Part 4 out of 9
known to her before he left town for the Long Vacation. After some
mental debating of the point, he came to the conclusion that it would
be as well to get all the preliminaries done with, and they could
then arrange at their leisure whether he should give her his hand a
week or two before Michaelmas Term, or in the little Christmas vacation
between it and Hilary.
As to the strength of his case, he had not a doubt about it, but
clearly saw his way to the verdict. Argued with the jury on substantial
worldly grounds--the only grounds ever worth taking into account--
it was a plain case, and had not a weak spot in it. He called himself
for the plaintiff, there was no getting over his evidence, the counsel
for the defendant threw up his brief, and the jury did not even turn
to consider. After trying it, Stryver, C. J., was satisfied that no
plainer case could be.
Accordingly, Mr. Stryver inaugurated the Long Vacation with a
formal proposal to take Miss Manette to Vauxhall Gardens; that failing,
to Ranelagh; that unaccountably failing too, it behoved him to present
himself in Soho, and there declare his noble mind.
Towards Soho, therefore, Mr. Stryver shouldered his way from the
Temple, while the bloom of the Long Vacation's infancy was still upon
it. Anybody who had seen him projecting himself into Soho while he
was yet on Saint Dunstan's side of Temple Bar, bursting in his
full-blown way along the pavement, to the jostlement of all weaker
people, might have seen how safe and strong he was.
His way taking him past Tellson's, and he both banking at Tellson's
and knowing Mr. Lorry as the intimate friend of the Manettes, it
entered Mr. Stryver's mind to enter the bank, and reveal to Mr. Lorry
the brightness of the Soho horizon. So, he pushed open the door with
the weak rattle in its throat, stumbled down the two steps, got past
the two ancient cashiers, and shouldered himself into the musty back
closet where Mr. Lorry sat at great books ruled for figures, with
perpendicular iron bars to his window as if that were ruled for
figures too, and everything under the clouds were a sum.
"Halloa!" said Mr. Stryver. "How do you do? I hope you are well!"
It was Stryver's grand peculiarity that he always seemed too big for
any place, or space. He was so much too big for Tellson's, that
old clerks in distant corners looked up with looks of remonstrance,
as though he squeezed them against the wall. The House itself,
magnificently reading the paper quite in the far-off perspective,
lowered displeased, as if the Stryver head had been butted into its
The discreet Mr. Lorry said, in a sample tone of the voice he would
recommend under the circumstances, "How do you do, Mr. Stryver?
How do you do, sir?" and shook hands. There was a peculiarity in his
manner of shaking hands, always to be seen in any clerk at Tellson's
who shook hands with a customer when the House pervaded the air.
He shook in a self-abnegating way, as one who shook for Tellson and Co.
"Can I do anything for you, Mr. Stryver?" asked Mr. Lorry, in his
"Why, no, thank you; this is a private visit to yourself, Mr. Lorry;
I have come for a private word."
"Oh indeed!" said Mr. Lorry, bending down his ear, while his eye
strayed to the House afar off.
"I am going," said Mr. Stryver, leaning his arms confidentially on the
desk: whereupon, although it was a large double one, there appeared to
be not half desk enough for him: "I am going to make an offer of myself
in marriage to your agreeable little friend, Miss Manette, Mr. Lorry."
"Oh dear me!" cried Mr. Lorry, rubbing his chin, and looking at his
"Oh dear me, sir?" repeated Stryver, drawing back. "Oh dear you, sir?
What may your meaning be, Mr. Lorry?"
"My meaning," answered the man of business, "is, of course, friendly
and appreciative, and that it does you the greatest credit, and--
in short, my meaning is everything you could desire. But--really, you
know, Mr. Stryver--" Mr. Lorry paused, and shook his head at him in
the oddest manner, as if he were compelled against his will to add,
internally, "you know there really is so much too much of you!"
"Well!" said Stryver, slapping the desk with his contentious hand,
opening his eyes wider, and taking a long breath, "if I understand
you, Mr. Lorry, I'll be hanged!"
Mr. Lorry adjusted his little wig at both ears as a means towards
that end, and bit the feather of a pen.
"D--n it all, sir!" said Stryver, staring at him, "am I not eligible?"
"Oh dear yes! Yes. Oh yes, you're eligible!" said Mr. Lorry. "If you
say eligible, you are eligible."
"Am I not prosperous?" asked Stryver.
"Oh! if you come to prosperous, you are prosperous," said Mr. Lorry.
"If you come to advancing you know," said Mr. Lorry, delighted to be
able to make another admission, "nobody can doubt that."
"Then what on earth is your meaning, Mr. Lorry?" demanded Stryver,
"Well! I--Were you going there now?" asked Mr. Lorry.
"Straight!" said Stryver, with a plump of his fist on the desk.
"Then I think I wouldn't, if I was you."
"Why?" said Stryver. "Now, I'll put you in a corner," forensically
shaking a forefinger at him. "You are a man of business and bound
to have a reason. State your reason. Why wouldn't you go?"
"Because," said Mr. Lorry, "I wouldn't go on such an object without
having some cause to believe that I should succeed."
"D--n ME!" cried Stryver, "but this beats everything."
Mr. Lorry glanced at the distant House, and glanced at the angry Stryver.
"Here's a man of business--a man of years--a man of experience--
IN a Bank," said Stryver; "and having summed up three leading reasons
for complete success, he says there's no reason at all! Says it with
his head on!" Mr. Stryver remarked upon the peculiarity as if it would
have been infinitely less remarkable if he had said it with his head off.
"When I speak of success, I speak of success with the young lady; and
when I speak of causes and reasons to make success probable, I speak
of causes and reasons that will tell as such with the young lady.
The young lady, my good sir," said Mr. Lorry, mildly tapping the
Stryver arm, "the young lady. The young lady goes before all."
"Then you mean to tell me, Mr. Lorry," said Stryver, squaring his
elbows, "that it is your deliberate opinion that the young lady at
present in question is a mincing Fool?"
"Not exactly so. I mean to tell you, Mr. Stryver," said Mr. Lorry,
reddening, "that I will hear no disrespectful word of that young lady
from any lips; and that if I knew any man--which I hope I do not--
whose taste was so coarse, and whose temper was so overbearing,
that he could not restrain himself from speaking disrespectfully of
that young lady at this desk, not even Tellson's should prevent my
giving him a piece of my mind."
The necessity of being angry in a suppressed tone had put Mr. Stryver's
blood-vessels into a dangerous state when it was his turn to be angry;
Mr. Lorry's veins, methodical as their courses could usually be,
were in no better state now it was his turn.
"That is what I mean to tell you, sir," said Mr. Lorry.
"Pray let there be no mistake about it."
Mr. Stryver sucked the end of a ruler for a little while, and then
stood hitting a tune out of his teeth with it, which probably gave
him the toothache. He broke the awkward silence by saying:
"This is something new to me, Mr. Lorry. You deliberately advise
me not to go up to Soho and offer myself--MYself, Stryver of
the King's Bench bar?"
"Do you ask me for my advice, Mr. Stryver?"
"Yes, I do."
"Very good. Then I give it, and you have repeated it correctly."
"And all I can say of it is," laughed Stryver with a vexed laugh,
"that this--ha, ha!--beats everything past, present, and to come."
"Now understand me," pursued Mr. Lorry. "As a man of business, I
am not justified in saying anything about this matter, for, as a man
of business, I know nothing of it. But, as an old fellow, who has
carried Miss Manette in his arms, who is the trusted friend of
Miss Manette and of her father too, and who has a great affection for
them both, I have spoken. The confidence is not of my seeking,
recollect. Now, you think I may not be right?"
"Not I!" said Stryver, whistling. "I can't undertake to find third
parties in common sense; I can only find it for myself. I suppose
sense in certain quarters; you suppose mincing bread-and-butter
nonsense. It's new to me, but you are right, I dare say."
"What I suppose, Mr. Stryver, I claim to characterise for myself--And
understand me, sir," said Mr. Lorry, quickly flushing again,
"I will not--not even at Tellson's--have it characterised for me by any
"There! I beg your pardon!" said Stryver.
"Granted. Thank you. Well, Mr. Stryver, I was about to say:--it
might be painful to you to find yourself mistaken, it might be painful
to Doctor Manette to have the task of being explicit with you, it
might be very painful to Miss Manette to have the task of being
explicit with you. You know the terms upon which I have the honour
and happiness to stand with the family. If you please, committing you
in no way, representing you in no way, I will undertake to correct my
advice by the exercise of a little new observation and judgment expressly
brought to bear upon it. If you should then be dissatisfied with it,
you can but test its soundness for yourself; if, on the other hand,
you should be satisfied with it, and it should be what it now is,
it may spare all sides what is best spared. What do you say?"
"How long would you keep me in town?"
"Oh! It is only a question of a few hours. I could go to Soho in the
evening, and come to your chambers afterwards."
"Then I say yes," said Stryver: "I won't go up there now, I am not
so hot upon it as that comes to; I say yes, and I shall expect you
to look in to-night. Good morning."
Then Mr. Stryver turned and burst out of the Bank, causing such a
concussion of air on his passage through, that to stand up against it
bowing behind the two counters, required the utmost remaining strength
of the two ancient clerks. Those venerable and feeble persons were
always seen by the public in the act of bowing, and were popularly
believed, when they had bowed a customer out, still to keep on bowing
in the empty office until they bowed another customer in.
The barrister was keen enough to divine that the banker would not
have gone so far in his expression of opinion on any less solid
ground than moral certainty. Unprepared as he was for the large pill
he had to swallow, he got it down. "And now," said Mr. Stryver,
shaking his forensic forefinger at the Temple in general, when it
was down, "my way out of this, is, to put you all in the wrong."
It was a bit of the art of an Old Bailey tactician, in which he
found great relief. "You shall not put me in the wrong, young lady,"
said Mr. Stryver; "I'll do that for you."
