“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 dun 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, be 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!”
A wonderful 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.
The Sea Still Rises
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 where 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 fife, 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.
Drawn to the Loadstone Rock
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, Sardana–palus’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;