Book 3 - 2
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Tellson's Bank, established in the Saint Germain Quarter of Paris,
was in a wing of a large house, approached by a courtyard and shut
off from the street by a high wall and a strong gate. The house
belonged to a great nobleman who had lived in it until he made a
flight from the troubles, in his own cook's dress, and got across the
borders. A mere beast of the chase flying from hunters, he was still
in his metempsychosis no other than the same Monseigneur, the
preparation of whose chocolate for whose lips had once occupied three
strong men besides the cook in question.
Monseigneur gone, and the three strong men absolving themselves from
the sin of having drawn his high wages, by being more than ready and
willing to cut his throat on the altar of the dawning Republic one and
indivisible of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death, Monseigneur's
house had been first sequestrated, and then confiscated. For, all
things moved so fast, and decree followed decree with that fierce
precipitation, that now upon the third night of the autumn month of
September, patriot emissaries of the law were in possession of
Monseigneur's house, and had marked it with the tri-colour, and were
drinking brandy in its state apartments.
A place of business in London like Tellson's place of business in
Paris, would soon have driven the House out of its mind and into the
Gazette. For, what would staid British responsibility and
respectability have said to orange-trees in boxes in a Bank courtyard,
and even to a Cupid over the counter? Yet such things were.
Tellson's had whitewashed the Cupid, but he was still to be seen on
the ceiling, in the coolest linen, aiming (as he very often does) at
money from morning to night. Bankruptcy must inevitably have come of
this young Pagan, in Lombard-street, London, and also of a curtained
alcove in the rear of the immortal boy, and also of a looking-glass
let into the wall, and also of clerks not at all old, who danced in
public on the slightest provocation. Yet, a French Tellson's could
get on with these things exceedingly well, and, as long as the times
held together, no man had taken fright at them, and drawn out his money.
What money would be drawn out of Tellson's henceforth, and what would
lie there, lost and forgotten; what plate and jewels would tarnish in
Tellson's hiding-places, while the depositors rusted in prisons, and
when they should have violently perished; how many accounts with
Tellson's never to be balanced in this world, must be carried over
into the next; no man could have said, that night, any more than
Mr. Jarvis Lorry could, though he thought heavily of these questions.
He sat by a newly-lighted wood fire (the blighted and unfruitful year
was prematurely cold), and on his honest and courageous face there
was a deeper shade than the pendent lamp could throw, or any object
in the room distortedly reflect--a shade of horror.
He occupied rooms in the Bank, in his fidelity to the House of which
he had grown to be a part, lie strong root-ivy. it chanced that they
derived a kind of security from the patriotic occupation of the main
building, but the true-hearted old gentleman never calculated about
that. All such circumstances were indifferent to him, so that he did
his duty. On the opposite side of the courtyard, under a colonnade,
was extensive standing--for carriages--where, indeed, some carriages
of Monseigneur yet stood. Against two of the pillars were fastened
two great flaring flambeaux, and in the light of these, standing out
in the open air, was a large grindstone: a roughly mounted thing
which appeared to have hurriedly been brought there from some
neighbouring smithy, or other workshop. Rising and looking out of
window at these harmless objects, Mr. Lorry shivered, and retired to
his seat by the fire. He had opened, not only the glass window, but
the lattice blind outside it, and he had closed both again, and he
shivered through his frame.
From the streets beyond the high wall and the strong gate, there came
the usual night hum of the city, with now and then an indescribable
ring in it, weird and unearthly, as if some unwonted sounds of a
terrible nature were going up to Heaven.
"Thank God," said Mr. Lorry, clasping his hands, "that no one near
and dear to me is in this dreadful town to-night. May He have mercy
on all who are in danger!"
Soon afterwards, the bell at the great gate sounded, and he thought,
"They have come back!" and sat listening. But, there was no loud
irruption into the courtyard, as he had expected, and he heard the
gate clash again, and all was quiet.