Accordingly, when Mr. Lorry called that night as late as ten o'clock,
Mr. Stryver, among a quantity of books and papers littered out for
the purpose, seemed to have nothing less on his mind than the subject
of the morning. He even showed surprise when he saw Mr. Lorry, and
was altogether in an absent and preoccupied state.
"Well!" said that good-natured emissary, after a full half-hour of
bootless attempts to bring him round to the question. "I have
been to Soho."
"To Soho?" repeated Mr. Stryver, coldly. "Oh, to be sure!
What am I thinking of!"
"And I have no doubt," said Mr. Lorry, "that I was right in the
conversation we had. My opinion is confirmed, and I reiterate my advice."
"I assure you," returned Mr. Stryver, in the friendliest way, "that I
am sorry for it on your account, and sorry for it on the poor father's
account. I know this must always be a sore subject with the family;
let us say no more about it."
"I don't understand you," said Mr. Lorry.
"I dare say not," rejoined Stryver, nodding his head in a smoothing
and final way; "no matter, no matter."
"But it does matter," Mr. Lorry urged.
"No it doesn't; I assure you it doesn't. Having supposed that there
was sense where there is no sense, and a laudable ambition where there
is not a laudable ambition, I am well out of my mistake, and no harm
is done. Young women have committed similar follies often before,
and have repented them in poverty and obscurity often before. In an
unselfish aspect, I am sorry that the thing is dropped, because it
would have been a bad thing for me in a worldly point of view;
in a selfish aspect, I am glad that the thing has dropped, because it
would have been a bad thing for me in a worldly point of view--
it is hardly necessary to say I could have gained nothing by it.
There is no harm at all done. I have not proposed to the young lady,
and, between ourselves, I am by no means certain, on reflection,
that I ever should have committed myself to that extent. Mr. Lorry,
you cannot control the mincing vanities and giddinesses of
empty-headed girls; you must not expect to do it, or you will always
be disappointed. Now, pray say no more about it. I tell you,
I regret it on account of others, but I am satisfied on my own account.
And I am really very much obliged to you for allowing me to sound you,
and for giving me your advice; you know the young lady better
than I do; you were right, it never would have done."
Mr. Lorry was so taken aback, that he looked quite stupidly at
Mr. Stryver shouldering him towards the door, with an appearance of
showering generosity, forbearance, and goodwill, on his erring head.
"Make the best of it, my dear sir," said Stryver; "say no more
about it; thank you again for allowing me to sound you; good night!"
Mr. Lorry was out in the night, before he knew where he was.
Mr. Stryver was lying back on his sofa, winking at his ceiling.
The Fellow of No Delicacy
If Sydney Carton ever shone anywhere, he certainly never shone in the
house of Doctor Manette. He had been there often, during a whole year,
and had always been the same moody and morose lounger there. When he
cared to talk, he talked well; but, the cloud of caring for nothing,
which overshadowed him with such a fatal darkness, was very rarely
pierced by the light within him.
And yet he did care something for the streets that environed that house,
and for the senseless stones that made their pavements. Many a night
he vaguely and unhappily wandered there, when wine had brought
no transitory gladness to him; many a dreary daybreak revealed his
solitary figure lingering there, and still lingering there when the first
beams of the sun brought into strong relief, removed beauties of
architecture in spires of churches and lofty buildings, as perhaps
the quiet time brought some sense of better things, else forgotten
and unattainable, into his mind. Of late, the neglected bed in the
Temple Court had known him more scantily than ever; and often when he
had thrown himself upon it no longer than a few minutes, he had got up
again, and haunted that neighbourhood.
On a day in August, when Mr. Stryver (after notifying to his jackal
that "he had thought better of that marrying matter") had carried his
delicacy into Devonshire, and when the sight and scent of flowers in
the City streets had some waifs of goodness in them for the worst,
of health for the sickliest, and of youth for the oldest, Sydney's feet
still trod those stones. From being irresolute and purposeless,
his feet became animated by an intention, and, in the working out of
that intention, they took him to the Doctor's door.
He was shown up-stairs, and found Lucie at her work, alone. She had
never been quite at her ease with him, and received him with some
little embarrassment as he seated himself near her table. But,
looking up at his face in the interchange of the first few
common-places, she observed a change in it.
"I fear you are not well, Mr. Carton!"
"No. But the life I lead, Miss Manette, is not conducive to health.
What is to be expected of, or by, such profligates?"
"Is it not--forgive me; I have begun the question on my lips--a pity
to live no better life?"
"God knows it is a shame!"
"Then why not change it?"
Looking gently at him again, she was surprised and saddened to see
that there were tears in his eyes. There were tears in his voice too,
as he answered:
"It is too late for that. I shall never be better than I am.
I shall sink lower, and be worse."
He leaned an elbow on her table, and covered his eyes with his hand.
The table trembled in the silence that followed.
She had never seen him softened, and was much distressed. He knew
her to be so, without looking at her, and said:
"Pray forgive me, Miss Manette. I break down before the knowledge
of what I want to say to you. Will you hear me?"
"If it will do you any good, Mr. Carton, if it would make you happier,
it would make me very glad!"
"God bless you for your sweet compassion!"
He unshaded his face after a little while, and spoke steadily.
"Don't be afraid to hear me. Don't shrink from anything I say.
I am like one who died young. All my life might have been."
"No, Mr. Carton. I am sure that the best part of it might still be;
I am sure that you might be much, much worthier of yourself."
"Say of you, Miss Manette, and although I know better--although
in the mystery of my own wretched heart I know better--I shall
never forget it!"
She was pale and trembling. He came to her relief with a fixed
despair of himself which made the interview unlike any other
that could have been holden.
"If it had been possible, Miss Manette, that you could have returned
the love of the man you see before yourself--flung away, wasted,
drunken, poor creature of misuse as you know him to be--he would have
been conscious this day and hour, in spite of his happiness, that he
would bring you to misery, bring you to sorrow and repentance, blight
you, disgrace you, pull you down with him. I know very well that you
can have no tenderness for me; I ask for none; I am even thankful
that it cannot be."
"Without it, can I not save you, Mr. Carton? Can I not recall you--
forgive me again!--to a better course? Can I in no way repay your
confidence? I know this is a confidence," she modestly said, after a
little hesitation, and in earnest tears, "I know you would say this to
no one else. Can I turn it to no good account for yourself, Mr. Carton?"
He shook his head.
"To none. No, Miss Manette, to none. If you will hear me through a
very little more, all you can ever do for me is done. I wish you to
know that you have been the last dream of my soul. In my degradation
I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father,
and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that
I thought had died out of me. Since I knew you, I have been troubled
by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have
heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were
silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning
anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned
fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the
sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it."
"Will nothing of it remain? O Mr. Carton, think again! Try again!"
"No, Miss Manette; all through it, I have known myself to be quite
undeserving. And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the
weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me,
heap of ashes that I am, into fire--a fire, however, inseparable
in its nature from myself, quickening nothing, lighting nothing,
doing no service, idly burning away."
"Since it is my misfortune, Mr. Carton, to have made you more unhappy
than you were before you knew me--"
"Don't say that, Miss Manette, for you would have reclaimed me,
if anything could. You will not be the cause of my becoming worse."
"Since the state of your mind that you describe, is, at all events,
attributable to some influence of mine--this is what I mean,
if I can make it plain--can I use no influence to serve you?
Have I no power for good, with you, at all?"
"The utmost good that I am capable of now, Miss Manette, I have come
here to realise. Let me carry through the rest of my misdirected life,
the remembrance that I opened my heart to you, last of all the world;
and that there was something left in me at this time which you could
deplore and pity."
"Which I entreated you to believe, again and again, most fervently,
with all my heart, was capable of better things, Mr. Carton!"
"Entreat me to believe it no more, Miss Manette. I have proved myself,
and I know better. I distress you; I draw fast to an end. Will you let
me believe, when I recall this day, that the last confidence of my life
was reposed in your pure and innocent breast, and that it lies there
alone, and will be shared by no one?"
"If that will be a consolation to you, yes."
"Not even by the dearest one ever to be known to you?"
"Mr. Carton," she answered, after an agitated pause, "the secret is
yours, not mine; and I promise to respect it."
"Thank you. And again, God bless you."
He put her hand to his lips, and moved towards the door.
"Be under no apprehension, Miss Manette, of my ever resuming this
conversation by so much as a passing word. I will never refer to it
again. If I were dead, that could not be surer than it is henceforth.
In the hour of my death, I shall hold sacred the one good remembrance--
and shall thank and bless you for it--that my last avowal of myself was
made to you, and that my name, and faults, and miseries were gently
carried in your heart. May it otherwise be light and happy!"
He was so unlike what he had ever shown himself to be, and it was
so sad to think how much he had thrown away, and how much he every
day kept down and perverted, that Lucie Manette wept mournfully for
him as he stood looking back at her.
"Be comforted!" he said, "I am not worth such feeling, Miss Manette.
An hour or two hence, and the low companions and low habits that I scorn
but yield to, will render me less worth such tears as those, than any
wretch who creeps along the streets. Be comforted! But, within myself,
I shall always be, towards you, what I am now, though outwardly I shall
be what you have heretofore seen me. The last supplication but one
I make to you, is, that you will believe this of me."
"I will, Mr. Carton."
"My last supplication of all, is this; and with it, I will relieve
you of a visitor with whom I well know you have nothing in unison,
and between whom and you there is an impassable space. It is useless
to say it, I know, but it rises out of my soul. For you, and for any
dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better
kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it,
I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you.
Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere
in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long
in coming, when new ties will be formed about you--ties that will bind
you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn--the dearest
ties that will ever grace and gladden you. O Miss Manette, when the
little picture of a happy father's face looks up in yours, when you
see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think
now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep
a life you love beside you!"
He said, "Farewell!" said a last "God bless you!" and left her.
The Honest Tradesman
To the eyes of Mr. Jeremiah Cruncher, sitting on his stool in
Fleet-street with his grisly urchin beside him, a vast number and
variety of objects in movement were every day presented. Who could
sit upon anything in Fleet-street during the busy hours of the day,
and not be dazed and deafened by two immense processions, one ever
tending westward with the sun, the other ever tending eastward
from the sun, both ever tending to the plains beyond the range of red
and purple where the sun goes down!
