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Charles Dickens > A Tale Of Two Cities > Book 3 - 12

A Tale Of Two Cities

Book 3 - 12


Sydney Carton paused in the street, not quite decided where to go.
"At Tellson's banking-house at nine," he said, with a musing face.
"Shall I do well, in the mean time, to show myself? I think so.
It is best that these people should know there is such a man as I
here; it is a sound precaution, and may be a necessary preparation.
But care, care, care! Let me think it out!"

Checking his steps which had begun to tend towards an object, he took
a turn or two in the already darkening street, and traced the thought
in his mind to its possible consequences. His first impression was
confirmed. "It is best," he said, finally resolved, "that these
people should know there is such a man as I here." And he turned his
face towards Saint Antoine.

Defarge had described himself, that day, as the keeper of a wine-shop
in the Saint Antoine suburb. It was not difficult for one who knew
the city well, to find his house without asking any question. Having
ascertained its situation, Carton came out of those closer streets
again, and dined at a place of refreshment and fell sound asleep
after dinner. For the first time in many years, he had no strong drink.
Since last night he had taken nothing but a little light thin wine,
and last night he had dropped the brandy slowly down on Mr. Lorry's
hearth like a man who had done with it.

It was as late as seven o'clock when he awoke refreshed, and went out
into the streets again. As he passed along towards Saint Antoine, he
stopped at a shop-window where there was a mirror, and slightly
altered the disordered arrangement of his loose cravat, and his coat-
collar, and his wild hair. This done, he went on direct to Defarge's,
and went in.

There happened to be no customer in the shop but Jacques Three,
of the restless fingers and the croaking voice. This man, whom he
had seen upon the Jury, stood drinking at the little counter, in
conversation with the Defarges, man and wife. The Vengeance assisted
in the conversation, like a regular member of the establishment.

As Carton walked in, took his seat and asked (in very indifferent
French) for a small measure of wine, Madame Defarge cast a careless
glance at him, and then a keener, and then a keener, and then
advanced to him herself, and asked him what it was he had ordered.

He repeated what he had already said.

"English?" asked Madame Defarge, inquisitively raising her dark eyebrows.

After looking at her, as if the sound of even a single French word
were slow to express itself to him, he answered, in his former strong
foreign accent. "Yes, madame, yes. I am English!"

Madame Defarge returned to her counter to get the wine, and, as he
took up a Jacobin journal and feigned to pore over it puzzling out
its meaning, he heard her say, "I swear to you, like Evremonde!"

Defarge brought him the wine, and gave him Good Evening.


"Good evening."

"Oh! Good evening, citizen," filling his glass. "Ah! and good wine.
I drink to the Republic."

Defarge went back to the counter, and said, "Certainly, a little
like." Madame sternly retorted, "I tell you a good deal like."
Jacques Three pacifically remarked, "He is so much in your mind,
see you, madame." The amiable Vengeance added, with a laugh, "Yes,
my faith! And you are looking forward with so much pleasure to seeing
him once more to-morrow!"

Carton followed the lines and words of his paper, with a slow
forefinger, and with a studious and absorbed face. They were all
leaning their arms on the counter close together, speaking low.
After a silence of a few moments, during which they all looked
towards him without disturbing his outward attention from the Jacobin
editor, they resumed their conversation.

"It is true what madame says," observed Jacques Three. "Why stop?
There is great force in that. Why stop?"

"Well, well," reasoned Defarge, "but one must stop somewhere.
After all, the question is still where?"

"At extermination," said madame.

"Magnificent!" croaked Jacques Three. The Vengeance, also, highly approved.

"Extermination is good doctrine, my wife," said Defarge, rather
troubled; "in general, I say nothing against it. But this Doctor has
suffered much; you have seen him to-day; you have observed his face
when the paper was read."

"I have observed his face!" repeated madame, contemptuously and
angrily. "Yes. I have observed his face. I have observed his face
to be not the face of a true friend of the Republic. Let him take
care of his face!"

"And you have observed, my wife," said Defarge, in a deprecatory
manner, "the anguish of his daughter, which must be a dreadful
anguish to him!"

"I have observed his daughter," repeated madame; "yes, I have
observed his daughter, more times than one. I have observed her
to-day, and I have observed her other days. I have observed her
in the court, and I have observed her in the street by the prison.
Let me but lift my finger--!" She seemed to raise it (the listener's
eyes were always on his paper), and to let it fall with a rattle on
the ledge before her, as if the axe had dropped.

"The citizeness is superb!" croaked the Juryman.

"She is an Angel!" said The Vengeance, and embraced her.

"As to thee," pursued madame, implacably, addressing her husband,
"if it depended on thee--which, happily, it does not--thou wouldst
rescue this man even now."

"No!" protested Defarge. "Not if to lift this glass would do it!
But I would leave the matter there. I say, stop there."

"See you then, Jacques," said Madame Defarge, wrathfully; "and see
you, too, my little Vengeance; see you both! Listen! For other crimes
as tyrants and oppressors, I have this race a long time on my register,
doomed to destruction and extermination. Ask my husband, is that so."

