Part 5 - A Tale of Two Cities Audiobook by Charles Dickens (Book 02, Chs 20-24)


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Transcript:
Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapter XX.
A Plea
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!"
>
Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapter XXI.
Echoing Footsteps
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 Prisoners!"
"The Records!"
"The secret cells!" "The instruments of torture!"
"The Prisoners!"
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?"
"Nothing."
"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.
>
Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapter XXII.
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 were dry with
want!
O mother of God, this Foulon! O Heaven our suffering!
Hear me, my dead baby and my withered father: I swear on my knees, on these
stones, to avenge you on Foulon!
Husbands, and brothers, and young men, Give us the blood of Foulon, Give us the head of
Foulon, Give us the heart of Foulon, Give us the body and soul of Foulon, Rend Foulon
to pieces, and dig him into the ground, that grass may grow from him!
With these cries, numbers of the women, lashed into blind frenzy, whirled about,
striking and tearing at their own friends until they dropped into a passionate swoon,
and were only saved by the men belonging to them from being trampled under foot.
Nevertheless, not a moment was lost; not a moment!
This Foulon was at the Hotel de Ville, and might be loosed.
Never, if Saint Antoine knew his own sufferings, insults, and wrongs!
Armed men and women flocked out of the Quarter so fast, and drew even these last
dregs after them with such a force of suction, that within a quarter of an hour
there was not a human creature in Saint
Antoine's bosom but a few old crones and the wailing children.
No. They were all by that time choking the Hall of Examination where this old man,
ugly and wicked, was, and overflowing into the adjacent open space and streets.
The Defarges, husband and wife, The Vengeance, and Jacques Three, were in the
first press, and at no great distance from him in the Hall.
"See!" cried madame, pointing with her knife.
"See the old villain bound with ropes. That was well done to tie a bunch of grass
upon his back.
Ha, ha! That was well done.
Let him eat it now!" Madame put her knife under her arm, and
clapped her hands as at a play.
The people immediately behind Madame Defarge, explaining the cause of her
satisfaction to those behind them, and those again explaining to others, and those
to others, the neighbouring streets resounded with the clapping of hands.
Similarly, during two or three hours of drawl, and the winnowing of many bushels of
words, Madame Defarge's frequent expressions of impatience were taken up,
with marvellous quickness, at a distance:
the more readily, because certain men who had by some wonderful exercise of agility
climbed up the external architecture to look in from the windows, knew Madame
Defarge well, and acted as a telegraph
between her and the crowd outside the building.
At length the sun rose so high that it struck a kindly ray as of hope or
protection, directly down upon the old prisoner's head.
The favour was too much to bear; in an instant the barrier of dust and chaff that
had stood surprisingly long, went to the winds, and Saint Antoine had got him!
It was known directly, to the furthest confines of the crowd.
Defarge had but sprung over a railing and a table, and folded the miserable wretch in a
deadly embrace--Madame Defarge had but followed and turned her hand in one of the
ropes with which he was tied--The Vengeance
and Jacques Three were not yet up with them, and the men at the windows had not
yet swooped into the Hall, like birds of prey from their high perches--when the cry
seemed to go up, all over the city, "Bring him out!
Bring him to the lamp!"
Down, and up, and head foremost on the steps of the building; now, on his knees;
now, on his feet; now, on his back; dragged, and struck at, and stifled by the
bunches of grass and straw that were thrust
into his face by hundreds of hands; torn, bruised, panting, bleeding, yet always
entreating and beseeching for mercy; now full of vehement agony of action, with a
small clear space about him as the people
drew one another back that they might see; now, a log of dead wood drawn through a
forest of legs; he was hauled to the nearest street corner where one of the
fatal lamps swung, and there Madame Defarge
let him go--as a cat might have done to a mouse--and silently and composedly looked
at him while they made ready, and while he besought her: the women passionately
screeching at him all the time, and the men
sternly calling out to have him killed with grass in his mouth.
Once, he went aloft, and the rope broke, and they caught him shrieking; twice, he
went aloft, and the rope broke, and they caught him shrieking; then, the rope was
merciful, and held him, and his head was
soon upon a pike, with grass enough in the mouth for all Saint Antoine to dance at the
sight of.
