!—And burn Monsieur my nephew in his bed, if you will,” he added to himself, before he rang his little bell again, and summoned his valet to his own bedroom.
The valet come and gone, Monsieur the Marquis walked to and fro in his loose chamber-robe, to prepare himself gently for sleep, that hot still night. Rustling about the room, his softly-slippered feet making no noise on the floor, he moved like a refined tiger:—looked like some enchanted marquis of the impenitently wicked sort, in story, whose periodical change into tiger form was either just going off, or just coming on.
He moved from end to end of his voluptuous bedroom, looking again at the scraps of the day’s journey that came unbidden into his mind; the slow toil up the hill at sunset, the setting sun, the descent, the mill, the prison on the crag, the little village in the hollow, the peasants at the fountain, and the mender of roads with his blue cap pointing out the chain under the carriage. That fountain suggested the Paris fountain, the little bundle lying on the step, the women bending over it, and the tall man with his arms up, crying, “Dead!”
“I am cool now,” said Monsieur the Marquis, “and may go to bed.”
So, leaving only one light burning on the large hearth, he let his thin gauze curtains fall around him, and heard the night break its silence with a long sigh as he composed himself to sleep.
The stone faces on the outer walls stared blindly at the black night for three heavy hours; for three heavy hours, the horses in the stables rattled at their racks, the dogs barked, and the owl made a noise with very little resemblance in it to the noise conventionally assigned to the owl by men-poets. But it is the obstinate custom of such creatures hardly ever to say what is set down for them.
For three heavy hours, the stone faces of the chateau, lion and human, stared blindly at the night. Dead darkness lay on all the landscape, dead darkness added its own hush to the hushing dust on all the roads. The burial-place had got to the pass that its little heaps of poor grass were undistinguishable from one another; the figure on the Cross might have come down, for anything that could be seen of it. In the village, taxers and taxed were fast asleep. Dreaming, perhaps, of banquets, as the starved usually do, and of ease and rest, as the driven slave and the yoked ox may, its lean inhabitants slept soundly, and were fed and freed.
The fountain in the village flowed unseen and unheard, and the fountain at the chateau dropped unseen and unheard—both melting away, like the minutes that were falling from the spring of Time—through three dark hours. Then, the grey water of both began to be ghostly in the light, and the eyes of the stone faces of the chateau were opened.
Lighter and lighter, until at last the sun touched the tops of the still trees, and poured its radiance over the hill. In the glow, the water of the chateau fountain seemed to turn to blood, and the stone faces crimsoned. The carol of the birds was loud and high, and, on the weather-beaten sill of the great window of the bed-chamber of Monsieur the Marquis, one little bird sang its sweetest song with all its might. At this, the nearest stone face seemed to stare amazed, and, with open mouth and dropped under-jaw, looked awe-stricken.
Now, the sun was full up, and movement began in the village. Casement windows opened, crazy doors were unbarred, and people came forth shivering—chilled, as yet, by the new sweet air. Then began the rarely lightened toil of the day among the village population. Some, to the fountain; some, to the fields; men and women here, to dig and delve; men and women there, to see to the poor live stock, and lead the bony cows out, to such pasture as could be found by the roadside. In the church and at the Cross, a kneeling figure or two; attendant on the latter prayers, the led cow, trying for a breakfast among the weeds at its foot.
The chateau awoke later, as became its quality, but awoke gradually and surely. First, the lonely boar-spears and knives of the chase had been reddened as of old; then, had gleamed trenchant in the morning sunshine; now, doors and windows were thrown open, horses in their stables looked round over their shoulders at the light and freshness pouring in at doorways, leaves sparkled and rustled at iron-grated windows, dogs pulled hard at their chains, and reared impatient to be loosed.
All these trivial incidents belonged to the routine of life, and the return of morning. Surely, not so the ringing of the great bell of the chateau, nor the running up and down the stairs; nor the hurried figures on the terrace; nor the booting and tramping here and there and everywhere, nor the quick saddling of horses and riding away?
What winds conveyed this hurry to the grizzled mender of roads, already at work on the hill-top beyond the village, with his day’s dinner (not much to carry) lying in a bundle that it was worth no crow’s while to peck at, on a heap of stones? Had the birds, carrying some grains of it to a distance, dropped one over him as they sow chance seeds? Whether or no, the mender of roads ran, on the sultry morning, as if for his life, down the hill, knee-high in dust, and never stopped till he got to the fountain.
All the people of the village were at the fountain, standing about in their depressed manner, and whispering low, but showing no other emotions than grim curiosity and surprise. The led cows, hastily brought in and tethered to anything that would hold them, were looking stupidly on, or lying down chewing the cud of nothing particularly repaying their trouble, which they had picked up in their interrupted saunter. Some of the people of the chateau, and some of those of the posting-house, and all the taxing authorities, were armed more or less, and were crowded on the other side of the little street in a purposeless way, that was highly fraught with nothing. Already, the mender of roads had penetrated into the midst of a group of fifty particular friends, and was smiting himself in the breast with his blue cap. What did all this portend, and what portended the swift hoisting-up of Monsieur Gabelle behind a servant on horseback, and the conveying away of the said Gabelle (double-laden though the horse was), at a gallop, like a new version of the German ballad of Leonora?
It portended that there was one stone face too many, up at the chateau.
The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had added the one stone face wanting; the stone face for which it had waited through about two hundred years.
It lay back on the pillow of Monsieur the Marquis. It was like a fine mask, suddenly startled, made angry, and petrified. Driven home into the heart of the stone figure attached to it, was a knife. Round its hilt was a frill of paper, on which was scrawled:
“Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques.”
More months, to the number of twelve, had come and gone, and Mr. Charles Darnay was established in England as a higher teacher of the French language who was conversant with French literature. In this age, he would have been a Professor; in that age, he was a Tutor. He read with young men who could find any leisure and interest for the study of a living tongue spoken all over the world, and he cultivated a taste for its stores of knowledge and fancy. He could write of them, besides, in sound English, and render them into sound English. Such masters were not at that time easily found; Princes that had been, and Kings that were to be, were not yet of the Teacher class, and no ruined nobility had dropped out of Tellson’s ledgers, to turn cooks and carpenters. As a tutor, whose attainments made the student’s way unusually pleasant and profitable, and as an elegant translator who brought something to his work besides mere dictionary knowledge, young Mr. Darnay soon became known and encouraged. He was well acquainted, more-over, with the circumstances of his country, and those were of ever-growing interest. So, with great perseverance and untiring industry, he prospered.
In London, he had expected neither to walk on pavements of gold, nor to lie on beds of roses; if he had had any such exalted expectation, he would not have prospered. He had expected labour, and he found it, and did it and made the best of it. In this, his prosperity consisted.
A certain portion of his time was passed at Cambridge, where he read with undergraduates as a sort of tolerated smuggler who drove a contraband trade in European languages, instead of conveying Greek and Latin through the Custom-house. The rest of his time he passed in London.
Now, from the days when it was always summer in Eden, to these days when it is mostly winter in fallen latitudes, the world of a man has invariably gone one way—Charles Darnay’s way—the way of the love of a woman.
He had loved Lucie Manette from the hour of his danger. He had never heard a sound so sweet and dear as the sound of her compassionate voice; he had never seen a face so tenderly beautiful, as hers when it was confronted with his own on the edge of the grave that had been dug for him. But, he had not yet spoken to her on the subject; the assassination at the deserted chateau far away beyond the heaving water and the long, long, dusty roads—the solid stone chateau which had itself become the mere mist of a dream—had been done a year, and he had never yet, by so much as a single spoken word, disclosed to her the state of his heart.
That he had his reasons for this, he knew full well. It was again a summer day when, lately arrived in London from his college occupation, he turned into the quiet corner in Soho, bent on seeking an opportunity of opening his mind to Doctor Manette. It was the close of the summer day, and he knew Lucie to be out with Miss Pross.
He found the Doctor reading in his arm-chair at a window. The energy which had at once supported him under his old sufferings and aggravated their sharpness, had been gradually restored to him. He was now a very energetic man indeed, with great firmness of purpose, strength of resolution, and vigour of action. In his recovered energy he was sometimes a little fitful and sudden, as he had at first been in the exercise of his other recovered faculties; but, this had never been frequently observable, and had grown more and more rare.
He studied much, slept little, sustained a great deal of fatigue with ease, and was equably cheerful. To him, now entered Charles Darnay, at sight of whom he laid aside his book and held out his hand.
“Charles Darnay! I rejoice to see you. We have been counting on your return these three or four days past. Mr. Stryver and Sydney Carton were both here yesterday, and both made you out to be more than due.”
“I am obliged to them for their interest in the matter,” he answered, a little coldly as to them, though very warmly as to the Doctor. “Miss Manette—”
“Is well,” said the Doctor, as he stopped short, “and your return will delight us all. She has gone out on some household matters, but will soon be home.”
“Doctor Manette, I knew she was from home. I took the opportunity of her being from home, to beg to speak to you.”
There was a blank silence.
“Yes?” said the Doctor, with evident constraint. “Bring your chair here, and speak on.”
He complied as to the chair, but appeared to find the speaking on less easy.
“I have had the happiness, Doctor Manette, of being so intimate here,” so he at length began, “for some year and a half, that I hope the topic on which I am about to touch may not—”
He was stayed by the Doctor’s putting out his hand to stop him. When he had kept it so a little while, he said, drawing it back:
“Is Lucie the topic?”
“It is hard for me to speak of her at any time. It is very hard for me to hear her spoken of in that tone of yours, Charles Darnay.”
“It is a tone of fervent admiration, true homage, and deep love, Doctor Manette!” he said deferentially.
There was another blank silence before her father rejoined:
“I believe it. I do you justice; I believe it.”
His constraint was so manifest, and it was so manifest, too, that it originated in an unwillingness to approach the subject, that Charles Darnay hesitated.
“Shall I go on, sir?”
“Yes, go on.”
“You anticipate what I would say, though you cannot know how earnestly I say it, how earnestly I feel it, without knowing my secret heart, and the hopes and fears and anxieties with which it has long been laden. Dear Doctor Manette, I love your daughter fondly, dearly, disinterestedly, devotedly. If ever there were love in the world, I love her. You have loved yourself; let your old love speak for me!”
The Doctor sat with his face turned away, and his eyes bent on the ground. At the last words, he stretched out his hand again, hurriedly, and cried:
“Not that, sir! Let that be! I adjure you, do not recall that!”
His cry was so like a cry of actual pain, that it rang in Charles Darnay’s ears long after he had ceased. He motioned with the hand he had extended, and it seemed to be an appeal to Darnay to pause. The latter so received it, and remained silent.
“I ask your pardon,” said the Doctor, in a subdued tone, after some moments. “I do not doubt your loving Lucie; you may be satisfied of it.”
He turned towards him in his chair, but did not look at him, or raise his eyes. His chin dropped upon his hand, and his white hair overshadowed his face:
“Have you spoken to Lucie?”
“It would be ungenerous to affect not to know that your self-denial is to be referred to your consideration for her father. Her father thanks you.”
He offered his hand; but his eyes did not go with it.
“I know,” said Darnay, respectfully, “how can I fail to know, Doctor Manette, I who have seen you together from day to day, that between you and Miss Manette there is an affection so unusual, so touching, so belonging to the circumstances in which it has been nurtured, that it can have few parallels, even in the tenderness between a father and child. I know, Doctor Manette—how can I fail to know—that, mingled with the affection and duty of a daughter who has become a woman, there is, in her heart, towards you, all the love and reliance of infancy itself. I know that, as in her childhood she had no parent, so she is now devoted to you with all the constancy and fervour of her present years and character, united to the trustfulness and attachment of the early days in which you were lost to her. I know perfectly well that if you had been restored to her from the world beyond this life, you could hardly be invested, in her sight, with a more sacred character than that in which you are always with her. I know that when she is clinging to you, the hands of baby, girl, and woman, all in one, are round your neck. I know that in loving you she sees and loves her mother at her own age, sees and loves you at my age, loves her mother broken-hearted, loves you through your dreadful trial and in your blessed restoration. I have known this, night and day, since I have known you in your home.”
Her father sat silent, with his face bent down. His breathing was a little quickened; but he repressed all other signs of agitation.
“Dear Doctor Manette, always knowing this, always seeing her and you with this hallowed light about you, I have forborne, and forborne, as long as it was in the nature of man to do it. I have felt, and do even now feel, that to bring my love—even mine—between you, is to touch your history with something not quite so good as itself. But I love her. Heaven is my witness that I love her!”
“I believe it,” answered her father, mournfully. “I have thought so before now. I believe it.”
“But, do not believe,” said Darnay, upon whose ear the mournful voice struck with a reproachful sound, “that if my fortune were so cast as that, being one day so happy as to make her my wife, I must at any time put any separation between her and you, I could or would breathe a word of what I now say. Besides that I should know it to be hopeless, I should know it to be a baseness. If I had any such possibility, even at a remote distance of years, harboured in my thoughts, and hidden in my heart—if it ever had been there—if it ever could be there—I could not now touch this honoured hand.”
He laid his own upon it as he spoke.
“No, dear Doctor Manette. Like you, a voluntary exile from France; like you, driven from it by its distractions, oppressions, and miseries; like you, striving to live away from it by my own exertions, and trusting in a happier future; I look only to sharing your fortunes, sharing your life and home, and being faithful to you to the death. Not to divide with Lucie her privilege as your child, companion, and friend; but to come in aid of it, and bind her closer to you, if such a thing can be.”
His touch still lingered on her father’s hand. Answering the touch for a moment, but not coldly, her father rested his hands upon the arms of his chair, and looked up for the first time since the beginning of the conference. A struggle was evidently in his face; a struggle with that occasional look which had a tendency in it to dark doubt and dread.
“You speak so feelingly and so manfully, Charles Darnay, that I thank you with all my heart, and will open all my heart—or nearly so. Have you any reason to believe that Lucie loves you?”
“None. As yet, none.”
“Is it the immediate object of this confidence, that you may at once ascertain that, with my knowledge?”
“Not even so. I might not have the hopefulness to do it for weeks; I might (mistaken or not mistaken) have that hopefulness to-morrow.”
“Do you seek any guidance from me?”
“I ask none, sir. But I have thought it possible that you might have it in your power, if you should deem it right, to give me some.”
“Do you seek any promise from me?”
“I do seek that.”
“What is it?”
“I well understand that, without you, I could have no hope. I well understand that, even if Miss Manette held me at this moment in her innocent heart—do not think I have the presumption to assume so much—I could retain no place in it against her love for her father.”
“If that be so, do you see what, on the other hand, is involved in it?”
“I understand equally well, that a word from her father in any suitor’s favour, would outweigh herself and all the world. For which reason, Doctor Manette,” said Darnay, modestly but firmly, “I would not ask that word, to save my life.”
“I am sure of it. Charles Darnay, mysteries arise out of close love, as well as out of wide division; in the former case, they are subtle and delicate, and difficult to penetrate. My daughter Lucie is, in this one respect, such a mystery to me; I can make no guess at the state of her heart.”
“May I ask, sir, if you think she is—” As he hesitated, her father supplied the rest.
“Is sought by any other suitor?”
“It is what I meant to say.”
Her father considered a little before he answered:
“You have seen Mr. Carton here, yourself. Mr. Stryver is here too, occasionally. If it be at all, it can only be by one of these.”
“Or both,” said Darnay.
“I had not thought of both; I should not think either, likely. You want a promise from me. Tell me what it is.”
“It is, that if Miss Manette should bring to you at any time, on her own part, such a confidence as I have ventured to lay before you, you will bear testimony to what I have said, and to your belief in it. I hope you may be able to think so well of me, as to urge no influence against me. I say nothing more of my stake in this; this is what I ask. The condition on which I ask it, and which you have an undoubted right to require, I will observe immediately.”
“I give the promise,” said the Doctor, “without any condition. I believe your object to be, purely and truthfully, as you have stated it. I believe your intention is to perpetuate, and not to weaken, the ties between me and my other and far dearer self. If she should ever tell me that you are essential to her perfect happiness, I will give her to you. If there were—Charles Darnay, if there were—”
The young man had taken his hand gratefully; their hands were joined as the Doctor spoke:
“—any fancies, any reasons, any apprehensions, anything whatsoever, new or old, against the man she really loved—the direct responsibility thereof not lying on his head—they should all be obliterated for her sake. She is everything to me; more to me than suffering, more to me than wrong, more to me—Well! This is idle talk.”
So strange was the way in which he faded into silence, and so strange his fixed look when he had ceased to speak, that Darnay felt his own hand turn cold in the hand that slowly released and dropped it.
“You said something to me,” said Doctor Manette, breaking into a smile. “What was it you said to me?”
He was at a loss how to answer, until he remembered having spoken of a condition. Relieved as his mind reverted to that, he answered:
“Your confidence in me ought to be returned with full confidence on my part. My present name, though but slightly changed from my mother’s, is not, as you will remember, my own. I wish to tell you what that is, and why I am in England.”
“Stop!” said the Doctor of Beauvais.
“I wish it, that I may the better deserve your confidence, and have no secret from you.”
For an instant, the Doctor even had his two hands at his ears; for another instant, even had his two hands laid on Darnay’s lips.
“Tell me when I ask you, not now. If your suit should prosper, if Lucie should love you, you shall tell me on your marriage morning. Do you promise?”
“Give me your hand. She will be home directly, and it is better she should not see us together to-night. Go! God bless you!”
It was dark when Charles Darnay left him, and it was an hour later and darker when Lucie came home; she hurried into the room alone—for Miss Pross had gone straight up-stairs—and was surprised to find his reading-chair empty.
“My father!” she called to him. “Father dear!”
Nothing was said in answer, but she heard a low hammering sound in his bedroom. Passing lightly across the intermediate room, she looked in at his door and came running back frightened, crying to herself, with her blood all chilled, “What shall I do! What shall I do!”
Her uncertainty lasted but a moment; she hurried back, and tapped at his door, and softly called to him. The noise ceased at the sound of her voice, and he presently came out to her, and they walked up and down together for a long time.
She came down from her bed, to look at him in his sleep that night. He slept heavily, and his tray of shoemaking tools, and his old unfinished work, were all as usual.
Sydney,” said Mr. Stryver, on that self-same night, or morning, to his jackal; “mix another bowl of punch; I have something to say to you.”
Sydney had been working double tides that night, and the night before, and the night before that, and a good many nights in succession, making a grand clearance among Mr. Stryver’s papers before the setting in of the long vacation. The clearance was effected at last; the Stryver arrears were handsomely fetched up; everything was got rid of until November should come with its fogs atmospheric, and fogs legal, and bring grist to the mill again.
Sydney was none the livelier and none the soberer for so much application. It had taken a deal of extra wet-towelling to pull him through the night; a correspondingly extra quantity of wine had preceded the towelling; and he was in a very damaged condition, as he now pulled his turban off and threw it into the basin in which he had steeped it at intervals for the last six hours.
“Are you mixing that other bowl of punch?” said Stryver the portly, with his hands in his waistband, glancing round from the sofa where he lay on his back.
“Now, look here! I am going to tell you something that will rather surprise you, and that perhaps will make you think me not quite as shrewd as you usually do think me. I intend to marry.”
“Yes. And not for money. What do you say now?”
“I don’t feel disposed to say much. Who is she?”
“Do I know her?”
“I am not going to guess, at five o’clock in the morning, with my brains frying and sputtering in my head. If you want me to guess, you must ask me to dinner.”
“Well then, I’ll tell you,” said Stryver, coming slowly into a sitting posture. “Sydney, I rather despair of making myself intelligible to you, because you are such an insensible dog.”
“And you,” returned Sydney, busy concocting the punch, “are such a sensitive and poetical spirit—”
“Come!” rejoined Stryver, laughing boastfully, “though I don’t prefer any claim to being the soul of Romance (for I hope I know better), still I am a tenderer sort of fellow than you.”
“You are a luckier, if you mean that.”
“I don’t mean that. I mean I am a man of more—more—”
“Say gallantry, while you are about it,” suggested Carton.
“Well! I’ll say gallantry. My meaning is that I am a man,” said Stryver, inflating himself at his friend as he made the punch, “who cares more to be agreeable, who takes more pains to be agreeable, who knows better how to be agreeable, in a woman’s society, than you do.”
“Go on,” said Sydney Carton.
“No; but before I go on,” said Stryver, shaking his head in his bullying way, “I’ll have this out with you. You’ve been at Doctor Manette’s house as much as I have, or more than I have. Why, I have been ashamed of your moroseness there! Your manners have been of that silent and sullen and hangdog kind, that, upon my life and soul, I have been ashamed of you, Sydney!”
“It should be very beneficial to a man in your practice at the bar, to be ashamed of anything,” returned Sydney; “you ought to be much obliged to me.”
“You shall not get off in that way,” rejoined Stryver, shouldering the rejoinder at him; “no, Sydney, it’s my duty to tell you—and I tell you to your face to do you good—that you are a devilish ill-conditioned fellow in that sort of society. You are a disagreeable fellow.”
Sydney drank a bumper of the punch he had made, and laughed.
“Look at me!” said Stryver, squaring himself; “I have less need to make myself agreeable than you have, being more independent in circumstances. Why do I do it?”
“I never saw you do it yet,” muttered Carton.
“I do it because it’s politic; I do it on principle. And look at me! I get on.”
“You don’t get on with your account of your matrimonial intentions,” answered Carton, with a careless air; “I wish you would keep to that. As to me—will you never understand that I am incorrigible?”
He asked the question with some appearance of scorn.
“You have no business to be incorrigible,” was his friend’s answer, delivered in no very soothing tone.
“I have no business to be, at all, that I know of,” said Sydney Carton. “Who is the lady?”
“Now, don’t let my announcement of the name make you uncomfortable, Sydney,” said Mr. Stryver, preparing him with ostentatious friendliness for the disclosure he was about to make, “because I know you don’t mean half you say; and if you meant it all, it would be of no importance. I make this little preface, because you once mentioned the young lady to me in slighting terms.”
“Certainly; and in these chambers.”
Sydney Carton looked at his punch and looked at his complacent friend; drank his punch and looked at his complacent friend.
“You made mention of the young lady as a golden-haired doll. The young lady is Miss Manette. If you had been a fellow of any sensitiveness or delicacy of feeling in that kind of way, Sydney, I might have been a little resentful of your employing such a designation; but you are not. You want that sense altogether; therefore I am no more annoyed when I think of the expression, than I should be annoyed by a man’s opinion of a picture of mine, who had no eye for pictures: or of a piece of music of mine, who had no ear for music.”
Sydney Carton drank the punch at a great rate; drank it by bumpers, looking at his friend.
“Now you know all about it, Syd,” said Mr. Stryver. “I don’t care about fortune: she is a charming creature, and I have made up my mind to please myself: on the whole, I think I can afford to please myself. She will have in me a man already pretty well off, and a rapidly rising man, and a man of some distinction: it is a piece of good fortune for her, but she is worthy of good fortune. Are you astonished?”
Carton, still drinking the punch, rejoined, “Why should I be astonished?”
Carton, still drinking the punch, rejoined, “Why should I not approve?”
“Well!” said his friend Stryver, “you take it more easily than I fancied you would, and are less mercenary on my behalf than I thought you would be; though, to be sure, you know well enough by this time that your ancient chum is a man of a pretty strong will. Yes, Sydney, I have had enough of this style of life, with no other as a change from it; I feel that it is a pleasant thing for a man to have a home when he feels inclined to go to it (when he doesn’t, he can stay away), and I feel that Miss Manette will tell well in any station, and will always do me credit. So I have made up my mind. And now, Sydney, old boy, I want to say a word to you about your prospects. You are in a bad way, you know; you really are in a bad way. You don’t know the value of money, you live hard, you’ll knock up one of these days, and be ill and poor; you really ought to think about a nurse.”
The prosperous patronage with which he said it, made him look twice as big as he was, and four times as offensive.
“Now, let me recommend you,” pursued Stryver, “to look it in the face. I have looked it in the face, in my different way; look it in the face, you, in your different way. Marry. Provide somebody to take care of you. Never mind your having no enjoyment of women’s society, nor understanding of it, nor tact for it. Find out somebody. Find out some respectable woman with a little property—somebody in the landlady way, or lodging-letting way—and marry her, against a rainy day. That’s the kind of thing for you. Now think of it, Sydney.”
“I’ll think of it,” said Sydney.