With his straw in his mouth, Mr. Cruncher sat watching the two streams,
like the heathen rustic who has for several centuries been on duty
watching one stream--saving that Jerry had no expectation of their
ever running dry. Nor would it have been an expectation of a hopeful
kind, since a small part of his income was derived from the pilotage
of timid women (mostly of a full habit and past the middle term of life)
from Tellson's side of the tides to the opposite shore. Brief as such
companionship was in every separate instance, Mr. Cruncher never
failed to become so interested in the lady as to express a strong desire
to have the honour of drinking her very good health. And it was from
the gifts bestowed upon him towards the execution of this benevolent
purpose, that he recruited his finances, as just now observed.
Time was, when a poet sat upon a stool in a public place, and mused
in the sight of men. Mr. Cruncher, sitting on a stool in a public place,
but not being a poet, mused as little as possible, and looked about him.
It fell out that he was thus engaged in a season when crowds were few,
and belated women few, and when his affairs in general were so
unprosperous as to awaken a strong suspicion in his breast that
Mrs. Cruncher must have been "flopping" in some pointed manner, when
an unusual concourse pouring down Fleet-street westward, attracted his
attention. Looking that way, Mr. Cruncher made out that some kind of
funeral was coming along, and that there was popular objection to this
funeral, which engendered uproar.
"Young Jerry," said Mr. Cruncher, turning to his offspring,
"it's a buryin'."
"Hooroar, father!" cried Young Jerry.
The young gentleman uttered this exultant sound with mysterious
significance. The elder gentleman took the cry so ill, that he
watched his opportunity, and smote the young gentleman on the ear.
"What d'ye mean? What are you hooroaring at? What do you want to
conwey to your own father, you young Rip? This boy is a getting
too many for ME!" said Mr. Cruncher, surveying him. "Him and
his hooroars! Don't let me hear no more of you, or you shall feel
some more of me. D'ye hear?"
"I warn't doing no harm," Young Jerry protested, rubbing his cheek.
"Drop it then," said Mr. Cruncher; "I won't have none of YOUR
no harms. Get a top of that there seat, and look at the crowd."
His son obeyed, and the crowd approached; they were bawling and hissing
round a dingy hearse and dingy mourning coach, in which mourning coach
there was only one mourner, dressed in the dingy trappings that were
considered essential to the dignity of the position. The position
appeared by no means to please him, however, with an increasing rabble
surrounding the coach, deriding him, making grimaces at him,
and incessantly groaning and calling out: "Yah! Spies! Tst! Yaha!
Spies!" with many compliments too numerous and forcible to repeat.
Funerals had at all times a remarkable attraction for Mr. Cruncher;
he always pricked up his senses, and became excited, when a funeral
passed Tellson's. Naturally, therefore, a funeral with this uncommon
attendance excited him greatly, and he asked of the first man who ran
"What is it, brother? What's it about?"
"_I_ don't know," said the man. "Spies! Yaha! Tst! Spies!"
He asked another man. "Who is it?"
"_I_ don't know," returned the man, clapping his hands to his mouth
nevertheless, and vociferating in a surprising heat and with the
greatest ardour, "Spies! Yaha! Tst, tst! Spi--ies!"
At length, a person better informed on the merits of the case,
tumbled against him, and from this person he learned that the funeral
was the funeral of one Roger Cly.
"Was He a spy?" asked Mr. Cruncher.
"Old Bailey spy," returned his informant. "Yaha! Tst! Yah!
Old Bailey Spi--i--ies!"
"Why, to be sure!" exclaimed Jerry, recalling the Trial at which he
had assisted. "I've seen him. Dead, is he?"
"Dead as mutton," returned the other, "and can't be too dead.
Have 'em out, there! Spies! Pull 'em out, there! Spies!"
The idea was so acceptable in the prevalent absence of any idea,
that the crowd caught it up with eagerness, and loudly repeating the
suggestion to have 'em out, and to pull 'em out, mobbed the two vehicles
so closely that they came to a stop. On the crowd's opening the coach
doors, the one mourner scuffled out of himself and was in their hands
for a moment; but he was so alert, and made such good use of his time,
that in another moment he was scouring away up a bye-street, after
shedding his cloak, hat, long hatband, white pocket-handkerchief,
and other symbolical tears.
These, the people tore to pieces and scattered far and wide with
great enjoyment, while the tradesmen hurriedly shut up their shops;
for a crowd in those times stopped at nothing, and was a monster
much dreaded. They had already got the length of opening the hearse
to take the coffin out, when some brighter genius proposed instead,
its being escorted to its destination amidst general rejoicing.
Practical suggestions being much needed, this suggestion, too, was
received with acclamation, and the coach was immediately filled with
eight inside and a dozen out, while as many people got on the roof of
the hearse as could by any exercise of ingenuity stick upon it.
Among the first of these volunteers was Jerry Cruncher himself, who
modestly concealed his spiky head from the observation of Tellson's,
in the further corner of the mourning coach.
The officiating undertakers made some protest against these changes
in the ceremonies; but, the river being alarmingly near, and several
voices remarking on the efficacy of cold immersion in bringing
refractory members of the profession to reason, the protest was faint
and brief. The remodelled procession started, with a chimney-sweep
driving the hearse--advised by the regular driver, who was perched
beside him, under close inspection, for the purpose--and with a pieman,
also attended by his cabinet minister, driving the mourning coach.
A bear-leader, a popular street character of the time, was impressed
as an additional ornament, before the cavalcade had gone far down
the Strand; and his bear, who was black and very mangy, gave quite
an Undertaking air to that part of the procession in which he walked.
Thus, with beer-drinking, pipe-smoking, song-roaring, and infinite
caricaturing of woe, the disorderly procession went its way, recruiting
at every step, and all the shops shutting up before it. Its destination
was the old church of Saint Pancras, far off in the fields. It got
there in course of time; insisted on pouring into the burial-ground;
finally, accomplished the interment of the deceased Roger Cly in
its own way, and highly to its own satisfaction.
The dead man disposed of, and the crowd being under the necessity of
providing some other entertainment for itself, another brighter genius
(or perhaps the same) conceived the humour of impeaching casual
passers-by, as Old Bailey spies, and wreaking vengeance on them.
Chase was given to some scores of inoffensive persons who had never
been near the Old Bailey in their lives, in the realisation of this
fancy, and they were roughly hustled and maltreated. The transition
to the sport of window-breaking, and thence to the plundering of
public-houses, was easy and natural. At last, after several hours,
when sundry summer-houses had been pulled down, and some area-railings
had been torn up, to arm the more belligerent spirits, a rumour got
about that the Guards were coming. Before this rumour, the crowd
gradually melted away, and perhaps the Guards came, and perhaps they
never came, and this was the usual progress of a mob.
Mr. Cruncher did not assist at the closing sports, but had remained
behind in the churchyard, to confer and condole with the undertakers.
The place had a soothing influence on him. He procured a pipe from a
neighbouring public-house, and smoked it, looking in at the railings
and maturely considering the spot.
"Jerry," said Mr. Cruncher, apostrophising himself in his usual way,
"you see that there Cly that day, and you see with your own eyes that
he was a young 'un and a straight made 'un."
Having smoked his pipe out, and ruminated a little longer, he turned
himself about, that he might appear, before the hour of closing, on his
station at Tellson's. Whether his meditations on mortality had touched
his liver, or whether his general health had been previously at all
amiss, or whether he desired to show a little attention to an eminent
man, is not so much to the purpose, as that he made a short call upon
his medical adviser--a distinguished surgeon--on his way back.
Young Jerry relieved his father with dutiful interest, and reported No
job in his absence. The bank closed, the ancient clerks came out, the
usual watch was set, and Mr. Cruncher and his son went home to tea.
"Now, I tell you where it is!" said Mr. Cruncher to his wife, on
entering. "If, as a honest tradesman, my wenturs goes wrong to-night,
I shall make sure that you've been praying again me, and I shall work
you for it just the same as if I seen you do it."
The dejected Mrs. Cruncher shook her head.
"Why, you're at it afore my face!" said Mr. Cruncher, with signs of
"I am saying nothing."
"Well, then; don't meditate nothing. You might as well flop as
meditate. You may as well go again me one way as another.
Drop it altogether."
"Yes, Jerry," repeated Mr. Cruncher sitting down to tea. "Ah!
It IS yes, Jerry. That's about it. You may say yes, Jerry."
Mr. Cruncher had no particular meaning in these sulky corroborations,
but made use of them, as people not unfrequently do, to express
general ironical dissatisfaction.
"You and your yes, Jerry," said Mr. Cruncher, taking a bite out of his
bread-and-butter, and seeming to help it down with a large invisible
oyster out of his saucer. "Ah! I think so. I believe you."
"You are going out to-night?" asked his decent wife, when he took
"Yes, I am."
"May I go with you, father?" asked his son, briskly.
"No, you mayn't. I'm a going--as your mother knows--a fishing.
That's where I'm going to. Going a fishing."
"Your fishing-rod gets rayther rusty; don't it, father?"
"Never you mind."
"Shall you bring any fish home, father?"
"If I don't, you'll have short commons, to-morrow," returned that
gentleman, shaking his head; "that's questions enough for you; I
ain't a going out, till you've been long abed."
He devoted himself during the remainder of the evening to keeping
a most vigilant watch on Mrs. Cruncher, and sullenly holding her in
conversation that she might be prevented from meditating any petitions
to his disadvantage. With this view, he urged his son to hold her in
conversation also, and led the unfortunate woman a hard life by dwelling
on any causes of complaint he could bring against her, rather than he
would leave her for a moment to her own reflections. The devoutest
person could have rendered no greater homage to the efficacy of an honest
prayer than he did in this distrust of his wife. It was as if a
professed unbeliever in ghosts should be frightened by a ghost story.