Nor was this the end of the day's bad work, for Saint Antoine so shouted and danced his
angry blood up, that it boiled again, on hearing when the day closed in that the
son-in-law of the despatched, another of
the people's enemies and insulters, was coming into Paris under a guard five
hundred strong, in cavalry alone.
Saint Antoine wrote his crimes on flaring sheets of paper, seized him--would have
torn him out of the breast of an army to bear Foulon company--set his head and heart
on pikes, and carried the three spoils of
the day, in Wolf-procession through the streets.
Not before dark night did the men and women come back to the children, wailing and
breadless.
Then, the miserable bakers' shops were beset by long files of them, patiently
waiting to buy bad bread; and while they waited with stomachs faint and empty, they
beguiled the time by embracing one another
on the triumphs of the day, and achieving them again in gossip.
Gradually, these strings of ragged people shortened and frayed away; and then poor
lights began to shine in high windows, and slender fires were made in the streets, at
which neighbours cooked in common, afterwards supping at their doors.
Scanty and insufficient suppers those, and innocent of meat, as of most other sauce to
wretched bread.
Yet, human fellowship infused some nourishment into the flinty viands, and
struck some sparks of cheerfulness out of them.
Fathers and mothers who had had their full share in the worst of the day, played
gently with their meagre children; and lovers, with such a world around them and
before them, loved and hoped.
It was almost morning, when Defarge's wine- shop parted with its last knot of
customers, and Monsieur Defarge said to madame his wife, in husky tones, while
fastening the door:
"At last it is come, my dear!" "Eh well!" returned madame.
"Almost."
Saint Antoine slept, the Defarges slept: even The Vengeance slept with her starved
grocer, and the drum was at rest.
The drum's was the only voice in Saint Antoine that blood and hurry had not
changed.
The Vengeance, as custodian of the drum, could have wakened him up and had the same
speech out of him as before the Bastille fell, or old Foulon was seized; not so with
the hoarse tones of the men and women in Saint Antoine's bosom.
>
Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapter XXIII.
Fire Rises
There was a change on the village where the fountain fell, and where the mender of
roads went forth daily to hammer out of the stones on the highway such morsels of bread
as might serve for patches to hold his poor
ignorant soul and his poor reduced body together.
The prison on the crag was not so dominant as of yore; there were soldiers to guard
it, but not many; there were officers to guard the soldiers, but not one of them
knew what his men would do--beyond this:
that it would probably not be what he was ordered.
Far and wide lay a ruined country, yielding nothing but desolation.
Every green leaf, every blade of grass and blade of grain, was as shrivelled and poor
as the miserable people. Everything was bowed down, dejected,
oppressed, and broken.
Habitations, fences, domesticated animals, men, women, children, and the soil that
bore them--all worn out.
Monseigneur (often a most worthy individual gentleman) was a national blessing, gave a
chivalrous tone to things, was a polite example of luxurious and shining life, and
a great deal more to equal purpose;
nevertheless, Monseigneur as a class had, somehow or other, brought things to this.
Strange that Creation, designed expressly for Monseigneur, should be so soon wrung
dry and squeezed out!
There must be something short-sighted in the eternal arrangements, surely!
Thus it was, however; and the last drop of blood having been extracted from the
flints, and the last screw of the rack having been turned so often that its
purchase crumbled, and it now turned and
turned with nothing to bite, Monseigneur began to run away from a phenomenon so low
and unaccountable. But, this was not the change on the
village, and on many a village like it.
For scores of years gone by, Monseigneur had squeezed it and wrung it, and had
seldom graced it with his presence except for the pleasures of the chase--now, found
in hunting the people; now, found in
hunting the beasts, for whose preservation Monseigneur made edifying spaces of
barbarous and barren wilderness.
No. The change consisted in the appearance of strange faces of low caste, rather than
in the disappearance of the high caste, chiselled, and otherwise beautified and
beautifying features of Monseigneur.