"It is so," assented Defarge, without being asked.

"In the beginning of the great days, when the Bastille falls, he
finds this paper of to-day, and he brings it home, and in the middle
of the night when this place is clear and shut, we read it, here on
this spot, by the light of this lamp. Ask him, is that so."

"It is so," assented Defarge.

"That night, I tell him, when the paper is read through, and the lamp
is burnt out, and the day is gleaming in above those shutters and
between those iron bars, that I have now a secret to communicate.
Ask him, is that so."

"It is so," assented Defarge again.

"I communicate to him that secret. I smite this bosom with these two
hands as I smite it now, and I tell him, `Defarge, I was brought up
among the fishermen of the sea-shore, and that peasant family so
injured by the two Evremonde brothers, as that Bastille paper describes,
is my family. Defarge, that sister of the mortally wounded boy upon
the ground was my sister, that husband was my sister's husband, that
unborn child was their child, that brother was my brother, that
father was my father, those dead are my dead, and that summons to
answer for those things descends to me!' Ask him, is that so."

"It is so," assented Defarge once more.

"Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop," returned madame; "but don't tell me."

Both her hearers derived a horrible enjoyment from the deadly nature
of her wrath--the listener could feel how white she was, without
seeing her--and both highly commended it. Defarge, a weak minority,
interposed a few words for the memory of the compassionate wife of
the Marquis; but only elicited from his own wife a repetition of her
last reply. "Tell the Wind and the Fire where to stop; not me!"

Customers entered, and the group was broken up. The English customer
paid for what he had had, perplexedly counted his change, and asked,
as a stranger, to be directed towards the National Palace.
Madame Defarge took him to the door, and put her arm on his, in
pointing out the road. The English customer was not without his
reflections then, that it might be a good deed to seize that arm,
lift it, and strike under it sharp and deep.

But, he went his way, and was soon swallowed up in the shadow of the
prison wall. At the appointed hour, he emerged from it to present
himself in Mr. Lorry's room again, where he found the old gentleman
walking to and fro in restless anxiety. He said he had been with
Lucie until just now, and had only left her for a few minutes, to
come and keep his appointment. Her father had not been seen, since
he quitted the banking-house towards four o'clock. She had some
faint hopes that his mediation might save Charles, but they were very
slight. He had been more than five hours gone: where could he be?

Mr. Lorry waited until ten; but, Doctor Manette not returning, and he
being unwilling to leave Lucie any longer, it was arranged that he
should go back to her, and come to the banking-house again at midnight.
In the meanwhile, Carton would wait alone by the fire for the Doctor.

He waited and waited, and the clock struck twelve; but Doctor Manette
did not come back. Mr. Lorry returned, and found no tidings of him,
and brought none. Where could he be?

They were discussing this question, and were almost building up some
weak structure of hope on his prolonged absence, when they heard him
on the stairs. The instant he entered the room, it was plain that
all was lost.

Whether he had really been to any one, or whether he had been all
that time traversing the streets, was never known. As he stood
staring at them, they asked him no question, for his face told them

"I cannot find it," said he, "and I must have it. Where is it?"

His head and throat were bare, and, as he spoke with a helpless look
straying all around, he took his coat off, and let it drop on the floor.

"Where is my bench? I have been looking everywhere for my bench, and
I can't find it. What have they done with my work? Time presses:
I must finish those shoes."

They looked at one another, and their hearts died within them.

"Come, come!" said he, in a whimpering miserable way; "let me get to work.
Give me my work."

Receiving no answer, he tore his hair, and beat his feet upon the ground,
like a distracted child.

"Don't torture a poor forlorn wretch," he implored them, with a dreadful cry;
"but give me my work! What is to become of us, if those shoes are not done

Lost, utterly lost!

It was so clearly beyond hope to reason with him, or try to restore him,
that--as if by agreement--they each put a hand upon his shoulder,
and soothed him to sit down before the fire, with a promise that he
should have his work presently. He sank into the chair, and brooded
over the embers, and shed tears. As if all that had happened since
the garret time were a momentary fancy, or a dream, Mr. Lorry saw him
shrink into the exact figure that Defarge had had in keeping.

Affected, and impressed with terror as they both were, by this
spectacle of ruin, it was not a time to yield to such emotions.
His lonely daughter, bereft of her final hope and reliance, appealed
to them both too strongly. Again, as if by agreement, they looked at
one another with one meaning in their faces.
Carton was the first to speak:

"The last chance is gone: it was not much. Yes; he had better be
taken to her. But, before you go, will you, for a moment, steadily
attend to me? Don't ask me why I make the stipulations I am going to
make, and exact the promise I am going to exact; I have a reason--
a good one."

"I do not doubt it," answered Mr. Lorry. "Say on."

The figure in the chair between them, was all the time monotonously
rocking itself to and fro, and moaning. They spoke in such a tone as
they would have used if they had been watching by a sick-bed in the night.