"And mind you!" said Mr. Cruncher. "No games to-morrow! If I,
as a honest tradesman, succeed in providing a jinte of meat or two,
none of your not touching of it, and sticking to bread. If I,
as a honest tradesman, am able to provide a little beer, none of your
declaring on water. When you go to Rome, do as Rome does. Rome will
be a ugly customer to you, if you don't. _I_'m your Rome, you know."
Then he began grumbling again:
"With your flying into the face of your own wittles and drink! I don't
know how scarce you mayn't make the wittles and drink here, by your
flopping tricks and your unfeeling conduct. Look at your boy: he IS
your'n, ain't he? He's as thin as a lath. Do you call yourself a
mother, and not know that a mother's first duty is to blow her boy out?"
This touched Young Jerry on a tender place; who adjured his mother to
perform her first duty, and, whatever else she did or neglected, above
all things to lay especial stress on the discharge of that maternal
function so affectingly and delicately indicated by his other parent.
Thus the evening wore away with the Cruncher family, until Young Jerry
was ordered to bed, and his mother, laid under similar injunctions,
obeyed them. Mr. Cruncher beguiled the earlier watches of the night
with solitary pipes, and did not start upon his excursion until nearly
one o'clock. Towards that small and ghostly hour, he rose up from his
chair, took a key out of his pocket, opened a locked cupboard, and
brought forth a sack, a crowbar of convenient size, a rope and chain,
and other fishing tackle of that nature. Disposing these articles about
him in skilful manner, he bestowed a parting defiance on Mrs. Cruncher,
extinguished the light, and went out.
Young Jerry, who had only made a feint of undressing when he went to bed,
was not long after his father. Under cover of the darkness he followed
out of the room, followed down the stairs, followed down the court,
followed out into the streets. He was in no uneasiness concerning
his getting into the house again, for it was full of lodgers, and the
door stood ajar all night.
Impelled by a laudable ambition to study the art and mystery of his
father's honest calling, Young Jerry, keeping as close to house fronts,
walls, and doorways, as his eyes were close to one another, held his
honoured parent in view. The honoured parent steering Northward,
had not gone far, when he was joined by another disciple of
Izaak Walton, and the two trudged on together.
Within half an hour from the first starting, they were beyond the
winking lamps, and the more than winking watchmen, and were out upon
a lonely road. Another fisherman was picked up here--and that so
silently, that if Young Jerry had been superstitious, he might have
supposed the second follower of the gentle craft to have, all of a
sudden, split himself into two.
The three went on, and Young Jerry went on, until the three stopped
under a bank overhanging the road. Upon the top of the bank was a
low brick wall, surmounted by an iron railing. In the shadow of bank
and wall the three turned out of the road, and up a blind lane, of which
the wall--there, risen to some eight or ten feet high--formed one side.
Crouching down in a corner, peeping up the lane, the next object that
Young Jerry saw, was the form of his honoured parent, pretty well
defined against a watery and clouded moon, nimbly scaling an iron
gate. He was soon over, and then the second fisherman got over, and
then the third. They all dropped softly on the ground within the gate,
and lay there a little--listening perhaps. Then, they moved away on
their hands and knees.
It was now Young Jerry's turn to approach the gate: which he did,
holding his breath. Crouching down again in a corner there, and looking
in, he made out the three fishermen creeping through some rank grass!
and all the gravestones in the churchyard--it was a large churchyard
that they were in--looking on like ghosts in white, while the church
tower itself looked on like the ghost of a monstrous giant. They did
not creep far, before they stopped and stood upright. And then they
began to fish.
They fished with a spade, at first. Presently the honoured parent
appeared to be adjusting some instrument like a great corkscrew.
Whatever tools they worked with, they worked hard, until the awful
striking of the church clock so terrified Young Jerry, that he made off,
with his hair as stiff as his father's.
But, his long-cherished desire to know more about these matters, not
only stopped him in his running away, but lured him back again. They
were still fishing perseveringly, when he peeped in at the gate for
the second time; but, now they seemed to have got a bite. There was a
screwing and complaining sound down below, and their bent figures were
strained, as if by a weight. By slow degrees the weight broke away the
earth upon it, and came to the surface. Young Jerry very well knew what
it would be; but, when he saw it, and saw his honoured parent about to
wrench it open, he was so frightened, being new to the sight, that he
made off again, and never stopped until he had run a mile or more.
He would not have stopped then, for anything less necessary than
breath, it being a spectral sort of race that he ran, and one highly
desirable to get to the end of. He had a strong idea that the coffin
he had seen was running after him; and, pictured as hopping on behind
him, bolt upright, upon its narrow end, always on the point of
overtaking him and hopping on at his side--perhaps taking his arm--
it was a pursuer to shun. It was an inconsistent and ubiquitous fiend
too, for, while it was making the whole night behind him dreadful,
he darted out into the roadway to avoid dark alleys, fearful of its
coming hopping out of them like a dropsical boy's-Kite without tail
and wings. It hid in doorways too, rubbing its horrible shoulders
against doors, and drawing them up to its ears, as if it were laughing.
It got into shadows on the road, and lay cunningly on its back to
trip him up. All this time it was incessantly hopping on behind and
gaining on him, so that when the boy got to his own door he had reason
for being half dead. And even then it would not leave him, but followed
him upstairs with a bump on every stair, scrambled into bed with him,
and bumped down, dead and heavy, on his breast when he fell asleep.
From his oppressed slumber, Young Jerry in his closet was awakened
after daybreak and before sunrise, by the presence of his father in
the family room. Something had gone wrong with him; at least, so
Young Jerry inferred, from the circumstance of his holding
Mrs. Cruncher by the ears, and knocking the back of her head against
the head-board of the bed.
"I told you I would," said Mr. Cruncher, "and I did."
"Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!" his wife implored.
"You oppose yourself to the profit of the business," said Jerry,
"and me and my partners suffer. You was to honour and obey;
why the devil don't you?"
"I try to be a good wife, Jerry," the poor woman protested, with tears.
"Is it being a good wife to oppose your husband's business? Is it
honouring your husband to dishonour his business? Is it obeying your
husband to disobey him on the wital subject of his business?"
"You hadn't taken to the dreadful business then, Jerry."
"It's enough for you," retorted Mr. Cruncher, "to be the wife of a
honest tradesman, and not to occupy your female mind with calculations
when he took to his trade or when he didn't. A honouring and obeying
wife would let his trade alone altogether. Call yourself a religious
woman? If you're a religious woman, give me a irreligious one!
You have no more nat'ral sense of duty than the bed of this here Thames
river has of a pile, and similarly it must be knocked into you."
The altercation was conducted in a low tone of voice, and terminated
in the honest tradesman's kicking off his clay-soiled boots, and lying
down at his length on the floor. After taking a timid peep at him
lying on his back, with his rusty hands under his head for a pillow,
his son lay down too, and fell asleep again.
There was no fish for breakfast, and not much of anything else.
Mr. Cruncher was out of spirits, and out of temper, and kept an iron
pot-lid by him as a projectile for the correction of Mrs. Cruncher,
in case he should observe any symptoms of her saying Grace. He was
brushed and washed at the usual hour, and set off with his son to
pursue his ostensible calling.
Young Jerry, walking with the stool under his arm at his father's
side along sunny and crowded Fleet-street, was a very different
Young Jerry from him of the previous night, running home through
darkness and solitude from his grim pursuer. His cunning was fresh
with the day, and his qualms were gone with the night--in which
particulars it is not improbable that he had compeers in Fleet-street
and the City of London, that fine morning.
"Father," said Young Jerry, as they walked along: taking care to
keep at arm's length and to have the stool well between them:
"what's a Resurrection-Man?"
Mr. Cruncher came to a stop on the pavement before he answered,
"How should I know?"
"I thought you knowed everything, father," said the artless boy.
"Hem! Well," returned Mr. Cruncher, going on again, and lifting off
his hat to give his spikes free play, "he's a tradesman."
"What's his goods, father?" asked the brisk Young Jerry.
"His goods," said Mr. Cruncher, after turning it over in his mind,
"is a branch of Scientific goods."
"Persons' bodies, ain't it, father?" asked the lively boy.
"I believe it is something of that sort," said Mr. Cruncher.
"Oh, father, I should so like to be a Resurrection-Man when I'm
quite growed up!"
Mr. Cruncher was soothed, but shook his head in a dubious and moral
way. "It depends upon how you dewelop your talents. Be careful
to dewelop your talents, and never to say no more than you can help
to nobody, and there's no telling at the present time what you may
not come to be fit for." As Young Jerry, thus encouraged, went on
a few yards in advance, to plant the stool in the shadow of the Bar,
Mr. Cruncher added to himself: "Jerry, you honest tradesman, there's
hopes wot that boy will yet be a blessing to you, and a recompense
to you for his mother!"
There had been earlier drinking than usual in the wine-shop of
Monsieur Defarge. As early as six o'clock in the morning, sallow
faces peeping through its barred windows had descried other faces within,
bending over measures of wine. Monsieur Defarge sold a very thin wine
at the best of times, but it would seem to have been an unusually thin
wine that he sold at this time. A sour wine, moreover, or a souring,
for its influence on the mood of those who drank it was to make them
gloomy. No vivacious Bacchanalian flame leaped out of the pressed grape
of Monsieur Defarge: but, a smouldering fire that burnt in the dark,
lay hidden in the dregs of it.
This had been the third morning in succession, on which there had been
early drinking at the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge. It had begun
on Monday, and here was Wednesday come. There had been more of early
brooding than drinking; for, many men had listened and whispered and
slunk about there from the time of the opening of the door, who could
not have laid a piece of money on the counter to save their souls.
These were to the full as interested in the place, however, as if
they could have commanded whole barrels of wine; and they glided from
seat to seat, and from corner to corner, swallowing talk in lieu
of drink, with greedy looks.