For, in these times, as the mender of roads worked, solitary, in the dust, not often
troubling himself to reflect that dust he was and to dust he must return, being for
the most part too much occupied in thinking
how little he had for supper and how much more he would eat if he had it--in these
times, as he raised his eyes from his lonely labour, and viewed the prospect, he
would see some rough figure approaching on
foot, the like of which was once a rarity in those parts, but was now a frequent
presence.
As it advanced, the mender of roads would discern without surprise, that it was a
shaggy-haired man, of almost barbarian aspect, tall, in wooden shoes that were
clumsy even to the eyes of a mender of
roads, grim, rough, swart, steeped in the mud and dust of many highways, dank with
the marshy moisture of many low grounds, sprinkled with the thorns and leaves and
moss of many byways through woods.
Such a man came upon him, like a ghost, at noon in the July weather, as he sat on his
heap of stones under a bank, taking such shelter as he could get from a shower of
hail.
The man looked at him, looked at the village in the hollow, at the mill, and at
the prison on the crag.
When he had identified these objects in what benighted mind he had, he said, in a
dialect that was just intelligible: "How goes it, Jacques?"
"All well, Jacques."
"Touch then!" They joined hands, and the man sat down on
the heap of stones. "No dinner?"
"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.
"Where?" "Here."
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?"
"At sunset."
"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?"
"Surely." 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?"
"About."
"About. Good!"
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.
>
Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapter XXIV.
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, Sardanapalus's luxury, and a mole's blindness--but it had dropped out and was
gone.
The Court, from that exclusive inner circle to its outermost rotten ring of intrigue,
corruption, and dissimulation, was all gone together.
Royalty was gone; had been besieged in its Palace and "suspended," when the last
tidings came over.
The August of the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two was come, and
Monseigneur was by this time scattered far and wide.
As was natural, the head-quarters and great gathering-place of Monseigneur, in London,
was Tellson's Bank.
Spirits are supposed to haunt the places where their bodies most resorted, and
Monseigneur without a guinea haunted the spot where his guineas used to be.
Moreover, it was the spot to which such French intelligence as was most to be
relied upon, came quickest.
Again: Tellson's was a munificent house, and extended great liberality to old
customers who had fallen from their high estate.
Again: those nobles who had seen the coming storm in time, and anticipating plunder or
confiscation, had made provident remittances to Tellson's, were always to be
heard of there by their needy brethren.
To which it must be added that every new- comer from France reported himself and his
tidings at Tellson's, almost as a matter of course.
For such variety of reasons, Tellson's was at that time, as to French intelligence, a
kind of High Exchange; and this was so well known to the public, and the inquiries made
there were in consequence so numerous, that
Tellson's sometimes wrote the latest news out in a line or so and posted it in the
Bank windows, for all who ran through Temple Bar to read.
On a steaming, misty afternoon, Mr. Lorry sat at his desk, and Charles Darnay stood
leaning on it, talking with him in a low voice.
The penitential den once set apart for interviews with the House, was now the
news-Exchange, and was filled to overflowing.
It was within half an hour or so of the time of closing.
"But, although you are the youngest man that ever lived," said Charles Darnay,
rather hesitating, "I must still suggest to you--"
"I understand.
That I am too old?" said Mr. Lorry. "Unsettled weather, a long journey,
uncertain means of travelling, a disorganised country, a city that may not
be even safe for you."
"My dear Charles," said Mr. Lorry, with cheerful confidence, "you touch some of the
reasons for my going: not for my staying away.
It is safe enough for me; nobody will care to interfere with an old fellow of hard
upon fourscore when there are so many people there much better worth interfering
with.
As to its being a disorganised city, if it were not a disorganised city there would be
no occasion to send somebody from our House here to our House there, who knows the city
and the business, of old, and is in Tellson's confidence.
As to the uncertain travelling, the long journey, and the winter weather, if I were
not prepared to submit myself to a few inconveniences for the sake of Tellson's,
after all these years, who ought to be?"
"I wish I were going myself," said Charles Darnay, somewhat restlessly, and like one
thinking aloud. "Indeed!
You are a pretty fellow to object and advise!" exclaimed Mr. Lorry.
"You wish you were going yourself? And you a Frenchman born?
You are a wise counsellor."
"My dear Mr. Lorry, it is because I am a Frenchman born, that the thought (which I
did not mean to utter here, however) has passed through my mind often.