The nervousness and dread that were upon him inspired that vague
uneasiness respecting the Bank, which a great change would naturally
awaken, with such feelings roused. It was well guarded, and he got
up to go among the trusty people who were watching it, when his door
suddenly opened, and two figures rushed in, at sight of which he fell
back in amazement.
Lucie and her father! Lucie with her arms stretched out to him, and
with that old look of earnestness so concentrated and intensified,
that it seemed as though it had been stamped upon her face expressly
to give force and power to it in this one passage of her life.
"What is this?" cried Mr. Lorry, breathless and confused.
"What is the matter? Lucie! Manette! What has happened? What has
brought you here? What is it?"
With the look fixed upon him, in her paleness and wildness,
she panted out in his arms, imploringly, "O my dear friend!
"Your husband, Lucie?"
"What of Charles?"
"Here, in Paris?"
"Has been here some days--three or four--I don't know how many--
I can't collect my thoughts. An errand of generosity brought him
here unknown to us; he was stopped at the barrier, and sent to prison."
The old man uttered an irrepressible cry. Almost at the same moment,
the beg of the great gate rang again, and a loud noise of feet and
voices came pouring into the courtyard.
"What is that noise?" said the Doctor, turning towards the window.
"Don't look!" cried Mr. Lorry. "Don't look out! Manette,
for your life, don't touch the blind!"
The Doctor turned, with his hand upon the fastening of the window,
and said, with a cool, bold smile:
"My dear friend, I have a charmed life in this city. I have been a
Bastille prisoner. There is no patriot in Paris--in Paris? In
France--who, knowing me to have been a prisoner in the Bastille,
would touch me, except to overwhelm me with embraces, or carry me in
triumph. My old pain has given me a power that has brought us
through the barrier, and gained us news of Charles there, and brought
us here. I knew it would be so; I knew I could help Charles out of
all danger; I told Lucie so.--What is that noise?" His hand was again
upon the window.
"Don't look!" cried Mr. Lorry, absolutely desperate. "No, Lucie, my
dear, nor you!" He got his arm round her, and held her. "Don't be so
terrified, my love. I solemnly swear to you that I know of no harm
having happened to Charles; that I had no suspicion even of his being
in this fatal place. What prison is he in?"
"La Force! Lucie, my child, if ever you were brave and serviceable in
your life--and you were always both--you will compose yourself now,
to do exactly as I bid you; for more depends upon it than you can think,
or I can say. There is no help for you in any action on your part
to-night; you cannot possibly stir out. I say this, because what I
must bid you to do for Charles's sake, is the hardest thing to do of all.
You must instantly be obedient, still, and quiet. You must let me
put you in a room at the back here. You must leave your father and
me alone for two minutes, and as there are Life and Death in the
world you must not delay."
"I will be submissive to you. I see in your face that you know I can
do nothing else than this. I know you are true."
The old man kissed her, and hurried her into his room, and turned the
key; then, came hurrying back to the Doctor, and opened the window
and partly opened the blind, and put his hand upon the Doctor's arm,
and looked out with him into the courtyard.
Looked out upon a throng of men and women: not enough in number, or
near enough, to fill the courtyard: not more than forty or fifty in
all. The people in possession of the house had let them in at the
gate, and they had rushed in to work at the grindstone; it had
evidently been set up there for their purpose, as in a convenient and
But, such awful workers, and such awful work!
The grindstone had a double handle, and, turning at it madly were two
men, whose faces, as their long hair Rapped back when the whirlings
of the grindstone brought their faces up, were more horrible and
cruel than the visages of the wildest savages in their most barbarous
disguise. False eyebrows and false moustaches were stuck upon them,
and their hideous countenances were all bloody and sweaty, and all
awry with howling, and all staring and glaring with beastly
excitement and want of sleep. As these ruffians turned and turned,
their matted locks now flung forward over their eyes, now flung
backward over their necks, some women held wine to their mouths that
they might drink; and what with dropping blood, and what with
dropping wine, and what with the stream of sparks struck out of the
stone, all their wicked atmosphere seemed gore and fire. The eye
could not detect one creature in the group free from the smear of blood.