Notwithstanding an unusual flow of company, the master of the wine-shop
was not visible. He was not missed; for, nobody who crossed the
threshold looked for him, nobody asked for him, nobody wondered to
see only Madame Defarge in her seat, presiding over the distribution
of wine, with a bowl of battered small coins before her, as much defaced
and beaten out of their original impress as the small coinage of humanity
from whose ragged pockets they had come.
A suspended interest and a prevalent absence of mind, were perhaps
observed by the spies who looked in at the wine-shop, as they looked in
at every place, high and low, from the kings palace to the criminal's
gaol. Games at cards languished, players at dominoes musingly built
towers with them, drinkers drew figures on the tables with spilt drops
of wine, Madame Defarge herself picked out the pattern on her sleeve
with her toothpick, and saw and heard something inaudible and invisible
a long way off.
Thus, Saint Antoine in this vinous feature of his, until midday. It
was high noontide, when two dusty men passed through his streets and
under his swinging lamps: of whom, one was Monsieur Defarge: the other
a mender of roads in a blue cap. All adust and athirst, the two entered
the wine-shop. Their arrival had lighted a kind of fire in the breast
of Saint Antoine, fast spreading as they came along, which stirred and
flickered in flames of faces at most doors and windows. Yet, no one
had followed them, and no man spoke when they entered the wine-shop,
though the eyes of every man there were turned upon them.
"Good day, gentlemen!" said Monsieur Defarge.
It may have been a signal for loosening the general tongue.
It elicited an answering chorus of "Good day!"
"It is bad weather, gentlemen," said Defarge, shaking his head.
Upon which, every man looked at his neighbour, and then all cast down
their eyes and sat silent. Except one man, who got up and went out.
"My wife," said Defarge aloud, addressing Madame Defarge: "I have
travelled certain leagues with this good mender of roads, called
Jacques. I met him--by accident--a day and half's journey out of
Paris. He is a good child, this mender of roads, called Jacques.
Give him to drink, my wife!"
A second man got up and went out. Madame Defarge set wine before the
mender of roads called Jacques, who doffed his blue cap to the company,
and drank. In the breast of his blouse he carried some coarse dark
bread; he ate of this between whiles, and sat munching and drinking
near Madame Defarge's counter. A third man got up and went out.
Defarge refreshed himself with a draught of wine--but, he took less
than was given to the stranger, as being himself a man to whom it was
no rarity--and stood waiting until the countryman had made his breakfast.
He looked at no one present, and no one now looked at him; not even
Madame Defarge, who had taken up her knitting, and was at work.
"Have you finished your repast, friend?" he asked, in due season.
"Yes, thank you."
"Come, then! You shall see the apartment that I told you you could
occupy. It will suit you to a marvel."
Out of the wine-shop into the street, out of the street into a
courtyard, out of the courtyard up a steep staircase, out of the
staircase into a garret,--formerly the garret where a white-haired
man sat on a low bench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.
No white-haired man was there now; but, the three men were there
who had gone out of the wine-shop singly. And between them and the
white-haired man afar off, was the one small link, that they had once
looked in at him through the chinks in the wall.
Defarge closed the door carefully, and spoke in a subdued voice:
"Jacques One, Jacques Two, Jacques Three! This is the witness
encountered by appointment, by me, Jacques Four. He will tell you all.
Speak, Jacques Five!"
The mender of roads, blue cap in hand, wiped his swarthy forehead with
it, and said, "Where shall I commence, monsieur?"
"Commence," was Monsieur Defarge's not unreasonable reply, "at the
"I saw him then, messieurs," began the mender of roads, "a year ago
this running summer, underneath the carriage of the Marquis, hanging by
the chain. Behold the manner of it. I leaving my work on the road,
the sun going to bed, the carriage of the Marquis slowly ascending
the hill, he hanging by the chain--like this."
Again the mender of roads went through the whole performance; in which
he ought to have been perfect by that time, seeing that it had been
the infallible resource and indispensable entertainment of his village
during a whole year.
Jacques One struck in, and asked if he had ever seen the man before?
"Never," answered the mender of roads, recovering his perpendicular.
Jacques Three demanded how he afterwards recognised him then?
"By his tall figure," said the mender of roads, softly, and with his
finger at his nose. "When Monsieur the Marquis demands that evening,
'Say, what is he like?' I make response, `Tall as a spectre.'"
"You should have said, short as a dwarf," returned Jacques Two.
"But what did I know? The deed was not then accomplished, neither did
he confide in me. Observe! Under those circumstances even, I do not
offer my testimony. Monsieur the Marquis indicates me with his finger,
standing near our little fountain, and says, `To me! Bring that rascal!'
My faith, messieurs, I offer nothing."
"He is right there, Jacques," murmured Defarge, to him who had
interrupted. "Go on!"
"Good!" said the mender of roads, with an air of mystery. "The tall
man is lost, and he is sought--how many months? Nine, ten, eleven?"
"No matter, the number," said Defarge. "He is well hidden, but at last
he is unluckily found. Go on!"
"I am again at work upon the hill-side, and the sun is again about to
go to bed. I am collecting my tools to descend to my cottage down in
the village below, where it is already dark, when I raise my eyes,
and see coming over the hill six soldiers. In the midst of them
is a tall man with his arms bound--tied to his sides--like this!"
With the aid of his indispensable cap, he represented a man with his
elbows bound fast at his hips, with cords that were knotted behind him.
"I stand aside, messieurs, by my heap of stones, to see the soldiers
and their prisoner pass (for it is a solitary road, that, where any
spectacle is well worth looking at), and at first, as they approach,
I see no more than that they are six soldiers with a tall man bound,
and that they are almost black to my sight--except on the side of the
sun going to bed, where they have a red edge, messieurs. Also, I see
that their long shadows are on the hollow ridge on the opposite side
of the road, and are on the hill above it, and are like the shadows of
giants. Also, I see that they are covered with dust, and that the dust
moves with them as they come, tramp, tramp! But when they advance
quite near to me, I recognise the tall man, and he recognises me.
Ah, but he would be well content to precipitate himself over the
hill-side once again, as on the evening when he and I first encountered,
close to the same spot!"
He described it as if he were there, and it was evident that he saw
it vividly; perhaps he had not seen much in his life.
"I do not show the soldiers that I recognise the tall man; he does
not show the soldiers that he recognises me; we do it, and we know it,
with our eyes. `Come on!' says the chief of that company, pointing to
the village, `bring him fast to his tomb!' and they bring him faster.
I follow. His arms are swelled because of being bound so tight, his
wooden shoes are large and clumsy, and he is lame. Because he is lame,
and consequently slow, they drive him with their guns--like this!"
He imitated the action of a man's being impelled forward by the
butt-ends of muskets.
"As they descend the hill like madmen running a race, he falls.
They laugh and pick him up again. His face is bleeding and covered with
dust, but he cannot touch it; thereupon they laugh again. They bring
him into the village; all the village runs to look; they take him past
the mill, and up to the prison; all the village sees the prison gate
open in the darkness of the night, and swallow him--like this!"
He opened his mouth as wide as he could, and shut it with a sounding
snap of his teeth. Observant of his unwillingness to mar the effect
by opening it again, Defarge said, "Go on, Jacques."
"All the village," pursued the mender of roads, on tiptoe and in a
low voice, "withdraws; all the village whispers by the fountain;
all the village sleeps; all the village dreams of that unhappy one,
within the locks and bars of the prison on the crag, and never to come
out of it, except to perish. In the morning, with my tools upon my
shoulder, eating my morsel of black bread as I go, I make a circuit
by the prison, on my way to my work. There I see him, high up,
behind the bars of a lofty iron cage, bloody and dusty as last night,
looking through. He has no hand free, to wave to me; I dare not call
to him; he regards me like a dead man."
Defarge and the three glanced darkly at one another. The looks of
all of them were dark, repressed, and revengeful, as they listened to
the countryman's story; the manner of all of them, while it was secret,
was authoritative too. They had the air of a rough tribunal; Jacques
One and Two sitting on the old pallet-bed, each with his chin resting
on his hand, and his eyes intent on the road-mender; Jacques Three,
equally intent, on one knee behind them, with his agitated hand always
gliding over the network of fine nerves about his mouth and nose;
Defarge standing between them and the narrator, whom he had stationed
in the light of the window, by turns looking from him to them, and
from them to him.
"Go on, Jacques," said Defarge.
"He remains up there in his iron cage some days. The village looks
at him by stealth, for it is afraid. But it always looks up, from
a distance, at the prison on the crag; and in the evening, when the
work of the day is achieved and it assembles to gossip at the fountain,
all faces are turned towards the prison. Formerly, they were turned
towards the posting-house; now, they are turned towards the prison.
They whisper at the fountain, that although condemned to death he will
not be executed; they say that petitions have been presented in Paris,
showing that he was enraged and made mad by the death of his child;
they say that a petition has been presented to the King himself.
What do I know? It is possible. Perhaps yes, perhaps no."
"Listen then, Jacques," Number One of that name sternly interposed.
"Know that a petition was presented to the King and Queen. All here,
yourself excepted, saw the King take it, in his carriage in the street,
sitting beside the Queen. It is Defarge whom you see here, who,
at the hazard of his life, darted out before the horses, with the
petition in his hand."
"And once again listen, Jacques!" said the kneeling Number Three:
his fingers ever wandering over and over those fine nerves, with a
strikingly greedy air, as if he hungered for something--that was
neither food nor drink; "the guard, horse and foot, surrounded
the petitioner, and struck him blows. You hear?"
"I hear, messieurs."
"Go on then," said Defarge.
"Again; on the other hand, they whisper at the fountain," resumed the
countryman, "that he is brought down into our country to be executed
on the spot, and that he will very certainly be executed. They even
whisper that because he has slain Monseigneur, and because Monseigneur
was the father of his tenants--serfs--what you will--he will be
executed as a parricide. One old man says at the fountain, that his
right hand, armed with the knife, will be burnt off before his face;
that, into wounds which will be made in his arms, his breast,
and his legs, there will be poured boiling oil, melted lead, hot resin,
wax, and sulphur; finally, that he will be torn limb from limb by four
strong horses. That old man says, all this was actually done to a
prisoner who made an attempt on the life of the late King,
Louis Fifteen. But how do I know if he lies? I am not a scholar."
