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Charles Dickens > A Tale Of Two Cities > Book 1 - 5

A Tale Of Two Cities

Book 1 - 5

The Wine-shop

A large cask of wine had been dropped and broken, in the street.
The accident had happened in getting it out of a cart; the cask had
tumbled out with a run, the hoops had burst, and it lay on the stones
just outside the door of the wine-shop, shattered like a

All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their
idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough,
irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed,
one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that
approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded,
each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size.
Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and
sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to
sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others,
men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated
earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women's heads, which
were squeezed dry into infants' mouths; others made small mud-
embankments, to stem the wine as it ran; others, directed by
lookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut off
little streams of wine that started away in new directions; others
devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask,
licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with
eager relish. There was no drainage to carry off the wine, and not
only did it all get taken up, but so much mud got taken up along with
it, that there might have been a scavenger in the street, if anybody
acquainted with it could have believed in such a miraculous presence.

A shrill sound of laughter and of amused voices--voices of men,
women, and children--resounded in the street while this wine game
lasted. There was little roughness in the sport, and much playfulness.
There was a special companionship in it, an observable inclination on
the part of every one to join some other one, which led, especially
among the luckier or lighter-hearted, to frolicsome embraces,
drinking of healths, shaking of hands, and even joining of hands and
dancing, a dozen together. When the wine was gone, and the places
where it had been most abundant were raked into a gridiron-pattern by
fingers, these demonstrations ceased, as suddenly as they had broken
out. The man who had left his saw sticking in the firewood he was
cutting, set it in motion again; the women who had left on a door-step
the little pot of hot ashes, at which she had been trying to soften
the pain in her own starved fingers and toes, or in those of her
child, returned to it; men with bare arms, matted locks, and cadaverous
faces, who had emerged into the winter light from cellars, moved
away, to descend again; and a gloom gathered on the scene that
appeared more natural to it than sunshine.

The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow
street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was
spilled. It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and many
naked feet, and many wooden shoes. The hands of the man who sawed
the wood, left red marks on the billets; and the forehead of the
woman who nursed her baby, was stained with the stain of the old rag
she wound about her head again. Those who had been greedy with the
staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth;
and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid
bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger
dipped in muddy wine-lees--BLOOD.

The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the
street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.

And now that the cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which a momentary
gleam had driven from his sacred countenance, the darkness of it was
heavy-cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want, were the lords in
waiting on the saintly presence-nobles of great power all of them;
but, most especially the last. Samples of a people that had
undergone a terrible grinding and regrinding in the mill, and
certainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old people young,
shivered at every corner, passed in and out at every doorway, looked
from every window, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that the
wind shook. The mill which had worked them down, was the mill that
grinds young people old; the children had ancient faces and grave
voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into
every furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sigh, Hunger. It
was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses,
in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was
patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was
repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the
man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and
started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse,
of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker's
shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad
bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was
offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting
chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in
every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some
reluctant drops of oil.

Its abiding place was in all things fitted to it. A narrow winding
street, full of offence and stench, with other narrow winding streets
diverging, all peopled by rags and nightcaps, and all smelling of
rags and nightcaps, and all visible things with a brooding look upon
them that looked ill. In the hunted air of the people there was yet
some wild-beast thought of the possibility of turning at bay. Depressed
and slinking though they were, eyes of fire were not wanting among
them; nor compressed lips, white with what they suppressed; nor
foreheads knitted into the likeness of the gallows-rope they mused
about enduring, or inflicting. The trade signs (and they were almost
as many as the shops) were, all, grim illustrations of Want. The
butcher and the porkman painted up, only the leanest scrags of meat;
the baker, the coarsest of meagre loaves. The people rudely pictured
as drinking in the wine-shops, croaked over their scanty measures of
thin wine and beer, and were gloweringly confidential together.
Nothing was represented in a flourishing condition, save tools and
weapons; but, the cutler's knives and axes were sharp and bright, the
smith's hammers were heavy, and the gunmaker's stock was murderous.
The crippling stones of the pavement, with their many little
reservoirs of mud and water, had no footways, but broke off abruptly
at the doors. The kennel, to make amends, ran down the middle of the
street--when it ran at all: which was only after heavy rains, and
then it ran, by many eccentric fits, into the houses. Across the
streets, at wide intervals, one clumsy lamp was slung by a rope and
pulley; at night, when the lamplighter had let these down, and lighted,
and hoisted them again, a feeble grove of dim wicks swung in a sickly
manner overhead, as if they were at sea. Indeed they were at sea,
and the ship and crew were in peril of tempest.