Shouldering one another to get next at the sharpening-stone, were men
stripped to the waist, with the stain all over their limbs and
bodies; men in all sorts of rags, with the stain upon those rags; men
devilishly set off with spoils of women's lace and silk and ribbon,
with the stain dyeing those trifles through and through. Hatchets,
knives, bayonets, swords, all brought to be sharpened, were all red
with it. Some of the hacked swords were tied to the wrists of those
who carried them, with strips of linen and fragments of dress:
ligatures various in kind, but all deep of the one colour. And as
the frantic wielders of these weapons snatched them from the stream
of sparks and tore away into the streets, the same red hue was red in
their frenzied eyes;--eyes which any unbrutalised beholder would have
given twenty years of life, to petrify with a well-directed gun.
All this was seen in a moment, as the vision of a drowning man, or of
any human creature at any very great pass, could see a world if it
were there. They drew back from the window, and the Doctor looked
for explanation in his friend's ashy face.
"They are," Mr. Lorry whispered the words, glancing fearfully round
at the locked room, "murdering the prisoners. If you are sure of
what you say; if you really have the power you think you have--as I
believe you have--make yourself known to these devils, and get taken
to La Force. It may be too late, I don't know, but let it not be a
Doctor Manette pressed his hand, hastened bareheaded out of the room,
and was in the courtyard when Mr. Lorry regained the blind.
His streaming white hair, his remarkable face, and the impetuous
confidence of his manner, as he put the weapons aside like water,
carried him in an instant to the heart of the concourse at the stone.
For a few moments there was a pause, and a hurry, and a murmur, and
the unintelligible sound of his voice; and then Mr. Lorry saw him,
surrounded by all, and in the midst of a line of twenty men long, all
linked shoulder to shoulder, and hand to shoulder, hurried out with
cries of--"Live the Bastille prisoner! Help for the Bastille
prisoner's kindred in La Force! Room for the Bastille prisoner in
front there! Save the prisoner Evremonde at La Force!" and a thousand
He closed the lattice again with a fluttering heart, closed the
window and the curtain, hastened to Lucie, and told her that her
father was assisted by the people, and gone in search of her husband.
He found her child and Miss Pross with her; but, it never occurred to
him to be surprised by their appearance until a long time afterwards,
when he sat watching them in such quiet as the night knew.
Lucie had, by that time, fallen into a stupor on the floor at his feet,
clinging to his hand. Miss Pross had laid the child down on his own bed,
and her head had gradually fallen on the pillow beside her pretty charge.
O the long, long night, with the moans of the poor wife! And O the long,
long night, with no return of her father and no tidings!
Twice more in the darkness the bell at the great gate sounded,
and the irruption was repeated, and the grindstone whirled and
spluttered. "What is it?" cried Lucie, affrighted. "Hush! The
soldiers' swords are sharpened there," said Mr. Lorry. "The place
is national property now, and used as a kind of armoury, my love."
Twice more in all; but, the last spell of work was feeble and fitful.
Soon afterwards the day began to dawn, and he softly detached himself
from the clasping hand, and cautiously looked out again. A man, so
besmeared that he might have been a sorely wounded soldier creeping
back to consciousness on a field of slain, was rising from the
pavement by the side of the grindstone, and looking about him with a
vacant air. Shortly, this worn-out murderer descried in the imperfect
light one of the carriages of Monseigneur, and, staggering to that
gorgeous vehicle, climbed in at the door, and shut himself up to take
his rest on its dainty cushions.
The great grindstone, Earth, had turned when Mr. Lorry looked out again,
and the sun was red on the courtyard. But, the lesser grindstone
stood alone there in the calm morning air, with a red upon it that
the sun had never given, and would never take away.