One cannot help thinking, having had some sympathy for the miserable people, and
having abandoned something to them," he spoke here in his former thoughtful manner,
"that one might be listened to, and might
have the power to persuade to some restraint.
Only last night, after you had left us, when I was talking to Lucie--"
"When you were talking to Lucie," Mr. Lorry repeated.
"Yes. I wonder you are not ashamed to mention the name of Lucie!
Wishing you were going to France at this time of day!"
"However, I am not going," said Charles Darnay, with a smile.
"It is more to the purpose that you say you are."
"And I am, in plain reality.
The truth is, my dear Charles," Mr. Lorry glanced at the distant House, and lowered
his voice, "you can have no conception of the difficulty with which our business is
transacted, and of the peril in which our books and papers over yonder are involved.
The Lord above knows what the compromising consequences would be to numbers of people,
if some of our documents were seized or destroyed; and they might be, at any time,
you know, for who can say that Paris is not set afire to-day, or sacked to-morrow!
Now, a judicious selection from these with the least possible delay, and the burying
of them, or otherwise getting of them out of harm's way, is within the power (without
loss of precious time) of scarcely any one but myself, if any one.
And shall I hang back, when Tellson's knows this and says this--Tellson's, whose bread
I have eaten these sixty years--because I am a little stiff about the joints?
Why, I am a boy, sir, to half a dozen old codgers here!"
"How I admire the gallantry of your youthful spirit, Mr. Lorry."
"Tut! Nonsense, sir!--And, my dear Charles," said Mr. Lorry, glancing at the
House again, "you are to remember, that getting things out of Paris at this present
time, no matter what things, is next to an impossibility.
Papers and precious matters were this very day brought to us here (I speak in strict
confidence; it is not business-like to whisper it, even to you), by the strangest
bearers you can imagine, every one of whom
had his head hanging on by a single hair as he passed the Barriers.
At another time, our parcels would come and go, as easily as in business-like Old
England; but now, everything is stopped."
"And do you really go to-night?" "I really go to-night, for the case has
become too pressing to admit of delay." "And do you take no one with you?"
"All sorts of people have been proposed to me, but I will have nothing to say to any
of them. I intend to take Jerry.
Jerry has been my bodyguard on Sunday nights for a long time past and I am used
to him.
Nobody will suspect Jerry of being anything but an English bull-dog, or of having any
design in his head but to fly at anybody who touches his master."
"I must say again that I heartily admire your gallantry and youthfulness."
"I must say again, nonsense, nonsense!
When I have executed this little commission, I shall, perhaps, accept
Tellson's proposal to retire and live at my ease.
Time enough, then, to think about growing old."
This dialogue had taken place at Mr. Lorry's usual desk, with Monseigneur
swarming within a yard or two of it, boastful of what he would do to avenge
himself on the rascal-people before long.
It was too much the way of Monseigneur under his reverses as a refugee, and it was
much too much the way of native British orthodoxy, to talk of this terrible
Revolution as if it were the only harvest
ever known under the skies that had not been sown--as if nothing had ever been
done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it--as if observers of the wretched
millions in France, and of the misused and
perverted resources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably
coming, years before, and had not in plain words recorded what they saw.
Such vapouring, combined with the extravagant plots of Monseigneur for the
restoration of a state of things that had utterly exhausted itself, and worn out
Heaven and earth as well as itself, was
hard to be endured without some remonstrance by any sane man who knew the
truth.
And it was such vapouring all about his ears, like a troublesome confusion of blood
in his own head, added to a latent uneasiness in his mind, which had already
made Charles Darnay restless, and which still kept him so.
Among the talkers, was Stryver, of the King's Bench Bar, far on his way to state
promotion, and, therefore, loud on the theme: broaching to Monseigneur, his
devices for blowing the people up and
exterminating them from the face of the earth, and doing without them: and for
accomplishing many similar objects akin in their nature to the abolition of eagles by
sprinkling salt on the tails of the race.
Him, Darnay heard with a particular feeling of objection; and Darnay stood divided
between going away that he might hear no more, and remaining to interpose his word,
when the thing that was to be, went on to shape itself out.