"Listen once again then, Jacques!" said the man with the restless hand
and the craving air. "The name of that prisoner was Damiens, and it
was all done in open day, in the open streets of this city of Paris;
and nothing was more noticed in the vast concourse that saw it done,
than the crowd of ladies of quality and fashion, who were full of eager
attention to the last--to the last, Jacques, prolonged until nightfall,
when he had lost two legs and an arm, and still breathed! And it
was done--why, how old are you?"
"Thirty-five," said the mender of roads, who looked sixty.
"It was done when you were more than ten years old; you might
have seen it."
"Enough!" said Defarge, with grim impatience. "Long live the Devil!
"Well! Some whisper this, some whisper that; they speak of nothing else;
even the fountain appears to fall to that tune. At length, on Sunday
night when all the village is asleep, come soldiers, winding down from
the prison, and their guns ring on the stones of the little street.
Workmen dig, workmen hammer, soldiers laugh and sing; in the morning,
by the fountain, there is raised a gallows forty feet high, poisoning
The mender of roads looked THROUGH rather than AT the low ceiling,
and pointed as if he saw the gallows somewhere in the sky.
"All work is stopped, all assemble there, nobody leads the cows out,
the cows are there with the rest. At midday, the roll of drums.
Soldiers have marched into the prison in the night, and he is in the
midst of many soldiers. He is bound as before, and in his mouth there
is a gag--tied so, with a tight string, making him look almost as if he
laughed." He suggested it, by creasing his face with his two thumbs,
from the corners of his mouth to his ears. "On the top of the gallows
is fixed the knife, blade upwards, with its point in the air. He is
hanged there forty feet high--and is left hanging, poisoning the water."
They looked at one another, as he used his blue cap to wipe his face,
on which the perspiration had started afresh while he recalled the spectacle.
"It is frightful, messieurs. How can the women and the children draw
water! Who can gossip of an evening, under that shadow! Under it,
have I said? When I left the village, Monday evening as the sun was
going to bed, and looked back from the hill, the shadow struck across
the church, across the mill, across the prison--seemed to strike across
the earth, messieurs, to where the sky rests upon it!"
The hungry man gnawed one of his fingers as he looked at the other
three, and his finger quivered with the craving that was on him.
"That's all, messieurs. I left at sunset (as I had been warned to do),
and I walked on, that night and half next day, until I met (as I was
warned I should) this comrade. With him, I came on, now riding and
now walking, through the rest of yesterday and through last night.
And here you see me!"
After a gloomy silence, the first Jacques said, "Good! You have
acted and recounted faithfully. Will you wait for us a little,
outside the door?"
"Very willingly," said the mender of roads. Whom Defarge escorted
to the top of the stairs, and, leaving seated there, returned.
The three had risen, and their heads were together when he came
back to the garret.
"How say you, Jacques?" demanded Number One. "To be registered?"
"To be registered, as doomed to destruction," returned Defarge.
"Magnificent!" croaked the man with the craving.
"The chateau, and all the race?" inquired the first.
"The chateau and all the race," returned Defarge. "Extermination."
The hungry man repeated, in a rapturous croak, "Magnificent!" and began
gnawing another finger.
"Are you sure," asked Jacques Two, of Defarge, "that no embarrassment
can arise from our manner of keeping the register? Without doubt it
is safe, for no one beyond ourselves can decipher it; but shall we
always be able to decipher it--or, I ought to say, will she?"
"Jacques," returned Defarge, drawing himself up, "if madame my wife
undertook to keep the register in her memory alone, she would not
lose a word of it--not a syllable of it. Knitted, in her own stitches
and her own symbols, it will always be as plain to her as the sun.
Confide in Madame Defarge. It would be easier for the weakest poltroon
that lives, to erase himself from existence, than to erase one letter
of his name or crimes from the knitted register of Madame Defarge."
There was a murmur of confidence and approval, and then the man who
hungered, asked: "Is this rustic to be sent back soon? I hope so.
He is very simple; is he not a little dangerous?"
"He knows nothing," said Defarge; "at least nothing more than would
easily elevate himself to a gallows of the same height. I charge myself
with him; let him remain with me; I will take care of him, and set him
on his road. He wishes to see the fine world--the King, the Queen, and
Court; let him see them on Sunday."
"What?" exclaimed the hungry man, staring. "Is it a good sign, that
he wishes to see Royalty and Nobility?"
"Jacques," said Defarge; "judiciously show a cat milk, if you wish
her to thirst for it. Judiciously show a dog his natural prey,
if you wish him to bring it down one day."
Nothing more was said, and the mender of roads, being found already
dozing on the topmost stair, was advised to lay himself down on the
pallet-bed and take some rest. He needed no persuasion,
and was soon asleep.
Worse quarters than Defarge's wine-shop, could easily have been found
in Paris for a provincial slave of that degree. Saving for a mysterious
dread of madame by which he was constantly haunted, his life was very
new and agreeable. But, madame sat all day at her counter, so expressly
unconscious of him, and so particularly determined not to perceive that
his being there had any connection with anything below the surface,
that he shook in his wooden shoes whenever his eye lighted on her.
For, he contended with himself that it was impossible to foresee what
that lady might pretend next; and he felt assured that if she should
take it into her brightly ornamented head to pretend that she had seen
him do a murder and afterwards flay the victim, she would infallibly
go through with it until the play was played out.
Therefore, when Sunday came, the mender of roads was not enchanted
(though he said he was) to find that madame was to accompany monsieur
and himself to Versailles. It was additionally disconcerting to have
madame knitting all the way there, in a public conveyance; it was
additionally disconcerting yet, to have madame in the crowd in the
afternoon, still with her knitting in her hands as the crowd waited
to see the carriage of the King and Queen.
"You work hard, madame," said a man near her.
"Yes," answered Madame Defarge; "I have a good deal to do."
"What do you make, madame?"
"For instance," returned Madame Defarge, composedly, "shrouds."
The man moved a little further away, as soon as he could, and the
mender of roads fanned himself with his blue cap: feeling it mightily
close and oppressive. If he needed a King and Queen to restore him,
he was fortunate in having his remedy at hand; for, soon the large-faced
King and the fair-faced Queen came in their golden coach, attended by
the shining Bull's Eye of their Court, a glittering multitude of
laughing ladies and fine lords; and in jewels and silks and powder and
splendour and elegantly spurning figures and handsomely disdainful faces
of both sexes, the mender of roads bathed himself, so much to his
temporary intoxication, that he cried Long live the King, Long live
the Queen, Long live everybody and everything! as if he had never
heard of ubiquitous Jacques in his time. Then, there were gardens,
courtyards, terraces, fountains, green banks, more King and Queen,
more Bull's Eye,more lords and ladies, more Long live they all! until
he absolutely wept with sentiment. During the whole of this scene,
which lasted some three hours, he had plenty of shouting and weeping
and sentimental company, and throughout Defarge held him by the collar,
as if to restrain him from flying at the objects of his brief devotion
and tearing them to pieces.
"Bravo!" said Defarge, clapping him on the back when it was over,
like a patron; "you are a good boy!"
The mender of roads was now coming to himself, and was mistrustful of
having made a mistake in his late demonstrations; but no.
"You are the fellow we want," said Defarge, in his ear; "you make these
fools believe that it will last for ever. Then, they are the more
insolent, and it is the nearer ended."
"Hey!" cried the mender of roads, reflectively; "that's true."
"These fools know nothing. While they despise your breath, and would
stop it for ever and ever, in you or in a hundred like you rather than
in one of their own horses or dogs, they only know what your breath
tells them. Let it deceive them, then, a little longer; it cannot
deceive them too much."
Madame Defarge looked superciliously at the client, and nodded in
"As to you," said she, "you would shout and shed tears for anything,
if it made a show and a noise. Say! Would you not?"
"Truly, madame, I think so. For the moment."
"If you were shown a great heap of dolls, and were set upon them to
pluck them to pieces and despoil them for your own advantage, you
would pick out the richest and gayest. Say! Would you not?"
"Truly yes, madame."
"Yes. And if you were shown a flock of birds, unable to fly, and were
set upon them to strip them of their feathers for your own advantage,
you would set upon the birds of the finest feathers; would you not?"
"It is true, madame."
"You have seen both dolls and birds to-day," said Madame Defarge,
with a wave of her hand towards the place where they had last been
apparent; "now, go home!"
Madame Defarge and monsieur her husband returned amicably to the bosom
of Saint Antoine, while a speck in a blue cap toiled through the
darkness, and through the dust, and down the weary miles of avenue by
the wayside, slowly tending towards that point of the compass where the
chateau of Monsieur the Marquis, now in his grave, listened to the
whispering trees. Such ample leisure had the stone faces, now, for
listening to the trees and to the fountain, that the few village
scarecrows who, in their quest for herbs to eat and fragments of dead
stick to burn, strayed within sight of the great stone courtyard and
terrace staircase, had it borne in upon their starved fancy that the
expression of the faces was altered. A rumour just lived in the
village--had a faint and bare existence there, as its people had--that
when the knife struck home, the faces changed, from faces of pride to
faces of anger and pain; also, that when that dangling figure was
hauled up forty feet above the fountain, they changed again, and bore
a cruel look of being avenged, which they would henceforth bear
for ever. In the stone face over the great window of the bed-chamber
where the murder was done, two fine dints were pointed out in the
sculptured nose, which everybody recognised, and which nobody had
seen of old; and on the scarce occasions when two or three ragged
peasants emerged from the crowd to take a hurried peep at Monsieur
the Marquis petrified, a skinny finger would not have pointed to it
for a minute, before they all started away among the moss and leaves,
like the more fortunate hares who could find a living there.