For, the time was to come, when the gaunt scarecrows of that region
should have watched the lamplighter, in their idleness and hunger,
so long, as to conceive the idea of improving on his method, and
hauling up men by those ropes and pulleys, to flare upon the
darkness of their condition. But, the time was not come yet; and
every wind that blew over France shook the rags of the scarecrows
in vain, for the birds, fine of song and feather, took no warning.

The wine-shop was a corner shop, better than most others in its
appearance and degree, and the master of the wine-shop had stood
outside it, in a yellow waistcoat and green breeches, looking on at
the struggle for the lost wine. "It's not my affair," said he,
with a final shrug of the shoulders. "The people from the market
did it. Let them bring another."

There, his eyes happening to catch the tall joker writing up his
joke, he called to him across the way:

"Say, then, my Gaspard, what do you do there?"

The fellow pointed to his joke with immense significance, as is often
the way with his tribe. It missed its mark, and completely failed,
as is often the way with his tribe too.

"What now? Are you a subject for the mad hospital?" said the
wine-shop keeper, crossing the road, and obliterating the jest with
a handful of mud, picked up for the purpose, and smeared over it.
"Why do you write in the public streets? Is there--tell me thou--is
there no other place to write such words in?"

In his expostulation he dropped his cleaner hand (perhaps accidentally,
perhaps not) upon the joker's heart. The joker rapped it with his
own, took a nimble spring upward, and came down in a fantastic
dancing attitude, with one of his stained shoes jerked off his foot
into his hand, and held out. A joker of an extremely, not to say
wolfishly practical character, he looked, under those circumstances.

"Put it on, put it on," said the other. "Call wine, wine; and finish
there." With that advice, he wiped his soiled hand upon the joker's
dress, such as it was--quite deliberately, as having dirtied the hand
on his account; and then recrossed the road and entered the wine-shop.

This wine-shop keeper was a bull-necked, martial-looking man of
thirty, and he should have been of a hot temperament, for, although
it was a bitter day, he wore no coat, but carried one slung over his
shoulder. His shirt-sleeves were rolled up, too, and his brown arms
were bare to the elbows. Neither did he wear anything more on his
head than his own crisply-curling short dark hair. He was a dark man
altogether, with good eyes and a good bold breadth between them.
Good-humoured looking on the whole, but implacable-looking, too;
evidently a man of a strong resolution and a set purpose; a man not
desirable to be met, rushing down a narrow pass with a gulf on either
side, for nothing would turn the man.

Madame Defarge, his wife, sat in the shop behind the counter as he
came in. Madame Defarge was a stout woman of about his own age, with
a watchful eye that seldom seemed to look at anything, a large hand
heavily ringed, a steady face, strong features, and great composure
of manner. There was a character about Madame Defarge, from which
one might have predicated that she did not often make mistakes against
herself in any of the reckonings over which she presided. Madame
Defarge being sensitive to cold, was wrapped in fur, and had a
quantity of bright shawl twined about her head, though not to the
concealment of her large earrings. Her knitting was before her, but
she had laid it down to pick her teeth with a toothpick. Thus
engaged, with her right elbow supported by her left hand, Madame
Defarge said nothing when her lord came in, but coughed just one
grain of cough. This, in combination with the lifting of her darkly
defined eyebrows over her toothpick by the breadth of a line, suggested
to her husband that he would do well to look round the shop among the
customers, for any new customer who had dropped in while he stepped
over the way.

The wine-shop keeper accordingly rolled his eyes about, until they
rested upon an elderly gentleman and a young lady, who were seated in
a corner. Other company were there: two playing cards, two playing
dominoes, three standing by the counter lengthening out a short
supply of wine. As he passed behind the counter, he took notice that
the elderly gentleman said in a look to the young lady, "This is our

"What the devil do YOU do in that galley there?" said Monsieur
Defarge to himself; "I don't know you."

But, he feigned not to notice the two strangers, and fell into
discourse with the triumvirate of customers who were drinking at the

"How goes it, Jacques?" said one of these three to Monsieur Defarge.
"Is all the spilt wine swallowed?"

"Every drop, Jacques," answered Monsieur Defarge.

When this interchange of Christian name was effected, Madame Defarge,
picking her teeth with her toothpick, coughed another grain of cough,
and raised her eyebrows by the breadth of another line.

"It is not often," said the second of the three, addressing Monsieur
Defarge, "that many of these miserable beasts know the taste of wine,
or of anything but black bread and death. Is it not so, Jacques?"

"It is so, Jacques," Monsieur Defarge returned.