Mr. Stryver having made up his mind to that magnanimous bestowal of good fortune on the Doctor’s daughter, resolved to make her happiness known to her before he left town for the Long Vacation. After some mental debating of the point, he came to the conclusion that it would be as well to get all the preliminaries done with, and they could then arrange at their leisure whether he should give her his hand a week or two before Michaelmas Term, or in the little Christmas vacation between it and Hilary.
As to the strength of his case, he had not a doubt about it, but clearly saw his way to the verdict. Argued with the jury on substantial worldly grounds—the only grounds ever worth taking into account—it was a plain case, and had not a weak spot in it. He called himself for the plaintiff, there was no getting over his evidence, the counsel for the defendant threw up his brief, and the jury did not even turn to consider. After trying it, Stryver, C. J., was satisfied that no plainer case could be.
Accordingly, Mr. Stryver inaugurated the Long Vacation with a formal proposal to take Miss Manette to Vauxhall Gardens; that failing, to Ranelagh; that unaccountably failing too, it behoved him to present himself in Soho, and there declare his noble mind.
Towards Soho, therefore, Mr. Stryver shouldered his way from the Temple, while the bloom of the Long Vacation’s infancy was still upon it. Anybody who had seen him projecting himself into Soho while he was yet on Saint Dunstan’s side of Temple Bar, bursting in his full-blown way along the pavement, to the jostlement of all weaker people, might have seen how safe and strong he was.
His way taking him past Tellson’s, and he both banking at Tellson’s and knowing Mr. Lorry as the intimate friend of the Manettes, it entered Mr. Stryver’s mind to enter the bank, and reveal to Mr. Lorry the brightness of the Soho horizon. So, he pushed open the door with the weak rattle in its throat, stumbled down the two steps, got past the two ancient cashiers, and shouldered himself into the musty back closet where Mr. Lorry sat at great books ruled for figures, with perpendicular iron bars to his window as if that were ruled for figures too, and everything under the clouds were a sum.
“Halloa!” said Mr. Stryver. “How do you do? I hope you are well!”
It was Stryver’s grand peculiarity that he always seemed too big for any place, or space. He was so much too big for Tellson’s, that old clerks in distant corners looked up with looks of remonstrance, as though he squeezed them against the wall. The House itself, magnificently reading the paper quite in the far-off perspective, lowered displeased, as if the Stryver head had been butted into its responsible waistcoat.
The discreet Mr. Lorry said, in a sample tone of the voice he would recommend under the circumstances, “How do you do, Mr. Stryver? How do you do, sir?” and shook hands. There was a peculiarity in his manner of shaking hands, always to be seen in any clerk at Tellson’s who shook hands with a customer when the House pervaded the air. He shook in a self-abnegating way, as one who shook for Tellson and Co.
“Can I do anything for you, Mr. Stryver?” asked Mr. Lorry, in his business character.
“Why, no, thank you; this is a private visit to yourself, Mr. Lorry; I have come for a private word.”
“Oh indeed!” said Mr. Lorry, bending down his ear, while his eye strayed to the House afar off.
“I am going,” said Mr. Stryver, leaning his arms confidentially on the desk: whereupon, although it was a large double one, there appeared to be not half desk enough for him: “I am going to make an offer of myself in marriage to your agreeable little friend, Miss Manette, Mr. Lorry.”
“Oh dear me!” cried Mr. Lorry, rubbing his chin, and looking at his visitor dubiously.
“Oh dear me, sir?” repeated Stryver, drawing back. “Oh dear you, sir? What may your meaning be, Mr. Lorry?”
“My meaning,” answered the man of business, “is, of course, friendly and appreciative, and that it does you the greatest credit, and—in short, my meaning is everything you could desire. But—really, you know, Mr. Stryver—” Mr. Lorry paused, and shook his head at him in the oddest manner, as if he were compelled against his will to add, internally, “you know there really is so much too much of you!”
“Well!” said Stryver, slapping the desk with his contentious hand, opening his eyes wider, and taking a long breath, “if I understand you, Mr. Lorry, I’ll be hanged!”
Mr. Lorry adjusted his little wig at both ears as a means towards that end, and bit the feather of a pen.
“D—n it all, sir!” said Stryver, staring at him, “am I not eligible?”
“Oh dear yes! Yes. Oh yes, you’re eligible!” said Mr. Lorry. “If you say eligible, you are eligible.”
“Am I not prosperous?” asked Stryver.
“Oh! if you come to prosperous, you are prosperous,” said Mr. Lorry.
“If you come to advancing you know,” said Mr. Lorry, delighted to be able to make another admission, “nobody can doubt that.”
“Then what on earth is your meaning, Mr. Lorry?” demanded Stryver, perceptibly crestfallen.
“Well! I—Were you going there now?” asked Mr. Lorry.
“Straight!” said Stryver, with a plump of his fist on the desk.
“Then I think I wouldn’t, if I was you.”
“Why?” said Stryver. “Now, I’ll put you in a corner,” forensically shaking a forefinger at him. “You are a man of business and bound to have a reason. State your reason. Why wouldn’t you go?”
“Because,” said Mr. Lorry, “I wouldn’t go on such an object without having some cause to believe that I should succeed.”
“D—n me!” cried Stryver, “but this beats everything.”
Mr. Lorry glanced at the distant House, and glanced at the angry Stryver.
“Here’s a man of business—a man of years—a man of experience—in a Bank,” said Stryver; “and having summed up three leading reasons for complete success, he says there’s no reason at all! Says it with his head on!” Mr. Stryver remarked upon the peculiarity as if it would have been infinitely less remarkable if he had said it with his head off.
“When I speak of success, I speak of success with the young lady; and when I speak of causes and reasons to make success probable, I speak of causes and reasons that will tell as such with the young lady. The young lady, my good sir,” said Mr. Lorry, mildly tapping the Stryver arm, “the young lady. The young lady goes before all.”
“Then you mean to tell me, Mr. Lorry,” said Stryver, squaring his elbows, “that it is your deliberate opinion that the young lady at present in question is a mincing Fool?”
“Not exactly so. I mean to tell you, Mr. Stryver,” said Mr. Lorry, reddening, “that I will hear no disrespectful word of that young lady from any lips; and that if I knew any man—which I hope I do not—whose taste was so coarse, and whose temper was so overbearing, that he could not restrain himself from speaking disrespectfully of that young lady at this desk, not even Tellson’s should prevent my giving him a piece of my mind.”
The necessity of being angry in a suppressed tone had put Mr. Stryver’s blood-vessels into a dangerous state when it was his turn to be angry; Mr. Lorry’s veins, methodical as their courses could usually be, were in no better state now it was his turn.
“That is what I mean to tell you, sir,” said Mr. Lorry. “Pray let there be no mistake about it.”
Mr. Stryver sucked the end of a ruler for a little while, and then stood hitting a tune out of his teeth with it, which probably gave him the toothache. He broke the awkward silence by saying:
“This is something new to me, Mr. Lorry. You deliberately advise me not to go up to Soho and offer myself—myself, Stryver of the King’s Bench bar?”
“Do you ask me for my advice, Mr. Stryver?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Very good. Then I give it, and you have repeated it correctly.”
“And all I can say of it is,” laughed Stryver with a vexed laugh, “that this—ha, ha!—beats everything past, present, and to come.”
“Now understand me,” pursued Mr. Lorry. “As a man of business, I am not justified in saying anything about this matter, for, as a man of business, I know nothing of it. But, as an old fellow, who has carried Miss Manette in his arms, who is the trusted friend of Miss Manette and of her father too, and who has a great affection for them both, I have spoken. The confidence is not of my seeking, recollect. Now, you think I may not be right?”
“Not I!” said Stryver, whistling. “I can’t undertake to find third parties in common sense; I can only find it for myself. I suppose sense in certain quarters; you suppose mincing bread-and-butter nonsense. It’s new to me, but you are right, I dare say.”
“What I suppose, Mr. Stryver, I claim to characterise for myself—And understand me, sir,” said Mr. Lorry, quickly flushing again, “I will not—not even at Tellson’s—have it characterised for me by any gentleman breathing.”
“There! I beg your pardon!” said Stryver.
“Granted. Thank you. Well, Mr. Stryver, I was about to say:—it might be painful to you to find yourself mistaken, it might be painful to Doctor Manette to have the task of being explicit with you, it might be very painful to Miss Manette to have the task of being explicit with you. You know the terms upon which I have the honour and happiness to stand with the family. If you please, committing you in no way, representing you in no way, I will undertake to correct my advice by the exercise of a little new observation and judgment expressly brought to bear upon it. If you should then be dissatisfied with it, you can but test its soundness for yourself; if, on the other hand, you should be satisfied with it, and it should be what it now is, it may spare all sides what is best spared. What do you say?”
“How long would you keep me in town?”
“Oh! It is only a question of a few hours. I could go to Soho in the evening, and come to your chambers afterwards.”
“Then I say yes,” said Stryver: “I won’t go up there now, I am not so hot upon it as that comes to; I say yes, and I shall expect you to look in to-night. Good morning.”
Then Mr. Stryver turned and burst out of the Bank, causing such a concussion of air on his passage through, that to stand up against it bowing behind the two counters, required the utmost remaining strength of the two ancient clerks. Those venerable and feeble persons were always seen by the public in the act of bowing, and were popularly believed, when they had bowed a customer out, still to keep on bowing in the empty office until they bowed another customer in.
The barrister was keen enough to divine that the banker would not have gone so far in his expression of opinion on any less solid ground than moral certainty. Unprepared as he was for the large pill he had to swallow, he got it down. “And now,” said Mr. Stryver, shaking his forensic forefinger at the Temple in general, when it was down, “my way out of this, is, to put you all in the wrong.”
It was a bit of the art of an Old Bailey tactician, in which he found great relief. “You shall not put me in the wrong, young lady,” said Mr. Stryver; “I’ll do that for you.”
Accordingly, when Mr. Lorry called that night as late as ten o’clock, Mr. Stryver, among a quantity of books and papers littered out for the purpose, seemed to have nothing less on his mind than the subject of the morning. He even showed surprise when he saw Mr. Lorry, and was altogether in an absent and preoccupied state.
“Well!” said that good-natured emissary, after a full half-hour of bootless attempts to bring him round to the question. “I have been to Soho.”
“To Soho?” repeated Mr. Stryver, coldly. “Oh, to be sure! What am I thinking of!”
“And I have no doubt,” said Mr. Lorry, “that I was right in the conversation we had. My opinion is confirmed, and I reiterate my advice.”
“I assure you,” returned Mr. Stryver, in the friendliest way, “that I am sorry for it on your account, and sorry for it on the poor father’s account. I know this must always be a sore subject with the family; let us say no more about it.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Mr. Lorry.
“I dare say not,” rejoined Stryver, nodding his head in a smoothing and final way; “no matter, no matter.”
“But it does matter,” Mr. Lorry urged.
“No it doesn’t; I assure you it doesn’t. Having supposed that there was sense where there is no sense, and a laudable ambition where there is not a laudable ambition, I am well out of my mistake, and no harm is done. Young women have committed similar follies often before, and have repented them in poverty and obscurity often before. In an unselfish aspect, I am sorry that the thing is dropped, because it would have been a bad thing for me in a worldly point of view; in a selfish aspect, I am glad that the thing has dropped, because it would have been a bad thing for me in a worldly point of view—it is hardly necessary to say I could have gained nothing by it. There is no harm at all done. I have not proposed to the young lady, and, between ourselves, I am by no means certain, on reflection, that I ever should have committed myself to that extent. Mr. Lorry, you cannot control the mincing vanities and giddinesses of empty-headed girls; you must not expect to do it, or you will always be disappointed. Now, pray say no more about it. I tell you, I regret it on account of others, but I am satisfied on my own account. And I am really very much obliged to you for allowing me to sound you, and for giving me your advice; you know the young lady better than I do; you were right, it never would have done.”
Mr. Lorry was so taken aback, that he looked quite stupidly at Mr. Stryver shouldering him towards the door, with an appearance of showering generosity, forbearance, and goodwill, on his erring head. “Make the best of it, my dear sir,” said Stryver; “say no more about it; thank you again for allowing me to sound you; good night!”
Mr. Lorry was out in the night, before he knew where he was. Mr. Stryver was lying back on his sofa, winking at his ceiling.
If Sydney Carton ever shone anywhere, he certainly never shone in the house of Doctor Manette. He had been there often, during a whole year, and had always been the same moody and morose lounger there. When he cared to talk, he talked well; but, the cloud of caring for nothing, which overshadowed him with such a fatal darkness, was very rarely pierced by the light within him.
And yet he did care something for the streets that environed that house, and for the senseless stones that made their pavements. Many a night he vaguely and unhappily wandered there, when wine had brought no transitory gladness to him; many a dreary daybreak revealed his solitary figure lingering there, and still lingering there when the first beams of the sun brought into strong relief, removed beauties of architecture in spires of churches and lofty buildings, as perhaps the quiet time brought some sense of better things, else forgotten and unattainable, into his mind. Of late, the neglected bed in the Temple Court had known him more scantily than ever; and often when he had thrown himself upon it no longer than a few minutes, he had got up again, and haunted that neighbourhood.
On a day in August, when Mr. Stryver (after notifying to his jackal that “he had thought better of that marrying matter”) had carried his delicacy into Devonshire, and when the sight and scent of flowers in the City streets had some waifs of goodness in them for the worst, of health for the sickliest, and of youth for the oldest, Sydney’s feet still trod those stones. From being irresolute and purposeless, his feet became animated by an intention, and, in the working out of that intention, they took him to the Doctor’s door.
He was shown up-stairs, and found Lucie at her work, alone. She had never been quite at her ease with him, and received him with some little embarrassment as he seated himself near her table. But, looking up at his face in the interchange of the first few common-places, she observed a change in it.
“I fear you are not well, Mr. Carton!”
“No. But the life I lead, Miss Manette, is not conducive to health. What is to be expected of, or by, such profligates?”
“Is it not—forgive me; I have begun the question on my lips—a pity to live no better life?”
“God knows it is a shame!”
“Then why not change it?”
Looking gently at him again, she was surprised and saddened to see that there were tears in his eyes. There were tears in his voice too, as he answered:
“It is too late for that. I shall never be better than I am. I shall sink lower, and be worse.”
He leaned an elbow on her table, and covered his eyes with his hand. The table trembled in the silence that followed.
She had never seen him softened, and was much distressed. He knew her to be so, without looking at her, and said:
“Pray forgive me, Miss Manette. I break down before the knowledge of what I want to say to you. Will you hear me?”
“If it will do you any good, Mr. Carton, if it would make you happier, it would make me very glad!”
“God bless you for your sweet compassion!”
He unshaded his face after a little while, and spoke steadily.
“Don’t be afraid to hear me. Don’t shrink from anything I say. I am like one who died young. All my life might have been.”
“No, Mr. Carton. I am sure that the best part of it might still be; I am sure that you might be much, much worthier of yourself.”
“Say of you, Miss Manette, and although I know better—although in the mystery of my own wretched heart I know better—I shall never forget it!”
She was pale and trembling. He came to her relief with a fixed despair of himself which made the interview unlike any other that could have been holden.
“If it had been possible, Miss Manette, that you could have returned the love of the man you see before yourself—flung away, wasted, drunken, poor creature of misuse as you know him to be—he would have been conscious this day and hour, in spite of his happiness, that he would bring you to misery, bring you to sorrow and repentance, blight you, disgrace you, pull you down with him. I know very well that you can have no tenderness for me; I ask for none; I am even thankful that it cannot be.”
“Without it, can I not save you, Mr. Carton? Can I not recall you—forgive me again!—to a better course? Can I in no way repay your confidence? I know this is a confidence,” she modestly said, after a little hesitation, and in earnest tears, “I know you would say this to no one else. Can I turn it to no good account for yourself, Mr. Carton?”
He shook his head.
“To none. No, Miss Manette, to none. If you will hear me through a very little more, all you can ever do for me is done. I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul. In my degradation I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father, and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that I thought had died out of me. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”
“Will nothing of it remain? O Mr. Carton, think again! Try again!”
“No, Miss Manette; all through it, I have known myself to be quite undeserving. And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire—a fire, however, inseparable in its nature from myself, quickening nothing, lighting nothing, doing no service, idly burning away.”
“Since it is my misfortune, Mr. Carton, to have made you more unhappy than you were before you knew me—”
“Don’t say that, Miss Manette, for you would have reclaimed me, if anything could. You will not be the cause of my becoming worse.”
“Since the state of your mind that you describe, is, at all events, attributable to some influence of mine—this is what I mean, if I can make it plain—can I use no influence to serve you? Have I no power for good, with you, at all?”
“The utmost good that I am capable of now, Miss Manette, I have come here to realise. Let me carry through the rest of my misdirected life, the remembrance that I opened my heart to you, last of all the world; and that there was something left in me at this time which you could deplore and pity.”
“Which I entreated you to believe, again and again, most fervently, with all my heart, was capable of better things, Mr. Carton!”
“Entreat me to believe it no more, Miss Manette. I have proved myself, and I know better. I distress you; I draw fast to an end. Will you let me believe, when I recall this day, that the last confidence of my life was reposed in your pure and innocent breast, and that it lies there alone, and will be shared by no one?”
“If that will be a consolation to you, yes.”
“Not even by the dearest one ever to be known to you?”
“Mr. Carton,” she answered, after an agitated pause, “the secret is yours, not mine; and I promise to respect it.”
“Thank you. And again, God bless you.”
He put her hand to his lips, and moved towards the door.
“Be under no apprehension, Miss Manette, of my ever resuming this conversation by so much as a passing word. I will never refer to it again. If I were dead, that could not be surer than it is henceforth. In the hour of my death, I shall hold sacred the one good remembrance—and shall thank and bless you for it—that my last avowal of myself was made to you, and that my name, and faults, and miseries were gently carried in your heart. May it otherwise be light and happy!”
He was so unlike what he had ever shown himself to be, and it was so sad to think how much he had thrown away, and how much he every day kept down and perverted, that Lucie Manette wept mournfully for him as he stood looking back at her.
“Be comforted!” he said, “I am not worth such feeling, Miss Manette. An hour or two hence, and the low companions and low habits that I scorn but yield to, will render me less worth such tears as those, than any wretch who creeps along the streets. Be comforted! But, within myself, I shall always be, towards you, what I am now, though outwardly I shall be what you have heretofore seen me. The last supplication but one I make to you, is, that you will believe this of me.”
“I will, Mr. Carton.”
“My last supplication of all, is this; and with it, I will relieve you of a visitor with whom I well know you have nothing in unison, and between whom and you there is an impassable space. It is useless to say it, I know, but it rises out of my soul. For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when new ties will be formed about you—ties that will bind you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn—the dearest ties that will ever grace and gladden you. O Miss Manette, when the little picture of a happy father’s face looks up in yours, when you see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!”
He said, “Farewell!” said a last “God bless you!” and left her.
To the eyes of Mr. Jeremiah Cruncher, sitting on his stool in Fleet-street with his grisly urchin beside him, a vast number and variety of objects in movement were every day presented. Who could sit upon anything in Fleet-street during the busy hours of the day, and not be dazed and deafened by two immense processions, one ever tending westward with the sun, the other ever tending eastward from the sun, both ever tending to the plains beyond the range of red and purple where the sun goes down!
With his straw in his mouth, Mr. Cruncher sat watching the two streams, like the heathen rustic who has for several centuries been on duty watching one stream—saving that Jerry had no expectation of their ever running dry. Nor would it have been an expectation of a hopeful kind, since a small part of his income was derived from the pilotage of timid women (mostly of a full habit and past the middle term of life) from Tellson’s side of the tides to the opposite shore. Brief as such companionship was in every separate instance, Mr. Cruncher never failed to become so interested in the lady as to express a strong desire to have the honour of drinking her very good health. And it was from the gifts bestowed upon him towards the execution of this benevolent purpose, that he recruited his finances, as just now observed.
Time was, when a poet sat upon a stool in a public place, and mused in the sight of men. Mr. Cruncher, sitting on a stool in a public place, but not being a poet, mused as little as possible, and looked about him.
It fell out that he was thus engaged in a season when crowds were few, and belated women few, and when his affairs in general were so unprosperous as to awaken a strong suspicion in his breast that Mrs. Cruncher must have been “flopping” in some pointed manner, when an unusual concourse pouring down Fleet-street westward, attracted his attention. Looking that way, Mr. Cruncher made out that some kind of funeral was coming along, and that there was popular objection to this funeral, which engendered uproar.
“Young Jerry,” said Mr. Cruncher, turning to his offspring, “it’s a buryin’.”
“Hooroar, father!” cried Young Jerry.
The young gentleman uttered this exultant sound with mysterious significance. The elder gentleman took the cry so ill, that he watched his opportunity, and smote the young gentleman on the ear.
“What d’ye mean? What are you hooroaring at? What do you want to conwey to your own father, you young Rip? This boy is a getting too many for me!” said Mr. Cruncher, surveying him. “Him and his hooroars! Don’t let me hear no more of you, or you shall feel some more of me. D’ye hear?”
“I warn’t doing no harm,” Young Jerry protested, rubbing his cheek.
“Drop it then,” said Mr. Cruncher; “I won’t have none of your no harms. Get a top of that there seat, and look at the crowd.”
His son obeyed, and the crowd approached; they were bawling and hissing round a dingy hearse and dingy mourning coach, in which mourning coach there was only one mourner, dressed in the dingy trappings that were considered essential to the dignity of the position. The position appeared by no means to please him, however, with an increasing rabble surrounding the coach, deriding him, making grimaces at him, and incessantly groaning and calling out: “Yah! Spies! Tst! Yaha! Spies!” with many compliments too numerous and forcible to repeat.
Funerals had at all times a remarkable attraction for Mr. Cruncher; he always pricked up his senses, and became excited, when a funeral passed Tellson’s. Naturally, therefore, a funeral with this uncommon attendance excited him greatly, and he asked of the first man who ran against him:
“What is it, brother? What’s it about?”
“I don’t know,” said the man. “Spies! Yaha! Tst! Spies!”
He asked another man. “Who is it?”
“I don’t know,” returned the man, clapping his hands to his mouth nevertheless, and vociferating in a surprising heat and with the greatest ardour, “Spies! Yaha! Tst, tst! Spi—ies!”
At length, a person better informed on the merits of the case, tumbled against him, and from this person he learned that the funeral was the funeral of one Roger Cly.
“Was he a spy?” asked Mr. Cruncher.
“Old Bailey spy,” returned his informant. “Yaha! Tst! Yah! Old Bailey Spi—i—ies!”
“Why, to be sure!” exclaimed Jerry, recalling the Trial at which he had assisted. “I’ve seen him. Dead, is he?”
“Dead as mutton,” returned the other, “and can’t be too dead. Have ’em out, there! Spies! Pull ’em out, there! Spies!”
The idea was so acceptable in the prevalent absence of any idea, that the crowd caught it up with eagerness, and loudly repeating the suggestion to have ’em out, and to pull ’em out, mobbed the two vehicles so closely that they came to a stop. On the crowd’s opening the coach doors, the one mourner scuffled out by himself and was in their hands for a moment; but he was so alert, and made such good use of his time, that in another moment he was scouring away up a bye-street, after shedding his cloak, hat, long hatband, white pocket-handkerchief, and other symbolical tears.
These, the people tore to pieces and scattered far and wide with great enjoyment, while the tradesmen hurriedly shut up their shops; for a crowd in those times stopped at nothing, and was a monster much dreaded. They had already got the length of opening the hearse to take the coffin out, when some brighter genius proposed instead, its being escorted to its destination amidst general rejoicing. Practical suggestions being much needed, this suggestion, too, was received with acclamation, and the coach was immediately filled with eight inside and a dozen out, while as many people got on the roof of the hearse as could by any exercise of ingenuity stick upon it. Among the first of these volunteers was Jerry Cruncher himself, who modestly concealed his spiky head from the observation of Tellson’s, in the further corner of the mourning coach.
The officiating undertakers made some protest against these changes in the ceremonies; but, the river being alarmingly near, and several voices remarking on the efficacy of cold immersion in bringing refractory members of the profession to reason, the protest was faint and brief. The remodelled procession started, with a chimney-sweep driving the hearse—advised by the regular driver, who was perched beside him, under close inspection, for the purpose—and with a pieman, also attended by his cabinet minister, driving the mourning coach. A bear-leader, a popular street character of the time, was impressed as an additional ornament, before the cavalcade had gone far down the Strand; and his bear, who was black and very mangy, gave quite an Undertaking air to that part of the procession in which he walked.