Chateau and hut, stone face and dangling figure, the red stain on the
stone floor, and the pure water in the village well--thousands of acres
of land--a whole province of France--all France itself--lay under the
night sky, concentrated into a faint hair-breadth line. So does a
whole world, with all its greatnesses and littlenesses, lie in a
twinkling star. And as mere human knowledge can split a ray of light
and analyse the manner of its composition, so, sublimer intelligences
may read in the feeble shining of this earth of ours, every thought
and act, every vice and virtue, of every responsible creature on it.
The Defarges, husband and wife, came lumbering under the starlight,
in their public vehicle, to that gate of Paris whereunto their journey
naturally tended. There was the usual stoppage at the barrier
guardhouse, and the usual lanterns came glancing forth for the usual
examination and inquiry. Monsieur Defarge alighted; knowing one or
two of the soldiery there, and one of the police. The latter he was
intimate with, and affectionately embraced.
When Saint Antoine had again enfolded the Defarges in his dusky wings,
and they, having finally alighted near the Saint's boundaries, were
picking their way on foot through the black mud and offal of his streets,
Madame Defarge spoke to her husband:
"Say then, my friend; what did Jacques of the police tell thee?"
"Very little to-night, but all he knows. There is another spy
commissioned for our quarter. There may be many more, for all that
he can say, but he knows of one."
"Eh well!" said Madame Defarge, raising her eyebrows with a cool
business air. "It is necessary to register him. How do they
call that man?"
"He is English."
"So much the better. His name?"
"Barsad," said Defarge, making it French by pronunciation. But,
he had been so careful to get it accurately, that he then spelt
it with perfect correctness.
"Barsad," repeated madame. "Good. Christian name?"
"John Barsad," repeated madame, after murmuring it once to herself.
"Good. His appearance; is it known?"
"Age, about forty years; height, about five feet nine; black hair;
complexion dark; generally, rather handsome visage; eyes dark, face thin,
long, and sallow; nose aquiline, but not straight, having a peculiar
inclination towards the left cheek; expression, therefore, sinister."
"Eh my faith. It is a portrait!" said madame, laughing. "He shall
be registered to-morrow."
They turned into the wine-shop, which was closed (for it was midnight),
and where Madame Defarge immediately took her post at her desk,
counted the small moneys that had been taken during her absence,
examined the stock, went through the entries in the book, made other
entries of her own, checked the serving man in every possible way,
and finally dismissed him to bed. Then she turned out the contents
of the bowl of money for the second time, and began knotting them up
in her handkerchief, in a chain of separate knots, for safe keeping
through the night. All this while, Defarge, with his pipe in his mouth,
walked up and down, complacently admiring, but never interfering;
in which condition, indeed, as to the business and his domestic affairs,
he walked up and down through life.
The night was hot, and the shop, close shut and surrounded by so foul
a neighbourhood, was ill-smelling. Monsieur Defarge's olfactory
sense was by no means delicate, but the stock of wine smelt much
stronger than it ever tasted, and so did the stock of rum and brandy
and aniseed. He whiffed the compound of scents away, as he put down
his smoked-out pipe.
"You are fatigued," said madame, raising her glance as she knotted
the money. "There are only the usual odours."
"I am a little tired," her husband acknowledged.
"You are a little depressed, too," said madame, whose quick eyes had
never been so intent on the accounts, but they had had a ray or two
for him. "Oh, the men, the men!"
"But my dear!" began Defarge.
"But my dear!" repeated madame, nodding firmly; "but my dear!
You are faint of heart to-night, my dear!"
"Well, then," said Defarge, as if a thought were wrung out of his breast,
"it IS a long time."
"It is a long time," repeated his wife; "and when is it not a long time?
Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule."
"It does not take a long time to strike a man with Lightning,"
"How long," demanded madame, composedly, "does it take to make and
store the lightning? Tell me."
Defarge raised his head thoughtfully, as if there were something
in that too.
"It does not take a long time," said madame, "for an earthquake to swallow
a town. Eh well! Tell me how long it takes to prepare the earthquake?"
"A long time, I suppose," said Defarge.
"But when it is ready, it takes place, and grinds to pieces everything
before it. In the meantime, it is always preparing, though it is not
seen or heard. That is your consolation. Keep it."
She tied a knot with flashing eyes, as if it throttled a foe.
"I tell thee," said madame, extending her right hand, for emphasis,
"that although it is a long time on the road, it is on the road and
coming. I tell thee it never retreats, and never stops. I tell thee
it is always advancing. Look around and consider the lives of all the
world that we know, consider the faces of all the world that we know,
consider the rage and discontent to which the Jacquerie addresses itself
with more and more of certainty every hour. Can such things last?
Bah! I mock you."
"My brave wife," returned Defarge, standing before her with his head
a little bent, and his hands clasped at his back, like a docile and
attentive pupil before his catechist, "I do not question all this.
But it has lasted a long time, and it is possible--you know well,
my wife, it is possible--that it may not come, during our lives."
"Eh well! How then?" demanded madame, tying another knot, as if
there were another enemy strangled.
"Well!" said Defarge, with a half complaining and half apologetic shrug.
"We shall not see the triumph."
"We shall have helped it," returned madame, with her extended hand in
strong action. "Nothing that we do, is done in vain. I believe, with
all my soul, that we shall see the triumph. But even if not, even if
I knew certainly not, show me the neck of an aristocrat and tyrant,
and still I would--"
Then madame, with her teeth set, tied a very terrible knot indeed.
"Hold!" cried Defarge, reddening a little as if he felt charged with
cowardice; "I too, my dear, will stop at nothing."
"Yes! But it is your weakness that you sometimes need to see your
victim and your opportunity, to sustain you. Sustain yourself without
that. When the time comes, let loose a tiger and a devil; but wait
for the time with the tiger and the devil chained--not shown--yet
Madame enforced the conclusion of this piece of advice by striking
her little counter with her chain of money as if she knocked its brains
out, and then gathering the heavy handkerchief under her arm in a
serene manner, and observing that it was time to go to bed.
Next noontide saw the admirable woman in her usual place in the
wine-shop, knitting away assiduously. A rose lay beside her, and
if she now and then glanced at the flower, it was with no infraction
of her usual preoccupied air. There were a few customers, drinking
or not drinking, standing or seated, sprinkled about. The day was
very hot, and heaps of flies, who were extending their inquisitive
and adventurous perquisitions into all the glutinous little glasses
near madame, fell dead at the bottom. Their decease made no impression
on the other flies out promenading, who looked at them in the coolest
manner (as if they themselves were elephants, or something as far
removed), until they met the same fate. Curious to consider how heedless
flies are!--perhaps they thought as much at Court that sunny summer day.
A figure entering at the door threw a shadow on Madame Defarge which
she felt to be a new one. She laid down her knitting, and began to
pin her rose in her head-dress, before she looked at the figure.
It was curious. The moment Madame Defarge took up the rose, the
customers ceased talking, and began gradually to drop out of the
"Good day, madame," said the new-comer.
"Good day, monsieur."
She said it aloud, but added to herself, as she resumed her knitting:
"Hah! Good day, age about forty, height about five feet nine, black
hair, generally rather handsome visage, complexion dark, eyes dark,
thin, long and sallow face, aquiline nose but not straight, having a
peculiar inclination towards the left cheek which imparts a sinister
expression! Good day, one and all!"
"Have the goodness to give me a little glass of old cognac, and a
mouthful of cool fresh water, madame."
Madame complied with a polite air.
"Marvellous cognac this, madame!"
It was the first time it had ever been so complemented, and Madame
Defarge knew enough of its antecedents to know better. She said,
however, that the cognac was flattered, and took up her knitting.
The visitor watched her fingers for a few moments, and took the
opportunity of observing the place in general.
"You knit with great skill, madame."
"I am accustomed to it."
"A pretty pattern too!"
"YOU think so?" said madame, looking at him with a smile.
"Decidedly. May one ask what it is for?"
"Pastime," said madame, still looking at him with a smile while her
fingers moved nimbly.
"Not for use?"
"That depends. I may find a use for it one day. If I do--Well,"
said madame, drawing a breath and nodding her head with a stern kind
of coquetry, "I'll use it!"
It was remarkable; but, the taste of Saint Antoine seemed to be
decidedly opposed to a rose on the head-dress of Madame Defarge.
Two men had entered separately, and had been about to order drink, when,
catching sight of that novelty, they faltered, made a pretence of
looking about as if for some friend who was not there, and went away.
Nor, of those who had been there when this visitor entered, was there one
left. They had all dropped off. The spy had kept his eyes open, but had
been able to detect no sign. They had lounged away in a poverty-stricken,
purposeless, accidental manner, quite natural and unimpeachable.
"JOHN," thought madame, checking off her work as her fingers knitted,
and her eyes looked at the stranger. "Stay long enough, and I shall
knit `BARSAD' before you go."
"You have a husband, madame?"
"Business seems bad?"
"Business is very bad; the people are so poor."
"Ah, the unfortunate, miserable people! So oppressed, too--as you say."
"As YOU say," madame retorted, correcting him, and deftly knitting
an extra something into his name that boded him no good.
"Pardon me; certainly it was I who said so, but you naturally think so.
"_I_ think?" returned madame, in a high voice. "I and my husband
have enough to do to keep this wine-shop open, without thinking. All
we think, here, is how to live. That is the subject WE think of,
and it gives us, from morning to night, enough to think about, without
embarrassing our heads concerning others. _I_ think for others? No, no."
The spy, who was there to pick up any crumbs he could find or make, did
not allow his baffled state to express itself in his sinister face; but,
stood with an air of gossiping gallantry, leaning his elbow on Madame
Defarge's little counter, and occasionally sipping his cognac.
"A bad business this, madame, of Gaspard's execution. Ah! the poor
Gaspard!" With a sigh of great compassion.
"My faith!" returned madame, coolly and lightly, "if people use knives
for such purposes, they have to pay for it. He knew beforehand what
the price of his luxury was; he has paid the price."