At this second interchange of the Christian name, Madame Defarge,
still using her toothpick with profound composure, coughed another
grain of cough, and raised her eyebrows by the breadth of another line.

The last of the three now said his say, as he put down his empty
drinking vessel and smacked his lips.

"Ah! So much the worse! A bitter taste it is that such poor cattle
always have in their mouths, and hard lives they live, Jacques.
Am I right, Jacques?"

"You are right, Jacques," was the response of Monsieur Defarge.

This third interchange of the Christian name was completed at the
moment when Madame Defarge put her toothpick by, kept her eyebrows
up, and slightly rustled in her seat.

"Hold then! True!" muttered her husband. "Gentlemen--my wife!"

The three customers pulled off their hats to Madame Defarge, with
three flourishes. She acknowledged their homage by bending her head,
and giving them a quick look. Then she glanced in a casual manner
round the wine-shop, took up her knitting with great apparent
calmness and repose of spirit, and became absorbed in it.

"Gentlemen," said her husband, who had kept his bright eye
observantly upon her, "good day. The chamber, furnished bachelor-
fashion, that you wished to see, and were inquiring for when I
stepped out, is on the fifth floor. The doorway of the staircase
gives on the little courtyard close to the left here," pointing with
his hand, "near to the window of my establishment. But, now that I
remember, one of you has already been there, and can show the way.
Gentlemen, adieu!"

They paid for their wine, and left the place. The eyes of Monsieur
Defarge were studying his wife at her knitting when the elderly
gentleman advanced from his corner, and begged the favour of a word.

"Willingly, sir," said Monsieur Defarge, and quietly stepped with him
to the door.

Their conference was very short, but very decided. Almost at the
first word, Monsieur Defarge started and became deeply attentive.
It had not lasted a minute, when he nodded and went out. The
gentleman then beckoned to the young lady, and they, too, went out.
Madame Defarge knitted with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows, and
saw nothing.

Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Miss Manette, emerging from the wine-shop thus,
joined Monsieur Defarge in the doorway to which he had directed his
own company just before. It opened from a stinking little black
courtyard, and was the general public entrance to a great pile of
houses, inhabited by a great number of people. In the gloomy tile-
paved entry to the gloomy tile-paved staircase, Monsieur Defarge bent
down on one knee to the child of his old master, and put her hand to
his lips. It was a gentle action, but not at all gently done; a very
remarkable transformation had come over him in a few seconds. He had
no good-humour in his face, nor any openness of aspect left, but had
become a secret, angry, dangerous man.

"It is very high; it is a little difficult. Better to begin slowly."
Thus, Monsieur Defarge, in a stern voice, to Mr. Lorry, as they began
ascending the stairs.

"Is he alone?" the latter whispered.

"Alone! God help him, who should be with him!" said the other, in the
same low voice.

"Is he always alone, then?"


"Of his own desire?"

"Of his own necessity. As he was, when I first saw him after they
found me and demanded to know if I would take him, and, at my peril
be discreet--as he was then, so he is now."

"He is greatly changed?"


The keeper of the wine-shop stopped to strike the wall with his hand,
and mutter a tremendous curse. No direct answer could have been half
so forcible. Mr. Lorry's spirits grew heavier and heavier, as he and
his two companions ascended higher and higher.

Such a staircase, with its accessories, in the older and more crowded
parts of Paris, would be bad enough now; but, at that time, it was
vile indeed to unaccustomed and unhardened senses. Every little
habitation within the great foul nest of one high building--that is
to say, the room or rooms within every door that opened on the
general staircase--left its own heap of refuse on its own landing,
besides flinging other refuse from its own windows. The uncontrollable
and hopeless mass of decomposition so engendered, would have polluted
the air, even if poverty and deprivation had not loaded it with their
intangible impurities; the two bad sources combined made it almost
insupportable. Through such an atmosphere, by a steep dark shaft of
dirt and poison, the way lay. Yielding to his own disturbance of
mind, and to his young companion's agitation, which became greater
every instant, Mr. Jarvis Lorry twice stopped to rest. Each of these
stoppages was made at a doleful grating, by which any languishing
good airs that were left uncorrupted, seemed to escape, and all
spoilt and sickly vapours seemed to crawl in. Through the rusted
bars, tastes, rather than glimpses, were caught of the jumbled
neighbourhood; and nothing within range, nearer or lower than the
summits of the two great towers of Notre-Dame, had any promise on it
of healthy life or wholesome aspirations.

At last, the top of the staircase was gained, and they stopped for
the third time. There was yet an upper staircase, of a steeper
inclination and of contracted dimensions, to be ascended, before the
garret story was reached. The keeper of the wine-shop, always going
a little in advance, and always going on the side which Mr. Lorry
took, as though he dreaded to be asked any question by the young
lady, turned himself about here, and, carefully feeling in the
pockets of the coat he carried over his shoulder, took out a key.