Thus, with beer-drinking, pipe-smoking, song-roaring, and infinite caricaturing of woe, the disorderly procession went its way, recruiting at every step, and all the shops shutting up before it. Its destination was the old church of Saint Pancras, far off in the fields. It got there in course of time; insisted on pouring into the burial-ground; finally, accomplished the interment of the deceased Roger Cly in its own way, and highly to its own satisfaction.
The dead man disposed of, and the crowd being under the necessity of providing some other entertainment for itself, another brighter genius (or perhaps the same) conceived the humour of impeaching casual passers-by, as Old Bailey spies, and wreaking vengeance on them. Chase was given to some scores of inoffensive persons who had never been near the Old Bailey in their lives, in the realisation of this fancy, and they were roughly hustled and maltreated. The transition to the sport of window-breaking, and thence to the plundering of public-houses, was easy and natural. At last, after several hours, when sundry summer-houses had been pulled down, and some area-railings had been torn up, to arm the more belligerent spirits, a rumour got about that the Guards were coming. Before this rumour, the crowd gradually melted away, and perhaps the Guards came, and perhaps they never came, and this was the usual progress of a mob.
Mr. Cruncher did not assist at the closing sports, but had remained behind in the churchyard, to confer and condole with the undertakers. The place had a soothing influence on him. He procured a pipe from a neighbouring public-house, and smoked it, looking in at the railings and maturely considering the spot.
“Jerry,” said Mr. Cruncher, apostrophising himself in his usual way, “you see that there Cly that day, and you see with your own eyes that he was a young ’un and a straight made ’un.”
Having smoked his pipe out, and ruminated a little longer, he turned himself about, that he might appear, before the hour of closing, on his station at Tellson’s. Whether his meditations on mortality had touched his liver, or whether his general health had been previously at all amiss, or whether he desired to show a little attention to an eminent man, is not so much to the purpose, as that he made a short call upon his medical adviser—a distinguished surgeon—on his way back.
Young Jerry relieved his father with dutiful interest, and reported No job in his absence. The bank closed, the ancient clerks came out, the usual watch was set, and Mr. Cruncher and his son went home to tea.
“Now, I tell you where it is!” said Mr. Cruncher to his wife, on entering. “If, as a honest tradesman, my wenturs goes wrong to-night, I shall make sure that you’ve been praying again me, and I shall work you for it just the same as if I seen you do it.”
The dejected Mrs. Cruncher shook her head.
“Why, you’re at it afore my face!” said Mr. Cruncher, with signs of angry apprehension.
“I am saying nothing.”
“Well, then; don’t meditate nothing. You might as well flop as meditate. You may as well go again me one way as another. Drop it altogether.”
“Yes, Jerry,” repeated Mr. Cruncher sitting down to tea. “Ah! It is yes, Jerry. That’s about it. You may say yes, Jerry.”
Mr. Cruncher had no particular meaning in these sulky corroborations, but made use of them, as people not unfrequently do, to express general ironical dissatisfaction.
“You and your yes, Jerry,” said Mr. Cruncher, taking a bite out of his bread-and-butter, and seeming to help it down with a large invisible oyster out of his saucer. “Ah! I think so. I believe you.”
“You are going out to-night?” asked his decent wife, when he took another bite.
“Yes, I am.”
“May I go with you, father?” asked his son, briskly.
“No, you mayn’t. I’m a going—as your mother knows—a fishing. That’s where I’m going to. Going a fishing.”
“Your fishing-rod gets rayther rusty; don’t it, father?”
“Never you mind.”
“Shall you bring any fish home, father?”
“If I don’t, you’ll have short commons, to-morrow,” returned that gentleman, shaking his head; “that’s questions enough for you; I ain’t a going out, till you’ve been long abed.”
He devoted himself during the remainder of the evening to keeping a most vigilant watch on Mrs. Cruncher, and sullenly holding her in conversation that she might be prevented from meditating any petitions to his disadvantage. With this view, he urged his son to hold her in conversation also, and led the unfortunate woman a hard life by dwelling on any causes of complaint he could bring against her, rather than he would leave her for a moment to her own reflections. The devoutest person could have rendered no greater homage to the efficacy of an honest prayer than he did in this distrust of his wife. It was as if a professed unbeliever in ghosts should be frightened by a ghost story.
“And mind you!” said Mr. Cruncher. “No games to-morrow! If I, as a honest tradesman, succeed in providing a jinte of meat or two, none of your not touching of it, and sticking to bread. If I, as a honest tradesman, am able to provide a little beer, none of your declaring on water. When you go to Rome, do as Rome does. Rome will be a ugly customer to you, if you don’t. I’m your Rome, you know.”
Then he began grumbling again:
“With your flying into the face of your own wittles and drink! I don’t know how scarce you mayn’t make the wittles and drink here, by your flopping tricks and your unfeeling conduct. Look at your boy: he is your’n, ain’t he? He’s as thin as a lath. Do you call yourself a mother, and not know that a mother’s first duty is to blow her boy out?”
This touched Young Jerry on a tender place; who adjured his mother to perform her first duty, and, whatever else she did or neglected, above all things to lay especial stress on the discharge of that maternal function so affectingly and delicately indicated by his other parent.
Thus the evening wore away with the Cruncher family, until Young Jerry was ordered to bed, and his mother, laid under similar injunctions, obeyed them. Mr. Cruncher beguiled the earlier watches of the night with solitary pipes, and did not start upon his excursion until nearly one o’clock. Towards that small and ghostly hour, he rose up from his chair, took a key out of his pocket, opened a locked cupboard, and brought forth a sack, a crowbar of convenient size, a rope and chain, and other fishing tackle of that nature. Disposing these articles about him in skilful manner, he bestowed a parting defiance on Mrs. Cruncher, extinguished the light, and went out.
Young Jerry, who had only made a feint of undressing when he went to bed, was not long after his father. Under cover of the darkness he followed out of the room, followed down the stairs, followed down the court, followed out into the streets. He was in no uneasiness concerning his getting into the house again, for it was full of lodgers, and the door stood ajar all night.
Impelled by a laudable ambition to study the art and mystery of his father’s honest calling, Young Jerry, keeping as close to house fronts, walls, and doorways, as his eyes were close to one another, held his honoured parent in view. The honoured parent steering Northward, had not gone far, when he was joined by another disciple of Izaak Walton, and the two trudged on together.
Within half an hour from the first starting, they were beyond the winking lamps, and the more than winking watchmen, and were out upon a lonely road. Another fisherman was picked up here—and that so silently, that if Young Jerry had been superstitious, he might have supposed the second follower of the gentle craft to have, all of a sudden, split himself into two.
The three went on, and Young Jerry went on, until the three stopped under a bank overhanging the road. Upon the top of the bank was a low brick wall, surmounted by an iron railing. In the shadow of bank and wall the three turned out of the road, and up a blind lane, of which the wall—there, risen to some eight or ten feet high—formed one side. Crouching down in a corner, peeping up the lane, the next object that Young Jerry saw, was the form of his honoured parent, pretty well defined against a watery and clouded moon, nimbly scaling an iron gate. He was soon over, and then the second fisherman got over, and then the third. They all dropped softly on the ground within the gate, and lay there a little—listening perhaps. Then, they moved away on their hands and knees.
It was now Young Jerry’s turn to approach the gate: which he did, holding his breath. Crouching down again in a corner there, and looking in, he made out the three fishermen creeping through some rank grass! and all the gravestones in the churchyard—it was a large churchyard that they were in—looking on like ghosts in white, while the church tower itself looked on like the ghost of a monstrous giant. They did not creep far, before they stopped and stood upright. And then they began to fish.
They fished with a spade, at first. Presently the honoured parent appeared to be adjusting some instrument like a great corkscrew. Whatever tools they worked with, they worked hard, until the awful striking of the church clock so terrified Young Jerry, that he made off, with his hair as stiff as his father’s.
But, his long-cherished desire to know more about these matters, not only stopped him in his running away, but lured him back again. They were still fishing perseveringly, when he peeped in at the gate for the second time; but, now they seemed to have got a bite. There was a screwing and complaining sound down below, and their bent figures were strained, as if by a weight. By slow degrees the weight broke away the earth upon it, and came to the surface. Young Jerry very well knew what it would be; but, when he saw it, and saw his honoured parent about to wrench it open, he was so frightened, being new to the sight, that he made off again, and never stopped until he had run a mile or more.
He would not have stopped then, for anything less necessary than breath, it being a spectral sort of race that he ran, and one highly desirable to get to the end of. He had a strong idea that the coffin he had seen was running after him; and, pictured as hopping on behind him, bolt upright, upon its narrow end, always on the point of overtaking him and hopping on at his side—perhaps taking his arm—it was a pursuer to shun. It was an inconsistent and ubiquitous fiend too, for, while it was making the whole night behind him dreadful, he darted out into the roadway to avoid dark alleys, fearful of its coming hopping out of them like a dropsical boy’s kite without tail and wings. It hid in doorways too, rubbing its horrible shoulders against doors, and drawing them up to its ears, as if it were laughing. It got into shadows on the road, and lay cunningly on its back to trip him up. All this time it was incessantly hopping on behind and gaining on him, so that when the boy got to his own door he had reason for being half dead. And even then it would not leave him, but followed him upstairs with a bump on every stair, scrambled into bed with him, and bumped down, dead and heavy, on his breast when he fell asleep.
From his oppressed slumber, Young Jerry in his closet was awakened after daybreak and before sunrise, by the presence of his father in the family room. Something had gone wrong with him; at least, so Young Jerry inferred, from the circumstance of his holding Mrs. Cruncher by the ears, and knocking the back of her head against the head-board of the bed.
“I told you I would,” said Mr. Cruncher, “and I did.”
“Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!” his wife implored.
“You oppose yourself to the profit of the business,” said Jerry, “and me and my partners suffer. You was to honour and obey; why the devil don’t you?”
“I try to be a good wife, Jerry,” the poor woman protested, with tears.
“Is it being a good wife to oppose your husband’s business? Is it honouring your husband to dishonour his business? Is it obeying your husband to disobey him on the wital subject of his business?”
“You hadn’t taken to the dreadful business then, Jerry.”
“It’s enough for you,” retorted Mr. Cruncher, “to be the wife of a honest tradesman, and not to occupy your female mind with calculations when he took to his trade or when he didn’t. A honouring and obeying wife would let his trade alone altogether. Call yourself a religious woman? If you’re a religious woman, give me a irreligious one! You have no more nat’ral sense of duty than the bed of this here Thames river has of a pile, and similarly it must be knocked into you.”
The altercation was conducted in a low tone of voice, and terminated in the honest tradesman’s kicking off his clay-soiled boots, and lying down at his length on the floor. After taking a timid peep at him lying on his back, with his rusty hands under his head for a pillow, his son lay down too, and fell asleep again.
There was no fish for breakfast, and not much of anything else. Mr. Cruncher was out of spirits, and out of temper, and kept an iron pot-lid by him as a projectile for the correction of Mrs. Cruncher, in case he should observe any symptoms of her saying Grace. He was brushed and washed at the usual hour, and set off with his son to pursue his ostensible calling.
Young Jerry, walking with the stool under his arm at his father’s side along sunny and crowded Fleet-street, was a very different Young Jerry from him of the previous night, running home through darkness and solitude from his grim pursuer. His cunning was fresh with the day, and his qualms were gone with the night—in which particulars it is not improbable that he had compeers in Fleet-street and the City of London, that fine morning.
“Father,” said Young Jerry, as they walked along: taking care to keep at arm’s length and to have the stool well between them: “what’s a Resurrection-Man?”
Mr. Cruncher came to a stop on the pavement before he answered, “How should I know?”
“I thought you knowed everything, father,” said the artless boy.
“Hem! Well,” returned Mr. Cruncher, going on again, and lifting off his hat to give his spikes free play, “he’s a tradesman.”
“What’s his goods, father?” asked the brisk Young Jerry.
“His goods,” said Mr. Cruncher, after turning it over in his mind, “is a branch of Scientific goods.”
“Persons’ bodies, ain’t it, father?” asked the lively boy.
“I believe it is something of that sort,” said Mr. Cruncher.
“Oh, father, I should so like to be a Resurrection-Man when I’m quite growed up!”
Mr. Cruncher was soothed, but shook his head in a dubious and moral way. “It depends upon how you dewelop your talents. Be careful to dewelop your talents, and never to say no more than you can help to nobody, and there’s no telling at the present time what you may not come to be fit for.” As Young Jerry, thus encouraged, went on a few yards in advance, to plant the stool in the shadow of the Bar, Mr. Cruncher added to himself: “Jerry, you honest tradesman, there’s hopes wot that boy will yet be a blessing to you, and a recompense to you for his mother!”
There had been earlier drinking than usual in the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge. As early as six o’clock in the morning, sallow faces peeping through its barred windows had descried other faces within, bending over measures of wine. Monsieur Defarge sold a very thin wine at the best of times, but it would seem to have been an unusually thin wine that he sold at this time. A sour wine, moreover, or a souring, for its influence on the mood of those who drank it was to make them gloomy. No vivacious Bacchanalian flame leaped out of the pressed grape of Monsieur Defarge: but, a smouldering fire that burnt in the dark, lay hidden in the dregs of it.
This had been the third morning in succession, on which there had been early drinking at the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge. It had begun on Monday, and here was Wednesday come. There had been more of early brooding than drinking; for, many men had listened and whispered and slunk about there from the time of the opening of the door, who could not have laid a piece of money on the counter to save their souls. These were to the full as interested in the place, however, as if they could have commanded whole barrels of wine; and they glided from seat to seat, and from corner to corner, swallowing talk in lieu of drink, with greedy looks.
Notwithstanding an unusual flow of company, the master of the wine-shop was not visible. He was not missed; for, nobody who crossed the threshold looked for him, nobody asked for him, nobody wondered to see only Madame Defarge in her seat, presiding over the distribution of wine, with a bowl of battered small coins before her, as much defaced and beaten out of their original impress as the small coinage of humanity from whose ragged pockets they had come.
A suspended interest and a prevalent absence of mind, were perhaps observed by the spies who looked in at the wine-shop, as they looked in at every place, high and low, from the king’s palace to the criminal’s gaol. Games at cards languished, players at dominoes musingly built towers with them, drinkers drew figures on the tables with spilt drops of wine, Madame Defarge herself picked out the pattern on her sleeve with her toothpick, and saw and heard something inaudible and invisible a long way off.
Thus, Saint Antoine in this vinous feature of his, until midday. It was high noontide, when two dusty men passed through his streets and under his swinging lamps: of whom, one was Monsieur Defarge: the other a mender of roads in a blue cap. All adust and athirst, the two entered the wine-shop. Their arrival had lighted a kind of fire in the breast of Saint Antoine, fast spreading as they came along, which stirred and flickered in flames of faces at most doors and windows. Yet, no one had followed them, and no man spoke when they entered the wine-shop, though the eyes of every man there were turned upon them.
“Good day, gentlemen!” said Monsieur Defarge.
It may have been a signal for loosening the general tongue. It elicited an answering chorus of “Good day!”
“It is bad weather, gentlemen,” said Defarge, shaking his head.
Upon which, every man looked at his neighbour, and then all cast down their eyes and sat silent. Except one man, who got up and went out.
“My wife,” said Defarge aloud, addressing Madame Defarge: “I have travelled certain leagues with this good mender of roads, called Jacques. I met him—by accident—a day and half’s journey out of Paris. He is a good child, this mender of roads, called Jacques. Give him to drink, my wife!”
A second man got up and went out. Madame Defarge set wine before the mender of roads called Jacques, who doffed his blue cap to the company, and drank. In the breast of his blouse he carried some coarse dark bread; he ate of this between whiles, and sat munching and drinking near Madame Defarge’s counter. A third man got up and went out.
Defarge refreshed himself with a draught of wine—but, he took less than was given to the stranger, as being himself a man to whom it was no rarity—and stood waiting until the countryman had made his breakfast. He looked at no one present, and no one now looked at him; not even Madame Defarge, who had taken up her knitting, and was at work.
“Have you finished your repast, friend?” he asked, in due season.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Come, then! You shall see the apartment that I told you you could occupy. It will suit you to a marvel.”
Out of the wine-shop into the street, out of the street into a courtyard, out of the courtyard up a steep staircase, out of the staircase into a garret—formerly the garret where a white-haired man sat on a low bench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.
No white-haired man was there now; but, the three men were there who had gone out of the wine-shop singly. And between them and the white-haired man afar off, was the one small link, that they had once looked in at him through the chinks in the wall.
Defarge closed the door carefully, and spoke in a subdued voice:
“Jacques One, Jacques Two, Jacques Three! This is the witness encountered by appointment, by me, Jacques Four. He will tell you all. Speak, Jacques Five!”
The mender of roads, blue cap in hand, wiped his swarthy forehead with it, and said, “Where shall I commence, monsieur?”
“Commence,” was Monsieur Defarge’s not unreasonable reply, “at the commencement.”
“I saw him then, messieurs,” began the mender of roads, “a year ago this running summer, underneath the carriage of the Marquis, hanging by the chain. Behold the manner of it. I leaving my work on the road, the sun going to bed, the carriage of the Marquis slowly ascending the hill, he hanging by the chain—like this.”
Again the mender of roads went through the whole performance; in which he ought to have been perfect by that time, seeing that it had been the infallible resource and indispensable entertainment of his village during a whole year.
Jacques One struck in, and asked if he had ever seen the man before?
“Never,” answered the mender of roads, recovering his perpendicular.
Jacques Three demanded how he afterwards recognised him then?
“By his tall figure,” said the mender of roads, softly, and with his finger at his nose. “When Monsieur the Marquis demands that evening, ‘Say, what is he like?’ I make response, ‘Tall as a spectre.’”
“You should have said, short as a dwarf,” returned Jacques Two.
“But what did I know? The deed was not then accomplished, neither did he confide in me. Observe! Under those circumstances even, I do not offer my testimony. Monsieur the Marquis indicates me with his finger, standing near our little fountain, and says, ‘To me! Bring that rascal!’ My faith, messieurs, I offer nothing.”
“He is right there, Jacques,” murmured Defarge, to him who had interrupted. “Go on!”
“Good!” said the mender of roads, with an air of mystery. “The tall man is lost, and he is sought—how many months? Nine, ten, eleven?”
“No matter, the number,” said Defarge. “He is well hidden, but at last he is unluckily found. Go on!”
“I am again at work upon the hill-side, and the sun is again about to go to bed. I am collecting my tools to descend to my cottage down in the village below, where it is already dark, when I raise my eyes, and see coming over the hill six soldiers. In the midst of them is a tall man with his arms bound—tied to his sides—like this!”
With the aid of his indispensable cap, he represented a man with his elbows bound fast at his hips, with cords that were knotted behind him.
“I stand aside, messieurs, by my heap of stones, to see the soldiers and their prisoner pass (for it is a solitary road, that, where any spectacle is well worth looking at), and at first, as they approach, I see no more than that they are six soldiers with a tall man bound, and that they are almost black to my sight—except on the side of the sun going to bed, where they have a red edge, messieurs. Also, I see that their long shadows are on the hollow ridge on the opposite side of the road, and are on the hill above it, and are like the shadows of giants. Also, I see that they are covered with dust, and that the dust moves with them as they come, tramp, tramp! But when they advance quite near to me, I recognise the tall man, and he recognises me. Ah, but he would be well content to precipitate himself over the hill-side once again, as on the evening when he and I first encountered, close to the same spot!”
He described it as if he were there, and it was evident that he saw it vividly; perhaps he had not seen much in his life.
“I do not show the soldiers that I recognise the tall man; he does not show the soldiers that he recognises me; we do it, and we know it, with our eyes. ‘Come on!’ says the chief of that company, pointing to the village, ‘bring him fast to his tomb!’ and they bring him faster. I follow. His arms are swelled because of being bound so tight, his wooden shoes are large and clumsy, and he is lame. Because he is lame, and consequently slow, they drive him with their guns—like this!”
He imitated the action of a man’s being impelled forward by the butt-ends of muskets.
“As they descend the hill like madmen running a race, he falls. They laugh and pick him up again. His face is bleeding and covered with dust, but he cannot touch it; thereupon they laugh again. They bring him into the village; all the village runs to look; they take him past the mill, and up to the prison; all the village sees the prison gate open in the darkness of the night, and swallow him—like this!”
He opened his mouth as wide as he could, and shut it with a sounding snap of his teeth. Observant of his unwillingness to mar the effect by opening it again, Defarge said, “Go on, Jacques.”
“All the village,” pursued the mender of roads, on tiptoe and in a low voice, “withdraws; all the village whispers by the fountain; all the village sleeps; all the village dreams of that unhappy one, within the locks and bars of the prison on the crag, and never to come out of it, except to perish. In the morning, with my tools upon my shoulder, eating my morsel of black bread as I go, I make a circuit by the prison, on my way to my work. There I see him, high up, behind the bars of a lofty iron cage, bloody and dusty as last night, looking through. He has no hand free, to wave to me; I dare not call to him; he regards me like a dead man.”
Defarge and the three glanced darkly at one another. The looks of all of them were dark, repressed, and revengeful, as they listened to the countryman’s story; the manner of all of them, while it was secret, was authoritative too. They had the air of a rough tribunal; Jacques One and Two sitting on the old pallet-bed, each with his chin resting on his hand, and his eyes intent on the road-mender; Jacques Three, equally intent, on one knee behind them, with his agitated hand always gliding over the network of fine nerves about his mouth and nose; Defarge standing between them and the narrator, whom he had stationed in the light of the window, by turns looking from him to them, and from them to him.
“Go on, Jacques,” said Defarge.
“He remains up there in his iron cage some days. The village looks at him by stealth, for it is afraid. But it always looks up, from a distance, at the prison on the crag; and in the evening, when the work of the day is achieved and it assembles to gossip at the fountain, all faces are turned towards the prison. Formerly, they were turned towards the posting-house; now, they are turned towards the prison. They whisper at the fountain, that although condemned to death he will not be executed; they say that petitions have been presented in Paris, showing that he was enraged and made mad by the death of his child; they say that a petition has been presented to the King himself. What do I know? It is possible. Perhaps yes, perhaps no.”
“Listen then, Jacques,” Number One of that name sternly interposed. “Know that a petition was presented to the King and Queen. All here, yourself excepted, saw the King take it, in his carriage in the street, sitting beside the Queen. It is Defarge whom you see here, who, at the hazard of his life, darted out before the horses, with the petition in his hand.”
“And once again listen, Jacques!” said the kneeling Number Three: his fingers ever wandering over and over those fine nerves, with a strikingly greedy air, as if he hungered for something—that was neither food nor drink; “the guard, horse and foot, surrounded the petitioner, and struck him blows. You hear?”
“I hear, messieurs.”
“Go on then,” said Defarge.
“Again; on the other hand, they whisper at the fountain,” resumed the countryman, “that he is brought down into our country to be executed on the spot, and that he will very certainly be executed. They even whisper that because he has slain Monseigneur, and because Monseigneur was the father of his tenants—serfs—what you will—he will be executed as a parricide. One old man says at the fountain, that his right hand, armed with the knife, will be burnt off before his face; that, into wounds which will be made in his arms, his breast, and his legs, there will be poured boiling oil, melted lead, hot resin, wax, and sulphur; finally, that he will be torn limb from limb by four strong horses. That old man says, all this was actually done to a prisoner who made an attempt on the life of the late King, Louis Fifteen. But how do I know if he lies? I am not a scholar.”
“Listen once again then, Jacques!” said the man with the restless hand and the craving air. “The name of that prisoner was Damiens, and it was all done in open day, in the open streets of this city of Paris; and nothing was more noticed in the vast concourse that saw it done, than the crowd of ladies of quality and fashion, who were full of eager attention to the last—to the last, Jacques, prolonged until nightfall, when he had lost two legs and an arm, and still breathed! And it was done—why, how old are you?”
“Thirty-five,” said the mender of roads, who looked sixty.
“It was done when you were more than ten years old; you might have seen it.”
“Enough!” said Defarge, with grim impatience. “Long live the Devil! Go on.”
“Well! Some whisper this, some whisper that; they speak of nothing else; even the fountain appears to fall to that tune. At length, on Sunday night when all the village is asleep, come soldiers, winding down from the prison, and their guns ring on the stones of the little street. Workmen dig, workmen hammer, soldiers laugh and sing; in the morning, by the fountain, there is raised a gallows forty feet high, poisoning the water.”