Carton stooped to pick up the coat, which lay almost entangling his feet.
As he did so, a small case in which the Doctor was accustomed to
carry the lists of his day's duties, fell lightly on the floor.
Carton took it up, and there was a folded paper in it. "We should
look at this!" he said. Mr. Lorry nodded his consent. He opened it,
and exclaimed, "Thank GOD!"

"What is it?" asked Mr. Lorry, eagerly.

"A moment! Let me speak of it in its place. First," he put his hand
in his coat, and took another paper from it, "that is the certificate
which enables me to pass out of this city. Look at it. You see--
Sydney Carton, an Englishman?"

Mr. Lorry held it open in his hand, gazing in his earnest face.

"Keep it for me until to-morrow. I shall see him to-morrow,
you remember, and I had better not take it into the prison."

"Why not?"

"I don't know; I prefer not to do so. Now, take this paper that
Doctor Manette has carried about him. It is a similar certificate,
enabling him and his daughter and her child, at any time, to pass the
barrier and the frontier! You see?"


"Perhaps he obtained it as his last and utmost precaution against
evil, yesterday. When is it dated? But no matter; don't stay to look;
put it up carefully with mine and your own. Now, observe! I never
doubted until within this hour or two, that he had, or could have
such a paper. It is good, until recalled. But it may be soon recalled,
and, I have reason to think, will be."

"They are not in danger?"

"They are in great danger. They are in danger of denunciation by
Madame Defarge. I know it from her own lips. I have overheard words
of that woman's, to-night, which have presented their danger to me in
strong colours. I have lost no time, and since then, I have seen the
spy. He confirms me. He knows that a wood-sawyer, living by the
prison wall, is under the control of the Defarges, and has been
rehearsed by Madame Defarge as to his having seen Her"--he never
mentioned Lucie's name--"making signs and signals to prisoners.
It is easy to foresee that the pretence will be the common one, a
prison plot, and that it will involve her life--and perhaps her
child's--and perhaps her father's--for both have been seen with her
at that place. Don't look so horrified. You will save them all."

"Heaven grant I may, Carton! But how?"

"I am going to tell you how. It will depend on you, and it could
depend on no better man. This new denunciation will certainly not
take place until after to-morrow; probably not until two or three
days afterwards; more probably a week afterwards. You know it is a
capital crime, to mourn for, or sympathise with, a victim of the
Guillotine. She and her father would unquestionably be guilty of
this crime, and this woman (the inveteracy of whose pursuit cannot
be described) would wait to add that strength to her case, and make
herself doubly sure. You follow me?"

"So attentively, and with so much confidence in what you say, that
for the moment I lose sight," touching the back of the Doctor's
chair, even of this distress."

"You have money, and can buy the means of travelling to the seacoast
as quickly as the journey can be made. Your preparations have been
completed for some days, to return to England. Early to-morrow have
your horses ready, so that they may be in starting trim at two o'clock
in the afternoon."

"It shall be done!"

His manner was so fervent and inspiring, that Mr. Lorry caught the
flame, and was as quick as youth.

"You are a noble heart. Did I say we could depend upon no better man?
Tell her, to-night, what you know of her danger as involving her
child and her father. Dwell upon that, for she would lay her own
fair head beside her husband's cheerfully." He faltered for an instant;
then went on as before. "For the sake of her child and her father,
press upon her the necessity of leaving Paris, with them and you,
at that hour. Tell her that it was her husband's last arrangement.
Tell her that more depends upon it than she dare believe, or hope.
You think that her father, even in this sad state, will submit
himself to her; do you not?"

"I am sure of it."

"I thought so. Quietly and steadily have all these arrangements made
in the courtyard here, even to the taking of your own seat in the
carriage. The moment I come to you, take me in, and drive away."

"I understand that I wait for you under all circumstances?"

"You have my certificate in your hand with the rest, you know,
and will reserve my place. Wait for nothing but to have my place
occupied, and then for England!"

"Why, then," said Mr. Lorry, grasping his eager but so firm and
steady hand, "it does not all depend on one old man, but I shall have
a young and ardent man at my side."

"By the help of Heaven you shall! Promise me solemnly that nothing
will influence you to alter the course on which we now stand pledged
to one another."

"Nothing, Carton."

"Remember these words to-morrow: change the course, or delay in it--
for any reason--and no life can possibly be saved, and many lives
must inevitably be sacrificed."

"I will remember them. I hope to do my part faithfully."

"And I hope to do mine. Now, good bye!"

Though he said it with a grave smile of earnestness, and though he
even put the old man's hand to his lips, he did not part from him
then. He helped him so far to arouse the rocking figure before the
dying embers, as to get a cloak and hat put upon it, and to tempt it
forth to find where the bench and work were hidden that it still
moaningly besought to have. He walked on the other side of it and
protected it to the courtyard of the house where the afflicted
heart--so happy in the memorable time when he had revealed his own
desolate heart to it--outwatched the awful night. He entered the
courtyard and remained there for a few moments alone, looking up at
the light in the window of her room. Before he went away, he
breathed a blessing towards it, and a Farewell.

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