"The door is locked then, my friend?" said Mr. Lorry, surprised.

"Ay. Yes," was the grim reply of Monsieur Defarge.

"You think it necessary to keep the unfortunate gentleman so retired?"

"I think it necessary to turn the key." Monsieur Defarge whispered it
closer in his ear, and frowned heavily.


"Why! Because he has lived so long, locked up, that he would be
frightened-rave-tear himself to pieces-die-come to I know not what
harm--if his door was left open."

"Is it possible!" exclaimed Mr. Lorry.

"Is it possible!" repeated Defarge, bitterly. "Yes. And a beautiful
world we live in, when it IS possible, and when many other such
things are possible, and not only possible, but done--done, see
you!--under that sky there, every day. Long live the Devil. Let us
go on."

This dialogue had been held in so very low a whisper, that not a word
of it had reached the young lady's ears. But, by this time she
trembled under such strong emotion, and her face expressed such deep
anxiety, and, above all, such dread and terror, that Mr. Lorry felt
it incumbent on him to speak a word or two of reassurance.

"Courage, dear miss! Courage! Business! The worst will be over
in a moment; it is but passing the room-door, and the worst is over.
Then, all the good you bring to him, all the relief, all the
happiness you bring to him, begin. Let our good friend here,
assist you on that side. That's well, friend Defarge. Come, now.
Business, business!"

They went up slowly and softly. The staircase was short, and they
were soon at the top. There, as it had an abrupt turn in it, they
came all at once in sight of three men, whose heads were bent down
close together at the side of a door, and who were intently looking
into the room to which the door belonged, through some chinks or
holes in the wall. On hearing footsteps close at hand, these three
turned, and rose, and showed themselves to be the three of one name
who had been drinking in the wine-shop.

"I forgot them in the surprise of your visit," explained Monsieur
Defarge. "Leave us, good boys; we have business here."

The three glided by, and went silently down.

There appearing to be no other door on that floor, and the keeper of
the wine-shop going straight to this one when they were left alone,
Mr. Lorry asked him in a whisper, with a little anger:

"Do you make a show of Monsieur Manette?"

"I show him, in the way you have seen, to a chosen few."

"Is that well?"

"_I_ think it is well."

"Who are the few? How do you choose them?"

"I choose them as real men, of my name--Jacques is my name--to whom
the sight is likely to do good. Enough; you are English; that is
another thing. Stay there, if you please, a little moment."

With an admonitory gesture to keep them back, he stooped, and looked
in through the crevice in the wall. Soon raising his head again, he
struck twice or thrice upon the door--evidently with no other object
than to make a noise there. With the same intention, he drew the key
across it, three or four times, before he put it clumsily into the
lock, and turned it as heavily as he could.

The door slowly opened inward under his hand, and he looked into the
room and said something. A faint voice answered something. Little
more than a single syllable could have been spoken on either side.

He looked back over his shoulder, and beckoned them to enter.
Mr. Lorry got his arm securely round the daughter's waist, and held
her; for he felt that she was sinking.

"A-a-a-business, business!" he urged, with a moisture that was not of
business shining on his cheek. "Come in, come in!"

"I am afraid of it," she answered, shuddering.

"Of it? What?"

"I mean of him. Of my father."

Rendered in a manner desperate, by her state and by the beckoning of
their conductor, he drew over his neck the arm that shook upon his
shoulder, lifted her a little, and hurried her into the room. He sat
her down just within the door, and held her, clinging to him.

Defarge drew out the key, closed the door, locked it on the inside,
took out the key again, and held it in his hand. All this he did,
methodically, and with as loud and harsh an accompaniment of noise as
he could make. Finally, he walked across the room with a measured
tread to where the window was. He stopped there, and faced round.

The garret, built to be a depository for firewood and the like, was
dim and dark: for, the window of dormer shape, was in truth a door in
the roof, with a little crane over it for the hoisting up of stores
from the street: unglazed, and closing up the middle in two pieces,
like any other door of French construction. To exclude the cold, one
half of this door was fast closed, and the other was opened but a
very little way. Such a scanty portion of light was admitted through
these means, that it was difficult, on first coming in, to see
anything; and long habit alone could have slowly formed in any one,
the ability to do any work requiring nicety in such obscurity. Yet,
work of that kind was being done in the garret; for, with his back
towards the door, and his face towards the window where the keeper of
the wine-shop stood looking at him, a white-haired man sat on a low
bench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.

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