The mender of roads looked through rather than at the low ceiling, and pointed as if he saw the gallows somewhere in the sky.
“All work is stopped, all assemble there, nobody leads the cows out, the cows are there with the rest. At midday, the roll of drums. Soldiers have marched into the prison in the night, and he is in the midst of many soldiers. He is bound as before, and in his mouth there is a gag—tied so, with a tight string, making him look almost as if he laughed.” He suggested it, by creasing his face with his two thumbs, from the corners of his mouth to his ears. “On the top of the gallows is fixed the knife, blade upwards, with its point in the air. He is hanged there forty feet high—and is left hanging, poisoning the water.”
They looked at one another, as he used his blue cap to wipe his face, on which the perspiration had started afresh while he recalled the spectacle.
“It is frightful, messieurs. How can the women and the children draw water! Who can gossip of an evening, under that shadow! Under it, have I said? When I left the village, Monday evening as the sun was going to bed, and looked back from the hill, the shadow struck across the church, across the mill, across the prison—seemed to strike across the earth, messieurs, to where the sky rests upon it!”
The hungry man gnawed one of his fingers as he looked at the other three, and his finger quivered with the craving that was on him.
“That’s all, messieurs. I left at sunset (as I had been warned to do), and I walked on, that night and half next day, until I met (as I was warned I should) this comrade. With him, I came on, now riding and now walking, through the rest of yesterday and through last night. And here you see me!”
After a gloomy silence, the first Jacques said, “Good! You have acted and recounted faithfully. Will you wait for us a little, outside the door?”
“Very willingly,” said the mender of roads. Whom Defarge escorted to the top of the stairs, and, leaving seated there, returned.
The three had risen, and their heads were together when he came back to the garret.
“How say you, Jacques?” demanded Number One. “To be registered?”
“To be registered, as doomed to destruction,” returned Defarge.
“Magnificent!” croaked the man with the craving.
“The chateau, and all the race?” inquired the first.
“The chateau and all the race,” returned Defarge. “Extermination.”
The hungry man repeated, in a rapturous croak, “Magnificent!” and began gnawing another finger.
“Are you sure,” asked Jacques Two, of Defarge, “that no embarrassment can arise from our manner of keeping the register? Without doubt it is safe, for no one beyond ourselves can decipher it; but shall we always be able to decipher it—or, I ought to say, will she?”
“Jacques,” returned Defarge, drawing himself up, “if madame my wife undertook to keep the register in her memory alone, she would not lose a word of it—not a syllable of it. Knitted, in her own stitches and her own symbols, it will always be as plain to her as the sun. Confide in Madame Defarge. It would be easier for the weakest poltroon that lives, to erase himself from existence, than to erase one letter of his name or crimes from the knitted register of Madame Defarge.”
There was a murmur of confidence and approval, and then the man who hungered, asked: “Is this rustic to be sent back soon? I hope so. He is very simple; is he not a little dangerous?”
“He knows nothing,” said Defarge; “at least nothing more than would easily elevate himself to a gallows of the same height. I charge myself with him; let him remain with me; I will take care of him, and set him on his road. He wishes to see the fine world—the King, the Queen, and Court; let him see them on Sunday.”
“What?” exclaimed the hungry man, staring. “Is it a good sign, that he wishes to see Royalty and Nobility?”
“Jacques,” said Defarge; “judiciously show a cat milk, if you wish her to thirst for it. Judiciously show a dog his natural prey, if you wish him to bring it down one day.”
Nothing more was said, and the mender of roads, being found already dozing on the topmost stair, was advised to lay himself down on the pallet-bed and take some rest. He needed no persuasion, and was soon asleep.
Worse quarters than Defarge’s wine-shop, could easily have been found in Paris for a provincial slave of that degree. Saving for a mysterious dread of madame by which he was constantly haunted, his life was very new and agreeable. But, madame sat all day at her counter, so expressly unconscious of him, and so particularly determined not to perceive that his being there had any connection with anything below the surface, that he shook in his wooden shoes whenever his eye lighted on her. For, he contended with himself that it was impossible to foresee what that lady might pretend next; and he felt assured that if she should take it into her brightly ornamented head to pretend that she had seen him do a murder and afterwards flay the victim, she would infallibly go through with it until the play was played out.
Therefore, when Sunday came, the mender of roads was not enchanted (though he said he was) to find that madame was to accompany monsieur and himself to Versailles. It was additionally disconcerting to have madame knitting all the way there, in a public conveyance; it was additionally disconcerting yet, to have madame in the crowd in the afternoon, still with her knitting in her hands as the crowd waited to see the carriage of the King and Queen.
“You work hard, madame,” said a man near her.
“Yes,” answered Madame Defarge; “I have a good deal to do.”
“What do you make, madame?”
“For instance,” returned Madame Defarge, composedly, “shrouds.”
The man moved a little further away, as soon as he could, and the mender of roads fanned himself with his blue cap: feeling it mightily close and oppressive. If he needed a King and Queen to restore him, he was fortunate in having his remedy at hand; for, soon the large-faced King and the fair-faced Queen came in their golden coach, attended by the shining Bull’s Eye of their Court, a glittering multitude of laughing ladies and fine lords; and in jewels and silks and powder and splendour and elegantly spurning figures and handsomely disdainful faces of both sexes, the mender of roads bathed himself, so much to his temporary intoxication, that he cried Long live the King, Long live the Queen, Long live everybody and everything! as if he had never heard of ubiquitous Jacques in his time. Then, there were gardens, courtyards, terraces, fountains, green banks, more King and Queen, more Bull’s Eye, more lords and ladies, more Long live they all! until he absolutely wept with sentiment. During the whole of this scene, which lasted some three hours, he had plenty of shouting and weeping and sentimental company, and throughout Defarge held him by the collar, as if to restrain him from flying at the objects of his brief devotion and tearing them to pieces.
“Bravo!” said Defarge, clapping him on the back when it was over, like a patron; “you are a good boy!”
The mender of roads was now coming to himself, and was mistrustful of having made a mistake in his late demonstrations; but no.
“You are the fellow we want,” said Defarge, in his ear; “you make these fools believe that it will last for ever. Then, they are the more insolent, and it is the nearer ended.”
“Hey!” cried the mender of roads, reflectively; “that’s true.”
“These fools know nothing. While they despise your breath, and would stop it for ever and ever, in you or in a hundred like you rather than in one of their own horses or dogs, they only know what your breath tells them. Let it deceive them, then, a little longer; it cannot deceive them too much.”
Madame Defarge looked superciliously at the client, and nodded in confirmation.
“As to you,” said she, “you would shout and shed tears for anything, if it made a show and a noise. Say! Would you not?”
“Truly, madame, I think so. For the moment.”
“If you were shown a great heap of dolls, and were set upon them to pluck them to pieces and despoil them for your own advantage, you would pick out the richest and gayest. Say! Would you not?”
“Truly yes, madame.”
“Yes. And if you were shown a flock of birds, unable to fly, and were set upon them to strip them of their feathers for your own advantage, you would set upon the birds of the finest feathers; would you not?”
“It is true, madame.”
“You have seen both dolls and birds to-day,” said Madame Defarge, with a wave of her hand towards the place where they had last been apparent; “now, go home!”
Madame Defarge and monsieur her husband returned amicably to the bosom of Saint Antoine, while a speck in a blue cap toiled through the darkness, and through the dust, and down the weary miles of avenue by the wayside, slowly tending towards that point of the compass where the chateau of Monsieur the Marquis, now in his grave, listened to the whispering trees. Such ample leisure had the stone faces, now, for listening to the trees and to the fountain, that the few village scarecrows who, in their quest for herbs to eat and fragments of dead stick to burn, strayed within sight of the great stone courtyard and terrace staircase, had it borne in upon their starved fancy that the expression of the faces was altered. A rumour just lived in the village—had a faint and bare existence there, as its people had—that when the knife struck home, the faces changed, from faces of pride to faces of anger and pain; also, that when that dangling figure was hauled up forty feet above the fountain, they changed again, and bore a cruel look of being avenged, which they would henceforth bear for ever. In the stone face over the great window of the bed-chamber where the murder was done, two fine dints were pointed out in the sculptured nose, which everybody recognised, and which nobody had seen of old; and on the scarce occasions when two or three ragged peasants emerged from the crowd to take a hurried peep at Monsieur the Marquis petrified, a skinny finger would not have pointed to it for a minute, before they all started away among the moss and leaves, like the more fortunate hares who could find a living there.
Chateau and hut, stone face and dangling figure, the red stain on the stone floor, and the pure water in the village well—thousands of acres of land—a whole province of France—all France itself—lay under the night sky, concentrated into a faint hair-breadth line. So does a whole world, with all its greatnesses and littlenesses, lie in a twinkling star. And as mere human knowledge can split a ray of light and analyse the manner of its composition, so, sublimer intelligences may read in the feeble shining of this earth of ours, every thought and act, every vice and virtue, of every responsible creature on it.
The Defarges, husband and wife, came lumbering under the starlight, in their public vehicle, to that gate of Paris whereunto their journey naturally tended. There was the usual stoppage at the barrier guardhouse, and the usual lanterns came glancing forth for the usual examination and inquiry. Monsieur Defarge alighted; knowing one or two of the soldiery there, and one of the police. The latter he was intimate with, and affectionately embraced.
When Saint Antoine had again enfolded the Defarges in his dusky wings, and they, having finally alighted near the Saint’s boundaries, were picking their way on foot through the black mud and offal of his streets, Madame Defarge spoke to her husband:
“Say then, my friend; what did Jacques of the police tell thee?”
“Very little to-night, but all he knows. There is another spy commissioned for our quarter. There may be many more, for all that he can say, but he knows of one.”
“Eh well!” said Madame Defarge, raising her eyebrows with a cool business air. “It is necessary to register him. How do they call that man?”
“He is English.”
“So much the better. His name?”
“Barsad,” said Defarge, making it French by pronunciation. But, he had been so careful to get it accurately, that he then spelt it with perfect correctness.
“Barsad,” repeated madame. “Good. Christian name?”
“John Barsad,” repeated madame, after murmuring it once to herself. “Good. His appearance; is it known?”
“Age, about forty years; height, about five feet nine; black hair; complexion dark; generally, rather handsome visage; eyes dark, face thin, long, and sallow; nose aquiline, but not straight, having a peculiar inclination towards the left cheek; expression, therefore, sinister.”
“Eh my faith. It is a portrait!” said madame, laughing. “He shall be registered to-morrow.”
They turned into the wine-shop, which was closed (for it was midnight), and where Madame Defarge immediately took her post at her desk, counted the small moneys that had been taken during her absence, examined the stock, went through the entries in the book, made other entries of her own, checked the serving man in every possible way, and finally dismissed him to bed. Then she turned out the contents of the bowl of money for the second time, and began knotting them up in her handkerchief, in a chain of separate knots, for safe keeping through the night. All this while, Defarge, with his pipe in his mouth, walked up and down, complacently admiring, but never interfering; in which condition, indeed, as to the business and his domestic affairs, he walked up and down through life.
The night was hot, and the shop, close shut and surrounded by so foul a neighbourhood, was ill-smelling. Monsieur Defarge’s olfactory sense was by no means delicate, but the stock of wine smelt much stronger than it ever tasted, and so did the stock of rum and brandy and aniseed. He whiffed the compound of scents away, as he put down his smoked-out pipe.
“You are fatigued,” said madame, raising her glance as she knotted the money. “There are only the usual odours.”
“I am a little tired,” her husband acknowledged.
“You are a little depressed, too,” said madame, whose quick eyes had never been so intent on the accounts, but they had had a ray or two for him. “Oh, the men, the men!”
“But my dear!” began Defarge.
“But my dear!” repeated madame, nodding firmly; “but my dear! You are faint of heart to-night, my dear!”
“Well, then,” said Defarge, as if a thought were wrung out of his breast, “it is a long time.”
“It is a long time,” repeated his wife; “and when is it not a long time? Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.”
“It does not take a long time to strike a man with Lightning,” said Defarge.
“How long,” demanded madame, composedly, “does it take to make and store the lightning? Tell me.”
Defarge raised his head thoughtfully, as if there were something in that too.
“It does not take a long time,” said madame, “for an earthquake to swallow a town. Eh well! Tell me how long it takes to prepare the earthquake?”
“A long time, I suppose,” said Defarge.
“But when it is ready, it takes place, and grinds to pieces everything before it. In the meantime, it is always preparing, though it is not seen or heard. That is your consolation. Keep it.”
She tied a knot with flashing eyes, as if it throttled a foe.
“I tell thee,” said madame, extending her right hand, for emphasis, “that although it is a long time on the road, it is on the road and coming. I tell thee it never retreats, and never stops. I tell thee it is always advancing. Look around and consider the lives of all the world that we know, consider the faces of all the world that we know, consider the rage and discontent to which the Jacquerie addresses itself with more and more of certainty every hour. Can such things last? Bah! I mock you.”
“My brave wife,” returned Defarge, standing before her with his head a little bent, and his hands clasped at his back, like a docile and attentive pupil before his catechist, “I do not question all this. But it has lasted a long time, and it is possible—you know well, my wife, it is possible—that it may not come, during our lives.”
“Eh well! How then?” demanded madame, tying another knot, as if there were another enemy strangled.
“Well!” said Defarge, with a half complaining and half apologetic shrug. “We shall not see the triumph.”
“We shall have helped it,” returned madame, with her extended hand in strong action. “Nothing that we do, is done in vain. I believe, with all my soul, that we shall see the triumph. But even if not, even if I knew certainly not, show me the neck of an aristocrat and tyrant, and still I would—”
Then madame, with her teeth set, tied a very terrible knot indeed.
“Hold!” cried Defarge, reddening a little as if he felt charged with cowardice; “I too, my dear, will stop at nothing.”
“Yes! But it is your weakness that you sometimes need to see your victim and your opportunity, to sustain you. Sustain yourself without that. When the time comes, let loose a tiger and a devil; but wait for the time with the tiger and the devil chained—not shown—yet always ready.”
Madame enforced the conclusion of this piece of advice by striking her little counter with her chain of money as if she knocked its brains out, and then gathering the heavy handkerchief under her arm in a serene manner, and observing that it was time to go to bed.
Next noontide saw the admirable woman in her usual place in the wine-shop, knitting away assiduously. A rose lay beside her, and if she now and then glanced at the flower, it was with no infraction of her usual preoccupied air. There were a few customers, drinking or not drinking, standing or seated, sprinkled about. The day was very hot, and heaps of flies, who were extending their inquisitive and adventurous perquisitions into all the glutinous little glasses near madame, fell dead at the bottom. Their decease made no impression on the other flies out promenading, who looked at them in the coolest manner (as if they themselves were elephants, or something as far removed), until they met the same fate. Curious to consider how heedless flies are!—perhaps they thought as much at Court that sunny summer day.
A figure entering at the door threw a shadow on Madame Defarge which she felt to be a new one. She laid down her knitting, and began to pin her rose in her head-dress, before she looked at the figure.
It was curious. The moment Madame Defarge took up the rose, the customers ceased talking, and began gradually to drop out of the wine-shop.
“Good day, madame,” said the new-comer.
“Good day, monsieur.”
She said it aloud, but added to herself, as she resumed her knitting: “Hah! Good day, age about forty, height about five feet nine, black hair, generally rather handsome visage, complexion dark, eyes dark, thin, long and sallow face, aquiline nose but not straight, having a peculiar inclination towards the left cheek which imparts a sinister expression! Good day, one and all!”
“Have the goodness to give me a little glass of old cognac, and a mouthful of cool fresh water, madame.”
Madame complied with a polite air.
“Marvellous cognac this, madame!”
It was the first time it had ever been so complimented, and Madame Defarge knew enough of its antecedents to know better. She said, however, that the cognac was flattered, and took up her knitting. The visitor watched her fingers for a few moments, and took the opportunity of observing the place in general.
“You knit with great skill, madame.”
“I am accustomed to it.”
“A pretty pattern too!”
“You think so?” said madame, looking at him with a smile.
“Decidedly. May one ask what it is for?”
“Pastime,” said madame, still looking at him with a smile while her fingers moved nimbly.
“Not for use?”
“That depends. I may find a use for it one day. If I do—Well,” said madame, drawing a breath and nodding her head with a stern kind of coquetry, “I’ll use it!”
It was remarkable; but, the taste of Saint Antoine seemed to be decidedly opposed to a rose on the head-dress of Madame Defarge. Two men had entered separately, and had been about to order drink, when, catching sight of that novelty, they faltered, made a pretence of looking about as if for some friend who was not there, and went away. Nor, of those who had been there when this visitor entered, was there one left. They had all dropped off. The spy had kept his eyes open, but had been able to detect no sign. They had lounged away in a poverty-stricken, purposeless, accidental manner, quite natural and unimpeachable.
“John,” thought madame, checking off her work as her fingers knitted, and her eyes looked at the stranger. “Stay long enough, and I shall knit ‘barsad’ before you go.”
“You have a husband, madame?”
“Business seems bad?”
“Business is very bad; the people are so poor.”
“Ah, the unfortunate, miserable people! So oppressed, too—as you say.”
“As you say,” madame retorted, correcting him, and deftly knitting an extra something into his name that boded him no good.
“Pardon me; certainly it was I who said so, but you naturally think so. Of course.”
“I think?” returned madame, in a high voice. “I and my husband have enough to do to keep this wine-shop open, without thinking. All we think, here, is how to live. That is the subject we think of, and it gives us, from morning to night, enough to think about, without embarrassing our heads concerning others. I think for others? No, no.”
The spy, who was there to pick up any crumbs he could find or make, did not allow his baffled state to express itself in his sinister face; but, stood with an air of gossiping gallantry, leaning his elbow on Madame Defarge’s little counter, and occasionally sipping his cognac.
“A bad business this, madame, of Gaspard’s execution. Ah! the poor Gaspard!” With a sigh of great compassion.
“My faith!” returned madame, coolly and lightly, “if people use knives for such purposes, they have to pay for it. He knew beforehand what the price of his luxury was; he has paid the price.”
“I believe,” said the spy, dropping his soft voice to a tone that invited confidence, and expressing an injured revolutionary susceptibility in every muscle of his wicked face: “I believe there is much compassion and anger in this neighbourhood, touching the poor fellow? Between ourselves.”
“Is there?” asked madame, vacantly.
“Is there not?”
“—Here is my husband!” said Madame Defarge.
As the keeper of the wine-shop entered at the door, the spy saluted him by touching his hat, and saying, with an engaging smile, “Good day, Jacques!” Defarge stopped short, and stared at him.
“Good day, Jacques!” the spy repeated; with not quite so much confidence, or quite so easy a smile under the stare.
“You deceive yourself, monsieur,” returned the keeper of the wine-shop. “You mistake me for another. That is not my name. I am Ernest Defarge.”
“It is all the same,” said the spy, airily, but discomfited too: “good day!”
“Good day!” answered Defarge, drily.
“I was saying to madame, with whom I had the pleasure of chatting when you entered, that they tell me there is—and no wonder!—much sympathy and anger in Saint Antoine, touching the unhappy fate of poor Gaspard.”
“No one has told me so,” said Defarge, shaking his head. “I know nothing of it.”
Having said it, he passed behind the little counter, and stood with his hand on the back of his wife’s chair, looking over that barrier at the person to whom they were both opposed, and whom either of them would have shot with the greatest satisfaction.
The spy, well used to his business, did not change his unconscious attitude, but drained his little glass of cognac, took a sip of fresh water, and asked for another glass of cognac. Madame Defarge poured it out for him, took to her knitting again, and hummed a little song over it.
“You seem to know this quarter well; that is to say, better than I do?” observed Defarge.
“Not at all, but I hope to know it better. I am so profoundly interested in its miserable inhabitants.”
“Hah!” muttered Defarge.
“The pleasure of conversing with you, Monsieur Defarge, recalls to me,” pursued the spy, “that I have the honour of cherishing some interesting associations with your name.”
“Indeed!” said Defarge, with much indifference.
“Yes, indeed. When Doctor Manette was released, you, his old domestic, had the charge of him, I know. He was delivered to you. You see I am informed of the circumstances?”
“Such is the fact, certainly,” said Defarge. He had had it conveyed to him, in an accidental touch of his wife’s elbow as she knitted and warbled, that he would do best to answer, but always with brevity.
“It was to you,” said the spy, “that his daughter came; and it was from your care that his daughter took him, accompanied by a neat brown monsieur; how is he called?—in a little wig—Lorry—of the bank of Tellson and Company—over to England.”
“Such is the fact,” repeated Defarge.
“Very interesting remembrances!” said the spy. “I have known Doctor Manette and his daughter, in England.”
“Yes?” said Defarge.
“You don’t hear much about them now?” said the spy.
“No,” said Defarge.
“In effect,” madame struck in, looking up from her work and her little song, “we never hear about them. We received the news of their safe arrival, and perhaps another letter, or perhaps two; but, since then, they have gradually taken their road in life—we, ours—and we have held no correspondence.”
“Perfectly so, madame,” replied the spy. “She is going to be married.”
“Going?” echoed madame. “She was pretty enough to have been married long ago. You English are cold, it seems to me.”
“Oh! You know I am English.”
“I perceive your tongue is,” returned madame; “and what the tongue is, I suppose the man is.”
He did not take the identification as a compliment; but he made the best of it, and turned it off with a laugh. After sipping his cognac to the end, he added:
“Yes, Miss Manette is going to be married. But not to an Englishman; to one who, like herself, is French by birth. And speaking of Gaspard (ah, poor Gaspard! It was cruel, cruel!), it is a curious thing that she is going to marry the nephew of Monsieur the Marquis, for whom Gaspard was exalted to that height of so many feet; in other words, the present Marquis. But he lives unknown in England, he is no Marquis there; he is Mr. Charles Darnay. D’Aulnais is the name of his mother’s family.”
Madame Defarge knitted steadily, but the intelligence had a palpable effect upon her husband. Do what he would, behind the little counter, as to the striking of a light and the lighting of his pipe, he was troubled, and his hand was not trustworthy. The spy would have been no spy if he had failed to see it, or to record it in his mind.
Having made, at least, this one hit, whatever it might prove to be worth, and no customers coming in to help him to any other, Mr. Barsad paid for what he had drunk, and took his leave: taking occasion to say, in a genteel manner, before he departed, that he looked forward to the pleasure of seeing Monsieur and Madame Defarge again. For some minutes after he had emerged into the outer presence of Saint Antoine, the husband and wife remained exactly as he had left them, lest he should come back.
“Can it be true,” said Defarge, in a low voice, looking down at his wife as he stood smoking with his hand on the back of her chair: “what he has said of Ma’amselle Manette?”
“As he has said it,” returned madame, lifting her eyebrows a little, “it is probably false. But it may be true.”
“If it is—” Defarge began, and stopped.
“If it is?” repeated his wife.
“—And if it does come, while we live to see it triumph—I hope, for her sake, Destiny will keep her husband out of France.”
“Her husband’s destiny,” said Madame Defarge, with her usual composure, “will take him where he is to go, and will lead him to the end that is to end him. That is all I know.”
“But it is very strange—now, at least, is it not very strange”—said Defarge, rather pleading with his wife to induce her to admit it, “that, after all our sympathy for Monsieur her father, and herself, her husband’s name should be proscribed under your hand at this moment, by the side of that infernal dog’s who has just left us?”
“Stranger things than that will happen when it does come,” answered madame. “I have them both here, of a certainty; and they are both here for their merits; that is enough.”
She rolled up her knitting when she had said those words, and presently took the rose out of the handkerchief that was wound about her head. Either Saint Antoine had an instinctive sense that the objectionable decoration was gone, or Saint Antoine was on the watch for its disappearance; howbeit, the Saint took courage to lounge in, very shortly afterwards, and the wine-shop recovered its habitual aspect.
In the evening, at which season of all others Saint Antoine turned himself inside out, and sat on door-steps and window-ledges, and came to the corners of vile streets and courts, for a breath of air, Madame Defarge with her work in her hand was accustomed to pass from place to place and from group to group: a Missionary—there were many like her—such as the world will do well never to breed again. All the women knitted. They knitted worthless things; but, the mechanical work was a mechanical substitute for eating and drinking; the hands moved for the jaws and the digestive apparatus: if the bony fingers had been still, the stomachs would have been more famine-pinched.
But, as the fingers went, the eyes went, and the thoughts. And as Madame Defarge moved on from group to group, all three went quicker and fiercer among every little knot of women that she had spoken with, and left behind.