The House approached Mr. Lorry, and laying a soiled and unopened letter before him,
asked if he had yet discovered any traces of the person to whom it was addressed?
The House laid the letter down so close to Darnay that he saw the direction--the more
quickly because it was his own right name. The address, turned into English, ran:
"Very pressing.
To Monsieur heretofore the Marquis St. Evremonde, of France.
Confided to the cares of Messrs. Tellson and Co., Bankers, London, England."
On the marriage morning, Doctor Manette had made it his one urgent and express request
to Charles Darnay, that the secret of this name should be--unless he, the Doctor,
dissolved the obligation--kept inviolate between them.
Nobody else knew it to be his name; his own wife had no suspicion of the fact; Mr.
Lorry could have none.
"No," said Mr. Lorry, in reply to the House; "I have referred it, I think, to
everybody now here, and no one can tell me where this gentleman is to be found."
The hands of the clock verging upon the hour of closing the Bank, there was a
general set of the current of talkers past Mr. Lorry's desk.
He held the letter out inquiringly; and Monseigneur looked at it, in the person of
this plotting and indignant refugee; and Monseigneur looked at it in the person of
that plotting and indignant refugee; and
This, That, and The Other, all had something disparaging to say, in French or
in English, concerning the Marquis who was not to be found.
"Nephew, I believe--but in any case degenerate successor--of the polished
Marquis who was murdered," said one. "Happy to say, I never knew him."
"A craven who abandoned his post," said another--this Monseigneur had been got out
of Paris, legs uppermost and half suffocated, in a load of hay--"some years
ago."
"Infected with the new doctrines," said a third, eyeing the direction through his
glass in passing; "set himself in opposition to the last Marquis, abandoned
the estates when he inherited them, and left them to the ruffian herd.
They will recompense him now, I hope, as he deserves."
"Hey?" cried the blatant Stryver.
"Did he though? Is that the sort of fellow?
Let us look at his infamous name. D--n the fellow!"
Darnay, unable to restrain himself any longer, touched Mr. Stryver on the
shoulder, and said: "I know the fellow."
"Do you, by Jupiter?" said Stryver.
"I am sorry for it." "Why?"
"Why, Mr. Darnay? D'ye hear what he did?
Don't ask, why, in these times."
"But I do ask why?" "Then I tell you again, Mr. Darnay, I am
sorry for it. I am sorry to hear you putting any such
extraordinary questions.
Here is a fellow, who, infected by the most pestilent and blasphemous code of devilry
that ever was known, abandoned his property to the vilest scum of the earth that ever
did murder by wholesale, and you ask me why
I am sorry that a man who instructs youth knows him?
Well, but I'll answer you. I am sorry because I believe there is
contamination in such a scoundrel.
That's why." Mindful of the secret, Darnay with great
difficulty checked himself, and said: "You may not understand the gentleman."
"I understand how to put _you_ in a corner, Mr. Darnay," said Bully Stryver, "and I'll
do it. If this fellow is a gentleman, I _don't_
understand him.
You may tell him so, with my compliments. You may also tell him, from me, that after
abandoning his worldly goods and position to this butcherly mob, I wonder he is not
at the head of them.
But, no, gentlemen," said Stryver, looking all round, and snapping his fingers, "I
know something of human nature, and I tell you that you'll never find a fellow like
this fellow, trusting himself to the mercies of such precious _protégés_.
No, gentlemen; he'll always show 'em a clean pair of heels very early in the
scuffle, and sneak away."
With those words, and a final snap of his fingers, Mr. Stryver shouldered himself
into Fleet-street, amidst the general approbation of his hearers.
Mr. Lorry and Charles Darnay were left alone at the desk, in the general departure
from the Bank. "Will you take charge of the letter?" said
Mr. Lorry.
"You know where to deliver it?" "I do."
"Will you undertake to explain, that we suppose it to have been addressed here, on
the chance of our knowing where to forward it, and that it has been here some time?"
"I will do so.
Do you start for Paris from here?" "From here, at eight."
"I will come back, to see you off."