"I believe," said the spy, dropping his soft voice to a tone that
invited confidence, and expressing an injured revolutionary
susceptibility in every muscle of his wicked face: "I believe there
is much compassion and anger in this neighbourhood, touching the
poor fellow? Between ourselves."
"Is there?" asked madame, vacantly.
"Is there not?"
"--Here is my husband!" said Madame Defarge.
As the keeper of the wine-shop entered at the door, the spy saluted
him by touching his hat, and saying, with an engaging smile, "Good
day, Jacques!" Defarge stopped short, and stared at him.
"Good day, Jacques!" the spy repeated; with not quite so much
confidence, or quite so easy a smile under the stare.
"You deceive yourself, monsieur," returned the keeper of the
wine-shop. "You mistake me for another. That is not my name.
I am Ernest Defarge."
"It is all the same," said the spy, airily, but discomfited too:
"Good day!" answered Defarge, drily.
"I was saying to madame, with whom I had the pleasure of chatting when
you entered, that they tell me there is--and no wonder!--much sympathy
and anger in Saint Antoine, touching the unhappy fate of poor Gaspard."
"No one has told me so," said Defarge, shaking his head. "I know
nothing of it."
Having said it, he passed behind the little counter, and stood with
his hand on the back of his wife's chair, looking over that barrier
at the person to whom they were both opposed, and whom either of them
would have shot with the greatest satisfaction.
The spy, well used to his business, did not change his unconscious
attitude, but drained his little glass of cognac, took a sip of fresh
water, and asked for another glass of cognac. Madame Defarge poured it
out for him, took to her knitting again, and hummed a little song over it.
"You seem to know this quarter well; that is to say, better than I do?"
"Not at all, but I hope to know it better. I am so profoundly interested
in its miserable inhabitants."
"Hah!" muttered Defarge.
"The pleasure of conversing with you, Monsieur Defarge, recalls to me,"
pursued the spy, "that I have the honour of cherishing some interesting
associations with your name."
"Indeed!" said Defarge, with much indifference.
"Yes, indeed. When Doctor Manette was released, you, his old domestic,
had the charge of him, I know. He was delivered to you. You see I am
informed of the circumstances?"
"Such is the fact, certainly," said Defarge. He had had it conveyed
to him, in an accidental touch of his wife's elbow as she knitted and
warbled, that he would do best to answer, but always with brevity.
"It was to you," said the spy, "that his daughter came; and it was
from your care that his daughter took him, accompanied by a neat brown
monsieur; how is he called?--in a little wig--Lorry--of the bank of
Tellson and Company--over to England."
"Such is the fact," repeated Defarge.
"Very interesting remembrances!" said the spy. "I have known Doctor
Manette and his daughter, in England."
"Yes?" said Defarge.
"You don't hear much about them now?" said the spy.
"No," said Defarge.
"In effect," madame struck in, looking up from her work and her little
song, "we never hear about them. We received the news of their safe
arrival, and perhaps another letter, or perhaps two; but, since then,
they have gradually taken their road in life--we, ours--and we have
held no correspondence."
"Perfectly so, madame," replied the spy. "She is going to be married."
"Going?" echoed madame. "She was pretty enough to have been married
long ago. You English are cold, it seems to me."
"Oh! You know I am English."
"I perceive your tongue is," returned madame; "and what the tongue is,
I suppose the man is."
He did not take the identification as a compliment; but he made the
best of it, and turned it off with a laugh. After sipping his
cognac to the end, he added:
"Yes, Miss Manette is going to be married. But not to an Englishman;
to one who, like herself, is French by birth. And speaking of Gaspard
(ah, poor Gaspard! It was cruel, cruel!), it is a curious thing that
she is going to marry the nephew of Monsieur the Marquis, for whom
Gaspard was exalted to that height of so many feet; in other words,
the present Marquis. But he lives unknown in England, he is no
Marquis there; he is Mr. Charles Darnay. D'Aulnais is the name
of his mother's family."
Madame Defarge knitted steadily, but the intelligence had a palpable
effect upon her husband. Do what he would, behind the little counter,
as to the striking of a light and the lighting of his pipe, he was
troubled, and his hand was not trustworthy. The spy would have been
no spy if he had failed to see it, or to record it in his mind.
Having made, at least, this one hit, whatever it might prove to be worth,
and no customers coming in to help him to any other, Mr. Barsad paid
for what he had drunk, and took his leave: taking occasion to say, in a
genteel manner, before he departed, that he looked forward to the pleasure
of seeing Monsieur and Madame Defarge again. For some minutes after he
had emerged into the outer presence of Saint Antoine, the husband and
wife remained exactly as he had left them, lest he should come back.
"Can it be true," said Defarge, in a low voice, looking down at his
wife as he stood smoking with his hand on the back of her chair: "what
he has said of Ma'amselle Manette?"
"As he has said it," returned madame, lifting her eyebrows a little,
"it is probably false. But it may be true."
"If it is--" Defarge began, and stopped.
"If it is?" repeated his wife.
"--And if it does come, while we live to see it triumph--I hope, for
her sake, Destiny will keep her husband out of France."
"Her husband's destiny," said Madame Defarge, with her usual composure,
"will take him where he is to go, and will lead him to the end that is
to end him. That is all I know."
"But it is very strange--now, at least, is it not very strange"--said
Defarge, rather pleading with his wife to induce her to admit it,
"that, after all our sympathy for Monsieur her father, and herself,
her husband's name should be proscribed under your hand at this moment,
by the side of that infernal dog's who has just left us?"
"Stranger things than that will happen when it does come," answered
madame. "I have them both here, of a certainty; and they are both
here for their merits; that is enough."
She roiled up her knitting when she had said those words, and presently
took the rose out of the handkerchief that was wound about her head.
Either Saint Antoine had an instinctive sense that the objectionable
decoration was gone, or Saint Antoine was on the watch for its
disappearance; howbeit, the Saint took courage to lounge in, very
shortly afterwards, and the wine-shop recovered its habitual aspect.
In the evening, at which season of all others Saint Antoine turned
himself inside out, and sat on door-steps and window-ledges, and
came to the corners of vile streets and courts, for a breath of air,
Madame Defarge with her work in her hand was accustomed to pass from
place to place and from group to group: a Missionary--there were
many like her--such as the world will do well never to breed again.
All the women knitted. They knitted worthless things; but, the
mechanical work was a mechanical substitute for eating and drinking;
the hands moved for the jaws and the digestive apparatus: if the bony
fingers had been still, the stomachs would have been more famine-pinched.
But, as the fingers went, the eyes went, and the thoughts. And as
Madame Defarge moved on from group to group, all three went quicker
and fiercer among every little knot of women that she had spoken with,
and left behind.
Her husband smoked at his door, looking after her with admiration.
"A great woman," said he, "a strong woman, a grand woman, a frightfully
Darkness closed around, and then came the ringing of church bells and
the distant beating of the military drums in the Palace Courtyard, as
the women sat knitting, knitting. Darkness encompassed them. Another
darkness was closing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing
pleasantly in many an airy steeple over France, should be melted into
thundering cannon; when the military drums should be beating to drown
a wretched voice, that night all potent as the voice of Power and
Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closing in about the women
who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing
in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to sit knitting,
knitting, counting dropping heads.
Never did the sun go down with a brighter glory on the quiet corner
in Soho, than one memorable evening when the Doctor and his daughter
sat under the plane-tree together. Never did the moon rise with a
milder radiance over great London, than on that night when it found
them still seated under the tree, and shone upon their faces
through its leaves.
Lucie was to be married to-morrow. She had reserved this last
evening for her father, and they sat alone under the plane-tree.
"You are happy, my dear father?"
"Quite, my child."
They had said little, though they had been there a long time. When
it was yet light enough to work and read, she had neither engaged
herself in her usual work, nor had she read to him. She had employed
herself in both ways, at his side under the tree, many and many a time;
but, this time was not quite like any other, and nothing could make it so.
"And I am very happy to-night, dear father. I am deeply happy in the
love that Heaven has so blessed--my love for Charles, and Charles's
love for me. But, if my life were not to be still consecrated to you,
or if my marriage were so arranged as that it would part us, even by
the length of a few of these streets, I should be more unhappy and
self-reproachful now than I can tell you. Even as it is--"
Even as it was, she could not command her voice.
In the sad moonlight, she clasped him by the neck, and laid her face
upon his breast. In the moonlight which is always sad, as the light
of the sun itself is--as the light called human life is--at its
coming and its going.
"Dearest dear! Can you tell me, this last time, that you feel quite,
quite sure, no new affections of mine, and no new duties of mine,
will ever interpose between us? _I_ know it well, but do you know it?
In your own heart, do you feel quite certain?"
Her father answered, with a cheerful firmness of conviction he could
scarcely have assumed, "Quite sure, my darling! More than that,"
he added, as he tenderly kissed her: "my future is far brighter,
Lucie, seen through your marriage, than it could have been--nay,
than it ever was--without it."
"If I could hope THAT, my father!--"
"Believe it, love! Indeed it is so. Consider how natural and how
plain it is, my dear, that it should be so. You, devoted and young,
cannot fully appreciate the anxiety I have felt that your life
should not be wasted--"
She moved her hand towards his lips, but he took it in his,
and repeated the word.
"--wasted, my child--should not be wasted, struck aside from the
natural order of things--for my sake. Your unselfishness cannot
entirely comprehend how much my mind has gone on this; but, only ask
yourself, how could my happiness be perfect, while yours was incomplete?"
"If I had never seen Charles, my father, I should have been quite
happy with you."
He smiled at her unconscious admission that she would have been unhappy
without Charles, having seen him; and replied:
"My child, you did see him, and it is Charles. If it had not been
Charles, it would have been another. Or, if it had been no other,
I should have been the cause, and then the dark part of my life would
have cast its shadow beyond myself, and would have fallen on you."
It was the first time, except at the trial, of her ever hearing him refer
to the period of his suffering. It gave her a strange and new sensation
while his words were in her ears; and she remembered it long afterwards.