Her husband smoked at his door, looking after her with admiration. “A great woman,” said he, “a strong woman, a grand woman, a frightfully grand woman!”
Darkness closed around, and then came the ringing of church bells and the distant beating of the military drums in the Palace Courtyard, as the women sat knitting, knitting. Darkness encompassed them. Another darkness was closing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing pleasantly in many an airy steeple over France, should be melted into thundering cannon; when the military drums should be beating to drown a wretched voice, that night all potent as the voice of Power and Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closing in about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to sit knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.
Never did the sun go down with a brighter glory on the quiet corner in Soho, than one memorable evening when the Doctor and his daughter sat under the plane-tree together. Never did the moon rise with a milder radiance over great London, than on that night when it found them still seated under the tree, and shone upon their faces through its leaves.
Lucie was to be married to-morrow. She had reserved this last evening for her father, and they sat alone under the plane-tree.
“You are happy, my dear father?”
“Quite, my child.”
They had said little, though they had been there a long time. When it was yet light enough to work and read, she had neither engaged herself in her usual work, nor had she read to him. She had employed herself in both ways, at his side under the tree, many and many a time; but, this time was not quite like any other, and nothing could make it so.
“And I am very happy to-night, dear father. I am deeply happy in the love that Heaven has so blessed—my love for Charles, and Charles’s love for me. But, if my life were not to be still consecrated to you, or if my marriage were so arranged as that it would part us, even by the length of a few of these streets, I should be more unhappy and self-reproachful now than I can tell you. Even as it is—”
Even as it was, she could not command her voice.
In the sad moonlight, she clasped him by the neck, and laid her face upon his breast. In the moonlight which is always sad, as the light of the sun itself is—as the light called human life is—at its coming and its going.
“Dearest dear! Can you tell me, this last time, that you feel quite, quite sure, no new affections of mine, and no new duties of mine, will ever interpose between us? I know it well, but do you know it? In your own heart, do you feel quite certain?”
Her father answered, with a cheerful firmness of conviction he could scarcely have assumed, “Quite sure, my darling! More than that,” he added, as he tenderly kissed her: “my future is far brighter, Lucie, seen through your marriage, than it could have been—nay, than it ever was—without it.”
“If I could hope that, my father!—”
“Believe it, love! Indeed it is so. Consider how natural and how plain it is, my dear, that it should be so. You, devoted and young, cannot fully appreciate the anxiety I have felt that your life should not be wasted—”
She moved her hand towards his lips, but he took it in his, and repeated the word.
“—wasted, my child—should not be wasted, struck aside from the natural order of things—for my sake. Your unselfishness cannot entirely comprehend how much my mind has gone on this; but, only ask yourself, how could my happiness be perfect, while yours was incomplete?”
“If I had never seen Charles, my father, I should have been quite happy with you.”
He smiled at her unconscious admission that she would have been unhappy without Charles, having seen him; and replied:
“My child, you did see him, and it is Charles. If it had not been Charles, it would have been another. Or, if it had been no other, I should have been the cause, and then the dark part of my life would have cast its shadow beyond myself, and would have fallen on you.”
It was the first time, except at the trial, of her ever hearing him refer to the period of his suffering. It gave her a strange and new sensation while his words were in her ears; and she remembered it long afterwards.
“See!” said the Doctor of Beauvais, raising his hand towards the moon. “I have looked at her from my prison-window, when I could not bear her light. I have looked at her when it has been such torture to me to think of her shining upon what I had lost, that I have beaten my head against my prison-walls. I have looked at her, in a state so dull and lethargic, that I have thought of nothing but the number of horizontal lines I could draw across her at the full, and the number of perpendicular lines with which I could intersect them.” He added in his inward and pondering manner, as he looked at the moon, “It was twenty either way, I remember, and the twentieth was difficult to squeeze in.”
The strange thrill with which she heard him go back to that time, deepened as he dwelt upon it; but, there was nothing to shock her in the manner of his reference. He only seemed to contrast his present cheerfulness and felicity with the dire endurance that was over.
“I have looked at her, speculating thousands of times upon the unborn child from whom I had been rent. Whether it was alive. Whether it had been born alive, or the poor mother’s shock had killed it. Whether it was a son who would some day avenge his father. (There was a time in my imprisonment, when my desire for vengeance was unbearable.) Whether it was a son who would never know his father’s story; who might even live to weigh the possibility of his father’s having disappeared of his own will and act. Whether it was a daughter who would grow to be a woman.”
She drew closer to him, and kissed his cheek and his hand.
“I have pictured my daughter, to myself, as perfectly forgetful of me—rather, altogether ignorant of me, and unconscious of me. I have cast up the years of her age, year after year. I have seen her married to a man who knew nothing of my fate. I have altogether perished from the remembrance of the living, and in the next generation my place was a blank.”
“My father! Even to hear that you had such thoughts of a daughter who never existed, strikes to my heart as if I had been that child.”
“You, Lucie? It is out of the Consolation and restoration you have brought to me, that these remembrances arise, and pass between us and the moon on this last night.—What did I say just now?”
“She knew nothing of you. She cared nothing for you.”
“So! But on other moonlight nights, when the sadness and the silence have touched me in a different way—have affected me with something as like a sorrowful sense of peace, as any emotion that had pain for its foundations could—I have imagined her as coming to me in my cell, and leading me out into the freedom beyond the fortress. I have seen her image in the moonlight often, as I now see you; except that I never held her in my arms; it stood between the little grated window and the door. But, you understand that that was not the child I am speaking of?”
“The figure was not; the—the—image; the fancy?”
“No. That was another thing. It stood before my disturbed sense of sight, but it never moved. The phantom that my mind pursued, was another and more real child. Of her outward appearance I know no more than that she was like her mother. The other had that likeness too—as you have—but was not the same. Can you follow me, Lucie? Hardly, I think? I doubt you must have been a solitary prisoner to understand these perplexed distinctions.”
His collected and calm manner could not prevent her blood from running cold, as he thus tried to anatomise his old condition.
“In that more peaceful state, I have imagined her, in the moonlight, coming to me and taking me out to show me that the home of her married life was full of her loving remembrance of her lost father. My picture was in her room, and I was in her prayers. Her life was active, cheerful, useful; but my poor history pervaded it all.”
“I was that child, my father, I was not half so good, but in my love that was I.”
“And she showed me her children,” said the Doctor of Beauvais, “and they had heard of me, and had been taught to pity me. When they passed a prison of the State, they kept far from its frowning walls, and looked up at its bars, and spoke in whispers. She could never deliver me; I imagined that she always brought me back after showing me such things. But then, blessed with the relief of tears, I fell upon my knees, and blessed her.”
“I am that child, I hope, my father. O my dear, my dear, will you bless me as fervently to-morrow?”
“Lucie, I recall these old troubles in the reason that I have to-night for loving you better than words can tell, and thanking God for my great happiness. My thoughts, when they were wildest, never rose near the happiness that I have known with you, and that we have before us.”
He embraced her, solemnly commended her to Heaven, and humbly thanked Heaven for having bestowed her on him. By-and-bye, they went into the house.
There was no one bidden to the marriage but Mr. Lorry; there was even to be no bridesmaid but the gaunt Miss Pross. The marriage was to make no change in their place of residence; they had been able to extend it, by taking to themselves the upper rooms formerly belonging to the apocryphal invisible lodger, and they desired nothing more.
Doctor Manette was very cheerful at the little supper. They were only three at table, and Miss Pross made the third. He regretted that Charles was not there; was more than half disposed to object to the loving little plot that kept him away; and drank to him affectionately.
So, the time came for him to bid Lucie good night, and they separated. But, in the stillness of the third hour of the morning, Lucie came downstairs again, and stole into his room; not free from unshaped fears, beforehand.
All things, however, were in their places; all was quiet; and he lay asleep, his white hair picturesque on the untroubled pillow, and his hands lying quiet on the coverlet. She put her needless candle in the shadow at a distance, crept up to his bed, and put her lips to his; then, leaned over him, and looked at him.
Into his handsome face, the bitter waters of captivity had worn; but, he covered up their tracks with a determination so strong, that he held the mastery of them even in his sleep. A more remarkable face in its quiet, resolute, and guarded struggle with an unseen assailant, was not to be beheld in all the wide dominions of sleep, that night.
She timidly laid her hand on his dear breast, and put up a prayer that she might ever be as true to him as her love aspired to be, and as his sorrows deserved. Then, she withdrew her hand, and kissed his lips once more, and went away. So, the sunrise came, and the shadows of the leaves of the plane-tree moved upon his face, as softly as her lips had moved in praying for him.
The marriage-day was shining brightly, and they were ready outside the closed door of the Doctor’s room, where he was speaking with Charles Darnay. They were ready to go to church; the beautiful bride, Mr. Lorry, and Miss Pross—to whom the event, through a gradual process of reconcilement to the inevitable, would have been one of absolute bliss, but for the yet lingering consideration that her brother Solomon should have been the bridegroom.
“And so,” said Mr. Lorry, who could not sufficiently admire the bride, and who had been moving round her to take in every point of her quiet, pretty dress; “and so it was for this, my sweet Lucie, that I brought you across the Channel, such a baby! Lord bless me! How little I thought what I was doing! How lightly I valued the obligation I was conferring on my friend Mr. Charles!”
“You didn’t mean it,” remarked the matter-of-fact Miss Pross, “and therefore how could you know it? Nonsense!”
“Really? Well; but don’t cry,” said the gentle Mr. Lorry.
“I am not crying,” said Miss Pross; “you are.”
“I, my Pross?” (By this time, Mr. Lorry dared to be pleasant with her, on occasion.)
“You were, just now; I saw you do it, and I don’t wonder at it. Such a present of plate as you have made ’em, is enough to bring tears into anybody’s eyes. There’s not a fork or a spoon in the collection,” said Miss Pross, “that I didn’t cry over, last night after the box came, till I couldn’t see it.”
“I am highly gratified,” said Mr. Lorry, “though, upon my honour, I had no intention of rendering those trifling articles of remembrance invisible to any one. Dear me! This is an occasion that makes a man speculate on all he has lost. Dear, dear, dear! To think that there might have been a Mrs. Lorry, any time these fifty years almost!”
“Not at all!” From Miss Pross.
“You think there never might have been a Mrs. Lorry?” asked the gentleman of that name.
“Pooh!” rejoined Miss Pross; “you were a bachelor in your cradle.”
“Well!” observed Mr. Lorry, beamingly adjusting his little wig, “that seems probable, too.”
“And you were cut out for a bachelor,” pursued Miss Pross, “before you were put in your cradle.”
“Then, I think,” said Mr. Lorry, “that I was very unhandsomely dealt with, and that I ought to have had a voice in the selection of my pattern. Enough! Now, my dear Lucie,” drawing his arm soothingly round her waist, “I hear them moving in the next room, and Miss Pross and I, as two formal folks of business, are anxious not to lose the final opportunity of saying something to you that you wish to hear. You leave your good father, my dear, in hands as earnest and as loving as your own; he shall be taken every conceivable care of; during the next fortnight, while you are in Warwickshire and thereabouts, even Tellson’s shall go to the wall (comparatively speaking) before him. And when, at the fortnight’s end, he comes to join you and your beloved husband, on your other fortnight’s trip in Wales, you shall say that we have sent him to you in the best health and in the happiest frame. Now, I hear Somebody’s step coming to the door. Let me kiss my dear girl with an old-fashioned bachelor blessing, before Somebody comes to claim his own.”
For a moment, he held the fair face from him to look at the well-remembered expression on the forehead, and then laid the bright golden hair against his little brown wig, with a genuine tenderness and delicacy which, if such things be old-fashioned, were as old as Adam.
The door of the Doctor’s room opened, and he came out with Charles Darnay. He was so deadly pale—which had not been the case when they went in together—that no vestige of colour was to be seen in his face. But, in the composure of his manner he was unaltered, except that to the shrewd glance of Mr. Lorry it disclosed some shadowy indication that the old air of avoidance and dread had lately passed over him, like a cold wind.
He gave his arm to his daughter, and took her down-stairs to the chariot which Mr. Lorry had hired in honour of the day. The rest followed in another carriage, and soon, in a neighbouring church, where no strange eyes looked on, Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette were happily married.
Besides the glancing tears that shone among the smiles of the little group when it was done, some diamonds, very bright and sparkling, glanced on the bride’s hand, which were newly released from the dark obscurity of one of Mr. Lorry’s pockets. They returned home to breakfast, and all went well, and in due course the golden hair that had mingled with the poor shoemaker’s white locks in the Paris garret, were mingled with them again in the morning sunlight, on the threshold of the door at parting.
It was a hard parting, though it was not for long. But her father cheered her, and said at last, gently disengaging himself from her enfolding arms, “Take her, Charles! She is yours!”
And her agitated hand waved to them from a chaise window, and she was gone.
The corner being out of the way of the idle and curious, and the preparations having been very simple and few, the Doctor, Mr. Lorry, and Miss Pross, were left quite alone. It was when they turned into the welcome shade of the cool old hall, that Mr. Lorry observed a great change to have come over the Doctor; as if the golden arm uplifted there, had struck him a poisoned blow.
He had naturally repressed much, and some revulsion might have been expected in him when the occasion for repression was gone. But, it was the old scared lost look that troubled Mr. Lorry; and through his absent manner of clasping his head and drearily wandering away into his own room when they got up-stairs, Mr. Lorry was reminded of Defarge the wine-shop keeper, and the starlight ride.
“I think,” he whispered to Miss Pross, after anxious consideration, “I think we had best not speak to him just now, or at all disturb him. I must look in at Tellson’s; so I will go there at once and come back presently. Then, we will take him a ride into the country, and dine there, and all will be well.”
It was easier for Mr. Lorry to look in at Tellson’s, than to look out of Tellson’s. He was detained two hours. When he came back, he ascended the old staircase alone, having asked no question of the servant; going thus into the Doctor’s rooms, he was stopped by a low sound of knocking.
“Good God!” he said, with a start. “What’s that?”
Miss Pross, with a terrified face, was at his ear. “O me, O me! All is lost!” cried she, wringing her hands. “What is to be told to Ladybird? He doesn’t know me, and is making shoes!”
Mr. Lorry said what he could to calm her, and went himself into the Doctor’s room. The bench was turned towards the light, as it had been when he had seen the shoemaker at his work before, and his head was bent down, and he was very busy.
“Doctor Manette. My dear friend, Doctor Manette!”
The Doctor looked at him for a moment—half inquiringly, half as if he were angry at being spoken to—and bent over his work again.
He had laid aside his coat and waistcoat; his shirt was open at the throat, as it used to be when he did that work; and even the old haggard, faded surface of face had come back to him. He worked hard—impatiently—as if in some sense of having been interrupted.
Mr. Lorry glanced at the work in his hand, and observed that it was a shoe of the old size and shape. He took up another that was lying by him, and asked what it was.
“A young lady’s walking shoe,” he muttered, without looking up. “It ought to have been finished long ago. Let it be.”
“But, Doctor Manette. Look at me!”
He obeyed, in the old mechanically submissive manner, without pausing in his work.
“You know me, my dear friend? Think again. This is not your proper occupation. Think, dear friend!”
Nothing would induce him to speak more. He looked up, for an instant at a time, when he was requested to do so; but, no persuasion would extract a word from him. He worked, and worked, and worked, in silence, and words fell on him as they would have fallen on an echoless wall, or on the air. The only ray of hope that Mr. Lorry could discover, was, that he sometimes furtively looked up without being asked. In that, there seemed a faint expression of curiosity or perplexity—as though he were trying to reconcile some doubts in his mind.
Two things at once impressed themselves on Mr. Lorry, as important above all others; the first, that this must be kept secret from Lucie; the second, that it must be kept secret from all who knew him. In conjunction with Miss Pross, he took immediate steps towards the latter precaution, by giving out that the Doctor was not well, and required a few days of complete rest. In aid of the kind deception to be practised on his daughter, Miss Pross was to write, describing his having been called away professionally, and referring to an imaginary letter of two or three hurried lines in his own hand, represented to have been addressed to her by the same post.
These measures, advisable to be taken in any case, Mr. Lorry took in the hope of his coming to himself. If that should happen soon, he kept another course in reserve; which was, to have a certain opinion that he thought the best, on the Doctor’s case.
In the hope of his recovery, and of resort to this third course being thereby rendered practicable, Mr. Lorry resolved to watch him attentively, with as little appearance as possible of doing so. He therefore made arrangements to absent himself from Tellson’s for the first time in his life, and took his post by the window in the same room.
He was not long in discovering that it was worse than useless to speak to him, since, on being pressed, he became worried. He abandoned that attempt on the first day, and resolved merely to keep himself always before him, as a silent protest against the delusion into which he had fallen, or was falling. He remained, therefore, in his seat near the window, reading and writing, and expressing in as many pleasant and natural ways as he could think of, that it was a free place.
Doctor Manette took what was given him to eat and drink, and worked on, that first day, until it was too dark to see—worked on, half an hour after Mr. Lorry could not have seen, for his life, to read or write. When he put his tools aside as useless, until morning, Mr. Lorry rose and said to him:
“Will you go out?”
He looked down at the floor on either side of him in the old manner, looked up in the old manner, and repeated in the old low voice:
“Yes; for a walk with me. Why not?”
He made no effort to say why not, and said not a word more. But, Mr. Lorry thought he saw, as he leaned forward on his bench in the dusk, with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, that he was in some misty way asking himself, “Why not?” The sagacity of the man of business perceived an advantage here, and determined to hold it.
Miss Pross and he divided the night into two watches, and observed him at intervals from the adjoining room. He paced up and down for a long time before he lay down; but, when he did finally lay himself down, he fell asleep. In the morning, he was up betimes, and went straight to his bench and to work.
On this second day, Mr. Lorry saluted him cheerfully by his name, and spoke to him on topics that had been of late familiar to them. He returned no reply, but it was evident that he heard what was said, and that he thought about it, however confusedly. This encouraged Mr. Lorry to have Miss Pross in with her work, several times during the day; at those times, they quietly spoke of Lucie, and of her father then present, precisely in the usual manner, and as if there were nothing amiss. This was done without any demonstrative accompaniment, not long enough, or often enough to harass him; and it lightened Mr. Lorry’s friendly heart to believe that he looked up oftener, and that he appeared to be stirred by some perception of inconsistencies surrounding him.
When it fell dark again, Mr. Lorry asked him as before:
“Dear Doctor, will you go out?”
As before, he repeated, “Out?”
“Yes; for a walk with me. Why not?”
This time, Mr. Lorry feigned to go out when he could extract no answer from him, and, after remaining absent for an hour, returned. In the meanwhile, the Doctor had removed to the seat in the window, and had sat there looking down at the plane-tree; but, on Mr. Lorry’s return, he slipped away to his bench.
The time went very slowly on, and Mr. Lorry’s hope darkened, and his heart grew heavier again, and grew yet heavier and heavier every day. The third day came and went, the fourth, the fifth. Five days, six days, seven days, eight days, nine days.
With a hope ever darkening, and with a heart always growing heavier and heavier, Mr. Lorry passed through this anxious time. The secret was well kept, and Lucie was unconscious and happy; but he could not fail to observe that the shoemaker, whose hand had been a little out at first, was growing dreadfully skilful, and that he had never been so intent on his work, and that his hands had never been so nimble and expert, as in the dusk of the ninth evening.
Worn out by anxious watching, Mr. Lorry fell asleep at his post. On the tenth morning of his suspense, he was startled by the shining of the sun into the room where a heavy slumber had overtaken him when it was dark night.
He rubbed his eyes and roused himself; but he doubted, when he had done so, whether he was not still asleep. For, going to the door of the Doctor’s room and looking in, he perceived that the shoemaker’s bench and tools were put aside again, and that the Doctor himself sat reading at the window. He was in his usual morning dress, and his face (which Mr. Lorry could distinctly see), though still very pale, was calmly studious and attentive.
Even when he had satisfied himself that he was awake, Mr. Lorry felt giddily uncertain for some few moments whether the late shoemaking might not be a disturbed dream of his own; for, did not his eyes show him his friend before him in his accustomed clothing and aspect, and employed as usual; and was there any sign within their range, that the change of which he had so strong an impression had actually happened?
It was but the inquiry of his first confusion and astonishment, the answer being obvious. If the impression were not produced by a real corresponding and sufficient cause, how came he, Jarvis Lorry, there? How came he to have fallen asleep, in his clothes, on the sofa in Doctor Manette’s consulting-room, and to be debating these points outside the Doctor’s bedroom door in the early morning?
Within a few minutes, Miss Pross stood whispering at his side. If he had had any particle of doubt left, her talk would of necessity have resolved it; but he was by that time clear-headed, and had none. He advised that they should let the time go by until the regular breakfast-hour, and should then meet the Doctor as if nothing unusual had occurred. If he appeared to be in his customary state of mind, Mr. Lorry would then cautiously proceed to seek direction and guidance from the opinion he had been, in his anxiety, so anxious to obtain.
Miss Pross, submitting herself to his judgment, the scheme was worked out with care. Having abundance of time for his usual methodical toilette, Mr. Lorry presented himself at the breakfast-hour in his usual white linen, and with his usual neat leg. The Doctor was summoned in the usual way, and came to breakfast.
So far as it was possible to comprehend him without overstepping those delicate and gradual approaches which Mr. Lorry felt to be the only safe advance, he at first supposed that his daughter’s marriage had taken place yesterday. An incidental allusion, purposely thrown out, to the day of the week, and the day of the month, set him thinking and counting, and evidently made him uneasy. In all other respects, however, he was so composedly himself, that Mr. Lorry determined to have the aid he sought. And that aid was his own.
Therefore, when the breakfast was done and cleared away, and he and the Doctor were left together, Mr. Lorry said, feelingly:
“My dear Manette, I am anxious to have your opinion, in confidence, on a very curious case in which I am deeply interested; that is to say, it is very curious to me; perhaps, to your better information it may be less so.”
Glancing at his hands, which were discoloured by his late work, the Doctor looked troubled, and listened attentively. He had already glanced at his hands more than once.
“Doctor Manette,” said Mr. Lorry, touching him affectionately on the arm, “the case is the case of a particularly dear friend of mine. Pray give your mind to it, and advise me well for his sake—and above all, for his daughter’s—his daughter’s, my dear Manette.”
“If I understand,” said the Doctor, in a subdued tone, “some mental shock—?”
“Be explicit,” said the Doctor. “Spare no detail.”
Mr. Lorry saw that they understood one another, and proceeded.
“My dear Manette, it is the case of an old and a prolonged shock, of great acuteness and severity to the affections, the feelings, the—the—as you express it—the mind. The mind. It is the case of a shock under which the sufferer was borne down, one cannot say for how long, because I believe he cannot calculate the time himself, and there are no other means of getting at it. It is the case of a shock from which the sufferer recovered, by a process that he cannot trace himself—as I once heard him publicly relate in a striking manner. It is the case of a shock from which he has recovered, so completely, as to be a highly intelligent man, capable of close application of mind, and great exertion of body, and of constantly making fresh additions to his stock of knowledge, which was already very large. But, unfortunately, there has been,” he paused and took a deep breath—“a slight relapse.”
The Doctor, in a low voice, asked, “Of how long duration?”
“Nine days and nights.”
“How did it show itself? I infer,” glancing at his hands again, “in the resumption of some old pursuit connected with the shock?”
“That is the fact.”
“Now, did you ever see him,” asked the Doctor, distinctly and collectedly, though in the same low voice, “engaged in that pursuit originally?”
“And when the relapse fell on him, was he in most respects—or in all respects—as he was then?”
“I think in all respects.”
“You spoke of his daughter. Does his daughter know of the relapse?”
“No. It has been kept from her, and I hope will always be kept from her. It is known only to myself, and to one other who may be trusted.”
The Doctor grasped his hand, and murmured, “That was very kind. That was very thoughtful!” Mr. Lorry grasped his hand in return, and neither of the two spoke for a little while.
“Now, my dear Manette,” said Mr. Lorry, at length, in his most considerate and most affectionate way, “I am a mere man of business, and unfit to cope with such intricate and difficult matters. I do not possess the kind of information necessary; I do not possess the kind of intelligence; I want guiding. There is no man in this world on whom I could so rely for right guidance, as on you. Tell me, how does this relapse come about? Is there danger of another? Could a repetition of it be prevented? How should a repetition of it be treated? How does it come about at all? What can I do for my friend? No man ever can have been more desirous in his heart to serve a friend, than I am to serve mine, if I knew how.