Very ill at ease with himself, and with Stryver and most other men, Darnay made the
best of his way into the quiet of the Temple, opened the letter, and read it.
These were its contents:
"Prison of the Abbaye, Paris. "June 21, 1792.
"MONSIEUR HERETOFORE THE MARQUIS.
"After having long been in danger of my life at the hands of the village, I have
been seized, with great violence and indignity, and brought a long journey on
foot to Paris.
On the road I have suffered a great deal. Nor is that all; my house has been
destroyed--razed to the ground.
"The crime for which I am imprisoned, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, and for
which I shall be summoned before the tribunal, and shall lose my life (without
your so generous help), is, they tell me,
treason against the majesty of the people, in that I have acted against them for an
emigrant.
It is in vain I represent that I have acted for them, and not against, according to
your commands.
It is in vain I represent that, before the sequestration of emigrant property, I had
remitted the imposts they had ceased to pay; that I had collected no rent; that I
had had recourse to no process.
The only response is, that I have acted for an emigrant, and where is that emigrant?
"Ah! most gracious Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, where is that emigrant?
I cry in my sleep where is he?
I demand of Heaven, will he not come to deliver me?
No answer.
Ah Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, I send my desolate cry across the sea, hoping it
may perhaps reach your ears through the great bank of Tilson known at Paris!
"For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour of your noble
name, I supplicate you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, to succour and release me.
My fault is, that I have been true to you.
Oh Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, I pray you be you true to me!
"From this prison here of horror, whence I every hour tend nearer and nearer to
destruction, I send you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, the assurance of my
dolorous and unhappy service.
"Your afflicted, "Gabelle."
The latent uneasiness in Darnay's mind was roused to vigourous life by this letter.
The peril of an old servant and a good one, whose only crime was fidelity to himself
and his family, stared him so reproachfully in the face, that, as he walked to and fro
in the Temple considering what to do, he almost hid his face from the passersby.
He knew very well, that in his horror of the deed which had culminated the bad deeds
and bad reputation of the old family house, in his resentful suspicions of his uncle,
and in the aversion with which his
conscience regarded the crumbling fabric that he was supposed to uphold, he had
acted imperfectly.
He knew very well, that in his love for Lucie, his renunciation of his social
place, though by no means new to his own mind, had been hurried and incomplete.
He knew that he ought to have systematically worked it out and supervised
it, and that he had meant to do it, and that it had never been done.
The happiness of his own chosen English home, the necessity of being always
actively employed, the swift changes and troubles of the time which had followed on
one another so fast, that the events of
this week annihilated the immature plans of last week, and the events of the week
following made all new again; he knew very well, that to the force of these
circumstances he had yielded:--not without
disquiet, but still without continuous and accumulating resistance.
That he had watched the times for a time of action, and that they had shifted and
struggled until the time had gone by, and the nobility were trooping from France by
every highway and byway, and their property
was in course of confiscation and destruction, and their very names were
blotting out, was as well known to himself as it could be to any new authority in
France that might impeach him for it.
But, he had oppressed no man, he had imprisoned no man; he was so far from
having harshly exacted payment of his dues, that he had relinquished them of his own
will, thrown himself on a world with no
favour in it, won his own private place there, and earned his own bread.
Monsieur Gabelle had held the impoverished and involved estate on written
instructions, to spare the people, to give them what little there was to give--such
fuel as the heavy creditors would let them
have in the winter, and such produce as could be saved from the same grip in the
summer--and no doubt he had put the fact in plea and proof, for his own safety, so that
it could not but appear now.
This favoured the desperate resolution Charles Darnay had begun to make, that he
would go to Paris.
Yes. Like the mariner in the old story, the winds and streams had driven him within the
influence of the Loadstone Rock, and it was drawing him to itself, and he must go.
Everything that arose before his mind drifted him on, faster and faster, more and
more steadily, to the terrible attraction.
His latent uneasiness had been, that bad aims were being worked out in his own
unhappy land by bad instruments, and that he who could not fail to know that he was
better than they, was not there, trying to
do something to stay bloodshed, and assert the claims of mercy and humanity.