“But I don’t know how to originate, in such a case. If your sagacity, knowledge, and experience, could put me on the right track, I might be able to do so much; unenlightened and undirected, I can do so little. Pray discuss it with me; pray enable me to see it a little more clearly, and teach me how to be a little more useful.”
Doctor Manette sat meditating after these earnest words were spoken, and Mr. Lorry did not press him.
“I think it probable,” said the Doctor, breaking silence with an effort, “that the relapse you have described, my dear friend, was not quite unforeseen by its subject.”
“Was it dreaded by him?” Mr. Lorry ventured to ask.
“Very much.” He said it with an involuntary shudder.
“You have no idea how such an apprehension weighs on the sufferer’s mind, and how difficult—how almost impossible—it is, for him to force himself to utter a word upon the topic that oppresses him.”
“Would he,” asked Mr. Lorry, “be sensibly relieved if he could prevail upon himself to impart that secret brooding to any one, when it is on him?”
“I think so. But it is, as I have told you, next to impossible. I even believe it—in some cases—to be quite impossible.”
“Now,” said Mr. Lorry, gently laying his hand on the Doctor’s arm again, after a short silence on both sides, “to what would you refer this attack?”
“I believe,” returned Doctor Manette, “that there had been a strong and extraordinary revival of the train of thought and remembrance that was the first cause of the malady. Some intense associations of a most distressing nature were vividly recalled, I think. It is probable that there had long been a dread lurking in his mind, that those associations would be recalled—say, under certain circumstances—say, on a particular occasion. He tried to prepare himself in vain; perhaps the effort to prepare himself made him less able to bear it.”
“Would he remember what took place in the relapse?” asked Mr. Lorry, with natural hesitation.
The Doctor looked desolately round the room, shook his head, and answered, in a low voice, “Not at all.”
“Now, as to the future,” hinted Mr. Lorry.
“As to the future,” said the Doctor, recovering firmness, “I should have great hope. As it pleased Heaven in its mercy to restore him so soon, I should have great hope. He, yielding under the pressure of a complicated something, long dreaded and long vaguely foreseen and contended against, and recovering after the cloud had burst and passed, I should hope that the worst was over.”
“Well, well! That’s good comfort. I am thankful!” said Mr. Lorry.
“I am thankful!” repeated the Doctor, bending his head with reverence.
“There are two other points,” said Mr. Lorry, “on which I am anxious to be instructed. I may go on?”
“You cannot do your friend a better service.” The Doctor gave him his hand.
“To the first, then. He is of a studious habit, and unusually energetic; he applies himself with great ardour to the acquisition of professional knowledge, to the conducting of experiments, to many things. Now, does he do too much?”
“I think not. It may be the character of his mind, to be always in singular need of occupation. That may be, in part, natural to it; in part, the result of affliction. The less it was occupied with healthy things, the more it would be in danger of turning in the unhealthy direction. He may have observed himself, and made the discovery.”
“You are sure that he is not under too great a strain?”
“I think I am quite sure of it.”
“My dear Manette, if he were overworked now—”
“My dear Lorry, I doubt if that could easily be. There has been a violent stress in one direction, and it needs a counterweight.”
“Excuse me, as a persistent man of business. Assuming for a moment, that he was overworked; it would show itself in some renewal of this disorder?”
“I do not think so. I do not think,” said Doctor Manette with the firmness of self-conviction, “that anything but the one train of association would renew it. I think that, henceforth, nothing but some extraordinary jarring of that chord could renew it. After what has happened, and after his recovery, I find it difficult to imagine any such violent sounding of that string again. I trust, and I almost believe, that the circumstances likely to renew it are exhausted.”
He spoke with the diffidence of a man who knew how slight a thing would overset the delicate organisation of the mind, and yet with the confidence of a man who had slowly won his assurance out of personal endurance and distress. It was not for his friend to abate that confidence. He professed himself more relieved and encouraged than he really was, and approached his second and last point. He felt it to be the most difficult of all; but, remembering his old Sunday morning conversation with Miss Pross, and remembering what he had seen in the last nine days, he knew that he must face it.
“The occupation resumed under the influence of this passing affliction so happily recovered from,” said Mr. Lorry, clearing his throat, “we will call—Blacksmith’s work, Blacksmith’s work. We will say, to put a case and for the sake of illustration, that he had been used, in his bad time, to work at a little forge. We will say that he was unexpectedly found at his forge again. Is it not a pity that he should keep it by him?”
The Doctor shaded his forehead with his hand, and beat his foot nervously on the ground.
“He has always kept it by him,” said Mr. Lorry, with an anxious look at his friend. “Now, would it not be better that he should let it go?”
Still, the Doctor, with shaded forehead, beat his foot nervously on the ground.
“You do not find it easy to advise me?” said Mr. Lorry. “I quite understand it to be a nice question. And yet I think—” And there he shook his head, and stopped.
“You see,” said Doctor Manette, turning to him after an uneasy pause, “it is very hard to explain, consistently, the innermost workings of this poor man’s mind. He once yearned so frightfully for that occupation, and it was so welcome when it came; no doubt it relieved his pain so much, by substituting the perplexity of the fingers for the perplexity of the brain, and by substituting, as he became more practised, the ingenuity of the hands, for the ingenuity of the mental torture; that he has never been able to bear the thought of putting it quite out of his reach. Even now, when I believe he is more hopeful of himself than he has ever been, and even speaks of himself with a kind of confidence, the idea that he might need that old employment, and not find it, gives him a sudden sense of terror, like that which one may fancy strikes to the heart of a lost child.”
He looked like his illustration, as he raised his eyes to Mr. Lorry’s face.
“But may not—mind! I ask for information, as a plodding man of business who only deals with such material objects as guineas, shillings, and bank-notes—may not the retention of the thing involve the retention of the idea? If the thing were gone, my dear Manette, might not the fear go with it? In short, is it not a concession to the misgiving, to keep the forge?”
There was another silence.
“You see, too,” said the Doctor, tremulously, “it is such an old companion.”
“I would not keep it,” said Mr. Lorry, shaking his head; for he gained in firmness as he saw the Doctor disquieted. “I would recommend him to sacrifice it. I only want your authority. I am sure it does no good. Come! Give me your authority, like a dear good man. For his daughter’s sake, my dear Manette!”
Very strange to see what a struggle there was within him!
“In her name, then, let it be done; I sanction it. But, I would not take it away while he was present. Let it be removed when he is not there; let him miss his old companion after an absence.”
Mr. Lorry readily engaged for that, and the conference was ended. They passed the day in the country, and the Doctor was quite restored. On the three following days he remained perfectly well, and on the fourteenth day he went away to join Lucie and her husband. The precaution that had been taken to account for his silence, Mr. Lorry had previously explained to him, and he had written to Lucie in accordance with it, and she had no suspicions.
On the night of the day on which he left the house, Mr. Lorry went into his room with a chopper, saw, chisel, and hammer, attended by Miss Pross carrying a light. There, with closed doors, and in a mysterious and guilty manner, Mr. Lorry hacked the shoemaker’s bench to pieces, while Miss Pross held the candle as if she were assisting at a murder—for which, indeed, in her grimness, she was no unsuitable figure. The burning of the body (previously reduced to pieces convenient for the purpose) was commenced without delay in the kitchen fire; and the tools, shoes, and leather, were buried in the garden. So wicked do destruction and secrecy appear to honest minds, that Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross, while engaged in the commission of their deed and in the removal of its traces, almost felt, and almost looked, like accomplices in a horrible crime.
When the newly-married pair came home, the first person who appeared, to offer his congratulations, was Sydney Carton. They had not been at home many hours, when he presented himself. He was not improved in habits, or in looks, or in manner; but there was a certain rugged air of fidelity about him, which was new to the observation of Charles Darnay.
He watched his opportunity of taking Darnay aside into a window, and of speaking to him when no one overheard.
“Mr. Darnay,” said Carton, “I wish we might be friends.”
“We are already friends, I hope.”
“You are good enough to say so, as a fashion of speech; but, I don’t mean any fashion of speech. Indeed, when I say I wish we might be friends, I scarcely mean quite that, either.”
Charles Darnay—as was natural—asked him, in all good-humour and good-fellowship, what he did mean?
“Upon my life,” said Carton, smiling, “I find that easier to comprehend in my own mind, than to convey to yours. However, let me try. You remember a certain famous occasion when I was more drunk than—than usual?”
“I remember a certain famous occasion when you forced me to confess that you had been drinking.”
“I remember it too. The curse of those occasions is heavy upon me, for I always remember them. I hope it may be taken into account one day, when all days are at an end for me! Don’t be alarmed; I am not going to preach.”
“I am not at all alarmed. Earnestness in you, is anything but alarming to me.”
“Ah!” said Carton, with a careless wave of his hand, as if he waved that away. “On the drunken occasion in question (one of a large number, as you know), I was insufferable about liking you, and not liking you. I wish you would forget it.”
“I forgot it long ago.”
“Fashion of speech again! But, Mr. Darnay, oblivion is not so easy to me, as you represent it to be to you. I have by no means forgotten it, and a light answer does not help me to forget it.”
“If it was a light answer,” returned Darnay, “I beg your forgiveness for it. I had no other object than to turn a slight thing, which, to my surprise, seems to trouble you too much, aside. I declare to you, on the faith of a gentleman, that I have long dismissed it from my mind. Good Heaven, what was there to dismiss! Have I had nothing more important to remember, in the great service you rendered me that day?”
“As to the great service,” said Carton, “I am bound to avow to you, when you speak of it in that way, that it was mere professional claptrap, I don’t know that I cared what became of you, when I rendered it.—Mind! I say when I rendered it; I am speaking of the past.”
“You make light of the obligation,” returned Darnay, “but I will not quarrel with your light answer.”
“Genuine truth, Mr. Darnay, trust me! I have gone aside from my purpose; I was speaking about our being friends. Now, you know me; you know I am incapable of all the higher and better flights of men. If you doubt it, ask Stryver, and he’ll tell you so.”
“I prefer to form my own opinion, without the aid of his.”
“Well! At any rate you know me as a dissolute dog, who has never done any good, and never will.”
“I don’t know that you ‘never will.’”
“But I do, and you must take my word for it. Well! If you could endure to have such a worthless fellow, and a fellow of such indifferent reputation, coming and going at odd times, I should ask that I might be permitted to come and go as a privileged person here; that I might be regarded as an useless (and I would add, if it were not for the resemblance I detected between you and me, an unornamental) piece of furniture, tolerated for its old service, and taken no notice of. I doubt if I should abuse the permission. It is a hundred to one if I should avail myself of it four times in a year. It would satisfy me, I dare say, to know that I had it.”
“Will you try?”
“That is another way of saying that I am placed on the footing I have indicated. I thank you, Darnay. I may use that freedom with your name?”
“I think so, Carton, by this time.”
They shook hands upon it, and Sydney turned away. Within a minute afterwards, he was, to all outward appearance, as unsubstantial as ever.
When he was gone, and in the course of an evening passed with Miss Pross, the Doctor, and Mr. Lorry, Charles Darnay made some mention of this conversation in general terms, and spoke of Sydney Carton as a problem of carelessness and recklessness. He spoke of him, in short, not bitterly or meaning to bear hard upon him, but as anybody might who saw him as he showed himself.
He had no idea that this could dwell in the thoughts of his fair young wife; but, when he afterwards joined her in their own rooms, he found her waiting for him with the old pretty lifting of the forehead strongly marked.
“We are thoughtful to-night!” said Darnay, drawing his arm about her.
“Yes, dearest Charles,” with her hands on his breast, and the inquiring and attentive expression fixed upon him; “we are rather thoughtful to-night, for we have something on our mind to-night.”
“What is it, my Lucie?”
“Will you promise not to press one question on me, if I beg you not to ask it?”
“Will I promise? What will I not promise to my Love?”
What, indeed, with his hand putting aside the golden hair from the cheek, and his other hand against the heart that beat for him!
“I think, Charles, poor Mr. Carton deserves more consideration and respect than you expressed for him to-night.”
“Indeed, my own? Why so?”
“That is what you are not to ask me. But I think—I know—he does.”
“If you know it, it is enough. What would you have me do, my Life?”
“I would ask you, dearest, to be very generous with him always, and very lenient on his faults when he is not by. I would ask you to believe that he has a heart he very, very seldom reveals, and that there are deep wounds in it. My dear, I have seen it bleeding.”
“It is a painful reflection to me,” said Charles Darnay, quite astounded, “that I should have done him any wrong. I never thought this of him.”
“My husband, it is so. I fear he is not to be reclaimed; there is scarcely a hope that anything in his character or fortunes is reparable now. But, I am sure that he is capable of good things, gentle things, even magnanimous things.”
She looked so beautiful in the purity of her faith in this lost man, that her husband could have looked at her as she was for hours.
“And, O my dearest Love!” she urged, clinging nearer to him, laying her head upon his breast, and raising her eyes to his, “remember how strong we are in our happiness, and how weak he is in his misery!”
The supplication touched him home. “I will always remember it, dear Heart! I will remember it as long as I live.”
He bent over the golden head, and put the rosy lips to his, and folded her in his arms. If one forlorn wanderer then pacing the dark streets, could have heard her innocent disclosure, and could have seen the drops of pity kissed away by her husband from the soft blue eyes so loving of that husband, he might have cried to the night—and the words would not have parted from his lips for the first time—
“God bless her for her sweet compassion!”
Awonderful corner for echoes, it has been remarked, that corner where the Doctor lived. Ever busily winding the golden thread which bound her husband, and her father, and herself, and her old directress and companion, in a life of quiet bliss, Lucie sat in the still house in the tranquilly resounding corner, listening to the echoing footsteps of years.
At first, there were times, though she was a perfectly happy young wife, when her work would slowly fall from her hands, and her eyes would be dimmed. For, there was something coming in the echoes, something light, afar off, and scarcely audible yet, that stirred her heart too much. Fluttering hopes and doubts—hopes, of a love as yet unknown to her: doubts, of her remaining upon earth, to enjoy that new delight—divided her breast. Among the echoes then, there would arise the sound of footsteps at her own early grave; and thoughts of the husband who would be left so desolate, and who would mourn for her so much, swelled to her eyes, and broke like waves.
That time passed, and her little Lucie lay on her bosom. Then, among the advancing echoes, there was the tread of her tiny feet and the sound of her prattling words. Let greater echoes resound as they would, the young mother at the cradle side could always hear those coming. They came, and the shady house was sunny with a child’s laugh, and the Divine friend of children, to whom in her trouble she had confided hers, seemed to take her child in his arms, as He took the child of old, and made it a sacred joy to her.
Ever busily winding the golden thread that bound them all together, weaving the service of her happy influence through the tissue of all their lives, and making it predominate nowhere, Lucie heard in the echoes of years none but friendly and soothing sounds. Her husband’s step was strong and prosperous among them; her father’s firm and equal. Lo, Miss Pross, in harness of string, awakening the echoes, as an unruly charger, whip-corrected, snorting and pawing the earth under the plane-tree in the garden!
Even when there were sounds of sorrow among the rest, they were not harsh nor cruel. Even when golden hair, like her own, lay in a halo on a pillow round the worn face of a little boy, and he said, with a radiant smile, “Dear papa and mamma, I am very sorry to leave you both, and to leave my pretty sister; but I am called, and I must go!” those were not tears all of agony that wetted his young mother’s cheek, as the spirit departed from her embrace that had been entrusted to it. Suffer them and forbid them not. They see my Father’s face. O Father, blessed words!
Thus, the rustling of an Angel’s wings got blended with the other echoes, and they were not wholly of earth, but had in them that breath of Heaven. Sighs of the winds that blew over a little garden-tomb were mingled with them also, and both were audible to Lucie, in a hushed murmur—like the breathing of a summer sea asleep upon a sandy shore—as the little Lucie, comically studious at the task of the morning, or dressing a doll at her mother’s footstool, chattered in the tongues of the Two Cities that were blended in her life.
The Echoes rarely answered to the actual tread of Sydney Carton. Some half-dozen times a year, at most, he claimed his privilege of coming in uninvited, and would sit among them through the evening, as he had once done often. He never came there heated with wine. And one other thing regarding him was whispered in the echoes, which has been whispered by all true echoes for ages and ages.
No man ever really loved a woman, lost her, and knew her with a blameless though an unchanged mind, when she was a wife and a mother, but her children had a strange sympathy with him—an instinctive delicacy of pity for him. What fine hidden sensibilities are touched in such a case, no echoes tell; but it is so, and it was so here. Carton was the first stranger to whom little Lucie held out her chubby arms, and he kept his place with her as she grew. The little boy had spoken of him, almost at the last. “Poor Carton! Kiss him for me!”
Mr. Stryver shouldered his way through the law, like some great engine forcing itself through turbid water, and dragged his useful friend in his wake, like a boat towed astern. As the boat so favoured is usually in a rough plight, and mostly under water, so, Sydney had a swamped life of it. But, easy and strong custom, unhappily so much easier and stronger in him than any stimulating sense of desert or disgrace, made it the life he was to lead; and he no more thought of emerging from his state of lion’s jackal, than any real jackal may be supposed to think of rising to be a lion. Stryver was rich; had married a florid widow with property and three boys, who had nothing particularly shining about them but the straight hair of their dumpling heads.
These three young gentlemen, Mr. Stryver, exuding patronage of the most offensive quality from every pore, had walked before him like three sheep to the quiet corner in Soho, and had offered as pupils to Lucie’s husband: delicately saying “Halloa! here are three lumps of bread-and-cheese towards your matrimonial picnic, Darnay!” The polite rejection of the three lumps of bread-and-cheese had quite bloated Mr. Stryver with indignation, which he afterwards turned to account in the training of the young gentlemen, by directing them to beware of the pride of Beggars, like that tutor-fellow. He was also in the habit of declaiming to Mrs. Stryver, over his full-bodied wine, on the arts Mrs. Darnay had once put in practice to “catch” him, and on the diamond-cut-diamond arts in himself, madam, which had rendered him “not to be caught.” Some of his King’s Bench familiars, who were occasionally parties to the full-bodied wine and the lie, excused him for the latter by saying that he had told it so often, that he believed it himself—which is surely such an incorrigible aggravation of an originally bad offence, as to justify any such offender’s being carried off to some suitably retired spot, and there hanged out of the way.
These were among the echoes to which Lucie, sometimes pensive, sometimes amused and laughing, listened in the echoing corner, until her little daughter was six years old. How near to her heart the echoes of her child’s tread came, and those of her own dear father’s, always active and self-possessed, and those of her dear husband’s, need not be told. Nor, how the lightest echo of their united home, directed by herself with such a wise and elegant thrift that it was more abundant than any waste, was music to her. Nor, how there were echoes all about her, sweet in her ears, of the many times her father had told her that he found her more devoted to him married (if that could be) than single, and of the many times her husband had said to her that no cares and duties seemed to divide her love for him or her help to him, and asked her “What is the magic secret, my darling, of your being everything to all of us, as if there were only one of us, yet never seeming to be hurried, or to have too much to do?”
But, there were other echoes, from a distance, that rumbled menacingly in the corner all through this space of time. And it was now, about little Lucie’s sixth birthday, that they began to have an awful sound, as of a great storm in France with a dreadful sea rising.
On a night in mid-July, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine, Mr. Lorry came in late, from Tellson’s, and sat himself down by Lucie and her husband in the dark window. It was a hot, wild night, and they were all three reminded of the old Sunday night when they had looked at the lightning from the same place.
“I began to think,” said Mr. Lorry, pushing his brown wig back, “that I should have to pass the night at Tellson’s. We have been so full of business all day, that we have not known what to do first, or which way to turn. There is such an uneasiness in Paris, that we have actually a run of confidence upon us! Our customers over there, seem not to be able to confide their property to us fast enough. There is positively a mania among some of them for sending it to England.”
“That has a bad look,” said Darnay—
“A bad look, you say, my dear Darnay? Yes, but we don’t know what reason there is in it. People are so unreasonable! Some of us at Tellson’s are getting old, and we really can’t be troubled out of the ordinary course without due occasion.”
“Still,” said Darnay, “you know how gloomy and threatening the sky is.”
“I know that, to be sure,” assented Mr. Lorry, trying to persuade himself that his sweet temper was soured, and that he grumbled, “but I am determined to be peevish after my long day’s botheration. Where is Manette?”
“Here he is,” said the Doctor, entering the dark room at the moment.
“I am quite glad you are at home; for these hurries and forebodings by which I have been surrounded all day long, have made me nervous without reason. You are not going out, I hope?”
“No; I am going to play backgammon with you, if you like,” said the Doctor.
“I don’t think I do like, if I may speak my mind. I am not fit to be pitted against you to-night. Is the teaboard still there, Lucie? I can’t see.”
“Of course, it has been kept for you.”
“Thank ye, my dear. The precious child is safe in bed?”
“And sleeping soundly.”
“That’s right; all safe and well! I don’t know why anything should be otherwise than safe and well here, thank God; but I have been so put out all day, and I am not as young as I was! My tea, my dear! Thank ye. Now, come and take your place in the circle, and let us sit quiet, and hear the echoes about which you have your theory.”
“Not a theory; it was a fancy.”
“A fancy, then, my wise pet,” said Mr. Lorry, patting her hand. “They are very numerous and very loud, though, are they not? Only hear them!”
Headlong, mad, and dangerous footsteps to force their way into anybody’s life, footsteps not easily made clean again if once stained red, the footsteps raging in Saint Antoine afar off, as the little circle sat in the dark London window.
Saint Antoine had been, that morning, a vast dusky mass of scarecrows heaving to and fro, with frequent gleams of light above the billowy heads, where steel blades and bayonets shone in the sun. A tremendous roar arose from the throat of Saint Antoine, and a forest of naked arms struggled in the air like shrivelled branches of trees in a winter wind: all the fingers convulsively clutching at every weapon or semblance of a weapon that was thrown up from the depths below, no matter how far off.
Who gave them out, whence they last came, where they began, through what agency they crookedly quivered and jerked, scores at a time, over the heads of the crowd, like a kind of lightning, no eye in the throng could have told; but, muskets were being distributed—so were cartridges, powder, and ball, bars of iron and wood, knives, axes, pikes, every weapon that distracted ingenuity could discover or devise. People who could lay hold of nothing else, set themselves with bleeding hands to force stones and bricks out of their places in walls. Every pulse and heart in Saint Antoine was on high-fever strain and at high-fever heat. Every living creature there held life as of no account, and was demented with a passionate readiness to sacrifice it.
As a whirlpool of boiling waters has a centre point, so, all this raging circled round Defarge’s wine-shop, and every human drop in the caldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex where Defarge himself, already begrimed with gunpowder and sweat, issued orders, issued arms, thrust this man back, dragged this man forward, disarmed one to arm another, laboured and strove in the thickest of the uproar.
“Keep near to me, Jacques Three,” cried Defarge; “and do you, Jacques One and Two, separate and put yourselves at the head of as many of these patriots as you can. Where is my wife?”
“Eh, well! Here you see me!” said madame, composed as ever, but not knitting to-day. Madame’s resolute right hand was occupied with an axe, in place of the usual softer implements, and in her girdle were a pistol and a cruel knife.
“Where do you go, my wife?”
“I go,” said madame, “with you at present. You shall see me at the head of women, by-and-bye.”
“Come, then!” cried Defarge, in a resounding voice. “Patriots and friends, we are ready! The Bastille!”
With a roar that sounded as if all the breath in France had been shaped into the detested word, the living sea rose, wave on wave, depth on depth, and overflowed the city to that point. Alarm-bells ringing, drums beating, the sea raging and thundering on its new beach, the attack began.
Deep ditches, double drawbridge, massive stone walls, eight great towers, cannon, muskets, fire and smoke. Through the fire and through the smoke—in the fire and in the smoke, for the sea cast him up against a cannon, and on the instant he became a cannonier—Defarge of the wine-shop worked like a manful soldier, Two fierce hours.
Deep ditch, single drawbridge, massive stone walls, eight great towers, cannon, muskets, fire and smoke. One drawbridge down! “Work, comrades all, work! Work, Jacques One, Jacques Two, Jacques One Thousand, Jacques Two Thousand, Jacques Five-and-Twenty Thousand; in the name of all the Angels or the Devils—which you prefer—work!” Thus Defarge of the wine-shop, still at his gun, which had long grown hot.
“To me, women!” cried madame his wife. “What! We can kill as well as the men when the place is taken!” And to her, with a shrill thirsty cry, trooping women variously armed, but all armed alike in hunger and revenge.
Cannon, muskets, fire and smoke; but, still the deep ditch, the single drawbridge, the massive stone walls, and the eight great towers. Slight displacements of the raging sea, made by the falling wounded. Flashing weapons, blazing torches, smoking waggonloads of wet straw, hard work at neighbouring barricades in all directions, shrieks, volleys, execrations, bravery without stint, boom smash and rattle, and the furious sounding of the living sea; but, still the deep ditch, and the single drawbridge, and the massive stone walls, and the eight great towers, and still Defarge of the wine-shop at his gun, grown doubly hot by the service of Four fierce hours.
A white flag from within the fortress, and a parley—this dimly perceptible through the raging storm, nothing audible in it—suddenly the sea rose immeasurably wider and higher, and swept Defarge of the wine-shop over the lowered drawbridge, past the massive stone outer walls, in among the eight great towers surrendered!
So resistless was the force of the ocean bearing him on, that even to draw his breath or turn his head was as impracticable as if he had been struggling in the surf at the South Sea, until he was landed in the outer courtyard of the Bastille. There, against an angle of a wall, he made a struggle to look about him. Jacques Three was nearly at his side; Madame Defarge, still heading some of her women, was visible in the inner distance, and her knife was in her hand. Everywhere was tumult, exultation, deafening and maniacal bewilderment, astounding noise, yet furious dumb-show.
“The secret cells!”
“The instruments of torture!”
Of all these cries, and ten thousand incoherences, “The Prisoners!” was the cry most taken up by the sea that rushed in, as if there were an eternity of people, as well as of time and space. When the foremost billows rolled past, bearing the prison officers with them, and threatening them all with instant death if any secret nook remained undisclosed, Defarge laid his strong hand on the breast of one of these men—a man with a grey head, who had a lighted torch in his hand—separated him from the rest, and got him between himself and the wall.
“Show me the North Tower!” said Defarge. “Quick!”
“I will faithfully,” replied the man, “if you will come with me. But there is no one there.”
“What is the meaning of One Hundred and Five, North Tower?” asked Defarge. “Quick!”
“The meaning, monsieur?”
“Does it mean a captive, or a place of captivity? Or do you mean that I shall strike you dead?”
“Kill him!” croaked Jacques Three, who had come close up.
“Monsieur, it is a cell.”
“Show it me!”
“Pass this way, then.”
Jacques Three, with his usual craving on him, and evidently disappointed by the dialogue taking a turn that did not seem to promise bloodshed, held by Defarge’s arm as he held by the turnkey’s. Their three heads had been close together during this brief discourse, and it had been as much as they could do to hear one another, even then: so tremendous was the noise of the living ocean, in its irruption into the Fortress, and its inundation of the courts and passages and staircases. All around outside, too, it beat the walls with a deep, hoarse roar, from which, occasionally, some partial shouts of tumult broke and leaped into the air like spray.
Through gloomy vaults where the light of day had never shone, past hideous doors of dark dens and cages, down cavernous flights of steps, and again up steep rugged ascents of stone and brick, more like dry waterfalls than staircases, Defarge, the turnkey, and Jacques Three, linked hand and arm, went with all the speed they could make. Here and there, especially at first, the inundation started on them and swept by; but when they had done descending, and were winding and climbing up a tower, they were alone. Hemmed in here by the massive thickness of walls and arches, the storm within the fortress and without was only audible to them in a dull, subdued way, as if the noise out of which they had come had almost destroyed their sense of hearing.
The turnkey stopped at a low door, put a key in a clashing lock, swung the door slowly open, and said, as they all bent their heads and passed in:
“One hundred and five, North Tower!”
There was a small, heavily-grated, unglazed window high in the wall, with a stone screen before it, so that the sky could be only seen by stooping low and looking up. There was a small chimney, heavily barred across, a few feet within. There was a heap of old feathery wood-ashes on the hearth. There was a stool, and table, and a straw bed. There were the four blackened walls, and a rusted iron ring in one of them.
“Pass that torch slowly along these walls, that I may see them,” said Defarge to the turnkey.
The man obeyed, and Defarge followed the light closely with his eyes.
“Stop!—Look here, Jacques!”
“A. M.!” croaked Jacques Three, as he read greedily.
“Alexandre Manette,” said Defarge in his ear, following the letters with his swart forefinger, deeply engrained with gunpowder. “And here he wrote ‘a poor physician.’ And it was he, without doubt, who scratched a calendar on this stone. What is that in your hand? A crowbar? Give it me!”
He had still the linstock of his gun in his own hand. He made a sudden exchange of the two instruments, and turning on the worm-eaten stool and table, beat them to pieces in a few blows.
“Hold the light higher!” he said, wrathfully, to the turnkey. “Look among those fragments with care, Jacques. And see! Here is my knife,” throwing it to him; “rip open that bed, and search the straw. Hold the light higher, you!”
With a menacing look at the turnkey he crawled upon the hearth, and, peering up the chimney, struck and prised at its sides with the crowbar, and worked at the iron grating across it. In a few minutes, some mortar and dust came dropping down, which he averted his face to avoid; and in it, and in the old wood-ashes, and in a crevice in the chimney into which his weapon had slipped or wrought itself, he groped with a cautious touch.
“Nothing in the wood, and nothing in the straw, Jacques?”
“Let us collect them together, in the middle of the cell. So! Light them, you!”
The turnkey fired the little pile, which blazed high and hot. Stooping again to come out at the low-arched door, they left it burning, and retraced their way to the courtyard; seeming to recover their sense of hearing as they came down, until they were in the raging flood once more.
They found it surging and tossing, in quest of Defarge himself. Saint Antoine was clamorous to have its wine-shop keeper foremost in the guard upon the governor who had defended the Bastille and shot the people. Otherwise, the governor would not be marched to the Hotel de Ville for judgment. Otherwise, the governor would escape, and the people’s blood (suddenly of some value, after many years of worthlessness) be unavenged.
In the howling universe of passion and contention that seemed to encompass this grim old officer conspicuous in his grey coat and red decoration, there was but one quite steady figure, and that was a woman’s. “See, there is my husband!” she cried, pointing him out. “See Defarge!” She stood immovable close to the grim old officer, and remained immovable close to him; remained immovable close to him through the streets, as Defarge and the rest bore him along; remained immovable close to him when he was got near his destination, and began to be struck at from behind; remained immovable close to him when the long-gathering rain of stabs and blows fell heavy; was so close to him when he dropped dead under it, that, suddenly animated, she put her foot upon his neck, and with her cruel knife—long ready—hewed off his head.
The hour was come, when Saint Antoine was to execute his horrible idea of hoisting up men for lamps to show what he could be and do. Saint Antoine’s blood was up, and the blood of tyranny and domination by the iron hand was down—down on the steps of the Hotel de Ville where the governor’s body lay—down on the sole of the shoe of Madame Defarge where she had trodden on the body to steady it for mutilation. “Lower the lamp yonder!” cried Saint Antoine, after glaring round for a new means of death; “here is one of his soldiers to be left on guard!” The swinging sentinel was posted, and the sea rushed on.
The sea of black and threatening waters, and of destructive upheaving of wave against wave, whose depths were yet unfathomed and whose forces were yet unknown. The remorseless sea of turbulently swaying shapes, voices of vengeance, and faces hardened in the furnaces of suffering until the touch of pity could make no mark on them.
But, in the ocean of faces where every fierce and furious expression was in vivid life, there were two groups of faces—each seven in number—so fixedly contrasting with the rest, that never did sea roll which bore more memorable wrecks with it. Seven faces of prisoners, suddenly released by the storm that had burst their tomb, were carried high overhead: all scared, all lost, all wondering and amazed, as if the Last Day were come, and those who rejoiced around them were lost spirits. Other seven faces there were, carried higher, seven dead faces, whose drooping eyelids and half-seen eyes awaited the Last Day. Impassive faces, yet with a suspended—not an abolished—expression on them; faces, rather, in a fearful pause, as having yet to raise the dropped lids of the eyes, and bear witness with the bloodless lips, “Thou Didst It!”
Seven prisoners released, seven gory heads on pikes, the keys of the accursed fortress of the eight strong towers, some discovered letters and other memorials of prisoners of old time, long dead of broken hearts,—such, and such—like, the loudly echoing footsteps of Saint Antoine escort through the Paris streets in mid-July, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine. Now, Heaven defeat the fancy of Lucie Darnay, and keep these feet far out of her life! For, they are headlong, mad, and dangerous; and in the years so long after the breaking of the cask at Defarge’s wine-shop door, they are not easily purified when once stained red.
Haggard Saint Antoine had had only one exultant week, in which to soften his modicum of hard and bitter bread to such extent as he could, with the relish of fraternal embraces and congratulations, when Madame Defarge sat at her counter, as usual, presiding over the customers. Madame Defarge wore no rose in her head, for the great brotherhood of Spies had become, even in one short week, extremely chary of trusting themselves to the saint’s mercies. The lamps across his streets had a portentously elastic swing with them.
Madame Defarge, with her arms folded, sat in the morning light and heat, contemplating the wine-shop and the street. In both, there were several knots of loungers, squalid and miserable, but now with a manifest sense of power enthroned on their distress. The raggedest nightcap, awry on the wretchedest head, had this crooked significance in it: “I know how hard it has grown for me, the wearer of this, to support life in myself; but do you know how easy it has grown for me, the wearer of this, to destroy life in you?” Every lean bare arm, that had been without work before, had this work always ready for it now, that it could strike. The fingers of the knitting women were vicious, with the experience that they could tear. There was a change in the appearance of Saint Antoine; the image had been hammering into this for hundreds of years, and the last finishing blows had told mightily on the expression.
Madame Defarge sat observing it, with such suppressed approval as was to be desired in the leader of the Saint Antoine women. One of her sisterhood knitted beside her. The short, rather plump wife of a starved grocer, and the mother of two children withal, this lieutenant had already earned the complimentary name of The Vengeance.
“Hark!” said The Vengeance. “Listen, then! Who comes?”
As if a train of powder laid from the outermost bound of Saint Antoine Quarter to the wine-shop door, had been suddenly fired, a fast-spreading murmur came rushing along.
“It is Defarge,” said madame. “Silence, patriots!”
Defarge came in breathless, pulled off a red cap he wore, and looked around him! “Listen, everywhere!” said madame again. “Listen to him!” Defarge stood, panting, against a background of eager eyes and open mouths, formed outside the door; all those within the wine-shop had sprung to their feet.
“Say then, my husband. What is it?”
“News from the other world!”
“How, then?” cried madame, contemptuously. “The other world?”
“Does everybody here recall old Foulon, who told the famished people that they might eat grass, and who died, and went to Hell?”
“Everybody!” from all throats.
“The news is of him. He is among us!”
“Among us!” from the universal throat again. “And dead?”
“Not dead! He feared us so much—and with reason—that he caused himself to be represented as dead, and had a grand mock-funeral. But they have found him alive, hiding in the country, and have brought him in. I have seen him but now, on his way to the Hotel de Ville, a prisoner. I have said that he had reason to fear us. Say all! Had he reason?”
Wretched old sinner of more than threescore years and ten, if he had never known it yet, he would have known it in his heart of hearts if he could have heard the answering cry.
A moment of profound silence followed. Defarge and his wife looked steadfastly at one another. The Vengeance stooped, and the jar of a drum was heard as she moved it at her feet behind the counter.
“Patriots!” said Defarge, in a determined voice, “are we ready?”
Instantly Madame Defarge’s knife was in her girdle; the drum was beating in the streets, as if it and a drummer had flown together by magic; and The Vengeance, uttering terrific shrieks, and flinging her arms about her head like all the forty Furies at once, was tearing from house to house, rousing the women.
The men were terrible, in the bloody-minded anger with which they looked from windows, caught up what arms they had, and came pouring down into the streets; but, the women were a sight to chill the boldest. From such household occupations as their bare poverty yielded, from their children, from their aged and their sick crouching on the bare ground famished and naked, they ran out with streaming hair, urging one another, and themselves, to madness with the wildest cries and actions. Villain Foulon taken, my sister! Old Foulon taken, my mother! Miscreant Foulon taken, my daughter! Then, a score of others ran into the midst of these, beating their breasts, tearing their hair, and screaming, Foulon alive! Foulon who told the starving people they might eat grass! Foulon who told my old father that he might eat grass, when I had no bread to give him! Foulon who told my baby it might suck grass, when these breasts were dry with want! O mother of God, this Foulon! O Heaven our suffering! Hear me, my dead baby and my withered father: I swear on my knees, on these stones, to avenge you on Foulon! Husbands, and brothers, and young men, Give us the blood of Foulon, Give us the head of Foulon, Give us the heart of Foulon, Give us the body and soul of Foulon, Rend Foulon to pieces, and dig him into the ground, that grass may grow from him! With these cries, numbers of the women, lashed into blind frenzy, whirled about, striking and tearing at their own friends until they dropped into a passionate swoon, and were only saved by the men belonging to them from being trampled under foot.
Nevertheless, not a moment was lost; not a moment! This Foulon was at the Hotel de Ville, and might be loosed. Never, if Saint Antoine knew his own sufferings, insults, and wrongs! Armed men and women flocked out of the Quarter so fast, and drew even these last dregs after them with such a force of suction, that within a quarter of an hour there was not a human creature in Saint Antoine’s bosom but a few old crones and the wailing children.
No. They were all by that time choking the Hall of Examination where this old man, ugly and wicked, was, and overflowing into the adjacent open space and streets. The Defarges, husband and wife, The Vengeance, and Jacques Three, were in the first press, and at no great distance from him in the Hall.
“See!” cried madame, pointing with her knife. “See the old villain bound with ropes. That was well done to tie a bunch of grass upon his back. Ha, ha! That was well done. Let him eat it now!” Madame put her knife under her arm, and clapped her hands as at a play.
The people immediately behind Madame Defarge, explaining the cause of her satisfaction to those behind them, and those again explaining to others, and those to others, the neighbouring streets resounded with the clapping of hands. Similarly, during two or three hours of drawl, and the winnowing of many bushels of words, Madame Defarge’s frequent expressions of impatience were taken up, with marvellous quickness, at a distance: the more readily, because certain men who had by some wonderful exercise of agility climbed up the external architecture to look in from the windows, knew Madame Defarge well, and acted as a telegraph between her and the crowd outside the building.
At length the sun rose so high that it struck a kindly ray as of hope or protection, directly down upon the old prisoner’s head. The favour was too much to bear; in an instant the barrier of dust and chaff that had stood surprisingly long, went to the winds, and Saint Antoine had got him!
It was known directly, to the furthest confines of the crowd. Defarge had but sprung over a railing and a table, and folded the miserable wretch in a deadly embrace—Madame Defarge had but followed and turned her hand in one of the ropes with which he was tied—The Vengeance and Jacques Three were not yet up with them, and the men at the windows had not yet swooped into the Hall, like birds of prey from their high perches—when the cry seemed to go up, all over the city, “Bring him out! Bring him to the lamp!”
Down, and up, and head foremost on the steps of the building; now, on his knees; now, on his feet; now, on his back; dragged, and struck at, and stifled by the bunches of grass and straw that were thrust into his face by hundreds of hands; torn, bruised, panting, bleeding, yet always entreating and beseeching for mercy; now full of vehement agony of action, with a small clear space about him as the people drew one another back that they might see; now, a log of dead wood drawn through a forest of legs; he was hauled to the nearest street corner where one of the fatal lamps swung, and there Madame Defarge let him go—as a cat might have done to a mouse—and silently and composedly looked at him while they made ready, and while he besought her: the women passionately screeching at him all the time, and the men sternly calling out to have him killed with grass in his mouth. Once, he went aloft, and the rope broke, and they caught him shrieking; twice, he went aloft, and the rope broke, and they caught him shrieking; then, the rope was merciful, and held him, and his head was soon upon a pike, with grass enough in the mouth for all Saint Antoine to dance at the sight of.
Nor was this the end of the day’s bad work, for Saint Antoine so shouted and danced his angry blood up, that it boiled again, on hearing when the day closed in that the son-in-law of the despatched, another of the people’s enemies and insulters, was coming into Paris under a guard five hundred strong, in cavalry alone. Saint Antoine wrote his crimes on flaring sheets of paper, seized him—would have torn him out of the breast of an army to bear Foulon company—set his head and heart on pikes, and carried the three spoils of the day, in Wolf-procession through the streets.
Not before dark night did the men and women come back to the children, wailing and breadless. Then, the miserable bakers’ shops were beset by long files of them, patiently waiting to buy bad bread; and while they waited with stomachs faint and empty, they beguiled the time by embracing one another on the triumphs of the day, and achieving them again in gossip. Gradually, these strings of ragged people shortened and frayed away; and then poor lights began to shine in high windows, and slender fires were made in the streets, at which neighbours cooked in common, afterwards supping at their doors.
Scanty and insufficient suppers those, and innocent of meat, as of most other sauce to wretched bread. Yet, human fellowship infused some nourishment into the flinty viands, and struck some sparks of cheerfulness out of them. Fathers and mothers who had had their full share in the worst of the day, played gently with their meagre children; and lovers, with such a world around them and before them, loved and hoped.
It was almost morning, when Defarge’s wine-shop parted with its last knot of customers, and Monsieur Defarge said to madame his wife, in husky tones, while fastening the door:
“At last it is come, my dear!”
“Eh well!” returned madame. “Almost.”
Saint Antoine slept, the Defarges slept: even The Vengeance slept with her starved grocer, and the drum was at rest. The drum’s was the only voice in Saint Antoine that blood and hurry had not changed. The Vengeance, as custodian of the drum, could have wakened him up and had the same speech out of him as before the Bastille fell, or old Foulon was seized; not so with the hoarse tones of the men and women in Saint Antoine’s bosom.
There was a change on the village where the fountain fell, and where the mender of roads went forth daily to hammer out of the stones on the highway such morsels of bread as might serve for patches to hold his poor ignorant soul and his poor reduced body together. The prison on the crag was not so dominant as of yore; there were soldiers to guard it, but not many; there were officers to guard the soldiers, but not one of them knew what his men would do—beyond this: that it would probably not be what he was ordered.
Far and wide lay a ruined country, yielding nothing but desolation. Every green leaf, every blade of grass and blade of grain, was as shrivelled and poor as the miserable people. Everything was bowed down, dejected, oppressed, and broken. Habitations, fences, domesticated animals, men, women, children, and the soil that bore them—all worn out.
Monseigneur (often a most worthy individual gentleman) was a national blessing, gave a chivalrous tone to things, was a polite example of luxurious and shining life, and a great deal more to equal purpose; nevertheless, Monseigneur as a class had, somehow or other, brought things to this. Strange that Creation, designed expressly for Monseigneur, should be so soon wrung dry and squeezed out! There must be something short-sighted in the eternal arrangements, surely! Thus it was, however; and the last drop of blood having been extracted from the flints, and the last screw of the rack having been turned so often that its purchase crumbled, and it now turned and turned with nothing to bite, Monseigneur began to run away from a phenomenon so low and unaccountable.
But, this was not the change on the village, and on many a village like it. For scores of years gone by, Monseigneur had squeezed it and wrung it, and had seldom graced it with his presence except for the pleasures of the chase—now, found in hunting the people; now, found in hunting the beasts, for whose preservation Monseigneur made edifying spaces of barbarous and barren wilderness. No. The change consisted in the appearance of strange faces of low caste, rather than in the disappearance of the high caste, chiselled, and otherwise beautified and beautifying features of Monseigneur.
For, in these times, as the mender of roads worked, solitary, in the dust, not often troubling himself to reflect that dust he was and to dust he must return, being for the most part too much occupied in thinking how little he had for supper and how much more he would eat if he had it—in these times, as he raised his eyes from his lonely labour, and viewed the prospect, he would see some rough figure approaching on foot, the like of which was once a rarity in those parts, but was now a frequent presence. As it advanced, the mender of roads would discern without surprise, that it was a shaggy-haired man, of almost barbarian aspect, tall, in wooden shoes that were clumsy even to the eyes of a mender of roads, grim, rough, swart, steeped in the mud and dust of many highways, dank with the marshy moisture of many low grounds, sprinkled with the thorns and leaves and moss of many byways through woods.
Such a man came upon him, like a ghost, at noon in the July weather, as he sat on his heap of stones under a bank, taking such shelter as he could get from a shower of hail.
The man looked at him, looked at the village in the hollow, at the mill, and at the prison on the crag. When he had identified these objects in what benighted mind he had, he said, in a dialect that was just intelligible:
“How goes it, Jacques?”
“All well, Jacques.”
They joined hands, and the man sat down on the heap of stones.
“Nothing but supper now,” said the mender of roads, with a hungry face.
“It is the fashion,” growled the man. “I meet no dinner anywhere.”
He took out a blackened pipe, filled it, lighted it with flint and steel, pulled at it until it was in a bright glow: then, suddenly held it from him and dropped something into it from between his finger and thumb, that blazed and went out in a puff of smoke.
“Touch then.” It was the turn of the mender of roads to say it this time, after observing these operations. They again joined hands.
“To-night?” said the mender of roads.
“To-night,” said the man, putting the pipe in his mouth.
He and the mender of roads sat on the heap of stones looking silently at one another, with the hail driving in between them like a pigmy charge of bayonets, until the sky began to clear over the village.
“Show me!” said the traveller then, moving to the brow of the hill.
“See!” returned the mender of roads, with extended finger. “You go down here, and straight through the street, and past the fountain—”
“To the Devil with all that!” interrupted the other, rolling his eye over the landscape. “I go through no streets and past no fountains. Well?”
“Well! About two leagues beyond the summit of that hill above the village.”
“Good. When do you cease to work?”
“Will you wake me, before departing? I have walked two nights without resting. Let me finish my pipe, and I shall sleep like a child. Will you wake me?”
The wayfarer smoked his pipe out, put it in his breast, slipped off his great wooden shoes, and lay down on his back on the heap of stones. He was fast asleep directly.
As the road-mender plied his dusty labour, and the hail-clouds, rolling away, revealed bright bars and streaks of sky which were responded to by silver gleams upon the landscape, the little man (who wore a red cap now, in place of his blue one) seemed fascinated by the figure on the heap of stones. His eyes were so often turned towards it, that he used his tools mechanically, and, one would have said, to very poor account. The bronze face, the shaggy black hair and beard, the coarse woollen red cap, the rough medley dress of home-spun stuff and hairy skins of beasts, the powerful frame attenuated by spare living, and the sullen and desperate compression of the lips in sleep, inspired the mender of roads with awe. The traveller had travelled far, and his feet were footsore, and his ankles chafed and bleeding; his great shoes, stuffed with leaves and grass, had been heavy to drag over the many long leagues, and his clothes were chafed into holes, as he himself was into sores. Stooping down beside him, the road-mender tried to get a peep at secret weapons in his breast or where not; but, in vain, for he slept with his arms crossed upon him, and set as resolutely as his lips. Fortified towns with their stockades, guard-houses, gates, trenches, and drawbridges, seemed to the mender of roads, to be so much air as against this figure. And when he lifted his eyes from it to the horizon and looked around, he saw in his small fancy similar figures, stopped by no obstacle, tending to centres all over France.
The man slept on, indifferent to showers of hail and intervals of brightness, to sunshine on his face and shadow, to the paltering lumps of dull ice on his body and the diamonds into which the sun changed them, until the sun was low in the west, and the sky was glowing. Then, the mender of roads having got his tools together and all things ready to go down into the village, roused him.
“Good!” said the sleeper, rising on his elbow. “Two leagues beyond the summit of the hill?”
The mender of roads went home, with the dust going on before him according to the set of the wind, and was soon at the fountain, squeezing himself in among the lean kine brought there to drink, and appearing even to whisper to them in his whispering to all the village. When the village had taken its poor supper, it did not creep to bed, as it usually did, but came out of doors again, and remained there. A curious contagion of whispering was upon it, and also, when it gathered together at the fountain in the dark, another curious contagion of looking expectantly at the sky in one direction only. Monsieur Gabelle, chief functionary of the place, became uneasy; went out on his house-top alone, and looked in that direction too; glanced down from behind his chimneys at the darkening faces by the fountain below, and sent word to the sacristan who kept the keys of the church, that there might be need to ring the tocsin by-and-bye.