With this uneasiness half stifled, and half reproaching him, he had been brought to the
pointed comparison of himself with the brave old gentleman in whom duty was so
strong; upon that comparison (injurious to
himself) had instantly followed the sneers of Monseigneur, which had stung him
bitterly, and those of Stryver, which above all were coarse and galling, for old
reasons.
Upon those, had followed Gabelle's letter: the appeal of an innocent prisoner, in
danger of death, to his justice, honour, and good name.
His resolution was made.
He must go to Paris. Yes. The Loadstone Rock was drawing him,
and he must sail on, until he struck. He knew of no rock; he saw hardly any
danger.
The intention with which he had done what he had done, even although he had left it
incomplete, presented it before him in an aspect that would be gratefully
acknowledged in France on his presenting himself to assert it.
Then, that glorious vision of doing good, which is so often the sanguine mirage of so
many good minds, arose before him, and he even saw himself in the illusion with some
influence to guide this raging Revolution that was running so fearfully wild.
As he walked to and fro with his resolution made, he considered that neither Lucie nor
her father must know of it until he was gone.
Lucie should be spared the pain of separation; and her father, always
reluctant to turn his thoughts towards the dangerous ground of old, should come to the
knowledge of the step, as a step taken, and not in the balance of suspense and doubt.
How much of the incompleteness of his situation was referable to her father,
through the painful anxiety to avoid reviving old associations of France in his
mind, he did not discuss with himself.
But, that circumstance too, had had its influence in his course.
He walked to and fro, with thoughts very busy, until it was time to return to
Tellson's and take leave of Mr. Lorry.
As soon as he arrived in Paris he would present himself to this old friend, but he
must say nothing of his intention now.
A carriage with post-horses was ready at the Bank door, and Jerry was booted and
equipped. "I have delivered that letter," said
Charles Darnay to Mr. Lorry.
"I would not consent to your being charged with any written answer, but perhaps you
will take a verbal one?" "That I will, and readily," said Mr. Lorry,
"if it is not dangerous."
"Not at all. Though it is to a prisoner in the Abbaye."
"What is his name?" said Mr. Lorry, with his open pocket-book in his hand.
"Gabelle."
"Gabelle. And what is the message to the unfortunate
Gabelle in prison?" "Simply, 'that he has received the letter,
and will come.'"
"Any time mentioned?" "He will start upon his journey to-morrow
night." "Any person mentioned?"
"No."
He helped Mr. Lorry to wrap himself in a number of coats and cloaks, and went out
with him from the warm atmosphere of the old Bank, into the misty air of Fleet-
street.
"My love to Lucie, and to little Lucie," said Mr. Lorry at parting, "and take
precious care of them till I come back."
Charles Darnay shook his head and doubtfully smiled, as the carriage rolled
away.
That night--it was the fourteenth of August--he sat up late, and wrote two
fervent letters; one was to Lucie, explaining the strong obligation he was
under to go to Paris, and showing her, at
length, the reasons that he had, for feeling confident that he could become
involved in no personal danger there; the other was to the Doctor, confiding Lucie
and their dear child to his care, and
dwelling on the same topics with the strongest assurances.
To both, he wrote that he would despatch letters in proof of his safety, immediately
after his arrival.
It was a hard day, that day of being among them, with the first reservation of their
joint lives on his mind.
It was a hard matter to preserve the innocent deceit of which they were
profoundly unsuspicious.
But, an affectionate glance at his wife, so happy and busy, made him resolute not to
tell her what impended (he had been half moved to do it, so strange it was to him to
act in anything without her quiet aid), and the day passed quickly.
Early in the evening he embraced her, and her scarcely less dear namesake, pretending
that he would return by-and-bye (an imaginary engagement took him out, and he
had secreted a valise of clothes ready),
and so he emerged into the heavy mist of the heavy streets, with a heavier heart.
The unseen force was drawing him fast to itself, now, and all the tides and winds
were setting straight and strong towards it.
He left his two letters with a trusty porter, to be delivered half an hour before
midnight, and no sooner; took horse for Dover; and began his journey.
"For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour of your noble
name!" was the poor prisoner's cry with which he strengthened his sinking heart, as
he left all that was dear on earth behind
him, and floated away for the Loadstone Rock.
The end of the second book.
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