The night deepened. The trees environing the old chateau, keeping its solitary state apart, moved in a rising wind, as though they threatened the pile of building massive and dark in the gloom. Up the two terrace flights of steps the rain ran wildly, and beat at the great door, like a swift messenger rousing those within; uneasy rushes of wind went through the hall, among the old spears and knives, and passed lamenting up the stairs, and shook the curtains of the bed where the last Marquis had slept. East, West, North, and South, through the woods, four heavy-treading, unkempt figures crushed the high grass and cracked the branches, striding on cautiously to come together in the courtyard. Four lights broke out there, and moved away in different directions, and all was black again.
But, not for long. Presently, the chateau began to make itself strangely visible by some light of its own, as though it were growing luminous. Then, a flickering streak played behind the architecture of the front, picking out transparent places, and showing where balustrades, arches, and windows were. Then it soared higher, and grew broader and brighter. Soon, from a score of the great windows, flames burst forth, and the stone faces awakened, stared out of fire.
A faint murmur arose about the house from the few people who were left there, and there was a saddling of a horse and riding away. There was spurring and splashing through the darkness, and bridle was drawn in the space by the village fountain, and the horse in a foam stood at Monsieur Gabelle’s door. “Help, Gabelle! Help, every one!” The tocsin rang impatiently, but other help (if that were any) there was none. The mender of roads, and two hundred and fifty particular friends, stood with folded arms at the fountain, looking at the pillar of fire in the sky. “It must be forty feet high,” said they, grimly; and never moved.
The rider from the chateau, and the horse in a foam, clattered away through the village, and galloped up the stony steep, to the prison on the crag. At the gate, a group of officers were looking at the fire; removed from them, a group of soldiers. “Help, gentlemen—officers! The chateau is on fire; valuable objects may be saved from the flames by timely aid! Help, help!” The officers looked towards the soldiers who looked at the fire; gave no orders; and answered, with shrugs and biting of lips, “It must burn.”
As the rider rattled down the hill again and through the street, the village was illuminating. The mender of roads, and the two hundred and fifty particular friends, inspired as one man and woman by the idea of lighting up, had darted into their houses, and were putting candles in every dull little pane of glass. The general scarcity of everything, occasioned candles to be borrowed in a rather peremptory manner of Monsieur Gabelle; and in a moment of reluctance and hesitation on that functionary’s part, the mender of roads, once so submissive to authority, had remarked that carriages were good to make bonfires with, and that post-horses would roast.
The chateau was left to itself to flame and burn. In the roaring and raging of the conflagration, a red-hot wind, driving straight from the infernal regions, seemed to be blowing the edifice away. With the rising and falling of the blaze, the stone faces showed as if they were in torment. When great masses of stone and timber fell, the face with the two dints in the nose became obscured: anon struggled out of the smoke again, as if it were the face of the cruel Marquis, burning at the stake and contending with the fire.
The chateau burned; the nearest trees, laid hold of by the fire, scorched and shrivelled; trees at a distance, fired by the four fierce figures, begirt the blazing edifice with a new forest of smoke. Molten lead and iron boiled in the marble basin of the fountain; the water ran dry; the extinguisher tops of the towers vanished like ice before the heat, and trickled down into four rugged wells of flame. Great rents and splits branched out in the solid walls, like crystallisation; stupefied birds wheeled about and dropped into the furnace; four fierce figures trudged away, East, West, North, and South, along the night-enshrouded roads, guided by the beacon they had lighted, towards their next destination. The illuminated village had seized hold of the tocsin, and, abolishing the lawful ringer, rang for joy.
Not only that; but the village, light-headed with famine, fire, and bell-ringing, and bethinking itself that Monsieur Gabelle had to do with the collection of rent and taxes—though it was but a small instalment of taxes, and no rent at all, that Gabelle had got in those latter days—became impatient for an interview with him, and, surrounding his house, summoned him to come forth for personal conference. Whereupon, Monsieur Gabelle did heavily bar his door, and retire to hold counsel with himself. The result of that conference was, that Gabelle again withdrew himself to his housetop behind his stack of chimneys; this time resolved, if his door were broken in (he was a small Southern man of retaliative temperament), to pitch himself head foremost over the parapet, and crush a man or two below.
Probably, Monsieur Gabelle passed a long night up there, with the distant chateau for fire and candle, and the beating at his door, combined with the joy-ringing, for music; not to mention his having an ill-omened lamp slung across the road before his posting-house gate, which the village showed a lively inclination to displace in his favour. A trying suspense, to be passing a whole summer night on the brink of the black ocean, ready to take that plunge into it upon which Monsieur Gabelle had resolved! But, the friendly dawn appearing at last, and the rush-candles of the village guttering out, the people happily dispersed, and Monsieur Gabelle came down bringing his life with him for that while.
Within a hundred miles, and in the light of other fires, there were other functionaries less fortunate, that night and other nights, whom the rising sun found hanging across once-peaceful streets, where they had been born and bred; also, there were other villagers and townspeople less fortunate than the mender of roads and his fellows, upon whom the functionaries and soldiery turned with success, and whom they strung up in their turn. But, the fierce figures were steadily wending East, West, North, and South, be that as it would; and whosoever hung, fire burned. The altitude of the gallows that would turn to water and quench it, no functionary, by any stretch of mathematics, was able to calculate successfully.
In such risings of fire and risings of sea—the firm earth shaken by the rushes of an angry ocean which had now no ebb, but was always on the flow, higher and higher, to the terror and wonder of the beholders on the shore—three years of tempest were consumed. Three more birthdays of little Lucie had been woven by the golden thread into the peaceful tissue of the life of her home.
Many a night and many a day had its inmates listened to the echoes in the corner, with hearts that failed them when they heard the thronging feet. For, the footsteps had become to their minds as the footsteps of a people, tumultuous under a red flag and with their country declared in danger, changed into wild beasts, by terrible enchantment long persisted in.
Monseigneur, as a class, had dissociated himself from the phenomenon of his not being appreciated: of his being so little wanted in France, as to incur considerable danger of receiving his dismissal from it, and this life together. Like the fabled rustic who raised the Devil with infinite pains, and was so terrified at the sight of him that he could ask the Enemy no question, but immediately fled; so, Monseigneur, after boldly reading the Lord’s Prayer backwards for a great number of years, and performing many other potent spells for compelling the Evil One, no sooner beheld him in his terrors than he took to his noble heels.
The shining Bull’s Eye of the Court was gone, or it would have been the mark for a hurricane of national bullets. It had never been a good eye to see with—had long had the mote in it of Lucifer’s pride, Sardanapalus’s luxury, and a mole’s blindness—but it had dropped out and was gone. The Court, from that exclusive inner circle to its outermost rotten ring of intrigue, corruption, and dissimulation, was all gone together. Royalty was gone; had been besieged in its Palace and “suspended,” when the last tidings came over.
The August of the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two was come, and Monseigneur was by this time scattered far and wide.
As was natural, the head-quarters and great gathering-place of Monseigneur, in London, was Tellson’s Bank. Spirits are supposed to haunt the places where their bodies most resorted, and Monseigneur without a guinea haunted the spot where his guineas used to be. Moreover, it was the spot to which such French intelligence as was most to be relied upon, came quickest. Again: Tellson’s was a munificent house, and extended great liberality to old customers who had fallen from their high estate. Again: those nobles who had seen the coming storm in time, and anticipating plunder or confiscation, had made provident remittances to Tellson’s, were always to be heard of there by their needy brethren. To which it must be added that every new-comer from France reported himself and his tidings at Tellson’s, almost as a matter of course. For such variety of reasons, Tellson’s was at that time, as to French intelligence, a kind of High Exchange; and this was so well known to the public, and the inquiries made there were in consequence so numerous, that Tellson’s sometimes wrote the latest news out in a line or so and posted it in the Bank windows, for all who ran through Temple Bar to read.
On a steaming, misty afternoon, Mr. Lorry sat at his desk, and Charles Darnay stood leaning on it, talking with him in a low voice. The penitential den once set apart for interviews with the House, was now the news-Exchange, and was filled to overflowing. It was within half an hour or so of the time of closing.
“But, although you are the youngest man that ever lived,” said Charles Darnay, rather hesitating, “I must still suggest to you—”
“I understand. That I am too old?” said Mr. Lorry.
“Unsettled weather, a long journey, uncertain means of travelling, a disorganised country, a city that may not be even safe for you.”
“My dear Charles,” said Mr. Lorry, with cheerful confidence, “you touch some of the reasons for my going: not for my staying away. It is safe enough for me; nobody will care to interfere with an old fellow of hard upon fourscore when there are so many people there much better worth interfering with. As to its being a disorganised city, if it were not a disorganised city there would be no occasion to send somebody from our House here to our House there, who knows the city and the business, of old, and is in Tellson’s confidence. As to the uncertain travelling, the long journey, and the winter weather, if I were not prepared to submit myself to a few inconveniences for the sake of Tellson’s, after all these years, who ought to be?”
“I wish I were going myself,” said Charles Darnay, somewhat restlessly, and like one thinking aloud.
“Indeed! You are a pretty fellow to object and advise!” exclaimed Mr. Lorry. “You wish you were going yourself? And you a Frenchman born? You are a wise counsellor.”
“My dear Mr. Lorry, it is because I am a Frenchman born, that the thought (which I did not mean to utter here, however) has passed through my mind often. One cannot help thinking, having had some sympathy for the miserable people, and having abandoned something to them,” he spoke here in his former thoughtful manner, “that one might be listened to, and might have the power to persuade to some restraint. Only last night, after you had left us, when I was talking to Lucie—”
“When you were talking to Lucie,” Mr. Lorry repeated. “Yes. I wonder you are not ashamed to mention the name of Lucie! Wishing you were going to France at this time of day!”
“However, I am not going,” said Charles Darnay, with a smile. “It is more to the purpose that you say you are.”
“And I am, in plain reality. The truth is, my dear Charles,” Mr. Lorry glanced at the distant House, and lowered his voice, “you can have no conception of the difficulty with which our business is transacted, and of the peril in which our books and papers over yonder are involved. The Lord above knows what the compromising consequences would be to numbers of people, if some of our documents were seized or destroyed; and they might be, at any time, you know, for who can say that Paris is not set afire to-day, or sacked to-morrow! Now, a judicious selection from these with the least possible delay, and the burying of them, or otherwise getting of them out of harm’s way, is within the power (without loss of precious time) of scarcely any one but myself, if any one. And shall I hang back, when Tellson’s knows this and says this—Tellson’s, whose bread I have eaten these sixty years—because I am a little stiff about the joints? Why, I am a boy, sir, to half a dozen old codgers here!”
“How I admire the gallantry of your youthful spirit, Mr. Lorry.”
“Tut! Nonsense, sir!—And, my dear Charles,” said Mr. Lorry, glancing at the House again, “you are to remember, that getting things out of Paris at this present time, no matter what things, is next to an impossibility. Papers and precious matters were this very day brought to us here (I speak in strict confidence; it is not business-like to whisper it, even to you), by the strangest bearers you can imagine, every one of whom had his head hanging on by a single hair as he passed the Barriers. At another time, our parcels would come and go, as easily as in business-like Old England; but now, everything is stopped.”
“And do you really go to-night?”
“I really go to-night, for the case has become too pressing to admit of delay.”
“And do you take no one with you?”
“All sorts of people have been proposed to me, but I will have nothing to say to any of them. I intend to take Jerry. Jerry has been my bodyguard on Sunday nights for a long time past and I am used to him. Nobody will suspect Jerry of being anything but an English bull-dog, or of having any design in his head but to fly at anybody who touches his master.”
“I must say again that I heartily admire your gallantry and youthfulness.”
“I must say again, nonsense, nonsense! When I have executed this little commission, I shall, perhaps, accept Tellson’s proposal to retire and live at my ease. Time enough, then, to think about growing old.”
This dialogue had taken place at Mr. Lorry’s usual desk, with Monseigneur swarming within a yard or two of it, boastful of what he would do to avenge himself on the rascal-people before long. It was too much the way of Monseigneur under his reverses as a refugee, and it was much too much the way of native British orthodoxy, to talk of this terrible Revolution as if it were the only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown—as if nothing had ever been done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it—as if observers of the wretched millions in France, and of the misused and perverted resources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably coming, years before, and had not in plain words recorded what they saw. Such vapouring, combined with the extravagant plots of Monseigneur for the restoration of a state of things that had utterly exhausted itself, and worn out Heaven and earth as well as itself, was hard to be endured without some remonstrance by any sane man who knew the truth. And it was such vapouring all about his ears, like a troublesome confusion of blood in his own head, added to a latent uneasiness in his mind, which had already made Charles Darnay restless, and which still kept him so.
Among the talkers, was Stryver, of the King’s Bench Bar, far on his way to state promotion, and, therefore, loud on the theme: broaching to Monseigneur, his devices for blowing the people up and exterminating them from the face of the earth, and doing without them: and for accomplishing many similar objects akin in their nature to the abolition of eagles by sprinkling salt on the tails of the race. Him, Darnay heard with a particular feeling of objection; and Darnay stood divided between going away that he might hear no more, and remaining to interpose his word, when the thing that was to be, went on to shape itself out.
The House approached Mr. Lorry, and laying a soiled and unopened letter before him, asked if he had yet discovered any traces of the person to whom it was addressed? The House laid the letter down so close to Darnay that he saw the direction—the more quickly because it was his own right name. The address, turned into English, ran:
“Very pressing. To Monsieur heretofore the Marquis St. Evrémonde, of France. Confided to the cares of Messrs. Tellson and Co., Bankers, London, England.”
On the marriage morning, Doctor Manette had made it his one urgent and express request to Charles Darnay, that the secret of this name should be—unless he, the Doctor, dissolved the obligation—kept inviolate between them. Nobody else knew it to be his name; his own wife had no suspicion of the fact; Mr. Lorry could have none.
“No,” said Mr. Lorry, in reply to the House; “I have referred it, I think, to everybody now here, and no one can tell me where this gentleman is to be found.”
The hands of the clock verging upon the hour of closing the Bank, there was a general set of the current of talkers past Mr. Lorry’s desk. He held the letter out inquiringly; and Monseigneur looked at it, in the person of this plotting and indignant refugee; and Monseigneur looked at it in the person of that plotting and indignant refugee; and This, That, and The Other, all had something disparaging to say, in French or in English, concerning the Marquis who was not to be found.
“Nephew, I believe—but in any case degenerate successor—of the polished Marquis who was murdered,” said one. “Happy to say, I never knew him.”
“A craven who abandoned his post,” said another—this Monseigneur had been got out of Paris, legs uppermost and half suffocated, in a load of hay—“some years ago.”
“Infected with the new doctrines,” said a third, eyeing the direction through his glass in passing; “set himself in opposition to the last Marquis, abandoned the estates when he inherited them, and left them to the ruffian herd. They will recompense him now, I hope, as he deserves.”
“Hey?” cried the blatant Stryver. “Did he though? Is that the sort of fellow? Let us look at his infamous name. D—n the fellow!”
Darnay, unable to restrain himself any longer, touched Mr. Stryver on the shoulder, and said:
“I know the fellow.”
“Do you, by Jupiter?” said Stryver. “I am sorry for it.”
“Why, Mr. Darnay? D’ye hear what he did? Don’t ask, why, in these times.”
“But I do ask why?”
“Then I tell you again, Mr. Darnay, I am sorry for it. I am sorry to hear you putting any such extraordinary questions. Here is a fellow, who, infected by the most pestilent and blasphemous code of devilry that ever was known, abandoned his property to the vilest scum of the earth that ever did murder by wholesale, and you ask me why I am sorry that a man who instructs youth knows him? Well, but I’ll answer you. I am sorry because I believe there is contamination in such a scoundrel. That’s why.”
Mindful of the secret, Darnay with great difficulty checked himself, and said: “You may not understand the gentleman.”
“I understand how to put you in a corner, Mr. Darnay,” said Bully Stryver, “and I’ll do it. If this fellow is a gentleman, I don’t understand him. You may tell him so, with my compliments. You may also tell him, from me, that after abandoning his worldly goods and position to this butcherly mob, I wonder he is not at the head of them. But, no, gentlemen,” said Stryver, looking all round, and snapping his fingers, “I know something of human nature, and I tell you that you’ll never find a fellow like this fellow, trusting himself to the mercies of such precious protégés. No, gentlemen; he’ll always show ’em a clean pair of heels very early in the scuffle, and sneak away.”
With those words, and a final snap of his fingers, Mr. Stryver shouldered himself into Fleet-street, amidst the general approbation of his hearers. Mr. Lorry and Charles Darnay were left alone at the desk, in the general departure from the Bank.
“Will you take charge of the letter?” said Mr. Lorry. “You know where to deliver it?”
“Will you undertake to explain, that we suppose it to have been addressed here, on the chance of our knowing where to forward it, and that it has been here some time?”
“I will do so. Do you start for Paris from here?”
“From here, at eight.”
“I will come back, to see you off.”
Very ill at ease with himself, and with Stryver and most other men, Darnay made the best of his way into the quiet of the Temple, opened the letter, and read it. These were its contents:
“Prison of the Abbaye, Paris.
“June 21, 1792. “Monsieur Heretofore The Marquis.
“After having long been in danger of my life at the hands of the village, I have been seized, with great violence and indignity, and brought a long journey on foot to Paris. On the road I have suffered a great deal. Nor is that all; my house has been destroyed—razed to the ground.
“The crime for which I am imprisoned, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, and for which I shall be summoned before the tribunal, and shall lose my life (without your so generous help), is, they tell me, treason against the majesty of the people, in that I have acted against them for an emigrant. It is in vain I represent that I have acted for them, and not against, according to your commands. It is in vain I represent that, before the sequestration of emigrant property, I had remitted the imposts they had ceased to pay; that I had collected no rent; that I had had recourse to no process. The only response is, that I have acted for an emigrant, and where is that emigrant?
“Ah! most gracious Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, where is that emigrant? I cry in my sleep where is he? I demand of Heaven, will he not come to deliver me? No answer. Ah Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, I send my desolate cry across the sea, hoping it may perhaps reach your ears through the great bank of Tilson known at Paris!
“For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour of your noble name, I supplicate you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, to succour and release me. My fault is, that I have been true to you. Oh Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, I pray you be you true to me!
“From this prison here of horror, whence I every hour tend nearer and nearer to destruction, I send you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, the assurance of my dolorous and unhappy service.
The latent uneasiness in Darnay’s mind was roused to vigourous life by this letter. The peril of an old servant and a good one, whose only crime was fidelity to himself and his family, stared him so reproachfully in the face, that, as he walked to and fro in the Temple considering what to do, he almost hid his face from the passersby.
He knew very well, that in his horror of the deed which had culminated the bad deeds and bad reputation of the old family house, in his resentful suspicions of his uncle, and in the aversion with which his conscience regarded the crumbling fabric that he was supposed to uphold, he had acted imperfectly. He knew very well, that in his love for Lucie, his renunciation of his social place, though by no means new to his own mind, had been hurried and incomplete. He knew that he ought to have systematically worked it out and supervised it, and that he had meant to do it, and that it had never been done.
The happiness of his own chosen English home, the necessity of being always actively employed, the swift changes and troubles of the time which had followed on one another so fast, that the events of this week annihilated the immature plans of last week, and the events of the week following made all new again; he knew very well, that to the force of these circumstances he had yielded:—not without disquiet, but still without continuous and accumulating resistance. That he had watched the times for a time of action, and that they had shifted and struggled until the time had gone by, and the nobility were trooping from France by every highway and byway, and their property was in course of confiscation and destruction, and their very names were blotting out, was as well known to himself as it could be to any new authority in France that might impeach him for it.
But, he had oppressed no man, he had imprisoned no man; he was so far from having harshly exacted payment of his dues, that he had relinquished them of his own will, thrown himself on a world with no favour in it, won his own private place there, and earned his own bread. Monsieur Gabelle had held the impoverished and involved estate on written instructions, to spare the people, to give them what little there was to give—such fuel as the heavy creditors would let them have in the winter, and such produce as could be saved from the same grip in the summer—and no doubt he had put the fact in plea and proof, for his own safety, so that it could not but appear now.
This favoured the desperate resolution Charles Darnay had begun to make, that he would go to Paris.
Yes. Like the mariner in the old story, the winds and streams had driven him within the influence of the Loadstone Rock, and it was drawing him to itself, and he must go. Everything that arose before his mind drifted him on, faster and faster, more and more steadily, to the terrible attraction. His latent uneasiness had been, that bad aims were being worked out in his own unhappy land by bad instruments, and that he who could not fail to know that he was better than they, was not there, trying to do something to stay bloodshed, and assert the claims of mercy and humanity. With this uneasiness half stifled, and half reproaching him, he had been brought to the pointed comparison of himself with the brave old gentleman in whom duty was so strong; upon that comparison (injurious to himself) had instantly followed the sneers of Monseigneur, which had stung him bitterly, and those of Stryver, which above all were coarse and galling, for old reasons. Upon those, had followed Gabelle’s letter: the appeal of an innocent prisoner, in danger of death, to his justice, honour, and good name.
His resolution was made. He must go to Paris.
Yes. The Loadstone Rock was drawing him, and he must sail on, until he struck. He knew of no rock; he saw hardly any danger. The intention with which he had done what he had done, even although he had left it incomplete, presented it before him in an aspect that would be gratefully acknowledged in France on his presenting himself to assert it. Then, that glorious vision of doing good, which is so often the sanguine mirage of so many good minds, arose before him, and he even saw himself in the illusion with some influence to guide this raging Revolution that was running so fearfully wild.
As he walked to and fro with his resolution made, he considered that neither Lucie nor her father must know of it until he was gone. Lucie should be spared the pain of separation; and her father, always reluctant to turn his thoughts towards the dangerous ground of old, should come to the knowledge of the step, as a step taken, and not in the balance of suspense and doubt. How much of the incompleteness of his situation was referable to her father, through the painful anxiety to avoid reviving old associations of France in his mind, he did not discuss with himself. But, that circumstance too, had had its influence in his course.
He walked to and fro, with thoughts very busy, until it was time to return to Tellson’s and take leave of Mr. Lorry. As soon as he arrived in Paris he would present himself to this old friend, but he must say nothing of his intention now.
A carriage with post-horses was ready at the Bank door, and Jerry was booted and equipped.
“I have delivered that letter,” said Charles Darnay to Mr. Lorry. “I would not consent to your being charged with any written answer, but perhaps you will take a verbal one?”
“That I will, and readily,” said Mr. Lorry, “if it is not dangerous.”
“Not at all. Though it is to a prisoner in the Abbaye.”
“What is his name?” said Mr. Lorry, with his open pocket-book in his hand.
“Gabelle. And what is the message to the unfortunate Gabelle in prison?”
“Simply, ‘that he has received the letter, and will come.’”
“Any time mentioned?”
“He will start upon his journey to-morrow night.”
“Any person mentioned?”
He helped Mr. Lorry to wrap himself in a number of coats and cloaks, and went out with him from the warm atmosphere of the old Bank, into the misty air of Fleet-street. “My love to Lucie, and to little Lucie,” said Mr. Lorry at parting, “and take precious care of them till I come back.” Charles Darnay shook his head and doubtfully smiled, as the carriage rolled away.
That night—it was the fourteenth of August—he sat up late, and wrote two fervent letters; one was to Lucie, explaining the strong obligation he was under to go to Paris, and showing her, at length, the reasons that he had, for feeling confident that he could become involved in no personal danger there; the other was to the Doctor, confiding Lucie and their dear child to his care, and dwelling on the same topics with the strongest assurances. To both, he wrote that he would despatch letters in proof of his safety, immediately after his arrival.
It was a hard day, that day of being among them, with the first reservation of their joint lives on his mind. It was a hard matter to preserve the innocent deceit of which they were profoundly unsuspicious. But, an affectionate glance at his wife, so happy and busy, made him resolute not to tell her what impended (he had been half moved to do it, so strange it was to him to act in anything without her quiet aid), and the day passed quickly. Early in the evening he embraced her, and her scarcely less dear namesake, pretending that he would return by-and-bye (an imaginary engagement took him out, and he had secreted a valise of clothes ready), and so he emerged into the heavy mist of the heavy streets, with a heavier heart.
The unseen force was drawing him fast to itself, now, and all the tides and winds were setting straight and strong towards it. He left his two letters with a trusty porter, to be delivered half an hour before midnight, and no sooner; took horse for Dover; and began his journey. “For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour of your noble name!” was the poor prisoner’s cry with which he strengthened his sinking heart, as he left all that was dear on earth behind him, and floated away for the Loadstone Rock.